A Valentine’s Day “comedy” set on board Seaview. This is actually one of the first Voyage stories I wrote years ago, but am just submitting it now. Please excuse any ‘amateurishness’, but I thought it was still good enough for a laugh or two.

Seeing Red


By  K. Corris


Lee Crane, Captain of the submarine Seaview, walked aft, supposedly doing a routine check. Not that there was anything that needed to be checked, he basically just felt like taking a walk to stretch his long legs.  The only thing he disliked about sea duty was not being able to get as much exercise as he did on shore duty. They had plenty of exercise equipment on board Seaview, and there were always the cargo bays. If one was empty, you could get a little bit of jogging done, if you didn’t mind running in circles. But it just wasn’t the same as jogging on the beach outside his little seaside cottage.  He suddenly remembered the breathtaking crimson sunset he had enjoyed while jogging there the evening before they had set sail.


“Skip!”  There was only one crew member who got away with calling him that. To all other crewmen he was Captain, Skipper, or Sir, and Lee to the Admiral, Chip and Jamie.  Besides, he recognized the voice, and it sounded like something was at least a little bit wrong.  He turned back and into the intersecting corridor he had just walked through and saw ‘Ski at the end there, his arm and the sleeve of his red jumpsuit stuck as far into the bulkhead as it could go.  There was a red toolbox and an array of tools on the floor around him.


“What’s up ‘Ski, what are you trying to do?” 


“Well, Sir, I traced the problem we were having earlier with the flickering lights down here to a short in the wiring behind this bulkhead.  But the wiring access panel doesn’t go quite far enough over for me to reach the wires! Then, uh, well Sir, my sleeve got caught on something in here and I can’t get my arm out.  And I’m too far from the mic to call for help.”


Lee just stood there looking at him.  He could tell how embarrassed ‘Ski was.  An experienced and responsible first mate like him didn’t usually get into fixes like this. 


Lee tried to help, but ‘Ski’s arm, or rather his sleeve, was really caught tight on something.  Yanking on it could not only cause further damage to the circuitry, but send sparks that could hurt  ‘Ski and start a fire.  After a few minutes of trying with a long screwdriver to work the sleeve loose, Lee gave up.


“Okay, ‘Ski.  Let me get the schematic for the wiring in this area from the Admiral’s office.  We’ll need to get a blow torch down here to enlarge the access area, both to get your arm out and to fix the short.  We’ll do it from further up so we don’t burn your arm. I’ll be right back.”


“Uh, Skip, wait, before you go, uh, I’ve been caught here for a while waiting for someone to come by and, well Sir, I REALLY need to go!”


Lee casually leaned back against the bulkhead, crossing his arms.  “How about those Red Skins Saturday night!  Did you catch the game Ski?  Unbelievable!”


“Aw, Skip, please……….” He knew the Captain was just teasing him.  Teasing, practical jokes, pranks, all were part of submarine life, to break up the monotony. And the command crew was just as guilty and susceptible as the regular crew.  


Lee smiled, laughed, and winked at him as he went to the intercom at the end of the corridor.


“Captain to Sickbay.”


“Sickbay here.  What’s the problem Captain?”


“Jamie, I have a crewman here that has his arm stuck in the bulkhead, it’s going to take a while to get him free, and ----”


“Is he injured?”


“No, just stuck, but he’s been here for a while and really needs to relieve himself.  Could you send a corpsman down here with one of those red handheld urinals? We’re in the crosswise corridor outside the missile room.”


He heard Jamie snort then laugh.  “I’ll send John down there with one.  Sickbay out.”  Lee turned back and looked at ‘Ski.  The poor guy, his face was as red as a beet.  “Relax ‘Ski, relief is on the way.  I’ll go get that wiring schematic.”  The last thing ‘Ski needed now was an audience.


Lee knocked on the Admiral’s door twice.  No answer.  He was probably down in his lab, studying the new species of pink coral that he had just discovered in this area.   Lee opened the door and went over to where the Admiral kept all of Seaview’s plans.  Ah, here’s the one for circuitry in that area.  As he was studying the wiring, he heard the head door open and the Admiral stepped out, head down drying his wet auburn hair with a towel. The only towel he had.


Lee quickly turned away, but not quick enough.  He could feel his face getting flushed from embarrassment.


