Part of the Crew
Senior Rating Robert Kowalski grumbled into his coffee cup. He was sitting with several friends in the crew’s mess, but his dark mood precluded much conversation. His friend, Matthew Patterson, leaned over. "What, Ski?"
"You heard me.... I said I can't believe after all this time we're playing nursemaid to some alien. He’s getting palsy-walsy with the khaki's, too. Jeez, I'm surprised the admiral hasn't make him a lieutenant or something."
"Did seem rather quick," Patterson began.
"Yeah, like he had the skipper eating out of his hand in double time. And do you believe his story about being the only one of his bunch left?"
"Uh, well, yeah, I do," Patterson admitted. Several others nodded in agreement.
"He hasn't done anything rad and he's been awful friendly," Stu Riley added.
"I think he took over the skipper and did something to the admiral, too," Ski continued.
"He'd have pulled something by now if that was the case," Pat pointed out.
“Yeah, but you should have seen the look on the skipper’s face when he
touched the guy in the cave,” Ski said, his voice low. “It was like someone had
knocked off his mother or something. Then he was back to normal. It’s happened
before, you know.”
Outside in the corridor, Captain Lee Crane was listening, his mouth set in a hard line. He started toward the door.
“Captain, please. It does not matter,” Sargo said. “They have a right to their suspicions
considering what you have told me has happened to you and your crew.”
“But that kind of scuttlebutt can be
damaging,” Crane replied tersely.
“Did you not say that you came aboard
under less than optimal circumstances,” Sargo began.
“And you had to prove yourself to the crew.”
“Well, yes, but….”
“No, let it go. Hopefully, I can prove my
worth to your vessel as well as your men.” What Sargo
didn’t say was if he and the humans couldn’t get used to one another, he would
Crane nodded and the two continued down
the corridor, leaving the rates to their musings.
At eight hundred feet light fades and
color is muted, so the bright bow lights scattered surprised aquatic life in
all directions. It also showed the hulk of a destroyed science lab in shocking
detail. It was as if a can opener had sliced off the top. Lee Crane didn’t
think much of the chances of any of the four scientists, even if they had made
it to the emergency pressure chamber. Now as he and Kowalski suited up in
special diving suits and others readied the diving bell to pick up survivors,
he felt bad vibes. Sargo stood quietly by the diving
Soon the three were swimming toward the
scene of the disaster. Sargo went ahead, unencumbered
by equipment. There was no need to bother with the air lock. They cautiously
swam in through the breach and surveyed the damage. Surprisingly a couple of
the systems were still operative with blinking lights. That puzzled Crane,
knowing the sea lab was a closed air-type system that wouldn’t have been adapted
to a water environment. “Kowalski, check the outside of the lab. See if you can
make out what happened.”
“Aye, sir,” came the reluctant answer.
check the pressure chamber for any signs of life, while I check out these
“Yes, Captain.” Sargo
swam with effortless grace. The only equipment he wore was a communicator. At
times Crane envied him. Most of the time he didn’t. He
knew Sargo was lonely. It didn’t help that most of
the crew still didn’t trust him. Lee also knew Sargo
wouldn’t stay forever in an environment of such distrust, not that he blamed
Sargo swam up to
the chamber’s hatch and placed his hands on it. He sensed no human life functions, felt no soft sighing that would indicate the
beating of a heart. There was something that didn’t seem right, though. A slight hum; a metallic click that was almost too high for even
his keen audio senses to pick up. It raised in
timber, pitched higher than his ears could pick up. He could feel it though. A slightly different vibration. He reported to Capt. Crane.
“Get the hell out of here!!” the captain
shouted into the communicator.
“Sir?” Ski asked.
“Bomb! Move it,
everyone. Seaview, back full! Don’t know big this is.” He swam out of
the breach and toward the sea floor.
Kowalski wasn’t quite as fast. The pitch
of the device rose enough for Sargo to detect it away
from the pressure chamber. Why would the humans try so hard to destroy each
other? No time now for philosophy. Crane had the right idea for survival.
Kowalski was heading for the submarine. He wouldn’t have a chance if the blast
caught him in the open. With little effort, Sargo
caught up with Kowalski and grabbed him by the arm. The diver shook him off.
“He ordered us to get away,” Sargo responded. “We cannot get to the Seaview
before the device explodes!” Sargo pointed to the
direction Crane had taken.
“Says you,” Kowalski snapped.
Sargo knew there
was no time to argue. With his more-than-human strength, he grabbed Kowalski’s
air tank harness and pulled him toward the bottom.
