`An entry into the ‘By the Light of the Moon’ story challenge due July 1, 2021. I had tried to have this done for Christmas!

The Greatest Gift


K. Corris-Seale

Captain Lee Crane was pissed off, and he was being very vocal about it.  He didn’t have family, but most of his crew did, and even if they didn’t, they still wanted to be home for Christmas.  This mission could have waited, it was just economics, get it on the books for this year.  ‘It will help with the budget appropriations for next year, we need it’ the Admiral had insisted.   Well, some things were more important than money!  He was able to cut the crew compliment down some, Chip was able to go home, as were Sharkey and Patterson, Jamie, O’Brien, and about forty others, mainly the ones with families.  It was the compromise Nelson had to make to get Lee to agree to it.  But still.  Lee loved Seaview, he didn’t mind being here for the Holiday. It was his men and their families he felt bad for.  To make amends, Nelson made sure they were well prepared for the big day, right down to filet mignon for all, gifts for each crewman on board, plenty of beer and liquor.  In fact, there was enough food for a full crew compliment, Harry had insisted on it, despite Cookie’s objections.  That much food simply wasn’t needed!  And of course, they would all be receiving higher Holiday pay.

There was a tree in the observation nose, in the wardroom, and in the crew quarters, all beautifully decorated.  Christmas music was being piped over the PA.   But it wasn’t the same as being home with family, and Lee realized that.  In fact, all of that made them miss home even more. Oh well. Nothing he could do about it now. He could be mad in private, but in front of the crew he had to show some good-natured celebratory holiday spirit.  And he also had to be respectfully supportive of the Admiral, at least in front of the crew.  And even though some of the crew may not believe in Christmas for religious reasons, it was also the celebration of the real St. Nicholas, who was the patron Saint of all sailors.   

 They were headed north to Alaska.  Nelson was contracted to try to find out the cause of dead whales being washed ashore.  Recognized as the best marine biologist in the world, they had reached out to him next when local biologists came away stumped.  His proximity and submarine also helped them to decide.   Nelson was going to enjoy this mission, but Lee felt it was at the expense of the crew.  Whatever was killing those whales would still be doing it a week from now.  But if the Admiral was done quickly, Lee intended to run the sub at flank speed all the way back home, if there was even just a chance of getting the crew back home in time for New Year’s.  Somehow though, he doubted it would happen that way.  He knew the Admiral once he had a mystery on his hands.  But he was running at flank speed now, trying to save time.

They arrived at the coordinates Nelson had ordered.  First, he wanted to go ashore and examine several of the carcasses first hand.  His next decision would depend on what he found.  The local biologists who had already examined them were still scratching their heads.  There was no apparent cause of death, no signs of injury or disease.   While Nelson was examining the remains, Lee had divers out taking water samples in ever widening circles.  Lee himself didn’t think it was anything in the water, it would have affected other marine life as well.  But, as the Admiral commented, it was just something that had to be ruled out.

Several hours later they were still just sitting here right under the surface, surrounded by ice topside, waiting for the flying sub to signal the Admiral’s return.  Lee was pretty much letting the crew do whatever they wanted, there weren’t many duties for them to carry out.    As he was basically off duty himself, he was sitting in the observation nose with a Tom Clancy book he was enjoying, a mug of cold beer in his hand.  It was kind of peaceful for a change.   Then the Admiral radioed in that he wouldn’t be returning to Seaview tonight, he would be staying on shore comparing notes and going over findings with two of the other biologists.   Since none of the crew were interested in shore leave, the Captain just told them to stand down and enjoy themselves.

He joined some of them later in the wardroom.  Although this wasn’t Christmas dinner yet, Cookie had put out quite a spread.  And the drinks were flowing in the crew lounge.  There were two card games going on, several men playing computer games, and a few groups talking and laughing amongst themselves.  A Christmas DVD was playing on the big TV screen, all he heard as he walked past was a kid being told he was going to shoot his eye out.  He stayed for a while, then quietly slipped away to his cabin.   As much as he knew his men liked and respected him, he also knew they would relax and have a better time if he wasn’t around.  He was ready to call it a night anyway.

Immediately upon his return to Seaview late the next morning, Nelson called Lee to his cabin.  He’d spent hours last night going over all the findings with two other marine biologists.  Later he found himself wandering the grounds around their lab on the shore, hoping the solitude and new moon would help him find some answers.

“Lee, there’s something going on here, in this area, that I can’t explain.  Yet.   I don’t believe there is anything wrong with the whales themselves or the waters they swim in, or the food they eat.  But something is killing healthy whales, and doing it quite suddenly.  Every carcass I examined belonged to a healthy mammal that should still be alive. As a matter of fact, these dead whales are the healthiest whales I’ve ever examined, they don’t even show any signs of environmental pollution whatsoever.  I’m sorry Lee, I know how badly you want to get the crew home, but I’m afraid we’re going to be here for a while.  Has there been anything abnormal or different that you have noticed going on here?  Any unusual instrument readings?”   

“No, Sir, and all the water samples we’ve taken have all tested to be normal for this area.”  Lee wasn’t the marine biologist Admiral Nelson was, but long ago Nelson had taken Lee under his wing and taught him some of the basic scientific properties of the waters they sailed in and the creatures that inhabited them.  Lee had proved to be an eager and capable student, excited to expand the basic knowledge he had gained at the Naval Academy.  And for this cruise, with only a skeleton crew aboard and time being of the essence, the Admiral had to depend on Lee’s assistance. 

