SeaAngel

 

by

Jane L. Daffron

 

The moon hung brightly in the sky, its silvery rays almost seeming to touch the nearest stars surrounding it. The stars appeared brighter that night in June, maybe because it was warm, or maybe because there was little residual light that could be seen from the city 20 miles in the distance...but for whatever reason, Karen Davis Nelson kept looking up at the full moon as she clung to her husband’s arm while they walked along the water’s edge. This was their special time together...on their ‘special beach’ about five miles south of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Admiral Harriman Nelson, director of the Nelson Institute, looked at his wife as they made their way to a small secluded spot near an outcropping of boulders jutting out into the sea. A small campfire lit up the immediate area with its amber glow near where a blanket had been spread atop the sand and a late evening picnic had been consumed. This place was special. He had proposed to her here, almost in this exact spot. Tonight was special, though. He had to leave tomorrow for a trip to Washington.

Settling down on the blanket and pouring champagne into each one of the two glasses from the basket, she looked at her husband of little more than a year. His reddish brown hair seemed to be softened by the firelight and his bright blue eyes took on a more subdued tone. He wasn’t exactly pleased with having to leave her, the Institute, or the Seaview at this time. Nelson had been contacted by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) as well as NIS (Naval Investigative Services) about the possibility of working with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) for a while in their quest for an offshore underwater drug laboratory.

So tonight, Karen and Harriman had come down to the beach to have some peace and quiet before he left for Washington.

"You know, I wish ONI could’ve found someone else to handle this," she told him as she handed him the glass of champagne.

"Well, they usually have the Coast Guard or some of the regular Navy cutters handle this. They’ve also been using AWACs planes off a couple of the carriers to track the smugglers. Apparently they’ve gotten wind of something being done underwater and that’s why they want Seaview," he replied, accepting the glass from her. "You know, we’ve never been asked to find a drug laboratory before."

She smiled at him. His mind was geared toward scientific research, not the harsh realities of today’s modern evils. Not that he was ignorant to what was going on the rest of the world, but if it didn’t include scientific research in the areas of marine biology or oceanography, Harry tended to push it out of his mind...sort of like being on one track.

"I still don’t like it, but I guess if the DEA is asking ONI’s help then..."

"Shhhh...I know, I don’t like it either...but...this is the price I have to pay, remember?" he said with a slight grin as he leaned back on the blanket and gently pulled her down with him. "However, we DO have tonight and I do have to leave at 0600 tomorrow...so..."

She snuggled against him and placed her head on his chest. A little over a year ago she had become his wife. . . And life had never been the same since. She hadn’t been aboard Seaview as much lately, coming aboard occasionally to consult with Chip Morton on the day to day activities of the DWD teams. Her recent research into new diving equipment had kept her extremely busy at the Institute. This past year had actually been quite hectic. Karen had hoped that once they were married that her life with him would settle down into a bit more predictable routine, not really changing much from that of before; however, nothing at the Nelson Institute was ever routine. And then there were these occasional ‘jobs’ for ONI.

"Hmmmm, well, then, sir...what shall we do since you won’t be home for a couple of days?" she asked innocently, as her fingers lightly caressed his chest. Her hand started a slow and methodical brushing of his shirt, her fingers starting to play with the buttons. His free hand lifted her head slightly and he bent to kiss her. One thing had definitely not changed since they married. His hands proceed to the buttons on her silk blouse. God, how he wanted her!

"You know I’ll be back day after tomorrow."

Karen looked into those steel blue eyes and smiled wickedly, "That’s two days too long, Harry. Besides, I do remember that this place has a special significance."

He had become accustomed to his wife’s innuendoes. Karen could be totally wicked sometimes, while outwardly projecting total calm and control. In fact, he rather enjoyed it. There were times aboard Seaview when she would be conversing with one of her team and simply look over at him with an air of total innocence and it would drive him up the wall. He was completely in love with her and she knew it.

"And what may that be, Mrs. Nelson?" he asked with a slight smile on his lips and with a total air of innocence himself.

"Why, Suh! I do declare!" she feigned disbelief with an overdose of southern accent. "You have dishonored me! You don’t remember that it was here that you proposed after you made love to me?...Suh, you insult me greatly!" and then turned her mouth downward in a fake pout.

Harry almost started to laugh but caught himself. He knew it was her way of teasing him. Her accent was overblown and outrageous...just what she meant it to be. Smiling at her, he gently and slowly unbuttoned one button after another, revealing her low-cut bra and breasts to the cool night air. As he slowly and passionately kissed her, his hand played with one nipple that had hardened from exposure. Before he knew it, she had pulled the black uniform tie from around his shirt, tossed it to the side and had started to unbutton his shirt, when she felt herself being stirred by his actions. It was getting hard for her to concentrate because of what he was doing to her, but she was determined that he was going to ‘suffer’ the same fate as she. His mouth covered one breast, his tongue teasing the nipple and sending shock waves through her. His hand continued downward and sought out the very thing that he knew would drive her insane. Shifting her weight and turning toward him, her hands wandered downward as well. Before too long, she had loosened his belt, giggling because he kept trying to break her concentration. She then grabbed a second blanket, pulled it over them and snuggled back into his arms.

"Why, Mrs. Nelson, what are you trying to do?" he jokingly asked her as she gently pushed him back down and then came astride him.

In the same thick southern accent as before, she answered, "Why, Suh, I’m only trying to seduce my husband." And with that, she bent over and kissed him slowly and passionately, her body moving rhythmically with his. His hands made their way down her back and then back up again as she met each of his movements with her one of her own. Soon, their own needs were met as each took their respective pleasures with the other.

Later, as they lay together under the blanket and looking up at the stars, he was pointing out the different constellations to her and simply enjoying the closeness of the moment. They would soon have to go back to the Institute and he would have to pack for the long trip the next day.

"I wish you didn’t have to make this trip. Why couldn’t the local DEA office just send someone over here and brief you here?" she told him as she lay her head back against the crook of his arm and pulled the blanket up around her.

"I don’t know. All I do know is that they have some people flying in from El Paso for the meeting. Apparently, they’ve got some kind of intelligence installation there. Keeps tabs on planes and ships from what I understand. I’d prefer not to go, either, but..."

"But when ONI calls, you have to answer...Yes...I know. "

He shifted his weight and turned to face her. His hand went to her hair and he pulled her gently to him. "Well, if we can help put some major drug players out of business, then at least we’ll help to put a dent in their pocketbook."

She raised her head slightly and looked straight into his steel blue eyes. "You amaze me, Harry. I thought you weren’t keeping up with what went on in the rest of the world outside of marine biology and oceanography."

"Oh, but I do keep current, Mrs. Nelson. I even had some suggestions as to how we could utilize the FS-1 for the underwater surveillance...and how your DWD teams could be put to good use as well. Now.... Let’s forget about it for a bit, shall we? I don’t want to have an argument about it here, while we’re in this...ah.... Condition," he smiled and said.

"Why, Harriman Nelson! I do declare!" she laughed. "You know, we really do need to get home. You have to pack and as much as I’d love to spend the night here, our bed is much more comfortable."

"You’re right, of course. It’s just so peaceful here." He bent down a bit and softly kissed her. "I too often forget that the simplest things can be the most wonderful."

They watched as the fire slowly died down, its flames going from a roaring height to almost smoldering embers, and him cradling her in his arms. Shortly, they started to gather their things and then they headed back to the car. As he placed the blankets and the picnic basket in the trunk, she walked over to the edge of the road and stood looking out at the sea. Coming up from behind, he put his arms around her waist and rested his chin lightly on her shoulder.

"What are you thinking about?" he whispered in her ear.

"About the people who make this poison and the ones that distribute it. Harry, as much as I hate you getting involved with ONI again, this is one time that I have to say that I agree with them asking for your help."

He looked at the horizon as the stars seemed to brighten against the blackness of the sky.

"Yes, I know exactly what you mean, Karen. I think that for the first time, I want Seaview and the Institute to get involved, and I actually don’t mind going, except that I have so much going on here right now...and I’d have to leave you."

She turned and faced him. They had never been separated for long periods of time during the first year of their marriage. This trip to Washington was one time that Karen did not mind it. She took her hand and softly brushed a piece of hair from his brow and then tenderly kissed him.

"Harry, just do me one favor, okay?" she smiled, and then with an amused tone in her voice said, "Fly by Smithfield and pick up a Virginia ham. I’d like to cook one for Caitlin when she comes home."

"Fly by Smithfield, huh...and is there anything else that you would want to go with that?" he asked with a slight grin on his face.

"Well, now that you ask, we are kind of low on bottles of StingRay..." she replied, referring to a favorite Bloody Mary mix that was made on the eastern shore of Virginia.

He roared in laughter. "I’ll see what I can do. Now, let’s get back to the Institute."

"Yes, sir, Admiral, sir," she pointedly replied with a soft smile. Karen turned and walked back to the car and got in. Nelson joined her, then backed the car up and turned onto the paved portion of the road leading back toward the Institute. Approaching the main security gate, they stopped and showed their IDs (yes, even he had to follow the same procedures as everyone else), then drove directly to their home at the other end of the grounds. It was a large brick home atop a knoll overlooking the ocean. Once inside, she headed for the shower as he packed his bags and briefcase. He was in the middle of packing his clothes when she came out with his bathrobe on and her hair up underneath a towel. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, she unwrapped the towel and slowly started to comb out her hair. It was almost 2400 hours and they were both quite tired. Watching him as he packed, she propped herself up against the headboard of the bed and continued to comb out the tangles. He put 3 changes of uniforms in a suit bag and then started to pack some ‘civilian’ clothing as well as his toiletries.

"What do you think they’ll want Seaview to do, Harriman?"

"From what Bill Johnson said, they want the full use of the Seaview and her tracking equipment, as well as the Flying Sub...and they want your DWD teams as well."

"Well, if that be the case, don’t you think that I ought to be in on the planning? After all, I head up the DWD team."

"When that does come up, I will insist that you be brought in. However, for now, I simply want to see what they want and what they’ve found."

"Fine!...Now, sir, if you’re about through, I’d like to turn out the lights and get some sleep," she grinned at him and turned out her lamp. "You plum near tuckered me out, husband."

"Hmmmmm, now that would be a first, wife!" he replied as he briefly kissed her on the forehead and then resumed his packing. He finished within about 10 minutes and then changed clothes. After turning out the last remaining light, he got into bed and she snuggled in beside him.

"Harry, for what it’s worth, I totally agree with your decision to involve the Institute. The only thing I’m worried about is that some of the drug lords are not nice people. In fact, they make the General look like a Sunday school teacher," she told him, referring to the right wing militia head who kidnapped him about two years before. "Just be careful."

"Always, Karen. Always. Now go to sleep, all right?" and with that, he smiled and kissed her and they both settled down to try and get some rest.

 

 

At 0600 the next morning, Nelson took off in the FS-1 from the docking bay facility near where Seaview was moored. His destination was the Office of Naval Intelligence at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. As he flew over the Potomac River, approaching from the Virginia side of Washington, he was given clearance to land at a special docking facility near the 14th Street Bridge. A car was waiting to take him to Rear Admiral William Johnson’s office, the current head of ONI, within the Pentagon complex.

Harriman Nelson was ushered into Admiral Johnson’s office at approximately 1000 hours. Already present was Norman Thompson, assistant head of the DEA, the assistant director of the FBI, Walter Michaels, and Vice-Admiral Thomas Ames, head of the Naval Investigative Services. Johnson made all the obligatory introductions and then the men sat down at the conference table on the other side of Johnson’s office.

"Harry, first off, we all want to thank you for agreeing to volunteer Seaview and the Institute’s research facilities for this ‘mission.’ I understand that Norman’s got some valuable information that will make your end of this just a little easier. Norman?"

Thompson stood up and turned on the VCR that connected to a large screen TV. Images of a rather large drug seizure coupled with a still image of several men standing next to several hundred ‘bricks’ of what would later be explained to be solid cocaine.

"Gentlemen, what you’re seeing is the recent seizure that was made near San Diego that came from an oil tanker. Now, with the help of the Navy’s AWAC’s tracking systems, we followed that tanker from the time it left port until the time it tied up at the San Diego docks. The interesting thing was we know for a fact that it was empty of cocaine when it left Columbia, but this was what was seized shortly after it docked. No other ships came close to it, but yet the drugs somehow got aboard. There were no submarines, no buoys, nothing...but the drugs were there. Our theory is that there is an underwater lab somewhere in the area and they transported the stuff to the ship from there."

"Admiral Nelson, we’d like you and Seaview to help us find that lab and put it out of commission permanently. Your tracking equipment is the most sophisticated in the world, surpassing even that of the regular Navy. Your Flying Sub could be used in tracking the underwater movements of any divers going from the facility to surface ships waiting for their loads...and we would like to enlist the aid of your Deep Water Diving teams to enter and to capture any personnel inside before we destroy it."

Vice Admiral Ames turned to Nelson and addressed him. "Harry, I know that the DWD teams are under the command of your wife. Do you think she’d be agreeable to this mission?"

"Tom, Karen already knows that the teams are to be activated for this and she’s in total agreement. But.... in all fairness...she should be in on any planning that involves them. She built that team and is total control of it. It’s up to her as to whether they dive or not," Harry told him. Karen had always insisted that every precaution, every possible element be known about a mission before they would undertake a dive. Her team was highly specialized and highly trained; even Harriman himself had rarely argued with her (except for one time, unsuccessfully at that) with regards to the team making a dive.

"Very well...I think that’s fair. We’ll set up a meeting the closer we get to the time. Right now, we don’t even know where it is much less how deep it is. We’d also like to get someone aboard one of these freighters. Now that’s where your Captain Lee Crane comes in, Harry. Crane has done jobs for ONI before but these smugglers are a different lot. We’d like to use him on the inside," Ames remarked. "I understand he’s fluent in Spanish...That’s good...He’s going to need it."

Nelson looked at the men around the conference table. "You want to put Crane undercover aboard one of the freighters, you want the DWD teams to capture and help destroy the lab, and you want Seaview’s tracking equipment to find it for you." He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck and then grinned slightly. "Is there anything else you want us to do for you, gentlemen?"

Johnson coughed slightly. He knew the point Nelson was trying to make. The DEA wanted him to do what they hadn’t been able to accomplish themselves. He knew Harriman Nelson well and knew that he would help in any way he possibly could, but at the same time, Johnson also knew that Nelson would under no circumstances stand for himself, his crew, or the Institute to be used or treated in a condescending manner...and Nelson wanted them to know from the very beginning that just because NIMR and Seaview weren’t regular military, they could not, and would not, be pushed around.

Thompson looked a little perturbed at Nelson’s comment. He had always hated having to work with the military. Their rigid structure and total adherence to chain of command rubbed him the wrong way. He knew Nelson’s history...Admired him in a way...However, he was still military and, even though he was retired, he still commanded respect for himself and his people.

"Admiral, I can assure you that the DEA is quite capable of finding this lab on its own; however, the problem’s the depth and the total ability to effectively take it out. Your people are, unarguably, far better equipped to do what needs to be done...and from what I have hear about Mrs. Nelson’s DWD teams, they’re exactly what we need to take out this lab," Thompson remarked, trying to smooth ruffled military feathers.

"Mr. Thompson, I totally believe that your agency is perfectly capable of handling this. And as for the DWD teams, you will have to deal with Captain Karen Davis. Whether they dive or not is entirely her call. Not mine," Nelson stressed to him. For some odd reason, he didn’t like Norman Thompson. His appearance was a total antithesis of what the head of a major government agency should be...not that it should make any difference. Harry dealt with unusual characters every day. In fact, some of the scientists at the Institute were a bit odd at times. He knew that this was a different day and age where civilian politician types were concerned. But there was just something about Thompson that he didn’t like.

"I’ll remember that, Admiral, when I meet her. I’ve been told she’s quite a lady."

"Yes, she is, Mr. Thompson...She truly is...I’m very lucky to be her husband. Now...if we can get back to the question at hand...when do you want to put Crane undercover?"

"As soon as possible, Admiral. We have information that a freighter, the El Zanzibar will put to sea in one week. If we can get him down there by tomorrow, we’ll have time to get him aboard as one of the crew. The AWACs will track them and mark their position when they stop for the underwater pickup." Thompson explained to him. "Our plan is NOT to seize that ship. We want it strictly for intelligence purposes. The shipment itself we’ll track and seize at a shortly later time. The information that Crane will gather for us would be invaluable. Contacts...times...positions, etc. All information that we couldn’t get otherwise. We need to know the exact position where the ships stop for loading and how they do it. Crane can get this for us."

"Where are all of your agents, Mr. Thompson? They’re the ones trained in this kind of intelligence gathering," Nelson inquired. He was, if fact, very interested in having that question answered.

Thompson looked a bit flustered at having to explain himself. No one questioned his people, least of all some retired admiral that some people considered ‘eccentric’.

"Admiral, unfortunately, the cartels know a lot of my people. Hazard of the trade, I guess. We keep trying to stay a step ahead of them, but it’s not always possible. They won’t suspect Crane...He’s not known to them...and even if they were to ‘make’ him, he has no ties to us, only you."

"Doesn’t that make your ‘intelligence’ gathering a misnomer, Mr. Thompson?" Ames asked with a slight sneer in his voice. It was clear that there were others in the group that shared Nelson’s dislike of the DEA agency representative.

Johnson immediately saw what was beginning to happen and decided to call a halt to the meeting and break for lunch.

"Gentlemen, I suggest we break for lunch. It’s 1200 now, so let’s be back here around 1330. Harry...you, Tom, and I need to see the CNO before lunch," he told them. The meeting adjourned and Michaels and Thompson both left together. The three admirals, now alone in Johnson’s office, sat looking at one another. Johnson knew that Ames and Nelson had an automatic dislike of Thompson.

"Bill, why on earth did you ever get involved with the likes of Thompson?" Ames asked him. "NIS has been doing quite well combating drug running."

"I know that, Tom, but the CNO felt that we needed to be ‘sharing the wealth’ so to speak. And they have been using our AWACs off a couple of the carriers. Listen, don’t let Thompson rub you the wrong way. He comes across as a sleaze and an arrogant SOB, but his reputation and history is impeccable. He does know what he’s talking about, believe it or not." Bill Johnson sat down behind his desk and invited his two old friends to sit across from him. "Now, what would you two like for lunch? We can go out or have it brought in here."

The three men laughed and decided to take a car across Interstate 395 to what was referred to as Crystal City, a part of Arlington, Virginia. A small Italian restaurant that barely sat 30 - 40 patrons was selected and the three men chose their meals and then sat back to talk casually. Each knew that the wrong people might overhear any conversation of what had been discussed previously.

"Well, Harry, how’s it feel to be an old married man?" Ames asked him with a slight laugh.

Nelson took a drink of his coffee and looked at the two men, both of whom had attended his wedding the year before.  "Gentlemen, I’m just sorry that I didn’t do this long before now," he replied, smiling.

"Tom, you know, I think Harry here is getting too ‘domesticated’. What do you think?" Johnson laughed as he sat back in his chair.

"With Karen Davis as his wife?! Are you kidding? No way!" Ames said, then turning to face Nelson, he stated, "I heard what she did to get you out of that militia camp, Harry. There’s some scuttlebutt that she took out the whole camp. Is that true?"

Nelson’s facial expression slightly changed and he became strangely quiet and reflective. "Tom, that’s something I’d rather not discuss. Let’s just say that she got the job done and he won’t be doing it to anyone ever again."

"Sorry, Harry. I forgot what that madman did to you," Ames apologized.

Johnson saw the effect the question had on his old friend and decided to change the subject.  "So...Harry...married life seems to agree with you. That was quite a wedding you two had, I must say. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like what your crew managed to pull off with the church aisle, either. That was quite impressive."

Nelson relaxed and smiled, reflecting on the wedding the year before. "Ahhh . . .The ‘white aisle’...Actually I had no idea that was going to happen. It turned out that my stepdaughter and a couple of the crew were the instigators of that. Yes, that was...impressive. Actually, I’m still amazed that Karen actually managed to get me and my senior staff into those formal dress whites."

The three men laughed and continued the jovial remarks until their lunches arrived. Light conversation centering on family, work, and recent discoveries dotted their lunch. After finishing up, they then headed back for the remainder of the meeting. Upon arrival back at the Pentagon, they again met with Thompson and Michaels. The five men sat back down at the conference table and Thompson began with a hard lesson in reality for the military men. They were about to get a little lesson on illegal drugs and the world of drug smuggling.

"Gentlemen, the DEA, in cooperation with 15 other federal agencies, runs and maintains an intelligence center in El Paso, Texas. It is commonly referred to as ‘EPIC’, or El Paso Intelligence Center. It was established to collect, process and disseminate intelligence information concerning illegal drug and currency movement, alien smuggling, weapons trafficking, and other related activity. The member agencies include the DEA, INS, Customs, the Coast Guard, ATF, the FAA, the US Maritime Service," Thompson explained, and, with a nod to Michaels, continued, "the FBI, the Secret Service, State Department, Department of the Interior, CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Department of Defense, of which ONI and NIS are a part of. EPIC’s primary focus centers on drug trafficking along the Southwest boarder of the United States, but it also collects and analyzes tactical drug intelligence from other areas, including foreign countries, whose drug activities impact directly on this country."

He looked around the table at the three admirals and smiled inwardly at the impact his words were starting to make. Give these sailor boys something to think about. Let’s see how they like the next phase. Taking a drink of water, he reached for dry marker and wrote some figures on the white ‘black board’ behind the table. Looking around, he continued.

"In the first five months of 1996, 27 trafficker aircraft were seized in Columbia under Operation Skyweb, a Colombian initiative where their authorities, with DEA support, execute airport inspections to identify aircraft smuggling cocaine along the Peru-Colombian cocaine air corridor.

"Operation Jetway was an EPIC-supported domestic airport interdiction program that contributed to the following seizures in our own nation’s airports in 1996 - 2,615 kilograms of cocaine, 64 kilograms of heroin, 32,867 kilograms of marijuana, 171 kilograms of methamphetamine, 45 firearms, and over 43 million dollars in currency and other monetary instruments. And for your information, gentlemen, the DEA trained over 1,300 State law enforcement personnel under that program.

"Operations Pipeline and Convoy, were both highly successful EPIC-supported national highway interdiction programs which had a significant impact on the domestic movement of drugs and drug-related currency, seizing 9,899 kilos of cocaine, 65 kilos of heroin, 113,474 kilos of marijuana, 314 kilos of methamphetamine, 302 weapons, and over 42 million dollars in currency and other assets. And these stats are nearly three years old. We haven’t had time to compile the most recent ones yet."

He looked at Johnson, Ames, and Nelson. Clearly there was a look of awe, disbelief, and dismay on their faces.  "Gentlemen, the cartels are getting stronger, not weaker; a bit smarter, not dumber at smuggling. They’re coming up with new ways every day to thwart our intelligence and interdiction teams. That’s why, Admiral Nelson, we need Crane and the Seaview. We have received word that specially built and equipped freighters are leaving Columbia en route to the US. When they leave, they’re empty, of cocaine that is. They are full of other things...perfectly legit cargo...but they stop for a few hours in international waters, then start up again. When they dock, they off load their legit cargo along with a couple of tons of pure coke. We’ve managed to intercept a shipment, and just by chance, mind you. The coke is extremely high-grade stuff...purer than anything we’ve seen in a long time. Wherever they’re cooking this stuff up, it’s got to be where they can do it undisturbed and have access to high-grade chemicals. We know it’s not on the ship when it leaves port, but it IS on it when it comes in to dock. The only reasonable assumption is there’s an undersea lab and transfer point."

Nelson swiveled his chair and looked at the map. Studying it intently, he asked, "Do you have an idea as to where the lab might be located?"

Thompson got up and stood beside the map. Pointing to an area about 250 miles off the boarder of California and Mexico, he replied, "Yes, we think it’s roughly in this area. Satellites, however, haven’t been able to pick up a thing. Apparently, either the lab’s too deep for it to show up or they’ve got it well hidden. That’s why we need Seaview and her DWD team. The area’s too deep for conventional divers and craft. These people must be living down there for long periods of time. We don’t even know how they’re being shuttled down or how or where they’re coming up."

"Well, if they’re down there, we’ll find them," Nelson told him. He was convinced now that Seaview had to be in on this. The figures were staggering. He just hadn’t realized that the drug situation was as bad as what it was. Maybe he had been insulated way too long in his own little world of scientific research and this had proven to be a real wake up call.

"Good, Admiral. I’m glad we can count on the Institute to help. If you’ll inform Crane as soon as possible, we can brief him and get him on the inside ASAP. I’ll be honest with you, sir, this is not going to be easy. I know he’s used to dealing with an entirely different sort of ‘espionage’ but believe me, unfortunately, this is fast becoming the espionage of the 21st century," Thompson remarked, with some relief. Obviously he had made an impression on the man. He still didn’t like working with military types, but somehow, he was beginning to admire and respect Nelson. Thompson had read Nelson’s dossier and was duly impressed. He found him to be a ‘maverick’, ironically, just like himself. Maybe that’s why they were rubbing each other the wrong way. They were too much alike in a lot of ways.

Looking at the clock, Johnson saw that it was now past 1630 hours. They had been at it for nearly 3 hours after return from lunch. In those 3 hours, Thompson had given the men some staggering figures to ponder over that night. They would start back up at 0900 hours the next morning. By that time, hopefully, Lee Crane would be in San Diego at the local DEA office to start his briefing into the world of drug smuggling.

"Gentlemen, I suggest that we call it a day. I’m sure that Harry here needs to get this information to Captain Crane so that he can meet Thompson’s people in San Diego...and I for one want time to digest all this information that Norman has given us. It’s rather...disturbing...in a way. We’ll regroup here at 0900 tomorrow," he told them. Turning to Nelson, he remarked, "Harry, I’d like to talk to you before you leave."

Nelson nodded his acknowledgment and the others got their coats and slowly made their way out the door. Within five minutes, Johnson and Nelson were the only two left in the office.

"What is it, Bill?"

"Sit down, Harry.... Listen, I know Norm Thompson comes on a little strong, but he really does know what he’s talking about. He’s considered to be sort of a loose cannon over at DEA, but he’s also very good at what he does."

"Why are you telling me this, Bill? I don’t have to be convinced. The stats tell the whole picture. I’m just sorry that I wasn’t really aware of what was really going on. My God, Bill, do you realize how much of this crap comes into the country every day?! If we can put even a dent into it, maybe we can do some good," Nelson replied, looking at the charts that Thompson had left up. The figures were simply staggering and overwhelming to him. He never realized...

"Well, I’m glad you feel that way, Harry...‘cause he’s going to be aboard Seaview when you go after the underwater lab."

"He what?!"

"Yep. Look, he’s the mastermind behind all of this, so he wants to be there when the lab goes down. I think it’s only fair."

Nelson hated to have civilian observers aboard when they were on a military mission, and he especially hated other agency observers. However, even he had to admit that this time around, it was more than appropriate.  "Well, as long as he doesn’t get in the way of operations, Bill. And if Karen’s DWD teams are involved, he’d better lay low. She has no tolerance for interference from outsiders."

Johnson laughed when Nelson mentioned his wife. Karen Nelson had a well-earned reputation of her very own with regards to her DWD team.  "Maybe we ought to let him find that one out on his very own, Harry. Might do him some good to be brought down a couple of notches...and your wife is just the one to do it," Johnson chuckled.

The two men laughed and grabbed their coats and hats.

"Harry, can I drop you off at your hotel? Or would you like to come to the house for a good home cooked meal?" Johnson asked as the two men headed out of the office area and proceeded to the parking lot.

"Thanks, Bill, but I’m really tired...and I need to get hold of the Institute. I’ll get a ride over to the Hyatt after I make the calls. I’ll see you back here at 0900 tomorrow."

"Okay, Harry. But Madge is going to be disappointed that you didn’t come home with me. She’s been dying to hear about Karen and your honeymoon. She thinks the world of Karen," Johnson gently slapped Nelson on the back.

"Tell her thanks, Bill, and Karen will be glad to hear that, but I just want to go to the hotel and rest. And room service will be fine tonight. I’ll take a rain check on that home cooked meal, however."

"Your loss, Harry. Well, good night and see you tomorrow, then."

The two men parted company and Nelson headed for the communications section of the Pentagon. He placed a coded video message to the Nelson Institute for Lee Crane. After a wait of about 10 minutes for Angie to track him down, Lee finally got to the videophone for the call from the Admiral.

"Lee, you’re to report to the DEA office in San Diego first thing in the morning. You’re going to be on loan to the DEA for undercover work down in Columbia. They’ll brief you at their office on the mission. We’re going after an undersea drug lab and they need you for intelligence work."

"Will do, Admiral. Well, at least this ought to be different...not the run of the mill ONI work," Crane remarked.

"Well, don’t be fooled by these people, Lee. They’re highly dangerous and won’t think twice about killing you. The drug trade is highly profitable and where money is concerned, they don’t give a damn about a person’s life."

"I’ll remember. Oh, by the way, Karen asked me to remind you about a ham," Lee replied, almost with a laugh.

Nelson chuckled to himself. He hadn’t forgotten about his wife’s request.  "Tell her I’ll remember. And that I’ll call her tonight."

"Will do, sir. Will there be anything else?"

"No, nothing else. Except we’re going to be involved in a massive operation with a multitude of federal agencies." Harriman looked at his Captain. How many times had he sent him into dangerous situations? Now Lee had a young son to think about, too. Was it fair to take Robert’s only surviving parent and put him into danger where he could be killed? Lately, Nelson himself had been thinking more and more about that and trying to put himself in Lee’s place. How would he feel if he had a child and was continually being asked to put himself into danger? Harry knew he’d never be a father, but it didn’t stop him from thinking about Lee and his son. And Lee was the ‘son’ he would never have.

"I’ll let my mother know that she’ll need to take care of Robert while I’m gone. How long do you think it’ll be, Admiral?"

Nelson didn’t hear Lee’s last question. He was too deep in thought.  "Admiral...how long do you think it will take?" Lee asked again. He realized that Nelson hadn’t heard him. His mind was somewhere else.

"Hmmm.... Oh, sorry, Lee...the DEA head that I’ve been meeting with hasn’t given a time line, but it could be several weeks. Tell Helen I’m sorry, but the DEA has specifically requested your help."

"Why, Admiral? Did they say?"

"You’re fluent in Spanish and you’re totally unknown to their ‘prey’. Their field office will brief you on the entire mission as well as give you your cover. I won’t see you when I get back, so be careful. From what I’ve been told, these people get real nasty."

"Yes, sir. I will. Crane out," then the videophone went blank. Nelson thanked the communications section and left to go his hotel in Crystal City.

 

 

After he checked into his suite, Harriman Nelson proceeded to order dinner from room service then went into the bathroom to clean up. He then connected his laptop computer to the room’s dataport and started to check for any mail from the Institute. A recent convert to the laptop, he had found that it was actually useful in transmitting and receiving information from the Institute. In fact, it had been his stepdaughter, Caitlin Davis, that convinced him to start carrying one. Between her and Chip Morton, they outfitted him with the top of the line and programmed it to his own specifications, complete with an encryption program. Caitlin, in fact, had been quite pleased with herself that she had finally gotten him to agree to it.

He found several messages waiting for him, including a couple from his wife and one from his stepdaughter. Opening those first, he found Karen had sent him the latest figures on the diving suit alterations that the Inspector General’s (IG) office of the Federal Bureau of Marine Exploration (FBME) had requested. The IG’s office was questioning expenditures, as they always did, and Karen was providing him with the proof that they were totally legitimate. Another message from her was a light reminder to bring back the articles she had requested. He had to laugh. His wife was adamant about things from her native state. She was a Virginian, through and through, as was her daughter.

The message from Caitlin was more of a technical one. She had just graduated from Virginia Tech and was starting to intern for the summer at the Institute. Come this fall, she would start her graduate work at California Polytechnic Institute in Computer Engineering. He typed his reply and sent it back to her. About that time, his dinner arrived.

Pouring himself a cup of coffee, he picked up the phone and called the Institute. Remembering the three-hour time difference, he dialed Karen’s lab direct. Figuring she’d be there at that time, he hoped to catch her before she went to their home. However, the phone rang numerous times before one of her assistants answered. He was told that she had already left for the day and could more than likely be found either in her office or at their house. The assistant then transferred him to Karen’s office, where Terri Styles advised him that she had just walked in. Terri in turn transferred the call into her office.

"Hello. How was your flight?"

"Not bad. The weather actually was perfect. DC’s beautiful, as usual."

"Have you checked your e-mail?"

"Yes, I got the message with your figures. I’ll go over them tonight and let you know...and I got your other mail as well. Don’t worry, I’ll bring back the ham and the StingRay," he laughed.

"I thought you’d get a chuckle out of that, Harry."

"Well, I do know how well you like the mix, so I’ll have to go to a gourmet store to get some."

"Go over to the Pentagon City Mall, and if I remember right, there’s one in there."

"Okay, I’ll go tomorrow. I’m a bit tired tonight. I do believe I was up a bit late last night," he teased her, referring to their picnic the night before.

"Why, Harriman Nelson! Are you accusing me of keeping you up too late last night?"

"No...but you did keep me up, now didn’t you?" and he laughed.

"Harry, you’re terrible, you know that? Listen, Caitlin was here earlier and is anxious to talk to you when you get back. It’s about the new computer program for the communications systems."

"Tell her that it may have to wait. This mission may take several weeks to complete. You may want to get your teams on standby. I’ll fill you in when I get back."

"Okay, but you know she doesn’t like to be put off when she’s on to something. Besides, I think she’s had all about she can take recently babysitting Robert Crane and Alex Morton. She’s finding that those two are quite a handful," Karen mused. "Caitlin tends to forget that she was once that age and that she was quite a handful herself."

"My stepdaughter, hard to handle? That’s hard to envision, Karen," he again chuckled.

"Well, she was ‘active’ to say the least. Anyway...hurry home."

"I will, Karen. Be home tomorrow night."

"Okay. See you then. Love you."

"Love you, too."

By the time that Harry finished going over the information that Norman Thompson had left with them, it was close to midnight. It was amazing. The statistics were unbelievable...and it wasn’t only the information on illegal drugs that was staggering. Environmental pollution was a direct by-product of the growth of coca and poppy cultivation. The processing of the coca leaves into coca paste and cocaine has its own damaging effects. Thompson had provided information from the State Department that on a yearly basis, 10 million liters of sulfuric acid, 16 million liters of ethyl ether, 8 million liters of acetone, and from 40 - 770 million liters of kerosene are poured directly into the ground by cocaine processors working in the Andean region, mainly Colombia. The information astounded and shocked him. Illegal drugs, pollution...Where would it all end?

He put aside the information and prepared to go to bed. As he turned out the light, he thought about all that he had heard that day and shook his head in sad acknowledgment that something definitely needed to be done.

 

 

The next day, the five men met again in Johnson’s office. Thompson filled them in on further details of the operation that would be put into place with all of their mutual cooperation. By that time he had received word that Lee Crane had reported to the DEA office in San Diego and was being briefed at that very moment. After a week of ‘indoctrination’ into the drug world, Crane would then be flown down to Buenaventura, Colombia to be worked into the crew of the El Zanzibar. He would manage to obtain work on the freighter and hopefully gain the necessary information that the DEA hoped would lead them to the underwater laboratory. The worst part was that he would very little if any contact with anyone until the ship reached the docks in San Diego. In other words, Lee would be completely on his own. It was risky, totally and without doubt dangerous. No outside contact. But the DEA assured Nelson that this was the only way. They couldn’t risk the possibility of Crane getting caught trying to make contact with anyone, either en route or on board.

The meeting broke at around 1230 hours with each of the five preparing to inform their respective agencies, or in Nelson’s case, the Seaview, of the impending mission. Michaels had advised all present that the FBI would be present to back up any shore side operations with the necessary manpower to make arrests. The NIS, ONI, and the Seaview would be responsible for the operations at sea.

On the way out, Thompson spoke to Nelson separately as he packed up his briefcase.

"Admiral, I’d like to come to the Institute and meet with some of your personnel, particularly those on board the Seaview. I’d also like to meet with your wife, if that would be possible. Since she’s the head of the DWD teams, and I do have to go through her to get the use of the teams, I’d like the chance to meet her and discuss their use."

"Very well, Thompson. If you’d like, you could fly back with me in the FS-1. That way you could meet with her first thing in the morning. We have guest bungalows on the compound grounds that you’d be comfortable in," Nelson told him.

"That’d be fine, Admiral. Tell you what, I’ll meet you at the docking facility around four p.m. I have to go grab some clothes from home and contact my office. With all the rush hour traffic here and on the Beltway, four is the best I can do."

"Fine, then 1600 hours it is." The two men then left Johnson’s office; Thompson headed back to the DEA offices in downtown Washington and Nelson headed to the mall to pick up the items Karen had requested. After arranging for the items to be delivered to the docking area in 2 hours, he decided to walk around the mall for a bit to clear his head.

The meeting of the last two days had really given him something to think about. For all the scientific discoveries that he had made, for all the contributions he and the Institute had made and would make, it seemed small somehow in comparison to the problem of illegal drugs and the trafficking of those drugs. He suddenly found himself in front of a small shop that displayed nautical items. A Ship’s Hatch. Peering in the window, he was surprised to spy a small model replica of the Seaview. Entering the shop, he was a bit surprised to see that all the patrons were women. Picking up the small intricate model, he was intrigued at the precision and caliber of craftsmanship. Deciding to buy the model, he proceeded to the lady at the counter. Directly in front of him were several ladies chattering away about some sort of ‘sci-fi convention’ at the Hyatt Hotel where he was staying.

Maybe that’s why there were some very strange looking people in the lobby.

The lady directly in front of him told the saleswoman that they had driven down from New Jersey to attend and that they were part of a whole contingent of ladies there from all over the country. Nelson patiently waited as the sales clerk wrapped the lady’s purchase and wished her a good day. He smiled pleasantly as the lady and her companion, a young teenage girl, turned and smiled at him.

As he presented the delicate model to the clerk, she remarked, "You know, that’s the only one that we received of the Seaview. Several people have admired it, but no one wanted to pay the price that the artist was asking."

"Well, it’s beautiful workmanship. I’d like the name of the craftsman who did it, if you don’t mind," he replied.

"Of course. He does beautiful work. I’m sure he’d be flattered."

Harriman paid for the model and the lady gently wrapped it, including the artist’s information with it. Handing the package to him, she noted his uniform and remarked, "Is this for your own collection?"

Nelson smiled and replied, "You could say that. Thank you."  Looking at his watch and noting the dwindling time, he made a hasty retreat from the shop and then hailed a taxi to take him to the docking facility.

 

 

Nelson was in the process of stowing away his bags when he was notified that Norman Thompson was requesting permission to come aboard the FS-1. Giving that said permission, Thompson was ferried over and was helped aboard.

"Admiral, I’m impressed. I’ve heard about the FS-1, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen it up close and personal."

"Well, it gets the job done, Mr. Thompson. Here, I’ll show you where you can stow your things."

Harry opened the door to the storage compartment and let him put his things away. In the meantime, he finished the pre-flight checks with the control tower at Reagan National Airport. He would have to gain flight clearance through them prior to take-off from the Potomac Docking Facility. After showing his flight companion how to strap himself into the chair and where the parachute and survival gear were (in case, God forbid, they needed it), Harry powered up the engines and requested take-off instructions. Ten minutes later, the two men were airborne and headed in a southwest direction across the country. Thompson inquired about their ETA to Santa Barbara and after doing a bit of quick computation, Nelson settled on roughly three hours at just below supersonic speed.

"Three hours, huh? Get there just about the time we left DC, I would guess," he mused.

The Admiral was more interested in weather information that was coming in from the National Tower than he was to listening to his guest. The tower had informed him that a large thunderstorm was brewing near the Virginia/Kentucky boarder and that he might want to gain altitude prior to being switched over to the Cincinnati tower. Complying, Nelson took the small craft up another 30,000 feet into a thinner, clearer atmosphere that would in actuality be more conducive for its flying capabilities.

Thompson, in the meantime, took out his notes and addressed Nelson.  "Your man, Crane, has already reported to our office. I think he’d do just fine. My men in San Diego report that his Spanish is excellent and that with a week or so beard growth and a bit dirtying up, he’ll be ready to make his way to Buenaventura. He’s going to be given instructions as to who to contact about getting placed aboard our suspect ship. Once there, he’s on his own."

"How long do you think this whole operation is going to take?" Harry inquired. He was anxious to know because of other commitments that the Institute had. Too long a time would mean the loss of valuable contracts, and money, but he also knew that operations such as the magnitude of this one could not be rushed or people, namely Lee, could possibly lose their lives.

"Well, a week, more or less, to get your man down there and possibly on the boat. Once the boat sails, another week or so from Colombia to the States. Then the hard part comes in. At least another two weeks for you to find the lab, we formulate a plan of attack and execute it. So, all in all, you’re looking at about four weeks minimum."

Nelson pondered his answer for a few moments.

Four weeks...Not bad...We’ve been on missions that lasted much longer than that. But is this reasonable...or simply optimistic?

"Four weeks is definitely a doable timetable if you think that it’s long enough to get you what you want."

"Admiral, we’ve been tracking this route for months. Even put in agents down there to get what information we do have. Problem is, our people get made before we got them on board. Your man Crane is our last hope. The cartel that’s running this show, Miguel Rodriguez and his ‘family’ has extremely loyal contacts. Hopefully, since Crane has no ties whatsoever to our people, they’ll leave him alone or ignore him. That’s why I want him going in looking like he’s just coming off a two week drunken spree. And that’s why I didn’t want him trying to make contact with our people while aboard. Way too dangerous. It could, and possibly would, get him killed. The minute the ship makes port in the US, we watch the off-load, track the shipment and your man ‘disappears’ back into the world of the Seaview. With what he hopefully will learn, we then can track the next ship to the loading point and then find the undersea lab and destroy it."

"What do you intend to do with any of the drugs you confiscate, either on the ship or at the lab? Blow them up? Surely you’re not thinking of simply dumping them in the ocean. The chemicals contained at the laboratory will be highly toxic and have no business being dumped. They have to be handled carefully and correctly."

Thompson turned slightly in his chair to look at Nelson. He fully understood what Nelson was trying to say; however, at this point in time, he was more concerned with the destruction of the lab and its contents than anything else.

"Admiral, I don’t mean to belittle what you’re saying, but our primary and sole objective here is to put this lab out of commission, permanently. By whatever means necessary. Naturally, I’d love to be able to end up with a huge confiscation of the cache of drugs. It’d be a huge PR boost, to say the least. However, I’ll settle for blowing the damn thing sky high."

Nelson glanced over at his companion. Norman Thompson looked like someone that had never left the era of the 1960's. Long hair, neatly tied back in a ponytail coupled with a neat well-trimmed graying beard. He had come up through the ranks of the DEA, first as a regular agent and field operative. He had gone undercover and had almost been killed numerous times. His ‘collars’ brought phrase and notice from the higher ups that at first tolerated the often unorthodox methods he employed. As time, and the administration changed, so did his supervisor’s tolerance of him. The last 15 years had provided him with supervisors and mentors that were a bit more lenient as to his methodology. Large busts of major ‘players’ as the distributors and growers were called, brought more notice and he moved up quickly through the ranks. He adapted in only one way...he started to wear a suit and tie instead of holey jeans, T-shirts and tennis shirts. Thompson became part of the establishment, yet his outward appearance still tweaked the noses of the upper echelon of the administration.

"Mr. Thompson, I admire your tenacity, but if we’re going to do this, it’s going to be done right. All the chemicals in that lab will have to be disposed of properly and if there are any drugs there, if it’s at all possible, they’ll be transported back aboard Seaview. I won’t be part of anything that deliberately pollutes the ocean when it can be definitely avoided."

"Admiral, I . . .."

"Thompson, there’s no negotiation on that point. Do I make myself clear?"

Thompson looked at Nelson and realized that this was not a man he really wanted to tangle with. For all the eccentric reputation that he had, Harriman Nelson was well noted as a man of high principal. And if he had an objection regarding the disposal of the chemicals, maybe he should defer to his experience. Also, the DEA needed Seaview and Nelson to find that lab. And at this point, if he had to make a deal with the devil to find it, he would. And that certainly meant appeasing Nelson.

"Very clear, Admiral. Very clear."

"Good. Now, we’ll be in Santa Barbara in less than two hours. I suggest you enjoy the view. It’s definitely not something you’ll get out the window of a commercial jet liner," Harry told him. "And when we get to the Institute, we’ll come in from the ocean side with an underwater approach. It will be easier for docking."

"I thought this thing docked inside your sub somehow."

"Normally it does. But we keep it outside Seaview when we’re docked at the Institute. It’s easier that way. At the present time, the crew’s on extended liberty and is due back within the next week. I see no reason to call them back any sooner."

"When can I meet with Mrs. Nelson? I’m really interested in her take on the deployment of her team and how she might execute the procedure."

Nelson looked at his watch and remarked, "Well, considering the time, you might just catch her in her diving lab. However, if not, then I assume that you’ll be able to get up with her first thing in the morning. She’s usually there around 0900.  And a word to the wise, Mr. Thompson.  Professionally, her name is Captain Davis."

"Ah…yes, sir…I’ll remember that.  Well, I look forward to meeting her. You know, your wife has quite a reputation on her own. I’ve studied her dossier. Quite impressive."

"I’m reasonably sure she’d find that quite amusing, Thompson. She’s not one to..."

"...want publicity or notoriety? I assumed that from the information. Although what she did to that militia camp was a bit over the top, wasn’t it?"

"Mr. Thompson, that is a subject not open in anyway for discussion. I will ask...no, I will demand...that you not bring it up. To anyone."

Thompson suddenly saw that he had it a very sensitive nerve in the Admiral. He had heard of the rescue mission and had heard from some contacts in the FBI about the tape showing what the ‘General’ had done to Nelson. He later heard, confidentially, what Karen Davis Nelson had done to rescue the man who was at that time her commanding officer and who would later become her husband. She had totally eradicated the entire compound and killed its leader. The ‘official’ report was that the ‘General’ was killed while trying to escape...but he had also heard that she deliberately killed him for what he had done to Nelson. Regardless of which version was true, Thompson decided that she was most definitely not someone to be on the wrong side of.

"I’m sorry, sir, if it brings back painful memories. I was just..."

"I know that, but it’s not open for discussion," Nelson testily remarked.

"Yes, sir."

An uneasy silence prevailed for the remainder of the trip. Shortly, the Pacific Ocean came into view and Nelson started his downward approach. They were roughly 10 minutes away from the Institute when he zipped out over the ocean and turned back inland. Thompson watched as the altitude got lower and lower and the bright blue Pacific grew bigger with each passing second. Within about 5 minutes, the FS-1 was barely 500 feet above the water when Nelson started a downward angle of descent. At first Norman thought they were going to crash nose first into the water considering that Nelson was pointing the nose of the little craft toward the ocean surface. He shielded his eyes the minute the craft hit the water and then slowly opened them, finding that, instead of being broken to little pieces, he could look out the bow windows and glimpse large fish of many different species swimming by as they found their way to the underwater docking facility at the Institute.

Upon docking, Harry performed shutdown procedures and a member of the docking area personnel cracked the topside hatch. As the two men removed their belongings, Nelson told Thompson that he would have one of the personnel there escort him to a guest bungalow and then he would check on him in a couple of hours.

After both men had exited the FS-1 and gone their separate ways, Nelson looked at his watch and headed to his office. He surmised that Angie had gone home by this time but he just wanted to check his messages and appointments for the next few days. As he looked through the messages, he picked up the phone and called Karen’s office. There were two rings of the phone and then a female voice answered.

"Hello."

"Hello, yourself. I’m back in my office."

"Ahhh, you just got back then. I checked a while ago and you were still a ways out. I’ll be right there. Just stay put."

"Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere."

He heard the phone click off and then hit the ‘off’ button for the speaker. About 5 minutes later, Karen walked into his office. She walked over to him, put her arms around him, and kissed him deeply and slowly.

Breaking the embrace some minutes later, Harry looked at his wife with a slight grin and said, "I’m definitely going to have to go away and come back more often."

Karen kissed him softly and then remarked, "Well, sir, there’s more that came from." She hugged him and then hooked her arm through his. "So tell me about this DEA guy you brought back with you."

"Hmmm, looks like the grapevine travels fast. Well, then...yes, I did bring back company. He’s over in guest Bungalow One. Name’s Norman Thompson and, yes, he’s from the DEA. He also wants to talk to you in the morning about the DWD team and their use in this operation." He turned around and picked up his briefcase and his suit bag as she opened the door to the outer office.

"Well, I’m not committing the team to anything until I get every available piece of information on this lab. I hope you stressed that."

They walked out of the office together and down the corridor to the front of the building. It was a beautiful warm June night. As they strolled down the walkway toward the large brick home on the knoll at one end of the complex, he told her, "I did tell him that he had to deal with you with regards to the team. Bill Johnson seems to think that you might just find Thompson a bit arrogant. Oh, and he also said that his wife was extremely disappointed that I didn’t come to dinner last night because she thinks the world of you."

They approached the door of their home when a dark blue Jeep Wrangler drove up. Pulling into a parking space beside a red Jeep Grand Cherokee, the occupant, a young blonde haired woman, bounded out and walked over to Karen.

"Mom! I was wondering when you were going to get home. HN, glad you’re home. I’ve got a ton of things I need to go over with you," Caitlin Davis excitedly said. She hugged her mother and then gave her stepfather a big hug also.

"Caitlin, slow down, will you? He just got home. And, for your information, I’ve been between the lab and the office. You could have gotten hold of me at either place."

"Mom, I tried, but you must have been in between. Besides, I’ve been looking for Lee. Have you seen him? I promised Mrs. Crane that I would help take care of Robert so that she could do some errands and I needed to ask him about something."

Harriman looked at Karen and with a small silent movement of his head, Karen knew not to say anything about Crane’s whereabouts to her daughter.

"Honey, Lee’s going to be out of town for several weeks. That’s why Helen has Robert right now. And I’m sure that she could use the extra help once in a while," her mother quietly said.

"Oh, great. Just great! Now what am I going to do?" her daughter exclaimed in exasperation.

"Caitlin, what exactly is the matter? Is something wrong with Robert? He’s okay, isn’t he?" Karen inquired, concerned at her daughter’s attitude.

"No, it’s just that...well…Robert has started playing with my computer and I thought that since he seems to love it, I’d bring over one of my old ones that I’m not using anymore for him to play with. You know, load some games on it and start teaching him how to use it."

"Well, I think that’s a great idea and, personally, I can’t see why Lee would object to it."

As the three of them walked into the house, Nelson placed his briefcase on a chair in the living room.  God, it’s good to be home. He glanced over at the two women, mother and daughter, as they stood talking. Smiling to himself, he asked himself silently how he managed to get so lucky.  "Caitlin, why would you need to speak to Lee about Robert and the computer? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind," Harriman off-handedly remarked.

"Well...I sort of went ahead and promised Robert that he could have it. Then I figured I’d really better ok it with Lee. Robert is such a bright little kid that he’s picked up on a whole lot of things already. The way I figure it, the sooner he starts on it, the better he will be at it. After all, Mom started me when I was around Robert’s age, didn’t you, Mom?" she explained, her tone of voice excited but yet serious.

"Yes, Caitlin, I did. I didn’t want you scared of them the way I was...and look what it’s done to you. Frankly, I think it’s a great idea. You’ve got a couple of old ones that he could bang away on and if he spills something on it or breaks it, then there’s very little lost," Karen agreed. "Now, if you don’t mind, I’m starved, and I’m sure that both of you all are, so let’s see what we can have for dinner."

The three of them headed for the kitchen and in short order had a full meal cooked and on the table. Afterwards, as Caitlin cleared away the dishes after they had eaten, there was a loud knock at the door. Since she was already away from the table, she answered the door. Just a few seconds later, she reappeared in the dining room.

"HN, there’s a gentleman at the door for you. He says his name’s Norman Thompson."

Nelson immediately got up and went to the door. Showing Thompson in, he then called Karen into the living room.  "Karen, I’d like for you to meet Norman Thompson. He’s the gentleman who came back with me this evening."

Thompson immediately extended his hand to her. "Captain Davis…or should I call you Mrs. Nelson since we’re in your home? Either way, I’d delighted to meet you. I apologize for coming by this evening, but I wanted to get things started."

Karen scrutinized the 40ish man in front of her. Dressed in jeans, an open collar white shirt, and tennis shoes, he didn’t look too bad. She did note, with a certain amount of amusement, that he had a ponytail and one earring in his left earlobe. Not your typical Washington bureaucrat. He was about 6 feet in height, she judged, with dark blonde hair and hazel eyes. He obviously kept himself in pretty good physical shape and he had a nice smile. There was something familiar about the accent but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Southern, but softer, not extreme.

She smiled slightly as he took her hand and shook it.  “Actually, at the office, it’s Davis…but here, depending on the circumstances, it’s Nelson.  Won’t you join us? We’ve just finished dinner and we were going to have some coffee and dessert," she offered. "However, business will have to keep until tomorrow."

"Mrs. Nelson, your husband has told me that you’re the one to talk to about us using the DWD team in this operation..."

"And he’s right. But as I told you, no business will be discussed tonight. You and I will talk, in the morning at precisely 0900, in my office."

"But..."

Karen looked at him and her brown eyes narrowed. How dare this man barge into their home and insist on talking about this after she had already told him ‘no’ twice. She looked over at her husband and saw a small grin on his face. A slight nod of his head told her all she needed to know.

"Mr. Thompson," she calmly but coolly replied, "No business will be discussed tonight regarding that assignment. If the team is to be involved, that will be my decision." She stopped to let her words sink in. She would not be cornered in her own home by an outsider. "Now, if you would like to join us, you’re more than welcome."

Harriman Nelson carefully watched the exchange taking place. He knew who held the upper hand and he simply wanted to sit back and observe the fireworks. Norman Thompson got a very quick and pointed lesson about dealing with Captain Karen Davis Nelson. And as Bill Johnson had said, Thompson had just been taken down a notch.

Thompson looked over at Nelson for support and found none. The dossier was right. She is a formidable woman to deal with. Deciding it would be against his best interest to continue, he decided to back off. "Very well, Mrs. Nelson. I again apologize. And yes, coffee would be fine."

Karen accepted the apology and smiled. "Good. Please…sit down and my daughter’ll bring in the coffee while I get the dessert." Turning to her husband, she said, "Harry, actually maybe we should take everything out on the deck. It’s such a beautiful evening."