He had to make his presence known. “Sir, sorry SIR!  Uh, you didn’t answer when I knocked and, and I thought you were probably down in your lab, and, well, Sir, we have a little wiring problem, and I needed these plans, and well, Sir, sorry Sir!”  He stood at attention, even though his back was now to the Admiral.


“Oh, er, um, Lee!  Ok, relax.  I’m covered up now, and I’m sure it isn’t the first time you’ve seen a naked man.  I’m working in my cabin today because I’m going over the Institute’s financial reports, trying to be sure we don’t go into the red waiting for the government’s grant money to come in, it’s so late. We don’t seem to be getting the red carpet treatment from them anymore.  Tell me what the wiring problem is while I get dressed.” 


Of course Lee had seen naked men before, but never one who was his commanding officer!


Lee explained it, keeping his head down looking at the plans the whole time.  He was too horrified to look the Admiral in the eye.  This is what he got for embarrassing poor ‘Ski!


“And you say the wiring isn’t accessible from the access panel there?  It has to be! I personally supervised every inch of the wiring in that area because it was adjacent to the missile room.   I couldn’t take a chance of anything going wrong. There can’t be a design flaw there!  Let’s go take another look.”


Lee hoped Ski had a chance to relieve himself by now so he wouldn’t be humiliated again, and this time in front of the Admiral.


Nelson agreed they had to use a blow torch to open the bulkhead and get Ski’s arm out, but he wasn’t ready to believe there was a problem with the wiring there until he could see it for himself.  “You can go back down to the Control Room, Lee.  I’ll stay here and handle this.”  Nelson’s curiosity was getting the better of him.


That’s exactly what Lee wanted to do; he was still embarrassed and it was Chip’s turn for a break anyway.


His Executive Officer turned to him as he walked into the control room. “There you are, Lee. I was getting worried.”


“Chip, it appears we might we have a slight design flaw in the bulkhead outside the missile room.  The access panel that was installed there to allow maintenance of the wiring isn’t where the wiring is! The Admiral is taking care of it now.  I think he’s having a hard time accepting that he made a mistake in his blueprint. I’ll enter it into the log book and red flag it for further permanent repair when we dock.  Go get your coffee Mister Morton.  Oh, and Chip?  Make sure that’s all you get! No desserts or snacks!” He used a mock command tone, but he knew Chip knew he was joking.


Lee had been teasing Chip from the time he came on board, fresh from two week’s shore leave to visit his family.  He enjoyed his mother’s good cooking so much, Chip always came back with a good extra 5 pounds on him, but this time it looked like more, though he adamantly denied it.


Chip glared at him as he turned to go and, not paying attention, he accidentally knocked the log book off the charting table. As he bent down to pick it up, the entire control room was treated to the rrrr-iiii-pppp of his pants in back, from the waistband right on down to the crotch.  Then the bright red shorts with white Valentines Day hearts on them popped out.  He quickly stood up and turned around, putting his hand behind him to see if what he thought had happened, had really happened.  Then he felt the red shorts sticking out.  His current girlfriend had given them to him and asked him to wear them for her under his uniform on Valentine’s Day, and she would wear the bright red sheer camisole he had given her under her business suit.  That way it would seem like they were together.  He didn’t quite understand her logic, but he promised her he would do it and, well, a promise is a promise.  He just had to be sure he didn’t put them in with his regular laundry but took them home with him to wash.  Not that he had any intention of ever wearing them again!


All the years he had known him, Lee had never seen Chip’s face get so red. Morton was mortified.


He tried.  He truly tried so very, very hard.  But then he just lost it.  Lee got hysterical. He was laughing so hard he had to sit down on the step to the periscope island.  The tears were running down his face, he could hardly catch his breath.  Once he lost it, the control room crew, hearing him laughing so hard, couldn’t help but lose it, too. 


Chip quickly pulled his stoic “in control” facial expression on and gave everyone his icy cold command stare, but with his face so red and their Captain laughing so heard, the crew just couldn’t take it seriously this time.  It had never worked on Lee anyway.  Not wanting to turn around to take the spiral stairs up to Officer’s Country and give them all a second look, he stalked out the back of the control room with his hand behind him holding the back of his pants together.


