Author's Foreword… and Thanks
A while back, I became involved in a Role Playing Game (RPG) involving the Voyage characters. Since all the regulars were already taken (that will teach me to be late), I asked, and was accorded, the privilege of playing S.S.R.N. Seaview. I figured that the submarine needed to be acknowledged in some way. After all, she was as important as the rest of the cast. If she didn’t make it, neither would they……
So, with very little experience (all right, none) I jumped in. With the help of my RPG friends, the Seaview personality somehow acquired a body and (who would have believed) fell in love. It was not the direction I intended to go at first, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. This is a case of the character running ahead of the writer, I think….
When the game finished, Seaview was still talking to me, asking (demanding!) that I write her story. So, I asked my partner in crime (who was playing Chip Morton in the RPG) to get involved with this. I think that from now on, Teela will look into her Inbox, see my name and groan. I hope she does not run away screaming….. I apologize for being a pest at times, but there was so much to learn.
I want to make this a special thank you to Teela for her patience during out late night chats. It is true that two heads are better than one. She will say that her name should not be on this story, but I sincerely think that a part of her is in here too. The synopsis of the RPG is definitely from her.
I also want to thank all the people in the RPG game, they helped a lot in making Seaview into what she is. Everyone had a different vision of her, so now she has a ‘real’ life of her own. I want to point out that none of the ‘extra’ characters that were added to the game are mentioned in this story. They did not belong to me and I am sure they all have their own stories, which will be told by their writers.
Story Background notes:
The core of this story originates in a project done a while ago, a group story that was written in RPG, or Role Playing Game, format. In other words, each writer chooses a character and responds to whatever situation arises as that character would. The RPG in question is called The Cyborg. While the main focus was on the infamous Tabor Ulrich and his cyborg creations, there were other sub-plots that were woven into the central story. One of the most intriguing ‘created’ characters was Seaview, the submarine.
Seaview gained sentience after a series of upgrades and experimental improvements. Much to the shock of everyone aboard, the sub became an independent entity and chose to communicate with a select few. Before Nelson could study this phenomenon, he and Lee Crane were called out on a desperate mission involving two enemy factions… Ulrich and his cyborgs, and the New Order, a group of neo-nazi fanatics bent on taking over the world with Ulrich’s help.
While they were gone, Chip Morton took command of the sub and headed for the rendezvous at flank speed. It was up to him to interact with the emerging personality and to teach it about communicating and working with humans.
From the start the vocal link was in a feminine voice and Seaview was considered a ‘she’. As the dangerous mission progressed, she learned and grew and developed rapidly. With her help, a saboteur was caught and disaster diverted several times.
Slowly, Chip began to have an affinity for Seaview. Her personality had evolved into something he could relate to, and he soon found he had formed a friendship of sorts with her.
Although she did not understand why, she found she liked to win human approval, especially Mister Morton’s. As the mission intensified, so did her need to aid the crew. She became fiercely loyal and protective of those under her care.
Unknown to Morton, there was a spy on board the boat and their location was revealed to the enemy. Not only an elusive submarine of unknown identity was pursuing them, a sub-hunting ship… run by the New Order… was quickly closing in from above. Depth charges were released towards the Seaview and Chip retaliated with a destructive torpedo. The ship was hit, but managed to launch one final missile at the submarine before sinking with all hands. The impact caused damage to the boat, and most importantly, to Morton. He was thrown hard to the deck, hitting his head and blacking out.
Seaview was concerned for the person who had become so important to her. Alerting the doctor, she made sure Chip received help at once. He must be made well, he must not leave her… her only true friend.
The diagnosis was a concussion and the prescription was rest. However, knowing that there was not an experienced person able to take over command during that critical time, Chip refused to stay put in Sickbay. His strong sense of duty drove him out of Sickbay and into the Control Room once again. Seaview, concerned for Morton, watched him closely.
The Admiral arrived back on board, but before things could settle down, he was the victim of a knife attack and subsequent kidnapping. Unable to prevent the kidnapper from taking the wounded Nelson away, Chip could only watch helplessly as the Flying Sub departed. Seaview, however, could do something… she transferred her ‘awareness’ to the small craft in hopes of rescuing the Admiral.
With all the added stress, it was not very long before Chip’s injury developed complications, and before he could realize what was happening, he collapsed. The doctor discovered that the blond was suffering inter-cranial bleeding, which put pressure on the brain. Unable to prevent it, Doc watched as the young officer slipped into delirium.
Chip’s fevered dreams were intense and emotional. More often than not, it was Seaview’s name he called out for in his distress. Seaview, the person, not Seaview the submarine. It was a true puzzle to those around him.
Meanwhile, the kidnapper had taken Nelson to Tabor Ulrich’s complex. Seaview tapped into the systems there and managed to disrupt operations. In order to be more useful, she transferred her ‘consciousness’ into a cyborg body, an attractive female model. Once named Bridget, the cyborg had been Ulrich’s personal assistant, and had nearly unlimited access inside the complex. With her new super-strong body and her ability to tap into the main computer banks, she discovered Nelson’s location… as well as Crane’s and several others that had been captured earlier. She managed to set a rescue plan in motion and the group escaped without major loss. She set most of the systems to self-destruct and they left, Tabor Ulrich in custody, to rendezvous with the submarine.
Chip came out of the coma he had slipped in and discovered he could no longer see. Although the doctor assured him that he would regain his eyesight with rest and medicine, the young officer spiraled into deep despair. Feeling guilt over allowing the kidnapping to take place, Chip was certain he had failed both the Admiral and the submarine. He had not done his sworn duty, and others had suffered. When he called out to Seaview, hoping to hear her comforting voice, he was met by silence. He had no way of knowing that she now inhabited a cyborg body, one which was a long distance away. To Chip, she was simply refusing to answer him. His depression grew.
Then, disaster struck again. Chip had been slowly adjusting to the hazy gray world around him, trying to cope with his blindness, when the submarine was attacked by an enemy destroyer. Despite his condition, Chip went to the Control Room, finding the commanding officer injured and unable to do her duty. Without hesitation, he began issuing orders to the crew.
The Seaview was trapped in a canyon, unable to maneuver. Damage to the hull made the decision for them… the sub would have to surface. Sure enough, when the great sub rose up out of the water, a boarding party from the enemy ship was waiting for them. Knowing that the enemy would attempt to take over, Chip stood his ground and implemented emergency procedures.
Although he was blind, he trusted his crew implicitly and together they managed to overcome the armed boarding party. The enemy ship was destroyed, rocking the sub with great explosions. Somehow, they had beaten the odds once again. Running crippled on the surface, the Seaview headed towards the rendezvous. This time, under strict doctor’s orders and a few good doses of sedative, Chip was confined to Sickbay. With the enforced rest, Morton’s condition stabilized and began to improve.
When Seaview and the Flying Sub came aboard, she immediately went to the Exec’s side, wanting to help him if she could. He had lapsed into a coma, and never heard her murmured words or felt her gentle, caring touch. He did not listen when she declared that she loved him… but others did. The rumors began to fly.
She found she liked the fact that she could run her fingers through his hair, touch the side of his face as he slept… the new body she occupied allowed her to contact him in a way that had been impossible before. She hoped he would approve of her form, she so wanted him to like her.
Chip woke a while later. Seaview was there, and to his relief she was talking to him again. She began explaining the events of the mission but, with the sedatives in his system, he could not stay awake long enough for her to tell him about her new body.
Knowing that Morton needed rest and more rest, the doctor forbade Seaview from disturbing the injured man further. She obeyed the orders, of course, but grew quiet and sad. How she missed discussing and learning with Chip! But his health came first, and she would obey.
As time progressed, her feelings troubled her, and it was a confused Seaview that sought explanations. She had seen many responses to her new form, from outright disgust to leering grins to genuine smiles. Seaview became worried that Chip would not like her body. She declared her love of the blond to an astonished Nelson, who never expected that particular level of sophistication in a machine. The Admiral decided that what was in order was a direct confrontation between the cyborg Seaview and the Exec.
Against the better judgment of the doctor, Nelson allowed Seaview to approach the Commander. Chip had been calling for Seaview on a regular basis and didn’t know she had been instructed not to respond. When he heard her voice it was like a ray of sunshine in his dark world.
Patiently she explained the details of the mission, and the event of her transfer. He was confused, not able to understand what she was trying to say, when she reached up… and touched his cheek.
Chip Morton froze in shock. She was saying she had a body, a cyborg body! His world shifted again as she took his hand. Stunned, Chip could only sit there in silence.
Seeing the blond pale a bit, the doctor ordered everyone out of Sickbay. Chip collected his whirling, chaotic thoughts and protested. He begged for a moment alone with Seaview, and was reluctantly granted a small window of private time.
Shock and astonishment gave way to wonder. He was not sure how it had happened, but Seaview now had her own body, a physical form to compliment her omnipresent awareness. She told him of her doubts, of how others had responded negatively to her presence. Abomination, some had called her…
Chip declared, with utmost certainty, that Seaview was indeed a person and had every right to be on board. She was not an abomination; rather, she was something rare and unique. She had value and worth, and she should be granted all the rights of any other individual on the planet. Seaview felt a thrill of joy run through her. He did not think of her as some monster! He still wanted to be her friend!
Morton spoke with her for a bit longer, feeling the sedatives tugging at his awareness once again. He thought his shock was wearing away when she stunned him again. With utter sincerity, Seaview told him she loved him.
He simply could not think of a way to respond. Her voice, when he heard it a moment later, was full of sorrow and regret. She told him that she was aware he could not return her feelings… he was so taken by surprise that he could not answer her. It became too much, and he suddenly felt the need to take a step back. She left him to his thoughts, but not until he had admitted that when she had touched him, ran her fingers across his cheek… he had enjoyed it. The revelation disturbed him more than he cared to admit.
When next he and Seaview met, his emotional state was even worse. She ran her hands through his hair in a gesture of affection and was hurt when he pulled back. Thinking Chip was somehow angry at her, she left him alone.
Morton simply could not get her three word statement out of his mind. How could she say she loved him? His last disaster in the relationship field had hurt him terribly. He’d thought he was in love, yet his girlfriend had a different definition of things. She had betrayed him in a basic, fundamental way, humiliated him by flaunting her ‘part time’ boyfriend under his nose, and callously broke off the relationship without a second thought. He had been left in terrible pain, feeling foolish for ever thinking he’d finally found the love that had been so elusive in his life.
Now Seaview believed she loved him.
Chip added confusion to his already heavy feelings of guilt and failure. A little relief came when he spoke to Nelson about the kidnapping incident. He was surprised to find the Admiral did not blame him in the least for the events that had occurred. Then, just when Chip was feeling a bit better, Nelson asked a question. He wanted to know if the rumors were true… if he was attracted to Seaview. Chip replied in the affirmative, admitting that he did feel some level of affection towards her. The next question Nelson posed stopped Morton flat. He wanted to know if Chip had been intimate with Seaview. After all, the cyborg was programmed to obey any order from a senior officer...
Chip felt a cold fury go through him. How could anyone think he would take advantage of Seaview like that? She was a person, not a mechanical toy! He would never violate their friendship in that way.
His negative answer seemed to satisfy Nelson but the question would not leave his mind. He began to think that if Nelson had brought it up, surely the rumors were running rampant aboard the boat. With dismay, he realized that his professional reputation was in danger of being scandalized. Although his eyes were nearly healed, his heart was in turmoil. He did not think he could deal with much more. Over the next few days Chip made some hard decisions.
Lee and Seaview, along with a special crew, took a return trip to Ulrich’s complex to assess the damage there and make sure no danger remained. By the time they returned, the Exec had regained his eyesight, much to his and the doctor’s mutual relief. He had decided that he would keep his distance from Seaview, putting things on a purely professional level. Yes, that would be best…
He was there in the Control Room when the FS-1 docked, the mission completed. With concern he watched as a few injured men were helped out of the hatch. Lee appeared on deck with a large, bloody gash on his forehead, but… as usual… refused to go to Sickbay until an important matter had been taken care of. Curiously Chip looked towards the hatch as yet another figure appeared. He saw a beautiful woman, small and delicate of frame, emerge with a smile. Her honey-blond hair seemed to enhance her deep blue eyes, and he felt an instant attraction to this stranger. Obviously Lee and the others had rescued someone from the complex…
Then, Lee addressed the beautiful stranger as ‘Seaview’.
In one blinding moment, Chip realized that this was Seaview’s cyborg body. This incredibly attractive woman…
He was so overwhelmed at the shock that he actually swayed for a moment. Lee steadied him while Seaview went past the pair, tending to a task Lee had set her on. She gave Chip a parting smile, leaving him speechless.
Chip Morton felt every last resolution he’d made fly out the window. With a mixture of elation and dread, he knew his troubles were only beginning……
The story continues….
Chip Morton was thinking hard. He was lying in his bunk, staring at the ceiling in the low light coming from his desk lamp. This was a problem that would take some time to solve. And was it really a problem? Or did he just believe it was one? He never thought that this whole thing would come to this.
He had tried to talk to Lee about this, but the Captain of the Seaview just smiled and patted his shoulder, saying that sometimes friends stay out of each other’s private lives.
His mind went over the whole thing again. The cruise had started so normally. They were headed toward South America, to rescue two crewmembers when they ran into Tabor Ulrich, who had allied with Neo-Nazis.
The Admiral, thanks to his genius, had made so many modifications to the computers on board the boat, that the Seaview became sentient. Even the Admiral had been shocked at that one. It had been decided that they would keep it for a while, since there was just too much going on to take care of the situation. And Nelson had been curious of this new "life form", so it stayed on line. It even had picked a gender, it was a "she". Well, Lee always called her the gray Lady. Of course it would turn out female.
Even against his first reaction to a sentient Seaview, Chip had gotten close to the boat when it became more and more involved with the running of operations. Her suggestions were improving efficiency, safety. She had caught saboteurs and assassins. She could watch over each and everyone of the men on board.
When things got rough for him, she was there to keep an eye on things. She became a trusted ally… hell, she was almost a friend. And he had to admit he liked to have someone to talk to, outside of the crew and other officers. Lee and the Admiral were not always available and, like him, they were also extremely busy. But Seaview always answered when he called.
When the Admiral was kidnapped, Seaview transferred herself to FS-1 and then to one of Ulrich’s cyborgs. When she returned with the kidnapped men and Nelson, he had been blinded, thanks to meeting the periscope island head first. He had not known, no one was willing to tell him, that she was now in a mobile form. And that she loved him.
And that was the crux of Chip’s problem. Seaview was now a woman… well not exactly, but she was inhabiting a female cyborg. And it was a damn good-looking one. Dark blonde hair, with sapphire blue eyes, he had been physically attracted the first time he saw her, but when Lee addressed her as Seaview, he felt the deck opening up to swallow him.
THAT was Seaview? The warm, soft voice he heard in the headsets, that always had questions and comments on everything? The voice that was always filled with kindness toward him? Now he knew it was love she felt. She told him so, but she also said that she did not expect her feelings to be returned.
Seaview had overheard a conversation between crewmembers. They were calling her an abomination, something that should be destroyed. He had been shocked by her reaction to it. She had been so sad, lost. He had finally convinced her she was unique and had value.
Crane had told him she was very afraid of being disconnected, of what Nelson would do. She was very aware, painfully so, that Admiral Nelson could make a life or death decision about her and that nothing and no one would step in to stop it. She was a machine.
Yeah, she was a machine. But she could learn, she cared about the crew, she was loyal and took her duties very seriously. And sometimes she would sing along with Riley, when he invited her. But machines don’t like music, machines do not want to make people accept them, machines do not love.
When he was stuck in Sickbay, not knowing if he would ever see again, he would call to her and she would talk with him. According to the doctor, it took place even when he was delirious or dreaming. He had to admit that when she ran her fingers through his hair, it had been a pleasant sensation. What did that say about himself?
What did he know about love anyway? His last relationship had ended in failure, like all the others. Maybe because Denise had not been a friend first. The woman he thought loved him had betrayed and hurt him in a very painful way. The sting of that incident had yet to fade. By all rights, he should not have had the slightest interest in anyone for a while… but somehow, feelings of friendship with Seaview had grown rapidly into something he could not name. Maybe that was it… he and Denise had never become friends first. This relationship with Seaview had started at a different place altogether. Now, the definition of ‘friendship’ seemed terribly inadequate.
By now the crew was probably having a field day out of all this. Even on such a large vessel, rumors had a tendency to be faster than light.
Finally, exhaustion kicked in and the XO fell asleep.
Seaview was in the lab with Admiral Nelson and Dr. Jamieson. They were discussing her as if she was not there, commenting on biomechanical advances, self-awareness, and psychological profiles. Mr. Morton, Chip, had told her before that it was not polite behavior to talk about someone as if they were not there. Maybe they did not know.
She was sitting on one of the tables wearing an examination tunic the doctor had given her. She was barefoot, but she was not really affected by the coolness of the room. It took much more intense temperature variations to make her uncomfortable.
Dr. Jamieson and the Admiral had given her all the tests they could think of : X-Rays, sonograms, even some biopsies. She did not like the last test the doctor performed. Somehow, it felt …. wrong. Her medical database indicated that this test was performed routinely on female humans, but she could not understand why it was necessary for her to go through the procedure. She was not human, she knew that, she had told them. But neither men seemed to listen to her.
She kept silent and immobile. Nelson had told her to stay there, so she stayed.
"Admiral, this is incredible. It would be impossible to know the difference between cyborg and human without advanced medical diagnostic equipment. It is a perfect replica of life. Ulrich is a genius, highly misguided, but a genius." Jamieson was impressed by the technology, just a Nelson was.
"Do you think we could do the same thing?" Nelson asked.
"Do we want to? I think it would be wrong. It would be like playing God, and look where Ulrich ended up," Jamieson replied.
Seaview was well aware of where Ulrich had ended up. He was now a prisoner in his own house, watched day and night; his only contact with the outside world was his niece, Gundi, who was taking care of him.
That had been her duty. Or, rather, Bridget’s duty before she took the cyborg over. When she absorbed the cyborg’s database, she learned a lot about Ulrich, but not much about humans.
That she was learning from her crew. It was confusing most of the time, but she was getting better. She liked to sing with Riley, and Patterson seemed comfortable with her, much like Sharkey was. But some of the others, a few in fact, did not like having her around, so she was keeping a discreet distance from most of the crew.
Unless they called to her, she was not there. She would address some officers, but never the enlisted men. All in all, she was trying very hard to be a good submarine. But it was hard. She was making so many mistakes, she was sure that Nelson was only waiting for an official complaint to remove her.
She had been in the lab for the last week. She did not need to be physically present to talk to anyone or point out problems. Part of her was always scanning the boat from one end to the other, so she usually was the first to know if anything was wrong. Then she would contact the officer on duty in the Control Room and report her findings.
When Chip was there, he would make a little bit of small talk, but never much. She knew he was busy and had many things to do, so she never insisted.
What no one realized was that Seaview was getting lonely. She was lonely and the one she loved did not talk to her outside of ship’s business and had not come to see her since the Admiral had started studying her. In fact, no one had come, except the doctor wanting more tests.
So, she started another series of diagnostics on the computers, communication arrays, sonar, radar, in fact, every bit of equipment to which she had access. There was nothing to report. Again. She would have liked to talk to someone. Anyone.
Lee Crane walked into the officer’s mess and sat down in front of his friend and executive officer.
"So, did you sleep well? How are your eyes?" he asked Morton.
"Fine, I don’t need to wear the sunglasses anymore and the eyedrops are a thing of the past. I never want to go through that again," Chip answered.
"Have you… made up your mind about Seaview?" Lee was curious. He had a certain liking for the small cyborg, but what were Chip’s feeling on the subject?
"I thought you didn’t want to interfere." It came out a little more aggressively than Chip intended.
"I know it’s not easy for you, but what can I say? Look at it this way. If you didn’t know she was a machine, would you try to get to know her better? Would you find her attractive?" Lee was turning the coffee cup in his hands, watching his friend. "Now, let’s go back when she was still the boat. You liked her then, didn’t you? I know the two of you would talk a lot and you admitted she was becoming your friend. You cared about each other, everyone could see that. She changed forms, but she still cares, a lot, about you. That has not changed and I don’t think it ever will. What you have to decide is if your feelings changed toward her."
"Lee, it’s not that easy. I mean, I am the Exec, and I truly don’t think it would be proper. I … Lee, she’s the damn boat!" Chip was at a loss for words. He rested his chin on his hands and sighed. "I don’t know, Lee, I really don’t."
"Where is she anyway? I haven’t heard from her since three, no four, days ago when she reported a pressure loss in the air revitalization equipment."
"She knows she is not liked by some of the crew, so she keeps away from sight as much as possible. But you are right. She has not even talked to me in a while." Chip was getting worried. She was always so eager to talk… something had to be wrong.
Lee raised his voice and talked to empty air. "Seaview, this is Crane." The other officers in the mess were getting used to this, so no one made so much as a sound. Cookie, who was refilling the Captain’s cup, just shook his head.
"Seaview here. Do you require assistance?" the familiar voice answered.
Crane smiled. She always answered like that. Well, Sharkey had said that she was protective.
"Where are you?" he asked.
"If you are referring to my mobile form, I am in the laboratory with Admiral Nelson and Dr. Jamieson."
Chip sat up straighter in his chair. He had noticed a strange note to her voice. He had to admit that he could judge her moods by how she talked, but this one was new.
"How long have you been there?" Lee continued.
"6 days, 15 hours and 35 minutes."
"Are you helping the Admiral with an experiment?" Why would she be in there for so long?
"I am the experiment." This time, everyone heard the emotion in the voice coming from the PA. It screamed of fear and helplessness.
Crane and Morton looked at each other, frozen by the implication.
Lee saw his friend leap out of his chair and decided to follow. It did not take a degree in navigation to know that Chip’s target was the lab.
The two officers stopped in front of the closed hatch. As Chip was reaching for the wheel, Lee put a hand on his shoulder. "Let me get in first."
Chip nodded and kept the door open for Lee. They got in and took in the scene before them. Seaview was covered in wires and not much else. Both Jamieson and Nelson were busy at a recorder, commenting on her reflexes and how the nervous system was probably working.
Seaview looked toward the sound and saw Chip. He had come for her! He was there! She was hoping he could explain to her why she had to go through all these tests.
Then she saw him look in her direction, at the instruments on the tray next to the table on which she was. She did not know how to describe his expression, but she was pretty sure it was disgust. Maybe Chip did not like the way she looked. She wished she could change that, but there was nothing she could do.
Crane walked toward Seaview and started to disconnect the wires. When the recorder went down, the two scientists turned toward the object of their study. They came face to face with a furious Morton.
"How dare you treat her that way? She saved your life, and the lives on everyone on this boat and you treat her like some lab animal? Hell, you are kinder to your rats!" Chip was beyond furious at this point.
"What are you talking about? We have to find out how the cyborg work, then we can use the knowledge to.." Nelson started but Chip was not listening.
Before the Exec. got himself in deeper waters than he could manage, Lee made his way between Nelson and Morton.
"Chip, calm down and get something for Seaview to wear. Doctor Jamieson, you will return to Sickbay for now. Admiral, right now I need Seaview to check something in the reactor room. We have high levels of radiation in there and only she can go in and see what is causing the problem." Lee hoped that the flurry of orders would keep everyone’s temper under control.
Jamieson decided that the better part of valor is discretion and left for Sickbay. The senior officers were in for a major bout of arguing and he did not want to be in the middle of it. He made sure to grab the printouts of all the test results, so he could review them.
The Admiral also left, telling the Captain that he would like to have a few words with him later, leaving Seaview alone with Crane. The Captain turned toward the cyborg and saw that she was trying to cover herself with the examination tunic. He put his hands on her shoulders and looked in her eyes. That convinced him that she indeed have feelings. What he saw was pain and confusion, fear and rejection. Perhaps Chip had been right all along. She was more than a tool.
"Seaview, are you all right? Did they hurt you?" he asked as softly as he could. She was scared enough as it is.
"I am not hurt, Captain. Do you want me to go to the reactor room now? I have not detected any increase in radiation levels. I will have to check sensors for any defective connections."
"Never mind that for now. I just wanted to get you away from here."
Chip was walking toward his cabin, intending to get something for Seaview. He was angry at Nelson and the doctor for the way they had treated her, as if she had no more feelings that a machine. That thought stopped him. Was she a machine or not? Part of him said yes, but another part said no. And the latter was getting stronger by the minute.
When they came into the lab, he had not expected to see her like this. He knew she was pretty but he never thought that he could have such a reaction to her. She was more than pretty, he found her beautiful, she was perfect. His body was reacting to hers in a way his mind was not prepared or willing to handle.
Chip came back with his Navy sweatshirt and pants. Crane had a hard time not to smile. Seaview would be floating in that. She was maybe a hair taller that 5’4", but not by much. Chip gave it to her and she started dressing. Both men turned around to give her some privacy.
"Captain Crane?" Seaview’s voice made them turn. "If there is no danger to the boat or crew, why did you interfere with Admiral Nelson’s testing? Why did you tell him something that was not true?"
Crane realized that lies were not part of her programming or whatever made up her personality. He could only hope that this would not set a precedent. "Seaview, you are part of my crew and it is my duty to see that everyone gets back home safe and sound. From now on, you will consider yourself under my direct command. I will talk to the Admiral and convince him to stop these tests. You are too valuable to us, I can’t risk losing you to a stupid laboratory mishap. Is that clear?"
Crane hoped she would agree to this last order. She considered the Admiral the ultimate authority on board, it would be difficult to convince her otherwise.
Seaview nodded. "I understand. As commanding officer, your orders concerning the operations of this submarine are to be obeyed."
She felt relief that Crane had found a way to get her out of the lab. She did not like it here. She wanted to go back to the control room, where she could perform her duties.
Chip was still looking at her. She wished he would tell her why he had been so disturbed by her appearance. She had not seen many human females, so maybe she just was not acceptable to him.
Crane looked at his friend. "Chip, get Seaview to guest cabin C. It is small, but she will be safe enough there, no one will disturb her." When Morton passed in front of him to escort Seaview, Lee whispered "And talk to her, I think you both need it."
Watching them leave, Crane shook his head. Granted that Seaview was not human, but she was way better than any of Chip’s former girlfriends. Especially the last one.
Neither he or his wife, Gail, had a good feeling about her when they met her. When Chip came back from the last shore leave, they could see that something had happened to him, but they did not pry. Morton was a very private man, he would talk about it when he was ready, but Gail was worried about him. She had mentioned to Lee that Denise was a cold-hearted witch, and she had been right. Gail was good at reading people. Lee decided to introduce her to Seaview and see what she thought of the cyborg.
With a heavy sigh, he started making his way to Nelson’s cabin. THAT was going to be a very difficult conversation and he was not looking forward to it.
Reaching the guest cabin assigned to her, Seaview entered and Chip followed. The clothes were too large for her and she had rolled up the sleeves. They concealed her curves but he could not get what he had seen out of his mind.
"Chip, why was it so important for the Admiral to have all those tests done? I could have answered his questions much faster, but neither he or the doctor listened when I tried to tell them anything. They told me to be quiet and stay put."
