Three Birds with One Stone
The man in the small plane looked down on the familiar layout of the Nelson Institute buildings far below. It was almost exactly a year since he’d been unfairly discharged and in that year he’d lost more than a job – but things were different now. He had friends, powerful friends and money in his pocket with the promise of more to come.
Now, at last, he could make sure that he got even. Crane, Morton and that creep O’Brien, especially O’Brien, would regret the day they’d ever crossed his path. He was looking forward to the plans he had in store for them.
“How much longer Chief? We’re due to sail in 87 minutes and I don’t think Mr. Morton will accept any further delays!”
“Mr. O’Brien, we are doing our best but the late arrival of the special equipment, sir, wasn’t our fault.” CPO Francis Sharkey sighed wearily.
Seaview’s scheduled sailing had been thrown into doubt because of the late arrival of equipment vital to the success of their latest mission. This had led to a last minute scramble to complete the loading and installation on time.
“I know that Chief…but it doesn’t change our sailing orders. Late or not, we have to be ready to depart on time. The men will have to work faster. If that’s a problem…maybe you’d like to explain it to the Exec.” Lt. Robert ‘Bobby’ O’Brien glanced meaningfully at Sharkey who visibly blanched.
“Eh, no sir, I’ll see to it right away Mr. O’Brien, we’ll be ready, sir, I promise.” Sharkey turned and started to bellow orders at the loading crew.
Bobby O’Brien smiled as he made notes on the loading manifest; using the first officer’s stern reputation was often advantageous, if a little underhand.
Suddenly the voice of the officer in question, issued from the deck intercom. “Mr. O’Brien, this the Exec, please report.”
Bobby turned and picked up the mic and answered. “O’Brien here.”
“How’s the loading going? When will it be done?” Morton’s disembodied voice demanded.
“We’re nearly finished….” Suddenly a loud crashing sound interrupted his report and he looked toward the dockside. Surveying the carnage of broken boxes and hurt civilian loaders, O’Brien clicked the mic back on. “Mr. Morton, there has been an accident dockside. We need the doctor, sir.”
“On his way, Mr. O’Brien.”
Smiling cynically, the figure huddled in the shadow of the warehouse doorway and surveyed the chaos before him. His friends had done a nice job; everyone’s attention was drawn to helping the injured, which left the open hatchway virtually unmanned. He inched his way forward, a silhouette gliding silently towards the dark outline of the giant submarine that was visible against the setting sun. He slipped quietly down the rear gangplank to hide behind the boxes stacked neatly on the deck. He watched as the sailors concentrated on the scene ashore and then moving swiftly he dropped lightly onto more boxes in the hold. He could hear the voices of the crewman as they moved the stores to the allocated storage rooms. He waited and listened to some of the familiar sounds that he knew so well. When the room was silent he climbed down and headed for the hiding place he had already decided upon. Carefully he opened the grill that covered the ventilator shaft and, tossing his rucksack before him, hoisted himself up, quickly pulling the grill closed behind him. He sat still, his breathing fast and shallow, as his heartbeat raced excitedly. He listened as the crewmen returned to carry on their work, oblivious to his presence. His smile was triumphant… he’d made it! He’d broken through Morton’s much vaunted security, and how he’d like to be able to laugh right in the man’s face!
“This is the Exec, Mister O’Brien to the aft storage holds immediately.”
Bobby looked at the overhead speaker in surprise. Mr Morton didn’t sound happy and that could only mean trouble for someone and Bobby O’Brien had a feeling that it was heading his way.
Looking somewhat embarrassed, as he glanced to the captain for permission and receiving a nod of consent, he picked up the nearest mic and acknowledged, “On my way, sir.”
The captain noted the young officer’s discomfiture as he quickly left through the aft hatch and silently commiserated with him. Lee knew that tone and it didn’t bode well for his second officer. He knew that Chip had assigned Mr. O’Brien responsibility for overseeing the loading of the cargo and it’s subsequent storage. Obviously it hadn’t been done to the exec’s liking.
As he had approached the seriously ticked off XO, Bobby O’Brien felt the first officer’s disdain descend on him.
“Mr. O’Brien would you care to explain to me why, not all the fresh provisions were not placed in the cold storage hold?” Chip Morton’s icy demand, douched the young lieutenant, like cold shower.
