Author's Note: This story began as a challenge by a member of the Voyage Writer's Workshop.An author who desires to remain anonymous wrote the beginning.Then we were to 'tag on' to it. I did, and was then given permission to fill it out and 'carry on'. It takes place between the 3rd and 4th season and is not part of my usual series of stories.
Who What Where?
Darla M Poulos
"Lee, come on, we're going to be late," called Chip from the bathroom door. The tall, blonde, blue-eyed Lt. Commander just finished his shower. Putting on his khaki trousers with his socks and shoes, he propped a foot up on a chair, beside one of two double beds. Snatching up the damp towel, he’d previously left on the chair Chip did a spit-and-polish shine to his black shoes. Satisfied with the high gloss sheen, he cast the towel aside then leaned over the bed, briefly shaking his captain and friend.
"Huh? What?" grumbled the dark haired man half asleep, squinting up at him from amongst the bedcovers.
"Lee, you've got to get up. We have a meeting at 0900 and it's already 0730. Come on, I'm hungry and I want to get some breakfast before we leave." He went into the closet, grabbed a shirt off the clothes rack and put it on, walking back towards the head.
Sitting up in bed, the tousled haired man cautiously queried, "Uh, I know you, right?"
"What?" asked Chip, only half listening, as he buttoned his shirt, leaving the top button undone. He unzipped his pants and quickly tucked the shirttail inside his trousers. Walking into the bathroom, he slid the silver clasp into place then zipped his trousers. Picking up the yellow belt from the vanity, he ran it through the loops of his slacks, fastening it in front of his trim waist. Looking in the large mirror over the sink, he made an adjustment to the nether regions of his body. .
"I said, I know you, don't I?" implored the man, throwing back the crumpled blankets, while sliding his long, tan legs over the side of the bed.
"Oh, very funny. I would have shaved except I had to get you up. Now, come on, quit fooling around. If we're late to that meeting, the Admiral will have our hides."
"Admiral? What Admiral?"
Playing along, Chip called from the bathroom, "What? Lee... are you okay? This is a joke, right?" Not taking him serious, he picked up the electric razor from the counter, plugging it into the wall outlet beside the sink.
"Where am I?"
"You are at the Radisson Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia." Getting, no response, the XO stopped what he was doing and studied his skipper through the reflection of the mirror. Lee was out of bed now, padding around in his black, masculine briefs, his toes curling into the thick shag carpet. He seems a bit bewildered. He didn’t have that much to drink last night…did he? Becoming a bit more concerned, he asked, "You're serious, aren't you? You really don't know where you are?"
"Who are you anyway?"
Putting the razor down on the sink, the XO came to the door and woodenly recited, "Chip. My name is Chip Morton. I am the Executive Officer on the SSRN Seaview. You are Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview. We are here with our boss, Admiral Harriman Nelson, for a series of meetings on submarine design. Is this ringing any bells?"
"No. All I know is I woke up in a hotel room with a stranger." He surveyed the room as he scratched beneath the elastic waistband on his low riding briefs.
"What? Look, we’re roommates, just like the old days at the Naval academy, nothing more, nothing less." Remembering all the pranks they used to pull on each other during their midshipman years, Chip drew his own conclusions. "This is a joke, isn't it? All right, you really had me going there for a minute." Relieved, he turned to go back to his shaving.
"So you are saying we're friends and not strangers and that we work together?" The captain stood in the doorway with his expressive hazel eyes regarding him like an ONI agent.
"Lee, you're scaring me now. I'll tell you what. You get dressed and I'm going to call Jamie." He crossed over to the phone, sitting on top of the desk at the opposite end of the room.
"Jamie? Who's Jamie? I thought you said the Admiral's name was Harriman."
Hiding his alarm, the poker-faced exec explained, "It is. Jamie is Dr. Will Jamison, Seaview's CMO. He's here with us. I'm just going to call him to have a look at you." He dialed the chief medical officer’s room number. Waiting impatiently for the doctor to pick up, he distractedly watched Lee pick up a canvas bag from the floor. "Wait, what are you doing?"
In a voice filled with exasperation, Lee scowled, "I'm getting dressed, what does it look like?"
Pushing the button down on the receiver and redialing, Chip shot back, "Yeah, well, I don't mind sharing a room, but I’d rather you wore your own underwear. They’re right there, in that duffel by the closet." He pointed to the clothes rack. "Your uniform is the one on the left."
"Mmm. Fine," grumbled Lee, crossing over to the closet. Picking up his Navy duffle bag, he went into the head to complete his morning toilet.
"Yeah, Front Desk, I am not getting an answer from room 814. I need to page someone. They're probably in the coffee shop... Well, can you send someone over there? This is important... Okay. His name is Will Jamison. He's a Navy Lieutenant Commander, tall, thin, balding, brown hair... Yeah, I know. The entire Navy is in town... How about this,
Jamison will be with Admiral Harriman Nelson. Short, red hair, four stars. You can't miss him... Yeah, okay, have him call me. My name is Chip Morton. Room 826. Tell him it's important." In his anxiety over Lee’s baffling behavior, he nearly slammed down the phone. Hearing the water running in the sink, he began to pace the small area by the desk.
Five minutes later, the bathroom door opened. Lee Crane, dressed in a fresh set of underwear, stepped out with his damp hair curling wildly about his face. He headed directly for the closet, grabbing the uniform Chip had pointed out to him. Laying the jacket on the bed, he donned his shirt and slacks. Picking up the jacket, he studied the multi colored pins. "What do these mean?"
"What?" Rubbing a hand back and forth over his crinkled brow, completely worried now, Chip said, "Oh, those. Those are your good conduct awards." At his commander’s perplexed look, he patiently explained, "This one was for keeping your room tidy and that one was for eating all of your vegetables."
"So, I take it you don't like to eat your vegetables?"
"You don't have this one. In fact, you don't have near as many as I do, do you?"
Not understanding the unaccustomed putdown from his skipper, Chip tried to make light of it. "You're sure you don't remember who you are?" The phone rang. "Hang on, this will be Doc," said Chip, snatching the receiver off the cradle.
Crane put on his jacket and grabbed his shoes.
"Morton. Yeah, Doc, we have a problem." He sat down on the corner of the desk, keeping a wary eye on the captain, as the man bent over and tied his shoelaces. "It's Lee. He says he doesn't know who he is"
Lee finished with his shoes, temporarily froze at the comment, frowning.
"Yeah, that was my first thought, but he is not kidding around."
Sullenly looking in the mirror on the closet door, Lee pulled a comb out of his pocket and ran it through his thick, curly hair.
"Eyes? No, they look fine to me... Hang on, I'll check. Lee, do you have a headache? Are you hurting anywhere?"
"No, I'm fine."
"Doc? He says he's fine, for what it's worth. Listen, will you just get up here? This has me spooked... All right, see you in a minute." He soundlessly hung up the phone, stating, "Okay, Lee, Doc's on his way." To his consternation, Lee headed for the door. "Wait, where do you think, you’re going?"
"I'm getting out of here."
Walking up to his commander, the XO propelled his way around him to stand in front of the door. Confident, he’d stopped his friend from leaving, he countermanded, "No, you're not. You're going to sit and wait for Doc Jamison."
"I don't need a doctor!"
"Excuse me? You can't remember your own name, and you think you don't need a doctor?"
"Get out of my way, Chip, or whoever you are!"
"All right, fine. I'll tell you what," cajoled the XO. "You tell me your mother's name and I'll step aside."
"He's coming around. Chip? Chip, can you hear me?" coaxed Doc. Nelson and Jamison were on each side of him when he hesitantly opened his eyes.
"Yeah, stop yelling. Ow!!" The CMO was lightly pressing on his orbital bone. "Stop it, Doc, I'm fine."
"All right. You're going to have a shiner there."
"Chip, what happened? Where's Lee?" asked Nelson, checking out the room and hallway.
"Sir, he didn't wake up when the alarm rang. I went and took a shower. When I came out, he still wasn't up. I shook him awake and he said he didn't know me. I thought he was kidding at first, but he wasn't. I called Doc here and told him we needed him pronto, but then Lee decided to leave. I tried to stop him and he clobbered me. Damn, I don’t believe this!"
During Chip’s recitation of the events, the CMO did an assessment of his potential patient. After a quick respiration and pulse count, he decided they were only increased due to the XO’s anxiety for his friend. "Chip, how many fingers am I holding up?" asked Doc, lifting two fingers.
Knowing what Doc would expect, Chip, seeing four answered, "Two."
"Any dizziness or nausea?"
"No! None! Forget me! We’ve got to find Lee, now! I tell you he’s off the wall!" Chip stumbled to his feet with the aid of Jamison.
"Okay, calm down," pacified Doc. "We’ll find him, but I don’t want you keeling over from a concussion either." He didn’t like Chip’s pale color or the fact that he was swaying on his feet. Checking his eyes to see if they were equal was a real task, for one was almost swollen shut.
"Look, Doc, don’t worry about me. I’m fine and we’ve got to find Lee." At his CMO’s frown, Chip quickly went on desperate to get the message across that all was not well with their commander. "Tell you what, Doc. We’ll find Lee first, then you can have both of us as patients."
Nelson, concerned for Chip but afraid for Lee, impatiently asked, "Well, Doc? Is he all right…for now? Can a thorough exam wait until later?"
Doc was still not convinced. "Are you sure you’re all right, Chip?"
"I’m fine! Now let’s go!" He headed out the door with Nelson and Jamison behind him.
Once in the hall, Nelson hastily ordered, "He can’t be far. Chip, take the elevator down and Doc, take the south stairs. I’ll head for the north stairway and will meet you out in the lobby. Sharkey should be out front by now with the car. Maybe he’ll see Lee and stop him." The men split up.
Jamison hurried down the steps, as did Nelson. Chip caught the elevator after hitting the button three times. Finally, it opened and he staggered in, hitting the blurry down button to the lobby. The ride down had been a real trip. His head was reeling and his stomach, though empty, was nauseated. Holding his belly, while gritting his teeth, he anxiously exited the elevator and ran into a confused Sharkey in the lobby. The other two men joined them, as the chief exclaimed, "The skipper just flew out of here…like…like the joint was on fire! He didn’t even recognize me!"
"Where’d he go?" asked three men in unison.
Sharkey, totally befuddled, reported while pointing, "East on foot." The men took off out the door, craning their necks in the hopes of seeing him. Catching his superior’s worried expressions, Sharkey mumbled, " Sirs, I asked him if he wanted a ride and the skipper said…"
"The skipper said what, Sharkey?" asked Nelson, looking down the long sidewalk. "Where the devil did he go?"
"Well, sir, he said…you want it verbatim?"
Shaking his head in disbelief at what he’d just witnessed, Sharkey exclaimed, "Well, he showed me his fist when I tried to stop him… and said that…ah…my cohorts were in here and where I could go with them. "
"Humph," was all Sharkey got from the Senior Staff. Starting to understand that something wasn’t right with his captain, he point blankly asked, "I don’t get it, sirs. What’s wrong with the skipper?"
Jamison volunteered, "He’s not himself." He stared down the road, looking for a tall dark head in the crowd of people on the sidewalk.
"That’s an understatement," muttered Chip, his vision blurring for a moment, as a wave of dizziness over took him. Inconspicuously, he reached for the streetlight. The XO was disturbed with the symptoms he gradually exhibited, but shrugged them off. They can wait until we find Lee.
The CMO caught a glimpse of his tall, dark captain and excitedly announced, "There he is! A ways down the road!"
"Sharkey, where’s the car?" demanded Nelson.
"Right here, sir," gestured the chief, heading for the silver sedan parked by the curb. Sharkey got in behind the wheel with Nelson in the front and the other two in the backseat. Carefully, Sharkey pulled out and stepped on the gas. The captain just crossed the busy intersection as the light changed to red, forcing the chief to stop. They watched in abject dismay as the skipper hailed a passing cab and climbed in.
Lee Crane climbed into the taxi and gave the driver the address on where he wanted to go. He could not get over the nerve of the blonde man back at the hotel. There must have been a mix up at the desk. I must have been asleep when he came to bed… Strange, I don’t even remember checking in. I must have been more tired than I thought. I know there’s a lot of Navy men in town this weekend. What did that guy Chip say? Something about submarine designs? Hmm, we must all be staying at the same place. I’ll fix it when I get back. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, opening it up. Hey, these guys are good. A real Navy ID, driver’s license and credit cards to go along with this Navy uniform. He frowned at the name. Lee Crane? The prop guys must have goofed. That’s probably why the desk clerk bunked me with a sailor guy. He either thinks I’m really a captain or that Chip is an actor. Lee chuckled out loud, getting an odd look from the cab driver.
The cabbie, trying to pass the time of day asked, "Hey, mister. Are you one of those actors here to film that new Navy flick?"
"You talking about The Enemy Below? "
"Yeah, that’s the one." The cabbie observed him through the rearview mirror a moment. "Didn’t you star in the original?"
Lee smiled broadly. "Sure did. My name is David Hedison and I have the lead role this time."
"Well, doesn’t that beat all? I have a real live actor here in my cab," replied the astounded cabbie.
"How’d you know about the movie?"
"It was in all the papers." The cab driver glanced back again through the rearview mirror. "Drat, that silver car is right on my tail! I hate it when people ride your ass like that!"
Lee turned around and looked, noticing the Navy men in the car. The sedan was just starting to pass and pull up along side them. He observed the blonde Lt. Commander in the backseat, holding a hand to the back of his head. The red haired man in front, with four stars on his collar, was gesturing for them to pull over.
"Friends of yours, Mr. Hedison?"
"No! I never laid eyes on them before today." He turned back around, ignoring the car beside them. "I don’t believe those guys. Talk about the Navy never giving up. Would you believe, they think I’m their captain of the Seaview no less?"
"The Seaview, huh?" The cabbie studied the man in the back seat. "You know, you do look like their commander, Lee Crane. I’ve seen his picture in the paper before."
"Naw, get out of here. Isn’t he supposed to be the youngest captain in the Navy?"
"Seems like I heard that somewhere."
"Well, then I’ve got a few years on him, being I was born in 1927 and it’s now 1980."
"That might be so, Mr. Hedison. Boy, he hides his age well, doesn’t have a gray hair on his head. "But, I do swear, you are a dead ringer for the man."
The silver car beside them honked to get their attention. "You want me to lose those guys?"
Lee smiled, "Sure. I’ll give you an extra twenty for your trouble if you pull it off."
The chase was on. The cabbie put the pedal to the floor and shot out ahead onto the busy freeway.
"What ever you do, don’t lose them!" commanded Nelson, completely bewildered at his captain’s actions.
"Aye, sir." Sharkey increased his speed only to swerve to the right to pass a mini van. He swerved again into the left lane passing two little old ladies out on a Sunday drive. It’s only Friday morning, what are they doing on the road during morning rush hour? He sharply maneuvered around a black pickup and heard two safety belts click in the backseat.
Nelson, clinging to the armrest on the door, caught his CMO’s nervous eye. "Doc, what do you really think is wrong with Lee?"
"I really can’t say without examining him first, even though I have a few ideas." Doc shifted his vision from the admiral’s worried face to observe his XO, who was clutching his stomach. His knowledgeable eyes immediately took in the pallor and fine sheen of perspiration on his commander’s flushed face. He’s diaphoretic. His one good eye is dilated. Will frowned, narrowing his eyes. I bet if I knew the truth, there’s a knot on the back of his head. He must’ve hit his head when he fell. Blast! As if he’d tell me about it. I should’ve known he’d hide his symptoms.
Chip, seeing Jamison’s stormy countenance, guiltily headed off the questions he knew would be forth coming. "Doc, it’s okay. Its just Sharkey’s driving."
Doc knew better, but decided there was nothing he could do at the moment. Surprising Chip, he asked, "Tell me everything that happened after we left you two in the bar last night."
Sharkey veered around a long curve, miraculously keeping the taxi in sight. He received the finger from a blonde haired girl, driving a red Mustang. Insolent kid. Don’t they know enough to respect their elders? He’d cut her off passing a chartered bus full of tourists. "Road hog," he mumbled under his breath.
"Doc, there’s really nothing to tell. We approached the bar where Lee met some guy he knew and I talked to a pretty brunette that was sitting next to him."
"That’s it? I thought you two were going to close down the bar?"
"So did I. We ordered our drinks and I took the lady out for a spin on the dance floor. The next thing I know, Lee’s pleading a headache and went up to our room."
"How bad was the headache?"
"I don’t know. I didn’t think much about it. We had to get up early the next morning and I just figured he was turning in for some extra sack time." At the doctor’s skeptical look, Chip defended, "Well, hell, Doc. The man never sleeps. I just figured he needed it. After Lee left, the couple left too. So, I decided to crash myself."
"Hmm…and he didn’t complain of a headache this morning?"
"So, he didn’t have a sudden onset of head pain." Doc was furiously thinking, casting aside one diagnosis after another. What could it be? The amnesia and mental status changes really nagged at him. "Did he complain of any numbness, weakness?"
The XO shook his head negatively, wishing he hadn’t.
"Was there a droop to one side of his face?"
"But, he did seem confused?"
"Yes, I guess you could say that. He didn’t know who we were, why we were here or even where we were." Chip struggled with his own thoughts, desperately trying to keep a grip on his reeling senses. "Come to think of it…he never said he didn’t know who he was. Just that he didn’t know me!" Without thinking, he rubbed his temple with trembling fingers to ease the throb.
Doc was appalled at Chip’s quickly declining condition as the XO did his best to hide his injuries. Jamison wanted in the worst way to order Sharkey to find the nearest hospital. But it would mean, losing the taxi carrying Crane. The CMO hoped he wouldn’t be forced to make that decision. If Chip passes out, before we get to Lee, I won’t have a choice. At least, for the moment, Lee seems in control of his faculties. Then again… Not wanting to alarm the other two men yet, he asked, "What about a stiff neck? Did Lee have any trouble moving?"
Chip grinned in spite of the fact his head hurt. Touching his eye, he half chuckled then grimaced when pain shot through his head. "No problem there. I never saw him move so fast."
Listening to the conversation, Nelson inquired, "What are you thinking, Doc?"
"I’m just trying to rule out a subarachnoid bleed or any other number of problems."
Startled, Nelson sputtered, "You think he has an aneurysm?"
"No, none of the symptoms are there, but the amnesia."
Sharkey hit a dip in the road, sending the men upward a foot off their seats. A moan came from the back and Chip grouched, "Where’d you learn how to drive?"
"Sorry, Mr. Morton. I couldn’t avoid it."
The cab driver was doing a good job of eluding the silver car, but Sharkey was more than determined to keep up with him. The chief narrowly avoided rear-ending a limo by taking the left outside shoulder, leaving the vehicle in the dust. The men heard, "A move it or milk it," muttered curse from their COB, as he careened back onto the roadway.
The taxi took a sudden exit from the right lane. The commanders all held their breath as Sharkey swerved the car over two lanes to the right, cutting off a huge semi truck hauling gasoline. A long, fierce foghorn blared with airbrakes being applied. Doc swore he could have reached out and touched the truck, as Sharkey headed down the exit ramp.
When he thought it was safe to exhale, the admiral asked, "Where in blue blazes did you learn to drive?"
"New York City," was his reply.
The admiral merely nodded, recalling his chief was from Coney Island.
The taxi stopped at the red blinking light at the end of the exit and turned left. Chief Sharkey braked to a stop, two car lengths behind and was unable to maneuver his way around. The highway engineers had the exit torn up, making it impossible to pass. Sweating it out, he and the men managed to keep a visual on the disappearing taxi as the cars slowly turned in their perspective directions.
"Come on! Come on!" grumbled the chief, practically nosing his car into the trunk of the car in front of them. Impatiently, he waited his turn, inching his way to the light. Finally, after the car in front of him turned to the right, he came to a rolling stop. Quickly looking both ways, Sharkey darted out turning left and heard a pair of screeching tires from both directions.
"Where’d they go?" asked the frustrated chief. He lost sight of them in the mixture of traffic.
"About a mile ahead," stated Nelson, craning his neck. He could just barely make out the taxi sign on top of the car. It was heading into a long curve.
The COB floored the gas, eating up the two-lane pavement. In no time at all, he was within a quarter of a mile of the cab on the long curb, with a truck and three cars separating them. Traffic congested heavily as they headed into the industrial part of the city. Chomping at the bit, the chief weaved the car back and forth in the lane, itching to pass the jokers in front of them. To top it off, the view ahead was impeded with shadows from trees crowding the shoulder of the street. He was forced to slow down numerous times on the curvy road until it straightened out to an even keel. Unfortunately, the taxi was not in sight.
"You lost him!" exclaimed Doc.
"I couldn’t have, sir," cried Sharkey. "He was right there a second ago."
"He must have turned," anxiously stated Nelson, looking down the side streets.
Sharkey let up on the gas as the men, with the exception of Chip, who couldn’t see anything clearly, peered down the cross streets.
The car behind them started honking impatiently at their reduced speed. Sharkey muttered under his breath, "Ya dumb Bozos, just go around." He rolled the window down and waved them around, while moving over to the shoulder at the same time. The car sped past with the driver waving his fist and leaning on the horn. Doc briefly remembered it being the car his COB had pulled out in front of at the light.
They continued at a snail’s pace, looking carefully in every direction, until Nelson burst out with, "There he is!"
Sharkey instantly made a sharp right, getting another long honk and a "Where’d ya learn how to drive?" shouted through an open window. Increasing speed from 20 to 50 in a 25mph speed zone, Sharkey closed the distance on the evasive taxi. Pulling up along side of the cab, the men found out to their despair, Capt. Crane wasn’t in there.
Rolling down his window, Nelson ordered, "Pull over!" Nelson had meant it for the cab driver, but Sharkey thought it was an order for him. He promptly cut the taxi off, stopping at an angle in front of the cab. The taxi driver had no choice but to slam on his brakes, screeching his tires. The cab came within an inch of striking the silver sedan.
Hopping out of the car, Nelson and a wobbly Morton rushed up to the taxi driver. "Where’d you drop him?" demanded an irate Nelson, chastising himself for letting Crane get the slip. I should’ve known he’d pull an ONI tactic, he silently cursed.
Thinking these Navy guys were all nuts, the cab driver, in a protective gesture, shifted into reverse with his foot on the brake. "I don’t know what you’re talking about," he hedged. He thought he saw steam come out of the red haired man’s ears, as his brilliant blue eyes narrowed to mere slits.
The blonde, with the shiner and equally cold blue eyes, standing beside the guy with the four stars on his collar, grabbed him by the jacket. In a steely voice, he rasped, "The admiral asked you a question!"
"Easy Chip," cautioned Nelson, taking out his wallet. He opened it and pulled out a hundred dollar bill and waved it in front of the cabby’s nose. In a bored tone of voice, he asked once again, "Where did you leave the Captain?"
The taxi man realized they were only looking for information. Owing no loyalty to the actor, who only gave him a twenty for all of his trouble said, "He’s back a block at Dennis Engineering." He reached for the money and Nelson pulled it away.
With warning bells going off in his mind, Nelson hardened his eyes and bluntly asked, "Dennis Engineering? You’re sure?"
"Y…yes, sir," stammered the driver, once again reaching for the money. Nelson gave it to him and the blonde let go of his jacket. In relief, but curious, the cabbie added, "What do you want with Mr. Hedison?"
"Mr. Hedison?" casually asked Nelson, in a deceptively calm voice. "The actor?"
The driver nodded, pocketing the cash. "He said you guys were mistaking him for your captain." He deeply swallowed, when both men stiffened and glanced at each other while the red-haired man sported an ominous expression. Thinking it was time to make his exit, the cab driver backed up, did a U turn and peeled out.
"What do you make of that, sir?" queried Chip, swaying on his feet.
"Humph!" was all Nelson volunteered, grabbing his XO by the arm and leading him back to the car. He helped him inside, exchanging a worried glance with his CMO. Sighing heavily, Nelson got back in the front seat and ordered Sharkey to turn around and head back a block.
The obedient chief backed the car up into a sharp, dizzying curve. Then jerked it into forward gear, speeding up in the process. Thirty seconds later, they were pulling into the parking lot of Dennis Engineering. Cars and a few trucks were lined up snug against the building. Spying an open space three places from the front door, Sharkey headed for it.
In a no nonsense tone of voice, Nelson ordered. "Back in, just in case we have to make a quick exit." His eyes carefully surveyed the perimeters of the building. "Where is security? This has to be a medium secured place. They do some government contracting here."
Feeling uneasy and wondering why the name of Dennis nagged at him, the chief did as bid. He wasn’t the only one the name struck an odd cord with. Doc remembered only too well the antics of a man bearing the same name of Dennis. A senator no less, who created widespread near panic aboard Seaview only a few months past.
The name settled over Chip in a wave of unbidden fear for his friend and commander. His over sensitive stomach waged a war from within, as his head pounded in rhythm to his belly cramps. He was secretly thankful there was nothing in his stomach to toss, for Lee had punched him out before breakfast. "Admiral," he gasped out. "Is this Dennis connected to Senator William Dennis?"
"Hmm, I think so, Chip."
"B…but, he’s dead!" exclaimed Sharkey, in shock.
"Yes, he is," confirmed the admiral.
The men all knew the story. The senator had used an advance form of mass hypnosis to control the crew with his ultimate goal to steal Nelson’s new project, the X-4. Being more than a mere electronic map, the X-4 detailed all the submarines of the world including American, allied and enemy positions. Dennis created hallucinations amongst the crew and fooled Crane into thinking the X-4 was the cause. The captain, in turn, had ordered it dismantled to set it adrift on a raft.
Before the entire order had been carried out, Doc noticed something strange with Patterson in sickbay. He was recovering from a gunshot wound. Earlier that day, Ski had thought Pat was some kind of weird creature running wild on the boat and shot it, while guarding the door to the X-4’s component room. Pat was recovering from a gunshot wound. To pass the time while in sickbay, Pat had been listening to a radio broadcast no one else could hear. As it turned out, Patterson had been the only crewman not to shake Dennis’s hand, when the senator had originally boarded. Capt. Crane quickly figured out, "There’s more than meets the eye here," and belayed the order to dismantle the X-4.
Meanwhile, Nelson, Sharkey and Senator Dennis boarded the FS1 and took off for Washington D.C. and New York. Dennis had convinced them the places were evacuated and demanded to return to Seaview. Later, the senator slipped away from the Seaview men and doubled back to the flying sub. He’d planned to blow up the FS1 with Nelson and Sharkey aboard her, his intent to make it look like an accident. The Seaview men came back aboard and found Dennis holding a gun on them. Sharkey distracted the senator and Nelson wrestled him for the gun. The weapon went off during the fight and Dennis was mortally wounded. As he died, he lost his hypnotic control over the men.
