A Third Season Story.  I thought it was time for another Monster of the Week Story.  Hope you enjoy and remember... Irwin Allen started this; I'm just following in his footsteps. : )



The Monster Within


by Lynn



Chapter One


“How much do you know about Dr. Vickers' experiments?” Harry asked, settling into his chair.


“Not much.  Only that he's studying cryogenics using the Alaskan Wood Frog as his study point.”


Harry smiled knowing that Lee knew more than he let on, but as always, was being unpretentious. 


“Well, you’ve pretty much got the entire study in a nut shell,” he said.  “The wood frog is actually a very interesting study,” he added, as Lee took a sip of coffee and nodded in agreement.


“I agree, Sir.  The idea that the frog freezes in the winter and thaws out in the spring is amazing, but what I'm having trouble following is Dr. Vickers’ reasoning that the natural cryogenics of an amphibian can be transferred to a mammal?” Lee postulated with a raised eyebrow.


“Very true,” Harry nodded with a satisfied smile barely breaking at the corners of his mouth.  “But if it’s a matter of chemical manipulation, then the benefits to humans would be astronomical,” he beamed as Lee recognized the twinkle in the Admiral's blue eyes; the one that broke forth unwittingly whenever he spoke of scientific discoveries yet to be made.


“Why, it could be applied to the military; a seriously wounded soldier could be stabilized and frozen until he received the specialized care he needed, perhaps saving lives as well as limbs.  The same could be said for civilian medicine, as a patient could be frozen until proper transplant donors were found; not to mention the obvious space travel benefits,” Harry added.


“It's definitely a worthwhile study,” Lee conceded as he took a drink of the strong brew, then got up for a refill, lifting the pot and offering to refill Harry's as well.  Harry accepted the warm-up with Lee pouring as he talked.


“He sure picked a remote location.”


Harry's forehead crinkled slightly in thought.  “I agree, but he went to Alaska to study Alaskan Wood Frogs, so he dropped himself in a place where he thought he'd find them in abundance.” 


“I pretty much thought that was most of Alaska,” Lee replied with a slight shrug of his shoulder.  “I mean, he could have found a nice marshy tundra location just outside of Anchorage, instead of hundreds of miles from even the nearest native villages and where all his supplies have to be flown in.”


Harry chuckled.  “Maybe you missed your calling in Logistics, Lee,” he kidded.


Lee smiled and joined in Harry's light mood.  “No, I mean it.  I've spent some time in the region, true mostly under water, but enough time on land to know how unforgiving it can be.”


“Well, I suppose if you're going to study cryogenics then being in the frozen tundra is a good thing,” Harry offered.  “At any rate, he received his grants with his research location already designated, so I'm sure it passed the scrutiny of the foundations that are footing the bill for his work.”


“He's independent?  Not working for a pharmaceutical company?”


“His work is years away from publication in the journals, and he prefers to keep ownership of his findings.  At any rate, the government is interested in his work and since a rather large portion of Vickers’ sourcing comes from Uncle Sam...”


“We've been elected to not only supply the lab, but to check in on the good doctor's progress,” Lee finished for his boss.


“You've got to stop reading my mind like that,” Harry scowled in mock concern to Lee's soft chuckle as he raised a mug to his mouth, listening as the Admiral continued.  “He’s four years into the study and even though no one expects research like this to happen overnight, Washington wants to make sure that he’s on the right track to continue funding,” Harry added.  “The military’s intrigued with his progress but the Appropriations Committee wants to know if the research is worthy of the tax dollars.  Sending us was a compromise to satisfy both sides,” he further explained to Lee’s nod of understanding.


“So, he's isolated from people...” Lee noted, carrying on his observations.


“Yes, by more than just miles.  He's tucked into a small valley, the only way in is by bush plane; there are no roads or trails as there are little resources in the area of any interest.  The entire valley is pretty much a marshy mess; I understand that building his lab was a logistical nightmare dealing with the permafrost.”


“I heard they had the same problem building the Alcan Highway,” Lee added, sitting back and crossing his leg.


“Yes,” Harry replied then continued.  “You just can't build a foundation over permafrost, the building above heats and insulates the ground below...”


“And melts the ice,” Lee finished.  “I met one of the engineers who worked on the highway several years ago.”


Harry raised an eyebrow; he knew Lee was quite the history lover and could just imagine the exchange between the sub captain with a Masters in Marine Engineering and the WWII Army Corps Engineer.


“He was with the 93rd,” Lee added casually as Harry nodded, knowing the history well.  Over ten thousand men were assigned to complete the daunting task of building an overland route to Alaska through Canada, including four regiments from the African-American General Service and Engineer Battalions.


“I'm sure it was a fascinating conversation,” Harry added, knowing the feat and the important role the successful completion of the project had in the future desegregation of the military.


“Those men opened up a lot of eyes,” Harry continued sincerely.


Lee nodded.  “It was before my time, all the segregation in the military,” he clarified.  “But the fact that they not only pulled their share but built a bridge in three days when no one thought it could be done, proved they were worthy of more than the Army was giving them credit for.”


Harry knew Lee was passionate about such things.  He was inherently fair, and justice meant a lot to the young man.  


“I guess by the time we got to Korea and 'Nam... well they got it figured out that we all bleed in the same color,” Lee said almost disgustedly, but then caught himself and smiled self-consciously.


“I'm sorry Sir.  I guess I got off on a tangent there.”


“A good tangent, Lee,” Harry assured him and then continued where they had left off.  “The lab is built on pilings on one of the palsas, the bog provides him with plenty of wood frogs to study,” Harry finished, taking the last dredge from his lukewarm mug.


“So how did they manage to build a runway for the supplies?” Lee asked, offering Harry another refill, which the Admiral waved off.


“They built a short take-off strip; the bush pilots handle it just fine with skis in the winter and tundra tires in the summer.  I don't expect we'll have any trouble landing FS1 there,” Harry added confidently.


Lee smiled brilliantly, then shook his head and laughed as Harry grinned and raised an eyebrow.


“What's so funny?” the Admiral inquired, enjoying Lee's amusement.


“I was just thinking that it's a good thing we'll be going in the dead of winter... the thought of FS1 in tundra tires is a bit much,” he chuckled.


Harry responded with his own laugh.  “The skis will do the job, the retractable wheel wells aren't even compatible with tundra tires,” he assured.


“Good thing, Sir, because I just can't picture my Baby in balloon tires,” Lee said grinning as he stood.  “I'd better check the next course adjustment, thanks for the coffee.   Next time it's on my dime,” he joked as Harry watched his captain/son/friend head to the Chart Table. 


It had been a nice easy cruise with everything going just as planned, and it was satisfying to see Lee so at ease.  Seaview would be docking in her home port by tomorrow afternoon, where the crew looked forward to a few days’ liberty.  He and Lee would make the trip to Alaska in FS1 while Seaview underwent scheduled standard maintenance; it was a trip Harry was very much looking forward to.


Chapter Two


Lee checked over the charts and made the course adjustment then tapped his pencil on the chart table in thought.


“Something on your mind?” Chip asked quietly.


Lee smiled inwardly at his conscientious XO and friend.  “Nothing big, but I'm thinking I'd like to have Chief Sharkey do a once-over on FS1, before I commit her to the elements in Alaska.”


“Good idea,” Chip agreed.  “I'll get right on it.”


“Don't bother.  The Chief's off watch now, so I'll just a take a little walk and track him down myself,” he answered.


“Aye, aye Skipper,” Chip replied, knowing that Lee always enjoyed these walks about the boat as more than a relaxing walk, but a chance to connect with Seaview and her crew.


* * * * *


“Man oh man, Chief!  When are you going to admit that that shirt is anything but lucky?” Kowalski jokingly chided as he finished adding their points to the score card.  Gambling on board was against the rules for anything more than M and M's and pennies, but once off the boat, the game continued at their favorite port watering hole where the winnings got much more substantial.


“It's been lucky for us,” Riley amended, holding his cards innocently, as his twenty-two year old baby face, along with his blue eyes and strawberry blond hair, painted a veritable picture of an angel on loan from heaven.


Sharkey growled as he reached to gather his cards.


“Don't look at me,” Ski defended, raising both hands in the air as if affirming an oath.  “It was the surfer boy here that said it,” he said giggling as he spoke and then reaching for his cards.  “But he is right,” he added under his breath to Sharkey's continued glare and low growl.




Sharkey's head whipped to the side, unaware that the Skipper was standing in the door way.


“Uh sorry Sir, I didn't see you come in,” he apologized, caught off-guard and trying to find his NCO decorum while wearing a loud brown and green paisley shirt on board.


“It's all right,” Lee assured the men.  “Sorry to interrupt,” he added with a smile, as a courtesy for the men's personal time aboard the boat, and setting his crew at ease.  “Could I have a word with you Chief,” he issued in an unmistakable order even though it was delivered amicably.


“Aye Sir,” Sharkey replied, feeling much out of place conferring with the Skipper in his “lucky” shirt, even if it was on his own time.


They stepped out into the corridor as Lee addressed him.  “As you know, the Admiral and I will be shoving off the day after we hit port.  I'm thinking it would be a good idea if you gave FS1 a once-over and a clean bill of health before we take her up North.”


“Aye Sir, right away, I'll get right on it,” Sharkey piped in, always one to jump into his duties when called.


“No need to interrupt your game.  Just get on it first thing in the morning,” Lee said with a pat to his shoulder.


“Aye Sir, first thing in the morning,” he repeated as Lee smiled before continuing his relaxing, but purposeful walk through the boat.


Sharkey watched the Skipper head back down the corridor, then turned and frowned at the crew's mess behind him.  He headed back catching both Ski and Riley smirking and giggling, no doubt still discussing his lucky shirt.  He sat down and reached for his cards on the table as both men snorted back their laughter.


“It's the kid, I swear!” Ski said blaming his counterpart with both hands raised in the air once again, while trying to put on his most innocent face, which didn't pass muster when compared to Riley's across the table as Sharkey picked up his cards.


“All right you Bozos,” Sharkey added gruffly.  “Let's finish the hand and I'll show you a 'lucky' shirt,” he bluffed, but inside he was wondering if he should switch to his wild pink and orange Hawaiian print shirt after all.  Nah, he decided silently as he held back a smirk while thumbing through his hand to reveal a pair of aces and a pair of deuces.  Hah!  We'll see who laughs last, he added in thought before calling for the wagers.


“I'm in,” he said coolly, figuring to clean out the boys with this next hand.


* * * * *


“She's all ship-shape, Sir,” Sharkey reported with his usual enthusiasm, handing Lee the clip board to peruse.


“Thanks Chief.  Anything I should be made aware of?” he asked looking over the clip board.


“No Sir.  She's in tip-top condition,” Sharkey replied, just as proud of the Admiral's flying wonder as anyone and pleased that the Skipper had entrusted the once-over to him.


“Very well, thanks Chief,” Lee replied with a nod as he dismissed a very happy COB to his other duties before hitting port later that morning.


* * * * *


Harry climbed the ladder down into Seaview's Control Room the next morning and perused the deck, looking for the tall dark headed captain.


“Have you seen Captain Crane?” he asked the electrician's mate working on an open panel.


“Aye Sir, he's in FS1,” the rating replied.


Harry nodded his thanks and headed to the deck hatch, which was already raised.  I should have known, he thought to himself with a bit of private humor reaching his face in a small tight-lipped smile.  He descended down to find Lee in the co-pilot's seat, already going through the pre-flight checklist.


“Good morning, Sir,” Lee greeted, turning a bit upon hearing the quiet descent of the Admiral's soft-soled oxfords.


“Good morning, Lee,” Harry replied, noting their preparations were almost complete.  He sunk into the left seat and flipped a few switches before buckling his seat harness.


“Well I see we're about ready to shove off,” he noted, donning the throat mic.


“Aye Sir, the course has been plotted and entered into the on board navigator, and all systems are checked and ready to go.”


“Good,” Harry replied, fingering his throat mic to activate it.


“FS1 to NIMR Com.  We're ready to launch.”


“Aye Sir, have a good trip Sir,” the communication's operator replied.


“Very well, Nelson out,” Harry replied switching off and taking a side glance toward Lee.


“Ready to launch?”


“Aye Sir, at your command.”


“Launch in five, four, three, two, one; launch.”


“Launching,” Lee replied, flipping a switch to manually deploy FS1, as the flying sub dropped from her berth.  An on board sensor illuminated to green as Lee reported, “Bay doors cleared.”


Harry nodded, applied power and began navigating the corridor through Seaview's secret underwater sub pen.


“I regret not having more time in between our last voyage and this trip,” Harry said casually as the Flying Sub cleared airspace and took to the sky.


“Not a problem for me, Sir,” Lee replied completely at ease.  “I'm looking forward to the trip; I've always found Alaska to be intriguing, even in the winter.”


Especially in the winter,” Harry corrected with a smile.

“Aye Sir,” Lee agreed, returning both the smile and the sentiment. 


Their cold weather gear was hanging behind them and both men were well adept to the harshness of an Alaskan winter, having been fully trained for extreme weather survival.  Truth be told, Lee saw this trip as more of an adventure than a resupply run for a government funded scientist working nearly off the grid. 


Logistics really wasn't the focus of their trip however, as Dr. Vickers’ supplies were brought in by bush plane and the scientist reported that he had received his winter cache.  Although FS1 carried supplies for the project as well as personal supplies requested by Vickers and his assistant, the visit was really more of an opportunity to oversee the progress thus far.  The project was too much in it's infancy for the government to be looking for results, but the process of funding demanded some accountability and Harry's obvious scientific abilities made him a very logical choice.  For his part, Harry was very excited about the possibilities of the project and saw the trip as an exciting scientific venture; he was equally looking forward to meeting the doctor himself and hoped to engage in some rather interesting conversations during the course of the visit.


The flight to Anchorage took only 2 ½ hours at Mach 2, where the Flying Sub landed at Elmendorf Air Force Base to take on the special equipment Vickers had requested.  The sight of the yellow flying wonder was enough to grab the attention of several pilots on the flight line as they admired Nelson's incredible invention.  The sight of a Four Star Admiral kept them at their distance, but Lee made a point of addressing the pilots in a gesture of good will between the military branches, while preparations for retrieving their cargo were underway.  Sharp salutes were exchanged with the Navy Commander as Lee stopped to talk “shop” with the pilots.


Harry watched the animated discussion as an air force pilot demonstrated with his hands, a particularly exciting vertical take-off he had participated in.  Something must have been humorous as the small group, including Lee, broke out in smiles and soft laughter.  The Admiral enjoyed watching the interaction as Lee added his own story, his hands demonstrating what Harry recognized as the pitch and roll of a carrier deck in motion.  His story ended with the same soft flow of laughter as Lee expressed his need to get moving after spotting the three medium sized boxes heading for FS1. 


Lee supervised the loading and stowed the boxes then exited the side cargo hatch to join Harry who had by this time been joined by the Base Commander, having come to offer Base greetings to the high level Naval Officer, as a visit by Admiral Harriman Nelson (ret) prompted his personal attention.  Lee greeted the Colonel as well and with the necessary decorum complete they excused themselves for the final leg of their journey, a research facility so far remote that it received no visitors except for the scheduled supply runs.


Once back inside FS1, Harry strapped in as Lee began the start-up sequence.  He knew Lee had enjoyed his visit with the pilots and figured it didn't hurt to give the interested parties a show of the Flying Sub's abilities.


“Why don't you take the controls, Lee,” Harry offered with a small smile as he feigned interest in something on his clip board.


Lee smiled.  “Aye, aye, Sir,” he replied, wrapping both hands around the control sticks after receiving clearance to taxi.  “I'm uh... pretty sure we should test our short take-off capabilities before heading to the research lab,” he added in a lame excuse to open up FS1 for the pilots and ground crew below.


“Oh, by all means,” Harry replied, barely holding back his smile.


Lee nodded and contacted the air traffic controller, indicating his intentions and receiving clearance for take-off.  It was a beautiful take-off, with a nearly vertical ascent after an incredibly short roll before Lee rotated the craft and took to the air.  His satisfied smile was all the reward Harry needed as he stole a sideways glance over at his co-pilot.


“You know, I'm not sure that you didn't break the record on short distance take-off rolls with that one,” Harry observed calmly, commenting on Lee's ability to push the craft to its limits. 


“Just making sure she's up to the task of our remote landing strip, Sir,” Lee offered seriously before breaking into a full smile.


“Well, I think she passed with flying colors then,” Harry noted as they conducted a leisurely flight over the Alaskan tundra, heading north westerly to their destination.


* * * * *


“Connor!  Connor!”


Dr. Vickers called for his assistant, there was no doubt he was within the research facility as the frigid air outside made his ability to venture out impossible since the temperatures had dipped to twenty degrees on the Fahrenheit scale. 


Vickers entered a storage room and reached for the light.


“Leave it off,” Dr. Vickers heard in a low guttural sound that seemed to rattle in his assistant's throat.


“But Connor, help will be here soon,” Vickers promised.  “Remember, I told you Nelson was coming?”


A soft gasp of remembrance filled the air as Connor kept to the shadows, wearing a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head.


“He'll be here shortly and I need you to stay out of sight,” Vickers instructed.  “Nelson will find a way to reverse the affects; you'll see,” he promised.


Heavy breathing mixed with a woeful moan filled the darkened storage unit before Connor Hall spoke again.


“How can you be sure he'll help... what can he do in two days?”


“I've got it all worked out,” Vickers encouraged excitedly.  “He'll stay as long as it takes.”


“Why would he do that?” Connor asked taking a step out of the shadows while pulling his hood off and pointing to his face.  “He'll discredit you and remove your funding and then where will I be?”


“No, it won't be that way.  Now I promised you, son, that I wouldn't abandon you and I won't.  Nelson will stay as long as it takes if I make the stakes high enough... he's bringing Captain Crane along.”


Connor seemed to consider the statement.  “It's not right to subject someone else to this,” he reasoned in a moment of humanity and decent morality.


“But Nelson's mind is brilliant; he will think of what I haven't and then you'll both be free,” the scientist reasoned.  “It's the only way,” he added.


Connor nodded, replacing the hood and stepping back into the shadows where the darkness veiled his deformity, his moment of questioning Vickers' methods passed without further scrutiny... he was desperate for an end to his pain.  He nodded and breathed another raspy breath in acceptance.


“Good,” Vickers replied, happy his assistant was still rationale.  “Now stay calm and be patient.  Once Crane is infected, Nelson will stop at nothing to save him.”


The figure in the shadows just nodded as Vickers left to make preparations for the arrival of his guests within the hour.


Chapter Three



Harry and Lee landed the yellow craft handily on the short gravel landing strip and headed for the hangar.  The flight had been an exhilarating ride over some of Alaska's most beautiful and remote wilderness.  They had flown over several villages of varying sizes and on a few occasions received waves from riders on snowmobiles and even one musher on a dog sled team.  Apparently, the Admiral's flying wonder was known even out in the wilderness of the Alaskan Bush.


They taxied into the hangar and parked, as Lee began the shut-down procedures, while Harry contacted the authorities, announcing their arrival and closing their flight plan.  His last call was to the Institute, where he reported their safe arrival to Communications.  Just as he was finishing up, he spotted Dr. Vickers through the windows. 


“I'll close her up, Sir,” Lee offered so that Harry could greet their host.


“Thank you, Lee,” Harry returned, donning his cold weather gear for the 18 degree weather outside.


Lee smiled and closed the black out windows on FS1, SOP when in an unsecured location.  He donned his jacket and began unloading the supplies they had brought, pleased to hear Harry and Dr. Vickers enthusiastically greeting one another.


“Lee,” Harry called as Lee sat a box down and turned toward the two men.


“This is Commander Crane,” Harry started in way of an introduction as Dr. Vickers reached for his hand.


“Of course, Seaview's Captain,” he enthused.


“Nice to meet you, Dr. Vickers,” Lee replied warmly.


“The pleasure is mine, I assure you.  Now, can I help you unload?” Vickers asked.  “We could form a brigade,” he suggested.


“That's fine,” Harry agreed.  “Is your assistant here as well?” he asked looking for the extra hand he was expecting to help unload the supplies and gear.


“No, I'm afraid Connor Hall was called away to attend to a family emergency in Anchorage.  I expect him back soon,” he replied calmly.


“Very well, let's get this unloaded.  I'm very anxious to see your laboratory,” Harry said with a smile.


“As am I, Admiral Nelson.  As am I,” Vickers returned, trying hard not to let his veiled meaning shine through.


* * * * *


It only took a few trips across the boardwalk from the hangar to the complex, for the three of them to carry the supplies.  FS1 was safely locked and tucked into a nice warm hangar as Lee and Harry divested themselves of their heavy jackets and gloves. 


“It's a bit warm in the jacket once you're moving about,” Lee noted.


“So true, Captain Crane; we're currently experiencing a heat wave,” Vickers agreed with a smile.  “18 degrees is really quite warm, comparatively speaking; just last week we were nearly 20 below zero.  Unfortunately, we're forecasted for more seasonable weather in the next several days.”


“It's too bad we won't be here that long,” Harry said, holding back a jestful smile.  “You really could use some extra cold-weather training, Lee.  I think twenty below would qualify for that, don't you agree, Dr. Vickers?”


Lee's chuckles were joined by Harry and Vickers.  “My cold-weather training is up to date, Sir, but I'll be glad to go out and build an igloo just to prove it,” he joked back, pleased to see Harry taking such a light and relaxed approach to this trip.  Life had been much too serious lately with back to back cruises, deadlines to meet, Washington funding meetings, and some intense top secret voyages.


“That won't be necessary,” Harry replied before turning toward Dr. Vickers.  “Well Doctor, I'm anxious to get the grand tour.”


“Certainly, Admiral Nelson; follow me gentlemen.”


Harry and Lee followed Vickers through the well-maintained research center.


“I understand it took two years to build your facilities,” Lee noted as they moved from room to room.


