Ghosts of the Past

 by

Jane Daffron  &  Barbara Paul

  

Author’s note:

 

This story has been about four years in the making, for Barbara and myself, from the very first twelve pages of inception to what you see below.  Over that time, I’ve managed to garner a lot of technical contacts that were extremely important in providing us with the right concepts and procedures that are presented here.  I’d like to thank LT M. Thornton, P.E., CEC, USN; Richard Hendrickson, former crewman of the USS Scamp (SSN 588); Master Chief K. Gaillard, USN; and R. House (former USN demolitions expert), ATF; and finally, the Aqua Dive Center of San Diego, CA.  Their input into technical aspects and reactions of both crew and officers has been invaluable.  The one thing it goes to show is that when expertise comes into play, rank goes out the window - no matter who you are.

Jane

 

 

óóóó

 

 

It was 1330 Zulu and the sleek, blackish gray submarine cruised silently in the darkened depths of the Pacific Ocean.  Few people knew of her presence here and fewer still knew of her true purpose.  The USS Monterey was a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine.  At 360 feet long, a little longer than a football field, her publicly acknowledged maximum speed was greater than 25 knots and her diving ability was at least 200 feet.    She was a ‘hunter’, sleek and deadly.  Her normal mission - to seek out and kill, if necessary, enemy missile submarines known as ‘boomers’, or any other ship that proved to be a threat to the United States.  Aboard this mission were 127 officers and enlisted men and two civilian technicians.

Today, however, the submarine’s task was not to hunt.  Instead, she was to to test a new experimental prototype of underwater mine that had been designed by retired Admiral Harriman Nelson and his Research & Development team from the Nelson Institute of Marine Research (NIMR) in cooperation with the Department of Defense (DoD).  The Monterey had been one of seven subs in the running to be considered as the testing vehicle for this project. The DoD had picked her because of her experienced crew and skipper, Commander Matthew Driscoll.

Driscoll, a native Californian who stood about 5’11” and was a tank of a man, stood on the small platform in the center of the Control Room and watched the flurry of activity in the small confined area.  His gray blue eyes carefully scanned each and every duty station within his sight.  Next to him, stood Lt. Commander Daniel Weston, the Executive Officer, conferring with one of the two NIMR science technicians assigned to the tests.  Weston was in a small way the physical opposite of his captain.  He was about 5' 4" and very leanly built.  Moreover, he had a soft southern drawl, indicative of his Georgian upbringing and had earned the nickname of Bulldog during his years in the service – when he latched onto a problem, he wouldn’t let go until it was solved or no solution could be found.  Yet, the two men had forged not only a good working relationship, but a good personal one as well over the last eighteen months.

As she approached the designated test area just north of the Marshall Islands, the sub slowed to ready itself for the trials.  Weston turned to Driscoll and announced, “Skipper, we're arriving at the test area.”

"Very well, Mr. Weston."  Driscoll looked up, stepped off the Island and then moved over to the plot table.  Reviewing his orders, he commented to the nearby technician, "Mr. Wells, are these mines ready to be deployed?”

“Yes, sir, they are,” Timothy Wells, the senior technician in charge, answered as sweat beaded up on his forehead.

Driscoll noted the man's condition and smiled slightly.  “Problem, Mr. Wells?”

The technician wiped the sweat off on the sleeve of his shirt.  “Sorry, Commander.  I’m not, uh, used to being cooped up in these things for long periods of time.  I guess I’ll just be glad to get back up in the fresh air.”

The Captain snorted just a bit.  “Well, some people do have a bit of a problem adjusting to our 'floating sewer pipe.'  However, a trip upstairs won’t be for another 48 hours, Mr. Wells.  So, I guess you’re stuck down here with us.  Besides, I’d have figured that you’d be slightly used to some of this.  After all, your boss is Harriman Nelson.”

The younger man managed a weak half-grin.  “Well, you have to admit that Seaview’s just a tad bit bigger than the Monterey, and besides, sir, she's a research sub.”

“Humph!  That’s why I’m surprised they asked us to do this.  I would’ve figured the Admiral would’ve had his own baby running these tests.”

Wells’ eyebrow shot up slightly.  “It’s my understanding that the Admiral agreed with the DoD that Seaview not be involved in the testing.  After all, sir, he is on his honeymoon and the powers that be decided that since we were ahead of our timetable, we’d go ahead with a revamped schedule for testing.  I guess they figured he didn’t need to be disturbed.  Anyway, Seaview’s on some sort of previously committed research mission off the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.”

“Well, if I know the Admiral, he’s not going to be a happy man when he finds out that he got left out of the initial test runs.  However,” and Driscoll paused, “If your team’s ready, let’s get to it.”

“Yes, sir,” came the spirited reply and the technician turned to head down to the torpedo room.

The Captain turned to his XO and ordered, “Make ready for mine laying operations, Mr. Weston.  When ready, ahead one-third, make turns for five knots by log.”

"Aye, sir," Daniel responded and immediately transmitted the exact orders to the Dive Officer at the helm, engine room, and to the waiting team in the torpedo room.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

In the torpedo room, when the order came down for the operation to be done ‘by log,’ a small speed sensing probe, crudely referred to among some submariners as Joe’s Dick, was lowered from the forward compartment to make sure that the correct speed was, in fact, kept to the letter.

Once the seal bolts were retightened and made watertight, the crew started to load the tubes with the experimental mines.  As the sub made its descent to the proper proscribed depth of 1000 feet, and Driscoll was satisfied with the preliminary incoming information from the probe, he picked up the mike at the plot table and called back to the Radio Shack.

"Mr. Benson, this is the Captain.  Send up the cable and contact the NIMR and ComSubPac.  Let’em know we're on site and beginning deployment."  He then turned to his XO.   “Mr. Weston, double check our position.  Let’s make damn sure we’re puttin’ those things in the right place.  Last thing I want is the CNO and Admiral Nelson crawlin’ up my ass for screwin’ up their testing.”

“Aye, sir,” Weston replied and then checked with Navigation.  Once he’d been reassured they were at the precise coordinates sat down for the testing site, he confirmed to Driscoll, “On target, sir.” 

“All right, let’s get this show on the road.  Ahead one-third, Mr. Weston.  Begin deployment."

“Yes, sir,” the XO intoned and barked into his mike, “Maneuvering…ahead one-third.  Torpedo Room…begin deployment.  Now!”

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Forward, and just below the Control Room, CPO Toliver’s crew worked in sync with Wells and his partner, James Keiler, to make sure the experimental mines were accurately positioned at one minute intervals.  Six mines had to be laid and their acoustical and detonation programs monitored for functional normality.  This was Phase Two of the testing.  The mines were to carry a dummy charge that was designed to emit a loud click to indicate detonation.  Live charges would be placed in the mines only after all testing and results could be verified to the satisfaction of Nelson and his design team as well as the R&D people with the DoD. 

When the order was relayed to begin deployment, Toliver and Wells double-checked each of the four torpedo tubes that now held a single small mine.  In sequence, they performed the necessary manual compensation for the depth gauges, as they made ready to expel and set the mines in their proscribed areas.  Then, when all was in order, Toliver informed the Captain they were beginning.

Slowly, one by one, in a matter of minutes, the newly designed mines were released and sent to the bottom as directed.  As the last of the six was released, the Monterey reduced speed as it made its turn to get into position for the test run.

Wells, as Senior Technician and observer, now rejoined Driscoll and Weston in the Control Room.  Keiler had gone just aft to the Sonar Compartment to analyze the placement data as it came in.  The sub now slowed to a dead stop outside the proscribed one-half mile perimeter for the supposed activation. 

“Are they all deployed, Mr. Wells?” the Captain asked. 

“Yes, sir, ” the tech advised.  “As you know, once we get inside the activation zone and the mines’ sensors pick up the prop’s individual signature, then ID it properly, they should start moving toward the target - the sub’s propellers.  They’ve been specifically designed to seek out the sound and magnetically attach themselves to the area around the screws, then explode about 30 seconds later, totally disabling or destroying the target, depending on the payload.”

“Mr. Wells, I’m gonna ask this one last time before I take my boat through that mine field we just laid.  Those damn things are not live, correct?” Driscoll asked off-handedly as he fingered the mike in front of him.  He never liked ‘his’ boat being used as a guinea pig for anything and while this particular assignment was supposed to have been highly coveted, he wasn’t exactly so sure about it.

“Captain, I can assure you.  The only thing that will happen is that they’ll lock on to the Monterey’s prop, attach themselves to the aft hull in the vicinity of the screws, and then your aft sensory array should pick up the ‘click’ from the dummy charge within the 30 seconds after the attachment, indicating the successful conclusion of the test.  If things go according to plan, there should be a max of six contacts on the first run.  That’s the total number of mines we just deployed.”

Matt drew a deep breath and slowly exhaled.  “And if there’s not six contacts?”

“Then we'll need to check why the mines didn’t activate,” Wells simply stated.  “That’s where the computer analysis come in.  If something didn’t activate or the internal on-board computer didn’t register the signature, I’ll know it.  We’ll remodulate it from here and do another test run.  We’ll keep doing it until all six have acquired the target.”

Weston now stood beside Driscoll and listened to the Technician’s explanation. “It’s my understanding that the mines, in their live state, won’t necessarily be positioned in clusters like this.  So why so many at this one time?”

“Simple.  We get to test as many as possible at the same time and then compare the individual activation times.   Besides, we’d done as much testing in the lab at the Institute as we could.  It was time to put them on a live target.”

The Captain’s jaw set and his eyes bore into the Tech’s.  Raising an eyebrow just a hair, he commented, “That target, Mr. Wells, is my boat.  Just remember that…as well as the fact that you’re down here with us.”  He waited just a moment for his warning to sink in and then ordered, “Mr. Weston, all ahead one third.  Mr. Wells, begin your testing.”

“Aye, sir,” echoed both men.  Weston relayed his CO’s orders to maneuvering and Wells headed aft to join Keiler.  Slowly, the Monterey’s engines kicked in to start to inch her forward to begin their initial run. 

"Engineering, this is the Captain.  Ahead one quarter speed," Driscoll commanded.

"Engineering, aye sir.  One quarter speed."

As the engines turned over and the prop began to turn, the sub began the first of several planned runs. Within moments, they came up to the designated speed, and as soon as they came within range of the last mine dropped, an explosion rocked the vessel,  Water began pouring into the aft section of the boat.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

“SHIT!!!! came the sound of voices from the auxiliary engine room.

“Goddamn, what the hell was that??” another voice reverberated in the ‘Goat Locker’ as a couple of off-duty chiefs were thrown from their bunks, landing almost face-first on the deck.

“We’ve got a leak down here! yelled a chief in the torpedo room.  “Let’s cap this son of a bitch.  NOW!

Men scrambled throughout the boat as alarm bells sounded and the emergency lights slowly crept on.  Watertight hatches were dogged and flooding was eventually contained in the aft engineering compartment.  In the process, one of the main generators went down and as a result, the main engines went off line.  The Control Room was immersed in darkness and smoke for a few moments until power was automatically rerouted to an emergency generator as the auxiliary diesel engine kicked in.  In the Radio Shack, located just aft of the Control Room, the main radio burst into flames as it responded to the power surge that had been routed through its circuits. One of the radiomen grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher, gaining control of the situation within moments.  However, their radio was now completely disabled.

Forward, in the Control Room, Weston helped Driscoll to his feet.  The two men looked around at the crew and the jumbled condition of the Control Room.  The boat slowed, then came to a stop as it dropped close to the array.

"Anyone hurt?  What the hell happened?  What hit us?" Driscoll asked directly as he glanced around the Control Room, mentally assessing the damage to his boat.  Turning to his Exec, he flatly stated, "I need to know what's going on now."

Weston immediately grabbed for the mike and ordered "Damage Control, report!"

"Chief Michaels here, sir.... Aft Engineering is flooded.  Right now, we've sealed it off and it looks like the hatches are holding.  We've also lost the generator so the main engine is off line.  We’re trying to hold her with the auxiliaries, but maneuvering is out,"  the officer reported.  There was a hesitant moment then, “Skipper, right now we’re dead in the water.  We’re doing the best we can but...what the hell happened, sir?”

The Captain cursed under his breath at the ominous report of the condition of his beloved boat.  Narrowing his eyes and his jaw suddenly tense, he responded, "I’m not sure but I sure as hell intend to find out.  Okay, is anyone hurt down there?  Did we lose anyone?"

"No, sir, just a few bumps and bruises.  Everybody made it out okay.  I’m heading to the auxiliary area now to see what the status is there.  I’ll let you know as soon as I have something.”

"Thanks, Chief.”  He looked around in the Control Room as he watched his men scramble back to their stations to ascertain as much information as was possible about what was going on.  “ Okay, sit tight ‘til we ascertain how bad we're hurt here."  Clicking the mike again, he sternly barked out, “Wells, did one of those goddamn mines just explode on us?”

“That’s not possible, sir, they weren’t carrying live charges.  They were carrying only dummies!'

“Well, something sure as hell happened!  We're dead in the water,” he returned fire and looked over at his XO.  At Driscoll’s nod, Weston moved off to the side slightly and started to call each department for reports and quickly jotted down the results for his own report to Driscoll.  As each report came in and the final assessments were being made, the Captain was quickly rejoined by the XO and then the Chief of the Boat, Brent Cummings.  The three men went over each report and then looked at each other.  Each knew full well how badly they'd been hurt.

“Manuvering’s out.”

“What about air revitalization?”

“At this point, it’s okay, but uncertain as to how long it’ll last.  If it goes down, unless we can use the auxiliary engine to run it, the air won’t last long. After that, we'll be breathing toxic fumes.”

“Hell, if we use the diesels, the monoxide will build up and we’ll be doing that before we run out anyway.  And even with the emergency oxygen tanks, it’ll only buy us about 12 hours, at the most.”

“Mr. Justus, what’s our current depth?” Driscoll called out to one of the crew.

“1560 feet, Skipper,” was the answer.

Again, Driscoll cursed under his breath.  Shit!  He looked over at his XO and the COB and saw their grim expressions, their eyes mirroring his own unspoken fears and the resolution needed.  “Okay, gentlemen, from the looks of it, we’re down.  We can't move up, down, or sideways.  We’ve got no choice.  Release the marker buoy, then break out the potash and chloride candles…looks like we’re gonna need’em.  We’ll have to limit the use of the auxiliary engines to keep down the fumes.” 

"Aye, sir," Weston replied, then, picking up the mike, he gave the order for the marker’s release.  A few moments later, there was a faint shudder as the telemetry package shot to the surface.  He then put the word out to start getting the potash out from the storage locker.  It would be spread on the decks to help absorb the buildup of carbon dioxide, as well as the carbon monoxide released from the diesel engines.

All they could do now was try and fix what they could and wait.  And pray.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Topside, the buoy broke the surface and began transmitting.  Within moments, it was picked up by satellite and then relayed to a downlink station.  From there, it quickly hit the tracking department at Pearl Harbor.  Suddenly, all hell broke loose at ComSubPac.

'Get Starke, now!'  the tech watch officer ordered.  Almost immediately, she was handed the phone.

Further down the street, inside his office, Admiral Jiggs Starke was barking out orders to one of his junior officers when his phone rang.  Picking it up, he gruffly said, “Starke.”

 “Lieutenant Commander Anderson in Communications, sir…  Sir, we’ve just received a distress signal from the Monterey.”

Stunned, Admiral Starke asked, “What?!  Who's gone down?"

“The Monterey, sir. It's her distress buoy. Last known location near the Marshall Islands."

Stunned, Starke  sat heavily back in his chair.  He knew exactly where the boat was supposed to be.  He was the one who’d given Matt Driscoll his orders, right here in this very office.  Goddamn son of a bitch!   “Thank you, Lieutenant.  Keep me informed of all, and I mean all, transmissions regarding the Monterey.”

“Yes, sir,” she complied and hung up.

Immediately, he yelled, “Jackson!!!!  Get the hell in here!”

Lt. Commander Joe Jackson, Jiggs Starke’s personal aide rushed in to find his superior officer standing in front of a map, closely studying an area around the Marshall Islands.

“Yes, sir?”

“Communications just called.  The Monterey’s gone down and they’ve got a fix from her marker buoy.  Get hold of San Diego and get their DSRV started toward the site.  In addition, I want the Chosin and whatever support ships are out there with her.  Also check and see if there’s either a boomer or an attack boat anywhere in the area.  I want them out there helping with the search.  And find out which boats, either here or near the area can, transport the DSRV.   It’d be quicker if we can get it there by boat instead of surface ship.  Well?  What the hell are you waiting for?  Get the hell out of here and let’s get them back!!!!”

“Yes, sir!” the younger man nodded and headed out to his desk.

Starke stood silent in front of the map.  Damn it!!!!  Shaking his head, he crossed over and took out a topography map.  Without even thinking, he picked up the phone and dialed communications.  “Anderson?”

“One moment, sir,” another voice answered.

Seconds passed before the woman’s voice responded, “Anderson here.”

“Admiral Starke, Commander.  What are the coordinates on Monterey?”

“Yes, sir… 9.783 North, 169.849 East.  But there was an explosion picked up by a listening station. Hydrophones indicated it wasn't large, but it was definitely something out of the ordinary."  There was another slight hesitation.  “Sir, we know she’d transmitted to the NIMR just prior to her assignment.  At that time, everything was proceeding according to plans.”

Almost immediately, his heart skipped a beat and he felt his stomach turn inside out.  Without any outward show of emotion, he replied, “All right, keep me apprised of everything that you find out, as soon as you find it out.  I don’t want any damned analyst taking their sweet time trying to second guess things.  We’ve got men down there who’re running out of air.”

“Aye, sir,” and the line went dead.

Starke sighed heavily and looked out his window at a typical afternoon in Paradise.  Don’t give up, men.  We’re coming after you.  By God, I swear it. 

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Aboard the Monterey, they were slowly assessing the damage.  Senior officers had been summoned to Officer’s wardroom and they each gave their reports to the Captain.  At least they’d stopped taking on water, for now at least.  And at their present depth, they weren’t close to crush depth.  They seemed to be firmly planted on the ocean bottom.  The only questions that remained to be answered were what caused the explosion and could they be rescued in time.  At this point in time, no one seemed to have an answer to either.

The potash was spread on each deck to start absorbing any excess carbon dioxide.  Driscoll had given the order that only one auxiliary engine would be run at a time and even then, only for about thirty minutes at the most.  Wells and Keiler, the NIMR’s two technicians, sat in the crew’s wardroom, the single largest open area on the whole boat.  They were joined there by about twenty to thirty various other crewmen and many more would eventually join them.  It was quiet…a deadly quiet, yet the men knew that they had to keep calm.  They all had trained for this job and accepted its hazards.  Of all the 129 people aboard, only the two technicians were unprepared for the events that would surely lie ahead.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

The telephone rang in Starke’s office.  Picking it up quickly, he tersely said, “Yes?”

Captain Greg Wray, of Naval Air Station North Island, was on the line.  “Admiral, I hear we’ve got a boat down.”

“Yes, Captain, we do.  The Monterey.  She’s gone down off the Marshall Islands. I'll have her last known coordinates sent to you so you can make any preparations that you need to.  If what we suspect is true, she’s in roughly about 2000 feet of water.  We don’t have communications with her yet.  I’ve got a surface ship en route there now.  Once we’ve established contact, we’ll hopefully know a bit more about what we’re dealing with.”

“Well, the depth is no problem, sir.  I’ve already got things rolling on this end.  My two pilots are on their way back to base and we’re taking on supplies now.  Is the La Jolla available?  She’s the one out here that can take Mystic on,” he asked.

“I’m having that checked now.  If it’s not, what’s our options?  Can she descend from a surface ship?” Jiggs asked.

“Yes, sir, though I have to say it’s a little bit trickier, but it can be done.  Usually, we piggyback on a boat, as you well know.  It gets us down there quicker.  Also, we’ve got a universal docking collar on her, so we shouldn’t have any problem from that aspect, unless her angle is such that we have a hard time hooking up.”

“I know that, but right now, we might not have the option of waiting.  You and I both know that if the only available boat that’s equipped to take her on is in the Atlantic, we don’t have the time.”

“Understood, sir.”  There was a momentary hesitation and then, “Sir, until we know something, I’ll have the C-5A on notice to take Mystic on and head toward the Marshalls.  If we can’t go by sub, I’ll need the Cable standing by.”

“Good.  I should know something in a short bit.  We’re getting locations on all our boats right now.  If I’ve got something, I’ll head them to the nearest port and you’ll be diverted there, clear?” Starke agreed.

“Yes, sir.  Sounds good to me.”  And then as an afterthought, Wray asked, “Sir, was there anything picked up on the hydrophones?”

“We’re still gathering intelligence, Captain.  Just get that DSRV moving!” Starke barked.  Once the line went dead, he immediately dialed Communications.  “Anderson!”

“Yes, sir?”

”Anything?” His tone was testy and short.

“No, sir.  And before you ask, the only thing we’ve picked up was the single explosion.  Nothing else.  I’m sending over all the information we’ve gathered so far.”

“All right.  Everything…as soon as you get it from here on out!” and he cut the line.  As soon as he put the phone down, it rang again.  This time, it was Commander Jackson calling in.

“Admiral, the La Jolla is currently in San Diego being refurbed and inspected.  Her crew’s scattered on leave and her skipper told me she’s nowhere near ready go back out on a turnaround.”

“Damn it!” Starke swore aloud.  “All right, we’ve got no other choice then.  Get Captain Wray back on the line.”

Moments later, he picked up the telephone on the first ring.  Jackson informed him that Captain Wray was on the other end.  When the click came for the switch, Starke barked, “We’re gonna have to go with a surface insertion and hope for the best.  La Jolla is there in San Diego, in the middle of being refurbed.”

There was a moment of silence between the two men, but in the background, Starke could hear muffled voices.  Then, “Sir, she’ll be in the air within the hour.  I’ve just advised the pilot to head directly to the Marshalls and off-load her, then we’ll have her reloaded.  She should be landing in about 12 hours.  Do you know what the status is on the Cable?  Will we be able to use her?”

“Good!  Well, we’ve got a couple of ships en route to the site now to establish contact with Monterey.  As for the Cable, she’ll be standing by.  Just get that damn thing there ASAP.  We don’t know how much time we’re dealing with until we talk to them,” Starke told him.

“Yes, sir.  I’ll keep you posted as soon as we know anything.”

The line went dead and Jiggs Starke stood, then turned and looked out at the scenery before him.  “Damn!” 

 

 

óóóó

 

 

The guided missile destroyer Chosin was the first to arrive on scene.  She’d been on her scheduled Western Pacific patrol when word went out that a boat was down.  Fortunately, she’d only been hours away, so she quickly diverted and raced to the last known coordinates.  Once they’d gotten to the marker buoy and patched communications through to the ship, contact was immediately made with the Monterey.  Captain Hugh Ellison got on the phone with Matt Driscoll.

“Captain, how’s things down there?” Ellison asked.

“We’re hangin’ in there, but we’d sure like a ride out of here.  Some minor injuries, but nothing serious,” Driscoll informed him.  They were trying to keep talking down to a minimum in order to concern as much oxygen as possible.

There was a moment of silence and some static, then Ellison informed him, “I’ve gotten word that there’s a DSRV enroute…the Mystic.  They’re flying her in by a C-5A and then bringin’ her out on the Cable.”

“Thought the DSRVs were brought in by boat…”

“Would have been,” Ellison agreed, “But the one for the Seventh Fleet is currently being refurbed in San Diego.  Plan is to get you guys out of there ASAP.  Looks like you’re at about 1500.  How’s the hull holding up?”

“We’re doing okay.  Some leaks, but we’ve got’em plugged, at least for now.  The one saving grace, I guess, is that we seem to be pretty well sitting on the bottom.  No drop offs around.  Our angle is at least acceptable for a DSRV collar.”

“Acknowledged.  Any idea what happened?”

There was some more static and then, “We were on a special assignment.  Admiral Starke’s got the specs on it.  Also, we’ve got a couple of civilian techs aboard because of it…from the Nelson Institute.  Need to let them know they’re okay.  As to what happened…we don’t know.  Tell the Admiral we’d finished the run and then it happened.  He’ll understand.”

“Will do.  How’s the air down there? And what’s your estimates?”

“We’ve got the candles out and spread the potash; we’re okay…for now.  If nothing happens, we’ve got roughly about six days.  The auxiliary engines have to be used very sparingly, so we’d sure appreciate it if you all would get us the hell out of here,” Driscoll reported calmly.

Ellison looked at his XO, Commander Warren Bensley, and nodded grimly, then answered, “Will do, Captain.  All information is being passed to Pearl as we speak.  Just hang in there…”

 

 

óóóó

 

 

About ten minutes later, Ellison was on line with Jiggs Starke.  “Sir, this is Captain Hugh Ellison of the Chosin.  We’ve just had contact with the skipper of the Monterey.”

Starke took a deep breath.  At least they’re alive.  Thank God!  “Captain, what’s the situation down there?”

“Sir, from what Captain Driscoll said, they were on special assignment.  He said you had the specifics on it.  From what he said, and I quote, they’d finished their run and then it happened.  They’re not sure what precisely, but they’re sitting on the bottom at 1500 feet.  He also said that their angle is acceptable for a DSRV collar.”

“What about the crew?” Starke asked.

“Some minor injuries but he didn’t indicate anything serious.  They’ve got about six days of air, sir, even with all the precautionary procedures.  And they’ve apparently still got use of the auxiliary engines but they’ve got to be careful how much they’re used.”

“That’s correct, Captain.  They’re diesels…too much use and it’ll flood the place with carbon monoxide.  Okay, I need for you all to stay on site and keep communications for them.  The DSRV Mystic is en route to the Marshalls on a C-5A.  She’ll be off loaded and brought there by the Cable.  The Salvor ‘s also heading to you - she was already out about half way, so I’ve instructed her skipper to head straight there…I think her ETA to you is about six hours.  You let Driscoll know that help’s coming and we’ll get’em out of there.”

“Yes, sir.  Oh, and sir, he wanted you to let the NIMR know that their two techs are okay.”

There was a hesitation and then, “I’ll handle that, Captain.  Just keep me apprised of the full situation and let them know that help’s on the way.”

As the connection was cut between them, Jiggs Starke stood up and looked at the window again.  Looking out over the pristine grounds in front of him, he had to make a decision.  Harriman Nelson was an old friend and the director of the NIMR.  He was also on his honeymoon over on Maui.  Picking up the telephone, he instructed Jackson to call the NIMR and he’d advise Angie Pierce of what was going on.  If push came to shove, and Seaview was somehow needed, then he’d contact his old friend directly.

 

 

óóóó

 

  

The next twenty-four hours was filled with tension for everyone at Pearl Harbor and it was a hundred times worse within ComSubPac.  Not since the USS Scorpion had a US Navy submarine gone down.  In fact, the US Navy’s safety record had been almost impeccable in this respect.

Starke sat at a video monitor in his office and facing him, on screen, was Admiral Charles Norwood, Chief of Naval Operations.

“What the hell happened, Jiggs?” the CNO demanded.

“I honestly don’t know yet.  The Chosin and the Salvor are both on site; I’ve got Mystic enroute on the Frank Cable…  Charlie, I’ve got a feeling about this…but…”

“What the hell do you mean…you’ve got a feeling?  If you know something, you’d damn well better spit it out.” Norwood barked back.

“Look, we both know why the Monterey is out there.  Is it possible that one of those damn mines exploded and took her down?”

“That’s not possible, Jiggs, and you damn well know it.  Nelson’s people are too damn thorough.  This was the Phase Two of testing.  All they were supposed to have were dummy charges - enough to register for their computers, not enough to bring a damn boat down!”

“Yeah, but this testing wasn’t initially supposed to come off until mid-June.  We did up the schedule by several weeks.  Somehow, though, I just…” the hulking man grimly replied. 

“We upped the schedule because his own people said they were ready and, quite frankly, I saw no need to delay it simply because he’s on his honeymoon.  Look, we won’t know a damn thing until Mystic comes back with the video, now will we?  Jiggs, you and I both know the kind of people that Harry has.  There is no way that it would happen.  However,” and he suddenly looked uncomfortable, “Double check everything.  And I do mean everything.  If there’s any inkling…any shred of evidence that things weren’t going as they were supposed to, there’s going to be hell to pay all the way up the line.  And as much as I hate it, we may have to pull Harry in.  Those damn things are his babies.  He was instrumental in developing them.  If we’ve got a bunch of live ones out there, they’re gonna have to be disarmed and looks like he’s gonna have to be the one to do it.”

 

 

óóóó

 

 

The DSRV Mystic arrived on the scene atop the submarine tender, the USS Frank Cable.  Both crews scurried to get her ready for her initial descent.  Communications had been set up so that the Monterey could have a tie-in with Mystic and with all the support ships topside.  All crews were briefed as to the procedures and once all information as to location and current conditions, the decision was made to get them down as soon as possible.

On board the Chosin, Ellison called back down to the Monterey.  “Captain, this is Captain Ellison.  The Mystic is getting ready to head down to you.  Her pilot will be in contact with you once they get close.  I’m gonna turn over this show to the captain of the Cable.

“Thanks, Captain…I appreciate it.  We’ll be waiting to hear someone knock on our door,” Driscoll advised him.

Ellison contacted the Cable and the rescue operation started.

 

 

óóóó

  

 

Mystic was carefully lowered off the aft of the Cable and moments later, disappeared under the rolling waves.  Inside, her support technicians, in conjunction with those of the Cable, started monitoring activities of her descent.  As was her normal procedure, there were four small, full rotational, video cameras attached to her port and starboard sides, as well as her bow and stern.  This way, all angles could be covered during the operation.  High intensity lighting was also attached to her bow and stern, enabling the topside technicians see in the darkened void.

Slowly, she made her way downward, zeroing in on the Monterey’s internal homing signal.    The currents were starting to get tricky and keeping the small craft steady was proving to be a real test for the pilot.  However, once through a set of thermals, the Mystic settled into a steady but gradual dive.

Monterey, this is Mystic.  Do you copy us?” the co-pilot of the craft called down to the disabled submarine.

Mystic, this is Monterey.  We copy,  Man!  Are we glad to hear from you guys!  Come on down.  We’ll unlock the front door when you get here.” 

“Roger that, Monterey.  Have some coffee ready, if you please.  We should be there in about twenty minutes.  Looks like you’re sittin’ pretty.  Shouldn’t have too hard a time with the door.”

“We’ll have a pot ready and waiting.  How many can you handle at a time, Mystic?”

“Twenty-four.  And I’ve got two rescue personnel aboard who can look after anyone who's injured. They've got priority.  You’ve got, what, about 129 down there?  Looks like that makes it six round trips all total.  How’s the air?  I’m bringing you some tanks, so that may help.”

“Air’s okay so far, but thanks, the tanks will help a lot.  Just take it easy coming down, okay?  We don’t want our ride outta here to get broke down.”

The Mystic’s pilot snorted and replied, “Fat chance of that.  You just get your people ready to go when I get there.  Mystic out.” 

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Topside, all the support ships involved in the operation had been monitoring the communicationsCaptain Ellison was in constant touch with ComSubPac and Jiggs Starke, letting them know every detail of what was transpiring thousands of miles away from Pearl Harbor.  In addition, video footage was being fed to the Cable’s technicians.  It was imperative that they know exactly what kind of condition Monterey was in so that damage assessments could be made.  If there was any possibility of raising her, they had to know what they were dealing with.

"We're coming up on their location. Still no visual on them. Adjusting course two degrees port. Descent’s normal... " the pilot remarked.  Suddenly, his head jerked up.  “What the hell was that?  Did you hear it? Like a thump.”

“No…” came the uneasy voice of the co-pilot.

“I swear I thought I heard something hit the hull…”  Suddenly, a shocked look took over the pilot’s face.  “Shit!  Didn’t the Cable’s skipper tell us these guys had been laying some sort of experimental mines?”  The two exchanged horrified looks and then suddenly without warning, there was the sound of a muffled explosion on the speakers aboard the ship, and then… silence.

  

óóóó 

  

"Mystic, do you read us?... Over."

The video screen was black, the audio now only static.

Mystic…this is the Cable.  Do you read us?  Over.”

Technicians scrambled.  Something had gone horribly wrong.  The call was repeated several more times without response.  Whatever had taken the Monterey down had just claimed the DSRV.

 

 

óóóó 

 

A few moments before… 

Driscoll hung up the phone from talking with the DSRV and walked over to Weston.  “Looks like we might have a ride out of here.  Make sure anybody that’s hurt gets up here and they’ll be the first ones outta here.  A DSRV is on her way down right now.”

“Yes, sir!” the XO almost shouted but kept his voice calm and cool.  He picked up the mike and announced to the crew that help was on its way down.  Immediately, morale lifted among the men.

As the few injured men were moved forward, Driscoll continued to talk with the Cable.  Suddenly, there was a shudder that sounded like an explosion and the entire sub rocked as everyone grabbed on to anything they could to keep from being thrown off their feet. A few moments after the blast, the emergency phone rang again in the Control Room. The Captain grabbed it and replied, "Mystic? This is Driscoll.  What the hell happened?  Do you copy? Mystic? Reply!"

A voice in the phone spoke to him. "Captain, this is Commander Blessing of the Cable.  Did you hear anything?"

“Yeah, it sounded like some sort of an explosion, just like before.  Mystic hasn't responded to us.  What’s going on?”

“We’ve lost contact with her as well.  They reported hearing something contact their hull and then there was an explosion."

"Shit!  Okay, so is there anything else that can get us out of here?”

“Honestly, Captain, I don’t know.  We’re on the line with ComSubPac right now.  We’ll think of something…” Blessing tried to reassure him.

“You all damn well better!” Driscoll sarcastically replied. 

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Within minutes of losing the DSRV, ComSubPac was notified and Commander Jackson burst into Jiggs Starke’s office with the news.  In addition, the tape from the Cable had been relayed and was being downloaded for his review.  An hour later, Jiggs Starke watched in horror as he saw what he’d hoped he wouldn’t see.  Now, he had no choice.  His old friend had to be brought into this.

With an air of resignation, Starke turned to Jackson.  “I’ll let the NIMR know we need Nelson ASAP.  Find out where Seaview is and get her here.  They can pick up Nelson up on the way to the recovery site.”

 

 

óóóó

  

 

When the word came in, Captain Lee Crane, commanding officer of the Seaview, was standing in the Observation Nose drinking a cup of coffee.  They were ordered by ComSubPac to abort their current mission and report to Pearl Harbor ASAP.  The trip wouldn’t take long…she was currently cruising just northeast of Hilo, Hawaii.  After turning off the video screen and walking back to the Control Room to issue the commands to turn about and head straight for the Base, he looked over at Commander Chip Morton, the sub’s executive officer.  “I guess we’d better call Angie and tell her we’re en route to Pearl.  I’m sure she’s already signaled the Admiral to head for Starke’s office there…look’s like their honeymoon’s over.”  When Morton looked puzzled, Lee explained, “For some reason, they’ve called him in.  We've got a gray lady down."

Morton looked over at Crane and, without showing any expression, muttered, “Shit!”

The tall Captain simply nodded acknowledgment.

 

 

óóóó

  

 

A couple of hours later, the emergency phone rang on board Monterey.  It was Blessing.  "Captain, we’ve received a radio message that the SSRN Seaview will be en route to this location. We expect’em here in about 36 hours.  Their Flying Sub will help affect a rescue while their DWD teams inspect the damage for salvage purposes."

There was a moment’s hesitation on Driscoll’s part.  If whatever brought the Monterey down also brought down the Mystic, wouldn’t Seaview and the Flying Sub also be in jeopardy?

“That’s great, Captain, but what about what caused all this?  Won’t that affect them as well?”

“They’re working on that, Captain.  Hopefully, they’ll have some sort of solution by the time they arrive.  All I can say is hang in there for a while longer.  How’s your air supply?”

Matt took a good look around at his men.  What had been an elated crew before now were men trying desperately to hold on to hope.  “We’ve got enough for a few more days if things hold as they are…but I’ve got to get my men out of here.  Let Admiral Nelson know that it’s getting a bit tight down here.”

"Will do.  We'll keep this line open, Captain. Hang in there…help's on the way.  Cable standing by."

Matt hung up the receiver, looked at his men, and then picked up the mike.  “This is the Captain.  Captain Blessing of the Frank Cable has just confirmed that the explosion we felt was the DSRV.   Apparently, whatever hit us has hit them.  However, he also told me that the SSRN Seaview’s on its way here and should be here in about 36 hours.  So, gentlemen, I suggest we all get comfortable and try and relax, okay?  One way or another, we’re gonna get the hell out of here."

Weston looked at him and then felt a hand being on his shoulder.  He turned and came face to face with Tim Wells, one of the NIMR’s technicians.  The tech smiled slightly.  “Seaview, huh?  Wonder where they found the Admiral?  He’s supposed to be on his honeymoon.”

Driscoll chuckled weakly.  He knew Nelson too well and knew the reaction that he’d have once he found out precisely what was happening.  “Yeah, Mr. Wells, he was.  But apparently he’s not now…"

 

 

óóóó

 

   

The warm Pacific Ocean breeze caressed her naked body like a soft whisper.  Stretched out on the old bed, she seemed to half doze before waking from the slight breeze.  She glanced over at the slumbering figure beside her and smiled slightly.  An hour or so before, there had been a quick downpour of tepid tropical rain, not unknown for that time of year.  They had quickly gathered their belongings and ran to the old shack for cover.  Laughing, he had pulled her into an embrace just inside the doorway, slowly capturing her mouth and working his way downward as he peeled off her swimsuit and threw it over to the other side of the room.

