The Price of a Friendship
The rope was yanked hard once more, and their captors laughed as the prisoners fell again to the damp ground of the jungle. "Clumsy Americans!! What will the General think when he finds that you can not walk into the guest quarters he has prepared for you?! Get up!!!"
Neither man on the ground responded to the taunting voice, and the sergeant swaggered over to the older man and delivered a vicious kick to his midsection.
He grunted, instinctively curling into a protective ball. Azure blue eyes flashed with a combination of anger and agony. From his horizontal vantage point, he watched as their captor raised his foot to kick the other helpless prisoner.
"Wait....Don't...he...he was injured in the crash...That's not going to help get him moving again!! he needs medical help!!"
Their captors smirked and their leader spoke again. "Your friend will be lucky if we let him live when we get him to our headquarters! Medical Help!, Pah!!! You have five minutes to get him moving!!! You're the only one we want, Admiral...NO ONE else!! My orders are specific... Bring you in alive, anyone else is expendable!! Your people as well as my own!"
The Admiral pulled himself to a sitting position. With his arms were tightly bound behind his back, and his ankles hobbled walking was difficult and running downright impossible. Their captors had tied lines to the hobbles and seemed to get a great deal of pleasure by of pulling on the ropes and causing their prisoners to fall.
The sergeant spit at the Admiral's feet. "Five minutes!"
The Admiral edged over to the other officer, who hadn't moved since he fell. Lying face down on the jungle floor, was bound in the same fashion. The Admiral leaned close to the other man....
"Chip...Chip...Come on lad, wake up.!!"
His name being called by Nelson penetrated the pitch blackness that had become his world. He was aware that his head was pounding, his stomach roiling. But the steady, throbbing pain in his right arm and shoulder brought him to abrupt awareness, and a realization that the numbness in his right arm and shoulder had given way to a steady, throbbing, red hot pain. He turned his head towards Nelson's voice, and forced his eyes to open.
Although the image was blurred, he could see the concern in the older man's face.
"Listen, Chip," he whispered softly, "You've got to get up! If you don't, they'll leave you here or worse!! C'mon lad, sit up!!"
Morton slowly rolled over, then slid toward the older man. "Aye, sir," he said as he struggled weakly to rise.
The slight movement from the prisoners was an overt signal to their captors to maneuver around them. The prisoners were grabbed by their arms and hauled roughly to their feet. Morton swayed as his injured arm was pulled and yanked upward. Blackness again threatened, but he found the inner strength to force it away. He knew he had to stay conscious, or he would be left behind. It was his job to protect the Admiral, at all costs. He had to get the O.O.M. out of this situation!
The trip over the African Coast had started out to be a simple, even enjoyable one, one. Admiral Harriman Nelson had received word from an old friend of a discovery of a new species of deep sea fish. With his scientific interest immediately piqued, Nelson had ordered the Flying Sub readied and commandeered Morton to fly him there.
With Captain Lee Crane involved in a missile project on the boat, it was only logical that the Executive officer accompany him. Lt. O'Brien, the Second would act as Exec until he and Morton returned from what Nelson had planned as a two day jaunt on the African Coast at Dr. Arch Abrams research facility.
The flight from the Mid-Atlantic ridge had been an uneventful one until the FS1 suddenly lost all power as she came in near the coast of Angola. They had crashed in a clearing near the edge of a jungle. When they had regained consciousness, Morton discovered a deep gash in his right arm, and found that his shoulder had been dislocated. Nelson had fared somewhat better, with only a variety of bumps and bruises visible. They had managed to send out a Mayday as the FS1 lost power but had no idea whether or not it was successfully sent or received.
Nelson was administering first-aid to Morton's arm, when they were suddenly attacked by the general's men. Outgunned, and outmanned, they wisely had surrendered.
That had been two days ago. It had been two of the most grueling days that he'd ever experienced. They were forced trudge through the jungle, day and night, without food or water and very few rest breaks.
Morton's arm and shoulder had only received the initial first aid that the Admiral had administered, and Chip knew his condition was getting worse.
Nelson's facial expression, as they were marched off, was grim, and Morton could tell from the look that the wound didn't look good....He knew it didn't feel good. He wondered when it all would end....
Two days earlier the Seaview….
Captain Lee Crane looked up from the Plotting Table, his hazel widening in alarm. The inflection in the usually staid Spark's voice meant trouble. He strode to the Radio Shack.
"It's the Flying Sub, sir. We've lost contact. They were in the middle of a Mayday transmission."
Crane's forehead creased in frustration. He slammed a fist into the top of the console. Admiral, where in the hell are you and Chip? This was supposed to be a lark... a visit with an old friend, and a look at a new species of fish!!...Now you've gone and disappeared!!
"No, sir. We received the Mayday and then nothing. I can put it in a general area, but it's a lot of sea, and land to cover!"
"Give me the coordinates and let's see if we can plot a better search area than the one the computer came up with. Bob," he called over to O'Brien, the second officer, now the acting XO, "Join me at the Plot table."
The young officer quickly met the Captain at the table. Crane handed him the coordinates and spread the map of the African Coastline before them. Crane pointed to a site on the Chart. "That's the Research facility, that the Admiral was heading for. Professor Abrams said that they checked in with him twenty minutes before we received the mayday... If they were taking this course.." He indicated it with a pencil..." and we received the transmission of the mayday here...then they would have had to have made landfall.....Here! Bob, bring her to a heading of 270, take her down to ninety feet, and push her to her limits, flank speed!!"
"Aye, aye, sir."
Admiral, Lee thought, you and Chip had better be where I think you are!!
The normally closed mouthed Sergeant was becoming increasing talkative, leading Nelson to believe that they were coming closer to their destination.
He sincerely hoped so, for as he watched Morton, he knew that the younger man was reaching the end of his endurance. From glances stolen during 'rest' breaks, he could see the wound was discoloring badly, and skin around it was beginning to redden and was periodically oozing a ugly looking discharge.
Morton's begrimed face was pasty, his eyes, fever bright. He moved as though he were on the verge of collapse, trudging slowly along. The Sergeant came towards Nelson with a huge grin on his face. "We are almost there, Admiral - and it seems, none to soon for your friend there, and you Americans brag so about your stamina and strength - but at least with him it seems not to be the case, eh?"
He gave a vicious yank to the rope attached to Morton's hobble, and brought him crashing to the jungle floor.
Morton felt himself falling and tried to maneuver his body in mid-air to avoid landing on his on his injured side. He failed, and his damaged shoulder impacted the ground, sending him into bleak oblivion.
A fresh surge of adrenaline shot through Nelson, who cursed and charged at the Sergeant, but another yank on his own rope brought the enraged Admiral to his knees.
The Sergeant laughed cruelly again..."Admiral, my orders are to bring you to the General, alive and aware...He said nothing about damaged goods...and damage can happen, you know, in transit..? That one, your friend, if he doesn't make it..."
"Then you'll have a hard time explaining to your general why his prize captive won't cooperate at all. If you leave my Executive officer, I guarantee you, you won't deliver me alive, and I'll take some of you with me!"
The Sergeant looked puzzled, and he became cautious because he saw the challenge in Nelson's eyes, and then thoughtful. "I cannot disappoint my General. You two...get him up..." he gestured toward Morton. "Carry him if you must...I will not disappoint the General!"
Two of the soldiers bent down and pulled Morton to an upright position. Chip remained unconscious, however, and they proceeded to drag him down the trail...
To say that Lee Crane was frustrated was an understatement. Once word of Admiral Nelson's disappearance leaked out,(and Crane still wanted to know who had let the press know) all hell had broken loose. Professor Abrams was calling Seaview on an hourly basis to check on their progress in locating the Admiral.
The Institute was being bombarded by calls from the media wanting to know what had happened to Nelson. And the final jolt was a call from 'The Crossing Guard' firmly instructing him not to take the boat and go after the Admiral and Morton. When Lee questioned the presidential aide who had forwarded the President's message, he had been told it was a question of international impacts and increased guerilla activity from outside elements. That was the reason for the order. Crane couldn't get further than the very irritating aide....
The Captain was sitting in the observation nose, charts spread on the table in front of him, abstractedly tapping the tabletop with a pencil. He often adopted this stance when deciding on a course of action.
To disobey a direct order from the "Crossing Guard', Lee thought, is suicide for your career, Crane. But the Admiral and Chip are your best friends. They've both put their lives on the line for you many times. There is no question about your position. But the men, the boat...well, you always put it to the men before....give them the choice.
Reaching his decision, he surged into action, bolting to the Radio Shack. Taking the mike from Sparks, he nodded once to him and said and then told him...."Pipe this all over the ship… All hands, this is the Captain. As you are well aware, the Admiral and Mr. Morton have been missing for two days. As you also know, we are off the Coast where we last had contact with them. I have just received word from the President that we are not to make landfall, nor are we to initiate a search. I plan personally to disobey that order." He paused, and there was a boatwide holding of breath. "However, I cannot order any one of you to follow me to find them and I will not force any man to follow me under these circumstances. If anyone decides to volunteer, I will be happy to have your help. I must also warn you that if you do volunteer you will be facing possible legal charges and prison. Many of you will have to stay here with Mr. O'Brien and the boat. I will appreciate any volunteers to come to me in the next half hour. Thank you!"
He turned on a heel and went back to the Observation Nose. Being on the Admiral's Front Porch always helped his thinking process.
The boat released its collective breath. To a man they would follow the Skipper. Not try to rescue the Admiral and Exec? was the general consensus of opinion, Was the President CRAZY?.. Didn't the Skipper realize that they'd follow him anywhere? No matter what the cost!!? The skipper was going to bust orders and find the Admiral and the Exec out of friendship, the crew realized, and the ultimate price he would pay for it...didn't he know that they were all willing to pay the same price?
Sharkey approached the Captain as he stood looking out the Observation window.
Bob O'Brien stood next to the Chief.
Crane answered without turning to look at him, "Yes, Chief?
"Captain, the men on the boat are behind you 100%. Whatever we have to do to find the Admiral and Mr. Morton, we'll do...regardless of the consequences."
O'Brien spoke up "Captain, on behalf of all the junior officers I'd like to say we feel the same way, sir."
With a relieved smile on his face, Crane turned to thank them. He continued to smile, and said "Thank you, Chief; Bob, I was hoping that you'd all feel that way.
"If you'll excuse me, Skipper, what's the plan of action?"