“Yes, actually, not two full years.  The first summer the air strip and buildings were erected, but they were just shells with the interior completed in the second year; we moved in just before winter set in.”


“We're you able to get much work done in the middle of winter since the wood frogs would have already begun their hibernations?” Lee asked curiously.


“Actually yes, both Connor and I were here during the construction and managed to collect plenty of specimens.  We had all winter long to study their hibernation in our simulated Winter Room that first year.”


“Winter Room?” Harry piped in with interest.


“Yes, we’ll visit it on the tour,” Vickers assured.  “It’s a room with small environment habitat enclosures in various phases of the frog’s hibernating cycle.  Each enclosure simulates a particular temperature range found during the winter season; this way we can study the stages in a controlled environment and then compare our findings to the frogs we collect from their natural habitats in the same stages.”


Harry nodded in approval of Dr. Vickers' scientific method and smiled thinly, enjoying the process of scientific study and invigorated with the promise of discovery.


“But first,” Vickers continued, “Let’s get you settled into your quarters.  They’re quite nice.  I started out with a larger staff, but they weren’t cut out for the isolation out here.  One by one I lost them,” he explained congenially. 


“Wouldn’t your work benefit from replacing those added researchers now?” Lee asked curiously.


“Yes and no,” Vickers replied with a smile.  “Yes, as more hands mean more work, but until we make that all important breakthrough, the funds are better spent elsewhere.  You’ll understand when you see our lab; it’s all state of the art.  Right now my assistant and I are well able to make the necessary observations and he’s got an incredible mind for the bio-chemistry involved.  So for the time being, I’m putting my money in the technology we need, before we replace the assistants that left.  It’s quite a process to interview the lot, and I’d rather use that time on our work here.  We’re close… very close,” he said with a one-sided smile.


“That sounds intriguing,” Harry joined in.  “How close is close?”


“One can never tell in the research game, as you well know, but we’ve identified the specific chemicals that the frog produces to freeze various bodily functions, and that’s more than a small feat,” he beamed.


“I agree.  I’d be interested in seeing your progress up close,” Harry said with genuine interest.


“That’s why you’re here I imagine,” Vickers said, hinting that he knew Nelson was picked to review his work as few people would be able to understand and assess the progress like the well-known genius, who designed and built his own private nuclear submarine.  “And that’s also why I plan on picking your brain for any insights you might have,” Vickers added with a chuckle.  After dinner that is,” he clarified, as Harry joined in with a light chuckle.


“You’re the expert in this field,” Harry answered graciously.  “But I always enjoy a good conversation in a groundbreaking study.”


They proceeded with the tour as Vickers displayed his lab with pride.  True to his word, it was state of the art in every way.  The lab was actually a series of rooms with their own functions.  The chemistry lab hosted all the necessary apparatus for their endeavor, including nuclear microscopes.  Harry noticed the microphobes and raised an eyebrow. 


“I see you’re utilizing nuclear microscopy,” he noted a bit puzzled as the method was designed to test solid structures.  He was well aware of its function as it was the equipment of choice to test Seaview’s bulkhead during manufacturing and also as a stress test to verify hull integrity.


Dr. Vickers smiled, his sixty plus years producing small wrinkle lines.  His blue eyes twinkled at Harry’s unspoken scientific observation while his jet black hair, which was accented by a gray band that wrapped around each ear lobe, provided a very dignified appearance. 


“It’s true that most applications for the microphobes have been limited to the elemental composition of solid materials, but I assure you, the same method of applying a stable and well-focused beam of charged particles to a sample, works for biomedical purposes as well.”


“Fantastic!”  Harry exclaimed.  “Have you shared this with the scientific community yet?  I don’t recall seeing it your quarterly reports.”


“Not yet.  I’m still refining the process, and I’m not ready to let that cat out of the bag in the Scientific Journals until I’ve fully investigated its potential.  The process is groundbreaking and we’re still assessing the benefits and harmful bi-products, but it is the means by which we can study the samples in their frozen state.”


Harry’s eyes twinkled at the thought as Lee stepped in closer.


“So you’re able to determine the chemistry at an elemental level by accelerating the electrons?” Lee asked to Vickers’ raise of his eyebrow.


“Well yes, but only the positively charged ions…”


“The protons?” Lee clarified.


“Yes, the electron based scans have proven to be less than satisfactory,” Vickers’ finished.  “I wasn’t aware that you were so well-versed in the subject,” he replied, raising both eyebrows in scrutiny that Lee could possibly understand the science involved.


“I think you’ll find my Captain to be surprising in many areas, Dr. Vickers,” Harry joined in, not appreciating Vickers' implications concerning Lee’s knowledge.


“Let’s just say that you learn a few things commanding a nuclear submarine,” Lee replied congenially, down-playing his knowledge and trying to ease the tension Vickers had created with his unvoiced skepticism.  He was used to working with scientists, and it wouldn’t be the first time he’d been deemed nothing more than an underwater bus driver.


“But of course,” Dr. Vickers answered with a smile, trying to hide the fact that he had seen Lee as only a means to solve his current problem.  The truth was, he didn’t trust anyone with his research, especially where it stood today.  He had to bring Nelson in, he had no choice.  He was counting on Nelson’s natural desire to be credited with this ground-breaking work to silence his methods, but Crane was different… he wasn’t sure yet how much influence Nelson had over him and if the Captain may pose a problem later.  He’d worry about that later, after the breakthrough.  Once Connor was well and healthy again they could continue their work.  He needed Connor to move forward, both for the sake of the project and because the young man had become quite important to him, but to do that he needed to reverse the ill-effect of his latest experiments. 


“Now here is the Winter Room, though the name may be a bit misleading since the room itself is kept comfortably warm, but here is where you’ll find our subjects in various stages of the hibernating process.  Each atmosphere controlled habitat is set to very specific and exact temperature and climate controls,” Vickers said, pointing out habitats as he spoke.  “This one is set for freezing temperatures early in the season, while this one is set for the hard freeze of minus twenty degrees.  Each habitat is set to observe and examine the chemical changes of the frogs’ bio-chemistry.   The process of freezing, we discovered, is not nearly as fascinating as the thawing process.  We can actually re-create the environment for the freeze and its subsequent affects, but there is something we’re missing in the thawing process.  In short, freezing a subject is easy; thawing out the subject is still a mystery.”


Harry looked around the impressive laboratory, nodding his head in both understanding and awe at the work underway. 


“And this is where you utilize the microphobes?” Harry asked, “To examine the frogs in their frozen state?” 


“Yes, and if we’re careful, I can do it with a limited number of subjects so that most of these frogs will thaw come spring to continue their life-cycle of reproduction.”


“Fascinating,” Harry repeated, impressed with Vickers’ methods thus far.  So far, he liked what he was seeing and his report to Washington would reflect the top-notch work going on here.


They toured the less than exciting, but necessary parts of the laboratory before they were led to the sleeping quarters.


“Here are your accommodations, Captain Crane,” Dr. Vickers announced with a swing of his hand to the first door.   “Every two rooms share bath facilities, but since it’s just us three, I’ll put you across the hall from Admiral Nelson and you’ll each have a private bath that way,” he went on to explain.


“That will be fine,” Harry said, returning to his good mood of earlier and excited for the more detailed briefing he’d receive, along with what he hoped would be notes to study.


“Why don’t you get settled in and then we’ll visit more over dinner.”


“I’ll go get our bags, Admiral,” Lee offered as Harry started to protest but caught the gleam in Lee’s eyes and knew he’d lose the argument anyway.


“Very well, thank you Lee,” he conceded as Lee made his way back through the hall.


“Do you require assistance Captain Crane?” Vickers asked, more out of politeness than his desire to tote their bags.


“No thank you, Dr. Vickers, we just have a few bags.”


“Fine, then I’ll see you two in another hour,” Vickers said, heading to the galley as Lee back-tracked his steps to the arctic entry where they had left their bags.


* * * * *


Connor peered through a crack in the door watching Crane as he left to retrieve the luggage.  His head was still covered with the hooded sweat shirt and he was careful to keep his face in the shadows, to hide both his presence and his face at the same time.  Crane’s life was just about to be dealt a cruel blow, but Connor had worked through whatever moral misgivings he previously had.   He shrunk back as the pain flared once again, his body changing at the molecular level and evident in the brownish-green scales that had replaced his normal skin cells in patches across his body.  First it was his hands, then blotches of slimy skin appeared on his torso, and then it was his face.  But brown-green scales weren’t the only mutations he was battling as bumps began to form on his face, threatening to deform him into a freak. 


He had noticed Crane’s perfect well-chiseled jaw line and olive tone complexion and was suddenly overtaken by extreme jealousy.  He wanted his life back.  He wanted his own facial features back.  He wanted to feel human again, and he didn’t care what he did to achieve that goal; even sacrificing Crane no longer held any distaste to his conscious or convictions. 


Slowly he shut the door to deal with the pain privately as he cowered in a corner, feeling more abhorrent changes to his physiology working their way out in his wretched body.  When the mutation growth finally passed he was panting hard and returned his thoughts to Crane.  He breathed in an almost euphoric sense of anticipation for his plans this evening.


* * * * *


“Good news,” Dr. Vickers announced as the three sat down to dinner.  “My assistant Connor will be returning in a few days.”


“That is good news,” Harry agreed.  “I wondered how long you could keep up the work load by yourself.”


“Yes, it has been difficult.  Perhaps you’d like to get your feet wet, so to speak Admiral, and participate more directly in the project these next few days?” Vickers asked with a hopeful raised brow.


“I’d love to do some hands-on work.  What better way to evaluate your progress?” Harry agreed with a hearty smile. 


“Wonderful!” Vickers replied, becoming much more animated than he’d been thus far.  “I think this calls for a little celebration,” he announced, moving to a sideboard and opening the bottom sliding door to reveal a small stash of spirits.  He produced three glasses and pulled out several flasks.


“What’s your fancy Admiral Nelson?  Brandy, Vodka or Scotch?” he asked over his shoulder.


“Scotch,” Harry replied sitting back and enjoying this new side of Vickers, as he perceived the scientist was finally loosening up.  He shot a grin over to Lee, which he noted with his own small smile.


“And how about you, Captain Crane?  You look like a Brandy man to me, I have a rather nice bottle here,” he goaded, hoping Lee would take the suggestion as the drops he was preparing in Crane’s glass would be hidden better by the darker liquor.


“Usually Vodka, but I’ll give your Brandy a try,” Lee replied graciously to his host.


Vickers seemed pleased, and Lee was glad that they had gotten over their uncomfortable exchange of earlier.


Vickers turned around and served the drinks to his guests first, and then brought his own Brandy over to the table, raising his glass into the air.


“Gentlemen, to your visit and hopefully a favorable report back to Washington,” Vickers offered as a toast.


The three men toasted amicably and took a drink, but Vickers threw his entire glass back in one gulp as Harry and Lee raised an eyebrow and nodded to one another, throwing their drinks back as well.  Vickers laughed and went back to the sideboard, bringing over the brandy and scotch and refilling everyone’s glasses once again.


“Just one more gentlemen; Connor is a teetotaler and I don’t usually get to indulge like this,” Vickers lied, knowing he needed this second glass to make Crane’s reaction less suspect.


Both Harry and Lee nodded with a smile as they threw back the second glass as well.


“Well, I think I’d better stop,” Harry said, recognizing a small but manageable buzz.


“Certainly,” Dr. Vickers replied.  “I don’t want anything to hamper our work tomorrow,” he continued before nodding towards Lee, who was resting his forehead on his hand with an impolite elbow on the table, while rubbing his forehead.  “But I don’t think Captain Crane can handle his liquor,” he smirked as Harry caught the definite look of a man who was a bit tipsy.


Lee heard Vickers and laughed it off, not one to usually succumb to two shots of alcohol.


“Sorry,” he apologized, definitely feeling woozy.  “I guess the early morning flight did it,” he offered but was a bit perplexed as this was highly unusual for him.


Harry’s brow crinkled, a bit embarrassed that Lee hadn’t handled the two shots better, but mostly concerned for his friend.


“Perhaps we should call it a night,” Harry suggested to Vickers' disappointment.


“But I was looking forward to discussing some notes,” Vickers lightly objected.  “It’s been a little lonely with my assistant gone this last week.”


Lee saw Harry’s interest in the discussion and offered a polite answer to the situation.  “Why don’t you two enjoy the evening, I’ll go hit the rack and be ready bright and early tomorrow morning for some real work,” he offered, standing and making every effort not to sway.


Harry started to protest, but thought better of it.  Lee was a big boy; he was sure he could make it to his quarters just fine.


“Fine Lee.  Get some rest, I’ll see you in the morning,” he said as Lee left the room to the congenial sounds of two scientists anxious to pick one another’s brains for knowledge.  He smiled and reached the hallway, finding himself swaying slightly and grateful he had managed to keep it together in the dining room.  This was so not like him, he thought inwardly as he barely made it to his room.  He opened the door and staggered in just as the world began to spin.  He aimed for the bed and gratefully found it, collapsing on the soft mattress and flinging an arm over his eyes. 


Something's wrong, he thought fleetingly.  This is too drunk for two shots of brandy, he finished before his eyes closed and his arm dropped to his side.


* * * * *


Connor heard Crane making his way down the hall and smiled, his eyes veiled by the hood pulled deeply over his head.  He waited until Crane made it into his room and held back a smirk for the drunken stupor the drug had produced, the alcohol only added to its effectiveness producing quick results.  He waited only a moment more, knowing that Crane would be passed out cold by now.  He made his way out of his hiding spot and checked to make sure the hall was clear, before opening Crane’s door and finding him on his bed with one leg hanging off the edge.


He approached Crane, careful to keep his face covered in case he woke, kicking his foot as it dangled over the edge to gauge his responsiveness.  As he expected, the good captain was out cold, so he moved on with his plan.  He unbuttoned his sleeve and rolled it out of his way, before dabbing a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol on his arm; then he prepared his needle and held it up to the light, flicking out the air bubbles as a thin stream of misery sprayed out the top.  Without any remorse, he plunged the needle into Crane’s arm depressing the contents into his vein.  Lee reacted with a groan and a toss of the head, but his drugged state kept him unaware of the danger as Connor completed the injection.  He pulled the needle out and smiled, knowing exactly what the chemical reaction made by the irradiated compounds would produce.  It wouldn’t take long, by tomorrow evening he would be exhibiting the first signs of the mutations.  Until then, he wanted to keep up the ruse that Crane had not handled his liquor well, so he pulled off one shoe and left his leg dangling over the edge of the bed.  He loosened his tie and undid three buttons, then disheveled his hair for good measure, making it appear that Crane was completely lost in a drunken stupor.


“Soon you’ll be like me,” Connor uttered in an unnaturally low rough voice.  “Then Nelson will have no choice but to stay,” he finished with a smile that faded as he reached up and pulled the hood off his head exposing his mutation to the passed out man.  The brownish-green skin and unnatural bumps had overtaken a good deal of his face, his hands were excruciatingly painful to use and webbing had started to develop between his fingers.  He turned and caught sight of himself in the mirror and picked up Crane’s shoe in anger, throwing it and shattering the mirror before applying the hood over his head once again in disgust. 


Connor left knowing he wasn’t sorry in the least for what he had just done to Crane, damning him to a like existence if Nelson wasn’t as brilliant as he hoped.  All he knew was that he couldn’t stay this way; if Nelson couldn’t deliver then he’d have to watch his best friend suffer just like he was suffering.  But Nelson would find a way, he silently corrected himself in a sudden shift of emotion.  There’s no way he’s going to let Crane become like him.  The thought brought a small measure of peace though it was fleeting, as he sought his hiding place to deal with another bout of the painful mutation process.  He barely made it to his own quarters where he buried his face in his pillow to keep the sobs of his pain from being heard by the two scientists in the dining room.


* * * * *


Harry walked to his quarters, taking a slight detour as he knocked lightly before entering Lee’s room.  He peered around the door to see the disheveled look of Lee Crane.  His clothes were rumpled and he was hanging off the bed like he’d barely made it before collapsing, then spotted the mirror, broken when Lee kicked off his shoe without regard for where it ended up.  Harry shook his head in disappointment and stepped out of the room closing the door behind him and rubbing the back of his neck.  This wasn’t like Lee, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it tonight.  The best thing was to let him sleep it off; he knew Lee would be embarrassed over the situation in the morning and he had no plans to ride him for not handling his liquor.  It had been a long day, on top of a long cruise.  He’d cut his captain some slack this time, he decided and headed to his own quarters to hit the rack himself.


As the door closed, he completely missed the gasp from the bed as Lee winced in pain.  Though the outward effects of the compound wouldn’t make their first appearance till tomorrow evening, he was already beginning the mutation process as his body fought unsuccessfully, the changes being forced upon it.  His hands trembled and his forehead wrinkled in pain as he tossed his head, unable to ask for help or swim out from under Vickers’ drug served in his first shot of brandy.



Chapter Four



Lee made his way to the head the next morning, eager to shower and hoping to wash away the remains of his over-indulgence the night before.  If there was any doubt he’d been drunk, it was dispelled in every step he took as each step pounded his head relentlessly.


“Sheesh, Crane.  When was the last time two slugs did this to you?” he asked himself, berating himself for not reading his body better and avoiding the embarrassing scene altogether.  He was grateful that his bath was private as he really needed this time to pull himself together.  He’d gotten up and noticed first off, the broken mirror and the offending shoe that had caused the damage and hung his head in shame. 


“Great guest you are,” he told himself as he cleaned up the glass.  He showered and shaved and emerged in a clean uniform, unfortunately, he wasn’t able to do anything about the dark circles under his eyes.


He blew out a breath as he approached the dining room; There was nothing to do but pay the piper, he thought grimly to himself, knowing it was time to face Harry and Dr. Vickers.


“Lee,” Harry greeted, “How are you feeling today?” he asked even as he assessed the dark circles under his red, blood-shot eyes.


Lee chuckled in embarrassment.  “I’m fine, Sir.  I want to apologize for last evening,” he offered contritely.  “I’m not usually that affected by two drinks.”


“No harm done,” Dr. Vickers replied politely.


“I’m afraid I did some damage last night,” Lee confessed.  “Apparently I kicked off my shoe and broke a mirror.  I’ll replace it,” he assured.


“As I said, no harm done,” Vickers reiterated.  “Now gentlemen, let’s eat shall we, and then we can get on to the real work.”


Lee was ready to move on, but he looked Harry’s way expecting to see disappointment in his eyes and caught instead a concerned furled brow.  Vickers headed to the galley as Harry leaned over and spoke quietly.


“Are you running a fever, Lee?” he asked, noticing a slight flush high on Lee’s cheek bones.


“I think so,” he replied honestly.


“I’m pretty sure you were compromised by a bug of some kind,” Harry said, resisting placing a hand to Lee’s cheek to gauge the fever himself.  “I’ve never seen you succumb to two shots of any alcohol,” he noted.


“Could be, I’m just as surprised as you are,” Lee returned, relieved Harry recognized the whole scene was out of the ordinary for him.


“Why don’t you take it easy today while I conduct the review?”


“Thanks Sir, but I’m not really that bad off.  Just a little sore... from the fever I guess.  I’ll take some aspirin after breakfast; I’m sure I’ll be up to a little work,” he added with a smile of appreciation for Harry’s concern.


Harry nodded and sat back, feeling at least that the mystery had been solved.  Just a bug, he repeated to himself as Vickers returned from the galley with fresh coffee. 


“Here we go, gentlemen,” Vickers said, taking a quick glance over at Lee and hiding his delight at seeing the first stages of the mutation now showing in the captain.  “Fresh coffee and there are oats, fruit, and toast on the side board, make yourself at home,” he advised as Lee and Harry nodded their thanks and moved to serve up their breakfast.  As they served themselves, Vickers took notice of Lee’s slight limp, a clear indication that the mutation was occurring on the molecular level.  He had already noticed the fever; it would stay at low-grade for the time being, but by tonight Crane’s transformation would begin to make its first appearance.  He’d have to make sure that the flying sub was unavailable for transportation, at least until Nelson was on board with the plan.


* * * * *


Connor moved through complex; the halls and rooms that weren't in use were darkened and he found himself becoming more and more comfortable in the shadows.  Dr. Vickers was keeping Nelson and Crane busy in the lab, so now was his chance to make sure that the flying sub was unavailable for flight.  He stopped at the arctic entry, a small room with two sets of doors meant to keep the cold from the outside confined to the small room when going in and out of the facility.  He looked out the window at the freezing weather and shuddered; a cold front had move in and it was now thirty below outside.  If he were to go out, he would be in real danger of finding himself freezing just like the wood frog.  First, he would physically slow down, his body would refuse to move like he was hibernating, and then certain vital functions would begin to freeze in a very specific order.  His body would become frozen solid as he froze from the inside out.  They hadn't tested his physiology out yet, so he didn't know if he would survive the freezing process, much less the thawing out... Ryan hadn't. 


He took a deep breath in, glad that he could disable the flying sub without braving the weather.  Chances are, his cold weather gear would keep his core warm enough to prevent the freezing process, but he couldn’t take the chance that his body would sense the cold and begin to shut-down for the hibernating process anyway.  He moved from the window over to his intended objective and found the electrical box.  The hangar heating system was wired directly to the lab sharing its electricity from the generators of the main complex.  A simple flip of the switch and all power was cut-off; in the minus thirty degree weather the flying sub’s flight controls would freeze.  He sighed in satisfaction.  Now Nelson couldn’t just load Crane up in the craft and fly for help.  He would be forced to find a way to keep Crane from becoming just like him.  He smiled at his handiwork, but it soon faded.