He took the que and turned to Thompson, "Come on, we’ll let the ladies have their way. Actually Karen is right. I think it would be more comfortable out on the deck." Leading him outside, the two men stood at the railing and watched the sun set over the ocean’s horizon.

Thompson stood silently as the two women brought out a carafe of coffee and glasses of ice cream parfait for dessert. Looking at the two, he was struck by the casualness of the picture. Not exactly what he had expected the Nelsons to be. Harriman Nelson was no longer dressed in his khaki uniform, but was now in khaki slacks and a white polo shirt with Dockers shoes. Karen Nelson wore soft light blue cotton t-shirt dress and sandals and her daughter was dressed in cut-off jeans, polo shirt, and sandals. At first, Thompson could have sworn that he was in the middle of an upper class yuppie family.

Sitting around a wrought iron table, Thompson was drawn into the family conversation of computer technology. He also found out that Caitlin Davis was a graduate student at Cal Poly in computer engineering and was currently interning at the Institute. What was interesting to him was finding out the fact that the daughter was the one who had played the role of matchmaker between her mother and the Admiral.

Around 2200, Caitlin decided to call it a night and Karen decided to do the same. Both ladies said their good nights to Thompson and Karen advised him that she’d see him at 0900 tomorrow. She took the glasses inside and left the two men alone on the deck. As they sat there looking out over the Pacific Ocean, Thompson was struck at how calm and peaceful the whole scene was.

"Well, Thompson...was this what you expected?" Harry inquired as he took a drink of his coffee.

"Well, sir, I have to admit,...no, I guess it wasn’t. Actually, I admit I didn’t know what to expect. I do apologize if I was a bit out of line earlier with Mrs. Nelson..."

"Listen, don’t apologize to me...your dealings with the DWD team will be with her. Any amends that need to be made should and will be directed toward her, not me."

"Yes, sir. I understand...  Your stepdaughter is very interesting as well. I suppose ‘like mother, like daughter’?"

"Oh, very much so. Caitlin is very independent and very knowledgeable in computers and electronics." Nelson noted a bit of something, possibly an interest in his stepdaughter, in the man’s voice. "It really wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Karen were to bring in Caitlin as a sort of ‘consultant’. Her knowledge of communications and computers is outstanding. She’s been very instrumental in helping her mother lately with the new communications systems and the microcomputers in the diving suits." He chuckled and continued, "She even got me hooked into taking a laptop with me when I travel. Something I thought I’d never do."

"Interesting...well, I’ve imposed upon your hospitality too long tonight. I think I’d better leave so I can be on top of things when I meet with Mrs. Nelson in the morning. Please thank her for me."

Harry showed him out and then went into the bedroom. Karen was lying in bed reading the information that he had brought back.  "Well, what do you think about him?" he asked as he changed into his pajamas.

Putting down the material, she looked over at him. "He’s a bit arrogant and pushy...But that’s typical for a DC bureaucrat. Interesting, though. He did push it a bit after I told him no business was to be discussed."

"I know. I decided that I’d let you handle that. After all, you do it so well," he remarked as he climbed into bed beside her.

"Harriman Nelson!" she exclaimed, playfully hitting him with some of the papers, "You set that man up, didn’t you? You knew what he’d do, and you just hung back and let me blast him...God, you’re terrible, you know that?" She started to laugh. "The poor guy. I guess I did come down on him a bit hard, didn’t I? He does seem like a likable man, though, once he knew the ground rules. That accent he has...he sounds a bit southern...possibly a native Virginian, Tidewater area, I think."

He looked over at her in amazement. "Now how would you even know that?"

Karen grinned and then told him, "Easy. Listen to the way he pronounces ‘house’ or ‘about’ or ‘out’. It’s the ‘ou’ sound that’s distinctive. There’s no mountainese, no real twang. No, he’s from the Piedmont or Tidewater regions. And it’s too soft for the Carolinas...much more subtle."

"Well, you can ask him yourself tomorrow morning, now can’t you? By the way, what do you think of the stats he’s provided?"

Turning serious, she replied, "Frankly, I’m disgusted. Harry, if this lab is as big as I may suspect, we could actually put a dent in the trafficking. Not for long, I’m afraid, but a dent, nonetheless."

"What about the team, Karen? Do you think you can pull it off?"

"Well, I’m not about to commit to anything until I see exactly what we’re dealing with. I did some quick computations. IF the loading zone is within a 250 mile radius of Tijuana, let’s say, and their output is a couple of tons at a time, that lab is going to have to be good size to accommodate personnel and equipment. Add to the fact, that it can’t be too deep because of decompression times for the in-house personnel. Unless they’re using a radio controlled drone for loading. Then, decompression is limited to the habitat personnel only, but even with that, personnel would have to be rotated on a schedule, so then you’re talking about someone with a decompression chamber and who is knowledgeable in compression-decompression."

"I’m curious as to how they’re managing to ‘hide’ themselves from the NASA satellites."

‘So am I. They can’t be that deep. A habitat that big would be hard to hide if it’s to manufacture the output the DEA has estimated. Hopefully Lee will be able to answer a lot of those questions when he gets back," she contemplated. Turning off her reading lamp, she turned toward him. "Harry, I’m worried about Lee. I don’t like the fact that the DEA doesn’t want him to make contact with anyone while aboard that ship. If something goes wrong..."

"Don’t you think I know that?...But I can also see the reasoning behind it, too," he remarked. "They’ve had several of their own killed by bad contacts. Apparently the other side paid better. All we can do is wait and pray." He kissed her and then put his arm around her as she snuggled closer to him. "Now, let’s get some sleep ‘cause we’ve both got full days tomorrow."

 

 

The next morning, at approximately 0900 hours, Norman Thompson strolled into Karen Davis Nelson’s office for his meeting. Terri Styles, her secretary, showed him into her office, advising him that Karen would be about five minutes late and he was welcome to have a cup of the coffee that was located on her credenza.

Accepting the offer, he poured himself a cup and looked over her office. Function, not opulent. Stylish, but classic. That’s how he characterized her. There were Williamsburg prints over classic Queen Anne style furniture. He had seen the same kind of things in the Nelson house last night. There were family photographs along with awards. He spied a large photograph of her and Admiral Nelson on what obviously was their wedding day. There was also a collage of photos from the wedding, showing everything from the wedding itself through the honeymoon. Then there were the photographs of her daughter.

Now she’s interesting.... Intelligent. Beautiful.... And single.

He smiled slightly to himself, then thought, No, she’s probably got a bevy of boyfriends on the line. Besides, she was the daughter of the woman he was about to see and the stepdaughter of one of the most noted scientific geniuses the Navy had ever known. He had a job to do. That’s why he was here. Anything else had to be put on the back burner. Maybe afterward...

A few minutes later, Karen Nelson walked into her office.  "Mr. Thompson.... " she called to him and he turned around toward her. "Sorry I’m late. Please have a seat."

"Thank you. First, I’d like to apologize for last night..."

"Perfectly all right, Mr. Thompson, but let’s get one thing straight right now...I rule the DWD team. No one else does. If I say ‘dive’, we dive. However, we don’t go if I don’t know as much as possible about an assignment that I can make a fair judgement on." she advised him. "It has nothing to do with your ‘assignment’ here. That’s just my rule. And I don’t violate it. Do you understand?"

"Yes, ma’am."

"Good. Then we can get started...Why did you want this meeting?’

He shifted somewhat, uncomfortable now under her microscopic gaze. He wasn’t used to not having the upper hand in a meeting and any edge he felt he’d had coming in, he’d definitely lost. Bending down to retrieve his briefcase, he told her, "We’d like the team to act, in essence, as a SWAT team. To surround, capture, neutralize, and destroy the target once it’s been located."

"Fair enough. I had understood that. Do you have any photos of it yet?" she inquired, already knowing the answer.

"No...but we’re hoping that once Crane reports back with a somewhat approximate location that we can redirect the satellites to cover the area and get it."

"And if the satellites can’t locate it, what then? They haven’t been able to find it so far...and those are pretty sophisticated cameras up there, Mr. Thompson, and you’ve had the AWACs planes as well..."

"Then...Mrs. Nelson, er, Captain Davis…I...we, ah, formulate a different plan of attack. However, that shouldn’t put a hold on your team being ready..."

She leaned back in her chair, studying him. His dossier was open and perched on an open drawer on the right hand side of her desk where he could not see but she could. She knew his history...was impressed by it, actually.... but still felt that he was a bit too much the ‘maverick’ still.  Leaning across the desk and looking straight at him, she replied, "You can’t formulate an attack plan until you know your enemy. Basic tactics, Mr. Thompson. Basic tactics. You should know that. There are too many factors here to be weighed before I can even think of putting my team, and myself, into the water." She could see the frustration building. It was clearly written on his face. Thinking to soothe his ego a bit, she continued, "Look, I normally go out on a mission with the team. As team leader, that’s part of my job. And if I won’t put myself into a situation, I certainly am not going to put my team into it without me...No, Mr. Thompson...once we have those photos and can analyze them, pick them apart...no plan can or will be formulated."

"Well, then, I guess it hinges on Crane, then."

"Yes, Mr. Thompson, I guess it does."

 

 

The San Diego DEA office was located within a very normal looking office building complex. They occupied the top floor of the entire office building and was rather non-descript, rather regular looking. The Average Joe Citizen would have absolutely no idea that that top floor of that building contained some of the best trained agents the agency had to offer. When Captain Lee Crane, USNR reported to the receptionist the morning before, he clearly thought he’d gone to the wrong place. Tastefully decorated and looking more like a suite of corporate offices, he was unprepared for what lay behind the walls.

He was met by a female agent and escorted to a conference room in the very back of the suite. Told to make himself at home, he was then left alone for about 10 minutes. What he did not realize was that a mirror hanging on the wall in the conference room was in fact a 2-way mirror and that he was being observed the entire time that he was there. The head of the field office, Johnathan Tayback, wanted to see what this ‘outsider’ was like. His people were specially trained and the VERY idea that Norman Thompson had brought in someone other than an experience field agent grated against his nerves. He’d heard about Captain Lee Crane of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research...and he’d, of course, heard about the Seaview. So Tayback decided to observe as his assistant met with Crane.

"Captain, my name is Joe Lucas. I’m the second in command here in this field office. Johnathan Tayback, the agent in charge of this office, isn’t available right now. Let’s get right to it, shall we? I understand you’re fluent in Spanish. That’s good. However, your ‘spic and span’ appearance will give you away in a heartbeat. You’re going to need about a week’s worth of beard. Also, let’s dirty up the hair, the hands, and the nails. You’re too clean right now, Crane."

Lee was used to going undercover. After all, he’d worked with ONI as an occasional operative. But this guy was a real piece of work. He was short and stocky, with a full beard that was graying. His hair was long, but not long enough to be pulled back in a ponytail the way Lee had observed as a present fashion. He had dark brown eyes and a rugged looking face buried underneath all the facial hair. Dressed in a suit (which looked out of place on him) he epitomized what Crane thought typical of an undercover drug officer.

Looking at him, Lee gave him the once over. "Do all your agents appear like this, Mr. Lucas?"

"No, Captain, A lot of them wear suits and ties because that’s the world they have to move in. You see, drug dealers come in all shapes, sizes, and from all walks of life. From the field hand in the poppy and coca fields to the deck hands on the freighters or the officers who pilot them, to the dealers and distributors who buy and then resale the dope on the street. I could put you in a room, Captain, where you’d have absolutely no idea who your target was ‘cause they’d appear perfectly normal and legitimate. Right now, we need you for your expertise as a sailor, and it doesn’t hurt that you’ve worked undercover for ONI before. Now, do you think you’re up for this ‘game’?" Lucas explained, fully aware that Tayback was behind the glass, listening and watching the proceedings.

Crane sat his jaw and looked Lucas straight in the eye. "Just tell me what you want and what you need and I’ll get it."

Lucas felt he was a fairly good judge with regards to whether these things would work or not. That was partly why Tayback had sent him in to speak with Crane. He studied the tall, gaunt man in the khaki Navy uniform sitting before him. Maybe this would work. Nothing else has. That’s for damn sure. He excused himself and left the conference room, then went into the room next door.

Tayback stood at the window watching Crane and then inquired of Lucas, "Well? What do you think?"

"He may just be the one to pull it off. I had ONI send over his file. Not bad. He’s too clean right now, though, for what we need him for. I think he’ll be ready by the end of the week or the first of next week though. We can then fly him down to Buenaventura at that time. Jesus can begin the process of getting him on board the El Zanzibar at that time. She’s not due to sail for about 3 weeks so we’ve got time to give him a good ‘education’, both here and there."

"Okay, get him over to one of the apartments and start in with him. I want him ready to go ASAP. Norm called and he’s up in Santa Barbara at the Nelson Institute. They’re going to use the Seaview and its crew for the ‘hit squad’, but they need to know where the lab is so the photos can be taken for recon work. Seems they’ve got some kind of special underwater diving team there that’s also trained in SEAL tactics. Crane’s whole purpose in this game is to obtain the exact location of that lab. And the only way he can do that is by being aboard the El Zanzibar." Lucas started out the door when Tayback said, "And for God’s sake, Joe, let’s make damn sure this guy knows exactly who and what he’s up against. Him working for ONI is one thing, but these clowns don’t take hostages. He’s got to understand that. I don’t want it on our heads if something goes wrong out there ‘cause he’s not prepared, ok?"

"Right, John. We’ll get him ready. Count on it," Lucas replied.

Returning to the conference room, Lucas told Crane, "Okay, Captain. I hope you’ve got some other clothes with you ‘cause you’re not going back to the Institute for a while. We’ll let your superiors know when you go south, but I have to be honest with you. Any other contact will be minimal at best and nil while you’re aboard the freighter. You are to observe and gather information, paying close attention to the exact location the freighter stops for loading the drugs. Once the ship docks and the crew goes out on shore leave, then you can ‘disappear’ and make your way back to the Nelson Institute. A contact will be set up for you once you dock. Is that clear?"

Lee nodded and the two men left the conference room for another part of the suite. Tayback shut off the 1-way intercom in the adjoining room. He was now satisfied that Crane could possibly handle the job, but he worried that, although an experienced operative, Crane might not be able to handle himself around these druggies. They were a different breed than what he was used to dealing with. The nuances were different...the attitudes were different. Crane was used to the cloak and dagger of international espionage. Drug lords and dealers were in a class all unto themselves and they were, as he was quickly learning, a hell of a lot more dangerous.

 

 

A week later, Lee Crane was flown in to Buenaventura, Colombia in the dead of night on a third rate cargo plane, which just happened to be owned and operated by an American who was an undercover DEA agent. No words passed between pilot and passenger. It was best that way. Lee was dropped off at a little used airfield outside the capital city. Now dressed in peasant clothing and looking like he hadn’t had a bath in a week (in actuality the truth), he blended in with the locals. He made his way to the city and found his way to the dock area. Making a cursory inquiry to several of the dockhands about if any of the ships needed a strong body, he slowly made his way down the pier until an old freighter with the name El Zanzibar came into site. Most of the dockworkers laughed at the tall, gaunt looking peasant who was dirty and reeked of farm animals. One man, however, near the gangplank of the Zanzibar took notice and called him over.

‘Hey, you...yes, you! Get your ass over here."

Crane obeyed and made his way to the stocky man at the railing.

"You looking for work, friend?"

"Yes, my family is poor, and I have left them to find work. Does this great ship need someone with strong hands who’s willing to work very hard?"

"Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Let me see your hands."

He took Crane’s hands and turned them palms up. Holding them close to his eyes, as if to inspect them, the man lowered his voice and said, "You’ll report to the 1st mate. Name is Julio. All is going according to plan. The ship sails in 10 days. You won’t see or hear from me again." He then put Lee’s hands down and looked him up and down. Raising his voice so that others could hear, he then pronounced, "You’ll pass, friend. I hope you’re stronger than you look, though. Julio is a hard 1st mate. If it’s hard work you seek, friend, Julio will give it to you."

Lee looked at the man and replied meekly, "Thank you, sir. My family thanks you." Then without any further comment, he proceed up the gangplank to the ship where several other men stood around. From the conversation that he overheard, they were waiting for Julio to come out and assign them their areas and living quarters. The men standing there were a mixture of peasants and hardened types. Men who would cut another’s throat simply because you looked the wrong way at them. In the few days he had been in the country, he had learned some very hard and fast rules. The first and foremost was that drugs were simply a way of life and you did not go against the major or minor drug lords...not if you wanted to stay alive. So Lee hunched over, not revealing his true height and bearing, looking very much like a timid peasant worker who wanted to provide for his family. His olive complexion had become ruddy and drawn from the sun, he was filthy and actually had complaints about drawing flies. He secretly found this amusing because his daily personal habits were normally just the complete opposite.

Soon, two men approached the group. One was an Anglo, the other Hispanic. The Anglo, obviously someone with some sort of authority, spoke in English to the other man who in turn translated into Spanish.

"All right you men, come with me and I’ll assign you a bunk. You’ll be expected to work hard and work long hours. Don’t complain about the pay. At least you’ll be getting it...and three hot meals a day as well as clean clothes." The man walked over to the group and looked them over one by one. Stopping in front of Crane, he frowned and scrunched up his nose. Speaking directly to him, he looked at Lee and said, "You need a bath. Get below and take one before you contaminate the beds. I’ll not have lice or any other diseases infecting the crew. Now get below!!!!"  Lee nodded slightly and showed confusion as to where to go. Julio laughed and yelled, "Dirty and dumb! God, I hope you’re strong, though." He then showed him where he could go to wash.

Down below, Lee found the head and stripped. Turning on the water as hot as he could stand it, he scrubbed the days of filth and grime from his body.

Well, if Julio thinks I’m dumb, then all the better. He won’t notice me as much then while I do my job. This could actually work to my benefit.

Standing under the hot spray, he thought of Robert who was at home with his mother. A pang of guilt came over him as he stood there. He had to remind himself that he was doing this in some small way so that maybe Robert and other children would never have to worry about this poison they would end up transporting. After he had showered and changed, he dropped his clothes in the trash can. Stepping outside the head, he had to remind himself not to straighten up, but to slouch.

Julio walked by and said, "Better. Much better. Now, come with me...by the way, what is your name?"

"Hector. Hector Salizar."

"Well, Hector Salizar, you clean up better than I thought. You’ll soon be dirty again, but at least you won’t be drawing flies. Your bunk is over there. Dinner will be in a while. The captain makes sure we eat good. For what we do and how little we make, at least we can say we have full stomachs. Better get some rest, Hector. For tomorrow you will begin to work like you’ve never worked before."

Crane walked over to the shabby bunk and sat down. Julio was watching him and he knew it, so he decided to put on a show of his own. Feigning exhaustion and delight about having a real mattress to sleep on, he lay down, closed his eyes, and then, unwittingly, fell asleep.

 

 

The next ten days proved to be some of the longest days that Lee Crane had ever known in his life. After the first two or three, he silently wondered if he truly was getting soft by being the Seaview’s Captain. The work aboard the freighter was backbreaking and Julio worked the men at a steady hard pace for 16 hours each day. They loaded freight in cargo containers, shifting it from one place to another to make room for more. He would come back to his bunk each night with aches in places he couldn’t ever remember having. Julio was right about the work. It was hard, but he was also right about the food. Only Cookie’s could rival it. He noticed, ironically, that he had started to gain some weight. Jamie had often been on him about that. Lee reasoned that what it really was, was muscle. He hadn’t worked like this in a long time and the long hours, hard work, and hearty food had started to fill him out in a very short period of time.

Julio still treated him as someone with low intelligence, which was just fine with Lee. It actually made his job a tad bit easier. In fact, if he was caught staring at something for a long period of time, he would fake a spaced out look and the others would joke about him. He would simply smile and nod, indicating acceptance...but Lee was really making mental note after mental note in his brain about the ship, its crew size, everything that he possibly could commit to memory.

Suddenly, there was a flurry of voices from the dock and then Lee saw the Captain come up the gangplank. Catching a few words here and there, he was able to find out that they would set sail on the morning tide and that their estimated arrival date in San Diego would be one week away. Filing that away, he continued to clean the railings that Julio had assigned him to do. As he worked his way down the railing, he found himself outside the Captain’s cabin. The Captain and Julio were conversing in English since they felt that the crew did not understand it.

"The cargo has been loaded, Captain, and we are ready to sail. And ample room has been made for the rest of our cargo as well."

"Good, Julio. Good. We will need it. I have been advised that we are to deliver around 2000 keys on this trip. A good profit, my friend. A good profit. Make ready for the morning tide then. We will rendezvous at the loading point in 72 hours. The weather is supposed to be good so there should be no problems with the sleds."

Lee made a mental note.

Sea sleds. That’s how they were able to load so much so fast. But how and where was it being loaded onto the ship? That was what he had to find out. 72 hours? Making some quick computations in his head, he figured that the point had to be somewhere near Tijuana, but not so deep as to cause problems for the lab’s personnel. They could still be on the continental shelf and not be too deep. 2000 keys? Kilograms? That was a lot of cocaine to be manufactured in an undersea lab. In order to do that, it had to be a good size one. He tried to remember if there were any abandoned underwater habitats off the coast, but found he couldn’t. He had to concentrate on listening and remembering the conversations. Without any contact to pass information on to, it was vitally imperative that he remember every last detail. They were depending on him to bring home the information.

As he cleaned the railings, the sounds became muffled, inaudible. He could no longer hear what they were saying and he didn’t want to look too obvious by cleaning the same section over again. No, he would have to let the events take place naturally and without interference. He was to be only an observer. The real fireworks would come much later when they would take out the lab.

 

 

The next morning, the old freighter was detached from her moorings and was gently nudged from her birth at the dock. The captain expertly guided her through the harbor and started out to sea. The summer weather was beautiful but hot. Seas were calm, hardly any swells. The first 48 hours was smooth sailing. The freighter ran amazingly smooth. Lee had to give the Captain credit; he ran a tight but fair ship. Most of the crew were uneducated peasants looking for work to support their families. A good number of them were experienced sailors but ones he wouldn’t trust if his life depended on it, and, unfortunately, under the present circumstances, it just might come to that.

The third day out, the freighter stopped. Lee managed to get a work detail close to the wheelhouse where he could overhear what was going on. Julio and the Captain were talking in English again. As Lee made his way closer to the wheelhouse, he hunched over the mop he held and wiped broad strokes that inched his way closer and closer to the two men. They saw him, stopped their conversation just long enough to realize who it was, then Julio laughed.

"It’s only Hector, Captain. He cannot understand English and is simple minded to boot. It’s okay to talk in front of him. He can’t understand anyway, do you, Hector?" Julio remarked, sarcastically slapping ‘Hector’ on the back. Lee looked up at the man and faked a weak smile, feigning ignorance at the words directed toward him.

The Captain laughed and then said, "Julio, one of these days...you are going to be bitten, my friend." Then turning serious, he reflected, "We’ve got an awful lot to do and a very short time to do it, my friend. Make sure the ‘area’ is ready for our cargo. We don’t want to stay here too long. It’s fortunate that our contact makes sure we’re the only ship in the area when it’s time to pick up our shipment. The bosses must pay him a small fortune to ensure his ‘loyalty’."

"Yes, they obviously do. It’s nice to have someone like that to look out for us," Julio agreed. The two men continued their conversation but lowered their voices. Lee continued to work at mopping the floor, straining his ears to hear the hushed discussion. His diligence was soon rewarded.

The radio operator appeared in the doorway with a message for the Captain. Scanning it briefly, he turned to Julio and remarked, "We will have to wait longer than normal. The ‘cargo’ is not quite ready and they are experiencing problems with the sled.... . No matter. What’s a few hours sitting here when money is at stake, eh, my friend?"

The first mate vigorously nodded. "Yes, it’s not as if we’re not well paid." The two men laughed and walked out of the wheelhouse together. Lee was left alone mopping the floors. Quickly looking around, he realized that a quick look at the INC (internal navigational computer) would give him an idea as to where they were. He quickly inched his way toward it, then taking out a rag, began wiping down all the instruments. When he came to the INC, he quickly memorized the coordinates, then looking quickly around to see if anyone was there, mopped his way across the room and out the door.

 

 

In Santa Barbara…

At the Nelson Institute, the daily routine had not been disrupted by Lee Crane’s absence. Research and development continued and outwardly everything seemed as it always was. Seaview was loaded with a full compliment of stores, ready to depart at a moment’s notice. It had been nearly three weeks now since Harriman Nelson had first been called to Washington, D.C. for the meeting at the Pentagon and Crane had left the Institute. They had not heard a single word from the DEA regarding Lee and the strain was beginning to show.

Karen Nelson awoke that morning to a vicious headache. She tried to get out of bed but when she placed her feet on the floor and tried to stand, the room seemed to spin. Sitting back down on the edge of the bed, she just sat there. Harry came out of the bathroom after his shower carrying a towel in his hand and saw her sitting there, her face drained of any color it had.

He stopped short of the bed and asked, "Are you all right? You look pale."

She glanced up at him. "I think so. I got up with a terrible headache. Got a little dizzy when I tried to stand up. I may have to let Jamie look at me. Only thing I can think of that would do this would be a middle ear infection. Throws off your balance."

"Well, definitely let him check you out. Lee’s due back in less than a week and we’d better be prepared to sail at a moment’s notice once he gives the DEA those coordinates. Thompson will have us out to sea before we get the satellite pictures you wanted. And if it IS an ear infection, you’re grounded. You know that."

She glared at him. "Yes, I know that. I’m well aware of that. And if I can’t dive, then Chip will have to take up the slack and lead the team out." She slowly got to her feet and made her way to the bathroom. Taking a bottle of Tylenol from the medicine cabinet, she took two of the tablets. Coming back into the bedroom, she sat down on the antique sofa in front of the bedroom window.

"Harriman, I want to see those photos before that team is ever placed in the water. There’s too many factors here to consider. One wrong move and one or more of my team could get hurt or worse."

"I know that. And Thompson knows that. That’s why I insisted he deal with you exclusively regarding the team. You know what perimeters you can and can’t work in. And you know what can and can’t be done."

She looked up at her husband. Suddenly a wave of nausea came over her. Her expression and the fact that she grabbed hold of the end table alarmed Nelson. He walked over to her and stooped down in front of her.

"Are you sure you’re all right?"

"Yeah, I’ll be okay. For some reason the pills didn’t agree with my stomach."  And then just as suddenly as the nausea had hit, it disappeared. She straightened up and looked at him as he half squatted in front of her.  "Harry, I’m fine. Really. For some reason, something didn’t agree with me. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken those pills on an empty stomach."

"Well, get Doc to check you out anyway," he told her, standing up and taking her hand to help her up. Observing her, he watched her as color slowly came back into her face.

"I will. Hmm, don’t know what hit me just then. I’d swear I felt like I was run over by a truck. You know...like when you’ve come down with the flu."

"And you’re sure you’re okay?"

She looked at the concern in his blue eyes. "Yes, Harry, I’m sure," and she lightly kissed him, tracing the curve of his face with her fingertip, then headed for the bathroom. Maybe the shower will help. Turning on the water as hot as she could stand it, she then stood underneath the stream, letting the water cascade over her body. She could hear his electric razor going at the vanity and hear him humming as he shaved. Smiling to herself, content in her surroundings and feeling much better, she poured some of her favorite vanilla scented bath gel onto a sea sponge and slowly began to lather herself. A shower radio was set to Karen’s favorite jazz station and the music played as she stood under the shower. The steam from the shower had fogged up the room and she was so engrossed in the feel of the lather on her body that she didn’t hear the shower door open. Suddenly a hand appeared, took the sponge from hers, and proceeded to lather her back. She didn’t open her eyes, but just stood there, allowing him to soap her from head to toe. In some aspects, it was like a dream. The hazy delicious feeling she was having made her forget what she had endured earlier. He slowly turned her around and, after pouring a bit more of the scented gel onto the sponge, slowly and methodically lathered the front of her, massaging her breasts as the lather increased its richness and scent.

Opening her eyes slowly, she found herself gazing into his steel blue eyes. His auburn hair was now plastered to his head from the steam and the cascading water. His mouth hungrily sought hers as the water poured over them and his body pressed tightly against hers.

As his lips slowly made their way down her neck, she whispered, "Harry, I thought you’d already had a shower."

"Mmmmm, so I’ll have another one...." came the muffled quiet reply as his hands slid across her soapy body, settling on her breasts, his fingers slowly and lightly playing with the hardening nipples, then they slowly inched downward toward that most private and sensitive of places on her body. "Besides, this one will be more...interesting."

"Harriman Nelson...you are one salty sea dog, you know that," she saucily replied and gave in totally to his advances. Pressing her soapy body against his and feeling the hardness of him between them, she knew exactly what he had in mind. She returned his kisses with probing ones of her own. His hands roamed her body at will, making her crazy. Hers traced the outline of his body and found his hardness. Her soapy hands softly and slowly stroked him as he backed her slowly against the wall of the shower. The water washed all the soap away from their bodies as he slowly made love to her standing there in the shower.

 

 

Two hours later, Karen was sitting behind her desk in her office when her daughter walked in carrying several large books and a laptop computer.

"Good morning, Caitlin...I see that you finally decided to join the land of the living," Karen jokingly remarked, a pointed reminder of Caitlin’s sometimes tendency to sleep rather late when she was home for the summer.

"Hi, Mom, sorry about that. Let me put some of these things...down...here..." she replied, dropping everything on the sofa opposite the desk.

"What in God’s name is all that?"

"These?...Oh, those are some reference books that I got from the NIMR library on accessing databases and such...And there’s a couple on programming as well." Caitlin sat down on the sofa and opened the laptop, turned it on and waited for it to warm up.

Karen got up and came over to the sofa. Picking up one of the books, she thumbed through it and then put it down.

"Well, I’m glad you know what these say, ‘cause I sure as hell don’t."

Caitlin Davis looked at her mother. "Oh, Mom!.... Actually, one of my projects for the summer is in programming. I’m working with Chip Morton on Seaview’s new navigational computer. Chip is supervising the installation and I’m helping with the programming."

Karen glanced at her daughter. "Hmmm, you didn’t just happen to pull a little rank to get in on that, did you Caitlin?" She knew that her daughter had wanted to help with that ever since she had heard about it and had been trying to angle a way to do it. Karen figured that Caitlin might have just used the fact that she was Harriman Nelson’s stepdaughter to get to work on the project.

Caitlin looked up at her and grinned slyly. "Now, Mom...This is Chip I’m working with, remember? Besides...I did sort of trade babysitting services for the promise of working on the computer system."

Her mother laughed. Anything to get her near her beloved computers!!!

"Besides, Mom, you know that HN wants the INC on-line ASAP so that Seaview can depart as soon as Lee gets back. I just suggested to Chip that another hand could possibly make it go faster."

Karen noted something in her daughter’s voice with Crane’s name was mentioned. Over the last few years, Caitlin had developed a fondness for the Seaview’s captain. Then last year at the Nelsons’ wedding, there was an attitude change on Crane’s part. Karen never could pinpoint what it was, but Lee kept sulking whenever other men had shown any attention to her daughter. He was now a widower, having lost his wife in a tragic accident that left him with a young son to raise. The first she really noticed it was at the wedding reception when Caitlin was surrounded by several young Navy jet pilots from Miramar. Karen had talked with Lee and Chip at the bar during the reception as the pilots fawned all over her beautiful daughter. Lee was watching the interaction and acting, Karen suspected, somewhat jealous.

Yet Karen had openly dismissed any type of relationship other than friendship between the tall, lanky, sullen Captain and her daughter. For one thing, he was at least 15 years older than Caitlin. And for another, he was much more worldly. He had been married, widowed, and had a young son. Caitlin was young, impetuous, and still had a lot to learn about the world. Granted, she had had to grow up fast due to her mother’s career and the loss of her father...the environment at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research had also fostered both her intellectual and emotional growth. Harriman Nelson, even prior to his marriage to Karen, had taken on a surrogate father figure role and provided her with the guidance and love that she needed during her latter teenage years. The rest of Seaview’s crew acted as ‘brother protectors’ and best friends for her.

So when Caitlin mentioned Crane’s name with a certain tone in her voice, Karen’s maternal curiosity peaked. Deciding to venture a little further into the subject area, she asked, "Caitlin, are you sure you’re not doing this for some other reason as well?"

"Oh, Mom, now what on earth would that be?!.... Really, Mom...do you really think I’m doing it to get close to the guys?.... Come on, give me a break! I’ve grown up with a lot of these guys, for God’s sake!"

"Well, maybe just ONE particular person, perhaps?.... Like maybe...Lee Crane?" Karen gently teased her daughter.

"Oh, Mother, please!!!!!!"

Before Karen could reply, Terri Styles, her secretary, interrupted with a buzz on the intercom.  "Captain Davis, there’s a gentleman here to see you."

Crossing over to her desk, she flipped the switch on the intercom and replied, "Who is it, Terri? I wasn’t expecting anyone this morning."

"Mr. Thompson, ma’am. And he says it’s important."

Karen knew what that meant. She couldn’t have Caitlin in her office while discussing the mission with Thompson. Sitting down at her desk, she looked over at her daughter. God, she’s so grown up now!! I really wonder if it’s not Lee Crane she’s really interested in. No...he’s too old for her.... Course, then again, Karen old girl.... Harry’s at least 10 years older than you. You don’t reckon.... Terri’s voice brought her back to reality.

"Captain, should I send him in?’

"Just a minute, Terri. Have him wait for a few minutes. I’ll be with him shortly."

"Yes, Ma’am."

Karen switched off the intercom and then addressed Caitlin. "Sweets, you’re going to have to vacate here for a while. Mr. Thompson needs to see me and I’m sorry, but you can’t be a part of it. You know the rules."

Caitlin was used to the request. Even though her stepfather was Admiral Harriman Nelson and her mother was Karen Davis Nelson, she herself was not allowed to be privy to high level security matters. Her mother’s rule was if she were in the office when a matter arose, she had to vacate ASAP, no questions asked.

"No problem, Mom. I need to run some information down to Seaview anyway. Chip’s down there working on the INC’s installation. How about lunch? Will you be free?"

"Don’t know, sweets. Let me see how this meeting goes. If I’m free, we’ll meet at the house, ok?"

Caitlin picked up a couple of the books, her notes and headed out the door. Outside in the waiting area, Norman Thompson stood as she came out. He watched with more than a passing interest as Caitlin walked to the outer door and then turned around.

"Hello, Mr. Thompson. It’s good to see you again."

"Miss Davis, good to see you, too." Noting her loaded arms, he quickly moved to open the door for her. Her smile was radiant, he thought to himself. And she is beautiful and intelligent. I wonder...but then he dismissed the thought. The girl’s mother was standing in the doorway, watching the scene take place.

"Thank you," she replied as she then headed out the door without so much as a second glance back. He watched her as she left. There’s something about her...

"Humm, Mr. Thompson, you wanted to see me?" Karen Nelson asked. She was observing his reaction to her daughter with quiet amusement.

He turned around, looking at her, puzzled. "Oh,...yes, I’m sorry. Yes, I did. I have some news."

"Then come in, please. Terri, let the Admiral know that he might want to come over for this meeting."

"Yes, ma’am."

Thompson followed her into the office and sat down opposite her.

"All right, Mr. Thompson, what’s your news?"

"The El Zanzibar will dock in three days. An AWACs plane has been tracking its movements. When she docks, the ship’s cargo will be off-loaded, as will be drugs. So, Crane should be back here in less than a week."

She was glad to hear that. But he had not said if Lee was all right. "Mr. Thompson, I take it that you have another agent aboard that freighter as well as Lee Crane. Lee is all right, isn’t he?"

Thompson looked at the woman behind the desk, watching her very carefully.  "Yes, Mrs. Nelson, we do. And yes, he is all right, from last report. Now mind you, contact has been sporadic at best. Our man doesn’t want to breach security and lose his life as well. We do believe that Crane has the coordinates we’re looking for. Once he’s back here, we can download those coordinates into the computer to then feed directly into the SpyLink satellite. With that done, we can get the pictures you require."

"Good. If you want, I can give you the perimeters that you need to feed to the computer for the pictures."

At just about that time, Harriman Nelson walked through the door of his wife’s office.  "Thompson, I understand you have news about Lee Crane?"

"Yes, and no, sir. We have not heard from him. That much was to be expected. We didn’t give him a contact aboard the ship: however, as a failsafe, we did manage to get another agent aboard. One that has made contact with us and has advised that Crane has managed to get the coordinates. The Zanzibar will dock in 3 days. As I advised Captain Davis, we’ll observe the off-loading of all the cargo, legal and otherwise. Our agent will manage to ‘guide’ Crane off the ship and out of the area. If I were you, I would be prepared for anything."

Nelson glared at Thompson. His last statement didn’t exactly sit too well with him.  "What do you mean ‘be prepared for anything’? Crane is going to be all right, isn’t he? Your people will deliver him safely back here, won’t they? Damn it, Thompson, You better not let anything happen to him or I’ll have your head on a platter."

Thompson realized that he had just struck a nerve with Nelson. He had heard through the grapevine that Crane and Nelson were close. Sort of a father-son relationship. Crane had been Nelson’s best man at Nelson’s wedding the year before. And he had also been given permanent captaincy of the Seaview for as long as he wanted it so Nelson trusted him implicitly.

"Admiral Nelson, I assure you, all precautions will be taken that Lee Crane will be delivered back here to the Institute safe and sound."

"I’ll hold you to that promise, Thompson. Lee Crane has a young son that needs him. The boy lost his mother when he was very small and I don’t want him to be made an orphan. Do you understand me?" Nelson growled.

"Yes, sir. I do," Thompson responded. The one thing he had never counted on was the closeness of the Seaview ‘family’. Crane and Nelson had both been trained by the ONI in covert activities. They both knew the risks every time they accepted a mission. yet Thompson had just been privy to something extremely unusual. For the first time, he had seen what being part of a ‘family’ was really all about. It didn’t matter which one of them was involved, the others worried until they had returned to the fold.

"Mr. Thompson, as soon as we have the coordinates, how long do you estimate before we have the satellite pictures? If the freighter is due to dock in three days, and Lee will be back here by the end of the week, you’re talking about roughly seven to ten days from now, is that right?" Karen inquired. "I need to know when to recall the team back to the compound."

"Actually, Captain, you might want to recall them within three days. If you can give me the list of parameters, I can have that ready as soon as we get the coordinates from Crane. The faster we can feed them into the satellite, the faster we can leave...even if we have to leave before he gets back aboard."

Nelson looked at him. A determined look came over his face and Karen knew that posture and stance well. She watched her husband’s facial expression. His lips had thinned out and a slight scowl settled on his face.

"Mr. Thompson, if at all possible, Seaview will not sail without her Captain. Is that clear?" Nelson quietly but firmly told him.

"But Admiral..."

"But nothing, Mr. Thompson. Seaview will wait for Lee Crane. That drug lab isn’t going anywhere. And neither will we, until he’s safely aboard or until we hear otherwise," Nelson adamantly declared.

Thompson was clearly getting frustrated. He looked to the only other person in the room that could shed some reason on the argument. Karen would not give him that support. She too clearly would not commit to anything until Crane was safely back in the fold.

Clearly, he was outnumbered. So he could do nothing but wait. And pray that Lee Crane would depart the El Zanzibar in three days unharmed and make his way back to the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.

 

 

Aboard the El Zanzibar, Lee Crane continued his charade of ‘Hector’. He knew now that the ship would dock in three days in San Diego and he knew what the new ‘cargo’ was that she carried. He had been below that day when the sleds rendezvoused with the ship. He had also observed the false flooring in her bottom and watched from a safe distance as the kilos of cocaine were off-loaded from the sleds and then packed into special containers within the cargo hold. The pungent smell of coffee grounds coming from the thousands of burlap bags of coffee beans that were packed around the white bricks was almost overwhelming to the senses. This was done to throw off any US Customs’ drug dogs should the cargo be inspected. They had managed to remain undetected for over a year now. However, the cartel knew that it was only a matter of time before they were boarded and checked. Already they had received information from their own informant that the DEA was closing in on the ships, but they needed to bring as much of the specially processed cocaine into the United States as they could. They had gone to a lot of time and expense to adapt a small fleet of ships for the underwater sleds. And until they were totally destroyed, and the lab out of commission, the cartel would continue to bring in the shipments in this manner.

Julio still thought of ‘Hector’ as simple. But he also recognized that he had strength as well. So he routinely would use him in some of the more menial but heavier tasks. Two days out from San Diego, Julio came to ‘Hector’ and told him to go below and help with some of the cargo that had shifted. As Crane went below, he heard the low voices of those working in the hold. Men who hadn’t seen the sun in days worked continually with the cargo, making sure it didn’t shift with the rolling of the ship. Lee suddenly caught sight of a small area of the hold that was packed just slightly different from the rest. He didn’t want to seem too obvious with his interest, but he felt that he needed to see what was there. As he joined the rest of the hands hoisting cargo into containers, he kept keenly aware of the conversations going on around him. There were so many going on, but he heard snippets of one conversation on the other side of the container. Slowly working his way around to that side, he found two men, clad in dirty work pants and shirts steadily packing a crate with brick-like bags of white material. There was straw strewn around and the scent of coffee mixed with oil and human sweat hung in the air. The two men saw Lee and shouted for him to get out of the way, that he didn’t belong there. One of the men shook his fist and cursed at him, threatening to cut his throat if he did not leave. ‘Hector’ slowly told them that Julio had sent him down to help, but they would have none of it. The taller of the two men pulled out what appeared to be a machete and loudly threatened Crane with it. Lee then feigned meekness and slowly nodded his head in obedience. He had seen enough. This is where the cocaine would be packed and stored, then smuggled into the States.

Looking at the scene in its entirety, Lee found himself sick to his stomach. He had never really realized how the drug trade effected people. These men would sooner kill him than to look at him. It was certainly not like any other mission he had ever been on for ONI. He then realized that the thousands of kilograms of cocaine that the ship now carried would end up being sold on the streets for millions of dollars. It would feed the habits of untold thousands of addicts possibly nationwide. People from all walks of life. Even down to some children. It was that one thought made him sick . . And madder...and more determined than ever to be part of the operation that would stop that laboratory.

Three more days. All he had to endure was three more days. Then the ship would dock at San Diego and he would go ashore and ‘disappear’. Lee made his way back up to the deck and stood quietly at the railing looking outward across the horizon. Another one of the crew, a smallish framed man with a very dark ruddy complexion leaned up against the railing and offered Lee what looked like some kind of a cigarette. Shaking his head no, the man simply shrugged his shoulders and replied, "Your loss, my friend."

In an attempt to engage the man in conversation, Lee replied, "I tried once, but hated what I felt like afterward."

The smell of burning marijuana emulated from the cigarette. Lee knew that within a few minutes the shorter man would be feeling very high and might just prove to be quite useful to him.

As the smaller man puffed away, his eyes started to glaze a bit. Now! Lee had to ask his questions quickly and quietly.

"I was told to go help that that big crate in the hole. Those two men wouldn’t let me. They told me they would kill me if I came near it."

"Ahhh.... yes.... Pedro and Juan.... yes.... they are very bad, those two.... Will slit your throat quickly if you cross them."

"They look very bad.... I didn’t want to cross them...my family depends on me to bring home some money for food.... . Our crop this year was very bad," Lee told the man puffing on the cigarette.

"You ought to go to work for Miguel Rodriguez’s family. Good money...I know. He would make sure your family is fed and clothed. My family was poor, too. Then I went to work for their family. Now my family has plenty of food...plenty clothes.... we have money for doctors. Rodriguez takes care of my family. I owe him everything."

Lee watched the man carefully as he became more intoxicated on the drug. His tongue was getting a bit looser the more stoned he became.

"Yes, but what happens if one day you don’t want to work for him anymore? I know the coca brings good money, and my family does need it...but I have seen what it can do to a person...what if you don’t want to work for him anymore?" Lee slowly asked him.

"Ahhh, but who would want to stop getting that kind of money and help that Miguel can bring to us, eh, Hector? A person would have be loco to bite the hand that feeds it, would they not?" the man replied as he took another very long drag on the cigarette. The pungent odor was interesting to Lee but he edged a bit away. The last thing he needed to find himself stoned and not in control.

The two men stood for a bit more at the railing and watched as a school of dolphins raced parallel to the moving freighter. Lee had always been struck at the sheer gracefulness of the animals and he smiled slightly as he spied a mother and her baby within the group. His mind wandered to another time, another place, another mother and child.

Cats, I miss you so much. I wish you could see Robert now, Cats. He’s growing so fast...I just wish I was at home to see it more.

Crane was so deep in thought that he didn’t notice that the other man had walked away and he was now alone at the railing. He turned and noticed that most of the crew had obviously gone below for the night. It wouldn’t be long now before they docked in San Diego.

 

 

The next few days passed without incident. The crew was getting a bit antsy about shore leave in America. The first mate had voiced his reservations giving the crew shore leave...he was afraid that some of the crew would ‘jump ship’ and disappear into the underground of illegal aliens. However, the Captain had ordered a limited shore leave...the men would be allowed leave but only in groups so that crew loyal to the owners could keep a watchful eye on the others. Feeling very generous, the Captain had arranged with one of the local dockside bars the full use of their facilities, even down to some of the local ‘ladies’. His reasoning was that three to four weeks alone on board a ship was not good for any man and that if his crew was kept happy, they would all return voluntarily.

On the final day, the freighter slowly steamed into San Diego harbor and with the aid of a tugboat, eased itself alongside the assigned birth at one of the numerous piers. Longshoremen began the job of tying up the ship and once the harbormaster had finished with the various paperwork, the long, tedious job of off-loading the cargo began.

The day after all the cargo had been off-loaded (including the drug shipment); the Captain granted limited shore leave to his crew. The first mate indicated to the men that they would be granted the leave, but that they to stay within the confines of the immediate pier area. There was a bar near the pier that they would be allowed to go to but nowhere else.

As the men departed the freighter a few at a time, Julio came upon ‘Hector’ as he was gathering some of his things in preparation to go ashore.  "And where do you think you’re going, eh, Hector? You going to drink and maybe have some fun? Maybe there will be some pretty senorita take pity on you," Julio laughed. "Well, don’t let the pretty ladies take all your money." He slapped Lee on the back and pushed him out the hatchway.

Lee held his tongue and stayed in character. It had gotten him this far.... only a little while longer. Lucas had told him before he left for Colombia that someone would contact him after he docked back in the States although he wasn’t told how, when, where, or even who. Only that he would be contacted and gotten out of the area and back to the Institute.

The crew made their way to the bar a couple of blocks from the pier. Lee looked at the area and thought that it looked like the worst dive of a bar that he’d ever seen.... and he’d seen quite a few over the years. The cigarette smoke hung like a thick bluish white haze throughout the room. The foul smell was stale beer and stale smoke. Lee looked around the room at the myriad of men and local prostitutes that both sat and stood there. Music from an old jukebox was playing loudly. The bartender greeted the men with a barely audible grunt and "What do you want?"

As each man ordered, Crane’s eye methodically yet casually roved over the room. There was something about this place that made his skin crawl. Maybe it was the cockroach that he spied crawling along the bar or the fact that it looked like the place had not seen a mop and bucket for years. His eyes settled on a group of crewmen and ‘working ladies’ laughing and talking loudly over in the corner. One of the women looked over at him and decided to saunter over to his side. She wore what had to be the shortest mini-skirt he’d ever seen along with black fishnet stockings, 4 inch stiletto heels and a halter top that barely covered her more than ample breasts.

"Hey, you...yeah, you...you like what you see?" she asked him, smiling seductively and took hold of his belt as she pulled him to her. She took her other hand and placed it on his rear end and squeezed his hips.

Lee didn’t know quite what to do...he smelled the cheap perfume along with the other disgusting smells from the bar and was trying to keep from gagging. He knew he had to keep in character, and he kind of felt sorry for this woman who was obviously trying to sell her body to him.

Smiling weakly, he gently pulled her hand from his backside. "No thank you. You are a very pretty lady, but I am married."

"That doesn’t matter, now does it?" she sweetly told him as her hand then made its way to his hair and her fingers twirled the black curls. Swiftly pulling him down to her, she brazenly kissed him and rubbed her leg on the inside of his thigh.

He backed away and shook his head. "No, thank you. All I want here is a beer."

One of his companions was watching the scene take place and laughed, "Hector wouldn’t know what to do with you if he tried. He’s a bit simple...you know...in the head."

The woman smiled and looked over at the grinning man. "Oh, I think he knows what to do, all right...he just needs a little ‘help’."

"Well, why don’t you help him then?" said the man as he pushed Lee toward Rita.

"You want some help, Hector? You want to sample Rita’s wares for the evening? Come on, Hector, let Rita help you relieve some of that tension and shyness," she seductively gestured as she pulled at his belt.

All of a sudden, one of the men from the corner table came over with a beer bottle and angrily said to the woman, "Get your ass back over here. We paid for you, you belong to us."

The woman turned around and slapped the man with the bottle. "You may have paid for my ‘favors’ but you don’t own me. I want to see what he has in there and so far, it looks mighty good to me," she replied, now leering at Crane.

"We’ll see about that," the man said angrily and suddenly broke the bottle against the table. "I’ll take care of him so you won’t need anyone else." He advanced toward Lee with the broken bottle in his hand. Lee stepped back cautiously, when he suddenly felt someone take hold of his arms and hold them behind him. Instinctively, he kicked out at the man with the bottle and then a full scale fight erupted in the bar. Bottles, fists, and bodies were flying all over the room. Crane felt a blow to his stomach and then someone hit him in the jaw. The next thing he knew, he was hurling through the door of the bar and landing almost headfirst on the pavement. Two of the men and Rita followed him outside where one man picked him up off the street. He grabbed at Lee’s shirt and held him close to his face. The man slightly grinned at him and then quietly told him, "It’s time for you to leave here, Captain."

Crane’s eyes narrowed and he looked very closely at the man. All of a sudden, he recognized the face in front of him. Lucas, the DEA agent. But how? How did he know he’d be here? Then, without warning, Lucas’s fist caught Lee square in the jaw and Crane’s body went limp.

Quickly, the two men and the woman dragged Crane to the alley where an old dilapidated van was waiting. The side panel opened quickly and he was pulled in. The other three jumped in, the door closed, and the van backed out of the alley.

 

 

A couple of hours later, an old gray beat up panel van approached the gates of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Stopping for the security check, the driver flashed his badge and was allowed through then headed straight to the compounds SickBay facility where Will Jamison and Harriman Nelson were waiting. As the vehicle parked, a blue Jeep Wrangler pulled up and Caitlin Davis started to get out. Seeing her stepfather and the doctor standing outside seemed a bit unusual and as she started to approach, the van’s doors opened up. What she saw next shocked her. She watched as Lee Crane was carried, unconscious and obviously beaten, into the medical facility. Rushing up to Nelson, she grabbed hold of his arm and asked in a terrified voice, "What’s wrong with Lee, HN? Is he okay?"

Putting his arm around her to reassure her, he then said, "He’ll be just fine, Caitlin. He’s all right. He’s been on a mission and these people got him out and back here."

"Oh my God, HN, are you sure? He looks terrible."

"He’ll be fine. If you want to, come on with me and you can see for yourself. By the way, where’s your mother? Karen needs to know that Lee’s finally back."

"She’s out on the Vulcan, putting the team through some exercises. You want me to have her brought in?"

"No, I don’t think that’ll be necessary right now, but she does need to know he’s back. I’ll let her know myself in a little while. Was she going to dive?.... She was complaining a few days ago that she wasn’t feeling well."

"I don’t know. Come to think of it, I thought she did look a bit pale this morning when I saw her. But you know Mom, HN.... . after the other ordeal, she’s not about to dive if she truly doesn’t think she should."

They walked into the building together and into the waiting area outside the examination room. In another room, off to one side, were Norman Thompson, ‘Rita’, Joe Lucas and the other man from the bar as well as the driver of the van. Thompson was debriefing them and would then debrief Crane as soon as he was conscious and able to talk coherently.

Will Jamison strolled out to them about 15 minutes later. Thompson and his team were now waiting with Nelson and Caitlin.  "He’s okay. Other than a sore jaw and a bit of a black eye, I think he’ll be just fine. He’s certainly been eating well...looks like he’s actually picked up a few pounds and Lord knows, I’ve been after him to do that. Physically, though, I do believe he’s in better shape than when he left here."

"When can I see him, Doctor? It’s imperative that we speak to him," asked Thompson.

"Well, I think he can see you in about 30 minutes. But first, he wants to talk with the Admiral," Jamison indicated and then turned to Nelson. "He insists, in fact."

Nelson raised an eyebrow and cocked his head slightly. Obviously Lee had something to tell him that he didn’t want Thompson to hear. Leaving Caitlin in the waiting area with Thompson and company, he followed Jamison back into the examining room. Finding Lee Crane sitting up on the table, Nelson shook his hand and welcomed him back.

"Well, you don’t look any worse for wear, except for that black eye," Nelson mused as he looked at his captain.

"Yeah, well.... Lucas packs a mean punch. I’m surprised my jaw’s not broken," he replied, moving his mouth around a bit.

"Will indicated you wanted to talk to me.... What’s the problem?"

"They’re using sea sleds to move the cocaine.... And there’s a leak. Someone lets them know when there’s no ships in the area and then keeps any other ships out of there while the stuff is being loaded."

"You think it’s one of the agency people?"

"I don’t know.... but I did overhear a conversation that indicated whoever it was, was rather high up and had a lot of influence."

Lee picked up a clean uniform that had been brought over for him and started to change clothes. What he found as he did startled him a bit. His uniform, normally a bit loose on him, was now not tight, but snug. He hadn’t realized that the hard work and filling food aboard the freighter had actually added both pounds and muscle to his lean frame. Will had always been after him to gain a little weight but he hadn’t meant to in this manner.

Nelson looked at him in a bit of amusement. "Looks like you need a new uniform, Lee. The food must have been awfully good."

"Well, it was filling, if that’s what you mean...I guess I worked harder than I realized there. Guess I’ll have to requisition a new set of uniforms."

Jamison came over, looked over the charts and then looked at Crane. "Well, I’ll say this much, you need to do this kind of work more often. You look pretty good."

Lee was about to come back with a retort when he looked up and saw a beautiful blonde walk into the room. Had he not known the young woman, he would have been tempted to dazzle her with some kind of comment.

