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.
Sleight of Sub
"Mr. Morton, Mr. Morton, can you hear me?"
As Chip Morton tried to focus his eyes -- with marginal success -- the face of a young corpsman came swimming into view. And there was an incessant noise . . . a voice? . . . the voice of the corpsman?
"Mr. Morton, can you hear me?"
"Of course I can hear you -- you're shouting at me," he groaned. "Who are you, anyway?" Meanwhile, things had cleared up a bit, and he realized that nothing looked quite familiar. "And where are we?" He was in a bed; not in his cabin; not in his home; maybe in a hospital -- but bedrooms and hospital rooms rarely bounced around like this -- and he was pretty sure he wasn't in the Seaview's Sick Bay.
"Sir," the corpsman smiled, with obvious relief, "you're aboard the USS Adams. We pulled you out of the water a couple of days ago. You've been out cold for over thirty-six hours."
"A couple of days ago? What day is this? And why was I in the water? And where's Captain Crane, and the Admiral? What's going on?" The more clearly Morton's eyes focused, the foggier his situation seemed to be, and it was downright annoying. He figured the only way to get to the bottom of things would be to get up and find the Captain himself. Big mistake. As soon as he tried to lift his head, pain exploded throughout his skull, dissolving his vision into a shower of sparks.
"Sir, no! You've got to lie back down and wait for the Doc to examine you. I'll go get him right now." The corpsman forced him back down -- it wasn't much of a struggle.
Not one to ignore the lessons of experience, Mr. Morton decided that it would be prudent to take the young man's advice. Besides, the kid probably didn't really need to be growled at. Less severely he said, "While you're at it -- get someone who can tell me what's going on, too."
"Aye, sir. Right away, sir. Just don't try to get up again."
"No need to worry about that." Chip Morton tried to smile, but was not successful. As the corpsman left, Morton took stock. First, this USS . . . what was it he said? Anyway, it was probably not a sub, or at least not running submerged, because it was bobbing like a cork -- maybe a destroyer? He ran through the names of the destroyers in the Pacific fleet, searching for one that sounded right . . . Adams . . . that was what the corpsman had said, the USS Adams. That at least was encouraging, because Morton knew the C.O. of the Adams, Patrick Griffin, had a good reputation. He could be counted on for straight answers. Second, Morton's head was still throbbing. There were things dangling from his arm (or vice versa) -- IV's? -- and there also seemed to be something wrong with his side. As he moved his left arm, he felt a large bandage. When he pressed it, he was very sorry.
"Mr. Morton, I'm glad you decided to join us. I'm Captain Alexander Mayer, C.O. of the USS Adams. I understand you have some questions."
The officer who had entered the room was probably in his mid forties, not too tall, with dark hair and dark eyes, and the kind of leathery tan that comes from being out on the deck of a ship for a living. His expression indicated genuine concern.
"You're not Captain Griffin!" Chip blurted out. He hadn't meant to be so brash, but this was just too much to deal with. When he saw how startled the officer was he quickly remembered himself, and began to stumble over an apology.
"You're absolutely right -- I'm not," Captain Mayer chuckled. He sobered somewhat as he continued, "Captain Griffin was injured two days ago, and it seemed just serious enough to warrant transferring him back to the base hospital for recovery. He should back on duty within a couple of weeks. I was assigned to fill in for him on this cruise because of my particular experience with rescue operations." He arched an eyebrow and grinned, "Now that we have that settled, shall we start over?"
Properly chagrined, Chip composed his dignity and said, "Lt. Commander Chip Morton, First Officer of the SSRN Seaview, sir, and yes, I do have a lot of questions. First of all -- where's Lee Crane? And the Admiral? And how could I have been fished out of the water when I don't even remember being in the water? And what day is it?"
Captain Mayer looked troubled. "You don't remember anything?"
"No sir, I don't. The last thing I remember is saying good night to Angie, uh . . . my date . . . last night, driving home, and collapsing into bed. Then I woke up here."
Just then another officer walked into the room and nodded to Mayer. "Captain. And good evening to you, Commander," he said while reaching out to take Morton's hand. "Commander Joseph Peters, Chief Medical Officer -- only medical officer. I'm glad to see you're awake . . . and I understand you've already tried to get up." He shook his head disapprovingly. "Officers make the worst patients -- the higher their rank, the more uncooperative they are. So . . . since I doubt I can keep you lying down, let me give you something to make getting up a little less painful the next time." After checking his patient's vitals, the doctor produced a hypo and proceeded to use it. "There. That should ease the throbbing a bit. You were hit pretty hard on the head, and you have a severe concussion, which explains the memory loss you're experiencing. It should come back in a few days . . . or months . . . or not at all," he added honestly. Then he grinned apologetically, "Medicine is not the exact science it's cracked up to be, so we can never be absolutely sure, but it almost always does come back. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"You can tell me what day it is, and why my side is so sore."
The doctor lost his grin, and looked at the Captain, who nodded his permission. "I'm afraid in addition to being hit on the head, you were also hit by a bullet. I've gotten it out, and there is no sign of infection, but it ripped you up some inside. You'll be sore for a good while."
It took a moment or two for this new information to sink in. After it did, Morton's face registered an emotion somewhere between bewilderment and anger.
Before he had a chance to say or do anything, the Captain said, "Is it OK for him to answer a few questions now? We need to get this sorted out as soon as we can."
Dr. Peters looked dubious. "Just for a few minutes. You can sit up, Commander, if you feel up to it now," he said to the patient. Then, narrowing his eyes at the Captain, he continued, "But nothing too taxing. There'll be plenty of time tomorrow."
"I guess that will have to do." The Captain sat down, opened the file that he'd brought with him, and prepared to write. "As for your other question, today is Wednesday. It's about . . . oh . . . 2230 hours now," he said, checking his watch. "You can't remember anything at all about the last four days? Nothing since Saturday night?"
Morton shook his head slowly.
"Let me give you the short version of what's happened since then, and we can fill in the details later. The Seaview put out to sea at 0600 on Monday morning, to shake down some kind of new Top Secret technology -- in preparation for an official trial during War Games exercises scheduled to begin on Tuesday at 1200 hours. Do you remember any of that?"
"Well, I knew that was our assignment, and when and where we were supposed to rendezvous with the Fleet. I had also been briefed on the . . . uh . . ." The Commander hesitated. How much did Mayer know? And how much should he know? ". . . technology. But if the Seaview already left the Institute, it must have been without me, or I'm worse off than I think."
"I'm afraid you must be, because you were definitely on board." Mayer hesitated a moment, then continued, carefully choosing his words. "Sometime late Monday evening canisters planted in Air Revitalization started emitting toxic gas. The Environmental Control System malfunctioned -- sabotaged, most likely -- so there was no way to clear it out. You had to surface to scrub the air. The canisters were planted in such a way as to affect Sick Bay first, then officers' country; so your doctor, and all the off-watch officers were incapacitated. Evidently the gas was undetectable and very fast-acting. Before you were even aware of the problem, more than half the crew was stricken -- with more going all the time. Since so many men were down, and the ultimate effects of the gas were unknown, a distress call was sent out to the Coast Guard for medical assistance. They relayed your message both to the Navy, and to the nearest available ship -- a cruise ship identifying herself as the SS Joie de Vivre, registered out of San Diego. She approached and offered to send in a medical team. The offer was accepted. As it turns out, the gas wore off quickly, and by the time the "doctor" arrived, your officers and men were beginning to recover. But it was too late. Neither the Joie de Vivre nor the Coast Guard relay were legitimate. Once they were strategically placed on the Seaview, the "medical team" took over the Control Room first, and from there the rest of the ship. Everyone who wasn't shot was set adrift in life-rafts. They replaced the entire crew with their own men."
"Shot? Shot?! What do you mean, shot?! Where are they now? And where was I while this was going on?"
Mayer looked at Morton. "You don't remember any of this at all?"
"No, nothing!" he said impatiently.
"From what we understand, you were in the Missile Room, helping with the repairs on the Environmental Control System."
"Where is Captain Crane now? And the Admiral, and the rest of the crew? How many men were shot? Where are they now? Are they all OK?"
"No, I'm afraid they aren't." Mayer looked particularly somber. He hesitated for a moment, then continued, "Your radio man was able to get off an SOS to the Fleet, but he was killed as soon as it was discovered. About a dozen seamen and petty officers were shot and killed for moving too slowly." The Captain hesitated again. "Commander Crane was shot while attempting to save some of those men, and Chief Sharkey for going to Crane's aid. Both were killed."
Captain Mayer stopped to wait for the young Commander's reaction. There was none. Nothing. Just emptiness. All the color drained from Morton's already pale face, and his blond hair and blue eyes looked too dark in contrast.
Finally, unsteadily, Morton asked, "You're sure? They couldn't have just been wounded? Did anybody examine them?"
"Yes, we're sure. Considering the situation it would have been foolish for anyone to try get to them, but the attackers saved us the trouble. They had the crew carry all the bodies off the boat and dump them into the sea. We recovered both the Captain and the Chief."
" . . . And the Admiral?"
"They only knocked him out. They had intended to keep him aboard as a hostage, but in the confusion you and another man managed to carry him out. That's how you were wounded. Nelson was picked up out of the sea by a Navy rescue ship, the USS Safeguard, also responding to the SOS. He hasn't regained consciousness, yet, but he's expected to make a full recovery. You saved his life."
"What about the other men? How many were picked up, and where are they? What are their conditions?"
"Thanks to your radio operator's quick action, there were quite a few survivors. If they had had to wait it out with those rafts until the Fleet came by on its way to the War Games, there would have been many more casualties. As it stands, we've been able to account for about one-hundred ten of the crew. Of those, eighty-five are on their way back to Santa Barbara."
The Commander took a moment to go through the figures. "So thirty are known dead, and fifteen more are missing?"
"Yes, but they're still searching."
"Do you have their names? The survivors? What about Patterson, Kowalski, Hanson, Riley?"
