It was a Dark and Stormy Night…
(Author's note: Friends, I started this story as an entry to the Story Challenge Page on Seaview Stories. As you can see, it didn't make it there. It became something else entirely, and I hope that the end result is a story that you will all enjoy!)
It was a dark and stormy night and Chip Morton found himself fighting the controls of FS1. The small yellow craft waggled in the wet and windy night. Chip had no idea what was wrong....she would not be controlled.…
It was supposed to be a simple flight from Santa Barbara to San Diego, with a return flight back. He had to pick up the newest radar device from the Naval Base. Jiggs Starke, the top brass of the Navy's ComSubPac had been testing it, and it was now deemed ready for field tests aboard Seaview.
The flight had seemed fine on the return leg until the controls suddenly began to lose their finesse. They simply, quickly got worse...and soon all control was lost.
Chip rapidly assessed his options; the ocean, beach, rocks or the trees. He made his decision and scrabbled across the spinning deck, grabbed a 'chute, an emergency supply bag, and crawled to the hatch.
Chip came to his knees, as the tiny vessel began a downward spiral, fastening his parachute, and attaching the supply kit to his waist belt.
Struggling to undog the hatch, he pushed it with an enormous effort. The access ladder chose that moment to disengage from the upper locks, and swung down, hitting and pushing him out the hatchway. He fell freely in the wet darkness, pulling the handle of the 'chute, feeling it billow above him, giving in to the blackness that was pulling him as well.
A steady, sharp stinging on his face brought Chip to a most unpleasant consciousness. He was wet, cold, and in a great deal of pain. There was a steady thrumming in his head, his right arm hung at his side, and he was nauseous. His shoulders ached too, and he felt as if her were suspended in air.
When full awareness struck… he realized that he was suspended in air… hanging from a tree limb, the parachute holding him there. He tried to see how high he was, but in the dark and rain, it was impossible.
He reached for his belt with his left hand, as his right arm refused to cooperate with the orders he was giving it. Fumbling with fingers becoming numb with the cold wet, he struggled to make sure that the supply bag was still there. Once he confirmed its presence, he made the decision to release the chute harness, and take his chances from there.
Reaching across his chest, he groped for the release handle, and taking a deep sigh, and saying a silent prayer, he pulled the handle. There was a momentary lack of anything and then he fell into the blackness below…
Harriman Nelson paced the nose of the S.S.R.N. Seaview. Chip Morton was four hours overdue, and there had been no contact with the Exec since he had checked in after leaving the Base at San Diego. He looked up, anxiously as Lee Crane came into the Observation Nose.
"Any word, Lee?"
Crane shook his head to the negative, as he answered, "No, sir. None at all." He looked at Nelson, a variety of emotions playing across his face. "The FS1 disappeared from the radar off the coast six hours ago. We are heading to the area at flank speed. We should arrive there at 0730." He paused. "I just hope that we get there in time. That Chip isn’t…"
"I know, Lad… I know…" Nelson looked at his Captain, unable to put into words all that the both men were feeling. The closeness of the three of them, Morton, Crane and Nelson was one of the things that made the boat, her missions, and her crew so successful and so unique. The bond of friendship between the three men was that strong.
Lee cleared his throat, "I’ll be in engineering, Admiral. The electronics chief is reworking the air filtration circuits, and wants me to take a look at the work so far. Bobby has the con."
Nelson nodded, and turned back towards the windows. It was going to be a very long few hours…
Several hours later….
"Skipper! Skipper! I have a reading!!" Kowalski called excitedly from the sonar panel.
Crane came over to the rating’s station, and leaned over him, scrutinizing the screen. "What do you read, Ski?"
"Configuration parallels the FS1, sir. About three miles off the starboard quarter, bearing 034 relative."
"Any sign of activity?" Crane asked, the concern in his voice mirroring the feelings of all the men on the boat.
"No, sir, all that I’m hearing is the telemetry from the locator." Crane patted him on the shoulder.
"Very well." He turned to the nearby mike. Clicking it twice, he said, "Admiral, we have a fix on an object that reads like the FS1."
Taking his tone from Lee’s somber one, he replied, "Very well, Lee, I’ll be right there."
Crane clicked the microphone to clear it. "Chief Sharkey!!"
"Chief, assemble a dive team and meet me in the missile room ASAP. The FS1 has been located."
"Aye, Sir!!!" was Sharkey’s reply.
Lee looked around the Control Room, aware of the eyes of the crew focused on him. In an attempt to ease the men, he simply said, "We have a sighting of the FS1. We will attempt to retrieve it. Hopefully we will find Mr. Morton with it. Mr. O’Brien, you have the Con. I’ll be in the Missile Room, and I’m going out with the Dive Team… Please inform the Admiral when he arrives here." He patted Kowalski on the shoulder. "Kowalski, with me!" He then turned on heel and left the Control Room through the aft hatch towards the missile room.
In the Missile Room, the dive team of Patterson, Rodriguez, and Sharkey prepared to go out to the site of the FS1. Crane burst through the door, followed by Kowalski, and the Captain, unbuttoning his shirt, and barking orders at the crewmen. "Chief, make sure that we have any additional first aid equipment that wouldn’t be stowed on the sub."
Craned tossed his shirt to the floor, and began to unlace his oxfords, grabbing for the yellow wetsuit he always wore. "Kowalski, I want any equipment that we may need to get into the FS1, Cutting torches and the like…"
"Already got ‘em, sir."
"Good…now we don’t know what we will find out there. Hopefully, Mr. Morton and the new device." The Captain was pulling the wetsuit top on, zipping it as he spoke. A crewman was helping him with his tanks and weight belt, and he pulled on his hood, testing the regulator with a few short breaths. "Ok, Chief…Let’s go!"
As they swam towards the small sub, Lee became increasingly concerned. ‘what if they found Chip in the FS1? What if he was… oh, God, not that…’ he looked at the men with him, realizing that they all must be thinking the same thoughts. The hulk of the small sub came into view, and they all swam more quickly to it. Crane headed directly to the hatch, which hung open in the water. ‘flooded. Then if he’s in there…He’s dead…’ A blinding pain seared his head, and he held it until it passed, breathing heavily.
Suddenly, ‘Ski was at his side, holding his elbow, and asking through the mike, "Skipper?"
Crane signaled a thumbs up to the rating, and shaking off the arm of aid and moved to the open hatch. Swimming into the sub, Lee lit the interior with his beam. Kowalski followed close behind him, attentive to the Captain, and also to the potential inside the sub. Lee surveyed the cockpit twice, and was at once relieved, and concerned over not finding Chip Morton.
He radioed the Seaview, "Dive team to Seaview…Crane here…"
"Lee," Nelson asked, "What have you found?"
"Chip’s not here." Crane’s voice was flat in spite of the microphone connection. As he swam around the cabin, he took note of the missing ‘chute and supply pack, as well as the presence of the radar device. "There’s a chute and supply pack missing and the device is still here." At a signal, Sharkey entered the cabin, and helped Kowalski check out the device. A thumbs up, and he continued, "it seems that the device is ok. We’ll secure the hatch, and head back to the boat. Then we can bring her over, and retrieve the FS1. We’ll talk when I get back to the boat. Crane out. " Lee signaled the men, and they swam out of the yellow sub, and secured the hatch. Then they headed back to the boat.
Consciousness burst on Chip Morton with the feeling of being face down in the wet and slimey ooze, his entire being damp, cold and in pain. ‘Well, Morton, at least you made it to the ground… the O.O.M. isn’t gonna let you take the bird flying for a while, you can be sure of that!’
He made his first attempt to move, only to be slammed down by a wave of pain and nausea that drove any thought from his mind for a time… Slowly, ever so slowly, he tried to move again. First he moved his head, pulling it from the muck that he had landed in. He slowly moved his left arm, and found, to his surprise, that he could raise his torso on his arm. His right shoulder was numb, the arm useless.
Carefully, he pulled his weight forward, in an awkward crawl, making a note to be thankful that the pounding, sleety rain had stopped. He was more thankful for the return of feeling, without too much pain to his legs. Except for his right side, the rest of his body seemed to be in working order. At least an order of sorts.
He dragged himself to a nearby tree and leaned heavily against it. He closed his eyes and, taking several deep breaths, gathered his strength. He opened his eyes again, and set about figuring out where he was and what he was going to do. Tentatively he pushed against the tree, forcing himself upward. If he could stand, he could walk, and if he could walk, he would find his way back to the Institute and Santa Barbara. And then he would have a hell of a lot of explaining to do, but, what the hell, he’d at least be home… ‘HOME!! Warm and dry!!! The fireplace roaring, a warm blanket … scratch that… A soft and warm body!! Yeah… the roaring fire and a warm body!
‘Shit! Shoulder must be dislocated!!’ the world around him wavered and shook, and then steadied after he fastened the right arm into his belt. He slid down to the floor of the woods, leaning heavily against the tree. Well at least the legs were working, and once the rain had stopped, the sky cleared… he could tell he was west of Santa Barbara, and he estimated that he was somewhere 20 to 25 miles from the Institute.
‘West!!! Must be one of the Channel Islands!! Damn!!!! Wrong season for tourists!! Wonder which one this is…’ he fumbled at his waist for the supply bag, and pulled a power food bar from it…he looked at it in the dark, and shaking his head, tucked it back in . He felt deeper into the pack and found what he sought… Pain pills in a sealed packet. The pain in his shoulder was worsening and he knew he had to get it under control, if he was going to keep a clear head and get to some kind of safety. Slowly he downed the pills, and sat back, closing his eyes and waiting for them to take.
Several hours later he woke, cold, and stiff… the first light of the new day was making its way over the nearby mountains. And the day was not promising… the light was grey and wet… there was a light mist, and while it was not cold, it was cool, and he was still wet from the rain.
His leather flying jacket had given him some protection, but he was wet to the bone, and the chill… he looked in the emergency pack for the small butane lighter. Finding it, he felt better, but he also realized that he would need some dry material if the hope of a fire would hold…. He knew these Islands, off the coast of Santa Barbara, the Channel Islands State Park… he’d been hiking and whale watching on one or two of them himself. And if he was on any one of them, then he also knew he had a fighting chance of being found, and, hopefully, found soon…
On the other hand, if this was Santa Cruz, the largest of the islands, it was also the least traveled even in the height of the tourist season, because it was only 10% National Park and 90% the Nature Conservancy. Fewer people came thru it. He was beginning to suspect he was on Santa Cruz, and he was also beginning to be convinced that he was it the valley on the Island. The mountains looked pretty far, and high, and wearily, he sighed, pushed himself up the tree for balance, and began to head in a northerly direction. ‘I sure as hell hope that you find the damn sub, Lee, and start the search!’…
The green light on the outside of the dive chamber glowed. The Diving party had returned, and their news was glum. The FS1 had crashed, and there was no sign of the Exec. The sub had been flooded, the rear hatch open to the sea, and the access ladder hanging by a single bolt. The team, led by Crane had searched for any sign of the Exec, and with the parachute and a supply kit missing as well, it lead, at least to hope that Chip had parachuted out when the FS1 began to have trouble. But ‘chuted out where?
Harriman Nelson stood at the hatch as it opened. He went to Crane to assist the Captain as he got out of his gear. Separated from the others, Nelson spoke in low tones.
"No sign of him, Lee?"
Crane ran his fingers through his wet hair, and shook his head. "No, sir. As we reported, no sign of Chip. But there is a missing chute, and emergency supply pack.. The FS1 is situated so that we can get in position and bring her aboard in about a half hour’s time, including maneuvering the boat into place."
"Once we have her aboard we can download the navigational computer, and get an idea on where she began to go down…" Nelson continued.
"Aye, sir. And at least it may give us a starting point for a search for Chip… I just hope…." Lee pushed the palm of his hand to his head, wincing with the contact.
"I know, Lad… I know…" He placed a hand on his Captain’s shoulder, "If there’s any chance at all, we’ll find him. Headache?"
Lee looked at his friend and employer, and shook his head…rubbing at his temples." Hope so…I can’t begin to think of the boat with out Chip at my side… We’ve all been through so many things, together…"
"If any of the odds are in his favor, and I’m sure that some of them are, … Chip’ll be waiting for us to find him… Let’s get the FS1 retrieved, and that telemetry downloaded." The Admiral turned and left the Missile Room, followed shortly by the boat’s Captain.
Chip stopped to rest and forced himself to eat. He had long complained to Nelson that the power bars, stashed as emergency rations might be the best in terms of a food supply and nutrients for a stranded sailor, but that they lacked any appeal, psychologically. One had to force oneself to eat them… they tasted awful, they smelled awful, they looked awful. But, they were food, and energy was what he needed right now, not a five course dinner at Andria’s on Cabrillo Blvd.
‘Andria’s…and a certain waitress … when he got back!!! Okay, now, stow it, Morton… get found and back first, and then make plans!!’ He sat back and bit, reluctantly into the bar, forcing himself to chew on it and swallow….
He was miserable. The mist hadn’t let up, and he had been unable to find any suitable cover to even attempt to dry himself out in. Twice he had had to stop because of the pain in his arm and shoulder, when he had hit them on a tree limb. Judging from the position of the tree line where he was heading, and where he had come from, he figured that he had covered two miles or so… and that made him more dejected. He checked his watch, and had discovered that he had taken nearly four hours to get this far. If he continued at his present rate it would take him the rest of this day and all of the next to get to the foot of the range he was aiming at. His shoulder was definitely impeding his progress forward.
He looked at the half-eaten power bar in his hand, and, despairingly threw it aside. At least he had managed to choke down some of it. Wearily, he pushed up off the floor of the forest, and plodded onward, towards the base of the mountains.
‘Who ever said any thing about California being sunny anyway?’ he thought unhappily as he trudged forward…
"Admiral!" Sparks called Nelson’s title across the Control Room. "Admiral Nelson!"
Nelson charged toward the Radioman "Yes, what is it?"
"The telemetry finished downloading and here is the printout, sir." He looked at the older man, allowing the smallest of smiles to run across his face… "I’ve several pages of information, but this one, here, is the one I think that you would be most interested in."
He handed Nelson the sheet, and watched, pleased with his accomplishment, as a smile broadened the face of the boat’s designer for the first time in a while.
"Good work, Sparks! Good work!!" He clapped the younger officer on the shoulder, turned on heel, and went to the plot table, talking loudly to Crane as he moved. "Lee, we have a fix on where the FS1 first had problems…head north, towards the Channel Islands. Let’s approach from the Channel off the Institute. Chip may be a lot closer to home than we thought!"
Crane continued to look glum in spite of the Admiral’s buoyed spirits. "Fine, we have a starting point, but there are what seven or eight islands there. How do we find him, if he’s even there… what’s to say that he didn’t wind up in the water? He had the flotation jacket on, but if he wasn’t conscious, if he didn’t inflate the jacket…? How do we know??"
Nelson looked at Crane, startled with his attitude. He thought that Lee would be as pleased as he was with the information from the FS1. "Sharkey is working with Kowalski and Patterson to repair the FS1. If we can get her in working order we can fly over the Islands in a search pattern and if Chip is there, we should at least find his ‘chute."
When Lee didn’t respond, Nelson touched his shoulder, "Lee? Lad, are you with me?"
Startled Crane replied, "Oh! Yes, sir!… I’m sorry …I…I’ve been fighting a headache. …I was thinking."
" Thinking of what, Lee? This is the best news that we have had since we lost touch with the FS1."
"Right!" he said suddenly. "we’ll be in the Channel in an hour, sir. The Chief reports that the Flying Sub will be ready in about the same time."
"Good!! Then let’s see what we can do about getting a search pattern established, and move from there." He looked at his Captain with a penetrating gaze, puzzled at the rapid change in his mood. ‘Just what is bothering him? I think this needs some further investigation… but not right now…We’ve got to find Chip, first. Maybe that’s it… and only that…maybe…’
Chip was tired, cold, and in more pain than he would care to admit, although right now, a stay in Sick Bay was looking better and better….anything was looking better than where he was right now. He had finally found a small cave, not much more than a small indentation in the side of the rock face he had found in his trip towards the base of the tree line. He had managed to find some dry bits of tinder and small sticks of wood, and got a small fire going for a short time. Unfortunately, it had not helped all that much, and the effort had cost valuable energy. He had fallen asleep, for several hours and lost valuable daylight travel time.
He had also run out of the pain pills, and that was as worrisome as his other problems. Without something to ease some of his discomfort, he would be less able to focus on his task… and that could prove to be life threatening… From the position of the waning light, he determined that he had at least three or four more hours of light in which to get closer to his goal. His focus became getting as close to the foot of the mountains as possible before dark. Then he would find a place to crawl into and see if he could rest til daylight. Maybe by then the boat would find him… Maybe….
As the Seaview approached Santa Barbara Channel, the mood on the boat lightened considerably, except for the mood of the boat’s Captain. Lee’s mood became darker and darker, with him barking orders at the men, and the juniors, alike. Nelson watched him surreptitiously, waiting and analyzing the younger man’s behavior, until, after a particularly difficult moment with young Bob O’Brien, who was filling in as Acting Exec, the Admiral set to take Crane aside.
"Lee, come into the Observation Nose, and close the crash doors after you, will you ?"
Crane nodded curtly, turned to O’Brien, "You have the Conn, Mr. O’Brien." And briskly moved to the nose, pressing the button to close the doors as he passed under the bulkhead. He came to a halt at Nelson’s back and stood, his hands clasped behind his back. "Yes, sir?"
"Lee," Nelson said as he turned from the window, "what’s come over you? I know you are worried about Chip, but you’ve been like a caged bear since we got the position from the telemetry of the Flying Sub. What’s wrong?"
Crane rubbed at his forehead, a look of exasperation coming over his face. He looked, Nelson thought, ‘Bewildered!’
"I don’t know, sir. There’s something about this whole episode, something niggling at the back of my head… every time I think of Chip crashing, I get a blinding pain in the back of my head…. I…Oh!…." He grabbed at his head, as he cried out, his knees buckling. Reaching for some support, he grabbed at the spiral stairs, hanging on to them with hands that quickly became white-knuckled. "Oh God…!!! My head!" he whispered, looking at the Admiral with a look of intense pain, that quickly faded, as his eyes closed, and he crumpled to the deck.
Nelson was at his side in a fraction of a second, grabbing the mike, and shouting into it, "Will, the Nose…now!!! … it‘s Lee!" On his knees, next to the Captain, he softly called, "Lee…Lee can you answer me… Lee!" He reached for Lee’s neck, feeling for a pulse and finding a strong one, was at least slightly relieved. He loosed the tie, and opened the collar of the Uniform shirt. Crane was totally unresponsive. Will came down the stairs at a dead run, and joined Nelson on the floor of the Nose, next to Crane.
