By Diane Farnsworth Kachmar


First published in Outlands #9 1986


Chip Morton sighed as the sound of angry voices erupted again on the other side of the closed crash doors.  When would McIntosh realize when the Admiral said no he meant it?

      He glanced across the chart table at Lee Crane. The Captain of the Seaview was seated on the chart table stool, reading his daily reports, seemingly oblivious to the noise behind him.  But Chip knew better.  Crane's hands clenched the papers.  Lee was about one more shout away from going forward and telling the miner to lay off the old man. 

      “They’re at it again,” Chip observed quietly, drawing the line of Seaview’s course on the chart.

      “I know,” Lee sighed, and placed the report down on the table. "He's very persistent, isn't he?"

"Work's important to him, I guess."  Morton glanced up at his friend.  "Think the Admiral's going to budge?"

Crane shook his head.  "Not likely.  If they can't work within the conditions we set, he won't have any part of their grant."

Chip looked down at his charts gloomily.  “It’s another week until we make home port.”

"Can't wait to rid of him, eh?"  Crane laughed softly.

"Nobody likes the way he treats the Admiral.  I thought for sure you were going to punch him out yesterday."

"I wanted to, but it wouldn't have helped anything."  Lee replied calmly.

"The lower deck is starting to rumble."

"I know.  I've spoken to the Admiral about it.  He said to put on our Sunday smiles and live with it.  I think he's waiting 'til we can complete the survey and return home.  Something about personally telling the head of Extron where to stuff his grant."

Chip shook his head.  "How could they possibly think we'd go along with them strip mining a protected area."

"It's possible they didn't know that was McIntosh's plans, or else they didn't care.  Monastrea cavernosa means nothing to someone who's trying to become the sole distributor of tridirium.  It's only piles of rock to them."

"Expensive piles, both in fines and bad publicity.  And they certainly don't need any more bad press."  Morton fiddled with his rule absently.  "Or don't they read it?"

Lee smiled bitterly, without humor.  "Would you?  No, Chip, its simple economics.  The deposit is concentrated there, and could be harvested quickly, unlike the pockets we found for him over the ridge.  Same net result, only it takes longer to collect.  More of our time, more rental..."  Lee shrugged.  "Now he won't even get that.  And we'll have to contact the Marine Patrol to keep a watch on the area, since they have their eye on it."  Crane picked up his report.  "It was his choice, he didn't have to return empty-handed."

"So now we have to live with him."

"Cheer up.  It's only a few more days."

Morton grinned.  "I'm glad we're taking leave when we get back.  After him, I'll need it."


* * * * *


Lee paused, fork in mid-air, and glanced around the wardroom.  "Chip," he addressed his Exec across the table.  "Isn't it kind of quiet in here?"

"That's because McIntosh isn't here."  Nelson broke in from the head of the table, as Morton shrugged.

"Oh."  Lee shook his head and resumed eating.  He was trying hard to keep the miner from getting to him, but he should have realized that the man wasn't there.

"Wonder where he is?"  Chip looked up from cutting his meat.

"Probably in his cabin, sulking."  Nelson speared a chunk of roast beef with his fork.  "I, for one, could use a meal without distractions."

"Well, sir, you could always ask Lee to have him eat with the men."  Chip grinned, a mischievous glint in his eye.

"Heaven forbid!"  Lee dropped his fork with a clank and shot Morton a warning look.  "They'd have HIM for lunch."

Chip grinned wider, enjoying the idea.

"He does have a point, Lee," Nelson replied, and Crane could see the Admiral was amused by the prospect.

"We'll be home in four days, Chip," Lee countered swiftly.  "Surely you can hold out 'til then."  The last thing he needed was Morton giving the Old Man ideas.  "He's really not so bad, if he'd get off this Trench thing."

"I think I've finally convinced him it's useless," Nelson answered.  "At least he's stopped badgering me about it."

"Small favors, eh?" Morton teased.

“Something like that."  Nelson reached for the coffee pot.  "By the end of the week, he'll be back to being someone else's problem."

"I'll drink to that."  Morton raised his coffee cup.

"Me, too."  Lee raised his cup as well.  The next time someone wanted to give them a "no strings" grant, he was going to have it thoroughly investigated first.  They certainly didn't need the aggravation this one had caused.




The sub was very quiet in the half light of simulated night, as McIntosh padded along softly along the corridor in stocking feet lest he rouse the duty watch.  His timing had to be exact, and he had to work fast.  If they discovered him, it would be all over.

He approached the door to auxiliary control.  The corridor was clear and should remain so for the next ten minutes.  He shook his head, it was almost too easy.  They suspected nothing.  They had their routine and stuck to it like clockwork.  For the last three nights he had laid in various access hatches, watching, weighing and they still had not discovered that their alarm system had been rendered useless.  It was a very sophisticated system, and it had given him pause, but he had found a way to bypass it.  There was always a way, if one looked hard enough.

McIntosh pushed the door open.  The military always made it so easy, assuming no one would go where they weren't authorized.  He crossed the room, and slid his pick into the first locker on the right.  They had not even found his stash; as long as it remained locked they were sure it still contained what they had locked in there.  He ran his hand over the scuba tanks.  Soon, very soon.  Then he reached for the white duffel bag at the bottom of the locker.

Pulling out the plastic explosive he began to shape the charge.  A quick trip down the access hatch and into the circuitry room where he would place it behind the air revitalization unit would take care of phase one.  It was almost time for the watch to change, and he'd have to be ready.  With the explosive in place he could go on to phase two.

      The miner smiled grimly as he worked.  Nelson would rue the day he tried to thwart him.  The Admiral had tried to convince him the sub was the most important thing in his life, but he had seen different.  He would get Nelson where it hurt the most.  He would do his mining ---if he ever wanted to see his Captain alive again.


