Title: Flying Under the Influence
Author: Kim Q
Rating: PG
Length: novella
Flavor: drama, humor, h/c, angst
Summary: Mr. Morton's wild ride.

Author's Notes: This little roller coaster ride is the result of a rather determined plot squid that attacked me via the Seaview yahoo list and is my first try at a somewhat longer story. Many thanks to my wonderful beta Fidelma for her patience, thoroughness and invaluable input, to Lin and Helen for their help with Nelson and to my chat friends for letting me bounce ideas off of them!  Any mistakes are mine and mine alone. Set in the early fall of 1978, a year or so after "Death Ship" which I have set in late '77 because it works for my timeline and the canon dates of certain second season episodes don't match broadcast order anyway. :)  Slightly revised from the posting on Sub Pen.

Short Cuts to Part 2Part 3 Part 4Part 5Part 6 Part 7

**Part 1 **

Wreathed in a pungent fog from countless chain-smoked cigarettes, Admiral Harriman Nelson paced incessantly back and forth in Seaview's Observation Nose, the forceful sound of his steps providing a counterpoint to the nervous tapping of a pencil by his captain, Lee Crane. Tension was high throughout the control room as the faces of the crew reflected the concerned mood of their commanding officers. After a last drag on his current cigarette, Nelson crushed the butt in an ashtray and strode over to the plotting table. Slapping his hand down on the scattered charts, he swore, "Damn it, Lee! The Flying Sub's five hours overdue! Where could Chip be?"

"I wish I knew, Admiral." Crane forced himself to put down his pencil, his concerned hazel eyes meeting Nelson's worried gaze. "General Rizal was the last Oceania peace conference member he was to drop off. All the others arrived safely in their respective countries, but we've gotten no response from Palau or the Flying Sub. It's going to take us at least 48 hours to get to Palau even at flank speed."

Nelson snorted, "Blast Admiral Starke and his 'piece of cake' missions! They almost always backfire." He started pacing again, concerned as to the fate of his exec. He'd known Chip Morton since the lad had entered the Naval Academy. Nelson had been serving a tour as an instructor and had been very impressed with the sharp mind, calm leadership ability and remarkable organizational skills that hid behind Morton's unassuming personality. Having kept track of the young officer's noteworthy sub career, he had hand picked Chip to serve as Seaview's XO even before her keel was laid.

He looked over at his captain, knowing that Lee was having an even more difficult time dealing with Chip's disappearance. The deep friendship between Lee and Chip had started back when they were roommates at the Academy. Back then, the Crane and Morton team was nigh unbeatable, whether excelling in academics and athletics or leading their fellow midshipmen through some of the most elaborate pranks the Yard had ever witnessed. The two men had become as close as brothers, a relationship only enhanced by working together on Seaview. It was that brotherhood which forged them into a matchless command team, able to face the most difficult of missions with supreme confidence, allowing Nelson the freedom to concentrate on the scientific projects that he so loved.
Watching Crane prowl around the control room, needlessly double and triple checking various stations, then return to the plotting table only to begin drumming his fingers on the charts, Nelson had to chuckle. Lee stilled his fingers and frowned at his boss. "Mind sharing the joke, Admiral? I could use a laugh right now."

"Sorry, Lee," Nelson apologized with a dry smile. "It's just that Chip is much better at hiding his concern while waiting for you to return from off-boat."

"Well, he's had a lot more practice," retorted Crane, twisting his Academy ring in a telltale sign of anxiety. "I detest waiting! No wonder Chip hates it when I go on missions for ONI..."

"Skipper! I've got the Flying Sub on radar!" interrupted Patterson, beckoning his superiors over and pointing to the signal on his screen. "It just appeared out of nowhere!"

"It's about time!" Crane stared at the screen, tilting his head slightly in puzzlement. "Strange! Chip's flight path seems very erratic!"

"Captain! I've got Mr. Morton on the radio!" Sparks' excited voice called from the radio shack.

"Sounds like our luck is changing! Put him on the speakers!" Crane quickly turned back to the plotting table and grabbed the mike. "Seaview to FS-1. Seaview to FS-1. Chip, can you read me?"

"Hellooooo, Skipper, ol' buddy, ol' pal! Howwwwzit goin'?" The intoxicated sounding salutation from the wayward XO caused total silence to fall upon the control room as officers and crew alike traded incredulous looks. Though Morton and Crane's shore leave exploits were legendary, it was unthinkable that the principled exec would have indulged while on duty.

Lee frowned in disbelief at the mike in his hand. "Chip! Where have you been? Why haven't you answered our calls? And why the blazes do you sound like you've had too much liberty?"

"Hey, not my fault this time, bro. I've been drugged! Hmm, I probably shouldn't be flying but I couldn't figure out any other way to get home. Don't worry, I'll try not to scratch the paint on your lil' yellow baby." A tipsy snicker was heard over the speaker. "About the radio... um..." Chip's voice took on a slightly embarrassed tone. "...I kinda forgot to turn it on 'til now."

Nelson quickly grabbed the periscope island mike. "Sick Bay, this is Nelson. Doc, I need you in the control room on the double!" Turning to the Chief of the Boat hovering at his shoulder, he growled, "Chief, stand by the retrieval system for the Flying Sub. It sounds like the exec is going to need our assistance."

"But, Admiral, sir, the magnetic retrieval system only works at close quarters," protested Chief Sharkey. "Mr. Morton is way out of range!"

"I know, I know! Just make sure it's ready to go the instant he's near enough."

"Aye, aye, sir!" The chief bustled over to the retrieval controls and ran through a full diagnostic, checking and double-checking that the system was working perfectly.

Crane ruthlessly suppressed the instant panic his friend's words had produced and asked calmly. "Chip, who drugged you? What happened?"

"It's all that nasty General Rizal's fault. He's really a very bad dude, Lee. As soon as I opened the rear hatch to the Flying Sub to let him off, his guards rushed in and beat me up!" Chip's Chicagoan drawl, much more evident than usual, was tinged with indignation. "Then they knocked me on the head with a rifle butt! Next thing I know, I wake up with a nasty headache, strapped down on a cold metal table with some weirdo Dr. Frankenstein coming at me with this gigantic needle!"

The Chief Medical Officer made it to the control room in time to hear the last part of Chip's transmission. "Oh Lord! He's got a possible head injury in addition to an unknown drug in his system??" Jamieson groaned in dismay as he took the mike from an anxious Crane. "Commander, do you still have a headache or any dizziness? How long were you unconscious? Do you have any idea what drug they used on you?"

"Hey there, Jamie! Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m too far away for you to stick an I.V. in me this time," Chip chortled with child-like glee. Despite their worry, the crew couldn't help grinning as they knew the exec was one of the few people who hated Sick Bay as much as the skipper.

Jamieson shook his head. Morton was difficult enough to deal with at the best of times and this was definitely not the best of times. "Oh, you'll be in my clutches soon enough, Commander. Now tell me what sort of symptoms you have due to the drug."

"Hmm, maybe I should take a detour then, Doc. I've always wanted to take the Flying Sub supersonic over Miramar and buzz the Airdales*!" A very evil cackle crackled over the speakers, causing more than a few quickly stifled laughs from the avidly listening duty watch.

Sharkey turned towards the plotting table and his commanding officers, his eyes wide. "Skipper, Mr. Morton wouldn't really do that...Would he?"

Remembering a few of the choicer pranks his friend had dragged him into over the years, Lee shuddered. "Unfortunately, Chief, in his present condition, it's a distinct possibility." Crane took a deep breath and grabbed the mike back from the doctor. "Sorry, Chip, the Top Gun base is off limits! Just put the Flying Sub on autopilot and tell Doc about the drugs they gave you."

"Aw, man! I don't wanna go on autopilot." Chip's voice whined. "I'm having fun! First I flew low and slow over a pod of dolphins, but the waves started getting too rough, so now I’m playing tag with a black-footed albatross waaaay up in the clouds."

"It's no wonder we couldn't pick him up on radar if he was skimming the water's surface until now," grumbled Nelson as he peered over Patterson's shoulder at the exec's irregular flight path.

Crane checked his charts, calculating quickly. "Chip, put the Flying Sub on autopilot and enter a course of one eight three. That's an order, Mister!"

A resigned "Okay, you're the skipper," was heard followed by a quietly muttered, "Spoilsport... I never get to have any fun..." Despite his concern, Lee had to chuckle at the sulking 'little boy' tone of his friend's voice. It would be a long time before he'd let his buddy live this one down.

After a few minutes of assorted clicking noises and more questionable mutterings, Chip's voice spoke again, "Sorry, Skipper. No can do. I can follow that course easily enough, but that blasted bullet seems to have knocked out the autopilot. Probably wouldn't take long to fix it, but I can't fix it while I'm flying and I can't stop flying to fix it because the autopilot isn't working so I can't fix it and... um... what was I saying?" Morton's voice trailed off in some confusion.

"Bullet? What bullet?!"

"Probably the same one that winged me."

"You've been shot??" Crane turned his stricken gaze towards Jamieson.

The doctor quickly took back the mike and, with a calm professional voice that masked his inner agitation, asked, "Exactly where were you shot, Commander?"

"In the Flying Sub, Doc."


Resisting the temptation to pull out what was left of his hair; Jamieson raised his long-suffering gaze towards Heaven, a deep sigh emanating from the very marrow of his bones. Turning away from the plotting table to avoid looking at his commanding officers, who were torn between laughter and anxious worry, the doctor enunciated very slowly and distinctly, "Where... were... you... shot... on... your... BODY!!"

"Oh! The bullet tore across my left side. Didn't even realize I'd been hit until I saw all the blood on my uniform and flight jacket. It bled a whole lot at first, but I managed to plug it with the first aid supplies that we started carrying in the Flying Sub... you know, after Lee kept getting hurt on missions?... and that has slowed the bleeding down some. A couple ribs creak as though they might be cracked, but it didn't hurt when it happened or even now. Matter of fact, I feel really, really good. Kinda like that last shore leave in Hong Kong. Remember that one, Lee? The one where you and that exotic dancer named Passion Fruit..."

To the utter disappointment of the crew, their captain, a hint of desperation in his voice, snatched the mike back from the doctor and quickly interrupted his unusually talkative exec, "Ah... that's enough, Chip! So... you're telling us that you've been beaten by guards, knocked in the head by a rifle butt, creased by a bullet and are presently under the influence of powerful unknown drugs which make you feel no pain whatsoever?"

