The Camping Trip
"I told you, Lee. The two of you have to get off the boat in the next twenty minutes or you will both be removed, forcibly. Doctor’s orders. And signed sealed and delivered by the Admiral himself!"
"Jamie, all I want to do is to check on the Installation team’s orders and go over a few of her specs with them!"
"Enough!" a voice bellowed from behind! "Captain Crane! Do you, or do you not, have orders?"
Lee had jumped with the volume and proximity of the resonant voice, and then he turned to face its’ owner.
"Why, yes, Admiral Nelson, I do," he paused, "but as the Captain of the boat, I just…"
Nelson put a hand on Crane’s shoulder. "Lee, I will be here with her the whole time! And so will Francis. We will take good care of her!! She’s my boat too! "
He was grinning broadly at his Captain. "Go! Now! That’s an order!"
Lee grinned back. "Very well, sir! As long as you can reassure me that she’ll be well cared for!!" He saluted the Admiral fondly. "See you in two weeks, sir."
"Enjoy the camping trip, Lee! Tell Chip the same!"
Crane left the office, and as Nelson sat in the chair next top the desk, Lee heard Will Jamison tell Nelson, "Now, Harry, if you would only take your own advice about leave…"
Chip Morton was waiting at dockside for Crane. Duffel in hand, he had an Institute car waiting there. He was checking his watch when Crane came out of the deckside hatch. Morton watched him as he ran a hand over the coaming and seemed to say a few words to the boat. He looked up and saw the Exec standing, at the top of the deck. He smiled, and waved and headed up the gangplank. At the head of it, he turned and saluted the colors, and then walked toward Morton.
"As ready as I’ll ever be to take a Shore Leave!" he grinned, "I have this one carefully planned, however!"
Morton gave him a suspicious look, "Just how carefully planned?"
"You’ll see. Let’s get going! Our flight leaves in an hour!
The Institute car pulled up to a gate at the side of the airport. Chip looked at Crane with genuine surprise.
"One of the Institute jets?"
"Why not? The Admiral gave his blessing! We’re off to Colorado to do some mountain climbing. I figured about a week in the mountains will give us the break that Jamie and the Admiral think we need. C’mon, buddy, let’s get going!"
They grabbed their duffel bags and headed to the plane. Once on board, they stowed their gear, and settled in for the flight to the mountains.
They landed at the Denver airport, and took a rented jeep to a nearby hotel. Lee had decided to use the hotel as a base. They would spend the night there and then leave early in the morning for Rocky Mountain National park.
And after an early dinner, they both spent some time winding down, and called it an early night.
The next morning, they rose at 0600 and by 0730 they were in the jeep and on the road.
Chip leaned back, and looked at Crane, still a little questioning of his friend.
"This guide that you hired is waiting for us at the mountain. You are sure that this little trek you’ve planned is going to be relaxing?"
"Sure, Chip. Nothing’s more relaxing than scaling a mountain!!"
"That’s what I’m afraid of!" he grinned at Crane.
They reached their destination about 2 hours later. Rocky Mountain National Park offered just the escape that the two officers sought. Longs Peak in the park offered an appropriate challenge for a climb and some hiking. It was with a sense of carefree adventure that Lee and Chip unpacked their jeep and greeted their guide. Charlie Perkins had come recommended by the hotel, and surprisingly, he was available. He had asked Lee some probing questions as to the skill level of the two men. Lee knew that he would be considered expert with all his survival training and that Morton was not far behind in his skills, so a few expert answers, and they had a guide.
The guide, a weather-worn, 50ish man, was waiting for them in the parking lot, and he approached the two with hand extended...
"Mr. Crane, Mr. Morton...Pleased to meet you. Do you have all your equipment? Any questions before we leave?"
Crane shook hands with the guide.
"I don’t think so - We’ve brought the basics - you were going to get the rest of the supplies."
"Yes, at the campsites on the mountain. You said on the phone that this was to be a 4 to 5 day trip, sir."
"Yup, we really need to get away from it all, don’t we Chip?"