Caitlin Davis looked at Crane as he stood fastening the buttons on his shirt. She flashed him a grin and nodded her head approvingly.  "Hmmmmm, he certainly looks just fine to me," she stated walking over to him. Taking her hand and lightly touching his left eye, she frowned as he grimaced from her touch. "Sorry.... God, who did that to you? It looks horrible."

Lee smiled at her and gazed into her bright blue eyes in the process. Recently he’d been getting an uneasy feeling when he was around her...especially since last year at the Admiral’s wedding.

"I’m fine, Caitlin.... It’ll go away with time."

"Well, I’m glad of that. After all, Lee, you’re the one that’s going to have to explain that shiner to your son."

Lee’s eyes brightened even further at the mention of Robert. Looking at her and knowing that she sometimes babysat him, he asked, "How is he? How’s Mom?"

Caitlin partially sat down on the bed and crossed her legs. Her cut off shorts showed them off quite nicely and she saw that Lee had actually noticed. Inwardly smiling to herself, she answered, "They’re both fine, but Robert misses his dad. He’s been asking a million questions about where you were. He doesn’t understand, Lee. If I were you, I’d have a little heart to heart talk with him."

"Don’t worry, I will. Just as soon as I talk to Mr. Thompson and his group."

About that time, Thompson walked into the room and observed the little scene in front of him.  "Did I hear my name mentioned?"

Nelson turned and saw him standing there. "Come in, Thompson. I think he’s ready for debriefing."

"Good...Ahh...Captain, I thought you’d like to meet the agents who brought you out. I think you know Joe Lucas...." he indicated as Lucas poked his head around the door and stepped inside. "And this is Robin Turner, one of our other undercover agents..." and then he turned to ‘Rita’, "...and this ‘lady of the evening’ is Dora Masterson."

Crane looked at her and burst out laughing. "Well, I have to say, Dora, that I never would have picked you for an agent. Your act was superb! It certainly fooled me, that’s for sure!"

Dora swiveled over and kissed him full on the lips and then took her long fingernail and lightly touched his face. "Anytime, Captain. Anytime."

Lee watched as she walked out of the room, as did every man there, including Nelson. Caitlin coughed about that time and ostensibly broke the mood. Harriman looked over at his stepdaughter and caught a look on her face of total distaste. Interesting. I wonder...

Thompson had also caught the look that Caitlin had made. It was becoming obvious that she had an interest in the tall sullen man in the room but that he was totally oblivious to it. He would file this bit of information away for future use.  "Well, Captain, if you’re up to it, I need to debrief you now," he asked.

Nelson approached the two men and nodded slightly toward Caitlin. "Gentlemen, I do believe that this would be better done in my office. Thompson, if you’ll let Captain Crane get dressed, we can all meet there in about 90 minutes."

Thompson agreed and the DEA team left after congratulating Crane on what they felt was a successful mission.

"Well, I for one, think you look great.... except for that black eye," Caitlin told him. Turning to Nelson, she quickly kissed her stepfather on the cheek and said, "I’ll radio Mom and let her know he’s back. If I know her, she’ll be back shortly. Whatever you all have on the plate here is obviously very important and I’m not a part of it...so...I’ll just scoot out of here and head for home." As she started through the door, she turned and looked back at an obviously more muscular Lee Crane. Flashing him an approving smile, she then walked out the door.

Crane looked at Nelson, who was standing over by the examination table with his arms crossed. "You know, Admiral, I really feel sorry for whichever man that finally catches her. He’s definitely going to have his hands full."

Harriman looked at his captain in amusement and remarked, "Why, Lee...are you saying that my stepdaughter’s too hard to handle?"

Crane looked at him pensively and replied, "Not for the right person, sir,...not for the right person."

"Well, Captain...would you happen to know the ‘right’ person?" Nelson asked with an amused look on his face.

Lee looked at his boss, seemingly puzzled by his comment. Before he could answer, Jamison walked in and handed him a slip of paper...his discharge from the facility.  "Get out of here, Captain, before I decide to keep you."

Taking the paper, Lee grinned, "You don’t have to tell me twice. I’m outta here."

He grabbed his clothes and then he and Nelson left the medical facility for the administrative building.

 

 

Karen had received a radio call from Caitlin that Lee was back and that there would be a meeting in the Admiral’s office. She immediately flew back to the institute via the helicopter that was based on board the Vulcan. Her husband met her at the landing pad and filled her in on what all had happened. As they walked to the Administration building, he noticed her coloring. She does look a bit pale.

"Karen, are you all right?"

She looked at him, baffled at his statement. "Yes, why do you ask?"

"It’s just that...well, Caitlin said you looked a bit pale this morning, and I remember that you were complaining you didn’t feel well a few days ago . . ."

"Harriman, I’m fine. I am feeling just a bit tired, though."

As they got to his office, he opened the door and found Lee, Chip Morton, and Norman Thompson all waiting for him. Nelson then informed Angie that they were not to be disturbed.  The five of them settled in around Nelson’s desk, with Harriman taking up residence behind it. There was a large map of the western coast of North America on the wall with the area around the US-Mexican boarder enlarged.

"All right, Captain, what did you find out?" Thompson asked.

Lee Crane got up and approached the map. Taking a compass and marking the coordinates on the map, he then looked at the group.

"The lab’s here. About 750 feet below the surface. The drugs are transported to the freighter from the lab by sea sleds. The freighters have a false decking covering the inside lower hull and there are special hatches for the sleds to enter and exit. I saw what amounted to probably 2000 kilograms of cocaine loaded," he informed them. He then turned to Thompson and inquired, "Is it normal for them to use coffee beans to cover the cocaine?"

"Yeah, that’s an old but effective trick. Throws the dogs off the scent...Sea sleds, eh? Well, doesn’t surprise me.... Rodriguez always was one smart dog...." Thompson replied and then turned to Karen Nelson. "Will your teams be able to work at that depth?"

She looked at him and grinned. "Mr. Thompson, 750 feet is most definitely possible." She then turned to Morton. "Get all the necessary equipment ready and have the air mixed for that depth range. As soon as we get the satellite pictures, we’ll have a better idea of the terrain."

"Yes, ma’am," Morton answered.

Thompson glanced over at Karen and asked, "I understand that you usually go down with your team. I assume this will be no different?"

"You assume right, Mr. Thompson. As I told you before, I don’t ask the team to do anything I couldn’t or wouldn’t do myself."

"Well then, I want to go down with you when you hit the lab."

Karen looked at him in disbelief. She looked over at her husband who was looked shocked.  "Mr. Thompson, you are not qualified to dive at that depth and the answer is a flat no."

"Captain Davis, I can assure you that I am..."

"No, Mr. Thompson. Under absolutely no circumstances will you dive with us. This team is highly trained...specially trained for depths other divers can’t touch. And you aren’t qualified, at least under me."

He started to protest again when Harriman broke into the middle of the conversation.  "Thompson, the Captain told you no and I suggest you end this insane request of yours right now," he raised an eyebrow as his voice deepened and became more demanding. Both Crane and Karen knew that tone well. It was the one he used when he was getting teed off at his authority being questioned.

Norman Thompson sat looking at the four officers, suddenly realizing that he was outnumbered. This was their territory and he knew that they would no more let him in it than if the situation were reversed.

"Very well, Admiral....Captain Davis, it seems as if I’ve erred again...I apologize. As long as that lab is taken out, I shouldn’t really care who does it or how it’s done."

"Well, now that that’s settled, we can set out to sea. We’ll know more by tomorrow when the satellite pictures come in. I suggest we all get our things together and get aboard Seaview. Lee, I want to set sail as soon as possible. Karen, I want the DWD teams on full alert and ready to go as soon as you make your evaluation of the area. Our cruise of the area should look completely normal," Harriman Nelson concluded.

Crane, Morton and Thompson all left the office. Karen and Harriman were the only two remaining. She stood, went to the map, and looked at the area Lee had marked. He watched her closely. Something’s wrong. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was, but he knew there was something.

"I want Will to take a good look at you before you go down there," he flatly told her.

Normally she would simply waive off her husband’s concerns but she too was beginning to become concerned. Nodding acceptance of his request, she sat down in the chair directly across from him.

"All right. Right after we go aboard, after we’ve set sail, I’ll have Jamie run the full battery of tests. For some reason, I’ve been getting awfully tired lately."

"Karen, I want you in Will’s office ASAP."

"Harry, I’ll see him after we get aboard. Right now, I’ve got to oversee the planning of the raid on that lab. If I don’t keep a tight reign on Thompson, Lord knows what he’d have them doing. As soon as he can get me those satellite pictures, we’re into the middle part of the planning stage."

He looked across the desk at his wife. She does look tired...and pale. But she was right. Someone had to hold Thompson down and if there was anyone that could do it quite effectively, it was her. He had learned the hard way several years ago not to question her judgment where the team was concerned. Therefore, he would not push her on the question. However, he would make sure that she went to see the doctor before she dived with the team.

"All right, Karen, but I want you in SickBay as soon as we set sail," he pointedly replied.

She didn’t feel like arguing the point somehow. Actually, it was beginning to worry her but she hadn’t wanted to say anything about it to him. Karen had had some very uneasy feelings for the last week or so. Feelings and thoughts she thought she’d left behind years ago. Reasoning that the scenario she had in the back of her mind was improbable but not impossible, she now began to wonder if it was truly possible. Will Jamison would be able to tell her one way or the other if she was right.

"Yes, sir. Admiral, sir," came her rely in a somewhat amused lilt. She was the only person that could do that and actually get away with it. "Harry, I promise I’ll be good and see Will before the dive. But I really do have a lot of things to do before we sail...and if I don’t get out of here, I won’t get anything done."

She got up, leaned across the desk to kiss him lightly and then left him to look over the specifics of what needed to be done.

 

 

The next morning at approximately 1000 hours, Seaview’s crew were all present and accounted for. Lee Crane and Chip Morton stood in the Control Room going over the depth and topography charts for the area where the laboratory had been found. All posts were manned as the great gray boat readied for deployment.

At 1015 hours, Admiral Harriman Nelson strolled into the Control Room to confer with his captain. "Everything and everyone aboard, Lee?" Nelson inquired.

"Yes, sir. Ready when you are," Crane replied.

Nelson looked at the charts that lay before him on the table and then peered up at the Observation Nose where he saw Norman Thompson sitting in front of the bow windows. Arching an eyebrow a bit, he looked over at Crane, as if questioning what he saw,

"He said he wanted to watch the departure. I didn’t see any harm," Lee explained. Then leaning over a bit closer to the Admiral, he added, "I know we’ve got to have him here...after all this thing is his idea...but there’s something about him that bugs me."

Nelson fidgeted with the pencil that lay on the chart table. "I know exactly what you mean. However, personality conflicts have no place in this, so I guess we’ll just have to put up with it." He put the pencil back down on the table and then gave the order. "Well, Lee, let’s do it. Take us out."

"Yes, sir," came the reply. Turning to Chip Morton, he ordered, "Mr. Morton, take us out slow and easy."

"Yes, sir," Chip replied and then picked up the microphone. "Now hear this. Cast off all moorings! Make ready for departure. Engine Room, make ready for slow departure."

The intercom crackled with compliance responses. Nelson strolled up to the Nose and took his usual seat in what become commonly referred to as the ‘Front Porch’. Thompson stood gazing out the bow windows in obvious awe of what was before him. The Flying Sub’s view ports had stunned him, but this was absolutely amazing to him. Knowing that Seaview was capable of diving to such incredible depths was staggering enough, but as he watched the slowly changing scenery before him, he became more and more respectful of the man sitting across from him.

"Admiral, I have to honestly tell you that I had absolutely no idea that this ship was this big and this amazing. My hat’s off to you, sir."

"Thank you...and it’s a ‘boat’, Thompson, not a ship."

The sound of footsteps coming down the spiral stairs from A Deck made both men look up. Karen Nelson walked down and then took her seat beside her husband. Thompson watched the couple as they sat there. Their casual, yet total professional, attitude toward each other and everyone around them stymied him. He had always thought of military types as stiff shirts, so adherent to strict discipline. The ones he had always come in contact with through the Pentagon in Washington were definitely that. Seaview’s crew, and its owner, puzzled him. There was an adherence to military rules and regulations but there was also a bit of an easygoing attitude among the crew and officers. They were all technically Naval Reserve, but working for a private concern. There was also a quiet but hugely open respect for the two people seated before him.

As the sleek submarine slowly made its way through the Santa Barbara channel from the Institute to the open sea, Karen looked over at Thompson, watching his interest and reactions to what was happening around him.

"It’s quite a sight, isn’t it?" she asked quietly.

He turned and looked at her as if he hadn’t quite heard her. "Uh...yes, it is. I’m still amazed that this glass will keep out all that water."

"It’s not glass, Mr. Thompson. It’s a very high tensel-strength plastic alloy developed by the Admiral specifically for Seaview. Of course it’s been applied to other uses as well, such as the FS1, but its first application was the bow view ports," she explained. She then looked at Nelson and remarked, "I’m going to look over those photos that came in, then I need to meet with Chip and the rest of the team after we get fully out to sea."

"Very well.... and afterwards I want you to go see Jamie," he quietly agreed as he reminded her about the promise she had made to go to SickBay once they were underway.

"I will, don’t worry. I’ll see you all later." Karen got up from the table and walked into the Control Room.

Chip was standing near the Fathometer, watching the changing depths as they passed through the channel. He glanced over at Karen as she stopped by the chart table and then came over to talk when she motioned him to her.

"Yes, ma’am?"

"Is all the equipment aboard?"

"Yes, I saw to it myself."

"Good. As soon as we clear the channel and you can spare about 30 minutes, come on down to my cabin. I need to talk to you and the other two team leaders. The satellite photos came in last night and I had Bryan make blowups of the pertinent sections. Oh, and bring Chuck and Matt with you as well. I need their opinions as well since they’re our demolitions and electronics experts. Looks like we may have to take out some booby traps before we can get within the immediate perimeter of the Lab," she explained to him.

"Right."

She turned to leave and then a wave of nausea hit her stomach. Standing there, she suddenly felt like the room was spinning around her and she felt literally like a truck had just run over her. She grabbed hold of the corner of the table and held on. Chip looked at her and became slightly alarmed.

"Are you okay? You look like you’re sick."

"I’ll be okay in a minute. Must have been something I ate that didn’t agree with me. Let me sit down a minute." She grabbed the stool near the table and sat down. Then as quickly as it had appeared, the nausea disappeared.

"You want some water?"

"Thanks, but no. Must have been something I ate this morning. We ate pretty early and even that was hurried."

"Maybe you ought to go see the Doc."

"Harriman’s told me the same thing. Looks like you both may be right. Listen, meet me in my cabin when you can with the others. I’m going to go on down to SickBay and find out what’s going on. If for some unforeseen reason I can’t make this dive, you’re going to have to be completely briefed and ready to go in my place."

"Okay...will do. And Karen..."

"Yes...."

"Take it easy, will you?"

She smiled warily and waved as she headed through the hatchway. Karen had a frightening thought as she walked slowly toward SickBay. It had been a long time since she had experienced these particular feelings. Lately, she had had some disturbing symptoms that made her suspicions even more troubling. This was the last straw. There was no putting it off now...She had to know for sure. Entering the SickBay, she looked around for Will Jamison, the ship’s doctor. Two corpsmen were busying themselves with the recent incoming inventory of supplies. She found Jamison in his office checking over his records.

Lightly knocking on the doorframe, she stuck her head into his office.  "Got a minute, Will?"

He looked up and smiled. "For you, sure. Come on in. What can I do for you?"

Closing the door, she took a seat across from him. This was going to be a bit difficult, but he was the ship’s doctor and would keep things confidential.  "Will, I need you to run a series of tests on me."

"What for? You not feeling well?"

"No, I...actually I need you to run a pregnancy test."

Jamison looked at her with no hint of the surprise he felt. He had learned early on to keep a straight face where his patients were concerned.  "Symptoms?" he asked her.

She almost felt embarrassed talking to him about it. "Swelling and tenderness in my breasts. I felt nauseated up in the Control Room a little while ago. I’ve had several spells of nausea lately. I’m feeling tired, no energy...and I’m over two weeks late on my cycle."

"Timing?"

"About the time he left for DC, the best I can account for," she thought out loud, "But then again, we haven’t exactly been monks."

"Does he know?"

"No, I haven’t discussed it with him. I want to make sure before I say anything. Jamie, what if I am? I’m 44. Caitlin’s twenty-two years old. I can’t do this again at this time of my life."

"Well, let’s do the tests and then we’ll know. If you are, then you two are going to have to have a LONG talk. If not, then there’d be no need to say anything to him. There could always be something else wrong, you know. "

"Yes...I know that. Okay...let’s do it."

Jamie walked out of his office and returned with a syringe, cotton, and an alcohol swab. She rolled up the sleeve of her blouse and he proceeded to withdraw a tube full of blood. He rubbed the insertion point with the alcohol swab and placed the cotton ball over it.

"I’ll call you later." he remarked. He could tell by the expression on her face that she wasn’t exactly pleased with the prospect of the possible outcome.

Karen left SickBay and walked slowly to her cabin. Looking around her, she thought about how things had changed over the past 5 years since she first came aboard. Most notably had been her marriage last year to Admiral Harriman Nelson, the builder/owner/creator of the Seaview and the head of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research.

How could this happen? I’ve been taking my pills regularly. Lord, this is not something I really want to deal with.

She and Nelson were married in a large military wedding a year ago last April. It was his first and her second marriage, having lost her first husband years before in an automobile accident. She had a daughter, Caitlin, by that first marriage. But she and Nelson had never even remotely talked about the possibility of her becoming pregnant. She had meant to have surgery done but never could seem to make time for it. Now...

She opened the door to her own cabin and was bombarded with pictures of the two of them as well as pictures of Caitlin.

Well, kiddo, you always wanted a little brother or little sister. Looks like you might just get your wish...Lord, what am I thinking?...This can’t be happening.... I can’t be pregnant.... I just can’t be.

Her gaze fell upon the picture of them taken on their wedding day. A smile crossed her face as she remembered every detail of that beautiful wedding.  Sitting down in the chair behind her desk, she leaned back and rocked.

A baby. Our baby...What are you thinking, Karen?...This can’t be happening!

Now she was restless. She paced the floor in her cabin, looking constantly at the clock. Finally, she decided that she would lie down for a while. She suddenly felt so very tired, drained of any energy that she had.

Oh, God. I remember this. First trimester equals no energy. Laying her head against the pillow, she quickly dozed off to sleep.

Before she knew it, there was a knock at the door. Sitting up on the edge of the bunk she rubbed the sleep from her eyes as she answered, "Come in."

Will Jamison opened the door slowly and stepped inside. Closing the door, he had some reservations about the news he was about to deliver.

She looked at him and then instinctively knew the answer.  "Was I right?" was all she asked.

"Yep. And from what you told me, I’d guesstimate about six to eight weeks at the most, too. I’ll need to do an examination on you to be absolutely sure." he told her. He was amazed; however, he realized that he shouldn’t have been. It had been his experience that women were more in tune with their physical being then men ever would be.

"When should I have the amniocentesis?"

"I’m going to give your ob/gyn a call shortly and we’ll set it up. You need to have it at about 13 to 14 weeks. Karen, you’ve got to tell him. You have no choice."

"I know that. It’s just that...this...is...totally unexpected. I’m in total shock here."

"I’ll bet!"

"Jamie, what if something’s wrong? What if it’s not right?" she pensively asked, looking at him in concern

"Karen, that’s something that you and he are going to have to talk out and decide on. You’ve already had one health pregnancy. However, as I understand it, you did miscarry on your first. You’re healthy and as long as there’s no problems on either side genetically, you’re looking at a very good chance to have a very healthy baby."

Jamie got up to leave. As he opened the door to go out, he turned back to her. "As of right now, Mrs. Nelson, you are on temporary restrictive duty. Absolutely no diving. Is that clear?"

She looked up at him and nodded. That thought was already in her head. Actually, to be truthful, she hadn’t been down in weeks. Another seven and a half months was going to be hard. Chip would have to be informed immediately of the situation since he was her second on the team and this particular mission was way too important to cancel simply because she couldn’t dive. No, Chip would have to assume command of the team while in the water...she could coordinate activities from Seaview.

What was she going to tell Harry? More importantly, how was she going to tell him? After Jamison left the cabin, Karen sat down behind her desk. She was so deep in thought that she didn’t hear the knock on her door. The second time it was louder.

"Come."

The door opened and in walked Chip Morton, Kowalski, Bob O’Brian, Chuck Maynard and Matthew Lynch.  "Reporting as ordered, Captain," Morton remarked, using her military title instead of her more personal one.

"Uh...oh, yes, Chip...come on in, guys. We’ve got a mission to plan."

The four men pulled up chairs around her desk and waited. Chip noticed that she seemed to be a bit preoccupied but decided that it was simply because she wasn’t feeling well. As she handed out photo enlargements of the underwater laboratory, she started to explain.

"The overall pics came in last night. I had enlargements made of the immediate area. What you see here is the lab with the outer perimeter. Matt, it looks like there’s some sort of electronic ‘fence’ around that thing. I want a complete analysis and if you need any further detailed pics, let me know. I’ll transmit the requests directly to NASA so that they can feed it into the uplink for the SpyLink satellite. Chuck, after Matt makes his analysis, get with him on what needs to be taken out and when. Decide what plastics we need and get them ready. I want everyone outfitted with everything necessary to take that lab down and out in one fell swoop. We won’t get a second chance."

O’Brian was looking at the photos of the lab itself. "Captain, what about the drugs themselves? What are we supposed to do with them?"

Karen leaned back in her chair and looked at her team leaders. They had faced a lot of things together in the past few years, but this would be the first time that they would act as a pseudo SWAT team.

"As I understand it, the drugs will be transferred from the Lab to Seaview for immediate transport back to the mainland. Once aboard here, they’ll be in our protective custody until we reach base back at the Institute. At that time, Norman Thompson, the DEA agent that’s currently aboard, will have the cargo off-loaded and ultimately destroyed. Gentlemen, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this mission. This is the first time that the Institute and Seaview has been asked to help in drug interdiction. If we manage to pull this off without a hitch, there maybe a second time. There’s a lot of cocaine being manufactured down there and if we can take it out, it’s going to hurt someone’s pocketbook in a very big way." Leaning back over her desk, she looked at the men and continued. "Guys, some of you have families. Think of it this way...you’re going to be helping to get this poison off the streets."

"Captain, do we completely destroy the lab after the drugs have been loaded aboard Seaview?" Kowalski asked.

"Yes...we blow the thing sky high...leave no trace of it. We’ve got to make it so that there is no way that the cartels can reactivate it."

The team leaders and experts took the photos and left. Only Chip Morton was asked to remain behind.

"Chip, you’re going to have to assume command of the teams outside. I’ve been grounded," she informed him. She didn’t want to explain the circumstances until she had had a chance to let Harriman know.

"Are you okay?"

"Well, that’s going to be a matter of perspective, I suppose. I can’t explain right now, but I will shortly. By the way, do you by chance know where the Admiral is?"

"Yeah, he’s gone down to his cabin. Said he’d be down there for a while going over some of the aspects of the mission."

"Was Thompson with him?"

Chip shook his head and replied, "No, don’t think so. Why?"

"I just need to talk to him in private," she told him as she got up from behind her desk. "Okay, Chip, let’s get everything rolling and ready by the time we get there. I need to find out what the strategy is for Seaview when we get to the area and how far away we’ll be from the lab. If we sit directly over head, they’ll know something’s up. But at the same time, we can’t be too far away. At least the terrain isn’t too bad and the depth you’re going to be working at will be fairly easy. I just don’t want to have our hand tipped before we get there."

The two walked out of her cabin and proceeded down the corridor. As she rounded the corner and saw his cabin door, she looked at Chip and said, "I’ll talk to you a little later. I need to talk to him right now and I really don’t want to be disturbed."

"No problem. I’ll let Lee know and start assembling the team and the equipment."

"Great...and Chip?"

"Yes?"

"Don’t say anything until I explain...ok?"

He looked at her cautiously. That look...he had seen that look before...on Matty’s face. No, it couldn’t be..."Sure, no problem."

"Thanks. Talk to you in a little while," she replied as she took hold of the doorknob. Morton left her as she slowly opened the door to Nelson’s cabin. Taking a deep breath, she walked in.

Karen found her husband at his desk pouring over a myriad of papers on his desk. He looked up in surprise as she slid into the chair across from him.

"You busy?" she asked of him.

"No, not really. I’m just going over some of the information that Thompson brought aboard. I take it that you’ve just finished with the team leaders?"

"Yes, they’ve all been informed and Matt and Chuck are doing their own analyses of the situation now. Looks like some sort of electronic force field or ‘fence’ is in place. I need to know exactly what it is before we go in. Also, I also need to know where you intend to put down so that we know how far we’re going to be from the target area. Harry, it can’t be too far, but we also don’t want to let them know we’re coming, either."

"I understand that. Frankly, I want to cruise the area a bit. Let them know we’re here but ‘let’ them see we’re on a training mission and no threat to them," he informed her as he leaned back in his chair. He looked at his wife and noticed that she seemed worried about something. He had learned to read her moods and expressions well in the past year since they had married. Something was definitely bothering her. "Did you go see the doctor?"

She looked at the man sitting across the desk from her. A four-star admiral, a scientific genius, world renown, and her husband for a little over a year.

"Well?...Did you?"

She kept looking at him.

"Karen, are you okay?"

"That’s are relative question right now. Do you have time to talk?"

"Of course I do. Do you want some coffee?"

Suddenly aware of her situation, she declined. "No…thanks. Actually, I’d rather have a glass of water instead."

He poured himself a cup of the hot coffee from a pot that stood on the side table near the door. Then taking a glass from the table, he poured her a glass of cold water. Sitting down across from her, he looked at his wife and waited for an explanation.  "Karen, what’s wrong?"

"Harriman, I believe we have a slight problem." She was trying very hard to figure out how to tell him. This was not going to be easy.

He looked at her. Obviously she was worried about something. "What did Jamie say was wrong?" Now he was getting worried.

Hesitating a moment, she then quietly said, "Harriman, I’m...I’m pregnant."

Silence. Total dead silence. He was stunned and speechless. "Pregnant?!" he finally exclaimed.

"Yes, dear husband. Pregnant. About 6 to 8 weeks Jamie and I are guesstimating."

"How?...when...?!"

"When would be around the time you left for DC...must have been that night on the beach...and the how, my dear husband,...well, Harriman, that was the good old fashioned way," she quietly answered him.

Harriman Nelson sat straight up in his chair and looked at his wife for the longest time. This was a factor that neither of them had ever counted on. He knew that she was still quite capable of having children, but quite frankly, the subject had never come up. He had always assumed that since her daughter was 22, she had no further plans for a family, and he’d never even considered it.

A baby?!...Our baby! That thought suddenly hit him like a thunderbolt.

She looked at him for some sort of reaction apart from being stunned. Was he pleased or was he angry? Usually she could gauge his moods but this was an extreme situation.  His prolonged silence began to have an effect on her. Maybe it was the hormones kicking in or maybe it was the fact that she felt he was angry...whatever...but it was beginning to be harder to look at him without tears in her eyes.  Finally, as a tear flowed from the corner of her eye, she looked at him and quietly said, "I’m sorry, Harriman. This wasn’t supposed to happen...I’m so sorry."

Suddenly he realized what was going on and he could have kicked himself. Getting up and coming over to her, he pulled her gently up to him. Wrapping his arms around her and kissing her tenderly, he smiled at her.

"Don’t you ever say you’re sorry to me, Karen. Certainly not about this. It’s just...I’m stunned, that’s all. We hadn’t discussed this and I just assumed that it wouldn’t happen."

"Well, guess what? It did...and now we’ve got some decisions to make."

"What has Jamie said?"

"I’m to go for an amnio at about 13 to 14 weeks. We both have to go in for genetic counseling. Jamie’s going to set it up through my ob/gyn. Of course, by that time, the first trimester will about be over. By the time we get the results from the test, I’ll be in my second trimester. Termination of the pregnancy will be a little more complicated than in the first trimester. We’ve got a few weeks to make a decision, Harriman. But we DO need to make one. One way or the other."

"How are you feeling?  Are you all right, I mean…"

"Tired. Edgy. Typical of first trimester. Actually, no morning sickness so far. I didn’t have it with Caitlin, either. But I am finding that I do have to eat a full breakfast now." She felt so very safe in his arms. She desperately needed his support and understanding right now. Looking up at him, she saw the overwhelming concern in his eyes. "Harry, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I must have gotten a bad batch of pills. Either that, or..." she then grinned a little and a mischievous twinkle showed in her eye, "...there’s more to you than I ever knew."

He held her close then kissed her tenderly. Our baby...Oh, my God!  "Karen, I can’t say ‘don’t worry’ because I know you’re going to. And so am I. We’ll take it one day at a time right now, all right? No matter what, I love you. Remember that."

"One thing. Until we know the results from the tests, I’d rather not say anything to anyone. Call me superstitious or cautious. Whatever. I’d just rather wait. I don’t want to even tell Caitlin at this point."

"Do you think that’s wise?"

"Yes, I do. I can just hear my little mother hen right now...And should we decide to continue with it, she’ll be more so."

A million thoughts just hit him. "Shouldn’t you be resting or something? We’ll get you back to the Institute as soon as we can after the mission’s over. Or I can fly you back right now."

She looked up at him and laughed. "Good Lord, Harry, I’m pregnant, not disabled. I don’t need to be babied. At least, not just yet, anyway. It’s a very common, natural condition for women. We’ve been doing it for tens of thousands of years now. But yes, I am going to go back to my cabin and lie down for a while. Jamie has already put me on restrictive duty. No diving. That means that Chip will have to assume control of the team in the water during the mission."

"You need to tell him why. It’s only fair."

"I know. I’d already thought of that. Maybe we ought to tell Lee and Chip together. They do deserve to know."

"You want to do it right now? They need to know as soon as possible, Karen. Especially Chip."

"It’s funny, but I have a very strange feeling that Chip already has an idea. You have to remember that he’s a new father himself. And Lee has a son of his own, Harry. In one sense of the word, I don’t think it’s going to come as a big shock."

Harriman Nelson held his wife and put her head on his shoulder. He was still in complete shock at the news she had just shared with him. A baby!

"Why don’t you lay down here and take a nap while I finish going over these things?"

"Maybe I should," she replied as she hopped up on his bunk, stretched out, and picked up a book he had placed in a holder near the light. She knew he liked to read for a while before going to bed. He always seemed to have something on the nightstand beside the bed at home. Generally it was not what she would have chosen, being that it was usually something on naval history or tactics or a classical novel. Her own tastes leaned more toward murder mysteries. Today’s selection was Moby Dick. Smiling to herself, she knew that it would definitely put her to sleep.

Nelson sat at his desk across the room and tried to concentrate on his work. He found his mind was wandering as he occasionally glanced up and watched her. Before long, he looked up and saw that she had gone to sleep with the book still in her hands. He got up, took a blanket from the foot of the bunk and gently covered her up. Almost instinctively his hand strayed to her stomach and he held it there for the longest time. He watched her as she slept and thoughts raced through his head.

Our child is sleeping in there. Our child, Karen! Oh, God. I must be crazy to want this. Oh Lord, please help us through this.

 

 

A couple of hours later, she awoke when she heard him pick up the microphone and quietly ask for Lee and Chip to come to his cabin. She turned over and looked at him, her eyes trying to readjust to the light. He was sitting across the room, at his desk, smiling at her.  "Welcome back to the land of the living."

"Thanks," she replied, slowly swinging her legs down to the floor. "You’ve got Lee and Chip on their way down here?"

"Yes, I thought we’d better tell them before we got any closer to the target. Why don’t you go ahead and wash up? They should be here any moment." He got up and came over to the bunk and sat down beside her. Putting his arm around her, he pulled her to him.

She looked up at him and smiled weakly. "Are you sure you’re all right with this?"

He kissed her lightly and looked deep into her brown eyes. "How could I not be all right with it? I love you...and I love that baby that’s inside you. I never in my entire life thought this possible. Hell, I never thought I’d ever get married after Kathryn was killed...but you came into my life and now look at what’s happened. Both these things have come true."

"It’s not going to be easy, Harry...for you or for me. There’s so much that can happen..."

"I know that...but we’ll face it together, all right? Now, get in and wash the sleep from your eyes. Lee and Chip ought to be coming through that door momentarily."

He kissed her again before she slid off the bunk and went into the head to wash up. About two minutes later, there was a short knock at the cabin door.

"Come in," Nelson called out.

Crane and Morton both came in and Nelson motioned for both of them to sit down opposite him. Karen came out of the head with a towel in her hands and sat back down on the bunk. Harry looked at her to start the ‘briefing’, but she motioned for him to begin.

"Karen’s going to be...out of the active team for a while...Medical leave. She’ll still supervise from here or from the Institute, but Chip will handle everything else."

It was Lee who turned to her in surprise. "Karen, what’s wrong? Is there anything we can do?"

She looked at Lee and then, with a somewhat half grin, explained further. "Let me qualify that statement of his. What he should have said was ‘maternity leave’, not medical leave."

Lee and Chip both looked at each other and at the same time replied, "What?!"

"You heard right."

"No!...You’re not serious?!" was Crane’s reply.

Nelson looked at him and grinned. "I think that was about my reaction, too. I just found out a few hours ago."

Morton looked at her. "That’s why you were sick in the Control Room. I wondered...I remembered what Matty looked and acted like when she was first pregnant with Alex."

She smiled, nodding her head. "Yeah, I didn’t know it then, but I suspected something. Remember, I’ve been through this before. It’s been a long time, but there are some things that you never forget. Look, the situation is this. I’m to go in for an amnio about 7 weeks from now. We’ll know if everything is all right from that. If you don’t mind, I’d rather you not say anything to anyone about this. At least not until we get the results back. Chip, you’re going to have to handle the teams. I can handle all administrative and coordination, but I can’t dive. Doc’s orders...and his." She looked over to her husband who was now leaning back in his chair.

Lee Crane immediately got up and grabbed her to give her a big hug.  "I can’t believe this. Does Caitlin know yet?"

She looked at him when her daughter’s name was mentioned. "No, and I don’t want to tell her just yet, either. I want to get the amnio tests back first. A lot of things are going to depend on that. So please, understand that we don’t want this to go any further than here."

Lee and Chip both turned to the Admiral. They were both looking to see how he was accepting all of this.

"Sir?"

"Yes, Lee?"

"I guess congratulations are in order, at least for now. And we’ll keep this confidential until you say otherwise."

"We’d appreciate that. So now you know the news, gentlemen. Chip, looks like you’re going to be in charge outside tomorrow. I don’t want Karen overloaded and stressed. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir. We’ll make sure that everything’s taken care of. . Oh, by the way, what about Thompson? You know he’s going to ask questions."

Karen looked at Nelson and then answered before he had a chance. "We’ll take care of Thompson, Chip. You just be ready to dive."

"No problem. You just give the word."

Harriman Nelson looked at his two senior officers and smiled. "Good, then. You two can return to duty."

 

 

The two men left with very large smiles. However, they were bound by their word to keep the news confidential. However, it didn’t prevent them from trading a few good comments of their own regarding the couple.

"Do you believe this? She’s pregnant?!" Lee exclaimed, looking at Morton who had a huge grin on his face

"Well, I guess rank does have ‘privileges’ after all. Just goes to show that the ‘old, old man’ ain’t so ‘old’ after all!" Chip replied, slapping Lee on the back, as the two men headed back to the Control Room.

Each man reflected on how their children had changed their lives and each knew that this newest addition to Seaview’s ‘family’ would definitely change the lives of the Nelsons, and all who knew them, forever.

 

 

That evening, as Seaview cruised southward toward the Mexican border, the senior staff, along with Norman Thompson, met in the Officer’s wardroom. They would start a casual search pattern at 0800 the next morning. Once Matt Lynch and Chuck Maynard made their analyses and recommendations, the DWD teams would meet in the Missile Room for further instruction.

The complete senior staff was briefed as to the complete mission...they would seek out, capture, and destroy an underwater drug laboratory. Personnel would be arrested and detained in Seaview’s brig until they arrived back at the Institute. All drugs confiscated would be transported back and then transferred to the protection of the DEA for inclusion in any prosecution of personnel. The legalistic were going to be tricky. The distance of 250 miles out to sea put the lab in international waters. Add to the fact the problems of cooperation from the Mexican government if the lab was on their side of the border, even if it were in international waters.

After the briefing broke up, Karen and Harriman Nelson walked up to the ‘Front Porch’ and sat down with cups of coffee. Both of them had other things on their mind beside the events that the next day would bring. Shortly, Thompson joined them and poured himself a cup of the strong black coffee.

Sitting down in another chair at the table, he addressed Karen, "Captain Davis, I have to ask, what time do you intend to start the operation?"

Karen looked at Harry and decided now was as good as time as any to let Thompson in on some changes.

"Mr. Thompson, I’ve been grounded due to a medical condition. Commander Morton will assume command of the team during their activation. I’ll supervise from on board here. However, to answer your question, planning will begin tomorrow after I review the second set of recon photos."

He looked startled. He hadn’t expected this.  "But I don’t understand..."

"Doctor Jamison has grounded me. Because of that, Commander Morton will handle the team on the assignment, but you will go through me for anything that needs to be done. Just because I won’t be in the water doesn’t mean I don’t run this team."

He looked at her, trying to figure out what the problem was. There didn’t seem to be any outward appearance of anything wrong...  "I’m sorry that you won’t be handling the operation personally. I hope it’s nothing serious."

She looked at him and smiled slyly. "Oh, nothing that about seven months won’t cure." Karen then turned to Harry and said, "I’m going to turn in. The pictures should come in over night and I want to be up early to finalize the plans with the team. I’ll see you in the morning."

Thompson looked a little perplexed at her statement as he watched her leave but Nelson offered no explanation. Instead he simply sat quietly and sipped his coffee in quiet contemplation.  “I don’t understand…”

Nelson nonchalantly replied, “Doctor Jamison found that there’s a temporary medical problem.  Because of that, she can’t be cleared to dive.”

“But didn’t she know before she…”

“No…she didn’t,” the Admiral stated.  “And I happen to concur with the good doctor’s findings.  Now, as she stated, Morton will be in charge outside, but she handles everything else.  Do you have a problem with that?  If I were you…I would suggest that you don’t.”

“Sir?”  The DEA agent seemed confounded by the change in plans.  He didn’t like surprises at all and this was counter to everything that had been planned.

“Regardless of the fact that Captain Davis happens to be my wife, first and foremost she’s the Team’s leader.  She herself has to undergo periodic checkups.  Since you’re apparently an experienced diver, you’re more than well aware of the procedures.  However, because the Team uses highly specialized equipment and gases, that checkup is more thorough.  She’s not diving,” Nelson reitereated.

“Yes sir…I just meant…I mean, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong before…and…”

“Things happen, Mr. Thompson, you know that.  Sometimes…they just happen.”  And the Admiral finished his coffee and then poured himself another cup.

“Yes sir…” Thompson said and then shortly excused himself  to head for his cabin to prepare for bed. Tomorrow was going to be a very hectic day.

 

 

Karen Davis Nelson slowly got ready for bed. As she slowly brushed her hair, she looked at herself.

Pregnant!!…I’m pregnant!

Her hand reached down and she touched her abdomen softly as if it were hot to the touch. Smiling slightly, she still could not believe the news. Walking out of the head, she started to climb into her bunk when she suddenly decided that she didn’t feel like being alone. Grabbing her robe and slippers, she headed out the door and down the corridor. Reaching his cabin door, she opened it and found him standing in the doorway of his bathroom with a towel in his hand.

"Karen, what is it? What’s wrong?" he asked as he finished up. He was clad only in his pajama bottoms and as he reached for the top, he watched her stroll over to his bunk.

"Nothing...I just didn’t feel like being alone tonight, Harry," she replied as she situated herself in the bunk and slid up against the wall. Turning the covers down so he could get in, she looked at him seductively. "Better get in, Admiral. Pretty soon your wife’s not going to fit in here with you."

He laughed and slid in beside her. The bunks were obviously not made for two people but he managed to make enough room so that she was fairly comfortable. She snuggled up against him and lay her head against his arm.

"You know," she chuckled, "I’m going to be bulging out to here," and she put her hand above her stomach by about six to eight inches.

"And I’ll love every bit of it," he laughed.

Karen became quiet and then a bit reflective. "Harry, I’m scared. What if something’s wrong...what if something happens and the baby..."

He shifted his weight and turned to face her. Kissing the tip of her nose and then her forehead, he then took his finger and put it to her lips. "Sssshhhh...Karen, whatever happens, we’ll face it together, all right? No matter what it is. Now let’s see if we can get some sleep. It’s gonna be a tight fit in here but…I think we can make it.  Now, Captain…we’ve got a drug lab to take out tomorrow."

Nodding her acceptance of his words, she snuggled in closer and they both shortly drifted off to sleep.

 

 

During the Delta Watch, the satellite recon photos came in. Enlargements were made of the immediate area, and then Matt and Chuck went to work. They put together the necessary electronic equipment and plastic explosives that the teams would need to effectively disable the perimeter alarm system so they could do preliminary reconnaissance on the laboratory module itself. This was necessary because the team needed to know exactly where the escape hatches were located for entrance and exits. The DWD team needed to be able to quickly execute the take down. In doing so, there had to be a perfectly timed execution. They couldn’t give the lab personnel time to destroy any of the chemicals or the drugs.

At 0600, Nelson awoke and found his wife still in the same position she was in the night before. He gently withdrew his arm from under her head and then slipped quietly from the bunk. The cabin was dark and quiet as he walked over to his desk and turned on the desk lamp. It cast a soft glow in the cabin and provided him with an opportunity to look at her as she lay there.

A soft knock came at the door. Opening it, Nelson found one of the galley crew with a pot of fresh coffee. The man placed it on the table under the video monitor and then quietly left.  There was a slight sound and when Harry turned back toward the bunk, he found Karen looking at him.

"Is that fresh coffee I smell?" she yawned.

"Sure is. Want some?"

"Sure do. I’m going to have to limit my caffeine intake, but my morning cup is something I can’t do without."

Handing her a cup, he sat back down at his desk. He still had not digested the news from the night before...it was hard for him to believe that he was actually going to be a father.

She slowly drank the hot liquid and looked up occasionally at her husband. The last 24 hours had been memorable for both of them. Today wasn’t going to be easy, either. The primary planning of the takedown of the drug laboratory had to be done today. Everything had to be done with precise timing...with as little prior notice as possible. They couldn’t let the lab personnel have so much as a hint that they were coming.

"Are you going to be okay?" he asked as they quietly contemplated each other.

She had spent part of last night awake and reflecting on part of that question. Watching him sleep, blissfully unaware of her being awake, had given her time to think about the future before them. She knew how to handle a baby...she had certainly done it before...but what about him? Could he handle it? The diapers...the midnight feedings...illnesses....trips to the pediatrician...colic...But then she had remembered Caitlin’s first smile...the first steps...her first words...asking for her momma or dada. She had seen her through her father’s death...and then watched as Caitlin played matchmaker between her and Harriman Nelson. Now Karen was going to bring another life into this world…she just hoped Harriman was ready for it.

"Yeah, I’ll be all right. I guess I just have to get used to it, too," she replied as she got down off the bunk and sat the coffee cup back down on his desk. "Well, now, husband mine, I do have a job to do today, even if I can’t exactly do it completely. Plans have to be made and I need to get cracking if I’m to direct this operation."

"Well, not before you eat some breakfast. Go back and get dressed and then meet me in the Wardroom at 0800. We’ll have breakfast and then you can start with planning the operation."

She smiled back at him from the doorway and gave him a mock salute.

"Yes, sir, Admiral Nelson, Sir."

Nelson shot her a look that was both disapproving yet humorous. His mind wandered back suddenly to a morning several years ago when she had thrown a pillow at him in their hotel room at the Williamsburg Inn. Karen had a strange sense of humor sometimes that constantly kept him on his toes.

"Will you get out of here and let me finish my work before breakfast?"

Her eyes laughed at him and then she slipped out the door and went to her own cabin.

 

 

After breakfast, Karen called all 15 of the team members of the DWD team into the officer’s wardroom as well as Matt and Chuck. Satellite photos of the lab as well as its perimeter were laid out on the table. Enlargements of the immediate area showed a large composite of pods interconnected and anchored to the ocean floor. Karen had determined that further reconnaissance would have to be made done at close range. Therefore a team of divers would have to make their way to the lab area to check out exactly what defenses were on the perimeter and, if it were possible, to find the exact entry portals for the lab. Norman Thompson had requested to sit in on the briefings. He sat quietly, over to the side, listening intently to Karen’s instructions.

The team broke up and headed for the Missile Room. Since Karen was unable to dive, Mike Thompson assumed command of Team One. As he and the other two divers suited up to head outside, Karen gave them their final instructions.

"Mike, make absolutely sure that you don’t attract attention. They already know we’re up here. I understand we’ve had cursory radio contact with them. So of ‘Hello, there...we’re here and do you need anything?’ kind of contact. Their answer was a very emphatic no with an attitude to match. The Admiral wanted them to know we’re here but that’s we’re simply ‘cruising’ by on a ‘seal counting’ mission...part of an experiment, so they know we’re up here. Now, we’re going to cruise about a mile or so away from the lab...then you all will head out in the mini-subs. Chuck will be the fourth man on Team One and he’ll also handle the analysis of the outer perimeter defenses," she instructed him. Mike was her second on Team One and she knew she could trust him to follow her orders to the letter.

"Yes, ma’am."

"Ok, finish suiting up and let’s see what we’ve got out there. Make sure all video and audio is on, but keep audio down to a minimum even though you’ll be on a secure channel, okay? Just in case their sonar is more than what we think. Add to the fact, I don’t want their radio system picking up on any of our transmissions," she added.

Mike finished suiting up and led Team One outside. Once they were safely away from the boat, Karen walked calmly up to the viewer in the Observation Nose. She hated sitting on the sidelines, but there was no other way out of it and even she had to admit the complete wisdom and necessity of it.

Norman Thompson walked in while she talking to Mike on the microphone. He had come to admire her devotion to the team and their devotion to her. In fact, the one thing he had picked up on while aboard Seaview was her crew’s devotion and loyalty to the top senior staff. It was amazing, he had thought to himself, that they would go through hell for both crew and boat.

He watched as Karen sat with a glass of water in one hand and a set of satellite photographs in the other. Standing behind her and off to an angle, he listened as she kept track of everything they said and made notations on the photos of what they saw. The technology was astounding. He was amazed that he could see the underwater rock formations and fish as clearly as if he were within 6 feet of them.

About 30 minutes after they had started out, they arrived just beyond the outer perimeter of the lab area. Leaving the mini-subs behind about 500 feet from one of the electronic security posts, the four divers departed and started their reconnaissance mission. Chuck headed for the electronic post and started making his analysis.

"Captain, can you see what I’m seeing?"

Karen had been watching intently. Harriman Nelson, Lee Crane, and Chip Morton had now joined her. What she was looking at deeply interested her. There was a series of metal poles with electronic sensing devices built into the side of each pole. Each pole measured about 30 feet in height according to Chuck. There were no visible wires so it was obvious that the entire system was computerized. Chuck checked the first pole with a special monitoring device he had devised. It was necessary to ascertain the exact radius around and above each of the monitors.

"Chuck, can you tell how far above the pole the perimeter extends?" asked Karen. She stood up and looked closely at the pole as Maynard’s camera gave them a close up view.

"Not yet, Captain. Checking now."

Norman Thompson looked up at the television monitor and watched as the crewman performed several tests to answer that question.

"Captain, looks like it extends about 100 feet above the poles...a total of 130 feet. With that in mind, their sonar would pick anything up coming over it."

Karen looked back at Harriman and Lee. Both men seemed intensely interested in the operation.

"Can we go over them?" Thompson asked.

"If we try, their sonar devices could very well pick up a diver. Apparently they’re able to differentiate between sea life and man, so going over at this point is no option.  This thing is apparently working like some sort of force field…go into it from any any direction, and you get nailed," Karen explained. She turned back to the screen. She could see one or two of the other team members in the foreground, taking recon photographs and checking for any other perimeter devices.

"Chuck, finish making your assessment and get back here. Mike and Tom should have their work just about finished."

"Yes, ma’am."

Karen could then see the form of one of the divers approaching Maynard. It was Tom Johnson.

"Captain, I think I’ve found the entry portal. I’ve followed the perimeter around and taken photos at every angle."

"Good, Tom...now all of you...get back to the mini-subs and bring the information back for analysis."

The team slowly made their way back to the mini-subs and within 30 minutes was entering the compression-decompression chamber. The cameras were taken to photo processing and then the results were given to Karen Nelson.

 

 

Later that day, Karen sat in her cabin, pouring over dozens of photographs and looking at the log tapes from the mini-video recorders that are contained within each of the DWD team’s suits. Chip Morton sat opposite her, also going over the information.

Karen stood up and stretched. They had been at it for over three hours. She poured him a cup of coffee and herself a glass of juice. Sitting back down, she looked over at him and smiled slightly.  "It’s been a long time, but there are some things I do remember that I’m not supposed to do."

Chip put down the photo he was looking at and picked up the coffee cup. "How’s he doing with all of this?"

"Harriman?...Well, he’s finally come to terms with it, I suppose. Now, me...that’s a bit of a different matter. I guess I just figured my baby days were over. Personally, I really had never given it much of a second thought...until now."

Morton chuckled a bit. He was remembering the first few weeks of being home with Matty after Alex was born. "You know...it’s going to be a real dose of hard reality for the Admiral. I wonder if he even knows how to change a diaper."

Karen started to laugh. "I don’t know, but he’s definitely going to learn. I certainly had to." She then sat back down and picked up another photograph. Something about it made her pick up a magnifying glass. "Damn!!! I don’t believe it!"

Chip looked up and was about to say something when she got up and walked around to him.

"Take a look at this. I don’t believe it."

He took the glass and photo from her and peered at it closely. At first, he couldn’t make out the shape she was referring to, but then the realization began to sink in. An underwater bomb. What in God’s name was an underwater drug laboratory doing with enough explosives to blow it and anything else within a mile radius sky high?

"A bomb?"

"Yep, that’s exactly what it looks like. Our friends play dirty, Chip. The Cartel’s perfectly willing to blow that lab and everyone with it to smithereens rather than let it be captured. This is going to make the job a bit harder. Somebody had to know how to make that kind of high tech explosive. And I want to know who it is."

"Yeah, but how? That bomb’s inside the perimeter. To disarm it, we’ve got to get past the detection devices. And we can’t get past them without activating the bomb."

"Well, bomb makers are a very unique bunch. They actually take pride in their little creations. What we’ve got to do is get in there, past those poles, and take an x-ray of the device. Then we can get Thompson and maybe the FBI’s help to provide us with the maker and possible schematics. The FBI should have files on any known bombers and their ‘children.’ First, we’ve got to get the team past the detection poles. You got any suggestions?"

About that time, there was a knock at her cabin door. After she acknowledged and granted entrance, Harriman Nelson walked into his wife’s cabin. Pulling up a chair, he looked at her and his executive officer for a progress report. She showed him the photograph and explained what it was and what they faced.

"What do you propose to do?" he asked, taking a closer look at the photograph.

"We’ve got to find a way to get to it first.... Apparently their detection devices are sensitive enough to distinguish between man and fish...I was thinking…what if...if...if we could get the team by with dolphins? Doesn’t Lucius have a group of dolphins he’s been working with that we could possibly use?" she asked, referring to Commodore Lucius Emery, head of the Institute’s Cetatian Studies Center. She was standing now near her husband’s chair, trying to think as he and Chip Morton were looked over the photos.

"It’s possible...It would take about a day to get’em here. But it just might work. However, you must remember, Lucius is real particular where his ‘children’ are concerned," Harriman Nelson agreed. His old friend had done some amazing work in working with dolphins and was quite proud of it. The more he thought about it, the more he realized the idea had potential. "All right, if we can get them here, how long would it take for you to get this phase of the operation done?"

"Well, the bomb’s totally unexpected. That’s going to put us back on the timetable. But to be honest, I want that bomb disabled before we go in there. If the team can go in along side the dolphins...sort of in their shadow...they could get in and photo the inner workings...we could get an ID on the maker possibly through the FBI...and then deactivate it. What I’m afraid of is some idiot inside those pods pushing the button the minute one of the team pops through the hatch. From what I’m seeing here, that bomb would blow up the lab, my team, and Seaview. I’m not willing to risk that."

Nelson picked up one of the photos and looked at the outline of the bomb. It had a cylindrical shape and was supported by a stand with five legs. Its height, he judged, was roughly two to three feet high and possibly about two feet in diameter. A device of that size could only mean one of great explosive magnitude.  "I’ll talk to Lucius and get the dolphins underway. You know, however, he’s going to want to oversee the use of his ‘children’," he told Karen after handing her the photo.

"I don’t care...we just need to get them here ASAP. We may well be running out of time. You told these people we were here on a seal counting experiment. Stay too long in one place and we’ll arouse too much suspicion," she replied.

"Who have you got trained that can work with the dolphins?" he asked.

Chip looked up and replied, "I can...and most of the leaders can. Tom and Mike are trained, too."

Karen then countered, "That makes five, at most. We’ll have to settle for that...we’ve got no other choice. Wonder if it’s possible to bring in a couple of the other members of the team to help with the posts?"

Morton shook his head. "I wouldn’t. At least, not now. We need to know how to deactivate the bomb first. That’s the first concern. If we can get five of us past the posts and photo the device and get out safely, that’s enough for right now."

Karen listened to her second in command. She smiled to herself.  This was one of the reasons why she had him as her second.  He played the devil’s advocate role very well. "You’re right, Chip," she replied. Turning then to her husband, she remarked, "Ok, let’s get Lucius on the horn and get those dolphins here. We’re stuck until we can get in there and see what we’re really looking at."

Nelson reached over and flipped a switch on her desk intercom. "Sparks, get the Institute on the radio and have them find Lucius for me. As soon as you do, switch it down to Captain Davis’ cabin. And make sure it’s on a secure channel."

"Yes, sir," came the reply.

Morton looked over at the couple. It amazed him sometimes that they were able to work so smoothly with each other. Karen was very strong willed, as was the Admiral. In so many ways, they were perfectly attuned to each other. But he had also seen the times when they would grate on each other...usually when one wanted something the other thought wasn’t right or possible. Matty was a lot like Karen Davis Nelson....both women were strong...much stronger in will than either would ever admit to. And Karen, in her days before the marriage to Nelson, had stood up to him...had withstood that Irish temper...on more than one occasion. And, if truth be known, had usually won about half the rounds and lost the others.