He'd told her the old shack had been built many years before by the owner of the property as a simple retreat, a place to go to in order just to think.  It held no more than a bed, a table and two chairs, and faded curtains that draped the openings that doubled for windows.  The door had squeaked as he closed it with his foot.  Gently laying her down on the bed, his fingers strayed downward and then lightly brushed her breasts, bringing them to a heightened point of arousal.

“And just what are you trying to do, Admiral?” she coyly asked in a whisper, kissing him gently as her own fingers slipped under the waistband of his wet swim trunks

“Umm, well, if you don’t know…I don’t think I’m going to tell you.  Besides, aren’t you the one who said that some things are better physically demonstrated rather than verbally explained?”  He kissed her left breast softly and then the right.  Looking up at her, he still couldn’t believe that four weeks ago, she’d become his wife.  Grinning now with almost a leer, he asked, “Which one would you actually prefer?”

“Harry, you’re terrible, you know that?  God, what you do to me…” was her husky rely as she moved her body slightly, openly inviting him to do whatever he so chose.

“I know what I’d like to do…” he grinned, slipping his fingers into her most private of places.

“Ooooo, you keep on doing that and…” and she inched her body upward to meet his motions.  “…and you…” then she gazed into his steel blue eyes as a wave of lust rippled through her body.  “And I think I know what I want to do as well…”  Looking around the room for a moment, she hesitated, “This shack…won’t somebody come by?”

“Don’t worry.  I told you, we’re totally and absolutely alone, if that’s what you’re thinking.  Bill built this little place so he could be alone when he wanted to be.  Besides, we’re still on the property anyway.  Now, Captain, I want you to be quiet.”  And he touched a finger to her lips.  “I’m going to pull rank here.  I want to make love to my wife and I fully intend on doing it, that’s if she’s so inclined as well.”

Karen Davis Nelson looked up into the glazed over steel blue eyes of her husband and pulled him closer to her.  Feeling a hardness between them, she commented slyly, “Oh, she’s definitely so inclined.  And looks like you’re way ahead of me in one respect.  You’re going to have to allow me time to catch up…” 

“Oh, I do believe I can remedy that,” was the mischievous remark as he started to trail a line of soft kisses downward from her mouth.  He stopped only long enough to tease the pointed tips of her breasts.  Rising above her, his fingers again found the warm moistness of her body, manipulating it…stroking it…as he slowly inched his way toward that goal of sending her near the edge.

Karen squirmed as he masterfully played her body until she was ready to scream out.  Each movement by him brought a corresponding reaction from her and just at the moment when he saw her building toward her climax, he entered her, meeting her stroke for stroke.  As the rain’s tempo increased, so did their own, until suddenly, he felt her crashing around him, holding him securely within her, over and over until he could take no more.  His own body tensed as he unknowingly uttered a low deep moan, exploding within her and immersing himself within his own private gratification of her body.

The sound of the crashing waves combined with the gentle rain and breeze to provide sensuality unknown to them until this very time and place.  They simply lay atop that old bed, reveling in the aftermath of the frenzied lovemaking, then very slowly, very quietly, fell asleep in each other’s arms.

 

 

óóóó

 

  

Harriman Nelson turned over slightly as he felt the feathery touch of a finger on his bare hip.  Looking up into the milk chocolate eyes of his new wife, he smiled.  “Now this is something I most definitely will like getting used to.”

“Hmmmm, I’ll have to remember that.  By the way…the rain stopped a long time ago, you do know that, don’t you?  Want to go back to the house?”  She was lying on her side, her hand supporting her head while the other hand softly stroked the top of his thigh.

He pulled her in closer to him, allowing her to lay her head on his chest.  “Nope.  I happen to like it right here.  Besides, I’d always wondered why Bill had this thing built.  Now I know.  It definitely has a very useful purpose.”

Karen’s fingers now played with the soft reddish hairs on his chest as she rose up slightly and kissed him.  “Well, I know one thing…I’ll never look at one of these old grass shacks in the same way again.”  Rising up and starting to get out of bed, she inquired, “You know, we’ve still got some champagne and cheese in the picnic basket…want some?”

“No, not right now.  Right now, the only thing I want is….you!” he commanded as he grabbed her hand gently and pulled her back down, his mouth crashing down on hers with an urgency so fierce it took her breath way.

Moments later…

They were heavily engaged in a very heated, enthusiastic, and passionate embrace when his watch first signaled that there was an emergency message coming in.  Karen momentarily glanced up into his glazed, impassioned eyes upon hearing the first beep, but both quickly ignored the annoying sound.  Hastily, he hit a button to turn the pager off and returned his focus to making sure that their quest for passion was well satisfied.  Both were too far along with the sensuality of their lovemaking to hear the pager go off a second time.

Within the next few minutes, the persistent beeping of the signal kept intruding into the romantic mood of the afternoon.  As he finally rolled to his side and sat up on the blanket, he swore under his breath, "Dammit!  This had better be a national emergency."

Breathing hard as the sweat ran down his face and chest, he looked over at Karen, lying on the bed beside him, smiling seductively back, her fingers lightly caressing his body.  Uttering a further curse underneath his breath, he then activated the readout of the pager and scanned the incoming message as it slowly moved across the LCD screen.

PRIORITY ONE......GRAY LADY DOWN........CONTACT STARKE ASAP......

“Shit!” he muttered to himself.

“What’s wrong, Harriman?” she inquired, startled by the quickness of the change in expression and his harsh exclamation.  She quickly sat up and wrapped a beach towel around herself, watching him closely as he scanned the message a second time.

After he signaled back that he'd received the message, he reached for his swim trunks and stood up straight as he quickly struggled to put them on.  “Get dressed.  There’s a sub down.  I've got to contact Jiggs ASAP."

“A sub down?  Oh, God, which one?” she questioned as she grabbed for her swimsuit.

“I don’t know…come on!”

They quickly packed up the basket and ran out, heading back toward the house.  Once back inside, Karen headed to the bedroom to throw some things into a couple of suitcases and Nelson called Starke.  There simply wasn’t time to pack everything and, hopefully, they’d be able to come back to finish their honeymoon anyway.

He suddenly appeared in the bedroom and methodically began to pack his clothes.

“Well?  What did he say?” she inquired as she folded her clothes.

“Not much.  Just that he’s sending a helicopter to pick us up and ferry us back to Pearl.”

“Is it…?”

“He didn’t say. Karen, the line wasn’t secure.  He just said for us to get over there ASAP,” was his terse reply.  “Seaview's supposed to be on a survey project about 300 miles north of Hilo…”  He continued to pack and ten minutes later, took the bags out to the open verandah that led down to the beach below.

She busied herself by shutting up the house for whatever length of time they’d be gone.  At one point, she spied him standing in quiet solitude on the open verandah.  He was motionless, staring straight out at the cloudless blue sky and oblivious to her movements inside.  After about five minutes, he walked back in and sat down on one of the bar stools in the kitchen.

"Harriman..." she inquired, trying to get him to talk to her.  He’d gone into that automatic shutdown mode that she’d seen him go into when something was either terribly wrong or extremely serious.  She’d finished closing up the house and now stood, leaning across the breakfast bar, facing him.

"Communications is getting very good with short transmissions," again came a terse reply as he continued to gaze out at the ocean.  “Too damn good.”

“Surely he would have told you if it were…” she ventured.  “Secure line or not, Harriman, he wouldn’t have left you hangin’.  He knows what you went through the last time…”

“We’ll know as soon as we get there.”  He got up and strolled deliberately toward the door that led to the verandah.  "Where the hell’s that damn chopper?" he barked under his breath as he stood scanning the open sky and rubbing a hand absentmindedly through his hair.

“It takes about 25 minutes or so to get here from Pearl, Harry.  Considering you talked to him about 15 minutes ago, it should be here in about 10, maybe 15 minutes,” she tried to calm him.  “Look, what I don’t understand is…if it’s not her. then why bring you into this?”

Karen quietly slid her arm through his and softly placed her head against his shoulder.  In response, he slid his arm around her waist and pulled her in tightly to him.  He was worried of what the truth could very well be.  Without a word being passed between them, they stood together watching and waiting for their ride over to Pearl Harbor.  After what seemed an eternity, a transport helicopter bearing the insignia of the United States Navy appeared in the distance and headed straight for them.

"Okay, let's get the bags to the beach," he solemnly remarked as he grabbed two of them, leaving the last one for her.  Quickly, they walked to an empty stretch of beach as the helicopter made its descent. The whirling blades created havoc on the surrounding beach as the black sand swirled around them.  Stowing their bags quickly, they climbed aboard and,  within moments, were airborne. The flight would take only about 35 minutes to a landing pad not far from the base’s main administrative building.  For Harriman Nelson, those were to be very long minutes.  Sitting in silence, he gazed at the ocean below.  His mind was in overdrive, trying to ‘see’ every possible scenario.  Hoping…praying…that the truth wasn’t what he feared.  Karen sat beside him watching her husband closely.  She, too, feared the worst.  The pilot could tell them nothing, only that he was ordered to ferry them back ASAP.

.

óóóó

 

 

As the helicopter approached Pearl Harbor, the great white bowl shaped memorial of the USS Arizona shone in the late afternoon sun.  The outline of the sunken battleship stood out eerily as an ominous symbol of why they were here.  Harriman Nelson’s mind fixated on the submerged ship, his mind wandering to the ghosts of the men trapped and buried there - a grisly reminder of man’s propensity to destroy and dominate others.  Suddenly, his eyes caught glimpse of a familiar shape resting gently in the water and tied securely to a pier in the sub pen area.  His heart leapt to his throat and he reached out and grasped Karen’s hand, causing her to look where he was pointing and then at him, intense relief evident in her eyes just as surely as it was in his own. 

The helipad came into view and the helicopter quickly landed.  Once shutdown procedures had been completed, the hatch was opened and the pair quickly exited.  One of the landing crew pointed to a car idling off to the side of the pad and indicated that it would take them directly to Starke’s office. The Admiral had become strangely quiet through the entire trip, something inside him telling him that this was going to be more than just a sub gone down.  As they entered the outer office, they found Starke’s aide, Lt. Commander Jackson, who sat immersed in a mountain of paperwork.  The subordinate officer stood immediately as soon as he recognized the two.

“Admiral Nelson…Captain Davis.  The Admiral is expecting you both,” he said as he went to the closed door and knocked, opening it immediately for the two.  Stepping slightly inside, he announced, “Admiral Nelson and Captain Davis, sir,” then stepped aside to let them enter the room.

Admiral Jiggs Starke looked up from the middle of a crowd of officers and started to tear into Jackson for the interruption.  However, once he saw the two people behind him, his temper faded and he moved to meet Nelson with a firm handshake then a slight scowl.  Harry hadn't had the time to shave or shower.  He had quickly dressed in khaki slacks, a blue polo shirt, no socks, and a pair of deck shoes. Karen wore a pair of jean cutoffs with a NIMR T-shirt and a pair of sneakers.

"A little bit casual, aren't we, Harriman?" he said looking at their attire with a bit of an air of mock disapproval.

“Well, considering the urgency of your call, I got here as quickly as I could.  What the hell’s going on and who is it?

"It's the Monterey, Harriman.  Look, I’m sorry that I couldn’t be more specific with you…I didn’t want to break security.  It’s going to be all over the damn news pretty soon, but we’re trying to keep as tight a lid on this situation as we possibly can…I just don’t know how long that’s going to be.  Come on over here," he replied, leading them over to a table where several other officers were clustered.  "If you'll excuse us, gentlemen…" he remarked as he motioned to the others gathered around, allowing Karen and Harry access to a chart that had been spread out on a table. There was a red circle drawn and a set of coordinates – latitude 9.783 North, longitude 169.849 East.  Harry jotted them down on a piece of paper he found nearby

Upon a silent nod from Starke, the others turned, and quickly, but quietly, left his office.

"Damn, " Nelson said as he poured over the map.  "I didn't know our subs were in that area."

"Normally, they're not. There's some bad currents and deep canyons, but the area fit what we wanted done."

"Then why...?  The Monterey…that's Matt Driscoll's boat, isn't it?” Nelson slowly queried of Starke.

"Yes…I'm sorry, Harriman. I know you two are close," came the hushed reply.

"Have you already dispatched the DSRV to the scene?  What's their report?"

Starke responded hesitantly,  "We, ah, lost the DSRV, too, Harriman.  They reported they were nearing the crash site when they suddenly reported a contact on the hull. There was a deafening explosion on the radio, and then…silence.  We’re working to get another DSRV ready but…"

"Explosion?  What kind of explosion?"  Puzzled, Harry shot up an eyebrow in response, his eyes revealing his growing curiosity.

"The DSRV's four cameras were running when it was hit. We've got a copy of the film that was relayed up to the support ship, the Frank Cable, a sub tender, that's still out on the scene. The Chosin and the Salvor are both out there as well.  Have a seat…you just might find this interesting," he replied as he picked up the remote control for the VCR under the large TV screen in the corner of his office.  “The Chosin was the first on the scene and established contact with Monterey.”

Nelson nodded and grabbed the nearest chair and took a seat facing the TV screen. Karen had pulled up a seat beside him.

Starke looked at her and replied, "Sorry, Captain, you'll have to wait outside.”

Karen glanced up in surprise.  In the light of the possibility of her DWD teams participation in the downed sub’s recovery, for her to be excluded from this briefing was unthinkable. Puzzled, she turned and looked at Harry who, in turn, looked at Starke.

”No…if Seaview’s going to be involved in this, then I’m going to need the teams and she is the DWD team leader.”

"This is a highly classified film and strictly on a need to know basis, Harriman. and she doesn’t need to know," the bigger man stated with more firmness, refusing to explain any further.

"What do you mean classified, Jiggs?  What the hell's this all about?" Nelson asked, his curiosity now evident.

"You'll understand when you see the film, Harriman,” was Starke’s curt reply.  “Captain, you’ll have to leave.”

"No, Jiggs, she stays,” Nelson firmly stated.

"Harriman, she doesn’t have the necessary clearance to view this material," Starke stated flatly.  His patience was wearing thin and he wasn’t used to having neither his authority nor his commands questioned, even by Nelson.

"But she does …" Harry started to say when he caught the look on Karen’s face.  His old friend's statement and tone of voice was about to bring about a reaction that he knew Starke wasn't going to like.  Karen didn't like her authority being questioned either where the Team was concerned. Harry himself had learned that the hard way a few years back.  He knew she had adequate clearance because he himself had approved it.  He turned to her and quietly said, “Karen, I think...”

“I know…I can handle this one myself,” she calmly but softly interjected as she slowly got to her feet to confront Starke and yet gave a slight smile to her husband.

An eyebrow rose slightly and he simply nodded his ‘blessing.'  Under his breath, and with a hint of a smile, he  whispered to himself, “Just don’t get yourself court-martialed.”

Karen heard her husband and barely nodded that she understood his warning.  She then looked directly at the larger man as he stood near the TV.  "Excuse me, sir?  Permission to speak freely?”

“Permission granted, Captain,” Starke grunted as he took a seat behind his massive desk.

Karen steeled herself for the confrontation.  She knew how Starke was regarding rules and regs. He himself had once said he was a spit, polish and brig officer so she covered all her bases.  So, in a calm but direct voice, she started.  “With all due respect, sir, I beg to differ with regards to my security clearance.  Perhaps you might want to check your information again, Admiral."  Karen had now locked eyes with the bigger man.  If her teams were to be used in this rescue mission, she had no intention of going anywhere until the matter was put to rest.  “I don’t mean to be neither insubordinate nor disrespectful here, sir, but your information is most obviously in error and you might want to re-verify it. It is my understanding that we have a Priority One clearance. Correct me if I’m wrong, sir.”

Starke stared into her eyes with confidence and intimation. When she didn’t back down, however, he began to think twice until he realized Jackson had always kept him informed on the latest information.  His reply was curt and to the point, trying to stifle the rage that was beginning to build in him.  “Captain Davis, may I remind you that I’m kept informed of everything regarding anything in this area of the world.  And that includes security clearances."

Considering that her honeymoon had been cut short over this incident, and coupled with the fact he obviously had not done his homework, the issue was taxing even her long temper fuse. Her tone, though polite and formal, now hardened a bit further.  "Admiral Starke, sir, those men down there don’t have time for this nonsense, and quite frankly, neither do I…especially if my teams will be involved in some way.  Now, I respectfully suggest you ask Commander Jackson to pull our security file before I go do it myself," she concluded just as Harry gently laid a hand on her arm to silently tell her to take a step back.

Starke began to turn a muted shade of red.  He was infuriated that this woman, and a subordinate officer no less, had questioned his command.  Turning to Harriman, who was simply watching the entire episode unfold, he finally exploded, "Admiral Nelson, I would heavily suggest that you advise Captain Davis on proper protocol before I..."

What happened next was not what Starke expected.

Nelson simply stretched out his legs, dug his hands in his pockets, and then looked over at Starke with a sly but tired grin.  Figuring he’d now better say something to save Starke’s hide before Karen tore him to shreds, and she ended up in trouble for it, he arched an eyebrow and quietly remarked, "Jiggs, just pull the damn file before you regret it."

Harry's mild reproach took Starke totally by surprise.  Taken aback and hesitating just a bit, he looked wide-eyed at the couple that sat before him.  Neither of them made any attempt at apology.   No...it’s not possible... is it?  Was it possible that just maybe he didn't have all the information he actually needed?  Dammit, Jackson, I’ll have your goddamn hide if it’s true.  He went to the door, opened it, and yelled at Jackson.

"Jackson, I want the full security clearance of the NIMR's DWD Team ASAP... Move it, man!”  Gruffly, he returned to his desk and sat back down to wait.  If there was one thing that Jiggs Starke hated, it was incompetence, and being questioned about information he should have already had on hand bordered on that.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Jackson scurried and called security for the necessary information to be sent up to Starke’s office immediately.  He had slightly overheard some of the conversation through the partially opened door and he had further heard Karen Nelson’s tone toward his boss.

Smiling warily to himself, Looks like the old man bit off more than he can chew with her.  Nelson’s married a real firebrand.

Then suddenly realizing what would happen should the NIMR DWD Team come back with high security clearance, the man frowned.  He knew what his superior’s reaction would be if the information came back as the Captain had stated. 

Within minutes, his fax machine rang and within a few seconds more, he looked down at the paper.  “Shit! 

At the very top of the file, it read PRIORITY ONE CLEARANCE.

Shaking his head, and preparing himself for the worst, he slowly walked into the office, shaking his head.  Remind me to kill one security clerk. I swear, I’ll kill whoever screwed this up.  This sure as hell wasn’t what I got earlier to give to the old man.

The pit of his stomach told him what was going to happen when he handed Starke the paper with their clearance level on it.

 

óóóó

 

 

Starke looked at the file, then glared back up at Jackson as if in silent accusation for the foul-up.

“You’re dismissed, Jackson,” Starke growled.  It was most evident to all present that he was more than infuriated at the fact that he had been caught unaware with regards to this information.  He made up his mind then and there that he would have to have a strong conversation with Jackson when this was over with.

Jackson grimaced under the scrutinization of his superior officer and knew that he was in very hot water.  Mustering a somewhat rigid strong voice, he replied, “Yes, sir!” and then promptly proceeded to close the door without another word to any of them.

Once outside, he muttered to himself, “No doubt about it!  I’m going to kill a security clerk!”

Back inside Starke’s office, Harry leaned over towards Karen and whispered to her in a half-joking manner as he settled further into his chair, "Nicely done, Captain. Diplomacy, right?" 

Karen glanced over at him as she settled deeper into the chair, trying to get comfortable.  Flashing a sly smile at him, she softly replied in an exaggerated southern accent,  "Why, suh...but of course... always."  She had known precisely what she was doing.  Diplomacy or not, Starke was not going to exclude her if her teams were to be involved.

If it hadn’t been for the seriousness of the situation, Harriman Nelson would have laughed out loud; instead, he quietly chuckled to himself.  In some ways, Karen was a lot like himself.  He had been trying to instill in her the art of diplomacy in getting things done.  She could exhibit it quite well whenever she really wanted something, but generally had very little patience for playing 'political mind games' as she called it.  In that particular area, they were too much alike at times.  Both knew it was extremely necessary on occasion and both hated it with a passion.  However, even he silently had to admit that Jiggs had asked for this one.

Starke cut the lights and started the videotape that had been downloaded from the Cable. The pictures, taken from Mystic’s cameras, shifted from one viewing angle to another. They rotated along the hull giving a complete 360-degree sweep of the area. Suddenly, the stern camera on the DSRV picked up something moving in the darkness. Harry leaned forward and became very engrossed in what followed. A tiny somewhat spherical shaped object appeared off in the distance, moving quickly and effortlessly to the side of the craft. Approximately thirty seconds later, the film went to static.

Starke stopped the film and turned on the light.  Karen glanced over at Harriman, who was now sat rigid, his eyes still transfixed on the blank screen.  Noticing he was obviously shaken by what he'd observed, she reached out and placed her hand gently on his shoulder.  “Harriman, what's wrong?"

Drawing in a deep breath, he kept staring at the blank screen in deep thought and what looked like a look of horror on his face.

"Harry, that looked like some kind of a mine," she curiously remarked.

His lips tightened and he looked down at the floor as he stood and walked over to the chart table. Then he looked back at Starke, ignoring Karen’s question as if he had neither heard nor knew she was even there.  "I don't understand this.  Is this…?" he demanded of Starke.

"I'm afraid so."

"Has this been confirmed?" he inquired of him, almost fearful of what the answer would be.

"Yeah, it's one of yours, Harriman," came Starke’s short, but this time, almost apologetic, reply.

Nelson eased himself back down into the chair and took a deep breath.  Impossible!   What he had seen couldn't have been possible.  They weren’t even due to start testing for another two weeks, and add to the fact they weren’t even supposed to be carrying live charges.  Not yet!  This just wasn’t possible.

At that moment the phone rang and Starke immediately picked it up. He listened for a few moments and then replaced the receiver to its holder, hitting the viewer switch.  "Go ahead, sir." Starke remarked as the image of a Naval Officer dressed in the summer white uniform appeared on the video screen.

"Harriman, have you seen the film yet?" Admiral Charles Norwood, the Chief of Naval Operations, asked flatly.

"Yes, I've seen it. How in the devil could this happen? They weren't supposed to test this for another two weeks," he replied.

"I know.  However, it was decided that since everything was ready to go, we did the preliminaries without you.  It was felt that you really didn’t need to be out on the initial run.”  There was a weak chuckle.  “Besides, the team didn’t want to spoil your honeymoon.  Anyway, good damn thing you weren't around or you'd be on the Monterey, dead on the bottom."

Harry's eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. "What do you mean…it was decided I wasn't needed out there?  Who the hell decided this?  Last thing I knew, I was in charge of this operation. That decision should have been mine to call, not someone else’s."

Norwood’s voice went flat.  "That's rather immaterial at this moment, Harry. Look, I’ve got a sub down and it looks like your mines are responsible. I want some answers. I was under the assumption the preliminaries were to be dummies, not live charges. I want you out on site ASAP and I want to know exactly what the hell went wrong and who's responsible for this oversight.  Oh, and by the way…your two technicians are okay, from what we’ve been told"

"Understood. As soon I…we…get back aboard Seaview, we’ll head out to the scene."

Norwood’s face softened just a bit. "Sorry about cutting things short for you two, but this really has Washington up in arms. The SECNAV is demanding answers and he’s getting hit on by the President himself. Keep in touch.  We’re also trying to keep a lid on this where the media is concerned but it’s getting hard to do.”

"Yes, sir," he replied as the screen went blank.

Karen looked over at her husband and reached out, her hands covering his, her eyes searching deeply within his for an answer.  "Harriman, what was that thing?" the gentle tone of her voice was now more demanding.

"It's a mine, Karen.  A mine that I help design," he calmly replied, almost as a confession of guilt rather than an answer.  “But it wasn’t supposed to…”

"What kind of mine is it, Harry? It’s not like anything I ever remember seeing…"  Karen was beginning to fear the worst.  Searching her husband’s steel blue eyes, the fear she suddenly saw flickering there terrified her even more.

Nelson glanced up at Starke; his expression asking for the permission he needed to answer her demanding question.

"Go ahead, Harriman.  You might as well.  She now has a need to know," was Starke’s calm reply to his silent request.  Even he now realized that if the sub was to be rescued, she had to have access to all the information.

The stocky man took a deep breath and calmly told her, "We call it the ‘Gray Ghost’.  The mine is designed to camouflage itself into the ocean sediments, much like a flounder or stingray does. When a hostile sub comes within a quarter mile of it, the acoustical computer package locates and isolates the boat’s signature.  If it matches the signature stored in its memory banks, the mine is activated and is drawn, acoustically, to the source, which are usually the propellers or the hull nearby.  As it closes on the source and contacts with it, the payload is activated, and within 30 seconds of contact, it explodes with a force of between 100 and 200 pounds of TNT.   Usually they’re deployed in clusters of up to six.  And they’re very effective in stopping the vessel they’ve attached to.  At least, in theory, they are.  This was Phase Two of testing…dummy charges were to be placed in them and a live target was to be used to see how well they actually worked.”  He then looked over at Starke, a coldness replacing the glimmer of fear.  “And the actual test wasn’t supposed to be for another two damn weeks.  They were supposed to undergo another round of preliminary tests before we took them out.”

Karen sank back into her chair.  She grew very quiet as deep concern filled her over not what he had told her but over what he hadn't told her.  There were very few, if any, of his research projects that she didn’t know about. However, this was something that he had obviously kept from her for whatever reason.  Finally, she looked over at him, then stood up slowly and walked back over to the chart.  Moments later, turning her back to both men, she began to study it very intently.  They had a sub down there, which meant lives were at stake. There was no other option in her book.  Regardless of the depth, regardless of the terrain, those men had to evacuated... and fast!  Turning back around to face her husband and Starke, she first looked to Harriman and then looked over at Starke; her eyes grew dispassionate and calculating, the tone of her voice matching her sudden concise demeanor.  "What are you going to need from me and my team?"

Sitting back down behind his desk, Starke advanced the videotape to the frame where the mine first came into view.  Hitting the ‘pause’ button, he froze the frame on the screen.  Leaning across his desk, he addressed her question.  "We need to get those men off that boat before they run out of air but before you can do that, you're going to have to disarm those mines otherwise, the currents could carry them out anywhere.  And the last thing we need are rogue mines buried somewhere.   Problem there is, we don’t know how many more are live.  Secondly, we need to know exactly what went wrong out there.   We'll also need a full and thorough photo survey of the Monterey showing the extent of the damage and its location.”  Looking back over at the screen, he continued, “You see, Matt's boat was the one field testing the new mines.  Evidently something went wrong out there.  We need to know what that something was. As Harriman said, those mines were not supposed to be carrying a live payload.  Now, Captain, what are you going to need from me?" 

Karen turned to Harriman, who sat quietly in his chair, intently studying the frozen image on the TV screen and lost in thought.  "Harry?"

Harriman Nelson sat motionless in the chair as if he was caught up in some kind of nightmare that he was hoping he was going to wake up from soon. He and Matt went back a long way together and now he had not only his sub and its crew on his conscience, but the deaths of the DSRV crew as well.  She walked over to him when he hadn't answered her and gently slipped her hand into his, snapping him back to reality.  He took in a deep breath and looked up into Karen's probing eyes, then addressed Starke.

"I need Tony Rennalt for starters: he’s the co-designer of the Ghost's electronics. Then I want to know how far along the new DSRV is.  She’s got an anti-magnetic hull and can use hydro jets instead of engines so there won't be any signatures.  I'll need all the blueprints on those mines, specifically the wiring schematics as well as all the tools we’ll need to work on’em.  Tony can bring them with him and meet us at the site.”

By this time, Karen had walked back over to the table and now leaned back against it, looking to her husband as the only man in the room with the answers she needed.  "Our gear’s not fully anti-magnetic and we don't have the time to have new ones made.  Not even the ADS suits are anti-magnetic, you know that.  So, how are we going to disarm those things if we can’t get anywhere near them or the sub?”

Drawing in a deep breath, "We'll have to coat two complete suits with that anti-magnetic paint we’ve got aboard.  It shouldn't take more than two divers to do this job anyway.”  He finally stared her in the eyes and remarked, “We’ll need your best demolitions diver and also one with electronics expertise.  Tony and I’ll talk them both through it.”

Upon hearing the last part of what Harry had said, Starke stood and spoke as he took on a very commanding and authoritative posture. "Sorry, Harriman, but you heard the Old Man. I'm afraid you may have to do this one yourself.  You're the only person here that knows those mines intimately."

Nelson shot a look of surprise in Starke’s direction.  "Jiggs, I'm not qualified to operate that gear. It takes intense training to be able to handle that stuff. You have no idea what’s involved."

"Look, I don't care what's involved and neither does the CNO.  You know those mines in your sleep, Harriman. You and Rennalt designed them.  Now. somehow, someway, they've malfunctioned and somebody’s got to find out why and how. Those divers aren't trained to work on them. However, you are," Starke tersely replied, the sound of it boarding very close on making it an order.

"Jiggs, I just told you, I'm not qualified to make that dive in that equipment…they are," Harriman shot back, trying to make him understand.  Starke wasn't a diver and had no real clear understanding of what was really needed in this situation.

"Then somehow you’ve got to have to make damn sure those mines get disarmed and find out what the hell happened out there.  Now, whether it’s your DWD team or you, quite frankly, I don’t care.  Those mines have to be dealt with.”  His tone then softened just a bit as he continued, "Besides, you'd never forgive yourself if anything went wrong out there.  I’ve known you for too long and know you too well.”

Karen continued to sit against the table, watching and listening to the exchange between the two men with rising concern.  She knew that Starke had every right to issue the ‘request’; however, common sense dictated another course of action.  And although she was present first as Nelson's wife, she was also the main authority in who was, and wasn't, qualified to make that kind of dive.  It would be her teams that would be involved in this operation and as the Seaview’s Mission Specialist and Dive Officer, she was the final authority on the matter.  Authority that had, in fact, been given to her by the Institute's Director himself.

Standing upright, she faced Starke with her arms folded.  "Admiral Starke, sir.  Admiral Nelson’s correct.  He's not qualified to make that dive.  The Admiral hired me to build and head this team. There are certain directives that have been put in place to safeguard the divers when they go out.  I’m responsible for making sure those directives are followed to the letter and safety, Admiral Starke, is one of the, if not the top, primary directives. I will not put an unqualified diver out at that depth in that equipment and that's all there is to it, sir.  Not only would he be fighting the equipment but it puts a hell of a demand on your body as well.  And I must remind you, Admiral, that a diver has to be medically certified to be able to handle that kind of depth in the first place.”  She hesitated a moment, “Besides, are you really willing to risk losing him when it's not necessary?  Frankly, sir, I'm not, and it damn well has nothing to do with the fact that I'm his wife!"  She knew what was being asked of him and she also knew that in no way could, or would, she put him through it.

"Captain Davis!"  Starke boomed, his eyes narrowing as he stared over at her.  "You don't have a choice; you’ll do as you’re ordered, if ordered to do so!  And may I add, Captain, you're bordering very close to insubordination!"

Harry immediately straightened at the way his old friend was addressing and treating her.  In reality, she hadn’t exceeded her boundaries at all.  She was simply stating the obvious, something Jiggs Starke refused to see.

When Starke saw him stand and take up a defensive posture, he shot a scathing look over at him and remarked directly, "You will stand down, Admiral!"

Karen Nelson suddenly walked over and placed herself directly between the two men.  Looking up at the larger older man, she stood firm, then calmly but coolly replied, " With all due respect, sir, I don't give a flying rat's ass what you think.  You’re suggesting that this man make a dive that he’s not qualified to make.  I have electronics and demolitions experts that are specially trained for these situations.  They'll handle the disarming.  The Admiral can advise them in the proper procedures for their disarmament.  As the head of the Seaview’s DWD team, that is my decision, not yours, to make."  Her own career was now at risk by saying what she did, and to whom, but she also knew that someone in this room had to show some common sense.

"Captain Davis...!" Starke bellowed.  Towering over her by just under a foot, he glared down at the determined woman in blue jean cut-offs and T-shirt standing in front of him.  Her feet were firmly planted and her arms crossed in defiance as she stared straight back at him, her eyes locked to his, not flinching an inch.  He'd always heard she had little tolerance for proper military protocol where her teams were concerned, but he clearly wasn't prepared for her 'spirited' reaction.  Normally Jiggs Starke could frighten the hell out of even the most experienced subordinate officer, but Captain Karen Davis had proven to be a different matter.  He quickly discovered that, just like the Commanding Officer of the Seaview, she wasn't one to be intimidated by either his attitude or approach.  Though she had a healthy respect for him and his rank, she also was fiercely loyal to her team and would not be pushed by him into doing something so totally reckless.  He knew she was somewhat of a maverick, but this... this was clearly unthinkable.

Harriman Nelson then softly placed a hand on Karen's shoulder as if to calm her.  He knew Jiggs well enough to know that this decision wasn't easily made and even harder for him to ‘command’.  Yet he also knew his wife, and that her reactions were not only to protect him, but also to ensure the best possible chance the downed men of the Monterey had by putting the best divers in the water.   It boiled down to an almost 'no-win' situation.  So in order to resolve the question and save all involved…

"Karen," he said quietly and calmly, "I'll consider making the dive.  No one knows those mines better than I do.  I built the damn things, for Christ sake."

Karen wheeled around and faced her husband with a look of 'Are you crazy?' written all over her face.  "You can’t be serious, Harry?!  You said yourself that you're not qualified and you're not!  You and I both know that."  She then quickly turned back and faced Starke with almost a pleading stare.  "You can't do this!  You can't have him make a dive he's not qualified to make.  That's suicide, Admiral Starke and you damn well know it.  He’s only been out of the hospital a short time and he’s still recovering from the collapsed lung.  With the pressures and exertion he’ll be exposed to out there, it could re-collapse and that, sir, would kill him."

Starke was furious, yet his anger dissipated somewhat as he looked directly into her frightened, but angry, eyes.  "Captain...” his tone softened just a bit, yet held firm, “Your husband’s trained in a wide array of fields including demolition and explosive ordinance.  He's been down in every imaginable piece of diving gear known to man as well as a wide array of underwater submersibles and crafts.  You know his qualifications and his record as well as I, maybe a little bit better. Harry designed and built these things and he can assemble one of them blindfolded.  They don't take to tinkering very well by unknown, untrained hands.  One wrong move or the lack of a move could be your last.  You know your gear... he knows those mines just as well.  Consider this, Captain…you’ll have just one chance at this.  If anything goes wrong on that first mine you’ll lose those experts leaving you who to finish them?  He’s the designer.  He built them; he knows every square centimeter of them.  He knows what he can and can’t do with them. Your folks don’t.  You stand a better chance with him out there doing it than you would with your own folks.”

Karen looked from one man’s face to the other in disbelief.  She was furious and her eyes were blazing with both fury and concern.  How on earth could Starke even begin to suggest something this insane to her husband?

"You’re serious about this?!" she demanded.  “I can’t authorize him going out there.  I won’t.  It’s too damn risky.”

"I am serious, Captain…deadly serious," he irately concluded as he walked across his office and deliberately sat down behind his desk, ending the conversation.

Karen again looked at him and then over at her husband.  Averting her eyes upward and then closing them, she silently screamed, Men!  Oh, dear God, please give these two some damn friggin’ common sense before I kill both of’em!  She then turned, picked up her pocketbook, and curtly announced, “Then, I would ask to not be privy to the rest of this insanity.”  Looking at them both with slight distain, she curtly announced, “Admiral Nelson can inform me of your plans.  By your leave, gentlemen!” and walked out of the room without being dismissed, totally enraged at the total absurdity of what had just transpired.

Harry watched her storm out, slamming the door behind her. He looked over at Starke, who in turn looked back at him in absolute amazement that a subordinate officer would act in such a manner.  Both men knew what had to be done, regardless of the consequences.  The tension between the two men was so thick it could be cut with a knife.

Starke looked over at the closed door and then at his old friend, unshaven and rumpled.  Gruffly, he remarked, "How in God's name are you going to put up with that for the rest of your life?"

Harriman shoved one hand into his pants pocket and rubbed the other through his hair.  Managing a slight sly grin as he looked at the closed door, he replied, "Well, she does make life interesting."

"Humph!" was Starke's comment.  "The Captain damn well needs to learn some respect for proper protocol and her superiors before she find herself in front of a court-martial since she's in the Reserves.”

He nearly laughed at his old friend's retort and would have thought it downright funny had it not been for the situation at hand.  Instead, Harry formed a slight smile and replied, "I'll remember to speak to her about it and take the necessary 'disciplinary' action."

"Yeah, right, Harriman... like she's really going to listen.  I swear, if it weren't for the fact that she's your wife and extremely good at her job...I’d have her up before a court martial so damn fast.  That’s the only reason she has the latitude she does, especially right now.”  His mildly irritated tone then turned deadly serious.  "Look, old friend, I know you're not qualified in that equipment and I can’t formally order you out there, but if your wife is as good as her dossier and you say, I’ve got no doubt in the world that she can have you ready.  Harry, they’re running out of time and air.  If this can be accomplished without you going out there, then do it."  Getting up and rounding the desk, he put his hand on Nelson's shoulder and said, “However, Harriman, you and I both know that there's no one else that knows those things like you do.  I’d never even consider asking you to do this otherwise.  Your DWD teams are good, I have no doubt about that, but they aren't you.  Whatever you decide, which ever way you decide to handle it, I’ll back you one thousand percent."

Nelson looked up at his old friend and nodded.  This was his responsibility and he knew what he had to do.  Silently, he turned and walked with Starke to the door.

