Time to Move On

 

 A story by Sea Starr

 

 

“This way!  Hurry, hurry!” Lt. Lee Crane coaxed his charges as they ran through the mountain meadow with their destination in sight.

 

“The border is just ahead,” Lee encouraged the Dissident and his daughter as bullets whizzed past them.  A clump of welcome bushes laid just ahead, a valley below, a river in low flow and finally the neutral country they were headed for.

 

“Go, go, go!”  Lee yelled, clearing a branch out of the way for the two and following behind them.  More bullets whizzed indiscriminately through the brush, their path evident by the dirt impacts kicking around their feet.

 

“We're not going to make it!” Rashnof's daughter cried, something Lee also realized, but they were too close to fail now.  He was going to get Rashnof and his daughter to safety, failure was not an option.  Lee looked below at the small valley, once they broke the bushes they'd be sitting ducks to enemy fire, at least until they crossed the river.  Lee stopped Rashnof's forward motion with a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Head down to the river, your escort is on the other side.  Run, no matter what.  Don't look back,” Lee instructed as he pulled out his service revolver and slid the action pulling a cartridge into the chamber.

 

“What are you going to do?” Rashnof asked.

 

“Slow them down,” Lee replied without emotion.

 

“That's suicide, there's too many of them,” Rashnof returned.

 

“No choice.  Get your daughter to safety.  Now!” he yelled as more bullets emphasized the point. 

 

Rashnof nodded reluctantly and guided his daughter down the valley as Lee turned and headed back for the bushes, finding cover and returning fire.  He emptied a clip and then ejected the empty and reloaded with another clip.  He continued firing effectively slowing down their advance, reloading his clip and firing again until he was out of ammo.  He turned to run for the border, watching with satisfaction as Rashnof and his daughter crossed the river and were met by the escort guiding them to the safety of the woods.  He headed for the valley but was cut short as he was flanked with a flying tackle with him and his attacker rolling end over end down the ravine.  Lee ended up on top, delivering a swift upper cut that left the soldier dazed giving him an opening to make a break for the river less than a hundred yards away.

 

He was going to make it, he remembered thinking until a bullet found its mark passing completely through his shoulder.  Lee grunted and fell forward falling hard to the ground.  He tried to gather himself and make a run for it when he was stopped by the sounds of multiple guns clicking, a warning that he was in their deadly sights.

 

Lee raised his hands in surrender, responding to their insistent demands as he looked across the border in time to see Rashnof and his nineteen year old daughter reach the safety of the trees.  Once in the woods they turned around as Lee allowed a satisfied smile to form and then hit the ground hard as blackness enveloped him, compliments of a soldier's rifle butt.

 

From the safety of the trees, Rashnof's escort urged the Dissident and his daughter deeper into the woods.  He turned around in time to see two soldiers heft the still body of Lt. Crane and begin the climb up the ravine.

 

Captain Nelson's blue eyes tightened, unable to do anything to help his Engineering Officer as he was dragged away.  His duty was clear; guide Rashnof and his daughter to safety, but he vowed to come back.  There was no way he was going to leave the young Lieutenant in the hands of the vicious Regime as Harry resolved within himself to return, no matter what ONI said.

 

 

Seven Years Later...

 

 

“Champagne Sir?”  The Server asked as Lee took a glass from the tray.

 

“Thank you,” he offered politely and took a sip with a silent sigh, enduring the Washington Black Tie Cocktail party.  He looked across the room and smiled as he watched Harry work the room.  As a naval officer he wasn't a novice to these types of events, but he definitely had to endure more than his fair share this last year since joining on as Seaview's Captain.  The parties were a necessary part of the funding process, and even though NIMR was a private foundation they still conducted quite a few military operations making these events as important as the private fund raising events he attended as well.

 

Harry looked up from his conversation and caught Lee's grin, nodding an acknowledging tight lipped smile his way.  His young captain was dashing in his black tuxedo, the white dress shirt offering a sharp contrast to the black bow tie.  Lee was dressed similarly to every other man there, but the manner he carried himself was somewhat elegant, and his classic handsome features hadn't gone unnoticed by several of the attending ladies. 

 

Lee took another sip, breaking their slight connection and waiting for the next inevitable conversation to present itself, as he silently pondered his growing friendship with Harry.  He and the Admiral had advanced past the military superior-subordinate roles over the last year building upon a relationship that started back at the Academy.  The relationship grew as he briefly served aboard the Nautilus under Captain Nelson for a year.  Their paths had crossed a few times in the subsequent years, but nothing significant until he received a life changing TAD to captain the Seaview.  The temporary duty assignment turned permanent after the successful mission as Lee was offered the permanent captaincy of the Boat every naval sub commander in the fleet dreamed about.  Since then, he and Harry had continued their mutual respect as their friendship grew with every new voyage.  It was still growing, something Lee found very satisfying even though neither one discussed their friendship.

 

“Lee?”

 

He turned toward the female voice to see a dark haired, European beauty before him.  Her blue eyes were captivating, indeed it was quite unusual for a dark haired woman to have such fair eyes.

 

Lee smiled politely as the young woman studied his face; recognition hit him as he realized he had seen those eyes before.

 

“Lida?” he said in almost a whisper, his disbelief apparent even in his facial expression. 

 

“Yes,” she replied with a nervous chuckle.  “I thought it was you.  I saw you from across the room...  well I just had to know,” she finished.

 

“How have you been?” he asked, still not believing that the daughter of the Dissident Rashnof was standing here, and no longer a teenage girl.  The seven years since that mission had treated her well, he thought taking in the beauty of the young woman who was by now 26 years old, about five years his junior.

 

“I've been good,” she answered politely, but her eyes were begging for some deeper conversation, a conversation they both knew couldn't happen in the middle of the cocktail party. 

 

Lee sensed her desire to talk and swept an arm forward.  “Would you care to join me on the terrace?”

 

“Yes, I'd like that,” she said, moving elegantly along in her sleeveless black cocktail dress, cut just at the knees.

 

He offered his arm and guided her through the crowd nodding a few times, acknowledging several guests as they passed.  They refrained from speaking until they reached the solitude of the terrace as Lee closed the double French Doors behind them to ensure their privacy.  They were still visible through the glass panes, but at least their conversation was now private.

 

Lida smiled and sighed.  “Captain of the Seaview.  Who would have known that my knight in shining armor would rise to such heights,” she said as her smile broadened.

 

Lee dipped his head slightly.  “A lot's happened in seven years.  What about you?”  He reached for her left hand and fingered the empty ring finger.  “Not married?”

 

“No, haven't found Mr. Right yet, and you?”

 

“No, too many months at sea to keep a girl interested,” he quipped back. 

 

Lee grinned and then continued.  “How is your father?”

 

“Good.  He's an Ambassador to your country now.”

 

“I'm glad things worked out for both of you.”

 

“Thanks to you,” she replied, her countenance turning serious.

 

Lee's eyes lowered slightly and then found hers again.  “I was glad to help.”

 

“But you paid such a high price,” Lida whispered out as tears welled in her eyes.  “Father kept tabs on your capture through his contacts within the country.  We heard about what happened.”

 

Lee sighed.  The memories weren't pleasant ones.  “Well,” he said with a weak smile, “I made it through.”