"Sure do." Morton agreed.
"Let’s check the equipment and get on our way."
They checked backpacks, grappling hooks and lines...checked the water, food and First Aid kits and followed the guide to the mountains’ base...
At the base of the east face of Longs Peak they began their climb. It was a challenge that Crane and Morton both welcomed for the sheer physical demands the trek would make. No orders, no missions, no plans...just a rigorous mountain climb and hike.
"This feels good," thought Crane, "No orders to give, or take, just climb!"
They made their first camp in early evening. A bright early summer evening when the beauty of the mountains was at its best. The guide readied the tents, while the Seaview’s officers pulled supplies, readied the cook stove and began a dinner... The three men ate in companionable silence...and then discussed the plans for the next day’s climb. For the first time in many months, Chip and Lee felt they could fully relax. Here they had absolutely no responsibility and right now, no cares at all.
Suddenly, the guide rose from his place.
"Crane, Morton...Sunrise is at 5:30 - If we what to get across the east face and Broadway by tomorrow night, we’d better turn in now."
Lee’s response was an affirmative one.
"Sounds like a good idea, Charlie. What about you, Chip?"
"Agreed, Skip...er. Lee."
He pulled the zipper on the pup tent that was his, and climbed in with a brief "G’nite"
Crane followed suit, and the guide retired last.
The second day passed in a vigorous series of climbs and hikes, and as evening began to approach they were able to make camp at the east-side of the mountain, as they had planned. The campsite that they stopped at had been often used, and there were stores, and supplies available. Supplementing what was there with what they had carried with them, they again made and early dinner and turned in.
Lee was satisfied with the trip so far. The guide was a good, if taciturn man, and that suited the Captain well. They had nothing to worry about or even think about, just to spend the time and the concentration on the climb and the hike. He lay back, relaxed, and slept.
He came awake with a start. It was still dark. He’d been dreaming…of Seaview and Nelson, and his was crew in trouble, and the boat sinking. He woke in a cold sweat, realizing that it was a dream. He lay back thinking and listening to the incredible silence. He really hadn’t felt this relaxed in a long time. He was able to let his guard down, and those keen senses that kept him on the fine edge of awareness receded just a bit. He checked his watch...the watch face showed 0245 hours. He hoped that he could fall back asleep until dawn.
He woke again as the sky was beginning to brighten... he checked his watch...Their guide was right on the mark..0530 hours...He crawled out of the tent and drew in a breath... The third tent and all of the supplies were gone...Gone also, all the climbing equipment. He called for Morton...
"Chip!! Wake up now!"
Years of military trying brought the Exec to full awareness immediately.
"Yes, Skipper!?" was the alert reply as he scrambled out of the tent, and he let out a low whistle as he took in the starkness of the campsite.
"Looks like we’ve been had!"
Crane ran fingers through his hair in a tense gesture.
"Big time," he paused, "Well, let’s take stock of what we have and get a plan of action."
Crane smiled, in spite of himself. Habits die hard, and as close as he and Chip were, in any situation, the two of them fell into the Captain/Exec mode automatically.
It took the two men less than ten minutes to make an assessment of their situation, and their conclusions were that it was not a good one, however...
"Two tents, two sleeping bags, two canteens of water, a few bars of hi energy food supplements, some basics like matches, First Aid kits, flashlights, Swiss knives and that's about it, Lee"
"We’re on vacation, so I didn’t even think to bring any of the ‘toys’ that I usually carry." He grinned ruefully, "well, old friend, let’s pack up what we have, and get on the move. I think, we can try to get off the mountain by going back the way we came up...there were only one or two spots that we had any difficulty with. We can do it."
They packed up the little equipment that they had and in ten minutes were returning on the track they had covered the day before. Each man was concentrating on the task to find their way down, and it was several hours later before Crane decided to come to a brief halt.
"Chip, let’s take a break, here, the next stretch is a little difficult and we should be fresh in approaching it."
"Yeah, that ledge was a just a little treacherous, as I recall, and I wouldn’t want to take a dive down that crevice beneath it, planned or unplanned..."