Even though Lee hadn’t done anything wrong, hadn’t planned this in anyway, he knew Chip’s payback to him was going to be BAD! Now that Chip was gone, he just let the crew get a good laugh out of it, enjoy the moment and get it out of their system.  This one would be remembered for years to come in the annals of Seaview history as “The Red Shorts Incident.”  Maybe he should put it in the log, in red ink!  No, on second thought, his life was too valuable to him.




The amount of mail in the mail drop was expectedly heavy, it was Valentine’s Day. It worked out nice this year, the weekly mail drop being on Valentine’s Day itself, instead of before or after it.  Of course it would have been better if the men could actually be home with their loved ones, but well, you can’t have everything.  Lee did his best to be sure they were in port for all the major holidays so the crew could spend them with their families, and Admiral Nelson usually cooperated. Being that they weren’t regular Navy but Naval Reserve made it easier.  But Valentine’s Day wasn’t considered a major holiday.  Unless of course, you were head over heels in love! 


Lee wasn’t seeing anyone special at the moment, but wasn’t surprised to see a bright red envelope in with his regular mail. Ah, well.  Some girls just couldn’t forget him. And someone could just be being kind to him, making sure he didn’t feel lonely so far from home on Valentine’s Day.  He hoped it wasn’t from his mother. He opened it and started to read the card with the big red heart on the front.


Now wait a minute!  He had never done THAT with any girl! Oh my, not that either!  He could feel his face getting red. Why, what the devil, we’ll do what when I get home?  And, that? It was signedLove, Scarlett.”  He didn’t even know a Scarlett! He quickly closed the card and read the front of the envelope.  It was addressed to Chief Sharkey.  He turned and looked to the back of the control room where Sharkey stood, looking a bit  disappointed. Lee walked slowly back there and handed him the card.  “Chief, I’m sorry. This was in with my mail and I opened it not realizing it wasn’t addressed to me.”


Sharkey’s face brightened, he gave Lee a big grin.  “Thank you, Sir!”  Why was the Captain’s face so red?


Then he opened the card and started reading it. Lee turned and started walking back to the charting table, hoping the flush on his face would go away before Sharkey realized he had read the card.


It didn’t work.  A minute later, Sharkey was standing next to him.


“Uh, Sir, I, uh, umnaumnaumna………. he sounded like Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden. He was so tongue tied, so embarrassed, he couldn’t talk. His Commanding Officer had just read the most intimate details of his lovemaking, even about the “Sharkey Special.


“It’s all right Sharkey. Dismissed.”  He kept his head turned away as he spoke. Who would’ve thought Chief Sharkey…..it was always the quiet ones.


Now he wished, after reading that, that he did have someone special waiting for him to come home!  A dozen red roses, a bottle of a good red wine…some big, bright, juicy red strawberries and whipped cream…..red satin sheets……red lips……..pink-


He was standing there fantasizing, when all of a sudden the lights went out.  It took less than a minute for the emergency lights to come on.  The whole control room was bathed in red, as was the rest of the boat.  Just as he reached for the mic on the side of the charting table, the Admiral came on over the intercom.


“Lee, I think we found the problem with the wiring.  It’s going to take a few minutes to fix but shouldn’t affect anything else in the meantime. We should be fine with the backup generators for a little while. Nelson out.”


He went around and checked on everything, every gauge, monitor, and sensor in the control room.  Everything was fine here.  He waited until Chip came back, the current “emergency” overshadowing the previous incident and with new uniform pants on. He bet Chip wouldn’t sit or stoop down for the rest of the cruise.  “Chip, you have the con. I’m going to take a walk through the boat to check on everything.”


“Aye, Sir.” 


He was on his way aft when the regular lighting came back on. That was better. Now that everything was back to normal, he decided to stop and get a fresh cup of coffee since he was passing near the galley.  Then he heard a loud “BOOM!”  He knew from experience it wasn’t a depth charge, explosion, or any kind of bomb.  It had come from the galley.  He ran the rest of the way, stopping only to grab a red fire extinguisher just in case.  He could smell Cookie’s chili long before he got there; he sure must have made a mess of it.  Then he heard Cookie yelling and swearing at the top of his lungs. Ah, a true Navy man’s mouth.


