By Carol Foss
It was a splendid day. Crisp. Clear. Ideal for a sail. Commander
Lee Crane settled comfortably at the tiller of the small rented sailboat
and tried to enjoy it. He'd already used two and a half weeks of his month
long shore leave. Most of it, diving and sailing and just lounging around
on the beaches of the Bimini Island Group of the Bahamas. The views were
spectacular. Especially of the female variety.
But it was no good. Frankly, he was bored. And jealous. The only
girl he was really interested in just now was Admiral Nelson's private
Nelson had had to order him to take the vacation! Not that Lee felt
he needed one. But as the waves splashed alongside the tiny craft
and dolphins played nearby, he realized he really did need it. Anyone who
couldn't enjoy this had to be crazy. Or simply worn out.
The dolphins changed course and began to leap about. It was almost
as if they wanted him to follow. But the sea was getting a bit too choppy
for this toy, and Lee turned the craft back towards land.
Admiral Harriman Nelson paced the deck in Seaview's observation nose.
It was hard to relax. Even here, as the turquoise sea cast a lovely glow
through the transparent windows. He always came here to relax. But it was
no damn good.
He'd lent out Seaview as the impartial observation/command center
for the ongoing war games. Frankly, he needed to keep up Seaview's reputation.
There hadn't been too many requests for her services lately. His civilian
research vessel was also a Naval Reserve one, called upon more times than
he could count for help in especially tricky situations.
As Seaview hadn't been invited to participate in the games, he'd
volunteered her. Even if it was only as an observation post. Quite frankly,
he'd rather be fishing than playing host to rank-happy brass and sourpuss
congressmen, along for the ride.
"Well, Harry."Admiral Jiggs Stark slapped Nelson on the back as
he interrupted Nelson's musings." The war games are now officially over
and Seaview can take us all back to Pearl Harbor.
Nelson glared at his old friend, and closed the automatic accordion
doors, sealing off the adjoining control room. Turning, he went to the
sidebar, poured out two drinks, sipped his once, and handed the other to
"Don't ever pull a stunt like that again Jiggs! "
Oh, great! Lee chided himself, as another huge wave smashed over
him for the umpteenth time. It was hard enough to keep this excuse of
a boat from capsizing, and this storm! It just came out of nowhere! Lee
was enough of a pro to have checked the weather, so just what was this
monster storm doing here anyway? Nelson would know. Probably already did.
Nelson knew just about everything in the scientific venu. That's what Seaview
was all about, usually, anyway. Too bad Nelson didn't know where he was,
or surely he would have tried to warn him.
"Whatever are you talking about now"
"Did you or did you not take Riley to task for going barefoot?"
"Harry, this may be a civilian ship, but when I see a man out of
uniform I. "
"Jiggs, how many times must we go through this??", Nelson sighed,
wearily plopping into a chair."You treat my crew like a bunch of raw recruits.
"The man was barefoot! "
"So what! Don't you think he knew it? And,- he took a swig of his
drink, Afor your information, Admiral Smart-Ass, he'd spilled some heavy
solvent on his feet, and was on his way to get a clean pair of shoes and
socks without tracking any of the glop on the deck! "
"He didn't say anything. "
"You didn't give him a chance! ...Jiggs . . . If my men don't soon
stuff you into a torpedo tube and shoot you into the briny blue, I soon
will! Can't you quit polishing your stars for a while? At least till we
reach port?- Nelson asked, more exasperated than really angry. "
"Harry. Now calm down. I haven't been that bad, have I? I
thought I'd done pretty well, trying not to lord it over everyone. Why,
you yourself requested to be in on the exercises didn't you? Navy exercises?
Rules, regulations, and discipline and. "
"Being in on the action didn't include you to . . . oh, never mind."
Nelson gulped his drink, even wearier. Maybe Jiggs was right. Maybe there
had been too many scientific expeditions instead of government assignments.
Maybe he was loosing it, maybe Seaview was loosing it; loosing her status
as the elite of all submarines on the globe.
"Harry...you should never have retired, you know. I think
you've been stuck looking through your microscopes too long. By the way,
this is excellent rum. "
"One of the advantages of civilian life." Nelson replied, with a
hint of a grin.
"From your family vat? "
"Hm? Yes. "
"Just how old is it? This century's? Last?" Jiggs teased, " At least
it's not vinegar, or whatever old rum turns into. You know what your problem
is Harry? You're tense. You need a vacation. By the way, how did you ever
manage to talk Crane into taking his? "
"Blackmail"Nelson smiled, leaning back into his chair, "Simple blackmail."
"Oh, C'mon Harry. How'd you get your gallant captain to leave
his precious submarine for a month, let alone a day? "
"You are insistent, aren't you Jiggs? ...Well...I'll tell you."Nelson
sat down his glass. "It was either take the damn shore leave or spend a
stint back in the regular Navy...under your command. "
"Harriman! ...Oh! You're joking! Good one Harry!"
"I thought so!"Nelson laughed, the sour thoughts of a few minutes
ago forgotten as the two old friends began to talk of days long past.
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! Lee knew better than to take out
a craft without a compass. But heck, it was only going to be a three-hour
cruise. A three- hour cruise? Who am I, Gilligan? Lee thought sourly.
Taking the ropes in his teeth, Lee tried to find his emergency personnel
tracker. Blast! He must have left it at the hotel. The new device
made emergency recalls so much easier and even had an emergency locator
button. But, so anxious had Nelson been for Lee to relax on his vacation,
and had personally threatened keelhauling if Lee even tested it in misguided
duty, so that Crane had ignored the little device, squashed somewhere in
his duffle bag back at the hotel.
What about the coast guard? Surely, they'd be checking on things,
Fourth of July weekend or not. But he'd rented the boat for the duration
and it wasn't due back at the main island depot for another two weeks.
As for the hotel, his bill had been paid in full with specific instructions
for the maid to simply ignore the room. Lee was too much of a professional
sailor to want someone else to make up his bunk or scrub out his toilet.
So he'd armed himself with a pile of towels and thus had pretty much guaranteed
that no one would notice his absence.