Crane laughed as they slung off their packs . "I agree with you on that one! I rather do my diving under the water, not through the air!"
The two of them took water and food bars and rested. Both were deep in their own thoughts and said little to one another. Roughly twenty minutes later, they resumed their trek.
Crane looked down. The ledge was narrowing here, to barely the width of a man’s shoe...one had to be very careful...yesterday it didn’t seem quite so narrow! Probably just the nerves of today and the stress of trying to get back under less than ideal conditions. He glanced back at Morton, who was intently following his lead.
One of them kicked a rock and it skittered over the edge of the ledge, into the crevice below. Crane looked down again and saw that it wasn’t a straight drop, but rather there were several ledges and outcroppings down the side of the chasm. More rocks skittered and fell as they inched along the ledge... then without warning, he heard a loud , splintering crack, and then the two men were falling through the air...
Harriman Nelson paced the Radio shack, smoking endlessly -
"The Hotel Desk Manager on the line, sir."
"Admiral Harriman Nelson here...Can you connect me to Captain Lee Crane or Lt. Cdr. Morton, please....Oh, I see....Yes....Please...Leave a message...yes... thank you... "
Chief Sharkey, who had been standing the doorway, spoke up.
"Admiral, sir, something wrong?" Nelson’s reply was brusque, and irritated.
"No, Chief, they’re just following orders! Taking shore leave! They’ve gone Mountain Climbing!!! Won’t be back be back for four of five days according to the Desk Manager. They’re at a place called Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain State Park! No way to contact them! Less of a chance to find them!! Francis, I need you to go out there and locate them and bring them back to Seaview. I need Lee and Chip here, on Seaview. We’ve just received orders from the Crossing Guard. I want you to take the FS1 out to Denver and find them...comb every inch of that mountain if you have to. I need them here at 0845 hours in three days time! I know, Chief, that it’s like finding a needle in a haystack, but I’ve given you more difficult assignments. You depart in two hours. Doc Jamison is going with you, just in case. With those two you never know ..."
He came to awareness slowly and painfully....He remembered falling...He didn’t remember the landing, thankfully. As consciousness returned fully, he tried to rise, and felt like he was slammed down. He took a deep breath and began to evaluate his condition. Gingerly he started a brief self exam. He had landed on his left side, most likely on his shoulder...That would explain why his whole left side was throbbing...his shoulder the center of intense throbbing pain...his left arm had no feeling in it. There was a warm trickle of warmth down the left side of his face...his right hand came away from his head sticky with blood. He knew that he had a mass of bruises all over, but no other site of real damage. Slowly pulled himself up to a sitting position ‘so far, so good...’ He tried to stand and wound up leaning against the back wall of the ledge. With his right hand, he tucked the left into his shirt, and almost passed out as an attack of vertigo struck. He slid down to a sit, until the ledge stopped spinning. He looked around for Morton...some fifteen feet away, on the same ledge, he saw him...even from this angle, he knew that Morton had taken the worse end of the fall.
He wanted to get to his friend’s side as quickly as possible, but he also knew to move too quickly would cause more of a problem than they already had. So, with what was to him agonizing slowness, he inched toward his friend...several times, he had to stop, because dizziness threatened to overwhelm him...finally, he reached his friend’s side...
‘At least, he’s still breathing’...
From the awkward position of Chip’s right arm, Lee knew it was broken. He tried to move him, and straighten the broken limb, and was thankful that Morton remained unconscious. Working with only one arm was making his task all the more difficult and slow...so very slow... he tried to settle Chip in what seemed to be a more comfortable position and then tried to see if he had any more injuries...
The fact that Chip remained unconscious was worrisome to Crane and he thought that he could have some kind of head trauma...There was a large and ugly bruise on Morton’s right forehead and the side of his face. There was no way for him to tell until, or unless he came to...Crane leaned back against the side of the ledge, and then dozed from exhaustion...
He woke...a faint voice calling his name..
"Lee...Lee..." his call was urgent, and pain filled.
Crane moved to his side...