"We heave to three miles off the coast , and lay submerged and at radio silence. We'll send two landing parties ashore. Bob, you'll be in charge of the boat. Sharkey, you take the first party, I'll take the other. We'll go with four men each, rescue gear, jungle survival gear, armed with sidearms and rifles. These are the coordinates that I've calculated the FS1 may be found at." He bent over the table and drew a circle around the coordinates. "Sharkey you take this area...I'll take this one. We'll rendezvous here an hour after landing. We'll take radios to keep in touch with each other, and the boat. Bob, put two rafts off the tower in twenty minutes, and once we're away, take her down... She may not be my boat much longer, but take good care of her for me now!"
O'Brien smiled at him, "Yes, sir...good luck, sir!!"
"Thanks, we'll need it, I think No turning back now!!" He grinned at the Second, and left the Control Room, followed by Sharkey.
As the Chief went through the Control Room, he tapped several crewmen on the shoulder, and nodding at each, indicated that they were to come with him.
Lee Crane moved with quiet thought down the corridors of Seaview. Heading toward Officers' Country, the enormity of his decision began to sink in. IF he could find the Admiral and Chip... IF he could get them safely back to the ship...Then what? Get back to Santa Barbara, and then what?
He'd be in plenty of hot-water, to be sure, even a Court Martial? And what if Nelson and Morton couldn't be found? What then? Where would Seaview go from there? What would happen to the hundreds that the boat, and Institute employed? What then? He came to the door of his cabin, and entered.
As Crane was preparing to leave his cabin, there was knock on the door. He called "Come.", although he was not expecting anyone.
"Skipper?" Doc Jamison asked.
Crane was a little surprised, "Yes, Doc."
He came into the cabin with a knapsack with a large Red Cross on it " The medical supplies that you requested, just in case..." His voice trailed off. "I thought I'd bring them here to you, instead of the Control Room."
"Thanks, Jamie. You know, you don't have to go along with this harebrained rescue scheme of mine. You could lock yourself in Sick Bay and ignore the whole thing!"
"Captain Crane," Jamison said "This boat and this crew is my family. What ever they do, I do! In addition Lee, the Admiral is my good friend, and I want to see him, and Chip Morton back on this boat safe and sound as much as any one man on this boat, except maybe... you! "
"I'm sorry, Doc. I didn't mean to.."
He clapped a hand on the younger man's shoulder." It's okay Lee. Just be safe and bring them home. We'll all deal with the consequences, later..." he grinned at the Captain..." I could always certify temporary insanity!"
"After all these years, who would believe that one?"
The Sergeant turned toward Nelson as the party reached the stockade. "Here we are, Admiral...My General is within...he will be most pleased to see you!"
As weakened and tired as he was, Nelson managed to reply " I'll bet he is! " and he looked over his shoulder to the soldiers that were dragging Morton along. His concern for his Exec was mounting rapidly....He hadn't come to consciousness since that last fall. The stockade gates opened and a squad of men ran out. Two men grabbed Morton and carried him inside. The Sergeant turned toward Nelson, grabbed him by the arm and guided him to a steel door...
To Nelson's dismay, Morton was nowhere in sight. Once inside the door, his eyes took time to adjust to the darker light inside. He looked around and saw that lining an entire wall were manned computer stations, with several communications stations. All were very busy. At the head of the room was a raised dias, with a large desk and several terminals on it. A large chair, with its back to the center of the room sat behind it.
The Sergeant spoke up, eagerly, "General, I have Admiral Nelson here for you!"
The chair slowly turned around, and Harriman Nelson was truly surprised for one of the few times in his life...the General was none other than Dr. Gamma!
He smiled at the Admiral, and it wasn't a friendly smile.
"Admiral, how good of you to accept my invitation!! I knew that you would be surprised to see me again. And you brought a friend!.." He gestured to a doorway that opened and two soldiers dragged Chip Morton into the room.
Morton was barely conscious, and clearly unable to stand on his own. Gamma nodded to the two soldiers, and they released Chip, and allowed him to fall to the floor. Nelson tried to step toward him, but the Sergeant held his arm tightly.
Gamma spoke again. "You cost me the life a very good operative in Burke, when we last met, Nelson. You owe me at least one life close to you, I fear. But not yet, not just yet. This is Morton here, is it not?"
Nelson nodded curtly, 'Yes'
"It seems he is in need of some Medical attention, once again. Shall I see if I can help him, might that make you more cooperative in your dealings with me?"
Again the only reply from the Admiral was an affirmative nod.
Gamma grinned at him obscenely. "Then I will have to accommodate you, of course. Sergeant, release the bonds on our guests. I would like them to be more comfortable."
The Sergeant took out a knife and quickly cut the ropes at Nelson's back and ankles, and then bent over Morton and released him. As quickly as he was able, Nelson was bending over the younger man. Ignoring his own pain as full circulation returned to his arms, he bent over the younger man.
"Chip...Chip...! Talk to me lad...C'mon..." he shook him gently in an attempt to rouse him. He examined the wound on the arm and was disturbed by the condition of it.
Discolored, a foul smelling ooze coming from it, open and not healing and hot to the touch. The tissue of the arm around it was beginning to swell and redden. As he felt Morton's forehead, and confirmed his fear that he was burning up with fever.
He stirred at Nelson's touch." Admiral..." he asked softly.
"Yes, Chip...We're at the General's HQ." He didn't tell him that the 'General' was in reality Dr. Gamma. "They've offered some Medical help... I don't know what kind they can give you...I don't know if I should trust them..."
"Your call, sir... Don't know how long I...can...stay... awake...Hot...and tired...."
Nelson looked up at Gamma...."Can we get him some water? Do you have a doctor here? He needs to have the arm treated.... He needs antibiotics... "
Gamma sat back in the chair... " One thing at a time Admiral..." He snapped his fingers and spoke to the Sergeant. "Take the Admiral and the Commander to their 'accommodations' Sergeant, and bring a corpsman to them to treat the Commander. He needs to recover his health so that we can properly entertain him!"
With a sneering smile, the Sergeant indicated to his men to to lift Morton, and carry him out, Nelson followed them. Gamma called to him, " I will talk with you soon, Nelson. Very soon." Nelson didn't even acknowledge Gamma but followed the men carrying the Exec..
The two landing parties made landfall, and unloaded their equipment and hid their rafts. They moved quickly into the jungle. Crane and Sharkey took their parties and headed off in different directions, carefully searching the jungle as they progressed. Some 40 minutes later, Crane's transmitter beeped.
"This is Seeker, calling Catcher. Come in Catcher... over."
Crane took the transmitter form the case..."This is Catcher, what's your status, Seeker?....over..."
"The Yellow Bird is on the hook, but Papa bird, and Dolphin are nowhere to be found. do you copy?"
"I copy, Seeker. Your location?"
"On the mark, Catcher. Assume that you will arrive soon.?"
"Roger, Seeker..." he took out a compass, checked it, the map, and his watch.
"As the crow flies, bearing 345 mark 7, Seeker."
"Roger Catcher, over and out"
Crane turned to his party, Kowalski, Riley, Rodriguez, and Barcley looked at him expectantly. "Sharkey has found the Flying Sub, but the Admiral, and Mr. Morton aren't there. They're in this direction..." and he headed off, following the compass into the Jungle.
In a small part of the complex that Gamma controlled, at a bank of communications equipment, a solitary man listened intently to a series of messages on the airwaves. He rapidly wrote down the messages he was monitoring and signaled for a man to come and take the paper to their leader.
Nelson paced the small steel room It was a bare cell, two bunks, a single chair, a bare light bulb. Morton lay listlessly on one of the bunks. His arm sported a fresh bandage on the wound, but other than cleaning the surface, Nelson doubted that it had done the Exec much good. The man that was sent to 'help' had very little medical knowledge and Nelson found that he had done most of the aid himself.
He had reset Morton's shoulder, and was grateful that the younger man was unconscious, for the admiral knew that his handling of the shoulder was less than gentle. He sincerely hoped that he had helped Chip, not made matters worse. He had been offered a simple antibiotic by the 'medic' to give to Chip, but found that it was a penicillin derivative, and remembered that one of the Exec's few weaknesses was a severe allergy to penicillin. Harry was grateful that he remembered that, or else Morton would most assuredly be dead by now!
He periodically checked on Morton. Since the penicillin was the only antibiotic available, he could not give him anything to help fight the raging infection. At least the wound was cleaned up, and hopefully that would help the Exec some. He pulled the chair up to the bedside and sat down. He couldn't begin to count the number of times he'd kept a bedside watch for one of his 'boys' - Assuredly many more times for Lee than Chip - Crane was definitely the more reckless of the two, Morton the more cautious - but each time he'd sat through one of these he definitely felt his age... He was pulled from his thoughts by Morton calling his name.
"Admiral, sir...where...where are we..?" Chip asked weakly.
"The 'general's' headquarters, Chip. A cell. They let me dress your arm, and I think I was able to pop the shoulder back in place. How do you feel, lad?"
He moved with some difficulty and tried to sit up, but failed as weakness overtook him. "I ... just don't seem...to have any strength... sir."
"It's the fever..."Nelson said as he fussed with the bandage. The sleeve of the shirt had long ago been lost and Harry saw that the entire arm was beginning to swell and redden..."How about some water, Chip?"
The sick man nodded slightly. "Yes, sir." Nelson bent over and poured the water from a pitcher into a tin cup. Morton winced in pain as the Admiral put an arm under his shoulders to support him and help him as he drank. After only a few sips, he pushed the cup away. "That's enough, sir. Just...very tired... think....I'll sleep..."
Nelson settled him on the cot, and thought, Lee, I hope you have a plan!!
At that moment, Crane, Sharkey, Kowalski and Patterson were going over the Flying Sub's damaged systems. "I don't know, Skipper, " Ski said shaking his head, "the way that these wires are fused together, I say that there was a massive overload of all the systems at the same time, and everything crashed at once!"
"Then they were lucky to get out that mayday at all!"
"Well, can we get her up and running, quickly?"
"Aye, sir. If we replace these bundles, and rework the circuits, she should be ready in an hour."
"Very well, Ski. You and Pat get on it. Inform me when you're done. The Chief and I will be outside."
"Aye, sir!" The senior ratings bent over the circuit boards and began to work in earnest. Crane jumped down the rear access hatch and Sharkey followed.
He moved over to a large tree and crouched down, the CPO followed suit.
