This is a re-posting of the original story on this site. I have re-named the character of Lee.s son to Nickolas in honor of a friend's child. Thank you.
The Ultimate Game
It was a beautiful study, paneled in light pine wood with hidden lighting. The decor was modern, yet practical, and tasteful as the man whose office it was. The only completely useless objects were a huge rubber tree in one corner and a thick white fur rug that his sister, Edith, had purchased for the office to Ďsoftení it up. Admiral Harriman Nelson hated that fur rug but kept it there to humor his sister.
The back wall of the office was comprised of a huge bookcase filled with well used books jumbled together with loose printed pages. About four feet in front of the bookcase sat a large solid teakwood desk nearly completely covered with more typewritten pages. Hidden somewhere under the papers were the telephone and several pages of scribbled notes concerning the latest project that he was working on. The view screen sat to one side in front of more bookcases filled with the usual well used books and several folders full of paperwork.
Nelson sat on the corner edge of the desk inspecting the final copy of the report that he had just finished for Jiggs. The clock on the wall read 0205 hours. He and the Seaview had returned home from their latest mission less than six hours ago. He had begun the mission report after a late dinner and was finishing up the information that he had recorded from the latest research mission.
Tomorrow would be the first day heíd be taking for himself in more than two months, he had been Ďinvitedí at Jiggs command to attend a meeting to present his views on the latest design of a undersea lab. It seems that everyone involved with the meeting judged his ideals as too fantastic and expensive. Although he himself had admitted that they were his theories, with his scientific training he figured that with enough money and brainstorming that anything was possible. After all, these were the same men who had insisted that he was a fool when he designed and had built the submarine, the Seaview. She had more then proven herself countless times.
"Pompous fools!" he thought.
All of the people, who planned to attend the meeting, were knowledgeable in their own right, but not in scientific research, nor experienced with knowledge on maintaining a Sea Lab on the ocean floor so close to the Tonga Trench. Nelson thought it was rather comical to hear these people give their opinions on what they had only read through his reports.
Not everything went into these reports, Admiral Nelson had seen to that; and he'd trained his Captain, Lee Crane, to do the same. He had pounded into Crane to reveal just enough information to keep the vast majority or the people happy but to leave out the more vital details.
Jiggs knew Harrimanís ways, and kept after him for more details of the missions, especially if they were connected in any military fashion, and what Harry had found out. But Nelson would never give in. Since Crane did not have as much experience of dealing with ĎJiggs" Starke as Nelson had, Crane would develop a special glazed look if Starke would ask him for more details; as if to say, What are you talking about?
Jiggs was Nelsonís friend from many years, but Nelson would reason with him: How can you keep a secret mission secret, if you have to do everything in triplicate and then pass out copies to all the military brass on the West Coast? Nelson did not even want to think Washington, he hated that place!
He was so engrossed in his thoughts and the report that he slowly became aware of the ringing phone. Tracing the cord, he pulled the phone body out from under the litter on his desk and hit the speaker switch.
"Hello," he answered.
"Admiral Harriman Nelson?" was the reply, more of a question.
Nelson did not recognize the voice, yet someone calling this late would have to be someone who knew him. "This is Nelson, who is this?" he asked.
The voice ignored his question, "Are you free....Sir". The Ďsirí came after a moments hesitation, Nelson noted.
Admiral Nelson glanced over at the clock, "I imagine I can make myself free if the situation demands my presence."
"It does, Sir." The caller was polite, but Nelson took an immediate dislike to the voice on the other end of the phone. There's no one that should be calling. Everyone should have left the area by now except for the security team by Seaview. But it was minimal now that new procedures and devices had been installed for security. Even Captain Crane couldnít get by these the last time that he had tried.
"Whatís the problem?" he asked.
"If you could come down to the dock, I can explain. Iím not free to do so over the phone," the voice answered. "Iím taking a big chance by calling you now."
"Very well, it will be a few minutes," Nelson replied, flipping the speaker switch to Ďoffí.
He laid the report down on the desk, rubbing his face with both hands. It's really too late to get involved with anything else tonight. Putting on his jacket, he left the building.
The institute, his own Nelson Institute for Marine Research was growing by leaps and bounds. Each building was becoming more specialized, as mankind discovered the hard way that their future, at least their near future, was still on planet Earth. Nelson knew this, had known this, and now he was determined that they would take better care of the oceans-his oceans, than they had the planet.
The drive to the Seaviewís dock took just minutes. He pulled his car into the parking area and stepped out on the pavement. It was silent and the mist was beginning to roll in from the ocean. Ahead, under the light of the security area, he could see the dark hull of the Seaview and she lay quietly in her dock. She was the largest and most powerful submarine above or below the water, and he could not help but feel pride when he saw her. The dark metal was dry now, as the ocean swirled gently around her. He could see a few of the security people down below.
Leaning against the steel pipe railing above the sub, he looked out into the parking lot. Perfect spot for a secret meeting, he thought to himself, watching the fog roll in, Someone should have a sense of humor at this hour. He waited for the caller to present himself from the shadows beyond the parking lot. It has to be something important at this hour in the morning, to risk being shot by Security. His mind was numbed by the lack of sleep over the last two days, what with the ending of the mission and coming back to port. It annoyed him to be called out, but if it had been Jiggs Starke, he would have probably been waiting in the office. Angie, his secretary, could never have kept him out. He was thinking that this might be important, too important, to be contacted by regular channels.
The wind as getting stronger with a salty chill coming in from the ocean. In his haste, he had left the jacket in the car so he walked back to the car. Nelson leaned against the hood glancing at his watch every few minutes or so. At promptly 0300 hours, he gave up waiting and walked back around to the car door.
Nelson was a very punctual person and he was now annoyed at this long chilly wait for someone who hadnít shown up. The wasted time could have been used to catch a few minutes of rest before the drive to the meeting. He had just opened the door when he felt, rather than heard, a presence behind him.
Admiral Nelson stretched and looked around him. It was still dark and he was sitting in the car about to enter the keys into the ignition. Looking out the window, he noticed that the fog had suddenly lifted, leaving a clear star-lit night. There was a nagging difference, the tiredness of the 24-hour work stretch had vanished and he felt rather relaxed. He had a slight headache,
"Probably from the mission," he muttered, and his eyes were strained from the lack of sleep and the fog that was now gone. Being near the ocean it is very possible for fog to roll in suddenly from the sea, and, apparently, the reverse. His experience hadnít shown him that it was, but the fog was gone and that was all that mattered.
He started up the car, put it into gear, and studied his watch. It read 0250 hours. How had he gained ten minutes? Had he misread it the first time when he was getting back into the car? What did it matter as it was a wasted hour, and he had to get back to his apartment to get ready for the meeting.
He was angry with the unknown caller. Why had he not recognized the voice? And why was he sent on a foolís mission which had resulted in nothing?
It was nearly 0330 hours when he finally arrived back at the apartment. He fixed a light snack and showered. Nelson lay in bed trying to relax but his mind kept turning over and over. He should have been tired, but he felt well rested and confused by the events of the night. There was the feeling that things were not right but there was really nothing that he could really decide was wrong. It was like something was missing but he could not decide what was missing or if anything really was.
Admiral Nelson lay in bed wondering how long he had been awake before he realized that his eyes were open. Already he could hear the sounds of Santa Barbara waking up to greet the new day, though it sounded much more active than usual. A glance at the alarm clock told him that it was 1045 hours. He usually was in at the office by 0700 hours and was nearly four hours late! He sat up to be greeted by a throbbing headache that started at the base of his neck and moved up into his temples. The pain forced his head back down on the pillow. He closed his eyes and rested for a few more minutes.
By the time he attempted to sit up again, it had eased off enough for him to credit it to too much sleep. He usually got along with less sleep than five hours, and regardless of the lack of sleep he was always at the Institute on time.
He had already dressed and was in the process of throwing the bed covers and pillows into acceptable positions when the telephone rang. Remembering the phone call from last night, he allowed the phone to ring a few times before he answered it.
"Hello," he spoke into the receiver.
"Good morning, Admiral," answered the familiar voice of his friend and the Captain of the Seaview.
"Good morning, Lee," the Admiral replied, relieved that it wasnít the caller from last night, "how are you?"
"Iím doing quite well, Sir," was the answer. Lee hesitated then asked, "Do you know what time it is?"
"Just 1115 hours," Nelson announced with no hesitation. He tossed the pillows back on the bed then sat on the edge of it. "It seems that I have over slept a little." he commented, knowing that he had over slept more than a little but trying to make light of a situation that was beginning to really bother him.
There was a moment of silence on the line as though the younger man was trying to get around to asking or saying something. "Admiral, are you coming in to the office today?"
"Of course, Lee, I have a meeting later this afternoon," he sighed into the receiver. Lee Crane was supposed to be on leave. With all that had happened his life lately, Lee did not need to be baby-sitting him. Harry wasnít sure he appreciated the attention; sometimes he would really get annoyed at Lee Craneís habit of looking after him. Lee wouldnít say much but would give his boss his unique look of quiet questioning.
At promptly 1200 hours, Admiral Harriman stopped at his secretaryís desk but Angie was no where in sight. He picked up the mail and a few of the reports that had come in and begin opening the first envelope as he walked into the his office sat down at the desk. It was nothing he wanted to deal with at this time so he started opening the second envelope, it was a letter from Edith, and could prove to be entertaining. She was many years younger than her brother and often felt he was more a father figure to her than their own father had been. She worked at the Institute but traveled whenever time would allow her and was always mailing back letters full of her adventures while she was away.
A quiet knock sounded on the door to the office. The Admiral answered and then looked up at the door as it slowly opened. Lee Crane stuck his head in the door.
"Come in, Lee," the Admiral invited. "I though you were going to spend some time with your son?"
Lee walked into the room and pulled up a chair to the other side of the desk, "I was, but I thought that I should check on you first. We have a scientist from the Institute as well as a representative from the Navy Department, who are joining us on our trip out to the Tonga Trench and Sea Lab. I take it that you know about this?" He seemed to be waiting on a reaction from the Admiral. There was no reaction so he continued on, "They were with Starke at the meeting yesterday...."
"The meeting today, you mean," Nelson corrected the younger man. He looked at the schedule on his desk and observed that it was suppose to start at 1600 hours.
Lee reached over and took the calendar from the Admiral and flipped the page over, "No, Admiral, the meeting yesterday. Starke expected you to attend," Lee commented, a note of concern in his voice. "Stark is here with the scientist and the Naval ĎrepíÖ heís angry that you didnít show up for the meetingÖ."
Nelson laid the letter on the desk and looked at Crane. For a minute he thought that the younger man was joking but realized that Lee Crane was very serious. How had he missed a meeting, an entire day? This was making no sense to him, as it seemed like that day did not even exist and now the Captain was asking him about it. He noticed a quick tremor in his hands but quickly moved them to the deskís surface before the other man could notice. "Oh, come on Lee! I didnít sleep throughout an entire day!"
Leeís did not change. He tapped the page of the calendar as he returned it to the desk and
looked at the Admiral with a very worried expression on his face. "It appears that you did, Admiral, as you did not go to the meeting yesterday and that isnít usually like you.
Nelson rose quickly from his chair and looked at Crane, who continued to sit calmly in the chair in front of him, "Damn it, Lee, don't you think I know my own schedule?" He flipped the desk calendar back to Thursday and pointed to the writing, "...see Thursday, 1600 hours."
The Commander of the Seaview regarded him for a minute then announced, "Well, you are missing a day because itís Friday and heís here to see you. He summoned me last night from shore leave and said that I had better be here and that I had better have you here too. This morning was the first time youíve answered your phone."
"So Starke is here? Now?" Nelson questioned, shaking his head. He wanted to change the subject as it annoyed him to see Lee looking at him like that. How dare Lee question him.......the Admiral caught himself, wondering why he was getting angry with the Captain, who was obviously very concerned about him.
Lee started to relax a bit, but then noted the obvious change of emotions playing on the older manís face. He knew that the man was having concerns about the meeting that he missed, and did not seem to remember why. He kept staring at the Admiral, searching his face for some kind of answer to what was going on in the older manís mind. "He thinks that you were ignoring him by not attending the meeting and heís been here raising all sorts of he..." Lee let the sentence trail off.
Harriman had put up with Jiggs Starkeís poor sense of humor since they had been classmates and roommates at Annapolis. He was a good man, a very good officer and sometimes in charge of the Seaview, when the Navy commandeered the sub for military reasons. At times Jiggs saw that money came through for some of the costlier projects that Nelson had going. Jiggs, in turn, tolerated Nelson because they had both been in the Navy and he had admiration for the manís scientific ability and his ability to solve problems.
Nelson smiled a bit, "And I take it that you were the one he was raising hell with?"
"Something like that," Crane responded. He still had a worried look on his handsome face as he watched the Admiral.
Had he noticed tremors in the older manís hands? The Admiral seemed confused and agitated by the turn of events. He had noticed on the returned trip from their last mission that the Admiral had looked more tired and pale that he had ever seen him. Even Jamison, the Seaviewís doctor had commented on it to the Captain. When Crane had confronted Admiral Nelson about his health, he had gotten very mad at the Captain, but apologized later. The Captain had forgotten about the incident but now was beginning to wonder if the stress was getting to be too much and perhaps the Admiral should rest more.
"Harriman!" Starkeís voice boomed out as he stepped into the Admiralís office.
"Harriman," Jiggs bellowed, "why did you miss that meeting? I told you that you had to be there!" He turned to Nelson as the men walked out of the office. "Why do you make it a point of ignoring me when I tell you something?" He then turned to Captain Crane, "Didnít I tell you to notify me the minute that you found him?"
Nelson sighed, and , rubbing his forehead, answered, "Jiggs, he just found me, just as you have." His head was beginning to pound again and he certainly did not care for the mood that Jiggs was in at the time. "Do you think you can find a better way to communicate besides bellowing?"
"We have been waiting for you since a little after 1000 hours this morning," Starke continued on, "if you had bothered to attend the meeting you would have known that."
The Captain noticed that Nelson was leaning against the wall of the reception room, still rubbing his forehead.
"Are you all right, Sir?" Crane asked.
Nelson opened his eyes and nodded to the Captain, "Yes, I suppose I will be."
Starke pointed to the couches in the corner of the room, "Harriman, I need to talk to you. You canít be running off, as we have too much vested in SeaLab." He proceeded over to the couches and indicated that the other two men were to sit down.
Nelson welcomed the chance to sit down, "Look, Jiggs, I have Ö."
"You can be spared from that boat for a few minutes..." Starke continued, "Morton can handle all that's going on down there right now. In fact, I told him to handle it until I was finished with you and Crane."
Lee Crane rolled his eyes at the two men and sat down on the couch, not really listening to Starke carry on the way he was doing. Crane was far more concerned about the Admiral, who seemed extremely tired. Nelson rarely complained of headaches. Lee did not appreciate being called back to duty so quickly by Starke, he had barely gotten to the house to see his mother and young son, Nickolas, when the phone rang ordering him back to the Institute.
"....if you had notified me," Starke continued, "maybe we could have had Crane, here..." he indicated toward Lee with a nod of his head, " to attend the meeting and you could have done, whatever....God only knows what, Harriman!" He added with a grin. Starke paused in his conversation to light a cigar.
Crane slowly shook his head. Not the cigar, he thought. He knew that Jiggs pulled out those foul smelling things when he was worked up about something. This was going to be a very long afternoon and he did not want to spend it here, under these conditions.
"You missed the meeting," Jiggs continued, "and some of the members of the Board are upset over the conditions at SeaLab with the filtering process. I know that your person from the Institute has an idea that you claim will work but I have a person from the Navy that will be aboard to observe your operations." He gave the cigar a disgusted look, but then stuffed it back into his mouth. "Iím sure that you will be delighted to explain whatever this idea is...Harriman. He has clearance, so things can be explained in detail about SeaLab."
Lee Crane perked up at this statement. This could be something different than counting dolphins, fish...even happy clams. It shouldnít be as dangerous as some of the missions he did away from the Seaview, compliments of ONI. He really needed to get his mind off the way that life had been lately, but he wanted to spend some time with Nickolas before shipping out again. His mind snapped back to the conversation when he realized that the Admiral was talking.
"...We could give them a few minutes," Nelson rose from the couch, "Jiggs, this isnít a holiday cruise, your man will have to stay out of the way from the everyday operations."
Starke started toward the Board Room, "They're are all here. Iíll introduce you." They entered the room and found it filled with several men in uniforms.
Lee Crane had determined, with Chip Morton, that somewhere in the military echelon, someone had contacts to some store that sold the most garish ribbons and metals he had ever seen. These men could have stock in the company. Lee and Chip had tried to pin down a friend of Jiggs about his metals and ribbons one time at an official function, and the man had excused himself from their presence.
Starke introduced the group to Nelson and Crane. The men nodded but did not seem overly friendly or even wanting to be in the same room. Crane silently congratulated Nelson, who returned the wane reception with that look that he had when he did not want to be bothered by anything he determined to be Ďunscientificí. Jiggs was too caught up in the moment to notice and then turned to indicate behind Crane and Nelson. A younger man in a Naval Dress white stood and introduced himself as Lt. Earl Parks. A woman was sitting with her back to them at a smaller table then got up and faced the Admiral and Lee Crane.
