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Christine Owens

Author's Note

On my birthday in September 1964,Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea premiered on ABC. I spent the next four years watching all 110 episodes. Some were wonderful. Others, like "The Terrible Leprechaun", were, frankly, terrible. Even though I was under 10, the episodes I remember most were the ones that showed the bonds between Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane. "The Saboteur", "Mutiny", and "The Traitor" are three of my favorites. They leave the monsters out and put the human factor in. Along those lines, I have written a story based on the personal instead of professional relationship of my favorite men in khaki.
Many years have passed since Commander Lee Crane left the U.S. Navy and joined The Nelson Institute of Marine Research. Lee Crane was married to an Institute research scientist name Barbara Wiley. They had a child together named Julia. When Julia was only a toddler, Barbara was killed in a diving accident leaving Lee to raise their child. With the help of "Uncle Harry" and about 125 godfathers, Julia has grown into a high-spirited, well-educated young woman. Sitting one day at his desk at the Institute, Admiral Nelson is interrupted from his thoughts by a whirlwind by the name of Julia Crane.

"Uncle Harry!" Julia yelled as ran across the room waving a letter in her hand. "It came in the morning mail!"

Harriman Nelson sat at his desk and smiled at his goddaughter. She looks more like Lee every day, he thought. Julia Crane was tall and slender. A mane of long black hair flowed down her back, and her hazel eyes shone with youthful enthusiasm "Pray tell, Miss Jules, what came today?"

Jules plopped down on the corner of the Admiral's desk "The letter! The letter from Annapolis!"

"Letter? You were waiting for a letter from Annapolis?" he teased.

"Uncle Harry, this is no time to fool. You know that I've been waiting to hear if I was accepted into the Naval Academy."

Nelson reached into the top drawer of his desk for a cigarette. Chuckling he asked, "Well, do we celebrate or not?"

Julia reached over and snatched the unlit cigarette from Nelson's mouth. "You quit, remember? And hand over the rest of the pack while I'm here." She took the pack and threw it in the wastebasket then shook a finger at the Admiral, "You're not following orders. If the Captain were here you'd really be in for it."

"Captain Crane may have the authority to overrule me on the Seaview, but this is my office young lady," he said, smiling into the familiar hazel eyes, "and only you out rank me on land. Now, what did the letter say?"

As Julia turned the envelope over in her hand, she replied, "I don't know. I didn't have the courage to open it." She held the envelope out for her godfather to take. "Read it, please."

Nelson took the envelope, opened it and read the contents to himself.

"Well!" Julia yelled, impatiently waiting for the news.

"You said to read it. Sooo, I'm reading it."

"Out loud, for heaven's sake!" Julia jumped off the desktop and started to pace the room.

"That kind of outburst will never do . . . Cadet Crane."

Julia came to an abrupt halt. "Cadet Crane?"

The Admiral rose and walked over to Julia where he gave her a hug and kissed her forehead. "I'm so proud of you. Your Dad will be too."

Julia, however, did not seem so sure. Looking into her godfather's eyes she asked, "What are you doing this evening?"

"Why?" he asked, now holding her at arm's length.

"Dad doesn't even know I applied to Annapolis. I'm not sure how he's going to take the news. If you were there . . ."

"If I were there," Nelson walked slowly around Julia in a circle, his arms crossed, "if I were there, I could create a diversion while you made a break for the front door."

"All those stars on your collar are such a waste. You should have been a comic."

Nelson smiled broadly, thoroughly enjoying himself. "Well, uh, be that as it may, I'll be there this evening. That is, of course, if you cook my favorite pot roast dinner."

Julia rolled her eyes, trying not to smile. "Black mail is most unbecoming to an officer, sir."

While they both laughed at each other, the intercom in the Admiral's office beeped. Lee Crane's voice came over the speaker. "Admiral, this is Lee. Are you there, sir?"

Nelson walked over to his desk. As he held his finger just above the intercom button, the Admiral couldn't help tormenting Julia one more time. "Maybe I should tell him now. By the time Lee makes it here from the dock, we could be long gone."

Giggling as she slapped her hand over Nelson's, Julia exclaimed, "Don't you dare or no pot roast for you, Admiral!"

Crane had informed Nelson that the refit of the Seaview had run into a problem, and that the work crew needed to see him right away. Nelson told Crane he would be right down. As Nelson turned from his desk he saw that Julia had walked across the room. She was standing in front of the large picture window. The view from the window was breathtaking as the ocean could be seen crashing to shore in the distance.

