Chasing Midnight– by Pauline
Crane took a swig of his drink as he watched the waitress move around the
tables taking orders. Tall, shapely
and intelligent, her silky dark brown hair cascading down
the back of her waitress uniform; he’d noticed the way that the men in
the bar looked at her. She was Sophie
Carter, an ONI agent who had been working undercover to track down a rouge
agent who was suspected of helping to smuggled drugs through
Lee switched his attention to the room; looking for possible escape routes should they need to leave in a hurry. His gaze halted on the bartender, who was watching Sophie; he guessed that the man was not just a bartender, but probably doubled as bodyguard for the waitresses, and probably had a gun under the bar in case anyone got too familiar.
He returned his attention to Sophie as she approached his table.
“Lee Crane?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he smiled. She was very attractive, but he needed to keep his mind focused on the job. “We need to get you out of here. ONI suspects that you’re cover has been blown.
“Meet me out back,” she said, quickly moving to another table.
Lee looked at his watch, he would follow her back when she had finished; if the bartender did not interfere. Maybe he should check to see if there was another way in, then he could wait for her in the back unobserved. He took another mouthful of the drink and continued to watch Sophie for a few minutes. He needed to keep a clear head so he left the remainder of the drink and made his way to the exit.
He had almost reached the door when there was a bright flash and the bar was rocked by an explosion; the concussion knocked him off his feet, throwing him against the wall and knocking the breath from his lungs. Debris rained down around him. Lee slowly regained his senses, people were screaming, those that were able, stampeded towards the exit. He got to his knees, choking on the dust that was in his eyes and mouth, his ears ringing. Still groggy, he used the wall to steady himself as he got to his feet. He swayed a little, but managed to stay upright. He shook his head to try and clear it – his head hurt, but there was no blood. His head was starting to clear. Sophie! Ignoring the protest from his bruised body, he pushing away from the wall and launched himself back into the bar, almost tripped over the prone body of the doorman. He couldn’t help everyone; he needed to focus on Sophie, and hoped that she had survived the explosion.
There were a lot of casualties, some with horrific injuries. He could feel blood running down his right arm, but he couldn’t worry about that now. He searched around for several minutes in the semi-darkness. “Sophie?” he called as he searched through the rubble. Broken glass littered the floor, broken chairs and upturned tables were everywhere.
“Lee, over here.”
He gave a sigh of relief at hearing her voice. The dust was clearing now and his eyes were adjusting to the low light level. Moving broken furniture out of the way, he quickly made his way to where she emerged from beneath a table. “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head. “No.”
Lee took her hand and helped her to her feet. It was difficult to tell with all the dirt and dust whether she was injured. “Let’s get out of here.”
“This way,” Sophie indicated a door that led the back of the building.
Lee nodded agreement, she knew the area better than he did and he was willing to trust her.
After retrieving her purse from what passed as her dressing room, Sophie grabbed her coat. There wasn’t time to change out of her waitress uniform, which was now slightly the worse for wear. Crane waited at the door, leaning against the frame, he watched her. “Ready”, she said, pulling on the PVC faux snake skin coat. “Do you have a car?” she asked, as she led the way to the rear entrance.
“Yes, it’s out front,” he hoped that it had not been damaged by the explosion. They had to get out fast, he could already hear sirens.
They sprinted around the side of the building, to where Lee’s hire car was parked.
He unlocked the door and slid in behind the wheel, then lent across to unlock the passage door. The engine roared into life and he had to car moving before Sophie had even closed the door.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
I’ve a pre-arranged rendezvous with Seaview along the coast.”
“What about Stone?” she objected.
“He’s ONI’s problem now. My orders are to get you out safely.”
Chip Morton straightened from the charts to glance aft to the radio shack. Once again Seaview was waiting for the return of her Captain. Checking his watch he found that it was not time for Lee to report in yet. It was strange how the time seem to pass so slowly when they were waiting. You’d think you would be used to it by now. He told himself. Walking forward, he poured himself a cup of coffee, and stood for a moment in the observation nose. The water was dark at this depth and there was very little to see, just the occasional fish caught in the light spilling out of the ports. They were in the Pacific, sitting on the bottom at 1000ft. The water was cold at this depth and the outside pressure was 31 atmospheres, but Seavew could go much deeper, and Chip had worries about being down here. He was more worried about what sort of trouble Lee Crane was getting himself into this time, and what sort of condition he would return in. Lee had originally crossed the border by car.
It had taken Seaview a day and a half to reach her present position. Lee should have made contact with the ONI agent by now. It would be a lot quicker and safer to extract them both using SF1, than it would be for Lee to drive back across the border. As much as both he and the Admiral hated Lee taking these missions for ONI, he knew that it was useless to try and persuade his captain and friend to stop. Lee was stubborn, and would dig his heels in every time anyone tried to get him to change his mind on something. With a shake of his head, the exec made his way back to the plot table. The control room was quiet. There was not a lot for the men on watch to do, just routine monitoring of their instruments. No-one should know that they were here.
His attention was taken by Chief Sharkey emerging from the Flying Sub access hatch. Dogging the hatch behind him, the chief approached the plot table.
