Lou Ann Steele

He slowly awoke to a splitting headache and bright lights that were blinding him. What happened to him? The last thing he remembered was leaving his apartment to go to the grocery store only to find his right rear tire to his car was flat. He had leaned down to inspect his tire when someone must have come up from behind and hit him. The back of his head felt like it had been bashed.

He tried to look down but found that his head was in some kind of vice that refused that type of movement. From what he could see and feel, he was sitting on a wooded high backed chair with his arms and legs firmly strapped down on the arms and legs of that chair. In front of him, behind the blinding lights, he could tell there were several people in the room because of the sounds of movement and low tone talking. They seem to be ignoring him for the present.

His body tensed with anxiety. Why had they abducted him? What do they want from him? Surely, he was not being kidnapped for ransom. Everyone knew that Admiral Nelson would never pay ransom. He had a very firm policy about that. Were they planning to torture him? He was going to have to make himself stay calm and in control.

"I see that you have regained consciousness. How are you feeling?" inquired a masculine voice directly in front of him behind the lights.

"I have a splitting headache." he answered with angry sarcasm. "Why have I been brought here and what do you want from me?"

"You have been brought here because we have need of your services. For the next few days, you will be trained to work for the People's Republic for a special assignment."

"People's Republic? Why would you think that I would work for you?" he asked puzzled.

"We are not giving you a choice in this matter. In a few minutes, we will be begin your conditioning."

"You mean brainwashing don't you?" he interrupted.

"I prefer to use the word "conditioning". When we are done with you, you will be returned unharmed back to your apartment and your job aboard the Seaview."

"Out of curiosity, why me?"

"Because you are so perfect for us. No one will suspect you of being one of our agents. Your loyalty to Admiral Nelson is unquestioned. You will be the last person to be suspected. Now we will begin. You will answer my questions. If you answer incorrectly, you will be severely punished."

"I am not going to cooperate," the prisoner said firmly.

"We expect you to resist at first, but you will break down and cooperate. We have various ways to break your will. It is up to you whether this will be hard or easy for you. As of now, you are an agent for the People's Republic and your assignment will be a simple one.

In about a week's time, you will be called back for active duty. There will be a lot of secrecy about where the Seaview is going and why, but the truth will be that Admiral Nelson will be ordered to pick up an American spy and deliver him and the information he is carrying with him back to the United States.

This mole has been working undercover in my country for twenty years and is now bringing vital national security information back to the United States. My government wants him stopped and the information he has with him destroyed."

"And how do you plan to stop him?" asked the prisoner.

"Simple, your job will be to assassinate him and destroy the information before your ship returns to the United States."

The prisoner snarled, "You are out of your mind! There is no way you can get me to that!"

"That is where you are wrong. When we are through, you will do exactly what is required of you to do. Now tell me your name and rank?"

"You know who I am," the prisoner replied defiantly.

"Wrong answer."

The prisoner felt an immediate electrical charge through his whole body that lasted about a minute leaving him breathless and sweating.

"I told you the wrong answer was punishable. Would you like to try again? What is your name and rank?"

"Go to Hell!" he answered again angrily.

Again the charge ran through his body for another minute, stopped allowing for him to catch his breath and then another charge ran through him for another minute. When he was allowed to catch his breath again he began to feel helpless. No one knew where he was and there was no chance of rescue. If this treatment kept up, he would be broken.

"Now are you in the mood to answer my question? What is your name and rank?"

The prisoner answered obediently.

"Good. Now what government do you work for?"

"The United States" which was punishable with another electric shock.

"Try again. What government are you working for?" said the patient voice behind the lights.

"The United States", again receiving another electric shock that was so severe that he passed out.

Four days later, the prisoner sat drugged and exhausted in the same wooden chair. He had suffered daily shocks and drug treatments to make him docile and receptive to the brainwashing treatment. He had only been allowed to sleep for only a couple of hours a day and had not been able to eat in reaction to the treatments. He tried to resist for as long as he could knowing resistance was hopeless. It took three days to break his will.

That hated voice was in front of him again behind the lights. "Who do you owe your allegiance?"

