Now You’re Here, Now You’re Not
By Devin Bourdain
Disclaimer: The Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea characters are not mine, just borrowed for this story.
Reviews are always welcome.
Also posted at fanfiction.net
The day was cold and angry storm clouds hung in the air. The sweet smell of freshly cut grass was carried on the gentle breeze that blew through the yard. The assembled crowd were all focused on the current speaker, except for Lee Crane who was lost in his own thoughts.
This is my fault. I should have tried harder; there must have been a way to prevent this. Where there signs that I missed? Another solution? There has to be something I could have done differently. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. How am I going to go on without him, how’s Seaview going to go on without him?
Had he taken it for granted that they would always come through it all. The crew was a tight knit family that had experienced loss before but it seemed that loss was something that rarely occurred. Despite the deadly missions, the crew more often than not returned safely home. They were Nelson’s handpicked crew. They are the best. He is the best. No, is describes someone who’s here, someone alive. No, now it’s was; he was the best. Was his death founded on complacency? Maybe they all had become too comfortable with the idea they would always return, that they were comfortable with the odds. Maybe if they had pushed just a little harder; been on guard a little better, they could have saved him. That wasn’t fair, Lee knew the crew pulled out all the stops to try and pull off this mission. Then why had they failed? That wasn’t fair either, the crew didn’t fail. Crane could only see fault in one person: himself. He had failed, and it cost someone he loved their life.
Cranes thoughts had been the same since it happened, full of self blame. The events of the last week had culminated in tragic results for the crew of the mighty submarine Seaview. One of their own would no longer be with them. It was a loss felt by the entire crew and the others assembled here today for the memorial.
Will Jamieson listened to the kind words spoken about their fallen comrade while keeping an eye on this captain. The doctor was concerned about how Crane was taking this loss. To lose someone so close to him and as a result of an order he had to give. Jamieson could emphasize somewhat with the situation. There had been times during a crisis when he himself had to make a decision on who he could save and who he could not, who stood the best chance and who didn’t. Even with the knowledge that he did what was deemed right it didn’t ease the guilt and the moments of self doubt that followed. He could see those same thoughts and feeling on the Captain now.
The whole situation was unthinkable. To have Lee make a decision like that. To choose who to try and rescue; Admiral Nelson or Commander Morton, Jamie thought. He made a mental note to speak to Crane after the service and try again to convince the young officer that this was not his fault, that he had done the right thing, he had done what his position of command dictated. Unfortunately, it had resulted in the loss of a very dear friend.
****Ten Days Earlier****
Nelson’s Office at NIMR 1400Hours
“This new underwater base will be equipped with the most modern technology, both defensive and offensive weapons. Seaview is scheduled to arrive at the base on Wednesday where Drs. Malcolm, Highner and Shaw will be escorted over and can start running preliminary tests with Archer and Chip,” instructed Nelson, “Chip will coordinate the tests between the base and Seaview.” Nelson took another drag off of his cigarette and leaned back in his chair.
Crane sat on the other side of the Admiral’s desk listening to the details of their next mission. The top secret base had been built last month and was now ready to start the trails on the new computer system designed to detect ship movement at greater distances and launch counter measures against possible attacks to allied vessels in the area. The mission was top secret but seemed straight forward enough.
“And you will be heading to New York on Saturday for the conference?” asked Crane.
“Yes, I will be taking the Flying Sub and should be back on Sunday to see how the test turned out. Well Lee, you better get to work I want Seaview ready to leave port at 0800 hours Monday morning.” Nelson crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray and walked Crane to the door.
Lee walked through the office and bid good afternoon to Ryan before he proceeded down the hall to Morton’s office to see how the exec was making out with prepping for the current mission.
Morton’s Office at NIMR 1430Hours
Crane could just make out the top of a blond head amongst the enormous stack of papers that were piled on his XO’s desk. Chip was so engrossed in his work he didn’t hear Lee enter the office. The captain cleared his throat so not to startle his friend.
“Oh Lee, I didn’t hear you come in?”
“That’s an impressive pile you have going on there.”
“Just going over the final schematics for the computer systems for the base. I want t to make sure I have everything covered so there are no surprises.”
“Then you and Archer will be ready to go when we leave at 0800 Monday?”
“I’ve checked and rechecked all of our equipment and have all the manuals ready to be load this evening. We’ll be ready anytime Seaview is.”
“In that case how about we go and grab a late lunch in the cafeteria?”
“Meet you there in,” Morton looked at his watch and gauged how long it would take to review the schematic, “forty minutes?”
“If you’re not there I will send out a search party Mr. Morton.”
“Yes Sir, I will be there this time.” Chip gave Lee a small salute and returned to his papers. The current project had been monopolizing a great deal of his time lately and regrettably he had missed the last few lunch and dinner plans that he had made with Lee.
Crane chuckled to himself knowing full well he would have to come back and drag his friend down to the cafeteria. In the meantime he would track down the chief and see how the preparations for departure were going.
Monday Morning 0600Hours
The control room was alive with activity. Final preparations were underway and the crew was once again giving their best to make sure they would be under way on schedule. Crane was standing at the plotting table with Morton going over their course when the Admiral came down the spiral staircase. Following close behind Nelson were the project leaders Highner, Malcolm and Shaw.
“Ah, Lee I would like to introduce you to Drs Oliver Shaw, Nathaniel Highner and Sam Malcolm. Gentlemen this is Commander Lee Crane our Captain and our exec Lt. Commander Charles Morton. Morton will be accompanying you along with our technician Jonathan Archer to base 21.
The dark haired man of medium height and build that Nelson introduced as Shaw extended his hand towards Crane. “Nice to meet you gentlemen. It is quite the submarine you have here Captain. I would love to discuss her with you. Perhaps you could join us for breakfast?”
“I would love to but unfortunately, I have duties here that require my attention if we are to get under way.”
Nelson could see the flicker of disappointment cross Shaw’s face. He knew his crew’s view of the scientist that frequently came aboard Seaview and the subsequent adventures that usually resulted from such visits. A very evil idea crossed his mind and a smile came to his face.
“Oh I think you can join us for breakfast Captain. After all Mr. Morton is quite capable of getting us underway. I expect you to join us in fifteen minutes in the mess. Now gentlemen if you will come this way we will see that your personal items are stored in your quarters.” Nelson allowed the three scientists to make their way up the spiral stair case when he turned back to his Captain. “And Lee, don’t make me make that an order.”
Before the skipper had a chance to reply the Admiral was gone. Letting out a deep sigh he turned to Chip. “I should probably handle things here. You should join them for breakfast; after all you will be working with them on this mission not me.”
With a straight face he replied, “Now Captain, we have everything under control here. I know how much you enjoy entertaining pillars of the scientific community and would never want to deny you that opportunity. After all it’s one of the privileges of being the Captain,” a smile broke out on the exec’s face and he continued, “and you are the Captain, Captain.”
“I am the Captain and as such I could have you scrubbing the deck for the rest of this cruise.”
Copying Lee’s smile Chip put his pencil down on the plot table. “True, but you would still have to go to breakfast and if I were scrubbing the decks that would leave you with the scientists for the entire project.”
Lee knew when he was beat. He threw his pencil on the plotting table and turned to go up the stairs while giving orders to his XO. “Carry on Mr. Morton. If you need me I will be with the Admiral.”
Monday 1000 hours
The cargo hold was abuzz with activity as the crew was busy pulling the project computer components out of creates. Several pieces of equipment were required to be set up on board Seaview. Chief Sharkey was overseeing the unloading of the equipment while the Admiral, Skipper and special guests were in a meeting discussing things that Sharkey felt were way above his pay grade.
He proceeded to check items off of his list as the various crewmen produced various components and sorted them into the different piles to be partially assembled and installed later. Kowalski opened his crate and called the chief over to check it off of the list.
“Hold on a moment there Ski. That piece was supposed to go to the missile room. Grab Patterson and run it down there now,” ordered the chief.
“Hey Pat you wanna give me a hand with this?” asked Kowalski as he indicated the crate with two boxes inside.
“You got it Ski,” answered Patterson as he put down his crowbar on the crate he was about to open. The two crewmen took the boxes and proceeded to the missile room.
On their way to the door the chief called out to them, “and make it quick. We don’t have time for you two to take a Sunday stroll. Lots of crates to open gentlemen.” Sharkey turned back to the other crewmen working after he received a nod from Pat and Ski before they disappeared from the hatch.
Patterson and Kowalski walked into the missile room and found the tech Archer hooking up several pieces of equipment to one of the control panels.
“Hey Archer! We found some of your toys in the cargo hold. Must have gotten mixed up with all the crates for the project,” explained Kowalski as he and Pat put down their packages.
The blond tech glanced up briefly when he heard his name but went back to his work. Without pausing in his efforts replied, “all my toys are for the project Ski. Not only are we going to test out the bases capabilities but we have to perform our tests and studies to see if we can beat the bases defenses. Apparently, not everyone is convinced this project is the revolution it claims to be.”
Archer nodded his head towards the door and asked softly as not to be over heard, “I thought they weren’t suppose to be in any sensitive areas without a member of the crew escorting them.”
The subject of Archer’s concern was Dr. Highner. The older gentleman was wondering the missile room examining the different control panels and missile tubes.