"Chief, here's what I intend to do..."
At Gamma's compound, Harriman Nelson continued to pace the small cell. Morton was no better...the only consolation was that he didn't seem to be any worse. He still was running a fever, and the arm was still oozing a discharge, and was red and swollen, but as yet, he couldn't see any red streaks from the wound. Maybe being able to clean it helped out after all.
"Admiral..." Morton called weakly.
He pulled the chair back over to the side of the cot. "Yes, Chip?"
"Some water, sir?"
He held the Exec's head and put a cup of water to his lips.. Chip took a little, and lay back, exhausted by the effort. His eyes were still closed, but he said to the older man "Alright, sir, what is it that you haven't told me?" Nelson smiled. Chip was always good at discerning what he hadn't said as well as what he had.
"I can't keep much from you, can I?"
A small smile crept at the corners of the sick man's mouth, "No, sir, you never could!"
"Well, then...It seems the 'General' our 'host' is none other than Dr. Gamma. "
Morton started with the news "Gamma, sir?"
The admiral laughed harshly... "I had a hard time believing it myself, Chip. But it is him!"
"Then I wonder if the call from Abrams was on the level, sir?"
"I've thought of that myself .... But I've known Arch Abrams for almost thirty years...."
Morton shifted on the cot, and groaned with the effort. "If Gamma is here...after being imprisoned in a maximum security international facility, then I'd believe that even a thirty year friendship is suspect."
"I suppose that you're right, lad. You'd better try to rest as much as you can, Chip. We don't know what Gamma has planned for us..."
Crane was anxiously waiting for the FS1 repairs to be completed. He had decided to take the small sub and fly out in a circular pattern from the crash site. He was taking Rodriquez and Kowalski with him. Sharkey was going to do a ground level search with the rest of the men, and keep in constant contact with the Captain. He'd talked to the boat twice since they landed and Bob O'Brien was keeping a close eye on her and on the landing party as well. The younger man was becoming a fine, seasoned officer, Crane thought wryly. He never knows from one watch to the next what he'll be called on to do in the absence of the senior staff. In fact at this moment, He is the Senior Staff!! And whether or not this is a successful mission, he probably will become Senior Staff..
Crane's reverie was broken by Sharkey's bark, "Skipper! Skipper! "
"Yes, Chief, I'm coming..." he met the CPO in a small clearing a few feet from the FS1 "We're ready to go, sir. She checks out okay. Ski and Paterson out her back together better than new! They added an electronic shield to protect her from any sudden surges or , well you know, any attempt to bring her down again."
Crane clapped him on the shoulder, "Good work, Chief. You set with the plans...and you have the map."
"Aye, sir, as soon as you lift-off the rest of us will follow the search plan that you laid out. " he paused for a moment "Don't worry, Skipper, we'll find 'em." he told the younger man confidently..."You know that they had to walk away from this thing."
"Yes, Chief.. I know!"
Nelson let Morton lean heavily on him as they were taken down the corridor to a 'meeting' with Gamma. The Exec's infected right arm hung limp at his side, due to the infection as well as the dislocation of the shoulder. Morton's step was slow and measured. He was putting every ounce of carefully gathered strength into holding onto consciousness and making his way, with the Admiral's help, down what seemed to be an eternally long corridor.
Nelson could feel the strength slowly ebbing from the younger officer. He was apprehensive about the meeting with their captor. He knew from past experience that the man seemed to take great delight in creating the greatest possible pain for anyone who crossed him. Their paths had crossed often enough for Nelson to realize that Gamma felt that the Admiral owed him a huge debt, and he was about to begin to learn about Gamma's thoughts on 'payback'.
He spoke quietly to Morton, "How are you doing, Chip?"
His response was given through gritted teeth. "I'm surviving, sir....Let's just leave it at that!"
The Admiral merely grunted in acknowledgement. The twin steel doors at the end of the corridor swung open, and the Sergeant stood in the doorway grinning, "Admiral, Commander, so very good to see you both again. I do trust that the accommodations have been satisfactory. The 'General' will be very upset if you have not been well treated by our 'Staff.' "
The two soldiers stopped at the doorway ,and so did Nelson and Morton. Chip leaned against the wall, trying to give the Admiral the opportunity to rest. He realized what a burden he was becoming on the older man, both physically as well as emotionally. And he also knew that there was very little that he could do about it!
Gamma sat in his chair on the dais. Almost jovially he called to his prisoners "Come in, please come in, gentlemen!! Admiral, Commander I'm so pleased that you are here!!"
Nelson aided Morton into the room. They stood in the center of the room, backed and sided by guards. On the one side the communications area hummed with activity, and Nelson watched as one man took a message to Gamma. He smiled at Nelson, with a smile that lacked any warmth or humor. It was a look of pure evil.
"Why, Admiral, your brave Captain is nearby. My radio man indicates that he has repaired your Flying Sub, and will be flying over shortly. He is concerned about your whereabouts. Poor man...He may only find one of you somewhat alive!
You and I have a great deal to discuss, Nelson... Commander.." He addressed Morton, "You are looking distinctly unwell. Sergeant, help the Commander .... over there..."he gestured toward a pole off to the side of the room.
The Sergeant grabbed Morton by the bad arm, quite deliberately, and pulled him toward the pole. Gamma pushed several buttons on his desk, and several things began to happen at once. In the center of the room. part of the floor slid apart, and a large metal chair rose up from it, at the same time, struts popped out of the pole that the Sergeant was pushing Chip towards, making it look more like a giant 'X '.
The Exec tried to free himself form the Sergeant's grip, but he was too weak to do more than amuse the sadistic man with his brief struggle. His captor only tightened his grip on the injured arm. At the pole, he spun Morton so that his back was to the pole and he pulled each arm to the top of each arm of the 'X '. The click of metal into metal indicated that Morton was tightly fastened to the pole.
He drifted on the edge of consciousness. His right shoulder and arm were sending wave after wave of raging pain through his body. It was numbing his mind and making any cognitive thought process nearly none existent. He tried to focus on Nelson, and watched through a hazy blur, as the guards forced the older man into the chair that had appeared in the center of the room. He heard voices, but they seemed far away and when the Sergeant came over to him and started to yell at him, it seemed the man's mouth and voice were not working at the same time. It was almost like watching a bad movie! Except that he was in the middle of that movie, and didn't have a very good feeling about the ending!
Gamma looked at Morton, and then at Nelson. "You know, I've waited for a moment like this for a long time, Nelson! You have managed to thwart my plans time and time again...but not this time! This time I have executed my plan too well! Getting you to come to the area was a coup'de'grace to begin with." He laughed aloud. "That species that got Dr. Abrams to call you has been in one of my tropical labs for fifteen years!! Waiting you see for the perfect opportunity. And poor Abrams doesn't have a clue to the part he played in my little theatrical.' An unknown' performance!!! And crashing your Flying Sub with the electronic overload, generated here by my tight band beam, a stroke of genius on my part, wouldn't you agree?"
Nelson shook his head. His hands and arms were locked tightly to the arms of the chair. "Not genius, Gamma...more like insanity!"
Gamma nodded slightly and one of the soldiers hit the Admiral across the face. "Don't you dare insult me Nelson! I can hurt you ...you and Morton!!" The Sergeant was walking toward Morton, slapping a rubber rod across the palm of his hand. " And I intend to see you hurt a great deal. You see, I will kill those that you care about, destroy your boat, and then when you have been reduced to a quivering mass of despair, I will slowly kill you!"
"I think that you overestimate you abilities, Gamma. You have no power over me."
"Right now, Admiral, I think that you do not give me enough credit. Go ahead, Sergeant, I think the Admiral needs a little lesson. Perhaps you would like to give it?"
The Sergeant answered "Yes, General... I would like to very much.."
"Very, well Sergeant, you may begin your lesson. Morton will be your first student."
Chip saw the Sergeant coming toward him, and saw him slapping his palm with the rubber rod. Somewhere in his fevered, pain-racked mind, he realized that he was about to be on he receiving end of beating. He hoped that he wouldn't crack! He steeled himself...
The Sergeant approached Morton, hitting the rod harder and harder in the palm of his hand.. He sneered at him. "I hope that you prove to be a good student Commander... I like to give long lessons..."
He aimed the blow at Morton's midsection. It hit and drove a gasp from the already injured man. He followed it by four more blows, in quick succession, aimed at other vulnerable parts of his body. He then began to strike him all over the torso, arms, legs, and aimed several particularly cruel blows to the head and face.
Each time that the sadistic Sergeant hit Chip, Nelson cringed. he could do nothing to stop the beating the Exec was getting. "Gamma, stop this! Morton hasn't done anything to you! "
"Oh but he has, Admiral, he has done something to me. He works for you, he is your friend. He is one of several people very close to you... I want you to see him die, very slowly very painfully... and then I will get your Captain, and I will do the same to him.!!" Gamma looked over at the Sergeant... "Stop!! He's long been unconscious! You know your student has to be awake to absorb his education! Stop...for now. You can begin again when he comes around...If he comes around!!"
"I will revive him, General"
"No, not yet. I have some work to do, and I want the Admiral to 'appreciate' your workmanship and look forward to more 'lessons' . Bide your time, Sergeant. I appreciate you artistry, you will be rewarded.."
He turned his attention back to Nelson. "I want you to watch your friend slowly die, Nelson...And don't hope that your gallant Captain will come to the rescue. My headquarters here is protected by an electronic 'bubble'. A shield that protects it from being found, both by the naked eye as well as by sensing devices. And I have two troops of specially trained mercenaries on the perimeter to prevent any land access. So you can put all thoughts of rescue out of your head, and just sit and watch Morton slowly die, beaten to death, bit... by bit!" He pressed a few more buttons.
The chair that Nelson was imprisoned in swiveled to face where Chip Morton hung, unconscious. A panel slid behind the Admiral's head, and a band snapped around his forehead. He heard Gamma's voice..."Just so that you attention isn't diverted from the scene you should be watching, Nelson!"
Chip Morton was only vaguely aware of anything. After the first few blows, his sense of awareness gradually decreased. There was nothing he could do to stop the beating. They wanted no information. They were simply going to beat him until he was dead, only to hurt the Admiral. That much he'd heard Gamma tell the O.O.M. His grasp on reality was fast slipping...there wasn't anything he could do to escape the pain he was in, but let it embrace him, and he did.
