A Third Season Story...
The Kryptonite Effect
Lee Crane studied his options, his current strategy still looked good if only his opponent didn't engage in a surprise attack. It wouldn't be the first time this particular opponent had him over the ropes, fighting for his life and even running in retreat.
He removed his hand from his chess piece, the Bishop was well placed as he cracked a one-sided smile.
“Check,” he said with a grin and then watched the raised eyebrows of his auburn haired opponent: Admiral Harriman Nelson himself.
“Hmmmm,” Harry breathed out assessing the move as if he hadn't already anticipated Lee's strategy.
He thought through the remaining pieces on the board a few more minutes, studying their placement, possible moves and counter-moves then nodded to himself, barely holding back his own half-sided grin.
Harry moved his Queen into place capturing the Bishop thereby removing the threat from his King and simultaneously shutting down his opponent as he raised his head to speak.
“Checkmate,” he answered evenly with Lee blowing out a breath of unbelief mixed with a chuckle as Harry's sneak attack had left him without any options.
No one was keeping score, but Lee knew all too well the Admiral had wins over him 2 to 1. Still there was no animosity or poor sportsmanship, he enjoyed the hour or two it took to play these games and wished they had more time to indulge.
“Well Sir, I guess that leaves you to clean-up the pieces,” Lee grinned, the two having a standing agreement that the winner put the board and pieces away while the loser poured the conciliatory victory drink, this time an iced tea as Seaview was shoving off in the morning and Lee never indulged before taking the helm.
Harry put the board away and raised his glass to the light, examining the contents with an arched eyebrow.
“Going cheap on me Lee?” he quipped.
“No Sir, just making sure the OOM is fit and ready for the cruise,” he replied barely keeping in his chuckle.
“OOM... who started that anyway?” Harry asked, feigning some resistance to being referred to as the Old-Old-Man.*
Lee joined him in a laugh knowing full well that Harry rather liked the designation and that he was in no way an Old, Old Man in his early fifties than he himself was an Old Man at thirty-three. The terms were in fact, more unofficial terms of military endearment for the Commanding Officer than anything and as such it was every young Midshipman's dream to be the Old Man one day.
Harry sat the iced tea down and headed for his stash instead; pulling out his favored scotch and waggling it in front of Lee with a grin.
“You're the one driving the Boat, not me,” he said as he topped off his drink turning the concoction into a potent Long Island Iced Tea. He took a sip and raised his eyebrows, smacking his lips in over-exaggeration.
“Not bad,” he grinned and then broke out into a hearty chuckle, the one that warmed Lee's heart every time he heard it.
Lee joined him and then sat back knowing the next questions were inevitable.
“How is Seaview? All ready to launch tomorrow?” Harry asked rather casually and content that Seaview was picking up the scientists at Pearl Harbor which enabled their ability to enjoy the game casually instead of hosting guests in Santa Barbara.
“Aye Sir, she's fit and ready to put to sea with the 1400 tide,” Lee said returning to professional mode, only addressing his close friend by the titles, “Sir” or “Admiral” even during their off duty time. He hadn't been invited to call Harry by his first name and never took it as an affront as it was by mutual silent design to keep their professional lives separate. He was sure if he ever broke the name barrier Harry would be nothing but happy but it wasn't something the Admiral could talk about, he was too private and neither one was ready to explore this father/son relationship they had fallen into. It was there... always there as Unspoken Regard, never spoken audibly but heard with the heart frequently.
“Good, good,” Harry said taking another sip and actually enjoying his new concoction. “This cruise should be a nice quiet one,” Harry predicted.
“Aye Sir, I'm going to use the opportunity to run some drills along the way,” Lee said, filling Harry in on his plans.
Harry nodded, conceding to Lee's captaincy without needing to know which drills Seaview's Skipper planned on running.
“Fine, fine,” he murmured quite relaxed.
“Well Sir,” Lee said standing to leave, “I guess I better head on out. I still have a few things to attend to before shoving off.”
Harry started to protest as Lee waved him off with a grin.
“Nothing with the Boat,” he assured his boss, “Just the expected loose ends to tie up before heading to sea.”
Harry nodded. “Very well. See you tomorrow Lee.”
“Good night, Sir,” Lee said even though it was really Sunday afternoon. He left with a light casual whistle; among his loose ends a date with Marcia, but he wouldn't have missed this game with Harry for anything. He was glad his presence wasn't required before 0800 hours tomorrow morning and planned on having a not-so-late but enjoyable evening out.
Harry smiled as he watched Lee leave, content that their friendship hadn't in the least gotten in the way of their working relationship. Lee was as professional as they came, a good submarine captain, and someone he respected deeply; more than a friend, more than a brother... maybe someday he'd get brave enough to admit to himself just how deep that respect went, but for now he was content to hide his paternal feelings in their mutual friendship.
Harry's thoughts turned toward the voyage; he was rather looking forward to this cruise and the subsequent diving it would entail. He smiled and sat back enjoying the last of his “tea” and making a mental note to remember just how he made it for the future.
* * * * *
Seaview's three day journey to Pearl Harbor was smooth and uneventful, just as expected. Lee started the voyage with some extra intense angles and dangles maneuvers meant to shake up crew complacency as much as identify loose cargo. The crew responded to the extreme maneuvers with skill rising to the occasion and doing their Captain proud, the extra maneuvers made possible by the fact that the scientist's sensitive equipment wouldn't be loaded until they reached port.
The next few days were spent with more drills ran on all four watches as Lee gauged his crew's readiness for action and ability to handle emergency repairs. Now that the “work” was done both he and the crew could settle into the anticipation for the dives they would conduct once they picked up their guests. From Pearl they would proceed another three days to the Marshall Islands to conduct research in the coral reefs of several interesting atolls. There would be plenty of dive times available for those interested and certified at depths over 150 feet as they investigated the base of the volcanic craters documenting the interesting ecosystem of the area.
Lee of course planned on taking his share of dives and was looking forward to the pristine waters surrounding the atoll. Cookie was looking forward to requisitioning fresh supplies from several nearby islands, something a submariner could truly appreciated as long voyages submerged meant a hearty dose of food from the canned variety. All in all the crew were in high spirits and looking forward to the cruise.
* * * * *
“Good Morning Carl.”
“Top of the morning to you Harriman,” Dr. Carl Johnson replied as he crossed the gang plank, his excitement for the voyage fueling his morning greeting.
“My, she's a grand boat,” Carl complimented before remembering his manners and turning to his small entourage just now crossing the gang plank.
“May I present my team? You already know my assistants Derek Eaton and Tom Hurley,” he started as handshakes and greetings were returned. “And this is Dr. Phineas MacDonnell, he just joined the team and will be invaluable in the identification and classification of the species we document,” Carl complimented.
“Doctor,” Harry said reaching for a handshake.
“Good to meet you Admiral Nelson,” MacDonnell replied in a soft Irish accent to compliment his light brown hair with just a tint of red producing a less dramatic but still interesting auburn head of hair.
“And may I present Seaview's Master and Commander, Captain Crane,” Harry said turning to introduce Lee who was standing by gracefully receiving Seaview's guests and awaiting the necessary introductions.
“Gentlemen,” Lee greeted with a confident smile. “Welcome aboard. Now if you'll follow Seaman Riley he'll escort you to your cabins. In the meanwhile we'll finish processing your luggage and equipment and load them through the cargo bay.”
Dr. Johnson clapped his hands together in a single strike, rubbing them together profusely in animated excitement.
“What did I tell you Mac? She's a beauty eh?” Carl said addressing MacDonnell with a pat on the back guiding his fellow scientist into the Conning Tower.
“She is indeed,” Mac replied, his Irish accent adding a pleasing ambience as the deck crew conducted their security check of the luggage and equipment.
“Inform me when we're ready to shove off, Lee,” Harry said filing in behind the last of their guests.
“Aye Sir,” Lee replied then turned to look over the deck crew's work; finding everything in order he proceeded down the ladder to make the final preparations to depart.
* * * * *
Captain Crane guided Seaview from its berth to the Harbor and open seas then ordered all look-outs below as he climbed down the ladder, skipping the last three rungs and hopping to the Control Room deck then turning toward the radio shack for the expected send off from Pearl.
“We have clearance to dive, Sir,” Sparks relayed efficiently.
“Very well, Sparks. Send my compliments to the Harbor Master,” Lee replied heading towards the chart table to join Chip.
“Status Mr. Morton?” Lee asked stowing his cover and shedding his jacket to get to work.
“We're all green and ready to answer bells, Sir.”
“Very well. Mr. Morton dive the boat to ninety feet. Set course to 2-7-5 degrees relative and proceed at Standard.”
Lee took the opportunity to scan the situation lights and easily gauged his Boat's readiness with a skillful glance then walked to the Navigation Computer tearing off the read-out. Across the deck the Front Porch was crowded with the Research Team as Dr. Johnson and his two assistants pressed against Seaview's windows like children against a candy shop window, taking in the awesome sights of the submerging vessel. Dr. MacDonnell however, stood by himself and looked only mildly impressed with the Herculite Windows that gave Seaview her name.
