Note: A "Tiger Cruise" is offered periodically aboard Naval vessels, during the last leg of a prolonged deployment, to give an opportunity to the families of the officers and crew to experience a short cruise, and to see their fathers, brothers, or sons in action.
July 17, 1978 - Greenland Sea, West of Spitsbergen (75N by 005W)
The boat lurched briefly, then a second time, the lights flickered . . . and everything returned to normal.
Captain Lee Crane, mike in hand, had drawn breath to call Engineering for an explanation. Then he noticed. Everything was normal -- except for the presence of an extra person in the Control Room.
"Pem!" he shouted, "You're dead! I saw you die! Twice!"
The SSRN Seaview's routine mission to resupply, inspect, and gather data from the arctic research labs of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research was not destined, it seemed, to be routine after all.
"O how very dreary," the oddly dressed man sighed. "I was hoping for a much more pleasant and civilized greeting. Ah, well, never mind. I assure you, that at the present moment I am very much alive. You see, when you thought you saw me die I didn't . . . that is to say, not completely. There was just enough of my imprint left in time for my device here to reconstruct me . . . but dear me, I think I've already told you that, haven't I?"
While the curious man was thus prattling on, Adm. Harriman Nelson, Capt. Crane, and Lt. Cmdr. Chip Morton gathered around him, their faces reflecting growing impatience.
"No, no, no, I don't suppose I have," Pem continued. "I keep forgetting that you are confined to this tedious time line, while I, on the other hand, can go back and forth anywhere I please. Doesn't that make you jealous? It should, you know. But getting back to the point, I suppose that at some time in the future I may indeed stumble upon that unfortunate incident you just mentioned . . . my 'second' death . . . and perhaps I really will die. But you see, I haven't been there yet, even though you have."
"Does he ever stop to breathe?" The stage whisper came from Sonar, and it earned a withering glance from the First Officer.
"Isn't it perfectly marvelous the way time works when you have the proper mode of transport," at this point Pem dangled his timepiece tantalizingly in front of them, "and you know your way around? Avoiding one's death is a little bit like avoiding indigestion -- as long as one doesn't eat food that disagrees, one is perfectly safe from unpleasantness!"
"Mr. Pem," the Admiral began rather forcefully, checking the deluge of words, "to what do we owe the honor of this visit?"
"Ah, Adm. Nelson, always the practical man, you come right to the point. I like that. Well," he said, straightening his antique vest, "I have something I wish to discuss with you. Perhaps it would be better if we retired to your quarters, where we could . . . " here he surveyed the inquisitive stares of the Control Room crew, "avoid unnecessary intrusion?"
"Certainly," Nelson replied with forced politeness. "I believe you know the way," he said, as he extended an arm to usher his uninvited guest up the spiral stairs.
"Admiral," Lee Crane said quietly, when Pem was out of earshot, "You're not actually going to listen to him, are you?"
"Lee, the man is a genius, but greedy, and in many ways stupid. That makes him very dangerous. I have to listen to him." Nelson looked after Pem's retreating figure, and added, "But of course that doesn't mean that you can't see to it that some 'precautionary' measures are taken." He didn't have to wait long for the gleam of comprehension to light his Captain's eyes.
Crane smiled briefly. "Aye, sir. Understood." As the Admiral hurried away, the Captain called over Chief Sharkey, and began giving instructions.
When Nelson and Pem arrived in the Admiral's cabin, Mr. Pem was still talking. " . . . I never really liked this time period -- raucous music, strange clothing, confusing social customs; and there are other much more modern energy sources I could have put to good use -- but none of them have the famous Adm. Nelson! Plus there are all those annoying regulations in the future. So I find myself being drawn back here by the irresistible combination of you, sir, and this marvelous ship of yours," he said with a patronizing smile.
"Boat," the Admiral said mildly.
"What?" Mr Pem responded in bewilderment, his pomposity deflating a notch or two.
"It's referred to as a boat, not a ship, " the Admiral repeated, "and I suppose I should be flattered, but I have a feeling that your flattery is leading up to something, so if you please, come to the point."
"I like your style! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You're a practical man, which is why you're so valuable . . ."
"The point . . . ?" Nelson reminded him.
"Yes, yes, of course. It's a small thing, really. I need you to set off a small nuclear blast." Seeing Nelson's face darken, he interrupted himself, hands fluttering, "Now, now, don't get so agitated -- it's really not good for you, you know. Besides, you haven't even heard me out. As I said, it will be a small blast. You needn't be concerned about 'death and doom'," he intoned dramatically, "there will be no loss of human life at all. I knew you would appreciate that," he smiled beneficently. "It will simply set off a chain reaction which will ultimately result in giving me all the energy I'll ever need. Don't you see? It's perfect -- just one tiny favor, and I'll never need to bother you again."
"Mr. Pem," the Admiral began firmly, "I have no intention of doing anything now, or at any time in the future, which would in any way contribute to your power."
"Why, Admiral, I'm quite shocked at your tone," Pem sputtered.
Nelson continued, "While I freely acknowledge that you are indeed a genius . . ." here Pem's self-importance began to glow again, "you have neither the wisdom, the compassion, nor the moral ethics to be allowed to command such power as you expect to gain."
"And who are you, sir, to judge my moral ethics! Why, I could bring forth any number of witnesses . . . "
" . . . none of whom are in a position to grant or deny your request. I am. And I refuse to allow myself, my crew, or my submarine to be part of another one of your schemes."
Pem's expression shifted from haughty to ominous. "I'm sure you remember just how much power this little device gives me over the lives of you and your crew," he threatened, as he patted the vest pocket where the timepiece lay hidden.
"I do indeed, but I would willingly sacrifice myself, my submarine, and every man on her to keep you from gaining the kind of power you seek. And I doubt there is a man aboard who would protest, knowing your plan. Besides, if you destroy us, you'll lose your source of power altogether, and that little device will be useless."
"Aha, Admiral, I've finally caught you! I've caught you in a flaw of logic. I'm actually very disappointed -- I thought better of you. Don't you see? I could quite easily destroy you, and your crew, and have the Seaview all to myself, to do with as I please. You didn't think of that, did you?" he crowed.
"As a matter of fact, I did." Nelson consulted his watch. "By now the Seaview's reactors are completely shut down. There isn't enough energy left in them for one of your tricks, let alone our destruction. We both know you can't restart them alone; there's really nothing left for you here." The Admiral rose from his desk and smiled reasonably. "I suggest you leave immediately."
Pem's eyes narrowed. "Now you've done it, Admiral, now you've stretched my patience to the breaking point," he seethed. "You need to be taught a lesson that you won't be inclined to forget. A lesson your crew won't let you forget. The last time we spoke, you indicated a rather imprudent desire to see your future. Well, perhaps after having seen it you won't be so quick to assume such a superior attitude!"
"Ah," said the Admiral with a wry smile, "but you said you would 'never let anyone go through such a horrible experience more than once.' Your exact words, I believe."
"Who said anything about experiencing it more than once? I'm just going to show you your future . . . or lack thereof, " he insinuated. With that he withdrew his timepiece from his vest pocket with a flourish, pressed the stem, and disappeared.
The boat lurched briefly, then a second time, the lights flickered . . . and everything seemed normal again.
In the Control Room the Captain slammed his open hand down on the Plot Table. "It's Pem! He's at it again!" He was on the mike to call the Admiral, when Nelson himself stepped over the threshold and into the room. "Did you feel that!" the Captain greeted him.
"Of course I did," Nelson replied calmly. "Chip, what's our position?"
"Hasn't changed, sir. We're at 075.47N by 05.10W."
"How about chronometers? Have they changed?" Nelson pursued.
"No, sir, everything seems fine."
"Sparks," Crane said, walking toward the Radio Shack, "How's radio traffic -- any change?"
"No, sir. All the regular chatter."
The senior officers looked at each other, nonplussed. Nelson rubbed the back of his neck in bewilderment and said, "Then what the devil's going on?"
Histories and Legacies
July 17, 1998 - Bangor, Washington
Lee Crane swung gracefully off the second rung of the ladder and into the Control Room. He had changed very little over the years. His thick black hair was only further distinguished by generous sprinklings of salt and pepper.
"Welcome aboard, Admiral!" Capt. Chip Morton extended his hand and a warm smile.
"It's good to be here, Chip," Adm. Crane replied, returning the smile and the handshake. "Have any others arrived yet?"
"No, you're the first. Is your gear out on the dock?"
"No, I left it on the Bridge."
Turning to a nearby crewman, Morton said, "Yagashi, get the Admiral's gear and stow it in the Guest Quarters."
"Aye, sir," the young sailor replied smartly, as he turned to climb the ladder.
"Mr. McNeil, I'll be in the Crew's Mess with the Admiral if you need me," Morton advised his Exec.
As he and Adm. Crane headed out of the Control Room, the Admiral said, "Y'know, Chip, even after all these years, I don't think I'll ever get used to calling Admiral Nelson's cabin the 'Guest Quarters'. I'll be happy to see his name back on the door." As the two men kept pace with each other Crane asked, "What's the latest count on who's coming?"
Capt. Morton tromboned his clipboard a bit, mumbling something about glasses and getting old. Finally he found what he was looking for and said, "Sharkey and Doc Jamieson are flying in this afternoon, I've already sent a car for them. Riley should be here any time now -- he was visiting a former student in Seattle, and he's getting his own ride. I'm not sure how Sparks is getting here -- you just never know with these entertainment types," he said, rolling his eyes. "O'Brien can't make it. He's on the Endeavor in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He did send us a letter and a couple of pictures. We also got letters from Clark, Evans, Bishop, Spencer, Malone, and, oh, about half a dozen others." he said, checking his list.
"And before I forget . . . Angie wants to know if you and Carrie are both going to the Institute Reception next week. She's trying to arrange some kind of get-together afterwards."
"I certainly can't miss it -- that's when we're officially announcing the creation of the museum -- and I'm afraid I didn't give Carrie much choice. Will your whole family be there?"
"No, just me and Angie."
"That's a shame. Carrie was hoping Julie would be there. She's afraid she won't know anybody but me and you folks -- and we evidently aren't all that interesting," he shook his head and sighed. "But that still didn't keep her from dragging me to fifteen stores last week, searching for the perfect dress!"
"What's Carrie doing this weekend? Is she with Connie's folks?"
"You mean you didn't hear? She was invited to spend the weekend with her friend, Julie Morton." Lee Crane's eyes twinkled with amusement as his friend looked heavenward and groaned.
"Poor Angie! A non-stop marathon of shopping, gossip, and mushy movies. Well, better her than me!" he said with no visible signs of guilt.
By this time the two officers had arrived at their destination. The Crew's Mess had been scrubbed and polished to within an inch of its life. There was an aroma of distinctly non-standard delicacies in the air. The dull, gray walls were camouflaged by dozens of photographs of crew members, past and present. Letters and notes from many who couldn't come were posted on the bulletin board. The Captain and the Admiral looked over the setup while they poured mugs of coffee and sat down. Morton, having finally found his reading glasses, checked his notes once more. "I guess that's about everybody who responded to the invitation. You're here, and Kowalski and I never left."
"By the way, where is the Chief? I haven't seen him yet."
"Oh, he's around here somewhere, fussing over some detail or another. Ever since he became the COB he's more of a mother hen than Sharkey ever was -- and that's going some. I often wonder how he acts at home. Do his wife and sons have to put up with all this mothering, or does he reserve it just for us?"
The two friends were still chuckling when Chief Kowalski arrived in person, with three men in tow. "Admiral, Captain," he nodded to the officers, "I just found these three derelicts wandering around up on the Bridge, and wondered what you'd like me to do with them." Although he tried to hide it, Kowalski's wide grin undermined his attempt at deception.
The Admiral jumped up and greeted the newcomers enthusiastically. "Sharkey! Riley! Doc! It's great to see you! It's been way too long." There followed a round of greetings, handshaking, questions, exclamations, backslapping, and embracing. The men had been encouraged to wear their old uniforms to the reunion, and both Sharkey and the Doctor looked so comfortable and natural in theirs that one might have thought they had simply been on an extended leave, rather than retirement. Riley, on the other hand, had made no attempt to wear his.
"Sharkey, how are you, and how's your business?" Capt. Morton asked his former Chief.
"Both doin' fine, sir. As long as people have boats, they'll keep breaking down, and if I can't fix 'em, I don't know who can! I've slowed down a little, but the noggin still works just fine." Then he grinned, "It looks like we've both lost a little something on top," he said, surveying his former Captain's no-longer-lush gold and silver hair.
"I stand guilty as charged," Chip Morton admitted, raising his hands in surrender. "But at least we haven't made up for it by gaining a little something in the middle," he continued, loudly enough to be heard by Riley.
"Ouch! I heard that!" Riley responded, "And I'm wounded, sir! But alas, 'tis too true. My enthusiasm for good living won out long ago over my zeal for . . . shall we say . . . more active pursuits? But you gotta admit, I speak classier English, now -- right?"
"You're right there, but anything would have been an improvement, Riley. Anything at all," the Captain grinned, shaking his head.
As he returned his attention to Sharkey, the former Chief asked, " And how's the family, sir?"
"Angie's doing great, Natalie's in her first year at Annapolis, Chris is about to start in the Aquatic Biology program at U.C. Santa Barbara . . . and then there's Julie." Morton stopped and grimaced.
Sharkey looked worried, "Problems, sir?"
"No, not really, I guess. She's fifteen going on twenty-five, and appears to be majoring in shopping and boys. We assume she'll outgrow it."
"Well, I can certainly sympathize with the Captain," Adm. Crane broke in. "This business of raising a teenage daughter is certainly not for the faint of heart!"
"Now Adm. Crane, you can't tell me that your sweet little Carolyn is causing you problems!" Doc Jamieson had now joined the conversation.
"She may be sweet, but she's not so little any more, Doc, she just turned sixteen last month. And no, she doesn't cause problems so much as nearly terminal confusion, bewilderment, and awe. How so much energy, so many emotions, and so much contradiction can be tied up in such a small package . . . well, I'll never figure it out!" he laughed. "But I love trying, just the same. I wouldn't trade the challenge for anything in the world." The proud glow of fatherhood on his face underscored his words.
"Well, both our girls went through it, and now we have grandchildren giving them problems," Jamieson continued with a knowing smile. Addressing both Crane and Morton he continued, "Your girls will outgrow it just like ours did -- you'll survive, and hopefully live to see your grandchildren repay them for your troubles."
"By the way, Doc, how is Helen?" Lee Crane asked, as the Captain moved off to speak to the others.
"She's doing fine, and asked to be remembered to both of you. We get to spend a lot of time together, and with our grandchildren. As much as I loved my years on the Seaview, that's the one thing I really missed -- being with my family. I volunteer two days a week at a small clinic, to keep my hand in. Aside from that, I goof off, take out the trash, go for walks to the playground, tell tall tales, and play lots of 'Go Fish' with my grandsons. I tell you, it's great! But Lee, what have you been up to lately? After the Admiral died, and you went back to the Navy I kind of lost track. I know you CO'd a couple of different nuclear subs, didn't you?"
"Yes, I did. After serving an apprenticeship -- I think they didn't trust me to be 'Navy' enough -- I had an attack sub, the Occidental; then they assigned me to a boomer, the Oregon. After that I was Commander of a Task Force for COMSUBPAC." The Admiral spoke quickly, embarrassed to be talking so much about himself, especially since the room was beginning to fill up with younger officers and enlisted men. These were the men who had served under Chip Morton when the Seaview was still the primary deep-sea research lab of the Nelson Institute and who stayed on as instructors after she was redesignated a training vessel.
The Doctor wouldn't have pressed the issue any further, but Lt. James, Seaview's young communications officer, had joined those gathered around the two older men, and asked, "I've always wondered, sir, what made you decide to leave the Navy and come back to the Institute?"
Adm. Crane thought a moment, his eyes focused on something far away, then he spoke very carefully. "When Connie -- my wife -- died, my daughter was twelve years old. I realized that my commitments to the Navy left too little time to be a full-time father. I could never spend as much time with my wife as I wanted to . . . as I should have . . . and I didn't want to make the same mistake twice." Crane hesitated, seemed on the verge of saying more, then stopped. A moment later he smiled graciously and continued, "So when the Institute offered me this liaison position, I jumped at the opportunity to move back here, work with old friends, and be near my wife's family. It's an ideal situation." He laughed, "I even get to show off for VIP's in the Flying Sub once in a while."
Chip Morton was making his way slowly across the now-crowded room to join the Admiral when another familiar voice was heard in the corridor. "I'd recognize that sound anywhere," Riley announced. "That's got to be L.A.'s 'King of the Morning Drive Time'!"
Being closest to the door, the Captain was first to welcome the newcomer. "Sparks! Good to have you back aboard!" More quietly, but certainly not privately he added, "And before you leave, if you don't give me an autograph for my daughter, she may not let me back in the house."
The former communications officer laughed, "I'll be happy to oblige, sir. I sure don't want to be responsible for my Exec's homelessness!" Sparks was also in uniform, although it looked more than a little incongruous with his decidedly unmilitary ponytail. He looked around the room and asked, "Where's Capt. -- I mean -- Adm. Crane?"
"I'm right here, Sparks," Crane said, stepping forward. "Great to see you again!" The three men traded compliments and some good-natured bantering until Sparks' former crewmates engulfed the group, and steered him off in the direction of the coffee urn, where Riley was bringing Sharkey up to date.
" . . . I don't know how many times the Admiral said to me, with that weird combo of patience and exasperation of his, 'Riley, you could do great things, if you would just stick with something long enough to finish it!' Remember how he used to sound like a hammer pounding each word into your head? Well, after about two years of college I'd had it. I was ready to quit and hit the beach -- bag the whole college scene. But I remembered what he said, and I finally got the picture. So I hit the books, graduated, and wound up diggin' it so much that I went on for my Master's in English. When the college offered me a teaching job, I grabbed it before they had a chance to change their minds. I tell ya, it's way out!" At this point Riley paused for a second before continuing -- no less enthusiastically -- but more seriously, "And, I occasionally have the privilege of passing the Admiral's advice on to some other confused kid." He paused again before finishing with a grin, "And there you have the short version of the 'Life of Riley'."
"How about you, Sparks, how'd you get to be the 'Morning Man' of the biggest station in LA?" Kowalski asked. "After the Admiral . . . well, after Capt. Crane transferred back to the Navy you high-tailed out of here so fast you barely even said goodbye. Then next thing we knew, you were KRIS's morning DJ, and your name was all over the airwaves, the billboards -- everywhere! What happened?"
Sparks laughed, "Would you believe it was all a mistake? As many times as I had to repair, rewire, and reconfigure the radio here on Seaview, I figured I could do the same kind of work on the outside. It seemed like the right time for a change. So I asked a friend who knew somebody, who knew somebody -- you know how it is -- and I got an interview at KRIS. But all he told them was that I was 'experienced in radio communication'. So there I was, expecting to be interviewed as a technician, and there they were expecting an announcer. I couldn't for the life of me figure why they wanted me to go into a booth and make a tape, but I did -- I really needed the job -- and the next thing I knew, I was doing commercials, then the news, and before long they put me on late-night. The rest, as they say, is history."
As Riley and Sparks migrated across the room to rejoin Adm. Crane and Capt. Morton, Sharkey sidled up to Kowalski and said, "Can you believe that, 'Ski? Riley, of all people, an English professor. Why, when he was here on board, half the time nobody even knew what he was talkin' about. Now he's teachin' college kids how to speak. I tell ya, it's scary!"
"Actually, Chief, I don't think he teaches any speech classes. He's a professor of medieval literature," Kowalski said.
"See what I mean? I knew there had to be somethin' evil about it."
As his friend moved on, Chief Kowalski just shook his head and smiled.
Eventually, everyone was filled up with coffee, good food, and each other's news. After the first enthusiastic torrent was spent the conversations slowed down, and finally tapered off altogether. There followed that awkward silence that occurs when old friends meet after many years, right after the supply of small talk is expended.
Sensing the mood, and seeing that it was almost time for Seaview to get under way, Chip Morton stood up and began to 'officially' welcome his guests. "I'm sure you know part of the reason for this reunion: After 20 years as a research vessel, and five years as a training vessel, the SSRN Seaview is about to be decommissioned. Thanks to the efforts of Adm. Crane, though, she is not going to be scrapped. After weeks of wrangling, conniving, coercing, cajoling, and outright bullying by the Admiral, the Institute has agreed to restore the Seaview to her original specs, and open her to the public as a museum. The official announcement will be made next week. It will be a good education for the public, good public relations for the Institute, and a great feeling for all of us who ever served aboard her." There were whistles, cheers, applause, and appreciative comments.
"Way to go, Admiral!"
The Captain nodded to Adm. Crane who rose to address the group.
"The Institute's two new research subs, the Endeavor and the Harriman Nelson, are good boats. They're bigger, faster, safer, and better equipped than the Seaview. Unfortunately, even as a training vessel, Seaview is nearly obsolete. It's time she retired from active duty." His eyes conveyed not only his conviction of the truth of this statement, but also his deep regret. "Some of you are relatively new to her, but most are old friends. We've been through a lot together, and it didn't seem right that the vessel that provided the laboratory for the making of so much history should just be discarded. And it won't be. Now we'll be able to give others a small taste of what it was like to have served on the SSRN Seaview."
Although the words were neither profuse nor grand -- that would have been out of character for a man so loathe to draw attention to himself -- they were stirring in their simplicity.
