Judgment Call


By K. Corris


Captain Lee Crane jumped out of his car and raced for the Nelson Institute’s Administration building, cursing himself for forgetting his umbrella.  The second he got out of his car, the skies opened up.  He had been so worried about getting out of his house in time to put the top up to protect his car, he forgot about protecting himself.  He thought at the time he could make it to work before the cloudburst, but the dark, gathering storm clouds and flashes of lightning seemed to keep one step ahead of him as he drove, finally stalling right over the Institute.  He was drenched by the time he got to the lobby, racing through it  to the Institute’s glass and steel elevator that ran on the outside of the building.  For the first time, he wondered how safe it was to ride in it during an electrical storm.  But he had to admit, the view of the thunderheads and lightning bolts over the ocean was stunning.  Even so, maybe this time he should have taken the internal elevator in the middle of the lobby, even if it did stop at every floor.


He got out dripping wet and much to his chagrin, came almost fact to face with Chip Morton, his Executive Officer on Seaview, and his best friend.  Chip grabbed Lee’s left arm right over his bicep.


“Lee, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you.  I should have gotten to you sooner about it, I’m sorry.  But there is this new invention out.  It’s called an umbrella.  It’s really neat.  You open it up, and hold it over your head and it keeps you dry.   You wouldn’t get dripping, soaking wet like this. They sell them everywhere.  You really ought to get yourself one.”


Lee gave him the expected glare, and then listened while Chip continued down the hallway laughing his head off.  Just as Lee was about to turn into his own office, Chip stuck his head back out from his office just past Lee’s to remind him that Dr. Jamieson had a dryer over in MedBay.  “You could put on one of the hospital gowns that open in the back, put your uniform in the dryer, and even lay down on one of the gurneys and catch twenty winks while it dries.” 


The look on Lee’s face made Chip wish he hadn’t left his cell phone camera on his desk.  Everyone knew how much Lee hated both Sickbay on Seaview and the MedBay at the Institute.  He’d rather shiver himself dry than to go down there. 


The door to Admiral Nelson’s office was open and he heard the whole thing.  Lee could hear him chuckling.  Nelson loved it when his boys joked around, especially on the boat.  It eased the tension and boredom for the crew, kept morale high.  He’d had enough of stodgy, grumpy, serious officers when he was still on active duty in the Navy.  He hoped he had never come across as one.


“Lee, when you get yourself dried off, I need to see you. I have hot, fresh coffee in here.  I also have some dry towels in my head if you need them,” the Admiral called out.


“Yes Sir, thank you.  I’ll be right in.”  He put his briefcase down on the floor of his office, not wanting to get the papers on his desk wet. 


Lee walked into Nelson’s office, still dripping wet. The Admiral took one look at him, shook his head with a grin, and pointed Lee toward his head.  When Lee came out, having dried his face, hair and hands as best he could, Nelson nodded towards a cup of steaming hot coffee on the other side of the desk.  Lee walked over and looked at the upholstered chairs across from Nelson.


“Uh, I guess I better stand, Sir.”


“Lee, sit.  It will dry.  I get a crick in my neck when I talk to you standing up, and I’m sure you get tired of looking down at me.”


“No Sir, never.  To me you have always been ten feet tall.”   It came out before Lee could stop it. He never meant to embarrass the Admiral that way.  He hurriedly sat down and grabbed the coffee.


“Sir, I’m sorry.”  Lee couldn’t think of anything else to say.


“Sorry?  For what?  That’s got to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.   Lee, if you think I am, or ever have been sensitive about my height, or lack of it, I assure you I don’t think about it anymore than you think about your good looks.  It’s just part of me, of who I am.  It obviously has never stopped me from accomplishing anything I put my mind to. Now, let’s get down to business.   I have a rather upsetting letter here from the manufacturer of most of Seaview’s components.  They’re making a massive recall.  You have the engineering degree. Read this and give me your opinion. How much trouble do you think we’re in?  The oceanographers from Woods Hole are already on their way here.  If we have to cancel, it won’t only set us back a bundle, but we will lose our credibility and they will lose their data. The timing couldn’t be worse. They only have a forty-eight hour window to collect the data before the sensors reset themselves. It’s too late for them to get another boat, and their contract is with us.”  The Admiral’s tone was matter-of-fact, but Lee could detect a hint of worry in it.


Lee read the letter, getting more concerned by the minute.  The recall date went all the way back to before Seaview’s last refit.


“Sir, this is serious. I think we’re in a whole lot of trouble.  There’s no way all of these parts can be replaced before we sail Thursday even if we did have new parts from a different supplier to swap out.   I’ll go and take a look myself and see if I can tell anything.  Hopefully this letter is just precautionary, to ward off any lawsuits.  Maybe we can schedule Seaview to be put into dry-dock as soon as we get back.  This is supposed to be a short mission, and it will probably take us about that long to get new parts from another supplier.  Let me do an inspection first.  But I’ll tell you right now, I’d rather lose credibility than anyone’s life.  If I don’t think she’s safe Admiral, we don’t sail.  As Captain, it’s my call.  We’ll just have to cancel.  I know that we were also going to do a supply run to the #3 undersea lab while we were in that area, but we can do that from here with FS1 even if it does take several runs.  I don’t see any parts listed here that are on the Flying Sub.  These just seem to mostly affect Seaview’s engines.  Let me go check and I’ll get back to you, Sir.”  Lee got up and started walking to the door, the letter still in his hand. He never waited to be dismissed.


“Lee, do me a favor.  Would you take that over to Seaview for me? Thanks.”


Lee looked over to the corner where the Admiral was pointing.  The only thing there was the Admiral’s umbrella.  Lee sighed as he picked it up.  Everyone’s a comedian.


“Yes, Sir.  Thank you Sir.  I’ll have it back to you before you leave.” Look at the smile on Nelson’s face.  Even his CO enjoyed getting a laugh at his expense.




Lee wasn’t able to examine all of the parts listed, not without taking Seaview’s engines completely apart.  But the ones he could get at appeared to be fine.  He knew they had backups for some of them, but he wasn’t sure how old they were.  They could be substandard as well. If he did decide to sail, he would make sure they brought along as many replacement parts as they could. But that wouldn’t be of any help if anything internal in the engines went.  Oh, they could fix almost any part of the boat themselves outside of port, including the engines, but it was definitely the kind of situation that you hoped and prayed would never happen out on the open seas. He had to think about this.  Weigh one thing against the other.  But first, he wanted to call the manufacturer and speak to them himself.  He hoped he would be able to get a straight answer from them.  He walked back to his office.


