"Thereís been an accident, an explosion in the main office complexÖ." Was all that Morton could say, as his voice seemed to desert him.
"Captain you were lucky to be at the edge of the blast. However, I'm keeping you in for observation."
However Crane already had the look of someone who would try anything to break out of sickbay. He knew that there was something major they were not telling him.
"The Admiral?" Was all that he could ask. Neither Morton nor the doctor had to say a word. All that Crane could do now was mourn for his friend.
Continuing the story from
Futureís dead and Futureís web
It had only been three days ago that Admiral Harriman Nelson had been in Washington trying to talk Harry back to Santa Barbara and back into Marine Research. They had come to an impasse. As his father's power base was Santa Barbara's, Washington's was Harry's. However, as he stared off into space all that he could think of was that there were so many things that he wanted to say to his father. So many things left unsaid. Harry Nelson Jr. was in a state of shock from the news that he had just heard from his mother at the Institute. He did not remember the next few minutes as he sat in his Washington office and stared out of the window. Then a determined glint shone in his steel blue eyes and he reached for the phone. He would make the terrorists pay a high price for their attack at NIMR. He would do it with or without the Presidents' authorization.
Three days of hell, that was what Captain Lee Crane of Seaview, would call it. After three days of investigations they had still to asertain just what had caused the blast that had claimed the life of special agent Paul Taylor,his friend, and commanding officer Admiral Harriman Nelson. The small FBI team that had been assigned to the Institute in the wake of the attack was to be swiftly replaced with an anti-terrorist squad who would work on the case in tandem with the local police. The squad was flying down from Washington almost immediately. Excalibur was the name of the group and to be quite honest Crane had never heard of them. He hoped that more details would be forthcoming. However he was suspicious as to just why this squad was jetting down here even before the FBI team had even had time to unpack their bags. Did Washington already know that this attack was going to take place? Could it have been prevented? All this activity made Crane think back over the last few days.
Captain Lee Crane did not know why, but he thought that something strange had been going on for the last month. However he never did get any firm proof, nothing to report to Admiral Nelson, but things had been pretty strange of late. The Admiral had not been able to join the sub as he had been invited to a scientific conference in Washington, and this was the time that Paul Taylor, the original NIMR computer network designer could make it back down to the Seaview from his new job at the FBI. It had been found early on that some of the systems that had been written back during the early years refused to work. When Paul had last been at Santa Barbara, Seaview had only been a rough prototype. In all areas their last mission had gone exceedingly well. The ride had been a lot smoother than had been in the projected preliminary reports from dry dock. While at sea their computer specialist for that mission had been efficient, almost being on top of a problem before it had surfaced. Crane was beginning to think that he was getting paranoid, but with all of the spies, counter-spies and alien invasion fleets that had been using Seaview in the last few months, it was no wonder. Crane wondered what the Admiral would say if he had been aboard, but then put his doubts behind him.
It had been some four years since Paul Taylor had been anywhere near Seaview. 1971 had been some year for him and it had been a miracle that he had been able to survive the experience. When he had arrived at the Institute all of Seaviewís state-of-the-art computer systems had been untested and that meant lots of problems. Now he could cope with them. Nelsonís wife, Dr. Anne Lytol, was another matter. He was sure that it would have helped matters somewhat if he had been warned of this woman. Now even four years later he was sure that he had not lived down the experience. He still hoped that even at this late juncture his emergency pager would call him away from the Institute before Anne had a change to try to pounce on him again.
"Any questions, gentlemen?" Lee Crane asked the two men who surrounded the chart table as he came into the control room of Seaview. "Or can we get under way?"
Paul looked at his watch for the umpteenth time in five minutes and frowned. Taylor was deep in thought, contemplating on past events; if things had been different, if Anne had not been married to NelsonÖ. Would he have gone with an older woman? It was all well and possible that she had learnt that he was down here again. He and his team leader had made sure that the co-owners of the Nelson Institute were indisposed. However would that be enough to stop Anne? Would she make a move on him again? He could not have had made things plan enough four years ago. But he had been warned, Anne never took no as an answer.
"Mister Taylor, are the computers on-line yet?" Crane had noticed that since their computer specialist had started on the last of the examinations of the computer network, his mind had not been focused on the job in hand. That was something that he did not need at this point.
Chip Morton, who had been standing next to the chart desk, gently tapped him on the shoulder. "The computers, are they ready?" he repeated as he had recognized the look of concentration on Paulís face, as if humans were a forgotten race. Paul needed a helpful push back to the human plane of existence.