* * * * *


Lee came through the hatch into the electronic supply room, intending to take a short cut through to crew’s quarters, before going to his cabin to write up the log, when he was attacked from behind.

Crane fell to his knees, dazed by the vicious blow to his head, fighting not to black out.  He saw a pair of dark sneakers, and forced his head up.   The blurred outline of a .45 filled his vision, coming straight at him.  Then his pain flared for a brief agonizing moment, followed swiftly by black oblivion.

Lee regained consciousness abruptly, twisting away from the sharp, stinging slaps.  A large dark shape was bent over him.  He blinked, trying to focus.  His head throbbed, but he ignored it, concentrating.  The shape became Angus McIntosh, kneeling beside him, arm upraised to strike him again. 

"Ah, you're finally awake, Captain, I was beginning to think I had used my gun butt too freely."  The miner lowered his hand when he saw Crane was conscious.

Anger at McIntosh's audacity made Lee forget his aching head.  "What the hell are you doing?" he grated, drawing his legs up under him.  Laying his hand on the deck, Crane tried to sit up and nearly fell over.  His wrists were handcuffed together.  Using both hands to push himself off the deck, Lee finally managed to sit up.  "Take these off."  He thrust the cuffs at McIntosh.  "You won't get Admiral Nelson to cooperate by using me."

McIntosh smiled down at him, a maddingly indulgent smile.  "I wouldn't be so sure, Captain.  I intend to mine the Cameron Trench, and Admiral Nelson will take me there, whether he wants to or not."

"How?" Lee challenged, giving the cuffs an experimental tug.  "He's refused, and he won't change his mind."  The steel cuffs held, and Crane lowered his hands back into his lap.

"The Admiral won’t let anything happen to you, Captain.  You are much more valuable to him than a few coral colonies."

Lee gave McIntosh his best command glare to hide the realization that the miner had planned well, seizing a vulnerable spot that both he and Nelson tried hard not to show outsiders.  "I'm expendable as anyone else on board," he replied firmly, holding his gaze on McIntosh.

"Don't try to bluff me, Crane.  I have observed both of you, off guard.  I watched and planned.  I know everything there is to know about this beautiful ship of yours.  Ah, what an efficient little miner she will be."

"You can't think you'll get away with holding me hostage.  You're outnumbered 124 to 1.”

"No one will be looking for you, Captain, until eight o'clock.  I know the routine of your vessel.  You have completed your tour of the ship, and now everyone thinks you are in your cabin writing the log."  McIntosh smiled again.  "Shall I tell you what's going on in the rec room, for instance, or the galley, or even in the control room?  They are all engrossed in their various tasks and pleasures, Captain.  No one will miss you until eight o’clock, unless they have a reason to come find you, and by then you will be safely tucked away, out of reach."

"You expect me to cooperate?"

"On the contrary, Captain, I know better.  You are too unpredictable to be left unguarded, so you are going where you won't be found and released.  I don't want to lose my pawn too early in the game."

"There's not a place on board you can hide me that my men don't know about."  Lee raised his cuffed hands.  "And if you think these will immobilize me --”

McIntosh shook his head impatiently.  "Captain, I have not underestimated you.  Please don't make that mistake with me."  McIntosh began to dig in a dirty white duffel bag beside him.

Lee gathered himself, but McIntosh raised the .45 again, pulling a timer device from the bag.  "Don't be foolish, Captain.  You will ruin the game if I have to kill you too soon.  You have every chance of coming out of this situation unharmed, provided Nelson does exactly what I tell him to."

Lee relaxed back onto the deck.  "He takes you to the trench and lets you strip mine it."

"I will make it very worth his while.  After all, Nelson is entitled to a small percentage of the tridirium.

"And if he won't take you there?"

"Then I play out the hand, Captain."  McIntosh abruptly thrust the timer device at him.  "Do you recognize this?"

"It's a Webley multi-location remote detonator," Lee answered.  If he stalled long enough, someone in crews’ quarters might notice he hadn't dropped in.  It was a thin hope, but if he could keep McIntosh talking - "So, I'm your bomb."

"Very good, Captain!  Nelson says no, I push a little button, and no more Captain.  If I place you right, no more submarine."

"If you think I'll let you destroy this submarine -” Crane lunged, unable to contain his anger any longer.  McIntosh went down beneath him as Lee knocked his captor from his knees and closed his hands around the miner's throat.  White hot pain lanced through his head, as McIntosh flailed out with the gun.  Lee tightened his grip, fighting the growing blackness.  Don't let go until he goes limp.

McIntosh squirmed under him, struggling.  Lee bore down with all his weight trying to keep him pinned to the deck.  McIntosh rolled, bringing up a knee.  He levered it into Crane’s stomach, throwing him off.

Lee fell heavily to the deck, shaking his head to dispel the darkness closing in on him.  A hand twisted into his hair, dragging his head up.

McIntosh, red faced, and breathing hard, thrust his .45 against his left temple.  "That was stupid!  But not unexpected."  He released his hand from Lee's hair, scrabbling on the deck beside him for the dropped timer device.  Gathering it in his hand, he brought it up again.  "Either, you cooperate or I’ll kill everyone on board right now."  The miner’s finger hovered above a green button.  "I knew I would need something to bring you to heel, so early this morning I climbed through the ventilation system to the circuitry room and put a bomb in the rear of the air revitalization unit."

"Impossible."  Lee glared at him.  "There's someone on duty watch all the time.  You're bluffing."

"Would you care to find out, Captain?"  McIntosh's finger moved closer to the button.

"You'll never get to the Trench if you kill us now."

"True."  McIntosh raised his finger slightly.  "But I'm not bluffing, Captain.  First I disconnected the intruder alert in the shaft and made it an open circuit.  Then I installed a bypass so that your monitor board stays green, even when a system isn't.  After that, I slipped down from the shaft and opened the back panel of the air revitalizer.  Quiet as a mouse I was, the watch never even heard me.  Believe me, there is a bomb in there."