 

Lida reached up and slid her hand down Lee's cheek as they gazed into each other's eyes.  “You don't know how many times I wished I could have thanked you for what you did, but your State Department wouldn't give us any information.”

 

Lee nodded.  He had taken the mission knowing that if he were captured he would be Disavowed, something he knew full well when he made the decision to cover Lida and her father's retreat.

 

“Father tried on several occasions to find you after you were freed.  He wanted to thank you, but they wouldn't tell us anything, they wouldn't even take a message to give to you.”

 

Lee smiled understandably.  “There was no need.  I saw it your eyes, and the State Department had their reasons.  Lida... not very many people know that I conducted missions like that.”  Lee sighed, “I need you to keep that secret for me.”

 

Lida nodded in agreement.  “Of course Lee, you don't have to worry.  I'm just grateful that I have this opportunity to tell you how thankful I am that you were there for my father... and for me,” she added as her blue eyes invited Lee to move closer.  He reached his hand to her chin and raised it, then lowered his mouth slowly sensing her desires matched his own.  They kissed slowly and longingly until he retreated and then moved back a step.

 

“I'm sorry Lida, I uh...”

 

“There's nothing to be sorry for Lee.  I'm glad it happened.”

 

Lee smiled and then looked back at the French doors, realizing that their kiss hadn't exactly been private.  “I'm kind of tired of the party.  Would you like to go someplace and talk?” 

 

“I'd like that... very much.”  She answered then hooked her arm into Lee's extended elbow as he guided her through the crowd and out the door.

 

Harry watched from across the room as Lee escorted the beautiful young woman out of the banquet hall.  He couldn't be angry with Lee for ditching the party, even after seven years he too had recognized Lida Rashnof and he knew full well any conversation would have to be conducted in complete privacy.  She was beautiful and Harry could see Lee's interest in his expressive eyes, but he also recognized something else there; the need to talk about that disastrous mission seven years ago.  A mission that nearly got a young Lt. Crane killed... and a mission that nearly cost Captain Nelson his career.

 

~0~

(Italics denote flash back scenes)

 

Harry led the Dissident and his daughter to the safety of a waiting vehicle about a mile from the border.  They were safe now, but all three were very concerned about the fate of the young operative left on the other side of the river.

 

They arrived at their vehicle safely where Harry made a radio call, then drove an hour to a clearing and boarded a helicopter.  Harry was the last aboard, looking over the landscape to the dangerous country across the border.  He didn't want to think about what awaited Lee, even with the bullet wound his “hosts” would show no mercy.  Harry climbed in determined to report and do what he could to convince ONI to let him lead an Extraction Team over the border and retrieve his young partner.

 

Though Harry had been the Senior Operative, his assignment had been made quite clear: To escort the Dissident upon Lt. Crane's successful extraction back to the base.  The infiltration of the country was left solely to young Crane who had proven his skills in the field in his brief three years as an ONI Operative, but Harry had to wonder if his high profile position as the Captain of the nation's first nuclear submarine had been the real reason for his exclusion from the real action of the mission.  It hadn't sat well with him to send Lee off alone.

 

He wasn't privy to the events of the extraction and was therefore invited to sit in on Rashnof's debriefing.

 

“He found us in the city just as the soldiers caught up with us.  He saved Lida from... the soldiers,” Rashnof added, selecting his words carefully. “He identified himself by the code name “Condor” and then led us out of the city.  Later I asked him for his name in order to thank him, he told us 'Lee', no last name,” he qualified.

 

“What about the soldiers?” Captain Pierce asked, seeking to get a clear picture of the extraction.

 

“He... dispatched of them,” Rashnof replied.  “Once we made it to the woods I thought we were safe, but they were crawling with patrols.  He maneuvered us around the patrols and we advanced undetected until we heard the sound of dogs in the background.  Lee felt we had been discovered and the border was just ahead.  We knew that once the dogs were upon us we'd be caught so we made a run for it.  They were closing in and we started taking fire... Lee sent us onward and stayed behind to slow our pursuers down.  I didn't want to leave him, but I couldn't let them capture us.”  Rashnof looked over at Lida who was still wearing the jacket Lee gave her.  “They would have used my daughter to punish me...,” Rashnof trailed off.

 

“So the operative covered your retreat?”

 

“Yes.  He knew he was out-numbered.  He knew it was suicide, but he did it anyway.  I believe we all would have been cut down by gun-fire had he not slowed down their advance,” Rashnof stated bluntly. 

 

“Very well.  Did you see what became of the operative?”

 

“He was shot,” Rashnof said pointing to his left shoulder.  “I saw him stand again but they were upon him already.  He was struck from behind and went down, that's the last we saw before entering the woods,” Rashnof finished.  “Captain Pierce, I still have many contacts within my country.  I can find out where they're keeping him,” he offered.

 

“We are of course interested in monitoring his situation, but you must understand we cannot risk official US involvement.  Our operative agreed upon the mission knowing that if he were captured he would be on his own.”

 

Rashnof's eyes widened in disbelief.  “You can't leave him in their hands.  They're ruthless!” he warned.

 

“We are well aware of the Regime's deeds, and I can assure you that our Operative knew the risks as well.  He did his duty and accomplished his mission, we'll just have to wait for the final outcome,” Captain Pierce said without any emotion as Rashnof exchanged a worried glance with his daughter.

 

“I will make contact with my people.  Perhaps they will have good news for us,” Rashnof offered as Captain Pierce indicated they should follow an aide.  Harry stayed behind, his blue eyes expressing his opinion of the matter.

 

“You're just going to leave him there,” he stated.

 

“Crane knew the risks,” Pierce returned.  “Now I can make the arrangements for you to return to your Boat...”

 

“I'm not going anywhere Captain,” Harry interrupted.

 

“I have my orders Captain Nelson.”

 

“Then I'll call Admiral Carter myself,” Harry replied darkly.  “But you've got another thing coming if you think I'm going to just walk away from this,” he finished as he stormed out of the debriefing room.

 

Captain Pierce sat back rubbing a hand across his neck; the cold dark world of espionage weighing more heavily on him than he could currently show Captain Nelson.  

 

~0~

 

 

Lee woke at the top of the ravine at his rough handling.  His hands were unmercifully tied behind his back despite his shoulder wound and was immediately loaded into a waiting jeep.  He was grateful he didn't have to walk back but the coolness of the setting sun was chilling him as he'd given his jacket to Rashnof’s daughter, Lida.  He remembered the details with clarity, it had played more than a small part in his decision to cover their retreat, even though he knew the likelihood of being caught was high.

 

He had arrived in town and found the safe house, only it wasn't a haven any longer.  Soldiers had caught up with the Dissident whose influence over the people was seen as dangerous to the ruthless Regime who viewed any speech on freedom as seditious.  He entered through the back door finding an officer sitting at the kitchen table casually drinking a cup of coffee.  Lee moved silently, taking the officer out with a swift blow to the back of the neck.  He left the officer alive but unconscious and entered the swinging door into the living area where he immediately spotted a very distressed Rashnof as a guard held a gun to his head; the source of the Dissident's distress obviously coming from the noises in the bedroom.  Lee recognized the sounds and made quick work of the guard with the silencer.  He motioned for Rashnof to stay where he was and checked the door relieved it wasn't locked, then charged through searching for his targets and issuing three rapid shots as three guards fell instantly.  The sobs of the young woman permeated the room, her blouse was torn away in shreds and her breasts exposed as the guards tried to force themselves upon her.  She was lying on the bed trying to cover herself, her skirt disheveled but otherwise intact as Lee had disrupted their plans for the frightened girl; “Barely,” Lee amended in thought as two guards were holding her down while one had been working on his belt buckle when Lee took them out.