"Let me see what they've given me here." First Mayer made some notations, then began flipping through the pages in his file. "OK, it was Kowalski who gave us most of the information. His injuries are listed as . . . severe, but no specifics. Patterson is . . . let's see . . . he's the one who helped you get the Admiral out. They're on the same ship now, but I have no reports on Patterson's condition. What were those other names?"
"Hanson and Riley?"
Mayer scribbled those two names along with the others, then, after more flipping, "I don't see them anywhere on my lists. I'm sorry. Were they friends?"
"They were all friends!" Morton nearly shouted, then he wished he hadn't. Not only did it do his head no good, it did his friends no good, and Mayer wasn't to blame. He sat in thought for a while, and finally asked, "What happened to the Seaview? Has she been recaptured yet? They didn't get away with the SD3, did they?"
"SD3? What's that?"
Even through his fog Morton realized he had come too close to breaching security. "The new 'technology' the Seaview was carrying," he said simply.
The Captain's expression didn't brighten any. "I see. You don't need to say any more; I've been briefed on its importance, but not on its function. But to answer your question, no, I'm afraid we haven't been able to even find the Seaview yet. So far, she has gotten away clean."
Just then there was a knock at the door. The Captain looked up, "Come in."
Peters walked in, took one look at his patient and said, "That's enough for now. This man needs rest, and he's not going to get any while you're in here giving him bad news. Come back in the morning, after you've both had some sleep."
The Captain didn't argue, but Chip Morton asked, "Is the Adams in on the search? I can help. I know more about the Seaview than anybody you have available. She isn't regular Navy, and she's not a 'regular' sub. Without some kind of first-hand knowledge, you don't have much chance of success. Let me help you stop those murderers!"
By the time he got to the end of his speech, he was nearly out of the bed. The doctor was trying to calm him, prepare another hypo, and maneuver the Captain out the door all at the same time. But he did have time to catch the Captain's eye, and they exchanged significant looks.
"I was hoping you'd say that," Mayer replied as he stepped out the door. "We'll talk about it when you wake up."
The Control Room was buzzing with activity -- the usual pre-departure checks and re-checks, briefings, and catching-up among friends after a shore leave at home port. Captain Lee Crane had just finished conferring with a couple of junior officers when Admiral Nelson came down the spiral steps.
"Where's Mr. Morton?" the Admiral demanded gruffly. "He was supposed to be on Watch half an hour ago."
"I'm sure he'll be along shortly, Admiral," replied the Captain. "I've never known Chip to be late for a departure. Maybe Angie came by to see him off. He's probably just having a hard time saying goodbye. Y'know, I think they're getting serious." Crane flashed a mischievous grin as he made this last remark.
"Angie? You mean my Angie?"
"The same -- you mean she hasn't said anything to you?"
"Not a word. But she always does keep her private concerns to herself -- that's one of the reasons she's the best secretary I've ever had. I hope he isn't planning to sweep her off her feet, and out of my office!" Nelson grumbled -- a grumble which melted into a chuckle as he reflected on this revelation. Nevertheless, the twinkling of his eyes didn't dim the seriousness of his next words, "But he'd better get here pretty soon, or he's going to find himself in hot water with me!"
"He was fine when Katie and I dropped the two of them off at Angie's place Saturday night. He did seem exhausted, so I figured he probably headed straight home. I guess that was about midnight. The last thing he said was, 'See you bright and early Monday.' I'm sure everything is OK. Just to be on the safe side, do you want me to contact your office, and see what Angie has to say?"
"At this hour? She's dedicated, but not crazy. Call him at home. If you don't get an answer, you can try calling Angie. Let me know as soon as he shows up, and then get under way immediately. We have a lot to accomplish in the next two days. I'll be in my cabin."
Half an hour later the Admiral was on the intercom. "Haven't you heard anything yet, Lee? We've got to get going!"
"Sir, I think you'd better get to the Control Room right away. You'll probably want to see this."
When the Admiral arrived there was an image of a distraught young woman on the viewscreen. She was sitting in the Admiral's office at the Institute, and was unsuccessfully trying to hide the tears welling up in her eyes. "Oh Admiral," she cried when she saw him, "I don't know what's happened to Chip. When Lee called me at home I called security here at the Institute, and they contacted the police. By the time I got here they had reported back that his car was found abandoned on a mountain road early Sunday morning. It had been in an accident; there were bloodstains and footprints leading toward the road, but they haven't found him. Why didn't they call us sooner? I wondered why I didn't hear from him yesterday, but I thought he was busy getting ready for the War Games. I should never have let him drive alone -- he was so tired Saturday night, he probably fell asleep at the wheel!" At this point Angie lost all composure, and turned away from the screen. A moment later she was back in control. "I have calls in to all the area police, and hospitals. Is there anything else I can do on this end, Admiral?" She was herself again.
"No Angie, you've done all you can. Thanks. Let us know as soon as you hear anything. Seaview out." Nelson turned back to the Plot Table. Lost in thought, he stared blankly at the charts in front of him.
Crane stood beside him for a few moments, looking as stunned as the rest of the men in the Control Room, and more than a little worried. Finally he turned to the Admiral and asked in a low voice, "Do you think this could have anything to do with the SD3?"
"The thought had definitely entered my mind. But we won't know anything until we hear where and how he is. I'm going to try to contact the Fleet Commander, to see if we can put off the War Games until this is straightened out. Meanwhile, see if you can round up Katie and put her in charge of coordinating the efforts of the local police and our security department. Angie already has too much on her mind. It would be bad enough if Chip was lying hurt along the side of the road, but if this is a scheme to get information about the SD3, we have even bigger problems on our hands."
"Aye, sir, I'll get right on it." Before Nelson was even through the door, Crane was conferring with Sparks.
The tension was so thick that everyone in the Control Room jumped when the intercom squawked to life about fifteen minutes later. "Lee, come to my cabin please," was all the Admiral said.
"Come in, come in, Lee, and sit down."
It was a very uneasy Lee Crane who seated himself opposite the Admiral. "Do you have news about Chip?" he asked apprehensively.
"What? Oh . . . no. I've just gotten off the line with the Fleet Commander. Our orders are to proceed on schedule with the shake-down trials and the War Games."
"But, Admiral . . .!"
"But nothing. Those are our orders." Nelson practically spat out the words. "Further, we are to proceed under complete radio silence."
"Radio silence?! But that means . . ."
"It means we'll follow orders." He snapped. Then he softened, "I'm not at all happy with the situation either, but think about it, Lee -- if this is just a simple car accident, there's nothing we can do here that the police and our own people aren't already doing. But, if it's a ploy to gain information about or access to the SD3, or to delay its implementation, it is imperative that we test it and get it operational as quietly and as quickly as humanly possible. It is precisely because Chip is missing that we must not delay."
"I understand that, sir, but this is Chip we're talking about." By this time Crane was up and pacing impatiently. He stopped, turned to the Admiral and said, "Isn't there anything we can do?"
Nelson didn't answer. He just stared at the papers on his desk. When the Admiral finally did look up it was evident by his clenched jaw and the anguish in his eyes that there was indeed nothing else they could do. At least nothing he hadn't already tried. After a few more moments of silence, Nelson said quietly, "Mr. Hanson will have to be briefed to take over Chip's duties for the War Games. As soon as you get under way and can spare him, send him on to me here. And be sure the men know what has happened, and what's being done. They deserve to know as much as we can tell them."
"Well, you're looking better this morning, Mr. Morton. And by the way, it's Thursday morning 0800 hours . . . just in case you're interested."
Dr. Peters was in his usual cheerful mood. Chip wished he had something to be cheerful about. His drugged sleep had been crowded with nightmarish visions of scenes he didn't remember witnessing, and he felt more numb than rested. Losing his memory and some of his best friends in less time than it took to tell the story were weighing heavy on his mind.
"Do you feel like talking?" the doctor asked, as he handed his patient an assortment of pills and a cup of water.
"No . . . not really . . . I guess not." But then he continued, "I was pretty wrapped up in my own problems last night, and never asked -- is there anyone else aboard now from the Seaview? I figure if you pulled me out you must have gotten some others, too."
Peters replied, "No, not now. We did have about a dozen others, and some of the bodies of those who didn't make it, but they were all transferred to ships heading back to Santa Barbara."
"Then why am I still here?"
"I probably should let the Captain answer that, but I'll tell you that he was really counting on your reacting the way you did last night. Because of your familiarity with Seaview, he got permission to keep you aboard -- so that as soon as you were able you could provide some first-hand information to help in the recapture. You were the highest ranking officer likely to recover soon enough to help. He wasn't counting on the memory loss, but like I said, that should only be temporary."
"That makes sense, I guess." Morton sat in silence for a few more minutes. Then he asked, "Can I send a message to the Institute?"
"Certainly. You can either write it out here and I'll have it sent up to the Captain, or you can wait till he arrives, and give it to him personally."
"Good. Thanks," Chip answered numbly, but he didn't move to act on the information.
While he continued to putter around the cabin -- which served as Sick Bay, pharmacy, office, and quarters for the medical officer and corpsman -- the doctor kept a solicitous eye on the Commander.
After a few more minutes, Chip spoke up again -- as if continuing a conversation he had already begun in his own mind: "We've almost lost Lee, and the Admiral, and even the others more than once in some bad spot or another, but there was always a chance that they'd make it -- and they always did. It's never been so final, so definite, or so sudden. Lee was not only a good friend, he was the finest Captain I ever served under. I mean, he was good at all the tactical stuff, and he knew the Seaview inside out, but the most important thing was how he felt about his job and his men. He loved what he did, and he loved the people he worked with. He respected and valued the crew as if they were his best friends, or brothers, or sons. And the men knew it. What's more, we would have followed him anywhere. Done anything for him, because we knew he would do the same for us -- in fact, we'd seen him do it. It's ironic that that's what got him and Sparks and Sharkey all killed -- the fact that each valued the other more than himself. I guess there are worse ways to die. It makes me wonder how I would have reacted . . ." His words faded away, and he no longer even seemed aware that he had been talking out loud.