"And if I don't consent, you'll kill everyone."

"Only if you make me.  Surely a few coral colonies aren't worth the lives of your crew.  It's only rock.  An obstacle to be removed."

"Is that how you take care of things, McIntosh?  You blow them up?"  Crane could not believe what he was hearing.

"It works well, Captain.  No one else is even close to my ninety five percent recovery rate.  We waste time.  Let's go."

"Go where?"

"I told you, Captain, where you won't be found."  McIntosh reached down for his bag, and put the timer device back in it, then slung it over his shoulder.  "On your feet."

Lee stood up, and the pounding in his head from the pistol whipping intensified.  He gritted his teeth, fighting hard not to sway.  He wouldn't give McIntosh the satisfaction.  The .45 prodded him in the side. 

"Over there.  Open the access hatch."

"That doesn't go anywhere but auxiliary control."

"Then that's where we're going.  Move!"

It was awkward trying to crawl in cuffs and McIntosh's insistent prodding only added to his anger.  It was too narrow in the passageway to turn around, but when the Admiral got the better of this maniac Lee promised himself he'd teach this man a lesson in courtesy he'd never forget.

Lee undogged the access hatch from inside and moved the panel to one side. Then he crawled out into auxiliary control.  As per routine the station was unmanned.  McIntosh obviously knew that.  They were off from the main corridors but after McIntosh left, he'd find some way to raise an alarm.

The miner crossed over to the storage lockers on the far side of the room, unlocking the door with a deft twist of his pick.  The Admiral had inferred the man was less than honest, but had stopped short of calling him a thief.  Another thing they had been wrong about.  McIntosh removed a set of closed circuit scuba tanks from the locker along with a single tank unit, and then he turned back to Lee, a triumphant smile on his face.  "Now, do you understand why you won't be found, Captain?"

Lee studied the tanks.  Closed circuit.  No bubbles.  No trail to follow.  They couldn't leave the ship when it was traveling, plus he had to stay on board to be used as a weapon.  A cold chill ran through him.  The ballast tanks.

Cramped, dark, filled with crossbeams and the other structural components of the Seaview, it was the perfect hiding place.  There wasn't room for a search party even if anyone thought to look there.  And they wouldn't, not unless someone noticed the missing tanks.  Lee looked over at McIntosh.  With the type of planning he had seen so far, he doubted the miner had been that careless.

Crane tugged on the cuffs again, but the tempered steel held.  McIntosh would blow up the ship if he didn't get his way.  They should have suspected something when he stopped insisting, and seemed content to return to Santa Barbara.  Lee remembered the fanatical gleam in his eye whenever he spoke about mining the trench.  The only way to keep his men safe was to go along with the miner.

McIntosh set the tanks down in front of him.  "Hook it up."

Lee extended his cuffed hands.  "I can't work in these."

"No, Captain."  McIntosh began rummaging in his bag with one hand. "If I uncuff you, you will try to disarm me again, and I am not ready to kill you yet.  It is awkward, but not impossible."  McIntosh knelt next to him.  "We waste time."

Lee attached the regulator to the tank unit and tested it.  It worked despite his wish otherwise.

"Now the leverage."  McIntosh reached for the regulator and plastered a hunk of plastic explosive over the metal below the rubber mouth grip.  He worked fast and efficiently, using more than enough to disintegrate the whole assembly and whatever else might be attached to it. 

Lee suppressed a shudder.  The Admiral would find some way to stop McIntosh.

"If I remember your manual, you should have about four hours of air.  Plenty of time to get turned around and headed to the Trench area at flank speed."

"Three and a half," Lee corrected.  "If we maintain our present depth."

"Close enough."  McIntosh placed a face mask on top of Crane's hair, pulling the strap down around the back of his head.  "If Nelson cooperates, you have nothing to worry about."  The miner donned a mask himself, leaving it up on his forehead.  Awkwardly, Lee clipped the mouthpiece around his throat, and reached for his tanks.

"First things first, Captain."  McIntosh motioned for him to put the tanks back on the deck.  The miner then pulled a heavy weight belt from the locker and clasped it around Lee's waist.  "I want you to stay put."  He then searched and emptied the pockets of Crane's uniform before attaching a length of light weight chain with a padlock to the weight belt.

Watching the preparations Lee saw his chances for escape being diminished one by one.  McIntosh had thought of every possibility.

"Here."  The miner thrust a paper in front of him.  "Sign this.  I want to prove to Nelson I'm not bluffing."

Lee scanned the note.  "He won't believe that."  Crane flipped the paper over and laid it on his tank.  Reaching for the pen McIntosh held, he awkwardly wrote a few words and signed it.  "Give him this."

McIntosh read what he had written and smiled.  "You summed it up very well.  I shall enjoy watching his reaction."  McIntosh gathered up all the loose items from the deck and stuffed them into his duffel bag, then stowed the bag back in the locker beside them, keeping only the detonator.  He placed the device in small diving pouch attached to his belt where he could easily reach it.  Replacing his .45 with a long, saw-toothed diving knife, he strapped the sheath to his leg.  Looking up, he saw Lee watching him.  He slung his tank over one shoulder, clipping the mouthpiece around his neck.  "A precaution, Captain, in case you try to be the hero, again."

Lee raised his cuffed hands once again.  "You can't expect me to don the tank like this."

McIntosh laughed.  "That would be rather difficult wouldn't it?"  The miner knelt beside him, undoing the harness and placing the straps over his shoulders, then clasping them closed.  "There, that should do it.  Now, get up."

Lee got his knees under him, but was roughly jerked to his feet by the impatient miner.  "It's not use trying to stall, Captain.  No one is coming."

McIntosh went over to the control panel and thumbed the hatch controls.  The light on the panel didn't even light, verifying McIntosh's bypass.  He was on his own.