“Sir?” O’Brien asked in confusion.
Morton took a deep breath, drew himself to his full height, linked his hands behind his back and exerted the full force of his, not inconsiderable, scorn on the puzzled officer before him.
“I have just completed a routine inspection and found the fresh provisions wrongly allocated to storeroom three!” He continued to watch Bobby and his severe expression did not alter.
“I don’t understand, sir. I checked that everything was correctly stored before we set sail.”
“Indeed?” Morton pulled open the hatch door beside him and continued, “Perhaps you would like to explain this!”
Lt. O’Brien stepped forward and looked inside cargo hold three. There, he could see what appeared to be some crates of fresh provisions, placed on shelving and the floor. He stepped back and looked at his superior.
“I really don’t understand this, Mr. Morton. These supplies weren’t here four hours ago… I did the checks personally.” Bobby O’Brien stood resolute and Morton could not detect any hesitancy about his statement.
“Well, I suggest you get the loading crew back here and find out what happened, then get it put right. If this is someone’s idea of a gag, you can tell them from me I’m not impressed! The responsibility was yours, Mr. O’Brien, therefore I want you to see to it that this situation is rectified and report to me when it’s done.”
“Aye sir, I’ll see to it right away, sir.” O’Brien assured the exec.
Chip nodded and turned smartly on his heel and left.
Bobby let out the breath he hadn’t realised he was holding, as he watched Mr. Morton’s retreating figure. He reached for the wall mounted mic and issued the order for the loading crew to report to him immediately. While he waited in the deserted corridor, he tried to understand what could have happened. Why would anyone want to do something so foolish?
Suddenly the hairs on the back of his neck bristled and he glanced around him, he had the uncomfortable feeling of being watched.
“O’ Brien” A soft whisper echoed all around him…
Bobby started in surprise. “Who’s there? Show yourself,” he demanded loudly.
He listened to the silence, then heard the sound of voices and turned to see several crewmen approaching.
Bobby shook off the eerie sensation he had experienced and after one more glance behind him, turned to the task in hand.
The stowaway lay in the reserve guest cabin and laughed softly to himself. He had been sure that with no authorised guests aboard this cruise, this guest cabin would be locked and unused, perfect for his purpose. He could hide in here and still have access to the boat at will.
His accomplice had already supplied the necessary provisions for him, enough to last the few days he would be here anyway.
He took a swallow from the liquor bottle he had brought with him then replaced the cork. He would have to be careful, no getting drunk until it was all over; he had to stay focussed. Laughing contently, he congratulated himself; everything was going according to his plan.
When the corporation had approached him with their scheme, he hadn’t really cared about their motives. He was disgraced, jobless and his beautiful wife and child gone! The money they offered was very welcome and very generous, all they demanded was that he stops Nelson, destroys his credibility and sinks Seaview…but not before he secured Nelson’s new invention, the Ambient Cloaking Device. He’d even get a little bonus…if he could deliver Captain Lee Crane as well, damaged if necessary but definitely alive!
He was more than happy to oblige. He had several scores to settle and that was what had really mattered to him! With their help he could have his own revenge and get paid for it!
He’d made O’Brien look real careless today and that was only the start of it, by the time he was through with that arrogant upstart, his career would be in ruins! He was going to know how it felt to be disgraced and humiliated…he’d have his sweet revenge on Lt. O’Brien for causing his unwarranted expulsion….
a week into the cruise and Bobby O’Brien carefully sorted through this week’s
duty rosters on the desk; in the cabin he shared with the communications
officer, familiarly known as
He was feeling edgy lately and he didn’t know why. Since the beginning of this voyage he had had the vaguest feeling of being watched and on more than one occasion was sure he had heard his name whispered but there was never anyone there. He was constantly feeling tired as well, so unlike him. He blushed at the embarrassed memory of his second late arrival for duty yesterday evening. The captain had given him a short lecture on time keeping and said no more but he knew Mr. Morton was less impressed when he saw the log entry.
He sighed and brought himself back to concentrate on the present task. Having replaced the crew’s duty lists he put the old copies in a separate folder, scooping up the officer’s duplicates, he quickly left his cabin to distribute them to the individuals concerned.