"But we do know how you reacted, even if you don't remember. You reacted exactly the same way. You were just lucky enough not to be killed by the bullet. If it wasn't for you, the Admiral would be dead now. At least that's what they tell me."
That thought didn't really seem to cheer the Commander. But it did prompt him to ask, "Have you heard anything more? Is Admiral Nelson awake yet? Have they found any others?"
All Peters could do was shake his head. "Sorry, I haven't heard any news."
"Maybe I will write out a message to the Institute now, if you can give me some paper and a pencil."
"Sure," the doctor said, handing him a clipboard and pencil. Then he added, "As soon as we can get you fed, out of that IV, and into a clean uniform, the Captain will be in. Maybe he has some new information."
Before Chip was able to write more than a few words, there was knock on the door; the corpsman from last night carried in a meal tray. Under the watchful eye of the doctor, Chip laid aside his clipboard, and began to eat. Afterwards, Peters produced an officer's uniform, rank insignia and all, ready to put on. With only minor assistance, Morton soon looked and felt more like an officer than a patient.
"Well, that's quite an improvement," Captain Mayer said as he entered. "Now, can we go for a walk, or do we have to stay here again?"
He looked at Peters, who said, "I'd prefer that he stay nearby, but if you really need to take him away, I suppose the walk to your cabin wouldn't do much harm -- but no farther. And not for too long. If you keep him out past 1100 he'll miss his medication, and he may turn into a pumpkin. Sir." He spoke with mock solemnity, as if to a friend of long-standing.
Chip felt he could really begin to like these men, if only he could stop thinking about who they reminded him of . . .
Once they were settled at the Captain's desk, Morton began speaking. "I've been giving this some thought since last night, and I've got a pretty good idea why you can't find the Seaview. They've probably discovered how to use the experimental device we were testing. With your permission, I'd like to send a message to the Institute, requesting clearance to brief you on it, so we can use the information to track them down. I'd also like to know what's happening with regard to the rescue operation."
"Permission granted -- with pleasure. Having you awake and helping is the first ray of hope we've seen since this all began." Mayer turned away from Morton and spoke into the intercom on his desk, "Mr. Nedich? This is the Captain. Send Vid up to my cabin to retrieve a message from Commander Morton."
Chip winced at the thought of how many times he had heard just such an exchange on the Seaview. He wondered how long it would take to get used to the fact that Sparks and so many others were gone. He shook off his feeling and began writing a message out on the pad the Captain offered him. Before he was done there was a knock at the door. The man who entered was older than Morton had expected, and a bit on the scruffy side.
The Captain noticed Morton's attention to the man's appearance and with a half-apologetic grin said, "We've all been pulling double duty the last few days, and I'm afraid hygiene hasn't been a high priority. Vid, as soon as you get the reply on this, get your relief to take over so you can scrape off some grime and get some rack-time."
"Aye, sir," he grinned, and left.
"In the meantime," said Morton, "I can outline a possible plan of attack once we find Seaview. Her sonar is more powerful than any the Navy has, so she'll see us before we see her. Assuming we do find her, we'll have to sneak up on her by making believe we can't see her, if you know what I mean."
At this the Captain nodded.
"Once we get close enough to attack, I wouldn't suggest conventional depth charges, because she can run so deep. In shallow waters you might shake her to pieces, but then you'd lose the boat, the technology, and all clues as to who these men are. What we need are small, low-impact homing missiles that can be equipped with ultrasonic disrupters. They should be just strong enough to latch onto the hull and do local damage. Are you equipped with anything that can be adapted for that? We don't want to sink her, just disable some of her equipment."
The Captain nodded in the affirmative.
"Good. I can sketch out the most sensitive areas for your weapons crew. I'd suggest targeting the environmental controls, reactor area, and weapons, of course. That will cut their air supply, power, and their ability to fight back. Her batteries will give her enough temporary power to either surface or run. Faced with a limited and dwindling supply of air, I'm willing to bet that the decision will be to surface."
"How long before they would have to surface if we're successful?"
"It depends upon how many men there are. Was anyone able to see how many actually boarded?"
"No, your man Kowalski could only say that there were a lot of them. I don't have any other definite information, but we're estimating between forty and fifty. I keep hoping that you'll remember."
Chip grimaced. "Yeah, you and me both. At least I think I want to remember. From what you tell me, maybe I'd be better to forget completely. Anyway, assuming we disable the system, there are only about one hundred fifty man/hours before the air becomes too foul to breathe. So that translates to three or four hours of air, depending upon how many men there actually are, and how hard they're working. It might be less, but I wouldn't want to count on that. Now, she could snorkel, but she would have to be near the surface to do it. Doing that her speed and maneuverability are no better than if she actually were on the surface; plus, those diesel engines make a heck of a racket, so we'd be able to pick her up on hydrophones immediately. Since those men aren't familiar with her, I doubt that they would even try that." Here he hesitated a moment to allow Mayer to catch up with his furious note-taking. Chip wondered briefly why the Captain was writing so much -- a lot of what Chip said was general knowledge. Well, being unfamiliar with the Seaview herself, maybe he just didn't want to risk missing anything.
"Is there any way to jam her transmissions?" the Captain asked. "We don't want them to be able to call in reinforcements."
"Good point. Most subs can't receive or transmit at all while they're deep, but Seaview is equipped with special apparatus making it possible on a limited basis; it won't take them long to figure that out. Your communications officer should have no trouble jamming the special frequencies she uses. I'll write them down for you, and you can start right away. If she's on the surface, though, it will be much harder without jamming our own transmissions and the rest of the Fleet's in the bargain."
Just then there was a knock at the door. "Come in," the Captain said, continuing to write.
The same man who had picked up Morton's message handed the Captain a sheet of paper. "It looks like there's some good news, Mr. Morton," he said as he passed it across the desk.
Chip aloud read from the paper "'Clearance given to use any and all means necessary to subdue SSRN Seaview, and retrieve cargo. Further information on rescue efforts unavailable at this time. Signed Adm. Jiggs Starke, COMSUBPAC, Acting Director of Nelson Institute for Marine Research.' Well, it's good news and bad. I was hoping I'd hear from Admiral Nelson himself."
"Excuse me, sir, but there was another message for you," the radioman said to the Captain, handing him another slip of paper.
"That will be all, Vid, now go get some rest."
"Aye, sir. Thank you, sir."
As the Captain read this second message, his face darkened. When he saw Morton scrutinizing him, he reluctantly said, "I'm afraid this one is bad news. Due to severe weather, they've given up the search for survivors. Also, your friend Patterson didn't make it. I'm sorry."
Chip took this news better than he had last night's. He simply clenched his jaw for a moment, then said, "All the more reason to get started immediately. Here's what the SD3 does . . . and how I think we can beat it."
Lt. Commander Joshua Hanson knocked on the Admiral's open door. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes, yes, come in, come in, Mr. Hanson." Nelson said as he shuffled papers around on the cluttered desk. "Did the Captain explain why I sent for you?"
"Yes, sir. I understand I'll be acting for Mr. Morton."
"All right, then, sit down; let me explain to you first what we're dealing with, and second, what your duties will be." Nelson got out a piece of paper, and started a rough sketch for Hanson to see. "The SD3 is a Top Secret experimental device for diverting sonar pings around a vessel, instead of bouncing them back. It 'bends' the sound waves, if you can picture that, so they slip around the vessel, and lets them continue on, unimpeded, until they hit another solid object. It does the same with the return wave bounced off that object. Hence the name Sonar Divert and Decoy Device. In theory, any vessel equipped with this SD3 would be virtually invisible to an enemy's radar."
Hanson sat listening intently, but with just a hint of incredulity on his face.
"I know what you're thinking -- the whole thing sounds like science fiction -- but it works, at least in the lab. It's our job to see if it works on the Seaview."
"I think I see, sir. Although I admit, I don't come close to understanding."
"You don't need to, any more than you need to know how electricity works to turn on a light," the Admiral reassured him.
"What exactly will I be doing?" Hanson asked.
"Your duties will be with the other function of the SD3 -- Decoy. In addition to hiding a vessel, it can also confuse the adversary by deflecting his sonar pings in some other direction; the object that does show up on his sonar is exactly what we want them to see -- even though that object may be at some distance, and in a different direction from where they think they're looking."
"So what you're saying is that this device is like the 'smoke and mirrors' a magician might use for sleight of hand."
"Exactly -- only considerably more sophisticated, of course."
"Is there any way to tell these generated images from the real thing? Are there any clues at all?"
"Actually, the system is not perfect, and yes, an experienced eye would be able to detect something even through all the deflection and diversion. Mr. Morton had quite a bit of training on the equipment while it was being developed, and he would be able to tell the difference -- but only if the sonar equipment he was using was very sensitive. Even then it wouldn't be clear. I don't expect you to be able to do that with a half hour's summary of the theory and function."
The Captain's voice came over the Admiral's intercom: "Admiral, we've arrived at the coordinates for the trials, and we're ready to start whenever you are."
"All right, Lee, we'll be right there." Extending his arm to shepherd the young officer out of the cabin Nelson said, "Come along, Mr. Hanson, and get to know the equipment that does all this 'magic'."
When they arrived in the Control Room, there was more activity than usual around Sonar.
"What's going on, Lee?" the Admiral asked.
"Sonar is picking up an intermittent blip -- it may be a ship trailing us, or it may be nothing."
"What about hydrophones"
"Nothing conclusive there. Admiral, is it possible that one of the ships from the War Games has come out early to try tracking us?"
"I doubt it. Has there been any radio contact?"
"No. Sparks has been monitoring all frequencies, but there's nothing to indicate who they are, or what they're doing."
"Well, let's just keep an eye on it for now."
"Aye, sir. Kowalski, let me know the second that blip starts doing anything different."
Nelson took Hanson over to the bank of newly installed equipment, and began showing him around the elaborate panel of lights and switches. Half an hour later, at 1000 hours, they declared themselves ready to 'give it a try'.