While still looking out the window Julia said, "I remember when I was little you used to let me play in front of the window while you worked. Then you would scoop me up and we would sit in the rocker and you would read me The Complete Works of Shakespeare." Turning to face the Admiral, Julia laughed heartily. "I was the only kid in kindergarten that could recite the soliloquy from Hamlet, 'To be or not to be'." She suddenly became very serious. Putting her hands on either side of her godfather's face, Julia gently kissed his cheek. "Sometimes I forget how lucky I am. And sometimes I forget to say thank you. Thank you, Uncle Harry."

Overcome with emotion, the Admiral put his arm around his goddaughter as he turned to leave for Seaview. "You're welcome," just above a whisper was all he could manage.

Julia went home to make dinner for her father and the Admiral. Nelson headed to the dock to see what the problem was with the refit. Evening finally rolled around and Lee Crane and Admiral Nelson headed home. Over the years the Admiral had spent more evenings than not with his Captain and goddaughter, so there was nothing unusual when Nelson accompanied Crane home.

"Hi!" was the greeting that came from the kitchen. Julia was just setting the table when they arrived. Crane and the Admiral made their way to the back of the house. "Dinner will be ready in a little bit. Why don't you both get changed and cleaned up."

Admiral Nelson leaned against the door jam of the kitchen. "What's for dinner?" he asked innocently.

As Julia slowly turned, her eyes narrowed. "Pot roast," she replied evenly.

"Well," the Admiral sighed, "I guess that will be acceptable. I had hoped for Italian tonight."

Lee left the kitchen to change out of his uniform. When Nelson turned to leave the room he was hit in the back of the head with an oven mitt. She always did have a good arm, he thought.

Dinner was served, and the conversation passed between people who were very comfortable together. Julia cleared the table and coffee was put on while the dishes were being done. Julia usually washed while her father dried. As Julia had once observed, "Four star Admirals don't do dishes."

"Why don't you two go into the living room. I'll bring the coffee in when it's done," Julia suggested, as she dried her hands on a towel.

"Thanks, Kid." Lee turned to kiss his daughter on the cheek. "Admiral, you want to come with me?"

"In a minute." After Lee had left the kitchen Nelson turned to Julia. "Do you have a plan, or are we just supposed to go in shooting?" he inquired. Nelson smiled as Julia twisted her high school class ring.

"Well, I think we should go in shooting. What does the Navy say, "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out."

"Umm, I think that's the Marines."

Julia groaned out loud. "Go! Go!" Julia exclaimed as she pushed Nelson towards the living room. "Make idle conversation. I'll be in with the coffee."

Lee was in the living room and he watched Nelson enter the room. The Admiral kept looking over his shoulder. Crane knew the Admiral and his daughter very well. They're up to something, he thought. Crane had watched the interaction of his friend and daughter for years. As Julia entered the room with a tray of coffee, he tried to decide which one of them was the worse. His daughter could be a handful with her free spirit and iron will, and the Admiral was the perfect catalyst for Julia. In his youth, the Admiral had been the water-over-the-door, shaving-cream-in-the-shoes type. He and Julia were quite a pair.

As Julia handed the Admiral and then her father their coffee cups, she asked, "Dad, can we talk?"

"I knew you two were up to something. What is it this time?" Setting his cup down, Crane looked from one to the other.

Sitting very close to her uncle on the couch, Julia proceeded. "Dad, I got a letter today from one of the schools I applied to for college. I've been accepted to one."

"Great! Which one? Brown? MIT?"

Julia looked briefly at the Admiral, then told her father the news. "No Dad, Annapolis."

"Annapolis? Jules, the University of Maryland is in Baltimore, not Annapolis".

Julia got off the couch and knelt in front of her father. "Annapolis, as in the United States Naval Academy."

"You've got to be kidding!" Crane shouted as he bolted off the chair and ran a hand through his graying hair.

"Lee, calm down!" Nelson jumped off the couch and grabbed Julia as she fell backward.

Crane turned to look squarely at the Admiral, but addressed Julia. "Who wrote the other letter of recommendation? It still takes two to be considered for appointment, doesn't it?"

"Admiral Starke," was the soft reply from his daughter.

Crane nodded in acknowledgement. Still looking at the Admiral the Captain spoke in an even tone. "Jules, please go up to your room. I want to speak to the Admiral."

