The Consultant

By Carol aka Catfish Foss

(Dedicated to Carol Atwood, for her grace and willingness to be a sounding board during this incredibly lengthy project, as well her great help with the final edit. I’d also like to dedicate this tail, no pun intended,  to Aliy Zirkle of SP Kennels, Two Rivers, Alaska, for her inspiration and love of all dogs, especially her Huskies.)

An ‘Inspired by’ entry for ‘The Barbarian’ story challenge:


It was a little after 0600 when the shiny black limo was escorted onto the well illuminated grounds of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research by one of security’s motorcycle guards. Not an unusual sight, as ‘the boss’ was often a guest or speaker at various organizations, sometimes even having organized them by himself for a bit of PR. And a little good PR never hurt, especially when garnering clients for Seaview’s services.

Admiral Harriman Nelson, long ago retired from the U.S. Navy, preferred purely civilian jobs, though Seaview, as a Reserve vessel, with Reserve officers and crew, was more often than not assigned to top secret missions on an almost regular basis. Civilian or in the service to his country, Nelson always preferred to spend much of his time with his face buried in a microscope or discussing important scientific things with his egghead scientist buddies, as most of Seaview’s crew called them.

And so it was a surprise to newbie of slightly under one month, Chief Francis Sharkey, technically still on loan from the Navy, who drove into the still nearly vacant parking lot, that it wasn’t the boss about to get into the limo, but rather Seaview’s youthful and charismatic captain.

Cdr. Lee Crane, in dress uniform, handed the chauffer a stiff card. With a nod, the chauffer took his duffle and garment bag from the curb of the administration building and put them into the limo’s trunk.

While Crane waited he rested his arms over the limo’s roof, and looked down toward one of the access roads leading to one of the exterior docks. Seaview’s tail fins were just visible, and Crane’s look of utter devotion to his sub wasn’t lost on the chief, or on any of the other early morning arrivals to NIMR.

Sharkey could never resist a mystery and hurried over, surprised to see his captain was wearing his Navy dolphins on the dress jacket. Those hard earned insignias of Navy submariners weren’t part of the NIMR dress code. Crane’s cover was Navy as well, its insignia and ‘scrambled eggs’ somewhat different from NIMR’s almost Captain Nemo like designs that were currently being re-designed to match the Navy’s.

In addition, Sharkey noticed that his captain had some additional decorations on his jacket that he hadn’t seen before.

“Morning, Skipper,” Sharkey said, “Scouting for the admiral?”

“Afraid not,” Lee sighed, straightening up, slightly rubbing his iconic black onyx ring. It was a bit loose on his finger, but that was hardly surprising to the Chief. The captain was naturally lean despite an intensive fitness regimen and . often looked more gaunt than fit. Especially after undercover assignments with ONI as a field agent, of which, Sharkey had learned, were numerous.  In fact it was assumed Crane also served ONI as a spy. His ‘secondary’ occupation had caused some friction between the captain and the boss, especially as the skipper had often returned from his ‘camping trips’ the worse for wear, sometimes requiring Sick Bay.

Sharkey had also learned from his shipmates that within hours after Crane had accepted Nelson’s offer of command a little over a year ago, he had demanded to remain on ONI’s ‘active’ list of field agents.  Well, not exactly a demand, Ski had said, but shortly after Admirals Johnson and Cartwright of ONI had ordered Crane remain on call. And there was nothing Nelson could do to stop any call up.

“Do I have a captain or a secret agent?” Nelson was reported to have grumbled frequently during those call ups, especially to Crane directly. But all of the skipper’s ‘camping trips’ were a ‘go’, nonetheless.

“I’d rather use the Flying Sub or my Cobra to go to LA,” Crane was saying to Sharkey, interrupting the chief’s musings, “but the SecNav insisted on the limo. If you must know, I’ve been assigned as a technical consultant to Twentieth Century Fox for one of their new TV pilots. I didn’t want a limo, but they sent one anyway.”

“Hollywood?” Sharkey exclaimed.

“Hollywood,” Lee pouted. “Another nail in my coffin.”


“Don’t get me wrong, Chief. I’ve never been happier commanding Seaview. And I hope to for a very long time. But there are still a few things that I want to keep doing for the Navy and, well, now, it looks like that may be over. Reserve time as a technical advisor is about as low as one can go in a Navy career....and,” he hesitated, “I have reason to believe this assignment may have been the admiral’s idea in the first place. You know he was in Washington before he joined his sister in Boston?  I just haven’t been able to discuss it with him personally. Edith’s answering service says he’s retrieved my messages to call, but so far...he hasn’t called me back.”

 “Are we going or not, Commander Crane?” the chauffer interrupted. “By the way, name’s B.J.”

“I’m coming. Well, take care, Chief. I can expect you to keep quiet about this, can’t I? This job is just too damn embarrassing.”

“You can count on me, sir,” Sharkey replied. “As far as anyone knows, you’re on ‘one of ‘those’,” which was a pet term many of the crew used for their captain’s undercover assignments.

 Lee laughed, got into the limo and was whisked away.


“Hey, Chief?” Seaman Stu Riley, also a newbie to Seaview, called out as he sauntered over with some of his shipmates, “like, what’s the skip up to?”

“Never-you-mind,” Sharkey said. “Report to your station.”

“I don’t see how come I, like, got stuck helping out the maintenance teams. I don’t know anything about the Flying Sub’s docking bay or the mini sub hatch workings. Hey, isn’t this the skip’s?” Riley asked, bending down to pick up the black onyx ring.

“Oh shit,” Ski said, “no way we can call the gate in time to stop the limo.”

“Where’s he going?” Riley asked, “So, like, so we can call him?”

Sharkey hesitated. He didn’t like being dishonest, but now was as good a time as any. For the skipper’s sake.

“Negative. It might spoil his, well, his ‘assignment’. You know, ‘one of those’.”

“Oh, wow,” Riley said awestruck, “like, he gets to go play James Bond again so soon?”

“Man,” Ski said shaking his head, “the admiral’s gonna’ be pissed! My ears are still ringing from the last time.”

“But what’s he doin’ in his dress uniform, then?” Riley asked, “And what if, like, he needs his ring? Has all sorts of gadgets in it, I hear. Maybe even a picklock and other stuff that’s not under his big toenail like that transponder....”

“If he needs his ring,” Sharkey said firmly, “he’ll find a way to get in touch and ask for it. Now get to work, all of you.”


It was a two and a half hour drive to the Los Angeles area, and Lee was bored. This was a fine kettle of fish he’d found himself in. Just because Seaview was undergoing some repairs, Nelson had apparently butted in and offered his services to the studio, officially, via the U.S. Navy Reserve, and the approval of the SecNav. But Lee was needed at the institute and aboard Seaview, damn it! His ‘in’ box was still overflowing with communiques, reports, and anything the admiral had added to his duties as captain of the Seaview. 

And what about the repairs to the Seaview’s docking bay for Nelson’s latest invention, the Flying Sub? The clamps had failed miserably last time the ‘baby’ berthed in her mother ship. As Seaview’s skipper and primary pilot of the revolutionary aerial submersible, shouldn’t he be supervising the repairs, up close and personal? Unless, Lee continued to ponder, maybe Nelson’s friendship had taken another downward turn. The past year had been a roller coaster ride of their growing friendship to the point of a kind of brotherhood, which sometimes plummeted due to external and foreign influence, quickly forgiven and forgotten. This time it felt different. Had Nelson come to regret hiring him? Could it be that he, Lee, had fallen down on the job skippering Seaview? Hell no, Lee told himself. He’d have been first to admit if he’d failed or compromised his beloved boat or crew. This assignment to Hollywood had to be personal, but why?

“Help yourself to the bar,” the chauffer interrupted his musings.

“Thanks. I may just do that.”

He picked out a bottled tonic water as it wouldn’t do for him to imbibe. There would be hell to pay if he reported to his temporary ‘posting’ in any way inebriated. And Lee was, despite being on Reserve time, also representing Seaview. No way would he embarrass her.

After a slug of the refreshing drink, Lee placed the half-finished mini bottle into the door’s plastic holder, simply closed his eyes and tried to measure the speed and mileage as a kind of mental exercise, though the rumblings of his stomach interrupted frequently. Damn, he should have had some breakfast. And he sure needed coffee.


It was nearly 0800 when Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton arrived at the institute, a bit unnerved by the sideways glances everyone was giving him. His tie hadn’t come undone, had it? Unlike the boss, who hardly ever wore one, he always preferred to appear shipshape. Maybe it was his hair. He’d started to blow dry it to help give the Morton family trait of premature balding a bit of lift. Or maybe he’d missed a spot shaving. Or maybe he had a sliver of food stuck between his teeth from the fast food sandwich he’d tried to consume on the drive to work?

“Any messages?” he asked Catherine, the secretary he and Lee shared in their office suite. Chip was still bemused that Lee had chosen not to take over the late Capt. John Phillip’s larger office. Probably due to the antagonism he’d first engendered from some of the staff and crew. But surely by now, as that antagonism had morphed into approval and even a little adoration, Lee surely could have moved out of the suite’s former broom closet which he’d turned into his office. A bit more toward the back of the suite, perhaps the captain just didn’t like being so easily ogled by the still mostly female secretarial staff in the administration building. And ogled he was. It was difficult sometimes for Chip not to be a bit jealous. As ‘good looking’ as Chip was, Crane was the epitome of ‘tall, dark, and handsome’, that most women seemed to favor. Even when he’d  returned  from his ‘camping trips’, marred and scruffy, which, to Chip’s confusion, seemed to make him all the more attractive to the opposite sex. Still, Seaview’s XO was still the institute’s ‘Greek God’ and had plenty of women in his ‘harem’ to call on for dates.

While Chip returned his attention to his image in the mirror, Catherine told him of Crane’s departure, adding, “Never came to the office, and there’s nothing ‘official’ in the calendar or in today’s memos. Sharkey said he’d gone off on ‘one of those’.

“Well, I wish Lee had told me! We have a cruise in less than two weeks and I don’t feel like being acting captain again if he doesn’t get back in time!”

“Kowalski said he went off in style. A black limo picked him up. A Cadillac.  And he was in full dress uniform. Oh, and Sharkey also brought this over,” she added, handing Chip Lee’s iconic ring. “Riley had noticed it on the driveway near the entrance, and is pretty upset about the captain not having it for his ‘camping trip’. Is it actually a gadget? First I’ve ever heard that it might be.”

“Hell, I don’t know. Nobody tells me anything. Get me ONI.”


The limo stopped at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Beverly Hills.  Fox had arranged for an early check in for its advisor and Lee returned to the limo in less than five minutes after hanging up the garment bag and tossing his duffle into the closet.

It was a short drive to the studio and B.J. handed the gate’s guard his passenger’s official invite.

“Sorry, meeting’s been delayed,” the guard said and handed B.J. a lanyard with a plastic ‘Visitor’ card on it with ‘Commander Crane’ he’d hastily scrawled on it.  “He can wait at the Commissary Grill,” the guard continued, “Someone will collect him for the meeting. Coffee and doughnuts on us for his trouble.”

“That’s cruel and inhuman,” B.J. said, handing his passenger in the back seat the lanyard and began to drive down the narrow roads between the sound stages. “The doughnuts are yesterday’s from a local grocery. Cost cutting. And the coffee is beyond hope. Decent enough scrambled eggs, hash browns and pancakes though.”

“I am a bit hungry. Join me? My treat.”

“Sorry, I have a VIP to shuttle from the airport. A golf cart driver will be called when the bigwigs want you. There’ll be a different limo to take you back to the hotel when they’re done with you today. God knows how long you’ll be stuck with Fox. Has a few perks, though...lots of pretty starlets hanging about when they’re not filming.”

Both men laughed.

“Tell me, maybe I need my eyes checked, but I’ve been seeing a few orange faces about....”

“Make-up. Doesn’t look orange on the screen. You know, you probably wouldn’t need much if you were an actor, except maybe for those dark circles under your eyes. You got nice olive toned skin. You Greek or Italian, or something?”

“Wouldn’t know,” Lee answered, not bothering to mention how he became a Crane by adoption.


The eatery was spotless, nicely appointed, but not very busy.

Lee grabbed a tray that had seen better days, a paper plate, and Styrofoam cup and headed to the counter holding the doughnuts. Free was free, and even stale doughnuts would be welcome to still his rumbling tummy.  He chose a plain cake doughnut that he knew would be especially suitable for dunking and a fat jelly filled doughnut for bulk, thinking the jelly would cover for any hint of staleness.  Then he headed to the coffee dispensers and pressed ‘Special Roast’ which barely trickled into his cup.

“Oh, dearie,” the nearby matronly cashier told him, “there’s never enough left this time of day. Plenty of decaf though. Over there. Or hot chocolate if you need the caffeine.”

“Thanks,” Lee said and emptied the instant hot chocolate mix into the cup, and added the piping hot water. Then he walked the two steps over to the cashier, letting her scan his visitor’s card dangling from his lanyard.

“We’ll make the hot chocolate on us too as the regular coffee was out.”

“Hey!” a furious man stormed over, “I thought I told you guys ten minutes! Get back to the set! You pretty boys think you can get away with anything!”

“I beg your pardon?” Lee asked.

“You heard me!” the man said grabbing a doughnut and plunking down some change for the cashier.

“A bit hard not to,” Lee said, “but I think there’s been a misunderstanding....”

“And how,” the cashier said, as she reached out to grab Lee’s photo ID lanyard, and shoved into the irate man’s face.

“Commander Crane, U.S.N.R. Oh gawd, a weekend wonder on liberty? Here to check out the starlets? Or turn a stupid idea into a movie? Fat chance, bud.”

“He’d do a better job of it than you, Gates,” the cashier said. “And he’s not just a weekend wonder. Security called and told us he’s a VIP. Captain of the Seaview. You know, that big submarine with the windows?”

“I know about the damn sub! So, ‘Captain’, what the hell are you doing here?”

“I’m to report to a Miss Connors. I’ve been assigned as technical advisor for a new TV pilot,” Lee said dangerously calm. “I’m assuming she needs info about current or historical submarine procedures, warfare, etc. And for your information, Mr. Gates, I’m not a ‘pretty boy’.”

“Well, you’re prettier than most of the girls here.”

“I know what you meant and it wasn’t that.”

“Yeah, well...”Gates said, “I’m the director of that pilot. You might be here to give advice but on my set, I’m still the boss, and nobody talks back to me. You’d better remember that.”

“Gates,” a woman’s voice called out, “he can talk back to you whenever he wants. Not his fault if what he has to say goes against artistic license. Good morning, Captain Crane. I’m Miss Connors. “Or do you prefer Commander? I’m a bit confused on which address to use.”

“How do you do, Miss Connors,” Lee said, extending his hand, ignoring her barely disguised sensual appraisal. “The Navy Reserve rank is commander, my position with Seaview is as her captain.”

“I think I’d prefer to use captain,” the cashier said, “You know, sonny, if you ever get tired of your job, you can always get one here as a leading man.”

“Good grief, Mabel,” Gates said, “you’re old enough to be his grandmother.”

“Probably can’t act anyway,” Gates said.

“Gates, will you give it a break? Now, get back to the set.”

“Cheech,” Gates muttered and moved away.


“Are you sure?” Chip asked Joe Jackson, aide to the current Commander of Submarines Pacific, Adm. Jiggs Starke, from Catherine’s desk phone, receiver to his ear. Jackson  and Lee had been spook buddies since forever, though Jackson didn’t do much with ONI anymore. “No, damn it! Yes, that’s right....alone? Yes, of course he left alone! He was in dress uniform with additional decorations our chief didn’t recognize, and he was wearing his dolphins. We don’t usually wear them here you know. How the hell should I know why! Yes, I’ve had security check the license plate from cams and sent them to the DMV. No response yet. Yes, I can send you the plate’s photo... one of Lee too?  Yes, of course I tried to call ONI, even the SecNav, both of which, as usual, disavowed any knowledge of an assignment! Again, is the damn ring one of his gadgets or not? And don’t tell me again that you don’t know! You two spooks know everything about each other! I don’t care if Old Battle Britches is keeping you hopping...this is about Lee, damn it, and....”

“What the blazes is going on here?” Admiral Jiggs Starke’s voice interrupted on the line, loud enough to be heard by Catherine and now by Angie and all on the same floor who had popped by to see what Morton’s shouting was about. “And I don’t appreciate being called ‘Battle Britches’,” Starke continued to yell, “Height of insubordination, even from a Reservist. I know what Crane still calls me behind my back but I wouldn’t have expected a similar insult from you, Morton! And at least ‘Captain Bligh’ had an official naval rank, even if he was from another country.”

“Sorry, sir,” Morton said. “Lee, er, Captain Crane’s been assigned ‘one of those’ and may be missing a vital piece of equipment! Joe won’t confirm if Lee’s ring does anything though...of course I know he might not be allowed to say anything, but...but...of course I checked with ONI! They disavow any assignment and the SecNav’s unavailable for comment. No, I can’t leave well enough alone! This is Lee! I’d think you’d have some kind of concern as he’s saved our necks, including yours, more times than I can count. Hell, I don’t know what his ring does, but it has to do something! Everything else on his person does! I’m jumping to conclusions? For the sake of argument let’s say I am. But,” Chip began to gasp, “do you really want him to risk his life and yours if he’s on a top secret mission? That ring might be essential to complete it, and even save his life!”

Catherine took the phone out of Chip’s hand and spoke into the receiver, “Admiral, Mr. Morton’s turning red and is almost hyperventilating.....don’t you take that tone with me, Admiral. I’m a civilian and have worked with Morton, Crane, and Nelson long enough to know that anything that they’re concerned about might be vital to our country! Now, you do what you can to find out where the captain is. You might also use some of your clout to demand the DMV get a move on to identify the limo that took the captain away. Yes, we faxed them the license number.  It was a black you continue to use profanity toward me, I’ll hang up and that would make Mr. Morton even more upset, and he’s turning, please hurry. We’ll wait for your call.”

Silence as Catherine hung up and summoned the Med Bay about a possible medical emergency.

Seaview’s Chief Medical Officer, Lt. Cdr. Will Jamison arrived quickly, two corpsmen with a stretcher following, all shocked to see his XO’s face. It was a terrible sight to behold, with red and purple splotches and throbbing veins. Morton was breathing hard too.

“I’m fine,” Chip panted, “I’m not sick. I’m angry!”

“Then tell me that without gasping for breath and looking like an overripe and damaged tomato,” Doc said, beginning his examination.

“The captain’s on one of ‘those’,” Catherine told Will, “but his ring fell off his finger without him noticing and it might be one of his special little gadgets....”

“Er, excuse me, Mr. Morton,” Sharkey said as he entered, “Oh, gawd, I’m too late.”

“Why? Why are you too late?” Will asked, “What do you know about all this?”

It was Sharkey’s turn to turn red.

“Out with it!”

“Better in private.”

“Very well. Mr. Morton’s office. He’ll live,” Doc added toward Catherine, and escorted his patient and Sharkey into Chip’s office, closing the door behind them.

Will pushed Chip into his leather chair, turning toward Sharkey. “I’m waiting.”

“It’s...” Sharkey began, stumbling over his words, “well, sir...skipper’s orders...sort of...well....”

“Well what?” Jamison yelled.

“The skip didn’t want anyone to know...oh gawd....”

“Go on,” Morton ordered, schooling himself to be a bit calmer.

“The skip’s on Reserve duty and....” he hesitated. “The skipper’s gonna’ kill me for telling....”

“I’ll kill you myself if you don’t explain yourself!” Chip yelled.

“Easy, easy,” Will took his pulse again.

“Well,” Sharkey said, “he kinda’ ordered me not to let on what it was about....”

“Will you just tell us!” Chip roared.

“The skipper’s been assigned to Hollywood.”

Chip looked at Will, and Will looked at Chip then they both looked at Sharkey

“Hollywood?” Chip finally asked, incredulous.

“Yeah, as a technical advisor. The limo was the studio’s.”

“Oh gawd....” Chip sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

“Yeah, the skip was pretty upset about it, and mad at the admiral for suggesting or allowing it... I kind of invented the ‘camping trip’ to cover for the skipper’s embarrassment, and he didn’t say not to....”

“You realize I contacted ONI? The SecNav’s office? And now I’m waiting for Admiral Starke to move Heaven and Hell to find out where the skipper is? Because he dropped his damn ring?”

“He wanted me to keep the Hollywood trip secret. He sure as hell didn’t want to go but it was an official Reserve assignment. And he was looking at Seaview so longing like...and he said his career with the Navy was over because of the advisor thing. I guess I should’ve thought of some other kind of excuse than a ‘camping trip.’”

“How could he think such a thing,” Will said. “A stint in Hollywood won’t do him any harm.”

“Lee thinks it will,” Chip said, “what we need to do is to figure out a way to get out of this mess with Starke, ONI, the SecNav’s office, and the DMV! Did he say how long he’ll be in Hollywood? A day, a week, whatever?”

“Didn’t say, sir but he had a duffle and a garment bag....”

“That could be good thing or a bad thing,” Morton interrupted, reaching for his desk phone and paging Catherine to call Twentieth Century Fox’s main number. Then he ushered Sharkey and Doc out of the door with him into the now overflowing outer office.

Just then one of the lights on Catherine’s phones lit up.  A red blinking light. An insistent red blinking light that began to beep and blink faster and faster.

“Perhaps you’d like to take this call in your office, Mr. Morton,” she said.

“I’d better,” Chip sighed and retreated back into his office, closing and locking the door behind him.

“Like,” Riley said, placing a report on Catherine’s desk, “who’s that calling?”

“It’s the White House switchboard, you numbskull,” Ski said.

“Oh shit! The prez is going to kill us for like, not getting the skip’s ring back to him in time? Does,” he gulped, “does Leavenworth have decent music?”

“Oh good grief,” Sharkey muttered.

Just then from Morton’s office they heard the sound of a receiver slamming down into its cradle with a distinctive ding, followed by a heavy thud against the wall, the red blinking light on Catherine’s phone having stopped a moment before.

“Chip?” Will yelled, pounding on his door.

“I’m fine!” Chip hollered back, emerging. “But a certain CPO isn’t going to be! Or our exalted leader, for that matter!”

“The admiral’s in trouble too?” Riley asked.

“I meant Captain Crane!” Chip roared. “What are you all still doing hanging around here? Get back to work. Wait,” he added as he took Lee’s ring out of his shirt pocket. “The things we went through for you,” he told it, then turned to Catherine. “Try to get in touch with Admiral Nelson. Leave a message if you have to, but tell him we have a ‘situation’. And that as usual, I’m stuck with trying to sort it out by myself, again!”

“That won’t really explain anything to him.”

“Never mind that. Tell Nelson...tell him I’m trying to take care of some fallout that Lee’s left me with!  Cancel any meetings I have scheduled. I’m going to L.A.”

“That’s where he’s gone as James Bond?” Riley asked, “We got time, then? To give him his ring? May be we could get a police escort. They don’t gotta’ know the real reason he needs it. Just that it’s a matter of national security and....”

“What’s this ‘we’ about, Riley?”

“Backup’s important if the skip’s stuck in the middle of doing a job, whatever it is, and....”

“Will you just shut up?” Sharkey fumed.

“All right, Riley,” Morton said, “you come along with the chief and I.”

“Er...” Ski began with every other crewman in the office.

“Yes, yes, you too, Ski.”

“You should take me along as well,” Patterson pleaded.

“Going to be a tight fit in the back seat, but very well.”

“Should we, like, pack some heat?” Riley asked.

“That won’t be necessary. Now, out, all of you. I need another minute with the chief.”

“That was real nicely done, sir,” Sharkey said, closing the office door behind Morton and himself, “letting Riley and the guys think the skipper’s really on a secret mission.”

“I only lied for the captain’s sake. But he’ll have to explain to the president why his crew believes he’s on a ‘secret mission’ instead of just a damn PR job for the Navy!”

“But it’s my fault....”

“No, it’s the captain’s, for not stopping you from using such a hair-brained ruse!”


“So, you see, Commander,” Miss Connors said from behind her massive office desk, the sunlight coming through the large window behind her, “the show’s primarily about the love interest of the  submarine’s captain and the mermaid and how it adversely affects his command and the jealousies of his crew...are you all right?”

“The glare from the window’s awfully bright,” Lee lied. How on earth was he going to be able to live down the fact that he was a technical advisor to this...this...travesty?

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said and got up to pull the shades.

“Thanks. Well, I don’t see a problem with the submarine terminology in the script that I’ve glanced at so far, but....”


“Miss Connors,” Lee began, “I’m sorry, but I find the idea of a sub captain so mesmerized by a mermaid that he totally forgets his responsibilities to his boat and crew absurd.”

“But most mermaid legends give them seductive powers over the men they want to toy with. Why not a sub captain?”

“No submarine captain in the U.S. Navy would ignore his duty, even if he found himself attracted to such a creature.”

“The sub captain is still a man. And as a generality, don’t most men think with their balls?”

Lee flushed and tried to cover his embarrassment by rising and beginning to pace.

“Look, ma’am....”

“Uh oh. Does that address mean I’m over the hill? Sorry, go ahead.”

“I understand the mermaid legend of seduction, but please don’t use it at the expense of the captain’s command. You can change your captain into a civilian, perhaps a fisherman, or somebody on a yacht or sailboat or something. Add a few sea monsters, maybe her irate father....”

“Sea monsters?”

“Well, we have encountered a few mutations down deep below. In the olden days they’d be called monsters.”

“And the mermaid’s father could be maybe King Neptune? Captain, the entire premise of the story is the conflict the captain finds himself in with his crew....”

“Treating a U.S. Navy sub captain and his crew like this, well, it’s  a travesty!”

“It’s artistic license. It’s a good story.”

“Again, Ma’am, I was sent here to give you technical advice. If you continue with this premise, negative feedback from your audience will be solely on your head. And I refuse to be listed as your technical advisor.”

“Understood. Now, your services aren’t quite finished. Come along, Commander, we still need your input on the Sea Star...what?”

“Never mind.”

“Don’t tell me something’s wrong with the submarine’s name?”


He was interrupted by her ringing phone.

“Yes?” Miss Connors quickly said after picking up the receiver, “Yes, he’s here. It’s the highway patrol for you, Captain.”

“Crane here,” Lee said as soon as she’d handed him the receiver, “Yes, I know Chip Morton. What’s wrong, what’s happened? I see, well, I’m not exactly his boss...except when we’re at sea, sort of, maybe. Uh huh...uh huh...slammed into the guard rail in an attempt to avoid running over a rattlesnake? Is he hurt...I meant Morton!  Well, that’s a relief...what about the snake...well, if it’s not too mangled, have the men save it for me...because it makes for good eats, that’s why!  What do you mean Morton was driving without a license? No wallet or ID? And speeding? There’s got to be a mistake unless he was in too much of a, I’m not being sarcastic!  That fast? Uh huh...I see. I’ll pay the car’s impound fee then! And his fine! Hang on....”

Lee dug out his wallet, and leafed through it and spoke into the receiver again. “Uh, I don’t have my credit card on me. Look, you can call the Nelson Institute Credit Union. They’ll have my account details. In fact they should have Chip’s... I see...he had you check his already and it was maxed out? Yes, I have voice verification with the CU as well...while we’re waiting for my account details, would you be so kind to put Chip on the phone...why the hell not?  He’s got his head in his hands moaning? I see...I see...well put Chief Sharkey on the line, then....He’s throwing up? Riley? What the hell’s going on hm. Yes, I’m okay, why shouldn’t I be?”

As the youngster began to explain Crane rolled his eyes heavenward.

“I swear the ring’s not important for this assignment,” Crane lied for his crewman’s sake. “Yes, I’ll hold while they transfer the call to the Credit Union...”

“I’m curious,” Miss Connors said as she retired to the sideboard to pour out two mugs of coffee, “what’s so important about this ring? A family heirloom? One of those fancy embossed Navy rings?”

“Neither. I made it myself at an artisan school when I was sixteen. Plain gold band and Onyx stone...yes, I’m here,” he interrupted himself as he was transferred to a teller. “I need my credit card authorized to pay off a DMV’s impound fee and traffic fine for Chip Morton and... Declined? That’s impossible...look, we’ll discuss it later. Just transfer the funds from my checking account to...overdrawn? Oh gawd....”

Miss Connors took the receiver out of Lee’s hand.

“This is Fox Studio’s. Transfer the call back to the DMV please, thank you....Excuse me, this is Twentieth Century Fox. We’ll pay both the fine and impound will be an immediate transfer of funds from our accounting dept. Yes, Lee Crane is a bone fide captain... he’s here on business for the Navy... yes...yes...I’m connecting you with accounting right now....we’ll hold for your receipt of payment confirmation.”

“Thanks,” Lee said as she transferred the call to accounting, and handed him his coffee. “I’ll reimburse you as soon as I get back to Santa Barbara,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it will have to be paid in installments until my next paycheck....”

“No need for that,” Miss Connors said sweetly, “there’s an easier way and....”

“Yes, I’m here, Riley,” Lee said into the phone as Riley came back on the line, “give me Mr. Morton.”

While he waited, Miss Connors continued to explain.

“Why not earn some of that money as an extra while you’re here? Those are folks who appear in movies without any lines. They fill in crowd scenes and the like. After your final duties as advisor checking the sets, you could start today. Interested?”

“I’ll do anything you want...excuse me,” he added, as instead of Morton a DMV official came on the line. “So, everything’s taken care of, and they can go home as long as somebody else drives...what? They don’t want to go home? They want to come here for a tour of the studio? Oh, Lord. Just tell them to go home and not to forget the snake. Yes, I’m really going to eat it! Just put it in a cooler... ten bucks? That’s highway robbery!”

“This is Fox again,” Miss Connors said leaning over the receiver in Lee’s hand, “We’ll be happy to cover the cost of a cooler, ice, and add a few cold soft drinks for the boys...yes, I’ll reconnect you to accounting,” she added. But before she could Lee spoke into the receiver.

“Officer?” Lee said, “Before you release my miscreants, tell whoever drives had better not be pulled over for any moving violations to add to Mr. Morton’s...damn right I’m God! You might want to remind them of that too.”

Miss Connors raised an eyebrow as the call was redirected to Accounting.

“Sorry,” Lee said sheepishly.

“Remind me not to upset you any more than you already are,” Miss Connors said. “As soon as payment’s been confirmed we’ll get a golf cart to take us to the sets.”


“Mr. Morton?” Sharkey, at the wheel asked as he drove his companions away from the DMV, “Can I ask just what did the president say before we left the institute, anyway?”

“That Admiral Nelson should consider replacing everyone in his employ, including the skipper and me.”

“But, like,” Riley said, “we’re still gonna’ go to Hollywood to give the skipper back his ring, right? I mean, what if he needs it? Despite what he said.”

Morton had had to make many grave decisions in his military and civilian careers, and this was no exception. He didn’t like deception, but this was on Lee’s head for letting Sharkey give the crew false info in the first place.

“Yes, Riley,” the XO said. “We’re going to Hollywood before we go home. I’m not sure we can get in to give him his ring, but we’ll sure as hell try. By the way, when we get to the studio, remember why we’re there. Can you try to keep from ogling the beautiful girls you might see?”

“But we like, gotta’ look, don’t we?” Riley asked. “Some of ‘em might be Ruskie spies or something out to get the skipper...”

“He has a point, sir,” Kowalski said.

“Very well, you can look, but don’t engage any of them unless you see them actually sneaking up on the skipper...”

“Or trying to kiss him with lethal lipstick, like,” Riley added.

Pursing his lips to keep from laughing, Morton closed his eyes and remained silent for the rest of way to the city of swimming pools and movie stars as a popular TV show jingle said.


The sound stages were bigger than they had appeared from outside. Huge, actually. Lee had to wonder what happened if the actors and crew had acrophobia. He certainly wouldn’t want to climb up those narrow steps to the ceiling to fix a light or pretend to be on a cliff for Special Effects to use the height for the camera advantage.

“Ladies, gentlemen,” Miss Connors called out from the main entrance to Set 7C,  “I’d like to introduce to you to Commander Crane, captain of the Seaview. He’s our technical consultant.”

“Ohmygod,” one of the few girls on the set whimpered, “he’s drop dead gorgeous.”

“You married or spoken for, handsome?” another girl  asked Lee, dropping her scripts.

“Only to my boat,” Lee replied.

“This reprobate, Commander, plays the ship’s first mate and...”

“Ah,” Lee said, “that term hasn’t been used for decades. The second in command is the executive officer, or XO. And submarines are referred to as boats, not ships. And there aren’t any women  on U.S. subs, at least not yet, though there are plans.”

“I get to arrest the captain,” the faux XO said proudly. “The writer said that can really happen.”

“Only under certain provisions, with protocols that have to be followed.”

“Oh boy, that’s great! All I get to do in this damn part until the second act is repeat everything the captain says. At least I know I can put my heart into arresting him!”

“Remember an XO has a lot of responsibilities. He’s not just a ‘yes’ man. Officer in charge of procurement, schedules, and keeping the crew and sometimes even the captain in line. No matter how good a captain is, there’s always the possibility of mistakes.”

“Has your XO ever had to reprimand you?”

“Not exactly, but he has had to remind me of things at times. I’d put him on report if he didn’t. Potential mistakes can lead to a disaster. A good captain welcomes his XO’s observations.”

“Does Admiral Nelson know when you’ve almost made mistakes?”

“Admiral Nelson,” Lee said, “like God, knows everything, but unlike God, he knows we can both make mistakes. That’s why there’s a lot of repetition aboard...catches any discrepancies in the mathematics of setting courses and the like.”

“And this is our mermaid, Charlene Kitt,” Miss Connors changed the topic, and introduced a girl in a two piece bathing suit.

“Sorry I don’t have my tail on, Commander.”

“Even without it, Miss Kitt,” Lee said, “I can certainly see the attraction the captain’s supposed to have for you. That is, if Miss Connors goes ahead with the story as written.”

The talent and staff looked confused.

“He’s adviced me,” Miss Connors began, “that no sub captain would allow himself to become seduced by a voluptuous mermaid from his duties.”

“Sub captains don’t have balls?” the star of the show asked sarcastically. “I play the captain, so you stick to reality if you like, Commander, we’ll stick to the fantasy.”

Lee didn’t respond and found himself checking out more sets and sound stages while more and more grips and talent followed him, both men and women. It wasn’t every day one got to meet a real sub captain. Especially one who put most leading men to shame.

After the ‘tour’, Lee  told Miss Connors that the blinking lights, plastic and plywood that was the Sea Star, which not a good name for a Navy sub, passed inspection for most classes of old WW2 submarines, not any modern or futuristic vessels assuring her that if unaltered, there was bound to be a lot of nitpicking from audiences and critics alike.

“I’ll present all of your observations in the next staff meeting. Now, see the writers and I need a staff meeting. Thank you for your advice, Captain. Now, if you’re still interested in taking on that other little job we discussed today, I’ll have someone drive you to Costuming.”

“Costuming?” Charlene asked, confused.

“Miss Connors has offered me a job as an extra in the picture being filmed there... I um, need  a little cash,” he added, shamefaced.

A lot of knowing ‘ahh’s. They’d all been there.

“What kind of part?” one of the girls asked, “Oh, I bet you’d really be something to see bare chested and in one of those cute little Roman skirts....”

“I’m not sure if he’ll play a gladiator or one of the barbarian hordes,” Miss Connors said. “Perhaps he’ll play both.”

“Whatever pays off my debt to you for taking on the DMV, Ma’am.”

“It’s a long story,” Miss Connors sighed, not at all pleased with the matronly term of address.  “Come along, Captain. I’ll get us a cart.”


“But...but,” Harriman Nelson was saying on the phone while his sister Edith glanced his way from the kitchen in the ‘big house’ they both owned in Boston.  Not usually used by either of them, it had belonged to the family from ages past and was often used as a rental property.

Seeing his discomfiture from the open French Doors, Edith removed a freshly baked cookie off the cookie sheet and placed it on a little plate, and brought it over to him.

He grinned, letting the person on the other end of the phone rant and rave, using the call to avoid taking a bite of it.  Edith, despite all of her attempts at domesticity usually failed miserably. Harry had never had the heart to tell her that her culinary creations would better serve in Seaview’s ballast tanks.

“I don’t know why his crew thought his ring was vital for wherever he was going,” Nelson continued, “ The SecNav only told me he had an idea for a little PR Lee could do for the Navy. Of course I’d agreed...Um hm. Um hm. But surely ONI would have informed you if that wasn’t the whole truth...yes, I know that Lee’s gone off on his own at times...Well, you were the one who authorized him as an Agent Without Passport...yes, Mr. President, I’ll catch the first flight out...maybe you can get me on a two seater jet being ferried....oh. Then I’ll take the first available commercial flight. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything for sure. But I have to say, I doubt he’s doing anything but advising Hollywood about a damn TV show. No, he won’t lie to me. I guarantee that. Yes. Goodbye.”

“Whatever was that was about,” Edith said, as her brother put the receiver back into the phone’s cradle.

 Edith sat a glass of milk down next to the plate, “Are you in trouble? Is Lee in trouble?”

“He’s always in trouble!”

“Have you and he had a falling out or something? You’ve hardly said a word about him since you arrived. That’s not like you. It’s usually ‘Lee this’, or ‘Lee that’.”

“It’s not him...actually, I think maybe I’ve grown to like him too much.”

“What’s wrong with that? I love him too.”

“Not a good idea. Could cause...problems with command decisions.”

“Has it?”

“Well, no, but the SecNav brought the topic up again when we had lunch in Washington. So far, Lee and I have never let our friendship interfere with our better judgement, but what if....”

“Harry, if none of the ‘what if’s have happened yet, don’t you think it’s pretty sure they won’t ever? You and Lee always put duty first, don’t you? You’re both expendable and you both know it.  It’s the nature of the beast, your careers. A pity too. Because it means you can’t really be the brothers you are. Maybe even a father and son and you know it. Not sure if Lee knows you regard him as either, though.”

“All right, all right. And these stunts of his, his volunteering with ONI for special assignments, well, he puts his life at risk too often! And remember, you’re still sworn to secrecy about his second life.”

“Yes, Harry...are you sure he’s on ‘assignment’?”

“About a snowflake’s chance in hell if he is.”

“Then don’t borrow trouble. Now eat your cookie.”

Harriman dunked the cookie into his milk and forced it into his mouth. “Delicious,” he lied, crumbs spraying out of his mouth.

“I’m so glad,” Edith said as she returned to the kitchen. At least Nelson had a chance to hide the rest of his cookie in his pants pocket.

“Harry,” Edith said as he put the cooled cookies into a chipped ceramic cookie jar. “Why don’t I come along with you? Has to be first class, though. My legs just can’t handle coach. It’ll be so nice to visit with you in Santa Barbara.”

“Let’s plan on that commercial flight. But we’ll be stopping in Hollywood first.”

“That’s what I hoped you’d say! I hate to say it, but there’s always a chance he might decide to leave Seaview and become a movie star....”

“Nonsense! He’s married to Seaview! Lee is the finest sub captain out there, though... sometimes I would like to bash his head in.”

“So do I, but at least he makes up for it with that little grin of his. And his eyes...and....”

“I get the idea. Now, hurry up and pack. I’ll make our reservation.”

“And then pack up the cookie jar to take along,” she hollered from the stairs.

Nelson shook his head. That cookie jar had been in the family for as long as he could remember. His mother had won it in a raffle to support the troops in WW1. It was chipped then too though the glaze had cracked even more through the years. He remembered countless times when he’d slip his hand into the jar, his mother and grandmother chastising him for having a cookie before supper, though each smiling at him in their maternal way. Only now, he pitied any of his staff who would be encouraged to partake of the cookie jar’s contents.


“It’s starting to stink in here,” Ski said from the back seat.

“Hope, like, it’s not that damn snake,” Riley added.

“Maybe we should pull over and check it out,” Sharkey told Morton next to him in the front seat.

“Go ahead,” Morton agreed and the car was soon stopped on the shoulder and popped the trunk open.

As other vehicles, some going over well over the posted speed limit of seventy miles per hour on the freeway zoomed past, the men gingerly got out of the car and opened the trunk.

Just then a California Highway Patrol car drove up, parking behind them, setting out some caution cones the officers approaching the men.

“You boys having trouble?” Officer Candice O’Malley asked.

It took awhile for the ‘boys’ to put their tongues back into their mouths. Officer O’Malley’s uniform was a bit too snug in all the right places. Fortunately the men managed to look completely innocent of any lustful thoughts before her partner and driver, Officer Mack Dudley joined them.

“We hit a snake earlier on, by accident,” Chip began. “The DMV gave it back to us. We thought it was beginning  to smell.”

“We saved it for the skipper to eat,” Riley said, “when we, like, get to Hollywood to give it to him.”

“Hollywood?” both officers asked.

 “You do know, don’t you, that you’re headed the wrong way?” O’Malley asked.

“But I checked the map,” Sharkey said.

“And eating road kill is a misdemeanor,” Dudley added. Who is this ‘skipper’? We’ll have to cite him.”

“Oh gawd, oh gawd,” Riley wailed. “He’s gonna’ kill us for getting him arrested....”