“Well, I want to be here when the next dead whale turns up to do an immediate necropsy before any evidence disappears.  That’s the only reason I can think of that I can’t find anything so far.  Make sure sonar knows to notify you the second they see any large biologic in the area, then notify me.  I’ll be back at their lab.  Dismissed.”  His command tone of voice made it obvious there would be no further discussion.

“Aye, Sir.”

On his way back to the control room, Lee realized the Admiral was probably being curt with him to prevent any further argument about the mission.  Well, it doesn’t matter now anyway, we’re stuck here.

The Admiral let out a deep breath and leaned back in his chair.  I hate playing games with Lee, a man I truly respect and who has every right to know the real reason we are here, even if it is classified, for my eyes only.  I’ve always been able to trust him. We already have an inkling as to what may be killing these whales, but that’s the least of our concerns. 


Well, it was a beautiful day, at least by Alaskan standards.  Since Seaview was just partially surfaced through the ice, only the conning tower was visible.  Lee threw on a coat and went up to the bridge with his binoculars and looked around. Ok, there was a large area of smooth ice surface starting just about 90 ft. away.  Yes, that will do, that will do nicely.  He went back down to the control room and picked up the mic.

“All hands, this is the Captain.  Any crewman interested in a little ice hockey report to the Control Room. Dress accordingly. Captain out.”

This wasn’t the first time Seaview had to sit beneath the ice, and once it was for three months!   After the first time, Lee had made sure that on those missions he stocked some special equipment meant to keep his men from being bored to the point of depression and agitation.  Chip’s solution was to run continual drills, schedule some not really needed maintenance and cleaning tasks, and do crew performance reviews. 

Lee had a different take on things, probably due to his New England childhood, and so came prepared. Out came the skates, nets, sticks and pucks, the face gear, etc.  His men truly enjoyed themselves the last two times they were stuck under the ice, they were in high spirits, slept and ate well that night and were ready and eager for another round of play the next day.  Keeping his men active also kept them sharp. The first time they played, some of the non-participating crew watching from the bridge made bets on which team would win.   When the Admiral found out about it, they thought they were in trouble.  But then he placed his $5.00 wager on Captain Crane’s team.   That time however, it was Captain Kowalski’s team that scored the winning goal!

But no matter how hard Lee tried, he could never get Chip out to join them.  ‘I’m fine and safe in the Control Room where it is warm and dry,’ was his standard reply. Lee gave up.  Oh, well, someone has to mind the boat.  But since Chip wasn’t with them for this cruise, Lee had to make sure he stayed in radio contact with the Control Room.  It didn’t ruin his fun.  Love this!  I feel like a kid again!

Since Sparks wasn’t with them either, it was Lt. Peters manning the radio shack.  He had strict orders to contact the Captain if any messages were received from the Admiral, or if there were any sonar contacts that could possibly be whales.   

They were in the middle of their third game. The sun was just starting to go down, so Lee ordered everyone to return to the boat, they could finish this game tomorrow.  It got dark too fast up here.  Leaving the nets out for tomorrow, all the other equipment was brought back in with them.  Lee was the last one waiting to go up the ladder when a sudden tremor struck. 

His sixth sense told him this wasn’t an earthquake, but for whatever reason, he decided to go back and get the nets safely on board anyway.  ‘Ski saw what he was doing and came back down to help.  Lee slid one net over to him and he grabbed it and then tossed it up to the last crewman still on top.  Then ‘Ski turned around to catch the second one and then tossed it up as well.  He skated towards the ladder and then turned to let the Skipper go up first.  But there was no Skipper behind him. Lee was nowhere to be seen.  

‘Ski quickly skated to the last spot he had seen him at. All that was there was a black hole.  He suddenly saw a crack in the ice coming from the hole and headed right for him.  He turned and skated back to Seaview as fast as he could, and now he could hear the ice crackle as it broke apart right behind him.  Just as the ice split beneath his skate, he jumped up and grabbed Seaview’s ladder, hanging on for dear life.  He turned and looked behind him for any sign of the Skipper but there was nothing, nothing but a widening crack and jagged shards of white ice bobbing in the dark water of a huge hole.

. . . water cold, . . .  getting numb, . . . need air, . . . current too strong to swim against. . . can’t find Seaview . . .need air. . . gotta get back to the surface, . . .cold. . . ice too thick, . . . need air. . . need air. . .  air. . .  With that last thought, Lee’s mind went dark.

‘Ski scampered up the ladder and then down into the Control Room, skates still on his feet.  Grabbing the nearest mic, he started barking orders. “The Skipper fell through the ice! Emergency dive team, suit up!  Lookouts to the Observation nose!  Bridge lookouts to the bridge! Keep an eye out for any sign of him!  Bring emergency lighting!  Lt. Peters, Sir, please get Admiral Nelson on the radio!  We need the Flying Sub back here stat!”

Command training probably would have kept the panic and fear out of ‘Ski’s voice, giving orders he was qualified to give not by rank but by his many years and experiences on board Seaview, and his close association with the Captain.  But recognizing the emergency situation for what it was, all crewman jumped to obey the orders regardless of who was giving them.  

He barely had time to pull his skates off before Peters called to him that he had the Admiral.  ‘Ski ran over, grabbed the mic, and quickly explained the situation to Nelson.  ‘Sir, we need the flying sub back here to look for him, I’m sending divers out but . . .”