After the Admiral sat down, Capt. Morton gave the group a few moments to reflect, then he continued. "As I said, part of the reason for this reunion is for you guys -- and I'm talking to the retirees and deserters here," he grinned, indicating the group including Sharkey, Doc, Riley, and Sparks, "to have an opportunity for one more cruise on the Seaview before she's withdrawn from service. But this isn't a free ride; you're going to work for your keep. We -- the Admiral and I -- want to record some of the 'human' history of the boat. We have the Logs, with all the official records, but we're interested in your memories, your anecdotes, even your tall tales," here he nodded at the Doctor. "We want to leave them as a kind of legacy, so that those who visit the Seaview will have a better feel for what life was like on board -- the successes, the sacrifices, the friendships, the nonsense -- in short, our stories. So, with that in mind, we're providing the time, the opportunity -- and plenty of paper and pencils."
A general murmur of approval rippled through the room, and it seemed as though Morton's announcement was about to open the floodgate of 'Remember the time . . . ?'. But before it began the nostalgia was interrupted by the Captain himself. "Before we get on with that, there are a few 'housekeeping' chores to deal with. As you know, this is designated as a Tiger Cruise. And let me tell you I had the devil's own time convincing the brass to OK it. 'Stretching a point' doesn't begin to cover claiming that you are all brothers, sons, and fathers of the crew!" Arching his eyebrows, he looked over his reading glasses to emphasize his point. "But here we are. We'll be sailing with a skeleton crew of active personnel, and each of you has been assigned a partner -- to work with, if you want -- or just to chew the fat with, if that's your preference. We're anticipating a nice, relaxing cruise: clear weather, no fanatic scientists, experimental life forms, exotic sea monsters, or reactor failures -- knock on wood. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the crew you'll be working with."
Right on cue, the Executive Officer walked into the room. "First of all," Chip Morton said with a sly grin, "I'd like you to meet our First Officer, Lt. Cmdr. McNeil, whose uncle you may remember." From those who had never before met Harriman McNeil there were gasps of astonishment and recognition, for the young man was -- with the exception of his height -- the very image of his uncle, Adm. Harriman Nelson. From his unruly red hair and twinkling blue eyes, right down to his crooked grin there could be no mistaking him. Those who were 'in the know' thoroughly enjoyed the expressions on their comrades' faces. Even Harry McNeil himself, usually embarrassed by comparisons with his famous relative, enjoyed the moment.
"We're ready to cast off, sir," he said to the Captain. "Any further instructions?"
"No, Mr. McNeil, take her out. I'll be up in a few minutes."
As he left the Captain proceeded with his introductions. "As I said, we've tried to pair everyone with a counterpart in the same specialty. So Sparks, you'll be working with our Communications Officer, Lt. Jamal James."
The young black man rose and crossed the room to shake his predecessor's hand affably. "I look forward to working with you, sir."
"Doc, you're the only one who doesn't have a true counterpart. You'll be with Maloney, our pharmacist's mate." As the young man rose to introduce himself to the former Chief Medical Officer, Capt. Morton continued, "We don't figure to need either of their services . . .unless one of you landlubbers plans on getting seasick."
"Chief Kowalski, there's no need to introduce you to your colleague: Chief Sharkey."
"Aw, c'mon, Skipper, couldn't you give me somebody more interesting than Sharkey?" Kowalski joshed.
"Go ahead, kid, laugh it up, but just think how I feel, bein' stuck with a knucklehead like you!" the former Chief countered happily.
"Riley, you'll be with Petty Officer Toshiyuki Yagashi on Sonar."
Yagashi leaned across the table to shake Riley's hand. "Call me 'Yuki if you like. Most of the guys do." He paused a second, then continued, "By the way, we've heard stories about you, sir. You'll have to let me know if they're all true."
Riley's face lit up with combined pleasure and embarrassment. "They probably are. But I'd better check them out anyway -- wouldn't want anyone spreading lies about me!"
The Captain continued down through his list of introductions, then moved on to scheduling, and finally finished with: "If there are no further questions . . .?" There were none. "OK, men. Get to work. Mr. James, Yagashi, I believe this is your watch." As the men rose to leave the Captain nodded a salute to Adm. Crane, and the three of them left for the Control Room.
Several of the younger men were inspecting the photographs on display when Riley and Kowalski walked up. "Chief, can you tell me who this man is?" Donnelly, from Sonar, asked. "He seems to be in a good many of the older pictures. And here he is, standing between you and Mr. Riley."
Neither Kowalski nor Riley needed to examine the photo to know who Donnelly meant. "That's Patterson. He was a real good guy," Kowalski smiled quietly.
"That's for sure," agreed Riley. "I never met, or ever expect to meet, anyone more easy-going or more good-natured."
Kowalski stood with his hands clasped in front of him, staring at something far way in his past. "He was . . . gentle, if you know what I mean. Not to say that he couldn't be tough when he needed to be, though. No sirree. I can't think of anyone I would rather have had by my side in a rough spot."
"What happened to him, if you don't mind my asking," Donnelly pursued.
"Mind? No, I don't mind. In fact, somebody ought to write it down." The Chief shook off his pensive mood and said more vigorously, "We were under attack, and there was an overload in the Reactor Room; it was heading toward critical. The reactor should have scrammed, but it had been sabotaged, so it had to be shut down manually. Patterson and Spencer -- that's the guy behind us in this picture," he said, pointing to the same photo, "they suited up to go into the Reactor Room. By the time they got inside -- man, that reactor was really running wild, and even after they got it damped down the radiation levels were still lethal. As they were leaving, the boat started pitching and rolling pretty bad -- remember, we were under attack -- and Spencer got pinned under a fallen control panel. Patterson was out the door before he realized what happened. We tried to keep him from going back in -- after all, Spence might have been dead already -- but Pat, he shook us all off and went back." Kowalski faltered, surprised by his own emotions.
Riley could see that Kowalski was more upset than he wanted to let on, so he continued the story for him. "It wasn't until the door slammed behind him that we realized he had lost one of his gloves and his hood in the scuffle. I'll never forget seeing the look on his face through that window. It wasn't anger, or even fear, just surprise and sorrow. He might have survived if he had left right then, but he never hesitated. He freed Spencer, and carried him out safely. Then he collapsed. He died two days later. Left a wife and three little girls. That was almost 20 years ago."
Donnelly felt he should say something, but nothing seemed adequate. He finally settled on: "It sounds like he was a good friend to have."
"Yes, he was. The best," both men nodded in agreement.
The two friends' discomfort was relieved by a small commotion on the other side of the room. Sharkey and Adm. Crane were having a lively discussion, and they, along with Sparks, went over to investigate.
"I tell ya, we really had you guys fooled!" Sharkey reveled in the memory. "For over 50 hours that poker game went on -- teams switchin' off for duty watches, of course -- and not one of the senior officers ever even knew what was goin' on. That is, until the Admiral came blusterin' in like a hurricane, and scared the daylights out of Evans, so he forgot to give us the signal. We might have broken the Navy record if it'd been me or 'Ski out there. But Evans, he was just a kid then, and still kinda skittish."
"Sorry to disillusion you, Chief, but Adm. Nelson probably knew about that game before you dealt the first hand!" Crane chuckled.
"Nah! No way, Admiral!" Sharkey protested. "If you guys knew about it, why didn't you stop it? You and Mr. Morton were always sticklers for rules and regs. And if gamblin' ain't against the regs -- I don't know what is!"
"Sharkey's right, sir," Riley joined in, "You've gotta be mistaken. If you could have seen Adm. Nelson's face when he came in and saw what was going on . . . well, I'm not puttin' you on -- it was one bad scene. I thought he'd pop a blood vessel! I mean, he had guys scatterin' like rabbits."
Crane smiled at the image. "Yes, the Admiral always was a good actor. If you remember, Chief, it was a long, uneventful cartography cruise, and everyone was getting restless. The Admiral decided to look the other way because he thought the game would be a good diversion. As for the senior officers not knowing about it -- it would have been impossible not to know something was up. Every time we entered a compartment, all conversation died. The Crew's Mess was empty all day. And then there was the matter of the angelic behavior of all the enlisted men. I tell you -- it was hard to keep a straight face!" he laughed. "Besides that, we had strict orders from the Admiral to avoid the aft Torpedo Room and adjacent corridors. He didn't say why, but we all had a real good idea. He told me later that his only regret was that he didn't let it go on just a little while longer. He didn't realize just how close you were to breaking the record!"
Sharkey was crestfallen. "So all our scheming was for nothin', eh?"
"Absolutely not! The men had a break in the monotony, the Admiral had a good time keeping tabs on you, and the officers enjoyed watching it all unfold. The junior officers even had a little pool going themselves, to guess how long the Admiral would let the game go on." Crane shook his head and smiled, "No, Chief, it wasn't for nothing. If you hadn't tried to keep it under wraps, the Admiral would have had no choice but to stop it right away, and we all would have been deprived of a great memory!" Crane clapped an affectionate hand on Sharkey's shoulder, and got up to leave.
"I guess when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so bad," the former Chief said as he rose to follow.
"Hey, Sharkey, I've always wondered," Sparks asked, "Just how much was riding on that game, anyway?"
"Yeah, well, about that . . . I knew the Admiral would really blow his stack if the stakes were too high, so I made the guys keep a tight cap on it - it was just penny ante. Riley was the big winner. And if I remember correctly, his take was $27.42"
"No, Chief, you're off by fourteen cents -- I won $27.56, fair and square." Riley corrected him with a wide grin.
"No kidding -- really?" Sparks was amazed. "I won more than that in the officer's pool! Good thing the Admiral didn't know about that."
Crane, overhearing Sparks' remark, turned and grinned, "What makes you think he didn't?"
While Sparks and Sharkey went over to join the Admiral inspecting the photograph display, Riley and Kowalski sat down at the table. Riley picked up a pencil and started to alternately doodle on one of the legal pads, and stare off into space. Finally Kowalski said "Hey, why so quiet all of a sudden? Something buggin' you?" Riley looked up as if he were surprised to see him there. "You're not still thinking about Pat, are you?"
Riley shook his head and said, "No . . . not Pat . . ." He sat there doodling a little while longer, then put his pencil down and stared at Adm. Crane across the room. "I always wanted to know, but never knew who or how to ask -- what happened when Adm. Nelson died? And why did the Skipper take off for the Navy in such a hurry? I was in grad school by then, and kinda wrapped up in my own world. All I knew was what I read in the papers -- that, and a few rumors. What really happened?"
Kowalski didn't seem upset by the question, but he looked around toward the Admiral before he answered, "Let's take a walk, Stu, and I'll tell you about it." The two men left the Mess, and strolled down the corridor. "We were doing some top-secret deep-water testing for a variation on the enhanced radiation bomb -- y'know, that 'neutron bomb' the press was making such a stink about?" Riley nodded. "Well, the Admiral wasn't too happy with having to run these tests in the first place. He hated the idea of helping them make a 'clean' nuclear bomb; he didn't want to have anything to do with a weapon that made war neat and tidy. But he was under orders, and I guess he was hoping his findings would be negative enough to discourage further research -- by us or anyone else.
"We had set up several test sites on the ocean floor, and we were making the rounds again to check them out when the Admiral discovered the timing mechanism was out of calibration on one of them. He and the Skipper were going to go out in the Flying Sub to pick it up, and bring it back for repairs, but at the last minute there was some kind of minor problem with the ballast tanks, and the Admiral said he'd go out alone.
Now, Capt. Crane was against that, because of the depth, and tried to get him to wait an hour or so, until the ballast was fixed. But the Admiral said no, if the timing problem wasn't resolved right away, then the test schedule would be thrown off, and all the other devices would have to be re-calibrated, too.
So the Skipper said that Mr. Morton could take care of the ballast malfunction, and he'd go anyway. Well, the Admiral said no again; he'd feel better if they were both on Seaview, in case they had to leave in a hurry before the problem was fixed.
Finally, the Captain tried to send me or Sharkey out with him, but the Admiral would have no parts of that, either. He said that retrieving the thing was a simple procedure, it didn't need two men, and he'd be back in less than an hour. Man, I tell you, they had quite a discussion there in the Control Room, but the Skipper finally had to give in and let him go. Nevertheless, you could tell he was real worried.
"In any case, the Admiral went out, picked up the thing up, and reported that he was on his way back . Then the second message arrived. It seems the timer had gone completely wild, and it was about to detonate. If that had happened within the test area, it would've set off a chain reaction with all the other bombs -- that's all they really were, fancy bombs -- and we would've been roasted in the middle. He told the Skipper to get out of the test area at flank speed, and that if the device couldn't be disarmed, he would dump it outside the area, and meet Seaview at a rendezvous point.
"There were no more messages after that. We never did find out what happened; but the Captain figured the Admiral must have realized that he couldn't disable it, and wanted to get it as far away from the test area and Seaview as he could before he dumped it. Or maybe it detonated without enough warning. Whatever the reason, he didn't dump it soon enough. The bomb was far enough away from the Flying Sub that the blast did no structural damage, but when we finally reached him, several hours later, the Admiral was dead from the radiation. It didn't appear to have been an easy death." Kowalski stopped speaking. It was a full minute before he could even look at his companion. His earlier composure had fled in the face of reliving the incident. After another minute he trusted his voice enough to go on.
"There was probably nothing any of us could have done that Adm. Nelson didn't do, but that didn't make the Skipper feel any better. He seemed sure that if he'd been there, he could have done something. I guess most of us felt that way . . . maybe we could have, maybe not, who knows? The way the Admiral fought with the Skipper about going out alone always made me think that maybe he knew -- somehow -- that something would go wrong, and he didn't want to risk anybody else. All we knew for sure was that he had saved all our lives by flying that thing away from us like he did. None of us will ever forget that.
"We were all pretty broke up about it, but -- like I said -- the Captain was really rattled. I think he had to leave the Seaview. There were too many memories, too many ghosts. So he transferred back to the Navy submarine service. He did real well for himself there, but I don't know how happy he was. Then when Mrs. Crane died, I guess he figured it was time to come back home. All he really had left was his daughter . . . and us. It's been a good thing for him -- coming back, I mean. He looks better now than I've seen him in a long time."
The two men walked on in silence for a little while. By time they found themselves outside the Control Room Kowalski had recovered completely. He said to Riley, "Why don't you go in there and teach Yagashi a few tricks? I'm gonna go catch some shut-eye before my watch." He ambled off down the corridor just as the Adm. Crane came into sight with Sparks and Sharkey. Riley waited, and the four of them entered the Control Room together.
A Nice, Relaxing Cruise
The transit out of Bangor, through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and into the Pacific was no better or worse than usual. Everyone in the Control Room, and elsewhere on the Seaview, was happy when, four hours later, they reached the dive point and could get below the turbulent surface currents. All the 'honorary' crew members were on hand in the Control Room for the dive. Sparks was listening in on the radio traffic with an extra set of headphones. Riley was manning Sonar, with Yagashi keeping a polite but protective watch over his instruments. Sharkey and Kowalski were alternating between recording their progress on the navigational chart and swapping 'Remember whens'. Even Doc Jamieson was sitting in the Observation Nose with Adm. Crane, savoring a view he had seldom had the leisure to enjoy during his years as Medical Officer.
Soon after they reached cruising depth there was a change of watch. As those going off watch headed toward dinner, several of the Tigers decided to go eat with them. Lee Crane had made it as far as the Plot Table when a powerful shudder ran through the boat. Alarms went off everywhere, but no damage was reported. Curious. When it happened a second time, a few seconds later, the lights flickered momentarily, but again no damage was reported, and Sonar showed no close contact. That was when Crane noticed the chronometer -- it was running backwards, and at incredible speed. Chip Morton saw it at the same instant. Their eyes met as they both reached the same conclusion.
"Pem?" Crane asked incredulously.
"It can't be . . ." Morton murmured.
"Don't be too sure."
Capt. Morton was already in action. "Navigation, check our position."
"I just did, sir."
"Check it again!" Morton thundered, then he turned to give orders to surface and take visual readings.
"Sir, I think something must have happened to our equipment. It's returning a lot of gibberish about the satellite being in out of position, and what I can decode of these readings is unbelievable," Navigation reported. "They say we're . . . uh . . . in the wrong ocean." It was plain that the man didn't believe his instruments.
Neither Crane nor Morton deemed it necessary to let him know that his readings might be all too believable. "Check for malfunctions." Morton said tersely.
Crane had himself been watching the output of the navigational computer, and ripped off the print-out to show Morton. "It definitely looks like Pem's at it again," he said quietly. "I thought we'd seen the last of him twenty years ago."
As soon as they broached the surface, Mr. McNeil and Adm. Crane went up on the bridge to take visual readings while the Captain continued to receive reports from all stations. When Harry McNeil came back down the ladder with the Admiral he seemed perplexed. Before he reported to the Captain, he checked the navigation almanac, then cross checked with the navigational computer himself. By this time his face was a picture of disbelief. "Sir," he finally said, "Visual readings confirm the instruments. We're at 75.4N, by 004.9W. We're in the Greenland Sea, six hundred miles north of Iceland . . . and nearly eight thousand nautical miles from our last recorded position." The Admiral stood behind him, nodding his confirmation.
The entire Control Room watch heard the news. Beyond the normal background noise of the instruments, there was not a single sound. No one even seemed to be breathing. The younger men looked worried. The older men, who had experienced similar situations in the past, were no less apprehensive. They all looked to Morton and Crane for explanations. There were none. Yet.
Suddenly, the sound of unpleasant laughter filtered down the spiral stairs. Close behind it followed the form of a man dressed in anachronistic clothing, and dangling what appeared to be a pocket watch from an ornate watch fob. "Well, well, well, if it isn't Capt. Crane and the ever-steadfast Mr. Morton. Or should I say Admiral Crane and Captain Morton . . . a small matter of semantics, and of no real importance. Let me take this opportunity to express my somewhat tardy condolences to both of you on the death of your Adm. Nelson," he said with complete insincerity. His words, though clearly intended to wound, produced no visible signs of having achieved their goal.
"Pem! What are you doing here?" Crane demanded, "I thought you were dead!"
"Ah, what a tiresome lack of original thought. Twenty years later, and you still haven't anything new to say."
"What? What are you talking about?" Crane reacted with annoyance.
"And what do you want with Seaview?" Morton asked pointedly.
"I see I've finally piqued your curiosity, haven't I? But you misapprehend me, gentlemen. I don't really want anything with your Seaview. I'm just using it as a sort of 'visual aid', if you will."
"What do you mean our Seaview? What other . . .?"
Pem did not allow Morton to finish his thought. "All in good time, gentlemen, all in good time. May I assume that you have made all the necessary calculations and are aware of your present location?" Like a schoolmaster quizzing his students, he waited for a response.
"75.4N by 004.9W," replied the Admiral neutrally.
"Now, now -- don't try to confuse me with all your Naval double-talk. I assume that what you just said has something to do with the fact that you are well above the Arctic Circle, somewhere between Greenland and . . . well . . . absolutely nothing," he chortled disagreeably. "Furthermore, I can also tell you what your sadly disoriented chronometers have no hope of recognizing. The time is half past five in the evening; the date is July 17, 1978." He waited for a dramatic response, but the well-trained crew, taking their cue from their commanding officers, did not give him the satisfaction. Like a spoiled child, his displeasure at not getting the anticipated reaction was keen, but it passed quickly; presently his countenance brightened. "But you haven't asked me why!" he baited them.
Before they had a chance to oblige him, Pem was overtaken by a bizarre transformation. He seemed to fade, to waver, to blink in and out of existence. When he could be seen at all, the expression on his face was one first of astonishment, then realization, and finally horror. The last utterance that could be distinguished before he vanished completely was a small, thin, "Help me!"
The entire Control Room sat in stunned silence for a full minute. The next words that were spoken, although no one ever admitted to saying them, were, "I'm getting too old for this."
Adm. Nelson was still pacing the Control Room, trying to get some answers when Kowalski on Sonar called out, "Admiral, I have metal contact dead ahead, sir! It just appeared out of nowhere! It's huge -- at least as big as we are. It profiles like a submarine."
Patterson confirmed Kowalski's observation. "I'm getting a good reading on the hydrophones, sir. 'Ski's right, it's definitely a sub."
Both Nelson and Capt. Crane hovered over the Sonar station. "Where is it exactly?" the Admiral demanded.
"Bearing 025, range 2000 yards." Kowalski answered.
"Patterson, can you identify it?" the Captain asked.
Patterson hesitated before he answered. "Sir, you're going to think I'm crazy."
"It's the Seaview, sir."
* * *
Adm. Crane was pacing the Control Room, trying to come up with answers when Riley on Sonar called out, "Skipper, I have metal contact dead ahead, sir! And it's big -- at least as big as we are. I think it's a submarine."
Capt. Morton looked to Yagashi, who nodded confirmation. "He's right, sir. There's a large metal object ahead, bearing 345 relative, range 2000 yards. Looks like a sub to me."
Both Crane and Morton now stood behind the men, observing their instruments firsthand. "Donnelly, what are you getting on hydrophones?" Morton asked.
Donnelly hesitated, then said, "If I tell you what it sounds like, you're gonna think I've lost it, sir."
Donnelly looked uncomfortable. "It's the Seaview, sir."
During the previous few minutes James and Sparks in the Radio Shack had been alternately observing the drama in the Control Room, and trying to get the communications equipment to behave. Had it been human, they would have accused it of taking some perverse pleasure in frustrating their attempts. More likely it had been possessed by the spirit of Pem. Whatever the difficulty had been, though, they had evidently overcome it, for their efforts were finally rewarded with the crackle and static of an incoming transmission. Since both men were still wearing their headsets, both men heard the familiar voice, and it was hard to tell which was the more surprised.