Resigned, Lee pulled down his mask, settling it awkwardly over his face, and then inserted his mouthpiece firmly with his cuffed hands.  He slid over the side of the hatch into the cold seawater, landing on his knees at the bottom of the tank.  Something disturbed the water next to him and he turned, finding McIntosh beside him with an underwater light.  The miner gave him a prod with the light and gestured aft.

Lee pushed off, swimming in the direction indicated, trying to gauge his location in the ship.  He wanted to escape, but it looked impossible.  Encumbered by the cuffs and weight belt, McIntosh would be on him before he could even break away, and if the miner set off the explosive here it could rupture the tank and send them all to the bottom.  He had no other choice but to cooperate.

McIntosh's hand closed around his arm, stopping his forward progress.  The miner pushed him toward an opening off to his left.  Pump station.  Which one?  Aft from auxiliary control.  No. 2.  The nearest hatch was-

Lee was distracted by the miner, tugging on his arm.  McIntosh illuminated the pump with his light, and indicated him to swim behind it.  Lee let himself sink to the deck and felt McIntosh's hands on his weight belt.  The miner pulled the chain free and threaded it first through his handcuffs and then around a metal feeder pipe on the pump.  The padlock clicked closed with a audible snick.  McIntosh played the light over him, fiddled with his tank harness for a moment, loosening the strap, and clasping it even tighter.

The miner backpedaled a few feet then gave him the thumbs up sign. Then he pushed off, swimming back in the direction they had come, leaving Lee in darkness with only the hiss of his regulator for company.


* * * * *


"Commander Morton!"

Chip looked up at the imperious sounding voice and had to fight very hard to keep a scowl from his features.  Now what?

McIntosh came down the last three winding stairs at the front of the control room.  Chip laid aside his pencil, waiting, as the miner came over to the chart table.

“I want Nelson down here."  McIntosh put a small silver box on the table in front of him.

"The Admiral is busy right now."  Chip reached for his pencil.

"Get him down here!"  The miner's voice was ugly.

"For what?"  Chip held his ground.  He did not have to take orders from this man.

The miner lifted his box from the table.  "Do you want a hole blasted in your submarine?"  He thrust the box forward, almost under Morton's nose.

Seeing the device up close for the first time, Chip realized it was a detonator.  He raised a hand slowly, placatingly, aware of the watch staring at McIntosh in disbelief.  "Okay.  You've made your point. Give me a minute to raise him," Morton replied calmly, reaching for the mic on the side of the table.

McIntosh pulled back.  "That's better, Commander."

Chip clicked the mic button twice.  "Admiral."

Nelson answered promptly.  "Yes, Chip?"

At the sound of the Admiral's voice, the watch seemed to relax a bit, but Chip could see them watching McIntosh warily.  He fought to keep his words slow and even.  "Could you come down to the control room, sir?  It's important."

"Very well."  The resignation in Nelson's voice showed he'd rather not have been bothered, but Chip was glad he did not question him.

A few moments later Nelson came down the spiral stairs.  Seeing McIntosh, and feeling the tension in the air, he came straight over to the chart table.

"What's the trouble?"  He looked at Chip, not McIntosh.

"Mr. McIntosh wanted to see you."

Nelson turned to the miner.  "I told you three days ago--”

"I know you told me," McIntosh sneered.  "But you are through telling me anything.  You will do as I say. If you ever want to see your Captain alive again."

The Admiral's eyes narrowed, as Chip fought to keep his own surprise from showing, then focused on the box McIntosh was holding.  "What have you done to Lee -- Captain Crane?"

"Nothing.  Yet."  McIntosh's eyes gleamed, his fingers fondling the small box with its array of buttons.  "I have merely detained the good Captain.  You may have him back, none the worse for wear; once I am convinced we are on course for the Cameron Trench."

"So we're back to that again, are we?"  Nelson's jaw tightened.

"I intend to mine that trench, Admiral, with or without your cooperation."

"And if I refuse to take you there?"  Nelson's eyes were glacial.

"Then your Captain dies, and leaves a very large hole in your submarine."  McIntosh cradled the detonator closely.  "I do know explosives, Admiral, and believe me; I have put the Captain and my bomb where they will do the most damage."  The miner glanced at his watch.  "His time grows shorter by the minute."

Chip could sense Nelson's agitation, although the Admiral kept his voice calm.  "How do I know you really have Crane?"

McIntosh smiled, a cruel, triumphant smile.  "You could try to raise him, but I thought I would save you the trouble."  He reached into his pocket and handed a crumpled piece of paper to the Admiral.

Nelson read the note, then handed it to him.  Chip recognized the handwriting immediately.  It was straightforward and to the point.

'Admiral, he's not bluffing.  Do what you think best.' 

Chip felt a sudden flash of worry at the uneven letters, then realized Lee had been forced to write it.  For McIntosh to make Lee a hostage he would have had to take him by surprise and knock Crane out.  A cold shiver ran down his spine at the implications of Lee's words.  Morton hoped the situation could be reversed without endangering Lee's life unnecessarily.

He glanced at Nelson.  The old man was thinking furiously.  He knew the Admiral had understood what Lee was trying to tell him.

"All right.  Mr. Morton, set course zero two zero, all ahead flank."  Nelson's voice was all business.  Not a good sign.

“Zero two zero at flank, aye, sir."  Chip reached for his microphone to relay the order to the engine room.

Once the course change was executed, Chip glanced around the control room, to see what men he had to work with.  Kowalski was always good in a fight, as were Riley and Malone.  And Sharkey --

Chip suddenly realized the Chief was no longer at his duty station.  He was sure Sharkey had been there when McIntosh arrived.  He had no reason to leave except --

Morton felt a small surge of hope.  The Chief must have been listening, and slipped below.  If he could find Crane, then the miner would be rendered powerless.