"To the People's Republic." the prisoner answered dutifully.

"Very good. Now what is your assignment?"

"I am to leave here and go back to my apartment to wait for a call from N.I.M.R. to be called back to duty. I am to go back to the Seaview and resume my normal duties as usual. As soon as the spy is on board the ship and we are on our way back to the United States, I am to assassinate him, destroy the information he has with him and when that is accomplished I am to kill myself as well."

"Very good! What if Admiral Nelson or someone else on the Seaview tries to stop you from completing your assignment?"

"I am to kill anyone who gets in my way," the prisoner said dutifully.

The arm straps automatically released on the prisoner's chair and a gun on a metal table was rolled over next to his hand.

"I want you to pick up that gun. Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane are here in the room with us and they are trying to stop you from killing this spy. They are to the left of you now."

The prisoner looked over to his left and saw two cut out card board standups of the Admiral and Captain Crane in his view. Without a thought, he swung the gun in that direction and put several shots into the heart area of both targets and then put the gun back on the table.

"Very good! You have done very well. Now you will be released and take back to your apartment for some needed rest and sleep. If someone has come by or called your apartment while you have been with us and asks you where have you been what would be your answer?"

"I went up to the Nelson's Retreat in the mountains for the past four days and I had left word with the Nelson's Institute where I would be if anyone needed to contact me," the prisoner answered calmly.

The rest of prisoner's restraints were taken off and he was pulled up into a standing position.

"You will now be taken back to your apartment now by this guard. Remember you must not fail!"

The prisoner was lead out of the room and to the awaiting car.

Two days later, the phone rang a little too loudly for the person who had been in a deep sleep seconds before the rude interruption. Most of his body was hidden by a queen-size comforter. A hand arose from under the blanket, blindly grabbed the phone receiver and brought it back under the blanket to his ear.

"Hello" muttered the sleepy man.

"Chip, this is Lee. You need to report to the Seaview within the hour. All leave has been canceled."

Lee did not hear a reply.

"Chip, are you still there?" he said a little urgently.

"Ah-hum" muttered the voice under the blankets.

"What is wrong with you?"

"You woke me up from a sound sleep. Give me a minute will ya?" the voice answered slowly waking up.

"Are you in bed? It is 3 p.m. in the afternoon. What are you doing in bed at this hour?" Lee said concerned.

"Wasn't feeling well so I took a nap." Chip answered as he dragged his body into a sitting position and ran his free hand over his hair and then over his face.

"Are you feeling better or do you want me to replace you?"

"No, I will be there as soon as I hit the shower and get some clothes on. What's going on?"

"I will brief you when we are on our way. The Seaview was chosen for an urgent assignment. Do you want me to pick you up? I'm at the Institute now. "

"No, I'll meet you on board. See you shortly." Chip answered as he hung the phone up and wearily headed for the shower.

Forty five minutes later Captain Lee Crane entered the Control Room to find a very pale and tired looking Exec leaning over the plotting table preparing the ship for departure.

Lee came up to Chip's right side and said in a low concerned voice, "Chip, you look terrible. Are you sure you are okay? I can still get someone to replace you if you are not up to this?"

Chip smiled wearily back at his friend; "I am okay. I must have picked up some kind of bug from somewhere."

"Have you seen the Doc?"

"Yes, mother, as soon as I got on board. Doc said there is some kind of bug going around and he gave me a shot and some antibiotics. Some of the crew have come down with the same bug as well. It just takes a few days to get over."

"If you are sure you can work-?"

"Positive. The Admiral wants you to join him in his quarters as soon as you got on board."

"Okay, I am on my way." Lee said with a nod, "set sail as soon as the last seaman gets on board."

"Aye, Sir."

A few minutes later, Admiral Nelson heard someone knocking on his door. He set down his cigarette in the ashtray and answered the knock with a "come in". Lee opened the door and walked in and closed the door behind him.

"Chip said you wanted to see me when I got in."