A mess of it was right.  Red chili was all over the galley. It was dripping down the bulkheads, from the ceiling, covering the deck, and covering Cookie himself.  Thank goodness, this time Lee was able to bite his tongue and contain his laughter at the hilarious sight.  Until the day he died, he would never forget the comical sight of Cookie standing there dripping with red chili.

“Cookie, what happened? Are you all right, are you burned, do you need to go to Sickbay?”  


“Oh, I’m burning Skipper, burning mad! The automatic safety built into the pressure cooker I was making chili in shut it off when the power went out and it didn’t restart when the emergency power came on. The emergency generator doesn’t cover anything cooking in the galley, only the lighting in the galley. I had to wait till the regular power came back on to restart it.  I told the new galley mate what to do it, and he decided it would be a good idea to stir it before restarting it.  You can guess what happened next.  He undid the lid without opening up the vents to let the steam out first.  Look at this place, Skipper. I can’t possibly have anything ready in time for the crew’s dinner now.  It’s going to take hours to clean this mess up!”


“Relax Cookie.  The crew will survive, even if they have to eat cold sandwiches for one night.  Go grab a shower and get a clean uniform on.  I’ll stay here and explain to the cleaning crew.  Where’s the new galley mate?  Does he need medical attention?  He had to be standing right in front off the cooker.”


“I’m all right, thank you, Sir.”  A young man came out from the back where the freezer was, holding a red ice pack on his head.  “The lid hit me in the head and I’ve quite a bump from it.  But it also protected me from getting burned too badly by the hot chili.  I’m sorry, Sir.  I didn’t understand how a pressure cooker worked. But Cookie has sure given me a fast lesson.”


The Institute’s minimum hiring age for civilians to serve on Seaview was 21.  Lee swore this kid couldn’t be a day past 16 if that.  Lee hadn’t even known what a pressure cooker was when he was that age.


“What’s your name?”


“Devons, Sir.  Robert Edward Devons.  Folks just call me Red.” 


“Ok, Devons. Report to Sickbay and have Doc check you out anyway.  If he says you are all right, get back here and start helping Cookie put out cold cuts and bread, condiments, whatever the crew needs to make their own sandwiches with.  That’s an order.  You do understand about orders, don’t you?  You have to follow them on board even if you are a civilian?”


“Yes Sir, I understand, Cookie has made sure I understand what an order is.”


“OK, Devons.  Dismissed.”


Lee looked around the galley again.  What a mess! And what a shame.  It smelled so good his mouth was watering.  Cookie’s volcanic red-hot chili was one of Lee’s favorite dishes.  Lee was one of the few people Cookie had confided his special “secret ingredient” to, cinnamon.  It always made Lee think of his mother’s “secret” chili ingredient, Kahlua.*  He called for a cleaning crew to come down, and then carefully tiptoed over to the pressure cooker, being careful where he stepped. There was some left in the bottom of the pot, with lots of his favorite tomatoes, red kidney beans and red hot peppers in it.  He grabbed a spoon and tried it. Delicious!  He finished off what was left in the cooker just before the cleaning crew arrived.  Well, he had his hot dinner! 


He sure didn’t want a cup of hot coffee now.  Cookie’s chili was hot in more ways than one.  He grabbed a cup and went to the refrigerator.  A cup of cold bug juice, whatever flavor was open, was all he wanted to gulp down, NOW!  Red Punch flavor.  Not one of his favorites, but, well, as long as it was cold and wet! As he was putting the bottle back he saw Cookie had made trays of red jello for dessert, cherry or strawberry. Well, he wouldn’t mind missing that.  Jamie was always forcing it on anyone in Sickbay, usually him.  He grabbed a bright red apple instead.  Why did this apple look redder than usual?


He continued heading aft, then decided to check Sickbay.  Devons looked a little bit wobbly when he headed down there and Lee wanted to be sure he made it ok.  He also wanted to give the boy the feeling that Seaview was a family where everyone took care of and looked out for each other, especially since this was his first cruise.  He sure hoped Cookie didn’t make it his last cruise.  Everyone deserved a second chance.  And he could bet his life that the kid would never make the same mistake again! 


Lee bumped into Devons on his way back.  “That was fast. What did the Doctor say?”