So why had he acted the fool? He was no amateur. But he sure had
behaved like one. The lightening kept exploding all around him as
the waves became even fiercer. Spectacular, he thought ironically
as the crackles lit up the blackness of the night. Even if it does end
up barbecuing my boat. Drowned or incinerated. What a way to go.
Crane heard, rather than saw, the lightening bolt that ripped his
craft into shredded fiberglass, and it's wooden mast into shrapnel like
spikes. Something struck him with a force that seared into him as he was
plunged into the sea. The current dragged at him. Pulling him. Almost
like hands tugging him downward, while rock and coral tore at his skin.
He felt his lungs give up and his senses flee as he fell into oblivion.
As Nelson, Stark, and a few other senior officers chatted over old
times as they dined in the Officer's Club at the sub base, their
reverie was interrupted by Chief Sharkey, obviously disturbed, who approached
"What is it Chief? "
"Miss Angie at the Institute. She says it's urgent. Is there a monitor
"Of course, over here Chief." One of the top brass led the group
to the wall monitor, used primarily for watching tv broadcasts of football
games, but double dutied as a tie in for communications. Very quickly,
as Sharkey adjusted the dials to the correct frequency, Angie appeared
on the screen. She was visibly nervous.
"What is it Angie?"Nelson asked.
"Admiral? I...I...I'm sorry to bother you sir, but...but Lee's missing!
He took out a small sailboat four days ago. Nobody noticed because of the
rental agreement, and his personnel tracker doesn't respond...and civil
defense and the coast guard have everyone evacuated and accounted for except
for him and.. "
"What are you talking about?"Jiggs interrupted.
"The hurricane! In the Bahamas! Lee was there. That's where he went
after visiting his mother in Rhode Island. She called here to see if he
was okay, because the hotel staff couldn't find him, his room didn't look
very used, and one of the guests swore she saw him in the little sailboat
four days ago. Nobody's seen him since and.. "
"We'll take care of it Angie. Keep monitoring the situation and
keep me posted...I'm sure he's all right." Nelson tried to ease her anxiety,
while trying to cover his own. This hurricane was a big one, and had startled
It hurt to breathe. His body seemed to be on fire. Lee tried to remember.
He thought he remembered being dragged under and torn along jutting rock
and coral, but even he couldn't breathe underwater and must have quickly
succumbed. How was it then that he was alive, here in this coral grotto
of some sort?
The tiny cavern was unbelievably beautiful. The skeleton coral and
ancient lava seemed to sparkle as the aqua water lapped softly against
the wide ledge. The rainbow like colors bathed the place with a fantasy
like glow. Like something out of Disney, he thought. No, scratch
that. Disney wouldn't allow the stench. The combination of rust,
rot, and stagnant seawater didn't make for an ideal atmosphere. And if
this were a simple air pocket under the sea, he could be in real trouble.
After a brief examination of his wounds, he decided, that apart
from the gash in his side, from which he plucked sharp slivers of fiberglass
and wood, his scrapes and bruises were relatively minor. As
he explored, he learned the pool wasn't deep. It led into a tunnel. But
to his dismay it was below the water's surface. Somewhat translucent, he
decided to risk it. The tunnel seemed to go on forever. As he swam,
he had to give up and go back before his lungs burst. In the minute or
so he'd been gone from the grotto, the water level had already risen. Dragging
himself up out of the pool, gasping for breath, he escaped back to the
relative safely of the ledge. For a moment he thought he heard a
giggle, but as he turned his head, all he could hear was ringing in his
ears. Suddely weary, pain began to overwhelm him and he sank into an exhausted
This is no damn good! Nelson thought bitterly, as he tried
to maneuver the flying sub yet again, over, under, and through the storm.
Strong as this little craft was, it was no match for this monstrosity of
nature. While he'd risk his craft and himself in the search for Crane,
what good would that do if the flying sub were utterly destroyed in the
process? It was already beginning to crack up. He'd have to figure
something else out.
He certainly wouldn't have a problem with volunteers! They'd all
volunteered, every last man of Seaview and the Institute, to help find
the skipper. He hadn't even asked them to. What a team! Seaview
would be here soon to join him. She was almost cleared through the
Panama Canal. It wouldn't be too long before he could dock with the mother
ship instead of the abandoned base of operations he'd already set
up in the islands. He and Chief Sharkey were the only two souls left
in the entire area. The storm was growing in an intensity beyond
belief. Still offshore, it now seemed to the naked eye to be almost
sideways. Even weather satellites and trained meteorologists couldn't figure
it out. But it was feared that if it did come anywhere near land, any object
left standing would be about as stable as bathroom tissue! Why didn't
he check out this storm sooner. But he'd only thought it was a simple little
hurricane on the other side of the continent. Why hadn't anyone told him
it was more than a class 4 storm and behaving strangely?
Once Seaview was here, they could still conduct under- the -surface
scans, a lot of good that'll do, Nelson thought sourly. Crane was
probably dead and his corpse floating on the surface or deep in the depths.
If there's anything left of him, that is, Nelson shuddered, as he saw
yet another shark fin, and he aimed the craft in its descent to his island
Fwap! This time the sound woke Lee with a spray of water that tingled
like fire on his skin. The dolphin soon disappeared into the larger cavern
Lee had found. Thanks to the dolphins he'd seen another underwater tunnel,
only this one had a little air on top and led into this vast cave. Forcing
himself up, he found he had a new gash of his scalp. Probably from that
last faint. Not that it hurt like the wound in his side or the deep coral
cuts on his skin. Coral poisoning made his skin burn like fire. Or did
he have a fever from infection. It was hard to know.
The new cavern had been a dead end, and air pocket or not, and couldn't
sustain him forever. Every bone ached. Every pore seemed to have
been twisted inside out. He had to brace himself as the vertigo came upon
him again. But clutching the jagged coral and rock, he followed the dolphin
in a desperate hope of finding something, someway, out of his undersea
"And so, ladies and gentlemen, the freak hurricane remains stationery,
just offshore the Bimini Island Group in the Bahamas. Everyone has been
evacuated to the Carolinas without incident, except for one tourist, feared
lost at sea." The broadcast reporter cleared her throught, and then continued.