The Admiral interrupted in a very quiet and somber voice. ‘Ski, call them back in.  It’s too late, he’s been in the frigid water too long, and without air.   I’m coming back now, and then we’ll find . . .  recover his body.  But don’t risk anyone else, we don’t know what’s going on out there, what that tremor was from.  Nelson. . . out.”

‘Ski stood there in total disbelief for all of about 10 seconds.  Then he turned and ran down to the missile room at breakneck speed, no shoes on his feet.  He got there just as the two-man dive team was getting into the dive compartment.  He didn’t repeat a word the Admiral said.  Instead, he told them exactly where the Skipper had fallen through, and that he would be out there with them as soon as he suited up.

There was one insulated suit left, and he broke records getting it on.  The remaining Missile Room crew helped him suit up and he grabbed an extra tank of air and headed out, swimming directly for the area under the hole.   Then a strong current hit him, and he saw the other divers ahead being quickly swept past him, helpless to do anything but go along for the ride.  Well, he reasoned, they all had air and insulated suits on.  Hopefully, the current would take them to the Skipper.  Or his body. Then he would worry about how to get back.

As the current slowly abated, they found themselves slowing in the water.  They all looked around, hoping to see the Skipper.  They started swimming in circles, nothing.  They headed down, as far as they could go, still nothing.  As they came up, they saw a bright light coming towards them.  Upon radioing Seaview that he was ready to dock, Nelson was cautioned about the diving party out near the boat.  Encountering the strong current, Nelson followed it and soon found the divers.  He pulled the Flying Sub up over them and opened the bottom hatch.  Soon all three were safely on board.  Nelson never said a word to ‘Ski about disobeying orders, he only asked if everyone was ok. 

‘Ski felt like terrible, he knew the Skipper was still out there, somewhere.  This can’t be happening!  Guess I’ll hear about it when we get back.  I don’t care, I had to try.  The Skipper would have done the same for any one of us.

Since there was no reason for this current to be so strong, Nelson decided to figure out what was causing it.  But first he wanted to search this end of it.  He followed the current further out.  The ice above was too thick for the Flying Sub to penetrate as Seaview had done, but he went up as far as he could, scouring just below the ice.  There he is.

‘Ski insisted on being the one to retrieve his Captain’s body.  It didn’t take long to bring him back.   He handed the body up, then climbed up himself.  They had just left the Skipper lying on the deck.  ‘Ski started CPR, getting the water out of his lungs. He took down one of the oxygen canisters and put the mask over the Captain’s face. Then he took his wet coat, skates and hat off, and picked him up and laid him in the bunk, and pulled the blanket over him. The two divers looked at each other and then at Nelson. The Admiral looked back and slowly shook his head.  There was nothing to be done, it was too late, but he left ‘Ski alone.  He knew how close the two had been.  If it gave ‘Ski any comfort, let him feel like he had done everything possible to save his Captain.  He headed the flying sub back to Seaview, he would investigate this current later, now wasn’t the time.  My God.  My son is dead.

He suddenly felt a brief flash in his mind, almost a questioning presence of some kind.  It was weird, but it was gone instantly.  What the devil was that?  He shook his head and headed back to Seaview.

There was only one medic on board in Sickbay.  Frank did everything he could think of before pronouncing the Skipper dead.  Why did this have to happen on my watch?  Dr. Jamieson should have been here!  He was always able to do something to keep the Skipper alive!  Well, I’ve got to do something.  So he started removing the Captain’s wet clothing and dressing him in warm scrubs, drying his body off first.  Then he covered him with a warm blanket.  He didn’t have the heart to pull it up over his Captain’s face.   He’d have to be put in cold storage for the trip home, but not yet.  He was still almost frozen anyway.  And the crew may want to pay their respects.   Following naval protocol, he picked up the mic and officially informed Admiral Nelson, as the next higher up in their command chain, that there was nothing more to be done.   He had to pronounce Captain Crane deceased.

Nelson’s heart was breaking in two.  He left the control room and went to his cabin.  It took four shots before he could get on the PA and announce the Captain’s death to the crew.  Most of them knew it by now anyway, courtesy of Seaview’s grapevine. Then he put his head down on his folded arms and broke down.  I’ll never forget this Christmas.  Lord, please take good care of my son.  He was one of the best men you ever made.  We were all truly blessed to have him in our lives.  Christmas will never be the same, for any of us. Neither will life.

Aside from being in a state of shock, the crew didn’t know what to do.  Nelson hadn’t given any orders, and was nowhere to be seen.  So, they simply carried on, staying where they were, doing what they were doing.  Dinner was served but not much eaten. There was no Christmas music that night, even though it was Christmas Eve.  But there sure was a lot of drinking and quiet murmurings going on.

No one had seen the Admiral since he returned, and no crewman wanted to intrude.  They all knew how close he and the Skipper had been.   They left him alone.

Lt. Peters wondered if he should contact the Institute, or the biologists Nelson had been working with, but then decided to wait for orders.  ‘Ski wondered when he would be called down to the Admiral’s cabin and given a good dressing down for disobeying orders, but he really didn’t feel like he had done anything wrong, only what his heart told him to do.  Frank advised Cookie they would need a freezer for the trip home.  ‘I won’t have space available until after Christmas dinner is served tomorrow’ was his sad response.  Well, somehow that seemed right, not having their beloved Captain’s body in the galley freezer while they all sat nearby enjoying Christmas dinner.  It was all so morbid and sad.  What lousy timing, not that there could ever be a good time for something like this.  