"What happened, Harry?" he asked as he began his own assessment of Crane’s condition.
"I honestly don’t know. We were talking about Chip. About the fact that the FS1 crashed…. And he told me there was something bothering him. That every time he thought about Chip crashing, he would get a blinding pain in the back of his head. As we were talking about it, he grabbed at his head, cried out, and fell to the floor here….
What do you think this could be…?"
"I… don’t know… I’ll need to do tests…" he looked up as two corpsmen clambered down the stairs with a stretcher in their hands. "Let’s get the Skipper to Sickbay, ASAP." The men nodded and gently laid their Captain on the stretcher, and pushing the button, opened the crash doors, quickly carrying their precious cargo thru the Control Room, the quickest way to the Medical center of the boat
The Control Room crew was stunned. First the XO, and now the Skipper! Who was next… the O.O.M.?
The word spread quickly on the boat that the ‘Skipper was down.’ Bobby O’Brien, the acting XO and the regular Diving Officer, was, now, the Captain of the boat, at least temporarily. He was nervous about it, now that he was directly responsible to Nelson, and he often swore to himself, that the O.O.M. really didn’t like him.
O’Brien jumped as Stu Riley came up beside him, "Mr. O’Brien, sir…?"
O’Brien cleared his throat, and answered, "Yes, Riley?"
"Sir, the Chief reports that the FS1 is ready to be launched. The repairs are done and she’s worthy again." He managed not to say Captain or Skipper to the young officer, who was in truth only a few years older.
O’Brien turned to him, and started to say, "Why tell me, Riley….?" And he stopped himself in mid sentence. He was in command of the boat!!!!! What the hell was he going to do now?
As quickly as he could, he answered Riley. "Have Sharkey send out…no belay that. Have Sharkey take out a search party. Begin with a fly over of Santa Barbara Island. Then have him move on to Santa Cruz Island. See if he sees any sign of the Exec. In the meantime, have Sparks contact the authorities at the Park, and at the Nature Conservancy on Santa Cruz, appraise them of what we are doing, and ask for their cooperation. And if we don’t get it, well, we’re going to find Mr. Morton no matter who or what!!" HE picked up the mike, doubled clicked and said in a voice that was stronger and more assured…"Doc, this is O’Brien. Report to me any news on the Captain, as soon as you have some."
Bobby O’Brien took one more look around Control Room…he was in charge of the boat!!!… and then he concentrated on getting his boat into the Santa Barbara Channel.
Chip Morton looked once more around his meager shelter. It wasn’t much, but it had to do for this night. At least it was dry and afforded some measure of warmth and dry in the small space. He was miserable… cold, wet, and in a level of pain that seemed to be increasing, not decreasing. There were no more pain pills left, and the increasing level of discomfort was impeding his progress toward the base of the tree line in the valley. He was hungry, the power bars were long gone, and had offered little in the way of satisfaction as a food stuff. Slowly he fed more tinder on the small fire…perhaps tomorrow he would have better weather, he would have a better chance to make forward progress. He dearly wanted to get back to the boat… his boat… his home. He leaned back against the stone and drifted off to sleep, dreaming of a silver lady and her crew.
By 0450 the FS1 was repaired and ready for launch. COB Francis Sharkey was piloting her, and senior Rating Kowalski was accompanying him in the search for the Exec. Because of the configuration of the islands and the location of the small sub when it had been found, the decision had been made to begin the search with Santa Barbara Island and then move it to Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands.
"C’mon, Kid!" Sharkey ordered, "Let’s get this yellow bird airborne. The XO needs us to find him as soon as we can."
"Right, Chief. We’ll find him… we just gotta."
Harriman Nelson paced the outer room of the Sick Bay for the thousandth time. He was waiting for Will Jamison to finish with Lee. It had been nearly two hours. Jamison had been doing test after test on Lee, and then suddenly called for his surgical scrubs, and for Frank Lerner to assist him. He quickly told Nelson on no uncertain terms to stay in the waiting room until he was finished with Lee. And that was the last that Nelson had seen him, an hour and a half ago. His last view of the boat’s Captain was of Jamison and Lerner gently working over the inert form of Lee Crane.
The collapsible door opened and a weary looking Will Jamison came through, pulling a mask from his face. He folded his lank frame into a chair, and pushed the cap from his head. He held out a sealed glass tube to Nelson.
"Take a look at this, Harry."
Nelson reached for the tube, and looked at it closely. "Implanted microchip?"
"Seems to be… It could be implanted with a needle; the removal is a bit trickier. And look at the wires. They appear to have been singed at the tips… almost like a short circuit."
"I believe so… if he was trying, consciously or unconsciously to fight whatever the programming was, then his own system could have shorted it out. Chemically, its at least theoretically possible."
Nelson nodded and added, "There’s another scenario here too, Will... you realize that.”
Quietly, "Yes, Harry, I do… but I prefer to think of it as Lee’s will fighting the programming… if it is the other way around, we may never know Lee Crane again."
In the dimly lighted SickBay, a still figure, lay, on his side, silent and unmoving except for the steady click of the respirator, mechanically aiding the breathing of the Captain. Nelson saw the large square bandage at the back of Lee’s head, and neck. During the procedure to remove the implant, Lee had stopped breathing twice, and Jamison had put him on the respirator to prevent any further degradation of his condition. He had seen Lee Crane thru too many close calls to count, but never one like this. He had a real fear that the Lee Crane that had won such love and loyalty from friends and crew alike was gone from them. Nelson knew that the brain was such a tricky organ, and one never knew what to expect of it with known procedures… and this was such an unknown one. Will could only hope that he was not the one to exacerbate Lee’s condition. it could have been programmed to short circuit and take Lee with it.
There was no question that the implant, once found, had to come out. Jamison had seen to that, and now they had to wait and see what the outcome was.
Nelson moved to the side of the table that Lee was facing. His skin seemed unnaturally pale, and the deep circles under his eyes seemed deeper. He had not been sleeping well, and now they knew the reason. Nelson also suspected that the sabotage to the FS1 had been done by Lee himself. And he also suspected that some part of his friend’s psyche realized that and he had been suffering for it. He had known without knowing that that he was responsible for the loss of Chip Morton.
The device that Morton had picked up from San Diego had a great deal of importance to the Pacific Fleet. It was hoped that the small radar unit attachment would enhance existing shipboard systems to incorporate the newest and latest of the world’s ships and aircraft. To be able to determine the newest and most experimental of the world’s weapon’s of war would be a coup for whatever country had such a device. Because of Harriman Nelson’s research and the NIMR, the US had such a device. It had been tested in the labs at San Diego and the Seaview had been about to take it aboard and begin field tests.
Fortunately, the device was back on the boat. It had been retrieved along with the FS1.
‘A hell of a lot of good its going to do here!! Damn!!! Chip and Lee … Damn … Damn…Damn !!!!’
Nelson laid a hand on Lee’s shoulder. "Lee…" he called softly "Lee…"
The darkness swirled around him, flowing and wavering, pulling on him. He heard a voice, but was not drawn to it. It called his name, but he chose to ignore it for now… he had things to resolve, while he was here… many things… and he could not be distracted.
He moved through the darkness, parting the swirling grayness, where it lightened…it lead him to his house…it was strange… like watching a black and white program… it was all in shades of grey… He saw himself in his bed, he had been trying to sleep, but the sleep had not come… and then he smelled something.
He had begun to rise from the bed, but his knees had turned to jello, and he had fallen to the floor. He saw himself lying on the floor, and then he saw shapes in the grey, moving around his body. He was lifted and placed back on the bed, and the figures hovered over him…He remembered a blinding, white hot explosion of pain in the back of his head and as he watched, there were men with gloves, and needles working on his body. Then the men disappeared, and he was alone in his bed.
He had awakened with at raging headache, had dressed and gone to the Institute. His headache had not abated. He had taken aspirin, then acetaminophen, and then had rested. Amazed he watched himself go to the FS1 and work on the controls. He had no recollection of that. He saw that he had returned to his quarters, and had laid back on the bunk. He saw that he slept again, and then woke and went about his daily duties. Chip had taken the FS1 to Admiral Starke and San Diego, and then on the return flight, the sub had crashed.
He remembered that every time he thought of Chip and the FS1 his head would hurt. Each time it got worse. He saw himself in the nose with the Admiral, and saw himself cry out and fall… the pain in his head had been unbearable. And then, suddenly it was gone. "Will must have done something." And now he listened and heard the voice call him again. That resonant voice…filled with care, concern and friendship… and something else as well…he moved toward it. But he found his way blocked. There was a door and it was locked, and try as he may, he could not open it…why??? Why couldn’t he open the door, and answer the voice…
Nelson stood next to Crane, talking softly to him, trying to let Lee know how important the Captain had become to him since his taking command of the boat, after the death of John Philips. Nelson had always considered Lee Crane a close friend, all the way back to the Academy and the months that Lee had served under him on the Nautilus.
Here on his boat, the friendship had become more… a mentor/ father-son relationship had developed before the two men had realized… It had become one of the strengths of the boat, and in a way, one of the weaknesses as well. Every time Lee was sent on a mission, or risked his life for the boat, the crew or himself, Nelson felt that part of himself was pushed to a breaking point. Lee had become the son he never had, and with the recognition of that, all the pain that a parent felt, he felt… Lee and Chip, …his Boys… he shook his head, wearily… and kept his hand on Crane’s shoulder, hoping that the contact would lead the younger man back to this, to this world, to his world.
He spoke to him, quietly. He told Lee how proud he was of him, of all that he had done. And how proud he was of the way he had taken over the boat, and made her better…so much better, once he became the Captain. He let Crane know how much he meant to him…how very much… and he told the comatose man that his boat and his crew needed him. That they all needed him and needed for him to recover and take back the reins of Command.
Will Jamison looked at the scene in his sick bay with concern. Nelson had been stretched to his limits during the search for Chip Morton, and now this, with Crane, well, Jamison was worried about Harriman Nelson’s health. He couldn’t go on like this indefinitely, and Jamison was going to take the case in hand now.
Will walked into the heart of the Sick Bay, and to Crane’s gurney. He studied Nelson carefully, as the older man stood there.
Nelson looked at the doctor, his blue eyes infinitely sad. "Yes?" he answered softly, following the question with another, "He isn’t going to make it this time, is he, Will?"
Jamison’s response was a quiet, measured one. "I think its highly unlikely, Harry. The implant was bad enough, but I have absolutely no idea of what damage it did when it ruptured, or burned out or whatever it was that happened. He hasn’t flat-lined on the EEG, but the activity level of the brain is very low…and since the device was so low in the back of the brain, we don’t know what effect it has had on his motor ability. I think that there was some damage to the autonomic system, that’s why he stopped breathing twice, and I put him on the respirator. No, Harry it doesn’t look good at all."
Nelson’s hand involuntarily tightened on Lee’s shoulder. His grief at the situation was intense. Lee Crane’s life couldn’t end this way. It couldn’t. He would do his best not to allow it. He shook his head again. "What can I do to help him, Will? How can I help?" he asked the doctor hoarsely.
"By going to your cabin and trying to sleep. Mind you, I said trying. I don’t intend to fool myself. I know that you won’t sleep. but I want you to go to bed. You need to rest. Unless you want to join Lee in here."
A sense of hopelessness pervaded Nelson’s personality, one that he had not felt before. He looked at his friend and physician. "I’ll go." He said quietly. "If you promise me that you will stay with him. I’ll go and check on the search for Chip, and then I’ll go to my cabin, for a few hours. Just stay with him, Will."
"I’ll be here, Harry. If I have to leave, I’ll have Frank sit with him."
Nelson nodded, and shoving his hands into his pockets, slowly left the Sick Bay, not even noticing Frank hold the door open for him.
Morosely, he made his way to the Control Room. The men on the watch looked up expectantly, and seeing the set of his body, immediately dropped back into their unnatural quiet. He moved slowly to the plot table, feeling his age, and the weight of the responsibilities of his position. He looked at Bob O’Brien, and felt a momentary anger at the young man, trying to usurp the rightful positions of Lee Crane and Chip Morton. And just as quickly, he realized that his anger was misdirected. He took himself in hand, and asked the young Lieutenant, "How goes the search, Bob?"
Nervous at being questioned by Nelson, the diving officer hesitated.
‘Geez… the O.O.M. Asking me, me, Bobby O’Brien, how goes the boat? How goes the search , Bob??? How the hell should I know? This is a hell of a job under the best of conditions… this is far from the best!!! How goes the search? Admiral Nelson,. I really don’t know!!! Could I dare to say that to him…to Admiral Harriman Nelson.? Well, sir, it’s like this.. I don’t know…and I can’t figure it out at all. I’m only the acting Captain. I want to be back in the missile room and at the dive control… I really don’t want this responsibility!! But you want me to have it so here I am’…he looked over at Nelson.
Trying to ignore his sweaty palms, O’Brien gripped the plot table and cleared his throat. Softly he replied, "Admiral, the chief has made three fly-overs of Santa Barbara Island and he’s now heading for Santa Cruz." The younger man’s voice grew stronger as his confidence began to return. "We’re using the north approach into the Santa Barbara channel in order to have the best draw for the boat. It also gives us a better opportunity to reach any of the islands we need to get to. I..." He faltered slightly. "...I believe it is the best way to go, sir."
"I'm sure it is, Bob. You're doing a fine job here… a fine job." The older man seemed preoccupied to say the least…not really focusing in on their conversation.
Concerned, O'Brien extended a hand to him. "Sir, are you ok?" Nelson looked at him, his blue eyes full of the same pain and grief apparent in his face.
Seeing the genuine worry in the officer's face, he smiled in gratitude. "I'm okay, Bob, just a little tired and, quite frankly, I wish we had more news from Sharkey. Did we get permission from the Nature Conservancy and the NPS on Santa Cruz Island to fly below the 1000 foot restriction?"
"Yes, sir. Both groups gave the go-ahead as soon as they received the request. And they’ve offered any and all help to search for Mr. Morton if and when the time comes."
"Good. Good work." He shook his head in frustration. "Damn. It’s already getting dark. Guess this means we’re in for another rough night. I can only hope we find some sign of him soon, something which would at least indicate we’re looking in the right place. I'll be in my cabin if you need me. Jamison's orders." His last words came out with a slightly defensive ring to them, almost as if he expected some argument from the second, but he received nothing but an empathetic gaze.
"I understand, sir." O'Brien said softly. "I'll call you if there’s any word at all."
"Good. Thank you." Nelson replied. Turning wearily, he slowly climbed the spiral staircase to Officer’s country. The men of the watch followed him with their eyes, saddened for him and for themselves as well.
‘If the heart and the being of the boat were missing, how long could her soul go on?…
Sharkey and Kowalski were deep in their own thoughts as the FS1 began its fly-over of Santa Cruz Island…This was the largest of the Channel Islands , and the most diverse. It would also be fairly easy for some one to get lost on it, and not easily found. Both men had spent several leaves on this Island, since it was so close to the Institute, and yet so far from the world that they spent their daily lives in. it was primitive with a deep valley, two mountain ranges, and a forest. A man could get lost there. They had to hope that they would be able to find the Exec, if he was here on this island.
They flew low, in the settling grey dusk. The rainy softness of the day was blending into the grayness of the early twilight, as the little craft criss-crossed over the island. They had the resolution of the sub’s cameras turned up full, closely covering the canopy of trees in the deep valley. Scanning the trees, they searched hard and fast for any sign of a parachute, and after twenty fruitless and wearing minutes, they were about to forgo any further search until a brief flutter of white below caught their eye. Hurriedly, Sharkey brought the FS1 about and searched the area carefully again. Fluttering white fabric was waving in the wet breeze.
"The Exec’s ‘Chute!!! That’s it, Chief!! That’s it!!! There!!!!"
"Right, Kid!! Get a fix. We can get the search parties started in the morning!!" He yanked at the mike. "FS1 to Seaview...FS1 to Seaview, Come in!!"
On the boat, the message came thru Sparks headphones. "Seaview here, go ahead, Chief!’
"Sparks, we found the Exec’s ‘chute. It’s in the tree canopy of the deepest part of the valley… located at the following co-ordinates, 34 degrees North, 119 degrees, 45 minutes west. FS1 returning to the boat. ETA is 22 minutes…Sparks let the Admiral and Mr. O’Brien know that we are on our way back."
A deep resonant voice answered him, "They know, Francis… they know… Good work, you and Kowalski."
"Thanks Admiral. Permission to organize and arrange rescue and search parties, when I return?"
"Permission granted, Francis. I will do what I can to assist you."
"Aye, sir… thank you sir. Admiral…?" the COB asked cautiously.
"You will let the Skipper know, won’t you ?"
"Yes, Chief. I’m on my way to the Sick Bay now…. I’ll tell him."
"Aye, sir. Thank you ,sir."
Sharkey looked at Kowalski. "Kid…?"
"Let’s take one more pass, and then we can get some better pictures, and we can get some info to the O.O.M. and pinpoint the area to start."
"Yeah, Chief….Sharkey?" The Senior Rating asked.
"I wanna lead one of the search parties."
"Well, it’s a good thing you volunteered, kid, ‘cause I was gonna assign ya one anyway."
Kowalski shook his head, "I sorta figured, Chief… I sorta figured.."
Will Jamison shifted on the stool next to Crane’s gurney…His hands supported his chin, as he watched and studied the machines so critical to maintain Lee’s life. The only sounds in the darkened Sick Bay was the steady, clicking, rhythm of the ventilator, and the assorted beeps and tweets of the other machines that were monitoring Lee Crane’s vital signs, and sustaining him.
Will was quite concerned. Lee still couldn’t maintain breathing on his own. The doctor had tried to turn off the vent twice, and Lee had stopped breathing. The level of activity on the EEG was minimal to say the least. Jamison was almost as despondent as Nelson was.
Will Jamison had known Lee a long time. As far back as Lee’s Academy days. They had met on Lee’s Senior Summer cruise, out of the New London Sub school. Lee had been injured and even then, he had fought to get out of the Sick Bay as soon as he possibly could.
When Lee had assumed the permanent captaincy of Harriman Nelson’s boat, and Lee had been injured by the Giant Squid, Will Jamison knew, from that point on, that he would be battling the young man as long as they served together on the boat.
