Tests

By

Linda Delaney

 

He lay there, in the cold, semi-darkness of his cabin. The only thing he knew at this point in time was pain! It wasn't centered in any one part of his body, it coursed through him from all directions, not localized, but all encompassing. It didn't help to try and focus on who he was or where he was, because the pain blocked out all things, real and unreal! Unbidden, a face jarred across his fading consciousness. Even in his pain-racked state, he shuddered at the appearance of the man... Evil...pure evil!! He heard the laughter...he felt the impact of the gunshots.... and he fell in a down-turning spiral, spinning, spinning, spinning...!!!!

Seaview tried to cry out!! Her heart was in pain!!! Her heart!!!!

 

 

EARLIER...

Lee Crane stood at the plot table and looked around his Control Room. If he had to plot one more set of vectors for the trenches, in the Pacific, off the Galapagos Islands, he would be ready to go back to the Navy! For all of Harriman Nelson's brilliance, he couldn't understand why his Captain and crew would chafe at the monotonous patterns of charting, charting, charting! He found it invigorating to study the changes that he saw in the ocean bottom.

One look at Crane's face and you knew that he found it less exciting. So when Harriman Nelson came bounding down the spiral stairs into the boat's 'front porch' with a gleam in his eye, Crane rolled his eyes in exasperation, save me from mad scientists, and placed a benign smile on his face at Nelson's robust greeting.

"Lee! Here's a change in course! Implement it right away! We're picking up three scientists at these co-ordinates!" he marked it on the chart on the Plot table, and Lee looked at it carefully.

The position he marked was a group of atolls south/southwest of their current location. "Admiral, we don't have any research stations in that area."

"These scientists haven't been at that location for that long a time. It's a relatively new site.. We've been studying the changes in salinity at that site for the last year with automatic equipment and last month when the differences became more dramatic, we put a team there. They think that they have found a reason for the changes and they want to analyze the results. Give me an ETA based on flank speed and location?"

Lee took the maps and calibrators and ran a few figures and calculations and looked at the Admiral. "Roughly 2 hours sir."

"Good, good...I'll be in the lab, if you need me...there are some preliminary findings to work on!"

"I'll inform you when we arrive at the co-ordinates, sir."

"Very well, Lee. Have Sharkey make sure the guest quarters are policed and ready for our visitors."

"Aye, sir." Nelson went aft to the lab and Lee bent his head over the plot table, adjusting the course on the map. He shook his head, amused at the Admiral's enthusiasm for his new project. He hoped that it would give a lift to the crew as well. They certainly could use a change of pace, and visitors on the boat always gave the crew a new point of view!

 Two hours later, Seaview surfaced off the atoll. Crane and Morton stood on the Flying Bridge, binoculars in hand. They easily made out the small shelter on the small coral island. Crane smiled and looked at his XO, shaking his head, "No amount of scientific curiosity could make me spend any time on a hunk of coral like that!"

Morton agreed, "Me either! A rubber raft in a storm would be more welcome! Look, there are our passengers! "

Three men stood on the edge of the atoll waving their hands frantically.

"Edwards, signal that we're coming ashore! Mr. Morton, launch the raft, and send the landing party ashore!"

"Aye, sir!"

Morton left the tower and led the detail to pick up the scientists. As the raft touched the beaching area, the three men began talking at once, demanding Nelson and information, and creating a general havoc until Morton bellowed..."Quiet!” He paused, giving the men his best XO look. “We'll answer all your questions and give you all the information we have, as soon as we get you and your equipment on the boat...." he turned to Paterson and Riley, "Get the equipment into the raft, and then help these gentlemen board it!...And let's move it!"

The Seaview men speedily loaded the raft and within twenty minutes, the craft, with passengers and equipment, was returning to the boat. Once they reached the side of the boat, they loaded the equipment and the scientists on the boat and quickly stowed the gear.

In the Control Room the scientists introduced themselves to the Admiral and the Senior Staff...Dr. Garrett Bernard led the party in the introductions.

Bernard was a name that Lee and Chip had heard Nelson speak of before. A noted Marine Biologist, Oceanographer, and Ichthyologist, he was in his fifties and was an equal of Harriman Nelson when it came to scientific accomplishments. His two companions, were Dr. Andrew Walsh and Dr. Martin Godwin. Both men were tops in their fields of Oceanography and Cartography. All three of the men were beside themselves about the results of their studies, and they couldn't wait to huddle with Nelson in his lab.

Lee hadn't seen the Admiral this relaxed and yet excited since before the incident with Dr. Gamma in Africa. He was pleased for the older man. Some of Nelson's old spark had returned with this mission and both he and Chip had been pleased to see it. Crane couldn't help but smile at the O.O.M.'s zeal for the project.

Nelson clapped his Captain on the shoulder, "Let's head for home, Lee. We have a lot to do in the lab. You'll find me there with our guests.

 

 

Seaview felt the evil when it set foot on her deck...these men meant to harm some one... Her heart....her soul...her being...one or all of them were the target of the evil... they were in danger... she didn't know which one... she didn't know why.....she had to stop this evil that had invaded her ... the evil... it was so strong!!!!!

 

 

Harriman Nelson was in the element he enjoyed the most. Research! On his boat. No worlds to save, tyrants to defeat, aliens to challenge...Just research!

Science at its best and purest!! research...to help the world.. to aid the future... and they were not on the hub of an earth shattering discovery, but then who knew where it would lead! He was impressed by Bernard's easy command of the work, and how the man took charge of the project when the prior director had been taken ill. But with all of Bernard's credentials, Nelson shouldn't have been surprised. Why he possessed almost as many awards as Nelson had!!!

Garrett Bernard was hunched over the lab table several bottles of seawater labeled and in front of him. His associates stood at either side of him. He looked up at Nelson as the Admiral approached, and smiled. For a moment, Harriman Nelson was uneasy with the man, but the moment passed.

"I know that smile," he thought, and then dismissed the idea....where would he have seen that smile on Bernard's face before? he'd just met the man...'still...'He shook his head to clear away the idea. "Well, Doctor, gentlemen, do the accommodations please you?"

"Why yes, Admiral, they are most impressive...I've never seen so much room on a submarine before! Not that I've been aboard many submarines, however your boat is impressive! And your facilities here are the most advanced I've seen in a long time, at least in the public sector!"

Nelson grinned broadly, pleased that a fellow scientist would compliment the boat so grandly. "Thank you, Bernard! Now about the project, what are the preliminary reports?"  He handed Nelson a sheaf of papers, "Here, Nelson, look at these results..."

 As the boat moved toward her home port, the lab became a hotbed of activity, with the three scientists and Nelson furiously analyzing and doing further tests of the findings. It had been an uneventful cruise, doing the trench chartings, and now returning the scientists to the Institute, and the crew, for a change, had very little to do other than standard duties.

As the DELTA watch prepared to take their places at 2400, the scientists and Nelson left the lab and sought their quarters in order to rest for the following day's work. Bernard, Walsh and Godwin had been assigned quarters in Officers' Country adjacent to Cranes' cabin. Bernard thought that it was good fortune that the assignments had worked out so well.…

 

 

Seaview felt the evil continue to move about her... it was close to her heart! Too close...she searched for a way to let him know, to tell him of the evil....but there didn't seem to be a way! How could she let him know?....

 

 

Lee Crane walked the corridors of 'his' boat. It was his custom, before retiring, to walk the boat to make sure that all was well and she was ready to be shut down, as much as a boat could be, for the night. She worked hard to do her job and she did it well, and Lee had learned early on in his career, that if you treated the 'lady' well, she would take care of you. As he walked the quiet corridors of the boat, he frequently touched the bulkheads, maintaining that connection that he believed that a good Captain should have with his boat. Satisfied that all was in order, he checked his watch...0047... and decided to turn in for the night.

 

 

Garrett Bernard looked at himself in the mirror and smiled. A job well done!! No one has had any clue as to who I really am!! What fools!!! I must commend my surgeon and artists when I see them again! It's too bad the 'real' Bernard didn't live to see how perfect my impersonation of him is! Then again, it was such a pleasure to watch him die, so painfully! Pain is such a pleasure! And now to Nelson, and to begin my lovely plan...!! He rubbed his hands together in delight, and went to the door of the cabin and looked out. Seeing no one, he went to the cabin next to his, the one that had been assigned to his co workers, tapped once on the door and entered.

"Is all ready?"

"Yes, Doctor. Walsh and I have prepared all that you need. Here's the gun. Our escape will take place from the pressure hatch. Our transport has arrived in the immediate area, and the shielding is in full operation... We have been in contact and they are waiting, just out of the range of the sub's detection devices. We will be able to get off the boat and to it as soon as you are ready!"

"Very good...Very Good indeed! let us begin! "

The three men cautiously left their cabin and made their way to Crane's cabin. Bernard knocked, and finding no response, he tried the door. Unlocked, as was the Seaview's officers practice, the three men entered and closed the door behind them, and prepared, waiting for Crane to come to his cabin...!

