Originally posted on Voyagewriters' list.
Some terminology appears at end.
"Remember the mass early recognition we got February of our Plebe year?" Jerry Levin's voice was contemplative. "I always suspected you guys had something to do with that, you know. Not that I was complaining. I'm not sure I would have been able to take Bracken's version of military instruction until May. Getting carry on saved my life."
Chip and Tim shot each other a knowing glance and started laughing.
Bobby O'Brien and Nick Peatty exchanged glances. This definitely sounded like something they wanted to hear. It had been very interesting hearing the Skipper's and Exec's old Academy classmates shoot the bull with the XO. The five men were sitting in the Seaview's nose as she rode at anchor. Following what had apparently been a very successful wetting down, the Admiral had extended an invitation for Hughes and Commander Levin to join them for a short cruise up the coast of California on their way to the arctic to check out rumors of a mass krill die off. The plan was for the Captain to drop Tim and Jerry off at Tim's B & B on the way in the Flying Sub. The two men had been appropriately impressed by their friends' boat but not so impressed that they hadn't dredged up some very entertaining, and sometimes embarrassing, stories of the command crew's Annapolis days. Apparently the class of '66 had been far more adventurous than their own classes not so many years later. Nick and Bobby had both heard pass down about the mass recognition of the plebes though not the story behind it. Now it sounded as if they might clear up that long-standing mystery. They expected to be very popular in the JO quarters tonight with a new tale with which to regale their fellow officers.
"Mister Morton?" Sparks ventured a nudge.
Chip put on his best inscrutable XO face and said repressively, "Some things are best left unexplained, Mister Peatty."
A deep, rich voice redolent of amusement spoke from the staircase. "Surely the statute of limitations is long over, Mister Morton, and I'd be interested to find out if my estimation of the situation back then was correct."
Admiral Nelson waved the five men back to their chairs as they all instinctively rose at his entrance. Bobby hurriedly made his chair available for the Admiral as he perched on the ledge of the famous "windows" while Nick got the Admiral coffee.
Chip grinned and made a production of looking around. Nelson chuckled. "Lee's tied up with Doctor Edward at the moment setting up the mission track. He'll be available to drop you two gentlemen off as soon as he's finished with that task."
Commander Levin spoke for them both. "Admiral, we'd really like to thank you for the cruise. We enjoyed it tremendously. I doubt I'll ever experience anything to equal it."
"You're more than welcome, Commander. I suspect that my command crew enjoyed it equally well, eh, Chip?"
Morton's tone was very dry as he answered, "I'll enjoy it more in retrospect once the crew has forgotten all the sea stories these two have been filling their ears with. Bad for discipline, sir."
"Ah. And I take it that my guess was correct and that is why you are reluctant to shed light on a rather famous - or infamous - episode in Academy history? How did that cover get up there, Mister Morton?"
Morton and Hughes exchanged glances brimming with glee before Chip began…" Well, sir, it was like this….."
"So," Tim’s voice was mildly amused and definitely curious, "what’s your roomie up to, Chip?"
Chip Morton pushed his "expletive deleted" French text away and scowled at his squad mate. "Do I look like I have the Crane watch? As far as I know he’s signed out to do research at the Library. Why?"
That was definitely amusement and maybe even a little worry Chip saw in Hughes’ eyes.
"Oh, just wondered where he was going with his second best cover, a coil of nylon cordage, a hook and a pair of heavy gloves."
Chip surged from his chair and snarled, "I am going to kill him - if he doesn’t kill himself first."
"I take it you know.….?"
"He’s been bitching about Bracken going overboard on hazing Jerry, well, really all us plebes. Found this old Academy tradition about forcing recognition as a class before Herndon by getting a plebe cap on top of the chapel spire. Wouldn’t put it past the damn idiot to try to climb the thing."
"He wouldn’t!" Worry was definitely uppermost in Hughes’ eyes now.