Nelson woke up Christmas morning after a restless sleep, and tried to pull himself together.  He had responsibilities to take care of, a mission to complete, a boat to run, and a devastated crew to deal with, and on Christmas Day no less.    I wasn’t there for the crew at all yesterday, and they are suffering, too.  He picked up the mic in his quarters.

“Good Morning, and Merry Christmas.  I know what a difficult day this is going to be for all of us.  Please keep in mind that Captain Crane would want us all to do our best to carry on, with our duties and our own individual religious observances of the day.  I realize this isn’t the time for merriment or joy, but it is still Christmas, even if it is one we will never forget. I would like all of you now to please bow your heads and for the next three minutes, pray for our Captain in your own way, starting—now.’

Three minutes later, and, “That’s it, thank you, and God bless all of you.  Nelson out.’

He sat there for a few minutes, trying to figure out what to do next. There was no reason to contact the biologists he’d been working with, they had all decided to take Christmas off to be with their families.  And that’s what he had wanted, to be here with Lee and the crew, the closest thing he had to family, at least when his sister Edith wasn’t around.  Truth be told, he probably felt closer to his shipmates.  And being home with their families was what Lee had wanted for his crew.  If Nelson had been able to listen to him, he would still be alive.  But orders were orders, he had higher ups to answer to as well.  If he didn’t, if this had simply been a mission for the Institute itself, he would have gladly put it off until next year.  And now he could never explain to Lee the true reason they were here.  He thought about calling the Institute, but then thought better of it.  Why ruin everyone’s Christmas?  There’s nothing to be done about it anyway.  The hardest call is going to be to Chip, back in Kansas celebrating Christmas with his parents. Lee is like another son to them, why ruin the day for them as well?  And Lee was supposed to be there with Chip and his parents for Christmas.  He would be still be there, safe and sound, if it wasn’t for this mission.  He’d given up his Christmas, and his life, to do his duty.

He went down to the wardroom, breakfast smelled good but he simply wasn’t hungry.  He grabbed a cup of coffee and headed for the Control Room.

It had been a long time since he had to captain his own boat.  The few times that neither Lee or Chip were available, there were always junior officers to take over.  Not so this trip.  He realized now the mistake that he had made.  He should have taken Lee into his confidence.  Lee would have had more crew on board if he had known the truth about the mission.  Dead whales alone just weren’t enough of a priority for him at Christmas time.  And he certainly had made his feelings about it known to the Admiral.

There weren’t many crewmen in the Control Room.  Radar, sonar and the radio shack were manned, but that was about it.  They were at anchor, so there was no need for a helmsman or navigator.

Nelson stood at the charting table for a moment, and realized no log entries had been made since yesterday.  So he grabbed the log and a pen and sat down in the Observation Nose.  But when he opened it and saw Lee’s neat handwriting, he started to lose it again.  Pull yourself together man, you have a job to do, people depending on you!  Get with it Harry!  There will be time for grieving later!  He sat up straighter in the chair and reread Lee’s last entry, then started bringing the log up to date.


Drifting. . .  drifting, , , , is that me down there , , , lying on that bunk , , , ,  drifting, , , , drifting, , , , bright light, , , tunnel, , , so beautiful here . . .  so warm and bright. . .  I feel such love, , , peace, , , contentment, , ,  I’m free, , , no responsibilities or burdens of command, , ,  no sacrifices or duties to perform, , , I remember now, , , this is how it is supposed to be, , , I’m home.   He suddenly felt filled with joy.  Those he left behind would be fine eventually, he’d see them again.  Then he felt loving, embracing arms enfold and hug him.  He’d never felt so wonderful.

“My child, welcome home.  Your passing was an accidental one, this is not your time yet.  You still have much to accomplish that has been planned out for you.  But as this is an accidental passing and I have given you free will, it is your choice to stay here or go back and live the rest of your life, fulfill your destiny helping Admiral Nelson caring for my seas and its creatures. You were meant to do it together.”   

‘Father I don’t want to go back!  I want to stay here!  There are others who can help him care for the oceans!’ 

‘Admiral Nelson needs you, your life’s course was set before you came to be that you would journey this life with him.  You both are on a special mission for me.”

“If I’m so needed, why did you let me fall through the ice?  I’m. . .I’m sorry, Father, . . .I meant no disrespect.”

“You have come close to coming home early many times before this.  Yet your circumstances always changed at the last moment.  Do you think that was simply luck?  It was I who protected you, guided Jamieson’s hand, or simply put the thought in your head to duck.  But you keep trying even my patience.  You do not value the life I have given you, though I realize that by your very nature you live that life with no thought to yourself, thinking only of others.  So be it, it is your choice.  Make your decision, it is my son’s birthday and so I have other matters to attend to.”

“So, this is about going back to do my duty, to Nelson and to you.  I . . . understand.  All right Father, I will go back.”

The moment the thought left his mind, it became cold and dark.  Then it started to get light and warm again, but not as wonderful as it had been.  He suddenly felt so alone and tired.  He fell into a deep, healing sleep for many hours.


Kowalski walked into Sickbay, no one was there.  Frank must be getting his breakfast.  He slowly waked over to Lee, putting his hand on the Captain’s arm.  ‘Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to you, Sir.   But I guess where you are now there’s no need to say that. But you will always be missed down here, Sir, by all of us.’  And especially me. You may have outranked me, Sir, but I always felt you were one of my best friends, even if you couldn’t show it. 