"Yes, have a seat." the Admiral waved his hand toward the chair in front of his desk and waited till Lee was settled in the chair. "We have a new assignment as you know. We have to rendezvous with an American airforce carrier in the Indian Ocean with in a week. We will be picking up an American spy who is delivering important information back to the United States. Our job is to pick him up and deliver him back here at Santa Barbara. He will then be transported to Washington, D.C. for debriefing."

"That sounds easy enough. Why the Seaview?" Lee inquired stretching out his long legs in front of him.

"We are the fastest ship in the American fleet and they are wanting this gentleman back in the states as fast as we can get him there. Are we ready to sail?"

"Let me find out." Lee grabbed the mike and keyed it, "Control Room, this is the Captain. Mr. Morton are we ready to sail?"

Chip's voice came back immediately over the intercom, "This is the Control Room, Skipper. Everyone is on board and we are ready to sail anytime you are ready."

"I will be down in a minute with the coordinates."

"Aye, Sir." Chip answered signing off.

The Admiral leaned across the desk and handed Lee a slip of paper with the coordinates. "Once we get out of port, we need to be sailing as fast as we can to our destination."

"Aye, Sir. I will take care of it." Lee said as he got up to leave.

"Also tell Chip, that I want him to go straight to bed immediately after his shift is over. The last thing we need now is for him to get worse than he is now. He was extremely pale when I saw him earlier."

"I will relay that message to him when I get down there. He said the Doc has treated him with antibiotics and he insisted on working his shift."

"Well, carry on Lee." Nelson went back to his cigarette and paper work while Lee departed for the Control Room.

When his shift ended, Lt. Chip Morton did not need any encouragement to go immediately to his quarters and crawl into his bunk. It seemed like everyone on the ship was concerned about his health. He wasn't sure if it was because they were not used to seeing him sick or if they were afraid of catching what he had. He was so tired and drained that he didn't bother to go by the Mess and eat dinner. He dragged his body into his quarters, popped a couple of antibiotics, stripped down to his underwear and crawled into bed. He fell into a deep sleep as soon as his eyes closed.

The next morning, Chip woke up feeling worse than he did the day before. He knew he was running a fever and his whole body ached. He dragged himself out of bed and felt totally drained, but he decided against getting a shift replacement. He popped another antibiotic and a couple of painkillers into his mouth, washed them down with water and made his way to his bathroom.

In the Crewman's Quarters a few moments later, Seaman Kowalski tried to raise his head from his pillow in an attempt to get up from his bed, only to succeed in groaning and laying his head back down in defeat. Seaman Patterson, who wasn't feeling very well for the past couple of hours, had just gotten off the duty shift and returned to lie down on his bunk for awhile in hopes of feeling better later when he heard Kowalski groan. He leaned over Kowalski and placed a hand on his friend's forehead to find that he was burning up with fever.

"Have you seen the Doc yet?" Patterson asked concerned.

"No, I just woke up. I was fine when I went to sleep last night." Ski answered with another groan.

"You are burning up with fever. You need the Doc to take a look at you. You might have that flu that is going around." Pat moved on to his bunk, kicked off his shoes and crawled on to his bed fully clothed. "Mr. Morton and Chief Sharkey have it. Mr. Morton was white as a sheet yesterday. I think I have it too now. I haven't been feeling well for the last couple of hours."

Kowalski finally got himself into a sitting position and looked over at his friend. " I have to be in the Control Room in 30 minutes to relieve Wilson. I don't have time to see the Doc. I will stop by Sickbay when I get relieved."

"You might not make it through the shift if you feel like you look."

"I have too. See you later."

Ski grabbed his clothes from the locker and made his way to the shower stalls while Pat rolled over on his side with his back to the room and promptly went to sleep.

Twenty five minutes later, Mr. Morton looked up from the plotting table to see Kowalski making his way to the sonar console to relieve Seaman Wilson. It was rather obvious that Ski was ill. He gave Kowalski a stern stare.

"Kowalski, have you seen the Doc yet?" The Exec asked knowing Kowalski probably hadn't.

Ski nervously swallowed. "No Sir. I didn't have time. I will after I get relieved"

"No, you will go right now! Wilson can cover for you for a few more minutes."