"It seems," she smiled, "that we are finally meeting elsewhere besides under water."
Starke looked at the Captain, "Donít you know Dr. Gounaris, Captain?"
It seemed that all the eyes in the room was on Crane. He wasnít sure, but it seemed that way to him, and with all the attention focused on him, he wasnít sure how to answer that question.
"Dr. Gounaris helped us with a mission a few years ago," Nelson intervened, "She has just transferred here and has agreed to work on the SeaLab project."
About four years ago both Nelson and Crane had run into Melina Gounaris when they investigating reports of a city under the sea. It was on that little island, hotel room #25 and on the beach. It had been a close call for all of them including Ms. Gounaris, when she offered to help the Admiral find the Captain. But at the time she did not know the entire story until it was revealed to her later. And apparently the Captain did not know her complete story either.
"It is good to see you, Melina," the Captain answered, as he took her hand. "I am surprised...." He was trying to figure how she had come into this meeting, being with the Institute without his hearing about it. Chip had ways of knowing all about the happenings at the Institute and would usually fill Lee in on all the details and some of the gossip when they happened to run into each other during shore leave.
Melina Gounaris had changed quite a bit in the last four years since Lee Crane had run into her while on assignment, searching for a rumored city beneath the sea. He father had been murdered while taking him to the site along the beach. He and Melinaís first meeting had been very awkward, over a speargun while underwater, and she'd had the speargun. He had been absolutely smitten by her beauty as well as her bravery as she helped the Admiral locate his whereabouts and when they escaped from the exploding city..
Lt. Parks extended his hand directly to the Admiral, "Since we will be working together so closely, you may call me Earl and shall I call you Harry?"
Admiral Nelson took an immediate dislike to the approach of the younger man. He turned to face him, ignoring the hand, and stated, "You may call me, Admiral Nelson." Not waiting for a reaction he turned back to the woman.
She smiled warmly. "You may call me Ms. Gounaris, Sir," she stated. He laughed in response. He noticed the laughter dancing in her eyes, and decided that this one trip might not be too bad after all since they would definitely have someone on board to counter balance the excessive friendliness Earl Parks.
Four days had passed since that meeting in the Board Room and Lee Crane stood at the plotting table in the still semi-deserted sub, trying to think about what he was doing and what had happened during the last four days...and the last four years.
Life had gotten so complicated since then, completely out of hand, and he was trying to put some of it back together when Melina Gounaris had walked back into his life. Since their first meeting, he had married Cathy Connors, whom he had known since coming to the Institute. He and Cathy hadn't gotten along at first. It was the realization that she might not wait forever, that opened his eyes and his heart.
Six months after their child was born she was dead and he blamed his work for causing; no, contributing to her death. Lee's mother had moved from Rhode Island to Santa Barbara to care for the baby while he was away, but Cathyís parents had insisted on custody of the baby. The court case lasted for several weeks. The Judge had ruled in his favor and the very next Sunday Lee showed up on the door step of his in-lawís house for his normal Sunday visit with Nickolas, as if nothing had happened between them. He wasnít sure who was the most surprised; his in-laws, or he himself, when he actually did.
Chip had thought he was crazy to do it. He suggested that Lee let a little time pass before he visit again to let the emotions of the trial settle a bit.
Nickolas was their grandson, part of their daughter, and Lee knew he could not stay away. To him it would seem to much like punishment for trying to get custody. He knew that they loved Nickolas and they did love Lee but they were frightened for the child if something should happen to Lee. They all needed a continuation in their lives.
His thoughts came back to reality when he realized that Chip Morton, his Executive Officer, was watching him, rather intently.
"Welcome back, Lee," Chip spoke quietly. He leaned his elbows on the plotting table.
"You had some very deep thoughts going on there."
Lee gave him a slow smile, "If you only knew, Chip...itís been a wild ride the last few years," he commented, shaking his head slowly.
"Anything I need to know?" Chip asked, his blue eyes boring into his friend.
He understood that there would be some things that Lee would not, or could not, discuss with him about events that had happened over the last few years. Lee had held in the emotions for a long time and often he and Chip would talk but Chip allowed it to come out on Leeís terms.
Lee looked up from the map and returned the pencil to the holder, "Letís get a cup of coffee."
They didn't often have coffee in the Wardroom, but it was after the breakfast rush and long before the lunch crowd would hit , so they found themselves alone in the room. Most of the time they had their coffee on the Admiralís front porch but Lee did not want to talk there. Lee walked over the coffee urn and filled the cup for the second time. The coffee was beginning to resemble mud and the taste was very similar, but he had decided that he needed it. When he returned to the table and sat across from Chip, he found his friend watching him with a small smile playing on his lips.
"What?" Lee asked, looking at him.
"I thought we were going to talk about what was bothering you....or whatever you had on your mind," Chip Explained. "All I've been doing for the last twenty minutes is watching you drink coffee. Chip indicated his own nearly-full coffee mug sitting on the table, "I donít know how you can even drink that stuff."
Lee was staring into the dark liquid and sat the mug down, " I think we have some problems developing, Chip." A worried look crossed his face and creased his brow.
"Oh?" was Chipís only response. Chip had learned over the years that sometimes it was better for Lee to mull over things as he would sit quietly by until his friend would get his ideas together to then tell Chip about them.
"The Admiral missed his meeting," Lee answered quietly, " either on purpose or by accident....heís not saying and Stark is quite angry over it, so we're getting visitors aboard the Seaview and Iím not ready for any of them. The Admiral is trying to play it down but I really think heís worried about not attending the meeting. Heís started to have headaches. I want him to see the Doc but he refuses." He rested his chin on his hand and waited for Chipís response to the situation.
"Was that the meeting about the undersea lab out near the Tonga Trench that the Admiral has been talking about the last few weeks?" Chip asked. "We already know the Admiralís opinion of it. Maybe he just decided that he did not want to deal with the Brass about that. You know how the admiral can be when he has reached a opinion about something--you, me and the entire Navy isnít going to change that."
"But," Lee interrupted, "donít you think that he would have wanted to attend the meeting? Just to have the pleasure of telling them what he thought? It's just not like him to pass up a chance like that, especially involving a project that he is quite fond of sponsoring."
Lee had trouble determining where the friendship between Starke and Nelson fled and their temperaments began. He had heard very angry words between the men in the past. Crane and Chip enjoyed a quiet, comfortable friendship, and they hardly ever exchanged words in anger.
Chip nodded in agreement to the statement, then confronted Lee, "Whatís going on that you are not ready for?"
Lee took another sip of his coffee, "One of the visitors is Melina Gounaris." He looked over the coffee cup and waited for Chip to make a comment.
Chipís first reaction was that Lee was right, that he wasn't ready for getting involved with someone at this time, especially her.
They had run into her about four years ago during a mission involving the disappearance of research vessels. Actually, Lee had run into her. After the mission he had done some Ďclean up" work on the island before rejoining Seaview. Chip had never really asked what the "clean up" involved but somehow he thought that it had involved Miss Gounaris.
She had spent several hours on Seaview immediately after the destruction of the undersea city and it was quite apparent to all hands that she and the Captain had been quite attracted to one another. This had also happened at a time that Lee and Cathy were still not really communicating with one another. It was quite evident that Cathy had known then what she wanted from Ďherí sailor but it seemed that Lee did not, nor could not reach a decision that agreed with Cathy.
"Well..." Lee prompted.
Chip shook his head, "Frankly, Lee, this is going to be an interesting mission."
"And just what is going to be so interesting about it?" the Admiral demanded, as he entered the room. He addressed Lee," Have you finished plotting out our course yet?
Or is it more important that you finished up all the coffee that is left in the pot...?"
The Captain stood and finished draining the last of the coffee. He sat the mug back down on the table as he regarded the Admiral.
"Course is plotted, supplies are secured, and I personally checked our guests' quarters. In addition, all mission details have been double checked. Is there anything else that you think I might have missed, Sir?"
Harriman Nelson was well known as a genius and a man of great vision....but he was also known for his temper and his need for perfection. Crane could usually read his moods and was prepared for anything that the Admiral could throw at him. Lee had a cool manner for dealing with the Admiral when he was in this moods, but sometimes both men would have a shouting match with one another. The Admiral would side with the science world and Lee would resist anything that might cause damage to his crew or boat. The Admiral might have built the Seaview with his genius, but the took the Captainís skill and intuition to see that she returned from each mission in one piece.
The Admiralís features relaxed a bit, "Yes, thatís what I thought..." he stopped and looked at Lee and Chip.
Somehow that pain was beginning in his head again. Why couldn't he escape this headache? Both men and already gotten their work done and were in the Wardroom just having coffee. Why did that annoy him so badly. He made a effort to push the anger back down inside him. He was getting older, maybe he did need to rest more than he did. Lee and Chip could actually handle the boat and he could concentrate on the problems with the filtering system at Sea Lab.
"You were saying?" Lee asked, watching the Admiral strangely.
Nelson leaned on one hand placed on the table top; he was feeling a bit weak. It had to be from the lack of sleep that he was getting. There was too much going on right now.
Chip rose from the table, "Sir, are you all right? Should I call Dr. Jamison?"
"No...no, Iím just a bit tired," the Admiral answered and then turned to leave the room. As he walked to the door, Lee was beside him. Lee turned back to give Chip his Ďwhat now?í look as he walked through the door with the Admiral.
As they walked down the corridor, the Admiral seemed not to even notice the younger man nor even seemed to care where they were. Lee was explaining a problem to the Admiral but the Admiral was not listening. His head was hurting and the anger that was with him when he entered the room suddenly returned as he and the Captain walked down a side corridor of the Seaview.
Why canít he shut up, Nelsonís mind asked him as he listened to the problem. A voice echoed in his head that the Captain was plotting against the Admiral. The voice suggested that both men were sitting in the Wardroom actually planning the death of Admiral Nelson. DEATH! DEATH! DEATH! Screamed the voice in his head. Kill or be killed, the voice chanted to him and the Admiral stuck out against the focus of the anger.
Without any warning, the Admiral turned and hit the younger man with a right hook that sent Lee Crane spinning chest first against the metal wall of the Seaview. As Lee started to push away from the wall, the Admiral popped him on the back of the neck with a vicious Karate chop. As Lee sank slowly to the floor, the Admiral walked away without a backward glance. The pain in his head had eased up a bit.
Chip Morton had returned to the Control Room and was going over some of the detail of the upcoming mission with Chief Francis Sharkey. He wasnít sure where Lee and the Admiral had wandered off to but he had a few more details to cover before they left port.
He dropped the report that he was reading on the plotting table and looked up at the man who waited in front of him.
"Chief...?" he addressed the man.
The Chief was a small man, somewhat a comic face and a ready smile. Often some of the younger men misread the man and thought that they had a Ďpush-overí to deal with and that they could probably get away with anything with this man. The Chief was anything but a pushover and kept most of the things rather straightened out on the boat. He was fiercely loyal to the Admiral and the secondly, to the Officers aboard the Seaview.
"Yes, Sir..." Chief answered.
Chip hated doing this. He knew that the Chief expected everything he did to be first rate and resented being told that something was unacceptable. Sharkey took such information without any problems from the Admiral but he did have some problems with taking it from any of the younger officers on the boat, sometimes including the skipper and XO. It was difficult for him to trust such younger men with the running of the submarine. But he had slowly warmed to them. The only time he was annoyed with the Captain was when Lee Crane argued with Admiral Nelson.
"Chief, the new hands are not up to par," Chip stated, handing the report back to the Chief. "They need to be checked again on the Admiralís new rebreathing apparatus. You know that his qualifications are tougher than what the Submarine School requires. They need this no later than the 2nd day out. Let me know the outcome."
"But, Mr. Morton," the Chief pointed out, "This man is a cook, the others have jobs that donít require diving, at least not with that particular equipment."
Chip smiled, "But you know that the Admiral and Lee both insist that everyone is to know the equipment and how to use it. They might need to be able to make a dive of this depth."
"Yes, Mr. Morton, I will see that they have the proper testing and training, if they need it." The Chief replied, somewhat deflated.
"I want the best for them, Chief. I want you and Kowalski on it as soon as we are able to take a little time when we enter deep water." He returned to the work that he was doing with the plotting charts.
Chief Sharkey stepped away and went back to checking out the instruments after he stuffed the report in his back pocket.
Chip glanced at his watch, wondering where Lee and the Admiral had gotten to. He was wondering what was going on with both men, as the Admiral had missed his meeting. That was quite unusual as the Admiral really had some vested interest in Sea Lab. And Lee was concerned. Crane knew the Admiral better than anybody, and Lee knew that the Admiral would not waste time on something that he felt did not merit his attention. It was apparent that the Admiral had already worked out a solution to the filtering problem and did not need impute from the men at the meeting. Chip stepped away from the plotting table and walked past the Chief.
"Keep an eye on things, Chief." He slapped the man on the back. "Iím going to see what our departure time is."
Even Chip admitted that the submarine was a nice place to be when she was berthed. There were just a few of the crew on board this early before sailing. It was rather quiet and he was always about to get his reading done at such times. Chip enjoyed those thick novels that most people considered boring and hard to get into, but he never had enough time to read as he would really like. He would board Seaview a day or two early, before the rest of the crew boarded to finish up the minute details and then he would settle down with a thick book in his hand. He would usually settle down in the Admiralís Ďfront porchí, as all hands called the observation nose. Lee would be at the plotting table, he could plot a course through hell, if he had to...and each would be lost in their own worlds.
Chip walked past the Wardroom, in the direction he had last seen Lee and the Admiral take. Once he finished his conversation with Lee, he would go somewhere and read for a while. He would not be able to do it in the control room now as the Chief would wander over from time to time and engage him in conservation.
As Chip passed the side corridor he happened to notice the crumbled heap of a man on the deck. He hurried over to the figure, and turned him over.
"Lee!" he exclaimed in surprise. Lee stirred when he heard his name.
"My God, Lee, what happened?"
Lee groaned as he struggled to sit up. He moved slowly and held his hand to the back of his neck.
Chip braced him in a sitting position against the wall. "Lee, what happened?"
Lee shook his head and looked about him. He saw that the Admiral was no where in the area. Was it Chip talking to him? At least it sounded like Chip.
"Lee!" Chip called again, aware that Lee was not fully conscious. He shook him gently, "Do you need a doctor?"
"No, Iím all right, now" Lee replied, puzzled. He started to stand but needed Chipís support. "Donít let his looks deceive you...heís as strong as an ox."
"Who...?" Chip asked, "...who hit you?"
" The Admiral...got to get things figured out." Lee mumbled. "Help me to my cabin"
he instructed Chip.
Chip supported him as they slowly walked back to the Captainís cabin. Chip opened the door when they got there and ushered Lee inside. "I wish you would tell me how this happened."
"When I find out myself, Iíll let you know," Lee replied, as he sat down in the chair at his desk. "Don't say anything yet, Chip. We'll have to try to figure out whatís going on....he gave no warning that anything was wrong."
Chip touched the side of Leeís face, where a huge knot was beginning to form. "I still think that I should get Dr. Jamison to check you out. He sat down in the other chair, "Lee, are you sure that it was the Admiral?"
Lee gave Chip a very annoyed look. "Of course, I am sure...."
"Lee, that doesnít make sense..." Chip continued.
"No, it doesnít," the Captain answered sharply, "nothing has made sense to me for the last two years, so why should it start now?" Propping his elbows on the desk he rested his head in his hands. He closed his eyes and began to think back to his telephone call from Starke two days ago. That seemed to have started a chain of events that made no sense; from the missed meeting, to nowÖrarely had the Admiral ever been out of contact with anyone, especially him. And yet, he hadn't been able to find the Admiral for over a day.
There was a sharp knock on the door to Leeís cabin. Lee looked over at Chip, "Enter."
The door opened as the Admiral entered, still looking at one of the charts the Captain and XO had been working on at the charting table. He looked up from the chart, "Good Lord, Lee, what happened?" Nelson laid the map on the desk and looked closely at the Captainís face. "Are you all right?" There was real concern in his voice as he questioned the younger man. Chip watched the Admiral and then Lee, to see what his response would be.
"Iím not really certain," Lee answered, "maybe you can tell me."
The Admiral smiled, seemly relieved that his captain was able to answer him. "You look like you got trampled." He was used to the Captain getting banged up around the submarine since Crane always put himself in any situation that involved danger to his men.
"Well, dammit......Iím glad you think it is so funny!" Lee responded, obviously quite annoyed at the Admiralís humor. "I have yet to understand why you hit me," Lee accused Nelson.
The Admiral was clearly shocked by that statement, "Me?! Lee, why on Earth would I hit you?"
"Actually, that's what I asked you," he rested his head in his hands again, his head throbbing.
The Admiral turned to Chip, "What is he talking about? I havenít seen him since I checked with you in the Wardroom about the course."
"I left the Wardroom with you," Lee answered flatly.