“It’s just a citation,” O’Malley said. “But we will need to get in touch with him as to just how many times he’s enjoyed a meal at California’s expense... Now, who are you men?”

“I’m Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton. U.S. Navy Reserve and Nelson Institute of Marine Research.  My traveling companions are Chief Sharkey from behind the wheel, and Seamen Kowalski. Riley, and Patterson.”

“Let us see your ID’s, please,” Dudley ordered.

“Mr. Morton forgot his,” Sharkey said, pulling out his ID as the crewmen did likewise.

“You making a commercial for the institute?”

“Not us,” Patterson laughed. “The skipper’s there. He lost his ring without noticing. We’re trying to get it to him before there’s any trouble.”

“And just who is this ‘skipper’?” O’Malley asked.

“Commander Crane,” Morton said, “Commander Lee Crane, captain of the Seaview.”

Just then Dudley’s walkie-talkie on his belt beeped. It was old equipment, and newer stuff was out there but the new radio satellite mobile phones were almost as bulky as the walky-talky’s and the CHP’s technology hadn’t caught up. To Los Angeles County, the feeling was ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.

“...The car,” a voice said, “is registered to Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton who is listed as having a moving violation a short time ago. Speeding and no driver’s license on his person. Fine and impound fees were paid in full by Twentieth Century Fox.”

“Thanks,” Dudley ended the call. “Well that confirms your identity,” he added and with O’Malley returned their ID’s.

Just then O’Malley screamed, “It moved! The snake moved!”

“Probably a muscular contraction.”

“Er, I don’t think so,” she responded pointing to the just laid egg.

“That’s impossible,” Chip said. “We felt the car hit it!”

“Probably just grazed it,” Dudley said. “Well, we’re going to have to confiscate the snake and its eggs, yeah, looks like more are coming, and give them to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.”

“What’ll they do with the them?” Morton asked.

“The experts will check out the eggs and the female. If the female’s too badly hurt, they’ll euthanize it. If not, it will be placed with the eggs in one of the wildlife sanctuaries though females only lay eggs, their maternal duties stop there.”

“I don’t get it,” Ski said. “If it’s gonna’ maybe get killed anyway, why not just let us take the snake to the skipper for his lunch? And technically, it ain’t road kill if it aint dead.”

“Even if it were road kill,” Riley said, “the skip’s eaten road kill before and never got into trouble about it. Him and Lt. Cdr. Jackson both, and they never complained about them tasting funny or anything if that’s, like, what the law’s about and....”

“This Jackson one of you institute guys?” O’Malley interrupted, writing the name in a little notebook.

“No, ma’am,” Sharkey said. “He’s regular Navy. At ComSubPac. That’s Command Submarines Pacific.”

“For the moment,” Dudley said, “we’ll assume that both he and Captain Crane are unaware of California law regarding the consumption of road kill. But we’ll still need to cite them both retroactively. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

“Some of their road kill was out of state,” Sharkey said.

“Well, every state has its own laws. Some might not have any statutes against it. Others might have bigger fines than we do.”

“Follow us to Fish and Wildlife,” O’Malley said. “We have some paperwork for you to fill out before we can let you get to Fox to meet up with Crane.”

“Commander Crane. Or Captain,” Riley said, indignant.

“We’ll give you an escort to the studio once we’re done at the agency. Now come along.”

It was a very unhappy group of campers in Morton’s car as they followed the CHP car to God only knew what.


“Coffee, tea, or milk?” the stewardess asked the Nelsons shortly after their plane took off from Boston’s Logan Airport.

“Anything stronger, Stewardess?” Edith asked, “Oh, sorry. I keep forgetting some of you prefer to be called flight attendants now.”

“A bit early for libations, don’t you think?” Harriman asked his sister.

“Hey, this is First Class. Live a little.”

“You fly First Class all the time.”

“We have an assortment of spirits,” the stewardess/attendant said, “I’ll be back with a selection shortly. Oh, yes, we also have peanuts and cookies. I’ll bring you an assortment of them too.”

“You didn’t have to stare at her,” Edith scolded her brother after the attendant continued down the aisle. All you boys really think about is sex. I’m surprised any of you managed to climb up out of the Stone-Age.”

“Don’t sell me short. And, I won’t even start to get into what you girls think. Don’t look all innocent with me, young lady, I’ve seen you looking at the men’s underwear models in the Sears Catalog.”

“I was a teenager! Cheech. By the way, in case you’re interested, sexologists say size ‘does’ make a difference. I wonder how big Lee is. Oh how I’d like to ravish him....”


“Relax, Harry. I’m still ‘pure as the driven snow’ in that respect. Wish I wasn’t though....especially with Lee,” she sighed. “But he’s not interested in me at all....”

“He’d better not be! And as soon as we land, you’re getting on a flight straight back to Boston! I won’t have you using your feminine wiles on him. Especially when he doesn’t need to be distracted just now.”

“Why not? Wouldn’t you like to have him as a brother-in-law?”

“As a legal, bone fide, sanctioned by marriage brother in law, I might agree to it. But you’re not to proposition him into anything else beforehand!”

“Oh don’t be such an old fashioned fuddy-duddy. I’m staying with you in Santa Barbara. Besides, Lee might enjoy a little romancing, even from me.”

Just then the flight attendant returned with a rolling tray full of mini bottles of liquor, bagged peanuts and individually wrapped cookies. Harriman took one Johnny Walker ignoring the cookies, thank you very much, though he had no doubt they were far more palatable than Edith’s.

“I thought,” Edith said, “you thought it was too early for a drink.”

“It is. But I’m going to have one anyway and it’s all your fault,” he replied and snatched another ‘Crewman Walker’.

With a smirk Edith selected a pre-made Margarita.

Harriman had second thoughts about the cookies, and grabbed some before the attendant could roll the cart away. He needed sustenance for the long flight.


The small branch office of the California Fish and Wildlife Dept. wasn’t usually this crowded. Dr. Sarah Bernard signed off on the new arrivals, the eggs safely tucked away in a reptilian cubicle.

“Well,” she said, emerging from the lab. “No harm’s come to the eggs. We’ll give them a few days before depositing them into a suitable area. The mother, however, passed on. I’m glad we didn’t have to euthanize it. I never like having to do that.”

“Then, like,” Riley said, “the skipper can have his lunch after all?”

“Now wait a minute,” Officer Dudley began.

“You have to admit that it wasn’t actually road kill,” O’Malley interrupted.

“I don’t see any problem,” Dr. Bernard said, “In this case, the snake is considered game. I’ll pack it up for you boys. Er, you want me to eviscerate it? It’ll keep better.”

“They’re only going to Twentieth,” Officer O’Malley said.

“Still... wouldn’t want the captain of the Seaview getting sick from improper handling, now, would we? It’ll only take a minute. Tell me, sailors, how does your captain enjoy his reptiles, sautéed, grilled, roasted, or deep fried?”

“Oh good grief,” Dudley said.

“I’m not sure, actually,” Chip admitted.

Sharkey checked his watch, pointedly.

“Yes, Chief,” Morton told him, “I know we’re in a hurry but we don’t want to give the skipper any tummy trouble, do we? Thank you Dr. I’m sure he’ll appreciate that he won’t have to clean it himself.”

“You know,” the Dr. said, “I’m off in a few minutes; perhaps I should come along and give the captain a few pointers about the dangers of improper handling and preparation?”

“We’d be delighted if you’d join us,” Chip said, “if you don’t mind a tight fit in the front seat.”

“I don’t mind at all. I’ll be out in a jif.”

 “Well, hurry up,” Dudley told the Dr. “They have to get there in time for their captain to complete a job for the government.”

“In Hollywood?”

“Apparently, so his men told me while we were waiting for you that he’s all decked out in a fancy uniform with gold stripes, medals and things. I figure he’s doing a commercial but even his men aren’t sure just what he’s doing. But it’s an official job for the Navy. We’re escorting them to Fox since we interrupted their journey. Seems he forgot a ring that goes with his uniform.”


“Oh gawd, that Morton is sooo cute,” Dr. Bernard told O’Malley who had joined her in the examination room.

“Look at this,” O’Malley showed her an image on her Walkie-Talkie, “background check had a picture of  Captain Crane.”

“Holy cow!”

“Yeah, he’s to die for too.”

 Both women giggled as Dr. Barnard retrieved a scalpel and a bowl.

“So how do we choose who gets Crane or Morton?” O’Malley  asked.

“Guess we’ll have to toss for it once we’re done in here.”

Outside the lab the men wondered what on earth could be so funny about gutting a snake that was causing all that laughter.

It wasn’t long before the women emerged, with a sealed ‘cold box’ containing Lee’s lunch.

Soon, O’Malley, in the patrol car with Dudley with Morton and party following, sped their way the relatively short distance to the studio.


“All right,” the director said as he eyed his extras for today’s shoot. “Line up.”

Lee, bare chested, and costumed in ragged faux animal skins, wondered just what kind of barbarian he was supposed to be. 

“Nope,” the director said pointing to Lee, “you’re too clean cut and your hair’s too short. I want barbarians that look like barbarians.”

“He’s only here for today,” the assistant director said. “Miss Connors sent him down.”

“All right, have Make Up dirty him up and put a beard and rug on him...that’s Hollywood talk for a hairpieces,” he explained to today’s ‘teacher’s pet’.

“Maybe we should make him a Roman gladiator. They’re all clean shaven with short hair.”

“We have enough extras for that shoot. Not to mention stuntmen for the fight scenes, still, look, you,” the director told Lee, “think you could be a gladiator? The stuntmen will do the actual fighting. You’d only have to wave a dagger and sword or maybe an axe about and look fierce in group shots. Sometimes fall down as if you’ve been hurt and roll around on the dirt as if you’re in agony, then lie still. Don’t worry about the horses. They won’t step on anyone lying down. The wranglers will keep them away from you if they have to go fall near you. We’ll rehearse the scenes first...liability insurance.”

“I’m game,” Lee said. “And I don’t need a stuntman.”

One of the staff, her eyes as big as saucers, urgently whispered something into the director’s ear

“Oh gawd. You’re a submarine captain?”

“The Seaview?” he added as the staffer whispered something else. “What the hell did you do to get so down on your luck that you need to do this? I hear old man Nelson’s loaded. Look, sailor, I don’t like the idea of putting you into a situation where you could get hurt. A lawsuit with the Navy would get drawn out forever and... what now?” he asked the same girl, tugging  at his sleeve whispering to him again.

“All right they’re Reservists. Amounts to the same thing and...”

“I’m on my own clock. Neither Nelson or the Navy could sue....”

“Look, I don’t want to be unkind but maybe it would be better to use you in that Navy submarine sci-fi TV pilot...”

 “Trust me, it’s no Navy show,” Lee sighed.

 “He’s the technical advisor,” the girl continued. “Told them the script was stupid, and a lot of their nautical terminology was all wrong, and their sets were something out of WW II...they don’t need him any more so he’s got time on his hands and has some kind of agreement with Miss Connors about a’s kind of complicated. ”

“Well, it’s her neck then.  Well, young man, what’s your name?”

“Crane. Lee Crane.”

“Well, it seems though we have ourselves a gladiator. And maybe one of the barbarian horde later on. Just don’t hurt yourself or anyone else. Done any acting? High School or college plays?”

“Closest I came to acting was when I was twelve. Was a Wise Man in a Christmas Eve service at church. Look, I’m just trying to pay off a debt to Miss Connors. The more I can earn today the better to pay her back fully before I have to get back to my boat.”

“That’s a term these Navy types use for submarines,” one of the ‘barbarians’ said for the benefit of all. “Hey, I watch movies.”

“All right, all right,” the director said. “Enough chatter. Everyone get to your marks. You, Captain, follow the assistant second unit director back to costuming to get you changed into a Roman.”


“Excuse me, Mr. Nelson?” the flight attendant asked, rousing him from his nap, “You have an important call in the cockpit...if you’ll come with me?”

“That’s a bit odd,” Edith said, then, worry etched on her face, “I hope it’s nothing serious?”

“It’s from the White House.”

“Oh hell!” Harriman spouted. “Sorry, my dears.”

He felt all of his fellow passengers eyes burning into his back as he followed the attendant forward and into the cockpit, the door closing behind him.

The co-pilot handed him a set of headphones that had a little microphone attached.

“Nelson here,” he said as soon as his headphones and mike were in place. “I see...well Lt. Commander Jackson might not have been quite up front about hm...yes, Mr. President, No, Mr. President...because I  bloody well wanted to accompany my sister! Yes, Mr. President. I’ll speak with him...but don’t you have enough clout to find out about the damn ring for yourself?  Yes, I hm...well, you don’t have to get nasty about it! He’s only doing his job! One of them, at least. Yes, Mr., Mr. President...Nelson out.”

“I hope it’s not a national emergency, Admiral?” the pilot asked as Nelson removed the headset and handed it back to the co-pilot.

“No, however, I may have to bash my captain’s head in. I don’t suppose you can request a police escort to get us to Hollywood as soon as we land?

“Hollywood?” both the pilot and co-pilot asked in surprised unison.

“Hollywood. Twentieth Century Fox Studios, at the president’s request. And no, it’s not misappropriation of funds...rather can request a full report from your congressmen....”

“We’ll have the LAPD waiting on the tarmac when we land, sir,” the pilot said as Nelson headed out, the cockpit door closing and locking behind him.


“I’m surprised you don’t know about that damn ring,” Admiral Jiggs Starke told his aide, Lt. Cdr. Joe Jackson as they boarded the Hercules 130. “And you’d think we could get a better flight than this to Los Angeles.”

“Yes sir, but you could have hired a private pilot.”

“On a one prop Cessna? No thanks. Besides, this is an official visit for the SecNav not a joy ride. You’re a spook. How come you don’t know anything special about that damn ring of Crane’s?”

“First I’ve heard about it being a gadget.”


Lee was surprised he was actually having fun. And it was easier to pretend to be fighting another gladiator than he’d thought it would be. Sort of. Maybe, as Nelson would have said, one of his pet phrases. There had been an incident when Lee had been a bit closer to his opponent than he’d thought he was. Once he and his opponent tumbled to the dirt but the director didn’t yell ‘cut’ so they kept up the pretense of trying to kill each other, the little ‘blood’ packs hidden in their arm guards and belts spilling out for realism.

‘Cut!’ the unit director finally yelled during another scene as Lee’s opponent was rolling on the ground moaning and clutching his privates.

“Damn it, Crane!” he groaned.

“I’m so sorry,” Lee said, on his knees by his felled opponent, “Honestly didn’t think I was that close....”

“Don’t...worry...about it...” the man said, placed on a stretcher and taken to the infirmary.

“All right,” the man in charge got everyone’s attention. “Now, for the next shot, you, you, you, and you, are dead or dying,” he said pointing to four of Lee’s colleagues who lay themselves down in various contorted positions on the dirt. “You, you, you, and you,” he added to four others, “take your places to continue to fight. And you two,” he told Lee and a new stuntman, “will face off. Remember, Crane, the Romans didn’t know about Karate, Judo, or Jujitsu. You just try to look like you’re defending yourself with no hope of living through it.  Can you do that?”

“Yes, sir, but...wouldn’t a real gladiator want to try to punch his opponents brain’s out even if he felt it was hopeless?”

“Oh gawd, not another method actor....”

“I don’t mind,” the stuntman said. “just so you don’t aim for my balls, Crane.”

“All right,” the director sighed. “If you both want to end up in the infirmary it’s no skin off my nose, as long as we get the takes we need, that is...alright, places!”


It was bad enough that the normal workings of the studio were interrupted by the sirens but this ear busting shrill from the CHP sirens were ten times as bad. No doubt filming had been halted on most active sets, especially the exterior ones.

With the CHP car’s lights still flashing as it stopped at the studio entrance, Chip’s car right behind, the security guards spilled out of the buildings to investigate.

“We need to see Commander Crane. U.S. Navy,” Officer Dudley demanded from his patrol car.

One of the studio guards checked the sign in sheets and nodded. “He’s still here. But you’ll have to wait.”

“Official business,” Dudley added, nodding to Morton’s car. “They’re Navy Reserve. My partner and I are state, so is the doctor there. Now, there is no ‘wait’, is there?”

The guard ducked back further inside the gate house. In minutes he and Miss Connors emerged.

“What’s going on here?” Miss Connors asked.

“We need to see the skipper!” Riley said emerging from the car but hauled back into it by Ski.

“The California Highway Patrol does as well,” Officer Dudley said, “That’s me and Officer O’Malley. The Fish and Wildlife dept. needs to see him as well.”

“Heavens, what’s he done?”

“We need to cite him for misdemeanors going back awhile. His crew needs to return something to him, and Fish and Wildlife has something perishable to give him.”

“Fox Studios is at your disposal, officers. But first,  is one of your cortege Chipee Morton?”

“Oh gawd,” Chip groaned. The nickname had popped out of Crane’s lips on occasion, usually when he was drunk or under the influence of medications or concussed. But had he had to tell Miss Connors? Oh yes, he was going to have to have a little talk with Lee. Sort of. Maybe. He wasn’t at the same relationship level as Nelson was with Crane. So that little talk might have to be limited to a suggestion for his captain not to use ‘Chipee’ to the general public. “I’m Morton, Ma’am,” Chip said as he exited the passenger side of his car.

It was hard for Miss Connors not to appraise this ‘Greek God’. “You know, Chipee, with a beard and bushy eyebrows you’d make a fine looking Viking....”

“Well,” Chip blushed, “there actually might be a little Norse in the family tree.”

“We’re wasting’ time, Mr. Morton, ” Riley whined, rolling down his window, “like, we really gotta’ get to the skipper!”

“Why don’t you park your vehicles over there,” Miss Connors said, pointing to a few open spaces down the narrow road, “I’ll get us all some golf carts and take you to Coliseum B.”

“Strange place to film a commercial,” Dr. Jenkins muttered to herself as the golf carts arrived in seconds after security had summoned them.

“I’m surprised,” Miss Connors said as everyone piled into the golf carts, “that Admiral Nelson doesn’t pay the captain better. Poor boy’s maxed out and overdrawn. Perhaps you’d like to leave that cooler here?” she added as Dr. Jenkins lifted the cooler onto her lap.”

“Sorry, I need to hand it over personally.”

Miss Connors let the subject drop and as soon as she was seated, nodded to the drivers to begin the trip through the maze of roads to the arena.


The shoot had gone well enough in spite of the gladiators getting a bit too close for comfort as they pretended to fight each other, including newbie Crane.  No doubt he and his ‘opponent’ were going to have visible bruises later on from when they got a bit carried away. Not badly enough to require immediate medical attention that would interrupt the shoots, at least not according to the men.

Those damn sirens earlier had interrupted so the crew was relieved that the stuntmen and extras hadn’t demanded treatment from alcohol wipes and transparent band aids. Filming carried on as best it could. Until the cortege of golf carts stopped inside the arena’s tunnel.

“Cut!” the director yelled, “Now what?” he muttered as he headed into the tunnel. “Miss Connors? What’s going on? First we had to stop because of sirens, and now this?”

Just then, accompanied by another golf cart, with four studio guards, more sirens blaring from a U.S. Navy Shore Patrol team of motorcycles drove into the tunnel followed by an official sedan.

“Admiral Starke and Lt. Commander Jackson here to see a Commander Crane. Official Navy business,” the studio driver told Miss Connors.

“Let’s go in,” Miss Connors told her ‘guests’, “but we’ll all have to walk. The tunnel’s not large enough for all of your vehicles en-masse.”

The sunlight glimmered on the gladiator’s weapons as the group emerged from the tunnel into the arena. Crane’s black curls were moist with sweat, his forehead, bare chest, arms and  legs, scraped with droplets of blood running down them.

“Skipper! Skipper!” Riley shrieked, tripping over cables and falling on the dirt and straw.

“What the hell?” Crane muttered, his brows furrowed as he helped the youngster up, hardly noticing his companions.

“Crane!” the irate director fumed hurry over, “I’ve had it with you!” First you refuse medical attention, then this!”

“I told you,” Crane said of his forehead, “just a scratch and....”

 “Damn it!” Ski yelled at the director, “You...whoever you are, he’s  bleeding to death! And all these bruises, like, and....”

Lee picked up a mace and squeezed the ‘blood’ out of one of the rubber spikes.

“I’m fine,” Crane told his anxious crewmen, “The blood’s fake...well, most of it Now. What on earth are you doing here...Chip? You in more trouble with the Highway Patrol?”

“I-don’t-care if whoever you’re speaking to is! I want you off the set!”

“Hold it,” Miss Connors interrupted, “These folks have business, official U.S. Navy business with Captain Crane. So, take five and get yourself a Valium. Crane will complete today’s gigs.”

Riley urgently whispered something to Crane, surprised and  irritated. But took one look at Morton and Sharkey and came to a decision.  “Everything’s fine, Riley,” he said quietly, “I didn’t need my ring after all.”

“Then,” Riley barely whispered, “it’s a ‘mission accomplished’?”

“Yes, Riley,” Crane whispered back, then he turned to Miss Connors and the director,  “I really am sorry about the shot...”

“Never mind that,” Miss Connors interrupted, “These are Officers Dudley, O’Malley and Dr. Jenkins.”

“Doctor? But I’m fine and....”
“Dr. Jenkins is from the Fish and Wildlife Dept.”

“I don’t understand.”

Instead of explaining, Jenkins was caught up in the moment of staring at the magnificent specimen of manhood that was Lee Crane. Even Officer O’Malley was positively drooling.

“Oh good God,” Dudley said, “Dr. Jenkins, Officer O’Malley? Get your tongues back into your mouths and let’s get to business. Commander Crane, the state of California has multiple citations to issue. We understand that you and a Lt. Cdr. Jackson are guilty of the illegal consumption of road kill, specifically Rattlesnakes over time and....”

“I don’t understand. Chip?”

“Afraid so, Skipper. They showed us the statute. And I didn’t mean to run this  snake over. It just happened and....”

“Technically he didn’t kill it,” Dudley interrupted. “He told us he thought he had when we pulled over to see why his car was on the shoulder, the trunk open. Real bad stink that turned out to be old beach towels. The snake wasn’t dead. Just stunned, but later died at the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife after laying some eggs. It died after and so you’re not charged for the planned consumption of road kill in this particular case. But Lt. Cdr. Morton admitted that you’ve frequently consumed snakes killed on California roadways. He doesn’t know how many. An estimate will serve for our records. I’d suggest payment of the maximum fines for the past number of years you’ve resided in the state.”

“We have the snake right here,” Officer O’Malley said as Dr. Jenkins retrieved the cooler. This is Dr. Jenkins of Fish and Wildlife. She cleaned it for your lunch.”

“Thank you,” Lee said accepting the cooler and looking inside. “I don’t know, Officer Dudley,” Lee added, running a hand through his ‘bloodied’ curls, “I’ve only been in California a little over a year, recently anyway, though I had been stationed in Diego some years ago. I’m afraid I can’t remember how many times I’ve accidentally driven over snakes or just found dead ones along the roadways. Never deliberately run any over. Most snakes are really quite tasty if not too old and if they’re prepared properly. I’m sorry if I broke the law. I swear I didn’t know. Neither did Joe, by the way, what are you and Admiral Starke doing here?”

“Official business,” Starke said.

“I’m not done with him,” Dudley interrupted before the admiral walked over to Crane.  “We can only fine you for the past five, are you this ‘Joe’ who eats road kill as well? Well, we need to cite you too. So pay up, both of you, or serve the equivalent in jail.”

“Jail?” Riley exclaimed quickly moving in front of Crane to protect him. “You can’t put the skipper in jail!”

“Easy, Riley,” Crane said moving to the side. “If I broke the law, I broke the law. You too, Joe.”

“Fox will pay their fines, Officer,” Miss Connors said. “The captain’s credit card is maxed out and his checking account’s overdrawn. That’s why he’s an extra here to earn some cash.”

“I owe you so much more than my time on these gigs, Miss Connors,” Crane said. “Perhaps I can take you out to dinner or give you a tour of Seaview or maybe dinner aboard Seaview, when I’m solvent?”

“When were you in Diego, Captain?” Dudley interrupted.

“Let’s see. I was a Lt. Jg. assigned to the Franklin...I’d guess about seven to ten years ago. I’d have to retrieve my files to know for sure...but the Navy can pull them up for you...can’t say they could find them any sooner than me...I still have unpacked boxes from previous tours of duty that I never got around to opening.”

“O’Malley,” Dudley called out, “See if there’s a statute of limitations.”

“Fine looking snake, Lee,” Joe said looking into the cooler.

“Sure is,” Lee agreed, his mouth watering, but on seeing Riley’s face, added, “Perfect for a museum display.”

“You’re not gonna’ eat it, after all, Skipper?” Riley said, hopefully.

“I don’t think I’d have the heart to eat a mama snake. I think I’ll donate it to the Natural History Museum...”

“But Lee,” Joe said, “it’s dead. And you know all those extra hormones make for a tastier snake.”

“Think of it as livestock,” Jiggs told Riley. “You have no objections to a thick juicy steak, do you, sailor?”

“This is between Seaman Riley and myself, sir,” Crane told Starke coldly, then returned his attention to Riley. “Admiral Starke has a point, but I think I’d have a hard time eating it just the same.”

“Well,” Riley said, “it is you still want it for lunch or supper, you go ahead, sir. I’ll try to remember it’s no worse than a steak.”

O’Malley handed Dudley a hastily scrawled note with the fine amount from her call with HQ.

“Cheech,” Dudley muttered. “Didn’t think it would be that bad.”

Lee’s crew began to search their wallets.

“No, boys,” Miss Connors said. “I already said Fox will handle the fine for both. If they want to pay Fox back over time, accounting will arrange it.”

“Ma’am,” Joe began to complain.

“Better let it go, Joe,” Lee said. “There’s no arguing with her....thanks again Miss you mind if I take a few minutes to see what my men want? The admiral and my friend too? I promise there won’t be any more interruptions today or tomorrow.”

 “Miss Connors,” Chip asked, “Didn’t you say that I look like a Viking? You making any pictures with them? I can give Lee what I earn to help pay Fox back sooner.”

“And I can do a beach party flick,” Riley said. “I can surf too.”

“And I can do whatever you need doing,” Sharkey said.

“Wait, men,” Lee said. “I appreciate the gesture, but it could take longer than you’d like for me to pay you back. And I sure don’t want you to wreck your day in Hollywood. They have tours and everything you probably shouldn’t miss....”

“We didn’t come all the way here to tour Hollywood,” Chip interrupted. “We came here to return your ring.”

“Like I told Riley, it turned out that I didn’t need it,” Lee maintained his lie, “and I can hardly wear it with this costume...”

“Technically,” one of the set’s many crew interrupted, “some gladiators were better off than the common citizenry. Even wore jewelry. But we can’t put a thing on you now or the continuity would be spoiled. Perhaps for the barbarian picture. Could be from some enemy booty or spoils of war. I’m sure we can find a place for you, if Miss Connors agrees....”

“Of course,” Miss Connors said. “Captain, you can wear your ring for your next gig as a barbarian. May I have it?” she asked Morton. “I assure you it will be quite safe in my office until requested by the captain.”

Chip took it out of his pocket and handed it to her.

“Now,” Miss Connors added, “why don’t I escort all of you around the studio while we let the captain get back to work.”

“Can’t we stay and watch the skipper?” Riley asked.

Before either Miss Connors could reply, the sirens and flashing lights of the LAPD interrupted stopping just outside the tunnel entrance.

“Crane!” the director yelled.

“Don’t look at me!”
 “What’s the problem, now?” Miss Connors muttered. Pretty soon there wouldn’t be any security at the main gate left as this guard hopped off his golf cart and approached as the patrol car drove up behind.

“Sorry, Miss Connors. Looks like more official business for Commander Crane.”

“Take him!” the director yelled as the cops exited the patrol car and opened the back door for their passengers. “Get him out of my sight!”

“Easy,” Miss Connors said. “Officers? What’s going on?” she added as Crane’s men squirmed and Lee shook his head as he put his hands on his hips.

“We were ordered to escort Admiral Nelson here, from the top...”

“I apologize for the interruption to your schedule,” Nelson said, trying to ignore his sister’s ogling of Lee, “but I really need to speak with Captain Crane. Official business.”

“Very official business,” Edith said, irritated. “Harry couldn’t give me any details but we were escorted off our plane by the police to get here as soon as do know my brother is Admiral Harriman Nelson, don’t you?” “Edith, don’t be rude,” Nelson said.

“What’s wrong?” Lee asked approaching.

“Is there a place we can speak in private?”

 Lee looked around then nodded toward a storage shed.

“Sorry, Jiggs,” Nelson told his friend who had begun to walk alongside, and stopped remaining behind.


“Well?” Nelson finally asked when Lee and he stopped behind the shed, out of sight and earshot.

“Well what?”

“The president has reason to believe you may be acting as a rogue agent.”

“The president?”

“What else is he to think when ONI doesn’t know. Answer the question.”

“You of all people know why I’m in Hollywood. To shame me as a technical advisor. Well, that’s done. I’m not on the clock now.”

“Shame you? What are you talking about? But that’s not the kind of ‘assignment’ I’m asking about! Did you need your ring for an undercover assignment or not?”

“What?” Lee asked, this time his turn to be genuinely confused.

“Sharkey said you were on ‘one of those’ and when Riley discovered your ring near the “admin entrance, everyone was worried you were in danger without it.”

“Oh gawd,” Lee said, deadpan.

“ONI disavowed that it was any kind of gadget, or even if you were playing James Bond for some personal venture! The president got involved and sent me here to get to the bottom of things and...”

“You’re going to start hyperventilating, Harry,” Lee interrupted.

“Answer the question! And since when do you call me Harry?”

“Now’s as good a time as any,” Lee said, leaning back against the shed and closed his eyes

“I’m waiting, damn it!”

“First,” Lee said, opening his eyes but still leaning against the shed, “my ring is not a gadget. Secondly, it was you who arranged my Reserve assignment with the SecNav as a technical advisor for the studio, and third, ONI disavowed anything because I’m not on any undercover assignment with the agency. I’m not on any kind of rogue assignment of my own. I’m simply trying to earn some cash as an extra to pay off my financial debt to Fox for paying off Chip’s traffic fine and impound fee with the DMV and my and Joe’s fine for the consumption of road kill over the past year.”

“Road kill?” Nelson asked, confused.

“Chip hit a rattler on his way here. Saved it for my lunch. Anyway, Riley had convinced him to bring me my ring as Sharkey had told him I was on ‘one of those’ and one thing led to another. I didn’t have the heart to tell Riley I wasn’t undercover. But back to the snake. Apparently there’s a state statute against eating any road kill and there’s a hefty fine. I swear I didn’t know it was a misdemeanor. My credit card’s maxed out, and my checking account’s overdrawn. What else was I supposed to do but earn some money asap to pay back Fox for covering that fine as well as Chip’s and....”

“Then you’re not undercover...”

“I think I’d have tied up any loose ends if I were...anything else you want to humiliate me with?”

“Humiliate you? What are you talking about?”

“Drafting me to serve as a technical advisor.”

“Good God, Lee, it was convenient and it’s an honor to be selected as a technical advisor for Hollywood!”

“Yeah, sure, that’s why all the advisors I know of have careers that went down the tubes right after. Admiral, what have I done to make you embarrass me like this? I’ve been a good sub commander, haven’t I? I brought Seaview’s security up to snuff. I accomplished impossible missions and received more than twelve individual presidential citations in as many months and the crew, more than five unit citations. I’ve also brought things up to snuff on the administrative side too. So tell me, what the hell have I done that made you and the SecNav humiliate me this way? Don’t deny it, I know you were in cahoots with him...”

“Now, that talk’s just plain stupid! The studio contacted the Navy and the switchboard sent it through to the SecNav’s office by mistake. Naturally the SecNav wanted Fox to have the best sub commander he could assign. You weren’t exactly required at the institute or aboard Seaview for her repairs. Of course I ‘suggested’ you. PR problem solved.”

“No, there’s more to it than that,” Lee said, furrowing his brows. “There are plenty of other sub commanders on shore duty right here in California that could have been chosen. And since when am I not the best man to supervise repairs to Seaview or the Flying Sub? You’ve lost trust in me and didn’t even have the decency to speak to me about it. Now, I have to get back to the set before I’m kicked off the shoot. By the way, I’ll call the president. This is mess is my responsibility. Something you seem to have forgotten that I’m entitled to have, related to Seaview or any of my other jobs you’ve snatched away from me recently. ”

“Damn it, Lee!”

 “I have to get back to the set before the director bursts a blood vessel. When this scene is done, I’ll call the White House.”

With that Lee turned to head back to the group.

“You haven’t been dismissed!”

“I wasn’t aware I was on duty for either NIMR or the Reserves right now.”

“Good God, Lee!”

Lee turned, his arms folded across his chest, waiting.

A great many emotions crossed Nelson’s mind at that moment and he surrendered to his irritation.

“Very well then, get back to your damn set!”

“As you wish, Admiral,” Lee said, and without another word passed by the crowd and back into the tunnel entrance to the arena.

“Well, Harriman?” Starke whispered as he approached his friend, “What did you find out?”

“Sorry, Jiggs,” Nelson said, with a glance at Riley, adding, in order to be heard, “Top secret.”

“Admiral Nelson?” Riley asked, approaching, “Is the skipper okay? I mean, did the prez send you here to chew him out for forgetting his ring, and us for not getting it to him in time before ‘you know what’? Is the skip going to Leavenworth? Are we?”

Nelson hesitated, bemused by the lad’s fears. Still, Nelson didn’t want to be caught in the lie of Chief Sharkey’s making and Lee’s complicity. But damn it, the young seaman was so innocent in his hero worship of his captain, and Nelson had already issued falsehoods....

“The White House didn’t order me to make any kind of arrest or official censure. He did, however, wish me to speak with the captain personally about...things.”

Riley visibly sagged in relief, while the civilians, confused as ever, said nothing, afraid to interfere with what had to be a national matter of the highest level.

“Ladies, Gentlemen,” Miss Connors said. “coffee and doughnuts on F,” Miss Connors said, “while I arrange for your tour. Perhaps I can interestall of you as my guests for one of our premiers tonight. There are plenty of seats remaining.”

“A Hollywood premier?” Edith mused. “Wow. Is Lee going?”

“Haven’t asked him yet. He might prefer to continue as an extra for some night location shoots. ”

“Lee would sure look great in a tux,” Edith sighed.

“I doubt he brought anything but his uniforms along to L.A.,” O’Malley said as everyone got back into their golf carts and sedans and were driven to the studio grill. The two Nelson’s dismissed their LAPD escort and joined Chip, Sharkey, and Starke at their table while Lee’s crewmen, likes birds of a feather sat together.

The coffee was not appreciated, but nobody complained within hearing to Miss Connors before she left to resume studio business, promising to return soon to conduct their tour.

It wasn’t long before gasps from fellow diners brought everyone’s attention to the front entrance.

Crane, still half naked in his short little gladiator skirt approached.

“Chip? Joe?” Lee asked, eyes downcast not making contact with them, or with Nelson and party. “There’s enough room to bunk with me at my hotel tonight, if you don’t mind roughing it.”

“Are you going to the premier, Lee?” Edith asked, “I’d like to coordinate my attire.”

“Sorry, no. I have to go make a phone call now. Miss Connors is letting me use her office. Chip, Joe? Why don’t you two accompany me,” he added not waiting for an answer as he headed back toward the doors.

“What phone call?” Nelson asked though Lee didn’t respond and neither did Chip or Joe as they followed Lee out.

“What does he want with them?” Starke muttered.

“Bet it’s about ‘you know what’,” Riley whispered to Ski.


“Cut! That’s a wrap for all of the gladiators!” the unit director finally called out from Set B about two hours later. “Crane, go to Costuming for your next gig. You’ll be fitted with a hairpiece, eyebrows, and beard. The adhesive and the fibers might itch, so just grin and bear it. You’ll be a barbarian so it’s your job to look fierce. I don’t know about your friends. They’ll have to be cleared for any gigs. And Crane? If the next unit director takes a dislike to you it’s nothing personal. We just don’t want the shoot to take forever to get finished, like this one did.”

“Gee, thanks.”


Officer O’Malley had remained for the tour, much to the crewmen’s delight having a pretty girl to ogle. The Dr. was too old for them, and Edith Nelson, of course, totally off limits.


The tour was interesting, and Miss Connors allowed a lot of up close and personal sightseeing which included introductions to some of the studio stars of both genders.

Starke was delighted to meet the glamourous movie stars, but Nelson was preoccupied with worry regarding Lee. How could Lee possibly think that he had been punished? And had Nelson made a mistake in removing him from supervising repairs though Crane hadn’t been needed to supervise repairs as he usually had? And what was that phone call Lee had to make. And what did Lee want with Chip and Jackson?

“This is set D, where the captain should be now,” Miss Connors interrupted his musings as the studio’s tour bus pulled into the parking area of a new exterior set. “It’s been ‘dressed’ to look like the wilds of Scotland.”

“I don’t see the skipper,” Riley whispered as the ‘barbarian horde’ was in the throes of ancient combat with Anglo Saxon war lords.

Miss Connors waved to the script girl, and quietly asked if Crane was on set.

“Dreamboat? He got an emergency phone call. But don’t worry. It came between takes.”

“Uh oh,” Riley muttered, as ashen as Nelson was.

“You’re not thinking what I think you’re thinking are you?” Starke asked Nelson.

“I certainly hope not.”

Just then a barbarian, a ‘Viking’, and an Anglo Saxon war lord appeared from around the corner of a sound stage. Crane was streaked with blue and splattered with ‘blood’ on his naked skin draped with ‘skins’ and ‘furs’. His hair was a tangled mass of waist length hair. He also had a full tangled beard to go with his hair. Morton was wearing a Viking horned helmet to go with his Celtic armor, and Jackson was an Anglo Saxon warrior of some sort. Both also had longish hair and beards. One could almost smell the ancient sweat and rotted meat stuck between their teeth. Make Up had done a fine job with all of them.

“Oh gawd,” Lee sighed and stopped walking as he noticed the group, especially Nelson who hurried over, grabbed Lee’s arm, not ungently, and led him away out of earshot.

“Well?” Nelson demanded. “Who did you call and who called you?”

 “Personal. I am a person after all.”

“Can you tell me if either were from Washington?”

“Incoming was from here. Mabel has a sick cat.”


“The cashier from the studio grill. Has a sick cat. I’m going to join her at the 24-hour clinic as soon as I’m done here and....”

“You’re usually better at subterfuge.”

“Suit yourself. I need to get back to the set.”

“And the outgoing call?”

“That, sir, is none of your business either.”

“Damn it Lee! What’s the matter with you? I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but get over it! What do you want me to do, grovel? Just tell me if any of  that blood or bruises are real. I need to know if I should call Doc  to tell him to get his tail over here.”

Lee pursed his lips.


“Some of them are mine but easy to take care of later on. Whatever you do, don’t tell Ski or Riley.”

“What about Miss Connors? Insurance stuff...”

“After this gig, if you must. But I’d appreciate it if you said nothing at all.”

“And why should I do anything you ask? You certainly haven’t shown me any consideration. In fact...”

Lee interrupted his tirade by turning and walking toward Chip and Joe.

“You might not have to be polite to me, but you sure as hell should try to make the effort to accommodate Miss Connors and attend the premier.”

“Point taken,” Lee said turning to face him again. “But even she can understand that whatever happens to prevent me, happens.”

“You might not be on the Navy’s or the NIMR clock but you still represent NIMR and the Reserves....”

“All right, all right. I’ll try to attend. But no promises. Right now, we need to get back to the gig. By your leave, sir?”

Without waiting for permission, Lee led his friends around the corner and out of sight. Only Chip had looked back to give Nelson a sad shake of the head which clearly stated ‘leave it for now, sir’.

“Are you okay?” Jiggs asked Nelson as he returned to the group.

“What do you think?” Nelson fumed. He didn’t like it when anyone defied him, especially someone he’d grown to care for.

As the tour continued, Nelson he could hear ‘Action!’ and the sound of the barbarian hordes from one of the exterior sets, Lee’s yells among them.


“Everything okay, Harriman?” Starke asked as they toured a frontier set of a popular TV show, and had been introduced to the leads, including the saloon girls.

“Sorry, Jiggs.  I can’t say anything about things.”

“Then he is on another ‘one of those’?  Is he? Well, is he?”

“Let’s just return our attention to Miss Connor’s tour, shall we?” Nelson answered without answering.


Once the tour was over, Miss Connors had Crane’s crew fitted into Costuming’s tuxedos, and the women into some of the most glamourous evening gowns ever seen, with accompanying faux jewels. This was fast becoming a pre-premier party.

Growing tired of Edith’s constant twirling around to await her brother’s opinion of the dresses she tried on, Nelson and Starke decided to go nurse some hot fudge sundaes at the cafeteria, already having informed Miss Connors that they’d forgo tuxedos for their already packed dress uniforms, but that it might be nice to have tuxedos ready and waiting for the captain, Morton, and Jackson.  And instead of accepting Miss Connors generous offer of hotel accommodations for all of them, reserved rooms for his crew himself, though making sure they were in a separate facility than Crane’s hotel, or even his and Edith’s quickly arranged suite. Jiggs arranged for his own, making sure there was an extra room for his aide, should Jackson decide not to join Crane and Morton for the night.