There was silence in the control room as Chip simply nodded. Hopeless.
That word wasn't even in Lee's vocabulary. Or Nelson's. Until now.
"Meteorologists around the world are bewildered by this storm, and
do not know how to predict its path. With winds estimated at more than
400 miles per hour, this storm could devastate just about everything in
Admiral Harriman Nelson, the noted marine scientist sailor, has
already begun an investigation. He also has a personal interest in the
storm as it may have claimed the life of one of his employees, making him
all the more anxious for explanations. Meanwhile, in other
"All right, Patterson, turn the monitor off." Chip Morton commanded,
without turning to look at Admiral Stark, who had wheedled his way aboard,
with Nelson's grudging approval."We should be at Admiral Nelson's base
soon. Are you still sure you want to assist in the investigation sir?
"Being rather insolent aren't' we Commander, Lieutenant Commander?
I may be excess baggage but Harry can use all the help he can get. He has
too many other things on his mind just now. And it's always easier to kill
two birds with one stone. We might just find Crane's body at the same time.
"A lot you care." Kowalski said under his breath, echoing the ship
wide attitude against Stark. Why, Admiral Stark didn't even seem to care
that the skipper could be dead! The skipper who'd saved all their lives,
even his, several times over.
Morton shot Kowalski his 'Shut up, even though I understand how
you feel' look, and tuned the monitor to the base camp's frequency.
As the screen turned on, Nelson looked tired. He probably hadn't
had any sleep for days. And now all this.
"Well, the calvary's arrived."Nelson looked up, instantly regretting
the empty phrase.
"Any luck with the Cousteau robotics?"Morton asked.
"I'm afraid not- Nelson sighed, spent. A ...Chip?... I'm calling
off the search and rescue operation...it's hopeless."
Lee knew he couldn't hold out much longer. Oh, he'd found other hidden
caverns, and even a few more pools of water. But he also knew the fish
he'd managed to catch with his hands survived only at the lower depths.
Water was a problem. He'd found a little moisture on the cavern's rocks,
and though he'd used what was left of his bright Hawaiian shirt to filter
the fluids he found trapped in the rocky indentures, it had a rusty,
salty taste which made it difficult to drink without spitting or vomiting
It looked like the sea intruded the caverns frequently and if he
tried to swim through the water tunnel, he'd be drowned by the time he
got to the surface. And that storm! He could only hope and pray that someone
might find him. That's a laugh. The air was worse. He'd even
begun to have hallucinations. Ghostly things, hallucinations were. Voices,
even. They taunted him with their laughter. They plagued him with their
songs of incredible beauty, and lyrics of gibberish. His fever wasn't that
bad, was it? Get a hold of yourself, or you'll be begging Kreuger to
come back! The thought of his past experience as the plaything of Captain
Krueger's ghost brought Lee back to the present situation.
A new cavern was lit by the same iridescent glow as the others,
but seemed brighter somehow. Squinting, he noticed the huge boulder. Almost
crystalline. Resting a hand against it, he thought he saw a city through
the glassy rock. Hallucination or not, he was shivering now. What difference
would the cold make if he was going to die down here, all alone and forgotten.
Stepping back, he stumbled and fell, but was caught by two hands. Familiar
hands. Like the hands of the dreadful men fish of a ghastly experiment,
or of an amphibian he'd rather not remember. Too weary to argue, fight,
or even try to determine if this was a hallucination too, he thought he
felt a gentle pat on his shoulder as he collapsed.
"Admiral, sir? Admiral?"Chief Sharkey knocked on Nelson's
cabin door. The admiral had boarded the sub last night, a tired, broken
old man. The hot coffee and croissant wouldn't be of much help, thought
Sharkey, but he needed to do something for the boss. Everybody knew how
hard he was probably taking the skipper's death. They all were. The admiral
and captain had been close friends. And everyone aboard held the skipper
great esteem. Walking through the corridors of Seaview, Sharkey noticed
how the boat seemed hollow somehow. Empty. Seaview wasn't the same without
Crane. " Admiral? Admiral?"Sharkey knocked louder. He was about to
Oh boy, he hasn't even hit the hay yet. Sharkey worried.
"It's open."Nelson's voice seemed horse.
"Uh, sir? I've got some really good coffee for you sir, and Cookie
made up some fancy French buns this morning too. "
"Oh, uh, thank you Chief." Nelson said absently. He was just sitting
there, in the semi darkness of the desk lamp, his ash tray spilling over
with spent cigarette butts. In fact the room reeked of tobacco and the
room was filled with a thick ghostly haze. The admiral has a habitual smoker,
Sharkey knew, but not like this. Unkempt, unshaven, the great Harriman
Nelson looked like an ugly caricature of unspoken pain. Sharkey wanted
to say something, anything, but decided it was better not to intrude.
"I'm all right Chief. Don't worry. I'll get to bed soon."
"This is Captain Crane's file, Chief." Nelson almost whispered.
"Some of the accumulated records of his stay on Seaview. Medical reports,
citations, reprimands even. It's all that's left, Francis... this
is all that's left of the soul we knew as Lee Crane." Nelson brooded. "It's
not fair, Francis... it's no damn fair."Nelson said quietly, then suddenly
banged his fist on the desk."He deserves more than this!" he almost pleaded,
Sharkey didn't really know what to do. But he knew what was wrong. He'd
have to be blind not to.
"Sir," Sharkey said gently, hesitating, "You can't blame yourself
Nelson was turning red, but Sharkey knew he had no choice now but to
"Sir, forgive me sir, but... you're about as transparent as the
observation nose." Sharkey continued quietly, knowing full well continuing
was not exactly a very wise thing to do. "Would the skipper be in his cabin
brooding? If your positions were reversed?... Sir.... It was an act of
nature." Sharkey continued matter of factly. "Nobody could have prevented
it. There was nothing you could have done."
"I could have let him stay aboard Seaview like he wanted,
instead of forcing him to take shore leave!" Nelson almost shouted.