"No," the Admiral answered. "You went down the hall, I went to the control room."
Lee looked up at the Admiral, who was now standing over the desk staring down at him. The Admiral gently touched the side of Crane's face, "I wouldnít do this to you, lad." he stated.
He was quite upset by seeing his friend hurt and the fact that Lee was accusing him of doing it. Why would Lee do this to him? He would never hurt the man that was like a son to him but Lee sat there looking at him, with hurt and confusion in his eyes. As Harry stood there trying to decide what to do next, the anger begin to built. Ungrateful, the voice said, so ungrateful, and such a liar. Liar, liar, the vice chanted, while his head begin to throb.
The Admiral picked up the phone on the desk, pushing one of the buttons. "Yes?" a voice responded.
"Doc, this is the Admiral, come to the Captainís cabin, at once, please"
"Yes, Sir, Iíll be right there," the voice answered.
It was scarcely two or three minutes before the door to the cabin opened and the Doctor came into the room. He took one look at the Captain, "That is going to be a beautiful bruise in the morning." He walked over to the desk, "How are you feeling?"
"A bit of a headache, but Iím fine," Lee answered.
"Oh, and when did you get your medical degree, Captain? Was it this weekend?" the Doctor asked. He was used to having the Captain as a very unfriendly and uncooperative patient. "What happened?"
"I ran into a bulkhead," the Captain lied, looking at the Admiral.
"Maybe you should come down to Sick Bay," the doctor suggested.
"I'm fine," Lee insisted. "If the headache doesnít stop soon then Iíll come to Sick Bay. I just want to sit here for a few minutes." He was practically glaring at the Admiral. He turned to look at Chip, "Why donít you and the doctor give the Admiral and me a few minutes to go over a few things?" he suggested.
Chip stared at his friend for a few seconds, then turned to the doctor, "Iíll check back on him in a few minutes and let you know how heís doing" he indicated the door. The Doctor looked at the Captain and went out the door as Chip followed him. Chip stopped at the door and turned back to Lee, "I wonít go too far."
Admiral Nelson watched the two men walk out of the room and shut the door as they left.
He turned his attention back to his Captain, sitting at the desk, "Lee, are you sure that you are all right?" The tremors in his hands had returned, they were shaking quite badly. The Admiral looked at his hands with a bizarre fascination. He tried to calm his hands, but could not. He saw that the Captain was watching his hands also.
As younger man looked up from the desk and regarded Nelson very strangely, it was a look that the Admiral could read. Lee must think that he was insane since Nelson was not able to remember all that was happening. He is a threat! The voice in his mind chanted again.
The Admiral heard Lee heard him sigh wearily, then indicate a chair to the side of the desk, "Please sit down, Admiral, Iím not equal to standing up. Iím going to bring up a point, so humor me," he continued.
The Admiral sat in the chair, still aware that the Captain was going him the same curious look. "Okay, Lee, whatís bothering you? I really think that you should have gone to Sick Bay."
"Look, Admiral, other than having a few bruises, I can assure you that I am all rightÖ" the Captain then added, gently, "Itís you that Iím worried about."
"What are you talking about?" Nelson answered.
"You might not be able to remember it, but you did strike me," he said, all accusation gone. What is happening here? He looks like hell and none of this is making any sense.
The Admiral rose from the chair and started toward the door. He turned to face the Captain and walked back to the desk, "That is totally absurd! How can you possibly think that, Lee!"
"Itís not what I think, itís what I know," the Captain shook his head. "You've been doing some things outside your nature. What is going on, Admiral? Things have been really odd since that meeting you missed and Iím not really certain why you missed it. Why did you miss the meeting?"
"I decided not to go to the meeting." the Admiral replied. He knew that he was lying to Lee but he could not remember anything after the last mission ended except for going home. There was something about a phone call but he couldnít remember. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.
"I thought you were giving those up?" the Captain asked. "Why do you have them in your pocket?"
The Admiral slammed his hand down on the desk, "Who in the hell are you to question me?!"
The Captain smiled, "Iím beginning to wonder about that too. I thought I knew you, but I donít know whatís going on....and I donít like what I see."
"You remember your place with me, Mister," the Admiral warned. "You donít know me, Mr. Crane, and I will not put up with your wild stories and accusations!" He turned around and left the cabin, slamming the door after him.
Lee Crane sat at the desk, staring at the closed door, not really certain what he was going to do next. This did not turn out the way that he had wanted, but he was uncertain how the Admiral was going to act in any situation.
The change came suddenly. The Admiral had left the Captainís cabin a very angry man wondering what had come across Crane. By the time that he had gone several yards down the corridor when his demeanor had completely changed.
It wasnít like Lee to throw accusations at anybody. If any over reacting was usually done, it was him not the Captain. Lee was the first to try to do anything to get the bottom of a problem, and now he was accusing the Admiral of assault. Something had to have happened to the Captain to be acting this way, maybe the responsibilities of a small child after his wifeís death....but to blame it all on him? His best friend? The Admiral stopped in the hall, thinking to himself....why didn't he go to that meeting? Surely something had come up...Lee had no any idea of the responsibilities that he had. There was something nagging in the back of his head, but he wasnít sure what it was. Was it something that the Captain had said to him?
As he tried to force himself to remember, the pain in his head began again. That nagging feeling was always there and it was getting worse. He held on to the side of the bulkhead as the corridor seemed to rise and fall before him. One of the shipís crew, Seaman Kowalski, was coming toward him and seemed to be saying something to him but there was only a deafening roaring sound. He could not make out what the man wanted and the deck was rising higher and higher.
Harry was lying on something soft but it was hazy and someone was calling to him from the other end of a long tunnel. The haze started fading and he focused on bright lights over him. After a minute or so he was aware that there were shadows between himself and the bright lights that seemed to be moving back and forth. He started to rise but the pain and dizziness forced his head back down on the couch. If he kept very still the room begin to focus but the slightest movement caused the swirling shapes to return.
The shapes took the form of Captain Crane and Doctor Jamison. He couldnít keep them in focus because they kept joining into the spinning of the room.
The roaring sound became Captain Craneís voice, "Admiral Nelson, can you hear me?" Someone grabbed his arm in a tight hold, he associated the words to the touch and squinted up at Crane. He shook his head, causing the pain to worsen. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the pain, trying to get control of it.
"Harriman!" The Doctorís voice shouted at him.
Nelson opened his eyes, relieved to see that the room had slowed considerably and the faces staring down at him came in quite sharply. He started to sit up but the room once again begin to revolve. He laid his head back down on the pillow and closed his eyes as the dizziness and the nausea began again.
"He appears to be suffering from an acute attack of vertigo," Doctor Jamison told Crane. "We should run a few tests in order to find the cause of this dizziness." The doctor crossed over to the cabinet and took out a syringe and a small bottle of medicine.
"Whatís that?" the Captain asked.
"It will relieve some of the dizziness," the doctor answered. He filled the syringe, then injected it into the Admiralís arm. "It will also cause him to sleep for a while."
"I donít need to sleep," the Admiral protested.
"I donít recall asking you..." Doctor Jamison answered, then turned to Crane, "I will get one of the medics to stay with him until the drug takes effect." He called to another man at the opposite end of the room, "Matthews, stay here with the Admiral."
The Doctor motioned the Captain away from the gurney, "With all these accidents, maybe I should look at you."
The Captain shook his head, "No, I have to get the boat underway....should I wait to see what is wrong with the Admiral?"
Jamison looked back at his patient, "No, I really donít see anything except the vertigo, which is probably the usual inner ear infection or a bit of a virus. You stated that he over slept the other morning, so that is probably a virus and all he needs is rest and medication and he certainly wonít get that at the Institute. This will be the best place for him."
The Admiral could hear their conversation as the drug was just beginning to take effect. His eyelids were growing heavy and the pain began to numb but that nagging Ďsomethingí in the back of his head was still there. His condition was worrying him, he had never before been this ill and he could not understand the violent attacks of vertigo. He was retired Navy, a diver and a pilot to boot, how could he suffer from vertigo?
Several hours later, Melina and Lt. Earl Parks were returning from their tour of the sub. She had seen it once before but not in the detail that she was seeing it this time. It seemed that Lt. Commander Morton was making sure that they did not miss a single area. He and Parks discussed the technical side of nearly every area that they entered. It was very obvious that Lt. Parks had been on a sub before.
Melina had already decided that she didn't really care to know about the workings of every device they passed or the reason for very dial, but the men were quite delighted for the chance to talk Ďshopí. She patiently stood to the side and waited while they went over the navigation console, although she was amazed by all the lights and switches before her. She was more at home in the lab and studying the little one-celled Ďpetsí that she had brought along to conduct her own experiments on man-made growth on the sea floor and for filtration of SeaLab.
She was quite excited about this assignment...for several reasons. The first was the chance to actually stay at the Sea Lab for an extended period of time, to study the effects of living at those depths. Growing up on an island with her fatherís profession as a driver had given her a great deal of respect for the sea. His injury and death, both caused by the sea, whether directly or indirectly, also let her know the dangers that could be found at the ocean depths. She seemed to have developed a sixth sense, which she relied upon greatly at times.
It was this power that sensed something unusual in this place and she was determined to see what was going on. She had relied on her senses before and it had gotten her into a great mystery involving an undersea city, that her father had talked about. This same mystery had introduced her to the Captain and the Admiral, although, at the time, she did not realized their actual profession. Afterwards, she had hoped that her profession, once she came to the West Coast of the United States, might bring her in contact with her dashing young captain but she also sensed that there was a change in himÖ.
"Don't you agree, Ms. Gounaris?" Lt. Parks was asking her a question.
"Oh, Iím sorry," she answered, "I was thinking of something else." She was beginning to get tired of the tour and was already weary from the flight to Santa Barbara . The last few days had been very busy as she packed and tried to decide what to bring and what to leave behind.
"I realize that you are probably quite bored with all this Navy talk," he continued. "Perhaps you would like to join me for some coffee?"
"No, I think not. Weíve been underway for a while and I want to check on a friend." she answered. She stepped away from the Parks and went over to Chip Morton. "Do you think that Captain Crane is free now?"
Chip smiled and looked at his watch, maybe Lee could use a break. It wouldnít hurt for him to have a visit since the trip was going smoothly now. Melina Gounaris was such a pretty woman, Chip thought, he had forgotten how pretty she actually was. He smiled at her again. He shouldnít be thinking that way, he knew. Maybe things just might work out for LeeÖbut then, things were already not starting right. What was that going on between Lee and the Admiral? He couldn't bring himself to doubt Leeís version of the story.
She interrupted his thoughts, "Would it be possible that I could find Captain Crane?" she asked, flushing a bit. "He seemed quite surprised to see me, yesterday and I should explain what has happened with me," she explained.
Chip smiled again, this was going to be an interesting voyage, for a lot of reasons. "I think we should be able to locate him," he responded. He directed her on how to get the Captainís cabin by going up the spiral staircase. "I think that he is in."
Melina went up the staircase, following Chipís instruction to get to the cabin. Once there she knocked lightly on the door. "Come," a voice replied that she recognized as Lee Craneís and she entered the room. Captain Crane was at the desk going over a few reports, he had not looked up from the papers in front of him..
"Should I come back later?" she asked.
Lee looked up, startled, at the voice, "Uh, ...Ms. Gounaris...Melina....Iím sorry, I didn't realize that it was you." He stood up behind the desk, at a loss of words.
The little island girl from four years ago was long gone. The woman in front of him was very sophisticated. She stood looking around the small cabin. "So this is what a Captainís cabin looks like?" she asked, smiling. There were some military photos and awards on the wall as well as some photos on the desk. One was a young woman holding a small baby. She picked up the photo and looked at it, "Is this your wife and child?" she asked.
Lee took it from her and looked at the faces in the photograph. It seemed so long ago that it was made. "Cathy... my wife....she died two years ago...." he answered quietly. To him, it was just as it happened over and over again when he talked about her. Two years and he still could not get over her death; the Admiral had said that the hurt would lessen as time went by but this time the Admiral had been wrong. Maybe the hurt was gone, but there was such a void left, perhaps, it hadnít been enough time.
He looked at the baby in the photograph, Nickolas had been such a little thing, then. Now he's walking and chasing Mom's Siamese cat all over the house. "The baby is Nickolas, heís just started walking." Lee smiled at the picture. Nickolas looked more like his mother and he had her eyes. Lee would always remember Cathyís eyes; when he looked at his son, it was her eyes that looked back.
He realized that Melina was looking at him. He put the photograph back down on the desk and leaned against it. "It has been a long time. How are you?" Not waiting for her to answer, he continued, "I was a bit surprised the other day."
She smiled at him, it was partly a sad smile, "I imagine that you were. Admiral Nelson had asked me to work on a project for the SeaLab. I thought that I might see you, but I was surprised that the Seaview was involved with it."
"It is Admiral Nelsonís pet project, Melina. But he has definite ideals on how it should be carried out," Lee responded. "I was planning to get some dinnerÖ would you care to join me?"
They left the cabin and walked down the corridor and down a flight of steps to another level. Melina was sure that she would never get used to the maze of corridors that lead around the ship, and where everything was located. She and Parks had been shown to their cabins earlier by someone she remembered as Chief, but she was uncertain if she would find them again.
"Do you mind if we check in on the Admiral? " Lee asked, as they neared Nelson's cabin, " He...uh...wasnít feeling well earlier. I thought that I would see if he was better." He tapped lightly on the cabin door, then opened it slightly to see Nelson sitting at the desk. He turned back to Melina, "Would you mind waiting a moment?"
Crane stepped into the room as the Admiral looked up from the desk. He looked terrible and Crane approached the desk. "Doc told me that you had left Sick Bay when you woke up. I told him that I would check on you." Lee informed him. "Do you want me to send for him or are you going back to Sick Bay, just to make sure you are feeling well?"
"Neither," the Admiral answered, looking back down at the desk. He had a lot of paper work spread out in front of him which he wanted to get finished and he certainly did not want to have to deal with Lee Crane at this point. The damned meddler, why was he always checking and poking into things?
Lee said nothing but continued to stand in front of the desk watching the Admiral. He wasnít certain that the Admiral was back to normal. The man looked very old and haggard at this point and the Captain would have rather that he go to the Sick Bay to be checked by Jamison. While he was standing in front of the desk, Crane felt a small movement that told him that the Seaview had just cleared the Continental Shelf and entered open sea. He looked at his watch, "Weíre making good time."
The Admiral looked at the clock on his desk, "We are about 15 minutes late."
"I told Chip to wait until all hands had boarded or were accounted for." He sat down on the edge of the desk, still watching the Admiral. "We need our full complement aboard since we will be at sea a bit longer than usual for this trip."
The Admiral looked up from the paper on his desk, "Is there anything you need, Captain?"
Lee smiled at the formality of his words, "No, but I was concerned about how you were feeling."
The Admiral sighed, and looked back down at the desk, "I just don't remember what happened, Lee. I don't remember anything after seeing you and Chip in the Wardroom." He rubbed his face, "I donít think that I'm crazy, just extremely tired...but I donít need you worrying over me either. Give me a little room and a little time and Iíll be feeling better shortly. The doctor has given me some medication to take tonight and Iíll take it later and rest but I do need to look at this," he indicated the paperwork, "before we get to the SeaLab."
Lee stood there looking down at the Admiral, who resumed looking at the paperwork on his desk. As Nelson finished the first sheet and turned it over, he glanced up at the Captain, "Enough already, Lee," he sighed. "Iím not going to do anything, but sit here and read, okay?"
"If you say so, Admiral," Lee agreed, not really convinced. "Call me if you need me, Sir," he walked out of the room, where Melina was waiting in the hall.
As Captain Crane and Melina Gounaris came to a turn in the corridor they nearly ran into Chip Morton. Chip shoved a piece of paper at the other man and commented, "We're only a few hours out and already have company, Lee"
Lee took the paper from him, reading it as he leaned against the wall. "When did this happen?" he asked.
"Kowalski picked it up on sonar about five minutes ago. It is staying well back, almost beyond our reading but weíve picked them up twice, each time they pulled back." Chip explained. "Our initial contact with them was nearly two hours ago. Ski checked around and found the original reading stuck in the back of the sonar log"
Melina looked at the paper, not making much of it, "What is it, Lee?"
He smiled back at her, "Just some uninvited company....it looks like a sub," he answered. "Why wasn't the original reading reported?...I would have liked to have known this two hours ago. This is not acceptable," he demanded. He turned around and headed back to the Admiralís cabin with the other two following him.
"Chip, could you please show Melina to the Wardroom..." he stopped and looked at her. "I'll have to join you later, if I canÖChip, after she's settled, join me with the Admiral right away."
Lee knocked lightly on the Admiralís door and then turned the knob and walked inside. He could not help but smile when the Admiral gave him one of his Ďnow what?í looks as he walked up to the desk.
"We have company," Crane announced, dropping the paper on the desk in front of the Admiral. He sat on the desk corner waiting for a reaction from the Admiral.
Harriman Nelson picked up the piece of paper and looked over it, "Itís a sub," he announced looking over the reading. "Itís staying pretty far back.... following us, I would bet."