Harriman Nelson was enduring a different kind of pain. The guilt that he was feeling at that moment was enormous! Morton was the best Exec a boat could have in the Fleet or out of it. He was a good officer, dedicated and proud of the work that he did. He gave his friendship to few, and he, Harriman Nelson had been proud to call him a friend. The three of them, Crane, Morton and himself had worked well together for many years. Chip certainly didn't deserve this!. And as far as he could see, there didn't seem to be a way out!
"Catcher to Seeker...Catcher to Seeker... come in!"
"Seeker here, Catcher...go ahead..!"
"Seeker, return to base...repeat, return to base"
"Return to base, Catcher?"
"That is a go! Seeker, ETA?"
"ETA is 25 minutes, Catcher.
"Over, Seeker. Be prepared to leave area immediately!"
"Roger, Seeker, leave. Catcher out."
Sharkey turned to the small squad that he had with him. He was dejected.
"Alright you boneheads, we turn around and go back to the boat. Skipper's orders!" The men looked at Sharkey. "I know ! I know! But you guys also know that the Skipper must have a plan. He isn't gonna give up on the Admiral and the Exec!....C'mon let's hustle back to the boat. We'll find out more then!"
Bob O'Brien was waiting for Crane when he docked the FS1 on the boat. His flyover of the compound had given him an idea of how to effect a rescue. But he needed more men and time to put the plan together. O'Brien extended a hand to him as he reached the top of the hatch.
"Welcome back aboard, sir."
"Thanks, Bob." he paused for a moment. "When Sharkey and the rest of the landing party come aboard, take her down to 90 feet, and hold her steady. I think I've found where the Admiral and Chip are. But I have to put together a plan, and I need some time to do it. I'll need Sparks to get me a secure and scrambled line to ONI. I need to talk to Michael Taylor in Operations and Richard Blake in Information. I need them ASAP."
Crane was giving the younger man the orders as he walked through the Control Room "Have Sparks patch the calls to my cabin, and send Sharkey to me a half hour after he returns to the boat!"
35 minutes later, Francis Sharkey knocked on the Captain's door.
Sharkey opened the door and walked in.
"Sit down, Chief, I'll be with you in a minute." As Sharkey sat down, Crane continued to talk on the phone. "Yes, Richard. That helps me out a great deal. Give my thanks to Michael as well. I'll expect his operative here within the hour. I'm grateful for all the help that the two of you have given me....I know that the Admiral will appreciate it too.!" He hung up the phone, and toward to the CPO.
"Skipper? What are we going to do, sir? "
"Thanks to those friends of mine, I have a few more answers, and we have a plan of action. Here's the whole picture, Chief." Crane took a deep breath. " They're being held by Dr. Gamma."
Sharkey looked surprised "Gamma, sir?"
"Yes, Chief, Gamma. He escaped from the prison where he was being held, less than three weeks ago. Chip and the Admiral are being held in his compound, which I found on the flyover with the new detection device the Admiral had installed last month. It cuts through shielding of any kind so that sites can be detected! Michael confirmed that Gamma has had a presence here for five years. Gamma also has two troops of mercenaries surrounding his compound to prevent an attack, and it is a well fortified compound. It's located here. " He pointed to a co-ordinate on the map, "Blake's information is solid. At least we know who we are up against. Taylor has an operative in the area, and he's sending him here. He should arrive within the next half hour. He has a map of the compound and the positions of the troops. We have on board, hand held rocket launchers, and the rockets, we have small arms, and a number of medium size tactical weapons. We also have the Admiral's latest sleeping gas compound in his lab. I believe with the map of the compound and the other information that the agent will bring us we can mount a successful rescue."
He leaned over to the intercom..."Mr. O'Brien, "
"In twenty minutes, bring the boat up to the surface. Have a party ready to receive a single person boarding. Once the agent is aboard, take her down to 90 feet."
"Aye, aye sir."
"Okay Chief, to begin with, we need 40 men from the boat...."
Twenty-five minutes later, there was a knock on the door...."Skipper...?"
O'Brien stuck his head in the door. "Captain, the ONI agent is here."
"Okay, Bob...send him in."
"Yes, O'Brien, what is it?!!"
The door swung open, and the ONI agent walked into the cabin. Crane jumped to his feet! "Matty!"
Matty Weaver gave him a small smile, "Hello, Lee....Chief Sharkey. Seems that we have a problem with an old enemy. Do we know anything about what's going on at all." Crane shook his head to the negative.
"No, we don't. But the Chief and I have a plan and we need to know the layout of the compound. "
"I have it right here." she spread a chart on the table.
"It 's designed in a circle, in order to make it easier to defend...with spokes leading off of it. The center room is the hub of the activity, and if Chip and the Admiral are anywhere they are most likely to be in there. How do you plan to get through the troops outside? "
"A sleeping gas, that we have here on the boat, one of the Admiral's latest inventions. "
She nodded in agreement. "I'm going to go with you...I know the compound. I've been there. At least I can get you through it."
"Any help will be appreciated. However, you ought to know that I.."
"That you're disobeying a direct Presidential Order not to go after them?"
He looked surprised, "How did you...?'
"Let's just say it's an educated guess, based on the men I met here on this boat. I know about the order. Michael surmised as much from the phone call. I did a little checking too. " She laid a hand on his arm, "I don't care. I want to help. Michael knows where I stand."
"Absolutely! Let's not waste any more time. Let's get this plan of yours underway!"
Gamma turned his attention back to Nelson, and Morton. "Well Nelson, what do you think of my Sergeant's 'artistry'. I think he is a very good 'teacher', don't you?"
"I think that you are insane, Gamma!"
"Come, come, Nelson. I am not at all insane.. I just plan my revenge very well! Sergeant, I think that the Admiral and Morton are ready for their next 'lesson'."
"I have your permission to bring him around, my General?"
"Of course, Sergeant." He passed him a needle, and a small vial. "Give him the injection, and then use the smelling salts. You want him to be well awake for the 'lesson'!"
The Sergeant advanced toward the unconscious man. He took the needle and jabbed it into Chip's arm, and then waved the vial of ammonia under his nose...
He was jarred to reality with a sharp odor of ammonia. There was no where that he didn't hurt. Some places were more painful than others. He could barely see out of his eyes, they were so swollen. He had no feeling in his hands, and the throbbing pain in his arms an shoulders seemed to be increasing with each breath. Breathing itself was painful, he knew from the way he had been hit that at least three or four ribs were cracked or broken. He'd taken a couple of blows to the neck and throat and he knew that speaking would be painful if he attempted it.
The Sergeant was standing close to him and spoke to him, very softly, "Well, Commander, I have to congratulate you. You have a great deal of endurance. More than I gave you credit for. But this time, I will break you. You will not be silent by the time I am done with you!."
Chip said nothing .His silence a rewarded by a vicious blow to the injured arm. Morton shuddered but didn't make a sound. He tried to concentrate on something else...Something that would take the focus off the continuing blows, and increasing pain.... Something....He recalled the conversation that he and Nelson had had moments before they'd been summoned to Gamma's presence. He and the Admiral were trying to determine why they were there, and both of them felt that the only reason was revenge. They decided that the only way to fight the madman was by remaining united, and not give into his demands, not that either man would have.... The conversation seemed a long away off, now and Chip Morton wondered how long he could hold out. The 'Morton Reserve' was strong, but had never been subjected to something like this... He tried to focus on something else....
The Sergeant began to hit him again, blows landing one at a time all over his already battered body. There was no place on his body that escaped. The Sergeant moved behind him and began striking his back, first high across the shoulders, and then low on the kidneys. He was still trying to hang on to a thread of dignity, to keep his reserve, not to cry out against the brutal treatment, but the grasp was slipping, and finally he lost the battle and a low moan escaped his lips, followed by a loud gasp and then he lost consciousness.
Harriman Nelson watched Morton's torture and couldn't do a thing about it. His pain for Chip was indescribable. The overwhelming guilt he was feeling was compounded by the bravery of the younger officer. He thought of the times that Morton had shown little or no emotion in the face of some injury. He also thought of the care and concern that Chip had shown in the face of Lee's many injuries, and even his(Nelson's) own. My God, this is all my fault! Chip is suffering through this because of me! and there is nothing that I can do to help him or stop it!! It's my fault...all my fault!!' "Gamma...stop this...you have to stop!"
"No, Nelson, I don't! There is no reason to stop. The Sergeant enjoys his work, and I am enjoying watching you... You are in a great deal of pain, aren't you? This isn't fair to Morton. He didn't do anything to deserve this...isn't that what you are thinking? Well, Nelson...he's paying the price for your friendship...His life is the cost of being your friend. First I will take his, and then Crane will be similarly treated, and you will watch... and then your boat, and your Institute...and so on." Gamma laughed evilly. "That is if you are still capable of being aware of what is going on at the time!"
Nelson couldn't see anything but Chip being beaten, and that combined with Gamma's words were continuing to hammer at the Admiral's mind. He was after all a very moral man and injustice had always made him angry. This was the greatest personal injustice he had ever witnessed. And again the fact that he could do nothing continued to hammer at his soul. He watched the blows falling on Morton, again and again, and wanted to stop it. At that one moment he heard the low moan that escaped from Morton, followed by the painful gasp and realizing the cost to the Exec of that loss of control, his own control snapped, and he cried out "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
The compound was rocked by repeated rocket fire. Inside the large room, men were scurrying around with papers, computer tapes and assorted materials they were trying to save and running out of the various doors. Gamma sat calmly on the dais. He called the Sergeant over to the desk, spoke to him briefly, and sent him over to where Morton was hanging. He stood next to the unconscious officer, slapping his palm with the rubber rod. Gamma rose, slowly, and remaining calm in the midst of the chaos, slowly walked over to the chair where Nelson sat.
The Admiral was shaking, there were tears at the corner of his eyes, and the usually bright blue eyes were dull, and full of agonizing pain. Gamma smiled at him....and spoke to him in a soft, panther-like voice, dripping with evil glee..." I've beaten you Nelson! No matter where you go, no matter what you do, you will remember that I've beaten you!! Perhaps not the destruction that I sought, but I have beaten you," he turned to the Sergeant. The room rocked as the rocket blasts came closer, dust began to fall from the ceiling and the walls. "Go ahead, Sergeant...The Admiral will give you his full attention...Kill Morton now...Slowly, or quickly, I care not. I am leaving. Thank you for your excellent work. I am satisfied with the job you have done!" He returned his attention to Nelson, who now looked at him with the startling clarity returned to his eyes.