"I’ll let you know how things progress," he softly remarked as he left the office.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Jackson stood when Nelson came back into the outer office.  Rounding the desk, he handed him an envelope as the Admiral was picking up the remainder of the things they had left in the office.

"Admiral, here's a key to your quarters, sir, where you and Captain Davis can freshen up."

Harriman looked at the officer and shook his head.  "Uh...thanks, Commander, but we won't be needing it.  Actually, I'd like a car to take us over to the pier where the Seaview's docked."  Noticing that Karen was nowhere to be seen, he cocked his head a bit and calmly asked, “I take it that Captain Davis isn’t in the building?”

Jackson looked a little sheepish as he remembered witnessing her stormy exit from the suite of offices.  “No, sir,” he replied.  “She came out and said she had to ‘go walk it off’, I believe were her exact words.  Said you’d find her outside.”

Nelson knew what the younger man meant.  Karen had a habit of walking her anger off.  Whenever she was upset or angry, she’d usually go for a walk along the beach near the Institute, saying that the scenery and the sheer power and magnanimity of the ocean helped calm and settle her thoughts.  He felt sure he’d find her close by.  When he saw Jackson motioning toward the window, he walked over and looked out, seeing Karen standing by the reflecting pool on the lawn in front of the building.  Standing there, he momentarily watched his bride of four weeks, knowing that this had to be torture for her, but something that, nonetheless, had to be done.  Jackson’s voice brought him back to reality.

"The car's waiting, sir."

Turning around to the younger officer, Nelson apparently didn’t hear him.  “I’m sorry... what was that?” he replied as he raised an eyebrow, his left hand absentmindedly rubbing the back of his neck.

“Admiral Stark ordered a car for you, the driver'll take you anywhere you want to go."

"Thank you," he answered and then walked out to go smooth things over with Karen.

As he passed the driver of the waiting car, he advised him that they would be ready to go momentarily.  Then slowly walking over to the reflecting pool, he quietly came up behind his wife as she sat gazing into the fountain spray.  Sitting down beside her, he said nothing, letting her lead the way into whatever conversation would follow.  He could tell from looking at her that she was frightened, upset, and extremely angry.  When she didn’t speak, he decided to break the ice.

"I think you still need a few lessons in diplomacy,” he softly said, trying to be a bit on the humorous side.  “I’d really hate to have to attend your court martial.  You've still got Reserve status, you know.”

“Yeah, right,” came the sarcastic reply.  Turning slightly toward him, she looked deeply into his blue eyes, searching for some sort of answer to what had just transpired in Starke’s office.

Harry reached out, took her left hand, and slightly played with her rings.  Grinning just a bit, he added, “Jiggs deserved that shot, you know... and you did it so very well.”  The comment brought a faint smile to her face and he leaned over and kissed her softly, “Come on, the car’s here to take us to the boat.  They’re waiting for us."

She studied his face, searching his eyes, hoping that he would simply make things right.  The tone of his voice, and the events that had just taken place, were both indications that she knew what he ultimately would do.  Somehow, she expected no less from him.

He stood up and offered his hand to her.  Looking up into his eyes, she drew a deep breath, exhaled, and accepted it.  As they walked to the car arm in arm, in silence, they both knew what must be done.  As they got into the back seat, he sensed she was still angry with Starke and with the situation.  While the car was making its way through the base compound to the pier where Seaview was docked, he took both of her hands in his and faced her.

"Karen, the fact here is there’s not many options open to us.  I know that what Jiggs is asking could be putting you in a very difficult position.  Hell, we both know that at my age, under those conditions, it's probably suicidal. But I happen to have information from a good source, that I happen to know very personally, that no matter what happens out there, you'll do everything you can to get me back safely.  I trust you with my life.  I always have and always will."  He kissed one of her hands and then added, “I wouldn’t be here right now if it hadn’t been for you and what you did last year.  You brought me back home, remember?”

The incident he referred to was burned in her brain forever.  The vision of his swollen, bloodied face as he sat beside her inside that helicopter would haunt her until the end of time.  Now he was asking her to help him to do something that might well get him killed.  She’d almost lost him then, she couldn’t bear the thought of losing him now.  Karen fully understood his motives - his sense of responsibility, his dedication to finding out what had gone wrong.  Nonetheless, it was tearing her apart.  Almost pleading with him, she implored, "Harry, please don't even ask me to even consider doing this.  Please.  Let the team handle this.  You know we can do what needs to be done."

Nelson sat back against the seat and pulled her back with him, his arm surrounding her.  His mind was whirling, trying to examine every possible scenario, every possible option, yet it all kept coming back to one thing.

"Karen, there are no alternatives to do what has to be done,” Harry shot back.  However, deep in the recesses of his mind, he was becoming more and more convinced as to what he had to do.

She paused as his words filtered through the waves of fear and anger that seemed to consume her every fiber.  His eyes were locked with hers and she saw that look of confidence and determination in them that made her slightly smile.  She knew what he was trying to say to her... that his responsibility to the others far outweighed any other responsibility that he might have, even to her.  As if in acknowledgment, she turned slightly and leaned back against him, letting him envelop her within the safety of his arms.

As he held her, he could feel the tenseness in her body relax just a bit, the anger being slowly replaced by resignation and reluctant acceptance of what she couldn’t change.  Bending over slightly to lightly kiss her cheek, he almost chuckled at the thought of the sight of the two of them coming into Starke’s office.

Jiggs must have had a cow when we walked in.  We’re both a mess!

 

 

óóóó

 

 

When the car pulled up to the pier where Seaview was berthed, the driver immediately got out and placed the bags along side the edge of the pier.  Several of the topside crewman scurried about making sure that the boat’s stores were fully stocked and all the incoming emergency equipment that had arrived was loaded and secured into the holding areas.  As Harry and Karen got out of the car, the topside watch called below, "Skipper, this is topside. The Admiral and the Captain have just pulled up."

Lee Crane had had a previous message from Jiggs Starke’s office to expect the two. As such, he was ready to receive his employer and his new bride.  He also knew that the unexpected interruption of their honeymoon had something to do with the downed sub and that he would be fully briefed once they were aboard.  "Very well, see that they're piped aboard and have their bags taken directly to their quarters," Lee replied.

"Aye, aye, sir."

In short order, the two came aboard as Chip Morton, Seaview’s Executive Officer, and Crane welcomed them back, as two seamen take their bags below for them. 

“Good afternoon, sir…Captain,” Morton noted and shook hands with Nelson.  “Good to have both of you back.”

The Admiral nodded to the tall, blond XO and replied, “I just wish it were under better circumstances.  Where’s Lee?”

“In the Control Room, sir.  Attending to some last minute details before we leave.”   Chip looked over at Karen as they all started their descent into the tower.  “I see we’ve taken on some new equipment…”

“I’ll talk to you about it in a bit.  We’ve got a lot of work to do and a very short time to do it,” was her only remark

“Understood.”

Once they all hit the decking in the Control Room, Crane approached them.  “Welcome back.”

“I need for you to come to my cabin as soon as we’ve cleared the harbor.”

“Yes, sir…will do,” Lee replied as a slight frown appeared.  “I take it you know…”

“Oh, I know all right.  We're going to be taking on personnel and equipment once we're on site.  Just get us underway ASAP.”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll see you shortly,” the Captain remarked as Nelson and Davis headed for their individual quarters to get cleaned up.  Watching them as they disappeared up the spiral staircase to A Deck, he simply shook his head.  So much for the honeymoon.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Inside the privacy of her cabin, away from prying eyes, Karen Davis Nelson let go of her ‘public’ icy reserve.  She was furious... and afraid.  Sitting down heavily in the chair behind her desk, she picked up a pencil that was standing in a holder nearby.  Fidgeting with it, she finally angrily picked up the holder and threw it against the door.

“Damn!” she yelled.  “Damn Jiggs Starke!”  She got up and tore into her luggage with a vengeance.  “That son of a bitch wants to get him killed!  He has no damn right to lay this guilt trip on him.  There’s no reason for him to even suggest that he make that dive.  I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna lose him over some ego trip that that idiot’s trying to lay on him.  No…hell, no!.”

`She was fighting to hold back tears of anger and fear that beginning to overflow.  Laying out her clothes, she came upon the flower lei he bought for her not two days before.  The pungent orchids had given her hurriedly packed clothes an aromatic fragrance.  There was also a candid photo of the two of them sitting on an abandoned World War II pier near Hana, courtesy of a local teenager who obliged their request to take it for them.  Fingering each one gently as she looked at several other mementos they had picked up, she had a very sinking feeling of knowing exactly what was going to happen and that no matter how hard she tried, she might not be able to prevent it.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Lee Crane arrived at Harriman Nelson’s cabin after they’d cleared the harbor.  He sat down in the chair opposite the Admiral who sat wearily behind his desk.  He’d had only a short notification about the downed submarine and the only thing he knew was that Seaview would be the one to go down and help with the rescue and salvage.  Now he was to be briefed about the full operation, or at least as much Harriman Nelson could tell him.

“The mines are very specific.  They’re armed when they acquire the acoustical signature of their target…an enemy sub. They activate, latch on to a point near the propellers, then they detonate.  I don’t know why in the hell they were carrying live charges.  We’d been very specific.  There was to be nothing live until after the first two phases had been completed.  Hell, the tests weren’t even supposed to begin until two weeks from now,” Nelson explained.

“Do you have any idea why the tests got bumped up?” Crane inquired as he got up and poured coffee for them.

Some idiots so far unidentified moved it up.  This phase was supposed to have been done about two to four weeks ago but everything was pushed back because of our wedding.  The team also agreed that further testing was needed on the computer module before we ever put them out in the water.  We’d been doing that and from the test data I’d seen just prior to us leaving had given good results.  Phase Two involved placing them in a situation with a live target but with dummy charges.  We wanted to see how quickly they’d home in on the real thing.”  He pounded his fist on the desk in anger.  “Damnit, Lee, this wasn’t supposed to happen!”  He got up from his desk and paced, his hand absentmindedly raking through his hair.

“Well, we’re en route and the message has already gone out to find Tony, from what I understand.  And I’m sure that Karen will have Maynard joining him on the jet.”

“The big problem here is we’ve only got enough anti-magnetic paint on board for no more than two of the DWD suits and maybe one of the sea sleds.  And another problem is, if there are any more live ones out there, we can’t get within a quarter of a mile from them.  That means either they’re going to have to take one of the mini-subs in or a couple of the sea sleds.  Either way, Maynard’s going to have to bring extra paint with him to do all that, in addition to coating his own suit back at the Institute.  We can use a sprayer to evenly coat everything.  Karen already knows to get the first two started so that there’s sufficient time for it to dry properly.

“There wasn’t any at Pearl?” Crane asked as he sipped on his coffee.

“No, believe it or not, they didn’t have it.  God, I wish they’d had, but every square inch has to be coated or we’re out of luck, so we’re going to have to bring it from the Institute.  Also, Tony’s got to bring the animated and the hard copy versions of the schematics with him so that he can have them up on the laptop while they’re working on the remaining mines.  The computer program’s designed to give him an instant diagnostic of the inner workings simply by plugging in a new microchip he developed into a water protected portal so we know exactly what’s going on.”  Looking over at his Captain, Nelson continued.  “I want flank speed for as long as we can, Lee.  Push her for all she’s got.  We’re…they’re…running out of time.”

Lee got up to leave and then paused at the door.  “We’ll get there, sir.  That I guarantee you.”

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Finally alone in the sanctuary of his cabin, Harriman Nelson slowly but methodically unpacked his luggage.  The dread that filled him, along with the guilt of knowing that it was his creation that killed the men in the DSRV, was almost too much.  The memories of the Polidor and her crew suddenly flooded from the recesses of his mind as he remembered the feelings of guilt he’d had until it was proven that he wasn’t to blame for their deaths.  Now, those same feelings again filled his being.  Was something he missed in the testing or in the interpretation of the data the cause of all this?  Why, why, why had the Phase Two testing been rushed without his knowledge?  Why had Norwood issued the orders to commence with the tests even though they had agreed to wait until he returned?

He walked into the head and turned on the shower as hot as he could stand it.  Standing under the prickling, pounding spray, he let the hot water ease the tension from his weary body.  The last four weeks had been wonderful and pure absolute heaven.  He and Karen had, for the first time since they’d met, really come to know each other in every way imaginable.  Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and of course, physically.  Each had shared feelings and secrets with the other so that there now seemed almost nothing left unsaid between them.  She had finally completely opened up to him, sharing completely those fears of more than a year before, as well as showing him a very wicked sense of humor.  He had, in turn, told her so much of himself, about his family, his life, and in a way, his own fears...

He knew she didn’t want him to make this dive. He didn't want to either.  And, if truth be told, she could very easily prevent it should she really choose to.  She could certify that he wasn’t ‘fit’ for the dive and send someone else...someone she knew was more qualified than he was in the use of the equipment.  However, he was also banking on the fact that he knew his bride’s predisposition toward responsibility of command and responsibility toward doing the right thing as well.  That she would ultimately understand.  She wouldn’t like it, but she would understand and bring him home safe should he make that crucial decision.

Finally, he turned off the water and then dried off a bit and wrapped a towel around his waist.  As he walked back into his cabin, he looked around his large comfortable, but Spartan, cabin and was struck at the plainness of it all in comparison to what he’d been living in for the last four weeks.  There were pictures of various submarines, in particular those he’d served on during his career, and a couple of awards fastened to the walls…lonely, sterile gray walls.  Then his eyes zeroed in on some recent additions.  He had recently made a decision to rectify the lack of ‘decor’ with a few pictures of Karen and her daughter, Caitlin, the two women who now had become so very important to him, in addition to one of his sister, Edith.

The cabin was now bathed in a soft glow that emanated from the lamp on his desk, yet his mind wandered to the men on the Monterey.  How they must be feeling as they waited, over 1500 feet down, to be rescued from their dark and lonely world.  He knew that sickening feeling all too well.  He and this beloved sub of his had had more than their share of near fatal incidents themselves.  And strangely enough, there had been one time he really thought he’d lost her, when they had accidentally found themselves in the middle of an old underwater mine field that had been hidden away for decades. He and the crew had had to abandon her and the feelings he’d had as he’d left her resting on the bottom was something he’d never told anyone.  No, he knew all too well what the men of the Monterey were going through and the fact that one of his own creations could be the cause of all of this weighed heavily on both his heart and his mind.

As he finished drying off and took fresh clothes out of his closet to dress, he sat back down behind his desk as he buttoned his sleeves.  Easing back in his chair, his eyes fell on a picture frame that sat on his desk.  The picture was taken at the Institute’s last annual Christmas party and showed Karen and himself standing under a hanging ball of mistletoe.  Taking a sip from the cup of the now cooled coffee that Crane had poured, he realized he’d developed a pounding headache.  He didn't have a clue when it began, just that it had made itself known now.

Picking up the phone, he hit a number on the pad to connect him with the Radio Shack.

“Sparks,” came the voice.

“This is the Admiral.  Put me in contact with the Institute.  Specifically, Dr. Tom Boyer.  Make sure the incoming call is secured and let me know as soon as you find him.”

“Yes, sir.”

The image of that mine, frozen on the screen, haunted his thoughts like some kind of eternal specter. His thoughts also wondered to what might have been going through the minds of the DSRV crew right before the mine brought them to the bottom. Then his thoughts drifted back to Matt and his crew on the Monterey. If he hadn't been off indulging himself on his honeymoon, he might have caught the screw-up that caused those things to leave the Institute armed. He was, after all, the Project head and, as such, was responsible for everything that occurred with it.

Getting up, he began to slowly pace like some caged animal.  Why were they armed? Who let them get by with live munitions and how did they know the formulas?  How was something like this missed?   Everyone connected with the project knew the first two test phases were to contain dummy charges. What in the hell had gone wrong and why had the team allowed the CNO to up the testing dates before he got back, knowing damn full well he wanted…no, needed, to be in on the preliminaries?

A few moments later, his telephone rang, and Sparks informed him that Dr. Boyer was on the secured line.

“Tom, what the hell’s going on?  Why were those mines allowed out for Phase Two?  That wasn’t supposed to be scheduled for another two weeks,” Nelson’s testy voice demanded.

“Admiral,” Dr. Tom Boyer, head of the R&D of the Weapons Testing section, tried to explain,  “We followed all procedures to the letter.  All the test data looked good and when Admiral Norwood called to ask if they’d be ready for testing when you got back, someone let it slip that they were actually ready and that the only holdup was your return.”

“And you allowed Charlie Norwood to bully you into upping the date on those tests?” the Admiral replied, incensed that his old friend would even try such a thing.

“No, sir…not at all.  We just felt that, well, that the mines were ready and that was no reason to hold anything else up.  Besides, you were unavailable and…”

“And I’m the goddamned Project Manger on this thing, Boyer!  You didn’t have the damn right to countermand my orders or my recommendations to the CNO on this,” Nelson raged.  He was trying very hard to keep his temper under control but it was proving to be nearly impossible.  “Do you realize that they may have been carrying live charges?  Enough so as to bring down an SSN?”

There was a momentary silence and then, “That’s not possible, Admiral.  You, Rennalt, and I have been very specific as to what was to go in them during these initial test phases.  No, that’s simply not possible.”  The man at the other end refused to believe that this was what had happened.

“Well, I’m here to tell you it is possible.  Tom, look, I saw a videotape of what took the DSRV down.  It wasn’t totally 100 percent clear, but it was clear enough.  It was one of the six mines that were laid by the Monterey.  Now, the only way that’s possible is if they were carrying live charges.  First off, there’s no way in hell those mines should have ever been let out for live testing without my knowledge or okay.  And second, somebody screwed up there…and I sure as hell want to know who and why.  Do I make myself clear?!”

“Yes, sir…I’ll get right on it.”

“You’d damn well better.  Now, I understand they’re looking for Tony.  When he gets back to the lab, I want him to bring all the schematics as well as the formulas to what we’d devised for the charges.  From what I’ve been given, the first cluster of six was laid.  As of right now, there’s at least one that I know of was active and a good possibility of two.  If that’s so, there may be more…possibly all six…and we’ll have to deactivate each one.”

“Is that possible, Admiral?  I mean, if they’ve already been laid…how in God’s name are you going to get to them…?”

Nelson sat back in his chair and his eyes fixated on the picture on the desk in front of him.  “That’ll be Captain Davis’ job.  And mine.”  He took a deep breath and then exhaled.  “Just have everything ready for Tony when he gets there.”

“Will do, Admiral…and sir…” Boyer started to say something else but Nelson cut him off.

“Find out who screwed up, Tom.  Now!” and the Admiral cut the line.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Down the corridor, Karen Davis Nelson's anger had cooled somewhat but not to the point that she probably wouldn’t have wanted to kill Jiggs Starke if he’d walked through the door.  The mere fact that he’d even suggest that her husband make a dive in unfamiliar equipment, under such conditions, was totally reckless and unthinkable.  However, in one of her more calm moments, she also realized that, unfortunately, Harriman Nelson just might try to do just that.  Starke had played on her husband’s innate sense of responsibility and she knew it.  She also felt that he knew it as well but at this point, there was no way in hell that she could legitimately allow him to put himself in danger.  No, she couldn’t let him make the dive.  And she also knew that by making this decision, what it could very well bring about.  Deciding that she could possibly talk to him and get him to listen to reason, she quietly walked down the corridor to his cabin.  Knocking softly, she called out, "Harriman?" 

Getting no answer, she pushed open the door and walked in.  His room was bathed in the soft glow from the fluorescent desk lamp and she saw him seated behind his desk, sound asleep, his head resting on an outstretched arm.  She stood there for a moment, taking in the scene before her, and knowing full well that his exhaustion was due, in part, to the weight of the situation at hand.

Moving closer to the desk, she bent over and gently touched his arm, "Harriman?  Wake up.  It's Karen."

Sleepily, he stirred at the sound of her voice, lifted his head, and slowly opened his eyes.  "Karen?  Something wrong?"

She walked around the desk and stooped down beside him.  Looking up into his sleep filled but obviously troubled eyes, she quietly asked, "Harriman, are you all right?"

He looked at her in silence for a few moments and sat up straight in the chair, trying to shake off the effects of the exhaustion.  "No, I'm not all right."

"Didn't think so."  She stood up and leaned back against the corner of his desk.  "Harry, we've got to talk and you know it."

"There's nothing to talk about.  I’ve got my orders and so do you," he snapped as he stood and stretched a bit.  He then walked past her into his bathroom, turned on the faucet, and splashed some cold water on his face.  Grabbing for a nearby towel, he dried it as he came out and looked at her.  “We’ve got to get to those mines and disarm them.”

Karen stood up and turned, watching her husband carefully.  The whole incident had uncharacteristically unnerved him and she wasn’t quite sure what he really intended to do.  However, she knew what she feared he might just do.  "Well, I know what I've got to do and that's assemble the DWD team ASAP.  All of the main guys are already aboard; however, I've got to get Chuck on the Lear with Tony and have him briefed by the time they manage to get to the support ships.  He had to stay behind due to a family emergency.  You..."  She looked at him blankly but determined.  "Harry, you're going to have to brief Matt Lynch so he's up to speed by the time Tony and Chuck meet up with us at the site."

Harriman started pacing and it was almost as if he hadn’t heard what she’d said.  His speech became almost animated.  "I need to figure out what the hell went wrong and what we're going to do once we get on scene. These tests weren't supposed to take place for another two weeks.  The Navy did that so that we could have the time for our wedding and honeymoon.  So why in the hell were they bumped up?  Why did those mines leave the Institute with a live charge when everyone knew the first tests were with a dummy load?”  Sitting down on his bunk heavily, he looked over at her, puzzled.   “Matt?"

She frowned at his apparent confusion.  "Yes, Harry…Matt Lynch.  He’s the team's electronics expert and he'll be working with Chuck.  He’s here…on board…right now.  You can start briefing him on any intricacies and idiosyncrasies that they have.  Besides, we’re not going to know anything till we get at least one of them back aboard for you and Tony to take apart.  Once Chuck and Matt get through with it..." Karen was watching him carefully and made a mental note of how distracted he looked.  “Harry, I wish I had the answers to your questions, but I don’t.  That’s going to be something for NIS and our own security to determine.  Right now, we’ve got enough on our hands to…”

"Yeah, right, I forgot…” he absentmindedly replied.  Then what she’d just said finally hit him.  Looking up, he demanded, “Wait a minute...Chuck and Matt are going to do what?"

"They'll be disarming the mines, Harry."  She walked over to him, alarmed at the seemingly distraction he was displaying.  "Look, are you all right?” she cautiously inquired, looking into his eyes, trying to find the reason for the lack of attention to what she was trying to tell him.

"I'm fine…” and he now gave her his full attention.

“As I was saying, Matt and Chuck will deactivate them, then bring at least one in so you and Tony can take it apart and find out what the hell happened.  Once all the mines have been cleared, the rest of the team will move in to help with the rescue."  Sitting down next to him on his bunk, she slid back and absentmindedly started to rub his back as she continued. "You said yourself that those things are magnetically inclined.  We've only got enough of the anti-magnetic paint on board for two suits and I’m going to have Chuck bring as much from the Institute as he can possibly get on the Lear.  If we can’t get closer than a quarter mile, we’re going to have to have some to coat a delivery system with, regardless of whether it’s one of the mini-subs or a sled.  I can’t have my guys walking nearly 500 yards in those suits, in unknown terrain, at 1500 feet down, when lives are at stake.  I’ve got to have some sort of quick delivery system and everything we’ve got has metal in it.  We’ll coat two suits and a couple of the sleds, then while he and Matt are deactivating the mine or mines, we can do a quick coat of the remaining suits as an added insurance measure.

Turning around to face her, his expression was one of amazement.  "Quick coat?  Karen, that’s not going to be satisfactory and you know it.  It takes several hours for that paint to dry sufficiently.  No, this is going to be done to specs or not at all. The last thing we need is one of those damn things latching on to one of the divers.  No.  It has to be done completely.  Now, the FS-1 will be handling the rescue once we're ready for that phase…”

Now she was the one who was puzzled.  “Is that possible, Harriman?  Will she be able to mate with the Monterey’s docking ring sufficiently to be able to get them out?  I know the DSRVs are equipped with a universal ring, but the FS-1?”

He nodded and gave her a wary smile.  “When she was being refurbed not long ago, one of the things I had done was to have her fitted with a universal collar.  I’m glad now that I made that decision.”  He stood up and faced her.  “The FS-1 maybe can’t take as many people off at single time, but we can do it quicker.  Once I’m finished…and once everyone’s off the sub, your full team can move in and do the damage assessment.” His face then took on a determined look as he finally said, “I'm going to be doing the disarming."

Karen’s face must have shown both her anger and surprise when she realized what he’d just said and the full implications behind it.  Her eyes widened, showing both fear and fury.  "You what?  I don't think so, Harry.  You're not trained on that equipment and I don't have months to even get you to a point where I'd feel comfortable with you out there. These are not ADS suits where you’re under only one atmosphere of pressure.  If they were, then I just might consider it, but they’re not.  Besides, you had a collapsed lung four months ago.  Put that all together…no, Harriman...no."

However, her words fell on deaf ears.  "Excuse me, Captain?  You were in that room and you heard what Jiggs said just as clearly as I did.  Tony's not a diver and I refuse to put any more lives on the line until I know exactly what the hell went wrong out there.  I’m the only one with the intimate knowledge who can go out there and deal with it, so I suggest you get off whatever high horse you're on and start getting me trained.  Your little escapade may have worked in Jiggs’ office, but it won’t work with me.  I know all the reasons why I can't do this.  However, they’re not good enough at this point.  We’re running out of time and the longer we stand here and argue, the less of a chance these men have.  Are you willing to risk the lives of your men with mines that are already malfunctioning?  Frankly, I'm not.  I've already lost enough over this as it is and I'm not going to lose another one. Do I make myself clear here?"

Karen slowly slid off the bunk and stood looking at him, amazed at his unreasonable attitude.  Quietly, but deliberately and firmly, "Yes, I heard exactly what both Starke and Norwood said...and you know damn well they didn’t…and can’t…‘order’ you to make this dive.  I also know what you want to do and what you think you have to do.  I also know personally what's entailed in the training.  Remember, husband mine, I wrote the damn manual.  And the answer is still no.  Look, it took me months of intense training with each member of that team in an almost one on one situation.  You don't have months…we’ve got less than 36 hours.  Physically, in the first place, you’d never be allowed because of the collapsed lung.  Besides, I'm not burying a second husband because he wants to be as stubborn as a damn jackass."  Now taking a firm stance of her own, her voice turned icy cold.  “The answer is still no.  You are not neither fit nor trained to dive on this mission, Admiral.  And I won’t put your life or the lives of my team in danger because of ego.” 

There had been only two times when she had deliberately defied his orders.  Once was justified, the other was not.  He knew, back in the recesses of his mind and heart that she was right, but he pushed it totally away.  Realizing that the conversation was not going in the direction where he wanted it to and also realizing the amount of time they had left, he stood directly in front of her in his classic ‘command stance’.  "I don't have the time to stand here and debate the pros and cons of this issue. This is my boat and I'm in command here.  And as the head of this Project, it's my responsibility, and mine alone, to get the answers here and get those men to safety.”  He crossed his arms and his face set firm as his lips thinned.  “I'm ordering you to train me on that gear…starting now, Captain Davis."

Karen was now exasperated.  He was being totally unreasonable, but she also knew that in this mood, she’d never convince him with logic.  Almost pleading, she replied, "Harriman...don't do this.  Don’t you even ask me to do this.  What the hell has gotten into you?!  Chuck can disarm them and then bring one in to you..."

"I said…now. What part of the word ‘now’ do you not understand?"  His tone was getting more emphatic and curt as he walked alway from her and rounded his desk.

"What I understand, Harriman Nelson, is that you're not thinking this through...and you’re being a damn stubborn…”

He angrily slammed the towel down on the chair next to the desk.  Raising his voice, "Oh, so explain it to me why I can’t…or shouldn’t."  He then sat on the edge of his desk, arms folded across his chest, glaring back into her eyes.

Karen drew in a sharp breath.  Why was he taking this position with her?  Slowly exhaling, she walked over and stood squarely in front of him, hands on her hips and locked eyes with him.  "Okay, you want reasons?  Try this on for size, Admiral - those suits are specifically fitted to each individual diver.  The training, as I said, takes  months and we don't have that.  The gas is a special mixture of hydrogen/oxygen that’s something that you're not used to, and then there’s the fact that you were shot in the right lung and it collapsed, another factor.  And if that isn’t enough...” her voice fell to above a whisper, "I don't want to lose you right after I just married you, you stubborn, pigheaded fool!"  She turned away from him as tears started to fall down her cheek.  "Don't do this, please..."  Straightening up she added, "Let us handle it, Harriman.  That's why you had me build this team - to handle jobs like this.  Let us do our job."

Nelson’s voice was now tense and pointed as he coldly responded.  "Let me explain something to you, Captain Davis. These mines aren't your run of the mill stationary type. They don't just sit there and wait for you to come to them. They come to you, and once they've acquired acquisition, you're dead.  We know that at least two were carrying live charges and we don’t know if there are any other live ones out there.  You heard what each mine amounts to in TNT.  Now, if your men do even the slightest thing wrong out there, there won't be enough left over to feed the fish. Then where are we?  We don't have the paint or time to recoat more suits with what Maynard can bring with him from the Institute. We can't afford a foul up. I know your teams are good.  On that point, I can't argue…but this is my baby.  I helped design it…I know everything that can go wrong with it and I know how to work on it.  Now, I don't have the time to train your team on it if we're going to have a chance to save those men on the Monterey. We simply don't have the time for this.”

Hesitating a few moments to let his words sink in, his harsh tone then softened just a bit, “You think I want to have to go out there?  Think again, Karen.  I don’t relish the thought.  However, this is my responsibility.  I’ve done deep saturation diving before, many times, in fact, but it’s been a long time.  I also know you’ve advanced the procedures in accordance to the needs of what I asked for when I had you build this team…”

"Harry, I know you have a deep sense of responsibility.  That's part of what I love about you.  And I know what you're saying has some merit; however, I can’t, in good conscience, authorize this,” she shook her head, refusing to relent.

Both of them stood steadfast in their stances, glaring back at each other.  And yet, Harriman Nelson wasn’t totally blind to his wife’s fears that lay closely underneath her stringent objections.  He slowly approached her, enveloping her in his arms, and just held her close to him.  Neither said a word for several moments and he could feel her shaking ever so slightly.  His next words were whispered into her ear, "I love you, Karen.  Help me find the answer.”

Her arms clung tightly around his neck as she struggled with her own feelings of helplessness versus the overwhelming sense of responsibility and duty she knew he had.  Her voice was barely above a whisper as she told him, "Please, Harriman, don’t ask this of me.  I can't lose you this quickly.  What you're asking me to do is against everything I know is right.  Every safety procedure, every safeguard I've put into place.  I don't want to have to go home alone, Harry.  I couldn't face that...or Caitlin, if I have to do that."

He broke the embrace and pulled away slightly.  A slight smile emerged as he tried to reassure her.  "Yeah, well, I'm not your typical diver like these ‘kids’ on your team were. I’ve got more than a few years of experience under my belt and I can handle the environment.  I have no doubts I can handle that gear.”  However, he sighed in a bit of capitulation.  “What does have me concerned, though, is my lung.  I’ll have to admit that it’s going to pose a possible problem.  However, this has got to be done and besides, I'll be going out with the one of the best divers on the team who happens to be an demolitions expert, right?"

Karen smiled weakly.  "Ah, well, experienced maybe in other diving methods and procedures, but you would be a 'rookie' where the DWD’s concerned and, guess what?  I handle all the rookies, particularly on their first dives."

“Say what?  Come again?" he said as his expression suddenly changed to one of worry and then slight protectiveness.

"Standard procedure, my dearest husband.  I train the rookies.  Always have,” was the reply as she shrugged her shoulders and lightly kissed him.  “You know that…”

He stopped and glared into her eyes.  "No…you aren’t going out there with me. Absolutely not!"

"Excuse me?  You want to try that again?  First off, didn’t you just order me to train you?!  Second, I certainly haven’t agreed to it.  And third, you don’t tell me when I can and can’t dive and with whom, particularly on a mission,” was her immediate reply. “That’s something I control, not you.”

“I said you're not going out there with me.  I'm not going to risk your life here in addition to my own.  What about Caitlin?" he stringently told her.

She immediately shot back, "Caitlin's lived with me working in the air and now in the water.  And if you think you're going to pull some kind of chauvinistic BS on me, think again.  You're willing to risk your own life here...but what about the other times, Harry?  Every time I've ever gone out...what about them?  I risked it all the other times.”  Then with a hint of sarcasm, “Remember, Admiral…you're the one who brought me here in the first place.  To build this team and to head it.  You removed me 'cause I wouldn't make a dive, remember?  You had every right to do that, under those conditions.  But those conditions don’t exist anymore and this isn’t a question of my fears…it’s a question of fitness…yours."

"Oh, so I'm a chauvinist now, am I? Why?  Because I won't let you go out into a situation where you could be killed?  How about the Azores, Karen?  I let you go out into that situation when I knew I shouldn’t have.  But I did it anyway because of duty.”  He stopped a moment then continued,  “Let me tell you something, Karen, there isn't a man on this sub I'd send out there under these conditions. Not one. This is my problem, not theirs…not yours…mine. If it weren't for the diving regs on this boat requiring me to have a buddy, I'd be going alone.  And don't tell me you wouldn't do the same thing!"

“And who the hell do you think can get you trained in time?  You don’t know the equipment.  You're not healed.  And I don’t, no, make that won’t, put a man in the water without the proper training and conditioning, regardless of who the hell it is.  Now that's my standard SOP and those rules are there to protect my people.  I know what my people are capable of, Harriman.  I know each man's strengths and each man's weaknesses...I know what they're specialized in and how to capitalize on that.  You gave me the parameters to work within and you told me the personnel that I had to work with, remember?"

"So here we are.  You won't train me and I have to be trained to do this job.  Where's that leave me?  Hell, I've just given you a direct order to train me and you've refused to comply with it.  The last time you tried that, I suspended you from the Team.  This kind of attitude is jeopardizing this mission.  You have one more chance, Captain.  Are you going to train me?"

Karen Davis Nelson looked at her husband in total amazement.  Her long temper fuse was burning dangerously short.  No amount of logic or reasoning seemed to be working on him.  "Look...I know you're good.  You're damn good…but...between the time needed and your condition, we don't have any other option but to let Chuck and Matt handle it."

"So your answer is no?"  His tone was now defiant and cold; his eyes narrowed as his jaw set and his anger mounted.

"Harriman...haven't you heard one damn word I've just said to you?  Please...don't ask this of me.  Why are you so hell bent on committing suicide?  I realize why you feel you have the need to do this...and possibly under other circumstances I might even consider it...."

Nelson drew in a deep breath and lowered his head in silent thought. Finally he looked up at her, his eyes blazing. "Very well, Captain.  As of now, I'm restricting you to this sub.  I'll get Mr. Morton to train me.  You're dismissed."

Karen was totally thunderstruck at her husband’s attitude.  Clearly he wasn’t thinking straight.  "Harriman, please...don't do this..."  Karen was suddenly filled with dread and fear because she knew what he fully intended to do, regardless of the cost.  Though she hardly expected him to do any less, she had hoped that he’d have listened to reason.

His tone hardened as he sat down in the overstuffed chair behind his desk.  "You'll handle the diving operations from aboard, Karen, but not in the water. I'll let you know what I decide to do in detail within the hour. Dismissed."

She stood there, totally stunned but, in an odd way, not surprised.  "Okay," she calmly but coldly replied.  "You'll find me in the Nose, Admiral.  Besides...I've got some things to think about also.  Something about having a stubborn, pigheaded husband." She then turned abruptly and walked out of his cabin, slamming the door behind her.

He glared at the closed door.  She didn’t understand.  She truly didn’t understand.  Finally, he walked back to his desk and sat down.  A moment later, he reached inside the bottom drawer, withdrew a bottle of Scotch and a shot glass.  Pouring himself a glassful of the golden liquid, he then swallowed half of it and replaced the bottle back in the drawer.  Glancing back over at the door, he exhaled slowly.  He had a lot to think about and a very short time to do it. 

 

 

óóóó

 

  

Karen headed right straight for the Observation Nose.  She was angry.  More over, she was now deathly afraid.  Afraid for what she knew in her heart that she’d have to end up doing.  As she came down the stairs, she noted the flurry of activity in the Control Room and then walked over and hit the control to partially close the crash doors.  Sitting down heavily in one of the chairs around the table, she gazed into the swirling water as the sub raced to its destination.

"Damn him...and goddamn Jiggs Starke!"  Tears fell slowly as her hand wiped them away.  "I know what he wants to do and I can't let him do it.  I can't.  No matter how hard headed and stubborn and..."

Lee Crane had just come through the back of the Control Room when he saw the crash doors close partially.  Curiosity got the best of him and he headed forward to see who was in the Nose.  Pausing in center of the partially opened door, he spied Karen sitting alone in the dimness and then heard her whispered prayer.

"Oh, dear God, please give me the strength to pound some sense into him.  I can't lose him this soon over this.  It'd be one thing if he'd some training on this stuff...but...."

The Seaview’s captain walked softly into the Observation Nose and stood directly behind her.  It was more than obvious that she was troubled, yet he wasn’t sure whether he should interrupt her.  They’d become good friends over the years since she and her daughter had first come to the Institute and the Seaview and it was that friendship that caused him to finally express his concern.

"Karen?  Are you okay?" was his soft inquiry and she had often confided in him when something was troubling her.