“Um Dr. Highner sir,” said Patterson in his usual soft voice.
The doctor jumped slightly and started to clean his glasses when he acknowledged the crewman’s presence.
“This is a secure area sir. We’re going to have to ask you to leave.”
“What . . . oh yes . . . yes of course. I was just admiring you submarine. It’s quite a specimen of remarkable innovation. I was actually looking for the cargo hold and must have gotten turned around somewhere. I didn’t mean to stumble into somewhere I wasn’t allowed.”
“That’s alright sir, Kowalski and I were just heading back that way ourselves.”
“Oh, thank-you for your assistance.”
Patterson escorted the Doctor to the hatch and turned to call to Kowlaski who was still standing next to Archer.
“Come on Ski. The Chief is waiting.”
Kowalski rolled his eyes at Archer and whispered, “Scientists. Nothing but trouble.” He then proceeded to follow Patterson.
“You’re tellin me,” called out Archer as he returned to his project at hand.
Observation Nose, Monday 1800 hours
The food that Cookie had prepared for dinner that night smelled delicious. Two crewmen were placing the dinner plates on the table in the observation nose. The Admiral, Captain, exec and Drs. Shaw, Highner and Malcolm were just sitting down to dinner.
“This is quite the view you have here Nelson,” commented Shaw as he stared out the observation window into the deep ocean.
“Yes, I’ve never seen anything like this before. What did you say the glass was again?” Added Sam. The younger doctor typically spent his time locked away in computer labs and was enjoying his first chance to get out and watch his computers in the field. The fact that the first tests would have him working on the legendary Seaview was just an added bonus.
“It’s herculite; a transparent piece of haul plating. One of the many innovations to come out of the Institute,” informed the Admiral.
“Impressive. Your submarine is quite an accomplishment Admiral,” said Highner.
“I think if we get your base up and running and performing as planned that will be an amazing accomplishment on your part doctor. If we’re successful here it will change the way we approach our defensive procedures. In fact I think we will all be able to sleep a lot better with that kind of security system in place,” commented Crane.
“How are we doing on getting the new computer systems up and running Chip?” Inquired the Admiral.
Chip ran his napkin over his lips and placed it back on the table.
“We should have everything up and running on this end by tomorrow afternoon. Then when we get to the base we will have to transport the final components to the base. We can have those up and running within five hours of transport,” explained Morton.
“What time can we expect to arrive at our destination Lee?”
“We should arrive at the base Wednesday morning Admiral.”
“Very good. Doctors we should have you and your equipment all settled on the base by Wednesday afternoon and we can begin tests Thursday morning with you gentlemen and Mr. Morton coordinating them from the base,” stated the Nelson.
“Actually,” came a squeak from Malcolm. He cleared his throat and tried again to explain to the imposing figure of the Admiral the new change in plans.
“I figured the best division of labour and skill would be if Archer and I remained on Seaview while my colleagues and Mr. Morton ran the tests on the underwater station. This way I can assist Archer with the equipment here and help you to find any weaknesses in our systems when we begin Seaview’s test of our systems.”
“Well, if you believe that’s best Dr. Malcolm,” stated Nelson frankly.
“Yes. I believe it would be better if I stayed aboard,” replied Sam with more reassurance.
Having come to a consensus on how everyone would precede with the mission, everyone finished their meal. After dinner the scientists proceeded to their cabins for the night and the Admiral retired to his lab to work out his final presentation for the upcoming conference. Lee and Chip decided to check up on O’Brien in the control room.
They were greeted by the usual beeps and blips as they came down the spiral stair case. The evening watch were all at their stations and O’Brien was penciling points on the map on the plotting table.
“Report Mr. O’Brien,” said Crane when he reached the last stair.
“We’re on course and making good time sir. All is quiet here.”
Crane smiled to himself. O’Brien had been a part of the command crew for years but, he always seemed to stand just a little straighter when address Lee or the Admiral. The young Lieutenant had been a great addition to Nelson’s handpicked crew and was becoming an excellent commanding officer. Lee had nothing but confidence when he left O’Brien in charge.
After observing the control room for an hour Crane and Morton decided to retire to Lee’s cabin for a drink before bed. Lee enjoyed being able to discuss the day’s activities with Chip in a less formal setting. It reminded him of the many late night scheming and plotting sessions they use to do during their academy days.
The Captain poured two cups of tea and passed one to Chip who was sitting in the chair on the other side of Lee’s desk. The exec leaned back and put his feet up on the corner of the desk.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked Crane.
“How close do you think the Admiral was to killing Malcolm this evening when he changed the Admiral’s plan?”
Lee chuckled. “I think this mission has been a thorn in Nelson’s side for weeks now. The upper brass was very insistent on the hows and whens of this mission and then to top it all off Starke was absolutely adamant that he go to this conference this weekend.”
“Why would he do that?”
“He insisted there were several projects that the Admiral absolutely had to get in on the ground floor with. Though I have it on good authority that Nelson plans on sending a last minute message explaining how important matters have come up and he can’t make it in time.”
“I didn’t think the Admiral was the type to play hookie,” offered the bemused exec.
The intercom on Lee’s desk chirped and Nelson voice boomed through the box.
“Lee if you have a moment I’d like to see you in my quarters.”
“I’ll be right there sir,” answered the Captain, “well I guess duty calls Chip.”
Both men stood up and walked towards the door. Morton headed down to his own cabin to go over the schedule one more time and Lee moved towards Nelson’s cabin.
Crane entered the Admiral’s cabin and found him seated at his desk. He was twirling his pencil and reading a printed message.
“What do you have there sir?” asked the Captain as he closed the door.
“It’s a message from Starke. I sent him another message informing him that I would be arriving late for the conference and this is what he sent back. Here take a look,” growled Nelson as he handed the paper over to Lee.
Nelson leaned back in his chair, kicking out his file drawer and resting his feet on it. Crane took the paper and perched on the corner of the white and grey desk as he started to read. He couldn’t help but smile as he pictured Nelson’s reaction to this turn of events.
“He had General Borton order you to attend? That’s rather extreme even from Starke.”
“I now have official order to attend starting Friday morning. And it gets better.”
“Starke had them make me the guest of honor. I have to deliver the opening presentation. Why that man thinks he can meddle in my affairs sometimes . . .”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine. We can handle everything on this end, SOP,” assured the brunette.
“I’ll want updates every night Captain. And don’t let Highner run the show. He’s a brilliant scientist but an overbearing man. Anything he tells you, you run by Chip first.”
The day started like any other. The day crew relieved the night crew with their usual proficiency. The Admiral was in the missile room conferring with Dr. Highner leaving Lee on his own in the control room. The Captain had again missed Chip at breakfast before he showed up to take over the watch from Lieutenant O’Brien.
Lee didn’t begrudge Chip the chance to work on this project but, he did miss their usual routine.
In fact, Crane wasn’t sure the last time he had seen so little of Chip. The skipper made a mental note to set up a double date for them when this project was complete. Things had been going really well with Rebecca for the last couple of months and it was time for his best friend to spend some quality time with his new girl. That, and the fact that Rebecca had a friend that Lee thought would be perfect for Chip. He was sure it was a pretty safe bet because Morton hadn’t really been on a date since the disaster that was Jenna.
The sound of footsteps on the spiral staircase announced the arrival of the exec, Dr. Malcolm and tech Archer. Each was carrying a box stuffed with sensors, wiring, computer chips and other various technical pieces. Archer went over to the communications consol and started connecting different pieces with the help of Sparks. Malcolm proceeded over to sonar. Chip placed his box on the plotting table and rubbed his hand across his face. Lee gave him a small smile.
“Good morning?” asked the Captain.
Morton paused for a moment as he considered the most appropriate way to address the Captain’s question.
“You know Lee, I watched him do the wiring in the circuitry room,” the blond nodded towards Malcolm who was just out of earshot, “and he was brilliant, but putting the correct component in a correctly labeled box is just beyond him! I’ve spent the last four hours digging through boxes and crates all over the boat trying to find things because nothing is in its assigned crate. I mean you’d think he’d get lucky and one piece would be where it should, but no.”
Lee had to chuckle at his XO’s frustration. Morton had everything organized. There were lists and lists that listed the lists of where everything was both on the sub and at NIMR. Crane could almost see the news headline now: fastidious executive officer kills disorganized computer genius.
Morton’s rant was interrupted by the focus of his frustration.
“Oh wait I left that somewhere. I think it was . . . don’t touch anything I’ll be right back,” Malcolm instructed Kowalski. He then turned and ran back up the stairs to parts unknown.
Kowalski glanced towards his superiors for instruction about this turn of events. At present Malcolm was in the middle of adding a sensor to the sonar consol which now had wires protruding from all areas.
Morton just shook his head and turned back to Lee. Crane placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder.
“Ten more days and this will all be a distant memory,” offered the Captain.
“One of us isn’t going to live to see ten days from now Lee,” was the short reply.
“I tell you what pal; don’t kill him for ten days and I will let you literally throw him off this boat when we get back.”
“Don’t get my hopes up.”
“Excuse me Mr. Morton,” interrupted Archer.
“Yes what is it?”
“I’ve been over all the schematics several times and I know how to integrate these new systems into Seaview’s but for the life of me I can’t identify this piece sir,” confessed Archer as he held up the offending piece.