"What?" Taylor seemed to almost come out of a trance, and spun round to face Crane with a look of surprise. "What?" Taylor looked for a second as if he had seen a ghost. His tanned dark features going deathly white for a second before he composed himself. "Sorry, Captain Crane. What was your question?" Chip Morton looked on, speechless as he had never known their captain to have such an effect on a guest before.
Taylor took a deep breath and sighed. For a second he had thought that it had been Anne standing behind him. He must remember not to let his imagination get the better of him. He must try to calm his nerves, nothing happened four years ago, and nothing would happen now. He of course had spoken too soon.
Shock, they were all in shock at the Institute. The murder of the Admiral and Paul Taylor had been so sudden so unexpected. Lee Crane, with the help of Chip Morton had tried to keep things together as best as he could. However, he was surprised by the news that Harry would not make it back to the Institute for another three days. He had known for sometime that things had been strained lately between him and his mother. Crane was sure in a way that she had been partly responsible for Harry's move to Washington four years ago. For the last few months the Admiral had been trying to talk Harry back to the Institute. Now his mother needed him more than ever and he hoped that they could put their differences behind them. As he sat with Harry's mother now he could tell that Anne had not been sleeping well since the attack. At least through he had been able to deliver some good news from the Pentagon. The attack was getting the recognition that it deserved from Washington. He wondered just who had managed to mobilize an anti-terrorist team and get them enroute to NIMR so quickly. Whoever it was, Crane was glad that even in this dark hour they had a powerful friend in Washington. He just wished that young Harry would get his act together and get down to the Institute.
"Santa Barbara, what's at Santa Barbara?" Paul Reddman was for once confused as he looked at his new orders as he sat in a small passenger plane as it flew towards its destination. "I joined the Navy to see the world." He complained to one of his fellow passengers who just looked back at him with a hint of amusement in his eyes.
Reddman was always like this at the beginning of any mission and Dean Marshall was glad that at least the turn of events had not changed some things in the team. Reddman had been third in command of the team before the blast at Santa Barbara and Dean knew that he was not taking his sudden promotion well. The loss that they were to investigate hung over the team like an ugly cloud and he was glad that Paul was trying to raise sprits even if the loss of Paul Taylor and Admiral Harriman Nelson still haunted him. So he followed in his lead.
"You joined Excalibur. You're not in the regular Navy now."
"Tell me about it Dean! I thought that the cloak and dagger stuff would be more exciting. They keep on sending me home. When do we land?"
"We've got the pleasure of your company for another three hours,"piped in a female voice from just behind.
"Thanks a lot Mitch," shot back Reddman.
"And the word from Merlin is?"
"We have three days."
"Then we'll have an answer in two."
"Just whatís with this Excalibur? How did we land up with them?"asked Chip Morton as he sat somewhat dejectedly. He knew that Leeís mood had not been lightened by the news that even with the death of his father, Harriman Nelson Jr. deemed his Washington work more important than his family. It was a wonder that Dr. Lytol had coped so well, and now Harry would not be down for another three days. Now this. Dr. Lytol had called Morton and Crane to a meeting about the arrival of an anti-terrorist team. As both of the officers had never heard of the team before, even from ONI, they just wondered what Washington had lumbered them with this time. Too little, too late, was all Chip could think of at this precise moment.
It had been three days since the funeral and Harry Nelson Jr. was glad that he had managed to find a quiet corner of the Institute to reflect on events. Like many others at the Institute, he was finding it hard to sleep. When he could not sleep as a child he used to sneak out of his bed and come down to the shoreline to watch the surf. Now, at this late hour he was down here for a reason.
"So what have you got to report Reddman?" he asked the young man who walked up behind him.
"Iíve given you a week to nail the bastard."
Harry was glad that he at last he had managed to shake off his mother and the Institute staff and make contact with his team. However, that did not ease his anger at not being at the right place to save his father. "Now I want some action."
"It could be a bit more difficult than that, sir," remarked Reddman.
This, thought Harry, is going to be a long night.