"But Mr. Morton, I can wait till later to see the Doc, honestly! I can handle the shift, Sir."

"Ski, you can handle the shift after you get seen by the Doc and get medicated. I can see from here that you probably have the flu too and there is no sense in putting off going to Sickbay. Get going, Kowalski!" and when he saw that seaman was going to continue to protest, "That is an order!"

With an "Aye,Sir," Ski physically deflated having lost the argument and reluctantly made his way to Sickbay.

Fifteen minutes later, after Kowalski returned to the Control Room to replace Wilson, Doc Jamison got on the intercom," This is Doctor Jamison in Sickbay. I need Seaman Patterson, Chief Sharkey and Lt. Commander Morton to report to Sickbay at their earliest convenience.

Sickbay out."

His shift ended six hours later, and he felt like he could barely stand let alone make it to Sickbay to find out what the Doc wanted. There wasn't one part of his body that didn't ache and he felt so out of it that he was surprised that he could even make any decisions in the Control Room. He entered the Sickbay a few minutes later and walked over to Doc Jamison who was sitting at his desk.

"You wanted to see me, Doc?"

"Yes, Mr. Morton. First of all I need you do give me a sample of your urine." Doc placed a paper cup labeled with Chip's name into his hand.

"Why? You know I have the flu." Chip stared down at the cup in puzzlement.

"I have 4 cases so far that look like flu. I need to confirm that you all have the same flu bug and I need to see if what you have is the new strain that is going around. If it is, then I have to switch your medication. The medication I have been giving you will not work against this particular virus. The urine sample will tell me everything I need to know to make any changes in your medication." Doc pointed at the head." When you are finished with that, bring it back and have a seat. I need to check your temperature and confirm your symptoms."

Chip did as the Doc requested, returned and submitted to Doc's examination.

"Your temperature is still very high. Do you still have the same symptoms?"

"Yes, the normal flu symptoms-fever, body aches, headaches, sore throat, feeling weak, no appetite and so on."

"Has the medication I given you helped?"

"No, I actually feel worse." Chip admitted.

"Well, keep taking it until I get the results from the tests. I may be switching your medication with in the next 24 hours. I call you when I know the results. Do you think you should be still working feeling the way you do? Maybe you should get someone to replace you?"

"I just got off duty and I am going straight to bed. I will see how I feel when I get back up again. What about the others?"

"I have tested Kowalski, Patterson and Chief Sharkey. They are just about in the same condition that you are in right now and I have them taking the same medication. I will rush the test as fast as I can. I am hoping to nip this flu in the bud before we have an epidemic. Now, go to bed!"

"Aye, Sir. On my way." Chip answered as he headed (wearily) out the door to his quarters.

The dream came back to haunt him again. Bright lights blinding him. That hated voice telling him that he must betray the Admiral and the Seaview crew. That voice repeating over and over that he must assassinate and betray everything and everyone he loves. He abruptly woke up from the nightmare, bathed in sweat, and looked around the room confused. He was in his bunk, safe amongst his friends. He calmed down, rolled over and went back to sleep.

The next afternoon, Sparks announced over the Admiral's extension that he had a priority scramble call from the Pentagon.

"Go ahead and patch it through to my quarters, Sparks." Nelson answered.

"Admiral, General Williams is on the line now, please go ahead." Sparks announced as he patched the call.

"Admiral Nelson, this is General Williams. I have urgent news for you in reference to your current assignment. We just got word from a mole within the People's Republic that one of your crewmen was captured and brainwashed a few days before you shipped out. This person is to assassinate your pickup and destroy the information he is carrying."

"Oh, my God! Do you know who it is?"

"No, I am afraid that the informer couldn't find out who it was. He came across the information yesterday in a report and the crewman's name was not listed."

"I have one hundred and twenty men on this ship and can only verify that Captain Crane, my radio officer Sparks and Doctor Jamison were with me at N.I.M.R. for the week before we sailed. That leaves the rest of the crew to weed through."

"The informer did give us a clue to help us. He said that the crewman was subjected to electronic shocks and an extremely strong tranquilizer that was given daily while they were brainwashing him. The drug will still be in his bloodstream."