Lee dismissed the scene as unimportant as some people were harder to impress than others, at any rate he went about his duties as Seaview glided along in the depths toward her destination; the coral rich atolls of the Marshall Islands.
* * * * *
“This is the Missile Room from where we'll be conducting our dives,” Captain Crane explained as he gave the fifty cent tour. “Due to the sensitive equipment here it's Restricted except when the equipment is being serviced which you are free to monitor, and when the dives are being conducted,” he clarified with a professional smile to ease the sting of their limited access.
His words were met with polite smiles and nods of acknowledgement as the team was well aware that Seaview was unlike any research vessel they had ever participated on before. Their tour had already included the Lab, Wardroom, Sickbay and a general walk about the Boat with explicit restrictions on certain vital areas including the Reactor Room, though they were allowed to view through the window producing the expected “oohs” and “aahs” of most visitors.
The areas of most interest were the routes to the non-restricted areas and negotiating the route to and from the Missile Room for the dives. Otherwise, the scientists were aware that Seaview was a working sub with military ties and industrial secrets that had to be protected.
“If there are no more questions Seaman Rodriguez will conduct you back to your quarters,” Lee offered as he handed off his charges so he could return to the Control Room. He stayed back a moment to confer with the Weapons Chief and took the moment to watch the scientists as they filed out. He was more than a little interested in one of the scientists who seemed to be a bit “off” in his estimation. It wasn't the first time he had thought that about a guest aboard and unfortunately he had a good track record of being right. He just seemed to be a bit bored with the entire process that is, until their tour reached the Reactor Room.
It wasn't anything he did and he hadn't even asked any questions, unlike the others in the party. No, it was something much more elusive and yet still definitive. Lee had spent most of his career reading people, particularly with his night job at ONI. He had developed what his fellow operatives had deemed a “Sixth Sense” regarding danger. It wasn't an extra sense he realized, just the ability to see when something wasn't right and the freedom to explore the possibility until he was proven otherwise; it was a skill he had developed and learned to trust. In this case it was the intensity in the scientist's eyes as he viewed... no... studied the Reactor Room. Lee noticed that intensity and hadn't liked the extra scrutiny Seaview's Guest gave the Boat's power plant. He didn't have anything else to go on and nothing solid to report yet, so he filed it away with the intention of watching the scientist closely. If he was wrong, then no harm done. If not... well, he'd deal with it when he knew what he was dealing with.
* * * * *
Seaview's windows were the star attraction that night as Harry hosted dinner in the Nose, a habit he adopted on the first night of a Voyage with guests aboard. Subsequent meals would be served in the Wardroom, but for now the Front Porch provided an elegant welcome and a chance to show off the unique abilities of the giant submarine.
The dinner also gave Lee another chance to watch his guests and gauge whether his initial concerns were valid.
The assistants, Derek Eaton and Tom Hurley were currently engaged in a lengthy conversation amongst themselves about their last deep water dives; they were both grad students whose exuberance for the voyage was both catchy and enjoyable.
Dr. Johnson remained open and friendly, clearly the extrovert in the group even managing to draw Dr. MacDonnell into the conversation. Lee was starting to understand the Irishman more as it appeared that while he was the quietest of the group he didn't lack for intelligence or conviction. Though he was content to listen and melt into the room he had become quite animated when discussing the coral reef in particular. He knew his business and his participation in the conversation had gone a long way in easing Lee's concerns, his only question now was the keen interest he noted in the Reactor Room.
“Dr. MacDonnell,” Lee said, directing his conversation to the auburn haired scientist as the steward poured coffee for the group. “I noticed you were particularly interested in the Reactor Room,” Lee stated casually, hoping to dispel his concerns about the doctor.
Mac cracked a smile. “I'm afraid you caught me in a moment with my first love after the sea Captain Crane... nuclear physics,” he admitted as Harry raised an eyebrow. Though he himself was evidence of a marine scientist with interests in other disciplines he rarely found another mariner also interested in the intense subject.
“I had no idea!” Johnson added shaking his head in wonder.
“Yes, well I dabbled in it a bit in college, I found it simply fascinating,” he answered.
“What made you choose Marine over Atomic Research?” Lee asked curiously.
“My love for the sea won out,” MacDonnell answered with a shrug of his shoulders as the assistants finished their discussion to rejoin the current conversation of the table.
“I can certainly understand that,” Harry chimed in with a nod. “But as you can see we have the best of both worlds on Seaview,” he said referring to the marine research vessel's nuclear propulsion.
“Yes, this Boat is a wonder... if only it weren't a submersible,” MacDonnell admitted with a chuckle and a red face as Lee realized the doctor's earlier dull reaction to the windows was in fact his way of coping with underwater travel.
The table laughed appropriately with him as the conversation moved on while Lee sat back taking a sip of his hot coffee, content that his earlier concern for MacDonnell had been misplaced for simple circumstances. It looked like it was going to be a nice quiet voyage after all.
* * * * *
Seaview's guest lay in the rack with his eyes wide open working through the necessary steps to meet his objective; his diversion had to be a good one. He smiled when he realized how simple the answer was and dropped off to sleep dreaming of the benefits of a successful mission.
* * * * *
Seaview reached her destination as Lee brought the submarine in for an up close and personal view of the base of the atoll, born out of a dead volcano that rose from the sea and decayed slow enough for the sea life to capture it for its own, building a habitat and ecosystem of living coral in the warm tropical weather. It was a brief but awesome visit as Seaview's flood lights lit up the incredible view including the abundant sea life. The Nose was filled with the scientists as they all jockeyed for the best spot against the herculite windows to see their particular area of interest. Their delight was countered by their collective disappointment when it was time to station Seaview back for the evening.
“All back, dead slow,” Captain Crane ordered as Lee positioned her three hundred yards off the base of the extinct volcano. It would be a bit of a swim to the base, the length of three football fields, but necessary to give the Boat maneuvering room to respond to any unforeseen event. To this end the diving parties would utilize the sea scooters. The coral reef formed on top was of particular interest to Dr. Johnson, while the aquatic life at the base of the slowly eroding volcano was Dr. MacDonnell's field of study. Though many atolls supported small human populations this one was uninhabited giving the researchers a chance to study the coral reef without the added variable of human habitation. Shore parties would be conducted to study the erosion rate vs the coral growth once the diving expeditions were complete. All in all it was a well-planned expedition, one that the Admiral was especially pleased to participate in.
“Sir we're at ninety feet, trim satisfactory,” Bobby O'Brien reported.
“Very well Mr. O'Brien. Hold here until further orders.”
“Aye Sir,” Bobby replied as Lee noted their position in the Log Book.
“That was some show you put on,” Harry said, siding up next to Lee as the two exchanged grins.
“It was pretty exciting,” Lee admitted.
“Well you've got our guests chomping at the bits to get out there.”
“I'm pretty excited about the thought myself. These waters are amazingly clear for the depth, it should be a beautiful dive.”
“Is this the dive schedule?” Harry asked looking over the report as he spoke.
“Aye Sir. I'll lead the first dive and Sharkey will take the second. The following day you'll lead Dive 1 and Chip will lead Dive 2. I'm keeping Riley in reserves for the Flying Sub should we have an emergency requiring altitude flight.”
Harry nodded, the deep dive at 150 feet below sea level required careful spacing of dive times as well as avoiding altitude for several days after the dive.
“Very well...” Harry paused as Lee smiled knowingly. “You're up to something Captain Crane,” he deduced handily.
“Aye Sir. We'll be out of the altitude flights starting tomorrow, so I thought we could take FS1 out for a spin and check out the crater from top side before we lose our daylight,” he schemed.
Harry returned his smile. “Lead the way Captain Crane,” he said with a whole-hearted pat to Lee's shoulder.
“Mr. O'Brien prepare FS1 for immediate launch.”
* * * * *
FS1 broke the surface and took to the air at an exhilarating speed, one which Lee Crane was enjoying immensely. Harry invited the two lead scientists aboard for an opportunity to view the crater from the air and offered Lee the left seat as pilot in order to be free to make his own observations. He knew Lee enjoyed piloting and it pleased the Admiral to watch his young Captain fly the craft with such expertise, if not finesse.
Lee circled the atoll as Dr. Johnson and Dr. MacDonnell each blew breaths of extreme satisfaction making observations once getting over the awe-inspiring view. The atoll was an unusual, but not unheard of triangular shape, instead of the common round or oval shape of most atolls. The crater itself however, was round as expected with the caldera sporting a crystal blue lagoon.
“She's beautiful,” Dr. Johnson observed.
“Yes, and a fine specimen of an atoll,” Dr. MacDonnell agreed, his gentle Irish accent adding an almost poetic flair to his words as Lee took one final pass around the small island.
“Well Gentlemen,” Harry interrupted. “I'm afraid we must submerge. As Captain Crane pointed out we'll be losing our light soon but tomorrow we'll begin the exploration from below,” he promised.