Chip was sure the miner had not noticed the Chief's absence and knew it was up to him to keep it that way.  "Permission to carry on, sir?" he asked Nelson, knowing the question would alert Nelson he was up to something.

"Permission granted," the Admiral replied without hesitation.

Morton laid down his mic and started to move aft.

"Where's he going?"  McIntosh demanded.

"Commander Morton has certain tasks he must perform if he is to get you to your destination."

Chip almost winced at Nelson's inflection.  He hated when the old man took that tone with him.

The miner eased down into the stool by the chart table.  "All right, but no funny stuff, or I push the button."

"I'm sure you will."  Nelson was having a hard time holding on his temper, and Chip hoped the Admiral wouldn't lose it. Then Morton noticed the quartermaster glaring at McIntosh.  Chip followed his gaze back, and realized where McIntosh was sitting.  The crew didn't like just anyone sitting there, as that was where Crane sat.  He waited for a moment for the man to notice him, and then shook his head.  The quartermaster turned back to his console unhappily.

Chip moved past him to the hydrophone and asked Riley his reading.  The seaman gave it to him.  Then he moved down to the next station.  The watch soon caught on to what he was doing and the room was filled with operational chatter, most of it meaningless.

After a while McIntosh relaxed.  Nelson realizing Chip's gambit, engaged the miner in conversation.

McIntosh was surly at first, only providing short, curt answers to the Admiral's queries, but Nelson kept after him, and he soon elaborated more and more of his plans.

Chip took Jenkins aside from the AMRAC station.  "I want you to go down and find those missing drill bits.  Check aft stores, amidships, anywhere you think they might have been stowed.  We'll need them before we get to the Trench.  Round up a detail to help you search."

At first the seaman did not seem to understand his doubletalk, but abruptly his face cleared and he nodded.  "Sure thing, Mr. Morton, we'll get right on it."

"I want a report as soon you find anything."

"Aye, sir."  The seaman exited through the starboard hatch down toward C-deck.

Chip turned back toward the chart table.  Now he had to gain some time.  Time for the Chief to find Lee.


* * * * * *



Crane had lost track of the time.  He tried to move his hands to see his watch, then he remembered McIntosh had removed it.  Maybe he was better off, not knowing when the end would come.  Lee shook his head.  The Admiral would find some way to disarm the miner, he had to have faith.

It was cold, and he could feel it sapping his strength.  Already it was hard to keep from drifting.  The cold water was slowly numbing his arms and legs and he knew he would soon reach a point where he would no longer feel them.  Chained to the pump there was no way for him to change position.  He had to sit this one out, and wait.  They would find him sooner or later.

Five decks, six hundred feet long - he began to calculate.  Thirty five men spread out covered an average of - Lee shook his head again.  This was not helping.  It would take them a good two hours to eliminate all the possible places in the access hatches and to check all the compartments.  And an inventory of stores to discover the missing tanks would take all watch.

He was stuck here.  He had to hang on until they found him.  He began to keep count of his breaths, trying to judge the time.  Concentrate on the numbers, keep breathing.

It worked for a while, but again Lee felt himself drifting, losing the count.  It was so cold; it made it hard for him to think.  Keep breathing.  Concentrate on that.


* * * * *


Two hours later the intercom crackled with the message Chip was waiting for.  Sharkey sounded tired, and Chip had a sinking feeling he knew why.

"Yes, sir, we looked in both the fore and aft storage compartments and we still can't find those drill bits.  Are you sure Extron sent them?"

"I checked them in myself," Morton replied.  "Keep looking, they have to be somewhere.  We're going to need them when we get to the Trench."

"Aye, sir.  I'll have the men check again."

"Very well, Chief, carry on."

"Trouble, Commander," McIntosh inquired, his expression crafty.

"Nothing the Chief can't handle."  Chip tried to make his answer nonchalant.

The miner smiled.  "Good.  I would not want any delays when we arrive.  What is our ETA?"

Morton made a show of consulting the chart.  "About forty five minutes."

“Splendid.  Your submarine makes excellent time when she is pointed in the right direction."

Chip turned away, unable to stand the miner's gloating.  Where the hell could he be holding Lee?  Sharkey would have torn the lower decks apart by now, and he still hadn't found Crane.  There were not that many places to hide a person on board.  And Lee had to be bound and gagged not to have alerted the search parties.  Or unconscious.  Maybe drugged.  Chip glanced at McIntosh, feeling sudden anger.  He wouldn't put it past him, to keep Lee quiet.

Morton pushed his worry aside.  There were only two people who knew Seaview better than the Chief, her Captain, and her inventor.  If anyone could locate Crane, it was Sharkey.

Chip glanced at his watch.  Time was getting short; they had to make a move before they arrived at the Trench.  He looked over at Nelson.  The Admiral did not stop talking to McIntosh, but nodded slowly.  It was all the encouragement Chip needed.

He raised his mic.  "Helmsman - left full rudder!  Planesman - ten degree down bubble!"

The watch was waiting for that order.  Before McIntosh could react, they had grabbed onto their chairs or a railing, as the seaman turned their wheels and the sub veered left and down.  Unprepared, McIntosh was pitched from the stool, sprawling onto the deck.  Nelson jumped on top of him, and they both went sliding toward the front stairs.  Grappling, Nelson pried the timer device out of the surprised miner's hand, and let it fall to the deck.  Going with the pitch of the ship, Chip sprang for it.  He gathered it into his hands, rolling out of the way and coming to his knees by the stairs.

The seamen kept their feet with the ease of long practice and jumped in, helping Nelson to subdue the irate miner.

"Level off!"  Morton yelled down the length of the control room, and the bow came up slowly until the deck was even.  Chip gained his feet, and returned to the chart table.  McIntosh was dragged up from the deck, furious.

"You fools!" he screamed.  "You've gained nothing!"

