Changes...

 

by Linda A. Delaney

 

Cathy was dead...!!! Lee Crane sat in the hospital room trying to believe the unbelievable. She was gone. Gone from him and their son. Gone...forever.…Never in all of his adult life had he anticipated such pain. His heart, his soul, the very core of his being was gone, and so quickly.

Because of the nature of his work on Seaview, he had long ago come to grips with his own mortality. But not hers!!! This had to be a nightmare that he would wake up from...she couldn't be gone...so quickly!!! He felt empty...numb. Somewhere in his grief filled mind he knew he had to make plans...see people...see to his son...but he couldn't think...couldn't bring himself to move...he felt as if he were carved in stone.

A hand touched his shoulder...a voice spoke to him, but he really didn't hear it...it seemed to come from a distance...focus, Crane, focus!, he told himself.

He slowly lifted his head to look into the eyes of a very sad looking doctor.

"Captain Crane," he spoke softly, with deference, "Captain Crane...sir, can you hear me...?"

Lee numbly murmured, "Yes," but he couldn't react...he didn't want to speak...He heard a baby crying in the background. Another part of his mind took over, "My son..?"

"Your son is fine, sir...the car seat protected him very well...Sir, if you'd just let me take you into the other room, so that I can examine you for any injuries.…"

"No, I don't need to be checked out, I want my son. My wife is dead...I want my son...," he stood, and a nurse handed him a six-month old baby. He looked into the baby's face...Cathy's eyes looked back at him. He swayed and then steadied himself.

"I'd like to see my wife."

Several concerned looks passed around the room, and then the doctor said, "Of course, sir." He took him by the arm and guided him into a darkened treatment room, "She's right in here, sir."

Cathy lay on a table with a single light on her face. Lee moved closer to the table and looked down at her. She looked like she did when she lay next to him in their bed, beautiful and at peace.…

Often, he'd reached out and run a finger down her face...and she would open her eyes and look at him, and smile and reach for him….

He looked at her again...he looked down at the baby in his arms..."I'm so sorry, Cathy...so sorry....," he touched her face. She was cold. He remembered the warmth of her touch...he took her hand...it was growing cold, too.…

He held her hand and the baby in the other arm, "I love you, Cats...I'll always love you!!!" His whole being shuddered.

There was a commotion in the waiting room; several voices, loud and gruff...but Lee Crane didn't hear them. He stood alone in his grief and loss, and then the voices were in the room, and a strong, but gentle hand was on his shoulder.

"Skipper, it's me, Doc Jamison, why don't you come with me, sir...?"

Lee turned and looked at Jamison blankly, "She's gone, Doc, Cathy's gone.…"

Doc didn't think he'd ever heard such grief a person's voice in his entire career, "I know, Skipper...I'm so sorry, sir...we all loved Cathy ... but now you have to let me check you out and make sure that you're okay, sir," Doc swallowed hard, and grew a bit more familiar. " Lee, you have to let me take you into the other room and check you out. We have to make sure that you haven't been injured."

Doc swallowed hard once more, he was finding it as difficult as everyone else was, "It was a very bad accident, Skipper...Cathy would want to make sure that you and little Robert were okay. Let us do this, sir, for you and Cathy."

Crane remained standing next to the bed. Nelson, Chip Morton and Angie came into the room at Jamison's gesture. Their faces reflected their profound shock and grief. Doc motioned Angie to his side, "Lee...Angie's here...she wants to take Robert for a while."

Angie hesitantly reached for the baby, and slowly and reluctantly, Lee handed the infant over to her, and in an emotionless voice he said, "He has Cathy's eyes, you know...her eyes..."

Suddenly his voice was raw with the grief of his huge loss, "Oh, God, Doc, what am I going to do without her? What am I going to do?"

"You'll go on, Lee...for her and for your son...You'll go on..." Nelson moved to his Captain's side. The O.O.M's face looked older than anyone could remember.…

Cathy Connors Crane had been as dear to him as a daughter...she had been his Executive Assistant, and his dear friend's wife...Lee's loss was profound; they all lost a great deal today...a friend, a colleague, a dear and dedicated wife, mother and life partner.…How would any of them cope?

Nelson knew what Lee Crane was going through. He had suffered a similar loss many years ago, but Lee, at least, had a son for comfort. Nelson hadn't been as fortunate...but he'd built a life, and it was a good one. Now he had to help the younger man deal with what had happened to him. It wouldn't be easy...knowing Crane's personality...but he would help him through it. Their friendship demanded it of him. He took the younger man's arm, "C'mon, Lee, let Jamie give you the once over, and then we'll get you and Robert home."

Nelson and Jamison exchanged looks. The doctor guided the Captain to the adjacent treatment room. Nelson turned to Morton, "Chip, you'd better handle the media, I'm sure that they've got the story by now, and with Lee's past notoriety and the prominence of the Institute, I'm sure that it'll make the 5:00 news. We're going to have a media circus shortly and I want to keep it from Lee as much as possible," he shook his head sadly, "let's just keep those reporters away from him, and Chip...?"

"Aye, sir...?"

"Put in a call to Lee's mother...She should get the news from here...not the media. Get Sharkey and Kowalski to go for her in FS1, and get Patterson and Rodriguez over here on the double to run MP duty for Lee until further notice. Once Jamie clears Lee, we'll have to get him out of here as quickly and quietly as possible, and ...get me the accident report as soon as the police will release it."

 

***

 

Morton automatically went in his command mode, and began giving orders and seeing that the Admiral's orders were carried out. But just as the others, he, too was finding this beyond belief. Why just three hours ago, Cathy had been waiting at the dock at the Institute with the baby, as the Seaview berthed. She came down the gangplank, and gave him a hug and kiss and handed him his Godson ...then went in search of her husband. She was laughing, and smiling, joking with the many crewmen with whom she was familiar, while she searched the boat for Lee. She'd found him making last minute checks on the maintenance crew, who were staying on 'his' boat, while the crew and officers took leave. She had taken him by the arm and led him topside. He was grinning broadly at the baby as he scooped him up from Chip, and the baby had laughed merrily. The three of them went up the gangplank to Cathy's car, and had begun their reunion . The accident had occurred on the way home. Morton wondered how his best friend was going to go on…

 

***

 

Lt. Commander 'Chip' Morton stood outside the Nelson Institute Medical Facility and read a statement to the waiting Press..." On Behalf of Admiral Harriman Nelson, the Nelson Institute of Marine Research makes the following announcement.…It is with the deepest regret that we confirm the passing of Mrs. Cathy Crane, the wife of the Captain of the S.S.R.N. Seaview, Captain Lee Crane. Mrs. Crane died today at this Medical facility where she was transported after an automobile accident. Mrs. Crane was the Executive Assistant to Admiral Nelson, here at the Institute. In addition to her husband, Mrs. Crane is survived by her infant son, Robert…All Funeral arrangements will be private, and the Admiral, and the Institute respectfully request that you allow all of us the courtesy to deal with our great loss in private…Thank you," Chip turned and walked back into the building and the Security men blocked the press from any access.

 

***

 

At the Med. Facility, Harriman Nelson sat in the director's office. He was waiting for a Videophone connection to Providence, Rhode Island. Crane's mother lived there and Nelson wanted to relay the devastating news to her himself. He realized the Lee would be unable to deal with any of this now, so he took it upon himself to begin to make arrangements. He didn't want Crane's mother to hear from a stranger. The secretary came into him, "Admiral, your call has gone through, sir."

The screen on the desk jumped to life, and Lee Crane's mother sat looking at him.… Nelson cleared his throat, but before he had a chance to speak, she questioned, "Admiral... Is everything alright...? Is Lee in some kind of trouble...? What's wrong...?"

Nelson was suddenly very weary...he rubbed his forehead and then spoke, as gently as possible…"No, Helen, I'm afraid everything isn't alright...there's been ... an auto accident...Lee and Robert are okay, but Cathy, there isn't any easy way to tell you this.…Cathy died about an hour ago."

Helen let out a small cry and covered her mouth, tears came to her eyes, "Oh, no...!!! Admiral...!!! but, Lee...? you said...he wasn't hurt...? How is... he... dealing with this...? I...I have to come out there."

"I've taken the liberty of making arrangements for you to come out to Santa Barbara, Helen. You've met Chief Sharkey and Seaman Kowalski. They are on their way now to pick you up in the Flying Sub. They should be there in three hours. They'll come to your home and bring you out to the sub, and then fly you out here. When he's up to it. I'll let Lee know that you're coming. He's going to need a lot support. "

"I know, Admiral...unfortunately, like yourself, I've been where he is right now. There are no answers in a case like this. He's only going to have questions...for a long, long time.… I'll see you in a number of hours, sir..."

 

***

 

His screen went dark...he felt very, very old. How was he going to be able to help Lee? Doc had called Crane a passionate and intense man and they all knew that his level of commitment to anything was 150%. How would this loss change him? Only time would tell them that…for now, they all had to get through the next few days.

 

***

 

Crane lay in the grip of a nightmare.

It had started out fine. Cathy and Robert had met him at the dock, they'd gotten into her car, she refused to let him drive.…She laughingly told him he had to get his 'land legs' back. They were laughing together at her tales of the baby's recent escapades...he felt a twinge of regret at having missed even a small part of his son's development...but he felt like he could see each event through Cathy's eyes as she joyfully described each small event and milestone. Her eyes sparkled, full of love for him and their son...and then...suddenly...he heard several sharp 'pops' 'gunshots?'....and then Cathy was fighting with the steering wheel, the car was completely out of control, the baby was crying, and Lee was shouting and trying to help her and then there was blackness....He'd opened his eyes to smoke ,broken glass, twisted metal. He'd tried to move, but found he was pinned in place. He couldn't hear the baby...couldn't move to reach for him...and Cathy...Cathy wasn't moving...she ,too, was pinned in her seat..."Cathy..." he'd called her name...she didn't respond...his left arm was free, but he couldn't reach her, touch her...She was so still!! He couldn't see if she was breathing ..."Cathy..!!" He was struggling to try and free himself, to get to her, to get to the baby. He heard the sirens in the distance, coming closer...he saw faces at the windows...heard the voices telling him to stay calm...that help was on the way.…And then there were uniforms and men and women trying to free them....