As Lee Crane watched Harry Nelson Jr. walk through the office door with his mother it almost took his breath away. It had been almost three years since he had last seen Harry and during that time he had grown into the spitting image of his father. Crane had assumed that when Harry had flown down for the funeral he would be taking over the running of the Institute. But Harry was heading back to the Pentagon just one week after the service. For three days his mother had tried to talk him into staying. Both she and Crane knew that Harry was just the sort of person they needed at the moment. But he was very adamant about where his loyalties lay and as he came through the door Crane could tell that he had inherited his fatherís temper as well. Anne had been having a last-ditch attempt at getting him to stay. He only heard the last part of the conversation. But he knew with the last few bitter words spoken by mother and son, it would be many years, if ever, that Harry would be back down at the institute.
Jamie Dalton did not like the element of hostility she felt from the crowd that surrounded the small council office, but she carried on. She knew that it could only mean one thing. Tim had brought his personal thugs out to flex their muscles in the neighborhood. He was again trying to show the British Government that the island chain wanted independence, whether the people wanted it or not. She had noticed the change in how Tim had motivated his workforce, so she was leaving for a trip to Cellos to see an old friend. Tim seemed happy enough. It was almost as if a long-term dream was coming to fulfillment. That was what worried her. She would have to be careful with her brother, but she was determined to find out; when Tim wanted something badly enough he could be very deadly in the extreme. She had made some delicate inquiries as to what he was up to and would call on some old friends.
As H.M.S. Argyll sat at anchor in the port of Silken it basked restfully in the waning evening sun that was now almost hidden by Fanlight Montana, one of the highest points of the island. Argyll was an old ship dating back before the Suez crisis, and she had witnessed many a secret mission in her long service.
Argyll was a division of the Watchman Task Force; part of the United Nations response to all of the illegal activity the small Pacifica Islands seemed to attract. Silken, according to all intelligence reports, seemed to be at the center of things and Tim Dalton was planning something very big and deadly just of the coast of the island of Tilírama. However, as Ford shifted through the data they had been able to obtain, he could not help but think that this information had come too late.
"They say that the pen is often mightier than the sword, but nowadays itís the computer, Merlin," remarked Ford over the video link joining him the leader of Excalibur. "Iím surprised that you havenít come across the Tim Dalton before. Heís well known on the island of Tilírama. How do you know heís your man?"
Ever since he had received the first report from Excalibur. Merlin knew what he had to do. It had taken many months of work but they had managed to trace the blast back to one Tim Dalton. For Merlin it all made sense. He had learned from Ford that somehow Dalton was using the Atlantis Marine Site for his secret base. It answered a lot of questions. Dr. Anne Lytol, widow of Harriman Nelson, had owned and ran the site. Dalton would want her tied up at Santa Barbara for the foreseeable future. No wonder he wanted Admiral Nelson out of the way. Merlin knew that Lytol and Nelsonís marriage had never been a happy one. Over the years he had learned from bitter experience. They had only been at their happiest when they had been at opposite ends of the Pacific.
"Iíll send you the map co-ordinates through to you. Itís just of the coast of the Atlantis Marine Site," remarked Ford.
"Yes, Iíve heard of the Site," said Merlin, not letting on what was going through his mind.
"Itís now owned and run by the Nelson Institute of Marine Research."
"Oh, Iíd no idea they was interested in running something like the Site," Merlin lied through his teeth at the last comment.
"Yes theyíre based in Santa Barbara and they've been dabbling in marine research for a few years now. But some strange things have been reported happening there and then thereís the sad business that youíre dealing with. Admiral Harriman Nelson will be sorely missed."
"But he will be avenged, Captain. Mark my words. Dalton will be caught. If it takes all my resources then it will be done. No stone will be left unturned. Iíll make sure that this pirateíll pay for what heís done. With or without the Presidentís authorization."
Merlin knew that he had come to an impasse. Excaliburís investigation had followed the terrorists trail and it had almost led him back home. It was not common knowledge outside of the Pentagon that Merlin, the leader Excalibur and Harry Nelson Jnr were one and the same. Harry had been so besotted with his team that he was not there at the right time to save his father from Tim Dalton. But he would not be there to catch his killers. Merlin was needed for this mission and Harry himself need this mission. He would just have to go in deep cover with only a multi-wave tracker as back-up and no one would stop him.
It had been six months since the first reports had begun to surface about dealings in covert plans for the satellite system. After three months it became apparent that Dalton was not the top man in the, as yet unknown, operation. The only breakthrough had been when a British Naval Destroyer had intercepted a snatch of communication just off the coast. Dalton was in need of a computer specialist for some delicate tinkering with a stolen computer program that would ultimately control the ĎPacifica Angelí that overshadowed most of the southern hemisphere, now under a new ownership that was not at all friendly to the United States nor to NIMR in particular.
