***A Question of Honor***

by

Linda Delaney

         "The more noble a cause, the more ignoble will be its subverters!"       
Morgan Llywelyn, 1916

 

 

"And you have nothing to say in your own defense, Commander?"

"There is nothing to defend. I did it, I’m guilty!"

"You say that with absolutely no compunction whatsoever."

"That’s right! Let’s just get this whole thing over with!"

"You realize that you are being investigated for High Treason against the United States of America?"

"Yes," was the surprisingly calm reply.

"And you realize that, if you are found guilty, you can be executed?"

"Yes, I do." Again the officer showed no emotion.

"And you do not intend any defense against the charges?"

"When you have done the act, how can there be any defense? You have the tapes . . . it was seen worldwide. It was me. No actor, no android or robot. It was me. I did it."

"Commander Morton, then I really have no choice. I am going to recommend that you be arrested and charged with High Treason against the United States government." The Admiral shook his head at the lack of emotion that the younger officer was displaying. "Do you have an attorney?"

"No, sir. I believe that I know of one, however . . . if she’ll take the case. This is a rather open and shut case. And Captain Murray doesn’t like to loose a case."

"I’m afraid that she will loose this one, Commander. I’ve been told to forward my conclusions to the Admiral, at the San Diego Naval Base, and that he will make the final decision. However, based on the evidence, and what you have, or rather have not told me, I have no choice, but to recommend your arrest. If I delay the paperwork for an hour or so, it should give you some time to clear up your personal business."

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. It will give me some time with my wife and daughter."

"I wasn’t aware that you had a family."

"Yes, sir." For the first time since the interview started, Chip smiled. "Alex is four, going on fourteen . . . and we are expecting our second child in a month."

"I see . . . and you still plan no defense?"

"No sir. Not when there isn’t one."

"Then I am very sorry, Commander. I don’t understand you."

"Sometimes, sir, you have to do what you have to do. Sometimes it’s a question of honor, as twisted and strange as that may sound."

"Very well, Commander, you are dismissed."

 

***********

 

Chip Morton wearily walked into the kitchen of his home. It was late. He hoped that Matty had gone on to sleep. This late in her pregnancy, she needed all the sleep that she could get, and with these latest events, she hadn’t been getting much.

He put his briefcase down on the counter, and unbuttoning his dress blue jacket, he went into the living room. Matty was lying asleep on the couch. Dropping the jacket on a chair, he went over, and knelt down next to her. Gently he brushed a strand of hair from her face. He looked at her with a look filled with deep love and a profound sense of loss and grief.

Five years!! We’ve had five wonderful years! What wonderful time together!…What love… And then there's Alex!!! My little Princess! Another precious gift in my life!

His hand rested on Matty’s very large stomach. She had had an amnio at the urging of her Ob-Gyn. They knew that this baby was a son. They hadn’t told anyone keeping the secret to themselves.

My son! My wife, my heart, is carrying my son! I’m so sorry he won’t carry my name. But no child deserves to carry the name of a traitor…No child!! Matty will take care of that, take care of them… I just hope that she allows herself to find someone to take care of her!’

He shook off the deep despair he was feeling. Everything was taken care of. Lee and the Admiral would see that Matty and the children would be alright. He had provided for them, all of them. He swallowed hard, and looked at Matty’s face. He was suddenly surprised to see her looking at him. Her eyes, her incredible turquoise eyes! They were what had captured his intense interest when they had first met, so many years ago. The color, and, more than that, the light behind them had at first intrigued , and then, captured him, mind and heart! He was in love with here from the start, and had never thought that he'd have had a chance with her. Not with Lee Crane around! Yet she had chosen him, for what ever reasons! And they had had a good life!

She reached for his face, and he grabbed her hand and kissed her open palm.

"Hi, Angel…how’re you doing?"

"Okay, my love. You?"

"All the details are taken care of, and now, all I want to do is to sit and hold my wife."

She struggled to sit up, and he slid onto the couch and took her head into his lap. She looked up at him with eyes full of unqualified love. For a few minutes neither of them spoke. Chip softly stroked Matty’s forehead, and she held his other hand tightly in hers.

"I love you, Angel. I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve given to you, and Alex…" He held her closer. "You’ve given me all these wonderful years, Alex, the baby…I will be forever grateful!"

"The baby, his name, my love... I think, Andrew Charles Morton…I like that name, Chip!"

He grew very quiet. "Yes, Angel… Andrew is a good strong name."

She moved to look up into his clear blue eyes, eyes that had once been completely open to her, but now were closed, and darkened. "I wish that you would let me know what is going on. I love you, Chip. I want to share all of this with you!!! Please!!"

"No, Matty." He said with absolute finality. "Look, its 0200. Sandra Murray will be at the institute at 0630. Let’s go upstairs to bed, and let me hold you and Alex. I need to be with the two of you tonight."

He helped her to stand, and supported her as they went up the stairs. For one last time!

He helped her to lie down and, went to his daughter’s room. He reached down and lifted her into his arms. Her long golden hair spilled down his arm and he hugged her close. The child didn’t stir in her sleep, as he carried her to their room and gently laid her down on the bed next to Matty. Then he laid down next to her and reached out to his wife. The two of them locked arms, and held their children, born and unborn, and each other, into the early morning…

 ***********

Sometime around 0530, he quietly rose from the bed. Matty and Alex were sleeping soundly. He went to his closet, and took out a fresh uniform, undergarments and a few personal things. Silently he bent and kissed the little girl, and then lightly kissed his wife.

"I love you, Angel," he whispered. She sighed slightly and moved in her sleep. He softly left the room, and went downstairs to the kitchen. From his briefcase, he took several sealed envelopes. He then calmly placed them on the counter, took the briefcase and went to the garage. He got into the car, took it from the garage, and drove away from his home, for what he believed, was the last time.

 ***********

Captain Sandra Murray took the steps to the Main Building of the NIMR two at a time. Early morning was her best time, but 0630 was early even for her! At the Information Desk, the clerk on duty sent her to Morton’s office. His secretary was nowhere to be seen, so she walked right in.

Chip Morton stood stoically staring out his office window at the Seaview in the early morning sunlight. He had been very lucky to serve as her XO. Nelson had been very good to him over the years…He and Lee had been fortunate to have the boat, and the family of the Institute!

'Lee ...Well, that would soon be changing. Soon no one will want me around them. Guilt by association!'

Murray cleared her throat, "Morton?"

He turned to face her, expressionless, yet she could see the lines of fatigue on his face. The set of his body, however, was hard. He moved around the desk, and extended his hand to her in a matter-of-fact manner.

"Captain Murray…good of you to come."

"Chip, drop the formality…What the hell is this all about?"

"Sandra, I think you already know. I committed an act of treason, I’m about to be arrested, and I will be court-martialed, convicted and executed. I need an attorney to represent me, even though that’s just a formality. I also know that you don’t like to lose. And this is one that you will. So  you don't have to take it on, if you don't want to."

"Commander…Dammit, Chip! . . .I warn you . . . if I take you on, I will do all within my power as an attorney and an officer in the United States Navy to clear you!"

Chip smiled slightly, "Sandra, Lee said that you're tough. But this time, You won’t be able to do it, you know. I’ve already confessed, and there are the tapes that I made. There are three of them."

"I’ve seen them, Chip. I also believe that you were, and that you still are, being coerced into all of this . . . And that there is more to this than meets the eye. As your attorney, I will represent you, and I will do my best to convince you to plead not guilty, and to recant that confession as you call it."

He shrugged and said, "I will plead guilty, Sandra, or I’ll find another attorney. There’s no way that I can plead anything else. I did it."

"Chip, a guilty verdict means that you’ll be executed!"

Very quietly and deliberately, he said, "I know. Executed as a traitor. And because of that, I’ve taken care of some legal matters for Matty.  I want you to know about them. I’ve signed all of the papers and had the signatures notarized. There are copies here for you. I left the originals in my strong box. Here is the key for it." He opened the drawer to his desk, took out a key and laid it on the desk. "I left Matty copies on the counter at the house. I also left letters for the Admiral and Lee in the box…to be given to them after the Execution. I just want this to be over with as soon as possible. It can be over and done with before Matty has the baby." He smiled, his attitude unyielding, "We all  know Joel McKenna can’t wait to get his hands on me, and for the opportunity to get to the Admiral!"

"What are the papers, Chip?" she inquired as she picked up the key from the desk and fingered it.

"I think that you may already know. A Writ of Divorce, and a similar writ allowing Matty to resume using her maiden name. There are also documents for the court to have the baby’s name at birth to be legally Weaver, not Morton as well as to change Alex’s name to Weaver in like manner. That way, the children will never have to carry the name of a traitor, and Matty won’t have to worry about it either."

"Chip, don’t you think…?" she asked, concerned that he was too calm, too calculated, about all that was transpiring.

"Look, Sandra, the evidence is overwhelmingly against me. Furthermore, I did make those tapes. I will not deny it. My word is all that I have left and I will not lie about it. Whatever honor I may have left is tied up in my word."

"I swear, Iwill get to the bottom of this, Chip. For you, Matty and everyone who holds you dear, including me. I’m bound by canon to defend my client with the utmost zealousness."

Just as she finished speaking, the door was thrown open by two burly SPs who obviously had only one objective in mind.  "We’ve come for the Traitor! Morton, you’re under arrest! Admiral McKenna sends his regards, and said to tell you that he’s looking forward to entertaining you ."

Sandra Murray stood in the way of the SPs. "Gentlemen, I am Commander Morton’s attorney. I will accompany you to the San Diego base. Admiral McKenna is more than well known to me." She had absolutely no intention of allowing them free dominion over Chip Morton. She knew Joel McKenna too well.

The two Petty Officers looked at one another, and somewhat reluctantly bowing to her superior rank, then answered, "Yes, Ma’am."

They menacingly moved to Chip, roughly handcuffed him, and then hustled him out of the room. Sandra Murray followed close behind, observing their treatment of this man she knew in her heart to be innocent, regardless of what he had said. Nothing would happen to him, not if she could do anything about it!

 

***********

 

Two hours later, they had reached San Diego Naval Station. Sandra Murray got out of the car quickly. The SPs briskly hustled Chip into the building, and into a waiting cell. Murray in the meantime, rapidly headed toward the office of the commandant of the base, Admiral Joel McKenna.

It had been several years since McKenna and Murray had last seen each other. They had parted on terms that were, to say the least, not pleasant. Murray had beaten McKenna at his own game. She had gotten Lee Crane off on charges of Insubordination. McKenna was not happy at that time! In fact, he was livid. Now, here she was again, defending one of the Seaview’s Officers again… and this time, McKenna had, what amounted to, an open and shut case, with all of the pieces of the puzzle in his hands. She knew that he had to be jubilant. And if he wanted to hurt Harriman Nelson, he couldn’t have a better way to hurt him. Executing the Seaview’s Exec would wound Nelson so deeply that he would have a difficult time recovering. Especially since the bond between the two men had grown and deepened during and after Crane’s Court Martial.

This is certainly going to be an interesting encounter!

She knew that she had been on McKenna’s list of people to ‘fix’ since she had gotten Lee Crane off . McKenna had a long arm, and a lot of hatred. Fortunately, he also was not about to try anything with the JAG office. He was too afraid of them, so it gave her a certain amount of safety. She had also been privy to a rumor that Karen Davis Nelson had placed McKenna on ‘notice’ and that he was, for some unknown reason, afraid of her as well. Therefore, Sandra had no illusions about the man or his penchant for sadistic behavior.

Sandra knocked on the Admiral’s office door and entered without waiting.

An obese man, with dark, sinister eyes sat behind the desk. Those eyes narrowed with hate when he saw her.

"Murray!" he growled, looking her up and down. He did not dismiss her this time, as he had the last. He had learned not to underestimate her. "There’s no hope for Morton in this case. You can’t win. You may as well bag it now!"

"I don’t think so. I’ll fight to get him free." Sandra solidly declared, knowing, though, it was going to be an uphill battle.

Joel McKenna sardonically tapped a pile of three videotapes. "This is all I need, Murray! This puts his neck in a noose. He’s done for. This should put all of you sanctimonious Nelson lovers in your place. I’m putting him in solitary for his own safety. People around here don’t take too kindly to traitors, and we don’t want damaged goods, now do we , Captain?" The tone of his voice oozed sarcasm

"I appreciate your concern, Admiral. However, I have quarters already on base. I will be seeing my client on a daily basis and I will be most observant of how he’s being treated."

"And I’m telling you, Captain, that I am not responsible for how the men here regard traitors. They are a very patriotic lot. They despise anyone who betrays their country." And with a rather sadistic smile, added, " . . . and accidents do happen!"

Slightly bending down and placing both hands firmly on his desk, she calmly but forcefully stated, "You are warned, Admiral. Commander Morton’s physical condition will be documented and reported. Any ‘accidents’ and you, sir, will be held responsible. Is that clear, sir?"

"Oh yes, Captain, I understand the warning. I don’t intend to go near the man, his ilk make me want to puke, if the truth of the matter be told. I have no desire to see or talk to him outside of necessary protocols. And since Morton is already a dead man, I really can’t be bothered with him."

 

***********


Matty woke slowly from her slumber. Her hand fell across her daughter’s sleeping form. She reached further, and found that Chip was no longer there. She sat up as quickly as her pregnant body would allow, and looked around the room. Her hand went to her neck, and to the necklace that Chip had given her when Alex was born. A simple disk with the Seaview engraved on the center. Their names, and Alex’s were engraved on the back of the disk. Tears came unbidden. She hurt! For the first time since they had been together, Chip had shut her out. She didn’t know why… he wouldn’t tell her . . . and that hurt!

"Oh, Chip…Why? Why did you do this, my dearest love? Why won’t you share with me? Talk to me? Why?"

And all the pain that he was going through! She stroked Alex’s hair, and let her other hand rest on her stomach. She felt the slight kick of the baby’s foot against her palm.

"My son! Chip’s son! He should be here, enjoying this, the impending birth of his son!? What the hell was going on?"

Alex stirred and started to wake up. She opened her blue eyes, so like her father’s and looked around. Sleepily sitting up, she asked Matty, "Mommy, why am I in your bed?"

Matty reached over and held the little girl close. "Because your Daddy came in late last night and wanted to lie down with you and me, so he went into your room and brought you in here."

"Where’s Daddy now? Is he downstairs?" the little girl rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands.

"No, baby. He had to…go away for a while." Matty was having a hard time fighting to control her voice…trying to remain calm when she suddenly felt her world about to cave in.

"When is he coming home, Mommy?"

"Soon, Alex, soon." She hugged the little girl closer.

Finally, Alex squirmed away.  "Mommy, I’m hungry."

Matty smiled at their daughter. She had an appetite like her father. Chip’s love of food was legendary, and so was the fact that he managed to stay so slim, in spite of it. Matty hoped that Alex would maintain both of her father’s traits. Slowly she got off the bed, and taking the little girl by the hand went downstairs to the kitchen. On the counter, she found the envelopes that Chip had left. She quickly fixed Alex a bowl of cereal, and sat down with shaking hands to open the letter addressed to her.