"SSRN Seaview calling SSRN Seaview, come in Seaview." There was no mistaking Sparks' voice.
James snapped out of his disorientation first. He acknowledged the call, and made ready to receive the message while Sparks was busy mastering his vocal chords. But it was Sparks, still dazed, who informed the Control Room. "Capt. Crane, I think it's for you, sir. It's the Admiral."
* * *
Lee Crane and Chip Morton stared at each other for a second before they could fully comprehend what they had heard, and how it tied in with what they had just experienced. Kowalski, Sharkey, Riley, and Jamieson were drawn toward each other. McNeil's face was study in bewilderment and hope. The rest of the crew simply exchanged looks of disbelief. Capt. Morton recovered first and said, "Put it through, Sparks."
"This is Adm. Harriman Nelson of the SSRN Seaview. To whom am I speaking?"
The sound of Nelson's voice had the same paralyzing effect on the men in the Control Room as it had had on Sparks. Chip Morton still held the mike in his hand; he lifted it to speak, then simply stared at it for a second. Lee Crane's naturally warm complexion was suddenly ashen. He found himself clutching the table as if were his only lifeline to reality.
"This is Adm. Harriman Nelson of the SSRN Seaview. To whom am I speaking?" he repeated.
The second address roused both men, and this time Morton didn't hesitate at all, but handed the mike decisively to his friend. "He knows we're the Seaview. He'll probably be expecting you, Lee." Crane raised a hand as if to refuse, but relented. He wasn't quite sure how to identify himself to Nelson, but finally decided on a simple, direct approach.
"Adm. Nelson? Lee Crane here."
"Lee! Is that really you?"
"Yes, sir, it is." The alarm he felt earlier was washed away by the warmth and reality of the Admiral's voice. He found himself smiling.
Nelson hadn't been expecting to hear Crane's voice. But he only allowed his surprise to slow his thoughts for a split second. "Lee, do you have any idea what's happened to you?"
"Yes, Admiral. We know what -- we've been transported eight thousand miles, and twenty years into the past -- but we don't know why. Pem was here, and he started to explain, but never had a chance to finish before he vanished."
Crane explained, "He just faded away. It didn't appear to have been part of his plan."
Nelson hesitated a moment, digesting this unwelcome information. "Then we have bigger problems than I thought. Any other information? Any theories? Plans?"
Crane raised questioning eyes to Chip. In return he received only a small shrug. "No, sir. It's all happened too quickly. We haven't had a chance to assess the situation yet."
"I can offer a little more background information, but it would be easier if we got together. We need to untangle this mess Pem laid in our laps before it gets any worse. Can you receive the Flying Sub?"
"Yes, sir. We have a portable coupling that will allow you to dock on the Escape Hatch in the Missile Room."
"Good. Kowalski and I will be over shortly."
By this time Crane's mind was finally able to impose some order onto the chaotic events of the past few minutes, and he was beginning to recognize the potential dangers of this meeting. Kowalski can't come here - he's already here. But If I tell the Admiral that, he'll figure out that he isn't here himself, and he'll wonder why. When he did speak, he tried to keep his voice light and businesslike, but it sounded false in his own ears. "That . . . might cause difficulties. We already have one Kowalski aboard . . . can you come alone?" He closed his eyes against the onslaught of guilt he felt for having suggesting it, remembering all to clearly what happened the last time the Admiral took out the Flying Sub alone.
"That would certainly be best," Nelson agreed briskly, "but we've been having some trouble with maneuvering and until we can isolate the problem and repair it, flying her is a two man operation. How about Patterson?"
Crane's voice wavered again, almost imperceptibly; but he answered, "Yes, Patterson will be fine." Nelson seemed to miss the significance of Crane's hesitations, taking his suggestions at face value.
"Very well. We'll be over shortly. Nelson out."
As soon as the last echo of Nelson's voice faded away the Control Room came back to life. Even the beeping and chirping of instruments seemed to have been suspended for those few minutes; but now as the men turned back to their duties, there were once again all the sounds of normal activity. But strangely little conversation. Each man was too occupied with his duties, and his private thoughts.
"Lee, do you think it's wise for the Admiral to come here?" the Captain asked quietly.
"I think it's better than us going over there and running the risk of meeting ourselves, don't you?" He paused for a moment, Morton's question having brought another thought to mind -- but he wasn't sure how to phrase it. "Chip," he finally began, "I'm not sure how you want to handle this. . ."
Capt. Morton didn't allow his friend to finish the thought. "Lee, you outrank me; so even though you're technically only a 'guest' on this cruise, it's your right to take command of the Seaview, and of this situation. But more than that, as a friend, I want you to know that there's no one better qualified to do both. As far as I'm concerned you're in charge, and I'm here to help you in any way I can." He paused and flashed a brief grin before finishing, "And that's how I want to handle this."
Lee Crane's smile reflected his appreciation of their tried-and-true friendship. There were many things he could have said, but, "Thanks, Chip," was all he voiced. They went on to discuss preparations for the meeting with Nelson, and Crane recommended contact with the crew be held to the barest minimum during there visit. "We don't want to show them any part of their future that might influence them to change their actions -- and our history.
"Understood," Morton agreed. "I'll arrange things in the Missile Room. Is there anything else?"
"Yes. The men should know what our situation is, and what we're doing about it. You know your crew better than I do, tell them what you can, but emphasize the importance of avoiding contact with Adm. Nelson and Patterson when they come aboard."
"Will do." As Crane left the Control Room, Morton started giving orders. "Riley -- do you think you can handle Sonar on your own? I need Yagashi for something else."
"Yes, sir!" He said enthusiastically. In spite of their predicament, he looked like he hadn't had such fun in years. It didn't seem to have sunk in, yet, that this was real, and not some virtual reality game that had been cooked up just to liven up the Tiger Cruise.
"And where's Donnelly? Why isn't he on hydrophones?" The Captain looked around the Control Room, but didn't find the missing man. "Chief, did you give Donnelly permission to leave his station?" Morton demanded of Kowalski.
"No, sir." The Chief looked perplexed. "He was sitting there the last time I looked."
"Well, he isn't sitting there now. Find him and get him back here!"
"Aye, sir." Chief Kowalski got busy on the hand mike, and when that yielded no results, hustled out of the Control Room in search of the errant seaman.
"Chief Sharkey, can you man the hydrophones?"
"Aye, sir. No problem." Sharkey, looking properly serious and concerned, formed a sharp contrast as he took his station next to Riley.
While Morton was busy the problem of the missing man, Yagashi had been standing by the Plot Table awaiting instructions. Morton now steered him toward the spiral stairs as he explained his assignment. He concluded, "Keep Patterson entertained, but under no circumstances tell him anything about himself, or the rest of the crew. Give him a tour of the boat or something -- better yet, have him give you a tour -- just keep him clear of the Control Room and the guests. Understood?"
"Aye, sir." Yagashi felt honored to be given this duty. He left at a trot to meet the Flying Sub, and the famous Adm. Nelson.
The most pressing duties being taken care of, the Captain turned his attention to informing his crew of their situation. As he was composing the announcement, he felt the silent intensity with which his First Officer was immersed in his duties. This must be even more difficult for him than for us.
As a child, Morton remembered, Harry McNeil had idolized his uncle. When Nelson died, the boy expressed his grief by becoming the very antithesis of everything his uncle had stood for: apathetic, anti-social, and self-destructive. He dropped out of school, and nearly out of life itself. A year after he left home, his mother was called to the charity ward of a hospital two states away, where she found him suffering from malnutrition and injuries sustained in street brawl. It was only through God's grace that he hadn't been sucked into drug addiction, or landed in jail. The episode seemed to bring him back to his senses, and after a time he finished high school, graduated with honors from college, and joined the Navy. After his first tour of duty, he asked for a transfer to the Nelson Institute, where he had shown himself to be a fine officer, cast in the same mold as his namesake.
"Harry, I . . ."
McNeil didn't allow his Commanding Officer to finish the sentence. "I understand, sir. He has no idea of what happened -- will happen -- or that I'm on board. As much as I want to see him . . . I don't want to do anything that might jeopardize our chances of getting home."
"Nevertheless, I'm sorry it has worked out this way," Morton sympathized.
"So am I, sir. So am I." the younger officer smiled ruefully.
When the Captain again prepared to take up the hand mike, he saw Kowalski approaching the table, shaking his head and muttering as if trying to convince someone -- or himself -- that something wasn't true.
"What's the trouble, Chief? Did you find Donnelly?"
"No, sir. He's just gone. No one has seen him anywhere. And he's not the only one. Maloney is gone from Sick Bay, Johnson and Kozma from Engineering, Brill from Navigation, and Walker from Auxiliary. Either they're all hidin' out somewhere -- in which case they're gonna be in big trouble when I get my hands on them -- or they've just vanished. Poof. Gone."
"You've looked everywhere?"
"Everywhere there's a space big enough to hide in. Compartments, ventilation shafts -- we're even checking the electrical conduits and access hatches. Nothing so far."
Suddenly struck with an idea, Morton asked, "Didn't all those men all sign on at the same time? About a year ago?"
Kowalski thought for a moment. "Yes, sir. You're right. Do you think that means anything?"
"I wish I knew, Chief. I wish I knew. Let me know if you find out anything more."
For the third time Chip Morton took up the hand mike, but this time it was not to make the anticipated announcement. This time he called the Admiral's Cabin. "Lee, we have another problem . . ."
* * *
Once Yagashi had the portable coupling in place, there was no trouble making a docking connection between the FS1 and the Missile Room escape hatch. Soon Adm. Nelson and Patterson were being eagerly greeted. "Welcome to the Seaview, sir."
"Thank you . . . uh . . ." the Admiral prompted.
"Yagashi, sir. Petty Officer 2nd class Toshiyuki Yagashi." He came to rigid attention and saluted, very nervous, and slightly embarrassed at his oversight of protocol.
Nelson returned the salute absentmindedly. "Thank you, Yagashi." Noting the man's inordinately tense posture, he added, "As you were."
Yagashi relaxed very slightly, then asked, "May I show you to the Admiral's cabin?"
"That's quite all right." Nelson quirked a smile, "I believe I can find it myself."
Patterson, who had regarded the whole scene with a sort of detached amusement, now seemed at a loss as to what to do with himself. The Admiral suggested to Yagashi, "Perhaps, though, you could find a cup of coffee for Patterson, here."
"Aye, sir!" Yagashi replied with enthusiasm. As Nelson left the Missile Room, the two enlisted men were making their way to the Crew's Mess.
* * *
Nelson found Crane sitting at the desk, his forehead resting on his hands and his eyes closed. He stood in the doorway for a few seconds studying his friend before he made his presence known. He hadn't known quite what to expect, but he wasn't displeased with what he saw. "Lee," he said "it's good to see you." As Crane rose and came forward to shake his hand, about the only change Nelson could see in his friend was the addition of silver highlights to his thick, dark hair, and a few more 'smile lines' around his eyes; although the smile on his face right now was strained.
"Admiral, I . . . " Crane stopped, then began again, "It's good to see you, too, sir."
After they shook hands, Nelson got right down to business as they seated themselves on opposite sides of the desk. "It seems you have yourselves quite a situation. Do you have any new information since we talked?"
"Yes, sir. All bad, I'm afraid. Chip just called down from the Control Room to tell me that we have six men missing. They were here, then they weren't. Just like Pem."
Nelson didn't seem particularly surprised at the information. He nodded his head and replied, "I was expecting something like this. Any theories?"
"Only that our presence has already done something to affect history. Have you come up with any other possibilities?"
"Just the same one you did. Somehow, your arrival has kept us from completing our mission as we should have -- as we did in your history. If we can't rectify the changes we've made to the established time line, then Pem may well cease to have existed, and our future -- your history -- will be permanently recast. What's more, you'll have no way of returning to your time." Nelson paused a moment to let Crane absorb what he had just said. "To make matters worse," he continued soberly, "we have twenty years to cover. Even if we correct what has already been changed, there could be other changes that have not yet actually occurred, but which will be the result of our having come in contact with you now."
Crane considered the Admiral's words, trying to grasp all the implications.
After a few moments of silence, Nelson took the pencil he had been toying with, and tapped the eraser on the desk, to punctuate the idea that had just occurred to him. "This is a long shot, but how far back do your Logs go? I don't suppose it's possible that you have them dating back this far on board, is it?" He didn't look very hopeful.
As Crane saw the connection between the question and their problem a smile lit his face -- it was a good sight. "That may be the first bit of good luck we've had. Seaview is a training vessel, and all her Logs are on board, from Day One. They're used as textbooks."
"Fantastic! We need to read those Logs, and follow them like a road map. If we can follow their course, and get back on the original schedule, maybe we can correct what we've already changed, and keep from any further variations. Once we've accomplished all that, things -- and people -- ought to fall back into their proper places in history." He set his pencil deliberately on the desk and leaned back into his chair, displaying his new confidence. "We just may be able to pull this off!"
"Let me call Chip, and have him bring that Log here. The three of us working together might have a better chance." Crane reached across the desk for the intercom, then changed his mind and picked up the phone. He waited a moment for the connection to be made, then said, "Mr. McNeil, this is the Admiral. Put the Captain on, please." He caught an odd expression in Nelson's eye, and wasn't sure whether it was a reaction to McNeil's name, or to the way he had identified himself, or Chip. He had no time to dwell on it, though, because Chip was already on the line. "Chip, can you dig out the Seaview's Log from July of 1978 and bring it here? The Admiral has come up with something promising . . .Good."
After Crane replaced the receiver, Nelson had another thought. "Lee, do you, yourself remember this mission? We're here to resupply, inspect, and gather data from the Institute's four arctic research labs. We're ten days out of Norfolk, and we've already made two stops, at Stations Tahiti and Waikiki. We expect to make our third, Station Malibu tomorrow, and the last -- Station Cancun the day after. There's a heavy storm blowing up, but I think we can avoid it."
"I sure remember those outlandish names -- talk about wishful thinking! Unfortunately, the rest of the mission is pretty vague . . . and I certainly don't remember an appearance by Mr. Pem."
"Yes, I was wondering about that. No one has any memory of it?"
"No, none. There were just two visits from him: The time we thought he died in the Circuitry Room; then later when we left him dead - or so we thought - in the 18th century."
"Actually, he really did die that time . . ."
"Then how . . .?"
Waving a hand, Nelson interrupted his question. "It's a long story. But back to this mission -- any other recollections?"
Crane thought for a moment or two, his brow furrowed into a frown. "Wasn't it unusually warm for the area, even for July? That's about all I remember. Why do you ask?"
"The Seaview's Log entries will only contain the official reports, not the various and sundry 'human' details. It could well be that it's one of those details that will turn out to be important. How many other people do you have on board that were on that mission? You mentioned Kowalski and Chip. Is there anyone else? After twenty years, I'm a little surprised to find even three of you."
Crane indulged in another broad smile. "It just so happens that Pem caught us on a Tiger Cruise -- which we're using as a cover for a reunion. We have a dozen or so former crewmembers and officers on board who would probably have been on that mission. We'll see what we can come up with."
"Good. I suspect, though, that Pem didn't just happen to choose your reunion. I believe it was part of his plan. This whole mess started with his threat to 'show us our future' as punishment for not cooperating with one of his schemes. Unfortunately, it seems his punishment backfired on him -- and us."
Until the Captain arrived with the Log the two men really had nothing more they could do. In any other situation it would have been the perfect opportunity to 'catch up on old times', but this wasn't any other situation. Any stray information that made its way to the past could be damaging, and they both knew it. So they sat in silence; each one trying to think of something safe to ask or say.
It was Crane who broke the unnatural stillness first. He rose from his chair, paced across the room, and turned to speak. He opened his mouth, closed it again, and finally said, "Admiral, you can't know how good . . . how good it is to see you again. It's been so long . . . I just can't believe . . . I . . ." He faltered, realizing he had already said more than he should have, and much more than he had intended.
Nelson shifted slightly in his chair. He shut his eyes briefly, sighed, then raised a sympathetic smile to his friend. "I take it that means I'm dead." It was a statement, not a question. It didn't need an answer, and none was given, except the added distress in his friend's eyes. "Don't worry about revelations, Lee," he said, shaking his head, "I had just about reached that conclusion on my own." He paused, ". . . Patterson, too?"
Crane nodded numbly.
Nelson didn't ask any more. "There are things we really shouldn't know. That's what makes Pem's punishment so effective."
They sat in silence a few minutes longer, each afraid of hurting the other any more. Finally, Nelson spoke up, asking the most innocuous question he could think of. "How's the Seaview? You say she's a training vessel now?"
Crane was relieved to have a safe topic to discuss. "Yes!," he said a little too enthusiastically. "Chip has been in command for . . . a number of years: for both research and training." He hesitated, then continued with a grin, "And, by the way, I suspect you already know that he will rob you of your best secretary."
Nelson chuckled, "Yes, I had that pretty well figured out -- but I'm not sure he has yet, so I'll be careful not to tell him. How's the Institute?"
Crane answered eagerly, "We have two new boats, the Endeavor and the Harriman Nelson." If he noticed Nelson wince at the mention of his name in such a context, he didn't let on. It was too late to recall the words anyway, nor had he revealed anything that the Admiral wouldn't have figured out by himself. "Four years ago I was given the job of liaison between the Institute, government, and industry. It's a good assignment, doing something I believe in, and working with people I like and trust."
"I see by your stars that you're 'the Admiral' on board now. What were you doing while Chip was commanding Seaview?"
Crane realized that the conversation was straying close to danger. He debated whether or not to answer at all, and finally decided to continue, but carefully. "After you . . . after I left the Institute, I went back to the Navy. They moved me around some, gave me command of several of different subs, and I ended up with command of a Task Force. But after Connie died, I came back to the Institute."
"Connie? . . . Your wife?"
"Yes, you remember Constance McCarron, don't you? . . . no, wait . . that's right . . . you couldn't have met her yet." Lee suddenly had the feeling of being in a maze, blindfolded -- knowing he had just made a wrong turn, and not knowing which way was safe to go.
Sensing Crane's turmoil, Nelson sought to put him at ease by simply following the most natural course. "Lee, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have asked. Like I said, there are some things it's better not to know . . ."
A knock was heard at the door. "Who's there?" Crane asked, with obvious relief.
"Come in, Chip." Crane was equally relieved to see the large volume under the Captain's arm. "Everything under control? Any more disappearances?"
"No, no more reported. Harry has everything well in hand."
Throughout this short conversation Morton had kept his eyes studiously focused on Crane. Now he felt he could no longer avoid the inevitable, and turned toward Adm. Nelson, and extended his hand. "Welcome aboard, Admiral. It's good to see you again." The words were simple, straightforward, and perfectly natural. However, the situation made them seem perfectly bizarre.
As Adm. Nelson shook Chip Morton's hand, he smiled warmly, "Chip, I see the years have treated you well, too."
"Yes, sir, they have," he allowed readily.
"Let's take a look at that book, and see what we can do about restoring this mission," Nelson said vigorously.
This time Nelson sat down at the desk with the book, with the two 'older' men leaning over his shoulders. Crane laid out for Morton the facts, theories, and plans they had come up with so far. "In a fit of anger with the Admiral, Pem transported our Seaview from 1998 here to 1978 as a punishment -- he wanted them to see their future. He obviously didn't take the time to consider the possible consequences. Somehow our appearance has altered the outcome of this mission -- or some future mission -- so that, among other things, Pem has ceased to exist."
"But how can that be? He did exist. I remember him, you remember him. And we're still here, where we don't belong. How could he have not existed?" Morton was having a hard time digesting the paradox.
Nelson tried to explain. "It's not that he never existed. We're all testimony to the fact that he did. But he has now ceased to exist -- meaning that as of that point in time, he stopped having existed. It's a subtle difference, but very important for us."
Whether Morton fully understood or not, he had no doubts; he had trusted these men with his life on many occasions, he saw no reason not to trust them with his future. "So what are we going to do? What do you need the Log for?" he asked.
Crane continued, "The Admiral thinks that if he can find out, from our Log, precisely what the Seaview did on this mission twenty years ago, and then meticulously reproduce those actions, he can get history back on its original track, and retrieve Pem -- and our crew."
"But then we'll still have Pem to deal with, right?" Morton inquired.
"Yes," replied Nelson, looking up form the book, "but I'm hoping that his gratitude for having been rescued from oblivion will outweigh his original anger, that he'll be willing to listen to reason, and that he will put us all back in our proper times. But let's wait until we get that far before we start second guessing him."
Nelson continued to pore over the Log for nearly half an hour, asking occasional questions to clarify one point or another, and taking detailed notes on the responses. Meanwhile, Crane had begun to slowly pace the room. Finally he sat down across the desk from the two other men. "Admiral," he began, "I've been thinking about what Chip said about Pem. He has a good point. Has it occurred to you just how much danger you may be putting yourself and Seaview in, just to put us back where we came from? Your history hasn't changed, and you're free to make your own future. If you just sail away from here you -- and the rest of the world -- will be rid of Pem forever. It's a small enough price for us to pay."
Chip Morton face reflected his initial horror at Crane's suggestion -- never go home again? Then he realized that it was a logical resolution to their situation. 'Willing' may not have been the correct word to describe his response, but he was at least reconciled to the validity of his friend's reasoning. After several seconds, he finally found the voice to concur. "He's right, Admiral. You'd never have to worry about that lunatic again."