Whistles and cat calls greeted Chief Sharkey as he emerged from his hotel elevator into the lobby some hours later.

“Gee, Chief,” Ski, said, “who’ve known you’d spruce up so good.”

“I feel like a waiter,” Sharkey said as he pulled on his tuxedo’s tight collar.

“You said it,” Patterson said, regarding his own tux.

 “You all look good enough to eat!” Miss Connors said just inside the entrance, while the  fleet of limo’s she’d arranged were waiting.

“So do you, ma’am.”

“This old thing?” she asked, eyes twinkling as Morton and Jackson entered.

It was not an understatement that it was difficult for any feminine eyes in the lobby to tear themselves away from the vision of the blond god in his white tux with blue cummerbund. Jackson had a black tux with a red cummerbund but he didn’t ‘glow’ like his boyishly attractive companion. Both had matching handkerchiefs and tinted carnations.

“Is the skipper coming?” Riley asked.

“Doubtful,” Jackson said. “Mabel’s cat is in a bad way.”

“Then he really is helping the old broad out?” Sharkey whispered to Morton. Even he’d heard of the skipper’s ‘excuse’ about possibly not showing from Nelson. But even he could read between the lines.

“Holy cow,” Ski interrupted of the feminine trio entering the lobby.

 While Officer O’Malley and the Dr. had transformed into glittery femme fatales, Edith Nelson was in a rather form fitting and low décolletage gown of midnight blue that her brother most definitely would not approve of. A little black dress this was not.

Just then Nelson and Starke arrived, in dress uniforms, a rather bland contrast to the glitz of the other guests.

“Harriman? You okay?” Starke called over as he stared at his sister.

 “He’s just having a hard time accepting the fact that I’m a grown woman with fashion sense. And this outfit just might convince Lee too. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather take me for the first time. By using my feminine wiles on him, like this gown,  if necessary....”

The next think Nelson knew, LAPD paramedics from the ambulance outside were hovering over him, but packing up their kits.

 “What...what happened?” he croaked.

“Anxiety attack,” Miss Connors said. “You fainted. I think you’d better scrap the idea of the premier and party,” Miss Connors told him.

“No...I feel fine now,” Nelson said, as he was helped up by Starke and the paramedics.

“We’re going back to the hotel,” Edith told him.

“You go ahead to the premier, Edith,” a familiar, if panting, voice said firmly. “I’ll stay with him. My place, I think.”

“You a relative?” one of the paramedics asked the ‘barbarian’ as if barbarians were normal citizenry around here, “We’d prefer to release Mr. Nelson to a relative.”

“I’m Lee Crane,” the barbarian said. “He’s my boss. And I can promise you he’ll be well taken care of.”

The paramedic considered, doubtful.

“I just got off a shoot at the studio. I’m not usually made up like this if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“That’s true,” Miss Connors said.

 “Don’t change your plans on account of me, Lee,” Nelson said, “What about Mabel...her cat...other ‘things’....” he added dangerously.

“Mabel cancelled. Seems her kitty upchucked a lizard it had eaten, and is okay now, but she’d rather stay home with the fur ball just the same. And you should rest.”

“How do I look, Lee?” Edith changed the subject. “Don’t you want to be my escort to the premier? One of your men can stay with Harry, or Starke....”

“I wouldn’t take you if your brother paid me to. I know what you told him. Joke or not, it was in very bad taste, what’s the matter with you anyway? You never used to be deliberately rude, like a spoiled brat.”

“How dare you speak to me like that! After all the times I’ve been so nice to you! And how the hell do you know what I said to Harry! You just got here!”

“I have my ways.”

Nelson wasn’t the only one of Crane’s colleagues to purse his lips regarding his special ‘abilities’.

“Oh,” Lee told Edith, “I’ll admit you look good in that dress. Darn good. But to quote Rhett Butler, ‘frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’. Sorry Miss Connors. I know that line’s from a different studio.”

“Chipee,” Edith said sweetly, “I’m sure Miss Connors won’t mind someone else to escort her, like Admiral Starke, all those ribbons and things, so how about you escorting me?”

“That’s being rather rude as well,” Lee said, “thinking you can just change everyone else’s plans and...”

“Oh shut up. It is okay, isn’t it, Miss Connors?”
“I’d be delighted if Admiral Starke accompanies me,” she answered graciously. She was used to the femme fatales she’d had to deal with at the studio, so she had practice.

“If you do escort Edith, Chip,” Lee said, “if any of you do,” he added for his crew’s sake, and including his friend Joe, “watch your zippers.”

“You ought to be boiled in oil!” Edith yelled at Lee.

“Actually, already was...special effects....”

“Ohh, can’t even think of the words I want to call you!”

“Captain’s fine.”

“Excuse me,” Crane’s cab driver asked as he entered the lobby, ‘you want me to wait any longer?”

“Come along, Harry,” Lee said steadying Nelson’s arm.

‘That’s right,” Edith said, “use him to run away and hide, Lee. But I promise you that even if I end up in Hell for it, if I ever have the chance, I’ll have my wicked way with you! And you’ll like it! And want more! Come along Chip. Let’s wait in the coming or not?”

“Remember what I warned you about,” Lee said as he and Nelson exited.

Morton acknowledged with a nod.

“Well, c’mon, everybody,” Miss Connors said, and all followed as Nelson and Crane’s cab drove off.


“I can walk by myself, Lee,” Nelson chided Lee when he was ‘helped’ out of the cab’s back seat upon their arrival to Lee’s hotel.

“Humor me. At least until we reach my room.”

“Damn it, Lee! I’m fine!”

“That’s why you’re still trembling? Do you really want me to have to interrupt Admiral Starke at the premier and tell him that I had to take you to the hospital for observation?”

“You know damn well, I don’t need a hospital.  And you’re only acting this way because you’re still angry with me about the technical advising and want to lord it over me.”

“Perhaps I should inform the SecNav.”

“Lee Crane, you wouldn’t dare!”

“We’re both Reservists and owe him full disclosure, don’t we?”

“When we’re back to Santa Barbara,” Nelson said, but not shaking off Lee’s hold on him, “we’re going to have a little talk, you and I.”

“Fair enough.”

“You do realize that everyone is staring at you.”

“Can’t be too unusual for Hollywood,” Lee said as he held on to Nelson a bit more firmly at the elevator.

Neither said anything once its doors opened and they entered.  


It wasn’t dark yet, but that made no difference to the press at the long awaited premier. A red carpet graced the curb and into the large theatre, velvet ropes keeping the un-ticketed public at bay and reporters trying to catch interviews with the rich and famous.

“Miss Connors?” one of the reporters asked, as every reporter in LA knew who she was, “is your escort for real or one of the actors?”

“He’s quite real. This is Admiral Starke, U.S. Navy, the commander of Submarines Pacific. Very high up there. The men are Reservists aboard the submarine Seaview. This is Officer O’Malley, California Highway Patrol, and Dr. Jenkins, Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and....”

“I’m Edith Nelson,” Edith interrupted, breaking loose of Morton’s arm. “Admiral Harriman Nelson is my brother. You’ve heard of him, I’m sure.” She did not introduce Chip.

 “We’re holding things up, dear,” Miss Connors told her.

“Well, bye,” Edith giggled and waved, then grabbed Morton’s arm and ‘pulled’ him along with her. Jenkins and Officer O’Malley together rolled their eyes upward, which was not lost on the press.


“I can take my jacket off by myself, you know,” Nelson complained from the edge of of the bed nearest the door, as Lee helped him.

“Feeling more comfy now?”

“I’m fine, damn it!”

“I think I’ll order up some nice warm milk....”

“Are you insane? Make it a scotch. A double.”

“I don’t think so....lie down,” Lee ordered. “It’ll help the blood flow to your brain and reduce the trembling.”

When Nelson didn’t, he began to push his boss down.

 “All right, all right. I’ll do it myself...there, happy?”

Then Lee began to unlace Nelson’s shoes.

 “A very long talk, Lee,” Nelson reminded him.

 Picking up the room’s phone on the other bedside end table, Lee waited to be connected to Guest Services.

“Room Service?” Lee finally asked. “Yes...a double Martini please. Three olives, a glass of milk, no make it Hot Chocolate. Thank you. Oh, and add a large order of French Fries. Plenty of ketchup.”

“Make that Hot Chocolate a Scotch!” Nelson roared.

“You heard him,” Lee said into the receiver, shaking his head, “but make that scotch extra, keep the Hot Chocolate...yes. Thank you.”

After Lee had  hung up, he moved back to Nelson’s bed, removed one of the pillows and placed it under his feet.

“Good God, Lee. Stop acting like my mother. You could have taken me to my own hotel, at least, and let me rest in peace.”

“You’re an ornery SOB at times, and I’m still angry with you, but I don’t think I’m ready for that quite yet.”

“I didn’t mean it like that and you know it!”

“You know,” Lee said, sitting down on the edge of Nelson’s bed, “I still can’t believe how Edith could change from a sweet girl into a sex crazed vixen. It’s like she’s had a brain transplant or something. She’s been rude to just about everyone and makes me feel like a prize bull.”

“I don’t know what’s gotten into her either....don’t you think you should remove that barbarian make-up and costume?”

“After Room Service gets here. Then I’ll go to your hotel and get some of your gear...PJ’s, toothbrush....”

“I didn’t say I was going to bunk here!”

“What if Edith decides to take Chip to your suite? Perhaps have her wicked way with him? One sweet little encouraging look from her and he’ll be sunk. You’d go ballistic, even if your suite has a second bedroom, kitchenette and all the amenities of a condo.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have my sources.”


“I’ll take that as a yes to the toothbrush and few other things?”

“What about Jackson and Morton? Aren’t they staying here with you?”

“If Chip can pull himself away from Edith’s clutches, we three  can toss for the other bed, maybe share it, with one of us taking the floor.  Probably Joe or me, we’re used to roughing it....”

“Don’t be absurd. Get another suite for them...or call for two roll away beds.... Since Fox is paying for your room, they might not mind the extra amenities...and you can always put in more time as a wannabe movie star.”

Lee snorted and  moved toward the big mirror over the dresser and began to pluck at his his fake eyebrows.

“Ow! Damn things are stuck tight.” Then Lee tugged on the left one it harder.  “Ow! Ow Ow!”

In Lee’s hand was the fake eyebrow. Along with what was left of his real one, the hairs mixed in with blood now dripping from the ripped skin.

“Damn it, you’re bleeding!”

“Like I don’t know that?” Lee said, irritated, and hurried to the bathroom, pulling washcloths from their decorative display into wads of makeshift bandages.

A knock at the door interrupted.

“Room Service!” a voice called out.

“In!” Lee yelled and the attendant used a master key to open the door and roll in the cart. “Thanks,” Lee said, emerging from the bathroom, holding the bloodstained wad over his dripping wound, and with his other hand grabbing the Martini and swallowed it down, then removing his ‘bandages’ poured what was left in his glass onto one of the washcloths, and pressed it against the dripping wound.

“Agghh!” Lee whooped, hopping around as if in the middle of a Native American war dance.

A thud greeted the occupants’ ears and some breaking crockery and cutlery.

“Oh shit,” Lee said of the prone waiter trying to revive him.

“You’re dripping all over him and the carpet,” Nelson said, getting off the bed and hurrying to the phone.

 “Front desk? We have a situation. Your Room Service attendant’s fainted, and Captain Crane’s bleeding. We need more washcloths and towels and Band Aids, the big kind. Hurry before Crane bleeds all over the carpet!” Nelson finished and slammed the receiver down and hurried over to pair. “How you doing, Lee?”

“Taking awhile for him to come around. Hope he didn’t hit his head.”

In minutes the door was unlocked by the night manager, and hotel security.

 “What happened?” the manager asked.

Before Nelson and Crane could answer, LAPD cops and  paramedics arrived.

“Oh gawd, not you again,” Nelson moaned as he recognized the same paramedics that had ‘treated’ him.

“Caught us on our dinner break...” one of the men explained.

One of the paramedics began to examine Lee while the other tended to the Room Service attendant.

“What the hell happened here?” the head cop asked Nelson. “They get into a fight or something?”  

“Just a little accident,” Lee said. “I was removing a fake eyebrow and my real one came off. With a little skin, I grant you, but it bled a lot...the man fainted and...that blood on him is mine. I couldn’t stop dripping on him...and the carpet.”

“Head wounds always bleed profusely,” Lee’s paramedic said. “Hard time stopping it...this is going to hurt...”he added applying an anti-coagulant to the tear. “Did you put something on this?”

“Vodka. Hey, it’s alcohol, isn’t it?”

Just then the downed man came to.

“Easy,” his paramedic said. “You’ll be okay...”

“He in some kind of cult or something?” the young man asked of Crane.

 “Part time actor. Didn’t have a chance to have his make up properly removed...tore his eyebrow off by accident....”

“I’ll head back to the kitchen and get a replacement order.”

“Absolutely not,” the manager said, “you go rest a bit in the employee’s lounge while I call someone to drive you home. If he’s cleared to, that is?” he asked the attending paramedic.

“He’ll be fine but I think that’s a reasonable precaution.”

“I’ll call downstairs for a new order,” the manager said checking the order pad on the rolling cart.

“Wait,” Lee’s paramedic said. “this one’s  going to need stitches.”

“Look, the bleeding’s stopped,” Lee said. “Can’t you at least let me wait until tomorrow after the studio removes all the stuff! Sure don’t want to bother them tonight, not that any of the Make Up artists can be called up this late.”

 “He’ll go with you to the ER,” Nelson said. “And that’s the end of it, Captain.”


“Admiral,” he corrected Lee. “I could call the SecNav to make it a military order, or better yet I can call the president,” Nelson smirked.

“You wouldn’t!” Lee said aghast.

“Want to put me to the test?”

“What studio was he working at?” the cop asked. “We can get in touch with whoever is in charge...maybe the bigwig can get Make-Up down to the hospital.”

“NIMR will cover the cost of replacing the broken crockery and damaged carpet,” Nelson told the manager.

“By the time you return from the ER,” the manager replied, “the room will be spic and span.”

 “Yes, yes,” Nelson said as he and Lee were escorted out by the LAPD’s team and turned toward his companion, “we’re going to have a very, very, VERY long talk, Lee.”


It was a boring movie, at least Chief Sharkey thought, so when an usher and two police officers walked down the aisle with a mini flashlight in hand, it was no skin off his nose. Until, that is, when they stopped alongside the aisle where Miss Connors was seated, and whispered to her.

“Miss Connors?” one of the cops said quietly, “A Captain Crane’s been hurt. He’s at the hospital and they’d rather you send your make-up artists to remove stuff before they stitch him up.”

“Oh gawd, oh gawd,” Riley moaned. “Now what?”

“Wouldn’t know, young man.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Morton said, rising with the others, worry etched on his face as Miss Connors’ party rose as quietly as they could and began to snake their way out from the rows and up the aisle.

“I’m a Doctor,” Dr. Jenkins told one of the cops. “you can tell me what’s wrong.”

“You’re a veterinarian!” Edith hissed. “You just want to go in and see Lee all naked.”

“Are those two for real?” one of the cops asked Morton.


Finally through the doors and into the lobby, the cops checked Dr. Jenkin’s ID.

“Ma’am, the other lady’s right. I don’t think the hospital would approve confidential information be released to you. But if it makes anyone feel any better, Mr. Crane was accompanied by his boss. Not that it made Mr. Crane feel any better for it for what we’ve been told. Seems to have been a bit of a tiff between them. And something about a little talk.”

“Oh gawd, oh gawd, oh gawd,” Riley wailed.


“Well, Mr. Crane,” Lee’s attending physician told him in the curtained examination cubicle, Nelson at his side,  as he stitched up the tear where Lee’s eyebrow used to be, “keep those stitches and bandage dry. See your primary care doctor asap. Good thing the studio was able to send their make-up artists over. Sorry you’ll have to borrow the scrubs. Can’t have you wandering the streets in that costume, and half naked. Now, remember, don’t scratch. I’ll have you released and the record faxed to that Dr. Jamison of NIMR.”

Lee moaned.

Nelson chuckled.

“It’s not funny,” Lee said. “He’ll revoke my leave!”

A nurse entered studying the patient report.

“Follow me to the nurse’s station,” the nurse told him, but stopped when she looked up at him.

Nelson had to pat her arm to bring her back down to earth.

“Er, this way,” she said, regretting having to tear her eyes away, this patient still gorgeous despite  his stitches crossing over where his left eyebrow used to be.


“Look,” Chip was complaining to the E.R.’s waiting room clerk, “We need to see him!”

“I told you it won’t be long. And none of you are listed as information contacts. Rules are rules.”

“What do you want us to do,” Jackson fumed, “call the president for permission?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“I’m Admiral Jiggs Starke, the commander of Submarines Pacific. This is Lt. Cdr. Morton of the Seaview. Your patient is Cdr. Crane, captain of the Seaview. Both men are in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Our commander-in-chief, the president, will not be happy to learn that you prevented his own XO from finding out just what the hell happened to the captain of the Seaview!”

“Don’t forget the Secretary of the Navy,” Jackson added.

Visitor’s badges were hastily prepared just as Nelson emerged from behind the closed doors.

“He’s fine,” Nelson told the assemblage gathering around him and headed towards one of the rows of waiting room chairs. “Will be out soon. Has to fill out something for the nurse’s station.”

“The poor dear,” Miss Connors said sadly.

“Will you go sit someplace else,” Edith told her as she searched her evening bag for something. “My allergies are bad enough without all that perfume you’re wearing.”

The bottle of pills dropped to the floor and gentlemen that they were, the crewmen dashed to Miss Edith’s rescue. Ski was first ‘on the scene’ and retrieved it. He was about to return the bottle to her, but stopped, studying it.

“You know the FDA banned this, don’t you?” he asked her.

“What are you talking about? Best antihistamine I’ve ever had.”

Nelson took it from Ski. “Why, Ski, why was it banned?”

“All I know is that Doc had to have the Med Bay’s entire supply tossed out under orders from the FDA. That was some time ago, sir.”

“Edith, where did you buy this?”

“Paris, of course. A couple of days before I returned and you came to visit in Boson. Even if I’d known it was banned here, which I didn’t, it wasn’t there...oh, God....” she squealed, and ran to embrace Lee, who had just emerged and smothered him with kisses. On his cheek, on his neck, down  his v-neck scrub.

Lee pushed her away, disgusted and exasperated and pointed towards the seats. “Sit, stay!” he ordered.

“How dare you! How dare you say that to me as if I were a dog!”

“Because, my dear,” Lee said wearily, “lately, you’ve been acting like a bitch in heat!”

“Did you know,” she said as she launched herself back into his arms, “you’re even more attractive when you’re forceful... so sexy.”

“I’m sorry I compared you to a canine,” Lee said, removing her hands yet again, this time holding both secure in his. “Just stop treating  me like a prize bull!”

“A dumpy old bull? You’re a wild stallion...a centaur...a....”

“Joe?” Lee pleaded.

“Sorry, bro. She’s your problem.”

“Oh good grief,” Officer O’Malley grabbed Edith’s hands and began to pull her away, “cease and desist already.”

“You can’t tell me what to do!”

“Watch me. Besides, I’m a cop!”

“You just want him for yourself. Even the old bat with the cat probably wanted some action and...”

“Doctor?” Nelson asked Lee’s attending physician who had come out, “What can you tell me about these pills? Edith only just started them. Bought them in Europe...”

The Dr. frowned as he took the bottle and read the label. “Oh, it’s a good antihistamine. One of the best, but that’s as far as it goes. Was banned by the FDA for severe side effects. Most victims, once weaned from this antihistamine had no lasting adverse effects. However, a small percentage had permanent damage in that they retained their behavioral changes...”

“Behavioral changes?” Lee asked, as Chief Sharkey and his men planted themselves in front of him. He needed protection from Edith Nelson, the boss’s sister or not.

“In some cases,” the Dr. continued, “this chemical mix caused mood swings, suicidal thoughts and in the cases of pubescent boys and ovulating females, increased hormonal imbalances and increased sexual urges. Often to the point of complete loss of control, even rape by both genders.”

“Oh,” Edith crooned, “how’d I ever like to have my wicked way with you, Lee. Tie you to the bed and....”

“Down, girl,” Dr. Jenkins said, as O’Malley waved the handcuffs in front of Edith for effect.

“Keep your distance, Edith,” O’Malley ordered, as she pushed her into a chair, “or else I’ll have to use these on you.”

“So, Doc,” Lee said, flushed, “these pills turned her into a brazen hussy?”
“Possibly, but not knowing her history with you, can’t really say. But if you are her idea of ‘forbidden fruit’, her sexual instincts may have been substantially increased.

“Is there an antidote?” Nelson asked.

“Some anti depression medications have been helpful, they can’t be trusted. I’m afraid she’ll just have to wait for the symptoms to be flushed out of her system. I’d say in about  thirty to sixty hours. Someone should stay with her to prevent her from acting upon any obsessive compulsions.”

“Another couple of days till she’s her old self again?” Lee moaned, “What about the rudeness? Will that go away by then too?”

“Most victims return to normal by then, however, not all. Some victims have lingering side effects. Duration varies. Sorry I can’t be of more help.”

“I hate to break things up here, Dr.,” one of the E.R.’s security guards interrupted, “but they’re  all taking up a lot of room here.”

“Nobody else is here, you moron,” Officer O’Malley said. 

“There’s been a multi vehicle accident...lots of folks expected.”

“I’ll call a cab and take Edith to my hotel,” Nelson said.
“But sir,” Riley said, “What’s, like, going to stop her from trying to jump out of the cab, or even from the hotel room in the attempt to go find and ravish the skipper?”

 “I’d be happy to host Edith at my penthouse,” Miss Connors said. “It has a very nice guest suite and security.”

“May I accompany you, Miss Connors?” O’Malley asked, dangling her handcuffs.

“Hold it, everyone,” Lee interrupted. “I may regret this...Doc, you sure about that ‘forbidden fruit’ stuff?”

“Allowing access to it, could conceivably lessen the symptoms.”

“All right,” Lee said and pulled Edith up off the chair and kissed her. On the lips.

For a moment Edith was delighted, but unexpectedly, except perhaps to Lee, pushed herself away, aghast. “Eeeyyoooo!’s like kissing my brother!”

“But,” she suddenly added, “you’re ever so much prettier than Harry, so it’s okay, lover boy.”

 “Damn,” Lee sighed, as he pushed her away,  “I hoped giving you a little of what you can’t have might break the spell. But I guess that doesn’t work yet. I wonder if going all the way could work....”

“Absolutely not!” Nelson said.

“You’re turning red, Harriman,” Starke told Nelson.

Nelson ignored him and grabbed Lee’s arms, “Don’t you dare take advantage of her like that! And you Missy,” he added toward Edith, “don’t you dare take advantage of him either!”

“What’s it to you, old man?” an orderly asked.

“I’m her big brother, that’s what it is to me! And I’m...”

“It’s nobody’s business!” Edith yelled. “Not even yours, Harry! It’s Lee’s decision to take me. And mine! And oh, how I want him to...”

“Doc!” Starke called, “Over here! Harriman’s turning purple!”

With a sad look toward Nelson as the Dr. checked him out, Lee returned his attention to Edith and knelt before her, taking her hands.

“Edie, I’ll make a deal with you. If you, after the blasted med is out of your system, if you’ll still want to do what you want to do now, I won’t fight it.”

“Skipper, you can’t!” Riley whined. “You’ll, like, you’ll both go to hell! It’s a sin. A bad sin if you’re not married! I know about these things. I went to Sunday School....”

“Shut up you idiot,” Ski hissed, pulling Riley away, “It’s none of your business. Besides,” he whispered, “can’t you see it’s just a stopgap measure to keep her from jumping all over him till the med wears off?”

“Oh,” the youngster said hopeful Ski was right.

Nelson, oxygen mask over his nose and mouth as the Dr. and orderlies restrained him, almost wondered the same thing. The big brother in Nelson abhorred the idea of any union without benefit of clergy. He was still old fashioned enough to almost believe his own Sunday School lessons of decades ago....

“You think you can keep your hands to yourself that long, cuddlekins?” Edith asked Lee.

“Yes, and you will too. I mean it. No running your hands through my hair, no pawing me, no kissing me, until we have irrefutable medical proof that you’re no longer under the influence of that drug and then, if you still feel the same way....”

“I don’t know if I can wait that long!” she whined. “I want to take you to bed right now! Rip your clothes my hands all over you...take pictures and videos of us in the throes of passion....”

The doctor adjusted the oxygen tank to full as Nelson struggled against the grossness  of her words.

“Listen to me, Edie,” Lee continued, “Any passion even later on, would be yours and yours alone. I don’t love you. I’m hoping you’ll see that and that you won’t have any lingering feelings that were induced by this drug. I’m hoping that we won’t even get to the level of intimacy you think you want right now.”

“But you promise to ravish me? Let me ravish you? Even if you don’t love me? I don’t mind...”

“If you still want it once the drug’s cleared your system, okay, but the sex between us will only be a one time  action on my part in the hopes of curing you of your obsession. Understood?”

“I won’t care if you write it up in a scientific journal! You’ll be all mine. If only for one time. All mine!”

“Now. I’ve made a promise to you. I want you to make one to me. Think you can do that?”

“Anything! Anything to be one with you!”

“Easy, Harriman,” Starke whispered as Nelson was practically foaming at the mouth under the oxygen mask.

“Promise me,” Lee was telling Edith, “that you’ll do whatever Harry tells you to do on the way back to Santa Barbara. Then you’re going aboard Seaview to Sick Bay where Doc Jamison will put you into the isolation ward until he can clear you of the drug. That’s for your own and everyone’s protection.  The boat won’t be going anywhere.  Can you do that for me?”

“Anything to get you into bed with me.”

“Promise me. Say it.”

“I promise sweetheart.”

“Officer O’Malley?” Lee asked. “Can I impose on you to give Harry charge of your handcuffs?”

“I’ll do better than that. I’ll go along with Admiral Nelson and Edith to Santa Barbara. I’m sure CHP’s will authorize it.”

“Now, wait a minute,” the doctor said “Mr. Nelson is still in medical distress. He can’t make any decisions and...”

“He got over his earlier panic attack soon enough,” Crane said. “Let him go as soon as he’s breathing easier. I’ll arrange a commuter flight for the Nelsons and party. You too, Admiral Starke if you wish. Miss Connors, after I’ve completed enough gigs to pay Fox back, I’ll check NIMR scheduling for you and Mabel to come for lunch aboard Seaview. I’d really like to show her off to you.”

“A pleasure, Captain.”

Nelson, still under the mask, wanted to say something, but a look from Lee made him think the better of it. At least for here and now.

The number of little talks he was going to have with Lee had increased yet again. How dare he invite anyone aboard without permission. It was Nelson’s submarine, not his. And Lee had been calling him Harry a bit too much. Not that Nelson minded, but he still believed in the decorum between superior and subordinate in public. Even Jiggs had winced at Lee’s ‘Harry’, and such familiarity could cause tongues to wag about Crane’s insubordination.

But it was Lee’s agreement to have sex with Edith if she still wanted it later on that made him want to throttle him to the ground in spite of the hope of a last ditch cure of her obsession.

* **

Edith didn’t make a fuss as two cabs approached the exit. One for Nelson, Edith, Dr. Jenkins, and Officer O’Malley, and one for Crane. Mini vans  had been summoned for everyone else.

“You’ll live,” the doctor finally told Nelson, his pulse, pressure, and skin tone normal, “But please, Mr. Nelson, the next time you get excited, please try to take deep slow breaths before things get out of hand.”

“With Lee always getting himself into trouble, impossible.”

“With me, Joe,” Lee ordered, not amused with Nelson’s statement and the two disappeared.

“Jiggs,” Nelson sighed, “You’re welcome to come along with me back to Santa Barbara.”


“I realize,” Miss Connors told Morton’s group, “that most of you just want to go home now, but I do hope you’ll all decide to come to the premier party. Hot crab dip, champagne and the like that I’m sure you don’t get to enjoy very often.”

“But what if the skipper needs us?” Riley asked.

“How often do you sailors get to go to a Hollywood party? I’m sure the captain would want you to enjoy themselves.”

It was a no win situation. On one hand, Crane’s crew wanted to be at their captain’s beck and call. On the other, that fancy party sure sounded nice.

“Up to you, men,” Morton told them. “But, how often do we get hot crab dip?”

“Wouldn’t know, sir,” Sharkey said.

“See? It’ll be an experience you won’t soon forget.  Besides, if the skipper needs us, he’ll get in touch.”

“Since when, sir?” Riley asked.

“Well, I can’t force you to go to the party. But keep in mind Lt. Cdr. Jackson’s with the skipper.”

“Yeah,” Ski said. “And  he’s mind,” he stopped himself in time from revealing to Miss Connors Crane’s friend was a spook buddy. C’mon guys, let’s go.”

Tomorrow could take care of itself.


 “Want a brew, Lee?” Joe asked once they were in Lee’s hotel room and began to search around, “surprised you don’t have a fridge in here.”

Lee sat down on the bed nearest the phone and picked it up as he leaned wearily against the bedrest.

“You okay, Lee?”

“I’m fine. Just a bit tired. I’m going to hit the hay. No brew for me, but you can call for one.”

“Room Service? Never mind,” Joe said and hung up. “Wasn’t there something you wanted to speak to me about?”

“It can wait,” Lee closed his eyes.

“Mind if I go to the party, then?”

“Have a good time.”

“Well, goodnight Lee. Sleep tight. I’ll try not to wake you when I get back. That is, if Chip and I are still bunking with you tonight? Who gets dibs on the other  bed?”

“Toss for it, or double don’t have to bunk here, either of you, if you’d rather not.”

“Have a good time at the party,” Lee said, his eyes still closed.


Hours later, Nelson, Starke, Officer O’Malley, Dr. Jenkins, and Edith wearily boarded the Seaview while the evening security watch looked on curiously.

All NIMR employees knew about the boss’s sister. The bone fide heiress often donated her time and funds to many charitable causes. She was also a good friend of the present First Lady and had often been a guest of the First Family.

Not a beauty, she was pleasant enough to look at. Especially in her evening gown. Word was that she required medical assistance and Doc, recalled from his leave as well as two of his corpsmen, were waiting.

“I’m fine,” Edith complained, shirking off Jamison’s arm, “I sure could use a drink, Harry.”

“Now’s not the time. Go along to Sick Bay, dear,” he told her. “I’ll be by in a little while. O’Brien? Have Officer O’Malley’s and Dr. Jenkins things been delivered yet?”

“Yes sir, their friends at CHP’s and the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife put together some clothes and toiletries for them. Arrived a few minutes ago from the branch offices. Their cabins are ready. Admiral Starke’s and your and Miss Nelson’s things are being loaded via the aft topside hatch.”

 “I don’t know about you, Harriman,” Starke said, “but that drink idea did sound good.”

“You know where Crewman Walker lives. You’re welcome to make the crewman’s acquaintance as well, Officer O’Malley, Dr. Jenkins.”

“I think I’d rather join Edith in Sick Bay,” Dr. Jenkins said.

“Very well. Have someone escort her aft, O’Brien.”


In minutes Rathbone extended his arm to the lady.

“I think I’ll join you,” O’Malley said and in minutes the ladies and their escort had disappeared.

“About the skipper,” O’Brien said, “...was it a mission accomplished?”

All available ears were on full alert.

Nelson hesitated as he really wanted to put a halt to the widespread fear of an undercover assignment. In the end, however, he firmly said, “Affirmative....but,” he added for effect, “the skipper was briefly admitted to a hospital for an injury. He’s been released.”

Surprised he’d been able to lie so easily about a ‘camping trip’, Nelson was satisfied that at least the hospital bit was factual and nobody would question it. The skipper was always getting himself hurt on assignment, wasn’t he?


 “I put her on dialysis to speed things up,” Doc said as Nelson entered Sick Bay. Edith had changed into scrubs for the treatment, and secured in the isolation ward.

 “How are you feeling, sweetie?” Nelson asked her, as he put his hands on the cell’s bars.

 “Where’s Lee? Oh gawd, I want him so bad, it hurts! I want him all gloriously naked and making love to me, right now. Here even!”

 “You’re still suffering from medical side effects about the captain,” Dr. Jenkins said. She’d already changed into comfortable sweater and slacks. O’Malley was still in her evening gown, but her handcuffs dangled from her hands.

“Stop with all the crap you’ve been telling me. You both want him for yourselves!”

“Listen, sweetie,” Nelson said, deciding to take another plunge into deceit, “any bedroom frolics with him would be illegal. You and he could be arrested...for incest.”

“Incest?” the women asked, confused and appalled.

“Lee doesn’t have one drop of Nelson blood in him,” Edith said.

“You already know he’s been like a brother to me, even a son. Same thing as being a Nelson, isn’t it?”

“Doesn’t make him one.”

“And what’s worse, sex with him would almost be as if you were having it with me.”

“Eeeyoooo! You’re disgusting! How can you even think such a thing!”

“You won’t be able to keep yourself from thinking it, and of course, I’d have to fire him.”

“Fire him?” O’Malley asked.

“Naturally. How could I possibly face him, work with him, knowing the two people I love most in the world had  been Why, even the crew would find it difficult to respect their captain. In fact, they might willfully disobey his orders and we could find ourselves lying dead at the bottom of the sea....”

 “You’re making this all up!” Edith yelled.

“He has a point,” O’Malley began, trying very hard to look as if she didn’t know exactly what Nelson was trying to do. “I’ve had to make arrests myself in similar cases...horrible situations. Incest is a felony. Usually means jail time. Varies by state as to how long. Sometimes years. Then there are those heavy fines...”

“It would be worth it to be one with Lee. And you’re talking about bone fide cases, not Harry’s stupid assumption of them being almost related. Would never hold up in court.”

“Still,” Nelson said, “you really need to consider the possible consequences. I’m sure the press might think of it as almost incest.”

“Oh gawd~” she groaned and began to throw up.

“I’ll take care of her, Doc,” Frank said, unlocking the cell, and carrying in a plastic bucket to leave by  the bedside, and cleaned up the mess.

“Admiral?” O’Malley whispered to Nelson, as she sidled up to him. “Ever think of becoming a shrink? All that reverse psychology...think it will really work?”

“It should,” Doc said el sotto. “The drug’ withdrawal can increase the power of negative persuasion. At least she might be able to sleep without constantly thinking about ravishing the captain. Officer O’Malley, Dr. Jenkins, thank you for deciding to stay the night. It’ll be good for her to have women to vent to.”

“Admiral?” O’Malley asked, “You wouldn’t fire the captain would you? If he...well, if has to keep his promise to her...”

“God, no. Crane’s the best damn captain out there, despite a few differences between us, especially now. I just hope the idea of incest might get Edith over her obsession quicker than the dialysis does. I’ll be in my cabin, Will. Goodnight. By the way, if ladies would both like a nightcap help yourselves in the nose.”


It was after 0945 the next day when Nelson, showered, shaved, and in uniform, entered the Wardroom. He wasn’t surprised to see Officer Dudley and Dr. Jenkins there.

“Admiral, I’ve been wondering,” Officer O’Malley asked, “is it true that Crane first joined the Navy because women liked the uniform? None of my business, of course.”

“Well,” Nelson chucked as he poured himself a cup of coffee and sat on a chair opposite her, “I do know for a fact that he was determined to become a sub driver the first time he saw a submarine. Was just a kid at the time, he told me. A sub was beached off Cape Cod and the little scamp purloined his father’s sailboat to go investigate. Lee actually rendered his ‘services’, and received an up close personal tour of the boat by the captain and crew. Even had a turn with the periscope. He was having a great time. Until the Coast Guard pulled up and insisted he return to shore to face his irate mother who’d put in a ‘missing juvenile’ report. And what did she tell him once Coast Guard delivered him, towing the sailboat behind them?  “Wait till your father gets home!”

Everyone listening in laughed.

“Whatever the punishment his new adoptive parents gave him, it didn’t alter the fact that he continued to dream of becoming the ‘best damn submarine captain’ in the Navy. And I’m glad to say he actually fulfilled his dream.”

“Adoptive parents?” Jenkins asked.

“Yes, but that’s another story...”

“Admiral,” Doc interrupted, entering the Wardroom, “I need to talk to you.”

“Officer O’Malley and Dr. Jenkins are part of this, Will.”

“Very well,” Doc said, sitting down with them. “I thought treating Miss Nelson through dialysis was for the best. But something went wrong. She’s developed Selective Amnesia and...”

“Selective Amnesia?” O’Malley asked.

“She doesn’t remember anything about how she behaved in Hollywood or even here last night. That amnesia has allowed her sub-conscious to over compensate. Instead of remembering recent events which would allow her the necessary and healthy embarrassment of how she behaved, she’s developed an absolute reversal in her regard for Captain Crane, individually, and as a member of the male gender as well. Even that girlhood crush you said she’d had on him years ago when he was an ensign you brought home for Christmas dinner has completely vanished.

“If I’d simply let her be purged naturally...she’d not only remember things, she wouldn’t have any unreasoning hatred toward the skipper now. I’ve tried to explain what happened, but she won’t believe anything I’ve said. She can’t even tell me why she despises him only that she does.”

Just then Edith, in jeans, sweater, and sneakers, intruded.  “Where is he, Harry?” Edith demanded, “Where’s that SOB, your number one son?” she added, selecting an already toasted slice of bread. Will took the butter knife out of her hand.

“I’ll butter it for you,” he said..

“What do you think I was going to do, you quack, cut off his balls? Not that removing some of that macho testosterone wouldn’t be a bad idea. Cheech, he thinks he’s God’s gift to women....s”

“Sweetheart,” Nelson said, ever so gently, rising to join her at the counter, “Lee didn’t suggest or try anything with you. You were the one who wanted to ravish him, not the other way around, remember?”

“I heard enough of that gobbledygook from Doc!” Edith muttered, “Lee’s a dog! A primal filthy dog!  Don’t either of you try to tell me otherwise! I can’t abide the thought of being anywhere near him! I want peanut butter and jelly as well, Doc!”

 “Well,” O’Malley said, “you don’t have to worry about the captain right now. He’s not back from Hollywood, yet.”

“Good! Who the hell are you?” she asked.

“You don’t remember us?”

“These are Officers O’Malley and Dr. Jenkins, veterinarian,” Doc added for clarification. “They were with you in Hollywood.”

“Hollywood? What the hell?”

“Admiral Nelson?” the duty Sparks called over the PA. “Security says that Miss Nelson’s cab is here.”

“Cab?” Nelson asked.

“Yes, I called for one,” Edith said. “Tell it to wait. I have a few things left to pack.”

“You’re not thinking clearly right now,” Nelson told her. “You’re under the influence of a medical treatment gone awry and....”

“There’s nothing more I can do,” Will interrupted, “I can’t hold her here, ethically speaking.”

“The sooner I get away from you,” Edith told Nelson, “and from anyone and anything that reminds me of Lee, the better....”

“But you like Lee, really you do.”

“The hell I do!” Edith answered sarcastically. “I’m going away and you can’t stop me!”

 “Miss Nelson?” O’Malley said with a surreptitious look toward Doc and Nelson, “I just love traveling! Mind if I tag along? Where do you planning to go?”

“Whatever flight can get me out of California the soonest. And I don’t need any company.”

“I understand,” Dr. Jenkins said, “but it would be nicer to have some traveling companions...”

“You want to go along, too?” Nelson asked.

“I’ve been just itching for a vacation. By the way, Dr. Jamison, can we have some motion sickness medicine? You know that stuff I saw in the purple bottle on the shelf in your office?”

 “Of course,” Will told her after a moment.

“Good idea,” Nelson said, knowing full well the purple bottle contained the sedative Will had had to use on occasion when Crane was a patient.

“This toast is stale,” Edith said, spraying a few crumbs, “You’re so cheap, Harry. I bet this bread’s use by date was last week.”

“Sorry. Well, I’ll miss you. But I’m glad you’ll have some friends along for your trip.”

“They’re not my friends! But I can’t stop them from taking the same flight, whatever it is. I’m going to pack up the rest of my stuff, not that there’s much anyone unpacked for me when I was dumped in Sick Bay.”

“It’ll take us a minute as well,” O’Malley said, as she and Dr. Jenkins followed her out of the Wardroom.

 “Call me wherever you plan to go,” Nelson called out after them. “And when you get there.”

 “Stop treating me like a child! Cheech, just because you’re my big brother,” Edith hissed.


“Are you sure she’s in no danger?” Nelson asked Will as they waved goodbye to the women from the deck, security leading the cab away.

“As I told you after she left the Wardroom, she’s just angry toward Lee and the male of the species, though there’s no reason. I hope the bottle of sedative will pass for Dramamine if Officer O’Malley and Dr. Jenkins need to use it on her. And O’Malley has her cuffs in her purse...Admiral, I’m really sorry about my malpractice. I was positive the dialysis would work as it’ll have my resignation this afternoon.”