"Is there any other clues?"

"No I am afraid not. Just that he was heavily drugged for several days. Due to this new information, we have decided to cancel your mission. We are going to fly the agent in via Air Force jet instead. We can't take any unnecessary chances."

"I totally agree with you. I am going to continue sailing to the Indian Ocean until we can discover who this crewman is."

"Well, good luck, Admiral. You are going to need it."

"Yes, I know. The old needle in the haystack. Nelson out." Nelson hung up the phone. Thought for a couple of minutes and then picked up the mike, "Doctor Jamison, this is the Admiral. I need you to come to my quarters as soon as you can."

"This is Jamison, I am on my way."

A few minutes later, Doc knocked on the Admiral's door, entered upon the Admiral's "come in" and quickly settled in the chair across from the Nelson's desk.

"I have a problem that I need to discuss with you, Jamie." Nelson lit a cigarette and smoked it nervously.

"Funny enough, Admiral, I was on my way to see you." Doc answered.

"Well, I will go first then." Nelson placed his burning cigarette in the ashtray. "I was just been informed by the Pentagon that a few days before we sailed, one of our crewman was abducted and brainwashed. The only clue to this person's identity is that he has been drugged with a strong tranquilizer for several days while being held captive and that the drug should still be in his body. We have to find this man."

"Well, that may tie in to why I needed to see you." Doc leaned over and placed a medical file on Nelson's desk for inspection." I have four crewmen down with a severe type of flu bug that is going around. Luckily, we have the medicine on board to treat it, but I had to run a test to verify that they had this particular strain, before changing their medication. If you look at the tests I ran on all four men, you will see that one of them has a high concentration of tranquilizers in his body system. This man has no history of taking tranquilizers. He hates taking medication of any sort. Now all of the sudden there is evidence that he has been taking a large dosage of this drug."

Nelson looked at the particular file that Jamison had indicated, "Oh, my God! You are right. He has a large concentration of it in his body and I know him well enough to know this is totally out of character." Nelson sat back in his chair totally stunned. "But it takes more evidence than this, to prove that he is the one we are looking for."

"I agree."

"Okay, Jamie, let's say he is the one. How do we get a confession?" Nelson puffed on his cigarette again in a thoughtful manner.

"The only way would be to give him a truth serum. I would not enjoy doing it, but we can trick him into taking a dose and questioning him while he is under. If he isn't the man we are looking for, I am sure he will forgive us later."

"When can you arrange it?"

"As soon as he gets off his shift. I informed him as well as the others that as soon as I got the test results back, that I would call all of them in. I will start giving the others their change in medication before I call him in. I will ask you to come to Sickbay when I have him under."

"Good, but be careful. If he even senses we are on to him, he might turn violent."

"I'll be careful. I know exactly what I need to do." Jamie got up, took the medical report off the desk and walked out of the room back to Sickbay.

An hour later, Doc Jamison had requested over the intercom that Chief Sharkey, Patterson, Kowalski and Mr. Morton were to show up at Sickbay as soon as possible. When Sharkey, Patterson and Kowalski appeared, he informed them that they did have the other flu strain that was going around and that he was going to change their medication. He gave them another shot of antibiotics, check their vitals and told them to go straight to bed. It was another hour before Mr. Morton came into his office. There didn't seem to be any improvement in his condition.

"Sit down before you fall down!" Doc ordered and for once the Exec didn't fight him. "The test results proved that all four of you have the flu strain that I was worried about. I have to change your medication to a stronger antibiotic. I am going to give you an injection and I want you to lie down over there on the bunk afterwards for a few minutes just as a precaution. Some people have reaction to this medication and if you are going to have any reactions to it, it will show up within the next 10 minutes." Jamie injected the patient's arm and then helped him up and over to the bunk. "Now just lie down for a few minutes and tell me if you experience any problems like dizziness, severe head pains, nausea, or skin irritation."

Chip lay down almost relieved to be back in bed and off his feet. Within a couple of minutes, he was totally under the drug.