For days Doctor George Black was in a panic. It was soon after the incident at the Nelson Institute that he learned from his contact that Excalibur had been sent down from Washington to Santa Barbara. This anti-terrorist team was the best of the best. He knew that he only had days to try to cover his tracks. He was in trouble. Everything was getting out of hand. His hired mercenary, Tim Dalton, had done his job too well and had stirred up a hornetís nest. After his last communication with Dalton he knew that he had to distance himself from events and cut all ties with the Darwin. Hopefully, Anne would be able to sort the mess out at her end and that they would live to fight another day.
Captain Lee Crane watched the calm seas around the small Pacific island of Tilírama as he made his first recognizance sweep with the Flying Sub. The Nelson Institute had a vested interest in tracking down Dalton. For months they had been working with the anti-terrorist group Excalibur. Now it would seem that their leader, code-named, Merlin, had turned up trumps. He had become Nimrís pathfinder. It would seem that he had risked everything on an undercover mission right in the heart of the enemy camp, to joining Dalton and his mercenaries in their deadly game. Even now Lee Crane was not too sure who authorized this mission. However one thing that he was sure of was that it was thanks to Merlinís personnel tracer Seaview had tracked Dalton and the Darwin to this island. As Crane took the Flying Sub down a couple of hundred feet to see if he could see for himself any small cove that could be used for an illegal submarine base.
"Is the satellite in position?"asked a nervous George Black. This was the first time his new computer program had managed to take full control. The Angel would be able for the first time to map-gauge the exact depths of oceans. While working in the control room with the new computer programmer he had been told a lot about Mister Dalton that he had not known before. After their chat together he was worried that neither his second in command nor his new computer specialist were here for the oceanic research. As he watched the program take full control he hoped that nothing could go wrong.
Watching the small radar blip that was the Flying Sub getting closer to his island was doing nothing for his nerves. For over a year now he had built up his island chain, protecting the vast reaches of the Pacific from the likes of Admiral Nelson and his pitiful attempts at saving the world. Dalton had told him that everything at the Nelson Institute was a sham from its security that had led to the death of one of his closest friends, to Nelson recruiting straight from the United States Navy. Captain Phillipsís was the only true commander of Seaview. Now it was only Captain Crane who did not fit into his plans. He would show Seaview that his sub Darwin would either be their salvation or destruction. Mister Dalton had been right about making the world stop and listen, but first he would give Seaview a final chance.
After being part of the crew for just a few days, Merlin was glad that the layout plans that Jamie had given him had been right on the money. He looked at his watch and saw that it was time to double check his computer program. As he made his way over to the main computer terminal he discreetly made sure that he still had with him the device that he knew was his only link with the outside world, rescue, and a successful mission.
As Dalton made his way up to the command level of the base he tried to calm his temper. He did not want to jeopardize months of preparation, of delicate planning to lose gaining control of the Pacifica Angel at this late juncture. For years he had been planning this moment. He could not remember when he had not had plans such as these; even before he set up his mercenaries he had had his heart set on world domination. Here and now was small fry. With George Black out of the way he would be one-step closer his dream.
Black still thought that the Darwin for the last couple of days had been on a deep-sea research mission. Black had planned to give Nelson a choice about helping with his new venture. The only thing that Dalton had given him was death. But when he reached the command center he found himself alone.
In the command center Tim Dalton watched the video monitor intently as the Flying Sub flew closer and closer into the targeting range of his satellite. He frowned at the message that his computer monitor kept on flashing at him; a targeting error that was causing the Avenging Angel targeting orbit failure. He so wanted a one hundred percent kill. It was almost as if there was another computer program infecting the system. The Flying Sub was now coming in at such an angle that even an untrained eye would be able to see the communication antennae that dotted the island.
"Fire," he ordered the computer.
The high altitude satellite caused an unseen shadow as it aligned its orbit. With one swift movement it opened its solar panels to change from deterrent to avenging angel.
As Merlin made his way down the narrow tunnel with Jason Cliff, he wondered after the near disaster when picking up George Black; if he would ever be as good as Jamie on this type of mission. He had stuck his neck out from the word go when he had refused to take part in the wanton killing of the Nelson Instituteís scientists. For a few seconds he had thought that he would be at the receiving end of the first bullet from Dalton. He was sure that Dalton would not be so willing to stop a second time. Merlin now knew that Tim Dalton had warped George Blackís dream. A new plan had occurred to him that would move the Darwin from its path of destruction back to the path that Black always wanted.