“Flying Sub is checked and ready to go, Mr Morton,” he reported, handing the clipboard to Morton.
Chip took the report and glanced through it before signing it and handing it back. “Very well, Chief, carry on.”
Flooring the accelerator, Lee speed away down the narrow, winding two lane highway, leaving behind the small town. It was not much more than a road with a church at one end, a restaurant, a block of open fronted stores and a dispensary.
The lives of the residents in this sleepy town had been suddenly and brutally torn asunder. A lot of innocent people had been caught in that explosion, but he couldn’t think about now.
A network of roads linked the numerous towns and villages to major cities, and was perilous even in daylight, with potholes, ruts and shoulders that dropped away to nothingness. But they didn’t have the luxury of waiting for daylight.
There was an intersection ahead, Lee turned left, headed for the pre-arranged pickup point at an isolated beach. A quick check in the mirror confirmed that they were not being followed. Hopefully, their would-be assassins’ would think that they had died in the explosion, and he hoped that would give the time they needed. Stone was good, but just how he had found out that Sophie was ONI Lee did not know. That hadn’t been part of his briefing. Seaview had just returned to port when the call came in. He should be on leave, as should the rest of the crew. It was one thing to drag him away, but to expect the crew to turn around and put to sea again... A sudden jolt wrenched the steering wheel out of his hands, and a loud bang told him that they had hit a deep pothole. The steering juddered and the car slewed out of control. Swearing under his breath, he hit the brakes, the jolt had broken something in the steering mechanism and however much he fought to keep the car on the road, could not stop it from heading for the side. “I can’t hold it – jump,” he yelled at Sophie.
Sophie came to her knees in time to see the car disappear over the edge. “Lee?” she called as she brushed her hair back out of her eyes and did a quick assessment of her own condition. Nothing broken, she concluded. Looking around, she couldn’t see any sign of Lee. Still on her hands and knees, she crawled over to where the car had gone over, hoping that he had jumped and was just lying winded in the undergrowth. When after a minute of searching, she didn’t find him; she knew that he must have still been at the wheel when the car went over. Cautiously peering over the edge, she could see the car on its side, resting against a Pine tree. The headlights were still on, giving some light to the scene below. “Lee?” she called again. No answer.
From its precarious position, she knew that the car could move at any time and continue its fall down the hillside and she had no way of securing it. Carefully she edged herself over the side and started down, slipping and sliding; using whatever handholds she could find to slow her progress. If she were to collide with the car, she could well nudge it from its resting place.
Reaching the car, she could see that the passenger door, which had been open, had been torn from its hinges, and she said a silent thank you for this twist of fate. The driver’s door was blocked by branches, and there was no way she could have gotten to it. “Lee, wake up,” she called to the unconscious man. He was slumped across the front seats and there was broken glass from the windscreen, but she could not see if he had any injuries. However, she knew that she could not get him out by herself, she needed him to help. Careful not to put any weight on the car, she gave him a shake. “Lee, can you hear me?”
He moaned and opened his eyes and lifted his head. “Sophie, are you okay?”
“I’m fine, what about you? Are you hurt?” She had a few scrapes and bruises, but nothing too serious.
He shifted, and cried out in pain, immediately freezing in place, his hand going to his back.
“What is it? Are you hurt?” she asked, he was obviously in pain.
“My back...don’t think I can move.” He grimaced.
“You have to, we have to get out of here,” she insisted, wondering what she was going to do if he was hurt too badly to move. He must have been thrown around when the car went down the slope. “Here let me help you.”
With her help, Lee managed to pull himself up out of the car. It creaked and groaned ominously, and she hoped that it would not fall before they were clear. “I don’t think we can get back up to the road, better to go down,” she suggested.
Lee lay on his back beside her, breathing heavily: the effort of freeing himself had taken a lot out of him. The pain in his lower back was like a knife being twisted inside him. At least he could feel his legs, so there was no damage to his spine that he could tell, but his left foot felt like it might be broken. He knew that they had to get moving if they were going to reach the rendezvous on foot, but the thought of moving was almost too much, especially given their current location. It was not going to be easy. Reluctantly, he rolled onto his side and tried to get up, fighting back a cry of pain as his whole body protested. Moving cautiously, he got to his knees. “We had better get moving.”
Sophie nodded agreement as she got to her feet and offered him her hand. “I’m stronger than I look,” she told him.
“I can manage,” his response was automatic; he was used to being in control and hated being incapacitated.
Sophie shook her head. “No you can’t.” She took hold of his arm without waiting for him to answer.
He looked around for an easy way down. The slope was steep, and covered with trees, climbers clinging to their trunks. He gave an experimental tug on one of the vines, groaning in pain as his back muscles contracted into knots almost driving him to his knees.
Seaview slowly lifted from the bottom as Kowalski made his way forward to the Flying Sub access hatch in the nose. Kneeling beside it, he spun the wheel and heaved the hatch open. As he straightened, he was joined by Chip Morton.
“Now remember Kowalski, the channel into the lagoon is only two metres deep, so you will need to go in on the surface,” the Exec reminded him.
“Yes, Sir,” Kowalski acknowledged. The course had already been fed into FS1's integrated navigation system; all he had to do was keep her on course.