‘Dammit, Lee!!! You are such a stubborn, hell-fighter…Fight this thing, what ever it is, and haul your stubborn ass back here. Morton and you are needed here. I don’t know what they did to you…I only know what I found in your head. I wish that I had a quick fix for it ,but I don’t… Lee, you have to know…Harry is in such pain, I don’t know what to do for him. And as for Chip, well, you know that we are trying as hard as we can to find him. Don’t tell me that you don’t want to be here, either. I know you, and I know that the Admiral, the men and the boat are the most important thing in the world to you . You have to return to us. You have to get back here! Life on this boat wouldn’t be the same without you. It just wouldn’t be the same…!"
Harriman Nelson saw the set of the Doctor’s shoulders and realized that there had been no change in Lee’s condition. The doctor took each of the Captain’s injuries personally, and he took each healing just as personally. Quietly, he moved into the Room, and he placed a hand on Will Jamison’s shoulder. The doctor looked into blue eyes that were mirroring the pain in his own soul. Neither man spoke for a moment. Then… "Sharkey and ‘Ski found a ‘chute. They took some pictures. They think it belongs to Chip."
"No sign of him?"
"No. They’re returning here, and we begin to search the island tomorrow. It’s a hell of a big island… 96 square miles.. and the chute was seen near the center of the valley in the middle of the island. It will take us a while to get there and a while to search for him. I’ve pulled the boat from any chance of getting called to service. Jiggs knows the situation. We’re staying here, and we’ll find Chip, one way or the other. Any change here…?" he allowed the tiniest bit of hope to creep into his voice.
"No, Harry, I told you…" he sighed heavily, "I really don’t hold out much hope. "I’ve contacted a friend of mine, Doctor Anthony Adamski. He is a specialist in cases like these. He has worked with the ONI on a number of problems. There is a chance that he may be able to help…He’s been in San Diego for a conference… and he’s agreed to stay as long as Lee needs him… as long as our good Captain is in San Diego Naval."
"Will, I want to sit with him for a while. I want to tell him about Chip’s chute." Jamison nodded and rose from the stool…
"And then, Admiral, to your cabin. You will lie down and rest."
"Yes, Will. I’ll go to my cabin as soon as I leave here." Jamison slowly rose from the stool Nelson slid into his place…
"I’ll be in the office, Harry…"
"I know… If I need you!" he smiled wanly, knowing that Jamison shared his pain, and was doing his best not to show it. He looked at Lee’s face, so quiet and at rest, and he longed to have his friend awake, and giving Will the hard time he always did. He carefully placed his hand on Lee’s shoulder, leaning towards the man on the gurney. He began to speak to Lee in soft tones.
"Lee, we’ve found Chip’s ‘chute. On Santa Cruz Island. You know the biggest of the Islands off the Institute." Forcing a laugh he did not feel, he said lightly, "Leave it to my ‘boys’ to get lost on an Island close to the Institute, We’re mounting a search for him in the morning. We’ll find him, lad. And I know that you are blaming yourself for this, Lee. You aren’t at fault… you aren’t. from what Will found in your head, you didn’t have a choice. You were programmed, Lee...programmed to do it.. Believe me, Lad... you didn’t have a choice…"
Lee stood at the door, and try as he may, he couldn’t unlock or open it. Nelson was on the other side. His friends, his boat… they were all there… He needed to get to them, he could hear Nelson’s voice. He wanted to answer him… but Chip…How would he really feel. He, Lee Crane, was the cause of Chip being hurt, being lost!! Chip wouldn’t forgive him…why should he? His best friend causing him to crash!!!! And what… what if Chip were …?He looked around at the grayness that surrounded him, and felt it’s warmth, and comfort… felt the lack of anything unpleasant… no hurt here, no pain… and he moved away from the door. It was warmer and softer here, away from the door and … Chip…Chip wouldn’t forgive him!. He had no reason to...no reason to at all
Chip woke...it was dark and he was hot and then he was cold. FEVER! he thought Through eyes glazed with rising fever, and continued pain, he looked out of the opening of the small hollow he had sheltered in... He thought he saw a sky filled with stars. He slowly crawled to the opening, slowly pulling his body towards it. His meager fire had long gone out and the cold had crept into his bones...He knew he was getting more and more ill. He also knew that come the light, he had to move again, if he had any hope of being found... If the weather cleared, and dried, then, maybe he could make better progress, maybe he would feel better.
He lay at the opening of his shelter and looked up at the sky. It was clear, the stars shining, the moon, bright and full. Judging from the position of the stars and the moon, he estimated daylight in about three hours, and crawling back to his place against the rock, hunkered down to try to sleep. As he drifted off, he couldn’t help but wonder how and why he had crashed to begin with....
When the call had come in from Admiral Jiggs Starke that the Navy and ComSubPac had finished testing the radar device, Nelson had asked Chip to take the FS1 to the San Diego Naval Base and pick it up. The boat had been on a simple charting mission, in the Pacific, about 200 nautical miles from the Institute. Lee Crane had been plagued with headaches since leaving port and both Nelson and Jamison felt assigning the XO to the flight was more prudent. They didn’t want to risk any accidents to Crane and the device.
And since the boat was on her return to the Institute, and the device had to be returned to Santa Barbara, Chip willingly took the assignment. His opportunities to take her out alone were not as frequent as Lee’s, and like Crane, he enjoyed taking her out. And once you had that, like her mother-ship, she got under your skin, and you couldn’t get enough of her… There was a freedom to flying her that couldn't be described, but that had to be experienced to understand … He understood she was Lee Crane's 'baby', but when she was shared...well…Chip never turned down the opportunity to take her out ….
Chip wished he knew what had gone wrong… Lee was gonna be mad as hell when he found her. He spent hours with his ‘baby’, fine tuning her, and Chip was sure that he had done something wrong to cause her to lose control like that. And Nelson, he was also sure that the Admiral was going to be madder than a frustrated bull in heat that the device was under water. Chip groaned aloud, knowing that there was no one to hear him. He settled into a more comfortable position… and as he began to drift asleep, he felt tingle on the edge of his consciousness, brief, but there…. ‘LEE??’
In the grey that was his world, Lee drifted… he was aware of many things and nothing.
His mind touched many and none…he sensed grief and pain, and absolute joy, and the depths of depression, and he at once hated it and welcomed it, wanting more of it. He was everything and nothing and he wondered if this was death, and if it was, then, he would just go with the grey. It was almost too easy…this…but there was a down side…he was lonely…so very alone…brushes with other consciousness’ were fleeting and brief, and the emotions they stirred, many. But he…he was alone, and searching, and then suddenly, he brushed another mind, and it reached out to him, briefly. But the touch gave him the desire to return to the door to find it, and the resolve to open it and go thru to whatever the door held… ‘Chip!!!’ the warmth, the love, the trust of his friend reached out and touched his mind, and spurred him to seek the way back….
In the Sick Bay, Harriman Nelson had long fallen asleep at the side of his Captain, and the doctor had not disturbed him, reasoning that getting the Admiral to sleep at all was an accomplishment. He really didn’t want Harry to be far from Lee in any case. He had checked Crane’s charts for the hundredth time, it seemed, and there was not one bit of hope there at all. If anything, it seemed that the coma was deepening, and if that was what was happening, …. Well, he didn’t even want to imagine what it would do to Harriman Nelson
When Nelson suddenly sat up on the stool, Jamison moved to his side as quickly as he could. Nelson looked startled… "Harry…?"
"His hand, Will… his hand…like he was trying to grab at something… and twist it …like a doorknob…He moved his hand!!!"
Will laid a hand on Nelson’s shoulder, knowing how desperate the older man was for some positive sign, some hope…
"Harry, I don’t think…." He said, trying to be gentle,
"Dammit, Will…Don’t patronize me!!!!! Lee moved his hand!!"
"Harry, I don’t see any change in the monitors… I’m sorry, it was probably just reflex…you know that deep coma patients have reflex reactions…I’m sorry… I just don’t want you to be disappointed."
"He moved his hand… it wasn’t a reflex, he reached out and grabbed and turned as if it was a doorknob,"
"Harry, I think that you are reading too much into a reflex action… you were sleeping, you can’t be sure!!" Jamison was becoming concerned about the older man’s agitated state.
"I tell you that his hand moved, Will!!" Nelson’s voice was tinged with anger as well as frustration with the lack of belief on the part of the doctor. "It has to be a good sign!!"
Taking a different tack, Jamison began again…"Alright, Harry. I’ll take a look at the readings, and see what I can tell you."
"I said don’t patronize me, Will!!"
"I’m not! These are the facts, plain and simple… There was some kind of brain damage to Lee Crane due to an unknown implant. As a result, Lee is in a coma. There is very little brain activity. There may have been motor damage. And I see very little hope of any recovery at all. Those are the facts. Beyond that, well I don’t know. Is that enough?"
Nelson looked like he had taken a hit with a 2 X 4 . Softly, and with tired desperation he answered the medic. "Yes, Will. That’s more than enough. But I still believe that he moved his hand. And that in and of itself is reason for me to hope."
Francis Sharkey had been standing in the doorway of the Sick Bay, and had heard the entire conversation between the Admiral and the doctor. Sharkey could not believe that the Doc would give up on the Skipper that easily. There had to be something they could do. Something!!!
He cleared his throat, "Excuse me, Sirs, but Admiral, Mr. O’Brien asked me to report to you with the lists for the search crews that we set up to find the Exec. We have to heave to in the Channel, because the beach area is too shallow for the boat. We can ferry the men to the Island in the zodiacs, and then head overland from there. If we find Mr. Morton, we can airlift him out with the FS1. Mr. O’Brien already cleared it with the NPS and the Conservancy. We can put as many as half the crew on the island for the search."
Nelson looked at the COB, and saw the concern on his face. "Do you have a search area designated, Sharkey?"
"Yes, sir." He moved to the gurney, and opened the map on Nelson’s lap. Pointing to the area where he and Kowalski had seen the remnants of the parachute, he said, "Here, sir.
This is where we found the ‘chute." He showed Nelson the area that they had designated the search area.
"This is a big area to cover, Chief." He looked again at the COB, "But, if Mr. Morton is to be found, then we’ll do it, eh?"
"Aye, sir… The Seaview always takes care of her own, sir."
"Yes, Chief, she does. She always does." He looked at Crane, "Did you hear that, Lad? We’ve found Chip’s parachute and we’re going to look for him as soon as it gets light. We will find him, Lee. Sharkey will see to that." He laid his hand back on the Captain’s shoulder. "I’m going to see what I can do to help, Lad. I’ll be back."
Frank Lerner came out of the office, "I’ll sit with the Skipper, Admiral. Doc asked me to."
"Thanks, Frank." Nelson murmured. He slid from the stool, clapping the Chief on the shoulder. "Let’s go, Francis." He started to the door, and turned to Jamison, "He did move his hand."
Jamison merely nodded and went to his office, as the two men left the Sick Bay.
The sun slowly rose over the mountainside. In the soft rose that was the early dawn, Chip Morton crawled out of his night’s protection. He felt awful… he knew he was fighting a fever and rising discomfort from his shoulder and his chest lead him to believe that he had to get to some civilization soon. After all, he also knew that he couldn’t survive much longer with out food. Water had been no problem…but food…… well there was a lot available on the island, but injured as he was, and as sick as he was, getting it wasn’t possible to get much if any at all.
He shrugged, painfully and pulled himself to a standing position, using the trunk of a tree for support. He looked around the glade that he was standing in, looked forward to the base of the range of mountains and the tree line, and straightening up as much as his shoulder would allow, slogged toward it.
Several hours later, he leaned against yet another tree. He was so hot, yet he hesitated removing his flight jacket, afraid he might lose it . He was thirsty, hungry, and his chest hurt in addition to the pain in his shoulder.
‘Morton, you are a hell of a mess… get your act together… you’ve been in worse predicaments than this…stop whining! Let’s get going, Morton!!!
He rose, wearily, and moved slowly forward… He knew that he had to make it to the tree line… he had to…
The S.S.R.N. Seaview lay at rest in Santa Barbara Channel, off of Santa Cruz Island. As the sun rose high in the sky, several zodiacs filled to capacity with Crewmen made their way to the island.
As they carefully beached the inflatables, and began to make their way to the mountains from Prisoner’s Bay beach, Sharkey led one of the parties, Kowalski the second, and Patterson, the third. Only the Senior Ratings had the Chief’s trust to lead the search. He, Nelson and the Acting Captain, Bob O’Brien had carefully planned a search pattern. The difficult part would be getting over the mountain range and into the Valley as quickly as possible.
The fact that Morton had been exposed to the elements, in all of their fury, for two days, and no one knew if he had been injured, made the search all the more urgent. As the men made their way to the mountains, Sharkey was barking orders at the men. After several hours of climbing, the teams split and went towards different parts of the island, each team of 15 men fanning out, to get over the mountain range, and into the valley.
Chip had stopped again, breathing becoming harder and harder after any exertion. He had finally shed the leather flight jacket, and had, as part of his rational mind had feared, lost it. He didn’t know where or when, and he hardly cared any more. He was forcing himself to put one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. His mind was getting more and more cloudy, more and more befuddled. He wanted desperately to cool down, to alleviate the heat he was feeling… he couldn’t even feel his arm and shoulder, his chest was hurting abominably, and he was tired, so tired. But again, the logical part of his mind knew that if he stopped, if he gave in, then he would be lost… that all would be lost.
‘Where in the hell is the cavalry? Admiral, Lee aren’t you supposed to come over the hill and rescue me? C’mon, lets see the rear guard here!!!’
Shaking his head wearily, he began to move forward but once again…
Morning, and noon came and went as the teams spread further and further over the leeward side of the Island, seeking and finally finding paths, naturally formed that lead them over craggy peaks into the valley of this, the largest of the Channel Islands. The irony of the search was that this island was so close to Santa Barbara and the Institute as well. Once on the valley side of the rocky range, the teams followed a series of tracks laid down on the maps that they held, that O’Brien and Nelson had set out for each group. The hope was, of course, that they would converge toward the site where the ‘chute had been located, and finding that would find the XO nearby. Or at least somewhere in their paths.
But as the day wore on, the task grew more and more daunting, Sharkey and the team leaders realizing the amount of ground that they had to cover. Even the COB of the boat was becoming disheartened, when as the evening began to approach, he called a halt by radio to all the parties, ordering them all to set camp for the night, and to bed down and prepare for the next day’s search.
It was a saddened and unhappy Sharkey that called to Sparks, to report to Nelson. "Chief Sharkey to Admiral Nelson…come in please."
"Go ahead, Chief." Nelson answered.
"All the teams are setting up camp for the night, sir… there’s been no sign of Mr. Morton, and with the darkness here, well, sir, its safer that the men stay where they are. We’ll pick up the search again at first light."
Nelson sounded tired and almost ill, as Sharkey asked his next question, "The Skipper, sir, any change?"
With a heavy heart, Admiral Nelson answered, simply, "No, Francis, no change at all. Will is getting ready to make arrangements to transfer him to San Diego as soon as we get Mr. Morton back aboard. We have to start thinking of the men and the boat, and right now, this is hurting them too much."
"Aye, sir." Sharkey blurted out, realizing that by agreeing with the Admiral, he, too, was acknowledging the futility of Lee’s condition. Horrified at his response, he quickly said, "Admiral, sir.. I’m sorry!! I didn’t mean that I’ve given up on the Skipper, sir.!!!! I only meant…"
"I know, Sharkey. I know. It really is alright." The Admiral’s voice was soft and pain-filled. "We do have to think of the men and the boat. That is what Lee would want, and is just what I am doing. Keep me informed of any developments. Nelson out!"
Startled by the abruptness of the Admiral’s end of transmission. Francis Sharkey stared at the radio in his hand. Seaman Rodriguez looked at the COB and questioned him carefully, "Is everything ok, Chief…The Skipper isn’t ….?
"No, Rod. The Skipper’s the same. No change. It’s the Admiral I’m worried about. He’s takin’ this whole thing awfully hard. You know how the O.O.M. and the Skipper go way back… He’s just upset about what Doc had to say today… I was well, kinda standin’ there, waiting to talk to the Admiral and I heard the whole thing. Doc Jamison doesn’t think that the Skipper is gonna get better. And even though the Admiral hasn’t given up, it’s not easy for him, you know."
"Chief," Roderiguez said softly, "The Captain has often come back when he was given up on. You know, as well as I do, that you cannot give up hope. St. Christopher has helped him in many situations…."He touched his chest where he wore his St. Christopher Medal. Years ago when Crane had been faced with a difficult situation, Rod had given the Skipper his own medal. Crane had worn in ever since and had replaced the one he had received with one for Rodriguez. The seaman often shared the story of his medal with any one who would listen, and it gave him a special tie to his captain. "We are all praying for him, Chief. He is the heart of the Seaview…she will see, along with the Lord that he recovers… You will see."
Sharkey was moved by the Seaman’s words, by his deep belief that all would be well. He looked deeply into the man’s eyes, and responded, "Yeah, well…I guess we hafta wait and see. Come on, let’s get it down for the night, huh, Rod?" He patted the man on the shoulder, and moved off into the glade, where the crewmen had camped.
He had awakened from his fevered and exhausted sleep, and seen lights in the night. Not a lot, but lights… ‘Campers? All of a sudden? Or maybe… the cavalry?’ He forced his pain and fever racked body to its feet. ‘Fires meant warmth, and people’… The lights didn’t look too far away…he was sure that he could get there…sure that he would find help to the boat…home… and he struggled towards the blinking lights…
In the small area that the crew had cleared for the camp, the men huddled around the campfire in the center of the clearing. They stayed close for more than warmth. They stayed close to share the feelings that they shared about the Skipper, the Exec, the boat. They talked in low tones, hushed by the night, the unfamiliar place, and the situation they all shared… they talked of the men that led them, and the loyalty that those men showed to them… They were determined to find the Exec and one by one, turned onto their sleeping bags, to sleep, however poorly.
Finally the lone watch, Rodriquez established himself to take his night’s duty, and he sat, near the fire, and became lost in his thoughts.
It was a short time later, that Rodriguez heard the noise in the woods directly to the right of the campsite. He stirred the fire, and made it flame more brightly, illuminating the area so that he could see better. From the sounds, he thought that it might be a large animal, crashing through the woods in pursuit of prey. He slung the rifle to his hands from the shoulder, and slowly aimed it in the direction of the noise. And then he waited…waited for the beast of the night to show itself. He drew in his breath in anticipation, hearing it come closer, slowly began to squeeze the trigger. Then he saw it, breaking through the cover on the far side of the clearing. He held his shot, something made him hesitate, and good thing that he did…for it was a man that staggered into the clearing.
"Mr. Morton!!" he shouted.
Chip Morton stood for a moment at the edge of the clearing, reacting to the sound of the shout, with a mixture of disbelief and relief. He took several steps toward the surprised watcher, and then, his knees giving out, toppled to the ground, giving in to the blessed unconsciousness that claimed him.