"Yeah...remind me not to let you make the plans again.."
"How’re you feeling...?"
"Don’t really know... not much feeling my right arm...Broken...?"
"Probably.... it looks like it...How’s your head?"
"Hurts like hell...world is sort blurred and fuzzy...concussion..."
"Most likely...anything else that I can’t see?"
"No, don’t think so...You...?"
"Left shoulder and arm seem pretty useless. Maybe dislocated the shoulder, that could explain it. Concussion, maybe, a slight one, I hope... Chip, we’re going to have to make some provision for the two of us. We’ve got water, enough for a couple of days. A few of these power bars...the sleeping bags... we lost the tents in the fall...some first aid material, some matches and flashlights. And....no one knows where we are, we’re not expected back for another four days...Right now, things don’t look too promising!"
Morton gave him a wry smile.
"I’m not worried , Skipper. You’ll think of something..."
Seaview sat at the ready in her berth at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Chief Sharkey was in the FS1 doing his final checklist prior to takeoff.
"Aye, Admiral. We’ll be ready to leave in ten minutes."
"Good, Chief. I’ve been in contact with the authorities at the Park, they left from the east face of Longs Peak two days ago, with a local guide. The plan that the guide filed indicated a campsite the first nite at the base of the glacier, and last night on the other side of a ledge called the Broadway."
"Ok, Admiral. Who do I contact when I arrive?"
"Head Ranger of the Park, Chief. He’s be waiting for you arrival."
"Any other orders, sir?"
"Just find them and bring them back to Seaview. We have to get underway in two days."
He looked up the spiral stairs, as Jamison came down carrying a fairly large pack. Nelson raised a quizzical eye..
"Work or play, Admiral, if I know Lee Crane…"
At that moment, Lee Crane was secretly wishing that he had some of Jamison’s Medical supplies. Chip was running a fever, not a high one, but Crane knew that it could indicate a whole slew of possible complications. He had taken their sleeping bags, and worked them as best as he could into a covering for the Exec. He was becoming increasing frustrated with his own condition, and inability to help his friend much. Morton was drifting in and out of consciousness, which Crane attributed the head injury He had a number of concerns, the largest one being how the hell would they be found. He also knew that if he left Chip to try to go for help, the odds against the two of them surviving would significantly decrease.
" Pretty stupid to take off like we did with no way to contact Seaview... Guess we never anticipated a just in case scenario …pretty careless...talk about acting like greenhorns...Wonder how the engineers are taking care of ‘my’ boat."
He looked up the sky...it was beginning to darken...checking his watch,(which had somehow survived the fall intact) he saw it was only mid - afternoon...darkening skies could only mean one thing...Storm!...pulling himself over to Morton, he gently shook the injured man to consciousness...
"Chip...Chip..., c’mon...wake up...!"
Morton’s response was slow, and deliberate..."Lee...what...what's’ wrong..? Thirsty...do we have any water..?’
"Sure.." He held a water bottle between his knees to open the spout with one hand...he put it in Morton’s good hand and held his friends’ head up so he could take the drink. surprisingly he didn’t take too much before he put the jug down
"Better...What’s wrong, Lee..?"
"Skies are getting darker, but since it’s mid afternoon, I think it’s a storm building...Chip, we’re going to have to get you under the ledge further...You ‘re going to have to help me...I just can’t do it alone... and Chip, I’m afraid it’s gonna hurt like hell!!"
Once again a ghost of a grin settled on Morton’s face...
"Tell me something I don’t know...Ok, then...What’d we do...?"
"We’re going to have to get further under this ledge...as close to the wall as we can. We’ve got to stay as dry as possible...we don’t need to add wet to the other problems we’ve got...so maybe...if you can inch your way over...bit by bit... hold onto me and I'll pull as best as I can..."
It was a slow and arduous process and when they had moved as close to the ledge wall as they could they were exhausted...Crane then fixed the sleeping bags around Morton again, and huddled against the wall himself, to sleep...