“Good luck,” Morton said as the crewman climbed down into the craft.
“Thank you, sir,” Kowalski pulled the hatch closed behind him before dogging the Flying Sub hatch and turning to the pilot seat to strap in. As the small craft could only accommodate three people, Kowalski was going in alone. No doubt Captain Crane would want to pilot her on the way back, with Kowalski as co-pilot. Ski had often accompanied the Captain on missions, often acting as co-pilot if FS.1 was being used.
He quickly ran through the pre-flight check before reporting that he was ready to launch. As the Flying Sub dropped free of her pen, he set course for the pickup, in a slow climb to the surface. It would not take him long to cover the distance to the rendezvous.
After half climbing and half falling down the hillside, Lee came to a bone jarring stop on his knees at the rocky bottom beside a stream. Stifling a cry of pain that shot through him like a hot knife, he looked around for Sophie. His eyes had adjusted to the darkness, but he could hear rather than see the water. Ironically, the accident had saved them some time, the creek led to the lagoon and they must be almost at the rendezvous.
“Are you okay?” Sophie asked, kneeling beside him and putting a hand on his arm.
“I will be,” he panted, struggling to get to his feet, and she took his arm, helping him up.
“Stop trying to play the hero, and let me help.”
“Thanks,” he mumbled. It galled him to have to accept her help, but common sense told him that it would be a lot easier if he let her help. His body was crying out for rest. He could not put all his weight on his foot, and was forced to accept her help. For once he was looking forward to seeing Jamieson, and he wished that he had grabbed the first aid kit from the glove box. “We have to follow the water downstream.”
“Okay. Put your arm round my shoulder,” she instructed as she slipped an arm round his waist. Her hold was surprisingly strong as she partly supported him until he could get his legs under him, although his foot would not support all his weight.
They stumbled on over the uneven rocky surface, holding each other up. It would have been a hell of a lot easier with a torch. Lee chastised himself. He was supposed to be the rescuer, but he was ill equipped for this. Added to which, he had been careless, he should have driven slower, and he might have had time to see the pothole before they hit it.
“We could rest for five minutes,” Sophie suggested when he stumbled again.
“Stop fussing, I’m okay,” he retorted, then felt guilty, it wasn’t her fault they were in this mess, it was his. He was the one that had messed up. He let out a slow breath. “I’m sorry; I’m just pissed at myself for screwing this up. It should have been a simple extraction.”
Sophie smiled. “Accidents happen, I’m not blaming you,” she told him. “Suppose we just concentrate on getting out of here. You can beat yourself up later.” She got the impression that Lee Crane did not take failure well. He was used to being in control and having his orders followed. But out here, they were on equal terms; she had all the training and experience that he had. Plus being a woman, she had learnt a few tricks of her own when it came to surviving in what was still a male dominated world.
had been in
Since becoming an ONI agent, her life had changed completely. It was a lot more complicated now. There certainly hadn’t been time for a social life, although she had been involved with someone for a while, but it was doomed to fail; the hours she worked, plus having to disappear at a moment’s notice without being able to explain.
She glanced at Crane, wondering what he was thinking. She couldn’t see his face clearly in the dark. She’d heard about his reputation from other ONI operatives; he was stubborn, some said reckless, with no apparent regard for his own safety. He had certainly demonstrated altruism when the car had gone off the road, putting her safety first.
He stumbled on the uneven surface; almost taking them both down, and she heard the stifled moan. His limp was getting worse and she hoped that they did not have to go much further. She gripped his belt to get a stronger hold. “Are you sure you don’t want to rest for a minute?”
He shook his head. “No, we need to keep moving.”
“You’re determined not to make things easy for yourself, aren’t you?” It was strange, but his vulnerability had awakened feeling in her that she had not had for a long time. Not that he would ever admit to needing her help. Yes, he was certainly stubborn. “You don’t have to prove anything to me you know.”
“I’m just trying to do my job. You’re my responsibility, and I don’t intend to let anything happen to you on my watch.”
“I appreciate that you feel responsible, but I am trained to handle dangerous situations and I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time,” she reminded him.
That was the problem, he realised. He’d been thinking of her as a woman, but she was more than that, she was a trained ONI agent, just like him. She did this full time, and was probably as good, if not better at it. “I guess I deserved that, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to behave like a sexist.”
“You know, this water flows through volcanic rock? It’s supposed to have healing properties, maybe you should try it,” she joked.
“I don’t care what properties it has, I am not drinking something I can’t even see.” He could barely see anything. He knew that Bears and coyote both hunted in this area and he hoped that their progress had not attracted any unwanted attention.
“You don’t have to drink it.” She replied light-heartedly.
“I’d prefer to put my trust in Seaview’s CMO, thanks,” The idea of a comfortable bunk in sickbay sounded pretty good right now. This was one occasion when he would not be putting up a fight against staying in sickbay; the constant pain in his back and foot was draining his strength. The foot was probably swollen, but it was too dark to see, and there was nothing he could do about it anyway. “Besides, I have no desire to get wet right now.” He added.
Sophie gave a soft laugh at his comment, and then suddenly stopped. “I think I saw a light up ahead.”