Lee awoke, covered in perspiration. He looked around at familiar surroundings. Everything was the same, yet not the same at all...he was lying on the couch in their great room...their home...and overwhelming grief washed over him in waves...'their home'. Cathy should be here right now. They should be talking about the recent mission and her work at the Institute, the day to day events that took place when he wasn't here.…

Lee could feel Cathy's presence in the room, in the house, "Oh, God..." he just couldn't deal with all of this...he heard voices talking softly in the other room.

Dreaming of the accident, trying to picture what had really happened, he realized that it was all too horribly real, and not just a bad dream. "Cathy's gone...and there's no reason why," he twisted the wedding ring on his left hand, and looked at it.

In his mind's eye, he saw the two of them standing in the church, at the altar...candles were lit all around....they framed her face...She was a radiant bride...her smile lit up his world. She'd held his hand in hers and had made the ageless promises, and slid the ring on his finger...and now the light in his world was out...she was gone....

Lee sat and held his head in his hands. He was sitting like that when Chip Morton came into the room, carrying a mug of coffee. Chip walked over to him and put a hand on his shoulder, "Lee..."

Crane looked up at him, and Morton thought, He looks absolutely awful...I've seen him at his very worst, but never, never like this... I don't even know how to begin to help him...Chip offered Lee the coffee, and Crane took it from him automatically. Morton sat in the chair facing him. Crane held the mug in both hands and stared into it. After what seemed like an eternity, he sighed heavily and asked, "Where's Robert, Chip...I seem to remember that Angie took him at ...at the Med. facility...."

"He's upstairs, Lee, in his room, Angie's with him...Jamie said he's just fine...not a mark on him...he's a tough little guy...like his dad..."

There was a long silence, and then, Lee said, "Chip...there are so many things," he stammered, "where. ..where is she, Chip...?"

Morton swallowed hard, "The Funeral Home. The Admiral....he started making the arrangements, Lee. He didn't know when you'd be able to. He's taken charge of a lot of it. He sent Sharkey and Kowalski for your mom. She should be here in a few hours. He notified the media, and warned them off. Paterson and Rodriguez are here for security for you and Robert as long as you need it. The O.O.M. is still at the Office, he'll be by later. Edith called, she's coming in later. Angie will stay with Robert as long as you want. Trish has taken the Institute by the horns and has that under control. The boat is in temporary dry-dock, as of 1400 until the O.O.M. decides to pull her out."

"Look, Lee,...there are a few decisions that you have to make...um, the director...he wants to know what you want Cathy to wear...and the Admiral wants to wait for you to decide what readings you want for the service, and what music...and," Morton shook his head, sadly, "Lee, this can wait."

"No, Chip....I have to do this...have to get a grip on myself...while I can...I'll get Cathy's things...maybe her dress whites.…" Lee stood, and Morton stood with him. Crane he swayed a bit.

"Lee…."

"Just a little unsteady, Chip...guess I hit my head in the accident?" the tone of his voice changed, "Just before we lost control, I heard something," he put the mug down and rubbed the back of his neck, "Chip, it sounded like three or four gunshots...Cathy was telling me about Robert, and the windows were open and we were laughing and then I heard these three or four pops...real loud and close...and then she lost control of the car...and I tried to help her ...and…."

"Okay, Lee..."

"No, Chip...No it's not okay...Cathy's dead, and nothing will be okay again. But I'm going to find out how this happened. I have to."

"We'll find out together. You're sure it was gunshots?"

"Not positive, but as sure as I can be, in view of all that's happened. Can you get your hands on the police report ASAP.?"

"The admiral's already one step ahead of you...he's been calling the station every half hour," he smiled grimly, "He's also convinced that there's something else here."

Crane's face shifted from one of grief to one of anger to one of despair.

"Chip....what if I was the target and Cathy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? That would make me responsible for her death."

Morton didn't have anything to say to him. Slowly and carefully he replied, "Then I guess that we'll just have to find the answer."

 

***

 

At NIMR, Harriman Nelson was on the phone with the ONI. "Begging the Admiral's pardon, but you don't seen to understand...Crane's wife has just died!!! The man is devastated. All of us here are trying to come to grips with this. We cannot take on a mission at this time!!! Yes, sir...yes, sir...even if that is so, sir, I don't believe that Lee Crane is emotionally or physically able to take on any assignment now. Good God man, have a little sympathy. I know...I know...I'll be back in touch, sir."

One of the Institute secretaries knocked on the door, "Admiral, Chief Sharkey on line one, sir, and if you could sign these papers, sir."

He gestured for her to put the papers on his desk, and reached for the phone, punching the button to get the line. "Yes, Chief..?"

"Admiral, our ETA at the Institute is at 2100 hours, sir.… Will there be a car waiting for Mrs. Crane? "

"Yes, Sharkey, Riley will be waiting at the dock. He'll take Mrs. Crane to Lee's."

"How's the Skipper, sir?"

"I just spoke to Mr. Morton...as well as we can expect, Francis...there's not much that we can do but just be there."

"Aye, sir...FS1 out."

Nelson turned from the phone and pressed the intercom, "Trish, please have my car brought around...I'll be leaving shortly...also, contact O'Brien on the boat and have him send Stu Riley to the motor pool and have a car ready at the dock to take Captain Crane's mother to his home."

"Yes, Sir, is there anything else, sir?" she paused, "your car has been waiting for you, Admiral."

Nelson smiled to himself. Cathy surely had my staff on their toes...she always could anticipate what I wanted before I wanted it...looks like she trained them well...My God, what will we all do without her...???And now ONI in all its' wisdom is insisting Lee take on an assignment in three days !!! What are they thinking of...??

The intercom buzzed...."Admiral, Chip Morton is on line 1..."

"Thank you, Trish...call the car and tell the driver I'll be right down...Yes, Chip..?"

"Admiral, Lee and I have been talking and there's something that you should know about the accident. Lee remembers hearing three or four pops like gunshots before they lost control o the car. I've been trying to get the police report, but they're stonewalling me, sir. I know that you've been trying too.…"

"I'm having the same problems, Chip. Well, if Lee thinks he heard gunshots, then we'll go from there. We'll launch our own investigation. I'll get our own security people right away."

"Aye, sir."

Nelson hit his intercom..."Cathy..." he barked before he thought, must be careless because I'm tired..."I'm very sorry, Trish...would you please get the Security Chief up here right away. Please get O'Brien on the boat, and tell my driver I'm going to be here a while."

 

***

 

At 2400 hours, Nelson's car stopped in front of Crane's house. All the lights in the house were blazing...a very weary Nelson walked up the path and knocked loudly on the door. He heard voices, and Patterson answered the door.

"Oh, Admiral, sir, please come in."

Nelson stepped into the doorway, and Chip Morton came to greet him.

"Lee...?"

"In the bedroom, sir...Jamie stopped by with a sedative, but of course, Lee would have none of it. The good doctor managed to give him a shot anyway and he's sleeping now, I hope."

They walked into the Living Room, and sat facing each other. Patterson took the Admiral's hat and coat, and handed him a mug of coffee. Nelson nodded his thanks to the enlisted man, and started talking to Morton.

Nelson put his briefcase on the coffee table, opened it and handed Morton a sheet of paper. Chip read it with intensity and then let out a low whistle.…"Lee was right...!!!"

"I was right about what, Chip?" Lee stood at the foot of the stairs...he glanced at his watch, "Awfully late for a house call, Admiral."

"I thought that you were asleep after the sedative."

"It'd take a lot more than Jamie's sedative to make me sleep right now...I've been in the nursery with Robert...he looks like his mother when he sleeps...Cathy says...said... his curly hair is from me, but it looks like hers…."

Both men waited for him to finish his thought, but he didn't and instead sat down on the couch, next to Nelson.

"So, what was I right about. Chip?"

Nelson nodded and Morton handed him the sheet of paper.…Crane scanned the report.

"I knew it!!" he said excitedly, "Our security people found spent shells...four of them....Someone WAS firing at the car... but..." he paused, "then... you know what that means, don't you Admiral...?"

Nelson looked at him puzzled...Morton knew where Crane's thoughts were heading….

"That means that my work caused Cathy's death... I'm responsible for her dying…."

"No, Lee, you're not...all we know is that is shots were fired...by whom, at whom, why...we don't know...you can't blame yourself for this Lee."

"I can't? Tell me sir, if I were just a simple Sub Captain, would I be on assignment for the ONI ? Would I have contacts all over the world in many different underground groups? Would I have made so many enemies that I don't even know half of them?" He stood and started pacing the floor, "And then, there's the Seaview and her status, and your work, sir, hardly an average Submariner's career….Can't the two of you see....If I wasn't doing what I'm doing...Cathy would be alive!!! She's dead because of me!!!"

Lee sat down in complete despair and full of blame. The other two men sat in silence, until Nelson cleared his throat and spoke, softly and with strong authority.

"Lee, you're not at fault...anymore than Chip, or I am. Cathy, God love her...knew and accepted, as much as you do, that with her job, came risks. She had Top Security Clearance, just as you do, She knew the ins and outs of your assignments and the Seaview's as well as I did. Like the rest of us...she was at risk...always."

"I just can't accept that, Admiral...Her job didn't put her at risk. Mine did!!!"

"Lee, punishing yourself is not going to bring Cathy back to us," his mother stood in the doorway with a tray of coffee in her hands. She put it on the table, and then stood in front of her son. Sternly, she said, "Lee Crane, you listen to me, now...!!!"