At Rod’s shout, the small encampment had been roused, and several of the men had seen Morton come into the clearing and then collapse. They rushed to the side of the lost man, Sharkey somehow managing to be the first man to Morton’s side. Frank Lerner had also been assigned to the CPO’s search team, and he joined Sharkey as the rest of the men looked on. Gently they turned him onto his back, and Lerner rapidly began to examine the Exec. A few small grunts on the part of the corpsman, and finally Sharkey exploded at the man, "Well!!!"
Lerner calmly quirked an eye at the non-com, and reaching for a med kit, began to work on Morton as he spoke to Sharkey. "He’s gonna be ok, Chief… He’s been banged up pretty good, and he’s got pneumonia, but I think once we get him back to the boat, he’ll be ok."
"Are you sure? I mean really sure??" Sharkey asked anxiously.
Giving the Chief a small smile of reassurance, "As sure as I can be here. I mean we’ll need to do x-rays, and check out his shoulder.. I think he’s dislocated it, but I’m starting these IV’s and as soon as we can get him back to the boat…" Chip moaned slightly and his eyes fluttered open.
In a raspy voice, he asked, "Chief…? Frank…? That really you…? Or am I having a dream…?"
Sharkey broke into a huge grin. "It’s us, Mr. Morton. We’re real glad to see you, sir."
"No more than I am to see you, Chief…" He groaned as Frank moved his right arm. "Shoulder dislocated?"
"Yes, sir. I’m going to give you something for the pain, Mr. Morton, and I’ve got a couple of IV’s going in the bad arm, sir. This’ll make you sleepy. It’ll be better when we try to move you."
Chip nodded, and then reached out for Sharkey’s arm, grasping it. "Chief… the FS1?"
A brief shadow passed over Sharkey’s face, and then the smile returned. "Recovered and repaired, sir. We’ll be bringing it over to take you back to the boat with first light."
"Lee and the Admiral couldn’t have been too happy with her condition when she was found." The shadow passed over Sharkey’s face a second time, and this time, although he was rapidly loosing his hold on cognitive thought, Chip saw it and questioned, "What… what’s wro…. wrong, Chief…? Wha…what’s wrong?" his voice was fading, consciousness slipping away, but the last he remembered was Sharkey’s sad face.
Frank Lerner bustled about the Exec, taking his vitals, setting the IV’s and seeing to the settling of the XO for the rest of the night. When he had finished, he told Sharkey, "He’s as settled as I can make him here. We have to get him back to the boat, Chief. I can handle the basics here, but Mr. Morton needs to be in the Sick Bay."
"I’ve been on the radio with the boat, Frank. At first light, we have permission to land the FS1 here on the Island. We’ll take Mr. Morton back to the boat on that. Sunrise is at 0545, so we should have him on the boat by 0630."
"That’s good, Chief. Real good…. Look, why don’t you go and try and get some shut eye. I’ll stay with Mr. Morton. He needs to be monitored."
Sharkey looked at the boat’s Exec. Frank had bound Chip’s right arm tightly to his chest. He had two IV lines running into the injured arm, and he had an Oxygen mask on his face. The Exec seemed to be resting comfortably, but Sharkey also knew that Frank Lerner would take no unnecessary chances. He was glad that the corpsman would be sitting with Morton. And he was tired… very tired. He knew there would be a great deal more to cope with, but maybe Frank was right. A little shut eye right now might be a good idea…
In the grey mist, Lee wandered, searching for the door… he knew it was there…and he heard the voices on the other side…heard the care and concern…and heard the Admiral talking to him. But the door had disappeared…he felt like he had been searching for it forever…he slowly became aware of another presence with him. It was slight, and tenuous at best. But it was warm, and deep friendship flowed from it. It was touching his mind, reaching out, questioning…
"Lee… is that you…?" the voice asked. He tried to answer, but held back… did he really want to talk to Chip? He had tried to kill him!! Chip wouldn’t understand…he just wouldn’t.
"Lee…" the voice was becoming more insistent… "Lee! …What…where is this place?? Lee… Talk to me!!!"
But Lee didn’t want to talk… and he retreated further and further away from the seeking voice…further and further away from the door…he wanted to explain… but not now… later… maybe later…maybe later…
Sharkey was as good as his word to Frank Lerner. As soon as the dawn began to break, the men started to pack up the camp. The other two groups had been contacted, and they were heading back to the beach and the zodiacs. The group that had found the Exec packed up their campsite, and began to head to an open area of the forest, where the FS1 could set down. The sub had arrived as Sharkey had promised, flown by the Admiral himself. They had carefully brought Chip aboard, and in rapid time, were airborne, back to the boat. Once she had berthed, the injured man was rapidly transferred to the Sick Bay, where Jamison was waiting for his arrival.
In the Sick Bay, Will Jamison worked carefully over Chip Morton. With the help of Lerner and Warner, they spent the time with x-rays, IV’s, exams, and numerous tests, before he was settled in a rack, with IV and oxygen lines running. Jamison had administered an additional sedative, to keep him sleeping for at least the next 14 hours. He wanted the time to beat the Pneumonia, before Chip was aware enough to begin to fight with him. Jamison sat at his desk, and in invited a weary Nelson to sit in the office with him.
"Well…" the Admiral asked.
"Well…. He’s in surprisingly good shape considering what he has been through." He flipped the pages on his clipboard. "Concussion, dislocated right shoulder, fractured forearm. There is a nasty bruise across his back, it looks like something hard and heavy hit him…"
Nelson nodded, "the access ladder?"
"That’s a real possibility, Harry. He’s a bit dehydrated, and has a number of scrapes, and bruises. His left leg has a bruise on it that would make a linebacker proud. And he has pneumonia. Not a bad case, but enough to keep him here at least a week. Or in the Med-Bay at the Institute. The location isn’t important, since," he looked out into the center of the Sick Bay at Lee Crane lying on the gurney, "I don’t think the boat will be going out for a while."
"No, Will, she isn’t going to be leaving port for a while… Have…have you made plans to transfer Lee?" he also looked out into the Sick Bay at the gurney.
"Yes. Once we had Chip found, I called the Hospital at the San Diego base. They are ready to accept him at any time. Tony is waiting for us at the Hospital. If any one can help Lee medically, he’s the man. If there is any hope…"
Nelson rose from the chair, and without further words, went to the center of the Sick Bay. Standing next to Lee’s gurney, he looked over his comatose friend, to the other young man in the rack. The two friends, closer than brothers. Yet, one had tried to kill the other, while under enemy influence. How would Chip Morton deal with that reality when he came to and was appraised of it all…And Lee, what was going to happen to Lee.
Will said the coma was deepening. Harriman Nelson felt as if he might loose two of the most important people in the world to him, in different ways, and the feeling of grief was almost overwhelming. He swayed, and grabbed at the rail on the gurney. Steadying himself, he laid a hand on Crane’s shoulder. "Lee," he whispered , "Chip is here. We found him… or he found us. He’s banged up a bit, but he’s here. He’ll be alright… Everything is going to be alright. Come back to us, lad. Come back to the boat and the men. Come back to me, Lee. I need you to continue as part of my life. I …."
Nelson shuddered and gasped at the very real pain that shot through him. Jamison had been watching him, surreptitiously, and when he heard the gasp, he moved into the room. Putting an arm around the Admiral’s shoulder, Jamison led him back into his office, sitting him in the chair next to the desk. Nelson seemed to shrink into the chair. Jamison turned back to him, hypodermic in hand, and unbuttoned the Admiral’s shirt sleeve, and jabbed the needle into the older man’s arm. He swabbed it with alcohol, and then turned the sleeve back down. When Nelson continued to remain passive, Jamison picked up the mike. "Mr. O’Brien, this is the Doc."
"Would you send the Chief to me? I know he came back on the boat with Mr. Morton on the FS1 and I could use his help."
"Aye, Doc. He’s on his way." O’Brien replied.
"Thanks, Bob. Sick Bay out." He turned back to Nelson, and began to speak to him in soft tones, "Harry…Harry…look at me, Dammit!!"
Nelson looked at his doctor and friend, "What, Will? What are you going to tell me that I don’t already know?" His blue eyes, usually so sharp and clear, were clouded with pain and grief. "What?"
"Harry, I’ve been frank with you since this began, and I’m not going to stop now. I’ve given you a light sedative, Sharkey is on his way here, and he will take you to your cabin. You will stay there, and sleep until further orders from me. You are very close to a heart attack here, Harry and if you keep pushing yourself , the coffee, the cigarettes, the lack of sleep, well it can happen, and as the CMO of this boat I am putting you on Medical Leave as of right now. You can’t do anything else for Lee or Chip…and putting you in a bunk in here won’t help them at all." The fire returned briefly to the blue eyes, but it went out just as quickly. He had opened his mouth to reply, but the reply quickly fled. Francis Sharkey burst into the Sick Bay, fear and dread showing clearly on his face.
"Doc?" He questioned in a whisper loud enough to make the medic start. "Doc?! The Skipper? The Exec?…??"
"Easy, Chief… I have a job for you. Captain Crane and Mr. Morton are not in any danger. I’ve just given the Admiral a sedative, and I would like for you to get him to his quarters, and have him lie down."
Looks of relief and new concern flashed over the COB’s face. Whispering to him, Jamison said softly, "He’s exhausted himself, Chief. I had to give him something to get him to rest, or the third member of the Senior Staff would be taking up residence in this Sick Bay, and I’m already stretched to the limit here. Take him to his Cabin, and settle him in the bunk, and then report back here."
"Aye, Doc." Warily, expecting an argument, Sharkey went to Nelson’s side. "Admiral…Sir?"
When Nelson didn’t respond to him, Sharkey gently took his arm and helped him
"Admiral, I’m gonna take you to your cabin, sir. The Doc thinks you’ll rest better there. And so do I, you know… you need to get some sleep, Admiral. Mr. Morton and the Skipper’ll be ok…you’ll see…" He eased Nelson to the doorway, and out into the corridor. "C’mon, now, sir. You’ll see, you’re gonna feel better after a little shut eye…"
Jamison shook his head, marveling at the steady stream of talk that came from the CPO as he and Nelson headed to Officer’s Country and the Admiral’s cabin. He turned and went to check on the two patients that he had in the Sick Bay.
Harriman Nelson woke in his cabin. He turned in his bunk, surprised to find himself there, and further surprised to find himself clad in only his Pajamas. A vague memory of the Sick Bay, and words with Will Jamison returned, and he remembered Sharkey walking him to his cabin… but not much else. He stretched, and found that in spite of , or perhaps, because of Will’s potion, he felt rested and relaxed. Then realizing what had sent him here to begin with, he sat bolt upright and reached for the mike above the bunk.
Clearing his throat, "Sick Bay, Nelson here…"
"Doc’ll be with you in a moment, Sir. He’s with Mr. Morton right now. Please hold, sir." While waiting for Jamison’s response, swung his feet to the side of the bunk, and stood, leaning back into the bunk.
There was a knock on his door, and Sharkey called in, "Admiral…?"
Clearing his throat, Nelson called out, "Come, Francis."
The COB entered the cabin with a tray in hand, "As soon as you called the Sick Bay, Sir, Cookie was notified to send this up. Breakfast, sir."
"Mmm, well, put it down on the desk, Chief." Nelson waved him to the desk.
Will’s voice came over the speaker. "Admiral, you called?"
"Yes, Will… How are they? Frank said you were with Chip."
"Yes, sir. Just checking on them. The both of them are stable…nothing has changed.… How are you, sir. How do you feel?"
Sharkey was standing beside the desk as Nelson continued to talk, "Better, Will, much better. I slept well, thanks to your help."
"That’s good, Harry. I’ve made arrangements to have Lee transferred at 1100 hours. After you’ve eaten and showered, we’ll discuss where Chip will be recovering. It’s just 0800, and I’ll see you here in an hour. I want to check your vitals as well."
"We’ll discuss that when I get there!" was Nelson’s retort. "Nelson out."
Sharkey handed him his robe, and he slid into it. Then Sharkey held the chair for his boss to sit at the desk, and, reluctantly, the Admiral sat. "just what did ‘Cookie’ send up, Francis?"
"Well, Admiral, I saw eggs, and toast and some bacon and fruit and juice."
"Where’s the coffee?" Nelson growled.
Sharkey smiled weakly at the Admiral. "Doc says no coffee, sir. Not for a while. And I. …I … umm, I supposed to make sure that you eat all of it."
Nelson snorted, and looked at the sheepish Chief. "Alright, Chief…alright…" Looking back at the now relieved man, he smiled and said, "Sit down, Francis. I’ll behave my self!! Sit down!!!"
Harriman Nelson stood on the Flying Bridge of his boat, the S.S.R.N. Seaview. The crew had assembled on the deck, toward the bridge, and were awaiting a helicopter from the San Diego Naval Base. The ‘copter was coming to take the boat’s Captain, Lee Crane, to the Naval Hospital at San Diego. Crane’s coma was deepening, and Dr. Will Jamison had decided that he needed to transport the young officer to the land facility as soon as was possible. Seaview had berthed shortly before, and the ‘copter was landing adjacent to her above ground berth, in the parking lot. Jamison was going with the ‘copter. His corpsman, Frank Lerner was going to follow in an ambulance with the boat’s XO, Chip Morton.
Nelson was holding his emotions in tight rein. He was deeply afraid that this was the last time that Lee would be leaving his ‘silver lady’. He looked at the crew of 125 men that were standing at rest on the deck. He was proud of them, to a man. At his side were Lt. Bob O’Brien, and COB Francis Sharkey. He would be leaving the boat himself, to go to the Naval Hospital as soon as all the business of docking was finished. The helicopter came into sight, and circled twice before landing in the parking lot adjacent to the boat. A stretcher was gently lifted out of the embarkation hatch, and carefully carried up the gangway by four sailors. Nelson saw that they were the senior ratings, Kowalski and Patterson, and Seamen Rodriguez and Stu Riley. He smiled inwardly. The devotion and dedication of the crew to the Captain was as well known, as his was for them. These four men, however, had served with Crane on a number of missions and the four had been rescued by, and rescued the Captain, a number of times. It seemed fitting that they would carry his stretcher to the ‘copter. Jamison’s lean form followed the stretcher, and as he reached the head of the gangplank, he turned to Nelson, and nodded, then ran to the waiting helicopter.
The stretcher was fastened to the ‘copter, signals given, and she began to rise off the macadam. At the movement, Bob O’Brien’s very strong voice called out, "Aten, hut!"
And to a man, the entire compliment of the Boat snapped to attention, and saluted the chopper as it flew off. Harriman Nelson joined his crew in the salute to the Captain, and a single tear slid from the corner of his eye, as the ‘copter flew out of sight. O’Brien’s voice called out, "At ease!" and the men stood down, but did not leave their positions. Nelson brushed at his face, and turned to look at O’Brien…
"The Exec, sir." And he nodded to the ambulance pulling up at the head of the gangway.
A second stretcher was just as gently carried out of the hatch, and Nelson saw that Sharkey had replaced Riley in carrying this one. Frank Lerner followed Chip Morton, as Will had followed Lee. Once the doors of the ambulance had closed, O’Brien called the men to attention once again, and they saluted the Exec in the same way that they had saluted their Captain. The boat’s acting Captain then called an "At Ease!" followed by Sharkey calling a "Dismissed!" and the crew began to slowly move below and about the dock to make the boat ready for her time in port.
After having watched the ambulance leave the grounds, Nelson descended to the Control Room, and met O’Brien at the Plot Table. He looked at the young officer, and nodded approvingly. "That… that was nicely done, Bob. I’m sure Lee and Chip will appreciate it."
"Thank you, sir…"he stammered "It just seemed to me to be the ‘right’ thing to do. For the Skipper and the Exec… the men, you know."
He clapped him on the shoulder. "I know…" his voice grew husky with emotion. "I.. want… Thank you…Thank you, very much," Unable to say any more, He turned and left the Control Room for the safety of his cabin, where he allowed the tears of the grief he felt to fall...
Later that same day, Harriman Nelson walked down the corridor of the San Diego Naval Base Hospital. The four hour ride from the Institute to the Naval Base had been a quiet one.
Sharkey had elected to drive him, and no amount of persuasion could stop him, so O’Brien had released him from duty. After Nelson’s half hour meeting with Angie, his secretary, and Cathy Connors, his executive assistant, he had cleared his schedule for the foreseeable future, and after another call to Adm. Jiggs Starke, he was on his way. Jiggs had blustered and raged, and then calmed down and become the reasonable and caring friend he was to Nelson.
Starke had been waiting outside the door to the ICU in the med facility as Nelson walked down the hall. He saw the slump of his friend’s shoulders and was deeply saddened. He had charged over to the facility after Harriman’s call, and carried on at Will Jamison for almost a half hour… after which, Jamison calmly told him to sit and be quiet and listen or he would have him sedated for upsetting his patient. Starke had listened to Will’s story with increasing dread, and when the doctor finished his tale, he knew he had to wait for Nelson’s arrival, if only to give his friend needed support.
He met Nelson halfway down the corridor. "I’m sorry, Harriman. Crane was a good man."
Nelson’s eyes blazed, "is a good man, Jiggs… is!! He’s not dead yet!!!"
He reached out to lay a hand on Nelson’s shoulder, and Nelson took a step back, whether in anger or not, Starke was not sure. He dropped the hand and took a place next to his long time friend. "Your Doctor tends to forget his place, Harriman. He threatened to sedate me if I didn’t talk to him more quietly. He said I was upsetting his patient. I wasn’t. You surround yourself with men, Harriman, who don’t know where they belong in the place of things!"
Nelson laughed out loud. "Jiggs, you don’t like my men because they aren’t afraid of you! You can’t bully Lee or Chip with your attitude, and you certainly can’t throw a scare in to Will. He’s been around Seaview’s Senior Staff too long to let an old bag of wind like you put him off!"
Starke let out at long ‘humpf’ and held the door to Lee Crane’s ICU room for Nelson.
Nelson stopped in mid-stride, and turned to Starke. "Thanks, Jiggs. For coming over. I appreciate it."
Caught by surprise, the head of ComSubPac cleared his throat loudly, and said, "Of course, Harriman… Where else would I be? You are a friend, you know, and your men, well, as insolent and disrespectful as they are, they are loyal to you and that boat of yours. I give them that!"
Nelson smiled at his oldest friend. "As I’ve said before, you don’t like them, because you can’t scare them…. C’mon, Jiggs. I want to talk to Will, and see Lee and Chip." They walked into the dimly lit room, and Nelson went right to Jamison who was standing beside the bed. He looked at Lee, and was struck again with the sense of overwhelming sadness. ‘ Lee shouldn’t be here…he should be on the bridge of the boat, his boat… Chip at his side.’