Jason Cliff had worked with Dalton ever since he had been helped out with a fight with two Military Policemen. Policemen who were about to take him back to answer several charges. That would have threatened his liberty for quite a few years. Loyalty was a concept, that during his short time in the Army, he had failed to comprehend. The same thing applied to the 'advancing while under fire' order. Thus the police were after him. Now as he neared the Darwin he knew that this was the time he could repay the comradeship that he had shown him over the years. He silently pulled out a knife just as he came to the lower junction of the submarineís underground dock. Coming up just behind Merlin he deemed that the element of surprise was all that he needed.
It was Merlinís luck that Doctor Black, having thought over all that he had heard about Peter Roberta over the weeks, had come down to the Darwin first and had not waited in the Control Room to await Daltonís report on their research mission. To Jason all he could think of was that Black never did have much sense of timing.
" Look out!!" Doctor Black saw a glint of something metal flash up with some speed heading for Merlinís back. He felt helpless to act. Merlin turned sharply at the warning and tried to fend off the knife attack as best he could. A bloody struggle insured that only ended when Jason fell dead of a self-inflected knife wound at Merlinís feet. Doctor Harvard could see that he had not come off unscathed and went to help as he could see quite a lot of blood was staining his right sleeve.
"I think He knows what weíre up to." He did not let on to Doctor Black it could well be that his cover had been blown and it had been nothing to do with their rapid full-scale desertion of Dalton and all of his power hungry principles. As Doctor Black helped him up to the Darwin his dazed mind thought about his orders. If he could somehow get Darwin to safety without the Watchman Navy in their usual zeal destroying them first, and asking questions later. The first thing that he would do when aboard would be to inform the Seaview of this turn of events. Even if it did mean blowing his cover, in more ways than one. Just as he reached the entrance of the sub he stumbled, feeling quite suddenly the effect of the blood lost through the knife wound. Doctor Black caught him instinctively pulling him up. The pain that shot through his whole body was too much for his mind to bare and after shooting out quite a few obscenities his mind sank into welcomed oblivion.
God, his arm hurt. That was the first signal that his mind was again surfacing into the real world. How he had come to be in this state, overwhelmed by pain, he could not quite remember. The next thing he came to comprehend ,was that a light was being shone at him from directly above where he lay. He realized that he had been laid down onto something soft and clinical.
"How you feeling?"
As his eyes came at last into decent focus he found that he was in the Darwinís Sickbay looking into the concerned eyes of Doctor Black, who had just finished cleaning and stitching the jagged knife wound that the fight had left him. If it had not been for Doctor Black he would have bled to death out side of the Darwin.
"Relax," Doctor Black said as he tried to raise himself from the bunk. "Youíve lost a lot of blood." He was in no mood to just let Doctor Black carry on as he had the last few months.Doctor Black was a good scientist but he was too much of a dreamer and would have followed Tim Dalton blindly into World War III.
As Merlin sat up he felt sick but he still swung his legs over to the edge of the bunk. He noticed that he had been changed into a fresh shirt so could only assume as Doctor Black had not mentioned the tracking device it had been lost in the fight. Either that or it had been recycled in the ship's laundry. Whatever had happen to it he could no longer expect rescue by the Seaview; the Navy would also consider them a legitimate target.
"I must get up or the Darwinís as good as dead," Merlin argued.
"I think Daltonís already made that decision for us."
"Heís followed us?" He had to ask the question even if he was not sure how he could have. Even if he did know what they were up to. They had the only means of transport out of the base and it felt like that they were safely on their way.
"Heís fired the satellite, every naval shipís combing the area!" Doctor Black was almost panicking; this was something that he did not need as he tried to clear his muddled mind. "Thereís no way the Darwiníll be able to slip through!"
"Fired?! What at?!" Even dazed he knew what that meant. He had set up a computer program that would offset the targeting computers. He wondered if it had actually worked. If it had ,there could be someone on the surface that they could contact.
"It would seem that heís fired at himself. The electronic fallout over 800 feet is total. HHHHHHHH Heís destroyed the whole of the upper section of the base. I can only assume killing himself in the process. We should leave the area as fast as we can!"
"No!!" He could tell Doctor Black was still not thinking in three dimensions when it came to his strategy and so would have to be force-fed some of the facts. "He fired at someone and Iím not leaving until I find out who!" He had had almost enough of this so called Captain and was determined to take control of the Darwin and its crew before he got them all killed.