"We are talking about Lee B. Crane, right? Angels *and* fools-won’t-go-where-he’ll-rush-in-if-he-thinks-it’ll-solve-a-problem Lee B. Crane? Hell." Chip looked at his watch and stewed a minute before clearly making a decision. "Okay, look, Tim. I’m going after the kid. Could you maybe hang here for a minute and if one of the watch comes in tell him I’ve gone to ... to get cleaning supplies?"
"I've got to admit I thought you had lost it there, Chip. Could not figure out what cleaning supplies had to do with anything."
"Well, I had to cover my tracks somehow, right? Besides, if ever anyone deserved clean-up detail it was my roomie. And it did work. Lieutenant Bowers bought your explanation when he came in while I was out… getting cleaning supplies." There was a smug expression on Morton's face that had the younger Seaview officers sitting forward in expectation as he continued his tale.
"Huh… cleaning supplies?" Tim’s expression clearly indicated he thought Chip had slipped a cog.
"Yeah, you’re right…" Clear blue eyes swept across the room and lit up with an unholy gleam when they landed on a bottle of India ink on his room mate’s desk. "That’ll do nicely. Serve him right too - climbing the spire. Whoever heard of such a thing? Idiot."
Before Tim could do anything but gape, a quick twist of Morton’s wrist and the ink made a lovely pool in the middle of Crane’s desk. "Chip! He’s going to kill you! He’s been working on that sketch for your Mom for days!"
"Sketch, sir?" Sparks asked softly. "The Skipper was an artist?"
"Uh, not that time. He came to lunch with my parents when they visited and Lee and Mom got into a discussion about what she wanted to do with the back acre at our place and Lee offered to sketch it for her. Laid out elevations and everything. I got in more trouble with Mom than with Lee for wrecking it."
"Hah, Lee walked real softly around you for … oh, at least a week, after that particular escapade." Tim snorted.
"Well I was ready to kill him for the scare he gave me. I think I admitted as much at the time...."
"Not if I kill him first. Of all the lame-brained stunts. Look, Tim, I’ve gotta go before he has time to really do himself damage."
"What if you get caught?"
"So we’ll be walking the quad together. Give me lots of time to drum the facts of life into that curly head."
Chip exited the dorm room at a run, leaving Tim to try to staunch the dripping ink with the first towel he could grab. He groaned and wondered if Chip would believe him that he hadn’t intended to grab one C. Morton’s hand towel.
"I didn't mean to grab your towel, you know, Chip. There was no need for you to go off on me." Hughes' voice was injured. Chip laughed. "Well I knew I had at least another hour before the real miscreant would appear and I wanted to get in practice. After what I found out…."
Chip managed to keep his pace down to a purposeful walk, saluting passerbys as if he had all the right in the world to be there. He thanked whoever it was that looked after soft-headed middies that it was dark enough that he shouldn’t be recognized and hoped that those same helpful deities were looking after his young roomie. The dark that was so helpful to him would only add to the danger Lee was putting himself in. *Lame brain. In the dark…try to climb the spire in the dark, will he? When I get my hands on —*
He reached the chapel grounds and started to make a careful circle, eyes and ears open for any sign of one just-asking-for-trouble middie. Finally, he heard a faint hissing and stopped. Casting a wary glance around and seeing no one, Chip eased his way toward the sound. It stopped abruptly but Chip had it located and crept toward the knot of shrubbery on the east side of the chapel. He startled as a hand clamped over his mouth and swept an elbow back in an approved defensive move only to hear a grunt followed by a whispered, "Watch it, you big ape, it's me. What're you trying to do? Cripple me?"
Chip let all his worry out in an explosive, "If that's what it will take to keep you from killing yourself… what the hell do you think you're doing? Trying to climb the spire? I ought to --"
In the dusk, Chip could just make out the absolute astonishment on Lee's face in the faint light spilling from the chapel's windows. "What are you talking about? Why would I try to climb the chapel? What do you think I am, an idiot?" Lee read the response in Morton's face and added hurriedly, "Don’t answer that. What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Mother B."
"What am I doing here? What am "I" doing here? The question is what are you doing here, if not to try to put your "second best cover" on top of the spire?"
"Oh… I guess Tim told you he saw me." Chip could see the scowl on his roommate's face. "Why does everybody think it's their business to poke their noses into my business?"