“Where?” Lee strained his eyes. He could just make out an opening in the narrow gully they had been following, and as he listened, he could hear running water, not the gentle trickle of the creek, but a louder noise of a waterfall. Another six feet took them to the edge of the creek, where it cascaded down the rocks into the lagoon below. “Damn, looks like I am going to get wet after all,” Lee commented as he stood looking down.
“You’re thinking of jumping?”
Lee nodded, “Yes, if we can’t find another way down.”
Sophie peered cautiously over the edge. “How far do you think it is?”
“I don’t know,” Lee reply thoughtfully. It would not be easy to find a way down in the dark. On the other hand, if they did jump, there was no telling what was beneath the water; there could be rocks or other dangers. With a sigh, he ran a hand through his tousled hair, why did everything have to be so complicated? He didn’t want to take another step. He just wanted to get back to Seaview and collapse into a bunk, whether it be in sickbay or his cabin, he didn’t care. The humid heat wasn’t helping, and he wondered if the water would be cooler.
The appearance of FS1's lights made the decision for him. He watched as her lights grew brighter as she entered the lagoon, illuminating the surface of the water just ahead of their position. Hopefully, if Kowalski was watching, he would see them when they hit the water; or at the very least it should register on sonar. “Come on, we’re going to jump,” he told Sophie. “You can swim, can’t you?”
“I’m an ONI agent, of course I can swim,” she answered tersely.
“Well, come on.” He didn’t give her time to argue further, he launched himself over the edge and dived for the water. Regaining the surface, he started to swim towards the yellow craft, hoping that Kowalski had seen them enter the water. He could here Sophie behind him. The water supported him and he found it easy going despite his injuries.
The lagoon had been selected for its isolated location; it was free off oil exploration, chemical plants and industrial operations.
The water of the channel had low salinity due to the fresh water from the lagoon, mixing with the seawater. It was boarded one side by lush volcanic hills and a rocky shoreline, while the other was volcanic grey sandbanks. Kowalski couldn’t see much of the landscape past that illuminated by the crafts lights. Branches overhung the water, obscuring the bank in places.
His first glimpse of the lagoon was of an enchanting scene, like something out of a fairy story. The bottom had dropped away to five metres as he’d entered the lagoon, and he couldn’t help wondering what lurked in the depths. He’d experienced enough strange things aboard Seaview for his imagination to conjure up all manner of creatures. Realising that he was letting his imagination run riot, he turned his attention back to his instruments. Re-assuringly, there was nothing on sonar, and all the other instrument readings were normal.
cut the engines, letting momentum carry the flying sub slowly into the centre
of the lagoon, while he used the binoculars to search for his passengers. He couldn’t immediately see a
suitable pick up point, but if he reversed onto the sandbank they would be able
to enter via the rear hatch. Lowering the binoculars, Kowalski
wondered how long he should wait before reporting to Seaview. He hoped that this wasn’t going to
turn into one of those missions. Like the rest of the crew, Kowalski had
been looking forward to shore leave when ONI had contacted Crane requesting his
help. His best friend, Seaman
Patterson, loved to travel, and not content with travelling around the world on
Seaview, he had persuaded Ski to take a road trip around
Raising the binoculars again he resumed his search for the Captain. He paused as he caught a movement ahead of him, adjusting the binoculars; he closed in on the movement. Yes, there was some-one in the water, swimming toward him. He watched for a further minute to make sure, before leaving the pilot seat to open the deck hatch to help them aboard.
A few minutes later, more splashing signalled the arrival of his passengers. The woman arrived first, and he leaned down, taking her hand to help her out of the water, and handed her a towel. “Welcome aboard, Ma’am.”
She accepted the towel and nodded breathlessly.
Kowalski was already turning back to the hatch to help Crane. “Are you all right, Sir?” Kowalski asked, noticing that the captain seemed to be having trouble as he knelt to dog the outer hatch.
Shaking water from his hair, he took the towel Kowalski offered him. “Yes, I’m Fine, Kowalski. Let’s get underway.”
“Aye, Sir,” Kowalski closed the deck plate and was about to returned to the pilot seat when Crane folded with a groan. “Captain Crane, what’s wrong, Sir?" Kowalski abandoned the pilot seat to return to Crane’s side. He slipped an arm around Crane, helping him up and supported him to the co-pilot seat.
“Thanks, Kowalski,” Lee grimaced as he eased himself into the seat.
“Maybe I should take a look at you Skipper,” Kowalski suggested, concerned about how badly hurt Crane might be.
Crane waved him off. “It can wait until we get back to Seaview.”
“Aye, Sir,” Kowalski conceded reluctantly, strapped himself into the seat next to the Captain before starting the engines. “I’ll have us back aboard in no time.”
“Welcome aboard...” Chip’s voice trailed off as Kowalski emerged from the flying sub, then turned to help Lee.
“Thanks,” Lee smiled, wincing in pain as he lent against the rail. “Do we have a cabin ready for Miss Carter?”
“Yes, I’ve had guest cabin B prepared.”
Lee turned to Kowalski. “Escort Miss Carter to guest cabin B, then shouldn’t you be off duty?”