"We made the initial contact two hours ago, but it wasnít reported until just now. Iíll get to the bottom of that but Iím not going to do anything yet," the Captain said, "perhaps we should wait now that we are in open sea and watch what it does. Iíll put us on alert status until we get some questions answered."
The Admiral rose from behind the desk, the paper still in his hand, "How was this, of all things, overlooked?"
"I don't have an answer to that, but Ski found it tucked in the back of the log book, " Lee answered. "Chip just brought it to me."
"You get everyone in here that "overlooked" this item!" The Admiral demanded. Lee knew by his tone that there would be trouble over this slip up. "And just where were you at?"
"In my cabin," Lee answered, "Lt. Holman had the Conn."
"Oh," the Admiral interrupted, "...and where the hell was Chip?"
"He was giving our guests the grand tour, as you requested," Lee reminded him.
At the sound of his name Chip had entered the Admiralís cabin. If he had knocked no one had noticed.
"What is this?" the Admiral demanded, turning to Chip. "Something like this happened while neither of you had the Conn?" He reached for a notebook on his desk containing the duty roster, punching the intercom button on the phone he roared into it,
"Sharkey, get Kowalski, Jones and Lt. Holman up to my cabin, immediately!"
He stepped from behind the desk and begin to pace the floor in front of Chip and the Captain. "Gentlemen, we will get answers to this right away." He turned to Lee, "You are the Captain of this boat so I expect you to know whatís going on whether you are present or not. I donít care what you are doing! And..." he continued, turning to Chip Morton, "...if he doesnít know then you're supposed to!" He stopped pacing and sat down on the edge of the desk with his arms crossed over his chest, "So, explain the situation, gentlemen....and it better damned well be good."
There was a knock on the door as Lee let his breath out very slowly. He was certain that they were about to witness another one of the Admiralís mysterious temper attacks, and he was still uncertain how to deal with these mood swings.
"Enter," the Admiral demanded.
Sharkey entered with the requested men in tow, looking almost apologetic for interrupting. "Do you need me, Sir? he asked.
"Did I tell you that I needed you?" the Admiral answered. "I told you to get the other three up here, thatís all!" he slammed his hand down on the desk. "What seems to be the problem here?! Can't you men follow simple instructions?!"
The Chief looked at the Captain waiting for some sort of instruction but Crane slowly shook his head. Sharkey went back to the door and entered the corridor closing the door behind him, glad that he wasnít remaining in the cabin.
The Admiral turned to Kowalski, "What was this doing in the back of the log book?"
Kowalski stood at complete attention, "I donít know, Sir. Thatís where I found it." he answered. The Admiral then turned to Jones, a new sonar man that had come aboard the last cruise. "This happened during your shift. Why did you not report it and why did you put it in the back of the log book?"
The seaman looked at the time on the paper, "That must have happened while I was going on break, Sir." he answered.
The Admiral smiled warmly, "Oh....on break," he continued, "...who covered while you were on break?" he asked gently. Lee hated it when he got that tone in his voice during a dressing down. He knew that the Admiral was about to explode, but he had better sense than to try to stop it at this point. It was better to pick up the pieces and clean up afterwards, than to try to stop a runaway train.
"I was only gone a couple minutes...." the seaman explained, "...just to go to the head and to get a cup of coffee."
"Well, thank God we didnít run into a mountain, while you were in the head." the Admiral answered. "And it will be a cold day in hell before you or your relief are back at sonar."
He turned to Lt. Holman. "It was your watch! Where was your relief? Wasn't the man on the headphones while the switch was made? That's why we have a double set, isn't it?? Donít we do this to avoid the possibility of missing something when the watch is changed?" Nelson slammed his hand down on the desk. "Why do we have procedures?"
The Lt. paled noticeably, "I was at the plotting table, Sir."
The Admiral let a humorless grunt pass his lips, "Let me understand this....you were plotting a course while we did not have either sonarman paying attention to their station! That is funny! You are off watch duty, Mister."
He picked up the paper and shook it in Captain Craneís face, "Do you think that you and Mr. Morton can come up with some arrangement that will have everything covered for the rest of the trip or shall I bunk up in the Control Room to take care of things for you?!!"
Lee took the paper from him, " It won't happen again," Lee answered softly.
The Admiralís face was red as a beet and Lee did not want to say or do anything that would upset him further. "By your leave, Sir," he requested.
"Yes," Nelson answered, "all of you...leave," he dismissed them with a wave of his hand and turned back to his desk.
The five men withdrew from the cabin as Captain Crane shut the door behind him, "Wait a minute," he spoke softly to them. "No talk of this ....Kowalski, back to your station." As Kowalski walked down the corridor, he turned to Seaman Jones, "You need to stay out of the Admiralís way for a few days....youíre restricted to the day room. Find something to do, just stay there." He waited until Jones had gone off then turned to the other officers,
"Holman, you need to confine yourself to your cabin for a few days."
"But...I didn't do anything...." He answered.
Lee interrupted him, "That's the point, Lt. Holman, you did not do anything. Even at the plotting table, you need to know what is happening elsewhere in the control room." As Holman started to reply, Lee held up his hand, "It is not open for discussion. Go. Now."
Crane crossed his arms and leaned against the wall as he looked at Chip, "Now what....?"
Morton shook his head in reply, "I really donít know, Lee," he answered as they walked down the corridor.
By the time that Chip Morton and Lee Crane had gotten back to the Control Room, Chip was doing his best to try to talk Lee into involving Dr. Jamison in the Admiralís temper swings.
"Chip, what can we say?" the Captain asked. "The Admiral is angry when there is a foul-up. That is really not saying anything...even Jamison knows that." Lee smiled, "Even Doc gets mad when there is a foul up in the Sick Bay."
"But he hit you, Lee." Chip reminded him.
"My word against his.....he says that he didn't." Lee answered as Sparks called to him.
Both men walked over to the radio shack as Sparks was turning some dials and trying to adjust the signal on the radio. He handed the head phones to the Skipper. "I think it is the Sea Lab, Sir, but the signal is too weak to keep them in."
Lee listened to the static but could not make out anything on the head set. He turned to the door as the Admiral walked into the Control Room, and over to where the Captain stood beside Sparks.
"Get me the Sea Lab," he demanded.
"We are trying to pick them up now," the Captain answered, "but their signal is not getting through. We should be picking them up better than this."
"Boost the signal," the Admiral stated. As he said that he reached over Sparks shoulder and turned one of the knobs and made an adjustment on another while watching Leeís face since he still have the earphones on. Lee thought that he heard something and raised his hand in a Ďstopí motion.
Fingering the mike, he spoke into it, "SeaLab...this is the Seaview....come in SeaLab ."
"Hello, Seaview", a low voice responded, "This is Michael Clark from SeaLab...", there was a short pause, "I can barely make you out."
The Admiral held out his hand for the earphones, which Lee surrendered to him.
"SeaLab, this is Harriman Nelson, of the Nelson Institute. Are you reading me?" He was standing there staring at Lee while he spoke to the person on the radio. Lee was staring back at the Admiral, trying to figure out what was going on with his friend.
"This is SeaLab, Admiral Nelson," the voice replied back. "I was wondering if our sonar reading was you. Your signal to us is very weak."
Nelson turned to Sparks, "Put them on the speakerÖSeaLab, are you picking up another craft? We have readings on another sub in the area." The was no reply for several seconds. Only the sound of static was filling the Control Room.
"We have a reading from time to time, but it matches your pattern. There are no additional patterns received," Michael Clark answered back. "More static filled the Control Room, "I transmitted a report to you and itís receival was confirmed by the Seaview about six hours ago."
The Admiral turned and looked at Captain Crane, who shook his head to indicate that it was not received.
"Who confirmed the report?" the Admiral asked. Again more static.
Lee shook his head, "We are still too far out."
"Confirmation......" again static. "....Seaman Riley," was the reply from the speaker.
Riley, who was standing over by the readouts, looked at the speaker in amazement and then at the Captain and the Admiral. "I did not receive or confirm anything..."he started to argue but the Captain held up his hand to silence him.
The Admiral looked at Riley and then back to the Captain, "All right, SeaLab, we will be back in touch with you. Keep alert for any more contacts other than the Seaview and keep me informed."
Turning from Sparks and the radio, he confronted the Captain, "Are you aware what is going on here? Riley, get over here."
Riley looked across at Kowalski, then walked a few steps back to the radio area, "Sir." he stated coming to near attention in front of the Admiral.
"What in the hell..." the Admiral started before he was interrupted by the Captain.
"Riley," the Captain interrupted, "are you familiar with any reports that might have come in the past few hours or did you confirm receiving any reports from SeaLab?"
"No, Sir," he answered. "I would have informed you or Mr. Morton."
"Riley, do you know anything about sonar readings being in the back of the sonar log?"
the Captain continued.
Riley was watching the Admiral as he answered the questions. It seemed to him that the Admiral was barely controlling his anger. "No, Sir," he answered again.
"Thank you, Riley," the Captain stated, "return to your post."
"Thank you, Riley," the Admiral echoed. "Is that all that you are going to say?" he demanded of the Captain. All eyes in the Control room looked back to the radio shack as the Admiral confronted the Captain.
Captain Crane did not raise his voice as he answered the Admiral, "You know Riley would not do anything like that and he wouldnít lie about it either. What ever is going on, it is not being done by the men in the Control Room." Lee seemed to understand that the best way to treat the Admiral, when he was like this, was to remain very calm and it seemed like the Admiralís mood would match the person that he was speaking to at the time.
"Of course, youíre right....." the Admiral agreed. "We have others on board, and their research teams also, but they should not have access to the Control Room." He turned to Chip who was still standing nearby, more out of loyalty to his friendship with the Captain, than anything else. "I donít want any new personnel or guests down here or in any sensitive areas of the boat. Do you hear me?"
"Yes, Admiral, I hear you." Chip answered.
"Good! Keep it under control." the Admiral stated as he turned and went to the hatch leading out of the Control Room.
Chip turned to Lee who was leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest, looking down at the floor, as though he was studying a spot on the floor. As if he could feel Chipís eyes boring into him, he looked up and stared back at Chip, not saying anything. Chip had the unique ability to remain completely passive at times when other people might say or do the wrong thing. Lee admired that ability but could not repeat it as he often did have to have the final word, at least attempt it with the Admiral. This time he did not say anything as he knew that Chip was right, something was wrong with the Admiral.
Lee started to say something to Chip but noticed that several of the men, Riley and Kowalski included, were still at the posts watching the two remaining officers. Even Chief Sharkey and Patterson had come down the circular stairwell and stood at the plotting table watching. When they noticed the Captain looking back at them, they quickly turned around to their assorted tasks, as the Chief and Patterson came forward.
Sharkey had witnessed the confrontation between the Admiral and the Captain. He was determined to make the little scene the men witness as normal as near possible. "All the equipment is secured, Sir," the Chief announced with a forced smile on his face.
Chip started to comment to Sharkey that all the equipment should have been secured long before the Seaview left port, but realized that Sharkey was trying to break up the tension that was hanging over the Control Room.
The Captain was still lost in his thought concerning the confrontation that heíd had with the Admiral to really notice. "Thank you, Chief," the Captain replied, "Riley, take Kowalskiís place at Sonar. Ski, I need to speak with you."
Kowalski rose from his seat allowing Riley to sit down, and joined the Captain and Mr. Morton at the plotting table.
"Ski," the Captain started, "I want you to take a personal interest on what comes off that sonar." He turned to Chip, "Have some one else to take Skiís watch on Sonar." He then turned back to Kowalski, "Since you are the senior man here, I want you to personally take responsibility for the Sonar. Check it every few hours and make sure that you see anything that comes out of it. If itís anything odd, we'll see it." He indicated himself and Morton, "Grab your sleep and meals when you can, but just keep an eye on the Sonar. Any questions?"
"No, Sir." Kowalski answered.
The Captain knew that he could put complete trust in Kowalski to handle that problem as he had decided that he and Chip were going to have their hands full trying to keep up with the Admiral.
Some time later Captain realized that he was hungry. He had been in the Control Room all this time and had forgotten about both food and Melina. He looked at his watch and knew that if he was back home in Santa Barbara he would have been tucking his young son in for the night. He really missed that when he was away, but he knew that his mother would be handling her grandson nightly tuck-ins without him.
Once things had settled down after Cathyís death and Lee had tried to get things back to normal, he had found an older home outside Santa Barbara. It sat away from the city on a hill overlooking the ocean and on clear days he could actually see the Nelson Institute off in the distance. Lee decided that he did not want the baby to grow up in an apartment or a condo, even if it meant a bit more driving time when he ended each mission. The house was ideal, but really too large from three people so his mother had closed up some of the rooms. It did gave him an eerie feeling, at times, to walk in those areas and see the dust sheets everywhere. His son, Nickolas, would spend hours hiding under the sheets so they made a habit of making sure that the doors were always closed to keep the youngster in the main rooms of the house.
He stretched up from the plotting table to see Kowalski at the Sonar with Patterson. They were in the middle of some discussion, nothing that seemed to involve the Captain so he ignored it. Chip entered the Control Room and walked up to the plotting table.
"I thought you were going to get some sleep," Lee complained.
"I was," Chip responded, "but I seem to have lost something." He leaned against the plotting table looking out over the Control Room.
Lee smiled, Chip was acting rather oddly. "What did you lose?"
"Admiral Nelson," Chip replied, still looking over the Control Room. He was talking very low to the Captain.
Lee stopped plotting and laid the pencil on the table, "What are you talking about?"
Chip turned to the Captain, "I can't find him, Lee. I have looked everywhere that he might be and I have come up short."
"Oh, Lord." The Captain responded, running his hand through his hair. What was going to happen next? Youíve checked the lab." It was more of a statement than a question as they all knew that when Admiral could not be found anywhere else, he would be there.
Chip gave Lee one of his looks that he reserved for the Captain when Lee asked him an obvious question that he already knew the answer to.
"Chip!" Lee replied. "I really donít know how much more of this I can take." He started to move away from the table when Chip touched his arm.
"Lee, Patterson and the Chief are still looking. We have been looking for the last two hours but I have told them not to tell anybody."
"How about Sick Bay?" the Captain asked.
"Lee..." Chip started. They had checked everywhere they could think of and then started a corridor to corridor search.
Kowalski looked up from the sonar and called to the Captain interrupting the quite conversation that the Captain and the XO were having. "Skipper, we have something here."
Lee paused a few seconds, divided between the problem that Chip had brought him and the new problem that Kowalski was working on. He turned to the Sonar and walked over.
"It was there, just briefly..." Kowalski touched part of the screen, there was nothing there now but Patterson was nodding in agreement with Ski. "We had just barely saw it and then it was gone again..." he was shaking his head.
Captain Crane turned to Chip, "Mr. Morton, find us some cover so we can see whatís following us. Iím getting tired of playing Ďcat and mouseí here. Sparks, do you pick up anything?"
The Captain was puzzled by this object that kept slipping into their Ďsightí then getting back out again. Either it was a tease or else the craft was accidentally over running the Seaviewís Sonar. He was really uncertain as to what was going on or even why. To his knowledge the trip to SeaLab was merely for restocking and delivering scientists to the ocean floor; this was to include Melina Gounaris.
Nelson was involved in a project there also, concerning the safety of SeaLab, as he and Michael Clark had spoken several times over the last couple months. Lee was not privileged to that information but since it did not concern the Seaview or the men, he hadn't paid much attention to it. He had assumed that it was something with the structure or one of the scientific experiments. He had to admit he was learning more and more about science since being on the Seaview, not that he always wanted to know more but it had a way of getting in place before him.
He kept watching the Sonar but nothing else appeared. "Maybe we ought to wait for them," he suggested to Chip as Morton walked up to the other side of Kowalski.
"Chip, keep an eye out here and call me if there is another sighting. Iím going to take a walk." He did not have to explain to Chip what he meant by that. Chip knew that he was going to see if he could locate Nelson.
Lee left the Control room and walked down the corridor. The most obvious area to look would be in Officerís Country. He proceeded down there and walked over to the Admiral cabin and tried opening the door but it was locked. Taking his keys out of his pocket he unlocked the door and paused just enough time to turn on the light. The room was empty. He checked the closets and then the head before leaving the cabin, turning to lock the door again. He went around the corner and down the hall to check his cabin. The Admiral was not there, not that he was expecting him to be there but he had to be somewhere. He unlocked the door to Chipís cabin, always neat as a pin, but also unoccupied. He then went over to the Dr. Jamisonís cabin and knocked on the door and was surprised to hear the doctor answer for him to enter. He opened the door, smiling at the doctor.
"Well, Captain, this is a surprise," the doctor stated, looking up from his desk. "Usually you try to avoid me like the plague...or are you coming up with a different story for your accident in the hall."
Captain Crane stopped in the center of the floor, smiling at the doctor. "For the time being, Iím still sticking to that story if itís all right with you."
"Okay, but would it really matter?" The Jamison agreed. He continued to stare at the Captain, "What else can I help you with?"
"I was just wandering around and I thought I heard a noise and..."