"So, sir," asked a perplexed Sharkey, "What’s this got to do with Dennis Engineering?"
"Everything," flatly stated the admiral. He went on to explain his theory. "Dennis Engineering was originally owned by Senator Dennis’s father, Samuel. When he died, his sons, Robert, who is an engineer and runs the plant, with William inherited it. William Dennis had no interest in the plant, wanting to achieve a more powerful life."
"Like becoming president?" interjected Morton.
"Hmm, yes. He only wanted the X-4 so he could create some kind of incident that would draw attention to himself, with him coming out as the hero. That would’ve been the stimulus to start his campaign."
"What about the brother?" asked Jamison.
"Well, the government had no reason to suspect him or his company." He paused a moment, smirking at a private thought. "When Dennis died, we kept the secret of his demented plan to our selves, being he had acted alone. We just told the authorities, there’d been a tragic accident on the FS1. They believed us and Lee and I attended his state funeral."
"So, sir? Do you think they have anything to do with why the skipper is acting like he is?" asked Sharkey, clearly recalling that horrible day with a shudder.
"Mmm, that’s the one remaining question, soon to be hopefully answered." Nelson opened the car door. "Chief, have a look around the back. Doc, come with me. If Lee isn’t himself, I might need your help to convince him." He pointedly looked at Chip, taking in his swollen blue eye and flushed face. His declining medical condition hadn’t gotten past his attention. "Mr. Morton, you’re to remain here." He handed him his two-way radio. "If we’re not back, say in 15 minutes, contact Seaview and have them alert the authorities."
Grudgingly, wanting to help find his friend, Chip answered in a weak voice, "Yes, sir."
The men got out of the car and headed in their respected directions.
As Nelson and Jamison headed to the front door, Doc inquired, "Admiral? You think Lee is really here? After all, we didn’t see him come in here."
"Without a doubt. My greatest concern is why. Why is he here? And will he be Lee or the actor the cabbie said he was?"
"You mean, as in, will Lee be himself or the fact that he thinks he’s David Hedison? You do realize the real actor is in town to remake that old Navy film?"
"Yes, Will, I know all that. But, Chip and Lee were never separated last night."
"Beg to differ with you Admiral, but Lee went up to his room first, leaving Chip behind in the bar. There could’ve been a mix up at the front desk. He could have gone to the wrong room."
"Yes, but Lee had his own key with their room number on it and Chip was right behind him." Pulling on the front door, Nelson emphatically added. "This is our Lee Crane. I’d bet my last dollar on that fact and the answers lay within."
"May I help you, sirs or are you with the other Navy gentleman?" asked a nicely shaped, young, brunette woman. Her gray eyes held a hint of warning, but became curiously blank when a door opened down the hall. A distinguished tall, thin man with dark brown hair approached them and Nelson immediately recognized him from Senator Dennis’s funeral.
"Mr. Dennis, we meet again," cordially announced Nelson.
The other man gave an engaging smile. "Admiral Nelson, what a pleasure. He held out his hand.
Nelson rebuffed it, nodding his head instead and introduced his chief medical officer.
For an instant, Dennis’s eyes grew cold. Not giving up, he tried to shake the doctor’s hand.
Doc Jamison remembered what happened the last time they’d shook hands with a Dennis and took his admiral’s lead, in politely declining the offer with an acknowledgement of his head.
Dennis’s jaw tightened at the snub and he coolly said, "Admiral, I have your captain in my office." Not giving Nelson time to respond, he added, "If you’ll follow me." Before they left, Dennis gave his secretary a cold glance. She immediately got up, collected her purse and went out the front door, locking it behind her.
Nelson and Jamison exchanged brief looks, hiding their anxiety. The front door is obviously out for escape, thought the admiral. Not liking the feeling that thought produced, he and Will followed Dennis to his office. Upon entering, they found two armed security personnel, one wiping blood off a leather chair. Lee Crane was nowhere to be seen.
Sharkey slowly and inconspicuously as possible, walked along the side of the building, mentally taking notes. The building is old, made of concrete blocks. The metal windows are high, opening to the outside. You’d need a ladder to get to them. Hmm, there’s a door here on the side.’ He tried it and found it locked. ‘It’s one of those heavy fire doors. I wonder if it only opens from the inside? He made his way further towards the back, nervously glancing around the huge parking lot. It’s only Friday why is there so few cars in the lot? A shiver ran down his back, it boded ill. He rounded a corner to the back and was met with a loaded forty-five.
Chip, soon found it stifling hot with the sun’s unrelenting rays beaming down and magnifying heat through the closed car windows. He reached up with a shaking hand and unbuttoned a couple more buttons on his shirt. Secretly glad, in his haste to follow Lee, he’d inadvertently left his jacket in the hotel room. His head was pounding and he wanted to do nothing more than lie down in the seat, curl up and go to sleep. Fighting the urge, he opened the car door, got out and leaned heavily against the vehicle with his elbows on the roof. Breathing in the fresh air, it temporarily relieved the nausea and revived him. Checking his watch for the time, he soon found he couldn’t read it. The dial was a complete blur. To his growing consternation, he found rubbing his good eye didn’t help either. How much time has passed? He closed his eyes for a moment, leaning his chin on his watch and his torso against the car. His heart raced in time to the relentless hammering in his temples, while his legs felt weak and rubbery. Stiffening his resolve to get through this, Chip once again opened his blurry eye, the injured one refused to obey. The sun made dizzying loops around the outside of the car. In his muddled thinking, he knew he had to get help. Sharkey had gone to the back of the building. Doc and Nelson were inside. "Can’t go..goo… th..ere," he slurred out loud with fear lacing his innards. Again, he tried to read his watch.
"Tim…e…how..mu…mu..ch..time…pass….sed?" Frustrated beyond coherent thought, he ran a hand through his soaked hair, trying to relieve the persistent pain but irritated the bump instead. "Got…to fin..d..Shar…kee…" he giggled, "Nooo…Lee…got to finnnd…Lee!" He stumbled off in the direction his chief had gone.
Lee Crane was furious, absolutely furious. An experiment! I was nothing but an experiment to test Dennis’s powers! He hit the wall, bruising his right hand and knuckles. "And it worked! I really thought I was David Hedison! Humph!" he shouted to himself. He pounded the wall again, feeling pain creep up his arm. Feeling justified at the pain, he turned around and slid down the wall to sit. Drawing his knees up and unconsciously kneading his throbbing hand, he sat in abject misery in the dark. They’d locked him in an old storage closet, in a corridor outside of the machine shop and shut off the light. He could feel blood streaming down from the laceration on his cheek and his split-opened lip. He absently pulled out his handkerchief and pressed it against the laceration with his sore hand. Totally disgusted, he thought back to the beginning…
After bidding Nelson and Doc good night, Chip and he had approached the bar. They’d ordered drinks, paid for them and were waiting for the bartender while he fixed them. A woman caught his XO’s attention and the man with her called his name. He’d seemed familiar and he should have placed him at Dennis’s funeral. How could I have forgotten? But he had. Berating himself, he kicked the narrow wall of his prison not bothering to get up.
Dennis had shaken his hand and Lee remembered staring into his hypnotic golden eyes. By then, it was too late. His guard down, the hypnosis had taken effect. "That was the key," he grumbled. When Chip had taken the woman out to dance, he’d gone to bed with a headache and knew nothing else, until the alarm rung in the morning. It was the catalyst that started the whole sequence of events. He’d forgotten everything that was Lee Crane and truly thought he was the actor, David Hedison. Under the illusion he was here to do a movie, he’d come to this address with instructions, allowing no one to stop him.
When he’d walked through the door of Dennis Engineering and seen the pretty secretary, the same woman Chip had danced with the night before, the spell had been broken. I should have turned tail and ran out the door. But, no, I had to stay and ask questions. How many times have I heard curiosity killed the cat? Well, I got my answers in the form of a gun, held by Dennis. He’d been promptly marched into his office and told what was expected of him. He, in no uncertain terms, told Dennis what he could do with his expectations. The engineer himself pistol-whipped him. It was then one of the security guards announced the presence of a silver car, carrying four Navy personnel. It suddenly dawned on Lee, that the admiral hadn’t lost him after all. He’d tried to make a break for it, but was stopped short when the guard grabbed him and put him in a choke hold as the other one pummeled his stomach. He’d gone down much to his disgrace with his face hitting the leather chair. The guard shifted his position by letting go of his neck and painfully grabbing his thick hair. While holding his face tightly against the seat with a bony knee in his back, Dennis let him in on his last secret.
Lee groaned at this last revelation. Bait! I was nothing but bait, to lure the admiral here. The admiral had his suspicions after Dennis’s funeral, but was unable to prove the company’s interest in the X-4. Time passed and no more was said. Nelson kept the proto type and turned over the plans to the Armed Services Committee with a word of caution. It obviously fell on deaf ears. So, like the government. Later, we heard they’d granted a partial contract to this company to build the hardware. Nelson just shook his head when he’d found out. He went to kick the wall again when the light came on and the door opened.
Chief Sharkey was roughly pushed into the cramped space, tripping over the Skipper’s folded legs. He crashed against the wall on the other side of the captain. Another man carried in the limp form of Chip Morton over his shoulder, dumping him in Crane’s lap. The door was quickly slammed shut with the light left on.
It was hard to tell who was more shocked. Sharkey staring at his commander’s bloodied, bruised face or Crane’s horrified expression at seeing his friend lying unconscious, in his arms. Chip had landed on his right side with Lee catching his shoulders across his chest. His head came to rest in the crook of his arm.
"Chip…?" He looked up. "Sharkey…?" His face enraged, he snapped, "What the hell happened?"
The chief gulped. This is definitely the skipper. Clenching his fists Sharkey relayed the prior events. "Well, sir. I was coming around the back of the building when I was met with two guards welding guns." He convulsively swallowed. "He, ah… was about to take me inside, when, ah…Mr. Morton came stumbling around the corner with a security guy hot on his tail, I mean behind him." He nervously picked some dirt off the cuff of his shirt. He’s going to blow a gasket when I tell him the rest.
Running thin on patience, Crane bit out. "Well, go on!"
"Mr.…Mr. Morton wasn’t acting like his…his normal self." Sharkey flashed the XO a sad look, noting a red spot on the back of his bent head. The captain had shifted the exec into a semi sitting position, elevating his head, so that he leaned more comfortably against his shoulder. Dried blood? How did Doc miss that? He hurried up and finished when his commander scowled at him. "He was…ah babbling about…about finding you, sir, when…when …"
"When what?" crouched the captain, swiping at the weeping cut on his face with the cuff of his shirtsleeve. At the moment, he couldn’t remember what he’d done with his handkerchief. He was scared. Chip looked awful. His coloring looks as pale as the moon. His good eye, what I can see of it, is dull and rolled back. The eye where’d he hit him was now triple in size. The swollen lid was a bright bluish purple. A deep red dent marked the upper cheekbone. Did I do all this damage? He felt enormously guilty for the condition of his friend. He couldn’t begin to explain what had come over him when he assaulted Chip. He only knew it had been automatic, out of the blue, like someone else had taken over his body. He thought of Krueger and shuddered. No, it had been different than that. It wasn’t cold like Krueger…It was like…like it was implanted… subliminal in nature. In the back of his mind, Lee played down the hypnosis theory. I should have had more control. Now, look at what my actions have wrought?
Sharkey, feeling sick, spit the rest of the story out. "When Mr. Morton came around the corner, the goon behind him pushed him down to his knees. Then…then one of the creeps holding a gun on me kicked…kicked him one with the heel of his boot…right…right in the sore eye!" He froze when he saw his skipper’s stricken look.
Hugging Chip closer, Lee closed his eyes and fought down the bile that was lodged in his throat. In a tightly controlled whisper, he asked, "Then what?"
Sharkey, lost in his own turmoil, almost missed the question, "Beggin your pardon, sir. Then what…what?" He couldn’t explain the rest.
"What happened after that!" barked the captain. Lee heard a deep sigh.
"I went a little crazy…"
Lee jerked his head up and studied his chief. His eyes were full of sadness reminding him of a lost child. The left side of his jaw was swollen with what looked like the beginnings of a nasty bruise. Watching him convulsively swallow, the Captain could see fresh blood in the corners of Sharkey’s mouth. The man used his thumb and forefinger to wipe off the excess moisture from his lips then, unobtrusively wiped them on his pants. Scrutinizing his chief closer, he saw the swollen, skinned knuckles of both meaty hands, noting the perspiration on his face and the rapid rise and fall of his chest.
Gently, Crane asked, "Chief? Are you all right?"
With more vigor in his voice, "Then, sit down before you fall down!"
"Aye, sir," responded Sharkey, sliding down the wall into a folded position. It was a tight fit, in the small closet.
Taking pity on his man and curious, the captain inquired, "How many men?"
The chief rubbed his sore jaw modestly replying, "Three, sir. They forced me to give up when they put a gun to Mr. Morton’s head." He saw a flash of anger shoot through his skipper’s eyes.
Lee, without conscious thought, rubbed his shirt cuff across his cheek again and rested his aching head back against the wall. He lifted one leg and braced it against the wall across from him, thereby lending more support to his XO’s back. The width of the confining closet wasn’t as long as his leg. Chip’s head was pressed against his shoulder, his posterior on the floor with his legs draped over Lee’s right thigh. The captain could feel the shivers wracking his exec’s body and wondered if he was going into shock. He could die from the shock. What alone everything else that ails him. I’ve got to get all of us out of here and soon.
"Chief, how many men did you see all told?"
"Hmm, well, there were the three bozos who attacked us. Then, I saw one goldbricker by the door here, leaning against a solvent drum and three in the machine shop." He mentally counted, "I guess, seven."
"And I dealt with three in the office. Not bad odds. If you don’t count Chip, it’s about three to one."
Both men became quiet, each lost in their own thoughts.
"Where’s Captain Crane?" demanded Admiral Nelson.
"And what happened to him?" inquired Dr. Jamison, in an equally demanding voice. He had no doubts whose blood was on the chair. He attracts trouble like a magnet.
Dennis gave a sly smile and murmured, "All in do time, gentlemen. Let’s just say, the good captain is being taken care of." For an answer, he received two silently cold stares.
Nelson did a quick survey of the room noting its sparseness. A desk flanked by two leather chairs dominated the room. A wide screen was behind the desk flush against the wall next to a door. The admiral surmised it lead to the inner parts of the building, which consisted of the machine shop, component room and computer-processing center. Out of the corner of his eye, the admiral could see both security men standing guard just inside the front door where’d they come in. A sideboard sat to the left of the desk littered with various diagrams, papers and alcoholic beverages.
Lifting a pitcher of what looked like clear water, Dennis asked if they wanted a drink.
"I didn’t come here to pass the time of day, Dennis," barked Nelson. "So, get to the point. What do you want with my captain?"
In a low, silky voice, grating on both men’s nerves, Robert Dennis said, "It’s not your captain that I want. Even though he was quite entertaining." He witnessed the Seaview men’s jaws tightening. He poured himself a healthy draught of water and slowly sipped from the glass. "No Admiral, I’m afraid it’s you that I want." He looked straight into their eyes. "You see, I have a difficult puzzle to finish and you hold the missing pieces."
In a hushed voice, Nelson quickly ordered, "Don’t look at his eyes, Jamie."
Doc instantly broke away from the hypnotic effect, hoping he hadn’t let the admiral down. He knew it only took a moment for Dennis to control their minds. Has he already done it? Doc inwardly panicked. No, he didn’t touch me. He has to touch me.
"So, Admiral, you’re on to that little parlor trick?" A stony silence was his answer. "No matter, my powers are different from my brother’s. Your captain proved an amusing test. He passed it admirably. I really had him thinking he was David Hedison. It served a dual purpose. I found out how easily I could control him and at the same time lured you here." He finished the glass of water and picked up his gun lying on the desk. "Ahhh, nothing like a cool drink. Well Admiral, I guess it’s time to get down to business."
Without further ado, Dennis pressed a button on his desk and the screen behind it opened, revealing a smaller version of the X-4. The only difference was there were no pinpoints of lights, indicating the location of all the nuclear submarines in the world. The map of the world was totally dark.
Not really expecting a reaction from the silent Seaview men, Dennis regarded the situation. "As you can see, Admiral, I have a duplicate of your invention, stolen from the plans you gave the U.S. government. I have the hardware built and the software installed, but alas, I still can’t engage the device."
"If you think I’m going to give you the answers, you’re dead wrong," calmly stated Nelson. Hell will freeze over first.
"I can take the answers, Admiral."
"You can try," smirked Nelson with hidden meaning in his eyes. A contest of wills broke out with each man testing the other’s mettle.
Jamison cast a glance over to Dennis, recalling at the last moment to look anywhere, but in his eyes. He chose his mouth. Feeling lightheaded, he broke contact entirely and dragged his eyes back to his admiral’s reassuring features. I wonder if that microchip we implanted, after the subliminal tests, is working? What a disaster that psychological test had been. During the testing, Sharkey had lost control of the experiment and the captain and admiral had tried to kill each other. Harry had figured it out just in the nick of time. Afterwards, Nelson opted for the microdot to be implanted, so that he wouldn’t be susceptible to mind controlling powers. Unfortunately, it’s still in the test phases and we don’t know all the effects yet. It did reduce his brain washing, when he was briefly captured and ordered to destroy Seaview. Dr. Land had saved the day with a stun laser, snapping him out of it. Still though, we haven’t been able to keep aliens or viruses from taking over. Maybe Dennis is an alien? Doc intently studied him for a moment, being careful not to look anywhere’s near his face. The lightheadedness came back. He could feel the power floating between the two iron-willed men. Naw, he’s as human as I am. Maybe he just has alien powers. What am I going to do if Dennis wins? No, the implanted device will work. The admiral is stronger than Dennis. He has to be.
A security guard shifted his stance and the two men broke contact much to Doc’s relief.
"Admiral, I need those access codes to the satellite. I know we can’t use the governments, for they change the codes daily. But, your proto type is different. The heart of the software responds only to you. I can implant that same technology into the software of this machine."
"When pigs fly will I ever give you the access codes. Besides, I don’t even have them," stalled Nelson, his face giving no quarter.
Dennis’s eyes narrowed to mere slits. "You don’t have them? Of course, you’re an intelligent man. You’d never put all your eggs in one basket. I know, you control the X-4 by some embedded technology which only responds to you." The engineer let that sink in a second then went on. "Let me guess, to activate it you use some bodily influence, such as a fingerprint, one’s cardio rhythms, your retina pattern or perhaps even saliva makeup?"
Nelson’s stoic expression never wavered, giving Dennis no clues. He tried a new tact. "The access codes? Your captain has them, doesn’t he?"
Nelson tightened his jaw just a fraction of an inch.
"Your silence is becoming annoying." He slammed his hand down on the desk, as if a thought just occurred to him. "Of course, Crane would have them. There’s no one else you would entrust them with." Cracking a hateful smile, Dennis boasted, "I can get them from him with a simple touch."
"Humph, you don’t know Crane. Besides, using him will get you nowhere. He doesn’t even know he has them," defended Nelson, stepping towards the desk. A hand painfully gripped his shoulder, keeping him in place. The guard had crept up behind him.
Dennis paused a moment, as a calculated gleam came over his face. "You implanted them subliminally on his person. Very ingenious of you, Admiral." He digested the new information, coming up with, "I bet it has to be just the right combination of circumstances." Dennis was reaching…"Maybe an uttered word or phrase from you…" He tried again to force his will on Nelson, using an even, monotone voice…"before Crane would enter them into the memory program. Am I correct in my theory?"
Once again, stony silence met the man’s eyes. Enraged, Dennis bit out. "I have four of your men here, Admiral. I can use them to make you talk!"
"You can try!" retorted Nelson, losing patience. "Lesser men have died for their country. I will not betray her!" Realizing he hit on the truth as to why they were all here, Nelson continued. "What country are you willing to commit espionage for?"
"The People’s Republic." Then in the evilest of voices, Dennis added, "I want those codes, Admiral. I don’t care how I get them." Fanatical eyes turned on the CMO. "Your men are expendable and we’ll begin now."
The ominous threat sent chills down both men’s spines. Dennis directly aimed the gun in Nelson’s direction and the two guards advanced on Doc, making his stomach turn over.
Chip was beginning to stir when the door opened and Doc was thrown literally on top of them. The space was so confining there was nowhere to go. Doc lifted himself up from an undignified sprawl and crawled over the bodies beneath him, hearing a groan from his captain and a loud moan from the exec. "Sorry, Skipper," griped Doc, wrestling through two pairs of jumbled legs. Vaguely, he heard another moan, as he found a cramped spot next to Sharkey. Unknowingly, he banged his commander in the chin with the heel of his shoe. He heard a grunt from Sharkey, as Lee mumbled, "No problem, Doc."
"What is this place, anyways?" asked Doc, noticing it’s devoid of any contents, except the smell of old paint. Sitting with his legs drawn up, nursing his fractured left pinkie, Doc quickly assessed his two most frequent patients, taking up the rest of the space in the small storage place. He winced both from the sharp, radiating pain in his hand and from what he could see of his skipper’s injured face. Chip’s head partly obscured the view and he couldn’t tell if the blood on Lee’s shirt was all his, Morton’s or both.
Lee’s got a gapping wound on his cheek no doubt done by a pistol. I’ve seen enough of those types of injures. Split it wide open, they did. Boy, I hope the cheekbone isn’t fractured. I see, it’s still weeping fresh blood along with his fat lip. Thankfully, the bleeding is controlled, as long as he doesn’t bump it. I wonder how many other injuries he has that he won’t tell me about? He moved his line of vision over to Chip. All he could see was the dried, red spot on the back of his head. Concern immediately marred his features. When did he get that? How long has he been unconscious? Lee’s got his jacket wrapped around him. I wonder if he’s gone into shock? Jeez, oh, fishhooks, his condition obviously has deteriorated in a short time.
"Skipper, how is he?" asked Doc, struggling to regain his feet. Out of he corner of his eye, he saw Sharkey grimace and wipe fresh blood from a bruised, swollen jaw. He intercepted an equally swollen wrist and scraped knuckles, which suspiciously looked like human teeth marks. Now bending on a knee, he examined the chief’s jaw with his fingers, while mentally counting his respirations as he listened to Lee bring him up to date on his XO’s injuries.
"I think he’s in a bad way. He’s been unconscious since they…heartlessly dropped him in here. Sharkey said one of the goons kicked him in the…" a gulp of air was heard, "…in the face."
Jamison heard the unsteadiness in the timbre of his captain’s voice. He’s hurting in more ways than one. No doubt, he’s feeling awful…knowing him, it’s probably guilt. He inwardly sighed and encouraged, "Lee, it wasn’t your fault. That madman took unfair advantage of you." Finishing his exam on Sharkey, he asked the stalwart chief, "Any loose teeth?"
"No, sir." He got a raised brow from the medical man. "All right," he grumped. "A couple." Sorrowfully gazing at the XO, Sharkey protested, "Look, Doc, I’m fine, please see to Mr. Morton and the skipper."
"For the moment, Chief, the captain has him well in hand. Now, let me see the inside of your mouth." Sharkey grudgingly obeyed orders, opening his mouth. Doc carefully turned his jaw to the overhead light and said, "Hmm, just as I thought. You have a lacerated cheek and gum, accounting for the blood." Next, he checked the chief’s hands. "Can you move all your fingers?"
"Better than you can, Doc," replied a dejected Sharkey, viewing Jamison’s wounded finger. A piece of bone was sticking out of the side of the swollen, bloody knuckle. "Ah, does it hurt much?" he solicitously asked.
Lee snapped his head around trying to see what Sharkey had revealed. Chip opened his good eye at the same time and tried to sit up.
"Easy, Chip," comforted the captain in a low, soothing voice. "Just stay put."
"Who’s…Chip?" mumbled the XO, creating dread in each man’s heart.
"You’re Chip," answered Lee. He looked helplessly at Doc, who was trying to cross over both sets of his commander’s legs. Achieving his goal, Doc inched his way around by the door, stooping down to examine his next patient.
Chip shrugged Lee’s arm off his shoulders, while asking, "Who are you guys?"
"I’m your doctor, Will Jamison and this is your captain, Lee Crane," answered the CMO. Oh, boy, here we go again.
"Lee? I haf… to…to find Lee." Chip pushed against Lee and Will, trying to get up.
"Whoa, Chip…Buddy, let’s talk about this a second." The men gently held him in place.
Chip seemed to ponder the suggestion a moment, as Jamison took his pulse. Weak and rapid at 120, his breathing rate is increased, but shallow 22, not good. I don’t like his pasty complexion either. It’s not nearly as flushed as earlier. Shock is definitely settling in.
"Wh…ere…where…are we?" faltered Chip, doing a blurred visual sweep around the room, making his stomach queasy.
"In a closet," diplomatically answered Doc, letting go of his wrist and critically examining both eyes. His bad eye is darker in color and more depressed now. Strange, I don’t remember the indentation back in the hotel room. It must be from the blow he received from the guard. Bastards!
"We, ah," Lee rubbed his forehead, not sure what to tell him. He gestured to Doc, to take over.
"Chip," murmured Will, "We’re undercover with Admiral Nelson and you have…"
"Whooo…is…s…Nel…son?" cut in Morton, frowning in confusion.
"He’s our boss. Now I want you to lean back against…"
"Boss?" demanded Chip, becoming irritated. He started fighting the constraints of his commander’s hands. "I want…out…of here!"
In Chip’s muddled world he knew that voice, but couldn’t see through the haze. "Lee?"
"Right here, buddy," verified his friend.
Chip let the captain maneuver him against the wall. He leaned back against the hard surface, tapping the bump on the back of his head. Instant pain vibrated through his skull, making him dizzy, while triggering violent stomach cramps. Chip quickly doubled over with wracking dry heaves. Lee, on his knees, held his friend’s head, while the XO fought to bring up the bile from the pit of his stomach. After three gut retching tries, with nothing coming up, the exec collapsed, totally spent, in a heap on the floor.
Doc took over from there. "Bear a hand, we’ve got to get his head elevated higher than his heart. I’d really like him to be lying down, but there isn’t room." Lee helped the doctor get Chip in a sitting position with his head leaning against the CMO’s shoulder.
"What’s wrong with him, Jamie?"