The transformation process was fast acting, and it had only taken a week for him to become what he was now.  His hands flexed tightly into a fist; if only Ryan hadn’t injected him… they had promised they would find a way to reverse the effects, but Ryan had gone mad, striking back in a way that he thought was befitting.  Angry and out of control, Ryan had overpowered him, injecting him with the same compound that Vickers had tested on the unsuspecting assistant.  He remembered looking up into Ryan’s hideous face, discolored unnaturally brown and full of wretched bumps protruding from his very bone structure.  His hair had fallen out and his ear lobes had begun to fuse to the side of his head.  His fingers were nearly useless as the webbing took away much of his dexterity, but Ryan had managed to plunge the needle in without care for his victim.  Then he spoke, his voice low and guttural, as if he could just as easily croak as speak.


“Now you’ll suffer the same fate you damned me to,” he said as his Adam’s apple protruded out in a bubble in conjunction with his breathing before leaving Connor to his misery, writhing in the effects of the compound. 


Vickers had found him lying in the hall and promised he would reverse the effects somehow.  He helped him back to his room and then searched for Ryan, but it was too late; the mad mutant had left the safety of the laboratory to let the elements take him, ending his life to escape the pain of his transformation.  Vickers brought his frozen body back in, but Ryan hadn’t survived the thawing out process. 


So now here he was, brownish-green scaly skin covering most of his body with the tell-tale marking of the wood frog; a dark band masking his eyes and then running down the length of both sides of his face in a stripe, with hideous bumps protruding to accentuate that he was now a freak... a monster.  His fingers were now webbing and his joints hurt.  Things were happening inside his body, changes that were making him more frog-like than human, changes that would eventually manifest themselves in his outward appearance.  But he also noticed something else; he was losing his humanity in his mind as well.  Slowly he was losing his compassion and becoming just like Ryan… desperate for an answer and without remorse that he was making Crane suffer the same fate.


* * * * *


“This habitat demonstrates the frog in its winter preparations,” Dr. Vickers explained as Harry nodded, both holding clip boards as they toured.  “Urea is accumulated in tissues in preparation for overwintering, and liver glycerin is converted in large quantities to glucose in response to internal ice formation.  Both urea and glycose act as cryoprotectants to limit the amounts of ice that forms and to reduce osmotic shrinkage of cells.  Frogs can survive many freeze/thaw events in the winter if no more than 65% of the total body water freezes.”*


Harry nodded, completely understanding the process and enjoying the study of the fascinating frogs immensely, as Vickers moved to the next habitat box.


“At the first snow, the frog begins pumping water into spaces where it won’t damage cells if it freezes.  At the same time, it pumps large amounts of glucose into its cells, which acts as an antifreeze protecting the cells.  When it finally gets cold enough it freezes,” he said moving to a third habitat box, each one with individual climate controls set to demonstrate and study the hibernating process at each stage.


“And flat ice crystals form between layers of tissue and in the body cavity in between organs.”


Lee and Harry looked on with interest at the brownish-green frogs in the third winter box.  Frozen crystals had indeed formed all over the amphibians and were completely in a state of hibernation, frozen solid and as hard as a rock.


“The blood and organs literally freeze solid,” Dr. Vickers said, explaining the wonder of the process.  His excitement increased as he continued.  “The heart and the liver are the last to freeze, by then, almost two-thirds of its body water is ice, and glucose holds the cells together.  Breathing stops.  The heart actually stops beating, and its eyes turn white because the lens freezes.  The frog is basically dead, except in the spring it comes back to life!” he finished in clear excitement.


Harry nodded in approval, examining the habitat boxes and the individual climate controls, noting their specific settings.


“These are marvelous,” he noted in appreciations for both Vickers' methodology and the state of the art apparatus in use. 


“Very interesting,” Lee joined in, making his own notes on the project.


“Yes, well this phase of the hibernating process was due to the success of the last four years’ worth of work.  We are still working on the thawing out phase,” Vickers indicated as he moved the pair to the other side of the room where more habitat boxes were displayed.  “The mystery is not that the frog thaws, but the fact that it thaws in a very orderly manner,” the scientist said directing their attention to another climate box.  “Somehow, the frog’s body targets the heart and liver to thaw first.  Think about it!  It doesn’t thaw from the outside-in, but from the inside-out!”


“An amazing feat of nature,” Harry observed.


“Yes, and this is where we are placing most of our study now,” Dr. Vickers added.


“Do you mean to say that you can duplicate the freezing process, but not the thawing process?” Lee asked in clarification.


“No, I didn’t say that, only that we understand the process.  That’s the first step to a successful cryogenics experiment,” he added in correction.


“So at this point, you’re focusing on understanding the physiological changes that occur in each phase of the hibernating process?” Harry clarified, his face showing keen interest in the project.


“Yes, of course we can also begin to extrapolate how those physiological processes might be obtained in a mammal.  We can actually use the microphobes to examine the frozen tissue and determine whether the subject is technically still living, even in its frozen state.  My assistant is focusing on the issues of mammal cryogenics while I’m focusing on the physiology of the thawing process.”


“Your work is extremely well-thought out, Dr. Vickers,” Harry complimented.  “But it appears to me that your work would benefit greatly by adding more able assistants.”


“I plan to, but not until spring.  To stop now and interview applicants would entail too much time away from the work here and much more traveling to Anchorage to conduct interviews.”


“I see,” Harry said in thoughtful review.  “Still, I’m going to suggest that you make those plans a priority.  You’ve made wonderful progress and with the right help, you could move the project to the next phase.”


“I’m pleased with your faith in me and the project.  I will take your suggestions to heart.  Does this mean you are inclined to give my work here a favorable review?” Vickers asked hopefully.


“Well, let’s just say that I see the advantage of your methodology and deem your progress here quite acceptable.   I would of course, like to review the entirety of your project, but from what I can see, the last four years have not been without measurable and meaningful progress,” Harry encouraged.


The sound of breaking glass interrupted their conversation as both Harry and Dr. Vickers turned toward the surprising noise to see Lee leaning against a table, trying desperately to stay upright.


“Lee!” Harry called, closing the distance and helping to steady his friend.


“I’m sorry, Admiral,” he replied, taking a deep breath and finding his footing.  “I'm just a little dizzy.”


“Let’s get you back to your quarters,” Harry suggested to Lee’s agreeing nod.  He wasn’t one to give in easily to illness, but this one really had him down.


“If you’ll excuse us, Dr. Vickers?” Harry stated politely.  


“Of course, I’ll just clean this up,” Vickers answered.


“I’m sorry about that doctor,” Lee said before turning toward Harry.  “I’m sure I can make it on my own, Admiral.  I’m feeling better.”


“Well, I’ll just come along anyway,” Harry stated. 


Lee relented, recognizing the Admiral’s tone of determination and withdrew from the lab.  A thin, knowing smile grew as Dr. Vickers recognized the symptoms of the internal mutations taking place.


* * * * *


Lee walked on his own power, but his face was flush, broadcasting a fever.  They didn’t speak until they reached the sleeping quarters as Lee sat on his bed, rubbing his forehead with the tips of his fingers.  Harry filled a glass of water and found the aspirin sitting alongside Lee’s shaving kit.


“Here,” Harry said, offering the medication and glass as Lee took them gratefully.


“How are you feeling?”


“To be honest… pretty run-down,” Lee replied placing the glass on the table near the bed.


“Should we cut our visit short and get back to a doctor?” Harry asked with a raised eyebrow.


Lee raised a hand to decline the offer.  “No it’s just a bug, and to be honest, I think I’d rather hit the rack than travel just yet.  Besides, it will pass soon enough.  You might as well continue the review while I goldbrick a little here,” he suggested with a small smile for his joke on not pulling his own weight on their visit.


“That sounds like a good idea,” Harry agreed.  “I’ll check in with you later.”


Lee nodded and waited for Harry to leave before toeing his shoes off and easing himself down on the bed.  He was chilled and pulled the blankets up high, then rolled on his side hoping it was just a twenty-four-hour variety flu.


* * * * *


“How is Captain Crane?” Dr. Vickers asked feigning concern.


“He’s resting now.  I’m afraid he’s contracted a flu virus of some kind, he was running a fever this morning and is most likely the reason he was so affected by the alcohol last evening.”


Vickers nodded, feigning sudden understanding.  “Ah, that would explain why he got so tipsy so fast.  I thought it was strange for a navy man not to be able to hold his liquor,” he added with a smile.


Harry smiled back politely, but thinly.  He hadn’t appreciated Vickers’ insinuations the night before.  “I assure you, Captain Crane is a very conscientious man.  He would have never allowed himself the indulgence had he realized he was compromised so.”


Vickers nodded, agreeing amicably but inside he was pleased that Admiral Nelson’s apprehension for Crane’s health was so easily read.


“Well, there’s no reason to hold us up any longer,” Harry added, ready to move on and not that comfortable with the focus on either Lee’s situation or his own private concern.


“Yes, that’s a good idea.  We have a lot to cover yet,” Vickers agreed as he motioned Harry to the Analysis Room.


“This is where the work gets fascinating,” Vickers said in palatable excitement as he opened the door to the chemistry lab, a well-stocked room complete with all the latest in scientific analytical tools.  One side of the room housed the apparatus for conducting various chemical tests and analysis, while the other housed an impressive inventory of equipment, including several microphobes that sat at a table by themselves.  The nuclear microscopes applied a beam of charged particles, allowing the scientists to determine the elemental composition of the sample. 


“A very nice set-up,” Harry observed.  “You certainly have applied your funds well,” he complimented.


“Thank you, Admiral Nelson.”


“What’s this?” Harry asked curiously, noticing a test tube, apparently ready to examine.


“That is the next phase of our research, it’s on hold waiting for Connor to return but I thought you might be interested in the compound,” Dr. Vickers’ replied, taking an eye drop and extracting a sample to place on the slide.  He applied a slide cover and placed it under one of the conventional microscopes then invited Harry to see for himself.


Harry leaned over the microscope viewing a very interesting sample.


“This is a synthetic variation of a wood frog’s fluids,” Vickers indicated before applying a second slide to the microscope.  “And this is the actual fluid taken from a live subject.   As you can see, the actual sample has an element that we can’t identify,” he said pointing out the various chemicals on a clip board beside him.


“Hmmm,” Harry said in full investigative mode.  “Tell me, was this sample taken before or after the hibernation process?”


“Excellent question,” Vickers beamed.  “You see, this unidentified chemical is found after the hibernating process.  It dissipates quickly from the frogs once they become mobile, in fact, by utilizing the microphobe and analyzing the frog in its various frozen states, we have determined that the chemical occurs right before the heart and liver are thawed.  Within two hours the rest of its body thaws and the frog becomes mobile, actively searching for a pond to begin mating.”


Harry nodded as he continued to study the unknown chemical.  “And so you suspect that this is the key to the thawing process?”


“Yes.  We believe that this chemical not only stimulates, but dictates the order of the thawing.  The heart and liver must thaw first to pump blood and to deal with the overload of glucose as well as other bodily toxins. Hypothetically, we could recreate the chemical change in a human body to accept the cryogenic freeze right now, but until we identify this chemical we would not be able to successfully thaw the subject.”


“I had no idea you had progressed this far,” Harry exclaimed excitedly.   “And you’ve actually reproduced the chemical make-up of the frog’s fluids?”


“Yes, the freezing process prior to thawing that is,” Dr. Vickers said, obviously pleased with the feat.  “The glucose is the key, as it protects the cells by keeping the water from freezing.  As you know, frost bite occurs in humans when the water in the blood freezes.”


Harry nodded his understanding as he continued to study the synthetic sample, while Vickers continued.


“Now the trick comes in the spring when the glucose must be turned back into glycogen so that it can be processed by the liver and expelled through the natural bodily functions of the frog.  We believe that this too is ordered by the mystery chemical.”


“I’d like to take a look at that mystery chemical if you don’t mind?” Harry asked, engrossed in the project and knowing he had already been invited to participate during the course of their visit.


“I was hoping you’d say that,” Dr. Vickers replied, grinning and taking a stool next to Harry as they both hunched over their microscopes and busily jotted down notes.


After working for the next several hours, Harry leaned back and stretched.  It was tedious but exhilarating work.


“Shall we break for lunch?” Dr. Vickers asked, pleased that Harry had become so engrossed in the project.


“That’s a fine idea.  Let me check in on Captain Crane, and I’ll meet you in the galley,” Harry suggested, thoroughly enjoying himself.


Harry headed to the sleeping quarters content with the morning’s work.  He had seen nothing that would deter his original assessment that the project was not only on track, but well worth the continual funding.  He was aware that Washington would like to see faster progress, but to rush research like this only invited trouble.  Many a good funding had been wasted on shoddy and poorly ran experiments that, in the end, did nothing to further scientific study.   He was pleased that Dr. Vickers had taken the high road and planned on issuing a glowing review saying so.


He arrived at Lee’s door and rapped lightly, when no one answered he opened the door quietly and peered in spotting Lee lying on his side and facing the wall.  He was asleep and Harry figured that was the best thing for him.  It was highly unusual for Lee to nap in the middle of the day, and it only went to prove that he needed his rest, so Harry closed the door quietly and retreated.


As the door closed, he completely missed the airy, pained call coming from the bed.




Harry headed to the galley to help Dr. Vickers prepare lunch and looking forward to the rest of the afternoon, almost sorry that their work here would be through tomorrow. 


Behind him, a strange set of eyes watched him move through the corridor.  His eyes were oddly round and no longer blue, but now an elongated black pupil, as Connor’s metamorphosis had progressed eerily along through the night and morning.  He withdrew deeper into the shadows, allowing Nelson to proceed on his way and wondering if Crane’s mutations had begun to appear yet.  He pushed out of his mind the memories of the painful beginnings of his own metamorphosis, as well as the fact that he had purposefully and willfully forced the same fate upon Crane.  All he cared about now was Vickers’ promise that Nelson would find a way to reverse the freakish changes making him into a monster; he wasn’t concerned with anything else.  


* * * * *


Lee woke just as the door closed shut and tried calling for Harry, but his voice was surprisingly weak.  He shivered and pulled the blanket higher on his shoulders as the fever continued to rob him of his strength, in addition to the painful aches in his joints and muscles.  He could have ridden those pains out, but it was the burning in his insides that was causing him the most distress.  It seemed that all his organs were inflamed and on fire.  He curled tighter on his side, dealing with the unusual pain and unable to move to make a better effort at getting the Admiral’s attention.  Something didn’t feel right inside, but he figured it must just be a nasty flu.  He was grateful it hadn’t affected his stomach, because he wasn’t sure he could add nausea and vomiting to the mix right now.  Another round of pain gripped him as he closed his eyes and shivered again, letting his weary body take him back to sleep.


Chapter Five



Harry and Dr. Vickers grabbed a quick lunch and were anxious to return to the chemistry lab, where Harry was busy trying to identify the mystery chemical they believed was responsible for the successful thawing of the frogs.  Harry sat back from the reference book he was reading and rubbed the back of his neck.  He glanced at his watch noting the time.


“I’m going to take a short break,” he announced.  “I’ll be back shortly.”


“Very well,” Dr. Vickers replied, watching the Admiral leave the lab and knowing he was going to check on Crane.  By now, the effects of the serum would be in high gear, Vickers realized and knew that these early stages of the transformation were especially tense.  Both Ryan and Connor had suffered greatly in those first stages; he’d have to be ready.  Once Nelson caught sight of Crane, he’d be demanding use of the radio and making plans to fly out.


He wiped his mouth in a nervous move, then scooted back from the table and headed for Connor’s usual shadowy hideaway.


“Connor?” he whispered, searching the dark corners for any sign of his assistant.  Before he knew it, a strong hand with webbed fingers had found his throat from behind.  Vickers raised his hands to try and loosen the hold as he spoke.


“It’s me Connor,” he croaked out as the choke hold was strong.  “It’s me!”


The webbed hand released him as Vickers turned around holding his throat and coughing.


“I did not… recognize… you,” Connor answered, speaking slowly as if trying to formulate both his thoughts and his words.


“It’s okay, son,” Vickers replied, trying to hide the shock of Connor’s hideous transformation.  His human facial features were almost completely lost to the traits of the frog; even the bone structure of his cranium had changed in what must have been an excruciating metamorphosis.


“Nelson is checking on Crane,” he continued, “Did you disable their craft?”


“Yes,” he answered with a new lisp.  “How long?”


“Until Nelson has a serum?” Vickers qualified to Connor’s nod, his hood still pulled over his frog-like head, framing his frog-like face.  The shadows did little to hide his features as the black band around his eyes brought out the unnaturally colored scaly skin.  “He’s working on it.  Once he finds Crane, I’m sure he’ll be working even faster,” Vickers encouraged.


“Getting hard… to think,” he said in a low-pitched monotone voice.


“You’re still human, Connor.  You’re still communicating; you’re still thinking.  Ryan panicked because he wasn’t strong enough to deal with the transformation.  You’re stronger than he was,” Vickers encouraged with both hands on Connor’s shoulders.  “If changes can be made at a molecular level causing these transformations, then those same changes can be reversed.  We just have to find the sequencing chemical that will order the molecular change back,” he said, as if the undertaking of his words were a small thing.  “Maybe I can’t do it fast enough, but Nelson can.  He won’t let Crane down, I promise you,” Vickers said, drawing his assistant into his arms and offering an awkward hug.


“You won’t… let him leave me… like this?” Connor asked.


“He won’t leave this complex without finding a way to fix this… I promise.”


Connor nodded. 


“I need to disable the radio now.  Will you be alright?”


Connor nodded again.


“Is it painful, son?”


“The worst has passed,” he replied referring to the outward physiological changes, but clearly the serum was working to finish the transformation as Connor struggled to keep his mind and speech.


“Good.  It will be over soon.  Nelson will figure this out,” Vickers said then hurried out of the large maintenance room housing the generators, and headed to the radio.


* * * * *


“Lee?” Harry called gently, sitting on the bed beside Lee, who was still curled to the wall.  Lee replied with an exhaled moan as Harry’s forehead furled in concern.


“Lee?” he called again, this time reaching for Lee’s shoulder to help turn him on his side.  Lee moaned as he turned on his back, holding the back of his hand across his face.  He swallowed hard and then spoke in a whisper.




“Blast it, Lad.  I had no idea you were this ill,” Harry exclaimed, reaching for Lee’s hand across his forehead so he could gauge his temperature.  His eyes widened at the discoloration high on Lee’s cheek bone as well as the scaly appearance, then looked down at Lee’s hand as it fell across his mid-section to see a rather large patch of the same discoloration. 


“What’s this?” he asked rhetorically as Lee raised his hand to see what Harry was talking about.


“I don’t know, I just feel like my insides are burning up,” he explained.


“Don’t move, Lee; I’ll be right back,” he promised as Harry hurried to the bathroom, returning with aspirin and a glass of water.  Lee struggled to rise, so Harry placed a hand behind his back and helped him sit up enough to take the medication.  He lay back down, groaning as Harry felt his forehead. 


“You’re burning up,” he noted mostly to himself and went back to the bathroom, returning with a cool cloth to place over Lee’s forehead.


“This is no ordinary flu,” Harry said.  “This rash,” he said picking Lee’s hand up to assess it further, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”


A particularly painful groan interrupted his assessment as Lee curled on his side, this time facing Harry.


“I'll get you to Elmendorf, Lee, just hold on,” Harry said, realizing that he needed medical care.


“Okay,” Lee breathed out, offering no argument and wishing he had one of Jamie's special cocktails about now.


Harry left quickly, moving through the complex and finding Dr. Vickers in the lab.


“I've got to get Captain Crane to a hospital,” Harry explained to Vickers' raised eyebrow.


“I have a substantial first aid kit,” he offered to Harry's wave of the hand.


“No, there's something definitely wrong.  I've never seen anything like it,” he answered moving toward the arctic entry and donning his cold weather gear.


Vickers watched without offering help as Harry headed out to the hangar.  He wanted everything prepped and ready to go so that when he loaded Lee he could leave immediately.  The scaly patch was strange, but the pain Lee was exhibiting required medical help.  He carried a flash light with him to light his way, but when he arrived at the hangar he found the lights didn't work.  Moreover, it was freezing cold inside the building.  Puffs of vapor blew from his mouth, attesting to the frigid air.  He entered the Flying Sub finding it just as cold inside as he tried to flip on the power.  Though the nuclear power plant was still operational, the actual controls were frozen as well as the flight control surfaces. 


“Blast it!” Harry said aloud, knowing the hangar was heated just for this purpose.  He reached to flip the radio switch, but as expected, it was frozen solid in the ‘off’ position.  He slammed a frustrated hand down on the arm rest in frustration and exited the flying sub.  There was nothing to do but call for a medivac, he thought, and pulled his cold weather jacket up higher as he hurried back to the complex.


Dr. Vickers was there to meet him in the arctic entry as Harry pulled off his gear.


“The electricity is out in the hangar, I can’t do a thing until it thaws out in there,” he said disgustedly, glancing at the thermometer on the wall revealing the outside temperature reading of thirty below zero.


“I can’t imagine what’s wrong,” Vickers lied.


“We’ll talk about that later, right now I need your radio.”


Vickers’ cheek twitched.  “Right this way,” he said, turning and heading for a nearby room.


Harry followed with a frown.  Vickers wasn’t acting quite right.  He didn’t have any level of concern for Lee’s condition and based upon his intuition which had always served him well in the past, he didn’t expect the radio to be in working order either.  His intuition was right, as he sat down and got nothing but static.  A quick look inside revealed a missing part, something others might not be able to spot, but something not likely to be missed by the genius Admiral.


Harry turned around and pursed his lips.  “Alright, you obviously don’t want us to leave or contact the outside world.  So do you mind telling me what this is all about?” he asked point blank.


Vickers slid his hands into his white lab jacket and dropped all pretenses as a second form moved in beside the doctor.  The hooded man’s head was dipped low, but Harry didn’t miss the webbed fingers on his hand, or the distinct coloration, the same coloration he had spotted on Lee's hand earlier. 