“But what about you, Sir?”
“I’ll be fine, Kowalski. Now take Miss Carter to her cabin.”
“Aye, Sir,” Kowalski conceded, reluctantly.
“What happened?” Chip asked, looking Lee up and down, by the way he was holding onto the railing, he wouldn’t remain on his feet for much longer. “Never mind, it can wait until later,” Chip stepped closer and took Lee’s arm, “you’re going to sickbay.”
“I intend to, Chip - but I think my foot is broken,” Lee admitted sheepishly. “Hurts like hell.”
“You’re admitting to an injury? That’s a first.”
“No point in trying to hide it, Chip. It’s kind of obvious, since I can’t walk.”
“Here, come and sit down,” Chip steered him to one of the chairs in the observation nose.
“I’d rather not, I hurt my back too.”
“Get Doc down here,” Chip ordered, unsure of what to do to help Lee. He should probably be lying down, but there was no way that was going to happen.
“Already here,” Sharkey announced, moving aside to let the doctor and a corpsman pass.
“How?” Lee looked at Chip questioningly.
“Kowalski,” Chip speculated. The crewman had probably taken it upon himself to make sure that his Captain got medical attention.
Lying on the examination table in sickbay, Lee turned his head to watch Jamieson studying his X-Rays. “Well, Doc?”
Jamieson turned, “Well, the good news is that there is no damage to your spine, the bad news is that you have a fractured metatarsal.”
“Oh, great, that means a plaster cast I suppose?” Lee asked. That was all he needed. Some shore leave this was going to be.
Jamieson walked across to stand beside him. “Not necessarily, Captain. If you promise to behave, I can just strap it. Then of course there are the lacerations and bruising. It looks like you have some shards of glass in your arm.”
“This just gets better.” Lee sighed. This was certainly going to curtail any plans he had.
Jamieson chuckled. “Sorry, Lee. Now let’s get that glass out and stitch you up. Then we’ll strap that foot and you can sleep for a while.”
“What about Sophie?” Lee asked, watching Jamieson administer a local anaesthetic to his arm.
“She’s fine, just some scrapes and bruising. I sent her to her cabin.”
Lee lay quiet, letting Jamieson do his job. His bruised body and the throbbing in his foot dissuaded him from moving for now. Maybe after his foot had been treated, and he’d had a couple of hours sleep, he’d feel up to making an escape bid. It must be nearly twenty four hours since he’d slept he realised. What he really wanted was a hot shower and a mug of Cookie’s special brew.
Jamieson finished stitching the cuts on Lee’s arm, and applied a dressing. “Now, let’s take care of that foot.”
Lee tried to sit up, but his back protested violently, causing him to give up the attempt with a groan.
Jamieson put a hand on his shoulder. “Just lie still and give the Ibuprofen time to work.” Pulling the blanket up to cover Lee’s shoulders, the doctor turned and walked across to the cabinet, pulled open a drawer and took out a large ace bandage. “Frank, can you hold his foot please?” the doctor asked as he returned to the table and lifted the blanket to reveal Lee’s swollen and bruised foot. “Now this is probably going to hurt,” he warned.
Lee limped into the control room with the aid of a crutch, and joined Chip at the plot table.
“Lee, what the devil are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be resting?”
“What’s our position, Chip?” Lee asked in an attempt to divert his friend from the subject of his health.
“Seventy six degrees, 35 minutes north, three degrees 25 minutes east. Proceeding at standard, headed home, so there is no need for you to be here.”
“I’m fine, Chip,” Lee told him as he shifted his weight to his good leg. Manoeuvring through Seaview’s corridors and hatches hadn’t been easy with a crutch, but in spite of not being able to get his shoe on his injured foot, he couldn’t stay in his cabin any longer, he’d been restless; the control room called to him, it was his favourite part of the boat. He never tired of the view beyond the observation ports. Even when they were submerged, there was always something in the beam of the lights.
“I thought Jamie told you to rest that foot.”
Lee sighed. “He did, and I will. Just not in my cabin.”
Chip shook his head in disapproval. “Okay, why don’t you take a seat in the front porch and I’ll have someone bring you some coffee.”
“Thanks, Chip,” Lee smiled, happy to let Chip fuss over him for a while. They would soon be back in port and on shore leave, where he would swap Chip’s fussing for his mother’s. It seemed that where ever he went, there was no escape.
Reaching the observation nose, Lee carefully lowered himself into a chair, thankful to take the weight off. Fit though he was, the lopsided movement of walking with the crutch still put a strain on his good leg, and was not helping his back. If he stayed in one position too long, his muscles would lock up and he had trouble getting moving again. He knew that he would be more comfortable lying down, but he needed to be where the action was, even if he wasn’t in command.
wondered how Sophie was feeling this morning. She was probably still in her cabin and
he hoped that someone had thought to take her a breakfast tray. He would have to speak to ONI and
arrange for someone to meet her in
Jamieson would also be writing his report for Nelson. The Admiral would not be pleased to hear that he had been injured. He wasn’t looking forward to another argument with the man that he looked upon as a father. He could see Nelson’s point of view, and had questioned why he was still doing work for ONI when he was a civilian? It was a question he wasn’t sure he had the answer to.