“This was quite a treat,” Johnson replied gratefully.
“Indeed, I must say I tolerate flying a bit easier than the depths,” MacDonnell agreed, loosening up for the first time since the cruise began.
“Are you all buckled in?” Lee asked over his shoulder.
“Yes Captain Crane, we're all set here,” Johnson replied for both of them as MacDonnell closed his eyes to endure the inevitable splash as they pierced the sea.
Less than ten minutes later they were docking with Seaview. Lee stayed below to shut down the flying sub as Harry followed his guests up the ladder each chattering away about the view from the air. The assistants were waiting, anxious to hear about their adventure as Harry herded them to the Wardroom so the Control Room wouldn't be disturbed.
“How was the ride?” Chip asked as Lee climbed up the hatch.
“Great! It's just beautiful, the shore excursions are going to be almost as exciting as the dives,” he predicted as he shed his leather flight jacket.
“Sounds good. Ready to hit the Wardroom?” Chip asked with an easy smile as the two headed aft, conversing lightly about the upcoming dives.
* * * * *
Everything was moving according to plans, this couldn't be any more perfect, he thought as he resisted the urge to visit the Reactor Room. His entire plan depended on the rods from Seaview's Reactor but he would have to be patient; the moon had to be aligned just right. Soon, he contemplated. In two days everything would be perfect.
* * * * *
Lee led the first dive in the pristine waters at the base of the atoll. Two more teams followed Lee out along with his diving partner, Kowalski. Ski had long since been Lee's choice as the two worked well together and had developed a high level of trust. Dr. MacDonnell and Rodriguez followed, along with the Grad student, Derek Eaton and his partner Patterson.
They were a small army of scooters as Lee kept Seaview's distance three hundred yards away giving the great submarine options for maneuvering quickly if necessary. The waters were pristine and as Lee noted yesterday, amazingly clarified for the depth. Their first order of business was setting up the flood lights towed behind two scooters riding in tandem on sea-baskets, elongated baskets used as carts providing the equipment that all the subsequent dives would need as well.
Lee's yellow dive suit was easy to see as the spot lights lit the area producing several gasps of pure enjoyment as the volcanic island's long since cooled lava flow produced an inviting habitat for a large variety of sea life.
“Let's get to work men,” Lee directed as the Teams went about their assigned tasks.
Patterson felt a tap on his shoulder and turned to see his partner, Derek pointing toward a rock cropping where a bright tropical fish was nesting inside a cubby hole. Patterson nodded as the two swam that direction, it was on the edge of their collection sector but still within dive parameters. Once they reached the colorful fish, Patterson pulled his underwater camera to document the species as Derek placed a hot hand on his shoulder; the un-natural heat instantly affecting Pat as he froze in place, seemingly filming his subject but actually lost in a daze as he stared straight ahead unaware of his surroundings.
Derek checked to make sure no one was looking then swam behind the out-cropping to check on his equipment. Sometime later he emerged and swam back to Patterson and released the heat from his shoulder as Pat blinked then continued as if nothing happened.
“Time to go back,” Derek motioned as Pat looked down at his dive watch, perplexed at the fact that he had lost track of time to the tune of twenty minutes. It was very unlike the conscientious seaman as his confusion registered in his eyes even from under the dive mask. Pat stowed his camera as the pair rejoined the Teams assembling for their return to Seaview. They turned off the flood lights but left them in place and scootered back to the Boat.
Once aboard the Team's excitement filled the Missile Room as they chattered amongst themselves while shedding their neoprene dive suits.
Lee smiled when greeted by both Harry and Chip as he described the relatively warm waters and the variety of specimens to document. The ecosystem here was especially well developed and indeed, Lee noted that the water was at least ten degrees warmer than expected for the depth.
“Hmmm,” Harry said pondering the situation with a finger to his chin in deep thought. “We'll have to do some investigating, perhaps the volcano is still active...”
“Or a new magma chamber is building,” Dr. Johnson added.
“Could be, at any rate I haven't seen anything to curb the next dives,” Harry observed.
“Perhaps,” Lee replied. “But I definitely want to keep Seaview's distance for the duration, and any further rise in water temperature may end the dives,” he qualified, a precautionary move that would be regretful but necessary if an underwater eruption were to catch them off-guard.
“Still volcanoes are notoriously unpredictable. I caution that being overly careful may deny our generation of important knowledge. If a magma chamber is active it may be years, even hundreds of years before it makes its way to an eruption,” Dr. MacDonnell joined in.
Lee nodded his head in disagreement. “I disagree Doctor, if the water temperature is already affected then that is strong evidence that the magma flow is either very close to the sea floor, or perhaps has erupted on the other side of the atoll.”
“The Captain's right Mac,” Johnson added, reentering the conversation as Harry stood back privately pleased at Lee's knowledge as Seaview's Captain hadn't been intimidated by the PhD one bit.
“What do you propose, Lee?” Harry joined in.
“Let's take FS1 out for a scouting expedition, below the surface this time. We can take some additional temperature readings from various locations, if the area is stable I'll approve the second dive team's expedition.”
“Very well,” Harry said turning to the scientists who were a bit worried that their long awaited journey was going to be cut short. “I concur with both Captain Crane's assessment as well as his methodology. We'll get a base-line for temperatures in the area and proceed from there,” he finished, summing up the plan. Heads nodded in agreement as Derek Eaton continued to stow his diving gear, listening intently but deliberately not engaging himself in the conversation.
* * * * *
Harry and Lee took FS1 out, without passengers this time, as the two sought to ascertain whether subsequent dives would be permitted.
“Let’s start with a complete circuit around the base,” Harry suggested as Lee nodded in agreement, sitting as co-pilot this time around.
“It looks fine,” Lee observed as they encircled the large sea mound.
“I agree. I see no evidence of new flow exposed or even cooling in pillow magma,” Harry added.
Harry pursed his lips. “Let’s take some base line temperature readings at various points around the mound. We should get a feel for where the hot spots are and hone in our search from there.”
“Very well, Sir,” Lee said, popping the bottom hatch moon pool and taking a reading then marking its location by coordinates. They repeated the procedure for the next hour as Lee read off the temperatures with each sample.
“Well Lee, the temperature may be eight to ten degrees higher than we expected, but there’s no evidence of hot spots, thermal vents or magma activity. Given that water temperatures with a fully active volcano may affect the temperatures by as much 65 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale I’d say the anomaly is of passive concern,” Harry concluded.
Lee nodded his agreement. “I agree Sir. I’ll authorize the next dive,” he conceded as he took the co-pilot’s chair.
“You were right to investigate Lee,” Harry encouraged. “Both your judgement and conclusions were sound and demanded action,” he complimented as Lee smiled.
“Thank you Sir,” he said with a slight chuckle. “You know me, a bit cautious where Seaview is concerned.”
“You may be cautious where Seaview is concerned but you had our guests holding on with white bare knuckles on yesterday’s flight,” Harry teased with a hearty chuckle to lighten the mood.
“What can I say Sir? She handles like a dream,” Lee quipped taking the time to rub FS1’s console in appreciation for his Baby.
They were still chuckling when Harry cleared his throat, adjusted his mic and contacted Seaview for docking.
* * * * *
Derek Eaton lay in his rack contemplating the day's events. It had been entirely too close; Captain Crane almost forced him to move before he was ready but now everything was back on schedule. The second dive led by Chief Sharkey had gone well but he was forced to divert his plans slightly since Crane noticed the temperature change. He intended on warming up the low level power converters over-night but decided against it as the temperature variant would raise red flags with Seaview's over-conscientious Skipper. It was only a slight delay, he still had to wait for the best trajectory as the moon moved into position anyway. In two days his plan would be in full swing.
* * * * *
Lee blew out his regulator testing air flow as he and Team One prepared for the next set of dives. Harry and Chip had led two very successful dives the previous day giving the Admiral a plethora of samples to work on. The water temperature was stable and the dives were proceeding as planned.
“Pardon me, Captain,” Derek Eaton said with a smile as he “inadvertently” bumped into Lee.
“No problem Eaton,” he answered politely and then addressed the Team.
“Alright men, you have your assignments. Let's make it a good dive. Stay with your Dive Partners and remember we're in warm waters, sharks are always a possibility. Stay sharp and aware,” he advised as the Team nodded in agreement.
It took several turns through the dive hatch to launch all the divers and their equipment but soon they had all exited and were headed to the seamount via sea scooters.
Eaton collected his sample, trying to look interested in the insignificant research the humans were engaging in. He noted the time on his dive watch, it had been easy to tamper with Crane's tank, after-all he manipulated the atmosphere around him constantly to walk among the humans. It was quite easy to introduce carbon dioxide into the Captain's tank, the odorless gas would soon give him the diversion he needed.
“Skipper!” he heard over his ear piece.
Eaton smiled; his diversion was in full swing.