“Perhaps, I can ex...plain,” Connor said, raising his head so that Harry could now see his deformed, frog-like features.


Harry blew a breath out, instantly putting two and two together.  “Your assistant,” Harry stated.


“Yes,” Connor replied awkwardly, but formulating words was becoming hard so Dr. Vickers stepped in.


“Connor was attacked by another assistant who was infected with a cryoprotectant serum we were working on,” Vickers explained as Harry pursed his lips, listening to the details.  “He injected him with the same serum before fleeing into the cold unprotected.  When I found him, he was frozen... he didn't survive the thawing process.”


Harry blew a heated breath out before raising an eyebrow and answering.  “That doesn't explain how the first assistant got 'infected', or how the chemicals I evaluated in the lab could have produced the apparent molecular changes in his physiology.”


Vickers chuckled nervously in surrender, knowing the Admiral was too clever to deceive.


“Washington wanted results, results that weren't going to happen fast enough before they cut off my funding,” he defended.  “All they cared about was progress on the freezing process, so I hurried the experiment along...”


“And bypassed all moral obligations to humanity by testing your synthetic serum on a human?” Harry said, filling in the blanks disgustedly. 


“Not exactly,” Vickers corrected.  “You see, the unidentified chemical found in the thawing serum is not generated during the freeze.  How could it be?  There is no blood flow to mobilize the chemical even if it were possible for the brain to somehow process and order it.”


Harry blew a breath out and nodded his understanding.  “Then the chemical is already in the freezing serum, masked somehow since it's not active.”


“Yes,” Vickers replied, pleased that the Admiral had figured out so quickly what had taken him several days to deduce himself.


“But that doesn't explain why the synthetic caused the mutations, since you weren't able to reproduce the chemical in the first place,” Harry noted as he thought through the situation.  “Which means... you injected your assistant with the freezing serum pulled directly from a frog.”


“Yes,” Vickers said, squaring his shoulders in defiance.  “Washington demanded progress and I was complying.”


Harry shook his head.  “Washington might have been putting pressure on you, but I assure you, my positive report would have kept your funding in place and probably doubled it,” he said fiercely passionate.  “Whatever perceived pressure you were receiving was merely the need for the oversight committees to be kept abreast of your progress.  You sacrificed your assistant for nothing!” he said, adding extra emphasis on the last word.  “Not to mention the fact that I seriously doubt your assistant volunteered for the experiment.  Even if it had been a success, the lack of humanity you showed for the poor soul can't be classified as anything but malicious, evil intent,” he finished passionately.


Connor huffed as a low feral growl passed through his lipless mouth. 


“And what's happening to Captain Crane right now...” Harry continued as Vickers finished the thought for him.


“Was to give you adequate incentive to find the cure in time to save Connor here.”


“You could have just asked!” Harry bellowed.


“You would have pulled my funding and shut me down, and while Washington dickered over the details Connor would have been dead!” Vickers countered.


“I would have done everything in my power to have helped both of your assistants,” Harry countered.


“Then do it now,” Vickers challenged.  “Obviously the chemicals in the freezing serum do not account for the cellular and molecular metamorphosis, even with the mystery chemical.  So be brilliant Admiral Nelson,” he challenged.  “Come up with the answer before Captain Crane faces a similar fate as Connor here.”


Harry studied Connor, noting not only the obvious physical frog-like changes, but also suspecting that the assistant was struggling to maintain his humanity on the inside.


“Alright, as you've left me with no choice, but we could have had the greatest minds of the world in on this,” he declared, waving a hand back to the damaged radio.  “If you hadn't of damaged the radio and froze out FS1.”


“They would have stolen my life's work!” Vickers countered back.


“And that's what it all boils down to, doesn't it?” Harry replied stepping forward.  “Get out of my way.  I'm going to see Captain Crane before I begin in the lab.  And I want a blood sample from Connor,” he ordered as Vickers and Connor complied by stepping aside for Admiral Nelson to pass through.


Vickers placed a hand on Connor's shoulder in support.


“See?  He figured things out so fast.  He'll do it my boy.  Mark my words, he'll do it,” Vickers added as Connor pulled his hood further down and the two headed for the lab to draw blood.


* * * * *  


Harry reached for the door knob to Lee’s room and rested it a moment, breathing in then exhaling some of his anger.  He needed to clear his mind if he was to have any hope of saving Lee.  He successfully calmed himself, then knocked and entered finding Lee sitting on the side of the bed.


“How are you feeling, Lee?” Harry asked cautiously, moving forward to see him cradling his hand as the blotch of scaly skin had grown in size.


“You know what this is… don’t you?” Lee asked without accusation, only the realization that he didn’t have the flu.


“Yes,” Harry answered, taking a nearby chair from the small study desk and placing it in front of Lee.


“I can tell you what it looks like,” Lee replied, making eye contact.  “It’s Vickers’ experiment, isn’t it?”


Harry nodded.


“I’m assuming the night you were uncharacteristically tipsy,” Harry deduced, “they drugged you and used the opportunity to inject a serum from the lab while you were out.”


“Yeah,” Lee agreed.  “By the next morning I was feeling it.  You said ‘they’?”


“Turns out Vickers’ assistant Connor has been here all along.  He’s been infected as well; the mutations have progressed very aggressively.”


Lee dipped his head and nodded slightly.  “Then it wasn’t a dream,” he said raising his head again to meet Harry’s raised eyebrow of question.  “Today, during some of the worst of the pain, I heard the door open and thought it was you.  I turned and saw this… creature,” his voice fell away before he continued.  “I thought I was delirious.  I ignored him and turned back over hoping the nightmare didn’t continue.  He left right afterward.  Why did they do this?”


“I just found out myself,” Harry replied, trying to bring down the anger that was swelling back up.  “First of all, they froze out the hangar, FS1 is inoperable.  Vickers also tampered with the radio; we’re cut off from the outside world.”


Lee nodded his understanding and rubbed his forehead as Harry continued.


“It would seem that Vickers got a little pressure for progress, got impatient and used another assistant as a test subject, quite unwilling I’m sure.” 


Lee’s face registered his disdain for such a man as Harry continued.


“The assistant lost hope or went insane, I don’t know which, but Vickers found him frozen outside without protective gear, but before he died he injected Connor with the same serum.  I can’t say for sure, but I think in revenge, because Vickers seems to have a fatherly bond with him.”


Lee sighed.  “So what did Vickers have to gain by infecting me?” he asked, his cheeks still flushed with a fever.


“Vickers felt I would work harder if… if I had more incentive,” he finished angrily, standing and pacing in the small room.


“So this is going to get worse,” Lee stated, looking down at the greenish-brown scaly patch on the back of his hand.


“There's a missing chemical, one that we need to understand; it somehow caused a cellular change on the molecular level.”


Lee rubbed his forehead in thought.


“I don't claim to be a scientist, Admiral, but I just don't see how a chemical could cause such mutations on a fully developed human being.  Perhaps if exposed in the womb?” he said thinking the problem through.


“I agree,” Harry said, returning to the chair and sitting once again, “Which means that somewhere along the way they've tampered with the natural chemicals of the wood frog's hibernation.  We're missing something and that's what we have to focus on,” he stated passionately.  “I'm heading to the lab now to see what I can find out.”


“I'm going too.”


“Are you up for it?” Harry asked with a furled concerned brow.


Lee nodded.  “The worse of the pain has passed, and I'd rather know what's going on,” he said standing.


Harry stood as well, placing a hand on Lee's shoulder.  “I'm going to find an answer, Lee.  When you see Connor... well, just know that I'm going to find an answer.”


Lee cracked a small smile in trust, then moved slowly toward the door, weak but able to move on his own steam.


* * * * *


Harry and Lee entered the lab as Vickers was finishing up drawing Connor's blood.   Lee could see the unusual colored scaly skin covering Connor’s entire arm.  He was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, but upon their arrival he raised his head and Lee caught sight of his face, mutated into distinctive frog-like features, including a prominent black mask-like stripe that covered his eyes.  He managed to keep his face even, but inside Lee was struggling with several emotions, the first was absolute shock that the creature before him was a human being, and the second, anger that he was purposely infected to manipulate Harry’s aid.  He swallowed hard and avoided greeting either the scientist or his assistant, figuring anything he wanted to say wouldn’t help his current predicament.  He and Connor locked eyes; Lee had reason to be angry, but was just as surprised to realize the utter contempt Connor held in his mutated eyes for him.  It was unnerving, but he didn’t let it show. 


The mood was apparently palpable as Harry cleared his throat and got down to business.


“Is this the sample?” he asked.


“Yes,” Dr. Vickers answered, finding his resolve and speaking as if he hadn’t done anything wrong in experimenting on one assistant and purposely infecting Lee to further his own cause.


“Before I examine the sample, I need to know the timeline for Connor’s metamorphosis,” Harry stated, picking up the clip board he’d been working with earlier to take notes.


“Connor was infected eight days ago.  His metamorphosis followed a similar pattern as Ryan, my other assistant, and has followed suit with Crane’s initial response.  The first twelve hours are particularly demanding on the body as the captain here experienced,” he said rather clinically and not at all taking responsibility for his actions.  Lee noticed, but held himself in check; he needed Harry to be 100% able to concentrate on the problem, not worried about his friend exploding in anger.


“The fever will subside to a low grade within a few hours, and your body will equalize out,” he said addressing Lee.  “The physiological changes you see in Connor occurred over the last eight days.  I have, of course, documented the transformation,” he noted, assuring the Admiral that he could produce an exact timeline.  “But there seems to be a rest period between major physical changes to presumably give the body a chance to assimilate, before forcing more mutations for it to accept.  During the times of active mutations, the subject experiences incredible pain, both Connor and Ryan describe the pain, on a scale of one to ten, to be a ‘ten’,” he continued.


“And I assume you have documented all your own experiments which I can look over in the interest of saving time and not duplicating work,” Harry stated.


“Of course,” Vickers replied a bit miffed at Harry’s insinuation that his scientific method was anything less than perfect.


“Dr. Vickers,” Connor interrupted.  “If I am… no longer needed…”


“Of course Connor, I’ll call you if we need you,” Vickers said excusing his mutated assistant and trying to cover for the fact that it was becoming difficult for him to formulate his words and thoughts, as the doctor answered even before Connor had completed his question.


Connor nodded and started toward the door, turning the handle with his webbed hand.  He pulled the hood higher and left as Lee dipped his head in the realization that Harry had a week to correct what Dr. Vickers had spent a lifetime to study... just a week before he changed into the same creature as Connor.


Harry noticed Lee’s self-reflection but ignored it, as he put his entire concentration into finding a way to successfully transform Connor back and in the process, save Lee from a similar fate.



Chapter Six



Lee watched as Harry methodically organized the data determining the direction he would take his research.  He was currently dividing his time between Dr. Vickers’ notes and the nuclear microscope as he made his own observations regarding a frozen sample.  


During that time Lee had assisted as best he could but his current discomfort level was growing again as another round of pain began to make itself known.  An errant gasp escaped as Harry rose from the microscope, glancing his way to assess his condition.


“It’s all right Sir,” he said trying to cover his distress, but he knew Harry saw through it.  This wasn’t helping, he needed Harry to be at his best and as much as he wanted to be in the middle of the research he just couldn’t, at least not when his body was attempting to condition him for another morph.


“I think I’ll take a rest back in my quarters,” he continued, trying to offer a confident smile in regards to Harry’s efforts.


“That’s a good idea, Lee,” Harry replied, concerned only for his well-being, not for any interruptions his sick friend might cause.  “I’ll check in on you later.”


“No hurry, Sir.  I’ll be all right.”


Lee left walking slowly; his muscles and joints were very achy, and he suspected it had little to do with the fever and everything to do with the changes currently going on inside him.  As he took to the hallway he saw Connor standing in the shadows, the odd coloring and features of his amphibian face still shocking even under his hood.


He nodded, acknowledging Connor as he walked by, trying to harness in a variety of emotions.  He was mad as hell that he had become an unwilling pawn in order to win the Admiral’s cooperation, something he would have freely given if they had been on the level.  That emotion was countered by a sense of foreboding dread, and even fear that his fate was already sealed; that he was looking at a picture of what awaited him if Harry didn’t find the answer within the next week.  Both emotions were strong and real, but were joined with an odd sense of compassion for Connor as he wasn’t sure how compromised his human mind was. 


That observation seemed to be verified in the guttural noises heard as Connor breathed.  His webbed fingers had elongated during the short time he had left the lab, no doubt the reason why he had excused himself as the pain must have been excruciating, but it was his next words that confirmed it even more.


“Now I have a chance,” Connor said slowly.  “Nelson has to help now,” he said before another deep guttural groan escaped.


Lee stopped in his tracks and squared his shoulders, even though he was feeling a great deal of his own discomfort at the moment.


“You don't know Nelson.  He would have helped you regardless, if you had given him a chance.  All you've done is stack the deck against him,” Lee challenged, angry at the insinuation that Harry would have stepped away and left Connor to his pain without trying to offer aid. 


Lee wasn't prepared for the quickness of Connor's next movements as he closed the distance between them in a near flying leap, crushing Lee against the wall with a webbed hand against his throat.


“How?” Connor demanded, his voice nearly nonhuman at this point.


“By infecting me you gave him something personal to worry about.  You think that won't slow down his research knowing that I've only got a week before...?” Lee said, trailing off and not finishing the obvious direction his statement was heading as he grabbed Connor's hand to keep him from squeezing his throat too hard.


Connor slacked off his hold a bit as Lee held his composure, but being eye to eye with the unnatural mutant was unnerving. 


“Nelson will find a way,” he reiterated pushing Lee harder against the wall before walking away as Lee watched him disappear into the dark hallway. 


Lee was momentarily stunned at the amount of strength Connor had displayed in their encounter.  He pushed off the wall and continued to his quarters, reaching for the door and freezing his hand in the process as he looked down at the discoloration and scales on his own hand.  The patch had grown in size as he stared down at his own deformity.  Quickly he entered his room and slacked against the door, a sense of foreboding gloom nearly overtaking him.  He swallowed and ran a nervous hand across his mouth when it dawned on him that he wasn't usually unnerved this easily.  He had seen a lot in his tenure with Seaview, including Harry's own shocking transformation into a werewolf type creature caused by an irradiated mutant virus.  He wasn't one to give up hope this easily and wondered how much of his own mind was already affected; certainly his emotions were compromised at the very least.


The thought was interrupted by an incredible pain as he nearly doubled over.  The agony wasn't receding so he shakily made his way to the bed and collapsed, curling as his body made inward preparations for the outward changes that would soon follow and grunting through the discomfort.


* * * * *


Harry sat back rubbing his chin in thought. 


“Tell me Vickers,” he said, not gracing the scientist with his title of “doctor” as his respect for the man had plunged deeply since he discovered how Lee was used to gain his expertise.  “I need to know the exact process flow the serum passed through before being injected into each person.”


“It's all right there,” Vickers replied, referring to his lab notes and finding it hard to share his laboratory, while behaving a little like a cook who couldn't stand to have another cook in their kitchen.


“Yes, but humor me,” Harry replied dryly.  “Let's start with Ryan, I'm assuming he was the first subject infected?” Harry questioned with a raised eyebrow.


“Of course he was,” Vickers answered, indignant but still caught in his own admittance that he used a human subject before proper tests were made; a process that was surely years away based upon the lab notes Harry had read thus far.


“Fine,” Harry conceded with little patience of his own.  “Then let's start with Ryan.”


Vickers pursed his lips in almost a pout but blew a breath out and then let it go; he needed Nelson.  He'd have to deal with the fall-out of having to share his work with the late-comer later, but for now... he needed Nelson to fill in whatever piece he was missing.


Vickers opened his notebook to Ryan's case study and drew a flow chart on the chalk board as he spoke.


“First, we pulled the sample from the winter room from the frogs in the final season, just before thaw,” he explained.  “We examined a frozen sample first, to determine its viability and then conducted a methodical thaw according to the same weather conditions that a frog actually encounters.  Then the sample was compared to a frog that had been thawed in its natural element, having been collected from the field for observation just after the spring thaw last year.  We found no disparities whatsoever, so we separated the plasma from the blood cells and removed the waste; what we were left with was about 50% of the bodily fluids.”


“Which included this mystery chemical that you haven't been able to identify,” Harry added.


“Obviously,” Vickers answered.


“All right, since amphibians don't possess platelets it would be wise to isolate the mononuclear cells of the frog,” Harry suggested.


“I see, to look for a possible vaccine solution?” Vickers replied with a smile.


“A vaccine may be helpful for future tests, but not for a cure.  I think the route we need to go down is in the autoimmune area.  If the body is accepting the changes as natural, resulting in the mutations we see, then perhaps we could develop an autoimmune answer so that the immune system can combat the mutations.  It's a bit premature until we find out what caused the actual mutations, but once we do, we'll need the mononuclear cells to deliver the cure,” Harry postulated.


Vickers nodded emphatically.  “May I suggest that I work on isolating the mononuclear cells while you continue to work on the mystery chemical?”


“Very well,” Harry replied, putting his personal feelings regarding Vickers aside, to deal with the immediate need to cure the two men before their body mutations became irreversible.  He fervently believed that while the mutations were still active, the mutations could be reversed, but first he had to isolate the chemical responsible for the physiological changes in the first place.  It was a tall order, especially in the time frame he had to work within. 


Harry sighed, needing a break as the enormity of solving the problem in the given time frame momentarily caught up with him.


“I'm going to take a break, perhaps grab something to eat for myself and Crane,” Harry announced, pushing back from the lab table.


“Fine, I'll just keep going.  Help yourself to the galley,” Vickers replied, too engrossed in his new assignment to care about food at present.


Harry was fine with that idea; he could use a little private lunch with Lee just now.  He needed the break and a little time to regather his thoughts.  He couldn't let the vastness of the job ahead of him overwhelm him... he had to stay focused.  He walked to Lee's quarters assuring himself that there was still time to save both men.


* * * * *


Harry turned down the darkened hallway leading to the guest quarters, he thought he saw someone in the shadows and deduced it was Connor, who spent most of his time alone and lurking about in the darkness, presumably to hide his deformities.  He was looking Connor's way when all of the sudden the figure was gone.  He caught movement up ahead as a figure crossed his path and then once again as it crossed again, followed by a door slamming shut.  Harry stopped to take in what he just saw as the figure had zipped about the darkened hallway at unnaturally fast speeds.  If he hadn't tracked Connor's movements himself, he might not have believed what he saw.  Apparently the mutations had begun to manifest themselves in even more strange ways, as Connor's body combined the strength of his human legs with the swiftness of the frog's movements.


He continued on until he reached Lee's door and knocked; he didn't hear an answer so he entered.


“Lee?” he called to the man curled on his side on the bed.


“I'm awake, Admiral,” Lee replied rather tiredly.


Harry scooted the desk chair over as Lee turned over on his back.


“What's this?” Harry said with concern, noting two bruises on either side of his throat, just under his jaw.


Lee felt the tender spots Harry was pointing to and sat up realizing that his neck was bruised.


“Connor and I had a little run-in.”


Harry's eyebrows tightened.


“Nothing big,” Lee assured him.  “Mostly posturing, but it did reveal a few things.”


“Like what?” Harry asked, needing all the information he could if he were to solve this mystery in time.


“First off, he's having a hard time articulating his thoughts,” Lee reported, trying to take his own concerns out of the equation in order to give Harry all the clues he needed.  “He spoke much slower and the syntax of his speech was off.  I think he's having a hard time holding onto his human side,” Lee postulated. 


“Anything else?”


“The mutations are still playing out... his fingers are different; elongated.  And then there's his strength.”


Harry's raised an eyebrow.  “What about his strength?”


“He moved very fast,” Lee said explaining their altercation.  “Before I knew it, he had me against the wall with his hand to my throat.  He was still in control, but I was amazed at the strength in his hands.”


“Hmmm,” Harry noted in thought.  “Speed is part of a frog's ability to evade predators; their first jump when danger presents itself is said to be its fastest and longest, but the strength in his hands... that's not really a frog trait.”


Lee sighed.  “Perhaps the mutations are not just turning him into a creature with frog attributes, but it's actually combining his human traits and enhancing them... somehow,” he added rubbing his forehead at the absurdity of his statement.


“No.  No I think you may be right,” Harry agreed.  “He's obviously not becoming a frog, but the mutations seem to be combining the frog attributes with his human ones, the combination producing speed and strength greater than either frog or human alone.”


Lee nodded.  “But I'm not sure which one will be dominant,” he added.  “His frog attributes or his human ones?” 


Lee rubbed the bridge of his nose as Harry noticed that the scaly patch had grown significantly since this morning.  He ignored the sight, knowing that Lee was well aware of the changes as well.


“Are you hungry?” Harry asked instead, hoping to find a way to keep Lee's mind off of the morbid subject of a frog-man mutated creature.  “I'll brief you on our progress over lunch.  My treat,” he added, trying to keep it light.


“Yeah sure,” he answered, much out of decorum for his reply.  “You said progress?”


“Well it's a good start anyway,” Harry said encouraging Lee as the two stood and headed for the door.


Harry's news seemed to lift Lee's spirits, at least for the time being, as the two headed for the galley while a set of amphibian eyes watched their every movement.


* * * * *


Harry and Lee made themselves lunch, ignoring for just a short while the enormity of the task before them, as well as the deformity that awaited Lee if Harry failed.  As they ate Harry brought Lee up to speed on the direction he and Vickers were taking in the lab.


“So you believe that if you can isolate the chemical responsible for the mutations you can manipulate the autoimmune system to fight against it?” Lee reiterated.


“Yes, I think it’s a solid course of action.”


Lee lowered his head a moment, approaching a question he almost didn’t want to ask. 


“Do you really believe that whatever was started in our bodies can be reversed?”


Harry leaned over trying to offer his most sincere assurances.