The exec picked up the object and looked it over. It was at that point that Dr. Shaw walked in.
“Problem Commander?” asked Shaw seeing the suspicious look on Morton’s face.
“Yes, this component was not in any of the plans we received.”
“Oh that. Malcolm came up with that last week. It’s really remarkable. It will increase sensor sensitivity and increase the processing time. It wouldn’t be on any of the blue prints because it didn’t exist when we drafted them,” explained Shaw, “I can help you install it if you like.”
“Yes why don’t you assist Archer. Was Dr. Malcolm still in the cargo hold when you left?” asked Chip. He wanted to have a word with the young doctor and find out if there would be any more surprises.
“He wasn’t in the cargo hold. It was my understanding that he was assisting you today.”
Crane and Morton exchanged glances as Archer and Shaw went back to work on the communications consol. Chip picked up the mike and called Malcolm. After several moments of silence Chip realized he wasn’t going to get an answer he let out a sigh.
“Not only can he not organize his materials but he can’t get himself from point A to point B without getting lost. Now I have to find a missing scientist,” huffed Chip.
“Maybe you should walk up and down the corridors yelling Marco.” Lee failed to keep a straight face.
Chip just rolled his eyes and left in search of Malcolm without dignifying Lee’s comment with a response.
Seaview, Tuesday 2000Hours
The mighty ocean parted to the sleek gracefulness of the gray submarine as it pursued the open ocean. The waters were relatively calm this cruise which made for a smooth journey unlike the inside of the sub which was experiencing waves of frustration fueled by both people and circumstances.
The once straight forward and simple mission was constantly becoming more involved and complicated by the hour. All three scientist were suppose to be at the top of their field but based on what Nelson had witnessed and the reports from various crew members the mission could be compared to three kids going to science camp instead of adults conducting the test phase of a highly classified and revolutionary test.
The Admiral blew out a series of smoke rings and watched them dissipate into the air. Something wasn’t right. He couldn’t put his finger on it but something was off. Since accepting the mission there was this feeling in the pit of his stomach, kind of similar to the feeling one gets when they’re not sure if they left the stove on or not. The more Nelson thought about it and tried to pin down exactly what was a miss the more he felt that he was missing something.
These thoughts had kept him up at night on several occasions but every time he sought answers his search proved that every t was crossed and every i dotted in regards to this mission. So why was there so much disorganization now?
A knock at Nelson’s cabin door interrupted his thoughts.
Unable to hide his irritation Nelson yelled, “Come.”
There was an immediate loss of stiffness and stress when he realized it was Jamie who poked his head in the door.
“Is this a bad time Admiral?”
“No, no. Come in, sit down,” offered Nelson as he indicated the chair on the opposite side of the desk.
The tall, lanky doctor walked in and sat down. Will had served with the Admiral for years which had forged a very unique friendship. They had seen it all together: promotions, battles, loss, success, misspent youth, marriage, heartbreak, the building of dreams. All of this allowed the doctor to read Nelson like a book.
“What’s troubling you Harry?”
“Something’s not right Will. I can’t . . . can’t quite put my finger on it.”
“Are you not well? Do I need to give you a check up?” asked the doctor as he sat up a little straighter.
“What? Oh no. No it’s this assignment. I just can’t shake the feeling that something’s not copasetic.”
“I assume you’ve looked into it.”
“Yes and everything appears to be in order and relatively on schedule. But now I have this damn conference I’ve been ordered to attend and that leaves Lee and Chip to deal with this on their own.”
“I didn’t know you felt Lee and Chip were that incompetent,” offered Jamie.
Going on the defensive the Admiral shot back, “Crane and Morton are the best officers in and out of the Navy, Will. I trust them with my life, with my submarine and with any mission we take.”
Jamieson raised his hand to stop the fast approaching tirade. “Then I’m sure the boys can handle this. Knowing you, you’ve looked under every rock for anything not on the level and found nothing. I’m sure this mission will go off with the usual success we enjoy and should anything occur those boys you speak so highly of are very capable of handling it. Lord knows they’ve looked after this boat in very unusual circumstance without you aboard before.”
Nelson knew the doctor was right. He gave Jamie a slight nod conceding the argument to him.
“Yes I believe you are right as usual Jamie. I must be getting paranoid in my old age.”
Jamieson let out a snort and reached into his pocket producing a small flask and two shot glasses.
“A shot of whisky will cure paranoia,” explained Will as he filled both glasses.
“Oh it will, will it?”
“Trust me. I’m a doctor after all.” Jamieson smiled as he pushed the second glass across the desk.
“That explains my shot but what about yours? Drinking on duty Will?”
“First of all, I’m not on duty at the moment. Second, we just won’t tell my employer.”
Both men smiled and raised their glasses. The amber liquid burned on the way down but the tradition brought comfort to the Admiral. Sharing a shot had become a tradition for the pair early on in their friendship. It use to occur in a bar after a successful mission, then at the end of the night after social engagements, and now only when the other knew that their friend need the comfort and reassurance that an old friendship could offer.
Jamie put the flask back in his pocket and started to move towards the door. With his hand on the doorknob he paused for a moment.
Looking back at Nelson he said, “And if it makes you feel better Harry I promise that while you are gone there will be no mummies or gorillas on board, I will not let your scientists perform any werewolf transforming experiments on them, we will not create any blobs in the lab, there will be no pirates allowed to board, and I will make sure all evil toys are kept in a locked toy chest.”
“What about aliens?” questioned the Admiral in a rather playful tone.
With the most serious face Jamie could muster he replied, “I can’t control what the aliens are going to do. I guess we’ll just have to take our chances on that one.”
With that Jamieson left the cabin. Feeling slightly better about the situation Nelson picked up the book he had been trying to finish for the last couple of weeks and began to read.
The men in the missile room were busy loading equipment into the diving bell to be transported to the underwater base. Riley and Kowalski were on the base unloading the diving bell when it coupled with the base. When it was empty the bell was pulled back up to Seaview and loaded again.
On the sub the chief was overseeing the loading of the bell. The task itself was easy; it was Shaw’s hovering that was beginning to grate on Sharkey’s nerves. He also knew it was getting on the nerves of the crew who were quiet capable of performing the task.
“Careful with that! Do you know how valuable that is?” squawked Shaw.
Sharkey stood to the side and checked off the supply manifest as each box was loaded. He was mental calculating how much longer this task was going to take when Dr. Shaw stormed over to him.
“Sergeant I demand you instruct your men to be more careful. This work is irreplaceable and they are tossing it around like a football,” vented the irate scientist.
Sharkey was the picture of calm as he quietly stated, “It’s uh chief.”
“What?” the doctor’s frustration clearly present on his face.
“In the navy sir it’s chief not sergeant.” Sharkey pointed to the stripes on his sleeve. Why did he always have to explain this to visitors?
“I don’t care if your title is Supreme Grand Emperor of Asia. I want your Neanderthals to be careful with this cargo. I have been working to perfect this for years and the way your men are handling it, it will be ruined in a matter of minutes!”
The chief took a deep cleansing breath and plastered a smile on his face. His boys were handling their task with care. Nothing had been damaged or mistreated but to humor the doctor he would address the issue.
“Alright men listen up,” Sharkey shouted to get everyone’s attention, “it’s been said you knuckleheads are being too rough with the goods; so I want you to treat each box as if it were your dear sweet grandmother. You all understand me?”
“Yes sir!” came the group response and the crewmen continued on with their work.
“That’s more like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to meet the Admiral in the lab.” With that Shaw turned on his heels and stormed out of the missile room.
“What was all that about chief?” asked Patterson as he stopped and wiped his hands on his rag.
“I don’t know, but you know the type Pat. Think we don’t know how to do our jobs,” answered Sharkey as he shook his head, “but enough of the chit chat, back to work.”
Patterson replied, “yes sir.”
Base 21, Wednesday 1800Hours
The equipment had been unloaded and successfully installed on the base. Kowalski and Riley had gone back up to Seaview on the bell and the sub was moving into position to start the first test of the sensors. The technicians of base 21 were all monitoring their stations. The first stage of testing was to see how sensitive and accurate the sensors were.
A series of sensors had been placed in a grid fashion surrounding the base extending out into the ocean for hundreds of miles. Information gathered from the sensors would be sent to the computer system created by the development team of Highner, Shaw and Malcolm. The information would then be transmitted to Seaview.
The sub was to travel in a random course through the sensor field. If everything went well the base would be able to track her movements at various distances and project the path of the sub. So far the system was performing to expectation. One of the technicians was able to track a pod of sharks and based on the sensor reading identify the species of shark.
“Tomorrow we will start phase two. The computer will take the readings and determine if the object it’s tracking is a threat or not. We can even see if it will identify Seaview based on the data received. I think we can say this system is a success gentlemen,” congratulated Dr. Highner.
“We should probably wait for all the tests to be complete before you go opening any champagne bottles doctor. Sensor thirteen seems to be on the fritz,” cautioned Chip.
“What do you mean?” demanded Highner.
“The information is coming in sporadic. It looks like a sensor shadow. One minute it reads and object the next it’s gone,” explained one of the techs.
Morton picked up the radio mike.
“UWB21 to Seaview come in.”
“This is Seaview, we read you loud and clear,” answered the Admiral.