Jamison released a pent up breath, "Well for starters, he’s in a mild state of shock. I’m afraid he has a dilly of a concussion accompanied by traumatic amnesia." At his captain’s agonized expression, he could have bit his tongue. I’m not even going to mention the suspected skull fracture. "Lee, as I told you before, it’s not your fault. You were under hypnosis. Dennis played you well against all of us."
Not answering, Lee stood up. Having nowhere to go, he leaned his forehead against the cool metal of the door. It’s my fault. I hit him! His heart, feelings and mind were being torn asunder. The events of the last couple of hours unnerved him, but Chip’s condition terrified him. Finding himself hypnotized again had been a bitter pill to swallow. He needed time to sort it all out, but he had none. He knew the men needed him, depended on him. They’re doing a brilliant job of taking care of each other. He heard the subtle movements of the men behind him. Doc was quietly asking Sharkey about his ribs. He must not like the sound of his breathing. Shoot, even I can hear the heaviness of his respirations. After all, he’d been in a fight. The chief’s response that it was nothing and he, in turn, asked Doc what happened to his finger. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. They obviously broke it, but why? And Nelson? I hate to think what they’re doing to the admiral.
Before Doc could answer the question, Chip started feebly moving around.
"Need to fin...d…Lee…"
I’m captain of the Seaview, their skipper and it’s my responsibility to get them out. Forcing himself to put aside his inhibitions, he strengthened his resolve. Turning around, he was once again in full command of his person.
"Doc, what’s going on with the admiral?"
Chip sputtered, "Ad…m..iral who?"
Ignoring Morton’s outburst, Will summarized the latest events. "Dennis can’t hack into the software of the X-4. I’m not into the technical aspects of it, but the admiral had built some type of fail safe precautions into the system, in case it was breached."
"I see," surmised Crane. "The heart of the computer is running on software consisting of Biotechnology or to simplify it, Nelson has embedded technology which only responds to one or more of his body functions."
"There’s more," explained the CMO. "He also wants the access codes to the satellite that gives the positions of the subs."
"Access codes?" Lee briefly scowled, while wiping off fresh blood dripping down his face with his shirtsleeve. "The admiral will never give them up."
"Give…up…what?" interjected Chip, trying to follow the conversation. He was once again, becoming more alert. Everything was still a blur and the voices sounded familiar, but he couldn’t place them. They don’t seem to mean me any harm. But, who the hell are these people?
"He can’t give them up Lee, even if he wanted too. He doesn’t know them." Jamison deeply inhaled, seeing the confusion in his skipper’s eyes and dreaded giving the rest of the explanation. The fat is in the fire now. He’s going to hit the ceiling, but he needs to know all of the facts.
"What do you mean he doesn’t know them?" snapped Crane, becoming suspicious.
"Yeah, wh…at do you..m..mean?" mimicked Morton.
Jamison was totally uncomfortable with the whole situation. "He said you are the only one who knows them." At his captain’s indrawn breath, he hurriedly finished, "Dennis guessed, the admiral subliminally placed them in your subconscious." Doc had the good grace to look away.
"He did what?" gritted the Captain. His whole jaw ached at the strain of those three words. He felt unaccountably betrayed…angry. How could he hypnotize me like that? Without my permission...why? Why am I such easy prey? Agitated, Lee ran his hand through his hair.
"Lee, look, in a nut shell, he trusts you, but he also protected the X-4, himself and you."
"Trusts?" questioned Crane, still upset, but knew the CMO spoke the truth. He still could’ve asked my permission.
"Trusts," echoed the XO, giggling and trying to get up again. Doc’s hand held him back. "Easy, Chip. Stay put."
His exec’s mental state brought their critical situation to the fore in Crane’s mind. Running a hand through his hair again, he asked already surmising the answer. "Your broken finger is the result of the Admiral’s reluctance’s to reveal any information?"
"You have a…a broken…fi..finger?" interrupted the XO. Pointing to his ear, Chip went on with. "I have a…broken head."
He got three heart felt glances from around the tiny room. "Chip, I want you to be still and rest."
"Because, your head hurts."
He quieted down and seemed to take Jamison’s advice.
"Doc, back to your finger." Lee saw Jamison hold it up and critically inspect it. The bloody digit was at an odd angle with part of the splintered bone sticking out the side. The grotesque sight looked like a piece of raw meat to Lee. He wondered how much pain Doc was hiding. He’s no different than the rest of the senior staff.
"It’s nothing, Lee. Dennis’s man snapped it when the admiral refused to cooperate. He was going to snap my ring finger too, when we were interrupted by one of his men." He stopped speaking, replaying the scene in his mind. Crane nodded to continue. "I don’t know what was said, for Dennis had angrily stormed out of the room and took the message in the hallway. He was obviously upset though. We could hear them arguing, then Dennis ordered the admiral to the component room and me to be brought here."
"Hmm," repeated Chip, staring blindly into space. The characteristic luster of his blue eyes, were curiously dim.
Crane paced the small confines of the room. Taking three steps in each direction, twisting his ring as he did so. Finally, he stopped in front of the door and tried the knob. It turned, but wouldn’t budge. He exerted more force, banging up against it with his left shoulder. The door still refused to give.
"What do they have out there blocking the door?"
Sharkey, who’d been sitting quietly in the corner listening to the conversation, volunteered. "An old wooden chair, sir." At his skipper’s incredulous look of disbelief, the chief tacked on, "Scout’s honor, sir."
A smile crossed Lee’s face for the first time that day.
Admiral Nelson surveyed the room with a jaundiced eye. Paper, computer printouts and plan designs were strewn about the room and piled on desks, consoles and file cabinets. No doubt about it, this is a replica of the X-4. Well, he can duplicate it all he wants, but if he thinks I’ll start it up for him… He pinched his lips, thinking to himself. He’s nuttier than a fruitcake. He’d been lead to this room with a gun to his back, secretly glad that Doc was joining the other held men. At least, he’s out of harm’s way for a while. Damn, that was gruesome to watch. Doc did me proud though...
Dennis had come around the desk, putting Nelson’s neck in a headlock while holding the pistol firmly against his temple. The logic had been lost on Nelson, for if he pulled the trigger, Dennis would never achieve his goal. The idiosyncrasies of the depraved. Nevertheless, the two guards had forced Doc to bend over the desk with an arm pulled behind his back.
Dennis had gloated, "You could stop this Nelson. All you have to do is give me the safe guards you implanted in the software system."
He’d given him a moment to reconsider, but Nelson stoically determined, stood there with a stubborn expression on his face.
Realizing the admiral wasn’t going to yield, Dennis snidely commented, "Well, I guess we’ll have to do this the hard way. Now, a doctor needs his hands in order to practice medicine, especially a physician trained in the trauma field. I assume your CMO is only the best, hmm Nelson?"
At Nelson’s too composed look, Dennis sarcastically ordered, "Snap it!"
The guard ruthlessly pulled Jamison’s left hand up from the side of his body and forced it to the surface of the desk. Holding it in place, he slowly and methodically pulled his left pinkie finger back, until it clearly snapped and splintered.
None of them would ever know what it cost Nelson, standing there feigning control of his emotions. The muffled heartrending sounds, coming from his medical officer, would scar him forever. Doc had almost passed out from the pain, but the guard had kept him conscious by pulling on his thin hair. For effect, the guard had moved over to his ring finger, wrenching it partway back, when Dennis had been summoned out of the office. An argument had taken place in the hallway, with Dennis defiantly exclaiming, "All right! Show them in!" Seconds later, Doc and he had been ordered to separate places, much to the admiral’s relief…
Now, Dennis came boldly into the component room like he held the world in his hands. Nelson thought he seemed like a Branny rooster, strutting his stuff. "I must apologize, Admiral. It seems your car attracted some interest on it’s way here."
"Oh?" asked Nelson, with both hands clenched inside his pockets.
"That was the highway patrol. It seems a certain taxi driver was worried about Mr. Hedison’s health and reported you to the police. That and numerous other concerned drivers on the road. Tsk, tsk, your men need to learn how to drive."
"Humph," echoed Nelson.
"Aren’t you going to ask me what I did with the police officers?"
"I’m sure, you’ll tell me in due time," replied Nelson, pursing his lips. All mad men do.
Thinking Nelson was arrogant and deriving no self-satisfaction from the outwardly composed man, Dennis gloated, "They’re under my spell now and on their way back to the station." Getting no reaction from the admiral except a hand going to his pocket for a cigarette, he barked, "I could’ve killed them!"
Coolly, while lighting the cigarette, Nelson off handedly replied, "Yes, but to what purpose would that serve? You’d have the entire police department down here in minutes when the men didn’t report back." Nelson stood his ground, exhibiting a confidence he didn’t feel, hoping his plan would work. "You’re not as good at mass hypnosis as your brother." Seeing the anger radiating from the younger man, Nelson knew he’d struck gold. "You don’t have the power to hypnotize more than a couple men at a time and keep them under your control." He leisurely took a puff on his cigarette. "How long before the cops snap out of it?" He paused a beat. "That’s what happened to Captain Crane, isn’t it? He’s a strong willed man and his subconscious brought him out of it. He refused to go along with your plans and you had to retaliate." Coldly eyeing the man with blue eyes that could freeze the ocean, Nelson asked. "How many men did it take to bring him down?"
Dennis cruelly preened, "Three and a pistol rearranged his face."
Pain cut him to the core of his being, but Nelson didn’t allow it to sway him from his objective. How badly did you beat him, you bastard? His temper sizzled as he took another puff on his cigarette, belying the effect of his trembling hand. Blowing the smoke out, the admiral goaded him further. "Face it Dennis, you’re weak. You couldn’t control him. You lacked the power to put him back under your spell." He allowed himself to chuckle, adding fuel to the fire. Dennis was ready to blow. Nelson hoped he would. He wanted nothing better than to punch the smug, sanctimonious face. "Come on Dennis, admit it. Lee was stronger than you. You’re not as good as your brother. Now, he had the gift. He had the power to hypnotize an entire submarine full of men, 125 men to be exact. He even had the power to keep us under mass hypnosis when he wasn’t even on board!" Having finished his smoke, Nelson partially snuffed the cigarette out in an ashtray, sitting on a stack of overhanging printouts. He then, threw the butt in a wastepaper basket directly beneath the pile.
Enraged and not paying close attention to Nelson, Dennis hissed, "It no longer matters, Admiral. I have you and I have your men. You’re going to give me the means to make the X-4 work and your captain is going to give me the sequence codes."
Standing with arms akimbo, Nelson was unfazed by Dennis’s threats. "The codes will only work on the proto type. They’re useless anywhere else." The admiral laughed, waving his hand to encompass the room. "You’re out of luck Dennis. This is all for naught. All the magic in the world will not make me give you the means to start this X-4, nor will the codes in Crane’s subconscious work.
With his eyes bulging and his face distorted, Dennis had enough of Nelson’s taunts. He suddenly attacked by knocking Nelson against a computer console, trying to strangle him. A security guard, standing by the door, intently watched as the two men careened around the room each with their hands locked around the others throat. No one noticed the smoking wastebasket until it erupted into flames and ignited the printouts above it.
In the small storage closet outside the machine shop, Capt. Crane pressed his ear up against the metal door, listening for any sound from the other side. Satisfied when he didn’t hear anything, he turned around and consulted his watch. "0930 Break time." Has it only been 2 hours since this nightmare started? He was feeling the effects of the beating he’d taken. When he’d first been dragged into the old paint storage room, he’d been too angry to give in to the pain. Now, the bruises and contusions were effectively making themselves felt. So far, he’d managed to hide the fact from Doc’s knowing eyes.
The left side of his face felt hot and swollen. The laceration had crusted over with blood, only seeping down his face once in awhile. His split lip freely bled each time he moved his mouth, becoming a nuisance more than anything. Doc had loaned him his handkerchief to catch the annoying drips, thus relieving him of using his shirtsleeves. Jamie had told him the color on his face was magnificent and that he didn’t know if his or the XO’s looked worst. I can just imagine what’d he say if he saw the rest of me.
Chip’s condition continued to decline with the XO exhibiting a low-grade temp, rapid pulse, more bouts of vomiting accompanied by periods of restlessness and complaints of a headache. Jamison was beside himself, trying to keep the man still. "Chip, you’ve got to rest."
"No…I’ve got to…to find Lee!"
"Lee, is right here," assured the doctor.
Chip focused long and hard, trying to see his friend. "That man…has an owie on his …cheek…"
Doc Jamison at wits end grumbled, "That man always has an owie on his cheek. If not on his cheek, then somewhere else."
"Then…then you best check...him out. He’s not…he’s hurting…."
"What?" Jamison flashed a set of angry eyes to the tall man at the door, who had stiffened and quickly put his ear against the panel, as if listening for something on the other side. Realization dawned, as Doc heard Chip mumble something about not seeing, but that his hearing was fine. Of course, everyone knows when one of the five human senses are damaged, the others become more powerful.
Lee inadvertently confirmed the CMO’s suspicions by saying, "I’m fine. It must be Sharkey he’s talking about." Doc noticed he’d kept his ear to the door and avoided eye contact. A dead give away.
The chief just shook his head negatively and gave Jamison the basset hound look, confirming Chip’s observation. Doc frowned when he witnessed Sharkey deeply swallowing. "Your mouth still bleeding?"
"A little, sir."
"I see," was all Doc said, not believing for a moment that any of them were up to snuff. I must be losing my touch. Either that, or I’m just distracted because of my own pain. When they’d first fractured his finger, the pain had been excruciating, now an odd tingling numbness controlled the wound, except when he moved his hand. Then the pain came pulsing back to life.
The captain quickly changed the subject. A plan had been forming, in the back of his mind, ever since Sharkey had mentioned the solvent drum.
"How full do you think that drum is out there?"
"Well, sir, it’s hard to tell without taking the lid off. The drum looks old and it sure is messy."
"Messy?" chimed in Chip. "Put’em on report."
"What do you mean, Chief?"
"There are greasy rags piled on the lid and some on the floor. The can has a thick residue all over its sides and most likely all around the circumference. Beggin your pardon, sir, but if that drum was on Seaview, Mr. Morton would be having me for lunch." The skipper actually smirked, causing his lip to bleed again. Sharkey rambled on not noticing. "And further more, the state inspector would have a cow, if he saw all those wooden pallets stacked up behind it. Why, you’d throw me in the brig for sure, if I left Seaview that way."
The men knew what the chief meant. The captain ran a tight ship and Sharkey made sure it was kept that way.
Putting a hand in his pocket, Lee pulled out Doc’s handkerchief mildly surprised to find two. He tucked one in his shirt pocket and wiped his bloody chin with the other. Holding it in place, he asked, "Did any of you see another exit out of the building?"
"I never…saw…my way in," reminded Chip, with a giggle that ended in a moan.
The men gave the XO a sympathetic glance with Doc pressing the man’s head back on his shoulder. "Rest Chip and that’s an order."
"Yes, sir, all…mighty one," weakly quipped the exec, trying to find a comfortable position to sit. There wasn’t one. A wave of dizziness claimed him again aggravating his throbbing head and his cramping stomach.
Doc’s brows snapped together in a grim visage. He didn’t need to elaborate that Chip’s condition was approaching critical.
"Skipper, there’s a fire door on the side of the building. You probably have to go through the machine shop," volunteered Chief Sharkey. "I saw it when I was scouting the building."
"Very well. Do you think, you and Doc can get Mr. Morton outside once I blow the door?"
"Blow the door?" asked Chip dumbfounded.
"Sure, skipper, but how are you going to blow the door? Besides that, how are we going to get by those jokers out there?"
"The jokers will probably beat you outside if my plan works. Chief, light up a cigarette."
"In here?" questioned Sharkey, totally baffled. There could be residue fumes in here and the space is so small. I’m beginning to think the skipper got hit too hard on the noggin. He looked to Doc for confirmation.
Doc just shrugged his shoulders, as Lee took both handkerchiefs, spreading them out on the floor. "Chief?"
"Yes, sir?" asked Sharkey, puzzled by his commander’s actions.
"Don’t question me. Do it!"
"Aye, sir." Sharkey quickly complied, taking out a cigarette and lighting it.
"Give me the lighter and savor the cigarette, Chief."
"Aye, sir," answered Sharkey, handing him the lighter and taking a slow drag on the lit stick. All the men watched as Crane laid it on top of the handkerchiefs and smashed the plastic lighter with the heel of his shoe. A loud pop was heard in the tiny room. The skipper carefully poured the fluid out over the hankies. When the lighter was empty, he wadded up the linens, so that the fluid would soak through the bloody cloth as much as possible.
"All right, Doc get Chip over in the corner and both of you be prepared to move. Sharkey give me that cigarette." Both men did as bid, carefully moving the exec over to the far wall. The XO, who’d almost been a sleep moaned at the sudden movement. "Easy Chip, hopefully this will be over soon," comforted Doc.
Lee, holding the cigarette between his lips, flattened both handkerchiefs and slid them through the half-inch under the door. When he pushed the linen as far under his fingers allowed, he took the cigarette and lit the lighter soaked cloths. "I hope this works," he murmured, quickly leaning over the men, huddling on the other side of the tiny room.
Seconds ticked by followed by more anxious seconds. Is it going to work? Did the flame go out? Were the cloths too damp? Will the flammable film on the floor light? Will the old chair burn? What’s taking it so…
The room shook and the noise was deafening. Crane leaped over to the door, burning his hands when he found the metal door already hot. They all could hear excited voices, coughing, crackling flames, smells of smoke and the fire alarm going off throughout the building. Lee reluctantly started for the knob, knowing it was hot, but there was no time to debate the issue. They had to get out of there now!
Squatting, he shouted last moment instructions over his shoulder. "Get Chip out of here! I’m going to find the admiral!" Not waiting for a confirmation of his orders, Lee reached for the doorknob, when a jacket suddenly fell on top of his arm.
Jamison yelled, "Use this!"
Grateful for the coat and that, at least, one of them was thinking, Lee wrapped a sleeve around the hot knob. He could feel the heat through the material as he slowly opened the door. The corridor was dark with bellowing, lung searing smoke. The heat held him back, forcing him to put up an arm against it. Quickly taking stock of the layout, he found the whole back of the building in flames. The force of the explosion apparently found some highly combustible materials. I wonder why the sprinkler system isn’t working? Surprisingly, the fire door to the tiny closet held. The chair, which blocked their path, was furiously burning a few feet away.
Crouching low to the floor, trying to protect their faces with their Navy jackets over their heads, the men moved out. Lee had thrown his jacket over Chip, as they left the closet. Jamison tightly gripped the XO’s arm as Sharkey led them towards the brightly, blinking emergency exit sign by the machine shop door. The skipper left them at this point to head further down the hall. Immediately heading in, the men found their captain had been correct. The jokers had abandoned the building, once finding the fire was beyond their control. Coughing from the smoke and eyes watering from the heat, the Seaview men, staying low to the ground made their way to the outside door.
Barely able to see through the dense, choking smoke, Lee negotiated his way past the emergency exit sign and down the long hall by feel alone. He could feel the heat searing his back and kept a hand clamped tightly over his nose and mouth, breathing in only short gasps of smoke filled air. By the time he found the exit door to the offices of the building, his lungs were burning with the need to cough. Bursting through the door with fists raised and half expecting to be apprehended, Lee found the hallway oddly silent. Fighting the urge to clear his lungs, he smothered the coughs the best he could. Creeping down the hallway past darkened offices, the captain headed towards the front.
Meanwhile, Admiral Nelson was waging a one-man battle against two men. The fire in the wastebasket quickly consumed the paper products strewn about the room. The smoke and heat immediately trigged the automated fire control system. A flashing red beacon blinked with an automated voice announcing they had thirty seconds to clear the room before the oxygen would be vacuumed from the area.
The admiral karate-chopped Dennis on both sides of the neck breaking his hold from around his own neck. Free from Dennis, Nelson made a break for the door only to have the guard, rush him. Nelson slammed his fist into the man’s solid chin, knocking him to the floor. Almost reaching the door, Dennis jumped him from behind, putting a chokehold around his neck. The remaining guard got up from the floor and came towards him again with a menacing look on his face. Nelson kicked out, using all of his strength, catching the man in his chest and knocking him down. Excruciating pain shot from the ball of his foot up into his calf. Ignoring the vibrating pain shooting through his leg, the admiral elbowed Dennis in the ribs, breaking his hold, then flipped him over his shoulder.
Lee made the scene just as the guard was regaining his feet and pulling out his gun. Coming through the open glass door, the captain grabbed the man from behind, forcing him to fire the gun into the ceiling. The bullet ricocheted off the warning light housing and struck Dennis in the head. The man’s eyes rolled back and he collapsed on the floor, as his life’s blood seeped out around him. The guard struggled to get free, but Crane filled with angry adrenalin, subdued him with a right upper hook to the jaw. The man crashed to the floor.
Breathing hard from the fight and coughing from the acrid smoke, Nelson with Crane, grabbed the stunned guard’s wrists, pulling him out into the hallway. The screeching alarm changed pitch and the door to the component room automatically slammed shut. Instantly, a rushing sound was heard, making the door rattle, as the automated alarm system sucked the oxygen from the room.
Leaning against the corridor wall, Lee asked, "You all right?"
Nelson solemnly nodded affirmative. "You?" His stomach did a flip at the sight of Lee’s garishly lacerated cheek and split-lip.
"I’m fine." Lee belayed the effect of that statement by wiping his sleeve over his bloody chin.
Nelson didn’t know if he should be anxious or relieved. Instead, he agreed. "Good. Let’s move!"
Bending down to help the security guard, who was climbing to his feet, Crane found himself knocked aside, as the burley man elbowed him in his sore ribs. Yanking himself free of the admiral’s hold, the frightened man pushed Nelson to the floor and took off down the smoky hallway.
Pain exploded in Nelson’s leg, already inflamed from the kick he’d dealt the guard during the fight. Gritting his teeth, he started to get up when a sweating Crane assisted him to his feet. Nelson could see, through the dim red, muted light, the strain on the younger man’s face as he helped him up. Recalling Dennis’s boast, Nelson wondered how severely Crane was injured.
Having no time to exchange niceties, for it was becoming increasingly hard to breath through the thickening smoke, the men started off. Much to his chagrin, Nelson found his ankle wouldn’t cooperate. Reeling from the pain, he would’ve fallen again, except for the steadying hand of his captain.
Lee, seeing the older man’s unspoken distress, quickly wrapped an arm around the admiral’s back, while Nelson grabbed onto the back of Lee’s shoulder. Together, they hurried down the hall towards the front of the building.
The fire, from the rear of the building, quickly spread and the men were amazed at the intensity of the heat. They were just making it past Dennis’s office, when an explosion in back knocked them flat on their bellies. They could hear glass breaking, equipment falling, the roar of the increasing flames and screech of the fire alarm, as it went to its highest octave. Coming to their knees, they witnessed the back wall of Dennis office, beginning to crumble. The paint blistered, peeled and then the wall just melted away. Toxic black smoke rolled through the penetrated firewall into the front part of the building.
Knowing they only had seconds before the heat and smoke would devour them, they stayed on hands and knees, crawling towards the front doors. It was tough going through the blinding smoke. They steadily worked their way along by feeling the warm carpet beneath their hands and knees. To their horror, the glue beneath the carpet began to disintegrate from the monstrous heat. Both men had heard stories of fire victims having they’re shoes melted into their feet and wondered if they were about to witness it first hand. Nelson crashed into the receptionist’s desk, with Crane coughing hard behind him. Only a few feet to the right was the front door. Can we make it?
Nelson took a shallow breath of smoke filled air. It wasn’t real thick at floor level. Smoker’s lungs, are they benefiting me? Still though, he had to be careful, toxins tended to stay low to the ground. Listening to Lee’s deep wracking coughs, he knew time had run out. They needed air now. Grasping his captain’s arm, Nelson pulled him forward towards the door. Lee went with him and they soon came across a prone body two feet from the door. The guard?
Nelson felt for a pulse and found none. Shaking his head negatively, he nudged Lee to the door where the captain heavily collapsed against it. Pushing on the door, Nelson found it wouldn’t budge. "Locked." He briefly recalled Dennis’s secretary locking the door on her way out. "Damn!"
Crane’s coughs were growing weaker and Nelson could hear him struggling to draw in breath. In the thickening smoke, the admiral searched frantically for something…anything that would break the window. He could see through the smoke filmed glass of the door, red-flashing lights on the outside. So close, but so far. He began to pound on the door.
Coughing heavily, Doc Jamison and Chief Sharkey exited the fire door leading a dazed Chip Morton into the parking lot where they quickly made their way unimpeded to the front of the building. People started to gather watching the fire as it belched black smoke into the atmosphere. Sirens echoed from afar, racing, they hoped, to the scene. To their surprise, most of the security people had fled on foot or taken off in their cars. Doc sat Chip down in the front seat of the car with his legs dangling out the side, while both men coughed and struggled to clear their lungs. Meanwhile, in fear for his commander’s lives, Sharkey went to the front door of the building. To his consternation, he found it locked. Pulling futilely on the door, he soon gave up and yanked the car keys out of his pocket. Ignoring his heaving lungs, the chief went to the trunk of the car and started rummaging for a crowbar, finding a jack instead. While heading back to the main entrance, a fire truck pulled into the parking lot with lights flashing.
As the siren’s echo died away, the chief ran up to the truck yelling, "Get the lead out, we’ve got men trapped inside!" To his annoyance, a long spate of coughing followed the explanation.
A fireman in a white hat came scrambling out the front door of the truck shouting, "How many?"
Suited men were putting on oxygen tanks with helmets, while others unloaded hoses. Another man was handing out fire axes and picks when an explosion rent the air from the back of the building. Great puffs of dark, bellowing smoke climbed into the sky amidst flames shooting high into the air. The building and ground shook as burned partials rained down upon them, forcing the men to the ground.
Sharkey screamed through the earth shattering noise. "Three at least! Our admiral, captain and Mr. Dennis," cough, cough, "I don’t know how many people Dennis had working with him!" Getting to his feet, the chief noticed the firemen went back to work without missing a beat. A ladder truck arrived on the scene and more men bailed out. More hoses were unwound, as the giant ladder inched over the burning building. A couple of firemen scrambled up the ladder with a hose, water soon sprayed the top of the smoking factory. "The building was pretty vacant when we exited, but with the thick smoke, it’s too hard to tell if all the workers got out."
A police car and fire rescue squad pulled up as the fire chief asked Sharkey, "Are those your men there?" He was pointing to Doc and Mr. Morton, who were just getting back on their feet from beside the car.
"Yes, sir. That’s our sub’s doctor and our exec. He’s in a bad way and needs an ambulance."