* * * * *
Kowalski scootered beside his dive partner towards their sample sector. The conditions were perfect for a dive as he and the Skipper stowed the scooters and pulled out their equipment. Ski was an avid diver and had anticipated the swim today with great enthusiasm. He knew Captain Crane was looking forward to diving as well; the two had been paired together early as partners and it was common knowledge that when the Skipper went out, Ski would be his partner. They worked well together and trusted one another to watch their sixes.
Ski was holding the sample pouch for the Skipper when something went wrong. There wasn't any warning as all of the sudden the Skipper went limp, his sample dropping to the ocean floor in the process.
“Skipper!” Ski yelled reaching for Captain Crane who was no longer swimming as his body moved with the currents around him.
Ski wasted no time and made the call. “Emergency! Emergency!”
“What's going on Kowalski?” Chief Sharkey inquired, monitoring the dive from the Missile Room.
“It's the Skipper Sir. He blacked out.”
“Get him back aboard!” Sharkey ordered then clicked for the Control Room.
“Missile Room to Exec.”
“Exec here. I heard Chief. Secure the dive, recall all divers.”
By that time the rest of the dive team were making their way over to assist; in the confusion no-one noticed Derek Eaton slip behind the rock-cropping once again.
“Secure the dive. Repeat. Secure the dive,” Sharkey ordered then relented the Com as he heard the “Clear the line” order from the Exec.
“Sickbay this is the Exec.”
“Sickbay Aye. Jamieson here.”
“Report to the Missile Room Doc, we have an emergency. Captain Crane is unconscious and on his way back in.”
“I'll be right there.”
As soon as the Com was cleared the Admiral's voice was heard.
“What's going on Chip?”
“Unknown Sir. I've recalled the dive team, all I know is Lee is unconscious.”
“I'll be right there.”
With that Chip shipped the mic and ran to the Missile Room.
* * * * *
Derek entered the shaft and quickly went about his business, the sooner he warmed up the power converters the sooner he could send his message. The converters had sat dormant for a long time, they would need to be warmed up before introducing the power source; a few adjustments and he was back outside. They were preparing to haul Crane back using a sea basket as a stretcher towed behind two scooters. One of the dive team towed Crane's scooter in as Eaton grabbed his and caught up with his dive partner.
“There you are Eaton,” Patterson said disgusted that he lost track of his partner in the emergency evacuation.
Derek ignored the comment and scootered in. The diversion was a success but the expected dramatics in the Missile Room would provide the real diversion he needed.
* * * * *
The Missile Room was ready to receive the emergency with Jamie and his team standing by as Harry and Chip joined the crowded Missile Room waiting impatiently for the indicator light to cycle to green. They watched the Water Flow Port as the lowering ball indicated the water was pumping out. As soon the light cycled to green the hatch was opened as Ski and Ron dragged the Skipper's limp body out of the hatch. Helping hands helped to lower Lee to the ground as Jamie removed his face mask and noted his blue lips right away.
“Oxygen,” Jamie ordered as a corpsman placed the face mask over the Captain. Jamie unzipped the yellow dive suit and placed two fingers on his carotid pulse at the neck, his face registering relief when he found a weak pulse. He lifted Lee's hand and noted the blue finger nails, then raised his eye lids to gauge his pupil responsiveness.
“Let's get him to Sickbay,” Jamie ordered, after placing his patient on a stretcher.
“Jamie?” Harry implored, needing something from Seaview's doctor.
“All indications are hypoxia Admiral, I'll have to run some tests and let you know the rest,” he said over his shoulder and followed his patient out the hatch.
Harry blew a disgusted breath out as the last diving team emerged from the vertical hatch, the second team having already boarded during the confusion.
He turned to order all tanks be inspected but Chip was already on it giving instructions to Sharkey in rapid fire mode. Harry pursed his lips tightly having already surmised lack of oxygen from Lee's blue lips; there were several ways that could happen from an empty tank to carbon dioxide contamination but with the investigation already in the Chief's able hands he headed toward the hatch. Where he wanted to be right now was Sickbay.
* * * * *
Derek Eaton was in the second group to board via the dive hatch. As expected, all attention was focused on Captain Crane's unconscious body on the deck. Quickly he shed his tank and gear and headed to the supply cabinet in the corner. Though he manipulated his own immediate area to his own physiology he would need a little extra help with something as large as the Seaview. He looked around making sure he was completely alone and grabbed three M-11 canisters, a sleep gas used to anesthetize large sea creatures. He stuffed them in his sample pouch and headed into the corridor with no one even missing the assistant.
* * * * *
Harry watched as Jamie worked on Lee; the doctor finished his ministrations and then looked up with a small smile.
“He's responding to treatment,” he reported obviously relieved. “The best thing for him is rest and oxygen, why don't you come back later Admiral. He'll be out for awhile,” Jamie said with a soft smile trying to soften the blow that he was kicking the Admiral out from under foot.
Harry recognized the move but relented, he needed to think and the best place for that was his lab.
“Very well, Jamie. Keep me informed,” he ordered, adding a pat to Lee's shoulder as he walked by.
Harry headed to the Lab with heavy steps. A diving accident was never an easy thing to swallow and one like this should never happen. He was more than a little ticked off and intended to get to the bottom of the mishap, but for now he had some experiments to secure in the Lab. He’d let Chief Sharkey and Chip conduct the investigation but if negligence was to blame, heads were going to roll.
* * * * *
The investigation was ongoing but the preliminary conclusion wasn’t good. Lee’s tank had been exposed to carbon dioxide, a mishap easily occurring when tanks are stored in poor ventilated areas… only this tank was properly stored. Furthermore, it was stored alongside the other tanks used in the dive and Chief Sharkey had verified that those tanks were A-OK. The unused tanks were ship-shape as well which led one to conclude that Captain Crane’s tank had been deliberately sabotaged.
Chip headed to the Lab, there was going to be hell to pay and as he didn’t have all the answers yet he wanted to report to Harry in person. When he opened the hatch he found Harry sitting in deep thought, Chip was pretty sure he knew what the Admiral was thinking about and took a deep breath, secured the hatch behind him and proceeded to report.
* * * * *
Eaton made his way to Air Revitalization. He was still wearing his black dive suit, there was no reason to change since he’d need it for later but right now he needed to neutralize any resistance from Seaview’s Crew.
He entered the compartment and was greeted by a seaman in a blue jump suit.
“I’m sorry sir, this is a restricted area.”
“Oh so sorry, I seem to have gotten turned around…”
That’s as far as he got before issuing a heavy blow to the rating's neck and a follow-up double-fisted blow to his back. The rating fell at his feet as Eaton smiled, locked the door behind him and opened Seaview’s main ventilator shaft.
He placed the canisters in the shaft and then retrieved a rebreather mask for himself from the emergency stores in the compartment; it was time to put the Boat to sleep. He activated the canisters, closed the vent and waited.
* * * * *
Lee’s eyes fluttered open in confusion as he reached for the mask over his face.
“Whoa there Skipper,” Jamie said stopping Lee’s hand in motion. “You're oxygen deficient, just listen and I’ll fill you in with what I know.”
Lee nodded, feeling tired as he realized he was in a Sickbay bunk.
“There’s been a diving accident, you’re suffering from hypoxia,” Jamie explained as Lee’s eyes widened. “Before you ask, no one else was affected,” he assured Seaview’s Captain. “You were unconscious and Kowalski brought you in. Do you remember any of this?”
Lee shook his head in a tired “No”.
“Well that’s not unusual. Hypoxia due to diving mixture problems often have no symptoms before the victim blacks out. You were fortunate that Kowalski was on his game.”
Lee nodded in agreement and implored with his eyes, “How long?”
Jamie seemed to understand and answered without the audible question. “We’ll keep you on oxygen for the next hour, but your readings are already approaching normal. Then another four hours for observation, we’ll see how you’re doing then but I expect I’ll release you to light duty tomorrow. I’m afraid no more dives on this voyage.”
Lee closed his eyes with a breath out and then opened them and nodded his understanding.
Jamie placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled sincerely. “Just rest up Skipper, we’ll get you back in the Control Room soon,” he promised and walked away grateful that this diving accident had a happy ending.
Lee sighed and glanced at the clock. Five hours; that was a long time to lie around. He yawned under his face mask, deciding a nap was in order and closed his eyes. He was out almost immediately and didn’t hear the two thuds as both Jamieson and the corpsman hit the floor, deeply unconscious.
* * * * *
Well that went well, Chip thought dryly as Harry reined in his intense emotions over the report.
The Admiral paced the floor and threw a hand in the air in exasperation.
“But who? Who on board would want to do harm to Lee?”
“We really don't know they were targeting Lee, Sir. Anyone could have received that tank,” Chip cautioned.
“Yes you're right of course, but then the question begs to be asked, 'What did they have to gain by sabotaging a tank?'” Harry asked rhetorically, calming down to solve the puzzle.
Chip nodded having no answer to give as the two stood in momentary silence, then decided the best thing to do was to give Harry room to think things through.
“If you don't mind Sir, I think I'll check in on Lee,” Chip said sensing their conversation had come to an end.