"You heard a noise and you knocked on the door....?" the Doctor interjected. "Lee Crane, I know you better than that." He rose from the desk and leaned against the side of the desk. "What ....or whom are you looking for?"
"Actually, I am looking for the Admiral..."Lee confessed.
"I havenít seen him," the doctor answered, "....nor has Mr. Morton, the Chief and Patterson. I make it my business to know things, Captain." he continued.
Lee sighed, "Okay, Doc, Iíll let you know something later......" He turned back to the door.
"Okay, Captain, just be careful of the walls around here, okay?"
Lee did not bother to respond to that warning as he walked back out into the hall. He should have known that the Doctor was aware of more than his Captain gave him credit for.
The initial plan was for Crane and Morton to go over to SeaLab but with the Admiralís mood swings and the fact that they now could not find him, Lee was beginning to think that was not such a good idea. He did not even want to leave the Seaview until more questions had been answered. The search last night had turned up nothing. Crane had only had a few hours of restless sleep, still dreaming of the problems that were plaguing him.
Returning to the Control Room, he found the Admiral sitting on the front porch drinking coffee, in a relatively good mood, as if some of the events of the past couple of days had not even happened. There had only been a few contacts with the mysterious sub. It seemed to have guessed that the Seaview would lay in wait for it to appear and it never showed. The last contact was just before the Captain made his appearance in the Control Room.
After having made his rounds to see if everything was going well and making eye contact with Chip, who stood at the plotting table, he walked over to the Admiral.
"Oh, good morning, Lee," the Admiral greeted him, cheerfully
"Morning..." Lee replied, not with the cheer that the Admiral was feeling, "I was looking for you last night."
The Admiral looked up from the report that he was reading, "Oh? I was probably in the lab with Parks and Ms. Gounaris. Weíll get to the SeaLab today and I wanted to make sure that they had everything together that they needed."
Captain Crane sat down at the table. He knew that he had checked the lab, and there was no one there except for Parks and Melina, but he decided not to push the issue. "What about the contacts with the sub?"
"I really donít think it is something we need to be concerned with," the Admiral replied.
"There are just too many little countries out there that probably have subs and they are not involved in anything on a grand scale." He sat his coffee cup down on the table, "We canít get a reading on the sub, itís too far back, and we are on a scientific mission so Iím not going to concern myself with it until I see differently."
Lee smiled at that statement. It was Harriman Nelson's way of saying that Ďno oneí would be concerned with the sub, but Lee would be concerned with it until he knew what was going on.
"So, you and Chip going over to the SeaLab?" the Admiral continued, looking directly at Lee.
Something in Lee took this as a challenge from the Admiral, "I thought that I would send Chip and Sharkey," he answered. "Patterson and Riley are checking out the Flying Sub now. I have a few things that I want to look into here."
"No, " the Admiral countered, "I want you and Chip to go. I want this transfer to be done right."
Lee was not comfortable with this conversation and he certainly was not comfortable with the situations that had been going on for the past couple of days. He really felt that he needed to be on the Seaview. "Chipís the computer expert and Sharkey needs to check out the SeaLab to see that everything is in order. I really trust his expertise on the structural work and how all the machinery is doing. Both are really more qualified than I am on what needs to be done."
"You have knowledge there too," the Admiral replied, lying down the report. "I want you and Chip over there and that is the way that it will be, there will be no more discussion of this." He got up from the table and walked to the staircase. Turning back to Lee, "Let me know when you are ready for departure".
Lee leaned back in his seat staring out the nose window of the Seaview, but all he saw was his reflection staring back. The stress was beginning to really bother him: the Admiralís mood swings; and his own uneasiness about this mission. It was supposed to be routine but it didn't feel right and things were happening that were not right. Lee certainly wasnít going to ignore the elusive sub that seemed to be stalking them.
"So?" the mood was broken.
Crane looked up to see Chip standing over him. "It seems that we are going to SeaLab,"
" Oh! What about the Admiral?" Chip asked.
What about the Admiral, indeed. Lee was uncertain how to answer that question as he was beginning to feel that he was not in control of the situation and he and Chip were just pawns waiting for the next event to happen. Somehow he was uncertain what the Admiralís role was in this but it seemed to involve more that he and Chip were able to understand at the time.
"It seems that the Admiral will be staying here while you and I deliver our guest and the cargo," Lee replied.
"I wonder if that is a smart thing to do?" Chip mused, quietly.
Lee stood up from the table and looked Chip directly in the face, "No, Chip, it isnít the smartest thing to do but we have our orders," he started back into the main part of the Control Room.
Chip nodded thoughtfully, "Okay, but letís just be careful."
Lee stopped and looked back at Chip, "Why did you say that?" he asked quietly.
"Iím not comfortable with this either," Chip answered as he returned to the plotting table.
"It could be my imagination or is the Admiral trying to get rid of us?"
Lee did not answer that as he walked out of the Control Room. Why did it seem that Chip always had the questions that Lee did not want to ask himself.
Several hours later Chip and the Captain were in the Flying Sub getting ready for departure to the SeaLab. Lt. Earl Parks was running down the list of the items that they were taking with them while Melina was supervising the loading of some of the more fragile equipment.
The Admiral had come down the ladder and was watching the flight preparations get underway. He walked over and looked over the list that Lt. Parks had given him. "Ms. Gounaris, do you think that you have every thing that you will need for a while?"
"I believe so," she responded, as she repositioned one of the boxes on the floor. She was talking to Riley about some of the boxes, "That one needs to be here also. I want them where I can see them."
"But, maíam, they wonít go anywhere," Riley responded good naturedly to her request.
She smiled back, "But itís alive," she explained.
He looked at the small box, puzzled, "Whatís in it.....a rat?"
"No," she answered, "If you look at them under electron microscopes, they look like little dragons."
"Oh, wonderful......" he replied, setting the box of Ďdragonsí on the floor. "And what do they do?"
"They eat algae. They are a filtering agent," she answered back.
"Okay..." he answered slowly. "Why?"
"Donít ask so many questions," Ski told him as he sat the last box down on the floor.
"I donít mind the questions," she answered.
Lee walked over to the trio, "Well, if your Ďdragonsí are ready, I think we should be underway".
Ski and Riley were exiting the Flying Sub as Riley continued talking to Ski about the discovery of the tiny dragons, "Why would somebody want little dragons...?"
Admiral Nelson walked over and laid the check list on one of the boxes, "Let me know when you arrive and get Rileyís little dragons settled into their new home. I am curious to see how well they will perform for cleaning and filtering." He was clearly amused by the exchange. He rested his hand on Leeís shoulder, "Go over SeaLab completely and make sure that everything is under control. There is quite a bit resting on this project and I want to make sure that no problems develop. I talked to Michael Clark this morning and he said that things were good down there but I want your input also."
"No problem," Lee answered. He was surprised that he had nearly pulled away from the Admiralís touch but he remained standing in the same location. Since their conversation in the Control Room, this morning the Admiral had been trying hard to smooth over the brief exchange. Lee knew this but he was still uncomfortable with this entire mission and with his feeling toward the Admiral. Nelson had seemed to level off emotionally and, except for the looks that Chip was giving Lee and his own nagging feeling, he could almost convince himself that things were normal.
"Well, Lee, I will let you two get underway." The Admiral turned and went up the ladder.
Lee went over to the pilotís seat and began the preflight checklist. Chip indicated two seats to the passengers and then settled in the seat next to Lee. He fastened himself in and looked back to see how the passengers were faring. Lt. Parks had figured out the belt but Melina was quite puzzled with the restraining harness. Chip started to get up but stopped and indicated the problem to Crane.
"Give me the board," Chip stated, "Iíll finish the check list."
Crane handed him the clipboard and stepped back to Melinaís seat. She looked up at him smiling, "How do these things fit?"
"A bit more complex than the seat belts in a car," Lee answered. He leaned over and begin to straighten out the belts for her.
"Car seat belts are not this thick," she stated, fumbling with the nylon straps.
"I know, but a car doesnít usually hit the water at sixty knots per hour and survive it like we do. And if we should crashÖ."
"Crash.....?" Melina asked in astonishment.
"Oh, donít worry about. Chip only does that a couple times a week," Lee threw in smiling. "If it were me, we might actually have to worry about it." He fastened the belts for her. "I think that I still owe you a dinner, donít I?" he asked lowering his voice.
"Yes, you do," she replied. "You never did show up. I did wait."
Lee returned to his seat smiling to himself and fastened his own belt. He started to release the Flying Sub into the water when he noticed that it was off-center by a couple of degrees.
"We're a few degrees to starboard," he stated to Chip. "Keep an eye for clearance." A light stated blinking on the console as Lee compensated for the off center of the craft. "I wonder how that happened?" he asked Chip.
Chip shook his head, "Maybe we should check the couplers on the next routine maintenance."
"Add that to the log," Lee suggested as the craft begin to drop out of the underbelly of the Seaview.
Melina felt a slight drop as one would experience in an elevator, and there was a slight sway as the craft was freed into the water. From behind her she heard the powerful engines as they churned to life and propelled the craft ahead. The little vessel was free in the water and moving away from the Seaview, toward the SeaLab which lay ahead.
"How are you doing, Lt. Parks?" the Captain asked.
"Great," he answered and seemed to be really enjoying the ride and the sights through the view ports of the Flying Sub.
"Melina?" Lee continued.
"Oh, fine..." she replied, without much conviction in her voice. She looked down at her side, at the boxes at her feet.
"I would give you a tour, but I am afraid that the visibility is rather poor in this area," Lee looked over his shoulder at Melina. "This is where your Ďlittle dragonsí will come in handy, to clean up the area."
"After they adjust to the area, that should be no problem...it will require a 48 hour adjustment period. The temperatures are cooler here than in the original test area," she answered.
"We should ," Chip added "arrive there in little over an hour. Seaview will arrive in about five hours."
Exactly one hour and six minutes later Captain Crane gently guided the FS1 to the air lock at Sea Lab. The whine of the motors cut as the craft settled and the clicking of the couplers begin. It took less than 30 seconds for the light on the console to turn green indicating that the craft was now ready for the passengers to disembark. Lt. Parks was the first one down the craft and then turn to offer a hand up to Dr. Gounaris as she disembarked from the mini-sub.
Michael Clark was approaching them to extend a welcome as Chip jumped down from the ladder.
"Hi, Mike," Chip greeted him, "howís it going?" he asked.
"Pretty good. Whereís Lee. I thought he was coming?"
"Oh, heís checking out one of the systemsÖwe were a little off center from the sub and Lee is checking it out." He looked up as Lee descended the ladder.
"It seems all right," Lee commented to Chip. He extended a hand to Mike, "Well, itís been long enough."
"It sure has," Mike continued, "I sent out a few divers today so we'll be having lobsters tonight. It isnít everyday that we have company down here."
"And how long have you been down here?" Melina asked.
"Oh, Mike," Lee remarked, remembering his manners, "this is Dr. Melina Gounaris and Lt. Earl Parks." "Dr. Gounaris has an answer for the filtering problem and Lt. Parks is here as a military observer."
Michael Clark smiled at Dr. Melina Gounaris, "If you can solve the filtering problem then you get two lobsters. We have now been down here for 14 months and we keep having a problem with the air. Nothing toxic yet, but I am concerned about it." He indicated the craft, "Let the supplies go as I have some people who can unload while we talk and I can give you a tour of the facility." He turned back to the Doctor, "We have set you up a lab, but it isnít nearly what you had at the Nelson Institute."
Lee Crane turned and looked at Melina, when Mike made that statement. No one had told Lee that she was working at the Nelson Institute. She might have mentioned the word Institute, but everything was as "instituteí these days. He certainly had missed the connection.
She smiled back at Lee, but answered Michael Clark, "I havenít settled in at the Institute yet. There is still some moving to be done from the lab in Monte Carlo. I have been there since graduating with my doctorate." She turned to address Lee, "I was home on vacation when I ran into you. Itís not really a usual passtime for the native girls to be out diving." She added, smiling at him.
"I never got around to asking you about that." Lee stated. "I did wonder about it, though....later"
"Oh, you came from there?" Mike asked, impressed. "How devil did Harry get you to Santa Barbara?"
Melina smiled, "Oh, it was a better offer with some fringe benefits."
Chip Morton coughed back a laugh, then gave Lee Crane his ever famous "cold and detached" look. Lee started to say something to him but decided that this was certainly not the time and place. He would definitely have to have a talk with Chip very soon.
They continued to walk through Sea Lab as Michael was explaining the facility to his guest. It was brightly and colorfully painted, with several portholes. On occasions they would enter a room that contained a person hard at work...the entire facility seemed to resemble a laboratory with people working on several projects.
"So the purpose is to see that man can live in the ocean..." Earl Parks asked as they continued walking.
"We know that people can stay beneath the sea for periods of time but we're trying for a year down here. We're studying the physical as well as the psychological effects. Our problem is that we are having trouble maintaining a quality air environment and keeping algae from building up in the water plants. We can add chemicals but the purpose is to maintain a balance without using them, so Dr. Gounaris has been working on a solution to the problem."
Michael turned to Lee and Chip, "But you have heard all of this before so I wonít bore you and I know that you have your own inspections to pull down here." He indicated down the corridor, "Lee, you and Chip are welcome to my office for the duration and I have the reports on the desk."
"Thatís great, Mike, we will get everything checked over and get back to you as soon as we can," Chip answered as he and Lee walked off down the corridor.
As they walked off, Lee Looked at Chip, "Whatís this about the Institute? I didn't know she'd meant the Nelson Institute."
"Huh?" Chip responded.
"Donít Ďhuh" me, that wonít work this time," Lee responded to Chipís look of innocence.
Chip smiled back at Lee, "I assure you that I donít know what you are talking about. If I did, I would still say the same thing so donít ask me anything."
"...And if I ordered you..."quizzed Lee, as they entered the office. Lee walked over to the desk and picked up the "Operations" report for the SeaLab.
"Oh, I might add a ĎSirí to my last statement," Chip replied, smiling.
"So you're not going to answer?" Lee continued to question, while looking over the report.
"Nope," Chip replied. "Well, do you want to get started?" he asked.
"Might as well, as Iím not getting an answer to my question," Lee answered. "From this report, they are having a problem with the water quality...."
"Are you saying that we shouldnít drink the water?" Chip asked smiling.
"Itís safe, but will probably taste like hell," Lee replied. "We do need to get a sample for Jamisonís crew to check out....say before and after." He picked up a clipboard from the desk, already prepared with the necessary paper work. "Okay, Chip letís go check the roof supports and make sure we donít have the same problems as ĎChicken Littleí."
They left the office and walked back into the corridor from the direction that they had come from, "Why is it that I feel totally comfortable on the Seaview," Chip asked, "but I donít like the feeling that I have here? I wonder how thick these walls are? Do you know that there are eight escape hatches on this thing but we are really too deep for any of them to be feasible? I really looked over the plans before we came. It is little wonder that the Admiral wanted to take over the responsibility of the place and sent Mike here."
Lee looked over at Chip, "When Ďtheyí built this facility they did it without consulting Admiral Nelson and he was mad as everything for weeks afterwards. There are actually several bad construction points, not just the escape hatches, and they is why we have these bi-annual inspections. Nelson demanded that some changes be done even before they placed personnel here...and Jiggs had them done. The filtering problem was turned over to the Institute a couple months ago."
They entered one of the rooms which consisted of a wire cat walk over a large vat of water that was being fiercely churned by mechanical arms extending down into the water. Lee stopped on the catwalk and looked down into the water. It was several feet deep, had a greenish tinge, and a slight smell, not a bad odor, just not a Ďrightí odor that one would associate with drinking water.
"This is the water in question?" Chip asked.
"Yep, from what I see on the report," Lee answered, looking down at the clipboard. He knelt down and scooped up some of the water into a long handled vial and capped it. "This will be exhibit A before we dump in Melinaís Ďdragonsí into some of the water...of course, we will try a small sample first."
"Yeah," Chip replied, "I would hate to wake up in the morning and find the place overrun with giant dragons. With all that is going on with the Seaview, I would hate to explain it to the Admiral.....'Oh, by the way, Admiral....we have dragons on SeaLab'....there would be hell to pay. Could you imagine his reaction to that?"
"Right now I would hate to guess his reaction to anything," Lee answered as they left the room.
Sweat was pouring off the Admiralís body as he gathered together the supplies that he would need for this project. His head was hurting so bad, it had started right after Lee and Chip had left the Seaview. No, not Lee and Chip...but the evil beings...devils. He needed to get this done while the Ďevil onesí were off the beast. He had sent them away...it had been so easy! He wiped his face with his shirt sleeve as he continued to work. It was hot and the whispering had started up again. No matter how hard he tried, he could not really hear the words but he could hear the murmurs and knew that they were planning his destruction...the destruction of the planet.
The pain never stopped now...he could always feel it...the throbbing, the constant throbbing... and the voices. The voices wanted him to kill, to kill anyone who got in his way. He knew that they knew.....the one with the soft voice and the dark hair, and the other one...the quiet one, those blue eyes saw everything and read into his mind. They had to die, because they knew...