Lee talked to Mr. Jack Scott, the Manager of the Quality Control Department, who had sent the letter. The man was very apologetic about everything.  He had just started working there after the previous manager had been fired for looking the other way, allowing the use of substandard materials to increase profits. It was a far reaching recall, perhaps going back farther than was needed.  But Mr. Scott wanted to be on the safe side.  He was told by the company’s President that he was overreacting, there was no need to go back that far, but he replied that he took the problem very seriously, lives were at stake.  Not to mention the company’s reputation.  They had not received any reports from other customers of any mechanical problems that could have been caused by the recalled parts. He assured Lee that they would immediately send out replacement parts, whatever Lee wanted, at no cost.  And he guaranteed these were up to spec.  But no, they couldn’t have them there in time to be installed before Seaview sailed.  After Lee answered his question about how long ago Seaview’s last refit was, only four months ago, he asked Lee to get back to him with a figure as to how many nautical miles Seaview had put on since the refit.  Even substandard parts should be able to stand a little bit of wear.  The parts were manufactured according to specs as far as dimensions went, just not with the required materials.  Of course they were the right dimensions, Lee thought.  They wouldn’t have fit in if they weren’t! Had they experienced any problems that couldn’t be explained?   Lee assured him they hadn’t experienced any problems yet, the letter was their first indication that there might be one.  Lee also made sure the man knew he had a degree in Engineering that would enable him to recognize any mechanical problem when it occurred, but he was also saying this so Mr. Scott knew he couldn’t pull anything over on him. Lee would get back to him with the mileage.  He wanted to check with the Admiral and Chip about the whole thing first.  It sounded to him that it might be safe to take a chance, with so much riding on this mission. It was a short one, and they wouldn’t be going too far or anywhere near their crush depth.  And there was no need to run the engines at flank speed or even full speed as long as they maintained their schedule.  They could take it easy.


Lee felt a little better after talking to the man.  Mr. Scott seemed to be genuinely concerned about the problem, and was trying his best to do everything in his power to prevent any accidents or malfunctions.  The recall had been his idea, he had insisted on it.  But Lee still wasn’t sure yet if he wanted to take replacement parts from them, even at no cost, at least not without having the Institute’s own mechanics and engineers going over them first.   But his main concern right now had to be this mission.  He started to head back down to Seaview, then changed his mind and headed to Chip’s office instead.


Lee showed Chip the letter and told him about his conversation with Mr. Scott.


“And you say you didn’t find anything suspicious about the parts you were able to examine?   How about removing a couple of them and bringing them back here.  The machine shop can do stress tests on them and give us a better idea as to how high the risk is.  At least that way you would be making more of an informed decision.  In the meantime, I’ll pull out all the files from our last refit, see how many of the replaced parts are on the list that  might be at risk, and get on ordering new ones for replacement.  But you have to decide where you want to order them from.  I’ll get quotes from a couple of other suppliers for you.  You can decide then if you want to buy them from another supplier or take the free ones.  From what I remember about this company, we have used them from the very beginning and have never had a problem before with them or their products.  It seems to me they are handling this in a responsible, professional way.  You might want to give them the benefit of the doubt, at least this first time.   They’ve always been there when we needed them before, Lee.  Maybe they deserve a little loyalty in return.”


Lee smiled a little.  “Uh, Chip, you wouldn’t happen to be taking kickbacks from this company, would you?  I mean, that was quite a speech.”  He loved the look on Chip’s face. “Well, now I’m even with you for the umbrella remark. Get me the quotes and the mileage since the last refit. Please.”  Lee smiled at Chip and laughed all the way back to his office.  He knew Chip better than that.


A sampling of accessible parts from different areas of the boat were pulled and sent to the Institute’s machine shop.  Chip was busy pulling files, making lists and calling suppliers.  Lee was going over the mission directives, trying to get a better idea as to how much stress they would actually be putting the boat under and for how long.   He went in to talk to the Admiral.


First, he informed the Admiral as to what they were doing and the phone call to Mr. Scott. “Sir, I need a little feedback from you before I make a decision.  About how much equipment will we be taking along, the weight of it?   And could we lessen the load by doing the supply run from here using the Flying Sub?  The less we have to make Seaview’s engines work the less strain on these inferior parts.  What do you think?”


“As far as I know Lee, they are just gathering data from the sensors we took them to set out six months ago and resetting the sensors to gather data for another six months. The problem is that if the sensors aren’t reset manually, they will automatically reset themselves and all the gathered data will be wiped clean.  It will all be done by divers, no heavy equipment involved. But we are talking about over 120 sensors scattered over 120 square miles.  We will be doing a lot of zigzagging, a lot of stop and go.  And they have to manually dive out and do each one individually.  This isn’t a difficult or dangerous mission, just a tedious, time consuming yet time limited one.  I already intended to do the supply run using FS1, but doing it while we were taking care of the sensors.  We would be in the area anyway, it would save time, and give us something else to do while we wait. Combine two missions to save money, time, and manpower.  But what I didn’t discuss with you earlier is that while the Sealab is getting low on all supplies, they are especially worried about some of the medical supplies. One of the researchers is diabetic, and Will just increased the amount of insulin he has to inject daily, based on the blood sugar levels the man was reporting every day.  That’s the priority.  Will knows the details better than I do, and he intends to give the man a physical while we are there.  He wasn’t happy about this to begin with.  He didn’t want Dr. Worley going down there until his insulin regimen was straightened out, but since this project is his baby we didn’t have a choice.  It’s another reason we have to take a chance, Lee.” 


“Sir, that stop-and-go zig-zagging is going to be a strain on the engines itself.  But I can see now why we pretty much have to take the chance. I’ll give my final ok as soon as I have the report back from the machine shop.  I’ll get back to you as soon as I hear from them, Sir.”




The machine shop couldn’t find anything wrong with the parts, aside from the material they were made with. But they withstood the stress tests fine, and didn’t show more than the expected amount of wear.  That was all well and good, but these weren’t the parts that were in the main engines.


Chip came into Lee’s office with some fairly good news.  “I talked to one of our alternate suppliers about the situation.  They hadn’t heard anything about the recall yet. I went over the list of replacements parts we would need, and they can have almost half of them here by tomorrow morning.   A lot of these we can replace while we are on our way, and at least we would have replacements on board that were up to spec if we did have a problem.  Of courses, none of that does us much good if the engines fail, but the rest of the parts would be here waiting for us when we get back. We could schedule everything now so Seaview will be ready in time for our next mission. Their price estimates were comparable to what we have been paying.  I told them I would get back to them after I discussed it with you, but Lee, you have to make a decision fast if you want those parts here in time to be switched out before we sail.”