"Yup! That's about it, oh Captain, my Captain!" A slight pause, then Chip's voice resumed with a definite forlorn tone. "Oh, man, Kaia's gonna be mad at me. For some reason, she really likes it when I wear my black flight jacket on our dates. Boy, women are strange sometimes, aren't they? But now my jacket's all soaked with blood. Damn."

"Kaia? You're dating Dr. Kaia Winters?" A small grin broke through Crane's apprehension as a surprised murmur made its way around the control room. Lee had found it very entertaining to watch Mr. "No Commitments" Morton fall hard for the new Director of Computer Systems at the Institute. Now it seemed that his buddy had finally managed to broach the formidable defenses of the lovely Lt. Commander.

"Yup. But s'okay, Skipper, she's not in the same Chain of Command and you still have the rest of your Institute harem to flirt with."

"My WHAT?" The control room crew swiftly found their instruments to be completely and totally engrossing, while Nelson and Jamieson suffered sudden simultaneous coughing spells.

"You know, you ol' sea dog..." Chip's voice said slyly. "Crane's Cuties... Lee's Lovelies... the Captain's Cupcakes..."


"There's Katie and Angie and Lola and Tish and Diane and Carol and Sue and Lin and Linda and Rita and..."

"CHIP!" Lee thundered as a flood of red crept up his neck, noticeable even with his olive complexion.

After a few heartbeats of total quiet, a small hurt voice was heard over the speakers. "You didn't have to yell, Lee."

Chip's sudden and somewhat extreme change in mood forcibly reminded Lee that his friend was not exactly himself at the moment. Feeling as if he'd just kicked a puppy, he softened his voice, "I'm sorry, Chip. Please, you've got to tell the Doctor more about the drug they gave you."

"Well..." came the subdued reply, "I do have Doctor Frankenstein strapped down in the Flying Sub rack and could ask him if he wasn't still out cold..."

Nelson grabbed the mike and interrupted, "Chip, are you saying you brought the creator of the serum back with you?"

Chip's voice brightened, "Yessir, Admiral Sir! The joker tried to sneak aboard the Flying Sub as I was getting ready to take off. He's the one who shot me before I could knock him out. I thought you'd want to talk to him, Admiral, 'cause he is a scientist like you, even if he's kinda crazy and wants to take over the world and you're not. I mean don't. Crazy I mean. I mean you're not crazy but he is... but... that is...oh hell, sir."

"That's okay, Chip, I understand," Nelson's voice was warm with affection and amusement. "Now tell us what the doctor said about the drugs he used on you."

"Well, the Doc - not Jamie, I mean the evil bad guy Doc - rattled off a bunch of really, really long names of stuff that was in his drug cocktail but all I remember is that there was a funky stimulant mixed with his latest and greatest experimental truth serum that no one could resist and that they'd find out all of Seaview's super duper top secret stuff from me then the general and doctor could overthrow the Palau government and then Rule the World..."

Nelson looked at Crane in shock and saw his own horror reflected in the captain's hazel eyes. There could be devastating consequences if any of Seaview's classified data fell into the wrong hands.

"...but don't worry, sir. Every time they asked me a question, I told 'em that they didn't have the proper top secret clearance for that kind of information."

Running one hand abstractedly through his thick auburn hair, Nelson asked in disbelief. "You... You told them they didn't have the proper clearance?"

"Well, sir, the drugs made me tell the truth and that was the truth," replied the matter-of-fact voice of the exec. As their commanding officers sighed in relief, the crew traded smug smiles, proud of their devious XO.

Jamieson chuckled dryly, "At least it doesn't sound like the experimental drugs have impaired his mental faculties. The inebriated effect should wear off as the drugs work their way out of his system." He frowned and tapped his ubiquitous stethoscope lightly on the side of the plotting table. "Though he's not complaining of dizziness or nausea, I'm still not happy about the blow to the head he received, let alone the bullet crease and possible cracked ribs."

A happy, melodic humming now emanated from the speakers as the doctor looked with concern at Nelson and Crane. "Since he doesn't know what was in the drug cocktail, we don't know how long the effects will last or how rapidly the stimulant part might wear off. When it does, all the pain and fatigue will return with a vengeance. To make matters worse, if the bullet crease is deep enough and still bleeding, he could lose enough blood to go into shock. Perhaps we should let him land the Flying Sub on the surface and go meet him?"

Lee shook his head, "Sorry, Doc, but he seems to be in control at the moment and I'd like him to get a lot closer first. Topside conditions are much too rough for a surface landing so he'd have to dive below. In his present state he could easily misjudge the angle of entry. If he does lose control and crash, I want him to be near enough for us to be able to rescue him quickly."

"I understand, Skipper. In that case, we've got to keep him awake and talking as long as possible."

"Somehow, I don't think that will be very difficult," said Nelson with a snort. "These drugs seem to make our normally taciturn exec quite loquacious!" The admiral turned to Crane. "Lee, how much time do we have?"

"At our respective speeds, only about fifteen minutes before Chip will need to dive, sir."

"Very well. Shouldn't be hard to keep him talking that long." Clicking the mike, Nelson interrupted the exec's tuneful humming and asked, "Chip, why don't you tell us how you escaped from the general?"

"Sure, Admiral! Whatever you say, Mr. Boss Man, sir!" came Chip's cheerful drawl over the speaker. "The general and the evil doc weren't very happy with me 'cause the doc thought his precious serum would make me spill my guts, but I threw up instead. Not exactly the guts they wanted me to spill." The exec's wicked chuckle found an echo in more than one listening crewman. "But I threw up all over the general. That's how I was able to grab his gun."

"Wait... Wait a minute. Earlier you said you were strapped down on a table!"

"Well, I was, sir, but when they gave me the second dose of drugs 'cause the first didn't work the way they wanted, I told them I was going to throw up so they let me up so I wouldn't choke to death. I really wanted to throw up all over Doctor Frankenstein but I needed the general's gun to escape so I threw up on him instead. Then I grabbed his gun and shot the two armed guards but not the general because he didn't have a weapon anymore."

"You shot the guards?"

"Yessir. I knew I couldn't bluff my way past 'em 'cause of the truth drug, so I had to just take 'em out. I had to shoot more to get away after I blew up Dr. Frankenstein's lab."

Nelson's eyebrows rose as he exchanged surprised looks with Crane and Jamieson. "You blew up the doctor's lab??"

"Well sir, I didn't want him giving anyone else his stupid serum, so I figured his lab had to go. Oh, yeah, that reminds me, Admiral, you'd better tell the Office of Notorious Ineptitude that they'll need a HAZMAT team to clean up the mess. I smelled some really funky odors coming from what was left of the lab."

Nelson's sapphire eyes sparkled at Morton's creative renaming of the Office of Naval Intelligence and the corresponding sour look on Lee's face. The XO's extremely low opinion of the ONI - due primarily to their continued drafting of Lee for dangerous missions from which the captain seldom returned unscathed - was common knowledge on the boat and had been the cause of more than one vigorous 'discussion' between his command officers. "I'll take care of it, Chip. Now..."

"Ooo, sir! Tell Lee that, considering his usual condition after a mission, maybe 'ONI' should really stand for...Officers Needing Ibuprofen." A peal of infectious mirth cascaded out of the speakers causing the duty watch to struggle to suppress their laughter before the heat of their skipper's glare could scorch them into small steaming piles of ash.

Having serious trouble containing his own amusement, Nelson wordlessly handed the mike back to Crane. The captain turned his glower from his crew to the inoffensive instrument connecting him to his still snickering exec. "Very funny, Chip! Now tell us about the lab."

"Okay, Mr. Grumpy! Sheesh! I didn't blow up the lab right away. I had to release the prisoners first."

"Well, duh, Lee. I couldn't very well blow up the lab without releasing the general's prisoners that the doctor was using as lab rats first, now could I? Man, those poor guys were in pretty bad shape! That nasty doctor liked to experiment on them! And I was to be next if I didn't talk!" Revulsion filled Chip's voice, sending chills down Lee's spine as he realized what a close call it had been for his friend.

In another quick change of mood, Chip's voice continued in a much lighter tone, "Luckily the Palau loyalists had wanted to take down General Rizal and his evil doc for a long time so they were happy to help me free the prisoners."

"Loyalists?" asked Lee with a groan, leaning on the plotting table and rubbing his temple with his index finger. He wasn't entirely sure he could handle too many more revelations from his friend.

"Yeah, they were a pretty nice bunch of guys. They helped get the sick and wounded prisoners to safety which provided the diversion I needed to raid the weapons storage locker where I found the explosives I needed to blow up the lab after I grabbed the data disks that I needed to prove that the general and the doctor were bad guys."

While Chip paused to take a much-needed breath, Nelson grabbed back the mike and interjected, "Data disks?? You managed to steal their data disks?"

"Yessir! They used those newfangled 5 1/4" floppy disk thingies so it was easy to tuck a bunch of them into my flight jacket after I planted the explosives. I just hope I didn't bleed on 'em. Man, you should have seen their computer set up, sir! Kaia would have loved it! I'd really like to put some of their ideas to work on Seaview's computers. You know, Admiral, we could really boost her processing speed out the wazoo if we just... "

"We can discuss updating our computers later, Chip." Nelson interrupted, smiling indulgently at the enthusiastic tone of his resident computer buff. As passionate about Seaview's computers as Crane was about the Flying Sub, Morton was constantly bugging the Admiral for the latest in equipment upgrades and gleefully adapting programs to the sub's unique needs. "Now how did you get away after blowing up the lab?"

"Well sir, after leaving the destroyed lab, there was a whole lot of fighting going on between the loyalists and the general's men so I decided to get back to the Flying Sub and get it out of there. Knew Lee would never forgive me if anything happened to his lil' yellow UFO," A smirk was quite evident in Chip's voice. "But the general sent four of his nastiest thugs out to recapture me and they managed to cut me off from the landing area. Luckily I had picked up a rifle along the way so I snuck through the rainforest and neutralized them one at a time so I could get away."

"You sniped four enemy soldiers as you escaped through a tropical rainforest while drugged?" asked an incredulous Nelson.

A slightly affronted snort was heard in reply. "I might not have Lee's super spy training, sir, but I did go hunting with my dad every year when I was growing up. Gotta be able to sneak around pretty quietly if you want to bag a white-tailed deer with a single shot muzzleloader. Much easier to hunt a human than a deer, even if the deer isn't trying to kill you." Chip's voice snickered. "Though the ground kept moving real funny, like I was at sea! Made it hard to evade the bad guys left standing after I'd shoot one of 'em. But I eventually got 'em all plus the one guarding Lee's toy."