Under the close supervision of Admiral Nelson, the officers and crew put Seaview through her paces, executing the whole range of defensive, offensive, evasive, and emergency maneuvers. They blew and vented ballast, they angled, they dangled, they had emergency blows and emergency dives. They repeated the exercises with and without the SD3 engaged. The Flying Sub was sent out to track them with its sonar, and they bent, slipped, and deflected the waves till they hardly knew where they were themselves. The device seemed to be working perfectly.
At 1600 hours, the Captain asked the Admiral's permission to stand down from alert status, and break off exercises until the night trials began at 2200.
"Permission granted. We could use a break, and I think we've done a pretty fair day's work."
As long as the exercises were going on, and the men were engrossed in their jobs, they had little time to think of anything else. The evident success of the new device had raised their spirits considerably. But now that they were no longer distracted by their duties, a pall seemed to settle over the Control Room again. As the next Watch came on, the senior crewmen, the ones who had been involved in the shake down -- and the ones who knew Chip Morton the best -- drifted off to rest, or eat in small groups, discussing their concerns, and their speculations.
Nelson was in a guardedly good mood -- the apparent success of the device he helped develop somewhat offsetting his more private concerns. While Crane gave all the necessary commands to the junior officers on the relief Watch, Nelson walked over to the Radio Shack once again to ask Sparks if there had been any messages from Santa Barbara about Chip Morton.
"No, sir, we haven't received anything since the exercises began. Can I try contacting the Institute now?"
Nelson pondered this a few moments, debating with himself. Finally sighed and said, "No, not yet, not till we rendezvous with the Fleet. You say you haven't received any messages at all? Have you checked the equipment?"
"No, sir, not yet. I've been pretty busy with the trials."
"Well, before you go off Watch, check it out, and let me know what you find. I'll be in my cabin. Oh, and be sure your relief knows that I want to be contacted immediately if any message at all comes in from the Institute."
On his way back through the Control Room, Nelson stopped beside the Plot Table. The Captain was giving instructions to Hanson. "As soon as you're done here, Lee, stop by my cabin."
"Aye, sir. I'll be along in a few minutes."
About fifteen minutes later, Crane poked his head around the Admiral's open door, offered a weak smile said, "Permission to enter?"
"Of course, Lee, come on in. I was just waiting to hear from Sparks. This lack of any communications has me worried."
The Captain nodded in agreement. "I know what you mean. I almost had myself convinced that by now Chip would be contacting us in person, assuring us of his well-being and profound contrition. But the fact that we haven't heard anything . . ." He let his words drift away, and it was into this silence that the Admiral's intercom crackled to life.
"Admiral, this is Sparks. Is the Captain with you?"
"Yes, Sparks, I'm right here. Go ahead."
"I'm sorry to bother you both, sirs, but I think you'd better get down here. I thought I was mistaken, but now I'm sure -- our frequencies are being jammed."
"Well, I guess that confirms some of our misgivings, eh?" the Admiral commented as he and the Captain hurried down the corridor to the Control Room.
While Nelson was in the Radio Shack confirming the jamming, Crane went to Sonar to see if they were still getting the "ghost" blip. They were, but it wasn't a ghost any more; it was very real, and very close.
Crane nearly exploded. "Why didn't you report that it had gotten this close!"
The new man on Sonar was clearly uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, sir."
With difficulty Crane held back the anger he knew would do no good. "What kind of ship is it?" he asked very carefully.
The seaman squirmed a bit. "I wish I could tell you, sir. Its range and bearing are very clear, but the configuration is muddled. I'd say it was a freighter, but there's something odd about it Maybe you can make more sense of it." He handed headphones to the Captain, who listened intently, while watching the screen.
"No, I can't be sure, either. Mr. Hanson, get Kowalski back up here; see if he can figure this out."
Meanwhile, Crane had the SD3 re-engaged, ordered "Dead Slow" and gave the order for silent running.
Kowalski arrived, took over on Sonar, and shook his head in bewilderment. "I agree that it looks and sounds more like a freighter than anything else, but this signal isn't clear enough to make a positive ID. It's as if it had a lot of extra electronics on it, for surveillance and stuff. But why would a peacetime freighter need that?"
"That's what worries me. When did you last check the equipment?" the Captain demanded.
"Before the trials, sir, once in the middle, and again as soon as we were done. It was perfectly calibrated," Kowalski answered. He pondered a moment, then continued, "Another possibility, sir, is that it's one of those jazzy new commercial fishing boats with all that elaborate electronic tracking equipment, and the guy who's running it doesn't know what he's doing. Either that or it's just gone haywire. That would account for the fuzzy readings. But if that were the case, it would probably be jamming our radio, too. There's nothing wrong with our radio, is there, sir?"
The Captain didn't answer, because at that moment it seemed that everyone in the Control Room was holding his breath while the throbbing engines of the approaching ship passed overhead -- as if unaware of Seaview's presence.
"Well, what do you make of it, Lee?" the Admiral asked, joining the Captain at the Plot Table.
"We've had a long day, Admiral," Crane said wearily. "Maybe we're just over-reacting. Maybe Kowalski has a point. Maybe it really was nothing but a commercial fisherman with bad luck and worse equipment. That would explain a lot of things."
"Perhaps," Nelson replied skeptically, "but it's just a little too convenient an explanation to make me happy. Let's be sure we maintain all possible precautions until we're sure."
When he opened his eyes, it took Chip Morton a few seconds to remember where he was, and how he had come to be there. Once again he had no idea how long he had been out. He was getting tired of this routine.
The corpsman who was filling out reports at the desk noticed Morton's movement and said, "Good afternoon, sir. The Captain asked to be notified as soon as you were awake, and the Doc left orders to give you your medication . . . " he consulted the clock ". . . right now."
When Morton finally got his eyes to focus, he saw that the clock read 1600. He accepted the small cup of pills and the water that was offered, and dutifully swallowed them while the young corpsman called the Control Room. He had expected to be feeling better by this time, but he still felt groggy and dazed.
Mayer entered a few minutes later with a smile on his face. "Good news!" he announced. "We're almost certain we've spotted the Seaview. The signal comes and goes, but they're probably playing with their new equipment. We started jamming the frequencies you gave us several hours ago. Since then we've been laying off their stern, almost out of their range, waiting for you to check out the sonar image. Care to join me in the Control Room?"
"You bet I would!" The promise of immediate action, and retribution for the callous slaughter of his friends caused Chip to momentarily forget his own condition. His sudden movement to stand was rewarded with a wave of dizziness, and a sharp pain in his side.
"Whoa! Take it easy there, Commander!" the corpsman cried as he stepped over to assist Morton.
After a few seconds Morton recovered his vision and his balance, and checked out his sharply stinging side. There was a fresh stain on his uniform, which he tried, unsuccessfully, to cover with his arm.
"You'd better sit down, sir, and let me get the Doc to take a look at that."
"No, I'll be fine. It's nothing."
"On the contrary, it's blood," the Captain declared, "and you're staying here until Dr. Peters says it's OK to go."
As if on cue, the doctor walked in. "If you'll clear out of here, I'll assess the damage and give you a report," he groused. After the others had left, he grinned at Chip, "I find that things always get done faster around here if I growl a little." He unwrapped the tape encircling Chip's abdomen, examined the wound, and reapplied a fresh bandage. "Well, you tore a couple of stitches, but as long as you follow orders and take it easy I think you'll hold together.
Chip stood up, more slowly this time, but still felt a moment of dizziness. "How long is this going to last?" he asked, as the doctor reached out to steady him.
"I can't say exactly how long these symptoms will last. If you remember, I told you you had a pretty severe concussion. Under ideal circumstances you should be confined to bed. As it is, you're certified fit for very limited duty, limited to walking to the Control Room and back. Period." As he said this, he opened the Sick Bay door, and said to the young seaman standing outside, "Where's the Captain?"
"He went to the Control Room, sir. He asked me to wait here and escort the Commander up there as soon as you were done."
"Very well, Paulson. Carry on."
Chip was conducted along a short corridor, and up a flight of steps to the Control Room. He was surprised not to see any men moving around the ship. On every ship he'd ever served on, there had always been a good deal of clatter and commotion during battle alert status.
In the Control Room, there also seemed to be abnormally few people, and while they all turned to look at Morton and his escort as they entered, no one said a word. Morton didn't dwell on the fact, though, because he had arrived at Sonar. He was anxious to see the situation for himself, and to finally be able to do something. As soon as he saw the configuration he confirmed to the Captain, "Yes, that's the Seaview all right. They seem to have disengaged the SD3, so I guess they aren't paying attention to us. But they must have seen us, so I suggest passing them by -- so as not to arouse their suspicions before we're ready with the attack."
No sooner had he said this than the blip disappeared, and hydrophones lost contact. "I guess I spoke too soon. Now they seem to be avoiding us."
"All the more reason to follow your advice. I'll make one pass, then come back to attack. How fast can she move when she's running silent? Will we be able to find her when we turn back?"
"Shouldn't be a problem. If that Commander has any idea what he's doing, he's running at Dead Slow -- just enough to keep the boat in trim. They won't go far."
The Adams didn't alter her course or speed, but proceeded past the Seaview. When Chip announced that they were probably out of the range of Seaview's sonar, Adams turned back and came in at full speed, with weapons at the ready.
"I plan to drop a few depth charges to shake them up a little, then send in the missiles, according to your plan. If you'll show Pavlochek, here," Mayer said, indicating the weapons officer, "where to target them, we'll be in business." Mayer then moved off to the other end of the room, near the Radio Shack, and started speaking into a mike.
There was a camera and a screen nearby, but Chip couldn't tell what they were for. He drew his attention back to the weapons officer, and began explaining the layout of Seaview.
A few minutes later, Mayer called to him from across the room and said, "Mr. Morton, have you and Pavlochek got our target lined up yet?"
"Yes, sir. We'll have weapons locked in on Seaview and will be able to fire missiles in less than five minutes," Morton replied.
About five minutes later the Captain approached him. "We're back over the target area. Will you recheck Sonar for us, to see if you can recognize them?"
"Yes, sir." At Sonar, Chip picked up a spare headphone and listened intently while he stared at the screen. "Yes, I can just make out their signal image. We're close enough to begin the attack."
