This story takes place after the events of the fourth season episode “Journey With Fear.” It ended far to neatly to make me happy.
The watch hands were nearing
the midnight mark as Lee Crane made a final walk through his Seaview. For once
he was looking forward to his cabin and his bunk. Maybe, just maybe he could
sleep tonight. In the week since their encounter with the aliens and his
unorthodox trip to the planet Venus, Lee had found sleep elusive. Troubled by
strange dreams and snatches of memories, the sleepless nights were beginning to
wear on the skipper. He was close to going to Jamie and asking for something to
help him sleep but Lee knew Jamie would corner him and demand to know what was
This was something that Lee
wasn't ready to talk about yet. He figured time would get him through this. He
had never needed to talk about anything before. He somehow always managed to
work things out on his own. He certainly didn't need Jamie rooting around in
his head, trying to uncover what he was suddenly afraid off.
Opening the door of his
cabin, Lee slipped in and shut the door behind him, his hand lingering on the
knob, fighting back the urge to lock the door. He had never locked his cabin
door before and he wasn't going to start now. Lee sat down on the edge of his
bunk and heeled out of his shoes, not bothering to untie them. For a long few
seconds, Lee just sat there, hands covering his eyes, trying to block out the
images that were already filtering through his head.
Lee Crane wouldn't be
getting any sleep tonight.
Harriman Nelson ran a tired
hand through his auburn hair and studied his report, still unfiled, the pages
scattered haphazardly on his desk. Unbelievable. That's what he should have
written. Let the S.E.A. chew on that. Damn their regulations and rules. He
should have launched the second capsule the second they lost contact with Chip,
to hell with what their standard operation procedures. Instead he had waited,
and as a result, the same forces that had kidnapped Bob Wilson and Chip had
snatched Lee right out from under their very noses.
The whole incident had left
a sour taste in Harry's mouth. Somehow he felt he had let his officers down by
not acting sooner. Logically Harry knew there was nothing he could have done.
No one could have anticipated aliens kidnapping his officers, practically right
off Seaview. Were those same aliens finished with them? Were they a
threat to Earth? Wouldn't be the first time an otherworldly force has
threatened his home world.
A knock on the door pulled
Harry's attention from the unfiled report. “Yes?” Nelson said and the door
swung open. William Jamison's lanky form entered, shut the door behind him then
leaned against the doorframe. For a long stretch of seconds Jamie just stood
there, taking in the hazy blue-gray cloud of cigarette smoke, the tray of ashes
and crushed remains of a dozen or more cigarettes, the half eaten sandwich,
long since mummified and the empty coffee cup.
“House call, Will, or just
bored?” Nelson asked tiredly. A weak smile crossed Will's lips.
“Little of both, actually.
Have you really paid much attention to what's going on?” the doctor asked.
Nelson's sapphire-blue eyes
clouded with confusion. “Going on where? Is it something Lee can't handle?”
“That's just it. Concerning
Lee. And Chip. Have you really worked with them, talked with them since you
three got back from your little interplanetary field trip?”
“No more than usual. I've
had a ton of work to catch up on and there hasn't been a lot of time for a
social gathering. Are you leading to something, Will?”
“Neither one of those men
have had a decent night's sleep since you got back. Lee's hiding it rather well
but then that’s what he's good at. Chip's is not coping well at all. He’s
distracted, disjointed and off center. I'm afraid he might crack soon.”
Nelson stared the ship's
CMO. “Chip?” he asked in disbelief. Not possible. Chip Morton was one of the
most together, calm and collected people Nelson had ever met. It was one of the
traits that made Morton an excellent XO. The idea that Chip was under enough
stress to crack was disturbing to Nelson.
“And Lee?” Nelson asked with
trepidation. Will nodded
“Like I said, hiding it
well, Lee's got a gift for this sort you thing, you know how he is. They need
to talk about this. Have you any idea what happened to them up there?”
“Nothing specific, just what
I saw and what I read in their reports. Are you sure this isn't something they
can't work out on their own? Neither own is likely to want to sit down and open
up about this.”
Will crossed his arms over
his chest, his eyes dark with concern and worry. “Admiral, what ever happened
to those two is affecting them in ways that can't be fixed by pills or an I.V.”
Chip Morton sat up in his
bunk, knees drawn up to his chin, his head lowered to his chest as another
tremor shook him like a leaf in the wind. What was wrong with him? He had faced
monsters and spies and ghosts, why was he acting like this? What was it about
the dark that bothered him so much?
Unable to handle it any
longer, he reached up and flipped on the reading light over his bunk. The small
light filled the cabin with enough of a glow that the young officer could
finally stop trembling. He hadn't wanted to admit it, but the darkness closed
in around him and touched off a fear in him that he had never experienced
before. Never since Venus. Never since being blinding by a pack of marauding
aliens from Centaur.