Nelson stood in front of him.  "Where's Captain Crane?" 5The miner glared at him.  "You'll never find him in time."

The Admiral took a step forward, grasping the man's collar.  "I don't have time for your games anymore.  You've failed.  Don't make things any worse than they already are."

"No, Admiral, his death will be on your conscience, not mine.  I would have let him go, had you taken me to the Trench, but no, you had to stop me."  The miner's voice rose hysterically.  "No, I won't tell you!  Find him yourself, if it's not too late!"

Nelson let go of the shirt.  "Get him out of here!  Take him down and lock him in the brig!"

Chip waited for Nelson to return to the chart table before handing him the device.  Nelson took out his knife, and deftly opened the box, and ripped the wires out of it.

"There,” he said grimly.  "That's the end of that threat."

Chip looked at him a moment.  "Bobby."  He addressed the Diving Officer.  "Take the conn; we're going below to help with the search."

"Aye, sir."  O'Brien moved up to the chart table.

"Any place you want to start?" he asked Nelson.

The Admiral's look of disgust faded.  "One and it had better be right.  Let's go."

Lee jerked his head up suddenly, feeling dizzy.  The hiss of his regulator seemed unnaturally loud in the cold, wet darkness.  No, can't fall asleep, have to keep breathing.  It was so cold.  How long had he been here?  Hours, days.  Nothing moved, yet something had snapped him back.  It was getting hard to think.  It felt like the sub had shifted under him.  Was he imagining things?

Lee could feel himself start to drift again, and he shook his head, trying to clear it.  No, can't fall asleep.  But he couldn't seem to concentrate.  Give in, go with it.  It would end the dull ache in his head and chest.

Despite the fact he knew he shouldn't, Lee couldn't fight any more.  It took too much effort to raise his head up.  It felt like it weighed five hundred pounds.  He slumped, surrendering to the darkness and let it take him.


* * * * * *


Lee's time was running out.  Crane only had three and a half hours of air in those missing deep tanks and it had been almost that long since McIntosh had walked into the control room to take over.  The miner still refused to divulge where he was holding Lee, and Chip resisted his urge to go to the brig himself and shake it out of the man.  It would waste time he didn't have.

Morton took down a single tank from the rack in front of him.  Lee had to be somewhere in the ballast tanks.  It was only place left where Lee would need a tank.  They had double checked the well; he had just rechecked the escape hatch, and Sharkey's details had searched the entire sub from bridge to keel.  Morton shoved his worry aside.  There was no way that maniac could have gotten Lee off the ship, without them knowing, so Crane had to be aboard.  But where?

He hooked up the tank to the regulator.  They had already sent a man through the tanks once, looking but the seaman came back empty-handed, and that scared Chip more than anything else.  Lee would have tried to make a free ascent if he was able.  McIntosh gloated that Lee was totally helpless.  Chip gathered up his mask and carried it over to the hatch with his tank.  Coming back to the lockers, he opened the left door and reached inside for a tool belt, checking the light in the right hand loop.  On impulse he added a pair of steel cutters to the ring beside it.  Rope couldn't have held Lee this long.

Chip slung the belt around his waist and clasped it closed as he walked back over to the hatch.  No time for a wetsuit.  He went through his pockets quickly, emptying them, and kicked off his oxfords.  He debated momentarily whether or not to call Sharkey.  No, if the Chief found his shoes by the open hatch he'd know where he'd gone.  Chip knelt beside the hatch and undogged it, raising the cover.

He reached for his tank, tested it, and shrugged it over his shoulders, clipping the mouthpiece around his neck.  Pulling down his mask, Morton slid over the side into the cold seawater.  The iciness of it made him wish for a wetsuit.  But he switched on his light instead. Pushing off the deck, he began swimming determinedly aft, shining his torch slowly in a circle to illuminate the walls of the tank.

Morton trusted that if Lee was anywhere in the open Jenkins would have found him, so he'd better start poking behind the beams and such. The first pump station he came contained nothing but the pump, undisturbed. He pushed on, swimming back deeper into the tank.

A small dark cul de sac opened to his left and he entered the number two pump station.  The pump also looked undisturbed but he played his light over it as he had the first, to make sure.  Something glinted at him in the gloom.

He swam in closer, shining the torch full on it.  The glint separated into links of light weight chain wrapped around a feeder pipe.  Chain?  On a ballast pump?

Chip swung his light, following the chain over the side of the pump into the darkness behind it.  The torch illuminated the deck below, and he found Lee slumped against the housing, his head bowed, unmoving.

Morton grabbed for the cutters in his belt and levered then under the chain, bearing down with all his weight.  The cutters slid slightly, then bit into the chain.  It snapped in two abruptly, almost landing him on top of the pump.  He backpedaled slightly, shoving the cutters back into their ring and came around the pump, catching Lee by the wrist and dragging him out toward the main tank.  Lee felt like ice, and there was no response to his tugging.

Chip let his light fall to the deck, and gave Lee a good push, letting Crane's weight belt pull them to the bottom of the tank.  He shoved Lee's mouthpiece aside and inserted his own between Lee's teeth, holding it in place.  Straddling Crane he put his knee on the tanks, bearing down, forcing him to breath.

There was no response the first time, so he eased his pressure and tried again.  This time he was awarded with a feeble jerk and a slight pressure on the mouthpiece.  Come on.  Morton eased off, and then came down again.  Lee bucked under him, and began dragging on the mouthpiece.  That's it.  The trail of bubbles that rose and broke against his mask filled him with relief.  He let go of Crane's tank and retrieved his light, jamming it backward in the loop so it illuminated the deck below.  He then reached back down to unclasp the weight belt that held Lee to the deck.