The watcher lay in the ventilation shaft and smiled as O’Brien left. Lady Luck was smiling on him; the cabin was empty. He released the grill and dropped lightly down into the cabin. It was the work of seconds to simply remove the old lists and climb back into the ventilator. Although the ensuing confusion among the crew could easily be sorted out, it would be enough to make O’Brien appear even more incompetent than he did already.
The stowaway laughed softly, a few more turns of the screw for O’Brien and then it would be Morton’s turn and he knew just exactly what to do with him. Then another idea struck him, not only could he take Morton out but he could also shift the blame neatly onto O’Brien. This was all too easy, like shooting fish in a barrel….
And then, Crane … well, Crane would have to wait his turn; but revenge on him would be the icing on the cake.
Lee descended the staircase into the Control Room to find at least twice as many men as there should have been, crowding the place. Sharkey was checking each station, clipboard in hand, allocating crewmen for the next duty shift, watched by an obviously none too happy exec.
"Mr. Morton?" the captain announced.
"What's going on?"
Chip joined him by the plot table and said quietly, "Some sort of foul up with the duty rosters. Sharkey's sorting things out in here and if you're ready to take over, I'll go round the rest of the boat."
"You checked the rosters?"
"They were all in order when I signed them. I can only assume the wrong ones have been posted somewhere."
Turning his back on the crew Lee said quietly, "Didn’t you assign the duty to Mr. O’Brien?”
“I did… the ones I signed off on were fine. He must have made a mistake when he posted them, somehow.” Chip sighed impatiently.
“I don't know what's happening but get it and him sorted out before we start the tests, today.”
Chip walked through the Control Room greatly relieved to note the speed at which Sharkey had the situation under control.
“Well done, Chief.”
“You're welcome, sir.” Sharkey followed him through the aft hatchway. “Sir, about the mix up with the stores the other day….”
“Not now, Chief. You take the lower deck and make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, I'll take this deck.”
Sharkey sighed to himself as he walked away, there had been several troublesome problems lately and they all seemed to revolve around the second officer and if young Mr. O'Brien went on like this, he was heading into big trouble.
“Hey, Chief?” A familiar voice roused him from his thoughts. “How come I'm on Missile Room watch when I've just come off Missile Room watch?”
“I really don't know Patterson, let's get down there and sort it out.”
“I was just going to suggest that, Chief.”
“Oh yeah? Don't push it, Sailor.”
Chip Morton was becoming steadily more frustrated. The second officer was late for his watch, for the third time in a row and the exec’s legendary patience was being stretched beyond reason.
“Bobby, wake up…common, wake up!”
“Huh…? Whatsup…?” The sleepy voice questioned.
“Bobby, wake up! You’re already late for your watch again….”
O’Brien shook his head as he rose onto one elbow. “That’s impossible… I …can’t be, not again.” Bobby looked at his roommate in confusion. “I never oversleep normally…” He shook his head again. “My head feels like cotton wool….”
wool or not … Morton is baying for your blood!”
“That can’t be…I placed those rosters!”
The intercom interrupted harshly. “This is Morton, Mr. O’Brien, please report.”
“You’d better get dressed… I’ll stall for you.…”
“No! I’ll explain…thanks, but this is down to me.” Mr. O’Brien turned and unhooked the mic from the wall.
“Mr. O’Brien, please report to my cabin immediately.” The exec’s voice was cold and forbidding.
“Yes, sir.” Bobby sighed silently.
Five rushed minutes later, Lt. Robert O’Brien, stood stiffly to attention in front of his superior officer.
Well, Mr. O’Brien, explain yourself.” Chip Morton demanded with icy calm.
Bobby swallowed nervously and answered. “I overslept, sir.”
The silence between them stretched until Bobby glanced at the seated man.
Chip Morton sat with a glacial expression that was totally impassive but managed to convey his annoyance without a word or action. How does he do that? O’Brien wondered….
Slowly the exec stood and said menacingly, “Is that all you have to say for yourself… ‘I overslept’? Don’t you mean ‘I overslept again, sir!” Not allowing time for a reply he continued, “This is getting to be a habit, Mr.O’Brien, one I’m not prepared to tolerate. Perhaps you’d like to explain today’s roster debacle…? There were wrong duty lists posted in each of the crew quarters…they were not the same lists that I approved, were they?”