The arrival of Chip with a tray forestalled any further speculation. Chip put the tray down and pulled out a chair.
“I had Cookie make up a tray, since you missed breakfast.”
Lee couldn’t help smiling. “Nothing gets past you, does it?”
“Nope,” Chip grinned smugly, amusement sparkled in his blue eyes.
Lee took the cover off the plate to reveal a stack of pancakes. He hadn’t even realised that he was hungry. It had taken him so long to struggle out of bed this morning, by the time he had washed and dressed, and made his way to sickbay to have his foot re-strapped, after, he’d gone straight back to his cabin and just grabbed some coffee. Picking up the fork, he tried a mouthful. “Umm, good,” he smiled at Chip. “Thanks.”
opened his eyes and looked at his watch, 0800. Seaview had docked in
“Morning, sleepy head,” Chip greeted cheerfully as he strode into the cabin. “Are you going to lie there all day?”
Lee regarded him for a moment, considering his response. “I thought you would have gone ashore by now.”
“Captain doesn’t leave the boat until everyone is ashore.”
“Acting Captain," Lee reminded him. “You don’t have to wait around for me. Go ahead and have a good leave. I’ll see you later.”
Chip frowned. “What’s going on? I thought you had a plane to catch.”
“Change of plan. I thought I might stay here.”
“Why? You’re on leave.
Lee sighed, he didn’t want to admit to Chip that he just couldn’t face the hassle of moving into an apartment in his present condition. Besides which, the only time his back didn’t hurt was when he was lying down, and he couldn’t sit on a plane for hours for the flight home.
“Are you all right?” Chip asked, his cheerful manner suddenly changing to suspicion and concern.
of course I’m all right. I’m
just a little sore,” Lee didn’t want Chip to know who much he was
hurting or he would insist that he see Jamieson, and Lee didn’t want to
spend his leave in
Chip’s blue eyes fixed him with that look that told Lee he wasn’t buying it.
“What? Will you get out of here and let me sleep.” Lee closed his eyes, hoping against hope, that Chip would take the hint.
“Either you tell me what is going on, or I’m calling Jamie.”
“He’s on leave, the same as you should be, instead of hanging around here harassing your Captain.” Lee grumbled.
“Come on, Lee – be reasonable. You know what the Admiral will say if he finds you still aboard.
“And you would make it your business to make sure that he did,” Lee attempted to sit up, pain stabbed in his back and he fell back with a groan.
“God, Lee – I’m sorry. Why didn’t you say? You idiot.”
“It’s nothing, really. Stop fussing.”
“Come on, you’re coming to my place, and no arguments. Can you walk?”
“Chip, I don’t want to spoil your leave. I’ll be fine.”
“Rubbish, you’re coming with me and that’s an end to it.”
An hour later, showered, feed, and with his foot freshly strapped, courtesy of Lindsey Jamieson, Lee stretched out on Chip’s spare bed and closed his eyes. Missy, a silver tortoise shell, lay beside him, purring contentedly, while her brother, Captain was curled at the foot of the bed.
“Do you need anything?” Lindsey asked.
“No, I’m fine thanks; you two go and enjoy yourselves.”
“I can’t believe that you are actually doing what you are told,” Chip joined in.
“Shhh, don’t tell anyone, I have a reputation to maintain,” Lee smiled sleepily. He couldn’t quite believe it himself. He was beginning to suspect that someone may have slipped him something.
Shaking his head, Nelson closed Jamieson’s report on Lee Crane. Reaching for the phone, he rang his secretary. “Where is Captain Crane?”
“Isn’t he on leave, Sir?”
“Yes, but do we know where he is staying?”
“No, sorry Admiral,”
“Well, he must be staying somewhere,” Nelson reasoned, annoyed that Lee had not told him where he could be contacted.
“I’ll check the guest apartments.”
Nelson grunted in answer and hung up the phone. Struck by a sudden thought, he got up from his desk and opened the panel concealing the radio transmitter. Seaview was the obvious place to look for Lee. He wouldn’t be at all surprised to find the Captain in his cabin, doing paperwork. Hadn’t he told Lee that he could stay in one of the guest apartments, so why did Lee have to be so damn independant? Didn’t Lee realise that he would be worried about him. He hoped that he would find Lee aboard Seaview. He didn’t like to think that he had checked into a hotel somewhere; especially when he was hurt. Nelson knew only too well how stubbornly independent the young Captain was, and would not want to be a burden to anyone.
Having failed to track down Lee, Nelson was about to call security when Angie announced the arrival of Chip Morton.
“Chip, come in. Where’s Crane?”
“He’s at my place, Sir. He was asleep when I left.”
Nelson gave a sigh of relief. He should have guessed that Chip would not let Lee go off on his own. The two of them were as close as brothers, and looked out for one another.
“Is he all right?”
“Yes, Sir. I think he is in a bit of pain with his back, and is more comfortable lying down.”
“Umm, well if he isn’t better in a few days get him to see Doc,” If anyone could get Lee to see sense, it was Chip Morton.
“Everything all right with Seaview?”