"Admiral Nelson, this is Doctor Jamison. I need you to come to Sickbay." Doc said into the mike as he prepared the real injection of antibiotics and pulled out a tape recorder.

The Admiral and Captain Crane arrived within a few minutes. The Sickbay door was secured so no one could enter and the three of them sat next to the bunk of their friend with the tape recorder turned on.

"Chip, this is Admiral Nelson. I want you to tell me what happened to you while you were on shore leave."

Chip answered in a slow dazed voice with his eyes completely closed, "Left ship-—went home. Attacked by car."

Chip paused like he didn't want to continue talking so the Admiral continued the questioning in a coaxing tone, "Then what happened next, Chip?"

"Tied to chair…bright lights…someone telling me…electric shocks…hurt me over and over." He whimpered remembering. Tears starting running down his cheeks.

"What did they want you to do?" Nelson asked.

"Kill spy--destroy information-kill myself."

"Do you know who these people were?"

"Never saw...kept blinded...told People's Republic."

"Chip, this is Lee. What happens if you failed your assignment?"

"Not allowed to." He repeated obediently as his voice became weaker.

"Are you working alone?" Nelson asked.

"Yes." His voice fading as he fell into a deep sleep.

"I think that is all we need to know. He will not be able to tell us anymore than that. Doc, can you start reversing his brainwashing treatment."

"As soon as he becomes conscious again. He needs to know what is going on and what happened to him before we start the treatment. He will have to be restrained at first until we convince him not to kill himself or anyone else. I can use the same tranquilizer treatment they used to get to his subconscious, but once we get back to Santa Barbara, I want him moved to the clinic at the Institute. What he has gone through was very traumatic for him and he will need some time with a therapist. We will give him the same treatment we used on Lee here when he was brainwashed."

The Admiral and Lee got up and moved away from Chip's bunk. "Doc, as soon as Chip is awake, give me a call. I want to be the one who tells him what is going on and until we get back to Santa Barbara, I agree that he will need to be restrained for his own good. Also for the time being, I want to keep this between the three of us. No one else needs to know outside of this clinic what is wrong with him. Tell the crew he is being kept for observation if pressed. He is having a bad reaction to the flu and the antibiotic. He will be kept sedated until we get him to the Institute. It is not his fault that this happened and I don't want the crew to lose their respect for him because of this."

"I totally agree, Admiral. He is going to have to go through a lot to recover and he does not need to worry about his reputation with the crew on top of it." Doc said as he handed the cassette tape to Nelson and stored the tape recorder back in his desk.

Lee and Nelson glanced over their shoulder once more at the sleeping Exec and made their way out of Sickbay.

Five hours later, Nelson was once again sitting at Chip's bunkside. Doc had dismissed his corpsmen to give his patient some privacy for the interview ahead of him. Chip slowly opened his eyes and saw the Admiral staring down at him smiling.

"How are you feeling, Lad." Nelson asked in a fatherly tone.

Chip was disorganized for a few minutes. He took a fast glance around the room and realized he was still in the Sickbay. He tried to move his arms, but found that he had been restrained.

"W…Why am I still in Sickbay? Did I have some kind of reaction?" Chip asked puzzled.

"Chip, we know you have been brainwashed and that you were to kill the American spy we were to pickup."

"What are you talking about, Sir?" Chip’s blue eyes gave Nelson a dazed and puzzled look.

"You were kidnapped and brainwashed before your shore leave was over by agents of the People's Republic just as Lee had been. We were able to find out in time before you completed your assignment."

"Admiral, I really don't know where you get your information, but I was not kidnapped, brainwashed or anything else." Chip denied.

"Chip, you confessed under the truth serum. I don't want you to worry about anything. Doc is going to start giving you treatments here until we get back to Santa Barbara and then we will move you to the clinic at the Institute until you are well again."

"I guess I don't have any say in the matter. I have been tried and condemn without a trial. Fine, do whatever you want to do with me," he glanced angrily down at his restraints, "There doesn’t seem to be anything that I can do about it, but don't expect me to be accommodating. I have nothing more to say to you, Lee or to the Doc.Go away and leave me alone!" Chip gave Nelson an angry blue eyed stare and then turned his face to the wall.