“I'll go with you. Jamie kicked me out once but Blast It! if I still don't own this Boat,” Harry said with a grin, not forgetting the diving accident but needing to bring his tenseness down a few notches.
“Aye Sir, you do indeed,” Chip deadpanned, but let loose a small smile himself, glad to see the Admiral calming down and knowing the walk would do him good. Chip turned the wheel on the hatch as the two exited the Lab and rounded the corner headed for Sickbay when they found a crewman out cold on the deck. Harry leaned down and checked his pulse.
“No signs of injury,” he said a bit confused as Chip spotted a crewman's arm extended out past the next corner.
“There's another one, Sir,” Chip said jogging to the second downed crewman.
Harry checked him over as Chip started toward the mic hanging on the wall.
Chip stopped in his tracks and turned around as Harry raised the seaman's eyelid and pursed his bottom lip.
“He's out cold, some kind of sedative by the look of his eyes,” he deduced.
Chip stopped and looked back at the other crewman. “A gas?” he asked putting two and two together.
Harry nodded. “The Lab runs on a separate Air Revitalization Unit to keep the experiments contained in the event of a mishap.” Chip nodded knowing as much.
“Let's check this out before we go announcing the fact that we're awake on the Boat Com system,” Harry advised cautiously.
They walked a little further until they reached a locked cabinet in the corridor which Harry opened with his master key, pulling out laser guns and personal rebreathers. They each attached the rebreathers to their belts and proceeded with their weapons drawn. As they moved along their suspicions proved correct as every crewman they came across was out cold on the deck. Knowing Seaview was under siege they abandoned their original destination of Sickbay and headed to the Control Room to find out who was running the Boat.
* * * * *
Eaton checked his watch. The M-11 gas was strong enough to put a whale to sleep which forced Eaton to wait with his rebreather in place as he made adjustments to the carbon dioxide levels for his physiology. He thought the crew should be neutralized by now, but waited not knowing how long it would take the gas to disperse throughout the entire Boat. His reconnaissance mission would be a failure if he couldn’t report, so he waited a little longer then headed for his objective; the first step in sending his message… the Reactor Room.
* * * * *
Lee woke with the necessities of life calling him. He turned his head noting the clock, it hadn’t been an hour yet but he was feeling much better. No one seemed to be around, which was odd when a patient was in a bunk, but not completely unusual as these were the times he made his best escapes. Jamie was probably in his office and the corpsman in the pharmacy stores. He checked his finger nails and saw they carried a healthy oxygen rich pink hue beneath his nails and figured it was safe to take the mask off, at least until he was done in the head.
Lee pulled the sheets off, happy to note he was wearing scrubs and stood cautiously. He was only slightly dizzy at first but steadied up quickly and headed to take care of business. It wasn't until he exited the head that he noticed someone lying on the floor. He moved quickly to the crewman, finding the corpsman unconscious with no apparent injuries.
“Jamie?” he called but got no response as he took a few more steps and found Seaview's doctor in the same condition. It was about that time he felt a shudder in Seaview and noted the lights flickering. It soon corrected itself but he noted the lights were lower in intensity as Lee headed to the wall mic for answers.
“This is the Captain...” he stopped his hail when he realized he wasn't broadcasting and reasoned that the loss of power was significant enough to knock out the Com system. The current situation took precedent over Jamie's orders to rest as Lee decided he needed to find out what was going on. Lee opened a closet looking for and finding his uniform, Jamie was always good at having a steward bring one since he didn't like to walk Seaview's corridors in a robe. He dressed quickly and then headed straight for the Reactor Room, when he found help he would send them to Sickbay to help Jamie and the corpsman.
* * * * *
Harry and Chip reached the Control Room only to find it manned with unconscious crewmen. Harry paused, rethinking his original assumption that someone was taking over the Boat and wondered if there was a problem with the gas mixture in Air Revitalization. That assessment was quickly revised when Seaview's power level dropped significantly causing the lights to dim and taking out most of the Control Room stations, obviously not having enough juice to run them.
Chip wasted no time running to the helm to assess their condition from there.
“We're still holding trim,” he reported.
“That won't be the case if we lose any more power,” Harry stated sharply. “Come on Chip, let's stay together until we know what we're dealing with.”
Chip nodded and followed, feeling strange leaving Seaview's helm without a commander. They only got a few more steps when the lights flickered off, the generators kicked in and Seaview started nosing down. Chip ran back to helm, trying to adjust trim by blowing the forward ballast tanks but nodded his head in a frustrated negative when he got no response.
“It's no use,” he yelled over his shoulder trying to adjust the planes to pitch up. Harry added his effort and then abandoned it as Seaview's nose-heavy pitch got the best of her and she plummeted down to rest on the ocean floor with a thud as the crew spilled across the deck unmercifully.
Harry and Chip pulled themselves off the deck, checking and finding themselves injury free. “Come on Chip. We can't do anything here we need to get to the Reactor Room!”
* * * * *
Eaton pulled six of the ten Rods, effectively dampening down the Reactor but leaving four in place to keep the reactor from going critical resulting in Seaview’s loss of power. The lights lowered in intensity as Eaton smiled, knowing these Rods would power his beam. He collected the Rods and took them to the Missile Room; the sea baskets and scooters were still stowed there for the dives so he loaded up the vertical dive hatch and fetched himself a tank. He hovered his hand over the mixture, increasing the carbon dioxide levels as he had in Crane's tank and donned his regulator then stepped into the hatch to flood the dive chamber.
* * * * *
Lee was headed to the Reactor Room when he felt Seaview going down Nose first. He didn’t have anything to hang onto and ended up sliding down with the angle of attack until the Boat hit the sea floor with thud. He pulled himself up and regathered himself, not sure which direction to head; toward the Reactor Room or to the Control Room when his contemplation was interrupted by the sound of a hatch opening and closing in an adjacent corridor. Lee made his way toward the hatch cautiously as every crewman he had come across previously had been out cold on the deck. He followed the sounds ahead where he caught sight of the hatch to the Missile Room closing and fairly sure that whoever was walking around was the likely source of Seaview's current distress. He needed a weapon and took the time to detour to a nearby cabinet to grab a gun then headed back toward the Missile Room, opening the door cautiously just in time to see the water rise and pressure equalize as the outside hatch was opened. Lee ran to the dive hatch and peered through the port hole, getting a view of a diver exiting and pulling a sea basket loaded with dampening rods behind him.
Quickly he grabbed a black dive suit and started undressing, listening intently for the sound of the outer hatch sealing, grateful when it did so ensuring his ability to pump the chamber. He continued to suit up and waited just a moment to pump the hatch so as not to alert the Diver that someone was following him. He was watching the ball indicator drop when the Missile Room hatch opened and he swung around not knowing if he’d been caught by more bad guys and wishing he hadn't left his gun with his uniform.
“Lee!” Harry yelled in surprise.
“Admiral. Chip. I didn’t know anyone else was awake,” he replied, yet knowing he didn’t have much time as he reached for a sea scooter.
“We were in the Lab… and you were under oxygen,” Harry surmised rather quickly as Lee nodded his understanding.
“Someone just left with the dampening rods. I’ve got to follow them and find out where they’re going,” he said opening the vertical dive hatch which had finished its cycle.
“Lee you’re recovering from hypoxia,” Harry cautioned.
“I've got to go before we lose him, Sir. I'll follow him, but I could use your help out there,” he said not giving Harry a chance to override him and knowing Harry intended to go along anyway. “Chip you keep things secured from here.”
“Lee,” Chip protested.
“No time for this Chip. Seaview is dead without those Rods,” he said stepping in and closing the hatch behind him then immediately flooding the chamber hoping he hadn’t lost the mystery Diver.
* * * * *
Lee exited the hatch and immediately looked for the Diver's scooter light. He caught a glimpse and powered up his scooter turning off his own light and motoring slowly toward the glow of the scooter in the distance. The Diver was heading straight for the sea mount and almost exactly to the location of the earlier dive, continuing past an out-cropping and then disappeared, his light no longer visible.
Lee powered his scooter to full and hurried his pursuit to catch up with where he lost the Diver. He was forced to turn his light on and found a passageway, presumably formed by a rather large hollowed lava tube. As he followed the passageway it opened into a large cavern where he noted light above him and turned off his scooter to investigate. Lee rose in a controlled ascension, barely breaking the water surface over him in what turned out to be an underwater cave. He treaded water with only his mask visible having thought ahead in choosing the black over the yellow dive suit, as he watched the Diver unload the Rods from the sea basket. Lee sunk quietly back under water knowing Harry would never find this place without guidance and negotiated the passage back to the open seas, hoping the Admiral was already on his way.
Lee emerged from behind the rocks and spotted a scooter light headed his way, he assumed it was Harry but kept himself on guard just in case. Thankfully his first assumption proved true as Lee spoke through his dive mic.
“There's a passageway that leads to an underwater cave, the Diver has the Rods.”
“Here,” Harry said handing Lee a laser gun. “Let's go.”