“Denied. You did your best. Where the devil is Crane? I’d have thought he’d be here by now.”

 “Perhaps Miss Connors invited all of her last night’s guests to breakfast, or maybe the skipper got himself a few extra gigs. I wouldn’t worry about him, sir. He’s bound to be missing Seaview too much to stay out there much longer no matter his financial situation. And I doubt he wants to become a movie star.”

“I’ll be in admin,” Nelson said as the two men made their way down the gangplank.


Nelson’s outer office was crowded with primarily female staff, hovering over Angie’s stack of 8X10 photos, faxed over from Twentieth Century Fox. Some were from the studio’s security captures, others from their Human Resources Dept.  

“I think this one’s the best,” Catherine said holding up the cam image of Lee as a gladiator.

“They must have shaved his chest,” Lola sighed, disappointed.

 “If you want more body hair,” Angie said, “how about this one?  What is he, anyway, a wild barbarian?”

Suddenly Catherine almost swooned.

The women crowded around her to examine the publicity shot that included Lee relaxing with his fellow gladiators and Roman citizenry in the steamy baths.

“Is he wearing anything under that towel?” Lola asked, giggling.

“Of course, or the censors would have shut the film down...though, one can only wish the picture was more realistic.”

“Well,” Catherine said, “I think that little wet towel only emphases things.”

More giggles all around.

“Good morning,” Nelson said deciding to interrupt up the hen party. “Any messages?”

“Mr. Morton called from a gas station,” Angie said, as Lola took charge of the stack of photos, embarrassed. “He  said he, Chief Sharkey, Patterson, Kowalski, and Riley should be here within the hour.”

“Very well. Have him join me when he arrives.”

“Yes, sir,” both Angie and Catherine replied in unison.

“Just who are those photo’s for?”

“To Commander Crane, sir,” Angie said. “Guess it’s an employee perk.”

 “Then I suggest Miss Hale, that you turn them over to Catherine who will put them in a manila envelope and file them for the commander to pick up when he gets here.”

“Yes, sir,” she complied, with regret. “When should he be arriving?”

“You tell me,” Nelson said, somewhat aggravated as he retreated to his office and closed the door. Damn it, his staff were supposed to be professionals, not acting like love struck teenagers over a matinée idol! Then it struck him, there weren’t really matinee idols anymore were there? Just movie stars. Popular movie stars...and while Lee had only been an extra and sometime stunt man, he certainly was good looking enough to be signed  to the Screen Actor’s Guild.


Nelson was looking out of his large office window overlooking the bay when Angie announced via the intercom that Mr. Morton’s party had arrived, as well as Admiral Starke and Lt. Cdr. Jackson.

Nelson punched the intercom. “Have them all come in right away. And get Jamison over here too. Also, have Officer O’Malley paged at LAX.”

“Right away sir.”


Morton’s party had only just arrived when Admiral Starke rushed in, flushed, and furious, followed by his aide.

 “Harriman?” Starke boomed as he rushed into Nelson’s office, “What the devil is Lee up to now?”

“I don’t understand.”

“He’s gone,” Joe said, “I won the toss for his room’s extra bed, and Chip got himself a private room, but when I woke up in the room this morning, Lee’s stuff was cleared out and so was he. The front desk said he’d called for a cab about 0415 and checked out. I called the studio and they hadn’t seen him. I called Chip right away...”

“We tried everything to try to find him,” Chip said, “nothing.”

“Then,” Joe said, “I found a note he’d left in the dresser where I’d put my socks. It said. “I’m sorry.” That’s all. Here it is,” he added, handing it to Nelson.

“I checked with ONI as soon as the boys informed me,” Starke said, “but nothing. Tell him the rest, Jackson.”

“Sir, I’m scared. He was too quiet yesterday. I think something’s been bugging him. Other than what’s going on with you, that is. His eyes looked haunted to me. And then that kafuffle with your sister...”

 “Damn it, Harriman,” Starke fumed, “he’s captain of the Seaview! He’s always supposed to leave emergency contact info with somebody, isn’t he? No message with NIMR. No message with the Navy. No message even with his best buds Morton and Jackson! The president is livid and... ”

“You called the president?”

“Wanted to save you the trouble.”

“The skipper,” Ski said, “he couldn’t be court martialed for something like that, could he?”

“As a Naval Reserve officer on call 24/7, I’m afraid it’s very possible. What’s the matter with him, Harriman? He hasn’t been himself lately and....”

Feminine giggles from the outer office interrupted.

“Never mind the frivolity,” Nelson said. “It seems Fox faxed Lee some official studio souvenir shots. Angie?” he said into the intercom. “I thought I ordered those pictures to Crane’s office.”

“Oh, we did,” Catherine said. “We were just looking at the latest Chippendale’s magazine that Lola brought with her.”

“Chippendales? What the heck’s that?”

“Harriman, are you dense?” Starke asked him. “It’s an erotic male stripper’s organization. They...strut around on stage and women put money in their G-strings...don’t look at me like that. I had to put one of the women under my command on report for conduct unbecoming. She’d a gotten a bit carried away, pulled the damn G-string right off one of the stars...but the guy said it was an accident. So I had to dismiss the charges, and she hadn’t been in uniform...still, her career was ruined.”

“Get in here!” Nelson demanded over the intercom, “All of you.”

 “It’s just a magazine, sir,” Angie said holding on to it defensively.

“I’ve been informed. And I can’t tell you not to peruse this sort of thing but not when you’re on the clock and...what is it, Jiggs...”

“My God, Harriman! Is that little picture of Crane on the bottom of the cover?”

Nelson grabbed the magazine out of Angie’s hand.

“He posed for God, it says see inside for contest winner entry!  He posed...posed for....”he stumbled over his words as he opened the magazine to the listed page number, where Lee was exposed in all his glory except for a fluffy white cat hiding his essentials.

“That’s not the skipper,” Ski said. “Trust me, Admiral.  I’ve helped Doc with him enough. That’s his face, all right, but it’s sure as hell not his body.”

“Of course it’s not Lee,” Lola said. “He doesn’t know anything about it. They had a contest about our fantasy guys. Instead of just a paragraph, I glued a head shot onto a layout of Burt Reynolds from Cosmopolitan, airbrushed it, then re-photographed it. I listed him ‘Anonymous’ and myself as L.H. You...You’re not going to tell him, are you? It was just a joke for us girls...”

“You honestly think he won’t find out? Perhaps already has?”

“Harriman, you think this is why he may have gone to ground?”

“What?” Lola asked.
“Crane’s missing. Not a word to us or the Navy. And it’s all your fault, embarrassing him like that, young lady!”

“Easy, Jiggs. A man like Crane wouldn’t let any personal embarrassment keep him from his duty to NIMR or the Navy. Remember we’d had words...and not just once....”
“Excuse me, sir,” an underling, someone whose name Nelson couldn’t remember, said, entering, holding a printout. “LAX security called. They found Captain Crane.”

“Well? Where is he?”

"Took a flight to Alaska.”

“Alaska?” Nelson asked, incredulous.

“Yes, sir, Ketchikan.”

“Ketchikan?” Starke said. “Damn! ONI’s played us for fools. He’s been drafted to SEAFAC! The Navy wants him back!”

“Don’t jump to conclusions,” Nelson warned. “Perhaps he just wants to visit the base.”

“You really think so? You had words, Harriman....”

“I know things have been a little rough between us...but surely he wouldn’t request active duty...has the flight arrived in Ketchikan, yet, sailor?” Nelson asked the messenger.

“The flight landed about ten minutes ago, sir.”

“Very well. Dismissed. Angie, get the airport security,” Nelson said.

“Right away, sir,” Angie replied and motioned Lola and Catherine to join her in the outer office.

 “Excuse me, sir,” Sharkey said, “but what’s SEAFAC?”

“Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility,” Nelson said. “A sub base where they test top secret systems, software, etc. Attack subs and boomers.”

“And they’re ideally located for any covert operations in the territorial waters of two of our most dangerous enemies....”

“Oh gawd, the skip’s like, gonna’, go spy on the Reds or the Ruskies?” Riley asked.

“Let’s not jump to conclusions, Lad. His visit to Alaska might be something totally innocent, and he might not be going to SEAFAC at all.’

“Excuse me, sir,” Angie called though the intercom, “Still waiting for Ketchikan airport security. Also, LAX doesn’t have Officer O’Malley, Dr. Jenkins, or Edith Nelson on any of the airline passenger lists. Maybe Miss Nelson changed her mind or they went shopping first....”

“Very well. While we’re waiting for Ketchikan airport security, get me SEAFAC. The base commander, Admiral Edwin Pryor, if I remember correctly, but if he’s not available, get the operations commander, Captain Reynolds. Tell them I have Clearance Alpha Ten.”

“Right away.”


The connection to SEAFAC was grainy at best as Nelson’s new videophone came to life.

“Tell Cdr. Crane to get his butt to the phone!” Starke yelled over Nelson’s shoulder.

“Easy, Jiggs,” Nelson warned, “Admiral Pryor, I’m Harriman Nelson. Please excuse Jiggs, but we really need to speak with Lee,”

“Lee Crane? As in Seaview’s captain? What the hell would he be doing here? Nobody tells me anything,” Pryor sighed. “Balter?” he called out to a pretty blonde Lt. “Check with security to see if and when a  Cdr. Crane arrived. That’s Cdr. Lee Crane. Current posting SSRN Seaview.”

“Did you say Cdr. Crane? Oh gawd....”

“What’s the matter, Lt.?”

“Sorry’s just that he’s so dreamy...and to think he’s here....”

“We don’t know if he, hurry up with that call...Good God, keep your wits about you.”

“Sir,” she replied and hurried over to a multi buttoned phone. “This is command. Did Cdr. Lee Crane check in? No I don’t know when...uh one with the name reporting today, yesterday, or the day before....yes, thank you. Sorry, sir. He’s a no show.”

“Damn,” Starke muttered. “Why on earth would he get a flight to Ketchikan if it wasn’t to visit SEAFAC?”

“Pryor,” Nelson said coolly. “You don’t have to pull the wool over our eyes if he’s on a Black Ops with you....”

“So the rumors about him being a spook are true? Well, I’m sorry, but he sure as hell hasn’t reported here for anything...wait, Lt. Cdr. Amarok’s based here. Often talks about Cdr. Crane. I believe they’re friends. Amarok just took leave...rather sudden...has family in Nome and Broken Claw...said he was going Ice Fishing. Perhaps Crane planned to join him. No roads to or from Nome, just a few city only roads. Alaska Airlines, Bering Air, and private aircraft rentals take care of getting to and from Nome. I’ll have my aide check to see if Amarok and Crane’s names are on any of the manifests. By the way, Amarok has a private pilot’s license.”

“So does Crane,” Starke said as Pryor had his aide get busy contacting the airlines.

“Good time of year for ice fishing,” Pryor continued, “Not too brutal during transitional seasons. And the increasing daylight hours are good for sportsmen. There’s barely three or four hours of darkness in Nome right now, but you can still see the Northern Lights at that time. Nome is only about two hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle. More snow and ice there than we have this time of year, not that it would bother Amarok. He’s an Eskimo, or rather Alaska Native as they like to be called now. Was very pleased to be assigned so close to home.

“Given name’s Tarrack. Means Shadow and Amarok means Wolf, though he’s usually referred to as ‘Wolfie’ by his friends.  His family’s ancestry is a mixture of various Arctic and sub-Arctic tribes, American, Canadian, and even Russian. They formed their own tribe that was registered by the state of Alaska in the attempt to preserve some of the northern Native American traditions.

“His parents live in Nome, but the extended family, including the matriarch who’s a kind of a medicine woman or shaman, live further north in a small hunting and fishing community called Broken Claw. Its  only claim to fame, if even, is a town cooperative trading post. 

 “Some of the tribal elders, including the Amarok ‘Granny’ still go on  bi-annual expeditions further north, to secure  favor with their spirit guides.  The family was barely out of the stone-age until about sixty years ago. In fact they still prefer to use bows and arrows for hunting. They also keep  herds of reindeer as beasts of burden and for meat once the animals have outlived their usefulness.

“Recently, thanks to some modernization, the cooperative rents out their domesticated reindeer for sleigh rides and dogs for wannabe mushers.  Way past the finish line for the Iditarod in Nome, more folks are learning about the Native Alaskan communities further north, like Broken Claw. Some of these isolated community inhabitants have begun to  rent out rooms for those adventurous visitors.

“Well, I’ve certainly gone off topic. Tell me, Admiral Nelson, is it true that Crane pats Seaview’s bulkhead?"

“Afraid so.”

“Excuse me, sir.” a Lt. said approaching with a printout, “There was a  T. Amarok on a flight from here to Anchorage with  a connecting flight to Nome last night, and  Bering Air has a L. Crane in flight right now  to Nome.  He’ll arrive in about twenty minutes.”

“Any connecting flight to Broken Claw?” Pryor asked.

“No sir.”

“Well, Harriman,” Starke said, “seems the boys are meeting up in Nome.”

“Amarok is a common Alaskan Native name,” Pryor said, “Might not be them, you know. And if it is, there’s nothing to stop them from renting a snow-plane from a private owner to Broken Claw. Amarok is a qualified pilot.”

“So is Crane,” Nelson sighed, “We’ll take it from here, Admiral Pryor. Thanks again. Nelson out.”

“You buy it, sir?” Sharkey asked. “The skipper going all the way up there to pal around with his Eskimo friend?”

“I’m not sure what I think,” Nelson sighed, “but I’m going to find out if L. Crane and Lee Crane are the same. Chip, you and Joe use  military code Secure Com One with the terminal if they make a fuss about tieing us into their security cameras. ”

“He won’t thank you for spying on him,” Joe said.

“Admiral?” Angie called out, “Officer O’Malley is on line two for you.”

“Nelson here, Officer,” he spoke into the phone’s receiver, “How’s my sister?”

“Still gets in a few barbs against the captain. We’re at LAX. Seattle was the first destination available but then she saw a package deal for an Alaska Adventure. Includes the flight to Anchorage, bus tours, helicopter rides, and a cruise along the shoreline. We’re being paged. Gotta’ run....”

“Wait! O’Malley? What’s the airline? The flight number? O’Malley? Damn,” Nelson muttered, finally noticing that the green blinking light on his many lined desk phone had gone blank. “Angie, find out which airline has flights departing LAX to Anchorage and has a package deal called Alaskan Adventure.”

“Right away.”

“I realize,” Nelson told the group, “that the chance of Edith meeting up with Lee is about as slim as winning a lottery ticket, still, we may need to warn him about the possibility. Chip, join Jiggs and me in the private dining room as soon as Angie gets Edith’s flight info. And you men, report to wherever the XO sends you.”


“Well,” Chip said as he and Joe entered the cafeteria’s private dining room a half hour later. “The flight just landed but the exterior and interior security cameras are down.”

“They did agree to page Lee as soon as the passengers disembark to enter the terminal.”

The wall monitor’s split screens began to friz but that was all.

By the time the exterior cam showed the plane’s cargo being removed, there had been time enough for Lee to be paged, with no response.

“Perhaps the manifest is incorrect,” airport security reported to Angie’s phone line.

The interior cam frizzed again, clearing to a grainy image.

It was a small terminal with only one luggage carrel, barely visible from the cam’s main focus toward the gate.

An Eskimo waved to another emerging from the men’s room.

 “Lee!” Lt. Cdr. Amarok, in full Alaskan Native attire called out, hurrying from the waiting area, and gave him a bear hug and a traditional nose rub. “Let me help with your gear.”

“Thanks for agreeing to my visit,” Lee told him, shouldering his duffle as they headed toward the exit.

“Any time, ‘Brother Bear’. Hope you don’t mind roughing it. Be prepared to be slobbered over.”

 “Transfer cam to front exit,” Joe ordered into the monitor’s audio.

A few snow covered parked cars in front of the terminal almost hid the four dog sled teams, deserted by the two Eskimo mushers, the woman running up to embrace Lee.

 “Oh Sweetie, we’re so glad to have you visit!”

“Thank you, Mrs. A. Mr. A.”

With a few commands by Mr. Amarok the dogs reluctantly returned to their ‘positions’, except for two who were whining and pulling at their tethers.

“Told you,” Amarok said as the two ran around Lee in circles then  jumped on him with enough force to knock him onto his butt their tails wagging furiously as Delilah climbed into his lap and up to slobber all over him.

“Cheech, let him breathe, Delilah, You too, Sampson,” Wolfie laughed, helping his friend up while Mr. Amarok loaded one of the sleds with Lee’s duffle. Once the two loosed dogs had been re-harnessed, the four mushers headed down the snow covered road toward a snow covered field which was laden with tarp and mini hangar protected snow planes, and the odd snowman decorated with old fashioned goggles.

“Seems to know what he’s doing,” Starke said of Crane, his dog sled beside his friend’s, the Amarok’s in the lead as they all soon disappeared from sight.


“Excuse me, Admiral,” Riley asked a short time later from the private dining room’s open door, “the chief forgot to get Mr. Morton to sign this repair, sir, we thought he was having coffee with you here.”

“Was, but he had to attend to something. Well, hand the report over, Lad,” Nelson said as the crewman silently observed that Lt. Cdr. Jackson wasn’t sitting with Nelson or Starke either. “There,” Nelson added as he signed the report with a flourish and handed it back. “I’m pretty sure the chief will accept my John Hancock.”

“Thank you, sir,” Riley said as was about to leave when Morton, followed by Jackson almost bumped into him.

“There’s more to this Lt. Cdr. Amarok than what we thought,” Chip said urgently, “He was ONI before transferring to the submarine service.”

“And Pryor sure kept quiet about it,” Starke said, pursing his lips.

“I don’t think he knows,” Chip said, shaking his head, “Amarok has an ONI classification of  Oscar Oscar Seven-B which....”

“Which is pretty damn close to Lee’s 007....”

 “Oh gawd,” Riley moaned. “The skip’s Eskimo friend’s a secret agent like him?”

“You’re not part of this conversation, Riley,” Morton told him firmly.

“No sir. Sorry sir. But....”

“You heard the XO,” Nelson  ordered.

“Yes sir,” the crewman sighed, and turned.

It was hard for Nelson not to take pity on the youngest and most enthusiastic of Lee’s crew.

“You’ll be the first to know if the skipper gets himself into trouble.”

“Thank you, sir. I’ll be ready. Everyone else too!”

After Riley had retreated, Chip took a breath, “This may be nothing, Admiral. Angie was speaking to one of the plane’s attendants while security stopped to speak with Lee and he was angry about that but the attendant told Angie that this L. Crane’s eyes were just as sparkly as his ring had been under the plane’s lights.”

“So?” Starke asked.

“He wasn’t wearing his ring when he came out of the men’s room dressed like an Eskimo,” Nelson said.

“For all we know,” Chip said, “he might have put it in his regular clothes or left it with Miss Connors in one of the dressing room lockers. And it’s certainly not a gadget.”

“Well,” Joe said, “it might not be a gadget.”

“I think I’m going to regret this...Chip? You and Jackson get Nome Airport Security to have maintenance check the flooring throughout the terminal. Make sure they check the  Men’s Room too. Include the drains. Tell them it’s a matter of national security. Let it slip that it has microfilm in it. I now that’s a lie, sort of, maybe, but it’ll do in a pinch.”

“I’d hate to be in your shoes when Lee finds out about this.”

“Yes, yes, and I’m in enough deep doo doo as it is.  But so is Lee. Running off without a word to anyone? He’s a naval reservist and I won’t have him court martialed for his omission.”


Just behind the private dining room’s closed door, Riley let out a breath, then sprinted outside to join his companions to tell them the skipper lost his ring again. Damn it, somebody should sew it into his skin!


 “I’d like to know,” Nelson muttered as he poured himself some fresh coffee, “is how Lee sprang for his little trip to the frozen north. He was  having enough trouble earning funds at Fox to reimburse them for loaning him funds....”

"Maybe they put him under contract...has the looks of a leading man.”

“My captain, the movie star,” Nelson groaned sarcastically.
Just then Chip returned with a printout, handing it to Nelson.

“Apparently, his reservation was paid for by the Broken Claw Cooperative.”

“Maybe he’s got himself a job cleaning and smoking fish, or helping to make caribou jerky?” Starke mocked.

“Excuse me, Admiral,” Kowalski interrupted, panting as he rushed into the dining room. “The chief says you need to come calm Riley down. He won’t quit moaning about the skipper being at risk for being  captured by the Ruskies or not being able to complete his mission or being torn apart and eaten by wolves and polar bears....”

“Take him to the Med Bay,” Nelson sighed. “I’ll be there shortly.”


There were raised voices from inside the Med Bay’s examination room when Nelson, Starke, and Ski entered.

“But Chief!” Riley complained while Doc sedated him, “He needs his ring! It’s bad enough the skip’s a spy but playing at being an Eskimo? He’ll get frostbite! He’ll get fleas! He’ll get all infected. He’ll be attacked and eaten by wolves and polar bears! How can he call for help without his ring’s emergency stuff in it?”

“If he felt he needed his ring he would have noticed he lost it,” Sharkey said.

“You didn’t say that last time. And....”

“I’ll take care of it, Chief. Now, Lad,” Nelson said from the doorway, “The captain’s friend ‘is’ an Eskimo. And apparently Captain Crane’s done this sort of thing before, dog sledding in the frozen north and all that. You’re letting your imagination get the best of you.”

“Excuse me, sir,” Morton interrupted, entering with Jackson, and handed Nelson a printout.

“Oh gawd,” Riley moaned, “I’ve seen that look before! What is it? Did the skip get himself mauled and eaten up already? Did he fall into a crevice in the ice and get frozen and drowned or did the Ruskies get him and his pal? Did....”

“Good God, pipe down, sailor,” Starke warned.

“Riley,” Nelson said, “I’m going to have Mr. Morton give you a couple of days off after you’re released from Med Bay.”

“But what if the skipper needs us? What if....”

 “Enough, Riley,” Sharkey ordered. “You just try to rest...”


“Do as you’re told, Mister,” Morton ordered.

“But what’s that message?” Riley whined though the sedative was beginning to work.

“If Mr. Morton and the admiral had wanted you to know,” Doc said, “they’d have told you. Now, the corpsman will take you to your bunk... I’ll keep you posted on his condition,” Doc added as Riley was strapped into a wheelchair and pushed out of the examination room and down the hall toward one of in patient rooms.

“Anything in that report I need to know about, sir?” Will asked out of his patient’s earshot.

Nelson frowned and Morton took over.

 “Airport security reported a ring matching our description of Lee’s in the Men’s Room,, half in and out of the main floor drain, but...”

“But,” Nelson interrupted, “Apparently it has a secret compartment under the stone.”

“Should have guessed,” Starke said, “Perfect place to stash secret agent stuff....”

“My God. Crane’s no drug addict!”

“Of course he’s not!” Morton said, “ want to tell him, Joe?”

“Field agents on assignment are usually equipped with...Cyanide.”

“Oh gawd,” Starke said.

“But,” Joe continued, “Lee usually keeps his dose under his toenail, the one where he keeps a few other gadgets. Personally I don’t think he’d be so foolish to put it in his ring. Or that he has a drug habit. Still, even Lee could have, well, experimented or tried something. He’s been under a lot of stress. Not just recently.”

 “I have to report this to ONI,” Nelson sighed. “They’ll deny Cyanide even if police forensics proves it. As for the other possibility...illegal drugs...we’ll have to let the law take care of things....”

“If DNA proves the ring is Lee’s, that is,” Chip said.

“It’s one of a kind,” Nelson said abruptly, angrily. “Lee made it himself at an artisan school when he was 16....damn. Damn! Damn!”

“Come along to your office, Harriman,” Starke said, taking his arm, “Call ONI first, then pour yourself a drink. A stiff one. For me, too.”


When Nelson and Starke arrived at Nelson’s office, they found Edith’s Alaskan Adventure info. After her flight to Anchorage, she, O’Malley, and Dr. Jenkins would board a sightseeing cruise ship. A quick check didn’t show either Nome or Broken Claw on the itinerary, though some of the ports of call included the promised helicopter tours and sleigh rides. Meeting up with Lee was rather doubtful, if even, especially now that he was in trouble with the police.


“No wonder Riley went ballistic if he ever watched this documentary,” Morton muttered to Joe as one of the senior Santa Barbara librarians in NIMR’s audio visual conference room rewound the celluloid film on the reel. “Thanks for loaning us the film.”

“Happy to,” the man replied. “It was shown on TV a few years ago, though it had been filmed more than twenty years before. The National Geographic gave us this copy but this is the first time anyone wanted to check it out, even though we have an audio visual room of our own too. I found that Eskimo hunting party rather graphic, especially since they were using bows and arrows. I’m sure they’ve caught up with modern times. And that footage of the wolf pack...can’t say I have any desire to go to Alaska even with guns or Tasers. Have you seen them? Marvelous new weaponry to halt vicious animals or criminals without killing them.”

“Heard about them,” Nelson said, escorting the librarian and his film out to be met by one of the staffers for the way out of the building. “And again, thank you.”

“And thank you, Admiral Nelson  for your generous donation for the county libraries.”

“Admiral?” Chip asked after he, Joe, Starke, and Nelson were alone. “I think we should contact Admiral Pryor to see if knows if Amarok packs heat when he goes off ice fishing”

“Do it,” Nelson said.


“Wish Mom and Dad had decided to join us up here,” Wolfie told Lee, “instead of wishing us a good catch.”

The two were seated on well-worn fur covered hassocks, their lines  in the freshly hewn hole in the ice, the sled dogs, including Sampson and Delilah, still wearing ‘booties’, laying on the insulated mats in the vinyl shelter their masters had set up.

“Wolfie?” Lee asked, “Remind me why I left warm sunny California for this? I’m freezing my ass off, and the fishing’s terrible.”

“Your blood’s too thin. My 87 year old grandma in Broken Claw is out in this temperature for hours and even longer when she travels further north to visit her spirit guides without complaining. And it was your idea to run away and hide from NIMR and the Navy in the first place, you know.”

 “I haven’t run away! I just needed to get away to be alone with my thoughts for awhile. This seemed to be the best place and...hey, I got a bite!”

“Told you this was a good place. Hey, I got one too!”
 Soon twelve more fish had been caught and while gutting, salting, and hanging them to dry from the sled rails, the men went inside the shelter for a few minutes to feed all of the dogs and down  the insulated thermos’s of hot soup and bottles of not quite frozen energy drinks and trail mix.

By the time they returned to the hole in the ice, it had frozen over. Fortunately the surface was easily broken again. The two began to rinse off two of the fish they’d hung on the dog sleds. 

“Native Sushi,” Amarok said, taking a bite of the raw fish. “Good for what ails you. And,” he smirked, reaching into one of his pockets and pulled out a packet of ketchup, “thought you could use this. I remember how you barely managed a bite in granny’s camp last time.”

“Thanks. I’ll be glad to see her long as she doesn’t chant incantations over me again.”

“She just thinks my ‘Brother Bear’ needs a bride. Any luck in that department?”

“Well,” Lee said with a grin as he began to eat his raw fish, smothering it in the squeezed out ketchup, “A couple of times I thought I might have found the right girl, but my job always got in the way for anything serious to happen. I thought Lola and I might get to that point, but so far, well...we kind of broke up. We’re still friends but no zing.”

“I think you’re just afraid of settling down.”

“Maybe. Perhaps I should ask ‘Granny’ for another incantation. But it’s not my love life or lack of it that’s a problem...”

 “Ah...want to talk about it? The truth Lee, what’s wrong?”

“Did you know Nelson and the SecNav sent me to Hollywood? Hollywood! As a technical advisor.”

“Oh, shit Lee. I didn’t know things were that bad.”

“I mean, I...I think he regrets hiring me.”

“But your record is beyond reproach....”

“I think it’s a personal thing. I just can’t figure out what. And he didn’t even tell me about the Hollywood deal. The Navy Reserve simply sent me my orders...Nelson used to confide in me....”

“So you feel betrayed,” Amarok said, finishing his fish.

“I’m mature enough in my career not to get upset about my feelings being hurt, but now...well, they are. And it hurts....I thought Nelson and I were friends. Really good friends. I honestly began to think of him as family...even a kind of father. But now, I just don’t know what I feel anymore. And it’s darn sure he doesn’t consider himself anything to me anymore except as a regretful boss.”


I’m sorry,” Admiral Pryor said on Nelson’s videophone. “I don’t know if Amarok and Crane took anything more defensive than bows and arrows with them, but I do know Amarok is licensed to use firearms, and Tasers. But a DEA task force is on the way to pick them up. The dog sleds have trackers...damn shame about Crane. I guess addiction can happen to anyone.”

“Thank you Admiral,” Morton said without acknowledging the unconfirmed accusation and closed the call.

“Easy, Harriman,” Starke was telling his friend, “You’re turning purple.”

“Lee, Lee, Lee,” Nelson was moaning from his chair drink spilling over his hand, “how could you be so foolish...”

“Admiral Nelson?” Lola Hale’s tearful voice interrupted over the PA. “The Alaska DEA is requesting all of Captain Crane’s personnel files. They say...they say he’s under suspicion of possession of a controlled substance! They’re going to arrest him!”

“I’ll take the call,” Nelson said and she transferred the call which he put on speaker.

“This is Admiral Nelson. I’m Lee’s, er, Captain Crane’s boss.”

“Captain? We thought he was a commander. Let me check the report to see if there’s been an error....”

“Commander is his Navy Reserve rank. His position with NIMR is captain of the Seaview.”

“Oh, that submarine with the glass windows? Sprung any leaks lately?”

“The windows aren’t glass!” Starke said.

“Seaview’s view ports are an experimental do you need his personnel  records?”

“Didn’t the girl tell you? Crane’s under suspicion of possession of a controlled substance, probably Cocaine. Your records will become part of his file for the DA.  We have a DEA helicopter on the way to his campsite to arrest him as we speak. According to his travel companion’s parents, who’ve been questioned, their dog sleds are registered with the Alaska DMV and have trackers the Amarok’s have activated for us. I regret to inform you that the press has gotten wind of the story. They can be pretty brutal.”

“Miss Hale will have Lee’s files faxed. But I have to tell you if Lee Crane is a drug user then I’m Benedict Arnold! And I’m flying out.”

“We can transmit proceedings via closed circuit. Doubtful you can get here before Crane and Amarok are arraigned.”

“True, but I’ll be there shortly after. I have my own transportation. Goes Mach 4.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“The Flying Sub.”

“The flying what?”

“I think the name’s rather explanatory. You might want to warn the citizenry that she looks a bit like a flying saucer. A yellow one. With an appropriately nautical blue trim. We’ll splash down offshore. She doesn’t have landing gear. We’ll need transport to the courthouse or police station, wherever you’ve put the boys by the time we arrive. I’m turning back over to Miss Hale to get your fax number....”

“Chip,” Nelson turned to him, “FS-1 is ready to go, isn’t she?”

“Will probably only be able to go to Mach 2 and some of the instruments aren’t repaired yet. Work parties were concentrating on Seaview’s docking bay. If we run into bad weather, we’ll have to resort to visual rules.”

“Close enough for government work, as the saying goes,” Nelson said. “You’ll pilot. Sharkey will co-pilot...has he qualified yet?”

“Not on instruments.”

“Hardly matters right now.”

 “Can I come along?” Joe asked. “Lee’s going to need a friend.”

“That’s why I’m going!” Nelson shouted.

“You sound more like an irate boss, Harriman,” Starke said, “Or maybe a father.”

“All-right, damn it! I’m both! What are we all waiting for?”

“About Lee’s personnel file,” Chip said.

“Don’t worry, all the top secret stuff’s already been blacked out or shredded. The personnel file Miss Hale will be faxing from HR is the PR file. The real file is locked in the eyes only safe. Would take an act of congress or the president to open it.”

“Except for you, Harriman,” Starke grinned.


“...We’re here at Nome Airport,” the TV reporter was saying from the live broadcast, “where a DEA helicopter will be landing soon. It’s carrying suspects Cdr. Lee Crane and Lt. Cdr. Amarok to be turned over to the Nome police on suspicion of possession of Cocaine. Both were on a mushing trip a little further north of here to engage in some ice fishing.

 “...Mr. and Mrs. Amarok, parents of Lt. Cdr. Amarok and residents in the outskirts of town and owners of the dogs, will be allowed to take charge of them. In fact the couple arrived with their own dog sleds, though the snow has been melting somewhat.


“I can’t believe it, I just can’t believe it,” Riley wailed as he and some of his shipmates watched the TV on the wall in his Med Bay room.

“It happens to the best of them,” Patterson said sadly.

“Not to the skipper,” Riley whined. “Not to the skipper! Maybe it’s a cover?”

The TV news cameras focused on arriving helicopter, the snow swirling around the rotors which finally came to a stop.

The dogsleds were retrieved by the airport’s cargo handlers and dragged over to the waiting Amarok’s standing by their own dogsleds, their dogs anxious, yowling, and jumping up and down. 

“...In spite of the welcome from their canine companions, Crane and Amarok’s dogs don’t seem too cooperative to leave their masters from inside the chopper. With a few commands from Mr. and Mrs. Amarok, they are finally leaving the helicopter and rejoining their technical owners and are being tethered to the empty dog sleds as ground crews bring down the suspects belongings, which are being turned over to police custody. Speaking of police custody, the cuffed suspects are now emerging from the chopper and walking down the steps, seemingly more concerned about their teams than their situation.”    

“...We love you,” Mrs. Amarok told Wolfie and Lee, though she and Mr. Amarok were prevented by police to get close enough to kiss or hug either of them.

“...We’ll be right back as soon as we get the dogs into the kennels.”

Sampson and Delilah began to whimper  as Lee and Wolfie were escorted to the waiting patrol car.

“...It’s just a few minute’s drive to the police station,” the reporter continued, “and we’ll continue our coverage from there shortly.”

The camera panned from the Amarok’s mushing away, Mrs. Amarok giving the patrol car a tearful look back and the DEA van driving down the main street to the police station.


“Take her to Mach 4,” Nelson ordered from the seat behind Morton as they watched the broadcast on the Flying Sub’s drop down viewer.

“But she bucked when we tried Mach 3!” Sharkey said aghast at the idea.

“Won’t make much difference, Harriman,” Starke said. “We’ll get there soon enough and if the Nome Police Dept. and the DEA there are like they are everywhere, there’s a lot of things to be done before they get arraigned. You should be thinking about getting them a lawyer from JAG.”

“Not sure JAG could help with all the new statutes. Lee’s Reserve but not on active status. Amarok is Navy but on leave, and the charge is based on Lee’s ring in a civilian setting. An airport’s Men’s Room for God’s sake....”

 “Once we splash down,” Sharkey interrupted, “what about security? Now that the Flying Sub can’t exactly be classified anymore.”

“Sorry, Chief, I guess you’re drafted to stand guard.”

The breaking news resumed....

 “...Admiral Harriman Nelson, Cdr. Crane’s boss,” the reporter continued from the police station’s entrance, “is on his way here in an experimental half-aircraft half-submersible  that we’re told looks like flying saucer. The FAA has revealed it’s at Mach 3 or 2,283.5 miles per hour right now. The craft doesn’t have landing wheels so it will have to splash down in a stretch of Nome’s small harbor despite some patches of lingering sea ice. We have a news crew on the way to show you its arrival. Meanwhile Cdr. Crane and Lt. Cdr. Amarok are arriving at the police station...we’d hoped to ask both suspects some questions but they’re being driven to the back of the station, restricted from visitors and press.”


Indeed the Flying Sub was in Nome’s airspace soon enough, and Chip splashed her down in the small harbor without difficulty or damage to some of the moored privately owned mining dredges docked in the semi rectangular harbor.

There were few pleasure boats moored as well, all protected by tarps against the snow and ice. The largest slip, if one could call it that, was empty, proclaiming it belonged to Arctic Star Lines, it’s office boarded up. 

Thanks to the advance notice some of the locals had been waiting with the news van to witness FS-1’s arrival from the sky to the harbor in awe instead of the fear of little green men.

Once Chip had turned and scooted the craft aft first toward the dock, Starke, Nelson, and Jackson pulled on the foul weather gear they’d procured from NIMR stores, glad to have some protection from the swirling snow and heavy winds they’d face once they emerged.

Once FS-1 was docked, Morton and Sharkey followed suit, and cracked the aft hatch. Sharkey was first to jump onto the deck to secure the craft and assisted everyone to disembark.

“Which of you is Admiral Nelson?” a reporter called out from the snow covered road alongside the dock.

“...Here,” Nelson called out, waiting for his companions to accompany him from the dock to the road, glad he had Starke’s arm to grab on to when he slipped slightly on the iced over snow.

“...Are you as disappointed in Cdr. Crane as we all are? Will you terminate his employment with NIMR and Seaview?”

“...A man is innocent until proven guilty. Besides, I doubt Lee Crane would do anything he’s been accused of.”

“...Will the Navy Reserve dishonorably discharge him?”

“...No charges have been proven. Now, if you’ll excuse us.”

In minutes Nelsons ‘team’ was in the taxi van and driven toward the middle of town and the police station.

“...We had a chance,” the reporter continued, “to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Amarok, parents of Lt. Cdr. Amarok, also accused of possession....”

“...Wolfie,” Mrs. Amarok was saying on the video, “would never engage in anything illegal.”

“...What about his friend, Cdr. Crane?”

“...Well,” Mr. Amarok said, “we can’t speak for him, but we can tell you when he’s visited before we found him to be an honorable man. In fact he saved Wolfie’s life, if that means anything to you. That’s how Granny gave him the name ‘Brother Bear’, not to be confused with a later child’s story... Lee fought off a Grizzly with his bare hands, no pun intended, when it had attacked Wolfie.”

“...His bare hands?” the reporter asked with a cocked eyebrow.

“...Yes, and a few well aimed rocks and fishing hooks. It was summer and they were hiking along one of their favorite trails along the small lakes and estuaries where they might snag some Dolly Varden’s, Salmon,  and trout, and perhaps get in some bird watching while they were at it. Lee had a couple of cameras of unknown vintage. Wolfie borrowed his grandfather’s Box Brownie that still had film in it. We never thought it would work or if the film was still useable..  There had been reports of Bald Eagles in the forest and some other birds of prey and.... ”

“...Let’s get back to the bear,” the reporter interrupted, “Weren’t the young men  armed against dangerous wildlife?”

“...Most Grisley’s leave you alone unless disturbed. The boys weren’t hunting. They planned on using their Swiss Army Knives for gutting any fish they might catch and perhaps get in some hand carving of fallen branches to take to Granny for her treks north seeking her spirit guides, like a totem for good luck.  Look, if you’re that interested, it’s all in a report with the Fish and Wildlife Dept. and the hospital...both boys were badly injured.”

“...What happened to the bear?”

“...One of the rocks hit the bear’s left eye. Gave Lee enough time to pull Wolfie behind a boulder and stuff his gloves into the worst of Wolfie’s lacerations. Then Lee threw more rocks and started to throw as many of his fishing hooks that he had in his jacket at the bear. Some hit, some didn’t.  Then he was going to try to get up close and personal and try to immobilize the bear with his knife, before he was mauled again. But, but the creature had had enough, and decided to leave. Good thing too, as Lee was bleeding badly himself, and barely made it to the Ranger Station, carrying Wolfie over his shoulder, and falling to his knees to crawl the last mile there.  Both boys were airlifted to the hospital.”

 “...Seems a bit hard to believe any of this. Especially as they weren’t better prepared in the area for any such attack by bears or wolves or....”

“...Yes, I had a little talk with them both afterward. They’d gone off on their own without telling me and the wife.... Wolfie knew better, being local...but in his own defense, he hadn’t been home for a few years and was no Boy Scout. Off in the Navy, like Lee was at the time. Lee had been a city boy and enjoyed getting back to nature when he had the chance. But that’s partly the submariner in him, envying large open spaces, and fresh air. When Wolfie learned Lee had some leave before his next posting, same as him,  he asked Lee if he’d like to visit us and soak up all that Alaska has to offer.”

“...Dear, I don’t think anyone’s interested,” Mrs. Amarok said, tugging her husband’s arm, “It’s time we joined the boys,” she added heading into the police station’s entrance.


Some press awaited Nelson’s party at the police station, but he had already warned his colleagues not to answer any questions unless they were about the weather.

Once inside he identified himself with the receptionist and requested to speak with the Chief of Police. For a moment he didn’t think the meeting was going to happen, but the chief appeared from behind a door in the crowded lobby and motioned him into his office, along with Starke, Morton, and Jackson.

“Glad Crane and Amarok’s cavalry came. I hope you can talk some sense into them. They don’t want any lawyers to put words into their mouths as they put it. The judge is here to hear a few arraignments. We have a separate court house but it’s undergoing repairs...Follow me.”


The substitute court was already in session for arraignments, three of the orange jumpsuit clad accused had already pleaded guilty, one for having been drunk and disorderly, one for grand theft-snowmobile, and one for failure to yield the right of way for the town’s roaming Musk Oxen.