The fire chief immediately started issuing orders, while filling in the police officers and fire captains at the same time. A paramedic and an emergency medical technician, with their equipment, ran over to Mr. Morton. While a fireman with an ax headed for the front door, the police started crowd control duty. More vehicles pulled up, carrying men in plain suits full of authority. In his anxiety for the admiral and captain, Sharkey gave them very little notice.
A moment later, the fireman with the ax yelled, "Someone’s pounding on the door!"
Sharkey, wasting no time, ran up to the door beside the ax-welding man. He could feel the mist from the spray filtering down from above, while his lungs felt like they were going to give out. A couple more firemen were right beside him.
Sharkey moved out of harm’s way, noticing Nelson covering an unconscious Crane with his body. The ax cracked the glass with one cleave. Another hit and the glass shattered into hundreds of shards, splintering and showering the men inside. The fireman quickly, ran the ax around the frame of the door knocking out any remaining jagged pieces.
Without thought, Sharkey dropped the jack, then reached in with the aid of the fire fighter and yanked his admiral out by the arms, oblivious to his moan of pain. Two other firefighters reached for Nelson, half carrying and half dragging him to a safe distance from the fire. Not giving up his position, the chief again reached in for his fallen captain. Wrapping an arm around his narrow waist, he pulled him towards him, glad when he heard him cough.
"He’s still alive!"
Fresh oxygen added fuel to the fire, as choking smoke swirled out the door. Having no time to be careful, Sharkey lifted the too still captain over his shoulder and hurried to a safe place beside Nelson. The medical firemen carried a grumbling Mr. Morton, in full C-spine precautions, to the curb across the street and away from the furiously burning building. The ax-welding fireman, right behind Sharkey, brought the unconscious guard to the scene. Immediately, the paramedic started CPR as a first responder bagged him with a portable hand-held respirator. Having identified himself as a doctor, Jamison felt ethically and morally bound to lend assistance with all of the downed men, though technically, the paramedic was in charge of the scene. Doc established an IV and administered the appropriate medicine carried in the EMT’s drug box.
While Doc helped with the full respiratory arrest victim, another fireman quickly applied an oxygen mask to Crane’s face. The EMT took his vitals and did a physical assessment of his body, checking Lee’s extremities for any obvious broken bones. Seeing his shirt caked with blood up by the shoulder and collar, along with splotches of red covering the front, the EMT ripped the filthy garment opened to the waist. Looking for some kind of an open wound, the EMT was surprised to find massive bruising to his lean ribs and abdominal area. Curious, the fireman asked, as he carefully skimmed the bruised areas with skilled fingers, applying enough pressure to feel for any fractured splinters. "You guys in a fight or something?"
"You could say that," choked out the man with four stars.
Tapping gently on the purple bruises surrounding the captain’s stomach and spleen, the EMT nodded as Lee moaned low in his unconscious state. Looking over to the man beside him, administering CPR to the guard, the EMT, being an ex-Navy man himself, spied the insignia on Jamison’s shirt collar. "Doc, you’d better take a look at this."
Unbending from a crouched position, Jamison had done all he could do for the security guard. Seeing the paramedic had things well in hand, he crossed over to his skipper. Doc repeated the exam the EMT had just done, eliciting a cry from his patient, as he tapped over his spleen.
In a hushed tone, the EMT asked, "Do you think it’s ruptured?"
"Hmm, no, the signs aren’t all there. It’s not distended, enlarged or soft. My guess is it’s just badly bruised. Of course, once we’re in ER, a splenoportography will have to be done to rule out a bleed."
Overhearing the entire conversation, "A what?" wheezed an anxious Sharkey, wringing his hands.
"It’s a radiography of the spleen." Still seeing his confusion, Jamison added, "They inject a radiopaque contrast dye into the spleen and shoot pictures…" Turning to the EMT, "It wouldn’t hurt to start an IV."
"EMT’s aren’t allowed to start IV’s, sir."
"Okay, you get the stuff and I’ll start it. Your partner already knows I’m fully trained in emergency medicine."
"Yes, sir." The EMT went over to where the paramedic was and Doc heard him asking permission to get an IV start kit.
Rubbing his forehead, Doc critically examined his captain not liking his flushed skin tone. Bringing his head up, he saw Sharkey sway. A fireman, holding a portable oxygen tank and mask, grabbed the chief and led him to a place beside Mr. Morton.
Chip was totally unhappy with the very uncomfortable stiff, plastic C-collar and the cervical immobilization devices blocking what little he could see. On top of that, he felt helpless strapped tightly to the board. An IV had been started, much to his protests and an oxygen mask was over his face. Only seeing double at the best of times and the mask giving him a closed in feeling, he yelled, "Get this tape… off… my forehead…and….this….this…thing off my…faa…ce!" A wide piece of surgical tape held his head in place on the backboard.
Hearing his muffled shouts, Sharkey, sitting between the admiral and exec, breathing into his own oxygen mask, tried to comfort him. "Easy, Mr. Morton. It’s only for a little while."
"Until we get you to the hospital."
"No!" ranted the XO. "I’ve got to find…find Lee!"
"The skipper is right here, Mr. Morton," reassured the chief, stealing a quick glance at the captain, reassuring himself that his commander was being taken care of.
The captain moaned, beginning to awaken. A cough was periodically heard. Doc inserted a 20gage needle into Lee’s arm. Pulling off the hub at the end of the catheter, he wiggled the hard needle for a blood return. Once that was evident, Doc pulled the stiff needle out, dropping it to the ground, leaving a slender floppy catheter in place. Next, he hooked up the plastic tubing to the catheter and IV bag, setting the drips and handing the IV bag containing glucose mixed in a normal saline solution to the waiting EMT. Leaving the medic to tape the IV in place, Jamison swiveled his knees around to Nelson’s side.
"Who’s…..who…is Mor…ton?" asked Chip, running out of steam.
His brow creased, Doc exchanged a brief look with his chief. A fireman hovered in the background, occasionally checking the oxygen flow and the men. Turning back to Nelson, Jamison noticed the knowledgeable blue eyes mirrored his own concern. The admiral, also seated, freely coughed now as he gulped in clean air. His throat was raw from the smoke and felt swollen from Dennis’s near strangulation. Much to his dismay, spying the bruises around his neck, Jamison examined it, ordering a C-collar to be put in place.
"You hurt anywhere else, Admiral?" asked Doc, giving him the once over. He immediately discovered the 1st degree burns on his hands and noticed the dark smudges on his knees. He glanced over to the stirring captain and found him with the same type burns. Blast, as if they’d volunteer any information.
Seeing his CMO’s ticked off countenance, Nelson volunteered, "I think I sprained my ankle." He pulled up his pant leg to reveal the swollen, bruised limb.
More shocked that he got a straight answer than the injury itself, Jamison hid his surprise. Just when I think I know them, I find out I don’t know them at all. To the admiral, he gave a low whistle. "That’s a dandy all right. How’d you do it?"
"I kicked the guard there," he pointed with his thumb towards the downed security man. Bringing a hand to his neck and rubbing it, he continued, "Doc, he gave me no choice. I had to get out of the component room. The entire room was going up in flames. If Lee hadn’t come along when he did, you’d be spreading my ashes over the Pacific."
Chip started a ditty, "Ashes, ashes….we…all fall down."
"It’s all right, Admiral. I’m not judging you."
Leaving the men on their own for a few moments, the CMO went back over and checked on the CPR patient. Crouching, Jamison sadly shook his head, knowing it was only procedure demanding that they continue. The man’s pupils were blown, his color was bluish and Doc could find no pulses in his jugular, heart or groin. The monitor displayed asystole, virtually a cardiac standstill, but they still couldn’t call it until the patient was taken to an emergency room.
Lee opened his hazel eyes to a fireman holding a bag of IV fluid high in his hand. To his growing bewilderment, he realized it was attached to his own arm. "Oh, no," he croaked out his raw throat, futilely pulling at the tape on his extended wrist. Jamison leaned down, grabbing his straying hand and gently held it to his side.
"Sorry, Skipper, but this is just a precaution. We…ah, don’t know the full extent of your injuries yet." He got a scowl from the captain, pushing the mask off his face, in spite of the IV. His heart skipped a beat when Lee asked, "Where am I?" A spate of coughing ensued as his lungs tried cleansing themselves of the smoke and toxins. Jamison pulled the mask back down on his face, adjusted the liters of oxygen and helped the struggling man to a sitting position.
Doc gingerly asked, "You mean, you don’t know?"
Lee, confused and hurting all over from his injuries, snapped, "Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. How’d I get out here?" He watched the EMT handing Doc the bag of IV fluid, then turn to exchange places with his exhausted partner. Who’s on the ground? He weakly leaned over, bracing on one elbow as he stretched his neck, trying to see through the men.
"Sharkey rescued you."
Lee, distracted by the EMTs working on the man next to him, didn’t answer. Swinging his eyes back to Jamison’s grim face and with growing trepidation, he fearfully asked, "The admiral? Chip?"
A hand squeezed his shoulder, making him jump and a shaky, sonorous voice replied, "Right here, Lee."
The captain whipped his head around to look behind him. Doc actually caught himself, wincing at the skipper’s instant flash of pain. Momentarily forgetting his injuries, Lee carefully viewed Nelson’s stern, ruddy features with the knowing twinkle shining from his wise, blue eyes. Then in turn, he studied Sharkey and Chip, still singing a nursery rhyme. Verbally sighing in relief and deeply coughing with ill, disguised agony, the flushed, dark haired man gave a lop-sided grin. Fresh blood made its way down his chin from his split-lip. Nonplussed, he reached up and swiped it with his shirtsleeve.
An age-old question was asked by the admiral, "You, all right?" To which he received an equally old answer, "I’m fine!"
Doc just shook his head and Sharkey rolled his eyes. Chip asked, "Who’s fine?"
Shouts were suddenly heard. "Evacuate the building! Retreat! She’s going to go! Everybody back! Clear the area!" The firemen temporarily abandoned their positions and the ladder crew came sliding down. Men in full firefighting gear came racing out of the building, heading towards the men resting across the street on the curb. Policeman rushed to move the growing crowd back from the massive burning hulk.
The men all dove for cover with the chief covering Mr. Morton.
The building collapsed with a great crash of noise, dust and flying debris, covering them. The heat from the fire was clearly felt, smoke puffed in great clouds blotting out the morning sun, as the firemen beat back the flames with hoses turned on full. The crowd gasped with "Ooh’s" and "Aah’s" while sirens in the background wailed, coming closer.
The men sat up, dusting themselves off the best they could. Dirt caked in their hair, in their ears, in every crevice of their clothes. The oxygen masks had protected their faces, except Doc’s who hadn’t donned one yet. Feeling unexplainably dizzy with pinpoints of light dancing in the air, his lungs burning with the need for fresh oxygen and his fractured finger beating in time to the drum in his head, Jamison slumped to the ground.
Simultaneously, three pairs of hands from the Seaview men lent assistance, tenderly turning the medical man over. Crane supported his head on his thigh, while Nelson loosened his tie and wiped the dust off his face with a grimy hand. Sharkey gave a wail and the paramedic quickly dashed over to the stricken man’s side. Placing an oxygen mask over the doctor’s cherry red face, the medic started the oxygen at 100 %. The medic did a fast examination, asking questions of the semi conscious doctor turned patient.
Doc, feeling sheepish at finding himself in this position, shook his head affirmatively. He felt the blood pressure cuff squeezing his arm as the paramedic pumped it up. A cold disc was slipped under the cuff and he waited as the medic listened for the telling beeps.
Much to Jamison’s discomfort, the three silent Seaview men attentively waited with bated breaths and long faces. I can just imagine what they are thinking. Adm. Nelson is probably going to reprimand me for not heeding my own advice. I should have put the oxygen mask on when the men did. Well, hell, I had five patients to oversee. There just wasn’t time. He shot a glimpse at his skipper’s serious face. Oh, boy, I wonder if he’ll make me clean the bilges? Doc turned his head away from the men and stared at Chip, who was drowsily fighting to stay awake. It’s a good thing Chip’s not on his feet. He’d probably force me to eat Jello. And Sharkey? He bore the stoic chief a quick peek from under half, closed eyes. Blast! He’s got that lost puppy dog expression…Humph Underneath his poised exterior, Doc felt unaccountably apprehensive, but deep in his heart he felt wonderfully warm.
The paramedic announced the pressure while taking the stethoscope out of his ears and wrapping it around his neck. "122 / 85. You’re tacking a little fast at 92." A moment later the air was let out the rest of the way and the device removed.
"Ears ringing? Temples throbbing? Headache?"
Jamison gave a positive shake of his head. Trying to sit up, the paramedic countermanded, "Whoa, Doc, it’s best you stay still." Seeing he was going to protest, the fireman grinned, asking, "Are you guys always this stubborn?"
"Only when they’re in sickbay," murmured Sharkey, low under his breath.
Ignoring his chief’s sarcasm, the admiral summed up what the medical man didn’t say. "Carbon monoxide poisoning?"
A curt nod was given followed by, "He’ll be all right once the oxygen gets into his system." Three men exhaled, one with a cough in sweet relief.
A short, brown haired man with cold brown eyes, dressed in a nondescript brown suit, stepped up to Adm. Nelson, flashing a badge. "George Peoples, CIA. I’d like to ask you some questions, sir."
Two ambulances arrived on scene, screeching to a halt, followed by the county’s mobile intensive care ambulance. Receiving reports from the fire personnel, as they did their own assessments on each patient, the ambulance paramedics took over the medical aspect of the fire scene.
The pace sped up with the newcomers going about their business. The MIC unit crew immediately loaded the stricken security guard with CPR still in progress and headed to the nearest emergency room with sirens screaming.
The CIA agent listened to Nelson’s story as the paramedics got the men ready to transport. They back boarded Capt. Crane much to his disgust and protests.
"Oh come on guys, I don’t need this!" wheezed the skipper. "Have a heart!"
"Sorry, sir, but it’s protocol. You have blunt trauma to your ribs and abdomen. We have to use C-spine precautions until we get you get to the hospital. They’ll X-ray you there and if they find nothing wrong, they’ll let you off the board."
"But, I’m fine! I just took a couple of punches." At the medic’s uncompromising expression, Crane added, "All right, a few punches, but I’m…" Lee’s voice trailed off as the paramedic’s wheeled him towards the waiting ambulance, where he joined Mr. Morton already loaded in the rig. The doors were slammed shut by a fireman and the vehicle took off.
Nelson’s ankle and leg were put in a soft-splinted immobilizer. Then he was lifted onto a gurney and placed in the rig. Sharkey joined him, holding an icepack to his swollen jaw and sitting on the built in bench next to the paramedic, holding a metallic, oblong, silver colored box filled with paperwork. Pulling out three blank charts, the paramedic soon transferred the information written by the fire EMT to his run sheet. In no time at all, he gathered all the pertinent information such as name, birth date, address and social security numbers, regarding each man.
Nelson interrupted by stating, "Bill it as a work comp claim to the Nelson Institute in Santa Barbara."
Doc received the honor of sitting in the front seat of the ambulance, for the ride to the nearest trauma center. Still hooked up to an oxygen mask and tank, Doc decided it would’ve been an interesting perspective, if they weren’t all injured. The ambulance driver took off at normal speed with lights blazing, but no siren. Jamison heard the radio chatter from the other ambulance reporting in with a priority 2 to the designated emergency room. He knew each hospital had its own channel for reporting and receiving. The report ended and it was their turn. The paramedic in back called over his portable radio.
"St Luke’s ER. St Luke’s ER, MAS, Alpha 22, priority 3 inbound. How do you copy?"
"MAS?" mouthed Doc to the EMT driver.
"Mercy Ambulance Service, the name of our ambulance company," was his reply.
"St Luke’s Emergency Care Center. Nurse Spencer, RN. Go ahead."
"Good morning, Alpha 22, Miller and Salzburg reporting. We arrived on scene to find 3 of 5 males sitting on a curb, victims of a fire and prior altercation. 1st patient is a 53-year-old man, who complains of smoke inhalation, presently on O2 with oxygen saturation of 94 percent. He has 1st degree burns to bilateral hands and knees. His right ankle is bruised with swelling, extending into the calf of the leg. Along with that, he has deep contusions on the neck from an alleged assault and is presently in a C-collar. Stats are..."
Each man’s condition and vitals were listed. The nurse taking the information asked a few routine questions and at the end of the exchange she inquired, "What’s your ETA?"
"About 3 to 4 minutes."
"Okay, we’ll see you in 3 to 4. Keep us updated on any changes. Room assignment upon arrival."
Traffic flowed smoothly and the ambulance made all the lights. Before long, they were pulling up beside another rig on the hospital’s ramp. Will Jamison got a bird’s eye view of the other crew, unloading his skipper and wheeling him in to the emergency center.
Doc and Sharkey accompanied the paramedics as they wheeled the admiral into the emergency room on the gurney. Mild surprise met Jamison’s eyes at the size of the center. Upon their entrance, they first noticed a long, narrow counter with two unit secretaries sitting behind it, keying in various orders into their computers. On either side of this desk were the nurse’s stations where a few nurses, dressed in colorful scrubs, sat charting. Behind the secretaries was a dimly lit, glass-enclosed room. A long desk with open overhead shelves and fluorescent lights attached under them ran the length of the room. Various thick books filled the overheads. Patient charts with sheets of white and pink paper attached to a red or yellow clipboard, lay on the desk amongst the dictation phones and communication devices. Writing orders, two residents in blue scrubs conferred with a doctor, also dressed in scrubs and a white lab coat. An X-Ray of a set of lungs could be seen on the micro-fish machine in one corner, with a computer tucked in beside it on the counter. This was clearly the ER physician’s domain.
A perky blonde nurse, dressed in an aqua scrubs, who Doc guessed was in charge, pleasantly greeted the men. "Hi guys! Room 18 in the Ortho Section, please."
Familiar with the emergency room layout, the ambulance crew led the way while pushing Adm. Nelson with Doc and Sharkey following beside them. Passing the nurse’s station on the left and the three trauma rooms on the right, they heard the indignant voice of the captain growling, "I can undress myself if you’d just let me off this backboard!"
The Seaview men didn’t know who to feel more sorry for, the captain or the medical team taking care of him.
In the next room, Chip’s voice seesawed out, "Where am I?"
Doc veered off in the directions of his commanders, when a hand from the paramedic grasped his elbow. "This way Doc. You can see to your men later, after the emergency room doc examines you." Reluctantly, he allowed the men to guide him past the last trauma room, catching a glimpse of the security guard through a partially opened curtain. He was lying naked on the examination table with a towel covering his masculinity and a monitor flat-lining overhead. The trauma team surrounded him with a nurse standing on a short flat stool, doing compressions on his chest. "Call it," was heard through the curtain and Doc looked automatically at his watch.
They turned a corner to the left, heading towards the back of the department. "This place is like a maze," exclaimed Sharkey, as they passed a row of rooms out-lining the building. Each room was filled with monitors, a headboard consisting of an oxygen setup, a bio container, switches, tubing and other medical gadgets. They by-passed a hallway that lead to the other side of the mammoth department, turning down the next one. To one side the closed doors were labeled overhead with signs that read, EKG, XRAY, RESPIRATORY, LINEN ROOM and EMPLOYEE’S LOUNGE. Further down the corridor, a set of closed green, double doors read FAST TRACK.
Patients in rooms and people in the halls stared at the men as they made their way along. A few wrinkled their noses or looked disgustedly at their filthy appearance. The medical people knew what was going down and smiled encouragingly at the exhausted men. But the public, forever curious and not used to dealing with all the situations presented in an emergency room, murmured words as the quiet group passed them by.
" Fire victims."
" I wonder what burned?"
Sharkey growled low in his throat, muttering under his breath, "What do they think we are? A three ring circus?"
The men made one more left and found themselves in a wide room with four beds, facing each other. The ambulance crew transferred Nelson to a hospital cart as they reported off to the nurse in attendance. After they were through, the paramedics wished the Seaview men luck and departed the scene.
"My name is Jerry and I’m going to be taking care of you," said the male nurse. He was tall, tan, balding and in his forties. "Now the first thing we’re going to do is have you all change into a hospital gown. Then, we’ll have a look at your various injuries, get you cleaned up and on the road to recovery." He bent over pulling out three blue gowns from under the cupboard at the head of the room. He handed a gown each to Doc and the chief, stating "Everything off except your shorts. The gown ties in the back." Grudgingly, the men took the gowns as Jerry pulled the curtains around the beds.
Next, he turned to the Nelson, "Sir, I think with this C-collar and leg immobilizer, you’re going to need a little help." Walking over to the gurney, he pulled the curtain and soon had the admiral dressed in the hospital gown and sitting up in bed with a sheet draped over his lower half.
Once the men were settled comfortably on the hospital gurneys, Jerry picked up three sets of charts with their names on it from off the counter. During the time the men were exchanging their clothes for gowns, the ambulance personnel had given their information to the registration clerk, who processed the paperwork, and silently laid it on top of the linen storage cabinet.
Having made a quiet assessment of each man, he announced, "Okay, now the fun begins." The Seaview men gave him a solemn look. Sitting down on a short, black rolling stool and pulling up the portable bed table, he simply stated, "Paperwork." He got a grin from the men breaking the ice. "Admiral, we’ll start with you. Are you allergic to any medicines?"
The nurse noted it on his chart. "What does it do when you take it?"
"It plays havoc with my mind."
"In what way?"
"It makes me feel persecuted, resentful and angry."
The nurse wrote down ‘paranoia.’
"Do you smoke?"
The appropriate box was checked followed by, "Cigarettes, cigars and how many?"
"Mainly cigarettes, about a pack a day. I like a good cigar once in a while."
The nurse grinned, "Don’t we all."
The admiral smirked plainly seeing the pack of cigarettes outlined in the nurse’s scrub pocket. Hmm, they’re no different than we are, the stresses of work and responsibilities.
The questions went on to each man.
"Do you drink?"
The chief answered with a half-cocked smile. "What sailor doesn’t?"
Jerry grinned. "How much, Chief?"
Sharkey gave the nurse a raised brow in question.
"Once a day? A week? Occasionally?"
"Well, that all depends…can’t drink on the boat, but once in port." He shrugged his shoulders in a helpless gesture. " I’ve been known to tie one on while on shore leave."
"I’ll put occasional. Any illicit drugs, Chief?"
"You mean street drugs?" The nurse nodded yes. "Never in my life, sir," proudly stated Sharkey.
"Good to hear it, chief. You’d be surprised to what people admit to when they’re here," stated Jerry, flipping over the chart. "Now, I need a complete physical history. Current medications?"
The chief gave a lop-sided grin, in spite of his swollen, purple jaw.
"Other than the obvious smoke inhalation and bruised jaw, chief. Any cuts on the inside of your mouth?"
"Ah…couple small ones, sir."
They heard a "Humph," from Doc Jamison.
"Open your mouth, Chief. Let’s have a look," ordered the nurse, taking out a tongue depressor from the overhead cupboard. A quick inspection and a moment later he wrote, two cm laceration left cheek, one cm gum line. "I see you bit your tongue. Any loose teeth?"
A sigh was expelled, "Yes, sir."
"Your breathing sounds a little rough. How are your ribs?"
Jerry put his stethoscope into his ears, getting up from the stool he leaned over the bed, putting the disc on Sharkey’s back. "Breath normal, chief." Efficiently, he moved the listening device around pausing a moment on his lower back. Satisfied, he asked, "How many punches did you take?"
Embarrassed, the chief replied, "A couple, sir."
A clearing of the throat was heard from Doc.
"All right," grumped Sharkey, "A few. They decked me a good one when they put the gun to Mr. Morton’s head. Up until that time…I was winning."
"I bet you were," replied Jerry, amazed. He was almost afraid to ask the next question. "Any past injuries, surgeries, hospitalizations?" The admiral’s list of prior injures had filled a page.
Modestly, the chief looked down inspecting a piece of lint on his blanket. "A couple of bullet wounds to the shoulder and once some internal injures when I fell on top of a guy holding a grenade."
Hiding his surprise, the nurse asked, writing down the medical history, "Anything else?"
"Hmm, now that you mention it, I broke my ankle when the Admiral and I crash landed on a dinosaur island." The nurse’s head snapped up and sharp coughing came from the admiral, prompting Jerry’s attention. He quickly went over to the man and adjusted his oxygen flow, asking if he was all right, as he did a respiratory check with his stethoscope.
Nelson nodded while coughing up some black substance, which he quickly spit into a mauve basin. Jerry took the container and rinsed it out, handing it back to the man. Going back to the chief, he asked, "Now, what did you say about a dinosaur?"
Another cough was heard and the nurse got the point. "Let me guess, the experience is classified?"
"Humph," was his answer.
The same questions were proposed to Jamie, but the physical history was less colorful. "Nothing much happens to a sub’s doctor," confessed Jamison. Unless you include an alien from outer space or a creature from the sea, taking over your body. Maybe a couple of wild punches from a momentarily deranged crew member. He vaguely shook his head of the memories.
A tall, ruggedly built man in dark navy blue scrubs, walked into the room. Excluding an air of dignified confidence, he left no doubts in each man’s mind; this was the emergency room physician in charge. The salt and peppered hair man, in his early fifties, stepped over to the counter, picking up a green clipboard containing a patient’s chart.
"Harriman Nelson?" his rich baritone voice rang out. Upon recognizing the redheaded man, in the blue hospital gown, he amended, "Admiral Harriman Nelson. It’s been a long time since I last seen you, sir." He extended his hand for a handshake, only to stop when he noticed the burns on the palms. "Dr. Michael Satonic. Please forgive me for not shaking your hand, but I don’t want to cause you further injury."
Recalling his old academy classmate with a fond beatific smile, Nelson nodded his head in greeting, lifting his scorched hands off the sheet. With the doctor critically inspecting his palms, the admiral replied, "Good to see you too, Mike. The last time I heard, you were on a carrier somewhere out in the Pacific."
As he took the C-collar off the admiral’s neck, the physician commanded, "Sit up straight, Harry." Nelson did as bid, feeling the knowledgeable hands exploring his neck. "We were stationed off of Nam for a few months. I finished out my thirty years on the east coast, retired and took a position here, in the emergency room." The admiral stiffened when he ran his fingers over a tender spot. "You’ve got some nasty contusions here, Harry. Any trouble swallowing?"
"Not really, my throat just feels raw. I don’t know if it’s from the smoke or near strangulation."
"Swallow for me."
Nelson did, pain contorting his face.
Replacing the uncomfortable C-collar, much to Nelson’s disgust, Dr. Satonic asked, "Can you tell me what happened?"