“No sir.” Bobby struggled to stay calm.
“Well, I’m waiting.” Morton insisted.
“I can’t explain it, sir. I know I posted the correct rosters…the old ones were in a file on my desk, sir.”
“And are they still there?” Morton asked ominously.
“No, sir, I checked before reporting here.” O’Brien answered quietly.
Chip sighed and sat down again. Looking at the young man, standing so stiffly to attention, Morton relented. “Sit down, Mr. O’Brien, let’s try to sort out what’s going on here.”
Bobby hesitated and then obeyed. “Mr. Morton, I swear to you sir, I checked each list as I posted it. They were all correct… I know they were. Just like I know I saw all the stores correctly stowed…and the files you asked me to get for you, were placed on your desk. I don’t know what’s happening, sir, but it seems everything I do lately, someone changes it …and that’s not all, sir….” Bobby hesitated, knowing how ludicrous his next statement would sound. “I think someone’s watching me… I never see them, only feel them .…” his voice trailed away uncertainly, he was not going to mention the whispered voice calling his name….
Morton raised one eyebrow in sceptical disbelief and repeated doubtfully. “Someone following you, watching you, someone you never see, only feel. Mr. O’Brien, are you seriously suggesting this as an explanation? Are you saying someone aboard is harassing you?”
“No, sir… at least I don’t think so, sir. I can’t explain it, Mr. Morton, but it’s happening, all the same.”
Chip Morton, studied the young officer with increasing suspicions. O’Brien was a good and trustworthy officer usually but just lately he seemed unreliable. Chip considered all the problems this cruise. The fresh provisions that were wrongly stowed. The files they both had to revise for the upcoming tests that he had requested Bobby place in his cabin but were found still in O’Brien’s quarters. Reporting late for duty more than once and then today’s debacle with wrongly posted duty rosters.
O’Brien had more than met all expectations in the two years he had served aboard, yet this cruise had proved problematical for him, to say the least. Chip had been slowly increasing the young officer’s responsibilities…had he expected too much? Was it possible that he had overestimated O’Brien’s capabilities?
“Either you are trying to tell me that someone aboard is purposely altering everything that you have responsibility for or you’re not, Mr. O’Brien? Who do you think would want do this? Why? What would be the reason for that?” Bobby could clearly hear the scepticism in the exec’s tone and sympathised. The whole situation was screwy and he knew it… but it was all true!
“I don’t know, sir. I can’t explain it to you…I don’t even understand it myself but I know that it’s happening, Mr. Morton…I just know it!”
Chip leaned forward and spoke earnestly, to the tense young officer, “Bobby, have you anything that you want to talk about…anything that could be causing you to be less than capable this cruise? It has been noted that you seem jumpy, ill at ease. Haven’t you been sleeping well? Is that what’s causing your late arrivals for duty? Have you a private problem you want to talk over. Would the captain or doctor be able to help?”
“NO sir…I haven’t any other problems… really I haven’t! I mean it Mr. Morton, it isn’t me, it’s someone else.”
sat back and frowned. O’Brien certainly appeared sincere… Chip sighed, “Okay, let’s leave this for the present. I
don’t know what you think is going on but from now on you run everything past
me, Mr. O’Brien. I want to ensure that this situation doesn’t escalate. I won’t
have this disrupting the smooth operation of the boat especially with the
trials of the admiral’s new invention, starting today. With the admiral ashore,
monitoring the tests in
Lt. O’Brien stood and answered quietly, “Yes, sir… thank you, Mr. Morton. It won’t happen again, sir, I’m going to make sure of that.”
The exec nodded and Bobby O’Brien left.
As Chip sat contemplating how to report this to the captain…another figure watched him from his hiding placed and smiled. O’Brien may have given Morton a few doubts but he wouldn’t be able to talk himself out of trouble the next time!
There was a single, soft, knock on the door then it was unlocked and opened as a figure slipped inside, silently closing the door behind him.
“What are you doing here…you’ll be seen and that will make them suspicious.” The hiding man accused in suppressed anger, as he revealed himself, when he saw who the visitor was.
“Don’t worry, I wasn’t seen.” The crewman answered.