“Sir our present information shows you are near sensor thirteen. Can you confirm that?” asked the exec.
“This is Malcolm here, yes we confirm that location. Is there something wrong?”
“We think the sensor is throwing shadows can you confirm there is nothing in your current sector?”
Malcolm disappeared for a few moments while he pulled the information.
“Our readings indicate there are no other vessels in this sector. Seaview’s sonar could be throwing the shadow. I’m going to run some test here. I need you to run a diagnostic on the sensor and make sure it’s calibrated correctly, then send me the report.”
Morton ended his communication with his sub and turned the mike off. A diagnostic was going to take hours.
“Well, that concludes tests for today. That diagnostic will take awhile . . .”
Chip was interrupted by Highner, “then I guess you better start. I want this thing sorted out by morning so we can proceed on schedule.”
The doctor turned and stormed out of the room.
It’s going to be a long night. Should have let him have the champagne, might have improved his sunny disposition. Morton turned to Shaw.
“Looks like we have our work cut out for us!” stated Shaw.
Base 21, Thursday 1100Hours
The previous night’s diagnostic of sensor thirteen proved inconclusive. Highner had sent Seaview out to retrieve the senor and bring it back to the base for closer inspection. Morton and Shaw were in charge of running further tests on the sensor, while Highner looked over the data gathered by the tests again.
Shaw had hooked up the defective device to the main consol to run a simulation while Chip would examine the data being produced. Everything seemed to be going according to plan when warning lights on the main consol started to flash.
“The sensor is causing some sort of feedback into the computer,” warned Shaw.
Before either man could react sparks started shooting from the consol followed by smoke. The climax of the destruction was the internal combustion of the sensor that caused the sensor access panel to blow off. Both men looked at the mangled piece of metal after Chip used the fire extinguisher to smoother the small flame that was engulfing the sensor.
“That could have been a lot worse! Looks like we’ll be running more diagnostics to find out why the sensor shorted out. Hopefully it’s a localized incident. I would hate to have to go through this again,” stated Shaw.
He almost gets impaled by a metal projectile and his biggest concern is he might have to personally check each of the deployed sensors? Nelson’s going to love this set back. I don’t get paid enough to deal this, thought Morton as he stared at Shaw in bewilderment.
“I’ll contact Seaview and let them know we have to hold off testing again until tomorrow. Hopefully we can rebuild this by the end of the day. That is if it’s even salvageable,” said the XO as he left to inform his commander of the latest setback.
Seaview, Thursday 1400 hours
The Admiral came down the spiral staircase dressed in his black flight jacket and carrying his brief case. The skipper was leaning over Riley’s shoulder watching the sonar screen. He looked up to acknowledge the Admiral.
“All set to go sir?” asked Lee with his usual charming smile.
“Yes. I will contact you once I reach the hotel. I want a complete report and the status of repairs on the base,” was the Admiral’s formal reply.
The latest setback had done nothing for Nelson’s temperament. He had been short with everyone who had crossed his path. At breakfast the entire senior staff got to witness the Admiral’s sunny disposition as he read the first reports from the preliminary tests.
Lee didn’t envy Admiral Starke. He knew the second Nelson had a spare minute the two Admirals were going to have a very interesting conversation about Starke committing Nelson to certain engagements.
Sharkey handed the Admiral the pre-flight checklist for FS1. Once it was signed off the Chief proceeded to stow the Admirals gear.
“I’m coming back early Lee. You can expect me Saturday morning instead of Sunday.”
“We’ll be here Admiral.”
Nelson climbed down the ladder into FS1 and Sharkey closed the hatch. The launch bay doors were opened and the Flying Sub was on its way.
Seaview, Thursday 1700Hours
The blond surfer sat at the sonar consol ever vigilant in his task. There was something just on the edge of the sonar screen he couldn’t place, nor could he identify the odd echo he was picking up.
“Skipper I might have something on sonar here,” announced the young crewman.
“What is it Riley?” asked Crane as he made his way towards the young man.
“I’m not certain sir. It could be another echo or a small submersible, but it’s hovering just on the outside of our sonar range.”
“O’Brien set a course to investigate a possible unfriendly on our starboard. We should take a look just to be on the safe side,” ordered Crane.
“Aye sir,” responded the Lieutenant.
The Captain walked over to Spark’s station.
“Patch me through to the base Sparks. I want to speak to Mr. Morton.”
The communications officer began turning dials to contact the base. When he made contact he patched it through to the monitor that Crane was waiting in front of.
Base 21, Thursday 1700Hours
“Seaview to UWB21 come in B21,” came the static filled transmission.
“We read you Lee,” answered Chip after he turned on the monitor.
“Chip we’ve detected an anomaly on sonar. It’s probably nothing but we’re going to check it out. That will put us out of service for a few hours.”
“That’s alright. It will give us a chance to repair the damage when the sensor shorted. I figure that will take us three more hours anyways,” explained the blond XO, “but are you sure it’s not an echo from the sensor system malfunctioning?”
“Archer says there’s no way to be sure and I’d like to check it out just to be on the safe side. We’ll be in contact again at 2OOO hours. Seaview out.”
Chip turned the monitor off and headed back to the lab. He was not looking forward to having to recalibrate the sensors. After they rebuilt the faulty sensor the whole system would have to be recalibrated and that would set them back two days. Not to mention the fact that Seaview’s sensors were greatly reduced due to the new computer program tying them into base 21.
Curiosity drove him forward when he opened the door and found Dr. Shaw bound and gagged on the floor. The Doctor’s eyes widened and his muffled shouts increased then all Chip knew was blackness.
Seaview, Thursday 2100Hours
It was turning into a game of cat and mouse. Just when the submarine gained any distance on the unidentified object it managed to move out of range again. The more the submersible continued to evade them the more certain Crane became that it was an attempt by a foreign power to gain intelligence on the activity at the underwater base. If that was the case, they would have no option but to overtake her. The longer this chase took the further away from the base they were becoming and they were late for their check in as it was.
Crane was about to issue the order to contact the base to inform Morton to put the base on high alert when the communications monitor flickered to life.
A shadowy figure appeared on the screen. All eyes in the control room turned to the monitor.
“Sparks, what is this?” demanded Lee.
“I’m not sure Captain. We’re not receiving a signal; the source is coming from Seaview. It’s a prerecording being played back but I can’t shut it off,” explained Sparks as he tried to regain control of his station.
The shadowy figure on the monitor began to speak. “Good day Captain Crane. Don’t bother trying to figure out how I got this message to you; we have more important things to discuss. You and your precious Seaview have been a thorn in the sides of a lot of people. It’s time something was done about this and I have been granted artistic license in the means. I plan to be the harbinger of your destruction. As we speak two bombs have been planted. One is aboard underwater base 21; the other is placed at the scientific conference Nelson is attending. These devices will detonate in twelve hours. Oh how I wish I could see your face right now Captain. While you think twelve hours is more than enough time to pull off one of you famous daring rescues I assure you we are going to raise the stakes to this little game. You will be forced to choose one to save; assuming you can get there in time. But who do you save; your mentor, employer and friend Admiral Harriman Nelson or your long time friend and colleague Commander Charles Philip Morton? I look forward to seeing which you choose. Have a good night Captain.”
The message over, the monitor turned black. Lee took a moment trying to process the message and what just took place. The crew stood at their posts in disbelief over this turn of events.
For the entire video the figure remained in the shadows concealing his identity. Crane racked his brain trying to connect the voice to a face. Why would twelve hours not be enough time? At present they were equal distance between both destinations. The solution would be to radio both parties to warn them then proceed to the base to evacuate and then disarm the bomb. In New York the Admiral could evacuate the hotel and conference center and call in the bomb squad. It was at that moment Crane had his answer to why twelve hours might not be enough.
The sub shuttered and groaned as a series of small charges exploded in various locations. The slow steady movement through the water was brought to an abrupt halt. To the Captain’s left the communications consol began to smoke and throw sparks.
“Damage control report!” shouted Crane into the mike. Addressing the men in front of him he ordered, “get a fire crew up here.”
“Damage control here sir.”
A crewman dressed in his blue jumper brought a fire extinguisher over and sprayed down the communications consol. That problem taken care of Sparks sat down in his usual spot and tried to clear his lungs.
Seaview, Thursday 2120 Hours
With the situation somewhat back under control and the sub in no immediate danger Crane called his more senior officers together for a more complete picture. The whole time his mind was silently counting down to their deadline.
“Chief,” signaled the Skipper.
“Damage control has nothing further to add. We’re not taking on any water. Propulsion is down, the engines are shot. They estimate at least six hours to get us limping along,” stated Sharkey.
“We have ballast control back. We can raise the sub and scrub the air.”
“See to that right away Lieutenant.”
O’Brien set off on his task.
“No casualties, five injuries, but nothing too serious. One sprained wrist, two gashes, one mild concussion and one broken figure,” informed Jamie.
The communications officer just shook his head. “There’s no way we can send or receive. The consol’s barely salvageable. I don’t know if we even have the pieces necessary to patch it together, not that it would matter. We lost our communications array. We can’t send or receive without it, the message won’t travel.”
Crane sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. The bad news just kept coming today. How was he going to save his friends if he could not warn them or get to them?
