NIMR Reports is a Fan Fiction Magazine on the World Wide Web for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea starring Richard Basehart and David Hedison.


BATTLEGROUND OF THE MIND: 

A sequel to

"DAY OF EVIL"

by 

Carla Keehn


The ship's doctor finished listening to the patient's heartbeat. He looked up at the man standing in front of him and shook his head with a grim finality. "I'm sorry, Admiral, there just isn't anything I can do."

"There must be something!"

"I'm having a hard time even believing that this is happening," the Doctor snapped back. "If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have said that Lee Crane was the healthiest man on board this ship! Today . . ."

Today Lee's dying - and there isn't anything that any of us can do to help him, Nelson thought as he watched the Captain's body convulse with pain once again. The Admiral lashed out at the Doctor. "There has to be some explanation for this -- a man can't be healthy one day and at the brink of death the next!"

"I'm not even sure of what I'm dealing with here! His condition is deteriorating so rapidly . . . even for radiation sickness." Doc shook his head in frustration. "I just can't understand it . . ."

"Understand what?"

"There seems to be something very strange about this whole thing, Admiral. The Captain's condition for one thing," Doc said, gesturing towards the patient. "There's so much pain medication in his system that he shouldn't even be conscious right now! It's almost as if his body is fighting a battle we can't understand."

"Doc, that doesn't make any sense! There must be something you can do, something that you've overlooked!"

"I'm sorry, sir, but I'm a doctor, not a magician. I can't pull cures for diseases out of the air!" His expression softened. "I'll make him as comfortable as possible, but that's all I can do."

The Captain's eyes searched sightlessly around the room for a moment; then Nelson saw a flicker of recognition in Crane's eyes. "Admiral . . ."

Nelson grasped his friend's outstretched hand. "Easy, Lee. Doc says that you need to get as much rest as you can."

Crane shook his head. "No . . . not much time." He swallowed hard as another pain racked his body. "Have to warn you."

"Warn me about what?" Nelson bent closer, trying to hear the Captain's weak voice. "I'm here, Lee, what is it that you need to warn me about?"

"It's . . . it's a contest of . . . wills, Admiral," Crane whispered, his strength waning. "Radiation . . . stop them . . . must stop . . ."

Contest of wills . . . The Admiral turned Crane's words over and over in his mind. After a few moments, he recalled a disturbing memory. It had been almost a year to the day since the Seaview had investigated the sighting of an unidentified flying object in the Pacific waters. The alien entity was equipped with the power to assume any form at will. Desperate to conquer the Earth to ease the overcrowding on its home planet, the alien had tried to blackmail Nelson into using Seaview's missiles to start a nuclear holocaust -- using Crane as the bait. The Admiral had refused to cooperate. Even though the alien had found a way to launch the missile, Nelson had averted disaster when he activated the missile's self-destruct mechanism.

"Doc, what else has Lee been saying?"

"Mainly what you just heard. Why? Does it mean something to you?" He looked quizzically at Nelson. "The Captain is running a very high fever; I'm certain that he doesn't even know what he's saying."

The Admiral absently ran his hand along the back of his neck as he weighed Crane's words. Doc may be right. But Lee's life is at stake -- if the aliens have returned, there's only one way to stop them . . .

Doc reached out and sympathetically clasped Nelson's shoulder. "Admiral, please -- why don't you try and get some rest? You're not doing Lee or yourself any good by watching this."

Nelson glanced at Crane, hoping that it wasn't too late. "You're right, Doc -- I can't do anything for Lee waiting around here." Nelson paused. "Someone . . . someone should be with him."

"I'll be with him the whole time, sir. If there's any change in his condition, I'll notify you at once."

Nelson nodded. "I want to know if there's even the slightest change."

"Yes, sir, of course."

Several minutes later, the Admiral, with Chief Sharkey in tow, paused outside the Reactor Room.

"All right, Chief, listen carefully. Once we go in there, I want you to stand by to cut off the reactor at my command."

"But, Admiral, if we cut off the reactor, we won't be able to hold trim and . . ."

Nelson glared at his subordinate. "Listen, Chief, I don't have time to stand around and argue with you! This is the only chance we have to save Captain Crane's life, do you understand? No matter what you see or hear, you've got to give me your word that you will cut off that reactor the second I give the command!"

"Yes, sir, Admiral, whatever you say."

"Good. Let's go." Nelson cracked the hatch and the two men stepped into the Reactor Room. The Admiral looked around in anticipation.

"What's the matter, sir? What were you expecting to find in here?"

"Nothing -- nothing at all," Nelson said as he walked cautiously around. "Just stand by and wait for that order."

Sharkey recognized the no nonsense tone of the Admiral's voice and straightened. "Aye, sir."

"Looking for me, Admiral?" The man stepped out of the shadows with a triumphant smile on his face.

"Admiral?" The Chief looked at Nelson, then gaped at the mirror image. "Two admirals? But how . . .?"

"An amazing likeness, don't you agree?" He laughed at Sharkey, then turned to Nelson. "I've been waiting for you, Admiral."

"I wasn't sure who or what I was dealing with until I talked to Crane."