Chip had written it in longhand on a yellow legal pad. He had taken great care, for his usually crabbed script, was clear and legible. She sat stock still as she read it ---------

Dear Angel,

First and foremost, I want you to know how much I love you. You have brought such joy to my life that I can’t even begin to explain how I feel about it. And the gifts that you have given me, … yourself,…Alex…and our son. There is no measure of what it means to me. Because of what I have done, and I have to tell you, that I did do it, I am afraid that I have made your futures somewhat difficult. I was fully aware of what I was saying and doing. Suffice it to say that there were reasons for it.

Any way, there are papers here, that I  had drawn up by the legal staff at the Institute. They will protect you and the children. I never meant for this to happen, Angel. I never wanted what we had to end this way. Please, take the papers, and use them. They will help you out. Lee and the Admiral will look after you amd the children. You won’t have to leave the house, they’ve promised me that. And your job isn’t in any jeopardy because of me. If you don’t want to stay, Jiggs Stark has promised to reinstate you in the Navy and get you stationed somewhere that you want to be.

I’m so sorry that you have to go thru this, but at least you have the Admiral and Karen, and Lee and the rest of the Institute family. You won’t be alone. Take the papers Matty, because you love me, and use them to protect you and the children. I wish I could do more to protect you all from all of this, but I simply can’t. At this point, I have to trust you will. Since we first met, I have, and I will continue to put my trust in you!

About me, try not to worry too much. It will all be over very quickly. A guilty plea, because I am guilty, a conviction, and sentence, and then it will be over, Joel McKenna will see to that.

I will carry your smiling face with me forever, wherever the next life takes me. Your face and Alex’s.

The only regret in all of this is that I won’t know our son. Tell him if you wish, how much I loved you. How much I loved you all. Please tell him that I wasn’t all that bad a man, and that my honor and yours was what made me do this. Tell him to look to Lee and the Admiral for role models. And teach him to do the ‘right’ thing, no matter what the cost.

Angel, please don’t try to come and visit me. Sandra has orders not to have your name on the list of approved visitors. I don’t want to subject you to any abuse. The wives of traitors are not well received. And you are too close to delivery to risk anything. It is a selfish thing, I know, but I don’t want you to see me here. I’d rather you remember me on the boat, or at home, not in a cell.

Matty, I love you.  Always and forever
Chip.

 

Numbly, she set the letter on the table, and opened the larger envelope. In it she found copies of the Writ of Divorce, the papers to begin using her maiden name, and the name change for Alex. She also found the papers about the baby’s name. Reading what he had done, and what he had told her in the letter, she softly began to cry. Long ago, on their wedding day, Chip had proudly called himself a ‘master of details’. He again proved that he was indeed such. He had taken care of everything, except for one detail. Her heart. Her broken heart.

At first the tears came slowly, the impact of all of what he had done, numbing her. As she began to absorb how carefully he had cared for them, her heart began to tear, and break and she began to sob loudly . . . great wracking sobs that literally shook her entire body.

Alex looked over at her mother, first in surprise, and then in growing fear. She had rarely seen her mother cry, and certainly not like this. She didn’t understand it. She didn’t know why. She was confused and frightened. She wanted her Daddy. She wanted her Mommy to stop crying. And her Daddy always could make her Mommy stop crying. Where was her Daddy? Anxiously she pulled on Matty’s arm.

"Mommy…Mommy please stop! Please stop crying, Mommy!"

Alex pulled harder, but Matty didn’t stop, the tears came harder, the sobs deeper. Her head now rested on an outstretched arm, its hand grasping the papers tightly. Alex stood there for a moment, and then with all of a four-year-old's ability, she went to the phone. Matty had drilled her with care, and taught her the buttons to push on the phone in case of an emergency. Not the police, that was the red one, but Aunt Karen. She would help her Mommy. Carefully she pushed the button and waited while the phone rang. A gentle female voice answered the phone.

At the Nelson residence, Karen Nelson picked up the phone.

"Nelson Residence, Karen speaking."

Timidly, the little girl said, "Aunt Karen, this is Alex."

Karen’s voice fought for control, the surprise on her face evident to her husband, but not to the child on the other end of the line. "Yes, honey. What’s wrong?"

"Mommy’s sitting in the kitchen and she’s crying. She won’t stop crying, Aunt Karen. She won’t stop. I'm scared, Aunt Karen" A touch of panic crept into the child’s voice.

Calmly, she told the little girl, "Okay, honey, you just stay right with your Mommy. I’ll be right over there. Just stay calm, OK? It’ll be all right . . . "

"Yes, Aunt Karen. Do you know where my Daddy is, I think that my Daddy should come home right now!"

"He can’t right now, Alex. But I’ll be right there, ok?"

"Yes, Aunt Karen. Please hurry and help my Mommy"

"I’m coming, Alex. Hang up the phone now." Karen instructed her with all due diligence and control within her.

Alex hung up the phone, and went to stand next to Matty. She kept patting her on the arm, and listening for the doorbell…

 

***********

"Damn it, Harriman! It’s Matty!" Karen Nelson was pulling on her sweats, as she spoke. "That was Alex. Matty has started to cry and won’t stop!"

She looked over at her husband, who had just come from his shower, a towel wrapped around his waist. Karen grabbed at a brush, running short, quick strokes through her curly hair. With a tinge of anger in her voice,  she looked back over at him and declared, "I really do need to know what’s going on!"

Harriman Nelson hurriedly pulled on his own clothes as he spoke to his wife. "If I knew what was going on, I’d tell you, Karen, believe me! Let’s just get over there and see what’s wrong with Matty, and then we’ll talk. I’ll get Sean!!"

 

************

 

Less than five minutes later, the Nelson’s parked in front of the Morton house. Alex was standing in the doorway looking out. Wearing her long pink nightgown, she looked almost ethereal. Karen walked quickly up the walk, her husband following with a sleepy Sean in his arms. Karen took the little girl into her arms, and hugged her warmly. Then, gently, she moved her towards the Admiral and Sean. In a soothing voice, she said, "Why don’t you take Sean into the playroom, Alex, and let me talk to Mommy?"

Alex reached for the two year old, "C’mon, Seany… Let’s see what we can find to play with. There are a lot of toys here." Thumb in mouth, and still drowsy, Sean followed her, the promise of toys and play too engaging to refuse.

Karen and Nelson hurried into the kitchen. Matty was still sitting, and sobbing. Carefully, Karen went over to her, and took her into her arms. Nelson took several steps backward, letting his wife handle this situation.

"Matty, it’s Karen. Come on, honey, talk to me."

Matty looked at her friend, her eyes bloodshot and swollen, but the tears did not, or would not, stop. Karen quickly began making decisions. She put her arms around Matty’s shoulders and helped her to her feet.

"Matty, let me help you to your bed, and you can lie down for a while." She turned to Nelson. "Harriman, the number of her doctor is on the counter . . . call her and tell her what’s going on and tell her to get here, now. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass whether or not she makes house calls! She has to come! And then call Jamie! He can help until her gyno gets here." Karen then gently helped the younger woman to rise, and started out of the kitchen. She had placed Matty’s arm around her shoulder and put her own arm around the younger woman's swollen waist.

Nelson watched his wife as she protectively took her friend in hand, then following his wife’s instructions, moved determinedly to the counter, picked up the phone and dialed. He literally gave orders to the doctor’s staff, taking his brook no interference attitude. Once he hung up the phone, he called out to Karen, "She’ll be here within the hour. She was just finishing up on a delivery. Will is on his way over. Let me help you here…." He bolted up the stairs to Matty’s other side and together they helped her up the stairs and into her room. Karen sat down on the bed beside her, while Nelson went to check on the children.

 

***********

 

In Alex’s playroom, the little girl was sitting quietly playing with Sean. The two year old was building a large and very strange looking creation with giant Lego blocks. Alex looked up and as Nelson sat down, she came over to him, and climbed up into his lap. "Do you know where my Daddy is, Admiral? My Mommy needs him."

He held the little girl tightly, his heart aching for her, part of his pain because he didn’t know himself, why Chip had made those statements. He couldn’t believe that his staid and steadfast Exec and friend would suddenly turn against his country and the Institute. The three tapes that had been seen worldwide, had baffled and hurt him. He didn’t understand . . . And Chip wasn’t sharing anything at all with regards to his motive. He was going to get to the bottom of it. If only Chip would just let him help!

"He… he had to go away for a while, Alex. I don’t know when he’ll be back," Nelson replied, trying his hardest to comfort the little girl, yet unable to comprehend himself the reason for what was happening.

"But my Daddy works for you, and you can make him come home now!" she replied somewhat defiantly.

He looked at the little girl who was staring at him intently, so intently, with her father’s eyes.  "Alex, I’m afraid that even I can’t bring him home right now. The man that I work for wants him to be somewhere else right now. I just can’t get him home." He was trying to make her understand but to a child….

"But my Mommy needs my Daddy right now! Please!!"

"I’m sorry Alex, I wish I could get him home right now, believe me!"

Just then the door bell rang, and Alex jumped off Nelson’s lap.

"Daddy! That must be my Daddy! He knew that Mommy needs him!"  The little girl ran down the stairs, to the front door and threw it open. "Daddy!!!!" Her face fell when she saw the boat’s doctor, Will Jamison standing in the doorway. He looked sadder than he usually did, his long face pulled further downward than ever before. When he saw the child’s crestfallen expression, he smiled at her.

"Hello, Alex."

"I thought that you were my Daddy…" she turned dejectedly from him, and walked sadly toward the stairs. "My Mommy is in her room. Come on."

As Jamie turned to close the door, he saw Lee Crane coming up the walk to the house, and waited for the Seaview’s Captain to come in.

"Will, what’s wrong with Matty?  Karen called. My mother’ll be over as soon as Robert is off to school."

"I don’t know, Lee, I just got here myself. Alex says that Matty is up in the bedroom."

Jamie nodded at the little girl who was sitting on the stairs, her knees up, her elbows on her knees supporting her face. She looked the picture of abject sadness.

"I’ll go up and see Matty…" Jamison said as he walked up the stairs. Lee sat down next to Alex on the stairs. His pain for what was going on with his friend increased when he saw his Godchild.

"Feel like talking to your uncle, Alex?" he quietly inquired.

She shook her head, ‘No’.

"Feel like sitting on my lap and just sitting?"

She looked at him thoughtfully for a full minute, and then slowly climbed up and sat in his lap. She leaned her head against his shoulder, and he looked down at the tiny girl, her hair all askew. With fumbling fingers, he tried to smooth her hair. Little girls, and their care, were not his forte. Finally, he gave up, and decided just to hold her close. After a while, she looked up at him. He saw the blue eyes of his friend in his Goddaughter.

"Uncle Lee, Do you know where my Daddy is?"

"He had to go away for a while, Alex."

"The Admiral said the same thing. Uncle Lee, I want my Daddy! My Mommy needs my Daddy!" And she started to cry with sobs that caused her tiny body to tremble. Lee sat there with her and held her close, until she had cried herself out. She swiped at her eyes, and at her nose as she tried to sit up straight in his lap.

"My Daddy will be home soon. He promised he’d be here when the baby comes, and my Daddy doesn’t break his promises, does he, Uncle Lee?"

"Alex, I know he wants to be here with you and your Mommy. But if he isn’t, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t try his best, and it certainly doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love you and your Mommy. He loves the both of you very, very much. And sometimes grownups can’t always do what they promise. Sometimes things happen that prevent that us from doing those things." He turned her in his lap so that she was looking at him. "Alex, you have to believe me about some things. I’m talking to you like you are a big girl, but you have to take my word for it. Do you understand?"

She shook her head that she did.

"Alex, your Daddy is my best friend, you know that, don’t you?" he further stated, trying to comfort and reassure her as best he could.

"Yes, that’s one of the reasons that you are my Godfather."

"That’s right. Well, your Daddy has had to do a few things lately that he didn’t want to do. We haven’t been able to talk about it, but it has been very hard for him, especially since he loves you and Mommy and the baby so much. He didn’t want to leave you all alone. But he knew that all of the rest of us who love him, and love all of you would be here to look after you all. We’ll talk to your Daddy and find out why he did these things. But until we do, he has to be away. We’ll bring him home to you, sweetheart. Home to you and Mommy and the baby. I promise you that!"

He hugged her and held her close. In a few minutes she slid off of his lap. "Uncle Lee, I think that I want to go upstairs and be with my Mommy. If Daddy can’t be here, then I want to be with her."

"Ok, Alex."

"Why don’t you come with me? Maybe seeing you can make my Mommy smile a little."

Lee let her take his hand, and lead him up the stairs. He paused at the door of the bedroom, as Will Jamison was walking out. Matty was lying on her side, and she looked like she was asleep. Will motioned Lee out of the room. Alex let go of his hand and slid in between the two men, and went to the bed. Lightly she climbed on the bed, and sat behind her mother, near her head. She laid her hand on her mother’s shoulder, and just sat quietly with her. In the hall, Karen joined Lee and Jamison, and Nelson came down the hall, carrying Sean.

"How is she, Will?" Crane asked with concern.

"She’s sleeping right now. I’d say that it’s a mild case of shock. Everything that has taken place in these last two weeks have caught up with her. I’m sure that when Nirmala gets here, she’ll give her some mild sedation. The baby seems fine. She’s a month from delivery. She knows she has to be careful."

"I’m going to stay here with them, Harriman. I'll call the office and tell them. I don't have anything pressing on my calendar, and I think I'm needed here more." Karen told her husband in a low voice, then looked at Lee Crane. "Would you please ask Helen if she can take Sean today, Lee?"

He reached for his other Godchild, smiling at the two-year old. Nodding to Karen, "I’m sure she’ll be delighted. I’ll bring him over there right now. Admiral, I’ll meet you at the office. We have to do something about this, and do it now! My very good friend is stubborn, and didn’t want any help…well now he’s going to get it like it or not!"

 

***********

 

As he waited for the SPs to return and begin processing him for holding in the brig, Chip tried to analyze the last week. It had all happened so fast. Everything had happened so very fast!…..

He had been sent to Los Angeles for a short two day meeting about new computers. The boat was having a new system installed that Caitlin Davis had been working on in San Diego in conjunction with Admiral Stark. The manufacturers of the system were located in Los Angeles, and Admiral Nelson had determined that Chip should be sent to see exactly how the system specs were being met by the maker. It was supposed to be an inspection of the facility, and some supervisory work that the Admiral had requested he make of the system itself. Nelson was as particular as ever when it came to the boat, and the burden of making sure that all the necessary details were taken care of , became the job of the XO. Not that Chip minded. A few days away from the Institute, dealing with the business world always made Chip appreciate the Institute all the more.

He was scheduled to meet a representative of the corporation at 0900 in the center of a Los Angeles Industrial Park. The Deng-Pao Computer Corporation had had a long standing relationship with the Government and a number of government agencies. The founders of the company, Richard Deng and his partner, Avery Pao, had been in business in Hong Kong and in this country for forty years, and they had an impeccable relationship with the governments of the US and Britain.

Chip was pleased to be here, as he had met with the representatives when the system was contracted out, and he felt he knew that the men would be doing a good job. Their reputations had withstood numerous security checks. As Chip waited for the men from the company to meet him, he paced near his car. A black sedan sedately came into the parking lot, and two Asian men got out of the car, and approached him. As they walked up to him, they extended hands in greeting. As he reached for one of the men, a puff of purple smoke blew into his face, and he had a brief smell of citrus, and then blackness.