She stiffened as she recognized the voice, then tried to answer in a voice devoid of emotion, "Yeah, I'm okay."

"Well, you sure as hell don't act like it."  He came around and sat beside her.  Now it was more than evident that something was amiss as he noticed the reddened eyes.  "What's wrong?"

Looking around at her friend and the man who was almost like a younger brother to her husband, she searched his face.  "This situation with the mines.  He's asking me to train him to go out.  Hell, Lee…he’s not asking me…he ordered me to train him.  Starke and the CNO laid a guilt trip on him, and I think he's actually going to do it.  Lee, it's suicide and he knows it...But he won't let us handle it.  He feels he's responsible for what happened."

Crane’s shock was evident.  "You want to say that again?  He’s going to do what?  He’s got no damn business going out there. He's not trained on that stuff for starters and he's still not healed from the accidental shooting.  Doesn't he realize that?"

"Well, if that’s not enough...are you ready for this?” she quickly continued.  “My husband has just 'ordered' me not to dive either.  Me!!!!  Jeez almighty, Lee, I swear I want to absolutely kill a couple of idiot four stars and one of’em is my own damn husband!"

"You can’t be serious?!   Why'd he order you to stay aboard, Karen?  He’d have to have had a good reason to…”

"Because I refused to train him and I told him that under no circumstance would I even authorize him to be trained.  Yeah, he knows he’s not trained...and he doesn't care.  You know, when I said, 'to death do us part' about a month ago...I didn't know it was going to be this damn soon."   She wheeled around and said, "He doesn't want any more personnel out there than necessary during the deactivation...and I can understand that, Lee...but just because I'm married to him doesn't negate me going out there when it’s clear.  I've got enough sense to let Chuck and Matt handle it first and then I'll go out with the rest.  But he's banned me totally from going.  Wants me to handle things from here!"  She was furious and Crane knew it.

"I can see him not wanting you out till they've been disarmed but I don't understand why you can't go out once the area's designated safe...Do you want me to have a talk with him?  Maybe a neutral third party…”

Karen stood up and leaned wearily against one of the pylons.  “If I thought you could, I’d be tempted to ask you to try.”  Shaking her head, "But no, this is between us, Lee.  He's got to learn that just because I'm married to him, it doesn't mean he can be over-protective with me.  I've got a job to do and I sure as hell can't do it from in here.”  She sighed. “We had a somewhat similar discussion back in January about some things.  I guess now's the time to put things to the test.  I don't take unnecessary risks nor do I allow the team to, either.  I've never asked them to do something I couldn't or wouldn't do myself.  Just because I've become the Admiral's wife...that hasn't changed that aspect of it."

"Put what to the test?" a voice remarked from somewhere in the room.  They both looked up and saw Nelson poised half-way down on the steps.

Lee grimly looked at Karen and quietly nodded.  "I'll close the doors on the way out."

"Thanks, Lee."  Karen looked over at Harry and simply sat down, saying nothing, yet her face held how she felt.

Harry waited until Crane had left, then slowly came down the steps. He walked to the windows and stared out at the darkness before them, his hands dug deep into his pockets.  "Karen, that sub is down at about 1500 feet.  I know your team’s capable of handling that depth…you’ve already been down much deeper   But the fact is, if that mine explodes out there, the shock wave will..."  He turned, walked over to her, and stood in front of her. "I couldn't bear the thought of being in here, seeing that happen to you out there, and be unable to help…not a second time."   He suddenly handed her his wedding ring. "You placed this on my finger when we vowed to stay with each other through good times and bad, I think the phrase was for better or for worse and it sure as hell can't get any worse then this."

She countered, "And you think that by 'banning' me from going outside, it’s going to make things better?  Harry, come on.  I thought we'd resolved this back in January.  You think I, above all people, don't know the risks?  Please!!!"

"I have nothing against you taking risks when it's necessary and needed, but you aren't needed out there till they've cleared the area."

“Unnecessary risks?  When have I ever taken one with this team, Harriman?  I know the limitations, strengths, and weaknesses of each member better than they do and I know my own.  Please afford me the common decency of knowing that I know when and when not to go out, thank you very much.   And you obviously haven’t heard a thing I’ve said to you.  I won’t go out until the mines have been cleared.  I’m not an expert in either explosives or electronics.  I know my place, Harriman…and I respect my people to do what they’re specialized in doing.  Oh, hell…do what you're going to do, I know you.  Go ahead.  You're going to do what you want to, regardless of what I or anyone else says." 

She broke away from him, turning back and clutching his ring, furious.  “This argument isn't about me at all, is it Harriman?  It's about you."   Suddenly and coldy, she turned, "The downed men in that sub don't have time for this nonsense.  We've got to get those damned mines disarmed and rescue that crew.  Now, we've got a team to assemble and brief Maynard and Tony while they’re en route.   Frankly, we don't have time to argue about this anymore.  I've got a deadline to meet and if I don't, lives will be lost."

Nelson slammed his hand down on the table in anger. "Now you listen to me, Captain, 129 men - the crew and two of our own technicians - are running out of air on the ocean floor and a DSRV crew may or may not be alive.  This is about us going into a mine field where those mines don't just sit there and wait …they come after you! Two of those things were armed – I don’t know about the other four.  This is what my decision is all about. I've done a lot of thinking and soul searching.  When Tony and Chuck get here, Matt and Chuck will go out along with me and disarm those mines, if they are indeed armed.  Each one of the remaining four has to be checked for safety.”  Seeing the resistance in her face, he shot her a withering look.  “You will hear me out, Captain.  I'm the only person besides Tony who knows them intimately and he's definitely not a diver. This means I'm going to need someone with me, and since I'm not that familiar with your equipment, I want the best divers that do have the expertise I need to be out there with me..."

"Harriman, I can't and won't authorize you to go out at that depth with that equipment….."

"Who else will be able to disarm those damn things so we can save those men?  Who?  The damn mines are deployed in groups of six and two men simply can’t do it in time.  Three of us can cut the time in half.  Now…if you have any better ideas, I wish to hell you'd tell me because frankly I'm out of options here.”  Then suddenly, his voice took on a slightly cynical tone.  “You're certainly not going out to disarm those explosives yourself."

“Don't be a wise ass, Harry…You know damn well I’m no demolitions expert.  That's why I do have experts like Matt and Chuck and others on this team.  And I've got enough sense to let them do their job and do it without intervention,” she replied, just as equally stubborn.

"And if something goes wrong out there?  Who else do you have here qualified to handle explosives if someone's taken out?  Where's your backup plan, Captain?" he insisted, badgering her.

"Ski's demo qualified, as well as Mike Thompson.  Neither are as good as Maynard, but they’re both qualified and could do the job with your directions.”

"You're not an explosive's expert or an expert in electronics, but you still need to go out there with them?  To do what?  Hold their hands?  Supervise an operation that you know nothing about?  Am I missing something here?  Ski's trained in conventional weapons.  Mike…I don't know him that well. So we risk two more lives and keep doing it until we end up blowing up all the mines? Hey...sounds like one helluva plan to me." He furiously spun away to look out the window.

Karen turned away from him, took a deep breath and then slowly turned back.  "Excuse me?!  Since when did you become the expert on what this team does?  If I remember right, Admiral, you hired me to build this team to do unconventional things.  Your own directives, remember?  I've done exactly what you asked of me.  Now, you've known from the start that I don't ask them to do what I wouldn't do myself.  And if that means going out with the team...then that's what it meansAnd no, they don't need to have their 'hands held'....but there'll be other things that will need to be done once the mines are deactivated.  The fact that you’re now my husband does not give you the damn right to tell me that I can't do my job anymore in the manner it’s supposed to be done!"

"Have you ever had to do a death notification…speak to or write a loved one about how their son died?  Well, I have, Karen.  More times then I care to remember.  And I don't want to have to be the one to tell Caitlin how her mother died when it could have been prevented."

"Harriman, Caitlin's been used to seeing me take off at a moment's notice.  She's lived with it all her life.  This is no different.  Chuck has a wife and a child.  But guess what...we all accept risks and chances...but we...I...have always taken every precaution that I possibly could."  Karen's voice softened.  "Harry...this is the very first time you've had to face it...the part of the spouse, I mean.”

"Oh, yes, that line of been there, done that.  How could I forget that?” was his caustic reply.  “Just what are you trying to prove to your team that they don't already know? How dedicated you are to them?  They already know that…How there isn't anything you won't ask them to do that you wouldn't do yourself?   Do you see me going out on every dive I send a team out on?  Is it expected or required?  No.  It goes without saying that I'd be right there with them if needed.  Would the team disintegrate if you didn't go out with them on every dive?  I doubt it.  After all, they survived the six months you were gone, remember?  Just because you're the team leader doesn't mean you have to be on the point every time. Show a little confidence in your men.  Let them do it without you.  It's time the safety net was removed, Karen. It's about time to ease back and watch what you've created."

His tone of voice and his words stung her heart, threatening to literally tear her apart.  "Look, I'm sorry if you don't...can't…understand.  I lost one husband...I'm trying very hard not to lose another one because of some damned misplaced pride.  Don't you understand, Harry?  I couldn't control the situation of losing Robert...but I can damn well control this one," she angrily shouted back at him, trying desperately to choke back the tears that were forming.  Taking several deep breaths, she then calmed herself and then continued. “Harry...this has nothing to do with not wanting to 'ease back'...that's why I have four teams and Chip as my second.  They know what they're doing and I know it as well as they do.  But this is my job...a job you hired me to do!"

Harry stopped and looked at her, anger flashing in his steel blue eyes. Then he grew very quiet before he tersely answered. "Pride?   What the hell do you know about it, Karen?  The mines I created probably killed four innocent men and may ultimately end up killing 129 more. There's no pride in being forced to stand idly by and watch something like that happen, knowing it's your fault.  You don't have to live with that, Karen...I do.”

Lee had told her once about Nelson's reactions when the Polidor went down.  In some respects, his reactions now were somewhat similar.  "Harriman, you said it yourself that those mines weren't supposed to be armed and the testing wasn’t even supposed to take place until after we came back from our honeymoon.  If that's correct, then how in God's name could you be at fault?  You're blaming yourself for something that you had no control over."  And in a whisper, she added, “Not then…and not now.”

Nelson snorted, then angrily turned away from her, looking out at the rushing water as it flowed over the clear observation nose ports.  There was suddenly an eternity of tension filled silence between them.

Finally, in a weary voice, she asked, " Why are you doing this, Harry?  This isn't like you.  We've got to get to them and give them every chance we can.  Please don't ask me to do what I know is wrong..."

Harry looked at her then walked right up to her and stopped within inches of her face. "Because I have to know what happened!!!  Karen, look, we were both in that office. We both saw the film. I need you to train me so that I can find out what went wrong..  Now, either you will…or I’ll have Morton do it.  One way or the other, I’m going out and I’ll be trained.  Who does it…is up to you.”

"Harriman, you're still recovering from the collapsed lung.  At the depth we're going to, in unfamiliar equipment, with the physical condition you're in.  No.  I can't..."

“Karen…” he hissed.

She breathed a sigh of resignation.  With the tone of voice he was using and the physical stance he had just taken, she knew what was coming.  However, she drew a sharp breath and flatly stated, "As the head of the DWD team for this boat, I have to say that, under the circumstances, Admiral Nelson, you're not qualified to make a dive with this team."

"Then you leave me no other option.  I'm ordering you aft, Captain. You will get me briefed and trained in the operation of that gear.  I personally want to see if you're as good as that dossier says you are.  Now…either you do it, or Morton does.”

Karen closed her eyes and drew in several sharp breaths as he uttered those words.

No...please, God, no.  Don't make me do this.

Then, as she drew a very long, deep breath, she knew.  She saw traces of guilt along with the heavy responsibility he bore in his eyes. He was totally convinced this was his fault...his problem...and he had made up his mind he was going to fix it, one way or the other.  Additionally, she knew that those same feelings of guilt would end up killing him out there if he didn't get them in check.

Dammit, Harriman!  You have no friggin’ idea what you’re asking me to do here.

Rising slowly from her chair, she crossed over to the other side of the Nose.  Turning her back to him, she looked straight out at the blackness that surrounded them.

I can’t let him do this.  Not in the state he’s in.  Dammit, Harry, don’t do this to me.

Then turning around to face him, she took a good long look at the man to whom she had vowed her undying love to, the man who had brought her back into the living as well as had given her a reason to love again.

Closing her eyes, she prayed, Oh, God, please grant me strength to get both of us through this.

She then took another deep breath, exhaled slowly and turned, crossing her arms defiantly and took an equally commanding stance as she looked straight at him.  Moments later, she did something she knew in her heart and brain to be wrong but did anyway.  With a sudden hardness in her voice, she proclaimed to him, "All right then, Admiral... if you’re hell bent on doing this... you will report aft immediately.  Your training has just begun. There will be two rules that you’ll obey.  Is that understood?  The first rule to remember is... This is my turf and what I say goes here, so you better listen to me and listen to me good.  If I say jump, you damn well better jump and don’t even ask how high or for how long.  You don’t like it…tough!  Get used to it.”  Her own body language gave credence to her decision... her voice became hardened and more demanding, yet strangely calm and controlled as she continued.  “The second rule is...you damn well better get your head screwed on straight and do it right now!  Get off this guilt trip.  It won’t wash with me and it’ll end up getting you and your team killed out there!  Now, if you think you can follow these ground rules...then meet me in the Missile Room!  Do I make myself clear?”

Harry's eyes met hers with hardened confidence as he hit the button opening the crash doors that had separated them from the Control Room. "Crystal clear."

Karen arched an eyebrow and nodded, then turned abruptly on her heel and left the Nose to go aft, leaving him standing here to gather his thoughts.

Only one other time had she ever taken such a cold, hard, matter-of-fact tone with him... the day he'd ‘challenged’ her authority in her dive lab.  In retrospect, he had to admit he deserved it at the time.  He also knew he was unqualified but he also knew this was something he had to do.  Something caught his eye and he looked down on the table.  There lay his gold wedding band that she’d left for him.  Picking it up, he replaced it on his finger, silently vowing he’d never remove it again. 

He looked slowly back toward the Control Room.  Fortunately, Lee Crane, Chip Morton and the rest of the crew present hadn’t heard the angry exchange between them.  However, Crane had looked up and seen Karen as she exited the Nose with a stormy look.  Glancing over at Morton, the two exchanged puzzled looks.  Finally, Crane decided to venture into the Nose to talk to Nelson.  He’d been with him too long not to be able to read his moods.  The Admiral could be mercurial at times but he’d always been a fairly reasonable person.  For him to have had this kind of ‘discussion’ with Karen within earshot of the Control Room crew meant that something wasn’t right.  Lee picked up a cup, poured himself some coffee and then sat down across from his boss.

“We’ll be on site at the crash scene in about 36 or so hours.  I take it she’s going to get the Team ready to go out?”  Crane casually inquired as he slowly sipped his coffee.

“Yes,” came the terse reply.  Nelson was in no mood to explain what was about to happen, even to Lee Crane.  “The Captain’s been given her orders.”  He still hadn’t looked the taller man in the eye.

Lee looked out at the changing images outside the great Observation Nose view ports.  “Well, Matt Driscoll’s a good boat captain.  He’ll keep as many of his men as safe as he possibly can.  If it’s at all possible, the Team will get to’em in time.”

“Yes, Matt’s a good man, Lee, but what happened down there is my fault.”

Crane looked at him in amazement.  “What do you mean?  Your fault?”

Nelson got up and walked to the coffee pot that was sitting on the side credenza.  Pouring himself a cup, he sat back down and turned around, facing his captain.  As he put two spoonfuls of sugar into the full cup, he stirred and then looked Crane squarely in the face.

“I helped design those damn mines.  It’s my responsibility to find out what happened…whether there’s a design flaw somewhere... whatever.  Those men are down because of what I did, Lee and I’ve got to find out what happened.”

“But it’s my understanding from what you said before that they were in the initial testing phase... that they weren’t supposed to be armed.  If that’s so, how could it be your fault?” Crane ventured.  He could see that Nelson wore the heavy responsibility of what had happened and the remnants of the Polidor incident were still present.  “Admiral, I’m sure when the team gets to the site and makes the assessment, we’ll find out exactly what happened."  Then, suddenly, he firmly said, "After all, the DWD team is specifically trained to handle situations like this.  That's why you had her build it in the first place."

Coldly, Nelson replied, "I know that, Captain."

"Then why would you even consider.."

Nelson took a sip of the coffee and then stood up.  Ignoring Lee's last statement and looking out at the swirling shades of black and gray through the great observation ports, he then turned back to Crane and replied, “I have every intention of finding out exactly what went wrong. And I intend on doing it myself.”  Setting his cup down, he somberly added, “If you need me, I’ll be in the Missile Room.”

Crane's head jerked up as Nelson started to leave.  He sprang up and planted himself in front of him.  "You're not going to do what I think you're going to do, are you?"

"And just how else do you propose I find out what went wrong?"

The Captain looked at the older man, bewildered.  "There's no way in hell that you have any business even considering it.  The Teams are the ones trained for this."  Remembering the earlier conversation with Karen, he firmly stated, "As Captain of this boat, the safety of each person aboard is my responsibility.  And that includes you...sir."

Nelson felt the anger start to rise in his throat.  "Captain, I'll do whatever is necessary to handle the situation.  Your responsibility is to get us to the site as soon as possible."  He turned and started to walk toward the Control Room.  Without turning around, he simply stated, "I'll be in the Missile Room."

 

 

óóóó

 

 

He slowly began to walk aft, one hand slowly massaging the back of his neck, the other dug deep into his back pocket.  Doing some serious soul searching as he made his way to the Missile Room, Admiral Harriman Nelson had made his decision by the time that he entered.  Finding Karen alone inside the decompression chamber, he silently walked up to her as she stood checking some of her equipment.  Several other members of her team were scattered about outside performing various maintenance tasks to the other equipment.  Calmly, he touched her arm and turned her to face him.  As he looked her square in her eyes, and without a single word spoken, he reached up and slowly removed the stars on each side of his collar and placed them softly in her palm, closing her hand gently but tightly around them.  Then he lifted her hand and put it to his lips, kissing it gently as he closed his eyes.  He held it there for a long moment then opened his eyes and released it.  It was his way of telling her that she was in charge and he was now the student.

"I want those back, Captain," he said with a low but firm tone of determination in his resonant voice.

She gazed back deep into his troubled eyes, as if trying to see into his very soul. Karen had tried her best to dissuade him from this but he had made his decision.  And she knew that, like her, once he had made up his mind on something, it usually took an act of both Congress and God to change it.  In a whispered tone, she replied, "I hope you don't regret this decision... and I hope I don’t either.”  Then in a more controlled tone, “I'm going to need a medical eval on you immediately, so report to Sick Bay for a complete check-up."

"Bring me home, Karen," he replied almost in a hushed voice as he turned to leave.

She reached over and softly touched his arm, causing him to turn back around to face her.  In a whispered voice, "Harry, I love you.  I don't want to lose you.  Not now, not ever."  Her eyes glistened with the tears she was fighting so hard to hold back.  She wanted so very much to take him into her arms, to assure him that she would do whatever was in her power to do so to bring him safely back home to her.  But now was not the time nor the place.

Covering her hand with his, he locked eyes with her and quietly remarked, "I know.  Between you and me, Karen, I’m not exactly crazy about this, but it’s got to be done.   We both know that.  So you’d better get me back aboard alive, Captain, because if I die out there... I'll never speak to you again."  A very faint grin played on his lips as he turned back around and quietly left for SickBay.

She stood frozen in position, staring at the hatchway long after he’d disappeared.  Slowly opening her hand, she stared down at the two rows of silver stars he had placed there.  Karen realized what he had to have sacrificed to get them - the decisions he had had to make over the years.  Hard, often extremely difficult decisions.  It was then that she realized that this was but one of those many decisions, and to him, this was but just one more. She just hoped with all her heart it wasn't going to be his last.  Slowly closing her hand over them, the tears now came silently and freely down.  It was the first time in the four years she had ever cried in front of her team.   Then just as quickly, she composed herself and picked up the mike near her desk.  “Sickbay…I’ve got a diver I’m sending to you for an eval.  I need it done ASAP.”

“Sickbay, aye.”

A couple of members of her team had watched the exchange between the O.O.M. and their leader through the large portal, and had seen him remove his stars, then hand them to her. When the Admiral left, Kowalski went up in to her as she sat motionless in the chair, staring at the hatchway.

"Captain, what was that all about, ma'am?" he inquired, puzzled at the O.O.M.'s actions as well as her own.

At first, Karen acted as if she hadn't heard him, then slowly and in a more controlled tone, she quietly replied, "He's just joined the team, Ski.  We’ve got to have him as fully qualified as possible before we reach the Monterey."

"Captain?  Begging your pardon, ma'am, but that's not possible, is it?" The look of disbelief was obvious on his face.  He was sure he hadn't heard her correctly.

"You heard me.  This was not my decision.  I'm just following orders."  Her tone was matter-of-fact and not to be questioned.  Then, just as quickly, it softened.  "Ski, he's going to need all of our support on this."  Then, turning to face him, her hand still tightly clutching his stars, her voice now rock steady, "I expect you and every one of the team to be right there for him, too." Her eyes locked with each individual who stood before her.  In doing so, each one of them knew that she was deadly serious.

"Consider it done," Kowalski replied with equal determination and gravity.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Karen Nelson walked slowly back to her cabin up on A Deck.  She knew that Harriman’s physical examination would take a while... and that it would only take place after Will Jamison finished raising hell with him over the absurdity of the entire idea.  It would also allow her the time she needed to compose her thoughts and feelings as well as apprise Chuck Maynard of the entire situation.  Chuck had stayed behind on this trip due to a family illness, but in light of the circumstances, would have to be flown immediately to the site to rendezvous with them.  Alternative arrangements were now being made to cover the problem and she would have to talk to him ASAP to advise him of what they had and what he would need to bring with him.

Once inside her quarters, she called down to the Radio Shack and asked Sparks to contact Maynard at the Institute with a Priority One call.  She leaned back in her chair and glanced over at the pictures that now graced her cabin wall.  Caitlin as a small child with her father.  Another one of the three of them together.  Above that one was a more recent picture of her daughter with Harriman and her.

Ironic.  First one family, now another.  I just hope I can keep him together, Sweets.  God above, please help me keep him safe.

On her desk stood a copy of the picture that graced his night stand next to their bed at the house.  The picture had been taken at the Institute’s Annual Christmas Party and showed them under the mistletoe that had been hung in a doorway.

“Captain Davis, ma’am...” intoned Sparks’ voice over her intercom.  “I’ve got the Institute on the video phone.  I’ll scramble and put it down.”

“Thanks,” she replied, flicking on the monitor.  Instantly an image of a man in his early 30s materialized on the screen.  He was dressed casually in a polo shirt with an embroidered NIMR logo.  “Chuck, sorry to interrupt... but we’ve got a bad situation here.  Have you been briefed on what we’ve got?” she started.

“No problem, Captain.  Actually, I brought Tonisha with me.  Hope you don’t mind,” he responded, referring to his three-year old daughter.  Chuck’s wife, Tonya, had had an attack of appendicitis and had to be hospitalized.  Subsequently, he was left to look after their toddler and couldn’t join the boat when she sailed.  “I’ve only got the basics.  What’s going on?”

“First off, I hope Tonya’s doing okay.  She’s going to be sore, but she’ll be all right.  And don’t worry about Tonisha.  Caitlin’s just finished for the term and is at the apartment.  As soon as I get finished here, I’m contacting her to expect you with Tonisha.  You’ll leave her with Caitlin.  Clear?” she explained to the young man.  This act was not uncommon for Karen.  Her daughter loved to baby-sit the Institute’s ‘children’ and did so on a regular basis for Robert Crane, Lee’s son, as well as Alex Morton, the young daughter of Chip and Matty Morton.

“Yes, ma’am.  Thank you.  Tonya’s not up to looking after a toddler right yet.”

“I can well imagine.  Now...to the business at hand.  We’ve got big problems.  The Monterey’s down and the DSRV, the Mystic, that was sent to help with the rescue has gone down, too.  Apparently the Monterey was testing some new underwater mines that the Institute had developed...something went haywire...and one or more of’em exploded.  From what we’ve been able to piece together, it looks like one of’em might have gotten the DSRV.  Problem is...the damn things weren’t supposed to be carrying a payload.  What Admiral Starke wants is...” she took a deep breath, exhaled and continued, “... to disarm the mines, then evacuate any survivors off the Monterey.  The FS-1’ll handle the shuttling of survivors once we’ve cleared the mines out.  I need you to get your gear and coat it down completely with the anti-magnetic paint that we’ve got.  These are nasty little things that latch onto the acoustical signatures of its ‘prey’ and activate about 30 seconds later.  It’s my understanding that they’re usually activated in clusters of six, so we may have some loose ones out there.  That’s why I want the gear coated.  Our gear’s not anti-magnetic, and if we’re to disarm’em, it’s got to be.  Tony’s coming with you with the schematics and all the necessary tools.  I want you to study them while you all are in the air and know them up one side and down the other by the time you get here.”

“What’s the payload?”

“Optimally, equivalent to anywhere between 100 to 200 pounds worth of TNT…but they apparently weren’t carrying anywhere near that much.  If they were, we’d be picking up the pieces out there, not evacuating survivors,” was her straightforward reply.

“Sonofabitch!  Nasty’s not the word for it.  You got any idea what went wrong?”

She sat back and thought back to the conversation in Starke’s office.  Harriman was clearly stunned that the incident had happened so even he had absolutely no clue.  “No, none whatsoever.  We really won’t know till we get one in and give it a thorough going over.”

“Well, obviously Tony’s not the one who’s going out with me.  I take it Matt’s getting briefed and’ll be ready to go when I get there?” was his reply, referring to Matt Lynch, the Team’s electronics expert.

Here goes.  “Matt’ll be ready but you’ll have a another buddy with you, Chuck.  Admiral Nelson’s going out to disarm the mines.”

There was dead silence for about five seconds.  “You’ve got to be kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not.”

“But, Captain, he’s not trained with the gear, and besides, he’s...” the man on the other end of the video phone was clearly stunned.

Cutting him off in mid-sentence, she interjected, “Mr. Maynard, I’m quite well aware of what the Admiral’s capabilities are and aren’t.  He’s undergoing a complete physical right now as we speak.”  She could tell the younger man clearly was confused, as well as not overjoyed. The mission was going to be hard enough trying to locate and diffuse the mines without worrying about one of your buddies not being familiar and trained on the equipment he’s using.  “Look, Chuck... I know this is totally out of the ordinary.  Believe me, if I had my druthers, he wouldn’t be going out there at all.  But the plain, simple fact is, I’ve got orders.  Now, Mr. Maynard... get your butt in gear and get yourself on that Lear jet with Tony Rennalt.  He should have you completely briefed by the time y’all get here.  That’s an order.”

Maynard knew not to question her.  She had always proven to him, as well as to every member of the Team, that she had a valid reason for everything she did.  For her to even consider allowing the Admiral to go outside in the specialized gear meant that she had no options.  And at this point, neither did he.

“Yes, ma’am.  I’ll get everything in order and head out immediately,” he replied in an equally no-nonsense tone.

“Good.  Oh, and Chuck... bring as much of that paint as you can get on the plane, will you?  There’s only enough here for two suits.  Yours’ll be coated there at the Institute.  Call down to the lab and get it done, now!  But I want some more here just in case we have to send some others out as well.  We’re also gonna need it to coat whichever delivery system we decide to you.  Since we can’t get closer than a quarter mile, we’re gonna have to be shuttled in somehow and I’m not gonna take any chances that one of those mines latch on to either a sled or the mini-sub.  Better to be safe than sorry,” she ordered as she made ready to end the transmission.  “Get here ASAP.  Those guys are running out of time.”

“Yes, ma’am.  Maynard out.”

 

óóóó

 

 

On the Monterey, things were starting to get a little worse. The potash granules running out and the chloride candles were starting to burn low.  In addition, to run the auxiliary engines any more than what they were would increase the level of carbon monoxide and use up what recourses they had.  The air was beginning to get stale and the morale of the crew was slowly decreasing with every hour that passed.  At times, it was simply knowing that help was one the way that kept them from going over the edge.  The support ships topside kept them apprised of all developments, but the questions that remained was if Seaview could get to them in time and could they affect a rescue even if they did?

As Driscoll looked around the quiet Control Room, bathed now in the eerie pale red glow that were their only light, he shook his head slightly.

Harry, kick it in the ass, old friend.  We’ve got a bad situation down here that’s getting worse and I'm starting to run out of time.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Back aboard Seaview, Harriman Nelson headed right to SickBay as his Dive Officer had ordered.  When he walked in, one of the corpsmen, Frank Lerner, was restocking one of the supply cabinets.  The Admiral asked for Jamison, and was directed to his office near the back of the facility.

The Seaview’s CMO looked up when he saw his commanding officer standing in the doorway.  “Admiral, what can I do for you?  I’m waiting on one of Captain Davis’ divers to come down for an evaluation.”

“You’re looking at him,” Nelson stated flatly.

The look of surprise must have been greatly evident on Jamison’s face.

Expressionless, Nelson sat down in the chair opposite the doctor’s desk.  “I need a complete medical evaluation for the DWD team.”

Without another word, Jamie picked up the mike and asked for Karen Davis.  Within moments, she got on the line.  “Is there a problem up there, Doctor?”

“Captain, ah, this evaluation…are you sure about this?”

“Yes, I am, Doctor.  I need it ASAP.  I’m running out of time.  Davis out.”  And the mike went dead.

The two men sat looking at each other for a few moments.  Finally, Jamison stood up and came around to the front of the desk.  “Harry…you and I have known each other for a long time.  I’ve been with you since this boat took to the water.  And in all that time…through all the things I’ve seen you through…this is, without doubt, the most insane thing I’ve ever known you to want to do.  You’re no more in any shape to dive with that team…”

Stow it, Doctor.  Captain Davis gave you an order and I suggest you follow it.”  He stood and began to unbutton his shirt.  “Let’s get on with this, shall we?”

Hesitating a moment, the doctor stated, “With all due respect, you're not exactly healed from that collapsed lung.  To allow you to do any type of deep saturation diving right now…"

“Just do the damn evaluation!” Nelson snapped.

"Sir, I'm sorry but it’s absolutely out of the question..."

Harriman Nelson was getting tired of being told he couldn’t do something that he needed to do.  “Will, I’ve been charged with disarming the mine or mines that brought the Monterey down.  In order to do that, I’ve got to be able to dive with the DWD team.  Now, let’s get on with it, shall we?”  And he moved out to one of the gurneys in the main examining area.

Jamison approached him and quietly but forcefully said, "If you do this, it could well prove to be fatal.  Add to top it off, we couldn't get you back aboard in time to even begin to help you."

The Admiral took off his shirt and stood before him in his t-shirt.  "You think I don't realize that?  Now get to it, and that’s an order, Doctor.”  Finally, he explained further, “"I helped to design a mine for the DoD and something's gone wrong with it.  Somehow, no one knows why, but at least two had live charges in’em when they weren’t supposed to. So now, I’ve got a sub down and a DSRV probably destroyed by them."

Jamison studied him very closely. He was showing all the classic symptoms of guilt with a bit of depression.  "Okay, Admiral, I understand all that but you?  Karen's team is trained in explosives and electronics and they've got experts for that. So why don't you let them do what they’re trained for? For what you designed them to do?"

The older man stood and paced.  Stopping, he turned.  "Yes, they're experts in electronics and explosives and demolition but not for these, Doc. These mines were designed so no one could tamper with them.  There’s only four of us who know how they go together and two are out on medical disabilities. That leaves me and my electronics designer…Tony.”

"Damnit, Harry.  I've worked with Karen getting these guys ready. We've monitored their systems too carefully. I can't..."

Nelson’s eyes started to blaze.  Everywhere he turned, there had been resistance to his decision.  “Doctor, you will do this evaluation.  Is that clear?  And if it’s any consolation, she’s not in favor of this but she’s got her orders, just as I do. I’m the only one who’s got intimate knowledge of these things besides Tony and he’s no diver.  So, Chuck Maynard and Matt Lynch are going to go out with me and disarm them if necessary. Now, I’ve got 129 men suffocating down there and a four man submersible probably beyond help. Now, let’s get on with this."

Jamison looked at his old friend and employer. He'd seen him go thru a lot over the years. He also knew the depth of anguish he was going through.  "All right... however, I want you to know I'm doing this under protest. And God help us all if something happens.  If that lung collapses on you out there…"

"Let's all pray that doesn’t happen, Doctor, for a lot of reasons. I've never been down in that gear and it’s been a long time since I’ve done deep saturation diving.  This doesn't exactly thrill me either."

As the two men got up and Nelson headed to the examining table, Jamison's eyes suddenly came to rest on the collar of his friend's shirt that now draped over a chair. As his eyes slowly met Harry's, he hesitated. "What in the...?"

"What?"

"Harry....your stars. What the..?"

Nonchalantly, "I gave them to Karen for safe keeping. I told her I wanted them back when this thing was over. Also, it was my own way of letting her know who was in charge of my training."  Almost as an afterthought, he smiled.  “You know, I didn’t know she could get that mad.  You should have seen her take on Jiggs Starke.”

Jamison face was serious as he shook his head slightly. For him to do this meant only one thing and he now knew there was no turning back. Stiffing his posture, he then unemotionally announced, "Well, something tells me that before you do go outside, you’ll wish you’d kept them on.  She’s one helluva trainer.  Hate to say this, but I’m glad it’s you and not me.”  He picked up his stethoscope.  “Okay, Admiral. Let's get this over with. Off with the t-shirt.”  He put the instrument to Nelson’s chest.  “I want to have a very long talk with your wife."

"Doc, she's doing exactly what I am...what she's been ordered to do. Neither of us was left with a lot of options here.”  Then with a slight weary grin, “Besides, I’ve already had a long talk with her.  She has her orders.”

Jamison chuckled.  "And since when have either of you ever been known to follow orders exactly to the letter?"  He proceeded to start to check breathing and heart rate.  “So, she took on Captain Bligh, eh?  What I wouldn’t have given to have been a fly on the wall for that one.”

"You’ve got a point there, and yes, she, ah, sometimes needs to exercise a bit of diplomacy, though I have to say, he got what he deserved," he replied back with a smile that faded quickly.  "Look, Jamie, do me a favor. If something does happen to me, will you..."

Jamison simply nodded he understood, but said, "At this point, we're not going to even discuss that, okay?  I’ve been patching you up too long to even try.”  Glancing sideways, “You know, there’s been a few improvements made in the suits so that I can keep tabs on anybody outside. I'm sure that'll be gone over with you.”  He motioned for him to lie down so that an EKG could be run.

"Oh? Like what?"  Now Nelson was intrigued as he lay back.

The doctor gave him a very conspiratorial smile.  “Oh, let's just say that 'big brother' here will be able to see and hear everything you do and feel."  Then adding with a chuckle, “And that goes along with the digital cam that shows what you’ll be seeing as well.”

"Hmmm…I'm not sure I like the sound of that. I knew about the camera and the audio recorders.  You must have come up with something new that she hasn’t told me about.  Whatever happened to a person's privacy?" he asked with a weak grin.

"Hey, you asked.  If you want privacy, then go back to your cabin and shut the door.  Now...let's see how that lung's doing.”  As he put him through the breathing tests, he commented at seeing the results, “At least you're laying off the cigarettes. Gotta hand it to her, she at least got you to do that."

Nelson drew in a deep breath and then exhaled.  "Yeah, that she did.”

So for the next hour or so, the exam progressed.  By the time it was completed, Harriman Nelson felt like he’d been through hell and come back.  He’d been poked and prodded, stuck with needles and had numerous small vials of blood drawn.  He’d had to undergo an endurance test on a small treadmill and other tests as well.  Now came the time for Jamison’s report to Karen on his condition.  The Seaview’s doctor complied but wasn’t pleased with doing so.

 

óóóó

 

 Harriman Nelson returned to the Missile Room from Sick Bay with Jamison on his heels.  Karen had also taken that time to briefly tell her team what was going to be happening. She had also decided that she would let him do the full briefing since this was his ‘baby’... his mission.  Finding her at a small desk over in the corner of the Missile Room, Jamison handed her his med report and stood beside Nelson as she briefly scanned it.

Leaning back in her chair, she looked up into the faces of the two men standing before her.  One had the look of dogged determination set into his face; the other, a look of bewilderment and disapproval.

Addressing the doctor, but still looking at her husband, “Okay, give it to me straight, can he dive?"

"His blood pressure is a little on the high side, he's about 25 pounds overweight..."

"Just a simple yes or no will be sufficient, Doctor."

Jamison hesitated slightly, looking at both Harriman Nelson the Admiral and Karen Davis Nelson the Captain in charge of the Team.  Then with disapproving conviction, he remarked, "I want it noted that I am signing this under protest."

"So noted.  Now then, is he or is he not fit to dive?" she again demanded an answer, dreading the most obvious.  Her eyes had yet to waiver from Harry’s.  She knew why Jamie was hesitating... but she had to have an official answer.

"According to Navy regs, no.  But he’s not in the Navy.  That said, I want it noted that there’s the possibility of re-collapsing the lung, and at that depth, the pressure could be deadly," Jamie reported to her with an air of resignation.  “However, other than what I’ve just noted, his overall stamina is good…and he’s in fairly good physical condition otherwise.”  He had been with them too long to know that he could really hold one of them back once they’d made up their minds.  He’d patched them back together too many times... warned them... threatened them... seen them nearly die.  Occasionally they’d adhere to his ‘orders’, but Nelson as well as Lee Crane, generally did what they wanted.

