Author’s note: I would like to thank my ‘beta’ Lyn for giving me direction and helping sort out the torture, she does it so much better than me! I would also like to thank Sue for all her support, laughter and speed- reading….
How long he had been unconscious, he wasn’t sure, the pain had dulled somewhat, a heavy ache centralised on his right side, just below his rib cage. Somehow, by concentrating he was able to minimise the discomfort and by continuing to lay as still as possible, the pain was contained. Lying on his back, his legs felt numb and the strength in his arms had deserted him. He knew he needed help soon, he could feel his lifeblood seeping through the fingers that held a towel to the bleeding wound.
He shivered slightly, he was beginning to feel cold but knew that the heating was operating in the office building; he must be going into shock he thought… time was running out.
Feeling drowsy he fought to keep his mind to awake. His thoughts inevitably drifted to the last mission. Seaview had returned only yesterday, her crew discouraged and in mourning for a lost shipmate. The whole mission had been bedevilled from the beginning. Delayed two days, the large packing crates of equipment had arrived just before sailing and had been hurriedly checked through security… too hurriedly. His conscience alone had to bear the death of one promising young officer and Lee’s injuries. In his rush to get underway, he had not been prepared to wait for the standard security procedures to be completed, even when Morton had insisted that more time was needed. He was responsible. He should have been suspicious. If only….
He drew a shallow breath at the sharp pain that brought him back to reality as he realised he had clenched his hand over the wound. He determined to try again to summon help. Gathering his strength he tried to turn over but his legs refused to co-operate, he could not make his body move and as he lay frustratedly immobile on the floor of his office, the gloom began to defeat his will. The only light was faint and from the Institute grounds as it reflected through the floor to ceiling windows, this brought him a small amount of comfort, he did not want to die alone and in complete darkness.
As he felt the effort drain his depleted reserves he was aware of consciousness slipping from him again, desperately he clung to the faint sounds around him as he waited for a miracle to save his life. He couldn’t allow his so called friend’s betrayal to place others in danger, he had to fight!
Suddenly, the muted sound of voices in the outer office alerted him and he urgently looked for a means to attract attention. He moved his left arm back to knock at the edge of the desk, when he felt a cable… the phone! Wrapping his fingers around the wire he gave a weak tug, it moved only a few inches. The voices were fading, in desperation he committed his remaining strength and a resounding crash resulted just inches from his head.
Outside the two security guards were leaving. “Hang on Larry, did you hear that?” Both men concentrated.
“Thought I heard something, kind of muffled though, could be outside.”
“No, definitely sounded closer to me.” He moved closer to the closed office door and automatically lowered his voice as he started to draw his weapon. “Sounded like it came from in there.” He nodded towards the closed door.
“You sure Ray, he must have left hours ago.” Larry also drew his gun and moved closer to his colleague.
“We’d better check it out, all the same. You ready?”
The guard nodded, as his friend started to slowly open the door.
The room was in darkness and the light from the open doorway shone in like a concentrated beam across the carpeted floor to the far wall.
Ray Masters saw the phone lying on the floor beside the desk and thought he could see a shadowy figure concealed beyond it.
“Okay, whoever you are, we’re both armed, so come out, with your hands up where we can see them.”
When the figure did not move, he looked at Larry and nodded towards the light switch. As he edged further into the room, his friend slipped past him and clicked on the lighting. Immediately illumination banished all the shadows and both men were momentarily astonished at the sight before them.
Rushing across the room, the senior guard called. “My God! Larry, get the medics quick!” Kneeling down beside the injured man, Masters touched the neck of the pale figure and was relieved to find a weak but still beating pulse. Gently he touched his shoulder. “Admiral? Admiral Nelson sir, can you hear me?”
The eyelids fluttered open but only vague recognition greeted him. He struggled to speak…
“No sir, don’t try to talk. Help’s on its way, just hold on a while longer sir, please… just hold on.” He repeated desperately.
The figure relaxed slightly and the eyes slowly shut again. Ray Masters could hear Larry’s voice in the outer office, urgently calling the hospital for help. As he stayed by the Admiral, he noticed the blood soaked towel and the large stain on the carpet that extended under the motionless body… so much blood!
Eventually, behind him, he heard the flurry of activity as white suited corpsmen rushed in and pushed him aside to reach their patient. He stood and backed away in shock as Larry joined him. “Is he still alive? How bad is it?” He asked as he watched the medics work.
“Bad Larry, real bad. There’s so much blood, how could anybody lose that much blood and still be alive?”
Two officers urgently leaped the steps of the Medical Centre two at a time. As they ran down the long corridor towards the reception area, others scattered from their path, knowing their identities and understanding the urgency of their mission.
As they neared their destination, Dr. Will Jamison turned and holding up both hands to ward off the barrage of questions that threatened to wash over him, said firmly. “Okay, just listen. He is in surgery at the moment; Dr. Brouchet is removing the bullet and repairing the damage. We won’t know anything for a few hours yet….”
“What bullet?” Crane demanded harshly.
“What happened?” Morton questioned with concern.
The questions were fired at the same time and Jamie shook his head solemnly. “Let’s go sit in the visitor’s area and I will explain.” He put his hands behind both officers as he tried to shepherd them to the seated waiting area but both men resisted.
“Jamie just tell us….”
“I will but first let’s sit down. I’ve just received a shock as well and I need to sit down, even if you don’t.” He saw their concern flare for him and he proceeded to lead them to the comfortable chairs. He knew his ploy would work with both men, they were always more concerned with others than themselves and he wanted them calmed as he prepared them for his news.
As they all sat down, the two officers on the edge of the soft leather sofa, he recalled the reason for the more than luxurious furniture that graced this hospital’s relatives waiting area. Because of the highly dangerous nature of the missions these men were often involved in, the officers and crew of the Seaview were frequent patients of this facility and Nelson himself had long ago decreed that if he was going to spend days and nights waiting to hear if one of his men or more likely one of his officers, usually the Captain, was going to live or die, he would do it in relative comfort at least. Hence the soft leathered upholstery and the occasional tables that would grace any living room… and now they were here waiting for news of his survival.
“Well Jamie? How bad is he?” The worried voice of Lee Crane interrupted his reveries.
“He has a bullet wound, probably from .32 or .38. It was fired at close range and ripped a hole in his right side that resulted in a lot of internal damage. Dr. Brouchet is operating now to stop the internal bleeding and remove the bullet… but more seriously it lodged against his spine and…well… that could result in added complications.”
“What sort of complications, Jamie? What are you not telling us?” Chip Morton’s usually calm voice echoed the worry of his Captain and best friend.
Jamison took a deep breath and lowered his eyes almost afraid to look at the stunned men. “The x-rays showed that the bullet nicked the spinal column and if it can be retrieved without further damage…it could be alright after the swelling goes down… if not…” he looked up, hesitating, his mouth suddenly dry. “ If not, he could be paralysed for the rest of his life.” He watched to see the full implication his statement would have on these strong men.
Lee Crane paled as he stood suddenly but awkwardly. Now that the initial shock had worn off he was feeling the residual ache of his own recent injuries. He paced towards the window that was now reflecting the early crimson of the dawn and stood looking out towards the calm ocean not far away.
Jamie noted the way he moved stiffly and stroked the bandage on his right hand… must have started to itch as it healed. He would remember to take another look at it later…the laceration had been quite deep.
Chip Morton remained sitting but looked across at his friend, concern for him evident on the normally unreadable features of the stoic Exec. “How long before we know something Jamie?”
Will Jamison drew a deep breath and considered his reply. “If he comes through the operation okay, maybe a week, maybe ten days….”
“A week?” Lee turned and exclaimed.
“Lee, I can’t make him heal any faster, no matter how much you want it to happen! It could be longer… he lost a serious amount of blood, that alone will delay his recovery. I’m amazed he managed to hold on as long as he did without succumbing to shock. We will just have to wait and let his body repair itself with all the help we can give it.”
“Why aren’t you doing the operation? Is Brouchet the right man? This is the Admiral we’re talking about?” Lee said severely.
“I know that, Captain! Don’t forget he’s been my friend longer than he has yours. My concern for him is just as strong as yours. Dr. Brouchet is an expert surgeon and he also has a great deal of experience with spinal injuries. We’re damn lucky to have him!” Jamie finished angrily.
Lee Crane marched stiffly back to stand in front of the now angry Doctor.
“The Admiral must have the best. I won’t allow anything to endanger his recovery.”
“You think I would?”
Chip Morton stood and parted the two men carefully. “I thought we’d established long ago just what we all mean to each other. Now let’s all stand down before Dr. Brouchet has to come see what all the noise is about?” He watched as his friends slowly turned their focus to him, he raised an eyebrow and gave them both an uncompromising look.
Lee turned back to the window and said quietly. “I’m sorry Jamie. I know you will do what’s best. I guess I just….” He turned again but this time he remained by the window. “What are his chances really… surviving the operation and afterwards?”
Will sighed. “I’m sorry too, Lee. Not very professional of me to allow my own concerns to interfere like that. I guess I lost it for a moment there.” He straightened marginally and continued. “No guarantees, Captain but we managed to stabilise him pretty well before we started the surgery. He’s strong willed and determined and we all know what kind of fighter he is. But there are just too many variables right now… We’ll just have to wait and hope. I should be able to tell you more after I speak with Dr. Brouchet.”
Crane nodded and turned back to the view outside.
“Thanks Jamie.” Chip eyed the other man carefully. “You going to be okay? Anything you want me to do?”
Jamie smiled at the tall blond. How many times had he made the same inquiries when they had been awaiting news of his best friend’s injuries? Lee Crane nearly always returned damaged from his frequent and perilous scrapes with death. “No Chip, I’m fine, really.” Then both men laughed softly as he had unconsciously repeated the Captain’s well-worn phrase, his stock answer to all enquiries after his health. “I’m fine, really.”
The coffee had gone cold hours ago and now both men sat waiting in the family waiting room, wrapped in their own reflections.
Lee thought of the letter he had struggled to write, offering compassion and condolences to the relatives of his dead junior officer. He remembered meeting his family at the last Institute picnic. The parent’s of Lt j.g. David Cohen were confidently proud of their only son. His father, Jack Cohen was a veteran and repeatedly extolled the virtues of the service he had served in, reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer. David had been embarrassed at the way his parents had monopolised his Captain’s time but Lee had not minded and when the Lieutenant had sought the Captain out later to apologise, Lee assured him that he had enjoyed meeting them.