"Yes sir," Sharkey continued quietly into the fray, "And if you
had, he and you, and everyone aboard would have gone sailing gaily off
into some other unknown and probably been killed by something else... There's
always a risk sir, you said so yourself. Especially aboard Seaview. A risk
you and the skipper always took."
"Do you owe it to the skipper to just sit here... in... self pity?
Do you owe it to him not to be the Harriman Nelson he knew and respected?"
Nelson looked down and Sharkey knew he'd overstepped the line. He waited
for the admiral's impending rage and immediate dismissal.
"Francis?" Nelson finally spoke, softly. "The captain always said
you had a great deal of insight... I...I think he'd be proud
of you for setting the old man straight."Nelson rose and rested a hand
on Sharkey's shoulder.
Why, Nelson was trembling, Sharkey realized, and without any further
comment, helped the worn out old man to bed, and was glad to see
him fall asleep almost immediately.
"Well, Harry, just how do we examine this hurricane if we can't
penetrate it without being torn into ribbons of titanium?" Stark asked
Nelson, entering the observation nose to join him in a light lunch.
"The diving bell! Don't worry Jiggs, I'm not insane. And it
won't be attached by cable. It'll be drawn into the storm and scanners
will do the rest. I haven't worked out all the details yet... "
"You will, Harry, you will." Jiggs grinned.
Lee awoke to the feel of a cool, wet something softly patting his
forehead. His blurry gaze soon cleared and he suddenly heard the
sound of a splash. His imagination was playing tricks on him again. Strange,
he felt better. Where the hell was he? Then he remembered. The city. The
city behind the boulder. But what about the creature...Oh, Lee get a
hold of yourself, He told himself. Try as he might, he couldn't remember
moving the great rock or even entering this cavern. Maybe I'm dead and
this is some kind of nightmare. No, scratch that. He was very much
alive, judging from the hunger and pain he felt. But he wasn't as thirsty
any more. Very odd, that.
He let his eyes wander over the city. Almost Grecian in appearance,
it was a hodgepodge of crumbled ruin and preserved antiquity. Calcifications,
coral, rock, and lava mixed with the ancient clay and stone buildings.
But some of the city looked as if taken out of someone's imaginary
picture book of ancient Pompeii.
Despite his pain, he began to explore the place. Some of the buildings
looked as if they were made yesterday. There was even a bakery, but as
he tried to examine a loaf of round bread on a shop counter, it crumbled
into dust. Oh, this was an archeologist's dream. If it was real. If all
of this were real and not a dream.
There were shops, coins, plates, and goblets. Even a jug or two
of wine, long ago evaporated into nothingness. But there were no bodies.
Not even one skeleton. The place seemed to have been suddenly deserted,
so many things seemed to have been left in place.
There even appeared to be some graffiti! For a good time see..Lee
stopped himself from reading the ancient Greek. He wasn't going to debase
himself by reading this! And, he'd noticed, there was quite
a bit it around. In fact, many of the mosaics on the pavements
and in the walls, while exquisite in color and design, were almost lewd.
They'd even put the legendary mermaids into one.
How could they have even considered placing such lovely creatures
into such a setting! Lee thought angrily. He knew all about mermaids! They
were wonderful creatures! His own mermaid had helped him find a bomb that
could have destroyed a great deal of life on the planet. Okay, so she'd
mesmerized him first. But he shouldn't have captured her, and had soon
released her. As it stood, only he and Nelson knew the myth was real.
As Lee continued to explore the deserted city, he tried not to think
what some archeologist of the future would think of his own bones.
Unless this city held some clue for escape. Fat chance, Lee mused,
as his explorations turned into a methodical search for a way out.
The diving bell had been made ready and it was with disgust at his
own inability to make the guidance mini-jets stronger, that Nelson decided
the bell could not be manned. He had no idea if his plans would even work.
Transmissions from the bell might not even get through to Seaview and who
knew where this bell could end up.
"All set Harry? "
It was getting to hard to go on. Contaminated water and decreasing oxygen
was getting to him, maybe even the depth. Lee was too much of a professional
to dismiss his increasing giddiness to just fever and his injuries. He'd
rechecked his wounds on occasion, and to his eye, they looked insignificant,
even if they were still painful. It was odd, but he actually missed
his mother hen of a doctor on Seaview. He'd always given Jamison a hard
time as a patient. If he ever got out of here, he'd be the ideal patient
and never fuss again. Oh boy, I must be loosing it, he chuckled
as he thought of actually doing what Jamie said in sickbay.
"Mmmm. Any word on the latest? "
"Well, judging by Morton's swearing in the control room, all of
the undersea turbulence, and the general atmosphere of 'what the hell are
we doing', I'd say the storm's getting bigger, stranger, and closer.
In fact, we're just about where you want us to be to launch the bell...look,
Harry...I know how much you wanted to go along, but... "
"Enough already! Any more sentiment about my not being able to go
along and we'll be mopping it off the deck...Kowalski, are the seals secured?
"Tight as a drum sir! "
"Chief, scanners on and transmitting? "
"Aye sir. "
"Control Room. Seaview receiving signals from the bell? "
"Aye sir. Everything nominal." Morton replied.
"Prepare to launch."Nelson ordered as the last of the preparations
were completed. Satisfied with the affirmative nod by Sharkey, Nelson checked
with the control room again. "Chip, position at the coordinates?"
"Right on target sir. "
"Launch the bell."Nelson ordered, and the specially equipped bell
was lowered into the hatch, and the cable released it into the depths.
Sliding down to sit against a wall, he began to wonder about Seaview
and her crew. Would they have to break in a new captain or would command
be given to Chip? Chip already had the ability, and the respect of the
crew was apparent. Surely, Nelson wouldn't humiliate Morton by getting
a outsider? Already he missed his beloved Seaview. Already he missed his
friends. Did they miss him? What about his mother? Would she be okay?
Thoughts began to plague him, of the things he should have said and things
he should have done but didn't. Of all of the 'what if's' that had occurred
to him in life.
As he brooded, pondered, and began to philosophize about life itself,
he grinned at the children playing in the square.They were singing, laughing
and utterly charming. Lee couldn't help but to smile at the way one little
girl seemed to take over. Children? He raced forward to grab the
girl as her fillagree necklace flashed in his eyes. But she continued
to play, as if he wasn't even there. He grabbed her shoulders but fell
flat on his face through the hollow image.