“Dr. Malcolm is supposed to be a technological genius, see if he can help you patch something together for communications,” suggested Lee.
“I’ve been looking at the consol sir and the source of the damage is the component that Malcolm installed,” reported Sparks.
O’Brien reached for a clipboard that was sitting on the plotting table. Having issued the orders to raise Seaview he rejoined the meeting. Flipping over the pages on the clipboard he made an interesting observation.
“Captain, this is a list of all the areas that we had to add components to for this mission. It matches most of the locations of the explosives that have cripples us. And Dr. Malcolm installed them all.”
Crane grabbed the clipboard to see for himself. O’Brien’s assessment was correct.
“Has anyone seen Dr. Malcolm in the last hour?” asked Crane who received negative signals from the men before him.
He reached for the hand mike and said, “Master at arms,” after receiving an answer the Captain continued, “I want Dr. Malcolm found and placed under arrest. When you put him in the brig I want to be informed so I can come down and question him.”
Lee turned to the group gathered before him. Everyone was now aware of the stakes, and they couldn’t be higher. This wasn’t for the fate of the world, this was personal.
“Alright we need options. Any suggestion?”
Base 21, Friday 0400Hours
The clicking sound was the first thing to penetrate the darkness. Pain, that was the second thing to register for the exec. Throbbing, unrelenting pain started in his head and embraced his entire being. He felt stiff and numb. Upon closer self examination the blond discovered his arms were pulled behind his back and his wrists were tied together. He cracked open his eyes and immediately shut them as the light caused sharp stabs of pain to be added to the constant throb that already existed.
After a few moments Chip tried again. He blinked a few times and slowly his surroundings came into focus. The constant clicking noise was coming from the keyboard, but he didn’t recognize the lanky gentleman that was seated typing. Slowly the exec lifted his head and looked around. Dr. Shaw was currently tied to a chair and his gag had been removed. A new voice came from the door and Chip twisted his neck to try and see who else had managed to gain access to the secret underwater base.
“Look who’s awake,” said a large burly man dressed in black.
He walked over and roughly lifted the exec to his feet and dropped him in a nearby chair. The ropes were removed from Chip’s wrists and promptly tied to the sides of the chair. The XO bit back a cry as the circulation returned to his arms.
The hired thug turned to the man on the computer and hollered, “Boss wants a word with you!”
The sandy haired man got up from the computer and silently left the room. The thug gave Morton’s restraints one last tug and followed his associate out of the room leaving to two captives alone.
“Have they told you anything?” asked Chip as he began to flex his hands in a vain effort to loosen the ropes.
“N . . . n . . .no. They . . . they just burst in here and . . . and . . . I think Nathaniel. Oh god,” stuttered Shaw.
With his calm and cool command voice Morton asked, “you think Dr. Highner what?”
“I think Nathaniel is with them,” came the quiet reserved answer.
“What makes you think that?”
“He offered to help them. And,” Shaw paused for a moment as he wrestled with the gravity of he was about to divulge, “and he seemed to know them.”
Chip surveyed his surrounding looking for anything that could free him from his restraints. His piercing blue eyes caught the piece of twisted metal they removed from the console casing after the relay exploded. The thug had thoughtlessly left Chip’s feet untied, a fact that the Lt. Cmdr was extremely grateful for. It was slow going but Chip managed to shimmy the chair over to the table and started trying to slice through the ropes.
Still busy with his task Morton asked, “Ok. Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
“Well, when you went to answer that communication from Seaview, these six armed men came busting in the door. Naturally, we surrendered and they tied up one of the base techs and dragged him out of here. Then they started talking to Nathaniel and he told them were the other two techs and you were. He left with three of the men and the big guy that was just here tied me up. The other guy went looking for you and the last one was the gentleman working on the computer. They’re trying to steal my work. You can’t let them do that.”
“One problem at a time doc. First we have to get out of here and arm ourselves. Did they say what they want?”
“They’re after base 21’s defensive program. That’s my life’s work if they get that, this project will fail and all of my work will be gone. You can’t let them get my work commander.”
Way to prioritise thought Chip as he finally gained success with the ropes. He immediately started working on Dr. Shaw’s ropes.
“How long was I out?” Asked the XO.
“Six Hours!?” Chip couldn’t keep the surprise out of his voice.
“Well they did inject you with something after they knocked you out.” Shaw didn’t even try to hide his offended feelings from his voice.
Morton rolled his eyes and took a deep breath. Scientist. Then with his usual calm unflustered demeanor he said, “and that wasn’t a point you thought was worth mentioning at the start?”
“These people are about to steal my life’s work. I think that’s a little more important than whether or not you had an extend nap!”
The ropes binding Shaw fell forgotten to the ground as he stood up and rubbed his sore wrists. The doctor followed Chip to the door and waited while the blond checked to see if the coast was clear.
“Stay close and keep quiet. We need to find away to alert Seaview to our current situation.”
“And save my work,” added Shaw.
Chip turned around to look at the source of his frustration. “Ya, I’ll add that to my to do list.”
Yep, next time Lee is defiantly going to deal with the scientist all by himself. Next scientific mission we get I’m taking an extended vacation thought the exec as he led Shaw down the corridor and hopefully away from their captors.
Seaview, Friday 0400Hours
“Excuse me sir,” interrupted Sparks, “I think I found away to fix the console but with the array damaged we have no way to broadcast the signal. “
“What are we going to do skipper?” asked O’Brien, “With communications down we have to actually go to New York or to the test center. We’re half way between going to New York and alerting the Admiral about the bomb or going back to the test center and trying to find that bomb. There’s no way we can make it to one and then try to warn the other in time.
“What if we use the deep center communication cable to contact the pentagon and warn them about the conference like we did that time we lost contact with the president,” posed Crane, “we can hack into the cable and have the pentagon put us in contact with the admiral or someone else that can help us save the conference and then come back to the test center to evacuate the crew. The communications cable is a quarter of the distance off course; if we hurry we should get back in just enough time to evacuate the test center.”
O’Brien began plotting their new course to the deep center communications cable since the engineers pulled out a miracle and got the engines to function. Crane issued orders to the crew. With any luck this new plan of action should allow the Seaview to warn both parties about the impending explosions.
Base 21, Friday 0530 Hours
After ten minutes of stealthily moving through corridors – oh who were they trying to kid, Morton was moving stealthily through corridors, Shaw was tripping around behind him like a bored child, the alarm was final sounded signaling their captors of their escape. It was a small contingent of men that had taken the base by surprise but Chip could tell by the weapons they were carrying that they meant business.
If the exec was going to have any chance of warning Seaview that the base had been taken over he was going to have to ditch Shaw. After some consideration the XO decided the safest place to leave the doctor would be the storage room. It had plenty of room and nooks and crannies to hide in and Morton couldn’t see the enemy wanting anything from that room.
It took some convincing and a lot of reassurance that the safety of the research was Morton’s top priority, but eventually Shaw agreed to stay safely out of the way. The blond continued to duck the thugs that were searching for their former hostages. After staking out the communications room for half an hour the hired guns finally vacated the room. Morton slipped in and locked the door.
Seaview had to be almost back at the base after checking out the anomaly. Not wanting his friends and crew to come back to a possible trap Chip fervently typed at the computer trying to establish contact with the submarine. It was times like these that the exec was glad that Nelson supported his interest in computers because the newly added passwords and firewalls created by the latest adversaries were no match for the blond.
After several failed attempts to establish communication with the sub, the exec’s fear and concern were growing. Thousands of possible scenarios were running through his head and most of them did not inspire hope or confidence. He would have to try a different tactic. Just as Chip was going to initiate plan b, there was a jiggle on the door knob followed by several thuds.
“Hey, who’s in there?” shouted the voice on the other side.
The door burst open and two of the henchmen came through the door. The larger one tackled Chip to the ground. The exec managed to elbow him in the nose causing the man to howl in pain. Reaching up to the computer consol Chip was able to tap the enter key before the second man grabbed him by the back of the neck and delivered a vicious blow to the kidneys. The two men exchanged blows. Morton gained the upper hand and had his assailant pinned to the ground when the first thug picked himself up and landed a solid punch to the side of the blonde’s head.
White spots danced in front of Chip. The punch stunned the XO long enough for the second man to wriggle out from under the Lt. Cmdr and twist Chip’s arm behind his back. Morton shook his head to try and stop the spinning. He could feel the blood creep its way down the side of his head. He tried to focus on what they were saying but he only heard bits and pieces.
The second man still holding the stunned exec ordered the first man to check the computer over and see what their charge had been up to. The disgruntled man with a broken nose began checking the computer while keeping one hand on his nose to stop the blood flow.
While the first man was busy, a third thug had heard the commotion and came to help. Cold steel handcuffs were secured around Chip’s wrists. The two men began to roughly drag Morton out of the room.
“Looks like he was able to get some sort of message out,” said the man with the broken nose.
The group stopped and the second man asked, “do you know to whom?”
“Nelson,” was the simple reply.
Chip smiled to himself as he was escorted down the hall.
Admiral Starke’s Office, Friday 0600 Hours
“Excuse me sir. There is a Commander Crane on standby via the pentagon. He says it’s extremely urgent that he speak with you right away sir,” explained the secretary.
Jiggs Starke reached over and turned on his monitor after waving the secretary away.