But what did they know? They werenít evil! The thoughts were coming to him and he did not know why Lee and Chip had to die; they were his friends. His mind cried out to the voices...but they continued to demand deaths. He knew that he was losing control and that there would be deaths; there would be many deaths. This whole place would die. He would be the one to tear out the heart of the beast and he would kill it and everybody would die. They were all evil, the voices said.
He knew that he needed sleep and he needed to be away from all the eyes that were watching him. They were talking about him, scheming to take over, to murder him. There was the constant whisper as he walked down the corridors and then the pain would begin. The beast would groan as it moved through the water taking its evil across the Earth, under the water. No one would know, even suspect, until it was too late. Viruses would be released into the water and millions would die horribly. It was evil and he knew it was evil...they did too, but they smiled at him and talked quietly of their plot...he could hear their minds.
He had to get them off this beast and get them to the den, where he could kill them. Thatís what the SeaLab was, the den of evil! They would die in the den and no one would be the wiser for it and he would kill the beast and the evil aboard her. They were looking for him but they would never find him...not here...here under their very feet. There were too many ways into this area. He would be safe and they would not find him. He chuckled to himself as he worked at the lab table, he would stop them...this would stop them.
The Admiral worked at the device in front or him, as he connected the wires to the explosive. The voice said that he was to put this in the Reactor Room. This would kill the beast and then he would be free of its evil and he could get away. He knew that they were looking for him. He could hear they talking, the sounds filtering in from the search...the footsteps in the corridor...the echoes. He could stop the echoes, too. Everything would stop and then there would be the blissful silence. He would wait until the beast was asleep, when he could venture out again...even evil has to sleep.
Somehow they had found out that he knew of their evil. He noticed it in the Control Room, when the blue eyes were staring at him...reading him. That evil said something to the other one and that one turned to watch...thatís when the Admiral knew that they suspected him...that he knew their plot. He knew that he might die...but he would kill them first.
No one would find him, this room was his own addition to the plans of the Seaview. It appeared no where on the blueprints and no one knew about it but himself. It contained a small lab, a bunk, communication equipment and control overrides. He could take over command of the Seaview from this area...but that was before the evil. Now it was a beast, carrying destruction and had to be destroyed before all that was released to the world. The bomb that he was now building would destroy the reactor, and the beast would be a nova, spreading light and viruses into the sea. In its death, it would be a thing of beauty...spreading across the ocean floor.
Meanwhile, Sharkey was walking through Ďofficers countryí with Kowalski, Patterson and Riley in tow, "Now look, guys, I want you to keep your eyes peeled for the Admiral and to sing out when you see him."
Before the Captain had left, he had given strict orders to Sharkey and Kowalski to keep an eye on the Admiral. He had demanded that one of them be with the Admiral for the entire time. They had been except for just a minute when that damned sub had reappeared on the radar and they had turned their attentions to it. It had been just a few minutes and when Sharkey turned back around, the Admiral was gone.
Sharkey was annoyed by the turn of events. A junior officer, OíBrian, was in command of the Seaview and he had been given strict orders by Captain Crane to "stay the course"; no matter what happened. The Seaview continued toward the SeaLab with the Captain and the Executive Officer off the boat. The Admiral was missing and Sharkey had reached the end of his rope with all that could go wrong. He had yelled at Kowalski for "losing" the Admiral, although he knew that he was the responsible party. He hated to fail the Captain and he was quite upset at the way the Admiral was acting.
They had been searching for hours and they could not find the Admiral anywhere. He seemed to have disappeared from the submarine, although Sharkey knew that was near to impossible as there would be some indication in the Control Room. How could he explain this to the Captain?
Crane and Morton had walked the corridors of the SeaLab and had inspected as much as they could before they decided to turn in for the night. Lee had been asleep for about an hour when he was awaken by the sound of an alarm.
"All systems...Red! I repeat, this facility is on Red Alert," was being broadcast over the communications system.
He turned to look for the his clock, when he realized that he was not on the Seaview, but still at the SeaLab. His was the most uncomfortable bunk he had experienced in a long time. Chipís bunk was empty. He had said something about doing some reading and had left the guest quarters to look for a lounge.
The resounding beeps from the communications system did not help his mood as Lee rose from the bed. He quickly dressed then headed for the control-sphere, ignoring the busy bustle around him. As he entered, he saw Michael Clark, his assistant Kay Summers explaining something to Chip and Melina. Earl Parks was watching the sonar screen.
"Whatís the projected course?" he heard Chip ask the sonar operative.
"It keeps altering course, Sir. The computers havenít enough data to project it yet," he answered.
"Range!" Chip demanded.
"Zero...seven...five...decimal...two...one...two..." the sonar operative was reading out.
"Red?" Chip repeated.
"Dear, God...." Michael Clark interrupted, "Torpedoes.....Get me some interceptors out there!"
Kay Summers immediately ordered the launching of the interceptors. Lee Crane stepped up to the sonar and looked at the signals it was receiving. He was now familiar with the pattern of the sub, but once again it was barely in range.
"Mike, what are you using to intercept?" Lee asked as he watched the approach of the torpedoes on the screen.
"Heat seeking missiles," Clark answered.
"Theyíre gone, Sir!" the sonar operative stated. Lee looked at the screen, which was clear except for the four small Ďblipsí moving away from the SeaLab. His face registered annoyance as he looked to Chip. "How in the hell are we getting readings on something that isnít there."
"Missiles released and detonated, but there was nothing there," the operative at the sonar reported.
Lee turned to Michael Clark, "Did we get a visual on anything out there?"
"Nope, Lee," he answered, "there was nothing there."
Lee indicated the radio, "I need to contact the Seaview."
"Sure," Clark answered, then turned to the radio man, "Get the Captain a line out."
Clinking the mike twice, Lee was surprised to how quickly Sparks answered back.
"Sparks, put me through to Admiral Nelson."
"He isnít in the Control Room, Sir," Sparks replied.
"Whoís on watch?" Lee asked.
"Lt. Casey, Sir," Sparks replied.
"Put me through, Sparks."
Lt. Greg Caseyís voice came over the line, "Yes, Captain. Good morning."
"Lt. Casey, what is the time of your arrival?"
"Within the hour," Casey replied.
"We picked up a reading on the sub and three torpedoes," Crane continued. "What do you show?"
There were a few seconds of hesitation before Lt. Caseyís voice returned to the speaker, "No contact from either radio or sonar, Sir."
Captain Crane looked over to Chip and then to Michael Clark, "They are close enough that they should have picked up a reading." He spoke back into the mike, "Keep a sharp lookout for anything, Mr. Casey. Report immediately if you get any unusual reading."
He hung up the mike, then turned to Chip, "I want us to cancel these inspections until we can get a line on what is going on."
"The only conclusion that I can come up with is that the sub is invisible," Michael Clark added. "I canít explain the torpedoes disappearing either."
Chip walked back over to the sonar and watched it for a minute, "Mike, I canít explain it either, but you really ought to hold your alert status on yellow and try to pick up something. I would not discount any torpedo readings either. There isnít much that Lee and I can do here except wait for Seaview to arrive..."
"Canít guarantee anything with that either..." Lee answered, as he was looking over the printouts from the sonar contacts. "Something isnít right here."
Chip walked over to stand beside Lee as he was looking at the print outs, "Whatís the problem, Lee?"
Crane pointed to the readouts, "According to what we are picking up, we were under attack..." he held up his hand as Chip started to say something. "...but there was actually no attack. The torpedoes were not actually there, even though we have a print out saying that they were. We have a printout showing a sub contact but we have never even seen the sub, even when we waited for it."
"...the problem is that we are fighting something that is not actually there." Chip stated, answering his own question.
"But...how long is it going to be this way?" Lee asked. "Chip, no matter what the Admiral said, we need to return to the boat."
"We canít leave with all thatís going on here," Chip answered.
"SeaLab's not the target....and I really doubt if anything is really going on here. We seem to be the real targets." Lee answered. He walked over to Mike, "I think it is best that Chip and I return to the Seaview. I want to have more power behind us when we get another reading on the sub," he stated. It wasnít the whole truth, but they could possibly avoid endangering the civilian members of the SeaLab by leaving it immediately. He turned to Melina, "We will have to delay your experiment for a while until we return. I think it would be best that we all return to the Seaview. Lt. Parks you will be returning with us."
"But, my experiment..." Melina started to protest.
"Iím sure that Mr. Clark would be more then willing to care for your specimens until we can return," he answered. "We need to get ready immediately."
Chip walked up to Lee and led him away from the others. "I think it would be safer for them if we left them here on the SeaLab." He stated nodding towards Parks and Melina.
"It would be for Melina, but I want Parks back with us and Iím not going to have him aware that something is going on" Lee answered. He wanted Melina in a place where he could keep an eye on her safety also.
"I thought that the Admiral wanted us here?" Parks asked. "We canít go against his wishes." He was standing in the middle of the Control Sphere with his arms folded against his chest.
"The Admiral will agree with my decision," Lee answered. In real time and space, Lee knew that the Admiral would have come up with these conclusions quite a bit earlier and ordered the members back to the sub. Lee hoped that he was not too late to stop something from happening. The problem was that he did not know what he would be looking for once they got back aboard the Seaview.
Admiral Nelson opened the door to the Circuitry room and looked out into the corridor. It was late so there was no one in the hall and he quickly slipped out and moved quickly down the corridor. He had gone less than a few hundred paces, when someone behind him called to him.
He swung around to see Chief Sharkey coming up to him. Sharkey was grinning ear to ear, "Sorry to startle you, Admiral. I was looking for you and you appeared so suddenly that it surprised me." He was beginning to feel rather awkward since the Admiral gave him no response except for a cold stare.
"I have the report..." he went on, "about the attack on SeaLab. You might be interested to know that the Captain and Mr. Morton are returning. It seems that the Captain has an idea about the sub."
The Admiral accepted the papers without a word or an expression on his stony face. Instinct made Sharkey step back as the Admiral continued to watch him. Sharkey turned from the Admiral and started back down the corridor. He stopped and turned to face the Admiral again, "Iíll let you know when the Captain and Mr. Morton are back aboard."
Something told him to stay yet his mind urged him on at a faster pace. After turning a corner he paused, then peeked back at the Admiral, who was still standing in the middle of the corridor. The Admiral looked at the paper and then crumbling them up he dropped them on the floor and walked away toward his cabin.
Sharkey shrugged and started in the direction to the Control Room. He entered and went over to the Sonar area where Kowalski was sitting. "Have you heard from the Captain and Mr. Morton?í he asked.
"They're docking now," Kowalski answered, indicating the flying sub hatch at the nose of the sub. "Why? Whatís the problem?"
"Did I say that there was a problem?" Sharkey asked as he walked toward the hatch. He crossed his arms over his chest and stood there, leaning on the railing as the hatch begin to turn. It opened and Chip stepped up into the Control Room, surprised to see the Chief just standing there over the hatch.
"Are you that deep in thought?" Chip asked smiling.
"Things are really a bit strange, Sir," was the Chiefís reply.
Chip wasnít sure how to reply to the Chiefís statement. He reached down and grasped Melinaís hand to help her up the ladder while he regarded the Chief.
Sharkey knew that he could not say anything at the present, while he waited for the guest to leave the craft. Lt. Parks came up next to be followed by the Captain, who picked up on the facial expressions on his officers. He closed the hatch and then turned to Melina and Parks, "I'll meet with you later."
Melina stopped for just a minute and he looked at her. This was not going the way that he was hoping that it would. He had hoped to really talk to her, but Ďthingsí kept happening that were out of his control and he wasnít sure what to do or when they could talk. She turned from him and left the control room. He stood there watching when Sharkey spoke again.
"Itís about strange acting people," he replied.
"Howís that?" Lee asked.
The Chief gave Crane a weak smile, "Okay...how about strange acting people, who act stranger than usual?"
Crane was beginning to grow tired of all the riddles that seemed to be popping up from no where. He really did not have the patience to deal with Sharkey at this minute, "What are you talking about?" he asked with annoyance in his voice.
" ĎWhatí would be an ideal category to classify him in but I think that we should use the word Ďwhomí..." Chip said, then added, "Since he out ranks the both of us."
"Where is he?" Lee asked.
"He was going to his cabin," Sharkey answered, "I sent Patterson to watch over him"
"Where was he at?" Lee asked.
"In the corridor, outside the circuitry Room," Sharkey answered.
The Captain did not like the sound of that statement. Lee looked around the Control room, "Riley...." he called out as he saw the young man cross the room. "Replace Kowalski at sonar." Kowalski looked up at the Captain. "I need you here," he continued.
Kowalski got up and walked over where Lee, Chip and Sharkey were standing at the nose of the Seaview. "I want you," he said, talking to Sharkey, "and Kowalski to check out the Circulatory Room. Now," Lee stated.
"What are we looking for, Skipper?" Kowalski asked.
"Anything that doesnít belong there, Ski," Lee answered, "youíll know it when you see it. He turned to OíBrian, who was the Officer of the deck, "I want all civilians off the bridge, until further orders."
"Skipper," Riley yelled out, "The sub is back."
Of course, itís back , Lee thought. He turned to Lt. Casey, who was still on duty. "I want you to get someone to go over every inch of the sonar station. Do it now, but do not shut it down. Radio Michael Clark at SeaLab and tell him to have his people to check out the sonar and the radio, but they are not to shut them down." He turned back to Sharkey and Ski, "Get on that now. Call me with what you find."
"Chip, we need to find the Admiral now," Lee stated quietly to Chip. He indicated to the weapons locker. Taking his keys out he unlocked it and removed two guns which he loaded with tranquilizer darts. He then handed the gun to Chip and took one for himself.
"Why the guns?" Chip asked.
"We might need them," Lee answered as he started up the spiral stair case. Chip followed him up and they walked down the corridor to the Admiralís cabin. Lee stopped outside the closed door. "Be ready to use that," he indicated the gun. He reached over and slowly opened the door, flicking on the light switch as he quickly moved out of the way. Chip moved just as quickly to the opposite side of the door. The room was empty.
Lee Crane walked back out into the hall, and over to the mike station. He picked it up off the hold and clicked it several times, "Mr. OíBrian, did you get through to Clark at SeaLab?"
"Yes, Sir," OíBrianís voice replied.
"If you hear back from him, let me know," he stated, motioning Chip to come with him.
"Do we have any new personnel this mission?"
"Three," Chip replied. "Thereís Masters in Engineering, Douglas in the missile room, and a new cook named Stewart."
"What do we know about them?" Lee asked as they walked along the corridor.
"Why? Thereís really nothing special," Chip answered. "Theyíre here on temporary duty."
"I donít know, Chip," Lee replied. "I just know that nothing seems to be going right, and nothing makes sense...the Admiral's actions are totally unaccounted for..." He stopped walking. "Letís check on Sharkey and Ski and see what they have come up with."
"Do you expect them to come up with something?"
"Yes, I do...but I hope that they donít," he answered as they turned to go to the Circuitry Room.
It took just minutes for them to get to the Circuitry Room. Chip opened the door and they walked inside to find Ski with one of the panels opened and reaching inside. Sharkey turned to the door and held up his hand to stop them.
"You really should not be in here," he warned them.
"What do you have?" Lee asked.
"A bomb, Skipper," Ski answered. He was working inside the panel with tools. "It has plastic explosives attached to navigation."
Chip stepped up to look over Skiís shoulder, "Itís not too complicated," he stated. "Do you think that you can get it out, Kowalski?"
"Yeah," Kowalski answered. "It isnít very big, might have done some damage, but not a lot. It wouldnít have taken the sub out."
Lee looked around the room, "I donít think that is what we should be looking for. Ski, when you are through with that, get a team in here and go over every wire, if you have too." He walked around the room looking at all the panels and above each of the sections. "Sharkey, take a few of the men and continue to look for the Admiral. If you find him, notify me immediately, regardless of what he might say."
The older man looked at the Captain for a few seconds before he could respond with a weak ĎYes, Sirí and Lee knew the emotions that might have been going through him. "Chief, this is an order," he explained as gently as he could. "We need to find out what is going on here. Just do it for right now." The Chief nodded at him and left the room.
Lee stood there thinking of where the Admiral might be. They had looked over the sub several times and the man seemed to have just disappeared. It wasnít possible. He had been hard to find a few times in the past but had always answered the mike when Lee had given up and summoned him over the main speaker. It had not worked this time.
It was as if the Admiral had found a private area to disappear into. Lee stopped his thoughts short. The Admiral had designed and had built the sub. Why was it so inconceivable that there wasnít a private place that the Admiral had planned? Even though he and the Admiral had become close friends, Lee also knew that the Admiral was a very private man who shared very little of his life with anyone.
Lee smiled to himself, that would explain the Admiralís disappearances...the "Crafty Fox" did have a secret room aboard the sub. But where it was it?
"Chip stand by and listen for OíBrian to get back with us on the check at SeaLab. I really need to go to the Admiralís cabin to try to find something that we need to take a look at." He left the room and started down the corridor, heading for the Admiralís cabin. There had to be something to explain the Admiralís disappearances and his strange actions.