“Yes, Sir. All the crew have disembarked, and are on leave as of this morning. Is there anything else, Admiral?”
Nelson shook his head. “No, Chip – go and enjoy your leave. And make sure that Lee doesn’t try to sneak back here. I don’t want to find him doing paperwork.”
“Don’t worry, Admiral – Lindsey and I have everything under control.”
“Good,” Nelson smiled, he could just picture Lee’s reaction when he realised that he had been very cleverly out manoeuvred by his Exec. Not for the first time, Nelson congratulated himself on hiring Morton as Seaview’s XO. He could hold his own against Lee, and they made a great command team. “See you in two weeks.”
“Yes, Sir, thank you.” Morton turned on his heels and walked out.
Lee opened his eyes, disoriented; it took him a moment to remember where he was. Despite the blinds being down, the room still felt too warm, he needed a cool drink.
He limped, barefoot, dressed in pyjama pants, to the kitchen, and leaned a hand on the sink to keep him upright. Running the cold water, he splashed some on his face before taking a glass from the drainer and filling in and taking a long drink. He was about to limp through to the dining room, when Chip entered.
“Hi, buddy, how are you feeling?” Chip smiled, dropping his car keys into a drawer.
“Fine, as long as I’m lying down.” Lee grumbled, placing the glass on the drainer.
“Pills not working?”
“Yeah, but they wear off after a couple hours, and I can’t lie in bed all day.”
“Come and sit down, you look like you’re about to pass out,” Chip took his arm and supported him into the lounge.
“Thanks,” Lee dropped onto the couch with a groan as his back muscles protested, added to which, he was still hot, and had the start of a headache.
“You look a little flushed. Are you sure you’re okay?”
Stretching out on the couch, Lee rested back against the cushions, “It’s a bit warm in here,” he complained.
Chip knelt beside the couch and touched a hand to Lee’s forehead. “You feel hot; I think you might have a temperature.”
“How can I have a temperature, aren’t the tablets supposed to reduce your temperature?”
“Maybe you need a stronger dose, when is your next dose due?” Chip studied him for a moment. “Maybe I should call Jamie.”
“He’s on leave, Chip – don’t bother him. I’ll be fine.”
“Okay, we’ll do it your way for now. What do you want for lunch?”
“Whatever, I’m not very hungry.”
“You never are,” Chip retaliated good humidly. Getting to his feet, he headed for the kitchen.
Lee had moved out onto the deck, where the shade of the porch, and the breeze off the sea made him feel more comfortable. He forced himself to eat the beef sandwich, trying to convince himself that he was hungry. Returning the sandwich to the plate, he took a long drink of water. He couldn’t understand why he seemed to be getting worse instead of better. It had been nearly two days, and Jamieson had told him that it would be two to three days for the tablets to work. So why did he feel so lousy?
“Don’t eat that if you don’t want it,” Chip told him.
Lee looked across to his friend, to find that the blond was watching him. “Sorry, Chip, I’m not hungry. All I want is water.”
“I don’t like this Lee, I think you need to see some-one,” Chip levered himself up and took the plate from him. “You don’t look so good. Maybe you should lie down.”
Lee shook his head. “I’m okay here,” it was just too much effort to move, and the sound of the ocean helped him relax.
Lee forced himself to respond to his friend’s worried tone. Opening his eyes, he turned his head to find Chip sitting on the edge of the bed. “What time is it?”
“0800, you’ve been asleep for nearly ten hours straight.”
Lee closed his eyes again as a wave of heat washed over him, he felt lousy; his whole body ached.
“Lee, come on, buddy. Try and stay awake for a few minutes, I need to check your temperature.”
“I am awake,” he forced his eyes open and let Chip put the thermometer in his mouth. He was so thirsty, he wanted some water.
Chip took the thermometer and studied it. “As I suspected, you have a temperature. I don’t suppose you want any breakfast?”
“Just a drink of water.”
A hint of amusement flashed across Chip’s face, but there was still concern in his blue eyes. “Sure.”
There was a pause while Chip went to the bathroom and returned with a glass of water. Putting the glass on the side, he sat on the bed and slipped an arm under Lee, helping him sit up, then shook a tablet out of the bottle and gave it Lee, along with the water.
“Thanks,” Lee swallowed the tablet and took several mouthfuls of water before handing the glass back to Chip, and collapsing back to the bed, suddenly feeling chilled.
Chip’s gaze never left him. “Cold?” he tucked the quilt around Lee’s shoulders.
Lee nodded; there was no use denying it. If he looked anything like he felt, he must look like something one of Chip’s cats dragged in.
Chip got to his feet. “Go back to sleep, okay?”
“Yeah, thanks,” Lee pulled the quilt higher and closed his eyes. He didn’t have the energy to argue.
Chip was sure that something was wrong, normally it was impossible to keep Lee down, but he hadn’t even attempted to put up an argument, and had slept most of the morning. Sitting on the bed, he gave Lee a shake. “Come on, Lee – wake up.”
Lee groaned and opened his eyes. “Chip – what’s up?”
Lee felt warm to the touch and sounded groggy. “I think you need a doctor.”
“No, I just need some sleep,” his eyes drifted closed.