They didn't have too long to wait.

Once the Captain had finished his tour of the boat, he hurried to the his cabin. Perhaps he could grab 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep for a change! Then he remembered the pile of paper work on his desk, and groaned inwardly.

'Well, maybe 4 hours' he thought. He grabbed the knob of the door, opened it and blackness crashed in on him....

 

 

Seaview wanted to cry out! Her heart.... something was happening to her heart!....

 

 

Lee Crane felt like he was suspended in air... his mouth was dry, and there was something in it and it was also stopping him from swallowing! He came to consciousness slowly, trying to determine what was happening to him!

"Greetings Captain Crane! I do apologize for not following proper protocol regarding visits to the Captain's quarters, but I had a good reason for being here before you, as you can tell! I have a score to settle with your commanding officer, Captain, and you are going to pay the price for him!"

Two men held Crane tightly in their grip. His tormentor smiled evilly at him.

"Well Captain, how would you suggest that I begin this? " He waved the gun around he room. "I have a silencer so that no one will hear the discharge."

Crane realized that the voice was a cold and dispassionate one.

"And that gag that my associates have placed in your mouth will prevent you from making any unnecessary noises." He waved the gun again. "I think a number of wounds, rather than one single fatal one that will allow you to die very slowly.... I like that!"

He fired the gun at Crane's shoulder, the gun whuffed almost silently, and as Lee reacted to the impact of the shot he continued his tirade, "Slowly, so that you can be aware as your life's blood leaks away!'' He laughed maniacally. "And then the Admiral will have more guilt to live with. If I didn't put him over the edge the last time, this should do it...!"

He fired at Lee again, hitting him in the thigh and laughing as Crane sagged against the grip of the men holding him. Seaview 's Captain looked at the gunman with eyes beginning to be glazed by pain. His captor fired the gun again and again at him, emptying the gun. His captors' accomplices finally released their hold, and Crane crumpled to the floor, bleeding from the bullet wounds, barely aware that he was even being released.

His captor bent over him, and hissed, "You want to know what I want, Crane... Simple...I want you to die .... painfully, slowly and alone! No comfort...! no relief...! NO HOPE!!! I want Nelson to be in pain over the death of his friend, the man who is closer to him than a son. He'll learn that you were here all along. That you slowly bled to death in your cabin, while the boat went on its way. There's no hope for you! You're off watch and there's no one going to bother the 'Skipper' while he's sleeping. 'Sleeping' his way to oblivion, Captain. The gag will stay there, you're too badly wounded to even lift your arms and if you could, they're too damaged for you to use. I only regret that I couldn't make it more painful for you, Captain. I would have enjoyed that! But this does work very well for me! You're going to die, Captain Crane! You're going to die! And I will enjoy the knowledge that I caused your pain! Every minute of it!!"

His arms, his shoulders, his hands.... pounding throbbing pain, as if the pain itself was alive within him...His legs, his hips his side...slowly oozing blood, his life's essence...his uniform, soaked, stained bright red..... and laughter...insane laughter echoing the words 'alone...die alone...'

 

 

Chip Morton paced the Control Room. The DELTA Watch - he always found this the most unpleasant- it was usually the most quiet, with the least to do, and this cruise, it was his swing! Simply put, it was the most boring and he had drawn the short straw...He had to figure out a way to get O'Brien to draw it the next time!

Chip paced back and forth again - he was uneasy tonight. or this morning...it was only 0130 . Something was not right! He couldn't put his finger on it, but his sixth sense told him that there was something amiss on the Seaview and he had to find out what it was. He picked up the mike. "All watch Chiefs, this is the Exec! I want a report from all of you in twenty minutes of your stations. Any problems should be duly reported! "

He walked down the Control Room and checked all the instrumentation again. Everything was performing at peak, yet he still knew something was off! Several crewmen looked up in askance, at the speakers as the Exec made the announcement. 'Why in Neptune's depths did the Exec order a department check at this hour?' Oh, well...If Morton ordered it, and they could do it, then it would be done! XO's and their idiosyncrasies!

When Chip heard from the Chiefs, there was nothing new in their reports.. All systems are up and running at top efficiency! He was satisfied the boat was running well. Still why did he feel that there was something wrong?

 

 

The laughter had stopped...all sound had ceased, save for the steady thrumming of the engines...there was a single light over the bed that reflected garishly on the growing pool of red on the floor surrounding the body that lay there....his cheek lay against the cold steel... he felt the vibration of movement...she was calling to him to be one with her, but he didn't hear her...hardly felt her...there was nothing but the pain...there was nothing but the aloneness of it all...he was alone....all alone as he sank into the pain.…

 

 

Somewhere in the Seaview that pain was felt and the boat shuddered, as if in sympathy. Her heart was in pain...she needed to help him !!

 

 

Chip Morton felt the boat shudder - He was puzzled - If all systems were at their best, where did that shudder come from? - He started at Nelson's voice on the Com. "Control Room, this is the Admiral - Mr. Morton?"

"Aye, sir?"

"What was that?"

"I... don't know sir. I boat is fine, sir. There was no reason for whatever that was! But..."

"Something still feels wrong!... I'll be right down, Chip!"

Morton hung up the mike and stared out the nose - there were tiny fingers of ice prickling at the back of his neck - He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong - very wrong! Maybe Nelson could find what it was!

The O.O.M. came down the spiral stairs from Officers Country. He looked alert, but rumpled - probably from reading in his bunk without bothering to change.

"Any ideas about what caused that?"

"No, sir, none at all."

"Any word from Lee?"

"No, sir. If he's sleeping, he may not have even felt that."

Nelson quirked an eyebrow. "Lee Crane would feel a change on the boat, even of he was unconscious! ... Strange that we haven't heard from him! ... has Sharkey reported in yet?"

"No sir. He's off watch as well."

At that moment, Chief Francis Sharkey, entered the Control Room, buttoning the last two buttons of his uniform shirt as he stepped over the sill. "Mr. Morton, sir - what was that with the boat?"

"That's what we were about to try and find out, Chief."

Nelson looked at Sharkey, "Then you felt it too, Francis?"

'Aye, Admiral...Like she was trying to shake something off, or shake something up...maybe the couplings in the propulsion valves…or a miss in the reactor circuits?"

He was hopeful, but a bit doubtful. "Begging the Admiral's pardon, but maybe the Skipper could......."

"We haven't heard from the Skipper, Chief."

Sharkey looked at Nelson, his large, beagle - like eyes getting even larger in disbelief,. " Not heard from the Skipper, Admiral? Why that's not like him at all! I'd expect him to be here right after this happened."

"Admiral, Chief, just wait a minute! We all know that Lee's been having difficulty sleeping, well, maybe Jamie gave him something to help him sleep.Some of Doc's potions are pretty powerful!" Nelson and Sharkey looked knowingly at each other and the Exec. " Sharkey, lay aft to the Sick Bay and get Doc Jamison. Find out if he's seen the Captain, and if he gave him anything to help him sleep, and make it fast!"

"Aye, sir!" he said to the Admiral.

Morton picked up the mike, "Patterson, Kowalski lay up to the Control Room on the double! Master at Arms, report to the Control Room!" A chorus of 'Aye, sirs' followed. "Admiral, may I suggest the you and I start with a thorough recheck of the boats' systems, and we start in the Reactor Room, now!"

Nelson gave a curt nod of his head, and Morton picked up the mike at the plot table.

"Mr. O'Brien!"

A sleepy voice answered, "O'Brien here, sir."

"Bob, report to the Control Room, now. We need you to take the con."

"Aye, sir!" was the reply, crisper and sharper than before, "I'll be right there!"

And true to his word, the junior officer reported to the Control Room in less than two minutes.

"Bob, we seem to have a problem with the boat - The Admiral and I will be in the Reactor Room - you have the Con - Hold her sure and steady on course and we'll keep you appraised of our progress."

The Master-at-Arms entered "Yes, sir"

"Dickson, I want guards posted at the guest quarters and do not let our visitors in an other area of the ship, than the galley, the labs, and their quarters. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir!"

As he left, Patterson and Kowalski appeared in the Control Room "Reporting as ordered, sir"

"Come with the Admiral and me - we're going to the Reactor Room to take the circuits apart if we have to find out what caused that....what ever it was.."

Morton headed aft, followed by Nelson and the senior ratings.

 

 

In the cabin, blood continued to seep from the many wounds. The edges of the crimson pool began to turn brown as it dried there on the floor. The pain was omnipresent, but the dark, empty was creeping in, there was nothing... nothing .... but the pain .....and the dark, and the dark was growing..... He was alone.....alone...

 

 

The boat shuddered a second time - her heart! Her heart was in such pain, and he was leaving her, the connection between them growing weaker! He didn't hear her call out to him - She couldn't go on with out her heart! She had to help him!