"Very well, Dr. Jamison, thank you,” Karen acknowledged, finally lowering her eyes as she put the medical folder down on the desk.  Turning her attentions directly back to Harry, she stood up and motioned to the men on the other side of the room to join them.  In a total down-to-business tone of voice, she stated, “Here's your team, Admiral.  I believe a mission briefing is in order."

Harriman Nelson looked at both his wife and the doctor in silence, then finally turned to face the men present that made his DWD Team as they gathered around him. He looked from one man to the other, studying their young faces and eyes. He had come to know each one of them on a very personal level over the years. They had been accepted into his ‘family’ that he had established on this sub of his.  He'd always done his best to keep them safe and sound.  Now he was depending on them to do the same with him and, again, hope that this wasn't going to be his last time.

"Men, what we're looking at here is a downed sub with 129 people aboard.  Our job will be a simple one. I'll be going out with two other divers to clear the area so it'll be safe for you to do your work. Your job will be to recover the disabled mines, bring them aboard, and then run a complete and thorough survey of the sub, photographing all the areas of damage. The Navy will then send in a salvage vessel to recover it.  Captain Crane will pilot the FS-1 and shuttle those men back here when I finish my job.  Hopefully, by the time you finish your part, we'll have everyone aboard and we can surface, transfer the crew and then head back to Pearl, drop off our cargo and passengers and enjoy some shore leave. Any questions?" he explained, as Karen noticed the ‘minor’ details he had left out.

"Admiral, you mentioned mines, sir. Who'll be disarming them?" Kowalski asked.

"Mr. Maynard and I will, with the assistance of Mr. Lynch.  Any other questions?" he bluntly replied, not offering any further explanation.

The men looked at each other in amazement when he said that.  They’d been with the O.O.M. long enough to know not to question his orders.  However, their looks of concern, worry and curiosity were voiced as Chip Morton, Karen’s second-in-command, stepped forward.

"We've got people trained in mine disposal, sir.  Why aren't we completely handling them?  Begging your pardon, sir, and no disrespect meant here, but why are you going out?  You don’t have the training in the operation of this gear, sir," he inquired cautiously.  He’d also known Karen Davis Nelson long enough to know that she wouldn’t put an untrained person, much less Harriman Nelson, out into that equipment on just a whim.  He knew something wasn’t quite right here if she was allowing this.

"These mines are, well, let's just say... they're not like anything you've been trained on.  ComSubPac and the CNO has decided that since I'm more familiar with this device, I’ll be the one responsible for neutralizing it," he firmly replied to his sub's Executive Officer.  Harry knew well Chip’s role as Karen’s right hand and also knew he had every right to question what was going on.  In fact, he’d have expected nothing less from Chip.  Morton was the epitome of efficiency and tact.  Those qualities were what made him one of the best Execs on duty.

"In other words, sir, you're under orders here?" Chip asked carefully, glancing slightly over at Karen as she stood steadfast off to the side watching the exchange.

"Yes, I am.  Anything else, Mr. Morton?" Nelson replied with a slight cocked eyebrow and tone of voice that exuded a no-nonsense attitude.  While not exactly the full truth, the information he imparted was sufficient enough to answer the questions put to him.

"Understood, sir.”  Seeing no reaction from Karen to stop the proceedings, he then asked, point blank, “About the mines, sir…if they’re that specialized and Chuck’s not aboard…

Harry nodded grimly.  "I understand from Captain Davis that Maynard will be on site when we get there. As I said, he and Mr. Lynch will be going out with me.  I’ve got Tony Rennalt en route as we speak with the schematics of the mines and he’ll brief Mr. Maynard on the way so he’ll be up to speed when they get here.  I’m going to go over some of the electronics with Mr. Lynch before they get here.”

When Morton heard the O.O.M. refer to his own wife as ‘Captain’ in that tone of voice, he knew things were definitely serious.  The situation had to be damn near impossible.  Chip’s short reply was, “Aye sir.”

Nelson was probably one of the, if not the, most experienced divers aboard Seaview.   Yet, through a mutual agreement reached when Karen Davis first came to the Institute, he’d not been trained in the use of the DWD equipment.  For him to demand to be put through a ‘crash course’ of training on the complicated equipment, as well as pick Maynard and Lynch as his ‘buddies’, told Chip just how demanding and dangerous this mission was going to be. He shifted his look from Harriman Nelson to Karen Nelson. Their eyes met and all she did was give him a slight nod of reassurance and confirmation, her face showing no expression.

"All right, if there’s no further questions, then I guess it's time I got introduced to this operation," he remarked with determination after looking at each of his men and finally over at Karen.

The head of the DWD team had been standing off to the side, watching and listening to her husband.  Though she didn’t agree with his actions, she personally would see to it that he was as properly trained as he could be before he would be allowed to go ahead with the mission.  She knew all too well his deep devotion to duty... to do what was right... even at the risk of his own life.  So, with hidden reservations but with as deep a conviction, she stepped forward and announced, "Right.  Okay, let's find you a suit that fits.”  Looking over to Kowalski, she commanded, “Take him over to the locker and get the best one to fit him.”  Then looking to Morton, “Chip, I'll need his suit coated with anti-magnetic paint.   Every square inch has to be completely covered.”  Morton nodded his acknowledgment and headed to the stores locker with another member of the team to retrieve the special paint.  Finally, she looked back at Harry. “This way, Admiral," and she led the way to the gear locker.

Once Harry's suit was chosen, it was then handed to two members of the support team to be coated with the special paint as ordered.  While this was going on, he started his initial briefing with Chip Morton, Bob O'Brien, and Kowalski.  A couple of hours later, once finished the coating had dried on the suit, and Davis and Morton were satisfied that the suit was covered properly, the support team started to help the Admiral suit up.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

At one point during the suiting procedure, Harriman Nelson glanced around, looking for Karen but didn’t see her.  Figuring that she had delegated his training to Morton, he was completely surprised to see her come back into the Missile Room wearing her bathing suit then head for her dressing area.  Looking over at Kowalski and O’Brien, two of the team leaders who were overseeing his ‘fitting,’ he queried, “Where’s she going?”

Kowalski looked at O’Brien, who in turn responded, “To get suited up, sir.  She’s going to be your trainer.”

“What?  I thought Mr. Morton would be...”

“No, sir.  The Captain always handles the ‘rookies’.  And considering the circumstances, sir...”

This was something he hadn’t really prepared himself for.  Though she’d informed him of this very procedure during their argument in his cabin, he figured that she would handle the supervision only and would delegate the actual training itself to Morton.

When she came out of the separate dressing area, she was half suited.  The rest would come with assistance from the crew.  As she stood silently watching Kowalski and O’Brien work with Harriman, Lee Crane and the Chief of the Boat, Francis Sharkey, came through the hatch to the Missile Room to check up on the team's progress.

Lee's concern was written on his face and he voiced them to her as they watched the goings on.  “You’re actually going to let him do it?”

Clearly, she didn’t want to get into the discussion and yet, as Captain of the Seaview, he deserved a frank answer.  Karen said, in a voice barely audible, “I’ve got no choice, Lee.  He made it perfectly clear he fully intended to do this, with or without my ‘blessing.’  And you know damn well what he’s like when he gets this way.”  Then, with almost a look of resignation, she explained, “Look, the others... Chip included... I think would have been too ‘intimidated’ to take him on, considering the situation and the circumstances.  Besides, as much as I completely trust my team with him, I need to know for my own peace of mind that everything’s done correctly.”  When Lee started to protest, she said, “Let’s put it this way…I made it very clear…if he wants to make this dive, it’s my way…or no way.  He hired me to head this team.  He signed the contract and so did I.  So he’s bound by the very terms that he himself sat down.”

Sharkey intently watched Nelson, Crane, and Morton as they independently went about their separate duties.  Turning his attention to Davis, "Captain, this isn't right.  I mean, the Admiral, he isn't ready to go out there..."

"Chief, I know that and you know that...and Captain Crane knows that.  But we all know the Admiral."

"But ma'am...what about...?"

She placed a hand on the COB's shoulder.  "Chief, believe me, I would if I could...but I can't."

Sharkey turned to Crane, his face showing concern.  "Skipper...you can't let him do this.  I mean, the Captain here, and the Teams, well, they know what needs to be done and they can do it.  Maynard can disarm just about anything...

"I agree, Chief, but ..."  Crane glanced over and saw Nelson patiently waiting for Karen.  Looking back at her, Lee then asked, “Karen, are you sure about this?  We’ve got less than 30 hours before we’re at the site.  Is it really possible to get him in some semblance of readiness in that time period?  And will he physically be able…?”

As Tom Johnson made ready to place the helmet over her head, Karen glanced over at her husband, then looked back at Lee Crane.  “As I said, I’ve got no choice, Lee.  I’ve…we’ve got to get him ready.  If I don’t do my job, I’m going to be a widow for the second time.  You want to try explaining that one to my daughter, Captain   Because I sure as hell don’t.”

“I don’t like this…” he countered.  "Not one damn bit."

“You think I do???” she shot him a scathing look.  And with that said, Tom placed the helmet over her head and tightened it down.  She turned around and looked back at Crane and Sharkey, a slight nod of her head indicating that she fully understood all the implications of the situation and yet accepting the responsibility.  She gave him a slight ‘thumbs-up’ and walked over to the staging area.

Standing in front of her husband, she watched as all preparations were finalized on him.  Then, she reached out with a gloved hand and touched him to get his attention.  As their eyes met, her tone of voice was firm and no-nonsense, “The escape tube is going to be our training area.  We’ve done this before, so it’s nothing new…for me, that is.  The tube will be flooded and from there, you’re going to get familiar with both the specialized Hydrox mixture that will be used as well as your equipment.  It’s absolutely essential that you understand and follow everything that I tell you to do.  We’re not going to be under actual pressure conditions so that’s going to both help…and hinder.  There’s small cameras in the tube so Jamie and Chip can watch what’s going on.  Your suit’s ‘wired’ into a mini-computer for bio-feedback so Jamie can keep watch on your vitals.  Do you understand?”

He nodded.

“Another thing,” she told him, “When we’re through here, you’re going to be spending the down time in the decompression chamber.  You’ll eat and sleep in there, just the same as if this were the real thing.  I know you’ll want to go back to your cabin to sleep, but I want you in the chamber.  This way, if there’s anything you don’t understand with regards to the procedures or the equipment, you’ll be there with it, and with us.  What time you have, I want you to have this equipment committed to memory so there’s no screw-ups.  Understood?”

“Understood,” he again nodded.

She looked over at the ready crew and said, “Let’s do it.”

As soon as the final checks were done on both of them, they entered the modified escape hatch. After the formation of the team, the tube had to be altered to allow the inclusion of access to the new decompression chamber that would be used for the divers.  This would allow them to exit straight through a secondary hatch into the chamber without risking a dangerous outside transfer.  The pressure could be kept consistent and slowly lowered without further risk to the divers.

Karen stood beside her husband, silently watching his movements and reactions from the corner of her eye, wanting to see his initial reactions to the gas mixture.  Any distraction by her would not give her the visual reactions she needed to see.  As the gas started to fill the suit, she observed him intently but casually, making mental notes to herself.  Suddenly, she noticed a surprised look on his face as well as almost a split second of fear.  She’d seen the same look many times on the faces of the ‘rookies’ on her team when they first encountered the special mixture.  

Reaching out to slightly touch him in order to bring his focus back to the situation at hand, she unemotionally told him, “All right, just breath normally. The air is a special mixture and you'll get a little light headed from it at first, so don't worry if you start feeling weird... okay?  Just think back and remember what that told you the first time you did deep sat diving."  She looked at her husband through what appeared to be a large glass bubble with a reinforced metal back that covered roughly 40% of the back of their heads.  The helmet was designed so that it gave them a 270-degree view around them, unlike anything he’d ever used. Most of the helmets he was used to cut peripheral vision down to a minimum but this one was a whole different matter.

Harriman focused in on her eyes and nodded.  “Just how weird?”

Karen could see that he was starting to relax just a bit so she chuckled and replied, “Well, not quite as weird as the night we had all those Mai Tais on that party cruise... and certainly not half as much fun either.”  Her eyes twinkled just a bit remembering that night.

Groaning just a bit, he quietly shot back, “Did you have to remind me about that?  I should’ve never let you talk me into that thing.  I think I’ll stick to Scotch from now on.”

“Hmmmm, well, I seem to remember that you’re weren’t feeling much pain that night.  And I do believe they tried to get you up on the table for hula instructions.”

“Humph!” was his retort.  “Well, you weren’t feeling any pain, either, if whatever memory I have of that night is correct…”

Another snigger from her and she arched an eyebrow as she came back with, “Excuse me, but I don’t seem to remember you objecting to the resulting aftermath of that night, sir.  I also seem to remember something about a bubble bath the next morning... and a magnum of Dom Perigon Champagne as well.”

Then, suddenly remembering that their conversation was being monitored, he turned a bit red.  She grinned and laughed to herself, then continued monitoring him as the mixture exchange proceeded.  He was intently examining the suit as they waited.  The whole suit looked like a modified hardened version of an astronaut’s space suit.  Her R & D section had managed to come up with a cross between two new experimental ADS (atmosphere diving system) models, the Hardsuit 2000 and the Exosuit. Though both of the experimentals were ADS systems, Karen and her team had taken a route to modify them, making them more acceptable and adaptable to very deep saturation diving, and giving them more mobility and flexibility than the full hard-shell models would have.  They’d also worked extremely close with the gas labs to find the right mixture so that decompression times could be cut from anywhere from one-third to one-half the time needed on the Nitrox systems.  Because each suit was customized to the individual wearer, and since he wasn’t one of the team, they had had to settle for the best fit possible for him.  It felt snug to Harry since he had to settle for a slightly smaller suit.  Any larger and there would have been a risk of him breaking his neck from the collar assembly.  Once pressurized, the locking collar for the helmet would have come up under his chin and with the force of compression, it would have snapped his neck like a twig if it didn’t fit just right.

Karen watched him closely looking for any signs of trouble.  Suddenly, Harry began showing signs of dizziness and swayed just a bit.  The gases had begun to intermix within his system and he felt like he was going to black out.  She saw it almost at the same split second as did Jamison, who had been overseeing his bio-functions on the monitor.

Jamie calmly talked to Nelson over the Com link, "Admiral, this is Jamison.  Just relax and breathe in deeply a couple of times.  It'll pass in a few minutes.  You need to get the gas deep into your lungs."

She moved and stood in front of him, gently taking his arm to help steady him.  Putting her other hand up, she tapped on his helmet, and when Nelson opened his eyes and looked at her, Karen took the second and third fingers of her hand and pointed at her own eyes.

"Right here, Harriman.  Focus on me," she commanded him.  She was gazing into his face then locked eyes with him.  Quietly and calmly, she instructed, “Breathe deep and just relax... relax... that’s it.  Just relax and don’t fight the mixture.  Breathe easy... easy... that’s it.  Good…good.”  Her voice was even and focused and, in a very strange way, soothing. 

Harry's eyes fixated on his wife’s and, as he listened to her, beginning to feel more relaxed. His head began to clear and his strength slowly began to return.  Finally, he managed to stand under his own power, without any assistance from her.

"You okay?" Karen asked, looking deeply into his eyes, searching for any possible sign of trouble.  “If you feel any shortness of breath and pressure in the lung areas…I want to know about it…do you understand?”

"Yeah... much better... yes, thanks.  Whew!  That’s quite a rush," was the quiet reply that was coupled with a slight grin as his breathing became more normal and relaxed.  Then in a barely audible voice, “I’m fine, Karen…just fine.”

"Tell me about it,” she responded to his remark about the ‘rush’ and a slight grin formed and a slight nod let him know she understood the second. This, in turn, drew a broad, but wary smile from him as well, giving her some assurance, at least for now.

"Okay, what’s next?" he said with a hint of light sarcasm in his voice. The sideways look the remark elicited from her told him not to push it too far.  She was doing this under vigorous protest to begin with.

In the Missile Room, off to the side where the team’s training equipment had been set up, Chip Morton, Lee Crane, Sharkey, and Jamison exchanged alternating looks of amusement and concern. The four of them could hear everything going on and could see the two of them in the escape tube via the monitor cameras.  The comments they had just overheard exchanged between the two had proved to be rather enlightening, particularly about their commanding officer.  In fact, all of them were having a bit of a time keeping a straight face as they heard the exchange regarding the ‘party cruise’.  Lee made a mental note to ask Karen about how many of the drinks were involved, but only after they had successfully completed the assignment and the Admiral was safely back aboard.  Continuing their observations, they were all relieved and surprised to see how quickly he rebounded from the effects of the gas exchange.

He didn't seem to be having a problem with the suit, either.  It was fairly confining and the clear bubble helmet was something else to get use to as well. Under the right conditions, in the darkness of the ocean depths, the clear helmet appeared transparent.  That had always been the one element that had disoriented the men at first, especially those who were used to the more restrictive hardhat helmets the Navy used.  Apparently though, this didn't seem to bother him.  As Jamison kept vigilant watch over the bio-readouts, he seemed generally pleased with the readings.

Now that the first phase had been completed successfully, Karen was ready to start the next part of the ‘crash course’.  She held his attention as she talked to him.  "Okay, let's work on buoyancy control.  Your controls are on your right forearm.  Lift it up so you can see it... “  When he complied, she nodded.  “Good... now, the black round knob nearest your wrist is to increase your negative weight.  The red one right above it controls your lift.  We'll adjust negative first.  Turn the black knob slowly in a clockwise position.  You should start to feel the weight of your gear."

Following her instructions to the letter, Harry took the knob with the fingers of his left hand and very slowly turned it clockwise as instructed.  He suddenly began to feel himself getting heavy.

"Check off one negative control knob," he announced as he nodded to her that it was working.

Karen continued, "All right, now adjust it back ‘til you feel neutral again... “ and she watched as he complied.  “Good... now do the same with the other knob.  Be prepared for another light feeling.  We'll be taking a trip up.  Just go slow and watch that you don't hit the access hatch... Just like in scuba.  That’s it.  Good.  Nice controlled ascent... that's it... All right... Okay, turn it in the other direction to slow the ascent and let's try to go neutral... okay?"

"Acknowledged," came the response as he adjusted the knob.  His ascent slowed with hers and they both stopped at the same time about halfway up the tube.  "Whew!" he exclaimed as she observed him.

Watching him closely, she noticed he was sweating.  "Harriman, do you feel okay?"

"Fine, just getting a little warm in here," he replied and then added with a slight grin, "I thought someone had Air Conditioning installed in these things.”  It was a pointed reminder of a remark that Karen had made in the Azores several years before.

Under her breath, in a voice that was barely audible, came the retort “Smart ass.”

Harriman Nelson quirked an eyebrow and glared at his wife.  Those observing them possibly may not have heard her, but he had.  Faintly, but he had heard.

Smart ass sir, Captain Davis.” he inquired, trying to bait her just a bit.  He knew and respected her ability and also knew this wasn’t easy for her.  Yet, he wasn’t about to let that sly comment go unnoticed.

She smiled conspiratorially, refusing to rise to his comment.  “Here...just stand fast and let me check something," she responded as she lowered herself and checked a switch on the thermal control panel that was located on the left side of his waist. She found the problem and flipped the switch to the "ON" position, then adjusted the temperature to a comfortable 70 degrees.

"Now, does that feel any better?" was the question as she settled back up in front of him.

"Quite.  You do that very well, Captain,” came the reply as he felt the change in temperature.

"Do what?”

"The buoyancy procedure," he lightly replied with a bit of a smile.

"Well, you know…I have had a little practice with it," she said returning the smile.

She was now relieved to see him so relaxed with the gear. “Okay, let’s take it back down, shall we?”  When they reached the bottom, they both landed slow and gently.  Harry was a little awkward and almost lost his balance.  Karen quickly grabbed his arm to steady him  "I’ve got you.  Just take it easy..." she softly proclaimed as she helped him regain his footing.

He grunted slightly as he regained his footing.  "I can see we're going to need to work on my landing a little.  I guess I've been out of the circuit a little longer then I realized," he said casually as he saw Karen smiling at him.  Her eyes told him everything was going okay so far.

“You just need to be a little bit lighter on your feet, Harriman, that’s all.  That’s something I know you can do…I learned that the other night at that jazz club we went to,” she slyly remarked in a tone low enough that only he could hear.  His eyes locked to hers and she could swear that she saw a slight twinkle in them, despite the surroundings.  “Besides, the equipment is more than what you’re used to.”

Suddenly switching his Com link to private, he grinned and replied, “You get me through this and I’ll make sure you know exactly light on my feet I can be.”

Her eyes flashed with amusement as she also quickly remembered their wedding reception and she remarked, “You’re on, Admiral.  That’s a date I’ll definitely hold you to.”  Then quickly returning to her training ‘voice,’ she told him matter-of-factly, “Okay, stand-by to exit.  We're going to go through the actual exiting procedure.  We'll wait here till they drain the tube.  Then we'll exit out the hatch that's directly behind me.  The yellow door.  Do you see it?"  The water had begun to lower in the tube as she gave him the instructions.

"I see it," he remarked as he watched the water level slowly drop around him.  "Boy!  This junk is heavy."  Without the buoyancy of water around him, he suddenly became aware of normal gravity and the sudden extra poundage poured down on him.

Karen let out a slight laugh. "Junk?” as she looked back at her husband as they both entered the chamber.  The hatch was then secured and the chamber crew began removing their suits.

As his helmet was removed, he turned and looked over at the face of his wife who was watching every move and expression he made. He nodded slightly and raised a still gloved left hand to give her a thumbs-up sign along with a weary smile. She nodded as she was being stripped of her suit; however, it was also very clear to her, as well as to Jamison, just how exhausted he really was.  His eyes told her everything, as would his bio-readouts.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

The rest of his training for the next few hours was done in the suit-up area where he was taught how to locate and control his temperature and gas mixture as well as other aspects of the equipment.  He had to become as totally familiar with the equipment as he possibly could in the short time he had.  The suits were much bulkier than what he was used to and he had to learn to compensate because of it.  The procedures he’d have to perform in deactivating the mines was going to be a delicate operation and performing them under the pressure at 1500 feet was going to be extra difficult.  It would have much easier to have one aboard to practice on, but it wasn’t possible.  No, the operation had to take place outside.  And practicing with the cumbersome gloves, in water, was the only way of learning to do it.

While his training was proceeding, Karen conferred with Will Jamison and agonized over the spikes in the readouts that she saw.  Despite his normal stamina, the exertion placed on his body by the suit, the gasses, and the stress of the mission itself were slowly showing itself.  Time…she needed more time to get him ready.  But time was the one thing she didn’t have.

After several hours, she called a momentary halt to his training and quietly asked for a report from the various crew working with him.  As she sat alone at the observation station, the Missile Room was now almost deserted after she’d dismissed them for a rest period.  She was pouring over the various reports and updates when he walked over to her, took her hand, and drew her up into a warm and very passionate embrace. His lips hungrily found hers demanding more as they kissed for what seemed like an eternity.  Her body was starting to respond as his hands slowly started to roam, when she gently pushed him back, then gazed back into his eyes, the desire beginning to build and evident in her own.  She knew what he wanted... the very same thing that she did... but she also knew what he needed instead.  Rest.

"You need to get some sleep and you’ve still got some training to do. We'll be on site in less than twenty hours...”  she teased him as she took him lightly by the front of his shirt with her right hand and fingered the buttons

"Just wanted to make sure you were still with me," he grinned, his arms firmly surrounding her waist.

"Always, suh, always.  After all, you paid for this ‘junk’, remember?  You need to know that your money’s going to the right place.  Now, get to bed, Admiral.  You need to get your rest.  And that, sir, is a direct order," she softly replied as she released her grip on his shirt.

"Aye aye, Captain," came a slight mocking reply as he tightened his hold on her waist, bringing her closer into him.

"Alone, Harriman... alone," was the mild scolding reply, although she wanted so badly to be in his arms.  “I’ve got other work to do.”

Pausing for just a moment, he stared back into her dark eyes, and what he saw there told him she was serious.  Ah, well... hopefully there will be afterwards... With a look of regret and a heavy sigh, he released his hold from her waist then gently kissed her.  “I can’t go back to my cabin?” he casually asked.  When she shook her head and pointed to the chamber, he turned around and headed for the hatchway.

Karen partially closed it, hit a switch on the control panel outside, and dimmed the lights.  From the observation port in the side, she watched as he lay down on one of the bunks and turned away from the window.  She glanced down at the bio-readout from the mini-monitor that was still attached to him.  Jamie had decreed that all the DWD divers would wear wireless feedback monitors while they were in decompression.  This would keep him apprised of any physical problems that they might incur after their dives were over until they exited the chamber.  Karen watched the man to whom she was married with a profound sense of love and responsibility.  Moments later, she noticed the feedback monitor and the slowing of both his heartbeat and his breathing.  He was falling into a deep sleep.

He had entrusted his life - their lives and the lives of others - into her hands.  Leaning against the outer wall of the chamber, she closed her eyes and silently prayed that she could live up to what he wanted, and needed, done.

 

óóóó

 

 

Karen found Chip Morton in the Officer’s Wardroom having a bite to eat.  He was just about to enjoy a very large roast beef sandwich that Cookie had made him when she walked through the door.

“When you’re through, can you come up to the Nose?  We need to talk,” Karen informed him as she grabbed her VirginiaTech coffee cup, filled it, and headed out.

Quickly, he downed the sandwich and took his coffee cup with him as he joined her up in the Observation Nose.  Refilling his cup from the pot on the credenza, he then refilled hers as well before sitting down in front of the giant view ports.

"Well, what do you think?" she calmly inquired of her second as she sat gazing out at the moving scenery deep beneath the water’s surface.  She valued his opinion and knew he’d be honest with her.  The whole thing was deeply troubling her…not only because it was Harry but because of the extremely abbreviated schedule.  There was no room for error out there.  Make one…and you die.

Morton sat his cup down and turned his chair to face her.  He knew her well enough to give her a completely candid assessment.  There was too much at stake not to, regardless of whom it was.  "His landings are going to be real rough, and since he's never walked on the actual seabed in this gear, he may have a bit of a problem with balance, especially if it’s not solid…but he's got everything else down to a science.  I heard someone once tell me he was a quick study.  They weren't kidding…He’s a natural.  It’ll definitely make Chuck and Matt’s part of the job a lot easier…not having to worry so much about him out there," he replied in a confident tone of voice as he gave her a smile.  “I always wondered why he kept himself from being considered for the Team.”

"He had his reasons, although he never really did fully express them to me at the time.  I’ve always thought that he felt it was better for all concerned.  So…you don't think he'll have a problem out there?"  Karen had to know.  The decision to send him out now rested solely on her shoulders.

Morton shook his head a bit.  "I didn’t say that, but if his reactions in the chamber are any indication, then I think he may do okay.  My primary concern here is fatigue level.  He was getting pretty tired in there.  There’s just not enough time to build up his endurance with the equipment and you and I both know it takes time to do that.  Then when you add in the factor of the lung…"  There was just a hint of concern showing through his report.

"Yeah, I know.  That’s one factor Starke didn’t take into consideration when he laid this damn mess on him.  He’s got helluva stressful job ahead of him.”  She hesitated a bit as she glanced back out into the ocean depths.  “Let’s make damn sure he completes it."   Looking back over at Chip, she then quietly added, “I don’t want to lose him, Chip.  I love him too much.”

Morton looked over at her as she quickly looked away.  He suspected she’d done so as to not let him see the tears that were forming.  Karen Davis could be as hard as steel when necessary but she did have her limits.  He remembered last year when she brought Nelson out of that hellhole of a militia compound…and he remembered well standing with the O.O.M. outside the decompression chamber when she herself had been hurt in the very beginning.  Then, several months ago there was that freak hunting accident and he’d been shot.  No…these two belonged together.  They’d been through too much to lose it all now.

"You know we’ll do everything we can…and you’ve put him through as many of the paces as you possibly can in a short amount of time.  As I said, he’s a quick study.  As far as the procedures go, I think he’ll do okay.  I’m just more concerned that his stamina may not hold up.  He’ll have Matt and Chuck with him, but their focus is going to on deactivating those mines.  If he goes critical on them out there, it could jeopardize the entire mission.  We’re just going to have to wait and see.  But what choice do we have right now, anyway?”

Chip was trying to present both sides to her.  The two had worked closely together since the team’s inception and he felt he had a pretty good handle on what she expected.  “Karen…look, why don't you try and get some sleep?  I know you’ll be heading out with T-1 for the evacuation once the deactivation is finished.  I don’t know about you but I’m bushed, so I’m turning in for a bit.  We’ve got a rough road ahead and I need to email Matty before we get started with all of this.”  He stood and started up the spiral stairs for his cabin.  “We’ve still got a while before we get to the site and there’s still a lot of things he needs to go over.  You need to rest, too."

“I will, don’t worry…I just want to sit here for a while,” she softly replied, then suddenly she turned and looked over at him.  “Do me a favor, will you?  As soon as Chuck gets aboard with the anti-magnetic paint, immediately coat my suit as well as Mike Thompson’s and Kowalski’s.  I don’t want to leave anything to chance…I’m going to have backups ready to go out at a moment’s notice.  At least his and Matt’s have already been coated with what we have here.”

‘You’re not going to do what I think you are, are you?” the blonde XO asked in mock surprise and an eyebrow rose slightly.  “Captain, I’m surprised at you.”

“What’s the old saying in the Navy, Chip?  Don’t ask, don’t tell?  Besides, backups are standard procedure, am I not correct, Commander?” was the deadpanned reply.

“Yeah, but…” he hedged.

Her face was expressionless.  “Go get some sleep, Chip.  I’m going to go back to the chamber in just a bit and lay down myself.”  And she bid him good night as she swiveled back to face the view ports.

Karen just sat and stared out the large windows as the sub raced its way to the crash site. The interior lighting had been switched to the nightlights, leaving the nose dark save for the reflection of the water patterns on the walls and ceiling of the room.  She had often seen her husband sitting alone here in this very same chair, with the colors of the sea surrounding him. Looking outward and then glancing around, she could see now why he loved it.  It was so hypnotic, almost addicting.

Hmmm...add some nice quiet jazz here and I could definitely find this calming.

She found herself relaxing as her thoughts drifted to their mission and what was ahead of them and her husband.  She knew exactly why he was making the dive and Jiggs' statements and comments in his office hadn't helped the situation at all.  He felt he had to complete this task at any cost, even if it meant his own life.   Harriman Nelson had a deep, profound sense of responsibility, and Starke and the CNO had played that on that.  It really hadn’t been necessary.  She knew that regardless of what the situation was, Harry would find out what happened and try desperately to fix it.  Karen also knew her husband's deepest feelings on things and knew him as a very humanitarian individual, putting life above anything else.   Yet she had always known him to be a very practical individual.  Determined, yes... overzealous, maybe a bit at times... but very practical.  She knew that he would have sought to help the Monterey and its’ crew in every way imaginable.  For him to put himself in a situation for which he was not suited had thrown her off guard.  Karen felt sure that he would have let her team handle the entire operation had Jiggs Starke not played on his sense of obligation.  Harriman had never shirked from assuming responsibility... and knowing him as she did, he never would.  It wasn’t like Harry to be cajoled into something he didn’t want to do or that he didn’t believe in.

Looking deeper into the swirling patterns dancing on the walls, she suddenly felt weary.  Knowing what was ahead of them, knowing that in a few hours he might be lost to her forever, she stood up, stretched, and started up to Officer’s Country to retrieve a couple of things before she would head to the Missile Room to be near her husband.  She intended to grab a couple of hours of much needed sleep in an adjoining bunk, but about halfway up the spiral staircase, she heard Sparks’ voice page her over the intercom.

“Captain Davis, Admiral Starke is on the videophone for you.”

She turned around and headed for the nearest mike.  “Give me a moment, then patch it through to my cabin, please.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Karen then headed quickly back up the stairway to her cabin.  Once there, she settled into the chair behind her desk and then flipped the intercom switch to the radio shack.  “Sparks, go ahead and transfer the call.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Five seconds later, a hulking khaki clothed figure appeared on the screen.  “Well, Captain…what’s the status of the training?  Knowing Harriman as I do, I figure he’s made the decision to go outside.”

Sighing just a bit…she was tired and weary…Jiggs Starke was the very last person she wanted to have contact with right now.  “Yes, sir.  He did.  And it’s…coming, sir.  That’s about all I can say.  He’s a quick study…but…”

“But nothing, Captain…Will he be ready to go out once you all arrive on scene?”  Starke’s gruff voice was taking on an insistent tone as he sat stiffly in front of the view screen.

Biting her tongue to not give him the verbal lashing she felt he deserved, she simply answered, “He’ll be as ready as he can possibly be.  That’s all I can answer.”

“Good…good.  Well, I have every confidence in you and your ability to get him trained.  Just keep me apprised of the situation.”

She stared into the view screen, all strength drained from her body and soul.  How could this man do this to one of his best friends?  Finally, right as she reached for the off knob, she quietly spoke up.  “Admiral Starke,  reconsider this course of action.  You and I both know he’s not qualified  And there’s his previous injury to consider…”

Starke’s eyebrow arched as he heard the woman quietly speak.  It wasn’t the confrontational tone she’d used in his office…yet it was still just as concerned as before.  No…this time…she was quietly trying to appeal to his sense of right and wrong.  Clearing his throat just a bit, he knew she didn’t realize just how hard this was for him.

“Captain, what does your Chief Medical Officer say about the effect the dive will have on his lung?”

“Doctor Jamison has cleared him…reluctantly, sir.  He wanted it known for the record he was doing so under protest.”  Karen’s voice suddenly took on a matter-of-fact tone.  “The fact of the matter is, Admiral, the gas mixture is tricky, even for people in the best of conditions.  Jamie’s worried that the pressure plus the gas might just collapse the lung and that’s a situation we can’t have out there.  That, in and of itself, could prove to be fatal.  So far, he’s handled it well…so far.  However, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you…his level of endurance in that equipment is a definite cause for concern.  His normal stamina is good but it’s a whole different thing at 1500 feet and in that suit.  That’s something that only time and training can bring about and we don’t have the time.”  She arched an eyebrow as she carefully said the next words.  “There’s also the issue of that little guilt trip that you laid on him and how it could affect him psychologically.  Personally, Admiral Starke, right now, I’m more than a bit concerned that that could affect his actual performance.  This kind of diving is not for someone who hasn’t got their head screwed on straight.”  Pausing just a moment for her words to sink in,  “Look, my teams can handle this…they’re specially trained for it.  Maynard’s on his way now and familiarizing himself with the entire schematics of the mines, thanks to Tony.  He and Matt Lynch can handle this.”

Starke was strangely silent, almost as if he was waiting for her to finish her speech.

She hesitated a moment and then added, “Don’t put him out there.  You know how he is.  He feels this is his fault and your little suggestion that he make the dive because he built the damn things doesn’t help matters any.”

“Nelson’s a Navy Man, Captain.  He has a clear sense of duty.  And as such…he’ll do what has to be done here,” he sharply remarked.  “I thought you would have known that by now.  You’re Navy, too…or have you suddenly forgotten what following orders is all about?”

“Admiral, with all due respect, following orders blindly at times can have devastating effects.  I’m not disputing the rationale of following orders…only the rationale of issuing them when circumstances…” she offered.

Starke’s remark was blunt.  “Captain…perhaps you need to be reminded of who outranks whom here.”

Karen grew silent.  She wanted to shout her feelings from the top of her lungs.  Surely he had to know what this was doing to his friend…and to her.  Finally, in a very calm but tightly controlled voice she spoke, “Admiral Starke, I’m the Seaview’s Dive Officer and her Mission Specialist.  As such, it’s up to me…not you, not him…not anyone else, to approve this dive.  I can pull him at the drop of a hat, if necessary …He knows this and so should you.  And I have no qualms about doing it.”  She let her words sink in before she continued, “But I’m also his wife.”  Wearily, her voice took on a quieter tone.  “Look you and I both know he’s got a strong sense of responsibility…that he’ll do everything within his power to rectify this matter or die trying.  I guess that’s what I’m afraid of.  I don’t want to lose him.”  The lump in her throat was getting harder and harder to keep down and it took everything within her to keep the tears out of her eyes, to keep that ‘show no fear’ mask on.

Jiggs Starke was clearly taken aback at her last statements.  In past four years since he’d first introduced the two, he’d never ever seen this side of the proud woman before him.  She, like the man she’d married, always exuded such inner strength and confidence in every encounter she’d had with him.  Quietly studying the image before him, he hesitated and then softened both his stance and his voice.

“Captain Davis… he began.  “Karen…Harriman’s going to do what he thinks is best, regardless of what I, or you for that matter, say or do.  Do you really think I want him to go out at that depth?  Hell…I know he’s not qualified.  Contrary to what you may think…I trust your assessment entirely and if you say to pull him…I’ll call him right now and convince him to stand down.  But that’s not going to happen, is it?”  He allowed his words to soak into her obviously tired brain before continuing.  “You were right when you said he’s got a strong sense of responsibility.  That’s what makes him who he is…and I suspect, is part of what threw the two of you together.  Believe it or not, I do respect you.”

He noted her slightly raised eyebrow at that statement.  “Yes…I do, and I know you love him very much or you wouldn’t have just said what you did to me.  It was a combination of your own sense of duty, responsibility and love for him that made you do it.  I respect that.  He’s one of my oldest and dearest friends and I don’t want anything to happen to him either.  Besides…don’t you think that if he truly felt incapable of this that he’d have turned it over to you regardless of what I said or did?  Harriman does things his own way…he always has…always will.  That’s just the way he is.  Besides, he knows damn full well that he’s got the best teacher available right there on his own boat.  Now, for whatever it’s worth. let him play the hand his own way and just be there to help him do it.”