Another damn illusion! He exclaimed bitterly to himself,
as the town square seemed to fill up with people. Men, women, children,
dogs, cats, all going about their daily lives in the city. Shopping, eating,
drinking, and oblivious to him. Oh, this was too cruel. If he was
going to die, he'd rather just get on with it, than suffer
this agony. He couldn't join in. He couldn't share. All he could do was
watch, as the hallucination unfolded before his eyes.
This was an ancient city of his own imagination and to top it off,
he even saw intertwining canals of water, amphibians and mermaids laughing
and playing with the villagers! Oh, Lee, get a grip. Just shut
your eyes and then what?
The cruelest of all hallucinations, the gorgeous mermaid was suddenly
beside him, half in the water canal, half out of it, offering him a shell
of water and seaweed while the amphibian next to her seemed to be encouraging
him to take it.
Oh, she couldn't be the same one, could she? The luscious creature
that he'd taken aboard Seaview and her amphibian friend? What was it anyway,
her father, brother, pet even?The sunlight caused the water on her hair
and eyelashes to glimmer as the birds sang. Sunlight? Birds? Sky? Oh,
Lee, you've had it
He tried to clear his mind, but try as he might, the scene remained
the same, even more so. Everyone was so alive and active. And now, even
real to the touch. As he allowed the theme song from the Twilight Zone
to dance through his mind, he figured if he was dying, he might as well
enjoy it, and collapsed into the fantasy, taking the food and drink greedily.
The seaweed was surprisingly refreshing, and the water tasted
like alpine water from Switzerland. He had nothing to loose.
"Where am I? Is there a way to get out? To the surface? To reality?"
Try as he might, he could not convince her to show him how he might escape
Refusing to give up the thought of escape, even in this world of make
believe, he continued his explorations, until he gasped at the sight of
a jewel encrusted building. Opals, emeralds, and diamonds glittered
in the walls.
He stood, mesmerized, as he'd never seen anything quite so fantastic.
Suddenly the mermaid screeched, accosted by a villager. But nobody cared.
The villagers simply watched as the brute tried to drag her away.
Consumed with fury, Lee tried to pull the man away as the amphibian
was held back forcibly by the villagers. The brute was huge and hairy,
in fact, a ridiculous ultra Hollywood version of a gladiator. Lee knew
he was outgunned, so to speak, but he plunged into the fray and then all
hell broke loose.
The diving bell was transmitting properly, but Nelson paced with
growing impatience, despite the rocking sub. The data was proving to be
enlightening but not encouraging. And Seaview herself was groaning herself
under the strain of the mingling currents tugging at her hull. The sea
wasn't supposed to be this disturbed at such a depth.
"Well Harry? Any luck figuring it all out?" Jiggs approached, despite
warning glances from the Chief as to the boss's bad mood.
The control room was a bit too quiet for Nelson's taste as he moved
forward. The men seemed anxious. They'd been in worse fixes than this.
What the hell's the matter? He was just about to voice his thoughts,
when, there, through the observation nose, he saw it. What they all saw.
A twisted, shattered piece of wreckage.
Nelson roamed his fingers through his hair and sighed. "The
more data, the less understanding. Damn, it just isn't fair. "
"Whoever said it would be? Here, the coffee's fresh. Sit down, relax
a little. You'll figure it out. "
"In time? The thing's growing even if it doesn't appear to move.
And all the weather patterns of the world have been affected now. I'm beginning
to think it may be man-made, or an alien presence, or even a mystery of
the Bermuda Triangle!
"AAdmiral?"Chip's voice came across the PA, "could you come up here
for a moment? "
"Be right there."Nelson replied as the ship lurched yet again.
"He sounds concerned. "
"Wouldn't you be?"Nelson asked as both men departed toward the control
room, bracing thier hands against the bulkhead as the boat kept tossing
along its 'bad road'.
"Number 116. Verified as the boat Lee rented."Chip said quietly.
"Sir, I know it's a bit rough out there, but.. "
Hard words, necessary words. But unheeded just the same, as Morton's
diving team began to explore the site.
"Pick your men."Nelson replied, not waiting for the question.
"You can't be serious" Jiggs exploded. "The currents, the pressure!
Diving in this mess is not exactly safe! "
"Neither is being this close to the storm...O'Brian, take the conn."
Nelson commanded and took Jiggs by the arm closer to the nose
and out of earshot.
"Jiggs," Nelson spoke quietly,"Lee meant more to me than you can
realize...He may have meant almost as much to his men. We owe it to him.
"Harriman."Jiggs replied, firmly, "If the circumstances were different,
I'd agree. But it's not worth the risk. "
Nelson looked as though he'd been slapped. "I thought I knew you
better Jiggs. "
"And I thought you had more sense...Harry, listen to me. It's not
as though you're looking for Lee Crane the man... you're looking for Lee
Crane the corpse! He's dead. His body is just a husk, Harriman. His soul
is all that's left of him, and God willing, he's there with Him now. Don't
risk your men on a hunt for a piece of rotting flesh."
Lee groaned on the marble pavement as the villagers laughed
and pointed and prodded his limp figure. Thoroughly disgusted with himself
for his lack of prowess in the fight, Lee dragged himself up to see what
had happened. The gladiator had evidently tired of his pursuit of
the mermaid and was now in a jubilant mood with his companions over their
easy victory over the stupid stranger.
The amphibian helped to steady the very wobbly Crane, and while
the mermaid swam alongside in the intertwining canals, they entered the
If Lee had thought the exterior was magnificent, he found the interior
spectacular. Gold, diamond, and jeweled mosaics covered the walls, the
floors, and even the bottom of the inside rectangular pool which was an
offshoot of the canal. Everything seemed so well ordered, so precise. City
Hall? Lee thought sourly. As the amphibian helped him to sit down,
Lee noticed most of the mosaics here included mermaids.
"Pictures of your mother perhaps?" he asked the mermaid who had
swum into the pool following him into the place. " Or your grandmother?