“I didn’t go in, Sir.  I know it was an order, but when I got there, the doctor and the corpsman were taking care of someone who was bleeding badly.  I don’t know who it was Sir, I haven’t met everyone yet, but I could tell he needed the Doctor’s attention more than I did.  He had a red jumpsuit on though, so it wasn’t one of the command crew.  And I feel fine, the bumps just about gone completely down.”


Lee pulled the red ice bag away.  The lump was just about gone, leaving a reddish bruise in its place.  He looked into the galley mate’s eyes; both pupils were the same size.  He wasn’t a doctor, but he had enough experience with concussions to know what to look for.


“How do you feel?  Dizzy or lightheaded at all?  Any blurry vision or nausea?”


“No, sir, I feel fine. I’d like to return to duty and help Cookie out. This whole thing is my fault.”


Lee’s own favorite words.  This kid might just make it yet. But he was going to have to do a better job at following orders.


“Ok, return to duty.  We’ll have Doc check you out later if need be. Dismissed.” 


He continued down to Sickbay.  He didn’t go far before he spotted the increasingly heavy trail of blood on the deck, leading right thru the hatch with the bright red cross over it.


“Jamie?  Is there an injured crewman down here?  Who’s all this blood from?”


“It’s not as serious as it looks, Captain.  You know how head wounds are. The blood inside the head is under a lot more pressure than anywhere else.  It just took a lot of stitches to close up.  It’s Paterson.  I want him to remain here for a little while until I’m sure that the bleeding has stopped.  You can talk to him if you want.  He’s conscious.  And before you leave, I need to talk to you in my office about another matter.”


“Paterson? What happened?”


“I’m all right Skipper.  I was just about to turn down the corridor to the circuitry room when the lights went out. Someone left the hatch open and I walked right into it, I didn’t see it open in the dark.  I sure did see stars though!  I didn’t even realize I was bleeding or cut at first.  Guess I just went numb for a minute.”


“Well, Pat, I’m glad it’s nothing major.  But it sure does look like someone got massacred down here.  Look, you’re near the end of your duty shift anyway.  As soon as Jamie let’s you go consider yourself off duty.  You’re covered with blood anyway.”


“Yes Sir, thank you Sir.  But Skipper, I keep getting the feeling I’m forgetting something important I was supposed to do.”


“What were your orders?  Why were you there?”  Paterson was as conscientious a first mate as Kowalski was.  To not remember something important he had been ordered to do must be driving him crazy.


“The Chief had me repainting all the red emergency signage throughout the ship. I’m afraid I dropped the can of red paint when I hit the door.  I couldn’t see it in the emergency lighting, but now that I think about it, there must be red paint all over the deck there. That must be what I’m trying to remember. Sorry, Sir.”

“All right, Pat, I‘ll explain it to Chief Sharkey.  He can assign another crewman to finish painting the signage and to clean up the spilled red paint.  You just rest.”  Who would be careless enough to leave the circuitry room door open like that?  The crew knew better! He went to Jamie’s office next.


“What’s up, Jamie?” As he sat down he curiously picked up the book lying open face down on the desk to see what Jamie was reading now between patients.  “The Hunt for Red October.” Ah, one of his own favorite submarine stories, along with “The Crimson Tide” and “The Enemy Below.”**


“I’ve had five crewmen down here so far today that I’ve diagnosed with conjunctivitis, pink eye.  It seems to be spreading rapidly.  I wanted to warn you that we may have an epidemic on board, and I’d like your permission to use the ships intercom to warn the crew, explain to them what to look for, and tell them to get down here ASAP if they even think they may have it. I want to try to curtail or minimize the outbreak before it gets any worse.”


“Absolutely, Jamie, do what you think is best for the crew.  Any correlation between the five crewmen?  Same duty watch or duty station?”


 “No, nothing I’ve been able to figure out yet.  I’ll let you know if I do.”


“Any other injuries Jamie?”


“Only a broken pinky on a crewman who fell off a ladder in the few seconds the lights were out.   That’s about it so far, Lee.”


“Are you sure this pink eye doesn’t have anything to do with Valentine’s Day, does it Jamie?  A lot of teary eyed lonely sailors?”  Lee smiled and winked at Jamie as he left Sickbay.