Only yesterday on their return to port, he had made a personal call to the family, to repeat his profound regret for their loss. He didn’t know which was worse, Sarah Cohen’s gentle weeping or Jack Cohen’s stoic acceptance that his only son had died bravely.
What a mission! It had all started out so simply. A request from the State Department to deliver urgently needed personnel and undersea mining equipment, to a privately run mining operation that was carrying out vital exploration for the government, on a possible new oil field. There had been no indication that there would be any complications. If only he had been more alert, maybe he would have noticed something suspicious about the three engineers sooner. He rubbed absently at his injured hand… it should have been him that died, not Cohen.
Chip Morton watched his best friend’s face as the many emotions flitted across the worried features. He knew what Lee was thinking…that he should have been the one to die and not the young, eager junior officer.
Lt. j.g. David Cohen… Chip smiled slightly as he recalled their first meeting, Cohen had snapped to attention and crisply saluted all three senior officer’s as he reported to them on the ‘admiral’s front porch’ as they liked to call the observation nose of the Seaview. His eyes had been so mesmerised by the view through the giant Herculite windows that even after they had returned his salute he still remained at attention, his arm still raised. It was Chip’s entrance into his eye line that finally got his attention; he still remembered the sudden flush of embarrassment that stained the youthful face. He had been a good officer, quick to learn and confident in his own abilities. That he idolised his Captain was plain and Chip never failed to rib Lee about it when the opportunity arose, much to Lee’s chagrin. Now he was gone. His life taken away by an act of selfless sacrifice that would not have been necessary had Chip been doing his job properly!
Shifting restlessly in his chair, he felt the pangs of guilt that racked his hidden self. Outwardly he was still the ever-efficient Exec, calm, organised, in control but inside where the world could not see, his own self-deprecation reigned. It was his fault that the security checks on the late arriving cargo boxes had not been completed. The Admiral had ordered their loading but as security officer he should have refused the order until he was sure that all the checks had been done, SOP in spite of the rush and Nelson’s need for expediency to get underway.
He had made a mistake. Only a day into the cruise, small-unexplained technical faults started to occur. Minor at first irritations only. After two days the faults had become more persistent and began to affect vital systems. They were random with no logical pattern and the tired crew started to get edgy waiting for the next system to go wrong. Lee and the Admiral became increasingly annoyed and when Lee had demanded to divert to a dock facility to overhaul the boat’s computers, the Admiral had been vehemently vocal about the delay but had reluctantly agreed.
No sooner had the course been set than, Seaview abruptly lost engine power and sank quickly to the ocean floor. Relieved that there was only minimal damage and while the crew were busy looking for the cause of the failure, armed men had invaded the control room and overpowered them.
The German hijack commander, Leo Engel was standing in the observation nose, looking out as Lee had been brought into the control room under guard. They were two days into their journey and the commander had kept all crew locked in quarters unless they were on duty. The Admiral was under special guard in his cabin and no one had seen him since the hijack had started. Engel had kept all the senior officers apart and the crew had been warned of the consequences if they did not co-operate fully.
However by limited means communications had been possible and now Lee hoped that his presence here did not mean that they had been discovered. The plans were all set for the next watch change; Chip and Sharkey were instrumental in its success.
Turning abruptly, Engel looked harshly at Lee. “Vell Kapitan, it seems you haf lied to me about the power situation and that you haf been trying to delay our journey.” He accused menacingly. “In our attempts to control your vessel’s computers, ve learned much more than you have given us the credit for, so your lies haf been found out!”
Lee studied the German’s ruthless expression and replied cautiously. “I don’t know what you mean. With the reactor damage the fake mining engineers caused, we’re lucky to be moving at all!”
“Don’t take me for a fool, Kapitan! I varned you what would happen if you chose to defy us. Maybe a demonstration is necessary after all. If your deck is stained with your blood, then perhaps you will do as I command!” Turning to the control room he surveyed the tense faces of the crew. “You serve vith ze dregs of humanity, Poles, Jew’s, Hispanics, these men would have no place in an Arian society.” Engel said disparagingly. “But maybe they need to be taught who are the masters here.”
“These are good men and not responsible for my actions. They follow my orders.” Lee said forcefully.
Angrily Engel turned back to Lee. “Then Kapitan, they must learn to follow MY orders!” He looked at his second in command and nodded.
The guards dragged Lee aside and as they held him securely, Bergman punched him hard on the jaw. As his head snapped back from the force of the blow, he heard a voice call out.
“NO! Stop this, there will be no further delays…there is no need for this.” Lt David Cohen rushed forward, only to be stopped by a rifle held to his chest.
“Ah! Lt. Cohen, fears for your safety Kapitan. You do indeed inspire much loyalty among your men, even from Jews!” He spat the insult out and Lee saw Cohen flare with anger.
“Stand down lieutenant, that’s an order!” Lee commanded forcefully.
“An order, lieutenant!” Lee repeated tightly. He watched as Cohen clenched his fists and hesitated but then stepped back, still glaring at the smiling German commander.
The beating was short but brutal and as Lee dropped to the deck, struggling to breath, he heard the sound of loud voices as the fight back for the Seaview began…
As he lay on the deck, fighting for breath, Lee looked up as Engel aimed a gun at him. Using sheer determination he kicked out at the knee of his enemy, connecting solidly, jarring a cry of pain from the other man. Leo Engel staggered forward, falling toward him, and Lee grappled for the gun but the beating had robbed him of his strength and the pistol slipped from both their grasps and in the struggle skidded across the deck. The German rolled away, scrambling to reach the weapon and Lee caught his leg and pulled him back, then he punched the hijacker, his blow knocking Engel backwards. As Lee reached for the gun Engel lashed out wildly with his feet and the captain staggered back as the German’s foot impacted against his jaw.
Crane struggled to his feet but Engel again attacked the captain shoving him hard against the plot table and Lee felt a sharp pain in his ribcage. He fell to one knee, but brought his clenched fist backwards into the hijackers face, knocking him down. As Lee tried to stand upright, Lt. Cohen was at his side, helping his captain to stand but to his horror the German had pulled a knife and was lunging forward. In automatic defence, Lee put his hand up to ward off the blade from Cohen’s back; and he felt the shock of pain and injury as the razor sharp knife sliced through his right palm. Lee slumped to the floor, blood gushing from his hand, draining him of what little strength he had left.
With a howl of fury the Lieutenant turned and attacked Engel, delivering several hard punches, driving him to the deck, Cohen straightened over the German hijacker, breathing heavily. Engel appeared spent and, Lt Cohen turned back to his captain to help stem the blood from Lee’s hand, with his own handkerchief. A movement behind the junior officer caught Crane’s attention and he watched in horror as the German pick up the discarded gun and took aim at him. He could not react in time. He was too weak.
“No…” he gasped and Lt Cohen looked over his shoulder and seeing the danger threw himself in front Lee as the gun fired. The young man fell forward as Lee reached out to catch him. A look of confusion and concern crossed Cohen’s face as he whispered, “Are you all right Captain…?” Then he his eyes closed slowly and he went limp in Lee’s arms.
Lee suddenly rose to his feet, bringing Chip back to the present as Dr. Pierre Brouchet and Jamie came towards them.
“Well…?” Lee asked anxiously.
Jamie looked at the heavy, slightly rotund figure beside him and nodded.
“Yes, Captain Crane, surgery was successful and his condition is stable at the moment but….” The French-Canadian doctor answered carefully, “it will be a long road to complete recovery.”
“The bullet. Did you get it out?” Lee demanded anxiously.
Pursing his lips the Doctor nodded. “Yes… I managed to retrieve the bullet without inflicting more harm… As I believe Dr. Jamison advised you, there was a great deal of internal trauma; it will have to heal a little before we can assess the full implications of the injury… …” He looked at Jamie and with a Gallic type shrug and turned back to the two officers before him. “So we will have to wait and see, no?”
“Can we see him Jamie?”
Let’s wait until we get him back from recovery and set up in ICU and then you can both see him for a few minutes only.”
As the doctors turned to leave, Lee held out his right hand to Brouchet, and then quickly changed to his left as he remembered the bandaging. “Thank you Doctor, for everything.”
Dr Brouchet smiled as he shook the outstretched hand. “My pleasure, Captain. It is not often that I can save the life of such an important personage as Admiral Harriman Nelson. The world cannot afford to lose him quite yet, I think.”
Jamie gave Crane and Morton a departing nod of encouragement, as he followed Brouchet down the hall. Lee sagged against the wall and Chip took his arm to guide him to a chair. “Now comes the hardest part,” he said quietly … “the waiting.”
As they stood quietly beside the bed in the private room each man experienced similar reactions of shock and concern.
They watched the rhythmic rise and fall of Nelson’s chest as the artificial breathing apparatus wheezed oxygen into his lungs through the tube secured over his mouth and both men knew from experience the discomfort of its presence in the throat. They listened to the heart monitor sound a monotonous beat that was a reassurance that his heart still functioned, as it should. Drip stands holding bags of blood and clear fluids, surrounded the bed and were being channelled into veins in both arms. A large white dressing was taped gently over the wound on his abdomen, from which yet another tube was visible. He looked deathly pale and his auburn hair stood out in stark contrast against the starched whiteness of the single pillow.
Jamie came and stood behind them and placed a comforting hand on each man’s shoulder.
“Can he hear us?” Lee whispered.
“No. We have to keep him heavily sedated for several days yet. Gradually we will allow him to wake up but not yet, his body has undergone two major traumas and he needs the time that sleep will give him to stabilise a little.”
He gently took each man by the elbow and led him outside. “Now I am going to recommend that you go home, both of you.” Putting up his hands against their immediate refusals he went on. “There is nothing you can do here and you Captain are still recovering from your own injuries, you need to get something to eat and some rest. I don’t want to have to make it an order, Lee, in my capacity as your CMO.” Looking at Chip he said firmly. “Commander take him home and both of you get some sleep. I don’t want to see you back here until at least this evening.”
“Lee took on a stubborn stance that Will and Chip recognised all too well. “Doctor, I think I can best evaluate my own capabilities.”
Chip intervened, as he saw the Doctor prepare to argue. “Lee, let’s go. We can’t help here and we could use some rest.” Glancing quickly at Jamie, he said. “We will both come back this evening, Doctor.” For a moment he thought Lee was going to fight him then seeing the little flicker of determination in Chip’s eye, Lee relented and agreed.