“Crane, what the devil do you want? Aren’t you supposed to be in the middle of running tests with base 21?” The volume and timber of the Admiral’s voice indicated he wasn’t in the mood for any pleasantries.
“We have a problem sir. Someone has planted at bomb at the conference as well as on base 21. They are both scheduled to explode in the next three hours. Our communications systems were destroyed as well as propulsion. We managed to make some repairs to propulsion and if we leave now we might be able to make it back to base 21 to evacuate the personal there, if you can evacuate the conference center.”
A confused look over took Starke as he listened to Crane’s story.
“Conference? What are you going on about Crane? Where’s Nelson, let me speak to him!”
Unable to keep the anger and frustration out of his voice any longer the skipper let loose on Starke.
“The damn conference that you insisted Nelson go to, even though we were in the middle of a mission. Whoever has sabotaged base 21 has also planted a bomb at the conference. Now I can’t be in two places at once so I need you to help the Admiral!”
“I never told him to go to any conference Crane and you watch your tone with me!” exclaimed Jiggs, “now start at the beginning.”
Crane quickly retold the events of the last few hours that had lead to the current impending disaster. Starke immediately organized a rescue team to evacuate the conference center and retrieve Nelson. It was a race against time now. Could Starke and his men find the bomb and deactivate it and get everyone to safety? The situation made Jiggs feel everyone of his fifty-seven years and as much as he had disagreed with his friend’s decision to have Crane as the Captain of Seaview, he felt for the young skipper’s situation. Somehow he had managed to find a solution that gave everyone the greatest chance of survival. Instead of choosing one group to save, the resourceful Captain had created a third option. Now it was just a race against time to see if both parties could reach their destinations and objectives in time before the bombs exploded.
Conference, Friday 0630Hours
Smoke filled the room as Nelson took a puff off or his third cigarette. He had awoken early that morning to go over his speech for the opening lecture of the conference. The more he read the notes the more it fueled his frustration. He was getting ready to address a bunch of researchers while Seaview, his Seaview, was out on a mission.
It wasn’t just the fact that his sub was out and he was giving a lecture; it was Starke’s insistence that Nelson was the key note speaker. The Admiral could have come on the last day to observe possible future projects and endeavours for Seaview and given the closing speech. Despite the Admiral’s arguments to postpone his involvement with the scientific convention, Jiggs had been unusually persistent, even going so far as to have issued order from the pentagon. Feeling that Jiggs was probably up to something, Nelson had been sending emails to Starke but had been unsuccessful in contacting him since arriving in New York.
There was a tap at the door and the Admiral hollered for them to enter. The door creaked open and in stepped a timid young girl with big brown rimmed glasses.
“Excuse me sir, but we need you to come down to the theater to go over the final sides for your presentation,” said the girl in a soft voice.
“Yes, I’ll be right there.”
Nelson reached over to grab his briefcase and was about to shut down his computer when the message alert box flashed on the screen. He began to sit down at the computer when the young girl cleared her throat.
“Sorry sir, but they would really like you right now,” apologised the girl.
The Admiral let out an exacerbated sigh and closed the computer. This shouldn’t take very long and I can check the message later thought Nelson.
“Very well,” answered the gruff voice and Nelson followed the young assistant to the theater.
Seaview, Friday 0630Hours
O’Brien absently chewed on his lower lip as he watched the concern deepen on his commander’s face. The Captain was consumed with worry, which was made all the more clear to the young lieutenant by the constant tapping of the skipper’s pencil as he stared at the navigation maps.
The sub was currently being pushed to its limits in order to meet the fast approaching deadline. Everyone knew what was on the line and in their usual fashion the crew performed exemplarily under the growing pressure.
Crane was lost in thought. He kept trying to piece together the plot of his new unknown adversary. The mysterious voice had started all this turmoil, but who could it be? Lee had made his share of enemies working for Naval Intelligence and even more through his adventures on Seaview. This was someone who knew him, what he valued and who he valued. This wasn’t retribution for a successful Seaview mission, this was personal. This attack was directed at him. Then came the thought that disturbed Lee the most; they knew exactly how to hurt him and worse yet, it was looking as though they might succeed.
The loud snap that came from the potting table brought all eyes to Crane. They quickly went back to their instruments when the two pieces of pencil were thrown onto the table.
“I’ll be in the brig talking to Malcolm,” grumbled the Captain as he stormed out of the control room without waiting for a response.
“Aye sir,” replied O’Brien to his commander’s back.
Brig, Friday 0645Hours
“Open the door and leave. I’ll call you if I need you,” ordered Crane to the Master at Arms.
The crewman reached for the appropriate brass key on the large ring and clicked the cell door open. He paused for a moment not sure if he should say something to his skipper. Finally deciding it wasn’t his place; the older crewman clipped the ring back on his belt and left the room.
Lee looked up at the ceiling in an attempt to quell the homicidal rage that he felt building within. It would be so easy to take his frustration out on Malcolm. No one would blame him, but could he do it? There was always a chance that Malcolm’s protests of innocence were true. If he gave into the desire to make someone pay, could he live with himself when this was over? If he did this would Chip forgive him, would the Admiral?
Deciding not to stoop to his enemies level, Crane took a deep calming breath and stepped into the cell. Malcolm rose off of the bench to stand in front of Crane.
With a shaky voice the young scientist asked, “Are you going to let me go now?”
Lee wanted to keep emotion out of this conversation. If he let sentiment get in the way he might not remember himself.
“No. I want you to tell me who you’re working for.”
“I told you I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t bring any explosives aboard this sub! I didn’t plant any at any conference and I didn’t plant any on the base! I don’t know the first thing about explosives.”
With a little more force the Captain countered, “All of the systems that you installed components in were affected. Who else could have done that?”
“I didn’t install them all. Your tech and Commander helped. It doesn’t matter anyway I don’t know the first thing about building a bomb.”
“You’re working for someone. They could have rigged the explosives for you to plant them.”
“I’m not working for anyone. If that base explodes then all my work goes with it. It will take months if not years to rebuild it. Why would I do that?”
“Money, power? Why does anyone sell out?”
“I didn’t do it!” The desperation was clear in Malcolm’s voice but Crane’s anger was building.
“The components you installed all had new parts that weren’t on the blueprints. Shaw said you added them, which means you’re the man on the inside!” Shouted Lee, as he grabbed Malcolm and slammed him into the bulkhead.
“Shaw said? Shaw came up with the sensor enhancer and coordination relay. He built and added those.”
Crane loosened his grip on Malcolm’s collar.
“Please, you have to believe me,” begged the scared young man.
Lee pushed him back onto the bench and left the cell. There was going to be a very involved investigation when Seaview made port.
Conference, Friday 0800Hours
It was going to be one of those days. What should have been a twenty minute meeting to finalize the slide show for his presentation had turned into an hour and a half of technical problems. All the bugs had been sorted out but now there was only an hour until Nelson was due to give his speech.
Technology brought some pretty amazing things, but it sure brought a whole new set of problems too. In this day and age a person could be contacted almost anywhere; a fact that Nelson’s assistant and department heads at NIMR were very thrilled about. The Admiral was sure his email would be filled with the department monthly budget reports and finance requests from Angie by now. All things that would have been put off until the end of the mission had he still been aboard Seaview, but since he was ‘available’ it would have to be looked at sooner rather than later.
Starke is defiantly getting more than an earful when I get a hold of him! I’d make him do the budget numbers if I didn’t think he’d rearrange them to suit his purposes.
The Admiral couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong, and his feeling was justified when one of the hotel employees’ entered the theater.
“Excuse me Admiral but there is an urgent message requiring your attention. If you follow me I can take you to a private room,” offered the young man in the red hotel uniform.
The head of NIMR followed the employee down a few less populated hallways until they came to the end of the hall. The young man pulled out a gold key and unlocked the door allowing Nelson to walk in ahead of him. It took but a second for the Admiral to realize there was no phone for an important call or message waiting in the small room.
“What’s the meaning of this,” Nelson demanded as he began to turn around but stopped when he heard the click of a gun’s safety.
Seaview, Friday 0800Hours
He loved his job and wouldn’t change it for anything. Yes there were hard decisions to be made and he had seen his fair share of horrors but the rewards trumped all of it. Still it was times like these, when all there was to do was wait, that Jamieson reviewed his career choice.
Situations that required his skills were regrettable. The doctor would be able happy if his skill set was never required by anyone ever. But in situations that did require his services, well he could fight for that person or that life. He could do something.
Today he could do nothing. He couldn’t repair the sub so she could travel faster. He couldn’t turn back the hands of time. All he could do was sit in front of the clock and count down the minutes. Two hours left and it would all be over, one way or another. Two hours and there was nothing he could do to change the outcome of events.
It was times like these that Jamie understood what patient’s family and friends felt as they waited for news on their loved one; waited to see if Jamie would return triumphant from battle. Waiting . . . feeling absolutely useless.
Conference, Friday 0805Hours
The street in front of the hotel was all aglow with red and blue lights from the police cars that were blocking off the street. The local authorities were the first on the scene to begin evacuation and locate the explosive device planted within the hotel. Admiral Starke arrived shortly after with several men in tow. He immediately began issuing orders and taking in the situation.