"But I said that he fired at the base!" He pulled himself somewhat painfully off the bunk. He decided that this was not the best time to tell Doctor Black that his own targeting program had worked somewhat better than he would have hoped for. He had not left much of Tilírama base standing. At least he would not have to worry about what Tim Dalton would be up to next. Now he just had to take care of Doctor Black and the Darwin.
"Black just do as I say! Youíre in enough trouble by working with Dalton! If you can at least listen to me for the next few days we all can get out of this mess alive!" By the time he reached the control room of the Darwin he was not wanting to speak with Doctor Harvard as he seem to keep on going on and on about just getting out of the area, knowing that the a task force would be steaming towards their location. The man did not know when to cut his losses. He was talking of taking the Darwin on a voyage to the bottom of the sea to wait for things to blow over. That was something that he knew the Americanís would never let happen. He would have to destroy all of Blackís work. Either that or hand it over to someone who would not be swayed by the first mercenary who showed an interest in fish. The first option well that was too easy. All he would have to do was follow Blackís advice for the next hour, but then he to would be as dead as the sub. He had an idea of how to proceed. First he had to find out who Dalton had been firing at from the island to see if they could offer any assistance. Even if it did cause Doctor Black to panic even more. As his arm told him he should have taken an extra painkiller before he left sickbay he hoped that trying to save the Darwin was not a lost cause.
The charts stared up at Anne Lytol. This mess had not been part of her and Georgeís plan. The Darwin was to have been the next step in Nelsonís dream. Dalton had warped that dream and had murdered her husband. But he had not left it there. Dotted around the small, wild remote islands of the Pacific were some of the best marine research facilities, or had been. A single submarine over the last two days had destroyed years of research. The attacks had formed themselves into a chain reaction. For hours she and Lee tried to find logic in the attacks, which had started without warning, wiping out the main complex of Cellos Isle in minutes. The Pacific being such a vast ocean it had given the perpetrators time to leave next to no evidence as to who, what or why. What was even more frustrating was why anyone would wish to destroy years of work that would benefit all of mankind. She had sent Lee Crane out in the Flying Sub to over fly the area to see if there was any sign of the perpetrators. She was becoming more and more convinced that whomever was behind the attacks was becoming more and more blazon about what NIMR facilities they attacked, or whom they killed in the process. It was just a matter of time until the enemy showed their true colors, their real master plan. As she reached for a pen she noticed out of the corner of her eye how the rest of his office seemed to be slightly out of focus and through her seat she could feel a slight fibrillation from the engines that even she knew was not normal for the super-sub.
Chief Sharkey reached the main corridor just as the whole of Seaview was rocked by explosion after explosion. He got to the Circuit Room a lot quicker than he had anticipated. Tendrils of thick black electrical smoke rolled out from the cracks of the ventilation ducts. As he fought his way closer to the Circuit Room he could feel the heat that was still being radiated from behind the door.
"Donít go in there Chief!" Nelson turned at Chip Mortonís voice that had just arrived with both Patterson and Kowalski who were dressed in fireproof suits. "All electric systems have been blown by an alien energy pulse."
"Alien?" Asked Sharkey.
"Alien to the Seaview."
"Should I check the reactor?"
"Fine. Itís just the Circuit Room thatís the problem." Chip motioned for Sharkey to step back from the door so that Patterson and Kowalski could deal with the fire then they would be able to survey the damage.
"I hope that Lee didnít encounter this pulse as well, as the Flying Sub wouldnít have stood a chance," said a worried Chip Morton.
It had been six hours since the Circuit Room had been repaired but Sparks could still smell the acrid smoke that lingered in the room as a warning of what had nearly been the death of the Seaview. Full repair could not be completed until they had made the Adieu base secure and had fully considered the fate of their Captain.
Lee Crane knew that he had to be in heaven. At first the sound was wrong. Where there should have been the throb of the Flying Sub's engines there was the light crashing of waves. The smell of burning electricís had been replaced by the light tang of salt. It was almost as if he was on a beach, but he knew that there was no way that he could have escaped from the stricken sub. His mind flickered back to his last fragmented memories. He had tried to move to the smoldering panel that held the Flying Subís structural integrity. As his mouth filled with salt water he had tried desperately to reach for his neck radio. There was no way that he could have reached dry land with the state the sub had been in. He almost could not bring himself to open his eyes to see where fate had brought him. As he did so he was wreaked by severe retching. The pain burned up his body, telling him how close he had come to drowning. He felt his mind beginning to shut down. When he opened his eyes again he saw that he was not alone.