Chief Petty Officer Francis E. Sharkey and Dr. Jamison sat in the office of the Head Park Ranger C. Bristol. As Sharkey looked out the window, he was becoming more and more anxious...The sky was lowering and darkening, and it was still the middle of the afternoon....
"I can only tell you what the Weather Center in Denver is telling us and that’s that the next twelve to fourteen hours are going to put us into some very unsettled weather...Major thunderstorm cells are moving through the area. And as fine a machine that your flying submarine is, I doubt that it can handle these kind of storm cells... I believe that you’re effectively grounded until then..."
Sharkey bristled at the proposed inactivity...No one knew exactly where the Skipper and Exec were, and now they had to wait until the storms passed to initiate a search. This was not good! There was a knock on the office door and another Ranger came in . He handed Bristol a paper, and left the room. After reading it, the Ranger addressed the Seaview men .
"I’m afraid we have a further complication, gentlemen. Seems that there was a problem with your men."
"Problem, Ranger?" Sharkey asked, alarmed.
"The guide that they hired was found over in Breckenridge this morning, selling some climbing gear. Seems it was rented gear, and when the clerk checked it out, the gear had been rented by a Lee Crane and Chip Morton in Denver. Anyway, the police have him in custody and they are waiting for you to arrive. They say that the man just decided to leave them on the mountain , and hi-tail it with the gear. He claimed to have a sudden high debt, and figured selling the gear would get him the cash to pay it off. Too bad. He was a good guide. He’s agreed to show you where the campsite from last night was. Maybe that will help you locate your men."
"Yes, but that isn't possible until the weather clears. How far from here to Breckenridge?"
"About three hours or so. I’ll take you on over, if you’d like. It’ll make a long haul if you don’t know where you’re going."
"Good! Then let’s get going now. Doc you stay with the FS1. Let the Admiral know what’s going on here. If we time it right, we should be able to take off soon after we return."
"I’ll be ready for you Chief. I'll talk to the Admiral and have any updates for you from the boat."
"Thanks, Doc. Ok, Mr. Bristol. Let’s go."
Ten hours later, a very weary Sharkey returned to the Ranger Headquarters, a sheriff’s deputy and prisoner in tow. "Alright, buddy, let’s go..." he pushed the guide towards the Sub. The deputy followed them.
Doc was standing in the back hatch of the FS1.
"You know what they say in the Navy. Payback’s a bitch, and now you’re gonna payback. I’d better find my Skipper and Exec, or you don’t have any idea how tough your payback’s gonna be!!!"
He pushed the handcuffed man into the FS1 and strapped him into a seat behind Doc. The deputy took and adjacent one. He took the pilot’s seat and began the preflight checklist.
The raindrops had begun to fall slowly at first, though they were as large as half dollar pieces. When they hit the ground, at first, it looked like small eruptions in the dust...as the frequency of the drops increased, the ground quickly became wet, and then saturated...for the two men on the ledge, the storm only served to increase their suffering. Morton’s condition continued to deteriorate. He was less and less coherent. Crane knew he needed Medical help soon, and was frustrated by his helplessness in this situation...he was growing colder himself in the damp wet. Although they weren’t getting rained on, there was enough water all around them to make Crane feel soaked to the skin. Morton was better protected by the doubled sleeping bags that Crane had wrapped around him, but he, too, had to be feeling the cold wet. Although it was summer, here in the mountains the temperatures without the sunlight could easily drop to the 40’s or 50’s. Crane knew he had to keep Chip as warm as possible, and he also knew he would have to warm up as well or risk some serious consequences.
‘If only there was some way to rig a signal...C’mon, Lee...Think...no firewood for a fire...no combustibles at all...there’s got to be a way to let them know that we’re here !!!Think...damn you!!"
Morton was calling him, he’d better focus.
The Exec’s voice was soft and strained. Crane felt Chip’s forehead. He was burning with fever.
"What is it Chip?"
"Pain’s getting ...worse... feels like arms’ about to explode...Wish...wish I could get a ...clear thought... any water..."
Again Crane held his head so with the good arm he could take a drink. This time , however, he took almost nothing and dropped the bottle quickly.