She silently contemplated his words.  For the first time since she’d known this giant of a man, she saw the true bond between him and her husband really come through.  As close as brothers, they’d gone through the rigors of the Academy together and had remained close throughout their careers.  Her thoughts were interrupted by Starke’s voice once again.  His next words shocked her.

“He did the right thing when he married you, Karen.  You gave him back a part of his life that he thought he’d lost forever.  He loves you…and I know, from what I’ve seen of you, that you love him.  That’s what’s making this so difficult for both of you.  Now…I know I’m an old man who’s been married far too many years to a woman whom I know I couldn’t do without…but Harriman’s just beginning to learn what he has in front of him in that respect.  That’s why he placed his life in your hands…cause he knows you’ll do everything possible to bring him back alive.”  His voice suddenly turned hard again.  “Now, Captain Davis…I suggest you get some rest.  You’ve got training to finish in a few hours.  And that’s an order.”

A slight smile formed at the corners of Karen’s mouth.  “Yes, sir.  I do…Thank you, sir.”  And as she reached for the knob, she added, “I promise I’ll bring him back…alive.”

“You’d damn well better, Captain.  I’ll keep in touch.”  And then the screen went blank.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Down in the Missile Room, inside the decompression chamber, Harry lay fast asleep on his bunk.  Yet, his sleep was a restless one.  Images of men screaming, water rushing in, and a sub going down all flooded his memories and dreams.  Visions of explosions... and a downed vessel lying on its side on the bottom with bodies floating in the water that had flooded its interior... ended with a face.  Ghostly white from death... the eyes were opened and stared as if into the very core of his soul as he heard it say, “Your fault…your fault.” Upon hearing that, he began to back away from it, shaking his head and then suddenly jolted awake in a cold sweat.

Jamison had come by to run a check of the medical monitors as he always did before a dive. He became alarmed when he saw a noticeable jump in Nelson’s heart rate. Upon further examination, he also found increased respiration.  Neither were good signs in a person who was supposed to be getting as much rest as possible.  It was also an indication of a deeper problem.  When he switched on the camera that monitored the sleeping area, he found Nelson restlessly tossing in the bunk.

The CMO entered the chamber and quietly walked to the back.  Gently, he placed a hand on Nelson’s arm and tried to bring him to consciousness.  Suddenly, the Admiral bolted up in the bunk, eyes wide opened, and yelled out ‘No!’, only to be grabbed by Jamison as he realized the older man had been immersed in a nightmare.

“Admiral, it’s Will.  It’s all right, sir.  Just relax, okay?  It’s just a nightmare,” he calmly announced as he watched his Commanding Officer with deep concern while he slowly became reoriented with his surroundings.  “Admiral?”

Nelson looked up at him, confusion evident on his face, but seemed to quickly recover.  “Will?” he answered with a puzzled tone between deep breaths.

Jamison realized he had had a fairly good jolt from whatever nightmare he’d had.  “Yes, sir...just try and relax.  You had some sort of a nightmare.  Do me a favor, okay?  Try to sit up...that’s it,” he directed him while he went over to a sink and poured Nelson some water in a cup then handed it to him. “Here...drink this.”

Harry accepted the cup and swallowed some of the liquid down as he finally gathered himself together.

Jamison pulled up a chair and sat down beside his bunk, watching him carefully.  “You want to talk about it?” he asked him curiously, trying to settle him down.  If he could get him to talk about the nightmare, it might help him make sense of it all

“I just remember fragments actually,” he said as he finished the cup and sat it on a table beside him.

“Care to share it with me?” he inquired as he watched Nelson’s actions and behavior closely. He had seen him edgy and nervous many times in the past but nothing as this intense.

Harry took a deep breath then slowly exhaled.  He looked away, focusing on some distant spot on the chamber wall.  “There was a sub sinking, men yelling and a face... the face of a dead man.  His eyes were wide open and he said ‘This is your fault’,” and his voice seemed to trail off with the last words.

His eyes lowered and he stared as if lost in thought at the floor in a silence that really began to worry Jamison. There was a definite deep impact on him, so deep that, if he weren’t expected to make this dive in a few hours, the doctor would have given serious consideration to some mild sedation.

“Admiral, are you all right?” he inquired, the concern for his CO evident in his voice.

“I’m fine, Will... I guess I’m just a little wired,” he remarked as he lay back down on the bunk and stretched out.  However, the tone of his voice wasn’t the normal rock hard confidence that Jamison knew.

“A little wired?” Will Jamison remarked with a slight grin as he looked over at his commanding officer.

“Okay... a lot...  “  His demeanor changed and his voice hardened somewhat.  “I’ll be fine.  I just need some sleep…”  He stopped mid-sentence and grew quiet as he stared at some undetermined point above him.

Going over to his ever present medical bag, Jamie withdrew a small vial and a fine gauged hypodermic needle.  As he withdrew about one-half of a cc of a clear liquid and then cleared the air from the needle, he told his boss, “Normally I wouldn’t do this, but this should dissipate in a couple of hours.  It’s just enough to let you to fall asleep and will be out of your system by the time you wake up.  Then once you’re up and the oxygen really gets going through your blood, you’ll be fine.  It won’t interfere with the mixture of gasses that’s going to be in your system, either…that’s why I’m using it.  Now, roll up your sleeve and then I want you to turn over and go back to sleep.”  When Nelson complied and he’d been given the shot, Jamie told him, “Admiral, you’re going to do fine out there. You aren’t going to lose it because you aren’t used to failure and that would be failure.  You’re going to go out there and you’re going to complete this mission...then you and Matt and Chuck can discuss it over coffee in the Nose. You’re just tired - you need to get some rest.  So try and get some sleep, okay?”

Nelson nodded grimly and turned over, without another word.  Moments later, Jamie got up and went to the monitor, watching the respiration rate slow enough until he was satisfied that he was asleep.  Suddenly, he had the strangest feeling that he was being watched and he turned slowly to see Karen standing in the hatchway, a worried expression frozen on her face.  He looked at her wondering how much of the conversation she had heard.   As he exited the chamber, he motioned her over to the monitoring console. He folded his arms across his chest and leaned back against the wall.  “Okay, how much did you hear?”  He was as much concerned about her state of mind as well as his patient’s.

“Enough to know I can’t let him go out there,” came the quiet matter-of-fact answer, equally determined.  “I’m pulling rank, Jamie.  He’s not going out.  I told him in the very beginning of all of this that the guilt trip would kill him out there and quite frankly, I’m not prepared to be a widow for the second time because of his damned stubbornness.  I’ll send Mike and Ski out to assist Matt and Chuck.”

Jamison shook his head in disagreement.  “And just exactly how do you plan to stop him?  You know as well as I do that he’s going out on this mission, no matter what he feels inside.  He has no choice.  Look, if you want me to spell this out for you, I will.  He feels he’s under orders for starters, whether directly or indirectly, no matter what Starke or the CNO said or didn’t say to him.  To him, this means only one thing.  He’s got the death of the DSRV crew hanging over his head and the lives of that sub crew as well.  Now, if he doesn’t go, just how is he going to justify to his crew that he’s backing out of this now?  No, Karen... this has gone too far for a retreat.  He’s committed.  He knows this and he’s going to have to come to grips with this himself.  Here, sit down for a minute...” Jamie pulled a chair over and offered it to her, then continued as she sat down, “I’ve seen him go through some bad episodes, but he’s always managed to pull through.  A couple of them were pretty bad.  When Katherine was killed was one.  Then when the incident with Gamma happened, and what that monster did to Chip Morton right in front of him, well, that did send him over.  However, both times, he recovered.  It took a while, especially after the second one, but he did recover.  You know that he has a deep sense of responsibility.  He’s just got to handle it in his own way.”

“I knew about the Gamma incident, Will.  Lee, and Chip, to some extent, and Matty...told me about what happened,” Karen replied slowly.  “I know he doesn’t like to talk about it.  He did tell me a little a few weeks ago about Joel McKenna and the whole mess regarding Lee’s ‘court martial’.  However, he’d never really told me about Katherine until a few months ago up at the cabin.  Even then, it was not what happened, only just about the kind of person she was.  I’ve heard bits and pieces from others so I kinda know the gist of what went on, but he just doesn’t talk about it.”  She remembered the morning after their wedding when he admitted to his association with the CIA and intimated that it had something to do with Katherine’s death.  “What really happened?”

“He and Katherine were going to be married in a few weeks.  One evening, when they went out to dinner, she ended up being kidnapped by some foreign agents and used as a bartering tool to get him to deliver the plans to the nuclear reactor that he was designing for Seaview.   You see, the boat was in the design stage…actually her keel was to be laid right before their wedding.”  Jamison leaned back against a counter as he recounted the events of years gone by.  “An old friend of his with ONI, who’s now with the Santa Barbara PD, worked up a plan to get her back.  They faked a set of plans and he made the meeting with them.  Unfortunately, the meeting didn’t exactly go as planned. They released Katherine and she went back to Harry’s home...so instead of taking the plans and letting him go as they had previously agreed on, they decided to take the Admiral back with them.”

Shifting his weight a bit, he continued, “There was a bit of a firefight but he and his buddy managed to get away.  However, when they got back to his house, they found Katherine inside…dead… There was a note that said ‘Paybacks are hell aren’t they?’ attached to her body.  Karen, I had my hands full with him.  He totally blamed himself for what happened to her.  Went the whole route of ‘what ifs’... At one point, I had to sedate him…”  Jamie watched Karen’s expressions and body language intently as he told her the story, reasoning that she had to know the full story in order to make the best assessment possible.  If Nelson was pulled, and Karen did it, she needed to have all the facts in front of her before making that fateful decision.  “Then, when the Polidor went down, and he thought he was the one responsible for what happened, he went on a tear.  He was determined to find out what happened, regardless of whether or not he was to blame.  There are times he’s like a man possessed.  No, as much as I hate this, as much as I know you hate this, you’re just going to have to let this play out on his terms…not yours.”

Karen had listened quite intently to the explanation of important but disturbing events in her husband’s life.  It put things in perspective for her in a way that nothing else could.  “I never knew the full details about Katherine, only that she had been killed and something about ONI or the CIA being involved with it.  He kinda hinted to it the morning after we were married,” she replied, now understanding a little better why he wouldn’t talk to her about it.  “That’s why he doesn’t want me to have anything to do with them.”  She thought back on the conversation and the way he had reacted that morning to her answers when he had questioned her about her own involvement with the ‘Firm.’  She also remembered giving him a bit of a lecture about ‘double standards’ where she was involved.  “Will, I told him a long time ago that he wasn’t to blame for Katherine’s death, from what little I knew of it at the time.  I think it’s a little of that guilt that makes him a bit more protective of me.”  She chuckled a little when she said, “I also told him not long ago that I’m not Katherine and we’re from two different eras.  Let’s just say that he’s not quite as used to an independent woman as he wants to let on.  He’s finding it a real education, but one, I think, he’s quickly coming to appreciate.”  Her tone then turned serious  “But I’m glad to know what really went on...it gives me a better view of what’s going on in his head.”

“I don’t know about that, Captain. All I do know is he’s got a lot of pressure and stress built up inside him right now, along with the guilt.  I hope he can keep it under control because if he loses it out there... you know as well as I do that the sea can be very unforgiving.”

 “Yeah, I know,” she reluctantly agreed as her thoughts and memories of Robert’s death flashed in her mind.  To lose him so soon…that was something she didn’t think she could handle.  “Thanks for telling me, Will.  It just doesn’t make this any easier.  For him... or for me.”

“Well...you’d better get some sleep yourself.  You’ve got a long day ahead of you as well, Captain Davis,” and he looked up at the clock, “And you’re running out of time.”

Karen smiled warily at Jamison and got up slowly, knowing he only called her Captain Davis when he was really worried and concerned for her.  “I will.”   She glanced back at the form of her now sleeping husband and then looked at the doctor with a reassuring smile placing a hand gently on his shoulder.  “Thanks, Jamie.  I’ll be fine.”  Then correcting herself, she said, “We’ll be fine.”

“I hope so, Karen, I truly hope so,” was the wary reply as he turned and left her alone.

Karen Nelson slowly walked back to the chamber, opened the hatch, and went in.  Walking softly, she went over and stood by the slumbering man.  Hearing him snoring lightly, she bent over and gently kissed him.  Harriman slightly stirred and moved toward her in response to her touch.  She lightly stroked his hair and pushed a lock of it off his forehead.  She then whispered to him, “You won’t lose it out there because I won’t let you.”  Kissing him softly again, she then went to an adjoining bunk and lay down. Watching him as he slept helped put her mind slightly at ease and before long, she too found herself in a sound sleep.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Several hours later, they finally reached the area of the downed submarine. Lee slowed the boat, surfaced, and brought it to a stop alongside the Cable and the Salvor that was on site.  Shortly afterward, the DWD team’s Explosives expert Chuck Maynard, along with Tony Rennalt, and the rest of their material and gear were then transferred over in several small runabout boats.  In the meantime, Crane was taken over to the Cable and headed straight to the command center where communications had been set up through the surface buoy to the Monterey.  Communications put him in contact with the downed sub.

Down below, the phone rang and Driscoll immediately picked it up. "Go ahead. This is Captain Driscoll."

"Matt, it's Lee Crane.  We’re upstairs and taking on personnel and equipment. Just wanted to let you know it won't be too much longer. As soon as they get those mines cleared, we'll start evacuating your crew."

The communiqué had been piped through the entire sub.  Immediately, smiles were contagious and morale lifted.  "Sounds great, Lee. Man, you don’t know how good it is to hear your voice. Is the Admiral there with you?"

"No…he’s aboard the boat.  Look, Matt,” and Crane took a deep breath, “He’s going to be on the demolition team.  By the way, are there any injured aboard?"

"Tell him to be careful, Lee .  Somehow these things ended up charged but I didn’t think he was qualified.  As for us, well, we’ve got just a few bumps and bruises but we're all okay for the moment.  Also….. The air's getting pretty thin down here. We’ve run out of candles and potash…and we can’t run the auxiliary engine anymore because of fouling up what air we do have. Quality’s getting kind of bad.  Mystic was supposed to be bringing us some extra oxygen tanks, but when she went down…."

"Understood. What about your own emergency oxygen?”

“I’m leaving that until the last moment.  Get us outta here, Lee.  But make sure one of those damn things don’t take you down in the process.”

Crane grimly smiled to himself and replied, “Not if we can help it, Matt.  Hang in there…we’ll have the FS-1 hook up with you as soon as possible   Hopefully, it won't be much longer. "

"Sure. Good luck, Lee."

Lee closed the line and drew in a deep breath. At least there'd been no casualties.  He returned to the Seaview to start procedures for the rescue. Once all the equipment and personnel were safely aboard, Seaview would then move out from the Support ship about three miles and approach the site from below.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Tony Rennalt was not a happy man.  When the call came in from the Nelson Institute, he’d been involved in romancing the owner of Bennie’s Bar in Santa Monica.  He and Carley Malone, the bar’s owner, were involved in a couple of rounds of cheap beer and some very heavy necking when his pager had abruptly gone off.  Grumbling, he had called in and then regretfully kissed his ‘date’ goodbye.  He’d then driven straight back to the Institute and, after gathering the necessary information from his office and the weapon’s lab, he and Maynard had boarded the NIMR’s private Lear jet for the flight to the Marshalls.  Once there, the two men and all their gear boarded a Navy jet helicopter for the ride to the crash site.

Rennalt was in his late 40s, dirty blond hair, gray-green eyes, dressed in frayed khaki cut-offs, tennis shoes, faded Hawaiian shirt, a NIMR baseball hat, and had a three day growth of beard.  His face looked liked well tanned leather from too much exposure to the sun.  Known at the Institute as a throwback to the time of the hippie era but also as a brilliant electronics expert, he loved tweaking the noses of the military establishment with his laid back, rather avant-garde attitude.  Ironically, he loved working for Harriman Nelson.  The two men had met, coincidentally, well over 10 years before during the infancy of the Institute, at a local bar…

Harriman Nelson had gone in alone to drown his sorrows over the death of Katherine Campbell.  He’d ended up at a back table trading stories with a younger man who looked like the biggest beach bum he’d ever seen.  The evening had ended with Rennalt managing to get Harry home and the two had nursed hangovers together the next day.  He had learned that Tony was, in reality, an expert in electronics with a Ph.D. from MIT and who had shunned most of life’s conventional ways.  Later, he had offered Tony a job at the Institute.  There was something about Rennalt that he’d taken to at the very beginning.  Maybe it was the fact that Harry admired the man’s scientific ability or the simple fact that his unorthodox views and lifestyle were exactly what he needed at that time of his life.  Regardless, Tony did end up going to work at the NIMR…and an unlikely long friendship and alliance was formed.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

As soon as his feet hit the inside deck, Tony glanced around the Seaview’s Control Room and zeroed in on Lee Crane.  He was in the middle of issuing orders to take the boat down.

“What the hell’s going on?  What's this I hear about Harry and the moon suit? Has he lost his friggin' mind?” he demanded as he approached Crane at the plot table.

“Tony!  How are you?” Crane reached out his hand.  "I was too busy to see you while we were transferring equipment.  Welcome aboard.”  Then his tone and face turned serious.  “And the answer to your question is yes, he’s going out there.  Apparently Starke and the CNO are at the heart of that one.”

“Oh, hell, Starke's a damn pompous ass. Why the hell doesn't he just let the DWD teams handle it?  That’s what he had’em built for anyway.  I’ve been going over the whole thing with Chuck on the way here.  He knows’em as well as I do…and probably just as good as Harry does.” 

“Wish I could say that, but Karen said something about them laying a guilt trip on him, that it was up to him to find out what happened. She's not a happy camper,” Lee told him as the two men walked aft.  “Look, I’ll have your stuff stowed in one of the guest cabins.  Maybe you can talk some sense into him.”

“Me?!  Hell, if his own wife can’t do it, how in the hell do you expect me to?  Naw…you know that Harry gets tunnel visioned at times and if he’s hell bent…” 

When they entered the Missile Room, they could see both Nelson and Karen asleep in their bunks through the view ports of the special chamber.  Standing silent for a few moments as they watched the two, Tony turned and said, “I would wager they musta had one helluva row about it.  That lady’s one of the very few people I’ve known who’s got the guts to stand up to him and say ‘no’ when he goes on a tear…not counting myself, of course.  I just wanna know how he managed to get this past her.”

Crane chuckled to himself.  Tony was right.  Karen was one of the few who didn’t mind standing up to the irascible, and sometimes volatile, Irish tempered Nelson.   “All I know,” Lee replied quietly, “is that we got the call from ComSubPac to pick them up at Pearl.  He briefed me regarding the mission and I know there was a pretty heavy argument about his wanting to be trained to go out.  He basically told her that if she wouldn’t train him, he’d have Chip do it.  Either way, he fully intended to be trained for this.  She told me he had his orders.”

“Shit, she musta read him the riot actShe’s a stickler for safety procedures and proper training with all that equipment when it comes to that team…”

Crane nodded.  “What I do know is that he feels this is his fault.  Those mines weren’t supposed to be armed, Tony.  How in God’s name could this have happened?”

Tony scratched his stubbled chin and then tipped the ball cap back further on his head.  ”Beats me, Lee…but I’ll tell you one damn thing.  Harry Nelson ain’t to blame here.  I’d stake my life on it.  I left right after the wedding to head to Texas and I’ve been on vacation at the ranch, so I wasn’t even aware that the dates got bumped upHell, Lee, we didn’t even know which sub was going to be handling Phase Two.  DoD wasn’t even gonna tell us until about two or three days before the first run.  It was done that way for security purposes…at Norwood’s damned insistence.   And considering Harry’s been on his honeymoon for the past four weeks and out of circulation, there’s no way he’d even know.”

“Could live charges have been loaded accidentally, Tony?  Could the orders have been mixed up?”

“Nope, not a chance in hell.  The formula for the explosives was in three parts.  Harry, Tom Boyer, and another scientist were the ones that developed them.  I’ve got the whole thing in a folder in my briefcase.  Hell, I don’t even know it.  All I know is how these puppies are wired to go BOOM!  And that’s because Harry and I developed that part of it together.”

About that time, Will Jamison approached them with a medical chart in hand and a concerned look on his face.  He greeted Rennalt with a handshake and Crane with a nod.

“Doc, ain’t there some way you can jerk a knot in his ass and kick some sense into him?  He’s got no damn business going out there,” the electronics expert demanded of the Seaview’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Well, other than completely sedating him and throwing him in the brig, I don’t know what else to do.  He’s going to do what he wants to do regardless of what I say.  Both of you know that he’s still recuperating from the injury he got back in January and he’s sure as hell not qualified for that equipment.”

“Then why is she letting him?”

“Because, Tony, he ordered her to do it.  That’s why,” Crane flatly stated.

Ordered her???  Oh, shit!  That’s definitely not good then.  Doc…man, you gotta find some way of keeping him out of that water,” Rennalt shook his head.  “Man, I remember what he was like when he took her off that team last year…right before he was kidnapped.  He was a royal pain in the ass.  He was right, of course, but he was still a real royal pain in the ass.”  Looking over at Crane, he arched an eyebrow and inquired, “How’d she take it?  I mean, after he ordered her to train him?”

Crane shrugged his shoulders and sighed, 'Let's just say the volume went up quite a bit in his cabin. And from what I've been able to piece together, I think she might have told him to 'go to hell' at some point.”

Tony drew in a sharp breath as his eyes narrowed.  Shaking his head, he said, “She’s got to be scared to death she’s gonna lose him and she’s still letting him...”  Peering in once again at the two sleeping figures inside the chamber, he repeated under his breath, “Damned military rules”, then turned around and headed for the door to the corridor.  When he reached the hatch, he called back over his shoulder, “Okay, I’m gonna head to a cabin and grab a couple of zzz’s.  When they wake up, let me know.  I need to go over some things with him.”  He then disappeared through the hatchway.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

On board the Monterey, Matt Driscoll and his crew were beginning to feel the effects of the thinning air.  He realized he no longer had any option but to break out the emergency oxygen tanks.  All unnecessary movement was forbidden.  As the tanks were passed out, he informed the crew of the absolute necessity that they follow his orders to the letter.  Help was upstairs.  They now had about twelve hours if all went well.  They just had to hang on a little longer.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

The team began assembling in the Missile/Escape Room while the equipment was still being loaded from the surface support ship.  Once the extra anti-magnetic paint was loaded, all the DWD suits were taken out and the spray coating was started.  When Jamison entered the chamber, he found both Nelsons still sound asleep in their bunks.  It had now been about four hours and they each had needed every minute of rest they could get.  Smiling to himself at this most unusual sight, he then proceeded to start to wake them up.  Karen was first.

Laying a hand gently on her shoulder and lightly shaking her, he softly remarked, “Captain, it’s time to get up.”

Karen stirred and slowly opened her eyes, blinking several times, the dim light at first blinding her.  Slowly her eyesight cleared enough to see him standing in front of her.

“Will?  Oh, God... I feel horrible...”

Jamison lightly laughed and replied, “Sometimes a nap makes you feel worse instead of better.  A hot shower might do the trick.”

She slowly sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bunk and rubbed her eyes.  Stretching slightly to move her muscles, she glanced over at the adjoining bunk where she saw her husband sleeping soundly.  “I feel like I just closed my eyes.  Any more nightmares?” she inquired of Jamison.  She had to know.  If he still wasn’t settled, she had to pull him.

“Nope.  Apparently he’s slept pretty soundly after that initial jolt,” came the reply.  “Maybe he unconsciously knew you were here.”  Jamison also knew what she was thinking so he finally asked, “So, what do you intend to do?”

Hesitating before she answered, Karen kept gazing at Harriman’s peaceful expression.  Then, without looking up at Will, she quietly answered, “Follow orders...  at least for now.”  Then looking at Jamison with resignation, she remarked, “You might as well wake him up.  He’s going to need a hot shower as much as I do.  Maybe even more.  Tell him where I am.”  She slid off the bunk, grabbed a towel and headed for the shower.

Will walked over to the other bunk and gently shook Harriman Nelson.  The sleeping man slightly moved at the touch and felt himself being pulled by a voice in the far off distance.  “Admiral... it’s Will Jamison.  Time to get up,” said the voice.

Harriman fought his way slowly back to consciousness.  He was slow and very sluggish, but once he stood, he yawned and stretched.

God, am I tired!  Whew!  I didn’t realize that I was so out of shape.

His body was tired but his mind was slowly growing alert and aware of his surroundings.  Looking around, he spied the nearby bunk that had obviously housed someone.

Throwing a puzzled look at Jamie, he heard him reply, “Captain Davis just left to go take a hot shower.  She ‘suggested’ that you take one as well.  Actually, it’ll do you good.  Might wake up your senses.”

“Karen slept here?” Nelson asked and yet it didn’t surprise him that she would.

Jamison laughed.  After all these two have been through with each other.  “Of course she did.  Did you really expect her to do otherwise?”

Nelson grinned a bit warily.  “Well, I guess I should have figured that she wouldn’t go too far.”

“You got that right, suh,” replied a gentle southern accent.  Both men turned to see her standing with a towel wrapped turban style around her hair and wearing a terry cloth bathrobe.  Strolling over to her tired but now awake husband, she placed her arms around his neck and gently kissed him.  “About time you woke up.  Hit the shower, Admiral.  You’ve got work to do.  Chip’s got some final things to go over with you and we’ll be down near the site within the next hour or so.  All the equipment’s been loaded and the suits and sleds are being coated with the paint now.”

Harriman stood up straighter, then bent over and slyly whispered into her ear, “If Will weren’t here right now, I’d take you into that shower with me.”

Karen had to stifle her response, knowing full well that he was trying to get a reaction out of her, but she knew the look in her eyes would give her away.  In her most authoritative manner, she placed her hands on her hips and responded with, “Admiral Nelson, get your butt into that shower…now!  That’s an order!

Now it was Doctor Will Jamison’s turn to control his laughter.  Turning to leave before anything else transpired, he simply told them, “The Teams are starting to come in.  I understand Chuck Maynard’s finally aboard and standing by, Captain…  And Admiral…Tony wants to meet with you as soon as you’re able.”

Karen’s eyes had never left Harry’s.  “Thanks, Jamie.  I’ll meet with Chuck in just a bit.”  Upon hearing the hatch close, she threw him a towel.  “Some of the equipment’s still being brought aboard and Lee’s spoken with Driscoll.  It’s getting bad down there and we’re running out of time.”

“I know…they’ll have to go on emergency air soon,” he replied as he went to a wall mike on his way to the shower.  “Lee, this is Nelson.  Has there been an approximation on the location of the mines that were laid?”

“Yes, sir.  The Chosin has managed to find them, once we’d given them their unique signatures.  They’ve been able to track four.  It looks like the remaining two were the ones that exploded.”

“How far are they from Monterey?” Nelson asked.

“The debris field is roughly contained within a 400 yard radius from Monterey, extending in an arc.  Ironically, she went down smack in the middle of the whole lot.”

“Okay, I want you to keep just beyond a quarter mile outside that radius.  Any closer and if there’s any other live ones out there, they’ll activate and latch on to us,” the Admiral ordered.

 

óóóó

 

 

The Admiral had just finished showering when Tony Rennalt showed up in the chamber.  Strolling over and plopping down on one of the chairs, he leaned back and stuck a toothpick in his mouth.  Watching his employer and friend as he dressed, Tony noted the starless collar of the khaki shirt.  He remained silent until Harry finally broke the tension.

“Okay, so what have you got for me?” he asked.  “Where are the schematics?  I need to start going over them.”

“Well, what I should have for you is a good swift kick in the ass.  That’s what I should have for you.  What the hell you trying to prove by doing something this stupid?  Why in the hell don’t you let Karen’s teams deal with this?”

“And hello to you too, Mr. Rennalt.  I’ll thank you to remember who it is that signs your paychecks.”

“Yeah, right, Harry…uh huh.  Like I really need it.  Again, I’m asking, what the hell do you think you’re doing?  Your common sense leave your head somewhere along the line?  And what’cha do with the four stars?  Not like you to be without’em.”

“None of your damned business, Tony.  Now I need the schematics for the mines.  I need to refresh my memory on the wiring and go over a couple of things with you.” Harry was getting a bit testy with his friend.  “I also need to coordinate things with Maynard and Lynch before we go out and I’ve got some more training to go through.”

“Yeah, I brought’em and I’ve gone over them with Maynard during the trip out here.  He knows’em better than me by now.”  Tony leaned forward and then stood.  Towering over Harry by a good six inches, he stood in front of him with his arms folded.  “Look, I heard that idiot Starke’s behind this idea of you going out there.  Personally, I’d like to take that big windbag and stuff him…”

“Tony…shut up!  Are you going to help me or not?”

Rennalt turned away and then slyly remarked, “What’s Karen’s take on this?”

Nelson stiffened and tightly replied, “Captain Davis has her orders.”

“The hell she does,” he spat out.  “You and your damned adherence to blind obedience to duty and orders.  Harry, she’s got to be scared as hell and the only reason she’s doing this is because you proverbially twisted her arm.  And she wants to make sure you’ve got a chance at coming back.”

“Tony, you’re treading on thin ice here…” Harry hissed back as he picked up the towel to dry off his hair.

The hell I am.  Well, guess what?  I don’t give a shit!  Somebody’s got to kick you in the damn ass and drum some sense into that thick Irish skull of yours.  Look, you idiot!  I remember that night you came into Bailey’s to drink yourself into oblivion after Katherine died.  I’m the one that dragged your sorry ass home…as drunk as I was…and both of us had one helluva hangover the next morning.  You told me that you’d never meet anyone or love anyone again enough to want to spend the rest of your life with.  Well, you were wrong then…and you’re wrong now.  You did find someone.  Now, let her people…your people…do their job, okay?  You wantta be around to keep that lady happy, don’t you?  You people and your damn command rules.  Let these people do the job they’re trained for.  You’re not trained on those damn suits.  You had a collapsed lung four months ago…Now how about showing a bit of common sense along with that brilliant scientific mind of yours?”  And with that, he sat back down into the chair, leaned back and stuck the toothpick back into his mouth.

Harriman Nelson straightened as he slowly turned to face his old friend.  Suddenly, his jaw set, his lips thinned, and his hands were shoved into the tops of his back pocket.  Angling his head a bit, he drew in a sharp breath and then slowly exhaled.

“Mr. Rennalt, are you finished?” his voice was tightly controlled.

“Yep, I guess so…”

“Because, even if you aren’t…you’re going to shut your goddamned mouth and listen to me!  I don’t give a tinker’s damn what the hell you think in this case.”  His voice was highly irate but tinged with coldness.  Giving it a moment for his words to sink in, he solidly planted himself in front of Rennalt.  “You know how tricky the wiring is.  Now…no matter how good Maynard and Lynch are…they don't know the internal workings the same way you and I do.  We built the damn things…it’s up to us, specifically me, to find out what the hell happened out there.  There’s two…two…boats down out there.  Mystic's crew is probably dead, and a lot of good men had a very narrow escape, all because of those mines. Now, I’m going out there and disarm those damn things and find out what the hell went wrong!” he roared.  At the end, he had moved to within inches of the still sprawled out Rennalt and, as he grasped the handles on the chair, he moved to within a hair’s breath of his face.  “It’s your job to be the point man from inside.  Now, do I make myself clear?

The two men locked eyes with each other…each refusing to look away.  Harry was just as determined as Rennalt, who just kept chewing on the toothpick in his mouth.

”You’re crazier than hell for pulling this stupid idiotic stunt, you know that, don’t you?” Tony drawled.

“Probably.  But then again, I didn’t ask for your permission, either.”

“Did ya ever think that just maybe you won’t come back?”

“Yes, I did.  That’s why I’m having Karen do the training.”

The gaze between the two still unbroken, Tony shifted the small wooden stick from one side of his mouth to the other.  “Well, I guess…if there’s anyone that can keep your sorry ass in line…it’s gonna be me and her.  So, when you supposed to make this underwater moon walk?”

Nelson straightened up, yet still stood firmly in front of the man in the chair.  “As soon as we get down on site.  I’ve got some last minute training to do with Chip Morton.  By the time we arrive, I should be fairly ready to go.  Those men are running out of time and air.”

“And you think you’re more capable of handling the situation than that team you had her build?  Man…I knew you had an ego but I sure as hell didn’t think it would ever go to your head in this manner.  Harry…look, old buddy…you and I both know that you’ve had some problems with that lung.  Hell…if there was one good thing that came out of it…it was to make you quit those damn cigarettes.  Between those things and you working all the friggin’ time…you were a walkin’ billboard for a heart attack.”

“Oh,” Harry snorted, “And you’re not?  All that damn booze has got to have your liver pickled by this time.  By the way, where’d they drag you out of this time?”

“Humph!  Look who’s talking!  And I’ll have you know that I was at Bennie’s with Carley.  Now, if you’re through avoiding the subject…what the hell happened to those four little silver stars of yours?”

“And I told you…it’s none of your damned business.”  Harry stepped back and took his command stance.  “If we can get down to the situation at hand…”

“Awww, Harry…come on.  I know you didn’t get busted.  The one thing I do know is that those yo-yos inside the Beltway got too much sense than to screw with you.”  Rennalt watched his old friend as he turned away and finished dressing.

“Again, Tony, it’s a private matter and none of your business.  Now drop it!”  He stopped a moment to let it sink in.  “Look, Karen’s going to be coming back in here in a bit.” He hesitated a bit and then continued, “Tony…if something happens…do me a favor, will you?  Look after her and Caitlin.  They both deserve the best…”

“Yeah, right…like you want me looking after that lady.”  Tony straightened up and placed an elbow on his knee as he looked at his old friend.  “Look, Harry, she’s a strong one…both of’em are.”

“Well…just in case…there’s an envelope in the desk drawer of my desk in my cabin.  The outer one is addressed to you.  Inside of that are four smaller envelopes.  My will is with Tom MacArthur, the Institute’s main attorney.  I’ve provided for Karen and Caitlin…I did that the day before the wedding.”  He sat down heavily and gazed back at his old friend.

Tony had seen this look a couple of times before when the odds seemed astronomical.  He also knew that as deeply committed as his old friend was, he was also human.  For him take these steps showed that he was also well aware that he might not live to see the day through.

“Well, I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear that.”

“She doesn’t know…I didn’t tell her,” he responded.

“Yeah, well, I’m sure she’d be much happier with a live husband…not another dead one.  Besides, why are you tellin’ me?  Why not Crane or that pompous ass Starke?”

“You know, one of these days, your mouth is going to get you into a lot of trouble.  Besides, Jiggs, ah, doesn’t have the temperament to deal with them.  Karen would never forgive him.  She’s already made that pretty clear.”

Tony shrugged his shoulders.  “Well, hell, she’d be justified, now wouldn’t she?  As for my ‘mouth’, hell, it wouldn’t be the first time it’s gotten me in trouble and I'm sure won’t be the last.  After all, if I don’t give you hell, who will?”

Nelson simply arched an eyebrow and pointedly replied, “At least Lucius has the common sense to keep quiet once in a while.”

“Yeah, well…I’m not Lucius, now am I?  Besides…you didn’t get me to that damned Institute of yours on the condition that I keep my mouth shut, now did you?  I’m your conscience, Harry.  You and I both know that and we’ve always known it.  I’m that side of you that you ‘want’ to be but just can’t break out of the strict military mode long enough to be.  You know I don’t give two hoots in hell about that damn uniform you wear and I’ll tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it.”

“Maybe I should have fired your ass a long time ago.  I can always find another electrical engineer,” Nelson suddenly seethed.

“Sure, Harry…sure.  But where ya gonna find one with my credentials?  Huh?  Where?  And one that will tell you to shove it where the sun don’t shine when you get a wild hair up your ass?”  Rennalt stretched his long legs out and crossed them at the ankles.  Placing his hands at the back of his head, he drawled, “You wanna fire me?  Shit!  Go ahead.  I don’t care.  I sure as hell don’t need the money.  I’ve got enough of my own to last me ten lifetimes.  But right now, we’ve got a job to do.  So I guess if you’re hell bent on killing yourself, I’d better be there to help Karen clean up the mess.”

“Well, thanks for the encouragement…” Harry retorted with a hint of sarcasm.

“Anytime…anytime…I aim to please.  You know that,” was the equally acid reply.  As soon as the words rolled off his tongue, Karen’s head popped through the door.

Wearing pair of jeans, a Virginia Tech sweatshirt and sneakers, she grinned a bit as she saw Tony sitting in the chair.  “Is it safe to come in here?”  She looked into the face of her husband and then to Rennalt.  “Ahhhh, the scent of testosterone hangs heavy in the air.  Been able to pound some sense into him yet, Tony?” she quipped as she comfortably slid an arm around her husband’s waist.

“Him?  Hell, no, he’s too damn hard headed.  I figured if he won’t listen to you, he sure as hell isn’t gonna listen to me.  However, you now, dear lady…” and he took her right hand and softly kissed the top of it in the old Continental style.  “You are another thing entirely.”

“Well, we can hope, now can’t we?” was the reply as she kissed her husband on the cheek.  “I just came in to tell you that Chip’s ready for you outside.  There’s some final things he needs to go over with you before we touch bottom and get this show underway.”

“On my way, Captain.  Oh. and don’t believe anything Tony tells you, okay?” he returned the kiss in kind and headed out the hatchway.

The two stood looking at each other for the longest time, neither wanting to speak because they both knew what the subject matter would be.  Finally, Karen spoke up.  “I didn’t want this…”

Tony cleared his throat and sat up in the chair.  “I know.  But you had no choice, right?  Hey, I’ve already heard the command and obey litany from him. All I wanna know is…” and he hesitated, “How are you with all of this?”