Although ‘Ski had medical corpsman training, he hadn’t seen many dead bodies that had been dead this long.  But somehow, it didn’t seem right for his color to be so alive looking.  Now that he thought about it, his arm was warm as well.  Could the body just be at room temperature?  He stood there a moment, then turned and grabbed the first stethoscope he could find. 

Was it his imagination or wishful thinking, or was that a weak, thready heartbeat he heard? 

Frank walked in. “‘Ski, what the hell are you doing? The Captain is dead for God’s sake, leave him alone!”

“Are you sure about that Frank?  Maybe you should check for yourself!”, ‘Ski said as he thrust the stethoscope into the medic’s hand. 

Frank grabbed it and listened to his heart, while his hand went down to the Captain’s wrist, feeling for a pulse.  He moved the stethoscope to several different places, and then began to listen earnestly.  He thought he heard something.  He stood up and looked at the Captain’s face, felt his forehead.  A body dead this long shouldn’t be this warm.  He grabbed the little flashlight and lifted one eyelid, and then the other.  Reaction. Then he took a step back and a deep breath, and looked at ‘Ski.  “This man isn’t dead!”

He started an IV, and began a chart, recording all the vital signs.

‘’’Ski, not a word about this to the crew, especially the Admiral, not until l know for sure what we are dealing with here. This could be temporary, there could be all kinds of nerve, brain, or heart damage.”  Jamieson wouldn’t have made this mistake!   I should have checked on him myself this morning instead of heading right for the wardroom!

“Skipper!  Captain Crane, it’s Kowalski, Sir, do you hear me?  Skipper, pull yourself out of it, please Sir, open your eyes!”


“Skipper, please, it’s Christmas Day!  Please come back to us, Sir.  We need you, Admiral Nelson needs you, and so does Mr. Morton!”

I . . .  hear someone . . . talking to me . . . I . . .know that voice. . .

He slowly opened his eyes and looked around.  I went from heaven to sickbay.  May as well be in hell.


It may be Christmas Day, but Admiral Nelson’s scientific curiosity still got the better of him.  He made his log entries, checked all the controls and systems, went over the duty and maintenance schedules.  Did I get everything Lee?   

But through it all, he had one nagging thought about those whales and that current.  He simply had to go check it out immediately, see if they were in any way tied to the findings in the classified report.  He’d be back in time for Christmas dinner with the crew, as Lee would have been.  He had to check the flying sub out himself, then he looked around the Control Room, finally going over to the radio shack.

“Lt. Peters, is it?  I’m taking the flying sub out, I’ll be back in a few hours.  I know you aren’t one of the regular command officers, but for right now, you’re in charge.  There shouldn’t be any problems, and I will always be within radio contact.  Carry on.”

“Sir, yes, Sir!”  Wow, what a Christmas present!  Won’t Dad be proud of me!  All the years he served in the Navy on submarine duty, he was never given command!     

Nelson wanted to check out that strong current that had washed Lee away, find out where it was coming from or what was causing it.    He intended to ride along next to it, hoping the flying sub would be powerful enough not to be swept into it.   The further he went alongside it, the stronger the current got so he pulled to the side and cut the engines.   Then, ahead of him, he saw beautiful sparkling lights, all different colors, swirling around in a circle, and it appeared that the current was coming from the center of it.  So, the classified report was accurate, those off duty Navy divers really did see something incredible.   

Where the devil was all this water coming from? But was it really a portal to another world or dimension, as suspected?  Are we really in danger of being invaded, and if so, by what?  He took instrument readings and started making a visual recording of the portal.  While he was recording it, the portal opened wider and became dark as a huge black shape came exploding through it, causing a violent tremor to the immediate area.  It was a whale, and it looked dead.  That must be what caused the tremor ‘Ski reported feeling, that triggered the crack and hole in the ice that Lee fell through!  It probably caused the ice to crack in that area because it was already weak from Seaview surfacing there.

A sudden thought occurred to him, and he took off after the expelled whale.   He took all kinds of samples from the whale’s body, including temperature.  It soon became evident to him that the whale had been alive right before it was sucked into the current and forced through the portal.   Something in that portal or simply going through it was killing these whales, but how did they get to the other side anyway?  And why was it apparently only whales that were getting caught?  He went back to the portal. The current only went one way.  What the devil was on the other side? He’d spend the rest of his life wondering if he didn’t go through it himself to find out.  He was a scientist, he was supposed to investigate the unknown. But was it worth his life?  It wouldn’t matter what knowledge or explanation he gained if he couldn’t bring it back with him, it would only serve to satisfy his own curiosity right before it killed him when he tried to come back.  

One of the main responsibilities Lee had was to keep Nelson and his scientific curiosity in check.  Nelson wanted so badly to go through that portal to see what was on the other side, if he could make it through that current both ways.  But he knew what Lee would say.  Guess from now on, I’m going to have to keep myself in check.  I’ll try to remember that, Lee. 

As he studied the portal, a beautiful, large effervescent pearl-like bubble appeared before him and positioned itself directly in front of the flying sub.  He sensed thoughts not his own in his head.  Is this telepathy?

Yes. We gained knowledge of you through your previous visit here. Warming of your oceans have opened this, as you call it, a portal, between our worlds.  We must work together to close it.  The dead whales you have found are from our world, this portal opened directly into their breeding grounds.  But they cannot survive being expelled through it.

Can you read my thoughts? How can I communicate with you?

I am reading your thought patterns.  We know who you are and what you do.  Please, we need your help.