“Very well… but Jamie if…” He could not finish the unwanted thought.
“I promise Skipper, I’ll call you immediately, if there’s any change, you have my word.” Jamie said softly.
Lee nodded absently and walked reluctantly with Chip towards the main entrance.
Outside the morning was well advanced and as they stood thoughtfully on the steps Lee said quietly. “My. God Chip, he looked so…helpless! He’s always so active and vital…I can’t believe how vulnerable he looked. I’ve never seen anyone look like that before.”
“I have,” Morton said pensively.
Chip turned to look at his friend squarely face to face. “You! Every time you return from saving the world single handed again, you wind up either in sick bay or here, sometimes both!” His anguished eyes and frustrated tone surprised his best friend and Lee put out a hand to his arm.
“Chip are you okay?”
Chip Morton quickly controlled his momentary lapse of composure. “Of course…just tired I guess. Come on let’s get you home.” He started down the steps but was held back by Lee’s hand still on his arm.
“Chip, I’m sorry, I never realised… it’s just what I do. I never mean to cause anyone any concern.”
Morton smiled sadly. “I know you don’t Lee, that’s the hard part. Knowing that you’ll recover and do it all over again when it’s asked of you.”
Instead of going immediately home, Lee insisted on checking the progress of the investigation at the main building. As they walked into Angie’s office, she looked up with obvious tear stained eyes, although she tried valiantly to smile her welcome as she came to meet them.
“How is he Lee, have you seen him?” She asked intently.
Crane took her gently in a hug then holding her away from him slightly, looked into her eyes and he said softly. “He’s holding his own. We saw him for a few minutes, a little while ago… Jamie’s doing everything he can. We just have to keep hoping.”
“Oh. Lee, thank God!” She moved slowly out of his arms and using a hankie dabbed away the fresh tears. “I feel so guilty. If only I’d stayed, this might never have happened, or if it did I could have got him help right away.” She looked at the two men in front of her. “But he insisted you see…I told him I could stay but he insisted I go home. He said the meeting was just nonsense anyway.”
Lee and Chip looked confused and as she sat down in the visitor’s chair beside her desk. Taking up familiar positions when visiting her office, Lee perched himself on the edge of her desk in front of her, Chip took her office chair.
“Angie, what meeting are you talking about? Are you saying the admiral was meeting someone else, after we left last night?” Lee asked gently.
“Yes…while you and Chip were here he wanted no interruptions. A man called and wanted to speak to him but when I explained he was busy he said, ‘Just tell him, Treasure Seeker will be calling by, wait for him.’ I tried to explain it to him again but he hung up. After you both left I gave the Admiral the message and he was a little cross. Oh! Not at me you understand but with ‘Treasure Seeker’. He just said ‘ not that stuff and nonsense again’ and told me to go home, then he suddenly became …I don’t know, kind of thoughtful I suppose and started to write something, then he became animated, you know like he does when he’s solved a puzzle that’s troubled him. He asked me get the research library to send over anything they had on WW2 Nazi treasure trove, lost Christian Relics and anything else they had on lost German U-Boats. He was immersed in them when I left.”
“You don’t know who this ‘Treasure Seeker’ is? Has he called before, that you know of?” Chip asked thoughtfully.
“No…at least I don’t think so…although I thought he did sound kind of familiar.” Angie frowned as she concentrated then shook her head. “I’m sorry, the Admiral speaks to so many people and I can’t remember all their voices.”
Lee took her hands in his. “It’s okay Angie, don’t worry about it. We’ll find him, who ever he is.” Lee glanced carefully at Chip and knew he had also picked up the significance of the German connection. With a re-assuring smile he spoke gently to Angie. “Now why don’t you take the rest of the day off, you look exhausted.”
Angie drew her hands out of his and waved vaguely at her desk and answered. “I can’t Lee…there’s so much to do…and …” She looked at the now closed door of the ‘inner sanctum’ as she privately referred to Admiral Nelson’s office. “The cleaners are coming by soon now that the police have finished in there….” Her voice faded as the vivid memory of the bloodstained carpet assaulted her once again.
Lee and Chip noted her sudden pallor, as Chip picked up a glass of water from her desk and passed it to her, Lee picked up the phone.
“Connect me with the Seaview.” He commanded the operator. He watched as Angie sipped the water and smiled gratefully at Chip. “Hello…this Captain Crane, get me Chief Sharkey.”
Chip only half listened to Lee’s conversation on the phone…Nazi treasure trove, Christian Relics… kept repeating in his head… and the damn German connection again. What had the Admiral known or suspected about the last disastrous cruise that they did not?
“Right that’s all fixed. You go home and don’t come in for a couple of days. Our secretaries …” He indicated Chip and himself. “Can handle the calls and if anything comes up they can’t deal with, they can always call you. Sharkey and Kowalski will be here to take care of the special cleaning crew.”
“No buts…that’s an order!” He smiled kindly.
Angie smiled hesitantly but tears were threatening to flow again, so she gathered up her purse and leaned forward to kiss his cheek. “Thank you Captain.” She said huskily. “You will let me know how he is…”
“I’ll leave instructions that you are to receive regular updates.”
This time tears trickled down her cheek and she bade them a hasty goodbye as she headed out the door.
“You think she’s okay to drive?” Chip asked.
“Patterson’s waiting downstairs to take her home, courtesy of the Chief.” Lee answered as he stood looking at Nelson’s door.
Chip understood the way he felt, this was not going to be easy but it had to be done. He went forward and quickly opened the door, standing aside for his Captain to precede him.
Lee smiled gratefully at Chip and entered quickly. The room was almost the same as they had seen it last night…except for the discarded blood soaked towel, thrown carelessly against the wall and the large dark stain beside the desk that extended from view behind it.
“Open a window, will you Chip?” A strong metallic odour hung heavily in the room.
As Chip turned from opening the high window, the sound of voices approached.
“Eh…Captain, Kowalski and me …” The voice faded, as he saw the large stain and blood soaked towel.
“Yes, Chief, that’s his blood.” Lee whispered trying not to imagine what pain his friend must have suffered.
Hearing the hurt in his Captain’s voice, he asked respectfully. “Yes sir. Can we help you with anything in here, Skipper?”
Turning to his CPO he said wearily. “No, it’s all right Sharkey. Why don’t you and Ski wait outside in Angie’s office, perhaps you could arrange with the switchboard to transfer all calls through mine or Mr. Morton’s secretaries?”
Sharkey hesitated; he was about to say something more when he caught Mr. Morton’s gentle shake of the head and answered. “Yessir, Captain… Mr. Morton.” He nodded to the Exec and left closing the door firmly.
Chip turned to Lee and went to stand beside him. Lee looked at his friend and stiffened his posture. “Right Mr. Morton, let’s see if we can find something to help us find this ‘Treasure Seeker.’
Together they approached the desk from the front and proceeded to search the papers and books scattered across it.
Almost immediately Lee picked up the message pad and as he flicked the pages, studied the doodles, done obviously in Nelson’s bold writing style.
“Chip?” Lee held out the pad. “Take a look.”
Morton took the notepad and as soon as he saw the symbols and notations, his eyes narrowed as he shrewdly assessed the significance. Looking up, he voiced his thoughts. “The German Imperial flag, swastika’s, what’s this he’s written here, ‘The Spear of Destiny’…what the hell is going on Lee, first the Seaview is hijacked by Germans, then the Admiral has a meeting with a mystery caller and is drawing WW2 Third Reich designs all over his messages?”
His friend ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “I don’t know Chip. It doesn’t make any sense. When the Seaview went down and was overpowered by the hijackers, he was as confused as we were. It can’t just be coincidence that they were German and now we have a German connection again… it has to be linked. What’s that over the page …Zweites Kommen, he’s written it over and over…” Lee flipped a few more pages of drawings…
“The Second Coming…”
The captain threw a puzzled glance at his Exec.
“That’s what it means ‘Zweites Kommen’… The Second Coming”
“You speak German, since when?” Lee demanded.
“I don’t speak German…just odd words…numbers, a few days things like that. We had a German family down the street, when I was growing up. He didn’t speak much American and I spoke no German, so we taught each other a little… Zwietes is second.”
Lee smiled. “You never cease to amaze me Mr. Morton.”
“That’s what makes me indispensable, Captain!” They both laughed lightly but were interrupted by a knock at the door.
Chief Sharkey opened the door but remained on the threshold. “Skipper, the clean up crew have arrived.”
“Thank you, Chief. Just give us a moment.” The door closed again.
Taking a deep breath Lee said firmly. “Let’s do another sweep of the room, in case anything was missed, then we’ll go get the rest ordered by the good doctor, before going back to the hospital.”
“Okay, Lee. That sounds sensible, as I’m driving I can crash at your place.”
Lee nodded and looked at his bandaged hand. “I can’t wait to get this thing off, Jamie’s promised just two more days…and I’m holding him to it!”
After checking the hospital again and leaving the instructions regarding Angie, they went to Chip’s car.
“What’s with the dog smell?” Crane asked as they got in.
“Oh, yeah sorry. When I got home yesterday the neighbour’s dog had been hit by a reversing truck…she was frantic about him so I offered to take her and the dog to the vet. The pooch was real scared…I meant to take the blanket out but with everything else…. I’ll drop the car by the pool tomorrow and get one of the guys to valet it.” Chip lowered the window.
“This wouldn’t be the single, slim, attractive, female neighbour that just moved in, would it?” Lee grinned at his friend.
Chip smiled craftily. “It might have been.”
Both men laughed warmly as they drove out through the gates of the Institute and onto the main highway. It was only early afternoon and the traffic was still reasonably light.
“You want to pick up some food on the way?” Chip asked as he skilfully overtook a large delivery truck.
“I suppose if I say, ‘No’, you’ll only get on my case again about not eating.” Lee said jokingly.
“When did you last eat?”
“When did you?”
Chip chuckled. “Touche. Seriously, I doubt you have anything in your place since we docked, do you? So let’s get some food to go.”
“Okay let’s stop at the store, I could get a few essentials.”
Twenty minutes later they were back in the car with two bags of groceries safely in the trunk.
As they drove along the highway, they chatted sporadically, as is the way with people who have other things on their mind but when the turning for the coast road approached they were both startled by a movement behind them as the muzzle of a gun settled against Lee’s neck.