“Lee, I have every reason to believe that while the mutations are still active they can be reversed, once we help your body to identify the chemical initiating the cellular change that needs to be destroyed, it will attack and stop the mutations' progress as well as correct the mutations that have already presented itself.”


Lee chuckled nervously.  “I certainly want to believe that Admiral, and I have no reason to doubt your suppositions, they've always served us well in the past, it's just that I'm having a hard time staying positive emotionally,” he admitted quite honestly.


“That's not indication of your lack of trust, Lee.  Your body is assimilating not only the cellular changes but also, no doubt, a flood of hormones and other chemical activity as a result of the sudden changes in your body,” Harry explained as Lee smiled thinly.


“Thanks Admiral.”


Harry stood and patted Lee's shoulder, transferring his concern in the process.


“Do you feel like doing a little work in the lab?” Harry asked stepping toward the door.


“Aye Sir,” Lee replied, standing but then doubling over in an unexpected surge of pain throughout his body, knocking his chair noisily to the floor.  He caught himself on the table, leaning over with both palms flat on the table top, riding out the mutation's latest demands as his body surrendered to its will. 


Harry turned sharply at the sound of Lee's chair falling and returned to his side, placing a hand on his back but not interrupting Lee's concentration as he dealt with the pain.  Fortunately, the pain was a short-lived one as Lee's body tension and breathing began to even out, until he was able to push off the table and stand straight up.


He blew a cleansing breath out as Harry watched with concerned eyes.


“I'm okay now, Sir.”


Harry nodded, adding an assuring smile that did little to quell his concern for Lee's current state, but was appreciated just the same. 


“Let's get to the lab and get to work, Lad.”


“I'm ready, Sir.”


They both turned catching a figure withdraw from the door which was opened just a crack, by the time they opened the door there was no one there, but both men knew just who their “watcher” had been.


* * * * *


Dr. Vickers waited until Harry and Lee returned to the lab before excusing himself for his own lunch.  He entered the galley, checking over his shoulder to make sure Crane and Nelson hadn't followed him in and began preparing a special meal for Connor.  He had just received a grocery load full of greens and other fresh vegetables which he kept in the root cellar made just for that purpose.  He reached for the juicer and began processing a variety of greens and carrots, then surprisingly threw in uncooked ground beef creating a puree to sustain the changing physiological needs of Connor's mutated body.


Connor made an appearance at the sound of the juicer working and sat at the table, pulling his hood off and waiting for his sustenance.


Nel-son believes changes revers-sible,” he said as Vickers noted his speech impairment was growing.


“Yes, he told me as long as the mutations are still working themselves out.  He's working on finding the initiating chemical responsible, and I'm isolating the means to deliver the cure once we find it,” he explained.


“Crane like a...” he faltered for a moment before finding the word he was searching for, “son...”


“To Nelson?” Vickers finished for Connor.  “Yes, I noticed that too.  See, I told you he'd think of a solution.  I know we've just started, but he's brilliant Connor.  You don't build a nuclear submarine from the keel up without being brilliant.  He'll think of what I haven't.  I know it,” he assured as he poured the raw meat puree into a glass and sat it before his assistant.


“Does Nelson... know?”


Vickers sighed, placing a sandwich down before his spot on the table. 


“That Crane received a double dose of the serum?” he stated more than asked.  “No, not yet, but if I'm right, then he'll figure it out soon enough when Crane's mutations move along on a more rapid time scale than yours did.”


“Nelson working... hard.”


“That's right.  When he realizes that Crane doesn't have any more time than you, then he'll work even harder to save him.  It's a good plan, son, I know it will work.”


Connor nodded in agreement, then reached both webbed hands around the glass and slurped the contents down until the glass was empty.  Vickers tried to ignore the slurping as Connor's tongue had mutated, accounting for his new speech impediment.  Inside, he tried to convince himself that he had done the right thing.  Both Ryan and Connor had received the serum from the fluids of one test subject frog, whereas Crane's serum had been derived using two subjects.  Crane had received twice the amount of the mystery chemical and if his guess was right, his mutations would be kicking into high gear soon.


Chapter Seven



Lee was assisting Harry's efforts in the laboratory when Vickers returned.


“Good to see you up and about, Captain Crane,” Vickers greeted as Lee issued an acknowledging nod with no hint of pleasantness for the man who had a part in his mutating hell.


Harry expelled a sour breath and then shook it off; he had too much to do to address Vickers' lack of scientific morals and good old fashioned humanity to stop and deal with it now.


“Captain Crane and I were discussing the flow of serum for all three cases,” Harry said instead, getting back to work and thinking of the two men whose lives depended on finding an answer soon.  He had no idea how long the mutations would be active in Connor's body and understood that the answer must come soon to save him, as well as spare Lee from further mutations.


“Yes?” Vickers responded with a what-about-it shrug of his shoulders.  “They are exactly the same; I assure you my notes are quite accurate.”


“I don't doubt that,” Harry replied, waving off the scientist’s unwarranted self-defense.  “But it goes to prove that whatever went wrong is found in all three subjects and therefore means that the process is in question.”


“I'm sorry, but I just don't see how you can come to that conclusion,” Vickers replied full of pride.  “We know there is a mystery chemical involved...”


“Yes, but I've been studying the properties of the chemical and I just don't see how it would produce the cellular mutations we've seen.”


Vickers huffed a breath out.  “Well now, that's been the problem from the beginning, Nelson, but our lack of understanding of the chemical doesn't negate the possibility, the very real possibility, that it is responsible for the mutations.”


“While I agree that the mystery chemical is the most suspect and definitely where we should be focusing our work, I can't shake the feeling that we're missing something,” Harry replied just as adamantly.




Harry turned his head to Lee's uncharacteristically soft voice, focusing on his friend's hands quivering in uncontrolled tremors.


“Are you all right, Lee?”


“I'm uh... not feeling very good.  I think I'll head back to... my quarters,” he said pausing to take a breath.


“I'll help you,” Harry offered.


“If you don't mind, Sir, I think you better keep working,” Lee answered, working to keep the foreboding feeling of hopelessness from rising to the surface.


Harry agreed as Lee took his leave, walking slowly while trying to hide the inward pain of a body morphing into an unnatural half-frog, half-man creature.


* * * * *


Lee barely made it to his quarters, finding his way to the bed and collapsing in overwhelming pain.  Everything burned from the inside out, as he struggled to deal with a body giving into changes he didn't want.  A loud cry of pain escaped as he felt his bones physically growing, tendons stretching, cells regenerating into something new... something not human.  Another cry of pain was only barely muffled as he buried his face into the bed and held his stomach tightly.  His lungs were burning as he gasped for breaths between spasms of sharp pain.  He opened his eyes, realizing that he had no tears, not because he had suppressed them by his will, but because his body had no more use for the ducts.  His hands were on fire as he bravely brought them to his line of sight to see that they were completely scaled and now the typical brownish-green color of the wood frog.


“Oh no!” he whispered, frantically ripping his sleeves up to see that his arms were similarly changed.  Slowly he moved his hands to his face and felt patches of scales on his cheeks and forehead.


“No,” he repeated, desperately trying to rise to find Harry, but fell back to the bed as more waves of pain overtook him. 


I thought I had more time.  He had read the notes of both Ryan's and Connor's mutations while in the lab, and neither one progressed this quickly.  I thought I had more time.  Those were his last thoughts as a particularly hard wave of pain overtook him, sending him mercifully into an unconscious state, where the mutations would continue the course they had started.


* * * * *


A low airy voice interrupted the work in the lab as Harry rose sharply from the microphobe.




“What about Crane?” Harry asked, as Connor paused to form his words.


“Help,” he worked out as Harry stood immediately.


“Crane needs help?” he repeated to Connor's affirming nod as Harry barely waited for the reply and hurried down the hall.


Vickers raised his head and made eye contact with Connor, then methodically placed the lid from his pen back over the tip, sat it carefully down on his notepad and stepped away, already knowing what Nelson was going to find when he got there.  He moved to the door where Connor issued a mutated smile of approval and followed Vickers out of the lab and to the guest quarters.


* * * * *


Harry tore through the door without knocking as Lee convulsed in pain, exhibiting grunts of discomfort as Harry approached the bed slowly.


“Lee?” he called, but got no response.


“Lee?” he called again, sitting on the edge of the bed and turning him gently by the shoulders to lay on his back.  His eyes tightened at the discoloration that covered Lee's hands and exposed arms, his khaki shirt was opened several buttons down as the scaly skin was evident there as well, but the black mask of skin around his eyes clearly distinguished his mutations as those resembling the wood frog's characteristics.


A pitiful moan passed through Lee's lips, though he was still unconscious, as Harry gently shook Lee awake.  He called again as Lee responded this time with fluttering eyelids, fighting hard to wake until he finally successfully looked back with glassy eyes.


“Ad-miral,” he breathed out.  “Thought we had more time,” he continued, fully aware that his transformation didn't match Vickers' lab notes, which the scientist had emphatically defended as meticulously correct earlier.


“Lee...” Harry swallowed and continued on, “has this been going on for the last two hours?”


He nodded his response before answering.  “It's easing off now... not as painful,” Lee said, though it was apparent he was speaking in comparative terms by the pain lines in his face.


“This shouldn't be happening this soon,” Harry answered frustrated and trying to think through the new development while keeping a supporting hand on Lee's shoulder.  He felt the draft of the door opening wider and turned to see both Vickers and Connor standing in the doorway.


“What's going here, Vickers?” Harry demanded as their faces revealed anything but innocence in the matter.


“Crane's dose was made from the serum of two wood frogs,” Vickers explained calmly as Harry rose from the bed, his face red with anger.


“What have you done?” he exclaimed, demanding an explanation.


“With a double dose, I estimated that Crane's mutations would catch up with Connor's putting both men at equal risk if we're unsuccessful in finding a cure,” Vickers explained without remorse or an ounce of humanity.


Harry crossed the room quickly reaching for Vickers' throat, but was instantly thrown back against the opposite wall by the fast reflexes of Connor's strange transformation.  Instantly, he was upon Harry, placing his webbed hand against the Admiral's throat and squeezing with his elongated fingers, chocking Harry in his grasp.


Lee tried to rise from the bed, but his movements were slow and sluggish as Vickers hurried to the mutated man's side, pulling on Connor’s shoulder and accidentally pulling his hood off.


“No Connor.  No!  We need him!” he reasoned selfishly as Connor loosened his hold and backed off.


Lee made his way over shakily to stand beside Harry, hardly able to step in and defend his friend at this point, but not willing to lie in bed and do nothing as Vickers spoke.


“So now you know Nelson.  At the rate of Crane's outward transformation, I expect he'll reach Connor's current state of mutation in another two days,” he added without emotion.  “The stakes are now even, both of our son's lives depend upon just how brilliant you are,” he finished before backing off and stepping toward the door.


“I will of course, do everything I can to aid your progress, Nelson... please rejoin me in the lab as soon as you can,” he suggested harshly, even though he had used a faux polite invitation.


“Just get out,” Lee warned, finding his glare as Harry held his throat, recovering from Connor's attack.


Connor smiled, the first one Lee had seen since it was revealed that he was here, as the scientist and his mutated assistant withdrew from the quarters.


“Are you all right, Admiral?” Lee asked once they were alone, his concern completely on Harry and putting aside his own obvious issues.


“I'm fine, Lee,” Harry said before chuckling in resignation.  “You were right, lightning speed and very strong.”


Lee stepped back and walked across the room, running a tired, disgusted, and scaly hand through his hair as he sat on the bed.


“Do you think you'll find the answer before I lose my hair?” he asked in gallows humor, as Connor only sported spikes of hair that ran in long greasy strands sparsely across his head.


“I'm going to do my best,” Harry replied, watching as Lee studied his hands, the webbing now beginning to make an early appearance.


“You know what this reminds me of?” he asked, pulling his sleeve up to reveal his changed arm.


“What?” Harry asked, leaning against the table and picking up on Lee's attempt to lighten the mood as his way of coping with the impending changes his body was forcing upon him.


“Chief Sharkey's lucky shirt,” Lee said, laughing nervously as he spoke.


“His lucky shirt?”


“Yeah, the shirt he plays cards in; the ugliest green and brown paisley shirt I've ever seen,” Lee quipped as the comparison came about full circle and the joke lost its humor.


Harry stepped forward, placing a hand on Lee's shoulder.


“I'm going to find the answer, Lee,” he said, his eyes burning with the intensity of his determined promise. 


Lee looked up, his eyes offering his undeterred confidence that if anyone could do it, Harry could.


* * * * *


Harry returned to the lab while Lee wisely decided to stay in his quarters as his transformations were unpredictable and came upon him with little warning, usually with devastating results.  He took his seat in front of the microphobe he was working on and stared straight ahead, his anger burning within him.  He heaved his shoulders and leaned over the nuclear microscope, his sample was no longer frozen, having melted in his haste to get to Lee.  He was about to retrieve another frozen sample when something dawned on him.


“Vickers,” he said calling the scientist's attention his way.  “Did you examine each sample under the microphobe before proceeding with the process of deriving the serum?” he asked still studying the sample in front of him.


“Of course, to determine its viability for use as a serum,” Vickers answered in his usual defensive tone.


Harry picked up the thawed sample and took it to a conventional microscope, leaning over and intensely examining the sample, then sat back and stared at the black board with the process flow of all three subjects' serum.


“I'll need another sample,” Harry ordered as Vickers caught the strange look in the Admiral's eye.  He wasn’t a friend and was unfamiliar with the expression, but somehow it dawned on him that this was the look of a brilliant idea dawning upon the auburn haired genius.


“Very well,” he said moving to obtain a frog from one of the winter boxes.”


“Not a sample from the frozen winter box,” Harry indicated turning toward Vickers.  “I'll need a sample from a subject frog that has been naturally thawed.”


“You want me to induce thawing and obtain a sample?  Why?”


“Just do it,” Harry replied, his lips pursed shut as he reached for his notebook scribbling out something with fervor then leaning back over the thawed sample under his nuclear microscope.  Vickers raised an eyebrow and headed for the Winter Room hoping that the gleam he just saw in Nelson’s eyes would be the beginning of Connor's answer.


He hurried to the correct winter box and adjusted the climate controls as the frog’s body mysteriously thawed the heart and liver first, delivering oxygen through its blood and processing the excess glucose through it liver, among other vital things.  In only two hours the wood frog would come back to life enough to hop about, find a pond and begin its mating season.


* * * * *


Vickers returned with the sample as Harry took it to the conventional microscope, since the nuclear microscope was used for frozen samples only. 


“What can I do to help?” Vickers asked humbly, purposely treading lightly to give Harry room for the breakthrough.


“Examine the sample,” Harry invited, stepping away from the table.  “What do you see that differs from the chemicals we identified in the frozen samples on the microphobe?”


Vickers leaned over and adjusted the eye piece, very familiar with the chemicals he expected to see.


“You mean other than the fact that the mystery chemical is missing?” Vickers asked sitting up.  “That’s not new information Nelson.  The mystery chemical appears to dissipate once the thawing process is complete; that’s one fact that we’ve already established,” he said, returning to his indignant tone of earlier, which Harry ignored as he enlightened the prideful scientist.


“Yes, the chemical is missing from the thawed sample on the microphobe as well now that it's thawed, and I agree, until its properties are identified at the elemental level you’ll never progress to successfully thaw a cryogenically frozen subject since it is most likely that chemical that is giving the body the instructions for a successful thaw.”


“I assume you’re going somewhere with this line of thought, since you haven’t explained anything I wasn’t painfully aware of before.”


“Take another look at the sample that was previously frozen and examined under the microphobe,” Harry said, adding a drop from a nearby flask to enhance a certain feature of the serum.


Vickers leaned over and studied the slide casually at first, not expecting to find anything that he hadn’t already known about in his four years of studying the freezing abilities of the wood frog.  Suddenly his eyebrows tightened as he moved both slides side by side and studied them again.  He sat straight up and heaved a sigh.


“There’s evidence of radiation contamination,” he announced, letting his own observation sink in, even as he spoke the words.


“Yes, occurring from the irradiation process when utilizing the microphobe, no doubt,” Harry explained, putting aside his contempt for Vickers in order to solve the problem at hand.


Vickers returned to studying the irradiated sample in front of him, then shook his head.


“Yes, but it is highly doubtful that any of these chemicals would produce the mutations, even irradiated,” he concluded with a shrug of his shoulder.


“But since the mystery chemical is now missing, we can’t say what affect the mystery chemical would have once irradiated,” Harry countered.


“Or if the mutations are a result of the newly irradiated mystery chemical in conjunction with all the other irradiated chemicals,” Vickers surmised finally coming on board with Harry’s reasoning.


Vickers heaved an audible sigh.  “What now?”

“Since the serum was developed from the fluids of the thawed irradiated sample, let’s develop a serum from the naturally thawed sample and compare the elements,” Harry advised.


“I agree,” Vickers said, jumping on board, much more interested in the breakthrough than protecting his life’s work at the moment. 


Vickers picked up the naturally thawed fluids and started for the chemistry room when a loud bang in the galley was heard.  The noise was easily identified as pots, pans, dishes and implements being hurled against the wall.  Vickers secured the sample and ran for the galley with Harry close behind.  When they arrived they found Connor in a melt-down rage, roaring his frustration as he threw everything he could get his webbed-hands on as hard as he could against the wall. 


“Connor!” Vickers yelled several times before the enraged half-man, frog creature turned toward him gurgling something inexplicable as his tongue had completely transformed, leaving him mute.


“Connor, listen to me!” Vickers yelled holding his oddly shaped face between both hands and demanding eye connection.  “Listen!” he reiterated until Connor groaned pitifully, no longer able to form words that had become so difficult to articulate before.


“Nelson is onto something.  No, look at me,” he said when Connor started to step away in disbelief that anything could help him now.  “We’re onto something and it could lead to our answer, but not if you lose control!  Do you understand?  You have to keep it together!”


Connor stopped and practically fell into Vickers’ arms heaving tearless sobs. 


“We’re going to do it Connor, you have to believe me,” Vickers said becoming much softer in his approach as he patted Connor's back in comfort.


Harry withdrew from the galley and returned to the lab to continue the work; it was apparent that time was running out for Connor and Lee wasn’t far behind.


* * * * *


Lee heard the ruckus and made his way to the galley watching from the shadows as Vickers tried to comfort Connor with news of the breakthrough.  He looked down at the mutations that had presented themselves even in the short time Harry had been gone.  The webbing between his fingers was much more pronounced, though his fingers were still human-like and hadn’t elongated yet like Connors.  He knew he was catching up to Connor’s mutations quickly and that from what he had seen, Connor was becoming much more violent.  He had already been introduced to his speed and strength, but this little demonstration was worrisome; Connor just had too much strength to be out of control.  He knew he needed to be prepared, so he slipped away without even letting Harry know he had been there. 


He headed for the arctic entry holding his mid-section as he walked.  Everything cramped and burned inside, but he was more concerned with losing his ability to think.   He needed to take care of this while he could still articulate and reason, and while he still had the dexterity in his hands to make a difference.  He knew Harry was focused on the cure and couldn't be worried with this detail, and he shouldn't be, not when Lee could still function.  But he was aware that his mutations were moving along at three times the pace Connors had and had no idea how long he had left.


He found the junction box and perused the contents, easily spotting the switch that needed to be thrown to provide electricity to the hangar.  It was as simple as that, had Harry not been blindsided by the news of his impending mutation he would have surely found the switch and thrown it himself.  Now, at least the hangar would begin to heat up, though it would take some time to reach a temperature warm enough to begin to thaw out the frozen controls.  He marveled at the harshness of the region; at thirty below it had to warm up sixty-two degrees to even reach the freezing point.  The thought made him shudder, as he instinctively realized that his body was changing and that he wouldn't be able to brave the elements, even fully geared, for fear his body would try to hibernate and freeze solid, just like the wood-frog whose characteristics he was taking on. 


Quietly he withdrew, not wanting Vickers or Connor to realize that he had restored electricity to the hangar.  Now at least, if Connor turned violent Harry would have an option out, even if Lee couldn't leave the safety of the lab to travel the short distance to the hangar in his present condition.  If nothing else the radio would be in working order. 


Satisfied to have at least provided an escape for Harry, he headed back down the hall, bypassing the labs and heading straight to his quarters.  The ebb and flow of the mutations were becoming easier to recognize, and he feared he would soon be in for another round of hellish transformations.


* * * * *


The process of removing the waste and plasma in order to produce the serum was pain-stakingly slow, but proceeding through its final phases as Harry placed the test tube in chamber for the final preparations.


“What now?” Dr. Vickers asked, completely working under Harry's direction at this point.


“We'll need blood samples from both Crane and Connor to narrow down which active cells are producing the cellular mutations, then we'll compare that to both of the serum samples,” Harry explained.


“The sample from the naturally thawed subject and the serum from the irradiated sample,” Vickers filled in to clarify.


“Yes, we're going to attack this as a virus, look for the NK Cells and trigger apoptosis,” Harry continued.


“I get it, we're going to initiate the “natural killer cells” to destroy the cells that are missing the correct markers of healthy human cells,” Vickers added excitedly.


“That's the plan, to create an adaptive immune system to reverse what their bodies are accepting and producing the mutations we see.”


“You're assuming of course, that the irradiated cells produced a new cellular code and not that we're dealing with some sort of radiation sickness,” Vickers noted as he would have attacked the mutations from the different angle if he were taking the lead.  “It's quite a stretch,” he added.


“That's exactly what I'm assuming, and frankly, it's the best chance we've got.”  Harry sighed, “We don't have years to put into research; if we're going to save these two men, we're just going to have to proceed on that basis.”


“Alright,” Vickers conceded.  “I already have a sample from Connor, do you want another?”


“Yes, I'd like to see what, if any changes, are apparent before developing the anti-serum.”


“Fine, I'll find Connor,” Vickers said, heading for his supplies to draw blood and impressed that a nuclear physicist was so well adept to the complexities of developing an anti-serum.