As he was headed back to the Control Room he bumped into Chief Sharkey, and explained what had happened to Paterson. 


“I’ll put Riley on it, Sir.  He’s just finishing up inspecting all our red safety vests.  And a gallon of Red Devil paint remover should do the trick for the clean up, Sir.”


“Fine Sharkey.  Carry on.”


Jamie finished giving his message over the ship’s intercom just as Lee walked back into the Control Room.  Every crewman in there was rubbing his eyes.  Ah, the power of suggestion at work.


“Chip, I want a cleaning crew down here between duty watches.  I want all the equipment wiped down with disinfectant before the next watch takes over.”  It wasn’t much, but it was the only thing he could think of to do to minimize the outbreak. There were more pairs of different hands on the same controls in here than anywhere else on the ship.  The cleaning crews were certainly earning their pay today.




“What is it, Mr. O’Brian?  He said, as he turned to look at the man.  It was suddenly quite obvious what it was.


“Report to Sickbay, don’t touch anything or anyone on the way down.” Number six.


“Aye, Sir.”

e picked up the mci. Control Room to Chief Sharkey


What was going on here today?  He was beginning to get the feeling Seaview herself was trying to tell him something.

He walked to the charting table and looked at Chip, but his mind was a million miles away.


“What’s wrong, Lee?” Chip knew that look.


“Nothing, I hope. I’ll be right back, I just thought of something I need to check.”  He headed out the back of the Control Room, in a near run.


Lee breathed a sigh of relief.  Everything was fine in the Reactor Room.  All the rods were the right shades of red, nothing glowing too hot, none of the gauges near the red danger zones.


Wait. The missiles were red as well.  He knew he was probably overreacting, getting paranoid, but he had to see for himself that everything down there was all right, too.


Lee checked with the guard standing watch outside the hatch to the Missile room.  He stated everything was fine.  Well, he would double check himself, just to put his mind at ease.


He didn’t have the door opened a foot when it hit him. It must be a hundred and ten in here!  What happened to the Missile Room cooling system? They had to be kept cool in order to launch properly and for the guidance system to function properly after they were launched so they would land on target!  He looked at the red ribbons that usually streamed from the ventilation system, a sign that it was working properly.  They were just laying flat against the bulkhead.  He checked the room temperature gauge; it was all the way to the right, in the “red” danger zone.


He quickly stepped back out to the corridor and grabbed the mic that hung outside the hatch.  “Admiral Nelson, report immediately!”


There was a click on the intercom, giving them a dedicated connection. “Nelson here.  What’s wrong Lee?”


“Admiral, please report to the Missile Room, ASAP!” 


He turned to the guard as he hung up the mic. “Did you check the Missile room when you came on duty?” he demanded of the guard.


“Yes Sir, of course I did, Sir, but that was at the beginning of my watch hours ago.  Everything was fine.  No one’s been in or out since I came on duty! I’m only here to secure this station, and I checked to be sure no one was in there when I came on duty.  I’m not supposed to check anything. I’m only Security, Sir.”


“No one has been in here? Not even to check the temperature and other gauges?” He clicked the mic again.  “Environmental Control, report.”


“Environmental Control here.  What’s up Skipper?”


“I need a specialist to the Missile Room STAT!  And have him bring some exhaust fans down here with him!”


The Admiral came running down the corridor, the same as he always did when something was wrong in either the Missile Room or with the nuclear reactor.  His face was flushed and he was out of breath.


“What’s wrong, Lee?”


“This is what’s wrong, Sir!”  He threw the hatch open for the Admiral.  The wave of heat that hit both of them was almost overpowering.


Without saying a word, the Admiral ran over and put a hand on the first missile.  It was hot, way too hot.  So was the one next to it. He looked over at the ventilation duct. Nothing was coming out of it or the separate vents for the Missile Room’s dedicated cooling subsystem. 


“Lee, surface the boat.  Come to a full stop, cleanse the air, and have the boat’s internal temperature brought down as low as it will go.  And have someone bring some portable exhaust fans down here.” 