 

Rashnof ran in collecting his daughter into his arms and stroking her hair trying to calm her as the ordeal had her in near hysterics.

 

“I'm Condor.  We have to go.  Now!” Lee urged as he shrugged off his jacket and offered it to Lida's father.  Rashnof helped her don the covering as Lida turned and adjusted her bra back into place, then zipped the jacket high trying to somehow regain her dignity.  She sniffled but found her voice as she worked to be brave.

 

“Thank you,” she all but whispered out.

 

Lee nodded, looking down at the filthy bastards and glad that they had gotten what they deserved.  He wasn't usually so callous about using lethal force, but they all knew that if he had been even a few minutes delayed Lida would have been violated.

 

“We have to go now,” he repeated, sorry he had to hurry the girl whose silent tears still streamed down her face.  “Are you ready?”

 

“Yes.” 

 

“Okay, follow me,” he urged leading them out the back door and through the town.  He knew exactly where his extraction point was and the treatment Rashnof’s daughter had received added a whole new sense of urgency to the Extraction.  They reached the woods and evaded the patrols successfully as Lee found a place for them to rest until night fall when they would cross the border.

 

“We don't even know your name,” Rashnof said, leaning his head back against the tree wearily.

 

“Lee,” he replied, purposely giving only his first name. 

 

“We owe you our lives, Lee,” Rashnof added as his eyelids dropped.

 

Lee appreciated the sentiment, but he knew all too well that they weren't safe yet.  He smiled softly at Lida who had said very little, still traumatized he realized.

 

“How are you doing, Lida?” he asked kindly.

 

“Okay I guess... I don't know... I guess I don't know how to feel just now,” she replied softly.

 

“It's going to be alright,” he assured her and then raised his head focusing in on a distant sound.

 

“What is it?” Lida asked, her father arousing at her concerned tone as the bay of hounds began to come into focus in the distance.

 

“Tracking dogs.  Come on, we can't wait for night fall,” he said definitively.  “They're still a good mile away but they'll pick up our trail in no time.”

 

He urged them on, leading them to the Extraction Point when they started receiving fire from one of the patrols.  From that point on everything went downhill fast, so Lee made his decision.  His duty was to get the Dissident to safety, his voice for freedom couldn't be silenced.  Not only did his country need his influence but the stability of the entire region as well.  But he also had another duty, to keep Lida out of the hands of the soldiers who would surely use her vulnerability to hurt and control her father.  He wanted her safe on the other side, away from ruthlessness of the Regime.  So he sent them on ahead and went back to cover their retreat to safety.  He’d be damned if he was going to let them get their hands on Lida again…

 

Lee's memories were interrupted as the jeep arrived at its destination; a farm house that had no doubt been appropriated from the rightful owners to serve as an outpost.  Lee was taken inside where he was met by a familiar face, the officer he knocked out in the kitchen of the safe house.  Lee kept his face even, but he knew this wasn't going to be good.

 

~0~

 

Lida adjusted the black shawl up her shoulders as they left the banquet hall and took the glass elevator to the hotel lobby.

 

“Have you eaten?” Lee asked.  “I know of a good restaurant,” he added.

 

“That sounds nice,” she answered, her soft dimples accenting her smile as she walked with her hand comfortably tucked into his arm.

 

Lee returned her smile and hailed a cab while trying to rein in a flood of memories assaulting him at once.  He tensed for a slight moment as the memories accosted him but then willed them back, choosing to enjoy the company of a beautiful woman instead.  He knew later he'd have to put the memories back into their Pandora's Box, but for right now he wanted to enjoy Lida without the baggage of those four days in captivity.

 

~0~

 

Lee was greeted to a backhand that whipped his head to the side.

 

“You are American,” the officer spat out in English.

 

“I don't know what you're talking about, I'm a Frenchman,” Lee returned utilizing his perfect French accent.

 

“You understand English,” the officer accused.

 

“I attended University, many people speak English,” he replied giving the officer a perfectly valid explanation.

 

“You do not fool me American,” he said circling Lee.  “You denied me my prize American, or should I say 'Condor'?” he added knowingly with a devious smile, obviously having gained the information from an unknown source, the same source that undoubtedly sold out Rashnof at the safe house.

 

The officer laid a punch deep in his prisoner's gut to make his point that he was well aware that Lee was an American Operative.  Lee double over, his hands still secured behind his back as two guards flanked him with a strong hold of his arms.

 

“You have a code name, Condor,” the officer stated as Lee breathed heavily for the newly inflicted pain.  “I also have a code name,” he continued with a smile.  “I am known as the Orator.  Do you know why I am called that?” he said delivering another devastating blow to Lee's mid-section. 

 

“Because I am very good at getting people to talk,” he said answering his own question.  “Now Condor, let us discuss your real name,” he said as Lee was introduced to a long session that consisted of three or four punches for every non-answer he gave.  Lee spoke only in French keeping a cover he already knew was blown as the Orator turned over the dirty work to his soldiers.  He passed out several times and was revived to begin the session all over again until he was too weary to hold his head up any longer.  Several hours later he was dumped in the cellar with his hands still tied tightly behind his back.

 

 

~0~

 

“That was a lovely dinner, Lee,” Lida offered as they strolled along a scenic path, taking in the moonlight and each other's company.

 

“I'm glad you enjoyed it,” he replied, the two were a handsome pair with Lee in his black tux and Lida in her sleek, form fitting cocktail dress.

 

“The moon is just beautiful tonight,” she commented, stopping alongside a large fountain and watching the moonlight dance off the large pool of water like sparkly diamonds glittering just for them.

 

“Not as beautiful as you are,” Lee offered in sincerity as he reached for a gentle kiss which she returned a bit shyly.

 

“Are you alright?” he asked, noting her slight uncomfortableness with their last exchange.

 

“Yes, just cold is all,” she answered as she adjusted the silky shawl around her shoulders. 

 

“Here,” Lee said, shrugging off his tux jacket and placing it over her shoulders.  Lida felt the fear return as she stood with Lee's jacket wrapped around her again, just like that day seven years ago.

 

“Lee... I want to be with you tonight,” she offered and even though it was a blunt invitation, Lee knew it was offered in sweet innocence.

 

“I'd like that,” he replied lowering his mouth for another kiss, this time she returned his kiss with passion leaving behind her earlier hesitancy as the two parted and he led her back to the hotel where he was staying.

 

Lee opened the door and reached for the light as she preceded him into his room.  The luxury hotel sported a king size bed, a small sitting area and a balcony.  She walked to the balcony, though the sliding glass door was closed and gazed out the window as Lee moved behind her, wrapping his arms around her and nuzzling her neck and ear with soft kisses.

 

“Lee?”

 

“Hmmm?” he replied, holding her gently as he nibbled her ear.

 

“I've never been with a man before,” she confessed as she turned to face him.

 

“Lida, maybe I shouldn't be doing this,” he said, knowing that he didn't want to take her virginity if she was saving it for her future husband.