The control room duty watch traded astonished looks. They knew Morton had the reputation for being the best shot on the boat, though he seldom wore the Expert medals he was entitled to*. But shooting on a target range wasn't nearly the same as shooting under combat conditions and it usually was the admiral or the skipper that led any shore parties, leaving the calm, dependable XO behind to command Seaview. The crew's respect for their quiet exec's abilities rose dramatically.

"You've done a great job, lad," said Nelson with a pleased smile, proud of Chip's resourcefulness under such challenging conditions. "I'll call Vice Admiral Johnson and let ONI take care of the clean up details in Palau." He traded grins with Crane. "I can't wait to tell Admiral Starke how his little 'piece of cake' mission actually went down!"

"Oh no, sir! Please don't tell Admiral Starke!" Chip's voice wailed from the speaker. "He'll try to give me my own command again."

The control room once again became deathly quiet as Crane slowly took the mike back from the stunned Nelson. "Chip, are you saying Admiral Starke offered you your own command and..." Lee paused a moment to clear a lump from his throat. "...you turned him down?"

"Oops. He didn't want me to tell anyone." Chip's voice turned pleading. "Please don't let him know I told you, Lee, or he'll yell." The voice dropped to a worried whisper, "He yells even louder than our admiral and that's saying something!"

Crane quickly coughed to cover his chuckle as Jamieson turned away from the plotting table to hide his own grin. "Don't worry, Chip. I won't tell him anything." The angry glint in Nelson's eyes told Lee that Admiral Starke would be hearing about it anyway - admiral to admiral.

"Thanks pal! Admiral Starke did tell me that my years of service on Seaview definitely would count as my PCO tour*, especially considering all the times I've been left in command when you and the admiral were off the boat. Boy, he wasn't very happy when I told him I'd rather be the exec of Seaview than return to the Navy to command my own boat. Hell, Lee, if I'd wanted my third stripe and a command of my own that badly, I would have stayed in the Navy a couple more years like you did. But I wanted to be a part of the admiral's dream and serve as his exec so I left and I'm glad I did, so there!"

The skipper sighed in relief as Chip's voice rambled on. "Besides, it would be hard to give up Seaview. I'm a plankowner so I know her every rivet and weld...every complex circuit of her computers. You of all people know how she gets into your blood. She may be the admiral's creation and your Lady, Lee, but she's my baby! After all, the crew and I are the ones who take care of her day to day and make sure she's ready for all the weird adventures we get dragged into. Speaking of which, the regular Navy would be awfully dull after all the pushy aliens, mutant plants, super-sized sea creatures and megalomaniacal villains we've dealt with."

As the duty watch chuckled, Lee's lips turned up in a wry smile. "I'll remember you said that while we're counting species of plankton, Chip!"

Losing some of its original ebullience, Chip's voice began to fade slightly, "I get all the command time I'd ever want when you and the admiral are off playing with the Office of Nosy Infiltrators, I get to help the admiral run the administrative side of the Institute when we're in port, I work with the finest crew in or out of the Navy, and I've got my best friend and bro as my skipper. Couldn't ask for a better billet." A weary but contented sigh was heard over the speakers and found its reflection in the warm smiles of the listening officers and crew.

"Glad to hear it, buddy!" Lee said with an affectionate grin then turned to the patiently waiting O'Brien. "All Stop! We don't want the exec overshooting us." As the young lieutenant passed on the order, Crane clicked back to his friend and said, "Okay, Chip, it's time for you to dive the Flying Sub and come home."

"Good, 'cause I'm hungry."

Lee rolled his eyes in disbelief as amused snickers rippled around the control room. "Chip, you're always hungry. You can have something to eat once Doc checks you out in Sick Bay. Now dive the Flying Sub and come aboard. That's an order, Mister!"

"Aye, aye, sir. Closing off external air intakes..." Chip's tired voice began to take on a pained tone causing Crane to trade concerned looks with Nelson and Jamieson. "Switching to on board air revitalization system... preparing... to submerge." They heard the exec's breath getting progressively more labored as he continued, "I don't want any of that icky ... Sick Bay slop... Want... brownies... the ones Cookie makes to temp you... Captain... Fussy Pants..."

The tension in the Control Room grew as Morton's voice weakened. Evidently the stimulant was wearing off much more rapidly than they had hoped. Crane ran his hand nervously through his dark curls, watching the approaching Flying Sub on radar as he commanded, "Chip, focus! Concentrate on your speed and angle of entry! You're coming in too fast!"

The increasingly strained voice continued unheeding as Chip made his final descent towards the ocean's surface. "...ribbon of fudge... chocolate chunks... inch of chocolate... buttercream... frost... oww!" A deep groan of pain was heard over the speakers as the Flying Sub slammed into the water less than fifty yards off Seaview's bow.


**PART 2**

"Chip! Are you all right? CHIP!" asked Crane, his voice rising with anxiety as his friend failed to respond and the Flying Sub drifted without direction towards the murky ocean bottom. Lee had Seaview maneuvered forward until she was directly above the motionless vehicle, opening the docking bay doors. Turning to Sharkey, he ordered brusquely, "Chief, I want him aboard, NOW!"

"Aye, aye, sir!" The chief engaged the magnetic retrieval system and began the gradual process of berthing the Flying Sub. Jamieson and his corpsmen hovered around the hatch in the observation nose; ready to pounce the moment pressure had been equalized.

It seemed to take forever for the docking clamps to finally engage and release the lock on the hatch. Crane spun the wheel quickly, opening the hatch for the medical team who descended the ladder in record time. A firm hand on his arm halted his own descent.

Lee turned, a protest dying on his lips as he met Nelson's unyielding yet compassionate gaze. "Easy, lad! Give the doctor room to work." Only years of ingrained military discipline and his deep respect for the admiral enabled Crane to obey. Sighing, he nodded his acquiescence and contented himself with staring down the ladder into the Flying Sub, hands anxiously gripping the railing around the hatch.

The admiral kept one hand on his captain's arm as he gestured to the waiting Master-At-Arms. "Mr. Lopez, take charge of Mr. Morton's prisoner." Raising his voice slightly he called Sharkey over. "Chief, I want you to secure the Flying Sub and find the disks Mr. Morton mentioned." The two men acknowledged, studiously avoiding their skipper's resentful glare as they edged past him to go down the ladder.


Dr. Will Jamieson's breath caught at the sight of a familiar tall figure slumped in the pilot seat harness, blood steadily dripping from the exec's side, wending its way down the leg of the chair to form a wide crimson puddle on the deck beneath. "John, you go check out Mr. Morton's prisoner while Frank and I tend to the commander."

Steeling himself for the worst, the doctor reached out a hand toward the side of Morton's neck, exhaling in relief as his touch confirmed that a weak, rapid pulse still beat beneath the pale, clammy skin. Jamieson gently turned Chip's head, revealing vivid bruises on the blond's ashen features, extending down his neck only to disappear under his torn shirt; silent testimony to the beating he'd received from the general's guards. A large purple knot above the exec's temple oozed blood down the right side of his face, presenting a stark contrast to his almost colorless skin. Jamieson winced in sympathy. "They really did a number on you, Commander," he muttered. Turning to his corpsman he said, "Frank, help me get his flight jacket off so I can get to that bullet wound and you can take his vitals."

As the two men unbuckled the safety harness and carefully eased the torn jacket from Morton's shoulders, the movement caused Chip to rouse, his bleary gaze at first unfocused, then getting sharper as he realized what was happening.

"Nooooo! Don't... Wait!" Chip groaned in pain as he futilely attempted to twist his battered torso out of Jamie's grasp, waving one bloody hand towards the crimson stained flight jacket Frank had tossed in a heap on the deck. "Get the disks... pocket... give to Admiral... so he won't yell..."

"Stay Still!" Jamieson ordered as he gently reached under Chip's torn uniform shirt to examine the blood soaked dressings the exec had haphazardly applied to the gaping wound in his left side. He firmly pressed fresh gauze on top of the crimson bandages, causing the cracked ribs to creak alarmingly.

"Owww! That... hurt... you big... meanie!" Wounded azure eyes, shimmering with unshed tears of pain, stared up accusingly at Jamieson.

"I'm sorry, Chip, I know it hurts but I've got to stop the bleeding," Jamie said gently as if to a child; realizing that the truth serum must still be affecting the exec even if the stimulant part of the drug cocktail had worn off.

"Disks... Admiral..."

"Don't worry about the damn disks, Commander!" Jamieson growled in exasperation as his deft hands continued to pack more and more gauze into Chip's wound, stemming the crimson flow from Morton's side. A gasp from behind him caused the doctor to look up from his work.

A stunned Chief Sharkey stood at the foot of the ladder with the Master-At-Arms; both men staring in silent dismay at the bloody tableau. "Chief! The data disks are in a pocket of Mr. Morton's flight jacket."

"Aye, sir! I'll take care of it after I secure the Flying Sub." The COB tore his eyes from the unsettling sight of the wounded officer and turned off various switches, powering down the little submersible. After securing the sub's systems, Sharkey carefully knelt down beside the gory jacket, searching the pockets for the data disks.

Turning back to his patient, Jamie wrapped a pressure bandage around the exec's torso; securing the packed gauze as best he could without further damaging the cracked ribs. "There. That should hold until we get you to Sick Bay and I can stitch you up."

Lt. Lopez headed over to where John was finishing his evaluation of the prisoner. "Doc, it looks like this guy only has a light concussion," reported the corpsman. "Should be coming around any time now." John held up two sealed vials. "I found these in his pocket. Might be the same stuff he gave Mr. Morton!"

"Good. Bring them down to Sick Bay along with our mysterious doctor. The Master-At-Arms can guard the prisoner from there. Hopefully he and the vials can give us some answers. But we need to get the exec out first." Turning his attention back to his groggy patient, he continued, "Now, Commander, since the disks and the prisoner are taken care of, it's time to get you to Sick Bay."

"No! Don't wanna! Gotta take care of... boat..." Ignoring the stabbing pain in his side and his throbbing head, Morton gathered his last tattered remnants of strength, desperately pushing back the darkness that hovered at the edge of his consciousness. Determined not to be taken to the hated Sick Bay, he grabbed tightly on to the arms of the pilot's chair and attempted his best XO glare, the one that sent even the crustiest sailors scuttling for cover. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to work on Jamieson.