The judge set suitable fines then turned his attention to the last two on the docket. These two, unlike their previous companions in crime, were handcuffed.

“That’s Detective Mason, and the DA,” the chief of police informed Nelson, who with his companions had to stand in the back of the room.

“Cdr. Lee B. Crane,” the judge read the police report, “and Lt. Cdr. Wolfie says here that you’re both accused of possession of illegal substances. How do you plead, Cdr. Crane?”

“How many times are we going to go through this? I’m not a user and never have been!”

“Answer the question,” the judge sighed. “Guilty or Not Guilty?”

“I think it’s a technical thing,” Wolfie told Lee, leaning toward his friend.

“Well it’s stupid if I already told him I never used anything.”

“Your honor?” Nelson interrupted, causing Lee to bow his head sadly, not looking back, “May I speak with the accused? It’s apparent he doesn’t understand the necessary legalities...”

“You a lawyer?”

“No, but I’m the next best thing to it, apparently. I’m his boss. Harriman Nelson. Admiral Harriman Nelson of NIMR. Were you read your Miranda Rights, Lee? Lee, answer me.”

“You know that Miranda stuff, bro,” Joe told Lee, still not turning to look at Nelson, “it’s all that ‘anything you say can be used against you in a court of law’ stuff?”

“Yeah, the DEA said something like that,” Lee replied then turned to see Nelson and party, “What are all of you doing here?”

“Young man,” the judge interrupted, “did you understand what the DEA agent told you about your rights or not?”

“Yean, yeah,” Wolfie said. “We understand. We can proclaim our innocence without it being against us!”

“Yes or no! And don’t be so flippant or I’ll add contempt of court to the charges. Besides, I was asking Crane first!”

“I understand, your honor,” Lee said. “Anything I say can be used by the DEA, the DA, or you to convict us of something we didn’t do.”

“I’ll take that as an affirmative but I’ll add contempt of court to you as well for any cynicism. Now, Lt. Cdr. Amarok, did you understand your Miranda Rights as well? Yes or no.”

“Yes, your honor, but like Lee, I think this whole thing is a bunch of hooey.”

“The clerk will record affirmative to understanding of their Miranda rights by both suspects. Now, if either of you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be assigned to you. While Admiral Nelson may wish to speak with you or advice you, unless he’s a member of bar you will be considered as conducting your own defense. Understood?”

“There is no defense!” Lee shouted. “Don’t you understand? We did nothing wrong!”

“Perhaps Admiral Nelson will help explain to Cdr. Crane the seriousness of these proceedings? The need for legal procedure? In fact, since there’s nothing more on my schedule and the DA is the court, we can begin your trial right now, with the additional charges of contempt of court.’  

“Your honor,” Lee said, “I’d like to know more about the accusation before this goes to trial. The DEA wasn’t too forthcoming about just why my ring was suspect.”  

“Cocaine residue,” the DA said, “was found in it when Alaska Airlines security searched the terminal’s Men’s Room. The secret compartment under the stone had residue which has since been identified as Cocaine.”

“There’s no secret compartment in my ring and just why would security believe it to be mine?”

“The description of a gold band and black onyx stone was given to them, and informed the ring was yours and the need to search for it.”

“Informed by who?”

“An Admiral Pryor of SEAFAC and Admiral Nelson of NIMR both of whom requested the search after viewing the security footage of you without it, contrary to what the airline staff said about you wearing it aboard the plane.”

“And why the hell was my ring so damn important to either of them? Enough to request a search and security footage?”

“Easy, Lee,” Joe said, “Your honor, I worked with the JAG corps in the Navy before transferring to ComSubPac so I do know Lee needs counsel.”

“Passed the bar?” the judge asked.

“No, but...”

“Commanders,” the judge asked, “do you accept counsel from this man? Even if his advice will  be deemed unofficial and that you are acting as your own counsel?”

Lee was silent, his lips still pursed.

“Now what’s wrong with him?” the judge asked Wolfie of Crane.

“He’s kind of angry with Admiral Nelson right now. Probably applies to his colleague as well. Especially as Joe Jackson is one of Lee’s friends.”

“Very well, we’ll proceed without them.”

“Terminal security tapes,” the DA continued, “ showed you leaving the Men’s Room after you’d changed clothes, so you had ample time to dispose of any incriminating evidence.”

“This is absurd!” Lee fumed.

“Easy, Lee,” Joe told him. “Your honor, has the ring been tested for fingerprints? DNA? Cdr. Crane’s are on file with the Navy.”

“I didn’t ask for your help, Joe,” Lee warned. “But you have a good point. Well, has that doppelganger ring been tested for all that?”

 “Forensics is still working on it.”

“What about samples of Cdr. Crane’s blood?” Joe asked, “Urine? For evidence of controlled substances in Lee’s body?”

“The test results aren’t in for those yet, either.”

“Then how the hell can this go to trial? Yet, anyway. Lee, did you notice when your real ring went missing?”

“No, it’s slipped off so many times I didn’t notice. Could have been on the plane.”

“Or,” the DA said, “you could have removed it in the terminal’s Men’s Room, knowing you could be under suspicion.”

“Security wasn’t informed of the ring’s loss until after Lee had already left the terminal,” Joe said, “isn’t that so?

“Doesn’t mean Crane hadn’t taken the flight to Alaska in the effort to dispose of the evidence before suspicion landed on him from NIMR or from Lt. Cdr. Amarok’s CO.”

Just then a clerk handed the judge a print out which he read silently before handing it to the DA.

“Forensic tests of DNA and fingerprints on the ring,” are inconclusive, as is the blood work, which only shows traces of OTC analgesics and commonly used medical analgesics restricted for surgical use. Documented by the medical record faxed to the police.”

 “That doesn’t prove anything,” the DA said. “What about tests done on his clothes? Skin debris and oils can linger long enough not to be flushed out of the body. Have those tests been concluded?”

“For Pete’s Sake!” Wolfie said. “You won’t be satisfied until Lee’s innocence until you give Lee an autopsy!”

“Humor the court,” the judge said. “These charges are serious and....ah, here come the reports.”

This time the clerk also handed the judge Lee’s gloves in a plastic bag, which, after reading the report, he removed from the plastic, and turned upside down, the gloves falling to his desk, as well a gold band with a black Onyx stone.

“It says here,” the judge said, “that this ring had fallen through the lining. “And the DNA and fingerprints on the ring match Cdr. Crane’s.”

“Doesn’t mean he had another ring just like it,” the DA said.

Gasps by all.

“This report also says,” the judge said, “that secondary tests required as standard procedure show that  the suspect ring’s onyx stone is a fake, and only manufactured within the last month. Since there is no evidence to support the DEA’s charges of possession, those charges are summarily dismissed.  The charges of contempt of court by both commanders is sustained for the record. However, the fine of $5000.00 each, is rescinded due the circumstances of this entire proceeding. Cdr. Crane, Lt. Cdr. Amarok, you are free to go.”

“Once we’re free of these?” Lee asked, raising his cuffed hands with a sheepish grin. Er...can I have my ring back too?”

“The court so orders...have the guard in the dressing room provide you with a thick band aid to wear under the ring, to help prevent another case of lost and found.”

With that the judge banged his gavel, and once free of the cuffs, Lee and Wolfie were embraced by Mr. and Mrs. Amarok before they headed to the door to take them to change back into their clothes. Lee turned.

“Thanks, Joe. Sorry I was cross with you too.”

“No sweat.”

“Come along.”

“Lee?” Nelson asked but Lee ignored him and with Joe, rejoined Wolfie at the door which a guard closed behind them, to the cell wing and the changing room.


“I’m sorry, Admiral,” the judge told him in response to Nelson’s request to see Crane a few minutes later after the shock of Lee’s dismissal of Nelson, “Crane already told the guard in the cell wing to tell us  that he doesn’t want to see you. See?” the judge showed him the hastily scrawled post it note.

“What?” Starke asked, incredulous. “You tell him he has no choice! This is a Navy matter. Well, Reserve, anyway.”

“Look, your honor,” Nelson said “Only a couple of minutes. Surely you can allow that.”

“I’m sorry, while he’s here, he’s under the jurisdiction of the court, even if only to change clothes. How you contact him outside is your own business.”

“Excuse me,” Mrs. Amarok said, “I’m sure Lee would like to see my husband and I, and with Admiral Nelson’s party as our guests, I’m sure both Nelson and Lee will at least be civil...and it’s only for a few minutes before we head for home.”

“I may regret this. Very well. The guard will show you in. There’s a waiting room just outside the changing room.”


“Wolfie? Lee?” Mrs. Amarok called out from the waiting room. “You both decent?”

“Just about,” Wolfie answered, “come on in.”

Lee was pretty much dressed, except for pulling on his boots, and Amarok his leggings as the Amaroks, Nelson, Starke and Morton entered.

“Go away, Admiral,” Lee said. “You too, Admiral Starke. Chip, you can stay.”

“Lee!” Nelson pleaded.

“Sweetie,” Mrs. Amarok said, “he only wants to speak with you for a moment. It’s the least you can do.”

“And it’s Navy business!” Stark’s voice boomed, “You have no choice.”

“I’ll just bet it is.”

“Damn it, Lee, speak to me!” Nelson shouted.

“We’ll go get the van heated up,” Mr. Amarok said, “Shouldn’t interfere with the Navy. Come along dear,” he added to his wife. She kissed both boys on their cheeks and left with her husband.

Lee was pulling on his other boot from the wooden bench. There was no mirror, and only a table and some hooks on the wall, where the occupant’s orange prison garb now hung, their state issued socks stuffed into their state issued sneakers along the wall.

“Well? Lee asked without looking at the visitors, “it was bad enough  ordering me to go on assignment as a Navy consultant, but having airport security spy on me? SEAFAC as well? Damn it, Admiral, you know I’ve never used drugs!”

“Crane!” Starke fumed.

“Stay out of it Jiggs,” Nelson said. “The president and ONI were concerned too. We thought your ring might be a gadget and that you could have gone rogue...even Joe didn’t know if your ring was special equipment and you’d left without a word.”

“A clear violation of standard procedures,” Starke interrupted. “You might still be prosecuted by the Navy and kept from resuming command of Seaview as a Reservist which means you couldn’t take command at all as she’s a Reserve vessel.”

“Not a problem as I not resuming command.”

“What?” Chip asked, aghast.

“C’mon, bro,” Joe said, “things can’t be that bad. Not really.”

“Damn it, Lee! What’ gotten into you? Aren’t you over Hollywood yet?”

“It’s not just what you did to me regarding Hollywood,” Lee said quietly, got up and began to pace about the small room. “You used to trust me. You used to trust in my having command. Trust in my judgement. Confided in me even about matters that you didn’t have to. Lately you’ve taken over everything. Not even letting me attend to the minor everyday running of things at the institute and aboard Seaview! You’ve been hijacking all the decision’s that belonged to me!”

“He’s your boss!” Starke fumed.

“Very well,” Nelson said. “If I made some decisions that you’d normally make, I was only making them for convenience sake and trying to spare you some time and aggravation!”

“No, Harry. You stole from me. You stole my rights and responsibilities. At first I figured, well, you’re the boss and you own the boat. But it wasn’t a few hours or a day here or there. It’s been most of the time for the past month! Aboard and ashore. And I put up with it. And then you went and colluded with the SecNav about the damn Hollywood job!”

“I told you, it was logical while  Seaview was  undergoing repairs.”

“The job as a technical consultant was a career bomb and you know it! You sent me away to prevent me from supervising some badly needed repairs! I’ll be forever regarded as the sub captain who wasn’t even good enough for that!”

“Nobody will think that!”

“They already do! ONI removed me from the call up roster for the next six months! Six months! And it’s all due to the Hollywood job! Nobody will think that, my ass!”

“You have a mighty high opinion of yourself, Captain. And just who gave you permission to address me as Harry, anyway?”

“Well, excuse me, Admiral, sir! You never complained the first time it slipped out.  But what do I know? I’m just a technical advisor! I can only tell movie and TV stars what to say and the set and costuming dept.’s the correct pips for costumes and scenery!”

“You’re talking nonsense!” Nelson exploded, then fear gripped him. “Wait. Your friend’s with SEAFAC. Did you come here to think about driving a Navy sub again before requesting an official transfer?”

“Not particularly, but that Hollywood stunt of yours has insured that I won’t even be considered if I ever want to! And tracking me down in Hollywood on account of my ring maybe being a gadget for ONI? I know you did that for Riley’s sake, but then calling the airline terminal that  I might have lost my ring again? What business was it of yours, anyway? Because of you, Harriman Nelson, both Wolfie and I will have the drug calumny over our heads. Proven innocent or not, there will always be people who will believe we’re junkies, pushers, even!”

“I assumed the ring they told me they found was yours and the powder residue was Cyanide!” Nelson hissed. “ONI sent an agent here undercover to make sure forensics didn’t find any.”

“And was there? Cyanide?” Lee spat.

“No but God’s honest truth, Lee, I was scared about what might be revealed. And even you have to admit the suspect ring sure looked like yours.”

“It was twice as large as mine!”

“I didn’t know that!”

“I was looking forward to a visit with my friend and his family to sort some personal things out, and you’ve ruined it!”

“You should have told me how pissed off you were and....”

“Like you asked me if I wanted that Hollywood assignment? Hah! The way you treated me made me realize that you’ve regretting hiring me to captain Seaview in the first place! Admit it!”

 “Well, I’m sure as hell beginning to regret it now!” Nelson fumed, turning a bright shade of red, and breathing hard. “Now, do you or do you not want to resume command of Seaview? In spite of how you think you may feel about me.”

“In all honesty?” Lee asked, looking directly at Nelson, “I don’t think we can work together anymore if you continue to treat me like you have been. Not to mention being at your beck and call 24/7. It’s like you have me on a leash! And I’m sick and tired of it!”

“Go ahead. Blame me for caring enough about you to check out if you lost your damn ring yet again. And for all I knew it could indeed be a gadget. And it still could be! ONI didn’t confirm or deny it!”

“Want to X-ray it? Go ahead, do it for all I care!” Lee said, slipping off his ring and flinging it to the floor at Nelson’s feet, where the gemstone broke into two pieces.

“I might just do that!” Nelson shouted, his now purple face, panting hard, “Blame me for caring for you! As my colleague! As my captain!  Blame me for caring about you as a friend. Blame me for caring about you as a brother!”

“Well, you sure haven’t been any of those lately!”

“When your leave is over,” Nelson said coolly, “if you still want to go, I’ll request the SecNav to release you from the standard waiting period to transfer from NIMR back to the active Navy. Morton can fill in as Acting Captain before the Navy gets a replacement for you.”

“Chip’s the best man for the job. You won’t have to bother with the Navy.”

With that Nelson picked up the broken pieces of Lee’s ring, placed them in his shirt pocket while Chip approached Lee.

“You have every right to be upset, Lee...but please, don’t do anything hasty. Use your leave to think about things. You could regret leaving. Damn, I know I would.”

“Still a devil’s advocate?” Lee asked gently, “I’m sorry you’re stuck in the middle of all this... If it’s any consolation, I’d rather you take command than any Navy replacement....”

“Thanks, but I hope it won’t come to that. Nelson might be Seaview’s owner, and controls the money that keeps her sailing. But you’re married to the boat, not him. And I don’t think she’d be too happy about a divorce.”

“He’s right,” Starke said. “Everyone knows it. Harriman?”

“I’m not sure if I want him back. He’s right that we might not be able to work together again...but while he thinks about it, I’ll need time to think myself. But there’s  no denying he’s the best captain for Seaview. Or do you want to argue about that, Captain?”

“Oh, I know I am. The thing is, if you want me back, there can’t be any interference on your part.”

“That’s damn stupid, Crane!” Starke said. “He’s your superior and he has rights!”

“I’m not sure I can’t interfere, Lee,” Nelson said. “Official orders and the like from the DOD. As for the rest, I’m still not sure I can leave quite all those decisions to you alone.”

“Then we both need some time to consider our options, don’t we. Come along Wolfie. Let’s go.”

With that Lee exited the room to enter the now empty court room and make their way toward the exit of the police station.

By the time Nelson and party left the same way, Crane and Amarok had already gotten into the Amarok’s van and driven off, the snow beginning to melt in the tire treads.


 “...Admiral? Admiral Nelson?” reporters and lingering crowds pressed toward him at the police station’s entrance.

“...Has Crane been fired?”

...“Not yet,” the now foul weather gear clad Starke said sourly. “Excuse us,” he added, trying to hail a cab, several drivers of which had lined up in anticipation of the rich Nelson’s patronage. The men took the closest and luckiest driver and were whisked away.


The dock was quiet, and only one news truck lay in wait to see the Flying Sub off.

“Good to see you, sirs,” Sharkey said from the hatch. “So the skip’s all cleared, that’s great! Was on the radio. So, how soon is he coming back? He kinda’ likes to return before his leave’s over.”

“He might not be coming back,” Morton said sadly, removing his heavy gear and getting into the pilot’s seat. “Pre-flight check, Chief,” he added, not giving Sharkey a chance to ask more.

As everyone was settled, the little craft headed out into the harbor’s white caps, then with her after burners on full, she began to skim the surface and lurched  into the sky and was soon at Mach speed.


By the time the Flying Sub returned to NIMR, most of the admin staff had already left. Docking in the underground ‘hangar’ docking bay, most of Seaview’s crew, on leave or not, met the deplaning men. Only their ingrained discipline kept them from any mob questioning, and they simply waited for one of the brass to speak.

“As you may already know,” Morton said taking the duty, “Captain Crane has been completely cleared of all drug possession charges. Those of you on duty, return to your assigned tasks.  Remember, we want Seaview’s docking clamps for the Flying Sub in working order for his return....”

“Chip,” Nelson sighed, “it’s no use. Men, I have to tell you, the captain might not be returning.”

There were stunned gasps of disbelief.

“He’s going to use what’s left of his leave,” Nelson said, “in the company of his friend Lt. Cdr. Amarok. God only knows their plans. They might resume their trip back to the ice fishing campsite they had been at, or they may travel to Broken Claw, a small village on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where Cdr. Amarok has extended family. And perhaps the captain will go along with those family members on a pilgrimage with Amarok’s grandmother to seek her spirit guide’s counsel. Whatever the captain decides to do, it will be a kind of retreat for him to think some things out regarding his future. I have to tell you that we’ve had some major issues come up between us, and he wants some peace and quiet to reconsider remaining in command or not. This has nothing to do with you or Seaview herself. It’s a personal matter that unfortunately, might not be resolved satisfactorily for either of us.”

With that Nelson, accompanied by Starke, walked the short distance toward the ramp that would take him toward the cavern’s exit and to the waiting golf cart that had been summoned before splash down.

“Mr. Morton?” Ski asked, hoping for more info.

 “It can’t be true, it just can’t be,” Riley whined.

“I’m sorry, Ski, Riley, everyone,” Morton said, “we have to let the skipper decide things on his own.”

“Wait, please, sir?” Riley asked as Morton and Jackson turned, “about the skip’s ring that got lost in his glove...was it a mission accomplished or not?”

“Unknown,” Morton managed to reply. Then, “But he had no further use for it.”

“Smashed it to the floor,” Joe said. “Broke the stone in half. Nelson took charge of it.”

“Oh Lordie,” Riley moaned as Morton and Jackson strode up the ramp to join Nelson and Starke in the golf cart.

 “Ski?” Riley broke the stunned silence, “is the Skipper’s throwing his ring away,  like, a good thing or a bad thing?”

“Hell if I know. C’mon, let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving.”


“I’m sorry I don’t feel like going out for supper, Jiggs,” Nelson said as they entered his deserted outer office, “I just have no appetite.”

“Can’t say I blame you...”

“I just don’t see what I did wrong,” Nelson said as he punched in his code to unlock the door of his inner officer, “John Phillips never complained when I took over things.”

“Crane’s ego is bruised. Still no excuse for him to act the way he did. If he were in my command, he’d find himself dishonorably discharged for his insubordination.”

Nelson said nothing as he sat down at his desk, and removed Lee’s broken ring from his shirt pocket, holding the band and the broken stone in his upright palm.

“Made this himself,” he mused, “He admitted that he’d made it at sixteen at an artisan school. A kind of insurance that he could become a jeweler and help support his mother if the plans he had for the Navy didn’t turn out....I’ve hardly ever seen him without it. Must have meant a great deal to him. So why throw it at me? Why break it? Throw it away?”

“Does it matter? Well, it’s of no use to him now,” Jiggs said from his chair opposite. “You’re sure you’re not hungry? I’m famished...Harry, what is it?”

“Maybe there’s a reason he asked me to X-Ray it, even in jest? Oh, no, that’s absurd on the face of it...except this is Lee...”

“I don’t think he meant anything by that. He just wanted to prove there was no gadget in it.”

“I wonder.... come on.”


“The skip wouldn’t go, not really, would he?” Riley asked over his beer and fried fish sandwich at the Grumpy Grouper. “This has all gotta’ be like, part of his undercover stuff...right? Maybe he’s gettin’ a new ring all updated with new spy stuff....”

“I don’t know, Stu,” Patterson said. “That news report seemed to confirm it wasn’t a gadget after all. And did you see Nelson’s face?”

“But the skip couldn’t just leave us like that!” Riley whined.

“You gotta’ stop thinking that Crane can walk on water,” Ski said.

“But he’s the skipper!”

“Was...God help us.”


 “Hey guys,” Malone said, joining the crewmen who had met Ski and Riley at the eatery, “you’re not gonna’ believe this...I was in the Med Center waiting to get my bruised  toe X-Rayed when guess who comes into the wing but Admiral Nelson, and it wasn’t himself he wanted X-rayed. I heard the tech ask him how the ring he was asking to be X-rayed got busted, and Nelson, you ain’t going to believe this, but he said it got broken when and I quote, ‘The captain flung it at me during an argument, and it broke when it hit the floor.’

“This skipper’s ring? Maybe it is a gadget after all,” Riley said, “Maybe there’s a secret message the skipper wanted him to see without revealing that it was a secret agent man thing to anyone in Nome forensics ....something only an X-ray can see?”

“I was just outside the examining room when the X-Ry took place. The tech told the boss that the ring and the onyx chips didn’t show anything unusual. Unless you want to count the engraving inside the band that had L.B. C. but those are the skip’s initials so there was no secret anything.”

“So all this time...why didn’t the skipper tell us it was no gadget?”

“Cause’,” Ski said, “he knew how much it meant to you that it was,” Ski said. “Didn’t want to hurt your feelings, I’d guess.”

“Anyway,” Malone said, “Starke told Nelson he knew of a jeweler who might be able to fit the pieces of gemstone back together. But Nelson said ‘Why bother?’ and then he added ‘besides, it was Lee who broke it. Just like he broke our relationship’.”

“Shit!” Riley spat.

“Then they left. But Nelson still put the band and the pieces back into his pocket.  I found out later that they boarded Seaview, and as far as I know are still there and drowning their sorrows with some Johnny Walker or Glen Livet in the Observation Nose.”

“Is there anything we can do to get Nelson and Crane back together,” Riley asked, “like, as the friends they once were? The skip would be miserable without Seaview! It’d kill him!”

“You know that,” Ski said, “we all know that. Hell, even the damn boat knows that. But Captain Crane has the right to resign if he wants to. This is between him and Nelson. And none of our business. And if it’s one thing I’ve learned about the brass, is don’t interfere.”

“Still, maybe we can talk the skip outta’ leaving for awhile, long enough for him to get all mushy about Seaview again so he won’t want to go no matter what he feels toward Nelson and...”

“Didn’t you hear one word Ski said?” Malone asked, “Leave it alone, Riley.”

“We can’t just do nothing!”

“And just what do you propose?” Patterson asked, “Call out the National Guard and go bring him back by force?”

“They couldn’t come anyway unless it was a national emergency,” Patterson said.

“You know,” Ski said with a smirk, “it is kind of hard for the skip to resist Riley’s boyish charm.”
“You can’t be serious!” Malone said. “Fly up there and interrupt the skip pretending to be an Eskimo? He’d skin you all alive! Or maybe make his friend do it. Or...Mr. Morton.”

All groaned.

“Well, I’m going,” Riley said, “with or without any of you.”

“What about it guys,” Ski said, “I’m  tagging along. “It’s that or risk scrubbing out the ballast tanks for the rest of our lives if we let him  go up there by himself.”

 “I’m in,” Patterson said.

“Well, I’m not,” Malone said. “Besides, the news didn’t know what the skip’s plans were. For all we know he’s changed his mind about playing Nanook of the North and is on his way to Hawaii!”

“Well, I bet Mr. and Mrs. Amarok know,” Riley said, “and the skip sure seemed to enjoy being an Eskimo. Pretty safe bet he’s still up there.”

“Better not call the Amarok’s till you get there,” Malone said. “You don’t want the skip to find out about your plans so he can run away and hide.”

“Are you calling the skipper a coward?” Riley fumed.

“No, just smart. Anything to avoid caving in to your pleading with him. He has a right to do what he wants or not. You’re just going to make it difficult for him to make the decision he wants time to think about.”

“Malone has a point, Stu,” Ski said. “You still sure you want to go? Maybe you should think about it. Maybe Pat and I should too. C’mon, let’s go get a couple of beers to help us think it over...before our flights.”


Next morning came too quickly for Nelson and Starke, still in Seaview’s Observation Nose, both having fallen asleep in their loungers. It was the aroma of freshly brewed coffee that roused them, both men embarrassed for having drifted off in drunken stupors.

“Gawd, Harriman...that family label’s got to be illegal.”

“No, but almost,” Nelson groaned as the broken pieces of onyx and the gold band on the view port’s ledge caught the morning light, making his head hurt even worse.

“Sorry to wake you, sirs,” Cookie said, setting out carafes of coffee and a store bought box of doughnuts on the sideboard while one of the maintenance crew picked up the spent bottles and tumblers of booze that lay scattered on the deck. “By the way, Admiral Nelson, there was a call for you from one of Miss Nelson’s traveling companion earlier. Miss Angie took the message. Want me to pipe her in on the monitor?”

“Er, no, I’ll go to my cabin for it.”

It was with some trouble that Nelson was able to open his eyes fully, and trek aft, finally arriving at his destination. Starke, in need of other matters, headed up the spiral ladder to the nearest head, squinting all the way.


 “Mr. Morton wanted to see me?” Lt. O’Brien asked Catherine as he entered the XO’s office suite.

“Go right in, but...wear your earplugs.”’

“Now what?” he muttered as he knocked on the closed office door and entered at Morton’s ‘In!’ closing the door behind him.

“What the devil is this?” Chip railed waving a form in the air, while Joe stood looking out the window.

“With Seaview still out of service and not expected to sail for a couple of weeks, I saw no problem approving the leaves....”

“All three at the same time?”

“Well, let’s face it sir, none are considered essential personnel. And emergencies can  happen at the same time. Last night actually...fortunately I was on staff duty so I didn’t have to bother you....”

“You know the odds for three emergency leave requests at the same time? Just what are these emergencies anyway?”

“Personal sir. I didn’t think it proper to get details. HR wouldn’t like it.”

 “Very well,” Chip sighed, “but next time have the courtesy to clear any such multiple requests at the same time with me, even if  you have to wake me up!”

“Yes, sir. Anything else?”

“No, dismissed.”

As he departed, Catherine peeked in and simply announced, “TV news report. Miss Connors. Thought you might be interested.”

Joe turned on the wall monitor...

“...Well,” Miss Connors was telling the TV news reporter, “if Captain Crane does quit the Seaview, we can certainly offer him a job here at Fox. In fact, after his Reserve stint as a technical advicer for us, he earned some extra cash as one of our extras and stuntmen. Here’s a picture of him during a break in the filming of a new gladiator film we’re making. And here’s another of him playing a wild barbarian...had a bit of a problem getting the make-up off....I believed he enjoyed the entire experience and I know we’d gladly welcome him back if  he’d like to get in front of the camera again, even as a supporting player or leading man.”

“So,” the reporter said, “cleared of the charges of drug possession, Cdr. Crane is now free to resume his command of Seaview, which is increasingly doubtful as he and Admiral Nelson are reported to be at odds with each other, or he might take residence in Alaska, where he’s enjoying life with some Eskimo friends, or he might just take up Miss Connor’s offer to return to Hollywood as a leading man....excuse me, we’ve just received breaking news regarding the commander. Apparently the Nome police received a dispatch from a cab driver, whose fares told him to step on it to the Amarok home, that it was a matter of life and death....more as it happens....”

 Chip was already on the phone with Nome police before Nelson or Starke arrived in Admin, to find a flurry of worried activity and hurried into Morton and Crane’s office suite, Chip’s door now wide open.

“Of course you can tell us what the hell’s going on!” Chip was yelling into the receiver, “Is Crane okay or isn’t he?”

Joe took the receiver out of Chip’s hand and spoke into it. “Sorry, Cdr. Morton’s just upset. This is Lt. Cdr. Jackson of Submarines Pacific...we were at the Nome police HQ previously  so we know your patrol cops are using experimental shoulder cams and want you to transmit to us...of course our frequency is secure! NIMR is Navy Reserve... The officers and ambulance are arriving at the Amarok’s now? Well, hurry it up!”

“It’s on!” Chip shouted pointing to the activated monitor.

The images from the officer’s shoulder cam was bumpy and grainy as he and his partner, along with the paramedics from the ambulance behind them, were walking up to the Amarok’s house, the cab driver and the three crewmen with him waiting for the Amarok’s to answer the doorbell.

“Harriman?” Starke asked his friend in quiet dread, “You don’t think Crane’s done something foolish, do you?”

“God, I hope not.”

“But why would Ski, Pat, and Riley be there?” Chip asked.

A confused Mr. and Mrs. Amarok answered the door, confused as the police explained they were there on a matter of life and death and demanded to see Cdr. Lee Crane, while the couple was detained.

“...Mom, Dad?” Wolfie asked, joining them, “What’s going on?”

“...They want to see Lee,” Mrs. Amarok said nervously.

“...Follow me,” Wolfie, equally confused told the officers, leading the police down the hall, followed by paramedics, Ski, Pat, Riley, and the cab driver.

A bedroom door was open. Just inside, they found the person in question, in old academy sweats and socks, sound asleep on the floor, his head resting on Delilah. His feet covered by Sampson. A blanket was half on, half off of him. There was an empty pizza box on the floor, four  empty beer cans, and three empty mason jars, two of them prone, their greenish liquid still dripping out onto the carpet. And a couple of almost empty bottles of vodka completed the collection of food and drink containers. The bed had not been used, aside from stray pillows.

“...Some guard dog you are, Sampson,” the bleary eyed and similarly attired Wolfie said quietly. “Care to tell us just what the hell’s going on,” he added to the cops in a whisper.

“...We received a report that Cdr. Crane was in distress,” one of the paramedics said as he began to take Lee’s pulse. “A matter of life or death according to those three, and they should know, he’s their captain.”

“...Good God,” Wolfie said, halting the paramedic’s exam, “He’s fine! C’mon, Lee, wake up,” he added nudging Lee’s shoulder.”

Lee only moaned sleepily, snuggling back into his ‘pillow dog’.

“...Why’s he on the floor?” one of the cops asked. “Any unlocked windows intruders could have climbed through and beaten him to the floor?”

“...The dogs would have alerted us. Well, probably. And he likes sleeping on the deck at times. Most beds are too soft for him.”

Indeed, Lee looked very comfortable, snuggled up to his pillow dog and her companion at his feet.

“...Lee, Lee,” Wolfie said louder and nudging his  shoulder more vigorously, “wake up. We got ourselves a little problem with the law again....”

Lee’s eyes flickered open, squinting in the light.

“...Huh? What? Seaview?” Lee moaned, he barely managed, then with squinted bloodshot eyes saw the cops.  “Oh gawd, now what am I supposed to have done?”

 “...Those three,” the cop explained, pointing to Kowalski, Patterson, and Riley, “said getting to you was a matter of life and death....”

 “...Oh gawd,”Wolfie began, but stopped, groaning, sat down on the edge of the bed and holding his head. “It’s one thing for Nelson to keep you on a tight leash, but when your crew does...damn it, Lee, you’ve got to  control them better. ”

Lee was struggling to sit up, and finally managed lean back against the foot of the  bed, not bothering to stand, and barely able to focus on the assemblage.

 “...Obviously,” Lee croaked, his voice hoarse. “Officers? I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.”

“...Misunderstanding?” the lead cop shouted. “If you’re not hurt or in a diabetic coma or something, those three ‘guardian angels’ of yours are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor   Filing a false report!”

 Delilah and Sampson, no longer on pillow duty began to growl. How dare the man in blue yell at their master, well, interim master.

“...Pipe down!” Lee ordered them.

 “...It wasn’t a lie!” Riley said, “Honest, Skipper. You’ll die without Seaview! You know you will. We had to do something! Convince you to come back even for a little while so’s you can see for yourself that you can command Seaview even if you and Nelson are at odds with each other...You’d be miserable without Seaview. And that would lead doing something gawd, I can’t say it...but the threat’s there.”

The cops and paramedics raised their eyebrows. This was getting more interesting minute by minute.

“You’re saying,” the lead cop began, “that if Cdr. Crane gets depressed without his submarine that he might consider suicide?”

“Well, yeah. Sort of. Maybe.”

Still sitting on the floor against the bed, Lee sighed, leaned his head back, closed his eyes, and raised his knees to his chest and folded his hands together on it. Then he opened his eyes wide, which wasn’t easy, and looked at his crewmen, squirming under his scrutiny.

 “...I think you’d have realized by now, after all we’ve been through, suicide is not an option I’d ever consider.”

Perhaps not for depression, his crew knew, but they did know he’d have no hesitation using Cyanide if he ever fell into the hands of the bad guys.

“...And,” Lee continued, “don’t you know that you could be arrested and fined for filing a false report? And disturbing the peace. By now everyone in the neighborhood is wondering what the hell is going on?”

“...But there aren’t any neighbors,” Riley said, “you’re way out here in the boonies. Skipper, we had no choice. We had to convince you to come back!”

 “...I hadn’t made up my mind not to come back! That’s why I’m in Alaska. Lots of wild open places to clear the head, think things through without everyday interruptions!”

“...Never mind scolding them right now,” the paramedic said, returning his attention to Crane’s eyes.

“...Oww! Sorry, the damn flashlight hurts.”

“...We told you boys to behave!” Mr. Amarok said angrily, looking at the littered carpet. Both he and his wife had finally been allowed back into the house.

“...Not now, dear,” Mrs. Amarok said.

“...I’m sorry, Mrs. A.,” Lee said, trying to give her his best ‘little boy lost’ look. “We kind of over did the booze, pizza, and Granny’s pickled blubber last night. I’ll pay for the Stanley Steamer....”

“...You don’t have one nickel to rub against another,” Wolfie said. “I’ll spring for it. My fault anyway, talking you into more pizza, beer, and two bottles of  Kalashinkov.”

“What?” Mr. Amarok hissed.  “Those were my last bottles of vodka recovered ten years ago from that abandoned Ruskie sub!”

“...Sorry, Pop,” Wolfie said, “I wasn’t thinking too clearly...”

 “...Was awfully good,” Lee said apologetically then moaned. “Sorry, my head feels like it’s going to fall off, the light hurts my eyes, and my stomach’s not so good either. Got any pink stuff, Mrs. A.?”

 Without another word she left to go get it.

“...Skipper?” Ski asked, “No matter what’s come between you and the admiral, you’ve always worked out your difference before. Can’t you, like, try to work them out again?”

“...Ski, Pat, Riley,” Lee said gently, “I appreciate you wanting me in command, but...I just don’t know if Harry and...if the admiral and I, can work together again. God knows I love Seaview. And you’re part of the best crew I’ve ever had. But I honestly don’t know if I can still captain the boat when the admiral and I are at an impasse. He feels he’s in the right about some things and I don’t. I just can’t see a compromise happening. Like I said, that’s why I came up here. To think things out without all of the distractions I’d have back home. To think long and hard about options. Can you accept that?”

It wasn’t really a question. All three crewmen knew he was expecting their compliance.

“...Yes, sir,” Ski said.

“...Yes, sir,” Patterson added.

Riley remained silent, his lips pursed and trembling.

“...Riley?” Crane asked gently.


Ski elbowed him.

“...Okay...I guess....”

Crane squinted at the wall clock.

“...Am I correct in assuming you took commercial flights to get here?”

“...Yeah,” Pat said. “No way we wanted to ask Sharkey or Mr. Morton to fly us up in FS-1. They’d have put us all in the brig!”

 “...Not too much in the way of food on the red eye flights that I know of except pretzels and peanuts,” Lee said. “Any of Granny’s pickled blubber left, Wolfie?”

“...We wiped it all out....”

It was apparent to all watching, Crane’s crewmen were relieved to hear it.

“...I can fix you boys some bacon and eggs,” Mrs. A. said, having returned and handed Lee a bottle of the pink stuff, “But there’s cereal if you prefer. I always keep a box of Lucky Charms for when my boys visit. Really, all that sugar and...Lee!”

Lee had already twisted the bottle’s cap off and had been just about to put open bottle to his lips.

“...Sorry, forgot,” Lee said sheepishly, and picked up the little plastic up that had been stuck on the bottle cap, filling it to the brim and downing the contents.

 “...Officers?” Mrs. Amarok asked, “Can I get you some coffee?”

“...Thank you, no ma’am,” the lead cop said, “Now,” he added toward the crewmen, “which of you three is the ringleader of this little jaunt? Got to give this ticket to someone.”

“...I’ll take it,” Ski  said.

 “...No,” Riley grabbed it out of Ski’s hand. “I talked them into coming here...that much?” he

gulped as he read the minimum fine.

“...Oh shit, Stu,” Patterson said, looking at the ticket in Riley’s hand.

 “...It’ll take till Doomsday to pay it off even if we three split it,” Patterson sighed.

 “...There goes my new board,” Riley moaned.”

“...Hand it over,” Crane said and shook his head as he read the ticket and the fine. “Class A misdemeanor? Isn’t that right up there with Grand Theft-Auto? Seems a bit harsh. What about community service in lieu of payment? And extending the due date to allow installments?”

 “...Standard fine, sir. Never heard of community service in lieu of payment. One month is standard too, but the Chief of Police might allow a few more months for installments.”

“...Maybe I c....”

 “...Don’t even think about it Lee!” Wolfie warned. “You already paid for Morton’s speeding ticket by working off Fox’s loan. You can’t offer to pay off this ticket working for Fox again too! You’d be stuck in Hollywood for months! Even if she gave them some gigs to help out! Let NIMR accounting arrange something taken out of their pay over time...”

“...I doubt the Chief of Police would extend the due date long enough for this amount,” Lee said, then considered something and looked at his friend, “you’ve always liked my Cobra....”

 “...No, Skipper, no!” Riley wailed. “You can’t sell your car for us! Well, me, technically. And you, like, already don’t have two nickels to rub together...Officer, how much jail time am I looking at if I can’t pay?”

“...You’re not going to jail over this!” Crane said. “I’ll get NIMR to issue us a loan...they can pay the NPD in full, and let us reimburse accounting over time. Not a good thing to have money owed to the government....”

“...Hold it, Lee,” Mr. Amarok said. “Officer, the wife and I will pay the damn fine out of our savings, in full and....”

“...We won’t hear of it!” Lee interrupted.

“...And that money’s for next year’s Iditarod!” Wolfie complained.

“...Boys, boys,” Mrs. Amarok said. “Lee, you are a member of our family so these three crewmen of yours are as well, in a way. Families help out families. And the Iditarod can wait a couple more years. We’ll rent out the racing dog teams to others....”

“...Wait,” the cab driver interrupted. “this whole thing is probably more my fault than the youngster’s. I should have tried to find out more before having dispatch call you.”

“....Nonetheless,” the officer began but his partner, who had taken a one way call on his Walkie-Talkie out of earshot approached.  

“...HQ says there’s a Lt. Cdr. Jackson on the line for you, Crane. It’s not equipped with volume control. Will be hard enough for you to hear him with your ear plastered against the unit. Lots of static and bad volume. Don’t worry, we won’t hear whatever it is he wants to say. Called you captain instead of commander. Member of your crew?”

“...Not exactly,” Lee said and accepted the Walkie-Talkie. “Joe? What... Uh huh...Well,  tell Starke it’s none of his business. None of your business either if Wolfie and I got drunk. How’d you know that, anyway? What? A shoulder cam?”

Lee looked at the officer with the shoulder cam who was squirming now.

“...No, I didn’t notice...the power button’s not lit up...oh, one of those,” Lee added, and picked up Deliah and Sampsons paws to ‘wave’. “Yes, we had pickled blubber. Tastes better than it sounds...especially since Granny uses Vodka in the pickling that Chip yelling in the background? Cheech, you need earplugs...Nelsons raving even louder? I had no idea the men were coming to save me from a fate worse than death, at least that’s the gist of the reason the they’re here...uh huh...uh huh. They’re flying up to pick up our miscreant crewmen? FS-1 still not at her optimum level...accounting’s already deposited the full amount into the NPD’s finance dept.? Then...just what will be taken out of our paychecks over time in easy amounts...yes, of course mine as well...I still have one pending before I decide what to do...But I am responsible for them. They wouldn’t be in the mess if it weren’t for me! Get Chip on the line...Chip?  Yeah, but...will you stop yelling at me? I have a hangover to end all hangovers and...what’s it to you if I was drowning my sorrows with Wolfie last night? Russian Vodka? Yes, we had Russian vodka. It was spoils of salvage from a downed sub. Mr. A was on the salvage team and it was finders keepers.