Hmm. Let's see. I just can't sayl you 'hey you' when I talk to you, so
what's your name? Look. This is me. Lee. My name is Lee," he motioned to
himself."You? What's your name?" he motioned to his vision of loveliness.
She appeared to understand but sang from her throat, as did the amphibian.
It was as though she could sing a melody but without words, or at least
any language as he knew language to be. It was very strange. And very haunting.
"Hmm. That's no good. Wait. That was a melody wasn't it. Melody.
Okay. Your name is Melody," he grinned.
She seemed to understand .
"And your amphibian friend, or what ever he is, uh lets see. Got
it. The only thing I know about music is that it has majors and minors,
and he sure isn't minor, so we'll call him Major. Okay?"Lee laughed.
Both seemed to smile as if they understood and motioned him to lie down
and sleep. He could use some, even though he'd lost all track of time.
But first he let his eyes explore the chamber. Pictures. Pictures everywhere.
Water. Water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Pictures. Pictures everywhere
and lots of them are pink...it was hypnotic.
"Well, Chip?" Nelson asked, as Morton ripped off his mask, gasping
for breath. It had been a struggle just to get back to the boat. Thank
goodness for the guide cables. "Nothing but this."Chip handed Nelson
a strip of blackened, scoarched,broken metal watch. "It looks like
it was hit by lightening. But you can still make out some of the engraving
on the back. "
"It could be anybody's" Jigs quipped.
"But it isn't."Nelson said quietly after a brief examination. "I
gave this to him myself. Before I sent him away. To make sure he didn't
come back until the date alarm went off. The 27th." Nelson almost whispered.
"The day he was due back from shore leave. "
"Could be a coincidence? "
"No. Jiggs. No coincidence." Nelson clutched the item and slowly
He didn't know how long he'd been asleep this time, as the sound
of children's voices woke him. Running exuberantly as their ball bounced
into the chamber, they almost danced as they followed it into the
chamber. It plunged into the pool. But there was no splash.
It simply disappeared, as they did. Lee shuddered. He'd gotten so wrapped
up in his vision that he'd forgotten all this wasn't even real! His eyes
wandered over the empty chamber and the pictures that surrounded him. Closing
his eyes in weariness, he refused to open them, even as soft hands stroked
his hair. He would not die like a child in the world of pretend.
"So, admiral, though you can't predict the storm's path, you can
destroy it?" the president asked, while the rain smashed against the oval
"I think I can, but it may be a long shot."Nelson replied
from his cabin.
"Even if you don't know what's causing it?"Senator Baker interrupted,
on another vidcom line.
"I can't find any evidence of it being man-made as I thought it
might be, nor any proof of an alien presence of some sort. I'm afraid I
don't know what the hell the thing is, but I do know that it doesn't obey
the laws of nature. "
"Then how can you destroy it?" Baker exclaimed.
"Improvise. Have I your permission to act, Mr President? "
"We don't have a choice. Go ahead Nelson. Good luck."
Lee tried not to dream. He was sick of dreams. He wanted to die or
watch his body shrivel up and starve. If his hallucinations had been disturbing,
his dreams had been worse. Brought on, he supposed, by lack of pure
water and all the all the pictures he'd seen. Pictures of mermaids. Pictures
of mermaids in the moonlight.
He'd even dreamed of taking Melody in his arms, kissing her passionately
and indulging in hidden desires.
Deeply ashamed of his dream, he started to slap himself in an effort
to stay awake and fled the chamber. The ghost city taunted him as he tried
to find a way out. Even an attempt to try the underwater tunnel to
the sea would be better than this. Let me drown. Anything but this nightmare
of illusion. An eel swam by in one of the canals and Lee decided
to follow, but not without first scooping up an ancient coin from a ledge.
Even if by some miracle, he could get out alive, he wanted proof that at
least the city was real.
"Careful, Ski. That canister contains a special matter-antimatter
"Yes sir...sir? "
"Let's just say I hope it will neutralize the storm. "
"Using the missiles. "
"Using the missiles."Nelson answered, waiting for the next question.
"Uh, sir? You...You're sure the skipper's dead? "
Nelson looked at Kowalski with compassion. Of all the crewmen aboard,
Ski seemed to have become rather more possessive of his captain than the
others. "I don't know how he could have survived, Kowalski. And the
watch verifies that lightening must have actually struck him. I..I want
to believe he's alive somehow, but as a man of science, I just can't...he
meant a lot to me too, Ski...and I know he was very, very proud of you,
your shipmates, and Seaview. "
"Yes sir."Kowalski nodded in acknowledgment of the old man's words.
Words of conviction. Then it really was hopless. The skipper was
dead. Kowalski straightened, picked up the canister, and headed to the
The lava was thicker over here, bulging out over the canal, but not
exactly stopping it. If the fish had managed to swim under it, so could
he. Lee had never been claustrophobic, but he felt so now. Angry,
desperate, he clawed his way at the rock blocking part of the canal.
It wouldn't budge an inch. Kicking it, tears welling in his eyes, he watched
as the eel seemed to tease him by it's ability to enter and exit the opening
at will. Maybe there wasn't even a cavern on the other side, maybe it was
just a pile of rock, but he didn't care. He just had to get out of the
Finally, some pieces of rock broke off, and then some more, and
finally Lee managed to squeeze his way through the small opening,
gasping for breath from his exertion and limited oxygen. Then he saw it.
Bodies. Hundreds of bodies. Frozen in time, like plaster casts,
they were a tangle of twisted agonies, their faces still pleading for escape,
though centuries dead. Buried alive. Like me.
Lee remembered the mud casts of people made when Vesuvius
exploded and buried them in volcanic ash. The discovery of the Pompeii
casts had made headlines. So, a volcano had taken these souls as well.
As he brushed past one child, it crumbled into dust and bone,
leaving only the familiar filagree necklace. And the strong Lee Crane,
sat down, and buried his head in his hands, and let the tears
flow, for this child, for all of them, and for himself.