“What do you want anyway? I thought it was agreed you’d stay away, until I needed you.”
“The timetable’s been moved up…I just got word. The first tests were so successful; they only plan one more and then we will head back to port. So you have to act tomorrow. Take Morton out before he can start the test and steal the control unit…no more games with O’Brien! I’ve activated the homing device, the rendezvous will be at 14.00.”
“And Crane?” the stowaway demanded, “What about him?”
“They still want Crane, real bad I understand. They’ve got plans for him.” The crewman sniggered cruelly. “He’s going to learn all about what it’s like to die piece by painful piece.”
“Just as long as I get paid, I don’t care what they do to him. But I have one more shot at O’Brien….”
“NO! Not if endangers our objective.” The crewman seized the shirt of the stowaway and angrily warned him. “You just do what you’re being paid for…steal the control unit, and get Crane.”
The burley hand of the stowaway squeezed the hand of the sailor with such strength that the other man whimpered in pain and slowly sank to his knees, as the pain increased.
“Don’t you ever lay a hand on me again, you hear me? I don’t like it.” As the other man massaged his crushed fingers the stowaway continued menacingly. “I will do what I have to, but I will finish off O’Brien in the process, especially now I’m so close. You just be ready to back me up.”
Chip woke gradually and lay a few moments listening to the familiar sounds around him. Seaview was sailing to the next test coordinates at standard speed, after yesterdays second successful trial, todays would be the last. Everything had gone very well. The Ambient Cloaking Device made submarines virtually undetectable to surface vessels. The only problem that had to be solved was the power imbalance from the reactor, which caused dangerous spikes in the output. With a crew as experienced as Seaview’s this was an acceptable risk but the threat of an uncontrollable nuclear reactor, would have to be a top priority in any future development.
Lee had executed the fine manoeuvres of the giant boat, as only he could, while Chip and Mr. O’Brien had been responsible for the intricate balancing of the cloaking control and the sonar station. All the crew had performed with their usual efficiency, even if Mr. O’Brien remained unnaturally tense and anxious.
Chip had talked the whole O’Brien situation over with Lee and they agreed that his behaviour was uncharacteristic and hard to explain. The second officer remained adamant that he was being targeted but could offer no answers as to whom or why. He was a good officer, reliable, resourceful and trustworthy; still, Lee and Chip found it hard to believe O’Brien’s assertions were possible.
Nothing else had occurred in the last two days, since Chip’s interview with him, maybe, if there had been someone targeting him for whatever reason, he had reconsidered.
Chip swung himself up and sat on the edge of his bunk. Stretching, he stood and just as he was moving towards the shower a knock on his cabin door stopped him.
The door swung open and a crewman entered with a pot of fresh hot coffee.
“Thanks, Freeman, just leave it on the desk.” Chip smiled, as he continued towards the small bathroom.
“Aye sir.” The Sailor answered as he carefully put the hot jug on the desk and left.
A figure watched the scene from behind the grill on the air vent. He listened for the sound of running water then quickly pushed open the cover and dropped quietly into the cabin. Opening the same bottle of pills as he had used to mildly sedate O’Brien on several occasions, he shook out three tablets and dropped them into the waiting coffee, he hesitated a moment then removed two more and added them and smiled maliciously, best to be sure he thought.
The sound of the shower ending caused him to hurry across to the open vent, and hoisting himself up, he just managed to close the grill as the officer returned to the cabin.
Chip rubbed his hair dry as he re-entered, wearing a towel around his waist and draped the second towel around his neck, as he poured the fragrant coffee into the waiting mug. While sipping it he looked at a small picture on the cabin wall, of Lee and himself at their graduation parade. Absently he reached out and straightened it, smiling at the memories it evoked.
Draining his first cup of coffee, he poured another one and started to dress in a crisp uniform, to prepare himself for his duty watch.
Slowly he felt the strange sensations start to invade him. He was disorientated as fleeting spells of giddiness made him feel unsteady. His temperature rose and beads of moisture formed on his forehead, his face burned with heat but just as suddenly he started to shiver uncontrollably. His hands trembled and refused to obey simple commands. He looked down at the front of his shirt and his eyes were unable to focus, giving him blurred double images of his fingers fumbling with the buttons. He could feel his breathing become shallow as his heartbeat quickened and pounded loudly in his ears. Mild panic assaulted him as fought to make sense of what was happening. He blinked and tried to shake his head to clear his vision and gain control again but the movement caused him to become dizzy and he stumbled against his desk. Leaning heavily against it, he concentrated on breathing deeply and the extra oxygen momentarily sobered him.