“....yes, I liked the pickled the hell do I know if it was whale or seal or...yes, they still hunt them up here...licensed and limited...some communities further north depend on it for food, oil, and clothing! In fact, Wolfie and I might take a side trip to Barrow for one of the harvest, not right away. We’re going to Broken Claw and meet up with Granny to go with her on her pilgrimage further north to seek out her spirit guides. Just hope we can get in some good ice fishing without getting hauled into court again!

“... Yes, the ice and snow here is melting but it isn’t further north...No, damn it, Harry, I don’t know yet! Ow, that hurt...Doc? Yes, I have a hangover! Yes, the pink stuff helped my tummy! Cheech!  Uh huh...yes, we’re going to Broken Claw by dog sled...there’s no other way to get there except by dog sled or reindeer drawn sleighs or snow planes. No, snowmobiles don’t work. No place to store or buy extra gas...will you stop badgering me! I know how to mush!  Ow!”

“Perhaps some coffee, dear?” Mrs. Amarok asked as Lee pressed his free hand against his eyes.

“...Yeah....strong....thanks...Yes, Chip, I’ve calmed down...what? Wolfie, Officer O’Malley said the cruise ship she and Edith and Dr. Jenkins are on is coming here.”

Wolfie took  the Walkie-Talkie. “You sure? Hasn’t been a cruise ship here for some years...oh...Lee’s famous? Well, you can tell Edith Nelson that we’re not going to be here when it comes. We’re headed north to Broken Claw, and then further north as Granny decides...yes, she wants to visit her spirit guides under what we can still see of the Dancing Lights...Northern Lights to you. This time of year, there’s more and more sun and less and less darkness. It’s really weird when we don’t get sunset until next morning and only a couple of hours or so of twilight that passes for night....hang on...Juan Valdez just arrived....”

The coffee mug handed Mrs. Amarok to Lee was truly appreciated as he consumed a little, then set it back down on the floor leaning back against the foot of the bed again.

“...Sorry,” Lee said as he spoke back into the Walkie-Talkie that Wolfie handed back to him. “Yes, the coffee’s real. Look, Chip, I’m tired, I still have a hangover, my tummy still hurts a little, but tell Doc not too bad now. I want to go back to bed, but I’m wide awake now because of forces beyond my control, namely the Three Musketeers. What’s FS-1’s ETA then...uh, better only make it Mach 1 in her condition...boy, do I envy’s been a long time since I flew my baby...well, sort of....”

The officer checked his watch and looked at Lee inquiringly.

“...Really have to go, Chip. The cops and paramedics need to get back on patrol. No, I’m not sure I’ll be here when you splash down. Have a good flight.”

Turning off the unit, Lee handed the Walkie-Talkie back to the officer with a soft spoken ‘Thanks’.


“You should have forced a decision on Crane, Harriman,” Starke told him.

“At least he still considers himself the crew’s CO,” Chip said, “that’s got to be a good sign.”

“Very well. Better go prep the Flying Sub. And have a good flight...take whomever you want to co-pilot.”

“Aye, sir.”

“And, Chip? Even though our three miscreants are bound to feel pretty miserable for a mission not accomplished, not to mention the arrest and fine, I wouldn’t mind you demanding a good scrub down of the ballast tanks.”

Chip  grinned without answering and departed.


Nelson, Starke, and Jackson spent a good part of the morning together at the Santa Barbara Country Club, enjoying the Olympic sized and heated pool after a round of golf before returning to NIMR.

“Going to chew your crewmen out when they arrive later?” Jiggs asked as they entered Nelson’s outer office where Angie had the monitor tuned to CNN.

“I’m sure Chip’s already done a good enough job of it.”

“...From Nome, Alaska,” the desk anchor was saying, “there was some excitement early this morning at the Amarok home. A taxi, a police car and ambulance were seen there. When the officers, paramedics, and cab driver emerged to leave, they refused to comment to curious bystanders, aside from saying their visit was a false alarm. However, one of our affiliate newscasters  was able to get a later interview with the driver....

 “....Look,” he said as the video played, “I can only tell you what my fares told me, that it was ‘a matter of life and death’ they said. I had no choice but to relay that to dispatch. After all my fares were crewmen of the Seaview...they had to know something vital for them to be so anxious about their captain. Well, it was a big mistake. Cdr. Crane was fine except for a hangover and upset stomach. Saw him myself. Turned out his boys got flights to Nome asap in the effort to convince him not to quit Seaview. That was the ‘fate worse than death’ they were worried about. More for him, than them...But he still has decided what he’s going to do...and the poor boys got arrested by the Nome police for making a false report.”

“...About two and half hours later,” the news anchor returned to the screen, showing a new video,  “the three crewmen boarded the famous Flying Sub which had come ashore after splashing down in the Nome harbor. Gawked at by locals, it was an equally spectacular sight taking off up in the air at a 45 degree angle, and soon lost to sight.

 “...Cdr. Crane and Lt. Cdr. Amarok scrapped their original plans of mushing to Broken Claw, and will be flying up in a rented snow plane being prepared for the trip at Nome’s City Field, a public aviation airport for want of a better term.

“...The plane in question, as you can see, is a model with both tires, pontoons, and sleds, all of which can be adjusted depending on the terrain.

“...With Crane and Amarok, in traditional Eskimo attire, Mr. and Mrs. Amarok saying goodbye, and Sampson and Delilah going along on the flight. Any mushing to be done from Broken Claw to a site to be determined by the family’s matriarch on her pilgrimage will use the extended family’s sled.

Soon the plane’s engines revved up, and it taxied, toward the annex’s small runway and waited for clearance to take off. 

 “...And they’re off,” the reporter said as the plane sped down the runway and took off.

“...Let’s hope that Cdr. Crane’s adventure in the frozen north will help him come to a decision regarding Seaview, with the help of Granny Amarok’s spirit guides, which by the way, we’ve learned the commander doesn’t believe in. But he does believe in family and while there is no blood relation to the Amaroks, he is as much a member of the family as he is with his adopted mother Mrs. Crane, who is unavailable for comment.

 “He has had plenty of time to think,” Jiggs said, as Nelson punched in his code for the office door to unlock.

“I know...”

“You could take the decision out of his hands, you know,” Jiggs said as he entered the office with Nelson. “As long as he’s Reserve he has to obey you.”

Just then sunlight streamed through the window and glinted on the pieces of Lee’s ring on Nelson’s desk.

“Angie?” Nelson called out, “I thought I left Cdr. Crane’s broken ring with Catherine to put in his in box.”

“She thought it would be better to leave it in your custody. You have a safe, the captain doesn’t.”

“Of course, thank you.”

Nelson stared at the pieces as he picked them up, the golden ring and onyx bits glinting in the palm of his hand. Memories flooded Nelson’s mind. The good times, the bad, the solemn, the awkward. Suddenly he remembered what he had told Melina Gounaris when he, Nelson, told her that he was Lee’s friend, enemy, partner, rival, big brother, and that sometimes he’d wanted to bash Lee’s head in. And now, he had, in a way, hypothetically.

 “Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!” Nelson taunted himself.


“Are the differences of opinion about procedure between Lee and me worth losing him over? The Navy can always get me a new captain, even one not quite as skilled. Maybe approve Chip for the job. He’s taken it on enough times as acting captain. But...Lee and I...we had a friendship...a brotherhood. And, Jiggs, if I’m honest with myself, it was becoming more like we were father and son! Despite our differences now, has that really changed? I know he despises me now, and yes, I’m disappointed in his reaction to things I did or didn’t do recently, but...the’s still there, Jiggs. I can feel it.”

Nelson walked over to an elaborately framed sketch on the wall. Always an item of interest to visitors meeting him in his office, the original drawing by Leonardo De Vinci of an unknown ‘northern barbarian’ hid a wall safe. Punching in code along with allowing his right retina to be scanned, he opened the safe and lay the pieces of Lee’s ring into it. Nelson returned to his desk, and clicked the intercom.

“Angie, have Miss Hale contact the Flying Sub for her ETA.”

“Right away, sir.”

“Very good...Jiggs,” he asked after pressing the off button on the intercom. “what’s the best jeweler in town?”

“Hell, how should I know?”

“Angie?” Nelson asked pressing the intercom again, “Figure out what’s the best jeweler in town and make an appointment for them to come in. ASAP.”

 “Right away, sir.”

“What are you up to?” Jiggs asked his friend.

 “Might as well fix Lee’s ring. And I’ve decided to bring Lee home. If I have to hog tie and arrest him, I’m bringing him’re welcome to watch the fireworks. You too, Joseph.”

“Admiral Nelson?” Miss Hale’s voice came over the intercom, “Mr. Morton estimates the Flying Sub’s arrival within the next forty five minutes. Would you like to go live with him?”

“Yes, please.”

“Admiral?” Chip’s voice came over.

“Chip, you’ll be making another flight shortly after as you arrive.”

“Emergency, sir?”

“That entirely depends on one’s point of view. We’re going to Broken Claw. Not sure if there’s a harbor. We may have slip and slide on ice and snow. I understand the damn stuff hasn’t started to melt like it’s started to in Nome.’

“Understood, but keep in mind I haven’t qualified for those landing conditions. Might be a bit bumpy.”

“I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

“Am I correct in assuming the emergency regards Lee?”

“I have a hankering to see Broken Claw. Put the speed on if FS-1 can take it. The sooner you’re back, the sooner we can get underway again.”

“Excuse me, sir,” Angie interrupted, walking in and turning on the office monitor....

“...We’re live in Broken Claw, Alaska,” the TV reporter was saying in the blowing snow, “about a hundred and fifty miles north of Nome. This small community, also off shore the Bering Sea, is expecting an unscheduled arrival of the North Star Cruise ship soon, arranged for passengers to seek out  a bit of the ‘real Alaska’, of interest due recent events regarding the captain of the Seaview and his friend, whose  extended family lives here.

“...Here at the Trading Post, you see a taxidermy Grizzly bear, snagged by a native hunter for food a few years ago. It is jokingly referred to as ‘Brother Bear’s namesake. ‘Brother Bear’ you may remember, is the name given to Cdr. Crane by Granny Amarok for his courage and success in defeating a Grizzly that had begun to maul his friend Wolfie Amarok and himself.

“...The Amarok’s ancestors broke away from two of the Native Alaskan tribes to form their own. Accepted as an independent tribe and religion by the state of Alaska, twice a year, some members of the extended tribe and family set off on a pilgrimage to appease and to receive instructions from their spirit guides, and engage in a little hunting and fishing as well. Recent legislation allows recognized native tribes to hunt and fish protected species, within strict limitations, however.

“...The parents of Lt. Cdr. Amarok who live in Nome, have stated, however, that their Granny’s pilgrimages further north, are purely spiritual ones.

“...Earlier this morning Lt. Cdr. Amarok and Cdr. Crane flew from Nome to Broken Claw, wheels up and sleds down. As you can see from this video, they were met on the still snow and iced over field by members of Amarok’s extended family, with their dog sleds. Formerlypets Sampson and Delilah were happy to get reacquainted with all as were Cdr. Crane and Lt. Cdr. Amarok, the latter having taken the stick, as the saying goes, for the flight.

“...It wasn’t long before the entire entourage, including two extra dog sleds for the pair, were mushing off toward one of the four homes belonging to the Amarok’s of Broken Claw. It’s rumored, but not confirmed that Uncle Fang-tooth lives in a traditional is also unknown where the Navy commanders will reside during their visit here.”

“Excuse me,” Angie said from the doorway, “Mr. Gates is here.”


“From Gerrard’s.”

“Of course, send him in...Mr. Gates?” Nelson asked as the man appeared, “Thank you for seeing me at such short notice. I have a job for you.”


“I don’t know about you, Chief, but I’m starved,” Chip said after splash down in NIMR’s private channel. “Call the cafeteria and have them bring down some sandwiches or something. There’ll only be a little time before the admirals join us.”

“I’d sure like a ham sandwich,” Ski said, his stomach growling.

“He didn’t say anything about you three coming along,” Morton said, “  besides, you’ve caused enough trouble already.”

“But...” Riley began.

“Unless we hear otherwise, you three can join maintenance and help out with remaining repairs, unless you’d prefer to scrub out the ballast tanks.”

“We’ll get to the repair party right away, sir,” Ski spoke for himself and his companions as Morton brought the craft to the dock and ‘parallel parked’.

“And men,” Morton said, “Let’s not jump to conclusions about the skipper’s lack of decision.  You may very well be piping him aboard as your returning captain.....”

“God, I hope so,” Riley sighed. “He’d be like, lost without her. Just lost.”

“Don’t think there’s time for those sandwiches, sir,” Sharkey said as Nelson and Starke, foul weather gear in their arms, strode down the dock’s ramp meet the craft.

Ski, Patterson, and Riley left the vessel and stood by as the two admirals went aboard. In about two seconds FS-1 revved up, skirted away and launched up into the warm blue skies over California.

“What do you suppose Nelson’s going to do?” Riley asked as they boarded Seaview.

“Well, if he’s smart,” Ski said, “he’ll get on bended knee, apologize for whatever he did wrong that got the skip so riled, and plead with him to come back and double his pay. Gawd, how the skip can be so damn broke is beyond me....”


“Push her a bit more, Chip,” Nelson ordered after about an hour into the flight.

“She starts bucking at about Mach 2.8.”

“Very well. Push her to 2.5. Sharkey? See if there’s any more news coverage from Broken Claw.”

“Aye sir,” Sharkey said as he began to check the controls for various frequencies. Soon he got an active broadcast on the drop down monitor.....

“...Now that the weather has begun to cooperate,” the reporter was saying in the lighter snowfall, “several of cruise ship passenger have been arriving via the ship’s launch to the fishing fleet’s dock.

“...The Trading Post has proved popular, with several men, women, and children posting with the fierce Grizzly bear. Ah, here’s Edith Nelson, sister of famed Admiral Harriman Nelson, Cdr. Crane’s boss, and having her picture taken with the bear now....”

“...Thanks,” Edith told the Trading Post clerk who’d taken the photo. She’d purchased traditional female Eskimo attire and was wearing it now. “I’ll pick up the picture when it’s ready along with  my clothes you stored in the back. Now, the picture’s five bucks, right?”

“...For you ma’am, we’ll settle for a $2 donation to the children’s storybook fund. Any friend of ‘Brother Bear’ is a friend of ours.”

“...Oh, you mean Lee? Well, we know each other, but I can’t say we’re actually friends. Tell you what though. Here’s ten bucks for your time and developing the photo, and here’s five bucks for the storybook fund.”

“...You’re very generous, Miss Nelson. May the Great Spirit bless and guide your path.”

“...Miss Nelson?” the reporter called out as the clerk returned inside the Trading Post to develop Edith’s and others’ pictures. “May we have a few words?”

“...I don’t see why you want to talk to me. I’m just a tourist like everyone else.”

“...Can you tell us if your being here has anything to do with Cdr. Crane?”

“...I’m hardly responsible for the cruise captain’s prerogative to change the ports of call. Can’t say I blame him, this is a charming little town,  even if he might have decided on it due to Lee’s notoriety. But no, I didn’t decide to come ashore to find Lee.”

“...How do we look, Edith?” Officer O’Malley interrupted, emerging with Dr. Jenkins from the post’s heavy and elaborately carved wooden door, twirling around in their also just purchased Eskimo attire.

“...We’re triplets!” Edith laughed and strode down the steps of the Post’s deck toward two saddled reindeer secured to a nearby post, attended by  two  locals, whose homemade sign advertised ‘Reindeer Rides-$20.00. With photo-$30.00’.

“...Dancer? Prancer?” she read the reindeer’s collars. “I thought Santa lived in the North Pole...”

“...Yes,” the attendant said with a grin as not to disappoint any of the children about, “but he has an annex here...”

“...Ah, well,” Edith said. “Er...I think I’ll try Dancer.”

The photo attendant took her picture as soon as the other attendant had boosted her up onto Dancer’s saddle and headed to the Trading Post.

“...Should we wait for you to go dog sledding with us?” O’Malley asked.

“...You go ahead without me. I don’t think I want to do anything that will make me think of Lee,” Edith said. “Hard enough not to think of him, especially since he may be around here someplace.”

“...But why not think of him?” O’Malley said. “You don’t hate him anymore. Sort of not, anyway. And he’d be easy enough to find. Surely the locals could tell us where the Amarok’s live.”

“...What’s  the case with Lee Crane?” the reporter asked.

“...Well, when I was younger I had a crush on him when ‘Captain’ Nelson brought ‘Ensign’ Crane and a few other junior officers on leave over to visit once. Harry and Lee were assigned to the Nautilus. Didn’t really get to see Lee again until recently when he was hired to captain Seaview. Then, just a while back, some meds warped my mind. I went completely bonkers. I obsessed over him, lovey dovey things that scared him away. But then the meds caused me to completely turn around and I hated him, hated my brother, hated all males in general....but I’m pretty much over all those side effects now. But I think it’s probably best to avoid Lee, Harry, and anyone from Seaview for awhile...Well, Dancer is getting antsy...have a good dog sled, girls,” she told O’Malley and Jenkins as she and her riding companion pranced off to the sound of the jingle bells on their collars and reins.

 “...Broken Claw,” the reporter said as several arriving dog sled teams deposited and collected paying ‘musher’s, including  Edith’s ‘friends’, soon on their way, “has certainly laid out the welcome wagon for its visitors; probably never in its history having had such an influx of ready cash.

“...And so, the picture postcard that is snow covered Main Street, Broken Claw, Alaska, U.S. A. awaits the arrival, still to be determined, of ‘Granny’ Amarok who, with fellow pilgrims will stop at the Trading Post for a few last minute best wishes by the locals for a safe journey. We’ll bring you live coverage...and now back to our anchor desk.”

“...Looks like she’s enjoying herself, Harriman,” Starke said. “I don’t think Lee has anything to worry about.”

“...Well, let’s hope not. I wouldn’t want him ambushed...all that good PR stuff could be a cover for whatever she might want to do to him. Good or bad.”


“Look alive, look alive!” Chief Anderson ordered the three new men on repair duty down in the ballast tanks.

“Give it a rest, Mac!” Ski said.

“We’re like, doing the best we can,” Riley moaned looking up. “And it’s not as if Mr. Morton ordered us to work on the ballast tanks. He just said to get on repairs.”

“Yeah,” Pat said. “It’s going to take a disinfectant shower to get this stink off us, in spite of all of this rubber protection gear.”

“Well, isn’t that too too bad,” Anderson said. “I’m in charge and I want those ballast tanks spic and span for whoever the new skipper’s gonna’ be.”

“He’s coming back!” Riley fumed as he crawled up out of the tank. He would have struck Anderson if Ski, behind him had not grabbed his arms.

“Not the way I hear Nelson treated him lately. And word is SEAFAC wants him to drive one of their test subs, and the Navy’s already been wanting him or some of the new subs they’re commissioning in a few months. More sophisticated than this tub.”

“He wouldn’t,” Riley whined, “he just wouldn’t.”

“Stu’s right,” Pat said, “the skip might leave Seaview, but no way he’ll take on another boat.”

“Mark my words,” Anderson said, “He’s like any other gold braid. The better the boat, the more he can show off.”

“You take that back!” Riley shouted, held back by Ski and Pat.

“Easy,” Ski said, “he didn’t mean anything by it.”

 “Damn right I did. So, what you going to do about it, Surfer Boy?”

“I’m gonna’ wring your disloyal neck, that’s what!”

“Fat chance! Get back to work!”

“Gladly, after, like, I put you in the Med Center!”

“Leave it, Riley,” Ski said. “As much as I’d like to punch Anderson’s lights out it isn’t worth going on report for.”

“You gonna’ just let him insult the skipper like he did?”

“We got a job to do...”

“Better listen to him, kid,” Anderson laughed. “Besides, it would take more than you and your friends together to bust me up.”

 Riley looked at Ski, Ski looked at Patterson, and both looked at Riley.

Anderson’s fate was sealed.


“Beginning descent,” Chip said some time later as he brought FS-1 down offshore Broken Claw, glad to see a small slip by the fishery dock. “Glad we don’t have to park close to the cruise ship. Wonder how many launches they have...”

 “Sharkey,” Nelson asked, “what’s the latest?”

Soon the monitor was tuned again to CNN...

“...The weather has dramatically improved here,” one of the growing number of reporters was saying, “while locals, in full native costume are chanting and dancing just beyond the steps to the Trading Post awaiting the arrival of Granny Amarok, the medicine woman or shaman of the Amarok family.

“...And here she comes down Main Street in a fourteen reindeer drawn sleigh. The driver, possibly a member of the family of almost equal status if one can properly decipher the beading, feathers, and embroidery on his clothing, has stopped the sleigh in front of the Trading Post.   Following the sleigh are several dog sleds driven by members of the Amarok family and friends, including Lt.Cdr. Amarok and Cdr. Crane. Granny’s just been helped out of her sleigh by the driver and... ohmygawd....”

The Eskimo driver pulled on Edith.

 “...Let me go!” Edith screamed as her travel companions, tourists, and locals and even the unshaven Lee and Wolfie pulled the man off her.

“...Edith?” Lee asked, surprised to see her, taking her arm, “What are you doing here? You okay?”

 “...No thanks to you! I was on the cruise ship. Not my fault it came here.”

“...Wolfie, why did Uncle Fang-claw grab her like that?”

 “...He’s saying Granny ordered him to. She wants the fire haired one to join us on the pilgrimage.’’

 “...Some invitation,” Edith fumed, “Tell the old bat I’ll see her and Uncle Fang-claw in court!”

Granny took Lee’s arm and began to point up into the sky, chanting.

“...What the hell?” Edith muttered.

“....She’s telling Lee that the spirit guide’s need both of them ” Amarok said.

“...There’s no such thing as spirit guides!” Edith fumed, “She’s just pretending to be crazy so they’ll get off scot free when they’re arrested for assault! Where’s the law around here, anyway?”

 “...Now, wait a minute,” Lee said, “Uncle Fang-claw and Granny weren’t kidnapping you, well, not really. She’s an elder of the old ways...thinks a bit differently than we do and....”

“...I don’t give a damn!” Edith yelled. “They need to be locked up.”

 “...She’s apologizing now,” Wolfie said, “and begs you to accompany us on our journey.”

Granny extended both arms up now pointed skyward.

“...She really wants you to come along.”

“...Hell no!”
“...These are my friends, Edith,” Lee said, “At least you can forgive Granny and Uncle Fang-claw their  ways.”

“...I think you should go along,” O’Malley told Edith, “think of it as an adventure! Jenkins and I can go with about it? Think of the pictures we could take! The articles or book you could write.”

“...I’m no writer!”

“...Always a first time.”

...I don’t know...most of my things are on the ship....”

 “...You won’t need modern clothes,” Wolfie said. “What you’re wearing is fine...Now, are you coming or not? You and your friends will fit in the  sleigh with Granny. There’s extra furs in there if it’s too cold for you.”

Just then the sound of the Flying Sub interrupted, and everyone pointed to the yellow craft’s splash down and  skirting the surface toward the dock, most of which was out of sight.

Lee, brows furrowed but deciding not to greet the craft or her occupants, whistled for Delilah and Sampson, who came running. Lee picked Delilah up and put her into the sleigh, followed by  Sampson.

“...They’ll help to keep you nice and warm,” he added and helped O’Malley and Jenkins up into the sleigh, then offered his arm to Edith, who pointedly did not take it, but did step  up and into the sleigh. Uncle Fang-claw was next while Granny ran her hand through Lee’s hair.

“...It’s pretty evident that the Flying Sub’s arrival doesn’t impress Cdr. Crane.”

The native dancers began to circle the sleigh and the dog teams, chanting until  Granny nodded with a flick of Uncle Fang-claw’s wrists on the reins, the reindeer headed  down the street and around the bend and out of sight.

“...And there they go, the Amarok pilgrimage. Fourteen reindeer and twenty dogs. I wouldn’t like to be in charge of feeding, grooming, and poop pick up duty.”


By the time Nelson, Starke, and Morton entered the main street from the dock, they’d been greeted by tourists, reporters, and someone who’s totem necklace proclaimed him some kind of official.

...“ Cdr. Crane’s already left,” a reporter said, He saw the Flying Sub’s descent but it didn’t look as if he was interested in your arrival....”

 “...Welcome to Broken Claw,” a man in native Eskimo attire interrupted, “I’m Cal Amarok. Wolfie’s my cousin. Can I help you?”

“...Thank you. I’m Nelson, these are Admiral Starke, Lt. Cdr. Morton, Lt. Cdr. Jackson, and Chief Sharkey. Sharkey will remain with the Flying Sub. I don’t suppose we can find someplace to rent some snowmobiles or MTV’s to try to catch up with the pilgrimage party? It’s a matter of some importance.”

“...Navy matter,” Chip lied. Sort of. Maybe.

“...I think we can do better than that for you,” Cal said, “I have some MTV’s suited to the terrain. Electric and all charged up. I always keep them charged up. Oh, our snow and ice does melt, but won’t for a few more weeks. No charge, and I’ll drive one of them myself to get you to Crane.

“...I do have to tell you that Granny won’t appreciate the interruption, however, even when they haven’t gotten to her destination yet. She might put a curse on you,” he laughed. “She’s a kind of witch doctor in modern parlance. Medicine Woman and Shaman depending on your point of view.  But I’m pretty sure she won’t touch any of Lee’s’re still Lee’s friends aren’t you? Wolfie told us about the bad blood between you and Lee, Admiral. But hey, it happens in the best of families, doesn’t it. And boss or not, that’s how he feels about you. Tries to hide it, but the relationship’s there, nonetheless.

“...The MTV’s are in back of the Trading Post. You’re lucky I didn’t rent them out to the tourists. Would be too high if I made them a business. Not that we get too much commercial business here. Mostly artifact stuff and cottage industries, if you don’t count smoked fish...small fishery, has its own cannery...but there’s not too much demand.”

Some of the crowd followed as they made their way along the snowy road to the Trading Post, where soon they were all loaded up in two vehicles and headed toward the trail the pilgrims had taken, the crowd waving  as they disappeared from sight.

Now it was Sharkey’s turn as the crowd made their way to talk to him  about the fabulous Flying Sub.


“All I know, Admiral,” Cal was saying to Nelson and Morton as they drove through the snowed over trail, “is that Lee is very unhappy and depressed. He feels he needs to get away from the institute, the submarine, and from....”

“And from me,” Nelson said for him. “Yes. I’m afraid I made some rather bad errors in judgement in the handling some things and they came between us.”

“Well, I presume psychiatrists would say some of the trouble is that he’s an alpha male. Can’t help not liking not getting his own way or not being in charge. But I suppose that’s not a bad thing for a submarine captain...I couldn’t get more details about the issues between you from the boys.”  

“Lee’s never had too much of a problem telling me exactly what he thinks, within reason, that is, ” Nelson said with a chuckle. “I can tell you though, that sending him to Hollywood as a technical advisor was the straw that broke him...and I want him back. I’m just not sure I can talk him into it. Best damn sub captain ever. And I happen to regard him as, well, family, as you said. He’s become a brother to me...even a son.”

“Ever tell him that?”

“Not really....”

“Well, don’t give up on him. Lee has a good heart. Oh, he can be stubborn and obstinate and I should know. He’s been a family friend for years. But give him a little time to think things through in his own way. His heart usually directs him to make the best decision for him and anyone he cares about”


“Ow!” Riley yelped as a duty corpsman dabbed his cut cheek with iodine before securing a large Band Aid to it.

“Serves you right,” Doc Jamison said, entering the Med Bay’s usually quiet ER, “Of all the pig headed hair-brained stunts! Brawling? And aboard Seaview? Three against one? The skipper’s going to be mighty PO’d!”

“We had to defend the skipper’s honor!”

“He ain’t the skipper anymore!” Anderson said, or tried to say, holding and ice pack against his swollen jaw.

“Last I heard nothing was certain,” Doc said.

“Yeah, well. I want these three on report. I was only trying to convince these clowns that Crane’s no different from any other cap’n and that he’s probably using  this little problem he has with Nelson to go back to the Navy and maybe even test drive the SEAFAC subs. It’s all a cover, you know, them subs supposedly testing out new sonic equipment. Awful convenient being able to sail so close to Russia. Hurry up with that pain killer, will you?” he added to a corpsman. “The OOD said I can go home now that these three aren’t fit to finish their job.”

“He’s done here, Doc,” the corpsman said. “Show this form to the OOD, Andeson.”

“And these guys are on report?”

“Yes,” Lt. O’Brien said having overheard and entered. “But then, so are you.”

“For hitting back? Defending myself?”

“The entire incident is in the report I just sent it to the Flying Sub but you’ll have to wait until the admiral and Mr. Morton get back to it. They’re in Broken Claw and chasing after the skipper...can’t be easy, driving MTV’s...well, somebody else is driving....”

“The admiral’s gone after him?” Riley asked hopefully.

“That’s the assumption. Kowalski, you keep those stitches in your scalp clean and dry.”

“Any idea what the boss is going to say to the skip to convince him to come back?” Patterson asked.

“I’m sure he’ll think of something,” Doc said hopefully. “Very well, you’re all clear to go. If you want to defend the skipper’s honor in the future, however, no fisticuffs doing it. And that’s an order.”


It was easy enough to follow all of the tracks left behind by the dogs, sleds, sleigh, and reindeer so it wasn’t long before Cal honked the MTV’s horn  to signal the expedition ahead of them that they had company.

“What the hell?” Wolfie said and ordered his dog team to stop, Lee doing likewise, behind the other mushers who came to a stop along with Granny’s sleigh.

Lee and Wolfie, wearing dark goggles against the sun and glare from the snow,  stepped off their sleds, along with Delilah and Sampson, and approached the MTV.

“Which one’s Lee?” Chip asked Cal as both men looked almost identical in their native attire.

“The one with the five o’clock shadow. Most Native American’s have little facial hair.”

 As Lee neared, he removed his goggles, placed his hands on his hips and waited for an explanation as Nelson, Chip, and Cal stepped out of their MTV, Admiral Starke and Jackson departing theirs.

Edith, O’Malley, and Granny, got out of their sleigh and walked on top of the deep packed snow toward them.

“You realize that you’re intruding on Granny’s pilgrimage,” Lee said coolly.

“Yes, sorry about that,” Nelson said. “I have to speak with you, Lee.”

“We’ve been through all this...very well, speak.”

Delilah and Sampson were only too happy to please and barked furiously.

“Not you!” Lee shouted at them to no avail.

“Shut up!” Amarok ordered the dogs, which obeyed but looked confused.

“Well?” Lee asked Nelson.

“Harry,” Edith interrupted, giving her brother a hug, “you really didn’t have to come all the way here to rescue me...I’ve decided to think of it as a kind of adventure, like the girls said.”

“I’m not here to rescue you. I’m here to speak with Lee. In private, if you please.”

Just then Granny began to walk around Nelson, peering at him, and shaking her head and mumbling.

“What’s she saying?” Starke asked.

“She’s putting a curse on you for interrupting her journey,” Cal said, “you might want to purchase some Rogaine when you get back home....”

“She put a curse on Harriman to go bald?” Jiggs asked.
“Could have been worse,” Wolfie said, “he might have had to resort to Viagra.”

“There’s no such thing as curses!” Nelson fumed. “Now, will you all go away so Lee and I can speak....”

The dogs began to bark again.

“Oh good grief,” Lee sighed. “Shut up!”

The dogs only began to snarl and growl at Nelson.

“Sampson, Delilah, heel,” Wolfie ordered them, and led the dogs, also motioning Granny, and the girls to walk back with him to the sleds and the sleigh while Nelson’s companions moved off out of earshot.

“Well,” Lee said as Nelson was having difficulty finding his words, “you interrupted our travels to speak to me.”

“Er, yes. Well, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. Wrong about everything I did and didn’t do. I only wanted to save you some trouble, but I forgot that as captain handling trouble is what you do. As for the Hollywood job, I should have discussed it with you. Now that I’ve bared my soul yet again for the most part, can’t you accept my apology, and resume command of Seaview? After this thing with Amarok’s grandmother, of course. You don’t have to report back yet....”

“You think that just saying ‘sorry’ is going to fix everything? I’ve already said I’m not sure if we can work together anymore.”

“Look, I promise not to infringe on the work and the decisions that are clearly yours to make as captain. Damn it, Lee. I want you back! Not just for Seaview, but, well, as my friend...As my brother....and as my son.”

Lee was silent, his brows furrowed.

“Surely you’ve known.”

“If that’s the case, you’ve had a bad way of showing it.”

“Cut me some slack, will you. I’m not used to revealing my soul. We’ve been family in a way. And families can make mistakes...errors in judgement.”

“Mistakes? Those were no mistakes you made. They were opinionated attempts to belittle me and....”

“Lee, please....I know my actions hurt you. But for God’s sake...leaving Seaview? If you decide to, it will ruin your life. Don’t deny it. And it would ruin mine, Chip’s, everyone’s. Think of your crew if not for me! Cal got a message on his MTV’s radiophone from the Flying Sub. NIMR reported that Ski, Pat, and Riley had a brawl with Anderson...all to defend your honor even when they knew you might decide not to come back. They cherish you, son...and so do I.” With that Nelson knelt on the snow in front of him. “Please. Come back.”

“Oh good grief, get up!” Lee said, pulling him up, embarrassed as hell.

“I told Jiggs and Chip that I’d hog tie you and bring you back kicking and screaming if I had to, but I can’t. I can’t force a decision out of you to return to something you may not want to. It’s your decision. And I can only hope you’ll choose the best one for you, yourself. I’m pleading with you to do what I know in my heart is right, and if you’re honest with yourself, what you know in your heart is right too...”

“I don’t know what’s right,” Lee said, running a hand through his hair, turning around in a circle, frustrated, then facing Nelson again. “That’s why I’m here. Someplace so pure and pristine that I’ll hear God tell me what to do.”

Nelson said nothing. Lee said nothing. Lee’s lips were pursed, his eyes lowered, studying the snow at Nelson’s feet.

“About the men,” he unexpectedly asked, looking back at Nelson, “anyone hurt?”

“Minor stuff. A few bumps, bruises, some stiches. They’re all on report. Even Anderson for provoking things. Would have been a lot worse if security hadn’t broken it up.”

“All on account of me,” Lee said, shaking his head sadly, “damn.”

“Can’t you see, son, not even Chip, not anyone in the Navy can inspire as much loyalty from Seaview’s crew as you do.”

 “I...I...I still need some time to think....”

“Very well,” Nelson said. “Now, about Edith...”

“Well, she hasn’t tried to kiss me or wring my neck...No idea what Granny wants with her on this expedition....”

“As for this expedition, are you armed? In case of wolves and bears, I mean. Your crew’s a bit anxious about the wildlife.”

“Tasers, guns, and pepper spray. This is a religious pilgrimage, though there may be some hunting and fishing. The few hours of darkness will bring a lot of wildlife too.”

“Well, good luck with the fishing at least. I’m not sure how I’d feel about the hunting. Well, we’ll  be flying back to Santa Barbara as soon as we get back to Broken Claw.”

“Make sure you don’t push FS-1 too hard....I do worry about my baby, you know.”

 “Then?” Nelson asked hopefully.

“No answer yet, Harry. I have to be as sure as I can be about this decision.”

Nelson bowed his head sadly and Lee turned, and trod away toward his waiting dog sled.

“Any luck, Harriman?” Jiggs asked as he approached Nelson, looking after Lee as the expedition was on the move again.

“Yes, no, maybe, maybe not...I’m sorry he didn’t speak to either of you, Chip, Joseph.”

 “Self preservation,” Joe said. “He knew we’d berate him for being his usual stupid self,”

“You realize saying that is  insubordination toward a senior officer,” Starke scolded.

“Yeah, but hey, I’m his spook buddy, so it’s allowed.”

“And I’m still his XO,” Chip said, “part of my job description to warn him about...things.”

“Come along,” Nelson said, returning to his MTV “Let’s go home.”


“Lee?” Edith asked a few hours later as she and the girls wearily disembarked from the sleigh as a team of elders took care of Granny, the reindeer and dogs for a relief break. “Where’s the toilet?”

“Dig a hole,” Lee said, immediately regretting it. “Sorry. They’re setting up a camp potty for Granny I’m sure you’re welcome to. Not exactly Kosher, Eskimo wise, but Wolfie brings along some mod cons on these trips, especially since Granny’s getting a bit too old and wobbly to dig and squat in a hole in the snow. She also gets a mini tent. The guys just go au naturel, picking out a place.”

“Yeah,” Wolfie said, “it is more convenient being a guy."

“I realize you’re one of Lee’s friends so I shouldn’t be surprised by your rudeness as well.”

“Rude? Me?” Lee laughed. “Let’s help with the mini tent, Wolfie. The sooner the girls are done attending to business, the sooner we can get back on the trail.”

“After  the dogs and reindeer are fed and watered, I hope,” Dr. Jenkins said. “Speaking of water...”

“Should be some bottled water under the sleigh’s seat cushions. Keeps it from freezing. Or there’s doesn’t need to be kept warm...if it lasts that long...Granny is not a tea totaler.”

 “By the way,” Wolfie said, “there will be a few more rest stops before we get to where Granny wants us to set up camp. And it will be a little before midnight, after sunset at 2330 hours that we’ll be able to see the Dancing Lights...that’s 11:30 tonight....”

“Like I don’t know military time? I’m a Navy brat, sort of, remember? And when’s supper?”

“When we set up camp for the night. If you’re hungry now, there’s Spam, peanuts, Oreo’s, and peanut butter in Lee’s back-back, on his sled.”

“Hey, what about loaning your stash?” Lee complained.

“Okay, I have some caribou jerky, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and potato chips in mine. Packaged milk too, doesn’t need refrigeration, but that’s not exactly a problem out here and is probably more like a popsicle right now. Later on, when we’re camped for the night, we’ll fry up any fish we catch for supper. Hope your tummy can wait that long.”

“What if I don’t catch anything?”

“Under the ‘Dancing Lights’ there are sure to be. If not, instant oatmeal and canned tuna.”

“I thought Granny believed in the old ways. Hunting, fishing, wild flora that aren’t covered in snow....”

“Oh,” Wolfie said, “she does, but she’s learned to accept some modern conveniences or she wouldn’t be living in Broken the way, there’s a slit in the you don’t have to pull anything down and freeze your ass off when you pee....”

 “You two are enjoying taunting us, aren’t you,” O’Malley said.

 “I’ll fix some instant coffee for you to have when you’re done with business,” Lee said, pointing to the now raised mini relief tent.


“Man,” Riley said, “I sure hope the admiral talked the skipper into coming back.”

He plopped down on one of the sofas in Nelson’s outer office while Pat and Ski set out bags of McDonald’s take out and milkshakes on the coffee table.

 “Don’t get your hopes up, Kid,” Ski said, accepting some paper plates and plastic cutlery from Angie.  “Just ‘cause we all want him coming back, doesn’t mean he will be.”

“Any word from the Flying Sub’s ETA, Ma’am?” Patterson asked Angie.

 “Not yet. Want to watch something on TV? There’s an old movie, a classic...‘Fangs of the Arctic’....”

“Oh gawd,” Riley moaned.

“Sorry, I should have realized anything to do with the arctic would be a bad idea right now. Here’s something,” Angie added, looking through the TV Guide, “’Endless Summer’, all about surfing.”

“Won’t help,” Riley said. “Thanks anyway.”

Just then a special beep de beep de beep sounded from Angie’s phone.

“It’s the Flying Sub. I’ll put it on speaker... NIMR, Angie here.”

“Good,” Nelson’s voice said. “Angie, get maintenance to stand by.  FS-1 is having a few more problems. Nothing to delay us too much, but she’ll need some recalibration. We estimate another hour or so before we splash down.”

“I’ll have the team waiting sir. Wet or dry dock?”

“Better make it Dry Dock.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Admiral?” Riley asked, “Did you get him to decide to come home?”’

There was no need to explain who the ‘he’ in question was.

“Well, not exactly,” Nelson said, not surprised the youngster hard parked himself in the office to await word.

“It’s promising though. He thinks he’ll hear from God, hypothetically speaking in all that pristine wilderness. And maybe Granny’s spirit guides will help.”

“He doesn’t believe in spirit guides,” Ski said, “does he all of a sudden? If you ask me that friend of his is a bad influence.”

“Wolfie Amarok is a Christian, same as the captain. Frankly, I think Crane’s been letting all of the ‘what if’s’ in his mind cloud his better judgement. Just don’t tell him I said that. He’s still a bit mad at me.

“Right now,” Chip added, “all we can do is wait for the Powers that Be to speak to him, in a way. Hopefully, on our side. By the way, he did ask how you three were and feels guilty as hell that he’s responsible for your altercation with one of your shipmates.”