"Hmm, only that I was in one hell of a fight and then a fire."
Jerry, having finished his initial assessment on the other two men, came up to the gurney on the other side. The emergency room doctor began removing the soft-splint off Nelson’s leg.
"All right, Harry, I want you to sit back and relax. Jerry, put some Silvadine cream on his hands."
The nurse distracted the patient by pulling out the requested tube, unscrewing the cap and squirting the white cream onto the palm of the admiral’s hands. Dr. Satonic gently lifted the swollen, purple ankle up by the calf. Squeezing and getting an expected moan of pain from his friend, he watched as the tendon retracted, moving the foot up and down. "Sorry, sir, but I have to see what we’re dealing with here."
A groan was his answer through clenched teeth.
Moving down to the end of the bed, grasping his foot, the doctor next ordered, "Push with the ball of your foot, Harry." The admiral flexed it as far as he could with beads of sweat popping out on his forehead. "What did you hit your foot against?" Pressing a thumb to the top of his foot, he watched the capillary refill, and then counted the pulses.
A stalled moment passed and Nelson croaked out, "The guard." A few seconds went by and he hesitantly inquired, "He…he didn’t make it, did he?"
Not looking up from the chart he was marking orders on, the ER doc, in a neutral tone said, "Sorry, sir."
A deep sigh filled the air followed by "Hmm."
"Admiral, if it’s any consolation to you, the man had all the signs of an acute myocardial infarction. He was probably a walking time bomb and didn’t know it. Most patients don’t. The coroner will perform a post as required in questionable circumstances." The doctor, trying to ease his patient’s conscience, went on unknowingly compounding it instead. "The anxiety with the fire probably triggered the MI."
"The fire?" Moaning out loud, Nelson rasped, pointing to himself, "I started the fire…but Lee and I pulled him out of the room and the fire went out…" Looking up at his men, it suddenly dawned on him that there were two fires.
"Well, Admiral, we’ll get some X-rays of this leg and a few of your neck." Looking up at Jerry, he instructed. "Let’s get an ice pack on this ankle to reduce the swelling." The nurse immediately opened an overhead cupboard door and took out a stiff, oblong package, cracking it with a twist of his hands. A pop was heard, then the cool, pliable pack was draped across his bruised ankle. "I see your oxygen count is at 96 percent. That’s pretty good considering you’ve just been in a fire. Now, I need to listen to your lungs." As the ER doctor finished his examination of his lungs, Nelson asked, "How’s my captain and exec doing?"
Pulling the stethoscope out of his ears, Dr. Satonic made a notation on his chart, then exchanged it with another one on the counter. "Mr. Morton is in CT and Captain Crane is chomping at the bit to get off the back board. He, ah…doesn’t like hospitals much, does he?" It was a statement more than a question.
Getting a grunt from Nelson and a chuckle from the patient across from them, the ER doc turned to the sound, instantly smiling. "Why, Jamie, you old salt. What are you doing in my ER?"
"Well, Mike, we kind of took an unexpected detour," grinned Jamison.
"So, I see," said his colleague, reaching for Will’s bandaged hand. He took a pair of scissors out of his scrub shirt pocket and easily cut the lightly wrapped gauze. Jerry pulled a basin out from under the sink and filled it with warm water and a cleansing astringent. Bringing it over to the side of the gurney, he sat it down by the patient’s hip, waiting for the doctor to complete his exam.
"Hurts like a son of a bitch, doesn’t it?" The tightening of Jamie’s facial features was answer enough. "Any tingling? Numbness?"
"It was a tolerable throb until you disturbed it," testily replied Will. Now, where have I heard that before? Crane must be rubbing off on me. Seeing his abused finger uncovered, made his stomach cramp. The splintered bone was peeking out at an odd angle with dried blood covering the loose hanging torn skin. Taking a probe out of his pocket, Dr. Satonic poked at his fingertip. "Can you feel that?"
He ran it across the broken digit’s tip lengthwise, adding pressure. "And that?"
"Yes," crouched Jamison impatiently, pulling back instinctively from the pain. Oh brother, I am sounding like Crane. The ER doctor dropped his hand in the sudsy cleaning solution. It stung, but Jamison left it in there dreading the next steps.
Wetting a wad of gauze with the sterile cleansing solution, Jerry meticulously started cleaning the open wound. Feeling his patient tense, the male nurse ordered. "Easy Doc, just take some deep, slow breaths…nice and easy now."
"I am. I am," gritted Jamison, feeling his pulse beating in his ears.
"When’s the last time you ate or drank something?" asked the nurse, squeezing the blood out of the ball of gauze. Carefully, he washed more particles of dirt, gore and bone fragments from the now freely bleeding wound, turning the water a sickly red.
Looking away from the mess that was his finger, Jamison observed Dr. Satonic examining Sharkey. "I had a half a cup of coffee early this morning before this charade began." He winced when Jerry caught the gauze on the exposed bone.
"Sorry, Doc, almost done," replied Jerry in a smoothing tone. Taking a stack of clean 4 by 4’s, he wrapped them around the circumference of the wounded pinkie and hand. "Here hold this a moment," requested the nurse, letting go of Jamie’s hand. Jamison applied the needed pressure with his good hand, while Jerry moved the basin of bloody water to the counter by the bed. "We need to get some X-rays, so I don’t want to tape it up yet." At the sub doctor’s tense nod, he turned to the emergency room physician.
"Dr. Satonic? Is it all right to give him some MS?"
Without pausing in his exam of the chief, Dr. Satonic called back. "Yes, 25mg’s of morphine will be fine. Bring another dose for the admiral."
Getting up off the black rounded stool, he grabbed both Nelson’s and Jamison’s charts stating, "I’ll turn these in to one of the unit secretaries, so she can get the orders moving. I’ll be right back with the painkillers. Sit tight."
Doc, gaining a new insight from the patient’s perspective frowned. What choice do I have? Is this what its like to be a patient in sickbay? Everyone, telling you what to do? I swear, if they tell me to get some rest… He waited for Dr. Satonic to complete his examination on Sharkey.
"Well, Chief, there isn’t much we can do for your mouth. We very rarely ever stitch the inside." At his relieved expression, he gave an impromptu grin, stating. "I can have Jerry give you some liquid medicine that will help with the pain along with the chips of ice. I think your ribs are just bruised, but we’ll do a set of X-rays to rule out any other problems." Grabbing the chief’s chart, he marked off under the order/emergency/diagnostic section facial, C-spine and bilateral hand.
"Jamie? When’s the last time these men had a tetanus shot?"
"They’re up to date, including the two in your trauma rooms."
"Very well, glad to hear you’re on top of things." He paused in front of Jamison’s bed. "Jamie, I don’t have to tell you the drill with your hand. I just need to know how you want it taken care of once the ortho doc takes a look at it. Do you want it done under local or anesthesia?"
Still palming his wounded hand and holding the bandages in place, Will shrugged his shoulders. "I haven’t made up my mind yet." To take his anxiety off his own problems, he asked, "So, Mike, did you have a lot of trouble with Capt. Crane?"
"None I couldn’t handle. He didn’t take to well to the NG tube I had to put down him or the cath urine I ordered. I…ah…had to pull rank on him."
"Oh, you told him you were an ex-four striper?"
"No," he smiled. "I had to use something a little more pointed." He made a squeezing motion of pushing a syringe home.
Creasing his brow with worry, Jamison asked, "Was the fluid from his stomach clear? Any blood in the urine?"
"None that I could see. Of course, the lab work isn’t back yet. He’ll be going to CT soon." Walking towards the door, he tacked on, "I’ll keep you posted, get some rest."
An expletive followed his departure and Nelson guffawed at his fuming CMO.
"It’s not so easy, is it Doc, when the shoe is on the other foot?" teased the admiral.
"Humph!" groaned the crotchety doctor. "I should get up and see how our notorious commanders are doing."
Doc’s comment brought the seriousness of the situation to bear, instantly sobering the admiral. Lost in thought, he didn’t hear the nurse come back into the room.
Jerry went over to the chief, ordering him to open his mouth as he sprayed some medicine around the interior of the cavity. "That should help chief with the pain. It’ll be a few minutes before you’ll feel the full effects. Keep sucking on the ice." Next, he walked over to Jamison, taking out the filled syringe from his pocket along with an alcohol wipe.
Overhearing the end of the conversation, Jerry advised, as he ripped open the alcohol wipe, rubbing it against the doctor’s upper bicep. "Your commanders are doing fine. I just checked on your skipper. He said to tell you…" He halted in mid sentence pulling the cap off the syringe with his teeth and inserted the needle into the muscle of his arm. Dropping the cap on the bed, he amended his sentence as he waited for the minute to pass while giving the injection. "Maybe I’d better not tell you what he said."
"It’s all right, there isn’t anything I haven’t already heard," assured Jamison, focusing on the quiet admiral across from him.
"Mmm, okay. He said you’d better find a way to get him out of here, now or you’re going to be cleaning the barnacles off the bottom of the boat."
Jerry felt the man tighten up. "Relax, Doc. He didn’t really mean it, did he?"
"I doubt it," mumbled the CMO. But, you never know. He does have a temper and when he’s riled… he let the thought trail off.
"Good," said Jerry, pulling out the needle, recapping it, then depositing it in the red bio container. Pausing, he asked, "Is that as bad as cleaning the bilges?" He became alarmed when the doctor’s color turned pasty. "Whoa, doc are you going to be sick?" he asked, quickly grabbing a basin. "I only asked, because the other one threatened you with it."
"Chip?" gasped the CMO, his brows snapping upward in surprise. "He’s teasing you?" He must be feeling better.
"Yes, Mr. Morton. He’s back from CT. The docs aspirated some trapped air from the orbital area, which was causing cessation of blood in his central retinal artery."
"So, that’s what was causing his double vision," mused Jamison, half to himself. Looking up sharply, he asked, "They got the air out in time? He didn’t lose sight in that eye, did he?"
"No, he passed his acuity test okay. They do, however, suspect a blow out fracture of the orbital floor." He walked over to the admiral, taking out another syringe and repeated the procedure of injecting the morphine into the muscle of the arm.
"That doesn’t surprise me, his eye looked depressed." A muffled moan was heard from Nelson. Not entirely sure if the groan came from the sting of the shot or the news of Chip’s condition, Jamison expounded, "Lee didn’t cause it. The guard that kicked him is the responsible culprit."
Releasing his clenched jaw, the admiral responded, "Thank God. I don’t think Lee would be able to forgive himself, if Chip lost his vision. As it is, he’s probably already blaming himself for his condition."
"What happens now?" mumbled Sharkey. Jerry dropped the used needle in the bio container and slipped quietly out the door, leaving the men free to talk.
Jamison rubbing his sore arm where the shot was injected, "That all depends on what the CT and X-ray results are. If the inferior rectus muscle shows entrapment, they’ll have to go in and release it. Of course, his concussion will play a small part on when they can go in. But, his eyes showed no hyphema, so that’s a good sign."
"In laymen terms, Doc. What are you talking about?" asked the chief, dumbfounded as he adjusted the icepack on his jaw.
"The rectus muscle is one of four short muscles of the eye. If the muscle becomes entrapped in the fracture of the bone, it limits the motion of the eye. It can also cause the eye and face to look disfigured. Now, what will probably happen is they’ll admit him for a 23 hour observation, while waiting for the concussion to decrease. That, I’m sorry to say, is the result of the Skipper hitting him. However, he was under the influence of hypnosis and it wasn’t his fault."
"So, what does hypheee..mm…ia ….hyphee…or whatever it was you said mean?" growled Sharkey, frowning that is tongue was tingling.
"It means no blood in his irises. His eyes are clear…"
A lab tech came in announcing, "Hi, I’m Debbie and I need to draw some blood." She received a chorus of groans as she set her portable lab cart down on the counter, taking out a tourniquet, three needles and various colored vials. "Sorry guys, but the doc ordered a CO2 level on all of you and a full pre-op on you Mr. Jamison."
"Now wait a minute," protested Doc, "I never said I was going under the knife yet."
Casting a look at his bandaged wrapped hand that he was still holding, she replied. "I don’t think you have a choice, sir." Quickly, she wrapped the Latex, cream-colored band around his good arm, exposing his veins. Pushing on them with her fingertip, she picked one and efficiently inserted the needle, striking blood on the first poke. In less than five minutes, she had all the vials filled, labeled and back in the lab case.
After she’d finished and left the room, Doc remarked, "Well, that wasn’t so bad. I barely felt the poke."
Sharkey didn’t think so. "Look what she did to my arm," whined the burley chief, holding up his extremity to show a newly formed bruise.
"Well, if you hadn’t moved each time she tried to poke you, the bruising wouldn’t be there."
"I can’t help it if I don’t like needles."
Jamison just shook his head.
Admiral Nelson, who kept his own counsel queried, "Chief, who started the other fire?"
Tensing, Chief Sharkey and Doc Jamison exchanged worried glances. His tongue thick in his mouth, Sharkey inadvertently, lisped out, "The thipper…I…I mean skipper." The medicine the nurse sprayed in his mouth was suddenly creating havoc with his speech.
"Ah, Crane…I should have known." Nelson brought his hand up to scratch at his neck annoyed when he found the C-collar. Moving his hand behind his ear, he twitched his index finger, scratching absently. "Well, he only did what he had to do," defended the admiral, absolving his captain of all guilt. As for myself, well, that’s a horse of a different color.
Lee had quickly been wheeled into a trauma room. The ambulance crew, with the aid of the nurses, grabbed the edges of the sheet lining the mobile cart, transferring him backboard and all to a waiting gurney. The straps surrounding his body were unhooked and he was told to lay still. He then felt like a beast of prey with a flock of vultures descending on him, plucking at his buttons and stripping him of his shirt. He heard the distinct plop of his shoes hitting the tiled floor as claws came after his trousers. In ten seconds flat, he was naked with just a sheet draped over his loins. In the blink of his hazel eyes, white sticky patches were placed onto his chest, hooking him to the heart monitor. A blood pressure cuff was wrapped around his upper arm and a pulse oximeter monitor was taped to his index finger, making it glow red. When do I get to phone home?
"What is the rush?" he complained, through the non-rebreather mask. "I’m fine, just let me off this backboard and I’ll show you!" A fit of coughing followed that statement. He could taste the thick charcoal phlegm, forcing himself to swallow.
"Just calm down, Mr…ah…what is your name, sir?" asked a tall woman, in blue scrubs, putting her stethoscope into her ears. She bent over, listening to his lungs before he could give an answer.
Irritated, he gasped it out anyways. "Crane…Commander Lee B Crane!" There was a curious ringing in his ears that went with his headache and his voice sounded muffled. He coughed again, hating the taste it always produced and the pain that followed in his belly.
The nurse lifted her head and reported to a tall, salt and peppered haired man, whom Lee assumed was a doctor. "Breath sounds are clear. Respiration is at 20." Looking him square in the eyes, she asked, "Do you feel short of breath, Lee?"
"No…yes…only when I hold it…"
"Why are you holding your breath? You need to breathe in the fresh oxygen to clear your lungs," said the nurse.
"Commander, my name is Dr. Satonic and I’ll be taking care of you." Lee felt a large, warm hand press on his stomach and he feebly moaned, trying to push it off. The hand repositioned itself over his upper left quadrant and he moaned again. Fingers started tapping a tune on his belly and he squirmed, while reaching for the elusive appendage. A slender hand connected to a redheaded nurse trapped his wrist holding it away from his abdomen. Another nurse on the other side did the same.
Again the question came, this time from the doctor. "Lee, why are you holding your breath? Is it because your belly hurts when you breathe?"
He meekly nodded yes.
Pressing down on his lower abdomen the doctor asked, "Does that hurt?"
"No, not as much."
Dr. Satonic moved his hands to his ribs and pushed down. "Here?"
"Not too bad."
Moving his hands down lower to just above his waist line he asked again, "And here?" A loud moan was his answer. A knowing glance was exchanged between the doctor and the nurse "How many times did they punch you Lee?"
Nausea churned his empty stomach and he could feel his pulses pounding in his ears. He was half afraid what his answer was going to bring. He hesitated, swallowing hard, his throat sore while nervously licking his fat lip, aggravating the laceration. Fresh blood welled up, oozing down his chin to pool in the bottom of his tightly fitted air mask. Another nurse reached over and pulled up his mask, blotting at the cut and wiping his chin. Dr. Satonic leaned over him, ordering in a no nonsense tone of voice. "Commander! Answer the question. How many times?"
True to form, Capt. Crane snapped out, "About a dozen, sir." He unflinchingly stared the doctor in the eyes, noting them to be serious, but not unkind.
Now that he had his patient’s attention, the doctor smoothly inquired, "How long ago?"
Lee shook loose the nurse’s hand holding his wrist and pulled his arm up to his face to check the time, inadvertently pulling on the IV tubing. "A little over two hours ago, sir," was the cool reply. He felt anything, but calm. The gauze was left on his lip and the mask was settled back over his face. He exhaled and inhaled deeply feeling pain in his belly. More hacking coughs followed. He swallowed hard. Then, almost stopped breathing entirely, when he recognized the medical supplies a nurse was pulling out of a cabinet at the foot of the bed.
Turning to the tall woman beside him, Dr. Satonic asked, "Okay Dr. Murray, you’re not just a three year resident, you’re the doctor in charge. What’s next?"
"We need to draw stat labs, now, especially ABG’s, (arterial blood gases) to determine where his CO2 level is at." The phlebotomist stepped forward from the corner with her lab supplies, already anticipating the orders as she laid them on the bed. Next, she gripped his right arm putting on a rubber tourniquet and Lee soon felt the poke from a needle, as he listened in on the doctor’s conversation.
Dr. Satonic nodded his head in approval. "Go on."
"Well, his eyes aren’t dilated. His respirations are a bit fast, but breath sounds are CTA and he’s coughing up some phlegm. He has some shortness of breath, but I suspect not entirely due to the smoke inhalation. The paramedic reported he had passed out, though only for a short time, maybe one to two minutes down time. However, according to ambulance crew’s initial report over the radio, one of his own men with him stated he did sustain a longer period of exposure time to the smoke. Then again, he’s been on oxygen for…" she consulted his chart, then peered down at her watch, "forty minutes. We all know that the normal half-life of carbon monoxide in the body is four hours and this can be reduced down to fifty minutes by administering oxygen at one hundred percent, which he is getting."
She paused a moment, while the lab technician stood up from bended knees, picking up an assortment of vials from the patient’s bed and headed for the curtained doorway. "His peripheral pulse is a plus 2, there is no edema and his capillary refill is brisk. On top of that, his skin is dry, warm and pink. He’s alert and oriented times 3." The monitor beeped its next reading with blood pressure of 173/73, pulse 79 and oxygen count. "O2 is at 97 percent. Given the time he’s been on 100 percent oxygen, I think we can safely exchange the non-rebreather mask for the nasal cannula, so we can perform the next procedure."
The nurse at Lee’s head efficiently exchanged the breathing mask for clear, plastic tubing, easily placing the nasal prongs into each naris. A hiss was heard as she replaced the cannula over the oxygen source and turned it back on. The medical doctor and resident took their places on each side of him by his shoulders. Carefully they observed the monitor for a moment, waiting for their patient to relax and making sure his oxygen level maintained it’s level. Satisfied, they were ready for the next step. The nurses crowded inward laying the various pieces of medical equipment on the gurney beside him. Their solemn expressions reminded him of other unpleasant times, when he was a patient in sickbay.
Lee’s disquiet went from passive to active sonar in a heartbeat. "Oh, no." He tried sitting up, but the doctors held him down. When he heard a package being torn open, his instincts screamed, Battle stations! Redoubling his efforts, he tried desperately to get off the gurney. Pain sliced through his belly, sending tinges of bile into his raw throat. Swallowing hard to keep the nausea in place, he witnessed the tubing being uncoiled. He tried reasoning with them. "Look, I know my belly hurts. It’s only natural. I got punched there! Don’t you understand? It’s supposed to be sore!"
The tubing passed over Lee’s head to the top of the bed. He looked upward and towards the walled headboard that held the body fluid waste container. The suction machine hummed low in the background, warming up. Sheer panic over whelmed him, prompting the captain to demand, "I want to see Doc Jamison right now!"
A voice close to his ear commanded. "That’s enough!" The authoritative ring in the doctor’s tone was unmistakable. There would be no more resistance. Earning his grudging respect, Lee was instantly still. Boy, who does he remind me of?
"Now, Commander, you will lie here quietly or I’ll pull rank on you in more ways than one! Have I made myself clear?" asked Dr. Satonic, in a tone of voice that brooked no refusal. Off to his side, in a lower voice, he ordered. "Bring me 30 mg’s of Toradol and 25 mg’s of Phenegan."
Years of Naval training and discipline coming to the fore, Lee gave no quarter as to what he was thinking. I wonder if he got his name from the devil himself? He could feel fresh blood running down the side of his face where he’d inadvertently rubbed his lacerated cheek against the orange stationary blocks at the head of the backboard. Someone wiped the stream of blood from his ear and neck, placing the damp stack of gauze tenderly on his cheek. Over the roar of his pounding heart, he could hear Chip’s voice in the next room, arguing with his doctors.
"Get that needle away from me! I can see just fine!"
Leaning a hand above Lee’s head, in a comforting gesture, Dr. Satonic continued. "Now, Commander you will listen to what I have to say. You are the captain of the Seaview, are you not?"
"Yes, sir. I am," replied Crane stone-faced, but with a hint of pride in his hazel eyes.
"Well, then Captain, when you give an order, you expect it to be instantly obeyed, correct?"
"Yes, sir. The men’s lives could depend on it."
"There you have it, Commander. An emergency room is run much like a submarine, only I give the orders with patient’s lives at stake." The doctor enforced the statement with his thumb pointed towards his heart.
Lee wasn’t sure he liked where this was leading, but he listened intently to the gruff, monotone voice.
"Now, you’ve suffered a severe beating to your upper abdominal area. Are you nauseated?"
Once again, Lee was nervous about answering, for he’d been down this road before. He committed grudgingly, "A little."
Lee hated it when a doctor said those two words. It usually meant he wasn’t fooling anyone.
"Commander, on a scale of one to five, with five being the most intense, how would you rate your pain? And Lee, I want a straight answer, that’s an order."
Damn! Now, my honor is at stake. Clenching his burning hands at his side and trying to swallow with a dry mouth, he croaked out "Four."
"And the nausea?"
In almost a whisper, "Three."
"That’s better," praised the emergency room doctor, patting him on the shoulder. The nurse that went to get the med’s came back into the room with the requested syringes. "Give both by IV, please," ordered the doctor.
The nurse did as bid, slowly injecting the contents into a port on the tubing. Lee could feel burning warmth as the medicine entered his blood stream, making him lightheaded.
"Now, Lee, your exec is headed for CT and you’ll follow when he’s done. As I said a moment ago, you’ve taken a severe beating. We need to know now, if there’s any blood in your stomach. The only way, this can be done is with an NG tube being placed up your nostril, down your throat and into your belly. It will feel uncomfortable. But, it will only remain in place for a short time until after the CT scan is preformed."
The patient started to vehemently protest by sitting up. Stalling, Lee interrupted, "Look Doc, wouldn’t I be puking or something if blood was in my stomach?"
Putting his hands on each of Lee’s shoulders and pushing the man back down on the backboard, the doctor replied, "Negative, Captain. I’m afraid it’s not that simple. Now, I want you to relax."
"Easy for you to say," retorted Crane, once again balling his fists and fighting the drugs he just been given. It’s not you that’s going to get a tube down your throat.
Having the patience of Job, the doctor requested, "Open your mouth Lee and let’s not make it an order. I’m going to dull your gag reflex."
Trained to obey, Lee opened his mouth and the doctor sprayed the medicine towards the back of his throat. It was cold and soon an odd tingling was felt. Following that, he heard, "All right, now pretend you’re swallowing a large gulp of water." Lee faked a swallow, feeling the pressure of the tube enter his nostril and curve downward into his throat. He gagged, nearly strangling as the tube went lower. Struggling against the foreign object he cried out, "It’s choking…me….take it…out."
"Swallow, Lee!" came the command.
He tried, feeling the tube descend deeper.
Blast, is it ever going to end? Just when he thought he couldn’t stand the uncomfortable tube another second, the sheet was pulled back off his lower body and a hand gripped him down there. NO, not that! screamed his mind. Something wet, slippery and cold pressed inward followed by pressure. An urgent need to urinate came over him. He moaned loud and long. "Please," he begged, surprised he could still talk with the tube down his throat. A nurse was taping it into place on his nose. "I’ve got to…I have to…" embarrassed he let the words drift off, as the sheet was pulled back over him, thus preserving his modesty.
"It’s okay, Lee. Your body will adjust to it in a moment. I can assure you, the catheter is working and that you are urinating." Dr Satonic studied the monitor for a second, evasively avoiding the captain’s glazed eyes.
"You tricked me," complained Lee, his body rigid and his eyes shooting sparks. He could see and hear the bubbles from the contents of his stomach snaking its way down the tube. This is so strange. I haven’t eaten and yet, there is fluid being siphoned out. I wonder if it’s possible to throw up with this thing down your gullet? Deciding he didn’t want to find out, he turned away from the sight of the tube, leading to the bio waste container. The pressure in his bladder was easing. Hanging on to his anger to camouflage his humiliation, he glared askance at the doctor. That’s the second person to take advantage of me in the past few months. First, Nelson, with his subliminal implanted commands and now this. How many times has Jamie pulled one over on me? I trust them both with my life, in fact, have on more than one occasion. But still, Nelson could have asked. What do they take me for? I feel like a damn guinea pig.
"Lee, I had no choice," defended the emergency room doctor. Noticing the tautness in his patient’s body, he ordered another 10 mg’s of Toradol. "Sometimes it’s better for the patient not to know all the facts. Would it have accomplished anything if you’d have known?"
"It’s nice to be asked or at least forewarned," griped the captain. A male nurse named Dan was helping him into a gown. Another nurse, dressed with sea creatures on her scrub top, rubbed a soothing cream into the burns on his hands and knees. Then Dan, using a stack of 4 X 4’s started cleaning the gore off his face and neck with warm soapy water. The gentle administrations of the nursing staff took the edge off his temper. "I could have…at least been prepared." The sedative was taking effect, forcing his body to relax. His mind wandered, Even in this, I was given no choice…
Doc Jamison was escorted from one of the X-ray rooms when he bumped into Dr. Satonic coming out of a patient’s room.
"Mike, is there any way I can see my commanders?"
"Worried about them, Jamie?" inquired the ER doctor.