"No change, Harry. None at all… we’re maintaining…nothing more. The portable vent kept him breathing on the trip here. Still showing minimal brain activity. No response to any motor stimuli. I’m sorry Harry. Tony Adamski is going to do an evaluation this evening. He may be able to come up with a plan of action. We’ll have to see."
"The evaluation I gave you in the Sick Bay still holds. He’s resting comfortably. I haven’t told him about Lee. I thought you would want to be there when I did. If you want I’ll meet you in his room, in say, fifteen minutes?"
Nelson nodded and Jamison left the room. Jiggs looked at Nelson and once again , his mouth engaged before his mind. Softly, he said, "I warned you, Harriman. I warned you years ago. This is tearing you apart, just like I knew it would. There are going to be decisions that you will have to make here. You won’t like them, but you will have to make them. I don’t want to see you in any more pain… but I did warn you !"
Softly, "Get out, Jiggs!"
Stronger… "I said get out!!!!! And don’t come back until you can have a better attitude!!! Get out!!!"
Shaking his head sadly, he took his cap, and started to the door. "I’m sorry, Harriman. You know where I will be if you need me." And he left Nelson alone in the room.
Nelson put his hand on his friend’s shoulder… "Lee, … if you can hear me, listen to this. Chip is here and safe. He is getting better. You have to get well, Lad. You have to come back to us, on the boat… to the men, the boat… you know your lady needs you. And I do too. I have a hard time talking to the people that I care about the most… Ask Edie. She’ll tell you what a dunce I am when it comes to letting people know how I feel. Lad, I have to tell you how I feel about you, and Chip. You are my boys, Lee,I never had a family, but from the first time I met you, and you gave me hell in class I knew that you were someone special. I had no idea, then, just how special… I found out soon enough, tho’. Lee, you have become the son that I never had, never will have. . You are the son of my heart. I can’t say anything else to you, other than that. I want you to know that. Maybe, just maybe you will realize just what you mean to me… to all of those that you live and work with at the Institute, and on the boat. You are such a part of my life. A part that I never thought I would allow anyone into… I didn’t have a choice, son. You didn’t just enter, you charged in. and you didn’t, for one minute, let me help you in any way… All that you have done, everything that you have accomplished, you did on your own. I am proud of you son. Very, very proud." Nelson’s hand gripped the comatose Captain’s arm tightly. "Come back, Lee. Come back to the men, the boat, come back to me…Please…Lee."
Chip found himself on an upward spiral, pushing his way to the surface, through a murky darkness that lightened as he moved. It was warm, and it was dry, but it was still a struggle to reach the surface of where-ever he was. He became aware, as it got lighter of voices talking softly, and he wanted to hear what they had to say, so he forced himself to the brightening grayness, and then, found himself in the light.
His eyes snapped open, and he slowly became aware of his surroundings… ‘hospital room… not the boat, not the med center…where…??’ He turned his head slowly and saw an auburn head bent in discussion with a balding one. He lay there looking at them for a moment, and then he tried to cough to get their attention. It sounded more like a hacking rasp rather than a cough. Both men turned their heads and looked at the man in the bed. They rose as one and moved across the room.
"Chip, glad to see you awake!" Nelson said, a smile broadening his features.
"How are you feeling, Chip?" Will asked. Without waiting for an answer, he reached for Morton’s good wrist and felt for a pulse. Nodding, he laid Chip’s arm back down and leaned on the bedrail, next to Nelson.
"Next time you take the FS1 out for a spin, Chip, try to come back with her?" Will gently jibbed. Chip tried to speak to him, but his voice would not come louder than a whisper. His throat was dry and what speech there was, was difficult.
"Admiral, Will, where is this…?" Jamison reached to the bedside table and took a cup of water, holding it to Chip’s mouth.
"Here, sip some, and then try and talk again." He reassured him. Chip took several sips of the water, and then closed his eyes, tired out with the effort. "Better?"
"Yes, thanks." His voice was still a whisper, but the timbre was stronger. "Where is this?"
"San Diego Naval…."
"Why not the Institute?" he demanded, more alert and aware. "What is really wrong?" With his good hand, he gripped the rail of the bed.
Nelson covered it with his own for a moment, and then, looking at Jamison, began… "Chip, you’re here, because Lee is down the hall in the ICU."
Startled, and concerned for his friend, he asked, "Why, what happened? The Boat…, the men…, the device…?"
"The boat is fine, the men are fine, the device is safely stowed at the Institute. Lee’s here, because…" Nelson faltered briefly, "Because he’s the one that caused the crash of the Flying Sub. He was programmed with a device implanted in his brain. Something caused the device to short circuit." Nelson took a deep breath, "He’s in a coma, on a ventilator. Will thinks that it’s not going to get any better. " Chip’s hand became white-knuckled as Nelson continued to speak. Looking at the older man, his and Lee’s mentor and friend, he could see the unshed tears. "They are doing a complete evaluation, and then deciding what course of action to take."
Chip struggled to sit up, finding himself unable to, when his body refused the commands he brain was giving, "Will!?" He rasped.
Jamison placed an arm on his shoulder. "You have to take it easy, Chip. You are not in such good shape yourself right now. You dislocated your shoulder, and have a broken left forearm. you have a number of fairly serious bruises, and a mild case of pneumonia. Not to mention exhaustion and exposure. You can’t sit up on your own, because your body refuses to allow you to abuse it any further…"
"Will, you don’t understand. I have to get up and see Lee… when I was unconscious, I felt… felt him there… I called for him … I … can’t explain it. He … didn’t answer me… I … called him. He moved away from me… he was sad… from what I could , um , I guess you would say, feel, from what I could feel… it was strange, but he was there….and he was…searching for something…. I… I don’t know what …or where… but I have to see him. I have to talk to him… tell him, I … I don’t blame him for this… if he was conditioned, he couldn’t help himself…he couldn’t!! I have to let him know…"
"Chip…" Jamison said gently, " give me a little time here. You’ve just come around yourself…You haven ‘t had a day in the park… the pneumonia hasn’t cleared, tho it is better. You have to be stiff and sore, and the arm and shoulder are going to start making their presence known shortly, if they haven’t already. And judging on past experiences with you and the rest of the senior staff, you won’t be telling me if they are, unless you are at the edge, and even then, you won’t. You need to rest, sleep and recover, and I also know that you won’t unless you see Lee."
Chip smiled slightly… "Predictable lot, aren’t we… and hell on our doctors!! You got it all correct, Doc. So, you gonna help me get to him, or do I have to do it all myself?"
"I think that you know the answer, Commander. Admiral, will you hand me Mr. Morton’s robe?" Nelson moved to the closet, and took a hospital robe from the closet, and brought it to the bedside.
Jamison had called for a wheelchair, and John Warner came through the door pushing one. He nodded to the Admiral, and Morton, and looked at Jamison and said, "Here is is, sir. Do you need a hand, Mr. Morton?"
Chip also nodded, surprised that Warner was here. The corpsman took the robe from the Admiral and helped the Seaview’s Exec first to sit up slowly, and then helped him into the robe in a fashion that allowed his injured arm and shoulder to remain undisturbed. Jamison and Nelson then stood on either side of the younger man, and waited as he took a deep breath and stood.
"Easy, son…" Nelson admonished. "Just take it easy… we’ll get you to his side in a few moment. Easy, now…" Chip took a few slow steps to the wheelchair, and sank gratefully in to the leather seat.
"Alright, Morton… do I say ‘I told you so?’" Jamison asked.
Chip ruefully nodded. "Yes, you do… took a lot! More than I thought it would." Will laid his hand on Chip’s shoulder.
"Let’s go and see Lee, and then we’ll get you back here and settled. I don’t want you to stay here any longer than need be."
He allowed Warner to push the chair down the corridor, to the ICU with Nelson and Jamison following close behind. When they reached the ICU doorway, Jamison leaned forward, "Chip… he is on a ventilator, and there other machines and things that he is hooked u p to. He doesn’t look good…Just be prepared." Nelson placed a hand on his shoulder, as Jamison had done earlier….
Chip nodded, apprehensively. Jamison pushed the door open, and Warner pushed the chair in, as Nelson followed them. John placed Chip’s chair near the bed, his good arm at the side that he could reach Lee’s hand. Then he left the room, after quietly talking to Will, and Frank Warner who was on duty, in the Skipper’s room. After a few more words to the Doctor and a nod to Nelson, he also left the room..
Chip sat in the wheelchair and stared at his friend. Lee’s color was a pasty white, and he lay unmoving, head slightly elevated, save for the steady rhythm of the ventilator moving his chest up and down, sustaining his breathing. His eyes were closed. To Chip Morton, he looked dead. ‘Dead… he’s as good as dead!!’ Chip reached for a limp hand, and took it in his firm grip. Looking over at Jamison and Nelson, seeking an answer to a question he didn’t want to ask.
"There is minimal brain activity, Chip. But it is minimal… and every time we have tried to turn off the vent, he stops breathing. There was damage to the medulla… we just don’t know how much."
"Then he could be like this for years?" Morton asked, appalled at the thought.
"Yes." Was the flat reply. Jamison glanced at Nelson, and saw his face blanch at the thought. He was having a hard time himself thinking that Lee Crane could spend the rest of his life, like this. He was anxious to talk to Adamski who had become one of the foremost specialists on brain injuries in recent years. He hoped that his friend would have an answer for all of them, although in his heart of hearts, he believed he knew what the diagnosis would be. He was concerned what the results of the news would be on the two men in the room… as well as the men on the boat. He sighed, and turned to Nelson, saying in a soft voice, "Admiral, why don’t we wait outside…give Chip some time alone with Lee."
Without saying another word, the two men left. Chip sighed heavily. "Lee, what the hell kind of a mess have you gotten yourself into now, huh? Seems to me this is one that I’m not gonna be able to do too much about. See, I made it back. And except for a few bumps and bruises here or there, I’m ok. You weren’t at fault in this, Lee. What ever it was you did to the FS1, you did a lousy job. I made, she made it and the device made it. Somehow, Lee, you didn’t do what ever it was you were supposed to do, because we all got back. We all are safe, and in something of one piece. Now it’s your turn, buddy. You have to come out of this and get back on your feet. Seaview needs you at her helm, Skipper. The men need you. Harry Nelson needs you. He’s a wreck, Lee. I haven’t seen him look this bad ever. He’s afraid he’s gonna loose you , Lee. And he can’t deal with that. He’s smoking more than ever, and you know, as well as I do, that he probably isn’t sleeping. Will’s attached himself to the OOM like glue, it seems."
He paused, and looked again at his friend in the bed… the vibrant, active, stubborn Captain of the Seaview reduced to this…he shook his head in sorrow, and began to cry softly, "Dammit, Lee! Don’t do this !! I know that you are there… When I was unconscious, I felt you nearby!!! I reached out to you and you moved away!! If it’s because of what happened, of what you did, then, I’m telling you, here and now, I’m okay! There is no reason for you to continue to stay there…where ever you are! Come back to the people that need you and care about you !!!! " He bowed his head and he cried for his friend, and for himself, the Admiral, the men and the boat. Quietly, Nelson and Jamison entered the room, and went to the Exec. Nelson looked at the young officer in the wheelchair, and, his own eyes glistening with tears, took the wheelchair, and headed to the door of the room…
"Wait, sir, please?" he asked Nelson
"Will, I want to come back here, on a regular basis, just to sit and talk with him… if that’s okay?" there was a quality to Chip’s voice that put the question more in the terms of an order rather than a request.
"Sure… I’m certain it will be, Chip. Let me wait til Dr. Adamski gets here, and we set up protocols based on his diagnosis. And you need to rest and recover yourself. John is going to go with you and the Admiral and get you settled.. I’ll be in shortly and then we will have a talk. Tony is going to be here at 1400, and that’s only ten minutes from now. I have to be here when he examines Lee."
"Fine, Will. Just so you know, I will be spending as much time as I can here… as much as I can."
"We’ll see, Chip… we’ll see."
"No, Will, we won’t see. We will do it, and that, doctor is and order, not a request!"
"As CMO, I have the authority to…"
"Cut the bullshit, Will. Consider it an order. I will be here!!" and with those words, Nelson wheeled him out of the room. As they made their way down the hall, the two men remained in silence… both of them hoping in their own way that the conversation that Chip Morton had with Lee Crane would make a difference, and wondering if the new doctor’s evaluation would really make a difference.
Several hours later, Will Jamison entered Chip’s room. John Warner had helped him back into the bed, and settled him in. He had given Chip the sedative that Will prescribed and the Exec had fallen into an induced sleep that was far from restful.
Jamison went right to Nelson’s side. The Admiral had been sitting in a chair, staring out to the ocean. He heard Jamison enter, and motioned him to a chair, without looking at him.
"She’s beautiful, isn’t she, Will? Raging one moment, peaceful the next. The source of food for much of the world ‘s population. The source of water, the beginning of life as we know it. The end of life.. She calls to you, you know. She catches you and calls to you and makes you one of her own… I caught the fever when I was five… and Lee and Chip here, they hear her call too …she is a witch, and enchantress, and all that we want her to be, and more… Lee often says that she owns him, his heart and his mind.. I know how true that can be. Lee loves her, and I hope that she will call him back… along with the care and concern of all of us around him. I have to believe that he will come back to us, to the men, to the boat… he calls her his Silver Lady, Will. If I don’t believe that, then I will loose all that I have come to believe in.. Lee will be back, Will…he will be."
Jamison took a deep breath, and began a conversation with Nelson that he had
not planned on having at all. "I just got done with Tony Adamski, Harry. He did
a lot of tests, and has scheduled Lee for an entire battery more… Neurological
Scan, MRI, CAT scan, X-rays, An angiogram, and he is planning to do an ICP
monitor for the morning. In the meantime, he is putting Lee in a coma recovery
program, initiating it the day after tomorrow. And it’s not going to be easy on
any one of u s… we have to be together on this, or Lee will be that greatest
loser in all of this.."
"Coma Recovery?" Nelson questioned… "What is that ? And what can I do..?"
"It’s a total program, that concentrates on the patient and uses a variety of stimuli to try and bring the patient back. The day after tomorrow, we’ll begin, and we’ll need everyone who is a part of Lee’s life to become actively involved. All the men on the boat, in particular the ones that he is close to, and you, Chip, Sharkey, myself.. all of us."
"All of us, what, Will?" asked the still sleepy voice from the bed.
"All of us are going to have to be part of Lee’s recovery program, Chip." Will explained and he moved to the bedside of the Exec. He reached and took his wrist, to find, and take the Exec’s pulse.
"Anything that you need from me, Will… what will we have to do?" Chip grabbed at the bed control and pushed the button to raise the bed, so that he was at eye level with his CO and his doctor. Jamison then said, "the first thing that you have to do is to get well…"
"Enough, Will… The first thing we have to do is to bring Lee back! When will we know what kind of damage that Lee had?"
"Tony’s best estimate is late tomorrow. As I told Harry, he has a number of tests to run and he’ll have a full picture tomorrow. I don’t know, Chip. There is a lot more there than we are seeing here. But the program that Tony is part of has had some remarkable success… and we can only hope."
"Hope. That’s the key word here, Will." Both men looked at Harriman Nelson. His voice was stronger and firmer than it had been, in several days. " We all have to convey to Lee the hope that he will be better, and he will come back to us. Hope… that’s the bottom line."
At 1800 hours, Capt. Anthony Adamski sat in conference with Admiral Harriman Nelson, Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton, and Lt. Cdr. Will Jamison. He had a pile of papers in his lap and sat back in the chair, relaxed and completely at ease with the men he was about to talk to. He was in his late forties, slightly balding, and rail thin. He had an easy manner, and was genuinely concerned about not only his patients, but those people in his patients lives that make a difference.
He surveyed the men sitting here, and made an evaluation based on years of work with patients and families. For all the military background of these men, and all the things he had read about them … this was more of a family than he’s seen in years… Will had told him something of the closeness of the command staff of the boat that they served on , but he had seen more here in the last 24hours than the CMO of the Seaview could ever have expressed.
The switchboard had been inundated with phone calls from the enlisted men on the boat, the junior officers, and the non-com’s making the four hour trip to the base from Santa Barbara as their watches allowed. The care and concern of the crew for the Captain of the boat was something that Adamski had rarely seen in his Naval career. Not to say that some men and their officers weren’t close, but this situation was indeed unique… If there was hope for Crane’s recovery, a good part of it lay in the relationships that he saw here, and that he would continue to explore. He took a deep breath, and began;
"Admiral, Mr. Morton, Will has asked me to go over everything about Captain Crane’s case with you. So here it goes. Lee Crane is in extraordinarily good physical condition, save for the fact that he could carry 20 pounds or so more in weight. All of our tests indicate that the Captain should recover well, if he does recover. We have found evidence of an implant at the base of his skull, with evidence of either six or eight leads into the brain itself. Will has given us the device, and we found that there were eight leads. They were so thin that even an MRI scan would not have found them if we were not looking for them. They are harmless now, and based on the attachment points in the implant, I believe they are degradeable connections that will eventually dissolve into the brain itself, by themselves leaving no aftereffects. The problem your Captain has is that the device itself ruptured, as if a final message was sent, and then it, for want of a better expression, self-destructed. That final burst of energy, electricity, whatever it was is what did the damage to his brain. His headaches were from the leads themselves, tied into chemical triggers. He was given a massive dose of psychotropic drugs to aid the effectiveness of the device. Clearly brainwashing at its finest, and obviously, quite successful. After studying the device, I can only conclude that this was planned for a long time, and Crane was the only one ever targeted for the implant. Now, as for the damage…well the tests tell me that there is some damage to the motor regions, evidenced by his breathing problems… I also believe that there may be some other motor problems as well. He may have trouble with speech and walking when and if he comes out of the coma. Both of those can be rectified with intensive therapy. There is another problem here, however, and I want you all to know that this may be an even greater one than the physical ones. I believe, from the ONI profile of Captain Crane, that we are dealing with a very complex man. And I also believe that on some level, he is aware of what happened and what he did, and that he is suffering from an overwhelming sense of guilt. Guilt about the sabotage, about betraying his country, about attempting to kill his best friend. And I also believe that it is that guilt that is keeping him where ever he may be. So," he slapped his hand on his thigh. "Tomorrow, we begin Coma arousal therapy, and you gentlemen will have to take the lead… you will, all of you, spend time with Captain Crane, talking to him, and being with him. We will begin Physical Therapy so that those muscles do not atrophy and freeze in position. I have ordered all the standard protocols. The machines, the casts, the anti-coagulation stockings to be administered… He will have PT at least ten times daily. he will be exercised and moved, I have had a feeding tube put in, and you men, and your crew and anyone else who is interested are on call from now on. This isn’t going to be easy, pretty or fun… but hopefully the end result will be a return of the Lee Crane that you all have come to love and admire."