He pitched forward into the waiting arms of the two men, who dragged him into the car, and then it sped off.

 

************

 

He awoke strapped to a chair. He was surrounded by video monitors, cameras, and a great deal of equipment. As his mind cleared, he wondered where he was and why. The boat wasn’t on any special mission, nor was he. He had meetings to attend, and if he didn’t then, his absence would be reported. He shook his head to try and clear it and pull it all into a clearer picture. This didn’t make any sense. He tested the bonds that held him to the chair, and found the metal and leather would not budge.

"Don’t bother, Commander," said a disembodied voice. "You are most securely bound to that chair."

"Who are you?" Chip was puzzled and twisted his wrists in a vain attempt to free himself from the bindings that held him.

"A representative of the People’s Republic. I am about to put into action, with your help, a plan to raise the esteem of my people, and take down your government a few levels in the International community."

"I don’t think so. You should know better than that. I won’t cooperate with you. You already know that."

"What I know, Commander Morton, is that you are, assuredly, a deeply loyal man. Your friends, your boat, the Nelson Institute mean a great deal to you. I won’t say that I will break you. I won’t even try that. It’s quite simple really. You are going to make three statements, on video tape that I am going to release on CNN for all the world to see."

"No, I’m not. There is nothing that you can do to me."

"I know that, Commander. I don’t intend to do anything to you. Watch the monitors."

Three monitors came to life at once. On one, Lee Crane was sitting at his desk in the office at the Institute. Another showed Harriman Nelson sitting in a meeting in the Institute conference room, and a third, a yeoman policing quarters on the boat. Chip was puzzled and looked to his captors.

"Let me explain, Commander. Your Captain and your Admiral are in the crosshairs of two sharpshooters. Your boat has had a bomb planted aboard. Both men are dead men if you do not cooperate with us. Furthermore, your boat will be then be destroyed. You will want proof that we can carryout our threat. Watch the monitors…"

As Chip gazed at the monitors, Lee got up, picked up his cover, and left the office, for his car. Chip watched as he went to the parking lot, and got into his red Cobra. As he backed up and put the car into gear, there was a small puff of smoke, and the rear left tire went flat. A thrill of fear crept down Chip’s spine. That screen quickly went black.

Nelson’s meeting ended, and he too, left the offices. He headed toward his blue Mercedes, where Riley was waiting to drive him to another meeting. As he climbed into the car, Riley held the door. This time, Chip saw the puff of smoke and saw a stream of fluid come from the radiator. He watched as the car slowed to a stop, and Riley and Nelson got out. The screen also went dark.

The only screen still lit was where the Yeoman was still policing the quarters. Chip realized that they were his quarters. The Yeoman went out the door, and a tiny wisp of gas eased itself from the monitor.

"You see, Commander, we can kill Crane, and Nelson and blow up that submarine in the blink of an eye. And if you don’t cooperate, that is exactly what we will do. Your choice is a simple one, really. Their lives, and the lives of the men on your boat, or your honor and integrity, and your life. You, and you alone, versus all of them."

Chip shook his head. He still was having a hard time assimilating all that he had seen, all that had been presented to him.

"Commander, if you doubt our ability to keep our word, then perhaps a further demonstration is necessary."

Chip remained silent. He was trying to collect his thoughts. His captor, however didn’t appreciate the silence.

"Watch the screens, Commander. Watch and see what we can do!!!"

Lee Crane and his red Cobra came onto the screen. Chip could see his friend changing the tire that had been blown out. His back was to the screen. He was in shirt sleeves, sleeves rolled up and not looking very happy. On the second screen a view of Riley and Nelson waiting next to the Mercedes, apparently for a tow truck. On the third screen, his cabin on the boat.

"Which one will it be, Commander? How shall I prove to you that we are capable of what I told you?… Your best friend, your friend, the Admiral…or your boat? Oh I won’t do any permanent damage….just an object lesson… to prove beyond a doubt that I mean business…"

As Chip watched the screens, Sharkey pulled up next to Nelson’s Mercedes in an Institute car. He could see them talking and Nelson climbing into the Institute car. Riley remained behind at the Mercedes, and Sharkey drove off.

Lee’s back continued to be visible on the screen. From the set of his body, Chip could tell that he was getting angrier and angrier. He kept looking at his watch, as he changed the tire.

‘Just like Lee, do it all himself, and not call for help!’

Crane finished changing the tire and was pounding the hubcap back into place, when Chip saw him grab at his right shoulder. A small blossom of red spread out from the edge of his grip.

"LEE!" Chip shouted involuntarily to the image on the screen.

Crane leaned forward into the side of the car, steadying himself. As Chip watched helplessly, Lee struggled to his feet. Still holding his shoulder, he reached into the car, and pulled at the handset of his car phone. Chip could see him talking on the phone, and then he let the handset fall and slid down the side of the car. The camera closed in on his face.

"If you refuse, Commander, I’ll end the Captain’s life right now. A bullet to the brain! And then Nelson and then your boat and crew! You see that I can carry out my threat."

"Yes!" he replied through clenched teeth. "I see!"

"I will leave you to watch as your friend gets help, and then we will talk again, Commander."

Anxiously, Chip watched for help to arrive for Lee. Every second that passed seemed to him to be hours. In what was no more than 20 minutes, two cars, and an ambulance arrived. Much to Chip’s relief, Will Jamison got out of a car, and ran to Crane’s side. He started talking to the Captain, and began to examine him. He tore Crane’s shirt from the shoulder, looked at the wound and began to treat him. The camera remained on Crane until the doctor managed to get the Seaview’s Captain into the ambulance. The screen went dark. There was silence for a long time and then the voice began to talk to him again.

"You see, Commander. I can carry out my threats at any time, in any place. And I can assure you that they all will die, if you do not cooperate. Then again, you will also die, one way, or the other. But if you cooperate, then you will see your friends and family again. At least for a short time…"

"All right. What do you want me to do?…"

***********

An hour later, Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton, U.S.N.R., Executive Officer of the S.S.R.N. Seaview sat in front of TV Cameras, and monitors. A carefully written script was in front of him and also running on a prompter. He was wearing his dress blues. He had been reading the words as they passed over and over again on the prompter. His throat was tight, and his hands were shaking slightly. What he was about to do was an anathema to him. He himself had been very outspoken about traitors. But he had to do it! They would kill Lee, the Admiral, and the men on the boat, and destroy the boat as well. If he did this, he would be the only casualty, and when it was all over, everyone else would be safe. There was no choice. He looked at the monitors. The shooters had Lee, and Nelson in their sights. They had their finger on the detonator for the bomb on the boat. Lee was in the Institute’s Med Facility being cared for, for the bullet wound. Nelson was there, hovering. Chip could see them on two different monitors. One for each of the shooters. He was strapped into the chair, the bonds hidden under his dress blue jacket.

‘This can’t be real! This can’t be happening! I’m not about to betray my country, my life! But they’ll kill them, kill them all if I don’t do this!!… Matty!…Alex…"

The disembodied voice spoke to him. "Commander, I do hope that you are ready…Ahh…I see that you are watching your Captain Crane being readied to leave the facility. To soothe your conscience a bit, I have it on good authority that Crane’s wound is not too serious. My source tells me that his shoulder blade was chipped by the bullet, and while the wound was painful, he should make a full recovery --- as long as you continue to cooperate. As you can see, your friends are each under our constant surveillance, as is your boat. Just read the statement to the camera, Commander. As you can tell, if you stray from it once, in any way, they are, quite simply dead. Then, of course, there is your family. We don’t make a habit of going after helpless women and children, but we can always make exceptions. Your wife is eight months pregnant, isn’t she? With your son?"

Chip shuddered. These people knew everything about him and his life! Where was the leak? How? ‘I’d like to strangle this bastard!’ he thought angrily, ‘… but if I don’t do this thing … then too many will die’ he shuddered. ‘Too many will die…’

A hand signaled him and a camera light went on. He began to read the statement on the prompter.

Softly and firmly,

"I am Commander Chip Morton, U.S.N.R., Executive Officer of the S.S.R.N. Seaview. I have a statement to make at this time regarding the activities of the Seaview and the Government of the United States. There is an evil being perpetrated against an innocent and legal government, and it is being done by the government of the United States. The instrument of the government is the Seaview, and the victim is the People’s Republic. The Seaview and Admiral Nelson have long been in the employ of this evil, and have done many acts against an innocent people. They have, and I have been, a participant in the attempted subversion of the legal government of the People’s Republic, by supplying, at the behest of the United States of America, weapons and armaments to the terrorists that are trying to overthrow the legitimate government. In addition, we have, on numerous occasions, supplied support with the weapons and men of the boat to these terrorists. I have long struggled with these actions, and have decided to reveal them at this time, in order expose the evil of the United States and her actions. The government of this country deserves to be condemned for their illegal actions and I hope that these revelations will aid in that condemnation."

The light on the TV camera went out.

A sarcastic, single applause echoed in the chamber. "Very good, Commander. Very good indeed! I will be even happier when the next two broadcasts are made. In one hour, and then an hour from that."

Chip was feeling physically ill. He had betrayed his country, his boat, his friends and family. There was no going back. He had watched, as he spoke, as the shooters had followed the movements of Nelson and Crane. Lee had been shot, because he, Chip, had not been fast enough to respond to his captor. He had seen Nelson take Crane to his home, had seen Helen Crane, so distraught, bring Lee into his house. Helen could be seen fussing about her son. Karen Nelson had also come into the Crane home, as well, to be with her husband and their friends. Watching the activity from two different points of view, he realized just how many people would be hurt if he did not completely cooperate. His one life seemed to have little value by comparison with so many others. He knew that he would lose all that he held dear, Matty, Alex, the baby…Lee, Nelson, the boat. He would, most likely be executed… that did not seem half as bad as dealing with the loss of everything else. He had faced death many times, in many ways, and somehow, always beat the odds. This time, he knew, he couldn’t. High Treason was what he would be charged with, Death the only sentence. Hopefully, it would be done quickly….

************

He had found himself in the Institute parking lot. He had no idea of how long he had been gone, or even how he had gotten there. He had made his way up the stairs, and to Nelson’s office. Then all hell had broken loose, and events had moved quickly.

He had talked to Nelson and Crane, and in spite of all of their prodding and pushing, they had been unable to determine why he had turned on them, the Institute, the country. They kept reassuring him that they were his friends, that they believed in him, that they knew there had to be a reason for his actions. Chip remained stoic, and silent. Every time he saw Lee Crane, his arm in a sling, his color still pale, he was reminded of the ability of the People’s Republic to hurt and/or kill them, the men on the boat, his family, and destroy the boat. There was no way, as long as he was alive that he could let them know the danger that they were in. He would write them letters, explaining it all, letters that they could open after he was dead. DEAD! He could accept it. There was no problem in h is mind. His death would save all those lives most precious to him… All those that he loved.

He always had prided himself on mastering all the details. This was no exception. He saw to all the details, Matty and the children, the boat, and Lee and Nelson. They would all understand later… He put the papers in his strongbox in the bank. He had the key, would give it to his attorney. Attorney/client privilege would prevent Nelson and Crane from getting the letters before… He would not allow anyone to be at risk!

He gave no information to anyone. Not Nelson and Crane, not the assorted politicians and military men that invaded the Institute, no one!! And then soon, all too soon, it was time to move toward the next step…

 

***********

 

The SPs noisily coming into the cell brought him back to reality. They roughly pulled him to his feet.  "Traitor!" one of them spat at him.

"You don’t deserve to wear that uniform!" another roughly pushed him against the wall.

"What’s the matter…got nothing to say for yourself? You sure had plenty to say on the TV!!!!" One of the guards hit him across the face. Chip remained calm. The guard hit him again. Again, he didn’t react.

"What’s the matter, no guts?!" A third blow to the face brought swelling around one eye, and a bruising of the lip. Still Chip remained silent. He deserved the treatment. He felt the same way about Traitors. The only difference was that now he was the traitor!.

The abuse continued for the next five minutes, the SPs entertaining themselves at the prisoner’s expense. When they found that no matter what they did, that they could not get Chip to rise to their torment, they tired of it and left the cell. Chip slowly lowered himself on to the bunk. Grateful that they had removed the ‘cuffs, he carefully removed his jacket, and loosed his tie. He had taken some hard blows to the stomach and chest, but he knew that all he was, was bruised. All they had tried to do was to take out their frustrations on the object of their hatred. Their hatred was justified. He shifted on the bunk to wait.

 

***********

 

Sandra Murray stormed into Joel McKenna’s office later that afternoon. His aide didn’t even have time to warn the Admiral of her impending entrance, as she slammed his office door open and then slammed it closed after her.

"What the hell did you do to Chip Morton? How dare you! After you’ve been warned?!! She slammed her hands down on the desk, and put her face directly in front of his. "There had better be a very reasonable explanation of this!"

McKenna was caught off guard, and was as she saw totally surprised! Was that terror that she saw flicker across his face. He stammered and then took hold of himself, and bellowed at her.

"And just what do you think you are doing, Captain? This is my office! You have absolutely no authority to storm in to my office like this! Who in the hell do you think that you are?"

Quietly and calmly she replied to him, "Admiral, I represent the JAG office, and I am Lt. Cdr. Morton’s defense attorney. He’s been beaten! This is apparently typical of your handiwork, Admiral!"

"I am not responsible for this, Captain! I will have you know that I did not have any idea that something had taken place! I don’t have to defend myself, but to prove my point…" He slammed his hand on the office intercom. "Blake, I want the SPs that brought Morton in and I want them in here now!!" he turned to Murray. "Now you’ll see!"

In the space of three minutes, the two SPs came into the office, snapped to attention, and waited for the Admiral. The obese officer walked over to the men, and stood in front of the two of them. Both men remained impassive, and McKenna began, slowly, and deadly soft.

"Who and Why?"

Both were taken aback. There was an unspoken order that incoming prisoners were to be roughed up. McKenna liked to instill fear into his ‘charges’. There was an SOP to be rough on the new men. And Morton was a traitor. Who would have thought anyone cared?

One of the men spoke up, defensively, "Admiral, sir, it was me. The guys a lousy traitor! He deserves a lot more. We just pushed him around a bit!"

"Never again!! Do you hear me! Never again!!! If anyone, and I mean anyone touches him, they will answer to me!! For now, you both are on report and you’re confined to quarters ‘til further notice!"

The men turned and left, and a sweating and very angry Admiral turned to his adversary and said, "Satisfied, Captain? I hope that you realize that I don’t care about the man. He’s less than scum to me! I won’t dirty my hands on him. I can’t help what the other men do or say.. I will, however, take steps to keep him away from any further problems…but I can’t make any promises!"

Sandra eyed him carefully. "Very well, Admiral. I want him to be seen by a doctor. I’ll wait here until I get a report." She parked in a chair in the office, and sat to wait. McKenna grumbled to himself, realizing he was caught in a spot, and went to the desk to call the Sick Bay.