“Ok, Chip, go with it.  Tell them to get as many of these parts to us as fast as they can, COD, and to have the rest of the parts here in about two weeks.  Put the order in to purchasing and tell them to make it two separate purchase orders and explain why.  Make sure they understand the terms and the urgency.  But for now, I want this to be a one time deal with them.  I don’t want to get into any contract disputes with our usual supplier.  At least not now. Oh, and Chip? Thanks.”


He updated the Admiral, gave his ok on the cruise, and then went and did something he rarely did willingly.  He went over to the MedBay to talk to Jamie. 


Dr. William Jamieson, Will or Doc to everyone but Lee, did a double take when he saw Lee.  “I’d ask you if you were feeling all right, but knowing you like I do, I know I have a better chance of seeing you down here willingly if you aren’t sick or injured than if you are.  So, what’s up?”


“Very funny, Jamie.  And I keep telling you my aversion is to hospitals, emergency rooms, sickbays, doctor’s offices.  It is not an aversion to you, so please stop taking it personally.  You just happen to be a doctor, which puts you in the places I can’t stand.  Now about this mission…”


 Lee went over everything with Jamie.  He knew how important Jamie’s “house call” to the lab was, so he wanted to be sure the doctor understood everything that was going on.  “I want all the medical supplies on FS1 as soon as possible.  There’ll be as many other regular supplies on board as we can fit as well.  We’ll probably have to make another trip directly from Seaview, if all goes well. Kowalski will take you out tomorrow morning to the SeaLab.  You’ll have plenty of time to do whatever you need to, and then rendezvous with Seaview when we get near the area.  That way, if we have to abort the mission, your patient will at least be taken care of.  Does that work for you Doctor?”


“Yes, Captain, and thank you.  I appreciate your consideration, and I am sure Dr. Worley will as well.  I’ll feel a lot better after I see him with my own eyes and examine him in person instead of just reading his reports.  He’s too much like the Admiral and, well, you.  You all get so involved in what you are doing, you don’t think about what you are feeling.  The rest of the personnel down there know what to do if he has an insulin reaction, but they aren’t doctors.  I need to check him out for myself.  So, thanks again. I already have all the medical supplies ready to be loaded.  But Lee, all of these medical supplies are not for the SeaLab, some are for Seaview.  I’ll put them in two separate areas and mark each pile as to where it goes. Let me know when you can get someone over here from the loading dock so I can go over it with them.”


“Will do, Jamie.  I’ll let you know.  Oh, and bring an overnight bag. You’ll probably be there a couple of days.  Just think Jamie, you’ll have time to do physicals on the whole staff down there!”


Next, back to Chip’s office.  Lee had made a decision.  “Chip, I know you are busy with pre-sail preparations and this problem, but as soon as you have time, could you please pull all the PO’s and packing slips we have from them  since right before the date of this recall.  Then inventory what we have left, and make arrangements to return the remaining stock to the manufacturer.   Include the total amount we paid for what’s being returned.  The installed parts will be retuned later this month. I want our money back.  And I want the money back, not replacement parts or any kind of credit. I want to do this now while it is still a hot issue with them. I don’t care what our contract with them states.  They didn’t keep their end of it, and I don’t care why. Future dealings with them will be decided at a later time.”  With that, Lee walked out and returned to his office, not even waiting a response.




The Captain thought it would be a good idea to brief Seaview’s own engineering mates as to what was going on.  Make sure they were prepared to work overtime once the replacement parts arrived.  He would work with them.  Lee knew every mechanical part of Seaview like he knew his own hand, and time was of the essence.  Not just to get as many parts replaced before the mission but because the people from Woods Hole would be arriving the day after tomorrow.  He didn’t want them to see Seaview lying in pieces, or even to be aware of a situation that could impede their mission.


The Captain called Chief Sharkey and had him call in all of Seaview’s engineering crew to meet with him that afternoon, if possible.  They almost all made it; two were still on shore leave out of the area.  He also spoke to the Chief about getting Jamie’s medical supplies and some of the other supplies loaded onto the Flying Sub stat, and recalling Kowalski from shore leave.


After apologizing for cutting their shore leave short, the Captain explained the situation to them, and what had to be done.  He distributed the photocopied lists of the parts that had to be replaced and lists of the parts that would arrive tomorrow, and explained he wanted them to be all ready to go as soon as the parts arrived.


“Uh, Sir!  Couldn’t we get a head start by disassembling these areas now and removing the inferior parts?  It would save time; we would be all ready to install the new ones as soon as they get here.”


“Well, Mr. Jenkins, you are absolutely right, good thinking.  That idea that would save time.  I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself.  Guess that’s why you are the head of Engineering. Okay, take over and get started. Make your assignments, and give me one, too. And remember, I want all of the removed parts saved, they will be returned.  And if any of you notice any uneven wear on any parts near these, let me know. Thank you, all of you. Oh, and since Cookie isn’t here and the galley is closed, you have to go to the Institute’s cafeteria for your meals.  But what I would really appreciate, since we are on a tight deadline, how about I order a few pizzas and sodas?”  There was overwhelming agreement by all hands present; they knew what they were up against.  It sounded corny, but Lee loved his crew.


The necessary supplies were loaded into the Flying Sub, and the next morning Kowalski spirited the good doctor away to his underwater house call.


The rest of them spent the next couple of days working very hard.  The Captain and engineering crew working on the boat, Chip immersed in paperwork and phone calls, and Admiral Nelson concentrating on the finer details of the scientific aspects of the mission.  His men could handle everything else, but this part was his responsibility, and his life’s work and love.   He always enjoyed working with the people from Woods Hole.  They all talked the same language and had the same interests and concerns as he did.  They treated Seaview and her crew with respect, and there had never been a problem with any of them.  And while this mission was pretty routine, he was excited by it all the same.  It would give him a chance to compare notes and bring himself up to date with what they were working on.  This was why he had built Seaview in the first place, this is what he had dedicated his life to.  He hated the government and Navy missions, but, hey, they brought money in and gave the Institute an edge when they needed a favor from the powers that be. He considered them an unfortunate but necessary evil.



It was late Wednesday afternoon.  The people from Woods were expected within a couple of hours.  Lee and Mr. Jenkins went over what they had accomplished, and both were pleased.  There was actually very little left to be done, and that could be done at sea.  The Captain decided to dismiss the men, so they could enjoy one last evening at home with their loved ones before they set sail tomorrow morning.   Lord, he needed a break himself!


He checked in with the Admiral, let him know they were all set to go.  Then, on to his Exec’s office.  


“Hey, Chip, how about dinner at that new pasta place near the mall?  My treat.”


“You mean you are going to let me out of this office for some fresh air, sunshine, and food?  Don’t you want to go over last minute details before we sail, and the current situation with suppliers and parts?”