"I...I don’t know....Lee...can’t seem to get up the strength to get going..."
Crane looked sharply at him. He was hallucinating....
"If we don’t get that diving party out of here...soon...the Admiral...he...he..."he drifted off. Crane grew more angry at himself.
" I sure fixed things good. Take a Shore Leave...I don’t want to take shore leave, so when I do, I leave everything...every damn thing on the boat so the Admiral can’t get to me,...and look at this mess we’re in...Crane, if, and only if you get the two of you out of this one... don’t ever be so stubborn and stupid again! " It was going to be a very long night...
The FS1 flew over the mountains in the growing light. Morning was coming soon and Sharkey wanted to be ready to find the Skipper and Mr. Morton.
As soon as it was light enough the search teams would leave the park headquarters, and the helicopters would take to the air. The storms had long passed, but they had left the entire area with much colder temperatures.
Doctor Will Jamison was worried. If the Captain and Exec had been out in all of the weather last night, he knew he’d have some major illness to deal with. Unlike Sharkey, he was aware of the extent of Crane’s and Morton’s survival training and knew that, even if they were injured...(Lee Crane, missing for even one day and uninjured...not likely) their chances of surviving were still better than most.
Sharkey decided to leave the search in the hands of the people who knew how to do it best. The Parks’ people and the locals. After the guide had pointed out the location of the campsite, Sharkey and the Doc had returned the man to Breckenridge and then returned with the FS1 to the base of operations at the former campsite.
In constant communication with the Seaview, Sharkey and Jamison remained with the FS1 while the search proceeded. One thing everyone who knew him agreed on was that Francis Ethelbert Sharkey was not good at waiting, however, this time even the Admiral would have been proud of his CPO’s restraint.
‘After all,’ he reasoned with himself, ‘nobody’s in any danger. We just have to find the Exec and the Skipper, and get them back to the boat ASAP because of this new mission. Yeah, there’s nothing to worry about, they’re just a little lost is all, nothing to worry about at all.’
If Sharkey had been on the ledge with the Seaview’s officers at that moment, he would have undoubtedly had a different perspective on worry.
After the rain and the chill of the night, there was no doubt in Lee Crane’s mind that they both were in need of serious Medical attention and soon. During the night, Chip Morton’s condition had deteriorated even further, between the wet and cold and the broken bones, a serious fever had developed, robbing the Exec of any lucidity at all. At several intervals, Crane had tried to get some of the aspirin from the First Aid kit into him to reduce the fever, but he had only moderate success. He knew that Chip needed serious antibiotics and pain meds. Both his arm and leg were beginning to discolor, and he knew infections were beginning that could be life threatening to his friend. His own situation was not much better, again from the cold and wet, he too was beginning a fever.
‘Pneumonia...that’s a real possibility, Lee... well for now, down a few aspirin, and keep the fever down...Then you’ve got to rig some kind of marker that can be seen from up above...But what...and more importantly how...’
He began to drift into an uneasy sleep, but it lasted only a few minutes, and he began to draw on that inner reserve that had served him, so well, so many times before... ‘Okay...a marker....has to be bright colored....easily seen....’
He looked at the meager pile of supplies and equipment that was on the ledge. They had lost the tents in the fall, Chip needed the sleeping bags..., they both needed to use all the clothing they were wearing…the only bright color was the red of the First Aid kits that each of them carried. Small pieces of canvas, roughly 6x12 inches each...he took out his Swiss Army knife and with a great deal of difficulty opened it. Then he took each kit in turn and cut the top off of it...He took adhesive tape from the kits and taped the two pieces together, so now he had a foot square red rectangle...
‘Alright, Captain, now what do you plan to do with your little red flag?’
He looked at their surroundings for what must have been the hundredth time, trying to see if they could be seen from above, finally he made his way over to the near edge of the ledge, and firmly planted the ‘flag’ under a rock, with most of it visible.
‘Well, maybe, just maybe someone will get close enough to see it...’