 

***********

 

Several days later -

Chip leaned back against the wall. In all of his life, he had never felt like this…not just alone, but alone and hated. He had expected the hatred, that came with the act. But the strength of the hatred…you could almost touch it. And then to be the object of the hate, well, that was something he definitely wasn’t used to. Even with the pain that Gamma had inflicted upon him…this was much, much worse. It was the mental, the emotional pain that hurt far more than any physical pain could. Fortunately, he wouldn’t have to live with it too long.

McKenna had promised a quick hearing. The first hearing had been late that afternoon. A three judge panel, to determine if the charges were valid. They had been ascertained as valid, and he was remanded over to trial. That would be in three days.

McKenna works fast!! Well, tried in three days, and sentence passed, and executed shortly afterward. Simple. No appeal, there’s nothing to appeal. Two weeks, maybe and it will be all over. Then Matty can begin building a new and normal life! Everyone will be able to go on!

His reflection was interrupted by a series of profanities being shouted at him as two prisoners walked by the cell door. It didn’t stop, it was constant. Every opportunity any one of the men here had. Well, he could deal with it. It wouldn’t be that long. It was harder to be without Matty and Alex then to put up with the abuse. The cell door opened, and an SP stood in the doorway.

"Commander Morton, Sir, you have a visitor, sir!"

The voice and tone of the man’s voice was insulting, if not insubordinate, but Chip did not rise to the bait He stood and quietly said, "Thank you, Chief."

The Chief stepped back and Lee Crane entered the cell.

Chip was surprised to see his friend. "Lee, what are you doing here? Why…?"

Crane nodded to the SP to close the door, and he reluctantly did so. Lee looked around that small cell. He remembered being in a similar one, under McKenna’s lock and key, and he involuntarily shuddered. He tossed his cover onto the bunk, and sat in the single chair in the cell.

Crane’s right arm still rested in a black sling. Chip shook his head sadly.

"The more important question for you to answer me is why? Why did you do it? Why are you doing this? Why won’t you talk to us? We’re your friends, Chip."

"I know that, Lee. That’s why I can’t tell you any more. Friendship, Honor…all the ‘right’ things… There isn’t much more to tell, anyway."

His mind returned to the day, so long ago, when he and Lee had stood on the parade ground, at the Academy, as the oath of the Naval Officer was administered;

I, Charles Morton, having been appointed an Ensign in the U.S. Navy under the conditions indicated in this document, do accept such appointment and do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.

His pride in those words had never diminished. His shame in betraying them, and the friend that stood here next to him no matter what the reason, was unbounded!

Crane looked at his friend, and like Matty found, for the first time, that Morton’s eyes were unreadable. Usually, he could tell a lot by looking into Chip’s eyes. He was the only person who, through all the years, could read Morton in any way. However, this time, even he couldn’t read him at all. The only thing that Lee could see in Chip was a simple acceptance of the circumstances, with no questions or doubts about it all.

"Can’t you all just accept that I did this? It was the wrong thing to do, but I did. I have my reasons. I’ve admitted it to the Panel. They’ll accept the guilty plea, and … that will be that." He stood and turned to the wall, his back to Crane, his stance tense and rigid. "I’m going to die, Lee. They’ll give me to the death sentence. And we both know that McKenna will see that it’s carried out posthaste. It’s the only way. And once it’s over, then you all will be able to go on." His tone was emotionless . . . straightforward.

He turned to Crane. "Lee, thanks for the friendship, for all these years. For being the best Skipper a man could serve under, and, even under the worst of circumstances, the best of friends… And thank you ahead of time for looking after Matty and the children. I can go through with this, because I know that they will be well looked after."

Lee slammed his hand into the cot, angrily. "Dammit, Chip!!! All that we’ve faced, we’ve always faced it together! That’s how we’ve always beaten the odds. Because we’ve done it all together! You have to talk to me, man!! Tell me why!!!"

"Because I had to, Lee. That’s all you need to know. Don’t push it! Sandra has some papers for you and the Admiral, to be opened after… Now, look, please, just go. This is a dangerous place for you to be. Go on. Get out! Once McKenna knows that you’re on base. He’ll find a way to get to you!" He paused, a note of desperation finally crept into his voice. "Please, Lee!!"

An image of Lee Crane, in the Med Facility at the Institute, came into his mind. Lee had been beaten by McKenna while awaiting his Court Martial for Insubordination. The beating and brutal treatment had enabled Sandra Murray and Will Jamison to get Lee out of the San Diego Base and away from McKenna. A long standing vendetta against Harriman Nelson was one of the guiding principles of Joel McKenna’s life. He had Chip and a good way to hurt Nelson further would be to get to Crane as well…

"Lee! Get out!!"

Crane hesitated. He wanted to spend more time with his friend, to find out what was going on, but Chip remained closed to him. He determined that the best thing to do was to leave now, and return when he could help. Reluctantly, he bent over and picked up his hat. “Chip, I … uh… I’ll be back." He reached forward, to grasp Chip’s hand with his good one, and instead, hugged him in a spontaneous gesture of deep friendship.

Chip merely nodded, then said softly, "Take care, Lee." And with a small sense of his usual humor creeping in, "Try not to have any accidents while I’m in here, Huh?"

Crane nodded, his throat thickening at the comment his friend made. He really didn’t want to say ‘goodbye’ to his friend. He opted for a simple "Later!" and hurried out of the cell, and off the base. There had to be a way to help him! He and Nelson would find it!

 

*********

 

Matty Weaver Morton tossed and turned on the bed. Sleep had been eluding her, since Sandra Murray had come by to tell her of Chip’s arrest. Sandra had also told her that her name was not on the list of approved visitors, but Matty already knew that. The JAG officer had also told her what to expect if Chip continued to maintain his guilt. The both women knew that Joel McKenna would see that the wheels of justice moved more than quickly in this case. He would thrive on his anticipated revenge on Harriman Nelson. Sandra had been infinitely saddened by the look of despair on her friend’ face, and vowed to do whatever she could.

Sandra had left her, and the days had dragged by, Matty becoming more and more disinterested in everything around her, including Alex and the coming baby. Will Jamison was concerned to the point of making sure that there would be someone with her at all times.

Matty didn’t care, she didn’t do anything, but stay in the bed in the darkened bedroom. Helen Crane, Lee’s mother came to the house daily, trying to get the younger woman to eat, and to get involved in living. But Matty wasn’t interested in that. She took such little nourishment that by the end of the week, Will Jamison had a real fear for the unborn child, and had gone to the house to give her a ‘talking to’. When that failed, he had called her doctor, and the two of them decided to have her admitted to the Med Facility, on an IV for nourishment., and for monitoring. Her first pregnancy had ended in a C-Section, and although there was no reason to believe that this one would end the same way, with less than four weeks left, there was no reason to take any chances. Chip Morton’s son would be well taken care of! And so would his wife and daughter.

When Matty was admitted to the hospital, Alex Morton was absolutely terrified. Her Daddy was gone, and her Mommy was going to the hospital!! Caitlin Davis had come to the Morton house to help the little girl. She took Alex to her apartment on the grounds, and proceeded to make it an adventure for her, instead of a terrifying time. Caitlin had been ‘Sitting’ for Alex almost since she had been born, and she had a good relationship with the little girl. She was able to relax her and comfort her so that she could continue to go to her pre-school, and spend time with her little friends. With the help of Helen Crane, they managed to give the child a sense of normalcy and security in an abnormal situation.

 

***********

 

It was after midnight when Matty cried out in pain. A searing slash of pain crossed her protruding abdomen. It was followed by a second one, just as strong, and a feeling of wetness between her legs. In an instinctive move, her hands surrounded her stomach, as if to protect the child that resided there. She moved again, and the person on the other side of the room rose from the chair to come to her side. Dark circles lay under Lee Crane’s eyes. He had spent the last three nights here at the Med Facility in Matty’s room, just watching her. It was the very least that he could do for his best friend’s wife. He placed a hand on her shoulder, and said in a soft and gentle voice, "Matty…Matty what’s wrong?"

"Baby…" she cried out, "I think he’s on his way!!"

Lee reached for the call button and pushed hard.

"Yes?" the nurse at the desk asked.

In a tired, but firm voice, he said, "Mrs. Morton seems to be going into labor. Get Jamison, Dr. S. and whoever else is needed. Get them here and get them here now!"

"Yes, sir, Captain Crane!" came the hurried reply.

Lee reached over and gingerly stroked her sweaty forehead. "Doctors are on the way, Matty."

She reached for his hand. "Lee…?" she asked him anxiously.

"Yes?"

"Stay with me,… help me, please?" her voice was pleading and childlike.

"Of course." was his unwavering reply. He would do anything for Chip and Matty. As difficult as this would be, considering…

Jamison came into the room, followed by her doctor, Nirmala Sanakalaya. Gently the Ob-Gyn moved to the bed, and she smiled at her patient.

In her soft, slightly accented voice, she asked gently, "Matty, my dear, is it the baby?"

Matty nodded. "Yes," she said weakly. "Two sharp pains across here," she indicated her abdomen, "and then, wet, between my legs." She sighed and laid back. "I’m tired." She sounded like a small child, who didn’t want to do something.

Dr. ‘S’ as she was fondly called, looked at Lee Crane and Jamison, "Captain, If you would leave for a few minutes, while I confer with Dr. Jamison and Matty."

Lee nodded, and walked out of the room. He went down the hall to the coffee machine. As he ordered up a cup of black coffee, he was wishing for a cup of ‘Cookie’s’ strong but good ‘Joe’. He was exhausted. The situation with Chip was becoming more and more grim. The man wasn’t doing anything to help himself, and Lee didn’t understand why. He certainly didn’t understand why Chip had committed the Treason. And Chip wasn’t sharing any information at all. And now, Chip’s baby, ‘did Matty say ‘He’ ?’ was going to be born. Poor Matty… Well, he owed the two of them a great deal. The least he could do was to be there for her, as she had the baby.

Jamie came out of the room and signaled him to come back to the doorway.

"Is she all right, Will?"

"Well, Nirmala is concerned that the baby is early, although, it’s not so early as to be dangerous. But Matty hasn’t been taking good care of herself, since this whole thing happened with Chip. She is somewhat undernourished. Nirmala seems to think we have to let the labor progress, at least to begin with.. She can intervene at any time. But the more natural the situation, the better for the baby. Matty says that you agreed to be with her. Are you up to this, Lee?"

"I don’t know, Will. But I AM going to do this!" He was strong and determined, the Lee Crane that Jamison liked to argue with the least. "I owe the two of them, big time. I’ll be okay . I don’t have a choice!!."

"All right, Skipper. … We’re going to monitor her labor right now, and see what happens. Maybe you’d better go inside. I’m going to call Harry. He asked me to let him know if anything changed."

Lee put a restraining hand on Jamison’s arm. "Don’t call them now, Will. It’s 0235. The Admiral has been putting in some real long hours trying to help Chip. Let them sleep, I’ll call him at 0600. He and Karen really need some sleep."

Jamison hesitated, and then said, "Fine Lee, then I’ll leave it to you to contact them."

"I will Jamie…" He ran his hand thru his hair. "Guess I’d better go see what I can do for Matty."

Jamison clapped his hand on the Captain’s shoulder and the two men walked toward Matty Morton’s room.

 

***********

 

Hours later, Lee Crane was even wearier than before. And if he was tired, he couldn’t begin to imagine how Matty was feeling. Tired and exhausted from hours of labor, and days of living with the grief of Chip’s actions, and his silence about it, the time she was having to spend, delivering this baby, was not easing Crane’s mind.

It was becoming a very difficult delivery, and Matty was in a great deal of pain, emotional as well as physical. The contractions were hard and strong, but the concern of the two doctors was there was very little progress being made.

Matty squeezed Lee’s hand tightly again. He swore that each time she squeezed it she would break it. He was talking to her in soft tones, trying to allay her fears and concerns with a surety he didn’t really feel. After a particularly strong contraction, she hissed "Damn!" with a vengeance that surprised Lee.

Alarmed, he asked, "Matty, what’s wrong?"

Petulantly, like a little girl, "I want Chip here, Lee! I want him here now!!! Ooohhh!!!" she cried as another contraction ripped through her.

"I know, Matty." He gently stroked her forehead, and tried to keep his voice quiet and calm. "I wish he were here too…I’m sorry that you have such a poor substitute."

"Oh, no, Lee…not at all!!! I just want my husband, my son’s father, to be here when he is born. That’s not asking for too much!!!"

Gently again, "I know…I know…" Doctors Jamison and Sanakalaya were conferring quietly at the other side of the room, and casting frequent, worried glances at their patient as well as her partner for the baby’s birth…

Only Will Jamison knew the toll that this was taking on Lee Crane. Will had been present almost six years ago when Lee’s son Robert had been born, and he had been with the younger man 18 months later when his wife, Robert’s mother , Cathy Connors Crane had been killed in a car crash. Will knew the emotional toll this event was taking on Lee Crane, and commended the Captain’s stubbornness and grit as the only reason he was able to be here at all. That and his intense loyalty to Chip Morton. Lee was as fatigued, in his way as Matty was in hers. And Lee was Jamison’s most recent patient with the bullet wound in his shoulder. He hadn’t completely recovered from that yet. And here he was, helping his friend’s wife give birth!

Matty cried out as another contraction came and pulsed through her body. Lee was quietly whispering words to her, to calm her and keep her focused on the event taking place.

"Damn!" she cried "Damn! Damn! Damn! Oooohhhh!" As another contraction closely followed the previous one.

Dr. ‘S’ came over to her, and gently patted her on the hand. Softly and with the quiet authority that she engendered, she spoke to her patient.

"Matty, my dear, I’m going to check things out, and I think the it is almost time for your son to join us. Carol is the nurse, here, and she and the Captain will help you." She waited for the next contraction to pass, quietly nodding to Will Jamison to stand beside her. The Nurse moved to the other side of the bed, opposite Lee, and the doctor went to the foot of the bed, putting on surgical gloves as she sat down. She began to speak to Matty in a very calm, and soothing manner.

"Yes, it’s time, Matty… now we didn’t do this the last time, so we will do this together, now." Matty nodded, squeezing Crane’s hand as another contraction came.

"He’s crowning. When I say so, push!" Lee and the nurse helped raise her slightly form the bed, and at the doctor’s call, "Push!" she pushed with all her waning strength for about 30 seconds. She collapsed back into the pillows.

"That was good, Matty! Now I want you to take a deep breath and get ready to push hard, again."

Matty nodded mutely. God, how I wish you were here, My love!!

"C’mon, now, Matty. Your son’s waiting to be born." Lee encouraged her. She nodded to the doctor that she was ready, and she started to push once more, collapsing backward as the baby was pushed from her body. Will Jamison took the baby and began to suction the fluids from his nose and mouth and as he did so, the child let out a loud, protesting wail!!

Lee leaned over, smiled, and softly murmured, "Congratulations, Matty."

She merely nodded, watching Jamison, as he cleaned the baby. Her doctor continued to work on her, and in a few minutes, Will came over to her.

"Your son, Matty."