When he looked at her, she saw the total pain and defeat in his eyes and recognized it, too well; she faltered for a moment, then she spoke, "I know how badly you're feeling now, Lee, and I can't promise you that it's going to get better soon...it's not. But I can tell you that you that you will learn to live with Cathy's absence in your life, and in Robert's."

She continued, "You and Cathy have a beautiful son, Lee. He's going to need your strength and guidance in his life and you can't sink into self-pity. That's easy, believe me, I know how easy it can be... I think that Admiral Nelson will agree with me. You don't want to do anything now but feel sorry for yourself. You're entitled to feel that way, but you can't do that either, son. Too many people depend on you. Grieve for Cathy, miss her, but don't die with her. You have a great many good things to live for, and the best one of all is upstairs, sound asleep in the nursery!"

"Your mother is right, Lee. I know how you are feeling. I've been where you are now...but you are so much more fortunate than I was. You have family, friends and that little boy of yours...as your mother said, Lee, this is a horrible thing and you've suffered, a horrible, horrible loss...but you're not to blame for it...and you have to go on. Every one in this room, in this house, needs you in some way. I can guarantee that much in your life. No one...nothing can replace what you and Cathy shared, and right now, none of us can share in the pain of your loss. We all lost someone dear to our hearts today...everyone that your wife touched, and she touched many, will carry a part of her with them. I would give my whole being for this not to have happened...but it did, and now you and the rest of us have to go on...there aren't any options here!!!"

"Mom...Admiral...my head knows that what you're saying is right...but what do I do about my heart...?"

The pain in his voice was so fresh and raw that neither had a ready answer.… Nelson thought for a few moments.…"You can lie down and die with her...or you can go on, day by day, and at some point, one day will go by and you won't feel the pain, and then gradually, you'll realize that the pain is gone, and its been replaced by a dull ache, and then one day that will be gone, too...and only once in a while it will hurt, or feel very so bad and then, well, someday all that will be left is a bittersweet memory of the hurt that comes to the surface when you're with a friend who is feeling that pain for the first time…."

When Crane looked at Nelson, and saw that same pain and grief that he was now suffering...It seemed to make the bond between the two of them grow stronger at that moment. "How...Admiral...how do you get through it.?"

"One day at a time, Lee...one day at a time.…"

The room remained quiet for a while, and then Nelson took charge. Very quietly he said, "Lee, there are some things that you have to decide."

"Yes, sir. Chip told me some of them. Angie has Cathy's dress whites to take to the ... Funeral Home in the morning. I have no idea about readings at the service...or music either, sir...."

He thought for a moment, and looked at the friends and family in the little room. (Angie had slipped in behind Chip; Patterson, and Rodriguez were just outside the doorway, Sharkey and Kowalski standing near them)

"But there is one thing I do know...I've thought about this a great deal. I don't want this to be a dark and somber service. That isn't...wasn't Cathy...She was light, and joy and sparkle...I want her service to show that...I can miss her, I will always love her, but I don't want her to be remembered sadly. I want her remembered with joy, and light and sparkle…."

His mother sat on the edge of the couch and put her arm around his shoulders, "She would like that Lee...celebrate her life...not her death..."

Lee stood, "Maybe I'll have a better idea in the morning, what I want read and sung...I think Jamie's sedative must be kicking in...all of a sudden, I am very tired...Excuse me…." With that, he went up the stairs, and closed the door to their room. There was little else for anyone to say of do, so they all began to take their leave. Morton was taking Angie home, Nelson was returning to the Institute, and taking Sharkey and Kowalski back to Seaview with him. Mrs. Crane was making arrangements for the two sailors to sleep in the Living Room, since she was using the guest room. They had all agreed to meet here in the morning at 0900, and as they all left, one by one all the lights in the little house went out, save the one in the upstairs bedroom.

 

***

 

Lee lay back on the bed...their bed...he still wore the clothes he'd worn when he left the boat...he felt awful...he knew he looked awful...and right now he really didn't care.... He’d taken his jacket and tie off at some point, and he didn't know where they were, and didn't care...he rolled onto his side, and stared at the other side of the bed...Cathy's side of the bed…

He closed his eyes and saw her…going through the rituals of going to bed...sitting there, brushing her hair, and talking to him, then getting up and checking on Robert, and coming to him in their bed...he reached out, and she wasn't there. All of his control finally broke, and he cried.

 

***

 

As Lee came down the stairs the next morning, his mother watched him carefully. Something had taken place during those early morning hours so that he had .prowled the upstairs, making many trips to and from the baby's room.

Perhaps, she thought ,perhaps he's beginning to come to grips with this...Lord knows how difficult it's going to be…She remembered how difficult it had been for him when his father died...and this kind of loss was so much worse .…

"'Morning, Mom."

"'Morning, Lee," she looked carefully at him. He was wearing his uniform khakis and was clean shaven. Except for the dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep, he looked better than he had the day before.

"Did you sleep at all, dear?"

"Some, Mom...you know, on the boat, on a mission...Cathy wasn't there, but I knew that I'd be coming home to her, and the baby, so I could sleep, even without her next to me...but here, and now..." His voice caught...She put her arm through his..."How'd you do it, Mom...?"

"I had you....I focused all my energy on you...you were all I had, there weren't any family and friends to help us. You have so much more, friends, family, your career, your boat....and of course, there's Robert...your beautiful Robert. You will come through his...you will." She walked him into the kitchen and Patterson and Rodriguez jumped up, and came to attention.

"As you were, men," he settled uneasily into their chairs and he took another seat at the table. Under ordinary circumstances, neither man would have been uncomfortable with their Captain...but these were not ordinary circumstances. They very quickly excused themselves, thanked Mrs. Crane, and left the room to post themselves at the front door. Helen Crane handed her son a cup of coffee and left the room. He sat at the table staring into the cup. He didn't hear her come back into the room. She tapped him on the shoulder and as he turned, she handed him Robert. The baby was wide awake and looking solemnly at his father. Lee couldn't help but to smile back at his son. His face, his smile, his personality were so like Cathy's. Helen handed him a bottle and he sat back and gave the baby the bottle. Lee watched every move that the baby made...the baby's dark eyes watched him back intently. The baby finished his bottle, Lee sat still holding him, as he now slept contentedly in his father's arms. How much like Cathy he looks.

He remembered the day that Robert had been born...doctors and nurses were checking the baby, and making Cathy comfortable, and then they handed him the baby. He put him into Cathy's arms, and the two of them had carefully counted every toe and finger as all new parents are wont to do. Cathy had been exhausted but the pure joy in her face made him want to burst with the love for her and their son. She'd looked up at him.

"Look, Lee, isn't he perfect.?? Didn't I tell you that our baby would be a son!! I knew it!!" They'd laughed, and the baby started to cry and the nurse stood by as Cathy had begun to nurse him.…

Lee looked at the sleeping baby in his arms, "Well, Robert, It looks like it's you and me now...I'm sorry that you'll never know your mother in person, but I promise you that you'll know how much she loved you, and how much we loved each other. It's not going to be easy on either one of us, but your Grandmother and the Admiral are right about one thing, we will get through this because of the love of our family and friends, as well as your mother's love...She's always going to be with us, Robert...every day for the rest of our lives.…" He kissed the baby gently on the forehead, and then looked up to see Helen Crane standing and watching them and crying, "Mom..., please...don't...I...need your strength... right now...I'm just afraid that I'm going to fail Cathy if I don't do this right... and worse...fail this little guy."

She stood next to him with a gentle hand on his shoulder, "Lee, the only person you have to worry about failing is Lee Crane. If you don't fail him, you won't fail anyone."

The doorbell rang. Helen leaned over and took the baby from his arms. He rose and they walked to the foot of the stairs. Morton and Angie stood in the foyer and as they came in Angie walked over to Helen, "How's my godson...?"

"Sleeping contentedly, right now..."She smiled at Cathy's friend, "Why don't you come up with me and we'll get him settled for a nap." They went up the stairs. Patterson had taken Morton's coat and hat.

"Lee, get any rest?"

"Not much, Chip...My mind's too busy...trying to cope...to plan..."

"You know that if there's anything at all..."

"I know."

The doorbell rang again. Harriman Nelson entered accompanied by his sister, Edith. She pushed her brother aside, and ran to Crane, and wrapped her arms around him, crying, "Oh, Lee, I'm so sorry...!!! I don't know what else to say...Cathy...Cathy was such a ...special girl...I..."

Lee put an arm around her shoulder and lead her to a chair in the Living Room, sat her down, and then knelt down on one knee in front of her, held her hand, patting it gently, “Thank you, Edith...Cathy…Cathy thought the world of you...she always admired how you handled the Admiral in the best and worst situations. She wanted you to teach her how to do it."

She couldn't help but laugh, “Harry’s easy to handle, when you realize that all he does is bark, not bite. I told Cathy that many times. You were very lucky, Lee. She loved you and Robert so very much...I'm going to miss her!!"

Quietly he looked her straight in the eye and said, "We all are...thank you, Edith...I know Cathy would appreciate what you said...." he rose and turned to Nelson.

The Admiral cleared his throat, "Edith, perhaps you could join Helen and Angie, we have some things to discuss."

The three men sat down, and Nelson grew not serious, but almost ominous. "Lee, I know that this isn't going to be easy, but ONI has a mission for us to undertake...in two days. They are... adamant about your participation.... and to be quite frank with you, I don't think that you should go. On the other hand, this may be a link to Cathy's ...accident and I think that you may want to be in on the kill so to speak…."

Crane's face was a study in conflicting emotions. Anger and grief mixed together. He wanted to get the people that had destroyed his private world. But do I want to do this now?

"Why the tight time line, Admiral?"

"All that they will tell me is that they want us underway by 0700 Thursday morning ... apparently this has been in the planning stages for the last six months and the timing is critical... but in my mind, the bottom line is, Lee, you don't have to do this if you don't want to...."