"Hmm, let’s just say, I know what a handful they can be."
"Mr. Morton is back in his room, but your skipper is in CT. He’s a bit agitated with me I’m afraid."
"He doesn’t mean it. He’s that way with all doctors. The man hates sickbay. They all do," mourned Jamison.
"Well, Jamie, if it’s any consolation to you, they all have a good prognosis. Come with me and I’ll lead you to them." Turning to the X-ray technician, escorting the Seaview doctor back to his room, he said, "I’ll make sure he doesn’t get lost."
She smiled at both men and replied, "Okay. Dr. Jamison, good luck with your finger."
Pleased, Doc grinned back. "Why, thank you."
They passed a set of open blue doors that read Pediatrics. Jamison heard a baby crying as he caught a glimpse of a dark haired boy of about four, running down the corridor with his mother in hot pursuit. Picturing a much younger Lee Crane, in his mind’s eye, he gave the woman a commiserating smile.
Walking back towards the trauma area of the mammoth emergency room, Dr. Satonic stated, "The lab tests on Crane came back and there is no suspect blood in his gastric area. The X-rays we did of his ribs and abdominal area show no obvious fractures. His spleen looks good and not enlarged. Of course, the CT will pick up any abnormality the X-rays missed. But, if the CT comes back negative, we’ll pull the tubes and admit him for a 23 hour observation stay."
They bypassed a psych room with a patient in restraints screaming, "There’s bugs all over me! They’re eating me alive!" A small, petite nurse, attending the patient was trying to convince her there were no bugs.
Bugs? mused Jamison. If they knew what we’ve seen during the last three years, they’d think we were all crazy. The woman screamed in terror. The charge nurse walked calmly into the room, carrying a hypo. Yup, they’d lock us up for sure.
Jamison’s mind came back to the matter at hand. "Crane will never agree to stay here."
"I think you’re right, Jamie. You’ll have to convince him otherwise."
"Me?" questioned Jamison, bringing his heavily bandaged hand to his chest.
"Why not?" asked Dr. Satonic, "He seems to have the utmost respect for you."
"Oh, really?" asked Jamison, both surprised and pleased. They were halted in front of the ambulance entrance by two police officers, bringing in an unruly, handcuffed patient.
"Morning, Dr Satonic. We need an ETOH blood draw."
The patient, obviously intoxicated, spat out. "You can’t do that! I know my rights!"
The police officer, keeping a tight grip on the obnoxious drunk, firmly replied, "Mr. Goodman, we’ve been through this before. You refused the breathalyzer test."
"I want my lawyer," sputtered the drunk, belching loud.
"Take him down to triage, Tim."
The officer nodded, hauling their charge towards the front, leaving the smell of alcohol in the air.
"Whew, you can get high off the fumes," kidded a nurse to another behind their desk, where she was punching numbers into a keypad on the pharmacy drug cabinet. The tones of the Omi cell beeped in sequence, then a wide drawer rolled open revealing a variety of drugs. Lifting a lid to one section, she pulled out a pre-measured syringe and slammed the drawer shut with her hip.
Crossing the entrance, the two doctors stopped in front of the trauma rooms. Crane’s room was empty and the curtain to Morton’s was partially closed. "Mr. Morton’s case has taken on an interesting aspect."
"Oh, in what way?" inquired Jamison, peeking in through the slight opening of the curtain. Chip was laying on the gurney with his hands tucked behind his head. I see they got him off the backboard. That ought to help his peace of mind…maybe.
"Well, he was combative when he got here. We gave him some Versed to relax him and some Inapsin for the nausea he was complaining about. For a while, he was completely off the wall until we discovered the air build up in his orbital area. Once we aspirated it, thereby relieving the pressure, he was like a new man." The emergency room doctor paused, signing a run sheet for a different ambulance crew. The two women dressed in gray uniforms, thanked him and took off, wheeling their empty cart out through the ambulance entryway.
The break in conversation, gave Jamison, a chance to view the orderly emergency room. A paramedic was filling out a report on the main counter, while his partner chatted with a couple of pretty nurses. Behind the unit secretaries, a woman dressed in bright yellow scrubs loaded a big stack of charts from the dictation desk into a wire cart on wheels marked Medical Records. To the right of the copy machine, a lab tech sat at her workstation, keying account numbers into the computer for the ordered lab tests. A white, oblong machine spewed out a stream of printed labels which the tech ripped off and took with her into the patient’s examination room. By the doctor’s dictation / consultation room, two doctors dressed in blue scrubs were observing an illuminated set of X-rays that looked suspiciously like Chip’s eye injury. Intrigued, Jamison started towards the men when Dr. Satonic drew his attention once again.
"As I was saying, I think Mr. Morton had a mild episode of traumatic amnesia brought on by the shock of the alleged assault."
Jamison rubbed his chin, leaving a finger extended against his cheek. "That’s quite possible. As time went on, he became more agitated and confused. But, he is better now, is he not?"
"Yes, much better. He still has a concussion, but the initial CT report shows no bleed. Of course, it has to be read by a radiologist yet. I have a neurologist coming to see him and Nelson, along with a plastic surgeon consulted for both Morton and Crane. They’ll be here within the hour."
Chip, hearing a familiar voice called through the curtain. "Doc Jamison, is that you?"
"Right here, Chip," stated Jamison, moving the curtain aside, while stepping into the room. Dr. Satonic started to follow, only to be called away to the communication desk when another radio call came in. "St Luke’s Emergency, St Luke’s Emergency. How do you copy? We need a physician stat!"
"Oh, Doc, you’re a sight for sore eyes," exclaimed Chip, happy to see him. He had a soft icepack covering the orbital area of his injured face. His complexion on the uninjured side of his face matched the color of the white gown the nurses had dressed him in.
Lifting the icepack for a quick peek, Jamison noted the swelling was down, but the black, purplish bruises had gotten darker, spreading over most of the left side of his face. Gently lowering the ice pack onto his face, Chip moaned, rubbing his stomach.
Frowning with concern, Jamison asked, "You still nauseated, Chip?"
"It’s more like hunger pains. I never got to eat breakfast before all this happened," grouched the exec, shifting uncomfortably on the cart. "And this bed is hard as rocks!"
"I know. I was glad when the X-ray tech came and got me," exclaimed Jamison, grinning in spite of the circumstances. He’s hungry and beginning to sound like himself. That’s a relief.
"Doc, I don’t remember much after getting out of the car. Did you find Lee?"
"Oh, we found the captain all right," smirked Doc. "We all got caught, including you." At his exec’s confused countenance, he elaborated further. "Dennis held us all prisoner in a small storage space. The skipper blew the door, using good old American ingenuity and caused a fire."
Not really surprised, for Lee was an ONI agent and he’d gotten them out of tight situations before, Chip raised a mere brow in question.
"I’ll let the skipper have the pleasure of telling you that story. Suffice it to say, we got out during the smoke screen and the captain went to find the admiral. I’m not sure who rescued whom, for we found them both at the front door. The fire department broke through the glass door and Sharkey pulled them out."
"I know we’re all here, but no one will tell me anything. A nurse named Jerry said you all were being treated for smoke inhalation and various injuries. So," entreated Chip, "tell me how badly is everyone hurt?"
"None of our injuries are life threatening as far as I can tell. Lee’s in CT, while the admiral and Sharkey are in X-ray." Without thought, Doc cradled his injured finger against his folded arm. "Some of us are in for a 23 hour stay."
"Not me, I’m out of here as soon as I can find my clothes," protested Chip, looking around for his uniform. "I was just waiting for you to come and get me." Spying them in a clear bag sitting on a chair, he started to get up.
"Whoa, Chip. I’m afraid that won’t be possible." Gripping his shoulders and pushing him back down on the gurney, Jamison advised, "Like it or not you have a concussion and…"
Chip interjected, "You can take care of me on Seaview."
"That’d be great, except I’m being admitted with you."
Perplexed for a moment, the exec studied his doctor and friend. It was then that he noticed the bandaged hand. Aghast, he blurted out, "Doc, your hand! What happened?"
"Let’s just say Dennis wanted something the admiral wouldn’t part with."
"And you were part of the persuasion?" answered Chip, drawing his own conclusions.
"Something, like that. It’s a long story."
Reading between the lines, Chip felt apprehensive clear to the pit of his churning stomach. Almost afraid to ask, but needing to know, "It had something to do with Lee, didn’t it?"
Feeling weak in the knees, Jamison sat down on the edge of the gurney. Recalling the massive bruises on his skipper’s upper abdominal area made his own stomach hurt.
After heaving a sigh, Doc explained, "Lee was the bait to lure the admiral here. Of course, when Lee found out about the plot, he refused to go along with it. Dennis beat him pretty badly, Chip." At the exec’s intake of breath, he quickly added. "But, I think he’s going to be all right. As I said earlier, he’s in CT now and Dr. Satonic hopes to rule out a ruptured spleen. Preliminary tests are negative so far and that’s a good sign."
Somewhat relieved, but still worried, Chip queried, "So, why did Lee act the way he did?"
Realizing the XO was unaware of all the events of the past few hours due to his temporary amnesia, Doc quickly filled him in.
"Hmm," groaned the exec with new understanding. "Let me get this straight. The admiral subliminally implanted the access codes to the satellite into Lee’s subconscious without him knowing it?"
At Jamison’s affirmative shake of his head, a low whistle was heard throughout the room. "I bet Lee was livid when he found out."
"You can say that again," scowled Doc, not happy with the memory.
"Why is Lee so easy to hypnotize anyways? He seems to be susceptible to all that kind of stuff."
"I don’t know," sorrowfully replied Doc. "But something tells me, we haven’t experienced the last of it."
Lee had been brought up to X–ray on the 2nd floor of the hospital, after the painkiller took effect. He and his nurse, Dan were halted inside the technician’s work area, waiting his turn to use of the scanner. Various monitors displayed a variety of different views of the patient currently inside.
A technician, in a white lab coat, introduced himself as Terry, with his partner chiming in that she was Susie. Together, they explained the process. Fascinated, Lee watched the different pictures flash before him as layer after layer of the brain of the patient was presented in technical color.
"Freeze frame," ordered Terry, intently viewing the picture. A low whistle was heard as the tech lifted a pencil pointing to a partially broken bone. "Look at this, the orbital bone is definitely blown."
All three people studied the frame. Not understanding entirely what he was being privy to, Lee holding a hand to his over sensitive stomach, in growing trepidation asked, "What does that mean? What all does it entail?"
"It means this man is facing surgery to get the fracture reduced unless he wants to be permanently disfigured." Not catching the X-ray tech’s warning glance she added, "Or if worse comes to worse he could lose sight in that eye," explained Susie.
Terry reached over somewhat annoyed at his assistant and pressed a button. The hum of the CAT scan machine picked up in intensity with clicks being heard from the camera taking pictures.
Lost in his own thoughts, Lee laid back on the gurney no longer interested in the procedure. An odd trembling from within was felt and he wondered if the med’s he been given were responsible. Or is it because, the injury reminds me of Chips? Why did I lose control like that? Why did I hit him like that? Why didn’t I just push him out of the way? Why did Dennis have to pick me to experiment on?
When the procedure was done, Dan pushed his patient into the room from the technician’s entranceway. The CT patient was lifted off the sliding table and onto the waiting emergency room gurney with Lee recognizing him. "Chip."
For an answer, he heard his exec singing a tune as he was wheeled down the hall. "Watch the wheels go round and round…."
Feeling the full bite of his prior actions, Lee sunk deeper into a remorseful state of mind. He was loaded, head first with the backboard still under him, onto the skinny conveyor track, with his head coming to rest just inside the slender cylinder. This reminds me of a torpedo, being shoved into the launching tube. Once settled, he was ordered to put his hands underneath his head. Then the conveyor table moved him halfway into the semi dark tube. A wide white wheel, which housed the camera, surrounded his body at the thigh. Slowly it began to whirl, creating a slight vibration, accompanied by a low hum. A cool breeze was felt when a blower came on as the table began to move, advancing the patient closer to the opening.
"Hold your breath, Mr. Crane, until I say breathe," ordered Susie. Her voice sounded shrill to his ears inside the machine. The conveyor table moved him inch by inch closer towards the opening. The clicks of the camera became rapid as the wheel whirled faster, taking pictures of his spleen, stomach and ribs. The commands to breathe and not breathe were repeated again and again.
Lee closed his eyes and a nagging question popped into his mind. Why am I such easy prey? Ever since that brainwashing the People’s Republic put me through, I seem to get easily taken over by…well, everything. The deprogrammers must have goofed. They must’ve missed something. There’s no other explanation for it…Am I really trustworthy? The admiral seems to think so… or am I just plain gullible?
The voice of the X-ray technician disturbed his thoughts, "You can breathe now. Are you feeling all right?"
Surprised, the whirling wheel was now even with his shoulders, he answered, "I’m fine."
The conveyor brought him out of the machine into the light of the room. "Good! Now, that wasn’t so bad was it?" asked the smiling woman, approaching the table.
She was too sunny for his brooding mood. How can you be spunky like her with a NG tube down your throat and a catheter up your pride and joy? Scowling, he replied, "No."
Catching onto his surly mood, she held up a syringe full of dye. Reaching up, she shut off the drops to his IV solution. "I’m injecting the contrast into your IV. Then, we’ll run the scan again."
Holding up his arm, Lee watched the green stuff slide down the clear IV tubing and go into his vein. "What’s this stuff supposed to do?"
"It goes into your blood stream and outlines all of your organs. Then, the radiologist doctor will compare this film to the one without contrast. There by, detecting any tears or ruptures."
"Hmm, very well." He settled back onto conveyer lost in thought once more.
"Results are in," stated Dr. Satonic, carrying three green clipboards with their charts attached as he walked into the room.
"Well, it’s about time," chafed the admiral, pulling at the stiff C-collar. "I could have run to Norfolk and back by now."
"Sorry, Harry, but nothing is ever fast in ER," smiled his former classmate. "If anything, it tests one’s endurance."
Growing serious, Dr. Satonic said, "You have a partial Achilles Tear or another words a torn tendon. I’m afraid you’re going to have to stay off that leg for a couple weeks if you want it to heal."
Nelson frowned, saying nothing.
Dr. Satonic went on nonplussed. "You also have an acute cervical strain to your neck with some nasty contusions. I want to admit you for a 23 hour stay."
"What?" gasped, the admiral, "What in blue blazes for?"
Knowing how Nelson hated sickbay, even in his academy days, Dr. Satonic treaded lightly. "Harry, whether you know it or not, you’re going to be feeling the full effects of the altercation you had. On top of that, you’ll need some ambulation therapy learning to use a pair of crutches."
A laugh of sorts burst out of Nelson’s mouth. "I need training to use a pair of crutches?"
"Harry, your leg will be wrapped in an Ace wrap and will be kept non weight bearing. Now, I assume Seaview is at Norfolk and that you’ll be going home on her. Correct?"
"That’s true enough. We only laid over to attend this conference, which unfortunately I’m missing. We also wanted to give the crew some badly needed shore leave."
"Well, Harry, there’ll always be other conferences. Lord knows our lives are full of meetings." Knowing the truth of his words, both men grinned. Growing serious once more, Dr. Satonic reasoned, "Now, traversing a sub on crutches is not going to be a piece of cake and climbing the ladder wells will be damned near impossible."
Becoming testy, "Mike, I have the good Doc Jamison here to look after my needs."
"Need I remind you, Admiral, that same doctor, is staying right here for the next 24 hours?"
Doc sheepishly, held up his wounded finger. "Sorry, sir, but I’ve decided to go under anesthesia to have the fracture reduced. After, talking to Dr. Hurt, the ortho doc who also examined your leg, I found the procedure to be more difficult than I anticipated. And, quite frankly, I don’t think I can tolerate just a local."
"Hmm," frowned Nelson, not liking the situation at all. Pursing his lips in a tight line and snapping his brows together with concern shining out of his expressive blue eyes, he asked, "What all does this surgery entail?"
Pointing to his temporary bandaged hand, Jamison traced an imaginary line with the index finger of his right hand. "He’s going to cut an incision from above the knuckle to the first finger joint. Then, the doctor will explore the wound, reduce and pin the fracture. After closing, he’ll either tape it to my ring finger or put an external fixation device in place to prevent movement until it’s healed."
"Sounds painful," commiserated Nelson. Why do I get the feeling, I’ve just been baited? "When is he doing your surgery?"
Seeing his chance to enforce the issue, Dr. Satonic jumped in. "Jamie’s surgery is scheduled at the end of Dr. Hurt’s caseload around 1600. Being Friday, the ambulatory recovery room will be closed at the end of the day."
The bait’s been taken.
"So, naturally, we’re assigning him a room on the orthopedic floor for his recovery period."
The trap’s been sprung. "Naturally," mimicked Nelson.
Without flinching, the ER doc gazed directly into the admiral’s stern, blue eyes and concluded. "So, you see, sir, there’s no reason you can’t stay with your ship’s doctor. I’m sure he’d like the support of your presence and would rest much more comfortably, knowing you’re being well taken care of."
Reeled in hook, line and sinker. Well done, Dr. Satonic. You wily old fox, you know I’d never desert a shipmate in need, what alone a friend. Resigned to the fact that he’d been out maneuvered, Nelson asked, "What about Sharkey and my other two officers?"
Relieved, Dr. Satonic gave a devil of a smile and turned to the stalwart chief. "Chief Sharkey, you’ve got a couple hairline fractured ribs."
Swallowing hard. "Is that bad, sir?"
"No, not at all. You’ll be assigned light duty for a while."
"But, sir, I have men to over see. A boat to keep shipshape."
Holding up his hand, the ER Doc cracked a smile. "That all well and good, Chief. You can carry on with your duties, but there’s to be no lifting or straining of those ribs. Now, as for your mouth, I’ll give you some medicine to keep it from getting infected. Jerry, your nurse, will explain how to use it when he hands you your discharge papers."
"Jamie, you still NPO?"
"Yes, sir. This episode began before we were served breakfast this morning. We never had a chance to eat or even drink a whole cup of coffee."
"You’re probably starved."
"Yes, Mike you could say that. I’m sure the others are too."
"In that case, I’ll make sure the others get a box lunch."
Turning back to Adm. Nelson, Dr. Satonic reported. "Our on call plastic surgeon, Dr. Mooday, as well as Dr. Hurt have consulted with your executive officer. Mr. Morton has agreed to have his orbital floor fracture repaired first thing in the morning. After the operation and a few hours recovery time, we’ll release him to Dr. Jamison, providing you all are heading directly to Seaview." Again, looking at Nelson, square in the eyes, the ER Physician firmly stated, "I want your word on that, Harry."
"You have it, Mike. As you said earlier, there are other meetings. So, what about Capt. Crane?"
A heavy sigh was heard through out the room.
"Well, Jamie do you think we fooled him?" asked Dr. Satonic, as they walked down the hall towards Captain Crane’s examination room.
"Admiral Nelson? Not for a minute." Both men cracked a smile. "He’s only staying because his men need him. You know as well as I do, he’s as loyal as the color is blue."
They stopped in front of the nurse’s station across from Crane’s room. Jerry was taking a report from another ambulance crew. "Good afternoon, Alpha 23 here. We have here three unrestrained passengers involved in a rollover MVA…"
Consulting his watch, Jamison was shocked to discover it was 1345. His empty stomach growled in protest when he saw a unit support person carrying a food tray, consisting of a liquid diet into Chip’s room.
"Time flies when you’re having fun," snickered Satonic, catching the expression on Jamie’s face, as he checked the time. Then more seriously, "We’re keeping him on a light diet until his surgery tomorrow."
The paramedic on the radio finished his report and another call came in. "Priority One!" The emergency room became instantly quiet as a group gathered around the radio station. The information was taken with Dr. Satonic issuing orders over the radio as Jerry wrote the transcript down on a form documenting the nature of the call, injuries, vitals and drugs given. When the transmission ended he calmly announced. "Do a trauma alert!"
The emergency room seemed to come to life. The unit secretary was on the phone, contacting all the departments within the emergency room itself, including the house-nursing supervisor. Equipment was soon being wheeled down the halls from EKG, X-Ray and Respiratory towards the empty trauma room beside Chip’s.
"Grab the ped’s crash cart from around the corner," ordered the charge nurse, as she suited up in a paper yellow gown. A moment later, a unit support person pushed a large blue cart into the room. Looking through the open doorway, Jamison could see other medical people putting on gowns with matching facemasks and clear goggles.
The registration clerk, pushing her portable laptop on wheels asked, "What are we getting?"
"MVA, 8 year old child, not breathing, about 3 minutes out. Three other victims are on the way too."
"Listen, Jamie, I’m worried about your skipper. He’s turned down right surly since he came back from CT. You know, I have no choice but to keep him here for at least a day. In twenty-four hours we need to do a repeat radiography on his spleen. Everything appears to be all right, but I don’t like surprises. The tubes are out and he’s off the backboard. Dr. Mooday is stitching up his cheek now. He really thinks he’s going to walk when the surgeon is done."
"So, you want me to go three for three?"
"Yes. You’ll all have rooms in a little while. I’ll try to check on you at the end of shift."
Before more could be said, the ambulance crew came bursting through the doors with a paramedic riding on the rails under the cart, giving CPR to the small child. The young boy was in full C-spine precautions with a wide, deep gash on his forehead. Blood, dirt and pieces of broken glass covered his little body. His coloring, what Doc Jamison could see of it, was purplish-blue. It was obvious that the child had gone through a window of the car. They disappeared into the third trauma room with Dr. Satonic close on their heels.
Another ambulance arrived bringing in a hysterically crying woman with an open leg fracture. "Please, just let me see my baby…I promise, I’ll make him wear his safety belt next time! Please…." They wheeled her to one of the critical care beds along the outer walls of the emergency room.
A call came in over the radio again, this time with a 53-year-old man with chest pains.
Jerry, knowing the charge nurse was tied up with the child and being next in charge, ordered, "Tina. Take Mr. Morton out of trauma 2 and put him with his shipmates in ortho 18."
A moment later, a redheaded nurse pulled out Chip’s gurney from the trauma room and pushed him towards the center of the emergency department. Chip, looking like a one-eyed monster with his colorful bruises and swollen eye, kept right on eating his orange sherbet ice cream.
Deciding, he’d seen enough life saving actions for one day, Jamison walked over to Crane’s room and slipped inside. The strong scent of antiseptic permeated the air from an uncapped bottle of Betadine. An open suture kit sat on top of a sterile blue cloth, which in turn was spread over a disposable blue paper cover that protected the surface of the stainless steel surgical cart. Beside the suture set, an empty bottle of sterile water solution sat along side a basin of blood tinged water with stacks of used 4 x 4’s. A man dressed in surgical scrubs with a yellow paper gown, covering his white lab jacket, pulled a needle out of a vial of medicine. With the back of his knuckle, Dr. Mooday tapped the syringe, bringing the bubbles to the surface and expelled the excess med into the air with a squirt.
In a cold, flat voice, he stated, "All right, Captain. I’m going to give you a shot of Lidocaine. It will numb your lacerated cheek and some of your mouth. I want no talking and what ever you do, don’t move." Firmly gripping Lee’s chin, as his nurse, Dan gently held Lee’s head, the plastic surgeon inserted the long, thin needle deep into the laceration.
Lee closed his hazel eyes, when he felt the sharp prick of the needle, as the doctor moved it around to various places within the wound. Sweat broke out on his forehead, while he clutched the sheet in his fists. Gradually, the pain gave way to a tingling numbness that covered the left side of his face.
Satisfied, he’d waited long enough, the surgeon picked up the needle driver and threaded it with a pair of forceps. Deep into the laceration went the needle with Dr. Mooday wrapping the suture thread around the needle driver, tying the end of the stitch. Dan, standing by with a pair of small scissors, snipped the suture each time the doctor indicated.
Popping her head in the doorway behind Jamison, the charge nurse, said, "Excuse me, Dr. Mooday. I know this is highly irregular, but I need this nurse to attend a full arrest that’s about 30 seconds out."
He looked up and in a voice full of sarcasm asked, "There are no other nurses?"
Blushing, the blonde nurse simply replied, "None, sir. I’ve just received three trauma patients and have pulled everyone available."
A disgusted sigh was heard followed by, "It’s so hard to get good help these days. All right, get out of here. I can manage."
Setting the scissors down on the cart, the relieved nurse took off, giving Jamison a wry smile in passing.
Doc took the place where the nurse had been standing opposite the plastic surgeon. Watching the specialist’s skilled hands, Doc couldn’t help, but admire the man’s work. He counted four neat 4.0 Vicryl deep sutures. They’ll dissolve over time.
Dubiously eyeing Jamison, in stocking feet, dressed only in a blue hospital gown with another gown serving as a robe, Dr. Mooday haughtily remarked, "I take it, you’re one of his crew members…" he left the sentence unfinished, as if it was unimportant.
Instantly, not liking the man’s sanctimonious attitude, Jamie replied, "Dr. Mooday. I’m Dr. Will Jamison and this man’s Chief Medical Officer aboard the Seaview."
"So, you’re Will Jamison. I’ve heard enough prattle from the man named Morton next door, about you and the Seaview, to last me a lifetime."
The patient, who’d been tensely resting with a clenched fist now on his belly, opened his hazel eyes and snapped his brows together in a fierce scowl. Riveting a heated gaze at the physician above him, Crane asked, in a low voice underlined with steel. "Prattle, Doctor?"
Lifting the needle driver high above the laceration and pulling a knot tight in the thread, making Lee wince, the arrogant doctor chided. "I told you to hold still. No talking." Keeping the thread taunt, he dropped the forceps and grabbed the scissors, clipping the line. "As for prattle, well, the man is half out of his head."
Bristling, at the man’s lack of compassion, Jamison defended in a frosty tone. "The man does have a concussion."
"You sailors are good at sticking together, aren’t you? That’s why you were all in a brawl. God only knows how you were all caught in a fire." He dropped the needle driver onto the cart and picked up a blue tube of Derma Bond, unscrewing the cap.
"My men do not brawl," bit out the captain. "They’re well trained and disciplined. As for the fire, that’s none…" a hand on his shoulder stopped his tirade. Looking up into Jamie’s face, he caught a fleeting glance of sadness or was it pity? The CMO was intently watching the other man work. Lee felt a slight pressure as Dr. Mooday filled his laceration with the clear glue, then carefully wiped around the edges with a gauze 4 by 4.
Throwing the used gauze pad in the bowl of bloody water, Dr. Mooday pulled off his rubber gloves with a snap and cast them aside on the cart. "Don’t touch your laceration until the glue dries." Casting an odd look at Dr. Jamison, he added, "Your doctor can explain how to take care of it. He can also take the stitch out of your lip when he deems it fit." With that, he turned his back and walked out the door.