"Well, if we’re going to have to be on hold for a while, I’d like to go get some rest," he requested.

Nelson looked at her and then silently nodded.  Looking back at Morton, he stated, "Go on, Chip...get out of here and go get some sleep. Once Lucius and those dolphins get here, there won’t be any rest for anyone for a while."

Morton left them and headed back to his own cabin. Once inside, he decided that a nap would do him some good. Even though he hadn’t accompanied Team One outside, he had kept apprised of their progress nonetheless. He knew every movement, heard every word that was said. He and Karen Nelson had then gone over the video and audiotapes as well as the still photography. If there was a chance of infiltrating that complex, it would have to be with the dolphins as their shields.

 

 

Later that night, Seaview surfaced and received a human passenger, Commodore Lucius Emery, head of Cetatian Studies at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. The other passengers of the transport helicopter had been deposited in their natural habitat and awaited their friend. They wouldn’t stray far from the giant gray fish. They sensed their friend was inside it.

Lucius was one of Harriman Nelson’s oldest and dearest friends. He, in fact, had been with him since the inception of the Institute. So when he came aboard, he went directly to Nelson’s cabin.

"Reporting as ordered, Harry...So...what gives? How come Karen’s not diving? I figured she’d want smack dab in the middle of this one for sure," he asked as he went straight for the bottle of Scotch that Nelson kept in the bottom drawer of his desk. Pouring himself a small drink, he then downed it in one gulp and sat down in the chair opposite the desk. He loosened his tie and unbuttoned the first two buttons of his shirt. Lucius hated the constriction of ‘proper’ uniforms. He was much more at home in rumpled khakis or a wet suit and in the aquarium with the dolphins.

Harriman Nelson allowed his old friend the freedom of familiarity in his cabin. Outside it, was a different matter. But here, within the inner sanctum, the two men were always on equal footing. "Karen’s been grounded medically, Lucius. In fact,...it’ll probably be close to a year before she’ll be able to dive again," he told his old friend as he poured himself a glass of the Scotch.

Lucius, holding a drink in his hand, looked over at Nelson in concern. "Harriman, what’s wrong? Is it serious?"

Harry leaned back in his chair, held up his glass as if to study the contents closely and grinned. "No, only if you consider pregnancy overtly serious."

Lucius’s mouth dropped wide open, unable to speak. When he finally regained his composure, he exclaimed, "Pregnancy?.... Karen’s pregnant?"

"Yes, Lucius, pregnant."

"Shit!  Harry..." he stammered, "That would make you a...a..."

"...a father. Yes, Lucius...I know."

"Oh, my God...Harriman...you’re going to be a father!"

"Yes, Lucius...I know!..." Harriman Nelson chuckled. He was actually enjoying seeing his old friend totally flustered. He looked up at the shorter man as he now stood leaning over his desk.

"God, Harry, how did this happen? I thought that . . ."

"Well, as my wife has most politely informed me, Lucius...it happened the good, old fashioned way...Actually, to tell you the truth, it’s taken both of us by complete surprise."

"I bet!  Is she okay?...I mean, her and the baby?"

"Yes...she’s to go in for an amniocentesis at 13 to 14 weeks, and Doctor Jamison has confirmed it...and grounded her. She can, and will, direct the team’s activities from here and the Institute...Now, this information will not leave this cabin, is that clear, Lucius? Caitlin doesn’t even know yet. Karen doesn’t want it public knowledge until the amino tests are back," Nelson explained. He completely understood his wife’s want and need for privacy in this matter. If the tests came back with certain results...Harriman didn’t want to think about the effect it could have on both of them.

"Sure, Harry…mum’s the word. So, how’s she taking it? Hell,...how are you with all of this?" he grinned as he took a sip of the golden liquid.  “Oh, man…Tony Rennalt is gonna have a field day with this when he finds out!”  Emery was referring to the Institute’s head of Engineering and an old friend of Nelson’s who’d actively ‘campaigned’ to get Nelson and Davis together.

"Well, we’re both shocked...but...actually, Lucius...I’m a bit overwhelmed, but pleased, with the prospect. As for Tony, I’d prefer that you don’t tell him.  Let me handle that.  Personally, I think I want to have a little fun at Mr. Rennalt’s expense.  Besides…” and Nelson chuckled a bit, “it’d do him some good to play the guessing game for a bit.  However, I really have to put it on the back burner for right now. That laboratory is what we’ve got to concern ourselves with right at this moment. Karen wanted your ‘kids’ to help get her team past some electronic detection devices. The DWD team will then proceed to a bomb that’s outside the lab, analyze it, and deactivate it," Harriman explained to his old friend. He got up and walked around the desk and then seated himself on the edge of it. Picking up a picture of the bomb, he handed it to Lucius and said, "You know, this whole operation here was supposed to be over with today...this ‘thing’ has upset that schedule. But there’s no other way around it. To get to the lab, that bomb has to be disarmed."

"Sounds like they’ve got a major problem . . .but my ‘babies’...and no pun intended, Harry...will be able to help."

"Good. I’ll get Karen down here and she can brief you on what she needs done."

 

 

Karen, Chip Morton and Lucius met later that evening and planned the operation with the dolphins until well into the night and into the next morning. Once Lucius had indicated to Karen that he knew about the baby, she seemed to relax a bit and was more than jovial about it. In fact, there were more than a few jokes being bantered about regarding Harriman Nelson and the changing of diapers. Morton was a new father, Karen was already a mother, and Lucius...well, Lucius had known Harriman Nelson for longer than he himself cared to admit.

At one point, around 0130 the next morning, there was loud laughter coming from within Karen Nelson’s cabin. A sudden knock at the door brought Morton to his feet and a very sheepish grin to his face. He figured it was a very disgruntled junior officer, but upon opening the door, found a very rumpled, very tired, and very irritable Admiral Harriman Nelson standing in front of him, pajamas and robe on, hair slightly askew, and looking very perturbed.

"What the devil is going on in here?" he thundered. "Don’t you people realize that some of us are trying to get some sleep? You’re supposed to planning a reconnaissance mission, not..."

Karen couldn’t contain herself any longer. She burst out laughing hysterically and gently pushed past Chip to stand, grinning, in front of her more than slightly agitated husband. She realized that they had indeed been too loud, but they were also a bit ‘punch drunk’ from the late hour, too much work, and not enough sleep.

"Harriman, let’s step out side for a minute, shall we?" she asked, trying very hard to contain herself but had a very bad case of the giggles. She heard the slight snickers of the two men behind her.

"All right, Karen…" he consented, and then asked as she closed the door, "What’s the meaning of this?"

"Harry,...my dear, dear, sweet Harriman...it’s late...we’ve been working non-stop...we’re tired...and we’re punchy. Okay?....I know we got a little loud, but...come on!! Besides...Lucius’s having a very hard time envisioning you getting up in the middle of the night and changing dirty diapers." Karen was indeed having a very hard time keeping from laughing. It wasn’t really funny. It was just that...she was punchy...and tired...and something Chip had said just hit her the right, or wrong, way, and she had erupted into near hysterical laughter. She was trying so very hard to keep a straight face while talking to him...but it was getting very hard to do.

He watched her suspiciously. Deciding that the only way to break this whole nonsense up was to order them all to bed, he crossed his arms and took the standard ‘defensive’ stance of arms crossed, stern face, and a look that would send even the most experienced officer shaking in his shoes.

"Karen, you need some rest...And so does Morton and Lucius. Now!!!" the tone of voice was thunderous....and demanding.

“Harriman…we’ve got to finish up.  I’m sorry,” she tried to calm herself and be dignified at the same time.  Finally, “Look, I’m sorry…ok?  It’s just that…well, with everything that’s been going on, I just needed to cut loose a bit.  And…”

The two men inside could hear him through the door. They both knew what that tone of voice meant. The important question was...was she going to stand for it?  Her current physical condition, they knew, gave her a little more latitude than she’d previously had.

Lucius got up from his chair and quietly walked over to the door where he leaned up against it, his ear up against the door, and strained to listen to what he knew would be Harry’s temper in full force.

"What are they saying?" Chip Morton whispered, trying very hard to keep a straight face and not laugh at the sight of the small, rounder man standing there trying to listen to the conversation on the other side of the door.

"Sssshhhh, I can’t hear...either they’ve gone down to his cabin...or she’s speechless," Emery said. "Either way...I’ve got to know...we may have gotten that poor woman in some very hot water with him."

Emery then slowly but softly opened the door and peered out. What he saw brought a very broad smile to his face. Nodding slightly and then closing the door, he looked back at Morton and quietly said, "I think Karen Nelson has things well in hand. Harriman’s temper is tamed."

Five minutes later, Karen walked back into the cabin and resumed the meeting. Not a word about the incident was exchanged between the three, but Lucius shot Karen a look that told her he knew what had happened outside. Karen Nelson had turned the table on her husband in the same manner that he had done to her the day of their wedding. Then she sent him off to his bed...alone.

 

 

At 0800, the entire DWD team assembled for breakfast in the officer’s wardroom. The first stage would start at approximately 1000 hours with Mike Thompson, Tom Johnson, and Chip Morton going out with the dolphins. Bob O’Brian and Kowalski would wait in the wings to see if they were needed. Chuck had briefed Mike extensively on what he needed to x-ray on the bomb. It would be Chip and Tom’s job to get them safely through the electronic fence and keep Mike covered as he worked on the recon of the bomb. The dolphins would stay with them, also acting as ‘guard dogs’ and camouflage, then they would take them out of the area the same way they got in.

The three men suited up and exited through the escape hatch tube. Chief Francis Sharkey monitored the escape tube and the divers until they left the confines of the immediate boat perimeter. He then readied the compression-decompression chamber for their return. At this depth, decompression wouldn’t take as long, but it still had to be closely and carefully monitored.

Karen Nelson took up her post in the Observation Nose in front of the video monitor. Seated behind her were Lucius Emery, Harriman Nelson, Lee Crane, and Norman Thompson. The men clustered around the table in front of the great bow windows, talking low as not to break her concentration on the team. They all watched as the divers left the min-subs about 500 yards from the outer perimeter and then slowly swam in the rest of the way with the dolphins. As they neared the ‘fence’, Karen gave the instruction that only one of them would go though. The dolphin went through with no problem...no alarms, no reaction from the lab was noticed. When the animal returned to Mike Thompson, he grabbed hold of the dorsal fin and hung on.

"Here goes nothing," he softly said as he and ‘Star’ swam toward the fence.

Karen watched and held her breath, silently saying a prayer that he would make it through unharmed. The closer they got, the more riveted the crowd in the Nose became to the monitor. Finally, diver and dolphin approached the fence and Star swam right on through with Mike clinging close to his side.

"We made it!" he exclaimed softly.

Karen slowly let out an exhaled breath of silent thanks...but it wasn’t over yet. Picking up the microphone, she then told him, "Slowly approach the bomb and check for a timer. If it’s running, we’ve blown it. If not, we may have actually done it."

"Yes, ma’am"

Divers and crew alike watched as Mike allowed Star to take him over to the device. Slowly making his way around it, he found the door to open it. Reaching for his tools, he started to unscrew the front hinges.

"Mike, be careful...that thing could be booby-trapped," Karen told him. Chuck Maynard, her explosive expert, had just joined her. She handed him the microphone in deference to his expertise in the area of explosives.

‘Mike, this is Chuck...look, buddy...check the outer edges of the door for any type of sealant. Any kind. Tell me exactly what you see and feel."

The mini-cam in Mike’s helmet provided a pretty good view of the door to the device, but Chuck wanted an exact description. If there were any type of trip wire, it would be on that door. Mike’s gloved hand slowly edged its way around the outer edge of the door. "Chuck, looks like a clear silicon sealant...you know...like you’d put around a window frame."

"Ok, Mike...good. It’s to keep the seawater out of the inner workings. Now, what I want you to do is unscrew the doors and take your pin knife and slip it in between the door and the frame, then slowly break the seal."

"Gottcha, Chuck"

"Then when you’re through with that...watch for the air bubbles as you take the door off. Let the water in slow. When the pressure’s equal, you’ll be able to pop the door right off."

"Okay, buddy...here goes nothing!"

They all watched Mike as he took the screwdriver and unscrewed each of the six screws. Then, taking his pin knife, he slowly pierced the sealant and ran the knife around to loosen the seal. Tiny air bubbles escaped as the seawater slowly seeped into the container. When no more bubbles showed themselves, he then was able to pry off the door. They saw it float to the ocean floor and then Mike focused in on the inner workings of the bomb.

"Hey, Mikey, can you get me a little closer look see on that wiring?" Chuck asked his teammate.

"Sure, Chuck...hold on."

Mike got up as close to the device as he could so that, in actuality, the camera was only inches away from the detonation device. "Hey, buddy. Good...now hold it there just a few seconds. Let me see what you’ve got there."

Chuck moved in closer to the video monitor and used his fingers to trace the wires. Turning around to Karen, he remarked, "Looks just a bit complicated but not too bad. Let him get the x-ray and then we can let Mr. Thompson here feed it to the FBI for the rundown. Can’t see trip wires or devices from this, thought. I need to see the x-rays for that."

Norman Thompson had gotten up from his chair and walked up to the monitor. He was absolutely mesmerized by both the technology and the expertise these people showed. "How long will it be before we can go in and take down the lab?" he asked Karen Nelson.

"That will depend on how quickly we can get the schematics worked up. Once the x-ray is done, we fax it off to the FBI and see if they can help us. Right now, that’s the closest we come to it without knowing exactly what to do," she replied. Turning back around to the monitor, she picked up the microphone and told Mike, "Ok, you all finish up ASAP and get out of there. I want that x-ray film back here pronto so we can see exactly what we’re dealing with. Tom, did you get any other recon photos taken?"

Johnson came over the radio with "Yes, ma’am. Quite a few."

"Ok, you all get back here and we can finish this thing."

"Aye, Captain"

The three men and the dolphins made their way back to the mini-subs and headed back to the Seaview. Once safely back aboard, the film was developed, scanned, and uploaded (via DSL) to the FBI Headquarters. Now all they could do was wait.

 

 

Seaview surfaced and gently rode the waves as they cascaded against her gray bow. Riding topside was necessary because of the satellite uplink they needed to transmit the information to Washington, so here they would remain for a few hours until they received the requested information. Meanwhile, Norman Thompson was getting antsy. He personally didn’t like being onboard this ‘boat’, what some people would call a floating cigar...it made him claustrophobic...but he was here to oversee the take down of this lab. However, he was beginning to get frustrated because of the continued delays. He understood the need for caution...even the unexpected obstacles they kept encountering. But the anticipation of what was to come was beginning to grate on him. He had been very carefully watching this tightly knit crew work together like a very oiled machine. Everyone from Harriman Nelson on down the lowest ranked crewman was the epitome of dedication and skill. Yes, there were some laxes of discipline, but everything else overshadowed that one thing. Maybe that’s why he hated military types so much...all that strict discipline...always following orders to the letter...never questioning anything. But Seaview’s crew, and her officers, were...well...different, to say the least.

Thompson paced the Observation Nose. This operation was unlike any other he had ever participated in. In those, he could size up the situation within moments. But here...here it was a completely different environment...and he wasn’t in control...someone else was.

He wanted that laboratory. He wanted it so bad he could taste it. Miguel Rodriguez had made a fool of him the last time...and Thompson had vowed that if he were ever given another chance, Miguel would pay. Oh, he would pay, all right. Even if the other Cartel bosses were the unknowing ones to exact the price. Norman wanted to hit Rodriguez where it would hurt the most...right in the pocketbook. This had become one of the major laboratories and distribution centers in the Northern Hemisphere. To take this out would effectively take Miguel out of the business for around six months. It would also send a message to the other Cartel bosses that things of this magnitude would not now, nor ever, be tolerated. So while the DWD team, and the crew of the Seaview, awaited an answer from the FBI’s laboratory, he paced the area in the Observation Nose. He wanted this over with...he wanted that laboratory.

Lee Crane looked up occasionally from the chart table where he and Chip Morton stood working on where they would ‘cruise’ to next. He quietly noted the mildly agitated manner of the man as he sat, then stood, then sat again in the chairs in front of the great ‘glass’ bow. He hadn’t been able to figure out the DEA agent, but Lee knew one thing...he didn’t like him for some reason...and he wasn’t exactly sure why.

Karen walked down the spiral steps from A Deck and crossed over into the Control Room. She leaned over the chart table and nodded toward the Nose.  Within moments, Harriman Nelson also joined the group.

"Has he been there since we surfaced?" Nelson quietly asked of the two men.

"Yeah,...been pacing back and forth like a caged animal," Lee replied, watching the man up in the nose.

"Ya know, I can’t quite figure him out...one time, he’s calm and cool as can be...then, BOOM!...like that. I swear, if I didn’t know better, I’d almost think that this whole thing is part of a personal vendetta," Karen observed, scrutinizing Thompson intently as he moved back and forth in the Nose.

Crane watched him and then turned sideways toward his employer and his wife.  "Who knows?...Maybe it is. I learned a lot of things those three weeks down in Colombia and on that freighter. Loyalty to the drug lords is all supreme down there. They take care of the peasants in the villages who in turn take care of the drug lord."

The four silently observed Thompson as he nervously paced the Observation Nose. All they could do was wait.... wait for the FBI’s hopeful match of what Seaview had sent.

 

 

About eight hours later, Seaview received information from the FBI agent on this project, Walter Michaels. He called in and asked to speak with directly with Karen Nelson. Sparks relayed the video conference to her cabin where she, Harry, Chip Morton, and Chuck Maynard were assembled.

"Mrs. Nelson, I must first say, that even under these circumstances, it’s a pleasure to talk with you. Second, we have come up with a match on the maker for this device."

"Thank you, Mr. Michaels…and the name is Captain Davis, if you please.  Now, how bad is it? My explosives man is here. He’ll be in charge of the deactivation of the device."

"Okay, here it is. The device is fairly simple. This guy is basically known for complex bombs on land, not sea. Information has it that Rodriguez’s cartel contacted this guy to construct something that would go boom! if the alarms were tripped. I frankly don’t know how you got by the alarm system, but that’s three-fourths of the problem. It’s a simple electronic pulsator charge that your man ought to be able to deactivate easily. It’s tied into the ‘fence’ you’ve apparently penetrated."

Maynard looked over at Karen and made a motion with his finger across his neck, indicating to cut the volume on the video feed.

"Mr. Michaels, can you hold just a moment? I’ll be right back with you, " Karen told him and then muted the volume.  "What is it, Chuck? What’s the problem?" she demanded of Maynard.

"Captain, that device is not as simple as he’s saying...there’s more to it than that. Bombers love their creations...they’re like...children...to them. There’s something not quite right about this."

"Maynard, are you telling us you think that this guy’s lying?" Nelson asked as a curious eyebrow shot up

Harriman Nelson looked his crewman dead straight in the eye. There was no flinch, no flicker of uncertainty that he could detect. Maynard was absolute in his feelings on this issue. "Sir, all I can tell you is that bomb out there is a helluva lot more dangerous than what he’s letting on. Something’s screwy here, and frankly, I don’t like it!"

Karen sat back in her chair and looked at the figure on the videophone in front of her. It wouldn’t be the first time that a fed had not been completely forthcoming with all the information. All she had to remember was her past conversations with Michael Briggs.

Nodding at Maynard and then looking to Harriman for support and finding it, she then unmuted the audio portion of the videophone.

"Mr. Michaels, it has just come to my attention that the device in question is a bit more complicated and more powerful than you would lead us to believe. Now, either your intelligence information is wrong...or something's being withheld from us. Now personally I don’t care which it is, but what I do care about is that you, sir, are withholding vital information from us," she calmly but coolly declared.

Michaels refused to be bluffed. He was giving them all they needed to know, and therefore kept silent.

When she could elicit no further reaction from him, she sat back casually in her chair and told him coldly, "Mr. Michaels, may I remind you that you and those involved in this venture approached Admiral Nelson with regards to using the Institute’s facilities and Seaview on this little raid? He said ‘yes’ on the contingent that he have the full cooperation of all departments involved. And that, Mr. Michaels, means full cooperation from the FBI as well. Now, should you so chose not to cooperate and be forthcoming with all information that is necessary and that I’ve asked for, I will ask the Admiral to leave the area, and you and you band of merry agencies can fight this little war on their own. Rest assured, sir, I will not send my men into an area to do a job where all known factors are not given to us. Is that clear?!!!"

Michaels still refused to be further forthcoming with information. "Captain Davis, you've been given all the necessary information. Any more is totally unnecessary."

Karen’s knuckles were turning white where she was clinching them tightly. The pompous sonofabitch! By God, he’s not going to get my men killed because of his idiot attitude!!!  Her voice then turned ice cold.  “Mr. Michaels, perhaps you’re not familiar with military protocol.  The name is Captain Davis.  And you, sir, are withholding pertinent information.

There was a moment of silence and the next statement from Michaels capped it. "Besides, Captain Davis, you really don’t have any need for any further information. That’s on a ‘need to know’ situation and you, Captain, really have no need to know."

At that point, Harriman Nelson came out of his chair with silent rage. How dare this idiot address his wife, much less one of his officers, in this manner!!!!  He came around the corner of the desk and into Michael’s view.  In a controlled, yet strangely calm voice, he pointedly said, “Michaels, might I remind you, that you and your friend, Thompson, as well as the other agencies involved, asked for our help, and not the other way around? Now, since you refuse to give us the information we seek, I am pulling Seaview out of the area and will advise Captain Davis not authorize the DWD team to dive any further. As I told Thompson, she determines whether or not the team dives. It is up to her, and no one else, to make that decision. And without the team, you have no need for Seaview.”

Michaels looked totally teed off. Who the hell was he to tell him NO?

"Admiral Nelson, I can assure you that we’re giving you the appropriate cooperation that’s necessary in this matter,” the man told him.

The next thing that was heard was Harriman Nelson exploding in anger.  “Who the hell do you think you are, Michaels?”  And for the next five minutes, he blasted Walter Michaels for withholding the information from Karen and the team...that he would go over Michaels’ head to the Director of the FBI if necessary...and that this was not part of the agreement that was made in Bill Johnson’s office over a month ago. "What you don’t seem to comprehend, Michaels, is that without all the crucial information about that bomb, the DWD team will not dive. Under no circumstances. Now, you will provide all the information that is asked for...is that understood?"

There was a brief period of silence from the other side of the videophone. Nelson watched as the FBI agent seemed to confer with someone off camera. He had recently heard of certain federal agencies reluctance to work with each other, almost jealously guarding certain key pieces of evidence or information to insure that their particular agency got the recognition for the ultimate outcome. He would not be part of that kind of foolishness here. Either they cooperated fully, or he would have Seaview change course and head for home. Let these idiots fight it out among themselves. He was tired of their pettiness...and he wanted no part of it.

Shortly, Walter Michaels again addressed Harriman Nelson. "Admiral," he smoothly said, "There’s no need to get upset here..."

"Upset?...Michaels, either you give us that information, or by God, I’ll have Captain Crane change course and head back to Santa Barbara!! Now!!! I won’t be a part of your petty squabbles with other agencies."

"Admiral...what I was trying to say, sir, was that the information we have given you on the bomb is all that your people needs. As far as who planted it and why, that’s not really necessary, now is it?"  There was an air of arrogance and distain in the agent’s voice.

Karen looked at her husband and motioned for him to cut the video. Once he did so, she then got up from behind her desk and turned and said, "This team’s part in this mission is hereby over, Harriman. I absolutely will not put these men in the water under these conditions. That idiot has no earthly idea what we’re facing down here, and frankly, I don’t think he really gives a damn."

“I agree.  Get Thompson down here now.

She flipped the switch on her intercom and said, "Norman Thompson, this is Captain Davis. Report to my cabin immediately!" Glancing over at Harry, she remarked, "This is bullshit, Harry...and I won’t have my team involved in it. I’ve put them at considerable risk already getting them in close to that thing in the first place…and now this fool won’t give up all the necessary information to disarm it? No, I don’t think so."  She was furious...In the five years that Harriman Nelson had known his wife, he had never seen her so enraged.

“I concur.  Pull the teams,” he firmly directed.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Norman Thompson had appeared as requested.

"Mr. Thompson, please sit down.”  Nelson told him.  As the DEA agent pulled up a seat, the Admiral’s eyes narrowed and he took his ‘command stance’ in front of him.  “I regret to inform you that the DWD team will no longer be a part of this mission.... And if you don’t have them, you don’t have Seaview either," Harriman Nelson informed him.

Thompson looked shell shocked. He looked from one face to the other and found the same expression. Something had just transpired and Nelson was pulling the rug out from under him.  "I don’t understand!!! What happened? The raid was supposed to go after the bomb was disarmed!"

Harriman looked at Karen to explain. She leaned slightly across her desk and told him exactly what had happened.  "Apparently, your friend at the FBI, Walter Michaels, deems full disclosure of the information on the bomb as unnecessary for us. Chuck here says the device is a lot more dangerous than they would have us to believe and when we requested full disclosure, they’ve refused, saying it’s on a ‘need to know basis’ and we don’t need to know," Karen told him, a sarcastic tone lacing the last part of the statement. She then leaned back and very casually but coldly continued. "Mr. Thompson, you’ve observed this crew...this team...and we will not dive without full disclosure of all facts.... And I mean all facts.... on that bomb. Now, either you get on that radio to Michaels and get the release of that information...or we head for home. Those are your only two options. But I will not put these men back in the water without it. Is that clear?"

Norman Thompson could not believe his ears. He’d known Walt Michaels for many years, and he’d also known him to withhold some information over the years...but never had he ever known him to withhold vital information necessary for a raid.

"Captain, I can assure you I knew nothing of..."

"Mr. Thompson, look, I personally don’t give a flying rat’s ass what you knew or didn’t know. I won’t put my men back in the water without full disclosure. Is that clear?" she quickly shot back. Karen Davis Nelson had come up against bureaucratic jealousies before, but this was unthinkable. People’s lives were at stake...her team’s lives...and she wouldn’t stand for it.

Then he suddenly felt the full brunt of Harriman Nelson’s fury.  "Thompson, you either get this crap straightened out, or Seaview sets sail back to the Institute. You have approximately five minutes. No more!!!"

The DEA agent looked into the faces of the four people in the cabin and saw one united front, then realized quickly that they were deadly serious.   "Very well, ma’am. Let me talk to Walt and see what I can do. Where can I..."

Harry stood up and sternly told him, "You can use the video phone in my cabin. Come with me."

Karen then turned her attention back to monitor and unmuted the audio.  "Mr. Michaels, Mr. Thompson will be calling you momentarily. I suggest you two get your act together or under Admiral Nelson’s orders, Seaview sails back to the Institute immediately. Karen Davis out." And she cut the link.

Thompson left with Harriman Nelson and went to his cabin to call Michaels. After having Sparks place the call, Nelson left and rejoined his wife, Maynard, and Morton in her cabin.

 

 

Once he was left alone in Nelson’s cabin and waiting for Walt to appear on the videophone, Norman had ample time to cool down a bit.

Holy Shit!!! What in God’s name is Walt trying to do to this mission?

He didn’t understand it. Michaels knew how vital this was...how important that cooperation among the agencies was...and how this would be viewed once it leaked out to the other agencies. Norman knew the DEA had had problems with the FBI in the past, but this.... This was unthinkable.

Walt Michaels appeared on the video monitor, more than a little perturbed at the conversation he had just had with the Nelsons. "Norm, what’s the hell’s going on there?  Can’t you control these goddamn people, for crying out loud? Who the hell does Harriman Nelson think he is, pulling the plug on this goddamn operation?!!!" he stormed.

"Walt, if you’ll just calm down...Look, man, you don’t know these people...let me tell you something, old buddy...he can and he will pull the plug. I’ve watched these people in action, Walt. They’re good...they’re damn good...and they’re loyal to him and he to them."  Thompson leaned back a bit in the chair. "Look, Walt, you and I....we go back a long way, man...I know you’ve kept some information back in the past when we’ve worked together...but, man, I’m telling you...don’t screw with these people!!!! Nelson will pull Seaview back to the Nelson Institute, Walt. Make no mistake...he’s not bluffing!!! This is his submarine...his crew...And his wife is the head of that damn team." He took a deep breath and looked into the monitor in exasperation. "Look, Walt,...you want Rodriguez as much as I do...and we both want to stop this shit from coming in...Come on, will you? Lay off, ok?  The one thing I’ve learned aboard here is...‘what Nelson wants, Nelson gets’...and if that includes pulling his sub from this mission...he will!!!"

"The son of a bitch wouldn’t dare!!!"

Thompson slowly shook his head. "Don’t bet the farm on it, Walt. He can...and he will. You don’t know this guy.  He’s deadly serious. Harriman Nelson is his own man and he doesn’t dance to the same tune as you and I.... The only thing that would keep him here would probably have to be a presidential order…and I really don’t think you want to have to go get that ‘cause it’d cause too many questions.  Walt, if Captain Davis didn’t need to know the information she’s asked for, she wouldn’t have requested it. I’ve watched this lady in action. She’s a stickler for compliance on that team. It’s funny. She’s not diving on this one...something about being medically grounded...but she’s right there with’em, analyzing their movements, directing them.... instructing them...every step of the way. I watched her today when they brought in a team of trained dolphins to help get the divers past the security perimeter they found. Walt, man, these people are pros. They know what they’re doing...Man, cut the bullshit and give them the information, okay? Or they will abort this mission!"

Michaels was totally perturbed. He didn’t like outsiders dictating what information would and would not be given out...but he had to admit that Norman was right. He had pulled the FBI’s dossier on Harriman Nelson and Karen Davis Nelson. The files were both impressive, to say the least...and if word leaked to the Bureau’s Director that Seaview had been pulled off the mission and why,...there would be all hell to pay...And if Nelson managed to confront the Director as to who was responsible, Walt knew he might as well kiss the rest of his career goodbye. Admiral Harriman Nelson might be looked upon as eccentric at times, but he was also held in very high esteem by most of the nation’s leaders, both military and non-military. Other agencies were already leery about working with the FBI because the historical view of non-cooperation that the agency had earned. This would only make it worse. No, Walt had to admit that he had to give in...this time.

"Okay, Norm. The full set of facts will be transmitted to Seaview via scrambled satellite uplink. Tell them that they’ll have them within the hour," he finally said. Seeing Thompson let out a long exhale, he then shot back, "But let me tell you something, Norm...if that asshole Nelson ever threatens to pull Seaview again..."

"Walt...man...I’m telling you...this guy will do what he says...mark my word...and then, old buddy, it’ll be our heads on the chop block...not his."

"Well, I’m telling you, Norm...keep that guy in line...or else!"

‘Yeah, right, Walt. Man, you’d better watch where you step from now on, buddy...cause the crap you stir up with your high jinks is what you’ll be stepping in. And don’t ever get the attitude that your shit don’t stink, cause it sure as hell does!!!"

Thompson turned off the videophone and sat back in the chair in quiet contemplation of the conversation he had just had. When he first dreamed up this whole operation, he figured it would be so easy...but even he had to admit that it was slowly evolving into a nightmare. He got up and headed slowly back down the corridor to Karen Nelson’s cabin. After knocking, he opened the door and simply told them to expect the rest of the information within the hour via satellite uplink. He then excused himself to allow them to finish their planning and went back to the Observation Nose.

 

 

A couple of hours later, the requested information was downloaded into Seaview’s computers. Karen and her team poured over the new schematics. Chuck had been right...they had withheld information about the bomb. The maker had a very nasty habit of rigging trip wires that were interspersed with the regular wiring, making it doubly hard to deactivate. It wouldn’t be impossible, just harder. Had they not had this new information, there was a very real possibility that it might have exploded as they tried to keep out of the entanglement of wiring. Now Chuck could go in and look directly for specific wires, avoiding the entanglement of the rest.

The device was also one of a very high nitroglycerin content. Not so high as to have to be overtly careful of actually jarring or moving it since pure nitro was highly unstable, but a specific compound of C4 explosives specially made for underwater work. The electrical current from the timing device would provide enough energy to spark and detonate the bomb with the resulting blast taking out the laboratory and everything around it for a good half mile.

As Maynard studied the schematics, Karen briefed her teams on the movements inside the perimeter. The first phase was for Chuck to enter with the dolphins and deactivate the bomb. Second phase was for the dolphins to deliver each team of divers inside the perimeter. Third phase was to carefully enter the laboratory and secure it. The fourth and final phase was then to transfer the personnel, chemicals, and the drugs to Seaview via the FS1 and the diving bell. Then, and only then, would the laboratory be destroyed.

From the photographs that had been taken the day before, Karen Nelson and Chip Morton, along with Norm Thompson, had been able to surmise the possible placement of the habitat area away from the main part of the actual laboratory. There was one main entry and three escape hatches. The teams would hit simultaneously from all four portals. The most important one was the nearest the laboratory itself. Tom had been able to peer into on of the view ports during the last dive and had quickly ascertained placement of personnel and arms within that particular section. Fortunately, what he saw was also captured on videotape, so Karen and Chip could take a closer look at what they were getting into.

During the planning of the operation, Thompson stayed somewhat in the background. At first, Karen thought that it was a bit unusual since the entire operation was primarily his idea. However, after the confrontation with Michaels over the disclosure of the bomb information, he had stepped back a bit and regulated himself to a sightseer instead of a supervisor. This, in fact, suited Karen and her team just fine. But as Karen and Chip discussed the various phases of the mission, she carefully watched his movements in the Observation Nose. Something about him and his sudden change in attitude didn’t exactly sit well with her. She wasn’t sure what it was...but there was something. This guy was too slick.... too dedicated to taking out the Rodriguez Cartel to change this quick. Something else was going on. So Karen decided to play detective for a bit. She excused herself, telling Chip that she needed to rest a bit in her cabin (after all, she was pregnant) but not before stopping by the Radio Shack to have Sparks place a call for her. Once the call had been made, she then went to wait for the results. It didn’t take long. After looking over the requested information, she left her cabin and went forward to the Control Room.

Picking up a glass off the side credenza and pouring some ice water into it, she slowly walked over to the great windows and sat down in a chair near where Thompson was standing.  "Problem, Mr. Thompson?" she softly inquired, sipping her water.

Surprised, he turned to face her. "I’m sorry...I didn’t hear..."

"I asked if you had a problem."

He walked over and sat down beside her, leaning one elbow on the table behind him. "Not really...I guess I’ve wanted this day to come for so damn long...and to almost have it pulled right from under me..." He shook his head in amazement. He still couldn’t believe how incredibly close it had been to been completely called off.

"Never, ever underestimate my husband, Mr. Thompson. And furthermore, never underestimate me. Seaview and the DWD teams would have been yanked from this mission as surely as you see me sitting here. Harriman Nelson wouldn’t have any second thoughts about it…and neither do I.”  She took another sip of water and then with slight disdain said, “You people...all you ever seem to want to do is try to cut each other’s throats...when you’re all on the same side working for the same damn goal. You’re so damned afraid the other agency is going to get the publicity, the ‘collar’ that you’ll do anything to keep it from happening...even to the point of endangering innocent lives." She wasn’t mad...nor impassioned as she talked to him. Karen Nelson simply stated facts in a plain, simplistic manner. She placed her glass on the table and looked him straight in the eye. "That kind of jealously won’t be tolerated aboard this boat, understand? Let me tell you something about my husband.  There are times he’s got a short temper fuse…and you damn well better not be in the way after it’s been lit.  And your friend’s stupidity lit it.  There’ll be full cooperation from you and all the involved agencies, or there won’t be any cooperation from this vessel and its crew.  And if you think I’m joking…just get in his way and you’ll find out I’m not kidding."

"I fully understand that, Mrs. Nelson, er, Captain Davis...and I deeply regret what happened today. I’ve known Walt for a long time...we’ve worked together on several things. I just don’t understand . . ."

"Mr. Thompson, I accept your apology, and I’m sure so does my husband...but I know the one thing that he won’t accept and that’s the interagency pettiness that’s been displayed here.”  She leaned across the table and let her words sink in.  “Look, we’re getting ready for the takedown of this lab...this has been your baby from the get go, from what I understand. You’ve been so emphatic about being involved in all aspects of the planning...up until now." She put her hands under her chin and then gazed out the view ports. "Why have you all of a sudden backed off from the one thing you were so passionate about doing?"

He was stunned by her question...he hadn’t expected it. Yes, this was his operation. He had conceived it...had fought for it.... wanted it, badly. But now...now that it was about to all go down...he felt...disjointed....let down. Maybe it was the infighting...maybe the thrill of the chase was no longer there...or maybe the smell of blood right before the actual kill didn’t excite him anymore.

"I...I don’t...know what you mean, Captain," he softly replied, not wanting to look at her.

"Oh, I think you know exactly what I mean, Mr. Thompson," she countered, turning her gaze back to him. "I know a lot more than you think I do. For instance...I know that in your second year with the DEA, you came across a shipment of contaminated heroin that had been smuggled into this country. Some of it had been stolen from the ‘distributor’ and people started to die because of it. One of those people was your brother, Ben, Mr. Thompson. He’d gotten hooked on heroin while he was in college at the University of Miami. You, in turn, traced that shipment of heroin back to the supplier and ultimately to its original source, one Miguel Juan Rodriguez, of Bogota, Colombia...And I take it that this is the same Miguel Rodriguez that is the head of the Rodriguez Cartel that runs this lab we’re about to take out. How am I doing so far?"

"Where the hell did you . . .?"

"I have my own intelligence sources, Thompson...and I happen to have extremely high level security clearance, particularly because of what I do. Now, am I right, or am I right?

He got up and leaned up against one of the windows. Turning around to face her, he spoke softly, "Ben was a naive, stupid kid who was sucked into doing drugs because he wanted to impress this little twit of a roommate of his. Only thing was, the ‘twit’ was a drug dealer. That’s how he suckered a lot of the kids in...no one would take him seriously until he was seen producing the goods. One night...this idiot gives Ben some new ‘breed’ of heroin.... ‘Stronger, faster acting...last longer’ was the line, one of his friends said...anyway, Ben agreed and it took about 10 minutes until he died. 10 lousy, stinking minutes.... One of the other guys there said Ben shook and wallowed around on the ground like a wounded animal begging to be put out of his misery before he finally died." Thompson’s eyes glistened from the tears that were beginning to form. "I hadn’t been with the DEA that long...as you said...my second year. Anyway, we got a tip about bad stuff hitting the streets in the Miami area...I overheard one of the local undercover cops making a couple of comments about some of the UM kids that had gotten hold of it. So, just on a whim...I called up Ben’s room...a campus cop answered the phone...I identified myself and he asked me to come over, that they needed to talk to me, that Ben....that Ben.... .was in the hospital...only he never made it to the hospital alive...he was DOA when they got there."

Karen rose from her chair and stood beside him, putting her hand on his arm to comfort him. "I’m so very sorry...I didn’t mean to bring back such painful memories.’

"You don’t have to be sorry, Captain. You need to be thankful...thankful that you have a beautiful, intelligent, living daughter...thankful and hopeful that she’s never been involved in drugs. Thankful that people like me...like Walt...like a lot of us...want to get this shit off the streets anyway we possibly can," he remarked with a bit of venom and hate in his voice. "And I swear before God Almighty that I will bring Miguel Rodriguez down if it takes until my very last breath I ever draw! That son of a bitch, and those like him, killed my little brother.  I’d go to the ends of the earth to get every last one of them."

Karen stood in silence listening to true pain and true hate. He had suffered so very much...had lost so very much...someone so very dear to him. Even with what she herself had gone through, there was nothing she could say that would provide him with any comfort. Ultimately, the hate would consume him...it would make him vulnerable to the very ones he so hated...and in the end...it might very well get him killed. Her source was right...the lab was but one step in a personal vendetta against Miguel Juan Rodriguez. Not that he didn’t deserve to be shut down...imprisoned....maybe even killed. But personal vendettas had a very nasty habit of coming back to bite the person in the ass. Karen just didn’t want anyone she knew or loved in the way when it finally did come back to haunt Norman Thompson.

 

 

The next morning, at approximately 0900 hours, Seaview changed positions to within roughly three miles from the underwater lab. Once the mini-subs were launched, they would slowly cruise to within less than a mile from the lab. Normally, Seaview only carried two mini-subs...enough room for four divers. However, this operation necessitated the use of eight of them, so the Missile Room had become cramped with the decompression chamber for the divers and all the mini-subs. Not one more piece of equipment could be crammed into that room.

Chief Petty Officer Francis Sharkey, the Chief of the Boat, looked over all the equipment that had been jammed into this one room. Shaking his head in amazement, he suddenly noticed that Admiral Nelson stood just to right of him, looking it all over as well.

"Ya know, sir...I never thought we’d get all this in here. Makes it kind of tight..."

"I know, Chief. I know exactly what you mean," Nelson answered and turned at the sound of a voice coming through the hatchway. It was Karen with Chip Morton.

She smiled when she saw him standing there. There were times, even now, that she couldn’t believe that she was married to Harriman Nelson...especially when they were aboard Seaview. Walking over to him and Sharkey, she addressed the Chief first.  "Chief, I need you to get all the team’s gear out ASAP. Chuck Maynard will also need gear...and he’ll have some special equipment going with him as well.

"Yes, ma’am. Anything else?...I’ll have your gear in your dressing area shortly."

"Don’t bother, Chief...I’m grounded. Doctor’s orders."

Sharkey’s eyebrow arched upward a bit...he remembered the incident in the missile room nearly two years ago when she had backed out of a dive, but when he looked at Harriman Nelson, he saw no reaction to her statement. She noted his response, but said nothing. Karen knew that Francis Sharkey was the ‘mother hen’ of the whole senior staff...that he had made it his personal mission to watch over each of the senior officers...and that included her as well. She wanted to take the Chief aside and let him in on the secret, but knowing his gregarious personality, she didn’t dare. He’d be beside himself and wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret for long.

"Very well, ma’am...but who’s going to lead Team One outside?"

"Mike will, Sharkey...and Chuck will round it out as the fourth member. Team One will go down first because Chuck has to deactivate that bomb before the operation can commence. The teams will be spaced apart by ten minutes so as to not attract attention. Once they’re all in place, hopefully Chuck will have the bomb defused, and we can get started. I want a test on all the mini-cams, computers, and audio recorders in the suits. I also want each tank fully charged till it can’t take any more. Also make sure internal and external communications are all in working order. This is one time we simply can’t afford to lose contact with anyone at anytime. Understood?"

"Yes, ma’am!" he stated and left the couple standing there with Morton. Chip looked at the two and decided it was best that he himself also saw to the deployment of the equipment.

Karen stood beside Harriman, looking over the crowded Missile Room. Eight mini-subs sat, stacked tightly together, waiting to be launched into the depths of the sea. The red vertical cylindrical shapes of the missile silos stood silent watch over their companions.  "Are you ready?" he asked her in hushed voice, almost reverent of the machines which lay before him.

She glanced over at him, and with a wary faint smile, answered, "Yes, we’re ready. God, I wish I was going with them!"

"I know you do...but you can’t...and you know it."

They could hear Sharkey barking orders to the team’s support crew. Both Harriman and Karen smiled upon listening to him hammering away.  Karen shot a grin over at Harry and whispered, "Maybe we can get him to baby-sit when Caitlin’s not available"

Harriman let out a rather loud laugh and then stifled the rest. His wife always managed to make him smile, no matter what the seriousness of the situation. "Oh, I can just see it now...no...I don’t think I can take that kind of a vision in my brain right now....it’s too funny for words."

She then grinned and hooked her arm in his. "Let’s go, Dad, I’ve got work to do before they head out."

"Oh, I meant to ask you...what was your call from Michael Briggs about?"

She at first shot him a look that was ‘how the hell did you know?’...but then she didn’t really keep secrets from him...and her prior relationship to Michael Briggs was no secret between them.  "I called Michael to get some information for me...on Norman Thompson."

Harry stopped in mid-stride and looked at her. "Why?"

"Let’s go to your cabin and I’ll explain...okay? Actually...he simply confirmed something I suspected."

They walked to his cabin with her explaining her suspicions about Thompson. Once inside, she told him about what Michael had found out about Norman Thompson and why he had a personal vendetta against Miguel Rodriguez. Harriman listened to her intently...digesting all the information. He wasn’t exactly happy about being used this way...but the ultimate goal, the shut down and destruction of that laboratory was a worthy cause. That was one point he couldn’t disagree on. He just didn’t like the idea of this being a personal cause of Thompson’s and that he and Seaview were being used to further it...to justify it....

"Harry, I don’t like it either," she explained after he expressed his anger. "But you did commit us...and since we’ve gotten full cooperation now...I really can’t see any reason not to go through with it, now can you?"

"No, but damn it, I just don’t like being used..."  There was no doubt that he was thoroughly pissed off.  The very fact that Thompson seemed to be using this entire operation as an end to justify the means didn’t set well.

"And I don’t either...but, look at it this way...we would be doing some good at least.”

“That doesn’t make it right, regardless.  If I had known…”

“I know,” she sighed.  “That’s why I called Michael.  There was just something that didn’t seem right about his reactions.  He’s been so…so…gung ho about this whole thing and all of a sudden, he develops this really laid back attitude.  There was just something screwy about it.  So, I decided to do a little checking on my own.”

“The one thing I won’t tolerate here is this stupid interagency passion for politics.  Too much is at stake here.”

 “I know…believe me, I know.  Look, Harry, I had a long talk with Thompson after I confronted him. I saw the reaction he had, talking about his little brother...and I heard the indignation he had in his voice when I dared question him about it. It was ‘hurt’ indignation, Harry...the kind I would probably would have had if someone questioned me if Caitlin had been through it. You know...afterward, I thought to myself that I am lucky...that Caitlin never got involved in all of that. And hopefully, our baby won’t either. Norm Thompson and his family weren’t so lucky. So...yes...I guess I do sympathize a bit with him. But I don’t condone personal vendettas, either."

She came over and sat on the edge of his desk next to his chair. Reaching for his hand, she placed it on her abdomen...and then looked at him. "I guess in a way, Harry, this is for this little one...and all the others just like him. Good, bad, or indifferent.... We’ve got to do this." She then bent over and kissed him passionately.

As he broke away, he looked up into her eyes.  “Ok…then let’s get this over with.  The sooner the better.”  It just galled him to know that his crew and boat was being used in another’s quest for revenge.

 

 

At 1200 hours, Karen Nelson met with her team as they suited up for the beginning of the first phase. Team One was almost ready for departure when Norm Thompson came into the Missile Room. He had avoided talking to Karen since the night before. Now that she knew his secret, he had been afraid that she would call off the dive...but he was surprised, and pleased, to see the DWD teams getting ready when he got there. Karen looked up, saw him, and motioned him to join her in the briefing.

"Okay, guys...listen up. Mr. Thompson here is going to tell you what you’re going to be looking at once you get into the laboratory itself...Basically, what you need to look out for and what you need to make damn sure doesn’t get destroyed."

Thompson looked over the group of men as they were suiting up, watching them carefully put on the specially designed diving suits. Clearing his throat, he addressed them. "I know that you guys are used to other things besides busting a drug laboratory...but this IS important. The main thing is to secure any of the drugs that have already been made and packaged. You have been already briefed as to what the packaging looks like, and what the various chemicals involved are. It’s imperative that we confiscate as much of this stuff as possible...don’t give them so much as one iota of a chance to destroy anything...If you can do that...it will make my job that much easier."

Karen stepped forward and looked slowly at each one of her team...then nodded to Sharkey to bring over the weapons locker.

"Each one of you will be issued a weapon and extra ammunition. In addition, there will also be tranquilizer guns issued as well. Use the tranqs first...and the firearms last, only as last resort. These people are not expecting a firefight. They figure since they’re 750 feet down on the ocean bottom...well, let’s just put it this way...they’re really going to be surprised. But at the same time...we also don’t want to overlook the possibility that they DO have firearms aboard." She watched as Chief Sharkey handed each member of the team his weapons and the special waterproof containers for them. "Guys...I don’t have to tell you to be careful down there. This is completely different than anything we’ve done since this team was created several years ago. Watch your backs...don’t take anything for granted. Doing that can get you killed. Ok, I want absolute minimal, if not any, communication going in. Audio and video will remain on the entire length of the mission."

Kowalski was strapping the firearm to his waist utility pack when he looked up and asked, "Captain, how are we planning on transporting the drugs back here?"

"Once the complex is secured, the diving bell and the FS-1 will be pressed into service to transport both the drugs and the captured personnel back to Seaview. Once aboard, the lab personnel will be taken to the brig and placed there under guard for the trip back home. The drugs will be secured in an area here on board, and will also be under guard. Are there any more questions?" she explained.

One of the other team members piped up with "Captain, how come you’re not going out?"

Chip Morton shot her a look and a slight smile, almost questioning what she was going to say. She really hadn’t said anything to the team...almost preferring not to discuss it. Now, she had to say something... "Guys, I’ve been beached. The good doctor has medically grounded me for about at least six months, maybe more."

There were some exclamations of ‘what’s wrong’ to ‘are you ok’ to ‘you gonna be all right?’ She smiled inwardly, thinking If they only knew the real reason..."Guys, thank you very much for your concern, but...I’ll be perfectly fine. It’s nothing that time won’t take care of completely." Looking over at Chip, she knew she had to keep a straight face and serious demeanor or the team would know something was afoot. She felt some self-satisfaction that her team was concerned about her well being. At the same time, she had to maintain her cool composure. Looking at each one of her team, she calmly remarked, "Now...let’s do it to it."

 

 

The first two mini-subs were launched into the stillness of the ocean depths. Seaview was holding trim at 650 feet, with roughly 100 feet from keel to bottom, nearly a mile away from the undersea laboratory. It would take the two little subs about 20 minutes to cover the distance, therefore launching would take place every 5 minutes. The first two, comprised of Team One, carried Tom, Mike, Chuck Maynard, and Fred Williams. Three of Lucius Emery’s star pupils, his ‘children’, swam happily beside, around, over and under the two little submarines as they made their way toward the electronic perimeter fence. By the time that they made it to the rendezvous point, about 500 feet from the ‘fence’, and started to unload the specialized equipment, Team Two would be joining them.

Shortly all four teams were assembled at a point behind a small mound of boulders just beyond the fence. The dolphins were already swimming merrily back and forth across the perimeter, heading occasionally back up to the surface for air, then shooting back down again to the waiting divers. Star was signaled to come to Chuck and after catching hold of the dolphin’s dorsal fin, he was carried safely through the electronic eyes and deposited in front of the bomb. Depositing his gear, he started to work on deactivating the device. As before, he unscrewed the faceplate and let it fall to the ocean floor. Then working from hours of memory of pouring over the schematics of the bomb, he took wire cutters and carefully searched out the color-coded detonation wires. One fluid motion of the cutters severed the wire. Then he began to look for the backup system. The FBI file on the maker indicated that the bomb maker always had a backup in case the primary system failed for some reason. Searching through the entangled bunches of wires, he came upon the very one he was looking for.

He pulled the group of wires toward him and slowly separated them, isolating the backup from the rest. Once done, this wire was also severed. Chuck turned around and nodded to his companions just beyond the fence that the deactivation was complete. At that point, the dolphins started to bring in the team, three at a time, until the entire team was now inside the perimeter. As they made they way toward the pods, each team went to their assigned portal of entry and waited for the signal from Karen Davis.

Back aboard Seaview, the senior staff, along with Norman Thompson, watched the progression of the team to the underside of the laboratory. Since Thompson was the expert in the field, he had been invited by Karen to help direct the raid itself. With the aid of the mini-cams in each diver’s helmet, they could see exactly what each diver saw, precisely at the time he saw it. Because of the complexity of this particular mission and the fact that all four teams would be together, a large video monitoring system had been quickly devised and set up with sixteen small individual monitors, The nerve center of this monitoring system was in the Observation Nose. Karen, with Thompson’s help, sat before the wall of screens, monitoring, listening and directing the group as they began to take their positions for the commencement of the operation.

Harriman Nelson stood directly behind his wife’s chair, his eyes glued to the wall of changing images. Lee Crane had taken up position behind Thompson and was mesmerized by the scenes taking place before him. Both Karen and Thompson, audio headsets on, were constantly scanning the monitors for any possible out of the ordinary movements.

When all four teams were in place and Karen, along with Thompson, was satisfied that everything was ready, the signal was given for the raid to begin.

 

 

Inside the underwater laboratory, the ten men assigned there went about their daily routine, completely unaware of the events about to unfold. Four of the men were in the actual laboratory area of the pod, completely engrossed in the chemical manufacturing of cocaine. Three more were in the galley area, and the last three were in the living quarters area. None of them had any inkling of what was about to unfold.

Team One slowly swam toward the main escape hatch under the main pod. Tom Johnson let himself float up the opening and slowly broke the surface so as not to attract attention. Quickly but quietly shedding his diving helmet, he silently pulled himself over the ledge and signaled the other team members to follow. He quickly unsheathed his weapon from its waterproof holster and took position on one side of the hatchway. As the other three members of the team entered the area, they in turn shed their helmets and took weapons in hand as well. Tom silently signaled the other teams to begin their infiltration as well. If no resistance was encountered upon entry, the takedown would commence in approximately one minute after all teams were in places. As each team entered the pods and got into position, their leaders signaled Seaview that everything was okay and waited for the signal to go. When Karen and Thompson were both satisfied, the word was given.

Team One quickly entered the main laboratory area. The personnel there were momentarily stunned as Johnson and his team quietly secured the area. Morton and Team Two had positioned themselves near the living quarters and immediately brought them under control. Team Three under Kowalski’s command and Team Four under Bob O’Brian took care of the crew in the galley and securing the rest of the laboratory. Chip Morton then proceeded to take a headcount of all the personnel, and when he was satisfied that all were accounted for, the teams were told to bring their prisoners to the living quarters area where they could all effectively be held under guard. All in all, only one shot had been fired, and that had been by one of the laboratory personnel before Kowalski’s team could seize all weapons from the galley area.

Within minutes, word was radioed back to Seaview that the lab had been secured. There had been minimal resistance because, quite frankly, the personnel there didn't expect anyone to invade the lab. The diving bell was dispatched along with the FS-1 for transport of the laboratory personnel back to Seaview after which the team would then begin the task of removing the drugs for safekeeping and the chemicals for storage and disposal.