Julia was now standing between Crane and Nelson with tears in her eyes. "Daddy, don't be mad at Uncle Harry! He was just trying to help."

Finally breaking eye contact with Nelson, Lee gently put a hand on Julia's shoulder. "All right, Jules. Go on, wait for me upstairs."

Julia turned to look at her godfather. The Admiral nodded slightly and Julia started to walk to the stairs. "Protect yourself in the clinches," she whispered into Nelson's ear.

"Now Julia," was the command from her father.

Turning, Julia ran up the stairs and into her room. He said to wait in my room, he didn't say anything about listening at the doorway, she thought as she waited to hear what was coming.

Crane waited until Julia was out of sight and then turned to face the Admiral. "How could you be so irresponsible? Annapolis! What the devil were you thinking!"

"If you'd stop shouting at me," Nelson answered calmly, "maybe I can explain." Lee took a breath to calm down as Nelson sat on the couch. "She came to me for help. She was afraid of how you would react. Apparently her instincts were correct."

"You had no right. She's my daughter, not yours." It was a comment he immediately regretted. "I'm sorry," Crane apologized as he sat on the couch with Nelson. "I know how much you love Julia, and I know it would have been very difficult for me to have raised Julia without your help after Barbara was killed, but you should have told me."

Nelson turned on the couch to face Crane. "Lee, that child has been saying since she was eight years old that she wanted to go to Annapolis and make the Navy her career. Didn't you hear her?"

"She was a little girl. Don't most little girls want to grow up to be ballerinas or princesses or something?"

Chuckling, Nelson continued, "Most little girls aren't brought up on a submarine with a hundred and twenty-five sailors for playmates. When she was five years old she would sit on the plot table in the Control Room with Chip Morton and chart the course for our voyage. At ten she helped me in the lab with my experiments. When she was thirteen she could do algebra problems in her head that you had to do on paper, and now you're mad at me for helping her to try to get into the Academy."

Crane rose and walked across the room silently. Looking down he saw more mail on the table near his coffee. He picked up the envelopes and noticed the return addresses. "There's a letter from MIT, and one from Stanford. She never even opened them." He looked across the room at Nelson for an answer.

Nelson patted his shirt breast pockets looking for a pack of cigarettes. "Julia, my dear, if there was ever a bad day to give up smoking, this is it," he muttered to himself. The Admiral got up and crossed the room to stand by his friend.

Taking the letters from Lee's hand, Nelson asked, "Why do you think she never opened them? She didn't want to go to Stanford or MIT. She didn't want to go to Cornell, Princeton or any of the other universities you suggested. She only applied to make you happy. She wants to go to Annapolis. She didn't tell you because she didn't know if she would get into the Academy. And if for some reason she wasn't accepted, she didn't want you to be disappointed in her."

"Disappointed? How could I ever be disappointed in her? She'll probably graduate valedictorian of her class. To throw it all away to join the Navy is just something I can't understand."

Nelson gave his friend a questioning look "Throw it all away? You're a naval officer. Do you feel you threw your life away?"

"Of course not. But Julia is different, she's a lot like you." Pausing to see the confused look on the Admiral's face, Crane continued. "She's brilliant in my opinion." Smiling for the first time, he added, "She gets it from her godfather. With her intellect and determination she could be a doctor, or engineer, or an astrophysicist. Why limit herself to a life in khaki?"

"I see," Nelson said with a hint of a twinkle in his blue eyes. "And are you implying that I also 'limited' myself to a life in khaki?"

"Uh, no, sir, of course not," the Captain answered, suddenly caught off guard.

"So why is Julia's choice so wrong then? You've spent most of your life in khaki, so have I. And Chip Morton, Chief Sharkey, O'Brien, Doc Jamison, all the people who had a hand in raising that child. All the people she loves. To Julia it's not a waste of life, it's a way of life -- serving one's country is a natural and honorable thing to do."

Crane nodded and looked towards the stairs. "I hate it when you're right." Walking over and putting a foot on the first step, Lee suggested, "Why don't you put on a fresh pot of coffee while I go talk to our little cadet."

Nelson watched as Crane ascended the stairs, then the Admiral headed for the kitchen to make some coffee. Stopping next to the china cabinet Nelson bent down and retrieved a bottle of whiskey. "Harry old boy, I think a little Irish Coffee is in order. You keep dealing with those two and before you know it you'll be talking to yourself."

By the time Lee had reached the top of the stairs, Julia had scrambled from the door to the bed and opened a book, pretending to read. Her father walked across the room, sat next to her on the bed, and took the upside down book from her hands.