"Lee, take it easy," Chip Morton knelt down in the sand by his stricken friend. It had taken them far too long to repair Seaview and when sonar had reported the wreck of the Flying Sub he had feared the worst. Now as he saw his friend he could see that he had not been far from the truth. "Docís here Lee, take it easy then youíll be able to tell us what happened here." Chip had been pleasantly surprised at how fast Sharkey and his team had managed to find Lee.
Captain Crane, much to the protests of Doc, refused to go back to the Seaview and be confined to sickbay for observation, and had told him if he wanted to observe him he should stay on the island with the rest of the survey team until the island was secure.
Crane followed Chip Morton and Patterson to where the entrance of the complex could be found. As they got closer to the general area, Crane saw that whatever had knocked out the Sub had also destroyed most of the base they were trying to find.
"The entranceís still clear, but Iím not too sure that the tunnel goes in the right direction," reported Chip, as he tried to summarize with his radio where in relation to them, where Merlin was on the island. As they picked their way carefully through the ruins they saw there was still evidence of the massive explosion that had cut the base in two.
"We have to attempt a rescue," said Chip as he peered into the large dark foreboding corridor that gave the impression that it would let people come in never to be seen again.
"Weíve got to try to work out what caused this calamity in the first place."
"It doesnít look planned thatís for sure," remarked Patterson.
As the three of them tried to follow the trail of destruction different thoughts flickered through Lee and Chipís minds. After repairs had been made to the stricken Seaview, some six hours ago, sonar had picked up the wreckage of the Flying Sub some one hundred and fifty fathoms below them. When they had left for the island Seaview had gone to pick up the Flying Sub. A round- the- clock team was now working on makeshift repairs to make the sub operable in an emergency, but full repairs could only be gained when they reached Santa Barbara. So much had happened in so little time that Chip had yet to ask Lee how he had managed to get to the island at all.
Lee was glad that neither Chip Morton nor the Doc had asked him in precise detail how he had managed to get from the wreck of the Flying Sub to the beach. There was a six-hour gap in his memory. Six hours had passed since the Sub had been shot down and him waking up. As he walked along the emergency lit corridor it brought back the memory of the crash. Smoke, water, being beyond escape depth. The hull being breached by seawater, the sea clawing at his very lifeísí blood. The dark figure of death looming off in the distance as he made a vain attempt at reaching the surface.
"I think weíve found what used to be the control room, Lee," Chipís words thankfully broke into his memory.
"Is there anything that we can salvage thatíll aid us in our search?" asked Lee as he picked over what looked like a pile of paper work that had been thrown across the room. Most of it had been charred beyond recognition but as he flicked over the pages he found a near complete map of the whole area. "Look here," Lee unfolded the map onto a pile of stones so that they could study the layout of the base. "You say that the signalís coming from below us. From the evidence of whatís happened here the only thing that could knock out this base and us would be the Angel System, but weíre still receiving a signal soÖ."
"So it has to be on a level here eight hundred feet below sea-level to escape the feedback," Chip finished Leeís assessment of the facts for him.
"That only leaves one level. The question is if we can get to it from here."
"I think that we should look around here first Lee. Try to find answers to why the Angel System would target the very people that control it?"
"Merlin working his magic again, Lee?"
"Weíll just have to ask him," answered Lee.
"Then you know where he is?" asked Patterson.
"Weíve a rough estimate to the location of his Excalibur tracking device."
"The whole base could be bobby trapped because they know that the Pacific Fleetís only hours away." Remarked Chip.
"Yes I know Doctor Lytolís in communication with the Enterprise now to brief them on the situation here."
"We donít want them mistaking the Seaview as the phantom submarine."
"Then weíd better start looking Chip."
As Pattersonís beam cut through the dimness to where the tracer should be it also showed that mere feet away the whole floor of the corridor was swaying as if caught in its on personal earthquake. As they watched the shimmer started to move towards them and they could just hear off in the distance a faint rumbling. It only took Lee and Chip seconds to work out that the whole of the network of corridors they were in would soon be as flat as a deck of cards under tons of debris.
"Letís get out of here!!" They both ordered in unison. Patterson did not wait around and ask what was happening but he also knew that there was only one way to run to escape being flattened. As he ran just ahead of Lee he knew that there was no way that they would be able to reach the surface in time. Chip, who had the map, hoped that the submarineís dock was so well protected that it could survive the landslide that was about to engulf the rest of the base.