Harry followed, obtaining his supplies as well to draw his own blood sample from Lee.


* * * * *


Harry knocked and entered upon hearing an invitation.  Lee was standing with his back toward him, apparently having been pacing the floor.


“Lee,” Harry called as Crane turned slowly.  His face had begun to exhibit some of the typical bumps and bulges, and the discoloration was spreading, but the greatest outward change was in Lee's hands which were now elongated and completely webbed.


Lee held his hands before him, studying the deformity before raising his eyes to meet Harry's.


“They're... completely changed, Admiral,” he said, his voice almost breaking.


Harry nodded, realizing how painful this particular mutation must have been as it involved changes in bone structure.  He silently recalled once, overhearing several female employees discussing Captain Crane's hands around the water cooler.  One said he had piano fingers, long and slender and perfectly proportioned; another said his hand were “beautiful,” which nearly had him choking on his coffee he had just taken a swallow of.  He hadn't a clue what beautiful hands looked like on a man, but the ladies seemed to know as they agreed enthusiastically.  He moved along when the discussion turned to fantasies of the Captain running his fingers through their hair.  He hadn't intended to listen in on their conversation in the first place and certainly didn't want to know where else the conversation was going, but from the giggles down the hall he assumed the discussion was still going strong even after he moved out of ear-shot.


“We have a plan, Lee,” Harry said, leaving behind the memory and returning to problem at hand.


Lee sat down, sighing cautiously.  “I could use some good news just about now,” he said rolling up his sleeve as he recognized Harry's blood drawing kit.


“It would appear that the serum was irradiated after viewing it through the microphobe and is acting in almost a strange viral fashion, rewriting the cellular instructions and producing the mutations,” Harry explained as Lee leaned forward in anticipation.


“While I don't think we're dealing with a live virus per se, I think we can attack the problem in much the same way by developing an anti-serum based on the same principle, to initiate your own immune system to reject the changes and kill the mutations at the cellular level.”


Lee rubbed his forehead tiredly.  “I'm afraid my brain isn't working too well, Admiral,” he admitted.  “I uh... I think I understand what you're getting at... just do what needs to be done, Sir,” he finished offering his arm for Harry to draw the blood.


Harry prepared his arm and inserted the needle, pulling the blood sample he needed as he spoke quietly.


“Is it getting hard to think, Lee?” he asked calmly.


“Yeah,” he answered in almost a whisper.  “I'm also very... emotional,” he answered with an embarrassed chuckle.  “I can't shake the feeling of hopelessness, even though I trust what you're doing,” he added.


Harry finished drawing two tubes of blood samples and placed a bandage on the needle site. 


“I'm going to get this to the lab.  Do you want to come along?”


“Aye Sir, I'm going a little stir-crazy in here,” he replied standing and awkwardly rolling his open sleeves to his forearm instead of trying to re-button them. 


They started for the door but Lee held back a moment.


“Admiral, I think I understand Connor's frame of mind,” he said solemnly.  “And there's a good chance he'll become violent again... if that happens, I want you leave me behind and go get help.”


“The Flying Sub's froze out, Lee,” Harry reminded him as Lee shook his head.


“I restored power to the hangar; it will take a little time, but you should be able to fly out soon.”


“If I leave, you're coming with me...” Harry started.


“I can't go out there, Admiral,” Lee interjected regretfully.  “Even fully geared up, my body will put me in hibernation mode.”   The thought brought an inward shudder, realizing that though cryogenics was the ultimate goal of Vickers' work, the scientist had nowhere near the ability to successfully freeze and thaw a human subject. 


“Then let's just cross that bridge when we get there, Lee,” Harry said, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder, but Lee knew he had no intention of leaving him behind. 


Lee gave up for the time being, but if things went south he intended on getting Harry on FS1... if it was the last thing he did.



Chapter Eight



Harry and Vickers leaned over the microscopes both checking out the final version of the anti-serum they had developed.  They had worked long into the night, as Harry drew on his experience in marine anti-venom knowledge as well as several unfortunate times his skills were needed to develop antidotes for poison and toxins while onboard Seaview.  Even with his knowledge, their work represented a long-shot for the two infected men, certainly developed in haste and without the necessary testing that ought to precede use on human subjects.


Harry leaned back, studying the two test tubes across the table.


“I think that's it,” he said rubbing the bridge of his nose wearily.


“Yes,” Vickers agreed as he rose from his own sample.  “I think you've done it, Nelson.”


“Let's hope so,” he replied.  “I wish we had time to test it...”


“But we both know we don't,” Vickers interrupted.


Harry sighed.  He hated rushing; it was bad scientific method, but he knew they had no choice.  Connor was nearing a point of no return and Lee wasn't far behind.


“Then let's administer the anti-serum, the longer we wait the greater the chance we miss the window to a successful...”


But Harry's next words were interrupted by a loud crashing noise outside the lab, followed immediately by the door being kicked in.


* * * * *


Lee had retired to his quarters, he was anticipating another round of mutations as his pain was ratcheting up inside, besides, it was getting difficult to follow Harry and Vickers' conversations.  The fact that he didn't understand the details wasn't so unusual; the Admiral could talk circles around just about any subject, but he always understood the gist of what the brilliant man was talking about.  Right now, his brain was refusing to articulate, and he had stopped adding anything meaningful to their work, so he withdrew to allow Harry to work unfettered by both his appearance and his obviously spiraling mental capacities.


It was a good thing he had returned to his quarters, because the next round of mutations was especially difficult.  A black band now completely masked his eyes and then continued down both sides of his face trailing his jaw bone.  Additionally, the coloration and scaly skin now enveloped most of his face.  The pressure in his cranium was building, and he feared the next round would bring about the odd shaped head that Connor was now sporting.  He was grateful that the mutations hadn't claimed his hair yet as he sat up, feeling comparatively better and even oddly a bit normal.  The thought immediately terrified him as he realized that though he wasn't becoming a “frog,” he was also no longer “human,” but some hybrid in between.  Like Connor, his body had mutated certain changes in his physiology, while leaving others intact.  He still walked upright and still had clumsy, but effective use of his hands and had retained quite of bit of dexterity despite his elongated fingers. 


He stood, testing his balance after a rather painful session of mutations and flexed his hands into a fist, then extended them.  He realized that he had obtained some of the strength that he had seen Connor exhibit and wondered if the same could be said on his speed.  He had his chance to test that thought when he heard a roar, a crash, and then the unmistakable sound of a door being kicked in.


* * * * *


Connor stood in the doorway, his body's mutations leaving him grossly deformed and breathing loudly through his open mouth as his nostrils had begun to close into smaller slits, more adept to swimming underwater. 


Immediately Vickers stood, ready to calm his assistant and offer the good news of the serum but Connor was in a rage and headed straight for the table sweeping microscopes and chemistry apparatus' off the table as he roared his frustration.  Both Harry and Vickers rushed toward him to keep him from destroying their work and his only hope of restoration, but were thrown off like rag dolls.  Vickers was pushed off to the side, but Harry was flung with far more ferocity against a wall where he grunted as he the wind was momentarily knocked out of him. 


Connor proceeded to tear apart the lab when he heard Harry's voice behind him, yelling at him to listen to reason.  He turned sharply toward the Admiral and channeled his fury into the man who was supposed to save him.  His face contorted in anger while making a strange clicking sound that exuded danger as he closed in on Harry, ignoring Vickers' own pleas to stop from the other side of the lab.


Harry stood, readying to defend himself against the half-human mutation with extra strength and speed when Lee suddenly appeared through the door, tackling Connor to the ground and moving quickly, in almost a blur.  They rolled, exchanging punches and vying for the upper hand when Connor, obviously stronger as he was the most mature in his mutations, issued a powerful blow that momentarily silenced Lee's struggle.  The assistant grunted, but instead of closing in for the kill, used that moment to do what his wood frog instincts implored of him, to retreat to safety.


* * * * *


Vickers was pushed aside as Connor honed in on Nelson.  He looked around at the damaged laboratory and yelled for Connor, hoping to reach what reasoning he had left.


“Connor!” he called as his assistant closed in on Nelson only to be tackled when Crane appeared out of nowhere.


Vickers took a step forward as the fight ensued on the floor when he looked down and realized that one of the test tubes of anti-serum was broken on the floor.  His heart skipped a beat as he crouched on his knees and carefully moved debris out of the way until he spotted the other test tube.  He blew a breath of relief out and reached for the test tube, noting it was intact and its contents still sterile.  He picked it up, holding it protectively and watched as Connor issued a battle winning blow, and then run out the door.


“Connor!” he yelled, taking a step toward the door before looking down at the anti-serum in his hand and then over at Crane whose mutations had progressed almost as far as Connor's.  It didn't take but an instant for him to make his decision as he ran to a cabinet, grabbed a syringe, and followed after Connor taking with him the only surviving vial of anti-serum.


* * * * *


“Are you alright, Lee?” Harry asked after Connor left the lab.


“Yeah,” he answered, taking Harry's extended hand to rise to his feet, just as Vickers ran out the door yelling for Connor.


Lee drew the back of his hand across his mouth, wiping away a small dab of blood.  “What happened here?” he asked, his speech noticeably slower.


Harry shook his head in near exasperation as he looked around at the mess.  “I don't know; we were about ready to administer the...”


He interrupted his own sentence as he suddenly realized that the anti-serum had been swept off the table with the other equipment.


“The anti-serum!” Harry exclaimed, moving to the floor and searching for the vials.  Lee watched as Harry raised a broken test tube and sighed.


“There were two vials,” he explained, “This was one of them, and my guess is Vickers has the other one... hopefully it survived,” he added, feeling torn between knowing that Connor needed the anti-serum first, but angry that Vickers had taken that decision upon himself... and then there was Lee.


Lee picked up on the problem right away and stepped back against the wall, sliding down and feeling like a death sentence had just been pronounced on him.


Harry noticed and closed the distance, crouching beside him and placing a reassuring hand upon his shoulder.


“I made one batch of anti-serum, Lee; I can make another.”


Lee nodded, but his confidence was sorely compromised.


“He's going mad, Admiral,” he said in a near whisper.


“Connor?” Harry clarified.


“Yes.  It's hard for me to think... even now,” Lee admitted.  “And I might not be able to protect you if Connor attacks again... I might not even be in control of my own actions,” he said calmly, making deep eye contact with Harry.


“There's no time for this, Lee,” Harry admonished.  “I've got one chance to save you, but only if I stay and work through this.”


“Admiral,” he started in protest when a blood curdling scream permeated through the halls.


“It's Connor,” Harry said, turning his head toward the door and identifying the source of the scream.


“Will you please just get in FS1 and get out of here?  Bring back help or whatever, but just go!” Lee pleaded.


“We're wasting time, Lee.  Now help me set the apparatus back up, and confound it!  Stop asking me to leave!” he threw in passionately.


Lee recognized Harry's resolve and the fire in his deep blue eyes and realized there was no arguing with him.


“Alright, Sir,” he relented.  “How can I help?” he asked, rising to his feet and determining to be helpful.


“I'll get what I need in here back in order.  You go find Vickers, tell him I need his help.”


Lee nodded and headed in the direction of the noises of distress coming from the sleeping quarters.


* * * * *


Lee reached Connor's quarters and waited at the open door as Connor was curled on the bed, groaning and obviously suffering.


“What do you want?” Vickers asked, not willing to divide his time between his visitor and Connor, while applying a cold compress to the young man’s head.


“Admiral Nelson needs your help with developing another batch of anti-serum,” Lee answered, realizing that Connor was going through the reversal of the mutations; the result was apparently a painful process.


“I can't leave him,” Vickers said, waving him off.


“I'll stay with him,” Lee offered out of kindness, not just because his life depended on Vickers' help.


Connor took that moment to writhe as a cry of pain escaped through his muffled grunts.


“No, it has to be me,” Vickers said.  “He needs me, now get out!”


Lee sighed silently and pulled the door closed behind him, it was apparent there would be no help from Vickers.  He walked back toward the lab feeling hopelessness engulf him like a wet blanket.  He was almost at the lab when another round of mutations presented itself.  He leaned heavily against the wall and grabbed for his head; the pressure was tremendous, threatening to explode as he slid down the wall gasping in pain.


“Lee!” Harry called, just coming out of the lab and heading for the Winter Room.


Lee turned his face into the wall and continued to gasp until the pain subsided.  His breaths were rapid and airy until he slowly willed himself to breath normally.


“Has it passed?” Harry asked, to Lee's nod.


“Vickers... not coming,” he managed to breathe out.


Harry recognized that Lee was now finding it difficult to articulate his words and knew the double dose of serum he had received was placing his current condition very close to Connor's.


“I don't need him, Lee; I know what to do.  You just head back to your quarters and wait for me there.”


“O--kay,” he answered relenting completely.  He knew he couldn't be of any help anyway and figured the best thing to do was to quarantine himself and hope that he didn't have any fits of rage like Connor had exhibited.  He pulled himself up and headed back to his quarters without anymore said, knowing Harry realized that talking was becoming difficult.


* * * * *


Harry watched for only a moment as Lee walked shakily along and silently cursed Vickers' selfishness.  He had apparently gotten what he wanted and though Harry could understand Vickers' concern for Connor, it also showed the scientist's total lack of concern for Lee's condition; a condition that Vickers had caused in the first place. 


He had no more time to think on it as he had to initiate another thaw from the Winter Room, obtain a new sample of fluids, painstakingly develop a serum, and then process the anti-serum.  Though the research was done and the process documented, it was still a labor intensive endeavor, especially since he was working alone this time.  To top it all off, he was working on a deadline; by his estimation, Lee's condition would become precariously close to irreversible by tomorrow afternoon.  He had about twenty hours to work up a miracle.


* * * * *


Harry worked relentlessly through the next eight hours, having already gone the entire night before without sleep.  He squeezed the bridge of his nose and rubbed his eyes tiredly before leaning back over the microscope.  He had induced a natural thaw and extracted a sample of the frog's fluids, then began the process of developing the serum.  It was nearly completed, the next step would be processing the anti-serum, by adding the NK cells to combat the mutations through his body's immunity system. 


He hadn't had time to check on Lee, and frankly, it was better to not be distracted by his latest mutations.  He felt a draft from the door and rose from his work expecting to see Lee checking on his progress, but saw Vickers instead.


“Connor is doing much better,” he stated blandly.  “Could you still use my help?”


“I would welcome it,” Harry replied; this was no time for posturing or lectures, the sooner Lee got the treatment the better.  “I'm just beginning the anti-serum,” he advised, stepping away from the microscope so that Vickers could look at his work.


Vickers leaned over and studied the serum to determine if the Admiral had removed all waste and plasma then nodded his approval.


“It looks like you're ready to proceed.”


“I take it the anti-serum was successful,” Harry asked with a raised eyebrow.


“Yes, unfortunately it reverses the mutations at far greater speed than they originally presented themselves.  It was a painful ordeal, but his features are already beginning to return to normal.  The discoloration and scales were the first to fade, the bone structure is moving slower and much more painful and he says his insides are burning.  I regret I couldn't give him pain medication, there's just no way to know how it will affect him or interact with the serum.”


“I agree, without the proper testing I'm afraid they'll just have to go through it cold turkey.  If we had had the proper time, we could have developed the anti-serum with time release features,” Harry added while he worked.


“Yes, well at this point, he is well on his way to transforming back; as long as he can bear up for the remainder of the reverse mutations he'll be fine.  His speech has already returned,” he reported clinically for the sake of the scientific process. 


Vickers paused a moment, swallowing hard and drumming up his bravery for his next words. 


“I stopped and checked on Crane before coming here.  He still has his speech, his facial features have mutated, but the cranium changes have yet to mutate.  He said to tell you he still has his hair,” he added a bit perplexed.


Harry smiled thinly, recognizing Lee's gallows humor as well as making sure Harry knew he still believed in him to develop the anti-serum in time.  His smile faded quickly, his face turning to determination as he turned the pages on his notebook to begin developing the anti-serum.


* * * * *


Five long hours later, they were examining the final product as each scientist agreed that the anti-serum was ready.  During that time, Vickers had worked hard, but had made no apologies for his absence or for the fact that he had infected Lee in the first place.  The circumstances surrounding this tragedy had not escaped Harry, but he wisely chose to deal with them later.  At this point, he was grateful for Vickers' aid and figured he had saved at least another four hours with his preparations.  Though that counted for something, he couldn't overlook the fact that Vickers had sacrificed sound science as well as his morals and humanity when he infected the first unsuspecting assistant, thereby issuing his death sentence when he chose to end his life in the elements of Alaska.  Connor's infection was a result of Ryan's revenge, if indeed he was in his right mind at the time, but Vickers' had full capacity of his faculties when he drugged Lee to administer the infection.  To top it off, he had given Lee a double dose of the serum to ensure Harry's stake in finding the answer matched his own.  Vickers was more than a concerned colleague, friend, or even father-figure; he was a man who would go to any lengths to further his own goals.  It was a dangerous combination; such brilliance at the hands of one so lacking in basic moral fiber.


“I concur,” Vickers said, raising from his microscope and putting his seal of approval on the readiness of the anti-serum.


Harry rose and retrieved a sterile syringe; they had in their foresight, developed an extra batch of anti-serum which Vickers would refrigerate to preserve, while Harry took the second vial and made for the door.


“Would you like assistance?” Vickers asked, regarding administering the treatment.


“No,” Harry stated flatly.  “I think Crane deserves to go through this without an audience of strangers,” he answered, indicating that only he would be present.


Vickers raised an eyebrow, again Harry saw no remorse, but ignored the scientist and headed for Lee's quarters.


* * * * *


Harry knocked upon his arrival, mostly to preserve Lee's dignity, but didn't wait for an answer to enter.  He held the anti-serum protectively as he sat in the chair next to the bed.  Lee was curled on his side but facing Harry as he opened his eyes, which had mutated in appearance but were still green in color.


“Ad-mirrr-al,” he whispered, taking a great deal of concentration to utter those three syllables as his tongue was undergoing its own mutation.


“I have the anti-serum, Lee,” he said, drawing the life-saving fluid into the syringe as Lee watched.


“I'm sorry, Lad, it's going to be a rough ride; but Connor responded and is already returning to his human features,” he encouraged.


Lee nodded his understanding and rolled to his back to offer Harry his arm for the injection.  The injection was quick as Harry expertly administered the anti-serum then sat back waiting for what he knew would be the first of the excruciating effects of the treatment.  He didn't have long to wait, as within minutes Lee's back arched sickeningly as he screamed in response to the fiery pain that coursed through his veins.   It wasn't unexpected, as they had heard Connor's response to the treatment all the way in the lab.  Lee did his best to rein in his scream into grunts and groans, trying to save his own dignity and spare Harry the scene, but at times it was more than he could handle.  He curled tightly on his side as the first effects were centered on correcting the changes internally, while the anti-serum sent “natural killer cells” to identify and destroy cells which weren't part of his original DNA.  The NK cells were efficient and worked relatively fast compared to the original mutations, as the pain inside testified.  There was a battle going on internally, and with all his heart and soul he hoped his human side would win. 


The pain lessened enough that he found a short reprieve in an uncomfortable sleep as Harry stayed by his side.


Several hours later, Lee awoke to see Harry asleep sitting upright, though he stirred immediately upon hearing his friend awaken.  He was covered in perspiration with his hair wet with curls on his forehead, as Harry reached for the basin to rewet a rag.  He applied gentle blots to his forehead as Lee breathed through the latest pain.


Lee's hands trembled, his fingers were still elongated but the coloration was beginning to fade. 


“Vickers said that the coloration and scales were the first outward mutations to fade,” Harry explained upon seeing Lee turn his hand, noting the change.


“Good,” Lee said, his voice quiet but understandable.  “Just can't get Sharkey's shirt... out of my mind,” he said trying his hand at humor in this difficult time.


“You keep saying that, I have to admit, I've never seen it,” Harry replied about the Chief's lucky shirt, hoping the light conversation would provide a distraction for the more painful reversals yet to occur.


“Going to buy him a new one,” Lee said, taking a breath in and successfully suppressing a moan in the process. 


“I'll personally buy him another,” Harry joined in.  “What do you have in mind for the new shirt?”


Lee chuckled, but it was a cross between pained laughter and a groan.  “Anything but paisley... and something bright; no frog colors,” he deadpanned.


Harry chuckled lightly with him until Lee was seized once again with the inward pain.  He leaned over, placing a concerned hand on his friend's arm and squeezed.  There was nothing he could say that could ease the pain, so he wet his compress again and applied it to Lee's forehead before speaking calmly in his deep story-telling voice.


“Did I ever tell you about the time Jiggs Starke and I got busted for missing curfew at the Academy?”


Lee smiled despite his ordeal.  “Do tell,” he urged, then closed his eyes dealing with the inward pain to the sound of Harry's comforting voice telling one of his colorful stories of his youth.  It was just the medicine he needed as he concentrated on Harry's voice, while his body did battle to return him to normal.


Chapter Nine



Harry paced the floor.  Watching Lee these last eight hours had been difficult, but he was concerned with the progress of the anti-serum.  Lee was currently asleep, apparently in between painful mutation reversals as Harry made his decision.  He left the room and headed for Connor's quarters.  The door was open so he slid in, relieved to see Connor dramatically transformed.  Though there were still some lingering mutations yet to disappear, he appeared to be well on his way to a successful recovery.


Vickers noticed the visitor and stood, his face beaming. 


“He is much better,” the scientist informed Harry.  “His speech returned and he can articulate.  His vital signs are stronger and within range of one recovering from a serious illness, and the last blood I drew showed significantly decreased levels of the active mutating chemical,” he finished, beaming his delight.


“I'm pleased to hear that,” Harry replied, speaking softly as Connor was asleep.  “Dr. Vickers, I need you to assess Lee's recovery to see if it matches Connor's time-table of recovery.”