Lee relayed the Admiral’s boat orders to Chip. He had already ordered the fans.  They were brought down and set up as soon as the Environmental Specialist got there.  It didn’t take a specialist to know what was wrong, especially for someone like Lee with a degree in engineering.  But he had to follow procedure, let the man do his job, earn his pay. The specialist ran back out of the missile room and looked at the other ventilation ducts.  All the red ribbons were streaming out.  The problem was contained to the Missile room itself, that’s why nothing had been felt earlier in the rest of the boat. 


“Skipper, it’s my understanding that there is supposed to be a crewman checking the temperature gauges in the Missile Room at least once an hour.  And any malfunction like this down here should have shown up on the  sensors in the control room. This shouldn’t have happened, Sir.”


“I’m aware of that Mr. Cooper, believe me I WILL deal with this later.  The guard says no one has been down here since he came on duty this morning. But for right now, we need to get the cooling system working again STAT.”


“Understood, Sir.  Well, everything is working properly out here.  It’s got to have something to do with the cooling subsystem dedicated to the Missile Room alone.  I’ll check the wiring first.”


“Er, Mr. Cooper, we had a problem with wiring down here earlier in the day.  I actually had to get a blow torch down here to open the bulkhead and replace some wiring.” The Admiral sounded a bit uncomfortable.


“Admiral, please show me where you were working, Sir.”


The Admiral pointed out the new temporary patch on the bulkhead, meant only to hold them until they made port and permanent repairs could be made. 


Mr. Cooper immediately ran back into the Missile Room, exactly on the other side of where the patch was, and looked up.  He was standing directly beneath the spot where the motor for the Missile Room cooling system was located.  He put his hand onto the spot and couldn’t feel any vibrations.  Could they have knocked the motor out or fused the wiring to it when they had used the blow torch? And blown out the monitoring sensor as well?


“Skipper, I need that patch removed and not with a blow torch.  It would only make things worse. I don’t want to use anything that’s going to make it any hotter in there. It’s going to have to be cut off manually.”


“Understood, I’ll get maintenance down here from the machine shop.”


“You think we did it when we were fixing the wiring, don’t you?”  The Admiral’s face was getting red, it looked like he was getting ready to lose his famous Irish temper, but Mr. Cooper ignored it.  He was definitely working in the right field, Lee thought. He never lost his cool, just took charge of the situation and let no one get in his way.


“Not necessarily Admiral.  It could all have been from the same problem, but only the wiring to the lighting was replaced, not the wiring that went up further to the cooling motor. Or, it could be the other way around.  I think it’s more likely the cooling system motor could have burnt out on its own and taken some of the lighting wiring with it. It’s no one’s fault, Sir, because one way or the other, the problem was here before the blow torch was used.”


Very diplomatic, Lee thought.  He liked this crewman.  He was going to have to get to know him better.


In the meantime, Chip stood in the Control room, scratching his head.  He hated it when Lee gave him a bunch of orders to follow without telling him why. He couldn’t be cleansing the air because of any fire, because Chip knew no fire detail had been ordered and he didn’t smell any smoke, and the fire klaxon hadn’t gone off. And what was the bit with lowering the ship’s temperature, surfacing, and coming to an all stop?  He just couldn’t piece it all together, and he hated it when he didn’t know what was going on.  Oh, he’d know later, but for now, he only knew as much as the crew did, and he was the XO! Even though he had carried out all of Lee’s orders immediately, he still didn’t know what was wrong.


Then it hit him.  Lee had called for the Admiral STAT, and seemed to be desperately trying to cool something down fast.


There must be something wrong with the nuclear reactor!  It must be overheating, getting ready to blow, and Lee didn’t want to alarm the crew with a Red Alert by using the ship’s intercom. If that was the case, there was nothing that could be done now that would be able to save them in time anyway!  Lee must be busy with the Admiral desperately trying to keep the reactor from blowing up, and was depending on him to put the pieces together to do what had to be done.


They were all going to die!  He got himself under control, he couldn’t let on to the crew. But he had a duty to alarm any other boats or planes to evacuate the area, to send out radio messages to the Institute, and to SUBCOMPAC letting them know what was going to happen.  The White House had to be warned also, so no foreign power was blamed for this. The missiles had to be disarmed so they didn’t blow, too.  He couldn’t use the ship’s intercom; the ensuing panic was what Lee was obviously trying to avoid.  He’d have to run down to the missile room himself and disarm the missiles.  Where was O’Brian?  He needed to transfer command to him.  That’s right; Lee had ordered him to Sickbay before everything happened. The only one left in the Control Room who could assume command was Sparks. He couldn’t let him leave the radio shack, though.  He needed him there to send out any emergency radio messages.  Well, he had no choice.  Protocol didn’t matter if they were all blown to bits anyway!