"Please, Chip, this is for your own good." Nelson pleaded to the turned face, but Chip refused to respond. "Okay, Lad. If you change your mind and want to talk to either me or Lee, let Doc know. Okay?" The Admiral got up from his chair and walked over to where the Doc was standing.

Doc glanced at the angry man lying on the bed and in a low comforting tone, he confided to the Admiral, "He will be okay. He is just very angry right now. Part of him feels like his friends have betrayed him. Part of him feels angry because he was stopped from killing and therefore has failed his mission. Part of him is relieved that he was stopped. Part of him feels very ashamed to be in this condition. You saw this with Lee. Chip will respond to therapy just as Lee did and he will be back to his old self in a couple of weeks. Just give him time to deal with this. He has a lot on his plate at the moment. I will keep you informed of his progress. For now I am going to keep him sedated."

"Good, Jamie. We should be back in Santa Barbara by tomorrow and the Institute will have an ambulance waiting at the dock when we arrive. If anyone asks, Chip is being taken to the hospital for further treatments for the flu and to get the necessary rest. The crew will buy that. I will let you know when we dock."

The Admiral glanced once more at the angry man who still had his face turned to the wall and left to return to the Control Room.

Three weeks later, Doctor Jamison informed Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane that the patient was ready to be released and wanted to see them. Chip had made a fast recovery from his flu and from his brainwashing and was just about to be released back to active duty again. When Nelson and Crane entered the private hospital room, Chip was sitting in a stuffed chair looking out the window at the Seaview, which was docked at her pier. When the door opened, Chip jumped to his feet nervously to face his two friends.

"Sir…Lee." Chip said nervously as he looked at them not knowing what to do next.

"How are you feeling, Chip?" Nelson asked noting that Chip looked nervous and at a loss for words, but in perfect health.

"Doc said I can get out of here today and back to work," Chip answered.

"Do you feel up to it now?" Lee asked.

"Yes, but I feel like I betrayed you two as well as the rest of the crew." he admitted. " I don't know if you want me back."

"Damn it, Chip!" Lee answered back, "Of course we want you back. You were a victim. You were not to blame for what happened to you. It happened to me too, if you remember. I even tried to kill the Admiral. You could not be held responsible for what happened to you and we want you back where you belong. The crew as well has missed you these past weeks. They want to know when you will be back to work."

"Lee is right. You were not responsible for your actions and since Jamie has given you a clean bill of health, we want you back where you belong." Nelson added.

"So you forgive me?" Chip asked.

"There is nothing to forgive. You did nothing wrong. As far as the crew goes, you have been here recuperating from the flu. Only Lee, myself, Jamie and your therapist know why you were really here. There will not be anything in your files about this. You need some rest and got it. End of story. Now come back to work. We need you."

"But can you trust me again?" Chip asked still unsure of his welcome back to work.

Nelson seeing Chip's emotional struggle answered back, "Why, did you forget in three weeks how to steer the ship? Of course we trust you." He walked right up to Chip and gave him a fatherly hug and looked into his face. "No more guilt trips. I will not allow that on my ship. Grab your gear and let's get you back to work." Still seeing Chip hesitate added, "But if you want to stay here for a few more weeks…"

"No, I want to go back to work." Chip said as he grabbed his suitcase that was sitting ready on his bed. "Let's get out of here before they start serving lunch. I am dying for a hamburger."

Lee slapped his friend on the back, "My treat. I will even throw in French fries and a chocolate shake."

"In that case, let's hurry before Lee changes his mind." Chip said cheerfully. "And I am not loaning you the money to pay for it."

"I will have you know, that I don't need to borrow the money off of you to pay for it." Lee pretended to be offended as they left the room and walked down the corridor.

Nelson jumped in laughing, "That is because he just borrowed the money from me."

"Blabber mouth!" Lee replied back at Nelson. Turning back to Chip, "You want to be fed or not!"

"Okay-okay, I'm coming!" Chip answered laughingly.

The three continued their good natured ribbing all the way out to the car.


--The End---