"Ready to release depth charges?" the Captain called.
"Depth charges ready!"
"Depth charges away!"
"Depth charges away, aye!"
Now that the attack was underway, and the fiends responsible for so much suffering and death were nearly within their grasp, Chip thought he'd feel some kind of triumph or release, but he felt neither. He felt nothing but a hollowness in that part of his soul. It was as if someone had opened a valve and allowed his emotions to drain away, just as his friends' lives had drained away. But there was something else not right, though he couldn't make out what it was. Again he let the thought go. Drawing his attention back to the sonar screen, he saw that the response of the shadowy image was immediate: the submarine dove, fast and deep. He was amazed at the quick reaction time of a crew unfamiliar with the boat.
"Missiles ready, aye!"
"Fire missiles one and two!"
"Missiles one and two fired!"
"Fire missile three!"
"Missile three fired!"
As the missiles raced toward their targets, Morton was again amazed at what he saw. The boat jumped ahead -- obviously pushed to flank speed -- and at the last second before impact, veered to the right. It was Lee Crane's favorite evasive action. Morton's imagination took him to the Seaview's Control Room. He saw, heard, and felt every expression, every order, and every fear he'd ever known there. He was there at that instant . . . But no, it couldn't be, because all the people he knew were gone. It was with that thought in mind that he realized that someone was holding on to his elbow.
"You look pretty pale, son," the Captain said quietly, "I think you've had enough for now. Paulson! Help Mr. Morton back to Sick Bay."
Chip tried to protest, but realized that the Captain was right. If he didn't sit down soon, he would probably fall down. But he couldn't tear his eyes from the screen. "Sir, I'll be fine. With your permission," he appealed, "I really need to see this through."
Mayer considered a moment, then relented. "I understand. Pavlochek, let Mr. Morton have your seat."
Chip sat down gratefully. He wondered why there was no return fire. The Seaview couldn't be that badly disabled. Their last maneuver had allowed them to completely avoid the third missile -- the one targeting weapons systems. If he had been commanding a stolen sub, he would have had his torpedoes loaded and ready to fire at the slightest provocation. His ears were buzzing, and through the increasing drone he thought he heard a thickly accented voice shouting something about 'I see her -- she's on the bottom', but Morton's mind was beginning to reel with dizziness and confusion, so he wasn't sure what he heard and what he imagined. He felt something cold on his face, and realized it was the deck. Before he could wonder how he got down there, he was out again completely.
"Sir," called Kowalski, "I'm picking up another sonar contact, coming back from the same direction our 'ghost' just went. And she's moving fast."
With Seaview back on alert status, all senior personnel were recalled to their duty stations.
"Is it the same ship?" the Captain asked as he bent over the screen.
"It has to be, sir, I've never seen anything else with a weird signature like that."
"Are you absolutely sure she's not Navy? Not one of the Fleet coming out to get a jump on surveillance for the War Games?"
"Sorry, sir, I can't tell. Although I can't imagine she's Navy with equipment malfunctioning that badly. I'm still almost sure she's either a freighter or a fisherman, but I wouldn't want to stake my life on it."
"You may be doing just that, Kowalski," the Captain said grimly. "Patterson, what are you picking up on the hydrophone?"
"It's still pretty faint, sir, but it sounds like the same ship to me, too." He handed the headphones over to Crane to listen for himself.
"I agree. And she's bearing down fast."
Before Crane had a chance to pick up the intercom to call the Admiral, Riley yelled out, "I have contacts above -- depth charges, sir! About a dozen!"
Crane punched the General Quarters and Dive alarms. "Dive! All Dive! Emergency Deep!" The ship angled sharply downward, and dove four-hundred feet in less than thirty seconds. Enough to avoid the most dangerous impact from the charges, but not enough to avoid getting shaken up.
Chief Sharkey called out, "Shall I prepare torpedoes?"
"Yes! Have tubes one through four loaded and locked on. And stand by!" Crane emphasized, as he hung on to the rail of the bucking periscope platform.
By the time Nelson reached the Control Room the depth charges had expended themselves, and the violent tossing stopped. But no sooner did he enter than Riley again yelled out, "Incoming missiles! Three of them, sir!"
Crane gave the order, "All ahead flank!" As he crossed to look at Riley's screen, he shouted to the Chief, "Are those torpedoes ready yet?" He didn't hear the answer, because as soon as he saw the screen he called, "Right full rudder!" The boat veered off, but was only able to completely avoid one of the missiles. Suddenly the boat shuddered, then pitched and rolled violently. Several control panels erupted in sparks and flames, the power went out, and they were bathed in the light of the red emergency lanterns. A live wire dangled down, raining sparks over Patterson's inert body. Crane reached down and pulled the seaman to safety, but as the boat lurched again, he was himself entangled in the wire. The power surging through it knocked him out cold, and the smell of burning flesh was immediately evident.
Chief Sharkey was already on the intercom, "Control Room to Sick Bay! Control Room to Sick Bay! We have two men down, one of them is the Skipper. Get up here on the double!"
Out of control, the boat continued to plunge toward the bottom -- which, fortunately, was not too far below them. She hit hard, slid, then came to rest with only a slight list to starboard.
The Admiral ordered Sparks to break radio silence and contact the ship above them -- there no longer being any point in pretending the Seaview didn't exist. "Are we still being jammed? Is that why you can't get through?" Nelson demanded.
"I don't think so, sir. They were only jamming the range of frequencies necessary for long-range transmission from deep submersion. At this close range, I should be able to contact them on any frequency. I'm sure they're receiving, sir, they just aren't acknowledging."
"All right, Sparks, keep at it."
Hanson called to the Admiral, "Sir, I have the preliminary damage reports."
"Well, let's have them."
"The reactor has shut down, and there's extensive damage to environmental controls. All other systems seem to be functioning."
"Small favors," muttered Nelson. "Do we have enough power to fire those torpedoes?"
"I'll find out, sir," Hanson replied.
"Kowalski, is there any activity up there?" Nelson barked.
"No, sir, nothing. Maybe they're waiting for us to do something."
"Well, they'll just have to wait a while longer. Mr. Hanson, do you have an answer yet from the Missile Room?"
"Yes, sir. Actually it's from Engineering. They say we could fire torpedoes, but it would drastically reduce the energy supply needed for other systems. They strongly advise against it, sir."
Nelson pondered this briefly, frowned, then said, "All right, then, we'll wait it out a little while, and see what happens."
This time Chip Morton was neither asleep nor unconscious -- although the corpsman sitting at the desk didn't know it. Morton lay there with his eyes closed, too weak to stand, but with a mind clearer than it had been for days -- was it really days? -- and lots to think about.
How could a crew which had only been on board the Seaview less than three days be able to maneuver her so efficiently? The familiar evasive maneuver could easily be explained -- it really wasn't that unusual, and it could just have been a coincidence, but there seemed to be too many coincidences. Why had Seaview not returned fire? Since she evaded the third missile, the weapons shouldn't have been damaged at all. Why had he seen so few men on this vessel, this 'USS Adams'? And why did the whole ship give him such an odd feeling? Even aboard the Seaview, which wasn't 'regular Navy', things were never this slack. Why was he never alone, always escorted in the corridors, and 'baby-sat' here in Sick Bay? Morton was beginning to think it wasn't just concern for his health and well-being. Why did he still feel so weak? He should have been getting much stronger by now. Finally, he couldn't fight sleep any longer, and his mind started to drift. But just before the world faded completely two voices penetrated the fog.
"Does he suspect anything?"
"No, I don't see how he could. I'm keeping him too drugged to think. At this point, I doubt if he could add two and two and give you a coherent answer."
"Well, be careful, I don't want to lose him yet -- I might need him again. But I don't need him to start putting two and two together and coming up with four."
"Don't worry, I've got another cocktail lined up for him when he wakes up."
"I tell you, I'm all right, Doc," Crane protested.
"No, you're not. Just because you're awake doesn't mean there's nothing wrong with you. You've got to let me check you out."
Just then the Admiral's voice came over the intercom. "Control Room to Sick Bay. How is Captain Crane?"
Lee picked up the mike himself and said, "The Captain's just fine, sir. I'm in the process of convincing Doc to send me back to work."
"Admiral, can you talk some sense into him?" the doctor appealed to Nelson, having relieved the Captain of his mike.
"Lee, don't you think you should stay there a while and let the doctor check you out?"
"There's no need. I feel fine. My shoulder's a little sore from the burn, but once Doc's finished with this bandage, I'll be fit for duty. Really."
"I'll leave it up to you. I won't say we don't need you up here. By the way, Doc, how's Patterson?"
"He'll be fine. He's had a nasty bump on the head, but no sign of concussion."
"Good. Lee, come up when you feel ready, but not before. Nelson out."
As the Captain hung up his mike, Patterson spoke up. "I'm OK now, too, sir. I'd like to go back to my station, if you can use me."
"As long as Doc says you're fit for duty, we can use you!" the Captain reassured him with a smile. A few minutes later they walked into the Control Room together.
As the Captain approached the Plot Table, Mr. Hanson was reporting to the Admiral. "I have more information on repairs, sir. The environmental system is not so bad off as they originally thought, and repairs should be finished in a few minutes. But that won't do us much good without power to run it. The repair crew says it will take at least an hour to bring the reactor back on-line."
"How are our battery power and air supply holding out?" the Captain asked.
"It's good see you back, Skipper," Hanson said with some relief. "We have about an hour, hour and a half, tops."
"OK, Josh, issue general oxygen conservation orders to all non-essential crew. That should give us the maximum time."
"Aye, sir." The Commander immediately started a "Now hear this," ordering a stop to all non-essential movement, talking, and of course, smoking.
While Hanson's voice continued in the background, the Captain studied the charts on the table, and the repair estimates from all departments. He seemed guardedly optimistic. "Well, we're in bad shape, but it's far from hopeless. As long as we can get that reactor back up in the next hour, it looks like we have a good chance."
"You're forgetting about our 'friends' on the surface, aren't you?" the Admiral said.