Stunned by all of the news, the men sat in silence, until Chip muttered, "when he wakes up from this…he’s gonna hate it!"
Tony Adamski smiled… "I hope so, Mr. Morton. I sincerely hope so… because at least that will give him a fighting chance.. From what Will here tells me, Crane is a fighter, and that is the quality that we need to have at the front of the battle."
Lee was lost in the gray. He seemed to be sinking further and further into it. No matter how hard he searched, he couldn’t seem to find the way to the door. He knew it was there, knew that it was his way out of this place. But he also knew that by going to the door, he was going to have to face Chip, Nelson and everyone else…they all knew now what he had done…they all knew he was a traitor, an attempted murderer. He had tried to kill his friend, to damage the device…Maybe.. Maybe he shouldn’t go back… This wasn’t too bad…There was warmth here, and there was no responsibility, nothing to worry about, nothing… And maybe nothing was better, than having to face Chip, and the Admiral, and the men, and having them know…They all would know. He didn’t have a choice…the drugs, the device…they controlled his actions, his thoughts… he should have fought more. He was stronger than that.. he had failed… again and whoever it was that had done this to him had won… yes… maybe he would stay here… maybe this was a better place…
Harriman Nelson rubbed his eyes wearily. Lee had been here, in the hospital, for two weeks. Two weeks, and the enormity of the situation was finally hitting him. He had realized that the program Lee was in, was for the benefit of the Captain, but the realization that this could go on for such a long time, had finally hit him. Chip Morton was being discharged from the hospital today, and he was going to be staying in the Officer’s Quarters on the San Diego base for another week.. Will wanted Chip close by so he could continue to monitor the Exec’s recovery for at least this week.
Jamison had informed Nelson that he intended to take an extended leave of absence from the boat, to stay at San Diego, with Crane, at least for the time being. Will realized, what Nelson did not, that the head of the N.I.M.R. needed to return to his job, his home, the boat that he built, and the Organization that he had created. Too many people depended on the Institute and the related work for Nelson to be gone indefinitely. Crane’s job, could, if necessary, be filled… Nelson’s could not. Morton was recovering well, and he would have to be leaving too, along with the men from the boat. Their lives all had to go on, even if Crane’s was not. Harry did not want to lose Jamison, and worse, he did not want to lose Lee Crane. But Will had warned him, and he was right… their lives were based in Santa Barbara, and their lives had to go on… and Adamski had said that at some point they would try and move Lee closer to home. Home environments also helped patients recover.
Harry didn't understand all of the reasons for the different things that they did to and for Lee each day, some of them seeming close to torture, but he was there and he did what he was instructed to do to help...or at least he thought he was helping... Only Lee wasn't improving. There were no signs of improvement at all.
Harry was tired and hoarse, and frightfully ready to give up... He had had enough. and he had seen Lee, or rather Lee’s body, be tortured enough, every day. Looking at Lee, here, really disturbed him on so many levels, but the entire look of the room was enough to make one uneasy. The number of tubes and leads attached to Crane’s body vied with the number of monitors and other equipment for attention in the room. The fact that they could move Lee with all of those things attached, and move him at least ten times a day truly impacted the Admiral. He wasn’t sure if the impact was a good or a bad one, but it all made an impression on him. The whole situation was grotesque. And he really didn't want to see Lee go through this much longer.
It had been Nelson’s decision, alone, to do what he felt was best for Lee. Maybe all of this wasn't best...but he had tried, really tried to do what was right. He sighed and pulled a chair to the bedside. Taking Crane’s hand in his, he began talking to his young friend.
"Lad, I have to go home tomorrow. I ... I really don't want to leave, Lee. But it seems that I have no choice. Jiggs was over here yesterday. the Navy is insisting that the radar device get tested. I told them I couldn't take the boat out with our her captain and exec, and you know what Jiggs told me? …. He told me that I was used to shanghaiing the Navy's best, so I should get me a Captain and XO that way again, and then he handed me a pile of file folders to beat the band. So, I'm going back to the Institute tomorrow. I have to do the ‘right thing’ by the men and the boat, and bringing in strangers isn't what I want to do to her or the men. I've talked to Chip about this long and hard. I'm going to promote Bob O'Brien to Lt. Cdr. and give him the command, at least for this cruise. we'll do without an XO, and I will take on some of the watches. The end Of course. if Bobby gets his promotion, you and Chip should get yours too... How do eagles, sound, Captain Crane? As I see it, Lee, this is the only way, at least until I can get the Navy and Jiggs out of my hair. Then maybe I'll dry-dock her. Chip and I have talked, and there are several other projects he can work on ... the men have many different jobs that I can place them in... and I'm getting too old for the sea... I just may retire, for good."
In the grey mist, Lee heard the gentle, resonant voice...
He heard the sound, not more than a soft buzz, he heard some of the words, but not all of them...he also heard the grief in the voice, and he wanted to relieve the grief ... to hear the rich, warm laughter again.
'Retire? The Admiral...No, he can't give up... it would kill him! Bobby O'Brien in command of the boat...? I have to get to him.... can't let him retire... and Chip?...What did he say about Chip?
How am I going to get Chip to realize that I didn't want to hurt him... I have to find the door, the doorknob... I have to!!!! I have to tell Chip… and the Admiral…’
And he began again to search, in earnest for that elusive way back... back to the people he knew...to the friendship, the warmth...the love...
Harriman Nelson continued..."That’s the story, Lee. I'm sorry, Lad. Really sorry. I... " his voice caught in his throat. "I never thought that it would end in this manner, Lee. Never...." he stopped... Lee's hand had moved slightly. Adamski had told them that involuntary movements were common, but could this be more than that...? Suddenly heartened, he continued to speak, "Lee, let me know that you are with me, Lad."
He heard the voice, and heard the Admiral… it was as if they had a poor telephone connection… Nelson’s voice kept fading and coming back. There was pressure, pulling on him, a connection being rebuilt. As he moved, he followed the thread, and the pattern of the Admiral’s voice became more consistent. He started to pull at the thread, following it more closely…maybe this would lead to the door, and the doorknob, and the way back…maybe this would be the way back!!!
"Will!!!!!! Tony!!!!" Harriman Nelson bellowed. "Come! Come quickly." Leaning over the man in the bed, he spoke softly, "That’s it, Lad… don’t stop!! I won’t stop talking to you, Lee. I won’t stop, so don’t you!!!"
Jamison and Adamski came careening into the room at full tilt, and both almost skid to a halt next to the excited Nelson. He stopped talking to Crane momentarily. Jamison placed a hand on the shaking man’s shoulder "Harry..?" he said gently.
"He tried to squeeze my hand… I thought it was a reflex, as Tony explained it could be, but the longer I talked, the longer he continued to try… six or seven times… not much of a movement, but a movement nonetheless. In response to my talking to him, watch his hand… watch it closely… Lee, Will and Tony Adamski are here. Let them see what you can do, Lad. You only need to take small steps, Lee… small ones… show them, son…show them." There was an edge of desperation in Nelson’s voice that only Jamison could pick up on…Adamski didn’t have a clue as to how much this could mean to Harriman Nelson. Or perhaps he did. He briefly examined Crane, and then turned to Nelson. As he and Jamison watched, the slightest twitch of Crane’s hand, the barest of movements took place. Both physicians witnessed it, and Nelson smiled such a smile as he had not in weeks.
"There is a change in Crane’s condition, Admiral. I don’t know how much…but there is a tiny bit of elevation in the EEG activity. That’s not all that unusual in patients of this sort. Their bodies seem to stabilize on a higher level after a while. I know that you want him to show improvement, but you have to know that it may not be anything significant at all… we will have to watch and see… I will call you in Santa Barbara if there is anything to tell you of an outstanding nature.. otherwise, we have to wait. And even if this is a small improvement, please be advised that that this is all that we may ever see."
Nelson looked the younger man in the eye… "I don’t think so, Tony. You don’t know Lee Crane as well as I do, I don’t think anyone does… this is may be minute victory for him.. but there are going to be others… It may be a long road, but he will make it back."
Lee heard the jubilation in the Admiral’s voice… he was happy again… and there was the familiar strength that he had drawn on so many times… and the care of the older man for him. He felt Nelson to be the father he had never had, in addition to the close friend and mentor. Yet both of them, for all their closeness, had never exploited the closeness. They had not even acknowledged the love and respect that they felt for one another. Maybe, if he could find his way all the way back, he would change that, and tell the Admiral how he felt. The Admiral and Chip…
The next day, Adamski did another set of tests on Lee, and allowed himself a tiny glimmer of hope in the case of the Seaview’s Captain. There had been a slight increase in the minimal activity that was registering on the EEG. He also had shown a slight response to the light therapy, and he was responding to the auditory stimuli on the lowest level… but he had begun to respond. In order for Nelson to see to his obligations, in the next week, a recovering Chip Morton became a stalwart where the Admiral had been before. He spent more hours with Lee than Nelson had, shouldering his time, as well as the admiral’s and doing it willingly. Although he was still somewhat hampered by his shoulder and broken arm, he did as much as he was able to with Lee’s therapy. And when Lee wasn’t having the up to10 hours of Physical work a day, Chip was there, talking to him.
Lee saw that the grey was getting lighter… The familiar voice, not Nelson’s, but Chip’s, talking to him about the boat, the men, and reminiscing too, talking about their days at the Academy, and the doorway appeared…The doorknob was large, and difficult to turn… he tried, and his hands slipped off the knob many times. Finally, his grip tightened, and it turned. He found he had to push hard against it to make it move… He pushed and he pushed and finally it opened. To follow the light… he saw the grey slowly fade, and he wanted to see where he was…he struggled to open his eyes… they were so heavy…Chip was here, he was holding his hand and talking…still talking. CHIP!!! Chip was here, with him!!! He must know what he had done to make the FS1 crash!! But he was here!!! Maybe, maybe Chip didn’t think he was at fault!! If so, then maybe he could make things right…Maybe…
"And," Chip continued, "Riley's music is still causing all sorts of gripes and…"
It had been so long since Lee had seen anyone. Slowly his eyes focused as he opened his eyes.
Morton was caught speechless. He quickly recovered his voice and, asked softly, "Lee…?" Crane continued to stare at him, hazel eyes seeking the blue ones. "Lee… are you ..there…? Do you know me?" Crane didn’t respond, just kept staring, until he said softly, "Can you blink if you are hearing me?"
Crane blinked once, and Chip all but cheered. "Welcome back, buddy!! " He said softly.
Crane blinked again, and Chip called for the doctors.
A jubilant Morton contacted Nelson on the boat as soon as he had left Lee’s side. Chip called the Institute, and contacted the Radio Room. They connected him with the boat.
"Sparks, this is the Exec. Get me the Admiral…."
"Nelson here, what’s wrong, Chip?" The O.O.M.’s voice was alarmed.
Morton’s voice was lighter, and more relaxed than in recent weeks. "Lee came around today, sir."
"He came around today, sir. Not for too long, but he did recognize me. Tony is going to try and turn off the vent tomorrow and see what gives."
"And what else? What else did Tony say?" Nelson’s voice was a mix of concern and joy.
"He said that this is just another small step. That awareness is good, but there are quite a few more hurdles…He’s still concerned about motor skills. He hasn’t told Lee anything yet. He doesn’t know what happened to him. He will be continuing the arousal therapy until he’s sure that this is a step forward. And, sir… I’m going to stay on here for a while. I’ve called Angie and she’s preparing the paperwork."
Nelson was silent for a few moments, realizing that Chip had taken a few steps to help both Lee and him. By staying by Lee, Chip would free Nelson to stay in Santa Barbara, to do all that he had to, to keep the Institute and the boat running smoothly. Chip had taken the decision from Nelson, and he was right to do so. And Nelson saw that and was grateful to the younger man. However, used to hiding his feelings, he hid what he was feeling by saying, "Fine, Chip... whatever you need, I…um… I’ll sign the papers. You plan on staying by Lee?"
"Yes, sir. I want to be here. And we both know one of us belongs here. As much as you want to be here now, sir, you have a great deal more to do than I do… and I can be spared. Bob can do what is needed on the boat, tho’ he will hate it." Chip could almost hear Nelson smile. "And any paperwork that you need from me you can forward here. If Lee is really coming out of this, he is going to need one of us with him for the duration."
Chip could hear the reluctance in Nelson’s voice, as he replied, "Alright then, Chip. I’ll keep in touch, and I plan to get there when the boat docks next week. Until then, you’ll keep me appraised."
"Aye, sir. Morton out." Chip eased his lanky frame into the easy chair in the loaner apartment of the BOQ. His shoulder was achy, and the broken arm was throbbing slightly, telling him that he had done too much as far as his still recovering body was concerned. But his spirit was jubilant. Lee had come out of the coma! He had recognized him! There hadn’t been much time to communicate, as Lee had fallen into what the doctors called ‘normal sleep’, but he was aware! The look on his face, when he had seen him had spoken volumes. Lee knew that he was here, and with him. Chip had a number of concerns about Crane, and he was going to have a long talk with Will in the early morning. But for now, he wanted to grab a bite, and hit the rack, realizing that the next day would be a beginning….
Chip arrived at the Base Hospital at 0745. His mind was full of all sorts of questions, and he hoped that Tony Adamski and Will had some answers for him. He went into the office of the specialist, and waited in the outer room…
At 0753, Adamski and Jamison walked into the room.
"Chip? Here early aren’t you? What can we do for you?"
Chip rose to meet both men, and asked, " What is the story on Lee, Will? What’s going on?"
"Come in and, let’s talk…."
Chip followed the Doctors into the office. They both placed file folders on the desk, and sat, inviting Chip to join them in the chairs at the window. He sat facing them, and said, simply, "Well…?"
Jamison looked at Adamski, and sighed and then spoke. "We’ve just finished testing Lee, and he is aware. From the results of the tests, we believe that we can begin to wean him from the vent. That may take several days to a week. Once that is out, we can begin to see how seriously, if at all, his speech and motor skills have been impacted. Once again, we believe that they have been affected, but until he is off the vent we won’t have any idea about the speech, and until we try to get him moving, we won’t know how severely his ability to walk was affected."
Tony Adamski spoke up. "Mind you, Chip, this is all speculative. Lee has been trying to communicate with us this morning. It seems that he knows who he is, and if not exactly where he is, at least he knows he is in a hospital. He was looking for you. I told him that you would be in, in a little while. When you get in there, try to reassure him. We’ve spoken with him, but reassurance in the form of a close friend would be even better for him. I don’t believe he realizes what has happened and all of the parameters. The mind is a funny thing, you know. And from what Will has told me, the both of you are very close. How long are you going to be staying here in San Diego?"
"As long as I am needed. I’ve taken an indefinite leave. With the Admiral’s approval, I have about six month’s leave accumulated, and I told him I’m taking it. I figure that he is needed in Santa Barbara, whereas I can be spared. What ever Lee needs, I’m here." Chip said the words quietly, and without emotion, in a matter of fact way, but Will Jamison watched the Exec’s eyes, and saw the emotions he was keeping under control.
Chip Morton was scared.. for his friend as well as himself… and he wasn’t about to let anyone know…Although Will could read it in his eyes. Seaview’s unflappable Exec was running scared, and thought that he could hide it from everyone… everyone but Will.
Jamison leaned over to Adamski, said a few words and the other doctor stood, "Chip, excuse me for a few minutes will you? I have to see to a couple of things before you see Lee." He left the room, closing the door behind him. Jamison reached over to Chip, touching his shoulder. "How’s the shoulder doing, Chip? And the arm?"
Morton nodded, "OK, I guess. Haven’t been letting me get much sleep. Can’t get into a comfortable position, you know."
Jamison nodded and then asked him, "And what else is it, Chip. Tell me what’s going on in that head of yours?"
Chip shrugged his shoulder, and looked at Jamison, then stared at his hand. "This…" he gestured to his arm and shoulder, " is because of Lee. Oh, not intentionally, and I know that …but it is because of what he did. I should be angry and upset with him, but I’m not. I know he didn’t do what he did to hurt me. But I am worried that he doesn’t understand that I don’t blame him for this. I’ve told him so, at least a dozen or so times, and I don’t know if he heard me or not. What’s happened to him is so much more awful, and I feel guilty that it’s not me there, on the bed, instead of him… I’d give my arm and the rest of me as well to be in his place right now. I’m the one that belongs there, not Lee."
Jamison sighed heavily. "Chip, you have to let go of this guilt. What happened, happened It shouldn’t be either one of you in that bed… the forces that are out there, that seek to exploit our weaknesses are the ones that are at fault. Lee was picked as their victim because of his position. We’ve been over this ground before, you and I. None of us are going to change who or what we are. That makes us, any one of us, the targets of those that do not see the things we do in the same way. I hope and pray each time any one of you are hurt, or go missing, or when Lee goes on one of his missions, that you will return intact, and unhurt. I know that it probably won’t happen, but it’s a constant prayer. None of us are to blame for what happens, and none of us can expect to trade places with the other guy… you have to believe and accept that, and then you can begin to help Lee face whatever hurdles he’s going to have to face."
"I’ll be here, for Lee. I have to let him know that."
"You have, Chip. He’s aware… the vent is keeping him from talking, but you can talk to him and use any method that works for the two of you to communicate. The two of you do need to talk, and for a change, Lee can’t talk back to you!" Will smiled slightly. "Take advantage of it, my friend!"
Flashing the doctor a half-hearted grin, he replied, "Will, I’d rather he be yelling than be so damn quiet!" He started to rise, and Will began to rise with him. "Chip, before you go into Lee, let me check you out. I promised Harry full Medical Reports on your condition as well. I know you aren’t sleeping well, and I can see the signs of stress, but I do want to check out the arm and shoulder. C’mon in here, and let me take a look at you…" and he guided the Seaview’s Exec to the adjoining examination room.
Chip entered Lee Crane’s room. The only noise in the room was from the machines. Chip immediately decided to talk to the doctors. There had to be other sounds. Now that Lee was awake… the machines would not help his mood or attitude. He needed to have music at least. He sat down by the bed. Lee’s eyes were closed, and he appeared to be sleeping. Chip sat and stared at his friend. Would the uneasy look that Lee still had, even in his sleep ever go away? He sat in the chair, and started to think of other times that he had kept vigil. They were many, but none had the feeling of this one. Lee was alive, and he was aware. His body was whole. But with his injury to the brain, would he ever be able to function again as Captain of his boat, his ‘grey lady’? Well, if he, Chip Morton had anything to say about it, Lee would be in the Control Room as soon as he was able…. They would work hard at it ….together. Chip looked over at the bed, and saw hazel eyes meeting his.