“I thought you loved paperwork?  Anyway, we can do that at dinner.  Grab your jacket.  Let’s go. I’m hungry.”


Yesssir, so am I.”


They had an enjoyable meal, even if it was a working dinner. Then, calling it an early evening because they had to be on the boat by 0600, they each went their separate ways.




Well, so far so good.  They had left port on time, with all of the Woods personnel on board, and had just reached the first site.  Lee went out with the Woods divers.  They didn’t need him, he just wanted to go out.  Diving was his favorite pastime, and thankfully he had a job that ensured he not only was able to get plenty of it, but he was also able to enjoy diving in many areas most divers would never see. He was fortunate to have access to the most sophisticated equipment there was, another thrill other divers could only dream about.  Heck, a lot of their equipment was developed by the Institute itself.  His use of it was often to test it before any other divers even knew it existed.  Nice to be able to enjoy your favorite hobby with state of the art equipment and get paid for doing it!


The engineering crew was busy replacing the rest of the parts, except for the ones in the engines of course.  Lee was in his cabin doing paperwork when Mr. Jenkins knocked on his door.


“Come.  Ah, Mr. Jenkins, how are we doing with the replacements?”


“The new replacements are fine, sir.  But I wanted you to see one of the bad parts we just took out.”


The Captain looked at the melted blob. “Where was this part located?  What’s left of its shape reminds me of one of the pieces near the reactor valve.”


“It is, Sir.  That’s why I wanted to bring it to your attention right away.  There are other ones like this one connecting as oing agreement by all hands present, they knew what they were up against.  It sounded corny, but he loved his crew. the reactor that we can’t replace without shutting the reactor down.  But if we don’t replace them immediately, they could melt like this, if they haven’t already, and we won’t be able to control the reactor.”


“I don’t understand.  Why weren’t these replaced first, before we set sail?  Before we started up the reactor?”


“Because, Sir, they weren’t on the list of parts that had to be replaced.  I just thought to check there when I realized how similar another part we were replacing was to this one. I’m really worried now that there might be other parts that weren’t on the list either.  The supplier either wasn’t aware of all the parts, accidentally left one or more off the list, or chose not to tell you about all of them.  Any way, we have a problem, Sir.”


Lee just sat there.  This is what he had been afraid of.  This had been his judgment call. And he’d made the wrong call.  He could say he made the wrong call because he didn’t have the right information to base it on,

or at least not all of the right information,  but that wouldn’t cut it. He was the Captain, the buck stopped here. No excuses.


“Yes we do, Jenkins.  Have a seat.”  With that, Lee picked up the mic.  “Admiral Nelson, please report to the Captain’s quarters ASAP.”


Admiral Nelson was in his lab with several of the people from Woods.  They were immersed in analyzing some of the data retrieved that day.  Lee’s page caught him by surprise, because he recognized an edge of frustration in the Captain’s voice.  None of the other’s caught it, though he was sure that wherever Chip was he too sensed something was wrong. 


The Admiral knocked on Lee’s door before opening it, and Jenkins rose to give up his seat. The Admiral was just about to sit when he saw the metal blob on Lee’s desk.  “What the devil is this?  Where did it come from?  In the back of his mind somewhere was the problem with the components.  But he was so involved with his colleagues and the interesting data being retrieved he had pretty much forgotten about it, trusting Lee, Chip, and the Engineering crew to handle the problem.  He sat down, curiously handling the melted part.


Lee quickly and bluntly explained the problem.


 “We have two choices, Sir. We can put her on the bottom, shut the reactor down, and make the swap before it is too late.  If the reactor goes…well, you know what the consequences will be.  I know you don’t want to scrub the mission, and I understand what the repercussions will be for us and for the Woods people.  But at least there won’t be any loss of life or damage to Seaview.   Maybe we can get it done fast enough to continue the mission, but there won’t be enough time to get to all of the sensors. They should be back with the flying sub soon.  We could use it for their divers to continue while we work on the reactor.  But I have two concerns.  If we shut the reactor down and there are any of these parts that have melted down that we can’t get at, we may have a difficult if not impossible time starting it up again.  We’ll be stuck on the bottom. Also, we don’t know if there are any other parts that weren’t on the list that might fail somewhere else in the boat like the ballast tanks or air revitalization.  We don’t have new replacements to switch out for any parts that weren’t on the list.   I think our second best bet is to head for home immediately before anything happens.  If we sit on the bottom, we lose access to the flying sub.  Maybe they can stay out there with the Woods divers until we get off the bottom, or just pick them up and fly home. They may be able to take the divers out for a couple of more stops, but not all of them. I’m leaving the final decision up to you, Sir, I know how much this mission means to you. Maybe you can come up with another option? Sir?”


 Lee had seen Admiral Nelson in just about every mood there was.  The reaction he was prepared for now was an immediate blow up of the Admiral’s mighty and volatile Irish temper.  That’s not what he got.


The Admiral slumped and went limp in the chair, his eyes glazed over and staring straight ahead. He looked like a confused little kid who just got his favorite toy taken away from him and didn’t know why. Finally, he slowly got up and walked to the back of the cabin, left hand on his hip and right hand rubbing the back of his neck.

He just stood there, head down, looking at the deck.


Then he walked back to Lee’s desk, and picked up the melted component.  He spoke very quietly. “Mr. Jenkins, please show me where this came from.”  With that he walked out of cabin, Jenkins and Lee right behind him.


The reactor was performing well within its limits.  There didn’t seem to be any kind of a problem, at least not yet.


“Lee, get me that tool box over there.  I can take the cover off without shutting the reactor down, get a better idea of where we stand.”


“Sir, the radiation…”


“I know, Lee.  I’ll only have it off for a second.  You two wait outside.  I’m putting the gloves and protective headgear on.”  He opened the locker and pulled the items out, immediately pulling the headpiece down.

“Okay you two, out.”


It seemed like less than a minute before the Admiral called them back in.


“Everything’s fine in there, as far as I can see” the Admiral said as he pulled off the gear and returned it to the locker. “But I am going to check out some of the other critical areas of the boat.  Mr. Jenkins, you’re with me. Lee, get an update as to when they will be back with the flying sub.  See if they can speed things along, I want them back here asap. I wouldn’t tell them too much about what is going on, because while these components inside the reactor aren’t on the list, they are on the flying sub’s reactor.  Let’s not scare them.”


Well, everything the Admiral and Mr. Jenkins checked out appeared to be fine, so far.  Lee found them just coming out of the circuitry room.