Blind. At the time, he had
been more angry than scared. He and Lee had done what they had to do to survive
and come back in one piece. But now, when the lights were out, those memories
clawed their way to the surface of his mind. How he had felt so helpless. When
they asked him about their space program, he'd been unable to stop himself—he'd
spilled his guts to the aliens. What if they had asked him classified
information about Seaview or Earth's other defenses? He would have told
them what ever they had wanted. If it hadn't been for Lee . . .
Chip lay back down, pulling
the blankets up over his shoulders. He closed his eyes, hoping that tonight he
could sleep with remembering the darkness, the fear that he and Lee weren't
going to make it back home. Die here,
or on their planet… the words he had spoken to Lee echoed back to him in
the night. Chip closed his eyes and tried to block out the images of Bob being
Lee was yanked out of his
light sleep by a thud on the bulkhead. The first was followed by a second and
this time Lee tracked the sound to Chip's cabin.
Throwing on his robe and
shoving his bare feet into a pair of slippers, Lee slipped out of his room and
the three steps over to Chip's cabin door. Lee knocked twice and called
Morton's name but he got no answer.
Griping the handle, Lee
turned the knob and was stopped short. The cabin door was locked. Chip never
locked his door. Never.
“Chip? Chip, buddy, are you
okay?” Lee called through the closed door, but again got no answer. Pressing
his ear to the door, Lee tried to listen for something, anything that could
help him figure out what was going on with Chip.
Suddenly a sound began to
rise from the other side of the door. It started out low then began to build. A
deep, long, drawn out 'no' began to repeat itself, growing louder and longer
with each repetition. Feeling his heart hammering, Lee threw himself against
the door, ramming his shoulder against the door, desperation fueling the need
to get in to help his friend. Lee wasn't even aware he was calling out Chip's
name over the mantra of 'no' being screamed from the cabin.
The doorframe splintered and
Lee blundered into the exec's cabin. The reading light over Chip's bunk was on,
illuminating the pale, shaking figure of the XO. Chip was setting up in his bunk,
wedged in the corner of the bunk, his eyes closed, his arms wrapped around
himself, screaming 'No' over and over again, as fast as he could draw breath in
Lee crawled up onto the edge
of the bed, grabbed Chip by his shoulders.
“CHIP! Snap out of it, Chip!
Come on, buddy, wake up for me!”
Eyes the color of a
cloudless winter sky snapped open, wide and staring, seeing nothing. For a long
few seconds there was absolutely no recondition in those eyes and Lee felt his
heart contract and skip a beat.
Finally the shadows cleared
from Chip's eyes and comprehension slowly leaked through, like moonlight
streaming through storm clouds. He glanced around familiar surroundings and
finally focused on Lee. “Lee? Is that you, Lee?”
“Chip, what's wrong? You can
talk to me, you can tell me anything, you know that,” Lee said softly,
tightening his grip on his friend. Under Lee's touch, Chip's trembling subsided
Chip couldn't stop himself.
He was the Seaview's executive office, he was Lee's XO, hand picked by
Harriman Nelson before the keel was even laid. He had faced death in the face
more time than he could count. Why was this bothering him, why couldn't he move
past this? Why couldn't he just move on with his life and put what happened on
Venus behind him? The shaking started again.
“I couldn't stop myself.
Everything they asked, I answered. I could have betrayed everything I believe
in. I couldn't stop myself. I was blind, Lee, I couldn't see a damn thing! Do
you know how terrifying that feeling is? How was I going to get away? Where was
I going to go? I was on another damn planet! Until I heard your voice, I
thought I was going to die.”
Lee tried to break though
Chip's apparent terror. “But you didn't die, you made it back in one piece. What
ever they did to you wore off and your sight came completely back. Doc said you shouldn't even have any after
effects. Everything is fine now.”
“THEN WHY CAN’T I TURN OFF
THE LIGHT AND SLEEP? Tell me, Lee, why can't I? Why can't I walk into a dark room,
why can't I close my eyes? Every time I do, I'm afraid when I open my eyes, all
I'm going to see is the dark. Why am I afraid? Why?” Chip's voice dropped of to
a whisper, full of despair. Chip looked so lost, he didn't look like a man in
his thirties, who had stood by Lee's side through some of the worst situations
Lee had ever known. Morton looked like a frightened young child, haunted by
nightmares he couldn't explain.
But Lee understood. He was
haunted by his own nightmares, past missions gone wrong, the faces of crewmen
who had died under his watch. Failed ONI missions. Interrogation. Torture.