Nelson had listened carefully to both men. Then he placed his pencil slowly on the desk, and pushed back his chair, so he could take in both of them at once. "What you're suggesting involves a tremendous sacrifice, not only for yourselves, but for all the men in your command." Crane started to protest, but Nelson cut him off. "Further, it's debatable if the sacrifice would even be meaningful. Pem may yet find some other venue, he may resurface at some other time, in some other place. Do we know how far Pem's powers extend? What will happen twenty years from now? Will our Seaview follow the same path and simply blink out, much as yours has? Will this become some kind of vicious circle? Finally, as for us being free to make our own future -- what kind of future would we have, knowing that we were building it on the ruins of your lives? No, gentlemen. I appreciate the gesture, but it's absolutely out of the question." He waved his hand briefly in dismissal of the idea, then went back to his scrutiny of the Log before him.
Within five minutes Nelson was satisfied that he had gotten all the information he could from the two men. He began packing up the Log and his notes, and said, "If you'll round up Patterson for me, we'll get under way."
As Morton reached for the intercom, it came to life on its own. "Control Room to Capt. Morton"
"Morton here. Go ahead Mr. McNeil."
"Sir, I thought you ought to know that another group of men has been reported missing: Matthews from Communications, and Swanson and Gould, both from Reactor Control. The Chief also said you might want to know that they all signed on together, about six months ago."
Morton sighed, "OK. Thanks, Harry. I'm on my way to the Control Room now. Morton out." He clicked the intercom button again to change channels, and called for Yagashi. When he answered the Captain instructed him to bring his guest back to the Missile Room.
After hearing the conversation between Morton and his Exec, Nelson's face took on the same odd expression Crane had seen earlier. As the three men prepared to leave, the Admiral hesitated, then asked, "Lee, Chip, you don't have to answer this if you think it's a bad idea, but I have to ask. Is your First Officer someone I know?"
The two men looked at each other, nodded their mutual consent, then Morton answered, "Yes, sir, as a matter of fact you know him quite well."
Admiral Nelson's face was illuminated with a delighted smile. "And he's doing well?"
"Very well, Admiral. You'd be proud," Crane replied.
"I'm sure I would. But then I always have been -- he's a fine boy."
"Hearing that will mean a lot to him, sir."
* * *
When Crane and Nelson reached the Missile Room Yagashi and Patterson were already there. Yagashi looked awful -- as if he had just had, or was about to receive, a real chewing-out. Patterson didn't look much better, but his unease seemed to stem from within. He was, however, momentarily startled out of his pensiveness by the sight of his Captain, older by two decades. Crane was likewise caught off guard at seeing Patterson. "Hello, Patterson," he began, perhaps too casually. "Did Yagashi show you around?" Patterson nodded. "So how does the old girl look to you?" he smiled.
"She looks fine, sir. Just fine. Hardly changed at all." Patterson just managed a polite smile. Crane didn't press him any further. It wasn't too hard to conjure up a reason for his mood. He must have found out, too. Seeing Yagashi's nervousness only confirmed his suspicions.
He was called back to the situation at hand by Nelson's voice. "So we'll continue on our present course, doing our best to make up time. You lay back here, and as soon as you've gathered the rest of information we discussed, send it on."
"Will do, Admiral. Have a safe trip."
Nelson turned back just long enough to reply, "We'll certainly try." With that the two of them were lost from view, up the Escape Hatch. As Yagashi clanged shut the watertight door, Crane had the same empty feeling that he'd had years before -- that he'd never see the Admiral again. Seconds later, however, he turned his attention to Yagashi, who was standing at parade rest, apparently expecting the Inquisition. But Crane wasn't interested in castigating him. In a voice so quiet it was almost a whisper he asked, "What happened with Patterson?"
"It's all my fault, sir. I just wasn't thinking," he stammered. "After the Admiral -- I mean Admiral Nelson -- came aboard, he suggested that Patterson and I get some coffee. So we headed off toward the Crew's Mess." Crane's eyes widened as he guessed what must have happened next. "Some of the guys were carting extra gear back to storage, and one of them needed a hand with the hatch. I held it for him while Patterson went on ahead. By the time I caught up with him it was already too late. He was in there looking at the photos." After the briefest of hesitations Yagashi finished, "He saw the one taken at his memorial service . . . " Yagashi looked as if he wanted to say more, but there was nothing more he could say.
"I see." the Admiral said simply. "And the picture was labeled and dated?"
"Labeled, but not dated. I checked. I don't think he'd have any way of knowing when it was taken."
"Did he say anything to you about it? Ask you any questions?"
"No, sir. And I couldn't think of anything to say either. I couldn't very well deny it, could I, sir?"
"No, of course not." Crane sighed. "Is there anything else I should know? What did you do after that?"
"We took a tour of the boat. He told me stories about some of the things that happened in this room and that, and pointed out some changes that had been made. He must have received his orders, too, because he was trying to be entertaining, but his heart wasn't in it. It was a big relief for both of us when Capt. Morton called." Yagashi's despair showed in his face. "I'm really sorry, sir. The Captain stressed how important it was not to discuss the past with him, so I have no excuse, sir. I've let you both down."
Adm. Crane, who had looked away for a moment, suddenly snapped his gaze back to Yagashi. "It's not just Capt. Morton and me! The lives of every man on this boat depend upon that Seaview out there not being affected by her contact with us," Crane said, the harshness of his voice betraying his own concern. Seeing Yagashi's face crumple even more, he added, more softly. "There's no sense in worrying about it. What's done is done. I haven't conducted myself perfectly, either, since the Admiral came aboard. I'm just thankful that this whole mess is in the hands of Someone a lot wiser than we are . . . Now, report back to the Captain in the Control Room -- I have a feeling that he could use you there."
"Aye, sir . . . and thank you, sir."
The best laid schemes of mice and men . . .
When Adm. Nelson and Patterson returned to the Seaview there was a circle of curious faces to welcome them aboard. But for the most part their curiosity went unsatisfied. Patterson worked very hard at 'being himself', but he refused to answer most questions. Later, when he was alone with Kowalski, he finally revealed, "Me and the Admiral, we aren't over there." He didn't elaborate, leaving his friend to draw his own conclusions.
Adm. Nelson and Capt. Crane retired immediately to the Admiral's cabin. As they walked Nelson laid out the situation. "As you know, Lee, after Pem transported that Seaview to this time and location he vanished. Since then several other of their crewmen have also disappeared. It's obvious that something about their presence here and now has influenced us to alter the course of events as they occurred in their history, which in turn has changed their present - not to mention Pem's. If we're going to send Seaview back where she belongs we need to undo those alterations, and get Pem back. Without him there is no hope for any of them."
"But how are we going to do that? How can we predict what they did -- and what we need do?"
"That's where this comes in." Having arrived at his cabin, Nelson displayed the book he'd been carrying. "Look familiar?"
"That's our Log! I just made an entry in it!"
"No, it's their Log, and here's your entry." He turned to the bookmarked entry for July 17, 1978.
"So you see, with this Log we have a chart to follow. But, we're already half a day behind their schedule; we need to play catch-up, to get back on course. I've taken notes to add to these Log entries, and I think that we ought to be able to duplicate their actions, if we're careful."
The Captain sat on the corner of the Admiral's desk, looking at the Log and notes as Nelson spoke. "I think we may already have a problem. Do you remember that storm that we thought we could outrun, and which they did avoid in the past? While we've been sitting here, it has caught up with us. This unusual warm front combined with the heavy rains and high seas is causing the ice-pack above us to start breaking up. The safest thing for us to do is head out to open sea and ride it out. Both submersion and surface transit are going to be very hazardous."
The Admiral shook his head emphatically. "We can't do that, Lee. We can't lose any more time. This is your future we're talking about," he stressed, jabbing his pencil at the Log. When he saw the quizzical look in his Captain's eyes he returned abruptly to the subject at hand. "Just get us there, Lee, any way you can."
"Aye, sir," the Captain relented. Gesturing toward the intercom box on the Admiral's desk he asked, "May I?"
"Yes, yes, of course."
Crane called Morton in the Control Room, and told him what course to lay in. " . . . and get under way at flank speed. Maybe we can still outrun the worst of the storm."
For several minutes more Lee Crane pored over the open book. It was fascinating to read Log entries detailing his own actions -- in his own handwriting -- that had yet to happen. He finally asked, "Admiral, what's it like over there -- in the future?"
Nelson leaned back in his chair and looked his friend in the eye -- willing him to accept unquestioningly what he was about to say. "Patterson and I both learned things we wish we hadn't. Pem was right when he said that no one should go through this. That's why I can't say any more. I'm not just protecting them and their future -- I'm protecting you and yours."
Before Crane had any opportunity to accept or reject the wisdom of his friend's words, the collision alarm sounded, followed almost immediately by several jarring impacts, which seem to be coming from above. This time the Captain didn't take the time to ask permission; he was already on the intercom. "Chip! What's going on up there?"
"Icebergs! There's just been another avalanche above, and the debris is still falling."
"Can't we dive below the activity?" Nelson interrupted.
"No, sir. We just reached the Continental Shelf, and we only have a hundred feet, keel to bottom. Shall I turn back to deep water?"
Nelson and Crane each debated silently with themselves for a second before arriving at the same conclusion. "No, Chip," Crane answered, "it's crucial that we reach the station as soon as possible. Hold course and speed. I'm on my way up." But as Crane reached the door, another shock ran through the boat, knocking him off his feet. He was encouraged to see that the power was still on, though, and that they seemed to be holding trim.
However, when he reached the Control Room, the report he received from Morton dampened his optimism. "We still have full power and maneuvering ability, but sonar is erratic, and the radio is out. My guess is that in addition to whatever internal damage we've sustained, the sonar mast must also have been damaged, because we're deaf and nearly blind. I ordered full stop, so we can retrieve anything that may have broken off and been lost."
Before the Captain had an opportunity to react to the news, the Admiral arrived. "Why have we stopped?" he demanded of Morton.
Crane stepped into defend his First Officer's decisions. "We've lost radio and most of sonar -- we can't see where we're going -- and we don't know for sure if the mast is just damaged, or broken off. It seemed best to wait until we could do an external visual check."
"Unknown." Morton replied, "Damage Control is still assessing internal sonar damage; once this barrage is over a diving party can go out for an external check -- we have arctic gear -- but I don't think we should send anyone out under these conditions."
Nelson scowled, but didn't dispute their judgment. "Well, we can't just sit here and wait for more damage to be done. Is there any way of determining how widespread this ice fall is?"
"Not accurately. We think it's fairly localized, but as I said, sonar may not be giving us accurate information." Morton replied.
Crane looked between the two men, weighing his alternatives. "OK, Chip, here's what we'll do. Mark this location with a buoy, and then get us underway -- same course as before -- very slowly, doubling the bow lookout. That way we can get out of immediate danger, but still be able to return for the antenna, if it is indeed broken off."
While Morton issued the necessary orders, the Admiral, still unsatisfied with the situation, turned again to the Captain. "We're losing precious time," he said impatiently, "Is the Flying Sub ready to go back out?"
"That's entirely too risky, Admiral," Crane protested, "especially with the way it's been acting lately. We still haven't had time to isolate the problem with maneuvering. If it got hit with one of these 'ice cubes' who knows what might happen. Besides, how much cargo could it hold, anyway?"
"Enough to keep the future on track," Nelson said simply, then called Chief Sharkey into their conference. "Chief, take somebody with you down to the Cargo Bay, and check out everything that is scheduled to be delivered to this station. See if there's anything that strikes you as being potentially urgent. When you're done, bring the entire manifest to my cabin."
"Aye, sir." Sharkey replied crisply, and was on his way.
"Lee, come with me - we'll go over that Log one more time and see if there's mention of any problems they were having. Maybe we won't need to take all the cargo right away; maybe there's something small that will alleviate an emergency."
Crane and Nelson had been flipping pages of the book for less than a minute when an entry caught the Captain's eye. "Admiral, this could be it!" he said pointing to the entry for July 18. "Listen! 'Station Commander Tyler reported box containing extra medical supplies smashed in accident 10 days ago. Research Assistant Girard injured in same accident, has serious infection as result. Without antibiotics delivered today Girard would have certainly died in next 24 hours.' There's our urgent cargo!"
"And it's small enough to take on the Flying Sub. You call Sharkey, have him dig out the medical supplies and anything else he's found. Tell him to meet me in the Control Room. I'm on my way there now to get ready to launch."
"Admiral, I still don't think this is a good idea. It's not even safe for Seaview -- it would be foolhardy to take out the Flying Sub right now!"
Nelson stopped and turned to his Captain with a crooked smile. "You're not . . . uh . . . calling me a fool, are you?"
Crane didn't see any humor in the situation. "Admiral, please listen to me . . . " Nelson never heard the rest of his arguments -- not that they would have made a difference anyway -- because at that moment the hardest impact yet was felt. This time the boat lost both power and buoyancy, and within moments had sunk to the bottom.
Hearing only static on the Admiral's intercom, Crane left immediately for the Control Room. When he arrived runners were bringing in damage reports from all departments. It could have been worse. The reactor had scrammed automatically to avoid overload. Barring further complications it was expected to be back on line within an hour. There was plenty of battery power to sustain environmental control and basic operations for that amount of time. There were scattered outages in several departments, and some minor hull damage -- nothing they couldn't handle. However, they were still being bombarded by huge blocks of ice, they were still without eyes or ears, and the Flying Sub was now trapped in its berth.
* * *
The Tigers were gathered once again in the Crew's Mess. They were concentrating their energies on recalling every seemingly inconsequential detail of an uneventful mission which had taken place two decades earlier. There had been no drama then, and the only drama now stemmed from the knowledge that if they were unsuccessful, their lives would be dramatically changed.
Doc Jamieson remembered caring for an injured researcher. "Seems to me he had fairly serious leg wound which had gotten infected. His condition was tenuous when we arrived -- I believe there was even talk of amputation -- but fortunately the antibiotics were effective, and he recovered completely."
Kowalski remembered Riley flirting with a pretty research assistant. "So what else is new-- didn't you have the proverbial 'girl in every port'?" cracked Sparks. "I understand they have pretty research assistants at colleges, too, don't they Riley?" he grinned wickedly.
"As a matter of fact they do -- and seven years ago I married one. So you see, 'Good habits, cultivated in one's youth, reap great benefits in old age'," Riley recited in the accents of an ancient Chinese proverb. His spirits, at least, were still undampened. But what before had seemed like shortsighted refusal to accept reality, was now better understood as his eternal, natural exuberance, which -- fortunately -- he had never outgrown. After the laughter subsided Riley continued. "Seriously, guys -- I'm afraid I don't remember the girl at all, but I do remember something else. On one of the Stations there was some problem unloading cargo -- or mail, maybe. Yeah, I think it was mail. Don't remember what I did wrong, but I do remember that I really caught it from Admiral Nelson. Then again, I was always catching it from the Admiral about something . . ." he lamented.
The admission, and the memories it produced, spawned another small wave of laughter. When it subsided, a few more details were dredged up, none of which seemed particularly important. Adm. Crane remembered finding an old friend at one of the stations - but he couldn't remember which station, or the man's name. "I guess that's not much help, is it?"
"Wouldn't you remember the guy's name if you saw it? Why not just look it up in the Log?" Chief Sharkey inquired.
"Because we don't have the Log on board any more. Adm. Nelson took it back with him. But I'll include in our message a note for . . uh . . the Captain to look for familiar names on all the station rosters." It seemed strange talking about himself in the third person.
Finally they were satisfied that they had recorded every detail -- no matter how insignificant -- and they prepared the report for Lt. James to send to the '78 Seaview. After that finishing that task, there was very little left to do. Sitting in one place and holding trim required very little exertion -- even from their depleted crew. Since Mr. McNeil had been in the Control Room the longest, he was the first to be dispatched to the Wardroom for a much delayed meal, and thence to his quarters for a rest. His services would no doubt be needed later.
Crane and Morton were standing by the Plot Table when James called. "Skipper, can you come back here? I think we have a problem." When the two officers turned to looked back toward Radio Shack, both James and Sparks were trying circuits, flipping switches, and checking connections. Before they had covered half the distance, James looked up and said, "Sir, I've lost contact with the other Seaview. I've been trying to send your message, but they don't acknowledge. I get no response."
"Did you receive any messages at all from them? Distress signals? Anything?" Morton asked.
"No, sir. Nothing since they reported that Adm. Nelson had arrived safely."
Adm. Crane looked at Sparks, "Have you tried, too?"
"Yes, sir. We've both done everything we can think of, and there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with our equipment, the problem is on their end, sir."
"All right, men. Keep trying."
"Do we risk going in closer, to see what problem the problem is?" Morton asked as they moved back toward the table.
"Do we have a choice? If we go in, we risk further interference with the time line; but if they're down and can't complete the mission, then we're stuck here anyway. We are, as they say, 'between the Devil and the deep blue sea.' So rather than going down without a fight, I say we get in closer, and take a look," the Admiral concluded.
Morton nodded in reluctant assent. Picking up the hand mike he announced, "Prepare to get underway, set course 050, all ahead two-thirds." Replies came back from all departments, and soon they were moving in the direction of the Research Station Malibu -- hoping to follow in the wake of the former Seaview. "Riley and Yagashi, sing out if you see anything unusual. Doc, can I ask you to stand Bow Watch with Sharkey?"
"You certainly can. It's about time I had something constructive to do around here. Right now I'm feeling about as productive as a rusty iron lung."
It was well over an hour before there was any sign they were even on the right track. Nerves were beginning to fray to the point that everyone in the Control Room jumped when Riley called out, "I have a large metal contact ahead. Doesn't seem to be moving at all."
"Is it Seaview? And is she on the bottom?" Crane questioned.
"It's hard to tell from this distance, but it's probably her. We're approaching the shelf, and I think she's sitting on it."
By this time both Crane and Morton were at Sonar, verifying Riley's observations. "What are you getting on hydrophones, Yagashi?" Morton asked.
"Not much. There's some noise, but I don't think her reactor is operating -- things are just too quiet."
"Riley, what's the range and bearing?"
"Bearing 035, Range 7000 yards."
Morton changed course accordingly, and slowed to one third. "Bow Watch - keep a sharp lookout for anything that may explain why she's down."
"Aye, sir!" Sharkey called back from the Observation Nose. He and the Doc had already been trying to catch a glimpse of the submarine in the thin illumination of the sub's headlights. Now they also began scouring the ocean floor for debris.
McNeil reentered the Control Room, and as the '98 Seaview continued its approach to the '78 Seaview, the three senior officers discussed plans of action.
"Do we dare send the Flying Sub over?" Morton wondered. "It's one thing to come and observe, but to actually go up and knock on their door . . . "
"We can't just sit here and watch them. Same reasoning as before: It's not only that Seaview that's in danger, but this one, too. If she doesn't survive, at least nine of us cease to exist. If she doesn't complete her mission, none of us will ever get home." Again the Admiral's logic stifled any arguments before they could be voiced.
"Excuse me, sir," Chief Kowalski looked from Admiral to Captain, as if not sure which one he should be addressing.
It was Morton who answered. "Yes, Chief, what is it?"
"Well, sir, this may not be important, but a little while ago me and the guys were down in the Mess getting some coffee and . . . " He rubbed his hand nervously along the side of his nose. "I'm not sure how to put this but . . . "
"Just spit it out! " Morton ordered.
"Well . . . we saw a ghost . . . or something." The Chief looked uncomfortable, but since no one either contradicted or encouraged him he had no choice but to continue on his own. "It was Patterson, sir. But he wasn't like I remember him. He was wearing khakis with CPO chevrons; and he was older, like he would have been if he hadn't . . . if he was still alive. Anyway, he just walked in, got a cup of coffee, and started kiddin' around with us, as natural as you please -- like he belonged there. Then he disappeared . . . just vanished!"
"Have there been any other reports like this?" Crane asked.
"No, sir, not as far as I know."
"OK, Kowalski, thanks -- and it is important. If you hear of any other 'ghosts', report them immediately."
The Admiral looked at Chip, "I don't think we can wait any longer - we need to . . ."
He was interrupted by a shout from Sharkey in the Observation Nose. "Skipper! We've spotted something!" He and the Doc were peering at something on the ocean floor, just ahead of the window.
"All Stop!" Morton shouted, "Hold this position. Activate Nose Camera, and channel it to the Observation Screen." Crane was already up front, confirming the sighting. Morton soon joined him, and together they watched the video screen, where the camera showed them a much clearer picture of a mangled antenna and sonar array.
"That explains the lack of communication, but how could it have happened?" Morton asked. "There's no other evidence of an attack."
The alarm on the seismographic monitoring equipment sounded just seconds before they all felt a faint shudder, barely discernable through the deck plates. Just then sonar picked up a large object descending at dangerous speed. Fortunately it was about fifty yards in front of the submarine. "There's your answer, Chip. The warm weather and heavy rains on the ice pack above must be causing it to calve. What we just felt was the resulting avalanche. Seaview was probably hit by one of these icebergs. And we'll be in the same danger as long as we remain here."
"What do we do?" Morton asked.
Turning toward the Control Room, Crane called out, "Riley, what's the range to Seaview now?"
"Just under 5000 yards, sir."
Returning his gaze to the window, the Admiral said to Capt. Morton, "The sub must have continued on after they lost communications, because they're almost three miles away. That's too far for their divers in this cold water even if they have arctic gear. They can't get the Flying Sub launched if they're on the bottom, and we don't know what other damage they may have. We're not equipped with arctic divers' gear, are we?"
"No . . . it's not really standard equipment for a Tiger Cruise to Santa Barbara," Chip said sardonically. "But even if we did, it would be a mighty big risk sending them out unprotected into that, anyway." He continued, inclining his head toward the murky waters beyond the window.