Vickers stood.  “Of course, I took some notes here,” he said reaching for a small spiral book.


They returned to Lee's quarters as Dr. Vickers “ahemmed” audibly upon seeing Lee for himself.


“You administered the anti-serum about eight hours ago?” he asked in clarification.




“I can tell you that Connor's skin color had improved vastly different.  Crane still has large blotches,” he noted rather clinically.  “While Connor's seemed to fade evenly, the scales fell off uniformly and though his pallor was still off, his coloring was much more in the normal range.  And his hands… Connor's hands began making dramatic transformations at this point.”


“I was afraid of that,” Harry answered.


“I would say it's a direct result of the double dose of serum he received,” Vickers postulated, without any admittance that he was responsible for the offending act in the first place.  “I would suggest he receive a booster shot of the anti-serum,” he suggested.


“That was my assessment as well,” Harry agreed.


“I'll prepare the serum,” Vickers offered; it was refrigerated and would need to be brought to room temperature and gently shaken with a precision machine.  “It should be ready within twenty minutes.”


“Very well,” Harry replied, finding Vickers' Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine hard to figure, but right now all he cared about was Lee's recovery, so he let it go accepting the scientist's help while he was willing to give it.


Vickers left as Harry returned to the chair and sat next to Lee, who was awake and apparently listening in on the conversation.


“I guess you heard?” Harry said upon seeing Lee awake.


“Yeah... just do what it takes,” he said.  I'd rather die than go through life like this, he kept to himself, but Harry noticed his countenance change; they'd been friends too long, seen too much, and accomplished the impossible far too many times not to notice.


“Don't give up on me, Lee,” Harry urged, knowing that Ryan had lost hope and ran into the below zero weather to escape the possibility of his transformations becoming permanent, while Connor had reacted with fits of rage at his perceived hopelessness.  So far, Lee had kept his fears in check; he needed him to stay in control while Harry worked through the process.


Lee studied Harry's eyes for a moment, finding the strength he needed and answered in complete confidence.


“I trust you, Sir.”


Harry's lips pursed tightly, swallowing back his own strong emotions as Lee's words had spoken volumes to their friendship.  Somehow he would find a way to make it work, he resolved silently as Harry nodded affirmingly.


* * * * *


The booster shot of anti-serum brought about the expected agony as Lee endured the excruciating effects of his immune system's frontline battle for his humanity.  Hours later the results of the inward battle began to manifest itself in his appearance as his recovery began to move along following Connor's progress within the same timeframe of receiving treatment.   The scales were the first to fade, some dropping, the rest fading like a healing scab, bringing about an appearance closer to his natural skin coloring.  As with Connor, the internal as well as skeletal mutations were the most painful, but Lee deemed it worthwhile upon waking to see his hands appear almost normal some ten hours after the second injection was given.


He was laying on his side, weak and sweaty from the process that reminded him of an unfortunate time he had to withdrawal cold turkey from a nasty drug a vengeful enemy had given him.**  Harry was out of the room at present as Lee studied his hands; the color was almost right and they were just about the right proportion now.  He sighed in relief, but was too weak to do anything more but rest.  For the first time since his mutations began, he felt like he was going to beat the infection.  The thought brought renewed gratitude as he pulled strength from the new hope. 


He knew Harry had spent a good amount of the last two days awake and was glad he was taking care of himself, perhaps sleeping or maybe grabbing a hot meal.  The thought made him smile as he closed his eyes and grimaced at the ongoing pain, welcoming the changes each spasm, ache, and miserable cramp produced.  Before long, he allowed himself to drift back to sleep where his body could battle more efficiently while he rested.


* * * * *


Harry returned to Lee's room finding him asleep again and sat down with an audible sigh.  He had taken a short break, taking a nap and then going to the galley.  Connor's recovery was such that he was eating again and Harry was happy to note that he apparently hadn't suffered either memory loss or his capacity to think.  His cranium was still reshaping and he had lost much of his hair, but his prognosis for a full recovery was looking very good.  Harry was glad that Lee had been spared the cranium mutations for the most part, and he couldn't help but smile at the head of dark curly hair he still sported. 


He took a sip of coffee and sighed at the comfort the dark brew brought after the events of the last few days.  Lee shifted to his back and sighed, but didn't wake as Harry perused his recovery progress.  The dark mask around his eyes was fading, but like Connor it was proving to be one of the last outward mutations to give way.  Then he spotted Lee's hands and reveled in the humanness of their shape and color.  He chuckled lightly, a result of not only his weariness and relief, but also at the realization that the women around the water cooler could once again dote over Seaview's Captain's hands.  He had to admit, though he could never categorize Lee's hands as “beautiful,” he did see a manly elegance to them and chuckled at the thought.


“What's so funny?” Lee asked, catching Harry in the amusing introspective moment.


“Oh, nothing important.  How are you feeling?”


“Better... much better,” he added turning on his side to see Harry better.  “So what do I look like?” Lee asked cautiously.


“You've lost the “Lucky Shirt” look,” Harry said in jest, producing a smile from Lee.  “And you've still got your hair.”


“I noticed,” Lee replied gratefully. 


“But you're still looking like a bandit,” Harry said with a raised eyebrow.  “But it's fading and Connor's is almost gone now.  I expect you'll be losing your mask soon as well.”


“That's good to hear... be hard to get a date looking like Zorro,” he joked wearily, but appreciating the light conversation just the same.  “So, what now?”


Harry sighed, his countenance turning solemn.  “I've been thinking about that.  I can't let this be brushed under a rug; even though Vickers played an important part in developing the anti-serum, he still knowingly and purposely infected you, and then there's the death of his assistant.  True he may have committed suicide, but I don't believe he willingly made himself a subject for the experiment.  I'm not sure how much Connor can be held accountable while he was under the effects of the mutations, but Vickers certainly knew what he was doing.”


“I agree, Sir, but do me a favor, don't discuss this with Vickers yet... I don't trust him.”


“Unfortunately, neither do I, and the truth is, you're not ready to travel yet.  We can't risk taking you in the elements, even for the short walk to the hangar, until I know that your mutations have been fully irradiated.”


“I'd have to agree with that,” Lee answered.


“Then it's agreed.  We'll stick around until I'm fully convinced you've recovered...”


You could still leave,” Lee tried again.


“We've already talked about that,” Harry replied sternly as Lee smiled and relented.


“Aye Sir, we have.”


“Then let's agree that the next time you bring it up, I'll be assigning a certain captain the important task of Supervising Bilge Inspections... silver oak leaves or no.  Do I make myself clear?” Harry said with all the fervor his four stars had earned him over the years.


Abundantly clear,” Lee responded heartily.


“Now that that's out of the way; are you up for a little something to eat yet?”


“Sounds good, something light,” he suggested.


“I've got a pot of soup simmering on the stove, and you'll be proud of me,” Harry added with grin. 




“I used canned chicken... no Spam.”


Lee chuckled, it felt good to be on the mend again, and he looked forward to getting back on his feet... the sooner the better.



Chapter Ten



By the next morning, Lee felt like leaving his quarters.  He was still experiencing the uncomfortable effects of his body's continuing efforts to rid the non-human cells from his system, but they were manageable and he hadn't had to go through the cranium mutations, so his recovery had nearly caught up to Connor's.


He showered and changed, still sore from cramping and very weak, but he was well enough to be out of bed and was looking forward to a view other than his small quarters.  Mostly, he wanted to be where he could keep an eye on Vickers.  Perhaps he was crazy with worry for Connor, a young man he obviously had strong paternal feelings for, but a man who could do what he did was not to be trusted.


“Lee!  It's good to see you up and about,” Harry greeted.  “I hope you're not over-doing it.”


“No Sir, it feels good to be up,” he returned amicably.


“Good, I was just making my way to the galley.  Are you up for something a little heartier?”


“I think so, I'll even make the coffee,” Lee replied to Harry's relieved smile.  Both men were at ease, and yet each was very much aware that they were stuck in a laboratory, in the Alaskan bush, and in the middle of winter with a man neither one trusted. 


They entered the galley to find both Vickers and Connor at the table conversing lightly over their own breakfast.  Upon seeing Harry, Connor rose and offered his hand in appreciation.


“I haven't had a chance to thank you,” he said, shaking the Admiral's hand enthusiastically.


“I'm pleased that we were successful.  You're looking well,” Harry added politely.


“I'm feeling much better, thanks to you and Dr. Vickers, but I'm afraid I must also apologize to Captain Crane,” he said contritely.  “I... I don't know what to say, except that I'm sorry.  I... wasn't thinking right and I'm just glad you made it through,” he offered, not extending his hand as he didn't know if Crane would take it at this point.


Lee hesitated for a moment, though he had gone through his own depression and feelings of hopelessness, it never dawned on him to wish the same hell on anyone else.  He was a gracious as he could be, nodding to acknowledge Connor's attempt to apologize.


“Well, now that that's out of the way,” Vickers joined in, having no trouble sweeping everything under a rug and pretending like he hadn't spiked Lee's drink and infected him with a potentially deadly, and most certainly painful scientific experiment gone bad.  “What say we all move on?”


Harry bit his bottom lip.  There was no way he was going to just forget what Vickers did, but Lee was right, it was best not to confront the scientist when they had so little trust in the man.


“Is that eggs I see?”  Lee interrupted, in a deliberate move to distract the conversation away from its present course.


“Powdered eggs,” Vickers answered, standing and gathering his and Connor's plates.  “Help yourself,” he said offering use of the galley as he had other things to attend to.


It was just as well for Harry as he was having a hard time stomaching Vickers.  Now that the scientist had no further need of the Admiral's brilliance he had returned to his less than hospitable, over-confident, and self-declared intelligent ways.  He was only too happy when Vickers took his leave and Connor followed after.


Lee headed to the coffee machine to make a fresh pot of coffee as Harry shook his head at their host and headed for the pantry to retrieve the powdered eggs.  The refrigerator was stocked with vegetables and so he planned on making scrambled eggs with mushrooms, peppers and onions.  As he gathered his ingredients he thought about the exchange they just had with Vickers and Connor; he was glad Lee was feeling better, because he didn't plan on sticking around once it was safe to take him into the elements.


* * * * *


Connor followed Vickers into the lab where all evidence of Connor's attack several days earlier had been erased.  Everything was in order as Vickers sat down on his stool and folded his arms in thought.


“I don't think Crane fully accepted my apology,” Connor noted, though he couldn't blame the captain after what he went through.


“We have bigger problems than that,” Vickers announced coolly as Connor's eyebrows tightened in question.  “Nelson is now as well-versed in this study as you or I.”


“Why is that a problem?”


“Don't you see?  He completely immersed himself in our work in order to find the anti-serum, which I am eternally grateful,” he added with nod toward Connor.  “But he's too brilliant to trust.”


Connor took a seat at an adjacent stool.  “I don't understand.”


“The man has patents coming out of his ears,” he complained throwing his hands up in the air in frustration.  “He's got more inventions than you can imagine and everything he touches turns to gold!”


Connor looked on confused as to what the problem was, as Vickers continued.


“Don't you see?  He could take over this project and add another notch to his brilliant career, and don't think he won't do it!” he warned.  “And he's got just the ammunition to make it happen,” he continued.  “All he has to do is smear my good name about Ryan being a human subject before proper testing was completed.”


“But you told me that Ryan wanted the injection, practically begged for it to ensure the work continued?”


“Well I know that, and you know that,” Vickers said, lying through his teeth regarding Ryan's willing participation, “But Nelson has already insinuated that Ryan was an unwilling subject.  And then there's his death to be investigated.”


“Just what are you saying, Doctor?” Connor asked, wondering where his mentor's line of thinking was heading.


Vickers turned and placed both hands on Connor's shoulders, making strong eye connection.


“You know that I saw a brilliance in you, Connor.  I recognized it from the first day I interviewed you, and you know that I have no children to share in my legacy.  I want us to do this together; I want you by my side, just like you were my son.  You don't have any family and neither do I, you understand don't you?  I'm building something to give to you, something we can work on together as father and son, and something I can pass on to a worthy young man.”


Connor swallowed hard, he knew that Dr. Vickers had a high opinion of him, even favored him over the other assistants, but he had never voiced his feelings quite so forthright before.


“Working with you has been a dream come true.  I never thought I'd ever have an opportunity such as this.  I mean, how many boys make it out of the Home to work with one of the greatest scientific minds of our time?”


“You've earned your place here, my boy, and that's why I'm not going to let it be stolen from underneath us,” Vickers promised.


“I'm sure if you talked to Nelson, he'd set your mind at ease,” Connor suggested.


“Of course my boy,” Vickers agreed with little conviction.  “And now that I've stated my intentions to be your father, I ask only that you support me as a son would.”


“You know I'd do anything for you, Dr. Vickers,” Connor replied innocently, his emotions heavy and catching in his throat.


Vickers patted his shoulders approvingly in a “that's my boy” fashion.


“Then support my actions.  We're going to build an empire with this study, and you’re going to be my heir.”


Connor smiled, finding acceptance and love from his mentor and not for a moment seeing Vickers' concern as a threat to Nelson.


“Now, let's get back to work.  We have a lot of data to process between yours and Captain Crane's infection and cure.”


Connor nodded as Vickers opened his notebook and explained what he wanted his young assistant to do next.


* * * * *


Vickers left Connor in the lab, satisfied that his young protégé was up to the task assigned to him and equally sure he would support what he was about to do.  Vickers wasn’t a young man anymore and had spent his entire adult life in pursuit of scientific achievement.  Recently he had begun wishing he had someone to share his legacy with; someone he could train and mentor; someone who would follow and be teachable.  Connor was such a young man; no attachments, no family.  He was an orphan who had made his own way in life, just like him.  He became obsessed with mentoring the young man, to the point of favoring him above the other assistants.  He had lost several assistants for just that reason and was down to just Connor and Ryan when Washington began squeezing him for results.  Ryan had some major concerns over the direction Vickers was taking the research and was ready to not only walk away, but to take his concerns to Washington.  He couldn't trust Ryan anymore, especially with Admiral Nelson’s upcoming visit. 


He decided he needed to protect his work.  He gave the young assistant the same drug he'd given Crane, and when he was out cold, administered the serum he'd been working on.  If it worked, Ryan would be famous as the first successfully frozen human subject, surely he would appreciate going down in the record books.   And Vickers was convinced that the mystery chemical would give the instructions to thaw his human subject, just as he suspected it did for the wood frog.  But something went wrong; of course, he knew now it was the irradiated cells, but at the time he was dumbfounded as to the strange mutations presenting themselves.   


At first Ryan thought he was just ill, but as the mutations became more pronounced, the astute young man put two and two together and realized that Vickers had used him as a human guinea pig.  Vickers, however, was a smooth talker, convincing him that in his vulnerable state, his only chance was to let the doctor use him as a case study, as no one else in the field of cryogenics was taking the same approach in their scientific studies.  But as the mutations continued Ryan became more despondent, he didn't trust Vickers and in the end lost all hope, but not before taking his revenge on Dr. Vickers by infecting his favored, and equally gullible young protégé, who believed with all his heart that Ryan had volunteered, even if he did think it was premature to use a human subject.


And so Vickers felt he had been pushed into a corner and with Ryan's case study as an example, he knew he needed help to save the young man who had become so very important to him.  He knew with Nelson coming he had a chance, and he took it... without looking back. 


As Vickers walked back to his private quarters he considered how he had become a father figure to the young man.  When he looked at Connor he saw himself in his younger years; intelligent, handsome, ambitious… all the boy needed was someone to mentor him.  The more time he spent with Connor the more he realized that he wanted someone to continue his legacy.  Connor looked up to him and admired him; that alone was enough to stroke his ego, but the fact that he was so loyal was the clincher.  His need to advance the young man had become as much of an obsession as his unprovoked need to protect his work from others. 


He had been successful in protecting his interests up until now, effectively keeping this project solely under his name and direction, but now he perceived his project was in jeopardy.  The very fact that Nelson had become so well-versed in the project had indeed saved Connor’s life, but it had also created another problem.   Now, Nelson’s name would appear as a major contributor to the project; indeed some might argue that the Admiral’s contribution was even more significant than his.  He wasn’t worried about Connor.   He trusted Connor.  Connor would support him.  But he had to find a way to keep Nelson’s name out of the archives of their success. 


He entered his quarters and locked the door behind him, then opened his desk drawer and pulled out a pistol.  He had worked all his life to build a legacy, and he had finally found a young man to share that legacy with. 


Only one person stood in the way.  His course was set.  He felt as little emotion over his plan as he had when he used Ryan as a human guinea pig and later, infecting Crane knowing full well what awaited him. 


He had worked too hard to share the glory with anyone except his chosen heir, he rehearsed silently in his mind, giving himself high-minded permission to protect what was his.


Vickers opened the chamber and examined the bullets, then closed it, rolling the chamber like he was playing Russian roulette.  He pointed the gun into the mirror, pretending to aim at Nelson in a mock rehearsal. 


“Bang,” he said impassively, then slid the gun into his lab coat in a callous, heartless, and cold-blooded manner, completely comfortable with what he was about to do.



Chapter Eleven



Vickers walked back to the lab where Connor was now joined by Nelson and Crane.  He listened at the door before making himself known, determining the best time to do what he intended to do.  His resolve was already set, this project belonged to him and Nelson's name would nowhere be found in the credits.  As he listened, his hand rested on the pistol in his lab coat; it was made of steel and should have been cold to the touch, but it burned against his hand as if urging its use.  He listened as Nelson bullied his way back into the experiment, and gullible Connor capitulated to his suggestions as if the man could walk on water.  Crane was leaving... good, he'd deal with the two separately; it would be easier that way.


* * * * *


Harry and Lee made their way to the lab finding only Connor, they couldn't leave yet; not when they weren't sure Lee's body still had enough infected cells to initiate an unwanted, and most certainly, deadly hibernation should he venture outside.  So, Harry thought the only logical thing to do was to keep themselves busy until they could leave. 


“Admiral Nelson, Captain Crane,” Connor greeted warmly, obviously feeling much better and exhibiting a pleasant personality that was completely missing before, as his mutations had drastically affected his demeanor and actions.


“Good morning Connor.  What is that you're working on?” Harry asked with polite interest.


“I'm continuing the analysis on the mystery chemical, unfortunately the only way to study it is in its irradiated form under the microphobe,” he added.


“That does present a problem,” Harry said, taking a seat in clear scientist thinking mode.  “Perhaps it would behoove you to allow a sample to thaw in a controlled...”


“You mean, instead of in the Winter Room under simulated spring conditions, where the chemical dissipates before we can study it?”


“Yes.  I'm afraid the nature of the chemical is to dissipate once the frog has successfully thawed, you would have to find a way to keep the sample in a semi-frozen state long enough to study it.”


“That would be the trick,” Connor said thoughtfully.  “As it is, our window is limited, which is why we use the Ice Box to hold our samples until use,” he added, tilting his head to a small freezer box on the table. 


Harry was fully aware of the small unit as he had used the box to store his samples between viewing as well.


“Hmmm,” Harry voiced in thought, turning the unit and examining the freezer controls.  “Tell me, do you have another unit just like this one?”


“Yes, we have back-up equipment for every vital part of the experiment.  I'm afraid when you live hundreds of miles from the nearest procurement office, you have to think ahead,” he said with a grin.


“If Dr. Vickers would allow me to adjust your spare unit, I think I could adjust the settings, if you have precision tools on hand that is,” Harry offered, making his suggestions from a guest stand-point and careful not to take the lead on a project that wasn't his.


“I'll speak with him, but it sounds like a good course of action,” Connor agreed.


“Admiral, if you don't mind, I think I need to retire to my room for a little while,” Lee interrupted, looking uncomfortable at the moment.


“Of course, Lee.  Are you alright?”


“I will be, Sir,” he assured and nodded to Connor in polite farewell as he turned to leave.  He held his side and walked cautiously, feeling another battle coming on inside and hoping that the war would soon be won.


Lee made it all the way to his room before the first real cramp hit and headed for his bed, grateful for the chance to lie down.  He was just curling up when the unmistakable sound of gun-fire caused him to bolt upright in his bed.  He jumped up and ran back for the lab when the second shot was heard.  His body's aches took a back seat to the obvious danger as he ran through the halls, ignoring his cramps and finally bursting in the door.


* * * * *


Vickers watched from behind another door as Crane walked away, he'd wait until the captain was incapacitated in cramps and then take care of him.  Right now, it was Nelson's turn.


“Dr. Vickers,” Connor greeted warmly.  “Admiral Nelson has made a fine suggestion...” his words were stopped in mid-thought as Vickers pulled the weapon from his pocket and aimed it squarely at Nelson.


“Move away from the Admiral, Connor,” Vickers ordered.


“What... what's going on?” Connor asked taking a step toward Vickers.


“Don't you see what he's doing, boy?” Vickers asked venomously.


“He's only trying to help...”


“He’s trying to steal the project away from us.  He already has plans to pull the project from me, isn't that right, Nelson?”


Harry was standing by now, holding his ground but cautious. 


“We both know that you have a lot of questions to answer regarding your assistant's death,” Harry replied, getting to the point that he knew Vickers was speaking of.  “And the fact that you infected Crane has to be dealt with...”


“You see?” Vickers accused cocking the pistol, his eyes burning with the need to end Nelson's threat to his life's work.


“No, Dr. Vickers!” Connor pleaded but he was too late as Vickers pulled the trigger.  Connor turned toward Nelson watching a blossom of blood grow on his side as the Admiral fell against a cabinet, grasping for his wound.


“You'll have no claim to the project, Nelson!  I swear it!” he yelled taking aim once again as Connor lunged for the scientist.


“No, Doctor!  You don't know what you're doing!” Connor yelled, restraining his gun hand as the two struggled for the weapon.