"No, not for a minute. I'm just trying to control one forest fire at a time," Crane frowned. "Is the SD3 still operating?"
"No, it requires far too much power. But here on the bottom, they'll have trouble distinguishing us from this terrain. That might keep us out of danger for a little while, anyway. What I want to know is, who are they?"
"There's still been no contact?"
"Not a word."
"What are they waiting for?" Crane ran his fingers though his hair once, thought for a moment, then continued more calmly, "Well, it's a cinch they aren't one of ours. I could accept the radio silence, and even some target practice, as part of the War Games, but not with live ammo! And the 'malfunctioning equipment' that produced the muddled sonar readings and jamming -- none of that is from Fleet. They're out to get us -- they targeted Life Support! They knew exactly where to hit us. Those were no random hits; those missiles were guided. They could have destroyed us -- why didn't they? And how could they have even seen us? By the time they passed over us, the SD3 was re-engaged. We should have been invisible to them!" The Captain's frustrated rambling stopped as he caught the brooding expression on the Admiral's face.
"You know the system isn't perfect, Lee. We aren't completely invisible," the Admiral reminded him. "A trained and experienced eye, looking at sensitive equipment, would be able to find us with very little problem."
"But this is Top Secret technology! No one outside the Institute even knows it exists. Who could they have who's trained to interpret it?"
"I can think of someone, and that same someone would know exactly where to hit us to knock us down to the bottom, too."
The Captain stopped short. "You don't mean Chip? I can't believe that!"
"I certainly don't want to believe it, but can you come up with any other explanation that fits all the facts?"
"But what could they have done to him to make him commit treason?"
"You know as well as I do what they could have done," the Admiral said quietly.
At that thought Crane seemed to shut down. He stared blankly in front of him, reliving scenes he had no wish to even remember. He shook his head slowly, and whispered, "No . . ."
Just then Sparks' voice was heard from the Radio Shack. "Captain, I just received a message from the ship above us."
Both Nelson and Crane roused themselves and moved to the radio console.
"It's a visual, sir. I've got one screen rigged to work off the batteries so you can see it."
The screen Sparks had rigged crackled on. Even though the picture was streaked and grainy, they could easily make out the inside of a ship's Control Room, and the apparent 'naval officer' who was addressing them.
"Greetings to Admiral Nelson, and to Captain Crane. My name is Alexander Mayer, and I'm the Captain of the vessel which has complete power over you. By now, you are running out of oxygen, and have no power to generate more. In fact, you have no power to do much of anything -- especially operate your 'top secret' SD3 device," he smirked. "You're probably wondering how I know all this. Well, I have a very good source of information." At this point, Mayer backed away from the camera a bit, to allow a better view of the room he was in.
There was a familiar form on the far side. Chip looked pale and a little unsteady on his feet, but he did not seem to be under any duress. There was an oddly fierce and determined look on his face.
Mayer called out, "Mr. Morton, have you and Pavlochek got our target lined up yet?"
"Yes, sir. We'll have weapons locked in on Seaview and be able to fire missiles in less than five minutes," replied the strong and unmistakable voice of Chip Morton.
The reaction from the men in Seaview's Control Room was vehement
"That isn't really Mr. Morton, is it?"
"What is he doing there?"
"Why is he doing this?"
"What have they done to him?"
"What could have made him turn against us?"
"Now pipe down!" the Admiral shouted, "let's hear what else he has to say!"
Mayer stepped back in front of the camera, and waited a few seconds before continuing, obviously aware of the stir his transmission would have caused. "I assure you, that if you prove to be uncooperative, we know exactly how to convince you of the futility of resistance. What we want is the SD3. And here is how we want you to give it to us . . . " He proceeded to give terms of surrender, unconvincing assurances of safety for the crew, and a deadline for reply. Then the pre-recorded transmission ended.
Crane and Nelson stood conferring quietly over the Plot Table.
"What do we do now?" Crane said "We have an hour's worth of repairs, and fifteen minutes of time."
The Admiral considered briefly, then said, "He's pretty close to the mark on our condition, but I think he overestimates the damage he did, and underestimates our ability to take care of it. We can use that in our favor. You come up with a reply to that message. Do your best to stall him for an hour or so, and I think I can jury-rig something to throw him off our trail."
"But what about Chip? There's no telling what kind of danger he's in, and what kind of danger we're in if he really is under their control. How can we get through to him?"
"We don't have time to worry about that now," the Admiral said sharply. "We have much more important things to deal with, like how to save this ship, and everyone on it. You take care of that message, and I'll be in the lab." As Nelson stalked off, he summoned Chief Sharkey, "Come along with me, I'll need your help for this."
Crane remained standing at the Plot Table a few minutes more, making notes on a clipboard. Finally, satisfied with his work, he said, "Josh, you have the con again. I'm going to see how good an actor I am." With that he strode back to the Radio Shack, and started conferring with Sparks.
"Can you get us a two-way visual signal?"
"I'm afraid not, sir. First of all, we don't have the power to spare, and second they're simply not acknowledging us. I might be able to get two way voice-only, but your best bets are either a pre-recorded burst that I can send all at once -- like they sent us -- or I can tap it out in Morse for you."
"I think the visual would be more convincing, and I need to be very convincing. Get it set up, while I 'set the stage' here."
"Aye, sir," Sparks said slowly, evidently not sure of what 'setting the stage' might mean.
"Men, I need your attention," Crane announced to the Control Room Watch. "As you know, the deadline to accept the terms of surrender is coming up fast, but we need more time to finish repairs. Our situation is not good, but they think it's even worse -- and we don't want to disillusion them." At this point he allowed himself a slight grin. "I'm going to stall them as long as I can. What I need from you is a bit of play-acting. I need you to look tense, worried, right on the edge of panic. No talking, very little movement. Remember, they think we're nearly out of air, so you need to look that way. I need several men lying on the deck, and a couple more with their heads down at their stations, evidently asleep or passed out." As the men rearranged themselves, the Captain walked back to where Sparks had set up a camera.
"Any time you're ready, sir," Sparks said.
Crane loosened his tie, unbuttoned a couple of buttons, mussed his hair a bit, and said, "OK, Sparks, I'm as ready as I'll ever be." He checked the room behind him, consulted his clipboard one more time, then looked into the camera and began:
"Captain Mayer, as you well know, we have no choice but to accept your terms of surrender. Your estimate of our damage was quite accurate. We need to do something soon, or my men won't survive the next two hours." Here the Captain paused, as if unable to get enough breath. "There are only two ways we can surface. We have just enough power for a full emergency blow. That would pop us up to the surface like cork, but since we have no power, we would have no control over the ascent, and we could come up anywhere. You would have to move off -- get out of the way, or risk a collision. The other alternative is to give us a little more time for repairs. One of your missiles damaged the Clark's induction valve. Once it's repaired we can bleed air slowly into the ballast tanks and surface more safely. We have every able man working on it now, but it will take another hour." He stopped again, and seemed to have more trouble than before getting enough air to continue. Finally, he spoke again, in seeming desperation, "Chip, if you're listening, please think about what you're doing! Do you really want the lives of all these men on your conscience? You know I'm telling the truth -- convince Mayer not to attack again, we're complying the best way we can, but not even the Admiral can change the laws of physics." He stopped again, caught his breath, and continued more calmly. "Contact us with further instructions; but you'd better make it soon, or we won't have any power left to carry them out."
The Captain bowed his head, as if in defeat, and waited until Sparks cut the recording. Then he looked up and asked, "Well, how'd we do?"
As the men got up from their positions 'on stage', cheers and applause erupted from all over the room. "You certainly had me convinced, sir," Patterson declared.
"Me, too," Kowalski said. "I was beginning to feel real nervous. You deserve an Oscar."
"I'd be satisfied with enough time to fix this boat," Crane reminded them. "Don't forget, we are nowhere near out of trouble, and we're still on oxygen conservation; so get back to your stations, and no more talking." His words sounded harsh, but they were softened by the smile on his face.
At the Plot Table, Hanson asked, "What was that business about a 'Clark's induction valve'? There is no such thing, is there?"
"That, Josh, was me grasping at straws. No, there is no such thing, but Mr. Morton would nevertheless know precisely what I was talking about. The starboard induction valve on the main ballast tank has gotten jammed twice in the past few years, and each time it was un-jammed by an Electrician's Mate named Clark. In both instances it was a rather harrowing experience that none of us would be likely to forget. I'm gambling on the fact that Chip is somehow being kept in the dark about what's going on. If he gets any part of our message, that part will get him thinking. Like I said, it's a long shot."
When Chip Morton awakened, he lay very still. Someone was shuffling papers at the desk, and for some reason Morton felt it was important not alert him. He had had a strange dream . . . or was it a dream? Did I really hear what I think I heard? he asked himself. Putting that snatch of conversation together with all the other oddities he'd noticed, some sort of blurry picture was beginning to emerge: These people are not who they claim to be. This isn't the USS Adams. That isn't the enemy on the Seaview. Lee and Sharkey, and Patterson, and all the others are still alive, down there on the submarine I just tried to destroy! Morton was so overcome with the combination of elation and alarm that he sat bolt upright, hitting his head on the berth above.
"Sir, are you all right?" the corpsman cried out in dismay.
"Yes, I'm fine," Morton lied, rubbing his forehead. "I guess I just had a bad dream." It was too late to play 'possum any more, but Morton was determined to avoid any more 'cocktails' from 'Dr. Peters'. Even though his head was pounding, and his side was throbbing, his brain had started to clear, and he wanted to keep it that way.
Here's your medicine, sir," the corpsman said, handing him the usual assortment of pills and cup of water. Chip looked at them dubiously, so the corpsman added with a smile, "Doctor's orders, sir."
Chip tossed the pills into his mouth, and while he feigned fumbling with the water cup, took a second to hide them in his cheek before swallowing the water. As soon as the corpsman turned away, he got rid of them in a blessedly convenient tissue. He then took another long draft of the water, as a show of good faith.