 

 

The shudder of the boat caused the four men to pause. It wasn't so noticeable, yet it was there. They all exchanged a knowing look, and then continued to move along the corridor.

Francis Sharkey felt it too - he looked around the corridor where he was standing, and then secure in the knowledge that there was no one around, he patted the bulkhead, and in a soft voice said "Easy girl, we'll find out what's wrong with you! Easy." He then quickly put his hands in his pockets, and continued down the corridor. He came to the Sick Bay and knocked and opened the door. The only light was over each of the empty bunks. Jamison was no where to be found, so Sharkey closed the door and continued on to Officer's country and Jamison's quarters. Doc's cabin was near to the Skipper's and the Exec's. As he passed by Cranes' doorway he stopped, and raised his hand to knock, thought about it and decided to try the door and peek in instead. It couldn't hurt to check on the Skipper - just to make sure- He tried the door and found it locked.

"That's funny, the Skipper doesn't lock his door unless... well. it is his cabin!"

He approached Will Jamison's door, knocked and waited. Then he knocked a second time, and a very weary Jamison opened the door as he shrugged on his robe -

"Sorry, Doc, Mr. Morton's orders. He wants to know if the Skipper has been in to see you and if you gave him medication to help him sleep?"

"Why Chief, I haven't seen the Skipper since we picked up the scientists.What's this all about?"

"Well, Doc, the boat's been acting a little funny and the Exec expected to hear from the Skipper and he hasn't and he's a little worried and well, ya know, Doc.."

"As I said, Chief, I haven't seen Lee or given him anything." he tied the belt on the robe, and put a hand on Sharkey's shoulder, "Let's see what the Skipper has to say, Chief!"

"His door's locked, Doc!"

An alarm bell went off in the doctor's head. "Lee never locks his door!"

"I know that sir, but it is!"

"Call the Exec, Chief, and let's get to Lee's cabin!"

Sharkey reached for the intercom on Doc's Desk. "Mr. Morton, this is Chief Sharkey, I'm in the Doc's cabin, sir."

"Go ahead, Chief!"

"It's a 'no' to your questions about the Captain, sir. Doc and I think that you'd better come forward right away, sir. There's something else."

Dead silence on the other end of the speaker followed by "I'm on my way!"

Sharkey tried the door a second time, as Will Jamison stood behind him. "It won't budge, sir!"

"Alright, Chief, then we'll wait for the Exec." And they didn't have long to wait. Chip Morton came down the corridor at a dead run, followed by Nelson and the senior ratings.

"What is it, Chief?"

"Admiral, the Skipper's cabin door is locked. Doc and I have tried to open it, but no luck sir! "

Nelson reached into his pocket, and took out his master key. He tried it in the door, and found to his dismay that it wouldn't turn in the lock. He knocked and then hammered on the door.

"Lee! Lee! Open the door! Lee! " A note of panic crept into the Admiral's voice, not unnoticed by the Exec and the Doc. Morton put a steadying hand on the older man's shoulder.

"Admiral, let's let Ski and Pat here take the door, sir. We can blow the lock, " he nodded to Kowalski, and the rating headed aft for the needed equipment. Morton stepped back and Nelson continued to stare at the door.

Nelson seemed far away from the corridor at that moment. Chip spoke to him, "Admiral ?"

He snapped out of his reverie, "Oh...uh...yes, Chip?"

"I'm sure Lee's ok, sir! Just a jammed door and a deep sleeper!" he laughed half heartedly and the Admiral asked him, "Now you really don't believe that any more than I do, do you?"

"What other explanation can there be, sir?"

Nelson's answer was cut off by the return of Kowalski with a small electronic device to blow the lock. He looked over at the two senior officers. With a nod from the Admiral, Kowalski set to work at the door. By placing several wires on and around the knob and sending a small charge through the wires, he was able to blow it open.. He stepped aside and let the senior officers and the doctor take charge of the situation.

Morton made the door ahead of Nelson and Jamison by half a step. With a glance at the other two officers, he slowly opened the door. "Something has to be wrong! Lee wouldn't sleep through a small explosion like that! Something's definitely wrong!"

The room was dark, save for the light above the bed. As Chip stood in the doorway, he looked around the cabin. The desk blocked the view of the floor on the other side of the cabin. The doors to the closet and the Head were closed. There was no sign of the Captain. "Lee? Lee, are you in here?"

There was no answer. He hit the light switch and looked around the room more carefully, taking a few more steps inside he looked around the other side of the desk and stopped.

 "Lee!!!"

He moved quickly and fell to his knees out of the view of Nelson and Jamison. The two older men, alarmed by the tone and cry from the Exec, quickly followed him, and stopped dead at the sight before them. Chip Morton was kneeling in a pool of blood next to the body of Seaview's Captain!

Lee Crane lay on the floor of the cabin, face down, all around him a wide pool of red - brown blood. His uniform was no longer Khaki, but the same red-brown color! He was literally blood soaked. There was a cloth gag stuffed into his mouth. The only part of his body that was clean and untouched, was his head and face.

Chip had no idea of what to do ... what to touch... where to touch. He felt frozen in time and space After Jamison reacted to the horror of what was in front of him, his Medical training took over.

"Chip!" He barked at the Exec, "Get that gag off." Jamison joined Morton on the floor, and felt for a pulse in the neck. For one heart stopping moment, he couldn't find it, but with determination, he found a slight one. By this time, both he and Morton were bloodied from the blood on the floor, and on Crane. Slowly and gently the two men rolled the Captain's body onto his back and the doctor began to examine him. In the corridor, Kowalski and Patterson stood waiting for the corpsmen that they had summoned.

All the while, Harriman Nelson stood watching, in absolute horror. He couldn't fathom what had taken place here. ‘All the blood...Lee's blood...All over ...all over!!!’

Will Jamison had no idea of even what he was looking for as he bent over Lee Crane's blood soaked body --- 'Wounds' --- he knew there had to be some kind of wound or wounds. Lee's body was limp, lifeless, as Chip tried to hold him to let him know that help had arrived! Jamison was becoming more and more appalled as he found bullet wound after bullet wound in the Captain's body. He had counted six in his upper body alone, four with the bullets still in the wounds! “We have to get Lee to Sick Bay, now! Where in the hell are the corpsmen?” At that, the corpsmen arrived, and the Medical team began to move as one - with Morton still supporting Crane's head and chest, he was given oxygen, IV's were started, with plasma and fluid, and carefully, very carefully, they began to move him to the stretcher being held by Patterson and Kowalski - Morton helped lift the Captain and then stood back as he was settled on the stretcher.

Jamison followed the stretcher and Morton put a hand on Nelson's arm. When the Admiral pulled away, Chip looked down and saw his bloodied hands and uniform... ‘Blood...!! Lee's blood...!! My God!... What can this be doing to the Admiral?!! No wonder he pulled away from my touch!’

Nelson looked absolutely stricken! "Chip!... Lee... who could have done this to Lee?...Why would anyone do this to him? No one on the boat! ..Except... my God! It couldn't be!! But...how? How could he get on the boat? Unless...!!"

Then he looked at Chip, and realized that the younger man was looking benumbed. He was staring at his hands, turning them back and forth, leaning back against the bulkhead. The look on his face a combination of horror and devastation at what had been done to his friend, as well as the additional horror of being covered in the blood of his friend. Nelson put his arm around the younger man's shoulder.

"C'mon lad let's get down to Sick Bay. Chief, go to Mr. Morton's quarters and get him a change of uniform, and bring it to Sick Bay. " More softly to Sharkey, "Chief, get someone to clean up the Captain's cabin... And have the Master-at-arms monitor our guests!"

Almost pulling the Exec along, "Come on, Chip!"

When they arrived at Sick Bay moments later, they found deliberate, determined activity around a gurney in the center of the room. Will Jamison had a scrub gown and gloves on over his blood stained robe and pajamas and was quietly issuing orders while bending over Lee Crane.

He didn't even look up at the Admiral and Chip, but spoke to them through his work. "Admiral, there isn't much I can tell you right now...I've found at least 8 wounds, so far, and from the looks of his clothes there may be more." As if to punctuate his sentence, a piece of bloodied uniform hit the floor in an ever growing heap of blood stained khaki. "His blood pressure is non- existent! I couldn't tell you how long ago this happened. I don't know if there is any brain damage. HELL, I don't even know if I can save him! Some one decided to use Lee for target practice! " He threw another piece of uniform on the floor "John, get two more units of plasma into that IV line, now! Davis, increase the O2 level now! Raise the temperature in here to 80. I've got to bring up his body temp, and I don't care if the rest of you fall over in a faint from the heat. I have to operate on him as soon as he's stabilized a bit. ... Damn! here's another one! Counts up to 12 bullet wounds, Harry! How he's even alive right now is beyond me!" Will Jamison turned to the other two officers, caught a look at Chip and Nelson and called, "John!" John Warner, one of Jamison’s two senior Corpsman moved to Jamison's side. "Yes, Doc?'