Do you mean that the only way to close this portal and keep it closed is to cool the waters in this area?

Yes.  There is nothing we can do from our side, we are not experiencing your world’s warming, our oceans are cooler.

Is it possible portals in other parts of our worlds will open?

Only if our worlds touch where there is cold water that is warming rapidly, but we are not aware of any other openings at this time.  This one has always been here, though it is usually closed.  We will know immediately if another one opens. 

I can think of a temporary solution for the moment. Seaview could tow a small iceberg here, but that would eventually melt.  But closing the portal and stopping the current will at least allow some time for study.

Even a temporary solution would be acceptable, if it can be immediate.  We have lost too many whales already.   

I understand.  And the last thing my world needs now is more water.  With global warming we already have too much flooding to deal with. I have to know, what would happen to me if I went through the portal to your dimension?

You would simply find yourself in an ocean environment similar to your own.  There is little different for you to see, but there is no way your craft could pass through the current. Our pods are created to be inter-dimensional, we do not pass through the portal.  As you can see, it is too dangerous. 

So, you have visited our dimension before?

Only occasionally.  Your world has nothing to offer us.  We mainly go through to monitor the portal, be sure it is still closed from both sides.  However, we began monitoring it when we discovered some of our citizens had accidentally been swept through, a long time ago.   They may be the mermaids of your sea stories. 

Fascinating! A great deal of our nautical art and literature is based on those sightings!  And now to find out it is true! But for now, I need to know more about the portal in order to find a way to try to close it.  What can you tell me?

It has been here since both our worlds came to be.  This is not the first time it has opened, but it is usually for only a brief period of time, and is usually much smaller.  I believe our whales are attracted to the sudden warmth of your ocean water on the other side of it and then find themselves caught in the current and are forced through the portal.  

I will go back and find an iceberg and bring it here, for now.  It will buy us some time until we can find a more permanent solution.  How can I contact you?

I monitor the portal.  I will sense if you are here.  I am your counterpart on this side, I study and care for our waters.

Is there any chance we could meet? Compare scientific findings and notes?   Do you have a name?

I am Oa, and I am the guardian of our waters.  Ours is a water world, we have no land masses as you do, though we once did, many eons ago.  We now breathe our air through gills similar to the water mammals in your oceans, but we can also breathe air as you do if we surface.  We have the same atmosphere and sun as you do.  

Fascinating! A pleasure to meet you, Oa. I am Harry. I will return within 48 hours, hopefully with an iceberg in tow.  We’ll go from there.  It has been incredibly wonderful meeting you.  And I promise you, I will keep your world a secret.

Thank you, that has been a concern.  When I first touched your mind, I felt the new darkness there. I offer comforting thoughts to you on the death of your son.  We know painful loss here as well.  Go gently, my new friend. We will meet again.

The bubble slowly faded out.  It didn’t go through the portal, it just, faded out and disappeared.

Nelson sat there for moment, going over the conversation.  This has to be the greatest scientific discovery I have ever made, yet I have to keep it a secret.  He took to the surface, and started scanning for an iceberg small enough for Seaview to tow, but large enough to help, for a while at least.  He not only had to figure out a more permanent solution, he also had to figure out how to report this in a way that would not send curious scientists scurrying here to study the portal.  He knew that above all, he must keep Oa and his world secret to protect them.  He had to come up with a suitable, believable explanation that would not further raise their suspicions or curiosity.  

How he wished he could tell Lee of his incredible experience.  Even Oa sensed the magnitude of his loss.  But Lee probably knows all about it already.

Imagine that.  A world connected to our own, where all the inhabitants are water breathers.  I wonder, could that be the future of Earth, with all our waters rising?  A thousand other questions quickly passed through his mind.  Sometimes, his scientific curiosity was a blessing, sometimes it was a curse.  Like the times it got me into trouble with you, Lee. 

He found a suitable iceberg, and recorded its location, then he headed back to Seaview.  If he put Seaview on a direct course at two-thirds speed, they should get back to it sometime tomorrow morning. They could have it at the portal hopefully by late evening, if everything went well. He looked at his watch.  I should make it back in time for Christmas dinner with the crew.  But without Lee.


Lee’s recovery was so fast and complete it was miraculous.  Frank didn’t know the finer aspects of hyperthermia, but he sure was going to study up further on it.  From what he learned so far, it was probably ‘Ski’s immediate ministrations aboard the FS1 when the Captain’s body was first retrieved and brought aboard that had kept him alive.  The CPR, the oxygen, the warm blanket.   I can’t take credit for much. All I did was dry him off and put him in fresh scrubs.  The IV came later.  How the hell will I explain this to Doc?  How could I have missed all his life signs?

“How do you feel, Sir?”

“Strangely enough Frank, I not only feel fine, but in some ways, I feel better than I have in years!  A little tired though.”

The Captain wanted out of bed and back on duty already. Frank didn’t have the fortitude Jamieson had for dealing with the Captain, and it was Christmas Day.  What a gift for the crew! 

“Ok, Sir, I want you to rest for a while, then I’ll let you out of bed, and if you feel strong enough walking around, I will discharge you.  But I have to tell you, Sir, you were, uh, dead, for a while, and you still look pale.  To be honest with you, Skipper, I’m not really sure what to expect during your recovery.  So please, for now, take it easy, rest, and I don’t want you on duty yet.  Report here first thing tomorrow morning for a checkup, and then I will decide if you can go on light duty, Sir.”