"Then our only alternative is to send out the Flying Sub. We can use its remote claws to pick up that antenna and carry it over to the Seaview. We'll hope that when it's safe their divers can take it from there."
"How will we let them know what we're doing?"
"Once we get over there we can use our portable coupling to dock on their escape hatch. Then, like you said, we'll 'knock on their door'."
"Who's going to fly it?" Morton pursued. "We don't have too many men who are qualified on the Flying Sub . . ."
" . . . who aren't present on that Seaview," the Admiral finished his thought. "Not to mention the risks of dodging this ice."
"Sir," McNeil broke in, "I'll go. The Admiral is already aware of my presence, so we wouldn't be risking much there; and I can handle the Flying Sub better than anyone else aboard -- except you two, of course." Unsure that logic would be enough to win his case, however, he added, "And I'd really like the opportunity to just see my . . . the Admiral again."
It didn't take Crane and Morton long to decide. The Captain nodded his assent, which the Admiral confirmed. "All right, Harry, it's all yours. Who will you take with you?"
"I was thinking of Yagashi, sir. He's qualified, he has no connections over there, and I know he's eager to make amends."
"Amends? Amends for what?" Morton asked.
Crane also cast a puzzled look at the First Officer, as if to say 'how did you know?'.
Answering the Admiral's look, McNeil said, "He told me about Patterson, sir."
Morton, beginning to feel left out, asked, "Would somebody like to tell me?"
"It was nothing important, Chip. Really." Crane glanced at the young petty officer absorbed in his work. "Just an unfortunate incident in the Crew's Mess." From the look of comprehension that came over the Captain's face, Crane knew he didn't need to explain any further. Returning his attention to McNeil he asked, "Can he operate the remote claw?"
"I certified him myself. He can do it, sir."
"Very good. Get whatever gear you need, and be ready to launch in ten minutes."
* * *
The FS1 was checked out, McNeil and Yagashi briefed, and the launch completed in less than the allotted ten minutes.
Crane, Morton, Sharkey, and Jamieson watched as the Flying Sub approached the array on the ocean floor. It eased in slowly, and, as if alive, reached out two claws to pick up the abandoned apparatus. Having gotten a firm grip, the claws gently lifted the antenna into plain sight.
"It doesn't look as badly damaged at we thought," the Captain remarked.
"Let's just hope they have the equipment to reattach it." Crane added.
As McNeil and Yagashi turned the Flying Sub and moved away, Crane breathed a silent prayer for their safety and success. The answer he received was not the one he was hoping for. Within minutes after the Flying Sub out of visual range, than another rain of icebergs began to show up on Sonar.
"Back us out of here, Chip!" the Admiral shouted.
Not waiting for the command, the Captain had already given the order, "All astern, Full!"
As Seaview retreated to safety, the eyes of every man in the Control Room were fixed on the front window, watching the rain of ice that spelled potential disaster for the Flying Sub, and the two men aboard her. They followed the ice as it plummeted down, and they followed it as it drifted slowly up to the surface. There had been no distress calls from the Flying Sub, but that was not necessarily good news.
Morton was on the mike, worriedly trying to contact his men. "Seaview to FS1, come in. Seaview to FS1, come in. Harry, do you read me?" He called back to the Radio Shack, "Mr. James, can you tell if they're receiving?"
"No, sir, there's no way of telling that. Sorry. Maybe they're just too busy to acknowledge ," he added hopefully.
A few moments later his confidence was rewarded with an incoming transmission. "FS1 to Seaview, come in. FS1 to Seaview, come in."
"Yagashi, is that you?" Morton shouted. "What's your condition, and where's Mr. McNeil?"
"Yes, sir, Yagashi here. We've been hit. There doesn't seem to be too much damage, but Mr. McNeil was knocked out of his seat, and is unconscious. I don't know how badly he's hurt. What should I do, sir?"
"Can you fly her alone?"
"Then bring her back in."
"What about the antenna, sir?"
Crane reached for the mike, "Yagashi, this is the Admiral. Drop it where you are, make a note of your location, and we'll make another try later."
"Aye, sir. I'm on my way. FS1 out."
Within minutes the Flying Sub was safely back in its berth. The Doctor was ready with his equipment as they carried McNeil up through the hatch. In short order he had made a quick evaluation, and in response to the circle of inquiring eyes above him he reported, "His breathing and heart rate are weak, but steady. That's a nasty gash on his forehead; he may have a concussion, or worse. I won't be able to tell anything more until we get him to Sick Bay."
Chief Kowalski looked to Capt. Morton for permission, which he received, and proceeded to take over. "OK, you guys. You heard the Doc. Let's get Mr. McNeil to Sick Bay. Careful! Be careful of his head! Didn't you hear what Doc said? Sharkey, you grab the Doc's gear . . ." They could still hear him fussing at his men when they were far down the corridor.
"Yagashi," the Captain summoned the worried young man. "What happened out there? How did Mr. McNeil get thrown from his seat -- wasn't his safety harness fastened?"
"No, sir, it wasn't." Seeing the Morton's countenance darken toward a storm, he continued quickly, "He had just taken it off so he could get closer to the window to verify that we still had a firm grip on the antenna -- it seemed a little shaky. We never saw the ice coming."
"I see," the Captain replied. "Is there any other damage to the Flying Sub? Everything still operational?"
"Yes, sir. I don't believe there's any other damage. She seemed to handle fine when I brought her back in. There was a short in the communications, but I repaired that before I spoke to you. No other systems were malfunctioning."
Morton seemed satisfied. He focused his gaze on the man before him. "How about you, Yagashi, were you injured at all?"
"No, sir. I'm fine, sir."
"Very well then, you can get back to your station."
"Thank you, sir."
The Captain followed Yagashi as far as the Plot Table, where the Admiral was waiting. He cast a troubled look at Crane. "Now what do we do, Lee?"
"We go out again." the Admiral said grimly.
"Who will we send? Harry was the only logical candidate. Everyone else . . . "
"I'll go. Like Harry said, you and I are the best qualified for this. You're needed here. The Admiral has already seen me, so I don't see that I can cause much more damage than I already have. And I'll take Yagashi with me -- for the same reasons Harry wanted him. Anyway," he added, attempting a smile, "the Flying Sub is still my baby."
"But, Lee . . . "
Crane cut him off, "Chip, do we have any other option? Someone has to go. I have a better chance at success than anyone else -- should I send someone else out, who has less of a chance? And what would I say to his family when he didn't come back? It's settled." To Chip, the whole scene felt distressingly like another one he had witnessed years ago in this very Control Room. Lee Crane disappeared down the hatch into the Flying Sub to make preparations. As Chip Morton watched him go, he shuddered.
Some five minutes later Chief Kowalski approached the Plot Table. He appeared somewhat reluctant to speak, but nevertheless determined to be heard. "Captain Morton? Begging you pardon, sir, but I overheard your conversation with the Admiral, and . . . " he hesitated again, then allowed his words to tumble out in a heap. "With your permission, I'd like to go in Yagashi's place." He paused less than a second to see if his request would be denied outright. Seeing it wasn't, he went on. "If the Admiral should need any help . . . well, begging you pardon again, sir, even though Yuki's good -- I'm better. Like Sharkey used to say, 'I've forgotten more stuff than these jokers will ever know!'"
Captain Morton hesitated before answering. He had watched the Admiral emerge from the Flying Sub and come up behind Kowalski. Having heard most of the conversation, Crane shook his head to deny the Chief's request. Kowalski saw the gesture as he looked over his shoulder toward Yagashi. In spite of that answer, he lowered his voice and continued resolutely. "One more thing, sir; my boys are just about grown, but his kids are still babies . . . they're gonna need their Dad."
At these words Crane seemed to hesitate. Chip caught his indecision, and said to Kowalski, "Very well, Chief, we'll take your request into consideration and let you know. Dismissed." To his friend he said, "Well, Lee, what do you think? He makes good sense on all counts. And I'd feel better, too, knowing that there was a more experienced man going."
"You're right, but what about the fact that Kowalski is already on the other Seaview? Can we risk the consequences of possibly having the two of them meet? I have no idea what might happen."
"Are you forgetting that you're over there, too? You're running the same risk yourself."
Morton had a point. "I guess you're right, Chip. We'll just have to hope the Admiral understands what we're trying to do, and keeps everyone, especially the other Crane and Kowalski, out of the Missile Room. Tell Kowalski to get ready for immediate launch."
"Right away. And Lee . . . be careful. I don't want to have to face Carrie with . . ."
"I will," Crane cut him off before he could finish. Then, with cheerfulness he didn't feel, he added, "Don't worry, nothing's going to keep me from showing off her and her new dress at that Reception next week!"
* * *
Adm. Nelson stalked into the Control Room, "What's the situation, Lee? Why are repairs taking so long?"
"I've been trying to reach you, Admiral. Engineering reports that when the reactor shut down it blew some of the circuitry. Each relay has to be tested before they can attempt a start up. Chip's down there now, and he says each time they repair one circuit, they find another one blown. They've got every man available on it, but it's going to take time."
"Time is precisely what we don't have! If we can't get off the bottom, and deliver those supplies . . . "
His words were lost in the static of the now-operative intercom. "Missile Room to Control. Capt. Crane?"
"Yes, Patterson. What is it?"
"Sir, there's an odd clanking sound coming from the Escape Hatch here."
"Can you tell what it is?"
"No, sir, not exactly."
Adm. Nelson's eyes brightened, and he gestured the Captain to give him the mike. "Patterson, this is the Admiral. Could it be the sound of a Flying Sub with a portable coupling trying to dock?"
"Now that you mention it sir, it does sort of sound like that."
Nelson grinned and swatted the Captain's arm with the back of his hand. "It appears as though we may have visitors, Lee." To Patterson he said, "Clear everyone out of the Missile Room -- now! Wait for me there -- I'm on my way."
Before he left the Control Room the Admiral instructed Lee to have the antibiotics and other urgent supplies removed from the Flying Sub, and brought to the Missile Room. "I'm betting they've sent a 'taxi' to pick us up, and make our delivery. I don't know who may be aboard, so keep everyone out of the Missile Room. Just stack the supplies by the hatch."
When Nelson arrived in the Missile Room Patterson was just opening the Escape Hatch. Adm. Crane looked cautiously around the room before emerging with Kowalski. "It's all right, Lee. Everyone is out except Patterson and me."
While Crane and Nelson had gotten well beyond any discomfort they felt upon their first meeting, Kowalski and Patterson didn't have that advantage. Patterson busied himself with the maintenance work he'd been doing before he called the Control Room. He only occasionally stole glimpses of his older friend. Kowalski had changed very little over the years -- only significant difference in his appearance was due to his having exchanged seaman's overalls for officer's khakis. For his part, Kowalski stood behind Adm. Crane, hands clasped in front of him, and staring at the floor.
Coming immediately to the point, Crane asked, "What's the situation here, Admiral? What damage do you have?"
"Our antenna array is either malfunctioning or missing . . ."
"It's not missing any more." Adm. Crane interrupted with a satisfied smile. "We picked it up about two miles away from here, and it's now lying right beside Seaview, ready to be reinstalled. Do you have the equipment to do it?"
"Yes, we have plenty of gear. The cold water will be a problem, but we'll send the men out in shifts. That's one problem taken care of, but our reactor is down, and it's taking longer than anticipated to get power back. It's not badly damaged, but it may be up to three more hours before we can get under way again."
"What can we do to help?" Crane asked. "Our Flying Sub is at your service. With it, you could probably get to the research station and back before the repairs are completed here."
"My thoughts exactly. I'm already having the most urgently needed supplies brought here. How's the situation over there? Any new information?"
Pulling an envelope out of his flight jacket, Crane said, "Here's the result of our combined efforts on recalling details of the mission. I hope there's something in there that will help."
Nelson opened the envelope, and perused its contents quickly. "Good, good. There's a lot of detail here that could be very helpful. Any other disappearances over there?"
"Not disappearances exactly . . . " Crane paused, and inclined his head toward a deserted corner of the Missile Room. As the two Admirals were moving out of earshot of Kowalski and Patterson, activity was heard in the corridor.
Nelson walked over and opened the hatch. Two men were walking away from a stack of small cartons, and a third was approaching with a two more boxes. "Is that the last of it, Riley?" Nelson asked.
"Yes, sir," he said, making no secret of trying to peer over the Admiral's shoulder into the Missile Room.
"Very well, that will be all."
"Are you sure you don't need any help loading this stuff?" he asked hopefully.
"I'm sure. That will be all." When Riley lingered on, the Admiral finally said pointedly, "Dismissed."
"Aye, sir." With some reluctance the seaman turned and walked away.
"Patterson, you and Kowalski start stowing these boxes up in the Flying Sub," Nelson ordered.
As the two men worked, Crane continued where he had left off. "Instead of a disappearance, we've had an appearance. You know that Patterson is . . . not alive in 1998. But about an hour ago, he walked into the Crew's Mess, wearing a CPO's uniform, and looking twenty years older than he is now. He sat down, had coffee, talked with the other men . . . then vanished. What do you make of it?"
"You say this happened an hour ago?"
"Yes, " Crane replied, checking his watch.
"That was about the time the second barrage of ice hit us, and we were knocked to the bottom. We had a couple of injuries, one quite serious. Doc was afraid we were going to lose him, and it's still touch and go, but his chances are improving. We're just waiting for him to wake up, now."
"Who was it?"
"It was Spencer." When Crane's face paled at the name, the Admiral continued, "I take it there's some significance to that?"
Crane hesitated a moment before he answered. "Patterson died saving his life. If Spencer had died just now, Patterson would probably still be alive." Unconsciously both men turned to look in Patterson's direction.
"I see," the Adm. Nelson finally responded. "Pem's vengeance continues."
By this time the cargo was almost all safely stowed on the Flying Sub. As Patterson went to retrieve the last box, the intercom at the base of the Escape Hatch crackled on. "Sick Bay to Missile Room. Is Adm. Nelson there?"
Patterson picked up the mike and answered, "This is Patterson. The Admiral is right here, I'll go get him."
"No need for that, Patterson. Just tell him that Spencer is awake, and out of the woods."
"Hey, that's good news, Doc. I'll tell the Admiral right away."
Tired of waiting for Patterson to bring up the last box, Kowalski had come down the ladder to get it himself. "What's the good news, Pat?"
"Oh, it's Spencer. He was hurt pretty bad during that last fall of ice, about an hour ago. We almost lost him, but Doc just called to tell the Admiral that he's going to be OK."
"Did you say Spencer?" Kowalski blanched at the name.
"Yeah, Mike Spencer. But he's gonna be fine. Are you OK, 'Ski? You look kinda pale yourself."
Kowalski clenched his teeth and gazed unseeing at the box in his hands. "Yeah, yeah . . . I'm fine, Pat. Just fine." He answered without conviction. "C'mon up and help me get these boxes tied down."
"I'll be up as soon as I tell the Admiral." Patterson turned and walked toward Crane and Nelson as Kowalski climbed up to the Flying Sub in a daze.
A few minutes later Crane's voice echoed off the walls of the Escape Hatch. "Is everything all set, Kowalski?"
"Yes, sir. Everything's stowed away and ship shape," the Chief replied.
The two enlisted men descended the ladder from the Flying Sub as Crane and Nelson discussed completion of the supply run. "We can't duplicate the delivery precisely, because according to your Log and notes," here Nelson indicated the envelope Crane had just handed him,"we should surface, and have the whole crew unloading supplies. But, by your account only three of us, myself, Riley, and the Doctor had any direct contact with the staff there; so the three of us will go over, make the delivery, and be back here by the time Seaview is ready to get under way again."
"Sounds good to me," Crane smiled, "but what should Kowalski and I do while you're gone? We can't very well stay here in the Missile Room."
"You're right, there's going to be a lot of activity here, with repair parties going in and out. Why don't you wait in my cabin? Come along with me now, there are some files I need to pick up."
Adm. Nelson sent Patterson on ahead to clear the corridors between the Missile Room and his cabin. When they arrived there, he called the Control Room bring the Captain up to date on the status of the sonar mast, and the Flying Sub. Just as Captain Crane had been fascinated by the future Seaview's Log, so now Adm. Crane found himself equally mesmerized by the sound of his own voice coming from the past over the intercom.
"Kinda eerie, isn't it, sir?" Kowalski remarked quietly.
"I'd say 'eerie' about sums it up, Chief," Crane agreed.
"I think we're all set, Lee," Nelson said as he punched off the intercom. "The storm has abated, and there hasn't been any seismographic activity reported for over an hour. Riley and the Doctor are on their way to the Missile Room, so we should be able to take off right away. Is there anything I should know about the new Flying Sub?"
Crane looked puzzled. "New Flying Sub?"
"Yes, yours, from the future. The one you brought with you," Nelson explained with some impatience.
Kowalski hid his snicker behind a cough as he and Crane glanced at each other. "Sorry, Admiral," Crane explained, "But she's not very new. In fact, she's the oldest one we have. The Institute has newer models, of course, but this is one of the originals. I can guarantee you'll have no trouble flying her. You've done it before -- many times."
"You're kidding, Lee. After twenty years? The same one? Why, how many have we lost in just five years?"
"I don't know the secret, Admiral, but this one seems to be leading a charmed life. Maybe some of it will rub off on your mission," he smiled.
"That would certainly be a welcome change from our current run of luck," Nelson countered. Giving last minute instructions as he walked out the door he said, "The Captain and Mr. Morton are aware of your presence here, and Patterson, of course. They all recognize the need for secrecy. No one will disturb you in here, and if you should need anything, use the private line directly to Mr. Morton."
Crane rose as the Admiral walked out. "Understood. Have a safe trip, sir."
Nelson fixed him with an arched eyebrow and an ironic smile, "We'll try, Lee, we'll certainly try."
* * *
Even though the Admiral, the Doctor, and Riley were gone less than two hours, it seemed like an eternity to Crane and Kowalski. They listened to the boat's chatter over the intercom, commenting on names they hadn't heard in years. They discussed the upcoming Institute Reception. Kowalski laughed when he heard that the Admiral's daughter would be there with him. "That could be dangerous, sir. My Stan -- he's sixteen, too -- has had a 'thing' for your Carrie ever since they met at the last year's Reception. He's all the time pumping me for information about you. I don't think he realizes we see right through his game -- he forgets that his old man was sixteen once, too. Anyway, we were having a rough time convincing him to come with us next week, but this little bit of information ought to do the trick."
"I don't know Kowalski. I remember you some twenty years ago, and if your son is anything like his father, I may just keep Carrie home under lock and key!" They both laughed.
But before long their laughter and chatter subsided. It was difficult to keep their minds off the mission they were powerless to assist. Both men jumped when there was a knock on the door, and Adm. Nelson entered.
"How did it go, sir?" Crane inquired, his voice reflecting his tense concern.
"Remarkably well," Nelson assured him. "Doc examined the injured man, and is certain that with the antibiotics we delivered he'll make a full recovery. Although, just as your Log said, it was a very close call." He paused, then continued, grinning, "And I noticed that Riley took a particular interest in one of the research assistants, also as your notes 'predicted' -- and without any prompting necessary."
Kowalski chuckled. "When did Riley ever need any prompting?" Then, as if only just realizing he had interrupted a conversation between two Admirals, he added a formal, "If you wanted my opinion . . . Sirs."
"Quite so, Kowalski." While Adm. Nelson hadn't quite gotten used to Kowalski in khakis, exercising all the privileges of a COB, he nonetheless appreciated the truth of his remark. Continuing his report to Crane, "We gave as little explanation as possible as to our tardiness, and the absence of Seaview; and fortunately they didn't ask for any more. We only told them that there had been some problems on board due to the storm, and that we would contact them about delivering the remainder of their supplies in a day or two. That should give us enough time to make our stop at Station Cancun on schedule and return here. It won't be a perfect match for your history, but under the circumstances, it's the best we can do."
"Well, Admiral, it looks like our job is done," Crane said, while getting into his flight jacket. "How are the repairs going here? Will you be able to get under way soon?"
"Yes," replied Nelson, ushering the two men out into the corridor. "According to the Captain, the reactor circuits are all in order, and they should be starting up momentarily. The repair crews have patched the sonar mast back together, although it will need a more thorough refit in port. All other systems are operational. So as soon as you two get going, we can be on our way." He waved them on ahead in a show of mock impatience.
"OK, OK, we get the picture, Admiral," Crane laughed.
Arriving in the Missile Room, they found it deserted, save Patterson, per the Admiral's orders. Crane began, "The plan is still to meet back at the original coordinates in two days -- in hopes that Pem will join us -- right?" Receiving an affirmative nod, he extended his hand to Nelson. "So long, Admiral. And good luck with the rest of the mission."
"Thanks, Lee. We'll keep in touch as much as we can."
Kowalski found little to say to Patterson. "So long, Pat. Take it easy," was all he could muster to accompany his handshake. There were no 'See ya later's.
"You too, 'Ski. Take care." And, nodding to Adm. Crane, he added, "Sir."
"Good bye, Patterson. You take care of those little girls, now."
Patterson smiled in spite of his nervousness. "Thank you, sir. I will."
Crane was already partway up the ladder to the Flying Sub while Kowalski and Adm. Nelson exchanged farewells. All he heard was the metallic echo of Kowalski's words, "Thank you, sir. I'll do that," followed by the sound of the Escape Hatch being closed and secured.
. . . gang aft a-gley
The first thing Adm. Crane did upon getting under way was contact the Seaview. "FS1 to Seaview come in. FS1 to Seaview, come in."