Looking quickly at Morton and Nelson and doing a fast appraisal of the two men, "I want you to prepare a mild sedative for the Exec. Get him a clean uniform and see that he gets some sleep. Here, or his cabin, I don't care. Talk to the Admiral. He looks ok to me. If he is, get him out of here for now! Don't brook any resistance from either one of them! "

Warner nodded a curt 'yes sir', and moved to the Senior staff officers. He looked at Nelson and put a hand on Morton's shoulder, "Mr. Morton, sir?" Chip looked at him, but had difficulty seeing him, he blinked.

"Warner?" He looked down at his hands again, and shook his head twice, then looked at Warner more clearly. "I guess I'd better clean up a bit..." He started to move toward one of the sinks in the office part of the Sick Bay.

At that moment , Sharkey arrived with a fresh uniform for him. "Mr. Morton, sir...I ..uh the Admiral... we thought you'd......uh want a clean uniform.."

"Oh... yes...Sharkey, put it there....." he gestured toward the hook on the wall of the office. As he moved inside the small room, he took off the uniform shirt and dropped it to the floor. Then he turned on the water, until it was steaming and started to soap his hands and then his arms until they were pink with the heat and the scrubbing. The water ran red in the steel sink for a few moments, and then it ran clear, and he shuddered when he thought of the all the blood in Lee's cabin. "How could someone lose that much blood and live?” Was that the thought of the person or person's that had done this horror? That Lee would bleed to death, and no one would know?"

Morton stood there and stared in the mirror. A few moments later, Warner entered the office area. Chip was still staring in the mirror, apparently lost in thought.

"Sir...?"

Chip came to himself, quickly.

"Yes, Warner?" He reached to his waist and undid the belt buckle as he was talking to the corpsman.

"Sir, Doc wanted me to give you this."

Morton slid out of his shoes and was in the process of dropping the bloodied pants when Warner held out a medicine cup.

"He says you're to take it and then lie down, either here or in your cabin."

Morton finished shedding the pants and reached for his clean uniform. Without losing a beat, he took clean pants from the hanger and said, as he was pulling them on, "Just leave it on the sink, and I'll take it when I finish dressing."

In spite of all the stress, Warner managed and ironic smile, "Sorry, sir. Doc's orders meant that I see that you take the meds, you and the Skipper..." his voice faded. Morton saw the pained look on the corpsman's face.

"It's alright, John." He finished with his pants and grabbed for his shirt. After he shoved his arms into the sleeves, he reached for the cup, took it and tossed down the contents. "There, now go on, tell Jamie I took the meds, and give him the help he needs to take care of Lee! I'll be fine!" he was fastening the buttons of the shirt as Warner returned to the main part of the Sick Bay, where Jamison was talking to Nelson.

"Admiral, I've found a total of 12 bullet wounds in Lee. Nine of them still have the bullets in the wounds. I'm going to have to remove them surgically. Whoever did this knew what they were doing. None of the wounds by themselves can cause death, but, so many, together, well they had to have had only one intention... They wanted Lee to bleed to death and for it to be as painful as possible. He's been shot in both shoulders, the upper right arm, both thighs, lower legs, hips, his hands are both damaged and there is a wound in his left side. This wasn't random, it was quite calculated! To cause the most bleeding and the most pain, but to allow awareness of what was going on! Monstrous, Harry! Deliberately Diabolical!"

"And I know only one person fiendish and clever enough to do something like it! "

Chip had joined them and he said softly, "Gamma!"

"Right Chip. So he must have come aboard with the scientists..."

"But how, sir? You and I, all of us know what Gamma looks like! We'd recognize him if we saw him. "

"Unless he changed his appearance in some way. ..." Nelson looked beyond Jamison, at the gurney in the center of the room, "Will...what about Lee..."

"No answers, Harry. If I can get the blood pressure up to where its steady and stable, then I'll operate! If I can't stabilize him, then, well, it's a moot question. His hands will need some work, if we get him through this...They've been pretty badly damage......" Just then a loud squeal went off in the room...

"Doc! "

Jamison moved quickly to the gurney... "Give me the paddles...now! Clear! "

He put the paddles on Crane's chest and shouted "Now!" Crane's body arched upward as the electricity coursed through it and then fell back on the gurney.

The monitor began its steady beeping again. Jamison wiped at his forehead, and turned back to Nelson and Morton. "I'm afraid that we'll be seeing more of that. with the blood loss that he's had, his heart function had to be compromised. We just have to wait and see what happens, Admiral."

"Very well, Doc. In the meantime I'm going to have guards placed outside and inside the Sick Bay in case whoever did this tries again."

Jamison looked at Morton, who was slightly unsteady on his feet, "Chip, you'd better lie down here, in the Sick Bay," and when Morton started to protest, Nelson said,  "Chip, Will's right. This is the best place for you right now... You'll feel better after a few hours sleep."

Chip nodded, reluctantly agreeing to stay in the Sick Bay. He was getting very tired... Doc had slipped him a 'mickey'. As he made his way to a bunk, he thought 'Damn, and I let him do it!'. That was his last thought drifted off to darkness!

Nelson looked at Jamison again..."He'll sleep for six hours or so, Admiral. I'm going to be monitoring Lee. If I can get his condition to where I want it I'll do the surgery. ....I'll let you know! "

"Let me be with him for a few minutes, Will...then I have a few things to take care of..."

Jamison nodded, and went into the office, and Nelson stood at the side of the gurney, and looked at his Captain and friend. Lee Crane was attached to a number of wires and tubes, a ventilator was breathing for him. His skin was unnaturally pale, a sheet covered his body, and there were gauze bandages on many parts of his torso. Nelson shook his head, in sadness and grief.

There wasn't a great deal of hope to Lee's prognosis. ‘Had he really lost his friend, his surrogate son this time? Even a cat had only nine lives, there was no telling how many Lee had used! Could this be the last one?!’ He searched for a place to lay his hand, to touch Crane, to let him know that there was someone here for him... He finally lay a hand on his arm, and started talking to him softly." Lee, this is Nelson. We're going to get the person that did this to you, son. We know it was Gamma. We'll find him! We'll get him! Hang on, Lee! Fight this thing if you can! Fight. son, fight!" He patted him on the arm. "You're not alone, Lee. We're all here, with you, son! Everyone on the boat is pulling for you! You can do it, Lee! You can do it!"

 

 

Seaview was searching - searching for her heart - where was he? he was in such pain! she wanted to tell her heart that she needed him! She didn't want to lose her heart - she needed him !! Please.... don't go...don't go!!

 

 

Nelson kept his hand tightly on Crane's arm as he spoke to him. "Lad, you've got to fight! - We need you ! Seaview needs you- At the trial, Sharkey called you the heart of the boat! You are her heart, Lee. She can't go on without you ! We need you, she needs you! She knows you, Lee. You know that! You have always treated her like a lady! She helped us find you, Lee...don't leave her...don't leave us!!"

 

 

Somewhere within him a small spark stirred... He wasn't alone...Nelson was here...Chip...Jamie...the men...they had found him...But the admiral was so far away... He wanted to reach him...let him know... She knew... the boat.... Cathy's only rival!...Cathy! ...laughing Green eyes telling him her only rival was the boat... that the boat had his heart.... first, last and always, and the everything else came second to the boat... to her... to Seaview .... and that that was okay because Cathy had had enough love for Lee and his boat!..... And Cathy was gone..... and he was so alone, and the boat had become a refuge....It seemed to him that She always knew how he felt! He had to let the Admiral know...but the pain...the darkness...the light was calling him...Green eyes calling him...whose green eyes?'

 

 

Harriman Nelson was angry! And right now, angry was better than the hurt. Anger could be channeled. Hurt just laid there and grew and grew. There had been too much hurt. It was time to be angry and do something about it! He strode forcefully into the Control room.

"Mr. O'Brien!"

"Aye sir!"

"Bob, I want you to set course for Santa Barbara, and take her to 90 feet, at flank speed. I want you to hold her at flank , and keep her there until further notice! " he turned to Sharkey. You have the con, Bob! Sharkey!"

"Yes, sir!"

"You issue arms and organize search parties to search this boat from stem to stern! I want the men who did this found, and found now! I want you to look for them in places that only you would think of to hide, and then I want you to check again!"

"Aye, aye, sir!"

"Mr. O'Brien, you are to see that the crew is on alert, and all hands are to be armed until further notice. I want the key areas of the boat to have armed guards and if ANY ONE attempts to enter without authorization FROM ME shoot first and ask questions later!"

"Aye, sir!"

"Bob, you have the con. I'll be aft, the lab, or the Sick Bay! If you find anyone, let me know!!"

"Aye, sir!"

Nelson strode out of the Control Room, and to the after parts of the ship.