What was wrong with him? Why was he so befuddled? His hand felt the warmth of the coffee mug and he automatically reached for it…caffeine, that would do it…clear his confusion. He took a deep swallow of the coffee and waited for the familiar rush that strong java gave him but instead he felt his strength desert him, his legs became weak and refused to offer support, as he slipped sideways to land heavily on the floor. His eyes watched, as in apparent slow motion, the coffee cup descended with him and smashed into fragments, allowing the remaining black fluid to splatter the shiny deck. His eyes fluttered closed and his breathing became shallower, he vaguely registered an insistent knocking accompanied by the sound of a voice calling his name through the fog that engulfed his consciousness.
Patterson and Kowalski were kidding each other as they left the crew mess hall, to report for their watches.
Ski made his way to the exec’s cabin. Mr. Morton had ordered him to report to him personally, at the start of his duty shift this morning and update him on the progress on the new alignments to the sonar equipment.
Ski knocked on the exec’s cabin door and waited. Surprisingly, there was no immediate reply and Ski hesitated. Could be the officer was in the shower, Ski looked at his watch, if that were so, Mr. Morton was running late and he never ran late! A muffled noise issued from inside, followed by the unmistakeable sound of a breaking cup.
Ski knocked again and called. “Mr. Morton, you okay sir?”
Kowalski tried again, louder… “Mr. Morton, can you here me, sir?”
This time he tried the handle and tentatively opening the door, he called gently. “Mr. Morton?” Kowalski spied the officer lying on the floor and rushed to him.
exec was barely breathing, pulse rapid and shallow, skin clammy. Kowalski
grabbed the phone from the desk and called, “
Will, gently tucked the wrist he had been holding back beneath the blanket and quietly moved away.
“Is he going to be alright?” Lee asked softly.
“Yes, thankfully, a few hours rest and he will be awake.” Will, sat at his desk and frowned.
“What’s wrong with him?” Lee asked anxiously.
Will, sighed as he looked at his commanding officer. “He was heavily sedated and the drug was stolen from our own supplies.”
“What?” Crane demanded as he sat in the chair beside the desk.
“Frank discovered it late last night, we routinely inventory the supplies every week. I was going to report it to you this morning then all this happened. A drug that is used as a mild sedative in normal circumstances, was given to him in a concentrated dose and because of his acute sensitivity to medication, it collapsed his system. If Ski hadn’t found him when he did… Chip, could well have died from heart failure.”
“Are you saying someone deliberately tried to kill him?” Lee demanded.
“It’s possible I suppose… but someone may just have wanted him out of the way … although Chip’s medical history is no secret; everyone aboard knows that I have to treat him carefully. Giving him such a concentrated amount was bound to harm him…even kill him, Kowalski finding him so quickly was a stroke of luck, another fifteen minutes and it would have been too late.” Will, answered soberly.
“But who and why?” Lee wondered aloud.
“There I can’t help you Captain but Mr. Morton, will be asleep for at least another two hours, the counteractive drug I gave him will leave his system weak and even though I know he will fight me tooth and nail, I want to keep him here, under observation, until I’m sure there won’t be any further complications.”
Lee smiled conspiratorially. “Think you can do it?”
“I’ll have a damn good try.” Jamie chuckled.
out a sheaf of papers caused something small to roll to the front of the
drawer. At first glance he ignored it
then remembering the conversation he had overheard between the doc and the
Jamieson turned, as he was about to enter his cabin, “Yes.”
Keeping his voice low, Spark’s said, “I think I found what you were looking for.” He held out the small bottle.
pushed open his door, letting
“In the desk in our cabin….”
Will, finished counting, then looked up suspiciously, “How do you think they got there … you’re surely not suggesting Bobby?”
Spark’s shrugged uncomfortably, “No, of course not… that is…I’d hate to be the one to say it …”
“There’s enough of these gone to knock out the exec and half the crew, there’s barely a quarter left. Where is Bobby now?”