"Ah, yes, your friend the Captain. I take it he's feeling . . . I believe the expression you would use is 'under the weather'?" The impostor smirked.

"You're responsible for what's happened to the Skipper?" Sharkey raised his fist. "Let me take care of this guy, Admiral!"

"Simmer down, Chief, and stand by." Nelson said, motioning Sharkey to stand still. "There are some things I want to know. Why are you here? What do you hope to accomplish with Crane's death?"

"It's quite simple really. You've caused me a considerable amount of trouble with my superiors, Admiral. They consider failure to be a weakness -- a weakness that will not be tolerated, I'm afraid."

"That's all very interesting, but what has that got to do with your presence on Seaview?"

"You're a military man as well as a scientist. I'm sure that you'll agree that the key to winning any battle is to know your opponent's weakness."

"Yes, that's true. Go on."

"We need your world, Admiral. My superiors have finally realized that we grossly underestimated your intelligence last time, which no doubt gave you the upper hand in our little encounter. You stand between us and the taking of the Earth. So, in preparation for our next and final battle, you have become the subject of, shall we say, a scientific experiment?"

"An experiment?"

"Of course. Every enemy has a breaking point, Admiral." The mirror image stared at Nelson with an expression of malicious pleasure on his face. "Even a man such as yourself. The sudden and agonizing death of your friend will destroy you -- then our future upon the Earth will be assured."

"I see." The Admiral took a defiant step forward. "I wouldn't count on that future coming to pass."

"I think otherwise. There's nothing that you or anyone else can do to stop us."

Nelson shook his head. "No, there's one way. You must be expending a great deal of energy right now. Not only in maintaining that form, but Captain Crane is fighting against your control, using up whatever reserve you have."

"Careful, Admiral," the alien said in a low tone. "With a simple wave of my hand, I can cause your friend to suffer more agonies than either you or he can imagine."

The Admiral winced slightly at the alien's well-aimed words.

"Admiral, maybe he's right, maybe this isn't such a good idea," Sharkey said.

"Be quiet, Chief!" Nelson snapped, then faced the mirror image again. "There's only one place on this ship that you can be supplementing your power from," he continued, undaunted by the threat. Nelson turned towards Sharkey. "Now, Chief -- cut the power!"

"Don't be a fool, Admiral -- you can't destroy me!" The alien waved his arm towards Sharkey.

The Chief hit the cut off switch. Immediately after, Sharkey's body jerked, then he slid unconscious to the deck. Nelson lunged at the alien, which knocked both of them off their feet. As they struggled violently, the alien reached out and clamped his hand on Nelson's arm. Nelson staggered backwards at the agonizing pain that shot through his body. Suddenly, the mirror image stiffened for a moment, then backed away as the loss of power began to affect him.

"You're beaten." Nelson said, his breath ragged. He turned to help the dazed Chief to his feet.

"Beaten?" The alien appeared to find some amusement in the Admiral's words. "No, not beaten! The final battle is yet to come, Admiral, so beware! Beware . . ." The mirror image evaporated before their eyes.

The intercom suddenly came to life. "Admiral, this is Sick Bay, come in please."

Sharkey cast an anxious glance at Nelson. "Something's happened to the Skipper . . ."

"Admiral, this is Sick Bay . . ."

Admiral Nelson groaned as the sound of the intercom roused him from his fitful sleep. He lifted his head up from the desk, then relaxed, as he recognized his surroundings.

The insistent voice called him again. "Admiral, come in please."

Nelson tried to ignore the throbbing pain in his shoulder as he reached for the intercom. "Nelson, here. Yes, Doc?"

"You asked me to report to you when there was a change in Captain Crane's condition. He's awake and quite coherent. He's asking to see you."

"Is his condition still terminal?" A painful image of Crane thrashing in delirium flashed through the Admiral's mind.

"Terminal? His condition isn't terminal! I told you earlier that the Captain had sustained a mild concussion in that turbulence we encountered."

Nelson shook his head in confusion. I had a dream -- a nightmare, he thought as he gently flexed his aching arm. That must be it. I was worried about Lee's condition when I fell asleep . . . But it seemed so real . . .

"Admiral, are you there? I said the Captain is asking to see you."

"Yes, Doctor. Tell Captain Crane I'll be there shortly."

"Aye, sir. Sick Bay out."

The Admiral stood up, cradling his left arm to his side. He began kneading the painful spot near his shoulder. I can't go to Sick Bay like this, he thought, anticipating the unwelcome fuss the ship's doctor would make over his injury. Slowly, Nelson undid the buttons at the cuff and rolled up the sleeve of his shirt.

A feeling of apprehension swept over him as he studied the hand shaped burn on his upper arm. The Admiral glanced around the cabin uneasily, then looked again at his seared flesh. Not a dream, he thought grimly, but a warning, an advance warning of the battle yet to come . . .

Nelson straightened, then rolled down the sleeve and buttoned it. I'll be ready for you the next time . . . he thought with determination. I'll be ready . . .

The Admiral walked out of his cabin and headed for the Sick Bay.

The End


Copyright 1998 by Carla Keehn


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