"You may believe that you've beaten me now, but the game isn't over yet!"
"Watch, Nelson... Morton is going to die soon, perhaps very soon, and it will not be an easy death! Good-bye, Nelson...Until we meet again!"
Several rockets seemed to hit near the room, timbers cracked, several fell, along with ceiling, and walls. The Sergeant took several more well aimed strikes at Morton, aiming them this time at the Exec's legs. He struck him three more times and then the beam and ceiling above the pole fell in on him, and he disappeared in a pile of rubble. At the same time the roof over the center of the room collapsed in and there was nothing but silence left in the room.
The doors exploded inward --- Crane was the first into the cavernous room, followed by Sharkey and the rest of the men. Their eyes took a few minutes to adjust to the darkness and the swirling dirt and dust. They tried to discern a sign of the two men in the wreckage of the room, but none was visible.
Crane's heart was pounding with the fear that he was too late to save his two friends. He swallowed it, turned to Sharkey and said decisively, "Get those flashlights in here now, Chief.. We need six men to fan out in the room. With all of this rubble, we'll have to be extremely careful!" Sharkey handed him a flashlight and he panned the room, with the light. Seeing nothing recognizable he took several steps inside, and then turned to the men with him, "Fan out carefully...call out if you find anything! Everything indicates that they are in here!!" A few steps more into he room and he called out, "Admiral...! Chip...!" His voice echoed back at him. He called out more urgently.... "Admiral...! Chip!" The eight men climbed around the ruins of the room.
Near the center of the room was a high pile of debris, as they walked around it, Sharkey chanced a look down, and saw a hand protruding from the rubble.
"Skipper!" They knelt down, and started to pull away at the ruins. In what seemed to be an eternity they made contact with a body. The four stars on the collar answered the unasked question. Lee felt desperately for a pulse in Nelson's neck as Sharkey pulled away the rest of the tangle of wood and concrete.
"Admiral....Admiral...!" They tried to free him, but found the metal restraints holding him fast to the chair. Crane took a small lighter like device from a pocket and snapped it on...It was a small blowtorch and it made fast work of the restraints. Snapping them open, they freed the older man and gently moved him to a flatter area of the floor. Crane slapped his face lightly...
"Admiral...Admiral Nelson...!" There was a tense urgency in his voice that Sharkey did not fail to notice. "Admiral...!"
The older man stirred, eyes slowly opening. He blinked at the flashlight shining in his eyes, and automatically threw a hand over them to shield them...
"Lee... Lee...where...where's Chip?"
"We haven't found him, sir..."
A spasm of pain crossed Nelson's face, and he started to sit up.
Sharkey put a restraining hand on the Admiral's shoulder, "Easy, sir...we'll have a corpsman here in a few minutes."
Angrily he answered the Chief, "I'm okay, Chief! Lee you've got to find Chip, and quickly! He was hurt in the crash and when they got us here.....Lee..." he was in obvious distress and pain. His voice was ragged and full of misery "... Gamma was having him beaten to death, in front of me. For no reason...Just because he's my Exec and friend...when the rockets started to hit outside, Gamma left with a few of his men," Nelson's voice was nearing an hysterical note that Crane had never heard before..."The sergeant, the man who was doing the beating, didn't stop...he just kept hitting him and hitting him..." tears were streaming down his face..." no reason...no reason..."
Crane patted Sharkey on the shoulder..."Stay with him, Chief... I've got to find Chip!!" He climbed over the rubble and moved gingerly toward a far wall. Looking down, expecting to find the Exec's body lying on the floor, he brought his head up and gasped aloud. Hanging from an 'X' shaped pole was the limp body of Chip Morton. Or at least Crane believed that it was Chip.
His face was swollen and bloody, almost beyond recognition. From what Crane could see, the rest of his torso and arms were just as badly distorted. There was a steady flow of blood down his right arm. Crane took a tentative step toward his friend... his stomach nauseated by the damage done to him by some inhuman savage. "Chip...!" the name was almost a strangled cry from his mouth. He took two more steps forward until he could reach out and touch the injured man... He was genuinely afraid to even touch him, but reached to feel his neck for a pulse. There was one there, light, thready... but there!
"Ski!! Patterson!! Rodriquez!! To me ! Now!!!" He began a steady stream of soft talk... "Chip...It's Lee, buddy...we're here...we're going to help...just hang on..!!" The three crewmen that Crane called for arrived.
"Skipper...!" Kowalski was at his side.
"We have to get him down, Ski. Gently...I can't tell how badly he's hurt..."
With a gentleness that surprised Crane the three Crewmen moved toward the Exec. As Crane held his friend's body the men released the bonds that held him to the pole. Crane gently lowered him and sat as they tried to find the extent of the injuries before the medical people arrived. His body was hot to the touch, and from the look of the open wound on the arm, Crane knew it was from the crash, and infected as well, which would account for the fever.
Crane looked again into the battered face. "Chip, we're here...you're going to be okay...you'll be alright. Doc will see to you ...Hold on...hold on..!!"
There was a slight movement from the injured man. Crane put his ear close to Morton's mouth...
"Admiral.." he croaked...
"He's ok, Chip. You'll both be ok..." Lee Crane wanted to scream and rage.... if he got his hands on the man who had done this to Chip Morton, he would easily kill him with his bare hands.
Patterson touched his shoulder. "Skipper, The corpsman are outside. We should get the Admiral and Mr. Morton out of here. We have the stretchers ready, sir."
Crane bent over Morton, and spoke softly again into his ear. "We're going to move you now, Chip...Doc's outside, we're going to take you to Seaview. You're going home, to the boat, you'll be alright!" He said those last words with a conviction he did not feel, and as Patterson and Kowalski moved the stretcher into place, he gently lifted his friend's body and laid him in it.
In the center of the room, Sharkey was supervising the moving of the Admiral.
Crane's concern for his mentor was as great as it was for Chip. It seemed that something inside of him had given way. When he spoke of what had been done to Morton, he sounded like a broken man...Perhaps Gamma, damn him, had been more successful than he thought!
The rescue party started to carry the two stretchers out of the room, when Crane took Sharkey aside. "Chief, take Riley and Barcley and search the rest of the room! If any of the monsters that did this are here, I WANT THEM!"
He followed the stretchers out and Sharkey took the two men and continued to search the room.
In the bright light of the courtyard, turmoil was coming into order. Seaview crewmen were herding a group of soldiers into a far area of the yard. Matty Weaver was issuing orders to the men and directing activity in the yard. When the stretchers came out, she moved toward them. Crane saw her movement, and ran over to her before she could see into the stretchers. He motioned the men over to where Doc Jamison was waiting, and reached out and grabbed Matty's arm.
"The Admiral? Chip?" she asked him. She saw the anger, concern, and sadness in his eyes, while he kept his face impassive. He struggled to put the horror into words, and when he spoke his voice was soft, and full of anguish...
"They were... beating Chip... going to beat him to death in front of the Admiral. I ...couldn't even recognize him...his face..."he shook his head in misery for what his friend had gone through, would have to go through if he recovered.
"I'm sorry, Lee. The Admiral?"
"They forced him to watch it. Gamma wanted to destroy him, emotionally, and I'm really afraid he may have succeeded."
"He's a strong man, Lee...he'll be alright."
Crane shook his head, "I don't know, Matty, right now I just don't know. " He started over toward where the two stretchers were being supervised by Jamison.
Jamie looked up at him. "We have to get the both of them back to the boat, Skipper. I can't do much here considering all of this...devastation!!"
"Very well. I'll leave Matty to clean up here and I'll fly you back to the boat in the FS1. " He was giving orders to take the stretchers to the Flying Sub when Sharkey came running out of the complex.
"Skipper! Skipper!" He ran over to the Captain. "We've found someone. They're bringing him out now!" Crane ran back toward the doorway, followed by Sharkey and some of the men in the yard. Riley and Barclay came out into the sunlight half dragging, and half pulling a man with them. He was covered with dirt and grime, but still carried an air of arrogance as he was drawn into the sunlight. Crane saw the stripes of rank on his arm and his tightly held fury exploded. He pushed the two crewmen aside, and grabbed for the man's throat. He squeezed, tighter and tighter. The sergeant didn't fight him, he calmly let Crane's choke hold get stronger.
Sharkey and Matty were pulling on Crane to get him off the man.
Lee could feel the man's body going limp in his hands and felt an enormous sense of satisfaction in the idea that he could kill this person who had so grievously hurt his friends. He suddenly released his grip on the sergeant's neck, and the man fell to the ground, gasping for air.
He looked at Crane and sneered at him, as he rubbed his neck. "Are you too weak to avenge the damage done to your friends, Captain?"
"No. I just want them to see you get the justice that you deserve!"
"Perhaps they will, perhaps not. If I did my job well enough, I don't think the Commander will see it!" and he laughed.
Lee Crane had to pull on all his training and self control not to lash out at the man. He turned to Sharkey, "When we get back to the boat, throw him in the brig!" He turned to go back to Jamison, and Matty matched his step.
"Are you alright, Lee?"
"Frankly, no. I almost did something there that I would have regretted the rest of my life, ... but it felt good to have my hands around that monster's neck. I really wanted to kill the bastard!"
She extended her hand and stopped him in mid-stride. "But you didn't do it! That says a great deal more about you than you think." He shook his head.
"Maybe I should have!"
"Don't think that! What would the crew think?"
"I think that they would have cheered! And later on felt very guilty." He gave a look of resignation." I 'd better get the Admiral and Chip back to the boat. After we're aboard, Sharkey can ferry the rest of the men back to Seaview in the FS1. We should be able to get underway in 3 to 4 hours. Will you be staying aboard?"
"Yes, if you don't mind. Michael knows where I am if he needs me and right now, I may be of some use to you here."
He touched her arm, "Thanks...Matty... for the help... and support. "
"Oh,.. yes...you're welcome!"
He went over to Jamison and the two stretchers were made ready for the trip in the FS1.
The interior of the Flying Sub had been stripped in order to be used as a transport for the attack force. The back hatch was opened and the two stretchers were carried on. They were strapped to the floor of the tiny chamber. Jamison, Kowalski and Warner were to accompany them back along with Crane and Sharkey. as he prepared to take off, he called ahead to the boat.
"This is Yellow Bird calling Grey Lady, come in Grey Lady!"
"Grey Lady here, Yellow Bird, what is your status?"