On board Seaview, Karen kept in constant radio contact with her teams. Since they were no longer in the water, the helmet video cams were of no use, so other arrangements had to be made. Once the personnel were secured, one member of each team would take a portable mini-cam and record the inside of their individually secured areas. After the personnel were transferred to the diving bell and FS-1, only one mini-cam would be needed. Karen was taking no chances that any thing her team did at this point could be questioned. She was well aware of the monetary value of the drugs involved and wanted no questions raised as to their reliability and honesty.

Chip Morton radioed her that all personnel was en route back to Seaview and to have the Master-at-Arms ready for their arrival. Since the Brig was not equipped to hold ten people for an extended length of time, other arrangements had to be made. A makeshift brig had been constructed in the Missile Room to handle part of the prisoners while the other part would be held in the main brig. As the laboratory personnel were brought aboard, one of the men locked eyes with Harriman Nelson as he stood overseeing the operation. The man said something in Spanish that Nelson didn't understand. As he was led into the holding cell, again he shouted something at Nelson. Harry simply sluffed it off and turned his back on the cell to talk to Lee Crane who had just entered the Missile Room.

"Looks like you have a fan, Admiral," Crane said warily.

Nelson cocked his head slightly to one side and questioned, "Oh? Why do you say that?"

Lee motioned over at the man in the cell. "He just said that you and your family would live to regret this day...that Miguel would make sure of it."

Nelson refused to look back at the man...to do so would be to admit his fear of what he had just said. "Really?...Well, looks like he doesn't know the Nelson family very well, now does he?" he replied with a slight grin. In actuality, Harriman was well aware of the Colombian penchant for revenge against the offending person's family as a way of making their point. His immediate thoughts were of Karen, of their unborn child, and for their safety. No one...no one would harm her or the baby...not as long as he had anything to do or say about it. "I think I'd better see how the loading of the chemicals is coming along. I want to make doubly sure that everything is in order and they're properly stored."

"Yes, sir. I'll have a guard posted at the lab door after the cocaine is brought aboard. Oh, and what about the other chemicals?  The ones used in the processing? Will they go in the lab as well?"

Nelson kept eyeing the ‘brig' and the men under guard there. His mind kept going back to the ‘threat' the man had just made...maybe he ought to make sure that Karen and Caitlin had protection once they were back at the Institute. He'd make a point of talking to Thompson later this evening when things calmed down a bit and see what he thought. As much as he didn't like him, Nelson had to admit that Norman Thompson did know his stuff and this was his area of expertise...

"Admiral? The chemicals...will they also go in the lab?" Crane was again asking him.

"Huh?...Oh, sorry, Lee...yes...store them in the lab. I'd better get up to the Nose and see what's going on," Nelson said almost off-handedly. Clearly he was preoccupied with what the man had said. Normally he would have simply dismissed the man and his ranting...but now, with Karen pregnant, it wasn't so easy to ignore.

"Yes, sir. I'll make sure they're secured there."

Nelson turned and walked out of the Missile Room and headed to the Observation Nose. As he walked through the Control Room, he spied Karen, Norman Thompson, and Lucius Emery still up in the Nose. Emery had been there supervising the use of his ‘children', the dolphins, during their part of the operation. Karen and Thompson were still seated in front of the monitors, supervising and directing the final stages of the operation. Norman had taken command of this part of the operation, overseeing the securing of the drugs and the chemicals. As Harry stood behind Karen's seat, he placed his hand gently on her shoulder. She quietly took her hand and touched his...looking up at him, she smiled slightly and then went back to her work. Thompson could see the simple gesture out of the corner of his eye and was in awe of the couple.  This relatively simple act would have gone unnoticed by most, yet spoke volumes about them.

 

 

Several hours later, the complete inventory of all the drugs that had been manufactured in the laboratory, as well as those chemicals used in the process, had been secured in the laboratory under armed guard. Harriman Nelson, Norman Thompson, Lee Crane, and Karen Nelson stood in the middle of the Lab and gazed at the over 3000 kilograms of high-grade cocaine that sat piled in the corner of the room. At the other end of the room were the cartons of chemicals necessary in the manufacturing of the drugs.

"Amazing...simply amazing," Nelson softly remarked, his expression one of wonderment.

Norman Thompson stood silently, his expression never revealing what he was truly thinking. "No, Admiral...the really amazing thing is that this is only a very small tip of the iceberg…a small drop in the bucket to what’s really out there. That’s the really amazing thing," he slowly replied, his voice edged with a thinly disguised hatred.

"Well, at least we’ll put a dent in someone’s pocketbook," Lee remarked as he picked up one of the ‘bricks’ or packages of cocaine.

"Yeah...well...a temporary one at least," was the quiet pointed reply from Thompson.

Karen Nelson turned to face him. "What about the lab? What do you want done with it? Blow it up? Chuck and the guys are ready to plant explosives whenever you give the word."

Thompson walked over to the piled up plastic bundles of cocaine. Squatting down in front of it, he simply looked at it...not saying a word to the other three people in the room. I swear, Ben...I’ll get the sonofabitch that killed you. I swear it! This is just the beginning...I’ll hit that bastard hard every time I can and whenever I can. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you then, little bro...but I swear to you...somebody will pay for what they did to you!

The other three stood watching him as he knelt in front of the drug pile. In a few moments, Thompson stood up and turned around to face them. Looking Karen dead straight in the eyes, he told her, "Take it out...blow it to smithereens...I don’t give a damn!!"

Karen knew what he was doing...he wanted to send a message...a message that said ‘I’ll find you no matter where you go.’ The only problem with that was that Miguel Rodriguez was not known to be the most stable person in the world. She walked over to the microphone cradle that hung on the wall near the door and palmed it. Clicking it to open the intercom, she then spoke, "Mr. Morton, this is Captain Davis."

"Morton, aye."

"Chip, prepare the teams for demolition duty. We’re going to destroy the lab."

"Yes, ma’am."

Lee Crane glanced over at her. "Why not just hit it with a torpedo? It’d blow it sky high."

"That’s exactly why we’re doing it with specifically placed charges. This way we attract less attention if they managed to get any type of SOS off. A massive explosion would only confirm it," she explained. Turning to Thompson, she went on, "The less attention, the more he’ll come looking." She knew what he was doing, but felt this was a better route to take.

"We draw him out...make him make a move. Mrs. Nelson...I’ve got to hand it to you...that’s not bad...not bad at all," he replied as he pondered her angle. He was grateful that she hadn’t spilled the beans about his real intentions...He had come to really admire and respect the woman standing in front of him.

Harriman Nelson didn’t exactly like what he was hearing. He already had heard the ranting of one of the prisoners in the Missile Room...and he had already been briefed that the Colombian Cartels’ use of revenge tactics included the family of the offending person. Looking at Thompson and Karen, he took his ‘defensive’ posture.

"Now, just a minute here. First off, Mr. Thompson, I’m quite well aware of the Cartel’s penchant of family revenge tactics. If you intend to try to draw out this Rodriguez, you’re not going to put my wife and my step-daughter in danger," he stated quite plainly. "And second, why destroy it at all? Would it not be more prudent to simply leave it be? The very fact that there’d be no answer when the Lab is contacted would be more than enough to draw this man out, wouldn’t it?" He crossed his arms, his lips thinned a bit. He had too much at stake now to put Karen, or Caitlin for that matter, in harm’s way. As much as he hated to have to do it, this was one time that he had to consider his own personal stake in this operation...and it was far greater than he’d ever have admitted. If that cartel leader decided to come after the Institute and its ‘family’, Karen and their unborn child would be prime targets. That was one price he wasn’t prepared to pay.

Karen listened to her husband voice his objections. She knew in her heart why he was stating them...her and the baby. For the first time since she had known him, she felt part of his objections were being voiced out of personal reasons. She couldn’t really blame him...letting her mind wander away from here for a few moments, she smiled to herself as she thought of the child now growing inside her...their child...

"Karen?..."

Looking over toward the voice speaking her name, she stared blankly into the face of her husband.

"Karen?...Did you hear me?"

"Huh?...I’m sorry...My mind was elsewhere. What did you say?" she replied, managing a slight smile at Harriman.

Harry sensed that she was thinking along the same lines...that he had to keep her and their child safe from Rodriguez. He stepped in front of her, arms still crossed in their familiar defensive ‘stance’ and repeated his comment.  "I said that I’m overruling the complete destruction of the lab. We’ll completely disable it...make it so that it’s completely uninhabitable...but not blow it up. Yet, that is. I don’t want those people coming after us."

"Harry, the only way to get rid of that lab is to completely destroy it...and that means blowing it up," she countered.

"Normally, I would agree with that...but these are not normal circumstances. Mr. Thompson here knows by far better than I do what Mr. Rodriguez is capable of. I simply don’t want..."

She looked directly into those steel blue eyes of his...she knew what he was trying to tell her. Strangely enough, she was thinking along the same lines but felt differently about the lab’s destruction. This difference of opinion was now leading to a sticky situation. She had disagreed with him before regarding actions performed by the team, but their arguments had always managed to be in private, between the two of them, never in front of others. Both of them preferred it that way.

"I think if we do it right...strategically place the explosives so that the ensuing explosions are implosions, we can minimize the disruption," she explained. "Chuck can plan to place the plastics accordingly. Harry, I really think we can pull this off so that he won’t know until after these people are in jail." Karen knew why her husband was concerned, but she was also trying to let him know that the team could pull this off. Besides, Rodriguez was going to find out sooner or later anyway. She just wanted to give them more time to get back to the confines and safety of the Institute before he found out that his precious laboratory had been completely destroyed and his personnel and drugs seized.

"Karen..." he started cautiously, trying to warn her to be wary of an ensuing disagreement. Besides, he did wear the four stars on his collar, this was his boat, and he had the last word in the matter concerning the operation.

Catching the tone of his voice, she glared at him...this was not the place for an argument. Not in front of Thompson and Lee Crane. Her eyes locked with his and she motioned for him to follow her to the other side of the lab, leaving the two other men standing near the stacked pile of drugs.

"Harry," she started, as she lowered her voice to just above a whisper, "Chuck can plant the explosives so that it implodes, not explodes...there’ll be less of a shockwave and it will still be destroyed."

"Look, I know what you’re trying to do...and I know what he wants," he replied, looking over at Thompson. "Karen, he’s not only here to put this lab out of business, but he’s hell bent on revenge. You know that. I don’t want you or our baby endangered because of him."

She slipped her hand gently into his and looked into his eyes. "I know that’s part of it...the revenge, I mean...I’m quite well aware of that. But Harry, that lab’s got to be destroyed. If it’s not...Rodriguez will simply start it up again after this all blows over. No, the lab’s got to go...and you know I’m right."

Harriman Nelson sometimes hated it when his wife was right about these things. Looking at her, knowing that she was carrying his child, knowing that these drug lords had a very nasty habit of wanting revenge, he was hesitant...but he had to admit to himself that she was right. His eyes narrowed a bit and as he glanced back to the stacks of packages containing the cocaine, he then relented.  "All right...take it out. But it has to be an implosion, not an explosion."

Karen exhaled a long breath of relief. She smiled slightly, tightened her grip on his fingers just a bit and then whispered, "You got it."  She then walked over to the wall mike, palmed it, and called out, "Mr. Morton?’

"Morton, aye."

"Chip, come to my cabin and bring Chuck Maynard and the team leaders with you. 10 minutes."

"Yes, ma’am."

Placing the mike back on the wall, she then walked back over to Crane and Thompson. Looking at the drugs and then at the two men, she first addressed Crane.  "We’re going in to plant explosives to implode the lab. I’m going to have Matt and Chuck work out the details as to placement of the plastics and the timing so that you can get Seaview back to a safe distance. Since it’ll be an implosion, the shockwaves won’t be near as bad. Therefore, we can actually be closer to observe and record it." She then looked over at Thompson. "How long to you think it will take for Rodriguez to find out that the lab’s gone?"

"Oh, I dare say he’ll know as soon as we dock. They’ve always managed to stay one step ahead of us for a long time...it won’t take them long."

"Is it possible that they have some sort of time frame on communicating with the lab? Let’s say, every hour...two hours...whatever...and if they don’t hear from them, they’ll send someone to investigate."

"It’s possible, certainly. However, we’ve never detected any type of communications signal like that on a regular pattern. That’s not to say it’s not within the realm of feasibility. Rodriguez is smart...Damn smart...he didn’t get to where he is by running a shoddy show. No, there’d probably be some type of regular communications," he mused.

She thought over his answer and then turned to Harry. "You might want to interrogate the prisoners. They’ll be the ones to tell you If there were prearranged communications between the lab and his cartel. That is, if you can get it out of them. When I send the teams over, I’m going to have them check the communications pod for any indication...any possible documentation of any. When this thing blows...I want to make sure that it’s in between their signals so that we’ve got a good head start for home."  He nodded in agreement, conceding to her point of view, "Let’s do it then. Lee..."

"Right on it," he agreed as he turned to head out the door, leaving Harriman, Karen, and Thompson standing alone in the lab.

"Admiral, I want to be in on the interrogations if you don’t mind. I’ve probably got more experience doing it than all of your crew combined," Norman asked, slightly leaning back against one of the lab benches.

"Actually, I’m sure that Captain Crane would be glad to have your help and expertise. Permission granted."

"Thanks, Admiral," he replied, heading out the door without looking back.  Now there were just the two left in the lab.

Karen leaned over one of the benches, her chin in one of her hands, the elbow propping her up. The two looked at each other for a few moments...neither spoke. Finally, Karen decided to break the ice.  "Harry, I’m right about the lab. It’s got to be destroyed...or he’ll start it back up as soon as the personnel gets bailed out."

"Yeah, but we now know where it is...it can be raided ever so often to throw him off."

"But why take that chance? Harry, come on, I’ve never known you to back off like this. Is this change of attitude because I’m pregnant and it’s the Colombians we’re dealing with?"

He backed up a bit and pulled over one of the lab stools. His eyes strayed ever so often to the mound of cocaine packages in the corner of the lab.

"Karen, the information I’ve been reading recently about the Colombian cartels is frightening. They have a reputation for taking revenge on the family members of those that offend them. I knew this when I went ahead and agreed to this operation. What I didn’t bank on was this baby...Look, I know that they could just as easily come after me, you, Caitlin, Lee and his son, Chip, Matty, and little Alex...I accept that...but now..."

"Now, it’s our baby, right? Harriman Nelson...I’ve never known you to back down from a fight," she replied, straightening up and planting her hands on her hips. "Hell, they might just come after the boat. But we can’t let that stop what needs to be done. You know that."

He sat there looking at her, wondering how he managed to get so lucky in this part of his life. She was so...so...independent...and so damned aggravating sometimes. Maybe that’s what had attracted him about her five years ago at Miramar.  "Karen, I just want to make sure you, the baby, Caitlin...all of you...are safe and sound. I’m not backing down here...I’m just being...cautious.

She walked over to where he sat on the stool. Positioning herself half way on his lap, she put both arms around his neck and kissed him. As she did, she slowly took one hand of hers and picked up his, then placed it on her stomach. He cradled her as she sat there on his lap, silently offering a prayer that everything would turn out all right.

 

 

Down in the Missile Room, Crane, Thompson, and the Master-at-Arms started to interrogate the prisoners, one at a time. This was going to take some time...the three knew that. Lee decided that the process might just go a little faster if some help was brought in, so he placed a call over the intercom for Chief Francis Sharkey. The Chief of the Boat had a well-earned reputation for being a hard ass when absolutely necessary. Add to the fact that Seaview was in international waters and it made for an interesting combination. Thompson had instructed Crane and Sharkey on the ‘correct’ procedure of police interrogation, but decided to suspend certain ‘formalities’ reserved for the American justice system. When one of the prisoners yelled something about wanting an attorney...Thompson pointedly told him that the Miranda warnings didn’t apply here...it was in international waters that there were located right now. And if they really wanted a lawyer, they’d have to wait until they got back to land. So meanwhile, the man just might as well shut up his complaining and tell them what they wanted to know.

One by one, the prisoners were interrogated. One by one, the Captain of the Seaview and the DEA agent, along with the COB and the guards, took the prisoners aside and put them through a grueling questioning. Sharkey did more than his share of a bit of roughing up of a couple of the prisoners...one or two of them got a bit ‘mouthy’ with the four as they attempted to obtain the necessary information though not a scratch was placed on any of the imprisoned men. Thompson had instructed them in just how far they could go, and even then they were pushing the limit.

When they finally reached the tenth man, all of them were exhausted. Crane disliked these kinds of tactics but reasoned that they were necessary in this incident. Tempers were getting short and there was a tension growing between Lee and Norman Thompson. The two men grated on each other for some reason and it showed. In fact, it was unknowingly left up to Sharkey to run interference between the two.

During the time of the prisoners’ questioning, the DWD teams were being readied for their part n the destruction of the lab facility. Karen met with Tom Johnson, Morton, Kowalski, O’Brian, Chuck Maynard and Matt Lynch in her cabin to discuss the details of the demolition.

The six men crowded around her desk, which now had a detailed schematic drawing of the facilities unrolled on it. Maynard had marked in red the positions where the plastic nitro explosives would be placed. It was imperative that anything they did create only a minimal amount of shock wave. It was also his job to obtain the intended results of that said implosion, so he had spend most of the day going over the plan with Matt Lynch and Karen prior to this meeting.

After Chuck had explained in detail how the explosives would work and had given each team leader their assignment, Karen looked around at the men sitting before her. She fully realized what they were about to do and the possible outside ramifications of it. Clearing her throat, she caught their undivided attention.

"Guys, I want to warn you...once we blow this lab, Seaview may very well become a target for revenge. Miguel Rodriguez, this particular cartel’s leader, has never been known to be ‘stable’. The Colombians have a very nasty habit of taking revenge out on family members. Now it’s my understanding that Rodriguez is not looked upon favorably by the other cartel leaders because he’s ‘erratic.’ If there’s any of you that have an objection here, I want to know about it now. Not that it’s going to make that much of a difference where this wacko’s concerned, but I do want you to know. We’ve been through a lot in the last four years...I just wanted to be honest and up-front with you."

Each of the men looked at the other, and Morton spoke up as sort of the unofficial spokesman for the group.  "Captain, we appreciate the concern, but we can’t let this stop us."

Karen smiled to herself...Now that’s what I knew I’d hear.  "Okay, guys, let’s do it to it."

The six got up to leave, but Chip Morton stayed behind after the others left. Looking over at her, he was reminded of the way Matty was during her pregnancy with Alex.  "You feeling okay?" he inquired, visibly concerned about her.

She leaned back in her chair and looked back at the Seaview’s executive officer and her second-in-command on the DWD team. Karen knew he was concerned about her; after all, he had just gone through the same events with Matty.

"Yeah, a little more tired now...but then again, you’ve been through this recently," she replied, grinning. "You know, Chip, I never in my life thought this would happen at this stage of my life. I must be crazy...or either the raging hormonal imbalance has take over my body. Typical first trimester symptoms."

"You having morning sickness?"

"Not really...actually I’ve had a bit but it hasn’t been extreme. I was never sick with Caitlin...but then again, that was 22 years ago."

Chip laughed and then said, "Matty didn’t have much either. Actually, after that incident with the Sergeant, things were a piece of cake." He then got up to leave so that she could get some rest. Stopping at the door, he turned around and remarked, "You know, you’ve made him totally ecstatic, don’t you? I haven’t seen him this happy since you two got married."

She smiled back at him, soaking in those words, and whispered, "Yes, I know...I know."

 

 

The teams entered the lab pod for the second time and started to place the plastic explosives at the locations determined by Chuck Maynard. At the same time, Chip Morton went to the Communications center of the lab to look for any logbooks that might give them the answer they’d been seeking. He rummaged around the radio set until he found exactly what he’d been sent to find. Searching through the pages, he made a mental notation of how many times a particular call had come in and when. Looks like they called every twenty-four hours, at approximately 0800 every day. He then tucked it into a waterproof bag and placed it in his pack for the trip back to Seaview. Looking at his watch, he noted the time. 1630. A little under 16 hours. More than enough time for Seaview to be well underway back to the Institute with its ‘cargo’ and ‘passengers’.

As the four teams gathered back at the main escape portal, Chip then gave the signal to Lee Crane that they were starting back and what they’d found.

"How much time do we have, Chip?" came the voice of Karen Nelson.

"About 15 hours before the next contact," was his reply.

"All right, you all get back here and we’ll hit the switch, then get the hell out of here," she replied.

The teams proceeded back and within about 30 minutes were all aboard. Lee then had Seaview moved off to a distance of about 5000 yards before detonation. An underwater camera had been placed about 100 yards from the lab for recording purposes so as the countdown started, Harriman Nelson, Karen, Lee Crane, Morton, and Norman Thompson gathered around the main video screen in the Observation Nose. Thirty seconds later, there was a slight rumbling as the charges were detonated and then the lab simply looked as if it just fell in on itself. There was no massive explosion, no outward shock wave. Just implosion.

When the residual dust settled and they were all satisfied that there was no way that it could ever be used again, Lee Crane then gave the order to proceed for home at flank speed. At that rate, he rationalized, they would be home by the time the call to the lab came in and not answered.

Harriman Nelson looked at the fading image on the screen, watching intently and feeling both pleased and somewhat fearful at the possible events that could very well take place.

 

 

At approximately 0800 the next morning, Ezra Moran sat at the radio console in a makeshift communications center in an old rundown shanty house about two miles south of the San Diego Naval Base. He flipped on a switch of the ham radio and proceeded to place a call that he’d done every morning at this time. Ezra had also equipped the radio with sophisticated encryption equipment so that his signals couldn’t be traced.

"Alpha Zebra Yankee 311. Alpha Zebra Yankee 311. Come in."

Knowing that it was habit for the radio operator in the lab to still be slightly asleep at this time, he went to get a cup of coffee. It wasn’t unusual for him to have to call three or four times before getting anyone to answer. God, I hate these chemists...No sense of timing at all. They’re in their own little world down there. Chuckling to himself and sitting back down at the console, he tried again.

"Alpha Zebra Yankee 311. Alpha Zebra Yankee 311. Come in. Hey, guys...it’s time to wake up down there!!!!"

Another five minutes went by and there was still no answer from the lab. Ezra was now more than a little perturbed. It had never been this long.

"Alpha Zebra Yankee 311. Alpha Zebra Yankee 311. Come in." He waited another minute then decided that he had to let someone know what was going on. Picking up the telephone near the radio, he hit the speed dial #1 and waited. A man’s voice answered.

"Yes?"

"This is Moran. I’ve just tried raising the lab and there’s no answer. Something’s wrong down there."

The voice on the other end chuckled and then replied, "You know they’ve never answered on time before. Why the hell you bothering me with this?"

"Because I’ve been trying to raise them for more than 15 minutes and there’s still no answer. The longest they’ve ever gone is five. No, something tells me there’s trouble down there."

"Let me call you back in a few minutes, okay?" the voice said.

"Okay, but I’m telling you...something stinks here."

"Understood. Call you back shortly," the voice replied and then the line went dead.

Ezra checked over his radio equipment. He’d been very lucky in obtaining all of this, especially being this close to the Navy base. His boss had managed to strike up a friendship with one of the higher-ups at the base who was able to obtain some pretty sophisticated jamming equipment. This was all done in exchange for silence and the possibility of returning the favor one day. This ‘higher-up’ apparently liked having people who owed him. Well, it didn’t make any difference to Ezra...he was just glad to have the equipment.

Twenty minutes later, the telephone rang. The voice on the other end was highly agitated.

"We’ve got a major problem."

"No fooling...what now?"

"The lab’s blown up!"

"Holy shit! You sure?!"

"Yes, I’m sure. We’ve just confirmed it. Goddamn it...and they had processed over 3000 keys that the ship was supposed to pick up, too."

"Hey, man...the boss ain’t going to like this at all."

"Yeah, you know how he gets about losing merchandise."

 

 

Seaview docked at 1000 hours that morning in the Institute’s underground docking facility. Agents from the FBI and DEA were on hand to take control of the prisoners, drugs, and chemicals. As the gangplank was swung over to the top deck, Harriman Nelson, Lee Crane, and Norman Thompson walked through the hatch door of the conning tower out onto the deck. Waiting for them across the way was Walter Michaels, the FBI’s liaison in the operation. As they made their way across the plank, Michaels shook hands with each of them.

"Gentlemen, I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you. This is a great bust."

Nelson looked at the man with whom he’d had a confrontation earlier. "It would have been even better and easier had we had full disclosure from the very beginning," he testily said. Harriman hated this kind of pettiness and it could have cost him valuable personnel.

Michaels glared at the older man in his uniform trimmed heavy with gold braid. Even though Michaels had agreed to cooperate in this multi-agency venture, he still was teed off that he had to share what he deemed as unnecessary information with the Nelson Institute and its personnel. He hadn’t liked the fact that Nelson had threatened to pull Seaview from the mission unless he was given full disclosure of all information. Furthermore, he didn’t necessarily like the fact that Norman Thompson had called him down on it.

Gritting his teeth and holding back what he wanted to say, Michaels simply smiled and replied, "Sorry, Admiral, but we do have to be careful about security."

"Security?!!" Nelson boomed, his facial expression expressing the rage he suddenly felt. "Mr. Michaels..." He started to let loose in a tirade when he felt a slight touch on his arm. Quickly turning around he found himself looking at his wife. Regaining his composure, he then somewhat calmly said, "Mr. Michaels, if you ever question Seaview’s security clearance again, you will not have her assistance in any way, shape, form, or fashion. Furthermore, your lack of foresight of disclosure could have cost the lives of some of my personnel. It will not happen again. Is that clear?!"

Michaels wasn’t prepared for the iciness of the statement. He had read over Nelson’s dossier and was duly impressed but he wasn’t going to be intimidated by this older man in khaki. Nelson was retired, not active Navy. Granted he still commanded all the respect afforded him...and had certainly earned every bit of it...but Michaels was the Chief of Undercover Operations for the FBI and the only person he answered to was the Director himself. He was not about to take orders from the man in front of him.

"Admiral Nelson, what information is or is not given to non-FBI personnel during this kind of operation will be determined by me and me alone. That, Admiral, is policy. If you don’t agree with it, that’s your prerogative…and your problem, not mine. You’re not FBI."

Harriman Nelson clenched his fists as he struggled to hold his temper. Norman Thompson stood nearby, astounded by what he had just heard. He’d known Michaels for a lot of years...he couldn’t believe he’d pull this kind of stunt.

In an attempt to gracefully exit the explosive situation, Karen Nelson extended her hand and said, "Mr. Michaels, I’m Captain Karen Davis. I think this conversation would best be served by continuation in the Admiral’s office, don’t you think? That is, if you don’t mind going into a non-FBI office..."

She observed both men, watching them square off against each other. Karen had seen Harriman take this kind of stance only one time before...the day of their wedding reception. It wasn’t warranted then, but today was different. She herself took an instant dislike to this man in the dark blue suit standing before her.

The group decided to disperse at that time, instead of taking the discussion up to Nelson’s office. Karen, Harriman, and Lee Crane all entered the outer office as Angie Pearce was pouring herself a cup of coffee.  "Good morning, sir...Welcome back. All your messages have been placed on your desk," she greeted him.

"Thank you, Angie," he grunted and walked straight into his office, leaving his wife and Lee Crane standing in the middle of the outer office.

Angie looked at Karen, hoping for an explanation. Karen quietly replied, "Don’t even ask. It’s bureaucratic BS"

Nelson’s longtime secretary nodded and watched as Karen and Lee entered the Admiral’s expansive office and quietly closed the door.

Once inside, Harriman took off his uniform jacket and loosened his tie. He was furious. How dare Michaels insinuate that Seaview and her crew were security risks!!! And the attitude Michaels had taken with him was totally out of line. Well, he’d have to see about that.  Sinking down into the overstuffed dark leather chair behind the expansive mahogany desk, he looked across it to see his wife and his Captain staring back at him.

"Well?!..." He almost shouted, exasperated with the current situation.

Karen was the first to speak. "Well, what?...That Michaels is an idiot and way out of line? You won’t get any argument from me.  The man’s a total ass.  The question is, what are you going to do about it?"

Nelson picked up a stray pencil from the top of the desk and fidgeted with it, tapping it on the desk. His anger was smoldering...he tolerated neither rudeness nor incompetence. Looking first at Karen, and then Lee, he then quickly reached for the intercom and flipped the switch.  "Angie," he bellowed. "Get me the Director of the FBI, on the phone. Now!"

 

 

On the loading dock next to where Seaview was berthed, FBI and DEA agents off-loaded the drugs, chemicals, and prisoners. Several trucks and vans lined the dock as agent after agent loaded the cargo into the idling vehicles. Over to the side, observing the operation, stood Walter Michaels and Norman Thompson. The two men heavily contrasted each other. Thompson dressed in casual khakis and polo shirt looked more like he had just come out of a country club, even with the ponytail. Michaels, however, was dressed in a dark blue business suit, more befitting the persona of an upper echelon official of the FBI. Both men were roughly the same age and had known each other for more years than they would each care to admit.

A guard approached Michaels and informed him that he had a telephone call at the guard station. Following the SP back, he closed the door to the post as soon as he heard the Director’s voice.

Ten minutes later, Walter Michaels rejoined Thompson on the dock. Norman took one look at his old friend and knew something was amiss.

"Who was that?" Norman casually asked.

"That was the Director," Michaels responded, the tone of sarcasm heavy in his voice. "Looks like our resident Admiral made a complaint."

Thompson watched Michaels and then shook his head. "Walt, I tried to tell you...Man, don’t you ever listen? Nelson has major clout in DC. You picked the wrong person to pull that shitty attitude of yours on this time, old buddy."

"Damn sonofabitch," he spat out. "Who the hell does he think he is?"

"He is Admiral Harriman Nelson, Walt," Norman replied slowly, as he watched the proceedings while the prisoners were taken from aboard Seaview and placed in an armed FBI prisoner transport van. "Walt, you’ve got to learn that just because you work for the Bureau, it doesn’t give you leeway to highhandedness or pulling rank OR acting downright rude. Look, I watched these people in action down there...and you know I can’t stand working with the military...but, man...these people are good, okay? Besides, the crap you tried to pull both times was totally out of line. I tried to warn you. Come down off your high horse for a few minutes and you’d see that. If you got your ass chewed, you sure as hell earned it."

The two men continued to watch as the last prisoner was loaded onto the van. One of the FBI supervisors handling the prisoners came over to speak with Michaels. After signing the order for transport, the man climbed in the van and headed for the roadway to proceed to the Santa Barbara Police Department where the prisoners would be held temporarily.

Michaels and Thompson also stood watch as the drugs were loaded into a separate van and then left for its trip back to the Police Department. Agents of both agencies would be standing by at SBPD for both vans and take care of any and all special arrangements for storage of the drugs.

After the entire operation was completed, the two men started to walk toward the security elevator. A SP guard was stationed at the entrance, standing silently at attention, yet watching every move the men made.

"I’ve been asked to report to Admiral Nelson’s office," Michaels told the guard, who then allowed them access to the elevator and keyed in the necessary codes. He then gave them directions to Nelson’s office once they had exited the elevator.

Once the doors closed, Thompson looked over at Michaels who was obviously not happy about something.  "What’s eating you, other than the obvious?"

Walt looked at his friend and then answered in disdain, "I’ve been ordered to apologize and guarantee total and complete co-operation in any and all phases of any and all operations between the Bureau and the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Now and forever more."

Thompson let out a low whistle and slyly looked around at Michael’s back.  "Old buddy, you are about 15 pounds lighter...your ass has been completely and properly chewed off," he replied with a slight grin.  “I told you…what Nelson wants…Nelson gets.

 

 

In a house high in the hills overlooking Bogota, Colombia sat a very large Spanish style home with red clay tiled shingles. The home could be seen for miles around as it was so large and so white that it shone in the sunlight. Inside the home, a family of eight - mother, father, four girls and two boys, went about their daily lives. The mother and children could have been anyone’s mother and brothers and sisters. The father, however, was a different matter. Miguel Rodriguez appeared to be an ordinary businessman...a man who was simply occupied with providing for his family. However, below the facade lay a different type of businessman.

That morning, Miguel was in a meeting with his second-in-command, Juan Carlos Santiago, and he was not happy. He had just been told of his underwater laboratory’s destruction, capture of the personnel, and confiscation of the 3000 kilograms of high-grade cocaine.

"Who the hell did this?...I want to know, Juan, ‘cause whoever did, is dead!!! I swear it. Who???"

"Our contacts don’t have that answer just yet, Miguel...but we do know that the SSRN Seaview had a hand in it. That’s the submarine from the Nelson Institute of Marine Research out of Santa Barbara, California. Apparently the sub was used to stage the operations."

"Seaview? But they’re supposed to be some kind of ocean research outfit...not this stuff. No, someone set this up. Someone from the DEA or whatever." Rodriguez was ranting and raving. The lab had cost him 3000 kilograms of coke plus all the equipment, chemicals, and personnel. The output the lab had been producing had been incredible...it had been a very profitable venture. Now...it was all gone.

"Find out who did this, Juan. Now. If Seaview indeed had a hand in this, I want it destroyed. Do you hear me? Sink it!!"

Juan looked at his old friend and employer. He knew that Miguel had developed a reputation among the other cartel leaders for being a rogue...sometimes violating the unwritten code of extending the revenge tactics to outside the immediate family of those who dared to offend the cartel. The other leaders had attempted to keep Miguel in line over the years but they had all failed. Juan also knew that going after the Seaview was wrong. The submarine was only the instrument. Add to the fact, it was internationally known and was unofficially at least, part of the United States Navy. Going after it was akin to declaring war on the United States Government.

"Miguel, calm down, will you? You can’t go after Seaview...you do, and we’re all dead."

Rodriguez walked around from his desk and looked out over the rolling hills and down onto the city of Bogota. Slowly turning around, he coldly smiled and replied, "I have a friend, Juan...a man who hates the owner of Seaview very, very much. He will help us. I’m sure of it."

"If you are speaking of the one I think, Miguel, be very careful. This man cannot be trusted. A man who would go after one of his own with that kind of hatred is pure evil...you cannot trust him. He will follow his own directions...not yours."

"We will see, Juan...we will see. Who owns the Seaview?"

"Admiral Harriman Nelson...and I understand that he married about a year ago...a woman he brought aboard to head his team of special divers. She has a daughter, about 21 years old or so, I think."

"Good...good," Rodriguez thought aloud as he stood before the great window, looking out at his children as they played in the front yard. Turning his back to Juan, he slowly said, "Kill them...all of them."

 

 

That night, Harriman and Karen Nelson had finished their dinner when they heard the front door open and then close.

"I’m home," called out Caitlin Davis as she slung her bag on the sofa by the doorway. Strolling into the dining room, she greeted her mother with a kiss on the cheek and then bent over and put her arms around Harriman’s neck for a quieter greeting. "So, what’s new?"

Gesturing for her to sit, Karen replied, "Not much. We’re home for a bit at least."

"About time, too. Well, I’ve been busy, if you’re interested. I went over to Cal Poly to check out the computer labs...Man, they’re awesome...Anyway, from what I saw, I really shouldn’t have too much trouble doing my research."

Harry poured himself another cup of coffee and looked to Karen as to whether she intended to tell Caitlin about the pregnancy. Her return expression told him no...but he also had another matter to be worried about. Their safety.

"Caitlin, there’s something I need to talk to you and your mother about, so I’m glad you’re here," he announced, pushing slightly away from the table.

"Uh, oh...I know that tone of voice. What’s wrong?" Caitlin groaned.

Karen shot her only child a look of ‘Be Quiet’ and then looked at her husband. She knew what he was worried about but didn’t want to say anything.

"Caitlin," he replied, ignoring the attitude of his step-daughter, "The mission we just came back from was a cooperative effort between the Institute and several different law enforcement agencies. For the first time since its inception, Seaview was used for drug interdiction...we destroyed an underwater drug laboratory. We captured their personnel and confiscated a whole hell of a lot of drugs that had been manufactured there."

"Whoa!!!...Was that what Lee was doing while he was gone for several weeks? Working undercover?"

"Yes, he was. It was his ‘mission’ to find out the location of the laboratory and observe the procedures they used in the transport. We then went in and the DWD teams took out the lab."

Caitlin turned to her mother and watched her. She suddenly realized that her demeanor was too calm and compliant.  "Okay, so the teams took out the lab...I don’t understand why you needed to tell me this...neither of you have ever talked to me about high security missions before. Why is this any different?"

Nelson leaned over the table and looked at the young woman and at his wife. I just want them to be safe. All of them.  "Because the people involved in this have a very nasty habit of taking revenge out on the families of people who go against them. I’m the head of the Institute; Seaview belongs to me. Therefore, it’s very likely that they’ll come after your mother, you . . Me...and, quite possibly, Seaview."

Caitlin couldn’t believe what she had just heard...why would these people come after her and her mother?   "I don’t understand, HN, why...?"

"The why is because we had a hand in the destruction of a very profitable venture for one of the Cartels. The leader of this particular cartel is a hothead...apparently he does things the other leaders don’t condone. I just want to make sure that you and your mother are safe. Therefore, whenever either of you go off the compound grounds, a bodyguard will go with you."

Karen looked at her husband and almost raised her voice in protest but then thought better of it. She knew in her heart he was right...especially now. She watched her daughter carefully...Caitlin hated to have to adhere to maximum security procedures...but she was somewhat used to the necessity of it since her mother had come to work here five years ago.

"A bodyguard? Oh, come on, HN...you’ve got to be kidding. What?...is he going to go with me to my classes? Oh, this is going to go over really good with my professors!"

"Caitlin...it’s for your own protection. Now, this matter is closed. Lt. Chin will be notified tomorrow morning that when either you or your mother go off the grounds, for anything, there will be someone with you. Is that understood?" Harry firmly replied, looking first at his headstrong stepdaughter and then at Karen.

"Mom?..." Caitlin defiantly turned to her mother for support but found none.

"Caitlin, this is one time that I have to agree. Harriman’s doing what he think is best...for both you and me."

Seeing that she could not sway either one of them, she silently relented. She’d seen some of Lt. Chin’s security detail. Maybe this might not be so boring after all.

 

 

Several days later, Karen strolled into Nelson’s office, picked up the remote control for the large screen TV in the middle of the wall, and turned it on. A full-scale image of packages of cocaine filled the viewing screen as a voice over narrated...

"An underwater drug laboratory belonging to the Rodriguez Cartel was destroyed and the personnel and drugs seized. What you see before you are thousands of kilograms of high-grade cocaine that the laboratory had manufactured and shipped by specially equipped freighters into this country. This operation was a joint venture between a multitude of government agencies and the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Admiral Harriman Nelson, head of the Nelson Institute, lent the use of Seaview for the operation..."

Karen then clicked off the TV and turned to her husband. "Well, if they didn’t know beforehand that we were in on it, they sure as hell do now. Who in hell gave them the authority to release that the Institute was involved in this?"

"I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to find out. That information should have never been given out," he replied as he reached for the telephone.

Fifteen minutes later, after talking with Norman Thompson, who was now in the San Diego DEA office, he got his answer. Slamming down the telephone, he glanced at his wife in anger.

"Damn it."

Karen looked over at him when she heard the exasperation in his voice. "Well, who’s to blame?"

"That damn idiot Michaels, that’s who! And the worst thing is, there’s not one damn thing I can do about it. Seems that the ok came all the way from the Director’s office," Nelson raged. He was incensed...he felt betrayed. The very possibility existed that his family would be endangered because of this breach of confidentiality.

Looking at him sitting there behind his desk, she thought back on that fateful February day when she casually walked into his office, a cup of coffee in one hand and the DWD team progress report in the other. It was after that meeting that he had asked her out on their first date. That was nearly three years ago...so much had happened since the first time he kissed her on the deck outside the Harbour Restaurant...so when she saw the worried aggravated look on his face, she walked over to him and put her arms around his neck, leaned down and kissed him passionately.  A few minutes passed before the embrace was broken. She leaned back against the edge of his desk and looked at him with a slight smile. He took her hands in his and kissed the palm of one.

"Hhhmmm, I’ve got to remember to get irritated more often," he softly told her.

"Harriman, we’ll cope with this, okay? I know this isn’t exactly what you had in mind, but...we’ll deal with it. Besides, we’ve got something a little more important to think about now, don’t you think?"

He pulled her down onto his lap and held her. God, please let everything be all right.

 

 

The next weeks went by slowly. Hampered by her inability to join the dive team outside, Karen had grown irritable. She found herself snapping at her divers then apologizing afterwards. Chastising herself, she attributed it to mood swings brought on by the hormonal changes in her body. She couldn’t tell the team. Not just yet.

Chip Morton approached her in the Missile Room one morning after a particular incident involving Kowalski and Riley.

"Karen, can I talk to you over here?" he motioned her over to one side away from the two crewmen.

She followed him over to one side. Holding a diving mask in one hand, she stood facing him with the other hand on her hip.

"Karen, you’ve got to get a hold on things. Ski and Riley didn’t deserve the tirade you just pulled. Look, I know this is hard on you and I understand...but you really might want to let the team in on it, too, so they’ll understand. Right now, they’re walking around you like they’re on eggshells."

She looked at him, her eyes flashing anger. Then just as suddenly, they softened. Bless his heart, he’s concerned.

"I know, Chip...but until the results are finished, I can’t tell them. You’re right, of course...I guess I’m just really uptight about this whole thing."

"You know if you want to talk, I’m here."

"That’s sweet of you...and I really do appreciate it. Actually, I’m about to go up a wall. He’s being so protective and it’s driving me nuts. I’m pregnant, not incapacitated, for God’s sake."

Chip looked at her as she related the O.O.M.’s reaction and laughed to himself.  "Look, you’ve got to figure he thought this would never happen and he’s not going to take any chances with you. You know that."

"I know that, I know that. But, my God, you’d have thought that no other woman had ever been pregnant before."

Chip laughed softly, remembering how Matty had said something very similar to him. She glared over at him and slowly she slowly broke into a smile. Morton had a way of breaking through her anger and making her smile. He was generally so quiet with her that when he did have to confront her, it was because of an extreme situation...and this certainly fit the bill.

She placed a hand gently on his arm and smiled. "Thanks, I needed that. I really did. I’ll just be glad to get the test over with and have the results back."

"Look, if it’s any help, I have a feeling that everything’s going to be okay."

"I hope so, Chip. I truly hope so."

 

 

In Bogota, Miguel Rodriguez was growing impatient. He wanted revenge. Revenge against those that had destroyed the lab and his cocaine. The other cartel leaders had come to him to try to dissuade him against his vendetta against the Nelson Institute and Admiral Harriman Nelson in particular. Rodriguez told them all to go to hell...that he would do anything that he deemed necessary to be done. An example had to be set for the world to see that the cartels were a force to be reckoned with.

The other leaders tried to reason with him...some of them even tried to talk to Juan...to see if he had some sort of influence over Miguel. But in the end...the other men left, shaking their heads, knowing that the actions Rodriguez sought, what he would do, might very well mean the destruction of all of them. Each of them knew, in his own mind, that Miguel Rodriguez had to be stopped. The only question was...how?

 

 

A couple of weeks later, Miguel Rodriguez stood on the deck of a 150-foot yacht stopped about 25 miles off the coast of Tijuana, Mexico. He sat sunning himself on the upper deck as a small helicopter approached and radioed for permission to land. The ship’s captain granted it and the small craft sat down on the small pad and dispensed its passenger.

The rider, a large overweight man, took a seat across from Rodriguez at a table set up on the upper deck. The man, much older that Miguel, was dressed in casual khaki slacks and a white polo shirt, much different from his normal daily wear.

"What did you bring me all the way out here for, Miguel? You know this is risky...I can’t be seen with you."

Miguel looked closely at this man who sat across from him. "I want the means to sink the Seaview."

The man looked like a bolt of lighting had hit him. It was incredible that Miguel would even suggest it, more than totally impossible to make it come true.  "You’re nuts, Miguel. Sink Seaview? Damn...you’re crazier than I thought you were. You don’t just go around sinking a nuclear submarine ‘cause you want to..."

"I can and I will...sink the Seaview and I will take care of Nelson and his family. An example must be shown. After we...I...take care of Seaview, then the world will know that Miguel Rodriguez is someone that cannot be touched by anyone without fear of total retribution. That’s why I asked you to come today," he flatly stated. Pouring a glass of brandy for his guest, he continued, "I understand you know Admiral Nelson quite well...and I further understand that you are not an admirer of his."

The larger man accepted the glass and downed the contents in one gulp, then sat the glass down on the table for more. "I have no great love for Nelson, if that’s what you mean. Nor his captain, Lee Crane, either."

Pouring the glass full again, Miguel looked at the man and smiled. "Well, then, you can help be the solution for both our problems, now can’t you?"

Eyeing his host cautiously, he asked, "What do you want from me?"

"Information, my friend. Information. I understand that the Nelson Institute is a virtual fortress. Security is tight; gaining access without proper authorization is nearly impossible. I want to get someone in there...to let me know where Nelson and his family are and to where Seaview is docked."

The man looked at his host in amazement. "Miguel, you’ve got to be kidding here, right? Even I wouldn’t concoct such a hair brained scheme as this..."

Rodriguez’s temper flared quickly and his fist pounded down loudly on the table.  "I will sink Seaview...and Nelson and his family will be mine, do you understand? With or without your help...No one does what he did and gets away with it!"

"Did it ever occur to you, my friend, that Nelson and his submarine were but the instruments that took down that precious laboratory of yours? As much as I’d love to turn you loose on him, someone else masterminded this operation. Harriman Nelson wouldn’t have decided to do this on his own...No...someone else had to mastermind this. Nelson’s sub was only the delivery system, not the instigator."

Miguel leaned back in his chair and took a long drink of the brandy he had poured. "Oh, I will take care of that person or persons, too, my friend. You can bet on that. It also may take a while...but I will have Nelson and Seaview."

The older man across the table from Miguel looked at him with a tired disbelief on his face. He’s crazy...That’s what he is...But damn, if it will help get rid of Harriman Nelson, then...a slight smile crept over his face as he thought about the possibility more. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

 

 

Two weeks later, Karen Nelson sat in her doctor’s office waiting to be called for the amniocentesis. Looking at her watch for the umpteenth time, she wondered what was taking Harriman so long. He knew the appointment was for 1100 and it was now 1055. She was anxious enough about it without having to worry where he was. Jamie had already faxed her records to Dr. Barrett and he was to handle the amnio.

The nurse approached her in the waiting room. "Mrs. Nelson, Dr. Barrett’s been called to emergency surgery. His associate, Dr. Miller, will be seeing you today. Is your husband going to be here?"

"He’s supposed to be. I have no idea what’s keeping him."

"Well, Dr. Miller will see you in about five to ten minutes. That should give him some extra time to get here"

"I hope so. Thank you."

She sat looking at one of the magazines that was so commonplace in an ob/gyn’s office. Parents...Working Mother...Parenting. All of them showed women a lot younger than her with beautiful, healthy, happy children. She looked around her at the young women seated, so obviously pregnant, and suddenly she found herself full of doubts.

My God, what the hell am I doing here? I must be absolutely out of my ever-loving mind.

Looking out the window, she saw a familiar dark blue Mercedes sedan pull into a parking spot. She watched as her husband exited the back seat of the car and enter the front of the building. A few minutes later, Admiral Harriman Nelson entered the doctor’s office waiting room and found Karen waiting for him.

"I’m sorry I’m late, but B. J. called right as I was getting ready to leave. Some personnel issues had to be cleared up. He’d also heard about the lab and our involvement."

She looked at him and smiled. He clearly was a bit uncomfortable being here, and being dressed in his full khaki uniform definitely made him stand out among the other men present with their wives.  "At least you made it. Dr. Barrett has been called to emergency surgery. Dr. Miller, his associate, is going to see us."

"Is that usual procedure? If Barrett’s going to deliver the baby, then shouldn’t he do the tests?"

"Harry, you’ve got some things to learn," she laughed. "Barrett may be my ob of record, but he may not be on call the night I go into labor. Standard procedure is to see the associate as well in order to be familiar with both doctors. A just-in-case scenario. Trust me, I’ve been this route before."

A nurse appeared from within the office suite and approached them.  "Mrs. Nelson, Dr. Miller will see you both now. If you will follow me, please."  They followed the nurse back into the hallway and were shown to Dr. Miller’s office. Pictures of minutes old infants adorned the walls...testimony to all the ‘new’ patients of the resident doctors.  "He’ll be in a few moments. Oh,...Mrs. Nelson, have you had your blood drawn this morning?"

Karen indicated that she had had all the standard procedures done as soon as she had come in. Satisfied, the nurse left them alone in the office.

Sitting there in the silence, she felt the anxiety building up. Sensing her frustration, he reached out and took hold of her hand. This wasn’t easy for him, either. Ever since she had first told him, he had had thoughts of trepidation, of self-doubt, of anxiety, and of being overjoyed. He simply wanted to keep her safe. He had made that vow to himself several years ago when she went away for about six months then came back to him. This situation with the drug cartel wasn’t helping matters any. The prospect of literally having a family at this time of both of their lives had stunned both of them. He had already come to terms with the fact that he would not put her life in danger in order to have his child. He couldn’t do that to her...No matter what.

Shortly, the door opened and Dr. David Miller walked in.  "Admiral and Mrs. Nelson? I’m Doctor...”  And then a stunned look came over his face.  “Karen...Davis? No, it can’t be! I don’t believe it!"

"Dave...David Miller?! Oh, my good God!"  Karen seemed equally surprised.

Nelson looked at his wife and the doctor. Obviously the two were well acquainted. The look on Karen’s face was one of total shock.

"Dave, what in God’s name are you doing in Santa Barbara? You were practicing at Riverside in Newport News the last I knew."

"We moved here about 6 months ago. Mark’s doing his residency at the Nelson Institute in the SickBay. Elizabeth said she was ready to leave Richmond, so we sold the house and moved here."

Karen broke out laughing. She couldn’t believe it. At least it relieved some of the stress she was feeling. She turned to Harriman, and with a smile told him, "Dave, his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, Mark, were our next door neighbors in Richmond for a long time. Mark always looked at Caitlin as his little sister and she looked at him as a big brother." Turning to Miller, she continued, "You know, she finally got to the point where she considered him more of a pain in the ass, just like an older brother would be."

Miller laughed. He remembered the incidents between the two children well.  "I remember. Well, you’re here for an amnio, right? Karen, you know the drill. Into the examining room with you. I’ll be in shortly. I take it you’ve both filled out the necessary paperwork and talked with the genetics people?"

"Yes, Dave. You should already have it there in your paperwork. We’ve been apprised of all the ramifications and the options."

"Ok, well, go on now. I want to talk with your husband here and let him in on all your dirty little secrets."

"Don’t you dare! Just remember, dear, that turnabout is fair play. I can remember a fair number on you, too."

"Go, will you?" he got up and opened the door, gently shoving her toward the examining room.  Once the door was closed, the two men were left alone. Miller sat back in his chair and regarded Nelson with a bit of amazement. It was only because of his familiarity with Karen that he broached the topic of preparedness, particularly where it concerned him.  "Admiral, are you aware of what’s ahead? And are you prepared for it? Karen’s already had a child and I take it from looking at her records that this was not a planned pregnancy."

Nelson sat looking at him. What was this doctor doing, talking to him in the manner? This was clearly awkward for him. However, he would do what it took to keep her safe.  "Doctor, my first concern is for her health and safety. And, no, this was not planned. In fact, she was highly upset about it at first...but her concern now is for the baby. We’re aware of the risks involved and prepared to deal with them accordingly."

"But are you really prepared for this? Mentally and emotionally as well. Admiral, I’ve known Karen for a long time. In fact, we used to keep Caitlin at our house sometimes when Karen and Robert had to be out of town. They would keep Mark for us at times. I think she can handle most things but she’s going to need your full support no matter which way the tests come back." Miller was trying to feel him out about how he actually felt about the pregnancy because he sensed the unease of the man before him.

"Doctor, I love my wife and I will take whatever measures are necessary to keep her safe. As for the baby...No, we certainly didn’t plan this. However, we will deal with things as they come."

Miller realized that he wasn’t going to get any further with him. Having been in the Army Reserves, he instinctively knew the ‘position’ the Admiral had taken. He had seen it a thousand times before. He also instinctively knew that this was not a man to be reckoned with, either. Since moving to Santa Barbara and with Mark at the Institute’s SickBay, he had heard quite a bit about Admiral Nelson...but his main concern now was Karen...and Dave Miller wouldn’t let an Admiral get in the way of treating his patient, even if the patient just happened to be the Admiral’s wife.

"Well,...sir...if you will come with me, I think your wife should be about ready." He got up and went to the door. Nelson picked up his hat and followed him into a smaller room filled with monitors and an examination table. Karen, covered by a sheet, was already lying there. She had changed into a hospital gown with the opening in the front instead of the usual back.

"Sir, let me explain the procedure. An ultrasound will be performed to locate where the placenta is located in the womb. Then about one to two tablespoons of amniononic fluid will be withdrawn with a special syringe. This in turn will give us the material to do all the genetic testing we need. It always cares a slight risk of causing a miscarriage, but by and far, the risk is extremely minimal." Turning to Karen, he asked, "Are you ready?"

She looked at him and then at her husband. Eager to get this over, she nodded her consent.

Nelson sat with her and watched as they smeared a clear jelly substance on the top of her stomach. Then taking a hand ultrasound monitoring device they rotated it trying to find the placenta. He watched the video monitor as murky images of her womb wavered. All of a sudden, a small almost unrecognizable form came into view. At first he couldn’t see it, but then as he listened to the nurse technician talking to the doctor, he began to see the form for what it truly was. He became riveted to the monitor’s screen. The baby. His unborn child.  Their child.

"There it is, Carrie. Mark the spot, here."   The technician marked the top of Karen’s stomach with a marker as directed.  Miller withdrew the monitor and retrieved the syringe from the instrumentation tray.  "Okay, Karen, you’re going to feel a sting, then about 10 to 20 seconds of slight pressure. Stay perfectly still. Okay?"

She nodded acknowledgment. Closing her eyes and holding Harriman’s hand, she felt the initial sting of the needle’s insertion. Squeezing his hand as the pressure increased, she waited for it to end. After about 15 to 20 seconds, it subsided and she opened her eyes and looked at her husband. His eyes told her that everything would be all right.

"All through. Now, let’s see if we can find that little one in there for its first picture," she heard Miller say to the nurse.