She sighed and sat down on the desk across from him.  “How do you think?  Tony, you know he’s not completely healed.  And regardless of standard endurance tests, it’s a whole different matter with the equipment.  The reality of what it’s like outside is going to hit him in a few hours.”

“So why don’t you pull him?”

She inhaled sharply and then slowly exhaled, her expression now both pain and resignation.  “Why?  Because if I do, Tony, it would break him.  And I don’t want that.  Neither would you, and you know it.  Look, I don’t like this anymore than you…or Lee…or Chip…or, if truth be told, even Harriman, does.  But the plain simple truth is…he feels totally responsible for what’s happened out there.  Good, bad, or indifferent.  And he feels he’s the one that’s got to find out what went wrong.”  She hesitated a moment, then, “I wasn’t here when Polidor went down, but I’ve heard enough about it.  And I’ve heard about what it did to him.  And even though it was ultimately shown that nothing he did, or could’ve done, was to blame, it affected him deeply.  He lost a lot of men when that boat went down and he’s never really gotten over that.  He’s not a machine, Tony."

 “Well, somebody needs to beat some sense into that damn thick Irish head of his.”  He drew his legs up and then stood and stretched.  Placing an arm around her shoulder, he hugged her.  “But if we can’t, I guess it’s up to the two of us to make sure he gets back to you.”

She wearily placed her head against his shoulder.  “I’d like that.  I don’t think I could take losing him, Tony…not now.  Not when we’ve just begun.”

“Hmmm, well, if truth be known, that headstrong, stubborn husband of yours wants to live a long happy life with you, too.  I’ve known him for a while, Karen.  Haven’t seen him this happy in a long time.”  He lightly kissed the top of her head.  “Now, Captain, both of us have work to do if that’s gonna happen.”

She sighed heavily and closed her eyes.  “I know you’re right…I just wish…”

“I know, hon…I know.  But when he goes on a tear like this…ain’t nothing to do but clear a path and leave him be.  Come on now…I’ve got work to do and so do you.  Knowing you…you’ll want to double check everything Morton does with him.”

“Thanks, Tony…maybe between both of us and the team…” she started to say but found she couldn’t finish the sentence.

“Get outta here, will ya?  This schmaltz is getting too much for me.”  He pushed her toward the hatchway as he walked.  Once outside, he again kissed her on the forehead and grinned.  “We’ll get’em back, Karen…wait and see.  Okay?”

She tried to manage a reassured grin and then simply nodded as she watched him disappear into the corridor.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

All equipment was now aboard and all concerned, including the men of the Monterey, had been briefed as to what would go on.  In the Control Room, Lee Crane had been cautiously watching the sonar as they started the descent and approached the downed Monterey and the DSRV.  Nelson had been explicit that they set down no closer than a quarter mile from the perimeter of the site.  After the briefing that the O.O.M. had given him about the Grey Ghost mines, the Seaview’s captain knew that he had to bring the giant sub in with the utmost of care, yet get them close enough to give the divers the best and fastest chance of disarming any live munitions still remaining.  They were going to have to use the sea sleds to ferry them in since the time to cover the distance wasn’t something they could afford to lose.

Suddenly, without notice, John Kim, the secondary sonar man, spoke up. “Captain, I have a contact moving directly at us.”

“Can you identify it?” Lee snapped as he headed straight for the sonar screen from the plot table.

“Sir…it looks like some sort of mine…,” he replied just as the object contacted the hull.  No sooner had he gotten the words out of his mouth there was a loud explosion just forward of the port propeller. The boat lunged and rolled side to side in violent response, throwing everyone off their feet.  Seaview’s power suddenly failed, she nosed down and soon plowed bow first into the bottom, sliding to a stop. Her stern was the last thing to come to rest on the ocean floor in a cloud of silt. Emergency lighting eventually came on and men began scrambling to their emergency stations.

“Damage Control ... Report!” Lee Crane yelled as he grabbed the mike from the periscope island in the Control Room.

“Damage Control, sir.  We’re still assessing.  What we do know, sir, is the Mains have blown.  A repair team has been dispatched to repair it. We’ve also lost rudder control, sir.   And we have some injured and one in critical, sir.”

“Acknowledged... get repairs going and get corpsmen for the injured,” Crane ordered.

“Aye aye sir.”

While Lee was assessing their damage and repairs were quickly being made throughout the boat, everyone down in the Missile Room slowly got to their feet, nursing sore shoulders and knees. One person there, however, didn’t move. Matt Lynch lay face down on the deck near the torpedo rack. Harriman Nelson quickly left the decompression chamber where he’d been going over last minute details with Morton and was the first to reach him. He checked him over carefully before turning him over and found a deep cut over his right eyes that oozed blood in a small stream down the side of his face and eye, matting it shut.

“Call SickBay! We need a corpsman here fast,” he ordered as he placed his hand directly over the wound to control the bleeding.  Under his breath, he muttered “Damn!” as the blood seeped through his fingers.

Karen quickly joined him, kneeling beside him as she watched him take care of her chief electronics expert.  Jamison suddenly appeared beside her and Harry as if he’d just materialized from thin air.

“Okay, Admiral... we’ve got it,” he said as he moved a compress bandage in beside Harry’s hand so when he removed it he placed it immediately over the wound.  Harry stood, his hand dripping blood and he watched as Jamison took care of him. He then turned and went to a wall mike.

“Control Room, this is Nelson. What the devil happened?” he asked with some irritation.  Another corpsman helped clean his hands of the blood.

“We were hit by something, Admiral, possibly one of the rogue mines, but we're not sure. However, we’ve lost main power and rudder control.  I’ve got repair teams on’em now. We should have power back shortly, but looks like the rudder may have to be dealt with outside.  Everyone okay back there?” Crane answered.

“Lynch’s been knocked cold. He’s got a deep gash over one of his eyes, so we just lost our main electronics expert. I guess that pretty well decides who’s going to be handling the mines, huh?” he said flatly as he looked over toward the injured diver.  “Looks like it’ll be just Maynard and me.”

“Well, I can at least give you some good news, sir. We’ll have full power restored in 20 minutes. The bad news is we slid to a stop well within the quarter mile range so we’re camped closer than we were supposed to.  If that was one of the mines, that would make it number three.  Anyway, we’ve got two contacts on sonar now and they’re right in front of us.  I’ll send Patterson down with the coordinates and you’re heading. At least it should make your trip out there a bit shorter,” he said trying to lift his boss’s spirits.

“Sounds good, Lee.  We’re going to put out a repair team once the mines are taken care of.  They can take a look at the rudder and the damage and see to repairs. We need the FS-1 to get those guys off that sub and you can’t launch sitting on the bottom like this. Stay on things here. I guess it’s time to get things underway.  I’m getting suited up,” he announced as he ended the conversation and replaced the mike on the wall.

About that time, he turned and faced Tony Rennalt, who’d been thrown face first out of his bunk and heard the page over the ship-wide intercom.

“Shit, Harry, y’all got a hard way of waking a man out of a nap, ya know?” he announced then looked around and noticed Lynch on the floor, the medics hovering over him.  “Is it bad?”

“Bad enough that he’s out of it.  It’s up to you, me, and Maynard to get those damn things disarmed,” Nelson testily remarked.  “It’s going to take us that much longer now.  You might as well start setting up the computer with the schematics.”  He then turned and looked at the DWD divers that had assembled and were in various states of dress.  They, in turn, looked at him in silence waiting for the word. He drew in a deep shaky breath and looked over at Karen with a nod.

She drew in a sharp breath and her expression suddenly hardened.  “Okay, guys, let’s do it to it.  Chuck, go ahead and get suited – yours is already coated and so is his.  Chip, I want Team Two on Seaview’s rudder.  Bob, you and Ski need to get Teams Three and Four suited up as well and ready to go...ya’ll will be on damage assessment.  Once we’re out and assembled after the mines have been disarmed, I want the Monterey gone over with a fine tooth comb.  I’ll also need a team checking out what brought us down as well.  If one of these things attached to us, I want to know it.”

The teams scurried to their respective tasks.  Harry had starting to get into his suit when Patterson arrived with their heading and distance.  The crewman handed it to Karen, who in turn advised Morton, O’Brian, and Kowalski.  Nelson seemed so totally lost in thought as his team got him ready for his first real deep dive that he failed to notice that Karen was, in fact, half suited to go out.

Looking over and the realization dawning on him, he looked up at the men who were getting him ready.  “What she doing getting suited up now?  It’s going to take a bit for us to get these mines deactivated…”

“The Captain’s going out with you, sir.  She just told her ready team to get her dressed,” he was informed.

“She what??  Hold on a minute,” he commanded and walked over to her as she stood getting suited.  She was concentrating on getting into the cumbersome suite when he told her, “I told you that you’re to wait until the mines are no longer active.  You’re not coming outside before then.”

Glancing over and locking eyes with him, her voice was calm and controlled, I told you before.  I handle the rookies and that means from the beginning of training to the end.  That’s SOP for this team, and if you intend on suddenly being a part of it, you don’t question my procedures.  I left a standing order for my suit to be painted as soon as Chuck got on board with the paint.  Mike’s and Ski’s were to be covered as well.  Mike’s going to have to fill in for Matt now, but I’m not doing anything different than I always do.”  Then, in a more hardened voice, “You’ve got to get finished and so do I.  You’ve got a job to do.”

Their eyes stayed locked and he realized she wasn’t going to back down.  Not this time.  He’d pushed her to her limit by even getting her to train him for this but he fully realized she wasn’t going to be deterred from making sure everything was done by the book…her book.  He grunted and then turned to go back to his ready team.

When both of them finished suiting up, she slowly walked over to him.  Arching an eyebrow, she whispered, “Are you ready?”

“As much as I’ll ever be,” was his hushed but determined answer.  In a quiet voice, he leaned over and whispered to her so only she could hear.  “A long time ago, someone told me ‘I know you’re worried but so am I… you can’t let your concern for me get in the way here. I have a job to do and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability.”  A slight smile played with the corners of his mouth as he reminded her of a day years before.  The smile widened just a bit more as he saw recognition in her eyes of her own words to him from a day a couple of years before.

His face then became set and focused but his eyes gave away the fear that was welling up inside him.  Harry continued.  “Karen, I’m going to be honest with you. This thing frightens the hell out of me but it’s got to be done. I don’t know how I’m going to do out there but I expect you, and your team, to help me.  There were six mines; we know where two went…Seaview just might have found a third.  That leaves us with three more to find and defuse if necessary.  If I remember right, you’re holding on to something of mine that I want back.”  He smiled just a bit, kissed her on the cheek.  “Bring me home so you pin them back on me.”

Karen’s gloved hand softly touched his face.  “Understood and don’t worry.  You’re going to do just fine out there.  I’ve never had a trainee fail on me and you’re sure as hell not going to be my first.”  Sensing his growing impatience, she announced, “Now…let’s do it, shall we?  Chuck and Mike’s getting impatient.”  She looked over toward the escape hatch where Maynard and Thompson were waiting, already suited.  Straightening up, her tone and demeanor changed.  “Remember, it’s just like scuba.  Deep breaths when the bubbles go on, right?”

“Right.” he nodded as he started to try to remember all her instructions.

“Let’s do it to it,” Karen answered back and she turned to her attendant for her helmet.

Harry did the same. Once the helmets were in place and the gas was turned on, he began breathing deeply. This time, the effects passed a lot quicker and before he knew it, they, Maynard, and Thompson were entering the escape chamber. The four of them watched as the hatch was dogged behind them. Outside, Jamison watched Nelson’s bio-monitor closely with Frank Lerner and John Warner, two of his medics, observing the other three.

“Admiral, this is Jamison, how do you read?”

“Loud and clear,” was Nelson’s reply.

“Okay, I want you to breathe deep a couple times and just relax. You’ve got to relax to allow the mixture to settle in.”

“Right... relax,” Harry repeated as he watched the water move up over him. He adjusted his buoyancy to compensate for the slight lift and looked at Karen.  “Can you check my thermostat and set it for 70?”

“Okay…hold on,” she replied as she complied with his request.  “That okay?” and seeing his nod, she smiled.

“Chamber at full flood,” came the signal from one of the support team watching the escape chamber.

“Okay, Harry, this is it.  You okay?” she inquired as she watched his reactions to what was about to happen.

“As okay as I can be.  Let’s do it,” came his remark as they began floating to the top.

“Okay, Chuck’ll open the hatch and go first, then Mike, then me, then you.  When you come through the hatch, begin to adjust negative.  We’ll catch you as you come out and will help you to the deck.  And just remember, this helmet can get a little freaky out there.  It’s perfectly capable of withstanding the pressure, but you’ve only used it in the tube.  It’s a bit different outside and you might get momentarily disoriented, so we’ll stand on the deck until you’re steady enough to proceed.  Okay?”  He nodded and she looked over at Maynard, signaling him to head up and crack the hatch.  Looking back at Nelson, she whispered, “Here goes.”

Chuck floated up and turned the large wheel to open the hatch, then easily slipped through the opening, coming down on the deck beside it.  Thompson followed him up and then Karen. 

She looked down and said, “Okay, come on up. Remember now, slow and easy.”

Harry adjusted his buoyancy and began to float up through the opening.  Karen and Mike grabbed him by his tether ring and guided him to the deck. As he landed and got his footing, he suddenly became aware of the darkness around him. The familiar enclosed metal surroundings of his old dive helmet weren’t there and he was now almost completely open to the sea. He could feel his heart rate increase and his breathing grew faster.  Chuck came up behind him and settled to the deck on his other side as he secured the hatch behind him.

From inside his helmet, he heard a voice.  “Admiral, deep breaths, slow and easy, sir ... breathe slow and easy. You have to relax,” Jamison said in a soothing and calm manner.

Karen knew the signs. She’d seen it in each of her team members on their first time out in this particular helmet at deep depths. She grabbed him and tapped his helmet. His eyes were drifting upwards. Just when she thought he was going to lose it on her, they were suddenly surrounded by a school of Cranchia scabra, one of the commonest deep-sea squids. They seemed to be all over them. Their sudden appearance seemed to snap Harry back to reality as he began to react to them. Before long Karen saw the Marine Biologist emerge and any fear he had had prior had completely vanished.  He reached up and tried to touch them. He looked back to her as a smile graced his face.

“What the...” Chuck replied in amazement as he saw the creatures quickly scoot away.

“Deep-sea squid. If I had a net right now, we’d have quite a dinner tonight,” he said as he watched them vanish as quickly as they had appeared. He looked at her suddenly aware of their situation.

“Squid?  Harriman, you know I don’t like squid.  Lobster, yes.  Squid, no,” Karen played along in order to get him to feel more comfortable.

"Hey, squid's not that bad if it's cooked right," Chuck quickly commented with a smile.

“No, man, I hate that stuff.  Too slimy for me,” Thompson chimed in.

Pausing for a moment she let what she had said sink in, her tone then turned to one of concern, “Are you okay?”  She had been carefully watching his reactions to the environment around him and had to make sure everything was all right before they proceeded any further.

“I think so. Let’s get this over, huh?” he said as he started to the edge of the deck.

“I think it’d be better if we followed the deck to the bow and go off the nose. Lee, can you hear me?” she remarked.

“Loud and clear, Captain.”

“Have we got enough power to turn on the bow light?  I need to shed some light on this situation, okay?”

“We just got main power back on line.  Turning the porch light on…now!” and just as soon as he said that, a powerful beam of light emanated from Seaview’s bow.  It wasn’t as far reaching as it normally was due to part of it being covered by the ocean bottom, but what they could see was at least helpful.

“Thanks, Lee.  Have the repair team stand-by to leave and start repairs on the Seaview’s rudder. As soon as we locate and secure those mines, we’ll give you the word to release them. I don’t want them out anywhere around these things until then.”

“Understood. Repair team is standing by as ordered,” he replied with a smile.

Upon hearing that, she noticed the smile that had come over Harry’s face as he shook his head slightly at his Captain’s remark regarding his ‘front porch’, as the Nose had been affectionately referred to by all hands.  He looked at her and once the two sea sleds and their equipment had been ejected through the escape hatch and landed safely over the side, they all slowly began walking to the Nose.  Once there he looked over the side at the bottom and then up ahead of them. There was now a quarter mile, not quite 500 yards, that they had to cover between them and the DSRV and the Monterey.

Karen’s voice came over the coms.  “Okay, two per sled.”  She looked at Nelson, “You’re with Chuck.  Your equipment’s on board the sled in the secured compartment.  The two of you are the point people here.    Mike’s with me.  Now, let’s do it.”  And with that, Thompson and Maynard stepped off into the blackness of the water to float safely down to their equipment.

Harry paused at the edge and looked at the drop from the deck to the ocean floor. Normally, in ordinary circumstances, his drop wouldn’t have been a problem.  But this was a totally different situation, in equipment he hoped he’d learned.  He glanced over at his wife. Suddenly he hit a button that controlled the radio communications.  It effectively put them into a private conversation that no one else would be privy to.

“Karen, I want you to know I love you. If anything goes wrong out here, always remember that and that I, and I alone, accept sole responsibility.  This was my own choice.”  Then, before she could answer him, he then turned on their regular Com channel.  “Okay, people…let’s get this over with.”  Stepping to the edge of the deck, he looked down at the ocean floor.  “Talk about going over the deep end,” he remarked as the other two joined him at his side. They exchanged grins and then Karen took over.

“Okay, remember your buoyancy control training. Adjust slightly negative and then step off,” she said as she grabbed him by a d-ring.

He glanced over at Karen as they made ready to step off into the blackness.  “Once more unto the breech, dear friends,” he quietly remarked as he stepped off with her.

They fell gradually towards the bottom. They adjusted their speed but when they hit bottom, Harry landed slightly off balance on his right foot. A sharp stab of pain shot through his leg as it buckled under him. He let out a muffled moan and fell to the bottom on his back. He reached over and slowly grabbed for his right leg. Karen and the other two team members were at his side in a matter of seconds.

“What is it?  What happened?” she said as she placed her hand on his chest, looking at him lying in pain before her.

“I don't know...it buckled. Damn it. It feels broken!” he replied in irritation and pain.

Suddenly a voice boomed over their coms.  “Admiral, what happened?” The urgency in his voice clear and defined. Jamison ordered over their radio, “Captain Davis, check his bio-monitor.  I’m not getting anything here.  I need an accurate reading on him.  Immediately!”

“Acknowledged, Doctor,” she replied as she immediately checked the status of the small portable monitor each member had built in to their suit. His fall had inadvertently jostled his and its data had stopped sending.

“It’s sending now.  I’m getting a trauma in his lower right leg,” Jamison announced.

“Jamie, he’s indicated that he’s possibly broken it,” she told him.  “He came down on it wrong and it buckled under him.” 

“Okay, I’ve got to know for sure.  One of the things you’re supposed to be carrying, from what I understand, is a small portable scanner to see into those mines.  If it’s that good, you should be able to transmit a suitable scan for me to check the area.  Do it now,” he ordered.

Maynard turned and as quickly as he could, retrieved the scanner from the sled.  Giving it to her, she activated it and slowly ran it over the injured area of Nelson’s leg.

Inside, Jamison rushed to another console that had been set up for the mine deactivation.  As Tony received the data, the CMO took a long look at what was before him.  Going back over to the bio-feedback monitor, he looked at the elevated respiration and heart rate.

 “Captain, it looks like he’s got a hairline fracture in his right ankle. You better bring him back in,” he ordered.

“Like hell you are!” Harry snapped back in obvious pain and irritation, mostly over his own stupidity and clumsiness.

“Listen to me, Admiral. You can’t continue in this shape. You can’t walk or put weight on that leg.”

“So I'll  float, Doctor.”  Nelson turned his attention to Maynard. “Chuck, we’ve got the sleds…just get me to them.  Once we’re there, I’ll adjust my buoyancy and you tow me to the mines if they’re spaced close together or use the sleds if they’re not.  It’ll slow us down a bit, but we can do it.  I’m not coming in.  That’s the end of this discussion, Doctor. Am I clear on this?” he remarked with a look of pure determination in his eyes as he stared coldly into Karen’s, telling her not to argue with him.

“Your call, Captain...you have mine,” Jamison said, turning the final decision over to her.

The full implication of what was transpiring suddenly dawned on him.  Karen had the authority to have him returned. In his present shape, he wouldn’t be able to offer much resistance.  He had to hope that she understood what he truly needed to do and why.  His pain filled eyes locked onto hers as he waited.

She looked deep into his eyes and thought long and hard. She knew what this mission meant to him and she knew no matter what happened to him, he was determined to complete it. After all, he had his ‘orders’, whether they were self-imposed or not. She looked down.

Harry feared the worst.  “Captain...” he began with a firm voice only to change it immediately as his eyes burned into hers so deep and strong, she found herself unable to look away from him. “Karen, I’ve got to do this…”

She stared into his eyes.  The entire operation rested on this one command decision. Maynard looked at the Admiral and then at Karen, then went on his private line to her.

"Captain, Mike and I can't disarm these things alone…he’s clearly got the expertise in these things.  And Ski’s trained only in regular demo. If we don't disarm them, we can't rescue those men. We need him. We can immobilize his foot and tow him to the sites. Trust us here, okay? We’ve got faith we can do this."

She looked over into the bigger man’s eyes and then back into Harry's.  Finally, after quickly weighing all her options, she drew in a deep breath and looked away from his eyes toward the sub.

“Doctor, I’ll immobilize the leg in a splint but we must complete this operation. Since Matt’s out of it, the Admiral’s the only person aboard who knows the electronics of these mines other than Tony.  And he can’t come out here.  We don’t really have much choice here,” she replied as her eyes met her husband’s once again.

“Your call, Captain. I think it’s a mistake though,” he replied.

“Your position and concern are both noted, Doctor. I assume full responsibility,” she remarked as she began to splint his leg. She saw him close his eyes and lay his head back against the back of his helmet as he seemed to relax.

It was a very painful process for him and the pain was taking its toll on him.  Karen heard a specialized tone and hit the private channel.  It was Jamison calling her.

“He’s in a lot of pain from what I see on the readouts.”

“No doubt about that.  Any suggestions?” she asked as she continued the splint.

“In the medkit on the sleds, there’s some pain meds but…”

“Not at this depth, Jamie…we can’t risk it.  Looks like he’s going to have to grin and bear it.”  She was trying to keep her face expressionless so that he wouldn’t understand what was going on.  She wanted to get him back in but they needed him and there was no going back now.

“This is going to be a major factor in his stamina…”

“Understood, but there’s nothing we can do.  We’ve got to complete this mission.”

Once the split was in place and he’d been helped to his feet, she switched the com over and spoke to him, “This is the best we can do.  If you can handle the pain, let’s get to the sleds and head over.  We’ve lost time and we’ve got to make it up as quickly as we can.”

Nodding thanks, he then ordered, “Just get me to those mines, Chuck. We’re running out of time. While we disarm them, Karen, I want you check to out the DSRV for me... ”

“Acknowledged,” and the four of them quickly settled into the two sleds for the short ride to the two downed subs.  She understood why he’d made the request.  He wanted her away from the main area where the mines were located.

Within five minutes, they came upon a large blackish object sitting motionless on the ocean’s bottom.  Topside, an SSN doesn’t look so large, but when you stood toe to toe at the bottom looking up, it was an imposing sight.  Quickly, they stopped within a few yards of her keel on the port side.  They took out six pressure protected halogen lights from each of the sleds and positioned them at various intervals in order to light up the immediate area.  As they stood in the middle of the ‘debris field’, they could see three of the mines at various points.

“Okay,” Nelson announced.  “Looks like we’ve found two out of our six.  We’re going to have to deactivate these before we can look for the third.  Let’s get the scanners and while I do one with Chuck, I want Thompson to scan the next one.  It’ll take less time if we know what we’ve got by the time we get to it.”  He turned slowly and spied the downed DSRV.  Taking a deep breath, he calmly told Karen, “Go check on it while we work.”

She nodded, and watched as he adjusted his buoyancy controls so that Chuck could tow him to the first mine.  Once there, the demolitions expert took his tool pack out for him and sat it beside the Admiral.  He watched as Nelson opened it and then began to dust the sediment off the mine in an attempt to locate the watertight access hatch for the diagnostic chip.

Once Nelson had found the access hatch, he then contacted the sub.  “Okay, Tony... here’s that shot you’ve been waiting for,” he commented

Back inside, Tony Rennalt sat at the observation panel in the Missile Room and grinned slightly.  “Roger that, Harry... but you forget, I need your signature on my paycheck.”

“Hmmm, I thought you said you didn’t need that check.  Okay, tell me what we’ve got,” he remarked as Karen moved off toward the DSRV but stopped momentarily to watch him begin his work.

Once he had started, she turned and looked over at the DSRV. She began to approach it as he had asked. It was lying on its side, encased in the lonely darkness of the depths. Moving up to the top of it, she found a porthole and looked in.  Shining her light inside through the tick glass, she focused on one what she thought was a body of one of the crewmen. To her sudden and utter surprise he moved and opened his eyes. He looked right at her and reached for a flashlight. Using it as a signaling device he flashed out the message ‘We need help. Have injured. Low on air. Please help us.

Shocked, and yet overjoyed, to find them still alive, she signaled him that she understood and to hang on…that help was on the way.  She saw him smile as he settled back against the instrument he was resting against.  Deciding against telling him by intercom, she quickly made her way back over to Harry as he was just completing the scanning of the first mine.  She took him by his shoulders and stared him square in his eyes.  Opening the private line to him, she informed him, “Harry... the DSRV crew…they’re still alive in there. They’ve got injured and are very low on air but they’re alive!”

It took a few moments for her words to sink in.  Finally he looked into her widened eyes.   “Alive?  They’re... alive?”  His voice was full of shock and disbelief.

“Yes, but they’re running low on air.  Is there anything we tell them to do?” she asked, knowing he was more familiar with these systems then she was.

“Ahh... yes, they should have scuba gear aboard if they haven’t already used it.  Tell them to use their emergency dive system.  Hopefully, they’ve still got some oxygen left in their own tanks.  Seaview, this is Nelson.”

“Crane here, Admiral.”

“Lee, contact the Cable… Notify them the Mystic’s crew is still alive and I need them to lower the recovery cable to us as soon as we’re through with the mines. Tell then to step on it.  They’re almost out of air,” he ordered.

“Aye, sir. Seaview out.”

There was an immediate change in his demeanor.  The previous feelings of guilt of the DSRV’s ‘death’ had been quickly erased when the crew had been found alive. He lifted himself up resting his weight on his good leg as she helped stabilize him.  The weight of he diving suit was quickly draining him and she knew it.

“Help me over there,” he ordered as he pointed toward the smaller craft.

She towed him over to the small vessel and helped him descend to one of the portholes. As he gazed inside, the crewman looked back up at him and smiled wearily. Harry gave him a solid thumbs up and signaled him that help was on the way and for them to go on the air in the scuba equipment. The crewman acknowledged the order and gave Harry a salute.  He returned it in kind and then looked at his wife with a wide but tired smile.

“Let’s see how Mike’s doing with number two… I’ve got a feeling that one of them hit us.  If that contact was right, there should be evidence of it on the hull, so that leaves us with one more to find,” he ordered with a tone of confidence now.  “Mike, what’s your status?”

“Admiral, number two is clean.  The scan’s showing no excessive charges.  Pulling the fuse should be short and sweet on this one.”

“Good…let’s get it done.  Once we’ve finished, then we can look for number three.  It’s got to be here somewhere.”

“Yes, sir.  Heading over now.”

Karen could tell from the strength of his voice that his demeanor was better in one respect.  Though obviously still in pain from his broken ankle, she could see his spirits lift and saw that military discipline kick in as he took charge of the situation. Now this was the man she had come to know and love.

As he and Maynard headed over to the second mine, she stood off and observed, helping when asked but letting him do what was necessary.  Within minutes she hear him report,  “Number two is disarmed…two down and one to go.”

They headed toward Mike’s location and number three.  “It’s clean, sir,” he announced.   And a few more minutes and it was also totally disarmed.

Nelson was now gaining confidence and was more determined than ever, but his eyes revealed the whole truth. And his bio-feed readout was showing the truth.  He was, in reality, near physical collapse. The strain of fighting the equipment, as well as the strain his body was experiencing from the gas mixture and the pain and stress levels were all combining to take its toll.

As they finished up with the third mine, he contacted Crane, “Lee…you said there were initially four that were found.  If one hit us and we’ve found and deactivated two, where’s the fourth?”

“It’s close by the Monterey, sir…what about the other side?”

They all got back aboard the sleds and slowly searched the starboard side of the downed sub.  As they proceeded forward from the rudder area, “Where the hell is that last mine... where is...?”  Suddenly, he broke off and his face suddenly blanched. “No...Holy Mother of God, no” was his comment as he spied an object attached to the sail of the Monterey, just under their starboard diving plane. 

The three other divers spotted it about the same time and Karen glanced over at him as they slowly made their way up the hull to the deck, just under the diving plane.  His expression immediately told her this wasn’t a good situation.

In almost a hushed voice, he relayed the information back to the Seaview.  “Tony...I found number four.  It’s attached to the Monterey’s sail under the starboard plane.”

“Say again,Harry?  Did you say it’s attached?”  Tony’s slow drawl just got a bit more animated.

“Correct.  Attached.  This is definitely wrong.  They weren’t supposed to attach themselves to anyplace other than the propeller area.  We may have an active situation here.”  Harry gave a glance over toward Karen. “Something tells me this is definitely not good.  We can’t take the sled up there…can’t take the chance.  I’m going to have to have help.”  Looking over at Maynard, he directed, “I want you to help get me up there and then I want you,” and he looked back at Karen, “To get back to a safe distance. If that thing blows, I want you far enough away from it so you won’t be hurt by the implosion from the sub. Do you understand?”  He could see she was starting to protest but he interrupted.  “That’s an order, Captain.  One you will obey.”

She searched his eyes and nodded.  “Understood, Admiral.”

Crane’s voice broke into the conversation, “Admiral…the Cable is ready to drop the rescue line to the DSRV.  Is it safe to?”

“Negative…not until we’ve deactivated this mine.  If they’ve got the hooks coated with the anti-magnetic paint, then yes…otherwise, no. They’re going to have to hang in there just a little longer.  Nothing comes down or out until this is all over, understood?”

“Yes, sir…”

 “Lee, can you patch me through to the Monterey?”

“Stand-by, sir.” Sparks suddenly replied. A few moments later, “Admiral, you have a patch, sir.  Captain, go ahead.”

Moments later, “Admiral, is that really you out there?  Things can't be that bad... can they?  I didn’t think you were qualified to...”  Driscoll’s weary voice asked.

“What’s your status, Matt?” he asked pointedly without elaboration.

Driscoll took the cue.  “We’re getting low on air, sir.  We’ve bled the emergency tanks and we’re running low.”

“Are all your sail hatches dogged?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then get your men as far aft as you can go…into the engine room if at all possible and secure the hatches behind you. When you’ve done that, give me three raps on the hull.”

“What’s the problem, Admiral?”

“You’ve got an active mine on your sail... just below the starboard plane.”

“Damn... Aye, sir.  We’re heading aft now.”

“When I’ve deactivated that thing, I’ll signal you back with three raps as well... then get your men forward to the main escape hatch and prepare for extraction in the FS-1.”

“Understood. Anything else, sir?”

The Admiral hesitated, then “... Sorry about this, Matt.  I owe you and your crew a night on the town.”

“Hey, you get us out of here and your offer is most definitely accepted, Admiral.  See you shortly.  Monterey out.”

Harry gazed at the downed sub and then up at the mine.  Matt’s last words echoed in his thoughts. “I hope so, Matt…God, I hope so,” he whispered, then turned and found himself face to face with Karen as she studied him closely.

“Okay, just one more to go and then we can get back to Maui.  We’ve got a honeymoon to finish,” he commented as he tried to hide his mounting fears.”  Turning to Maynard, “Okay, Chuck, give me a hand up there, will you?”

“Yes, sir,” the larger man replied as he helped him to the deck of the sub.

Once the two men settled down on the plane in front of the mine, Nelson turned and inquired of the other diver, “I hope the Institute has your insurance paid up.”

"Wouldn’t know, sir.  My wife takes care of all of that.  Besides, I really would appreciate it if you don’t go around jinxing things," Chuck Maynard replied with a slight grin.  “Besides…it is if the accounting department hasn’t screwed up.”

Hearing that particular exchange over her com, Karen commented in the background, “Be careful, Harry. Don’t take any chances.”

“Don’t what?” he said with a sarcastic tone and a grin as if reminding her the entire dive had been one major risk in its own right.   “Captain…I gave you an order.  Now follow it.” 

She returned the smile and then she and Thompson moved off to a safe distance of about 100 feet or more and put down on the bottom near some boulders that could shelter them in case of an explosion.  She could see the hull of the Monterey as it loomed over them, slightly angled away from them in the silt of the ocean bottom.  The lights from Harriman and Maynard’s wrist lamps illuminated the immediate area where they stood. 

Once he was sure that Karen was at a safe distance, he radioed in.  “Okay, Tony.  Let’s do it.  I’m inserting the microchip into the slot.  Let me know when you get something.”

“Right…Harry, don’t forget to also hook the sensor wires to the outer leads so I can get a diagnostic reading first.”

“Of course, Tony.  It’s not like we haven’t done this before, you know,” was the caustic reply. Connecting the leads,” he replied as he hooked the two small alligator clips to the sensing leads.  Inside, Tony began receiving telemetry on the final mine and began his analysis of it.  Hardcopy blueprints of the internal wiring system were laid out in front of him.

“Okay, Harry, we’ve got a definite live one.”  There was a slight hesitation, then, “Shit!”

“What’s the problem, Tony?”

“Looks like there’s some sort of short in the detonation circuit.  We’re going to have to make sure the payload doesn’t detonate first.  Use the T-4 wrench and remove the inspection panel.”

“The T-4,” Nelson repeated as he took out the hydraulic power wrench and with Chuck’s help, began to remove the nuts on the panel.  Once this was accomplished, he handed the wrench and nuts to Chuck who placed them in the small bag he carried and he took hold of the panel.

“Easy, Harry... Nice and slow. I don’t want to jar this puppy.”

You don’t what?” he sarcastically remarked and somewhere in his mind, he could see Tony smirking at his remark.  Harry slowly broke the watertight seal, pulled the plate off, and handed it to Chuck to place in the bag they carried.  He then peered inside at the jumble of wires and watertight housing.  “Okay, panel’s off.”

“Now…use your wire cutters and cut the blue/yellow wire.”

“Blue/yellow... right...” he said as he shone his wrist light on the wires revealing their colors. Locating the desired wire he put the cutters around it.  “Ready to cut on your go.”

“Cut.”

Harry drew in a deep breath and held it as he tightened the handles cutting the wire. Nothing. He let out a sigh and licked his dry lips.

“It’s cut. What next?”

“Hold on…dio’s coming in.  Okay….this is where the short is.  You’ve got to locate the solid blue and solid yellow wires. Now…this is going to be the tricky part. You’re gonna have to cut them both at the exact same time.”

“Right,” he said retrieving the extra pair of cutters from Chuck. Locating the wires, he placed the cutters around them and paused.  “Tony, you’re sure of this, right? ... Both together?”

“That’s what the dio’s telemetry is telling me.”

“But the blue runs to the sensors, not the detonator…”

“I know... But remember that short I mentioned?”  There were a few moments of silence as Rennalt studied the computer’s 3-D diagnostic program.  “Holy shit!  Harry, this sucker’s been tampered with.  The wires are backward from the rest of’em.”

“What are you talking about, Tony?”

“I’m saying, this thing’s been jury-rigged – that’s what I’m saying.  That’s why you’ve got to cut both wires at the same time.”

“Shit!!!” muttered Nelson under his breath  “How in the hell…”  He looked over at Chuck who had the identical expression on his face.

“Harry…look…we’ll worry about that later, okay…right now just be careful…”

“Sir…if this thing has been tampered with…there’s no telling how she’ll explode.  There could be a delayed timer that we’re not aware of…,” Maynard advised him, then asked,   “Tony…does the computer show any type of secondary timer?”

“It’s not showing up here, Chuck…if there is…it might be located under the payload itself.  I can’t tell from this.  Let me see if I can make some quick modifications…hold on.”

“Hurry it up, Tony…the men inside this sub are running out of air,” cautioned Harry.

The next few moments were spent in tense reflection.  Both men kept looking at the mine attached to the diving plane of the Monterey in complete confusion.  Questions kept going through Nelson’s mind as to how one of these mines could have left the Institute not only loaded but sabotaged as well.  Someone of the development team was responsible.  But who?  And what else had they done that he wasn’t aware of?

“Okay…I changed a few of the parameters…and something interesting keeps coming up.  I’m getting a weird reading right near the tip of the percussion cap.  Looks like you’re going to have to very specific not to hit the cap when you cut the wire.  Do you understand?  Do not touch that cap…under no circumstances do you touch that cap.”

“Understood, Tony, I know... “  He reached in and positioned the cutters several centimeters above the cap, catching both wires and pulling them slight away from the rest of the package.  “Okay, I’m ready to cut.”

“Okay…on the count of three, two, cut.”

Harry slowly closed the cutters around the two wires and cut them simultaneously as he closed his eyes while fearing the worst.

Nothing happened.  Slowly exhaling, he reported, “They’re cut.”

Everyone in the Control Room was crowded around the Nose looking out at the scene in front of them and on the TV video screen.  Between the illuminated scene and the suit’s video cameras, they could see Nelson and Maynard on the deck of the sub, with Karen on the ocean bottom a safe distance away.

“Good.  Now all that’s left is the percussion cap itself.”