"You've got to take care of yourself right now, Commander," replied the doctor soothingly; reluctant to force the confused man out of his seat and chance reopening the precariously plugged wound, yet unwilling to administer a sedative with all of the unknown drugs flowing through Morton's bloodstream.

"You don't... understand. My job... to take care of boat... so skipper 'n admiral don't have to worry... Can't take care of everyone... from Sick Bay..."

Seaview's CMO tried one more time to get through to the befuddled exec. "Chip, believe me, I do understand. But you have to be well to take care of everyone and that means you need to go to Sick Bay right now."


Jamieson played his ultimate trump card. "Chip, if you don't go to Sick Bay, the skipper will worry about you and won't be able to rest or eat properly. You don't want that, do you?"

Morton dropped his eyes in defeat and mumbled, "No. You win... for now."

"Very reasonable of you. Now, let go and we'll get you over to the ladder." Sighing in resignation, Chip released his death grip on the arms of the seat. Jamieson carefully helped him up, keeping a close eye on the pressure bandage as Frank provided support on Morton's good side

Chip wobbled unsteadily on his feet, the supporting arms of his shipmates all that kept him from falling face first on the deck of the Flying Sub. "Hey, tell Lee to stop the boat from rocking!"

"It's not the boat that's rocking, Commander, it's you," said Jamieson as he helped his corpsman assist the exec over to the access hatch. "Oof!" he grunted with the effort of supporting Morton up the ladder. "Remind me to bug the admiral about that aft hatch access he's been promising."


Crane watched anxiously as a disheveled blond head appeared in the narrow hatchway. His exec painstakingly hauled himself up, supported closely by Jamieson. Kowalski and Patterson reached down and grabbed Morton's arms, hoisting him up the last few rungs. Crane had seldom seen his usually immaculate friend look so battered and bedraggled. But what concerned Lee the most was the copious amount of blood that stained his friend's tattered and filthy uniform and oozed through the fresh white bandages decorating Morton's left side. Chip asked with a tired grin, "Permission to come aboard, Skipper?" Before Lee could respond, the blond's eyes rolled back into his head and he sagged back unconscious into the crewmen's arms.

"Damn it! He's going into shock!" swore Jamieson. The doctor quickly applied more pressure to the red spotted bandages as Ski and Pat gently lowered Morton onto the lightweight stretcher waiting beside the hatch. "Sick Bay, now!" The ratings stepped back to allow the two corpsmen to lift the stretcher and head towards the aft hatchway. The worried eyes of the crew anxiously followed the bloodied figure of their exec as Frank and John carefully carried him out of the silent control room.

Crane was still staring numbly at the hatch through which his friend had been carried when he felt Nelson put a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "You go down to Sick Bay, Lee. O'Brien can handle things here. I'll contact Johnson and Starke to let them know what happened then I'll join you."

"Thank you, Admiral." Turning back towards the plotting table, Lee said brusquely, "Mr. O'Brien, you have the conn. Hold our position until further notice." The dark-haired officer's acknowledgement was barely heard as Crane spun on his heel and hurried out the rear hatchway.


Low muttered grumblings from Ski behind him warned Nelson that the mysterious "Doctor Frankenstein" was being hauled up from the Flying Sub. Nelson turned to see the Master-At-Arms roughly pushing the prisoner towards the rear hatchway, followed closely by an irate Chief of the Boat.

"Admiral, I am Dr. Haruo Salii and I demand you release me!" The indignant Palauan blustered as he stopped in front of Nelson, straightening his white lab coat in a futile attempt to regain some dignity after his less-than-gentle handling.

Nelson's deep blue eyes flashed with barely suppressed fury. "After what you've done to my officer, you're in no position to demand anything." Waving a hand at the Master-At-Arms he growled, "Mr. Lopez, take him to Sick Bay and keep him under close guard. I'm sure our doctor has many questions for our... guest."

As the protesting prisoner was escorted out the aft hatchway, Nelson took a deep calming breath, pushing back his wrath for the moment so he could deal with the myriad details left by the recent events. Turning back towards the plotting table, he saw his COB standing uncharacteristically silent, staring down at a handful of flat objects clutched tightly in one fist, a crimson stained rag in his other hand.

As Nelson approached, Sharkey looked up, his sea-green eyes like saucers, his voice rough with distress. "Man, oh man, Admiral, sir! You should have seen all the blood! The pilot seat is soaked with it and there's this huge puddle on the deck and..."

"It will be all right, Chief," soothed Nelson, knowing that Sharkey took any attack on his officers very personally. "The exec's in good hands. Are those for me?"

"Oh, yes sir. Here's the data disks he was talking about." Sharkey gave the bloody handkerchief to a rating for disposal and handed Nelson the floppy disks. "I cleaned 'em up the best I could. I sure hope whatever info is on these things is worth the price Mr. Morton paid, sir."

"I hope so too, Chief. Get a detail to clean and repair the Flying Sub as quickly as possible in case we need to medevac Mr. Morton. I'm going to check out these disks and report to Johnson and Starke." Nelson headed towards the main computer console.

"Aye, aye, sir." Sharkey paused a moment, shifting from one foot to another, then blurted out, "Admiral?"

Nelson turned and looked at the COB with a resigned sigh. "Yes, Chief?"

"If you need any help interrogating the prisoner - any help at all - I want a crack at him, sir."

The admiral smiled dryly at the offer. "You'll have to get in line behind me and the captain, Chief. But I'll keep it in mind." The stocky figure of Seaview's creator turned back towards the computer and inserted one of the disks.

Sharkey turned to the watching duty crew. "Okay. Kowalski. Patterson. You goldbricking swabs just volunteered for Flying Sub detail. Move it!" The rest of the crew quickly returned their attention to their instruments. Satisfied that order had been returned to the control room, Sharkey nodded to Lt. O'Brien and hurried off to carry out the admiral's orders.


Lee stood unmoving in the doorway of Sick Bay, watching anxiously as Jamieson barked out a litany of orders, working quickly to stabilize his unconscious patient. Chip's shirt was cut away; revealing soaked crimson dressings contrasting starkly with paper white skin. An oxygen tank, IV bottles and other medical paraphernalia appeared as if by magic as the corpsmen responded to Jamie's orders with a smooth, efficient professionalism, preparing the exec for emergency surgery. The doctor turned to him and said something, but all of Crane's attention was riveted on Chip's motionless bloody body. He'd never seen his friend so pale! Jamie's second, more emphatic request broke through Lee's distress. "Captain! I need blood donors right away!"

Never taking his eyes off his much too still friend, Lee reached for a mike. "All hands, this is the captain. B+ blood donors on the port watch report to Sick Bay, on the double!"

As he slowly hung the mike back up, the door to Sick Bay opened, causing him whirl around in surprise. There hadn't been enough time for the donors to respond to his call. The skipper's eyes narrowed as the Master-At-Arms appeared pushing a harried man in a rumpled lab coat through the doorway. His wrath grew as he viewed the man who had caused his friend, his adopted brother, so much trouble. "So this is Chip's 'Doctor Frankenstein'...."

"Yes, sir, Skipper." Lt. Lopez turned his struggling prisoner to face the captain. "He says his name is Dr. Hauro Salii."

Seething with controlled rage, Crane growled, "Salii? Sounds more like Dr. Mengele to me, experimenting on helpless victims...."

The prisoner straightened, staring down his nose at the captain's fury. "Those men were our enemies and destined for extermination. The pitiful wretches should have been honored that my experiments on their worthless bodies advanced the cause of science!" Salii declared, dark eyes glittering with maniacal fervor.

Incandescent green sparks appeared in Lee's hazel eyes as his hands tightened into fists. "Advanced the cause of science? That's never an excuse for using innocent men as guinea pigs! You're lucky I don't have you keelhauled..."

"Captain!" Jamieson looked up from his patient, his pale blue eyes flashing with impatience. "I'm going to have to ask you and your guest to leave." As Crane opened his mouth to protest, Jamieson interrupted him, his voice calm but insistent, "Lee, I don't have time to argue if I'm going to save Chip's life. If you want to be useful, get some information from that damned doctor about the drugs he used!" He waved a bloody gloved hand towards a nearby tray where the two vials of Salii's serum had been placed.

"Very well, Jamie." Crane stalked forward with a purposeful stride, backing Salii into Jamieson's office alcove, pausing only to grab one of the vials off the tray. The MAA followed closely behind, closing the folding partition behind the three of them. Lee's eyes took on a feral gleam seldom seen outside of his intelligence missions for the ONI. "Now, Salii... It's time for you and me to have a nice little...chat."


Lighting up yet another cigarette, Nelson again paced back and forth in the observation nose, waiting impatiently for his call to go through to Admiral Starke. His conversation with Vice Admiral Johnson hadn't improved his temper any. The head of ONI had been quite peeved that Morton had disrupted their months-long investigation of General Rizal and Doctor Salii in such spectacular fashion.

Harry shook his head in disgust, knowing that the vice admiral was mostly annoyed because Chip's anything-but-covert actions might have succeeded in uncovering proof on Palau where ONI had failed. Back at the Institute, Dr. Winters was working on the encoded data he'd uploaded from the purloined disks. He had every confidence in Kaia's ability to break the data's encryption and the resulting information should be enough to satisfy even Johnson.

A slight smile flitted across Nelson's face as he pondered Chip's inadvertent admission regarding Dr. Winters. Luring the gifted engineer away from the regular Navy to head up the Institute's Computer Systems department had been quite a coup in and of itself. Now it looked like it might just bring some long-needed balance to the personal life of his workaholic exec.

Nelson sighed as he remembered his own brief, yet warm, relationship with Kaia's mother, the now deceased Ava Winters, who had helped him design Seaview*. Though the calm, professional façade of Ava's daughter had held firm during the briefing about the disks, Harry knew the young officer well enough to see the fear and concern that flickered in her crystal blue eyes when he told her why Morton wasn't going to be able to help with the decoding. He dreaded the thought of bringing Kaia any more tragic news concerning someone she cared about.

Ceasing his pacing and rocking back on his heels, Nelson stared balefully at the monitor as if he could conjure up Starke by strength of will alone. Damn it! What's taking him so long! Chip's in Sick Bay, possibly bleeding to death, and I'll bet Jiggs is having a drink at the Officer's Club! He viciously stabbed his cigarette out in the nearby ashtray.