Taking the monitoring device in hand again and rubbing some of the clear jelly across her stomach, he placed the device against her skin and began to rotate it until he found the small figure shown on the screen.

"Karen, take a look. Looks healthy to me right now." Miller told her. He then proceeded to point out placement of the head, arms, torso, and legs. "Can’t get it to move so that we can make a visual on the gender. Seems to be content to lie on its side. Well, the tests will provide us with the sex of the child. That is, if you want to know."

Nelson looked at his wife. His curiosity was getting the better of him, but he left the call up to her. She looked at Miller and grinned. "Dave, you know me. If a tech’s going to know, I want to know."

"Ok, we’ll call you in about two to three weeks with the results. Now, you can get dressed and go home. I’ll let Elizabeth know where she can find you. Bet’s on that you’ll hear from her by the end of the day."

"That’s a sucker bet, Dave," she laughed.

"Take care and I’ll see you in four weeks. Have the secretary outside make your appointment with me. I’m going to be taking on your case so I can make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to. Also, your prescription for prenatal vitamins is at the desk. And I want you in for the glucose test in two weeks. Okay?"

"Yes, Doctor."

Miller then looked at Nelson. "Admiral, I’ll tell you right now. She can be stubborn as hell. She always has been." He winked at Karen. "Make sure she gets her rest and plenty of moderate exercise. And watch the diet, too. You developed toxemia last time, Karen. I don’t want that to happen again."

"Doctor, you can rest assured that she will follow orders," he grinned and said sternly.

"Good, then you and I will get along just fine. Sir, it’s been a pleasure meeting you. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a good deal more of you in the future." Miller took the charts and her folder and left them.

Karen slowly got up and looked at Harry.  "Well, now we wait," she remarked. He helped her off the table and then left her alone to get dressed.

 

 

The next three weeks were torture for Harry and Karen Nelson. She unconsciously marked each day off on her desk calendar in her office. Every telephone call that her secretary placed into her office made her jump. Finally, one afternoon, she’d had enough and told Terri that she was going for a walk. She had to get out of the office. As she started down the stairs, which led to the beach below the main Institute buildings, Lee Crane yelled for her to wait.

"How are you holding up?" he asked as they walked down to the beach.

"I’m on pins and needles. I just wish Dave would call with the results." She looked at him as he walked beside her. "Lee, how’s he handling it? He’s all concerned about me but I can’t get him to talk to me about how he really feels about it."

Lee glanced over at her. "He’s a bit...stunned by it. I guess it took you both by surprise.... But I think that after he got over it, he’s actually looking forward to it in a way. If it weren’t for the other situation..."

She stopped and turned to face him. "Lee, is he happy about this? I’m so afraid that he may not be and is covering up to prevent hurting my feelings." Her eyes had started to glisten from the tears that had started to form.

Crane looked at her, standing there in a pair of sweat pants, sweatshirt, and tennis shoes...her dark blond curly hair, once short, now grown longer and definitely windswept. At first glance, no one could tell whether she was pregnant or not...but she was starting to thicken and to his eye, it showed.

"Karen, he loves you very much and wants only what’s best for you, you know that. He’d move heaven, earth, and hell below for you if it meant keeping you safe. That’s why he required you and Caitlin to have a bodyguard when you go off the grounds. Until this guy is caught or stopped, he doesn’t want to take any chances. This child is, for him, something he never, ever hoped for or dreamed of. You know, he’s always treated me like a son...I guess that’s why I feel so close to him. My own father died before I went into the Academy and I guess, unknowingly, the Admiral kind of fell into the roll of surrogate."

"Yeah, he did that for Caitlin, too. She absolutely adores him."

"I know, and he loves her as if she were his own. Look, if it hadn’t been for your daughter bugging him, you two would have never gotten together. You owe her big time, you know that? Anyway, as far as this child is concerned, he’s happy as long as you’re safe, sound, and healthy. Now, part of this may be a guard up until the results come back...but regardless of what they are, you know he’ll be there for you."

"I know that. It’s just that...I guess that part of me wants this child and part of me..."

"I’m sure he knows that and understands it, too. Believe me, he’s just as on edge as you are right now. Angie said he’s been a real SOB these last few weeks and you needn’t ask why ‘cause I’ve seen you, too. You know, you two are a lot alike in many ways. Especially right now."

"We’re both so on edge right now until the tests come back. The fact that I’ve got to have that damn bodyguard even when I go to the grocery store...Damn it, I got so angry at him last night over something so absolutely stupid that I stormed out of the house. Later, I was so ashamed of myself that I came down here and cried for well over an hour. He came looking for me...finally found me sitting on the sand down on the beach. I don’t really remember what time we finally got back, but it was near daylight. Lee, I don’t know what I’ll do if the baby isn’t all right. I know Harry’s gotten used to the idea now and the prospect of us having a child is getting stronger every day...And if it’s a boy,...God, I don’t know what I’ll do. It’ll break his heart if it’s not okay. I can’t do that to him." The tears were now steadily flowing down her cheeks.

Lee Crane placed an arm around her shoulders and let her cry. He knew what she wouldn’t admit to herself or to anyone else...That this baby meant as much to her as it did to the Admiral...That regardless of whether its conception was planned or not, it meant an everlasting bond between them that would never be broken. He remembered the feeling all too well. Looking up at the setting sun, he thought, Cats, help me here please...What do I say to her? Help me...please?

Lee had watched the relationship between Nelson and her grow stronger over the past few years. Last year they had been married in a large formal military wedding. Now his two good friends faced a situation that no one could really help them with. The stress and strain of the last few weeks had been intensified by the possibility of retaliation by the drug cartel because of the Institute’s involvement in the destruction of the underwater laboratory. Now, all anyone could do was simply be there for support when it was needed.

 

 

High above the beach, in the Administrative Building, Admiral Harriman Nelson observed the scene that was taking place on the beach as he stood stoically at the window in his office. He watched his wife as she talked with Lee Crane. He knew she was under an incredible amount of stress and he rationalized that she needed someone to talk to. As he watched the event unfold, he realized she was, in fact, crying and that Crane was trying to comfort her. The wait for the results from the amnio test was proving to be quite agonizing for both of them. Last night she had launched into a tirade over something extremely trivial and slammed the front door as she stormed out. He was shocked and totally unable to explain why she had gotten so angry. When she didn’t come back for a couple of hours, he checked first with security to see if she had driven off the grounds...then after ascertaining that she hadn’t left, he walked down to the beach searching for her, theorizing that she always would go there when she was upset. After walking toward the secluded beach beyond the channel area and sea wall, he had found her sitting cross-legged on the sand in tears. She definitely was not handling this well and he was at a complete loss as to how to help her. Sitting down on the sand beside her, he simply took her in his arms and held her for a long time. Not one word was spoken and none had to be. Near sunrise, just as the first rays of light appeared, they finally went home where she slept in his arms until the alarm had gone off.

Nelson knew that his wife was extremely anxious about this pregnancy. Her other one had been picture perfect, but this was different. She was now older and it had been unplanned. To make matters worse, he had been unable to truly convey to her how he felt because he himself was somewhat unsure about it. Secretly, once he had gotten over the shock, he was overjoyed...but he was also cautious. He wanted this child, but not at the expense of her health and well-being. And then there was the underlying threat from the drug cartel...He knew she would do anything and everything she could to make sure their child was all right and healthy, but at the same time, he also knew that there are some things in life over which you have absolutely no control. The only thing that one can do is to offer a prayer for divine providence to help.

A sharp knock at the door broke him from his revelry and when he turned around, Tony Rennalt stood leaning casually against the doorframe.  The Institute’s Head of Engineering ambled in and sprawled out in front of Nelson’s desk.

“What do you want?” the admiral pointedly asked.

“Just thought I’d pop in and see what’s up.”

Nelson turned away from the window and sat down.  “Actually, just trying to wade through all this paper work.”  An amused brow rose.  “You mean to tell me you don’t have any work to do?  Maybe I’m paying you too damn much, if that’s the case.”

“Yeah, right.  Like I really need the pitiful amount of money anyway,” the man grinned from behind his moustache.  He glanced up at the window.  “I saw Karen walking down to the beach when I came in…with Lee.  Is she ok?”

“Yeah, why do you ask?” Harry cautiously replied.

“Just that she’s been biting heads off ever so often and that’s not like her.”  Tony stuck a toothpick in his mouth and placed it to one side.  “Hell, she even took my head off in the lab the other day.”

“Are you sure you didn’t deserve it?  I mean you do have a rather nasty habit of bringing out the worst in people…” Nelson slyly remarked.

“Humpth!  Me?  Naw…actually…” and he threw Nelson a wary glance, “…if I didn’t know better, I’d say that Karen Nelson was pregnant.  Now, I’ve got sisters…and Lord knows I’ve been around’em when they’ve been in the family way and I’ve known Karen since she first came here.”  There was sly grin starting to form behind that moustache, “But then again, you’d have said something, wouldn’t you, old buddy?!”

Before Nelson could reply, the telephone on his desk rang. Retrieving it from under the pile of papers scattered over the desk, he responded, "Yes, Angie?"

"Sir, there’s a Dr. Miller on the line. Terri Styles is transferring it here because Captain Davis is not in her office. She thought you might want to take the call."

Nelson’s mind snapped to attention at the name. Sitting down in his chair, he told her, "Yes, Angie, put Dr. Miller through. Thank you."

There was a brief silence and then Miller came on the line. "Admiral Nelson, David Miller here."

"Yes, Dr. Miller. Do you have the results of the test?"

"Yes...Admiral, is Karen anywhere around, by any chance?"

"No...she’s down on the beach right now. Doctor...is everything all right??" he slowly replied, curious as to why he would ask.

There was a slight hesitation; Nelson could hear paper rustling on the other end of the phone. He was starting to become impatient and a bit fearful.

"Here it is...Admiral, I’m pleased to tell you that everything is perfectly fine."

All Nelson heard was the last four words. He exhaled an utter sigh of relief. Thank God!!!  "And the rest, Doctor?"

"Admiral, I wanted to be able to tell Karen, but if she’s not available, I believe it would better coming from you. You’re going to have a son."

Nelson couldn’t believe what he was hearing. A son...We’re going to have a son!!!  Trying to keep his voice as calm as possible, he told Miller, "Thank you, Doctor. Thank you very much. I’ll let her know."

"Oh...okay...and Admiral, I expect to see her in two weeks for her regular appointment."

"She’ll be there, Doctor. I’ll see to it myself. Thank you for calling."

Harriman Nelson stood up and looked down on the beach at Karen and Crane. Now he could go to her and dry her tears himself. He was so deep in thought now that he forgot that Rennalt was there.

“Harry, something wrong with Karen?” he quietly asked with some concern.

“Huh?!  Oh no…actually, everything’s fine.  Just fine.”  A slow smile started to erupt.  “We’re going to have a son.

Rennalt slowly got up and then walked over to his old friend.  “Well, I’ll be goddamned.  I was right!  She is pregnant.”

“Yeah…we found out several weeks ago…during the Drug Lab takedown.  That’s why she didn’t dive.”

“I wondered about that…and I wondered about the other, too.  Lucius has been too damn secretive about something and grinning like a Cheshire cat to boot.”

“He had to know…his dolphins were used in the project…so we had no other recourse but to tell him.  We also decided not to tell anybody else until the results of the amnio came in.  Not even Caitlin.”  He started toward the door.  “Look, I need to get down to her and tell her, okay?  It’s been hell on her these last few weeks.”

“Hey, from the looks of it, it’s been hell on you, too.”  The taller man looked at his employer and friend.  “Damn, Harry!  There’s gonna be another you running around.  Jeez!  I don’t know if the world’s ready for another Nelson.”  He put his hand on Nelson’s shoulder.  “Get your sorry ass down to that beach and tell that wife of yours the good news, old buddy.  From the looks of things, I think she needs to hear it from you about right now.”

“Thanks…I think,” and he opened the door to the outer office.  "Angie?!" he yelled as he threw the door to his office wide open.

Angie was sitting at her desk, trying to struggle with a problem involving a spreadsheet. His sudden exuberant yell startled her.  "Yes, sir?"

"Cancel all my appointments for today and do not, I repeat, do not call me unless it’s an absolute emergency," he told her as he headed for the door. He had grabbed his uniform jacket and hat and started for the main door. Angie knew automatically something important was up for him to act as agitated as he was.

"Yes, sir," she replied. "...Sir?"

"Yes, Angie?"

She looked at him and could see he was anxious over something. The smile on Tony Rennalt’s face was also a dead giveaway as well.  She also knew that they had been waiting for Dr. Miller to call. Secretly, she knew what others did not...Karen Nelson was pregnant. She had guessed from Karen’s recent mood swings to the obvious physical changes; in other words, she was starting to show.

"Sir, is everything all right?"

Nelson looked at his secretary. He could tell by the look on her face that somehow, someway, she knew. Figuring that it was now all right to let the cat out of the bag, he nodded.

"Yes, Angie, it is...we have a son," he softly replied. It was still hard for him to believe. A son!!!!

"Oh, sir, that’s great!! She squealed. She got up and gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. She looked at him and saw a look of pure unadulterated joy that radiated from his face. "Go on, sir. Go tell her. She needs to hear this from you."

He nodded and headed out the door to find her, leaving her and Rennalt standing in the middle of the office, both of them grinning from ear to ear.  Just as the door closed, the phone rang and she reached over to pick it up.

"Admiral Nelson’s office...No, sir, Admiral Crawford, the Admiral has just left for the day. He won’t be back in until tomorrow...No, sir. He left explicit instructions that he was not to be disturbed. I understand that, sir. However, Admiral Nelson has a very important meeting that he’s on his way to and therefore will be unavailable for calls the rest of the day. If you would like to leave a message, I’ll be glad to see that he gets it..."

 

 

Nelson spied his wife and Crane as they walked about a thousand yards down the beach. Quickening his pace to catch up to them, he found his heart pounding with excitement.

They turned when he yelled out and saw him coming up from behind.

"Karen, I need to talk to you," he said as he finally approached them.

"Harry, what’s wrong?" she looked at him. Then she looked into his sparkling blue eyes. She had learned long ago that, for her, his eyes were the best gauge of what was going on underneath the somewhat solemn exterior. She saw a slight twinkle in those steely eyes of his. Suddenly, she knew. She knew.

Taking a deep breath, she asked, almost in a whisper, "Dave called, didn’t he?"

"Yes." he replied and threw his arms around her, enveloping her and lifting her off the ground. "Everything’s all right. It’s all right! He held her close and looked over at Lee in gratitude for being there to help her. He then joyfully whispered in her ear, "We have a son."

She broke away as the tears flowed freely from her eyes. Looking into his eyes, she saw the final acceptance she felt she so desperately needed. She knew in her heart that it hadn’t mattered whether it was a boy or a girl, but she needed to know that, for him, this was the right thing to do. Now that she could see it there, she felt as if the entire weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders.

Lee Crane watched the two in silence, not wanting to intrude in this very special private moment. He was relieved that the results had turned out so positively as they had. At least now, maybe things could start to get back to normal. Or would that ever again be possible?

 

 

The following weekend, Caitlin Davis (along with her shadow bodyguard) drove to the Institute for a special visit. Karen had called her daughter home from college, but wouldn’t explain why...telling her only that all would be explained that night.

As Caitlin pulled into a spot in front of the huge brick house on the knoll overlooking the sea, Lee Crane was also walking toward the house from the vicinity of the Administration Buildings. Swinging open the door to the Jeep, she yelled out, "Hi,...you coming to the house?"

"Hi, yourself. And yes...I am. You need some help?" he inquired, looking in the trunk area and seeing the books, luggage and a computer unit piled there. He nodded a dismissal to the bodyguard, letting him know that, for today, his assignment was over.

"Wouldn’t mind it, if you please. Tray here needs to get home and I don’t want to keep him. Actually, the computer’s for your son. Hope you don’t mind."

Crane peered further into the back of the Jeep to look at what she had. "For Robert? Why?...I don’t understand."

"When you went undercover on that drug business, I started letting Robert play with an old computer I had. Sort of banging around on it. He couldn’t hurt it...it was old as the dickens, but he didn’t know that...Anyway, he really loved it. Lee, he shows a real aptitude for it...so...and I hope you don’t mind...I started teaching him about them...you know, kid’s stuff. Games, music, other things. He took to it like...no pun intended here...a duck takes to water. Now that’s all he wants to do when I babysat him. This is an old computer that I’ve had for awhile...it’s got a 850 MHz processor, CD-ROM, CD burner, speakers, everything. I figured that he could use it to play Sesame Street games or whatever."

Lee Crane was impressed...and embarrassed. Impressed because of the interest Caitlin showed in his son...and embarrassed because he hadn’t been able to take the time to learn that his only child was interested in computers and showed such early skills in them. As he helped her remove the CPU and monitor from the Jeep, he watched her closely, noticing every movement, every gesture, every nuance. As she handed him the unit, he got close enough to smell the fresh scent of her hair. What is it with her? Why does she affect me this way? She looked over at him and flashed him a smile so radiant that it seemed to brighten up even this gorgeous evening.

"Lee...?"

"Hmmmm...huh...oh...sorry...I was just thinking about something," he stammered, trying to recover from what he’d actually been thinking.

"I asked if you knew why Mom would have called me home this weekend. And I hope that whatever you were thinking...was about me," she teased him.

"Well, you’ll never know, will you, little girl?! But I think I may have some idea as to why you’ve been brought home...but that’s for your mother to explain, okay? Now, let’s get your things inside. I need to speak with the Admiral and I don’t want to be late."

"Lee, it doesn’t have anything to do with the cartel, does it? Have they finally caught the guy and I can get rid of my shadow?"

Crane rested the CPU on the front edge of the wall in front of the house as he waited for her to catch up to him. Looking over at her, he was taken aback at how much she had changed... "Unfortunately, no, they haven’t caught the leader...I wish that’s what it was, but no...I know that for a fact.

"So, you do know and you’re not going to give me a clue?...God, that’s not fair, Captain...not fair at all."

"Sorry, kiddo, but you’re on your own here. Besides, I think you’ll be pleased if it’s what I think it is."

"Lord, you’re terrible, you know that?"

"I know, I know," he laughed.

The two walked into the house, each carrying as much as they could handle. After depositing their loads on the floor and sofa, Caitlin and Crane then walked out onto the deck to find her mother and Admiral Nelson having dinner at the patio table. Karen got two extra place settings and the four of them sat around the table talking about the classes Caitlin was taking as well as the computer she had just brought in for Robert. Finally, Caitlin let her curiosity get the best of her and she could stand it no longer.

Looking over at her mother, she could have sworn that her mother had gained some weight in her face. She had watched her carefully the last few weeks after being privy to some very weird mood swings. One minute Karen was nervous and high strung the next she was almost in tears. It was all so confusing.

"Okay, Mom...why did you get me here this weekend? What’s going on?"

Karen looked over at her only child...her only other child...and hesitated. She then looked at Harriman for assistance.

"Mom! Will you PLEASE tell me what’s going on here?" she demanded, then turned to Nelson. "Maybe you can shed some light on this. What’s going on?"

Karen reached over to Caitlin’s hand, took it in hers, and silently placed it on her stomach. Her daughter was at first puzzled at this behavior but quickly began to understand its significance. Caitlin’s eyes became wide as she stared at the small bulge around her mother’s waistline. Looking upward to her mother, she asked softly, "You’re pregnant??"

Nodding yes, Karen whispered, "Yes, and he’s due in March."

"He?...It’s a boy?"

"Yes," Karen answered, smiling and looking over at Nelson, who displayed a very wide grin.

Caitlin then looked over at Lee Crane and asked, "You knew? And you didn’t tell me?"

"Not my place to," came the laughing reply.

She looked at the three of them, especially her mother. "Why didn’t you tell me when you found out?"

"Sweets, I wanted to make sure everything was all right first. Lee had to know because of my involvement with the laboratory mission. And besides, I knew that if I told you from the very beginning, you’d be ‘mother hen’ to me. I’ve already got one...I don’t need another."

Caitlin then looked at her stepfather to see his reaction to everything. The two of them shared a very special relationship...always had, even from the very beginning. A lot of people thought of this man as being eccentric but brilliant, standoffish and a bit aloof at times. However, she knew that he had a very soft spot for her in his heart. The minute she saw her mother with him at her high school graduation party, she knew that he was the one for her mom...That he could make Karen happy. So now she looked to him to see his reaction although she could pretty well predict what it was.

"Well,...Dad,...what’s your take on all of this?" she offhandedly asked. She had always referred to him as HN; this was the first time she’d ever used the ‘D’ word.

Leaning back in the cast iron chair and picking up his glass of Scotch, he took a sip before answering her. "Actually, I kind of like the idea. I guess it’s the kind of thing that has to ‘grow’ on you."

"Grow on you, huh? Well...I can’t wait to see you on diaper detail, Admiral Nelson," she remarked as she laughed softly. Caitlin then got up and came over to her mother’s side. Taking Karen’s hand in hers, she then told her, "Mom, if this is what you want, then I’m all for it. Besides, I get a little brother out of the deal. You know that’s something I always wanted."

"Well, looks like you’re going to get your wish, sweets," Karen replied.

Suddenly turning serious for a moment, Caitlin directed the next question at Harriman.  "What about the Cartel? Won’t this give them more incentive to come after the family?" she asked.

"Hopefully, no...but then again, that’s why you and your mother will have a bodyguard with you whenever you go outside the gate...And no trying to lose them either, Caitlin...do you understand me?" he remarked, pointedly referring to an earlier incident in which Caitlin and a classmate had tried to lose the NIMR bodyguard.

"Yes, sir, Admiral, sir. You have my utmost word on it," she solemnly swore.

Dinner was finished in short order and the dishes cleared. Nelson took Crane inside to his study to discuss some details of an upcoming assignment. That left Caitlin and Karen to enjoy the serenity of the evening as the sun shed its last rays of the day.

"Mom? Are you okay with this? . . I mean, is every thing going to be all right?"

Karen looked over at her daughter and saw a beautiful woman before her. She had seen the looks that Lee Crane had tried to hide. Inwardly, she was very proud of her daughter and what she had become.

"Yes, honey, I am. It was a definite shock to both of us, but we’ve adjusted to it. Granted, it’s going to be a change...but there are some things you just don’t forget how to do."

"And HN, what about him? How’s he with this...really?"

Karen glanced over at her daughter and said, "He’s ecstatic about it. After all, he never thought he ever get married, much less have a child."

"Well, he’s going to get one now. Personally, I can’t wait to meet my little brother."

 

 

The next couple of months passed with relative calm...Karen adjusted to her ever-changing condition. Once a month, she and Harriman Nelson, along with a bodyguard, made the trek into Santa Barbara to Dr. Miller’s office. The doctor was extremely pleased with her progress and Nelson became more and more familiar with the process of what his wife was going through. Miller told him that her mood swings were normal...primarily because of the overload of hormones working on her system. There were times that he was totally confused...exasperated because he couldn’t make things better for her...he could only be there to hold her when she felt overwhelmed with everything.

They had had limited contact with Norman Thompson since the confiscation of the drugs and the destruction of the lab. Occasionally he would call in with reports on Rodriguez’s movements and to give them updates, if there were any, of any intelligence that the DEA had gathered that concerned NIMR. He was convinced that Miguel would try to strike out at the Institute. The problem was predicting when, where, and how it would be done. Norman knew his quarry well...it would come. He knew it...and he wanted to be there when it did because he fully intended to take Rodriguez down at that time.

One day, about two weeks before Christmas, Karen Nelson and Caitlin Davis walked into Antonio’s Restaurant in San Diego. Caitlin had been doing some computer research work at the San Diego Naval Base there, reporting directly to Admiral ‘Jiggs’ Starke. Starke was one of Harriman Nelson’s oldest friends and Caitlin had felt it was quite a coupe that a civilian such as herself was able to obtain the research position under his watchful eye. Starke himself knew very little about computers, but he knew how to find the best people for whatever job came before him...so when this little ‘project’ came up, he knew that Nelson’s step-daughter just might welcome a chance to stretch her ‘legs’ just a bit away from the protected environment of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Caitlin had invited her mother down for lunch and some ‘baby shopping’ that day...Karen was now about six months pregnant and it definitely showed...her stomach growing larger and rounder with each passing day, the baby boy inside making his presence more and more known.

The maître’d showed the two women to a deck side table overlooking the beautiful San Diego harbor. The harbor was crowded on that particular day with boats of all shapes, sizes, and colors, their occupants eager to enjoy the beautiful sunny warm December day. As Caitlin and Karen were seated at their table, another patron watched the two women carefully from across the deck.

The patron, a big hulking overweight man, observed the women with a growing interesting. His eyes strayed to Karen Davis Nelson’s obviously growing stomach...Interesting, he thought, I’d heard that Nelson was finally going to have a kid...but I didn’t believe it until now. The woman is definitely pregnant. Well, well, Nelson...maybe you will, and then again...maybe you won’t.

The man smiled to himself, picked up the tab, and after leaving a small tip, sauntered over to the two women. Another person, a civilian man wearing casual clothes and his long hair pulled neatly back into a ponytail, had joined them. Admiral Joel McKenna watched the three as he slowly made his way over to their table. He looked at them with disgust...partially because of their relationship with Harriman Nelson, and partly because of the appearance of the man at the table. Anything other than strict military appearance was abominable to him...even on civilians...he despised the man’s appearance.

The three were involved in a light-hearted conversation when McKenna appeared at Karen’s elbow.

"Ah,...Mrs. Nelson…or should I address you as Captain Davis?  How good to see you...and in such good health, too. I’d heard that you and Harriman were expecting...May I offer my sincere congratulations to you both," he smoothly lied. In actuality, McKenna’s warped, sinister mind was trying to perceive a way to take advantage of the situation in order to destroy Nelson...and what better way than to take away the most precious thing in the world to him...his only child!

Karen glanced up at the large man towering over her. Instantly recognizing him, she felt herself going into an immediate defensive mode. Over the period of years she had heard about this man...and what she had heard was not good...even during her time in the regular Navy, she had heard the rumors, the tales. Joel McKenna had made great many enemies but somehow, someway, he had managed to remain untouched by anyone having any authority to take care of him. She was also well aware of McKenna’s undying hatred for her husband and Lee Crane. She knew of the court martial fiasco that he had put Crane through...and the way he exploited the situation in order to inflict pain on Harriman. The sight of him made her blood run cold, yet Karen knew that she had to stand her ground and not be intimidated by him. No, after all she had heard about this man, she realized that she had to put him in his place, once and for all.

"Admiral McKenna, how good to see you, sir...and thank you. It was quite a surprise to both of us," she coyly smiled. She could play this game just as well as he could.

"I bet it was..." he smoothly replied, then turned his glaring attention to Caitlin. "...and just whom do we have here? Ahhh...I see a family resemblance here...your daughter, perhaps, Mrs. Nelson?"

His slick voice and mannerisms irritated Karen...and the fact that he had turned his evil attention toward her daughter further rankled her. "Yes, this is my daughter, Caitlin," she replied, somewhat dryly. Looking at her daughter, who by this time had a very puzzled look on her face, she explained, "Caitlin, this is Admiral Joel McKenna. Admiral McKenna is partially in charge of the Pacific Fleet here in San Diego. If you remember, Admiral Starke is in charge of ComSubPac."

Caitlin’s eyes met her mother’s and in an instant knew that this was a dangerous situation. She caught the subtle, yet almost totally undetectable change in her mother’s voice that indicated the seriousness of the matter. She then glanced up at the bulky older man standing next to her mother. There was definitely something about this man that she didn’t like. He had an ‘scumminess’ about him...a snake-like quality. However, taking her que from her mother, she extended her hand to shake his. He accepted her hand and slowly but gently shook it. Caitlin wanted to withdraw her hand quickly...he was cold to the touch...and slimy...it made her skin crawl.

"How do you do, sir?"

"Miss Davis...it’s very nice to meet you. I understand you’re doing quite well under Jiggs Starke...I just bet that Harriman is green with envy that Starke managed to steal you away from that Institute of his."

Karen watched this exchange very carefully...and she wasn’t the only one observing it, either. Norman Thompson sat in between the two women as they exchanged ‘pleasantries’ with this man. Thompson had instantly decided that he didn’t like this admiral...there was something about him...a sleazy, weasel-like quality that made him completely untrustworthy in his book. His first inclination was to come to the two women’s aid, but something told him, perhaps from prior experience with Karen Nelson, that there would be no need.

Caitlin apparently had taken her que from Karen and smiled demurely, "Why, thank you, sir...but it was HN who gave me the reference when Admiral Starke offered me the position."

"Really?...Well, Jiggs does know how to get the best, now doesn’t he?" McKenna smoothly replied, then returned his attention to Karen and completely ignored Thompson. "If I may be so bold to ask, when is the big day? I just bet Harriman is thrilled at the prospect of being a father."

Karen’s patience was beginning to wear thin...just being near this man made her almost physically ill. She wanted him away from her, her daughter, and her unborn son. She trusted him about as far as she could throw him...and in the state she was in, that couldn’t have been far, if at all.

"As a matter of fact, he is. We all are, in fact...Caitlin’s always wanted a sibling."

"Is that a fact? Well, well, young lady...I guess you’re going to get your wish. At least, hopefully you will. I’m sure your mother is taking good care of herself...and I’m doubly sure that Harriman is making sure she’s safe and sound," he replied. Glancing over at Karen and eyeing her expanding waist, he then softly added, "So many dreadful things can happen, can’t they? One has to be extra careful during this time, don’t they?"

Karen looked up at the man as he spoke, his last pointed words hitting her like a thunderbolt. As she locked eyes with him, her own eyes narrowed in disgust. How dare him! He covertly appeared to be threatening her.  Who the hell did this idiot think he was?  He had no idea who he was tangling with…no idea at all.

Slowly rising to her feet, she stood in front of McKenna with her back to Caitlin and Thompson...this way, they could neither see nor hear what she was about to say to this man. Gently placing her hand on his shoulder as if to use it for support, she motioned for him to lower his head level with hers. When he obliged, she held him eye to eye as she slowly, but deliberately and firmly whispered, "Admiral McKenna, I’m quite well aware of who and what you are. I will say this only one time...if you ever come close to or do anything to harm Harriman, Caitlin, or this child of ours, you will regret it. All I need to do is make one telephone call, McKenna. One. You come close to us, in any way, shape, form or fashion, and it will prove to be a fatal mistake."

The smirk on his face changed to one of disbelief. How dare this woman...this bitch...speak to him in this manner. "Mrs. Nelson, I can assure you..." he sputtered, his face beginning to flush with indignation.

"One telephone call, McKenna," she continued softly. "And there’s no one high enough to save you if I make it. And if you don’t believe I have the power, just remember what happened to the ‘General’. I don’t make threats, McKenna. I simply state facts."

She turned away from him and returned to her seat. Joel McKenna stood behind her, his pudgy, bloated face turning beet red with silent rage. He knew of the incident of which she spoke...he had heard the rumors that she had deliberately killed the militia leader because of what he had done to Nelson...How dare she threaten him! He stepped to her side and faced her.

"Mrs. Nelson, one should always be careful when they’re pregnant. I’m simply concerned about your safety...as I’m sure that Harriman is as well," he smoothly said, trying to regain the upper hand. The two locked eyes; hers had suddenly grown very cold and calculated. Most people he could intimidate, but here, he saw no fear of him in hers. Instead, what he saw frightened even him.

In an icy cold, controlled voice that her daughter had never heard her use before, Karen Nelson pointedly but quietly countered, "Admiral McKenna, I am now, and will be, perfectly fine. And as I told you before, sir, I simply state facts. One telephone call...and there’s no one who can prevent the outcome if I make it. Be advised...I am not my husband, McKenna...I am much more deadly.  Besides, haven’t you ever heard the old saying that you never piss off a pregnant woman?  If I were you, Admiral…I wouldn’t advise trying." As she allowed a few seconds for her statement to sink in, she then stated, "Now, if there’s nothing else, my daughter, Mr. Thompson, and I will continue our lunch." She looked away and returned to her conversation with Caitlin, summarily dismissing him and ignoring his presence at her side.

Norman Thompson sat facing McKenna and watched his reaction to Karen’s last statements. Whatever remarks had been exchanged prior to this last one did not apparently hit home until this very last one. He resolved to find out who this man was and why he had brought out such a cold reaction from Karen Nelson. After having dealt with her during the take down of the drug lab, he knew the kind of power she really had...and he also knew that she knew how, when, and where to use it...he’d been privy to her use of that power aboard Seaview during the operation.

McKenna glared at the back of Karen Nelson’s head with cold silent rage as she continued to ignore his presence...he’d never been treated in such a manner...but he also had the good sense to back off. Turning on his heel, he left, sulking that he had been unable to intimidate this...this...woman. One day, Karen Davis Nelson...one day...and it might just be sooner than what you think.

Caitlin watched the large older man as he stalked off from behind her mother. Glancing back at her mother, she quietly asked, "Who was that?"

Karen looked at her daughter, and in an even calm voice, replied, "No one of any importance, Caitlin. No one of any importance...Now, I do believe that I’m going to have the chicken salad. What about you?"

Thompson observed the two women seated on either side of him. One had just quietly threatened a man with bodily harm should he ever approach her or her family...the other was quietly puzzled at her mother’s behavior, but accepted it as a part of her normal demeanor. Interesting...this family is definitely interesting. Now, just who is this fool McKenna?

 

 

On Christmas Eve, the annual formal Christmas dinner was held at the Nelson home. Karen had started the festive tradition when she had first arrived at the Nelson Institute years ago and continued it after she married Harriman Nelson. This year, in particular, was very special...there would be a new arrival in the Nelson household in the next few months. The party this year would also include the children in addition to their respective parents. Caitlin herself had invited Lee Crane, his son, and his mother, Helen to the holiday dinner. Deciding to give her mother a rest, Caitlin chose to take on the majority of the cooking for the dinner. Karen contributed her traditional dishes but was more than happy to turn over the actual preparation to someone else. She was actually enjoying the extra attention that was being heaped on her because she knew that in a few short months their lives would be forever changed. Few solitary romantic dinners, no more lying in bed late on weekend mornings, little time for...she smiled slyly at the last thought. Over my dead body! That will be the last thing she would give up with him.

Caitlin had been keeping up with the two children for their parents when she spied Lee Crane walk out onto the deck off the main living room. Looking over at Helen Crane, she watched as the older woman sat observing her sullen son. Crane stood out on the deck, leaning slightly against the railing, slowly drinking from his cup of coffee. He kept gazing out over the calm ocean and was so deep in thought that he didn’t hear Caitlin come up from behind him.

She stood there, observing him, for a few moments before making a slight sound to break his concentration. Turning slightly around, he saw her standing next to him, wine glass in hand, and with a slight smile on her face.

"Sorry...Christmas is not always the best time for me," he explained. He was remembering Cathy and their last Christmas together after Robert was born.

"No need to explain...I understand," she quietly replied. "Mom went through the same thing for a while after Daddy died." She sat her glass down on the railing and turned around with her back to the ocean, leaning back against the post. "However, life DOES go on, you know. It really does. Mom’s found that out." She gazed back into the great living room where the rest of the group sat around the enormous Christmas tree.

"Your mother’s very lucky, Caitlin..." Crane softly answered. I don’t know if I could ever...

"Yes, she is, Lee...HN’s good for her...and he loves her...But you know, the biggest thing was that Mom decided that she didn’t want to be alone again. Life does go on...I had to learn that, too. Just because my dad died didn’t mean that my life, or Mom’s, ended. We’re the ones left to go on and live," she gently said. Placing a hand gently on his arm, she looked up at this somber tall man next to her and continued, "Mom once told me that when one door closes in your life, another one opens. All you have to do is go through it and find out what, or who, is on the other side."

Lee looked down at her, his amber-hazel eyes locking with light blue ones. What was she trying to tell him?...No, you old fool...you’re way too old for this little girl.

Caitlin slowly turned away from his gaze and looked out at the gently breaking waves on the moonlit beach below. Taking a sip from her wineglass, she then glanced back at him and asked, "Can I ask you a question?"

Turning toward her, he cocked an eyebrow and answered, "Sure."

"Who’s Joel McKenna?"

As soon as the words came out of her mouth, Lee Crane’s expression went ice cold. He stared at her, unable to comprehend why she would ask about McKenna or how she would even know about him.  "Why do you ask?" he replied coolly.

Caitlin noted the sudden change in his demeanor...hardened cold hatred at the mention of the name. She took another sip of her wine and calmly responded, "Mom and I ran into him at Antonio’s in San Diego a couple of weeks ago."

Lee put his cup down on the saucer and turned to fully face Caitlin. Looking down at her, he was struck at how blue her eyes were and how smooth her skin was...the moonlight giving it an eerie, soft glow.  "Stay away from him, Caitlin. He’s bad news."

"Why, Lee? What’s the story on him? I asked Mom but she wouldn’t tell me anything...said he was no one of any importance and then changed the subject," she replied as she looked up into his eyes, noting the serious expression lining his face. Obviously, the name had struck a nerve, and a very touchy one at that.

"Does the Admiral know that you bumped into McKenna?"

"I don’t know," she countered. "I suppose Mom has told him...Look, what’s with this guy?...Lee, Mom used a tone of voice with him that I’ve never ever heard her use before. She was so cold! Actually, I don’t think I could blame her...there’s something about him that I didn’t like...God, he felt so slimy...his voice was like that of a snake oil salesman..."

Crane placed a hand on her forearm and in a low tone, said, "Don’t ever go near that man, Caitlin. He’s dangerous...and he’d stop at nothing to take advantage of you or your mother if he thought it could hurt the Admiral. He’s tried before and he’d try again."

Caitlin was actually beginning to be frightened. Who was this man? Why would he hurt her, her mother, or HN?  "Lee, who is this guy? Why would he hurt Mom or HN? I don’t understand."

Lee turned back around to face the sea..."Did he threaten you? Or your mother?"

She took hold of his arm and turned him back around to face her. "No...at least I don’t think he did...But Mom did say something to him about making a phone call and that she was much deadlier than HN. Lee, what’s with this guy? Why did Mom get so bent out of shape over him?"

Crane debated with himself about answering her questions. If Karen had not told her daughter, maybe he shouldn’t either...but she was demanding answers of him. Answers to questions about a man that had intentionally tried to have him court martialed and who had him severely beaten...had tried to have her stepfather killed...all over jealously. A deadly jealous hatred of long ago.

Taking another sip of the now cooling coffee, Lee cleared his throat and explained, "Joel McKenna hates Admiral Nelson with a vengeance...has ever since their days at the Academy. McKenna was a 1st class midshipman when the Admiral was a plebe and rode him constantly...made his life miserable, I understand. But the Admiral persevered and came away with honors...McKenna never could match the Admiral academically and was jealous beyond all logical reason. Not long before you and your mother came to the Institute, Dr. Gamma took the Admiral and Chip hostage. Gamma had Chip severely beaten...almost killed him...had it done deliberately in front of the Admiral so he would break mentally; he almost completely succeeded. Gamma hated the Admiral...still does, I expect...he was never caught. Anyway, I disobeyed presidential orders and went after them. McKenna found out about what I did and had me brought up on formal charges...A formal court martial was convened...but not before he had me beaten almost senseless while I was being held in the brig. He wanted me to take the entire blame for doing what I felt and knew was right...going after the Admiral and Chip. Anyway, Matty had to do some pretty fancy footwork to get me released from there into Jamie’s custody. McKenna decided to try to finish the job that Gamma started on the Admiral..."

Caitlin’s face went white as she heard the explanation...she had heard about Nelson’s stay in the sanatorium...and she had known about what happened to Chip Morton. She hadn’t really heard about the court martial until now...she could see why the man elicited such a strong response in him, but why was her mother so cold to him? Caitlin had never known her mother to use that tone of voice...it had actually frightened her to listen to it.

"Lee, I can understand why you would dislike him...and even HN, but Mom? There’s something here you’re not telling me."

"Caitlin, it’s just better that you steer clear of him. It’s bad enough that you’re on the same base with him down in San Diego...I just wish you were back up at Cal Poly in school and away from him."

"Does Admiral Starke know about all of this?"

"Yes, but..."

Caitlin shook her head, her white blonde hair moving with the motion. "He’s not going to try anything if Starke knows."

"Don’t bet on it...Caitlin, this man is dangerous," Crane replied, then lowered his voice to a near whisper as he said, "He tried to have Admiral Nelson killed years ago and he beat me severely prior to that as well. Did it personally as a matter of fact."

"What?!"

Lee slowly nodded his head and explained, "When the Admiral was given his fourth star, the ceremony was performed at the National Cathedral in Washington. The President himself was the instigator of the ceremony. The Admiral didn’t want it...you know how he is..." Crane smiled a bit at the remembrance of the beginning of the whole ordeal. Nelson had NOT wanted all the pomp and circumstance but the President had insisted upon it. His face then regained its seriousness as he continued, "McKenna was so enraged at the accolades being bestowed on the Admiral that he had someone try to kill him in the Cathedral during the ceremony. I found the guy, got hold of him before he even got a shot off...took a knife wound in the process. We could never prove it was McKenna that set it up, but we knew...we knew." He became silent for a bit, then went on..."There was also the time when the Admiral had an allergic reaction to the prescription drug Cortisone that he’d been given at the base hospital in Honolulu...He was the lone survivor of the Neptune sinking and had been adrift at sea for days before he was ever found. Anyway, the drug made him extremely paranoid. His actions became irrational and I had to go countermand orders he’d given. Admiral Starke was there...he knows what happened. To make a long story short...McKenna tried to say I’d committed mutiny and when I wouldn’t say what he wanted me to say...that the Admiral was unfit for duty and was unstable...he lost whatever control he had and started to beat me...hit me pretty good, too. He’s no good, Caitlin...Stay away from him ‘cause he doesn’t care who he hurts." And I don’t want to see you hurt.

"Why on earth hasn’t someone stopped him?" she exclaimed. It was hard for her to understand how this man could do all of this and not be held accountable.

"Because...for some ungodly reason...he has some higher ups that keep him from getting taken down. Apparently, he’s holding something over someone’s head that can keep him out of trouble."

Caitlin suddenly became reflective as she remembered her mother’s last words to McKenna. One telephone call...and there’s no one who can prevent the outcome if I make it. Be advised...I am not my husband, McKenna...I am much more deadly. She looked up at Crane...she was close enough to...  "Well, apparently my mother isn’t afraid of him. She virtually threatened him."

Lee looked at her, astonished. "What do you mean...she threatened him?"

"All I know is that they had a private conversation, her back was turned to me so I couldn’t see or hear what she said to him...but when she sat back down at the table, he made some kind of snotty remark about being careful, that things could happen during pregnancy...anyway, Mom got real cold...God, I’ve never heard her like that before...told him point blank about making a phone call and that no one could prevent the outcome if she made it. She then made a statement that she was not HN, but that she was much more deadly."  She slightly smiled.  “She also told him that it’s not wise to piss off a pregnant woman.”

Crane halfway smiled upon hearing this...McKenna had just been warned! Karen had issued him a deadly warning...leave her family be or die. Lee also knew to whom she would make the call and that the request would be carried out...unquestioned. No, Karen had drawn the line in the sand for McKenna and for his own well being, he’d better not step over it.

Smiling a bit, he looked over at Caitlin and said, "Hmm, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about McKenna for a while...Looks like your mother has the situation well in hand there. If he’s smart, and I know he’s not stupid, he’ll steer clear of all of us. I just don’t want to see you hurt." He then looked through the windows of the patio doors and smiled. "I think we’d better rejoin the crowd, don’t you? After all, this is Christmas Eve, and we can’t let them have all the fun, now can we?" He offered his arm to her, ready to escort her back inside where Chip and Matty Morton were beginning to pack up little Alex to go home and Robert was falling asleep in his grandmother’s lap.

Graciously accepting it, she returned his smile. Maybe one day, Lee Crane...maybe one day...

 

 

The private telephone rang at the house on the hill overlooking Bogota. Miguel Rodriguez left his family to take the call from his ‘friend’ in the United States.  "Merry Christmas, my friend. You’d better have a very good reason for taking me away from my children’s celebration."

"I do, Miguel...I do. And I think when you hear what I have to say, you will believe that I have given you a Christmas present of the most enormous proportions."

"Very well, I’m listening..."

"Harriman Nelson and his wife are going to have a baby in about three months. A boy, I understand."

Rodriguez stood before the great window in his study and gazed out over the lush expansive manicured grounds. A small smile crept across his lips.  "Hmmmm, this is very interesting, my friend. You know this for a fact?"

"Saw the mother-to-be myself. She’s definitely pregnant. Oh, and by the way...she’s got a daughter, too...apparently from a previous marriage. It’s also my understanding that Nelson looks on her as his own. So, you see my friend...I’ve just given you a very nice Christmas gift. Now...what you do with that information is your business."

Miguel fingered the telephone cord, playing idly with it, twisting it between his fingers. He was beginning to like this man less and less. There was something about him that even he didn’t trust or like.

"And what do you get out of this, my friend? Revenge of your own? You want me to do what you have no stomach for, eh? Is that it?"

"Oh, I have the stomach for it, Miguel...but in my position...I have to be careful...too many people watch what I do now."

"You have angered too many people, my friend. Your problem has always been that you never completed what you started. However, I do not have that problem. I always finish what I start."

The other man’s voice suddenly took an edge of reproach to it. "I would have finished it the last time if it hadn’t been for that damn commander and that lady JAG lawyer. I had Crane...had him good...and I would have had Nelson too had it not been for those two damn women."

"Ahhh, my friend, you must not blame others for your shortcomings. Women never pose a threat...they have no stomach for what must be done in these situations."

The voice at the other end of the phone suddenly became hardened. "I hope you’re right, my friend. However, in this case, Karen Davis Nelson may pose more of a problem than even I anticipated. Apparently, she is...how shall I say it...very adept at having her way in certain matters. An old friend of mine unfortunately met up with her over two years ago. He’s dead now. She was the one who killed him."

"Then your friend did not know how to handle women, eh?" Miguel laughed.

There was no laugher, however, from the other end of the phone. Instead, the reply was more than icy.

"Oh, he knew, all right...he just didn’t figure that she’d come after him in revenge for what he’d done to Nelson. Miguel, Karen Nelson is no pushover...and add Harriman Nelson to the equation and you have a very deadly mixture. No, Miguel...don’t underestimate these two. I want them all right. And you have my blessings to do whatever has to be done. But just be warned."

"I will...I will. You just be damn sure that you provide me with what I deem necessary to do the job. Clear?"

"Oh, very...Well, Merry Christmas, Miguel. Hope St. Nick is good to you and yours."

"Thank you, my friend. I’m sure he will be."

 

 

Christmas morning arrived quietly at the Nelson home. Harriman decided to let Karen sleep in late so he quietly got up, went into the kitchen, made a pot of fresh coffee, and then sat down in his chair in front of the large gaily decorated Christmas tree in the corner of the living room. He silently scanned the room, taking in the sights and smells of this particular special morning. Gazing intently at the tree, his thoughts wandered to Christmases yet to come...he ‘saw’ a small curly red haired child standing before a similar tree, completely in awe and wonder, gaping at the bounty of presents spread below its branches.

My son...Oh, my God!...My son!

His eyes watered at the very thought of what was to come. So deep in thought was he that he neither heard a soft voice calling his name nor felt a hand being placed on his shoulder.

"HN?..." Caitlin whispered, knowing that the man who sat in the chair before her was so deep in thought that he didn’t know she was even in the room. She slowly came around to the side of the chair and knelt down beside it.

He slowly turned his eyes to her...not really realizing that it was she who had called out his name. Tears had formed and one fell down his cheek.  "Next year..." he softly said, as a small smile crept across his lips. "Next year, it’ll all be so different..."

"Yes, it will," she gently replied. Her heart went out to this man who had become her second father. "He’ll have so many presents...the poor kid won’t know what to do. You and Mom will spoil this boy terribly...I know you will...So it looks like it’ll be up to me to keep the kid straight."

Nelson looked over at his stepdaughter as she sat on the floor next to the chair. He had seen her mother do the same thing several years ago...in Williamsburg...that very first weekend that they ever spent together. Gazing at her in the light reflected from the twinkling of the Christmas tree lights, he was suddenly struck as to how grown up she was now...a far cry from the 17 year old girl that came to the Institute years ago. Five years had passed since she and Karen had first come through the gates. In a span of five years, his life had been changed forever by her mother and by her.

Leaning over and kissing her lightly on the top of her head, he chuckled, "Well, someone will have to keep him straight...and since you volunteered..."

"Oh, right!...Pawn the kid off on me, will you?" she laughed. She relished this special quiet time with him...there hadn’t been much time for it lately because of NIMR’s involvement with the DEA and other missions. Caitlin had come to love this man who made her mother happy...and he loved her as a father would his own daughter.

"Well, you are experienced in babysitting and from what I’ve seen of Robert Crane and Alex Morton, you handle children quite well," was the amused reply.

"Yeah, well...They’re not my brother or sister. This one will be...that gives me special privileges. You know, I never had a little brother to torment...guess I’ve got a lot to make up for."

Nelson sat back in his chair and roared in laughter. "Somehow, Caitlin," he chuckled, "I see him as your tormentor."

"Oh, but sir, I got you to do what I wanted, so I don’t think I’ll have any problem handling him."

Harriman again laughed loudly and the two settled back into their respective positions, him in his chair and her on the floor, leaning back against it, and watched, silently, the flickering tree lights.  Neither one of them knew nor saw that Karen was standing quietly in the doorway, watching her husband and her daughter, and smiling before quietly slipping back to their bedroom to go back to bed.

 

 

Several days later, Caitlin Davis was headed to her mother’s office in the Administration Building when she rounded a corner and bumped into one of the guards coming around the corner from the men’s restroom.

"Ouch!!!! Hey! Watch where you’re going, okay?" she called out in pain as the two bumped heads. All the papers she was carrying went flying out onto the floor as she staggered against the wall.

"Yeah, well, watch where you’re going, lady!" the man gruffly replied and left her standing there. She watched him go through the door and disappear as quickly as he had come.

"Idiot!" she swore under her breath as she gathered her papers and books. Funny, I know most of the guards...I haven’t seen him before...and he’s rude on top of it all!

She made her way to Karen’s office and found her mother knee deep in paper work. After a short conversation with Terri, her mother’s secretary, she walked into the inner office and plopped down on the couch. Karen stood up and stretched, her bulging stomach becoming more pronounced. Walking over to the overstuffed sofa and sitting down, she put her feet up on the coffee table in front of it.

"Mom, you’re really starting to get out there, you know?"

Resting her hands on top of the bulge, she grinned slightly. "Yes, I know...but then again I’m going on seven months...last trimester. By the way, what are you so soured about? You look like you want to bite someone’s head off."

"Oh, I bumped into one of the new guards in the hallway...Man, the guy was rude...his attitude was the worst. Funny, though, I’ve never seen him before...and I know most of the guards...he must be new."

Karen looked over at her daughter and sat up straight. "Are you sure you’ve never seen him before? We get new security people all the time, but they’re given information on all personnel."

"Mom, this guy had no idea who I was...and he was rude too," Caitlin responded. She then looked at her mother and her facial expression changed to one of horror. "You don’t think he..."

"I don’t know, but I’m sure as hell going to find out," was Karen’s quick reply. She quickly got up and called the Security Chief’s office. Lt. Thomas Chin answered the phone. After explaining what Caitlin had told her and giving a description of the man as Caitlin told her, Chin promised Karen that he would look into the problem and let her know as soon as possible

"Mom, they couldn’t have breached security...Tommy’s people are too thorough," Caitlin mused.

"I’m not going to take any chances, Caitlin. If there’s a breach and someone managed to get through, Harriman will have one holy fit. I think that for the time being, you need to stay on the grounds. Just for safety’s sake, okay?"

"Mom!!! I’ve got research to do down at the base in San Diego. You know that! Admiral Starke will have my head if I don’t show up."

"Oh...I don’t think he’ll mind once I let him know what’s going on...Besides, you need to go into town with me. I’ve got to pick out the crib and get some things together."

The telephone suddenly rang. It was Tommy Chin.  "Mrs. Nelson...the man that Ms. Davis described isn’t one of ours. Security’s been breached. I suggest you stay in your office until I can get a guard over there to escort both of you to your home. Admiral Nelson’s just been notified. He’s on his way there right now."

Karen’s face went white and the expression on her face was one of sheer terror. Someone had indeed penetrated security...that person had bumped into Caitlin...could have very easily killed her...right under their very noses.  "How...how did this person manage to get onto the grounds, Lieutenant?" she asked, her anger starting to rise.

"Ma’am, I honestly don’t know...we’re investigating now. We’ll advise you of anything we find."

The door to her office suddenly opened and Harriman Nelson walked in with Lee Crane right behind him.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. The Admiral is here right now with Captain Crane. We’ll be at the house so you can call there when you find out something."

Harry was furious that their security had been breached. He was even more fearful that the man had come so close to both Caitlin and Karen. Looking at his very pregnant wife, he declared, "You’re going to spend the night aboard Seaview...both of you. It’s the most secure place here."

"Harriman, I’d feel more comfortable..."

"I know, Karen, but right now, I want both of you aboard...hat’s an order!! No arguing."

Caitlin looked at him and started to protest but he abruptly stopped her. "No, Caitlin, absolutely not. You will go aboard, too. I’ll call Jiggs myself and explain why you’ll not be in tomorrow. He’ll understand. Now, go with Lee and get aboard. I’ll go down and meet with Chin and find out what’s going on."

She picked up her papers and looked over at Crane. "Lead on, McDuff. Looks like I’m stuck with you for the night."

As they walked out of the office, Crane snorted and said, "Looks more like I’m the one stuck with you."

Karen picked up some of her things and then looked at Nelson. The look in his eyes told her all she needed to know.  "You think that this person was sent here by the cartel, don’t you?"

"Yes, I do...I don’t know how he would have gotten by Lt. Chin’s people...Karen, I want you aboard as soon as possible. I know we only have a skeleton crew, but I’ll order Seaview out to sea if necessary. I want..."and before he could complete the sentence, there was a terrible BOOM, an explosion that rocked the whole building. Nelson grabbed Karen and forced her down to the floor behind the desk, shielding her with his own body. Parts of the ceiling in the office fell on the floor, desk and chairs. A large hole had been blown out of the wall opposite the desk and everything in her office was nearly destroyed.

"CAITLIN!!!!!!!!!!" she screamed. "Harry, Caitlin and Lee just left here!!! Oh, God, where is she? We’ve got to find her!!!!