Freed of the lead weight Lee rose, and Chip began tugging on his friend's tank harness clasps, trying to get them unsnapped.  Crane shook his head muzzily, and his handcuffed hands came up, feeling for the mouthpiece between his teeth.  Lee's eyes were open as Morton undid the last snap and the tanks fell away.  Chip signaled him that they were going up and began dragging him by the arm toward the nearest hatch.  There was one in auxiliary control.

A pair of handcuffed hands appeared in front of his mask, holding the bubbling mouthpiece.  Morton turned to face Crane and gestured up again, shaking his head.  It wasn't that much farther.

The mouthpiece was shoved against his teeth, brooking no argument. He snatched a quick pull, putting his hand over Crane's, then pulled Lee closer, forcing the mouthpiece into Lee's mouth again.  He then raised his hand in front of Crane's mask and gestured in no uncertain terms that Lee was to keep it.

Chip checked the rivet pattern on the deck.  Just a little further.  He swam a few more feet, and then started upward, putting out a hand to find the hatch toggles.  His hand closed around a lever.  Made it.  He pushed it to the open position and searched for the other one.  He bumped into Lee's cuffs, and then heard the thunk of the hatch undogging.  He gave it a good push, and light flooded in as the hatch swung back.  He kicked hard, getting one elbow over the rim, as he dragged Crane up with his other hand.  Lee flailed out with his cuffed hands and caught the rim.

Chip boosted himself up over the rim next to him, then reached down for his regulator.  Crane let go, and Morton hit the quick release on his tank harness, letting the unit clang to the deck.  Then he braced himself against the rim, and grasped Lee's arm, pulling him the rest of the way out of the tank.

They lay sprawled together on the deck for a moment, breathing hard.   Chip pushed himself up.  He yanked off his face mask, shaking his hair out of his eyes, and eased out from under Crane.  He reached down to gently pull the mask away from Lee's face.  The plastic had bitten deep into his skin, leaving an angry red circle that only made him look paler.

Lee rolled over, looking up at him.  "Thanks," he gasped, his voice hoarse and weak.  "H - how'd you know -?”

Chip laid a hand on his shoulder.  "Only place left to look.  You had about run out of time."

Lee's hands came up as he tried to sit up, and for the first time Chip saw how white and wrinkled they were, the fingernails blue tinged.  Morton pushed him back to the deck.  "Take it easy.  I'm calling Doc."

"I'm -- all right."  Lee hitched up on one elbow.

"Sure."  Morton got to his feet and sloshed over to the intercom.  "We'll see what Will says."


Morton clicked the mic twice to clear the system.   "Sick bay."

Jamieson answered promptly.

"Doc, lay down to auxiliary control on the double.  I found the Skipper!"  Morton smiled as he heard the mic drop on the other end.  He clicked off, putting his mic back on its bracket.  Jamieson would be here in nothing flat.

Chip turned around, and saw Lee had curled up beside the hatch, his cuffed hands clenched tightly in his lap.  He swiftly crossed the room, and knelt beside his friend, laying his hand on Crane's shoulder.  "Lee?"  He could feel Crane shivering under his hand.

Lee's eyes fluttered open at his touch.  "'sallright."  He looked up at him, his voice only a weak whisper.  "Just-- c- cold."

Chip slid down to a seated position on the deck, and put his arms under Lee's shoulders, pulling him away from the open tank to lean against him.  "I got reinforcements on the way."

Crane smiled faintly.  "Always -- could -- count on you."

Chip tightened his grip as Lee's eyes closed again.  Where was Will?

Footsteps clattered in the corridor and a moment later the door was flung open.  Jamieson came in, followed by his two corpsmen, Billy and Frank, carrying blankets and other equipment.

Jamieson knelt down beside them, placing his hand against Lee's neck.  Crane roused, looking up through half closed eyes.  "I told him not --”

"I'll bet you did." Jamieson cut Lee off, his hands moving to unbutton Crane's shirt.  "Was he like this when you found him?"  Will turned to him suddenly.

Chip shook his head.  "A little more out of it, but I don't think he ran out of air, came around too quickly when I switched him to a fresh tank."

Jamieson frowned and donned his stethoscope.  He placed the instrument on Lee's chest, as Billy bundled a blanket around Crane's legs.  The corpsman handed another one to him, and Chip threw it around his shoulders.  It felt good; he hadn't had time to think about feeling cold.  He wrapped it around himself, watching Jamieson extend his examination.

More footsteps sounded outside and the Admiral came in, with Sharkey.  Both their face lit up with relief when they saw Crane.  The Admiral knelt down on the deck near Jamieson.

"How's he doing?" Nelson asked.

Jamieson removed his 'scope.  "His lungs don't appear to be damaged, but it's hard to tell now.  I'll know better once I get him to Sick Bay and can run some --" Will was distracted by Lee's tugging on his sleeve. 

"Jamie -- I had -- air.  Just -- couldn't stay - 'wake -- so cold -- headache."

"Headache!"  Will leaned forward and raised one of Lee's eyelids, looking closely at his eye.

Nelson reached out, pushing the damp hair back from Lee's face, out of Jamieson's way.  "It's good to see you in one piece, Lee."  Nelson ruffled Crane's hair slightly, then jerked his hand away quickly as Lee winced.  "Will."

Jamieson raised his fingers to the spot, probing gently, pushing the hair aside to uncover a raised lump.  "McIntosh give you that?"

Lee nodded tiredly.  "Knocked me out for a moment."  Crane raised his cuffed hands.  "So he could put these on me."

Will frowned.  "Have you been dizzy?"

"Not that I remember."  Lee's voice was getting weaker as he clutched at the blanket covering his legs.  Chip felt him start to shiver again.  He draped part of his own blanket over Lee's left shoulder.  "I - kept drifting out."

Lee looked like he was about to do it again.  Chip shifted, bundling his e blanket tighter around his friend.

Jamieson clacked the metal ends of his stethoscope together savagely.  "That idiot!  You don't put a man with --” Will subsided abruptly as the Admiral put a warning hand on his arm and jerked his head in Lee's direction.