"Of course, I want to, sir... I want to get the bastards that killed my wife... However I've a lot to take care of here, first..."

 

***

 

To Lee Crane the next two days went quickly. Nelson wasn't able to get the ONI to put off the date of departure, but he did get the time of the departure changed. Seaview was to depart at 2200 hours Thursday evening. At least it gave them some additional time to prepare and plan.

The viewing and the Mass were to be private; the number of people that attended one or both events overwhelmed him. He had known that Cathy was well liked, even loved by those who knew her, but from the most important to the average person, all were eager to share their memories of her and to cry over her loss. Sacks of condolence letters and telegrams poured into the Institute, from the White House on down. Nelson set up a staff just to deal with the responses. And all the flowers that came to the Funeral Home required a separate room just for the overflow. Part of his mind, the part that was the rational observer to all of this, was glad that Cathy's father, Colonel F.X. Connors had not to come for his daughter's funeral. He had recently undergone a quintuple bypass surgery and his doctor had refused to allow him to travel. Uncharacteristically, Connors had listened to his doctor. Lee believed that the man couldn't face the loss and by not being there, he wouldn't have to acknowledge it until he was ready.

Lee realized what an impact Cathy had had on many people, and it made her absence even more painful. Everyone at the viewing was kind, and caring, and concerned about him and Robert, but Lee just wanted it to be over, so he could grieve alone. He wouldn't allow the coffin to be opened. He wanted Cathy to be remembered as she was when she was alive...and photos of her were placed around the room. She was happy and smiling full of life. That was how he wanted her remembered. Helen Crane had stayed at home with Robert, having told Angie that the girl belonged with Nelson and Chip to help Lee.

 

***

 

Crane returned to his home late that night, his heart heavy. All he wanted to do was to spend time alone with his son, their son. He found his mother in the baby's room. She looked up when he came in, "He's such a good baby, Lee...he reminds me of you at his age, but he's much more even tempered that you. Even at this age, you were a moody little one."

Lee laughed, and it felt good to laugh after the last few days. He picked up the baby, "More even tempered? I thought that I was the perfect baby, Mom, I didn't think I gave you any trouble at all."

She gently punched him in the arm, "You're terrible, Lee!"

Robert looked from his father to his grandmother, and back. Lee got serious again, "Do you think he knows his mother is gone, or is he just too young?"

"He knows Cathy's voice, and feel and touch are missing, but no, dear, he doesn't know...he'll never know. The only memories that he'll have will be what you share with him, what all of those who loved Cathy share with him."

"Then I know that I'll be spending a great deal of time with him," he looked down at the baby, "I want him to know his mother, to know and love her as much as I did…Isn't it well past his bedtime?"

"I was putting him down as you came in. Why don't you do it, Lee?  I'll go downstairs, and make us some coffee. I think we'll be having a long night." She left the room. He laid the baby down n his crib, took off his jacket and tie, turned down the lights and stood at the crib. Cathy had such plans for this baby and the larger family that they had planned to have. Well now he'd have to see the plans were carried out, even if Cathy wasn't going to be a part of it. But now he had to think. Robert needed some one to take care of him, daily, especially when he was on the boat. He looked at his son...their son...the baby was asleep. He sat in the rocker and watched the baby. An hour or so later, he came down into the kitchen. Helen Crane was busying herself in the kitchen, and when he came in she turned, "Coffee, Lee...?"

He nodded and sat at the table. As she poured it for him, he asked, "Can you stay, Mom? At least until this mission is over?"

"I'm closing the house in Providence, Lee. My sister will take care of the details. I'll stay as long as you and Robert need me."

Lee nodded his thanks, "I don't want to put you out, but there's no one else that I can turn to."

"Hush...Lee, there's nothing in the East for me but memories. Any life I can have is here, now, with you and my grandson. Any other decisions can wait. I'll be here to help, if you need me.

There was a knock at the door, and Rodriguez ushered Chip Morton and Nelson into the Kitchen.

"Coffee is on the stove, Chip...Admiral. I'll see you in the morning, Lee."

The officers sat at the table.

"Lee, we have more information from ONI. At least I know now why they planned on using you for this mission."

He handed Crane a manila folder, and as his Captain read it, he continued, "It seems that in a certain Eastern European country, the only underground contact that we have is one of your contacts. They will only deal with you and they have information that we need. The information is regarding the development of nuclear capability in that country. Very Top Secret , and it's you or no one to retrieve it."

"So we have a catch 22, sir. Whether or not I want to go , I am going," he sighed, resigned, and Nelson started to protest.

"It's alright, sir...I will go on the mission. Cathy would be the last person to stop me. In fact, knowing the importance, she'd have my bags packed and be shoving me out the door. "

"Lee, are you very sure...this is a dangerous mission..."

"I'm sure, sir. Any mission we pull for the ONI is dangerous. I'll be fine, sir...and everything here is in order. My mother is going to stay here with Robert; Chip and Angie have agreed to his guardianship in case something happens to me. It's all arranged."

Nelson shook his head sadly, “I just wish it wasn't so soon, Lee... you need time"

"Wishing won't bring Cathy back, Admiral...it won't change what's taken place... It won't change what needs to be done,  and time, well, time is something we don't have, sir, not with the people that we're dealing with. If they thought that killing Cathy would stop me, they're going to be sadly mistaken. And perhaps very surprised."

"Lee, after the service tomorrow, we're going to announce that you're going into seclusion. Your mother and Robert with you.... I want the other side to believe that you are so devastated by this that you can't function. I hate to use Cathy's death in this way, but it will help to mislead them. Have your mother pack a bag for the baby and herself. I want to take the three of you in one car back here to the Institute grounds. We're going to use one of the cottages on the cliff, you know the ones that we use for visiting dignitaries...the three of you will be staying there, only during the night, you'll leave and make your way to Seaview. We'll have one of the men from security with your build and coloring stay with them, and masquerade as you. No one can get on the grounds, and near you at all, so the other side will believe that you haven't left with the Seaview and that should throw them off at least for a while. And your mother and Robert will be safe."

"At this point, Admiral, their safety is my only concern."

"I know that, Lee. And I promise you, they will be safe...we'll make sure of it. No more senseless loss..."

The next day was probably the most difficult day that Lee Crane had ever faced. In all of his dreams, fantasies, or worst nightmares, he never thought he'd be burying his young wife. The Mass, however joyful it was, and it was a celebration of her life…tore at his soul. It shouldn't be Cathy!!! It just shouldn't be!

He felt like he was going thru the motions of being there, but his heart and soul weren't there. They were in the coffin in the church aisle. The church was packed with people and the ceremony at the gravesite was just as crowded. She had been in the Naval Reserve, so she received a military funeral, with a 21 gun salute, and Taps. Then an Honor Guard was handing him a flag and shaking his hand and saying the words of condolence he'd heard so often the last few days; people were leaving... and then the only ones left were his mother and the baby, Nelson, Morton and Angie.

He bent down and put a hand on the coffin." Oh, Cats... If only things were different...I'm so sorry...I love you, Cats...always and forever...Don't worry about Robert...I'll take good care of him...you know I will..."

Nelson and Morton came to each side of him. Bending over, Chip said, "C'mon, Lee...let's get going... we have to get back to the Institute..."

"No, Chip, I want to stay with Cathy just a little longer…."

"Lee, this isn't good. You have to come with us now. Helen and the baby need to rest. You have to get them settled in the cottage."

Lee looked at them blankly, totally absorbed in his grief and self-pity. This moment, the only place he wanted to be was with Cathy, and Cathy was here.

"C'mon, Skipper," Morton prodded again .

Numbly, Lee rose and let them guide him to the waiting limousines. Mrs. Crane and Robert were waiting in the limo, when Nelson and Chip guided Crane into the car. She reached out to him, but pulled back when she saw his face. She recognized that look of utter loss. She knew it well. She had seen it on her own face in the mirror when she had lost her husband.

It's all over, it's so final. Cathy...I'll never hold you in my arms again...never feel you next to me...we won't watch Robert grow up together...We won't grow old together... God, how I miss you....

Lee looked at his son, sleeping in his grandmother's arms. He shook his head sadly, and reached for the baby.

Cats...he is all of you that I have left...please, never doubt how precious he is to me... never doubt that I will protect him with my life, if I must...That's where I failed you, Cats... and I will blame myself for that for the rest of my life...but, Cats, they all are telling me that I have to go on with my life and right now, I just don't want to go on without you!

Crane looked over at Nelson...It seemed as if the older man was reading his mind.…

"Lee, don't go there in your mind. If you do, you won't come back, and we need you to be here with us...carry Cathy in your heart and mind...but be here with us..."

For a few moments, Harriman Nelson was afraid that they might have lost Lee Crane, that he was going to go to that private place and not come back... but then….

Lee knew he couldn't go to that private place, if for no other reason. Cathy wouldn't want him to. She would want him to go on and live his life; to raise their son...to be with their friends and loved ones and to do his duty to the Admiral, the Seaview, the ONI and all his other commitments...and to keep her in that private part of his mind and heart.

He looked at Nelson and the O.O.M. saw that the lost and far away look was gone.

"I'm OK, Admiral.  Just feeling like a boat without a rudder...I just have to hope that I can find one...." His mother took the baby from his arms.

Nelson spoke, "Helen, you and Robert are going to be staying in a cottage at the Institute until this particular mission is over. There will be a security man who looks like Lee staying there with you."

She looked at him sharply.

"Lee is going on this mission, but we have to make the people, who we believe were involved in Cathy's death, believe that Lee is incapable of taking part in it...that he's in the midst of an emotional breakdown over his wife's death. And that he can't function at all in terms of his duties."

"And how can I help with all of this?"

"Be as attentive to Jefferson, the security man as you would be to your own son, under these circumstances."

Lee smiled at his mother, "I'm sure that you'll find her a good actress, sir.

"Lee, I want you to come to Seaview at 2400 hours. That will give us plenty of time to ready the boat and make our plans. I don't have to tell you that you can't be seen leaving the cottage."