“He’s on duty in the Control Room has been for an hour or so.”
“Keep this to yourself for now. I’ll tell the captain about this immediately.”
“He’ll survive… thankfully.”
“They were WHERE?” Lee demanded, although a tiny voice in the back of his mind told him that he shouldn’t be that too surprised. “Are we to assume that O’Brien could be responsible for poisoning Chip?”
“Now, let’s not jump to conclusions …” Will, said cautiously.
“How else do you explain it?”
Will, shrugged carefully, “I can’t but remember who we’re talking about here…Bobby O’Brien. Can you honestly tell me he would hurt Chip in any way?”
“Ordinarily no…but he hasn’t been behaving ordinarily! Sharkey has done an investigation of the crew and can’t find anything to lead us to the person responsible for all this…” Lee said frustratedly, as he began to pace the cabin, “This has to have something to do with the top-secret testing... but what?”
“Have you talked with Bobby? I agree he’s certainly not working with his normal efficiency, maybe there’s a problem.”
“I haven’t, but Chip has. O’Brien seems to be convinced that someone else on board is wrecking everything he does, trying to embarrass or undermine him but can’t explain why.” Lee looked at his CMO and stated quietly. “In the light of what’s happened, Jamie, I will have to take action to protect the boat and crew.” Turning, he activated the intercom and said, “This is the Captain, Mr. O’Brien please come to my quarters immediately.”
Lee looked at Jamie’s concerned expression and declared, “I’m left with no choice. I will have to relieve O’Brien of duty at the very least until we return to port, Washington and the Admiral were expecting us to complete the last test today but after what’s happened, it’ll have to wait until Chip’s recovered. He’s the only one
trained to calibrate the settings with the sonar station. In the meantime Mr. O’Brien would be safer confined to quarters.”
“Mr O’Brien can you explain how this bottle of pills, taken without permission from the Sick Bay stores, came to be found in the desk in your cabin?”
“In the desk? … but … “ horrified at the implied implication Bobby looked in alarm at Lee. “No, sir, I can’t, I don’t know anything about them, sir, honestly.”
Lee considered the young officer standing before him. O’Brien’s reaction certainly appeared genuine but still there was the nagging doubt about the overheard conversation he had been privy to.
are aware that Mr. Morton is in the
“Yes, sir, and I know why but I did not put him there. I swear to that, Captain.”
“You still maintain that someone on board is targeting you?”
“Yes, sir. I don’t know who and I don’t know why. I only know someone is out to ruin my career.” Bobby insisted, trying to keep his temper.
“With Mr. Morton unfit for duty and the next deadline of this mission coming up, I don’t have time to deal with this right now. For everyone’s sake, including your own, I have decided to confine you to quarters until we return to port. It will give you time to think this through, maybe something will occur to you. Dismissed, Mr. O’Brien.” Lee finished brusquely.
“But, sir…”Bobby saw the captain’s unyielding glance and reluctantly obeyed.
“Aye, aye, Sir,” whispered the distressed young officer as he left.
O’Brien’s reactions were what Lee expected but as he considered the events during this voyage, he had to doubt them. He also knew that Chip still had reservations about O’Brien’s claims but he didn’t know what Lee had overheard as he was leaving his cabin yesterday …
“You can understand Morton’s point of view Bobby … after all you have no proof and no reason you can think of why someone would do this to you.”
“You sound like you don’t believe me either. I didn’t expect Morton to take me seriously right away but I had hoped he knew me better… I tell you, if all this were happening to him, I’d believe him! …” Bobbie O’Brien said frustratedly to the radio operator, as they walked through officer’s country, to the control room.
“Yes, but it’s not happening to him.”
“Yeah well, I may be the target today but who’s to say it won’t be him tomorrow? Then I bet he’d see it differently…you all would!”
Lee stood up intending to go check on his friend when the sound of the intercom stopped him.
“Captain, Baker, here.”
“Yes, Mr. Baker, what is it?”
“Sir, we have a warning light here from the Missile Room. The automatic silent alarm on the top-secret test consol has been activated. I’ve sent Kowalski to check it out, Skipper, but he doesn’t reply to hails.”
“Very well, Mr. Baker, I’ll check on it personally.”