Suddenly, a sound of unbelievable and terrifying power reverberated
throughout the cavern. Wave after wave, tremors shook the place. Should
he stay here, or go back? Just as he was about to go back, a wall of water
forced the rocks behind him to break off, forcibly pushing him along with
them as it purged forth. Gasping for air, he tried to keep from being pulled
under and just as he thought he'd be smashed against the roof of the cavern,
another wall burst, sending the swirling torrents into a rage of power.
He actually clung to a rock as it was pushed onward through an endless
maze of rocky tunnels, ancient sewers, and coral. Suddenly, again, it was
as though hands dragged him, through the violent wake.
"Well, Harry, looks like your pan worked. The storm's dead. It hasn't
come up again for two days and we can all breathe a little easier now.
The sudden silence was unnerving. The commander continued.
"Thanks, Jigs. I have a good team. Chip? Still a negative on the
"Yes sir. The tracking stopped the moment of the explosion and hasn't
come back on. "
"Scratch one diving bell. "
"Don't worry Harry, I'm sure you'll be reimbursed, though how you
manage your financial affairs is beyond me." He raised his drink in an
unspoken toast. "You know, I'm beginning to see the advantages of civilian
life! Are you sure your men can handle it?"Jiggs teased, indicating the
"My men can handle anything."Nelson said proudly and audibly, as
he glanced back at the control room crew. Chip looked tired. It had been
a rough couple of weeks. Had it really been that long?
"Admiral Nelson, NATO on the videphone, England." Sparks relayed.
With a sigh of resignation, Nelson approached the now tuned monitor.
"Nothing ever changes. "
"Admiral Nelson? Of NIMR? Major Briker here sir. I'd like to request
your staff doctor to send us all pertinent information concerning a Commander
Lee Crane. We understand he's one of your boys."
"He is your man, isn't he sir? "
Very quickly the monitor tied in to the Dover Hospital, and after a
detour via the OR and storage room, it settled on Crane's room.
"When...when did you find his ...remains?"Nelson asked somberly.
"Remains? Hell no!..uh..I mean no sir. We found him...or rather
he found us... two days ago. Washed up on the rocks near Dover. Some children
found him, and ran for help but one lad had taken his ID tags
to play with and had promptly forgotten about them. We only found out about
the ID's today. Your man is in the local hospital.
"What's his condition?"Jiggs asked.
"Well, a bunch of gobildigoop I can't pronounce, let alone understand,
but I take it he's got some cracked ribs and some head wounds. There's
also massive bruising and a great many cuts and scrapes. And a really big
hole in his gut. Infections and skin irritations too. A bit of a mess,
you might say. Babbles about children, mermaids, and a city of some sort,
under the sea. But I suppose that's not too surprizing for a man with severe
dehydration and a whopping fever. It's gone now, the fever,
but they were pretty worried about him for a while. They'd like you to
officially identify him, fingerprints, DNA, all that sort of thing.
"Is he coherent now?"Nelson asked.
"Coherent? He's driving the nursing staff nuts! I can put you through
to the main desk if you like. But the system's a bit fouled up, so
I don't know if I can get you the correct connection. Blasted videomonitors.They're
at every dest, in every room, everything's computerized now. Can't even
pick your nose without somebody watching . I'll try to get you through
to the correct line sir. "
"Thank you, yes." Nelson tried to remain calm for the sake of appearances,
and signaled Sparks to set up all the shipboard monitors.
"I'm afraid it's stuck here sir. It may a be a few minutes to tie
in with the Nurse's station. Do you mind waiting?"
"Not at all, Major. Not at all.- Nelson replied, glad
to have a ringside seat, in spite of the intrusion. "
Nurse's Aide was at Crane' side. "Now look commander. You
must eat your jelly. "
She quickly gave him the spoon, but it fell just as quickly from
his banagded hand while the jello glopped on his chest.
"Well, you can just eat it yourself!" Crane replied defiantly .
"It's nourishing and technically a liquid," the aide continued,
"If I have to eat another bowl of jello, I'll puke!"
"Really, commander. Your language. I've never seen anyone so opposed
to gelatine as you." she replied, holding a spoonful to his lips, which
were firmly shut.
"Would you rather have a stomach tube?" she asked dangerously.
"I can feed myself." Crane replied, a bit deflated.
"You win." he sighed.
Lee shot her a glare that would normally scare the pants off his crew,
but they were tickled pink to see it now.
"Thank you." She replied as she fed him."Tell me commander. Are
you this much trouble on your ship? "
"Boat. A submarine is called a boat...and," Lee's eyes spoke dangerously,
"Doctor Jamison calls me the patient from hell," he replied, flashing her
a great smile which made him look like a teenager, in spite
of a beard and thick curly hair of a few weeks growth.
"Well, lets just get you well enough for a transfer to a military
hospital and afterwards you can have, what do they call it, a nice
long shore leave. "
"Shore leave!" Lee almost choked. "I just want to get back to my
boat," he pouted.
"Oh, poor baby."
"Now let's be a good boy and make it all gone," she said as she
fed him the last of the jello. "
Lee tried to sit up as if to get out of bed, trying not yelp in
"I know who'd I'd like to be all gone.- he said under his breath
as she turned, but he couldn't see her grin in response. "
"Well now Commander Crane," the doctor entered the room with his
clipboard, "How are we feeling? "
"We are feeling just fine. Now, when can I get out of here?
"When you're ready and not a moment sooner. Oh, wait, I need to
see that report your ship sent first. I'll be back in a moment."
"What are you doing?"the aide swaked.
' Tsk tsk tsk'ing', as she breifly treated the small ooze of blood
seeping from an abdominal wound, she stood, hands on her hips. The returning
doctor handed her the clipboard as he examined the impatient patient. He
prodded and poked while Lee tried vainly to cover his discomfort. The nurse
held the clipboard and the corners of her mouth turned up in amusement
as she read the clipboard's documents.
"What does it look like?"he replied, sarcastically, as he unsucessfully
tried to fend off her ministering.
"You lie back down right now. "
"When hell freezes over."he replied, bitterly.
"As you wish, commander. There's a nice cold slab in
the mourge just waiting for you if you persist in your alldelpated stubborness.