"Papa Bird and Dolphin have been injured. Prepare for arrival. Repeat. Prepare for arrival. ETA 18 minutes. Yellow Bird out." Crane turned to Jamison, "Can you tell me any more, Doc? About either one of them?"
"Not much, Skipper. Physically, the Admiral's not in bad shape. All I can discern is what looks like a bad sprain in the right wrist. A few contusions and abrasions. He's dehydrated, and fevered. But he's very agitated, and I've had to sedate him, Lee. I'm concerned about his mind! I've never seen him this disturbed before!"
"I know, Doc!...What about Chip?"
"Lee, I can't tell you much. His arm is badly infected, he's running a fever, probably from the infection, more than that, right now, I can't say. I can't do much of an exam for all the bruising and swelling. I'll need to do an entire series of x-rays to see if there are any broken bones, and any internal damage..."
Crane's next question was a painful one for the Captain to even ask.. "His face...his head..."
"I just don't know, Lee. When we get back on the boat..."
"Okay, Jamie..." to the others in the Sub "We're taking off... Brace yourselves.!"
The Flying Sub docked. Bob O'Brien and a group of men waited at the hatch in the Observation Nose. Jamison was the first out of the hatch, and he ran through the Control Room to the Sick Bay. Warner and Kowalski followed him out. The first stretcher passed up was Morton.
Kowalski took one of the sides "Careful, now, the Exec's in a bad way. Let's move out!"
As Nelson's stretcher reached the men waiting for it, Crane came up the hatch. He took off his flight jacket, and handed it to one of the seaman. He turned to O'Brien, "You still have the Con, Bob. Dog the hatch, Sharkey is going back for our men. It should take him several trips. He's bringing a prisoner on board. I want him in the Brig in irons! When Commander Weaver gets on board, send her down to Sick Bay. Then take the boat down to 200 feet and set a course for Santa Barbara, flank speed, radio silence all the way in!"
"Radio silence, sir?"
"Yes, Bob. Let Angie at the Institute know that we have them aboard, and that we're bringing them home. That's all I want anyone to know until we get there!! Until we know the condition of the Admiral and Mr. Morton, radio silence. I don't want any one to know what where we've been or what we've done! Sparks can monitor incoming, but that's all. I'll let you know what to tell the crew in a little while. I'll be in the sick Bay if you need me."
"Aye, Captain. "
Crane walked out of the Control Room and down the corridor to the Sick Bay.
As he stood at the door, he knew that there wasn't going to be any easy solution to the predicament that he'd created. But he also knew that he'd brought Nelson and Morton to the safety of the boat, and that was more important than anything, even his career. He took a deep breath and entered the room. Jamison was working over Chip Morton. Nelson was in one of the bunks near the Treatment area. He cleared his throat, "Doc?"
"Not now, Lee! I've too much to do here! If I'm going to help these men at all, I need you and everyone else to leave me alone!! Get out, NOW! I'll contact you when I have something to tell you."
Crane left, and he heard Doc order his corpsman..."John, lock the door!! NO ONE come in here!"
Crane walked slowly to Officer's country and his quarters. He entered his cabin and went straight to the desk, and put on the desk light. He sat down heavily in the semi-darkened cabin . There was so much to do. Besides the business of the ship. But there was nothing that he could concentrate on except the condition of the two men in the Sick Bay. What if the Admiral didn't recover? What if there was nothing that could be done for Chip? What if..What if...? He was so tired of 'What if!' He was so tired.... He put his head down on his arms, folded on the desk, and slept .
He woke to the sound of a knock on his door. Sitting straight up in the chair, he cleared his throat, and called out "Come."
Matty Weaver opened the door and came into the cabin. "Lee...?"
"Yes, Matty..., when did you get back aboard?"
"About ten minutes ago. Everything is cleaned up at Gamma's base. Buildings are pretty much destroyed. We left the mercenaries food and water and the jungle. We took all their weapons. They should survive. I'm sure Gamma will send help for them once we've left the area. And your prisoner is in the Brig. That's my report, Captain. What's the status here?"
"Doc kicked me out of Sick Bay. Said he had too much to do. He'll give me a report as soon as he has one! As soon as you came onboard, O'Brien had orders to get underway. We're running submerged, 200 ft, radio silence after we informed the Institute that we had Chip and the Admiral aboard. And I'm waiting to hear from Jamie. I must have dozed off here at the desk.. You woke me up!"
She laughed slightly... "You look like you could use more than a little nap!.. How much sleep have you gotten since this all started?"
"You are starting to sound like Jamie!... A few hours here or there. Sleep still isn't easy, even after all these months. And now this..." he grew very serious "I can't loose either one of them, Matty. I've lost a great deal this last year, and I can't any more!! The Admiral has been a part of my life since the Academy, he's been my mentor, a father figure, a friend... and Chip, well we've been together since the Academy as well. Room mates, friends, I can't begin to tell you what we've shared, what we've been through together. When I ...lost Cathy, I didn't think I could go on. I thought that my life was over as well...Oh, there was Robert, but even he didn't seem important, because Cathy was gone. I don't think I would be here right now, if the Admiral and Chip hadn't been there for me. And they were there, whenever I needed them, and even when I didn't. They've helped me through the worst time of my life. I have to be there for them, and Doc won't even let me in the Sick Bay!"
She reached over the desk, and placed her hand over his. " You've done all you could for them and more. They know that!"
"I don't know that the Admiral does. You didn't see his face, hear his voice...And Chip... Matty, I thought I would get physically sick when I saw his face ... He's my friend, I shouldn't have felt like that!!"
She looked at him with a great deal of sympathy. "You're not superman, Captain. You are allowed to be human and have human reactions!"
He looked at her quite seriously, and simply said, "I'm the Captain of the boat. That should explain it all."
She shook her head ever so slightly, and then looked him straight in the eye. "Then you have one set of standards for your officers and a higher one for yourself?"
"That's about right! "
"And your going to kill yourself living up to them!"
He laughed slightly, "No, I don't think so. I've survived this far!!"
"At what cost, Lee?"
He didn't have time to answer her. There was a knock on the cabin door.
Doc Jamison came into the cabin. "I told you that I would give you a report when I'd done a complete evaluation of both men.”
Matty stood to give up her seat and leave.
"Matty, don't leave. I want you to hear what Jamie has to say."
She nodded and stood back against the wall. Jamison sat in the chair, and put some papers on the desk.
"Where do you want me to begin, Skipper?"
"Wherever you feel is the best, Doc."
He ran his hand over his head, "Well, Skipper, here it is...Admiral Harriman Nelson has had a severe breakdown, brought on by psychological torture. In addition, he is suffering from dehydration, he has a broken right wrist, and a number of contusions and abrasions. All of which should heal in a fairly fast time frame. As for the breakdown, I'm recommending a six month stay at the Oceanview Sanitarium, outside of San Diego. Some of the best therapists and Psychologists work there, and I believe that he has the best chance of recovering there. The decision will be yours, Lee. A long time ago the Admiral wrote out a document giving you his power of attorney and making you his legal guardian if anything ever happened to his mind. Chip and I witnessed it and it's been filed with his attorneys. You also have complete authority as far as the Institute is concerned." He paused allowing the weight of his words to sink in.
"But Jamie, I don't want..."
"Harry made the choice, Lee. It's not open to discussion. Anyway, there is time for those decisions. Now, about Chip..."
"He's stable for now. As to his condition... He was severely beaten, Lee, I think you know that. I'm sure that it's taken a psychological toll as well as a physical one. From what I can determine, he was injured in the crash, the wound on the arm, and it looks, from the swelling around the shoulder joint, dislocated the right shoulder. He's got a bad systemic infection from the wound, but I believe that I have it under control with the antibiotics. But, that's the least of the injuries. There is hardly a place on his body that isn't suffering from bruising and edema. He has six cracked ribs, luckily none were broken. Both wrists are broken and the left arm is fractured. Both kidneys are bruised. Both femurs are fractured. His jaw is fractured. However, there is no evidence of any damage to the skull. There is evidence of several very strong blows to the back of the neck, but the tissues are so swollen, I can't tell if there are any breaks in the vertebrae, or any spinal chord damage. I don't know about his eyes or his voice. He apparently took several hard blows to the throat . There was some damage to the larynx, I just don't know how bad, or to what extent. I won't know until he regains consciousness and the swelling goes down. I intend to keep him sedated for awhile. He's going to be in a great deal of pain, physically, and I don't know what his emotional state will be. Most of the damage to his face will heal. There shouldn't be any scarring. There is some evidence of bruising internally, especially in the abdomen, but I don't foresee any problems. If I keep him quiet, without any complications, he should begin to heal. My recommendation is a stay in a care/rehab facility for at least two months, He also will need some therapy, physical, and psychological. That's the sum of it, Captain. And now, I have to return to the Sick Bay. " he rose " I have two very sick men who need my attention."
"Can I come down there, Jamie?"
He looked seriously at the Captain, "Could I keep you out?"
He nodded. "Very well. I'll be down shortly. Matty and I have a few things to discuss."
"Aye, Skipper. " He went to the door and paused for a moment, "Lee, you saved their lives, and their minds. You did the right thing!" He left the cabin and Matty sat in the chair that Jamison had vacated.
Crane sighed heavily. "I could use your help, Matty."
"I'd like to include you in the watch rotation. We're a little short of Senior Officers. and Bob O'Brien could use some relief. You became familiar with the boat when you were onboard last time. I know it's asking a great deal..."
"I'd be happy to help, Lee. In fact, I'll go and relieve O'Brien now if you want."
"No, not right now," he glanced at his watch," Beta watch commences at 1600 hours, about an hour from now. If you could relieve Bob then, it would be a big help"
He gave her a slight smile, "That's an insubordinate question, don't you think, Commander?"
"Hardly. Just a question from one friend to another. You'll be in Sick Bay?"
"Yes. I have to be there!"
Once again she reached for his hand and held it tightly for a moment. "I understand. I'll come down later, after I take the watch" He nodded, and she rose and left the room.
Crane sat back in the chair and thought for a moment. Then he rose and left the cabin.
Tradition on oceangoing vessels is that the area outside of the Sick Bay is kept quiet in deference to the patients inside, but the silence in Seaview's corridor was slightly unnerving even to Crane. He knocked softly on the door and went in.