There was smoke, dust, and debris filling the hallway. Part of the ceiling was hanging by the supporting wires and the sprinkler system had activated, pouring water over everything in the hall. Nelson first made sure that Karen and Terri Styles were all right and then placed a call for help from security. He heard the yells of incoming personnel to assist in anything that was necessary to help get them out of there.

Chief Sharkey suddenly appeared, yelling in as he picked his way through the disarray, "Mrs. Nelson, Ms. Styles, you okay in there? Mrs. Nelson...are you okay?"

"Chief! We’re in here...in the office," Nelson yelled. "We’re all right, but Captain Crane and Caitlin had just left...did you see them anywhere?" He slowly led Karen through the debris and past the dangerously dangling ceiling debris.

Sharkey, now joined by Patterson and Kowalski, picked their way through the debris and metal to reach Nelson and his wife. There was so much that it took a good five minutes before they could clear a somewhat passable path for them. As Karen took the COB’s hand to help her over some debris, she asked him again, "Have you seen Caitlin? Where is she, Chief? Is she all right?"

"Ma’am, I didn’t see them...I don’t know where they are."

"We’ve got to find them, Chief...Please!!!!!" she begged frantically, her eyes pleading with him.

"Ma’am, we’ll find them...don’t worry...we’ll find them. If she’s with the Skipper, she’ll be okay. I know that. Now, let’s get you out of here," he replied gently, helping her navigate the broken and smoldering debris.

As they all were being led out of the wreckage of the building, the fire department was trying to put out the smaller blazes created by the leaking gas lines. All gas to the building was then quickly shut off to prevent further damage and hazard to any possible trapped victims. Personnel from the ER in SickBay rushed to treat the injured and transport any that needed further medical attention.

Karen was immediately attended to because of her pregnancy...but she was far more concerned about Caitlin. Where was she? What had happened to her?...these were questions Karen was frantically going over in her mind. She scanned the ensuing confusion of triage outside the Administration Building...fire trucks, ambulances, security guards...Institute personnel...but no Caitlin and no Lee. Where is she? Oh, God, Where is she?????????  She felt someone bandaging a cut on her forehead and her hands being washed down. Where’s Caitlin?????

Karen heard shouts coming from inside the building...something about somebody trapped in the security elevator going down to the underground dock...her mind was working furiously, trying to comprehend what was being said. Caitlin...Captain Crane...trapped in the elevator. She looked up and saw Harriman walking slowly over to her. Kneeling down in front of her, he took her hands and carefully told her, "Lee and Caitlin were in the Security Elevator when the blast hit...The cable snapped..."

Oh God, No!!!! Not my baby...Not Caitlin!!!!! Her mind reeled...she looked at Harry, searching his eyes for the final words she expected to hear but so desperately didn’t want to.

"Karen, they’re trapped inside...The elevator’s being held by one cable...the rescue crew’s trying to get them out," he went on, trying to keep his own voice on an even keel. He held onto her tightly, feeling her trembling and about to collapse. Under normal circumstances, Karen Davis Nelson would have been under total and absolute control...total ice...but she was seven months pregnant and the possibility that her only other child could very easily die if she weren’t rescued was too much even for her.

"Will!!!!!...Get come over here!”  Harriman Nelson frantically yelled out at Will Jamison as he treated some of the wounded office workers.

Jamison looked up and saw Nelson holding onto his wife as he was trying to keep her from rushing into the building after her daughter. Leaving the person he was treating in the capable hands of one of the med techs, he rushed over to him. Taking hold of Karen’s other arm, the two men gently sat her down on the edge of an ambulance. Motioning for another med tech, he quickly looked over Karen’s injuries and then said, "I want her moved to SickBay...She’s in mild shock...and I need to do an assessment on the baby. Mark, take her over and get her settled, will you?"

Mark Miller looked at Karen and softly told her, "They’ll find her, don’t worry...You know Caitlin could always take care of herself."

Karen looked at the young man before her and, at first, didn’t recognize him...until he said that. He was not as tall as Dave Miller, and he had his mother’s eyes...but his features were that of his father.

"Mark? Oh, God, your father said you were here..."she replied somewhat wanly. "Mark, Caitlin is..."

"I know, Karen...I know. But they’ll find her, okay...and she’ll be okay. Now, let’s get you over to SickBay and see how that baby’s doing. If Dad found out that I didn’t do right by you, he and Mom would kill me. I’ll have to call him anyway...I understand he’s your OB," he told her as he led her to a waiting rescue squad van for transport across the compound grounds.

"Mark, they’ve got to get her out of there..."

"They will, Karen...now come on...that little one inside you is the important thing right now." He gently helped her into the waiting ambulance and as he climbed in and started to shut the door, he saw Admiral Nelson approach the van. Waiting for him to get in, he saw him decline the invitation.

"I’m going to see if I can help here. Take her over to SickBay and check her out...keep her there if possible...I don’t want her here in case..."

"Yes, sir, I will. I’ve got to call Dad anyway and let him know about her. He’ll want to come out and see her."

Nelson looked puzzled at the statement coming from the young doctor until he saw the name on the badge. MARK MILLER, MD.  "You’re Dr. David Miller’s son?"

"Yes, sir. She’ll be all right...I’ll take good care of her," he promised, taking hold of the door. Right as he closed it, he called out to Nelson, "Find Caitlin, sir. Please?"

Remembering that the two had been childhood friends, Nelson nodded.  “We will.  You just make sure she stays put.  That’s an order, Doctor,” and he shut the door. Watching the ambulance drive off, he slowly turned around and looked at what was left of the Administration Building. God, Please...let both of them be all right. Lee and Caitlin have got to be all right.

 

 

Inside the Security Elevator, Lee Crane and Caitlin Davis lay in a heap on the floor. Both had been knocked unconscious and were now beginning to come too. Lee slowly moved an arm, but found that Caitlin was partially on top of him. His senses became heightened as he suddenly realized what must have happened. Moving a bit more, he gently laid Caitlin on the floor and then tried to bring her around.

"Caitlin...can you hear me? Wake up!!!"

There was a slight groan coming from her lips as her leg moved. Slowly, her eyes opened and she looked up into subdued lighting provided by an emergency light in the elevator into his worried eyes.

"Wha...what happened? Where are we?" she softly but painfully asked. Her head felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on it.

"We’re in the elevator...Apparently something’s happened up top. Looks like we’re trapped in here for the time being..." he explained. His eyes had adjusted to the dim light and he could see her lying there sprawled on the floor. "Are you hurt?"

"I don’t know...I think I’m okay...Let me try to stand up and I’ll know more in a minute," she replied as she slowly sat up, then started to stand up. Caitlin raised up on one knee, and when she shifted her weight to use the wall as support, the elevator jerked slightly downward and to an angle.

"Whooaaaa...be careful..." Crane shouted.

"Damn!!!! What the hell..." she yelled, losing her balance and falling backward on Crane. His arms instinctively surrounded her as he held on to her. They both moved slowly against the opposite wall and settled back.

A couple of minutes later, both of them seemed to exhale at the same time, the elevator not having moved during that time. Crane suddenly became conscious that he still had his arms around Caitlin. Loosening his grip, he allowed her to slightly shift her weight and straighten up. Even in these absurd surroundings, he was keenly aware of her presence.

"Lee, what happened?" she quietly asked, also cognizant of the closeness between them.

"I don’t know. I’m going to see if the elevator communications system works. Hold one...and don’t move, okay?" Reaching up carefully, he found the small telephone inside an enclosed case in the wall of the elevator overtop the security apparatus. Carefully removing it, he activated the call button and waited. Within moments, a voice came over the phone.

"This is Crane...Caitlin Davis and I are trapped in the Security Elevator," he told them

"Yes, sir, Captain...We’re glad to hear you’re okay. We’re trying to get you out now. Sir, whatever you both do, don’t move around. Just stay put, okay...the cable’s not the most stable right now and any movement might snap it in two."

"Gottcha. Will do...Let Admiral Nelson and Mrs. Nelson know, will you?"

"Will do, sir...and Sir, we’ll have you out shortly, okay? Just don’t move around."

He put the telephone down on the floor and looked over at Caitlin. She had now moved slightly to an incline position against the side of the elevator.  "Help’s on the way," Crane told her, trying to be enthusiastic.

"Great...just great. I’m stuck in here," she sounded perturbed, then softened her tone, "...with you."

"Could be worse, little girl...could be a lot worse," he lightly laughed as he drew his long legs slightly up to allow her more room.

"True...very true. Well, I guess if I have to be trapped somewhere, I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate."

"Thank you, my dear," he replied, trying to act gallantly.

Up at the top of the shaft, rescue workers tried frantically to free the dangling elevator and secure it at the same time. There was so much debris in front of the doors that they finally had to abandon the approach from the office level and head down one floor. Word had been passed to Harriman Nelson that both his stepdaughter and Lee Crane were alive, but that the situation was tenuous to say the least. The elevator was located in an area about three floors from the bottom and the single cable could snap at any time if they were not careful. The strain on the one existing cable was increasing with each movement. They had been instructed not to move around so that the workers could secure and stabilize the elevator before trying to get them out.

In the meantime, investigators began a preliminary look through the rubble to find the cause of the explosion. As they sifted through some of the debris between the elevator shaft and Karen Nelson’s office, one of the officers found what appeared to be the remains of a small metal canister. Another officer, who was accompanied by an explosives K-9 unit  came over to his location, and upon seeing the dog’s reaction to the fragments, looked at the first man and nodded. This looked like it had been the source of detonation. This piece and all surrounding pieces of evidence that they could initially find were bagged carefully and then rushed to one of the laboratories for a quick analysis. About 30 minutes later, preliminary results confirmed what Chin’s main investigators had feared...somehow, a bomb had been planted in an area between Karen’s office and the elevator. It had been placed in a planter that had been up against the wall outside her office and directly across from the entrance to the elevator. The resulting explosion blew a hole out of the back wall of her office and damaged the adjoining areas, including the elevator. Harriman Nelson’s office, located at the other end of the building, had escaped damage as did other offices and laboratories. A more thorough investigation would commence after Crane and Davis were rescued. However, they were pretty convinced that Karen Nelson’s office had clearly been the target of the bomb.

Harriman Nelson and some of the rescue personnel worked cautiously but furiously to clear the debris from the area around elevator shaft door. When they finally got to the shaft, they had to pry open the doors and were astonished to see the elevator hanging by one solitary cable where there should have been at least ten. It hung approximately three floors below the first floor and three floors from the bottom of the shaft. The other rescue team could be seen working from the floor directly below them.

"Lee???? Caitlin????? Can you hear me?" Harriman shouted down the shaft. He looked at the elevator hanging below and prayed they’d get them out in time before the strained cable snapped. "Lee.... . . Caitlin....can you hear me?"

Inside the elevator, Lee heard the Admiral’s voice from above. He looked over at Caitlin, who instantly recognized it as well.

"Admiral!!!! We’re all right!!!!! Can you get us out????"

A much relieved Nelson broke into a wide smile as he heard Crane’s strained voice.

"We’re trying to...just stay still...They’ve got to get another cable secured on the elevator to stabilize it...We’ll have you out as soon as we can!!!" he yelled down the shaft, hoping he sounded at least somewhat optimistic.

"HN...Is Mom okay?" Caitlin called up to him. She knew that if the situation was bad enough to trap them, it had to be worse up there.

Nelson debated quickly as to what to say to her...he didn’t want to have to lie to her but at the same time this was not the time to upset her, either.  "Yes, Caitlin, she’s okay...And the baby’s okay, too. We’ll get you both out in a bit. Just be patient," he yelled back.

Francis Sharkey and Chip Morton suddenly appeared at the chaotic scene, as did Kowalski, Patterson, Bob O’Brian and most of the DWD team. The men joined the Institute’s quick response rescue team and started to clear debris and rubble from the area. Shortly, two of the rescue team repelled down to an area near the top of the elevator and attached steel cables to support it and hold it steady so that the two occupants could exit from the emergency exit on the top. Once the holding cables were secured, the escape doorway was opened and Lee hoisted Caitlin up to the waiting fireman. After they had deposited Caitlin safely with Nelson, the man then returned to bring Crane up. Once that had been done, the two were escorted out of the damaged building.

Caitlin looked around her at all of the mass confusion outside the Admin Building...Where was her mother? She couldn’t see her among all the people there...looking back at the building, she was horrified at what she what she saw...A large gaping hole in the front of the building. . People and rescue personnel everywhere...a fire truck with firemen hosing down small fires...medical personnel for SickBay attending wounded...and nowhere could she see Karen. Turning to Harriman Nelson who was by her side guiding her to a triage unit, she asked, "Where’s Mom, HN? Where is she?"

Nelson looked at his stepdaughter, and slowly answered, "She’s over at SickBay being checked out...she had some minor injuries, but she’s okay. Will wanted to check on the baby."

Caitlin looked intently into his eyes...she, like her mother, had learned to read his moods from them. She saw only mild concern...knowing that her mother was being well taken care of was of some consolation to her.

"I want to go see her, HN...I’ve got to know that she and the baby are all right."

"You can...shortly. Let Will check you and Lee out and then I’ll take you over myself," he gently told her as he sat her down near one of the ambulances.

"No, HN...now!"

The two locked eyes and he straightened up. "No, Caitlin...get checked out first, understand? Then we’ll go."

"But..."

His tone hardening, he commanded, "No buts, young lady! You will do as you’re told here, is that clear?"

Their eyes still locked in confrontation, she slowly relented. "All right," came the slow, softened reply. She knew he was right...God, how she hated that...but he was right.

Nelson looked at his stepdaughter and knew exactly how she felt...he wanted to rush to the SickBay facility himself to see how Karen and the baby were. Softening his voice, he took hold of her hand and said, "We’ll both go together, okay?"

She slightly smiled and nodded. He does understand me!

Just then, Chip Morton came over to talk with him. Motioning Nelson aside, he spoke in a low tone, "Security has picked up fragments of what appears to be a bomb. Apparently it was in a planter on the other side of the wall outside Karen’s office. They’ve taken it to be analyzed now, but the dog hit on it immediately."

Harriman looked at his Executive Office in horror. They tried to kill her!!!!! Oh, GOD!!!!!  "Are you sure?"

"Yes, sir. Lt. Chin’s main investigator, Lt. Wallace, has the evidence now over in B Building at the lab."

Trying to think for a moment, Nelson looked at him and then said, "I want a full report ASAP, Chip. If this was the Cartel, Norman Thompson and Walter Michaels need to know."

"Yes, sir..." he replied, and as he turned to go back and help the crews, he asked, "Is Karen okay?"

Nelson looked at him and nodded, "As far as I know she is...and so is the baby." Then looking in the direction of the damage inflicted on the building, he swore, "Goddamn it!!!...They could have killed her, Chip...Could have killed a lot of people!! I want the sonofabitch that did this...Do you hear me? I want whoever did this..." His voice trailed off into nothingness, tears starting to well up in his eyes.

"We’ll find them, sir. We’ll find them," Morton softly assured him before leaving him to stay with Caitlin.

The two of them then left to go to SickBay for information on Karen and the baby.

 

 

Inside the SickBay facility, Mark Miller had given Karen a thorough going over. Satisfied, he reassured her that everything was just fine where she AND the baby were concerned. About the time that she was getting dressed, Harry and Caitlin came through the door of the ER section. Close on their heels was Dr. David Miller accompanied by his wife Elizabeth. As Mark conversed with his father, updating him on Karen’s condition, Elizabeth Miller took both Karen and Caitlin under her wing. The two women were long-time close friends and Caitlin was like a daughter to the Miller’s, so it was only natural for her to be concerned.

The two doctors walked outside to discuss the situation and Harriman was close behind them. Demanding to know his wife’s condition, both men assured him that she and the child were both just fine and could, in fact, go home.

"Admiral," Dave Miller cautioned him, "I want her in the least stressful situation possible. There’s no chance of a miscarry, but I’d prefer that she not be under so much stress because of any possible rise in her blood pressure."

"Understood, Doctor," Harry agreed, looking at both men with deep appreciation for what they had done.

Nelson turned around and went back inside to Caitlin and Karen. He watched them in utter amazement as they seemed to draw strength from each other. In some ways, he was in total awe of these two women that had totally changed his life forever.

"Okay, ladies..." he told them. "...Dr. Miller says you, Karen, can go home but he wants you in an unstressful situation..."

Karen glanced over and glared at him. "Oh, yeah...right! And just how the hell am I expected to do that. pray tell? Some damn idiot blew up my office and you want me not to be stressed??? Get real, Harry....I want the fool that did this. Whoever it was, almost killed me, our son, and my daughter, not to mention Lee Crane and several other people as well."

"Karen, we’ll find whoever did this...I promise you that. Chin’s people are analyzing the evidence that they’ve found...repairs will be made to the building...Fortunately, no lives were lost...but I swear to you...we will find out who did this and have it dealt with accordingly," he promised her. "However, I do think it would be best for both of you to stay aboard Seaview...at least for right now, until the dust settles, so to speak."

Karen was too tired and worn out to put up a fight and for her sake, Caitlin didn’t protest either. As soon as she had finished dressing, Nelson led both women out to a Jeep that was waiting for them at the side entrance and the driver just happened to be Lee Crane.

"Either of you two lovely ladies need a lift to a submarine?" he asked in a halfhearted joking manner.

"Wouldn’t be bad, Captain..." Caitlin rang out. "...Sure beats walking to the dock."

"Then hop on in and we’ll have you all down and inside before you can reconsider."

"Thanks," she replied, opening the door for her mother and then climbing in the front seat with him.

Right before they pulled away, a white-coated Mark Miller walked out the front door of the facility and sauntered up to the car door. Sticking his head slightly in the window, he hugged Caitlin then kissed her forehead. "Be careful, sis...Okay? And take good care of your mom."

"Thanks, Mark...I’m glad to see you, to...just wish it had been under better circumstances."

"Hey, maybe it will be soon...okay?...Just be careful, Caitlin."

"Will do...and maybe when I get out of ‘confinement’, you and I can share a beer and talk over old times, okay?

"Gottcha...love to," he replied, as he pulled out of the open window

He nodded to Crane and Lee put the Jeep in gear then drove off toward the lower dock. Glancing sideways just a bit, Lee asked her softly, "Old boyfriend?"

Caitlin looked at him, puzzled by his off-hand question. "No, old family friend. He always looked on me as a kid sister. His dad is Mom’s OB."

None of them saw the slight smile that seemed to creep across his lips.

 

 

The next day, the telephone rang in the study of the house in Bogota. Juan Carlos Santiago answered and then handed it to Miguel, who was busy looking over the latest financial profit and loss statements regarding his business.

"Well, my friend...I take it you have heard about my message to Admiral Harriman Nelson. And what do you think now?"

"What do I think?...Your intended ‘recipient’ is still alive, Miguel. She and her daughter were unharmed."

"What?!! This cannot be!!" he shouted into the phone, his temper starting to rise.

"Oh, but it is...I got the word indirectly through Starke’s Office when the daughter didn’t show for work today. My person in that office advised me that both women are now aboard Seaview and that the sub had put to sea."

"Damn!!! Well, then, my friend, looks like we must sink her now...How very nice of Admiral Nelson to provide us with the opportunity to have all the family and that precious submarine of his all in one place at the same time...Yes, very fortunate, indeed."

"Miguel, be very careful...Nelson suspects that it’s you who’s behind this...he’s already in contact with officials in Washington about the attack...and about you."

"If you have done your job correctly, no tie can be made to either you or me...now can it?"

"My people are extremely loyal to me, Miguel...don’t worry about that. The question is, what are you going to do since the package was not delivered completely?’

Rodriguez swiveled in his overstuffed Corinthian leather chair, pondering that question. Finally, he replied, "For now, we wait...let them think that this was the only try. How long before the baby’s born, do you know?"

"I’d say just a few more months...why?’

"Hmmmm, let’s just say that I’d prefer to handle it all in one neat package."

The voice at the other end chuckled slightly. He’d seen what the Colombian had in mind...everyone in one swoop. "If you have in mind what I think you do, Miguel, you’d better make damn sure you make it work. You won’t have a second chance at that one."

"Oh, I will, my friend...If you provide me with what I ask for when I ask for it...I will indeed."

 

 

The next week was tedious and stressful for both Karen and for Caitlin. Nelson had ordered Seaview out to sea, just inside the territorial limits in insure maximum security. Karen did manage to busy herself with administrative duties concerning the DWD team...she coordinated and planned training missions, surveying underwater terrain by photographs that would best be suited for those purposes. However, it was Caitlin who chaffed under the close quarters and confines of the submarine. She wanted out and when Chip Morton needed to return to the Institute to retrieve some specialized equipment for the Team, she cajoled Crane, with Harriman Nelson’s permission, into letting her accompany him.

As the two flew northeastward in the FS-1, Caitlin was awed by both the underwater and aerial sights that she beheld. In all the time that she’d been at the Institute, she’d never had the chance to ride in this unique craft. Her mother had piloted it at times, and was considered one of the masters, along with Crane and Nelson...but she’d never been able to wrangle a ride aboard it until now.

She and Morton held a lively conversation, centering on Alex and the newest coming addition of Seaview’s ‘family’. Approaching the Institute from underwater, the FS-1 then docked in its berth and Caitlin helped Chip load the necessary equipment that was waiting for them at loading area.

‘Think it would be possible to run by the house and let me get some things to take back? I’d only be a minute..." she inquired, hoping to be able to go to the house for a few things.

"Only if you take one of the guards with you. The Admiral would have my hide if you went without one after what just happened," Morton cautioned her. He knew how bored she had been and wanted to try to accommodate her, but within reason.

Caitlin looked around sadly and mused, "You know, Chip, it’s a damn shame that with all this high tech security in this compound that I can’t even go to my own home without a watchdog."

"I know what you mean, believe me I do…but if they were able to penetrate security once, unfortunately, they might try again. ‘Tis better to be safe than sorry. Go get your things...take one of the SP’s over there...and meet me back here in about 45 minutes. That okay with you?"

"Fine...see you in 45 then," she called out as she headed to the nearest guard. Upon explaining what she wanted, the uniformed man then escorted her to the freight elevator (which had been undamaged in the explosion) and then went with her to the Nelson home.

Chip, in the meanwhile, contacted Matty to see how she and little Alex were doing. Once he was satisfied that they were safe and sound, he then went to look for Caitlin. He quickly borrowed a jeep from one of the SPs and headed for the other end of the compound. As he made the turn toward the large brick home on the knoll, Chip spied his young blonde haired companion casually in conversation with a young dark haired man dressed in a white lab coat. Pulling up to the curb, he yelled out, "Caitlin, I’m ready to head back...you got everything you need?"

"Yep, just talking a bit with Mark," she replied.

Chip couldn’t overhear the conversation, but did see her give the young doctor a quick kiss on the cheek as she started to leave. Miller helped her put her things in the back of the vehicle, then quickly hugged her goodbye. As she and Morton drove away, Chip looked over at her and grinned as he teased her. "Does the Admiral know about him?"

"Oh, come on, Chip...Mark?! No way! He always was like a pesky big brother..." she told him in a matter of fact voice. "But then again...he’s not half bad looking, now is he?"

"You’re asking me?!" he laughed.

"Hey, these are things you’re going to have to face when Alex gets older, Mr. Morton, sir!"

"Oh, no...She’s going to stay locked up ‘til she’s at least 21."

"Oh, yeah, right!!...And just who’s going to enforce that one? You...or Matty?"

The two erupted in a fit of laughter as Chip parked the vehicle back at the dock and thanked the SP as he tossed the keys back to him. Caitlin grabbed her bags and the two descended down under the dock to the FS-1's underwater berth. After her gear was safely stowed aboard, the two started back to rendezvous with Seaview.

 

 

More than a week had passed since the bombing of Karen’s office when Harriman Nelson received a coded, scrambled call on his videophone. The caller was Lt. Thomas Chin, head of the Institute’s Security Department. Nelson indicated to Sparks that he would take the call in his cabin, and as he headed there from the Control Room, he motioned to Lee Crane to join him. Karen was in the Missile Room with the DWD teams and Caitlin was in the Laboratory going over computer programs that she would soon download to the Project’s Manager at the San Diego Naval Base where she had been working on the special project for Jiggs Starke.

Settling down into the chair behind his desk, he then instructed Sparks to put the call through. As soon as Chin materialized on the screen, Nelson demanded the results of the investigation.

"No doubt about it, Admiral. It was a small but quite effective electronically detonated explosive that was apparently placed in the planter across from the elevator. That wall is the back of Mrs. Nelson’s office. When it exploded, the force went inward toward the office. We’ve managed to get some photos from the surveillance camera and have them enlarged...but our enhancement specialist feels the guy was wearing a disguise," Chin reported. From the other side of the screen, he could read the concerned look in his employer’s face and knew that this news was not good. Going on with his report, "Admiral...we’ve beefed up security...I don’t know how this guy got in, but I will guarantee you, Sir, that it will not happen again!"

"You’d better make damn sure it doesn’t!" Nelson growled. "I want a full report as soon as possible." He switched off the video monitor and looked over at Crane. "Well, what do you think?"

"There’s no doubt in my mind that it was the cartel...but proving it may be a different matter. It might actually be prudent to let Chin work with the DEA on this. They’re the ones familiar with Rodriguez and what he’s capable of," Lee contemplated. "If, as Thompson has said, Rodriguez is a maverick, someone that the other cartel members have no control over, then he could have decided that Seaview and all connected with her, including you and your family, are targets for revenge."

Nelson sat back in his chair and looked at his Captain. This news not only worried him...it frightened him. This idiot had tried to kill his wife and unborn child. He was worse than an animal...it wasn’t human. From what Thompson had told him, the Cartels had sort of an unwritten code of rules...and those included whom you could and could not go after. Miguel Rodriguez had broken one of the most important ones. Seaview, and Harriman Nelson, was world-renowned. For Rodriguez to go after them was a total slap in the fact to the other leaders and a clear violation of these unwritten rules of conduct.

"Lee, I absolutely refuse to let this man run roughshod over our operations here. But on the other hand...I’ve got Karen and the baby to think about as well as Caitlin. And there’s the boat...you...the crew . . ." He looked at his captain, then made his decision. "No, by God...this fool is not going to have his way. I want to keep everyone safe, but I will not be frightened. Head back to the Institute."

"Sir, do you think that’s wise? I mean...it hasn’t been two weeks since the attack..."

"Maybe not, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him..."

At that time, the door opened and in walked Karen Nelson, her very pregnant body providing a perfect example for both men on the precariousness of the situation. She had heard part of the ensuing conversation as she was coming in the door.  "Let who do what?" she asked as she lowered herself into a chair next to Lee.

The two men looked at her with suspicion, Nelson most of all.  "How much did you hear, Karen?" he inquired of his wife...as if she had deliberately eavesdropped.

She folded her hands over her protruding stomach and then replied in a dead panned expression, "Enough...enough to know that Rodriguez is the one responsible for that bomb. I want him, Harry. I want his head on a platter if you have to...but like you...I will not be forced out of my own home. That bastard has got to go...and now! If his own kind won’t do it, I know who will."

The two men looked at her, somewhat amazed at the callousness of her remarks. A coldness descended upon her that she hadn’t known in a while. They had both seen that look before and neither of them liked the ice-cold expression that now shown on her face as her last statement was made.

"Karen, I will not allow him to be brought into this...at least, not at this time. Let the DEA people handle him. I’m going to get in touch with Jiggs and fill him in with regards to the situation with Caitlin. I know he’ll make sure she’s okay while she’s down at San Diego base. And you...well, we’ll have to tighten security once we’re back at the Institute. Lt. Chin has assured me that the breach won’t happen again."

"Harry, that sonofabitch tried to kill me."

"I know...”

Lee carefully observed the two as they sparred. He knew from past experiences than to get in the middle of the argument but when Caitlin’s name was mentioned in connection to the San Diego Naval Base, he had to ask a question that had been on his mind since Christmas.

"You know, you’ve got another problem down at San Diego as well. Joel McKenna."

Harriman Nelson’s face went stone hard at the mention of the name.  "McKenna?! What’s he got to do with anything?" he asked.

Lee looked over at Karen and waited for a response. Oh, Lord…apparently she hasn’t told him.

Clearing her throat just a bit, she looked rather nonplussed at the whole conversation. Then she looked Harry dead straight in the eyes and innocently remarked, "A couple of weeks before Christmas, I drove down to see Caitlin. We went out and did some baby shopping, then went to Antonio’s for lunch. And before you get on me about ‘security’, I also invited Norman Thompson to join us, so we had security.  A DEA agent.  Anyway, we happened to bump into McKenna out on the deck at the restaurant."

Harriman sat back, incensed that he had not been told about the encounter with the man who had once tried to kill him. "You ran into McKenna and you didn’t say anything about it!" he bellowed. "Karen, that man is dangerous. You know what he did to Lee here and what he tried to do to me as well. You should have told me..."

She glanced over at him, a slight self-assured smile creeping across her lips. "Harriman, he wouldn’t dare do anything to me or the baby...not if he knows what’s good for him and he wants to live any longer.  Besides…there were witnesses to the whole thing."

Leaning slowly into his desk, he cautiously told her, "Don’t underestimate him, Karen...he’s dangerous."

"I know that…but so am I, Harriman...so am I," came her low calculated reply. "Let’s put it this way…he’s been duly warned."

Crane turned to her and responded, "I don’t mean to contradict you, Karen, but the Admiral’s right. He’s dangerous and he wouldn’t think twice about trying something. Caitlin told me about what happened...and she asked me why you were so cold to him. I had to tell her, Karen...I had to tell her why."

Nelson threw a sharp glance toward his wife.  "Karen, did he threaten you? Because if he did, I swear..." Harriman roared, half-way out of his seat, his face a vision of both rage and protectiveness.

"Will you two just simmer down?  Look, I just very simply reminded him that the female is the deadlier of the species...that’s all. Besides, I also reminded him that you never want to tick off a pregnant woman.  It’s not good for your life expectancy," she reassured them and slightly chuckled. Privately, and what she hadn’t admitted to anyone but herself, she was actually afraid of what he might try...but she was ready, willing, and able to back up her statement of fact. One phone call was all she needed to make and he’d no longer be around to cause anyone anymore trouble ever again. She didn’t want to have to do what she’d said, but Karen was also the type of person who wasn’t going to be intimidated by someone like McKenna.

"Why didn’t you tell me this when you came home that weekend? You should have, you know that..."

Standing up slowly and facing both men, her jaw set and a nonchalant determination in her posture, she planted her feet firmly as to correct her balance. Looking at both of them, she read the concerned faces of both her husband and of his best friend. She knew they were both concerned about McKenna and what he might do, but she held her ground.  "Look, I handled the situation accordingly. If Joel McKenna so much as thinks about coming close to me, the baby, you, Caitlin...or anyone else in this family, I’ll make that phone call...and you know I will...and you know that what I ask will be carried out."

"Karen..." he cautioned her.  “I don’t want him involved in this in any way…do you understand me?”

She knew the reason he was agitated...in truth, Joel McKenna was dangerous and unpredictable but she felt she knew how to handle this kind of ‘person’...with care, but let him know he can’t have his way. Shrugging her shoulders non-defiantly, she simply and plainly replied, "Hey, all I can say is...the fool had better steer clear of me and mine, or I’ll put him six feet under." And with that, she simply walked out the door.

 

 

Karen Nelson walked slowly to her cabin and upon entering, sat down heavily in the chair behind her desk. Leaning back, she unconsciously folding her hands across her bulging stomach and felt the baby moving around. As she slowly rubbed where she felt a hand or foot, she soothingly talked to it.

"You know, kiddo, your mom here has a tough decision to make...I can’t let this guy who bombed my office get away with it...and I also can’t let Joel McKenna scare us either. Your dad’s in quandary, little one...he wants to keep us all safe, but he can’t show the fear he has either."  She then reached for the intercom and buzzed Sparks.

"Radio Shack, aye."

"Sparks, this is Captain Davis...patch a call into the following number, scramble, and then send it to back to me. Priority One."

"Yes, ma’am...will do."

She repeated the number and then sat back in her chair. Looking around at the pictures adorning her wall, she slowly smiled as she thought about the next one that would be placed on the wall. Shortly, her reflective mood was broken by Sparks’ voice.

"Call completed, ma’am, and on line."

"Thanks," she replied and then picked up the receiver.

The male voice on the other end greeted her cheerfully, "How are you? When’s the big day?"

"About two months...I’m beginning to feel like a damn beached whale."

A chuckle, then "That I’d like to see...Bet you look beautiful, though."

"Damn, you always were the sly smooth talker. Look, I didn’t call you to solicit compliments, although they are quite welcome," she replied, slightly laughing. The two had become better friends once she had married Nelson...although she knew that if Harriman was aware that she was talking to him, he’d blow a gasket.

"What is it that you need, Karen?"

"Two things, really. First, I need all, and I do mean all, information on an Admiral Joel McKenna, currently based at the San Diego Naval Base. Second, and I guess the most important, all information on the Miguel Rodriguez drug cartel out of Columbia. I need both sets of information ASAP."

"Rodriguez, huh...now that’s one mean SOB. Mind telling me why on both counts?"

"Rodriguez tried to kill me and my child, Michael...somehow he got someone past our security and had a bomb planted outside my office," she replied as unemotionally as she possibly could – It was hard to keep her voice on an even keel when she talked with him.

The voice suddenly took on a more worried, urgent tone. "Are you all right? What about the baby?"

"I’m okay and so is the baby. Just get me the info, okay?"

"No problem...and the second one?"

"Let’s just say that the McKenna request is a very personal one and leave it at that, shall we?"

"You got it. Karen, are you sure you’re okay? And what about Caitlin...what’s her take on all of this?"

"Worried...of course...my ‘mother hen’ daughter...she and Lee Crane were trapped in the elevator after the explosion. Harriman’s got us both sequestered here aboard Seaview until the dust dies down."

"She’s okay, I presume?"

"Yeah, but tired of being cooped up here. You know my daughter...she can’t stand to be tied down like this."

Michael’s voice erupted into light laughter as he replied, "Oh, yes...I do remember your daughter, Karen...and I remember the time she..."

"Don’t even say it, Michael..." Karen chuckled. "I think that’s the only time in her life I really ever had to give her a good talking too about knocking before entering." Then turning back serious, "Mike, I need that info ASAP...like...as of yesterday."

"You got it...you know that. I’ll get in touch with you as soon as I have it...Karen, take care, all right? If there’s anything else you ever need..."

She thought for a moment, remembering her veiled threat to McKenna..."I might just hold you to that in a short while, love. We’ll see."

"Take care. Talk to you soon."

And with that, she hung up the phone, leaned back in her chair and elevated her feet. Again, as she rubbed her stomach, she spoke softly, "Well, little one, looks like you and me are going to have to do a little research here. I want to know who we’re really up against here." The baby kicked against her hand and she gently rubbed it more. "Like that, huh?...I know you do..." The child moved inside her in response to the loving touch of its mother, causing a fluttering of gentle kicking. "That mean old McKenna thinks he can buffalo me...boy, is he in for a rude awakening."

 

 

Juan Carlos Santiago entered a small cantina in a very small village north of Bogota and took a seat at a large table in the very back corner of the darkly lit bar. Already seated were two older men, both dressed casually in khaki pants and open sport shirts, and wearing serious but dour expressions on their faces. Each had brought their own bodyguards but left them outside so as not to create a confrontational atmosphere.

"Juan, the reason we have asked you here is to see if you can do anything with Miguel. His recent actions have embarrassed us all and will have serious ramifications if not stopped," said the first older man to his right.

Santiago looked at both men and nodded his understanding...he had been with Miguel since childhood...they had been the best of friends for as long as he could remember. Juan was like the protective older brother, watching over Miguel and making sure he was never hurt. However, Juan also knew that Miguel could be a hot head and sometimes didn’t exactly think things through. This recent vendetta against the Nelson Institute of Marine Research and the Seaview was getting a bit out of hand, even for Juan’s taste. So when two of the older leaders of the other cartels secretly called him for a meeting, Juan had a feeling he knew what was about to come down. He knew that the others had tried to warn Miguel that the Nelson Institute was the wrong target to go after...that they were too public and too internationally known...that they were but the instrument and not the instigator of the destruction of the underwater laboratory. Miguel was insistent, however, that those at the Institute and Seaview be taught a lesson...that HE and the other drug lords would do as they please or else.

"Gentlemen, I fully understand what you are saying, however, Miguel insists..." he calmly plead.

The older man on the left slammed a silver handled cane down on the table. "I don’t give a damn about what Miguel insists, Juan...what he has done will be the destruction of us all. Can you not make that fool understand that?!"

"Sir," Juan addressed the man with the respect that was due him, "Miguel wants to set an example..."

"Yes, yes...we know that...we’ve heard that before. But what he fails to understand is that the Seaview and its owner have very powerful allies in not only the US government but others as well. Go after Seaview and he will destroy us all!"

The other man nodded in agreement. "He won’t listen to us, Juan...maybe he will listen to you. Get him off this vendetta.... or someone else will. permanently!"

"I will see what I can do...but we do have a slight problem. An American has entered the picture. He’s the one supplying Miguel with the information and military armaments. Apparently, this man has some sort of intense dislike for Seaview’s owner. He even called Miguel on Christmas night to inform him that Nelson’s wife is expecting a baby. Miguel thinks this man is weak and wants him to do the dirty work that he himself can’t do...I think it is because he wants Miguel to take the blame in case something goes wrong," Santiago explained. "Miguel used the information this man gave and had a bomb planted outside the woman’s office. We understand that it did explode but the woman and her child still live. I’ve tried to reason with Miguel...tried to tell him exactly what you have said to me...but he is hell bent on teaching them a lesson."

The two older men looked at each other and nodded in silent agreement. This was what they had feared...he had finally stepped over the ‘line’. As they both faced Juan, the one on the left with the cane, sternly said, "Then it is Miguel who must pay the price to learn the lesson. Take care of it. Understood?!"

Juan fully understood what the man was saying and that he had given no other choice in the matter. It had now come down to a choice of one versus the entire group of leaders...and even though his allegiance was to Miguel, common sense dictated he listen to reason. It was no coincidence that the older ones were still around and the younger, more impetuous ones were not.

"I understand...but it will take time..."

"We don’t care...but it will be done or else we’ll pay the price...and then so will you."

Juan got up to leave the way he came...in serious thought about what those present had said to him. Miguel had to be stopped...he had known it from the beginning of this but was unsure just how to do it. Now, he had no choice. The how and when were the only questions remaining now.

 

 

The older man with the cane slowly rose from the table and spoke aloud, "Are you satisfied now?"

Another man with a cane, white in color, stepped from the shadows from around the corner of another room on the other side of the curtain. He had been listening to the entire conversation.

"Yes...However, the bargain has to be complete for it to be in force. Miguel Rodriguez must cease this vendetta against the Nelson Institute. If he so much as harms one hair on anyone’s head..."

"Never fear, my white suited friend...Miguel will be stopped."

"Good, just make sure it’s soon. The woman and her baby and her daughter are not to be harmed ever again...Is that clear?" the man emphasized, shifting his weight off his bad leg and leaning on the silver handled white cane.

"Very...I have a question, though...Why do you do this for a woman who is not your wife? Maybe the lady is your mistress?" the older man grinned slyly, trying to extract more information from the shadowed man.

The man with the cane stroked his graying blonde mustache and pushed up his glasses onto the top part of his nose. Absentmindedly touching the blackened left lens, he sighed and replied, "She’s a very good friend whom I don’t wish to see harmed. Ever!  That’s all you need to know."

 

 

The next few weeks passed quickly. Seaview docked back at the Institute, and for all appearances, life started to return to normal. The damage from the bombing had been repaired as much as possible and as far as all outward appearances showed, nothing had ever happened. During that time, Norman Thompson had again reappeared and under direct orders from the director of the DEA and with complete cooperation from Harriman Nelson, he moved into one of the guest bungalows on the compound grounds. Thompson had personally asked for the assignment...He wanted Rodriguez now more than ever. The day he had heard about the bombing, he knew that the Colombian had to be stopped at all costs. The cartel leader had clearly become a renegade and an outsider to the other cartel leaders. One intelligence report came in with the word that the other leaders had tried to reason with Miguel...to get him to give up this vendetta against Nelson and the Seaview but that Miguel had refused, saying the Seaview was to be an example the world needed to see. Thompson knew the cartels well and he knew the dossiers of each leader by heart. Even he had to admit that the older leaders had a certain ‘dignity’ about them...much like the old style Mafia leaders...there was a certain ‘code of honor’ among the leaders...but Miguel had flaunted and defied it...disregarded and abused it. He knew it was only a matter of time.

Caitlin had resumed her research at the San Diego Naval Base, but not without some problems cropping up regarding her security. Jiggs Starke, in agreement with Harriman Nelson, assigned a bodyguard to her. As long as she was on the Base, she would have a person with her 24 hours a day. Starke had also been made aware that Joel McKenna knew who she was and to carefully watch that situation..

One morning around the first of February, Caitlin had finally had enough of the whole situation and stormed into Starke’s office, abruptly pushing her way past Lt. Commander Jackson, Starke’s aide. She threw open the door, strolled into his office, leaned over and placed her hands on his desk and said, "I’ve had enough of this crap! I don’t need, nor want, a babysitter!"

Jackson had quickly followed her in and was trying to explain to the perturbed Admiral that he had tried to keep her out but to no avail. Starke rose up slowly out of his leather chair and stood, towering, over the petite young woman standing defiantly before him.

"Miss Davis," he boomed, "Sit down!"

She stood opposite him, the desk separating them, glaring up into his eyes. The older man was struck as to how much like her mother she was, in physical looks and attitude.

"No, sir, I will not! That is, not until you promise to do away with my ‘shadow’," she exclaimed, exasperated. "Look, sir, I know why they’re with me...Because Admiral Nelson is afraid the cartel might try to strike out at me here...and partly because.... "

Starke’s tone softened just a bit, "Because why, Miss Davis?"

"Because of Admiral McKenna, sir," her voice now just above a whisper. "I know what he did to Lee Crane and to HN."

"That was never proven, Miss Davis.. Be very careful about making accusations," he replied in a bluster. Yeah, but I know damn full well that he was responsible for it.

"Yeah...well...they know it and so do you..." she finally looked up at him, annoyance seething at every word. "Look, sir, I don’t really mean to be difficult here but..."

"Sit down, Miss Davis...please?" he demanded. He understood what this young woman was trying to say far more than she realized.

Finally relenting, Caitlin sat down in the chair opposite his desk, her arms crossed and her mouth and eyes set in determination. Starke looked up at Jackson and dismissed him with a glare. After the door was shut, Starke came around to the front of the desk and sat back against it, his hulking frame dwarfing Caitlin’s petite one. Staring down at her, he couldn’t help but feel a bit paternalist toward her...for all the bravado, gruffness, and shouting he displayed, he’d always had a bit of a soft spot for this child ever since he’d known her mother when she first came to the West Coast to train pilots at Miramar. Caitlin had become friends with his own children and he infrequently would see her at his own house with his younger daughter. He had been struck then at how mature the then young teenage girl was, given her mother’s chosen fields and family history...but he had never allowed himself to reveal how he felt, nor would he ever. He had followed her progress at the Nelson Institute, where he had been a frequent visitor due to his long time friendship with Harriman Nelson...and he was secretly glad when his old friend had found well deserved happiness with her mother. Although he would never let Karen know it, he admired her and found her Harriman’s equal, and the best thing that could have ever happened to him...and this young lady that sat before him now was the extra perk in the relationship.

"Miss Davis..." he started.

"That’s Ms. Davis, sir," she replied back, glaring at him in defiance.

"Very well, Ms. Davis...Harriman and I both agree that for safety’s sake, the bodyguard will remain with you until this situation is resolved. There will be no further discussion on the matter. Is that clear?"

"But, sir, I can’t get anything done with him glaring over my shoulder...I can’t concentrate on the project...and we’ve got a deadline here...and my mother’s due date is coming up soon."

The mere mention of Karen Nelson’s pregnancy caused a slight smile to cross Starke’s lips. He remembered the morning when Harriman called to tell him the news. He’d nearly dropped the phone onto the floor and was stunned into silence. His old friend was beside himself with glee and was talking a mile a minute that day...he’d never heard Harriman that happy, except for the day of his wedding to Karen.

"Look, I know you’ve got a lot of work to do...and I want that project finished, too. But...you’ll just have to bear with it a little longer," he reiterated as he walked around the desk and sat down. "He just wants to keep you safe. Now...the subject of the bodyguard is closed." Looking down at his papers, he gave an indication that there would be no further discussion.

Caitlin started to protest, but held back. She knew in her heart why the guard was necessary...but that didn’t mean she had to like it. Resigning herself to it, she slowly got up and heading for the door.

As she was taking hold of the doorknob, he asked nonchalantly, "Oh, by the way...how is your mother?"

Turning back toward him, she saw the sly smile he had and answered, "Pretty good, I think....anxious for it to be over. The bombing certainly didn’t help matters any.  You know Mom...she hates not to have control of a situation. HN’s getting a bit nervous and overprotective...and it’s driving Mom up a wall...she’s told him off a couple of times, I think...but Lee and Chip have both managed to calm the waters by telling him that it’s just the hormones."  Caitlin laughed and then continued, "Poor HN doesn’t know which way is up right now when Mom does that...he just doesn’t have a clue!"

Starke had to strain to keep a straight face...the very idea of his oldest and dearest friend defending himself against a very angry pregnant woman was almost too much to bear. "I’m sure he’s doing the best he can...now, you, Ms. Davis, had better get back to work."

"Yes, sir...." she replied. "And, Admiral Starke..."

"Yes?"

"Thanks," she softly said.

He nodded and then looked back down at his papers, trying hard to hide the feelings he was having at remembering the times he himself went through the exact same thing Nelson was now experiencing.

 

 

Toward the end of February, Seaview was requested to assist the National Aquarium with a search from some rare specimens of hydra off the Continental Shelf. The depth was such that the DWD teams would be activated to gather the specimens so that Seaview could then transport them back to a waiting team of researchers back at the Institute. Karen decided to accompany them on this short cruise despite Harriman’s rather strenuous objections. She was now about a month from her due date and he didn’t want to take any chances. He even enlisted Caitlin’s help to convince her not to come, but that didn’t even work.

One evening, around 2100, the two of them were in the laboratory, going over the exact procedures for the dive, when Karen felt a slight pain in her back. Not wanting to say anything to him, else he would get extremely over-protective, she simply pulled up a chair, raised her feet up and then went on with her conversation with him. The action would be enough not to make him suspicious because by now he was simply used to it, but would be enough to help alleviate the pain for her.

As time went on however, she realized that the back pain was not subsiding. At one point in their talk about the dive, he looked over and realized that she was indeed having some difficulty.

"Are you all right? You look like you’re a bit uncomfortable," he inquired, looking a bit concerned.

"Hey, you would be too, if you looked and felt like you were a damn beached whale. God, I don’t remember this from when I was pregnant with Caitlin. My back is killing me," she complained, rubbing the lower part of her back.

"You do remember what Dr. Miller told us...that back pain this close to the due date might be a sign of labor...Are you sure you’re not..." he asked as he went behind her and gently started to rub the lower part of her back.

"Hmmmmm, now that you could stand and do all night if you want," came the answer as she bent slight toward the bench to give him full access to her back.

"Karen, I think you need to go see Jamie...it might just be..."

"My dear, sweet, concerned husband...I appreciate your concern,...however, I’m the one pregnant and I’ve already had one child,...remember? If I need to go to see Dr. Jamison, I will...but I don’t. I’m a month out yet...Caitlin was three weeks early ‘cause I developed toxemia, not because she came early. This little one may be a little impatient...but then again, he wouldn’t be his father’s son if he weren’t," was her reply as she smiled up at him.

He gently kissed her and said, "Still, I’d feel a little better if you’d..."

"Harry, look, it’s almost 2300. I’m tired and I want to simply go to bed, okay? The pains will subside once I’m asleep. Just go with me to my cabin, tuck me in, rub my back, and then let me sleep. Okay?"

"All right, but..."

"No ‘buts’, now come on...you need some rest too, m’dear...’cause I’m telling you from experience...once this child comes...there’ll be no rest for the weary," she laughed as she took the notebook from off his desk and shut it, then took his hand and led him out the lab door.

He escorted her to her cabin, waited as she dressed for bed and then got her settled. After a short but gentle backrub, he kissed her good night and left her to her much needed rest.

 

 

Patterson awakened Harriman Nelson at about 0400 hours. Adjusting his eyes to the soft light from his desk lamp, he asked, "What’s wrong?"

"Doc sent me to get you...Apparently Captain Davis came down about 30 minutes ago...He wants to see you in SickBay, sir."

Once the reality of what Patterson had said sank into his groggy brain, he swung his legs over the bunk and sat up. "Is she in labor, Pat?"

"Doc didn’t say, sir...Just that you were to come down as soon as you could."

Nelson grabbed his robe and headed out the door and down the corridor to SickBay. Once he got to the door, he came to a screeching halt. Unsure of what awaited him on the other side of the door, he took a deep breath and opened it. He couldn’t see Karen anywhere in the larger room but spied John Warner over near the drug cabinet.

"Where’s Dr. Jamison, John?" Nelson inquired.

"Sir, he’s in the interior exam room with Captain Davis. Hold on and I’ll get him for you," he offered and then knocked before going into the room.

A few moments later, Warner came out to him and said, "Sir, Dr. Jamison asked that you wait outside in the hall for a few moments. He needs to run some tests on the Captain..."

"I want to be here, damn it...she’s..." Nelson exploded.

Upon hearing the ruckus in the outer area, Will Jamison came out and faced Nelson. "Admiral, things are all right, but I do need to run some tests...If you’ll just wait outside for a bit, you can then come in and see her."

"Will, no! I want to be in here with her..."

"I know you do, Harry, but these tests might make you a little uncomfortable so if you’ll just step outside..." Jamison firmly but politely stressed as he opened the door and showed Nelson outside. "I promise you, you can see her as soon as I’m finished."

Harriman Nelson paced furiously up and down the hallway outside SickBay. Why won’t Will let me in to see her? What’s wrong???!!!! He was almost frantic and about ready to break down the door when Jamison opened it and came out to him.

"Will? Is she okay? Is the baby okay?"

"Simmer down, Harry. She’s fine. And the baby’s just fine, too. Just some Braxton Hicks contractions, that’s all. She’s about two centimeters dilated, but she’s fine. Karen’s been through this before, remember? She knows her own body by far better than you or me."

"Two centimeters?" Nelson slightly fell against the wall in relief. "Can I see her?"

"Of course you can. I just wanted to examine her before you came in, that’s all. Harry, really. She’s fine!!! Go on in, will you? She knows you’re out here."

"Will, I need to get her off here and back to the Institute. I don’t know whatever processed her to come on this trip knowing damn full well..."

Jamison was slightly amused at Nelson’s frustration. In actuality, Karen Davis Nelson had been the model patient for him. However, she was headstrong and willful. Admiral Harriman Nelson just didn’t know what to do with regards to his very pregnant wife.

"Harry, right now, the best thing she can do is stay off her feet. When she’s sitting down, she needs to elevate her feet. But for God’s sake, don’t baby her. Not if you don’t want the wrath of God, or worse, Karen, come down on your head." Jamison was definitely amused at watching the older man as he struggled to cope with the fact that each passing day brought him closer and closer to the reality that he was in fact going to be a father. "Look, Karen’s okay and the baby’s okay. Go ahead and fly her back to the Institute. I’ll give clearance for that. Actually, I’d rather have her back there and accessible to the hospital and her regular OB. Dr. Miller would have one holy fit if he knew she was here a month out from delivery."

"All right, I’ll make the arrangements as soon as I talk to her." He started to open the door then turned again to Jamison. "Will, are you sure...?"

"Yes, Harry, I’m sure...now get in there before your wife does go into labor."

 

 

Harriman walked in as Karen was finishing getting dressed. He was angry with her and was about ready to tear into her when she turned around, looked at him, and smiled. Then, as he looked at her very pregnant body, the storm dissipated and he could no longer speak any harsh words to her. "Karen, Will’s cleared you to fly back to the Institute with me tomorrow."

Adjusting her sweatshirt over her very enlarged stomach, she looked up at him and said quite plainly, "I’m not going anywhere until this mission is completed.”

He could see she intended to be difficult. She knows better than this. I don’t want our son born here. If anything should happen..."Karen, Will and I..."

"Will and you, eh...Did either of you ever think to include me in this decision? Listen, Harry…I’ve been through one pregnancy already. You do remember your stepdaughter, Caitlin, don’t you? I promised Will that I’d take it very easy, but I am not an invalid, okay? I’m just pregnant."

"Yes, pregnant with our child. And I’m not about to let anything happen to either one of you. Do you understand me?" His blue eyes met her brown ones in determination. "There’s no telling when the Cartel will try to hit Seaview. And frankly, when it does happen, I don’t want you here. They’ve already made threats against the Institute and against the boat. They bombed your office...I want you off of here and now! Is that clear?" His jaw was set and his lips thinned in consternation at having to argue this point with his own wife.

"Harriman..." she started to argue with him but suddenly felt tired. Normally, Karen Davis Nelson would have had no problem standing her ground with her husband. But even she had to finally give in to the fact that he was right. This time. The drug cartel had sworn vengeance on Seaview and her family for the loss of the underwater drug laboratory. It didn’t matter that the Institute and Seaview were internationally known. The fact that they had had a hand in the lab’s destruction was enough to set Miguel Rodriguez and his family into action. It also didn’t matter that the other cartel drug lords had disavowed any revenge on NIMR. They knew to keep their distance from certain targets, but Rodriguez was different. The act had become a personal vendetta to the point of being obsessive.

When the DEA had found out about the bombing, Norman Thompson himself had flown from Washington, D.C. to Santa Barbara to meet with Nelson to warn him and advise him of the intelligence that they had gathered. Extra security precautions were added at the Institute and bodyguards assigned to the senior staff and their families. Karen had chaffed at having a bodyguard follow her everywhere she went. And Caitlin was worse. She had tried a couple of times to lose hers while she was at the San Diego Naval Base. Upon hearing that news from Admiral Starke, Lee Crane had stepped in and read her the riot act. He, in fact, had threatened to camp out at her apartment if she refused follow the rules her stepfather had set down. Nelson at first was amused at the prospect of his Captain standing watch over his willful but beautiful stepdaughter. However, he had also seen the way she was receptive to the idea. He trusted Crane implicitly and he knew that Caitlin would be a handful for even the most experienced bodyguard. He also figured that if anyone could handle her, it would be Lee Crane. So it was decided that Lee, Helen, and Robert would move, temporally, into the guest rooms at Karen’s old apartment that Caitlin now sometimes occupied since the Nelson house was being remodeled for the coming birth of the new baby. That way, Lee could keep watch over all of them.