He was sitting down on the edge of the berth, contemplating what his next move might be, when Mayer and Peters walked in. "We've gotten an answer back from the Seaview. It seems that your information was just as valuable as I had hoped it would be. Their reactor is down, and their oxygen is almost gone. They'll have to come up very soon, or stay down forever."
Chip winced inwardly at the thought, but mustered the appropriate enthusiasm for Mayer's benefit. "That's great! It's almost over. What will be done with them once they're off the Seaview?"
The Captain seemed surprised at the question. He thought a moment then answered, "We have plenty of room to hold them in confinement on the Adams until a new sub crew gets out there to take Seaview home. Then they'll be turned over to the Navy for prosecution. But let's not jump the gun. There are a couple of things I need to confirm with you. They claim that if they do an emergency blow of the ballast tanks they'll have no control over their ascent -- is that true?"
"Absolutely. I wouldn't want to be within a mile of here if they're going to try that!"
"Also, they claim that repairs to the . . . " here he consulted his notes, "Clark's induction valve will take an hour, and that they need the valve to surface safely. "
"The what valve?" Chip inquired, startled.
"Clark's induction valve. What is that, anyway?"
Suddenly, like the proverbial flash of lightening, everything was crystal clear. There were darn few people who could possibly know about Clark -- and most of them were supposed to be dead. Morton still didn't have all the answers, but he did know a couple of things more than he had a few moments ago: Lee is definitely alive and is sending me a message, which means that he knows I'm here. He knows I'm in trouble, but so is he, and he's counting on me for help.
Abruptly, Morton realized that Mayer was still waiting for a reply to his question. "It's the main valve on the ballast tank. They would need it to bleed air slowly into the tank for a controlled ascent -- as opposed to the full emergency blow." Then he added, lying skillfully, "I guess it's named for the guy who invented it."
"So what they say seems plausible to you?" Mayer asked.
"They certainly seem to know what they're doing. But it may take them longer than an hour to repair that thing, especially since they've never done it before. It's in a fairly dangerous location -- very tricky to access." He hoped his exaggerations might buy the Seaview a little more time.
"OK, that's all I needed to know. You're welcome to come up to the Control Room and wait, but you still look a little pale to me. Maybe you should wait here. I'll be sure to send for you before they surface. I figure you'll want to be around for that."
Chip said, "I sure will," while he thought, You don't know the half of it! Morton began to rise as Mayer turned to leave, but the world started spinning again, so he sat down heavily.
"You've really been overdoing it today," Peters said. "Now just lie back down, and maybe I'll let you go up to the Control Room later."
The doctor's cheerful grin seemed oddly chilling now that Chip had put the pieces of the puzzle together. "I guess you're right," he said. Then he turned to Mayer, "I'll wait here until I can be of some use up there."
After the two men had left, Chip was once again alone with the corpsman. What had happened? He didn't take any of the pills -- it had been hours since he had had any medication. Why was he still so disoriented? Then he realized exactly what he had overheard: " . . . I have another cocktail lined up for him . . ." You drink a cocktail -- it wasn't the pills he should have been worrying about, but the water -- and he had drunk all of it! With that discouraging thought in mind, he drifted back into oblivion.
"Here's my plan, Lee," the Admiral said as he and Sharkey finished putting together some small electronic devices. "I've rigged a series of 'sonar mirrors' to be attached to several low-charge, slow-moving torpedoes. As soon as the reactor is back on-line, we'll have plenty of power to re-engage the SD3, launch the torpedoes, and slowly begin to surface."
"So instead of deflecting their sonar to just one object, like it's intended to do, the SD3 will be deflecting it to several decoy torpedoes, making them think that we're moving away -- but they won't be able to tell which direction. All of which will certainly take their attention off the reality of us getting into position to attack. Beautiful!"
"If it works," the Admiral said soberly.
Chief Sharkey said, "Excuse me, sir, but all the time we've been building this thing something has been bugging me. Didn't you say that everything we know about how the SD3 operates, Mr. Morton knows, too? So won't he be able to figure this out?"
"That's entirely possible, Chief, but I don't see that we have any other choice. Do you?"
"No, sir. I see your point." The Chief worked in silence for another minute, then asked, "I've been thinking, d'ya think maybe they doctored that message, that maybe Mr. Morton wasn't really there at all, or that he didn't really say those things? Maybe they brainwashed him . . ."
The Chief was just getting started when the Captain interrupted him, "Chief, I don't believe that Mr. Morton is a traitor any more than you do, but right now the only information we have to go on points to the fact that he is giving them information, willingly or not. We'll just have to do what we can, and pray for the best."
"Aye, sir. You're right, sir. Admiral, you want I should go attach these to the torpedoes?"
"Yes, and let me know as soon as they're ready. The Captain and I will be in the Control Room."
They had only gotten about halfway there when Sparks' voice came over the loudspeaker, calling for Captain Crane.
"Crane here, go ahead, Sparks."
"Sir, there's an incoming message for you from the ship. No visual this time -- two-way audio only. Do you want to come up here to take it, or shall I transfer it down there?"
"No, I'm on my way up, so stall him till I get there -- and don't forget to sound weak!"
"I won't, sir. I was in my high school drama club."
"Good man! Crane out."
"What was that all about?" the Admiral asked.
"Oh, just an encore performance of the Seaview Theatrical Society. You told me to stall, so we were considerably less than forthright in our presentation of the situation here on Seaview. We're hoping he's convinced that we are not only dead on the bottom, but practically dead, period."
"I see," said Nelson, obviously not really understanding, but nevertheless approving.
As Crane trotted through the Control Room, he called out, "Mr. Hanson, what's the estimate now for getting the reactor on-line?"
"They say they'll need another fifteen minutes, sir."
When the Captain had made his way to the Radio Shack, he took a moment to compose himself, and then began speaking, dejectedly, "Crane here. Have you decided what you want us to do?"
"Yes, Captain, I want you to rethink the repair estimates you gave me, and start your controlled ascent in ten minutes."
"But that's impossible!" Crane cried hoarsely. "We would need that long just to get our men out of the access conduits!" He broke off speaking and gasped dramatically for air.
At that point Sparks took it upon himself to call out to no one in particular, "Get some oxygen over here for the Skipper!"
At first Crane was shocked by Sparks' outburst; then he realized what the effect must have been on the other end of the line, and smiled appreciatively.
After a couple of moments of 'confusion' Crane spoke into the mike again, this time a bit more clearly. "You've got to give us another half-hour. There's no way we can be done any sooner. My men are having trouble even staying conscious, let alone working efficiently. Think about it -- doesn't it make sense that we want to get to the surface just as quickly as you want us to?" He stopped here and waited for a reply.
"Very well -- you have twenty minutes. If I don't see you starting to move in twenty-one minutes, we will attack. Mayer out."
After he made sure Sparks had broken the connection, Crane laughed, "I'd say we make a pretty good team, Sparks." Applause once again filled the Control Room.
"Thank you, sir," Sparks said, taking a mock bow.
"Well, Admiral, it doesn't give us much of a margin. Do you think it will be enough?"
"It will have to be. After witnessing that performance, I don't see how we could have gotten a second more." Nelson walked away chuckling and shaking his head.
Ten minutes later there was a voice over the loudspeaker, "Damage Control to Control Room."
Before the voice was finished speaking Lee Crane grabbed the mike and said, "Are the repairs finished?"
"Aye, sir. We're ready to do a quick start of the reactor and should have it back on-line in less than five minutes."
"Good work! Control Room out."
"Wake up, sir. They need you in the Control Room right away!" The corpsman shook Chip Morton's shoulder again, and not very gently, either.
"I'm awake, I'm awake. What's the problem? Has the Seaview surfaced already? How long have I been asleep?"
"You've only been asleep about ten minutes, sir, but there's a problem, and the Captain needs you on Sonar. Here, let me help you."
The Commander swayed uncertainly beside the berth. "No, no, I'll be fine in a second. Just point me in the right direction."
"My orders are to escort you upstairs myself, sir; and the Captain didn't sound happy, so if we could get going . . ."
Morton didn't really think they would have allowed him to wander the ship freely, but he thought it was worth a try, anyway. "Lead the way, sailor."
As they climbed the steps to the Control Room, the ship rocked with the impact of several underwater explosions. Chip nearly panicked -- was he too late? Did they destroy the Seaview before he had a chance to figure a way to help? Then he realized that the impact wasn't big enough. Mayer was probably just laying down some depth charges to underscore his impatience.
As soon as the Captain caught sight of the corpsman and his charge, he shouted, "Mr. Morton, take over at Sonar. They're able to do a lot more with that boat than we were led to believe."
Chip's mind was clearing quickly, but it was still hard to resist the temptation to cheer. Instead, he assumed an alarmed expression, and shouted right back, "What?! What have they done?" By this time he was seated at Sonar, and he could see exactly what they had done. Fortunately he was the only one in the room who could.
Mayer raged on, "They claimed they had no power, no air, and practically no time. Then they just blinked out -- disappeared. Then, out of nowhere, these images started moving away from her last position. Which one is the Seaview? We've got to stop her before she gets away. We've got to get the SD3 -- that's imperative -- and if we can't get it, we have to destroy it, along with everyone who knows how to use it!" By this time he was ranting, nearly out of control. Most of the men in the Control Room looked terrified.
Chip studied the screen intently. He saw what the others couldn't recognize. None of those blips were the Seaview, they were all deflected images. The Seaview herself was a barely visible shadow rising slowly to the surface. Once he understood the situation, he banged the console in front of him with a his fist and announced savagely, "There!" And, jabbing his finger at a point on the screen, he continued, "that one is the Seaview. See how it's slightly larger, and sheering off from the others? If you want to stop those killers, that's your target."
"Are you sure?" Mayer shouted.
"Yes, I'm sure! Don't forget that I want them every bit as much as you do," he reminded the Captain. "This isn't just my assignment, or even my patriotic duty -- those . . . scum killed my best friend!" Chip reeled with the effort of putting on such a performance, but it was worth it, because Mayer seemed satisfied.
"Yes, of course you're right. I was forgetting." With great effort, Mayer brought himself under control, and started issuing orders to lock onto the signal Morton had indicated.