"I don’t know Seaview. The Admiral is like that, when he finds something to study, he gets into his own world, forgetting that others around him have needs. And Jamieson is a doctor. They sometimes ignore the whole person and look at people as a sum of different parts."
"I think I understand. Chip, I did not like the tests. Some of them felt so wrong. But I could not get away. I did not know what to do and I had no one to ask." she said in a soft, low voice.
"I’m sorry. I did not know why you were so quiet lately and I didn’t ask. Lee could have done something sooner if he had known. I feel this is my fault." Chip said.
Surprised, Seaview turned to look at him. He had such beautiful blue eyes. Lighter in colour than hers, they were the same shade as the sky.
"You had many things to do, you are back to full duty and you are still recovering from your injury. I know the doctor told you to rest as much as possible. I did not want to disturb you. It was important that you get better." she explained. She reached up to touch his hair. He did not pull away and let her do what she wanted. The contact was short, but it affected him, much more than he would ever admit to anyone.
"More important than you?" he asked.
"Yes." One word, but it contained a world of caring and kindness.
"Still, you should have said something! I don’t want you to be hurt. I…Seaview, you are my friend. And friends look out for each other. If anything happens that you do not like, please tell me or Lee. We will help you, just like you help us when we ask. And you can say ‘no’ if something is wrong, your body belongs to you. Will you do that?" he asked.
She nodded. He saw joy in her eyes when he said that they were friends. Everybody needs friends, he thought, and she needs someone to protect her. "I have to go now. Stay here, this is your cabin now, if you want to, you can lock the door. Only Lee has the master key, so no one can come in unless you say so. I’ll get a headset and we can talk as much as you want when I am not working. Is that OK?" Chip knew he had to make it up to her, but he could not think of what else he could do.
"Thank you, it is good that we will talk again. I missed you." Seaview’s voice carried her love, he could feel it, but he could not return it.
He said good bye and left her standing in the middle of the empty cabin. She was alone again, but this time she was not lonely. Captain Crane and Chip cared about what happened to her, she was important to them. This was such a good feeling inside. And Chip would talk to her again! This was even better.
Lee knocked on Nelson’s door and waited for the Admiral to acknowledge him.
"Come in." said a gruff voice.
Crane squared his shoulders and walked in. The Admiral was sitting at his desk and the Captain could see that the older man was fuming.
"Would you mind explaining what exactly you and Morton were doing? Don’t you realize the scientific knowledge we could gain from studying the cyborg?" Nelson demanded.
"Sir, I think you are letting yourself get carried away by the science and technology that is Seaview and forgetting the humanity." Lee pointed out.
"What humanity? You are talking about a machine here, not a person." Nelson replied.
"I am talking about your own. Maybe she is a machine, but I think there is much more that you do not see. Have you tried talking to her? You would be surprised." Lee said. He just had to make Nelson see Seaview as more than a walking computer.
"Talk to her about what? I know about the boat and getting status reports is more your function and Morton’s than mine." Nelson was getting angry now.
"Did you know she likes music? And she has a wonderful singing voice. And she is very concerned about the safety of the crew. When you address her, she always ask if you need assistance. Talk to the men, sir. Sharkey has worked with her on the missile silos and on the reactor. Talk to the engineering crew. Get to know her before you pass judgment."
"Mmmph…. Very well, I will talk to the men, but I still think you are making the whole issue into something bigger than it is. And I want to talk to Morton, I’ve never seen him act this way before and I will not tolerate insubordination."
"Chip was defending a friend. He does not see her as a machine. He has been in contact with her from the beginning, when she was still confined to the boat. She…they are close to each other, as much as friends can be. She relies on him and he trusts her."
"Oh, please! Don’t tell me that this ridiculous rumor of the cyborg being in love with Morton is true?!" Nelson was shocked.
Lee decided to jump in. Nelson would get feedback from the crewmen soon enough and this tidbit of gossip was way too juicy to die on its own.
"It’s not a rumor, sir." He let it go at that. He had not interfered with Chip on this one and he would try to prevent anyone from doing so, at least until he talked it over with Gail.
Nelson laughed. "Now, that’s ridiculous. The cyborg may have some bit of self-awareness and can mimic behaviors, but how can it have feelings?"
"As I said, talk to the men. I find her to be very helpful. Think about it, sir. We have an artificial intelligence here, one that is learning and growing. And she is patterning her behavior to ours. There are times I could swear I am talking to Morton, myself or any other officer. She is learning how to interact with people. How to interpret correctly what they say and do. And she calls herself Seaview. It is her name." How could the man be so stubborn?
"Seaview is the boat, my submarine. We will have to call it something else. What was the name Ulrich gave it? Bridget?"
"She does not like that name. She prefers to be called Seaview. But I will ask her to find another name, if it makes it easier for you. If you will excuse me, I have to go back to the control room." Lee got up and left.
This had not gone as expected. He had never seen the Admiral so set in an idea that he could not event entertain the notion that he was misguided or was ignoring the facts.
When he reached the control room, he noticed that the place was quieter than usual. He went to the plot table and stood next to Chip. He saw that the Exec. had started wearing the headset again. That explained the silence. The crew was waiting for the rumor mill to go into full speed.
Crane decided to diffuse the situation. Chip had been worried that his relationship, as it was, with Seaview would lead to problems with the crew. There had been some jokes when Seaview had been the boat, now she was a gorgeous woman. The jokes were not funny anymore and the rumors had turned vicious is some cases. He too had heard the rumors and conversations stopped when the XO entered a room. He grabbed another headset and put it on, plugging it into the nearest port.
"We will have to think of a way to make these more mobile. Or have really long extension cords." Lee said with a smile, his voice carrying clearly across the quiet room. "Crane to Seaview."
When he got her reply on the PA, he explained his idea of portable communication equipment to her.
"Yes, it can be done easily. I do not have the necessary components here with me, but they are available in the electronics lab."
To his relief, she never mentioned where ‘here’ was. She was learning discretion.
"Perfect. I will send Kowalski there and the two of you will work on making some prototypes. I want this to be as small as possible."
"Yes, Captain." Seaview acknowledged.
When Kowalski got his orders to report to the electronics lab to work with Seaview, Emilio Lauder snickered a comment.
"Gee, Ski, your turn to play with the Exec.’s Barbie doll."
"Shut up, Lauder. Better be silent and look like an idiot than talk and prove you are one." Kowalski replied.
Still, he was disturbed. He had never worked with Seaview before, put Patterson and Sparks had, and they liked her. They said she was very good and would never hurt anyone, in fact, if you didn’t know that she was a cyborg, she was really nice to talk to.
When he entered the lab, Seaview was already there, gathering the components they would need. She looked up and smiled at him. Sparks was right, if you didn’t know, she was nice. And the fact that she was a real looker was another advantage. Was there really something going on between her and the XO?
"Huh, what do we do now?" he asked.
"I have the main motherboards here, as well as the connection ports. Look for some casings, as small as possible, so the unit can be carried easily. We will also need to find a way to have it clip onto either a belt or jacket, as well as an independent power source."
Once all they needed was on the table, the project got along at a pretty good speed. In less that 3 hours, they had three working prototypes. Seaview had tested them and now all that was needed was the Captain’s approval to make more.
"Well, I am finished here and I know the Chief will find something else for me to do." Kowalski did not know what else to say.
Seaview sensed his discomfort. "Thank you for your help. I will take the prototypes to Captain Crane in the control room. Good bye." She took the mobile units and left the lab.
It was a very pensive Kowalski that made his way back to the crew quarters.
"So, how was it?" Lauder asked. This time Ron Webster was with him and they winked at each other.
"Seaview is way better at electronics than either of you could ever be. And I would not put too much faith on rumors if I were you. Some blokes could find themselves in a lot of trouble." Ski replied to the implied slur.
That rumor about Mr. Morton and Seaview was persistent, but he did not really believe it. Even if it was true, it was none of his business anyway. Morton was a good officer, and he had saved the sub from being taken over by boarders. And he had been blind at the time! As far as he was concerned, they could do whatever they wanted.
Without realizing it, Seaview had made a new friend.
Seaview reached the control room and put the prototypes on the table in front of Crane. He took one and connected his headset to it. Turning it on, he talked softly into the microphone.
"Seaview, this will work all over the boat?"
"Yes, even is heavily shielded frames, such as the reactor." Her lips had not moved, but he heard her clearly. Morton signaled that he heard nothing.
Removing the headset, Lee looked at his new crewmember. "And they are independent of each other?"
"Make enough of them so that each section chief and officer has one. It will be easier to communicate that way if there is a problem. Mr. Morton, make sure that all officers on duty carry their headsets." Crane smiled at Seaview. "That was a very good job. Thank you."
"I did not do it alone, Captain. Kowalski was there." Seaview reminded him.
"I know. You both did very well. Dismissed."
Seaview nodded and returned to the electronics lab. She sat in front of the cluttered table and listened to the life of the great submarine while she worked. The sea outside was like a song to her. It was her home.
Nelson went down the corridors of the Seaview and started to talk with some of the crew. Most had no opinion one way or the other about the cyborg, but sensing the Admiral’s mood, they were not overly eager to approve of her.
When he approached the Chief Sharkey, Nelson got a little more than he bargained for.
"Chief, I want to hear your opinion about this cyborg we have on board." Nelson said.
Hearing the Admiral’s tone and knowing about what had happened earlier in the lab, Sharkey took a deep breath and turned to face Nelson.
"Well, sir, Seaview is very good at what she does. I mean, she went through the silo updates and repairs at flank speed. And she is really nice to talk to. And she does not give any lip about orders or complain there is too much work." Sharkey replied with enthusiasm. He liked Seaview and did not want anything to happen to her. "You know, sir, if we had her before, we could have saved ourselves tons of trouble. Sir, when she was only the sub, she would watch over the crew and she did catch that saboteur. I really think that now, since she is a cyborg, and all, that she is a really good person. I know some of the men do not like to work with her, but Seaview is a real asset. I would chose her over some of these knuckleheads."
Since the Chief was on a roll, Nelson decided to keep quiet and let him finish.
"Sir, it is really an incredible thing, what you did. I mean, you created a thinking submarine and now we have the cyborg. It’s almost like the 8th wonder of the world or something. You must be very proud of that, Admiral. In a way, it’s like she is a daughter or something."
"Thank you, Chief." Nelson was leaving the room when the Sharkey raised his voice.
"And, sir? She sings very well too, sir." he added.
Almost everyone mentioned that the cyborg could sing. This had to be looked into. Nelson was getting annoyed with the whole exercise. He then met with Emilio Lauder.
"Well, sir, if you ask me, I think that thing should be shut down and scrapped. I mean, it could be dangerous if it went berserk. It’s not really stable as it is now. It thinks that it’s in love. Imagine that, sir. I don’t want to be on the same boat as that cyborg. It’s not natural, sir."
Nelson thanked him and went on his way. Lauder just hoped that Nelson would listen to reason, and not get himself charmed like Morton and Crane were.
Harriman Nelson was usually a man who could keep an objective mind on things. But not this time. He was a scientist, first and foremost, and feelings had no place in science. Although Crane had mentioned humanity. As much as he wanted to agree with his officers, he did not feel it was proper procedure to do so. His keen analytical mind was reviewing what he had discussed with the different members of the crew. This was not going to be an easy decision. He needed more information, which he could get only from studying the cyborg. And why was it so damn hard to give it a name? Maybe because when you give a name to something, it makes it more real, more personal. He decided that for now, he would remain detached from the whole situation, take things one step at a time, in a logical fashion.
He had not heard anything from the crew that was making him see the cyborg as Crane did. And Sharkey’s enthusiasm about having created ‘a daughter’, even if it had taken him by surprise, had not helped. He did not NEED a child. And Morton needed to find a real date, not a fake one. They would reach Santa Barbara late tomorrow, so he would not be as easily interrupted in his work as on board.
Hearing music, Nelson smiled. At least Riley was in a good mood. When he came up to the door of the crew mess, he saw the blond crewman strumming his guitar and start singing some surfer song. Not in Nelson’s usual taste, but he had a good voice. Then he heard another voice join in, female, warm and in perfect timing to Riley. Coming into the room, he saw the cyborg. So, it could sing. And very well at that, but that proved nothing. So could a high quality sound system. He left the room, no one had noticed his visit.
Nelson returned to his cabin and called Dr. Jamieson to join him. They had more tests to plan and he wanted to get this over as soon as possible, so that everyone could go back to their normal routines. This cyborg of Ulrich was the most fascinating scientific puzzle he had come across in a long time. No need to talk to it directly, he had more important things to do. And how much personality could it have anyway? It was too damn easy to anthropomorphise and he could not afford to do that in this case.
S.S.R.N. Seaview docked at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research and, on the dock, Gail Crane was waiting for her husband to come home. He had asked her to be there when the sub came in, but had not said why. Gail was intrigued, to say the least, since Lee had never asked her to pick him up before.
On her way to the pier, she had a run in with Denise Richards, Chip’s former girlfriend. The woman was raising her hackles, but Gail would have been at a loss to explain why.
"Gail, how nice to see you. Are you going to pick up Lee? Can I come too? I want to talk to Chip." Denise said, climbing into the car, not waiting for an invitation or even caring if one was coming.
‘I really hate that woman.’ Gail thought. ‘Grin and bear it, it will be your charitable act for today.’
So, when Lee came off the boat, he could not keep from groaning when he saw Denise. Chip and Seaview were right behind him and looked toward the dock to see what could have cause such a reaction.
Seaview saw two women, one tall with dark hair and fair skin. She had seen her picture on Captain Crane’s desk and knew she was his wife, Gail. The other, she did not know, but apparently Chip and Crane did.
Lee went toward the two women and pulled his wife aside. After a quick kiss, he started explaining Seaview to her. Gail was usually a cool mind, but she was stunned by the time Lee finished talking.
Chip, followed by Seaview, came off the boat and reached Denise and the Cranes.
Denise jumped in his arms and tried to kiss him. When he pushed her back, she pouted. "Aren’t you happy to see me? I decided that you are the best boyfriend, so I am moving in. What do you think about a little celebration for the occasion?"
Gail felt her jaw drop open. She had to consciously close her mouth. ‘I am going to deck that freaking bitch!"
"You may want to come back, but I don’t want you. Go back to whoever you just dumped and leave me alone." Chip told her.
Denise did not take this well and slapped him. Chip has not seen it coming and did not move away fast enough. There was a stinging sensation on his lip and when he touched it, he saw blood on his fingers. Denise was making a move to hit him again, but Seaview caught her arm.
"What are you doing? Let me go! You are hurting me!" Denise complained.
"You will leave now. I cannot tolerate any attack on one of the officers or crew. If you return, you might be damaged." Seaview said in a cold voice. She could not understand why the woman had attacked Chip.
Denise looked at the blond woman and shivered. How could someone that small and slender be so strong? She was loosing the feeling in her arm. She nodded and tried to get away, but Seaview kept her grip.
Crane raised his voice. "Let her go, she knows how to get out of the Institute grounds."
Denise looked at Chip and Seaview. "I see. So that is your new girlfriend. You never took me on a boat tour. What a loser you are." Denise turned and left a red-faced Morton standing on the dock.
There had been very few witnesses to the event, but none would ever mention it. Except Webster and Lauder. They had seen Denise in one of the downtown bars. Maybe they could have a little chat with her later.
Gail went to Chip. Putting her hand on his arm, she tried to apologize. "I’m sorry, Chip. She just jumped into the car and decided to come with me. I should have left her somewhere on the highway, preferably in the middle lane. Come home with us, we have to talk and get Seaview out of here before Nelson gets hold of her."
Chip nodded and climbed into the car. Lee drove on the way back home.
Gail turned to Seaview, sitting next to Chip. She would never have guessed that this was not a real woman. Seaview was holding a tissue to Chip’s lip. It was obvious to Gail that she wanted to do more, but something was stopping her. Because they were not alone? No. Something else.
When they reached the Crane home, Gail got the first aid kit and disinfected the cut. It was not bad and did not even require a bandage. Lee suspected that the humiliation had hurt much more than the slap.
"As you can see, Denise was not a great moment in my romantic life." Chip sounded dejected. He sat down on the couch and put his head in his hands.
Seaview made a movement to go to him, but stopped. She looked at Crane and he signaled her to leave the room with Gail.
When the two women left, Lee sat next to Chip. "My friend, you need to get this off your chest. What happened with Denise? Gail and I knew she was not the best choice you ever made, but it was that bad?"
"You have no idea…" replied Chip. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Lee was his best friend. Against his better judgment, Chip decided to tell him the whole story. Maybe Lee could figure out why he had such bad luck with women. Sometimes you cannot see the forest because of the trees.
Seaview followed Gail Crane to the kitchen. There was the smell of pastries in the air. Gail offered her some coffee.
"I have no need for food or beverages. In fact, I cannot absorb it."
"Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know." Gail was curious, but how to phrase it? "How do you get your energy then? Euh, do you have batteries?"
"No, I am not a toy. I have photo-sensitive collector cells. I store energy from the visible light spectrum and as well as infra-red." Seaview explained.
"Collector cells? What do they look like?" Gail realized that Seaview would not be offended by questions and she seemed to enjoy the fact that someone was paying attention to her.
"I have a thin layer of elastomeric material that acts as skin and has the same function of protection and insulation as yours. The collector cells are just below it and cover my entire body. Unless I am in an extremely cold environment and in the dark for weeks, I can function."
Seaview offered her hand and Gail examined it closely. In the natural light coming from the window, she could barely see something under the cyborg’s skin, and unless you were looking for it, it was not noticeable. This was incredible. No wonder Nelson was itching to study her.
"Seaview, you are amazing. Lee told me that you like music. Would you like to go shopping for some tapes to take with you on your next trip?" Gail offered.
"Yes, thank you. But, I know that I would need money to do that and I do not have any. How do I obtain this?" Seaview asked.
"Mmmmm…. I think we had better talk it over with Chip and Lee. I don’t think either would mind giving you some to get you started. And are these the only clothes you have?" When Seaview nodded, Gail smiled. "Then I will initiate you to a great custom, generally enjoyed by the female of the species. I know I do."
Seaview was intrigued, but seeing that Gail seemed happy, she did not comment. She liked Gail. They were able to talk with each other and it was much easier than with anyone on board, even Chip. Maybe because Gail was female. But Denise was female and Seaview did not like her. It had to be something else.
She continued to answer Gail’s questions. Had Nelson been there, he would have learned much more than any test could divulge.
Seaview was enjoying herself here. This place was peaceful and Gail was nice to her. She was also Chip’s friend. It was good that he had friends. Seaview knew that this was important.
"Gail? Do you want to be my friend, too?" asked Seaview.
"Yes, Seaview, I will be your friend." She reached out and patted Seaview’s hand. She was surprised by the glow in the cyborg’s eyes. That was happiness if it was anything.
Then and there, Gail decided that Seaview was a person. No matter what, she was a person. Now to have Nelson recognize it.
Another conversation between friends was taking place in the living room. Lee was quiet and let Chip talk without interruptions or comments. He knew that if his friend stopped talking, he would never start again.
"I was such an idiot, Lee. I thought she loved me, because I loved her. I trusted her. I would never cheat, you know that, but she did. When I came home for an early leave, I found her with another man. She got mad at me because I came back too soon. I can’t believe that it is so hard to find someone. You have Gail to come home to. I have no one. Now, I will always wonder why I just can’t make things work."
Lee put his hand on Chip’s shoulder. "Gail and I make it work by being friends, not just husband and wife or lovers. You are honest and it would never occur to you to go back on your word and you assume that everyone else is the same. So, when someone like Denise comes along, you have a hard time figuring out what is wrong. Chip, I know that right now things are confusing and that the situation with Seaview is not helping, but give yourself some time. Seaview will never pressure you into something you do not want. She is kind and patient. She can wait for you to figure things out. And whatever choice you make, I know she will still be your friend."
Chip nodded and got up to look out the window. "You know, if she were human, we would not even be having this conversation."
"I know. As someone once said, ‘this too shall pass’. Let’s check on the girls. I think I smell pastries, Gail is trying to fatten me up again."
Morton smiled and followed. Seaview was absorbed by something Gail was explaining. As soon as she heard him come into the room, Seaview lifted her head and smiled at Chip and he smiled back at her. This was not unnoticed be either Gail or Lee.
"Lee, Chip, I think Seaview needs something else besides this oversized sweatshirt. I am taking her shopping. Do you think the Admiral would approve an expense account for this?" Gail asked.
Chip snorted. "That will be the day. Here is my debit card and access code. Seaview can have whatever she wants. My treat."
"Chip, I think your picture should be under the definition of ‘officer and gentleman’. Come on, Seaview, we have a lot to do." Gail grabbed Seaview’s wrist and tugged her toward the door.
"Maybe you could use another name than Seaview, at least in public." Lee suggested. "It would be kind of hard to explain why you have the same name as the Institute submarine."
"Something that sounds close enough. What about….Severine. With a French accent, it will sound close to the real thing." Gail suggested.
Seaview nodded and they left.
The shopping mall was a confusing and enjoyable experience for Seaview. There were a lot of humans there, even young ones. She was careful not to talk unless spoken to and let Gail handle most of the transactions.
At one point, Gail sat down with a soft drink and they observed people going by. Gail was intrigued by Seaview’s behavior toward Chip.
"Seav…Severine, please do not be offended by this, but when we got home earlier, you wanted to go to Chip but you did not. It was the same in the car. Why didn’t you?"
Seaview answered, her voice low. "I told Chip I loved him, and that I would wait for him to decide what he wants. I know he is still recovering from his injuries and that he is confused. I will wait. Is that wrong?"
"No, you are doing the right thing. He had a bad breakup with Denise and he has not gotten over it, I think. He needs time. I know he likes you, it shows, but he will really appreciate the fact that you are giving him enough space and time to sort things out."
"Denise is the woman who was on the dock with you?"
"Yes, and I hope never to see her again. Most people are decent and caring. She is not, she only cares about herself. And I guess she saw Chip as a mean to an end."
"I don’t understand why anyone would want to hurt Chip." Seaview said.
"Why do people hurt each other? That question has been in the philosophy books for hundreds of years. It may be part of human nature, but we try to get over it. You are lucky in that regard. You started at a higher level of kindness than most people ever reach." Gail replied. She saw Seaview frown on her last comment.
"Being kind is important?"
"Yes, Severine, it is very important. It is the base that love, caring and friendship are built on." Gail stretched her legs and nudged Seaview. "Come on, we still have the best part to attend to."
Seaview followed her friend into another store. This one was even stranger that the others. The need for covering and shoes was understood, but what was the purpose of all this?
Gail grabbed her hand and whispered in her ear. "Now, my dear, the fun begins."
Choosing not to comment, Seaview was directed into a changing booth and Gail and the store personnel went into a frenzy of activity. She was told to try on a lot of things and finally Gail made a few choices. Seeing her friend enjoying herself, Seaview went along, without a word.
Gail was enjoying showing Seaview around. She realized that the cyborg had absolutely no idea of what the outside world was like and what was expected from her. Luckily, Seaview tended to be quiet and observe before making any move. It reminded Gail of Morton, Chip was a lot like that.
"Gail! How nice to see you! And who is your friend?" an older woman was walking toward them.
"Hello Patricia. This is Severine, she is a … an exchange student that is staying with us for a while. Severine, this is Patricia, she is a neighbor of mine." Gail hoped that Seaview would go along with the lie.
"Hello Patricia. I am pleased to meet you." Seaview shook hands with the woman, but added nothing further.
"I see you are on a major shopping spree. Anything I should know about?" Patricia inquired.
"Severine’s luggage was lost by the airline, so she needs to replace everything. And we have to go, Lee is back and I want to make him a nice homecooked meal. He always looses weight on these cruises, I swear they don’t feed them." Gail said. She waved good bye to Patricia and husherred Seaview out of the mall.
"Whew! We will have to be careful. Patricia is the biggest gossip in the neighborhood. If she even gets a whiff of what you are, we are toast!"
"We will become roasted bread? That is impossible, Gail." Seaview said, confused.
Surprised, Gail looked at the cyborg. This was interesting. "What I meant was that we would get into trouble if she learned about you. Being toast means just that, getting into trouble. It is an expression, colorful, but the words used have a different meaning than the usual one."
"Oh! I am sorry. I did not mean to offend." Seaview replied. "I will remember."
"No offense, none at all. I just didn’t realize that you wouldn’t understand. You will have a lot to learn."
"I know. I try very hard, but I make many mistakes. If I make too many, the Admiral may decide to disconnect me. I will try to be more careful."
Gail was shocked by the fear she heard in Seaview’s voice. She was absolutely terrorized when Nelson was mentioned. Gail knew she had to talk this over with Lee and Chip. Something had to be done, and soon.
Nelson stormed into his office, he had rarely been so angry at his officers. They were threading close to insubordination. He had tried to find the cyborg and get it to the lab, only to find out that it had left the premises, with Crane and Morton.
"Angie!! Get me Crane’s home number. I want to talk to him!"
Angie rushed to comply, commenting to herself that whatever Crane had done, he was in for it now.
The phone rang three times before someone answered. "Crane here."
"Captain, what is this little stunt about? Where the hell did you get the idea of taking off with the cyborg? You knew we were going to start studying it in depth as soon as we got here." Nelson said, trying to control his voice.
"That is precisely why I left with her. I do not want you to make a hasty decision in this. You still have not seen all there is and, as your friend, I cannot let you go on and make a terrible mistake." Lee explained.
"The two of you are insane! This is not a woman, it’s a machine!" Nelson was livid. "I want it back here in two hours, or I am reporting it as stolen property."
"Sir, with all due respect, she came willingly with us. She is not property, she is sentient and I truly believe she is a full person. With all the rights to which she is entitled." Lee tried to calm down the Admiral, but it was useless. "Her body is mechanical, but so are ours, when you think about it. She has a mind of her own, with likes and dislikes, emotions and she can learn."
"Very well, Captain, you can keep her for now, but this conversation is not over. I want both you and Morton in my office tomorrow at 8:00 sharp. With the cyborg." Nelson hung up the phone. This was ridiculous. He could not believe that Lee Crane would do something like that. On the other hand, Lee had a strong sense of what was right. A little, very little seed of doubt was planted in Nelson’s mind.
At the other end of the line, Lee hung up and frowned. "Chip, I think we will soon be in very hot water. Think you can go through with this? Nelson is chewing nails and spitting tacks."
"I won’t let anyone hurt her Lee. She was there for me before. I… I can’t let her go like that. What will they think up next? Vivisection?" Chip said. "Lee, I have the mother of all headaches. Why is the Admiral so dead set about this? He has nothing to gain by destroying Seaview."
When Gail and Seaview came back, the new developments were explained to them.
"I have to go back to the Institute. I cannot allow either of you to jeopardize your careers." Seaview said in a tone that did not allow much room for arguments.
"We are going with you. And you have my word that I will do everything in my power to protect you." Lee promised. Looking at her, he just could not think of her as purely a machine, not anymore. She was getting more…mature?… as time went by. "Seaview, sometimes you have to disregard duty when something is wrong. Doing the right thing is also very important. Because that is a duty you have toward yourself."