"What’s eating him?" asked Crane, moving his fingers up to his fat lip. It felt numb with a pricking sensation. His hand strayed to his laceration and he heard Jamison scold him. "Lee, don’t."
"Don’t what, touch the cut or ask about the good doctor?" He paused a moment, then said, "I…ah…saw the look you gave him. Was that pity for being an ass or something else?"
"Cut?" sputtered Jamie, raising his brows. "That’s a 5cm laceration you’re sporting. And as far as the doctor goes, well, I never met him before today. But, I know of him." Sitting down onto a black rolling stool, he rubbed his chin, recalling what he remembered.
Lee, impatient to be out of the emergency room, sat up, looking for his clothes, as he prodded, "Go on."
"Well, if I recall correctly, Dr. Mooday had a son in the Navy. It seems he was on a cruiser off the coast of Vietnam, when he and a group of men went ashore for some R and R. I believe he was killed in a bar fight."
Only giving it a moment’s thought, Crane said, while spying his uniform on top of the linen cart. "Sorry to hear that. It more than explains his animosity towards Navy men. I was beginning to think it was me he didn’t like." Getting off the gurney, he crossed the room unsteadily to his clothes. He just pulled up his shorts when he heard Jamison clear his throat.
"And just where do you think you’re going, Captain?" asked Jamison, pretending he didn’t know what was on his skipper’s one-track mind.
"I’m going to check on Chip and the others. Are they…ah…discharged yet?" Bending at the waist, to put his foot into his slacks, he stifled a moan. Shooting pains lanced their way through his mid-section, causing him to sway. Trying not to alarm Jamison by the movement, he turned his back on the doctor. Forcing the other foot into his filthy pants, he pulled them up under the gown, stepping sideways off balance. Not hearing Doc creep up on him, he was surprised when a steadying hand gripped his upper arm and maneuvered him to a chair beside the linen cart. Grateful for the help, Lee sank down onto the seat. "I’m a little stiff and the drugs are making me lightheaded."
Ignoring the Skipper’s excuses, Jamison instead answered the captain’s question. "None of us are being discharged yet. Chip is having surgery in the morning and they want the admiral to stay over night."
"He’s going to comply with that?"
Seeing a chance to keep his commander in the hospital without a major argument, Jamison baited. "As a matter of fact, he is. The Ortho and Neuro doctors want to keep an eye on him for a day to make sure there are no complications from the contusions."
"Oh, swelling in the neck, difficulty breathing, undue cervical pain and besides that, he needs some ambulation training with the crutches he’s going to be using."
"Crutches?" asked Crane, stunned. "What in the hell does he need them for?"
Jamieson went back and sat down on the edge of the gurney, absently studying his bandaged hand. His nurse had wrapped it in a roll of white gauze, which was now irritating the fracture. "The admiral tore a ligament when he kicked the guard during the fight with Dennis. He won’t be able to put weight on that leg for some time."
Having totally forgotten about the fight in the past few hours, Lee felt guilty. I remember reaching the component room with the guard climbing to his feet. That must’ve been when Nelson injured his leg. Then, he was limping in the hall. How could I have forgotten all that? Filled with remorse, the captain scrutinized his CMO, who was picking at the bandages of his injured finger. That must have been awful, when Dennis snapped his finger. What would’ve happened if those cops hadn’t showed up? Would he have broken all of Doc’s fingers? His empty stomach turned over and he felt sick.
In a soft repentant voice, "Jamie? How…how bad is your finger?"
Jamison playing it cool slowly looked up and sighed. "I have to go to surgery later this afternoon." Reining him in a little, the doctor added. "You know Lee, as many times as I’ve put patients under…I’ve never gone under anesthesia myself…and I’m a little bit…nervous." His flushed face gave credence to his statement.
Lee, hoping to put aside the doctor’s fear, smiled broadly. "Doc, there’s nothing to it. How many times have you put me under?"
"A few," chucked Jamison. "But, it’s different when you’re a doctor. You know all the risks and it pries on your mind." He looked back down to his hand and moaned.
"Well, don’t worry, Doc. I’ll…we’ll all be here for you. The ER Doc, what’s his name? Dr. Satan? Err…Dr. Satonic wants me to stay overnight, also."
Lee studied his CMO again and wondered if he’d been had. No, the man doesn’t have a devious bone in his body. He’s no different than the rest of us. He just needs some old fashioned tender loving care. Picking up his soiled shirt, he critically examined the dried bloodstains and soot marks. Inhaling the nauseating smoke from the ruined garment, he said, "He wants to make sure I’m really all right." Pausing a second, as if struggling with his thoughts, he wadded his shirt into a ball. "Doc? There is nothing wrong with me, is there?"
"Nothing a little time won’t take care of. You need to rest, so your body can heal. That was quite a beating you took, Lee. Dr. Satonic just wants to make sure there are no complications."
"Yes," grinned the CMO. I got him now. "The best way for the doctor to do his job is by way of observation. It’s always a wait and see game."
"Okay, Doc. You’re the doctor," chuckled a relieved Crane, throwing his shirt on the gurney beside Jamison. "But, I have to tell you, I’d feel much better if we were in sickbay aboard Seaview." He smiled again, catching his CMO’s shocked expression.
A half hour later, Jerry escorted both the captain and Doc to their room on the orthopedic floor. Upon reaching their room of four beds, Jerry explained, "Admitting did the best that they could. We’ve a full house, but with some patient transfers, she was able to arrange a room where you could all be together. I know your admiral would’ve preferred a private room, but the truth is, we don’t have any available at this time. I hope this will be all right."
"It’s fine," assured Capt. Crane. "We’re only going to be here for a short time and…well, our boat is a submarine. We’re rather used to being together."
"Good," exclaimed Jerry sighing in relief. He knew first hand what a stink some people could make if they didn’t get a private room. After all, this is a hospital not a hotel. He settled them both in bed and went to get the other two men, while a young LPN, named Janet did their database for the night’s stay.
"Mr. Crane? Do you have any concerns about your stay, while you are here?"
"Only how soon I can get released."
Janet giggled at that. "All right, next item. Any favorite foods you’d like to be served?"
"I’m not particular." Flushing a little, Lee added, "I’m not much of an eater."
That’s an understatement, thought Jamison, hiding his amusement.
Figuring he’d better give her something in the way of an answer, Lee tacked on, "Pasta. I like pasta."
"I see your orders state soft diet. How’s chicken noodle soup sound?"
Sarcastically, "Wonderful…why, the soft diet?"
"You’ve had some extensive abdominal injuries. The doctors want to make sure your body can handle foods and fluids okay. You don’t want a case of ileus."
"That means colic due to an intestinal obstruction. Another words, the loss of the forward flow of intestinal contents. Your CT showed negative for any bleeds, but there is always an outside chance something could show up after a period of time. That’s why the doctors want to observe you for a while. They want to make sure all your organs are working properly. Understand?"
A long sigh was heard throughout the room.
A portly, older woman in her early fifties introduced herself, "My name is Margie and I’m your Registered Nurse. Now, Dr. Jamison, I’m going to get you ready for surgery. You leave in 30 minutes for pre-op."
Doc soon found himself stripped of his hospital gown and in the shower. Ten minutes later, he was back in bed and given a pre-op pill to relax him. Another tablet was given to help fight the effects of gas caused by the anesthesia. An IV was established in his right hand using a normal saline solution.
"We’re keeping you KVO until you reach OR." Voices in the hall, announced the arrival of the other men. The nurse went out to supervise bringing them into the room.
Curious, Lee asked, "What’s KVO?"
"It means to keep the vein open. Once I’m in the operating room, the surgeon will decide what solution and medicine he wants to run. It all boils down to preference on the physician’s part."
The admiral was brought in on the gurney and transferred to his bed. Chip received the same treatment. Sharkey, being the only one discharged, decided to camp out in the visitor’s lounge of that nursing unit. It had been decided by Nelson, that in the morning, the chief would go and get another rental car from the airport and collect all of their belongings from the hotel, taking them back to the FS1.
Dr. Will Jamison struggled to open his heavy eyes, as his mind fought to clear the fog that encompassed it. Pain radiated from his left bandaged hand, alerting him to the fact that he no longer was cocooned in the amorphous of anesthesia. Trying and failing to flex his fingers, Jamie rubbed his thumb over the soft gauze that was wrapped around his hand, reasoning his last two digits were taped together. Nothing hard attached. Whew! No fixation device. Sounds penetrated the haze of his induced sleep. He heard the click of the morphine pump, felt the burning sting of the medicine as it entered his blood stream, while inhaling the sweet perfume of a nurse positioned by his bed. In the corridor, a clattering cart rolled by, making repetitive noises against the linoleum floor, coming to a halt further down the hallway.
"That will be dinner, guys. I’ll be right back with your trays," said a woman’s voice, from the foot of his bed.
"Good, I’m starving," replied Chip, to the right of him.
"Is there a time, when you’re not hungry, Mr. Morton?" kidded Lee, from across the room.
Back from the operating room, Doc was slowly becoming aware of his surroundings. Familiar background noises from the busy nursing unit outside their room, permeated his consciousness. A voice over the paging system announced, "Code blue, CCU. Code blue, CCU." Someone is dying, I need to get up. Cracking his eyes a mere slit against the bright lights, Jamison focused on a nurse he didn’t recognize, bringing in a tray of food and setting it down in front of Chip Morton.
He watched as Chip clumsily lifted the warming tray cover and dropped it on his bedside table. The clang resounded throughout the room, making his ears ring. He’s still having trouble with his coordination.
Squinting through his good eye, the exec moaned, "Beef broth and Jello! They brought me Jello!"
Chuckles were heard around the room with Lee offering his applesauce for the Jello.
"Absolutely, not," mumbled Doc Jamison, startling everyone. "You can eat the Jello, Skipper, but Chip can not have the applesauce. He’s facing surgery in the morning."
"Doc! Good to hear your voice," exclaimed a relieved Lee. "I was beginning to think you were never going to wake up."
Chip, less exuberant, for he really wanted the applesauce. "Yeah, Jamie, glad to see you woke up…right in the nick of time too. What harm can one little bowl of applesauce do?"
Sleepily, "You’re on a clear liquid diet…" Too tired to keep his eyes open longer, Jamison closed them, drifting into a light sleep. Half in and half out of a conscious state, he listened to the murmured conversation from the Seaview men as it floated around him. A TV was on across from him, broadcasting the evening news.
"Checking out Lee’s tray, Chip whined in a tired voice. "I suppose that means I can’t have your tapioca pudding either." More often than not, the XO would get the captain’s dessert, for Lee would be called away before he finished his meal.
Grinning slightly in sympathy, Crane said, "Sorry Chip. Not this time. You heard the doc." Picking up his spoon, Lee was mildly surprised after taking a bite of his chicken noodle soup. "This soup actually tastes good." Big chunks of chicken, noodles and stock were mixed in a rich chicken broth. To his amazement, he found himself hungry. Then again, I don’t have to rush off to attend some emergency on the boat. I wonder how Seaview is doing without me?
"Of course, it tastes good. It came out of a can," reasoned Chip, dumping a packet of beef flavoring into a cup of hot water. To his annoyance, he dropped the whole packet into the water. The hot liquid seeped in, making the seasoning hard to get out of the foil packet.
"Sirs? You really think Doc’s all right?" asked Sharkey, concern showing on his face. He was sitting in a corner on a recliner, eating a box lunch consisting of a ham and cheese sandwich, chips, and his own Jello. "He seems pale to me."
"He’s all right," crouched Chip, popping off the top of his orange sherbet ice cream, his third of the day. "He’s giving orders isn’t he?"
"Humph," groaned Adm. Nelson, taking a bite of stringy roast beef. His tray consisted of whipped potatoes with dark gravy and crinkled carrots. "Give him a break. He’s down for the count." Responding to Sharkey’s misgivings, he went on to explain, "Chief, everyone looks white as a sheet after getting out of surgery. It’s part of the effects of the anesthesia."
"Down, but not out," snickered Chip, yawning unaware of the fact he just contradicted the admiral.
Nelson let it slip by, figuring the concussion was still affecting his XO’s state of mind. The news broadcast caught his attention and he ordered, "Oh boy, we’re on the news. Listen up."
The camera at the scene panned a wide view of the burning building. "Dennis Engineering went up in flames today from what officials are calling a suspicious fire…" The camera showed another view of the Seaview men sprawled on the grassy curb, across the street, with the firemen giving CPR to the down guard. "These five Navy men were in the building at the time the fire broke out. The cameraman zoomed in on the Seaview men clearly showing their soot covered faces and various visible injuries. In the background, the video picked up Chip singing, "Ashes, ashes, we all fall down…"
Embarrassed, Chip asked, "Why am I singing that damn song?" It bothered him to no end, that he still couldn’t remember anything after getting out of the car.
Listening, but not opening his eyes, Jamison said, "You have a closed head injury with temporary amnesia. You might never remember." He didn’t see his captain lose a bit of color and push his food tray aside. Nor did any of them notice him laying back down on the bed and turning his back to the TV.
"We were unable to interview any of the men. What we do know was that the victims were taken to St Luke’s Emergency Care Center where they were treated for their injuries. A spokeswoman for the hospital reported one death, but would release no other information. We surmise that it was an employee that worked for the engineering firm. Also, the whereabouts of Mr. Robert Dennis, the owner are unknown at this time." The last scene showed the building falling to the ground. "In other news…"
"Well, what do you make of that?" quizzed Sharkey, discarding the plastic container from his lunch in a wastebasket.
"There really isn’t much to it, Chief," expressed Nelson, cutting into a piece of blueberry pie with his fork. Putting it into his mouth, he slowly chewed, savoring the taste.
Chip’s mouth watered at the scene.
The admiral’s blue eyes twinkled at the expression on his exec’s envious face. "You know, a CIA agent paid us a visit while we were waiting for the ambulance to arrive."
"What?" exclaimed Lee, rolling over on his other side to face Adm. Nelson. Lifting up onto one elbow, he cradled his dark head against his hand.
"Hmm, yes, his name was George Peoples and he’s vice director of operations. It seems, Mr. Dennis aroused some suspicions as to what he was up too. Peoples didn’t say how they came across this information, but the CIA has had this plant under surveillance for some time now." Nelson let the information sink into each man’s mind, while he finished his pie. Wiping the whip cream off his mouth, he witnessed Chip licking his lips. Amused, he concluded with, "Oh, by the way, his immediate superior, Retired Admiral Silvers, has put a gag order on the whole operation."
"A gag order?" questioned Lee, stealing a glance around the room. Chip had settled back in bed, rubbing his temple. Doc was asleep and Sharkey was watching something out in the hallway.
"Yes, mum is the word," ordered the admiral, the TV once again drawing his attention.
The men were awakened in the morning with the lights coming on when a lab tech came in and took blood from each man. They were stiff and sore, feeling the effects of aches in places they hadn’t thought possible. Shortly after, a neuro physician paid Chip a visit before his surgery. He did a thorough exam, holding a running conversation with the executive officer.
Extending his hand by way of introduction to his patient, he measured the strength in Chip’s grip. "Hi, my name is Dr. Sharpe and I’m your neuro surgeon."
"I thought Dr. Mooday was doing my surgery?" quizzed Chip, raising a brow on his good eye and sitting up in bed.
"He is, sir. I’m only consulting," grinned the young surgeon, showing a nice set of white teeth. Taking note of the eye movement, he cordially asked, "Any problems with your vision?"
"My good eye? None, sir."
"That is quite a shiner you have there. Can you open it at all?"
Chip tried, but pain lanced through the swollen, purple eye. "I’m sorry, sir. I can’t open it. The ice helped some, but not enough."
"That’s understandable. I hate to tell you this, but when you get out of surgery, you’ll have even more bruising and swelling." He saw Chip swallow hard. "It’ll extend clear to the bridge of your nose and most of the left side of your face." A mischievous glint entered his eye, as he glanced at Crane, watching intently from the bed across from Chip. "You’ll even rival your friend there in getting the nurse’s attention. Chuckles were heard around the room.
Lifting a penlight from his lab jacket pocket, Dr. Sharpe held it aloft. "Follow my movements please." He moved the pen from side to side, then up and down. Chip easily followed the movement with no problem. "Good. Now, touch your nose with your right hand." Chip complied, then was ordered to use the other hand in the same way. "Good," repeated the surgeon. "Now, hold both hands out, arms extended towards me." He studied him a moment putting the penlight back in his pocket and taking out an ophthalmoscope.
"You may put your hands down by your side." Sitting down beside Chip on the bed, he turned on the light of the portable ophthalmoscope. Bringing the instrument close to Chip’s uninjured eye, the doctor slowly did an ocular examination. Moving it around slowly, the Dr. Sharpe asked, "Any pain, headache?"
In a reluctant voice, Chip confirmed, "I have a mild headache. It won’t delay surgery will it?" He wanted it over with as soon as possible.
"I would’ve said you were lying if you didn’t have a headache," teased the surgeon. Winking at Dr. Mooday, who’d silently come into the room and was now standing behind him, Dr. Sharpe added, "It shouldn’t be a problem. Any dizziness?"
"Good," was the answer again. Finishing with his eye, he started on the injured one, carefully lifting the swollen lid.
Chip winced in spite of his gentleness.
"Sorry, Chip. I know this hurts, but I need a look." He moved it around the eye and Chip could see the pinpoint of light, making him feel better. He’d been afraid to ask if he’d been blinded in the eye. Nothing had been said either way and at the time, he’d not worked up the courage yet, to find out. "Your pupil is equal to the other one. That’s a good sign. There doesn’t appear to be any injury to the eye itself only the orbital floor."
A heavy sigh was heard from the patient and the dark haired man across from him. Frowning slightly, Dr. Sharpe asked, "Didn’t anyone inform you that your vision was intact?"
"No, sir," replied Chip, smiling broadly, the tension draining from his face.
"How remiss," flatly stated Dr. Sharpe, looking accusingly at Dr. Mooday, who only indifferently shrugged his shoulders.
Putting the scope back in his pocket, Dr. Sharpe extended both of his hands. "Grip my hands and squeeze."
Chip did as bid.
Again, Chip squeezed, using more strength.
"Okay, you can let go," commanded Dr. Sharpe, getting to his feet. He went to the foot of the bed and lifted the blankets. Picking up a foot, he placed his thumb on top and counted the pulses, then ordered Chip to push. Dropping the foot, he repeated the procedure with the other one. "Very good, Mr. Morton. Now, lick your right elbow."
"What?" asked Chip totally blank.
He got a chuckle from both doctors and a snicker from Jamison, in the bed next to him. "Don’t Chip, that’s the oldest joke in the book. It’s physically impossible to do."
"Sorry, Mr. Morton, that’s a little sick humor amongst doctors. You’d be surprised how many patients really try it."
"I bet," griped Chip, not sure he liked being the butt of a doctor’s joke. Smiling sheepishly, he filed it away in his memory to try on another unsuspecting person.
"All kidding aside, how do you really feel?" sharply asked Dr. Mooday, bending over his patient with stethoscope in hand.
"I guess, I’m fine." His stomach picked that moment to growl in protest. His face flushed in embarrassment. "I am a little hungry. Liquid dinners don’t do much for the appetite."
"I heard you didn’t eat your Jello from your dinner tray. You must not have been too hungry last night," sarcastically retorted Dr. Mooday, putting the stethoscope in his ears and placing the disc on Chip’s muscular chest.
Surprised the doctor had kept tabs on his eating habits, he never the less couldn’t keep the grimace from his face at the mention of the word Jello. "Sorry, Doc. there’s just no way I can eat that stuff, especially after it about sunk our sub, disguised in the form of plankton."*
"Plankton?" asked Dr. Mooday, in clear disbelief.
Yes," affirmed Chip in all seriousness. "It breached the hull of our boat, filling it with the consistency of Jello. We had to liquefy the stuff and blow it out the ballast tanks."
"Right," pacified Dr. Mooday, not believing him at all. He finished listening to Chip’s heart and lungs then walked over to Dr. Sharpe, who had moved off to Nelson’s side. Pulling the neuro doctor aside, he whispered, "I think we need to have another CT done on Mr. Morton before I take him to surgery. I think you missed something."
Plastering a tight smile on his face, Dr. Sharpe coolly reported, "If you’ll note his chart, the CT has already been ordered. But, in my personal opinion, the Lt. Commander has shown marked improvement from yesterday and is ready for surgery."
Turning back to Adm. Nelson and giving him an apologetic smile, Dr. Sharpe started his exam, reaching for the C collar around his neck. "If your neck shows marked improvement, I’m going to take off this stiff collar and replace it with a soft support collar." He unfastened the Velcro tabs, which made a tearing noise, releasing the white stiff collar. Examining his neck with knowledgeable fingers, he asked, "How did you sleep last night?"
"Very poorly," crouched the admiral. "And, I’d give my eye teeth for a cigarette."
Chuckling, the young doctor commiserated, "That sir, can be arranged. I’ll have a nurse’s aide take you down to the designated smoking area, commonly known as the pit." He tapped his pocket for emphasis and Nelson noticed the pack of smokes outlined in the scrub pocket. "But first, I need to finish this cervical exam of your neck. Any trouble breathing?"
Irked at the younger doctor’s easy banner and dismissing manner, Dr. Mooday grabbed the chart at the end of Chip’s bed and stomped out into the hall, yelling for Morton’s nurse.
A little while later, Admiral Nelson, accompanied by Chief Sharkey, was wheeled down the hall to the designated smoking area by a male attendant. The breakfast cart went careening by, once again, coming to a halt down the corridor. The doors were flung open. Pulling the covered trays, smelling of bacon, eggs and oatmeal from the inside, unit support associates delivered them to the patient’s rooms. The pharmacy cart was brought out and nurses began passing med’s to their patients. Adding to the crowded hallways, various doctors in white coats, some in scrubs, some in suits intermingled with the nurses, reading charts, seeing patients and giving orders. Environmental personnel swept floors, emptied trash baskets and cleaned rooms, while ward clerks keyed in new orders into their computers, retrieved various tests results and updated patient’s charts.
Waiting for the elevator door to open, which would take them to an outside exit where the smoking pit was located, Nelson murmured to his chief, "Mike was right."
"Pardon me, sir?" asked Sharkey, frowning in puzzlement. Sometimes the admiral said things that were completely over his head.
"I was just agreeing with Dr. Satonic’s observation, that a hospital is run much like a ship. Their routines and duties might differ from a boats, but everyone shares in the responsibilities of making sure their unit runs smoothly. One minor screw up and a patient’s life could be at stake."
The elevator door opened before Sharkey could respond. Out came a smiling, shapely woman, in her late thirties, dressed in ceil blue scrubs, pushing a pre-op surgery gurney.
"Hi Sailor," greeted the nurse, in a husky voice, as she by passed the men, giving the chief the once over from keel to conn.
Sharkey inhaled the alluring woman’s provocative perfume and swallowed hard. "Ma…madam." Standing a little taller, he nodded his head, wishing his uniform wasn’t filthy from the fire. It didn’t seem to matter, for he could have sworn she put a little extra jiggle into her step just for him. The chief’s eyes were glued to that delectable piece of fluff, as she guided the cart down the corridor. For the life of him, he couldn’t seem to look away. Finally, the attendant nudged him with his elbow, reminding him to step into the elevator. Turning around for one last peek, Sharkey was rewarded with a wink from the pre-op runner as she entered the senior officer’s room.
A bit flustered, Sharkey quipped, "Looks like Mr. Morton’s on his way to surgery."
"Humph," grouched the admiral, hiding his smile.
Chip Morton only had time to get a whiff of Lee and Doc’s breakfast, before a nurse requested his company to the cart in the hallway. Getting a look at the beautiful black haired woman lifting his IV bottle from its pole, Chip soon forgot about his hungry stomach. Barely hearing the men’s, "Good luck. We’ll be waiting here for you." The exec leaned heavily against the nurse’s arm, as she guided him to the gurney.
"My name is Rosie and I’ll be your nurse while you are in surgery."
One look into her kind, crystal blue eyes, Chip, who’d been dreading this moment since Dr. Mooday had paid him a visit, soon decided that things were definitely looking up. Everything is going to be all right. I can feel it. He glanced back at his commander and mouthed, "Eat your heart out, Lee."
After making sure he was comfortable on the pre-op cart, Rosie covered him with a sheet. She handed him his chart, which accompanied him everywhere he went. They were off to CT where a scan was quickly performed. Odd, I don’t remember having one yesterday. Will I ever get my memory completely back? Chip was given no time to ponder further. He was resettled on the gurney and carted down the long corridor, stopping at a set of double doors. Rosie keyed in a code on the keypad and the doors automatically opened, admitting them into a wide reception area. On the left, stood an open door leading to the doctor’s lounge. Several black reclining chairs with small tables and phones could be seen throughout the small room. A little further down, they stopped in front of an open office window where Rosie handed his chart to the ward clerk. Shifting his head to the right, he noted a set of blue closed doors, which read Recovery Room.
"This is the weekend, so Pre-op and Recovery are closed. We’re taking you straight back to the operating suite. With that, another set of white double doors, which read Authorized Personnel Only in big red letters opened. On the floor another wide sign in white read, Sterile Area Only. A nurse in green scrubs met him at the doors as he passed through.
"Hi, Chip. My name is Beckie and I’m you LPN for this surgery. Rosie is going to scrub while I get you settled in O R. Rosie left for the scrub room where Chip could see through the big window, several people washing their hands. Beckie shoved a pink pill in his mouth adding, "This is for the after effects of the anesthesia. It helps break the gas down."
It tasted like peppermint and quickly dissolved in his mouth. Another set of hands started pushing his gurney down a long hall. Equipment lined the corridor with men and women in blue or green scrubs. Rooms with numbers passed by in a blur. Chip soon found the man pushing his cart, was an anesthesiologist named Dr. Lingerfelton. "You can call me Dr. Ling for short," smiled the man.
"Have you ever been under anesthesia before?" asked the doctor, halting before a set of green double doors marked with a number ten. They waited a moment as the doors swung open. Chip was pushed in, coming to a halt next to a very slender operating table. The room was at least 10 degrees cooler than the hallway.
"Ah, a few times." Two fully gowned and masked nurses lifted Chip onto the cold, black operating table. A shiver coursed its way through his body. Music was softly playing in the background to the tune of a country, western song.