“Keep driving! Do not stop. Do not talk. Do not draw attention to yourself. I vill tell you vhere you must go.”
The German accented voice was clear and strong. Chip risked a glance at Lee.
“No! You vill not look at each other!” And the gun was pushed harder against Lee’s neck, making him lean forward with his head slightly bowed.
“Put your hands to ze front vhere I can see zem!” The voice ordered Lee and again the gun pushed him further forwards.
They drove in silence for another two miles then he spoke again. “Take ze left fork and drive until I tell you to stop.”
After 5 minutes the voice ordered. “Stop here and svitch off ze engine.”
As Chip slowed to halt and hesitated the voice behind him said menacingly. “You have survived this far Kommander, please do not be foolish now.”
Chip turned the key and the powerful engine died. No one moved.
“What now?” Lee asked carefully.
“SILENCE!” And he felt a sharp blow as the gun was flicked hard against his cheek.
Another car pulled up beside them and two men got out and positioned themselves on each side of Chip’s car.
“Now you vill open your doors, very carefully ...and exit one at a time. Kapitan, you first.”
Lee hesitated only a second when he felt the gun leave his neck and saw it move to Chip’s head. He followed the instructions cautiously.
Next Chip drew himself out of the car, as he stood up, he turned to see Lee falling forward. Just as he made a move to protest, he felt the sharp pain of a needle, as it pierced his bicep and he too pitched forward onto the ground.
The light was intensely painful as Chip opened his eyes, he groaned and shut them again quickly. His mouth felt dry, no, more than that, it felt like his tongue was swollen and stuck to the roof of his mouth.
“Here drink this, it will help.”
Opening his eye a little to squint at his best friend he took the proffered glass and drank greedily. When he had finished he croaked. “Thanks.”
“Give it some time, before you speak…it’ll be easier.” Lee Crane advised. He had experienced these particular symptoms on more than one occasion, in his ONI work.
Pushing himself into an upright position, Chip Morton leant back against the rough stonewall. He found he could now open his eyes without the sharp pain ripping through his temples.
“It’ll wear off in a few minutes. Right now, just listen and I’ll fill you in.” Lee waved his hand around the six by eight cell like room. “I think we’re underground somewhere, feels like it somehow. That door is inches thick and apart from that ceiling grill over the light there is nothing useful, even our dog tags are missing.”
Chip automatically felt for the chain around his open necked shirt, it wasn’t there but a tender bruise was forming along the side of his throat. He swallowed carefully and complained hoarsely. “They took our ties too.”
Lee smiled; Chip always wore a tie on duty!
“You have any idea what’s going on?” Chip asked his voice a little stronger.
Lee handed him more water. “No more than you. Hell Chip, none of this makes sense. First the Seaview is hijacked by Germans and we never knew why, now we’ve been kidnapped by them!” He finished impatiently.
“Must of got into the car, when we stopped at the store.” Chip said ruefully. “I wonder what time it is? Hey, you took the bandage off.” Chip accused, as he saw his friend’s hand bare of its protection.
Lee held up his hand to look at it. The two strips of white adhesive dressing were all that covered the deep laceration he had received trying to prevent the armed hijack commander from killing David Cohen.
“Not me.” He said simply.
There was the sound of a bolt being pulled back and the heavy metal door swung open. Lee just managed to help Chip stand as a soldier dressed in the authentic uniform of a German army private of the Second World War came in and trained his rifle on them. Before they had the chance to react another man entered in a full military uniform of an officer in the Waffen-SS. He was tall, young and very stern. Standing to attention and clicking his heels together he announced. “Luetnant Heinz Gruber.” And dipped his head. Lee and Chip watched his introduction and recognised him as their kidnapper. “Gentlemen you vill please follow me.” Then pivoting on his heel marched out.
Looking cautiously at the guard who indicated with his weapon for them to follow, Lee nodded to Chip and moved forward. They were walking through large, brightly lit, arched cellar rooms. Each one held boxes of armaments, weaponry of all sorts and other crated cargo. They glimpsed an area that was equipped as a communications room, with several uniformed staff stationed at desks. As they passed through room after room, several of the uniformed personnel watched their progress. Led by the Lieutnant, they reached a spiral stone staircase and walked up it, followed by the guard. As they reached the top, they found themselves in a long corridor, the sound of rattling tins, clinking plates and glasses echoed from one of the open doors; indistinct voices raised themselves over the general activity. The aroma of food cooking pervaded the area, as they were pushed by the guard to follow the departing officer.
Passing through another corridor they entered an expansive lobby. The floor was tiled and in the centre of the design was the figure of a black eagle, both wings outstretched and reminiscent of the design both officers had recently seen drawn on the notepad in the Admiral’s office. More armed soldiers guarded the imposing main entrance ahead of them and German WW2 flags hung down the walls that formed the sweeping staircase. The officer signalled them to halt and went towards a pair of large oak panelled doors. Knocking once he waited and then hearing the muted command, entered, closing the door behind him.
Lee looked around carefully. “This can’t be for real.” He murmured incredulously.
“Tell me this is just a bad dream.” Chip muttered in reply as they stood waiting.
The guard came forward and shoving them roughly with his rifle commanded. “No talking.”
After a few minutes the door opened and the officer waved them forward.
They entered a very large, well-lit, high ceilinged room. Book shelves from top to bottom on two sides, and a floor to ceiling window, which had two doors in it, straight ahead of them, through which they could see that it was already early evening. Second world war memorabilia was evident all around the room, busts of Adolf Hitler, flags, and an eagle standard behind an enormous heavy oak desk that stood in front of the window. The whole room was heavy with the atmosphere of recent history.
There were also several, grey uniformed, officers who stood watching them, all appeared to be between 50-60 yrs old and all wore differing WW2 army rank insignias the only exception being the black uniform worn by a much younger, blond haired man and bearing the rank insignia of a Gestapo Major.
A man rose from the large, black leather chair behind the desk and came to meet them. He was tall, well built with grey hair that was still thick and full. His stocky frame was wearing the uniform and rank, of what Lee recognised to be, a Waffen –SS, Generaloberst.
“Gentlemen, do come in.” The senior officer welcomed them warmly and in Midwest American. “I hope you have fully recovered from your journey. Please, won’t you sit down?” He indicated the two dark green leather chairs, placed only inches apart, in front of the desk.
Neither of the Naval officers moved. Smiling cynically, the General said. “I suppose your immediate co-operation was too much to hope for.” He nodded to the guards and Lee and Chip were seized by an arm each and pushed forward and made to sit in the chairs.
“Who are you and why have you brought us here?” Lee demanded quickly.
“Of course you wish to know, Captain… if you’ll allow me, I’m sure I can explain.” He went to sit behind the desk and leaning back in the leather, high backed chair, he declared. “My name is Henry Miller…at least that’s my Americanised title. At birth, I was Heinrich Mueller, formally of the German Republic but now…shall we say…from a community of ex-German patriots forced to live in exile.” When he saw only careful recognition of this information, from the men in front of him, he smiled and continued. “For many years my comrades and I have lived secret lives as we worked to build our new order, always with one goal in mind, the re-instatement of the Third Reich… Zweites Kommen! Now that dream is close at hand and you Captain Crane and Commander Morton are going to help us fulfil it.”
“You can’t really expect us to agree to help you in any way.” Lee asked defiantly and just a little mystified.
“There is no question that you will, Captain. With the proper motivation, one can encourage a man to do anything, even against his will.” He looked at the dark and brooding figure of the Gestapo officer. “Don’t you agree Major Schneider?”
“Indeed. Herr General. I have not yet found any difficulty in encouraging co-operation from unwilling…guests.” He laughed menacingly and looked around the smiling faces of the other officers as they joined his laughter.
“You couldn’t make Admiral Nelson co-operate. Is that why you tried to kill him?” Lee asked in a quiet chilling tone.
The men stopped laughing and their smiles faded, as they studied both men.
Mueller saw the steely brown gaze Lee directed at him and he narrowed his eyes, this man was everything he had been led to believe. Intelligent, resourceful, brave and loyal. Heinrich Mueller saw no fear in his eyes, only barely concealed contempt, damn him! This man would be a powerful tool to have at his command but he knew that would not be possible, Crane would never willingly submit, however, he would be made to co-operate, he vowed to himself.
While the Captain was the epitome of a natural hero, always prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice in the protection of others… his first officer was a little more enigmatic. At first glance one could mistakenly dismiss Morton as only a shadow of his Captain and best friend but Heinrich Mueller was a shrewd man and had learnt never to dismiss any man and without first investigating him thoroughly. Morton had an impressive reputation, intelligent and extremely capable; he rarely gave into impulse and hid behind the calm mask that he constantly presented to everyone. Possessing the same brave qualities as the Captain, he had earned his respect every bit as much as Crane.
Mueller smiled shrewdly as he observed both men. He understood that as strong as they were, he had one advantage over them, each one would willingly die for the other, this he could use to manipulate them both to do his will.
Getting up, he moved to sit on the front of the desk as he answered Crane’s accusation. “Unfortunately for him, Captain, Harry refused to be persuaded by my arguments…of course when he thought I was only after treasure trove, he was scornful, that was until our ill-fated attempt to take over the Seaview alerted him to my true purpose.”
“So you were the one behind the attempted hijacking.” Lee murmured as he gripped the arms of the chair, his fury rising out of control as he remembered the dying face of Lieutenant Cohen. “One of my men was murdered in that attempt and since then, the Admiral has nearly died and for what? What is it that you want so badly that men have to die for?” As he finished, Lee leapt forward and tried to get the gun from the holster at Mueller’s waist while with his free hand grabbed the smiling officer by the throat.
Major Schneider drew his weapon and held it on the barely seated, anxious Exec, as one guard slammed the butt of his rifle onto Cranes right shoulder and two more guards pulled him away, holding him firmly as he struggled.
Heinrich Mueller hastily stood away from the desk and straightened his uniform. Looking furiously at Crane he demanded. “Does that display of temper make you feel better Captain? Or are we to endure endless attempts by you to overpower all of us before you will co-operate!” Mueller was very obviously angry and as the guards held Lee, he nodded to Schneider. The Gestapo officer turned, holstered his weapon and with obvious pleasure punched Lee hard in the stomach several times and watched with a smile as he gradually buckled and was dropped onto the chair.