Lee hoped she understood what he was trying to say. She nodded, but she was also frowning. He let her be for now.
"I’m going home. I need to sleep. Good night Seaview. I will see you tomorrow." Chip said, grabbing his jacket from the chair. If Seaview had been human, he would have kissed her good night, but he only pushed her long hair back from her shoulders.
After Morton left, Gail guided Seaview into the guest bedroom. Lee knew that the cyborg did not need to sleep, but his wife was upset enough as it was, so he did not say a word and neither did Seaview. He gave her a smile to thank her and went to bed. Tomorrow would be a long and difficult day.
When she was finally alone with her husband, Gail decided to bring up some of the things she had observed. "Lee, Seaview is completely and totally terrified of Admiral Nelson. What on earth could have caused that?"
"He thought of disconnecting the personality that was emerging from the on-board computers a couple of time. The first time, he was distracted by the notion that it could be useful to direct repairs and such, and that it was a unique opportunity to study artificial intelligence. The second time, Chip intervened and convinced him that there was no danger and that he could keep it under control."
"Mmmm…that would explain her reaction to making mistakes. And why she feels that way for Chip."
"Huh? I mean about Chip. It does?" Lee was getting curious at this point.
"Think about it. You are helpless to defend yourself, someone helps you without asking anything in return, just that you do not do any harm to those around you. That someone talks to you, explains what is confusing, never laughs or makes derogatory comments about you. How would YOU feel about that person?"
"I see. So she is confusing love and gratefulness?"
"No, she is not confusing the two. She learned to know Chip and admires him. She will not pressure him to do anything, because when you love someone, you do not make them do things, you let them choose for themselves. Her love is true, I am sure of it. Now the decision belongs to Chip. He has to decide whether he feels love for her or not. And whatever he decides, what will he do about it?"
"Gail, I know he likes her and he was attracted to her the first time he saw her as a cyborg, not knowing it was Seaview, but love? Probably, but, as you said, what will he do about it?"
Gail shrugged and settled in Lee’s arms. The next weeks would be very long and confusing, both for Seaview and Chip. She wished she could do something to help. All she could do was be a friend and confidant. She hoped it would be enough.
Chip tossed and turned for a while before finally falling asleep. He woke up often, dreaming of dark blue eyes and hearing a warm voice calling his name. If anyone had been close enough to hear, they would have heard him calling Seaview in his sleep. Unfortunately, she was not there to answer, as she always did, even when he was not aware of it.
Seaview waited for Lee and Gail to fall asleep. When she was sure they would not be easily disturbed, she unpacked her purchases. Gail had insisted on some items that were strange to her, but her new friend must have known what was best. She had promised to explain about make-up and perfume tomorrow and Seaview was looking forward to it. Some of the colors were nice and she liked the scents they had chosen. So, she spent the night trying on clothes. Some were like the ones Chip had given her, but with a better fit. She did not have to roll up the sleeves. Some were called dresses and had to be worn with certain types of shoes. Pleased that she was getting better at mixing and matching the different pieces, Seaview was somewhat stumped when it came to the underwear. Why had Gail insisted on a color that was the same as her eyes? Unless she had misunderstood, no one was supposed to see it, so why was the color so important and why did it have to be pretty, with lace and silk? Seaview decided to let go of that train of thought. It could wait. She had tomorrow to worry about, that was enough. She did not look forward to seeing the Admiral.
Crane, Morton and Seaview were in Admiral Nelson’s office by 7:45 the next day. Nelson was pacing back and forth in front of them, trying to get his temper under control. So far, his two senior officers had interfered with his study of the cyborg both on and off the boat. What were they thinking?
"You two better have the best explanation in the world, because right now, I am not sure I will even let you set foot on the grounds ever again." Nelson barked in his best command voice.
Lee and Chip looked at each other. Chip nodded and spoke to Nelson first.
"Sir, I know you consider Seaview a machine, something that has no other value than a scientific project, but you are wrong. She is a person, in a body different from ours, but a person nonetheless. Don’t discard what you have created, Admiral. The personality the boat developed emerged because of what you did to the computers. That this personality later acquired a cyborg body from Ulrich’s compound is just a detail. She has value, sir, she is unique. Please, talk with her, she is afraid of you, of what you can decide concerning her future. She has never harmed anyone, she is protective and considerate. Don’t …"
Before Chip could finish, Nelson waved his hand to silence him. "Mr. Morton, I know you think that the cyborg is sentient and that it is learning. But I have not seen anything to support that. I want to study it, learn about it and I may change my mind, I am not stupid. And, I were you, Mr. Morton, I would be very worried about how your behavior is affecting the crew. There is talk, and I want to get to the bottom of this."
"Admiral, I understand that you want to learn more about Seaview. Just make sure that the tests are administered as they would be to a full human." Crane had not forgotten how Seaview looked in Nelson’s lab on board the boat. "I want to have a say in this. I am still the Captain of the Seaview, and if my boat’s alter ego is to be analyzed, I want to be there."
"YOUR boat, Captain Crane? If I recall, I am the owner." Nelson warned.
"And I am the commanding officer. You appointed me as such and I will do my job. That parts of the job are on land instead of at sea, it is of little importance." Crane replied.
Nelson nodded and agreed to have Crane watch over the testing, but sent Morton on his way, with a warning to "behave like an officer", or else. Chip knew he would have a discussion later with the Admiral. Or rather, he would be chewed out, but he just could not let his friend down. At least Lee would be there to keep the scientists and Nelson in line.
Seaview watched him leave and gave him a sad little smile, which he returned. She was not sure what Nelson would do, but Captain Crane would be there. He was kind to her, just like his wife was. She wished Gail was there too.
For Seaview, the following days were a nightmare of testing and re-testing. Crane always made sure that there was female staff to handle some or all of the testing procedures. Although he was not attracted to Seaview the way Chip Morton was, he was observant enough to notice that some of the technicians were looking at her with more than scientific detachment. And his presence in, or near, the testing area drove home the point that no horseplay would be tolerated.
There was a flurry of activity around Seaview when it became apparent that she had the ability to download information from any computer at a rate that was unmatched anywhere. The computer technicians were thrilled to have some insight on how to achieve this with their own technology, since, apparently, Seaview did not download all the information and / or programs in a transfer. If she already knew it, it was filtered out. So only new data was accessed.
Her learning abilities were growing, she was able to learn a language in less than a day, but to use it in actual conversation was something else, since she knew the words and meanings, but not the inner workings, like puns, play on words and had a real blockage when it came to jokes. It was also observed that Seaview never used contractions and had absolutely no idea that one could lie to get out of a situation.
A linguist was of the opinion that they were expecting her to react to language as a human adult, while she had only the ability to process it as a child would. Experience with, and exposure to, conversation would make her more fluent and less easily confused. He also mentioned that she only had a limited exposure to life in general, being confined to either a submarine or a lab, and that it was not a particularly efficient way to develop social skills. He made the recommendation that she should be in a home situation, to see if any changes in environment would influence her language.
Nelson agreed to the recommendation and asked Lee and Gail to act as a kind of foster family for the cyborg. He was pretty sure it was an exercise in futility, but he wanted to appease Crane in this. Eventually the Captain would come to see reason.
Crane put his foot down when someone suggested that some of the skin could be removed to have access to the collector cells. He made his point by saying that since Seaview could not be anaesthetized, the procedure would be too painful and destructive. Luckily, Nelson concurred that damaging the cyborg would not be productive, and the idea was dropped.
But he could not prevent the neurologist from winning the next round. The man wanted to check reflexes and autonomous nervous impulses. Seaview was to be covered with sensors and wires and asked to move and react to situations. Lee won a partial victory by insisting that she at least have a hospital gown to cover her.
"But, Captain Crane, it is not a woman. This should not even be an issue, since it probably has no concept of body image. It is no more than an animated mannequin." argued the neurologist, a balding and thin older man, with thick glasses.
"Maybe not, but she has the appearance of a woman, and a very attractive one at that. Didn’t you noticed that you have a lot of volunteers, all of a sudden, ready to prepare her for this? Make sure the only technicians on duty are women, or you may find that I can make life difficult for more that the crew of the boat." With that last warning, Lee left the room.
Crane walked into Jamieson’s office and asked the doctor for a complete list of the tests that were done on Seaview, while she was still on the boat. He wanted to make sure none were to be repeated. Officially, to save time, unofficially, to protect Seaview, who was confused and lost enough as it was. He gave it to the nurse and told her to give it right away to the team working with Seaview. His tone made it clear that this order was to be carried NOW.
"Captain, I know you and Mr. Morton think of the cyborg as a woman, but is this really serious? How can it even become aware?" Jamieson knew that Crane had planned this little meeting and was not looking forward to the next hour or so.
"It is very serious, Doctor. Very serious. How many machines actually worry about the health and welfare of the people around them? Hell, I know of a few ‘humans’ that can’t even do that, and you have met some of them. Who will be handling the psychology tests?"
"I will give them, but someone else will interpret them. It is better that way. If you want to, I can even leave the name blank, so that, whoever we send the results to, won’t know they are grading a cyborg. Sir, I am sorry about what happened on the boat. Is Morton OK? He really should take it easy, at least for a while, to completely recover from his injury. I don’t want him to have a relapse." Jamieson said in a worried voice.
"This situation is not helping, but I will keep an eye on him." Lee said. He was going to say more when a nurse came in.
"I’m sorry, Captain, Doctor, but there is something going on in the lab where they are testing the cyborg. I think it is going out of control." said the woman.
Both men ran to the lab. The action that had just taken place was evident. On one side, there was Seaview, back to the wall, holding a chair to keep the technicians away from her. On the other side, there was corpsman and two lab. techs trying to reach her. Crane looked at the cyborg, then at the technicians and finally went toward the covered instruments on the tray the corpsman was holding. Lifting the cloth, he had to admit that Seaview had understood very well Chip’s explanation that she could say ‘no’ to anything that felt wrong.
"Seaview, put the chair down. As for the rest of you, what the hell were you thinking about? You all keep saying that she is not a woman, that she is a machine, a thing, and as soon as I have my back turned, you decide to play doctor, with her as the patient? Everybody out! I will discuss this with Admiral Nelson."
They technicians left and Crane turned toward Seaview. She had put the chair back down. He realized that the men had been lucky that she did not react with violence. She could have killed them so easily. But she had not, she had only prevented them from reaching her, until outside help arrived. Seaview would never willingly hurt or kill someone. Unless she was defending someone she cared about.
"Now, Seaview, get dressed, you are going with Doctor Jamieson. He will explain what tests you will have to do this afternoon and as well as for tomorrow."
"Yes, Captain." Seaview acknowledged, and followed Jamieson to his office.
After that particular battle with the lab technicians, Lee Crane walked into the cafeteria and grabbed a strong coffee. He needed the caffeine boost, the day was not over yet. He spotted Chip sitting near the window and went toward his friend.
"So, how are things on you side?" he asked. Crane thought Chip looked like hell. "Did you get any sleep at all? And I want the truth, Chip."
"I know this will sound silly, but I feel there is something missing every time I wake up. Like… I don’t know, just that something is missing. How is Seaview? Is she all right? How are they treating her?" Chip asked.
"I keep them in line, don’t worry. Did you have a talk with the Admiral?" Lee did not want to say too much to Chip. Judging by Gail’s reactions to what was being done to Seaview, he knew the Exec. would go ballistic.
"Oh yeah, and that was fun, believe me. Lee, he is not convinced at all. So far, he sees all the test results as proof that she is not a person, but a machine. She is not! Why won’t they just leave her alone?" Chip said.
"They will start the psychological testing tomorrow. This will be her chance to prove that she is sentient. When they start talking with her instead of talking to her, it will make all the difference in the world. You were the first one to talk with her, along with Sharkey. You know her best, you think she will be able to convince them?"
"Yes, she will convince them, but Lee, what if someone loads the questions against her?"
"Nelson would never do that! He is not even administering those tests, since he is not a certified psychologist. And he would not cheat, I am sure of that. I trust him in this, Chip, and so should you." Lee cautioned.
"It’s not the Admiral I worry about, he may be the most stubborn man on the planet, but he is not dishonest. Who will give her the tests?"
Chip gave a cynical laugh. "Not her strongest ally. He never liked her, when I was injured, he forbade her to talk to me, she would not answer when I called. I thought that she was angry with me because I let her down, somehow. When she told me Jamieson ordered her to be quiet, I was… relieved that she was still there. You know, even when I doubted myself, she believed in me. She was sure that the trouble we had was her fault, that she was not good enough."
"I swear, Chip, the two of you could be twins. Jamieson will give the tests, but he will not be the one to analyze them. He may not believe she is sentient, but, most of all, Jamieson is a good man. He will do the right thing. And we will not say who filled the questionnaires. It will be like a double blind. She will be all right." Lee got up and went back to the lab. Seaview was scheduled for another series of tests, aimed at determining her physical limitations. He had to smile at that, he had seen her throw full grown men aside as if they were rag dolls.
Chip sighed and went back to the boat. There were piles of reports to read and approve, inspections to oversee and he had to prepare for the next cruise.
When he got to the control room, Sharkey and Kowalski were working on the sonar station, rewiring the screen. Seaview had pointed out that some of the wires were beginning to corrode and should be replaced.
Sharkey smiled at the Exec., thinking that Mr. Morton looked kind of depressed, but could you blame the guy? The Admiral was on his case like a dog on a bone. This whole thing about Seaview was going to turn ugly, Sharkey was sure of it. The question was when, and it was going to be soon. Very soon, if one believed the rumors going around.
Chip was well aware of the rumors about him and Seaview. The least offensive had him ‘married to his job’. He also knew that some of the crew and most of the officers were trying to find the source of all this, but were not having much luck.
There was the beginning of a division among the crew, and in a submarine, it could mean life or death. Chip was worried about the morale and discipline, but any attempts on his part to put things back in shape were met with cynical grins and winks as soon as he turned his back.
Chip was torn between duty and his feelings for Seaview. He had to protect her, but he also was the executive officer on an nuclear submarine. If only she was seen as she really was. The results of the psychological tests were her only way out. They would prove she was a person, with all the rights she was entitled to, and then she could come back on board. And most importantly, she would be safe.
Back at the labs, Seaview was lifting and pushing weights, and, much to the astonishment of the staff, was not showing any strain. She refused to lift anything that was more than 2000 pounds, since it could damage her systems, but she could push much more than that.
They made her run on the track, to check for speed and endurance. She could maintain a speed of 30 miles per hour almost indefinitely and could sprint for a few minutes at close to 40 miles per hour.
Lee Crane was impressed. He wanted her back on the sub for his next mission. She was just too valuable to remain on shore. They had faced such diverse and difficult missions, he saw Seaview as the ace in the hole. She looked frail and harmless, but he knew she was neither of those and she would protect her crew. He hoped Nelson would see that she was the best thing to happen in a long time.
As it had been agreed, once the physical testing was done, Seaview could return to live with Crane and his wife. Gail hugged Seaview when she came in the house.
"I’m so glad you are here. How are you?" Gail asked.
"I am fine. Why are you hugging me?" asked Seaview. She was confused by Gail’s action.
Lee smiled and explained. "Seaview, when we are glad to see friends, sometimes we hug them to show that we missed them."
"I understand. I am glad to see you too, Gail." Seaview hugged her back. She wondered if Chip would hug her. She had not seen him in four days, nor had she been allowed to speak with him. She missed him terribly, even if Crane had been nearby all this time.
Gail gave her the guest room once again and Seaview settled in. Her new clothes were hanging in the closet or put away in the drawers. She was still wearing the sweathsuit she had put on to go to the Institute, but she decided to change. When Seaview came down the stairs, Lee was surprised by the change. She was wearing an ankle-length skirt with a blouse and ballerina slippers. She looked like a any other young woman he had ever seen.
"Seaview, I mean Severine, would you like to go for a walk with me? I have to get some milk and bread for tomorrow morning and the supermarket is within walking distance." Gail asked.
"Yes, Gail. I will go with you."
Gail led the way and soon they were walking slowly, Seaview telling her friend about what happened during those four days she was away. Gail listened. Lee had been right, Seaview was very unhappy to be away from the boat, but mostly to be away from Chip. There was not doubt in Gail’s mind that Seaview loved Chip Morton, she could only hope that things would turn out right.
Once they got to the store, Gail was surprised by Seaview’s knowledge of food.
"Would you like to make dinner for us tonight? You seem to know a lot about cooking." Gail said.
"Yes, I will prepare the meal. How many people will be there?"
"You, me, Lee and Chip." Seaview’s reaction at hearing Chip’s name made Gail smile. Yep, she is in love.
Seaview got some items into the cart and, turning a corner, came face to face with Patricia, Gail’s neighbor.
"Hello there, you are Severine, the exchange student, right? The one staying with the Cranes?" asked Patricia.
"Yes." It was all Seaview could answer. Where was Gail?
"I haven’t seen you lately. Where were you, dear?"
"I…I was undergoing some testing. It is almost finished now."
"Testing to be accepted in a University around here?" Patricia insisted.
"To be accepted, yes. Excuse me, Gail is probably looking for me. I said I would cook for her tonight." With that, Seaview beat a hasty retreat.
"Severine, what did that woman want?" asked Gail, when she finally reached her friend. She had been too far to help.
"She wanted to know where I had been. I told her I was being tested, and she believes it is for acceptance to a University. I did not say that, she came to that conclusion herself." answered Seaview.
"Good thinking. Let’s pay for this and go home."
When they got home, Chip’s car was in the driveway.
"Hello, Seaview. How are you?" asked Chip. She looked small and delicate in that outfit, he found her even more beautiful than before.
"I am fine, thank you. I missed talking with you. Nobody talked with me at the Institute, except Captain Crane and a man who was studying language. They all gave orders and instructions they wanted me to obey."
"I know it is hard for you, but it will be over soon. When the final tests come in, Admiral Nelson will see that you are sentient and you will be able to do what you want." He did not hug her, but pushed her hair back. It felt like silk between his fingers.
Lee came up to them and picked up the grocery bags. "I really think we should get used to calling you Severine, when not on either the boat or at the Institute. It would be too easy so slip up and have someone put the pieces together."
Both Seaview and Chip agreed, even if she was not happy at changing her name. But it was important to both her commanding officers, so she complied.
Seaview went into the kitchen and started to work. Within a short time, there was the smell of something good simmering on the stove and something else baking in the oven.
Gail was glad that Seaview was finally out of the Institute grounds. Who on earth would have ever thought of asking her if she could cook? The coming days would definitely be interesting.
Seaview served dinner to her friends and sat at the table with them. She did not eat, but kept them company. They took one bite and everybody froze.
"What is it exactly?" asked Crane.
"Duck, in a wine sauce, with mushrooms, onions and herbs." Seaview had never seen that reaction from the Captain before. She was not sure what to make of it. Perhaps he did not like what she had prepared.
"This is absolutely delicious. Where did you learn to cook?"
"Bridget knows, I never learned. She was Ulrich’s personal cook." Seaview explained.
"I have to agree with Lee. This is wonderful. How many other hidden talents do you have?" Chip said.
"I do not know. Unless someone asks if I can do something, I cannot tell if it is important or not."
Gail patted her hand and smiled. "Severine, if this is a sample of what you can do, I think I will let you cook for us. But that would not be fair, you are here to learn, not be a maid."
"I do not mind doing this for you. I cannot do my duties on board the submarine, so this will compensate."
Gail and Lee looked at each other. He nodded, coming to the same conclusion as his wife. Seaview needed something to do, to be useful.
"All right, you are the official cook for the time being. We need to fatten Lee a little bit before the next cruise, he always comes back as if there is only bread and water on board." Gail laughed.
After dessert, they went to the living room and Gail suggested a board game. She went upstairs and got a box that contained cards, dice and a tray with pieces. Seaview listened to the instructions and was paired up with Chip. They would team up against Lee and Gail. The goal was to have one of the partner describe a word to the other, without using a short list of similar or interconnected words.
Lee and Gail were first to go and got a high score on the first round. When Chip tried to describe "zebra" to Seaview, she failed miserably. She could not understand the relation to "animal wearing prison pajamas". Chip laughed and told her that it was just a case of crossed wires. At that remark, Seaview became very quiet. Gail noticed the change right away and dragged the confused Seaview to the kitchen.
"What is wrong?" Gail asked her friend.
"I think Chip finds me defective." Seaview explained.
"What? How do you figure that?" now it was Gail’s turn to be confused.
"He said it was a case of crossed wires, but I did a diagnostic scan and I there is nothing wrong with my circuitry. I do not understand."
"Oh, Severine! I think you misunderstood what he wanted to say. It… wait here." Gail went to the living room and stood in front of Chip, with her arms crossed.
Chip looked up and saw the frown on her face. "Did I do something wrong? Where is Severine?"
"Yes, you did something wrong, but you could not know. Severine takes everything at face value. When you made that remark about crossed wires, she took it as if you thought she was defective somehow. Go to the kitchen, apologize to her and explain what you meant." Gail saw Chip pale and he got up to find Seaview. "And Chip, do not blame yourself. I almost did the same thing the first day she was here. I made a remark about becoming toast if the neighbor learned the truth about her and she took it as if we were to become roasted bread. She gets easily confused and she has a lot to learn."
Chip nodded to Gail and went to kitchen. Seaview had started to clean up the dishes from dinner. She turned to see who was there and looked contrite when she recognized Chip.
"Severine, I want to say I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything with that remark. It only means that we did not understand what the other was trying to say. You are definitely not defective. Will you forgive me?"
"It is so hard. I try and I try, but I always fail somehow. I do not always understand what is expected of me. No one tells me what is right or wrong. I make so many mistakes. The Admiral will have me disconnected."
Seaview sounded so forlorn, Chip took her face between his hands and made her look up to him. "You are with us, and we will help you as much as we can. It does not matter that you make mistakes. Everybody does. Lee, Gail and I have made mistakes in the past and we will make more in the future. We have to learn from them, so that we don’t repeat them. And you know you can ask us any question you want and we will try to answer them as best as we can. Come back to the living room and we will find something easier for you to play. Maybe you will like cards better."
Seaview nodded and followed him out. Lee and Gail had put the game away and were waiting for them to come out.
"Should we go for a walk outside? It is warm and it will help the meal go down. If you keep feeding me this way, Severine, you can be certain that you will have a permanent job as cook whenever we are on shore." Lee said.
Seaview smiled. She liked living here, with the Cranes, and if they would keep her in exchange for her cooking, she was more than happy.
"Where are we going?" asked Seaview, when they left the house.
"Nowhere, really, just walking around and talk." Gail answered. She took her husband’s hand and started walking.
Chip and Seaview followed them, listening to Gail and Lee talk about their plans for remodeling the backyard. Gail wanted to add bird feeders and nest boxes. Lee thought that a covered deck would make spending time outside more pleasant.
After a while, Chip took Seaview’s hand and kept walking, not saying a word. Their friends had enough to say for the four of them. Seaview was happy that Chip was close to her. She had missed him so much during her stay at the Institute, and holding his hand made up for all that she had to go through. She loved him, she was not sure if he would ever return her love, but it did not matter. He was there and that was enough for her.
The following morning, Crane guided Seaview to the room where she would be taking the first of the tests aimed at determining if she really had a separate personality and if she was truly sentient.
Sitting in front of Jamieson, Seaview started to answer questions. These were strange, with no real connection between them that she could observe, but she did try her best.
The questionnaires dealing with numbers and statistics were done in much less time than any human had ever done them, but Jamieson was expecting this. His surprise came when the testing was dealing with word associations. Seaview would sometime block on some words, searching for a relationship, and, once or twice, finding none.
Grading her general knowledge was a nightmare to Jamieson. There were gaps in the strangest places, as if she simply never even heard of what they were talking about. These gaps centered around family, children, land animals, in fact, anything that was not directly connected to the boat, the ocean or the people related to the Institute.
The results of the personality tests finally came back with results that stunned Jamieson and confirmed to Nelson what he already suspected. Seaview was copying behaviors, she was nothing more than a human shaped parrot. A pretty one, for sure, but nothing more. Now, to give these news to Crane and Morton.
Lee Crane and Chip Morton were headed toward Nelson’s office. They would know today what Nelson would decide concerning Seaview. Lee was looking at his friend, wondering how Chip would react if things did not go well for Severine. Lee was discovering that he liked to call her by that name, it was less confusing, but Chip always called her Seaview.
Nelson was waiting for them, with three distinct piles of paper on his desk.
"Come in, both of you, and sit down. I finally got the test results and I want to review them with you. As you know, some of them were done by other people, since I either did not have the time or the knowledge to do them properly."
Nelson continued, looking at the two silent officers. "As expected, the cyborg’s strength, speed and overall physical abilities are superior to any human. It is the psychological test results I am most interested in. We got an overall picture that shows gaps in knowledge, but these can be expected, considering that the ‘personality’ is relatively young. Please note that I am using the word personality as a catch-all term here, for lack of a better word. We noticed something that both of you will find interesting. The cyborg shows personality traits that are similar to both of you. Dedication to duty, honesty, interest in the greater good, strong sense of personal honor, loyalty, responsibility for others. In fact, it is a perfect match to your own results, Mr. Morton. The cyborg is not an independent person, it is copying what is expected of it, it copied you, Chip. Had it fallen into the wrong hands, we could be facing something very dangerous. I have come to the conclusion that it is a machine, a complex one, but a machine nonetheless."
Was there a little note of disappointment in Nelson’s voice when he said that? Lee thought so, but could not have sworn to it.
At this, Morton got up and leaned over the desk to face the Admiral. "You are wrong! She is not just a machine. She is an individual. She is kind and she cares about those around her, even about you, which, right now, is a surprise to me. Seaview told me you have not even talked with her. You are passing judgment on her without listening to what she has to say. Please, sir, get to know her. You are making a terrible mistake."
"There has been a complaint that she was attacking some technicians during a test. What have you got to say about this, Captain?" Nelson asked.
"Seaview attacked someone? This is impossible. Lee, what the hell happened?" Morton turned toward his captain, confusion evident in his blue eyes.
Crane gathered his thoughts. "Seaview did not attack anyone. Admiral, after we released her from the lab where you and Jamieson were studying her, Seaview said to Chip that she did not like some of the tests. I can relate to that, since Gail gets upset about them too and SHE knows why they have to be done. Chip explained to Seaview that her body belongs to her and that she can say ‘no’ to anyone if things are not right. Two of the technicians and a corpsman decided to go ahead, even if they had been warned not to perform the test. Seaview grabbed a chair and prevented them from approaching her. She was defending herself, and the men were not injured. If she had attacked with any malicious intent, which I think she is not able to do, the three of them would not be alive today."
As Crane expected, Chip went ballistic at this piece of news. "They did WHAT? Admiral, I want these men fired, and I want them gone now! Seaview deserves respect, how dare they treat her like she was nothing more than… than..."