 

Lida moved closer, wrapping her arms around his neck.  “No please, Lee.  I need you... I want you tonight.”

 

Her eyes offered something sweet and inviting, and yet still innocent.

 

“I want you too, Lida, but...”

 

“No buts,” she admonished as she reached up for a kiss, one that he couldn't resist as he heartily returned her affection.

 

“You're sure?” he clarified, taking the time to connect back with her beautiful blue eyes.

 

“Make love to me, Lee,” she whispered out, giving her answer as she shrugged off both his jacket and her shawl.

 

Lee smiled, letting her know that he understood the treasure she was offering him and then lowered his mouth to hers, gently pulling her closer by the small of her back.  His hardness grew as he pressed against her, his kisses trailing slowly and deliberately down her neck as he gently slid a hand to cup her breast.

 

She moaned her erotic satisfaction as he stirred emotions and feelings she hadn't thought possible.  His hardness pressing against her was intriguing, not like the last time when she felt those men pressing against her in a dirty unwanted attack.  She schooled back the thought, not wanting the memory to rob her of the moment and ran her hands down Lee's chest then back up to his neck to dispose of the black bow tie.  She parted the tie and proceeded to unbutton his shirt as Lee reached for the zipper in the back of her dress.  His hands were gentle and sweet as he cherished each touch; he made her feel special and desirable and then slowly pulled the dress off her shoulders, his eyes drinking in the pleasures of her near naked body. 

 

Lida was lost in the erotic moment, reaching and sliding the dress shirt off Lee's shoulders and down his arms, then running her hands down his chest toward his belt.  He looked incredibly sexy with his shirt off, standing there in his black tuxedo slacks.  Their breathing escalated with the erotic moment as Lee cupped her head in the back of his hand and kissed her deeply, then reached for her bra, unsnapping it easily.

 

She stepped back out of his reach and slowly pulled the black lace bra off her own shoulders, freeing her breasts for his view, and inviting him to take her completely.  Their eyes met once again as she closed the distance and reached for his belt.  Her hands were exciting as she worked off his buckle and lowered his zipper, while Lee showered longing kisses down her neck, reaching for her sweet breasts at the same time.

 

He moaned in expectation as she parted his slacks and slid her hand into his briefs stroking his hardness beneath her hand, exploring his manhood and reveling in the way it made her feel.  Lee pulled her close and scooped her up, easily cradling her as he carried her to the bed and lowered her gently.  She was giving him a gift, and he didn't take it lightly.  He wanted her first time to be beautiful and special, so he caressed her body and kissed her mounds as she moaned delightfully under his touch.

 

When he thought she was ready he reached his hand downward and slid it into her black lace panties, feeling the sweetness of her body hair and the wetness of her felicity.  He moved his fingers gently until he parted her lips and fingered her womanhood as Lida's body arched in the delight fueling his own erotic passions as she responded to his touch.  He stopped and gently slid off her panties as she lay completely naked, ready to give herself to him.

 

“You're so beautiful,” he breathed out as he lowered himself to her ear.

 

“Oh Lee,” she returned in ecstasy.  “I want to touch you,” she whispered and then sat up to finish taking off Lee's slacks.  He stood by the bed fondling her hair, allowing her to slide his slacks and dark colored briefs down his legs in one movement and then helped her the rest of the way, divulging himself of his shoes and socks as well.

 

He joined her on the bed, their kisses turning passionate once again as they explored one another's bodies.  Lee moved on top of her, his hardness pressing but not entering her yet as he kissed her breasts and suckled her nipples.  Her moans were exciting, sweet and full of innocence as Lee moved back to her neck and ear.

 

“Do you trust me?” he asked hotly in her ear.

 

“Yes,” she breathed out as he smiled and lowered himself down, kissing down the valley of her breasts, proceeding to her stomach and finally to her pelvis.  He slid between her legs as he kissed her inner thighs, sending a shiver up her back.  She moaned insistently as Lee parted her lips and slid his tongue into her secret place to give her the gift of her first orgasm.  Her moans turned louder, never expecting something could be so erotic and wonderful.  She knew about oral sex, but had never imagined it could be so pleasurable as she reached a hand down to fondle his hair, to encourage him on.  He moved skillfully, licking her delights as she responded by wiggling and moving her body to receive the most pleasure when her moans turned more insistent and she peaked an unexpected, erotic cry of ecstasy.  Her pelvis arched and then retracted as she reached her completion as Lee raised up, offering a sexy satisfying smile.

 

“I want to try, Lee,” she said, still breathing heavily as she maneuvered him down to lie on the bed and  kissed him, then lowered herself down his sexy chest, stopping to feel his muscles down his abs and then on to his masculinity.

 

Her touch was electrifying as she kissed and licked up and down his shaft until she opened wide and took it in.  Lee groaned at the pleasure as she raised her head and smiled at the reaction she had elicited.  She lowered herself once again and began riding his manhood with her mouth, a completely new experience and intrigued by the taste of his seeping semen.  She stopped and wrapped her hand around his shaft and stroked him up and down, working completely on the basic instinct of the erotic moment as Lee groaned again.

 

She moved over the top of him as they kissed deeply and Lee knew she was ready.  He rolled her over on her back and position himself to press against her womanhood as her lips parted easily, wet and lubricated from her ecstasy.  He pushed in carefully, reaching the wall of her virginity and making eye contact with her as she nodded for him to continue.  He leaned down and kissed her gently and sweetly as he thrusted in small strokes until her wall burst, giving her flower to him completely.  He watched her eyes stroking gently until the pain of her lost virginity gave way to the pleasure of making love.  He saw the delight in her eyes return and began to thrust deeper and longer as her moans fueled his love-making.  He wanted her first time to be special and didn't want to cum too soon, so he lowered himself to add hot kisses to her neck as she trailed her hands up and down his back, reaching down to feel his hips and his buttocks beneath her fingers.

 

His own moans matched hers as he raised himself high and watched her eyes.  Her moans indicated she was ready to climax again so he stroked her long and hard until she writhed under him and then allowed his own fulfillment as they experienced their climaxes together.  He pumped out his seed in long strokes that finally slowed as he lowered himself down and kissed her ear once again.

 

“You're so beautiful,” he repeated in an airy breath.  “That was incredible,” he sighed rolling to the side and gently pulling her into the crook of his arm to rest against his chest.

 

“Oh, I never knew it could be like this,” she breathed out and snuggled contently in his strong safe arms, protected from the memories that had plagued her for the last seven years.

 

Lee smiled his own contentment as his eyes closed and his breathing slowed, recovering from the sexual exertion; before long they were both asleep in a restful bliss as Lida wrapped her leg over Lee's and splayed her hand across his chest.

 

 

~0~

 

Harry kept his promise and had indeed contacted Admiral Carter.  He was given permission to monitor Lee's situation through Rashnof's connections, but was explicitly ordered not to cross the border.  It wasn't exactly what Harry wanted, but it would have to do for now.  He wasn't anxious to buck his orders, but there were times when colorful interpretation of orders had allowed him to make the right decision and still remain technically subordinate.  He just hoped that Washington would see reason if they had a good enough lead to act upon.

 

“Lee has been taken to a farm house several kilometers from the border,” Rashnof reported.  “He is being interrogated,” he finished sadly as Harry's lips tightened.  Everyone knew exactly what that meant; Lee Crane was being tortured for information he wouldn't willingly or easily give.