The monitor finally flared to life, the craggy face of his old Annapolis classmate filling the screen. "What can I do for you, Harriman, you ol' pirate!" Starke said with forced joviality.

"Oh, I just thought I’d let you know how your little 'piece of cake' mission went down." Nelson said in a deceptively mild voice. "I don't suppose you knew that ONI had been investigating Palau when you asked me to use the Flying Sub to transport VIPs there, hmmm?"

Starke straightened as he recognized the storm warnings inherent in his friend's dangerously quiet tones. "I might have heard something about that, Harry," he replied cautiously. "But it was just scuttlebutt!"

"Well, that damn scuttlebutt might just cost me my XO!" Harry exploded, stomping closer to the monitor and planting his fists on his hips. "General Rizal proved to be a traitor! Chip's in Sick Bay with a bullet wound and pumped full of experimental truth drugs, either one of which might kill him! If you knew there was something suspicious about the General, why the devil didn't you give us any warning?"

Starke paled, slumping back in his chair in shock. "Your exec? You mean Crane wasn't flying that blasted contraption of yours?"

Anger sparked in Nelson's sapphire eyes. "Ah, so you DID suspect something might happen and thought that the ONI trained Crane would handle it!"

"Everyone knows that Flying Sub thing is Crane's baby! I'm surprised he let Morton fly it on such an important mission!"

"Chip is one of the few people aboard who comes close to Lee's skill as a pilot. But then, you should know what Morton is capable of... considering you tried to steal him from me!!"

"Harry, I..."

"What the blazes were you thinking?" Nelson interrupted, his furious glare pinning Starke in place like one of his biology specimens. "Going behind my back... Offering him command... Ordering him to remain silent when he turned you down...!" With each charge, Nelson's voice increased in volume until he was practically shouting.


On the other side of the crash doors, the duty watch flinched as the barrier seemed to vibrate with the force of Nelson's rage. Riley leaned over from his sonar station to whisper to Malone. "Man, the OOM is really hacked at ol' Spit-N-Polish for trying to bag our exec!"

"You said it!" Malone shook his head in disbelief. "Boy, I can't believe Mr. Morton chose us over his own command!"

"He'd change his tune if he saw you two yammering away like a couple of old ladies instead of doing your jobs!" Sharkey interrupted, his annoyed glare causing the two seamen to straighten up and turn their full attention back to their instruments.

Inwardly the COB was relieved that Mr. Morton had turned down Starke's offer. Though the officer certainly deserved his own command, Seaview was a very special boat that needed an exec with his kind of calm strength to balance the admiral's scientific genius and the skipper's passionate leadership. In all his years in the Navy, Sharkey had never seen an XO who knew his boat and crew the way Morton did. Heaven help the crewmen who endangered the boat by inattention to their duties! They'd be served a sharp-tongued XO Special they'd never forget! The chief smiled to himself as he casually checked various stations, slowly maneuvering his way closer to the crash doors. Not that he was nosy or anything, but it was always smart to know which way the wind was blowing when it came to the admiral's mood.


The monitor in the observation nose crackled as Starke recovered enough of his natural bluster to counter Harry's charges. "Now wait a minute, Harry! Who was the one who poached the top submariners in the Navy to staff Seaview?"

Leaning in towards the screen, Harry shook his finger at his friend. "You know very well that I never went behind ANY CO's back for any of my personnel! And you also know how difficult a position you'd be putting Chip into, bringing him out of the Reserves to command a Navy boat."

In a transparent attempt to defuse Nelson's temper, Starke adopted a more conciliatory tone, "Harry, please. I know it wasn't quite proper protocol, but have you ever thought that perhaps Morton deserves a chance to get out of Crane's shadow?" He waved his own hand in frustration. "As to him being Reserve... Damn it, Harry, if you add up all the times over the years that you and Crane were off the boat, Morton's had more command time than many of my current sub drivers!"

"Don't you think I know that?" Nelson growled through gritted teeth. "But he's never given any hint of wanting to leave Seaview." Exhaling his breath in a deep gusty sigh, Harry grudgingly brought his temper under control. "Look Jiggs, all I'm asking is that the next time you get the urge to grab one of my men, you go through me first. And that you brief me fully on any missions you give us, no matter how innocuous they may seem. Now if you'll excuse me, I want to check on how my exec is doing."

At Starke's subdued acknowledgement, Nelson reached out and turned off the monitor. Though he was still angry with his friend, the blustery old sea dog did have a good point. Perhaps he had been selfish to keep Chip from a well-deserved command in the Navy, but Morton's recent words certainly supported the idea that he was exactly where he wanted to be.

Deep in thought, Harry walked over to the plotting table and opened the crash doors. He harrumphed, not at all surprised to see Sharkey hovering close by. "Chief, make sure you let me know the moment the detail finishes cleaning the Flying Sub and fixing the autopilot." Turning to the Officer of the Watch, he snapped brusquely, "Mr. O'Brien, I'm expecting Dr. Winters to contact me as soon as she's got something from those disks. Let me know as soon as you hear anything. I'll be down in Sick Bay."

"Aye, aye, sir." came the dutiful reply. The entire control room duty watch breathed a collective sigh of relief as Hurricane Harriman stalked out the aft hatchway.


**PART 3**

Jamieson removed his surgical gloves and gown, flexing his cramped fingers in relief. He shook his head ruefully as he realized the last time he'd had to do such precise work was on the skipper. Considering how often one or more of Seaview's command team ended up in Sick Bay, it was no wonder that Harry had hired him as a full time doctor for the boat instead of depending on corpsmen alone as some older submarines did.

Returning to the gurney where Chip lay unconscious, Jamieson made minute adjustments to the flow of whole blood then reached out to gently brush an errant lock of fresh-washed hair from the young man's damp forehead. With Morton's usual controlled intensity absent, he looked far too young to be exec of the finest boat in or out of the Navy. He didn't look that much older than Will's own son, a trauma resident at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. The doctor couldn't help chuckling as he considered how Jiggs Starke liked to complain that Harry was robbing the cradle when he chose Morton and Crane for his precious boat. But even the gruff admiral had to admit that the two men, so very different in appearance and personality, formed one of the best command teams the Silent Service had seen. Jamieson could swear that there were times when Lee and Chip communicated via some sort of telepathy!

Angry voices coming from his office alcove caused the weary doctor to raise an eyebrow. Lee and Chip's close friendship did have its downside. Though it was usually Chip playing the concerned 'big brother' role - despite only being two months older - Lee could be just as protective of his friend. Jamieson hoped the skipper would be able to restrain his more ruthless side while dealing with the man who'd caused Chip such pain. As Crane was a very compassionate and caring commander towards his crew, the men sometimes forgot the darker side of their captain that made him such an effective ONI agent.

The folding doors to his office alcove opened abruptly, the MAA pushing a cowed Salii towards Jamieson, followed closely by a triumphant Crane brandishing a scrap of paper. The CMO was intrigued to see that there were no outward signs of physical damage to the evil doctor yet Salii had obviously exchanged his defiant attitude for one of abject defeat.

"Here's the list of drugs in his cocktail, Jaime!" Lee hastily shoved the paper at Jamieson then hurried over to Chip's side, carefully laying a hand on his friend's shoulder. Looking back at the CMO, he asked quietly, "Is he going to be okay?"

"I really need to know what side effects to expect from the drugs he was given before I can give you an answer, Skipper." As Jamieson turned his attention to the hurriedly scribbled list of drugs, his anger grew. Turning to Salii he exclaimed, "My God! How on earth could you even think about combining these drugs?" He shook the list in the other doctor's face, his usual dispassionate demeanor completely shot. "One or two are dangerous enough, let alone mixing all of these!" The uncharacteristic ire of the doctor brought Lee quickly back to his side.

"What do you mean 'dangerous'?" Alarm crept into Crane's voice as his hazel eyes sparked with renewed rage.

"It means that we're damned lucky our esteemed exec isn't dead with the amount of junk this maniac pumped into him!"

Salii cowered under Jamieson's furious glare, replying defensively, "I was interested only in the truth serum's effectiveness, not the survival of the subject." As his scientific curiosity got the better of him, he turned his gaze towards the man on the nearby gurney. "I'm quite impressed by the level of functioning he was capable of under the influence of two full doses of my serum. No other subject ever reacted that way. If only I could do some further tests..." his voice trailed off wistfully.

"The only thing you're testing is my patience!" Jamieson's eyes glowed with indignation. "If I wasn't a doctor I'd..."

Jamieson's desired actions would remain a mystery as a pained groan indicated that his patient had regained a tenuous grasp on consciousness.


Chip Morton floated in a nebulous dark haze, occasionally disturbed by odd visions that flashed briefly into view, then faded back into the mist. Garish neon lights in Hong Kong...a smoke filled bar echoing with the strains of an old blues tune... clouds of foul-smelling gas billowing out of a blasted building... a dark haired woman with sparkling blue eyes and a smile full of promise...dank overgrown tropical foliage hiding a dangerous prey that must be neutralized...

Voices, both concerned and irritated, began to pierce the haze, pulling him towards awareness. They seemed to be arguing about something. One voice sounded somewhat familiar and reassuring, but the other one was harsh and frightening, resurrecting confusing images of an evil man in a stained lab coat wielding long sharp needles. A burning fire in his side and sharp, stabbing shards of pain in his head dragged him further out of the comforting darkness. Chip's nose twitched as a strong medicinal smell dissipated the last of the fog. Medicinal smell? Where was he? Exerting a mighty effort, he cracked his leaden eyelids slightly and peered up at the blurred faces surrounding him. The first one to come into fuzzy focus was cruel. Chip's eyes widened in fear as he recognized the man who had caused him so much pain.

"No!! Not you! I escaped! It can't be you!" He tried to sit up in a futile attempt to get away from his tormentor. Pain exploded throughout his body while the room decided to spin in a most disconcerting manner. His struggle pulled out the I.V. in his left arm spattering the clean white sheets with crimson.

"Damn it! Get Salii out of here, NOW!" shouted a voice that sounded much nicer than the cruel one even if it was yelling. A firm hand grabbed his now bleeding arm while another pushed him back down. "Frank, hold him! I don't want him reopening his wound!" Somehow, Chip felt like he should know the kind face that went with the voice but the excruciating pain made it hard to think very clearly. He only knew he had to get away! The speaker turned to a dark, shadowy figure behind him. "Skipper, talk to him! I can't risk giving him a sedative so you have to convince him he's safe!"