"He always did hate that we kept an eye out for him. Said we were all plebes, all equally low on the evolutionary ladder, and conveniently ignored the fact that he wasn't even shaving yet!" Jerry chortled.
"Nothing's changed. Well, he shaves now. " Chip grinned. "But he still hates to be "mother- henned" and claims everyone should just mind their own business. And there's one other thing that hasn't changed much. I swear we only keep…kept an eye on him ….."
"Because you're not safe to be let out on your own, buddy! And this proves it."
"Look, Chip, we don't have time for this. You need to get back before anyone finds out you're missing and I need to finish up here and get back to the study carrel before anyone checks on me. Okay? I've got it covered. I'm not climbing anything. Sheesh… I'm not an idiot!"
Chip grabbed Lee by both shoulders and stared down into wide hazel eyes. "I'm not leaving here until I know what you've got planned, period."
"Oh all right. I borrowed a night scope and a helium weather balloon from, well, you don't need to know who."
"Chief Sully, I'll bet my socks. I swear he encourages you."
"Was it Chief Sullivan?" Admiral Nelson interjected. "I have to admit I had my suspicions. He did encourage Lee. I always thought it was poetic justice that he was Lee's COB on Sea Horse years later."
"Yeah, from what I heard Lee added a lot of gray to Sully's hair that tour. But as for the Academy, Lee never actually came right out and admitted it but I did overhear him later thanking the chief for the loan of " the scope and stuff." Didn't tell me anything that night either…."
Lee ignored the interruption. "I've got the control cords from my battle kite and "borrowed" a hook from one of the displays in the Hall and I'm just going to float my cover up to the top of the spire and dump it there. That's all. It's no big deal unless we get caught and the longer we stand here chattering the more likely that is. Would you please go back to the room? I promise I won't do anything dumb."
"Too late for that, Lee. At least tell me you remembered to take your name out of the cover?"
There was silence for a long moment and then an embarrassed "Oops. Good catch, Chip. Although just because my name would be in it wouldn't necessarily mean I had anything to do with where it wound up."
"But it would mean you were careless with your gear. Demerits either way."
"Okay, okay, I'll fix that. Thanks, Chip."
"And how are you going to explain a missing cover?"
"Got a spare one from the same source as the 'scope. It's under control, Chip, would you take off?"
"You had better be back in the room by curfew or your ass is grass and it won't be the Brass who'll cut it, you got that?"
"Yeah, yeah, just go."
"And that's where my first hand knowledge ends, Admiral. Evidence definitely points to Lee Benjamin Crane as the reason why the Upperclassmen had to back off of us for the rest of the year but I never actually saw him put the cover on the spire. He got back to the room right on time with reams of research data so he had to have done something at the library. I can make a guess as to what a night scope, a helium balloon and a hook might have to do with the presence of a cover atop the chapel at quarters the next morning but…"
"Are you raking up that old gossip again, Mister Morton? Don't you have anything better to do with your time?" Captain Crane came down the stairs and scowled at his XO who just smiled at him sunnily.
"Sorry, Skipper, but the Admiral asked."
"You would, sir." Lee shot a look at his superior officer that had Nelson chuckling.
Lieutenant O'Brien ventured a tentative question. "Did you put the cover atop the chapel, sir?"
Lee came all the way into the nose and Nick leapt to his feet only to have Lee wave him back into his chair. Instead he joined Bobby on the ledge, the sun-dappled waves making a dramatic background for the darkly handsome young captain. He shot a glare at O'Brien which changed to a sheepish grin. "Well, actually, Bobby, you might say that the wind put it up there since that was what I used to carry the cover over the roof and to the top of the spire. I attached the control cords to my old battle kite to the weather balloon that S---omeone who will remain nameless -- got for me and between that and the night scope it was fairly easy to drift the thing over the spire and get it caught up on the metalwork. The hard part was getting everything back down without losing any bits and stashing them for pickup."
"How'd you get out of the Library, sir?"
Lee shrugged. "Mrs. Gustavson, remember her, Jerry?"