“You’ve been asleep for hours, and you haven’t eaten anything.”
Lee shook his head. “I’m not hungry, and I don’t need Jamie fussing over me.”
“It’s not debatable, I’m calling him,” Chip said apologetically. He knew that Jamieson would read him the riot act if he didn’t call him and something happened.
“I knew I should’ve stayed in my cabin,” Lee grumbled half-heartedly.
Chip smiled; relieved that Lee was becoming more like his old self. “That wasn’t going to happen.”
“Don’t I know it.”
“Do you need anything before I call Jamieson?”
Lee opened his eyes and propped himself up, “I guess I should take a shower.”
“Are you sure you’re up to it? I don’t want you passing out and hitting your head or something.”
Lee sat up and threw back the quilt. “Will you stop fussing, I’ll be okay,”
“Okay,” Chip conceded, getting to his feet. “Come on, I’ll give you a hand.”
Lee glared at him. “I am quite capable of taking a shower by myself.”
“Yeah, but you can’t walk far with that foot.” He pointed out as he took Lee’s arm.
“All right, but just to the bathroom.”
Showered and with fresh pyjamas, Lee felt almost human again. He hadn’t even complained much while Jamieson had poked and prodded him; although, in his opinion, the visit hadn’t been necessary. He waited, watching Jamieson while he transferred the blood he had just taken, into a tube and sealed it, scribbling on the label. Another puncture wound to add to his collection since he’d joined Seaview as her Captain.
“You have a virus,” Jamieson informed him at last. “The pills have been masking some of the symptoms, but the blood work should confirm it. Unfortunately there is no treatment, but it’s not serious, you should feel better in five to seven days.”
Lee turned to Chip. “See, I told you it was nothing,” he grumbled.
Chip just shrugged, “It doesn’t hurt to be cautious.”
was right to call me,” Jamieson commented as he pulled off his surgical
gloves and tossed them in the bin. “When you’re feeling better, I
want to see you in
“Okay, Jamie,” Lee smiled, knowing that he hadn’t completely escaped the doctor’s clutches. He would need him to pass him fit for duty.
“And try to eat something.”
“Don’t worry, Doc, he’ll have something if I have to force it down him,” Chip gave Lee a steel glare that he sometimes used on the crew.
“Just try it, Mister – I out-rank you.”
“Don’t give me any trouble, Captain,” Chip shot back in mock warning, his eyes sparkling with mischief, and Lee knew that he was in trouble.
More chicken soup and Jell-O.
Jamieson picked up his medical bag and turned to Chip. “You seem to have everything under control.” Then turned back to Lee. “Do as you are told, or it won’t just be me you have to deal with.”
“I promise, Doc.” Once again, everyone had ganged up on him, and he had no option but to follow orders. He knew that if he didn’t, he’d have Nelson on his case.
Two weeks later, Lee was seated in Jamieson’s office at the Medical Centre with a strange feeling of déjà-vu as he waited for the doctor to pronounce judgement on whether he could return to duty.
Jamieson closed the file and looked up at Lee. “Another two weeks.”
“What? But Jamie...” Lee protested.
“You need to give that foot time to heal properly.”
“I can still come into the office. I’ll be sitting down most of the time.”
Jamieson regarded him with a look of exaggerated patients. “And how are you going to get here? You can’t drive that car of your with one foot, it has a manual gear change.”
“I won’t need to; I’m moving into one of the guest apartments, I’ll be on site.” In the early days of his commanding Seaview, it had been easy to get his own way with Jamieson, but these days Jamieson was getting wise to him.
“Then you will be busy with that. If you do as you are told, I’ll consider passing you fit for restricted duty at the end of two weeks.
Lee sighed heavily, he couldn’t see why Jamieson was making such a big deal out of it; a broken foot didn’t stop him from doing paperwork. “Come on, Jamie, two weeks? What am I going to do for two weeks?”
“Oh, I don’t know, why don’t you go and see your mother? I’m sure that the Admiral will not mind you borrowing the flying sub.” Jamieson placed the folder into the filing tray, signalling that the subject was closed.
“Huh, you don’t know my mother; she’d have me doing chores.”
Jamieson looked a little shocked. “Surely not.”
Seeing Jamieson’s momentary hesitation, Lee went in for the kill. “She’d agree with me, that a busted foot doesn’t make me totally helpless. There is nothing wrong with my brain, I can still do paperwork. Besides, it isn’t fare on Chip, I’ve been enough trouble to him these past weeks, and it isn’t fare that he has to do my job as well.”
Shaking his head, Jamieson studied him across the desk. “All right, but if I catch you doing anything other than paperwork, I’ll have you confined to your apartment with a guard outside. Do I make myself clear?”
Lee couldn’t help a smile spreading across his face. “Yes, Jamie, perfectly clear – thanks.”
“Now get out of here, and remember, no crawling around in ballast tanks or anywhere else aboard Seaview. The Admiral can take of anything that needs doing.” Jamieson warned as he walked around the desk and helped Lee to his feet.
“I promise,” Lee picked up the crutch that he’d left leaning against the chair and tried not to limp too badly as he left Jamieson’s office, grinning to himself.
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