Cold hands continued to put firm pressure on the place where the nasty needles and icky tubes had been stuck in his arm, trying to stick the sharp things back in. Chip didn't want any more needles! But a weight on his legs wouldn't let him up and the pain in his chest and head was getting unbearable. Tears pricked the corners of his eyes as he realized that he was in no shape to make another escape attempt. All he could do now was to try and resist the voices. He had to protect his friends and his boat regardless of what the cruel doctor would do to him. Giving up his ineffectual outward struggle, he focused his remaining wisps of strength on the battle within. "I won't tell you!! You don't have proper clearance!" he muttered, closing his eyes to the pounding drummers in his head as he repeated his stubborn mantra of defiance. "No clearance... Won't tell... Won't..."

Two hands gently but firmly cradled his aching head. "Chip! Look at me!" Morton frowned at the sound of a well-known voice. It couldn't be... his friend was on the boat... not in this horrible place...they were trying to trick him! He screwed his eyes shut even tighter...afraid to hope. "Chip! You're safe aboard Seaview!" The voice was persistent and demanding, keeping him from retreating back into the quiet darkness. "Mister Morton, look at me, that's an order!"

Responding at last to the familiar note of command in the voice, Chip slowly opened his eyes and struggled to focus his bleary gaze on the blurred shape hovering only inches above him. Relief flooded the blond as the blur resolved itself into the worried face of his best friend. "Lee? Seaview? You... you rescued me?"

Warm hazel eyes sparkled as Lee released his grasp and smiled down at his friend. "Actually, you rescued yourself this time, Chip."

"Oh." Chip pondered that a moment, eyes narrowing as he tried to sort through the jumbled images in his memory. "But...I ...I saw the bad guy doctor...thought he was going to stick me with more needles. I hate needles!" He tried to glare over at Jamieson, who had just finished cleaning Chip's left arm where the IV port had been restored, but the sudden movement of his head caused the drummers to start up again. He winced and reached an unsteady hand up to his throbbing right temple, fingers tracing the outline of a gauze bandage. Hazy memories of being on the receiving end of a rifle butt floated through his muddled mind as he lowered his hand and reached out for his brother, needing the contact to reassure himself that he was indeed safe at home aboard their Lady. "Lee?"

"Easy, Chip!" said Lee soothingly, seemingly reading his mind as he grabbed his friend's hand in a firm, comforting grip. "Doctor Salii was just here to give us some information about the drugs he gave you. He's our prisoner and can't hurt you any more."

Chip looked up at the concerned face of his friend, able to admit to him what he would have tried to hide from anyone else. "But it already hurts, Lee." As the pain once more surged, his grip on Lee's hand tightened. "Tell Jamie to make it go away!" he pleaded, tears welling up in his eyes, spilling unheeded down his face as a cascading wave of intolerable pain broke over him, tearing a deep groan from his lips before the darkness again engulfed him in its soothing embrace.


"Jamie!!" Crane's worried shout brought the CMO to his side in a second.

"What's going on?" Nelson demanded as he entered Sick Bay in time to hear Lee's shout.

Tucking his stethoscope back into his lab coat, Jamie sighed and reassured his anxious commanding officers. "Easy, gentlemen. Chip's vital signs are still stable."

"But he's unconscious!!" Lee protested, his amber eyes flashing with concern

Jamie looked with compassion at the distressed young man. "Lee, I hate to say it, but it's actually for the best right now. Between the concussion and the drugs from Salii's cocktail that are still in his system, I can't risk giving Chip anything more than a moderate analgesic for the pain. Don't worry. We'll keep a very close eye on him."

"How bad is he, Will?" asked Nelson with concern as he gazed down at Chip's too pale face. The worry in Harry's voice reminded Jamieson that the bond of friendship also ran deep between the gruff admiral and his longest-serving officer.

"The concussion wasn't as bad as I'd feared, though he's going to have a horrid headache for a few days. There are contusions and cuts all over his torso from the beating he received from the General's men, but there were no internal injuries or broken bones. Again, very painful but not life threatening. The worst problem was the bullet crease. It gouged a deep furrow between two of his ribs, cracking them here." Jamieson indicated the spot with his hand, gently skimming the blankets tucked around Chip's chest as he continued. "He actually did a good job of packing the wound and slowing the blood loss, but the jolt from his abrupt entry into the sea caused it to bleed heavily again."

Jamie looked over at Lee who had gotten more upset with each new revelation. "It's a good thing you had him get as close as possible before trying to dive the Flying Sub, Skipper. Probably saved his life, though he still lost enough blood to go into shock. Luckily, suturing the crease was straightforward though I had to use a local due to the possible dangers of mixing Salii's drugs with general anesthesia." The CMO shot a glare towards the door where Salii had been taken away. "That's also why I can't risk sedation until the drugs wear off. Chip is just lucky that none of them were addictive and that his activity on the island burned off some of the nastier stuff." Jamieson shook his head and said with a snort. "That's one way Salii was right." At the questioning looks from Lee and Nelson he continued with a wry smile, "It really is amazing that Chip was able to function as well as he did on the island with all that junk in his system."

"I should have hurt that monster instead of just intimidating him," Lee muttered, his eyes narrowed in anger, his grip on Chip's hand tightening briefly before he realized he could be causing his friend more pain. Releasing his grasp, Lee tucked his friend's cold hand under the sheet, carefully smoothing the blankets.

"Easy, lad." The admiral laid a comforting hand on his captain's shoulder. "Chip wouldn't want you to do anything so drastic on his behalf."

"But..." Crane tensed up for a moment then slumped as his troubled eyes met those of his mentor. "It's just..." Lee's voice trailed off as he looked back down at his too still friend.

"It's just that it's hard to see him in pain." Nelson finished, his sympathetic blue gaze fixed on his friend. He continued in a kind voice that would have surprised those who did not know him well. "Now you know how Chip feels when you returned battered and bruised from one of your ONI missions. It's difficult to be the one keeps the boat and crew together while waiting and worrying."

Lee sighed and managed a rueful smile, "Yes, it is." Turning back to Jamie, he asked again, needing the reassurance, "So Chip is going to be okay?"

"Yes, Skipper, the prognosis is quite good, though he's going to be in considerable pain for a while. We're building up his blood volume, pumping him full of antibiotics to stave off infection and will push liquids once he's awake to help flush the drugs from his system." He looked down at the exec and said with a wry smile, "If I know our XO, he'll be fussing to get out of here in no time." His commanding officers both snorted at that, their tension easing slightly as Jamieson had intended.

"So you don't anticipate needing to transport him back to Santa Barbara once the Flying Sub is cleaned and repaired? We still need about one more week to finish our original charting mission."

"I don't think so, Admiral. I'd rather not jostle my handiwork by trying to transport him to the Med Bay. Besides he'd just be plotting his escape the moment he woke up. Those baby blues of his have far too many of the Institute nurses under their spell." Jamieson frowned at the understanding grins that briefly flitted across his commanding officers' faces. "No, our soon-to-be very grumpy exec can recover just as well here where I can keep an eye on him."

"Very well, Will." Nelson paused for a moment, his brow furrowed in thought. "Do you have any idea how much he'll remember of all this? Admiral Johnson is going to want a full report."

Mentally reviewing the list of drugs Salii had pumped into the exec, Jamieson shrugged. "No way to know. I'd be willing to predict that his memories after the drugs wear off will probably be somewhat confused, but there's always the possibility that he might remember every single embarrassing detail."

Lee blanched at the latter possibility. "Might be a good time to take some of my accumulated shore leave," he muttered under his breath, causing Nelson and Jamieson to trade wry smiles.

Jamieson sobered quickly. "Skipper, I think we'd better limit access to Chip for the next 24 hours or so, until the truth serum wears off. As we've already seen, our normally stoic exec is very vulnerable right now. He's a very private man who prides himself on a tight self-control which will be practically non-existent until the drugs leave his system."

"I understand, Jamie. I'll make Sick Bay off limits for all but actual emergencies. The crew won't be a problem."

The doctor heard the fiercely protective note in his skipper's voice and smiled inwardly. Seeing the amused sparkle in Nelson's eyes, Jamie knew that the admiral had also recognized the same 'mother hen' note heard in Chip's voice when the two men's situations were reversed.

Nodding his thanks to the corpsman who had brought over a chair from Jamieson's office, Nelson settled in beside the gurney. Looking up at his captain with deliberate calm he said, "I'll sit with Chip for a while, Lee. Why don't you go back to the Control Room, give the men an update on the exec's condition and get us back on track for our current mission? Make sure O'Brien hasn't navigated us into the Bermuda Triangle."

Lee snorted, "That would be quite a trick, Admiral, seeing as we're in the Pacific Ocean." He heard the underlying command in Nelson's 'suggestion' and appreciated that the admiral hadn't made it an order. Though he hated leaving his friend, he knew Chip would be the first to acknowledge the demands of duty. As he headed for the door, he turned his head towards the admiral. "I'll be back after this watch is over, sir."

The CMO stepped forward, blocking Lee's path. "Commander, I don't want you back here until you've had something substantial to eat. And I DON'T mean coffee and cookies!" Jamieson glowered at the young officer who matched him glare for glare.

"I've got more important things to worry about right now!" Lee ground out between clenched teeth.

The admiral - long accustomed to defusing heated 'discussions' between the doctor and his command officers - calmly asserted his considerable authority. "Lee, make sure you follow the doctor's orders. You'll be no use to Chip if you don't take care of yourself!" His voice took on a mildly threatening tone as he continued, "Or we might just have to discuss your adventures in Hong Kong concerning... What was the name? Ah, yes... Passion Fruit?"

Lee's hazel eyes widened in shock at Nelson's blatant blackmail threat. He responded with a touch of anxiousness, "Umm, that won't be necessary, sir. I promise I'll get something to eat after this watch is over." To Nelson's amusement, Crane bolted out the door as if the General Quarters alarm had sounded.

The admiral and the doctor traded indulgent smiles. Despite Lee's renowned abilities as a superb sub commander and experienced ONI agent, every now and then Harry saw a reminder of that very young ensign who had served with him aboard the Nautilus so long ago. "That must have been one heck of a shore leave, Will," Nelson shook his head as Jamieson handed him a fragrant mug of fresh coffee.

"Wonder if we'll ever know what happened..." Jamieson mused as he retrieved his small bottle of 'medicinal' scotch from his desk drawer. He poured a tiny dollop into his own mug followed by a more generous amount into Harry's.