The sun was just high enough to cast some of its light on the ledge, and warm it. In spite of his own rising fever, he was grateful for the warmth of the sun on his face.
‘Maybe I’ll just rest here for a while, the sun does feel so warm...’
After two hours of searching, Sharkey’s patience wore out.
"That’s it, Doc, we’re taking the FS1 and we’re going to initiate our own search pattern. Can you give me the co-ordinates that the Ranger gave us of the campsite? We can put that into the computer along with the trail that would return to the mountain base, maybe we can get a better fix on where the Skipper and Exec could be."
"Sounds like you have a plan, chief, let’s see if we can get it to work!"
Forty five minutes later, the FS1 circled above the area where Crane and Morton were trapped. There were two ground search parties closing n on the area, from opposite directions Sharkey focused the cameras from the FS1 on the ledge area to scan it with the high resolution lens set to pick up anything that might resemble a human being. This was Nelson’s needle in a hay stack trick, and more than any time before, Sharkey hoped that he could find the needle.
"Anything, Doc.?" Sharkey asked anxiously.
"No, Chief, nothing yet. Just be patient. If there’s anything or anyone down there, we’ll see it."
After several more fly-overs, they were about to give up when a flash of red was caught by the camera.
"There, Chief!!...Over there..."
A few adjustments to the focus and the camera zoomed in on the bit of red. As the camera brought the red into focus, Sharkey let out a shout. "It’s the Skipper...But where’s Mr. Morton...?"
Lee Crane battled his way to consciousness...there was a familiar whine in the air...
‘The Flying Sub...? here...in the mountains...?"
He pushed himself to a sitting position and tried to scan the sky for a sign of the FS1...a blur of yellow flew overhead, and then returned in another pass...he wanted to raise his arm and wave but he just didn’t have the strength...
"At least, they’ve found us...but can they get to us..."
Sharkey found a small lake not far from the ledge, and he was able to set the FS1 down in the water. With Jamison not far behind him, they caught up with one of the search teams, and directed them to the area of the ledge. As the searchers reached the ledge, the found where it had broken off, and where the two men had fallen. It was a good 150 foot drop to the ledge below. Sharkey shuddered to think of what condition the Captain and Exec could be in. He looked in concern to Jamison, who was assessing the materials in the Medical Pack. He gave Sharkey a curt nod of acknowledgement and continued his methodical work. All the two of them could do now was wait.
It took the search team another hour to reach the ledge where Crane and Morton were...
"Got to tell them about Chip...got to let them know..."
Lee heard the voices getting closer and forced himself to call out to them... "Here...Over HERE!!..."
As the rescue party set down on the ledge, they moved over to where the two men were...
"Yes...my friend...Chip Morton...he...needs your help...he..." he took a deep breath..."His right arm, …broken...some kind of head injury, not ... very lucid...last night...fever ... respiratory involvement...need your help..."
"Yes, sir...we’re going to help the two of you...How are you, sir?"
He shook his head as if to clear it...and then he tried to rise...only to find the ground coming to meet him very quickly...one of the rescuers grabbed at him to steady him...He took another breath...his words were becoming slurred ..."Left arm and shoulder, dislocated, I think...concussion...fever... very blurred vision...not too steady right now...I think I’d better sit," he said "or I’ll be falling down..."
"Yes, sir, Captain. Your CPO and your ship’s doctor are waiting at the top of the cliff. We’ve offered to take the two of you to Denver to the Hospital, but they insist they’ll take you back to your ship..."
Crane smiled faintly at the man. "It’s a boat...a submarine is a boat..."
"Oh. Yes, sir!"
"If Jamie is here, we’ll be fine going back to Seaview . He’s the best doctor in or out of the Navy."
"Sir, if you’ll just let us check you out before we get you up the cliff."
"We’ve got him on a stretcher, sir, he’s going to be lifted up now, sir."
"Good...good...I’m tired...just a little rest..."
He fell forward, into the arms of the medic that he had been talking to. The man gently lowered him onto the ground. With a few swift movements the medic assessed Crane’s condition and bundled him into a waiting stretcher and the stretcher than began its’ slow ascent.