 

 

Seaview had felt the evil moving through her. These were the men that had hurt her heart! They were leaving her, running from her and from their punishment! They had hurt her heart! She had to stop them, had to make them stay on the boat...Her heart, her soul, her being demanded restitution. This evil had to end! These beings had to be stopped!.. She would help...she would help!!!'

 

 

Chip Morton's sleep was a restless one in spite of the sedative from Jamison. Instead of giving him rest, it made him more restless. Images kept flooding his subconscious…- the crash in the jungle... the march for days after...the incredible pain of the beating and the laughter...the insane laughter..!!

He woke with a start. The Sick Bay was in semi-darkness, the only light over the gurney where Lee Crane lay, fighting for his life. Quietly, Chip sat up, and then got out of the bunk. He went to the gurney where Crane was and stood at the side. Like Nelson before him, he was appalled at the injuries that had been inflicted on his friend. The monitors beeped steadily, Chip saw that plasma was being pumped into Crane, along with what looked like whole blood. He shuddered momentarily when a vision of Lee's cabin, and all the blood came into his mind.

He quickly pushed it out and put a hand on Crane's arm. "Hang in there, Lee! Just...hang in there! You've got to get through this! Too many of us depend on you. Lee! That includes Seaview Lee! She needs you as much as we humans do! She wouldn't be the same boat without you as her Skipper! Come on, buddy, don't let Gamma win this round! "

Jamison had quietly come over to the gurney as Morton was standing there next to Crane. He put a comforting hand on the Exec's shoulder. Morton turned to him, "Any change, Will?"

"Slight improvement in the BP, that's about it. He only coded once so far...that's encouraging! With the amount of blood loss that he suffered, I expected more! Still, I just don't know.... the bullets still have to come out, and there is definitely the problem with infection. Besides the bullet wounds , there are the exit wounds that five of the bullets left, they tore him up pretty good! I've more blood donors than I can ever use, the whole crew volunteered, but its the idea that he has to fight it. I'm doing all I can medically. The rest is up to Lee!"

Jamison cast an eye at Morton. "You should have slept longer with that cocktail I sent you.."

Chip 'humphed' "I should have realized that you had something more up your sleeve than a simple mild sedative...Dreams, Will...the dreams woke me up..." This hasn't helped!'

"I thought as much! How are you, besides the dreams...?"

"Angry...Frustrated...trying to figure out the why... hating all these vigils that we keep for each other because we get hurt doing the 'right' thing! And praying to God that Lee makes it through this one! and questioning why, oh, why does this insane individual try to make us a target? again!"

"I don't know if it helps, but I've been asking a lot of the same questions...and I've come to a conclusion that I'll never have any of the answers...and since I can't find them out, I have to go on with the knowledge that I do possess, and not try to figure out what I don't. As for the rest of it, well, may be we make ourselves targets because of the jobs we do and the fact the we do it well...I don't know...but that's not going to change who or what any of us are, or why and how we do what we do. We'll go out there and do it again, and if we become further targets, so be it!" He looked at Lee Crane, "If Lee's BP continues to remain steady ,and he doesn't code in the next twelve hours, I'll do the surgery and we'll move on from that point." He lifted the sheet, and checked the several wounds in Crane's legs and hips.

"These and the wounds to his hands are the worst... The rest of them, should heal slowly, but heal well.... Will we catch these fiends, Chip?"

"There are very few places that they can go on the boat, but ... " he turned from the gurney.... "I think I'll go on a little search mission of my own..."He turned back to Crane and gently squeezed the unconscious man's arm, "I'll be back, Lee. Just hang in there! For all our sakes!" to Jamison "Later, Will!" and he walked determinedly out of the Sick Bay.

Chip walked down the corridors of the Seaview with a determined stride. He came to a halt at the arms locker, looked at the door for a few seconds and went in. He took a handgun and holster from the stores, and several clips of ammunition. As he had walked the corridors of the boat, he had come to a clearly unusual decision for him.

He would find the men that had done this to Lee, and he would kill them! Trial be damned! Laws be damned! Even Harry Nelson be damned! He would kill them!!

Enough is enough! Three pieces of garbage that didn't deserve to be alive anyway! The gun felt good in his hand... reassuring.... heavy and full... "Let's find the bastards and get it over with!" As he walked, gun in hand, fragments of the beating and the months he'd spent recovering from it ran through his mind, as well as the look on Nelson's face when he, Chip, could see again, as he looked at Chip. The enormity of the guilt on Nelson's face was something that he would never forget! And since that time, during the long recovery both men had gone through, there was always, whenever Nelson looked at him and thought that he wasn't looking back, a look of sadness or guilt, when he looked at Chip. Morton now believed that if he could do away with these men, that had inflicted such suffering on all of them, that he could make the look leave the Admiral's eyes. And he would be very happy if he could do that!

He came to a halt outside the room that held the pressure hatch. As soon as Chip had heard that the three men had not been found in the time that they had been with Lee he thought of this room.. The one place on the boat that was not monitored by sensors because it was an emergency escape, and not planned for anything else. On several occasions, the existence of this hatch had saved the boat! It had also allowed, on other occasions, beings to come aboard, or escape from the boat! It would have to be the only place that someone could get off the boat and not be detected! Here was as good a place as any to start!

Chip cautiously undogged the hatch, and opened it. He stepped inside the room and looked around. He immediately noted that the scuba gear stored there was gone! He moved about the room, and jumped when he heard the hatch move. He stood, gun ready, and waited for the person to enter the room.

Chief Sharkey stood in the hatchway.

Francis Sharkey was not a complicated man. But he was a loyal and faithful one. When he first came on board Seaview, having served with Nelson before, he had appointed himself the watchdog, and friend of Harriman Nelson. As his respect and admiration for Crane and Morton grew, he included them in his protectorship as well! With the events of the past months, he felt that he'd failed both Nelson and Morton, and now with the shooting of the Skipper, he felt as if he'd failed again!

All he wanted to do was try and make it right and get these guys that had so badly hurt the Senior Staff... He figured that the only place that they could've gone would be the Pressure hatch!! And now, who does he find there, but the Exec! What the hell was he doing here!?

"Oh!, Mr. Morton, sir! I didn't think that anyone would come down here!"

Morton gave him a slight smile. "I guess the minds that know the boat, know where to go to, Chief!"

"Yes, sir! I just figured that this would be the one place that they could get out and not get found out, sir"

"Well, it looks like we were too late, Chief. Three sets of scuba gear, and suits are gone, Sharkey. They got away!" At that moment, they saw a bubbling from the escape well, and a diver's mask popped up into the water.

Sharkey and Morton exchanged looks. ''Where did that come from, Mr. Morton?"

" I don't know, Chief...Unless..." Chip bent over the well. It was impossible to see into it because of bubbling water. "one of us will have to go down there and check it out!"

Chip stood and began to unfasten the buttons of his uniform shirt..."Get me that wet suit, and the gear, Chief."

Sharkey stood up..."No, sir!"

Morton's blue eyes pierced him to the bone, "What did you say, Chief?"

"Uh, NO, sir! I'll go, sir. You just came out of Sick Bay, sir, and I don't think that its a good idea for you to make a dive...sir"

Morton stopped at the third button on the shirt, and looked in amazement at the Chief of the Boat. Sharkey had refused an order! He shook his head. "I think I'm going to forget what I just heard, Chief.... And I'm gong to order you into the gear, and have you check out where the mask came from."

"Yes, Sir!" Sharkey beamed at the XO as he proceeded to get the diving gear. A full half hour later, Sharkey popped out of the water, one arm attached to something still in the water. Morton leaned over, and reached down...

"What is it, Chief?"

"Well, sir... I found something, or uh... I should say someone... Hung up at the base of the well...I've never seen anything like it, sir!! "

"What do you mean, hung up? "

"Stuck, sir. Stuck on the hull at the base of the well, sir! And I couldn't find anything that he could have gotten hung up on!"

Chip reached down and between the two of them they hauled the body out of the water, and Sharkey followed the body out. He tossed the mask and shrugged off his air tanks. Chip Morton bent over the body. "Doctor Walsh!"

"The oceanographer, sir? "

"Yes, Chief... The Oceanographer. We better let the O.O.M. know. At least one of these bastards didn't get away with it!!" He reached for a mike on the wall " Sick Bay this is the Exec, we have situation in the pressure hatch. We need a stretcher!" he double clicked the mike, "Admiral Nelson, Morton here!"

"Yes, Chip?"

"Sir, are you in your Cabin?"

"Yes, what's the problem?"

"We found one of the scientists, sir. He's dead. In the pressure hatch. Sharkey and I found him."

"I'll be right there. Have Will wait until I get there!"

"Aye, sir!"

Several minutes later, Will Jamison, angrily charged into the room. "Chip, there had better be a good reason for you to call me away from my patient at this..." He saw the body on the floor, and stopped short. He shot an angry look at the Exec, and the CPO, " What's going on here, Morton? Chief?"

Chip looked the medic straight in the eye.. "Damned if I know, Will! Sharkey and I were here, and saw a mask come up in the well. Sharkey went out to see what was going on, and found him hung up outside the well on the hull!"