"It's probably better that we don't." Harry chuckled then fell silent, gazing into the dark, steaming depths of his cup as if searching for an answer to something.

Jamie raised an eyebrow, recognizing that something was bothering Nelson above and beyond Chip's injuries. Though Jamieson's training was primarily in the field of trauma, he had a minor specialization in psychology that stood him in good stead as an informal counselor to the men of Seaview. As he was a decade or two older than most of the crew, Jamie was seen as a sympathetic father figure with a ready ear to listen to their concerns. But his relationship with Harry had slowly evolved over the years into that of contemporary and friend rather than simply boss and employee. Jamieson felt honored that he was one of the few people that Nelson felt comfortable enough with to take off his admiral's stars and just be Harry. Reaching into his pocket, he dug out a coin, flipping it gently into Nelson's lap.

Nelson was startled out of his reverie and swore under his breath as the hot coffee in his mug sloshed over his hand and splashed on his khaki pants. Jamie cheerfully endured the resulting glower, feeling that it was a small price to pay if he managed to pry Harry out of his dark mood. He watched with carefully hidden amusement as Nelson picked up the offending coin, turning it over in his hand as he raised a wry eyebrow at the doctor. "My thoughts probably aren't worth that much, Will."

The doctor countered with a slight smirk. "True. They're usually worth much more," he said, obliquely referring to the many marine inventions and patents Nelson's active mind was unable to stop creating.

Harry snorted and took a deep drink from his mug, allowing Doc's special brew to work its relaxing magic. "It's Jiggs," he admitted with a sigh.

"Why am I not surprised?" Jamieson muttered, invoking a small grin from Nelson, which soon faded.

"He thinks I'm being selfish keeping Chip as XO of Seaview. Thinks I should let him step out of Lee's shadow and have a command of his own."

"Hah! He's just trying to make you feel guilty so he can cover his six about trying to steal Chip away without telling you."

"But what if Starke is right?" Nelson leaned back in his chair and turned his concerned gaze towards the exec. "Perhaps I have been selfish, grabbing Chip away from the Navy before he had a chance at command."

Waving one hand towards the gurney, Jamieson retorted, "Harry, we heard from his own mouth that he's perfectly happy to be Seaview's exec!"

"But what if that's just loyalty speaking? Chip must know how much Lee depends on him. He's loyal enough to sublimate his own wishes and goals if he feels it is best for Lee." Harry sighed and drained the dregs of his mug. "Chip's style of leadership may be quieter than Lee's, but damn it, Will, there's not a man aboard that wouldn't follow him willingly into battle! Maybe Chip should go back to the Navy...command a boat. He'd make it to flag rank in no time! He deserves that chance!"

A slight stirring on the gurney caught Jamieson's attention before he could reply, causing him to rise up and check on his patient. He thought about upping the level of pain medication since Chip's sleep seemed so restless, but he hated to add more drugs to an already overloaded system. Sighing, he made a slight adjustment to the flow of antibiotics then settled back into his chair. Turning to his stubborn friend, he said, "Harry, may I remind you that Chip was speaking under the influence of truth serum on his way back from Palau?"

Getting nothing more than a moody harrumph in reply, the exasperated Will slapped his hands on his legs and leaned forward, meeting Harry's worried eyes with his own glare. "Think about it! To a plankowner like Chip, no sub launched, not even the new Ohio class boomers can compare with Seaview! The only thing I can see luring him away from this boat would be..." Jamieson trailed off deliberately in a move guaranteed to pique Nelson's curiosity.

"What?" Harry frowned. Jamie could almost see the man's lightning quick mind considering various possibilities.

The doctor chose his words carefully. "You've always wanted to build a true sister ship to Seaview, but you scrapped the plans when..."

"When Polidor was lost." Nelson's face reflected the still-bitter sadness of her loss. "I just couldn't face building another boat after losing so many good men." he admitted.

"Understandable, Harry," said Will in a gentle voice. "But maybe it's time to rethink the possibility. Build the next generation of Seaview and give Chip the command..."

Their musings were interrupted by Sharkey entering Sick Bay. "Begging your pardon, Admiral," the COB said, moderating his usual strident tones out of respect for the wounded exec, "Sparks has Dr. Winters on the line for you, sir. She's finished decrypting the files from Palau. And the repairs to the Flying Sub are complete."

"Thank you, Chief." Nelson stood up, setting his mug down on his chair. "We'll talk more about this later, Will." The admiral headed towards the door with a lighter step.

Sharkey lingered a moment, his anxious green eyes flickering over to the wounded exec. "Is Mr. Morton really gonna be okay, Doc? I know the skipper said so, but Ski and Pat cleaned up a whole lot of blood from the Flying Sub and that stinking louse of a doc has been muttering all kinds of stuff about the drugs he used and..."

Jamieson raised his hand to stop the flow of words and stepped forward to get the chief headed out the door. "Mr. Morton did lose quite a bit of blood and he is going to be in considerable pain for a while until Salii's drugs work their way out of his system. So pass the word to the men to be extra quiet around Sick Bay." Jamie allowed himself a reassuring smile as he continued, "The XO should make a full recovery, but he's going to be very grumpy until those ribs heal."

"Thanks, Doc, I'll warn the men." Relieved, Sharkey grinned at the CMO and headed out the door, closing it softly behind him.

Jamie picked up Nelson's mug and sighed reflectively. He'd been waiting months for the perfect moment to broach the subject of another boat. As the Institute had grown over the years, so had the demand for Seaview's services. A second boat would not only help relieve some of the load, but it would also be the final step in his friend's healing from the loss of Polidor. The fact that it would give Chip a well-earned command without having to give up the Institute to which he'd dedicated so much of his life was an added bonus. Jamieson knew a new boat might not happen for years, but at least the seed had been planted in Nelson's fertile mind.

A subdued moan from the gurney behind him brought Jamieson's focus back to the present.


Once again, the sound of voices pulled Chip out of oblivion and into an awareness of excruciating pain. Though they sounded quiet and comforting this time, the increasing pain throbbing throughout his torso and head made it difficult to understand what they were saying. His confused mind was only able to grab at tiny bits and pieces of the conversation that was taking place beside him. But those bits threw him into a tailspin of despair. The damning words "should go back to Navy" and "crew wouldn't follow him willingly" reverberated over and over. Did he foul up that badly on Palau? Is that why the admiral didn't want him anymore? Sorting frantically through his drug-clouded memories Chip tried to make sense what he'd heard. But his mind just wouldn't work right! Why couldn't he think clearly? Shouldn't the drugs be out of his system by now? More voices came and went but he couldn't make out what they were saying.

The pain surged anew, tearing a groan from his lips despite his best efforts to keep quiet.

A blurred face came into view and resolved into the kind face of Seaview's doctor. "How are you feeling, Chip?"

Still unable to dissemble, Morton responded sadly, "It hurts, Jamie... I have to leave but... it...hurts..." Once again, traitorous tears threatened to spill, filling him with shame at his uncharacteristic lack of control.

Jamieson shook his head. "I don't think you have the energy to pull off one of your usual escape attempts this time, Commander." The doctor's glare gave way to a sympathetic smile. "But I can do something about the pain." He turned a valve on one of the IV bottles hooked up to the port in Chip's left arm. "I'm sorry that I can't give you anything stronger until Salii's drugs fully wear off, but this should help. Now try to get some sleep."

Relieved that the doctor had only heard the obvious meaning of his words, Chip closed his eyes and settled his aching body back into the soft pillows of his Sick Bay rack. Thoughts of all he'd have to leave behind kept swirling through his throbbing head. The boat he helped build, the crew he helped train...his mentor, his best friend...the girl he'd just found...but he didn't want to stay where he wasn't wanted. The crew deserved better than an officer who had lost Nelson's trust. Eventually the combination of exhaustion and analgesics lured him back down into the one place where his anguished heart could find a few hours of blessed oblivion.


**PART 4**

Lt. Frank O'Brien* suppressed a frustrated sigh as he worked on the duty rosters for the upcoming week. As Operations/Diving Officer and fourth-in-command of Seaview, part of his duties were to assist the XO in managing the myriad details involved in the day-to-day operations of the boat. Normally, he loved being part of the command team of the best boat and crew in or out of the Navy. But tonight...

He shook his head, stifling another sigh as he made notes on a clipboard nestled amid the scattered charts and papers on the plotting table. Since Mr. Morton was out of action, the Chief Engineer, Lt. Commander Mark Lukela* was the acting XO. He'd be taking over the late watch in about an hour and Frank wanted to have the rosters ready for his review. But it wasn't the thought of working with Mr. Lukela that was bothering him. The Hawaiian engineer was much easier to deal with than that blivet* Bishop who had been 'encouraged' to return to the Navy years ago. No, the current Cheng* had proven himself to be an easy-going leader as well as a gifted engineer. It was dealing with an anxious and fretting skipper that was going to turn O'Brien's jet black hair prematurely grey!

With Mr. Morton's calm and steadying influence absent, Captain Crane was flitting all over the Control Room... snapping at Sparks... fiddling with the fathometer... hovering over the helmsmen... Because the charting mission was proving to be excruciatingly uneventful and O'Brien had the paperwork well in hand, there was nothing to distract the skipper from worrying about his wounded friend. He knew that the captain hated the crew's diligent attempts to 'mother hen' their CO, but Frank was almost ready to invent some sort of minor glitch just to give the skipper something to do! But before he could do anything that he'd probably regret later, a smooth mellow voice heralded the Chief Engineer's arrival in the Control Room.

"Good evening, gentlemen!" Lukela smiled cheerfully at Crane and O'Brien then settled himself at the plotting table. "Looks like you've made great progress with the rosters, Frank."

The skipper cast a suspicious eye at the dark haired engineer. "Aren't you a bit early for your watch, Mark?"

"Just thought I'd lend Frank a hand, Skipper, though it looks like he's got everything under control." Innocence shone from Lukela's handsome face and sparkled in his warm brown eyes. Looking down at the rosters, Mark continued in a deliberately casual voice, "Everything seems quiet tonight, boss. Why don't you go grab a bite to eat and check on the XO?"

Frank watched with carefully hidden amusement as his captain's hard hazel stare failed to put a dent in the engineer's serene composure. Mr. Lukela had definitely learned a thing or two about skipper management from Mr. Morton, the boat's resident expert! Captain Crane shook his head, a wry smile crossing his lips as he made a graceful retreat out the aft hatchway. O'Brien exchanged triumphant grins with Lukela as the two men turned back to the pile of paperwork that kept their Lady running smoothly.