Jamison placed the baby at Matty’s side. She opened tired eyes, and looked at this baby, their son, desperately searching for some part of Chip in this tiny being. The baby chose that moment to open his eyes and stare at her with eyes of sky blue. As she looked at this child, conceived in the deepest of love, she cried, in her heart, ‘Chip, my dearest love, here is your son…Andrew…’

Lee Crane watched Matty and the baby, and moved at the bedside. Matty looked at him with gratitude showing in her face. Lee brushed a hair from her forehead, and kissed her on the cheek – Taking her hand in his, he said quietly, "Congratulations, Matty. He’s beautiful!" She took Lee’s hand and pulled it across the bed to the baby. Placing his finger in the tiny fist.

"Captain Crane," she said quietly, I would like you to meet Andrew Charles Morton. Emphasis on the Morton."

"He’s a son a man can be proud of, Matty. Chip will be, I know….He loves you, you know…"

She touched his cheek carefully. "I do know. I can only hope that he will get to know his son in some way, some how…" A tear rolled down her cheek, and onto the baby’s face. The infant screwed up his face in displeasure, and then, just as quickly, released his face into a simple scowl, and settled back. Lee gently pulled his finger from the baby’s fist.

Exuding a quiet strength, and a positive attitude that he didn’t really feel, he said to her, "I have to go now. I have to let the Admiral know. I’ll be back later." Matty settled into the pillows, holding the baby tightly.

"Thank you, Lee. Thank you so very much!" She patted him on the arm, and he smiled at her, then turned and walked over to Will Jamison.

"Will, how are they doing, really?" his concern for Matty and the baby written all over his face.

Jamison smiled wanly at the Seaview’s Captain. "Well, surprisingly well, all things considered. The baby’s weight and Apgar are very good, considering his early arrival.

Nirmala said that Matty did surprisingly well, in spite of the first C-Section. She IS undernourished and slightly dehydrated. She may have a little difficulty nursing, but Nirmala feels she’ll be okay…" he paused and gave Crane a critical once over. "You, Captain, look as if you can use some sleep." And continuing the appraisal, "You’ve lost more weight again, Lee! What…?"

Lee put his hand up in a ‘STOP’ gesture, and in his harshest command voice said, with unaccustomed brittleness, "Stop now, Will! Nothing else! I know all of that! Frankly, I don’t care! Chip’s life is at stake here! My health isn’t a concern right now!"

"You’ve barely recovered from that bullet wound - if it doesn’t heal…"

"Will, enough! I have to go and call the Admiral and tell him that Chip’s son has arrived…The son he probably will never know!!" Lee turned on his heel, and walked slowly down the hall, to the lounge, shoulders slumping, weariness and fear for his friend, combining to make him infinitely tired, and unfathomably sad.

 

***********

 

Harriman Nelson stood outside the tiny cell. Joel McKenna's supercilious attitude with him at the office had been most difficult to deal with. He wanted to punch the porcine Admiral in the jaw, just on general principles alone. But he had to hold his own famous temper in tight control… If only Chip would tell him what was going on!

The SP arrogantly looked Nelson up and down. Confident of his position with Joel McKenna, he kept barely within the bounds of respect for a superior officer. He had no use for anyone who visited or sympathized with traitors. When Harriman Nelson cut him an icy stare, he stepped down a peg, and ceased any further attempts at letting the retired Admiral know his feelings. Stepping inside, he looked at the man in the cell, and announced in a barely civil voice, "Commander, you have a visitor."

He turned and left, shooting Morton a look of scarcely concealed scorn. Nelson stepped into the cell and the door was closed, and locked behind him. He was not pleased with the look of Chip Morton.

His XO had, in that short period of time since this all began, lost a great deal of weight. His face was drawn and pasty, with several bruises on his jaw and cheek, and several on his arms, and he carried about him an air of resignation, and defeat. He wore an orange prison jumpsuit, and sat listlessly on the bunk

Most of all, to Harriman Nelson, who had know him most of his adult life, he seemed to have drawn within himself. He was acting as if he was already removed from that lives of all of those he loved and cared about. In addition, he still was adamantly refusing to give help and information in order to save his life. Nelson simply didn't understand.

Tentatively, "Chip.."

Morton looked over at the older man, but didn't move from the bunk. "Admiral…"

Nelson sat in the chair that was at the small table, his hat in his hand, toying with it as he spoke.  "Chip, I have some news for you."

For a second at flicker of hope raced across Morton's face, but it disappeared faster then it showed. Chip knew that there was no way that he was going to get news that somewhere in his mind he allowed himself to hope for. He reminded himself that there was no hope. "Sir?"

"About Matty, Chip, and the baby."

A spark of interest lighted his blue eyes, and his face became a picture of concern. "Is she okay, sir? Is something wrong?"

"No, Chip, not from what Will has told me. Your son was quite anxious to be born, Mr. Morton. A little early, but he's been born." Nelson's voice was quiet and strong and he was watching Chip carefully. The play of emotions on Chip Morton's face was a revealing look at the man that he was.

Quietly he asked, "Is he okay, Admiral? There weren't any problems were there?"

"No. Lee was with Matty during the labor and delivery. It was hard on her." He was almost accusatory in his delivery of the information. Damn! Why doesn't he react? What in the hell is going on in his mind? Why wouldn’t he won't he tell him what's going on here?

"Is Matty okay, Admiral?"

"Yes, as well as can be expected under the circumstances. There were no medical complications for her, or your son." He studied Morton, then softly, but angrily said to him, "Dammit, man! Didn't you hear me? You have a son!!"

Quietly and without any emotion whatsoever, "We knew that the baby was going to be a son, Admiral. The amnio that Matty had three months ago told us. We just didn't want to tell anyone. What did she name him, sir?

"Matty told Lee that the baby's name was Andrew Charles Morton."

"Damn!" he swore, showing the first bit of emotion that Nelson had seen in several weeks. "I wanted her to give him her name, not mine!"

"What are you talking about, Chip?" Nelson asked confused.

Blue eyes, icy and totally sincere at one time asked him, "Would you want to grow up with the name of a traitor as your last name? I left Matty legal papers for the baby's name at birth to be Weaver, not Morton! Why didn't she do as I asked…Damn!!"

Nelson reached out to touch the younger man on the arm. "Chip, you're not a traitor! You know that, more importantly, I know it, as do your friends and family. This is Matty's way of telling you that she knows that you're not one!"

"At the expense of my son?! Admiral, make her change his name, as well as hers and Alex's after this is all over…Please sir… do this for me…to protect them…Please?" Chip was pleading with Nelson, and the O.O. M. was surprised, and disturbed. Uncomfortable with what he was feeling, Nelson rose.

"All I can do is my best, Chip. You know Matty is as stubborn and determined as you and Lee are. I will try, just as I am going to continue to try to get you out of here. Don't give up hope, Chip. Don't give up hope!"

Chip looked the Admiral dead in the eye, and said very quietly, "There is no hope for me, sir. Don't waste your time. It's a done deal… Just look after all of them for me, sir." A flicker of interest colored the Exec's eyes. "If I may be so bold, sir. Promote Bobby O'Brien to the XO's position. He's come so far in these last few years. He'll do the boat, and you and Lee proud, sir."

Nelson's throat constricted and became tight. He found talking difficult. "Chip…" he tried to clear it, but it didn't work. "Lad, don't allow this to happen! Let me, let us all help!"

Firmly, "No, Admiral…No. It's done, and it will soon be over with. Don't waste your time on a dead man in a no win situation. You and Lee have too much to do with the boat and the Institute." He smiled at Nelson, "The dream has to continue, sir." He stood and saluted the older man, then extended his hand to him. "Thank you , Admiral Nelson. For everything. You will never know how grateful I am to you, sir."

Nelson returned the salute, and reached for the hand, pulling Chip into a hug of deep appreciation and friendship. He clapped him on the back several times, and then turned to the door. He didn't want Chip to see the tears in his eyes, and he couldn't speak, for it would betray his deep sadness. The SP opened the door, and as Nelson left, Chip said softly, "Goodbye, Admiral…"

 

***********

 

Several days later, Admiral Harriman Nelson, and Captain Lee Crane sat in a small office at the San Diego Naval Base. They both slumped in their chairs, paper cups of Glen Livet in their hands. One cup stood on the blotter of the desk, and its owner, Sandra Murray stood at a window, staring abstractedly out. The sloping set of her shoulders of her shoulders indicated an attitude that no one saw in public, and that she rarely displayed in private. She felt defeated.

Chip had been no more forth coming with information now, then when this all started. The hearings had gone as he had predicted. The first one had held him over to trial for Treason. The second one, with a guilty plea entered had convicted him. At the third, he had received the Maximum sentence. Death by lethal injection. An appeal had been planned, and he had refused the hearing. The Execution was scheduled for two days hence. All within a three week time period. And in the middle of it all, Chip’s son had been born.

The three sat in the office, completely baffled by their friend’s behavior.  Sandra finally spoke to the two men. "Do either one of you have any idea at all why he is behaving like this? It’s almost as if he wants to die."

Nelson stared into his scotch. "If I had any idea of why Chip is behaving like this, I’d be beating on Jiggs Stark’s door with a sledge hammer. This isn’t right!" He slammed his fist into the desk.

"Admiral, I wish he’d talk to us." Lee Crane was equally dejected. "He’s clammed up.. no word to no one! He adamantly refuses to see Matty. He’s reluctant to see us. He sits there, staring at me when I’ve visited. He shakes his head and says that he’s sorry!"

"Sorry for what, Lee? For what he did? We both know Chip Morton too well, and for too long to be satisfied with a simple ‘I did it, I’m guilty’. There has to be more to it!!"

Sandra turned from the window, and looked at the two men. Painstakingly weighing and measuring each word, she said, "Admiral Nelson, what I am about to discuss with you and Lee violates all that I have been schooled in regarding Client/Attorney privilege. But I’ve also learned if I am to save a life, I have to sometimes bend the rules."

She moved around the desk, and leaned against it. She was what you would call a handsome woman, and she carried a feeling of authority with her. For the first time in her career, she felt up against a brick wall, where her clients’ stubbornness could indeed cost him his life. Drastic situations required drastic measures.

"When I met with Chip the day that he was arrested, he gave me copies of papers for Matty, and a key to his strongbox, where all of the originals are." She looked carefully first at the Admiral and then the Captain of the boat. "He left papers in which he gave Matty a divorce, effective prior to the Treason, paperwork giving her the legal use of her Maiden Name, papers that would change Alex’s name to Weaver, and papers having the unborn child’s name at birth to be Weaver, not Morton. We know how that matter worked out. Matty can be just as stubborn as Chip when she wants to be.!! He also left other things there in the box, a Will, the deed to a cabin, and other papers." She opened the desk drawer, and took out two envelopes.

"He also had these in there, and I have very specific directions not to give these to you until after the Execution. I cannot open them, nor can I hand them to you. Chip was resolute about it. Not until after his death. I can’t help but believe that these contain the answers that we need…And I can’t do a damned thing…"

Just at that moment, an Ensign came to the door, "Captain Murray, there’s a sailor in the holding cell that needs some legal advice. If the Admiral, and the Commander don’t mind, perhaps you can spare about 20 minutes.?"

She looked at the Ensign, and then glanced over at Nelson and Crane.

"Admiral, Lee, do you mind? We can continue our discussion in 20 minutes." She pointedly placed the two letters on the desk, and left. Lee Crane and Harriman Nelson were now faced with a dilemma. Did they honor their friend’s wishes or try to save his life with whatever information was available to them.. Without a second thought both men reached for the envelopes at the same time and, without any further hesitation, opened them. The letters addressed t o Nelson and Crane were carefully typed. Each had a similar message. Lee’s read . . .

 

Lee,

There are so many things that I want to say to you, and there is so little time. I want to explain to you what happened and why I did this abhorrent thing. I had no choice. There were sharpshooters following the Admiral and you all the time. The day that I made the tapes, your flat, the Admiral’s car, and you, God help me, being shot, were proof to me that the people who were holding me could kill you both.

They also have a bomb on the boat. In my cabin, in the computer monitor. It can be set off with a small signal. They would destroy the boat and kill all the men.

And they threatened Matty, Alex and the baby. They even knew that the baby was going to be a son. I'll have had a son, Lee! Help Matty with him. Help him to be like you. If you can, guide him and nurture him.

They told me if I let you know in any way, that they’d kill all of you. They wanted the US, the Institute and the Admiral to look bad. They may have succeeded temporarily, but if you know, now, then, you can stop them from doing any further damage.

Stop them, Lee. You and the Admiral. Let the world know what these people are. I had to keep silent. Your lives are more important than anything… All of you.

Good bye, Lee. Thank you for being a friend. And so much more.

Take care of Matty and the children for me.

Chip

 

Harriman Nelson’s letter was similar

Admiral,

Please accept my sincere apologies for all the trouble that I have put you through. When we met, all those years ago, I had no idea of what a rich and full life that I would have because of you, sir. Thank you. I will be eternally grateful.

My letter to Lee explains the reasons that I did what I did. He can give you all the information. I just wanted to let the both of you know that I still believe in all the things that you and all of the men that taught and shaped me ingrained in my life. But more important than belief, are the lives of all of you. They hold much more value to me than even my own life.

I have a request, I’ve made it of Lee, and I ask it of you, as well, sir. Get these people, and stop them. You and Lee can do this, together.

Good bye, Admiral. Thank you, sir, for your friendship. And for all of the many, opportunities, taken and as well as those that were not taken, that you gave me.

Chip

 

Both men looked at the letters, eyes filled with unshed tears, then, allowed the sorrow to slowly turn to building anger.  Nelson slammed his fist down on the desk. "Well, now we know why!!! We have two days to save his life. We have to do it!!"

"Aye, sir! If there’s a bomb in his cabin, we’ll get it and we’ll have the proof we need." Lee paused. "We have to find the shooters . . . and they can’t know that we know that they’re out there!"

"Easy enough to do. Just continue what seems to be normal activity. If they could follow us anywhere, then there are some huge security leaks, especially at home."

Lee looked at Nelson a realization dawning, "This explains why Chip kept telling me he was sorry! When I was shot, changing the tire . . . it was Chip’s object lesson… to show him how vulnerable we were. He blamed himself for it." Nelson nodded abstractedly. His mind was already working rapidly.

"Lee, we have to clear the boat. Contact Sharkey and have him take Kowalski and Patterson and see if they can locate the bomb in Chip’s cabin and disarm it. But it has to appear it’s a different type of emergency . . . if the boat is being watched."

"What about a reactor emergency?" he grinned at Nelson for the first time in days. "We seem to have a number of them at any one time?"

"Yes," Nelson agreed, and shot his Captain a brief smile, "we do, don’t we? Well, it could work. But we have to get word to Sharkey and to Chin. Then we can go from there…”

 

***********


It was time.

He felt surprisingly calm about it. He didn’t know exactly why, except that maybe it was because this was the way it had to be. They took him down the corridor, to a room that looked a great deal like Sick Bay, with the exception of the presence of one or two different machines.

They had him lie down on the gurney in the middle of the room, and strapped him to it. He knew that the restraints weren’t necessary. He wasn’t going to go anywhere, wasn’t going to fight them. . . . but they didn’t know that. The corpsman attached sensor disks to his forehead and chest for the EKG and EEG machines. The part of his mind that was observing this noted that it was necessary to make sure that he was dead. He felt the corpsman insert the IV hep-lock in his hand. He turned his head to the window and saw a malevolent face smiling triumphantly. Chip could see the thrill of this victory over Harriman Nelson on McKenna’s fat face. Chip was more than sorry that he had put Nelson in this position, but at least the Admiral was alive to continue his work He let McKenna’s face go… He let it all go…Nothing was of any importance any longer. It was all over now…

A hand on his shoulder drew his attention. He found Will Jamison looking down at him. Surprised he asked him, "Will…How…?"