"Morton, sit!" barked the Admiral. When Chip finally sat down, Nelson realized that the officer would never see the cyborg as the machine it was supposed to be. Morton was an excellent executive officer, in fact one of the best he had ever worked with, but this would destroy his career if he did not stop this foolishness right now. "So, the cyborg is not dangerous unless it is attacked? And what is considered an attack? Just coming to close could be interpreted in the wrong way and we could end up with people killed or injured. I want it back here, it is too dangerous to be living with you and Gail."
Nelson sighed heavily. "The Navy wants to have some input into this too. Since Ulrich was using the cyborgs for criminal purposes, the government can impound it as property used to commit a crime. I convinced them that, since we sometimes do government work and we have the facilities, we can give them any information they want, as long as it does not pertain to Institute business. They agreed, and the Navy will take over when we are finished here."
"Finished doing what?" asked Morton, his voice dark. He did not like the way this was going at all. Seaview was in real danger and he felt he was the only one interested in defending her.
"Studying the inner workings. The biomechanical advances alone are worth years of research, not to mention all the electronics." Seeing Morton jump at that statement, Nelson looked at the younger man with half-closed eyes. "Mr. Morton, your defense of the cyborg is getting noticed by everyone in the Institute. Is there something you should be telling us in that regard? The cyborg will obey orders from senior officers without questions. Tell me, Chip, are you … intimate… with it? Is that why you are so stubborn about this cyborg being a separate entity?"
Chip got out of his chair slowly, fixing Nelson with a murderous look. Lee also got up, just in case Morton lost his temper. Lee had rarely seen Chip loose it, and each time the results were devastating to anyone opposing him.
"I am an officer, and I will NEVER use that position to coerce anyone to do anything against their will. Seaview is my friend and depends on me to protect her. I will NEVER betray her, do you hear me Nelson? I will never do anything to harm her or hurt her. I am very disappointed in you, Admiral. I thought I knew you, but apparently, I don’t." With that, Chip left the office, slamming the door on his way out.
Nelson was taken aback by Morton’s reaction. What was he missing? Chip Morton could be depended upon to keep a cool head, even in the most demanding situations. But Nelson’s inner struggle was cut short. The scientist in him won this round. Feelings were too volatile to be considered valid evidence, weren’t they?
Too enraged to drive back to his apartment, Chip started walking. He reached Lee’s house and saw Gail and Seaview in the front yard. Gail was showing her the basics of gardening. Seaview was kind of muddy, since she had some initial difficulties with the gardening tools, but she was getting much better at it.
Hearing footsteps coming closer, Seaview looked up to see Chip walking toward them. The long walk had calmed him down, so nothing of his inner battle showed. He smiled at Seaview and nodded to Gail.
Gail raised an eyebrow and Chip shook his head, Seaview was busy planting seedlings, so she did not notice the exchange.
"Severine, would you mind putting the tools back in the shed? I will make some coffee for Chip, and then we can talk a little later," said Gail.
"I do not mind. I will return soon."
Gail and Chip went into the house, neither of them paying much attention to Patricia, who was talking with some woman selling something door-to-door. Denise gave them a dark look, and continued chatting with Patricia.
"Do you know who that blonde woman is?" asked Denise.
"She is an exchange student staying with the Cranes, but she is a strange one. Very shy, doesn’t talk to anyone and follows Gail like a puppy." replied the older woman.
Denise gave a vicious little smile. "I don’t think she is a student. She was on the Seaview when it came back to the Institute."
"Oh? Would that explain why that other officer is always here now? Do you think there is something going on between them? I heard there were strange things going on at the Institute." Patricia was thrilled to have juicy gossip about the Cranes. These two were just too nice, everybody had dirt somewhere, and she was the one who intended to find out.
"I intend to find out, I know where some of the people from the Institute hang out. I’ll get back to you," Denise promised. Patricia would make an excellent ally in this.
Inside Gail’s sunny kitchen, Chip asked Seaview to sit down. He took a chair in front of her and told her that the Admiral had decided that she was not a separate person, that she was a machine. Seaview’s pain at this almost broke his heart. He took her hand in his and held it tight. She depended on him, he had to find a way out.
"Seaview, I promise, I will make him change his mind. You are not a machine, you are unique, you are alive." And you are beautiful, he added silently. Even with dirt on your nose and a somewhat undone ponytail.
Later, Lee came in and sat down on the couch. Stretching his long legs, he sighed. "What a miserable day. Nothing I did or said made any difference. The only thing I could do for now is win some time. Severine will remain under my direct command, and will be working on the upgrades and repairs on the boat. This should cover the next two weeks or so. But afterward, I just don’t know. We will have to think of something."
"I will be returning to the boat?" asked Seaview. She was going home, even for a short time, and that made her happy.
"During the day only, with me and Chip. You will come back here for the evening. I think we can convince Nelson at one point, but to do that, you will need coaching. And that is where Gail comes in." Lee looked at his wife. "Honey, we just got ourselves a daughter and we have to make her into a full grown adult by the end of the month."
"Well, I always like a challenge. So, where do we start?" Gail knew they could not fail on this. Too much was at stake.
"Chip, you and I will need to review tomorrow’s work schedule. Gail and Severine can have the evening to talk about whatever women talk about when we are not there." Lee said.
Lee and Chip left the room, heading for Lee’s home office. Soon, both were lost in paperwork, supply requests, budgets and other administrative tasks. Seaview knew she could have helped, but did not speak up. Captain Crane had said that she and Gail were supposed to do something together.
Gail looked at Seaview, seeing a fragile looking young woman. She made up her mind. "Come on, we are going to get you started. If you behave like any other woman, Nelson will not expect this and it may be what we need to change the tide."
"Gail, how can one change the tide?"
"Expression. It means, changing the way things are going in a certain situation, so that, once the situation has changed, events turn out to our advantage."
Gail signaled Seaview to follow her upstairs. Once in her room, Seaview was given a crash course on manners, make-up and general behavior. Being shy and quiet was not a problem. Being dragged into a conversation was a BIG problem. Seaview had very little references to what people where telling her, so her replies were often seen as either naive or downright ignorant.
After a few minutes of reflection, Gail went downstairs and came back with a pile of books. "How fast can you read?"
For the following week, Seaview spent the days on the boat, working to fix what had been damaged during their last cruise, and the nights reading everything Gail brought her.
The fact that she usually came in with Morton was not lost on the crew. The rumors about ‘Morton’s Barbie doll’ got another boost.
Sharkey knew she was staying with the Cranes and that Mrs. Crane would never let anything not kosher happen. Convincing the men was another story altogether. Most of the time, Seaview was working with him, Patterson, Kowalski or Sparks.
Sharkey had noticed that when she heard what was being said about her, there was this hurt look in her eyes. He had doubts about her having feelings of her own, but this dispelled them. If she could feel hurt, she could feel everything else.
Being a kind soul, Francis Sharkey became more attentive to Seaview. Once he got past her shyness, he found her to be dedicated to the boat and kind to those around her. He finally understood what the Exec. had been saying all along.
In the missile room, Lauder and Webster were discussing Seaview with some of the other enlisted men.
"I’m telling you, this thing is dangerous. It attacked some guys in the lab." Webster argued.
"Yeah, and only Crane could get it to stop." continued Lauder.
"But, if it was really dangerous, do you think the Admiral would let it work on the boat?" asked one of the new recruits, named Huntley.
"This is a nuclear sub, everything is dangerous. Except that this robot thing is mobile and you never know what it will do. If only the captain can control it, what will happen if he is not here?" Lauder questioned.
"Well, Morton can make it obey, I’m pretty sure. I wonder what is wrong with the guy, I mean, he did have a cute girlfriend before. Maybe he doesn’t like the real thing." Webster said with a smirk.
"Yeah, I wonder how much fun it can be. Or maybe he has real weird tastes and no woman wants any part of it." Lauder added.
Speculations about Chip Morton and his relationship to Seaview were interrupted when Sharkey came in, with Seaview in tow. With her jeans, sweatshirt and ponytail, Seaview did not look like a mad mechanical construct or someone’s fantasy partner. She looked like somebody’s kid sister. Her dark blue eyes fixed on Webster and she went to him.
"You are Ron Webster. You have been assigned to inspect the escape hatch. I will do the inspection outside the hull, while you do inside. It will be more efficient that way."
"Chief, do I take orders from the cyborg or what?"
"Yes, you take orders from Seaview, you meathead. If you had read the assignment list, you would know that you were supposed to be on the inspection team and that Seaview would work with you. Now get to it, or I will have you clean the ballast tanks with a toothbrush. Yours."
Inwardly blaming Seaview for the reprimand, Webster set up for work. The cyborg was opening the escape hatch and climbing inside to reach the outer hull. Webster thought it was too bad they were not a thousand feet below the surface.
Seaview was inspecting the weld lines and the proximity sensors, when the hatch started to close on its own. Only her lighting fast reflexes prevented her foot from being crushed. She reopened the hatch manually and went inside.
"The outside hatch closed without being engaged. We will have to check the circuitry and the control board. If a human had been there, the injuries could have been fatal." Seaview told Webster, who looked disappointed, but she did not notice.
"Seaview to control room."
"Control room, Morton here."
"There is a problem with the escape hatch controls. It closed by itself and I cannot find the cause of the problem. Please check the remotes on the main computer board." Seaview reported.
"It closed by itself? This thing is hydraulic. Someone could have been injured or killed. Was anyone in or near the hatch when it happened?" Morton was worried. What could cause this? He checked the main board, but could find no detectable problems.
"I was. I did not sustain injury. But a human would have been crushed." replied Seaview.
"I can find nothing on this end. Will you need to do an internal diagnostic?" Chip asked.
"Yes, I am on my way to the control room. Inspection of the hatch will have to be delayed until the malfunction is found and repaired. Seaview out."
Reaching the control room, Seaview went to the main computer and stood in front of it. Opening one of the panels, she touched a few circuits and her consciousness expanded to include the boat. This was more that remote monitoring. She WAS the boat, she could feel where the repairs had been done, the pain of damaged hull and bulkheads, the darkness where the electrical circuits had shorted. She concentrated on the escape hatch controls. There were no malfunctions, but they had been activated.
Coming out of the link with her other self, Seaview turned toward a worried Morton. "There is no malfunction, someone activated the hatch, willingly, while I was close to it. Maybe they did not know I was there."
"Who knew?" asked Morton, suspicion in his voice. Seaview did not recognize the emotion, but the control room crew did. He was relieved that she was not injured, but he did not like the implication that someone would willfully hurt her.
"Ron Webster, since he was inspecting the inside hatch, Chief Sharkey, who assigned the detail. Others were in the missile room when this was done and the assignment list is posted at several locations on the boat. However, only Webster and Sharkey knew of the exact time I would be on the outside hull."
Morton directed Seaview toward the observation nose, so they could have a little privacy.
"Did you notice anything strange just before or after this incident?" asked Chip.
"No, there was nothing out of the ordinary. Then again, if I do not know what I am supposed to look for, I may not notice it. I am sorry." Seaview answered.
"There is nothing for you to be sorry about. Just be very careful. I don’t want anything to happen to you. You are too valuable." Chip said, his voice low and soft.
Seaview nodded and went back to work. Chip asked Sharkey and Webster to the control room and gave them a resounding lecture on safety, theirs and that of the others working with them. He also mentioned that this whole incident would be investigated and that if it was found that the hatch had been closed voluntarily, heads would roll.
This did not endear Seaview to Webster. She must have made a complaint or something and, of course, Morton was siding with her. Sheesh, he sure was protective of his plaything. He would have to think of something else to get her off the boat. Maybe if they got rid of Morton, she would leave too.
There was less work to do for Seaview on the second week, so Gail stepped up the teaching program. She took Seaview with her everywhere, from the local playground to the car dealership. Seaview was learning fast, but she was still very shy around people she did not know.
Every evening, Chip would come by and have dinner with the Cranes and Seaview. Her cooking was amazing and the two men were starting to be a little snug in their uniforms.
Nelson commented that married life suited Crane when he noticed that the Captain needed to loosen his belt by one notch. Lee smiled and said that Seaview was responsible. At Nelson’s raised eyebrows, he explained that she was a great cook and that perhaps the Admiral should come over for dinner once, just to talk with her. Nelson declined, he was too busy with the latest grant proposal and the Navy officials stalking him in his outer office.
Lee, Gail and Chip started to notice a change is Seaview. She was not as reserved, would make comments on what they said and would sometimes disagree, but only with Gail, never with Chip or Lee. The chain of command was just too deeply ingrained in her. But she could question what they said and demand explanations, which she never did before.
Chip enjoyed Seaview’s company. But he still was confused about his feelings for her.
While Gail and Seaview went out on some errand, Chip sat next to Lee. Sensing that his friend wanted to talk, Crane said nothing, he just gave Chip a cup of coffee.
"Lee, I really don’t know what to do about Seaview. She is changing a lot. I like being with her, but …. with all the rumors going on, I don’t know how things will turn out. That accident last week, it was premeditated against her, I could swear to it, but I have found nothing. Lee, I am seriously worried that someone is out to hurt her."
"I know. The rumors are flying at the Institute too. I try to keep them from reaching Seaview, but it is getting harder. I don’t know how she will react to this. I prefer not to have to find out." Lee said. The situation was not getting any easier. And with the Navy and the government involved, who knew where it was heading?
"What rumors?" Seaview had returned and neither men had heard her enter the room. Gail raised her hands in a gesture of helplessness.
Lee got up and faced Seaview. "Severine, there are people, both from the crew and from the Institute staff, that are spreading vicious rumors about you and Chip. We are having a hard time to convince people that you are sentient and this is making our jobs even harder."
"If I did not exist, you would not have these problems?" Seaview asked.
"No, we would not. But Severine, you are here now, and I promised to help you. We are friends and you are a valuable member of my crew. I will not let you go without a fight." Lee hoped this would reassure her.
"I am the cause of much trouble, for you and for Chip. I should never have existed. Maybe I am an abomination, a monster. Perhaps the Admiral is right. I am a thing." Seaview said, her voice low and carrying such pain, Gail wanted to cry.
Chip put his hands on her shoulders and turned her toward him. "Seaview, you are not a thing, and you are definitely not an abomination. You are kind and you care about others. I know it will be hard for you to believe this, but the Admiral is wrong. You are probably one of the most wonderful beings on this planet. Don’t let jealous and narrow-minded people decide how you should feel. You have a right to exist. I told you before you were unique. I would never lie to you."
Seaview sighed and went to her room. She had much to think about.
Downstairs, three very human people were looking at each other, wondering how they could help a fourth.
In a downtown bar, known for catering to the Institute staff and Seaview personnel, two men and a woman were discussing the latest news from the boat. And it was not about secret missions. It was about a certain officer and his new toy.
Denise Richards was practically drooling while listening to Ron Webster and Emilio Lauder. Well, Chip Morton certainly had more exotic tastes than he let on. He had been so boring, with his good, wholesome boy next door act. That is why she had looked somewhere else. Too bad Mr. Goody had found out about it. She missed the money he spent on her. This would be so perfect to get back at him.
She knew a reporter in one of the lower end ragsheet. This could be worth some money, if these two sailors could be convinced to blab it all. First things first, she had to get this into the rumor grapevine.
She thanked her new friends and made her way to another table. The men there moved over to give her some space and she started flirting with them. If rumors on Seaview were faster than light, the latest story that made the rounds in the downtown bars must have gotten to warp speed. The stage was set.
Patricia was ringing her neighbor’s doorbell with a vengeance. When the woman opened the door, Patricia launched into her latest bit of gossip. Before she could finish the first sentence, the robed woman grabbed her and pulled her inside, looking over her shoulder at the Crane house.
"It’s true, Lisa, that blonde girl living with the Cranes is a robot of some kind. And I heard it is very dangerous, it attacked that saleslady, Denise." Using an even more hushed tone, Patricia continued. "And that other officer that works with Crane has something going on with the robot. I’m telling you, you never know about people."
From neighbor to neighbor, the gossip inflated to almost explosive proportions. Seaview noticed that the mothers would keep their children inside when she came out of the house, but made no comment.
Gail was standing at the cash register with Seaview when the store manager came to talk to her. Pulling her aside, he said in a low voice, hoping that the dangerous robot would not hear, that he did not want her to patronize his store. He explained that the safety of his customers and employees demanded that he forbade the robot to even come within the property line.
If looks could kill, Gail would have peppered the store manager with high caliber ammunition and left him for dead. When she reached Seaview, she realized that the cyborg had heard the discussion. Poor Seaview followed her home, unable to cry, but feeling so desperate, she wanted to hide. If this was living with people, maybe being disconnected would not be so bad. Maybe then the pain would go away.
Eventually, the rumor made it to the copy desk of the local newspaper. The editor knew a good thing when he saw one and jumped on the occasion. Even if it didn’t pan out, the Institute would be in trouble, and it was always fun to see the big guys squirm. He grabbed his photographic equipment and made a beeline for the house currently inhabited by Captain Lee Crane, his wife Gail and a robot girl. Eddy was smelling blood. Navy colored blood.
He followed his source’s indications and went to knock on Patricia’s door. She was so excited by this little caper, she entirely forgot that, at one point, the Cranes really were nice people and that absolutely nobody had any proof that Severine was a robot.
Eddy set up his cameras in Patricia’s living room and waited for his chance. It came sooner than he expected. Two cars came into the Crane’s driveway. A flashy red sports car and a blue one, also a sports car. Two men wearing uniforms got out of the cars and went inside the house.
"The one with the dark hair is Lee Crane. The blond is his first officer. That’s the one that has something to do with the robot. Maybe they both do, you know, after all, they are sailors." Patricia explained.
"Lady, if I get a picture of the girl, this is front page news."
Lee and Chip drove as fast as the limit would allow to get to Seaview and Gail. Lee’s wife had phoned and resumed the situation. Seaview was siting in her room, neither talking or moving. Gail was very worried by this reaction and she wanted them to come home, since they knew her best.
Chip went upstairs and sat next to Seaview on her bed. He knew she never used it, but it felt strange anyway, as if he was invading her privacy.
"I heard you are having a bad day." Chip said.
"Yes, I am." Seaview whispered.
"I’m so sorry. I wish none of this had ever happened. I wish you had never come to the Institute and be forced to go through all that. I wish I could take you some place where you would be safe and wanted and needed."
"None of this is your fault. You have always done your duty. I wanted to do mine, but now, I am not sure if I will be allowed to do that. Chip, what will happen now? Can I go back to the boat?"
"Yes, I am taking you back to the boat. It will be better for you there, at least for now. We will see about the future later." He offered his hand to Seaview. She took it and followed him downstairs.
"Lee, we are going back to the boat. Seaview will be safer there for now, Sharkey has agreed to stay on board along with Ski and Pat. They will keep and eye on things." Chip explained.
"We are going to see the Admiral tomorrow. This cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. I will ask that Seaview be assigned to the boat on a permanent basis. I don’t think he will refuse this, at least I hope so." Lee said.
Gail went upstairs and got Seaview some new clothes for the meeting with Nelson. "Here, it is said that clothes make the man, maybe they will make the woman this time." She hugged Seaview and kissed her forehead. "I will miss you. You are the best friend I ever had."
Seaview hugged her back and followed Chip to his car. Unnoticed by either of them, Eddy was taking pictures for all he was worth. Damn, nobody told him she was this attractive. Even better, it would be a great lead. ‘Man has love affair with sexy robot’. Eddy was drooling.
Nelson had come into his office to find a very subdued Angie and a very hyper Admiral Tobin.
"A little early for the meeting, aren’t you?" asked Nelson.
"Oh, this is going to be more than a meeting. Here, have you seen this?" Tobin replied, giving Nelson a folded newspaper.
"Angie. Get Crane and Morton here. Right now." Nelson’s voice could have frozen a volcano.
While they were waiting for the two officers, Nelson summoned some more people. In a short time, a war council, or the closest equivalent, was raging in his office.
When Crane, Morton and Seaview reached the security gate at the Institute, the guard looked them over and sneered at Seaview. Lee gave him a withering glare and the man managed to look contrite.
Things got worse when they reached the administration building. Conversations stopped and some of the women on staff gave Morton dirty looks, like he was somehow the worst thing they had ever come in contact with. Lee and Chip were confused about this. Not wanting to make Seaview even more miserable than she already was, neither commented on what they were observing.
They met Sharkey in the corridor leading to the Admiral’s office. The CPO was looking harried and almost jumped out of his skin when he came face to face with Morton.
"Chief, what is going on here? Everybody is looking at us like we got the plague." Lee asked.
Poor Sharkey did not know how to put this into words, but he decided to go ahead. They would find out eventually, so it might as well come from him, at least he could try to defuse the situation a little.
"Well, sir, you see, it’s … huh, it’s kind of …. complicated, and …huh…it’s really just a rumor…."
"Out with it, Sharkey. NOW!" Morton used his best command tone and that got the Chief rolling.
"Yes, sir. A lot of people came back to work this morning and some were commenting on you and Seaview, sir. They believe that you and her are, huh, involved, and that you are, huh, that since you can’t find a real girlfriend, you have to take a mechanical doll. I’m sorry sir, I don’t believe any of this, but this is what is going around. And the Admiral is about to go ballistic. Angie called Dr. Jamieson, just in case, because he looks like he’s going to have a fit."
Seaview was not sure of what the implications were, but she could see Chip’s reaction to this. He had gone pale and his fist clenched. She knew he was in trouble, and that it was her fault, somehow, but she did not know what to do to fix it. Maybe the Admiral had been right all along. She was just trouble waiting to happen. And she did not want Chip to be upset or unhappy. And she seemed to cause that a lot. And Captain Crane was getting very angry. That was the easiest part to understand in all this.
They got to Nelson’s office and it was crowded. There were two of the lawyers from the Institute’s legal department, Admiral Tobin and some other people Lee didn’t know. A hush fell on the assembly when they got in, but it was momentary.
Tobin was the first to talk. "Captain Crane, Commander Morton. I don’t believe I know the young lady." He looked at the lovely young woman in front of him. She was wearing a knee length skirt and jacket that underlined soft curves and made her blue eyes stand out.
"This is Severine Meyers." Lee used his wife’s maiden name, in the hope that Nelson would not pounce on it, but it went through just fine, he was apparently too distracted by what a man in a lab coat was saying to make the connection.
Chip pushed Seaview behind him, so Nelson would not spot her right away. He had caught on Lee’s idea.
"Now, about this cyborg. Nelson, it really should belong to the Navy, after all, we were paying for the upgrades to your submarine." said Tobin.
"But, only the programs were supplied by the Navy. We will duplicate them, but the cyborg itself will remain here for study. We need to know what kind of advances can be made in the different fields and for that we need to do some reverse engineering." commented one of the lawyers.
"Doing reverse engineering would mean dismantling the thing. Apparently it has some awareness and can mimic human behavior. We have to do a more complete psychological profile, to see if there have been any changes since the last one." That last part came from Peters, in the psychology department.
Chip was horrified. "Are you all insane? You are talking about a sentient being, and you want to carve her up like she was an animal. I will never allow this!"
"Mr. Morton, you are in enough trouble as it is, do not make it worse. We know you have …. feelings for this thing, and according to the rumors, you really need to have your head examined. Really, man, there are enough real women to go around, even if you have to pay for one." Tobin replied. "And while you are here, what about this little exposé in the newspaper?"
Nelson also got into the fray. "The cyborg is property of the Institute. I intend to study it thoroughly and then turn it over to the Navy. Is this satisfactory to you, Admiral Tobin?"
"Sure, just keep us updated on you findings. We will handle most of the engineering studies."
Before anyone could even add a word, Crane was opening the door and ushering both Morton and Seaview out. Nobody noticed that they were gone, too busy worrying the research bone to death.
"Where is the cyborg, Lee?" demanded Nelson.
"I have no idea, sir, and even if I did, I would not tell. You are planning murder by torture and I cannot participate in this. If you will excuse me, my conscience and I have to leave. You will have my resignation on your desk by this afternoon, Admiral. I believe Mr. Morton’s will also be there. Good day."
Lee Crane left the room and headed for the parking lot. His car was gone, so Chip and Seaview probably made it home safely. They had to go into hiding. Lee grabbed the first phone he saw and dialed.
"Yes." said a man’s voice.
"Hello, it’s dolphin. I need you to hide two friends, a man and a woman. I don’t know for how long. It has to be deep, big brother is looking for them."
"Send them. I will take care of it."
Lee put in another quarter and called his home.
"Yes." Gail answered.
"Honey, don’t ask questions. When Chip and Seaview get there, tell them to go to the firing range in the hills, the one behind the quarry. They have to go to the pay booth and say that dolphin sent them. That is all I can say for now. Pack some clothes for them, take some of mine for Chip." He hung up the phone just in time to see Nelson make a bee line for him. Now, to buy time.
Gail did as her husband asked and sent her friends to their unknown destination. This was bad, really bad. Lee never used dolphin short of life or death situations. She was not sure if they would ever see Morton or Seaview again.
When Lee had offered to resign rather than give up the cyborg, Nelson realized that he had made a major mistake. Neither of his senior officers were stupid and gullible men. He was now wondering what he had missed. What had Lee and Chip seen that he had not? Perhaps he had not wanted to see, not wanted to admit he had actually created a whole new life form. There is none so blind, as the saying goes. ‘What have I done? Lord, help me. What have I done?’.
The man at the firing range told them to change into clothes more appropriate for camping and loaded them into his Land Rover. They traveled for quite some time, the first part of the trip wearing a blindfold. They changed drivers at least twice, and since they could not see, they would never be able to identify their rescuers. Finally, they were allowed to remove the pieces of fabric.
Seaview had never seen the forest. She knew about it, but she never thought that it had sounds and smells to go along with the pictures she saw. She did not know where they were going, but she would follow Chip. They finally arrived at a small cabin, deep in the forest. There were no roads leading there.
The cabin contained enough food for one week, with drinking water, as well as fuel for the small generator. That was it.
"You will stay here for the time being. Until your friend calls back to say that it is safe, I will be back every seven days with supplies. If you don’t mind my saying, make yourselves comfortable here. It can take some time before the dust settles." With that said, the nameless man left them.
"Chip, why are we here? I do not understand. I am so confused. This is all my fault. I should never have even existed. You are in trouble because of me. I will return and tell them to leave you alone."
Chip put his hands on her shoulders and looked into her eyes. A man could drown in those eyes, they were so blue, she was so beautiful. Shaking himself back to reality, he tried to explain. "Seaview, if you go back, they will kill you. To them, it will not be murder since they consider you a machine. But to me and Lee, it would be unthinkable to let this happen. I would give up everything rather than loose you. Don’t try to go back until Lee says so. Please Seaview, I don’t want to loose you."
"Yes, Chip, I will do as you say."
"Come on, we have to get this place settled in. I hope we don’t have to share it with a bear." He took her hand and led her toward the cabin.
The cabin had only one room, with a large double bed, a woodstove, a few cupboards and a small propane fridge. The food was not varied, but it was there, he would not starve. Seaview did not need to eat, so the supply would be good for twice the amount of time the man said. Even if he was late, they would be OK.
"Let’s unpack and review what we have. I will look outside and see if there is any firewood for the stove."
Seaview nodded and went to work. After a while, she heard a strange knocking sound outside and went to investigate. She found Chip holding an ax and cutting up large logs of wood into smaller pieces. He had removed his shirt and she noticed that he seemed very strong. He looked up and saw her. Chip gave her a smile and she returned inside to finish unpacking.
They spent the first week exploring the area. There was a small lake nearby and Chip was able to catch some fish. Seaview relied on Bridget’s experience in cooking for Ulrich and made the kitchen area her domain. Chip had to admit that even Cookie could never make anything this good with so little to start with.
The worst part was not having any news from the outside world. Chip forbade Seaview from trying to reach any electrical or electronic devices. Their safety depended on it and she never mentioned it again.
They would talk for hours, or rather Chip talked and Seaview listened. She would ask questions and make some comments on what he told her. Most of the time, she would simply sit quietly beside him, looking over the lake or the forest, trying to spot birds or animals.
Chip appreciated her silent company. He knew she was watching over him, protective as always, but she never intruded if he wanted to be alone. Seaview made no demands, did not expect what he could not or would not give.
As the days went by, Chip Morton cleared his thoughts, unraveled all the confused feelings and was ready to chart the course he wanted his life to take. But to where? He was pretty sure his bridges had been burned back at the Institute, and they would not be able to stay here forever. And he could never leave Seaview behind, she depended on him.
At one point, Chip could not say when or how, he realized that she was what he had been looking for all these years. Through all the heartaches and disappointments, he had learned what he wanted in a potential partner, and Seaview had all he wanted. But he still could not make himself admit it. A small part of him resisted the attraction. There had been too much pain before.
During that very long first week, Lee Crane was heading a campaign to turn Nelson around. And it was not easy. In fact, he had rarely faced such odds. Gail was his safe haven from the storm that was gathering around him. She would support any decisions he made concerning Chip Morton and Seaview.
Luckily, he had some allies among the regular crew. Apparently, Seaview had more friends than she suspected.
Sharkey had told the Admiral that, since he had made all the upgrades that led to the Seaview personality, she was like a daughter of sorts. And that a good parent guides a child to adulthood and then lets her live her own life. That he should be proud that she was turning out to be a nice person.
When they heard that Morton and Seaview had run away, Sharkey, Patterson and Kowalski went to see the Admiral and offered to resign, because they could never keep working for someone who treated people that way. Nelson refused their resignations, just like he had done with Crane. This, more than anything, steered him toward another way of thinking about the problem.
The whole thing had finally reached the mainstream newspapers and the courts became involved. Public scrutiny, which had been avoided all this time, was there in full force. There was a battle raging for ownership of the cyborg, but this one was not to be a fair fight.
Gail was furious at this. "Ownership? They could at least ask for custody. She is sentient, Lee. She is no more a ‘thing’ that you or I. She has more decency than any of those … those leeches. Whatever happens, Lee, never tell where they are. Not even to me."
Crane was being pressured from everywhere to say where they were hidden. He kept refusing, so he was sent to jail for 30 days for contempt of court. He hoped that both his friends were all right. He would never know if something happened to them. News went only one way, from him to them.
The judge in charge of the ruled that the cyborg belonged to the Institute and that Nelson could do with it as he pleased, since it was private property. In spite of the ruling, Lee refused to say anything about Chip or Seaview.
Of course, the newspapers were in a feeding frenzy. Seaview became known as the mechanical doll. A grown-up toy for a man who was not very successful with women. That was according to Denise Richards. She was milking the situation for all she was worth.
Others were calling her a ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’, that had the potential to be dangerous and deadly if it’s programming was defective. It should have been destroyed immediately, as soon as it became obvious that it was more than a robot.
Very few people were willing to entertain the idea that Seaview could be a complete person. So the battle raged on.
At one point, Nelson got an eye-opening shock. An elderly couple was waiting for him in his office. When he showed them in, the man opened a scrap book and showed him pictures of Seaview.
"That young woman that you are calling a cyborg is my grand-daughter. I don’t know what game you and the Navy are playing, Admiral Nelson, but she is all we have left of our son. He and his wife died in a car accident and the baby was the only survivor. We took care of her and we saved enough money to send her to college. She disappeared two years ago. We never gave up hope that maybe she was alive. It’s her. We want her back. Please, Admiral, let her go, we can’t fight you in court, we have nothing to pay the lawyers with, we just want to have Bridget back."
Nelson was stunned by the request. He had never entertained the though that Seaview, or rather her body, had been copied from a human before. It took him several tries before he could even talk to the Parkers. Their pain was so great, how could he add to it? Telling them that their beloved grand-daughter was probably dead by now, that her body had been used to make a highly advanced robot, and that he wanted to dismantle it, so that science could move forward.
"Tell me about your grand-daughter. What was she like?" he asked softly.
"Bridget was like sunshine. She was shy, but so smart. She liked music and she loved to sing. She had even made a demo tape for some recording company and they called her back, but she was gone by then. She also liked to cook, which was kind of strange, since she was such a small, slender girl. I miss her so much, Admiral. Could we see her?" Mrs. Parker did not need lawyers to get to the Admiral. He knew love when he saw it.
He started to explain to the Parkers what had happened, hoping they would understand. However, he was very careful not to say too much about what he had put the cyborg through. "Mr. Parker, the young woman in the picture is not your grand-daughter. A man named Tabor Ulrich kidnapped her and used her likeliness to create a cyborg. It is the cyborg that is in the picture. It is not alive as we understand it, but some of my officers believe it is sentient. I am sorry to say this, I do not want to add to your pain, but your Bridget probably died long ago." He had to stop and give a crying Mrs. Parker some tissues. "Ulrich is responsible for that, and he is currently in jail. It will be one more charge against him. The cyborg is known as Seaview, like my submarine. Somehow, I inadvertently created an artificial intelligence that was originally confined to the boat. It transferred to the cyborg that looks like your grand-daughter and took it over. I know Seaview can access some of Bridget’s knowledge, but I don’t know if any of the original Bridget is still there."
"Where is she? Can we talk to her?" pleaded Mrs. Parker.
"I’m sorry, but one of my officers took her away, in a misguided attempt to protect her. We are doing what we can to find them. I will have my secretary find you a hotel, so you will have somewhere to stay until they are returned. The Institute will pay for everything."
Mr. Parker spoke up. "The newspaper said that you have been granted ownership of the cyborg. You can’t own people, Nelson. Slavery was abolished long ago. I will never allow you to own her. Never."
With that, the grieving grand-parents made their way out. Nelson had much to think about. He sat behind his desk and started to review the conversation he just had with the Parkers. Music, cooking, singing, damn this described Seaview to a T. And Bridget had been a much beloved child. How could he discard this now?
‘Nelson, when you make mistakes, you sure as hell don’t go halfway!’ he said to himself.
The crew of the Seaview did not remain divided very long. Most men were supporting the XO, the few that did not kept quiet or left. Miss Richards had more of a reputation than she thought, and it was finally catching up to her.
In the second week, Nelson realized that, perhaps, he had been too harsh on his officers and their defense of the cyborg.
He could not ignore the engineering crew complaining that things were not as efficient as when Seaview was there. Now they had to go through miles of wiring to find a short. She was able to pinpoint it within 3 inches. Calibration of the instruments was now done manually. She would have noticed any variation that exceeded the statistical controls and warned of potential problems.
The reactor crew had to suit up to check on a possibly defective intake valve. Decontamination procedures took days. Seaview would have walked in and out of the room and done the job in less than 30 minutes.
Getting information from outside computers took hours instead of minutes. There was nothing to filter the junk from the necessary data.
And maybe most telling, there was no music anymore, anywhere, on the boat. Not even a radio. She had liked music. It was not the same without her.
Harriman Nelson stopped talking to the crew and started to listen. He was discovering that Seaview, as she was known, was more than a machine. She did not mimic behavior, she had her own.
She had been truly afraid of him, she could have killed him with a simple backhand if she had wanted to, but she did not. Because she knew it was wrong and that she had to protect her crew, even if the crew was not willing to protect her.
And she did love Morton. The corpsmen told him of Morton lying in sickbay, delirious because of his head injury. The only thing that seemed to calm him was her voice. She answered him, reassured him when he needed someone. Maybe he returned her affection. That would explain his behavior when he barged into the lab. Chip had been so angry. Now he was gone into hiding, to protect her. She must be more that he ever thought for Morton to turn his back on a lifetime of work.
Gail told him of her joy when she said they could be friends. Nelson nodded. He paid the fine so Lee could get out of jail and back home. Much to Nelson’s chagrin, he still did not tell where he had sent them.
Machines do not feel fear, love or joy. They do not like music.
Nelson was siting in his large office, looking at his submarine anchored in its pen. His brainchild. He was starting to think that maybe he had two. And he had sent the most promising one away. ‘You are an old fool, Nelson. Lee was right. I did not see all there was. I was too certain of what I thought I knew. I held what I saw as the truth. I did not even look for reality. I was not denying my feelings, I was turning my back on my own humanity’ After all this, he realized that he never once talked to Seaview. He had given orders, which she silently obeyed, afraid of his reactions if she were to speak up or give an opinion. He could not change the past, but he could make the future better. All he needed was a chance to do so.
Then the accident happened.
Seaman Huntley was standing under the torpedo rack, checking the detonators and guidance systems. It was later determined that it was metal fatigue and that it would have been detected only by X-rays of the failed parts. The main support girder gave way and the whole assembly fell on him. His shipmates could not lift the mass of twisted metal and torpedoes in time to save him. He died of suffocation. He was not married, at 21, he considered himself too young to tie the knot.
The inquiry determined that it was an accident and that no one was to blame. However, a lift system was recommended, so that if it ever happened again, there was a better chance of survival. The total weight of the assembly had been 4500 pounds. They needed to lift about 1750 pounds to save the man. Well within what Seaview could do.
But she had been driven away, along with Morton, who probably would have had the assembly checked, since it had not been done in the last six months. The maintenance schedule had been rearranged when a new man came in to supervise the repairs.
This was the second time that the man brought them supplies. This time, they had some newspapers and magazines. He unloaded the ATV and left them, all without saying a word.
Chip and Seaview pounced on the most recent edition. The accident that happened on board the boat and the results of the inquiry were on page 4. They looked at each other.
"I should have been there. He would still be alive. I failed in my duty. I failed." Seaview was so distraught by what she just read, Chip did not know what to do. She started pacing, hugging herself.
"Seaview, listen to me. Look at me." She turned to face him. He had never seen her so sad, even in the lab. "It is not your fault. It is no one’s fault. Had you stayed there, you would be dead now, so there was nothing you could have done. You were driven away, because of what you were. Do not ever think that you failed. You did not fail. They failed themselves because of their prejudices, and now poor Huntley had to pay a terrible price."
"But Chip, I…I belong on the boat. I miss it." She leaned her head against him. He held her close to him, leaning his cheek on top of her head.
"I know Seaview, I know. I miss it too. But right now, you are more important. You remember when we got you out of the lab? You told me that my recovery was more important than you. I feel the same way now." He knew what he wanted to say next. "And I love you."
He put his hand under her chin and lifter her head. Their lips met and he felt his body react to hers. "I love you, Seaview. I know it took me a long time to figure it out, but I do."
"I love you too, Chip. I always did, even when I was the submarine."
Chip released her and took her hand, guiding her toward the cabin. Inside, he sat her down on the bed and joined her.
Seaview had the impression of floating, of being carried away. Chip kept saying that she was beautiful, that he loved her, wanted her. His hands were touching her everywhere and she did not want him to stop. She returned the caresses as best as she could.
When he started removing her clothes, she was not too sure of what he wanted her to do, but she helped him. Somehow, it was right. And, much to her surprise, he seemed fascinated by the lacy underthings Gail had told her to wear. So, that was their purpose. Interesting. She would have to see if he liked the other ones too.
Chip looked in her eyes. "You have never done this." She was so beautiful, how could anyone not notice? "Will you let me make love to you?" he asked, his voice low and husky.
"Yes, whatever that is. I thought that love was an emotion you feel, no something you do."
With a laugh, Chip pushed her down on the bed. "Seaview, you are wonderful. I will show you what I mean. But you have to promise that you will tell me if you like or don’t like what I do. Will you?"
"Yes. And I like having your arms around me."
Before she said anything else, Chip kissed her. He was discovering that making love with Seaview was not only a physical encounter, but a meeting of souls. She was more than just beautiful, she was intelligent, caring, kind and devoted. She was perfect.
Seaview was curious, if nothing else, and would ask questions that sent Chip into fits of laughter. It never occurred to him that lovemaking could be so funny and sometimes downright silly. They kept exploring each other’s bodies, Seaview telling him what she liked, Chip telling her what he wanted.
He was tickling her when she suddenly lifted her hips and shoulders and almost threw him out of the bed. Seaview held him down, gently kissing him, running her fingers through his hair. He had forgotten how strong she was, but she never did.
Seaview was fascinated by Chip’s body and his reactions to her touch. After a while, he was so excited and aroused, he moaned her name and she let him get on top of her. She was held tightly against him and he was kissing her non-stop. Chip raised himself on his elbows and joined his body to Seaview’s.
To Chip, the world around him seemed to dissolve and Seaview became his universe. There was only her. He had searched for her for so long, but she was finally here, with him. He had never felt such a strong bond to anyone.
He finally climaxed, calling her name, the pleasure he had denied for so long coursing through him like a tidal wave. When reality came back, he opened his eyes and met hers. "I love you." It was all he could say.
Seaview smiled, kissed his nose and held him close to her. She wanted to stay that way forever, but she knew it was not possible. They would have to go back at one point.
"Did…did you enjoy this?"
"Yes, very much. I love you, Chip."
Snuggling against her, Chip fell asleep. Seaview was stroking his hair and made sure he was covered by the blankets. Not wanting to disturb him, she remained immobile, listening to his breathing. For the first time in many weeks, he did not call her name in his sleep.
Chip woke up to the sound of birds. Seaview was still close to him in the bed, her warmth reassuring. He nuzzled her neck and kissed her. She returned the kisses with delight.
"I like it, Chip, when we kiss." True to her word, she was telling him what she liked.
"I like it too, my love." He took a deep breath. "We have to talk about where we will go after this is over. I don’t think we will be able to return to the Institute or the boat. I know this is not what you want, but we have to make plans."
"I do not know about things outside of the boat. I will do whatever you say and follow you, as long as you want me to." she replied.
"You trust me that much?"
"Yes, I trust you. I will try to help as best as I can, but I do not think I will be able to do much."
Chip was silent, overwhelmed by the emotions she was stirring in him.
"Chip? Can we make love again? Please?." Seaview asked.
Laughing, Chip agreed and started kissing and caressing her, feeling his lover’s hand on his back, pulling him close to her. Once again, the outside world ceased to exist and he was lost in her arms.
Seaview had enjoyed Chip’s touch the night before, and wanted more. His pleasure had been a surprise to her. He seemed to want her to feel the same thing, but she was not sure how. But learning was fun, especially when the teacher was so thorough and skilled.
His hands roamed all over her body, delighting in her softness and warmth, searching for that special place that would please her. When he found it, Seaview’s cyborg body reacted in a way that neither expected. She wrapped her legs and arms around Chip, locked them into place and stopped moving. When the exquisite sensation passed, she let him go.
"Seaview, what happened to you? Did I hurt you? You just stopped moving." asked a worried Chip.
"I do not know what happened, but I want to do it again. You did not hurt me, I never felt such physical pleasure. As for not moving, I think it is to protect you. I am much stronger than you are. If I were to move too fast, I would injure you." Seaview’s voice had a husky quality to it, one that Chip had never heard.
"Mmmm….so my Seaview likes this? Guess what? So do I."
"Your Seaview? I thought you did not like the concept of ownership."
"You are my love and I am yours. And I don’t ever want to let you go. But I would never hold you back if you wanted to leave." Chip explained.
"I love you, and I am not leaving." Seaview promised.
"If I heard correctly, you wanted more?" Chip asked. When Seaview pulled him to her for a kiss, he took that as a yes. Once again, the two lovers lost themselves in a world filled with joy and tenderness, desire and fulfillment.
Some indeterminate time later, Chip and Seaview were swimming in the nearby lake. He had been worried at first that she could stay submerged for so long, but after a while, he did not pay much attention to it. Apparently, lack of oxygen was not detrimental to her.
"I was not sure you were waterproof, Seaview." Chip joked.
"Of course. Unless there is major damage to my skin, there is no problem in my getting wet." She frowned and looked at him. "You are laughing at me, I can tell."
"No, I would never do that. I just struck me as funny that someone with such complex electronic circuitry would be willing to get into the water."
"The submarine is complex and it is always in the water." she pointed out to him.
"True. There is so much I don’t know about you. Do you remember much from your life before Seaview? When you were Bridget?" When Seaview seemed to hesitate to answer, Chip apologized. "I’m sorry, you may not want to talk about it. Forget I even asked."
"There is not much to tell about Bridget. She was designed as a personal assistant, who had access to most of the complex, as well as servant to Ulrich. She had no emotions, nor did she want anything that was not programmed into her. SHE was a machine. I am not."
He was glad to have someone. The loneliness he had tried so hard to fill was no longer there. Now there was a woman with dark blue eyes and a loving and kind heart. He knew he could depend on her, just as she could rely on him. Chip knew he would have to work very hard to prevent anyone from taking her away.
She was his love, Nelson and the Institute far away from his mind, as he kissed her willing lips. But N.I.M.R. and Nelson still existed, and they would have to be dealt with at some point.
"Ulrich would make ‘copies’ of people in order to have a template for the cyborgs. Do you think he did the same for Bridget?" Chip asked.
"I do not know." Seaview answered in a troubled voice. If she was a copy, what had happened to the original?
"Never mind, my love, never mind. It’s not important. All I care about is that you’re here." Chip swam toward her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. "I love you….forever."
Seaview snuggled in Chip’s embrace. She kissed his shoulders, his neck and reached his lips. His eyes were even bluer, if it was possible. When she played with his hair, he took her hand, kissed it and guided her toward the shore.
"I want you, I want you so much, Seaview. You are so beautiful." Chip whispered to her ear.
She recognized his need and smiled. They made love near the lake, discovering something new about each other yet again.
One day, Chip gave her the ring he was always wearing. It had his initials inside. He explained that this was a symbol of his love for her, and that, one day, he would get her one she could wear on her finger.
They were building themselves a quiet life, interrupted only when the supplies came. This time, the man had something more interesting for them.
"Your friend was in a lot of trouble for a while, but now things are quieting down for him. But you two better stay here a while longer. Some newspaper has put out a reward for anyone helping to locate you. And the government and Navy are looking everywhere. Everybody seems to want the robot girl. Don’t worry, I owe you friend big time. He saved my family, so I am returning the favor." With that, he turned his ATV around and left.
Seaview was looking at one of the newspaper when she saw the picture. "Chip? These people say they know me, but I never saw them before."
Chip read over her shoulder. Kissing the top of her head, he took the newspaper from her hands. "Seaview, these people knew Bridget, she was a grand-child. Not the cyborg Bridget, the human one. And they want to meet with you, so they can understand what happened to her."
"I have no recollection of the human Bridget. Only after she was programmed by Ulrich. Maybe they should go to the complex and find their answers there. Maybe we should go too. I have many questions."
"Seaview, the complex is in South America, that is a little bit far for an afternoon hike. And we would be spotted right away if we were to go to an airport. It will have to wait." He gave back her newspaper and they continued to read. "But I think you are right on this, we will have to go and see what we can find. At the very least, we may salvage something useful if you ever were injured."
Seaview nodded and took up a magazine. It contained a lot of information on fashion and make-up, but this was not of much interest to her. She put it back on the pile and picked another one. This one was about current events, with analysis and discussion. There was an in-depth article, as much as the journalist could do anyway, about her and Chip.
They settled on the bed and started reading. Chip would stroke her arm from time to time, but otherwise, he did not react much to what was written. Seaview liked to snuggle next to Chip, then he would put his arms around her and hold her. The beating of his heart was a pleasant sound to her.
The article contained a lot of factual information about what had happened to the boat and the emergence of the artificial intelligence. The line between reality and fiction blurred when the Seaview personality transferred to the cyborg. According to the journalist, only two possible outcomes existed. Seaview was either a completely mechanical construct that was stolen, or she was an independent, growing and living being that had run away from home.
The magazine editorial page was leaning toward the sentient being possibility. She was not a toy, otherwise, why had the executive officer, Commander Chip Morton, been so keen to defend her rights and have a recognized as a person by the Institute? Why would he go into hiding with her? He was protecting someone who could not protect herself, and in the process, throwing away a successful career and bright future.
There was an interview with some of Gail and Lee’s neighbors. No one could testify that the cyborg had behaved dangerously. The general comment was that, until they learned what she really was, they thought she was a very shy exchange student.
Doctor Jamieson also cleared up that report of a supposed attack by the ‘crazed cyborg’. She had been defending herself, preventing anyone from approaching her. Captain Crane did the same thing for the incident on the dock. She had been defending an officer, restraining the attacker until ordered to let go. In both cases, no human had been hurt.
Since the law was not going to change for an exception, the cyborg remain a piece of property and it was owned by N.I.M.R., which was owned by Admiral Harriman Nelson. This was publicly contested by the Parkers, stating that the cyborg was a copy of their grand-daughter, so it should really belong to them. Their request was denied, so they packed up and went home, having lost Bridget a second time.
The article concluded that the whole situation would not be resolved before more legal and moral battles, and that in the meantime, the cyborg and Commander Morton were on the country’s most wanted list. Not for criminal behavior, but for believing in something strongly enough to take a stand, whatever the consequences.
"Chip, what do we do now? Do we go back?" asked Seaview.
"We are staying here. The Navy is looking for you, as are other agencies. It would be way too dangerous for you. Until the we are sure that the Institute can protect you, we are not moving." Chip held her tighter. He kissed her neck and told her he loved her. He then leaned his head against hers and became lost in his thoughts. Seaview did not disturb him, letting him analyze and discard options and ideas.
After a while, Chip got up and went for a walk, saying that he had to think and that he would not go far. Seaview nodded and started to prepare the evening meal for him. She was confident that Chip would find a solution, given enough time. She was happy here with him. She missed the boat but that could not be helped for now.
Suddenly, she heard a noise. It was like a growl and then she heard Chip scream in pain. Leaving everything behind her, she ran toward the sound. Chip was being attacked by a bear. He was trying to protect himself by staying on the ground and rolling away, but with no success. Seaview ran at the bear at full speed and rammed into it. The animal went flying, landing on its back and tumbling. Seaview grabbed for its fur and started to shake it and drag it away from Chip. She gave it a final toss and it rolled down the small incline that was the pathway to the lake. It got back on its feet and left, mumbling to itself as if confused.
Seaview went to Chip and examined his wounds. He was covered in dirt and she could see many scratches and some teeth marks. He was still conscious and could move his arms and legs, so spinal injury was a low possibility. Seaview carried him to the cabin and laid him on the bed.
She undressed her lover and started to clean his wounds. She had some medical knowledge, but she was not a doctor or even a nurse. Once she removed the dirt and sand from the cuts, she bandaged the most severe ones. She did not have enough first aid supplies to take care of all the cuts.
Chip was in pain, it was everywhere. His arms, legs, back, every part of him was covered in lancing, throbbing pain that would not go away. And why was everything so hot? He kept asking Seaview to help him. He knew she was there, he could hear her voice, but it was so far away.
He finally lost track of time and place, the only constant being Seaview’s voice, always there, so sweet and loving. Yes, he loved her, why was that a surprise? Why were people trying to take his love away from him? He called to her, fearing she was gone, but she answered, like she always did. Singing, Seaview was singing. How nice of her, how did she know he liked to hear her sing? He felt a cool hand on his forehead, slender fingers playing in his hair. Seaview again. He let go of the pain and confusion and followed her voice, lulling him into an uneasy sleep, but sleep nonetheless.
Seaview was frantic. She was not sure what to do. She wanted to get him to where there were people, so he could get medical attention. But she did not know where to go, not even a direction. Night had fallen, so it would be too difficult to follow the ATV tracks. And she was not sure if he could be moved without increasing his pain or worsening his injuries.
Chip was now delirious with fever, he kept calling her name and she answered. When she started singing, he calmed down and slept, even if a bit fitfully. He needed rest, she had heard Jamieson say that rest is the best medication. She got some water and kept pressing cool cloths to him, trying to lower his fever.
By her calculations, the man with the supplies would not be returning soon. She had to find a way. She could not bring Chip with her and she could not leave him behind. They would have to wait for help to come to them.
For six days, Chip was in and out of fever-induced dreams. Seaview tended to his wounds and tried to keep him cool. He had taken some soup from time to time, but could not be made to eat anything else. Even that had been an effort for him.
Finally the man can back. When she heard the ATV’s engine, Seaview got out of the cabin and ran toward him. When he heard about the bear attack, the man came to see Chip and decided that he had to get him to town, otherwise he would die.
Seaview helped him make a temporary travois so they could install Chip on the ATV without jarring him too much. She could not ride along, but followed behind, for once grateful that her cyborg body was so different from humans. The man was surprised when she kept up with the vehicle, but made no comments.
They made it to a small county hospital. The nurses and doctors went to work on Chip. Seaview was told to wait in the lobby. Other people were there, some waiting for the doctor to see them, others waiting for news about loved ones.
Luckily, she noticed that the magazines and newspapers were old and that none showed either her picture or Chip’s.
A nurse came to her and asked her questions about Chip, to help in his treatment. Seaview told what she knew. When the nurse asked if she was his wife, Seaview hesitated. They were lovers and friends, but their lives were pretty much like Lee’s and Gail’s, so she said yes. The hospital files showed C. Morton, married, wife’s maiden name S. Meyers. No red flags were activated in the computer system. They were looking for a single man, not a married couple.
Chip was finally wheeled out of the operating room and installed in a private room. Seaview was allowed to stay with him. Careful not to touch the monitors or the IV lines, she approached the bed and put her hand on his forehead.
The nurses found it a bit strange that the blond woman took so little rest, but they chalked it up to newlywed love. She was so devoted to her husband.
The local forest ranger, McLeod, was notified of the bear attack and went to the hospital to check up on the victim. He met his wife, a small woman, with dark blue eyes. She told him of her husband taking a walk and that she heard the commotion and drove the bear away. They had been staying at the Collins cabin, Jack would sometimes rent to people who wanted to get back to nature. These two just got a really bad dose of it. They had been lucky that Jack would check up on his guests from time to time, or the man would have died. He still was not out of danger, but the odds were good.
McLeod thought the woman looked somewhat familiar, but made not comment. The man was swaddled in bandages, so his own mother would probably not recognize him. He thanked her for her cooperation and left, making up a list of men who would help him hunt down the bear. If it was attacking people like that, it had to be killed. Too bad, because these animals were getting rarer in the region. There had been a lot of poaching in the last years and the populations of some of the larger mammals were dropping alarmingly fast. Still, safety first.
Seaview returned to Chip’s side. The anesthetic finally wore off and Morton regained consciousness. The painkillers made the world a bit hazy, but that was preferable to the pain. He saw his beloved Seaview standing near the bed.
"Where are we?" Chip asked.
"You were attacked by a bear. I took care of you for six days, until the man came back. He said that you had to get to a hospital or you would die. So, we carried you here. The doctors took care of you. You will have to stay here until you are healed. Some of the wounds became infected and they are giving you intravenous antibiotics and painkillers." Seaview reported.
"This is way too dangerous. You will be recognized. You have to leave." Chip said, alarmed by the implications of being back to so-called civilization.
"No one has made the connection. I will stay with you. I love you." Seaview replied and kissed his lips. "Now, you need to sleep. It will help you heal." She ran her fingers through his hair and Chip relaxed enough to go back to sleep. The painkillers were very strong and he didn’t have the energy to fight them.
McLeod walked into the state trooper’s office and greeted his friends and sometimes colleagues. They too had heard about the bear attack and were getting ready to dispatch the animal. When McLeod turned toward the bulletin board, he saw her picture.
"Oh, my God! Never mind the bear, guys. I think we have a bigger catch on our hands."
"Huh?" questioned Sommers, the senior officer.
"It’s her, I saw her at the hospital. The man that was attacked by the bear is probably that AWOL Navy officer." McLeod explained, pointing at the ‘Wanted’ poster showing Seaview and Chip’s pictures
"No way we can stop a robot. And it’s in a hospital, it would be too dangerous for the people there. Let’s call the Navy and let them handle this. I will make sure that we get most of the patients out of there, without the robot noticing. Man! As if we needed this." Sommers said.
Seaview took no notice of the people coming and going in the corridor outside of Chip’s room. She kept her silent watch over him, answering when he called her, singing to him, kissing him when he became agitated.
The head nurse had volunteered to keep an eye on the robot, just in case it became dangerous. She was a dedicated woman, to whom nursing was more than a job, it had been a calling, and she would never turn her back on it now. Observing the robot, she became very curious. How could a dangerous machine be so gentle with the injured Navy officer? According to the more serious magazines, they had run away because the robot (called a cyborg, she remembered) was scheduled to be dismantled and the officer wanted to protect her, saying that she was sentient and that it would be murder to destroy it.
She had seen many people watch over loved ones over the years. Mothers and children, spouses, friends, brothers and sisters. She knew this was love. The robot, no, the cyborg, loved the man and he apparently returned it. He would calm down as soon as he heard her voice or felt her touch. She made her decision. Her conscience would not let her do otherwise, and she liked to be able to face herself in the mirror each morning.
"Excuse me. You have to go dear, the Navy is coming to arrest you. Your friend will be all right for now. The doctors will not let him go, he is too ill. But if you stay, you will be caught. Go now. Hurry."
Seaview looked at the woman. She could see her kindness, but she was very worried about Chip. "I cannot leave him."
"Seaview, go. It’s an order." Chip said. He had not opened his eyes and he spoke with a low voice, but enough to make himself heard.
"I will obey you in this, Chip, but I will find a way back to you. I love you." she kissed him and left the room. The nurse guided her to the basement and let her out of the building through a little used exit. Seaview was now on her own.
After ordering Seaview to leave, Chip took a deep breath and slipped back into sleep. The world was a cottony blanket, surrounding him and making him drowsy. He gave in and the next few hours were lost to him.
The Navy officer that entered the trooper’s office was a short, stocky man, with red hair and a lot of braids on his uniform. Sommers knew he was facing someone who commanded respect and obedience.
Another tall man was with him, also with a Navy uniform, dark hair with golden-brown eyes. This was also a man used to give orders and have them obeyed.
They introduced themselves as Admiral Harriman Nelson and Captain Lee Crane. After listening to the story from both McLeod and Sommers, they headed for the hospital.
"Huh, aren’t you going to get some weapons or something? If that thing is dangerous, I don’t want to have trouble." said Sommers.
Crane answered him. "There is no danger. Seaview is not aggressive, unless someone attacks either an officer or member of the submarine crew. The bear that attacked Morton probably got the shock of its life."
Sommers and McLeod were dubious at that statement, but followed the two men to the hospital. The captain went to the bed and looked over the unconscious Morton. He met the nurse’s eyes and she nodded for him to get out of the room with her.
"I take it he is your friend?" she asked.
When Lee nodded, she continued. "He was badly injured and should not be moved, as least for a week to ten days. You are here to get the cyborg?"
"You can arrest me if you want to, but I told her to leave and helped her get out of here. I don’t care what the newspapers said, but these two are in love, anyone with eyes can see that." To her surprise, the tall dark man smiled.
"Poor Seaview. I hope she does not go too far. I am not with the Navy, we are from N.I.M.R. Admiral Nelson has been given ownership of the cyborg, but behind this legal fiction, he wants her back where she belongs: on the submarine with which she shares her name. The Navy is still looking for her but we have to be the first to find Seaview. Her life depends on it."
"Oh my, I was not sure what to do, I’m sorry."
"We will just have to look longer. Thank you for your help." Crane said.
Chip was aware of movement, engine sounds, much like a helicopter and then quiet. When he opened his eyes, he was in another room. A figure approached him. He did not know the man.
"Who are you? Where is here?" Chip asked.
"You are in the San Diego Naval Base hospital. You were transferred here and you are under surveillance until the cyborg is returned. Admiral Tobin and Nelson are still arguing about that, but I think the President will side with Tobin. This is much to sensitive to be left to a civilian outfit."
"What will happen to Seaview?"
"Nothing will happen to your sub, don’t worry about that."
"No, I mean Seaview, the cyborg. What will happen to her?"
"Oh, that. IT will be dismantled, of course. We can’t allow something like that to roam free. It is way too dangerous and we want to study it, so …"
Shocked, Chip interrupted the man. "That’s murder! She is not a machine, she is alive!"
"That’s your interpretation of it. You should never get too attached to your toys, commander." With that last remark, the man left.
Chip could see a guard near his door. Closing his eyes, he prayed that Seaview, his beautiful Seaview was safe. If only he was with her. If she could get to Crane. If… if nothing. He was stuck here and his love needed him and there was nothing he could do. Damn, damn, damn.
Two visitors came for Chip that first day. Crane and Nelson were allowed ten minutes and not one more. They dismissed the guard and sat on either side of Morton. Chip was not too thrilled to see the Admiral. He blamed Nelson for most of what happened.
"Chip, I know you are mad at me, and I just wanted to tell you that I agree with you. Seaview is sentient, she is alive. I never really listened to what any of you said, I was too busy thinking about science, I forgot that somewhere, there was a real woman beneath all this. I’m so sorry. Will you forgive me?"
"It’s kind of late for that now, sir. The Navy will try to get her, and maybe some other people too. She is alone, she will not know what to do or where to go." Chip sighed. "She said she will find a way to reach me. Lee, I’m the bait in the trap, and Seaview is not going to realize that. She is not devious and would never think that someone could use me to get to her."
"I know, Chip. Gail and I noticed that we are being watched all the time. It is discreet, but we can only hope that Seaview will not come to us. Who else does she know? Apart from people on the sub or at the Institute?"
"No one, she has no one. She is alone and I can’t help her." Chip closed his eyes, somehow they were burning.
The Admiral was observing Chip’s reactions. No, that was not possible, was it? "Chip, what is the nature of your relationship with Seaview?" Nelson asked softly.
Chip looked into Nelson’s eyes. "She is my friend." Nelson nodded and started to leave. "And my lover." Nelson stopped in his tracks and turned toward Morton. Not knowing what to say or do, he simply sighed and left the room.
"So, you made your decision." Lee said.
"Yes, and now, she is gone." Chip whispered. "My Seaview is gone." He closed his eyes and remained silent after that. Lee patted his shoulder and left.
Chip did not get much rest in the Navy hospital. When one of Tobin’s aid was not there, pestering him with questions, it was some CIA or FBI agent. Chip would not talk to anyone, except Lee Crane, and only on neutral subject. He refused to discuss Seaview.
When he was sufficiently recovered, he was released, with the firm understanding that he would be under strict surveillance and that he could only travel from his apartment to the Institute. Nelson told Chip he would be better off staying with Lee and Gail. He still needed someone to help him from time to time and the Cranes were his extended family.
So, it was a sore and stiff Chip Morton that got out of the red sports car and went inside the house. Gail hugged him gently and told him he could stay for as long as he wanted. She told him to take the guest room and he went upstairs to unpack. When he opened the dresser, he saw some of Seaview’s things that had been left behind.
Gail knocked on his door and he told her to come in. "You miss her, don’t you?" she asked. He was turning one of her music tape in his hands.
"Yes, I miss her so much. But if she tries to come back, they will kill her. Gail, what are we going to do? What will happen to Seaview?"
"Have faith. Maybe the solution will come from Seaview. There is more to her than anyone can ever guess." Gail said, trying to make him feel better, but she knew she was not succeeding very well.
When Patricia saw the tall blond officer return to the Crane household, she jumped on the phone and called Denise.
"He’s back, but there is not sign of that robot. Maybe the Navy got rid of it. Good riddance too, if you ask me."
Denise thanked her for the information and hung up. She still missed Chip’s money and the recognition she got when she was his girlfriend. Too bad Chip came with the first two. It had been the perfect relationship. He was giving her prestige and money, he was gone most of the time, he was naive enough to believe she loved him. She had been so mad at him when he came back early and caught her red-handed with one of her part-time boyfriends. What did he expect? She was an attractive woman. She was not supposed to say ‘no’ all the time, was she?
Biting a fingernail, Denise tried to come up with a plan to get Morton back. Now that the little tart of a cyborg was gone, he would see that there is nothing like the real thing, just like the ad said. She was pretty sure that Gail Crane would try to put her nose in it, but maybe Patricia would help her with this. That overweight, prattling woman had to be good for something else than spread rumors. Maybe that was the way to go. It had worked well the first time, why break a winning combination?
She headed for the shower. She had to prepare herself for tonight. Denise wanted to have another conversation with Lauder and Webster. Men were so stupid sometimes. She laughed and turned on the hot water.
Seaview was walking toward Santa Barbara, following the highway, but not close enough to be seen. When she came to crossroads or towns, she would make a detour. She had been recognized before, she had to make sure it never happened again.
At one point, she came upon a radio relay station. Just what she needed. She broke the lock and went in. Computers, relays, electronics. Perfect. She studied the layout and saw a phone line. Even better.
She opened some panels and put her fingers to the exposed circuits. Anyone else would have been killed by the high voltage. Seaview felt a small jolt, and sunk her mind into the connections and relays.
She followed the phone lines to Santa Barbara and eventually to Gail’s phone. She noticed a tap on the line, so she deactivated it, without the listener being aware of it.
"Yes, Crane residence." Gail’s voice.
"Gail, this is Seaview."
"Oh, get off the phone, it’s tapped." Gail said in a panicked voice.
"Not any more. I removed it and it was not noticed."
"Seaview, where are you? You cannot come here, it would be too dangerous."
"I know, but I am on my way to Santa Barbara. Gail, do you have news about Chip?"
"Yes, hold on, he is here." Turning, Gail yelled to Chip to grab the phone.
"Chip, I was so worried."
"Seaview? The phones are tapped, you can’t stay on the line."
"No, I removed the taps. There is no danger."
"My Seaview, I miss you. But you can’t come home yet."
"I know, Gail told me. I miss you too, Chip. Where do you want me to go? I am getting close to Santa Barbara."
"Stay away from everyone. It will be safer. Hold on, Lee wants to talk to you. I love you."
Chip handed the phone to Lee, trying to listen in.
"Seaview, this is Lee. I want you to reach a farmhouse, it is about 50 miles directly north of Santa Barbara. The owners are named Lucy and Charles. They will hide you. Tell them dolphin sent you. I will be able to reach you there when things settle down."
"I understand. May I talk to Chip again?"
Lee gave the phone back to Chip and went to the kitchen, to let his friend have some privacy.
"They will discover that the tap is not working soon. I will follow Captain Crane’s instructions. Be careful, Chip. I love you, I will be with you soon."
"I love you too. Stay safe, you are so precious."
"Good bye, Chip."
The phone went silent and Chip put the receiver in its cradle. He sighed in relief and joined his friends in the kitchen.
"I think you need more than coffee. Would you like some whisky or something?" offered Gail.
"No, coffee will be fine. She will be safe? These people will not give her up?"
Lee reassured his friend. "She will be perfectly safe. They will take care of her as if she was a daughter. Don’t worry. And Jack took good care of you, didn’t he?"
"Yes, he did. Lee, you have friends in the weirdest places." Morton observed.
"I had a busy life while I was with ONI. Some people were actually pretty decent folks."
Far away, Seaview re-installed the phone tap and left the relay station. She headed for the farm house Crane had told her about. She estimated that she would reach it in 3.5 days, at an average speed of 25 mph. Luckily, she needed neither sleep or food, so she could keep going day and night. Seaview started running. Chip depended on her, she would reach the farm house. She had said so, and she did not lie.
Admiral Tobin was about ready to have a fit or someone’s head on a platter, whichever came first. Morton had been released, the phone taps had given nothing and the surveillance even less. That cyborg had to be somewhere. It could not stay hidden indefinitely. Or could it? Maybe there was something he overlooked. He called his aide and asked him to get all the information they had collected on the cyborg.
It turned out that it was not much, not enough anyway. Nelson’s staff had dried up after their boss changed his mind about the cyborg. Tobin decided to have another go at Nelson. Something had to give. And he could do nothing on the legal side. The courts had kept to the first ruling. The cyborg belonged to the Institute, therefore to Nelson.
The government gave up at that point. But Tobin just could not. That thing was too dangerous, and he had sworn to defend his country from the enemy. This time, the enemy was a woman-shaped cyborg. He had even seen her, Crane had introduced her as Severine Meyers. Damn, she had gotten away just under his nose.
Denise Richards spotted her targets, sitting at a table with another man. They sure look gloomy tonight she thought. Were they still chewing over that accident? Bah, who cares?
She pranced to the table and sat down, not waiting to be invited. Denise Richards never waited, she took what she wanted.
"So, how are my favorite sailors tonight? Who is offering me a beer?"
Lauder signaled the bartender for another round of beers and settled in to admire Denise’s cleavage. Why had Morton dumped the dame anyway? She sure was more well rounded than his mechanical doll.
"Did you know Morton is back in town?" Denise asked.
"Yeah, he’s staying with Crane. He got attacked by a bear and he can’t stay alone for the time being. He is not even back to work yet." Webster added.
"A bear. Ouch. Does he still have that robot?"
"Naw, everybody is looking for it, but nothing so far. He probably has it hidden somewhere but he isn’t talking. One of my friends is a corpsman at the Base hospital, and Morton was not saying a word the whole time he was there." said the man Denise did not know. He introduced himself and said he was a technician at the N.I.M.R. and that he had been on the team that was studying the cyborg.
"Did it really attack people there too? It attacked me when I went to see Chip at the dock."
"Yeah, it did."
Denise spent the rest of the evening gossiping with the men. She finally went home with Lauder.
When Patricia spotted Gail coming out to her car, she ran to her neighbor.
"Gail, darling, how are you?" she said with a honeyed voice which sounded false to Gail’s ears.
"Fine Patricia. Excuse me, I have errands to run."
"Oh, of course, with a house guest and all. This is so much more work for you. What happened to that student of yours anyway?"
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Gail’s temper took over and she had the perfect target in front of her. Patricia never knew what hit her.
When she woke up, she was staring at a perfectly blue sky, with cute little cottony clouds. The paramedics were looking into her eyes and asking questions about previous seizures and the like. She was bundled up and transported to the hospital.
Chip was standing next to Gail when the paramedics left with the overbearing neighbor.
"Mean right hook you have."
"She made me so mad. It is because of that piece of lard that Seaview was so unhappy here. She kept spreading rumors and now she had the gall to ask me about that ‘student of mine’ as if she didn’t know." Gail took a deep breath to calm herself.
"I will testify in your favor, if you want me to. And I think that elderly gentleman over there would do the same thing." said Chip, pointing to a man waving a victory sign to them, two houses down.
"Think she will press charges?"
"Never saw it coming, she was too busy gloating. Need help with your errands?"
"No, you better stay home, just in case Seaview calls again. She will want to talk to you." With that, Gail got into her car and left.
Chip went back into the house. It was a nice home, but without Seaview, it felt empty. He much preferred the cabin he had shared with her. Alone, he sat on the couch and closed his eyes. He could see her, walking with him in the forest, swimming in the lake, her hair spreading out on the bed when they made love. He missed her voice most of all. It carried her love and warmth.
Nelson and Crane were ready to engage another battle with Tobin. Lee was thinking of having Gail buy headache medicine in bulk. Or have Jamieson install an IV.
Admiral Tobin was apparently in a rare form shape that morning. The argument was getting louder by the minute. Finally, Crane got up and opened the door. The two Admirals stopped yelling and looked at him, surprise evident on their faces.
"And where do you think you are going?" asked Tobin.
"I have heard the same thing at least three times. This is a waste of my time. I have important work to do, a submarine to command, a friend who is recovering from a bear attack and a wife who is about ready to explode because of stress. Not to mention my phones being tapped, being followed and, of course, being asked to help the Navy and the government put their mitts on Seaview, which I consider sentient and a member of my crew. Good bye."
Lee Crane left the room and walked out of the main building. What now? He hoped that Seaview had reached the farmhouse safely.
Seaview had reached her destination and was now involved in rounding up the calves for marking. It was messy, noisy work, but she helped as much as she could. Her physical strength helped Charles and Lucy go through the work at a rate that amazed them. Seaview would catch and hold the calf, Lucy would vaccinate it, and Charles was branding.
At the end of the day, seeing that her hosts were very tired, Seaview prepared the meal while they took their showers. When they got to the kitchen, the table was set, with a rabbit stew simmering. Lucy and Charles looked at each other.
"And the government wants to destroy her?" asked Lucy.
"Yes, and don’t make me comment on that. You know how I feel about stupidity and bureaucracy." Charles replied. He was starting to like the small cyborg. She was quiet, polite, helpful. "Where is she?"
"I think she is taking a shower now. I will get her some clean clothes. She is smaller than me, but it will be better than yours." Lucy smiled, looking at her husband.
Lucy entered Seaview’s room and heard the shower. She left the clean clothes on the bed and picked up the dirty ones. They would be ready for tomorrow. She checked the pockets, out of habit, and found a ring. It was a man’s ring, with the Annapolis logo. Inside were initials and a date. Lucy knew enough about the custom of giving a signet ring. The officer that had ran away with her must have given it as a token of his love.
Lucy put the ring back on the bed and smiled. She never mentioned her find to her husband. It was nobody’s business anyway. It was between Seaview and her officer.
Seaview joined her hosts after dinner and they talked for a while. They went to bed around ten and Seaview started to explore the living room. There was a bookcase filled with books. Gail had only given her reference books. Now these were different. There were novels, essays, short stories, books about farming and home repairs. She found one that had a strange title. She took it and sat on the couch. Halfway through, she decided that she would have to try some of this with Chip. When she finished, she left it on the coffee table and went back to her room. She would wait for Lucy and Charles to wake up and tell her which chores she had to do.
Lucy was up first, as usual, and when she reached the kitchen, Seaview had already prepared the coffee and had started breakfast.
"You know, dear, I could get used really fast to having you around." Lucy said to Seaview.
"It is a fair exchange. You keep me here, I work. Will we be marking more animals today?"
"No, we did everything yesterday, thanks to you. Let’s talk about it when Charles wakes up. I’m sure he will have a long list of things to do." Lucy grabbed her coffee cup and went to the living room, to relax a little before the day started. She noticed the book and picked it up. She almost laughed. That officer of Seaview’s was in for a pleasant surprise. Lucy replaced ‘100 ways to please a man’ into its slot.
Tobin was not a stupid man, just stubborn, but even he knew when to admit defeat. Nelson won the last round. The President had called and gave the base commander a ‘cease and desist’ order. Seaview was officially Nelson’s property.
That wording did not go easy with Chip.
"Chip, I know you hate the notion that Seaview is property, but at least she is safe and Nelson wants her back on the sub. Let it rest for now." Lee advised.
They were driving north, toward the ranch where Seaview was. Chip could hardly wait to see her again. They turned into the driveway and parked in front of a huge house. It was a wide single story house, with a low roof, but it fit well with the surrounding hill. It looked quiet and peaceful. Not getting an answer to their knocking, they headed toward the barn. There was noise and laughter.
When they reached the barn, they saw Seaview arguing with a huge cow. Seaview was trying to milk it, following Charles instructions, and the cow wanted none of it. Lucy was leaning against the railing, tears streaming down her face. At one point, Seaview decided that the cow was just a big calf and perhaps treating it the same way would get the desired results.
She grabbed the cow’s legs on the opposite side and pulled. The cow was on its back and held there. Seaview was trying to figure out how to hold it there for milking when Charles told her to let go, he would show her a better way. And he did not want to damage the cow.
Lee and Chip were also laughing hard. Recognizing the voices, Seaview looked in their direction.
"Chip!" Seaview ran to him and into his arms. He lifted her head and kissed her. It had been so long.
The others went into the main house, leaving the lovers some privacy.
"What were you doing to that poor cow?"
"Charles was showing me how to get the milk. But the cow was not very cooperative."
"That was rather evident. How are you? I missed you so much."
"I am fine. I missed you too. When can I get back to the boat? Or do I have to stay here longer?"
"You are coming back home. I love you." Not able to say anything else, Chip kissed her until he heard Crane yell to them to get going, of they would have to walk.
Hand in hand, they walked toward the house. Seaview said good bye to Charles and Lucy. Lucy gave her a book and winked at her that pages 56 to 79 were the best.
"All right, everybody on board, and no necking in the back seat." Lee warned.
Watching them leave, Lucy hugged her husband. "I was worried for a while." she said.
"I was not sure if Seaview’s officer was really in love with her or if he was just using her."
"And your verdict is?"
"He loves her. No doubts about it. I only hope that things turn out well for them."
Charles kissed his wife and turned her toward the barn. "Let’s get that cow milked. You have to admit, dear, that this was the best example of cow tipping I ever saw."
Laughing, they started working. They would miss Seaview, but they would never forget her.
On the way back home, Chip was intrigued by the book Lucy had given Seaview, but he would not ask. He was happy just to hold her close and remove the tangles from her hair.
Watching them from the rearview mirror, Lee decided to drop them off at Chip’s apartment. Gail and he would only be in the way. They had a lot of catching up to do.
"Here you go! I’ll see you both tomorrow on the boat at 8:00 sharp." Lee said.
Seaview had never seen Chip’s apartment before. It was large and there were very pretty things on the walls. She liked it.
Chip took her hands and kissed her. "I love you. I thought I lost you. My Seaview, my beautiful Seaview." He was holding her against him, caressing her and trying to undress her.
Seaview smiled and helped him get rid of his own clothes. Chip was covering her in kisses and she was happily doing the same. Somehow, they made it to his bed. Lucy had been right, pages 56 to 79 gave the best results.
The next morning, Lee Crane saw Morton’s blue sports car pull up next to his. Seaview got out of the passenger side and climbed on board. Chip’s pace was a little more sedate. Lee frowned and a little twinge of concern about Chip’s injuries from the bear attack surfaced.
"You look a little sore this morning. Are you sure you are cleared for duty? That bear gave you a real beating." Lee asked.
"My problem is not the bear." Morton replied, in a dry voice. "Your friend Lucy gave Seaview a little book. Whoever wrote it should be shot."
"Huh?" was Lee’s only answer. What was Chip talking about?
Making their way to the control room, they saw Seaview happily immersing herself in the boat’s computer. Lee could have bet his paycheck that the boat had missed her as much as she had missed it.
Much of the repairs had been done and they were doing the final checks for the next mission. Admiral Nelson came down the spiral stairs and asked Seaview to join him in the nose, along with the senior officers and some crewmen who happened to be in the control room.
Nelson faced Seaview and, for the first time, addressed her as a member of the crew instead of a machine. To his surprise, and secret shame, he saw the fear in her eyes when he started to talk to her. But it disappeared when she realized what he was saying.
"Seaview, you know that the courts did not give you sentient status. You are legally considered as private property, in this case, mine. However, by talking to the people that know you, I have decided that you are indeed sentient. Now, since you obviously belong on this boat as a member of the crew, it would be cruel on my part to keep you away. When you are on board, you will consider yourself under the direct command of Captain Crane, or any officer on duty. Your specific charges will be the smooth running of the electronics and computers, which is pretty much what you have been doing all along. I see no point in changing what works well. As for one other detail, Mr. Morton, do you have about one dollar on you?"
Chip frowned but searched his pockets and found the requested amount in small change and gave it to Nelson.
Nelson took out a paper from his pocket and signed at the bottom. "It is obvious that you and Seaview are… an ‘item’ I believe is the word. These are the papers making you Seaview’s legal owner. I know you will never see yourself that way and that is why I am doing this. Unless Seaview has an objection to this, you are all witnesses. Good luck to you both."
Nelson left the observation nose, leaving behind him a stunned assembly. The crewmen also left the nose, leaving Chip Morton and Seaview alone.
"What did the Admiral do? I am not sure I understand." Seaview said.
"It means that no one can take you away from me." Chip answered. "We can stay together as long as you want to."
"I do not want to leave, ever." she replied, touching his cheek with her fingertips.
"Let’s go back to work, there is a lot of stuff to do before we sail."
Seaview nodded and returned to the computer. She could work and be with Chip. Admiral Nelson had said so, and he also said that she was sentient. It did not show much to those who did not know her well, but it was a very happy Seaview that made her way through the corridors of the boat.
Not everybody was happy, however. Lauder and Webster were scandalized when they heard that Nelson had given his blessing to Morton and the cyborg.
Lauder was getting jealous of Chip Morton. Not only the man was an officer, on top of it, Denise wanted to get back to him. Lauder wanted to keep Denise for himself. Morton would have to go.
Well, missions were always dangerous in some way, so maybe there could be an accident. In discussing it with Webster, Seaview’s fate was also included in the planning.
It had been a difficult conversation, but Seaview had been finally persuaded to use Severine as her name when working on the boat. As long as Chip could call her Seaview in private, she had agreed to Crane’s request.
They would be sailing in six days, but the Admiral had not said where. Crane was used to secret missions, but the Admiral had been particularly close-mouthed about that one. A lot of equipment had been transferred to his lab, but no explanations had been given.
Chip and Seaview were beginning to put some order to their lives. Since Seaview did not need to sleep, Chip usually woke up to a spotless apartment and a waiting breakfast.
"I never hear you get out of bed. How can you do that?" he asked.
"I wait until you are in deep sleep then move very slowly. You do not call out to me anymore, so I can leave the room. There are so many things for me to learn. Do you have any more books?"
Chip smiled and pulled her to him. "What kind of books?"
"I want to know about birds and mountains." Seaview replied.
"I can solve that. You can go to the local library and borrow books, or you can go to the Institute and access Internet."
"This access, it is done by phone modem, right?"
"Yes…" Chip was getting suspicious. "What are you thinking?"
"I can access from here. I will not need to leave. I do not like going where there are many people. Some recognize me and tell others." she said.
"Has anyone been mean to you?" Chip said. "My poor Seaview, I wish you never had to face this."
"It does not matter."
He looked into her blue eyes. Pushing her long hair from her shoulders, he put his hands on either sides of her face and pulled her in for a kiss. Seaview was more than a willing partner. She was in fact a very enthusiastic and generous lover. She enjoyed Chip’s touch and would respond to his invitations with joy and hunger. This time was not different.
When he finally got out of her arms, Chip looked at his watch.
"We’ll better hurry, we’re going to be late for the mission briefing."
"You have not eaten breakfast. That is not good." Seaview remarked.
"I had better. Come on." Chip teased and headed for the shower, dragging Seaview along.
They reached the Institute and went directly to Admiral Nelson’s office. The Admiral was waiting for them, in fact they were the last in. Lee Crane, Dr. Jamieson, Chief Sharkey and Nelson were already seated and munching on muffins.
"Got tangled in the bedsheets?" whispered Lee to his friend.
"Shut up." replied Chip, sitting down next to the Seaview’s captain, reaching for the closest pastry. Not as good as Seaview’s but better than nothing.
Nelson looked up at the whispering officers. "Something we should all be aware of?"
Both men shook their heads. Chip thanked the stars that Seaview did not reply to that. He knew she had heard Lee’s question. She still tended to take things literally, sometimes.
"Now that Mr. Morton and Severine finally decided to join us, I want to review what our next mission will be. It has been kept on a need to know basis, and with as few people involved as possible. The reasons why will become clear in a moment. This mission does not involve any outside institution, government or whatever. This one is for N.I.M.R. and N.I.M.R. only."
That got the attention of the assembled officers.
"We are going back to South America, to Tabor Ulrich’s complex. The man refuses to answer questions or even give any information about the cyborgs, so we are going to go ourselves."
Seaview was the first to speak up. "Sir? Aside from information on the cyborgs technology, I would like to find more about Bridget Parker. There must be something of her left, if not in the backup computer files, at least some solid evidence of what happened to her. I think this would be important for her grand-parents to know."
Nelson looked at the blonde woman. "That is very generous of you, Severine, but I can’t promise that we will be able to tell them everything about what we find there." Seaview nodded and kept quiet after that, intent on what Admiral Nelson would require of her.
"I will need for you to draw up a map of the complex, with mentions of any details that could help us make this fast and efficient. Here is a listing of all I want to retrieve. If you think of anything else to be added, do so."
"Yes, sir." was her only reply.
"Now, will the boat be ready to sail?" Nelson asked, turning toward Crane and Morton.
"Yes, sir. All is in order. I gave the men permission for leave, with the warning that they must be back on board in three days." Lee said.
"And about that incident with the escape hatch?"
"Nothing was found. But I still think that it was a deliberate attempt to hurt Seav… Severine." Chip still had difficulties calling her by that name.
"Then we will have to be careful. Severine, in order to prevent that, you will always be working with someone else. Chief Sharkey will make up a schedule. " Nelson studied Seaview’s reaction to this, but none showed.
At this, Sharkey piped up. "Sir, Kowalski, Patterson and Haggen in engineering have worked with Severine before and they will keep an eye out for her."
"We will have to get to the complex pretty fast. From what I have been able to learn, some government agencies and outside groups want to find the complex and use the technology there to build up an offensive force." Nelson explained.
"An offensive force?" questioned Lee.
"Yes, I think this is where Severine comes in. There were several types of cyborgs, some of which were designed for combat or covert action. Can you imagine a fighting force like that? They would never consider surrender an option, certainly not for themselves and probably not for the opponent. There are enough weapons out there, which can be so easily misused, I just don’t want to add this to the list." Nelsons turned to Severine. "What can we expect as far as the different types of cyborgs to be found in the complex?"
Seaview’s voice was calm and precise as she explained to the men around the table. "There were several types : combat, maintenance, service, replacement, entertainment, with sub-categories in each. Maintenance will not even notice a human or report one, unless the human asks them to do so. You could be bleeding on the floor and they will clean up the blood, but will not offer assistance. Service were designed to clean, cook and any other functions that humans needed but chose not to do for themselves. They will obey any human and are incapable of hurting one. Replacement were the most complex and could make some decisions or choices. They had to take the place of someone and react as that person to events and people. All were deactivated when the complex computer was shut down. Combat are the most dangerous, since only total destruction will stop them. They are assigned to a specific human and will take orders from that person only. They will also protect ‘their’ human, but they have no decision making abilities. Entertainment is self-explanatory. No decision making, complete obedience to any human. Only Bridget was different, but I have no explanations for this. Perhaps Ulrich needed an administrative assistant and servant as well as unobtrusive body guard. When I took over, there was not much base personality, but the abilities were there."
Seaview seemed to hesitate for a few seconds. "I have no memories of Bridget, as far as who she was. My personality developed on its own, it was not programmed. My abilities as the controller and computer system manager of the boat allow me to take over any computer. This taking over requires both the knowledge and the will to make the programs alter their purpose. As long as part of me remains as either Severine or Seaview, I can come back. Complete transfer carries a very large risk of getting trapped in the other system."
"As for resistance in the complex itself, there should be no active barriers to us going back. Unless someone else has taken residence. There will be passive barriers, such as security locks on doors or firewall around computer data. There should be no problems for well informed teams to get in and out. I must be part of the landing party. It will be easier that way to access all the areas in which we are interested."
Nelson nodded, giving time to his officers to absorb what Severine just said. Only Chip seemed to know all this. Truth be told, he had been the only one listening to what she had to say from the beginning, so she was bound to have described her life as Bridget to him. What else had she told him? Nelson sighed, knowing that if anything Severine had said impacted on the mission, Morton would divulge the information.
"You and I are the only definite members of the landing party so far." Nelson said. "We will need to discuss who else will be coming along, but that can wait. Remember that this conversation does not leave this room and that we will be under radio silence once we are underway. Once we are out of the complex, everything must be destroyed beyond any hope of recovery. Any questions?"
"Actually, Admiral, I have one." Dr. Jamieson said. "Why am I even involved with this planning? This seem to be more of a military type operation than something that will require my services, if the landing party is hopefully careful." That last sentence was accompanied by a pointed stare at the captain.
"We will also be retrieving data on cyborg operations. And some parts, in fact, quite a lot. I don’t want to sound as a bad omen, but we will eventually need replacement parts for Severine. She is now a member of my crew and I intend to provide her with the same high level of medical care as anyone else that works for me. That is how you will be involved, Jamie, as well as somebody from engineering, who will be chosen later." Nelson answered.
Jamieson nodded and his face became pensive.
Nelson stood up, picked up the files in front of him and dismissed them. He had a lot of things to review and finish before leaving, and he did not want Angie to face everything alone.
Chip and Seaview walked toward his office and talked in low voices.
"So, you will get to go back. Are you sure you want to?" asked Chip.
"Yes, I want to. There are many questions that have answers there. Even if I did not want to go, the Admiral made it clear that this was a very important mission to him." Seaview said.
"I have to finish the repairs and modifications reports. I will see you later." Chip kissed her and Seaview headed for the boat. She too had work to complete before sailing.
Sharkey was beside her when she reached the conning tower. Climbing down the ladder, Seaview felt she was entering her true home. As much as she liked Chip’s apartment, the boat called to her, just like the sea called to the boat.
She went to the computer and reactivated her connection to the submarine. All was in order. It was very quiet with just a few crewmen on board. There was not much conversation or laughter or storytelling. No music, so Riley was not back yet.
While the higher ranking officers of the Nelson Institute were planning their next moves, the same thing was being done in Denise Richards’ living room. Eddy was interviewing her for her ‘exclusive’ story about being the unwitting victim of a vicious attack from the robot that belonged to Admiral Nelson.
"Really, it was kind of scary. I was just going to kiss my boyfriend, when this….this thing attacked me without any reason at all. I thought I would loose my arm, you know. There is no telling what that thing will do."
"And did your boyfriend intervened at any point in this?" asked Eddy, even if he knew the answer, but this was an interview. And since Denise wanted an interview before getting to more interesting subjects, by golly, she would have her interview. He even had hired some kid with a camera to make it look good. Denise was rather well equipped, so this would make a nice teaser for the front page.
"No, he did not. You should know that my boy friend was, and I say WAS, Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton, the Exec. on the Seaview. He is actually in love with that thing. A machine, a mechanical doll. Well, I never did everything he wanted me to do, but with that toy, he can get anything he wants, if you follow my drift." Denise was getting excited by the attention that was lavished on her. She preened a little for the camera and the photographer happily obliged her.
She never mentioned that all Chip Morton wanted was for her to be faithful. A trifling detail, at most.
So Denise continued her campaign to slander Chip Morton and his employer, Admiral Nelson.
"And now that thing is back in Santa Barbara, at the Institute. Someone I know there has been attacked too. I tell you, this thing is dangerous."
Eddy paid the kid for his time and the roll of film. Now that Denise had her interview, it was Eddy’s turn to get what he wanted.
The next day, the doorbell rang early at the Crane household. Lee went to the door and standing there was the elderly gentleman who was living a couple of houses away.
"Yes, is something wrong?" asked Lee, worrying that the older man was in trouble somehow.
"Not for me, but maybe you should read this. I was getting some milk at the convenience store and saw this. I thought you should know. Good day, Captain Crane. And I don’t believe one word of it."
Lee looked at his neighbor and then unfolded the newspaper he had just been given. On the front page there was a picture of Seaview and Chip, coming out of their apartment, and a smaller picture of Denise. The headline was "Robot girl steals boyfriend from flesh and blood woman". The article inside contained so-called information about Seaview and what was her role at the Institute and on board the boat. None of it was flattering. Lee bunched the whole thing into a tight ball and hurled it at the wall.
Gail retrieved the paper and read the headline. She was stunned and enraged. But mostly she was sorry for her friends, they did not deserve this.
"Lee, what are we going to do?"
"I have absolutely no idea. We are leaving late today and there is not much I can do between now and then."
"That woman is the lowest form of life I ever met. Whatever Chip saw in her, I will never know."
"Chip is too honest and kind for his own good. He can’t imagine people being devious for personal gain. I hope this doesn’t get between him and Seaview."
The Cranes were not the only ones to get a rude awakening. When Seaview answered the door, the building manager asked for ‘Mr. Morton’. Chip, coffee in one hand, invited him in.
The poor man didn’t know how to start. What if that robot was really dangerous?
"Well, you see, it’s like this. I had several people come to me this morning and they want you to move out." He finished his phrase and winced, expecting to be attacked.
"Move out? What are you talking about?" Chip asked, completely confused by this turn of event.
The manager gave him a folded paper and Chip opened it. His face became expressionless. Seaview had seen that reaction before, she knew he was angry. Very angry. She went to him and put her hand on his arm. "Chip, can I help?" asked Seaview.
The manager was surprised by the tone of her voice. It showed concern and care. Was the paper wrong? It usually was, since it announced recently that someone at seen Elvis in Hollywood.
Seaview read the headline. "You are in trouble again, because of me. I am sorry. I will move to the boat, then you will be able to stay here."
Chip looked at his precious Seaview. He had been through too much to let her go. He took her in his arms and spoke softly. The manager could barely hear what he said, but he heard enough.
"Seaview, I said that you were free to leave at anytime you wanted to. But please, stay. I love you and I want to be with you. We will find somewhere else to live. Will you stay?"
"Yes, Chip, I will stay with you. I love you too, but what can we do? We are scheduled to board in a few hours."
"Huh, Mr. Morton?" the manager cleared his throat. "You can stay. You are a good tenant, never had complaints about you before and this one is not really justified. Tempers will have cooled down by the time you come back." He nodded to Seaview and left.
Chip sighed and tried to think a way out of this mess. Seaview was right. They were leaving in a few hours, there was nothing to do in such a short time. It would have to wait until they got back.
He smiled at Seaview. "Get your bag, I’ll make sure everything is secure here and we’ll head to the boat. Lee will probably be there already, with a long list of things to do. And I have to make sure all the men make it back on time."
She nodded and went to get their bags. She did not need many things, so she only had a small backpack. Her uniform was different from the regular crew, mostly similar to the officer’s, but light blue instead of khaki. There was a pin on the collar, designed to look like a circuit board. Nelson had given it to her earlier in the week, saying that since she was officially in charge of the computers, she should have the trappings of her profession.
They got to Chip’s car, only to discover that it had been covered with some sticky substance and paper strips. They removed most of it with a garden hose and then went to the car wash.
During all that time, Seaview had not said one word, quietly helping Chip with his car. She knew she was the cause of the trouble, what she could not understand was the reason behind it. She was hoping to talk with Gail about this. Her friend knew many things and would help her to understand. She would call from the boat, there would be time enough for a conversation before they set sail.
Chip called the apartment manager, explained the situation and asked him to pack everything in the apartment while they were gone and have it put in storage somewhere and to coordinate with Angie at the Institute. He did not want anything else damaged by whoever did this. He also asked Angie to find something suitable somewhere in the Institute housing. Maybe a small house or even one of guest cabin near the beach. He knew Seaview would enjoy being near the ocean.
On board, Seaview went to put her things away in her cabin. She was still using the small guest cabin, the one Crane had given her before. When all was in order, she went to the control room, where the senior officers were already gathered around the plotting table.
"Severine, did you have time to finish all those remote headset connections?" asked Crane.
"Yes, Captain. They are in the smaller locker under the weapons locker. There are enough for all officers and crew chiefs, plus a few spares. Two of them are marked with the same design as my pin, they are the direct access to the boat computers. Only I can use them, humans would only hear high pitched noises and sometimes static-like sounds. The headsets will operate anywhere on board. I also monitor sound levels in all areas, so if someone needs assistance, they just have to call out."
"Thank you, now, we will be getting underway in 6 hours. Is all the crew in?"
"Only a few are missing, but there has been no call to advise of delays or someone not making it." Chip replied. It felt good to go back to the routine of running Nelson’s submarine.
Crane dismissed the officers but signaled Seaview and Chip to join him in the observation nose. Closing the blast doors for privacy, he then turned toward his friends.
"You read it too, didn’t you?" asked Chip. No need to ask for more details.
"Yes, a neighbor rang the doorbell early this morning and gave me the paper. You?"
"Apartment manager, asking us to move out because the other tenants complained. I asked Angie to find something for us by the time we get back. All our stuff will be in storage until then."
Crane nodded. He had hoped that this whole thing would be forgotten by now, but apparently, Denise was just getting the steam going.
"Maybe it would be better if I remained on the boat for a while after we are back from this mission. I never wanted to cause this much trouble for anyone. I do not know what to do now. This is very confusing. Why is Denise hurting Chip that way?" Seaview asked.
"Seaview, some people do not take rejection very well. We will have to find a way to make her stop, but I am at a loss as to what action to take." Chip said to her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders.
The intercom came to life as Sparks announced an incoming call for Captain Crane. Lee took it right away.
"Lee, it’s me, and I think I found a solution." Gail’s voice had a very satisfied sound to it.
"Gail, Severine and Chip are with me now. Go ahead and tell us what your wonderfully devious mind came up with."
With a laugh, Gail told them that she would fight fire with fire. Mike Johnson, of N.I.M.R.’s public relations department, was to look into the life and times of Denise Richards. He would not handle the information himself, since it would look like a cover up by the Institute, but he had a couple of good friends at the Santa Barbara Tribune and other more serious papers.
Lee said good bye to his wife and closed the connection. Looking at Severine, he smiled. "I would not worry to much about Denise. By the time we come back, I am sure Mike and his staff will have a nice background story about her. Now, let’s finish all this before the Admiral comes on board."
Eventually they were underway toward South America and the cyborg complex. The crew was getting used to Seaview working along with them. She became quickly in high demand by the engineering staff, who appreciated her strength and her knowledge of the boat. Crane made sure that she did have time off, not because she really needed it, but since everyone on board was not on duty full-time, neither should she. However, like the officers, she would answer any request at any time.
Riley was glad to have someone who appreciated his music and would sing along, which Seaview was more that happy to do.
Seaview was closing the access panel to the torpedo firing system when Chip found her. She had not noticed him yet and he was enjoying looking at her working. He had to admit that he liked looking at her doing anything, period. He came closer and spoke softly, knowing she would hear perfectly well.
"Seaview, are you finished with the security check?"
"Yes, all is in order. Is there anything else that needs to be done?"
"Mmmmm… Maybe there is." Chip smiled.
Coming closer, Seaview looked in his eyes and returned his smile. "And that would be?"
"We are both off duty." dropping his voice even lower, Chip continued "And I was wondering if you would like to spend some time with me, just the two of us."
Not willing to touch him because they were not alone in the missile room, she nodded and followed.
Patterson and Kowalski had been working on the diving equipment, keeping an unobtrusive watch on Seaview, when Mr. Morton had walked in. They looked at each other and winked.
Back in his cabin, Chip took Seaview’s face between his hands and kissed her. Her hands started caressing his back and sides. Chip’s kisses became more passionate with every passing second and Seaview’s fingers were finding their way inside his clothes.
"I love you, my Seaview, my so very beautiful Seaview." Chip whispered in her ears, trailing a series of kisses on her neck and shoulder.
It did not take long for them to be enjoying each other on his narrow bunk. She loved to tangle her fingers in his hair. He kept it short but that did not stop her from combing it carefully back to a presentable appearance.
Holding her close to him, Chip leaned against her shoulder. She was lithe, trim and small, but she was so strong. That was always a surprise to him, even if he was very well aware of her physical abilities.
Chip fell asleep and was not aware of Seaview getting up and leaving his cabin. Admiral Nelson had requested her presence in the lab and saying that she was in Chip’s bed would probably not be an acceptable excuse. At least the summons had not come while they were making love. She was not sure if Chip would have been either willing or able to let her go.
Seaview walked into the Admiral’s lab, where Haggen, from engineering, and Dr. Jamieson were already working. Coming closer to the lab bench, Seaview saw that they were reviewing schematics. Hers.
Nelson came close to her. "Severine, unless you have an objection, Haggen will be helping Doc to take care of you, in case you are damaged."
She turned to Nelson. "I have no objections." She liked Haggen, he was very competent and trustworthy. Haggen was her first choice anyway, since someone other than Jamieson had to be her ‘physician’. Perhaps the Admiral had noticed how well they worked together.
After several days, they finally arrived at their destination. There was an underwater entrance into the cyborg complex and they would be using FS-1 to get there. Two other people would be going with Seaview and Nelson. Kowalski, because he was an excellent pilot for the flying sub, and Chip Morton, who had volunteered. And he was used to working with Severine.
The landing party was getting their equipment, which included the headsets, weapons and small electronic devices that Seaview called data dumps. When Nelson had questioned her about these ‘data dumps’, Seaview explained that once connected to a computer, they would hold an enormous amount of information, which could be sorted and analyzed at a later time.
Strapping themselves into the seats, they made ready for the launch procedures. They would remain submerged all the way to the complex, so if anyone else was looking for the complex, they would not leave a visible trail.
Crane watched the FS-1 leave and turned his attention back to the control room. They were now on their own. Hopefully, the whole complex was inactive and it would be a simple in and out mission. Then again, when was the last time something actually turned out to be simple?
Webster and Lauder were going over the final preparations for getting rid of Chip Morton and Seaview. It would have to wait until they were back, but it was to their advantage, better planning and all that. Webster was very busy fueling Lauder’s jealousy of Morton. By the time the FS-1 came back, Lauder would be in a murderous frame of mind.
The small yellow craft reached the underground pen which connected to the complex. The four occupants gathered their equipment and separated into two teams. Nelson and Seaview would be headed for the level that contained the cyborg repair/production facilities, Morton and Kowalski were to find the main computer and download all they could. If paper files were found anywhere, they had orders to take pictures of everything, even if it was not apparently important.
Wearing the communications headset, they started their search. Traveling together for the first two levels, Nelson and Ski got a hands-on appreciation of Seaview’s physical strength. At one point, an explosion had dislodged a large boulder which could not be moved. They would have to climb about 15 feet straight up, with no apparent purchase.
Seaview and Chip were not phased by this. She put her back to the boulder, linked her hands and simply pushed Chip to the top of the obstacle. She did the same for Kowalski and then Nelson.
The Admiral looked down at Seaview. "How do you plan to get up here now? We forgot to bring a rope to pull you up."
"Move back, sir." Seaview replied.
As Nelson left his spot near the edge of the boulder, Chip took his place. Seaview made a running jump and was neatly enfolded in his arms. Once he was sure she had regained her balance, he let her go.
Nelson was amazed at the easy and wordless way Morton and Seaview were working. Maybe the time they had spent together when in hiding had forged a bond stronger than anyone suspected. He sighed and ordered his small troop to continue forward, with Seaview in the lead.
They finally reached the first landing and each team went on its way. Kowalski noticed that Mr. Morton and Seaview did not even touch to say good bye, but the look they gave each other was like a kiss. He busied himself with his headset to hide his curiosity.
Seaview and Nelson traveled up two flight of stairs and entered the cyborg laboratories. There were several units at different levels of completion. Nelson started taking notes and collected samples of the different circuits and boards. Seaview busied herself with taking pictures and connecting the data dump to the lab computer. When it started whirring and clicking, she started to explore the other rooms.
In a room that was not easily seen from the main entrance, she found a new cyborg, ready to be activated. It still needed an appearance and obviously a personality download, since it was a replacement unit. This one would be male. The transfer connections and programs were in perfect working order. In fact the whole room was in top condition, apparently, the computer virus she installed had not affected this part of the complex.
A small movement to her left attracted her attention. Service cyborgs. That would explain the condition on the room. Two of them, one male, one female. Looking at them, Seaview engaged her headset and took control over them. She gave them specific orders and left the room. Nelson and the others must never know about this. This would be her secret, and hers alone, until it was needed, if ever.
Nelson was like a child in a candy store. He had found a damaged cyborg and was making a comparative study.
"Sir, maybe it would be wiser to take some of the cyborgs back to the boat. They are inactive and will never be in working order. And we can also take that one, that was damaged. It too will never reactivate. It will give you enough information about their inner workings, and you have me as a working model." Seaview said, not wanting to remain here any longer than she had to. She did not like the place, it made her feel trapped, somehow.
"Mmmm…. OK, can you take them with us?" he asked.
"I am scanning to find active cyborgs, either service or maintenance to do the physical work of returning your samples to the FS-1." Tilting her head, Seaview announced that a maintenance unit was on its way.
Morton and Kowalski were in the upper levels, searching for the main computers.
"Sir, I think I found it." Kowalski called.
"Looks like it. All right, connect the data dump and if it blocks somehow, contact Seav… Severine. She will make sure we get through any encryption or secure passwords." Morton went toward a back room and opened the door. Filing cabinets. Perfect.
He started going through the files and found the one Seaview wanted. Bridget Parker. Female, age 22, status : transferred. Location of body : incinerated. Chip said a short prayer for the young woman. She should have been with her grand-parents, making plans for her life. All that had been taken away. But he was also grateful to her, because she had given part of herself to his beloved Seaview. In a small plastic bag, stapled to the file, he found a silver locket. Opening it, he saw a picture of a man and a woman. Both young, they must have been Bridget’s parents. He put it in his pocket, with the intention of returning it to the Parkers.
File after file contained short biographies of people killed and used by Ulrich. Chip took pictures of all of them. It was beyond his understanding. How can anyone murder in such cold blood, taking the lives and dreams of young people and twist them to fulfill his demented plans?
After a while, Kowalski entered the room. He saw Morton standing in front of the cabinet, his hands on top of it, his head bowed.
"Sir, are you all right?" he asked.
Morton looked up at the sailor. "Yes, I am. Thank you. I was… praying I guess. Each of those file contains someone’s life. All those people gone, no one able to find out where or why. There will be many families to contact and to whom we will have to say that a loved one that was missing has been found, and will never come back."
Kowalski nodded and returned to the main computer. What Mr. Morton had said was sobering.
As much as she tried, Seaview could not get into some of the computer files, either from direct access or from any other way. Each time she thought she had finally reached the files and pathways she wanted, they erased themselves faster than she could download them. She looked at Nelson and shook her head.
"I am sorry sir, I cannot access all of the files." Her voice held a trace of frustration at her failure, but no fear. She would learn from this.
"That’s OK, we have more than enough to keep us busy for a while. Call back the other team and let’s get home." Nelson said. "And we have to plant the explosives, so that all of this is destroyed. Nothing must remain."
"Yes, sir." was Seaview’s only answer. She started laying the charges, knowing that Chip and Kowalski were doing the same.
They traced back the same way they came in. The maintenance cyborg was waiting for them near the FS-1, with the deactivated units. Nelson looked at the large, jumpsuit clad figure and made a decision.
"Severine, if we also take that one back with us, are you sure it has absolutely no personality or intelligence?"
"It has none. My personality was created by you, on the boat. It never came from the cyborg."
Nelson nodded. "All right, we are taking that one also. That will be my working model. The circuits and parts are compatible with you?"
"Yes, they are. Unless I am heavily damaged in a short while, you will have enough parts for replacement, until Haggen learns how to make new ones." Seaview replied.
They climbed into the flying sub and headed home. When they were far enough from the complex, Nelson activated the remote detonators and the mountain shook, burying Ulrich’s dream of a perfect world order.
Crane was relieved to see the landing party back safe and sound. For once, it had been a simple mission. Nice change of pace, he could get used to it.
Nelson’s ‘samples’ were delivered to his lab and Haggen and Jamieson went to work, cataloguing, testing, and just simply marveling at the technology before them. They came out of the lab only to eat and sleep, dragging a reluctant Nelson behind them. The Admiral would simply forget to take care of himself if Jamieson had not insisted. And the threat of confinement to sickbay had been an additional prod to get the Admiral out of the lab.
Seaview and Chip were talking quietly in the wardroom. He was finishing his coffee, waiting for her to react to what he had said. He had showed her Bridget’s file as well as the locket. She was turning it in her hands, delicately opening it. She did not know the couple on the photographs, and even accessing Bridget’s memories did not bring recognition. They were strangers, but in a way she had a connection to them.
She looked at Chip and he saw the confusion in her eyes. "Chip, do you think I would be allowed to talk to the Parkers? They will need to be told of their grand-daughter."
He lowered his cup and took her hand. "I will go with you. They need to grieve for their grand-daughter, for what was lost. Maybe meeting you will make them feel better."
Chip rose and started to leave, he was scheduled to be in the control room in twenty minutes. Seaview watched him go, then returned her attention to the file containing Bridget’s life. She did not know this woman, but she suspected she would have liked her. Did her liking for music and cooking come from her? Probably. Would Bridget have been able to love Chip, like she did? No, she had loved him before she even had the cyborg body.
Chief Sharkey walked across the room and sat in front of her. "Huh, Severine… I know this is none of my business, but, about the Parkers?"
She nodded and he continued. "Maybe someone else should go with you and Mr. Morton. I wasn’t trying to listen to your conversation, but I just thought you would like to have me along."
Seaview smiled at the man. "Yes, Chief, you are most welcome to come with us. I suspect this will be very difficult for them. And for Chip."
Sharkey then asked her about her plans for when they returned to Santa Barbara. While she was busy with the older man, Chip was making his way to the control room.
"Sir? Mr. Morton?"
Chip Morton turned and saw Emilio Lauder walking fast toward him.
"Yes, Lauder. What is it?"
"Out with it, I am due in the control room." Morton said. What was wrong with the man?
Lauder’s movement was too fast for Chip to react. He took a small gun out of his pocket and aimed it at the Exec. Without waiting for him to think or cry out, he fired three bullets in rapid succession.
Chip felt a burning pain in his left arm and shoulder, another in his left side. He could not make a sound, too shocked by what happened. He tried to fight the blackness that was surrounding him, but he failed. He called to Seaview, but he was not sure he could make himself heard.
Sharkey saw Seaview stiffen, her eyes wide. Then the boat screamed. All the officers wearing headset were stunned by the volume and pitch of the sound. Lee Crane was on his knees in the observation nose, trying to hold back the tears of pain. Carl Haggen was in the lab, retching miserably while Nelson was holding his head. In the circuitry room, the crew chief was screaming with the pain of punctured ear drums. There was a shudder that was felt by all the hands on board. As if the deckplates were shaking themselves apart. Lights went out and came back, systems crashed and rebooted.
Sharkey did the only thing he could think of. He slapped Seaview’s face. Silence, blessed silence.
Seaview looked at Sharkey, stunned. "Chip! NO!!" It was all he heard from her. She sprinted out of the wardroom and ran down the corridor, swerving to bypass the men in her way. She was the first to reach Chip Morton. She gathered him in her arms and ran to Sickbay.
Jamieson was getting swamped with requests for help from all over the boat. He was making his way to the door when Seaview entered, her precious burden leaving trails of blood on her clothes and the floor.
Dropping his first aid kit, Jamieson placed Morton on the examination table and went to work. A corpsman pushed Seaview aside and went to assist the doctor. IV’s were installed, replacing the lost blood, a tube was inserted in Chip’s throat, to help him breathe. Surgery began, even before the painkillers took full effect, there was not a second to lose.
Jamieson concentrated on the side wound, stopping the flow of blood, repairing the torn tissue. Then he turned his attention to the left shoulder. The artery had been nicked but had not been cut. There was heavy bleeding, but it was soon under control. The third bullet had entered the elbow and shattered some bones, but that could be repaired later.
Busy saving the life of the first officer, Jamieson was not aware of Seaview standing by, waiting. Sharkey had called Crane and Nelson and explained what happened. Both men ran toward Sickbay, dreading what they would find, if Seaview’s reaction had been anything close to reality.
Lee Crane was the first to reach Sickbay. He physically turned Seaview toward him, to get her out of her trance.
"Severine…Severine…SEAVIEW! Look at me!" When he saw the recognition in her eyes, he continued. "Report! What happened?"
Reacting to the authoritative voice of her commanding officer, Seaview’s sense of duty kicked in. "Commander Morton was heading for the control room, to take his shift. I was in the wardroom, with Chief Sharkey. I monitor all sound levels for the boat. I heard the gunshots, located where they originated and then I saw Chip on the floor. I brought him here." Her dark blue eyes were filling with pain. "I do not know who shot him, I had not activated video surveillance in the corridors, only in the restricted areas." She then bowed her head.
Crane sighed and wrapped his arms around her, not caring that Chip’s blood was now staining his shirt. Nelson came in and found them this way. He nodded to Crane and went to Jamieson.
"Jamie??" asked Nelson, his voice low, his concern lining his face.
"He is holding on for now. We are replacing the blood he lost and his blood pressure and pulse are climbing back up. If Severine had not brought him in as fast as she did, he would be dead. Here, these are the two bullets I found. The third one must be in the corridor wall or something."
"Lee, we have a someone on board who tried to kill Chip Morton. We have to find out who it could be. That man belongs in the brig." Nelson’s fury was rising. He may have had disagreements with Chip Morton, but he was rather fond of the blond officer. He did not want to lose him.
Crane took command of the investigation. All those who did not have two independent witnesses as to their whereabouts when the shooting occurred were suspect. He had convinced, no ordered, Seaview to disconnect herself completely from the boat, he did not want a repeat performance if Chip took a turn for the worse.
Jamieson and his staff were used to working around Seaview by now. She would not leave Morton’s side, spending hours playing in his hair, softly singing and talking to him. The doctor had noticed that she took extreme care not to touch the tubes or any other medical equipment. All her concentration was on Chip Morton. Nothing else mattered to her. Jamieson started to think that if Morton died, she would simply stop existing.
He had asked Crane to make sure that the way home was as smooth as possible. His patient did not need to be jostled around. Time was not as important as caution. So the mighty submarine was going home, slow and plodding, searching for the smoothest currents, taking detours if they could not be found.
Several of the crew came by Sickbay, to check on Mr. Morton. Jamieson instructed the corpsmen to give simple updates, but there had been no changes in the Exec.’s condition. He was stable, but still critical.
The search for the would-be murderer was not successful. The gun had not even been found, but it could have been expelled from the boat so easily. The perfect crime. Unless the man talked, they would not be able to find him. Or them.
They were about 24 hours from Santa Barbara when Chip started to regain consciousness. He fought against the tube in his throat and Jamieson removed it. Breathing on his own, he could only make a low moaning sound, filled with pain. Seaview was getting frantic, unable to help or make things even marginally better.
"Doctor Jamieson? Can you increase the dosage of the painkillers?" she asked.
"No, it would be too dangerous for his heart. And he has already reacted badly to the two others I have on board. If he becomes too agitated, I may have to put the restraints on him, so he won’t undo the surgical staples or the stitches."
Restraints? Seaview did not want her beloved Chip to suffer that. There had to be a way. When his trashing became too violent to Jamieson’s liking, Seaview went to the bedside, moved some of the tubes that were in her way and climbed on the gurney. Lying on Chip’s right side, she wrapped her leg across his and her arm around his chest. She started humming softly, and to Jamieson’s surprise, Morton calmed down and actually slept.
Chip felt Seaview’s body next to his, she was singing something but he could not make out the words. No matter. She was there. There was pain, he remembered the shooting, but not who had shot him. He was drowsy, and Seaview’s song lulled him to sleep.
Once they reached Santa Barbara, Chip was transferred to the Institute medical center and Seaview followed. Lee and Gail Crane were also frequent visitors.
With the proper medication and round the clock care, he made rapid progress. He identified his attacker as Emilio Lauder. The man had taken opportunity of the confusion at docking and made his escape. Since Ron Webster was his best friend, he was being questioned by the police, but nothing lead to an arrest. It could not even be proven that he was aware of Lauder’s plans.
Lauder had found refuge with Denise. She was not too thrilled about this, harboring a man suspected of attempted murder. And she had troubles of her own.
Eddy, bless his little lusty and greedy heart, had given her a much needed boost toward public recognition and fame. She wanted fame so bad, she could taste is. Fame was good, it brought money, or rather, men willing to spend money on her.
But, as the saying goes, you have to be careful what you wish for. She got more fame than she could handle. Somehow, the Santa Barbara Times had found out about her. That she had been arrested for possession of drugs in New York, as well as soliciting an under cover cop. And of course, they had to find those damn pictures. If it had been Playboy, she could have raised her nose and said that actresses do it all of the time. But it had been that fourth rate magazine that published the pictures.
She was being laughed at, the journalist at the Times had written that the whole thing about the N.I.M.R. cyborg had been invented out of spite. That the officer in question had just showed good taste in not continuing the relationship, as it was, with Denise Richards. She had even lost her job as a sales lady. And all of this was Chip Morton’s fault. And Lauder’s. That incompetent who could not even shoot fish in a barrel.
She started to pack her things, indifferent to Lauder’s whining about his situation.
"Shut up! I am leaving and you should split too. I don’t want to be seen with you, you loser!" she screamed at him.
"You bitch! I shot him for you! You belong to me!" Lauder yelled back.
The argument was rising in intensity when there was a knock on the door. Without thinking, Denise wrenched the door open and faced the two police officers.
Seeing the man behind her, they recognized him right away and told him to drop on the floor and freeze. Panicked, Lauder grabbed Denise and made for the kitchen, where he took a knife from the counter.
"Come any closer and the bitch is dead!"
The two officers looked at the situation and decided to ask for back-up. One of them remained with Lauder and Denise, trying to make the man release her, but to no avail. Eventually, a hostage negotiator arrived. Things started to go downhill from there. Lauder did not want to go to jail and had decided to die first. And he would take Denise with him. She was his, he had done all that she wanted.
Nelson and Crane arrived on the scene and the situation was explained to them.
"We can’t even use a sniper, there are no windows in the kitchen. And no one can be fast enough to get the knife out of his hands before he kills the woman." the sergeant in charge said.
Nelson rubbed his chin. "Yes, there is someone fast enough to move without him having the time to react. And strong enough to overtake him. Lee, get Severine here. And make sure that she understands the situation. I want absolutely no bloodshed."
"Yes, sir. But I am not sure she will appreciate that order." Lee replied.
"Who are you talking about? Who is this Severine?" the policeman wanted to know.
"She is a cyborg. The same one that was in all the newspapers. The man inside that apartment tried to kill her lov… my executive officer. I can only hope that her sense of duty will be stronger than her need for revenge." Nelson explained.
"Better be right, Admiral, better be right."
Lee Crane returned about fifteen minutes later, with Seaview. The police sergeant looked at a small, delicate, dark blonde woman. SHE was supposed to take over the man holding the hostage? Nelson had to be dreaming.
Camera crews had been arriving since the beginning of the crisis and someone recognized Seaview. Channel 3 News was broadcasting live from the scene. In a hospital room, on the other side of town, Chip Morton and Gail Crane were watching. And praying.
Seaview was told about Lauder holding the woman hostage. She would have to get him subdued and free the woman. Neither was to be harmed in any way.
"Yes, Captain. I understand. Lauder must be brought to justice. And I have no desire to harm Denise, even after all she has done to Chip. From what Gail told me, she is too stupid and ignorant to have a life of her own. So she depends on others to provide that."
Lauder had found a gun in Denise’s apartment and was threatening to shoot anyone coming through the door. He had not counted on facing a cyborg, whose mind had a tendency to take things literally. Seaview tied her hair in a ponytail and started climbing the outside of the building, her target being the bedroom window on the fourth floor. The cameras followed her ascent. She took no notice of them. All of Santa Barbara and most of the country followed the small cyborg, going up the brick wall at a speed that even experienced mountain climbers would have been jealous for.
She reached her destination and opened the sliding glass slowly, so no noise would betray her entrance. Everyone held their breath, waiting for something to happen.
All of a sudden, they heard a gunshot and then a body was thrown through the living room window. And stayed suspended in mid-air. Upside down. Seaview was holding Lauder by an ankle and shaking him, until he let go of the knife and gun he was still holding.
Police officers rushed into the apartment, to find Denise sobbing hysterically on the couch and Lauder screaming blue murder outside the window. When the sergeant approached Seaview, he was not too sure what to do. Crane came to his rescue.
"Seaview, please pull him back in." The pretty cyborg obeyed and let the man fall on his face. Crane smiled at the humor of the situation. "Now, we heard a shot. What happened?"
"Lauder saw me in the bedroom doorway and shot toward me. He missed me but he hit the stuffed bear on the bed."
"You were in a doorway and he missed you?" asked the sergeant. "The bear had to be directly behind you!"
"I believe the expression is ‘hit the deck’. And since I work in a submarine, it is rather appropriate, is it not?"
Lee Crane could not refrain from laughing. Seaview looked at him and winked. He put an arm around her shoulders. "Let’s go home. I think there is someone who is very anxious to have you back with him."
They crossed the yellow police tape and headed toward the Institute car. A journalist appeared in front of them.
"What is your connection to the Institute? How do you feel about being Admiral Nelson’s property? Do you actually have feelings?" he said, pushing his microphone toward Seaview. Not knowing what to do, she looked at the Captain and then at the Admiral.
Nelson nodded and Crane whispered something to her. Seaview turned toward the reporter.
"I work on the S.S.R.N. Seaview as computer specialist and systems controller. I am not Admiral Nelson’s property. Yes, I have feelings." Seaview answered truthfully. Let them jump to their own conclusions.
"But, the courts said that you are not a human being, that you are a machine and that you belonged to the Institute. Who is your owner then?" insisted the reporter. Nelson said ‘no’ in a very low voice, heard only by Seaview.
"I cannot divulge that information." she said. She walked around the reporter and climbed into the waiting car. She was silent and pensive on the way back. Why was it so important for her to be someone’s property? She understood that Chip was now her ‘legal owner’, but he had said that she was free to leave is she ever wanted to. Another thing to discuss with him, once he was released from the hospital.
But there was something even more important that she had to say to him. She had almost lost him for a second time. Walking into his hospital room, she was greeted by his smile. She went to his bedside and kissed him. Chip eagerly returned the kiss, with a promise of more to come once he was home.
"Chip, there is something you should know. Whatever decision you take, I will abide by it. But what I am offering is a gift to you, and no one else. No one should ever know about this. Do you promise?"
Surprised at her words, Chip promised to keep her secret. When she finished talking, she rose and left the room. His head was spinning. That was impossible!
He had refused her offer. She had not been mad or angry or disappointed. There was a faint trace of sadness in her eyes, but he was not sure if he had seen it.
One very hard task awaited Chip Morton when he got out of the hospital. Along with Seaview and Francis Sharkey, he went to meet the Parkers, Bridget’s grand-parents.
When he rang the doorbell, Seaview was standing a little to the side, out of sight from the door. Mr. Parker answered the bell and looked at the tall blond Navy officer in front of him. Then he recognized the man. He had been the one who had taken Bridget away, to protect her from the government and Admiral Nelson.
With a shaking voice, he asked Morton to come in. Then he noticed Sharkey standing there and invited him inside too. Standing in the doorway, Chip cleared his throat. This was not going to be easy.
"Mr. Parker, I came here to tell you that we found what happened to your grand-daughter. I am so sorry, but she was killed 2 years ago. Her remains have been incinerated and I can only return this to you." Chip gave the old man the locket he had found. His wife recognized it right away and started to cry, her husband putting a trembling arm around her shoulder.
He looked at Morton. "The woman who looks like our Bridget, is she all right? You were the one who ran away with her?" At Chip’s nod, he continued. "I wish we could tell her about our Bridget."
Sharkey knew an opening when he saw one. He opened the door and asked Seaview to come in. Standing in the entrance, she smiled at the elderly man and his wife. They opened their arms and she went to them. They dragged her to the couch and told her about their grand-daughter, about her life, her dreams, her friends and all that made her special. When Seaview realized that her love of music came from Bridget, she told the Parkers that Bridget had not died completely, that part of her was still alive in Seaview.
When they left the house, several hours later, it was a very quiet Seaview that was sitting next to Chip. Not knowing what else to do, he gathered her in his arms and leaned his cheek against her. She settled next to him and did not move all the way back to their small home.
They eventually settled into a small house with a backyard that had a magnificent view of the ocean. They could spend hours, holding each other and look at the waves during stormy nights. They also spent a lot of time making love, their need for each other growing, feeding on itself.
She worked along with him on the boat, answering to Severine, but being Seaview for him and him alone. Along with Crane and Nelson, they lived through discoveries and adventures, some too strange to be believed, some filled with heartache and loss.
When the Cranes had their first child, a daughter named Alison, Seaview and Chip became a second set of loving and doting parents. The same was true for Jonathan and Romilly. The three Crane children were given free rein of the Morton household, Aunt Severine being a constant and wonderful childhood companion. She never scolded, not did she ever become bored with their stories and antics.
Not having children of his own, Chip Morton was more than happy to help Lee and Gail. Little Alison was spoiled beyond reason and Jonathan had his every wish granted. Romilly, the smallest and youngest of the Crane brood, was showered with love and devotion. All three of them were secure in the knowledge that they were loved and wanted. All in all, a happy childhood.
During all this time, Seaview and Chip were an inseparable unit. They would work and play and love, never far from each other. When Chip started to feel older, finding gray hairs and lines on his face, he had worried that his eternally young Seaview would meet someone more to her liking. But she had remained. His physical need for her had diminished over the years, but he still needed to talk with her, still needed her kisses in the morning, still needed her love, in the many forms it took.
Many years passed and still, Seaview was by his side. Nelson had died several years ago. He still missed the man. And now Lee had taken his retirement, his eldest daughter, Alison, taking charge of the Institute. His son was commanding the new submarine that Harriman Nelson had designed but never seen completed. They had named it S.S.R.N. Nelson. A fitting name. Seaview had worked along the Admiral to finish the design. She called it her child. In a way it was, since she had been the original S.S.R.N. Seaview.
When the S.S.R.N. Seaview had been decommissioned, his beloved had stopped talking and singing for days. His sun had gone cold and he had tried very hard to make her happy again, to no avail. When Gail had mentioned Chip’s distress to her, Seaview had snapped out of her misery and focused her love on Chip.
With time, the Institute cyborg became an urban legend. Who knew or even cared if it was true? The people who were in charge of N.I.M.R. took great care never to mention those events of the past, always directing the public eye toward the present and the future.
Now, Chip had a hard time breathing. There was pain in his chest and abdomen. It would only get worse with time, the doctors had said. The chemotherapy and radiation treatments were slowing the disease, but not stopping it.
Lee and Gail were with him, each holding a hand. Lee could hardly believe that the thin, emaciated husk on the bed was Chip Morton. The same man who stood in the control room, his legendary calm like the quiet center of the storm. Lee’s best friend and brother. Only his blue eyes remained the same. Now they were glazed with pain. When they left, Gail kissed him softly on the forehead. "Good bye, Chip. I will be back tomorrow." She did not expect an answer. Chip had stopped talking a long time ago. He would make an effort for Seaview, but for no one else.
Alison Crane had come earlier and had agreed to take ‘ownership’ of Seaview when Chip died. She would never see ‘Aunt Severine’ as a machine. There was a lot of love between the two of them.
The Cranes were coming out of the hospital wing when they saw Seaview walking toward them. Gail hugged her. Lee gave her a kiss. Without a word, they let her go to Chip’s room.
When he saw her enter his room, Chip’s eyes filled with joy. His Seaview. His beautiful, loving Seaview. He would never understand why she had chosen to stay with him when the diagnostic came down. But she was there. She would sing and talk to him and caress him. It was his sole reason for living. Her kisses still made his head spin and his heart beat faster.
"Chip, do not try to talk yet. I want to tell you what Alison said. She told me you asked her to be my owner, years ago, if ever you were killed in duty. I understand why you did that and you could not have made a better choice. But you should know that my life is with you, only you. I have no intention of continuing without you. We have been together a long time and if there is a chance that I can be with you forever, I will take it. I love you Chip. That is the only thing you should know. And I will keep loving you whatever happens, or wherever you are."
He was trying to understand what Seaview was saying. Then it hit him. She would die with him. When he had been shot on the boat, Lee had told him that her reaction had been felt by everyone. He could not bear to have her die. She was too precious, too beautiful to die. He remembered that time, when he finally was strong enough to talk. She had offered a gift then. He had refused, but now? If he decided to accept, she would live. His Seaview would live. He took a breath, hoping she would understand his words, he was so weak.
"Love, I accept your gift." he said, all his strength going into those five words.
Seaview looked at her lover, her friend. She caressed his cheek, kissed his lips. "I will be back soon. I have to get one of the flying subs." She left and went to the Institute.
She climbed into the pilot seat and prepared for take off. A light came on, indicating an incoming transmission.
"This is Alison. What are you doing?"
"I need the FS-4. I am taking Chip with me."
"WHAT? This will kill him. I can’t let you do that."
"He is dying already, Alison. Please, this is what he wants. Let me obey his commands. Please."
Alison was silent. She looked up to see her father’s eyes. They were filling with tears, like hers were. She nodded and held back her sobs.
"Go ahead, Seaview. I will make the arrangements. When will you come back?"
"I am not sure. I will return the FS-4 on automatic pilot. Good bye Alison. I love you."
With that, the radio was silent. Alison got up and went into her father’s embrace, once again being a little girl, whose father could mend anything. But not a broken heart.
The FS-4 was lost to the radar screens when it dived under the blue-green waves of the Pacific Ocean. It returned three days later, automatic pilot engaged. Inside, Alison found only Seaview’s circuit pins and Chip’s dolphins. They were gone. They would never know that she was now carrying another generation of Cranes. But she would tell her child about Chip and Seaview Morton, about their devotion to each other and to their duty.
Nicholas Crane was walking up the steep hills that surrounded the protected inlet. His grand-mother had told him to take this path, that it was peaceful and that sometimes, the best adventures were in your back yard. These hills, as well as the plains beyond, the inlet and a large portion of the coast had been purchased by N.I.M.R. over the years and was considered a protected habitat. Even the ocean was under the Institute protection.
When Admiral Harriman Nelson had died without children, all he owned had been given to Lee Crane and Chip Morton. Somehow, only the Crane family was in charge of the Institute. Nicholas knew that Morton and his wife had died a long time ago, but they never had children of their own. Grand-mother Alison had known them. She has promised to show him some pictures, when he got back from his hike. His father, Mitch, had not been born when they passed away.
Nicholas was now 15 years old, a tall and lanky youth, who still needed filling out. He had dark brown hair that tended to curl when wet and golden-brown eyes. Grand-mother Alison said that he looked like her father.
Finally reaching the top of the first hill, he saw a small cabin, with a slender drift of smoke coming out of the chimney. What was going on here? No one was supposed to be in the park. He decided to investigate. His grand-mother would have to know about this.
He came to the cabin and, gathering the courage of his 15 years, knocked on the door. A tall man answered him. A woman was inside, reading.
"Would you be Nicholas Crane, by any chance?" the man asked.
"Huh, how do you know? Who are you?" the boy was at a loss.
"We have known you family for a long time. We are employed by the Institute. Think of us as park rangers. The area is tempting to poachers, so we try and keep them away."
"Oh. You know of my family?"
"Yes, would you like to hear some of the stories we have about them?" asked the woman. She invited him inside their small cottage and offered him a comfortable chair.
Nicholas thought that she was beautiful. Her voice was warm and kind. Too bad he was too young and, anyways, she was living with the tall man.
"Do you know much about Lee Crane?" she inquired.
"He was my great-grand-father and he commanded the Seaview, the first Institute submarine." the boy replied.
The woman nodded and started talking. She told stories of incredible discoveries, adventures that were almost impossible to believe. The man also had stories about Lee Crane. Some were really funny, others were more somber. When the night fell, he was invited to stay for dinner and to sleep over. They would walk him back to the Institute the next day. His hosts did not eat with him, but made sure he had a full stomach and a comfortable bed.
The next morning, Nicholas was welcomed to the breakfast table and given a gourmet meal. The two rangers, the man wearing khaki shirt and pants, the woman in light blue, walked him back to the Institute. They told him to come at any time, he would always be welcomed.
When he saw his grand-mother, he told her about the two strangers living in the park, of their stories and how nice they had been to him. The elderly Crane smiled at the younger one and waved to him to follow her. She took a photo album, the pages brittle with age.
Turning the pages, he saw pictures of the first submarine Nelson had built, of Captain Phillips, of his great-grand-father, Captain Lee Crane. He was not really paying attention, but one picture jumped out and grabbed him.
It showed Lee Crane, tall, dark, with smiling eyes, wearing a dress blue uniform. Beside him were a tall blond man, with light blue eyes, and a small woman, dark blonde, with sapphire eyes. They too were wearing dark blue uniforms.
"That man, I am sure I know him!" the boy said, almost shaking.
Alison looked at the picture. "Ah, that is uncle Chip and the woman is his wife, aunt Seaview."
Not really paying attention to what his grand-mother was saying, the boy was trying to reconcile the people in the picture with the two strangers. Then what Alison Crane had said made his way into in mind.
"Yes, aunt Seaview. She was a cyborg, her personality emerged from the boat. She became uncle Chip’s wife, or as close as it could be, since she had never been given status as a human. She was legally his property, but he never saw her that way. They loved each other beyond anything I ever saw or felt."
"They look a lot like the park rangers. What happened to them?"
"When Chip Morton was dying, Seaview disappeared, taking him with her. We searched for them for a long time, until my parents remembered something that had happened not long after Seaview became sentient. We found them in South America and they agreed to come back to Santa Barbara with us."
"It’s them, isn’t it?" he asked softly.
"Yes. They are the keepers of our memories. They are the soul that binds this family together. When your younger brother and sisters reach your age, they will also be told to take a walk in the park, to meet them. And you can go talk to them at any time. Listen to them, they have not only experience and knowledge. They have kindness and love. And that they will share with you if you want."
"Tell me their story, I want to know. Chip Morton was a real man. What happened?"
"Yes, my dear, he WAS a real man. He could be injured, he became older. Seaview never aged, she remained as she was, forever young and beautiful, but her loyalty to Chip never wavered. I don’t think it is my place to tell you what happened to them when they disappeared. You should ask them, it is Chip’s story, after all."
Allison got up from the couch and went to the bookcase. She reached for an unmarked book on the top shelf.
"Here, read this. It was written by Captain Lee Crane. He called it Seaview’s Song." Alison put a leather-bound book in his hands. It was not typed, but handwritten. The writing was clear and precise, each line flowing into the next. It told a lot about the man who wrote it. Nicholas kissed his grand-mother and went to sit on the back porch.
After dinner, without a word to his grand-mother, he returned the book and prepared a backpack.
"You are going to them, aren’t you?" Alison asked him.
"Yes, I want to know about them, about us." he answered.
"You are the first to do that, you know. No one ever returned for more than a few hours at a time, or even a whole day."
"Don’t they get lonely?"
"Perhaps, but they never mentioned it. For the longest time, you father would ask them to come along on a mission, on the S.S.R.N. Nelson. Each time, they would go. Something happened and Mitch never asked them again. I tried to find out, but your father is as stubborn as mine was. Whatever happened changed Mitch. That may be the reason your mother left him. I don’t know, he never would talk about it."
The teenager kissed her good bye and went toward the trail. Knowing about the past would help him find the way to the future. It would help him make sense of the confusion in his life.
He reached the cottage and knocked on the door. When the woman opened, he smiled at her.
"Hello Aunt Seaview. Can I come in and stay for a while?"
"Yes, we have been waiting for you a long time."
Nicholas Crane would remember those weeks with his uncle and his aunt as the happiest time in his life. He felt loved, protected and wanted. Whatever happened to make his father so distant from him and the rest of the family did not matter here.
Chip Morton had told him what happened when Seaview took his dying body to South America. He had been given a new body, a new life. He had chosen it out of love for Seaview. And he never regretted his choice.
Young Nicholas had fallen asleep. Chip and Seaview went outside, walking in the forest they knew so well. Near a small lake, Chip took her in his arms and kissed her. Her response was immediate and thrilling. All those years together had not diminished their love or their need. Making love was just as new as the first time. But it was better now. She was not afraid of hurting him anymore.
"I love you, my Seaview." he whispered.
"And I love you, Chip." She answered, her sapphire eyes sparkling with love.