"That's just it , Doc! I don't know how he got hung up there! He was stuck! Must've panicked and lost the mask, blew out his regulator! "

Will Jamison looked from one man to the other. There was too much wonder on their faces for him to doubt their stories. He cleared his throat, and said, "well, we'll see....I'll get the Admiral's permission to do a post to determine cause."

"You have it, Will..." said the voice behind him. "I want to know as soon as we can get an answer! "

" It may be a while, Admiral.. I've got to keep a close eye on Lee and this isn't a priority right now, although I admit I'm curious... I'll have to get him to the Sick Bay and work on it as I can... Right now, Lee's the priority!"

"Of course, Will...Of course!"

Two corpsmen came into the room and covered and then bundled the body into the stretcher. Will Jamison followed them out. Nelson looked at Sharkey and Chip,

"Well, Chief?"

"Honest Admiral, it happened just like we said. Mr. Morton and I didn't touch the guy!! I would've, sir, don't think I wouldn't. But I didn't and neither did Mr. Morton, sir!"

"Chip?"

"Like Sharkey said, sir. We didn't touch him, except to pull him back aboard."

"Well, then, we'll have to see what happened here. Obviously, the other two got away. I wonder if one of them was Gamma or if this is him? Chip, lay forward to the Control Room and let's see if there is an island nearby or some landfall that these men may have headed to!

"Aye, sir. You'll be in the Sick Bay?"

"Yes, Chip. Sharkey, round up the search crews. Make sure the boat has a thorough going over, and then call in the teams!"

"Aye, sir!"

"Well, then, let's get to it!"

 

 

Harriman Nelson walked into the darkened Sick Bay, and over to the gurney in the center of the room. He put a hand on Crane's arm, saying nothing for a few moments. He carefully looked at the monitors and tubes that extended from the Captain's body and at the many gauze bandages that lay over the wounds on the Crane. He looked sadly at the Doctor...

"Will, how is he, in all truth?"

"In all truth, Harry, about the same - just about the same - No lost ground, but no real gains either. His BP is improving but there's no change in the EEG. He hasn't coded since the initial one. Right now his heart and resps are the same. He's still on the ventilator. If he maintains, then, in two hours, I'll set up the surgery to remove the nine bullets that are still in his body! He's still a long way from better! Maybe he's just tired, Harry, you can understand that, can't you? Maybe he's just plain tired!.....and he doesn't want to come back to all of this!....maybe Lee's too tired to fight any more..." He shook his head sadly, "I certainly couldn't blame him, could you?"

"I won't let him go without a fight, Will. I won't!! I've told him that the boat needs him, that the crew and everyone else need him...But dammit, Will!! I need him!!! I need Lee in my life! I've tried to tell him that, so many times..."

Jamison put a reassuring hand on Nelson's shoulder, and said softly, " ....then tell him now, Harry. Tell him now!"

The Admiral gripped Crane's arm more tightly...." Listen to me, Lee.. I need you in my life, son...Please...come back to us! We all need you, but I need you, son. I need you!!"

 

 

Lee heard Nelson and Jamison talking...Will was right...he WAS tired...Why should he go back? to what? more pain? more hurt? more loss?.... It was easier here...there was nothing...no one called him...no one needed him...there was nothing but warm and dark and peace....just peace...He didn't want to go back there.....then he heard the voice....Nelson's voice... Nelson said that he needed him.... he'd never said that before... Nelson needed him!.. and then he saw merry green eyes....in a tiny face... and he couldn't put that face out of his thoughts...that face needed him...Robert...his Robert! and Nelson... the young... and the not so young...He was needed...he had to think of them!!...not of himself!!!.... of them!!!..... He would find his way back...he would have to try!!

 

 

Nelson stood there for a long time, telling Lee how important he was to him, of the difference that Lee had made in his life, reminding him of the times that he'd saved his, Nelson's life. Of how he had helped to save so many, so many times....reassuring him that though' he may be tired, he was needed!!! And after a while, when Jamison returned to check vitals, there was a very slight improvement in the readings of the EEG, and the BP reading was stronger, and Will patted Nelson on the shoulder and encouraged him to continue...

 

 

Chip Morton swore silently to himself. There was nothing! Nowhere on the charts was there anything close to a decent landfall that would support any kind of human life ! Certainly not within swimming distance! 'Nothing, dammit!' But there had to be something planned by the men that left the boat!

An idea struck him, and he turned to Kowalski. "Ski, get me a printout from the computer of any landfall within 300 miles of our position at 0100 this morning! And do it quickly..." He picked up the mike from the plot table... "Admiral, this is Morton..."

"Yes, Chip?"

"Sir, can you come to the Control Room, sir...There's something I'd like to discuss with you."

"I'll be there in ten minutes, Chip!"

"Aye, sir"

 

 

Ten minutes later, Harriman Nelson strode into the Control Room. This was a different Nelson than before the shooting of Lee Crane. Before, Nelson was tentative around the younger officers, somewhat reserved and still into himself. His recovery from his breakdown had been judged complete by the doctors at the Sanitarium. But he wasn't the same man!! His enthusiasm was limited to his scientific projects and activities, and Crane and Morton had adjusted to the change, albeit reluctantly. The spark that was Harriman Nelson seemed to have been banked to a very low burn, and both men knew it would take time to bring him back. The attack on Crane had changed that!

This Harriman Nelson was angry, and though' the circumstances were horrific, his spark was again flaming brightly! He was acting on the anger! Morton let a grim smile escape...in that sense, it was good to have the O.O.M. back! "Yes, Chip?"

Morton held a computer printout in hand, "I think I know where they may have gone, sir!"

Nelson quirked his eyebrow, "Where Chip?"

Morton pointed to a small group of islands on the chart. "This is the nearest landfall possible to our position at 0100 this morning. It’s a small group of islands, that are on the edge of the 300 mile range from the boat. The only way that they could have gotten away is of there was a boat or ship of some kind waiting for them...Ski reports that there was a slight blip on the sonar at that time, and he did report it. It's written in the log. The possibility does exist that there was a small vehicle that got by the sensors and picked the men up...If its Gamma, then it even could have been shielded."

"Plot and change course, and get there flank speed! "

"Already done, sir!'

"Good! ETA?"

"Six hours, Admiral! Landing party will be ready to go ashore, as soon as we heave to."

"Is the new electronic shield effective enough to put into operation?"

"When we left Port, Matty assured me that all the parameters were operational, and at peak!" He smiled at Nelson. "It should work well , sir!"

"Good, good... Notify me when we reach the co-ordinates! I'll be in the Sick Bay. Will is doing the surgery on Lee now. "

Hopefully he asked "He's better, then?"

"Let's just say he's stable enough to do the procedure as far as Jamie is concerned. Only time will tell as far as the rest of it!"

"Time...Let's hope that Lee has the time!"

Nelson humphed and nodded, "Yes, Chip...Let's hope!"

He walked out of the Control Room and down the companionway to the Sick Bay!

 

 

Nelson stood outside the Sick Bay.. he was waiting for Jamison to let him in...when the surgery was done....maybe like Lee, he was getting tired, too...very tired of waiting outside the Sick Bay or hospitals or any other medical facilities where his 'boys' may be fighting for their lives! His 'boys'! Lee and Chip...Always at risk because of him, and their work! And the crazies that are out there! That's what Gamma was! Crazy! Look at what he'd done to Chip! and now this, to Lee! The son of a bitch would have to get his!! If they could find him!! Maybe this Island that Chip had found would be the place to find him!! If he could get his hands on him!!

Matty Weaver had told him, when he returned to the Institute of all of Lee's attempt to save them and what had happened in the compound during the rescue.

Lee must have felt over the edge to attempt to choke the sergeant! Well, Nelson certainly knew how that felt...When they had found Lee.... all the blood!...he could have easily killed the men who had done this...he still could....

The door opened and Jamison beckoned him in. The lights were low in the room, centered on the gurney, positioned now nearer the office area rather than the center of the sick bay. Nelson went immediately to the bedside. If anything, there seemed to be more tubes and wires...and could he possibly look paler?

"Will...?"

"I feel better about him, Harry. At least his body can begin to heal now. I hope that it will help. I think it will! He's stable. BP is low, but steady and not falling. His heart was steady and strong throughout the surgery. IF we can keep infection at bay, and build up the BP, then, IF there wasn't any brain damage, and IF everything else remains stable or improves, then he stands a chance of a complete recovery... over time."

Nelson looked at the doctor..."Over time, Will?"

"His hands are the worst damaged, Harry, and it will take time, we need to evaluate ..."

"What aren't you telling me, Will?" Nelson asked him angrily.

"There is a lot of damage to Lee's hands. And his hips are also a question. As I said before, The man that did this knew EXACTLY what he was doing!"

"So besides planning to kill him, if he survived, he wanted his recovery to be most painful as well!"