 Softly, "Harry pulled what strings he could. I’m to be the physician of record." His voice caught on the next words. "We…we all wanted you to have a friend with you …I was the logical choice… We …that is, your friends, your family wanted you to see a friendly, familiar face at the…" He took a deep breath, "Damn! Chip, I don’t know what to say…I…I’ve fought so many times to save your life…This is so wrong…"

"Don’t say anything else, Will… Thank you for being here. Just do me one final favor, could you?"

"Anything, Chip."

"Tell them that I’m sorry for the shame I brought on them… and tell all of them, especially, Matty and the children, that I loved them more than life. They all mean more to me than my life…. Look after all of them for me. The Admiral and Lee are going to need you, and your help."

Jamison nodded. He could say nothing, his throat was tight with emotion. His eyes were shining with tears. This was wrong! This was a good and honest man! He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be about to die! He cleared his throat, and finally finding his voice, he said quietly, "I will do my best, Chip. I will do my best. "He looked at the corpsman, and nodded slightly as the corpsman began to push a drug into the IV line. He continued to watch the man, his friend, on the gurney carefully.

Chip felt warm, and then tired, very tired…'Matty…I…love you….' was his last thought before the gray became darker and his awareness ended.

 

*****


Harriman Nelson had stormed and raged his way through brass and politicians. Now that he had the evidence that Chip Morton had been coerced and was continuing to be coerced into the act of treason, as well as the confession and acceptance of the sentence, he was trying, literally, to move heaven and earth to stop the scheduled Execution. He had come to Washington without Lee Crane, ordering his Captain to remain in Santa Barbara, so that he would be there no matter what the outcome of this trip, to look after the boat, the men, and the family of the Institute.

He had had to order Crane to stay behind, and he knew that the younger man would have preferred to be with him, then sitting behind and waiting. One thing about the entire Senior Staff of Seaview, they all hated waiting. And he, Nelson was the worst of all at waiting! He paced the waiting room of the President’s Oval Office, chain smoking, and muttering to himself. He had 45 minutes left to save Chip Morton’s life!

Angrily, he went over to the secretary. "Have you told him that this is a matter of time? An innocent man’s life is at stake here!" he barked at the secretary.

The man looked up rather blandly. "Just about everyone who comes in here, Admiral, has a similar line. You’ll forgive me if I don’t get too upset about it!"

"Dammit, if you don’t get me into see him in the next 60 seconds, there will be a trial for murder going on in this blasted town that will make men’s hair curl…" He pointed his index finger in the secretary’s face, his blue eyes sparking with anger, and more. "And you, sir, will not be around to read the headlines!"

The man blanched, and he picked up his phone, and spoke a few soft words into it. In a matter of minutes, a woman came to the door, and called to Nelson. "Admiral, the President will see you now."

Stubbing his cigarette in an ashtray, he grabbed his hat and briefcase and stormed into the Oval office. The President was standing behind his desk, at the window, and extended a hand to Nelson. As they shook hands, he asked, "Now, Nelson, what is this all about?"

 

*************

 

"…and you believe in the wake of all of this, that Morton was coerced.?"

"As you can see, sir, there is no doubt. Please, Mr. President, there are only minutes left before an innocent man dies! Please, sir, make the call!"

"Very well, Nelson, you present sound evidence. You will have to tell me how you came by it… Fowler, Get me the San Diego Naval Base, Dr. Will Jamison, and do it quickly…We have to stop an execution!"

The President waited while his aide made the call, and connections. Nelson paced the room.  "What time is the Execution scheduled for?" the President inquired.

"1500 PST, sir," was Harriman Nelson’s strained answer.

"And the time now?"

"1458, sir."

The intercom buzzed, "Yes…yes… I’m here ---- Jamison? This is the President. Stop the Execution…Now! And then put Admiral McKenna on the line!"

 

********

 

There had been an unearthly silence in the room, that was being broken only by the sound of the beeping from the machines, doing their job of monitoring the man on the gurney. Chip had received the first of the three drugs, designed to cause death.

The sodium thiopentathol is a drug that induces unconsciousness quickly. The next drug, which had begun to be delivered was Pavulon, which is a muscle relaxant that is often used to slow or stop the action of the diaphragm, when intubation is needed in a critical patient. Combined with a third drug, potassium chloride, which stops the heart, and had not yet been given, the prisoner dies within a half hour of the beginning of the procedure, and the death is believed to be painless.

Will Jamison was watching the monitors and sadly noting his friend’s decreasing metabolic activity. Chip had received about a quarter of the dose of the Pavulon when the red phone in the room rang loudly. Will jumped and reached for the phone.

"Yes?… Yes, sir!!!" He reached for the line feeding the drug and bent it, effectively stopping any more of the drug from being delivered into Chip Morton’s body. “It’s a stay!" he shouted.

He then grabbed for several things, including a drug, Neostigmine that was an antidote to the muscle relaxant. He carefully administered a dose into the hep-lock and continued to watch the monitors. When he was satisfied that the drug would work, he ordered that corpsman undo the restraints, and began to supervise moving Chip to the infirmary.  He then called an SP into the room, and told him that the President was waiting to speak to Admiral McKenna. He had seen that McKenna was furious at being stymied once again, in his efforts to get Nelson and his people.

Will looked heavenward, and mouthed an unspoken ‘Thank you’ to the powers that be, and to Admiral Harriman Nelson’s dogged and unflagging belief in the ultimate innocence of his Exec and friend. Then he and the corpsman hurried the gurney to the infirmary, Will hoping that he would be able to bring Chip back to them whole and intact!

 

*************


The President of the United States turned to Harriman Nelson. "We stopped the execution. It remains to be seen if your man will recover…The admiral in charge was not very happy."

"I didn’t expect him to be. Joel McKenna and I don’t exactly see eye to eye, sir…on a lot of things." Nelson almost sank into the chair behind him in relief.

"I see. Is your man safe there?" the President queried, obviously concerned that whomever would go to such lengths as this could not be trusted.

"For the time being, I would imagine. But I have to get this mess cleaned up, before I can feel that we are all safe again. I need to find the shooters that the enemy has tried to use. And I need to find the device on my boat, if my Captain hasn’t found it yet… I have to do all this before we let out the word that Chip was coerced into this. Until then, we are all at risk. With your permission, sir, I would like to send my COB to the Naval Base at San Diego, with my Flying Sub, and bring Morton and Jamison back to the Institute."

"Do it, Admiral. I will issue a full pardon, based on the information that you have given me, effective immediately for Commander Morton. You can forward me the details and I will include them in the statement I issue to the press, pending your notification of when to do it safely. I will issue a statement for the time being that the Execution was stayed pending an examination of the malfunction of the machinery used to convey the drugs."

"That will work well, sir. It should give us the time that we need to find these people."

The President rose from behind the great desk and extended his hand to Nelson. "I am sorry that your man had to go through this, but you have to admit, it was an open and shut case from our point of view."

"Yes, sir. It was. I just have to hope and pray that it hasn’t done permanent damage to Chip, and that it hasn’t hurt his marriage, and his family permanently."

"I am sorry, Nelson, you know that . At least I was able to attempt to right the a terrible wrong, before it was permanent."

"Yes, sir…And I thank you, sir." Nelson saluted smartly, turned on his heel, and scooping up his belongings, left the Oval Office. The President stood and watched the departing Admiral’s back.

"Remarkable, you know…" he said to his aide.

"Sir?" the aide cocked an eyebrow in question.

"Remarkable loyalty that that man inspires. His officer, willing not only to die for him, but to go to his grave a traitor to save his life….remarkable."

"Yes, sir…" the aide nonchalantly replied.

 

************

 

Admiral Harriman Nelson left the White House in considerably better spirits than those he had entered it in. At least, Chip was alive! They had managed to save his life. His car was waiting, Kowalski at the wheel. He had taken the Senior Rating with him, so that he could be sure of his car, and driver in Washington. He nodded to Ski to take them to the airport, and the rating turned the ignition, and headed for the Beltway.

He looked at Nelson in the mirror, and asked, "The Exec, sir?"

"Safe for the time being. I’m sending Sharkey for them in the FS1. We’re heading back to the Institute. Gil is waiting for us at the airport. The jet is fueled and ready to go home. And I am, too! You, Ski?"

He grinned at Nelson. "Oh, yes sir!!! I can’t get out of this city fast enough!"

 

***********

Lee Crane paced the Observation Nose of the boat, constantly glancing at his watch. It was well past 1500. He rubbed the back of his neck. Chip couldn’t be dead. Nelson wouldn’t allow it!! He should have gone with the Admiral to Washington, he shouldn’t have let Nelson talk him into staying here… But Matty and the children would need him here if… He shook his head. If only Chip had let them know beforehand what was going on!! There was no one on the boat, except for himself, and Sharkey and his team, and Sparks, as the radioman, and the resident electrical expert, since Kowalski was with Nelson. ‘A month! All of this had gone down in a month!’

"Skipper!" Crane jumped as the radioman’s voice echoed in the almost empty boat. He walked thru the Control Room to the Radio Shack. "Yes, Sparks?"

He handed the Captain a phone, and said, sotto voce "The Admiral, sir."

Lee’s hand trembled slightly. "Yes. Sir?”

Jubilantly, "We stopped it, Lee! Chip….Chip’s alive! Will is with him. I want to send the FS1 to San Diego to get them and bring them home! Is Sharkey available?"

"Aye sir. He’s supervising some major rewiring work in Chip’s quarters, because of the device that we found there."

"Very well, leave Sharkey aboard, send for O’Brien, and you go and get them. But first…"

"Yes, sir. Matty! I’m on my way!" he nearly shouted in pure absolute joy. He tossed the handset to Sparks. His face told that radio man volumes that he did not have to ask.

"I’ll get Mr. O’Brien, sir. And I’ll let the Chief know where you’ve gone! Go on, sir. Cdr. Weaver, and Mrs. Nelson have to know the good news!"

Lee slapped Sparks on the shoulder, "Thanks, Sparks!" and sprinted up the gangway to the Sail, off the deck of the boat and to his car, that was waiting at dockside.

 

***********

 

The red Cobra roared to the front of the Morton house. In the short time that Chip had been gone, Lee felt the house had gathered to it a feeling of disheartening despair. Even when Matty had come home last week with the new baby, the house remained a somber, sad place. Hopefully his news would brighten the place! He ran to the front door, and pounded on it. As he waited for an answer, he remembered another time that he was pounding on this door, with a similar urgency, and he smiled at the memory.

Karen Nelson answered the door, looking infinitely sad. She was surprised to see Lee Crane, standing there, smiling. Harriman had not held out much hope for success in his mission to save Chip Morton’s life.   "Lee…?" she suspiciously inquired of him. Impetuously, he hugged her and swung her around.

Setting her down on her feet, he said simply, "I’m going to bring them home!"

"Home? Chip?" she couldn’t believe what he was saying. But he was supposed to be…

"Execution stayed, released to Admiral Nelson. I don’t know any more than that!…"

"Oh, thank God!" Karen sank back against the doorway in total relief. She couldn’t believe it.

"No, thank Harriman Nelson! Matty…?"

"Upstairs…the baby’s been fussy, she’s trying to sleep. But go on up and give her the news…" She hugged Lee back. He mounted the stairs, two at a time, and then went to the doorway of the bedroom. The baby was asleep in the bassinet. Matty was lying on the bed, her eyes closed, her face tearstained. Quietly, he went to her side, and sat next to her. He placed a hand lightly on her shoulder.

"Matty…?" he said softly.

Her eyes fluttered open. In the dimness, she couldn’t make out his face clearly, but she knew the voice. In a voice drained of all emotion, "Lee, is it over?"

"I’m going to San Diego, Matty to bring Chip and Will home."

She sighed heavily, misunderstanding what Lee was saying to her, her usual perceptiveness dulled by an overwhelming sense of loss and despair. "Will you take care of all arrangements, Lee? I just don’t seem to have any energy… I want it to be proper and dignified, Lee. I want Chip to get the respect he deserves."

"Matty, I said I’m going to bring Chip home. The President stayed the execution and issued a full pardon! He’s alive, Matty!! He’s alive and coming home!"

She caught her breath, her hand moving to the medallion around her neck. The tears came again, when she thought that she had no more. But these were tears of joy, relief and complete exhaustion. She reached for Lee Crane and clung to him. "God… Oh God!! Lee! He’s coming home? Oh God!!"

Alex had heard her mother, and came listlessly into the bedroom. She saw her mother, and Lee, and looked puzzled.

"Mommy, Uncle Lee, what’s wrong?"

Lee extended an arm to her to gather her into the hug.  "Nothing’s wrong, Princess." Matty said. "Something is very right! Your Daddy is coming home. Uncle Lee is going to get him!"

Alex’s face brightened. "My Daddy’s coming home?"

Matty stroked her head. "Yes, baby. Uncle Lee is going to bring Daddy home."  Matty looked at Lee and her blue eyes locked into his hazel-amber ones. "Is this a promise?"

Lee nodded solemnly. "An absolute, unbreakable promise!!." He hugged the little girl tightly, and then she climbed from his arms to her mother’s.

Matty sat up on the bed, and held her daughter, "And wait until he meets your Brother, Alex. He’s going to be so pleased!" and in a softer voice, she whispered, " Home! Oh, My Love, you are coming home!!"

 

***********

 

In the swirling grayness that was his awareness, Chip Morton felt like he was swimming in jello …that idea amused him. He hated jello. Why would he be swimming in it? Why would he be swimming at all. He was dead. Or at least he thought he was dead. If this grayness was what death was, then he was disappointed. He had expected more. People talked of moving toward a light. Of seeing loved ones long gone. Of many different sensory experiences. They were all wrong, and he was saddened. If this was the way that eternity was going to be, he was going to be bored with it very soon!

Slowly, dimly, he became aware of voices. They were far away. They were talking about many things, some he could barely make out. Some more clear than others. One voice, loud, strident, demanding came to him more clearly than the others. If this wasn’t going to be heaven, then the afterlife was surely going to be hell if he had to put up with a voice like that one forever!

He was surprised at his thoughts! He was supposed to be dead and here he was, thinking like he was still alive. He was becoming more aware of sensory experiences. His arms, his legs, cramping pains. Pain? There wasn’t supposed to be pain after death! He was totally confused!!

He coughed, choked actually. He started coughing and couldn’t stop. His chest hurt! Hurt?! What was going on? He felt a hand on his shoulder, and heard the loud, angry voice close to him…

"Traitor!!! He’s a goddamned traitor!! You saw the tapes!! A Presidential Pardon! Damn the man for his stupidity!! Taken in by Nelson, I’m sure!!!! Jamison, you’re not at stupid man! How can you be loyal to scum like that?!"