“Oh shit,” Riley whined. “None of it’s his fault!”

“Actually,” Morton’s voice said, “his feeling that way is a good sign. If he truly wanted to leave Seaview he wouldn’t have given a damn. Now, I expect you to behave yourselves. By the way,  the skipper had me take you off report, he’s still the skipper, that is.”

“Remember that the next time you want to defend his honor, think how badly he’d feel, blaming himself for it. I don’t want any of you on report for any such thing again. Even if he also removed you from the wrath of Mr. Morton.”

“Aye, sir,” the three said in unison.

“Very well. FS-1 out.”

“I have to go out for a moment,” Angie said after the call, “Be sure to clean up after yourselves.”

 “Yes, ma’am.”

None of the three could actually relax over their meal and movie on the monitor. Each were nursing the aches in their hearts that their skipper was in need of spiritual guidance that would affect the rest of his life, and theirs.


Several hours later, Granny asked to stop, pointing to where she wanted to set up camp. By the time all was ready, the girls finally disembarked from the sleigh with Granny, taking in the stunning transition from the  late evening sunset to the twilight blue that it was in the closest to night this part of the lower Arctic Circle displayed this time of polar change.

Lee and Wolfie had taken Sampson and Delilah with them to a nearby frozen over lake. Ramming heavy long poles into the ice, the men carved out a medium sized hole, then pulled some thermal cushions from their sleds, for both themselves and their canine companions.

 “I’m surprised Granny allows such mod cons,” Dr. Jenkins muttered to her companions, as they watched the ‘easy’ to assemble, sort of, corral and kennel go up.

Several camp stoves had also been set up, and were busy warming snow into water for teas, coffee, and soon to be caught fish for stew.

“In the olden days,” Fang-claw said, “setting up camp would be a lot different and take many hours, but even Granny, like several of us, has been affected by the ravages of time so that modern ways have to be considered gifts from the spirit guides.”

Lee and Wolfie were taking in quite a catch, though they had to re-break the ice at times. They took turns using fishing poles and spears, the latest catch by Lee, an Arctic Pike too big to pull through the hole.

“I’m not sure Granny will believe you actually caught this one,” Wolfie said as he tried unsuccessfully to widen the hole. “Don’t let it slip off...I’m getting an ax...”

“Cheech, Lee,” Edith said as she looked down at the struggling fish impaled by the spear. “Isn’t spear fishing pretty brutal?”

“You don’t mind eating fish or meat, do you? But,” he added, “I can see your point.”

Just then Wolfie returned and with his ax, widened the hole enough for Lee to pull out the bleeding pike.

“Eeeyooo,” Edith moaned.”

“Sorry,” Lee said. “Take our catch to Granny will  you? Tell her more’s on the way.”

“And tell her,” Wolfie said, putting the stack of assorted fish into a woven basket, “Lee caught the pike. In fact, she might want to mount it as a present for him.”

“Putting a poor dead fish on the wall as a prize is really disgusting,” Edith said. “And take her the damn fish yourselves,” she added, huffing off.

“Ouch,” Wolfie said.

“Actually,” Lee said, “I’m not partial to mounting anything that was alive....”

“You keep fishing. I’ll  tell Granny to put it in the stew at your request.  Er...don’t fall into the hole. You’re skinny enough.”

“Very funny. If it’s any satisfaction, I’ll fatten up soon enough with all of the pickled blubber I’ve been eating.”

“You only like it because of the vodka.”

“Yeah, but we can’t tell Granny that can we,” Lee grinned, and picked up one of the rods and dipped the line into the hole. “You can also tell her that I had a little help from her spirit guides up in the Dancing Lights bringing me my heart’s desire, at least regarding fish. Wolfie?” Lee asked, suddenly pensive, “Do you think I’m doing the right thing, being up here? To get ponder everything? I thought being up there, where nature and the sky are so awesome and pure that I’d clear my mind, but I’m finding myself more confused than ever.”

“Just what did Nelson say to you, and what was that kneeling about? Lee, you’re my best buddy, you know I love you. But sometimes you can be really stupid. You’ve put up with the brass lording it over you your entire naval career and never batted an eyelash. Why let it bother you now...Lee?”

Lee sighed and looked up at the Northern Lights as he spoke.

“I’d begun to think that he was my friend, maybe more than that, then he suddenly started to treat me as if I didn’t matter, didn’t count. I knew at the time that it was foolish to feel betrayed. He was within his rights to do whatever the hell he wanted to. But damn it, it hurt. Something inside  me snapped, and now this...It was bad enough that he got on his knees,” Lee said, absently stroking Delilah at his feet, “then he said that he’d regarded me like a brother, well I knew he had but neither of us had admitted it to each other. But then he said he regarded me as a son.  A son, Wolfie. He never told me that before, either. I couldn’t admit I’d felt the same at times, but here, now....”

“So, what’s the problem? All families have fights. Do things they don’t think through first. That’s all it was, wasn’t it? Him usurping what you thought should be your prerogatives, your decisions?”

 “Yes, call me stupid, spoiled,” Lee said, sending his line into the hole, “but it still hurt. I never used to think of myself as proud, or envious. But I am. Two of the seven deadly sins aren’t they? And even if I let bygones be bygones...what if, well, what if we still can’t work together? What if he looks over my shoulder about something he’d rather do himself or disapproves of, and what if I do the same toward him? We’d be at each other’s throats in no time. No way to command your crew’s respect.”

“Damn it, Lee, he got on his knees, before witnesses, no less, to get you back.  Can’t you see how humiliating that was for him to do? He admitted his feelings toward you. That’s serious business. You and he can’t just dissolve something like that on a whim or hurt feelings. So, if you want my advice, put your wounded pride and jealousy behind you, yes, jealousy, finish our pilgrimage with Granny, then get back to your blasted boat, where Nelson will just have to try harder to put up with your little tantrums, and you’ll have to try harder to put up with all of his.”

“But what if...”

“Enough of the ‘what if’s’! They don’t suit the Lee Crane I know. Now, come on. Hurry up and catch more fish. Big party tonight. The drums have already started.  Songs, dances, Granny’s special brew, and her summoning the spirit guides to tell her what they want. Going to be a hot time in the campground tonight. Even if ‘hot’ is a matter of opinion.”


“It’s beautiful,” O’Malley said, from the insulated cushions that she, Jenkins, and Edith shared while watching the Northern Lights, though somewhat faint in the twilight blue. “Noisy with those drums and Granny dancing and chanting with the elders...wonder what it all means. By the way, where’d the boys go?”

“Still Ice Fishing for the stew,” O’Malley said.

“Fang-claw told me,” Jenkins said, “that anything they catch tonight is considered a gift from the spirit guides.”

“Hogwash,” Edith said. “I’d chalk it up to some kind of magnetism causing the fish to run. I remember Harry telling me something about the effects of the moon and magnetism on all sorts of things.”

“Careful,” O’Malley whispered. “Granny will hear you.”

 “Ah, the boys are back,” Jenkins said, “what a catch! Even if there are some big holes in some of them.”

“Oh swell,” Edith said.

“There’s always Spam, if you can’t stomach the thought of speared fish,” O’Malley said.

“At least make the effort to have a bite, would be rude otherwise. Think of it as good PR.”


Chip, used to keeping late hours, brought Joe another ice cold beer over to join him on his apartment’s balcony to  watch  the evening sky over the bay.

“Thanks. You suppose Lee’s looking at some of the same stars right now?”

“If he can see any, maybe,” Chip said. “the night sky that far north isn’t very dark. Should be able to see the Northern Lights though.”

“Amarok thinks fishing under the Aurora Borealis makes for a great catch.”

“Fisherman talk, that’s all, though I’ve been with Admiral Nelson long enough to know there might be some kind of scientific something behind the legends the Eskimos have.”

“Well,” Joe said, looking at his watch, “Good luck to Lee and Wolfie. God knows what Granny’s going to do to them during her ‘reading’ of the Dancing Lights as she calls them.”


“I don’t think I’ll eat another fish in my life,” Edith said, trying to find something to wipe her hands with. In spite of her misgivings, she’d enjoyed two servings of fish stew, and  an entire fish cooked on a spit over a camp stove fire.

“This way,” Wolfie said, regarding her hands, picking up a handful of snow and rubbing his mouth and hands with it.

Just then Granny approached and indicated Edith join her.

“Do I gotta?” Edith whispered to her friend, as the drums began to play louder and the sated diners began to chant and dance around the campfire.

“To do otherwise might be considered rude, an insult,” O’Malley said. “And I think she likes you.”

“God spare me from some of my friends,” Edith whispered, but rose and forced a smile as she joined the dancers in their native celebrations. Granny chanted looking up at the Dancing Lights, and briefly attending to some cauldrons of bubbling brews she’d concocted, pouring some into a carved whalebone mug, handing it to her.

“Take a sip to appease Granny’s Spirit Guides if you’re guilty of any wrong doing,” Wolfie said.

“It’s a kind of moonshine,” Lee added. “Tastes better than it smells.”

 “Gee, thanks...aren’t you going to have some?”

“Already did,” he said, raising his mug.

Neither he nor Edith noticed their mugs, though hand-carved, were identical and no one else had been so favored with like mugs.

 As the night wore on, Edith was surprised she was enjoying herself more and more, stuffing herself with more fish, with additional mugs of moonshine that Granny gave her, and adding her own gyrations to the sound of the drums, songs, and chants.  She even grinned when Lee joined in the tribal dancing, though he whooped more like a Plains Indian than any Eskimo tribe.

A good time was being had by all, leaving Granny to commune with her Spirit Guides. Finally raising her arms, her task completed, she fed both Lee and Edith a little trail mix from her own hands. Whatever it tasted like, Lee and Edith were too intoxicated to notice. Then Granny began to chant some kind of incantation over them, then ruffled their hair and motioned them to follow her while everyone else continued to bang on their drums, sing, and dance, including Wolfie, no one noticing or caring that she’d led them into a traditional skin  and fur lined tent, and emerged alone, hanging a carved necklace over the now closed draped ‘door’.

Only Fang-claw had noticed and nodded his approval to Granny’s great pleasure, before rejoining the revelers.


 Nelson had opted for NIMR’s cafeteria, the main area, for breakfast, Jiggs, Chip, and Joe having joined him. Starke was  into a second helping of Hash Browns when Lola Hale entered, hurried over, and whispered to Nelson.

“What kind of trouble?” Nelson asked as Lola turned on the monitor, which came to life with Fox News.

“I don’t know, sir,” Lola said, “but Lee’s trip was cut short....”

“...Again,” the reporter said from outside Broken Claw’s Trading Post, “we don’t know what happened, but the expedition was cut short, and the entire group has  just returned to Broken Claw, stopping in front of the still closed Trading Post....”

 “...Amarok? Cal Amarok?” Edith, called out from the lead dog sled driven by Wolfie, and getting out, then stomping up the steps to bang on the door, “Get your butt out here! You’re the closest to a town sheriff. You put Granny under arrest! Right now!”

“...For Pete’s sake,” a weary Lee hollered, as he pulled up in his dog sled, Sampson and Delilah with him. “Will you please calm down? She didn’t know she was doing anything wrong. She thought she was obeying her Spirit Guides ....”

“...I don’t care if she heard from the Angel Gabriel!” Edith spat. “She married us! Without our consent! At least, not with mine.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you gave yours to have your wicked way with me!”

“...I’m as much a victim in this as you! I told you I don’t remember anything either until we woke up alone together under the fur blanket!”

“...And stark naked! And I sure bet you wanted to look when I pulled the fur over me!”

“...Hell, yes, I’m a guy. Of course I wanted to look, but I didn’t, did I? Turned my head and let you pull your clothes back on. You didn’t even toss the blanket back to me. What about my modesty?”

O’Malley whispered something to Edith interestedly.

“...No. As much as I’ve always wanted to see Lee naked, I didn’t peek. Probably should have. Would have been my right to as a wife. And no matter what he says about our so called marriage being illegal,  I bet he’s still mighty pleased to have fired his torpedo last night!”

“....If I’d known what was happening to us last night,” Lee said coolly, “if I’d actually wanted to ‘fire my torpedo’, I sure as hell wouldn’t have aimed it at you!”

“...Children, enough!” Cal at the now open doorway said. “What the hell is going on? Granny, what did you do?”

“....She  got us drunk or drugged or hypnotized or something,” Edith said, “and this morning...oh gawd,” she began to cry.

“...Apparently,” Lee said, wearily climbing up the steps, “Granny married Edith and me together last night, but everyone was too drunk out to notice the bride and groom hadn’t consented.  Granny says her Spirit Guides told her to unite us, so according to her, it’s a valid marriage, though I don’t see how the state can consider a few chanted words over our stupor to be valid.”

“....Get away from me!” Edith yelled at Lee, then returned her attention to Cal. “What are you waiting for? Arrest her!  Send her to the next largest town with a police department! I’ve been ruined! I want to press charges! Lock her up in one of the kennels here until she can be sent to a real jail! And tell whatever judge there is that I want an annulment!”

 “...I keep telling you,” Lee began.

“...Wolfie said a lot of  traditional native customs are recognized by the state. And that Granny is a registered wedding officiant!”

“...No court in the country can consider it valid marriage because neither of us consented! Or knew what the hell was going on! Or what we did after....”

“....Yeech!” Edith spat. “Somebody call the cops, and put the old bat in jail and get me a lawyer!”

“...Edith, calm down,” Lee said, “She doesn’t understand what she did was wrong. We’ll get the annulment from the state, I’m sure. But to arrest Granny? Cut her some slack. She’s old and senile and believes in her ancestor’s ancient customs...These are my friends, my family....”

“...I’m supposed to forgive her because you’re ‘Brother Bear’? Hah! And you can just forget about ever going back to your precious Seaview. When my big brother finds out what you did, that you ruined me, he’ll never want you to set foot on Seaview again! He’ll never want to look at you again! He’ll never want to speak to you again. He’ll never....”

“....I get the idea, already! I think he has more sense than to blame me for something I’m not responsible for!”

“Does that mean Lee decided to resume command, after all?” Starke mused.

“...As for you being ’ruined’,” Lee continued, “isn’t that thinking a bit old -fashioned? And frankly, you were probably ‘ruined’ years ago!”

 Just then a man in the crowd stepped up to Edith on the Trading Post deck.

 “...Mrs, Crane...”

“...Agghh! Don’t call me that!” Edith screamed.

“...It’s customary for the bride to take the husband’s name.”

“...You heard him ‘Wifey’,” Lee said with a sarcastic smirk.

“...You egocentric male chauvinist!” Edith shouted.

“...Sorry, can’t help it. Testosterone, you know.”

“...You ought to be keelhauled!”

“...Well, Harry could put me in the brig, or rather Morton, as he’s acting captain right now, but keel hauling’s not done any more....”

“...Ma’am,” the as of yet unidentified man asked, “are you sure things were actually consummated between you two? That you didn’t just fall asleep together?”

“...I...I don’t know but...”

“...Let’s go inside, Edith,” Dr. Jenkins said. “I might be able to... determine things.”

“...And who the hell are you?” Wolfie asked the man. 

“...Niles Oscarson, Attorney at law. I’m one of the cruise ship passengers, and with me is  the ship’s doctor, Dr. Bricker.  I’m afraid the answer to my question is rather important for an annulment to go through any state legal system quickly, should the wedding be deemed valid.  It will only take a moment for Dr. Bricker to determine if consummation has taken place....”

Just then Fang-claw escorted a very vocal (in her native tongue) Granny up the steps to the deck. She kept pointing to the sky and waving her arms about.

 “...I guess you’d better offer Edith an exam,” Lee said.

“...Where can I meet with you both afterwards?” Oscarson asked.

“...Cal will tell you. C’mon, Wolfie, Let’s go to the Other Side of the Moon.”

“...That’s a bar,” Wolfie said. “But they don’t tamper with the drinks like Granny did.”

Granny pointed to the sky, but Wolfie shook his head and indicated that Fang-claw take her inside.

Cal, at the door, put the closed sign up and headed inside.

 “...And so,” the reporter said, “we have to await medical and legal counsel to inform the unhappy couple if they’re legally wed or not. Meanwhile, we’ve learned the cruise ship will be leaving later this afternoon, sailing down the coast and back to Anchorage.”

 “If I know my sister, she’ll want to get back to California or Boston as soon as she can. Even if it turns out that she’s not married to Lee. I doubt if she can charter a snow plane and pilot today. And I don’t think she’ll want to get back on that cruise ship. Get the FS-1 prepped for three passengers. I’ll pilot....”

“...Well, that was quick,” the reporter was saying as the lawyer emerged from the Trading Post.

“...I contacted the Alaska Chief Justice, and he confirmed that the wedding is not valid according to state law, and that Granny’s officiant license has been suspended. He did say that some tribal elders across the state might disagree, but there is no need for a legal annulment.”

 “...What’s the verdict, Miss Nelson?” someone called out. “Did Crane have his wicked way with you?”

“...Good God,” Jenkins said, “Get your minds out of the gutter,” which wasn’t an answer at all.

 “...Will you continue to visit Broken Claw and surrounding points of Alaskan interest with your fellow shipmates?”

“...I just want to go home,” Edith said.

“...We’re contacting Bering Air about a charter flight for the ladies,” the lawyer said, “but the earliest a plane can get here will be tomorrow afternoon.”

 “...Where will you stay the night?”

 “...I can put the ladies up,” Cal said. “But they’ll have to share the bathroom and kitchen with  me, Wolfie, and Lee.”

 “...I’d rather die,” Edith said firmly.

“...You won’t have to,” Lee said, emerging with Wolfie.” I’ve contacted NIMR and requested the Flying Sub to pick you up. They’ll call with an ETA if Nelson approves. Just a formality. I’m sure he’ll want to pilot her to pick up his sister himself.”

“...And you, Commander Crane? Now that the expedition has been terminated, what are your plans? Will you  be heading to Santa Barbara? Will you  be resuming command of the Seaview?”

“...I’d pretty much planned to resume command, but now I’m not so sure. I have some leave time. I think I’d like to just keep visiting with my friends and family up here.”

“...Then you really do consider the Amarok’s as family? Including Granny Amarok?”

“...Of course he does,” Wolfie said. “We were blood brothers!”

“...Later on I might drop by Hollywood. Miss Connors said I could always stop by to take on some extra gigs; maybe even sign on for something more permanent...”

 “...After we visit Barrow, that is. Remember we wanted to join in their harvest festival.”

“...In the winter?” the reporter asked.

“...The community is one of the last tribes allowed to harvest whales. Pretty limited, but it’s an essential part of their economy and survival. It’s the most northern town in the United States. Always cold even in summer. In fact they have about sixty five days without a sunrise and the same number without a sunset. Spectacular Northern Lights in winter...but no fresh water ice fishing....”

“...The permafrost is so hard,” Wolfie said, “you can’t dig through it. Only has dirt roads as any paving cracks. It’s an ancient whaling community. Every  bit of the whale is utilized for fuel, food, and clothing.

“...Lee and I spent a few weeks there some years ago during the whaling and seal seasons. That’s when he first acquired the taste for pickled blubber. Lee even knows how to sew together a jacket out of a fur, seal, and whale skin.”

“...If you two are going to wax on about life in the frozen north,” Edith said, “I’m going to force myself back into the Trading Post to wait for my brother. Anyone would think you two actually like roughing it up here!”

“...No place like home!” both Lee and Wolfie said together, laughing gleefully, as Edith returned inside.

“...You’ll have to forgive Edith for any offense,” Officer O’Malley told the crowd, “She’s still upset about things.”

“...Are you enjoying your stay in Alaska?” the reporter asked.

“...Oh my, yes,” O’Malley said with a smile. “And I intend to visit again as soon as my vacation time will allow. I think I might also go to Mushing School...maybe become a contender in  next year’s Iditarod. I don’t think I’m brave enough to visit Barrow though in any season. Have a good day, everyone,” she added returning inside.

“...Before we go get drunk,” Wolfie said, “we need to drop off some of our catch that wasn’t served last night. See?” he added taking off the lid of one of the three cold storage boxes, and pulling out the Pike which hadn’t been consumed or saved for mounting after all. It was heavy, and almost three and a half feet in length. “This one’s a Northern Pike and are they ever good. ‘Brother Bear’ snagged it....we also have some Graylings and Sheefish left.”
“... This one,” Lee added as he sifted through the nearest box, and finding what he wanted pulled out the fish, “we’re not sure of, weird looking growths on it, so we’ll let the Fish and Wildlife Dept. figure out what it is and what’s growing on it. Could be toxic.”

Lee put it back into the bin and carried it up the steps and into the Trading Post, followed by Wolfie and his box, and a relative bringing up the third.

When the three men emerged, minus Sampson and Delilah, they turned over their dog sleds and teams to other members of the family to take care of and trudged through the snow toward the nearby ramshackle bar.

“...And so, it appears,” the reporter said, “that we’ll be awaiting Admiral Nelson’s Flying Submarine. It remains to be seen what kind of conversation Edith Nelson’s big brother will have with her illegal husband....”


Nelson and Starke ignored the rest of their meal and hurried to the Flying Sub where Chip and Joe were checking off the latest repairs with maintenance. Standing on the deck were the ‘Three Musketeers’.

“Can we go with you sir?” Ski asked for them.

“Absolutely not!” Starke took the liberty of saying. “You’ve been enough trouble.”

“Actually,” Chip said, “there’s just not enough room for the return flight.”

“I’m sorry there’s not enough room for you and Joe either,” Nelson said. But we’ll have supper together when we get back. Perhaps a nice thick steak.”

“Repairs all check out, along with that new security system,” Chip said.

“Good, I’d like to take her to max. Jiggs, if you and Joe want to wet your whistles, you can have full access to my private stash. Tell Angie I said ‘Code VIP’. And if you want to relax aboard Seaview, you’re welcome there too.”

Nelson waved and climbed into the aft hatch. Chip and Sharkey followed, and soon the hatch was secured and the little craft was underway.


“...We’ve received word from the Nelson  Institute,” the reporter was saying on the monitor in Nelson’s outer office, “that the Flying Sub is on its way here to Broken Claw to pick up Miss Nelson, Officer  O’Malley, and Dr. Jenkins.

“.... Ah...there’re Cdr.’s Crane and Amarok outside of the ‘To The Moon Bar’. Cdr. Crane? Have you decided to return to Santa Barbara with the ladies?”

“...If I did, I wonder how long my life expectancy would be,” Crane said. Only Wolfie noticed that  Lee’s light- hearted response wasn’t all that he’d tried to make of it.

“...Perhaps Miss Nelson might make the flight uncomfortable, but surely Admiral Nelson would understand about last night.”

“...No doubt. But he’s still her big brother. Still bound to be some antagonism between us....Ah, here are our rides.”

Just then Prancer and Dancer were led to the Trading Post by their owner.

“....Thanks,” Wolfie said and handed over some cash for the rental.

“..Keep an eye on ‘Brother Bear’, Wolfie. He’s not used to riding anything but a submarine.”

“...Very funny,” Lee said with a smile, and mounted Prancer.  “...I don’t think she likes me,” Lee added, tightening his grip on the reins as true to its name the reindeer  tried  to prance about a bit.

“....Settle down,” Wolfie, leaning over from Dancer warned Prancer.

“...How do I get her started?” Lee asked. “Giddyup?’”

Prancer took it as a command and lunged forward into a gallop down the snow covered street and Lee promptly fell off.

“...I’m fine!” Lee grumbled as someone caught Prancer’s reins and brought her back.

“...Maybe you should walk, Commander,” someone said.

“...I wasn’t ready, that’s all,” Lee said and remounted.

 “...All set?” Wolfie asked.

“...As I’ll ever be.”

“...Sure glad it’s only a short way,” the owner said. “Would hate having the Navy fine me damages to their finest if you fall off again.”

“...Oh, they wouldn’t press charges. Lee’s not on active status right now and if he’s stupid enough play ‘Eskimo cowboys’ he deserves what he gets.”

“...What about you?” Lee chuckled.

“...I haven’t ridden for years...but I have a well-padded butt, unlike ‘Brother bones’ here.”

“...I’m not that skinny.”

“...You’re skinny enough for Mom and Granny, and the Over the Moon bar to force feed you...bound to be a few ala carte goodies to go with our drinks...well, Lee, let’s go. Hi ho Silver, away!”

But Dancer didn’t budge.

“...I think this is the part where you gallop off into the sunset,” Wolfie told Dancer, patting her neck.

“...But it’s not sunset,” Lee said. “C’mon Dancer, Prancer, Giddy up!”

This time the reindeer did gallop off down the street, both riders holding on for dear life as they turned the corner.


 “Submarine captain, Seal, field agent, diver, musher and now reindeer wrangler,” Starke said raising his whiskey filled tumbler to the monitor. “One day somebody ought to write a book about him.”

“Already started,” Jackson said. “Too bad I have to leave out all the spy and spicy stuff....”


“I wouldn’t have thought riding a reindeer was so hard,” Riley said later over a chocolate milkshake in the NIMR cafeteria, the wall TV tuned to a daytime talk show having just finished. “Why not just, like,  rent a snowmobile to get him where he wants to go?”

“...We’ll start the latest news from Broken Claw, Alaska,” the reporter said. “The cruise ship which made the unscheduled stop has left as well as most of the unexpected tourists. Remaining in town are Miss Edith Nelson, Officer O’Malley, and Dr. Jenkins while they await the arrival of the Nelson Institute’s Flying Sub, believed to be piloted this time by Admiral Nelson himself.

“...But what is of most interest was the quick return of Cdr. Crane to the Trading Post, who, it appeared, had a second accident with his rented reindeer as you can see from our video....

“...Cal! Fang-claw, get out here,” Wolfie was shouting, having dismounted from Dancer and trying with difficulty to help Lee, draped over Prancer,  blood dripping from his scalp and down his face,  to slide off. “Lee’s hurt!”

 “...What happened?” Cal called out, one of many from inside the Trading Post, running out to the deck and racing down the steps or simply jumping off the deck as Cal was doing.

.“...He fell off again, only this time he hurt himself.”

“...I did not fall off!” Lee bellowed, “Prancer bucked me off when that lone bull-moose startled her. Big bad ass strapping guy,” Lee gasped.

“...What Lee’s not telling you is that he landed on a couple of rocks under the snow. Hurt his head and his tailbone.”

“...I’m fine! Just sore. Ow...ow...agggh...take it easy, guys,” he told Wolfie and Fang-claw as they helped him slide off, and held him upright.

“...Yeah, sure, you’re fine,” Wolfie said, as he, Cal, Uncle Fang-claw, and Dr. Jenkins, who was checking Lee’s eyes enroute up the steps.

“...That’s why,” Wolfie continued, “you were groveling in the snow pleading with the Lord to let you die. Even I knew there’s trouble when your pupils were uneven and dilated and you were bleeding like a stuck pig.”

“...Looks like a concussion,” Jenkins said.

“... As for your tailbone,”  Wolfie added, “it could be cracked or broken. Good thing we ‘got the hell out of Dodge’ before that blasted moose recovered enough from the pepper spray to charge us again.

“...Why didn’t you use your Tasers?” O’Malley asked, while she and Edith stood near the entrance, their arms wrapped around themselves in shock.

“...We hardly needed Tasers to go to a nearby bar. Sure didn’t expect a wandering moose this close to civilization. The Musk Ox in Nome is one thing. They’re herd animals, but moose? Never seen one  this close to town.”

“...How big was it?” the reporter asked as a local tied up the reindeer to one of the Trading Posts railings.

“...We could hardly ask him to get on a scale!” Lee hissed as he stepped onto the deck with a gasp.

“...Why not ask him,” Wolfie said, “Can’t be too far away.”

 “...Did he think you and the reindeer were free meals?” the reporter asked.

 “...Moose aren’t carnivores,” Dr. Jenkins said. “If it was a bull moose, he was probably just showing off.  It’s a male thing. Edith, O’Malley, we’ll need  rubbing alcohol, towels...drinking water....”

 In seconds the patient was safely inside,

“...He might have caught a whiff of any trail mix the boys might have had on them,” Cal said, “one of my clerks has  already radioed the county emergency services to get us some paramedics here.... I pity them. ‘Brother Bear’ has always been a bad patient, or so Wolfie  has always said. I understand that Seaview’s doctor calls him the patient from hell. It’s a captain thing.”

With that Cal ushered out anyone in the Trading Post.

“...Don’t worry, we’ll fly Lee to Norton Sound Regional Hospital in Nome. Tight fit in a single prop snow plane, but Wolfie’s qualified as you know.” Then he  put up the ‘closed’ sign on the door as he disappeared inside.

“...Meanwhile, the Fish and Wildlife Dept. has been asked if the pepper spray used against the moose could have any adverse effects on it.”

Angie?” Starke asked, “Does Nelson know? Has he been watching the broadcast on the Flying Sub?”

“I’ll have Lola check.”

 “...As you may remember,” the reporter began, “Nome is best known for its being the finish line for the Iditarod, the dog sled race about 900 miles long which begins in Anchorage. Otherwise, Nome  is still frequented by private treasure hunters dredging the Bering Sea, though there are still some deserted mines from the Gold Rush days that are still explored. A far cry when all one had to do was walk along the beachfront and pick up all the gold nuggets lying in the sand.

“...Now, however, Nome has the notoriety of its hospital treating, and yet again to treat, it appears, Cdr. Lee Crane, officially still captain of the submarine Seaview.”

 “Jiggs?” Nelson’s voice came through Angie’s speaker phone.

“ heard the latest about Lee?”

“Good God, Jiggs, how the hell does he continue to get himself into trouble? I’m trying to get in touch with Edith to see if she might not mind a delay getting home. Lee will have been admitted to the hospital by the time we’re near, and I’d like to see to the doctors personally. I’ll keep you posted. Nelson out.”

Just after, several staff and crewmen swarmed into the office and began a barrage of questions.

“We just heard,” Tish said.

“Is the skipper okay?” Cookie added.

“I hope he’s not hurt as bad as he looked,” Riley whined. “He could barely stand on his feet and all that blood on his head....”

“I already told you,” Ski said, “head wounds usually look worse than they are.”

 “That’s true,” Jackson said. “And he has a hard head.”

“Right now,” Starke took charge, “I’m afraid all we can do is wait for word.”

 And wait they did, all who could fit in Nelson’s outer office waiting for official word on their beloved skipper’s condition, while Angie kept the TV broadcasts on, though most were simply replays...

“...We’re here at the Broken Claw Trading Post where the injured Cdr. Crane has been lowered to a dog sled to take him to the waiting snow plane nearby....Cdr. Crane, how do you feel?”

“...Glad to get away from Florence Nightingale.”

“...She’s a veterinarian, likes dogs,” Cal said, “so fussing over you is allowed.”

“...Wifey’s driving me nuts too!”

 “...Wasn’t the wedding invalid?” the reporter asked.

“....Just wants to get her riled,” Wolfie said, taking charge of the sled, along with Cal now with another.  “At least Edith set aside any lingering animosity toward him...of course, blood will do that.”

“...Can you tell us about his condition, Dr. Jenkins?”

“...Pulse is good. BP is as well,” she answered from the deck, “But he’ll need X-rays and an MRI.”

“...Where’s my baby?” Lee wailed, “Where’s my baby?”

“...Yeech,” Edith said. “One thing to be amateur nurse, quite another to be ‘Wifey’.”

“....He’s talking about the Flying Sub, not you! Cheech.”

“...She’s broken!” Lee wailed, “She can only go Mach 2! My poor baby. My poor baby....”

“...Easy, Lee,” Wolfie said as he finished bundling Lee in the dog sled.

“...He must be a bit confused from the concussion,” Jenkins said.

 “...She’ll do Mach 5 soon enough,” Wolfie told Lee and gave the reins a tug.

It was only a matter of minutes before the two sleds and their patient had disappeared on their way to the snow covered field where the snow plane waited.

“..We’ll bring you the latest from the hospital when we know more about Cdr. Crane’s condition...Miss Nelson, was that ‘baby’ talk really about the Flying Sub?”

“...How should I know. I only found out about it recently. Harry wanted to keep it quiet. Patents, the Navy, all that. Berth’s inside the Seaview. I do know Harry said Lee was almost as enamored of it as much as he was the Seaview.”

With that she, Jenkins and O’Malley returned inside the Trading Post to await the Flying Sub and the trip home.


“Short flight,” Sharkey said of the skipper’s snow plane as only a short time later, breaking news was reported from the small craft airfield not too distant from the Bering Air terminal.

“...As you can see,” CNN reported, “an ambulance has already sent paramedics to board the snow plane which has now shut down. The ambulance is standing by as they check Cdr. Crane out  prior to removing him from the plane.

“... The governor has ordered a police escort, not wanting any delays in getting the famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, captain of the Seaview to the hospital. His position as the submarine’s captain is still official though it’s anyone’s guess if he will remain so.

“...Meanwhile, the Flying Sub is still enroute to  Broken Claw but it is unknown if, after picking up Miss Nelson, Officer O’Malley, and Dr. Jenkins, if it will make a detour to Nome for Admiral Nelson to see Cdr. Crane.

“...The patient, so bundled up it’s impossible to see his face,  is being unloaded from the plane, on the dogsled, minus the dogs, a kind of makeshift gurney, and being carried by the paramedics, as Lt. Cdr. Wolfie Amarok signs in with an airport official and joins his friend in the ambulance...we will bring you the latest from the Norton Sound Regional Hospital as soon as we  can...”

With that the camera panned to show the cortege of police vehicles in front of and behind the ambulance, lights and sirens blaring.

“We’re not going to hear anything about Lee for awhile,” Joe said. “but if anyone’s hungry, why don’t we order some take out.”

“Good idea, Jackson,” Starke said. “I’ll spring for it. Make a list of what everyone wants and call the orders in. Have it all delivered.”

“I’m sure petty cash can handle the cost,” Angie said. “I think Admiral Nelson would rather the  institute cover the charges.”

“Very well, then,” Starke said. “you handle the money side, Jackson will handle the order details. I’m heading down to Seaview for awhile.”

“Would you like some company, sir?” Ski asked. “ I know the admiral would sit in the nose to wait out bad news...not that it will be bad news....”

“I understand, sailor. I’d just like to be alone awhile. Thanks anyway.”

“Yes, sir.”


Security had pretty much left Starke alone as he left admin and boarded the sub. Choosing to pour himself a shot of ‘crewman’ Walker, he parked himself in a lounger, occasionally glancing at the Control Room.

Past events flooded his mind, Seaview’s near destruction and Crane’s successful mutiny which saved the boat and all their lives. And Harriman’s drugged breakdown.

How was Harriman holding up now, with news of Crane’s accident?  While correct about head wounds, Jackson couldn’t remove the look of worry on his fact. A serious injury would unravel the fine line his friend had tried to maintain  between friendliness and family.

Looking at his watch, he figured it wouldn’t be for a few hours before he could learn of Crane’s condition, but not too much longer for Harriman to arrive in Nome to pick up his sister.

Finishing off another swig of the amber refreshment, Starke, with a tired sigh, returned to admin to rejoin the gathered staff and crew to await further word about both Crane and Nelson.


The aroma of pizza, hamburgers and Chinese take-out assaulted his nostrils as Starke entered Harriman’s crowded outer office.

As expected, there was breaking news on the monitor showing the Flying Sub’s splash followed up by Nelson and Morton met by Cal Amarok to be driven to the Trading Post in his MTV.

“...Admiral?” a reporter asked, while  Sharkey finished securing the craft to the dock,  “Will you be stopping by the hospital in Nome to see Cdr. Crane?”

“...Depends on the ladies. I’m hoping they’ll agree to the detour, but I have to lean a little in their favor.”

With that Nelson and Morton got into the MTV and were whisked away.

“...What’s it like flying that thing?” the reporter asked Sharkey.

“...Well, you don’t fly her like an ordinary aircraft, I can tell you that. So far only a few of us are qualified to pilot her. The skip likes to put her through her paces, aeronautical acrobatics and the like. Says it’s to test all that aviation stuff, but...I think he just likes it.”

“...We observed that Cdr. Crane called it his baby.”

“...Oh, yeah,” Sharkey laughed, “he’s almost as enamored of her as he is Seaview. Really enjoys taking her up every chance he gets. Down below as a submersible too...a bit disappointed though that the admiral chose to paint her yellow instead of red. He really likes red. Car’s red. If he had his way, the skip would like Seaview painted red...bright cherry or Corvette red...they guys and me got the drafting dept. to draw a picture of both that way. Boy, was the admiral pissed when he saw it.  But that picture’s up on the skipper’s cabin wall, just the same.”

“...Have you had any word on Cdr. Crane’s condition?”

“...Not yet. Only that he’s been taken into the wing where they do MRI’s and X-rays. Gotta’ tell you we’re all keeping our fingers crossed that there’s nothing too serious...”

“...What do you think about his jaunt up here?”

“...Not too surprised. Gets cramped aboard Seaview. Nice for him to enjoy the wild open spaces up here and do some visiting with his friend.”

“...What about the possibility of him not returning to Seaview?”

“...Ain’t none of my business. But, if you ask me, he’d be awful lonely without’s a captain thing...even pats her bulkhead and talks to her... brrr, it’s cold up here, I know it’s in between seasons and your snow and ice are melting, but my blood’s too thin for your weather, even for these heavy duty to get back inside....”

“I have a feeling the chief is going to be in deep shit when the admiral and captain hear about all he said,” Ski offered, cleaning up the empty pizza and take-out boxes.”

“I doubt it,” Starke said, taking a quickly vacated spot on the sofa. “After all the Flying Sub’s not classified anymore...and Harriman did tell me how much Crane enjoyed doing loop de loops with the darn thing....shouldn’t you have gone for the day?” he added, asking Angie and some of the  admin staff.

“Not when Captain Crane’s been injured,” Angie said. “We know we can go, but he’s a vital part of NIMR, even if he’s had second thoughts about it. Besides, Admiral Nelson may call.”

“Good girl. Remind me to ask Harriman to consider giving all of you a raise for your loyalty.”

“...Is that Cal Amarok’s MTV?” the reporter asked her cameraman as Cal drove up, dropping off his passengers.

“...Miss Nelson? Will you be making a detour to Nome before your brother flies you home?”

“...Yes, yes...but if he gets all gushy or talks shop when we visit Lee, I’m leaving and we girls will take a commercial flight home.”

As Cal and Morton, assisted by Sharkey  carried their belongings aboard, the women boarded.

“...Admiral, do you enjoy doing loop de loops piloting the Flying Sub as much as Cdr. Crane does?

“...How did you know about that?” Nelson asked, then realized it had to have been Sharkey. “Can’t say I’m partial to them...have no choice at times. Like all equipment, needs to be checked out now and then, but I pretty much leave that sort of thing to Lee and to the XO, Chip Morton. If you’ll excuse me?”

“...Our best wishes to Cdr. Crane.”

“...Thank you,” he replied seriously, “thank you very much.”

With a wave, and last aboard, he secured the hatch and soon the Flying Sub was airborne to Nome.

“...We take you now to Cape Cod, where an affiliate station was able to speak with Cdr. Crane’s mother...”

“...Have you heard from your son in the Nome hospital?” the reporter asked the widowed Mrs. Crane, busy planting bulbs and sowing seeds in her beachfront cottage’s garden.

“The skipper sure doesn’t look a thing like her,” Anderson said.

“Of course he doesn’t,” Ski said. “He’s adopted, remember?”

“...I haven’t heard from Lee,” Mrs. Crane answered, continuing to work on her garden, “ but his friend Wolfie’s been in touch. They’ve finished with the MRI and it looks like there’s no serious damage but a minor concussion and some torn scalp that needed stitches. Don’t know about his tailbone yet; he’s still in X-ray. Wolfie did tell me Lee was in good humor about how silly it felt to have fallen off a reindeer, not once, but twice!”

“...Did Cdr. Crane ever speak to you about his indecision about returning to  NIMR and Seaview?”

“...Lee hardly ever brings up his job with me. Complains about me not baking any cookies and brownies for him like Mrs. Morton does for his XO. Sends him ‘care’ packages regularly. And Lee raids them as often as he can get away with it. I think Chip, that’s Chip Morton, has his mother send extra just for the probability. Don’t worry though, Chip’s pretty understanding and even reserves a few goodies for him at times; takes them to Lee’s cabin or to the Control Room; oh anywhere Lee happens to be. Says a happy captain makes for a happy XO and the entire crew...Lee can get a bit broody even at the best of times. I’m not surprised he decided to use some of his leave to go up to Alaska and visit Wolfie and his family, and do all those things they do in that unadulterated fresh air and still unspoiled wilderness. And if it helps when he questions  his career choices, well, more power to him,” she finished, picked up her spade and retreated back into the house with a smile and wave.

“You’ve met her, haven’t you?” Starke asked Jackson.

“A few times...nice lady even if Lee can’t stand it when she ruffles his hair. At least he’ll be spared that in the hospital.”

“You sure about that?” Catherine asked. “Demographics still list nursing as a primarily female profession. And with Lee being, if I were a nurse up there, I might be tempted to ruffle his hair myself, even if he’s my boss.”