 

“I do not know his current physical condition, it is possible more information will come in,” Rashnof qualified.

 

Harry sat back and sighed as he looked across the table to Captain Pierce.  “It's a trap,” he stated.  “There's no reason to interrogate him so close to the border.  They want us to come after him,” he deduced standing and pacing angrily.  Pierce nodded his agreement, Lee had been taken prisoner yesterday.  They had plenty of time to move him to a secure location through the night. 

 

“They want to prove US involvement on their soil,” Pierce added as Harry nodded.  Evidently one operative wasn't good enough; apparently the Regime was hoping to instigate an all-out commando raid.

 

“And you know what that means?” Captain Pierce added.

 

Harry nodded, his blue eyes fiery and dark.  “It means they're going to torture him.  Force us to move in.”  Harry deflated back into his chair until a thought occurred to him that he needed to explore.

 

“But how can they be sure we'll know just what his physical condition is?”

 

Harry and Pierce exchanged glances and then turned toward Rashnof.  “Just how many people are in your organization Mr. Rashnof?” Harry asked.

 

“What do you mean?” the Dissident replied, his concern rippling across his forehead.

 

“Your safe house was compromised,” Harry continued. “It is a very good assumption that someone within your own organization sold you out,” he finished.

 

“I can hardly believe that,” Rashnof said.  “We're all so close, have sacrificed so much for the cause.”

 

“There are many reasons for betrayal, Mr. Rashnof; greed is only one.  They tried to use your daughter against you, perhaps someone else's family member is in danger.  There's no way to know for sure, but if your reports confirm that Lee hasn't been moved to a secure location away from the border, and his physical condition deteriorates we can safely assume the Regime knows the information is filtering to you somehow.”

 

“That is quite an assertion, Captain Nelson.”

 

“Yes, but it makes sense.  To commandeer a farm house for the interrogation of a prisoner is ludicrous, any military leader worth his salt would take Lee to a secure military post.”

 

Rashnof nodded his head sadly.  “I will give it some thought.  Our people risk much for the cause of liberty, I cannot just begin divulging names and occupations of our organization; but I will sincerely consider who would have known about the safe house,” Rashnof promised. 

 

Their organization was nothing more than a group of men and women with the same passion for freedom.  They conducted no sabotage or espionage, they were indeed a think tank, hoping to instill in the people a desire to be free; to move beyond the status quo of their existence; an existence that left the country poor and down-trodden except for the very few in power.

 

~0~

 

Lee was dragged from the cold cellar back to the interrogation room.  His shoulder was on fire, but he had managed to stop the bleeding with pressure, still he was weak from blood loss and the beating of the prior day.

 

“Good morning, Condor,” the Orator said, as Lee stood flanked by guards on each side.

 

“Today we will talk some more,” he continued seeking to add fear as Lee stared back darkly.

 

“You are an American?”

 

“No, I am a Frenchman,” Lee replied as the Orator smiled thinly and stepped forward, issuing more blows to his damaged body.  The pain piled upon the previous day's beating as Lee's knees buckled but he was immediately hauled back up for the simple question of his country of allegiance.

 

The interrogation continued into another long session that had Lee wheezing, trying to fill his lungs with air as the pain of every breath in caused him to breathe shallowly.  His face was a mass of bruises, swollen and bloody at the mistreatment.  Darkness finally took him as Lee collapsed to the floor and the Orator towered over him with the same thin smile.  The American's condition would soon be reported back to Rashnof, everything was proceeding as he had planned.

 

Lee was dumped back into the cellar and was left to allow his injuries to ripen overnight.  He now had broken ribs to add to his bullet wound and deep bruises that were causing his insides to rebel.  He had a sharp pain in his lower back and figured his kidneys had taken too much abuse.

 

He rolled to his back and thought through the interrogation.  He had been asked only one question; whether he was an American.  He was fully aware that one strategy of torture was to convince the prisoner to give in on the first question.  Even a seemingly unimportant question could start the Operative talking, but he didn't believe that was the case.  It seemed to him that the Orator knew damn well he was an American.  No, he was sure the Orator wanted something else.  Just what he didn't know, but whatever it was Lee was determined to deny the master torturer his prize.  His eyes closed on that thought, welcoming darkness but his sleep was marred with the pain his body bore and the coldness of the cellar.

 

~0~

 

 

“He is still being kept at the farmhouse,” Rashnof reported, “... and has been through two extensive interrogation sessions.  My contact reports his gunshot wound has been left untreated and that he has been severely beaten in both interrogations,” he finished sadly.

 

Harry nodded his understanding as Pierce sat back.

 

“Then it is a trap.  They're using our Operative to try and force a commando style rescue operation,” Pierce stated.

 

“And that means they'll ramp up the torture,” Harry finished as he slapped a hand down on the table in disgust. 

 

“I know what you're thinking Captain Nelson, but our hands are tied,” Pierce said, reminding Harry of his duty.

 

“He's just one man and if we go in we'll risk instability to this part of the world that could end in more than a regional conflict.  We could very well be looking at another world war if all the allies are pulled into the maelstrom,” Pierce finished trying to be the voice of reason for Nelson's obvious feelings in the matter.

 

“You think I don't know that?” Harry replied.  “Lee is a good officer; he's as loyal and dedicated as they come.  I know he wouldn't want to risk war for his rescue, but there's got to be something we can do!” Harry finished.

 

“If he's as resourceful as I've been told, then he'll look for an opening for his escape,” Captain Pierce replied.  “He'll head for the secondary extraction point; I can place watches there in case he makes it across the border on his own.  That's the best I can do, Nelson.”

 

Harry nodded and ran a frustrated hand across the back of his neck.  “I'll take some of those watches...”

 

Pierce started to protest but Harry spoke up.

 

“You can come along if you want to make sure I know which side of the border to wait on,” Harry quipped darkly, “But I am going.”

 

Captain Pierce nodded, their equal rank supplying the catalyst to their very frank conversations.  He would indeed take the watches with Nelson, to provide the voice of reason to the auburn haired operative who might just be tempted to make his own personal sortie across the river.

 

~0~

 

 

Lee was barely coherent as he was dragged back up the stairs and taken to a bedroom that had been cleared of all the furniture save a metal cot and a table with some dangerous looking equipment on it.  He tried to struggle recognizing the equipment, but was rendered unconscious with a pistol whip.  He woke up with his wrists and ankles tied to the sides of the metal cot and his shirt parted open.  Six electrodes were placed on his chest and sides as Lee steeled himself for the shock treatment.  He tested his restraints but found he was secured tightly as the Orator stepped forward.

 

“Now Condor.  Let's begin,” he said as a shock was rendered to get Lee's attention.

 

“You are an American?” he asked but didn't even wait for the answer that Lee knew by now meant nothing to him as he received a shock that caused his body to arch in pain.  Lee couldn't hold back his screams as the Orator ruthlessly interrogated his prisoner.  Unwanted tears streamed down his face, but he didn't speak.  The session went on for an hour and then Lee was left to recuperate on the cot until the afternoon when the Orator returned and continued the torture session.  Lee was at his wits end, pain can only be ignored for so long before it rules over you, but just as Lee thought he had nothing left to give the Orator ended the session.