“Admiral, we can’t raise the flying sub.  The lab isn’t sure what time they left, but they believe they should have been back here by now.  If we leave to search for them, we will have to scrub the mission even if there aren’t any problems with Seaview herself.”


This mission has been damned from the start And I can’t blame Lee for it, I practically forced him into it.


“Lee, how would you feel about taking the minisub out to look for them?  It hasn’t had any maintenance done on it since way before this recall.  It should be fine.  And it would be faster than Seaview.”


“Aye, Sir, good idea.  I’ll leave right now.  I’ll take Patterson with me.”


“You may as well, Lee, another set of eyes.  The empty seat wouldn’t do any good, there’s no way to hook the minisub up to the flying sub to do a rescue if you do find them.  Which one would you rescue anyway?  The one left would run out of air way before the minisub’s batteries were charged up again to go back.  Just get us a location so we can head out there full speed even if it does stress out the reactor. I swear to God, if anything happens to either of them, or even to Seaview or the Flying Sub, there is going to be several huge lawsuits and someone’s head on the chopping block.”   


By this hour, the senior rating was fast asleep.


“Pat, wake up, I need your help.  Get dressed, I’ll meet you in the missile room.  I’ll brief you later.”


“Sir?”  The seaman first class sat up in his bunk yawning.  Right in the middle of a wonderful dream, duty calls.  And man, she sure was pretty.




“Minisub checked out and all ready to go, Admiral.  The battery is fully charged, she should be good for about six hours.”


“Thanks, Chief. Lee, you know the frequency of the flying sub’s homing signal.  If she’s down, hopefully it’s working.  As far as I can tell, if the reactor quit on them, even without any notice, they still should have been able to drift down towards the bottom. But who knows where the current might take them. If they are down, their main problem is going to be air.  But they do have air tanks on board with the diving equipment.  They are probably just waiting for us to find them. Keep in touch with us. In the meantime, we are going to continue the mission, I see no reason not to, at least not at the moment.  I’ll make that decision when we find out about FS1.”  


“Aye, Sir.  Patterson, you get the back seat.”


And so they headed out, on a direct course for the Sealab, looking with their eyes, listening with their instruments, and praying with their hearts.

While he waited, the Admiral went back to work with their guests.  He momentarily considered waking Chip and bringing him up to date, but then decided against it.  Lee would probably be exhausted when he came back, not that that had ever stopped him before, but the Admiral needed at least one of his commanders to be awake and alert, ready for whatever happened next.


They hadn’t picked up the Flying Sub’s homing signal yet, but they were just about coming into its range, if it was working.  It was Patterson that thought he saw a small smidgeon of yellow sticking out behind a large sea mound through some large sea fronds.  A second later they picked up the signal, but it was very weak.  Slowly turning the minisub toward the mound, they realized it was indeed the flying sub, resting part on the ocean’s floor and part leaning up against the mound.  Seaview could never retrieve her at this angle.  Getting as close as he could, Lee tried to see if there was any damage. She looked fine, but dark.  There were no lights on in there, not even the auxiliary emergency power seemed to be working.  He couldn’t understand that, the emergency power was battery based, the reactor had nothing to do with it.  They couldn’t possibly have been down here so long the battery went dead, could they?


Lee angled the minisub in front of the flying sub’s front window and turned on its powerful light.  He could see both of his men still strapped in their seats, not moving.  They didn’t seem injured in any way, as far as he could tell, but the light didn’t cause a reaction from either of them either.  


“Crane to Seaview. Come in Seaview.”


“O’Brian here, Captain.  What’s your status, Sir?”


“We’re ok, Mr. O’Brian, I need to speak with the Admiral.  Is he there?”


“Not at the moment, Sir, please hold on.”


“Admiral Nelson, Captain Crane wishes to speak with you.  Shall I patch him through?”


Not wanting their guests to know anything was wrong, the Admiral excused himself and stepped out into the hallway, grabbing the nearest mic.


“Okay Mr. O’Brian, patch him through.”


“Admiral, we found the Flying Sub.  I can’t see any damage but I don’t see any signs of life either.  I can only hope they are just unconscious.  She’s powerless, and even the emergency backup lighting is out. The angle she is resting at is going to make retrieval difficult, if not impossible.  There’s a chance I can use the minisub to knock her down, make her level with the sea floor.  But as large as the sea mound is she is leaning against, I don’t think Seaview can get close enough to her even if she was resting flat.  I’ll have to see if the minisub is strong enough to push her out enough.  I’ll give O’Brian the coordinates.  Please, Sir, get Seaview here as fast as you can.”


“I’ll run full speed Lee, and just pray the reactor holds out.  Do what you can to level her, if you can’t do it, we’ll have to send divers out when we get there, or maybe even try to nudge her with Seaview.  Nelson out.”


Lee just sat there, staring straight ahead at the flying sub, trying to figure out the best approach.  He felt so helpless.  It’s a good thing Paterson was in the back seat, he thought, or he would be tempted to undo the protective hood of the minisub, take a deep breath, and see if he could make it over to the flying sub’s diving hatch.  Of course he knew that foolish idea would be suicide, but he was so desperate to help his men, his friends.  There wasn’t a doubt in his mind that the Admiral would find some way to save the flying sub, but it might be too late. Lee cared about was the lives inside. And he knew the Admiral felt the same way.  Jamie and Nelson had become good friends, both the only two scientist on the boat, and both roughly the same age. Lee owed Jamie his life many times over; the doctor’s medical expertise was unparalleled.  And ‘Ski was so much more than a first mate and valued crew member.  He was Lee’s diving partner, rescuer during so many ONI missions gone bad, and just a plain old down to earth good human being and friend, someone you could always count on and trust.  Except when he had to follow protocol, Lee rarely cared about rank.  A friend was a friend.


Well, other than trying to level her, there was nothing else to do but wait.  He hoped Seaview got there before the minisub’s battery ran out as well.  Ok, time to see what this little pod can do.


Carefully maneuvering the minisub closer to the flying sub, Lee decided to start with just a small nudge to see how precariously the flying sub was lodged against the sea mount. He didn’t want her slamming down onto the sea floor, not without knowing for sure how much other damage she had sustained that he couldn’t see.  Although maybe a jolt like that would wake Jamie and ‘Ski up.  He absolutely refused to believe they were anything but asleep.  By his calculations, judging from the estimated time they had left the Sealab until the time they had been found, he felt they should still have some air left, even if the air revitalizing unit had cut outright away.  Their location was almost half way between the lab and Seaview, so the air unit had to have been working at least that long.    