“Sparks, take command, but stay at your post.”  He ran out of the Control Room. 


“Aye, Sir.”  The radioman responded automatically, though his expression showed he was surprised and confused.  This was one for the books.  Speaking of books, Mr. Morton hadn’t even stopped to enter the change in command in the log book.  Something must be really wrong!


Lee was leaning back against the bulkhead with his arms crossed in front of him, talking with the Admiral as they watched the patch being cut off.  The Admiral was standing there with his hands in his pockets, trying to figure out with Lee what had gone wrong.  Lee was trying to make light of it to calm the Admiral down, explaining to him how he had decided to check on the Missile Room for no other reason than everything going wrong for him today had to do with the color red. 


The Admiral chuckled.  It was amazing how Lee’s sixth sense chose to manifest itself, to let him feel something was wrong.  No one else would have taken all these random events as coincidences and wrote them off, if they even thought about them at all.   Not Lee.  His subconscious made him think of, remember, or see only red things until he finally got the idea, figured out the connection.


All of a sudden they heard footsteps racing down the main corridor, and then turning toward the Missile Room. Chip came racing into view, huffing and puffing. Then he came to a dead stop.


What were they doing here? Lee and the Admiral were supposed to be down trying to keep the reactor from blowing, not laughing and chatting as they casually stood back and watched a machine mate at work


“Mister Morton, do you mind telling me why you are away from your post?  Who is in command in the Control Room if all three of us are here and O’Brien is in Sickbay?”


“Uh, I, uh, left Sparks in command, but I told him to remain at his post to send out emergency radio messages after I disarmed the missiles.” Chip stammered out as he scratched his head.  He suddenly realized he had messed up badly, taken all of Lee’s orders the wrong way.  “I thought you two were doing everything you could to lower the boat’s internal temperature to try to keep the reactor from blowing, and  that only left me to come down and disarm the missiles so they didn’t go, too.  I needed Sparks to send out messages to the Institute and SUBCOMPAC, the White House and to have all sea and air traffic evacuate this area…..”


“Dear God Chip, you didn’t send those messages out did you?”  The Admiral’s face was now as white as a ghost’s.


“No Sir, not yet Sir, I…I………….”


Lee and the Admiral looked at each other.  Lee felt bad for Chip.  He was only trying to do his duty, do what he thought Lee expected of him and what the circumstances called for. But he had put two and two together and come up with five.


“It’s all right Chip, I should have been more explanatory when I gave you the orders.  We’re having a problem with the cooling subsystem in the Missile Room.  See for yourself.”


Chip came back out of the Missile Room shaking his head.  “Well at least I was right that you were trying to cool something down fast.  Captain, Admiral, I’m sorry.”


“For now Chip, just get back down to the Control Room.  Relieve Sparks, and I want you to find out for me who was supposed to be monitoring the Missile Room today. It might be better not to log your confusion with the orders in the log book.”  Chip had had enough embarrassment for one day, and maybe this action would negate any “paybacks” Chip was dreaming up for him.


“I already know that.  It was Williams, but when Doc notified me he had to relieve him of duty because of his conjunctivitis, I reassigned it to Paterson because I knew he’d be working in this area anyway.  Sharkey had him repainting all the red emergency signage.”


So that’s what Paterson was trying to remember, not the spilled red paint!  As soon as everything was back to normal in the Missile Room, he was going to have a long talk with Chip about several things, before they reached home port in Santa Barbara. 


Home.  It couldn’t be soon enough for him.  He was tired of thinking and seeing red.  And now his eyes were beginning to feel itchy and watery.  Lee hoped it was just the heat.  All he wanted to do was to dock Seaview, get in his car and go home.  His nice little red car!


The End



* I’m passing on old family secret ingredient here, try it the next time you make chili.

** “The Enemy Below” was the first movie David Hedison acted in, under the name of Al Hedison.  Prophetically enough, he played a submarine’s Executive Officer.


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