'Yes, Harry, I'm afraid so."

It was then that Nelson took a good look at Crane's hands. They were heavily bandaged and there were splints and forms keeping them rigid and unmoving. They looked swollen and discolored. Jamison explained that the bullets had passed through the center of each hand. That the man who shot him had to hold Lee's hands outstretched for the bullets to pass through them that way. There had been bone and tissue damage, but to what extent, a specialist would have to tell. As for Lee's hips, both of the hip bones had been chipped and it remained to be seen if he would have any complications from that. Much of the other damage that the Captain had sustained was muscular, and vascular, that would heal once the surgical interventions had taken place. And Jamison felt confident that although the Captain's condition was still critical, he stood a good chance of recovering completely! Nelson stood there a few moment s longer, talking to Crane in a soft voice, and then he went into Jamison's office.

"Will, we've found an Island where these men may have headed. We 're going to take a landing party ashore as soon as we reach there. Chip and I are both going with six of the crew. Will you sit and talk to him, until I return? I don't want him to be alone. I promised him.."

"Of course, I'll be with him, Harry. There's been steady if slow improvement since you were with him last. Tell him where you're going what you're doing...That too may help .."

Nelson nodded, and went back to bedside. He pulled up a stool and began to talk to Crane, again....

 

 

Lee listened to Nelson talking to him... The Admiral's voice seemed to come from so far away! It was hard to focus on all he was saying... something about needing him.... something about getting the men who did this... the man who did this... the face floated into his consciousness... Bernard! Why would Bernard do this? Who was he...? He had to tell the Admiral who it was! He had to let him know! but how...? He was still so far away! and the pain was all around him...he was surrounded by it! It was pulling at him....waves and waves of it...but he had to fight it...he couldn't give into it!! He felt like he was trying to swim against a strong current and he couldn't make any headway! He had to make the headway...he had to get to Nelson, he had to tell him who did the shooting.

 Crane shuddered, and Nelson looked at the monitors.

 "Will!"

Jamison was there, checking monitors and tubes, before Nelson finished calling him. Then Lee shuddered again, and moved his head, ever so slightly. Nelson started a steady stream of talk, again, with a hand on Crane's arm, to both reassure and gently restrain. "Easy, Lee. You're in the Sick Bay, on the boat. "

Crane was fighting the current... in spite of the pain ... he had to get there...had to get to the Admiral...had to tell him who did this... He heard Nelson...He knew where he was...! why was Nelson telling him that?

Lee moved his head again. Nelson could see he was fighting to open his eyes, fighting his way back to consciousness. Nelson increased the pressure on Crane's arm. "It's ok, lad. We're here with you... I'm here, Lee...son..."

Crane felt the pressure on his arm, a warm hand...the admiral...  His eyelids slowly opened. Everything was a blur. He closed his eyes and opened them again... He made an attempt to speak, but it hurt, and he realized there was a tube in his throat. He tried to raise a hand, but neither would move. As he began to focus, he saw Nelson's face break into a relieved smile.

"You're back!" the older man said softly. All Crane could do was give a slight nod of acknowledgement. Nelson called Jamison..."Will! He's awake!" to Crane "You've had us worried, son!" Jamison's long face came into his field of view..

"Skipper... glad that you've come back, You had me fairly worried."

Crane could do nothing to acknowledge the doctor's comments, but nod slightly again.

"Let me tell you a few things and then you'll need to sleep. You can't talk because of the trach tube that you have down your throat. If you continue to improve, that's the first tube that'll come out! I promise. You lost almost two thirds your blood volume, and your BP isn't necessarily too good yet. You've sustained 12 bullet wounds, Lee. You're looking at a very long period of recovery, with a lot of limitations. There's more to tell but not for now... the Admiral wants to talk to you and I want you to sleep. How's the pain? Just blink if you want the meds."

He opened and closed his eyes once, and Jamison bustled off to get the medication, and Nelson moved to the bedside again.

"Lee, we know who did this... the three scientists." He put it more like a statement than a question and Crane closed his eyes. Nelson thought that he had drifted to sleep, but then he opened them again. Nelson continued talking to him...'I believe that one of them is Gamma, in fact I think that Bernard was/is Gamma with some surgery or makeup. " Lee nodded slightly, and Nelson continued speaking to him.

"They got off the boat, son, but Chip found an island and we think that they may be there. We're going to make landfall there in a few hours and we're going to find them! I have a few scores to settle with them!! Let me tell you that I will get them for this and for Chip and too many others to talk about!"

He looked into Cranes' hazel eyes and saw the concern, and patted the younger man on the arm... "Don't worry Lee, this time we'll be ready for anything that they may throw at us!"

Jamison arrived at the side of the gurney, and injected some meds into the IV lines, and spoke softly to his patient, "I've just put the pain medication into the IV line, Lee. You'll feel it quickly...You'll sleep..."

He nodded at Nelson, "Come on Admiral, let’s let the Captain rest."

"In a minute, Will...Lee...don't worry.. Just rest... I'll be here when you wake up again...don't worry." He gave the Captain's arm a reassuring squeeze, as the injured man drifted into a pain free sleep.

Then Nelson went into Jamison's office and sat heavily in the chair that was next to the desk. "Will?"

"Yes, Harry? "

"Well?"

"The prognosis hasn't changed all that much...He woke, and recognized you. That's good...but none of the other parameters have changed. It still is going to be a long and difficult recovery, IF he recovers!...he's far from being out of danger yet!"

 

 

 The landing party assembled in the Missile Room. All the men were dressed in fatigues, and carried side arms and carried a number of rounds for the side arms as well as the rifles that they carried. Nelson and Morton carried radios as well as certain other specialized devices. Once the teams were assembled, they offloaded two rafts and left the boat.

They made landfall, stowed the rafts and made their way inland. The island had dense foliage, and both the Admiral and Morton were uneasy with the feel of the place. It triggered memories of another jungle, and another place, and both men were doubly on edge. It was too familiar, although the circumstances were different!

This time they were in control of their circumstances. The two teams made their way through the jungle. Their objective was a small rise in the center of the island, the only place that any one could possibly build on and fortify with any success. Nelson and Morton hoped that they would find the culprits there!!

After a stealthy, 30 minute trek, the rise came into view and both men were satisfied that at least their instincts had been correct. There was indeed a fortification on the rise! A small one, but one none the less. Similar in configuration to the one in Africa, not to any one's surprise! It had been in Nelson's experience that madmen often choose to repeat their patterns of behavior and their strongholds were included in that.. This madman was no different from others. This stronghold was much smaller than the one Morton and Nelson had been held in, but it still brought temporary chills to both men.. 'Facing old ghosts,' the psychiatrists would say. 'Not facing them', would be Harry's reply, 'but charging into them!'

Morton set the men about the perimeter of the encampment, warning them to wait and listen for a signal from him to make a move! He returned to the Admiral's side when the men had been deployed, and told him....

"We're ready when you say the word, sir. Sleeping gas canisters ready to be fired into the compound. There doesn't seem to be much activity there sir."

"You're right, Chip. I wonder, are we too late or have we been led into a trap?"

"Admiral, if this is a trap, they will be surprised when we don't walk into it, won't they?"

Nelson smiled grimly. "Yes, won't they? Well, Chip. Let's proceed with the plan. Signal the men to fire the gas and let's get going!"

A word from Morton and the gas cylinders flew over the walls of the encampment and landed with thuds. They watched as white smoke drifted lazily upward in the humid tropic air. They waited for the time to charge the gates and enter the compound. As the time passed, Morton checked his watch and on his order the Seaview men put on the gas masks and moved toward the gates. The silence was eerie. As they broke down the gate, they entered an empty compound. It had been left in a hurry, you could tell from the levels of debris that was scattered around. The entire compound was deserted... In the building, desks had been overturned and rifled, there were stray papers all over, and as they scanned the area, they saw a paper stuck to the wall.

Curious, and angered that their prey had gotten away again, Nelson walked over to the note. In fairly large letters, it simply said "Check, Nelson! G"

Harry Nelson swore aloud. "Dammit!!!!! Chip, let's see if we can figure out how or where he went!"

Morton shook his head morosely, "I think that it is out of the question sir. The trail has to be cold by now, too much time has gone by... and we don't know if he's changed his look again. The only way that I see of finding him might be if ONI can track his nearest lair. When we get back to the boat, I'll radio the Institute, and get Matty to get hold of Michael Taylor and Richard Blake, they helped with our rescue and they have a specialized knowledge of Gamma....so does Matty. May be we can find them that way!"

"I'll get my contacts as well, we'll see if we can find them yet!"

"Aye sir, let's get back to the boat..... Kowalski, call the team together, we're going back to the boat.!"

"Aye, sir...Let's go, guys, clean up here and back to the boat"

 

 

Seaview knew that the evil was gone...had left her... but her heart was still in pain. She didn't want him to go from her... she needed him...her heart...she had to let him know how much she needed him...she just didn't know how to do it....