Chip watched as Lee tried to catch his breath and received a faint nod of assurance from him. Morton looked up at the grinning German general and said. “I suppose the State Department doesn’t know anything about your personal involvement in any of this?” He demanded strongly.
Startled a moment, Miller asked. “What do you mean?”
“It was one of your companies we were delivering the equipment too, wasn’t it…Rellim Oil Exploration? A simple reverse anagram…that’s what the Admiral worked out wasn’t it? You were the one behind the hijacking and he was going to expose you.”
For a moment Heinrich Mueller narrowed his eyes and then he grinned. “Harry does employ the best doesn’t he?” Still rubbing his throat he continued.
“You’re quite right, of course.” He smiled as he sat back down in the chair behind the desk. “My father had lived in America for many years before the war, establishing an American background for his family and helping to create our fifth column organisation. When he returned to fight for the Fatherland, we stayed. Our contacts in shipping circles proved very useful to our U boats.” He laughed at the anger both men betrayed. “I first met Harry several years after the war…by then I had clearly established my American identity. My company was building ships for the Navy and Harry was helping with some technical design problems we were having. Brilliant brain…so decisive, he really is a genius. We struck up a friendship and have kept in touch on and off over the years. Of course he had no idea as to my true identity, no one has. After we went our separate ways, me to pursue my destiny, him to build his excellent submarine, our friendship remained and has served me well, opening a lot of official doors for me.” Miller leant forward, hands linked together on the desk, and concentrated intently on both men.
“Then a few months ago I received information that drew us together again. A subsidiary operation of mine, mining deep-sea oil had unearthed a wrecked U-Boat with a startling significance for every true German patriot. This was the same U-Boat that carried our most precious treasures away to safety, after the invasion of the Fatherland. This boat and its crew had been entrusted with ‘The Spear of Destiny.’”
Chip and Lee observed the almost reverent way he uttered the words ‘Spear of Destiny’ but the implication was not lost to them.
“And you want to try and steal it again, just as Hitler did?” Lee asked as he sat straighter and ignored the dull ache that radiated from his stomach.
“The Fuehrer did not steal it! The ‘Spear of Destiny’ was the same one used to pierce the side of Jesus Christ on the cross at the Crucifixion. It has been preserved through history, for with it comes the promise that whoever holds it, can never be defeated. The Spear became rightfully his, after the annexation of Austria.”
“I think the Austrian’s might disagree.” Lee said insolently.
“Is this the same Spear that was captured by the American high command from Hitler’s own bunker?” Chip asked contemptuously.
“A mere replica, I assure you Mr. Morton. Many were made as protection against, theft. No the real ‘Spear’ lies deep in the belly of a wrecked U-boat and you, Captain Crane, are going to bring it to me!”
The silence that followed hung heavily around them.
“And why would I do that?” Lee asked carefully. “What makes you think I’ll be any more co-operative than Nelson?”
“I made a mistake with Harry, I admit. I believed he would be intrigued by the hunt for Nazi treasure and help out an old friend but of course he would not. I have tried to persuade him for several months to allow me to charter his magnificent Seaview and it’s crew but he resisted and I had to find another way. Finally the State Department unwittingly intervened on my behalf to order the Seaview to carry the men and equipment that was urgently needed at the mining site. You see we know that only the Seaview and its specially trained deep-sea divers have the capability to complete this mission successfully. We managed to get my men aboard surreptitiously as cargo…however I overestimated their ability and underestimated your tenacity, a mistake I shall not make again.” Mueller stood and started to pace the room.
“As Mr. Morton observed, Harry had guessed the ownership of the Rellim Oil Company and when I went to see him once more, to try and persuade him, he threatened me with an official investigation! I had been prepared to tell him the truth of my quest and try to illicit his help in the interests of historical preservation but he had already discovered the truth for himself and he was determined to be unreasonable. It seemed that force was the only option left open to me. I assure you, shooting him was a mistake; I merely wanted to use him as leverage on you Captain. He foolishly resisted and tried to take the gun away from me and unfortunately in the struggle it went off. An unfortunate accident but perhaps one that can still benefit our cause.” As he finished speaking, Mueller smiled confidently at the other German officers, as they smiled in return, he turned his attention back to his prisoners.
“Now Captain, you will take us aboard the Seaview and you will order her to the crash site. You will then dive to the wreck for us and retrieve the ‘Spear’. How soon can you be prepared to sail? We must reach the location as soon as possible, as you can appreciate we are most anxious to secure our prize.”
“I won’t help you, nor will I allow you access to Seaview.” Lee said firmly. “The seismic activity at the mining site is already causing considerable danger in the area and I won’t put my boat or my men at risk for any Nazi madman!”
Mueller’s eyes concentrated angrily on Lee as he spoke to the men around him “You see gentlemen, did I not predict the gallant Captain’s refusal?” Then to Lee he said in a low menacing voice. “Please understand Captain, you will be made to co-operate. What happens now is by your own choice and only you can stop it.”
Quickly he turned to the man beside him. “Major Schneider perhaps you can explain more clearly to the Captain, how foolish his continued resistance is?”
“It will be my pleasure, General.” Schneider smiled and nodded to the guards. As both American officers were dragged out, Heinrich Mueller called after them. “You have been warned Captain.”
Lee and Chip were marched roughly back down to the cellars and into a large windowless room. From the ceiling in the centre of the room hung two chains with manacles attached and on the wall opposite the door were another set of chains with handcuffs. Lee was forced towards that wall and knowing what was to come he fought against his captors but only for a moment as one of the guards shoved his forearm against his windpipe and as Lee’s breathing became impossible the second man pulled his arms overhead and clamped the cuffs tightly on his wrists.
Chip was forced to the manacles suspended from the ceiling and after a blow to the back of his head subdued his own struggles, he was secured and hung limply, stunned and unresponsive.
Crane looked up apprehensively as Mueller and Major Schneider entered. The Gestapo officer had removed his jacket and went to stand in front of Chip as the blond commander shook his head and strove to get his feet under him once more. Mueller took up a similar position to one side of Crane, careful not to stand between the two submariners.
“Are you ready to co-operate with us, Captain Crane? Or must we apply a little persuasion to the body of your friend?”
“Don’t do it Lee!” Chip whispered weakly, “I’ll be okay….”
“Such loyalty, such a misguided sense of duty,” Mueller said, “but it will make no difference, Captain. You will cooperate… eventually.”
“NO!” Lee shouted angrily.
“I have no doubt at all that either one of you would willingly die in pursuit of your duties…but are you prepared to stand by and watch a friend die needlessly in your place?” His words resounded in Lee’s mind as his gaze flicked briefly to Chip and back again to his tormenting captor. Mueller stood smiling cruelly as he looked at the struggling, bound man. “ Even the strongest will can be broken. Shall we see?”
As Lee watched, Chip focused determined blue eyes on him calmly, conveying his own understanding of the situation to Lee. “Don’t give in, Lee, that’s an order.”
As the first blows hit Chips face, Lee struggled, fighting angrily against his own chains. As the Major did his best to inflict maximum pain, the sound of the blows echoed in the cavernous room, punctuated by Cranes anguished breathing and by occasional involuntary groan from Morton.
“Damn you, stop this…you’ll kill him!” Lee shouted at the tormentors as Major Schneider stood back to take deep breaths.
“No, Lee…” Chip managed but this time he did not look toward the captain.
Major Schneider looked coldly at the man chained to the wall and waved a guard forward. A bucket of freezing water was hurled into Morton’s face and he revived a little as he shivered at the temperature.
Lee Crane watched in agony, as Chip received blow after blow, his best friend’s only reaction was to grit his teeth against crying out. Crane knew full well the agony he was enduring. On more than one ONI mission, he had been beaten in an effort to make him co-operate. Until now it had always been him that had suffered the consequences of his stubbornness, now he had to watch and bear someone else take the punishment.
As the beating continued, Chip’s struggles became less and Lee felt the pain and anger well up inside him to nearly overwhelming intensity. One man had already sacrificed himself for him, must he helplessly see a friend die too. That Major Schneider was enjoying the task was evident and when Chip finally cried out in pain the Gestapo man laughed slightly and increased his efforts.
Lee knew the moment Chip lost consciousness but the torture continued for several minutes longer, until Mueller called out. “Stop, stop, he is not aware of it anymore. If he does not suffer, neither does our Captain.” Turning to Lee he said slyly. “Unless of course you have decided that your friend has suffered enough?”
Lee looked at his first officer and best friend, hanging limp and unconscious from the chains. He knew that if it had been only him, he would resist until the bitter end but to remain here watching the torture of someone so close to him was more intensely painful than anything he had ever suffered himself. He already felt responsible for Cohen’s death; he would not be responsible for this, there had to be another way. He concentrated his thoughts…if only he could be sure it would work. Still gazing on Chip’s suffering body, he asked quietly. “What is it you want me to do?”
He did not see the broad smile of triumph that Heinrich Mueller now possessed.
At the sound of the soft groan from the man lying on the floor of the cell, Lee gently lifted his head and put a cup of water to his mouth. “Here, drink this.”
Chip sipped a little but turned his head slightly to indicate he had had enough. “Help me sit up.”
“Are you sure? It might feel better lying down.”
At the flare of annoyance in Morton’s eyes Lee put his hand under Chip’s shoulders and helped him as he eased himself up and leant back against the wall. He was breathing in shallow breaths and Lee could see the swollen bruising that marked his face and was no doubt reflected on other parts of his body. He saw the tight clamping of his friends jaw and beads of sweat that formed on his forehead, indicating the tremendous effort he was making not to cry out against his pain. “It might be easier to let it go.”
Chip didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “I thought I’d done enough of that already.” Looking at Lee’s guilt ridden face, he asked calmly. “Is this the end of round one… or did you give in…because of me?”
Crane looked away and stood up. He walked to the wall opposite and leaned back against it. Finally looking down at the steady blue eyes of his first officer, he said firmly. “There was no point in resisting…they hold all the power right now.”
Still directing his steady gaze at his Captain, Chip replied quietly. “I gave you an order.”
“Since when do I take orders from you, Mr. Morton?” Lee demanded sharply. “They would have beaten you to death! How would it help to get us out here, if you were dead?”
Chip just continued to hold his gaze with determination, raising one eyebrow in a question and remained quite still.
Lee pushed himself upright and came to crouch beside him. “Dammit Chip, you know I hate when you do that.”
