By R. L. Keller


This is what happens when I get stuck in the airport for five hours – read at your own risk




Dr. Will Jamison walked unhurriedly up the steps to NIMR’s Administration building.  He was nearly twenty minutes early for the senior staff Monday morning strategy session in Admiral Nelson’s office, but not without a good reason.


The Med Bay staff had decided to set an example and had started only brewing decaf coffee.  Jamie had served aboard Seaview, NIMR’s research submarine, for far too long, and become far too used to Cookie’s high-octane variety, to handle the change well.  Nelson could be counted on to have a large supply of a more suitable strength elixir.


While he usually attended these meetings anyway, his presence this morning had been expressly requested because the next cruise included a stop at a rather secluded research station in Antarctica.  Seaview was taking in a new team of scientists and Will would be handling the psychological evaluations for the exiting team.  Not only were the tests necessary to maintain standards for station personnel selection, it would add data to Will’s continuing research into the psychological and physiological attributes of small isolated groups.  He’d conducted several tests while Seaview was taking the present team in and the exit data would complete the cycle.  He’d be doing more entrance exams on the incoming team as well, as he took every opportunity to continue his research.  He did minor evaluations on Seaview’s crew all the time, carefully helping to maintain the submarine’s strong, balanced stability where crew was concerned.  Most of the seamen weren’t even aware that he was doing it.  He chuckled to himself as he entered the double front doors.  They just think I’m being nosey, he thought, and a large smile spread across his face.


The grin widened as he approached the reception area in front of Admiral Nelson’s office and he slowed his pace, eventually stopping at the corner before actually entering the wide area so as not to interfere with the current conversation going on there.  Seaview’s dark, curly-haired, way-too-young-looking captain, Cmdr. Lee Crane, had hitched a hip onto the corner of the Admiral’s secretary’s desk.  One hand holding a large mug of coffee, Lee was in casual conversation with her as well as a half dozen other secretaries.  Will quickly realized that he was relating to the bunch the details surrounding an apparently impromptu football game that had erupted the day before between members of Seaview’s crew and NIMR security personnel.  The only other male present was Lee’s blond Executive Officer and close friend, Lt. Cmdr. Charles “Chip” Morton, occupied at the moment checking something on Angie’s computer.


The PC tower was tucked under the desk and Chip was leaning over her chair, fiddling with the cords and connections, and coming up for air occasionally to add a comment to Lee’s tale and sip at the cup of coffee on the desk.  Will was amused to find the ladies casting appraising glances in Chip’s direction now and then.  Surely just keeping an eye on the progress of the work   He nearly chuckled out loud.  But the ladies were being careful that Chip didn’t catch them out, just the same.  Lee appeared to be totally oblivious to the ladies’ glances as he continued on with his story.  Although, I do wonder…   Will couldn’t hear every word that was said, as Lee was speaking in a soft, slightly good-humored voice.  At one point the door to the Admiral’s office opened slightly but no one except Will seemed to notice, all attention focused on Lee.  Apparently the Admiral was loath to interrupt the narrative as well, since he folded his arms and leaned casually against the doorframe. 


The Captain’s story continued, interrupted by an occasional question from one of his female audience who needed a term defined or further explanation of a particular play or maneuver.  Will joined Nelson in not wishing to disturb the quiet, relaxed conversation; it was a scenario Seaview’s CMO saw all too infrequently – his Skipper enjoying a peaceful moment unhurried by duty or harried by impending crisis.  He adopted the Admiral’s stance and propped himself against the wall next to the entrance.  He did visually examine Lee, looking for any bruises or other injuries Lee would consider unnecessary to report to medical personnel.  Seeing nothing overt, Will still made a mental note to keep a surreptitious eye on the younger man.  While the games were usually of the touch football variety, there had been instances of momentary forgetfulness in the heat of battle, and Lee set new records for unreported ‘oops’.