"No, sir...Just have Jefferson ready to assume the role."

They arrived at the Institute gates, and were quickly waved through. They arrived at a row of cottages, at the far end of the Institute grounds. A half-dozen tiny bungalows, left over from the '30's, and designed as beach cottages, sat on the edge of the lawn, 1/2 mile from the main buildings, overlooking the ocean. They were small but charming little buildings with two bedrooms, a sitting room and a kitchen and were kept by the Institute as guest housing. With the worldwide recognition of NIMR, many scientists were often present for months on end and the cottages offered convenience and privacy.

There was a great deal of activity at the center cottage as the limousine pulled up. Nelson was the first out of the car, followed by Crane, his mother and the baby. Baby furniture was being carried in by burly sailors; Patterson and Rodriguez were already standing duty at the door. Nelson's other secretary, Trish, was stocking the refrigerator and the cabinets. There were baby supplies all over the sitting area. It was a chaotic scene.

Crane shook his head and turned to the Admiral, "Sir, if you don't mind...I just can't deal with this right now...I'm going down to the beach...I'll be back."

He left his hat and jacket on the porch, shoved his hands in his pockets and walked toward the sea....

 

***

 

He spent the next several hours just walking the beach and watching the sea. He was saying good-bye to his Heart in his own way, so wrapped up in his thoughts and grief, that he didn't see Nelson standing on the rise watching him as he walked.

Lee remembered the many hours he and Cathy had spent on this beach. They had discovered it as a private place in the midst of the hustle of their unusual lives. It was close enough to come to even if they only had a few hours together between missions and duty watches. They would often meet at one of their offices in the main building and then wander over to here. They would walk and talk and sit and watch the ocean. The sea played such a huge part in their daily lives.

It was on this beach that they had finally admitted that they loved one another…it was to this beach that they came after breaking the news of their engagement to Nelson, Chip and Angie...it was here that they planned their wedding…and it was here that they came to introduce Robert to the sea and sky several weeks after he had been born. They wanted him to get to know the peace and serenity of the place. Fulfilled and complete was the way that the two of them felt after that night.

So now he came here to try to say a final good bye. He sat on the sand, staring at the ocean.…

Well, Cathy, here I am. I want to think that you're somewhere out there...safe and happy... I hope so. You know that I want to be with you, Cats...but you and I know that I can't be. The priest today said that it was your time to go to God; that He needed you with Him in a greater way then we did.

I can't believe that He needs you more than we do. That it was time for you to leave the baby and me. I still need you so much!!! Robert needs you. I miss your touch, your smile...the feel of you near me. Why did you have to leave me now??? I know it wasn't your choice, but that doesn't help m.

I don't believe that I have ever felt so alone, Cats. Sounds funny, doesn't it? Alone with all these people around me. I know they care, they worry, they even love...but I am still alone without you. I can't believe that you're gone from me forever, Cats.

I guess it will take a long time for me to accept it. But last night, in the nursery...I would have sworn that you were standing there, next to me, at the crib...looking down at our sleeping son. I could almost feel you there, I even turned around to check...but you weren't there, were you?

Are you nearby at all, Cathy? Are you watching over Robert even now? Will you be with him when I'm not? This is so difficult, Cats.

They don't teach you how to deal with this at the Academy or at ONI... there is no course to teach how to bury your wife and your heart.

But the Admiral has been a good friend, Cats...he does know how this feels, and you know, it helps. Chip is trying his best to help me too, he just doesn't know what to do, so he takes over and organizes everything, and that's a big help, too…Angie's been great with Robert, and my mother is going to be staying with us, at least until this all settles down, if it ever does

I don't know, Cats...I hope that it all works out. Without you here, I have my doubts. I know that I have to say goodbye to you and let you go, but I'm just not ready for that yet. Please just stay with me a little while longer….

For the first time since the nightmare had begun, he felt at peace with himself. He walked back to the cottage. Things seemed more settled now. Helen Crane had a pot of coffee on the table (It seemed to him that his mother had always had a pot of coffee on the table.) Nelson, Chip, and Angie sat in the little sitting room. The baby was asleep in the bedroom.

Lee sat in a free chair. He was more relaxed and at ease than he'd been in the last few days. He could put his sorrow and loneliness aside, and now focus on the mission that was ahead. “Admiral, the plans, sir...?"

"First, is to get you to the boat...how is strictly up to you. We need you there at 2400 hours. We sail tomorrow at 2200 hours. You have to remain out of sight at the dock until we leave. We’ll have to meet in your cabin and restrict the crew to the boat, once you are onboard."

"Any chance that we can sail before that time...?"

"I really don't know...I'll try to arrange an earlier debark. This whole thing has to be carefully choreographed; especially if we want to keep them believing that you are here at the Institute. The underground there obviously has a leak, if this whole nightmare is any indication of their security."

"Well, then perhaps we'd better not let the underground know that I'm coming to the rendezvous until we get there."

"I concur. Chip, let's get out of here, and make it look like we're getting to the boat without Lee. You’ll be at the boat in 8 hours, Lee?"

"Aye sir," Lee walked them to the door of the tiny bungalow.. and they made a show of leave taking... Morton was to take Angie to the offices...the Admiral going right to the boat. Crane closed the door, and sat again in the small sitting room.

Helen came into the room. “Lee, why don't you try to get some rest before you leave tonight...?"

"I'm okay, Mom...I want to spend some time with Robert before I leave...even if he's sleeping. You and he will be okay, here, won't you?"

"Oh, yes, and those two nice young sailors ... I just can't do anything without one or the both of them trying to help. Robert and I will be fine. I just hope you will be.”

Lee stood and put his arms about her, “It’s going to take some time, I think, and I'm not even used to the idea yet that Cathy won't be here when we return, but for now, as long as Robert is alright, I'll be okay."

Lee gave her a kiss on the cheek and went into the room that she would soon be sharing with the baby. Robert was snuggled in a corner of the crib. Lee stood there just looking at his son. There was so much of Cathy in him, now...would that change as he grew? He reached down and held a tiny fist...so small...so helpless.…Cats, I hope that you're here ...now,...watch over him until I return...I love you both so very much!!!

 

***

 

At 2345 hours a shadow-figure slipped out of the cottage. The night was with him...there was a low cloud cover, and no moon… He moved along the cottage, and down to the beach, and made his way along the beach to the cove where Seaview's dock was. As he made his way along the sub, undetected, he made a mental note to again chastise the Chief of Security for his laxness. He was able to get onto the boat, and into the Control Room without being challenged for the second time in his experience with 'his' boat. As he landed in the Control Room and turned around, he found a 'welcoming' committee waiting , armed.

He smiled, “Better, gentlemen, but still not perfect...Kowalski?"

"Aye, Skipper?"

"Not taking any chances this time?"

Ski rubbed his jaw in remembrance, and grinned, “No, Sir!!...I remember too well!!"

"Very well...Mr. O'Brien...I want the security detail tightened, especially while we're berthed, even here at the Institute. No one, not even me, should be able to get near to her, much less board her. I am gong to be in the Admiral's cabin if I 'm needed...and no one is to leave the boat from this point on....all officers and crew are restricted to the boat!!!"

He turned on his heel, and went down the companionway to officer's country. He approached Nelson's quarters and knocked on the door.

"Come, Lee."

He was a little startled, “Is Psychic ability a new trick, sir?"

"No, Lee, not at all...O'Brien put me wise. You tried your 'see if I can get aboard and not get caught trick' and you did. O’Brien thinks that you're about to have his head."

"Well, sir, it was a little better that before; but I still maintain I shouldn't have gotten into the Control Room at all, no matter where we are berthed. I want the security tightened!!!"

"I'm afraid that this time I agree with you. In light of the recent events...we will have to tighten it up..."

"I've already put Bob on it...where's Chip??"

"Supervising the loading of some equipment we need for the mission. We leave here at 1800 hours. The contact that we are supposed to get the information from is a Czech by the name of Ivan Podenski."

Crane looked at the O.O.M. with a bit of surprise on his face, “No wonder they are going to do all they can to stop the exchange of information. He was my only contact in the government...and directly a part of the defense ministry. He will have accurate information. Until now, I was the only one to know that he was a sympathizer to the West. Are we going to bring him out?"

"That's one of the reasons he will only see you. Washington feels that if he wants asylum, we give it to him and leave the area immediately. If his information is valid...even better...but ONI believes that only you can pull this off. He wants to defect, but quite frankly he is afraid."

"I know why, sir. Several years ago, Podenski had a very good friend who chose to defect to the West. He was caught, publicly tortured for several days, and then he was killed.... It was quite a warning to the underground at the time. Very little information came out until about a year ago...since then Podenskl's been our only contact. If he doesn't want to leave, then what do we do? Take the information and run?"

"And then hope that the information is correct. That’s why we need you. To convince him."

"And if he won't be convinced? There's always the option to take him...then we could be sure of the information. Of course, ONI would need to approve such a plan."

"Draft it and we'll send it to them...it is a good option, again considering the leak...but ONI cannot inform the underground of the plans, just one leak and we'll both be dead..!"

"Once again," Nelson continued, " I agree. Lee...Let's prep to get underway, and send the information to ONI ASAP."

"Aye, sir. I’ll get into uniform and be back here in twenty minutes.... Admiral, perhaps, just as an extra precaution...why don't we hold the plan to take Podenski with us until we reach the area...then send it scrambled and secured? That way we gain more time and allow us some leeway in the progress of the operation. I really don't want to take chances with Podenski's life if I don't have to."

"Okay, Lee, since this is your contact, you basically call the shots...Let's get ready to get underway…."