Jamison sat at his desk in his office and looked up as Crane entered. He motioned the Captain over, and Crane went over to him. "The Admiral's been very restless, Lee. I've given him as much sedation as I dare, and it doesn't seem to be helping him that much. He's sleeping now, but when he wakes I'm afraid that I may have to restrain him. I don't want him to hurt himself or anyone else. Did he say anything to you when you found him?"
"Only that Gamma was having Chip beaten, was going to beat him to death, and made the Admiral watch it simply because Chip was his friend."
"No, Doc. As soon as he told me that, I went to find Chip. How is he doing?"
"I've still got him sedated rather heavily. I intend to keep him that way for a while. I really don't want him too aware. It really will be too painful for him to be awake."
"Can I at least see him, Doc? I'd like to sit with the Admiral for a while, too. Talk to him, you know?"
"Of course, Lee. Just not too long, with either Chip or the Admiral."
Crane looked around the Sick Bay and found a stool to pull over to the gurney where the Exec was. He took a deep breath and sat to be with and talk to his friend. If anything, Morton looked worse to Lee than before. His wrists were in air casts, the left arm as well, his right arm heavily bandaged, both legs in air casts, his chest was tightly wrapped, and his face, discolored, bruised and swollen. Tubes and wires were hooked up to his arms, monitors beeping steadily. Any less of a man, and friend would have turned away. But Crane sat down on the stool and leaned over the gurney. He wanted to lay a hand on his friend in reassurance and friendship, but he hesitated, seeing that there was so little place to safely touch and not add to his friend's pain. Finally he lightly put a hand on Morton's shoulder.
"Chip, it's Lee... I wanted to talk to you for a while. Doc said that you're going to be okay. He says that it'll take a while for you t be up and around again, but that you'll be okay. I don't have to tell you, that you and the O.O.M. gave me quite a scare! But you're both home now, Chip, here, on Seaview. Matty Weaver's onboard. Michael Taylor sent her to us to help with the rescue. She's going to hitch a ride to Santa Barbara with us. She'll be in later to see you and the Admiral. She was a big help at Gamma's compound. She's one sharp lady, let me tell you. No nonsense, take charge, but then, you already know that!" he leaned closer to the gurney, and continued to talk to his friend in a softer voice.
Almost an hour later, Jamison came over to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Skipper, the Admiral's starting to stir a bit. Maybe you'd like to talk to him now. I don't know how receptive he's going to be..."
Crane looked at Jamison, "I'll be right over there, Doc. " He leaned forward to Morton, "I'll be back later, Chip. I'm going to talk to the Admiral, now."
He slid off the stool and made his way to the other bunk. Jamison was bending over the Admiral.
The older man was restlessly moving about in the bunk. "Stop! Gamma, Stop!!" he cried out. Jamison made a move to give him an injection, but Crane put out a hand to stop him.
"Let me try to talk to him, Jamie. Maybe I can calm him down a bit that way"
He moved next to the Doctor. Grabbing at the Admiral's hand he started to talk to him. "Admiral, Admiral..." the older man started to calm a little, and Crane continued, "Admiral, you 're back on the boat. You and Chip are going to be okay. You're in the Sick Bay."
Nelson seemed to grow calmer as Crane continued talking, and at a nod from Jamison, he continued "We have the man that did this to Chip in the Brig, sir."
Nelson opened his eyes and looked in the Captain's direction, but didn't see him. To Crane's dismay, the usually alert blue eyes didn't focus. "Chip! My God...What are you doing to Chip!! This is wrong!! It's wrong. Make him stop!! Make him Stop!!"
Crane put a restraining hand on the Admiral's shoulder. "Admiral, Chip's here. You're on the boat. You're both safe, sir. Chip's okay!"
"He's going to kill him... Kill Chip... and then Lee. Destroy it all. I can't stop it...I can't stop it!!
Crane forced his voice to be calmer and soothing. "Admiral, you're on the Seaview. Chip is here too. You're both going to be ok, sir. We're on our way back to the Institute. It's all right, sir. Chip's going to be okay, and so are you!. "
"No, you don't understand...you don't understand...What he did to Chip... not right...not just..."
Lee Crane looked at Jamison, and the doctor shook his head, slightly.
" He has to be stopped. Blamed Burke's death on me, was going to take a life close to mine in exchange. It's all my fault... all my fault!!!"
Jamison gently pushed Crane aside., and put a needle into the Admiral's arm. He looked at Crane and saw the deep sadness in the Captain's eyes.
"Stay with him until he sleeps, and then come into my office, Lee."
Crane nodded and continued to talk soothingly to the Admiral until he was sure that the older man was deeply asleep. He rose and went into the small office. He sat, heavily, in the chair at the side of the desk. "Tell me more about the Sanitarium, and the papers that the Admiral signed, Jamie. What do I have to know and what do I have to do?"
"It's all really quite simple, Lee. You're going to have to sign him into the Sanitarium and take charge of the Institute, and the boat. I'll certify the breakdown. There's no doubt in my mind that he was severely affected by witnessing Gamma torture Chip. It will take time, but I also believe that he will recover. "
"But why me, Doc? There's Edith, and even Jiggs Starke."
"Quite simply put, as Harry said it, he's trusted you with his life since you came onboard as Captain. There's no reason for him not to continue with that trust."
Crane was still shaken and overwhelmed by what had taken place and by the enormous trust that Nelson had given him. "All right, Doc. Just help me do the right thing for him."
"Of course, Lee. I wouldn't have it any other way! I'll get some of the paperwork started. "
"We'll deal with that too. The same Sanitarium has rehab wing. Perhaps I can arrange for them to be there together. That may help the Admiral and Chip alike. I'll see what I can do." Crane got up wearily and went back into the Sick Bay. Looking from one of his friends to the other, he sat in a chair at Nelson's side, and waited.
A number of hours later, Matty Weaver quietly entered the Sick Bay. Lee Crane was asleep in a chair next to the Admiral's bunk. Chip Morton lay on the gurney in the center of the room, monitors beeping softly. Jamison was standing next to the Exec, checking readings on the monitors. He looked up as she came in and motioned here to the office. She stood against the wall, and he leaned against the desk. He smiled at the commander. "Welcome back aboard, Matty. Wish the circumstances were different."
"Me, too, Doc. How are they doing?"
He smiled crookedly, "You mean my three patients?'
Her response was a smile. "Yep, the three of them! How long has Lee been here?"
"Before the last watch ended. Returning to base is fairly simple. Bob O'Brien is a competent officer, he's been handling things, so I just let Lee sleep. He needs the rest , perhaps more than any of us. This has been hard on him, and after this last year, well...you know..."
"Yes, Jamie, he told me. I was wondering, How can I help? Is there anything that I can do? I would like to sit with Chip for a while, if that's ok with you, but what else can I do?"
"Frankly, not much. I'm starting the paperwork to get the Admiral and Chip to a private sanitarium, Oceanview, outside of San Diego that has all the facilities that will help the both of them. Honestly, be a friend to Lee. Harry thought that he was doing the right thing when he signed those papers a long time ago. I think he did too, but Lee's been carrying a heavy burden already, and this has added to it. In addition, his two best friends can't help him, because they're the victims, and he has to help them. Why don't you go on and sit with Chip for a while. He may know you're there...And any support will be appreciated, I know. Have you seen him yet, Matty?"
"No, Doc. I haven't. Lee steered me away from him at the compound, and I came right in here to you. "
"He looks pretty bad, Matty. You heard what I told Lee about his condition, but , well, You'd better imagine the worst, and then multiply about 1,000 per cent."
"Thanks for the warning, Doc. I'll just go inside now." Quietly she went to the stool next to the gurney. She took a deep breath and looked at the man in the bed. After all her years in the ONI, she was still taken aback by the brutality of what one man could do, or allow to be done to another. Crane was right, she wouldn't have known that this was Chip Morton unless she had been told. She looked over the bruised and battered body, searching for a place to lay her hand. Finally, she carefully lifted a casted hand and gently wrapped her fingers around his. To her surprise, she felt his grip tighten ever so slightly. She leaned over and whispered, "Chip, it's Matty. I wanted to let you know that I was here, on the boat. Lee told me he spoke to you before. I came to help. My boss got a call from Lee and I was able to get here rather quickly. I was in the compound when Lee found the both of you. He told you that the Admiral's here, didn't he, that you're both going to be okay. I'll help you in any way I can, you know. I thought that'd I just sit with you for a while. Lee would like to be with you and the Admiral, at the same time, but he can't do it. He's been beside himself about the two of you, you know. I'm worried about him, too!"
Again she felt the slight change in pressure of his hand, and didn't know if he could hear her, or was it was just a nervous reaction.
Jamison was at her side quickly. "What's wrong, Matty?"
When I'm talking to Chip, he seems to be trying to squeeze my hand It's slight, but there's a change in pressure. I can feel it!"
He checked the monitors and readings, and shook his head. "I can't tell you if he's aware or not, but don't stop talking to him. It has to be a positive. Tell him not to try to talk, tell him to squeeze your hand if he hears you."
She nodded at the doctor and leaned over to speak to Chip again, "Chip, Jamie says to tell you not to try to talk. Your jaw was fractured, and there's swelling in the larynx. Just squeeze my hand if you can hear me. "
Once again she felt the change in pressure as he tried to squeeze her hand. She turned and smiled at Jamison, who was making notes on a chart.
Lee Crane came to the other side of the gurney. Matty jumped, startled. "Oh, Lee!"
He smiled crookedly at her. "Seems that you are getting in the habit of waking me up!" he said softly, "How's Chip?"
"He's awake! He's squeezed my hands a few times, while I've been talking to him. He knows that I'm here and that you were here with him before."
Chip Morton felt very strange. He heard people talking. He wanted to talk to them, he recognized the voices. But his jaw wouldn't work, and his throat was so painful that even swallowing was agony. The rest of his body felt the same. One enormous, incredible, pain. He couldn't move, he couldn't see, or speak. His mind, active as it could be , was trapped in an uncooperative shell. The only thing he seemed able to do was to squeeze the fingers on his right hand, to let them know that he heard them. Matty was here, she was holding his hand, he heard Lee and Jamie....but what about the Admiral? He wanted to know, but he couldn't ask, how could he find out. Lee had told him something , so had Matty, but it was fuzzy and unfocussed... If only he could remember...if only he could ask them!! He was beginning to understand the frustration of persons paralyzed for all their lives, with active minds... Matty and Lee both said that he would recover, but how much? How long would it take? And how was Lee handling all this? One more burden that the Captain didn't need. And Matty, what did she say, that ONI had sent her...Nice loan from ONI. He should be glad to have her here. But look at the mess he was in. No, look at what a mess he was! Not a way to impress a girl!! God...Everything hurt!! Maybe Jamie would give him a shot...something to make the pain go away for a while!!