"You've been eavesdropping since you could crawl," he said, turning the book right side up and handing it back to her. "I suppose you overheard the conversation."

"Most of it. The volume was a little hard to ignore. I'm sorry you and Uncle Harry had words because of me."

"The Admiral and I have had words before. It never interfered in our friendship. I'm sorry you felt you had to go to the Admiral instead of me."

Leaning against her father's shoulder, Julia tried to explain, "Uncle Harry is kind of my sounding board. He's always been a little more . . ."

"Open minded? Well, dads have a habit of protecting their little girls even when they're not so little anymore. And even when they're free-spirited, strong-willed, single-minded --"

"Whoa, Dad! This talk was supposed to make me feel better, remember?"

Crane hugged his daughter and gently stroked her long hair. "Uncle Open-minded downstairs made a few good points in your favor. Annapolis isn't going to be easy. The academic work is difficult enough. Coupled with the naval discipline you'll be forced to follow -- but if going to the Naval Academy is what you want, then I'll abide by your wishes."

Julia squealed with delight as he hugged her father, then jumped out of bed, dashed downstairs and searched for her godfather. Rushing into Nelson's arms Julia exclaimed, "Anchors aweigh! He said yes!"

The next few months passed by with a constant buzz of activity. Julia did indeed graduate at the top of her high school class. Lee Crane, against all his instincts, helped Julia to get ready to leave for school. Although he still felt the Academy wasn't her best choice, he tried to be supportive.

Mid-August had arrived and Julia was scheduled to report for orientation and room assignments at the Academy. Lee walked into the Admiral's office with airline tickets in his hand. "The airline made a mistake. There's only two tickets."

The Admiral sat behind his desk smoking, in spite of the disapproving look of his friend. "And how many seats do you actually need, Captain Crane?"

"Three. There should be three going and two coming back. There's only two going and one coming back."

Stubbing out the cigarette, Nelson explained to Lee, "There's a round trip for you and a one way for Jules." Nelson answered the questioning look. "I'm not going Lee. I think you and Jules should go alone. It will give you both a chance to say good-bye in private."

"She's going to miss you as much as she's going to miss me. It might be easier if you were there."

At that moment the door to the Admiral's office opened and Julia Crane walked in. The vision that met both men's eyes made even Lee Crane catch his breath. Julia was dressed in a sage colored, linen suit. The suit was perfectly tailored to her shapely body; the color brought out the gold highlights of her eyes. Julia's hair hung down her back in a long French braid. She looked the picture of confidence as she strolled over to the desk.

As he regained some composure, Crane turned to Nelson and proclaimed, "That's it! She's not going anywhere."

"It there a problem, Lee?" the Admiral asked as he stifled a laugh.

Crane was now pacing around his daughter. "Problem? No -- no problem. There's just no way I'm going to send her three thousand miles away to live on a campus with a few hundred sailors, that's all."

"Daddy, don't be so provincial," Julia scolded. "There's nothing I can do three thousand miles away that I couldn't just as easily have done here."

While Lee Crane grabbed his chest trying to ward off the impending heart attack, Nelson leapt from his chair and took Lee by the arm. Giving his goddaughter a stern look, Nelson escorted Crane to the office door. "Lee, you wait for Julia by the car. I want to say good-bye to her." And a few other things too, he thought. Nelson turned slowly to face Julia.

"Bad choice of words?"

"Young lady," Nelson bellowed with a warning in his voice, "you're not to big for me to put over my knee. Your father's having a difficult enough time with you leaving. That was definitely uncalled for."

"Sorry, sir."

Softening as he always did where his goddaughter was concerned, Nelson held Julia's hand and led her over to the couch in his office. "I'm not the one you should apologize to. Besides, looking at you in that suit I happen to agree with Lee. But since we only have a few minutes before you leave, I'd rather not argue." Still holding her hand, Nelson swallowed back the tears that were starting to well in his eyes. "I'll miss you everyday, as will your Dad. I know you'll do well. You're bright, intuitive, and conscientious. The out-spoken trait will need some work, however. Before you go I wanted to give you something." Nelson reached over to the table beside the couch and picked up a small package that he handed to Julia.

"What is it?" Julia asked as she held the package.

"Why do people always ask that? Open it."

Julia removed the paper and found a well-worn copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Looking at Nelson with tears in her eyes Julia whispered, "This is the book you read to me when I was a child. I can't take this."