“Hurry, Ski, Sargo,”
caught up to the captain and saw they were still too exposed. “Come,” he
ordered the two humans. Kowalski hesitated, but Crane followed with a motion to
the rate. Sargo scanned the bottom with eyes that
could see quite well in the depths. It was his ears that picked up what might
save them as well as what was about to kill them. He pointed to an outcropping
and urged the two men behind it. A crevice opened behind and under the
encrusted rock. Crane didn’t take time to study it but ordered them in. Sargo pushed the rate into the crevice and then Crane, just
as the bomb exploded. He braced against the rock and hoped it was enough. The
shockwave of water slammed into the outcropping, toppling it, flattening him.
The ground seemed to quiver beneath him.
Crane called to him from below.
felt Lee Crane’s touch against his chest and in his mind. There was massive
weight on his back. It was hard to breathe. Sargo
tried to gather his arms beneath him to push the rock off his back. It was
useless. He felt his consciousness drifting.
“Maybe if we increase
the pressure in one of the tanks. Use air to push the boulder off him,”
“It won’t be enough, Ski,” Crane said.
“Help me dig this side out. If I take off my tank I can slide out,” he said. “Crane to Seaview!” He called several more times
before giving up. He squirmed and finally got the tank off with Kowalski’s
help. He squirmed some more and then slid out of their refuge. Sargo lay unconscious in front of him, the collapsed
outcropping pinning him. Crane braced his legs and tried to push, but his lungs
were demanding air and he grabbed at the tank Ski had pushed out for him. He
pulled his tank back on and tried again. Ski was soon beside him and pushing
with him. The only movement threatened to crush the alien even more.
“We need to brace this before we try to
lift it again,” Crane said. A crackling in his communicator and he heard Chip calling him.
“We need another dive team to save Sargo, Chip,” Crane answered. “He’s pinned under fallen
rock. I don’t know how long he can hold out.”
“Skipper, if we use my tank here to keep
the rock from shifting,” Ski began, pointing, “we can dig underneath him.”
“We’ll have to buddy up,” Crane reminded
“That’s all right. We have to do
something. Even a fish can’t survive with all this weight on him.”
Crane glanced at the rate, but didn’t see
any malice behind the mask. “Let’s do it then.”
By the time the rescue team reached them,
the two divers had almost exhausted themselves trying to dig and share a tank
at the same time. They had made some progress. With the help of a pneumatic
underwater jack, the divers moved the boulder enough to get Sargo
Sargo woke up
slowly, his mind trying to figure out just why he felt so tired. He had rested
recently. When he swam to the top of his resting tank, he felt pain in his
joints and wondered about that, too. His normally private time was being
monitored and watched by humans as well. Then it came back. The
destroyed research facility, the bomb and the explosion. Captain Crane
watched him with a relieved expression. Doc did, as well. The water that flowed
around him was oxygen rich, which was exactly what he had needed after such an
event as being half-crushed. Activating the communications device, he said, “I
am sore, but otherwise physically well.”
Doc turned to Crane with a
sardonic look on his face. “At least he will admit to his trauma.”
Crane ignored the doctor’s jibe. “You had
us worried. That boulder was half a ton if it was an ounce.”
climbed out of his tank at the far end of the laboratory and let the water pool
beneath him where it would drain back into the water purification system. “But
your doctor is very capable and I am well.”
“Before I announce you totally well, I’d
like to examine you again in sick bay, Sargo,” Doc
nodded, then watched as Kowalski came in. The young
sailor glanced at everyone and then at Sargo.
“Before you do that, Doc, don’t I need to
get your report?” Crane asked. It was definitely not subtle.
Doc nodded. “Come and see me when you’re
through here, Sargo.”
The men left and Kowalski said nothing for
the space of twenty dorlens of time.
“Uh, sir, I, uh, want to apologize. I
mean, I was kind of a jerk.”
There was a pause and Sargo
was able to process the word ‘jerk.’
“I didn’t trust you. We’ve been invaded so
many times and everyone of them wanted to take
something . . . or take over someone.”
Sargo started to
say something, but Kowalski interrupted him.
“I mean I’m the one that started all the
scuttlebutt going around and, well, Sargo, you’re
okay. You saved me and the skipper and that’s A-okay in my book.”
sure just how to respond at first. “Thank you, Kowalski. I appreciate your
confidence. I can also assume by my being here that you had something to do
with saving my life.”
“Well, maybe a little,” Kowalski admitted.
“By the way, what do I call you? I mean while we’re on duty or something. Do
you have some rank or something?”
Sargo shook his head. Rank meant nothing to
him now. Only trust and ability and friendship. “How about hrith?”
“What does it mean?” Kowalski asked, trying the word out loud a couple
“It means friend.”