All laughed.

The broadcast image switched to the front of Nome’s hospital.

“...We were unable to speak with Admiral Nelson when he arrived with Cdr. Morton, Miss Nelson, Officer O’Malley, Dr. Jenkins, dropped off at the entrance to the hospital here in Nome while Cal Amarok parks the MTV.

“...We’ve been asked not to enter the lobby, as space is limited. We will, however, remain at the ready for any news on Cdr. Crane’s condition...back to our regularly scheduled program.”

“Won’t be long now,” Angie said, pouring herself a scotch from its space in the top left file in her desk. Despite a few raised eyebrows, no one dared to make any comment.


I’m sorry Wolfie,” Lee was saying as a  nurse helped lie him on his side and tuck him in his hospital bed. The room’s counter, what there was of it not occupied with medical supplies, was stacked with cards and gift baskets. “I should have held on to the reins better. I sure wanted us to have some more fun before our leaves are up and...oh gawd, Harry?” he added as he saw Nelson and Morton appear in the open doorway, the girls behind them. “I’m so sorry...I’m so sorry. I swear I didn’t know what Granny was doing about Edith and me and....”

“Neither you nor Edith,” Nelson interrupted, “are responsible for what happened between you both. I’ve come to see how you are and how soon you can return to Seaview. If you’ve decided to.”

“But if I return, you’ll be reminded of what happened between Edith and me every time you look at me! And I’d be reminded every time I see you. She’s your little sister, for God’s sake and I...I...oh gawd, Harry, I don’t know what to do....”

“We’ll discuss everything, and I do mean everything, later. How do you feel?”

“Stupid. Utterly stupid. Thinking I could ride a reindeer like a horse...fell of one of them too, a while back...”

“I meant that thick skull of yours. And your tailbone.”

“Oh,” Lee said sheepishly.

“I don’t suppose we can have some space?” Nelson asked the crowd in the room.

Chip ushered everyone out, even the nurse, to give Nelson and Crane some privacy but were waylaid by Lee’s attending physician who brushed past them into the room.

“Sorry to interrupt the visit,” he said. “Well, Cdr. Crane, I have your results.”

“...Get well cards and gift baskets,” the reporter said in front of the hospital entrance, “continue to arrive from all over the country, and a few places across the pond, as the saying goes. Nome inhabitants have brought their own greetings in song hoping Cdr. Crane will be able to hear them from outside the building, and jars of pickled blubber he’s known to love. One problem has arisen though, the traditional pickling juice of alcoholic spirits cannot be allowed inside. Hospital staff, will, however, keep them to give the commander when he’s released. We have just learned that some of the Get Well cards have been addressed to the hospital staff, sent by NIMR staff, including a gift basket from a Lt. Cdr. Will Jamison, M.D.!

“...Ah, here is the Nelson party, minus Nelson...any word?”

“...He has  a thick skull,” Morton said. “Only a hairline fracture in one of the vertebrae of his tailbone, though some bruising to the rest. Will be on some meds for pain, so no flying for awhile.”

“...Will he be returning to Santa Barbara with you in the Flying Sub?”

“...The admiral was trying to  talk him into it, but even though it looks like Lee’s leaning more toward to the idea of returning to Seaview, there’s still a little hesitation. So we hope the little side trip he’s planning to take to finish up his leave will help him come to a final decision. And no, the pain meds won’t influence him pro or con.”

“...Where is he planning to go?”

“...Up to Barrow. Most northern town in Alaska and the United States. It’s getting another name soon, but I can’t pronounce it. Would you believe it goes 65 days without sunrise and 65 without sunset, depending on the season? Anyway, he’d been adviced not to mush or drive, or fly or doing anything that could put stress on his behind... ”

“...Admiral?” the reporter asked as he appeared from the opening doors of the elevator. “What’s the word, sir?”

“...I’m afraid we have to give the captain just a bit more time just to satisfy himself that he’s made the right decision to resuming command.”

“Yippee!” Riley cheered joined by other yelps of joy from the crew and staff, some jumping up and down with glee in the outer office.

“Pipe down!” Starke ordered, “It’s not official yet.”

But his words were to no avail. Captain Crane was back, sort of, and it was time to celebrate.


 “What am I going to do with all this stuff,” Lee asked of the cards and gift baskets laden countertop as the orderly helping him dress. “Hypothetical question...looks like I’m going to do a bit of reading and eating if I have any spare time in Barrow.”

“I’ll help you if I get dibs on the candy bars...couple of jars of pickled blubber here...but they’re stamped with a red skull and crossbones...”

“The medical staff did that. The stickers are used to keep kids from getting into poison.”

Lee raised an eyebrow.

“For you, to remind you that while you’re on meds, no pickled’s the alcohol. Contraindicated. Of course they put it on the Lutefisk  too.”

“Now, that’s poison!” Wolfie laughed while a wheelchair was brought in for the patient’s last few minutes to sign out and leave the hospital.


“...We’re here in Santa Barbara, California,” the ABC affiliate newscaster was saying some hours later, “where we’ve been informed that NIMR’s Flying Sub is just about to come into visual range. It is unknown if Miss Edith Nelson, Admiral Nelson’s sister, will be staying in Santa Barbara tonight or continuing on to Boston via a commercial flight.”


The girls decided to stay the night with Edith at Nelson’s on grounds bungalow. A kind of pillow party. There was so much racket that Nelson retreated down to the dock and Seaview to retire for the night.

His slumber was interrupted the next morning by loud knocking on his cabin door.

“In,” he called out.

Chip opened the door.  “We have a know how much Lee likes those dogs of his friend’s? Especially the one he uses as a pillow?”

“Yes, Delilah, isn’t it?”

 “Riley?” Chip turned to the crewmen waiting in the companionway.

“What the...” Nelson began as they streamed in, a meow coming from a pink pet carrier with Santa Barbara Humane Society stenciled on it.

“It’s a cat,” Sharkey said.

“I can see that. Why’s it here?” Nelson asked, sitting up, pulling on his robe.

Sharkey hesitated..

“I asked you men a question, Mister.”

Sharkey nudged Riley.

“Well, you see, sir,” Riley began, “it’s just that...well it’s like”

“Riley seemed to think,” Ski took over, “that since the Skip won’t be able to bring that pillow dog back with him, and a dog just wouldn’t do aboard Seaview, that well, he could use something er...smaller.”

“A pillow cat!” Riley said. “It’s a nice cat. Not a little kitten but not too far past being one. And it’s litter trained, had all its shots, and it has a lot of nice soft fur and it purrs a lot and....”

“You bought the captain of the Seaview a cat?” Nelson asked, incredulous.

“Here’s the paperwork,” Chip said, handing it to the boss. “They put it in Lee’s name.”

“Oh gawd,” Nelson moaned. “Do you have any idea of what you’ve done? And I suppose the captain knows nothing about this.”

“It’s a surprise, sir,” Riley said.

“You realize he might not want a cat? He might not want a cat at all? He might not want a cat aboard Seaview?”

“Even if it purrs and cuddles and helps him sleep when he’s all insomniac or comforts him when he’s all broody  or....”

“If he doesn’t want it as a pet,” Sharkey said, “maybe it can be a ship’s cat. Lots of  boats have them.”

“Perhaps a hundred years ago.”

“I heard of some hero ship’s cats...”

“On Brit subs, yes, during both world wars, but not on American subs? None that I’ve heard of.”

“She could cut down the rodent population and...”

“Seaview doesn’t have a rodent population,” Morton said.

“Well, she could keep one from starting,” Riley said. “And she’s nice and cuddly...”

Chip pursed his lips, more to keep from laughing than from the absurdity of the men getting a cat to comfort their captain when he was in one of his moods or in need of sleep.

Just then the cat meowed.

“Want to see her, sir?” Sharkey asked as he opened the carrier and pulled her out. She began to purr and knead the man as he held it, then Sharkey offered it to Nelson.

“Wait a minute. I have to think about this.”

“Let me,” Chip said, and took it from Sharkey. It continued to purr and even climbed up Chip’s chest to his shoulder where it snuggled.

“Good natured little thing, I’ll grant,” Nelson said. “You realize, men, that if you allow it aboard, it can’t very well be a ship’s cat without a proper name, and somebody to take charge of it.”

 “We can have a naming contest,” Riley said, unless the skip wants a different one.”

 “And which of you will take charge of it if that’s all it may be?” Morton asked.

 “I think that’s pretty obvious, Chip,” Nelson said with a smirk as the cat snuggled even more under Chip’s chin.”

“Now wait a minute,” Morton said toward the men, “just because I like cats doesn’t mean I’ll have the time or inclination....”

“You’re the best man for the job,” Ski said, “that is, unless the skip actually decides on it for a pet.”
“Has her spaying been scheduled?” Nelson asked. “We have should have everything arranged  before she takes up residence.”

 “I got a form right here, sir,” Riley said taking it out of his pocket and handing it to the boss, “just need to fill it out.”

 “And the humane society knows Captain Crane doesn’t have a clue about this? You realize that adoption form is a legal document?”

 “I told you we should have cleared it with Mr. Morton first,” Ski told Riley.

“I’m sure the skipper won’t send her back,” Chip said after a moment. “If there’s a problem with the ownership legalities, I can be her legal guardian... I don’t think Lee will mind a ship’s cat, Admiral. And you know, the idea of a pillow cat for him has merit.

 “Thanks, Mr. Morton,” Riley said with relief.

“Okay, let’s take her to my apartment to get her acclimated to being a house cat before she takes on sub duty.”


“...This is an aerial clip from one of our news helicopters,” a CNN anchor reported a day later. We couldn’t get too close as there’s a no fly zone we have to honor. What you see is one of SEAFAC’s submarines. SEAFAC is the abbreviation for The United States Navy Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility’ in Ketchikan, Alaska.

“...The submarine you see leaving port is testing new software which is pretty much what the submarines based here do. But what’s of more interest to those of us who’ve been following the adventures of Cdr. Lee Crane, is that he was released from the hospital in Nome yesterday, flew to Barrow, Alaska and now is rumored to have flown here with Cdr. Amarok who’s based here.”

“...Retired Admiral Harriman Nelson,” a new reporter at LAX,  Crane’s NIMR boss in civilian and Reserve Navy life, returned to Santa Barbara yesterday. He was here at the airport to see his sister off to Boston...ah here he is now....”

A barrage of reporters assaulted him with questions.

“...Admiral Nelson? Has  Cdr. Crane gone back to the Navy?”

“...Is he in command of one of SEAFAC’s submarines?”

“... How badly will Sampson and Delilah take the disappearance of their adopted pillow mate?”

“...When will you develop K-9 Scuba gear to add to your growing list of patents? Would scuba diving be considered animal abuse, forcing dogs, and maybe even cats into dangerous situations?”

“... Will....”

“... Both Crane and Amarok,” Nelson interrupted, “are still on leave, the last I knew still in Barrow. As for the Navy, as a Reservist he can be called to active duty at any time, however, as he only recently completed a Reserve assignment, it’s doubtful they called him to SEAFAC.

“...As for K-9 Scuba gear, well, it could come in handy for search and rescue operations, etc. but I haven’t developed a system advanced enough for military or police use. The only underwater K-9 gear I’ve heard of in current use are purely recreational. Now, if you’ll excuse me....” he tried to say politely as he headed toward the exit and waiting NIMR sedan.

The news anchor desk transferred  the image to a famous movie studio gate.

“...We’re here,” a reporter said “at the Twentieth Century Fox Studios with executive Miss Connors. Will Cdr. Crane be returning any time soon?  What parts could he be playing if he does?”

“...I’m sorry, I haven’t heard when or if he’ll be returning. I can tell you that should he wish to take on another gig, we’ll make sure with his doctors if he can do anything strenuous. Personally, I think we’d like to try him out as a supporting actor as well as his usual gigs as an extra or stuntman.” “...Then in the future, we might see him as a movie star?”

“...Well, he certainly has the looks! And he was very much in character as an extra so I do think he has the acting skills required for any such part. Might be a problem with NIMR, though. I mean he’d be on call with them and the doesn’t want to put a film on hold for that. We’ll keep you informed. He’s become quite popular with everyone at the studio and I’m sure when a few of our latest productions are released, the public will also appreciate his Hollywood skills.”

“...Thank you, Miss Connors...And now in other news....”


“Admiral Starke?’ Chip asked as he answered his apartment’s door to Nelson’s friend.

“Jackson says I need a better golf partner than he is. How about it? I have a T-time in an hour. We can have lunch at the Country Club afterwards, my treat.”

“I didn’t know you were a member.”

“Harry signed me up as a permanent where’s this new ship’s cat I’ve been hearing about?”

Chip led him to the small laundry room where the cat was blissfully sleeping atop a laundry basket holding a stack clean folded towels, underwear, and rolled up socks.

Starke sniffed, confused at the floral scent.

“Housekeeper’s fault. They keep using scented dryer sheets.”

“Housekeeper? I’m surprised, your place seems rather too Spartan to need anyone to help you.”

“Yes and no. Once  I came back from a cruise to find some cobwebs, mold in the bathtub and a fridge full of what look like lab experiments gone wrong. Angie told me of a bi monthly cleaning service that could collect my keys from her for whatever I scheduled, so now, whenever I return to port, no matter how long I’ve been gone, the place is fresh as a daisy. Mrs. Winesap even bakes cookies every other week. Crushes and freezes the old ones for ice cream toppings. I have some fresh ones right now if you’d care for some. Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter. She doesn’t make Oatmeal Raisin unless she finds out what day Lee might come over.  She’s rather sweet on him. Of course, most old ladies are.”

“And the young ones,” Starke said jovially. “Yes, I think I’d like some cookies before our game. Got any coffee to dunk them in?”

“Yes, but I warn you, it’s decaf. Been trying to get away from the real stuff.”


It wasn’t long before Starke had downed four cookies, favoring three chocolate chip over the one peanut butter, Chip had five peanut butter cookies with two glasses of milk, shared with the now wide awake cat.

“I know milk’s not good for cats,” Chip said, “but she dunked her paw in some last night and  licked it. She liked it and began putting her paw in my glass a lot.”

“Well, go easy. Wouldn’t want her to get sick all over Crane’s feet when they’re introduced.”

Just then the doorbell rang.

“Excuse us sirs,” Ski said as Starke opened the door, “We’re here to cat sit. Hope we’re not too early?”
“Not at all,” Morton said.

“By the way, sirs, Cdr. Jackson said to tell you, he’s going up to SEAFAC. You think the rumors are true that the skip’s gone there too?”

“To test drive one of the subs, doubt it. To explore his friend’s base, likely, if they’re done in Barrow.”

“Now, why don’t I quite believe that about a mere visit?” Starke sighed,

“We don’t have a choice not to,” Chip said. “And you men are obligated to cat sit for me. So, no rushing off to get a flight to SEAFAC, any of you.”

“Yes, sir,” Ski and Riley answered, disappointed.

“How’s the name contest going?” Starke asked as Riley scooped up the now wide awake and playful cat.

“Not too well,” Ski said. “I think the guys are afraid to name her something the skipper might not like.

“Well, as with most cats, for now, anyway, ‘Kitty’ is fine.”


Starke and Morton were on the 18th hole when a golf cart drove up, bearing Nelson.

“Stay here,” he ordered his driver and took Chip and Starke aside.

“Lee’s gone to SEAFAC,” Nelson told them. “Don’t know anything more than that. After those damn reporter’s rumor about it, I had to find out for myself. Pryor confirmed Lee and Wolfie had flown in from Barrow, and Lee had signed into the visitor center while Wolfie showed him around. Couldn’t tell me anything else.”

“Or wouldn’t,” Starke said. “Well, nothing we can say or do about it....Want a crack at the 18th hole?”

“My pleasure, old friend,” Nelson said and took a swing. And another. Picking up the ball from the water trap, the three men were driven to the Country Club’s restaurant.


 “News broadcast you might want to see,” Angie told the three when they finally arrived at NIMR.

 “...We’ve only just learned,” the CNN reporter was saying from the news desk, “that Cdr. Crane, aka ‘Arm Candy’ as he’s referred to in and about Santa Barbara, is now the proud owner, by proxy, of a cat, rescued from one of the local animal shelters.

“Arm Candy?  Oh good God!” Starke grumbled. “He’s the captain of the Seaview and deserves some respect!”

“... As stated,” the reporter continued, “the adoption was by proxy. The shelter was also informed by Seaview’s crew that in addition to becoming the captain’s ‘pillow cat’, she might also serve aboard Seaview as its ship’s cat. We’ve been informed that only one other U.S. sub currently has a ship’s cat though there are a few in the Royal Navy of the U.K.

“...The crewmen picking up the cat also stated that Admiral Nelson might be planning to speak with famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, regarding the development of high tech and specialized K-9 Scuba gear. Does this mean that Seaview will also get a ship’s dog? The shelter informed us that they have several puppies and adult dogs that they can recommend for shipboard dexterity and easy trainability. They also stated that they can recommend several breeds as suitable ‘pillow dogs’ as Lt.Cdr. Amarok’s Sampson and Delilah served his friends.

“...We have breaking news in just now from Ketchikan International Airport, Alaska, in that the commanders flew in yesterday from Barrow, possibly to be renamed Utqiagvik  in the future. But today instead of a snow plane piloted by his buddy, Cdr. Crane will be flying home alone to Santa Barbara via a commercial flight.”

The image formed inside the terminal but the press and public were so used to seeing Crane and Amarok dressed  in native Eskimo attire it took a moment to recognize the unshaven and jeans and flannel shirt attired men entering the terminal and Crane checking in his luggage and signing in for his boarding pass from Alaska Airlines.  Joe was also with the two.

“...Commander Crane? Commander Crane?” one of the broadcasting company’s reporters demanded his attention, “Why did you leave Barrow so quickly? Will you be stopping in Hollywood before you return to NIMR, if you’ve decided to return to Seaview for certain?”

“...Well,” Lee said, finishing up at the counter, and giving the reporters a sheepish grin, “that’s the plan. About Seaview, that is.  Hollywood will have to wait, though I really would like to take on more gigs, if Miss Connors allows. And our visit to Barrow was only to be a short one.”

“...It was an Inupiat tribal festival,” Wolfie said. “Was a surprise they admitted him as a member of tribal council. That’s his badge of office,” Wolfie added, pulling on the dangling beaded necklace around Lee’s neck,  with a carved whalebone pendant of a whale with  a star above it.

“...Are you anxious to return to NIMR and meet your new cat, Cdr. Crane?” the reporter asked.

Lee raised his eyebrow.

 “...We heard you adopted the cat by proxy from one of the Santa Barbara Humane Society’s shelters. Your crew told them you wanted a pillow cat to fill in for Delilah...”

“...Wasn’t supposed to be so soon,” Lee lied with a barely visible warning glance toward Wolfie that Nelson was sure nobody but he noticed. “Would you excuse me? I just remembered I need to make a call.”

 “Battle stations,” Nelson called out as they watched the camera pan to the glass enclosed phone center that Lee had hurried into.

In less than one minute Angie’s phone rang.

“Nelson Institute of Ma...yes, Captain, Admiral Nelson and Lt. Cdr. Morton are right here...”

“I’ll handle it, sir,” Chip said, “After all, I’m Miss Kitty’s temporary guardian.”

“Take  it in my office. Angie, pass out the earplugs.”

Rhetorical or not, even before Chip closed the door behind him, Angie pulled out a large first aid kit from one of the file cabinets behind her. But it wasn’t earplugs she retrieved. It was an as of yet unsealed pristine bottle of Glen Liven, and sat it on the desk.

Nelson grabbed three pointy paper cups from the nearby water cooler.

Without a word Nelson held his cup out for Angie to break the seal, open the bottle and pour out a shot for both admirals.

“Aren’t you going to have a shot?” Jiggs asked her.

 “Quite all right if you do,” Nelson said.

“I’d better keep my wits about me...”

“You sure you transferred that call to Harriman’s office?” Jiggs asked, “I don’t hear any shouting.”

“Perhaps we should call Doc to treat Chip,” Nelson said, “Lee can shout without raising his voice. Rather brutal the way he looks right through whomever he’s chewing out. Can do the same with just his voice.”

Just then Chip returned to the outer office, and picked up the paper cup into which Angie poured out a shot of the booze for him. He downed it gratefully.

Before Nelson could ask about the conversation, the broadcast showed the man in question returning to his friend.

“...Come on, Wolfie, I need a Duck Fart.”

An elderly lady gasped.

“...It’s a drink,” Wolfie explained. “Alaska invention. So’s the Gold Rush...that’s a drink named after the real thing...sure, Lee, we have a couple of hours before your flight. Wyatt’s is probably open.”

The two exited the terminal, hailed a taxi and were off.

“Duck Fart?” Starke mused, confused.

“I have no idea,” Nelson laughed. “But, it certainly bears investigating. Well, Chip? What did Lee say to you?”

“Well,” Chip said, having a second shot, “He didn’t completely object to the idea of ship’s cat, but he’s not so sure about it as a personal pet. He’s upset that I didn’t fix up the ‘misunderstanding’ with the shelter about that proxy business. That’s the ‘G’ version of what he said anyway. He was cursing in various Native Alaskan tongues, Hawaiian,  and some Hollywood alien language from that gig he did.”

“Do I still have an XO? A crew?” Nelson asked.

“I believe so. I’ve been ordered to inform the crew, primarily Ski and Riley,  that he’s considering everyone involved in the feline adoption to do some community service with the Santa Barbara Waste Control Dept.”

“Now, that’s taking things a bit far,” Jiggs said.

“Yes, but it’s the fear of it that counts.”

“Why didn’t he just tell the press his crew getting him a cat was a practical joke or something?”

“Pretty evident,” Nelson began, “that he wanted to protect his crew from any public outcry about what they did without his permission. I am sorry you got the brunt of his anger, Chip. Tell you what, let’s all go have a bite and try out that Duck Fart he mentioned.”

“Know what’s in it?” Chip asked.

“Not a clue.”


The next day Angie reported to work cheerfully and entered Nelson’s open door.

“Ohhhh, go away and let me die in peace....” he groaned, his head on his arms on top of his desk. He finally looked up through bloodshot eyes. He hadn’t shaved, his hair was mussed, and he hadn’t changed his clothes since yesterday. “Damn Duck Fart.”

“I’ll call Doc for his hangover cure.”

“Already had some. Taking its damn time,” he said, indicating the dregs of the  fizzy remedy in his tumbler. “Cancel all my appointments, will you?”

 “No appointments. But a lot of messages, nothing official... Perhaps you should take the day off...”.

 “Promised Jiggs a day out deep sea fishing...”

 “Morning everyone,” Chip’s voice croaked as he entered the outer office, carrying ‘Miss Kitty’ in her carrier. On seeing Nelson’s door open he headed on through to it. “Thought I should introduce our new ship’s cat to Seaview now.”

“Not so loud,” Nelson moaned, rubbing his temples, his bloodshot eyes trying to focus.

“Not you too?”

“What?” Nelson asked confused.

“Most of the crew went to town last night to try to find a bar that knew what Lee’s Duck Fart was. Well, they did, actually quite a few of them, thanks to some ‘Bartender’s Manuals of Exotic Drinks’. I’m afraid the men rather over did things. Glad I only had one Duck Fart. Joe had a Gold Rush.

“Come on down to Seaview. Miss Kitty can help you take your mind off how badly you feel,” Chip added, unlatching the carrier and pulling out the cat, which Angie fawned over, as he sat the cat on top of Nelson’s desk.

“I don’t remember it having four eyes,” Nelson said.

“She doesn’t. Here,” Chip said and placed Nelson’s right hand along the cat’s back.  “Okay, Miss Kitty, you’re on the clock.”

“Oh c’mon, Chip, you have to give it a better name than that,” Nelson said as he stroked the cat which lay down and started to purr.

Angie couldn’t resist petting it either, but had to stop when her office phone rang and she  punched a button on Nelson’s phone to transfer it to his and picked up the receiver.

“Nelson Institute, Angie here...News Journal?”

“Oh gawd, what’s Lee done now?” Nelson groaned.

“It’s the Santa Barbara News Journal,” Angie said, disturbed, “they want to know if NIMR has any  comment about the arrest of twenty five of our crew and staff last night for being drunk and disorderly. I sure don’t know anything about it.”

“I’ll take it,” Chip reached for the receiver in her hand. “This is Lt. Cdr. Morton.  I’m sorry, but this is the first we’ve heard of any trouble...well, no, not everyone reads your paper. No, we’re not understaffed...I hm...look, our legal department will get to the bottom of things ASAP. No, I don’t know how many Duck Farts or Gold Rush’s the captain and his friends had up north. No! He’s not an alcoholic!” Chip added, slamming down the receiver.

“Anyone alive in there?” Starke moaned from the outer office’s doorway, “Gawd, I’ll never try those damn drinks again. You okay in there, Harriman?”

“Bad hangover,” Nelson said.

“Ah,” Starke said entering Nelson’s doorway. “I see the famous ship’s cat’s already on purr duty.”

Just then another ring sounded from Angie’s office. This time Chip pressed the transfer buttons and  answered the call on Nelson’s phone before Angie could.

“Lola? What interview? Oh, thanks.” Hanging up, Chip turned on the monitor and adjusted reception for a news broadcast.

“...Commander? Commander?” several voices of the press demanded, just outside of the Twentieth Century Fox studio gates. In a golf cart, Crane and Jackson waved, got out, and stood behind the closed gate.

“...Security said you wanted to see me?” Lee asked.

Joe was costumed as a green skinned alien bearing huge ‘pus’ filled bulbs on his face that were easily squeezed by his enemies to squirt out the yellow pus. Lee was once again a clean shaven gladiator.

 “...Commander, do you have anything to say about several of your crewmen being arrested?”


“...Yes, for being drunk and disorderly last night. Seems they wanted to try the Duck Fart you mentioned in an interview and apparently it became a kind of game. Everyone making under arm fart noises each time they downed the drink as they bar hopped around town. Well, the game spread. Soon the town’s populace was doing the same and some bars ran out of the ingredients, and some stores that were still open ran out of bathtub ducks, and Donald Duck toys, for those who couldn’t or wouldn’t make underarm farts or real ones...yes...I’m afraid it was a hot time in the old town last night...but only your men were arrested, being the drunkest and most disorderly.”

“...Oh good grief,” Joe hissed.

“...What my crew does on their own time, off boat, off NIMR grounds,” Lee said, coolly, “is their own business unless they commit a felony or something. That, of course, would be grounds for disciplinary action or discharge. Getting soused is not a felony the last time I checked. I’m sure the SBPD took appropriate action if things got that out of hand.”

“What if Remco or Walt Disney Studios file lawsuits for the use of their products in such a disreputable way? After all, you influenced your crew’s behavior.”

“...Oh for God’s sake,” Joe said, irritated, “C’mon, Lee, let’s get back to the set.”

“...Wait. I need to take care of this, but I will say,” he told the reporter, “you can hardly call me responsible for their quacking.”

Then Lee headed to the main gate’s office.

 “...What are you going to do?” the reporter asked. “Commander? Commander?”

But Lee didn’t respond or even look back as he entered and closed the door behind him.

“Battle stations!” Chip shouted.

 By now Starke knew the drill, and waited with his friend for Angie to pour out the booze while Chip picked up Miss Kitty and put her into the carrier.

“Admiral Starke, if you’d take Miss Kitty to the boat. I don’t want her to overhear whatever language Lee’s going to be yelling with. Admiral Nelson, perhaps you’d better go along. I don’t think your hangover can handle the volume.”

Just as Starke and Nelson exited the outer office, Angie’s phone rang and she transferred it to Nelsons office.

“Remind me to give Chip a raise, poor loyal boy,” Nelson said as they departed.


Nelson and Starke had consumed more cups of coffee than they could count, even if delivered from the cafeteria to Seaview’s Observation Nose by the time Chip wearily strode down the topside ladder in the Control Room and headed over, official documents in his hand.

“Well?” Nelson asked, as he stroked the cat which had been released from her carrier and was curled up on Starke’s lap.

“The miscreants have been released, accounting will delete their fines from their paychecks, and are all on report for behavior unbecoming, according to the articles of their employment. They can choose between forty hours each community service or forty hours each scraping the hull of Lee’s new fix it up sailboat.”

“Can he do that?” Starke asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Legally, no,” Chip smirked, “but...”

“It’s the threat that counts,” all three men said in unison, laughing.

“How’s Lee otherwise?” Nelson asked.

“Pissed off with the men, but at least he went to bat for them with the reporter. By the way, he doesn’t like the name ‘Miss Kitty’. Reminds him of that saloon girl on  ‘Gunsmoke’.

“Admiral?” Angie’s voice came over the PA. “The Boston Globe wants to know if your sister will want her annulment with Captain Crane annulled.”

“Well, they said she got sick when visiting the public library. Nausea and vomiting. In the morning.”

 “What’s that go to do with anything?”

“Well, sir, I’ll admit it’s a bit early for any symptoms but they can happen.”

“What the devil are you talking about?”

“ the morning. Morning Sickness?”

“Oh, Gawd,” Nelson said.

“A bit soon for Morning Sickness,” Starke said. “Impossible this soon, I should think.”

 “Call coming in Lt. Cdr. Jackson,” Angie said and put it on the Observation Nose’s intercom.

“Admiral? Can you send a driver to come pick us up from Fox when we’re done here? Lee’s not feeling very well since somebody showed him an article in a newspaper. Turned green and passed out...he’s okay now but we really don’t want a cab.”

“Let me guess, the Boston Globe?”

“Yeah but...”

“Utter nonsense,” Starke said. “Surprised they’d print tabloid news.”

“But what if...”Lee’s voice began but was interrupted by Angie remotely turning on the monitor to a news broadcast.

“...We have breaking news from the steps of the Boston Library,” the reporter began. “Miss Nelson is there any truth to the story in the Boston Globe that you might be pregnant by Lee Crane?”

“...Pure hogwash, trust me.”

“...Would you like to get pregnant by him?”

“...Oh good grief. Will you just drop it? I’m out of here. Taxi!”

“Hear that, Lad?” Nelson asked Lee on the intercom.

“Yeah, thanks Angie, thanks Admiral.”

“Feel well enough for a cab now?” they heard Joe ask Lee. “Or maybe a rental?”

“Hertz, here we come,” Lee said ending the call.

“When Lee arrives for duty tomorrow,” Nelson told Chip, “we’re going to have another little talk.”

 “Not his fault the crew misbehaved,” Chip said.

“No, but I want him to insure they won’t again.”

“If you can make sure they don’t, I’d like to sell you the Golden Gate Bridge,” Starke laughed.

“Admiral  Nelson?” Angie’s voice came over. “Miss Connors says thank you but neither she or Mabel can fit  in the lunch date the captain invited them to aboard Seaview tomorrow.”

Nelson looked at Chip who spread his arms akimbo as he hadn’t heard about it either.

“Very well.”

“And the jeweler is here. He says he has good news and bad news.”

“I’ll be right there,” Nelson said without any explanation for his companions.


The next day was chilly, for California anyway, and Seaview’s jailbirds reported to admin to inform the XO as to which punishment duty each man would take on.

“Oh, that,” Morton said from behind his desk, “Both punishments have been removed. But you’ll still have to wait to see what new options the skipper has for you. You all seem to be a bit overdressed for shore duty. Navy uniforms? You know something I don’t?”

“Well, it’s a sure bet the skip will want to board Seaview,” Riley said, “and we’d like to pipe him aboard, good and proper. Boson’s whistle, the works. It kinda’ means....”

“I know what it means,” Morton sighed. “I might have some trouble talking Nelson into it.”

“Somehow, I don’t think he’ll have any trouble with it at all,” Ski said.

 “Got some paperwork for you, Commander,” Catherine interrupted, handing him a stack of reports. “Gee, thanks.”

“My dear young woman,” Starke said entering the office, “It’s Lieutenant Commander, not Commander.”

“I prefer Chip,” Morton said.

“I told Crane he keeps a lax boat.  But if he doesn’t mind, I won’t say another word. It’s almost time for him to report.”

“Ah, yes, and there’s a slight change of plans...”


 “Not like him to be late,” Nelson said as he paced his cabin aboard Seaview.

“It’s only a quarter after 0800,” his friend said, as he straightened the collar of his uniform jacket,
“Cut the boy  some slack. Rush hour you know.””

“You’re getting soft on him. Who’d have ever believed it.”

“Any captain who can command the loyalty this crew has for him, has my respect.”

“That’s not it,” Nelson joined Starke at the mirror, “You’re just wishing you could have had the same when you had a boat.”

Both laughed when the call came through the PA. Two words.

“He’s here.”


The double row of men were still forming on the deck as Nelson and Starke strode down the gangplank.

 It wasn’t long before they saw two figures in the distance. Both tall, both dark haired, but only one wore the Seaview ship’s wheel insignia and limping a little.

“Guess he overdid things at Fox,” Starke said.

“Or he stopped using the anti-inflammatory for his tailbone.”

As Cdr. Lee Crane and Lt. Cdr. Jackson approached the base of the gangplank, Riley, one of  Seaview’s honor guard broke protocol and yelled ‘Attenhut’!

“I thought the chief was supposed to do that,” Starke muttered.

“Guess he couldn’t help himself,” Nelson replied as Crane and Jackson saluted Nelson and Starke.

“All hands, sa-lute!” Sharkey yelled, and all on deck did so.

“At least they got that right,” Starke said.

“That’s for you Lee, not us,” Nelson explained to Lee.

Lee looked up at his crew with a grin, not sparing Seaview an almost lustful look, as he returned the salute.

“Wait, son,” Nelson said and pulled something from his pocket. “Don’t forget the rest of your uniform,” he added, handing Lee the repaired ring. “By the way, the jeweler said the stone’s not actually Onyx, that’s why it broke so easily. I think you were duped into it when you fashioned it.”

“Oh I knew it wasn’t a real stone. Couldn’t afford anything else.”

“Well, go on,” Starke fussed. “Put it on already.”

Lee did so, realizing there was more to it than just fixing something that he, Lee, had broken in a fit of anger. The repaired ring was symbolic, a token of the friendship, even fraught with detours between he and Nelson.

“Well, Skipper?” Chip, also breaking protocol, hollered down, interrupting Lee’s musings, “are you going to relieve me or not?

“Oh good grief,” Lee said, and as a group, he, Nelson, and Starke strode up the gangplank together, though the admirals had nudged him ahead of them, another blow to protocol. All saluted  the colors but  before stepping on deck, Lee faced Chip.

“Permission to resume command?” Lee requested quietly, somewhat guilty.

“Get your sorry butt below, Captain. Permission granted. At last, I’m a free man!”

“A bit unorthodox relieving Morton of command that way,” Starke told Nelson.

“It’s a Seaview thing...well, Lee, Cookie’s pulled out all the stops for breakfast...Lee?”

But Lee wasn’t ready to go below and turned to the crewmen on deck.

“Never, never ever, have I ever received such a heartfelt welcome. Thank you. Thank you all,” he added and began to walk among his crew, shaking hands and slapping backs with all of them, surprised he hadn’t noticed the pink box from the second row.

“What’s this?’ he asked, bending down, discovering it was a pet carrier.

“Meow!” the cat demanded some attention, stretching out a paw.

“Morning, Sweetie,” Lee said as he released the cat, which began to circle his legs, but kept up the meowing. “Am I correct in assuming this is our new ship’s cat?”

“Yes, sir,” Riley said. “Mr. Morton calls her Miss Kitty, but...I kinda’ like the name you gave her.”


“Yeah, ‘Sweetie’.”

All hands voiced their approval.

“Well, then, Mr. Morton? Would you enter the name change to the ship’s log. But you can still call her Miss Kitty if you want...but...only when she’s on duty. Other times, she’s Sweetie Crane.”

“Then,” Riley asked, excited, “you like her? You really like her? As your pillow cat?”

“Well,” Lee said, running a hand through his hair, “I’m not sure if she’s big enough to actually be a pillow, like Delilah, but she’s certainly going to be mine. I um better let the shelter know.”

“After breakfast,” Nelson said. “I waited past my usual time and I’m famished. Let’s get below.”

“Oh, by the way, men, I’ve had time to think about your punishment options. Since Legal won’t let me issue the ones I’d planned, I figured that some of the upcoming cruises might be considered in lieu of them...there are two choices that I’d consider adequate punishment for’ll get to vote on which you’d rather take...checking on global warming in Antarctica, with a lot of hands on sampling above and below the ice, or checking on some changes in current the Hawaiian Islands...not an easy job this time of year...I understand there a  lot of big waves,” he added with  a grin toward Riley. “Well, Sweetie,” Lee said, picking up the latest member of his crew, and family, “Let’s get below and see what Cookie’s made for us...then we’ll tour the boat...”

“I forgot to tell you,” Chip said, “Cookie had a slight problem. Afraid he had to substitute something for the oatmeal...made brownies instead.”

Everyone laughed as they made way for the captain and his cat to go below ahead of them.

“Harriman?” Starke waylaid him, “Are those really upcoming missions?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. Call it Captain’s prerogative. Besides, I did mention the need to check those things out sometime. Might as well be now.”

“Well God speed Seaview, and God bless you.”

“He already has, Jiggs, he already has.

 ~The End~



Author’s Notes:

Ketchikan, Alaska. On the far southeast coastline of the state. 776 miles south of the Arctic Circle

Nome, Alaska. 102 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Finish line for the Iditarod dog sled race. One of the biggest Gold Rush towns in American History. At that time gold nuggets were easy to just pick up off the beach front.

One of the ports used by treasure hunters featured in the ‘Bering Sea Gold’ docudrama series.

Nome webcam:

SEAFAC (Southeast Alaska Acoustic Measurement Facility) *US Navy.

Broken Claw, Alaska. Fictional. I set this community far enough north  of Nome to incur colder, more snowy weather at the same time Nome’s snow and ice are melting with the change of season.

Barrow, Alaska. Now Utquiagvik, the furthest north city in Alaska, and the US. Within the Arctic Circle. Known for its 65 day winter ‘blackout’ and its 65 days of the ‘midnight sun’.

Barrow webcam:

Iditarod. Famous or infamous depending on your dog sled team, 900 mile race from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska.

Pickled Blubber. Fictional, sort of. Lots of preparations for whale and seal  blubber in the frozen north.

Eskimo: indigenous population of the Arctic  and subarctic regions of  Greenland, Canada, the U.S. and Siberia, Russia.

Most Alaskan Native Americans prefer to be known as  Alaskan Natives. Tribes include: IñupiatYupikAleutEyakTlingitHaidaTsimshian, and a number of Northern Athabaskan cultures.

The state of Alaska has tried to maintain rights and customs of the native population.

Mushing terms not included in this story, but you may be interested:

·        “Hike!” Get moving. Not to be confused with the American Football term.

·        “Gee” Turn to the right.

·        “Haw!” Turn to the left.

·        “Whoa!” Stop.

·        “On By!” Pass another team or other distraction.

How to Train Your Dog to Mush :

Sled Dogs:  Alaskan Malamute, (descendant of the Arctic Wolf),  Siberian Husky, and Eskimo Dog.

SP kennels, Two Rivers, Alaska:

Aliy Zerkle sled cam Iditarod 2011 to Happy River checkpoint:

Bear repellant: Yes, there is such a thing. A mixture of capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, that is used to deter aggressive or charging bears.

 In our story, while a Grizzly Bear greets visitors to the Trading Post, we’re not too sure, technically speaking,  that it was a Grizzly which attacked our boys. After all, the Grizzly has the advantage of being  bigger and stronger than any mere man. So proud family members may have exaggerated. Or it’s a bit of literary license by the author.

Alaska Duck Fart:

How the ‘Duck Fart’ drink came to be: Yes, there is such a thing.

 It took place one night in Alaska. Where specifically is unknown. A bartender and an aged woman were ‘testing’ out some drinks and it was invented by either or by both of them. Well, the woman, and maybe the bartender had a few too many. The story has it that the drinks left them with rather a lot of gassiness, hence, the ‘fart’. As to where the ‘duck’ came from in anyone’s guess.

There are different versions of the Duck Fart, the most traditional is a layered drink, another a kind of smoothie. Take your pick, but all have three main ingredients. The tradition begins with Kahula on the bottom, Irish Cream in the middle, and whiskey on the top. Do not stir you lose the total effect.

Gold Rush A drink made of Bourbon, with the addition of Honey and lemon juiced. Stirred. Not shaken. Not to be confused with the Yukon and Alaskan Gold Rush between 1896 – 1899.

Eskimo clothing: The traditional clothing to stay warm are made of animal skins and furs. Shirts,  pants, boots, hats, and big jackets (‘anorak’s) from caribou and seal skin. The linings for all are usually made from the fur of animals such as   polar bears, rabbits, and foxes.

Baked Alaska: Dessert of ice cream covered with meringue and baked, the cooked meringue keeping the ice cream in its frozen state. Not to be confused with the highest recorded temperature in Alaska of 100F in 1915.

Brrr: The coldest recorded temperature in Alaska was -80 F.

Snowy landing: Alaska Airlines Flight 737 landing in Nome, Alaska 2/14/11:

Helicopter Tour of Nome: