(Sequel to ‘Secret Agent Man’)
Author’s note: Warning! Warning! This is a risqué’ story, contains mature innuendo, with ‘anatomically correct ’ and slang terminology, and a few rather intense dramatic scenes, but it is not intended to shock your sensibilities. The story takes place within a few months of ‘Secret Agent Man’.
“You’re looking well this morning,” Angie said as Admiral Nelson entered the ground floor lobby of NIMR, “Did you have a good time at the Dude Ranch, sir?”
“Splendid! I’ll take that box, Miss McPherson,” he entered the elevator with her.
“How was the fried rattlesnake, sir?”
He grinned, “I can’t say I liked it. Must be a mental block. Everybody else said it was very tasty, and I must admit it did taste a little bit like chicken.”
“Perhaps it’s an acquired taste?”
“Perhaps,” he said as the elevator opened onto Officer’s Row and they walked towards his suite.
Lt. Cmdr. Chip Morton looked
at his watch again in NIMR’s
conference room, and shook his head. “I
guess we’d better get started. Now, you all have the new specs and....” “Sorry
I’m late,” interupted Cmdr. Crane, “please continue Mr. Morton.”
“Sorry I’m late,” interupted Cmdr. Crane, “please continue Mr. Morton.”
“As I was saying, the new specs....are you all right Captain?” he asked as Lee had finally made it to his chair and gingerly sat down, wincing as he did so.
“I had a minor accident over the weekend.”
“Cheesh,” Ensign Connor muttered to Lt. O’Brian, “You’d think Nelson would’ve put him on the sick list, let him sleep in or something...”
“It wasn’t that kind of accident,” Crane said, and sighed, “My hearing is excellent gentlemen. You may as well know. I’ve never ridden a horse in my life. Something startled it on the trail and it threw me. Right on top of a cactus patch,” he chuckled, “I spent most of the time at that Dude Ranch pulling needles out of my tusch.”
Lt. O’Brian interrupted the laughter in the room. “Are you sure you got them all, Skipper? “It’s kind of important, I mean, I’ve heard of some pretty nasty infections from cactus quills.”
“I’m fine. I’m sure I got most of the ones the nurse missed. She smothered me in so much Iodine none would dare try to make me sick.”
“Gentlemen,” Morton said, “If we can return to the business at hand?”
“Sorry, Chip. Go ahead.”
“As I was saying...”
“Excuse me,” Angie’s voice came over the intercom, “Will Captain Crane please report to Admiral Nelson.”
It was slow going for Crane to even lean over far enough to reach the intercom. Morton finally did it for him, “He’ll be right there Ang.”
“Thanks, carry on,” Lee said as he practically hobbled out. At least Nelson’s office was just across the hall.
“Maybe Frank should take a look at him,” Ensign Connor said. “I mean, just to be on the safe side.”
“Belay that,” Morton said. “He said he was fine. Now, let’s get back to business. The new specs were designed by Heath and Sons and...”
“Is the Skipper with you?” Chief Jones’ voice interrupted from the PA,“we got a glitch down here and....”
“He’s with the Admiral. What’s the problem?” Morton asked.
“Uh, no thanks sir. We’ll wait for him.”
“As I was saying,” Morton continued after a moment, “The...”
“Chip?” Nelson’s voice came through, “when you’re done there, I’ll need the last two hull inspection logs and the......oh? Thanks, Lee. Never mind.”
If Morton was perturbed at this latest interruption he gave no sign of it. “Now, the reconfiguration follows the same basic design plans but with one or two exceptions. These should allow for a higher efficiency and...”
“I’m sorry to interrupt, Chip,” Angie’s voice said, “but the University Whale Watchers Club is here for their private tour. I told them you’d been delayed but...”
“I’ll be right there. We’re done here, unless that is, there’s an earthquake or a tsunami or some other damn thing to interrupt us!” he clicked off the intercom. “We’ll try again tomorrow at 1000 if that’s not too early for anyone for anyone to get here on time. Dismissed gentlemen.”
“Ouch,” Ensign Connors whispered. “What gave him a wedgie all of a sudden?”
“Well” Dr. Sarah Wilson said, “I think it might have been better to destroy the animal, than to just let it vegetate here.”
“Somehow,” Chip bent down and
rubbed the whale’s tongue, “I don’t think Hugo would agree. He’s been
domesticated all his life. We did try to teach him the basics, but he was
already a crusty old codger when we bid for him at
“Just like me,” Admiral Nelson appeared, “Ladies, gentlemen, please feel free to wander around, ask Commander Morton any questions. Good to see you again, Sarah,” he said with a trace of irritation and motioned her to follow him, “I can’t believe you’re here merely to tour the facilities.”
Chip didn’t even want to
envision the confrontation to come as the two vanished into the
“How’d the reconfiguration meeting go?” a slightly flushed Nelson asked Chip in his office soon after Dr. Wilson’s and her group’s departure.
“I’m afraid it didn’t. We ran out of time before it really even started. I’ve rescheduled it for tomorrow.”
“Of course. Lee told me he was late,” Nelson said then started to laugh, his good humor returned, “I wish you could have been at Uncle Jack’s, Chip, I had no idea Lee knew so many epithets! That Dude Ranch’s cactus patch wounded far more than his behind when the nurse treating him happened to be a real looker. I’ve never seen him so embarrassed, especially when she seemed to take an inordinate amount of time treating him. Odd, I’ve never been able to figure out what women fine so damn appealing about a man’s butt! You know,” he grinned, “from what I gather, even Miss McPherson has a thing for yours...something about you being in what did she call it...the ‘tight pant’s club’? I was just starting to head out of the office one day, when I noticed she and some of her friends looking out the window. It was raining, your uniform was soaked, you had to bend down to pick up your cap, and, well, she liked what she saw;they all did. Who can figure; Probably some kind of hormonal thing. So, what’s the problem in Engineering?”
“How should I know? Curley wouldn’t tell me anything, said he’d wait for the Captain.”
“You know, Chip,” Nelson said after a moment, “if I didn’t know you better, I’d say by your tone that you’re seeing a little green.”
“You...you think I’m jealous? Of Captain Crane?”
“A little. I know it’s taken some time getting used to his way of doing things these few months, and maybe you’re even a tad... resentful? Chip, he’s the obvious choice for Jones to call on about the configuration conversion. Lee’s last boat was built by Heath and Sons. He’s bound to be more familiar with their system nuances, that’s all.”
“Of course, sir, I’m sorry I sounded...well, it’s just...I think Curley could have at least told me what the problem was. I’m not ignorant...”
“I’ll have a word with him....”
“That won’t be necessary, please sir...I can’t apologize enough. I didn’t mean to sound....”
Whatever Chip was going to say was put on hold as the two emerged from Nelson’s inner office into the outer. Crane was standing, leaning, rather, over Angie, arm braced against the bookshelf. In Chip’s mind, the Captain looked like a panther, poised over its prey. It didn’t help that Angie was positively bubbly, as she looked up at him, explaining the intricacies of the staff scheduling system. Crane noticed the men and smiled.
“Angie was just telling me you have standing tee time at the Country Club, Admiral. I was wondering if you might like a caddy or partner sometime? I’m probably worse at golf than horseback riding, but I could use the exercise, once I can move faster than a snail, that is.”
“That would be great, Lee,” Nelson said, pleased. “I’ll look forward to it.” He nodded and returned to his inner sanctum.
“I need your engineering report, Captain,” Chip said.
“Oh, that. It was only a small wiring disparity; the new motherboards will take care of it. I don’t think a report’s required...”
“It’s SOP for NIMR. I need it in triplicate for the files.”
“Very well. I’ll be right there,” Crane said but continued his
chat with Nelson’s Administrative Assistant. “So, Angie. How about that
kayaking trip with me in the
“I’ll be ready any time you are Cap...Lee,” she corrected herself.
Crane flashed her a dazzling smile and preceded Chip to Morton’s office, as the XO stood to one side, the picture of military courtesy.
When the two men got to Morton’s office, Chip went over to the window, his back to Crane, his hands on his hips.
“Well, where’re the forms? Lee asked impatiently.
“There, in the top tray,” Morton turned, frowning.
“Thanks....is something wrong? You look like you swallowed a prune pit or something.”
“Nothing’s wrong Captain.”
“My name’s Lee, Chip. I’ve told you that I pref...”
“I’m only used to calling my friends by their given names, sir.”
“All right,” Crane said coolly, and leaned his hands on the desk, “what gives? You can’t be upset because I couldn’t drag myself to the meeting on time. In case you haven’t noticed, my butt’s so sore I can hardly walk, drive, do anything....”
“You could have called. We wasted over an hour waiting for you that we could have been doing other jobs. Important jobs. And in case you’re unaware of it, Angie’s my girl.”
“Angie didn’t menti..”
“And I’m the Engineering Officer for Seaview. You know that technical problems should be routed through to me before taking up the Captain’s valuable time and...”
“But the Chief...”
“And I usually partner the Admiral
for golf, among other things.”
“So,” Lee leaned back against the wall. “That’s what this is all about? I hadn’t taken you for the green eyed monster and/or brown noser type. I wouldn’t have figured it of you...no, don’t bother to explain. Okay then, I’ll give the Admiral my apologies about the golf game. I’ll even tell Curley to bring up any minor engineering problems with you first, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to cancel a date with the most beautiful girl in the world because you think you two are an item! If you were, she would never had agreed to go out with me in the first place. Now, is there anything else you don’t like about me that I should be aware of?”
“And if there is?”
“I’d prefer you to tell me, right here, right now,” Crane said coolly, “but if you want to keep it bottled up, that’s your prerogative. But whatever it is, I expect you to keep it outside of our working relationship. I need an XO who doesn’t rely on stupid emotions over common sense, especially when we’re at sea. Is that clear Commander Morton?”
“I’ll be in my office if you need me,” Crane said.
“Honest,” Clarke said as he had another beer with a group of his buddies at a local bar & grill that evening. “I heard every word. I was installing that new paging system just outside in the corridor. When the Skipper said he was damned if he’d cancel his date with Miss Angie I thought Morton would blow a gasket. They were at dagger points with each other all day.”
“Well I can’t blame Morton,” Malone said, “after all, he’s been going out with her since forever.”
“So why’d she accept the Skip’s date?” Clarke asked, “I don’t see any engagement ring on her finger, have you?”
“Maybe she’s just...”Ski hesitated, “fishing.”
“You know, ‘fishing’...for a little more fun, a little more excitement,” Ski said, “Maybe she’s bored with Morton. Wants a little more attention, some action, maybe she even wants to make him jealous. I mean, all they seem to do together is have dinner, and the odd movie. Here comes tall, dark, and handsome, a lean mean fighting machine, Secret Agent, and Submarine Captain all rolled into one, and he asks her out for a weekend of kayaking, a little sightseeing, and even some cave diving in some of the most beautiful islands off the California coast. ”
“Among other things too, I bet,” Malone snorted.
“I hear Morton’s not exactly milquetoast in that department...”Clarke said.
“Oh she knows that,” Ski said, “But Crane asked her out, he didn’t just assume she’d go out with him, like Morton does. Girls like to be...pursued a little. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about.”
“Can’t disagree with you there, sharp eyes!” Malone said.
“Ski,” Clarke said concerned, “what if they don’t make it up, the Skip and Morton; it’s gonna be damn hard on us if they keep spitting tacks at each other like they did today. Nelson’ll have no choice but to decide between them, and how the hell’s he gonna’ be able to that?”
“Look,” Ski said, “For all we know they’ve already shook hands and put it all behind them. After all, they’re career professionals. They’re not gonna’ toss it all away over a girl.”
“Ever hear of Helen of Troy?” Clarke said. “There was a war started over her.”
“Miss Angie’s nice to look at, but she’s hardly Helen of Troy,” Ski said.
“The Skipper called her the most beautiful girl in the world,” Clarke said.
“We’re sunk,” Malone groaned.
“Then why?” Crane asked, confused, as he sat across Nelson’s vast desk the next morning. “Why take on this expedition if you don’t want to? And it’s out of your pocket; the University’s not involved. This Dr. Wilson’s not even on the faculty anymore, you said.”
Nelson bit his lip then ran a hand through his hair, “That’s beside the point. If she’s correct in her assumptions about this seaweed spore mutation in the cross currents she’s been investigating, it could be the key to ending world hunger. Lee, I designed Seaview for missions just like this. Research, plain and simple. It was simply a quirk that she’d developed into a missile carrier and has been a secret weapon most of the time. Dr. Wilson just doesn’t have the resources for a more in depth search. I’d be an idiot not to take this on, even if there may be some difficulties,” he added, deep in thought.
“Well,” Lee said, “I hope you know what you’re doing. Professional differences aside, did you know Curley called her the ‘Iron Matron’, and that he’s requesting shore leave for the duration? Most of the crew is. Even Morton wants off, but I doubt that’s his reason....”
“Admiral,” Angie’s voice came over the PA, “Professor Wilson is here. I told her that the appointment was for but...”
“Harriman,” the professors’ voice preceded her as she barged into Nelson’s office uninvited, “that stupid girl and sailor at the desk said I had to wait and ....Lee?” she exclaimed, as Angie and Malone almost bumped into her from behind.
“Sarah? Sarah Macklin?” Lee embraced her delightedly and spun her around easily, “There’s got to be some sort of mistake,” he said, “You can’t possibly be this ‘Iron Matron’!”
“Libeling? What are you doing here?
“I take it you two know each other?” Nelson asked, “Liebling?”he added, confused.
“It’s a term of endearment,
Harry. “It means ‘little loved one’. My German
grandmother doted on him. And the name rather stuck. We went to school together
when I lived in
“I was 13,” Lee explained, “It began as a bet one of my chums made. At that age girls were downright spooky. A kiss to prove my bravery to my pals was a huge undertaking. And I quite enjoyed it.”
“I fully expected him to marry me and carry me off on his stupid sailboat to some far away land across the sea, and give me a houseful of beautiful babies one day,” she smiled, “Then as now,” she looked at him with a soppy grin, “he was a real cupcake!” she swatted his behind.
“Agghhggh!” Crane gasped.
“And a big ham, it was just a little pat and.....” she noticed the concern on everyone’s faces, “you....you’re’ not joking are you? What....”
“Sorry,” he caught his breath, “a vicious cactus jumped up and attacked me over the weekend...long story,” he tried to make light of it and regain a little composure.
“So,” she asked, “what are you doing here? You wouldn’t know a paramecium from a protozoa! All you ever thought about were those damn submarines and...Ahh, of course, you must be with Harry’s boat. Well I hope you don’t put the new Captain’s nose out of joint. I hear he actually struck a crewman and...”
“Lee’s the new Captain,” Nelson said quickly.
“Skipper?” Malone interrupted, “maybe you should have Frank take a look at your uh, backside. You’re bleeding a little.”
“What?” Crane tried to turn to
look at his rear, but
“Miss McPherson,” Nelson said, frowning, “have Frank bring his bag to the Captain’s office; no argument, Lee. Dr. Wilson, if you would please wait in the Visitor’s Center? I’ll have Angie send for you as soon as it’s possible for me to see you. Malone, what are you doing here? I didn’t ask for you.”
“I’m Dr. Wilson’s security escort....”
“Yes, yes, sorry I forgot. You can cancel those standing orders. Well, what’s everyone standing around waiting for?”
“And,” Malone said, as he and Clarke prepped the guest quarters aboard Seaview, “if the Admiral hadn’t intervened, she probably would’ve ripped the Skipper’s pants off and ravished him right there on the carpet.”
“Well, maybe not then and there, but she sure looked at him like she wanted to!”
“What about him? Is he interested? I wouldn’t have thought she’s his type. It’s not that she’s unattractive, and a guy’d be blind not to notice her hooters, but she sure ain’t that great to look at.”
“He was real happy to see her, just the same. And he didn’t complain when she clung to him as they went to his office. Yeah, and she didn’t come out until after Frank had finished with him.”
“Now,” Crane told the
assembled officers in Seaview’s Wardroom, while the boat was being quickly stocked
“Excuse me, sirs,” Malone
entered the room, “Mr. Morton, Dr.
“A7?” Morton said, “I chose her quarters myself. It’s the best one we have.”
“Did she say what was wrong with it?” Crane asked.
“No, but she was pretty insistent.”
“Give her anything she wants if it keeps her off our backs,” he sighed, “...with your permission Captain?”
“Go ahead, Malone,” Crane said.
“Right away Captain Cupcake...I mean...oh shit,”the man turned a bright shade of red.
“Now, Malone?” Crane said, ignoring the embarrassing blunder.
“Yes sir,” the rating vanished.
“Now, as I was saying,” Crane tried to resume the meeting but it was a lost cause. The officers were valiantly trying to hold back their amusement, but without much luck. It was only a matter of seconds before they’d explode in laughter.
“We’ll resume after lunch,” Crane rose with what was left of his dignity and vacated the conference, leaving behind a room full of ribald laughter.
“He’s gonna’ kill me, I just know it!” Malone said as he lugged another clothing bag toward Officer’s Country. “Oh man how could I make such a stupid slip-up?”
“Watch it!” Nelson said, as the man almost bumped into him as he turned the corner.
“Are you all right? You look ill.”
“Oh, he’s fine sir,” Ski said from behind him, lugging a suitcase. “Just a case of open mouth, insert foot.”
“Wha...oh, never mind. How much luggage can one woman have? We’re only going to be gone a couple of weeks, if even. The area in question’s rather close.”
“Oh, this isn’t more of Dr. Wilson’s stuff,” Ski said, “this is Miss Angie’s.”
“All shipshape and
Morton nodded for the Chief to leave and waited until he was gone before resuming his attention to Crane.
“No sooner than I get back from lunch,” Chip said rather coolly, “and I hear Angie’s coming along this cruise. What’s the matter, aren’t you getting enough excitement from one woman? Now you want two to tango with?”
“Now, wait a minute. I don’t like what you’re implying. Angie’s the Admiral’s administrative assistant isn’t she? There’s bound to be a lot of paperwork she’ll have to sort through and organize. It’ll save her time, and no doubt the Admiral’ll appreciate being able to publish any findings as quickly as possible. I thought it was good idea. I’m surprised you don’t want her aboard. And for your information Sarah Macklin is an old friend, that’s all.”
“Could’ve fooled me, Captain Cupcake. Word’s out that she never left your side when Frank had to pull your pants down and...”
“She went next door through the ‘tween door to your office to make a couple of phone calls, for Pete’s sake. I’m really surprised at you Chip, think what you will about me, but she’s not that coarse.”
“She’s besotted with you!”
“Well it’s not mutual.”
“Well, now, that’s different,” Crane said, allowing Chip to stew a moment, “I’d like to get to know her better. A lot better. She’s a very sweet girl. If you’re that interested in her yourself, you have a strange way of showing it. She said you forgot her birthday and that she prefers lilacs to roses and....”
“All right, all right, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll just stand by and allow you to sweep her off her feet and...”
“You won’t allow?” Lee asked dangerously.
“Gentlemen,” Nelson interrupted having observed just about all of the discussion from the hatchway, “Unless you two can bring your testosterone levels under control I’ll have no choice but to assign you both shore duty during this mission or abort the whole damn thing. Now, while I’m not all that anxious to have either Miss McPherson or Dr. Wilson aboard, the fact remains that it’s a logical move. Is that understood, Chip?”
“And Lee, in future you will discuss any additional passengers with me before going ahead and making the arrangements, capiche?”
“Good. Now cease and desist from acting like a couple of adolescent schoolboys vying over who has the bigger balls! Gad, the old saying’s right on the button; a woman aboard is bad luck. Even so, I will not tolerate such unprofessional behavior from either of you. Aboard, or ashore. Do I make myself clear? Good. Now, Captain, I believe you have a conference to resume. Chip will join you shortly.”
Crane obeyed, leaving the two alone.
“Captain Cupcake?” Nelson asked el sotto, raising an eyebrow.
“It...Malone blurted it out by accident...it kinda’ stuck.”
“I see...”Nelson said, not amused, “Chip, I know you may feel a bit...threatened by Lee, but I do know that Miss McPherson has a right to see whomever she wants, same as you. Don’t take her decision to date Lee out on him just because she hurt your feelings..okay?”
“Aye sir. I guess I was acting stupid.”
“Do you think you’ll be able to handle it? I meant what I said about shore duty if you can’t.”
“I’ll be the perfect XO sir.”
“You’re already that, Chip, I just want you to be Lee’s friend.”
Morton said nothing.
“I see. Well, I can’t force you. Just promise not to kill him before the mission even starts. Well, then, you’d better get to the Wardroom.”
“Is everything okay in here?” Lee peered into Dr. Wilson’s cabin on his way to the conference.
“I hope it wasn’t too much trouble to move me?”
“Well, to be frank...”
“Oh, dear. It was, wasn’t it.”
“Forgive me, Libeling?”
“If you’ll quit calling me libeling!” he grinned, “It was bad enough when we were kids, now it’s downright embarrassing.”
“That’s another thing...thanks to you, I’m Captain Cupcake now,” he complained.
“But,” she laughed adoringly and kissed his cheek, “you are! I could just eat you up! Why do you think I wanted the cabin closest to yours?” she grabbed his belt and in one deft move, unzipped his pants.
It might have saved Kowalski who was just then passing by in the companionway some acute embarrassment if he hadn’t reversed course, practically on tiptoe, and vanished.
“What’s gotten into you?” Crane zipped up and pushed her away, “We may have had a childhood fantasy, but that’s all it was. And...I’m rather interested in someone else now,” he stared at the deck.
“Oh,” she said deflated.
“I just didn’t know how to tell you....”
“So, just who is this ‘someone else’?”
“Angie?”she asked, incredulous. “That twit? Oh, Lee, is this some kind of sick joke? How could you possibly be interested in a nincompoop like her?”
“I’ll have to ask you not to call her that. And for your information she’s highly intelligent and...”
“I’ll call her anything I like! You can’t tell me what to think!”
“I’m only asking you to be civil. Please, Dr. Wilson...Sarah... can you do that for me? Or at least for Admiral Nelson, even if you hate me now?”
“Hate you? Oh, Lee, baby,” she took him in her arms, her anger evaporated, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it. How could I ever hate you! Kill you, swear at you, and inflict various other tortures,” she chuckled, “but...hate you? Libeling, sorry...I promise you I’ll be civil. In fact, I’ll be more than civil. I’ll be like a big sister to her.”
Lee raised a disbelieving eyebrow.
“Well,” she added, “I can pretend to like her. I did bring down the house in Romeo and Juliet. I’ll be a good scout even if I have to give an Oscar worthy performance.”
“Thanks. I owe you,” he gave her a peck on the cheek and left for the Wardroom.
“Oh yes, you owe me, Lee Crane, big time,” she whispered bitterly, and returned to finish her unpacking.
As Morton waited with the
other officers for Crane’s appearance in the Wardroom, he wondered just how
he’d allowed himself to take Angie for granted. Now it just might be too late
to get her back. But come what may, he had to try, without having to resort to
stuffing the Captain into the torpedo tube or tossing him overboard. Nelson was
right. He was jealous of Crane; it
had been growing for some time now and was festering. Definitely the green eyed
envy type unbecoming an officer. Morton had always prided himself on his
professionalism and now, well...it was all shot to hell because the glory hound
was hunting in Chip’s preserve. Damn! He was thinking like a repressed 18 year
old, not the XO of Seaview! It wasn’t Crane’s fault he had everything a girl
could possibly want. How the hell could he possibly compete with a knight in
shining armor? He practically winced when the Captain entered the Wardroom.
Okay, he’d play by the rules. He’d show the upstart just how professional he
could be, even if he had to ‘sir’ and cow tow to the Captain’s superior knowledge.
“Mr. Morton?” Crane repeated himself and woke Chip from his reverie. “Shall we continue from where we left off?”
Seaview had been underway for only two days when Sarah hiccupped and rubbed Nelson’s shoulders in the Observation Nose. “You’re too tense, Harry. Almost as if you’re scared having me aboard. I hear” she returned to the sidebar and poured out another drink, “that most of your crew wanted out.What did you have to do, give them bonus pay for the duration?”
“I think you’ve had enough,” Nelson took the tumbler from her, “Now, as I was saying, while I don’t understand how you came to some of these conclusions without a more in depth study, your hypothesis about these spores and their possible genetic mutations, is just too intriguing to ignore.”
“Is that the only reason you agreed to this cruise?”
“There’s another?” he asked, confused.
“As if you didn’t know,” she grabbed him and planted a sloppy kiss on his mouth, “Don’t fight it Harry. You know you want it. You always have. A woman can tell these things,” she ran her fingers under his collar to open his shirt.
“Admiral, I was wondering if...”Lee stopped and paled in his tracks high on the spiral steps to the scene below him. “Excuse me...” he hurried back upstairs.
“Wait! Lee!” Nelson stood, calling after him.
“Busted,” Sarah laughed.
Nelson glared at her. “Let go of me, you, you...piranha!”
“You will return to your quarters and remain there until your presence is requested.”
“Now I know why I love a man in uniform!” she giggled, “So commanding. So...”
“Control Room,” Nelson pressed the intercom. “Ask Miss McPherson to come to the Observation Nose to escort Dr. Wilson to her quarters.”
“Eeeooo,” she held his hand down, not realizing the action had jammed the machine. “Not Lee’s little miss girl next door! It’s too..too...humil..humil...I can make it back to my cabin on my own.”
“I doubt that.”
“I’m as good as her!”
“That’s the booze talking,” Nelson said firmly.
“No, s’not! Nobody likes me! Not you, not anyone. Even my widdle cupcake doesn’t like me anymore!” she whined. “ I’m not good enough for him! But she is!”
“Professor, please, get a hold of yourself.”
“I don’t have the proper equipment, is that it?” she ran a hand over her breast. “Lee likes ‘em big. Do you like ‘em big? Here, feel.”
“What about your equipment?” she asked seductively. “Are you as substantial as Lee?”
“He was very mature for his age. Believe me, I know,” she giggled again, “Don’t look so shocked. Must be your puritan background. Lee could have been a Michelangelo sculpture, without the fig leaf,” she said dreamily. “Of course now that he’s all grown up, he’s a lot more interesting....”
“Miss McPherson? O’Brian too, thank goodness,” Nelson interrupted, as they’d practically run down the steps into the Nose, “The Professor will retire to her quarters. She’s...ill. See to it that she’s safely tucked in.”
“Right away sir,” O’Brian hurried to the intercom without a word and turned it off.
“Oh god,” Nelson said. “Everyone heard?”
“Afraid so, sir,” O’Brian said, “C’mon Professor....”
“You know sonny, you’re kind of cute. Almost as cute as Libeling, if that’s possible. I don’t need her help,” Sarah said as Angie took her other arm.
“You’re taking it anyway,” Nelson ordered. “See to it that she’s...uh...”
“I’ll make sure she’s comfortable, sir,” Angie said and helped O’Brian half walk; half drag the inebriated woman up the ladder.
“That’s not funny Mister,” Morton said.
“Only reporting the facts sir, I meant no disrespect.”
“Very well, return to your post. O’Brian...spread the word to tread softly. No doubt the Admiral’s fit to be tied. I can’t even comprehend what the Captain will do,” he said quite seriously.
“Good job getting O’Brian down there to help Angie, Mr. Morton,” Crane entered the Control Room, “Now,” he asked angrily, “Does everyone on this boat know she had a drinking problem or am I just slow on the uptake?”
“We...assumed you knew, I mean...”
“I didn’t know she was an inebriated drunk! This could hamper the mission even if, IF the Admiral decides to continue. You should have informed me Chip! We could have taken steps, replaced her with one of her colleagues: now we’re stuck with a...a frustrated sex maniac!”
“She’s been drunk before, but not often and she never acted like this, Captain, Never.” Was it possible, Chip thought to himself, that he actually felt sorry for Crane?
“Very well. I’ll be in the Nose.”
Nelson was trying to forget what had happened as Clarke fixed a loose deck tile. He was pretty much forgotten as he worked in the far corner as Crane half leaned, half sat against the bow window.
“You should have told me,” Crane finally said, matter of factly.
“I didn’t think it necessary,” Nelson said. “I honestly had no idea it was this bad.”
“If you knew she had a drinking problem, didn’t you think of the possible consequences? What if she made a mistake about the whole spore thing, what if she can’t dive, what if she comes on to you again?”
“You should talk,” Nelson said. “How the hell does she know about your ‘equipment’?”
“She’s not the only girl to have spied on me in the boy’s locker room....”
“I’m talking about the adult version!” Nelson interrupted and raised an eyebrow,“Have you and she...”
“No!” Lee responded, aghast, “She simply must have looked when Frank treated me in my office. He also checked a couple of mosquito bites that have been bothering me. You remember how they plagued us at the ranch....” he hesitated, then continued to explain, “a couple of them were apparently attracted to my....penis.”
“Nothing serious, I hope?”
“Frank gave me some stuff to use. Admiral, are you sure you want to go through with the mission?” Lee asked, “It’s probably already compromised and its bad enough that it’s going to be awkward, embarrassing even. The whole boat heard almost everything.”
“We’ll just have to work above it, Lee. The mission is a go. Damn, I’m hungry all of a sudden.” He pressed the intercom. “Galley, Nelson here. What’s on the menu?”
“Galley, Dobbs here. Let’s see, okay, Spinach salad with mandarin oranges, Bean soup, Tuna Surprise, and... Huh? You can’t say that, Cookie!” he whispered, “ oh...okay.”
“Well?” Nelson asked.
“Spotted Dick, sir.”
“What??”Lee shouted, livid.
“Thank you,” Nelson unclicked
the intercom, “Calm down, Lee. Spotted Dick’s an English pudding...well, not
really a pudding...at least not the kind we’re used to. I’m not sure there is an American equivalent. It’s more
like a soggy cake. Well, maybe not that soggy, but rather too moist for my
liking. Must be one of the recipes Edith gave him from her recent trip to
“I see. Sorry. I guess I just flew of the handle. It’s going to be a long cruise,” Crane sighed.
Finally alone in her cabin,
Sarah opened her eyes, her wits completely intact, and smirked. She’d really
have to go to
Morton decided on a banana from the plate of assorted fruit and pastries as he joined Angie in the Wardroom the next morning. Nelson had already finished his breakfast and was finishing up a cup of coffee, and Lee had managed to snare the last Chocolate Éclair. He didn’t usually eat such heavy or unhealthy foods, but it sure looked tempting. It was an outsized and overstuffed version, with a luscious looking cream filling and looked ready to pop.
Dr. Wilson joined them and nudged Angie, “Are the boys trying to tell us something? I know our present environment can’t be helped, I mean missiles, torpedoes, even the shape of the submarine itself, but,” she indicated Lee’s éclair, and Chip’s banana, “even the food’s phallic.”
“Dr. Wilson!” Chip said, outraged.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it,” Lee said casually, “it’s in very bad taste, but you have to admit it’s sort of funny. And...”He paused with a slight curve to his lips, “at least mine’s bigger than yours,” he indicated Chip’s selection.
“It’s not that amusing Lee,” Nelson said.
“No, but Dr. Wilson may have something. Strange, I never thought I was so... well endowed,” he laughed out loud, but found himself unable to take a single bite of the thing and pushed it aside. “I’ll never be able to look at breakfast the same way again. I’ll be in the Missile room, oops. Sorry, ladies,” Crane said, as he watched Sarah grab his éclair, “Oh, Sarah?” he added, “Be... gentle,” he chuckled and departed.
Morton, like Nelson was fuming, but he’d be blind not to see the humor of it and soon even he was laughing.
Nelson was not and with legendary self control shook his head sadly, “Professor, I think your brand of humor could almost be construed as sexual harassment. You might want to keep that in mind before I decide to abort this mission due to a conflict of interest.”
Sarah blatantly ignored him, and rolled her tongue around one end of Lee’s huge éclair suggestively, took a bite, then wrapped it in a napkin, and walked towards the door. “Oh, by the way, Cookie?” she paused at the door.
“Yes ma’am?” the cook answered from the galley’s push through.
“You really should have added about 2 inches.”
Nobody doubted her meaning.
“Dr. Wilson, I want to talk to you,” Nelson said, a few minutes later in the lab.
“Go ahead, Harry. Tell me I’m a bitch and that you want me to apologize to you and everyone else in creation that wears pants.”
“I didn’t say that. Yet. Sarah,” he grabbed her arms to face him, “I’ve never known you to be so...blatant! It was bad enough when you were one of my grad students but now...”
“Lee didn’t mind. He thought it was funny.”
“Lee Crane is a gentleman and didn’t want to make a scene.”
“You so sure about that? That he’s a gentleman? I understand little miss goody two shoes is actually Chip’s girlfriend. Doesn’t sound much like a gentleman to me. Did you know Lee’s taking her to some island retreat? In fact...”
“What goes on between Lee and Miss McPherson is their own business, not yours. You almost sound jealous.”
“What if I am? Lee belonged to me first,” she pouted.
“You were kids!”
“We were old enough to...”she let it drop.
Nelson knew better than to ask questions he didn’t really want to know the answer to.
Sarah did it for him. “He got me pregnant.”
“I’m telling you,” Clarke said over his game of checkers with Malone in the crew’s lounge, “that’s what she said. I was outside the lab and heard them. The skip got her pregnant.”
“He was 13 years old!”
“Old enough,”Clarke snorted.
“That poor kid,” Malone said. “I mean her...especially back then...man...I wonder what happened... to the baby I mean.”
The sound of crashing glass outside brought the men to the doorway. Angie was picking up the pieces of a test tube tray. She accepted the men’s help without a word except a muted ‘thanks’ and hurried away.
“You know,” Clarke continued
when they resumed the game, “it’s kinda’ weird though. When
“I’m sorry, Captain,” Angie said formally to Crane in the Control Room, “I’ve decided not to go to the islands with you after all.”
Lee reached out to touch her hand. “But why?”
“Please, don’t touch me.”
“Have I done something wrong?” Lee asked in a low voice, confused.
“As if you didn’t know!” She spat, and huffed out
“What did you do to her?” Morton demanded.
“I don’t know....Chip...please, don’t look at me like that...I don’t know what’s going on...”
“Crane,” Nelson’s voice came over the PA. “Report to the Observation Nose. Now.”
No one could mistake that tone. The Captain was in deep serious trouble about something. And if it concerned Miss Angie, he might just as well pack his bag and leave via the nearest exit, even if it was underwater. Nelson might never refer to any of his female staff by their given names, but he had an almost paternal protectiveness over all of them and woe be to anyone who dared to upset them.
“You said you and Dr. Wilson had never been....intimate,” Nelson said without preamble as soon as Crane set foot in the Observation Nose.
“That’s right. A couple of kisses, maybe some groping, kid stuff, that’s all. What’s this all about?”
“That’s really none of your business, sir, but if you must know, absolutely nothing’s been going on between us.”
“Scuttlebutt indicates otherwise.”
“I know all about her getting into your pants in her cabin! Right here aboard Seaview! Don’t try to deny it. Kowalski saw everything.”
“Well apparently he’s blind! I stopped her right away! I don’t know why she still has the hots for me. I’ve never encouraged her, and I’ve never taken her to bed. And I’m rather offended that you think I would have!”
Morton had given the conn to O’Brian and was hastening down the steps just as Nelson let go the bombshell.
“If relations between you have been so chaste, then explain just why she says you got her pregnant!”
“Pregnant?” Lee asked, stunned.
Just then Morton lunged toward Crane and struck him, hard in the jaw, sending him to the deck.
“What’s that for?” Lee looked up holding his jaw, angry, and very confused.
“How could you!” Morton raged, “How could you seduce Angie and...”
“Lee got Dr. Wilson pregnant, Chip,” Nelson said, “not Angie.”
“Thank God,” Morton sagged in
“I didn’t get either of them pregnant!” Lee shouted as he got up, holding his split lip,” What kind of a bastard do you think I am? It’s absurd on the face of it!”
“You deny it, then,” Nelson asked.
“Of course I deny it! And I want Sarah here, now, to tell you this has all been some kind of elaborate practical joke! Or a deliberate attempt to sully my honor!” Cane shouted, breathing hard, furious. “And you, Mr. Morton are on report for striking me!”
“Chip, ask Dr. Wilson to report to the Nose.”
The call came more quickly than she’d anticipated. Men could be so...so...emotional. In a few minutes she stood meekly before them, the epitome of grace and sweetness.
“Did you want to see me, Harry?”
“Yes, please, sit down.”
“I’ll cut right to the chase,” Nelson said, “You claim Lee got you pregnant. He claims he didn’t. One of you is lying and I want to know which of you it is.”
“Lee never knew,” Sarah said, “I never told him,” she grabbed a tissue on the table and dabbed her eyes.
“And it never happened!” Lee said.
“Down boy,” Morton said. “Go on Doctor.”
“It was July 4th, my last day
“That’s a lie!” Crane shouted.
“It’s not that I didn’t want it, Libeling, not really. I’d wanted you a long time and I quite enjoyed it after awhile, anyway. You were so..so..virile. So gorgeous in the moonlight, naked and unashamed, that I endured it all, for you, my love. For you. And that night proved weren’t children anymore.”
“Why are you doing this?” Crane said coldly, like ice.
“Quiet Lee,” Nelson ordered, “go on.”
“He said he’d never forget me, and that come hell or high water he’d find some way to marry me, even if he had to take me to another state or join some religious cult where they allow it that young....I waited Lee. I waited for you to come, to call, to write. But nothing...”she dabbed her eyes. “And then I found out I was pregnant. My father was furious. He would have killed you with his bare hands, if I’d told him you were the one. So how could I?”
“I swear I never even saw her that night! I was with my mother the whole time!”
“Hmph!”Sarah snorted. “You shouldn’t lie about it Lee, It doesn’t become you.”
“It’s the truth!” he turned to Nelson, “Ask her if you don’t believe me!”
“Libeling, asking a mother to defend her son is like asking a cat not to spit up a hairball. She’d lie through her teeth to protect you. Always did. She was rather obsessive about her dear sweet little gypsy orphan boy.”
“What are you after?” Lee said, coldly.
“Me? I’m not after anything. He’s” she indicated Nelson, “the one who called this little inquisition, not me. I have no claim on you. The baby died in my arms just when they were going to take him away to the orphanage and new parents they’d found for him.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it! This whole story is a pack of lies! I want to know why you’re doing this to me Sarah! Why?”
“He looked a lot like you,” Sarah continued calmly, “I’ve always wondered what he would have become if he’d lived...my father put the death certificate away...someplace..”
“That doesn’t prove anything! It could be anybody’s baby! All my friends said you were a little tart. Only I was too damn naive to believe it! Well I do now. So who’s the real father, why pin this on me? Why all these lies. Why...”
“Enough,” Nelson said, “You say you have the death certificate for this child?”
“Well, father did, I don’t know what he did with it...”
“This is nonsence!”Crane asked “If you want to discredit me, God knows there are far better reasons you could use that would be a heck of lot more believable!”
“Please Libeling, Why can’t you just accept it?”
“Because it’s a damned lie! A damned cruel lie!”
“Oh Lee,” she dabbed her eyes. “Harry, do we have to go on with this? He’s never going to accept the fact that he knocked me up. And to think that after meeting him again, that I actually thought we could pick up where we left off; make another baby...”
“We never even made a first!” Lee exclaimed, “She’s lying! Or just plain crazy! We never had sex! Never!”
“Return to your duties Captain,” Nelson said, “Chip, get all the necessary details from Dr. Wilson, then contact Boston Vital records for a death certificate facsimile.”
Crane ran a hand through his hair, “Fine! Do what you damn well want! But I want a DNA test on that poor dead baby! In fact, I demand it! Where’s it buried?”
“It? You’re calling our little
boy an it? ‘He was cremated. We scattered his ashes in
“How convenient. Is that where you had your Mad Hatter’s Tea Party as well?”
“I told you to return to your duties, Captain,” Nelson said.
It was impossible to know which person he truly believed..
“Any luck, Chip?” Nelson asked as snuffed out a cigarette hours later in his cabin.
“Juvenile records were
sealed. She’ll have to go in person to get it, sign some documents..... I had
Nelson flung his pencil down with a vengeance.
“Damn! I want to believe Lee, but how can I? Women don’t usually lie about things like this do they? Even if she is a bit, for lack of a better word, over-sexed. And I can’t, I won’t tolerate dishonesty amongst any of my employee’s, especially my Captain!” Nelson paused, “Chip, it’s no secret I’ve enjoyed having Crane here. We hit it off right away, he’s beco...he was becoming a good friend, but, now...if any of this is true...Have the Captain report to me, no fuss, and stand by.”
“So,” Lee stood before Nelson, as Morton waited outside the closed door, “You won’t even try to believe me?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t know what to believe,” Nelson ran a hand through his hair, “but I don’t think she’d make this up.”
“I swear I never touched her that way,” Lee said in earnest, “On all that’s holy, I swear it.”
“And she swears you did,” Nelson said.
“Skipper?” O’Brian’s voice came through the PA, “We’re about a half hour from the coordinates.”
“All stop. Who’s on the first Diving team?” Crane asked.
“Dr. Wilson, Kowalski, Jones, and you, sir.”
“Mr. Morton will replace the Captain for this dive,” Nelson said into the mike.
“I see,” Crane paused, “I would have believed you,” he said, the hurt in his voice unmistakable, and left Nelson’s cabin without waiting for permission.
“That swimwear’s rather inappropriate, Professor,” Morton said as he checked his air tanks in the Missile Room.
“This old thing? Don’t tell
me you’re intimidated by a thong? Everybody wears them in
“Cheech, Ski,” Patterson hissed from his vantage point near the mini-sub, as he helped Kowalski check his regulator, “she’s looking at his crotch!”
“Of course,” Dr. Wilson continued, “I can’t say you don’t fill those swim trunks out nicely. But a thong would be much more...masculine.”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Morton handed her a wetsuit, and began to climb into his. “Now, as I understand it, we’re to collect the spores we see being released from the seaweed. Is that correct?”
“Well, we did pay attention in class, didn’t we, Commander,” she zipped up the suit with disgust.
Mistreated by Crane or not, the right thing to do of course, would be to shove her out the escape hatch and have the boat pull away at flank speed, but knowing that would not hold well with Nelson, he decided against it.
“Everyone ready? Good. Let’s go.”
“The currents aren’t at all as bad as what we’d expected, ” Lee climbed down the spiral steps into the Observation Nose and sat down in the chair next to Nelson. Just as quickly Nelson rose and sat in the chair furthest from him.
“If my presence offends you so much,” Crane said coolly as he rose, “why not just kick me off the boat?”
“Don’t tempt me. In fact,” Nelson paused, “you may want to consider rejoining the Navy, before I verify Dr. Wilson’s story and am forced to take action.”
“Why wait? You’ve already made up your mind,” Lee handed him the mike, “Go ahead. Order the change of command.”
“Lee, I....do you think I get some kind of sadistic pleasure out of all this? Damn it man, don’t you understand? I can’t keep a dishonest man!”
“She’s using you, Admiral,”
Lee said, cold. “I don’t know why, why all this. Just...don’t trust her...”he
clicked the mike. “
“Do you accept command or not?” Lee handed Morton an official document in his cabin.
“I know he was thinking about it, but I’m surprised he fired you in mid-stream..”
“He didn’t. I quit. You know,” Crane said, “I’m getting a bit tired of being ridiculed by everyone and framed for something I never did. The Admiral used to have a brilliant mind; perhaps he left it ashore someplace. I also thought you were intelligent enough to see a set up. Now to you and everyone aboard, I’m an untrustworthy and slimy leach, all for the word of one woman with some kind of delusion about our so-called past. Well, I’m sick of it. Now, do you accept command and my fail safe key or shall I ask O’Brian to relieve me of both?”
Morton signed the form and took the chain from which dangled the Captain’s Key.
“You have command, Captain Morton,” Crane said, “My gear’s already been taken down to cabin D-4. I promise I won’t get in anybody’s way until the storm topside is over and we can surface. That front’s moving fast, probably only a couple of hours longer. The Periwinkle’s agreed to have me, even if I have to pay for my passage home as a skivvie.”
“Only my friends call me Lee.”
“Have I been that bad?” Morton asked in a quiet voice.
“I suppose not... maybe I’d think the same way if things were reversed. I’m just...Chip, please, just leave me alone.” Crane vacated the room.
Morton looked around the cabin, unsettled, and more than a bit unnerved. And had it been his imagination had the Captain looked...strange? Of course, he’d never seen Crane really angry or...defeated.
“But Admiral,” Kowalski complained, “Captain Crane’s the best diver aboard. You’d said so yourself and....”
“That’s beside the point. All Seaview’s divers are fully certified, and that’s an end to this discussion. And,” he added, “It would have only been a matter of time. He chose to expedite things, Kowalski, not me. Now, return to your duties.”
D-4 was not comfortable at all. It was just too hot. The fact that it had a bunk couldn’t alter the fact that it was in reality a converted storeroom. He’d changed into jeans and a denim shirt and picked up the folded uniform shirt and removed his oak leaf pip, putting it in his pocket. That belonged to him. But the Seaview’s ship wheel insignia did not, and he tossed it on the deck in anger. It careened over the deck and slid under the baseboard. But this whole mess wasn’t Seaview’s fault, and he urgently knelt on the deck and tried to retrieve it, more out of an apology to the boat herself, than an actual need to return it to stores.
“Skipper?” Kowalski’s voice asked from the doorway. “Uh...the Periwinkle says she can’t wait forever and that storm’s just gonna’ make transferring you over impossible...”
Crane leaned back against the wall. “I see. Thanks. And Morton’s your Skipper now.”
“Are you okay sir?” Ski asked. Crane’s face looked...weird.
“I don’t rate a ‘sir’ anymore either, Kowalski.
“Oh, yes do, sir, as long as you’re still a full Commander in the Reserves you do.”
Crane managed a wan smile, “You’d better get back to your duties before the Chief comes looking for you.”
“Aye sir,” Ski left, but headed to Sickbay instead.
“Blotchy?” Frank the regular corpsman asked.
“Yeah. Almost purple in places.”
“What the....oh my god...the antibiotic! C’mon!” he grabbed his bag and raced to Crane’s quarters.
“Admiral?” Ski’s worried voice came over the PA, “the Skipper, I mean Capta...I mean Commander Crane, sir. He’s sick. He’s got a fever of 102, and it’s climbing. His skin’s all blotchy, and we think he’s showing signs of delirium. I actually found him crawling around on his hands and knees before I called Frank...”
“How else am I supposed to get my pip back? It’s jammed under the baseboard,” Crane’s voice came across, irritated, with shuffling noises in the background.
“I think it could be an allergic reaction to the ointment I gave him for his di...for a personal matter,” Frank said, “If it is, he’s in real danger, he could even die, and...”
“I’m fine! Go away and leave me alone!”
“Hang tight Frank,” Morton’s
voice came over, “
“Let go of me, Kowalski,” Crane said, irritated.
“Sorry Skipper, but...”
“I told you I’m not your Skipper
anymore, and I don’t need
“Frank,” Doc’s voice came over. “It’s Jamison. What did you use on him?”
“The standard topical antibiotic ointment. He’s not supposed to be allergic to it....”
“He’s not supposed to be a lot of things. Get a blood sample ASAP,” Doc said, “Give him injectable antihistamine, then cool him down with wet wraps or a cold shower and enema if you can get him to cooperate. Lee? Listen to me. I want you to go to sickbay. Now. Unless you really want to die.”
”Not particularly, not that anyone’d care overmuch,” Crane said bitterly.
“Wha..? I’d care. Now, go to sick bay and cooperate with everything Frank asks you to do. Understood?...Lee?”
“I don’t need you to hold on to me, either of you.”
“Lee?” Jamison insisted.
“Okay, okay, if it’ll keep you from pestering me to death.”
“Admiral,” Jamison said, “I’d like a monitor or vision phone hook up to sickbay as soon as possible.”
“Right away Doc,
“Well, thank God it’s not an allergic reaction,” Jamison said four hours later on Nelson’s cabin vision phone, “And his blood chemistry tests normal, no virus, no abnormal bacteria, however, we must assume it’s something our standard tests are just not picking up. Perhaps some new form of food poisoning...”
“Doc?” Ski’s voice interrupted over the PA. “He’s getting worse. He’s almost 104. He’s been vomiting and he’s sweating real bad...and it’s kinda’ green.”
“Green??” Jamison asked.
“Yeah, Frank’s never seen anything like it.”
“Switch me to Sickbay,” Jamison ordered, and the vision phone switched to the view of Crane; his hair was a mass of wet tangles, his naked body glistening with the greenish tinged sweat as he clung to the toilet bowl.
“Talk to me Skipper,” Frank was demanding, “What are you feeling?”
“Knives... tearing... into my gut...sorry I bit into you earlier.. I think....you’d better...quarantine the boat...”
“Frank,” Jamison said, “You’d....”the transmission failed.
“Sorry, sir,” Spark’s voice came over, “We lost the signal. That storm’s doing hell with communications. I can’t even get the Institute.”
“Chip,” Nelson ordered through the intercom, “Mission abort. Get us home ASAP. And Chip, no-one is to eat or drink anything...”
“Aghhhgh!”Lee cried out in agony, and curled up into an even tighter ball on the gurney.
Nelson watched helplessly from the vision phone link to Sickbay. Crane was hurting so badly, he was beginning to shed tears. Greenish tears. Ski and Frank frantically sponged and applied the cool wraps to combat the rising and dangerous temperature.
“What the hell is it?” Ski asked.
And if Nelson wasn’t mistaken, Crane was also incoherent. Had that been Chinese he’d yelled in? And why was he yelling ‘NO! NO!’ over and over...
“I just don’t know what to do!” Nelson paced in the lab, worry etched on his face. “All Frank’s lab work, even my own, Crane’s blood, sweat, vomit, all show ‘normal’! He’s in anguish, and there’s not a damn thing I can do! Nothing’s helping! Nothing!”
“Harry, calm down,” Dr. Wilson said, “You can’t afford to loose your objectivity if you’re going to help him.”
“Then tell me how to! By the time we get the signal re-established to Jamison or a Med-Evac, it could be too late!”
“I’m so sorry, Harry,” she patted his shoulder. “I’d do anything if I could,” she looked at her watch, “Will you be okay by yourself? I really need to get a quick bite. Blood sugar you know.”
“Go ahead, and Sarah? Thanks for you help,” he said.
“Could something be deliberately jamming us?”
“Yes, sir, that’s my opinion.”
“Do you know where it’s coming from?”
“Will our mobile tracers work?”
“Pretty doubtful, the signal’s so wierd, but I guess it’s possible.”
“Malone? Clarke, over here...”Morton ordered, “Spark’s will set the tracers for you. Go over every inch of the boat if you have to, but find that signal.”
“Find anything?” Chief Jones asked as he and Angied poured over reference books, microfilms, anything that could be of help in the small ‘library.’
“Nothing,” Angies rubbed
tired eyes, “I hope
“You know, it’s wierd, Miss Angie. Why’d a woman like that want to drown her sorrows so much?”
“Wouldn’t you, if everyone called you the ‘Iron...well, something...”
“Yeah, I guess so. You know, it don’t make sense that a woman with a figure like that would have to resort to being so crude all the time. Did you know she was going to wear a thong for the dive? Showed off almost everything. Not that it wasn’t a nice view. Doesn’t even have a wrinkle or stretch mark on her.”
“Say that again?” Angie asked, suddenly alert.
“You didn’t see any stretch marks?”
“Now that you mention it...don’t most mothers get stretch marks?”
“Damn right they do, c’mon,” she practically ran out of the library.
“I’d like to speak to you Dr. Wilson,” Angie said from the lab’s doorway.
“To what do I owe this honor?” Sarah replied.
“Why did you lie about Lee?”
“What’s this all about Miss McPherson?” Nelson asked.
“Sarah’s never had a baby, unless she invented a miracle cure for stretch marks. I don’t know why nobody noticed before.”
“A matter of muscle tone, sweetness, and a lot of vitamin E. I keep myself fit.”
“Just about all pregnant women get stretch marks, and as far as I understand, they can’t be removed.”
“Admiral?” Frank said on the PA, “He’s starting to see things, bad things, like he’s a prisoner or at a POW camp or something. Vitals are getting bad. Some things are starting to shut down....I think we could loose him.”
“Do what you can.” Nelson clicked the mike off.
Just then Malone, panting
from his exertions aimed the tracer direrectly towards
Nelson snapped them off, “You didn’t have these on before you left me in the lab.” He stomped them under foot, the blinking lights and wires inside dying. “Why did you jam our signal, Sarah? To keep from hearing from Jamison? Am I correct in assuming you have something to do with Lee’s condition?”
“You’re supposed to be smart, you figure it out,” she looked at her watch, “but you’d better hurry, before he’s pushing up starfish at the bottom of the sea. That is where you bury your gallant dead sailors isn’t it, Harry, darling?”
“What did you do to him?!” Nelson shook her.
“Like I said, you figure it out.”
“Get her out of here!”
“What are we looking for?” Clarke asked Malone as they tore Dr. Wilson’s cabin apart.
“Anything, everything...something...hell nobody knows anything. The Admiral thinks it might be some kind of poison. So be careful.”
“So it was Poison?” Morton asked of Nelson in the lab.
“Apparently. She could have spiked his food, drink or even his stationery, you know how he sometimes moistens his fingers to lift pages...at least we have this. Who would think to look for any poison in the garbage. The lid must have come loose from the vial she hid in it. But it contaminated the filling, so getting a pure a sample is impossible. I’ve tried everything, Chip. It’s no chemical equation I can recognize. I’ve tried every test in the book.”
“Which means?” Chip asked confused.
“Which means, it could be a new formulation or even a new chemical,”he mused, “chemical, chemical...didn’t Dr. Wilson work with Wilke’s and Hark, as a consultant?”
“The bug busters? Yes, she did. I remember her complaining that they were all a bunch of idiots.”
“There’s no antidote then?” Nelson asked the CEO of the bug spray company through the finally restored COM link.
“We don’t as a rule try to resuscitate
the insects we’re trying to kill....I’m sorry. That was uncalled for...I’m
sorry about your man, but if he’s ingested the formula somehow, there’s nothing
we can do for him. The formula was scrapped as unprofitable, too expensive to
make....wait,” he pressed the phone, “get Thomson in here. He’s one of our best
chemists...if anyone knows how to neutralize the formula, he will. I’m not
really surprised about
“I agree,” Jamison said on the vision phone conference call. “It’s the only option left, but, I have to warn you, I’ve conferred with others at the hospital and it’s their opinion and mine, that if Lee’s conscious anytime during the treatment, he’s going to be in agony he’s never even dreamed of in even his worst nightmares. He’s already violent and there may be even more hallucinogenic episodes. Admiral, the pain killers and sedatives aboard Seaview would render the neutralizing agent completely ineffective. ”He looked at his watch. “The process will take about a half hour to completey neutralize the poison. We’d better begin.”
The hoarse screams permeated the sub as Crane fought his demons. He was unrecognizable. Trails of green sweat ran down his stained body. His body and hair were soaked, as were his sheets. Tears that looked like blood now ran from his eyes as he fought against his adversaries torturing his companions and himself. Knives and whips were cutting, tearing into him. Muscles contracted and spasmed violently against each other, as his restraints loosened and tightened against his thrashing against them. Incoherent cries and whimpers of distress mingled with his screams of agony along with shouts of defiance and bravado against his enemies. His delirium was utterly complete.
During one of his fiercest spasms of pain, Ski tried to grab Crane in a futile effort to calm him, but he was knocked off his feet by a blow from the patient, which disengaged the IV. Before Frank managed to reattach it Crane burst his restraints and slid to the deck.
He began to dart about wildly, bumping into Sickbay’s equipment heavily, hurting himself as some of the supplies and wall units crashed and toppled into him.
“Careful!” Frank shouted, “He thinks we’re an enemy or something!”
But Crane had no recognition of the men or their voices. He was crouched in a corner, near the door, eyes dilated, body trembling, and bleeding from a couple of cuts from the shattered equipment. As another spasm attacked his body, his enemy about to execute him, he lunged past the men and out into the corridor.
“All hands,” Nelson clicked the mike as Ski and Frank raced after the patient. “Captain Crane is loose in Corridor A-3. He’s delirious and violent. Use care to capture him, but get him before he hurts himself or anyone else.”
Angie was crying, her head in her hands, as all hell broke loose outside of the Wardroom corridor..
“Stay put!” Cookie yelled in vain, as he raced out to see what was happening.
Several men were shouting, trying, pleading with their errant ex-captain to settle down. Many were holding sore noses and various other parts of their anatomies as their prey kept escaping their clutches.
“Lee?” Angie called from the doorway, “Lee?”
For a moment he looked at her, his eyes terrified as he saw the men persuing him. He darted into the Wardroom, and grabbed Angie, dragging her down to the deck.
“Hold it!” Morton yelled from the door, “He could do anything...”
“Wait,” Angie gasped... “He’s not hurting me, I think...I think he’s trying to protect me...move back, all of you.”
“Leave... her... alone!” Crane screamed, as he wrapped Angie even tighter in his arms, trying to shielding her from their killers.
“Lee, it’s me, Chip...”Morton walked slowly towards him, “I know you can’t understand. You’re stark raving mad, did you know that?” he said softly, “It’s going to be okay, Lee, nobody’s going to hurt you.....Nobody’s going to hurt Angie. We’re not the bad guys, Lee. C’mon...come here...it’s going to be okay,” he kept repeating softly, hypnotically, as he inched his way closer.
“Easy, Chip,” Nelson whispered from the doorway, “it should be just about over. You all right Angie?”
“I’m okay; he’s just a bit heavy...”
Suddenly Crane gave a blood curdling scream, sinking into an exhausted heap, and let go his grip of the girl.
Angie managed to sit up, and took her former captor her arms, and rocked him back and forth like a mother would a sick child. “It’s going to be okay, Lee. It’s going to be okay.”
His eyes were still glazed, blind to reality, and he began to sob, and then passed out.
“It’s over,” Nelson said.
Nobody had really noticed that Crane was naked, only crazed, so it was with some embarrassed surprise to all that Cookie removed his chef’s apron and helped Angie cover him with it as Frank and Ski got him on a stretcher, wrapped him up with a blanket and got him to sickbay.
Angie, stained with bits of Lee’s sweat and blood, started to tremble.
“All right, back to work,”Morton ordered, then took Angie in his arms,“Will you be okay, hon?”
“Oh, Chip...it was horrible...he.... What must he have gone through to act like that?”
“Chip, I’m going to give sickbay a hand,” Nelson said and wearily went his way.
Nelson himself helped to rinse Lee’s face and hair of the sour green sweat, while Frank and Ski bathed the rest of him free of it. Within a few minutes they had the patient encased in flannel pajamas, and tucked into a regular bunk, only a saline IV drip and Foley thought necessary now.
“It was close, but I’m sure he’ll be okay now,” Jamison said from Nelson’s vision phone.
“The police have been notified and will meet us when we dock,” Chip entered the cabin, “Have you decided about Lee? Staying with us, that is?”
“I’m not sure. Even if he didn’t get Sarah pregnant, he still may have lied about sleeping with her and....”
“Pregnant?” Jamison interrupted, “Lee can’t get anyone pregnant,” Jamison interrupted, “He’s sterile.”
“What?” Nelson asked.
“A hit and run accident, oh, he was about 11 or so. His testes were irrevocably damaged. He can perform, but he can’t impregnate. He doesn’t have any sperm. Zippo.”
“And he knows this?”
“Of course he does. We even kidded him about it, being the only man aboard Halliburton that should’ve been out enjoying his shore leave without having to worry about an irate father coming after him with a shotgun or the shore patrol.”
“But...but...why didn’t he tell me? It would have cleared him of that accusation...but he could have had sex with her? About 13 years old?”
“Certainly. No doubt that he could have, if he’d wanted to.”
“He denies he ever did anything.”
“Admiral, if Lee says he didn’t sleep with her, you can rest assured that he didn’t. He’s rather possessive of his principles. I’d have thought you’d known that, especially since you served with him aboard Nautilus.”
“I should have, damn it. I should have,” Nelson shook his head sadly.
“Oh, man,” Ski yawned, as he was finally able to sit down to a well deserved meal, “I’m whacked.”
“Is he gonna’ be okay, Ski?” Clarke asked,“Doc says so, but...”
“Yeah, he’s going to be fine. He’s asleep now. He’s even dreaming,” Ski grinned.
“I wonder what about?” Malone asked.
“Oh, probably Miss Angie.”
“Wonder what he’s gonna’ think when he finds out he was starkers in her arms....”
Crane’s eyes tried to adjust to the light as he found himself in sickbay, safe and warm. But he was not comfortable and he tried to remove the IV and something under the covers.
“Whoa, tiger,” Chip said, coming awake, having fallen asleep in the chair at his side. “Detach the IV and Foley and I’ll be on the receiving end of Franks’ displeasure, and you know his mouth is almost as bad as mine.”
“Chip...what happened? Last thing I remember was puking my guts up. You look awful....oh my god...Seaview? What’s happened to the boat? What....”
“The boat’s fine! We’ll be home in a couple of hours. What is it with you and the damn boat?”
“Well, in a nutshell, Dr. Wilson poisoned you.”
“Sarah? I don’t believe it.”
“Believe it buddy, you would have died if the Admiral and a Mr. Thomas hadn’t come up with a neutralizing agent...the cure was worse than the poison itself. You almost didn’t make it.”
“I wish I could remember...why did she do it, Chip?”
“We’ll have to wait for the trial to determine that, Lee. Anyway, why didn’t you tell us you were sterile? It would have saved a lot of misunderstanding. I’ve already voided the transfer of command and moved your gear back into the Captain’s Cabin.”
“Thanks, but no. I have to leave.”
“Don’t you understand?” Lee asked gently, “I can’t stay. How can I command Seaview when her entire crew, you, Nelson, especially Nelson, found it easier to doubt my word than to even try to believe me? Chip, do you really want to entrust your life, the lives of your crew to someone you hesitate to trust? You know a Captain has to make some command decisions that have to be obeyed instantly, without hesitation or lives are forfeit. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s uncertainty. You’re a good man, and a great XO, I’m really surprised Nelson didn’t put you in command to begin with. And you already have something I don’t, and probably never will. They trust you.”
“Lee, please...What if Nelson apologizes? I know I do.”
“I can’t ask him to apologize for believing something he thought was the truth. I’ll admit it all hurt my ego and God knows I don’t want to leave Seaview, but I have no choice but to go back to the Navy.”
“And do what? Get a command
and have to give her up after one stint? Then warm a chair at some desk job till
you can get another boat? You may be their number one golden boy, but they
still have to follow the rules. I just can’t see you stuck in some office in
“You forget I do have a few other options.”
“Oh, well, go then, go on off and play James Bond again...get yourself killed, captured and tortured again...Jamie told us about a couple of those...probably what you thought was going on in your confusion.”
“Confusion? I don’t remember...”
“Good. Nobody wants to, it was that bad.”
“I must be sicker than I thought. You’re actually acting as if you liked me.”
“I guess I do. So, I just have to accept the fact that I have a competitor for Angie’s affection, but... I don’t hate you Lee. I’m sorry if I came across that bad.... Lee? If you ever want to talk about it, that ONI stuff, the bad things, you know you can. Anytime. Will says compared to what you’ve had to go through at times, commanding a submarine, even Seaview, is a piece of cake.”
Crane laughed at that.
“May I come in?” Nelson said, having observed most of the conversation from the doorway.
“I’ll be back.”
After Chip had left, Nelson sat down next to Crane.
“Lee, I couldn’t help overhearing. I want you to give Seaview, and me, a second chance.”
“That’s not necessary. You were only doing your job.”
“My job, which I failed miserably at, was to trust the man I agreed with the Navy to be my Captain! Lee, listen to me. I’ve probably only said ‘I’m sorry’ twice in my entire life, and this is one of them. Please, Lee. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
“I don’t blame you in this, Admiral. I just can’t...risk it. What if it happens again? What if something happens to cause you or the crew to wonder if my decisions in running this boat are to be trusted? Not a good thing. It could even cost lives.”
“I think you expect too much of yourself, Lee, and perhaps of us as well. We’re human, we all make mistakes. And you’ll be making the biggest mistake of your life if you leave us because you think we can’t trust you. So we fell for Dr. Wilson’s adlepated nonsense. We’ve learned from our lesson. I can’t promise that something won’t happen in the future to destroy our trust, but at least give us a chance to start over.”
“I don’t know...I...”
“Kowalski found this. I believe it’s yours,” he handed Lee the Seaview Ship’s Wheel pip.
“He went to a lot of trouble,” Nelson continued, “had to remove the entire baseboard to get it unjammed from inside a joint. Now, are you going to tell him the effort wasn’t even worth it? Or, will you pin this back on your uniform collar and take command back from Morton. Chip doesn’t really enjoy it, you know. And he’s already put four men on report for letting cigarette butts lean too far outside of the ashtrays.”
“Please, Lee...”Nelson said, “if not for me, then for Seaview, and her crew. They feel like shit over all of this, same as me...and it would be awfully hard on them to break in another new Captain.”
“Did you ever sell used cars?” Lee asked after a moment, “I think you missed your calling....”he looked hard at Nelson. “Oh, very well, you win,” he took the pip into his hand, “You always did get your own way in the end, Skipper,” Lee said, softly,weary.
“Somehow I don’t think I deserve the title, even if it’s from our time together aboard Nautilus. There’s only one ‘Skipper’ allowed on Seaview, and you’re it.”
Angie peeked around the corner... “Is it okay to come in?”
“Miss McPherson,” Nelson offered her his chair.
“Please, I’ll only be a
moment, Frank says we shouldn’t tire him out...Lee? If you wouldn’t mind...is
that offer of cave diving in the
“Just say when.”
“Lee? I thought you were off to the islands with Miss McPherson!” Nelson said, surprised on a Saturday morning two weeks later as Crane entered his office. “Is everything okay? Do you feel all right? I thought Jamie gave you a clean bill of health....”
“Oh I’m fine. And no need to worry about Angie. I’m sure she’ll enjoy her trip,” Lee sat on the edge of Nelson’s desk.
“Hardly. I’ve arranged an escort.... Of course,” Lee grinned, “I doubt that this is the kind of undercover assignment Chip thinks I asked him to ‘courier’ for me...he thinks all he has to do is deliver a top secret package to a special contact at the charter boat marina.. The package is the weekend I was going to take Angie on... Oh, don’t worry; I still have every intention of still asking Angie out for a dinner and movie...sometime. But for now, I think perhaps I did overstep the line...even if I still think she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, the lucky bastard.”
“Admiral...being devious and sneaky is part of my job description as a submarine commander. Now...what are doing next? Word’s out you want to get in some whale tracking?”
“Oh, excuse me, Admiral,” the pretty blonde stood at the door, “I thought you were alone....”
“Miss Hale, I don’t believe you’ve met Captain Crane. Lee, Lola Hale, our second assistant secretary to Procurement. She’s helping me out this weekend.”
“Captain Cupcake?! I’ve heard so much about you but never had a chance to...”then her words hit her...”Oh, I mean, I...I’m so sorry, Captain Crane,” she blushed bright red with her fair skin.
“Perhaps you’d like to show Captain Crane your office, Miss Hale. He’s always so interested in all the little details of NIMR...and I really am too busy, Lee, to go over mission details right now.”
“That’s fine...I’d be delighted to tour procurement.”
“I hope you won’t find it too boring Captain.”
“Please...call me Lee...”
On Wednesday, Crane picked out a package of two large pink coconut ‘snow-ball’s’ from the half filled box of assorted pastries that Chip had raided from the employee’s lounge. Lola handed him a report from Nelson, smiled and left.
Lee started to tear open the cellophane, when he was interrupted by Chip, standing in the ‘tween doorway.
“And this from a man who said he’d never look at breakfast the same way again,” Chip snorted in glee.
“You do enjoy living dangerously, don’t you,” Chip looked at the snow-balls and waved his hands in a sexy parabola.
“Oh, god...” Lee groaned as he suddenly recognized the foods rather pointed comparison to Lola’s pink mohair sweater.
“Well, are you going to eat it or not, I’m starving.”
“Take it. Cheech, it’d be like...”
“Yeah, wouldn’t it though,” Chip smirked.
“Which of you is the Captain Cupcake I’ve heard so much about?” A no-nonsense woman said from Crane’s open door. “I represent a food company that says this ‘Captain Cupcake’ is infringing on their legally held trademark.”
“It’s him,” Chip pointed to Lee.
“Now, wait a minute. What’s this all about?”
“According to my sources, you’ve been using this trademark without permission and...”
“You mean there really is such a thing? A real Captain Cupcake?” Chip asked. “How about that, Lee, you’re famous!”
“Shut up, Chip. Look, lady, I...”
“Ms. Sondheim. Of Phipps, Meyer, and Collings. We’re representing the...”
“I don’t care who you’re
representing. My name is Crane. I’m
the Captain of Seaview, and one of my crewmen made a slip of the tongue after
a...colleague of Admiral Nelson’s called me a cupcake...it got a bit out of
hand, my crew thought it was funny. I’ve never used it myself. Well, maybe
once, but...it certainly wasn’t a slur on some company. Uh...just what is this Captain
“It’s a cream puff. Steers a boat and sells goodies to children...”
“Well, Lee, maybe Malone can call you Captain Cream Puff instead, surely that’s a generic term,” Chip chortled.
“I think you need to get back to work Mr. Morton.”
“Aye aye, Captain Cupcake, sir,” he giggled and went through the ‘tween door, which he left wide open.
“Is he quite well?” Ms. Sonchie asked.
“That depends if I decide to ask him to fill out these fit reps, by hand, in pentiplicate...”Lee said loudly.
“Ow. That hurts Lee,” Chip closed the door.
“Now,” Crane continued, “what do I have to do? I’ve done nothing wrong but I don’t want to tie up any Institute time while...”
“I can see it was a simple misunderstanding. Though I will need an affidavit as to your position here,” she sat and kicked her high heels off. “You know, they may even want to hire you. They’d be idiots not to. You’re a real Captain, and, that whoever it was, was right on the button, you are a cupcake!”
“So,’ Nelson said to Chip and Lee as they joined him for dinner at the golf club that night, “Dr. Wilson’s plea bargain will make her eligible for parole in twenty years. Far too lenient if you ask me. Even her lawyers agreed that it was pretty clear she acted out of vengeance because Lee refused her advances, instead of some kind of psychosis.”
“What about the spores?” Crane asked.
“Complete waste of time. Not a mutant strain found in any of the samples we took.” “Yes?” Nelson asked an elderly lady who approached the table.
“I’m sorry to intrude, but we couldn’t help noticing that you have a new friend with you. Surely you remember us Admiral Nelson, Commander Morton?” she indicated the table at which a lot of elderly ladies waved vigorously, “You’re always such gentlemen, to let us play through...”
“Oh, yes, of course,” Nelson said.
“Well, we were hoping you might introduce us to your new friend here.”
“Lee Crane,” he rose.
“Perhaps you’d like to meet my grand-daughter? She’s visiting and is so lonely. You wouldn’t mind would you, Admiral, if we steal him from you for a few minutes for them to get acquainted?” she practically grabbed Lee’s arm. He had no choice but go with her or risk hurting her feelings.
“You didn’t have anything to do with this, did you Chip?” Nelson asked.
“I only mentioned that Lee
was unfamiliar with the course, being a newcomer to
Morton set to the appetizers with gusto, trying not to let the glares coming his way from Crane spoil his appetite. As Crane’s dinner went untouched, Chip ordered a doggy bag for him. The Captain was rather busy just now. His hair was being ruffled; the old biddies were plying him with bits and pieces of their various desserts and generally mothering him to death. Chip just couldn’t figure out which of women could be the grand-daughter; they all looked about 70.
“Chip...we can’t let him suffer like this for much longer,” Nelson said as he paid the bill.
Morton was about to rescue Lee, but stopped in his tracks as the old lady introduced Crane to the most voluptuous creature he’d seen outside of a girly magazine. She had just arrived, and after about a second Lee had her on the dance floor.
“Excuse me,” Chip quickly approached the old ladies, “but we couldn’t help noticing the delightful young woman you introduced Lee to...”
“Sandy Haigo, as I said, she’s visiting. She’s a Bunny Club model. Wonderful job, lots of benefits.”
“I’m so glad your friend and she seem to have hit it off...”
Just then Angie and Lola entered the restaurant, and waved at Nelson
“Miss McPherson, Miss Hale,” Nelson rose. “Would you care to join us?’
“Oh, thank you sir, no,” Lola said, “perhaps a rain check....”her mouth opened in shock at the picture of Lee happily dancing with...with...that.
“Who’s she?” Angie asked.
Just then Lee turned and noticed the women. He said something to his dancing partner, and escorted her back to her grandmother and approached.
“Angie, Lola,” Lee smiled, “Didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Apparently,” Lola said.
“You should have told us you’d be here tonight. You could have joined us for dinner....oh... dinner’s over already?” he asked as Chip handed him the doggy bag.
“Who’s your friend?” Angie asked.
“Who...oh, that’s Miss January, poor kid”
“Poor kid?” the girls asked in unison.
“Yeah. Seems the only guys she gets to meet are after one thing. She’s only trying to pay her way through college. When she found out I have a degree in electrical engineering she talked me into helping her with her homework and....what?” he noticed the girls shaking their heads.
“I think that neutralizing agent did something to your head, Lee,” Angie said.
“Look, Ang,”Lola said, “I’ll take him home. Give him some castor oil or something. He’s got to be sick. C’mon Lee...”
The girls did not see the backwards wink he gave Morton and Nelson as they led him out of the establishment.
“Now that’s what I call diffusing a potentially explosive situation!” Nelson guffawed.
It was past a few days later and Nelson was discussing the upcoming mission with his officers in the conference room.
“Is Captain Crane there?”Angie’s voice came over the PA.
“No, in fact, he’s late,” Morton said.
“Mr. Hale’s here. Lola’s father. He says her roommate said Captain Crane took Lola out last night and she hasn’t come back home yet and....”
“If he’s laid a finger on her,” a man’s voice shouted, “I’ll...”
“Calm down, Mr. Hale,” Nelson said, “I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.”
“Yeah, like two extra inches worth,” Chip said under his breath.
“What was that?” Hale asked, furious.
“Uh, nothing sir,” Chip said, “I’m sure they’ll have a good reason.”
“Chip,” Nelson said from his office, as the day progressed. “I’m getting worried. It’s not like either of them not to call. Maybe they were mugged, or there’s been an accident...Angie said Lola was driving...
“Admrial?”Angie said obviously upset from the conference phone, “Mr. Hale found a message for Becky, that’s Lola’s roommate, on their answering machine. It’s from a Dr. Smythe. The doctor said ‘not to worry, she’s doing fine’. The call was at .”
“But when he tried to call the number he got a busy signal.”
“Get the police.”
“Hold a minute Admiral. Lola’s roommate just came on the other line... what dog? Oh...Oh....I see. No I don’t know where your damn dog is...where the hell’s Lola? Oh....Lola’s roommate says her dog is pregnant and the vet’s name is Dr. Smyth...she’s getting me the number....I’m dialing it now...here he is.”
“Dr. Smythe?” Nelson asked. “Is Lola Hale there?”
“Who?” a woman’s voice answered.
“Oh, yes, Becky’s roommate...well, no, she’s not here now. She and that dreamboat with her brought Becky’s dog in. The puppies and mother are doing fine.”
“Do you know where they went?”
“Well, no. But probably home, they helped me with some orphaned kittens they agreed to try to find homes for.”
“Thank you,” Nelson ended the call, frustrated. “Damn it! We’ve checked everywhere. Lee’s, Lola’s, the police, highway patrol, every restaurant and bar in town. Where the hell are they?”
“Uh, sir?” Ski asked, “Did anyone check the boat? It was kinda’ late for them to go anywhere else if they’re not home...and he has bypassed security before....”
There was an eerie silence as Chip led the way through the corridors in various states of having their innards ripped out and replaced, until the small search group finally found themselves climbing down the spiral steps in Seaview’s Observation Nose.
Lee was frankly sound asleep in one of the loungers facing the window, a newborn kitten curled on his lap, a small empty eyedropper in his hand.
To the side was a large box of a few assorted felines, in various states of sombulence and wakefulness.
“Lee I found some more mil...”Lola stopped at the top of the stairs, holding a large can of condensed milk.
“She’s okay, Mr. Hale,” Ski switched on the speakerphone on the table.
“Are you all right, sweetie?”Mr. Hale’s voice asked.
“Where’s Crane? This Cupcake fellow? Did he do anything to you?”
“Mhmpphh?”Lee awoke with a start and the kitten started mewing pitifully. He hadn’t seen the group behind him, “Lola? Morton’s hungry again!”
“Morton?” Chip said, indignant.
Lee, startled by the voice, turned to see the assemblage. “Reinforcements? Finally! How’d you manage to get them all out of bed?” he noticed that it was no longer night. “Uh...how long have I been asleep?”
“It’s past ,” Nelson said,” Have you two been babysi... cat sitting all night?”
“Well,” Crane smirked, “Not all night.”
“If you’ve...”Mr. Hale said threatening.
“Chief Hale, I think your ex-profession in the police force should just about guarantee that I wouldn’t be that stupid. I may frequently find myself in danger, but I don’t as a rule flirt with it. Trust me; Lola is still as pure as the driven snow.”
“Well, I meant no offence. A father can’t help but to want to protect his daughter.”
“I’m over 25 Daddy! When will you get it through your head that I don’t need you or anyone looking after my purity!” she spat and handed Crane the can, which he opened with a knife/opener/combo. “And,” she paused for effect, “if I should happen to find myself alone with Lee, on a deserted moonlit beach, don’t think I’ll insist on staying that way! Now, if you’ll all be so kind as to help, these kittens are motherless and hungry and Morton’s own mother pushed him away, he’s only a few days old...”
“Chip?” Crane knocked on Morton’s office door a month later.
“What can I do for you, Lee?”
“Uh, well, word’s out that you’re going be getting an operation. I know they say it’s safe, only a couple of snips, but...I checked with Jamie and he said there could still be...complications. Chip, I know the idea about a better sex life is appealing, I mean not having to worry about an unwanted pregnancy, but are you sure you and Angie have discussed all the options?”
“What are you talking about? I’m not having an operation!”
“But Lola said you were going to get fixed... you know...a vasectomy.”
“She said what?”
“She said the doctor called to schedule it within the next 6 months and...”
“Six months....”Morton suddenly laughed,“Oh, for Pete’s sake....Lee...it’s my namesake that’s getting snipped, not me.”
“Namesake? I don’t understand.”
“The cat, stupid! You’re the one who named it ‘Morton’. Ski’s sister simply decided to keep the name, to irritate him when he visits.”
Crane sat down in sheer relief.
“Seems to me Skipper, that your Intel isn’t up to snuff. Perhaps you should change sources. Oh, Lee, by the way, speaking of Intel, did I ever thank you for my little..Courier assignment?”
“No, but that soppy grin on your face when you came back was thanks enough.”
“Oh, Lee,”Angie entered the office, “I’m glad you’re here. I really want to take Chip to that new restaurant for lunch and I was hoping you might take over the tour group for him.”
“Sure, be glad to.”
She gave him a peck on the cheek. “Thanks.”
“Who’s’ it this time?” Morton asked as he grabbed his jacket and offered Angie his arm.
“Oh, some senior women’s golf club. They say they’re good friends of the Admiral. They’re here for the hands on demo of Hugo’s hygiene routine.”
“Uh, Ang,” Morton paused, “perhaps this isn’t really a good idea...I mean..”
“It’s okay Chip. Contrary to popular belief, nobody’s ever been mothered to death. Have a nice lunch.”
“You really do have a death wish.”
“What are you two talking about?”Angie asked as Chip led her away.
“You know,” Clarke held the binoculars tightly against his bulging eyes from the roof work they were doing. “Mr. Morton’s gonna bust a gut when he discovers that Senior Golf Club is really the local University Senior Women’s Golf Club. I mean, there he was, telling Miss Angie that it was dirty pool to make the Skip give that bunch of old ladies the opportunity to ruff his hair and fatten him up again.”
“May I?” Lola asked, suddenly behind the two for the binoculars. “I’m glad you were able to help out today. This roof really needed fixing. I hope those old biddies don’t give Lee a hard time....”she raised an eyebrow. “This is the Senior Golf Club? I’ll kill that new receptionist! What’s that girl doing? She has no business wearing a bikini! They’re all wearing bikinis!”
“Uh, isn’t that the norm, Miss Lola? The hands-on demo?”
“Oh, oh...yes, now I remember,” she said, flustered, “But that means that...”
What Lola was or was not going to say was interrupted by the appearance of Crane, in terry robe and flip flops. As he explained a few things to the girls, their interest soon escalated into an almost drooling appreciation of his washboard abdomen and standard issue spandex swim attire before he guided them into the pool and the ‘clean Hugo’ demonstration.
“You okay Miss Lola?” Malone asked.
“Huh? Oh, yes, fine. Carry on,” she fled, almost afraid to be caught drooling herself.
“It ain’t fair,” Clarke said. “It just ain’t fair. And he doesn’t even have to do anything.”
“One of the perks of being Captain Cupcake, I guess, c’mon, let’s get back to the Good Ship Lollipop, before the Chief starts griping about him leaving crumbs on the deck.”
“I’ll take any crumbs the Skip cares to leave behind any day,” Clarke laughed, looking back at the gaily splashing girls.
“How was the tour, Lee?” Nelson looked up from his desk as Lee came in.
Crane had changed back into uniform, though his hair was still wet and curly.
“It was a nightmare. Admiral? Is it me, or am I just past it? There I was surrounded by college girls in skimpy bikinis, and all I could think about was how soon it was going to be until lunch.”
“Lunch? Perhaps you should talk to Jamie.”
“I mean...I appreciate a good looking woman just like anyone else, but...”
“I’d rather just sit on a moonlit beach with the girl of my dreams in my arms and count the stars.”
“Oh, Lee!” Lola raced into his arms.
“What’s this about? I didn’t know you were here today, or I would have asked you if you wanted to go out for a bite...”
“Shhh,” she placed a finger on his lips. “Admiral? The reports you wanted are on Angie’s desk. She’ll file them for you when she gets back with Chip. C’mon Lee, I know a perfect spot, where we can have some sandwiches. We can even take a dip, and you’re already wet. I have a swimsuit in my locker. Oh, Admiral? We may be a little late, but I promise to have him back in plenty of time for that inspection tour of Seaview Morton scheduled.”
“Have a nice lunch,” Nelson grinned.
Lola practically dragged Lee out of the office. Lee turned toward Nelson and winked before he too, vanished.
‘Good lord,’ Nelson thought,’ the lad’s a master at fielding females. Probably all that ONI training... perhaps I should call Whitlox for a little training of my own...’
“But nobody’s seen them since they went to lunch! “Morton complained as Angie paced nervously in the background. It was already dark and it was getting late.
“Time just probably slipped away from them.”
“You know something don’t you?”
“Who, me? Nothing at all Chip, nothing at all, but I can guess...”
“Oh, only that their tardiness may have something to do with counting stars...”
“Go home Chip. I can almost guarantee Lee and Miss Hale will be here tomorrow morning bright and early, none the worse for wear. Besides,” Nelson smirked, “Do you honestly think I’d let him vanish without a trace again? I had security sneak a tracer on his shoes after that kitten business.”
“So, where are they?” Chip leaned over the desk.
“Now, Chip, that’s privileged information. “Of course, I could be bribed. for Dr. Peterman’s home phone number,” he grinned, “I understand your sister is a pen pal.”
Crane leaned over to kiss Lola again, the brilliant hues of blue and green water reflections weaving a magical spell.
“I’ve never had such a wonderful time, Lee. The picnic, the sightseeing, the swim, those stars,” she giggled, “the spandex,” she added suggestively. “It’s too bad we got kicked off that beautiful beach and...”
A cough interrupted, “Uh, excuse me Captain Crane?” Ski asked, again, “Are you done here yet? We really need to get in here to clean before we open for visitors.”
“I suppose,” Crane sighed and helped the swim suited Lola up off the floor of the Hugo the Whale exhibition room. The walled part of the aquarium was decorated with murals and children’s crayon stars dangled from the glitter painted ceiling.
“You want to say good night to Hugo?” Lee asked as he picked up the net bag with their clothes in it.
“Silly, it’s ,” she giggled. “When Daddy finds out he won’t let me hear the end of it.”
“That’s nothing compared to what the Admiral will say because we didn’t get back in time for the boat’s inspection tour yesterday.”
“Oh my gosh, I forgot all about that!”
“So we’ll pass out earplugs...”
“That’s what Ski said, anyway,” Malone said as he finished cleaning one of Seaview’s windows, “The Skipper and Miss Lola got kicked off some beach, and then spent the rest of the night at the aquarium, right here at NIMR.”
“What’s so terrible about that?” Clarke asked.
“Well,” Malone looked around surreptitiously, “the only beach I heard of getting closed down yesterday was that nudist beach.”
“You know the one some movie company rented. They made everybody leave....except for the extras they hired right on the spot. And,” he whispered, “The night watch says that the Skip and Miss Lola didn’t get here until around .”
“But that would mean that...”
“Yeah. The shit’s gonna’ hit the fan when the Admiral finds out that the Skipper and Miss Lola are in a porn movie.”
“Oh, man. I don’t even want to think about what Chief Hale’ll do.”
Nelson was in the middle of a mantatory ‘all hands’ meeting in the Institute’s auditorium, when Angie’s frightened voice interupted over the PA.
“Mr. Hale’s on the line. He says...”
“He says,” Hale’s voice interupted, “that he’s going to cut Lee Crane’s balls off and shove ‘em down his slimy throat! How the hell dare he seduce my little girl and take her down to that...den of iniquity! God only knows what he did to her! And it’ll be on film! They’ll go to hell for this and...”
“I don’t know what on earth you’re talking about, Chief Hale,” Lee said through the open squak.
“Word’s out that you got kicked off a beach last night. The only beach that got closed yesterday was that nudie beach. Try to sweet talk your way out of that one, Captain!.”
“We weren’t even in the county! We went to Butterfly Rock! And I have the gas receipt to prove it,” Lee added. “I’d be rather interested to know just where you got your so-called information.”
“From your own damn crew, that’s where. There’s scuttlebutt about your little adventure all over town!”
“My crew? That’s impossible. They know me better than that. They know Lola too...I think you must have misunderstood...”
“Uh, Skipper?” Ski stood up from his chair, looking for all the world like he wanted to disapear. Malone actually looked ill when he beat Ski to the punch.
“It’s not Ski’s fault,” Malone said, “ he only told me you got kicked off the beach. I just assumed it was that one, you know, in the news...the one with the porno film...”
“Well, tell me then, was I any good?” Crane asked, “Haven’t we all been through enough to know better than to just assume? Good grief, you could have ruined Lola’s reputation! And I may be many things, but I’m not a cad, for Pete’s sake....Chief Hale, I’m sorry about the mix up. I assure you, misinformation and gossip like this will not happen again.”
“I’m sorry too Crane. I guess I’m in hot water with Lola again,” he sighed, “When I finished talking to her on the phone she was crying. I guess I blew it..”
“Look,” Crane said, “come on down to the institute. I think we need to get a few things sorted out.”
“I’ll be there shortly. Goodbye Captain.
“Admiral, I think I need to do some damage control.”
“Go ahead Lee, I can handle the meeting.”
“So, Lola,”Angie asked later that afternoon, “everything okay now?”
“Daddy agrees that he should trust me more, and Lee’s convinced him that I’m old enough to make my own decisions. You know, maybe I should ask Lee if he’d like to go to the nudie beach sometime...just to see the shock value on either of their faces,” she laughed gently. “So, Angie,” she added, “what does Lee look like naked?” Lola asked.
“Miss Hale! That’s classified information!”
Both girls laughed and got back to work.
Seaview was on her way home following a rather ordinary charting mission.
Crane joined Morton and Nelson in the Wardroom for lunch and Cookie proudly placed a piping hot bowl of...something on their table.
Lee took a bite of the large heavy fried orb but just as quickly took the half chewed bite out of his mouth. “What is it?”
“I followed the recipe to the letter sir.’
“It can’t be that bad Lee,” Nelson said, trying a bite, then changed his mind, “perhaps not.”
Morton too, found the food unpalatable.
“But...you should have enjoyed them. There’re supposed to be the best oysters money could buy,” Cookie said.
“Oysters? Sure as hell don’t taste like any I’ve ever had,” Crane said.
“They’re really not any good,” Nelson said, “Maybe it’s an unusual variety.”
“What ocean were these harvested from,” Crane asked. “Maybe we’d better check it out.”
“I don’t know sir. They were in that crate they sent by Uncle Jake’s Dude Ranch by way of apology to the Skipper...”
“Do you have the package?” Nelson asked, a bit wary.
“Right here, sir,” he uncrumpled the label and handed it to Nelson.
“Prairie Oysters,” Nelson read, “that’s all.”
“Prairie Oysters!” O’Brian choked out, aghast. “But...but...”
“What is it man, what’s the problem?”Morton demanded.
“They’re not seafood! They’re testicles! Beef usually.”
“Bull balls?” Cookie said, “I prepared bull balls? Oh, man, oh man...I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Skipper, Admiral...Mr. Morton...I don’t know what to say...”he returned to the galley more embarrased than he’d ever been in his life.
“They’re actually considered an aphrodisiac,” O’Brian said. “In fact there’s a legend about an old Arab over 100 years old, who had 42 wives and he was still able to satisfy at least four of them every night. Of course, there haven’t been any clinical tests but a lot of men the world over swear by them...”O’Brian stopped as he saw the looks on the faces of his commanding officers, “...uh, not that any of you need any help, I mean...I...I think I remember I promised to check that diving gear..”he fled.
“I guess I shouldn’t hurt Cookie’s feelings,” Crane sighed, then speared his discarded ‘oyster’.
“Poor man’s crushed, “Morton jibed and speared his oyster as well.
“I can’t believe people actually pay money to eat these things,” Nelson added, pulling his back toward his fork.
“Well, that’s what the Admiral told security,” Malone said, as he vacuumed Nelson’s office the next day. “That he’d met an old colleague last night right after Seaview docked and that he’d gotten so wrapped up in some experiment they were working on that he was cancelling all his appointments today and would probably only get in this afternoon.”
“Uh huh,” Clarke said, “And we know just what that experiment was.”
“And,” Malone continued, “Morton said he’d be late ‘cause he was up really late last night.”
“Sure, sure...”Clarke sniggered.
“Miss Angie’s taken a personal day.”
“How about that.”
“And the Skipper’s called in sick.”
“And...Miss Lola’s on vacation.”
“Ain’t it so, so...convienient,” Malone sniggered.
“I’ll never eat one of those damn things again as long as I live,” Lee said as he vomited again over his apartment toilet.
“What could have possessed you Lee?” Jamison scolded. “13 of them?”
“I had my reasons,” he winked, “damn twitch; it nearly got me arrested for trying to bribe a meter maid.”
“Lee?” Lola entered the open apartment. “I got the bicarb...Jamie, thank goodness. He’s been sick since last nig...”she flushed.
“He’ll be all right. He should be fine by tomorrow.”
“What what is it?”
“Oh, just a case of bull. It’s a long story.”
“Now that’s weird,” O’Brian
said after taking a message while he and
“Some broad called Dr. Lucy Petermeyer called to leave the Admiral a message. Something about how much she appreciated the ‘scientific method.’”
Banana: Cylindrical oblong
and slightly curved medium soft fruit. Highly suggestive in
appearance as are Cucumbers (as in ‘cool as’). Both are also known rudely and crudely in the
Éclair: Cylindrical oblong custard or cream filled puff pastry, similar in appearance to the ‘long john’ filled doughnut. Mildly to Highly suggestive depending on size, width and filling. Bigger than even an outsized banana. Quite decadent.
Spotted Dick: Not a diseased male organ. Extremely moist upside down looking suet/sponge cake, studded with raisins or currents, and drenched in heavy syrups or flavored sauces. Virtually unknown to the United States, this is the perfect dessert to serve to unwelcome or lingering dinner guests, though some people actually like it...who can figure...
Captain Cupcake: I was halfway into writing this story when to my astonishment I discovered there really is a registered trademark for this name through the Hostess Company for a cartoon icon, in the shape of an elongated cream puff, at the helm of a ship’s wheel. (No infringement is implied or intended in the use of this name by Captain Crane) After all, our Crane is a Captain, and I agree with Dr. Wilson, that he certainly is a cupcake, and our lean mean fighting machine is certainly no cream puff.
Sno/Snow-ball: Not the kind from snowflakes. Generic term and trade term for small spherical or semi-spherical cakes, several varieties and brands available. Suggestive. Often frosted, sometimes encased with marshmallow. Often heavily sprinkled with coconut shavings. Chaperone pubescent boys when passing these snack foods in the grocery store or check-out counter.
Prairie Oysters: Generic term for testicles. Usually bovine (cattle), also other male animal’s genitalia. A potent source of testosterone, especially therapeutic for masculine performance the world over for centuries. Palatability is a matter of opinion and/or desperation. Sizes vary from small, medium, large, and jumbo. Preparation varies. Not to be confused with a hangover cure drink or a music band by the same name.