Lee nodded and led the way hoping there was only one bad guy to take down and having no idea why they would need six Reactor Rods; whatever it was he knew it couldn't be good.
* * * * *
A light in a connecting cave indicated the Diver's presence as Harry and Lee swam stealthily for the cave shore. Harry pointed to the sea basket sitting on the cave beach, still holding three rods.
“Stay with the Rods, I'll look for the others,” Harry ordered as Lee started to protest. “If I'm not back in five minutes then take them to Seaview,” Harry added as Lee relented, knowing his recent medical emergency had him physically compromised.
“Be careful Sir,” Lee said then went about securing the rods on the basket. He submerged to retrieve his scooter and by the time he returned Harry was gone.
* * * * *
Harry shed his tanks and pulled the laser pistol, walking cautiously toward the light flowing into the outer cave. As he approached he could hear the sounds of someone moving back and forth across the cave floor, scurrying about as if in a hurry. He leaned against the rocky cave wall listening then risked a peek around the corner. The large cavern was brilliantly lit and full of strange equipment, another light flowed from yet another connecting cave as Harry spotted two Rods placed inside some sort of energy conversion machine; they were in position but not pushed in and engaged. Slowly Harry pulled the two Rods out and slipped out of the cave. The sounds from the cave continued with the thief apparently not aware that the Rods had been taken by their rightful owner.
Harry made his way back to the main cave where Lee secured the Rods to the sea basket.
“Get these back to Seaview and get her powered up,” Harry said. “We're still missing a Rod.”
“Aye Sir,” Lee relented knowing that although Seaview could power up and function with the Rod missing they couldn't leave a Nuclear Rod in unauthorized hands. Any number of scenarios came to mind including harnessing the power for nuclear weapons.
“I'll be back,” Lee promised.
“Negative Captain,” Harry warned. “It will take forty-five minutes to power the reactors back up,” he reasoned. “If I don't return by then you get Seaview away from here and contact ComSubPac.”
They didn't have time to argue so Lee acknowledged his order and submerged towing the basket behind him as Harry headed back inside the cave to secure the last Rod.
* * * * *
Chip was waiting at the hatch to assist Lee as they carefully unloaded the basket.
“You take care of these Chip, I'm going back to help the Admiral,” he said returning to the hatch and intending all along to buck Harry's orders.
“Power up Chip; if we're not back in 45 minutes, take Seaview as far away from here as you can and contact Starke.”
Chip resisted a growl but acknowledged instead with an, “Aye Sir.”
He secured the hatch for Lee and initiated the flooding then cycled the hatch back once Lee exited the Boat. Chip heard a moan and hurried to Chief Sharkey’s side, patting his face trying to help his wakefulness along.
“Chief,” he urged as Sharkey opened his eyes still dazed.
Chip helped him into a sitting position against the torpedo rack as he spoke.
“Just rest here until your mind clears,” Chip urged then gave Sharkey the details he needed to know. “The Boat was sabotaged with sleeping gas. We're dead on the bottom until I get the Rods replaced and the Reactor powered back up. Meet me in the Reactor Room once you've found your sea legs,” he ordered as Sharkey blinked and rubbed his eyes.
“Aye Sir,” he said feeling cotton mouthed and still groggy.
Chip was headed to unload the sea basket when Seaview was rocked by a strong shock wave, knocking him off his feet as the ocean rumbled around them and crewmen slid helplessly across the deck for several rock and rolls until the ocean calmed.
“What was that?” Sharkey asked in exasperation, using the torpedo rack to stand up.
“I don't know Chief, but I think we’d better get Seaview powered up fast!” he said as each one grabbed an armful of nuclear rods and headed for the Reactor Room.
* * * * *
Harry moved along the cave with his laser pistol drawn, entering a chamber filled with computers and equipment. He took the time to look over the computers not recognizing any of the markings from any known country; indeed they looked odd and other-worldly. He suspected an alien force at work, not a stretch as Harry had firsthand experience with beings from other planets on more than one occasion. The means by which the Rods were stolen in the first place indicated caution on his part as he turned to investigate the inner caves. He had a bad feeling about all this and was sure that though Seaview could operate with one Rod dampened he couldn't allow the power source to be hijacked by aliens of unknown origin and intent. He moved stealthily toward the next set of caves when all of the sudden the entire sea mount rumbled as if ready to erupt with a force so great it knocked him off his feet, while bits of rocks and dust rained down on him in the process. The rumbling was so fierce Harry lost his laser pistol as he fell and had to protect his head from falling debris. When it died down he tried to stand up and found his own laser pistol pointed toward him as Derek Eaton greeted him with an eerie unnatural smile.
“Nice of you to join me Admiral Nelson,” he deadpanned, hiding his surprise to see him then noticed the missing Rods from his equipment.
“What have you done?” he demanded with a step forward.
Harry smiled. “You first. Who are you? …Who are you really?”
Eaton motioned Harry to move into the inner cave keeping the laser pistol aimed squarely on his back.
“I'll get those Rods Admiral, I won’t be denied,” he said cryptically as they entered another chamber filled with even more equipment. Harry stood shocked when he spotted a large monitor displaying the atoll from the outside… what he saw made him shudder.
In the middle of the crater's lagoon a large cylindrical cone had emerged rising a least one hundred feet above the crater rim. It was easy to guess that the rumbling he had felt earlier was due to the strange object protruding from the crater.
“What is it? What are you?
“You are very perceptive Admiral Nelson. I am not Derek Eaton in fact, the human never existed. I am Kered and as you have already guessed, I am not from this world. I am all that is left of an advanced scouting team that arrived here over a hundred years ago. We built this complex, then waited and observed.”
“Waited for what?” Harry asked with a raised eyebrow as he perused the cave and spotted Seaview's last nuclear rod.
“Yes, that rod powers my Sphere,” Kered said noting Harry's interest and ignoring his question. “The other rods will power the actual transmission.”
“And which transmission is that?” Harry asked, hoping Kered was willing to continue to enlighten him.
“Why not Nelson? ...I was sent here on a simple reconnaissance mission to determine your planet's defenses. I have ascertained that Earth is no match for our superior weapons and technology, once I retrieve your nuclear rods I will power up the Sphere; the moon's current orbit is aligned perfectly to gain line of sight to our fleet waiting thousands of light years behind it. The Sphere will broadcast my message to the Invasion Force and they in turn will enact their Sphere. The two units will create a powerful energy field for our Invasion Force to travel upon. They will be here in days with our Jump Space Technology!” he finished with flair, his voice rising in volume with every sentence.
“You see the Sphere isn't just a communication's device, it is a means of space travel. We will invade your planet and crush your puny resistance then we will suit this planet to our needs. It is oxygen rich... too rich for our needs. I survive by constantly manipulating the atmosphere around me, but it limits my potential here on earth. My people will not be required to expend their energy in this fashion, we will be like your comic book super heroes, with more power than you can possibly imagine once the atmosphere has been adjusted. We will start by destroying the entire Amazon Rain Forest and most of South America, then move to the forests of North America thereby effectively lowering the oxygen respirated by the plants and trees and leaving a perfectly calculated ratio of carbon dioxide; toxic for humans but perfect for our people.”
Harry scoffed. “That's ridiculous. Our planet survives on the symbiotic relationship of humans and plants giving each other oxygen and carbon dioxide as they respire. When you destroy the plants you will break that relationship with catastrophic results!”
“We need only some humans to survive for our slaves, the rest are of no consequence,” he added without any moral questions as to his actions.
“…And once the Oxygen Cycle has been broken you will see the break-down of all the ecological systems of Earth as well; including animals, insects, birds and sea-life,” Harry continued. “Even if you have no regard for humanity you will lose the resources of this planet and will have conquered it for nothing!” Harry argued, debating not on the morality of destroying human life, for he knew Kered had no regret for his murderous plan; but turning his argument instead toward the misguided logic of trying to reform Earth's atmosphere at the expense of destroying the resources they had come to dominate.
“I leave that to our own scientists to debate and solve,” Kered said unconvinced it was of any concern. “My job is to alert our fleet before they move onto the next sector.”
Harry's cheek twitched. “If you fail to enact your Sphere they'll assume you have failed and that Earth is not ideally suited for their needs,” he reasoned.
Kered nodded slowly. “I have always heard you were quite the Thinker, Nelson. You have deduced both logically and correctly,” he replied evenly. “Advanced teams of twenty-one scouts were sent to hundreds of planets across this galaxy and others, but we were on a one way mission. Once our Invasion Force moves for the next planet I will not be able to contact them, I will be marooned here forever.”
“Then Earth is not best suited for your people, is it?” Harry challenged. “You don't want to be left behind,” he concluded. “But I'm curious Kered, if your team was left here a hundred years ago with the possibility of being bypassed... then what happened to the rest of your team? You are here and apparently quite well, why were you the only survivor of a team of twenty comrades?”
“You seem to thrive on piecing together puzzles, Nelson. Now let me do a bit of deducing myself,” he said ignoring Harry's pointed question. “You were unaffected by the gas... and since you spend most of your waking moments in that Lab or yours, I assume it has a dedicated air revitalization unit.”