He then heard Will’s voice, deadly calm answer. "He’s not scum! Harriman Nelson only hires the best. And his officers, men and employees are unflaggingly loyal, not because he commands or demands it, but because he earns it! Whatever Chip Morton did, he did out of loyalty, and respect, for Harriman Nelson, and for no other reason…and if the President believed the Admiral, then there is something concrete to believe. This man here is a good and honest man. Now, Admiral McKenna, for the time being… Get out of my sick bay! This may be your base, but this is my territory. Get out!"

"Jamison, you have brass! I’ll see that you get what you deserve!!! None of you will get away from me!!!" A door slammed. Chip moved his head and moaned. Will’s grip on his shoulder tightened. The grayness was rapidly fading, being replaced by growing light. Slowly, ever so slowly, as if his head would shatter if he moved it too fast, he moved his head slightly towards the shadow that was casting itself over him. Even more slowly he opened his eyes. Will Jamison was standing beside him…This definitely could not be heaven, it couldn’t be the afterlife at all!

"Will?" He croaked. "What happened? I’m not…?"

"Supposed to be here, among the living…, No, Chip, you’re not. But you are! The President called in a stay. And a pardon. You can leave here whenever you are able. WE can leave here. And according to the President, we have an escort on the way!"

"I don’t understand, Will. I did it. I committed Treason…High Treason!"

"Obviously the President had other evidence, or something or someone got to him to make him see how wrong all of this was. I don’t care, at this point. I’m going to get you ready to transport and we are going home!"

‘Home… Matty, Alex… His son! Home!… the boat…the Institute…’ He was suddenly very tired.

"Just rest easy, Chip. You’re not in great physical shape. The drugs, well, they didn’t help…and there is your mental state! I want to get you home, to the Institute, and then I’ll decide when you can go to your house."

"Matty!" He whispered, the effort hurting his throat, " Someone has to let Matty know…"

"I’m sure that Lee and the Admiral will take care of it… Just rest…"

He let himself give over to sleep. Restful, healing sleep…The first that he’d allowed himself since this had all begun.

 

***********


There was a small group of people waiting at the Med Facility of the NIMR. They watched as the FS1 made its landing pass at the heliport, and disappeared from sight. A few minutes later, an ambulance appeared around the bend of the driveway. It pulled in front, and backed up to the doors of the Admitting Bay. The ambulance door opened and Will Jamison jumped out. He turned to a broadly smiling Harriman Nelson and Lee Crane. He nodded happily, and then turned back to the stretcher being lifted from the vehicle. Chip looked to be asleep. Both men went to move toward the cot, but Jamison gently restrained them.

"Not yet…He’s been in a deep sleep since he came out of the drugs at San Diego. He has a lot to adjust to. He thought he was going to die, he began to die… He has to adjust to life again. To begin living… it’s going to take time. He needs to see his wife, and daughter and be reassured that they are ok, that they will be ok, together. He has to meet his son. He never thought he’d see him, be here for him. It’s a lot for a man to digest. We have t o let him take it slowly. Little bits at a time."

"Will he be alright, Will?" Nelson asked.

"In time, Harry. It will take time, but I think he’ll be fine. We’ll get the best help that we can for him, professionally. I believe that the best medicine is to know that what he did, and the reasons behind it, came to a logical conclusion. The two of you are all right, the boat and the men are all right, and that everything has been taken care of. Once Chip knows that, then he will be able to completely recover."

Both men acknowledged the doctor’s explanation. Reluctantly, they let the stretcher pass and then followed it into the building.

Waiting inside the doors, were Matty Weaver Morton and Karen Davis Nelson. Will stopped the stretcher, and Matty went to her husband’s side. She wanted to hold him, to take him into her arms and not let him go. She looked at his sleeping face, thinner and somehow, deeply sad, even in sleep. She settled for a gentle touch to reassure herself that he was really here , and a light kiss, hoping that he would know she was here. With a marked hesitance, she nodded at Will and allowed him to take Chip into one of the evaluation rooms. She knew Jamison had to make sure, here, on his own ground that Chip was ok, and he would recover. She was just so anxious to be with him, and so scared as well. She still felt as if she knew so little of what had happened to Chip in the last month. Oh, she knew the available information, but she also knew that there was more, much more that she was not aware of! He had shut her out. Shut her out to protect her, and the children. Her hand strayed to her stomach, flattened now, after the birth of their son. ‘Their son! Andrew Charles Morton!’

The children had been left at the Crane’s with Helen, Lee’s mother, and Caitlin Davis. Both ladies had been most anxious to handle, and love the newest member of the Senior Staff’s family, but the recent events had kept Matty from seeing anyone except Karen and Harriman Nelson, and Lee Crane. And now…well, now, they would pick up the pieces of their lives, and go on…yes, go on, together!

Will Jamison came out of the Exam room and went right to Matty. He took her to a small alcove, and sat on a small settee with her. Taking both of her hands in his, he smiled as he began to speak to her.

"Matty, physically, he’ll be fine. I’ll let him out of here in a day or two. Other than a loss of about 20 pounds, and the drugs in his system, there is nothing that can keep him here. I guess McKenna meant it when he said that he didn’t care about Chip, since he was already a dead man. He will need to talk to someone about what he’s been through, however. I’ll set up some appointments. We have some excellent people on staff, as you already know. What you’re going to have to do is to let him lead the way. As I told Lee and the Admiral, Chip has his life back, and he has to deal with all of that. It’s going to take some time, but with the love and support of all of this family of ours, I’m sure that he’ll be all right. We’re moving him to a private room on the Ocean side of the facility. With a view of the boat and the water." He laughed lightly, "The best view in town!"

He looked to Karen, and nodded imperceptibly. Karen turned and saw Nelson and Crane approaching. Wordlessly, with Will’s tacit approval, she went to the two men, and linking her arms, one into each of theirs, guided them away from Matty and Jamison. Matty, intent on Jamison’s every word, never even noticed the maneuver.

"With that view to wake up to, Chip will know he’s home…and safe. That all’s well."

"I want to be there, Will, when he wakes up!"

"Of course! But promise me that you will come in for a checkup yourself, in a day or so. When things have settled down."

"I promise." She patted his hand. "But now, where is Chip’s room?"

He rose with her and walked her down the hallway. They stopped in front of a suite doorway, and Jamison pushed the door in to open it. He let Matty enter and followed her in. They went through the sitting room and into the bedroom of the suite.

Chip was lying in the bed, still asleep. There was an IV bag attached to one arm, and the only sound in the room was the beeping of the EKG machine. An oxygen tube aided his breathing. Matty looked at Will anxiously.

"Just a precaution. The IV is to restore his fluid levels. He wasn’t eating much there. His fluid intake was down as well. The EKG is just to make sure that none of the drugs did any damage. Tomorrow they should all go!"

She nodded and moved to the chair next to the bed, sitting in it and pulling her legs up, wrapping her arms around them. Will looked at her, surprised.

"I have to get used to the fact that he’s here. Right now, I feel like if I reach out and touch him, he’ll disappear…vanish, you know. My head is telling me that it’s not going to happen, but my heart isn’t too sure. If I do hold him, I won’t be able to let go!" Her voice became even softer.

"Will, I still can’t believe that I… that we have him back. I believed…I really believed that he was gone from me, from all of us, forever. I didn’t know how I was going to go on. And when Drew arrived early – the hurt, Will. I can’t begin to tell you how it hurt." She began to tremble, "To be holding Chip’s son, and to be convinced in my heart and soul, that he would never see, never know this child, our beautiful son!" She sighed deeply. She reached out to the man on the bed, and then pulled her hand back. "Now, through some unbelievable gift of fate, I have him back. WE have him back." She looked at the doctor, "What do I do, Will. What do I say to him?"

Jamison smiled gently at her, and laid a hand on her shoulder. "I’ll tell you the same thing that I told Lee and Harry. Let him lead the way. Follow his lead. You’ll do fine. I’ll be back in a while, I have some paperwork I have to catch up on." He left and Matty settled into the soft chair, and watched her husband as he slept.

 

************


Chip Morton woke slowly. It was hard for his consciousness to accept the fact that he was indeed alive! He opened his eyes slowly and with measured patience. He remembered talking to Will, and accepting the fact that he was indeed alive! His mind was only now beginning to accept the reality of it. Alive! He looked around the room, clean crisp sheets, the discomfort in his chest, the look of the room…all taking on different meanings in the context of this second chance at life. His eyes fell on the figure curled up in a ball in the chair.

‘Matty!’ He wanted to reach out and grab her and hold her to him. She was so beautiful! He loved her so much! He never thought he’d see her again, and here she was. He saw how much thinner she was. His mind registered that their son had been born…Their son! A wave of sadness swept over him. He’d missed the birth of their son! Matty had had to go through that alone! He reached out to her, his hand shaking in anticipation of the softness of her, and gently, softly, his fingers brushed her face. She stirred, and he touched her again, more sure, now, that she wasn’t a dream, an illusion that would shatter with a touch.

Her eyes fluttered open, and their turquoise lights glistened.

"Angel," he said softly. "Matty?"

"Chip," she whispered. In one fluid motion, she was next to him on the bed, his arms wrapped around her, hers around him, and they lay there, just holding one another, to reassure each other that this was indeed their reality, and not a simple dream.

Finally, he kissed her gently. "I love you."

"And I, you."

"I’m sorry," he softly whispered, straining to keep the tears from flowing.

"I know. All that Lee told me is that you had to do this thing. Can you tell me about it now?"

"I don’t know. This is all a little hard to adjust to, you know." She nodded. "I want to tell you everything, but I’d better talk to Lee and the Admiral before I put you in any jeopardy. All of this had to mean something, it had to! Enough of that…" He pulled her closer to him. "Are you okay? And Alex…how is she? And the baby…" he paused, and asked quietly, "How is our son?"

"Alex misses you. She cried for you in the beginning. Then she became very quiet. I’m afraid I wasn’t much help to her, I was fighting my own demons, it seems. When Lee told her you were coming home, she didn’t believe him. She wants to see for herself. I’ll bring her here later." She laid her hand on his chest. "Your son, Andrew Charles Morton, is a beautiful boy. He just decided to arrive a little early. But he is fine, and I can’t wait for you to meet him." She paused, whispering, "and I am going to be fine, too. I’m here, and you are holding me in your arms.

She slept in his arms, for the first time in a month, and she believed… She believed.

 

*************

 

Chip’s next visitor arrived a few hours later.

Matty had left him after a while at Will Jamison’s suggestion that she let her husband rest for a while. They had both been reluctant to part, but Matty knew that Jamie had Chip’s best interests at heart, and she had left, to go home to their children. As she was still nursing the baby, she needed to be with him soon anyway.

Chip woke up, aware that Matty was gone, and aware that his reality was, indeed, back at the Institute. As he moved about in the bed attempting to get comfortable, there was whispering at the door and a tiny figure, with long blonde hair stood staring at him.

Alex Morton was watching her father carefully, afraid that he might go away again. Chip started to call to her, but he decided to wait and see what Alex wanted him to do. He smiled at her and gestured for her to come to him. When she still stood there, he called to her softly.

"Alex…"

"Daddy…?" Her eyes were large, and she was taking in all of the monitors and medical equipment with growing anxiety. "Daddy, are you going to be ok?"

"Yes, Princess," he said softly. "I’m going to be fine." He was anxious to have her come to him, to hold his little girl. But she continued to stand in the doorway. He opened his arms wide, and said, "Come on and give me a hug, Alex. I’ve missed you!" His voice caught on the last words, but Alex didn’t notice. She shot across the room and clambered into the bed, snuggling into his arms, which he then wrapped tightly around her.

After a few minutes of silence, she began, "Oh, Daddy, I missed you! Where were you?… Why didn’t you call us? … Didn’t you know how sad Mommy was without you? … Why didn’t you come home when my brother was born? … Did you know that he is a brother? … Are you going to stay home?…" she had a plaintive last question, one that tore at Chip’s heart, "Daddy, did you miss us?" Chip smiled tenderly at his daughter.

"Slow down, Princess…slow down…I’ll answer all your questions. Just slow down." He ran his hand over her long, blonde hair, part of him hurting to think of all the unhappiness his child had been through. She burrowed deeper into his arms, and turned her face expectantly towards his.

"Alex, of course I missed you and Mommy. Very, very much." His voice caught. "I thought of the two of you all the time I was away from you. I’m sorry that you had to be so sad."

She reached up and patted his cheek. "It’s ok, Daddy. You’re home now…Mommy said that you’ll be home for a while." He hugged her closer.

"I hope so, baby." He took a deep breath. "Sometimes, Daddies have to do things that they don’t want to or don’t like to, because it will keep the people that they love and care about safe… I had to keep you and Mommy and Drew, and Lee and the Admiral safe. So I had to go away. To keep all of you safe."

"I know Daddy, and that’s why everyone was so sad….But…it’s all over now, isn’t it Daddy?"

"I hope so, Alex." He held her tighter.

She pulled on his arm, "Daddy…"

"Yes, Alex?"

"I love you, Daddy! Very, very much!!!"

He hugged her hard. And in a soft voice, filled with emotion that he had kept in tight control, he said, "And I love you, very, very much too!" She nestled into the crook of Chip’s arm, and feeling safe and secure, fell asleep. Chip continued to hold his daughter, as she slept in his arms. He began to nod off himself, time becoming a relative circumstance. He felt as if on one hand he had all the time in the world, and at the same time as if there wouldn’t be enough time to do all that he wanted to, all that he had to! He knew he would have to put it all in the proper perspective, but he also knew he would have to work out all of the feelings he was having, not the least of which was the guilt that he felt about Matty, Alex and the baby.

‘My son!!! When am I going to meet my son!!! I’m going to have to get out of here soon. Too much inactivity!! I needed a run on the beach!! I need to get on with my life! My family…’

He saw the activity at the door of the room and he looked up and saw Matty, standing in the doorway, a bundle of blankets in her arms. He put a finger to his lips, and pointed to Alex, sleeping there in the crook of his arm. She smiled at him, and at her sleeping daughter. She quietly came to the bedside, and sat down next to Chip. Still smiling, she kissed her husband, and held the bundle of blankets toward him.

"Commander Morton, I would like to introduce you to your son. This," she carefully pulled the blankets from the baby’s face, " is Andrew Charles Morton." Gingerly, Chip reached for the baby. He was sleeping. His tiny hands were curled into fists; a light down of very blonde hair covered his head. He scrunched his face in his sleep, and then yawned. Chip watched him, awed. Alex sat up sleepily at that moment, and rubbed her eyes. She was surprised and happy to see her mother, with the baby, sitting on the bed. She got to her knees, and reached over her father, to take the baby’s tiny hand in hers. Andrew Charles Morton chose that moment to open his eyes and look about. He found his father’s face and blue eyes locked into light turquoise blue ones, and father and son looked into and met each other’s souls. The intensity of the baby’s stare astounded and moved Chip in a way that he had never been moved before.

My son! This incredibly small and complex being is my son!’ He felt overwhelmed. A single tear slid down his cheek Alex touched it wonderingly; she didn’t know that Daddies could cry!

Matty placed the baby in his father’s arms, and gathered Alex into her arms. She stood up, and took Alex from the room, leaving Chip with his son.

"C’mon, honey", she said. "Let’s let Daddy and your brother get acquainted."