"FS1, this is Seaview." Morton's voice replied. "We read you loud and clear, Lee. How'd it go over there?"
"Mission accomplished. She's completed repairs, and is on her way to Station Cancun. What about your end?"
"Well, you must have done something right. We've had no more incidents, and the first group of six men we lost earlier have reappeared, no worse for the wear."
"Any sign of Pem?" the Admiral asked hopefully.
"Not so far."
"Any more activity above?"
"No, the seismograph has been quiet. You should have clear sailing all the way."
"Very well, then, we'll see you in about fifteen minutes. Crane out."
"So, sir, it looks like we're doing pretty good, eh?" Kowalski asked the Admiral after the connection was broken.
"I'd like to think so, Chief, but let's not count our chickens before they're hatched. There are still three men missing, and don't forget that Pem hasn't returned yet. Until he does, we're stuck here."
Suddenly Capt. Morton's agitated voice interrupted their conversation. "Seaview calling FS1. Come in, Lee. Seaview calling FS1. Do you read?"
"Yes, Chip, we read you," Crane replied. "What's wrong?"
"Turn back, Lee! We just registered a strong tremor from the ice pack above you, and you're going to be caught in another barrage if you keep your present course. Repeat - Turn back!"
"Look, sir!" Kowalski shouted. "There's . . . "
His observation went unfinished, because at that instant the Flying Sub was knocked violently down to the ocean floor.
Before they had a chance to react, another blow tilted the vessel on a crazy angle, and they felt themselves being shoved sideways. They didn't go far before the craft met the proverbial 'immovable object', and they came to a emphatic halt.
"Are you OK, Chief?" Crane inquired.
"Yes, sir, I think so," Kowalski said, testing his limbs. "Nothing seems to be broken. How about you?"
"No, nothing broken." He massaged the back of his neck while trying to turn his head, "Although I'm not sure my neck will ever be the same," he grimaced.
"Where are we, anyway?" Kowalski asked, craning his neck in an attempt to look upward through the port. There was nothing but blackness visible.
"It looks like we've been swept up against some sort of embankment." Crane regarded the darkened instrument panel forlornly. "It also looks like we've lost power. You check out the panels and I'll see about communications."
Both men got up from their seats and started clambering about on the steeply inclined deck to assess the damage. "FS1 to Seaview. FS1 to Seaview. Seaview, do you read?" Crane repeated his message several times -- using different combinations of frequencies, switches, and microphones -- before giving up. "Any luck over there, Chief?"
"None good, sir," he replied, his head and shoulders inside one of the control panels. "About half the circuits seem to have shorted out -- Ow!" he hollered, jumping back, as yet another short flared up and sent a shower of sparks over him and the floor.
"Are you all right, Kowalski?" the Admiral asked, climbing up to the other side of the slanted compartment.
The answer was slow in coming, but affirmative. "Yes, sir," he said, blinking and rubbing soot off his face, "I'll be OK in a minute or two. But about these circuits -- I think we could repair all the individual shorts, but it won't do us any good. The main power line is ruptured. There's no way we can start the engines."
"Can we repair the line?"
"Sure, if we had the right equipment. But it's all aboard Seaview. There's nothing we can do about it here."
"What about the radio? Once we get all those circuits repaired we'll be able to run the radio off the emergency batteries, won't we?"
"We might get it fixed if we get them all repaired before we start a fire. It's really a mess in there, sir," Kowalski's blackened face was ample testimony to the dangers involved.
"We can either give it our best shot, or we can give up. Even without the radio Capt. Morton will find us eventually, and personally, I'd rather not be sitting here on my hands when he shows up. Bad for the reputation," he grinned. "Besides, I told Adm. Nelson this girl was leading a charmed life, and I don't want to proven a liar so soon," he arched an eyebrow, "so let's get started."
"Aye, sir," Kowalski shook his head and returned the grin as the Admiral's confidence infected him. He broke out the tools and the two got started.
* * *
"Seaview to FS1. Seaview to FS1. Come in, Lee. Seaview calling FS1. Do you read?" Morton turned toward the Radio Shack and called, "Mr. James, are they receiving?"
It was Sparks who answered. "I'm getting no response at all, sir."
"Where's Mr. James?" the Captain demanded bluntly as he strode toward the radio console.
"He's getting some sleep, sir. He'd been awake for over twenty five hours, and on duty for most of the last eighteen."
"What about Matthews? Where's he?"
"He was in the second group of men who disappeared, sir," Sparks said quietly.
Chip Morton rubbed a weary hand over his forehead. "I forgot. Sorry for snapping at you that way, Sparks. Maybe I've logged a few too many hours, too," he smiled wanly. "I'm glad you're aboard."
Sparks acknowledged the apology with his own tired smile. "I'll keep trying Adm. Crane, sir."
As Captain Morton returned to the Plot Table, he asked Yagashi, "Do you have a reading on the Flying Sub? Was she on Sonar when we lost contact?"
"No, I don't have anything now, sir, but she had just come on the screen before we lost contact. Here are the last coordinates we have." He handed a slip of paper to the Captain.
"Good. We're going in." Turning his back to Sonar, the Captain called across the Control Room, "Any more activity on the seismograph?"
"No, sir. Everything's quiet again. But there's no guarantee how long it will last."
Ever since Seaview lost contact with the Flying Sub, Sharkey and Riley had been sitting on the Spiral Stairs, looking a little lost. Finally Sharkey approached the table. "Mr. . . er . . . Capt. Morton, sir. Is there anything me and Riley can do? Since Donnelly and the others got back, we kinda feel like a coupl'a screen-doors on a submarine -- y'know, worse than useless." In spite of -- or maybe because of -- his tension, Chip Morton found himself rolling his eyes and grinning at the timeworn joke. Good ol' Sharkey -- leave it to him to give you something to smile about. "It's not that we wanna leave," Sharkey continued, oblivious to the Captain's reaction, "especially with the Admiral bein' in trouble, and all, but unless you have something for us to do, maybe you'd like us to get outta your hair, so to speak."
"No, Sharkey, there's no reason for you to leave. In fact, there may be something you can do. We're going to move in closer to see if we can spot the Flying Sub. I'll need some sharp eyes on Bow Watch -- can you handle that for me again?"
"Aye, sir," the former Chief replied enthusiastically. Then he hesitated, "But what about that overgrown ice machine out there? How do we know it's not gonna start doin' another number on us, sir?"
"We don't. But I'm not just going to just sit here, playing it safe, and leave the Admiral and Kowalski out there."
"Aye, sir, you're right. Riley and I will get right up there. And . . . thank you, sir."
The Captain picked up the mike and ordered, "Maneuvering, all ahead one third. Come to course 340 relative."
"Ahead one third, course 340 relative, aye," came the reply.
As Seaview began to move Morton walked over to observe the Sonar screen. After a few seconds he said, "Yagashi, sing out as soon as you see anything. Donnelly, is there anything at all on hydrophones?"
"No, sir. At least nothing that could be the Flying Sub."
"Executive Officer, reporting for duty, sir." Morton jumped at the voice coming from behind him.
"Harry! What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Sick Bay!" Scrutinizing the large bandage over McNeil's left eye he continued, "Doc didn't certify you for duty already, did he?"
"Not exactly, but he didn't say I couldn't come back, either. I figured you were about due for a break. By my count, you've been on watch for nineteen and a half hours straight . . . and that's not counting . . ."
"Not now," the Captain growled, "there's no time." He softened again. "Besides you don't look very steady yourself. Are you really sure you should be here?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sure," he said, leaning heavily on the Plot Table.
Morton regarded him dubiously for a moment before saying, "Thanks, I could use the help. Are you aware of our situation?"
"Yes, sir. Riley brought me up to speed while you were talking to Sharkey. What can I do?"
"Skipper, I think I've got the Flying Sub!" Yagashi cried out. "We should have it on visual any minute now. Bearing 010, range 1000 yards." By this time the Captain was leaning over his shoulder, so he lowered his voice accordingly. "I didn't see it earlier because it's partially hidden by a rock, or ledge, or something."
Grabbing the nearest mike, Morton directed, "Come to course 010 relative, Dead Slow. Repeat, Dead Slow"
"Donnelly, what are you getting on hydrophone?"
"No engine noise at all. There's some kind of tapping sound though, very irregular, and a muffled sound -- probably voices. Could they be making repairs, sir?" He took the headphones off and offered them to the Captain.
Morton listened briefly, then handed them back. "I think you're right, Donnelly. Let me know if there's any change." Turning back to the Plot Table, he finally answered his First Officer's question. "Harry, get up to the Observation Nose and try to determine their situation. See if we can get them with the magnetic recovery gear."
After a few minutes more of tense listening and watching, there was a commotion in the Observation Nose. Both Sharkey and Riley yelled something unintelligible, then there was silence. When Morton looked in that direction, they were both shaking their heads. Concluding that the Flying Sub had been spotted, he ordered, "All Stop! Repeat - All Stop!"
Before the Captain had a chance to imagine the worst, McNeil was on the intercom. "Capt. Morton, we've spotted the Flying Sub. She seems to be in one piece, but she's in a bad position. Maybe you should come forward to see for yourself."
"I'm on my way, Mr. McNeil," the Captain answered. Before he left, he changed channels on the handmike and raised the Radio Shack. "Sparks, this is the Captain. Any luck at all contacting the Flying Sub?"
"No, sir. Nothing."
"Very well. Keep trying."
When the Captain saw the way the Flying Sub was wedged, at a forty-five degree angle, under an overhanging crag, he knew that 'bad position' had been a masterful understatement. There was no way on earth they'd be able to use the recovery gear. The Diving Bell was also ruled out. Furthermore, the angle was such that, even if they had arctic diving gear -- which they didn't -- they'd never get a diving party in through the deck hatch without flooding the small craft with icy water, likely drowning the recipients of their intended rescue.
"What do we do now, sir?" McNeil's words pierced the Captain's absorption with the scene before him..
What do we do now? How many times had Chip Morton himself uttered those words? And always in full confidence of receiving a sound answer. Now there was no one else to ask, and he didn't have any answers. He closed his eyes as weariness and frustration threatened to overwhelm him, "I don't know, Harry. I just don't know."
"Excuse me, Mr. Morton," Sharkey broke in, "but I might have an idea."
Sharkey's outdated form of address was once again able to coax a shadow of a smile from the Captain. "OK, Chief, I'm listening."
"Well, I know their radio is broken and all, but what about Morse Code? I mean, we're practically on top of them, couldn't we just kinda . . . bang out a message on the hull or something? They sure ought to be able to hear it, and they could do the same thing back to us . . . couldn't they?"
Morton's face lit with a glimmer of hope. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that? Good work, Chief . . . for a civilian," he grinned. Chances are Sharkey never heard the wisecrack, because the revived Morton was already striding purposefully toward the Radio Shack, scattering orders in his wake. "Riley, take over on Sonar. Yagashi, go rouse Mr. James out of his rack. We're going to need him. Sparks, how's your Morse Code? Still serviceable, I hope."
"I'm afraid I'm a little out of practice, sir. But I could probably handle it in a pinch."
"This is a pinch. You're going to send a message to the Flying Sub. Harry, where inside the boat can we go to get the best acoustics for sending a message over there?"
McNeil thought a minute. "That would probably be the Escape Hatch. Get up near the top -- close to the outer hull -- with a good-sized hammer, and I think you could make a clear enough noise to hear halfway to Iceland. I'd recommend heavy duty earplugs for the sender, though," he grinned.
"Good. Sparks, that will be your job. I'll have Mr. James here to receive any incoming messages we may get from hydrophones. Sharkey, this was your idea -- you go with Sparks and man the intercom at the base of the Escape Hatch. You'll be the link between him and the Control Room. Sparks, here's what I want you to send first." Morton was still writing when James, bleary eyed and confused, came trailing into the Control Room behind Yagashi.
* * *
"How's it going over there, Kowalski?"
"Not too good, sir. I no sooner get one circuit patched than -- Ow! Darn! -- another one goes out. It's beginning to look hopeless, sir. How about on your side?"
From underneath the instrument panel the Admiral answered, "About the same. But I've got nothing better to do for the time being. You?"
"I wish I did, sir. I can think of lots of things I'd -- Crud! . . . Sorry, sir . . . lots of things I'd rather be doing, but none of them seem to be available."
Crane laughed. "I know what you mean. A nice Italian dinner would be a welcome diversion, not to mention . . . "
"Sir! Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Crane extricated himself from the tangle of wires he was working on, and sat up.
"It sounds like an engine -- a big one. Could it be Seaview?"
Both men listened intently as the deep thrum of engines grew steadily louder. Just when it seemed the sound couldn't get any closer, it stopped completely. They waited expectantly for a few seconds, then Kowalski said, "Do you think they spotted us?"
"I'm counting on it, Chief. But that doesn't mean we're in the clear. We seem to be lodged in here pretty firmly, and I don't see how a diving party could get in through this hatch. I expect we still have a good long wait in front of us."
"I guess you're right, sir," Kowalski conceded. "It's good to know they're out there, anyway."
"I won't argue with that." A thoughtful silence enveloped them for a few more moments before the Admiral continued, "I wish there was some way of communicating with them."
With the promise of help so near, it seemed pointless to continue their repair efforts. The two men started idly rearranging tools. A wrench slipped out of Kowalski's fingers and fell to the deck with a resounding clang.
"That's it!" cried the Admiral.
"What's it, sir?"
"That's how we can contact Seaview: Through the hydrophones. We can tap out a message to them, and they'll be able to respond the same way. Here, give me that wrench." As Crane stood up to reach the tool he was being handed, a wave of blackness overcame him, and he lost his balance.
"Are you OK, sir?" Kowalski skidded down the deck toward the Admiral, and when he tried to stand he felt the same lightheadedness. "It's the air, sir. Lying there on the floor I guess we didn't realize how bad it was getting."
"You're right. I was so involved with the repairs I didn't even think about air. We've been down almost an hour now, and there are only five or six man-hours reserve. You'd better break out the tanks from the scuba gear while I try to get someone's attention."
While Crane, unsure of his rusty Morse Code, started to write out the message he would send; Kowalski rummaged through the diving locker. As the banging and slamming escalated, his muttering became increasingly irate. Finally, Crane could ignore it no longer. "What's the problem, Chief?"
"Somebody's really gonna catch it when I get back," he threatened through clenched teeth, "He's gonna wish . . ." Suddenly conscious of the Admiral's expectant gaze, he swallowed his irritation and reported, "There are two air tanks in here. One of them has a bad valve -- probably damaged when Mr. McNeil went down, and the other is less than half full. That amounts to fifteen minutes of air each, sir."
"I see," Crane replied soberly. "That changes things some." He spent another few seconds scribbling, then arranged himself, his notes, and the wrench to begin the message. But before he could get started, a dull, metallic pounding vibrated through the hull of the Flying Sub. The men listened intently for a few seconds before Crane picked up the wrench and enthusiastically pounded out a short acknowledgment. "It seems that someone over there has the same idea." As more of the message came through, Crane repeated it aloud as he wrote it down. "RESCUE ASAP stop ETA UNKNOWN stop INJURY? stop DAMAGE? stop."
Crane replied, "NO INJURY stop NO HULL DMG stop 2 HR AIR MAX stop."
The pounding and clanging went on for several more minutes before both sides were satisfied that all necessary information had been exchanged. They agreed to maintain contact at fifteen minute intervals until help arrived. The two men, now sitting side by side in the lower end of the listing craft, were both encouraged by the human contact, and concerned by the lack of a definite time frame for their rescue. As silence engulfed the small vessel once again Crane and Kowalski lapsed into their own silence, each one settling in to wait with his own thoughts.
* * *
The word from the Flying Sub, while it could have been much worse, was nevertheless not very reassuring. Having a two hour deadline forced an already drained Chip Morton into a situation he would have been reluctant to face in the best of times. "Mr. McNeil, you have the con. I'll be in my cabin." He did not, however, go directly to his cabin. He went instead to the Hydrophone station. "Mr. James. Get on the radio and try to raise the other Seaview. When you get through, ask for Adm. Nelson, then patch it through to my cabin. When you're done that, get back over here to continue monitoring."
By hurrying, he allowed himself time to splash cold water on his face and neck, and to stretch his fatigued muscles before the call came through. By the time he heard the Admiral's voice, he felt refreshed and reasonably clear-headed.
Without stopping for amenities, Nelson came right to the point. "Yes, Chip, what is it? Is there a problem?"
"Yes, sir. The Flying Sub was downed by another ice fall on its way back from your Seaview. We're at the site now, and we've communicated with Lee and Chief Kowalski. They're not injured. However the Flying Sub was knocked under a rock ledge, and we have no way of dislodging it or getting to them. They have approximately two hours of air left. Can you help us?"
From the length of the silence that followed his words, Capt. Morton was afraid the connection may have been lost. When Adm. Nelson did reply his words were slow and painful in coming. "I suppose you would have told me if Pem had reappeared."
"Pem?" In the midst of the current crisis, the Captain almost forgot the larger situation that had brought them to this point in the first place. "No, sir. No sign of him, although six of our nine missing men have reappeared."
"I see. Since Pem hasn't returned, we know that we haven't repaired all the damage that was done. If we turn back to help now, we may lose our only chance to do so. And if that happens you are all doomed, not just Crane and Kowalski."
There was another long pause during which all the weariness he'd been fending off resettled upon the Captain; it absorbed every bit of reserve energy he had imagined he possessed a few minutes earlier. As he sat there, drained, he could almost see the emotions that were undoubtedly at war on Nelson's features. He also saw his friends, helpless, and himself, equally powerless to help them. So near, yet impossibly far.
Finally, Nelson spoke again, with a bit more animation. "I can send out the Flying Sub. Perhaps there's a way to use it to extricate them from that ledge."
Chip snatched at the possibility. "Is it equipped with a grappling hook?"
"Of course it is, you know that."
Not even noticing the mild reprimand, the Captain continued, "Then you may be able to catch a corner of it, and drag it out into the open. If you can to that, then we can recover it."
"It sounds like a good possibility," Nelson replied, his voice reflecting the shred of renewed hope he heard in Chip. "I'll have it ready to launch in fifteen minutes. It should reach you in less than an hour. Give me your coordinates, and we'll get under way."
"Aye, sir," Morton replied, then, with more conviction, "and thank you, sir." After transferring the needed information, Chip signed off. He remained at his desk for several more minutes, though, mustering the last of his energy to carry him back to the Control Room with the promise of good news.
* * *
Fifteen minutes after the first contact, the following message reverberated through the hull of the Flying Sub: "NELSON FS1 ETA 1 HR stop STATUS? stop"
"Hey, d'ya hear that, sir? The Admiral's sending help!" Kowalski exclaimed as he deciphered the incoming message along with Crane.
Crane's relief, while less vocal, showed on his face as he hammered out the reply: "GOOD NEWS stop NO CHNG stop."
As relative silence once again reclaimed the sea surrounding the two vessels, Kowalski, encouraged by the message, pulled up his knees and rested his arms on them. "How d'ya s'pose they're planning to get us out of here, sir?"
"They might be able to get a grappling hook on one of the fins, and drag us out into the open. If they can do that, Capt. Morton can bring us aboard with the magnetic recovery gear. That would be my best guess."
"Yeah, that makes sense," the Chief agreed, then lapsed into silence.
A few minutes later, he spoke up again, this time more thoughtfully. "I was wondering, sir . . . " His voice trailed off as he rearranged his thoughts. "While we were back there on the other Seaview, do you think there was anything we could have done to save Pat? I mean . . . well . . . what if Spencer had died just now? Doesn't that mean that Pat would have lived? Isn't that why we saw him there in the Mess? Well, what if we had told Pat? I mean, we wouldn't have to have said say why, but couldn't we have told him just to stay away from him, or something? Changed just that one thing, and left everything else the same?"
Crane turned to face the Chief. "What are you suggesting, Kowalski? What about Spencer? Would you sacrifice one man for the other? Do you think Patterson would want that? And what about his widow? For fifteen years she's been married to a good man -- what about him? And their children: Patterson's girls have two brothers now -- where would they be? Pem may never learn his lesson about tampering with time, but I hope we have. We're not nearly wise enough to decide how history should be played out. We need to leave it in the hands of One who is."
Kowalski was shaken by the Admiral's intensity. "You're right, sir. I didn't really mean . . . Well, I didn't mean I wanted it to come out like that." He shook his head dejectedly. "I guess I don't know what I meant. It's just that . . . seein' him again . . ." He looked up. "Well, sir, I'd forgotten just how much I miss the guy."
The Admiral's expression softened. "Forget it, Kowalski. I understand. I have to admit . . . after seeing the Admiral . . . similar thoughts crossed my mind, too."
A sound outside the Flying Sub, and a sudden, slight movement of the hull distracted their attention for a second; but it turned out to be nothing but the current settling them in deeper. Besides, it was still to early to be expecting visitors.
Checking his watch Crane said, "It's about time for another check-in." He picked up the wrench and pounded evenly on the metal deck. "FS1 STATUS SAME stop NEWS? stop"
After nearly a minute they still hadn't received a reply. "Sounds like they weren't ready for us, sir. Maybe we're early."
"It's just as well." He inhaled with effort. "That little bit of exertion really wore me out. I don't mind waiting a few minutes to do it again. I have a feeling all those electrical shorts, sparks, and little fires used up more oxygen than we allowed for -- we probably don't have a full hour left."
Finally they heard the dull percussion of an incoming message. "FS1 ETA NOW 45 MIN stop AIR? stop"
"AIR FAILING stop LESS THAN 1 HR stop" Crane replied slowly.