Matty felt the pressure from Chip's hand change several times. Increase and then decrease. She called Jamison over again. "Jamie, I think Chip's trying to tell me something. " She leaned forward to the gurney "Chip," she asked him softly," Are you trying to tell me something?" She felt the pressure change..."Are you starting to feel a lot of pain?" Again the pressure change.
She turned h her head up at Jamison. "I think that he's trying to tell me that the pain is getting bad, Jamie. Can you give him something?"
"I have it right here, Matty." He took a hypodermic and injected it into the IV line. "That should help him, for a few hours, at least. I'm afraid the this is going to be a long haul for him. We're going to have to be very careful with the drugs!"
She nodded understanding the implication in his words, and leaned over to Morton again. "Chip, Jamie just put a painkiller into the IV.. It should help you real soon. I'll stay here with you for a while, okay?" He squeezed her hand and then she felt it relax.
Chip felt the warmth slowly spread over him. The pain , or at least most of it slowly ebbed into the distance. he felt very tired. Matty was still there. She hadn't left. That was good...Very good....
Crane sat back down next to the Admiral. He was glad that Matty was here. If he couldn't sit with his friend, he was glad that she could. He laughed to himself, Chip would surely enjoy Matty's company over his any day! He believed, now, that Chip would be okay...his greater concern now was for the Admiral. Doc seemed pretty sure that Nelson would recover, but to what extent?
Sick Bay grew very quiet with the two patients resting, and the two other officers lost in their own thoughts...
Sometime later, an officer walked in the darkened brig, after sending the Master at Arms off. The prisoner lay on a bunk against the wall, manacles on his wrists fastened to the wall. Even resting, he assumed an arrogant air.
The officer leaned against the door, and glared at the man on the bunk. Can I really go through with this? After seeing Chip, I think I know a little how Lee felt! It must have felt good to Lee to have the bastard's throat in his hands! Can I go through with this? She approached the cell and stood at the barred door.
The Sergeant turned his head and still arrogant, gave her an appraising look. He smiled , and it was an evil smile." So the Captain sends a woman to do his work? He didn't have the courage to kill me himself, so he sends a woman to do it!!"
"You and I have a different viewpoint, Sergeant, I see the Captain as having needed more courage not to kill you. You see he wanted to, and so do I!!" She raised her hands to the bars, slowly and deliberately. "There are many ways, as you well know, I'm sure, that a person can die. I could stand here and go through a long list. I know a large number of them and no one would ever know what happened" She unlocked the door, and for the first time, the Sergeant felt a little finger of fear prick at his neck, as she entered the small cell.
He tried to continue his attitude of arrogant defiance, but he was beginning to be alarmed by the steely glint in the woman's eyes. They were a strange color her eyes, turquoise, and he had never see any so hard, and lacking ANY emotion in them. They were cold, Icy cold!!! She came towards the bunk, and stood several feet from it, holding her hands behind her back. "Before you disregard me any further, Sergeant, I think that you should know a few things about me. I'm not part of the regular boats' compliment. I'm an intelligence officer, only responsible to myself for my actions." His eyes widened at her words. "Those men that you tortured are my friends. And I can tell you that pay back is going to be one hell of a bitch!" She reached over and grabbed at his collar. "There is nothing that you could do or say that will make me stop or have any doubts about my actions. You see, I am going to kill you!! I just haven't decided how or when! I'm going to leave you guessing. It may be slow, or it may be sudden. It may be here on the boat, or on shore when you are taken to the detention center, or perhaps in transit, accidents happen in transit, you know.! It may be in an hour, or a day, or a month...it may be by your food or your water, or maybe you'll have an accident in the head, or here in the cell. You see I don't want you to expect anything. Except that you will die, and I will be the agent of your death!" She slowly and calmly twisted the neck of his shirt tighter and tighter. "Do you understand me Sergeant? Look carefully at this face. I want it the last face that you remember before you die, if you realize that you are dying, that is!!"
He was starting to find it difficult to breath. This woman , whoever she was was beginning to frighten him. It was the total absence of emotion in her face and voice that was terrorizing him. He knew from that look that she meant everything she said. She released his shirt, and he took in great gulps of air. She held her face very close to his and said, softly and coldly, "You will remember me, you worthless piece of garbage. You, " and she raised her fist and punched him hard in the jaw, "no good, sadistic, twisted excuse for a human being!" She punched him again, "Take this," a third punch, "just to let you know what to expect...the unexpected... And you'll never know when I'm going to get you!" She dropped him on the bunk, and walked out of the cell, locking the cell door and the brig door behind her.
As she turned down the corridor to Officer's country, Sharkey turned onto the companionway. He noted her strange expression, and asked with real concern, "Excuse me ma'am, but is everything alright?"
Startled she looked up and after a pause answered, "Oh, yes, Chief. But you might want to check on the prisoner in the brig...He didn't look too good when I looked in on him!'
"Oh, yes, ma'am," He replied, puzzled, but made his way to the Brig!
Crane met Matty Weaver as he approached the Sick Bay. Crane looked at her speculatively, and said, "I heard that our guest had a run in with person or persons unknown. "
He watched her carefully, searching her face for any reaction. He saw none, only mild surprise.
"I saw that. I went down to check on him and when I saw his face, I hoped that I would see someone to let them know. I wonder what happened?"
"He's not telling anything. Sharkey says the man is absolutely terrified. Won't eat, drink, talk ..."
"That' s too bad, isn't it, Skipper? Maybe he'll die of fear! That would save us the cost of a trial!"
"I hope not... I want Chip and the Admiral to see this guy get his due!!"
She nodded in affirmation. "I do too, Lee. But so you really think that the Admiral is going to want to see him and go through a court trial?"
"I don't know where we'll be by the time that the Admiral is well enough, but if he's up to it, we'll see the bastard tried."
She shrugged he shoulders, "I was going to sit with Chip a while before my next watch. I don't know If I'm helping or not, but it's helping me deal with what's happened."
Crane laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. He smiled at her. "I know I appreciate the fact that you're here. And I'm sure that Chip knows that you're sitting with him, and I'm also sure that he'll be more than happy to tell you, when he's able to"
Several days later...
Captain Lee Crane stood on the deck of the submarine Seaview. At his side was Commander Matty Weaver, his temporary Exec. As they watched, two stretchers were taken off the boat. They carried the designer, and owner of the boat, Admiral Harriman Nelson, and her Executive Officer, Lt. Cdr. Chip Morton.
Both men had been the victims of an old enemy, Dr. Gamma and were being taken to a private sanitarium for a long period of healing, both mental and physical. Crane couldn't help but be apprehensive. Without the two men aboard, Seaview was not the same boat. And the injuries that the men had, while not life threatening, threatened both their minds. Crane could only hope that he was doing the right thing by his friends.
Because of certain legal papers that Nelson had signed, Crane was now in charge of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, as well as the Seaview. He was anxious to get the boat, and the crew settled and to head for home. He was anxious to see his son, Robert, and see what surprises the baby had come up with while he was on this cruise. He missed seeing his late wife standing at dockside waiting for the boat to berth. After this last cruise, he felt her loss particularly hard.
He didn't have the Admiral or Chip to unwind with, and there was still a strangeness with Matty Weaver and himself. As he headed for the conning tower, he heard two cars pull up to the dock. He looked up and saw that they had the insignia of the San Diego Naval Base on their side. A sense of unease settled over him. The two officers came out of the cars, and four SPs followed them. They saluted the colors, and stepped onto the deck. Two of the SPs stayed at the head of the gangplank, and two of them followed the Officers aboard.
Addressing Crane, as he turned to greet them, the officers asked as one, "Permission to come aboard, sir?"
"Permission granted." Crane replied.
"Commander Lee B. Crane?"
"Commander Crane, you are hereby placed under arrest, by order of the President of the United States."
Crane took several steps backward in surprise. He had expected something like this, but not quite this soon. Matty stepped over to his side, and placed a hand on his arm. She turned to the Captain of the guard. "The charges, Captain?"
"Insubordination, Violation of the Sovereign Rights of an Independent State, Violation of the UN Charter." Addressing Crane, " You are to be held in detention at the San Diego Naval Station. You are also to be held incommunicado pending the formal presentation of the charges. You have five minutes to advise your XO, and conclude your business sir. You will do it here on the deck, sir. In addition, sir, your men are restricted to the boat pending further investigation of the charges against them. The SPs have been ordered to shoot to kill anyone who tries to leave the boat."
Crane nodded at the Captain, and then took Matty by the arm and out of hearing of the officers. "Matty, I hate to do this to you, but as of right now, you are in command of the boat. O'Brien will help you out in any way he can. Take good care of her. The men will listen to you. You've earned their respect. Call the Institute and tell Trish what's happened. Have her contact the legal department. They'll know what to do. Have her contact Jamie and tell him not to come back to the boat! Have him stay on shore and operate out of the Med. Facility here. That way he can keep a close watch on the Admiral and Chip. You watch over them too, and have Angie contact my home and let my family know what's going on. Obviously I won't be able to. Be careful. There are some things going on here that don't strike me as right!"
"I will Lee. You be careful, too. Don't worry about the boat or the men, everything will be fine. We'll get you out of this." She squeezed his arm.
He nodded at her, and turned toward the party on deck.
"I'm ready Captain."
The Captain of the guard took out a pair of handcuffs, "I'm sorry Commander. Orders."
Crane held his hands in front of him, but the officer pulled Lee's arms behind his back. "Sorry again, Commander, also orders."
As he was being led up the Gangplank several of the crew including Kowalski and Sharkey came onto the deck and made a move to run up the plank to rescue him. He heard the commotion and turned.
"Chief! Kowalski! NO! That's an Order!! Commander Weaver is in command of the boat! She'll fill you in! Sharkey, not another step!"
The Chief of the boat reluctantly turned back. At that moment Lee Crane was very proud of his men and his boat. Their loyalty was unshakable, and their sense of duty extremely strong. They would take care of the submarine!
He was assisted into the back seat of the car, and he turned to look at Seaview.
The thought occurred to him that it might be the last time he would see her for a long time!
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