Now do I have to strap you down or sedate you? Or will you be a good boy
and do as you're told? "
"You sound like Jamie."
"You'll live." the doctor concluded, initialing the top document
on the clipboard and departed.
Nelson held his breath. All hands held theirs, as they waited for the
explosion. For if the captain hated anything worse than jello, it was rice
"Well, I'll take it as a compliment that I've been compared to the
famous Doctor Jamison. By the way," she showed off the newly attached document
on the clipboard, he'll be here soon on your flying sub.
" He's going to kill me," Lee spoke wearily.
"Oh, I don't think so. He might consider it, however, should you
'bust' his orders again, as he put it. So let's just behave ourselves for
a while longer ,hmm, commander?" she looked down again at the clipboard
" Oh, and we've already been warned. So none of your tricks
for eluding us. Now, it's time for your rice pudding."
Pulling the sheets over his head, Lee moaned. "Oh go away and let
me die in peace. "
"I'm afraid I can't do that. Doctor Jamison's orders. So I'm afraid
you'll just have to put up us until he takes you back to Seaview and off
our hands. "
Crane began to chuckle. It soon became a good, healthy, lighthearted
laugh, with Lee ignoring the added pain it caused.
"I'm going to Seaview?"Lee asked, apparently confused.
"Well, of course, how else do you expect to get home? Swim?"
"I don't think you understand commander. You may have to remain
aboard the sumarine for quite a while before... "
Lee's laugher soon subsided, but it was still glowing in his eyes.
"You..don't... understand."He tried to speak through his laugher.
It was almost contagious. "Seaview is my home."
"I'll never understand Yanks." She commented, as Lee drifted into
a gentle sleep of rest.
The monitor quickly jumped to the cafeteria and made a antother detour
to the maternity ward. "Thank you Major Briker. That will be all for now."Nelson
stated as he turned off the console, and sat down wearily on the periscope
island, while the cheers and backslapping throughout the ship echoed and
reechoed for a long time. Nelson began to chuckle
"Jiggs, how would you like to take the conn?" Nelson asked.
"I'd better. Somebody has to restore law and order. Go on, get out
" Admiral Nelson," Doctor Jamison winked as he waited for Sharkey
to open the flying sub hatch, " I seem to need a pilot."
"Is that an invitation? "
It was decided not to move Crane for another two days. And while he
fussed and fumed and generally plauged the hospital staff it was
encouraging to see him in otherwise good spirits.
"I don't think I could keep you away if I tried! Jamison and Nelson
proceeded to the flying sub on a mission to rescue Crane from his confinment."
"Well mother hen, can I come home now?" Lee asked Jamison as he'd
just completed another examination.
Both laughed as Nelson demanded Crane sit in the officially mandated
"I don't see why not."
"And the hallucinations?"Nelson asked.
"Probably induced by the coral poisioning , infection, and salt
water." Jamison shrugged. "Though I don't know how he ended up in a cavern
that deep to begin with...if it was even there. "
"Just chalk it up to another mystery of the deep." Nelson replied,
nodding at the doctor to leave him alone with Lee for a few minutes.
"Well, Lee? "
"I don't know." Lee sat on the edge of the bed, booding. " It...it
was all so real... I don't know where reality began and illusion ended...it...
really did look like her, and if she was real and anywhere in the caverns
or the area of the explosion...well, I'm sure even the city's been destoyed,
completely this time. "
It was awful, admiral. I saw the villager's faces, frozen like statues.
I saw their screams as they tried to escape...whatever it was that destroyed
them the first time. And now... there's nothing left.
"Perhaps not. But then, there is this."Nelson held up the coin.
"I had Dobson check it. Very ancient Greek. Lee... It could be from Atlantis.
"Everything fits. Think about it. From the things you told me, from
the legends, even the location. West of Gibraltar. The legends never
said how far west. And swallowed up by the sea. "
"I wish I could go back."Crane said untruthfully, but hating to
leave anything undone.
"I thought you might. That's why we're going to make our search
for Atlantis our next mission. If our captain approves that its."Nelson
grinned, handing Lee the coin.
"And my mermaid?" Lee asked quietly, his knuckles tightening with
unspoken tension,"Was she only a dream? "
"The first one wasn't. Perhaps this one wasn't either...God
only knows, Lee."
"Then I'll leave it with Him."Lee said wistfully and rose,
soon leaning against the large window."The sea and her secrets.. "
"Careful Lee, you're begining to sound like me! And who else do
I have to keep Jiggs in his place?"Nelson teased.
"What's this?"Lee asked as Nelson handed him a small medallion.
Just like she was, Lee whispered to himself.
"When the police found you, it was found tied around your neck with
seaweed. Strange, the children didn't seem to have noticed it. Do you remember
any thing about it? "
"No... Nothing."Lee replied as he examined it, snapping it open.
It was an exquisite opal, engraved and enameled in gold, sapphire,
and emerald, with a mermaid holding a shell full of seaweed and smiling.
" It's beautiful."Nelson said with undisquised awe.
"We're all set sir."Kowalski snapped and grinned as he and Jamison
entered the room. -Skipper, do you need any help?
"Only if it isn't from Jamie."Lee laughed.
"I heard that!"Doctor Jamison replied with a mock scowl. AC'mon
captain, your bed awaits you aboard.
"Bed! You are to rest. No duties. No checking up on anything. Nothing.
And I'll sedate you out if I have to. Okay Kowalski, give him a hand, but
don't let him do any 'wheelies'."Jamison grinned as Kowalski began to push
their prize patient out of the room.
It wasn't long after the captain had been safely stowed aboard,
and tucked away safe and sound in his cabin, that Nelson heard Jamison
arguing with Lee behind the closed door. Poor Jamie. The ongoing
battle was probably over something trivial but Nelson knew Crane would
probably win out in the end. He usually did.
The Seaview soon began her descent offshore of the cliffs of Dover,
and as Nelson swung the periscope around for a last look at the rock lined
beach, he stopped suddenly. It can't be! Can it?
As if she had seen him, the mermaid plunged into the sea and despite
his searching sweep of the powerful instrument, she had disappeared...
into obscurity, once again.