After a few seconds they heard "UNDERSTOOD stop OUT stop". Then silence.
"Sir, that's gonna be kinda close, isn't it?" Kowalski worried.
"We've been closer. Besides, there isn't much we can do about it. Maybe now would be a good time to break out that air tank -- while we still have the strength to haul it around."
The two men got up on their knees and crawled over to the diving locker. Normally, moving the air tank would have been a one-handed job. Now, however, it took both men several minutes to manhandle it the few feet to where they had set up camp. By the time they were resettled, they needed the air. Each man took a deep, luxurious breath, which revived them momentarily.
"Uh, sir? We are going to make it, right? I mean, you really think we have 45 minutes of air left?"
"Thinking about those boys of yours?" The Admiral's faraway smile was full of understanding. "I know. Carrie's been on my mind, too." His thoughts drifted farther away before his attention returned to his companion. "And the answer is 'Yes.' I really do think we have enough air. It will be closer than I want to think about, but I don't want to consider the alternative at all."
"That's good, sir. And thank you."
Ten minutes passed.
"Sir? Adm.Crane? Are you awake, sir?"
"What? What did you say, honey? . . ." Crane looked blankly around the interior of the compartment. "Carrie?" he continued in some confusion. Finally he blinked and rubbed his eyes. ". . .Oh . . . Kowalski, it's you. I guess I drifted off. What time is it?"
"That's why I woke you, sir. It's been about fifteen minutes. Should we be contacting Seaview?"
"Yes, yes, you're right," Crane said, his head clearing only with difficulty. "Where's the wrench?"
"Right here, sir," Kowalski said, indicating the tool lying on Crane's lap. "Do you want me to send the message this time?" he suggested offhandedly. His face showed concern at the Admiral's disorientation.
"No, no, I can do it, Chief."
"Here, you'd better take some air first." Kowalski handed the air mask to Crane, who accepted it without argument.
After several heaving breaths, he handed it back. "Your turn," he said.
"No, sir, I'm fine. I took some before I woke you up."
The incoming message startled both men, and it took them several seconds to focus on what they were hearing. They caught only the end of it. ". . .AIR? stop."
Crane sent a request to repeat the message. This time they heard, "FS1 EARLY stop ETA 20 MIN stop AIR? stop"
The Admiral only had the strength to send back two words: "ALMOST GONE". He and Kowalski fell into a rhythm of breathing and passing the air mask, which they continued until the tank was empty, ten minutes later.
* * *
"Any reply yet, James?" the Captain demanded sharply, his fatigue and worry overcoming any pretense of civility.
"Still nothing, sir." He opened his mouth to say more -- but nothing came out.
"All right, go on back to the Radio Shack, we may hear something from the other Flying Sub. Donnelly, you continue monitoring here. If you hear anything -- and I mean anything, you shout it out pronto. Got it?"
Donnelly nodded. "Aye, sir."
"Yagashi, any sign of the Flying Sub on Sonar yet?"
"I may be getting something now. It's pretty far away, but the profile seems right. I'll let you know as soon as I'm sure."
Riley, who had been 'baby-sitting' the silent radio, moved out to make room for James. As he approached the Plot Table the Captain ordered brusquely, "Riley, get down to the Missile Room, and see how Sharkey and Sparks are doing. Tell them that I want that message repeated every minute until they hear otherwise."
As the civilian left the Control Room, McNeil stepped closer to Morton. "Skipper," he said quietly, "don't you think it's time you took a break? The crew came aboard in Bangor nearly twenty-four hours ago, and you've been on duty almost ever since. Everybody else here has at least gotten an hour or two of sleep. It's your turn. Even if it's only fifteen minutes, you need a break."
Morton studied the concerned face of his First Officer. He felt his carefully constructed veneer evaporate. Hours worth of frustration and worry welled up inside him in one bitter wave, threatening to break across the young man's frame. With effort, he fought it down. This isn't his fault. Instead, the Captain expelled a long, profound sigh. Supporting himself on the table, arms outspread, he stared at the charts in front of him. "Thanks, Harry. You're right," he looked up and almost smiled, "but you know I can't leave now. Not with the Admiral out there."
"Aye, sir. I understand."
No, you don't. You couldn't possibly. But someday you will.
"Capt. Morton, sir," Yagashi reported, "that's definitely the Flying Sub."
"2000 yards and closing fast, sir. We should be able to see her in a minute."
"Harry, you have the con. Call the Missile Room, and tell Sharkey that Sparks can stop transmitting. The three of them should report to the Control Room. I'm sure they'll want to be here. I'll be up front."
* * *
"How d'ya figure she ever got into that position?" Chief Sharkey asked.
"I don't know, Chief."
"D'ya think the Skipper . . .er . . . Adm. Crane and 'Ski are OK in there?"
"I don't know that, either. All I know is that we have orders to snag it and pull it out into the open. Period." Cmdr. Morton slowed, banked steeply to get a better view of the area, and groaned.
"D'you say something, sir?"
"No, Chief, I didn't say anything." He scowled in concentration at the task before him, trying to block out Sharkey's chatter. "Are you ready with that hook?"
"Yes, sir. Just say the word."
"I'm going to come around for another pass. Watch our range. When we get to fifty yards, drop the hook."
"Aye, sir. Fifty yards."
The Flying Sub made a wide, sweeping arc over the ledge that had entrapped the small craft. As it came around, it slowed, dropped the grappling hook, and dragged it ineffectually over the ocean floor.
"No luck that time, sir. We missed by about ten feet. That overhang juts out farther than it looks."
"All right, we'll try it again. This time let the hook out a little sooner -- seventy five yards."
"Aye, sir. Seventy-five."
Another pass, another miss.
"OK, Chief, reel it back in again. This time I'm going to approach from the front. Let the hook out at one hundred yards. I'll accelerate, and bank hard to port. That should swing the hook around behind us, and get it in under the ledge."
"But Mr. Morton, at that speed, if it does catch, won't it just rip the cable right out of our hull?"
"Not if you let it out fast enough, it won't. Are you ready?"
"Aye, sir. All set."
* * *
Capt. Morton, Sparks, Sharkey, Riley, and Doc Jamieson all stood in rapt attention to the spectacle taking place outside the Observation Window. Their spirits sank with each of the first two failed attempts. When they realized what was being attempted the third time, they unconsciously held their breath -- willing it to work, but hardly daring to hope.
A collective sigh. Another miss -- but a very near miss. The Flying Sub reeled in the cable, and came around for another pass. This time it came in even faster, and banked more sharply.
"Look! He's got it!"
"It's hooked! It's hooked but good!"
"Would ya look at that!"
The trapped vessel was indeed firmly snared by the grappling hook. The mobile Flying Sub turned and moved in closer, taking up slack and maintaining a constant tension on the cable. Then it pulled slowly away. At first there was no visible movement of the craft. When it suddenly broke loose from the outcropping, it brought with it a rain of rocks and debris, and was momentarily hidden from sight by a cloud of disturbed silt from the ocean floor. When next they saw it, it was resting unobstructed and motionless.
The rescuers disengaged the grappling hook, reeled in the cable, and backed away. Their part of the operation finished, they remained to watch the conclusion.
"Mr. McNeil, bring us up fifty yards, Dead Slow. Prepare to engage the magnetic recovery gear." As the Captain gave the order, Seaview began to inch forward.
As the "All Stop" echoed through the Control Room, from station to station and back, Seaview's engines were stilled, and she drifted forward only a few more yards before stopping directly over the target.
"Open the forward hatch, and activate magnetic recovery gear."
As the sound of machinery rumbled beneath their feet, the Doctor called Sick Bay, to have emergency resuscitation gear brought forward. By the time it arrived, the Captain was ready to open the hatch. Only Riley thought to turn and wave a 'Thanks and Goodbye' to the hovering rescue craft. It dipped an acknowledgment and retreated into the murky distance.
The first one down the ladder into the Flying Sub was Capt. Morton, followed closely by pharmacist's mate Maloney, carrying two small oxygen tanks. In the dim light it was difficult even to distinguish the Admiral and Chief from their surroundings. They, along with tools, air tanks, and miscellaneous wiring circuits were deposited in a confused heap. The violent jolt of being yanked from their resting place and spun 180 degrees had thrown every movable object against the same bulkhead.
Donnelly and Brill, the next two men down the ladder, began to clear away the loose debris as Maloney checked for pulse and respiration. Looking up into the Captain's anxious face he reported, "They're both alive, sir," as he fitted a mask to each of their faces.
Morton sagged against the pilot's seat, eyes closed, his body finally released from the tension of the past hours. He remained in that position until a soft moan reached his ears. He looked back to the darkened corner where Maloney was still kneeling, and was encouraged to see both men stirring in response to the oxygen. Realizing his duties lay elsewhere, he slowly climbed the ladder to the main deck. There he scanned the area for another unoccupied seaman. Seeing none, he asked, "Sparks, can you go down and give them a hand?"
"Sure will," he said, jumping at the chance to help out.
"Doc, did you find everything you need in Sick Bay?"
"Yes, Captain. Things seem to be pretty much where I left them. Anything I can't find, Maloney will help me with." The Doctor's attention was at that moment diverted to the hatch where Crane and Kowalski were emerging, slumped heavily on the shoulders and arms of the assisting crewmen. "Here, lay them down right here," he said, indicating the two stretchers on the floor. While both were conscious, they were too weak yet to support themselves. After a cursory check to confirm Maloney's findings, he rose and nodded. "I think they'll be fine, but I won't know for sure until I can check them over completely. Let's get them to Sick Bay."
As the procession snaked through the Control Room, several crewmen laid encouraging hands on Chief Kowalski's shoulder as he passed by. When the last man had exited Morton returned to his station at the Plot Table. "Harry, get a repair crew down to the Flying Sub. I want a damage report and repair time estimate right away."
"Aye, sir." McNeil reached for the mike to carry out his orders, then hesitated. He watched the Captain make and scribble out the same Log entry three times.
"Is there a problem, Mr. McNeil?" Morton snapped, heedless of the harsh edge on his voice.
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Confused and irritated, Morton snarled, "Only if it will explain why you still haven't followed my orders."
Half the men in the Control Room jumped at the tone of voice, and involuntarily turned to the source. However, when they saw the glower on the Captain's face, they quickly buried their curiosity in their work.
Oh great, now I've done it. I've really lost it. I've embarrassed Harry, myself, and half the watch to boot.
But the look on McNeil's face was not one of humiliation, but of concern. "The problem is you, sir," he said quietly. "You're so dead on your feet, you can't think straight. You're not doing yourself or Seaview any good, and if you continue at this rate, you'll end up regretting something more dangerous than misspelling Kowalski's name . . . or biting my head off." His words were spoken so softly that even the most inveterate eavesdroppers couldn't hear; and so gently that even the raw-nerved Morton couldn't take offence.
The Captain stared at McNeil for fully thirty seconds before he moved a muscle. But his mind was not standing idle. He sure inherited a lot more than red hair from his uncle. When he finally did move, it was to hide the sheepish grin on his face. "If I just bit your head off, Mr. McNeil, why are you still making such good sense?"
The First Officer expelled an audible sigh of relief. "Then you'll go get some rest, sir?"
Morton nodded. "You have the con, Harry. I'm on my way to Sick Bay to check on the Admiral and Kowalski, then I'll be in my cabin." He started toward the door, but when he reached the periscope platform he turned and said, "Don't . . . "
" . . . forget those repairs," McNeil finished for him. "Aye, sir. I won't."
As the Captain made his way to Sick Bay, he heard with satisfaction the orders and responses regarding the Flying Sub. By the time he reached his destination, he was in an excellent frame of mind to receive good news -- which he did. The Admiral and Kowalski were both sitting up, albeit with support, trying to give the Doctor a hard time. They were succeeding.
"You haven't changed a bit, have you Admiral? You're not fine until I say you're fine. You may feel just dandy right now, but I won't have you walking out of here, only to pass out on the deck half an hour from now. I'm in no mood to be sewing up gashed heads, or patching broken bones. So you'll stay here until I say otherwise."
"If I didn't know better, Doc, I'd say you were enjoying this," the Admiral complained.
"Of course he is. He doesn't get to order people around like this at home." Chip Morton observed happily from his vantage point, leaning against the doorjamb. "It's good to see you both back in one piece," he added more seriously. "You had us worried there for a while."
"Captain," the Doctor said, "you don't look much better than these two. You need to . . . "
"I know, I know, " he said, raising his hands in surrender, "'get some rest'. I've already been ordered to my cabin. I just wanted to stop by here to make sure you didn't need any help, but I see you have matters well in hand. Before I go, though, can I have a word with the Admiral?"
The Doctor hesitated only a second, weighing the conditions of the two men, before giving his permission. "But only for a minute."
As the Doctor removed himself to the office portion of Sick Bay, Morton sat down heavily, straddling a nearby chair.
Admiral's expression sobered. "Any word from Adm. Nelson?"
"No, nothing. But they wouldn't have had time to reach the next station yet, anyway. I don't expect to hear from them for at least four hours."
"Is Harry in the Control Room?" Crane inquired.
"Yes, he's overseeing repairs on the Flying Sub. There's really nothing else for us to do until we hear from the Admiral."
"Good. You go get some sleep, Chip, and as soon as the Doc lets us out of here, I'll go relieve Harry."
"Sounds good to me. I'll see you in a few hours." When he was halfway through the door the Captain hesitated, then turned back. "By the way, I'm . . . uh . . . glad I don't have to . . . deliver any bad news to your families," looking from one man to the other he added, " -- either one of you." Both men nodded in understanding and appreciation. Satisfied, he continued through the door, and somehow kept from stumbling anywhere along the way to his cabin. Upon safe arrival, it was hard to tell which came first: falling across his bunk, or falling asleep.
. . . and time to every purpose under heaven
Five hours later a greatly refreshed Chip Morton stood conferring with Adm. Crane when the Control Room intercom crackled to life.
"Adm. Crane," James called from the Radio Shack.
Crane grabbed a mike and replied, "Yes, Mr. James, go ahead."
"I'm receiving a message from Adm. Nelson, aboard the Seaview. Where do you want to take it, sir?"
"I'll be right there," he replied. When he arrived James was holding a telephone handset out to him. "Crane here, sir."
"So, Lee, I guess our rescue mission was a success"
"Yes, sir. Kowalski and I are both fine, and the Flying Sub is being repaired . . . I told you she led a charmed life, didn't I?"
Nelson chuckled, "I'm beginning to believe you were right." He continued more seriously, "Any changes in your status?"
"None so far . . . " Crane was distracted by a commotion at the Plot Table. "Just a minute, sir. There's something happening up front." He put his hand over the mouthpiece of the handset, and called out to the nearest person in the gathering crowd. "Sharkey, what's going on? What's all the racket about?"
The former Chief detached himself from the group, and hurried back toward the Radio Shack. "Well, sir, it seems that a couple of the missing men -- Swanson and Gould were there names, I think -- just walked into the Reactor Room. They're putting out a call for the third one -- Matthews? -- right now. Good news, right, sir?"
"You bet it is, Chief" he said with a grin. Uncovering the mouthpiece he said, "Admiral, are you still there?"
"Still here, Lee. Good news?"
"Yes, sir. Two more . . ." The words 'Matthews is asleep in his rack!' made their way into the Radio Shack. ". . . no, make that all three, of our missing men have reappeared. I'd say you've been doubly successful. You've already made your stop at Station Cancun?"
"Yes, and everything seemed to go according to your Log entries and notes. So now everything is back in place except Pem."
Lee felt his spirits sink. "Yes. Except Pem."
Adm. Nelson, hearing the discouragement creep into Crane's voice, countered with, "We're not beaten yet. We still need to return to Station Malibu to finish the delivery and debriefing. The storm has completely passed, so we can make good time, and we'll have no problem surfacing to make the delivery. Perhaps it's something in that delivery that will make the difference."
"You're right, Admiral, there's no reason to give up hope yet. Is there anything we can do to help?"
"No, nothing. It should take us about eight hours to get there, so don't expect to hear from us before then."
"Understood. And we'll contact you immediately if there's any change in our status."
"Very good. Nelson out."
* * *
The temporary, floating dock at Station Malibu was alive with activity. There were sailors unloading boxes and parcels from the Cargo Hatch. Station personnel were trundling the cargo off to storage and lab facilities. Capt. Crane was off to one side recalling 'the good old days' with a former classmate. And there was a repair crew inspecting and reinforcing the underwater repair job which had been made to the Sonar array.
Half an hour later, Adm. Nelson emerged from the main building, where he had been conferring with the Station Commander, Murphy Tyler. Besides a bulging briefcase, he also carried an overstuffed canvas mail-bag.
"Riley!" he called to the nearest available seaman. As the young man ran over, Nelson hoisted the heavy bag into his arms. "Stow this down in the Cargo Bay with the mail from the other stations." As Riley turned to leave the Admiral added with a slight grimace, "And please be careful with it."
By this time most of the activity had melted away. The Cargo Hatch was resealed, the repair crews had vanished, and the last of the crates had just disappeared into the mess hut. Only Crane, having just taken leave of his friend, remained on the dock when Nelson and Tyler arrived. "Lee, has there been any word from Sparks?" Nelson asked.
"No, sir. I left orders that if he received any word at all he should notify you or me immediately. He hasn't."
Seeing the looks on the two officers' faces, Dr. Tyler observed, "That sounds like bad news. Is there anything we can do from here to help?"
Nelson shook his head slowly. "No . . . no, Doctor, I'm afraid not. We were trying to help . . . a friend . . . and it seems we haven't been very effective." Regaining his bearing, the Admiral extended a hand to the Station Commander. "Dr. Tyler, you should be very pleased with the work you and your team have been doing here. As soon as we get your data back to the Institute, and compare our analysis with yours, I'm sure we'll have a good working model to present to the Secretary. Maybe the next time we return it won't be to bring supplies, but to transport you home."
"That's beginning to sound good, Admiral. In another few months I think we'll all be ready to go home. Thanks again, and Godspeed."
Seaview's engines rumbled to life as Crane and Nelson approached the gangplank. Suddenly their attention was caught by an excited shout from the Bridge. It was Kowalski, waving a slip of paper. As he hurried down the shaky walkway he reported. "This message just came in, sir," he said handing it to the Admiral. "Mr. Morton said I should get it out to you right away."
"Very well, Kowalski, dismissed." After the Admiral had read the message for himself he looked up and said to Crane, "It seems our 'friend' put in an appearance for about thirty seconds. He said nothing, did nothing, then simply vanished again -- without explanation." While the two officers were debating whether this was good news or bad, another disturbance was heard on the Bridge. This time Seaman Riley emerged, waving wildly, and shouting inarticulately. He was dragging a large, heavy mailbag, clearly labeled 'Station Malibu'. When he finally had the sack dragged onto the deck, he caught his breath and announced, "Sharkey just found this mailbag hangin' out behind a crate in the Cargo Bay. Somebody must have shoved it back there during all the hullabaloo when you took out the other Flying Sub. Anyway, he said I'd better get it out here or you'd have him for breakfast. Sir."
The Admiral regarded the Captain with the beginnings of optimism. "Maybe this is what we've been waiting for."
"Bring it on over, Riley!" Crane shouted.
As Riley heaved the unwieldy burden over his shoulder Nelson added, "And be careful!".
Too late. Stepping onto the gangplank, Riley tripped over the uneven edge, and almost fell into the water. He was able to catch himself, but the bag went down. "Man, oh, man!" he moaned, lunging at it, but again nearly fell in. "Wipe out!"
By this time the Captain was beside him, hauling him back onto more solid footing. "Watch it, Riley! If you fall in that ice water you won't last a minute. Go get a hook!"
As Riley raced away, Nelson and Crane watched in horrified disbelief as the mailbag opened, and its contents began to float away. When Riley returned, Crane managed to hook the bag with most of its contents intact. Meanwhile, the Admiral ordered Chief Sharkey and Kowalski to launch a raft to collect the items that had begun to scatter. Most of the items were salvaged quickly, however there was one envelope that eluded their best efforts. Each swell carried it farther away from the raft, and with each passing moment it became more and more waterlogged. It sank from view just as a billow of turbulence churned the waters. Engineering had chosen this untimely moment to test the Seaview's intake valves.
With their last hope of reconstructing the Seaview's 'future history' now shredded within her valves and gears, Crane and Nelson stood mute on the dock. "Now what?" Capt. Crane finally asked the Admiral.
"I don't know, Lee, I really don't know. But there's nothing more we can do here. We'll head back to the rendezvous and . . . come up with a new plan," Nelson replied; but his words held more confidence than his thoughts.
Unable to fathom the bizarre activity he'd witnessed in the past few minutes, a rather bewildered Dr. Tyler attempted to cheer the two officers. "It was only one letter. And though it was very kind of you to try to retrieve it for us, there's really no need for all this fuss. I'm sure if it was important news, the person will write again."
"Perhaps you're right, Doctor." Nelson said, not wishing to make any explanations. The two men exchanged farewells again, and Seaview made ready to cast off.
* * *
"Adm. Crane, sir, I have Adm. Nelson on the line. Where do you want to take it?" After eight hours of relative inactivity, everyone in the Control Room had gotten enough sleep, enough food, and more than enough time to think. They were ready to do something.
"I'll come back there, Mr. James." As Lee Crane walked briskly back to the Radio Shack he realized, as did everyone else, that this couldn't be good news. If the mission had been a success, it would not have been Nelson they were hearing from, but Pem. "Yes, Admiral, go ahead."