He walked down one of the side corridors when the light begin to flicker. Lee slowed as he watched the flickering lights overhead. Must be connected to what they were doing in the Circuitry Room. The Seaview seemed to be moving as normal, there was no rocking just the gentle hum as she moved through the water. Again the lights flickered and then went out. Lee paused for a minute knowing that the emergency lighting would come on in seconds, but it did not. He stopped in the corridor, waiting, and then thought he heard a sound behind him. He turned to look through the near blackness but could not make out anything but, again, heard a very quiet movement. There was not any obvious noise; just the feeling of someone there and an occasional sound. He still had the gun that he and Chip had been carrying with them when they left the control room, so he slowly removed it from the holster and waited.
There was nothing there, and he could only hear his own heart beating and the slight sound of air entering his body. He heard nothing but another sense told him that somebody was waiting, just as blind as he was in the darkness and waiting for him to make the first move. The seconds were hours as he waited, not daring to give away his position but still not certain who or what was in the corridor.
"Lee," was the whispered breath at his ear. Startled, he moved and a force slammed into him, knocking him first into the wall and down to the floor. Whoever hit him was a giant of a man, smelling of sweat with strong hands which moved swiftly to his throat. He was pinned to the floor by the weight and the hands had the strength of a vise. He could not break the hold that they had on his throat nor the weight of the person on his body. Despite the blackness, colors began to swim before his eyes and he heard a roaring sound in his ears, which was getting louder and louder until the colors and the sound stopped to be replaced by nothing.
Minutes later the lights came on in the auxiliary corridor revealing a small narrow corridor that connected two of the wider corridors to one another. The crew members used this to move faster from one place to another during emergencies. Most of the time it was empty, just as it was now.
The older man sat, half dozing in the chair as two figures circled around him, talking to one another.
"Well, that is one problem eliminated. Heís dead," the bigger man spoke to the shorter man. "We even have time to play a game with Morton. Shall we let him know whatís happening and then destroy the sub or shall we let it happen with no one being none the wiser?"
"I like the terror aspect of it," the shorter man answered. "We should let them know just before we blow the sub up." He lifted Admiral Nelsonís head up. Nelson struggled weakly against the movement, "I want him to survive. Can you give him impressions of this all being his fault? I want him to live in a self-created hell...he cost me everything."
"However you want it done," the bigger man replied. "We have all the time in the world now. Morton wonít be capable of command, not in making decisions now. Crane is dead and..."he looked closer at Nelson, "heíll never be fit for anything again."
"No..." the shorter man answered, releasing Nelsonís chin. He stepped up the to the bigger man, "I want him to know. I want him to know that he did all of this!" He was beginning to get upset at the other man, "Did you see? He didnít even know me! He cost me my life...my dreams...and he did not even know me."
The bigger man shrugged, "I donít care. Youíre the boss, whatever you want to do. Kill him now or let him kill himself later." It did not matter to the bigger man what would happen. He was being paid to do a job and nothing mattered at this point except getting off the submarine at the right time. He looked at the watch on his left wrist, "The bomb is in place now. They won't be able to disarm it in time once it is started to stop total destruction."
The shorter man turned to the bigger man, "I want that device removed from him. I donít want anything to be visible after all this." He looked about the room that they were standing in, "I want the other device removed from the Control Room sonar, the one in SeaLab is gone. They wonít find anything during their inspection."
"I need to get back," the shorter man announced. "Get the sonar logs when you can and keep him under for a while." He checked the Admiral again, "I want his memory to be hazy. I want him to be uncertain about what has actually happened. That was he will have to blame himself as he wonít be able to explain it to anyone else. Maybe we should arrange for Morton to live also...someone needs to make sure that the Admiral receives full credit for what has happened." He smiled to the bigger man, "Morton could be the one man that will push him over the edge. Morton witnessed the entire thing and will make a full report."
The shorter man was now pleased with the idea that he had had, "Yeah, make sure you take good care of Morton. I want him to live, to live to be Nelsonís judge and jury."
"Okay," the bigger man agreed. "But it will cost you more."
The shorter man smiled, "Donít worry, you'll get all that you deserve and more." He then turned and went to the hatch to leave the room. They had to be careful entering and leaving the room as it was secret from all the crew members except Nelson. No one would expect the room to be where it was, except the one person that had the submarine built to his specifications. It was by chance only that the shorter man had found out about the room. But then no one had watched the Admiral the way he had, aided by secret cameras he'd placed in the Admiralís cabin.
It was so warm, drifting....so warm. The world had turned into a warm liquid sea and everything had stopped....there was nothing to worry about....no more problems. His body was passing through the warmness of the liquid....so soft....so comforting....the colors were blues and greens, swirling past him....
Air, his lungs screamed! Air, must have air. He struggled against the water as it parted, not allowing him leverage to rise to the surface. His lungs were exploding in his chest...the noise was returning to his ears....a loud roaring. He breathed deep only to have water to come rushing in to his mouth and nose as his lungs spasm against the assault of the warm liquid. The world was filled with noises, and red colors and the pain was unbearable....and he realized that he had no strength left to fight.
The vise returned to his world and he tried to fight it as it settled around his wrist and then his chest. He felt himself being dragged through the warm liquid into a world of bright lights. Pain filled his eyes, his head....a never-ending pounding and the roaring was replaced by a growling from above him. A shadow moved in and dragged him roughly from the warm liquid and moved him quickly to a hard surface. There was pressure and pounding on his body and suddenly the coughing and choking spasms began again. A voice was yelling at him....and rocked him suddenly to his side.
Just was quickly, she was there....cradling his head in her lap and speaking softly to him. Cathy...? But the sounds were all wrong, yet the softness was there with the pain. He breathed in air, and started choking again, coughing....strong arms held him still until the spasms quit and he could lay there gasping for air. Each breath brought intense pain to his throat and lungs. Tears streamed from his eyes as the light tore its way into them, and he could see the shadows moving over him. Remembering the darkness of the corridor, he struggled to push them away but his arms were pinned to his side. Soft hands still held his head, and wiped the liquid from his face and a voice murmured softly to him.
The growling above him was less intense and the shadow begin to dissolve into a familiar shape. The blond hair was plastered to the skull and the uniform was dripping wet. It took several seconds before Lee realized that Chip had pinned his arms to his side and was ordering him to relax, to relax and to breathe. Chip would call to him and Lee tried to reply but his throat was too damaged for him to speak. Melina sat on the floor holding his head in her lap as she talked softly to him.
Lee looked around to see that he was in one of the cargo holds that was converted to contain a huge tank, where Melina had stored her filtering organisms. He was lying on the floor beside the tank, and Chip and Melina were both beside him, dripping wet.
"Lee, what in Godís name happened?" Chip asked him.
Crane was still breathing in huge breaths of air between the coughing. His eyes were beginning to clear but his throat was still in great pain. He tried to sit up only to have Chip to hold him down to the floor.
"No, the Doc is on the way," Chip ordered, holding him down.
He slapped away Chipís hand and slowly sat up, trying to get his breath. The sitting up made breathing easier, but he was so weak and dizzy and started to fall as Melina pulled him to her. She sat behind him supporting his body as Chip opened the collar of his shirt and examined his throat. It was covered in massive purple and red bruises. Lee tried to speak but still could not due to the pain and the fact that his vocal cords just did not want to cooperate. He was breathing easier now but still was weak and beginning to shiver from the cold of the room. Chip reached over to one of the boxes and pulled off a packing quilt and wrapped it around the Captain and Melina, who was still supporting him.
"Lee, do you understand me?" Chip asked. The Captain had made no effort to speak to them or to even seem that he was aware of their presence, except to try to pull away from his attempts to get Lee to lie still. Lee nodded his head, and slumped against Melina, who sat there looking at Chip. Before she could say anything Dr. Jamison and a medic entered the room and rushed over to their side.
"What happened?" Doc demanded from Chip as he moved in closer checking out the Captain. He examined the Captainís throat first, making sure that the windpipe was not crushed. "Itís badly bruised. Is he speaking?"
"No," Chip answered. "But he seems to be aware."
"Everything seems to be intact, probably due to the pain," Doc looked around, "Why is everyone wet?"
"He was in the tank....drowning," Chip explained.
"Was he conscious?" the doctor asked.
"No," Melina answered. "I had come down here to check the tank. He was at the bottom of the tank. Chip heard me screaming for help. I couldnít lift him from the water."
"Good thing," Doc replied. He had fit an oxygen mask over the Captainís face and was watching as color returned to his skin and the shivering begin to lessen. He turned to the medic, "Get us a gurney; he needs to be in Sick Bay. Iím hearing a lot of water in the lungs."
Lee had relaxed against Melina and was beginning to drift as warmth was returning to his body. He had so much to worry about but that would have to wait; his body was like lead, and he could not respond except to drift off into sleep.
Chip noticed the Captainís head loll against Melinaís shoulder, "Is he all right?" He asked the doctor.
"Exhaustion...passed out or asleep." He looked to the door. "The medic will be back in a minute and once I get him to Sick Bay, I will be able to tell you more. Breathing is stronger and the heart beat is strong, butÖChip, there could be brain damage. I won't know anything until I've gotten a MRI."
The medic returned with the gurney and brought it into the room. Chip and the doctor lifted the Captain off Melina and placed him on the gurney, placing the packing quilt over him. Chip reached over and offered Melina a hand so she could stand.
She reached out to him, "Why did this happen?" she demanded. "What was Lee doing here?"
"I donít think he was here," Chip answered quietly as they followed the doctor and the medic out of the room. They were pushing the gurney ahead of them. "We were looking for the Admiral," he answered.
She was shaking her head, "What is happening? Why are you..."
He stopped her in the corridor, "Melina, donít ask any more questions," he cautioned. "I don't think Lee would want to involve you any further in this than what just happened. If anyone asks anything you are to say that it seems to have been an accident. Leave this to me..." as she started to protest, "...Please." he added. "We will talk more later....go with the doctor now."
He walked off down the corridor, wondering what had actually happened. He would have to check with Lee later to see what he could tell him. If he could. Right now Chip needed to inform Sharkey and Ski what had happened.
Chip returned to the Circuitry Room to find Sharkey, Ski and Patterson working inside one of the main panels. Sharkey was holding the panel open while Ski and Patterson were reaching inside
"We canít override this," Patterson was saying to Sharkey. "At this point, Iím not certain what to do unless you can get the Skipper and the Admiral in here."
"Whatís the problem?" Chip asked.
Sharkey turned to look at Chip and shook his head, "Mr. Morton, you donít want to know. We found some wiring that should not have been here and Patterson traced it down to the reactor. There is a massive bomb down in the reactor room, that is also tied into the electrical system and to the computer. This has taken some big planning." He turned back to watch where the men were working. "The Skipper knows wiring and the Admiral know bombs and you know the computer...."
"The Skipper is in Sick Bay, heís been hurt and I still havenít found the Admiral," Chip stepped up to look into the panel. "Have you found a timer yet?"
"There doesnít seem to be one," Patterson answered.
"Whatís controlling it?"
"Weíre not sure...."Ski answered, "...it seems to be going to the computer in the Control Room."
"I notified Lt. Casey of what we have found. Heís holding the sub on a steady course until we found out what itís affecting up there. Sparks is looking at it on that end. I tried calling you," Sharkey explained.
"I was with Captain Crane, " Chip answered. "Leave them to this and look for Admiral Nelson immediately."
Chip turned and started out of the Circuitry Room and headed to Sick Bay. He stooped at a mike station long enough to call to Lt. Greg Casey, who had just come on, relieving OíBrian. "Greg?"
"Sir?" Casey responded.
"Iím going to be a bit busy and canít make it to the Control Room for a while." Chip told him.
"Yes, Sir," Casey replied. Chip smiled knowing that he could depend on Lt. Casey to stay there for the rest of the voyage, if necessary.
He continued on to Sick Bay and walked in to find Melina sitting in the outer office. He tried to smile as he continued to the specialized examination room. The Doctor looked up, annoyed, as he continued to examine Crane. Lee seemed to be resting comfortably on the gurney, dry and draped in hospital garb, and in a light sleep.
"Is he okay?" Chip asked.
"No, Lt. Commander, he isnít!" the doctor answered very annoyed. "He needs to rest and you need to be out of here."
"Well, that is a luxury that he is not going to get," Chip answered as he brushed by the doctor and ignored the hum of the MRI controls shutting down. He shook the Captainís shoulder, "Come on, Lee, I need you to help me out here."
"What is wrong with you?" the Doctor demanded, "Are you trying to kill the man? He could have brain damage!"
"No! But it's vital that he answer a question. All our lives are at stake!" Chip insisted. "Lee, wake up," he patted his cheek.
Melina had heard the angry voices and she entered the examining room. "Chip, whatís wrong?"
"Who has a key to the storage area, you were using for the filtering organism?" he suddenly asked her, on a hunch.
"Just myself and Lt. Parks," she answered.
"What does he have to do with you being a Marine Biologist?" Chip asked.
"Nothing, he was a volunteer with the Navy Department and sent along as a observer since the Navy might be interested in the organism for their work."
Chip looked back at Lee, who had finally succeeded in opening his eyes and was trying to focus on Chip. "Lee, you said that you were going to the Admiralís cabin to get something that you wanted to look at before you were attacked."
Lee closed his eyes for a couple seconds, before reopening them and replying weakly, "...blueÖprintsÖ of theÖ sub..."
"Blueprints? Why blueprints?" Chip asked, leaning over the Captain so he did not have to speak too loudly.
"...when ...AdÖmiralÖ disappears...check themÖ" Lee gasped out to Chip. Chip turned to leave the room, "...wait..." Lee called after him, but the Executive officer had already left Sick Bay.
Lee tried to sit up as the Doctor pushed him back down on the bed, "I can either tie you down or give you something that will put you out, Skipper. Which do you want...or will you lie there and rest?"
Lee nodded and lay back against the pillow. The doctor turned to Melina, " I do need to run these test results. Will you see that he rests and that nobody bothers him again?" She nodded and moved closer to the bed. Lee was lying on the bed with his eyes closed and breathing slowly.
The doctor turned and left the examining room as Lee opened his eyes, "NeedÖ your help," he whispered to her.
"The Doctor said that you needed to rest," she replied.
"Iíll rest...later...Chip needs help," he answered, determined to rise from the gurney. She quickly moved to the side of the bed to support him as he got up. He was far too weak but was determined to help Chip.
Chip was in the Admiralís cabin and had found the blueprints of the Seaview. These were the ones that he had drawn when he had the submarine refitted a few years after her launch. Parts of the drawings were missing and scribbled on by the man in his passionate desire to create the boat that he had finally dreamed up and turned into a reality. Lee wanted him to look on the blue prints, to find something that was of importance to Lee, but Chip wasnít sure where to start looking. But he knew it was vital. He spread them out on the Admiralís desk and sat down in the chair looking carefully over each section. The Admiral had created a new level with the refitting and had hand drawn other changes on the original blueprints from the sub. His handwriting was hard to decipher. He had drawn in new dimensions. The old Observation Deck had been removed and a area built to install the flying sub as a permanent part of the submarine. Some of the storage holds where smaller in the lower portion but, yet, still large enough for Lee to nearly drown in the tank that had been installed for this trip. That storage area opened up to the Flying Sub Bay and the tank had been loaded that way, once the Flying Sub was removed. They had installed that possibility to carry larger cargo that could not be loaded through the hatches or the access doors.
He was so engrossed in his study of the blueprints that he did not hear the door open and was startled to see Crane at the end of the desk with Melina. The Captain moved around to the Admiralís chair and dropped into it. He had hastily dressed in a generic uniform, with a little help from his discreet accomplice. He supported his head with his finger tips as he looked down at the blueprints before him.
"Somewhere, "his voice was very hoarse, "there isÖ a room that we donít knowÖ about."
"What?" Chip asked, looking at Lee.
Lee nodded, "Thatís theÖ only place theÖ Admiral can be. It wouldÖ explain aÖ lot." He looked up at Chip, "How many times have youÖ lookedÖ for him, only toÖ find him turning upÖ suddenly....when you know he hadnít been thereÖ."
"But, Lee..." Chip protested, as he started looking over the plans. "This could take forever. There is everything drawn on this and it would take weeks to read this. And we don't have weeks."
Chip continued to look at the blue prints, then smiled at Lee. "How often have you been
in the forward port storage compartment?"
"WhatÖ forward port storage compartment?" Lee asked, looking at the place on the blueprint to which Chip was pointing. "No, both sides of the Flying Sub dock are electrical components."
"No, Lee." Chip answered smiling, "The original print is Ďstorage areaí, but Ďelectrical componentsí is in the Admiralís handwriting. Melina, hand me that ruler, please." He placed the ruler on the blueprint, "Itís a 15 by 30 foot room."
Lee reached over and pulled the blueprint around so he could see it better. "He smiled, "That sneaky..." he paused. "There has to be aÖ way to enter the room." He thought for a moment. "This doesnít make sense; it's on the lower level and the Admiral is always either in his lab or the cabin, if heís not here. The lab nor the cabin areÖ near there...." Lee picked up the ruler and checked the measurements again, then laughed out loud. "Chip, itís under the bed."