At the top of the cliff, Sharkey and Doc waited anxiously.
As the first stretcher was lifted onto the cliff top, Jamison rapidly moved toward it. With a series of grunts, and mutterings, Jamison made his own assessment of Morton’s condition and set to work, conferring with one of the two paramedics that were part of he rescue team. IVs were set up, several hypos of medication administered and Sharkey led the way to the FS1. Several minutes later, the second stretcher came up the cliff. Jamison quickly went to work again. Crane was conscious as he began working on him.
"Doc, how’s Chip?’
"He’ll be okay, Skipper. He may have to spend some time in Sick Bay, but he’ll be okay."
"Good... Will...?" He grabbed Jamison’s arm. "Remind me, the next time the Admiral mentions Shore Leave, to stay on my boat.."
Jamison laughed good-naturedly. "Will do, Skipper! Look, Lee, I’m going to give you a sedative. Without x-rays I can’t tell if your shoulder is broken or just dislocated, but I’m sure that it hurts like hell!"
Crane nodded. "You’ve got some good bruising, some small lacerations. and quite a gash on your head. I think your guess about a concussion was also a good one, along with some symptoms from exposure and a dandy respiratory inflammation going. I’d say that you’ll be patient in Sick Bay for a while, yourself."
Crane groaned, but ,right now, at this moment, he looked forward to being back on his boat. Even if it was going to be in Sick Bay...
Jamison was settled at his desk with the Admiral, giving the O.O.M. the full report on his two senior Officers.
"Chip Morton...Broken right arm - radius and ulna -recovery time---six weeks. Severe concussion...some amnesia related to trauma...recovery time...two weeks...respiratory inflammation de to exposure...recovery time two weeks..."
"So you’re telling me that Chip will be out of commission for at least six weeks?"
"Let’s just say off any full active duty. You may be able you give him light duty, paperwork and the like after two weeks or so."
"Actually, Admiral, with the kind of damage and dislocation in the shoulder and arm a six week recovery is also recommended. Along with the concussion and the fourteen stitches in that thick head of his, I should keep him out of the Control Room for at least a few weeks." He looked at Nelson with a look of exasperation.
"However, he has prevailed upon the good graces of his doctor, me, to be released on good behavior, not to mention the doctor’s need for sanity, for light duty in the Control Room.!!!."
Crane stood in the doorway of the Sick Bay, smiling broadly at the Admiral and the doctor. His left arm was in a black sling and was held tightly in place by a band around his chest. Nelson gave him an appraising look and asked,
"Are you sure that you’re ready for any kind of duty, Lee? You’ve had a pretty harrowing few days."
"You know that I can’t stand not to be involved in the day to day operations of my boat."
Nelson raised and eyebrow.
"...and I promised Jamie here that I will behave myself, I have sworn an oath.." he said lightly... "not to overdue any activity. And to report to the good doctor prior to each duty shift!"
He sat down at the desk with the two other officers.
"Honestly, Admiral, I will take care, but I felt that I ought to be on the bridge during this mission. Just hanging around in Sick Bay would drive Doc as crazy as it would drive me."
"As long as you don’t bust my orders, Skipper, you can stay in the Control Room. But if you try to bust them in any way, I’ll haul you in here in a heartbeat.."
He laughed good - naturedly. "I know, Doc, believe me, I know. Do I have your permission to talk to Chip, Will?"
"He may still be a little woozy, Lee, but I think you can."
Crane went into the Sick Bay proper and over to the bunk where Morton lay. "Chip?"
Morton opened his eyes and looked up at Crane, who was leaning over the bunk. "Sorry, Skipper. I’m still a bit groggy."
"It’s ok, Chip." He clapped him gently on the shoulder, and with a smile said, "Since I’ve been sprung, I’d best get back on Duty, as much as the Doc allows me, anyhow. I’ll be back later."
"Sure, Lee, and, Lee...Thanks...for everything..."
Crane smiled. "Yeah, well, next time, you plan the Shore Leave!!"
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