Fortunately, for all involved, Seaview ran as an efficient boat. Little had to be said or done to get her ready to get underway. She was, due to her crew and their loyalty, always at the ready, unless she was having major repairs. In short order, her extra materials were loaded, supplies loaded, and systems checked. Precisely 1800 hours, she slid out of her berth, onto her next mission

 

***

 

At the top of the hill, above the beach, by a little row of cottages, two figures stood and watched as the Seaview slid into the Pacific...an older woman with a baby, and a younger man, tall and dark, in a khaki uniform, with the rank of commander. The younger man had his arm protectively around the woman's shoulder...to any one watching, it looked like Lee Crane was watching the Seaview leave…

 

***

 

On the boat, the crew fell into their regular routines. It would not be a long cruise, but as the entire crew had been briefed on the mission, they were again ready to rise to the challenge.

Morton and Crane spent many hours in the Observation Nose, refining the plans for the mission.

Crane seemed to be all over the boat at all hours...checking on his crew, their jobs, and the condition of the boat in general. He seemed to take very little down time, being seen at all hours, on all watches, seeming to be all over at all times.

Nelson finally spoke to him after several complete watches passed, “Lee ... Chip tells me that you've been all over the boat at all times. I know why you are doing this...believe me, I do, but I need to point a few things out to you. You need to be in top form for this mission, with your senses sharp, and your wits about you. I know that you are running on your reserves, and you need them for the mission...so, here are your orders...as of right now, you are temporarily relieved of duty. You are to report to Dr. Jamison in Sick Bay, and you will be confined to either the Sick Bay or your quarters for the next 14 hours. You will accept some medication to help you sleep, and you will not consult with Morton on the running of this boat unless it is an emergency that we seek you out. Chip has his orders, and they are just as strict as yours. Neither of you are to consult with each other at all." His tone changed to a friendlier one, “I know that this is hard on you, Lee... I know that the reason that you are all over the boat, is that you can't or don't want to sleep...I understand...but you do need to be at your best for the mission to be a success. Try and sleep, Lee, with Doc's help... and remember... you can talk to me…”

Crane ran fingers through his hair in a nervous gesture. He knew that he wasn't at his best. Nelson was right, he needed his sleep, but he didn't want to sleep. When he tried to sleep, he dreamt of the accident...and Cathy...and that didn't give him the peace he was seeking at this time.

"I know, sir...I just don't want to sleep right now," he sat at the table facing the Admiral. "How can I rest when all I dream of is the accident? All I see is Cathy lying on that table in the Med Center...."

"Doc is going to give you a very strong sedative...he says it will put you subconscious mind beyond REM sleep...Try it...it will give you the rest that you need."

"Aye, sir...I'll report right now."

 

***

 

He left the Observation Nose and headed down the corridor to the Sick Bay, and entered the outer room to find Jamison waiting for him. Doc handed him the Sick Bay issue robe and pajamas, and Crane moved to the curtained area, and changed into them. He came out and sat on the treatment table.

Jamison did a cursory check, “Skipper, I think that it's best that you stay here...this is a pretty strong sedative, and I want to keep and eye on you... it should allow you to sleep for 10 to 14 hours."

Doc took a hypodermic needle from the cabinet, and filled it from a small vial. Doc pushed up Crane's sleeve and gave him the needle...when he finished, he took the Captain by the arm and led him to bunk. “Here, sir...you should sleep for a good while."

Already drowsy, he nodded, “Thanks, Doc...this may help."

Jamison went to his desk and paged Nelson, "Admiral, could you come to Sick Bay, sir?"

"Sure, Doc, I'll be right there."

Ten minutes later, Nelson knocked lightly and entered a darkened Sick Bay. Jamison was sitting at his desk...a single light on. "Come in sir...please sit down."

"Well, Doc, how is Lee...really...?"

"On the verge of severe exhaustion. If he can sleep for the ten to 14 hours we've allowed him, it should help. I just don't understand why he had to go on this mission right now. He needs time to grieve, Admiral, to begin to put his life in order again... to spend time with his son...to start to heal. He can't do it with a task like this in front of him."

"The problem is, Doc, Lee's the only one who can make the mission a success...he's the only one that the contact knows and trusts. I know that it's a big risk...but when the ONI decides that we go...short of our own death, we go."

"Even if the lead agent is close to breakdown himself?"

"Are you saying Lee's close to breakdown?"

"He very well could be, if he doesn't get some rest and he doesn't stop pushing himself, so that he can push his loss out of his mind and not deal with it...he needs time, Admiral.

"And time is what we don't have, Doc. This has to be done now...or there are world wide consequences to be felt."

"Understood, sir…I don't have to like it, though, I'll inform you when the Captain wakes up"

"Thanks, Doc."

 

***

 

Lee dreamed of Cathy and the baby, and their life together... of the first time they met at the Admiral's offices at NIMR after he'd taken over Seaview following John Phillips untimely death. She’d been a burst of energy in the Institute. Organized, efficient, bright...everything that the O.O.M. needed in an Executive Assistant. She was good at bossing Nelson around, too. Lee had been waiting to see him, when she had burst into the office, passed him acknowledged Angie, and began to give the Admiral her own version of a tongue lashing for not signing some papers or another about some funding of a Project. Lee had heard every word that she'd said….

"And furthermore, Admiral...how on God's good earth do you expect me to keep this all afloat here while you are out gallivanting around on the Seaview, if you don't at least sign the papers I leave for you when you are in port!!! Really sir, I need you to cooperate with me on this...!!!"!

Nelson sat with a grin on his face and then said, “Finished, Connors?" he laughed heartily.... She laughed with him... and then Nelson had called Crane into the office....

"Lee, come on in here and meet my Executive Assistant."

Crane entered the office.

"Cathy Connors...Commander Lee Crane..."

Lee was grinning at her, and she had returned the smile.

"Pleased to meet you, Commander. Your reputation precedes you..."

Lee quirked an eyebrow, “Good or bad, Miss Connors?"

"Let's just say it's a mixed review, and it's Cathy. I know we'll be seeing a lot of each other, now that you're skippering that toy of the Admiral's out there."

"Toy is it, Cathy?" he laughed again, “Cathy, Lee and I have some things to discuss."

"Begging the Admiral's pardon, but I am not leaving this office until you sign these Grant papers!!!"

"Alright, alright, just give them to me!!"

She handed Nelson the paperwork, he quickly skimmed them and then signed them with a flourish. “There, happy now?” he asked her with a smile on his face.

"Until the next time. After your meeting with the Captain, you have a meeting at 1300 hours with the ONI office, and at 1500 with the heads of the Research departments, here. You have to allocate the funding for the new project... your work related to Admiral Falk's air mixture research and the Seaview dive..."

She turned on her heel and charged out of the room, leaving Nelson smiling.

"She's quite a dynamo, eh, Lee?'

"Yes, sir. I…"

With that she stuck her head back into the Office, “Sorry, Captain Crane...didn't mean to be rude...good to meet you."

And and she was gone…

Crane continued to dream...or remember... all that his conscious mind wouldn't call up... all the very good times and all the very bad. They'd weathered so much together...and now there was no more together... Cathy was gone...she was gone….

In Sick Bay, Jamison hovered near the bunk where Crane was sleeping . He was concerned about the Captain.. his sleep was a restless one, not the deep dreamless sleep that he'd tried to induce. He had a real concern for the Captain's peace of mind and his ability to function in the stress of this mission.

In his professional opinion, Lee Crane was not ready for the current mission. But he was not consulted...so all he could do was to see that the Skipper was as ready as he could make him. "Admiral...this is Sick Bay...The Skipper is waking up sir...you wanted to be informed.…"

"Thanks Doc, I'll be right there."

As Lee slowly came to consciousness, he heard the soft voices in the background.…

"Admiral, I want to go on record as being strongly against the Captain's participation in this mission... I just don't feel he is medically ready for the mission. He's been thru a great deal...I am worried about his stability.…"

Crane sat up slowly in the bunk, "He's stable enough, Doc...I'm much better, thank you. I just needed some sleep, and thanks to you, I got some. I really do feel better..!!"

He swung his legs onto the floor and stood, “Admiral, what's the ETA to the landing site? And,” he grinned, "the condition of MY boat...? Do I have the doctor's permission to speak to my Exec?"

Jamison nodded in the affirmative and Crane walked over to the wall mike, "Mr. Morton, this is the Captain, what's the status of the boat, Chip...?"

"She's at the ready, Skipper...speed is all ahead flank....ETA 2330 hours...all departments report everything is ship-shape."

"Thanks, Chip."

He turned back to the two men in the Doctor's office, "Doc, if I have your okay, I'll retire to my quarters to change and shower. Admiral, we need to finalize the landing plans. I’ll report to your quarters in a half hour."

 

***

 

There was a light knock on Nelson's door, "Come."

"Admiral.…"

"Sit down, Lee."

"Yes, sir."

"I know that you heard what Jamie had to say in the Sick Bay. You know that we have been very worried about your state of mind...dealing with Cathy's death, knowing it was the result of some work that either you or she was involved with. Your concern about your son…. and then ONI throwing this mission at you. We can still abort it, Lee...there's no reason on the earth to continue if you don't feel able to go through with it.

"I know all of that sir, and I know that I can call this off in a minute if I want. I don't want to Admiral. Cathy was my life, my heart, and she's dead, and I have to deal with that. We have son. He's of Cathy that I have left. I intend to cherish him, love him, protect him with all that I am...by being part of Seaview, by working with you , ONI, and all that we do here. I am doing all of that for Robert...and for many others too. This mission is difficult; I do wish I had more time to resolve this. But I don't, and we can't abort. So, what are the final plans? Have we notified the underground of our arrival?"

"Sparks is set to notify them at 2330 hours when we reach the rendezvous point. They will have 30 minutes to respond and meet us...if not we leave...and Podenski takes his chances. If they meet us, then we go with them, and we have ten hours to return to the rendezvous point. If we do not return within the window, then Chip has orders to return to the States without us.