“Make me question my decisions, without saying a word!”
Then they both smiled and the tension went from between them.
“How do you feel?” Lee asked with concern.
“You know how I feel. I haven’t forgotten any of your experiences either. You shouldn’t have done this Lee, not for me.”
“I only know I couldn’t allow another man to die for me, when I had the power to stop it!” He looked at his battered friend with concern. “Cohen’s death was enough, I won’t let anymore men die because of me.”
Chip sighed slowly, as he rubbed gently at his sore wrists and asked. “So what happens now?”
Lee sat beside him and started to examine his own wrists. They were also sore and bruised from his futile attempts to release himself. “They made me contact the boat. Sharkey is calling back a ‘reserve’ crew and making ready. Mueller said he had to finish organising some things then he would send for us. We’re to sail in a few hours.”
Morton secured a penetrating gaze on his Captain. “A ‘reserve’ crew?” He questioned gently.
“Yes… as many as we can get.” Lee met his friend’s gaze steadily.
Lee and Chip were brought from the cells once more and taken back to Mueller’s office. They found sandwiches and hot coffee waiting for them and their captor had insisted that they eat, telling Crane that nothing must interfere with his ability to dive in a few days. As he explained his plans, he chose to ignore the wrathful glares of the captain who very reluctantly did as he was told, after the ever-practical Exec had said quietly. “I will if you will.”
Afterwards, both officers were taken outside and separated into two vehicles, Mueller, Lee and two guards in one car. Chip, Major Schneider and two more guards in another. Lee noticed that a truck was also part of the convoy.
As Lee settled into the soft seats of the limousine, he felt his eyes start to unwillingly close as tiredness and something else made him drowsy. Realising that he had been drugged, he struggled to remain conscious. “Please Captain, don’t try to resist. You will benefit from the rest as will Commander Morton, I’m sure. We will wake you when you are needed.” Mueller’s smiling face began to fade as he slipped into unconsciousness. Slowly images formed in his mind, as his sleep became troubled with more bad memories.
As Mueller watched the Captains troubled sleep he smiled. Picking up the phone he was connected to the car that followed them. “Karl, it is imperative that you try to secure the missile firing codes from Morton. We will need the fire power that Seaview can afford us, if we are to fulfil our plans.” He listened to the reply. “Yes, any means you care too use but try not to kill him. If Morton cannot be made talk, we can still use each of them against the other, this time Crane will prove to be Morton’s Achilles’ heel.”
Several hours later, the rough prod on his shoulder roused Lee sufficiently to realise the car had stopped.
“Come along now Captain. We have no more time to waste. We must sail as soon as possible.”
Chief Francis Sharkey was pacing the Seaview’s deck plates and muttering to himself, this whole set up was screwy. The Captain and Mr. Morton go missing for a whole day and then he receives orders, direct from Crane himself to call a ‘reserve’ crew together, volunteers only, for a hazardous mission, and to make preparations to sail immediately…the Captain hadn’t even asked after the Admiral! He had advised Mr. O’Brien and the Doctor, of the ‘trigger’ word that had been used and hoped that they had taken all the right precautions. The Captain’s suggestion’s had only been an outline plan but after the disastrous events of the recent cruise, the admiral had been determined to train everyone as soon as possible, against another assault…it seemed they would have to act without the benefit of training. His attention was drawn to the deck ladder, as a pair of feet appeared and descended, the familiar figure of Lee Crane dropped softly to the deck. He stood aside as another figure followed him down, as the Chief continued to watch, several men came down in quick succession.
“Captain, are you okay what’s goin’ on here, sir? Who are these guys and where’s Mr. Morton?” Sharkey questioned rapidly, he watched some of the men head aft and the remainder took up positions in the control room.
Lee glanced at Heinrich Mueller but the man smiled and said. “Go ahead Captain, explain the position to the Chief. It’s important that there are no misunderstandings, for Mr. Morton’s sake.” He finished menacingly.
Lee looked around at the faces of his crew and prepared to explain, when a familiar figure came through the aft hatch. Will Jamison walked forward and stood calmly observing Lee’s obvious dishabille and noting the bruises on his face and throat. “Captain.” He murmured shrewdly as he nodded his greeting.
Lee’s eyes immediately registered alarm. “Doctor, what are you doing here? Is …the Admiral…?” His voice faltered, unable to ask the obvious questions.
“The Admiral’s still making good progress, Captain…Dr. Brouchet is in charge of his care.” Jamie said quietly. “I thought my services might be needed here.” And he glanced around at the men who had now drawn their hidden weapons.
Lee let a quiet sigh of relief escape as Heinrich Mueller’s sneering voice interrupted. “Good news Captain. I’m sure it’s comforting for us all that Harry is at least safe for the moment.”
“Sir, what’s going on? Who are these jokers?” Sharkey asked again.
Crane hesitated. “These…men will be aboard for the duration of this mission Chief. It will be necessary for all the crew to follow their orders as well as my own.” Lee drew in a deep breath as he continued. “How many crew did you manage to recall?”
“Eh…twenty seven sir, excluding Doc and myself. Mr. O’Brien had already left on leave and there was no time to get him back.”
Lee nodded. “Very well, close all deck hatches and prepare to get underway.”
“Without Mr. Morton, sir?” Sharkey asked in surprise.
Lee again glanced quickly at Mueller but returning his gaze back to the Chief he replied tightly. “Yes, without Mr. Morton.”
Sharkey watched the byplay between his Captain and the stranger carefully. The Captain was clearly acting under duress and Mr. Morton was obviously the reason…he’d follow the Skipper’s lead, for now. “Aye sir, I’ll get the crew right on it.” He turned to bustle away but stopped suddenly and snapped his fingers remembering something. “Just one thing Skipper, not all the repairs could be completed, sir. The aft power room is still outa commission. The fracture in the nuclear shielding hasn’t been repaired yet, sir. I’ve closed it off and posted warnings long as no-one opens those hatches, there should be no problem from the pressure contained in there.”
Lee listened carefully and looked Sharkey straight in the eye as he said. “I see. What’s the pressure level in there, would you say?”
“My last check sir was 18 outa 120 but the power’s all secure, just waiting the right time for you to give the order to let it go.” The chief stated innocently.
“Very well, thank you Chief, I’ll bear it in mind. Let’s get underway.”
“Yes sir, right away.”
Mueller smiled as he turned to Crane. “Well done, Captain. If you keep this sort of co-operation up we can all get what we want, without the need for further unpleasantness?”
“As long as I have your word that none of my crew will be harmed, I’ll go along with your plans. I don’t want anyone else to die.”
“Nor will they, Captain, just as long as you continue to co-operate.” Mueller replied smugly
As Lee automatically completed the departure details, he knew Jamison was watching his every move. The fact that Jamie stayed and did not return below to sickbay, was comforting, as well as intimidating. He tried to move effortlessly but knew that the treatment he had suffered from the Gestapo major, had aggravated his previously bruised and cracked rib, his wrists were raw from the abrasions caused by the handcuffs and as he had released the buttons on the cuffs of his shirt, he saw Jamie’s glance at them narrow as he looked back up at Lee.
“Later Doctor.” Was all he could say and Jamie nodded slightly.
Going through the familiar manoeuvres he realised acutely, how much he missed the efficiency of his first officer beside him.
When they had arrived at the base perimeter, Lee had been woken and told to take them cleanly through security or Chip would suffer the consequences…again. Mueller explained that Morton was being taken out to sea on another vessel and if all went well they would rendezvous and bring him aboard safely. If anything went wrong, Major Schneider had orders to kill the commander in any way that pleased him. “And believe me Captain, Karl is very inventive when it comes to inflicting pain. Why some of his prisoners have been known to beg for death.” Mueller chuckled cruelly.
“We’re submerged sir, on a heading of 220 degrees, all ahead standard.” The Chief chimed out the orders.
“Very well Chief, maintain course and speed.” Lee marked the chart.
“This is admirable Captain. How long before we reach our destination?” Mueller asked looking over Lee’s shoulder.
“Which one. The rendezvous or the U-boat.” Lee asked directly.
The German smiled slightly as he observed the man in front of him. He was supremely confident that as long as he controlled the crew and his friends, he controlled Crane. He would always put their safety before his own and that was the complete advantage he had over him. Time to turn the screw a little tighter.
“We will receive a signal very soon Captain, then we will surface so that Major Schneider and his party can board but just in case this gives you any heroic ideas, I must warn you that I have taken certain other precautions.”
Lee looked up apprehensively, his body tense with anger.
“I have an operative working at the hospital, who will, if necessary, see that Admiral Nelson receives a fatal overdose and never recovers, if our plans are thwarted.”
For just a moment Lee’s blood ran cold with fear then clenching his fists against the overwhelming anger, he advanced on the man, only to be restrained by a guard and his gun.
“Why? Nelson is no threat to you!” He ground out furiously.
“Quite simple Captain. Just another reminder to you, that I will not be stopped. I will have my prize!” Mueller stated ruthlessly. “You may have the commander back but Harry will remain at risk.” Stepping forward in front of Lee, he warned viciously. “I suggest you inform your crew of the conditions we sail under, so that there are no mistakes, Captain Crane, if I am late or do not send the correct signal, he will die!”
Lee sat pensively on the sickbay exam bed, as Jamie wrapped his wrists gently with gauze. Jamison had insisted that the treatment was necessary and Mueller had agreed to allow it.
Jamie had already examined the fresh bruising from the second beating Schneider had administered and was pleased to find that his previous injuries had not been seriously aggravated. “There, all finished. The cut on your hand has some infection so I’ve treated it and re-dressed it. Your ribs are bruised, again but still intact.” Jamie said loud enough for the accompanying guard to hear. He watched the almost faint nod that Lee gave as acknowledgement.
“Should I be prepared for a slightly more damaged X.O.?” Jamie asked carefully.
Lee looked up, regret evident in his expression. “Yes Doctor, your services will be needed” Lee said grimly.
“I see.” Jamie replied.
Lee slid off the table and while examining his wrists, muttered. “My fault Jamie. I couldn’t do as they wanted...at first”
Jamie watched his Captain’s preoccupation and heard the guilt echoing his voice. He knew that David Cohen’s death had hit Lee hard. While he was always willing to sacrifice his own life for doing the right thing, Jamison knew that when it came to others suffering for him, Lee abhorred the thought of it.