Crane blinked once. Chip leaned forward and gripped his friend’s hand. "Lee, I know you can’t talk because of the vent… I know, believe me, buddy, how uncomfortable that is… don’t try and fight it. Blink once for no, and twice for yes, okay?" Lee blinked twice.
"Want anything, Lee? Anything at all?" Lee closed his eyes for a long time, and then opened them again. Chip had the feeling that if Lee could have he would have sighed. "You feeling okay?" he asked nervously. Lee blinked twice. All the while he was talking to Crane, Chip noticed that Lee wasn’t moving his hands or arms, and that there was no movement, in his legs. Testing a horrifying thought, he squeezed Lee’s hand, hoping for a reacting return grip. There was none. Chip tried again, and the result was the same. His heart sank. If Lee couldn’t or didn’t feel him gripping his hand, then what did that mean for his recovery. Trying to maintain a cheer that he didn’t feel, he spoke again to the Captain. "You know, you’re gonna have some life here, Skipper… lots of pretty nurses, and all this attention…I dunno, Lee, this seems to be made for ‘Casanova Crane’" Lee blinked once.
"No? Is that because you can’t hand them a line, or because they aren’t pretty enough? I’ve seen a few of them here, and well, I think that you’ll be having a good time, once you ‘re up and around."
Lee blinked ‘no’ again. Chip was concerned about that answer. "Lee, something bothering you?" Crane blinked twice.
"Does it have to do with being here?" again, a ‘yes’.
"Lee, do you know what happened?" Crane hesitated a moment and then blinked a ‘yes’
"You know about the implant in your head? Did Will tell you?"
"You know what happened to the FS1?"
"Then you know that you aren’t at fault, and that I don’t blame you for anything. You know that too, don’t you?"
Lee stared at Chip, his amber-hazel eyes boring into those of his XO and best friend, seeking to see where, and if there was any untruth in those eyes at all. All Lee saw was clear, unshielded honesty, and Lee felt as if a burden had been lifted. "He doesn’t blame me… he says its not my fault!! He understands!! Thanks, Chip!" he blinked ‘yes’ again, and stared at his friend, until Chip saw that he was truly believed by Crane. Then he too relaxed, as much as he would allow himself.
Chip cleared his throat, "Lee, I’m gonna go and get some coffee at the machines outside. I’ll be back in a few moments. Why don’t you try to rest a bit. You gotta be tired." Lee blinked twice, and then closed his eyes. Chip released his grip on his friends hand and rose from the chair. "I’ll be back, Lee." He said softly, and then he slowly left the room.
In the hall, he mentally adjusted to all that he had just learned… Lee was paralyzed. He wasn’t moving at all. There had to have been more damage than the doctor’s told them about. He was angry and he was scared for his friend, and the anger propelled him to the office of the doctor. He stood in the doorway, and then walked in. Tony Adamski sat at his desk… and Jamison was no where to be seen.
Adamski looked up, and smiled at Morton. The smile didn’t remove the storm clouds and so he said, "Hello again, Chip. What can I do for you?"
Chip Morton spoke with cold and what his subordinates would have known as his deadly calm, "Lee’s paralyzed. He isn’t moving anything, not one thing but his eyelids on his own."
Just as calmly, the doctor replied, "You’re right. He’s paralyzed."
"Is it permanent?"
"We don’t know."
"What the hell do you mean, you don’t know. You’re his goddamned doctor… you should know!!!!!! He’s a naval officer, captain of a submarine!!! He needs to move to be able to continue his life!!!!! What do you mean, you don’t know???!!!"
Adamski got up, walked behind Chip, and shut the door. He took him by the arm, and guided him to a chair, and pulled one up opposite him. Steepling his fingers, he looked at the XO. "We really don’t know, Chip. I told you and the Admiral that there had been brain damage… its not in the cognitive abilities, its in the motor center of the brain. There is swelling there still, and there is evidence of some bruising to the brain stem from the short circuit of the device.… until both of them heal, and we know for certain, Lee Crane is paralyzed."
"Oh God!!! What in the hell is he going to do? Does Lee know? Have you and Will told him yet?" he slumped into the chair, a look of total defeat crossing his face. "You haven’t have you? Why in the hell not?? Are you going to tell him???" Abstractedly he rubbed at his healing shoulder. "Christ!!! How in the hell do I tell the Admiral….the men… God help me!!!!!!! And God help Lee!!!!"
Will Jamison had quietly entered he office, and he took a place behind the XO of the boat. Placing a hand on Chip’s shoulder, he said quietly, "Yes, he will need God’s help in the coming months, and he will also need yours, Harry’s and all of the rest of ours. But, if I know Lee Crane, he will get through this… once he accepts what he has to do, what he has to deal with. And with time and therapy, and God’s help, he will be back at the Con of the boat before he realizes it. … First he has to come to grips with what has happened to him, and then all the rest will fall into places. I was just with him, He’s looking for you."
"When I left him and told him that I would be back soon. Will, how do I help him with this? Did you tell him? What do I say ? and what do I do…? How do I tell Harry? And why in the Hell didn’t you tell me all of this before? Why?"
"Because, up to now, you weren’t ready to hear it. As soon as I heard you yelling at Tony, I knew you were ready to listen to him and to me. Chip, you don’t have to tell the Harry, … I do and I will. I want to wait a while to watch and see Lee before I decide to tell him this. I worry that he won’t be able to handle it. And he is alone on the boat… two thirds of the triumvirate are here in the Sick Bay. The third is feeling like that lost wheel on a wagon. And I for one don’t know how to deal with him, much less you!!!!!"
Chip shook his head wearily….. "You and I both know that he won’t believe it and he sure as hell won’t accept it. And he won’t let Lee accept it either." He paused, and scrubbed at his eyes. " I just don’t know how much more any of us can deal with, Will. If the Admiral or I am tired, what about Lee? What do you think this is doing to him….if he can’t tell us, what can we do to help him let us know."
"Hopefully we can get him off the vent, and then he will be able to talk to us. You do know that his speech may also be affected by this…?"
"Damn!!!! Anything else??"
Calmly and quietly, "There is the possibility that we may not be able to get him off the vent. If his breathing center was compromised, then he may not be able to breathe on his own, and we will have to trach him, and put in a permanent device. Of course, that is the worst case scenario… "
"He wouldn’t want to live like that. I know him…he’ll just give up! And I think you know that as well as I do. He’s not the kind of man that can come to grips with being in a bed or a wheelchair for the rest of his life. "
"We may have a reasonable indication of where things stand, this afternoon… Tony has decided to try to turn off the vent for a while. I thought you might want to be there… so I scheduled it for 1330. Gives us all some time to get him prepared, as well as ourselves. I wish I could tell you something more that you wanted to hear, Chip, but I’m afraid there isn’t anything else to tell." He shook his head sadly, and keeping his hand on Chip’s shoulder, said to him, "If you want to talk, you know where I am. But right now, I think it would be a good thing if you went back to Lee’s room. He was looking for you, and I don’t want him agitated and upset this afternoon, which he will be if you don’t return."
Chip nodded, and stood, rubbing the injured shoulder. Jamison looked at him concerned, and he shrugged, "Don’t worry about me, Will. Shoulder is a little sore, and the damn cast is hot and uncomfortable…nothing new." Jamison eyed him carefully, aware that Morton, like Crane didn’t always tell the truth in regard to their own condition.
"Chip?" he asked warily.
"I’m fine, Will, just fine!!! Stop mother henning me, and do something for Lee, damnit!!!!!!!"
Jamison looked at Morton, startled at the vehemence of the words, and said with quiet dignity, "I am, Chip… I am doing the very best that I can."
Chip regretted his words almost as soon as he said them. He realized that Will Jamison was probably as upset as the rest of the Seaview’s crew and staff. He took each injury as a personal affront, and the fact that he could do nothing for Lee Crane at this time had to stick in his throat like a chicken bone. He cared for the crew, and the senior staff in particular as if they all were his own family members, which in a way they all were.
"Will, I…I’m sorry," Chip stammered. Jamison managed a weak smile in return,
"S’ok, Chip. We’re both under a lot of stress here. Just forget it."
Chip nodded, and Jamison dropped an arm about his shoulder, "Let’s go and see how our Skipper is doing… methinks, he may need some support here."
Lee Crane lay in the bed in the ICU private room, listening to the devices that were breathing for him and doing everything else as well. Try as he may, he still couldn’t move his arms or legs, and he could only move his head a little. He remembered being in the other place, the grey with the images, and remembered the images of the men in his house, the men working over his body. He remembered the vision of his sabotage of the FS1, and he remembered trying to find the door. Why hadn’t he stayed on that side. At least that was better than this. Why in the hell couldn’t he move? What the hell was wrong? …He looked to the door, hearing activity there….at least he could hear. ‘Chip and Will…and the other doctor…Tony…they said something about what had happened and why he was here…
Will, Chip and Tony Adamski walked to the bedside. The somber expressions on all their faces as they entered, made Lee wonder. Chip moved to his side, while each doctor moved to the sides of the bed.
"Lee…" Chip said. "You still awake?"
Lee blinked twice. He wanted to ask so many questions…but he wasn’t able to. Chip saw the fleeting look of anger across his face. "Easy, Lee," he cautioned. "Listen to Tony and Will…and don’t get stubborn on us!" He placed his good hand on Crane’s shoulder. Will and Tony exchanged looks, and Adamski started to speak.
"An implant forced you to sabotage the flying sub, but also caused some brain swelling affecting your motor skills. That was about a month ago. You're improving, so we'll see how you do without the ventilator. Now, here's what we'll be doing…"
‘Paralyzed… they said I’m paralyzed…Oh, God!!! I can’t even breathe on my own!!! Oh, God!!! What am I going to do? Wait, Crane… listen to them…just listen and do what they say…there has to be something that you’ve missed…'
Within minutes the two doctors, several nurses and Chip Morton were surrounding the bed. There had been much fussing and moving about the room and the machines. Finally, Will Jamison bent over the Captain. "Lee, we’re ready here, are you?. We’ll be shutting off the vent for about 30 seconds… if you are in any distress the monitors will tell us and we’ll turn it right back on. But we have to give your body the time to remember how to breathe by itself. Ready?"
Crane blinked twice, and Morton reached for his hand, holding the nerveless fingers tightly. Chip wasn’t speaking, but he and Lee had locked eyes, Crane drawing strength from his friend.
Truth be told, Lee was terrified. He had come close to drowning several times in his career, and the feeling of being without air was terrifying enough. To be unable to breathe was a different fear. It clutched at his stomach, and wrenched his soul…’unable to breathe’ that is what the doctor’s had said. He had been unable to breathe.
‘Lord, help me out here… you are the only One who can hear me… please… help!’
He heard the click of the button, the machine’s metallic sound ceased. He was willing his body to inhale… there was no air!!! Nothing… he couldn’t breathe!!! He couldn’t even gasp for a breath… it wasn’t working!!!
‘Oh God, help!!! I can’t breathe…I…can’t…’ The darkness rushed in and he felt nothing…..
The men and women surrounding the bed held their respective breaths as the machine wound down, and the man in the bed ceased to breathe without the aid of it. Terror filled Lee’s eyes, and then they closed. Chip gripped his hand even harder…. " C’mon, Buddy", he hissed, "Breathe, damn you, Lee Crane !!!! Breathe!!!!!!"
As they all watched, a slow shuddering breath was taken, then another, and then a third. Smiles filled the room as the patient began to breathe on his own, and soon the machine was programmed to assist the man in the bed, only when he needed the assistance. It would still prevent him from talking. But at least the tiny glimmer of hope slid into the darkness that had surrounded the day for the Seaview men, and the small act of breathing independently was silently celebrated by all concerned.
His awareness returned, gradually, and with it the realization that the machine was not on. He was breathing on his own…"Thank you, Lord!’ he said in his mind. He slowly opened his eyes to faces wreathed in smiles and some share of tears as well. Chip had a grin on his face to beat the band…
"You did it, Lee!! You were breathing on your own!!! The machine is still attached, and it will be, but its going to be set so that when your body wants to work for itself it will. Congratulations on one step!!!!"
Lee tried to smile at his friend, but the device in his mouth didn’t allow a smile… in fact it hurt. He guessed that hurt was good. at least in his case… he felt the machine aid him occasionally., but he became aware that he was breathing more and more on his own, and it was a good feeling. He was tired. He would sleep for a while and then think some more about what Jamison and Adamski were saying….
Jamison and Adamski exchanged pleased smiles. Things were beginning to turn upward. This was a major achievement for Lee Crane. There would be quite a few more to accomplish if he was going to get back to his boat, but this was a start. The machine was set to assist breathing when necessary, but here there was a start, a beginning. Something to build on… and here there was hope.
Chip had crashed asleep in the chair next to Lee’s bed. When Lee woke, he saw his XO, and friend, sleeping, and wanted to wake him but knew the impossibility of it . He couldn’t make a sound, couldn’t move, and was totally frustrated, and frightened. If what the doctors had told him was all the truth, then, maybe, just maybe there was some hope. Otherwise….This would be the way he would be for the rest of his life? This wasn’t a life at all.
‘Gonna have to fight this one, Crane. This isn’t where you want to spend the rest of your life!! You have a mistress waiting for your attention… she’s a jealous one too!"
Chip started in his sleep, and woke up, slowly becoming aware of where he was. He looked to Lee, and saw the hazel eyes staring at him.
Lee blinked twice, and Morton smiled. "Kinda fell asleep on you, Lee. Sorry. " he put his hand on Crane’s shoulder… "Will and Tony said that they are going to turn off the vent tonight, if all continues to go well…. And then at least we’ll be able to talk to one another."
Lee blinked twice. "They said that if that works, then they’re going to get you up and walking as soon as they can."
Lee blinked once. "What do you mean ‘no’? Don’t you want to get out of that bed, and get back to the boat?" He blinked twice. "Well then you have to get out and get moving… and the sooner the better, right?"
Lee moved his head back and forth slightly, in a negative gesture. "Damn, Lee! I wish that you could tell me what it is that you are trying to say!!!"
Crane blinked twice again. Chip tried to think what Lee would be trying to tell him so that he could guide his friend to find out what was bothering him.
"OK, pal, we’re gonna play 20 questions… or 30 or 40 or how ever many it will take to get the answers from you…. Ready?" Lee blinked twice.
"Let’s see. It has to do with you getting out of that bed. Right?"
Two blinks. "We are going to see about how to get you going again?"
Lee blinked no. "No, Lee? No what?"
He blinked ‘no’ again. "Is it that you don’t think you can get going again?"
Two blinks. "Lee, do you believe that you can’t get out of the bed?"
Another two blinks. "You know that they said that there was brain damage, from and implant?"
"And you know that they said that there was a good possibility that while you can’t do much now, that you will recover?"
"Then what’s the problem?"
Lee closed his eyes. And kept them closed. Chip was suddenly angry. "Oh, no you don’t, Captain Lee Crane! Don’t tell me you are going to quit on me now, quit on all of us? The Admiral, the men, the boat!!! If you weren’t hooked to that machine and that bed, man, I’d pop you a good one! As it is, I’m gonna have to wait til you are on your feet to give you what I owe you!!!"
Lee refused to open his eyes, and communicate with Chip in any way. He was frightened… frightened that if he failed to be able to walk, he would be trapped in the bed, or a wheelchair the rest of his life, and the worst of it was that no one understood how scared he really was. When Chip finally stopped talking to him, he waited, until he was reasonably sure that Morton was out of the room, and he opened his eyes. He was angry and frustrated and didn’t want Chip to see him like this. As soon as he could, he would send Chip back to the boat. She needed to have at least one of them there with her and the Admiral…at least one of them. The thought of the Seaview saddened him… would he ever walk her decks again? Would he ever stand at the windows in the observation nose, and see the myriad of fish, and sea life, and all of the wonders that the ports allowed them to see. He missed the boat… felt cut off from her, and the sea, and all that was important to him.
He clenched his hand into a fist. Chip Morton moved back to the bedside. "Lee!! Your hand!!! You made a fist!!! You made a fist!!"
Chip held the hand in front of him so he could see it. A wave of real excitement flooded him.
‘I made a fist!!’ He blinked twice at Chip, and a small bit of moisture began to gather at the corner of his eye. He felt the tear begin to grow larger and slide down the side of his face. Morton saw it, and chose to ignore it, allowing his friend the dignity of the emotion that had welled up inside of him. He simply went on… "I’ve called Will and Tony. This has to be your lucky day, Lee!!! Things really are looking up!!"
The two doctors bustled in, and Chip moved away, and let them examine Crane…
Sometime later, Chip sat with Will Jamison, and Tony Adamski. "This is a real positive sign, Chip. The CAT scan confirms that the swelling in the Brain Stem is all but gone. He can breathe on his own, and he made a fist. After the nurses get him settled, we can talk to him. Hopefully he will be able to talk back…." Jamison laughed. "Never thought I’d want Lee Crane to talk back to me!! But I really want to hear him giving me hell about getting out of here!"
Chip grinned, and Tony smiled, not knowing the total relationship between the men and their doctor. Hearing the discussion however, he made a mental note to work on Crane’s desire to leave Sick Bay as a way to push him when he needed pushing. And he knew that there would be a lot of that needed in the days ahead.
Lee was settled back into the bed. The ‘instrument of torture’ as he often called the vent, was gone. He was breathing on his own, but…he still had the oxygen attached, in case, they said, he missed a breath here or there. And it still seemed as if nothing else was working on its own. Chip showed him that he had made a fist, but he hadn’t felt it. Oh he felt the anger, but hadn’t felt the gesture or the movement. There were still tubes and wires running from his body to monitors and bags. Lee Crane hated it. And he made a conscious decision to do his damnedest to get out of there!!
Jamison, Adamski, and Chip Morton entered the room. Lee took note that Morton was not in Uniform, but in relaxed khakis and a plain white shirt. His right arm. in a cast, hung in a black sling, stark against the white shirt. Lee cringed inwardly. He was responsible for his friend’s injury. Another thing he would have to make up to Chip. The two doctors moved to the bedside, Morton to the foot of the bed. Jamison initiated the conversation.
"Lee, how are you feeling? I know that your throat will be dry and sore for a while, but how about telling me how you feel?"