“To contain experiments should they go awry,” Harry confirmed to Kered's nod.
“But you are only one man,” he noted. “You believe that by taking the two rods from these units that my plan is now thwarted, but you forget I took six rods. I only need three, I took the other three to ensure that Seaview would be at my disposal. Your Boat is dead without those rods and since you are here, I can assume my Rods are still in the main cavern.” He smiled at what he perceived as brilliant deduction.
“Now since I can't have you running around...” he said, firing the laser pistol as Harry instantly fell to the ground; stunned and unable to move.
Kered looked down at Harry with a scoff. “You asked why I alone survived, Nelson?” His scoff grew to a chuckle. “My Team deduced long ago that Earth was not suitable for our needs. They were weak,” he spat out. “They had compassion on you humans, placing your right to survive as equals to us and dispersed among your people to build lives here; small existences compared to what they should have had,” he added.
“They knew I was not in agreement and hid the power source, so I hunted them down one by one looking for the three Power Orbs. Much more powerful than your pathetic Rods, harnessed in small balls of pure energy,” he explained as Harry tried to blink through the daze of the stun setting on the laser pistol.
“It took years to find them all. I hunted them one by one, but they refused to tell me where they hid the Power Orbs!” he said, his voice escalating in volume. “I destroyed them all and thought I was doomed to an existence among you earthlings,” he said in disgust. “Until you developed your nuclear power... I have waited a long time for the opportunity to call my people. They will not be weak; they will transform this planet and I will have the power that was denied me; power even your fictitious Superman would have envied,” he finished then turned for the main cavern leaving Harry still stunned on the cave floor.
* * * * *
Lee left his scooter at the bottom of the lagoon and submerged carefully. He was inside the passageway when the “sea quake” hit or surely the concussion of the shock waves would have severely injured him. He scanned the cave shore looking for signs that Harry had succeeded and started to swim forward when he spotted Derek Eaton searching the cavern frantically and obviously looking for the missing rods. Eaton grew noticeably agitated when he couldn't find them and stormed back into the inner caves.
Lee took the opportunity to exit the water, shedding his tanks and head piece then pulled his laser pistol and followed Eaton inside. He followed the sound of voices recognizing the Admiral's and leaned against the wall to scout out the situation inside the well-lit chamber.
* * * * *
“The sea-basket is gone!” Kered announced as Harry was able to make his way up, the stun effect slowly wearing off.
“Is it now?” he deadpanned.
“You must have had help, but who?”
“Whom,” Harry corrected and then scoffed. “It was your doing Kered,” Harry taunted. “You arranged it even.”
“Don't speak in riddles, Nelson. Get to the point.”
“You sabotaged Crane's tanks for a diversion,” Harry surmised.
“Of course I did,” Kered answered tersely.
“...And as he was oxygen deprived...” Harry continued as if mentoring Kered's deduction skills along.
Kered's eyes grew wide. “He was on oxygen at the time the gas was dispersed.”
“And now the Rods are safely aboard Seaview,” Harry stated victoriously. “And by now...” Harry said raising his watch to check the time and bluffing as he did so. “The Reactor has been reinitiated and Seaview is well out of your reach.”
“NO!” Kered yelled, realizing that the Invasion Fleet was going to pass Earth by, stranding him on this rock of a planet.
“If I can't go home... NEITHER CAN YOU!!” he screamed raising the laser pistol and intending on unloading the entire charge of the weapon into Harry.
“Eaton!” Lee yelled, making his presence known as the alien turned and fired his direction. Lee fired back distracting Kered as Harry made his way out of harm's way. Shots were exchanged until one laser beam found its mark as Kered fell to the ground with Lee's laser blast hitting him squarely in the chest while producing the expected stun, daze and momentary incapacitation.
“Admiral!” Lee called noticing Harry a bit shaky.
“Nothing to worry about Lee. The other Rod is in here,” he said leading the way to the inner cave.
Inside the second cave Lee was able to see the screen displaying the Sphere rising a hundred feet above the crater and looking exceedingly dangerous. Harry grabbed for the Rod as he spoke over his shoulder.
“We can't leave this for Kered.”
“Eaton is from another world. This Sphere, as he calls it, is a Homing Beacon for an Invasion Force as well as a power source that completes a circuit for space jumping,” he explained. “We must destroy this Sphere so that it can never be used in the future. Order Morton to place two missiles on target, let's blow this contraption to a million pieces,” Harry added passionately and ignoring the possibility for gleaning alien technology as too dangerous given the pending Invasion Force.
“What about Kered?”
“He's dangerous murderer Lee, he hunted down and killed his entire Team in order to find the Orbs that power the Sphere. He also claims that if he didn't have to constantly adjust the atmosphere to suit his needs he would have even more strength than Superman.”
Lee raised an eyebrow at the thought of the fictional comic book character's power in the hands of an evil alien.
“The Reactor should be reinitiated by now,” Lee replied checking his watch, it was still within the forty-five minute window he'd given Chip to wait for them.
“We have to blow it Lee. We can't take a chance of Kered finding those Orbs.”
Lee's forehead furled as Harry suggested the danger was imminent.
“The Orbs are still here,” Harry answered forebodingly.
Lee nodded, knowing exactly what the Admiral was implying and reached for his throat mic.
“Crane to Seaview,” he called.
“Chip is Seaview ready to answer bells?”
“Very well. Give us five minutes then put two missiles on this island. Target the Sphere in the middle of crater. That's an order!” he said signing off without giving Chip a chance to argue.
Chip looked at the chronometer on the wall, his face void of the conflict deep within him as he reached for the mic, the crew having woken and now manning their stations.
“This is the Exec, Reactor Room Report.”
“Reactor Room Aye. The Core is charged and ready for full power Sir.”
“Very well,” he said double clicking. “Engineering Report.”
“Engineering Aye. Ready to Answer Bells, Sir..”
Chip lowered the mic, clearly thinking as Chief Sharkey cautiously approached him.
“Uh... Mr. Morton? You're not going to leave them are you?”
There was a short delay before Chip answered.
“I have my orders Chief.”
“Blow all ballast tanks, let's get her off the bottom,” he ordered. “Give me 10 degrees up bubble and five-oh feet from keel to bottom,” he ordered then turned around and smiled at Sharkey, clearly with an idea.
“I was ordered to move Seaview out of range Chief and that's just what I'm going to do... but I have no standing orders regarding FS1.”
Sharkey's eyes widened as his smile stretched from ear to ear realizing the XO had just come up with Plan B.
“Get ready to launch the flying sub Chief, you're taking her out.”
A hearty “Aye Sir” followed as Sharkey took jovial steps toward the nose hatch.
“And Chief... make all haste, I'm trying to avoid a Captain's Mast here,” Chip deadpanned with a twinkle in his eye as Sharkey replied and double-timed his descent.
“Aye, Aye Sir!”
* * * * *
Harry and Lee hurried past Kered who was still lying stunned on the ground and donned their tanks. Five minutes wasn’t near enough time to safely avoid the shockwaves and subsequent concussion even with the sea scooters but there was nothing else to do; the fate of the entire world hung on Seaview destroying the island.
They were suited up and ready to dive in the lagoon when Kered appeared.
“Nelson!” he screamed with unbridled anger.
Both Lee and Nelson raised their laser pistol to fire but found the pistols whipping out of their grasp as if an invisible hand had snatched them away. Kered stood extending a palm their direction, immediately they found themselves being choked by the same invisible hand as each one grasped at their throats and fells to their knees gasping for air. Kered’s laughter filled the cavern as he rose from the ground and floated before them, hovering over the lagoon and blocking their escape.
“A sample of my powers, Admiral,” he said releasing the choke hold on their necks as they coughed and gasped in air to their starved lungs.
“But you can’t hold out forever, Kered. Sooner or later you’ll have to manipulate the atmosphere again,” Harry taunted, distracting Kered and buying Seaview time.
Kered laughed insanely tilting his head back, inadvertently giving him a view of the cavern ceiling some twenty feet above his head. His eyes widened at the pure blue light piercing out in small holes where the recent rumbling had shook rocks loose and revealed the power he had searched a hundred years for.
“The Orbs!” he shouted forgetting about Harry and Lee and rising upwards to retrieve them.
“Go Lee!” Harry yelled as the two dove into the lagoon, retrieved their scooters and made a mad dash for the open seas.
They had no real expectation of making it through this alive and could only hope that Seaview could fire the missiles before Kered obtained the Orbs.
* * * * *
Kered floated to the top of the ceiling and dug his fingernails in, clawing at the rock for the precious Orbs that had been hidden here in this cavern all along. His comrades... all twenty of them... each one had taken their secret to the grave rather than tell him where the Orbs were. His insane laughter grew as he freed one Orb but then began to feel the effects of his carbon dioxide deprived body. His physiology finding the rich nitrogen/oxygen mixture of Earth’s atmosphere toxic to his being. Still he struggled, clawing away at the second Orb as he felt his power to keep himself hovering in mid-air waning.