 

Lee breathed raggedly as his hands and ankles were untied, all bloodied from wreathing under the ropes and he was dragged once again to the cellar.  He was burning with a fever and the electrodes had produced serious burns as he was dumped without even a blanket to warm himself.  His only consolation in all of this was that Rashnof and his daughter had been extracted safely.  He had done his duty, now if he could only hold out and keep from giving that sadistic bastard whatever it was he wanted from him. 

 

~0~

 

 

Rashnof walked into the command post with his head lowered.

 

“They have interrogated him again... both times with electric shock,” he said sadly.  “He did not speak, but my contact does not know how much longer he can hold out.”

 

Harry stared ahead as his eyes darkened and then turned his gaze to Captain Pierce.

 

“We have identified the 'leak', he is no longer privy to our plans,” Rashnof reported.

 

“That's good,” Harry replied distractedly.

 

“He has one chance...” Rashnof continued as both Harry and Pierce exchanged glances and then turned toward the Dissident with interest. 

 

“We have a plan,” Rashnof finished as Harry schooled back a small twitch threatening to turn into a one sided smile.

 

~0~

 

 

Lee shivered and moaned all night, the pain reaching even into his dreams until he was roused the next morning by the same guard who had woken him the other mornings.

 

“You must drink this,” he said kindly shifting his eyes back up the stairs to keep from being caught giving aid to the prisoner.

 

Lee drank the water gratefully when he noticed a strange taste.

 

“It is a stimulant,” the guard said answering Lee's question even before it was voiced.

 

“Look for the opportunity I give you, it may be your only chance as I can't risk too many attempts,” the guard offered in a whisper.

 

Lee nodded his understanding, as he was pulled into a standing position and the guard turned his words harshly once again.

 

“Hurry up you dog,” he shouted loud enough for the other guards to hear as he dragged Lee up the stairs. 

 

Another guard came down to help pull Lee the rest of the way.  “Thanks for covering for me,” the second guard whispered to Lee's secret helper who just mumbled something incoherent back grumpily, but he was smiling on the inside as he had spiked his counter-part's coffee with a laxative necessitating an unexpected bathroom run.

 

Lee was placed back on the cot when the second guard excused himself running for the bathroom again, leaving Lee alone with his guardian angel guard.

 

“We do not have much time,” he said looking back at the door.  “You must injure me,” he said plainly.

 

Lee nodded.  He understood that the guard needed to bear the signs of his escape to avoid the consequences.

 

“What about you?” Lee asked, not convinced the guard would be protected even with a few bruises to show.

 

“I will be safe.  The Orator is my brother-in-law,” he said with a small smile that turned serious.  “But you still must make it convincing,” he said listening for movements outside the door.

 

Lee nodded and reared back issuing three powerful blows, helped along by the stimulant he had received.  His blows were well placed, as he issued three jabs, courtesy of his boxing skills producing a bloody nose, a split lip and a final upper cut to send the guard out to oblivion.  Lee checked his pulse at the neck and found a strong one, then climbed out the window looking for the nearest cover.  He moved along drawing on reserves he didn't know he had and fueled on by the fact that this would likely be his only chance of escape.  His three years of ONI experience afforded him the skills to slip by several guards who were leaning against the wall with their rifles lying harmlessly beside them as they nonchalantly guarded the farm house.

 

Lee moved from cover to cover until he reached the woods and ran knowing that his escape would be alerted as soon as anyone entered the interrogation room.  He ran until his lungs burned and his broken ribs began to protest in earnest.  He slowed down but continued forward spotting the ravine ahead.

 

His breathing was labored as he heard the commotion of the pursuit behind him.  Quickly Lee broke the cover of the bushes and ran down the ravine, falling and rolling with the inertia.  He willed his body to move forward but fell to his knees at the river's edge.  The water was thankfully running low and he needed to cross before the soldiers caught up with him.

 

Lee leaned over with his hands on his knees trying to find the strength to move, but his body was giving out.  He raised his head and spotted the auburn hair of Captain Nelson across the river at the edge of the woods.  Their eyes locked even from far away, as Lee pushed himself to his feet and took a few steps into the slow moving river but found his knees buckling as he fell once again. 

 

Shots were fired and soldiers were yelling from the top of the ravine but all the noise narrowed into a tunnel as Lee hung his head trying to gain the strength he needed to cross the river to freedom.  His head was still lowered when he heard splashing, but he was too far gone to know who had pulled him to his feet.

 

His peripheral vision was lost and his hope gone as he reasoned that the soldiers had caught up with him.

 

 

~0~

 

Harry and Captain Pierce watched from the seclusion of the woods for any sign that Lee Crane had escaped.  They had been there since the morning light and were banking on the young Operative finding his way to the secondary extraction point, it was standard operating procedure if he was still coherent enough to think.

 

Harry sighed, Lee was a good officer... a good operative... and a fine young man.  He just couldn't accept that his life would end here before he had a chance to become all that his proven talents had promised for his future. 

 

“There he is!” Pierce whispered as Harry blew an airy breath out, but then squinted at the damaged young man hobbling to the ravine.  He watched as Lee fell and tumbled down, obviously not having enough strength to stop his forward motion.  He rolled to a stop and onto his knees as Harry stepped just outside the woods.

 

“Come on Lee, you're so close,” he whispered out and then watched Lee will his body to move forward.

 

The activity on top of the ravine etched up as warning shots were fired and soldiers started down after Lee.  But Harry knew that they would soon abandon their attempt to take their prisoner alive and feared that Lee would be shot in the back.  He watched Lee enter the river but fall after taking only a few steps.

 

Harry made his decision and started to move forward.

 

“Wait Nelson.  He's not in neutral territory till he reaches the center of the river.”

 

“He's not going to make it Pierce,” Harry fired back.

 

“We have our orders.  It will be your career if you cross the border.”

 

“Hang my career!” Harry yelled back and ran forward.  Bullets began to whiz by sending water sprays all around him as they thankfully missed their mark.  He reached Lee and pulled him up, speaking to him and urging him to help, but the young Lieutenant was unresponsive.  Harry dragged him a few steps and then looked up to see Captain Pierce making his way forward, taking up Lee's other side as the two worked themselves across the river.

 

Bullets continued to spray the water around them, despite the fact that they were now legally across the border having crossed the center of the river when suddenly the steps became easier as Lee began moving his feet once again.

 

“That's right, Lad.  Keep moving, we're almost there,” Harry encouraged as Lee's ragged breaths were heard through his moans.  They cleared the water and moved forward as several soldiers dressed in civvies appeared helping them reach the safety of the woods.

 

Lee collapsed to his knees and fell forward caught by Harry as his head fell heavily on his Skipper's shoulder.  He was too weary to raise his head, the pain returning in full force as the ordeal of the last four days assaulted him.  His shoulders heaved in silent tears as the adrenalin drained leaving nothing left but the pain and the memories of three days of torture.

 

He felt a reassuring hand on his back, as he struggled to regain his composure.

 

“It's alright Lee.  Everything's going to be fine now,” he heard Harry say as he was lowered to the ground to rest on his back while the army medics stabilized him for the move.  Harry stayed close as Lee made eye contact with him and then managed to crack a weary smile.

 

Lee's IV brought instant relief as his eyes closed and he was placed on a back board. 