"All right, Harry. I’ll fly back to the Institute. Tomorrow, not today, okay? It’s just that..."

"What?...Karen, there’s nothing that you can do here that you can’t do there. Please...humor me, will you?" he coaxed her. Coming closer, he put one arm around her shoulders and the other hand on top of her ever-bulging stomach. "Besides, that little one in there deserves to be born in the very best of circumstances. And, as much confidence as I have in Will Jamison and his staff, I want my son born on land, not here. All right?" He pulled her close to him and kissed her lightly on the forehead. Smiling at her, he could see the slight smile of resignation in her eyes. For once she seemingly had given in to him willingly on a point.

Nodding her acceptance, she lightly kissed him, and then smiled. "All right. You win this round. I’ll go, but..." she coyly remarked. "...you have to promise me that you’ll be within a short flying distance if I should go into labor before my due date. If you think for one moment that you’re going to get out of being in that delivery room, you’re crazy."

Holding her close to him, at least as close as he could, he laughed softly. "Try and keep me from that delivery room. There’s no way in hell that I would miss the birth of my son, Karen." He took his hand and raised her face upward towards him and said, "You and the baby are so very precious to me. I never thought this would ever be possible for me at this stage of my life. I love Caitlin as if she were my own flesh and blood, but this child....this child truly is part of me, and of you. And I don’t want anything or anyone to harm either of you. Lee Crane has always been like a son to me. One I thought I’d never have. But now...now I...we...will have a son...one that is of you and me."

Karen looked at him, those steel blue eyes and soft auburn hair. The man that stood next to her was more than just her husband. He was her lover, her best friend. He had started out as her employer. But now...in just a matter of a few weeks or less, he would also be the father of her son. Their son.

She felt a newfound love in her heart for him. More than she knew was imaginable. She knew he was right about leaving Seaview. But for some inexplicable reason, she felt in her heart that this was where their son should be born. Deep within herself, she knew that this was where he belonged.

"I know what you’re feeling, Harriman. I feel the same way. And I understand why you want me to go back to the Institute. But you know...for some reason...Sean Pearce Nelson should be born here!!! And no where else."

"Karen, No!!! You know that Doctor Miller is back in Santa Barbara. And Jamie even said..."

She took her finger and softly put it to his lips to quieten him. "Ssshhhh...Harry...listen to me for a minute before that Irish temper of yours upsets your son...I know that Doctor Miller is there. I know that. But for some inexplicable reason...I know that Sean belongs here. He wants to be born here."

He quickly shook his head in disagreement. "No, Karen. Absolutely not!"

"Yes, Harriman," she quietly replied. "He belongs here. Just as his father does. With this boat." She took his hand and placed it against her chest over her heart. A tear had formed and fell from the corner of one eye. "As surely as you feel my heart, your son...my son...belongs here aboard Seaview. He’s part of this boat, Harry, and the boat is part of him, just as surely as you and I are a part of him."

Nelson looked into the soft brown eyes of his wife. She was silently pleading with him. Damn her! I want her on land. I don’t want her here if or when this stuff goes down. I want them both to live in case I...we...don’t... "Karen, I’m flying you back on the FS-1 first thing tomorrow morning. By that time you’ll have had all your preparations finished for the DWD team for this mission. Under no circumstances do I want you here when the crap hits the fan with the Cartel." She started to protest again, but he cut her short with, "And that’s an order, Captain!!" It was a pointed reminder that not only was she his wife, but she technically was still his subordinate.

She glared at him, not believing that he had used that tone of voice with her...but deep down inside, deep within her, she suddenly and quietly decided to let him believe he had won the argument...Because she had just come to realize what he and Will Jamison did not. Sean didn’t intend to wait for dry land. She knew in her heart that their son would be born before Harriman ever had a chance to set foot in the FS1. Oh, Jamie had said it was Braxton Hicks contractions, but somehow, Karen was now beginning to know otherwise. She was beginning to feel something. Something within her was telling her. No...it would be soon. Very soon....and there was nothing that Harriman or Will Jamison could do or say to convince her otherwise. Her features softened and a faint sly smile appeared.

"Very well, Harry. Tomorrow. I’ll plan on leaving tomorrow."  But secretly, Karen also knew that she’d never make that flight…their baby was going to have other ideas.  Something deep inside told her that by this time tomorrow, Harriman Nelson was going to be helping deliver his son.

 

 

That night, Karen Nelson couldn’t sleep. No matter which way she tried to turn or lay, her back hurt. Her legs hurt. Finally, at about 0200 hours, she got up and walked over to her desk. The one thing she hated about the officer’s cabins was that they were not large enough for 2 people. Especially when one of them was very pregnant. She desperately wanted to be near Harriman. Grabbing her robe from the end of the bunk, she put it on and headed out the door. His cabin was down at the end of the corridor and just around the corner. She had reached the corner when she suddenly felt something very wet. Looking down at her feet, she realized that her water had just broken. Oh my God!!! I’ve got to get to SickBay. I’ve got to get to Harry. Taking the few extra steps she stopped just outside the door to his cabin as a contraction tore through her. Doubling over, she leaned against the bulkhead and started to breathe rapidly to take her mind off the pain. No!! It’s too early!!!" She managed to extend her hand and turned the doorknob to open the door.

"Harry," she called out, figuring he was asleep. When her cry didn’t arouse him, she called out louder. "Harriman!!!"

The startled sleeping form turned over in the bunk and switched on the overhead light. Nelson had to let his eyes adjust to the light coming in from the corridor, but he knew that voice. Springing out of bed and rushing over to her, he helped her to the seat next to the door.

"Karen, what’s wrong?! Are you all right?!" He grabbed for the microphone on the wall and called out, "SickBay, this is Nelson. Get someone down to my cabin on the double!!!!"

"SickBay, aye. On our way."

He looked at his wife, clad only in her nightgown and robe, and suddenly realized that she was very wet.  "Karen,...tell me!!! What’s wrong?!!!"

She looked up at him as another contraction subsided. "Your son...Harry...your son is as impatient as his father."

"You’re in labor!!!!??? No, Karen, this is too early. You’re not due for another three weeks or so..."

"Tell that to your son, Harriman!!!! My water broke in the corridor."

At that time, two corpsmen from SickBay came to the doorway. They saw the situation and rushed to help Karen to her feet.  "Sir, we’ll take it from here. She’ll be just fine. Doctor Jamison is on his way to SickBay," one of the corpsman told him.

Karen shook her head and refused the second corpsman’s help, instead reaching out for her husband’s arm. Looking at him, she smiled. "Looks like Sean intends to be born here on the boat after all, Harriman."

He stared at her, watching her movements as she straightened herself up to walk to SickBay. "Karen Davis Nelson, if I didn’t know you better, I’d say you arranged this whole thing just so you could get your own way," he gamely told her as he helped her walk slowly down the corridor.

"Well, if I did, then I had a lot of help from the little guy in here," she replied just as another contraction hit her. "Damn!!!" She stopped just short of the SickBay door and started to do Lamaze breathing. The door opened and Will Jamison came out and took her hand from the corpsmen.

"We’ll take her in....Thanks, John. You and Bill get everything set up, okay? Looks like I’m going to have to put the contingency plan into effect."

The two men left the group outside and disappeared inside to ready for the delivery while Jamison and Nelson helped Karen inside and then Jamison took over from there.

"Karen, I just had a hunch that this might happen. I called Dr. Miller early yesterday morning after I examined you and he concurred with my findings. Had you not gone into labor tonight and the Admiral been able to get you back to the Institute today, Dr. Miller was going to have you admitted to the hospital first thing tomorrow. But now that’s a moot point, isn’t it?"

She was situating herself on to a makeshift delivery bed. John and Bill put up the railings and placed an IV pole at the head of the bed. Harriman helped her take her robe off. The rest he would leave to the medical personnel. Looking at her as she tried to get into some kind of comfortable position, he now found himself not knowing exactly what to do.

As the corpsmen fussed over her and hung an IV bag from the pole, John asked her, "Captain, do you want us to go ahead with the epidural?"

"No, not yet, John. Not yet." She then looked at Nelson and commented, "Harry, contrary to what you might think, I won’t break. Besides, you need to see if Caitlin can be found. We’re not that far off shore. A couple of hours at the most, I’d wager. Is there anyway she could be found and brought here?"

"I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I’ll have Lee go get her and bring her back."

Jamison placed a monitor around her stomach. This would monitor the contractions and give a read out as to their intensity. "Ok, Karen, I need to place an internal monitor on the baby to track the baby’s vital signs. I take it you know the drill?"

"Yes, Will, I do. It’s been a long time, but I do remember some things," she replied, trying to make herself more comfortable.

Jamison went to an instrument table and took a long tube with a thin wire attached from the tray of instruments. Looking at the Admiral, he then asked, "Admiral, if you don’t mind stepping outside for just a moment, I need to insert this on the baby’s head."

"No, Will. I’m going to stay here with her," Nelson shook his head, refusing to leave her side.

Karen looked up at him as he stood next to her and smiled reassuringly. "Harry, go on and make sure that Caitlin gets here, will you? We’ll be just fine. This is perfectly normal and I’ve been through it before when she was born. Besides, it’s going to be a while. And one of us needs to be rested ‘cause I’m not going to be getting any for a while."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, now go, will you? Get Lee to bring her back here. She wouldn’t want to miss the birth of her baby brother. You try explaining that to her."

He smiled down at her and nodded. Caitlin Davis had already made it known that she fully intended to be present at the birth of her brother, and nothing would keep her away.

"All right, I’ll make sure Lee leaves immediately. I’ll be right back."

He kissed her lightly to reassure her then left. Karen Nelson then looked over at Will Jamison and grinned.  "Excuse him, Will. He’s new at this."

"I know that, Karen, and you’re obviously not. Now, can we get on with this? I’m not an ob/gyn, remember?  It’s been a long time since med school…so I’ve already put a call into Dr. Miller and faxed him all the data. We’ll continue to fax the information as the day progresses. Miller is set to be flown here ASAP if we need him."

"You don’t think we’ll need him, do you, Will?"

"At this time, neither he nor I think so. We both concurred that you’re in good health, the baby’s in good health and from your past history, it looks like smooth sailing...but he’s on standby, just in case. Besides, the Admiral would have my head if I let anything happen to you or to the baby."

She made a slight face and flinched a bit as he inserted the internal probe while they spoke. After he finished, he recovered her with a sheet and then turned on the monitors. Two heartbeats could be seen as well as a third line for measuring the intensity of the contractions. They were about eight to ten minutes apart.

"You’ve got a ways to go, Karen. You’re only about three centimeters dilated right now. That’s one more than yesterday. And with your water breaking, I’d say that sometime late today or early tomorrow, your son will come into this world."

 

 

In the Control Room, Nelson went to the plot table to confer with Lee Crane. The entire crew now knew that Karen Nelson was in labor in SickBay and the baby would soon be born. The two men walked to the Observation Nose as they talked.

"Just get Caitlin here as fast as you can, Lee. I don’t know how long Karen’s going to be in labor. Angie said that she was at the Institute earlier last night. Apparently, she’s still working on a computer project and last seen in Building C. Angie also said that Norman Thompson was with her," Nelson told him as Crane prepared to enter the hatch leading down to the Flying Sub.

Crane raised an eyebrow when he heard Thompson’s name mentioned in connection with Caitlin’s. Lee didn’t exactly like the DEA agent. He wasn’t sure why, but the man rubbed him the wrong way. The agent had managed to maneuver his way into spending quite a bit of time with Caitlin and Lee wasn’t exactly pleased with Thompson’s ‘attention’s toward her.

Smiling at his boss, he told him, "Don’t worry, Admiral. I’ll get her back here before the baby’s born."

"Good, Lee...good," Nelson replied.

Crane looked at him and wondered if he had looked that worried the day Robert was born. Thinking back quickly, he honestly couldn’t remember. But as he watched the older man, he remembered how he had felt. The anxiety, the helplessness, the wonder of it all. Lee knew the whole gamete of emotions that the man would experience before it culminated in the birth of a new life. He then nodded and smiled just before he disappeared through the hatch. Nelson swung the hatch closed and turned the value to lock it back watertight.

Within minutes, the Flying Sub was on its way back to Santa Barbara to pick up a special passenger. Lee had to find Caitlin Davis fast and transport her back to the boat. Inwardly, he also wanted to get her away from that DEA agent, although he kept telling himself that the real reason was to bring her back for her brother’s birth.

 

 

Back aboard, Nelson stood silently and watched as the yellow craft was propelled by the observation nose. He didn’t hear Chip Morton come up behind him.  "He’ll get her back here in time, sir. I can tell you from experience that it’s going to be awhile."

Harry turned around to see his tall blonde exec standing there with just a slight grin on his face. Looking at him, he realized that he must seem to be the most frazzled person aboard right now. Well, he couldn’t blame the crew for thinking it. Deep down, he felt he was. This was one situation over which he had no control.

"Thanks, Chip, for those words of wisdom. You know, I wasn’t around my parents when Edith was born so I never really knew how long things take in these matters. I have to admit, though, that Karen has given me a real education."

"Yes, sir, I can imagine. Just about the same one that Matty gave me while she was pregnant with Alex. She was very stubborn; wouldn’t cut back on her schedule until the very end. In a lot of ways, sir, Matty and Karen are a lot alike. Both are stubborn and strong-willed," and then he smiled as he added with a slight chuckle, "and both always manage to get their way in the end."

Harry broke into a huge grin at his executive officer’s jab at both women. Yes, Matty Morton and Karen Nelson were definitely a lot alike. And both men were glad of it, too.

"You’re right, Chip. I guess I just thought I’d never see this day come," he told the tall blond officer as they walked back toward the Control Room. "Now, Mr. Morton, you have the conn and I have to get back to SickBay if I’m to be there when my son is born!"

"Yes, sir!" Morton replied jovially. In the back of his mind, he remembered the old saying, ‘if the Admiral ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.’ By this time tomorrow, the Admiral is going to be overjoyed.

"Just make sure that sonar doesn’t drop the ball. Remember, Thompson still thinks the Cartel will try to hit us when we least expect it. And I certainly don’t want it to be now, if at all."

"Yes, sir. We’ll make sure that nothing disturbs anything in SickBay."

"Good." And the older man disappeared through the hatchway.

 

 

About an hour later, Lee Crane was docking at the underwater facility at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. He had already found out that Caitlin was indeed on the compound grounds. As soon shutdown procedures had been completed, he left the underground dock and headed for Building C. Although it was the early hours before dawn, he had ascertained from the security guards that she had been there all night. There were numerous labs housed in this one building, but Lee was headed for the one he knew she would be in if she were indeed there. The computer lab.

Heading up to the second floor, he opened the door and found Caitlin sitting at one of the computer stations with Norman Thompson sitting in a chair next to her, his arm draped around the back of her chair. Lee could hear her explaining something to him. Looking up at the clock on the wall, he saw that it read almost 0400.

"If we could increase the speed of the processor and add the extra parameters..." she was telling him as her fingers seemed to fly across the keys. "The information we could obtain would..." the suddenly looking up, "...Lee! What are you doing here??"

Thompson looked up and saw Lee Crane standing there. The two men’s eyes locked and slowly Thompson dropped his hand from the top of Caitlin’s chair. There was something about Crane’s stare that made him uneasy.

"Captain, is there anything wrong? Have you had any contact with the Cartel?"

"No, Mr. Thompson, we haven’t. That’s not the reason I’m here," Lee pointedly told him and then turned to Caitlin. "Karen has gone into labor and wants you aboard Seaview now."

"What? Mom’s not due for another month! Oh, my God!! I’ve got to get to her."

"That’s why I’m here, Caitlin. The Admiral sent me after you," he told her with a slight wary smile. And not a moment too soon, he reasoned, from the looks of the situation. "Go get your things and I’ll fly you back on the FS1. Your little brother decided to be impatient and wants to be born now."

"Okay, let me go get some things and I’ll be right with you. Mr. Thompson, this will...ah...have to wait for another time, ok?"

"Of course, Miss Davis...another time," Thompson agreed with a slight grin as she left the two men to go gather her things. Somehow he noted something protective in Crane’s voice. Something like...possessiveness? Well, well...so the good straight arrow Captain has the hots for the Admiral’s stepdaughter. Oh, but he’s too goody-goody to let her know or do anything about it. I wonder if she knows. Thompson decided right then that he would see just how far Crane would go to keep her away from him.

"Captain, maybe I ought to back to go back with you and Miss Davis. We don’t know when the Cartel will hit and, personally, I’d like to be there in case they do."

Crane looked back at Thompson and glared. "No, Mr. Thompson. That won’t be necessary. She’ll be just fine aboard Seaview. Besides, the Cartel would be insane to try to do something to Seaview."

Thompson swung around in his chair and leaned back, placing his hands behind his head. "Ahhh, Captain...don’t be so naive. These people have no sanity. Miguel’s group, and Miguel in particular, has decided that this is a personal vendetta. And as such, anything is fair game. Even your fair submarine. Now, think about it. If they knew that Mrs. Nelson was in labor, about to give birth to Admiral Harriman Nelson’s only son, and that her only other child, Caitlin, was also aboard Seaview at the time, don’t you think they’d go after your precious ship?"

"Mr. Thompson," Lee replied with great restraint, "at this point in time, there is no greater place for the Nelson family to be safe than aboard Seaview. We can, and will, take care of our own."

"I hope so, Crane, ‘cause if he decides to go after Seaview, he’ll come after her, and your crew, with everything possible. Now I know that the other Cartel heads have already branded Miguel a ‘rogue’, but that won’t stop him. Nobody crosses him. nobody. And the fact that Mrs. Nelson was instrumental, however directly or indirectly, in the destruction of that lab, makes her a prime target. Then add in the fact that Karen Davis Nelson is the wife of Harriman Nelson, who just happens to be the owner and builder of Seaview and the head of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, and you have the makings of a perfect family hit. Miguel gets to take down Seaview as well as the Nelsons. And I hate to tell you, sailor boy, but that also includes Miss Davis as well."

Lee just stared at Thompson as the words sank in. He had to admit that there was some validity to what he was saying and he was just beginning to see how right Thompson was. His time on the El Zanzibar had taught him that the drug lords would stop at nothing to make sure their poison gets to where they wanted it to go. But what could Thompson do aboard Seaview that he couldn’t do here? Why was he so adamant about going aboard with them? Unless it was because of Caitlin...Was that it?

"Mr. Thompson, I appreciate your concern about the Nelson family, but Seaview is more than equipped to handle what needs to be done. If the Cartel decides to come after us, we’ll do what needs to be done. As for the current situation, Mrs. Nelson is in labor and can’t be moved. She has asked for her daughter to be brought to her and I’m going to do just that. Seaview is, in fact, en route back to Santa Barbara and the Institute at this time. She’ll be back dockside here, hopefully, before the baby is born."

"Very well, Crane. I hope for everyone’s sake that you’re right."

About that time, Caitlin showed back up with a couple of bags and what looked like to be a diaper bag. She held it up and remarked, "I had meant to give this to Mom before the baby was born. Looks like it’s going to come in handy a lot sooner. Well, I’m ready to go any time you are."

"I’m sure she’ll appreciate it, Caitlin. I don’t think the stores aboard has diapers," Lee smiled and said as he picked up the bags she had sat down and they headed out the door for the underground dock.

 

 

Back aboard Seaview, Karen was slowing progressing through labor. Harriman Nelson had taken up residence next to her bed. He watched the monitors as her contractions slowly increased in intensity. Each passing hour brought them closer to the reality of the conclusion. Will Jamison kept in contact with Dr. Miller on the mainland, giving him hourly updates.

Karen actually was in a jovial mood. She reminded herself that she had been through all of this before and that the only thing different this time was the fact that the doctor had not had to induce her. This little one had a mind of his own. Just like his father. She looked over at her husband as he sat beside her. He had finally dozed off sitting up in the chair and when Will came over to check on her, she motioned her head toward him and smiled at Will.

"He needs some rest, Will. Can you see if you can get him to go lay down for a while? There’s still a long way to go."

"Karen, I would if I could, but I can’t get him to leave this chair. What I am going to do, however, have a more comfortable chair brought in for him." Jamison then went to John and had him go to the Admiral’s cabin and bring back the chair from behind his desk. As John rolled it into SickBay, Will gently woke the sleeping man.

"Admiral, I think you’d feel better in your own chair. We brought it from your cabin."

Stretching and flexing his aching muscles, he gave Jamison a look of gratitude. "Thanks, Will. I appreciate it. Is everything all right? I didn’t mean to..."

"Ask your wife, Harry...she’s still right here," Jamison motioned toward Karen.

Nelson looked over at Karen and saw her smiling at him. "Are you okay?"

"I’m fine, but you can’t be comfortable in that straight chair. If you’re intent on staying for the entire show, at least one of us can be comfortable," she grinned and pointed toward the overstuffed chair.

He was amazed at her attitude. And then all of a sudden, she caught her breath sharply as a contraction hit her. His eyes strayed to the monitor and he saw the fetal heartbeat drop suddenly. Holding his breath, he watched as it slowly but steadily regained its strength.

Jamison noticed Nelson’s reaction to the monitor. Coming over and checking the position of the monitor on Karen’s abdomen, he quietly told the Admiral, "Don’t let the monitor scare you. That drop is natural. It’s the contraction that does it."

Harry nodded and turned his attention back to Karen. "I’m going to check on whether Lee found Caitlin. Will you be all right?"

"Well, I’m certainly not going anywhere, now am I? Go on. See where they are. If anything changes too drastically, Jamie will yell."

He kissed her lightly on the top of the head and strolled out of SickBay. Heading for the Control Room, he felt like every muscle in his body ached because he had slept sitting up in the chair. He went straight for the Radio Shack and inquired from Sparks as to the ETA of the Flying Sub. Within minutes, contact had been established and Sparks told him that Crane was reporting an ETA of 30 minutes. After giving Lee an update for Caitlin, he then went to the galley and told Cookie to send some coffee to SickBay. Cookie had prepared him a quick meal, telling him that he needed it if he was going to see it through to the end. Thanking him, Nelson quietly but quickly ate and then left for SickBay.

When he returned, he found Karen slightly inclined in the bed, with a book in her hand. He stood there looking at her, trying to drink in the entire scene. It seemed so natural, so casual. Not at all what he had imagined. However, he also had to remind himself that the hard part was still to come during the latent stages of labor when the contractions would come harder and faster.

About 45 minutes later, Caitlin Davis and Lee Crane strolled into the SickBay. Caitlin immediately went to her mother’s side and Nelson walked over to where Lee stood.

"Thanks, Lee. I know that this will help ease her mind."

"No problem, Admiral. She was in the computer lab, just as Angie thought.... And so was Norman Thompson. Apparently they had been there all night working on some sort of project."

Harry looked at Crane when he mentioned Thompson’s name and raised an eyebrow. There was just a hint of sarcasm in the remark, but he wasn’t in the frame of mind to comment on it. Harry was too preoccupied with the impending birth of his son.

The two men watched the two women together. Mother and daughter. There was an unbelievable bond between the two. As a particularly intense contraction hit Karen, Caitlin’s hand closed around her mother’s as Karen struggled with her breathing to bring herself through it.

"Breath, Mom...breath. Easy...easy...that’s it."

Karen looked at her daughter and thought about the total irony of this situation. That she was the one having the baby and here was Caitlin comforting her. Nodding appreciatively, she then looked over at her husband.  "Not much longer. That one was more intense that the rest."

Suddenly, a voice came over the intercom.  "Captain, this is Morton. Can you come to the Control Room?"

Lee took hold of the mike from its holder on the wall near the door. "Crane here, Chip. What’s the problem?"

"Skipper, we’ve got an unidentified surface vessel on radar. Looks and sounds like a freighter."

"What’s so unusual about it, Mr. Morton?"

"We’re not near any of the major shipping lanes, sir, and this one keeps shadowing us, like he knows we’re here and he wants to keep on top with us."

"I’ll be right up there."

Lee looked at Nelson and his face darkened as he said, "Thompson made the comment that the Cartel might come after us if they had any idea that you all were aboard. I don’t know how they would have known..."

"Maybe they didn’t...It was a fluke that Karen was even aboard...you know that...and you just got here with Caitlin...they couldn’t have known."

"Yeah, but one person did know that all of you were here. Thompson. He was there in the computer lab with Caitlin when I came to get her and we discussed the entire situation. No, he couldn’t have...you don’t think?!" Lee looked at him in astonishment.

"Right now, I don’t know. What I do know is that Karen is about to give birth to my son and that ship up there is possibly hostile! Now, get up there and find out what the hell is going on!" he exclaimed.

Crane rushed out of SickBay as Karen’s contractions began to get stronger and closer together. Jamison checked her progress and then conferred with Dr. Miller. Coming over to confer with her and the Admiral, he motioned for John to ready the tray with all necessary equipment.  "Ok, you’re just about ready. That son of yours is one very impatient little boy. Your labor is shorter than we’d anticipated."

Karen grimaced as another contraction hit her. The intensity was getting worse. She could feel the pressure bearing down; she so desperately wanted to push but prior experience told her not to. Harry watched her intently, wanting to take the pain away but knew he could not. He stood on one side of her while Caitlin stood on the other, each holding her hand as she grasped them in her pain.

All of a sudden, the ship jolted from sided to side as if a wave had tried to push it over. Harry and Caitlin were both thrown to the floor and the instrumentation was all thrown about the SickBay. Karen hung on to the railings of the bed as the sub trashed from side to side, her contractions becoming unbearable and almost constant.

"What the hell was that?" Caitlin screamed. "Who’s doing that?"

"I don’t know, but Lee’s got to hold us trim," Nelson replied while making his way to the mike. Grabbing it, he yelled, "Lee, what’s going on up there? What the devil was that?"

"Depth charges, Admiral. That freighter just fired off a couple of depth charge rounds at us. I’m taking her down out of their range. We should be able to touch bottom and be out of their way."

"Well, find out who the hell’s responsible and hold us trim."

"Yes, sir."

Jamison and John righted the monitors and then hurriedly re-prepared the instrument tray. Contractions were coming very fast now and the baby’s birth was imminent.  Coming over to the bed, Jamison put on a pair of surgical gloves, then told Karen gently, "Okay, you know the drill from here on out. Are you ready?"

She glared back up at him as sweat poured from her head. "Do I have any choice? Let’s get this show on the road!!!"

"Okay, let’s do it then. Admiral, I’m going to ask you to help her sit up a bit...All right, Karen, pull up and...let’s do it...when I say push, you push!" Jamie advised her as he positioned himself at the end of the bed for the child’s birth.

Nelson and Caitlin helped Karen incline just a bit as Will started to work. It was at that time that another depth charge exploded close to the aft starboard fin. Seaview rolled in response to the shock wave of the explosion. Nelson held on to his wife as she cried out. Both he and Caitlin kept their balance as they both struggled to hold Karen.

Will had grabbed hold of the bed rail to keep from being thrown off the bed. "Damn it," he yelled out as he got back into position. "Okay, Karen, he’s crowning. You ready?"  See her nodding, he regained his calm demeanor and looked at her, "Okay, then, PUSH!!!"

With an inner strength found throughout the eons of time, Karen gathered all her strength and caused her muscles to push the baby out of her body. For a period of about 30 seconds, she pushed with all her energy would allow her, then she collapsed back against the bed in exhaustion.

"You’re doing good, Karen," Will told her as he continued with the surgical procedures. "Now, I want you to take another deep breath and get ready to push again. All right?"

"Okay," came the exhausted reply. She looked up at Harry and smiled weakly.

"You’re beautiful, you know that?" he softly told her as he took his hand and wiped her forehead dry of moisture. Bending down to kiss her lightly, he then softly whispered, "Come on, Sean wants to be born."

Caitlin took her other arm gently and told her, "Mom, you’re doing okay. It’s almost over." She and Nelson then raised her up a bit in preparation for the next push.

Will looked at Karen and seeing her nod that she was ready, told her to push once again.

She took three deep breaths and then finding new strength, started to push once again. 10 seconds...20 second...30 seconds. And then she collapsed backward as her body expelled the infant into Will Jamison’s waiting hands. Quickly suctioning the birth fluids from the nostrils and mouth allowed Sean Pearce Nelson to take his first breaths of air outside his mother’s womb. His first cries were loudly transmitted over the ship’s intercom unknowingly because the microphone had been knocked off the wall and inexplicably stuck open.

"Admiral, do you want to do the honors?" Will Jamison asked handing him the surgical scissors to cut the umbilical cord, separating the child from his mother.

Nelson’s hands trembled as he looked at the squalling, squirming infant and then he accepted the scissors and quickly cut the cord. Will gently cleansed the child’s body of the birth blood and mucus that covered it from the birth. He carefully wrapped the infant in a thermal blanket, then gave him to John to do the Apgar scoring.

"Is he all right, Will?" came the eternal mother’s question from a weary Karen.

"He’s fine. Just fine, Karen," was the reassuring reply from across the room.

Nelson stood next to his wife’s bed, holding her hand, watching the doctor and the corpsmen check the tiny creature. He smiled lovingly down at his wife. What a miracle he had just witnessed!!! Then Will Jamison approached them with a tiny bundle in his arms.

"Admiral Nelson, I think you ought to be the one to give this little one to his mother," Jamie softly spoke as he gently laid the newborn baby in his arms.

Nelson stood there as he gazed into his son’s eyes. Oh, my God. He’s so small. He gently played with his tiny fingers and the baby grasped the end of one finger and held on. Harry looked up at Will in appreciation and tears ran from his eyes. He then looked over at Karen as she lay there, reclining on the bed while the doctor set about the task of finishing up with the afterbirth delivery. He walked over slowly with the child and, after kissing him gently on the forehead, carefully put him in his mother’s arms.

Karen pulled the blanket back from the baby’s face to reveal a squinting, blue eyed, reddish blond baby boy. He was perfect. She lovingly performed the same ritual that mothers had done since the dawn of time...she counted each finger and each toe and she gently lay him on her chest as the minutes old child tried to raise its head to look at the form in front of it. Softly she stroked him and whispered his name so that he would know that it was his mother talking to him. She then looked up at her husband and saw that he was actually crying. Reaching up with one hand to place it on his cheek, she saw him mouth the words, I love you. Smiling at him, she then took his hand in hers and placed it on the baby as it lay at her breast.

Caitlin, in the meantime, had stood back to watch all of this take place. She had no wish to intrude on this most private of moments between her mother and the Admiral. She could now only imagine how her own father had felt the day she herself had been born. Watching in wonderment, Caitlin suddenly realized that her mother had called out very softly for her to come to the bed. Slowly walking over, she saw the face of her baby brother for the very first time.

"Caitlin, come meet your brother," Karen softly said, and then directed her comment to the gurgling infant. "Sean Pearce Nelson, this is your big sister, Caitlin Marie Davis. She’s going to be your guide throughout this world after we’re gone. Be nice to her....Caitlin, this is Sean Pearce Nelson, your little brother."

Caitlin gently stroked the child’s cheek with the back of her finger and smiled. Softly, in an almost hushed voice, she said to him, "Happy Birthday, Sean. Welcome to the family."

Will Jamison stood back from the scene and watched in wonder at the very miracle of birth. He somehow knew he was watching the continuation of a legacy taking place and that he was privileged to be a part of it.

 

 

In the meantime, up in the Control Room, Lee Crane and Chip Morton stood watch at the radar post with Kowalski as they watched the blip on the screen, trying to will it to change position and move away from their resting place. Their concentration was broken as an infant’s loud cry was broadcast boat wide over the intercom. At this point it didn’t matter if the freighter knew Seaview’s exact location. The boat was deep enough that standard depth charges couldn’t harm them. They would explode well before they ever came within reach of the sub.

As the cry was heard, the crew in the Control Room erupted in a mass of ‘All Right" until Crane quietened them down. Smiling to himself, he then quietly uttered a small prayer of thanks that Sean Nelson had made his entrance into this world safely. Now it was his job to see that he would make it back to the Institute in one piece so that the child could take his rightful place beside his father.

"Mr. Morton, what’s our current depth?"

"Fifteen hundred forty feet," Chip called out after consulting the Fathometer.

"All right. As soon as that freighter starts to leave, we hightail it for home at flank speed, understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Stay as deep as possible. I don’t want them to decide to come back for a second round. Let’s check the topography charts and see just how deep we can stay."

The two men went to the chart table and started checking. What they found was encouraging. They could stay pretty much below the thousand-foot level until about 100 miles off the coast of California. Then they could pretty much out race the freighter to the coast. Seaview’s top speed was easily faster than the freighter could make so they at least had the advantage. Lee Crane was angry. I’m going to find out how they knew where we were if it’s the last thing I do!! Under no circumstances did he want the newest addition to the Seaview family put into jeopardy. Standing at the plot table, absentmindedly drumming a pencil against the surface, Lee seemed lost in deep thought. Only one other person other than Angie knew the whole family was going to be aboard. It’s got to be Thompson. But I can’t believe that he’d...

"Lee?"

He whirled around and saw Chip standing next to him.

"Yes, Chip?"

"The freighter seems to be widening its path. Moving off, if you will. Looks like we might be able to make a break for it soon."

"Good! Let’s hope so. We need to get back to base ASAP. I need to have a talk with Mr. Thompson."

Things had quietened down a bit. There had been no more explosions for about 15 or 20 minutes so Lee thought he might slip down to pay his respects to the newest addition to the Nelson clan.

"Mr. Morton, you have the conn. I’m going to go down and see young master Nelson," he told Chip as he headed for the hatchway.

"Aye, Skipper...oh, and tell them ‘Congrats’ from us here, okay?"

"Sure will, Chip!" he called back.

As Crane headed for SickBay, he was remembering the day Robert was born. Cathy was so beautiful and Robert...Robert was perfect. A spark of sadness hit his heart as he remembered his beloved Cathy. As he neared the door to SickBay, he stopped for a moment and smiled to himself. Cats, I wish you could see this. The O.O.M. has had a son. And you thought he’d be a confirmed old bachelor. Karen took care of that, Cats. You’d have liked her. She’s his match in every way possible. Will stand up to him in a heartbeat. He took hold of the doorknob and started to open it. You know, Cats, somehow, I think that Robert and Sean are going to grow up to be good friends.

Stepping inside, he saw Will Jamison standing by the bed with at the head on one side and Nelson on the other. Karen was holding the infant in her arms as her daughter and husband fawned over the new arrival.

Harry looked up and saw his Captain standing quietly nearby. "Lee, come on over. I want you to meet your godson."

Crane looked at his mentor as he gently took the sleeping baby from his obliging mother and brought it to him. Walking over to where Lee was standing, Nelson then calmly laid the baby in his arms.  "Well, well, young master Nelson...it’s good to meet you finally. Happy Birthday," Lee gently and softly said as he fingered the child’s hand. Was Robert this small? It seems so long ago.

Caitlin walked over to him and gently pulled one corner of the blanket aside from the baby’s face. She looked up at Crane and was memorized by the tranquil look on his face. She realized he was probably thinking about his own son back at the Institute.

"He’s beautiful, isn’t he, Lee?" she asked in such a soft tone that he almost didn’t hear her.

Looking over at her, he was suddenly struck by the expression on her face. She was lovely, maternal. The smell of her...She was....No, what you’re thinking is wrong, Crane. She’s way too young!...Besides Cats hasn’t been gone that long...No, to think of this girl any other way but as a child is wrong!!!

Regaining his sensibility, he remarked, "Yes, he is. And you know, with deference to his beautiful mother, I do believe he looks an awful lot like his father."

"God, I hope not," came the laughing retort from Harriman Nelson.

"Ah, but he does favor you, Harriman," was the quick reply from his wife. "The red in that hair did not come from me, as you can plainly see. And I will wager that his eyes will stay blue. No, he looks like his father." She smiled at the scene before her and reveled in its wonder. Her daughter, a product of her first love, and her newborn son, the product of her second.

Crane walked over to the bedside and gently handed Sean back to his mother. She placed him next to her in the crook of one arm.  "Harriman’s right, Lee. We want you to be his godfather," she quietly told him as she lovingly stroked the child.

Lee looked a little shocked but gracefully accepted. "Thank you, Karen. I’d be very happy to."

"Good. And Caitlin will be his godmother," Karen added, looking at her daughter as she gently played with Sean’s fingers.

"Mom! Are you sure? I mean..."

"Yes, sweets. I’m perfectly sure. I know you. I know how you are and I know that you’re make sure that he’s okay," her mother reassuringly told her. "As soon as we get back to Santa Barbara, we’ll contact Father Bernard and set up a date for the christening. Besides, I have to get to Edith and see if she’s got some more of that family lace stashed away so that I can have a christening gown made for him."

Harriman looked at his wife and grinned. "Well, if anyone had it, it would be her. And I’ll wager that she’ll bring it here herself."

"Speaking of Edith, don’t you think you’d better tell her she’s an aunt?" Karen asked.

"Shortly. I will shortly. I’ll be right back," he replied and kissed her lightly on the forehead. Motioning for Lee to follow him, he walked over to the other end of the room.

"Did you find out what was going on earlier?" Nelson asked in a hushed tone as not to alarm the two women.

"The freighter that was topside was lobbing depth charges at us. There’s no doubt in my mind that it was the Cartel. I just want to find out how they knew where we were," Lee answered him in a hushed tone.

"They must have used some kind of tracking device. But how? The only place you went to was to the Institute and even then, you weren’t gone that long," Nelson replied. The two men tried to keep their voices low as not to upset the new mother and child.

"I’m going to have Sharkey go over the FS1 with a fine tooth comb and see if there’s anything aboard."

"Agreed."

Crane turned to go out the door and then stopped and looked back as Nelson returned to Karen’s bedside. The power of love is truly amazing.

 

 

Several hours later, Chief Sharkey and Kowalski came to Lee Crane as he stood at the plot desk in the Control Room. Sharkey laid a small circular disc, about two inches in diameter and one-half inch thick down on the table. Crane picked it up, turned it over, and then looked at the two men.

"Is this what I think it is?" he inquired suspiciously.

"A tracking device, sir...fairly long range too," Sharkey explained. "Found it on the outside of the FS-1's hull near the port fin. It was pretty well hid...took us quite a while before we ever found it. Whoever put it there knew exactly where to put it where it wouldn’t be found easily and wouldn’t be damaged."

"Are you saying that someone here put that thing on, Chief? ‘Cause if you are, you’re implying there’s a traitor on board," Morton asked as he stood looking at the transmitter. Turning it over, he looked closely at the markings on the back. What he saw stunned him.

"Lee, look at this, will you?" he said, handing him the device and a small magnifying glass.

Crane took it from his hand and peered through the glass...he then looked in amazement at Chip Morton. There was writing on the back, a serial number of some sorts, with ‘USN’ before it.

"United States Navy?!...This is a Navy tracking device?"

"Looks like it, Lee...Question is how did it get there and who put it there?"

Crane stared at the device in amazement. He had been willing to blame Norman Thompson for the breach in security...but now...now there was a very real possibility that someone back at the Institute was to blame.  "Chip, looks like we’ve got a rat in our mists and it’s back at the Institute..." he started to say just as Kowalski called out.

"Skipper, we’ve got company topside...Looks like that freighter’s back."

Lee turned to Morton and inquired, "What’s our depth?"

"We’re hugging the bottom now, Captain..." and about that time another explosion hit. The boat lunged sideways in reaction. Water and steam spewed from overhead pipes and sparks suddenly erupted from one of the boards near the main computer. Both were quickly contained by Control Room personnel.

"Damn!!! I wish I knew why they’re lobbing charges..." Crane shouted, the as if to answer his own question, he looked over at Morton as he was struggling to get off the floor. "The Cartel...it’s got to be...somehow, they’ve managed to put a tracking device on the FS-1 and tracked us here. Evasive maneuvers...and get rid of this damn thing!!!!"

"Yes sir!!!!" came Chip Morton’s reply and with one crushing blow, the device shattered.

"Take us up, Mr. Morton, to periscope depth...we’re going to lob some charges of our own. I’ve had enough of this!"

"Yes, sir," Chip replied and then into the mike..."Blow all ballasts, level off at 90 feet."

Crane took a position at the Periscope Island and waited. Once he felt the boat level, he looked over at Chip to get the confirmation that they were at periscope depth. The ‘scope was raised and Lee glued his eyes to the view. Slowly turning, he found the object he was searching for. About 2000 yards of Seaview’s starboard bow, lay a freighter still in the water.

"Mr. Morton, prepare torpedo tubes two and four. Fire on my mark."

"Aye, sir," he replied..."Missile room, prepare tubes two and four. Fire on the mark."

"Aye, sir" came the disembodied reply.

Lee slowly gave the course directions which Chip reported to the Missile Room. Once Crane was satisfied, he then said, "Fire!"

"Fire two and four," Morton replied calmly.

The boat shuttered slightly as both torpedoes were fired. Lee again glued his eyes to periscope and watched for the anticipated reaction. Within 15 seconds, the missiles found their mark...one dead center and the other one just aft of the bow. Flames immediately erupted and there were other numerous explosions.

Slamming the handles shut, he pushed the button to take the periscope down.

"Sparks, radio the Coast Guard and tell them that they have a freighter that exploded at these coordinates...then get Lt. Tommy Chin of the Institute’s Security Department on the line and patch him through to me in my cabin."

"Aye, sir."

Turning to Morton, he quietly said, "Take her up and pull the survivors out of the water. We’ll hold them ‘til the Coast Guard gets here. I don’t want them aboard any longer than necessary considering what just happened."

"Yes, sir," Chip agreed, and then said, "You going to tell the Admiral?"

"I’ll have to...no choice...you know he’s going to demand to know what went on just now. But I also want Tommy Chin to know that there’s still a rat at the Institute. Hopefully, he’ll be able to trap him before we get back in...Now, I’m going to SickBay and check on the newest member of this crew...and my godson!"

 

 

The next day, Seaview sailed quietly and gracefully back into the Santa Barbara Channel. As she was brought along dockside, Chin and his security team stood by to board the gray submarine. There was a flurry of activity as word reached the Institute of the birth of Sean Pearce Nelson. Nelson and Chin both had conferred and agreed that general word of the birth would be withheld until Seaview had cleared the channel and was docked.

Down below, Nelson was helping Karen get ready to disembark with Sean. Caitlin would leave ahead of them to ready the house and word had reached them that Edith Nelson, Harriman’s sister, was en route from Boston, at this very moment.

Tommy Chin appeared with Lee Crane in SickBay to confer with Nelson. As Caitlin packed her mother’s things and Karen stood beside her husband, Chin reported that they had found the person responsible for planting the device on the FS-1. Apparently one of the underground docking crew had a drug problem that hadn’t been detected with security’s routine random drug screening. From what Chin’s interrogators had been able to find out, the man was caught in a drugged stupor and ‘persuaded’ to plant the tracking device or he would be killed. He also apparently owed his pusher quite a bit of money, so the prospect of living and the debt being forgiven in exchange for planting the device had been too much for him. Unfortunately, he didn’t know who had given the orders, only that a Hispanic male had ‘suggested’ that he cooperate with his superiors. He also had no idea as to how property of the U.S. Navy had come into these people’s possession.

Once the briefing was finished, the Nelsons were ready to disembark for home. With the Admiral leading the way, Karen and little Sean, along with Caitlin, exited the boat. As they came through the hatchway at the bottom of the sail, the entire crew, dressed in formal dress attire, snapped to attention. As the family walked through the column of white, the baby started to wail, quite loudly. Karen smiled and said to Harriman in a voice loud enough to be heard by one and all, "Sounds just like his father when he’s angry."

At which point, the entire crew erupted into laughter and cheers as the family made their way across the gangway to a waiting car.

 

 

The office was silent in the large house overlooking Bogota. Miguel Rodriguez sat, silent, looking out over the grounds of the estate. Juan Carlos Santiago stood nearby, a smoking 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson automatic pistol, equipped with a silencer, in his hand. Rodriguez was almost tranquil, save for the single bullet hole in the middle of his forehead, a trickle of blood running down across his left eye. They had just received the news about the sinking of the freighter he had charged with the complete destruction of Seaview. Miguel had gone totally ballistic, mad almost, ranting and raving about the incompetence of the crew and her captain...that he would have their heads as well as those aboard Seaview. Juan had tried to calm him, but Miguel had been so enraged that he struck Juan across the face. Juan knew then that he was totally out of control and what he must do to rectify the matter. The elders had given him an order...no real choice in the matter...and he now knew that they were right. If Miguel was not stopped, he would cause the utter and total destruction of them all.

After Miguel struck him in his rage, Juan had recovered and glared at him. Silently, he went to his car, removed the pistol from the glove box, screwed on the silencer, and placed it under his coat. No one questioned him...no one stopped him...after all, he was Miguel’s protector...his right hand man.

Juan entered the office with Miguel still in a tyrannical rage. He had never seen the younger man in such a state...but still, he knew what must be done.

He had beckoned Miguel to sit down, to calm down before his rage alarmed the children. Moving around to the window very slowly, Juan coaxed the younger man down into his chair. When he finally had him seated, and calm, Juan turned his back to Miguel and slowly withdrew the gun from under his coat. Turning quickly around as not to arouse his suspicion, Juan quickly put the muzzle of the gun to Miguel’s forehead. His eyes wide with amazement and fright, he started to protest but the words died in his throat as a ‘THUD’ sounded against his temple. The eyes widened with a split second recognition of what had just happened and his body then slumped back against the back of the chair.

Juan stood back and looked down at the gun and then at Miguel. There...it’s done...the older ones will now be safe.

He then picked up the telephone and dialed a number to another home in the northern part of Colombia. An older man answered the phone.

"It is done...it’s over," he said to the man, somewhat dispassionately.

"Miguel is dead?"

"Yes," Juan Carlos Santiago flatly said. "He’s dead."

The other man simply said nothing in response and then hung up.

 

 

The news spread like wildfire throughout the country. The leader of the Rodriguez Cartel, Miguel Rodriguez, was dead. An assassin had killed him with but one bullet to the brain. The people in the villages below his great house mourned him...he had been good to them, they said. He had given them food, medicines, and doctors. What were they going to do, they wondered...what would happen to them. Juan Carlos Santiago assumed control of the Rodriguez Cartel and assured those below that the benevolence would continue but that the recent vendettas against certain people would cease.

 

 

A white telephone rang in an elaborately decorated office in an immense office building in Langley, Virginia. An attractive young woman dressed in white answered it, then handed it to the man behind the massive white desk.

"Our end of the bargain has been completed," the heavily accented voice said on the other end of the telephone.

"So I heard...so I heard. Good...And this end will also be honored as well. Just remembered, the woman AND her family are never to be harmed by your people. Is that clear? Or else, I’ll have to consider this ‘agreement’ of ours null and void," said the man sitting behind the desk

"You will straddle the line one too many times, my white suited friend...and then what will you do?"

"That’s my business, Tomas...not yours."

The man hung up the telephone and leaned back in his white leather chair. Contemplating the news, he then picked up a folder from among the many which lay on his expansive desk. The front jacket read 'Admiral Joel McKenna, U.S.N.' One problem had been taken care of...the second, however, would prove to be much more difficult.

 

 

Three days after Seaview had docked, Norman Thompson came to see Harriman Nelson in his office at the Institute, clearly confused and agitated. Clad in dark blue jeans and a white collarless shirt, he contrasted heavily with Nelson, who sat before him at his expansive desk in a dress blue uniform.

"You said you wanted to see me, Mr. Thompson. I hope it’s good news," Nelson mused, sitting back in his overstuffed leather chair behind his desk.

"Yes, sir...it is...in a way, I guess. We’ve just gotten word that Miguel Rodriguez is dead. Killed with one bullet straight to the forehead at point blank range. His right hand man, Juan Carlos Santiago, has assumed control of the cartel. Now here’s the weird thing...Santiago has called off the vendetta against the Seaview and the Institute. We understand that he feels that the cartel needs to point its resources in a better direction," Thompson told him as he sat opposite him. "Quite frankly, we’re a bit stumped...The only way someone could have killed Rodriguez like that is for it to have been one of his own people...And we suspect it might just have been Santiago himself who pulled the trigger."

"I assume that you can’t confirm that it was Santiago who killed him?"

"No, sir...but if I were a betting man...odds would be in favor of it."

Nelson leaned forward and looked at the younger man sitting in front of him. There was something else on his mind as well.  "Is there anything else?" Harriman inquired, watching the man carefully.

"Just that...I’ve been taken off the Rodriguez Cartel case and posted permanently back to Washington. The Director said that since Miguel is dead, there’s no reason for me to be out in the field. Somehow I feel that there’s more to it than that."

"Well, he’s probably right..."

"Yeah, but have you ever had the feeling that you’ve had the rug yanked right out from under you by somebody else for some other reason than what was stated?"

"Yes, Mr. Thompson...there have been times that I have," Nelson slowly agreed as he showed the younger man out the door.

 

 

Several months later, in the front of the Mission Santa Barbara, Father Bernard christened Sean Pearce Nelson in the presence of his proud parents, his godparents, his Aunt Edith, and the entire crew of the Seaview. The child, clad in a long white christening gown made from Nelson family heirloom lace, slept throughout most of the ceremony; that is...until the holy water was poured over his head and then he let out with a very loud cry.

At the end of the ceremony, those attending were invited to come up and bless the infant. As the crew filed up, Karen glanced to the back of the church where she saw some slight movement near the doorway. Recognizing the figure dressed in white standing there in the shadows, she smiled slightly and nodded, even though she couldn’t understand why he would be here.

The man moved slightly from the shadows to acknowledge her smile. He silently returned it in kind as he leaned slightly on his silver handled cane for support. Satisfied that she was now happy and safe, he turned and slowly walked away.

 

 

At the reception later that afternoon, Caitlin stood holding her little brother as he slept peacefully. Looking out over the ocean from the deck outside the Nelson home, she couldn’t help but feel that little Sean was destined to be here. Her mother then joined her and took the child from her daughter’s arms. Watching him sleep peacefully in her mother’s arms, Caitlin asked, "Was I ever that small?"

Karen laughed softly, "M’dear, you were smaller...but you more than made up for it in other ways."

"Well, he couldn’t ever do a thing wrong, Mom...he looks like an angel sleeping there."

"Yeah...well...tell that to Harriman...he’s been the one getting up at night when he cries. I go in the nursery in the morning and find them both sound asleep in the rocker. You’d think Sean is doing it deliberately to get his father in there."

Caitlin lightly stroked the sleeping child’s hair and grinned, "This little sea angel...no way...he wouldn’t hurt his mother’s feelings by preferring his dad to his mom...now would you, Seanny?"

 

 

Later that night, as the rest of the house slept, Harriman Nelson tossed and turned restlessly in bed. Finally, not wanting to awaken Karen, he got up and, without thinking, found himself wandering into the darkened nursery. Guided only by the small nightlight on the opposite wall from the crib, he silently walked over and peered down at his son. Smiling to himself, he was amazed to find that the child was actually awake and gazing back up at him.

"So, you can’t sleep either, eh? Well, Sean, how about going outside for a bit and let’s see if that will get us both sleepy? Okay?" he softly talked to the child as he gently picked him up and, after grabbing a blanket to protect him from the night air, proceeded to quietly walk out to the deck just off the great living room.

The full moon cast its pale silver light on the calm sea that night...there was only a slight warm breeze coming in off the water. Harry held the child in his arms and leaned up against the railing. Sean made no effort to cry, the only sound he made was an occasional cooing as he moved his tiny body in response to his father’s movements.

Looking down at the child in the moonlight, Nelson was struck at how fragile the child appeared, yet the baby looked up at him with total and absolute trust and love. He remembered the day not three months earlier when Will Jamison laid the tiny, squirming, minutes old creature into his arms. Bending his head slightly, he softly planted a kiss on the baby’s forehead and looked into the child’s blue eyes that were almost identical in color to his own. Sean’s tiny hands played with his father’s face and Nelson’s lips gently touched his son’s fingers.

"How did I get so lucky, Sean? First your mother...and now...you. You know...I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day you were born," he talked softly to the smiling child. "You, like your mother, have a thing for making a memorable entrance into a person’s life, don’t you?"

Walking over to one of the patio chairs, he sat down and laid the child face up on his lap, then gently took hold of both of Sean’s hands. The baby instinctively grasped his fingers, holding on tightly and gave his father a huge smile.

"So, Sean, what will it be? Will you go to sea like your old man here? Will you head to the lab...or maybe follow your mother? You know, your mother’s quite a lady...and you’ve got a pretty great big sister, too. They’ll both watch out for you when I’m gone." Harry’s eyes misted over a bit as he thought for a moment, then continued, "I never thought I’d ever be so lucky to find your mother...or that we’d ever have you. But here you are, aren’t you? Turning our lives upside down...but you know, Sean, you’ve got it all ahead of you. I hope I’m here to see most of it."

He picked up the child from his lap and held him to his shoulder. With the other hand, he pulled the blanket over the child and softly patted him on the back, gently rocking as he did so, and singing softly to him. In a short amount of time, the child was sleeping soundly, nestled contently in his father’s arms, and Harriman Nelson was left to contemplate the events of his life and those wonderful, but hectic, ones that were yet to come.

 

 

The End...but then again, it’s only beginning...

 

 

Note: I would like to gratefully acknowledge the following websites for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the United States Department of State for their information and for all statistics included in this story.

 

http://www.usdoj.gov/dea/programs/epic.htm

http://www.state.gov/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admiral and Mrs. Harriman Nelson

Proudly Announce the

Birth of Their

Son

Sean Pearce Nelson

February 26

7 lb. 11 oz.

22 inches long

The family will reside

At

The Nelson Institute Of Marine Research

Santa Barbara, California

 

 

 

 

 

FEEDBACK STORY PAGE
   
HOME

Hit Counter

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea tm ©, 20th Century Fox, and the Irwin Allen Foundation and its related companies, all rights reserved. Any reproduction, duplication, or distribution in any form is expressly prohibited. This web site, its operators and any content contained on this site relating to Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea tm © are not authorized by Fox.

Michael Coldsmith Briggs, III appears courtesy of Belisarius Productions and Universal Studios.