"Has there been any change in your status?" It was an obvious question, considering the circumstances, but it had to be asked.
"No, there's been nothing since that brief encounter about an hour ago. How did things go at Malibu?"
As Nelson related the story of the lost letter, Crane's face reflected the devastating news more eloquently than words. The entire Control Room watched and understood that they probably weren't going home.
"Yes, Admiral, I see. . . . I understand . . . Yes, I think that would be the best thing . . ." Suddenly the boat lurched violently, scattering men, charts, and instruments. "Admiral, are you still there? Admiral? Come in, Seaview." But it was no use, the line was dead. "Mr. James, try to get them back."
As the Admiral strode forward to the Plot Table, the Captain and Mr. McNeil were already firing orders into the seeming chaos of the Control Room.
"Damage Control -- Report!"
"Sonar -- What hit us? Where did it come from?"
Before any responses could be given, another tremor shook the crew, this time much less violently. Under any other circumstances this would have been a cause for further alarm, but Lee Crane and Chip Morton had run this drill often enough to feel a surge of hope. They exchanged a quick glance before seeking out the chronometer. Unfortunately, it was ticking off the seconds in a dishearteningly regular fashion.
"What the devil . . .?"
Every head snapped around at the sound of the voice. But only four knew -- unmistakably knew -- to whom it belonged. Those four, Crane, Morton, Kowalski, and McNeil, were drawn forward in disbelief.
"Admiral, sir? . . . " Harry McNeil began hesitantly.
"Harry!? Lee? Where . . .?" Before Adm. Nelson, or anyone else, could ask or answer any more questions they were interrupted by the whining, wheedling, infuriating, and utterly beautiful voice of Mr. Pem.
"Well, well, well, gentlemen. After your arduous labor of the past two days I decided to bring you all together for a pleasant little reunion before I move along. I'm afraid I was remiss in not contacting you immediately upon my . . . reincarnation, but I had a few other items to attend to. I do hope you'll excuse me for the delay, I assure you it was due neither to negligence nor procrastination on my part."
"Pem! You're back! What . . ." Adm. Crane finally managed to interject.
"Why, yes, of course I'm back. I should think that would be fairly obvious even to you, Capt. Crane," he said disdainfully. "Now, I see that you're all simply bursting with questions, and perhaps I can supply the answers to some of them, but first I feel the need to express my heartfelt gratitude for your valiant efforts in restoring me to history. I don't mind telling you that I was rather concerned about your capacity for benevolence toward me, Adm. Nelson, especially after the tone of our last encounter." Pem regarded Nelson down the length of his nose, as if to accuse him of some transgression. "So you can imagine my delight when I found myself once again on the deck of the Seaview. Then, of course, there was that unfortunate bit of business with the letter . . ."
"About that letter . . ." Nelson broke in, rather sharply, in order to stay the torrent of words issuing forth from the infuriatingly verbose man, "I thought that when we lost that letter we'd changed history -- and lost any prospect of seeing you again. Nevertheless, you're here. Why?"
"Why, Admiral, you sound almost disappointed. And after all your hard work, I assumed you would welcome my return. Ah well, just when you think you've gotten to know a person . . . " He shook his head in mock displeasure. "But, I digress. The infamous letter of which you speak was never meant to be delivered. Now, what do you think of that?"
Without pausing even for a breath, let alone a response, Pem continued. "The first time the mail sack was delivered, that particular letter was also lost. So, you see, when you were ready to sail without having delivered it, history was put back into it's natural order. That's why I was able to return here. However, when your oversight was discovered shortly thereafter, and the letter was as good as delivered, I was once again relegated to oblivion. It was only through the ensuing clumsiness and ineptitude on the part of your crew that my re-embodiment was made permanent and I am able to stand before you a whole man!" He spread his hands wide, displaying himself, and paused as if waiting to be congratulated, applauded, or at least welcomed. He received only baffled stares.
Early in this one-sided conversation, Capt. Morton had the forethought to hit the open intercom button, so that Pem's speech could be heard throughout the boat. Most of the men remained where they were, but when the Tigers heard Adm. Nelson's voice, they hurried forward in hopes of seeing him again. As Sharkey, Sparks, Riley and Doc Jamieson came through the hatch into the Control Room, they caught Pem's attention. "Ah, and here are some of our heroes now!" he exclaimed, descending upon the newcomers. "I would particularly like to shake your hand, Mr. Riley. Without your graceless bumbling we would all still be lost." Riley, having no knowledge of what had taken place at Malibu, nor any understanding of why Pem was both insulting and congratulating him, simply stood and stared at the primly extended hand.
Riley's inadvertent diversion gave Adm. Nelson an opportunity to edge closer to his nephew. McNeil, for his part, had been paying very little attention to Pem, so mesmerized was he with the sight of his uncle. Given this brief respite from Pem's oratory Nelson began quietly, "Harry, we haven't much time. I've written . . . " Before he could finish, however, he was interrupted by Adm. Crane, recalling Pem from his pontificating.
"But what was in the letter? What made it so important?" Crane asked.
"Ah, yes. I knew someone would ask that very question, which is precisely the reason I expended the extra time and effort required to do a little research for you. Although I must admit," he confided pretentiously, "I was just the tiniest bit curious myself. The missive was, if you'll pardon the rather picturesque expression, a 'Dear John' letter to my grandfather. Had it actually been delivered it would have taken him and his intended bride another two years to reconcile their differences and enter a state of nuptial bliss. They would have settled in a different part of the world; their children would have met and married different people; and I, unfortunately, would have been misplaced in history. 'All for the want of a horse-shoe nail,' so to speak."
"So history has now been restored to its original pattern?" Adm. Nelson inquired.
"Nearly, my good Admiral, nearly. There remain one or two deeds to be done. First, I must return this vessel and its fine crew to it's proper place in history." A collective sigh of relief was heard throughout the Control Room.
Relief tempered, however, by the knowledge that this egomaniac couldn't be trusted. An anonymous "I'll believe it when I see it", was heard only by the senior officers, who shared the same misgivings.
" . . . And second, Adm. Nelson, you will be gratified to learn that in spite of your recalcitrance -- which, I might add, precipitated this bothersome episode in the first place -- I have decided to be magnanimous. I plan to reinstate your Seaview to its status and position of two days ago. Neither you nor your crew will have any memory of my visit." Pem hooked his thumbs into his vest, and drumming his fingers smugly upon his chest, smiled with self-satisfied pleasure.
Casting a quick glance toward his nephew, Adm. Nelson asked, a bit wistfully, " . . . No memory at all?"
"None whatsoever," he replied, not bothering to note the Admiral's tone. Removing his timepiece from its pocket, he addressed Nelson, "Well, sir, shall we be off?" And before there was opportunity for anyone to utter a word of objection, thanks, or farewell the boat was shaken by mild tremor, and the two men were gone. Seconds later Seaview was jostled a second time, as the chronometer sped forward crazily.
* * *
When it finally stopped its dizzy advance the chronometer read 2230 hours on July 17, 1998 -- just five hours past the time of Pem's first appearance.
"Navigation, check our position!"
Several minutes later McNeil reported to the Captain. "Sir, visual sightings corroborate the navigational satellite readout. We're at 43.2N by 126.2W -- less than fifty miles from our last recorded position in these waters."
"Very good, Harry." The Captain's relieved smile was just a pale reflection of the broad grin on his First Officer's face.
After the initial elation at having truly returned home, the atmosphere in the Control Room settled into a forced normalcy. The Tigers, no longer needed for emergency duty, had retired to their quarters, leaving the regular crew to perform their routine duties in a somewhat mechanical fashion.
"Chip, it doesn't look like you have any more use for a semi-retired Admiral up here," Lee Crane said. "If there are no objections, I think I'll stretch my legs a bit, then go on to the Admiral's cabin. Join me there when you go off watch?"
"Of course, Lee." He consulted his watch, "I'll be along in about an hour." As the Captain watched his friend depart, he knew it wasn't just to 'stretch his legs'. The Admiral's slow gait, slumped shoulders, and downcast eyes illustrated a weariness that didn't come from lack of sleep. He, too, was feeling let-down after the excitement of the last day, and especially after seeing and losing Admiral Nelson . . . again.
Chip Morton was right. It wasn't for exercise, but for remembrance, that Admiral Crane toured Seaview. He made many solitary stops, recalling the faces and events of which his memories were composed. Memories of a time when this boat and her crew were his responsibility, his pride, and his joy. But soon, it would be a nothing but an artifact -- a relic of a former lifetime.
It was nearly an hour later when Crane found himself in front of the 'Admiral's Cabin'. Morton was already approaching from the Control Room, and the two entered together. Crane was subdued but no longer troubled. After settling comfortably on opposite sides of the desk, he grinned amiably and asked, "So, Captain, how are you going to enter all this in the Log?"
"I've been giving that question careful consideration, Lee, and so far I haven't come up with an answer. Chances are anything too near the truth will send me into enforced retirement, medical discharge, or worse!" he laughed. "I don't think this is the kind of publicity the Institute would relish one week before unveiling its plan to turn Seaview into a living history museum."
"You're probably right,"Admiral Crane admitted. "'Time Travel on Tiger Tour' certainly isn't a headline calculated to secure the public's confidence. Seriously, though, you will have to account for the damaged Flying Sub, and the five hour communications blackout."
"For those two items I have a couple of ideas that are pretty close to the truth. As for the rest . . . well, just between you and me, I've always wanted to try my hand at creative writing . . ." he grinned from under a cocked eyebrow. "But you left out a third complication -- what about the missing 1978 Log?"
"That's right! The Admiral never had a chance to return it. And that's something you can't just gloss over. The public -- not to mention the scientific community -- will be clamoring to see anything that was written during his lifetime. Any ideas?"
"You mean besides 'Historic Admiral Incurs Wrath of Malevolent, Time-Traveling Genius; Appropriates Ship's Log to Repair Flawed Future; Fails to Return Same.'?" Morton spread his hands as if to display a banner headline, then let them drop them heavily to the arms of his chair. "No, besides that I haven't come up with anything."
"Y'know, Chip, you're getting punchy," Crane laughed. "Maybe you'd better get some more sleep before you bite off someone else's head . . . like mine."
The Captain looked confused, and a little abashed. "Who told you about that? Not Harry?"
"No, no -- not Harry. It was Sharkey. He hasn't changed a bit -- he still knows everything that goes on in this boat, and still doesn't hesitate to spread it around." Crane rose from his desk and shook an accusing finger at his friend, "But you're changing the subject, Capt. Morton. Now get out of here and go get some rest. We can worry about Logs, and reports, and early retirement in the morning."
"Aye, aye, sir," Morton replied with a mock salute, but a genuine smile. "See you in the morning, Lee."
But it was only ten minutes later that Admiral Crane heard the Captain's voice over his intercom. "Lee? Can you come to my cabin? There's something here you should see." His voice didn't sound worried, but it did have a definite edge of urgency to it.
"I'm on my way, Chip."
Upon his arrival, Crane found the Morton studying a Log. "Chip, I thought you weren't going to . . ."
Morton waved away this friend's irrelevant scolding. "I didn't . . . I'm not . . . this isn't . . ." Losing patience with his own stammering, he raised his voice, "Lee, look at this!"
Crane came around behind the Captain's chair and began to read the entry at the top of the page, "'July 18 -- Station Malibu -- Commander Tyler reported box containing extra medical supplies smashed in accident 10 days ago. Research Assistant Girard injured in . . .' Why, this is the 1978 Log! Where did it come from?"
"I have no idea. I was locking up the Records Cabinet when I noticed that there was nothing missing -- no empty spaces. This was sitting on the shelf, right where it belongs, complete with a layer of dust on top as if it had never been moved. This was tucked inside." Morton produced a sealed envelope, labeled in Admiral Nelson's distinctive handwriting: 'To be opened on or after July 18, 1998.'
The clock on the Captain's desk read 2358. "Close enough?" The Admiral nodded. Morton solemnly broke the seal on the envelope. Inside were four sheets of paper. Three of them were addressed separately: 'Lee Crane', 'Chip Morton', and 'Harry McNeil'. These were folded inside the fourth, which the Captain handed to Crane. He read aloud:
July 18, 1978
Since you are reading this message, the Log which held it has apparently been restored to its proper place on board the Seaview. While unaware of what the future -- immediate or distant -- holds for us, or how our current situation may be resolved, I am increasingly aware of my own mortality. With that in mind, I am 'posting' these communications here in the rather optimistic hope that Mr. Pem will be recovered, and that he will be prevailed upon to return history to its previous course. That being the case, this book will have followed that same course, and will once again be occupying its own place and time, twenty years hence.
Please forward the enclosed letters to the men named.
Crane smoothed the sheet of paper out on the desk. The two men re-read the short message, studying the familiar handwriting. Finally, the Admiral said quietly, "Shall we call Harry?"
When the young officer arrived, Capt. Morton described the discovery of the Log and the envelope. He then handed the open letter to him, allowing him to read it without further comment. Finally, he handed each man his own letter.
Each produced its own reaction. Harry McNeil must have had trouble focusing on the words, because he found it necessary to rub his eyes frequently during the several readings of his letter. That it was not sorrow blurring his vision was confirmed by the proud, happy smile on his face as he carefully stored his treasure.
Lee Crane stood rather stiffly to read his letter the first time. He slowly paced the floor as he read it a second time. Then he settled into a chair, any residual weariness and melancholy dissolving as the words began to take effect. But he soon bounded up again, and read the letter one more time, now pacing to keep time with his exhilaration, rather than to expend tension. As he placed the letter safely in his pocket his whole being radiated contentment.
Chip Morton's reaction was much less obvious. He read his letter through twice before it produced any visible effect at all. Then he allowed himself a small, knowing grin as he read it again. Finally, he folded it very precisely, and without losing his grin, placed it in his personal journal.
None of the three men ever mentioned the letters again, either to each other, or to anyone else.
Why is it so hot in here? Don't these guys believe in air-conditioning? And what's taking them so long, anyway? They read slower than Kowalski!
Capt. Chip Morton stood at parade rest, in full uniform, in the office of Rear Adm. Phillip Raymond, Director of Maritime Operations at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Seated beside him was Madison Alexander, the Institute's Director of Public Relations. The two men had called him in to 'answer a few informal questions' regarding his official report on the Tiger Cruise.
"Can you give us any more particulars on the cause of the damage to the Flying Sub?"
"As I stated in the report, Chief Kowalski and one of the Tigers went out for a brief excursion. When problems with the main power line developed the Flying Sub was unable to return under its own power, and had to be brought aboard using the standard magnetic recovery gear."
"How long was the Flying Sub out of communication with Seaview?"
"Just under one hour, sir."
Alexander had simply been observing up to this point. Now he asked a question. "Were there any injuries?"
"Were any outside parties called in to assist in the rescue operation?" Raymond continued.
"No, sir." The Captain mentally crossed his fingers even though technically he was telling the truth. "Only Seaview personnel were involved."
"We understand there was a good deal of damage -- scratches, dents, gouges -- to the outer hull. How did those occur?"
"When the Flying Sub lost power, it landed among jagged rocks."
"You haven't stated the cause of the malfunction which caused the failure of the . . . uh . . . main power line."
"No, sir. It was never precisely determined." Maybe it's time for a small dose of misdirection. "That particular Flying Sub is old, sir. Over twenty years old."
The two men nodded in understanding, but were still not completely satisfied. "Why did you send a Tiger out the first place? Wouldn't a simple exhibition, performed by experienced personnel have been more prudent?" the Public Relations Director inquired.
"As you know, sir, all the Tigers were ex-submariners, and all had served aboard Seaview in the past. At the time it didn't seem to be a risk."
Alexander persisted. "But why wasn't there an officer on board? Not to disparage Chief Kowalski's experience and commendable record, but isn't it customary to have a commissioned officer present on all maneuvers?"
"Yes, sir, it is customary. But as I mentioned earlier, considering the experience of the men involved, there didn't seem to be a risk. And in light of the nature of the problem, I don't believe the outcome would have been any different had there been an Admiral on board, sir." Ouch -- I may have cut that a little too close.
Adm. Raymond raised an amused eyebrow at the Captain's response, but refrained from commenting. For the next several minutes Seaview's Captain stared straight ahead, as if unaware of the nods and whispers being exchanged by the two men. He felt a small trickle of sweat inching its way down his back. Ultimately they seemed satisfied with his explanations. But instead of dismissing him, they moved on to another topic.
This time Alexander led the 'attack'. "We have just one more area of concern: The five hour communications black-out. You realize, of course, that such a thing is highly irregular on a Tiger Cruise."
"Were you aware of the fact that your communications equipment was malfunctioning?" Adm. Raymond questioned.
"In reality, the malfunction was of a very short duration, sir."
"Then why did you neither transmit nor acknowledge any communications during that entire period?"
A full thirty seconds ticked by while Captain Morton frowned at the edge of Adm. Raymond's desk and debated with himself. Lying is out of the question. Then again, so is the truth. That leaves only misdirection -- again. How much will these guys swallow? Having come to a decision of sorts, he stood a little straighter, fixed his eyes on wall behind the desk and asked, "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Relax, Morton," the Admiral replied with an perfunctory smile. "This isn't an Inquisition . . ."
Yeah. Right. And I'm Secretary of the Navy!
" . . . nor are you standing Captain's Mast. We only need some clarification on these points before signing your report for the record. So by all means, go ahead."
Composing his face into what he hoped was an expression of penitent chagrin, he addressed the Admiral, "I should have listened to you, sir, when you said this Tiger Cruise was a bad idea. I fought for it because I didn't foresee the problems that could arise. I was counting on the previous training and experience of the men to counter their years away from the sea. I should have known better from previous Tiger Cruises." The Captain sighed deeply, as if in exasperation, before coming to his point. "Whenever you get a bunch of civilians aboard, they always manage to find a way to foul things up."
The two Directors -- one Navy, one civilian -- rolled their eyes, and exchanged knowing looks. "I understand, Captain." Admiral Raymond nodded as he reached for his pen. After both men had signed the report, Raymond dismissed the Captain with the half-serious admonition, "Keep that in mind for future reference, Mister. Sometimes Admirals do know what they're talking about. Dismissed."
"Aye, sir." Captain Morton took one step backward, turned crisply, and strode out of the room, breathing a sincere prayer of thanks.
* * *
July 18, 1978 - Research Station Malibu - Greenland Sea
Admiral Nelson and Station Commander Tyler chatted sociably as they strolled from the main building towards the temporary loading dock as the last of the supplies were being distributed to their respective buildings. As they walked Dr. Tyler watched the dark clouds racing across the sky. "Looks like we're in for some weather," he commented.
"You're right. As soon as we can get underway we'll be heading to open sea to ride out the warm front. We don't want to get caught under this ice-pack with a storm above."
When the two men reached the end of the loading dock they were joined by Capt. Crane. Only Riley was left, wrestling a particularly unwieldy mail sack. The three men watched with combined amusement and trepidation as Riley first dragged, then attempted to swing the canvas sack over his shoulder. He was only moderately successful considering the fact that he lost his balance in the process, and nearly fell off the gangplank, into the ice-cold water below.
"Riley, watch yourself!" the Captain yelled as he dashed up the gangplank to help. "You wouldn't last a minute in that ice water!"
Before Crane could reach his side, however, Riley had a firm grip on both the sack and his equilibrium, and all parties made it safely to solid ground. The good luck ended there.
"Here's the mail, sir," Riley reported -- unnecessarily -- as he swung the sack to the ground. The impact of hitting the ground proved to be too much for the clasp on the overstuffed bag. It broke, and a handful of envelopes slipped out onto the ground. As Riley rushed to collect them, one was picked up by a gust of wind from the gathering storm. First it fluttered just a few feet away, then a stronger gust picked it up and carried it a dozen feet into the air, where yet another air current caught it. As the five men watched, fascinated by this exotic ballet, the envelope soared over Seaview's bridge. It finally plunged into the water about fifty feet beyond.
Riley stood stunned before the Admiral, both hands full of envelopes, stammering an apology. "Admiral . . . sir. I really blew it . . I mean, sorry, sir. No excuse, sir . . ."
Dr. Tyler, seeing the young man's embarrassment, interceded on his behalf. "It was only one letter. Please, don't worry about it. I'm sure if it was important news, the person will write again."
Riley barely noticed Tyler's words. His eyes were fixed on Nelson, waiting for the storm to break. But as he watched, an amazing transformation came over the Admiral. Far from the dark and threatening expression he expected, Riley saw first a look of faraway preoccupation, then confusion. Finally, the Admiral shook his head as if to clear it. His eyes focused once again on the scene before him. "Perhaps you're right, Doctor. Maybe that letter just wasn't meant to be delivered." To Riley he simply said, "Dismissed." The baffled sailor lost no time in making himself scarce.
Turning again to Tyler, the Admiral bade him farewell. "Dr. Tyler, congratulations again to you and your team for the solid work you've done. Perhaps the next time we return it won't be to bring supplies, but to transport you home."
"That sounds good, Admiral. Until then." The two men shook hands and parted.
As the Admiral and Crane walked up the gangplank to Seaview the mystified Captain asked, "What was that all about back there? Riley was clearly at fault -- yet you acted as if he had practically done you a favor. I don't get it."
"To tell you the truth, Lee, neither do I. Seeing that letter triggered something in my mind . . .déjà vu, maybe? I have an odd feeling that delivering that letter would have . . . changed something . . . tampered with history, if that makes any sense." As they entered Seaview's bridge, Nelson shook his head again. "I don't understand why, but I'm sure that that letter's significance lies in its not being delivered."
Copyright 1999 by naloma
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