Commander Levin nodded his head and smacked his lips reminiscently. "Head librarian, used to give us those Bubbe cookies and bagels and lox when I was teaching you Hebrew our youngster year. She had a soft spot for you."
"She had a soft spot for all the middies, Jerry." The captain sounded a trifle defensive to his JOs' ears.
"Well, all I can say is that I never got cookies when I studied in the library alone. You ever get cookies, Chip? Tim?" Two heads shook sorrowful answers.
"You, at least, have nothing to complain about, Chip. I seem to recall that Captain Rogerson's eldest daughter kept you pretty well supplied with geedunk" Crane sent a predatory grin in the direction of his erstwhile roommate. Hughes and Levin did not disappoint.
Jerry and Tim immediately punched the closest portion of Chip's anatomy. Hughes spoke for both. "You dog! And you didn't share?"
"Well, it turns out there was one person I shouldn't have shared with." Morton mock glared at his captain as he made a production of rubbing his upper arms. He'd known Lee wouldn't take his letting the cat out of the bag without some retaliation. Chip figured he'd be getting off lightly if Lee let it go with Jerry and Tim's faked blows.
The Admiral cleared his throat and Lee wiped the innocent "who me?" expression from his face and took up the explanation again.
"Oh, yes, well, she gave me the study carrel on the second floor right next to the drainpipe. Remember that one?"
Chip protested. "You're not telling me she knew you'd shinny down the drainpipe?"
"Of course not. She just knew that Bracken had it in for me too - your fault, Chip, I might add - " He ignored the XO's yelp of disbelief and went on "and she knew he'd never bother going to the second floor to check those carrels. And she was busy pulling documents for me for my paper so I knew I'd have just enough time to get the job done." Lee's eyes sparkled as he swept his gaze across his old squad mates. "I can still see Bracken's face when REGCOM started recognizing every plebe he could find. Classic. I thought we'd lose him to apoplexy then and there."
"No such luck," Chip said sourly. "That came later after…"
Lee broke in hurriedly, to the dismay of his JOs who scented another story, "Time to get Tim and Jerry back to Annie. If we hurry there might be time for me to raid her cookie jar before I head back. 'Ski's getting FS1 ready for launch." A glance sent O'Brien and Peatty back to work and Chip got in his last minute good byes before heading for the control room. Lee boarded the Flying Sub while his guests made their own farewells to the Admiral. Tim shook Nelson's outstretched hand and said, "Admiral, appreciate the hospitality and the chance to catch up with my old running mates. If you're ever back this way, there's a room with your name on it at Spindrift."
"Thank you, Tim. I may just take you up on that. I understand that Lee's Lacey now lives in this area and I'd love to meet her."
Chip and Jerry exchanged glances and Tim coughed to cover a laugh as Levin nodded. "Yes, sir. I'm looking forward to it about as much as Chip is. Thank you, sir."
"My pleasure, Commander, and congratulations on your promotion."
"This was definitely a celebration for the books, Admiral. Thanks again. We'd better go before Lee decides we're telling more tales out of school and plots revenge."
Nelson led the way to the Flying Sub's docking hatch where 'Ski waited at the top.
"Permission to depart, sir?" Levin asked.
"Permission granted, Commander. And send my Captain back in one piece please. After the stories I've heard this trip I wonder how he survived the Academy."
"Nine lives, sir, and a ferocious mother hen in Chip."
Nelson’s laughter was still ringing when the hatch closed and the FS1 departed for the mainland.
"Recognition" is given at the end of plebe year and signifies that the plebes are now full fledged members of the brigade and as such are not subject to the upperclassmen's instruction, for which read harassment. <g> Individual plebes can be recognized by individual upperclassmen at any time during the year which relieves them from the standard courtesies due the upperclassman. "Carry on" releases the plebes from the stringent requirements of plebe etiquette. A "cover" is a uniform hat. REGCOM is Regimental Commander, the midshipman in charge of one of the regiments that make up the Brigade of midshipmen. Geedunk is snacks or, sometimes, the place where such can be purchased.