The plan does depend on the relationship that you have with the man. If he trusts you enough, then you can convince him to return to the States with us, and he can deliver his information to the ONI himself. Needless to say, that's what they'd prefer.…"

"Only one question, sir. Why the we? I usually work alone on these missions."

"Not this time, Lee. ONI wants the best chance to get Podenski to the States. They feel the two of us stand a better chance."

"It does, however increase the risks of the mission. I assume that the orders include a 'just in case'?

"Yes, Lee...here they are. We are each to carry one."

"No prisoners?"

"No prisoners. We can't be captured. I have one for Podenski as well, if he decides to come with us."

"Very well, sir. We will make the rendezvous and contact in 2 hours. The orders are very clear. I'd like to go over the protocol with Chip."

"Good, we'll meet in the Nose at The FS1 at 2330."

 

***

 

At 2315 Crane stood in the Observation Nose, dressed in his usual undercover garb; black turtleneck, black slacks, black leather jacket. He was adjusting his shoulder holster as Nelson came down the spiral staircase to the Nose, similarly dressed.

"Sparks has sent the message, Admiral. We're awaiting a reply."

"FS1 ready?"

"Aye, sir, Chip's done the preflight check. Sharkey is below, waiting for us...he'll stay with the sub while we're ashore. She's ready and waiting."

"Skipper.…"

"Yes, Sparks?"

"Message coming in from your contacts, sir. In your code, sir."

"Be right there."

Crane went to the Radio Shack, and Sparks handed him a sheet of paper. He studied it carefully, and the returned to the Nose and Nelson, and put the paper on the table. “Confirmation from the underground, sir. They'll meet us at the designated site in 20 minutes. Podenski is waiting to talk to us at undisclosed location."

"Good, Lee, than let's get moving...Chip, are the orders understood?"

"Yes, sir. If you and the Skipper don't return in ten hours, we are to leave and return to the states. Good Luck."

"Thanks, Chip."

They descended into the Flying Sub, and moments later, she was away from the sub.

 

***

 

The men came ashore in a secluded cove, in a rubber raft. The Flying Sub slid back under the water to await their return. Sharkey would keep her ready and waiting.

Crane and Nelson stowed the raft, checked their equipment, and made their way to the cliff base. As they waited for their contacts to arrive, Nelson quietly studied Crane. To look at him at this moment, no one would possibly know what the young Captain had been through the last few days. He was as intent on their mission as he was at any time.

Maybe ONI was right in sending Lee out now... maybe this will help him come to grips with the dramatic changes in his life... a 'passionate, committed man’ Doc had said...maybe this will be a good after all as long as we can help him maintain that commitment!

They looked up when they heard movement in the rocks above. Both men became very still, and watched the cliff with care. Very slowly and carefully three men came out of the cliff base. They were heavily armed and warily looking around.

Nelson flicked a small flashlight in a prearranged code signal, and waited, anxiously for the correct response. One of the men reached into a coat pocket and pulled out a similar light, and flashed a response.

Nelson and Crane slowly and carefully moved out of their hiding places and onto the clearing where the three men waited.

Crane studied the men's faces, and then moved toward one of them with a hand extended in greeting, “Ivan, it's been a while."

The other man grabbed Crane's arm and shook it heavily, "It has been a while, my friend, I have read of your troubles, and I am very sorry for you."

"Thank you...I would imagine that you are anxious to leave aren't you?"

He hesitated a bit, then said, "Well yes, I am, but not just yet...I must go back to the village to retrieve the information that I have promised your government. I did not bring it with me, for if you had not come, I would not be leaving so easily. I trust no one these days that I have not known for a long time. Come gentlemen, we have but a short trip into the town."

Nelson spoke for the first time to the men, "You'll pardon us, sir, if we want to make certain of one thing, Crane and I must have a moment to discuss this."

"Why of course, we'll just wait over here…." The three men moved to the base of the cliff out of hearing of the Seaview’s officers.

"Well, Lee, what do we do, your call here...can we trust the man?"

"As far as I know him, I’d say yes. It’s not Ivan that I'm concerned about. It's the leak in the underground. If the leaders here know that he plans to defect, they could be setting a trap, for him and for us!!"

"Do we take the chance?"

"Can we afford not to? "

"If the information he holds is what ONI was told...then we have to go.."

"Agreed....Let's get moving...Morton is on a time schedule just like we are, and we don't want to miss the rendezvous..!!"

Crane walked over to Podenski. "Lead the way, my friend...we have to return here as quickly as possible."

"Very well, then, follow us."

They climbed thru the rocks and cliffs for a good half hour, and finally came to a clearing several hundred feet from a small village. The village was very old, like so many European villages.

Podenski turned quietly to Crane, “Wait here... I will return in twenty minutes. If I do not, then leave without me, you and your friend cannot be caught here."

Crane grabbed his shoulders, “Wait..."and handed him a small glass capsule with a single white pill inside..."If you are caught…."

"Cyanide?"

"Yes...Good luck."

"Thank you, my friend..."moved off into the darkness, and Crane hunkered down next to Nelson. They waited, tension keeping them to their own thoughts, with no desire to speak to one another. Twenty minutes went by the tension increased.

"I don't like this Admiral, in all my dealings with him, he's been prompt, even early, never late."

"We'll give him a few minutes more, and then we'll leave...You did give him the capsule..?"

"Aye, sir....He seemed very grateful."

They heard scuffling footsteps, and looked in the direction of the village path. Two men stumbled into the clearing. One fell and the other looked around for the Seaview's men. Nelson and Crane came out of their hiding place, and Crane bent over the fallen man.

"Ivan...?"

He answered in a husky whisper, “Yes, my friend... we were attacked as we left the village...they will be coming after us.... they knew!!!"

"How badly are you hurt?"

" Not badly at all...I just seem to have twisted my leg...Sergei is dead, however Pieter is here, and unharmed....will your country give him asylum as well?"

"I'm sure of it. Here, let me help you up."

"We must move quickly, Captain...they are close behind us."

"Admiral... he's ready to come with us…."

"Good, Lee...Let's get moving, I'm sure Sharkey is getting anxious about our return."

They hurried down the cliff as fast as they could, allowing the man called Pieter to lead them...Nelson, Podenski and then Crane followed. As they neared the beach, the noises behind them grew louder, and they heard the sound of dogs.

Nelson muttered, "Damn...!" In a strained whisper he called to Crane, “Watch your flank, Lee."

"Aye, sir," came the terse reply, "You go on, I'll leave them a little surprise and meet you at the beach."

The three men moved on, and Crane reached into his pockets to retrieve three small cylinders. He set them across the path and released a long almost invisible wire several feet behind that. He listened carefully, to determine how far the searchers were from his location. Doing his mental math, he calculated he would have to stay there at least three minutes more to make the ambush a success.

He saw that the party had reached the beach, and Nelson had the rubber boat ready to go. Crane waited a little longer and as the first of the search party reached near to him, he yanked the wire, and the canisters exploded with smoke and noise. That set the dogs into a frenzy and allowed him to make his way to the beach. Those in the search party that were able look down at the beach and the men on it, and began firing at them.

Nelson had the boat in the water and the two men already in it. He was waiting for Crane.

Firing his gun at the searchers, Crane adopted a run and hide tactic with their pursuers. He reached the beach, Nelson was gesturing for him to hurry...there were bullets flying everywhere… His fear was that one or more would strike the raft...and then, just a few feet short of the raft, as Lee turned to fire back again, he felt something slam into his chest...he knew he was hit. Nelson was reaching for him, and Lee was trying to get to the raft. He forced himself to stay conscious, to get to the raft, and with Nelson's help and that of the others, he got in. But as they pushed from the shore, he collapsed into unconsciousness.

 

***

 

Crane opened his eyes to Sharkey's concerned face bending over him. He was in FS1. He could see Nelson in the pilot's seat, and he felt the movement of the sub as she sped along underwater.

"Easy, Skipper…don't try to move...there's a slug in your chest... I've stopped the bleeding, but Doc's gonna have to get it out I can't tell if it's done any damage, sir.'

"I'll be ... alright Chief... our passengers, the O.O.M. they're okay? "

"Yes, sir...Mr. Podenski has a twisted knee, but other than that they're ok...Just rest, now, Skipper...we'll be at the boat in twenty minutes...Doc's waiting for us…."

Lee's chest felt like it was on fire, and when he tried to shift and move the universe around him roared and covered him in blackness.

Nelson turned to look over at the bunk, “Chief, how bad is it?"

"He's unconscious again, sir... I've stopped the bleeding… but I think that Doc's gonna' have to take care of it right away. I can't tell how deep the bullet went in or if it hit anything vital."

Sharkey moved forward into the co-pilot's seat, “I’ve put a compression bandage on it and wrapped it, sir."

"Okay, Francis. We’ll be aboard Seaview in less than twenty minutes."

 

***

 

At least a dozen crewmen were waiting as the hatch opened. There were several Corpsmen with a stretcher, and Doc was waiting in the background. Nelson was the first one up the ladder, followed by the two informants.

Sharkey called up to the waiting crewmen, “All right, you guys, a couple of you get down here and give me a hand with the Skipper!!!!"

As the crewmen went down the hatch Nelson turned to Morton, “Chip, get one of the men to escort Mr. Podenski to the Sick Bay, and show his companion to quarters. Once we have Lee on his way to Sick Bay, get underway, then have Sparks contact the ONI, and let them know the mission was a success."

Morton looked at Nelson, with a question on his face, “Sir?"

"Well, we got the man and the information. The fact that Lee's been shot is not a factor to ONI. As far as they see it, the mission is successful."

"Aye, sir... Is Lee...?"

"Our evaluation is a chest wound, no exit wound, he's been in and out of consciousness.... We’ll have to let Doc make any further assessments. "

He looked over toward the FS1's hatch as the activity there increased. The Captain was gingerly carried up the ladder, and laid on the waiting stretcher. Doc began issuing orders and the stretcher was hurriedly carried out of the Control Room.