Lee swallowed hard and tried to speak…nothing but a faint croak came out. He tried to clear his throat and speak again. The words would not come…his mind knew, but he was unable to say the words. The men in the room stood silently, watching Lee struggle to speak, and unable to help him. Slowly, he tried to say one word, one word that would mean a victory for him over his body. His jaw muscles, unused in weeks, worked with patent slowness. A thin line of perspiration beaded across his forehead as he struggled. His mouth formed a word, "G…O…O…D!" he said slowly, his voice soft and raspy. He exhaled heavily, and closed his eyes. Opening his eyes again, he smiled weakly, and nodded his head slightly. "O..K…J….J…A..IM…IE?" he asked.
Jamison laid a hand on his shoulder. "Very, okay, Lee. Very okay indeed."
Chip’s grin split his face, and had his blue eyes gleaming, and even Adamski was grinning broadly.
Lee looked at the other doctor, rolling his tongue in his mouth to find the right words. "W…O…R…D…S ….H…A…R…D…" Adamski nodded.
"Yes, Captain Crane. As we have been telling you, the motor area of the brain was impacted in a major way. Your speech was also affected. You have to re-establish the lines of communication with the brain and the mouth and vocal chords… it will take you a while to get back to your prior speech pattern. Some intensive speech therapy will help. I’ll send the therapist in right away, and then, Captain we will get you on your feet."
Lee gave him a questioning look… "H…O…W?" he asked slowly.
"Braces, supports, we have all the facilities here. We can do what ever you need…short or long term."
Lee looked again… "L…o...n…g…?"
"We’ve been frank with you since you woke, Captain. We still don’t know if there will be any permanent and long term effects. Your status, medically is a day to day thing… the words are coming, albeit slowly. We’ll get you sitting up in a wheelchair this afternoon. The braces that are on your arms and legs will remain until we can get the therapy moving… and even then they are going to be part of your life for a while. There is no quick fix for brain damage to the motor center of the brain. The brain has to be retrained, re-educated to act and react as it did before the trauma. That you were in good physical condition before all of this is to your advantage. You had excellent muscle tone…that will help immeasurably. But you will have a lot of hard work to do… and we will begin shortly!"
Jamison patted his shoulder, "I’ll be back in a while, Lee. Tony and I have some arrangements to make." The doctors left, and Chip Morton moved to the side of the bed.
"B…O…A…T…S…T…A…T…U…S" Crane asked his XO hoping that he accompanied it with his best command glare. Smiling at him, Chip responded,
"Don’t know, Skipper. The Admiral has her out, and I’m here on indefinite leave. I don’t think we have anything to worry about. I’ve got to call the Institute at 1800 and they’ll connect me to the boat. The O.O.M. wants to know how this is progressing. How you are progressing. And I’ve got good news for him! And the Crew!"
Lee nodded slowly in the affirmative. "T...e...l…I…b…a…c...k…s…s…o…o…n" Chip smiled again. "I will, buddy… I sure will…!!!"
Chip leaned back into the easy chair in the BOQ apartment. If the truth be told his shoulder and arm were hurting abominably. He had refused Jamison’s offer of pain pills, past experience telling him that he didn’t want to spend the time sleeping. He’d tolerate it. It was just annoying. Swearing under his breath, he picked up the phone, and called the NIMR.
"Nelson Institute of Marine Research, may I help you?" the female voice answered.
"I certainly hope so, Tish." He laughed into the phone.
"Chip? How are you? How is Lee?"
"I’m ok, Tish, and Lee is why I’m calling. He’s better…He’s awake, and talking a bit…"
Hearing his pause, Tish Sweetly asked him, "What’s wrong, Chip. I can hear the ‘but’ in your voice."
"the ‘but’ is that he is better, but he has a long way to go."
"Oh…" she tried to recover a bit, and continued, "When can he have visitors? Some of the people here are anxious to come and visit, but they don’t want to impose, you know?"
"You mean Lee’s ladies want to come calling?" he laughed, Crane’s ‘friendships with the Institute women being well known."
"Yes, well…everyone here is so concerned, but we don’t want to visit if Lee doesn’t want us there, you know."
"I know, Tish, and I’ll tell you what. Let me talk to Lee and Will, and I’ll let you all know as soon as he’s ready for visitors. Okay?"
"Sure, Chip. Do you want the radio room?"
"Yep…connect me will you?"
"Will do, and take care of yourself, will you, please?"
"Right, Tish. Thanks…" he drummed the fingers of his right hand on the side of the chair.
"Radio Room…Blake here."
"Blake, this is Chip Morton, ID 742-4747113."
"ID verified, Mr. Morton. The Seaview is waiting to hear from you, sir. I’ll connect."
"Thanks Blake…Seaview, this is Morton…come in."
"Sparks here, Mr. Morton. The Admiral is waiting to talk to you, sir."
"Chip?" Harriman Nelson’s voice resonated into the phone, "What’s the news? How is Lee?"
"He’s off the vent and he can talk a little…Tony says that he needs some intensive speech therapy. And he got angry and made a fist. He doesn’t remember doing it, didn’t feel it…still has no feeling in his arms or legs, but he did make a fist. And Tony says that that is the best thing that he has seen in Lee since he was brought in. The swelling in the Brain Stem is gone, and now, Tony wants to do some more tests to determine the exact damage. But I would say that from what Will and Tony have seen, things are definitely looking up!"
"And Lee’s attitude?"
"Admiral, All I can say is ‘you know Lee’"
Nelson laughed, and then grew serious, "and you, Chip? How are you doing, Lad?"
"I’m okay, sir. Will is on me about taking his pills, and getting some sleep, but I’m okay. Gonna be putting in some time helping Lee with the therapy. Moral support and all that, because we both know Lee Crane, and what a hard patient he is!"
Again, Chip could almost hear Nelson smile. "Yes, we all do know that, don’t we? Has he asked about the boat?"
"Yes, Sir!!! Let’s see… about the fourth or fifth words out of his mouth!! Asked for her status. Told him that she was in your hands, and that was all. And sir, tell the men… Lee said to tell them that he will be back!"
Nelson chuckled, "then he is getting better!! Tell him I’ll see him in a few days, will you? The tests are running well ahead of schedule, and Jiggs is so pleased with the device that he already has notified the Navy to go ahead and start building them for all the ships of the line!"
"Congratulations, sir!! That’s great news!!"
"Yes, Chip, great news, but at what price to all of us here, you and Lee, especially!"
"Well, sir, I’m sure that Lee would agree with me, as long as the end is a positive one for our side…." Chip became more somber. "He will be back on the bridge, sir. He will…."
"I hope so, Chip…. I hope so."
When Chip returned to the Hospital, later that night, Lee was sleeping. He had taken the chair and pulled it next to the bed. And he sat and closed his eyes, reliving, once again, the crash of the FS1 and the time he spent on Santa Cruz, just trying to keep going. He had a definite goal in mind and he knew if he kept going, he would get back to the boat, the men, his life. Banged and bruised, but back. Lee was facing a similar fight, only no one, not the doctors, not the nurses, not even Lee, knew to what extent he would be able to get back to his life. Chip knew, from his years of experience with his friend, that this was going to be the hardest part of Lee’s fight. Lee always sought a definite answer, He had to know all the parameters to be successful. There were no definites in this case. He knew it, Lee knew it. How Lee would cope with it was the bigger question. In addition to the recovery from the brain injury, Lee had to recover from his actions and the results of his actions.
"C…H…I…P…?" the voice from the bed asked slowly and softly.
Chip snapped out of his reverie, and looked at his friend and CO. "How’re you doing, Skipper?"
Lee shook his head to the negative.
"What now, Lee?"
"B…O…A…T" he took a deep breath, having a hard time putting the words together. "G…e…t…b…a…c…k…t…o…h…e…r…Y…O…U!!!"
"You want me to get back to the boat, Skipper? I don’t think so….I’m on an indefinite leave, remember. You’re stuck with me here. Where ever Lee Crane goes in the next few months, I go too. And you CAN’T order me away!!" Chip crooked a half smile at his friend. "You’re stuck with me, Lee. And it has the O.O.M.’s approval, and Will’s as well. Stuck like glue!"
"D…A…M…N…!" he said slowly, clearly frustrated by his inability to speak normally. He wanted to pound his fist and swear. But he couldn’t. All that he had done before he lost consciousness came welling to the forefront… He looked closely at Chip to see if there was any anger, and hatred there, and saw nothing but friendship and sincere concern in the clear blue eyes of his friend. Feeling guilt, and loss, he said. "S…O…R…R…Y"
"For what, Lee?" Chip asked…he had expected Crane to be guilty, and anticipating some kind of confrontation, tho not so soon. "You couldn’t control what you did, you were being controlled. You had been programmed by that microchip. Like I said when you were still in the coma, you weren’t at fault, you couldn’t help it"
"B…U…T…Y…O…U….H…U…R…T" he slowly said.
"Yeah, and your point? I was hurt. We take that risk any time anyone of us goes anywhere at all… I’m ok… looks like after some hard work, you will be too. That’s all that matters. Nothing else!!"
Lee looked away from his friend. ‘How do I tell him that I heard him…felt him… when I was in that other place. How do I tell him that his voice, his friendship, is what called me back… his and the Admiral’s…?’
Chip stood, and laid his hand on Crane’s shoulder. "Look, Lee, we’ve been friends too long to let what happened affect the friendship. I’m going to go back to the BOQ for some sack time, and I’ll be here in the morning for the beginning of the therapy. I’m glad that you’re back, Lee. Glad for myself, because I didn’t want to lose my best friend. And I’m glad for the men, and the boat, and the O.O.M. We need you in our lives, and we don’t want to let you go. So for a while anyway, your lady will have to let Bobby learn about her and care for her… I’m here for you, my friend. And I won’t be going back to her, until you do!"
Carefully forming the words, Lee slowly said, ‘T…H…A…N…K…Y…O…U…"
Chip felt a lump in his throat, and knew that it would prevent him from making any sense in what he said. He simply tightened his grip on Lee’s shoulder, and then released it.
"Tomorrow, Lee." He said quietly and he left the room… A few moments later, Frank Lerner entered. He shut the light in the room…The skipper was sleeping, the Exec was recovering and things were looking up. He pulled up the chair in the corner of the room, and sat, alert to the machines that continued to monitor the Seaview’s Captain. It would be a long night, but it held the promise of a good beginning for the next day.
The days and weeks that followed were indeed hard and difficult ones. Lee Crane had to literally learn to walk and talk all over again. Chip’s presence continued to be a source of strength to his friend. The natural grit and determination that Lee Crane had was brought to the fore time and time again, and Lee’s fight and perseverance were tried over and over. Chip was there for it all. He was there to help him, to joke with him, to listen to his complaints and fears. The bond of friendship became even stronger, if that was possible.
On one of his many visits, Harriman Nelson walked into Crane’s room and found the two men laughing hard. They both looked to the door, and managed a "Good Morning, Admiral."
When Nelson quirked an eyebrow, Crane responded. Nelson listened carefully to Lee. His speech pattern had returned to what it was, normally, with only an occasional lapse, that the speech therapist had promised would eventually disappear. "Chip and I were talking about the time that Riley tried to explain to Admiral Park why he had a surfboard on the boat. Park wasn’t amused, and the more Riley said, the deeper the hole he was digging." Lee grinned, an easy, relaxed smile, that reassured the Admiral of his continued recovery.
"And when Riley gets nervous, the surfer lingo comes to the fore, and Park couldn’t understand what he was talking about. It was all downhill from there, until Park told him he didn’t want to see it, or even know it was aboard, and if he had any common sense, he would get it off the boat, ASAP."
"Of course," Chip added, "He neglected to tell Park that he had the Captain’s, the Admiral’s and the Exec’s permission to have the ‘board on board."
"The Admiral wouldn’t have understood that one, now would he have, sir?" Lee asked Nelson.
The Admiral had pulled a chair adjacent to his younger officers, and sat. "No, no he wouldn’t have had, Lee. Park’s a good man, and an outstanding scientist, but he is a bit like Jiggs when he looks at the military end of things." The two officers exchanged looks, and Nelson asked, "Has Jiggs been here again?" A faint smile played on his lips. "And he’s trying to get the two of you back into the Navy?" Crane nodded.
"And we both told him that we were quite happy with our current postings. In spite of the fact the he wanted the two of us back in active service."
Nelson ‘humpfed’ and then reached into his pocket taking out two small boxes. He fidgeted with them for a few moments, and then cleared his throat. "I , uh, want to give the both of you these… they have been a long time in coming, and I really should have a ceremony at the Institute, for the two of you, and O’Brien. But I didn’t think that we needed the pomp and circumstance. I just want the two of you to know how proud I am of the both of you, the work that you do, the sacrifices you make…" He stood, and adopting a formal attitude, looked at the two men. Instinctively, both of them also rose. The braces that were still on Lee’s legs prevented any rapid movement on his part, but he
stood, and Nelson smiled at his two officers. Opening one of the boxes, he looked at Chip Morton, "Chip, it is with the deepest pleasure that I present you with the silver oak leaves of a full Commander with all of the rights and privileges, and responsibilities associated with said rank."
Despite being in his ‘civies’ Chip snapped a smart salute. His right arm and shoulder had healed, and time he didn’t spend with Crane was spent on the incredible volume of paperwork that Nelson regularly brought him from the Institute. He simply said, "Thank You, Admiral." And then shook the older man’s hand. Impulsively, Nelson reached for him and hugged him. "You are more than welcome, Chip. This should have been given to you long ago."
He turned to Lee, and opened the second box. Silver Eagles lay on the blue velvet of the box. "Lee, I am proud and pleased to present you with the Eagles of a Captain, with all of the rights, privileges and responsibility associated with said rank…." He handed the box to Crane, who fingered them carefully. "They’ve been a long time coming to you, Lee. Congratulations, Lad." They shook hands, and Nelson also hugged him, patting him soundly on the back.
"Thank you, Admiral… thank you very much." Lee’s voice was charged with the emotion of the moment.
Nelson cleared his throat again. "As I said, no thanks needed from either one of you.. You’ve both earned them time and time again. And Bobby O’Brien has earned his as well…He is trying very hard to take good care of her, and his promotion was a complete surprise to him. He sends his best to the two of you, and wants to know when you’ll be coming back" he sat again in the chair, and said, " and when are you coming back? What do Will and Tony have to say?"
Chip grinned at Nelson…"Will is sending me back to the boat at the day after tomorrow. He says the Indefinite leave is about to come to become finite.…he says he can’t stand having me healthy and hanging around here. And as for our Captain, well, according to …"
"According to the doctors, I’ll be here another week, and then I’m coming home."
Nelson looked at him, in a moment of disbelief, "A week, Lee?"
He smacked at the braces, as he sat back down in the chair. "These come off tomorrow. I have a week to get used to them being off, and then I’m coming back to the boat."
"Using the cane, and against my better judgement, but the staff here has been terrorized by these two hoodlums long enough." Will Jamison was smiling as he walked into the room. "The director here says that enough is enough….he wants them out!! And besides, now that their promotions are final, Jiggs will be hounding them to join him here instead of going back to the boat. no one will get any rest!" He looked at Nelson, "You’re about to get your CMO back, too, Harry. And I think that one of the first things we’re going to do is work on you giving up those blasted cigarettes. You know, Harry, there will come a day that something or someone is going to make you want to give those things up for good!"
Nelson lit a cigarette, defiantly glowering at Jamison. "We’ll see about that, Will!"
Returning the glower with a grin, "Yes, Harry, we will!" the younger men laughed and finally Nelson joined in the good humor, laughing heartily with them.
One week later, Lee Crane slowly got out of his red sports car. He had driven the Cobra to the dock, knowing that tho he loved the walk from the Institute building, his legs still would not take that much exercise at one time, and allow him to make it down the gangway to the boat without giving him some difficulty.
He slowly got out of the car, and swinging his long legs out, grabbed for his cane and stood. The wind was light and the day was a typical Santa Barbara day… clear and bright. He took a deep breath, and shut the door of the car. Moving away from it, he looked around him. ‘It’s good to be here…home…I’ve missed this place. Missed the people, the men, the boat…missed it all…Thank you, Lord, for answering all those prayers, and bringing me back here. Thank YOU!!’
He moved around the back of the car, and moved toward the gangway and the Seaview’s above ground dock. The flags of the country, the Admiral and the boat were snapping smartly in the wind. He looked at his ‘silver lady’ and realized how much he had missed being part of her. He couldn’t wait to touch the coaming, to stand in the Nose and see the myriad of sea life pass by as she cleaved her way through the water. He snapped his attention back to the present. He looked at the boat, and saw the entire ship’s compliment standing in their dress uniforms on the deck. COB Sharkey stood next to Nelson and Morton and young O’Brien. Lee swallowed hard, the lump that suddenly formed in his throat causing his discomfort. Carefully, he made his way down the plank to the deck of the boat, stopping at the bottom. He saluted the colors, and turned to the officers, "Permission to come aboard, Admiral?" he saluted Nelson.
"Permission granted, Captain. Welcome home, Lee!"
"Thank you, sir." O’Brien called the men to attention, and Sharkey blew the Bo’sun’s whistle, and then announced, "Captain on deck!!!" he then saluted Crane, who returned the salute with a smile. The men saluted, and O’Brien announced, "At Ease!" and as one, the officers and men converged on the Captain of the boat, to welcome him back aboard and congratulate him…
Later that night, Lee lay on his bunk on the boat. It had been a long and gratifying day for him. The men, the officers had welcomed him back warmly. He had congratulated Bob O’Brien on his promotion, and the younger man had beamed with pride at the Captain’s words. Then he had toured his boat, as the party planned in his honor continued on dockside under the tent set up for the occasion. She was the same enchantress that he had left. She held his heart, she spoke to him…as he reacquainted himself with her, he roamed every corridor and gangway, every cabin, storage room and every space on her. He went to the Control Room last, into it and then to the nose of the boat. He paused at the staircase to Officer’s Country. He had a flash of memory, of talking to Nelson while standing there, and then of pain, and then nothing. He wavered a moment and then went to the ports. He ran a hand along the side of the huge window, looking out, but not seeing the dock and the land, but seeing one of the thousand of views that the boat that these windows gave him.
Softly he had spoken to her, ‘I’m back, girl. I’m here. I’ll do my best not to leave you again like that. You did a good job taking care of the crew and the Admiral. But I’m here now. We’ll take the next mission in stride, won’t we, and go on…G’nite, girl.’
He had returned to his cabin, tired and worn, but it was a content tired… There would be more missions, more adventures, more risk. But they were all together again on the boat, and together, they all would move on.
"The Spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it."
Author's note: * Rodriquez first appeared in 'Escape', by Deb Post on NIMR Reports and is used with her permission.
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