The nudge did nothing; he would have to try hitting it a little harder, or from a different angle.  Maybe if he put the minisub directly under her in the little triangle of open space, and pushed her directly where she was resting on the ocean floor, he could topple her down.  Sure she would land directly on the minisub, but then he would be able to gently pull away, and lower her down more easily.  The minisub could stand her weight, for a minute, or at least he hoped so.  But fist, he had someone else’s life to consider as well.


Paterson, I have an idea.  What do you think about trying to………..”  




Admiral Nelson had taken over command.  He had finally decided to wake Chip and let him know what was going on.  They both needed to be in on this.  The Woods people so far knew nothing.  There was no time for a briefing, and the Admiral still hoped for a good outcome to the situation that would allow them to continue their mission.  He knew Lee wanted to go home, and he could even acknowledge that that was probably the best course of action.  Was he being selfish, or thoughtless?  Was he truly worried about their guests data and the Institute’s good name, or putting his own personal satisfaction and enjoyment above all?  Well, he was doing what he could to rescue the flying sub.  Or, more pointedly, the men inside of her.  He could always build another flying sub. After the rescue, he would make the decision as to whether or not to continue.


No. Who was he kidding?  With all this going on, and the chance it could get worse, Lee would insist on returning to port immediately.  And that’s why Nelson had made him Captain.  Lee was never blinded by any part of a mission, his loyalty, commitment were to Seaview and his crew. Lee could always make the tough decisions, and he was always right.  His very dedication was what allowed the Admiral to concentrate only on the scientific aspects of their missions, he never had to worry about his boat. Nelson decided, with an admittedly heavy heart, that as soon as the flying sub and all his men were safe, he would scrub the mission. He only hoped the Woods-Scripps people understood. He would make it up to them in any way he could.  Maybe offer to lay out new sensors for them, the kind the Institute used that transmitted data constantly and didn’t have to be manually reset.  Yes! That’s it!  That’s what he would do!  And certainly refund them the total cost of this cruise, plus extra for their inconvenience. It would be part of the lawsuit he intended to file against the supplier, and Woods could file their own lawsuit against them, too.  He felt better now, and he was sure they would understand.  Now, on to saving lives.




As the Flying sub began to move, a groggy head was raised and sleepy eyes opened.  “Doc, Doc, wake up!  We’re moving. It must be the current or a really big fish, I don’t see Seaview or any divers around.  I …what’s that thud?  It almost sounds and feels like something is pushing us from underneath!”  ‘Ski released his seat belt so he could lean over to look out the window.


“I don’t see anything...hey!  We’re slipping!  What the…whatever it is, we just landed right on top of it!  I hope it doesn’t tip us over!  Hey, we’re settling on the bottom.  Wow, whatever it is, it did us a big favor.  Now, if Seaview does find us, they’ll have a better chance at recovering us.  And now that we’re level instead of hanging sideways, I might be able check the instruments to find out what happened.”


“Ski walked to the back of the cabin, only to be called back by a chuckling Doctor Jamieson.  “Uh, ‘Ski, you know these guys looking in the window at us?”


Walking back to the window, ‘Ski soon joined in the Doctor’s laughter.  “It’s the Skipper and Paterson in the minisub!  We’ve been found!  But I wonder where Seaview is?  Guess she’s on her way.  The homing signal must have been working after all!”


“If I read the Captain’s hand motions correctly, he wants to know if we are all right.  I’ll give him a thumbs up.  Ok, now I think he might be trying to find out how our air supply is.  ‘Ski, what does that gage say? Is it working?”            


“I think it’s giving an accurate reading.  I’ll give him another thumbs up.”


‘Ski proceeded to give the thumbs up, then after touching his watch, opened his hands and showed ten figures, closed his hands, and then did the same thing eight more times.  90 minutes of air were left.  He watched as the Captain mimicked putting an air regulator in his mouth, and realized Captain Crane wanted to know if they had usable air tanks on board. After holding up one finger as a sign to wait, Kowalski quickly checked the diving gear and came back with two full tanks.  After communicating this to the Captain, he saw the Skipper touch his own watch, and then put up two fingers.  ‘Ski took it to mean Seaview would be there in about two hours.  With only about one hour of air in each of the tanks, and approximately 90 minutes in the cabin, they each had only about one hour and forty-five minutes of air left, not quite enough.


“Crane to Seaview, come in Seaview.”


“Nelson here.  Status, Captain?”


“Sir, we got her resting level on the sea floor.  Both men are fine, uninjured.  But they only have about one hour and forty-five minutes of air left, that’s including the tanked air. Can you get Seaview here by then?”   


“We’ll be cutting it close Lee, but we’ll do our best.  I’ll give you and ETA in about a half hour. Nelson out.”


Lee refused to leave his men until they were saved.  So again he sat there, looking at them, wondering what else he could do to help them.  Maybe, when they had that small triangle of open sea between the flying sub and the sea mound, he should have tried to force them up to the surface.  No, even if that did work, he couldn’t keep them up there.  But maybe they could have opened the top hatch just long enough to get fresh air in the cabin before they sunk back down.  Maybe they could have gotten into the diving gear, jumped out,  and waited in the open waters for Seaview.  At least that way they would have air.  Well, it was too late now for could haves, they lost any opportunities when they leveled her. There was a chance they could get into diving gear and leave the flying sub through the top hatch even now, but that would flood out the inside of the flying sub, and leave them vulnerable on the surface.  Still, it would be better than suffocating. The only problem would be trying to force the hatch open with the weight of the water on it, even though they weren’t that deep it would be pretty much impossible. But there has to be something…

He’d wait for the Admiral’s ETA.  Maybe they would be able to make it here in time.  If not, he’d see if there was anyway he could force the flying sub to the surface with the minisub, long enough for them to get out.  He had to try something, he couldn’t just sit there watching his two friends die of suffocation.  Damn it, this whole thing was his fault.  He should never have agreed to sail.  




The Admiral went down again to the reactor room, this time putting on full protective gear.  He wanted to see if there was any internal damage to the reactor that would prevent them from running at flank speed, the fastest any submarine could go.  He was going back and forth between chancing it anyway, and the realization that Seaview dead on the ocean floor could be no help to anyone.  More than two men would die,

although Seaview would probably be able to hold out until a deep sea submersible arrived to help them.  But the men in the flying sub didn’t have that much time to wait for outside help to arrive.  It had to be Seaview, and it had to be soon.


Well, everything he could see appeared to be fine.  Even just a short jaunt at flank speed would increase their chances dramatically of getting there in time.  He walked out to the nearest mic in the corridor, still wearing most of his his protective gear, but holding the headpiece and gloves.


“Control Room, this is Nelson.”


Control Room, Commander Morton here Admiral.”


“Chip, make all preparations to run her at flank speed, at my command, but only for about 15 minutes.  I’m hoping that should give us the edge we need to get there in time.  Nelson out.”