Matty looked back at her husband as he held the baby. The look of wonder on Chip’s face pulled at her heart, and she was saddened to think that he missed his son’s birth.

She was also overjoyed and overwhelmed that he had come home! They had so much more to be grateful for. She held Alex’s hand in hers, and leaning over to her daughter, said, "C’mon, Alex. Let’s get some Ice Cream! I think we have a lot to celebrate!"

 

***********

 

Lee Crane sat in the chair next to the bed. Chip was sleeping, Drew tucked safely in his arms. Lee studied the face of his friend in sleep. Chip looked peaceful, finally peaceful. Lee had a great deal that he wanted to talk to his friend about. But it could wait…it could all wait. He was safe; Harriman Nelson had come thru again! Lee rubbed his eyes tiredly… He felt hundreds of years old!

He thought back to San Diego, when he saw Will Jamison waiting at the heliport for the FS1. Going against his usual caution, Will had had Chip readied for transport, and had called the Institute to get a time of arrival for the small sub. Once he had the ETA, he had his things and Chip’s readied, and he was waiting at the landing site, with Chip when Lee arrived. Lee was surprised, but with very few words, he had loaded the Exec, and their things into the FS1 in record time, and was strapping himself into the co-pilot’s seat. Lee was a little surprised, and he looked at the medic in askance.

"We had to get out of there! I didn’t want to be around that bastard, McKenna any longer than we had to. I threw him out of the Sick Bay. He wasn’t very pleased with me when I stuck up for Chip and Harry. Frankly, I wish that man were dead. I think we’d all sleep better at night!"

"Will, are you okay? I’ve never heard you quite so enraged!" Crane asked, surprised at the Doctor’s vehemence.

"Perhaps that’s because I’ve never been so enraged in my life. When Chip was coming out of the drugs, McKenna was in the room calling him a scum and much more. And then, he started on Harry. I had had it! So I told him off and put him out of the room…And then, I decided that since discretion is the better part of valor, I had better start being valorous and scram out of here! Let’s put some distance between us and San Diego, huh, Lee?’

"Right, Doc! Can’t say that it won’t be my pleasure …" he paused, and asked hesitantly, indicating with a nod of his head, toward the man on the bunk, "Will, how is Chip, really?"

"Sleeping now, Lee. Sleeping… I‘ve given him a light sedative to make the trip easier. I just want him to sleep, as naturally as possible. This way, he will, at least until we get home! He has a lot to become re-accustomed to! But he’ll do better; we’ll all do better, after we get there!! Let’s get going, shall we, Captain?"

As Chip stirred in his sleep, Lee was filled with a number of feelings. He had been seriously hurt by Chip’s silence during all of this. The fact that his friend hadn’t confided in him, or the Admiral, had baffled and offended him, and even after they knew why he hadn’t given them any information, the hurt hadn’t gone away. He knew that they would have to talk about it for a long time… He couldn’t understand why Chip had so calmly accepted it all… He knew that Chip was protecting all the people and things that he loved, but he didn’t understand why he had been so passive about it all. He wanted to know all the answers, but he also knew that the Exec would open up to him in good time. Jamie had said to let Chip lead the way, and Crane would do just that. Chip stirred and opened his eyes, surprised to see Lee Crane sitting in the chair in the room.

He reached for his son, still asleep in his arms, and said to his friend, simply and quietly, "Thanks, Lee… For being with Matty, being there for him." He gestured toward the baby. Lee leaned and looked at the sleeping child.

With a grin, he said to his friend, "Just like his father! He can sleep anywhere!"

Chip made a wry face, "Very funny! I seem to recall a certain boat’s Captain that can do the same thing!"

Lee laughed and then sobered. "Care to tell me why you didn’t open up to the Admiral and me, Chip?"

He heaved a deep breath. Very subdued, he answered, "Fear… Absolute, total fear. After I saw how easily they could shoot you, and you have to know how guilty I feel about that, I knew that you were all in danger, and the men on the boat as well. Call it an error in judgment, call it what ever you want. I just knew that it was the only way to keep all of you safe." He sighed heavily.

At that moment, Matty and Alex arrived in the room. She went straight to the bed, kissed Chip warmly, and carefully took the baby from him. She sat on the bed, next to her husband, and their daughter climbed up on the bed, and wormed her way in between her parents. Contented, she sighed, happily. Chip looked down at her, squeezed between her mother and father.

"Comfortable, Princess?" he asked, smiling fondly.

She shook her head in the affirmative. "Yes, Daddy!! Very comfortable!" She dug in more deeply between them, and at the same time reached up, and took the baby’s hand.

"Daddy…?"

"Yes, Alex?"

"Do you like my brother?"

"Yes, Alex. Very much." He laughed lightly, and wrapped an arm around her. "Almost as much as I like you!"

"Oh, Daddy!" The adults all laughed, and Drew Morton decided to join in, with a wail, either of hunger, or discomfort. Matty turned her attention to quiet the child, as Harriman Nelson came to the doorway, drawn by the laughter.

"Private party? Or can any old Admiral join in?"

Lee stood, and Chip made an effort to sit up straighter in the bed. "Admiral!"

"Why doesn’t someone turn on the TV? I think that there is something that you all would like to see coming on…."

The TV screen flickered to life, and the CNN banner came up. A voice off screen said,

" We now take you to the White House. The President has requested this airtime in order to make a statement to the nation, regarding the recent events concerning the Nation, the Nelson Institute of Marine Research and the People’s Republic…. And now, the President of the United States…"

The camera pulled back, and the President was sitting at the desk in the Oval Office.

He looked directly into the camera and, shuffling the papers in his hand, began to speak.

"Good afternoon. I would like to speak to you, my constituents on a matter that has been going on for the last month. As many, if not most of you, and the world are aware, Lt. Cdr. Charles Morton, of the S.S.R.N. Seaview and the Nelson Institute, made several broadcasts last month on behalf of the People’s Republic. Cdr. Morton admitted his participation in the broadcasts, admitted to treason, and, was convicted and scheduled to be executed. As the execution was proceeding, Admiral Harriman Nelson, of the Nelson Institute, and the Seaview came to me with incontrovertible evidence that Cdr. Morton had been, and was still being coerced into making the statements, and accepting the conviction of treason. It was with the grace of God, and tremendous good fortune that we were able to stop the execution and it is our great pleasure to announce that Lt. Cdr. Morton is recovering with no medical side effects whatsoever.

We have been in contact with the government of the People’s Republic, and have been assured by them that no orders from their government were given to create this subversion. They have apologized to me, to the people of the United States, and have asked me to tender their most sincere apologies to Lt. Cdr. Morton, his family and the Nelson Institute for this most grievous offense to him and to them, as well as to Admiral Nelson. I am most pleased to do so now. They also assure me that the perpetrators of this heinous crime have been caught and will be summarily punished.

In addition, at this time, I would like to go on record saying that due to all of the overwhelming evidence on his behalf, I have issued a Writ of Vindication for Lt. Cdr. Morton absolving him of any and all wrongdoing in regards to said Treason. Lt. Cdr. Morton was in a situation where he could observe men with their guns trained on Admiral Nelson, and Captain Crane at all times, men who had orders to shoot to kill at a single word. He was also made aware that there was a bomb on the Seaview that could be detonated at a single signal. He made the decision to accede to the terrorists’ orders in order to save 125 and more innocent lives. I would also like to say this. In my mind, there is no doubt, that Lt. Cdr. Morton’s actions were nothing less than heroic. He was willing to give his life in order to protect the lives of those that were not only close to him, but that had an immeasurable value to the government of this country and the world. The loss of any one, or all of them would have been a loss most difficult to recover from. Lt. Cdr. Morton was acting in a manner that is a fine example of what we value most in this country, protection of the innocent, at whatever the cost. The ‘right thing’.

I would also like to commend Admiral Harriman Nelson’s untiring effort to save the life of Lt. Cdr. Morton. It is obvious to me that without that effort, a great wrong would have occurred.

I would like to note here also, that Captain Lee Crane was wounded during this time, as an ‘object lesson’ to Cdr. Morton. Crane never stopped his efforts, in spite of that wound, to try and clear Cdr. Morton, and he is also to be commended for them.

In closing, I would like to say the following. Our nation is a good and just nation, with high ideals, and values. Sometimes we falter in holding to those values. The unselfish actions of the men that I have named here, as well as countless others, unnamed, and unspoken for, give us all the strength and fortitude to go on, to continue to pursue those ideals on which we have based this nation, and to try to hold tightly to those values. I thank you all for your attention. Good Day."

The camera image faded into a glimpse of the Washington skyline. An off screen voice proceeded to speak. "That was the President of the United States coming to you from the Oval Office…" The screen went dark, and there was silence in the room. It felt like a cloud had been lifted from the group.

Matty slid off the bed, taking Alex and the baby with her. She kissed Chip, who had wrapped an arm around her, "We’re going to go home, Chip. Helen said she would stay with the children while I get some things done. Will said that you’ll be coming home, either later or tomorrow. She gently ran a hand down his face, and whispered, "Home, my dearest love. You will be coming home!" He wrapped both arms around her, careful of the baby, completely disregarding the IV in his arm.

He released her from the embrace, and she stood.

"Hello, Admiral. We were just leaving." She reached for Alex’s hand, and bending to her daughter, said, "C’mon, Alex. We’re going home. We have to get ready for Daddy!" as they walked past the older man, she leaned over to Nelson, and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you!!!" she whispered.

He smiled at her, blue eyes sparkling like they hadn’t in many days. "Believe me, Matty. It’s my pleasure! Lee and I really didn’t want to have to train a new Exec!"

Once again, they laughed, the laughter freeing the days of anxiety and grief that they had all been through. Nelson kissed Matty lightly on the cheek, "Seriously, it’s good to see you smiling again, Commander! Now can I get another good look at my Godson?"

Chip looked at Matty startled by the revelation. She merely returned a serene smile to him. While Nelson looked at the infant, she mouthed the word, ‘Later!’. Then she took the baby, and Alex, and looking at Lee, said, "I know the three of you have a great deal to talk about!" They left, and Nelson pulled a chair up to the bed, next to Crane, and looking Chip dead in the eye, blue eyes locking into blue eyes, said to the errant XO,

"Well, Commander, I think that it’s about time for you to tell me the whole story…

 

*************


Sandra Murray, Captain, USN, was clearing her desk. The loaner office that she was using had been empty, when she arrived. It would be just as empty when she left. She was leaving San Diego faster than she had imagined she would be able to. And with a great deal more success than she had anticipated. She had compromised her training, by letting Crane and Nelson have those letters, but she had saved an innocent man’s life. And that had far more value…this was a case where the means that she used were justified. And her conscience did not bother her one whit!

She looked around the office once more, making sure that she had left nothing behind. The last thing that she wanted was more contact with Joel McKenna and his people. She was on her way to Santa Barbara, to the Nelson Institute. She had a client to see, and a friend to visit with. She was going to be a godmother to her friend’s son. And she couldn’t be more pleased wit the invitation!

 

***********

 

The next day, a steady stream of visitors began to come into the Med Facility. Mr. Morton was back. He had been pardoned. A bomb had been found on the boat! Shooters had been found as well. There were a lot of questions, but the Skipper and the O.O.M. had set it all to rights. And the Exec was ok, and he was gonna be back on the boat as soon as the doc said he could be. Unfortunately, Jamison was still restricting the number of visitors, and the men of the Seaview found that they would have to be patient and wait for their turn.

Every one of the men of the boat was anxious to let the XO know that they never stopped believing in him. They all knew that there had to be a good reason for his actions. They knew their Senior Officers, and Morton’s behavior had been so unlike the man, that they knew there was more to it all. And the Skipper and the Admiral had saved the day again! And they continued to prove, also once again, that in the worst of times, as well as the best of times, the Seaview takes care of her own!

By the end of the day, Will Jamison had come to a hard and fast conclusion. He was sending Chip Morton home. The men were less inclined to call at the Senior Staff’s homes, and Chip needed, not only his rest, but his home, to help him accept the very enormous fact that he did, indeed, have his life back to live as he choose to. Yes, he was sending the Exec home.

 

***********

 

A blue NIMR sedan pulled up in front of the Morton home. The door to the house was opened, and a tiny figure in a white dress, with long blonde hair stood in the doorway. The driver of the sedan got out of the car and ran around to the passenger side of the car. Kowalski pulled the door open. Chip Morton got out of the car, and Ski helped Matty out of the back seat. She took her husbands arm, and they walked up the front walk. Chip was still feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of returning to his normal life. Normal… that was the operative word, here.

‘Home!’ He shook his head, ‘Never thought that I’d see it again!… I have to stop this! The doctors said to go with the feelings, let them out, and then deal with it. Keep it all in the proper perspective.’

He pulled Matty closer to him, and she instinctively held tightly to him. Chip was seeing his world in a new light. She knew that. The doctors had all told her to follow his lead. Chip Morton was a strong man. All of the Seaview’s men were. He would recover from all of this, given time. If he were tentative about things, then he would soon become more assured. His natural confidence would return. The events would change him, would impact them all, but the intrinsic individual that was the Executive Officer of the Seaview would remain, and at some point, all would eventually resume the relationships that had developed over the years of working together. They would be stronger, and they would continue to deepen. Matty held Chip’s arm a little tighter as they came to the door of the house. Alex looked up and smiled at him.

"I’m glad that you’re home, Daddy. Now everything will be okay." He bent down and scooped her into his arms. Helen Crane had been standing in the foyer holding the baby, and she stepped forward, handed Drew to Matty and disappeared into the house. The four of them stood in the doorway. Chip took a deep breath and stepped inside, the emotions he was feeling, threatening to overcome him at that moment. Matty took his arm, and held it while holding the baby in the other.

"We’re home, my dearest love, we’re home. We’re all here, together, and we will all be okay. That’s, is all that is important! We will all be okay."

"Yes," he said quietly, as he tightly held his daughter and his wife… "We will be okay. Together, we will all be okay."

 

 

*Author’s post script… I have a few people to thank here. Probably the most important one is to Carol Sherland. Carol is a good friend and a Richard Basehart fan. When she came to spend a few days with me recently, she and I watched the Basehart movie, Time Limit. It is from that movie that the kernel of the idea for this story came about. Thanks, Carol! I also need to thank Rosie Alcott. Rosie’s sense of humor, and unflagging devotion to Chip Morton helped me to keep the story in the right perspective, and I am grateful for it. My sometime writing partner, yes we are working on more stories together, Jane Daffron deserves my thanks for all her support, and editing help. Yes, Jane, I know… ‘Watch the spacing!’

Finally, I want to thank all the Voyage fans for keeping the fandom alive and active. You all inspire us, the writers, to continue to strive for the next levels in our stories. Without all of you, we would not have the pleasure of writing these stories and giving our favorite guys, whichever ones they are, the complex lives and adventures that we have created. Thank you all!

Linda A. Delaney

 

                            

FEEDBACK STORY PAGE
   
HOME

 Hit Counter

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and its characters, indicia and designs are trademarks of Irwin Allen Properties, LLC.  Irwin Allen Properties, LLC and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Website design and original content, i.e. original fiction, characters and all biographies, are the property of Daffron and Delaney, LLC, except for the rights reserved for Synthesis/IAPLLC regarding its trademarked and copyrighted material.