“And then I can hear the ‘Fat Lady’ sing right?” was Harry’s nervous comment.

Yeah, well…only if that ‘Fat Lady’ sings Wagner, Harry,” Tony replied with a smile.  He knew Nelson was not as much a fan of country music as he was opera and jazz.

“Okay, we’ve got the cap,” he recited, ignoring the comment from within as he began to pull out the detonation wire.  Locating the specific relay to the triggering cap, he put the wire cutters to it.  “Okay, I’m ready.”

Now…cut the wire just above it…about four centimeters if you can and for God’s sake…don’t touch that damn thing.”

Harry locked the cutters around the wire and cut it. Again, there was silence. He looked at Chuck who moved in and carefully removed the explosives package, dropping it to the deck. He turned and looked over at his ‘buddy.’

"I guess that's it, Admiral. Let me help you to the edge." Chuck said as he helped the injured man to the end of the deck, then went off over the edge himself. Harry was in the middle of stepping off when….

BOOM!!!!!!!

There was a loud crack of thunder and Harriman Nelson suddenly cried out “Karen!...” just as he was thrown clear of the sub by the shock wave of the detonation cap. Seconds later, the shock wave slammed into Karen Nelson, knocking her and Thompson both off their feet.  Stunned by the force of the impact, she lay momentarily motionless on the bottom in silence as she tried to gather her thoughts. Chuck had been sheltered under the hull waiting for Nelson to arrive and wasn't affected by the shock wave.  Regaining his composure, he headed straight for the Admiral.

Aboard Seaview, everyone in the Control Room quickly crowded against the windows as they heard the explosion, then were thrown off their feet as the reverberation rocked both them, the Monterey, and Mystic.  Quickly regaining their footing, they got a glimpse of Nelson being thrown forwards off the sub and saw Karen being propelled off the bottom by several feet and pushed backwards as well.  The shockwave had sent her to the bottom stunned.

Lee’s heart grabbed in his throat as he yelled out to them, ADMIRAL!... KAREN!”   His call went out over and over with no reply.  Finally, he saw a figure slowly struggling to get up onto their feet and watched as they headed toward Nelson.

When the explosion occurred, Nelson had just started his descent as the percussion wave caught him solidly from behind, causing the back of his head to connect firmly with the back of his helmet.  The force blew him over the edge and when he hit the ocean floor face down, he was knocked unconscious.

As Karen struggled to regain her senses, she spied Chuck trying to get to him to raise him.  “HARRY!”

She and Mike, who had now gotten back to his feet, frantically began making their way to his side.  There was dead silence from the radio. Panic gripped her as she dropped to his side as they turned him over. His arms floated upwards as the rest of him rolled gently back and forth with the currents. His face had hit the front of his helmet on impact, breaking his nose.  Chuck was on desperately calling to him, trying to get his attention.  His head was rolled to one side and his eyes were closed. Through the blood-smeared helmet, she could see blood running from his nose and from a deep cut about an inch long on his forehead.

Harriman, answer me!”  Again there was no response.

When he didn’t respond, Karen was afraid she was going to panic.  It was almost the compound all over again.  She took several quick deep breaths and said a quick silent prayer.  Then somewhere, within herself, she quickly ‘shut down’.  All her training seemed to kick in, and her only thoughts were his words to her ‘Bring me home’ and her promise to him.  She had to get him back to the boat.  Quickly she adjusted his lift and then began to tow him towards the sub with the other two men’s help.

Dammit, Harriman Nelson, You’re not going to do this to me!  You’re not going to die on me,” she swore out loud to herself as they frantically put him on the sled and headed toward Seaview.  “You can’t die on me.  I love you, dammit!

Chuck looked at her and grimly remarked, "His radio's out, Captain. The impact of the mine must have destroyed it. He can't hear us."

“We’ve got to get him inside – now!” she yelled.  “Jamie…we’ve got a medical emergency.  We’re bringing him in!”

“We’re waiting, Captain, everything’s set up.  Get him in here quick.  His read outs are highly erratic.”

“We’re on our way.”

A short distance from the sub she was met by Chip and Kowalski.  Both divers had been waiting to go out to do the repairs on the sub’s rudders when they heard and felt the explosion of the last mine.  Karen entered the escape tube first, followed by Harry’s unconscious form, and then Chuck, Mike, Chip and Ski. They gently and slowly lowered him to the bottom of the tube and helped Karen support him as the water drained. Once it was emptied, the chamber hatch was cracked, Chip and Kowalski carried him through the auxiliary hatch and straight into decompression.

When Jamison saw all the blood, he immediately began yelling to the Medical team inside to get his helmet off. In quick order, Harry was stripped of his dive suit and wearing nothing but a pair of swim trunks, was hoisted to the stainless steel table that served as their table for meals.  Now it had to double as an examination table.  Blood covered his face and chest.

“Doc,” one of the team medic’s said, “Looks like he may have a concussion.  There’s blood in the back of his helmet and his pupils are unequal.”

“We’re going to have to do a head CT to confirm,” Jamison commanded.  “We’ll use the portable and let’s see what we’ve got.”

One of the corpsmen, under the CMO’s watchful eye through the monitors, managed to get the bleeding under control while another corpsman methodically cleaned him up.  The small CT scanner was brought from the SickBay and passed through the two-hatch pressurizing system to the corpsmen inside with the teams.

Once the concussion was confirmed and determined to be minor, the cut was stitched closed on his head and then they checked his nose, and after finding that it’d been broken during the fall, placed a bandage on it.  Once he was released to SickBay, it’d be set properly.

After his injuries had been tended to, Nelson was transferred to a bunk in the sleeping quarters section and hooked to the various monitors that would relay his vital signs to Jamison outside. 

Karen, in the mean time, had quickly stripped off her suit and dressed in a NIMR sweatshirt and sweat pants, then insisted on staying by his side. As she looked at him lying in the bunk, she thought how close he had come to dying out there and how close she had come to being a widow again.

This has got to stop, Harriman…this has got to stop.

Thompson saw her sitting there, refusing to move.  He went into another part of the chamber and found a more comfortable chair.  Tapping her lightly on the shoulder, she blankly looked up into the taller man’s face.

“Captain,” he softly said.  “Here, come on.  You’ll be more comfortable in this.”  He helped her up and into the chair.  Watching her closely, he’d never seen her so dazed.

She wouldn’t let go of her husband’s hand.  “Thanks, Mike.”

“He’s going to be okay, ma’am.  He will.”  There was a wary smile.  “He’s been through worse, ma’am, and he’s always come through.”

She didn’t answer.  Somehow, deep inside, she had a very strange feeling about this time.

 

 

óóóó

 

  

Once all the mines had been accounted for, the rescue efforts began at a frenzied pace.  The surface ships lowered rescue cables down and the DWD teams attached them to the Mystic.  Within the hour, she was topside and her grateful but wary crew was glad to see the sunlight again and breath fresh air.

A second DWD team quickly repaired Seaview’s rudder and she lifted off the bottom, positioning herself closer to the Monterey.  Crane personally led the FS-1’s first trip over as she docked with the down sub and started to transfer her injured to the small craft.  Within about ten minutes, she’d broken surface and the men were transferred to the Salvor.  It took numerous trips because of the cramped space in the small craft, but they crammed in as many as they could to miminize the trips.  Within hours, all the Monterey’s crew had been safely transferred and she was left alone to stand solitary sentinel over the watery grave they’d almost shared.  Decisions would now have to be made as to whether to raise her or leave her be.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Two days later, the decompressed Nelson was finally moved to a bunk in SickBay. Matt had asked to visit him aboard Seaview and looked at the unconscious form.

Laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, he remarked in a soft voice, “Thanks, Admiral.”   With that he turned and looked at Karen, who still sat with her husband, even now. “That’s quite a husband you have there, Captain Davis,” he remarked to her at the door as he left.

Karen glanced over at her husband lying quietly in the bunk and went back over to him, gently brushing a lock of hair from his forehead, her fingers lightly touching his cheek. “Don’t I know it,” she commented with a smile as tears began to roll down her cheeks.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

After Driscoll left that day, Jamison finally ordered Karen out of the Sickbay to go rest in her own cabin and finish up her paperwork.  She was exhausted, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Resisting his cajoling at first, Will finally had no choice but to order her out, however, not before he promised that he’d keep her informed of his progress.  He’d even enlisted Tony’s help to make sure she went straight to her cabin.

Several hours later, an alarm suddenly sounded.  Nelson began to go into respiratory distress then stopped breathing all together. The heart monitor began beeping erratically and Jamison and his primary corpsman, Frank Lerner, quickly responded to the cardiac emergency.  Intense moments passed quickly as the two struggled to save their commanding officer’s life.

Finally, after Jamie had jolted Harry’s heart twice with the cardiac paddles, the monitor began to display the signature jump of a heartbeat in place of the flat line it had ominously shown for two heart wrenching minutes.  Will fell backward against a cabinet, drenched in sweat and emotionally spent; his eyes riveted to Nelson’s unconscious form.  Lerner ministered to the patient as the Seaview’s doctor then staggered toward his office and collapsed into his chair.

Frank finally came in and stood against the doorframe.  “He’s stabilized, sir.  I’ve adjusted the IV and increased his oxygen.  From the looks of the EEG…he’s doing pretty well.”  Hesitating just a bit, he then asked, “Should I go get Captain Davis now, sir?”

“No…let her rest.  She needs it as much as he does.  I can talk to her later.  Right now, I’ve got to have a cardiologist standing by when we get back to Pearl to assess any possible damage.  I’m going to transmit his readings ASAP so I’ll know what I’m dealing with.”

“Yes, sir.  I’ll keep watch on him and we’ll get readings every thirty minutes.”

“Good…good.”  Jamie looked into Lerner face and said, “We almost lost him this time, Frank.  We almost lost him.  I hope to God he understands that.  I’m going to have to have a good, long talk with him when he comes out of this.”

“Yes, sir.  But do you really think the O.O.M. will listen?  I mean…you know how he is.”

“Well, if he doesn’t…” his voice faded off.

“All I can say, sir, is good luck.  Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to have an easy time of it,” was the corpsman’s reply as he turned to leave and return to the patient.

“Tell me something I don’t know.”  Jamison then turned and picked up the phone to have Sparks get the Navy hospital at Pearl Harbor on the line.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Seaview finally docked at Pearl Harbor later that night and Harriman Nelson was immediately transferred to the Hospital’s ICU.  By that time, his vital signs had grown stronger and he no longer showed signs of cardiac distress.  Karen took up her normal vigil at his bedside as she waited for him to wake up.

The ICU doctors and nurses came and went.  Tests were taken and he was constantly monitored.  Finally, about twenty-four hours after he was brought in, he started to regain consciousness.  His right foot was in a cast up to about mid shin and his nose was still packed from where it had been set.  He slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus on the blurred object beside him.  His head pounded and he felt weak... very weak.  Karen noticed him making the effort and hit the call button on the remote next to the bed, summoning his doctor immediately.  Doctors Samuel Fujikawa and Will Jamison almost immediately appeared followed by two nurses.

“Captain, if you don’t mind, would you please step out into the hallway?  We need to make a thorough assessment of your husband’s condition?”  Fujikawa gently asked her.  “We’ll call you back as soon as we’re through and Dr. Jamison can inform you of what we’ve found.”

She looked over at Jamie, questioning the request.  However, he smiled and nodded.  “It’s all right, Karen.  He’s just not used to the way you two are with each other.”

She leaned over and softly kissed Harry then whispered, “I’ll be right back.”  Once she was past the doors, she hurried to the nearest empty room, slumped against the wall, and stared to cry uncontrollably.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

Harriman Nelson slowly began to focus on the figures inside the room.  He noticed the nurses scurrying and performing their duties, as well as the two figures hovering over him.  His throat felt sore and scratchy…and he found his voice couldn’t go above a whisper.

"What.hap..." he tried to say with great effort.

“Harry…don’t try to talk too much, okay?  You had a ventilation tube removed not long ago so your throat’s going to feel very sore,” one of the white coated figures told him.  Seeing him nod that he understood, Jamison continued.  “Admiral, it’s Will Jamison.  You’re in the hospital at Pearl, in ICU…we’ll transfer you over to a private room, probably later today if you continue to improve.”

Again, he struggled to speak.  “Subs…okay?  Sea…viewMon..ter..ey?

"Everything’s okay, Harry.  Everyone’s okay…all the men from the Monterey have been rescued and are doing fine.  So are the guys from the Mystic.  They’re all okay.”

“What…happened?”

“The mine exploded on you.  Good thing you had your back to it.  Maynard, Thompson, and Karen got you back aboard.  You’ve got a slight concussion as well as a broken nose and a fractured ankle.  Your lung re-collapsed and threw you into a cardiac arrest on the way back here.  We had to put the vent tube in to help you breath and re-inflate the lung.  I don't think I need to tell you that you're going to be laid up for awhile.”

His brain was trying to comprehend.  “Card…iac?  Had heart…attack?”

“Damn near close to it, Admiral.  All the factors were working against you.  The stress of the quick training, your lung, the gases, the explosion.  You’re damned lucky to be alive,” was Jamison’s frank but quiet reply.  “Dr. Fujikawa here is the best cardiologist here at Pearl.  He’s been watching your readings ever since I had to shock you back aboard Seaview.”

Nelson slowly nodded and his eyes closed as a spasm of pain hit him.  “Does…Karen…know?”

The two doctors exchanged frowned looks then Will slowly spoke.  “No…not everything…not yet.  We monitored you very closely on the trip back and your vitals got stronger as time went on.  I didn’t want to give her information I wasn’t completely sure about.  I’m not a specialist, Harry.  I wanted to run this by one before I said a thing to her.  Look, old friend…you’re damned lucky.  It’s but by the grace of God that you didn’t die out there, what with everything’s that happened to you.  The tests that Dr. Fujikawa did show minimal damage to your heart, but you need to make some slight modifications in your lifestyle.  It just might be advisable for you to take some time off and let yourself really heal this time before you start going headlong into something.  And you need to slightly modify your work schedule.  Working all night long and getting very little sleep has taken its toll on you, Admiral.  I’m not saying to quit cold turkey…just some slight alterations, that’s all.  However, we can talk about that more at length later…when you’re better able to understand.  Now…I’d better go let Karen know what’s going on.”

Harry looked up at him and fired back immediately with great effort, "No!...I don't... want her to know."

Jamison looked down at his old friend and CO and replied, "Harry, she's your wife....she's got a right to know."

"She has enou… enough to deal with..." 

The CMO shook his head. "Bullshit, Harry.  Look, as your doctor...and as a long time friend, I'm heavily advising you to tell her.”  His voice took on a kinder tone.  “You know...the two of you have been through a lot together already.  Admiral, that lady is your wife and she has every right to know what’s happened to her husband.  She loves your sorry hide, Harry…for whatever reason…she does and you’re a damn lucky man for it.  Now…what about it?"

Harry lay in the bunk in silent thought, trying to bring his anxious and confused feelings under control.  Finally, he nodded agreement and gave in.

“Okay…I’m going to go outside and talk with her.  And if I know her, she’ll not want to leave your side until you walk out of this place under your own power.”  He patted Nelson gently on the shoulder and walked out into the corridor.  Ten minutes later, he returned with Karen, who immediately went to her husband’s side.

He took her hand in his and closed his eyes as he drew her hand to his lips and kissed it ever so softly.  "I'm sorry…I'm so sorry,” he whispered with great effort. 

She looked down at the man whom she loved so much.  Through tears, she softly replied, "Sorry?  What have you got to be sorry about?  I could have yanked you, you know...but that would have killed you.  No, Harriman, you've no reason to be sorry.  This is just another thing to get through.  Remember...in sickness and in health, right?  You're just a bit hard headed, that's all.  But then again...what else is new…so am I.”  She was trying to smile as her fingers touched his cheek, and she whispered, “How are you feeling?”

"Feels… like I've been...kicked by an elephant.”  He was struggling to tell her without conveying the fear he now had.

Will looked over the bed, a chart in his hand, and addressed them, but looked at Karen.  "Karen, the damage from the distress, from what we’ve been able to see, was minor.  Between the stress of the training, the explosion, the gas mixture…it all combined to bring it on.  Actually, he’s very lucky, but when he’s a bit stronger, we need to take the time to discuss with him…with both of you…the necessity of some stress reduction.  I know how he is…working all hours, the stress level of missions.  I think it’s about time that he start making some modifications in his life.”  He again lightly laid a hand on Harry’s shoulder and continued.  ”I’m not talking about giving everything up, Admiral.  Just using some plain old common sense moderation.  But…this is a topic best left to later…when you’re stronger.”

Her eyes blurred from the tears that fell unchecked.  She held his hand, fearing that if she let go, she'd lose him forever.  “Whatever it takes, Jamie, whatever it takes – this is your ballgame.”

A single tear fell from the corner of his eyes down his cheek as he held her hand tightly to his face.  "I didn't want Jamie to tell you.  I didn't want you to worry about me."

She smiled through the tears, her voice taking a softly amused tone.  "What?  Me not worry about you? Give me a break, Harriman Nelson.  Remember, dear sir, I signed on for a lifetime cruise a month ago.  And I fully intend for it to last a long, long time.  And if that entails making sure you do whatever Will tells you to do, then you're literally going to have to fire me to get rid of me.”  Looking up at Jamison, “How about the possibility of letting him recoup on Maui, Will....that'd help at least a bit."  Karen was trying very hard to be upbeat.  Looking back down at her husband as he lay in the bed, she smiled.  "After all...we have some...ah...unfinished business to attend to, Harriman.  Like finishing our honeymoon...”

Now standing at the foot of the bed, Jamie hung the Admiral’s chart on its hook.  “Actually, that might not be such a bad idea, Captain,” Jamison agreed.  “Look, we’re going to leave you two alone for a bit.  Now that he’s awake, they’ll be moving him into a private room soon.  I’ll be back occasionally to check on his progress and to see if he’s behaving himself.  Right now…ironically, he needs all the rest he can get and the less stress on him the better.

The two doctors then walked out of the ICU room together, leaving the Nelsons alone amongst all the medical monitors and IVs.

As he lay in the bunk, Harry began to suddenly realize he had come to a crossroads in his life.  He was going to have to make some changes, however moderate they may be.  He looked up at Karen.  His eyes looked dull and that twinkle he had in them had gone.  Closing his eyes, he just laid there in silence, holding her hand to his face.

"It'll be all right, Harriman...  Hey, besides…remember that little speech you gave me a few days ago about letting go just a bit?  Maybe it's time to practice what you preach," she quietly said as she pushed a bit of hair off his face.  Leaning down, she loosened the mask from his face, kissed him, then whispered, "I love you."

He looked up at her in silence as he weakly kissed her back, then slowly drifted off to sleep.

 

 

óóóó

 

  

He awoke several hours later in different surroundings.  Turning his head slightly, he saw Karen sitting beside the bed in a chair, a book lying open in her lap.  He glanced around and then back at her, a look of confusion evident on his face.  Seeing that he was awake, she leaned over him and gently kissed him.

“Well, hello, Admiral Nelson.  And how do you feel?” she lovingly asked, gently touching his cheek with several of her fingers.

“Tired... very tired,” he strained to say.  “Hurts...”  Harriman tried to move but found it extremely difficult and painful.  Frustrated, he finally gave up and stayed still.

Softly, Karen replied, “That’s to be expected, considering what you’ve been through.  Frankly, after all of that, I thought I’d never see those wonderful blue eyes again.”

“Can’t get rid of me that easily, Captain,” he told her as he tried again to move slightly but hurt too much to.  “So…what’s the status on things?”

Seaview’s in dry dock getting the final repairs done from the damage from that mine.  Repairs shouldn’t take long, from what I’ve been told...it wasn't as bad as they first thought.  The crew of the Monterey should be home by now and the DSRV crew sends you their compliments.”  Her voice was soothing as she tried to reassure him.  "And we've sent the films and reports on to DoD about the Monterey.  Hopefully, they'll make a decision soon as to whether to raise her or not."

The report seemed to put him at peace. He seemed to relax under the touch of her hand. His eyes closed briefly and he opened them again and looked at her.

“You okay?” he questioned her as he tried to focus his eyes and look into hers.

“Fine. A little sore in spots... but I’ll survive... I’ve had worse,” came the light reply as she smiled.

“What really happened?” he asked, his voice somewhat weak.

“You had deactivated the payload and was getting ready to cut the wire to the percussion cap when it went off. Tony thinks there was a delay in the detonator due to the deliberate short in the switch.  Anyway, I heard you yell my name just as you were blown off the deck of the sub by the force of the explosion.  The shock wave hit me a few moments later and stunned me a little. Damn thing knocked Mike and me off our feet.  Chuck didn’t get hit ‘cause he was shielded by the Monterey and so he was on you immediately by the time Mike and I got there. We put you on one of the sleds and got you back to the boat.”

He was quiet as he tried to remember what happened.  “The... last thing I. . . remember is... Chuck…removing the payload after we’d cut the detonation wire.  I turned to start down…then…nothing,” he concluded as his voice grew weaker then finally trailed off.

At that moment the door opened and Tony stuck his head inside.  He stopped to pause just inside the door and asked, “Hey, can he have visitors?” Karen looked up and smiled, motioning him to come in.

“Sure. Come on in, Tony,” she replied as she moved aside so he could join her beside his bed.

Tony looked him over as if inspecting a shipment. He pulled out his pen and began to write something on his leg. Harry couldn’t see it but Karen moved beside him and as she read it a big smile came to her face.

Old divers just do it deeper (and better).

“Good one, Tony.  Very funny,” was all she laughingly said as she went back up beside his shoulders.  Tony then moved up beside him and looked at him.

“So…how ya feeling, Harry?” he asked him.  “Man, you look like hell.”

“Sore and...tired.” he replied as a wave of sleep washed gently over him. He managed to push it aside and smiled at him weakly. “Very... tired.  And…you don’t…look so good…yourself.”

“Yeah, well…you had us all holding our breaths there when that thing blew. What the hell did you do out there?  I gave you precise instructions,” he said looking at him with serious eyes.  “I thought you’d bought the big one there for a while.”

“I... did exactly what... you said. Step by step…did you get…any other odd readings before it... blew? I saw Chuck remove the payload...what…blew?” he asked between breaths and waves of sleep.

“The oscillator spiked when you cut the last lead but returned to normal.  Where did you cut it?” he asked.

“About I think... Four centimeters above the cap. You said to cut it...above the cap…right?” he asked having trouble maintaining a focus and concentration on the subject and conversation. Karen began noticing he was getting tired as his grip on her hand began to lessen

“Yeah…the short that was intentionally created from the crossed wires musta caused a delay in the detonator switch.  That led to a secondary set of explosives apparently hidden under the original payload.  I’ll know as soon as I examine the pieces the teams managed to recover as well as the ones they deactivated and brought in.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the blast was directed in your direction and away from the sail so there was no damage to it when it exploded.  Good damn thing you had your back to it and were just a little ways off.  Anyway, Driscoll was able to utilize the forward escape hatch as planned so Lee was able to use the Flying Sub to shuttle them back to the Salvor.  Apparently, they, ah, preferred being topside to on board another boat.  Can’t imagine why…”

“Thanks,” was all he said as he felt another wave of sleep wash over him, stronger this time. He knew he was losing the battle.

“You two can carry on this conversation later...You, sir, need to rest,” Karen gently admonished him as she gave a concerned look to Tony, who caught the hint.

“The lady’s right, Harry.  The teams pulled the two in that weren’t bad.  I’m gonna go over them and the pieces, what little there are, from the others.  They managed to find some debris from a couple and I’ll see if I can figure it all out for you, okay?  Hopefully, by the time you all get back home, I can have some kind of answer for you.  NIS is also investigating, too…”  Tony rose to leave and made the couple of steps necessary to stand right next to the bed.  “Get some sleep, old buddy.  We need you back home…besides, I have no intention of staying at that place without you there.” he added with a smile and a gentle pat on his left forearm, being careful not to hit the IV he had in his hand.

“Thanks, Tony,” he said as he groggily watched him turn and walk towards the door. As Rennalt opened it, he stepped aside to let Jamison enter.  With a quick glance back with a smile and a wave and smile to Karen, he left.  Jamison strolled over to Nelson and proceeded to check him over.  Though he knew Pearl to have excellent doctors, the O.O.M. was and always would be his special charge.

“Well, well.  Glad to see you wake up again.  How we feeling... besides sore and tired?” Will asked as he examined the packing on his nose.

“Sore and tired,” he gruffly commented with a somewhat weak grin.  Karen smiled at his remark.  The gruffness was a façade right now.  It was also sort of an ongoing joke between the two men.

“Well, if you behave yourself, which I doubt you’ll do, I can have you out of here inside a week. Otherwise, you could be here two or three weeks.”  Will Jamison looked down at his CO and long time friend. Then with a comical grin as he finished logging his reading in his chart, he asked, “Don’t you just hate these command decisions, sir?”

Harry simply grunted and said nothing.  He just looked up at him with very tired eyes.

Jamison saw something scrolled on his cast and looked at it.  A smile crossed his face and he chuckled slightly as he pointed his pen at it looking at Karen, then Harry.

“I see Tony’s struck again,” he noted.  “Good one…And appropriate, too.  Now...get some sleep.  I’ll look in again later tonight.”  Turning to leave, he added, “Oh, and Captain, that ‘order’ applies to you as well.”

Karen got up and walked with him to the door.  Glancing back at her husband, she then looked at the Institute’s CMO.  “Is he going to be okay, Jamie?”

There was a slight sly smile, “Him... okay?  Never happen," and then his voice turned more serious.  "But if he behaves himself, he should be back to light duty status within a couple months; full duty, with just a few restrictions, not long after that…He’s going to have to make some modifications, though.  And I'm going to have to insist they be enforced.  That’s where you come in, Captain.  Somehow, I think I stand a better chance getting him to follow orders now with you around,” he remarked with a slight smile, opening the door and then left.

“Karen...” Nelson called out only to be silenced with a finger to his lips as she returned to his side.

“Sshhh...you need to rest.  Don’t worry ... I’ll be right here.  We can talk about this later, okay?  I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.  You know the routine.  Now you just get some sleep...you’re going to be just fine.  Jamie ordered a bed brought in for me so I can sleep here,” she gently responded as she bent to kiss him, then added with a soft slight smile, “Just like before.  You know…this is getting to be a very bad habit...one that needs to be broken.”

“Karen... thanks for... bringing me... home,” he muttered as his eyes closed and he dozed back off.

She watched him as he slept, the IV slowly dripping into his body.  Tears slowly fell gently down her cheeks as she scanned the form on the bed before her.  Gingerly picking up his hand, she held it to her face, gently kissing it as the tears dripped onto his fingertips.  “Those were your orders, suh,” the soft southern accent quietly replied as she took two sets of four silver stars from her pocket and laid them in his hand, then closed it over them.

Admiral Harriman Nelson smiled slightly in his sleep, her faint words seemingly drifting into his unconsciousness, and then began to dream of palm trees, black sand, and his wife lying beside him.

 

 

óóóó

 

 

The days slowly passed and Seaview’s repairs were completed.  The decision by the DoD was to raise the Monterey as quickly and safely as possible.  The United States Navy had no intentions of leaving a perfectly intact, fully loaded and otherwise operational nuclear submarine sitting at the bottom of the ocean if they could at all help it.

Drs. Fujikawa and Jamison finally released Harriman Nelson into Karen’s care with strict orders to get plenty of rest and to take his prescriptions.  She knew how he hated taking meds but figured it was a small price to pay considering what could have been.

Jiggs Starke had sent a car to take the couple to meet Seaview at the pier.  The older man had made numerous visits to Nelson’s room before his final release, partially out of concern and friendship and partially out of guilt.  As they drove from the hospital, Harry reflected back on an earlier time when he had been released from this very same hospital.  This time, however, would be different.  He would be following doctor’s orders, regardless of whether he wanted to or not.  Looking over at the other side of the car and seeing Karen sitting there, he chuckled to himself that he really had no choice in the matter. 

They pulled up alongside the pier and several of the deck hands helped Harry below.  His cast was beginning to become a real pain for him.  However, Karen was rather enjoying it. It had already put him in some rather compromising positions before he left the hospital... not that he had really complained too loudly about it, of course.  She had reminded him that turnabout was fair play, a playful reminder of her own cast and predicament not but a couple of months ago and how he had shown an ‘inventive’ slant to their relationship.

“Welcome home, Admiral... Karen?” Lee said with a big smile as they entered the Control Room.

Harry was given his crutches, which he shown a total hatred for.  He was going to refuse them when Jamison showed up on scene and paused with crossed arms and a look that told him he’d better not argue the point.  With a look of irritation, frustration and resignation, he finally accepted them and used them, hobbling into the Nose with Karen in tow.  Will Jamison and Lee Crane followed, watching him as he sat in ‘his’ chair looking quite contrite and like he was going to kill something.

“The less weight you put on that leg, Admiral, the quicker it’ll heal, and the quicker you can get the cast off.  Your choice.  Fight it... and it’ll be on longer,” Jamison admonished him as he knelt down to check his toes for any swelling, discolor and problems with circulation. Once he was satisfied that everything was all right, he stood and looked at Karen as she handed him his prescriptions.  He made a note of them for his records, making doubly sure that there was no cortisone involved, and then handed them back to her.

Crane had picked up a cup and poured himself a cup of coffee as he silently observed the goings on.  Sitting himself down in one of the chairs at the table, he told them, “Well, you two, Admiral Starke sent word that he ‘approved’ four more weeks of medical leave for the two of you, effective the moment you hit the beach at Hana.  In fact, I believe the words he used were to the effect, ‘Tell them they’re not to come back home until they’re ready to.’  Apparently, from what Jackson said, he’s got just a wee bit of a guilty conscience and wants to make amends.”  He took a drink of the hot liquid and chuckled at the very thought of Starke admitting to anything wrong.  “Anyway, we’ll ferry you two back to Maui then head back to Santa Barbara.”  Turning to Karen he smiled, “We can leave the FS-1 for you, if you want, in case things get to be too much for him.  However, something tells me it won’t.  And since we’ll be finishing running those surveys off the northern coast of the Big Island before we start back…help wouldn’t be too far away even if you did.”

Turning his attention back to Nelson, “Oh...and with regards to what happened to the mines.  Tony said to tell you that apparently the CNO was convinced that they were ready for testing whether you were around or not.  He figured that you needed some R&R, namely the honeymoon and that the R&D team could handle the data collection in your absence.  I guess they wanted to impress the boss that they could handle the project in his absence.  The two technicians assigned to the Monterey have been cleared, and it’s my understanding that they’ve said they don’t want to every go down in any submarine again…ever.  Tony’s been raising hell because he didn’t even know anything about the accelerated tests.  However, what they haven’t found out is how the live charges were put into them.  Lt. Chin’s people, along with NIS, are still interviewing all the staff, but right now, everyone checks out okay.   He said he’d be in touch when they had more to report.”  Getting up and stretching his long legs, he looked at the two.  “Well, I’d better get back to work and get you two back to your honeymoon.  Enjoy.”  Smiling as he turned and sat the cup back down, he motioned for Jamison to follow him and left them alone in the Nose.

Karen glanced over at Harriman Nelson and softly exclaimed “Did you hear that, Harry?  Four more weeks alone.  Apparently Jiggs Starke does have a heart under all that gruff exterior after all, even if he doesn’t really have to power to ‘grant’ you leave.  I guess this is a way of trying to make amends.”

“Yeah, I heard,” he gruffly replied, still staring aft in the direction Jamison had retreated.  “Sabotage!  Dammit!  It had to be.  Tony said something to me about the wires being tampered with.  But how?  And who?”  He was having a hard time trying to fathom what he’d just been told.  “Why?  Why on earth would anyone ...?”

“Harriman, we may never know.  Hopefully, Chin’s people and NIS will turn up something but…well, for now…it’s over with.  I know it doesn’t make it any easier in one respect; however, the one thing we do know for sure is that it wasn’t anything you did that caused this,” she whispered, trying to get his mind off the situation.

“True, but we’ve got to make sure this doesn’t happen again”, he replied as he glanced over at her, his eyes showed worry and concern that something like this could happen at the Institute.

“I agree but we’ll deal with it if, and when, the time comes.  No other mines will be deployed until they’re all checked and rechecked.  And if the wiring was tampered with, I know that Tony will completely oversee the process of making sure that it doesn’t happen again.  Now...Harriman Nelson...look at me…we have four more weeks to relax and enjoy ourselves... and I for one intend to do just that.  That is…unless you want to go home.  Otherwise, I fully intend to make sure you forget all about work and duty,” she replied as she put her arms around his neck and kissed him gently.  “And you, dear husband, can do the same for me.  Just remind me to call Caitlin and let her know that her dear ole mom’s not coming home for another month.”

Nelson chuckled a bit.  “Consider yourself reminded.  Now...” he asked her as he took her hands in his, a sly grin starting to form at the corner of his mouth, “You sure you can make me forget it all and help me to modify some things in my life?”

“Hmmmm oh, I definitely think so.  Besides, from what I understood Lee to say, Starke has promised to leave us completely and utterly alone.  At least, that is, until the next time.  And if he doesn’t... if he even remotely thinks about calling for us... I swear, I’ll hand him his head myself,” Karen laughed.  “You know, Harriman, one of these days, you’re really going to have to remind him that you retired from the Navy.”  Moving around to his back, she placed her arms around his neck, her hands sliding downward and lightly caressing his chest.  She then whispered lasciviously in his ear as she nibbled on it just a bit, “Four weeks alone.... this could be very interesting.  Look at it this way, Harry...you’ll have me right where I want you.”

“Hummm…what was that?” he said as her words finally registered and his grin widened, a twinkle appearing in his steel blue eyes as he grasped her hands a bit tighter.  Indeed.  You have no idea, m’dear.  Maybe there’s something good to be said for this damn cast after all.

All she did was smile and silently laugh as they watched as Seaview was towed to the channel and released.  Lee then issued the order to proceed at dead slow out of the Harbor.  As they passed by the numerous Navy ships berthed at Pearl, their crews marveled at the giant gray boat with the ‘glass’ nose as she made her way out of the harbor.  Once at sea, they headed for the island of Maui near the small town of Hana where Sharkey ferried them ashore in the FS-1.  Once they and their things were safely ashore, he then moved it to the pier, securing firmly.  After he made sure that their things had been taken up to the house and they were both okay, a motorized runabout was sent over from the boat to pick him up.  Harry hobbled along the pier and stood there with Karen, supported by his crutches, glancing out at his sub that floated just offshore.  The mid-morning sun glistened on the water and bounced off the transparent Nose.  Nelson had to smile at the mere sight of her.  She was a beauty even if he said so himself.  Crane then signaled them from the Bridge and, with a wave of appreciation to them, the two honeymooners watched as the sleek craft slipped silently and gracefully beneath the waves.  Karen then turned to Harry with a very mischievous look on her face. 

“What?” was all a slyly grinning Harriman Nelson said as his bride then helped him head toward the house.  Once inside, he quietly closed the door with the tip of his crutch as she placed her arms gently around his neck. “You know, Captain…we’re going to have to have a very serious talk about you following orders.”

Karen’s eyes searched his, just a hint of a sly smile starting to appear.  “Hmmm, thought I was, Admiral.”

“Well, we’re going to have to get some things straight about ‘chain of command’ on board from now on,” was his half serious remark.

“Oh…we will.  I promise you…we will,” she coyly remarked.  “And just like now…you’re in total and absolute command of me.”

As his lips softly touched hers, he thought back on something she had said earlier that day and smiled to himself.  Hmmmm...four more weeks. You know…I think I’m going to like this.  I finally do have her right where she wants me.

 

 

 

Epilogue

 

A telephone rang in a luxury high-rise apartment in Northern California.  A tall, husky well-built man with blond hair had just finished pouring himself a drink and casually reached to answer the phone that sat on a massive antique oak desk.

 "Hello?"

A man’s voice spoke.  "The plan's failed.  The mines were all disarmed successfully. "

"How?"

"Nelson.  The plan got him out there all right, but he somehow survived the explosion.  He and his team deactivated the mines.”

"I don't accept excuses.  You know that," the blond man tersely remarked.  He detested failure and all his subordinates knew it.

"I know that…,” came the calm reply of the unknown caller.  “However, may I make a suggestion?  Security's all over us right now…asking all sorts of questions and making inquiries everywhere.  We've managed to cover our tracks, but it was hard enough to program one of them to specifically take down Seaview and it was even harder to rig the wiring on that one other mine.  We programmed it to attach to the diving plane but not initially explode.  Once attached, then the secondary trigger program took over.  It got him there all right, but we didn’t figure on the fact that he and Rennalt would be able to actually deactivate it.  At least it did explode and there’s nothing left of it for them to examine.  They can’t piece together anything about the wiring signature in order to trace it back to anyone in particular.  Look, we’re going to have to lay low for a while and bide our time. There'll be another chance, on another projectWe’ll make sure of it."

The man sat and drummed his fingers on the desk as he looked at a picture of two men, one older and one younger, that stood off to the side.  "Hmmm, you're right, of course, Doctor.  We don't necessarily want to rush this.  It has to be done just right.  Very well.  Keep an eye and ear out for everything that goes on there.  If there's any opening, let me know immediately…I’ll make sure you’re compensated adequately and in the proper manner."

"Thanks…I’d appreciate that."

The man hung up the phone and picked up the drink that he'd previously poured himself.  Downing it all in one gulp, he looked out the window and into the mountains above. "Yes, Nelson…the time will come."

 

 Research notes:

USS Frank Cable

USS Salvor

US Navy DSRVs

DSRV pictures

Exosuit Swimmable ADS

Hardsuit 2000

 

 

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