“Has anyone located Admiral Nelson?” Starke asked the police chief who was organizing the bomb sniffing dogs.
“We’ve had no reports of an Admiral being evacuated yet sir,” answered the officer.
“He left the theater to take an emergency call sir. He left with a member of the hotel staff,” interrupted the young girl with brown rimmed glasses as she stepped out of the crowd of people evacuated from the conference.
“We’re going in to find him then. I want one of your teams with me chief,” instructed Starke as he marched towards the hotel in search of his long time friend.
Base 21, Friday 0800Hours
Well, they’re learning thought Chip as he assessed his situation. Hands cuffed to the chair, legs tied, killer head ache, armed guard watching me like one of the Admiral’s specimens. His thoughts were interrupted when a man dressed in a pinstriped suit and light brown hair walked in followed by his entourage of goons, ‘broken nose thug’ included. The well dressed man was clearly in charge and stopped just in front of Morton.
“I’ve been informed that you and Dr. Shaw have been busy, sending out messages to your friends,” stated the boss in a cool flat expressionless voice.
“Well since we’re having a party I thought I would send out a few invitations,” spat the exec defiantly. His blue eyes locked with the other man’s green eyes.
“I wouldn’t worry about their social calendar if I were you. As a matter of fact I think your Captain is in the middle of his own party right now and your precious Admiral . . .” he paused to size up his opponent. An evil smile spread across his face.
“Well he’s going to be having an explosive good time as well. Now tell me what you sent to Nelson.”
The exec maintained his clam exterior and stared passively at the boss.
“You’re going to die anyways and so are they, so your heroics will do no one any good. Tell me what you said in the message to Nelson.”
“If I’m going to die anyways my last act on this earth is not going to be helping you.” It wasn’t much but the simple act of defiance seemed to be the only action available to the executive officer of Seaview.
The boss cocked his head to the side and gave a slight nod to one of his associates.
“It doesn’t really matter. It’s just a matter of time before Jackson decodes your message and in any event anything you sent is too little too late. The only question is how long is it going to take you to die. I may keep the company of thieves and liars, but they are a loyal bunch and you did break Jackson’s nose.”
One of the goons started to flex his fingers and pull out a pair of brass knuckles. The imposing figure moved in front of Chip and brought his fist back. Jackson and the boss left the room just as it was filled with the sound of bones cracking.
Conference, Friday 0805Hours
“Sit down in the chair slowly,” instructed the man in red.
“Just what the devil is going on here!” demanded the Admiral who did not comply with the demands of his captor.
“Insurance policy. We wouldn’t want you to leave the conference early, so we had to step up our game.”
If the gunman was nervous he never showed it. The young man was the picture of calm like he was ordering lunch not threatening someone with a gun.
“My employer has some very specific plans for your Captain. As we speak he’s either on his way here or on his way to the underwater base. You see in approximately fifty minutes two bombs are going to go off. One here and one on base 21 but we only gave your Captain enough time to rescue one of you; so we wouldn’t want you to leave early and miss the exciting conclusion to Crane’s choice. I smell an Oscar.”
Unable to keep the irritation out of his voice the Admiral shot back, “choose between hundreds of innocent people or military base?”
“No! A choice between his employer, his mentor, his friend or his best friend who is still on the underwater base. Yes I believe Commander Morton is the other contestant in the waiting game.”
The gravity of this situation hit the Admiral like a ton of bricks. What kind of a mind could formulate such a scenario, and more importantly who could the Captain have made such an enemy out of.
The gunmen moved forward to force Nelson to sit down. The Admiral made his decision to act and grabbed for the gun. The two struggled for control over the weapon trading blows in the process. The gunman’s finger squeezed the trigger and fired two shots into the ceiling.
The shots did not go unnoticed in the now empty hotel. Within moments of their discharge the echo was accompanied by the thuds of footsteps coming down the hall. After kicking open the door Starke immediately assisted Nelson in subduing the gunman. It took three punches to the head but the young man eventually gave into unconsciousness.
“Jiggs, what are you doing here?” asked the Admiral as he tried to catch his breath.
“Your boy Crane contacted me and said there was a bomb planted here and another one on the underwater base. He sent me to rescue you while he went back to the base. And what are you doing at some science conference when Seaview is on a mission anyway?”
“Why am I here when . . . oh we don’t have time for this now we have a bomb to find and deactivate.”
Both men left to aid in the search leaving one of the police officers to drag the unconscious gunman out of the building.
Base 21, Friday 0830Hours
The room was silent except for the dripping sound. Little droplets of blood fell from the lifeless hand and splashed in the growing puddle of red. The well dressed man came back to survey his men’s work before their scheduled departure.
“Is he dead?”
“No,” answered the thug.
“Put him with the others. And be quick about it. The C4 is set to go off in fifteen minutes. You wouldn’t want to be late,” instructed the boss.
The gunman undid the restraints and proceeded to drag the exec’s body down the corridor.
Conference, Friday 0840Hours
“I think we have something over here,” called one of the police officers as his dog demonstrated the signal for explosives.
Nelson and Starke moved over to the table with the white tablecloth and looked underneath. The bomb was fastened to the bottom of the table with a digital clock attached to the front. The bright red numbers flashed -00:18. The officers proceeded to clear the area and wait outside for the bomb technician to move in to defuse the bomb. Starke and Nelson stayed behind.
“You know what you’re doing there Harry?” asked Starke as Nelson bent down to inspect the wiring.
“I guess we’ll find out.”
“Maybe we should leave this to the professionals.”
“There’s not enough time. If . . . shhhh. Do you hear that?”
“The ticking clock of our destruction? Ya that’s coming in loud and clear,” spat Jiggs.
“No.” The Admiral paused straining his ears to pick up the faint sound again. “It sounds like someone crying. Look over there!” Nelson pointed to the tables on the other side of the room.
Starke proceeded to the group of tables that were littered with donuts, croissants and other breakfast delights. Lifting up the tablecloth he caught sight or a pair of purple and pink sneakers. Starke got down on his hands and knees for a closer inspection. Getting closer he saw that the runners belong to a four year old girl. Her big blue eyes were filled with tears and she wiped her nose on the sleeve of her yellow sweater.
“What are you doing here?” demanded Starke.
The little girl scooted back from the abrasive command from the Admiral. Jiggs took a deep breath and tried again. It took some effort but he managed to find a sweet non threatening voice.
Nelson choked back a laugh, but under different circumstances he would have burst out laughing at the voice his long time pal was using to coax out the little girl.
“What’s going on over their Jiggs?” Asked Nelson as he continued to examine the device.
“We have a stowaway.”
After hearing her sad tale of being separated from her mother in all the confusion earlier, the little girl crawled out from under the table, her pigtails swinging back and forth. Starke took her hand and lead her over to the table Nelson had situated himself under.
“I think it’s time to get out of here Harry.”
“You need to take the girl, there’s something here I want to try,” insisted the Admiral.
“I really think it’s time to leave it to the professionals. Now let’s go. You can play hero on your own time.”
“Trust me Jiggs. I’ll be right behind you if this doesn’t work. Now you need to take her and get out of here.”
Torn between backing his friend and getting the child to safety Starke finally relented and escorted the girl out to the street and into the grateful arms of her mother.
Hurry up there Nelson thought Starke as he waited on the sidewalk.
The bomb squad was still in the process of gearing up when glass rained down onto the street; followed by a loud boom that signaled the end to the need of the bomb squad.
Seaview, Friday 0845Hours
Crane couldn’t remember another time in his life that he had been this anxious. Sure he had faced death thousands of time. Sure the fate of the world had hung in the balance before. Sure he had ordered men into deadly situations and sure he had rescued men from other deadly scenarios. This was different, this time he was completely alone.
Yes he made decisions on his own all the time but there was something reassuring about having Chip answer ‘aye, aye Captain’ and carry those orders out or to have a silent nod of reassurance from the Admiral after a successful mission. Not this time. No this time they were both desperately counting on him to pull a rabbit out of his hat and pull off a miracle.
All of this was compounded by the fact that the Captain was a prisoner of inaction. The clock was counting down and all he could do was wait and hope. Hope that his beloved submarine would get him to the base in time and hope that Starke could find the Admiral and deactivate that bomb.
There like a beacon of hope shining in a cold dark night was the most beautiful sight Lee had ever seen through the observation windows. Base 21 was still intact and their imposed timeline still held hope.
Like a man possessed Crane marched over to the plotting table and picked up the mike.
“Crane to missile room.”
“Missile room here,” answered Sharkey.
“I want the diving bell ready to go in three minutes and make sure Tyke and Baines are ready with the equipment. We’re not going to have a lot of time to locate the explosive device and disarm it,” ordered the Captain.
“Aye, Aye Skipper!”
Crane clicked the mike back into place and turned to O’Brien.
“O’Brien you have the conn. I’m going down in the . . .”
The Klaxon sounded in the background as Seaview tumbled side to side. Crewmen hit the deck and fought to regain their stations. The shockwave slowly subsided and the sub clamed externally but internally she was abuzz with action.
Crane picked himself up from the floor by the plotting table. The first real thing to register was O’Brien calling for damage control. The second was the radically changed view through the observation window. The space previously held by Underwater Base 21 was now ocean with a few chunks of debris that littered the ocean floor.