“No doubt our Exec understood and agreed with your reasons.” Jamie said softly. “So there should be no blame assumed, Captain, for actions outside your control. We all have to make certain choices and too often there are consequences attached. If we strive to do the right thing, we can only regret our casualties but recognise them as the price we have to pay for fighting the evil intentions of others, otherwise their sacrifices are meaningless.”
As Jamison turned away, Lee stood stunned for a moment. Jamie was telling him to accept Cohen’s death and deal with it, hard as that may be and that he was not responsible for the actions of others and shouldn’t feel guilty because of it. He looked at the physician who had become his friend, realising that in spite of all the pain and suffering he had seen, Jamie had managed to combine duty and compassion without weakening either emotion. Lee felt a sense of release begin within him, Jamie was right Cohen’s death had to count for something.
“Thank you Doctor, for all your treatment.”
Jamie turned to look at him and smiled, pleased to see the return of purpose that burnt afresh in his eyes. “You’re welcome Captain. By the way, did the Chief mention that Lt. O’Brien was visiting a sick relative?”
Lee’s expression didn’t alter. “No, I don’t think he did.”
“Well, he has a sick uncle who needed some extra care and he’s there to supervise it. Just to be on the safe side.”
They had surfaced and a crewman shimmied up the ladder to break open the hatch. As he dropped back to the deck and moved aside, Heinrich Mueller took up position near the Captain and a guard stood behind Lee.
Within moments a figure appeared and Karl Schneider stepped down the ladder to land lightly on the deck. He immediately snapped to attention in front of his General and smiled. “All went well, Herr General?”
“As you see, Major. Captain Crane is co-operating fully.”
“This is good news indeed, Captain.” Major Schneider smiled smugly at Lee.
“Did you manage to get the firing codes?” Mueller questioned eagerly.
“No, I’m sorry General but Commander Morton chose to be most unco-operative. However I have not finished with him yet.” Schneider answered as another figure appeared on the ladder, slowly descending to the deck.
Lee felt anger overwhelm him as Chip turned to face him. His face was more severely bruised that it had been and there was a graze to his cheek, a cut over his right eye that had left a streak of blood down his face. His left arm was supported inside his shirt and his normally confident eyes reflected slightly less assurance to Lee than when they had last been together.
Lee rounded angrily on Mueller. “You gave your word that my crew would be unharmed…”
Mueller put up his hands, as he calmed the irate officer. “And I kept it Captain. Your crew is well but I did not give any guarantee as to the officers. Mr. Morton has information, as do you Captain, that is of some importance to us and I had hoped he could be persuaded to share it. It seems not… but I’m sure that he will reconsider his decision on your behalf, Captain.” He started to laugh confidently and was joined by Major Schneider’s own smug amusement.
Lee turned to look at Chip who stood tensely watching him, his expression conveyed apprehension. Both men knew what to expect and Lee understood that Chip would find it as difficult to resist as he had.
Lee was standing watch as Mueller and Schneider sat together talking in the observation nose. Mueller had agreed to allow Chip to receive medical attention and had sent him under guard to sick bay. As Lee checked all the stations in the control room he noted that they had been at sea for just over twelve hours and the guards were beginning to look tired, the crew were due to change watches in thirty-five minutes and Lee was waiting for the Chief to come back on duty, before he could safely put his plan into action.
He turned as Chip appeared through the aft hatch, he was wearing a clean shirt but that did not disguise the stiff way he moved, the light plaster cast he wore on his left wrist or the bruising so visible on his face.
He stopped in front of the plot table as Major Schneider approached. “I see your doctor has managed to make your injuries more comfortable, Commander, how fortunate for you. However, I’m sure you would appreciate some recovery time…so Captain Crane, won’t you please join us in the nose, we have important matters to discuss.”
Lee saw the sinister smile that lit the man’s face and knew that the time for his trial had come.
“Mr. Morton you have the con. You might want to see that the Chief takes charge of releasing the pressure in the aft control room, just make it a gradual discharge.”
Chip’s face remained totally neutral but his concern was reflected from crystal blue eyes, as he understood the command; he was fully aware of what he was being instructed to do. Carefully he replied. “Yes sir, but are you sure now…”
“Now is the perfect opportunity Mr. Morton, carry out the orders...” The Captain interrupted.
“Aye sir.” Chip answered softly.
“Come Captain, we do not enjoy being kept waiting.” He nodded to two guards who seized Lee’s arms and dragged him away.
After entering the nose, Luetnant Gruber closed the dividing doors. Lee stood impassively as Mueller smiled at him from the chair where he was sitting. “Well, Captain, have you thought about sharing the information we require? Or are you going to insist on being as awkward as your first officer and force us to use more a more physical means of persuasion?”
Lee stood silently and refused to respond to the German’s goading. Mueller studied Lee maliciously for several moments then nodded to Gruber, who signalled the two guards. Immediately they seized Lee and tied his wrists. Holding him firmly by the upper arms they braced him.
Lee felt the pain of the ropes through the gauze bandaging but steeled himself for what was about to follow. The Gestapo officer stepped forward and viciously hit Crane with a backhanded blow to his face, then he stood back smiling and gloated. “Personally Captain I hope you never choose to speak. I can easily keep this punishment up for days but as enjoyable as that would be for me, we need the firing sequence codes and you will give them to me, eventually.”
“I won’t.” Lee said forcefully. “You will have to kill me.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary Captain. You are a weak man. Oh, not physically of course but you do have a flaw, your compassion for your friends, your crew. I saw the way you suffered when Morton was beaten, your weakness leaked from you like a flood. It was positively nauseating and I doubt he will prove any stronger. ”
Lee studied the man in front of him with contempt. “Some people would call that a strength.”
“Not if it reduces your ability, Captain. No true German officer would ever allow such considerations to control his actions, I assure you.” The Major announced proudly.
“Maybe that’s your weakness.” Lee said quietly as he looked Schneider in the eye.
Another blow split Crane’s lip as the Major retaliated angrily, with a rain of blows designed to cause maximum pain.
It was the sound of sporadic gunfire and raised voices from the other side of the closed doors, that alerted the men inside and the Major drew his gun. He crossed to stand beside Lee, grabbing hold of his hair and held the weapon to his head. “Go and see what is going on outside.” He ordered Gruber and the guards.
The guards moved forward but as the doors started to open there was the sound of feet as they started to descend the spiral staircase. Mueller, who had also drawn a weapon fired at the staircase and the men quickly retreated as he went to stand on the other side of the Captain.
With the doors now open, Seaview’s armed crew grabbed the two guards dragging them away. Luetnant Gruber rushed forward but Sharkey stepped up behind him and held a gun to the German’s head, “Just give me any reason to shoot!” he growled menacingly. Gruber hesitated only a moment and he also capitulated, allowing himself to be led away. Chip stepped forward and aimed his weapon at Schneider. “Drop your weapons and stand down, gentlemen. We have our boat back and your men are all under guard in the brig.” Chip stated calmly.
Mueller looked angrily at Major Schneider, who cursed loudly and cruelly twisted his hand in Lee’s hair. “I congratulate you, Captain. It seems you and your men have managed to outwit us again!” He stepped closer to Lee, pulled his head back and moved the gun to under the captains chin. “Commander…” He sneered at Chip. “You will please withdraw your men and allow the Captain to fly us out of here in your Flying Submarine, or I will kill him.”
As Chip hesitated, the Major continued. “I assure you, Commander, I will kill him, we have nothing to lose.”
“No Chip…” Lee struggled to talk.
Schneider pulled harder and Lee choked slightly. Smiling spitefully he said loudly. “I think you should all know that in anticipation of this treachery, as well as our agent at the hospital, ready to kill Nelson, we have taken the added precaution of planting a bomb on your vessel and with a simple activator, it can be exploded. Allow us to leave and I will tell you its location.”
“I don’t believe you.” Chip said coolly. “If you explode it we will all die, including you.”
Heinrich Mueller looked at Crane and said menacingly. “You know that we don’t lie don’t you Captain? Leutnant Gruber assured me that carried out my orders perfectly before he boarded the Seaview from our vessel.” He drew from his pocket a small control box and held it up, “I assure you Captain, it is real!”
Lee struggled to move his head and Schneider released his hair slightly. As he studied Mueller’s vindictive expression he knew it to be true. “Chip what depth are we?”
“Thirteen hundred feet.”
Too deep to for safe evacuation of his men. “Mr. Morton, stand the men down and
prepare the Flying Sub.”
”But Lee…?” Morton started only to be interrupted loudly by Mueller.
“DO IT, Commander…the Captain understands my determination, don’t you Captain?” As he pushed his own gun hard against Lee’s neck.
Lee could see the fanaticism shining in the man’s eyes, either one of these men would die if they had too and take everyone else with them. “That’s an order Mr. Morton.” Lee said firmly.
Chip gritted his teeth against the anger that rose in him. He knew what Lee was doing and he inwardly railed against it but outwardly he complied. “Aye sir.” He answered grimly.
As they turned to leave Schneider looked hard at Kowalski. “You stay.”
Chip left to carry out the orders as Kowalski stood uncertainly looking at his Captain. Major Schneider told Ski to throw his weapon away from him. As Ski obeyed the Major moved away from Lee reaching out to the sailor, pulled him forward to stand in front of him.
“Are you okay Skipper?”
“I’m fine Ski, just follow their orders.”
Kowalski hesitated briefly but the gun was aimed squarely at his head and he stood silently.
Sharkey climbed up from the flying sub hatch and nodded to Mr. Morton as he moved to stand beside him. Chip turned to Mueller and Schneider and said forcefully. “It’s ready.”
Lee moved forward and stood beside the plot table. He saw the calculating smirk of Heinrich Mueller and looking at him Lee stated quietly. “Schneider leaves the trigger here or I won’t take you anywhere.”
A momentary flare of anger lit the old man’s grey eyes and he bit back his retort. The determination in Lee was plain and as annoyed as he was, he could wait for the opportunity to extract his revenge. “As you wish, Captain but don’t forget we still have Nelson.” He ground out fiercely and nodded to the other man.
Major Schneider placed the trigger on the plot table and reached out quickly to grab the Captain’s collar, pressing the gun against his neck and standing behind him. Looking at Chip and Sharkey he ordered. “Move away.” As they moved slowly to the side their eyes never leaving their Captain, Mueller descended through the hatch. Schneider turned to Ski. “Go to the hatch and then climb down.”