The story seemed to include quite a few references to the exploits of a certain blond, if Chip’s rather pleased expressions were any indication.  Typical Lee story.   Will nodded to himself.  While Admiral Nelson was the acknowledged storyteller aboard Seaview, Seaview’s Skipper could also spin a tale or two – as long as they were about someone other than himself.  It always amused Will that the very reserved Captain Crane would talk at length with or about anyone else, just so long as it didn’t entail too many of his own personal details.


Chip seemed to be having problems figuring out what was causing Angie’s current computer woes.  Casually waving off any assistance, however, he went back to fiddling with the cords and missed what Will noted were more glances at the back of the blond’s front.  Lee, distracted rather hurriedly by Angie posing a question, apparently missed the looks as well.  Not so the Admiral, Will noted, glancing across the area and watching Nelson’s eyes sparkling.  His shoulders were shaking as well as he was apparently struggling mightily to suppress laughter that would surely destroy the tranquil scene, but he did send a wide grin Will’s direction.  Together they watched the ladies get their expressions under control by the time Lee finished answering Angie’s question and continue on with his recitation.


Will recognized that the tale was coming to a conclusion as Lee raised his voice slightly and was a bit more animated as he related what had been the final, defining moments of the game.  Chip added a bit of commentary, still struggling to figure out the wiring problem.  Will heard him cast aspersions at one of the security men for throwing an “obviously illegal block and destroying the pass play Lee had called.”


“Always the quarterback,” Angie said to Lee with a grin, and the dark head lowered slightly.  Will smiled again and sent a wink towards Nelson that the OOM acknowledged with a nod.   Lee seldom took credit for anything that he could pass off to someone else’s ingenuity.  This time was no different.


“It was a brilliant read of our offense, Chip.  Nothing illegal about it.  And with your quick thinking we pulled it off despite the tackle.”


“How’s that?”


“What did Chip do?” came simultaneously from a couple of the ladies. 


Chip straightened up, having apparently gotten the computer cords back under control, as Lee continued on with the explanation.


“Chip was in the perfect position for me to lateral the ball, and he ran down for the winning touchdown.”  Lee’s quite satisfied explanation ended with him finishing off his mug of coffee. 


“Chip, you played football at the Academy, didn’t you?” Trish asked.


“All four years.”


“What position did you play?” Bonnie wanted to know.


Chip started to answer, but his hand inadvertently knocked several sheets of paper off Angie’s desk.  Ever the gentleman, he bent over to pick them up just as Lee said oh so innocently, “He was always a tight end.  One of the best the Academy ever had.”  


Chip straightened up before the ladies had time to hide their appreciation for his well-fitting trousers and instantly stiffened as Lee’s comment took on a whole different meaning for the ladies than the one he thought Lee intended.  He sent his CO a withering glare, made somewhat less threatening by the fact that he had also turned fourteen shades of red.  “Lee, we have a meeting to get to,” he sputtered out, and turned another couple shades darker as he looked around and realized both Nelson and Will had heard Lee’s comment and seen the reaction.  A flash of anger helped get the embarrassment under control; he couldn’t be sure that Lee had a clue as to what meaning the ladies could read into what he’d said.


“Oh, sorry, Admiral,” Lee apologized, standing up.  Will didn’t detect any awkward movements, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t be keeping a close eye on the Skipper the next couple days – just in case. 


“Not at all, lad,” Nelson managed to get out, barely containing his humor.  “Wouldn’t have wanted to interrupt your story for anything.”  He sent a particularly brilliant smile Chip’s way.  “But it looks like Will is here as well.  I suppose we’d better get started.”


Jamie watched the secretaries head off toward their respective offices, somewhat reluctantly, he thought, and followed the two younger men toward Nelson’s open door.  He took a deep breath and tried desperately to get his face under control when his own indecision as to whether or not Lee’s comments had been all that uncalculated were answered very clearly.  As the younger man stepped aside to let Will precede him into Nelson’s office, he sent the doctor a particularly dazzling grin, accompanied by a wink.  Humm, Will ruminated, Lee may be in one piece at the moment.  Wonder how long that will last once his XO gets a hold of him.