Silent Running


R.L. Rosas

The S.S.R.N. Seaview was on patrol, running submerged below the tepid, cerulean waters of the Pacific headed for Japan. Chip Morton glanced up at the clocks, giving Zulu time, Santa Barbara and Washington, D.C. time. It was late no matter how you looked at, he thought grimly.

Standing the graveyard shift made one thoughtful, he mused.  Nelson and Lee had drifted off well before he came on shift occupied with discussions around the new sonar tests. The blond exec wondered why he felt so bummed out.  As he filled out the logs, he glanced at the date, October 11th. No wonder, Chip stroked his chin thoughtfully; this is when Uncle Dudley bought it in La Perouse Strait in the Wahoo. He took a cup of coffee and his logbook and went into the nose and sat in the red lights, staring into the darkness of the sea. As he wrote about the status of the magnificent submarine, his thoughts kept drifting back to the skipper of the U.S.S. Wahoo.

“You okay?” the deep tones startled Morton.

“Sir?” Chip turned to look up at the red-haired Admiral on the stairs. “Have you been there long?”

“Long enough, thoughts of Mush Morton?” Nelson came down the stairs to stand at the herculite windows of the Seaview.

“How did you know?” Chip put the logs down to join Nelson at the window.

“Every year about this time you seem to get a bit blue, I’ve seen this but held my peace. I know this is when Wahoo was lost.” Nelson turned to look at the executive officer.

Morton sighed. “He was a legend and the reason I went to sea. He was larger than life. I wish I had known him.

“And you wonder if you’ll come to the same end?” Nelson postulated.

“I had that preached to me every since I said I was joining the Navy. Mom and Dad think all submariners end up like Uncle Dudley.” Chip twirled a pencil in his hand. “I’ve beaten the odds so far.”

“I don’t think it’s odds, it’s skill, like Mush Morton had. He was a unique breed of officer. ” Nelson pulled a cigarette out and lit it, the flare of the cigarette light flared in the semi darkness.

“His time ran out though. Makes a man wonder.” Morton ran his hand through his hair and tossed the pencil on the desk.

“If you want to die in bed, this is not the job for it! You knew that when you signed on.” Nelson chided him.

“Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change where I would be for anything in the world. Thinking about Uncle Dudley, well, it makes a man seriously think about his mortality.” Chip smiled thinly.

“Graveyards will do that to you, too. I wouldn’t spend too much time thinking about mortality. Death comes soon enough to all of us. It’s the living that you should be thinking about.” Nelson finished his cigarette and crushed the butt in a nearby ashtray. “If your Uncle Dudley were here, he’d tell you the same thing. It’s all about the living.” The red-haired Admiral cleared his throat. “You need to get out of this mood.”

“I know, I’m fine, sir, really.” Chip realized the Admiral was really concerned. “You won’t rat me out to Jamie will you?”

“Just remember, it’s about the living, Dudley Morton fought for your right to be here. Don’t waste it.” Nelson turned and headed up the stairs in the darkness.

Chip turned and glanced back at the windows, imaging a WWII submarine running submerged alongside Seaview. He imagined what it must have been like to command a submarine during World War II. Morton smiled. There was no place that he would rather be. To be in the exec of the world’s most magnificent submarine was a dream come true. He wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The exec returned to the conference table, picked up the logs and finished the entries off in good time. He stood and stretched, glancing at his watch again. He grabbed his coffee cup and headed to the radio shack to visit with the communications watch officer.

He’ll be ok.”

“I know, he’s always had a special spot for Mush Morton. It’s like he’s a personal hero for him.”

“He was his inspiration. And he was family.”

“Well, his spirit lives on in his nephew, he’s a fine submariner.”

“It’s ok to question your mortality once in a while.”

“Not like somebody I know-who keeps tempting fate at every ONI mission.”

“And you don’t push the frontiers a little bit every now and then.”

“Now, now-“

“Is this a private conversation or can anyone join in?”

“Just discussing our executive officer.”

“It’s October 11th, I suspected that’s why he’s been brooding lately.”

“He’ll be ok-he’s Dudley Morton’s nephew.”

“More than that-he’s Chip Morton, executive officer of the Seaview.”

“A name that will go down in history.