Turning to go back into the reactor room to replace the housing, he heard his name called from the cross corridor.  It was Dr. Johansen, the leader of the Woods-Scripps expedition.


“Admiral, is something wrong?  Even I can recognize a hazmat suit.  And we should have been at out next stop long before this.  Are we in some kind of danger?”


“No, we are not in danger, but the mission is.  I’m sorry Sebastian, but I’m afraid we have to scrub it.  I promise you, the Institute will more than make it up to you.  I know you have only about half your data retrieved, but I have two crewmen whose lives are going to be over if we can’t get to them in time.  You know about our flying sub.  It went down on the way back from the supply run to our underwater sealab. 

I told you about it at dinner the other night.  Doctor Jamieson and our first mate Seaman Kowalski are stranded on the ocean floor with barely enough air left for us to reach them on time.  I’m not thinking about continuing the mission until we see how this rescue goes.   Human life comes first. Please, explain it to your colleagues and extend my deepest apologies.  I will keep you informed.”


With that, the Admiral quickly turned and walked back down the corridor and into the reactor room, shutting the door tightly behind him.  He didn’t have time right now for an argument; he would deal with that later.


After replacing the housing, the Admiral used the same mic to give the order to Chip to commence at flank speed.  He returned to the reactor room, monitoring the dials and gages, watching for any sign of trouble.  He could shut her down from there if need be, but he doubted it would get that bad.


Fifteen minutes later, the Admiral felt the engines slow down to full speed.  The reactor was still running

fine.  He got out of his gear and headed for the Control Room.


“Status please, Mr. Morton. What’s our new ETA?”

“All systems good, Sir, our new ETA put us there about twenty minutes earlier than before.  We should make in now with a few minutes to spare, Sir.”


“Excellent.  Sparks, please raise Captain Crane for me.”


“Captain Crane on the line for you, Sir.”


“Lee, our new ETA puts us there with about five to ten minutes to spare.  It will have to be a quick recovery.”


“Uh, Sir, with all due respect for your reputation as a miracle worker, how did you manage that?”


“I ran her at flank speed for 15 minutes.  Gave us the few minutes we needed.  Now tell me, is she in a position for us to retrieve her?”


“She’s flat on the ocean floor, but only a few feet from the sea mound.  If you bring Seaview in nose first, right up against the sea mound, the magnetic docking gear may or may not be able to pull her in.  If it can at least raise her a little bit, I can try to nudge here into the right position.  But we won’t have much battery power left ourselves by then.  We have to make this fast.”


“Understood, Captain.  I’ll have divers ready to go out as well.  Between the minisub and the divers, we should be able dock to her. How’s your air supply?”


“Like I said, Sir, we have to make this fast. We don’t have any air tanks in here like they do.  Once the battery starts dying so does our air supply. And we don’t have enough power left now to make it back to Seaview.  I want to save it for the air revitalizing system.”


“All right Lee.  We’ll get to both of you as soon as we can.  Nelson out.”


The Admiral looked at Chip.  The shared look showed how worried they both were.  Now, there were four lives on the line, including their Captain’s.  Despite the fact Lee could surface, open the minisub’s hood and get air that way, they couldn’t stay up there long.  They would have to undo their harnesses, jump out, and float or tread water until they were rescued.  Not impossible, but they were in shark frequented waters.  And the men in the flying sub didn’t have that option.




Seaview slowed as she neared the coordinates.  Admiral Nelson stood at the glass nose, searching for any sign of the flying sub or minisub.  According to sonar, they were coming close to a large seamound.  That had to be the one.


“Mr. Morton, I’m receiving the flying sub’s homing signal.  It’s really weak, though.”


It wasn’t thirty seconds after Sparks had sung out that the Admiral spotted both the flying sub and minisub. 

Problem was, Seaview was facing the wrong way. They would have to make a wide circle to turn around to get into position.  He gave Mr. Morton the order to do so.  He knew, from the way they were facing, that Lee had seen them and knew what they had to do, no reason to radio them that they would be back.


They were slowly approaching the sea mound, having made their turn.  “Chip, this is going to be tough. You have to inch up to the sea mound as slowly and carefully as you can, but you can’t hit it or you might bring the whole thing down on them.”


“I’ve already cut engines, Sir.  We are just drifting in that direction. I suggest we open the berthing doors and turn on the magnetic mechanism now. Maybe we can pull them a little bit away from the mound, Sir.”


“Good idea, but radio Lee first to get out of the way.  We don’t want to suck him up instead.  Tell him what we are doing and that if it works, to get the minisub back here stat while they still can.  He needs enough power to go out and turn around to get the minisub back into the aft torpedo tube. Being in the right position to dock the flying sub put us in exactly the opposite position to dock the minisub.”


It worked like a charm.  The flying sub gracefully ascended into her berth, with the minisub nudging her here and there into the correct position.   The docking doors closed and Lee took off.  Circling around, he entered the torpedo tube at the back of Seaview.  Lee never let it be known, he didn’t even want to admit it to himself, but this was the closest he ever got to claustrophobia or panic. The dark, fifteen-second glide into or out of the missile room torpedo tube absolutely terrified him.  He held his breath until the light hit him.  Ok, it’s done.  I survived it again.    


The Admiral and Mr. Morton rushed to open the hatch of the flying sub, Chip being the first one down, followed closely by the Admiral.  They both breathed a long sigh of relief, seeing both men standing up and apparently unharmed.


“Permission to come aboard, Sir?”


 “Permission granted.  Are you both all right?”


“We’re fine, Admiral.  But the flying sub isn’t.  Sir, I have no idea what happened to her.  We were fine one minute, then there was a big shudder and we just lost all power.  Nothing was working.  I’m sure glad you found us in time, Sir.  Thank you.”


“No thanks needed, Kowalski.  I’ll explain to you later what happened. Will, you look a little shaken up.  You’re the doctor, you tell me, are you sure you’re all right?” 


“I will be Admiral. I’m afraid the thought of having to put on a diving suit and swimming to the surface bothered me more than the idea of suffocating down below.  I need a good stiff drink to calm my nerves, then I’ll be fine.”


Everyone laughed, knowing how the doctor, as much as he loved his job, the crew, and Seaview, hated the idea of being underwater.  Before he came to the Institute, he had been a Navy doctor on surface vessels only.


The Admiral and Chip quickly walked back to the missile room.  They got there just as the minisub’s top hatch was being opened.  Lee quickly stood up and jumped out, quickly taking a few deep breaths of air. 


“Lee, are you all right?  You look white as a ghost and you’re covered in sweat!   I can tell from here how fast your heart is beating!”  The Admiral quickly looked over at Paterson, now standing beside the Captain.