“Out of my way, boy!  I've got to do this!” he pleaded madly.  The two fought for the weapon as Connor managed to subdue Vickers' gun hand.  “He wants to steal you away from me too!” Vickers added, grunting as he fought and finding that with Connor recovering, he was getting the upper hand.  He made one final effort to tug the gun away when the sound of another shot filled the lab, reverberating off the walls and deafening all other sounds in the room as he looked into the shocked eyes of his young protégé.  The next sounds were equally deafening, as the gasps of a man shot at close range filled the air. 


* * * * *


Lee burst in, spotting first Harry who was by now on the floor holding his bloody side, and then Vickers, hunched over Connor and rocking him back and forth, the smoking gun lying beside him, forgotten for the time being.  Lee secured the weapon first placing it his belt, then cautiously made his way over to Harry, assessing the situation even as he moved.


“Admiral!” Lee called, looking for something to stem the bleeding.


“It's not bad, Lee,” Harry said through painful breaths.  “But Connor...”


“Hold still, Admiral,” Lee urged, reaching for a stack of towels he saw through the glass cabinet.  He applied a compress and placed Harry's hand over it to apply pressure.  “I'll be right back, Sir,” he said moving toward Vickers and Connor.


“Why did you do that?” Vickers cried, rocking Connor back and forth.  “Why?  Everything I did, I was doing for you!” he sobbed.


Lee placed a hand on Vickers' shoulder and cautiously pulled him away.


“Dr. Vickers, let me see if I can help,” Lee said firmly, separating Vickers from Connor so he could look at the wound.  Lee sighed as the tell-tale sign of dramatic internal damaged was present with significant blood spilling out of Connor's mouth.  Lee reached for the pulse at his neck, but as he already suspected, found none.  Reluctantly, he moved his hands over the young man's wide open eyes and gently pulled his eye lids closed... Connor was dead.


“No!” Vickers said, pushing Lee away trying to go for the gun stuffed inside his belt. 


Lee had no choice but to issue a strong upper cut, sending Vickers sprawling across the floor, out cold.


Harry groaned as Lee turned back toward him, concerned at the amount of blood even with the direct pressure.


“I'm... sorry to see him die,” Harry lamented.  “He was a good young man,” he added, using far too much energy, and realizing that Connor’s personality while mutated wasn't the boy's true demeanor.


“Don't talk Admiral, you're not okay, you need help,” Lee said, going into command mode.  A moan from Vickers interrupted any argument Harry might have as Lee turned toward the scientist trying to fight his way to consciousness.


“I need a place to secure him,” Lee said thinking out loud and having no idea where a good length of rope might be.


“The root cellar... has a latch,” Harry offered airily, having spent a little time in the galley.


“Alright,” Lee agreed, pulling the gun from his belt and leaving it for Harry. 


His eyes said, “Don't argue with me.”   Harry was too weak to do so anyway as Lee moved toward Vickers, picking him up by the shoulders and dragging him out of the lab, toward the galley.


He opened the root cellar and picked Vickers up by an arm across his shoulder, hurrying the waking scientist down the steps.  Instantly, Lee felt the 56 degree assault him, he laid Vickers down and noted the supplies in the corner, including blankets and figured the scientist could find his way over to warm himself, then hurried up the stairs and shut the hinged door, latching it closed. 


Lee shivered, but mostly at the realization that the cold air could invoke the hibernation process if he stayed any longer.  He drew the back of his hand across his mouth and moved toward the radio room to see if he could repair the equipment and call for help.  Unfortunately, the radio was missing a key component, which he noticed right away and slammed his hand down on the table in frustration.  He didn't have time to tear the complex apart looking for the part, not with Harry's current condition.  He took a deep breath and knew what he needed to do.  He thought about going back and telling Harry what he was going to do, but thought better of it.  The Admiral would never approve and he was going to do it anyway, so he headed to the arctic entry.


The cramps he was ignoring took that moment to present themselves more as Lee doubled over against the wall, riding out the pain that was proof he was still infected inside with the non-human cells which had mutated him into a half-frog like creature.  When the pain subsided enough to stand straight up, he proceeded, undaunted by the chance he was taking.  Once in the arctic entry, he geared up, pulling on snow pants, his large cold-weather parka, gloves, and sliding his feet into the bunny boots, his military grade snow boots.  He took a deep breath and glanced at the thermometer... twenty-two degrees below zero.  At this point it didn't matter whether it was thirty below or above zero, either would put him in hibernation mode if his insides didn't know he was a human, not an Alaskan Wood Frog.


The decision wasn't a hard one; he wouldn't let Harry die when he had a chance of saving him.  All he needed to do was make it to the hangar, which by now it would be toasty and warm, turn on the radio, and issue a medical emergency call, then if his body decided to freeze him... so be it.


He took another breath and then opened the door, turned on his torch, lowered his head against the cold and walked briskly to the hangar.  The air was frigid but calm, no wind and thankfully no snow storm.  He looked up to see a night sky filled with millions of stars, filing away the beauty for a later time when he could appreciate it.  He made it to the hangar and breathed a sigh of relief that any lingering frog cells hadn't succumbed to the cold on the way.  He hurried to FS1 and took off his gloves to enter the security code.  Another cramp seized him, but he bore up, ignoring the pain and stepping inside.  Quickly he turned switches and watched with satisfaction as FS1 lit up in life.  He grabbed for the throat mic and wrapped it around his neck, then made his call as the frequency was already dialed in from earlier communications.


“This is Commander Lee Crane at the Cryogenics Laboratory Outpost, do you read me Elmendorf?” he said, calling the Air Force Base in Anchorage.


An efficient radio operator answered right away.


“This is Elmendorf, go ahead Commander, I read you loud and clear.”


“Elmendorf, we've got a medical emergency here.  I've got one wounded, one dead and one incarcerated.  I need an emergency medical evacuation, ASAP.”


The operator repeated the request and then kept Lee on the line as she relayed the request to the duty officer.


“This is Lt. Farley, Commander Crane.  We're mobilizing a unit as we speak, can you give us more information as to your condition there?”


“I've got a strange story to tell you,” Lee said, talking even as he was working through some uncomfortable cramps.  “But right now, I need a medical team, Admiral Nelson has been shot.  I have the perpetrator in custody locked in a root cellar, but the Admiral's bleeding badly.”


“Very well, Commander.  Can you stand-by the radio for further instructions?”


“Negative lieutenant, the radio in the complex has been damaged.  I'm making this call from my air craft, but I need to get back to lend aid to the Admiral.”


“Very well, Commander.  Assets will be rolling shortly.”


“Very well, Lieutenant, Crane out.”


Lee pulled off the throat mic, then turned off the radio and the power.  He exited the flying sub, entering the security code, just in case, and donned his gloves once again.  He knew the wise thing would be to stay in the warm and safe hangar and wait for help to arrive.  So far, his body hadn't shut down on him, and he had no guarantees what would happen when he made his return trip to the complex.  Resolutely, Lee zipped his parka completely up, pulled his fur-lined parka hood over his head and headed for the door; Harry was still in the complex and needed his help, it was a no-brainer as far as he was concerned and reached for the door.


The cold air assaulted him once again as he reached to turn on his torch, but paused a moment before turning on the flashlight at the fantastic sight of the green and yellow lights of the aurora dancing overhead.  He barely had time to notice their beauty, pushing ahead to hurry out of the elements before something went drastically wrong inside.


To say he was relieved when he reached the arctic entry was an understatement as he shut the door behind him and quickly divulged himself of his gear.  He had made it.  Lee hurried back to the lab and found Harry unconscious on floor.  He felt the Admiral's head, relieved he wasn’t in shock, but the wound had bled entirely too much.  Lee rushed to the sleeping quarters, and pulled several blankets and pillows from an unused room and returned.  He added another compress to his wound and then covered Harry, tucking the blankets in tightly and placing a pillow under his head for comfort.  He doubled the other pillow and gently raised his feet, the standard treatment to prevent shock, then used the other blanket to cover Connor.


Harry’s moan brought him back over to his side as Lee dropped to his knees.


“Admiral?” he called softly.


“Where’d you go?” Harry asked, apparently aware of how long Lee had been gone.


“To make a radio call, help is on the way,” he replied evenly.


Harry's eyebrows tightened in confusion.


“You... you fixed the radio?” he asked, surprised since he had already determined it was unusable without the missing part.


“Not exactly,” Lee said, checking Harry's compress and applying more pressure, eliciting a slight gasp from the Admiral. 


“You mean to say... you went out in below zero weather to make the call... from FS1?” Harry asked, using way too much breath and more energy than he had to spare.


Lee looked up, offering a thin one sided-smile and shrugged to which Harry scoffed.


“That look may work... with the ladies in the office,” Harry admonished, “but it doesn't work on me.”


Lee's smile broadened, following the Admiral's lead for a little light-heartedness.


“Yeah it does,” he replied as Harry worked to keep a moan in. 


Lee's smile faded to instant concern.  “I'm going to find Vickers' first aid supplies.  Will you be alright?”


Harry waived him off without speaking and closed his eyes, the bullet hit something important inside; he had had too many personal experiences to not know the difference between an unfortunate, if not inconvenient gunshot wound and a serious one.


He must have dozed off, because Lee seemed to return just as quickly as he had left and was now busy field-dressing the wound.


“Sorry,” Lee said as Harry grimaced slightly.  “I don't want to mess with this much, the bleeding has slowed down and the medics will be here soon to take care of it properly,” he explained as he applied gauze and taped it closed, then sat down next to Harry, glancing toward Connor.


“It's strange.  His personality was so different when he was infected,” he mentioned as Harry nodded his agreement.


“I noticed that too... he was actually very likable,” Harry noted.


“I passed by the galley; Vickers is making a ruckus, but I checked the latch and door will hold.”  Lee lowered his head in thought for a moment.  “What makes a man do what he did, Admiral?  He used Ryan as a human guinea pig and was directly responsible for his death in my book, then he doesn't bat an eye about doing it again to me?  When I heard the shots, I had no doubt it was Vickers... I just wished I had made that call to Elmendorf sooner, maybe Connor would still be alive,” he lamented.


“I doubt it, Lee,” Harry said, holding his side as Lee turned toward his voice.  “You asked what drove him?  A variety of things; none good,” Harry said answering his own question.  “Greed, jealousy, self-importance, paranoia that he'd have to share his work with anyone else, unchecked ambition... you name it.  He wanted me dead, and I have no doubt you were next, because he was afraid my part in finding the cure would overshadow his own work.”  Harry stopped to breathe and rein in his pain, he was tired but found he needed to talk as much as Lee.


“He was determined to restore Connor back from the hideous creature he created,” Harry continued.  “But in the end, it wasn't the monster he created that was the most frightening... it was the monster within him that he couldn't tame.  That's what killed Connor, Lee,” Harry added as Lee dipped his head and nodded in agreement, both men silently contemplating the tragedy.


Harry was talked out and very tired as he allowed himself the luxury of falling asleep, away from the pain as Lee settled against the cabinet.  He still wasn't feeling well from his own ordeal, but was more overcome with the tragedy they had unknowingly walked into when they agreed to visit, and furthermore, forced to play a part in due to Vickers' maneuvering.  His legs were bent at the knees as he rested his forearms on top, protectively watching over the Admiral as they waited for the medical evacuation.  Beside them lay the shrouded body of Connor, witness to the strange tale they had to tell once help arrived.


Chapter Twelve



The rescue was somewhat of a blur as Lee was caught in the middle of a particularly painful reverse mutation when help arrived.  He was able to avoid the stretcher ride out to the medivac helicopter, but was noticeably uncomfortable.  He parked himself close to Harry, who had been medicated and was presently resting far from the pain, while strapped securely to the gurney. 


Vickers was taking another ride out, as a team also arrived to investigate Connor's death.  The scientists had been spewing some venomous lies, accusing Harry of killing his assistant in order to steal the project away.  Lee's main concern, however, was Harry’s condition, and gladly left the cryogenics lab behind to the investigators.  He knew there would be a lot of questions to answer, but right now all he could think of was getting Harry to the hospital.


Once they landed, Harry was whisked away to surgery and he was whisked away for an examination and blood work.  He was still experiencing the uncomfortable bouts of pains, which weren't missed by the doctors and was subsequently hospitalized himself.  He wanted to pull rank, but knew it was not only a losing battle, it was unprofessional.  The truth was, as soon as he was settled into the bed he found himself succumbing to the rest his recovering body required, but not before making a call to Santa Barbara. 


The next day he was allowed out of bed to make what seemed like an endless number of statements, but wasn't discharged from the hospital.  Unfortunately, he missed Harry's awake times and hadn't gotten to visit much as the Admiral had been unconscious for most of the day.  He needed a friendly face by that time and was exceedingly glad when Chip arrived that afternoon as the debriefings had been quite taxing, especially since it appeared that Vickers' tale was much more palatable than the idea of half-frog, half-humans running around the lab. 


The next morning, he was finally released from the hospital, and the news from the investigators was finally starting to go their way.  He had faith that the truth would come out, but it was still disconcerting to know that for a time, his wild tale had been met with raised eyebrows. 


At present, he was waiting for the doctors to finish so he could finally visit with Harry.  He was grateful the Admiral had been spared the early inquisition and looked forward to the positive report he felt he could now give.


“Hi Lee,” Chip Morton greeted, catching Lee in an introspective moment.


“Hi Chip,” Lee greeted tiredly.  “How's FS1?”


“She's fine, handled like a dream,” he replied, having been called up from Santa Barbara to bring the flying sub into Anchorage.  “How's the Admiral?”


“The doctors are happy with the surgery and report his recovery is going well, but he lost a lot of blood and is still pretty weak.”


“And how about you?” Chip asked cautiously, knowing that Lee had only been discharged from the base hospital this morning and had spent the last few days in grueling debriefings with just about every agency and branch involved; including the Air Force, a Jag Officer, ONI, the Alaskan State Troopers and even a Senator from the Oversight Committee that had sent them in the first place.


“I'm starting to feel normal again,” he sighed; outwardly the only remnant of his ordeal was a fading mask around his eyes, but it was very light at this point, and his olive toned skin helped to hide the discoloration.


“Sounds like a pretty wild ride,” Chip commented, not discounting Lee's story one bit; he had seen too much on Seaview to even begin to doubt the events his friend had relayed to him over the phone two nights ago.  He had booked a flight and flew out the next day, but arrived too late to fly out to the lab yesterday.   “How did the debriefings go?”


“I was just about to give the Admiral the run-down; as soon as the Doc says it's okay, we both can go in,” he suggested.


* * * * *


“You're looking better, Sir,” Lee greeted, smiling broadly in relief.


“I'm feeling better,” he replied.  “Hello Chip.”


“Good to see you, Admiral,” he answered, just as relieved to see Harry sitting partially up and alert.


“Well now, I hear you had quite a bit of explaining to do,” Harry said, addressing Lee.


“Aye Sir, but the facts are pretty much telling the story, now that an investigative team spent the last two days out at the lab.”


“And FS1?  The last I heard she was still in the hangar.”


“I brought her in, Sir, she's nice and cozy in a hangar here on the base,” Chip chimed in.


“Good, Lee wasn't happy about leaving her, but he was still recovering from the mutations.  So fill me in on what happened after the medics got ahold of me,” Harry said with a half-smile, as he had been heavily medicated for the trip back to Anchorage.


“Well, first Vickers accused you of killing Connor,” Lee started to Harry's raised eyebrow.  “But he was barely lucid and the story didn't hold up, both he and Connor had powder residue on their hands and clothes.  I gave a brief statement at the lab, and then several more once we got back to Elmendorf,” he said, downplaying the fact that the intense debriefings were closer to interrogations.  “They had enough to begin an investigation and went back out yesterday, I can tell you a lot of eyebrows rose when I told them the story, but they eventually found Vickers' notes and brought back enough evidence today to give complete credence to our account.”


“Vickers' notes convinced them?” Harry asked surprised, knowing how incredible the story was.


“Not exactly,” Lee replied with a sigh.  “Vickers couldn't bury Ryan in the frozen tundra, so he wrapped him up in a blanket and left him in an unheated shed.  He fully intended to do his own autopsy and study Ryan's mutations himself, but Connor's infection changed that plan.”


“So Ryan's mutated body was found,” Harry repeated in a statement more than a question.


“Aye Sir, his mutations were significant and enough to convince the powers that be that the impossible really did happened.  The rest was fully documented by Vickers' own hand, including his intention to infect me in order to extort your part in creating a miracle cure.”


Harry scoffed a humorless laugh.  “Oh, he was very proud of those complete notes he kept,” he remembered.


“Yeah well, it turned out to be good for us.  The story was just too incredible, and I can tell you that I had a guard outside my hospital room last night,” Lee said evenly, but not hiding the fact that for a time his story was suspect. 


Harry shook his head, clearly irritated at the idea.  “So what now?” he asked, reining in his annoyance.


“The lab is shutting down, and the project is obviously on hold.  Washington is clearly still interested in Vickers' study, and frankly, I think they'd like for you to oversee its continuance.”


“That's not going to happen,” Harry answered flatly.  “Vickers was convinced I was after his project and that I would pin Ryan's death on him in order to gain control of it.  Two brilliant, young men lost their lives because of that man and I have no intention of fulfilling either Vickers' dream or his fears by overseeing the project.”


Lee smiled, having already come to that same conclusion, but he was mostly happy to see Harry get so fired up; it meant he was on the mend.


“The investigation is on-going,” Lee continued, “but we've both been cleared, based on the physical evidence of the powder residue, my blood tests, Vickers' notes and Ryan's mutated body.  NIS is taking jurisdiction and the non-military agencies involved are being sworn to secrecy.  The whole thing is on its way to being sealed in a red envelope and deemed Top Secret.  And they're just itching to get to your testimony,” he added apologetically.


“Oh joy,” Harry deadpanned. 


“I'm afraid we'll both be telling the story a half dozen more times before we even leave here,” Lee said resigned to the fact.


“And just when will that be?” Harry asked, wondering how long he was going to be stuck in the hospital.


“I heard something about a week,” Lee said, holding back his smile as Harry blew a breath out like a petulant teenager just asked to take out the trash.


“Anyway, it will give me a chance to do a little shopping while in Anchorage,” Lee said nonchalantly.


“What kind of shopping?” Harry asked, figuring by Lee's tone that it was something lighthearted.


“I'm in search of a new 'Lucky Shirt',” Lee declared as Harry laughed, holding his bandaged side while Chip's eyebrows tightened, not in on the private joke as of yet.


“I'll tell you about it later,” Lee promised Chip.  “In fact, you're coming with me to make sure it's loud and obnoxious enough to be appreciated,” he finished as Chip laughed, despite the fact that he was still in the dark.


“Well Sir, I promised the doctor we wouldn't be long, so we'd better head out.”


“Fine Lee, pick me up something interesting to read while you're out.”


“Aye Sir.”


* * * * *


Six weeks later Harry and Lee were happy to leave behind the fantastic incident at the snowy laboratory in the bush of Alaska.  Though both men had an affinity for the beauty of the land, they were certainly ready to move on from the tragedy that Dr. Vickers' had created through his own paranoia and unchecked ambition.  Lee thought Harry had said it best when he described Vickers' character flaws as the real monster, the monster within that the scientist couldn't tame.


Lee had recovered from his own mutations and after weeks of debriefings and re-telling the story more times than he cared to remember, the whole event was finally being laid to rest.  He was content to be back aboard Seaview and enjoying a good cruise with a successful mission under their belt.  The Admiral had recovered as well, and both men were particularly at ease on the cruise. 


Lee was presently taking his evening walk about the boat, intentionally earlier this evening as he heard that there was a particularly rousing game of cards going on tonight.  The Crew's Quarters had been all a buzz about the winning streak of the COB; had he been wearing a long sleeve shirt they would have been looking for the proverbial stashed cards up the sleeve. 


Tonight he was playing a double or nothing game for M and M's and his winning streak had garnered quite a few onlookers, one of which was the Captain of the Boat, as Lee stuck his head into the Crew's Mess in time to spot Chief Sharkey raking in another pile of the coveted candy.  Lee smiled, remembering the burial at sea he and the Admiral had given the loud, brown and green paisley “frog” shirt.  His smile broadened at the sight of Sharkey in a bright neon orange short sleeve collared shirt, covered with moose boldly engaging in various winter sport activities across the entire shirt. 


“Not again!” Ski whined as Sharkey shuffled the cards and Stu Riley moaned at another loss.


“Alright you Bozos, who's in for another hand?”


Lee's smile turned to a chuckle as he left, unnoticed by his men, and still chuckling on the way to the lab to see what Harry was working on at the moment, with the memory of Dr. Vickers and his experiment fading happily in the past.


He knocked and entered the lab to Harry’s warm welcome.


“Lee, come in.  I’ve got an unusual specimen I want you to look at…”


Lee smiled and joined Harry at his lab table, enjoying the Admiral’s excitement and feeling privileged to share the moment with him.


The End


The Monster Within



*Direct quote from Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_frog

Other wood frog research sources:





Nuclear Microscope, Blood, and Immunity research through the resources of Wikipedia.org and http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0168583X9395552G



Lee's Tangent on the Alcan Highway:  For a fascinating documentary on the subject, look up PBS's excellent presentation documenting the African-American Engineers' feat in building the Alcan Highway; their struggles, their triumphs, and the prejudice they overcame to prove they “could”.  Until recently, their contribution was almost lost, buried in history.  Now their story is being told and is an inspiration for all.




** See my story Shanghaied, posted March 28, 2015


Author's Note:  No wood frog was harmed or injured in the making of this story, and as it is now very much fall here in Alaska, the cute little masked frogs are getting cozy in their winter dens and getting ready to freeze solid for the winter.  But not to worry; next spring they'll thaw out, hop for the nearest pond, and begin the mating season.  Just thought you'd want to know. : ) 






Copyright 2016, by Lynn, All Rights Reserved

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and her main characters belong to Irwin Allen

And the respective production companies