Morton turned to Nelson, “We’re under control here, sir...why don't you go on down to Sick Bay? I'll keep you appraised of all here."

"Fine, Chip. I'll be in the Sick Bay, then."

Nelson strode out of the Control Room and down the corridor.

Nelson knocked and entered Sick Bay. Jamison was bending over the gurney where the Captain lay. Nelson moved behind him. Corpsmen were scurrying back and forth around the room, as the Medic was barking orders.

"Doc...?"

"Not now, Admiral, please...I'll inform you when I've finished...."

"Mind if I stay here in the background?"

"No, sir, just please, stay out of my way right now…."

Nelson melted into the shadows of Sick Bay as Doc continued to work on the Captain. At times he shook his head and swore to himself, and at times worked at what seemed to the Admiral at amazing speed.

Finally, he stood back from the treatment table and began to remove his rubber gloves and wipe his hands. “Just watch the Skipper, Richards...Call me when he starts to come to...Why don't you come into my office, Admiral?"

Nelson followed him and sat at the desk facing him. “Well, Doc?"

"He's going to be fine, sir, but don't get me wrong, it's a serious wound. Barring complications, he'll make a complete recovery. There was no major organ damage, the bullet bounced off the sixth rib, and lodged itself in the soft muscle tissue near his right shoulder. He’ll be pretty sore for a while, and it will hard for him to move around for a while, but he'll be okay."

Nelson looked relieved, “That’s good news, Doc.I think I'll stay here until he comes around…."

"It may be a while, sir."

"That's okay, I'll wait…."

 

***

 

Nelson awoke to the gentle shaking of a corpsman, “Admiral, Doc asked me to wake you. The Skipper's coming 'round, sir."

Startled, Nelson pulled himself up in the chair, "Oh, uh, thank you...I'll be right there…." He rubbed his eyes to clear them and mentally berated himself for falling asleep. He got up from the chair, and walked over to the treatment table. Jamison was bending over the Captain, checking monitors and vital signs.

He turned to Nelson, “In a minute, sir...." to Crane..."Just rest, now, Skipper...you're going to be fine...the Admiral wants to talk to you, sir. Do you feel up to it?"

"Sure... Doc..."

Jamison turned to Nelson, "He's still groggy, sir...the sedative is a pretty strong one...he really needs to rest, if he's going to recover his strength."

"I'll let you know when I leave, Doc."

Nelson pulled a stool up to the table. Crane's eye were closed, he looked like he was sleeping…

"Lee...?"

Crane opened his eyes and looked at the O.O.M...."The boat, sir ...?"

"Fine, Lee... Podenski's been on the radio with ONI and they are very pleased with his information. We're out of enemy waters and should arrive in Santa Barbara in five days. ONI also confirms that the leak in the underground helped to stage the attack that killed Cathy. I'm sorry Lee, but they thought that you'd be unable to be part of the mission if your wife was dead."

"Well, I guess that we surprised them on that account, sir. "

"Yes, Lee. I believe that we did,” he paused momentarily, “As far as your boat is concerned, Chip has everything under control, so you can follow Doc's orders to rest until we reach home port."

"Aye sir... a favor...please...?"

"Sure, Lee...whatever you want...."

"Call the.... Institute.... Have Angie go to the cottage and tell my mother that all's well. She'll be worried…."

"Of course, Lee, consider it done."

"And Admiral...?"

"Yes, Lee...?"

"Thanks, sir...for everything...."

Nelson clapped him on the good shoulder and left the bedside.

"Doc...?"

"He'll be fine, sir... He should have a rapid recovery from the wound... all he needs after that is the time to recover from his loss. Strangely enough, this mission may have been a good thing for him. It taught him that he could go on and function, even though Cathy's gone from him.... I believe that he will be okay."

 

***

 

When Seaview berthed at NIMR, Crane and Nelson were on the Flying Bridge. The younger man looked gaunt, and his right arm was in a sling.

"Feels good to be home, eh, Lee?"

"Aye sir...good to be home but a little strange, too...You know, Cathy would be here at the dock."

"It'll take some getting used to, Lee...but you'll do it...we'll all be here to help, when you need it... Now let's get this ship berthed and give the men some liberty... They need it, I think..."

"Aye, sir."

 

***

 

Forty-five minutes later a lone figure walked to the row of cottages on the hill. Sailors standing guard in the doorway attempted to snap to attention, but Crane quickly waved them down. He gestured for them to be silent, and stepped up to the door, opened it, and walked into the cottage.

Helen Crane was sitting in a chair, holding Robert and giving him a bottle. At the sound of the footsteps she looked up, saw him and almost dropped the baby's bottle, “Lee...! I didn't expect you so soon! "

Her eyes fell on his arm in the sling, “What happened, Lee? The message that Angie gave me was that your mission was a success. She didn't say that you'd been hurt!!"

She'd risen from her chair and come toward him. He reached for the baby.

"I'm okay, Mom. Took a bullet in the chest at the rendezvous. Jamie took care of it... I'm just a little slow at getting things done. It'll be two or three weeks before I'm back to full speed.

I'm okay, really...here, let me hold Robert." He sat in a chair, and took the baby from Helen. The baby sat in his father's lap and looked at him, pulling at the black sling, and Crane gently took the tiny fist from the cloth. The baby looked up at him, and Lee smiled back at him, “You know, Robert, you look so much like your Mom…." The baby was pulling at the buttons on his Uniform jacket. "She hasn't been gone very long, and I miss her so much...but then I look at you and see her. Little guy, you and I have a lot of talking to do." He hugged the baby and held him close. He looked at Helen, “Could you take him, for a minute? It's a little difficult to do things one armed…."

She picked up the baby from his lap...he held onto the brim of his father's cap. Lee stood and shrugged the Uniform jacket off on shoulder and then, with a certain amount of difficulty slid his arm out of the sling and slid the jacket off. He slid the arm back into the sling and then reached again for the baby..."There, that's a little more comfortable...c'mon, Robert...let's get reacquainted....”

The baby gurgled happily and sat on his father's lap. Lee watched every move that the infant made, and after a while looked again at his mother, “How was he while we were gone...what did he do? Anything that I'd want to especially know about?"

"So many questions, Lee...he's been a very good baby. To me everything he does is special...He's your son!!"

Crane smiled at her, and then asked, “Can you take him again for a moment? I think we need to take a walk on the beach, just the two of us."

She reached for Robert and picked him up from his father's lap, and held him until Crane had risen and reached for him.

"I'll be used to this in a few days...Got to see Jamie tomorrow about the wound...by the end of the week, he'll clear me so that we can get back to the house and try to get Robert on a regular schedule."

Lee placed the baby on his left hip and wrapped his good arm securely around him, “We’ll be back in a little while. We have some talking to do."

She stood on the porch and watched as he made his way to the beach, with the baby on his hip. He reached the beach, he walked along it for a while, and until he found the spot he was looking for... a small cove, with a rocky bit of beach.

It was a place that he and Cathy often came to, just to sit and watch a sunset, or watch the waves, or just to listen to the ocean. He leaned against an outcropping of boulders, and shifted the baby's position .The closer he looked at his son, the more he saw Cathy.

"Well, Robert, here we are...just you and me…." The baby looked up at his father with a curious look. Crane continued. “I know you don't understand a word I'm saying, but that's okay, someday you will. Your Mom and I had a lot of plans for you. We were looking forward to watching you grow up, and sharing all of the milestones and the mundane moments in your life together. Well, even though you don't know it now, it isn't going to be that way. Certain forces in the world have seen to that. I will be sure that you know your Mom, Robert.

I will be sure that you know her and love her as much as I do right now, at this moment. We are very lucky, you and I .We have good friends, like the Admiral and Chip and your grandmother, well she's here for the duration... they all tell us we'll get thru this and for the first time since Cathy died, I believe that they may be right. I hope so."

The baby snuggled in closer to him…he was falling asleep. Crane looked down at the drowsy head, and a smile crept across his face, “Too much for you, eh, little guy? Well, don't worry...I've made a promise that you will be well taken care of and I intend to keep that promise. "

 

***

Some years later

In Santa Barbara California, a distinguished older man was waiting in the lobby of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. A young junior officer approached him.

"Admiral, sir...if you would follow me?"

He nodded, and followed the younger man. As they passed through the corridor, the Admiral looked around at the walls. Pictures and awards lined them.

He paused before a huge portrait of Harriman Nelson, with the Seaview and Flying Sub in the background. The officer looked at the older man, “Scuttlebutt has it he was quite a man…”

"He certainly was...his vision built all this...and has kept it going for almost thirty five years. Few men can claim such accomplishments…." he smiled, “And he was a very good friend... that may have been an even bigger accomplishment!!"

A few feet further down the hall, several more portraits hung in honored places, but the Admiral walked swiftly past them. The officer stopped in front of a door bearing a brass plaque. …

Captain Robert C. H. Crane, Director of Research, N.I.M.R.

"He's expecting you, sir."

"Thank you," the admiral knocked, once, lightly and opened the door. A tall young officer is standing at the window looking down over the docks. He turned.

Lee Crane continued to be amazed at how much like his late wife their son continued to look.

"Come on in, Dad, take a look over here. "

Dockside an impressive looking submarine sat berthed, decked out in red, white and blue bunting; her entire forward hull transparent, with a number of transparent hull plates along her sides. She shone in the sunlight.

"I think the Admiral would be very proud of her, Robert. As I am so very proud of you. You've done a great number of things here at the Institute that we all are very proud of. Is Chip coming for the christening of the Nelson?"

" 'Said that he wouldn't miss it for the world. He should be here in about two hours. He's bringing his whole family.”

Crane smiled, "It will be good to see them all again. How about a private tour for your old man, son? I'd like to get a good look at the Admiral's namesake before the crowds arrive."

"My pleasure, sir... I think that this is going to be a great day!!!"

THE END

(or perhaps a new beginning)

 

 

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