In a sudden blind panic, Patterson did not see the body that lay just before the entrance of the docking bay and he tripped. To his horror the beam of his torch shone at the crumbling roof just above him. He could feel the small rocks begin to hit his face, as he turned to get up as he did so he looked straight into a face of a dead man. Patterson froze with fear. He did not remember what happened in the next few seconds, but when he did regain his senses he found that someone had pushed him to safety. Much to his relief they had made it to the dock, as all that was left of the corridor that they had come down was a pile of rock.
"LEE!" Chip pushed past Patterson and started desperately digging at the newly formed rock face.
"What!" Patterson was still stunned from his near death experience but then he saw that their Captain was nowhere in sight. As he shook the double vision from his eyes he came to realize who it had been who just pushed him out of danger.
To Chip it felt like hours. They had been digging out the rock fall in which Lee had been trapped. He had had almost all hopes dashed when Patterson found the tip of a lifeless body. Chip breathed a sigh of relief when after closer inspection found that it was neither their Captain nor Merlin who they had been down here trying to locate. Whoever it was had somehow gained the electronic tracer that they had been following down to this level. Merlin had either made it off the island or he was entombed somewhere as was now Leeís fate. When they at last found were Lee had fallen they could see that his life hung in the balance each minute that they waited down here was a minute too long.
"Patterson ,see if the stealth subís still down here. We could use it as an escape route."
When Patterson arrived back some minutes later he had some bad news for Chip.
"The subís not here."
Now Chip also had to inform the Admiral that there could be a hostile craft in the area.
"Doctor Lytol, I donít recommend that you take the Flying Sub out." Chief Sharkey said as he knelt down to open the service hatch that led to the Flying Sub. "We only just managed to patch up the hull, Iím not too sure that it can take the pressure of continued submergence."
"Youíve heard whatís happened on the base. The Subís Leeís only chance. Iím taking her down to find the stealth subs access tunnel. Thatís the only way that we can get them out in time."
"Weíll not going on your own." Lytol turned surprised to see Doc standing beside him with a full medical bag.
"Iíve just heard whatís happened."
"Doctor much as I would like your expertise, the dangerís too great."
"I donít think you heard me." Doc stood his ground and with grim determination in his voice pointed out some of the case facts. "With what the first crash took out of him, I donít think Crane will survive without on the spot medical attention. Waiting till weíre back on the Seaview will be too late. Iím coming along and I suggest that thereís no time to lose."
As Lee found himself surrounded by thick reddish fog he wondered how he had got here from the island tunnel. As he looked around his surroundings for a second he did not know where he was. The fog seemed to want to cover every thing. Somehow he knew that the fog wanted to embrace him as well, but he knew that he should not let the fog embrace him as it had Seaviewís underground dock. He could see that in the distance a submarine was sliding into the dock and wondered why he did not view himself as on board Seaview. He felt as if he was watching its entrance as if he was just an observer to the events not a participant. As he looked closely at the thin slick shape of the sub he realized that it was not the Seaview and with that realization the dock around him vanished.
Smoke, water, being beyond escape depth. He was again trying to escape from the sinking Flying Sub. The hull being breached by seawater, the sea clawing at his very lifeísí blood. The dark figure of death looming off in the distance as he made a vain attempt at reaching the surface, but he now released that it was not the shadow of death that had been coming for him but a submarine that must have somehow taken up to the surface. Why had this submarine saved him and not waited for the Seaview. Could it be that he was somehow saved by the stealth sub that had attacked the NIMR base?
Harry Nelson Jr. hated the irony of life. Here he and his team Excalibur was the toast of Washington Intelligence community after bringing in the stealth sub Darwin and her crew in. However he had lost so much. More than he had known, or wished to have known. Even his mother had been involved with Doctor George Black. ĎAnother of her pacific lovers coming out of the woodwork.í He thought bitterly. The one good thing that he had learnt as that Lee Crane was well on the road to recovery now in the confines of the Santa Barbara Memorial Hospital. He would find that his job at Santa Barbara had changed beyond recognition.
Oh, his mother would still be in charge of the Nelson Institute, where Harry could keep an eye on her. There would now be under stricter controls from the powers that be. His father's dream was becoming a nightmare. Harry could see it all coming. A job well done they had told him. However if he could he would change it in an instantÖ.