“No! I’m so close!” he yelled, encouraging himself along like a man staying underwater too long with burning lungs begging for air.
He released his Orbs as they floated around him and clawed with both hands, suspended in mid-air by his super human powers until the third Orb was free but his requirement of CO2 finally overcame him as he fell twenty feet into the Lagoon. He swam to the shore gasping and transferring his powers to atmosphere manipulation, breathing in the gases his alien body craved in an invisible bubble that covered him like a glove of body armor.
His gasping was finally under control when he realized he had lost the Orbs but the blue hue in the Lagoon quickly gave away their location.
In desperation, Eaton reached his palm toward the Lagoon and concentrated, but his limited powers were greatly affected by his CO2 deprived body and watched with maniacal delight as the three glowing Orbs rose from their watery hold.
* * * * *
Harry and Lee made it to the open sea gratefully finding FS1 sitting directly in front of them as they closed the distance. They ditched the sea scooters abandoning them to the ocean floor as Sharkey opened the deck hatch and pulled them aboard.
“Get us out of here!” Lee yelled as he secured the hatch.
Harry shrugged out of his tanks while Sharkey put the pedal to the medal, engaging emergency speed as the flying sub engaged her water turbo propulsion going from zero to twenty-five knots in mere seconds.
“Buckle in! It's going to be close!” Sharkey yelled over his shoulder as his count-down clock on the console ticked off seconds till impact.
* * * * *
Kered's eyes widened as he used his waning powers to call the Orbs toward him. Soon he would power up the Sphere, there was still time to call the Fleet. He laughed as the Orbs hovered over the water only feet from him. He could almost reach them when multiple explosions rang through his cave complex as the Sphere disintegrated and fell in upon itself, retreating back to the crater depths in heaps of damaged, unusable chunks. The cave around him began to rumble and crumble as Kered lost his concentration only able to hold the Orbs weakly as he diverted his strength from atmosphere manipulation. Rocks and debris rained from the cave ceiling as Kered looked in horror watching the Orbs drop back into the lagoon. The ground rumbled under him, a direct response of the massive Sphere crushing itself under its own weight, destroying the two caves with all his equipment and sending a cloud of debris and concussion waves racing through the tunnel until it reached the lagoon and engulfed him. He diverted all his power back to his required atmosphere having fallen to the ground facing the ceiling as his face suddenly reflected pure terror as he watched in horror-movie fashion the cave ceiling disintegrate over him, falling on him in a massive load of rocky debris. When the dust settled the cave was gone with Kered buried under the rubble dead, as retribution for murdering his fellow Team Members finally caught up with him, while the three Orbs lie on the bottom of the lagoon buried under tons of volcanic rock... their power lost forever.
* * * * *
The count-down clock hit zero and seconds later the flying sub was caught in an incredible shockwave that tossed the small craft about until it flipped end over end, finally settling on the ocean floor in a thud kicking up the sand as it landed. The natural buoyancy of the craft's design righted FS1 as she lay on the ocean floor with the emergency lights glowing red.
The eerie silence aboard was broken by moans heard from three different directions until each man found their way back to lucidness. Lee coughed and unharnessed, grabbing the fire extinguisher and putting out a small electrical fire and then turned toward Harry and Sharkey, sitting in the pilot chairs.
“Is everyone alright?” he asked still coughing out the putrid smell of electrical wires burning.
“I think so Skipper,” Sharkey replied.
“Admiral?” Lee inquired.
“Fine Lee,” Harry said rubbing the burn the harness produced across his shoulder as he put FS1 back through the startup sequence. It only took a moment for full power to be restored as Lee reached for the mic.
“FS1 calling Seaview, come in Seaview.”
“Seaview here. Good to hear your voice Skipper,” Chip Morton greeted with satisfied relief resonating in his voice.
“Thanks to your quick thinking,” Lee complimented with a smile for sending FS1 and knowing full well they would have never survived the concussion from the blast without it.
“We got knocked around pretty good here, what's your status?” Chip asked.
“Took a good tumble and roll but we're okay, vector us in... we're coming home.”
* * * * *
Seaview sat surfaced sitting several hundred yards off the atoll, its landscape now drastically changed after the destruction of the Sphere.
Dr. Johnson and Dr. MacDonnell stood in the Nose looking over the collapsed volcano cone taking in the damage.
“It's hard to believe that Eaton wasn't even human,” Johnson said with a sigh.
“Tragic,” MacDonnell added.
“Yes, but the tragedy lay with Kered’s lack of compassion for the human race, he sought only to rule the Earth with the power he'd receive once he destroyed our forests to adjust Earth's atmosphere,” Harry explained and then went on to contemplate the alien Team’s ability to build the Sphere.
“It’s easy to understand why they picked the volcanic crater to build their Sphere as the natural depletion of oxygen and the rise of carbon dioxide after an eruption probably provided the perfect living conditions for awhile… enough to use their super powers to build the complex before the CO2 dissipated reverting the local gases back closer to earth's proper atmosphere,” Harry surmised.
“But if his powers were limited then how did he levitate and do those other things you described?” MacDonnell asked curiously.
“The energy it took to constantly manipulate the atmosphere around him robbed him of exercising those powers without consequence. To use those powers he had to sacrifice something, in the end depriving himself of the gases he needed to survive,” Harry expounded. “We were able to escape when he put all his power into trying to retrieve the Orbs, and fortunately Seaview was able to blow the Sphere before he could signal the Invasion.”
“That reminds me Admiral,” Lee jumped in. “How did you know the Orbs were still in the cave?”
“I spotted a strange glow in the ceiling when we surfaced, it was small and obscure but the blue hue definitely got my attention. I obviously had other things on my mind and I didn't know about the Orbs at that time, but when Kered told me his Team members hid the power source it made sense that it would be here with the rest of their technology; safe from even the humans they were trying to protect,” he reasoned.
“No one's ever going to believe this story,” Tom Hurley the young grad student jested. “The Earth almost got taken over by a Superman Wannabe,” he jested.
Lee shook his head at the thought. “Superman,” he repeated whimsically in such a fashion that got everyone's attention.
He chuckled to himself and then explained. “Superman had his kryptonite, a piece of his own planet that robbed him of his powers and here Kered was defeated by the atmosphere of the very planet he sought to rule.”
“The Kryptonite Effect,” Harry stated, labeling the phenomenon and continuing at the raised eyebrows of the scientists. “No matter how strong and powerful we may think we are there's always a weakness to keep us humble,” he added philosophically as everyone nodded contemplating the Admiral's profound thought.
* * * * *
The entire incident was deemed Top Secret by order of the President as everyone including the scientists were admonished never to speak of the details of the mission beyond the official story that had been concocted to explain the destruction of the atoll: The volcano exploded in an unexpected pressure build up that destroyed the volcanic cone and reshaped the atoll landscape, resulting in the damage of part of the coral reef.
Seaview's Crew as well as the Scientists were sworn to secrecy to cloak the fact that aliens walked among Earthlings for a hundred years with powers of super human potential. “Ignorance is bliss” was the thought of the day as the red envelope marked Top Secret was sealed and appropriately labeled: The Kryptonite Effect.
Meanwhile at the bottom of the atoll, buried under tons of volcanic rock the power Orbs continued to glow in their brilliant blue hue, manifesting heat and raising the surrounding ocean temperature by a controlled ten degrees as the coral reef grew in the perfect conditions of the warm waters providing an environment for the local sea life to flourish... Perhaps as a fitting and yet unmarked living memorial to the twenty alien Team Members who changed the path of an Invasion Force and gave their lives to protect the humans they had come to appreciate and even love in their short time here on Earth.
The Kryptonite Effect
Notes and Credits:
*OOM – Old Old Man: Somewhere in the archives of Fanfiction someone coined this phrase for Admiral Nelson, though I don't remember who or if it is an actual military term. The Old Man is a military term referring to the Commanding Officer, it is issued respectfully when used and NEVER in the presence of the officer. Since Lee is the OM, then the Admiral is the OOM and so I and several other Fanfiction authors picked up on this clever phrase. Having read hundreds upon hundreds of Voyage Fanfiction stories I am unable to give the author credit, but hereby do acknowledge it was someone else's brainchild. : )
Thanks to my friend who is a diver (you know who you are) for leading me in the right direction in the diving mixture accident of carbon dioxide contamination. It put me on quite a rabbit trail as it is really true that underwater eruptions can lower oxygen levels to near zero while raising CO2 levels creating a toxic environment for sea life until the wisdom of creation reclaims it, and in some cases even bringing new life in the coral reefs of the extinct volcanoes. : )
Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Published by DC Comics and first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938. Kryptonite made its first appearance in the radio program The Adventures of Superman in 1943, and later in DC Comics Superman #61 in 1949. DC Comics is a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company. Superman and kryptonite were mentioned only in reference. No infringement of copyright is intended or implied. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superman http://www.dccomics.com/characters/superman
Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and her main characters belong to Irwin Allen