"I know it’s cold in here," stated Beckie. She extended his right arm outward on an armrest, taping it down. His left arm, she laid down beside him. Another nurse took the paper off the lead patches and laid them on his chest and ribs. Next, she attached a series of colored lines from the heart monitor to the leads. The pulse ox monitor was clamped to his right index finger, turning it red and a blood pressure cuff was wrapped tightly around his upper arm. Straps were put around his torso and legs. I guess, this means there’s no escape. Rosie came back into the room in time to cover him from head to toe with blue paper draping.
Chip could only look straight up to the ceiling for his head was secured between two plastic blocks. At his head sat Dr. Lingerfelton. "Chip, have you ever had any trouble with the anesthesia? Do you have any allergies to it or any medicines?"
"No, none that I know of."
"Good," murmured the doctor, patting his shoulder. He put an oxygen mask over his face. "Relax Chip, it’ll soon be over. Breathe in deeply and relax."
Easy, for you to say. Having no choice, he inhaled deeply. His heart seemed to be racing and he couldn’t stop shivering.
"Good Chip," comforted Dr. Lingerfelton. "In a few moments you’ll feel the warmth of the anesthesia through your IV. You’ll feel a wetting sensation. Don’t worry about it. After you’re asleep, we’ll put in a Foley catheter and an airway down your throat. When you wake up, both will have been removed. Your throat will feel a bit sore. Do you have any questions?"
"No," croaked Chip, his mouth suddenly felt very dry. He searched for Rosie’s calming blue eyes, finding her to his right. She smiled in a comforting way and he felt a bit relieved. Dr. Mooday made his appearance and his heart skipped a beat. At a nod from the stern doctor, Chip felt the warmth in his arm. Then, a wet sensation swept over his lower abs, leading downward. The last thing he remembered was looking upwards and counting the rivets in the ceiling.
Lee Crane was a bundle of nerves. He continuously paced the confines of their room, checking his watch every five minutes. Occasionally, he’d run a hand across his stomach and ribs, as if in pain. He’s got to be all right. He’s just got to be.
"Lee," coaxed Doc Jamison, "This is not going to make the time go by any faster. Making yourself sick with anxiety won’t help Chip either." The admiral was in physical therapy and Sharkey had gone after a fresh change of clothes for all of them.
"I know. I know," scowled the captain, checking his watch, yet again. "Its just…Damn! Why is it taking so long?" He slapped his bedside table, bringing his thumb up to his mouth and wedging the nail between his lower teeth.
I wish, the hell I knew. Glancing at his more than agitated skipper, Jamison hid his apprehension and forced himself to calmly reply. "Look, Lee. These things take time. Dr. Mooday is very particular. So is Dr. Hurt."
"Dr Hurt?" snapped Lee. "Why’s he on the case? I thought it was just Dr. Mooday, the great plastic surgeon."
Ignoring his commander’s sarcasm, Doc once again explained the process. "Dr. Hurt is a bone doctor. He is standing by just in case the blow out fracture turns out more complicated than expected."
Captain Crane’s grim face tightened with renewed pain and Jamison knew he hadn’t helped the cause at all. Blast, he’s really taking everything that happened to all of us to heart. It’s eating him up inside. The Admiral is going to have his hands full dealing with Lee’s guilt. Damn, it wasn’t his fault, but I know he feels responsible for all of us.
"What about his concussion? Do you think that’s a problem?" He tread to the end of the room, turned on a dime and walked back towards the other side at the same time running a hand through his thick, black hair.
"His CT turned out fine. There’s no bleed," assured Doc. Boy, does he need a distraction. A pretty blonde nurse came into the room and asked if they needed anything. Lee didn’t even notice her, choosing to pace to the other side of the room.
"Do you have some analgesic?"
"For the captain?" she innocently asked.
"No," sharply replied Doc, rubbing his forehead. "For me. I have a headache." He angled his head towards Crane.
Giggling, she said, "I’ll see what I can do, doctor." The blonde left the room.
"Look, Doc. I’m sorry, I’m such a bear." Lee stopped pacing long enough to peer out the window. Inhaling, then letting his breath out slowly, he said. "I’m just worried." Sitting down on the side of his bed, he ran both hands through his already unruly hair. Covering his face with his hands he burst out with, "It’s all my fault." Then louder, "All of it!"
Doc sat down beside him, but before he could comfort his commander, Lee jumped to his feet and started pacing once again.
Jamison let out his pent up breath through clenched teeth. "Lee, it’s not your fault!"
Angrily turning on his CMO, Lee snarled, "Then, who is at fault?" Not giving him time to answer, Crane bit out. "I’ll tell you who’s fault it was. MINE! Mine for getting hypnotized. Mine for hitting Chip. Mine for bringing you all to Dennis Engineering. Mine for starting a fire that nearly got you all killed. Mine…"
"Tsk, tsk," from a doctor, standing in the doorway. A deep male voice chimed in, "Sounds like a pity party to me. Do you think I should get the violins out, Jamie?"
Doc Jamison jerked his head around, increasing his headache. His hand throbbed and he still felt worn out from his own surgery. Recognizing one of the voices, Doc smiled, thankful for the interruption, "Mike? What are you doing out of ER?"
Meeting Jamie half way, Dr. Satonic shook his hand stating, "I ran into Capt. Crane’s admitting doctor in ER and decided to check up on you all. But I think we arrived at a bad time." He caught a glower from the hazel-eyed commander. "Captain Crane, Doc Jamison, this is Dr. Fattal."
"Dr. Fattal. I believe, you were a medic in the Army the last time I saw you," remarked Jamison, surprising everyone. The two men warmly shook hands.
"Another old friend, Doc?" inquired Crane, shaking the man’s hand. He had a firm handshake with intelligent eyes, which instantly calmed his angry demeanor. Not understanding his emotions and for reasons unknown to him, Lee found himself liking the new doctor.
"Yes, you could say that. We met under very unsavory circumstances." A meaningful look was exchanged between the two men and Lee knew they were recalling the moment in time.
"Oh?" asked Dr. Satonic.
Dr. Fattal took up the tale. "Yes, Jamie was on a carrier at the time. I had been drafted shortly after finishing med school. A platoon, lead by my best friend, was ordered to a remote section of coastland in Vietnam. Their mission was to take out a hill where the enemy had unlimited view of the beach. Their own medic was in a MASH Unit with appendicitis where I was stationed performing meatball surgery. So, Bill asked me to go. I thought, sure why not? I was itching for some real field duty. I got more than what I bargained for."
He stopped the story there for a few moments. His eyes mirrored the horrors of the past. Jamison turned away and stared out the window.
Taking a deep breath, Dr, Fattal rushed on. "We took the hill, but at great cost. Out of 12 men only 3 of us came back. Bill was killed in the first charge. Being next in rank, it was up to me to finish the job. The only way to the top of the hill was straight up with very little ground cover. Troops would be landing in the morning and we had to take the enemy out. It was almost dawn and time was running out. Two more tries and we succeeded with some well-aimed grenades. Five of us were left, but we were all wounded. Two men critically and three seriously, including myself. I patched them up with what was in the med-kit. One died waiting for the troops to land. The other died as we were being evacuated to the carrier."
Looking straight into Lee Crane’s eyes he finished. "They died and I blamed myself."
"Why, Doc?" interrupted Crane. "You did everything you could under the circumstances."
"Yes, but I wasn’t good enough. I was inexperienced as a combat officer, as a field doctor."
"You did the best that you could. The situation was beyond your control," fired Crane.
"Bingo, Captain. As was yours."
Silence permeated the room as the scenario played itself out in Lee’s mind. The other two men left the room, quietly shutting the door, leaving the doctor with his patient.
"Oh, no." Pointing to himself with his thumb, Lee angrily retorted, "I’m…the reason they’re all here!"
"It was beyond your control, Captain."
"That’s no excuse."
"Deal with it, Lee. It was beyond your control, but when you gained control, you did the right thing. You got them out!"
"But, look at what it cost them!"
"They’re alive! Most of my men didn’t have that privilege."
Again silence claimed the room. Each man lost in thought, remembering.
A sigh was released and Dr Fattal ordered, "Lee, I am your doctor and my specialty is internal medicine. If you want to be discharged, I really need to exam you. Please sit down on the bed."
Wasting no time, Lee did as bid. I don’t want to spend anymore time here than I have to. Chip should be getting back from surgery anytime. The admiral’s going to be discharged after his ambulation training and technically, Doc’s already been sprung.
Dr. Fattal listened to his heart and lungs. Satisfied with the sounds, he said, "I’ve read your chart and have gone over all of your test results. They look good. Lie down and let me examine your belly."
Lee swung his long, tan legs up onto the bed and reclined on the pillow. Dr. Fattal pulled the sheet up to cover his privates and lifted his hospital gown to above his waste. His eyes widened at the sight of the massive black and blue bruises. Saying nothing, his expert hand palpated the liver, stomach and spleen, eliciting an unwelcome groan from the patient.
"Hurts, doesn’t it?"
"Any nausea, vomiting?"
"Lee?" questioned the doctor raising a brow.
Blast, can’t I fool anyone around here? "All right. Some nausea, no vomiting. I haven’t had much of an appetite."
"I can see why." Dr. Fattal pulled his stethoscope out of his pocket, putting the ends in each ear. Carefully, he bent over and listened to each organ, pressing inward at different places. Lee moaned, unable to stifle the sounds, much to his disgust.
"Well," expressed Dr. Fattal, taking the stethoscope’s ends out of his ears and wrapping it around his neck. "We’ll do another CT with and without contrast. Then we’ll do another splenoportography to make sure everything is on the up and up. If it is, I’ll release you to your ship’s doctor’s capable hands with restrictions." Tapping Lee’s raised bent knee with his knuckle, he added, "Good luck, Commander." He headed for the door.
Seeing he was leaving. Lee commanded, "Wait!"
The doctor halted at the door and turned partway around.
Drawing his brows together, Lee studied his ring a second before bringing his hazel eyes up to meet the sparkling brown ones of the doctor. "How did you come to terms with what happened on the hill?"
"Oh, that." He put his hand on the doorknob and grinned. "I met a good doctor on the carrier named, Will Jamison. He played the devil’s advocate very well. Ask him to tell you the story how he became a ship’s doctor." Dr. Fattal opened the door, looking back. "Don’t be so hard on yourself, Lee. You did your best. That is all anyone can ask."
Lee put his arms behind his head and contemplated all that he had learned.
It was a rag-tag group of officers that met the astonished deck watch on the gangway leading to Seaview. First, there was Admiral Nelson with a soft cervical collar around his neck, hobbling along on crutches with his right foot raised. Beside him, slightly bent over with a hand holding his side, ready to lend assistance if need be, was Captain Crane with a bruised cheek and a fat lip. Next, came Doc with a bandaged left hand, holding Mr. Morton’s left arm in a steadying grip with his right hand. The executive officer looked like he’d gone ten rounds in a boxing match and lost.
Patterson struck dumb by the sight of his commanders, barely managed to get out an acknowledgement as the men came abreast of him. Riley almost choked on his whistle when he piped them aboard. Sparks, who was Officer of the Deck, did a double take, not quite believing what he was observing.
"Ad…Admiral Nelson. Captain Crane."
"Pat, Riley, Sparks," acknowledged the skipper. "Everyone on board? Any problems?"
"Everyone accounted for, sir. No problems," reported Sparks, still looking wide-eyed at his captain.
"Very well, make all preparations to get underway." Not waiting for an answer, the officers trooped below decks.
"Yes, sir," followed in their wake.
Chief Sharkey brought up the rear of the officers, huffing and puffing. His ribs hurt, his jaw was still swollen and his scraped knuckles were stiff. The men, viewing the condition of their COB, waylaid him with a dozen questions.
"Chief, what happened?"
"Ran into trouble, huh?"
"Who did this?"
"What do the other guys look like?"
"Didn’t they like the Admiral’s sub designs?"
"How’d the Senior Staff do? They beat’em didn’t they?"
"How badly hurt is everyone?"
"Hold it! Wait a minute!" yelled the chief. Tired, sore and cranky, Sharkey put them off. "Look, I’ll tell you all about it…later."
There was a chorus of "Ah, come on!"
The deck crew made their appearance ready to cast off the lines. It was his queue to get things moving. "Look, you goldbrickers, you heard the skipper. He wants to get underway. Now, quite loafing and move it!"
The men scurried to do his bidding, knowing the story would wait until later.
Seaview got underway with Captain Lee Crane in command. Once out of the harbor and over the breakwater, he turned the conn over to the capable hands of his 3rd in command, Bobby O’Brien. Taking a tour of the boat was his next priority, making sure everything was shipshape. Carrying the boat’s status papers with him, he spot-checked each department, ending up in Officer’s Country at Admiral Nelson’s cabin door. Knocking on his door, he waited for permission to enter.
Lee opened the door, stepping inside. Closing the door behind him, he walked up to the Admiral’s desk, noticing Nelson was at work with his foot propped in a chair. Silently, he handed the status reports to Nelson.
"Humph," groaned Nelson, setting them on top of all his other paperwork.
Putting his hands in his front pockets, Lee moved off to stand stiffly in front of his desk. Clinching his fists, he took them out of his pockets and held them at his sides. In a clipped voice, he reported, "Sir, we’re on course at 250 feet, trim is satisfactory. I left Ski ashore to retrieve the FS1 from the airstrip. He should be docking with Seaview momentarily." His dark, hazel eyes bore into Nelson’s direct blue ones.
"Very well," replied Nelson, noting the cool formalness of his captain. I hate it when he goes all Navy on me. Between knowing his man well, the information Jamison had relayed to him from the events in the hospital room and what Lee had learned while captive at Dennis Engineering; he made a calculated guess, as to what was bugging his captain. A long sigh was released into the cabin. Picking up a pencil, he asked, "Something on your mind, Lee?"
The brooding man dropped his sharp gaze to his raised hands. Fingering and twisting his ring, he ignored the urge to take his usual seat on the corner of the Admiral’s desk. Always a man of action, Lee decided to take the direct route.
Leaning his knuckles on the desk surface, Lee asked dead serious, "Why, Admiral? Why the subliminal implants? Why didn’t you tell me?"
Nelson sat back in his chair, throwing the pencil down on his desk. Taking his time, he readjusted his sore ankle to a more comfortable position. Then he lifted a finger to his neck, running it absently through his hair. Put on the spot, Nelson wasn’t sure how he wanted to answer this question. There were reasons, he cared not to reveal, but his captain and his friend deserved some kind of an answer. Finally, he said, "It’s like this Lee. You’re like a brother to me and there is no one I trust more with our country’s safety." Watching Lee’s face darken, he quickly added, "It’s the truth, Lee. It’s not a cop out. As far as not telling you. Well," he chuckled more to himself than to his captain. "Well, they were implanted at the same time we volunteered for the initial subliminal tests. Remember? The ones, where Sharkey lost control and we practically killed each other?"
Lee reared back, making a wry face. "Please, don’t remind me of that. I’ve been trying to forget those experiments ever took place." He made a small circle around the room, putting his hands back in his pockets, then settled down on the corner of Nelson’s desk.
Feeling more confident, Nelson grinned. "Yes, that is the crux of the problem. I’m …ah…not even sure if we retained the codes when the experiments ended." He waited for his captain’s reaction to this new development.
Confused, Crane expounded, "What? You mean, you’re not even sure if we’ll remember them if the X-4 was breached and shut down?"
Shaking his head affirmative, "Exactly," confirmed the admiral. "In any event, we’ll never know until that time happens. And hopefully, we won’t ever have to fine out." He picked up his pencil again. "Anyways, if and I say if it ever does happen and we don’t remember, they are safely locked away at the institute."
"Now, why doesn’t that surprise me?" asked Lee, as he got up from the desk to pace.
"Anything else on your mind, Lee?"
"Yes." With dread in his heart, he asked, "Why am I so susceptible to hypnosis?"
Nelson could see the agony in the younger man’s eyes. "You’re not anymore than the rest of us are," replied the admiral, trying to reassure him.
Slamming his fist down on the desk in frustration, Lee countered, "But, I am! I get taken over more than anyone else on board!"
"It only seems that way. I just got done telling you and I’ll say it again. There’s no one the crew or I trust more."
"But, I’m a risk! A big risk and Seaview…"
"And Seaview needs her captain!" interrupted Nelson, cutting him off. Compassionate blue eyes lingered on the torn man before him. In a firm voice, the admiral went on. "Lee, you are the best man for the job. If I didn’t think so, I’d have relieved you of command a long time ago."
Lee didn’t entirely buy it. With much doubt and misgiving, he doggedly replied, "Thanks for your vote of confidence, but for the good of the ship, I should re…"
Nelson sat up straighter. On his face was the angriest expression Lee had ever seen. "Enough, Captain! You think I make idle comments?" Not giving him time to answer again, he continued on. " I’ll make myself more clear. There is no one! No one you hear me? Better for the job!" Indignant, he slammed his fist down on the desk and threatened, "Over my dead body will you resign as her captain!" Giving him no more room for argument he finished with "Dismissed!"
Crane, totally taken aback, his face devoid of all expression, except for the twinkle in his eyes, coolly saluted, turned on his heel and left the admiral’s cabin.
Shaking his head, Nelson leaned back in his chair, pulling open his bottom drawer. He lifted out a bottle of whiskey with a glass, pouring himself a hefty amount. Lifting his glass in a salute, he grinned and said, "Here’s to you, Captain Crane."
With a smile he couldn’t wipe off, Captain Crane made another inspection of the boat, his boat. His heart felt lighter with each step he took. When he passed his men in the corridors, he could see the curiosity in their eyes about his bruised cheek and split lip. Owing them no explanation, he nonetheless, exchanged grins and good-natured quips with various crewmembers. Pride and belonging filled his heart, wiping out any lingering doubts about his command of her. Heading for sickbay, he found himself actually looking forward to quarreling with his CMO. Dr. Fattal had discharged him with the stipulation he was to be on light duty for a couple of days. "Didn’t you say Seaview is heading home? He had confirmed that she was. "Well, then, Lee, relax and enjoy it."
Approaching sickbay, Lee forced a dour expression on his face and stepped inside.
Doc Jamison, instantly sputtered, "It’s about time. I know Dr. Fattal gave you permission to get us underway, but that was two hours ago. Frank’s not on this cruise or I’d have sent him after you. As it is, I’m too tired to go chasing after you all over this boat."
"Whoa, Doc," defended Lee, holding up his hands in defeat. "I surrender."
That’s one for the books. Jamison stopped his tirade, critically examining his captain. For everything he’s been through, the man looks pretty good. Being back on the boat always agrees with him. Maybe the light duty is uncalled for. Jamison looked closer, his expert medical eye missing nothing. On second thought, I know better…His lips are pinched, as if in pain and there are dark circles under his eyes not entirely caused by the beating. He’s tired and strained from the weekend’s events. My guess is he’s just on a temporary high from being aboard his gray lady.
Not comfortable with the way his CMO was studying him, Lee asked concerned, "How’s Chip?"
"Resting," came the reply. "Where you should be." Lifting a finger, Jamison pointed towards the bunks. "In."
"Jamie, that’s not necessary. Dr. Fattal said I could stay in my own cabin. He said I only had to report to you if I was having pain or any recurrence of the mile long list of symptoms written on my discharge papers." Folding his arms in front of him, he added, "I’m only here now, because you requested it and to check on Chip." His hazel eyes traveled over to the bunk where his friend was asleep. Even from the inner office, he could see the dark colors around the outside of the white bandages that covered his eye and one side of his face. The deep bruising, Dr. Sharpe had warned them about, looked ghastly against his pale skin.
Rubbing his forehead, as if he had another headache, Jamison agreed. "Yes, that is true, But, I would rest much easier, if I knew you were here and not in your cabin. At least here, I’d know you are sleeping and not doing paperwork or some other duty."
"Look, Jamie, the doctors ordered extra rest for all of us. That includes you. Now, if I’m here, you’re not…"
"Exactly, Lee," exclaimed Jamison, interrupting him, while cradling his sore hand. "If you’re here, I can rest easier, knowing you’re resting."
Shaking his head at his CMO’s reasoning, Lee pleaded, "But Doc, when I’m here you never get any rest."
"I will this time, Captain, for I’m putting you on your honor as an officer and a gentleman. I want you in that bunk for at least two or three hours."
My honor. It had to be my honor. Knowing he lost the argument fair and square, Lee rolled back on his heels, straightening to his full height and gave him a scowl of displeasure. It always works on the men.
Having the audacity to grin, Doc said, "Sorry, Skipper, but it’s not going to work this time. Now, unless you have something to talk to me further about, I want you to climb in that rack."
"Well, Jamie, there ah, is something I’d like to ask you about," murmured Crane, in a soft voice.
"Oh?" questioned Doc, realizing the conversation had taken a serious turn.
"Yes, something Dr. Fattal told me has tweaked my curiosity." Lee fidgeted with his ring a moment, as if trying to come to terms with what was on his mind. "You see, he told me the circumstances of all of us getting captured were beyond my control. And though, I can’t shirk the responsibility for it happening, I have come to terms on how to deal with my feelings towards the incident." He glanced at Chip again. "Well, almost."
"I see. In other words, you know it wasn’t your fault, but still feel guilty and responsible for what happened to your men?"
"Yes," said Crane running a hand through his hair exasperated.
"Has anyone complained that it was your fault?"
"Has the admiral lost faith in you?"
"No," smirked Lee. "In fact, he gave me quite a dressing down when I mentioned it."
"Then Lee, stop beating a dead horse. It wasn’t your fault. You have nothing to feel guilty over."
"But, Doc, what if it happens again? What happens if I get taken over again by some…some alien force or…something?"
Greatly troubled, Lee put his hands in his pockets and hung his head. "How can I hold the men’s…the admiral’s respect if these things keep happening?"
In a reassuring voice, Doc Jamison offered, "Lee, we’ll deal with each incident when and if they come. Quit putting the cart before the horse. The admiral, by your own words, has complete faith in you. And the crew," he gave a slight chuckle, "the crew will follow you to hell and back if necessary. Haven’t they already done so numerous times?"
"You make it sound so easy," said Lee, uneasily smiling.
"And look at it this way, the admiral always knows what to do. He always thinks of something."
Lee nodded his head affirmative. "Jamie, I can see why Dr. Fattal holds you with such high regard. He ah, mentioned I should hear the story on how you became a ship’s doctor."
"Oh, that," smirked Jamison. "That story will have to come another time." Seeing his skipper was about to protest, he held up his hands, finishing with. "It’s a long story, Lee. Someday, when we’re old and sitting on a porch in our rocking chairs, I’ll tell you my story." Reaching out and grasping Lee around his forearm, Doc Jamison gave him a gentle squeeze, then pushed him towards the bunk, ordering, "Now, I want you to stop brooding and get some rest."
"All right. All right," grumbled Capt. Crane, noting the exhaustion written on the older man’s face. He was rubbing his injured hand, a sure sign it was bothering him.
"Jamie? I’ve been remiss, how’s your hand?"
"It’s stiff and tender, but time will take care of it."
"Didn’t I hear Dr. Hurt order extra rest for you?"
Jamison looked heavenward, as if asking for divine intervention with stubborn officers. "As soon as you climb into that bunk, I’m heading to mine."
"Okay, I’m going." Lee turned, heading to the indicated bunk next to Chip’s. Climbing in, he heard Doc say. "You’re on your honor, skipper. Two hours, you hear me? More if possible, but no less." Not giving him time to answer, Jamison left sickbay and headed for his cabin.
Stretching out, Lee was surprised to find he was more tired than he thought. Just as he was beginning to drift off he heard Chip chuckling.
"What’s so funny?" griped Lee, surprised to fine him awake. He knew the trip back to the boat had taken quite a toll on his exec, especially with him having surgery that morning. They had traveled almost 200 miles in the FS1 to get back to Norfolk.
"You and Jamie, always arguing."
Half sarcastic, "Oh, and you never do?"
His voice softening, "How’s your head?"
"Hurts, but I’ll be up in another day. You know, Lee. You can’t keep a good man down."
"Right," agreed Crane. He shifted to ease the ache from his injured ribs. "Chip, I’m sorry I hit you. I…I don’t know what came over me."
Having overheard the entire conversation between his peers and not wanting to cause further emotional stress for his friend, Chip answered lightly, "Forget it, Lee. I have a hard head."
"Indeed you do Mr. Morton. Indeed you do. After I was discharged, I saw Dr. Mooday come in as I was being wheeled down to the front lobby. What did he have to say about the operation? He never came back to our room when you returned from surgery. When Jamison asked the nurse how your operation went, she just said it went fine." Lee snorted at that point. "They acted like it was a big secret or something."
"She was probably bound by a confidential oath not to say anything unless the patient gave his permission. I don’t know. The ways of the medical world are a mystery to me. Dr. Mooday was an odd duck anyways."
Both men chuckled at that. "Anyways, Dr. Mooday told me I’d have a slight scar and that in time it would hardly be noticeable. Much to the shock of the nurse, he gave me his discharge instructions himself, handing me his pen to sign for my release. Afterwards, he gave me a charm."
"Yeah, he said it was his son’s good luck charm. It’s an anchor, but if you look close enough, you can see a cross within in it."
"But, his son is dead. You’d think he’d want to keep it."
"Yeah, I know. But listen to this. I was rather speechless at the time and Dr. Mooday took off before I could say anything. Our nurse, Marjorie, it turns out knows the family quite well. She said, his son was a Navy Intelligence Officer and that he’d given his buddy the charm for he’d had a bad feeling about the mission they were on. They weren’t in the bar to have a good time, but as a cover to meet an operative. Some how word leaked out and they were set up. Dr. Mooday’s son was killed. His buddy made it out, wounded and barely alive, by faking he was dead."
"The one with the charm?"
"Yes, when he got back to the states, he gave Dr. Mooday the charm, telling him it should’ve been him that died instead of his son. Dr. Mooday held onto the charm for years."
"So, why did Dr. Mooday give it to you?"
"I don’t really know Lee, except when Dr. Mooday handed it to me, all he said was that we needed it worse than he did and he hoped it would bring us good luck."
A bit of time passed by. "Lee?"
"When you were hypnotized, did you really think you were David Hedison?"
A few moments went by and Chip thought he had fallen asleep.
In a voice full of regret, "Yeah, Chip. For a while I really thought I was David Hedison, the T V star."
"You sound disappointed."
"No, not really." His voice full of pride, "I’m captain of the Seaview, the greatest submarine in the world. I was born to play this role. I’m content."
"That’s true enough," agreed Chip, turning over to his side. "You’re always in your element when we Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea!"
*Credits: UPGRADE: by Rosie Alcott. Used with permission from the author.