Lee knew his score in Sickbay.  Jamie would never let him up and out this soon.  He could only assume Frank felt a little out of his league giving orders to his Captain, and his dead Captain at that.  He wasn’t going to make it harder for him.  “No problem Frank, I’ll be here, and I will take it easy until then.  Thanks for everything, and Merry Christmas.” 

First thing Lee did was head for his cabin.  With only a skeleton crew on board he was able to make it without bumping into any crewmen.  He took a hot shower, and felt a little warmer afterwards. But he didn’t dress in uniform, just a warm navy blue turtle neck sweater and his black jeans.  He was still feeling cold, and he wasn’t on duty anyway. 

Then he sat down to catch his breath.  Have to admit, I’m feeling a little bit weary.  He knew he was going to have to take it easy for a while, get his strength back. But he really did feel pretty good, considering all he had been through.  Even all his usual aches and pains weren’t bothering him. He probably should eat something, though.  But more than anything, I want the Admiral and the crew to know I’m ok.  Enough has been done to ruin their Christmas.  And what an incredible experience I have to tell the Admiral!  I still don’t quite believe it myself, but I remember falling through the ice and the cold darkness, and then the incredible bright light and warmth that followed.  And I certainly remember the conversation, I’m just having trouble believing it.  Yet here I am alive, so it has to be true.  Well, first things first.  I may not be on duty, but that isn’t going to stop me from going down to the Control Room and going over the log.  I hope the Admiral is down there.  Think I’ll get a cup of hot coffee on my way down.  Very hot coffee.

The festively decorated wardroom was now filled with the mouthwatering smells of a delicious holiday breakfast being served.  Cookie knew it wasn’t going to cheer the crew up much, but he was trying his best to show some holiday spirit.  He’d put on a good spread for breakfast and an early dinner, more food than was necessary.  He had to, he had to get the freezer empty.  Ok, I’m not going to think about that until tonight.  Today is all about Christmas.

As Lee walked into the wardroom, there was only one table occupied, and the only crewman facing him was ‘Ski.  He looked up and beamed a relieved smile to Lee.  Seeing it, the others turned, then sat there shocked.  Lee walked over to them, putting his hand on ‘Ski’s shoulder.

“Merry Christmas!  I understand there’s been some excitement here?”   He smiled to himself as he walked over to the coffee pot and poured a cup, then walked back to his men.  They seemed to be regaining their senses.     

“Uh, Merry Christmas, Sir.  You look, well, I mean, . . .happy to see you are alive, Sir!” 

“I’m kind of happy about it myself.  Just a severe case of hypothermia.” Lee’s brain was still foggy, he had noticed it all morning. Why can’t I remember this crewman’s name? Guess I’m just not 100% back yet.  Frank is right not clearing me for duty yet.

Cookie came out of the kitchen, talking with one of the kitchen crew while they restocked the breakfast serving dishes.

“We’ll wait until after dinner is cleaned up to empty the rest of the freezer out to put the Captain in, God rest his soul.”

“Cookie, why would you want to put me in the freezer?”

Cookie quickly turned and gasped.  “Uh, Sir, is that really you?  I . . . I thought . . ., it’s a Christmas miracle!”

“Yes Cookie, it’s really me.  Merry Christmas.  And please don’t put me in the freezer, believe me, I’m still cold enough.”

Thinking of the astonished look on Cookie’s face made him chuckle as he sipped his hot coffee while he walked down to the Control Room.  All he said to the several bewildered crewmen he passed on the way was a hearty Merry Christmas.  They all just turned and stared as he walked away.  

At the charting table he picked up the log and began reading the latest entries, all in the Admiral’s handwriting.  There wasn’t much to read until he came to the entry about his own death.  That kind of threw him a little.  It was written very cold and clinically.  I suppose that is the only way Harry could deal with it at that time.  The latest entry was today’s at mid-morning.  Nothing noted about who was now in command, just that the Admiral was taking the flying sub out.   Well, we are on a mission.

He turned and looked at the three men at their stations, backs turned to him.  “Who is supposed to have the Con now? Who is in command?” 

Recognizing their Captain’s voice, all three quickly turned to look at him, shocked.

‘I-I am, Sir, I . . ., Sir, we were told you are dead, Sir.”

“Do I look dead?”

“Sir, no Sir!”

“Did the Admiral say when he would be back?”

“He said he would be back in a few hours, Sir!”

Lee picked up the mic.  “All hands, this is the Captain.  First, Merry Christmas.  Second, yes, I am alive, and happy to be here.   Third, why is there no Christmas music playing, this is Christmas Day!  I look forward to joining all of you later for Christmas dinner.  ‘Ski, please report to me in the observation nose.  And bring me another cup of hot coffee, please.  Captain out.”

He turned to see the three crewmen still staring at him.   “Ok men, carry on.”

Lt. Peters left the radio shack and walked over to him.  “Uh, Sir, the Admiral put me in command until he returns. Are you taking the con now, Sir?”

“No, I’m not back on duty yet.  You’re still in command until the Admiral returns, unless something drastic happens.  Have there been any problems?”

“No, Sir, everything is fine, but we did register another tremor about two hours ago, but nothing since then, Sir.”

“Ok then Lt., carry on.  And in the future, if you are ever given command again, make sure the first duty you perform is to enter it into the log book, along with the date and time you assumed command.”

“Sir, yes, Sir, I ‘ll remember that, Sir.  Thank you, Sir.”