"Youíre kidding!" Chip asked, turning around to look at the bunk. He got up and walked over to the bunk. He looked around the bunk as Lee walked over and joined him at the bed Chip had already sat on the bed and ran his hands down both of the corners. "It feels real enough."
"It would..." Lee answered, " He checked along side the outside areas of the bed. "There has to be something here." He looked at Chip who was still sitting on the bed watching Lee search, "Move, Chip, in case we hit it accidentally."
"Yeah, I would hate to explain that to Jamison."
Melina reached over and was trying to move the reading light when suddenly there was a low click and the bunk portion and the interior walls of the bunk cavity begin to slide up. Under the lower part of the bunk was a open access going down into darkness. Lee braced himself against the bed and looked down into the pit.
"Nice going," he commented to Melina. "Well, Chip, shall we see whatís down there?"
He indicated the metal ladder that was fastened against the back wall.
Chip walked over to the desk and pulled out the Admiralís flashlight and shined it down into the hole. He did not see the bottom, just darkness. "No electricity." he commented.
He stepped across the pit and climbed on to the ladder, "Are you sure that you are up to this, Lee?"
"I think Iím committed to this now," Lee answered. He started to follow Chipís lead but turned back to Melina, "keep everyone out of this cabin."
"I think that I can manage," she answered. "Just be careful. Youíre a bit unsteady."
Lee looked at her for a minute then followed behind Chip. He could see the light moving a bit ahead of him. Chip stopped further down the ladder for Lee to catch up. "I think it goes to the bottom of the sub. Lee, be careful. I donít really think you should be climbing around. There isnít much spare room in here."
"Iím not sure youÖ should be going by yourself, either," Lee answered. "We'll both try to be careful since we donít know whatís down there."
They started climbing down into the bowels of the Seaview, Lee was surprised at all the sounds that were traveling through her walls. She sounded like a big mechanical sea creature. "Listen," he whispered.
Chip stopped climbing down and listened. They were beside the Control Room. He could hear Lt. Casey talking to one of the men, "Where are we? I didnít think the walls were this thick."
"Inside the column beside the doors....the wall to our right is the interior hull of the boat...I think" Lee answered. God, this could be claustrophobic. He was glad that he didn't have to make this trip several times a day.
"Lee," Chip whispered up to him, "Iím at the bottom."
Lee climbed down a bit further and joined Chip in a tiny corridor. Chip partly covered the flashlight and swung it around the room, until it landed on a partly opened hatch. Chip moved closer to the hatch and then stopped waiting for Lee to join him. "Iím going to kill the light before we go through the hatch. If it seems safe enough I am going to switch it back on once we are on the other side." Chip turned off the flashlight and felt for the hatch in the darkness. He stepped through, waiting for Lee to join him in the room. It was too dark for eyes to adjust because there was no light available in the room.
Lee stepped through the hatch and pulled the door nearly shut behind him. A shot rang out in the darkness and Lee dropped to the floor, reaching for the edge of the hatch door, to close it against any possible light that might be filtering down from above. He heard Chip make a small sound and crawled over to where he thought he had heard Chip.
"Chip, are you all right?" he whispered.
"Just a nick to my arm!" Chip replied.
Lee picked up Chipís gun and waited in the darkness next to Chip for some sound or indication to the location of their attacker. His arm brushed up against a metal trash can which he slung across the room to his right. A gun fired in its direction, giving off a muzzle flash and the Captain fired in that direction. He heard a grunt, then the sound of something heavy hitting the floor.
"Whereís that flashlight?" he whispered to Chip.
"I donít know. I dropped it when I fell." Chip answered.
Lee tried to rise quietly and make his way back to the door while keeping watch in the direction of the muzzle flash. He heard no sound, except a low moan, as he felt along the wall for a switch to turn on the lights in the room. Finding a switch he flipped, hoping that it would turn on the lights. It did. Chip was rising off the floor, using a counter to steady himself while holding his upper left arm.
Crane was staring at the body on the floor several feet in front of them. It was a big man, one that he did not recognize. He looked over to Chip who walked over to the body.
"Thatís Stewart, the new cook," Chip replied to the unasked question.
"I wonder if heís the one that dropped me in the tank? His size would be about right." Crane asked. As he stepped to the manís side he heard a low moan to his left and looked over to see the Admiral tied to a chair against the far wall. He handed the gun to Chip then half walked, half ran over to the chair where the Admiral appeared to be sleeping except for the rope that was bound around his wrists and the chair arms. His feet were secured to the chair legs. Crane kneeled down and begin to untie the Admiralís feet when Chip joined him at the Admiralís side.
"Stewartís dead." Chip announced as he begin to untie the Admiralís wrist, stopping to take his pulse, "It seems slow. Do you think that heís been drugged?"
"Almost positive," Lee replied. "We need to get him to Sick Bay." He looked around the room, that seems to be arranged as a full scale lab. To the side was a small office area and a bunk. All the comforts of home, Lee thought.
In the corner of the room was a hatchway. Lee walked over to the hatch and attempted to open it, surprised that it turned so easy. It had another hatch right behind it that was latched to the wall. Wording indicated that this hatch was a "fire hatch" only and was supposed to be secured to the wall at all times. Once it was unhooked it would swing into the corridor. The first hatch had a warning painted on the outside, ĎDo not enter, electric panel.í Lee had passed the ĎFire Hatchí many times and had not thought anything about it, never suspecting anything but that.
He returned to help Chip with the Admiral and noted some paperwork lying on one of the lab tables. He picked it up and spoke to Chip, his weariness overcoming his determination, "It seemsÖ that this Lt. Earl Parks is busier than we gave himÖ credit for. Thereís enough information on these papers to put himÖ awayÖ for a while." He folded the paperwork and stuffed it into his pocket.
Someone was talking to him from a long way off. He could hear the voice but could not really make out the words. He realized that the voice was female, a lovely accent and he thought that he had heard the voice before. She was urging him to wake up because there was something that he should be doing. His mind rebelled against doing anything right now. His headache was finally gone and he only had a sore spot near the base of his neck. His body was protesting any movement and he only wanted to sleep but the voice kept calling to him. Begrudgingly he opened his eyes, surprised to see Dr. Melina Gounaris standing at the side of the bed that he was lying on in Sick Bay.
"Oh, Admiral, I never thought that you would wake up," She stated, quite relieved.
"How are you feeling?" she asked, but continued on without waiting for an answer, "Lee and Chip need your help as there is a bomb in the reactor room that is wired into the Circuitry Room and they are looking for Lt. Parks."
Bomb? That word brought him fully awake and he tried to sit up, feeling a bit weak. He reached for the bed railing as she assisted him up, "What bomb?" He reached to the back of his head where the sore spot was and found a layer of bandaging material.
"No," she responded, pulling his hand away from the spot. "The doctor had to remove a subdural transmitter. It was giving you the mood swings, the headaches, and the violent rages."
"A transmitter? What violent rages....?" he asked.
"Oh, Lee will tell you about them later, Iím sure," she answered. "He told me to get you awake and to see that you get down to the Circuitry Room right away. Some of the men are already working on the bomb."
He sat for a minute letting the dizziness pass then stood up as the Doctor entered the examining room.
"Doc," he started to say.
"Donít ask me, Admiral, I am just the doctor and I am being overrode by the entire submarine staff today." He looked at Melina smiling, "Even the civilians are giving me orders. You are fit for duty but you are going to have to rest, sometime," he cautioned, "pass the same word on to Crane, will you?"
Nelson turned to Melina, "What is this about a bomb?"
"Lee and Chip were talking about it after they found you. There has been a lot going on that I donít think that you are aware of," She added. "They are looking for Earl Parks now. Lee found some paperwork in the lab with his writing on it."
Melina walked down the corridor with the Admiral as he headed to the Circuitry Room, "Are you sure that you are strong enough to do this?" she asked him.
He nodded at her, "Yes, I think that I had better look at what you are talking about. I donít like the idea that it is in the Circuitry Room. It could actually involve more than the Reactor Room if it is."
It took them several minutes until they came to the area where the Chief, Ski and Patterson were still working with the wiring. The Chief turned, startled to see the Admiral enter the room, "Admiral, what are you doing here? We have been looking all over the boat for you," he paused when he noticed the bandaging at the base of the Admiral neck. "Are you okay, Sir?"
"I have felt better, Francis," he replied, smiling. "What is this about a bomb?"
Ski turned at the question, "Itís wired to the Reactor Room and the timer is the main computer. Patterson was able to trace it down that far. Sparks has taken over in the Control Room with the wiring but we didnít feel comfortable with trying to remove it."
He indicated the panel that he was working on. "We have most of the wiring separated out from the rest. It is spliced into some of the other wiring......we havenít messed with that."
The Admiral stepped over to the panel and looked at the work that the men had been doing. "Good work," He picked up the mike and clicked it twice to get the Control Room. Sparks answered back. "Have you gotten the wiring checked out down there?
What terminal junctions does it involve?"
Sparks read off some numbers to the Admiral who smiled in returned, "Okay, Sparks, leave it be for now. I think itís something we can handle from this end." He hung up the mike and smiled at the Chief, "The man knows enough to be dangerous, but not enough to make it fool-proof. Actually it is on a timer, but we can override it rather easily."
He walked back over to the panel, "Leave it the way it is for the time being. I need to find out our course, first. Get some non-electrical lighting in here and we will see what is going on down in the Control Room." He turned to the Chief, "What does the Reactor look like?"
"No problems so far, Sir."
"Good," the Admiral answered. He turned to Ski, "After you get the lighting set up, radio me. Iím going to the Control Room. We are going to have a complete electrical failure in a few minutes, when we do start cutting lose the wiring. You will have no more than ten minutes, then we will have to resume power to save trim. Have the lighting ready."
"Yes, Sir," Patterson answered as he left the room to get the battery operated lights.
"If you are not done, when we resume power, the sub will blow. Communications will be out so there will be no way that I can warn you that the power is coming back on. You will have to clear the panels before that time also as any exposed wiring will probably arc."
He turned to leave the room, "Remember, you will have no more then ten minutes so watch the time. Make sure you clear the panel before the ten minutes is up."
He left the room with Melina beside him. "It seems that you have not done much marine biology on this trip, Ms. Gounaris," he smiled at her. "I think that I will have to see more work from you in the future if you are going to stay on with the Institute."
She nodded in agreement, "Oh, I think that I might manage a bit more in the future. I just did not realize the amount of excitement on a Ďresearchí vessel."
"I think that there shall be a bit more before we're finished. I would rather that you be somewhere safe until this is all over. I can make it to the Control Room."
Lt. Earl Parks was standing in the Observation Nose, looking through the view plates. He was waiting until the time was right and the sub was nearing the Tonga Trench. It was time for him to take Nelsonís dream, Seaview, down to the bottom for the last and final time. In his pocket he carried an electronic device that would sink the sub by exploding the bomb that he had placed in the Reactor Room.
Nelson had ruined his career, and he would ruin Nelsonís life and reputation in return, as well as his dreams. By now Stewart had taken the Admiral to the access hatch and was ready to vacate the craft and Parks was ready to go up to the sail to escape. He had about ten minutes to wait before pushing the button that would set his plan into action.
The only problem was that he hadn't gotten Chip Morton yet. Morton was important to the plan so Nelson would be declared incompetent, the sub would be sunk and then at a later time he would put the man out of his misery by killing him. Perhaps if the pain was bad enough, Parks might let him live...live to suffer.
The watch had changed, another of the Junior Officers was at the plotting table, a Lt. John Holman. It really didnít mind to Parks who was there when he set his plan into action. There was no mention of the Captainís death among the crew, he noted. Probably Chip Morton had already started their plan by deciding that the Admiral was guilty and did not want to report Craneís death until that returned to port. Parks knew that they were getting closer to the Trench. That was perfect, the sub would disappear into the depths forever with the Insane Harry Nelson and Chip Morton as the only survivors...it was a perfect plan.
"Lt. Parks," a voice sounded behind him. Parks turned smiling, immediately shocked to see Captain Crane standing there. The Captain was also holding a gun trained on the Parkís chest. "I think the game is over now," the Captain stated flatly.
"Well, Crane, this is a surprise. You are supposed to be dead. It doesnít matter because the game was just started," Parks replied, smiling. "Donít you see, Captain, we are just pawns. This game is really for Admiral Harriman Nelson." He stated, drawing the timing device from his pocket and holding it for the Captain to see. "We are over the Tonga Trench, Crane, and the Seaview is ready to take her final dive."
"I donít think so," the Captain answered.
Parks laughed, "Thatís just it, Captain, you havenít thought about your whole role in this," he indicated, moving his hand to indicate the entire Control Room. "You all will be famous, all murdered by Admiral Harriman Nelson, in his insanity."
"Maybe you should explain that?" the Admiral asked from the hatchway at the back of the Control Room. He entered the Control Room and started walking to the front of the room.
Parks started backing up again the front area of the room. "No! It canít end like this!
I owe you, Nelson. You have to die for what you did."
"Why?" Nelson asked quietly.
"You ruined me and you don't even remember!" Parks screamed at him. "I could have had a command by now, damn you...and you donít even remember!" The man was turning bright red as he continued to scream and curse at the Admiral. "Itís too late! You have five minutes, Admiral!" he suddenly screamed, pressing his thumb down on the device.
Just as he did , Chip leaped at him from the spiral staircase and knocked him to the floor as he struggled to put a gun from his pocket. The gun went off sending bullets across the Control Room, smashing into instrumentation, showering the room with sparks. The sub begin to lurch back and forth sending the men sprawling to the floor and it buckled under the damage from the bullets.
Nelson turned to Sparks, "Kill all power! Navigation hold trim!" he demanded, not certain how easy that would be with the sub reacting the way that it was. With the power killed all over the sub, the lurch settled down some and the men stationed at navigation struggled to hold the sub in tight trim but Nelson knew that the submarine was sinking and the only thing below them was the Tonga Trench, with unlimited depth.
Chip was on the floor with Parks struggling to get control of the gun. The chambers had emptied and they struggled until it slid across the floor in the darkness. The sub was completely black and he could not see any light nor could he see anyone around him. He could hear Captain Crane calling out instruction and for some reason the Admiral was counting the minutes. Lt. Holman was then on the floor trying to help Chip control the screaming man. The sparks and fires stopped when the power was killed but he could smell the smoke from the burning insulation and realized that Environmental Control was gone too.
The Seaview had stopped lurching and somewhere Captain Crane had found a flashlight and played it in Chipís direction as Chip and Lt. Holman fought to regain their footing, bringing the sobbing man up with them. Parks was sobbing and screaming about death and the Trench. He screamed to Nelson about the reactor blowing up but Nelson continued to count as he looked at his watch with a small pen light.
Lee walked over to navigation and moved the light across the instruments on the board, "Admiral, we are dropping fast," he warned the Admiral.
Nelson looked up at him and nodded, but continued his counting. When he got to the five minute mark he smiled and walked over to Parks who was being held firmly between Chip and Lt. Holman. "Your five minutes are up, Parks. Your game is over. The wiring is being removed from the Circuitry Room and from the Reactor Room. The computer is dead so the timing device was killed before any damage could be done."
Parks screamed and lunged at him, but was held firm by Chip and the junior officer. Lee was standing by navigation watching the rate of descent into the Trench when Nelson turned back to Sparks. "Give us back power now."
Sparks threw the switch again and some of the instruments begin to shower sparks again but the men quickly moved to them to stop the fires. Nelson moved to the mike and clicked on to the Circuitry room, "Chief, give me a report."
The Chief responded immediately, "Weíre fine down here Admiral. A few small fires but everything is under control."
"Thank you, gentlemen," he hung up the mike then turned back to Captain Crane, "Do you have trim, Lee?"
Lee Crane looked at the instruments to see the sub beginning to rise from the Trench, "Yes, sir." he answered, smiling.
"Well, then, Captain," the Admiral responded. "take us home."
Chapter 24 Epilogue
Two days Lee Crane stood on the sail with Admiral Nelson as the Seaview neared her home port. Both of the men seemed lost in thought, yet were comfortable with the silence.
Lee had a pair of binoculars and was scanning to coastline ahead of them when he stopped at a small light off in the distance, at the top of one of the hills. He knew that was his house and that his mother would be asleep and so would Nickolas. It was well after midnight so he knew that he would be home in time to carry his little son down to breakfast. It would be nice to have a couple of weeks off to be able to spend time with his child.
He and Melina did have a chance the night before to sit down and talk. In fact, they talked for several hours about what had happened to each of them since they met many years ago. Melina had decided that she would stay on at the Nelson Institute and perhaps she and Lee would get a chance to talk again, maybe to see what the future held in store for the both of them.
Lee was uncertain what the future held for him, Nickolas was certainly going to be a big part of that. He knew that he could always be with the Seaview but was uncertain about assignments with Navy Intelligence. He might try to develop an interest in marine biology. He smiled at that thought.
The Admiral caught that smile, "What are you thinking about, Lee?"
Crane smiled at him, "I think that I want to get home."