 

Harry stood and gazed outward.  They were safe in the trees but across the river he could see the form of an officer standing on the ravine.  Harry cracked a one-sided smile at the Orator's failure and turned to follow Lee's stretcher through the woods and to the waiting helicopter in the nearby meadow.

 

~0~

 

Sweat beaded across Lee's forehead as the memories of his capture and torture seven years ago flooded into his dreams, forcing him to relive the painful events again.  He was still holding Lida in the crook of his arm as he smiled weakly and then gently slid out of bed.  He pulled on his black slacks and walked out to the balcony taking in the night air and trying to expel the memories from his mind.

 

They were too fresh.  He had almost broken on that mission and very nearly hung up his spy gear for good.  He sat down, stretching his long legs out before him.  The night air was a bit chilly without his shirt, but he didn't want to go back in yet.  He needed to put the emotions away.  It was a long time ago, it was done and over with.  He had moved on and he didn't want the Orator to win, so he took a deep breath and expelled it, closing his eyes and willing himself to leave the past behind.

 

“Lee?”

 

He opened his eyes and smiled at the sight of Lida wearing his white dress shirt with only a few buttons fastened.  It was sexy as the shirt hung just at her upper thighs.  Her cleavage was inviting and her nipples peaked in the cold air, pressing a sharp point against the shirt.

 

He reached for her hand and caressed it as she spoke.

 

“It's beautiful out here,” she said wistfully as he tugged her over to sit on his lap.

 

“Yeah, it's quite a view.”

 

“Is that what you're out here doing?  Watching the view?” she asked with a smile as she snuggled on his lap, wrapping her hand around his neck while he caressed her bare thigh.

 

Lee smiled but answered truthfully.  “No.  I was just putting a few memories back into place.”

 

Her eyes softened as she laid her head on his shoulder.  “From seven years ago?”

 

Lee nodded but didn't speak.

 

“I'm so sorry you went through that Lee,” she offered regretfully.

 

“Don't be.  It wasn't your fault,” he said, kissing the top of her head as they sat silently for a few minutes.

 

“Lee, I want to thank you for tonight.  You saved me from those men again you know?”

 

She raised her head to look into his eyes as she continued.

 

“I haven't been able to let a man close to me.  I was so afraid of those memories, of reliving their hands touching me, their unwanted kisses, their groping.  So each time I got serious about a man, I'd end up pushing him away for fear of the intimacy.  But when I saw you tonight, I knew you'd understand.  I knew I didn't need to be ashamed.  What we shared tonight was so beautiful and I'm not afraid anymore.  I'm not going let that day seven years ago rule over me ever again,” she said as she snuggled once more on his shoulder.

 

He kissed the top of her head again and smiled.  “I'm glad to hear that Lida.  You didn't do anything wrong that day, you have nothing to be ashamed of,” he finished, as she nestled her head under his chin.

 

“I uh... needed you tonight more than you know,” he said being completely transparent with her.

 

She raised her head to look into his eyes as he spoke.

 

“A lot of memories got dredged up, some painful ones... and I knew I didn't want to be alone tonight.  You turned what could have been a very long night into something incredible.”

 

“Then we were two people who needed each other tonight.  What's so wrong about that?”

 

Lee shook his head.  “Nothing,” he said lifting her chin and offering a kiss which she received hungrily.

 

She snuggled back up allowing his strong arms to wrap her in comfort and relishing the safety of his embrace.

 

“Lee?”

 

“Yes.”

 

She sat up with a delightfully mischievous smile on her face.  “What's it like sitting up?”  She asked, swinging her legs around to face him and straddling his lap.

 

“Let's give a try,” he returned with a grin as he unbuttoned her shirt and she reached for his zipper.  He parted her shirt and cupped her breasts as she freed his manhood from his slacks, delighted that he wasn't wearing his briefs and then lowered herself down on his manhood.  Her moans were soft as she rode him on the private balcony while Lee leaned forward to suckle her breasts.  The night air and the soft hums of the busy city that never seemed to sleep played like an orchestra as the two enjoyed each other once again, neither one expecting more than the gift of their intimacy for the night.  Their affection was real, heightened by the painful experience they had both endured seven years ago.  But they rose victoriously over the painful memories, replacing them with a sweet night that they would each remember fondly.

 

“Good bye Lee,” she said the next morning, cupping his face in her hand and reaching up to place a gentle kiss on his lips.  She was returning to her own country in a few days, and Lee was returning to his Boat and the months at sea he told her about. 

 

“Good bye Lida.  Have a good life and it's time to let that special someone in,” he gently admonished, somehow knowing that she was ready to move on and to finally allow herself to love.

 

“I will.  Thank you again,” she said reaching up to kiss him on the cheek and then turned to leave quickly as she already knew who that “special someone” was.  A young man she had pushed away several times before, but who had returned relentlessly trying to win her love. 

 

Lee watched her board the elevator and then closed the door and headed for the shower.  He soaked under the hot water, enjoying the long shower that was a luxury to submariners.  Saying goodbye to Lida had been harder than he thought it would be, but he had no regrets for their night together.  Though their experiences were different they were somehow connected by that time, perhaps that's why she needed him to find her closure.  He poured the shampoo and lathered his hair as he thought about how his own closure had been dealt with long ago.  As he rinsed he remembered the pain, but at a distance, refusing to take back what he had already put away.

 

 

~0~

 

The medics loaded him in the helicopter, he was well medicated and everything seemed to be happening around him with a strange disconnection.  Captain Nelson had positioned himself at the head of his stretcher as Lee made eye contact.  In the distance he could hear the medics taking down his vitals and reciting his condition.

 

“Four day old GSW, untreated.  Patient's temperature is elevated at 102 degrees.  He has multiple broken ribs and deep bruises on his mid-section, multiple second degree burns, probable concussion...”

 

The list went on but Lee wasn't really coherent, until a sense of urgency hit him as he suddenly realized he couldn't move his arms.  The voice of the medic morphed into the Orator's voice as if he were still tied to the cot.  Panic nearly overtook him till he connected with the Captain's eyes again.

 

“What's wrong Lee?  Are you in pain?” Harry asked, noting Lee's distress and leaning close to speak above the chopper.

 

Lee nodded a 'no'.  “Sir, can they unstrap my arms...?”

 

Harry looked over the situation and the look in Lee's eyes and sized up the situation handedly.  The safety restraints were too close to the helplessness of being tied hand and foot for the torture.

 

“Corporal, Lieutenant Crane needs his arms free,” Harry stated matter of factly.

 

“I need him immobile, Sir.”

 

“I understand,” Harry said placing a hand on Lee's shoulder for reassurance.  “The Lieutenant won't move.  Isn't that right Lad?”

 

“Aye Sir,” Lee agreed as the Corporal unstrapped the safety restraints against his better judgement.

 

Lee sighed in relief.  “Thank you Sir,” he said as he closed his eyes, somehow feeling safe with Captain Nelson watching over him.

 

The next three days were a blur, but Lee vaguely remembered waking up in several panics as his dreams took him back to the Orator's Interrogation Room, but each time he woke Captain Nelson had been there to reassure him that he was safe.  He needed that strength just now as his physical condition and the pain meds had him off balance and Captain Nelson had been his anchor.

 

He woke on the fourth day feeling much better, though he was still weak and medicated.

 

“Good morning Lee.  You look much better this morning.”