Facing death. He knew all too well what was eating at Chip. It was something he
fought within himself but never admitted.
Fear. Grown men weren't
suppose to admit to fear. Chip was no coward but what they faced on Venus
defied logic and rational explanation. Only someone who had been there could
understand. Lee's brotherly instincts kicked in and he reached forward and
wrapped his arms around Chip's broad shoulders in a protective embrace.
Chip didn't protest. Lee was
his friend, his comrade in arms, his brother. He could confess fears to him
that he couldn't admit to anyone, including his own father. Something deep
inside Chip opened up and the unthinkable happened.
Charles Phillip Morton lost
control. Lost his center, lost his grip, just simply lost. Watching Wilson
being vaporized, the memory of being blinded with nothing but the darkness
surrounding him, and the nightmare of trapped on a strange planet light years
away from Earth, not knowing if rescue was possible, all that came rushing back
and Chip choked back a half sob and clung to Lee Crane as only a brother can.
“Let it go. I understand.
But it's over now. You have to let this go, we both have to move past this,”
Lee urged, holding his trembling friend and brother while Morton desperately
tried to get his emotions under control. Lee wasn't sure what was more frightening—Chip
being so affected or watching Chip’s grip on his tightly control emotions slip.
Lee had never seen Chip lose control like this. He'd seen him furious, mad
enough to kill but never so broken. Lee tightened his grip on his friend as
Chip took a deep shuddering breath.
There was a light 'click'
and Lee turned his head slightly to see Harriman Nelson standing in the
doorway. On the desk was a three quarter full bottle of scotch. Nelson sat two
shot glasses down by the bottle and took two steps back.
“Lad?” Nelson asked quietly,
his eyes shifting from Lee to Chip.
“We'll be fine, Admiral,”
Lee replied. He wasn't even sure if Chip was aware of Nelson's presence. The
exec continued to shake as his nerves gave out under the strain.
“We're on our way home. I
see no reason for either of you have to report to duty tomorrow. I need my
officers in one piece. If you two won't talk to Jamie, than at least work it
out between yourselves. The scotch is on the house.”
“Yes, sir. A day would clear
the air,” Lee replied, with a guarded glance at his brother.
Nelson silently drifted
away, pulling the door to, leaving Lee and Chip alone.
“Chip, buddy, let me up a
second,” Lee pulled himself away from Morton and got up. He went to the desk
and poured two stiff measures and took them back to the bunk. He handed one to
Chip, the pulled over the desk chair and dropped down into it. Lee tossed back
the contents and sat the glass on the desk.
“You don't have to hang
around, Lee,” Chip said, contemplating the amber liquid in the small glass
between his long fingers. Mirroring Lee, he tossed back the glass in one
swallow, feeling the alcohol burn the whole way down.
“Chip, we both have to move
through this. Let's move over to my cabin. We can close the door and follow
“What orders, Lee?”
“Permission granted to get
sloshed. We need to work this out and I can't to that sober. Come on, Mister
Morton, up off your six.”
Crane and Morton moved into
the next cabin, Lee pushing Chip's chair, Chip holding the gifted scotch bottle
and his glass. Once in Lee's cabin, Crane surrendered the chair to its owner
and he dropped bonelessly into his own while Chip shut the door and flipped the
reading lamp over the bunk on. Lee sat the glass on the table. Chip dropped
into his chair, uncapped the bottle and poured them both another round.
“The admiral gave us
permission to get drunk?” Chip asked, tossing back half the shot. Lee nodded.
“Not in so many words, but
he said he didn't expect either of us to be on duty tomorrow. Sounds like an
invitation to get drunk.”
“Starke would have our
stripes.” Another shot tossed back.
“Then it's a good thing
Starke ain't here. Drink up buddy. This is the good stuff. The admiral wouldn't
turn loose of his family label without good reason. Talk to me, big brother.”
It was nearing 0530 when
Harry made his way to the Ward Room. The door to Chip's cabin still swung open
a few inches. As Harry tapped lightly on the frame, then touched the door. It
swung open to reveal an empty cabin. The desk chair was gone.
Nelson moved to Crane's
cabin and gently eased the door open. Harry felt the smile tug at his lips as
he looked into the semi gloom of the skipper's cabin.
Lee and Chip were both
asleep, kicked back in separate chairs, their feet propped up on the desk. The
scotch bottle on the desk was empty. Both men sat with arms crossed over flat
stomachs, breathing slow and easy. No tossing, no turning. Quiet snores from both men told Harry all he
needed to know.
With a smirk, Nelson pulled
the door shut. What ever had happened up there on that planet, Lee and Chip had
needed time to work this out and talk it over. From the looks of things, that
journey had finally ended.