Lee sat down near the Christmas tree and put his head back and closed his eyes, waiting for ‘Ski.  When he got there, he handed Lee his coffee and a plate of breakfast items. “Cookie insisted, Sir.”  Boy that smelled good.  He dug in.   He hadn’t even realized he was hungry.

“Ok ’Ski, bring me up to date with everything that happened after I fell through the ice, in as much detail as you can.  I’m afraid the Admiral’s log entries were pretty brief.”  Maybe at some point I’ll tell ‘Ski the rest of the story, what happened to me, but not yet.  I have to come to grips with it myself first!   

‘Ski spent the next half hour filling the Captain in.  Lee told him what Frank had explained to him, that he had ‘Ski to thank for saving him.  “So, ‘Ski, thank you for saving my life.”  Or so everyone down here is supposed to believe.

“My pleasure, Sir.  But I have to tell you, I disobeyed the Admiral’s orders to do it.  I’ve been waiting for him to come down on me about it.”

“Trust me ‘Ski, when he sees I’m alive thanks to you and your intervention, he’ll forget everything.  Never obey an order that you feel is not legal or moral, no matter what you fear the consequences may be.  You have to be able to live with yourself and your own conscious first.”     

Lt. Peters stuck his head in.  “Excuse me Sir, the Admiral just radioed in that he would be docking in about ten minutes, Sir.”

“Ok, Lt., thanks.  You didn’t tell him about me, did you?”

“No, Sir, not a word, Sir.  Can’t wait to see the look on his face, Sir!”


Funny, the things that go through your mind at the damndest times.  As he put his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder going up to the Control Room from the flying sub, he thought about how Lee had always been there at the top to grab his arm when he came up, supporting him through that awkward last step from the top rung of the ladder to the security of the deck.  Just another one of Lee’s heartwarming shows of respect he was going to miss.

He got to the top and felt someone grab his arm.  Hrmrmpphh, here’s a crewman taking Lee’s place already.  He gained his balance and then shrugged out of his flight jacket and handed it back to the crewman.  “Thanks,” he said distractedly as he walked to the charting table.  He’d have to plot the course back to the iceberg himself.  Then what?  He couldn’t commit Seaview to dragging icebergs out here every few weeks, and the ocean was only going to get warmer.  And I still want the see their world!

“Merry Christmas, Sir.”

Something in that crewman’s voice finally caused him to turn around.  The first thing he noticed was that this crewman wasn’t in uniform. Then he looked at the face.  Suddenly, he couldn’t move, he couldn’t breathe, and it felt like his heart had stopped beating.  How could this be? I must be hallucinating, I want so badly to see Lee! If it was really Lee, he’d be in uniform!  He closed his eyes for a moment, and then slowly opened them. The figure was still there.

“Lee?”  His voice was barely a whisper.

“Yes, Sir, it’s me.  It was just a little case of hypothermia. I wasn’t really dead Sir, just really cold!”  I’ll tell Harry the truth later when we’re alone.  Looks like he’s starting to go limp!  Lee quickly stepped over and put his arm around him. “Let’s go sit down, Sir.”  He helped him over to the observation nose, then he walked over and closed the doors to give them some privacy. 

Harry was trying to pull himself together, but he felt so lightheaded.  He couldn’t believe it, yet he wanted to believe it.  How was this possible?  Lee sat down across from him.   This really is Lee, though he looks tired and pale. 

Lee told him of coming to in Sick Bay, ‘Ski’s voice pulling him back to consciousness.  He told him how Frank believed it was ‘Ski’s early actions when he was first found that kept him alive.  Harry just looked at him and nodded.   They sat there quietly for a few minutes.

As the few tears of joy and relief rolled down his face, Harry began to realize this was really Lee, he was alive, and he was here.  He took a deep breath, then slowly stood up and walked over to his friend, his Captain, and my son.

Lee stood up and gave Harry a big bear hug, then he stepped back, shaking his head.  “Some Christmas, isn’t it? Were you able to find out what was killing the whales yet, Sir?”

“Let’s go down to my cabin Lee, I’ve got an incredible story to tell you.”  And I need a few shots of whiskey!

Harry’s got an incredible story to tell me?  Wait until I tell him my incredible story!


Seaview was filled with the merriment of Christmas celebrating, as they all finished dinner and began just relaxing, opening their gifts,  and truly enjoying the day. They now had so much more to celebrate along with the holiday.  Harry sat back and watched Lee laughing with some of his men.  

He caught Cookie’s eye and motioned him over.  “You’ve outdone yourself with this meal Cookie.  Thank you, and Merry Christmas.”

“You know, Sir, I have to tell you, if you hadn’t made us stock so much extra food in the freezer, well, the Captain wouldn’t have been here to enjoy it with us, Sir.”

“You know Cookie, I’ve been thinking about that.  I still have no idea what made me go so overboard with extra perishables, why it seemed so important. I knew we only had a skeleton crew aboard, but for some reason, I felt the freezer needed to be kept full.  I can’t explain it.”  He thought about Lee’s heartwarming experience.  I wonder, could I have been party to a divine precaution meant to keep Lee safe?   

He looked over at Lee again, he was about to open his gift from the crew.  Harry raised his eyes and said a silent prayer to the Lord.   You made a good man Father, he deserved another chance at life.  He suddenly heard a voice in his head.

“He made himself Harry, I gave him free will and he used it wisely.  And it was his choice to come back to you.”

Father, thank you for the greatest gift I have ever received.  I have my son back.  Amen.

 The End


Please let me know what you think!