The Seaview was very nearly at the surface now; in fact, a look-out would probably have been able to spot her. But Chip had made sure that the target he chose was in the opposite direction, hoping that no one would think to look behind until it was too late.
He realized distantly that at any second the Seaview would attack, and this "USS Adams" would become nothing more than a bad memory. He wondered if there would be many survivors. He wondered if he would be one of them. He stood unsurely and began to make his way toward the door. Everyone was too busy to notice his departure; he hoped he could get another look at the Seaview before the attack.
He had only just made it through the outer door when he felt the concussion of a huge explosion beneath his feet. The deck heaved, and threw him against a supporting pole, which he embraced with all his ebbing strength. All around him, men were shouting frantically, piling into life rafts, even jumping directly into the water. But he continued to gaze through the fiery glare of explosions and the thickening black smoke until he finally saw what he was looking for: the most beautiful boat in the world, rising majestically through the waves. He was overcome -- whether by the drugs or his emotions he didn't know, or care. He didn't really feel himself being thrown into the water, but he did remember wondering if anyone would know to look for him . . . or his body. Of course they would . . . Lee sent him that message . . . didn't he . . .?
Through the periscope, Lee Crane saw a familiar form on the deck of the freighter. There was an explosion, the ship listed hard to port, and more men started emerging and jumping overboard. Crane gave orders to surface, and to start sending out rescue parties. "Sharkey," he said quietly to the Chief, "I'm pretty sure Mr. Morton is out there in the water. Be sure to have the men keep an eye out particularly for him. I don't know what kind of shape he might be in."
"Do you want him brought in under arrest, sir?" the Chief asked uncertainly.
"I do not! I have no idea what went on before, but I do know that he just saved all our lives by sending that ship on a wild goose chase in the wrong direction."
"Aye, sir. That's good to hear, sir. I'll tell the men to be on special lookout for him." Sharkey left to see to the rescue details.
Communications were no longer being jammed, and Sparks was able to radio the Fleet with a request for assistance. Soon, word was received that the ships which were to participate in the War Games were on their way to help pick up survivors. Meanwhile, the Admiral was in his cabin, conferring with the Institute over the ramifications of their encounter.
There was a steady stream of wet and downcast men being escorted under heavy guard down the ladder, and to a storage compartment which had been cleared to serve as a temporary Brig. The Captain was keeping a close watch on the prisoners as they came by, and soon saw the man he was looking for. "Have the 'Captain' here escorted directly to the Admiral's cabin. He wants to interrogate him immediately."
"Sharkey to Captain Crane," the voice came over the intercom.
"Yes, Chief, what is it?"
"Sir, I'm up on the Bridge, and they've just brought Mr. Morton aboard. He's in pretty bad shape, sir. You may want to get up here."
"Thanks, Sharkey, I'm on my way. Mr. Hanson, you have the con. I'll either be on the Bridge or in Sick Bay," he said as he waited for the last man to climb down the ladder so he could go up. When Crane got up to the next level, he saw Chip Morton being eased down the ladder and laid on the deck of the main corridor.
Kowalski was already on the intercom calling Sick Bay, and a very worried Chief Sharkey was trying to find a pulse. "I don't know, sir," Sharkey said in answer to Crane's unspoken question. "He's bleeding pretty bad."
The Captain was also frightened at the sight of Chip's deathly pallor. But he recovered himself quickly and said, "There's nothing we can do for him here. Just get him right down to Sick Bay and let the Doc take care of him."
The Captain and Sharkey followed the seamen as they carried Morton away.
Half an hour later an armed security guard escorted 'Captain Mayer' and 'Dr. Peters' from the Admiral's cabin to the Brig. Soon after, Nelson was in Sick Bay, relaying their story to Crane. "These two men, Alexander Strossmayer and Joseph Petrovic, under their aliases of Mayer and Peters, were the leaders of an underground resistance movement from the Balkans. Once they knew that theirs was a lost cause, they were entirely cooperative and open about their mission -- probably hoping for leniency. Their aim was to capture the Seaview -- with the newly installed SD3 -- before the War Games began, and use her as a weapon first against our Fleet, and then to hold all the navies of the world at bay. Failing that, they wanted to destroy her. Their plan was simple. They'd outfitted a small portion of the inside of a freighter to look like a naval vessel. That was why we had such a hard time identifying the ship -- it really was what Kowalski said it was: a freighter loaded with electronic surveillance equipment. Then they kidnapped an officer -- Chip -- trained in the use of the SD3, and convinced him to help them capture her. Evidently the toughest problem they had was finding enough trained seamen who could also speak English -- to carry out the masquerade."
"So Chip was brainwashed?" Crane asked.
"Not precisely," broke in the Doctor. "I've tested the Commander's blood; he has so many drugs in him that it's a wonder he could even remember his name. It was only through sheer force of will that he was able do the sort of maneuvering Sharkey tells me he was responsible for. But none of them are really the sort of psychotropic or hallucinogenic drugs one associates with brainwashing. I suspect that their plan was much simpler: They kept him just groggy enough that he really couldn't focus his thoughts clearly for extended periods, and whenever they didn't need him, they'd sedate him again. Over the two days that they had him, he built up toxic levels of stimulants and sedatives in his body. Another dose or two and the effects would have been irreversible."
"Will he be all right?" Lee asked anxiously.
"In a few days the drugs should have passed completely through his system, and since none of them were addictive -- we can be very thankful for that -- the effects should also pass completely."
"What about that wound in his side?" Chief Sharkey now joined the conversation. "He was losing a lot of blood when he came on board; has he got enough left to keep him going?"
"Yes, he'll be fine. We're giving him whole blood now, and we've already put him on ferrous gluconate, folic acid, and an array of vitamins to speed his own production of blood. When I check his count again tomorrow, that will be time enough to see if we need to take stronger measures. It was a nasty knife wound, but there's no sign of infection. He must have put up a fight when they captured him; although I doubt that he remembers it. His fall opened it, but I've stitched it back together. As long as he doesn't try any more high-dives it'll heal just fine."
"When can we talk to him?" the Admiral asked.
"Not before tomorrow morning, at the earliest. It will take at least that long for the drugs to wear off to the point where I expect him to begin to regain consciousness on his own."
"Mr. Morton, Mr. Morton, can you hear me?"
As Chip Morton tried to focus his eyes a face came swimming dimly into view. This all seemed familiar. Much too familiar.
"Mr. Morton, can you hear me?"
"Of course I can hear you -- you're making enough racket," he groaned. Meanwhile, things had focused a bit better and he now saw the face more clearly. "Patterson! You're alive!" he shouted excitedly. Big mistake. Again.
"Yes, sir, I am," Patterson replied with some confusion. "Now you'd better lie back down and wait for the Doc to come in."
"What day is this?" Chip demanded, ignoring the suggestion to lie down. "And where's the Captain? He and Sharkey are all right, aren't they? They couldn't have died, could they? Lee sent me that message, didn't he? Is the Admiral here?" He would have continued this determined rambling in spite of the pounding in his head if he hadn't been interrupted by the sound of Lee Crane's laughter.
"Well, Chip, it's about time you decided to wake up and join us. You've been lazing in that bed for over twelve hours."
"Lee! You are alive!" Chip announced with triumph. "Is Sharkey OK? And the Admiral? Is Seaview in one piece? Where's the Fleet? Did you --"
"All in good time, Mr. Morton, all in good time," chuckled the Admiral, who had just walked in with the doctor. "Right now, suffice it to say, we are all here, and in one piece."
The doctor had already begun taking his patient's vital signs, and was preparing a hypo when Chip stiffened. He quickly collected himself and allowed the doctor to continue his work. "I don't think I ever want to see another one of those, or a pill, or a glass of water again."
"What exactly happened to you on that ship, anyway?" the Captain asked.
Chip thought a minute, then began, "They told me you were dead, Lee, along with Sharkey, Patterson, Sparks, and about a dozen or so others. They said that Seaview had been sabotaged, boarded, and the crew put off and replaced by enemy agents. I volunteered to help track down and stop Seaview, capture the agents, and retrieve the SD3."
"But how did you get on board that freighter in the first place?" the Admiral asked.
"Freighter? Is that what it was? They told me I was on the Adams. I knew it didn't look like any destroyer I could remember -- but it's been a while, and I was having enough trouble dealing with my lost memory, your deaths, and the SD3 to pay much attention to interior decor. Anyway, I woke up there on . . . well, they said it was Wednesday night."
"Wednesday night? But it's only Tuesday morning now!" the Captain said.
"All I know is that after you guys dropped Angie and me off on Saturday night I went straight home and collapsed. They must have drugged me at dinner. The next thing I knew I was in their Sick Bay with a thunderous headache, and a bullet in my side."
"A bullet! But Doc said it was a knife wound!" protested the Captain.
"I'm not surprised. You don't want to know how they told me I got it. Anyway, I began to get suspicious when I saw how well the 'new' crew handled Seaview; then I overheard -- thought I overheard -- an odd conversation; and finally there was Lee's message about the 'Clark's induction valve'. That was the final proof I needed. After that, my only obstacle was staying awake long enough to do something."
"Which is probably a difficulty you're still having, Commander. I suggest that everyone leave and let this man get some more rest," the doctor ordered.
"Oh, Mr. Morton, I almost forgot," the Admiral said, handing him a slip of paper, "here's a message from a very relieved young lady in Santa Barbara."
Chip reached for it and then stopped, looking slightly embarrassed.
"No need to be concerned, no one read it except me. And Sparks."
"And me," the Captain chimed in.
"Don't forget me -- I had to clear it before my patient could read it," the doctor added.
"And I saw Sparks showing it to Kowalski before he handed it to me," Sharkey said, as the three of them walked out.
"Just be sure to give us some advance warning to have our dress whites dry-cleaned, OK?" The Captain ducked out the door in time to miss a weakly-thrown but well-aimed pillow.
Then Chip Morton settled down to enjoy the message for himself.
Copyright 1998 by Nancy Maack
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