"Yes you can. And when you feel alone or frightened the book will remind you that Dad and I will always be here when you need us."

The intercom buzzed just in time to save them from the verge of tears. Angie was reminding them that the Captain was waiting downstairs and that there was a plane to catch. Nelson walked Julia down to the car where hugs and kisses were exchanged. As the Admiral watched the car drive off, he knew that life around the Institute would never be the same.

Lee Crane stayed for a week in Annapolis making sure Julia was settled in and had everything she needed. The last day was difficult for them both. Crane hugged his daughter tightly and kissed away the tears that inevitably fell.

From her window, Julia watched the Captain walk across the grounds. After she lost sight of him, Julia sat on her bed; she held the book Nelson had given her in one hand and a picture of the three of them in the other. Maybe Dad was right, maybe I shouldn't be here.

Crane, Nelson, and the crew of Seaview received letters from Julia telling them of her schooling and social life. Days turned into weeks, then months, and finally four years had passed. The Seaview was en route to Maryland to be at the graduation of Julia Crane from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Captain Crane was on such a high he didn't even put two crewmen on report when they fell asleep on watch.

As she had in high school, Julia graduated at the top of her class. It was a feat that had been achieved by both her godfather and her father. The proud father gave a formal affair, and officers and crew of the Seaview were invited along with friends and faculty from the Academy. Julia arrived at the Hall in her dress whites on the arm of a young Lieutenant. He was introduced to Captain Crane and Admiral Nelson as Lt. Montgomery Scott McLeod. The Lieutenant was shorter than Julia was, with bright blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. As the evening passed, Crane tried to convince himself that the resemblance between Admiral Nelson and Lt. McLeod was all in his head.

Sitting at a table speaking to her father and godfather, Julia informed them that she had been stationed in Monterey California at the Naval Post-Graduate School. It was a bit of news that the officers were overjoyed to hear.

"Scotty and I will be leaving in a few weeks. The Navy gave the whole class a small vacation."

"Scotty and you? Is McLeod going too?" Lee Crane asked, not sure he liked the arrangement.

"Scotty and I are both going into the same field, engineering. We've become very, uh, close in the last year or so."

"How close?"

Extending her left hand, Julia showed her father the engagement ring Scott had given to her after the graduation ceremony. "Very close," was the response that Lee didn't want to hear.

Smiling with excitement, Nelson hugged his goddaughter. "Jules! Congratulations!"

"Jules, you just graduated from the Academy," her father tried to reason. "Don't you want to give yourself a little time before you make a commitment like this?"

The "already committed" look on Julia's face was enough for Crane. As Lee left the table he was followed on his heels by the Admiral who pulled him by the arm and out a door opening to a patio.

"Going somewhere, Captain?"

"Yes, all the way to the Chief of Naval Operations if I have to. One red head in the family is more than enough."

"He's a good-looking lad, don't you think?" Nelson offered, unable to help himself from teasing his friend. Nelson placed a hand on Crane's forearm and spoke in a more serious tone. "Lee, she's all grown up. She has an exciting new life waiting for her. If she can share that life with someone, won't that make it all the more exciting?"

Lee turned to face his friend. "She once called you her sounding board. That's why she went to you instead of me."

"Yes, 'Uncle Open-minded' I believe," the Admiral recalled, enjoying the look of discomfort on Lee's face. Pulling a cigarette out of his pocket, Nelson lit it and pulled a long drag. "How long have we known each other?"

"I don't know, since my Academy days when you were my instructor. Thirty years, I suppose. Why?"

"Lee, you've always been your own man. You made your own way in your career and your personal life. When you asked, I gave my advice. But the final decision was always yours." Pausing long enough to take another drag on his cigarette, Nelson continued, "Julia deserves the same opportunity to make her own way. Right or wrong. Success or failure. It's our experiences in life that make us who we are. It's her life, and she has the right to those experiences," he concluded, turning to look at his friend, "whether you like them or not."

Twisting his class ring Crane asked Nelson, "Did I ever tell you that I hate it when you're right?"

"Not that I remember." With his arm around his Captain's shoulder, the Admiral started to walk back to the party. "Now I think I'll go ask my lovely goddaughter to dance. You can make nice with the fiance. Who knows, by next year I could be dancing at her wedding."

Stopping in his tracks, Lee shook his head. "I should have made Chip the godfather."

The End


Copyright 1998 by Christine Owens

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