 

 

On the boat, Will Jamison established a routine regarding the Captain. As more and more of the ship's compliment sought out information about the Skipper, he began to allow the men in, one at a time to say a few brief words to the critically injured man. He wanted Crane to know how the men continued to feel about him and how much the crew as a whole continued to need him at the helm of the boat.... he was ready to do anything to encourage the Captain to fight to survive...Anything!!

Will was monitoring the Captain's vital signs every 15 minutes. There appeared to be very little change - the only good was the fact that there was no loss of ground - but he was hoping for a gain, no matter how small!! He had hoped to have some good news for the Admiral on his return from the island....His shoulders slumped, as he realized that he probably wouldn't have any... He was at the end of his rope.. there wasn't too much more that he could do!

 

 

It was not a happy group that returned from the island. Nelson was angry and upset that Gamma had gotten away again! Morton's anger was no less strong.

The only saving grace was that they both felt that they could at least attempt to track him, through the ONI. As the men stowed gear and finished up completing cleanup of the mission, Nelson and Morton headed in two different directions. Chip headed to the Control Room to check on the boat, plot a course and contact Matty Weaver Morton at the Nelson Institute. His wife was still an active member of the ONI and had many contacts in the organization. Matty was also an expert on Gamma. Between the two sources they could get a handle on the villain, he hoped.!!

 

 

Harriman Nelson headed toward the Sick Bay. He had promised Lee Crane that he would be there the next time that the Captain woke up. He hoped that the Doctor would have some better news than when he'd left the boat the few hours ago...He hoped....Jamison led him to believe that that was all that was left...Hope, and the desire to survive...he had to hope that Lee found that desire!!

 

 

Lee Crane heard all the different voices telling him how important he was to them. How much his presence mattered... he saw, in his minds eye, the faces that meant so much to him.... he saw them all...Robert....Nelson....his mother....Chip and Matty Morton...Sharkey... the rest of the crew....and the boat....he saw the sliver grey enchantress that he loved almost as well as the humans his life...they all needed him... wanted him to go on.... he also saw the face with the lively green eyes that had been taken from him not so long ago.... that was the one face that he wanted to be with above all the others...and he could stay with her now... he could be with her forever... that would be so easy.... just stay with Cathy forever... but he had promised...promised to take care of Robert.... Cathy wouldn't be happy if Robert was left alone..... and if he didn't go back, Robert would be alone...alone was a terrifying place....he knew how terrifying and desperate alone was....he didn't want his son.... their son to know that feeling! And he did let Nelson know that he wanted to go back... It just would be so hard...so very hard.....and he was so very, very tired.... but he would try.....he had to try !!!

 

 

Harriman Nelson stood at the gurney. Jamison's report had not been bright... Basically no change in the Lee's condition. All that Jamison had indicated was that there was hope... Lee hadn't lost any ground. But it looked to be a very long fight!

Nelson leaned over the gurney and spoke softly to Crane, "Lad, we didn't get him...I'm sorry. They got away. We're going to try and get some more information and maybe track him, but I don't hold much hope until he surfaces again. I am sorry, Lee. I really wanted to bring him to justice...for you and all of us....this man owes us all a great deal! We'll keep trying to find him. I just don't think it'll be soon! In the meantime, you have to continue to fight to get over this. I know that Will has had the crew coming in here to talk to you... You know how they feel, how we all feel... and we're not the only ones, you know that too! There's Robert, and your mother and all the other people in your life... and all the others that you have helped and you don't even know. Come on, Lee...come on!"

He opened his eyes, and Harriman Nelson's face came into focus. The Admiral looked tired and worn out. There was a look of resignation on the older man's face.

Lee swallowed and found that the tube was no longer in his throat. He tried to form a word. "Admiral..." It was softer than a whisper, dry and cracked sounding. He tried again..."Admiral.."

Nelson looked at Crane..."Lee...!"

"Thirsty..."

"Will, can I give Lee some water?"

Jamison handed the Admiral a cup with ice chips. "Just a bit at a time, Harry. Enough to moisten his lips and mouth, no more. " to Crane, "Just a few bits of ice, Lee. Your throat and mouth will be sore and dry for a while. The Endo trach tube is tough on the throat." Nelson held the few bits of ice to Lee's lips, and he took them gratefully.

He closed his eyes and Nelson thought that he had fallen asleep, but he opened them again, and said, very softly, "Don't... follow him,... Admiral. That's ... vengeance..."

Nelson looked at his Captain, surprised. "What, Lee? "

"Don't .... follow him.... Not the...'right thing'. "

"We'll see, Lad. We'll see..."

"No!" He tried to move, but the pain of the movement overwhelmed him, and he took a few ragged breaths to push it aside.

Nelson looked alarmed. "Lee!"

Even softer than before, "Revenge... isn't ....your....style!"

Nelson raised an eyebrow, and then shook his head, "You're right, of course," he paused, "I... wasn't thinking clearly. We can't carry this any further. I'll have Chip set a course for home. We need to get you to Santa Barbara as soon as we can!. "

He reached for the mike, keeping his hand on Crane's arm all the time. "Mr. Morton?"

"Aye, sir?"

"Chip, set a course for Santa Barbara. Let's head for home."

"Sir?"

He grinned at Crane, "Captain's orders, Mr. Morton, we head for home!"

"Aye, Aye, sir!... And relay my compliments to the Skipper!"

"With pleasure, Chip....with pleasure!"

Crane nodded wearily. "think... I'll sleep...now..."

Nelson continued to hold the Captain's arm, "Yes, Lee. Sleep. That's what you need...Sleep."

 

 

Seaview sailed peacefully toward her homeport. The evil had left her...she had helped to rid herself of at least one of them.... the evil was still out there, but her heart, her soul, her being...they were safe within her... she could protect them here.... her heart was still in pain... but he was better.... he would get better... her heart would continue to stay with her...

 

 

".............. And did you ever catch up with him, Dad? ...Gamma, I mean?"

Lee Crane looked at his son, and marveled at the man he had become. Only recently had Lee begun to share some of the stories of the Seaview with Robert.

Some of the memories had just been too painful, and others, well, now that the Nelson was being commissioned, it seemed appropriate to share some of the more important ones with him. He ran his fingers through his now gray hair.

"Not until a number of years, and a great deal more havoc later!" he shook his head, "That year really took its toll on all of us... Still, some good came of it, came of all the horror of it. Chip and Matty 'found' one another and were married, Alex was born..." He smiled at the thought of his Godchild... "We all began to see life differently... I think that we began to appreciate the really important things in life, from then on. Not that we didn't appreciate things before, but well, it strengthened the strong friendships that we all had... made us realize the value of the friendships... they were what got us through it all in the end, the friendships... and the boat..."He smiled at the thought of the Seaview. "I always called her an enchantress, and she was."

For a few moments he looked like he was very far away, and then he focused again on his son. "One thing that I learned, especially after that cruise, was to take care of the boat. Take care of your boat, and she will take care of you... You, Sean, and Alex have to learn that from the start. I certainly believe that she always took care of me, In particular that time."

"Did Chip and the Admiral ever find out what caused the boat to shudder like that, and how the diver died?"

Lee's hazel eyes shone in mixture of amusement and remembrance...

"The answer to both questions is no, Robert. Sharkey swore to the day he died that the boat shuddered so that they would find me...that there was no reason for it... and as far as Walsh was concerned, well, there was no place that he could have gotten caught on the boat outside the hatch. So...." He smiled at the remembrance of the Chief of the boat, "He said that the boat got her revenge on at least one of the bad guys!" He chuckled, and Robert's eyes, green like his mother's, sparkled.

"So did the Admiral! He often told me the story of the boat that killed the bad guy! But he didn't tell me that it was the Seaview..." he sobered " and he didn't tell me what you had gone through...." he reached out and put a hand on Lee's shoulder, "I'm sorry, Dad."

A soft, feminine hand touched his. His stepmother smiled at him. "It happened a long time ago, Robert - Your father and I learned that we can't look back at the pain of the past, that we have to look forward to the promise of the future. The evil of the past is past. Good did come about because of the bad, and everyone moved forward. ...and here we are today...about to christen the Admiral's namesake! "

She paused and looked at the watch she wore. "You, Admiral Crane had better stop sharing sea tales with your son! He's going to be late for the Institute! And he has a lot to do before the ceremony! And you , young man, stop distracting the Admiral here with all your questions!" She smiled indulgently at the two of them, and said, "Go on, Robert...get going! You, Admiral, come with me!"

She kissed Robert fondly on the cheek, "Go on, get out of here!"

Robert Crane returned the kiss with one on her forehead, and then saluted her, "Yes, Ma'am!" to his father..."I'll meet you at the Office, Dad... What was it you said that made you marry this woman?"

Lee Crane laughed and winked at his son, as he wrapped his arms around his wife's waist, " Love...I think!"

 

 

 

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