Lee struggled against his captor. “No! No-one else…”
“You are not in charge here Captain…do it!” Schneider ordered the seaman as he pressed the gun harder against Lee’s neck.
“It’s okay, Skipper.” Ski murmured softly.
After Kowalski had climbed down, the Major pulled Lee over to the hatch. With his hands still tied he awkwardly climbed down, finally Schneider joined them.
After the hatch was secured he turned to Kowalski and said. “Release the Captain’s hands and come back over here.”
Ski did as he was told and stood apprehensively as Major Schneider went behind him and viciously swung the butt of his gun against the young seaman’s neck to render him unconscious. With Kowalski out cold and pushed aside, the Major looked cynically at Lee as he showed his anger. “He will be just as useful to us unconscious, Captain.”
Heinrich Mueller sat in the co-pilot’s seat and gestured with his gun at Lee to take the pilot’s seat. “Fly us out of here Captain and do it very carefully, for your crewman’s sake.” He said to Lee, as Crane eased himself into the pilot’s chair.
Lee looked at the two German officers with barely concealed fury but started the pre-flight checks and within minutes released the docking clamps and lowered the bright yellow machine, gracefully out of it’s special bay, into oceans depths.
“Now Captain, you will please fly us to the drill site. You are going to retrieve the ‘Spear’ for me before it is lost forever.”
Lee looked at Mueller with surprise evident in his eyes. “And if I can’t?” Lee asked tensely.
“Oh, I think you will Captain…we brought your crewman along to ensure you do.”
Lee looked at Kowalski’s unconscious body and turned back to the controls. He had to do something, these men were not going to let them live, after they got what they wanted, Lee knew that. Schneider was standing at the rear and Lee watched as Mueller went to join him, as they talked quietly, Lee saw his chance. Putting the powerful machine into a steep climb he unbalanced both men and as they fell to the deck he switched to autopilot and quickly unsnapped his harness and stood to face them as they struggled to stand.
Grabbing the fire extinguisher from it’s bracket by the control panel, he directed the nozzle at the Major and sprayed foam into his face. The man let out a roar of pain as the fire retardant stung his face and eyes. Mueller jumped at Lee and their combined weight propelled both men against the wiring panel that burst into sparks and flames. Immediately, FS1 nose dived to the ocean floor and hit hard against the seabed. As both men fell to the deck, Lee swung the heavy canister against the big man and managed to push him back and as he stumbled backwards, over Kowalski, Mueller hit his head hard against the hull and fell to the deck motionless.
Lee turned back to face the Gestapo officer, he heard the sharp retort of the gun as it fired and felt the intense pain of a bullet passing through his left shoulder, the impact forcing him backwards against the now burning control panel. He shrank away from the flames as he struggled to focus on the face of the raging man in front of him.
“I will KILL you Crane...I will kill you slowly and in agony… you will not beat us, do you hear me, you will not beat us…” He ranted as he came closer to the fallen Captain.
Lee moved back slightly and felt the bullet wound radiate intense pain, as did the burns on his shoulder. He was weak and fought to stay conscious as the irate man kicked him heavily in the chest. Desperately trying to shield himself from the angry assault he looked around for a means of defence and saw the electrical wire hanging loose from the panel and seizing the protective casing, he thrust it against the Major’s thigh. The electric shock threw Schneider backwards and he lay on the deck motionless.
Lee breathed deeply as the pain threatened to rob him of consciousness. He heard a groan and looked towards the sound, seeing Kowalski sit up and rub his neck. Ski studied the devastation evident in the vessel and urgently crawled to his captain.
“Skipper, what happened? You’re hurt sir, let me help.”
“In a minute Ski. First secure these two before they wake up. Then we need to check out the controls. Here help me up.” Lee struggled to get his feet under him.
“Just help me up, Sailor.” Lee breathed heavily. “I’m fine, but we need to contact Seaview.”
Kowalski helped the captain to his feet and knew that Crane would not give in until he was satisfied that help was at least on its way. He shook his head as he watched the captain sit in the flight chair and activate the radio, Crane would stay conscious through sheer force of will, for as long as it took to do what he had to. After he had finished tying the hands of the two unconscious men, Ski looked again at his skipper, who was beginning to lose consciousness; Kowalski caught him gently and laid him on the deck. Quickly he tended to his wounds as best he could then looking down at his Captain, he murmured with concern. “You’ll be okay Skipper, Doc’ll patch you up again but he ain’t going to be happy, no sir. I reckon Mr. Morton will have a thing or two to say as well. It’s always the same with you sir, you just never take care of yourself like you oughta.”
Chip walked into the hospital, making his way to his friend’s room and sighed deeply. He had spent the last four days arranging the handover of Mueller and his men, the dismantling of the bomb Luetnant Gruber had planted, dealing with government agencies and filing reports. He had heard only this morning that the mining site had suffered a series of earth tremors and been abandoned. A subterranean landslide had buried the U-Boat beneath tons of rock, ending any chance of verifying it’s cargo, all this for nothing!
As soon as the flying sub had left Chip had jammed all long-range communications from the craft until he had been able to speak to Bobbie O’Brien personally, to warn him of the danger. O’Brien had assured his Exec that after the plans that the Doctor, Chief Sharkey and himself had put into place…the Admiral was safe, he had already rooted out the assassin and he was secure.
Chip could hear Lee complaining loudly at Jamie as he approached. “Will you let me out of here doctor? I told you since we got back, I’m fine.”
“You are not fine. You have a bullet wound, burns, a cracked rib, cuts, contusions, abrasions…Captain you are a medical mess!” Jamison shouted in frustration.
Ever since he had recovered enough to stand unaided, Lee had fought first the restrictions of sickbay and then the hospital. They had retrieved the Flying Sub with a very injured Lee Crane, who had woken sufficiently to try and resist going to sickbay. It was only after Jamison had, in Lee’s opinion, cheated with a strong sedative that the Captain relinquished his command. He had spent one day sedated so that Jamie could deal with his injuries and then tried to leave sickbay. It was only Jamison’s insistence that Lee should have the burns checked by a specialist at the hospital, as an example of common sense for the crew that had got him to agree to a limited stay here. Now Chip assumed that his friend had had enough.
“Will you try and talk some sense into your obstinate friend, Mr. Morton.” Jamie said tiredly as he saw Chip enter.
“I don’t need anyone to tell me how I feel. I’ve received the treatment now I want to leave.” Crane said firmly.
Chip studied his friend of many years, sitting on the edge of the bed and saw the paleness of his features; the dark smudges under his eyes and noted all the bandaging that was just visible under the pale blue dressing gown.
Calmly Morton asked. “Doctor, could I have a moment alone with your patient?” He was tired didn’t want to deal with another of Lee’s escape bids.
Jamison looked surprised at the subdued tone and then shrugged. “I’ll go check on the Admiral.” He said as he left.
“Thanks Chip, can you find me some clothes, I want to get out of here.” Lee smiled, relieved to have found an ally.
Chip came and sat on the bed looking at Lee.
“Chip? Did you hear me?”
“Do you remember a week ago when we stood in the Admiral’s room? How shocked you were at his frailty?” Chip asked quietly
Lee looked confused and answered. “Yes.”
“Do you remember our conversation on the steps outside?” Chip continued calmly.
Lee blushed slightly as he stammered. “That has nothing…”
“It has everything to do with it Lee.” Chip said with feeling. “I understand how you feel. That you will recover from this in your own way eventually and carry on until the next time you need to do it again.” He looked earnestly at his friend. “ I know you took the flying sub out to save the boat and crew. I know you were willing to sacrifice yourself for us but that doesn’t make it any easier for the people who care about you to stand by, while you refuse to take care of yourself and take the time you need to recover, or even proper care of yourself! If this were me, or the admiral, would you let us walk out of here without at least trying to talk some sense into us.”
Lee looked at the obvious tiredness and concern in the cobalt blue eyes of his best friend. Chip’s bruises were beginning to fade and his wrist would be healed in a few weeks but he felt a deep sense of embarrassment at adding to Morton’s burden. As he started to reply, there was a brief knock at the door and Jamie came in pushing a wheelchair.
“If you agree to use this, there is a man at the end of the hall who, I’m sure, would like to see you both.” The doctor smiled broadly.
“He’s awake.” Lee said eagerly.
“He’s drowsy but alert enough for a short visit.” Jamie answered as he helped Lee into the chair.
Chip took hold of the handles of the wheelchair and started towards the open door.
Lee put out a hand to hold Jamison’s arm and they all stopped. “His legs Jamie…?” Lee looked up anxiously.
The doctor smiled faintly. “I think his responses are good enough to predict a complete recovery. It will take a while and he will have to obey my orders completely but if I can get him to do that, then he’ll soon be back aboard Seaview inside of six weeks for light duties only.” He said with relief.
“In that case Doctor Jamison, you had better arrange a double room, we can recover together.” Lee said cheerfully as they moved off.
As Jamie stood momentarily stunned, Chip pushed the wheelchair towards the Admiral’s room. Jamie watched them for a moment, I wonder what kind of persuasion he used and will I be able to use the next time Lee Crane needs my care, only time will tell, he thought as he followed in their wake….
Any comments, good or bad: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Spear of Destiny, also know as the Spear of Loginius, after the Roman guard said to have used it to pierce the body of Christ at the Crucifixion, has been well documented through the annals of history.
Legend has it that possession of the Spear makes the owner invincible and many of the great leaders in history have claimed ownership of it.
Adolf Hitler first saw the Spear in 1912 in the Hofsburg Treasure House in Vienna. He reportedly wrote that he felt drawn to it, believing it to be the ultimate talisman for his future destiny. He seized it the day he annexed Austria in 1938 and kept it hidden.
During the final hours of the war, Lt. Walter William Horn of the U.S. 7th Army, captured the Spear and within 90 minutes, Hitler committed suicide.
The Spearhead is all that survives today, two pieces of metal with a bolt to connect them; the wooden shaft has long since disappeared.
The Spear once again resides in the Hofsburg Treasury House, although others lay claim to the ‘’true Spear of Destiny’’ also. A copy is kept in Krakow, Poland, one is supposedly in Paris, France and another is believed to be encased in one of the stone pillars, supporting the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, in Rome.
For further information: - hhtp://www.geocities.com/Heartland/8303/spear.htm