He appeared absolutely fine.


“I’m fine Admiral.  How are Jamie and ‘Ski?


Just like Lee to quickly change the subject and take attention away from himself.


“No worse for wear.  Will’s nerves are a little bit jumpy.  By the looks of you, I should order you down to see him, but I don’t think he’s up to it right now.  Maybe you should go take a quick shower and lay down for a while, Lee.”

“Not necessary, Sir.  I was just worried about my men. That’s all.”  Lee smiled, turned, and quickly walked out of the missile room to his cabin.  He did need a shower and dry uniform, but laying down wasn’t necessary. He couldn’t understand it.  He’d been trapped in dark underwater caves nearly out of air without suffering the panic attacks that the short ride in the minisub torpedo tube always caused him.  The only other thing that terrified him near that much was the thought that someone would find out.  It certainly wouldn’t do to have a submarine Captain that showed even the slightest sign of claustrophobia.  


Putting on a dry uniform, he walked to the Control Room.  “Status please, Mr. Morton.”


“Boat status is fine, Sir. But we are just sitting here, not going anywhere.  I’m waiting for orders from the Admiral as to whether or not he wants to continue the mission.”


“What? You gotta be kidding me!  After all of this he’s even considering continuing? Mr. Morton, plot a course directly back to Santa Barbara, commence at two-thirds power. That’s a direct order Chip.  I’ll be with the Admiral.  I swear that man needs to be checked for tunnel vision.”


Lee banged on the Admiral’s cabin door.  He hoped he was in there, Lee really didn’t want to confront him in front of their guests.  No answer, so he walked down to the Admiral’s favorite lab.  He was about to knock when he overheard bits of the conversation inside.  It sounded like the Admiral was trying to explain and apologize to their guests for having to scrub the mission, and how he would make it up to them.  Lee decided to wait a bit, give Nelson the chance to do the right thing on his own.  He headed back to the Control Room, but then decided to take a detour and check in on Jamie first.  Turning into Sickbay, he found Jamie sitting in his office with a glass of the Admiral’s scotch in his hand.    


“Jamie, are you all right?”


“I’m fine, Lee.  Much ado about nothing.  Thanks for coming to our rescue.  Until you showed up, it was beginning to seem we were just going to die down there, seemed like we were down there for so long.  “Ski actually calculated how long we were down there after we left as opposed to when you expected us back, you know, how long it would take you to notice we were late with our ETA, when he realized he had never radioed to notify you that we were leaving.  You had no idea when to expect us. What did make you look for us?”


 “Jenkins found some melted parts in the reactor that Admiral recognized as being the same as ones in the flying sub’s reactor.  He got worried about you, and asked me to radio you to be sure you were ok.  When we couldn’t make contact with you, we took the minisub out to look for you.  I know why the reactor quit on you, but I can’t understand what happened to the battery power that should have kept the radio, lights, instruments and air revitalizations running.  Exactly what happened right after you lost power and started drifting in the water?”


“Drifting in the water?  Uh, Lee, you’re missing a big piece of this.  We were in the air when this happened.

‘Ski thought we could make better time. Fortunately, we were descending, just getting ready to dive, when

 It felt like something hit us.  The flying sub shuddered, we hit the water, and sunk down to the bottom.  I don’t think the reactor had anything to do with it.   This was caused by an external event, but I have no idea what.”


Lee walked down to the crew’s quarters.  He had ordered Kowalski off duty until his next shift started, but now he wanted to talk to him.  He hoped the first mate wasn’t sleeping.


He gave his usual knock on the door, he respected his men’s privacy and would never burst in on them.  He heard several calls to come in, and as was his usual greeting on the occasions he had to go in there, immediately ordered the men to remain as they were.  He walked over to ‘Ski’s bunk but found it empty. 

“Uh, Skipper, ‘Ski just went down to the wardroom to get something to eat.  Do you want me to get him for you?”


“No, thanks, I could use a cup of coffee myself.  Carry on.”


Pouring himself a cup of coffee, the Captain walked over to the crew’s mess instead of the Officer’s Wardroom.   Again he ordered the few men there to remain as they were, and sat down across from Kowalski.  He was going to make this fast, he knew the crew felt uncomfortable with him in there.


“Sir!  Yessir, Captain Crane.  Can I help you, Sir?”


“As you were ‘Ski.  How are you feeling?”


“Fine, Sir.  Good enough to be hungry!”


Lee smiled, and let out a small chuckle.  “’Ski, tell me exactly what happened out there.”


“Well Skipper, it all happened so fast.  We were airborne and making good time, when I saw a storm approaching and figured we would be safer submerged.  I started to dive but before we hit the water, something hit us.  The flying sub shook hard and then lost power, all power.  I don’t know what hit us, but I do know nothing was on the radar screen.   Luckily we were close enough to the water that hitting it didn’t cause any damage, just a good jolt.  I was wondering if it could have been a lightning bolt from the oncoming storm, but that wouldn’t have affected the reactor, would it, Sir?


“No, no it wouldn’t.  I guess a hard enough jolt could have knocked it offline, but a jolt hard enough to do that would have caused the two of you injury. And you said you lost power before that.  Ok, thanks ‘Ski, let me run this new info past the Admiral, see what he thinks could have happened.  I’ll get back to you.”


Lee walked back down to the Admiral’s lab, coming almost face to face with him as he turned down the corridor to it.


The Admiral put up his hands in a stop motion, nodded his head, “I know, Lee, you want the mission scrubbed.  It’s already done. Plot a course for home.” 


“No Sir, if I’m right, you may be able to continue the mission. I want you to take a look at the reactor in the flying sub with me.  I don’t think faulty parts have anything to do with what happened to her.  If the reactor is fine, and if Seaview’s reactor shows no sign of problems after you ran her at flank speed, maybe we can continue the mission.”


“What? Well, Lee let’s go have a look.  If you’re right, you’ve just made a lot of people very happy, including me.  You can tell me along the way what you think happened.”


After checking the flying sub’s reactor and not finding anything that could be blamed on the inferior parts, Admiral Nelson was confused, an unusual feeling for him.


“When we get back to port, I’ll have to examine the hull of the flying sub. See if I can find any evidence of what could have hit her.  But for now, I’m stumped.”


“Well Admiral, how about a compromise?  Since we have to head back that way anyway, we continue the mission, but we only stop at every other sensor. By not doing every one, we will save time, and face.   I’m no scientist, but can’t they figure out from the data recovered from every other one, what data the missed ones recorded?”


“Captain, have I ever told you I like the way you think?  Compromise accepted.  Let’s go give our guests the good news.”



The End


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