"We're taking him to Sick bay." Will decided, putting his 'scope back in his bag. 

"Let's cut him out of those cuffs first," the Admiral suggested quietly.  "Chip, give me those cutters."

Morton dropped his hands to the forgotten tool belt around his waist and unclasped it.

"No," Lee's voice was barely audible.  "There's a key - in the locker - over there."

Nelson gestured at Sharkey.  "Open it up, Chief."

"Aye, sir."  Sharkey crossed the room, pulling out his key ring.  He opened the locker, rummaging inside.  He came out with a dirty white duffel bag.  "This is all that's in here."

"Bring it over."

The Chief put the bag on the deck next to Nelson, and the Admiral upended it, and began searching through the objects inside.  Sharkey began picking out certain items, and Chip realized he was gathering up what belonged to Crane.

"I'll put your things back in your cabin, Skipper."

Crane nodded, his eyes closing."

"This must be it."  Nelson held up a small silver key, and then moved beside Jamieson.  Reaching down, he inserted the key into the cuffs and pulled them open.  As he removed them, they saw the skin beneath was chafed and torn.  Jamieson reached into one of the cases Frank had open, took up a bottle, shook it and dipped a swab in it.  It turned the cotton yellow, and Jamieson quickly painted the chafed area of each wrist in a few swift strokes.

"All right.  Let’s take him up."

Chip moved back slightly, leaving his blanket with Crane, and letting Frank take his place.  The corpsman tied the blankets together at the corners to fashion a stretcher.  Morton took the knotted corner that was handed him and scrambled to his feet.

“C'mon, Chief."  Nelson also got to his feet.  "Let's let them know what's going on in the control room.  Will has everything under control here."

Jamieson and his boys were old hands at this kind of transfer and they had Lee up to Sick bay inside of five minutes.  Chip stepped away from the examining table, letting his knotted blanket end fall beside the bed.

"I want a precautionary skull series as soon as you get him out of that uniform and dry."  Jamieson told Frank, as the corpsman began to unwrap the blankets from around Crane.  "I'll get Jimmy to set the machine.  Billy, I want to you to set a shock IV."

Chip smiled.  Lee would be fine.

"You still here?"

Chip turned away from the bed toward the Doctor.

"Shoo!"  Jamieson waved his hands toward the door.  "Get out of that uniform before you catch pneumonia!"

Chip shrugged.  "Okay, okay, I'm going.  Can I help it I had something else on my mind."


Lee's soft voice from the bed made them both turn.

"I'm right here."  The Doctor laid a hand gently on Crane's shoulder.

"Don't yell at him, he --”

"I know."  The Doctor motioned Chip to come closer to the bed.

Morton smiled down at his friend.  "'Fraid I'm going to have to leave you for a while, bud."

“'S okay."  Crane tried to smile.  "Report back in an hour.”

"Full operational report?" Chip teased, knowing full well that if Jamieson had his way, Lee wasn't going to be awake to hear it.

Lee nodded.

"Jimmy's ready."  Frank came out from the back room.

"Then get him in there and get those plates developed."

Jamieson pulled Chip away from the bed.  "You can come back after you change, I may need you and I'm sure the Admiral will want you here too, when he gets here."  Jamieson looked at his watch.  "In fact, I'd give him about another two minutes."

"You could try and throw him out."

Jamieson laughed.  "Fat chance.  Not 'til I reverse Lee's hypothermia at the very least.  Now, scram, mister."

Chip paused, taking one last look back as Crane was wheeled into the back room.  He would have loved to have seen McIntosh's reaction to his sick bay call.  But then there would be the trial board, with Lee reading the formal charges against him.  And the Admiral would back Crane all the way.  Their worries were over, but the miner's were only beginning.

Morton crossed through the sick bay to the port corridor and headed forward to the ladder up to the next deck and his quarters.  The weakness the miner had tried to exploit was going to blow up in his face.  And Chip was going to enjoy every minute of it.


* * * * * *


It was a quiet breakfast, and Lee didn't seem to have much appetite, despite Jamieson's cajoling him to eat.  Lee was trying but Chip could see his heart wasn't in it.  Still it was good to see Lee sitting up in bed with most of his color back.  Crane had been pretty out of it last night. There was nothing wrong with Nelson's appetite, and occasionally he would add his encouragement to Jamieson's.  Chip sat quietly, knowing two mother hens were quite enough for Lee in his condition.

Lee shot him a half pleading look, and Chip smiled and shrugged.  Resigned, Lee lifted his fork from the plate, and tried to finish what was left.  Finally Jamieson stood up, and moved toward the bed.

"Okay.  I think that's enough for now."  He pulled the tray from over bed, and wheeled it aside.  Will glanced at his watch.  "It’s about time for Chip to go to the control room."

Morton put down his fork.  "It's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it."

Lee smiled.  "You know you love it when I'm not there."

Chip got to his feet.  "Save your strength for the trial board this afternoon."

"Yeah."  Lee shifted on the bed.  "If the good Doctor lets me out."

Nelson chuckled.  "I'd say he's about recovered, wouldn't you, Will?"

"Of course," Jamieson replied.  "You still can't have him until this afternoon.  Provided he eats lunch."

Lee rolled his eyes, making a face.  "Sadist."

They all laughed.  McIntosh was damn lucky Lee had suffered no lasting effects from his imprisonment.  It felt good to be laughing and joking with him again.  In two days they would be rid of McIntosh for good.  He'd be counting the hours until then.

Chip got to his feet.  "Well, I have a boat to run it seems."

"Don't get too comfortable."  Lee called after him.

"Never," Chip replied.  "I'm not no. 1 son."  With that, he left, enjoying the surprised looks on Crane's and Nelson's faces.  It felt good to have the last word. 

The End