Crane should have been filled with pride at his young Lieutenant. O’Brien had managed to get a damage report and issue repair crews to the five leaking compartments. The Lt. Even had a causality report informing the skipper that six crewmen were injured but no casualties were reported. It should have been pride filling the Captain that his officer rose to the occasion, but all Crane felt was numbness. Lee stood there staring out into the ocean hoping it was a mirage; that the explosion did not happen, but as he heard O’Brien gaining control of the situation Lee knew that it was true. He had been too late. He had failed.
Conference, Friday 0900Hours
The dust had settled and the area was eerily quiet. Jiggs stared at the burnt out shell of the conference center that was attached to the hotel in utter disbelief. Debris littered the area, some of it smoldering. All of his efforts had been in vain. Crane had counted on him to rescue the head of NIMR and he had failed miserably. It wasn’t the fact that he had disappointed Crane that was getting to him; it was the fact that he had let his long time friend perish. He would never again argue with Nelson or the application of his many contraptions; never again go out of his way to rile Nelson’s feathers regarding his choice of Captain and never again share a drink and reminisce about the good ole days.
Starke wasn’t sure how long he had been standing there staring. Staring at the charred remains of the once great conference hall that the once great Admiral Nelson had been in or staring at nothing, the vast nothingness that now filled the space. Hours or minutes could have pasted and Jiggs did not know or care. The silent whispers and gasps of the surrounding crowd did not register in his ears.
“Quite the explosion?” asked a voice from behind Starke.
Jiggs heard the words but they had no meaning. He knew he was supposed to respond but all that came out was a small grunt. The spectators would just have to find someone else to pester for details about the events that took place.
“They’ll be talking about that for some time.”
The person would not leave Starke alone. Couldn’t they see he was grieving the loss of his best friend? Where was the respect? This was not some story to tell their friends; a great man just lost his life. Jiggs decided that he hated that voice. That voice that spoke about this event like it was nothing more than an inconvenience that voice that. . . he knew that voice.
Starke turned around sharply and came face to face with Nelson. His jaw hung open as he took in the sight of his friend. After a moment Jiggs reached out and grabbed Nelson by the arm just to make sure that the other Admiral was really there and not some desperate hallucination. It was Nelson, he was really standing there looking back at Jiggs. Nelson was looking a little rough, his hair was a mess, he was covered with scratches and bruises, his uniform was rumpled and torn in several spot, but he was very much alive. Starke grabbed Nelson in a big bear hug.
Nelson knew his friend was in shock but he was still taken aback by the sudden and unusual display of affection from his friend. Feeling the ach in his side form the incredible grip Jiggs had on him, Nelson had to cut the embrace short.
“Easy there Jiggs, I’m not as young as I use to be. Wouldn’t want you to break anything that’s already beaten up.”
“Harry you son of a . . . how the hell did you survive that?”
“When I was trying to disarm the device I accidentally tripped one of the fail safes which caused the clock to speed up. I knew I wouldn’t have enough time to get out through the building so I used one of our old tactics.”
Starke gave him a questioning glance.
“I went out the window and landed in the garbage bin,” continued Nelson.
“Well I don’t know how many of your nine lives you have left or what kind of miracles you have up your sleeve for next time, but right now, I’m just grateful you made it.”
Jiggs put his hand on Nelson’s shoulder and directed him towards one of the ambulances to have his minor injuries examined.
New York Naval Base, Friday 1645Hours
A gentle breeze blew over the dock. The sun had warmed the earth to a nice spring temperature. A flock of seagulls circled in the air breaking the silence with their call. The Admiral stood on the dock waiting for his submarine, his crew and his boys to return.
“Any word yet?” asked Starke as he walked over to join his friend.
“No. They used the deep center communication cable again to gain permission to dock here for repairs but Seaview’s communication systems are still down.”
Contact had been brief; just a request to make port and the sub’s current location. No news had to be good news right? That was the idea Nelson wanted to go with. They had yet to learn if Crane had been successful in saving the base or not. Was not really an option? His crew had beaten the odds time and time again; surely this would be just another heroine tale to tell, the stuff that Seaview’s legend was made of. That nagging feeling was back, the one that appeared a few days ago that the Admiral couldn’t place.
Nelson reached into his pocket and pulled out his pack of cigarettes. After lighting the cigarette he put the lighter back in his pocket. The two stood in silence watching the horizon for any sign of the sleek and powerful sub.
Soon the moment of truth arrived. The sub made port and the crew began to disembark. Nelson’s eyes landed immediately on the Captain. The smile that had crept across his face began to disappear as he took in Crane’s appearance. The usual bounce in Lee’s step was gone and his shoulders were slumped in defeat. The pair locked eyes and Nelson knew. He knew what had happened. He knew that his exec’s absence upon docking would be felt in every aspect of their future. He knew what Lee felt. There were no words needed. They wouldn’t do justice to the situation anyway. None would provide comfort, absolution, or fill the canyon that had formed in their souls. He knew; Lee didn’t have to tell him. Nelson let the rest of his cigarette burn.
***** Present ****
‘Captain we have everything under control here.’ How did things go from in control to this? Couldn’t even have a funeral. Couldn’t even give the Morton’s that small comfort.
It had been three days since the memorial service. Lee was sitting in Jamie’s office waiting for the doctor. Will had asked Crane to meet him for coffee but Lee suspected there was more to it than just getting together. Checking up on him seemed like the more plausible reason for the meeting. The skipper reminded himself that they were just concerned for him. Making sure their Captain was alright. Captain. And ‘ you are the Captain, Captain.’ One of the privileges of being Captain. This certainly wasn’t one of them. Life and death decisions came with the job. Crane was trained to make them, had made them in the past and while they were always hard and always hurt, it was never like this.
Lee was interrupted from his thoughts when Will entered the office.
“Sorry I’m late Captain. Had an incident in one of the loading bays that required my immediate attention.”
“No, crewman Philips managed to drop a crate on his foot. He’ll have to stay off of it and ice it down but he should be back to light duty before the week is out. He was lucky the crate wasn’t full or he probably would have broken it.”
Crane just nodded as the doctor filled him in on the incident. Will could tell that the skipper wasn’t really focused on their conversation. It was defiantly time to sit down with him and talk about the events of the last week. A change of scenery might do them some good, so Jamie decided to take the Captain to a small coffee shop just off NIMR grounds.
The drive was quiet. Lee just stared out the passenger side window watching the world pass him by. It seemed that everyone else had things to do, places to be, except Crane. Nelson decided to put Seaview out of service for the next few weeks to allow the crew some personal time. Truth was Nelson felt he needed the time more than the crew, and knew Lee needed it even more. The Admiral had insisted Lee take some time off and get away from the Institute for awhile. With no missions coming up all there was to do was sit and contemplate what had transpired. Lee didn’t want to think about it anymore; he just wanted something to do, to take his mind off the constant replay in his head.
After several minutes of silence at the coffeehouse table, in an almost inaudible voice, Lee asked, “did I make the right decision?”
“You did what you had to do.”
“Was it? Or did I make it based on something else?
“Did I choose to save one over the other? Did I pick Nelson because of all those people at risk? Did I pick the Admiral so people wouldn’t say he chose to save Chip, his best friend, over all those people? Or did I let Chip die because I’m closer to the Admiral?”
“You took the only option available to you. You came up with a plan that gave you the best odds at saving both. And if the bomb hadn’t gone off early, I dare say you would have rescued everyone on base 21 as well.”
Will paused and looked at his young Captain who was staring into his coffee cup. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a silver key and slid it across the table. Crane glanced at the key then up at Jamie.
“What is this?” asked the bewildered skipper.
“The key to my cabin. I think you should go up there and take some time, work some things out. Hopefully come to the same conclusion that we all have . . . it’s not your fault,” insisted Jamieson.
“I can’t just leave. I . . .”
Will raised his hand to halt Lee’s protest and explained, “I already talked it over with the Admiral and he agrees completely. Seaview won’t be going out for awhile and we don’t need you for the eight to five operations at the Institute. We won’t have a course of action until the investigation concludes. Until then you’re no use to the crew like this. Go, take a week, and then maybe we can go after these guys.
Deciding that Jamie was probably right Lee agreed to take the week and try and regroup. He had to get his focus back if he was going to be any good. He had a new mission now, the only thing that he could do for Chip. Find whoever started all of this and bring them to justice.
The man in the leather jacket entered the office to find his boss standing in front of the large windows at the back. The dark haired gentleman at the window was well dressed and in his early fifties. The boss failed to turn his gaze from the busy street below as the man gave his report.
“Sir, all went well with team three. They were able to transfer most of the computer files needed before they blew the base and with the doctor’s help should be able to reproduce the entire project in a couple of months. Team two was slightly less successful. They managed to blow up the conference center but Nelson did manage to escape. Also one of our operatives was arrested,” reported the younger man.
“Excellent. We can move to phase two. I want you to start tailing Crane. I’m going to go back to the manor. Looks like I will have to prepare for company,” instructed the boss then he waved his hand to dismiss the young man.
The man turned and started to walk towards then door.
“Oh and make sure you take care of that little problem with our operative. I would hate to find out there was someone giving away our secrets in exchange for less jail time,” ordered the older man.
“I will take care of it sir,” answered the employee as he left the office to start his task.