 

“Thank you Skipper, I feel better,” he replied as he rested in a semi-sitting position with his head raised at a thirty degree angle.

 

“I want to thank you Sir, for pulling me out of the river.  I just couldn't move anymore.”

 

“Well the Nautilus needs her Engineering Officer,” Harry said with a slight grin.

 

Lee smiled, but he knew that Captain Nelson had risked his life to retrieve him, he could still remember the bullets kicking up the water on all sides. 

 

“It will feel good getting back to sea,” Lee admitted.

 

“I'm afraid you're out for the next four weeks, Lee.  Possibly longer, but you just get better and we'll save a compressor or generator for you to rebuild,” Harry quipped as Lee chuckled.

 

“Four weeks?” Lee groaned.

 

“Or longer, Lieutenant,” Harry reminded him.  “Well I better not keep an Admiral waiting,” Harry said as Lee raised an eyebrow in question.

 

“Just a debriefing,” he finished as Lee nodded. “But I'm also headed out, can't let the XO have the reigns too long,” he said as Lee chuckled again.

 

“Thank you Skipper, for everything,” Lee offered, but he wished he could say more.  He wished he could tell Captain Nelson that he had been his lifeline to sanity these last few days, it just seemed too personal.

 

“You're welcome Mr. Crane,” he added with a smile placing his service cap on and leaving with another nod at the door.  Somehow Lee thought the Skipper knew anyway and smiled as his eyes closed once again.

 

 

~0~

 

“So Lieutenant Crane collapsed in the river and you went in after him?” Admiral Carter probed the two officers standing sharply at attention.  Harry nodded, both he and Captain Pierce were present  and they both knew it was very unusual for the head of ONI to fly all the way around the world to conduct a debriefing.

 

“You were explicitly ordered not to breach the border,” Carter repeated.

 

“He was in the river, now the border isn't marked there but I'm pretty sure he was in the middle of the river,” Harry offered lamely.

 

“Uh yes Sir, I can concur.  That's why Captain Nelson and I went in after him,” Captain Pierce added just as lamely.

 

“In the middle of the river,” Admiral Carter repeated in a statement.

 

“Well yes Sir, I mean if the river had been flowing at full capacity Lieutenant Crane would have been right smack dab in the middle,” Harry replied with confidence, trying to hold back the twitch in his cheek as he had found that little loop hole he needed to avoid a Willful Disobedience and Failing to Obey a Direct Order charge.

 

Captain Pierce's eyes widened as he recognized the logic and joined in.  “That's right Sir, we judged that he had clearly crossed the border,” he said collaborating the story.

 

“A technicality,” Admiral Carter replied with dark harsh eyes as both captains stood by their tale trying to avoid looking nervous for the shaky ground they found themselves on.

 

“Is that the story you're sticking to?” Carter continued knowing full well their story was bullshit.

 

“That seems quite reasonable,” Harry said.

 

“Definitely,” Pierce returned.

 

“Yes Sir.  If the river had been running full then there's no doubt Lieutenant Crane had crossed the border,” Harry repeated.

 

“No doubt,” Pierce replied as the two were beginning to sound like a couple of Plebes instead of the high ranking officers they were.

 

“Very well men.  But I caution you to avoid making decisions that require you to invoke such colorful technicalities in the future.”

 

“Aye Sir,” they both returned in unison.

 

“That is all.  Captain Pierce you are dismissed.  Captain Nelson you will stay for a few minutes more,” Carter said.

 

“Aye Sir,” Captain Pierce said, saluting sharply, about facing and shooting over a quick smile Harry's way as they had just beaten the rap with their careers still intact.

 

Admiral Carter waited for Pierce to leave and then rounded the table to move closer to Harry.

 

“You'll be interested in knowing that Intelligence reports that the Orator was executed by the Regime yesterday at dawn.”

 

“I'll pass that on to Lieutenant Crane,” Harry said, feeling that justice had finally caught up with the sadistic bastard.

 

“How's the boy?” Carter asked leaning back on the table with his arms folded in front of him.

 

“Better.  I should have him back aboard in the next four to six weeks,” Harry answered.

 

Carter nodded and then handed Harry an envelope.  “It's official Harriman,” Carter said with a grin.  “You've been approved by the US Senate.  You are now Rear Admiral Nelson,” Carter finished as Harry looked over his orders and chuckled.

 

“Oh and your little stunt out there in the river,” Carter said, letting on that he knew full well that Harry had bucked his orders to retrieve the Lieutenant.  “I would have done the same thing, but you were lucky this time,” he cautioned as Harry realized that the incursion of the border could have snowballed into an all-out international incident.

 

“Aye Sir,” Harry agreed.

 

Carter extended a hand, “You've joined the Admiral's Club, Harriman... it's Tony,” he said inviting Harry to call him by his first name as Harry smiled and returned the firm hand shake.

 

“Thank you Tony,” he said feeling that it would take some getting used to calling Flag Rank officers by their first names.  “Well, I guess I better catch that transport,” Harry continued.

 

“Very well.  Your replacement has been named and you'll report to Washington in four weeks,” Carter clarified.

 

Harry placed his cap on his head and saluted.

 

“Oh and your new insignias are with my Aide.  I suggest you start looking like an Admiral,” Carter said heading back to the table to collect his papers as Harry chuckled and reached for the door.

 

Life changed just that quickly for both Harry and Lee.  Lee never saw Rashnof or his daughter again and was flown back to the states a week later.  He spent the next two weeks in the hospital and another two weeks recovering.  By the time he was deemed fit for duty Harry had moved on to his post in Washington and Lee had been reassigned to a new boat.  After that they both went their own ways with only a few contacts until the day he received his orders for a special TAD aboard the SSRN Seaview.

 

~0~

 

 

“Good morning Harry,” Lee offered in the hotel restaurant as Harry looked over the menu.

 

“Good morning Lee.  You're looking quite refreshed this morning.”

 

“Aye Sir,” Lee returned with a twinkle in his eyes that Harry understood completely.  He raised an eyebrow but let the thought pass that he was well aware that Lee hadn't spent the night alone and equally pleased that seeing Lida Rashnof hadn't shaken his captain.

 

“What are you working on Sir?” Lee asked in easy familiarity, taking a sip of hot coffee and noting the memo pad under Harry's arm. 

 

Harry's eyes twinkled.  “I think I found a way to improve the berthing process in FS1,” he said turning the note pad for Lee to see.  “It will cut the time we need to berth and launch down by one half,” Harry beamed as Lee nodded, completely understanding the engineering chicken scratches across Harry's page.

 

“Let's get some breakfast and then head home.  I'll tell you all about it on the way back,” Harry promised.  “Oh and I might just let you fly her home if you promise not to do anymore vertical take-offs,” Harry said with a raised eyebrow and shaking a finger Lee's way.

 

“Ah... sorry about that Harry.  I had a little bet going with a certain F-14 pilot.”

 

“Did you win?”

 

“Aye Sir,” Lee said with a grin that Harry returned as the two quietly enjoyed their friendship and both grateful that they had moved on from those painful days to the adventures that awaited them aboard the SSRN Seaview.

 

 

~Fini~

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015, Sea Starr.  All Right's Reserved.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea is the property of Irwin Allen and the respective production companies including:

Irwin Allen Productions, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Brothers. (As noted by the IANN Network web page)

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