Lee strode towards Sick Bay, his shoes softly tapping out a worried beat on the well-polished deck. Concerned crewmen offered murmurs of support as Crane hurried by. He knew they found it unsettling for their seemingly indestructible exec to be incapacitated. The crew depended on the XO to be Seaview's solid anchor...steady and unflappable despite the chaos that was so often tossed their way.

The few bites of Cookie's famous shrimp au gratin he'd managed to swallow - in fulfillment of Nelson's direct order - sat uneasily in his churning stomach. He just wasn't used to seeing Chip in such bad shape. Even through their craziest pranks at the Academy, Morton usually breezed through with minimal wear and tear to his pristine uniform while Crane himself looked like he'd been through a war.

But it was the disturbing image of the terrified Chip, thinking he was back in Salii's hands yet still determined to protect his boat, which haunted Lee most. Oh, he wasn't surprised at Chip's resistance to the truth serum. He knew his friend's strength of will and his dedication to duty, but, damn it! It should have been HIM risking capture and interrogation, not the spook-hating Chip! But when the 'easy' mission ferrying diplomats came in from COMSUBPAC, the blond had insisted that it was his turn to escape their humdrum charting assignment.

Opening the door to Sick Bay, Lee was surprised to find Chip precariously perched on the edge of his rack. "What do you think you're doing?!"

"I have to go to my cabin, Lee." A grimace crossed Chip's face as he fought the nausea resulting from sitting up. He tried to focus his bleary gaze on the corpsman who was valiantly attempting to keep the IV tubes attached to his left arm. "John, stop the room from spinning and help me up. That's an order!"

Lee hurried over and grabbed Chip's shoulders before the disoriented man could tumble off the rack. "Chip, you're in no condition to be sitting up, let alone giving orders. Now lie back down!"

"Lee, I have to GO!"

"So use the portable urinal!"

"That's not what I mean, Lee. I..." Chip paused a moment. "Well, I do need to use the head. I'll use the one in my cabin." He pushed ineffectually at Lee's restraining hands, wincing as his cracked ribs and wounded side protested vigorously. "Now let me up!"

Keeping a gentle but firm grasp on the obstinate XO, Lee looked around for some backup. "John, where's Doc?

The corpsman continued adding several extra layers to the tape securing Morton's IV port as he replied. "There was a minor emergency in the Missile Room, Skipper. I'm not sure when he'll be back. Shall I call him?"

"No, we'll deal with Mr. Stubborn ourselves." Lee turned his attention back to his friend. Though he could certainly sympathize with Chip - having plotted more than his own fair share of Sick Bay escapes - Lee had no intention of letting his brother in all but name damage himself any further. Perhaps a compromise... "Okay, Chip, tell you what. John and I will give you a hand over to the head, but then you have to get back in bed!"

A frigid blue glare, only slightly less intimidating than usual, stabbed at the captain. "I don't need help to take a piss, Lee!"

"Of course not, Chip," he replied soothingly, suppressing a smile out of consideration for his friend's already battered dignity. "But you do need some help walking."

A frown creased the blond's pale forehead, wrinkling the gauze on his right temple as he pondered the offer. "Hmm, I guess I'm still a bit dizzy. Okay then. Help me up."

Grateful to have won the first challenge, Lee exhaled in relief. He carefully slung Chip's right arm over his shoulder and slowly helped him over to Sick Bay's tiny head, followed closely by John with the IV stand. Once there, the corpsman went off to change the bedding in the just vacated rack while the skipper provided stable support for the still unsteady exec.

After Chip finished his ablutions, Lee tried to steer him back to bed, but he wobbled in the direction of the door instead, knocking into the IV stand and throwing Crane off balance. "Lee, my cabin's this way!"

"Damn it, Chip!" Lee struggled to support the exec's shifting weight as John made a spectacular diving grab of the IV stand before it could crash to the floor. "Behave and you'll be in your cabin in no time. Right now, you're getting back in bed! That's an order!"

With a weary sigh, Chip obediently - if reluctantly - gave up his struggle. His pained, shallow breathing as Lee carefully helped him back to his rack was a clear indication of how draining the short walk to the head had been. "Now stay put or Doc will have my hide!"

"Please, Lee!" A hand reached out to tug insistently on the skipper's sleeve. "You don't understand. I... I have to go pack."

"Pack? What on earth for?" The confused Lee was shocked to see moisture form in his friend's intense blue eyes before the blond head turned away.

In a hushed whisper that Lee had to strain to hear, Chip said sadly, "The admiral doesn't want me anymore. He said I should go back to the Navy."


To Lee's horror, his stalwart exec choked back what sounded suspiciously like a sob as he rubbed his eyes with the back of one hand. "He...he said the men wouldn't follow me willingly... said that I should go back to the Navy."

The despondency in his friend's voice broke Lee's heart. "Chip, you must have misheard. You know how much the admiral values you!"

Chip's ashen features took on a familiar mulish expression. "He doesn't want me anymore, so I need to go pack. The men need an exec that Nelson can trust. I have to go..." He made one more attempt to sit up despite his weary body's strident protests.

Having seen that stubborn expression many times since their earliest days together at the Academy, Lee knew the futility of arguing with Morton in his present mood. "Look, Chip. You barely made it to the head. Just relax and get some sleep. Build up your energy. If you feel the same way tomorrow, I'll see what I can do about springing you from Jamie's clutches."

"Well, I am tired," Chip admitted grudgingly as he settled back into the pillows. "Thanks, bro..." Chip's voice trailed off as his weary eyes slowly closed.

"Get some rest, buddy." Lee patted his friend's hand and tucked a blanket securely around him, watching with concern as Chip slipped into an uneasy sleep. He just could not understand where Morton had gotten the idea that Nelson didn't want him anymore! Though the friendship between the exec and the admiral was seldom verbalized, Crane knew that it was strong and deep. After all, Chip was one of the very first people Nelson chose to help found N.I.M.R. and be part of Seaview's pre-commissioning crew!

Lee had to admit that he'd felt the occasional touch of jealousy at his friend's new billet, especially after getting a few letters from Chip during Seaview's construction. Oh, Crane knew it was his extra years in the regular Navy with a promotion and command of the Archerfish that gave him enough experience to be tapped as a replacement for Captain Phillips. But sometimes...sometimes he wondered wistfully what it must have been like to help build Nelson's dream.

He scratched his head in puzzlement as he left Sick Bay. It was that very history that made it impossible for Lee to believe that Nelson didn't want Chip as XO of Seaview! He had to confront the admiral and find out exactly what he had said!

As he closed the door to Sick Bay, he saw Jamieson returning from the Missile Room. "Doc, what was the emergency?"

"Oh, nothing serious, Skipper. Seaman Stubbs just sprained his ankle tripping over a SCUBA tank. I wrapped it and sent him off to the Crew's Quarters with a bag of ice and an analgesic. Chip doesn't need that idiot around while he's trying to fight off the effects of a concussion and Salii's drugs."

"Stubbs! I should have known," Lee said with a rueful shake of his head. Seaman Ron Stubbs was one of the most accident prone seamen he'd ever met with a real pain-in-the-six attitude. If it wasn't for the fact that the man was a wizard with machinery, he'd have been off Seaview years ago. "Glad it wasn't anything worse, Doc, because we've got a much bigger problem! Come with me!" He headed up the passageway towards Officer Country, beckoning the doctor to follow.

"But I need to check on Morton!" Jamieson protested.

"Jamie." Lee stopped and turned to face the CMO, his voice quiet yet insistent, "He was sleeping when I left and John's keeping a close eye on him. This concerns Chip and I need you with me." Reading the determination in Lee's hazel eyes, Jamieson nodded and followed his skipper's lead.


**PART 5**

Harriman Nelson absentmindedly rubbed above his ear with the eraser end of his pencil then jotted another note in the margin of one of the many papers scattered across the desk in his cabin. Working out the precise wording for his report to the Palau government was a bit of a challenge. He knew the Palauan president would NOT be happy when he saw how deeply Dr. Salii and General Rizal's web of rebellion extended into the complex workings of the government. Luckily the proof that Kaia had extracted from the data disks was indisputable. Financial records, interoffice memos, weapon supply lists, phone contacts...the evidence was overwhelming.

Pushing back his chair, Nelson stood and stretched the stiffness out of his stocky frame then poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. Cookie had refilled the pot on his desk when he'd brought by a dinner tray. The temperamental chef wouldn't be pleased at how little he'd eaten. Normally Cookie's shrimp au gratin was one of his favorites. Unfortunately, reading Salii's records of experimentation on human beings had quite taken away his appetite. As a scientist, he could appreciate the intense dedication to detail and documentation of the Palauan doctor but, as a principled human being, his soul was sickened at the terrible crimes perpetrated against helpless victims. And to think that Chip had come so very close to joining their ranks...

Harry quickly shoved that chilling thought away. Not only had Chip survived but he had managed to completely disrupt the evil duo's plans even while under the influence of Salii's noxious brew of chemicals. He lifted his cup in silent toast to his young officer's strength of will. An urgent knocking on his door interrupted his musings. "Come."

Crane strode in, followed closely by Jamieson who carefully closed the door behind them. A feeling of dread crept over the admiral as he observed his captain's anxious demeanor. "What's wrong, Lee? Is Chip all right?"

"That depends on what you call ‘all right,’" Lee replied grimly, his face taut with concern.


Jamieson shrugged helplessly. "I'm in the dark as much as you, Admiral. Last time I checked, Chip’s condition was stable. I did have a minor emergency in the Missile Room but the skipper assured me that Morton was sleeping when he left Sick Bay. That's when he told me that we needed to see you right away."

Nelson set his coffee cup down on his desk. "All right, Lee...what's going on?" he demanded brusquely.

To Harry's dismay, Crane uncharacteristically avoided his gaze, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. “Well…when I went to visit Chip after I got off watch…” Lee paused a moment to glare at Jamieson. “…and after dinner…” The doctor smirked. “...I found Chip trying to leave Sick Bay.”

"You neglected to tell me that little piece of information, Commander!" Jamieson's glower and formal use of rank told Nelson that Lee was definitely in the doctor's bad graces for that omission. "How far did he get? Was any further damage done? I'd better check with John..." He reached for the intercom on Nelson’s desk.

Lee quickly intercepted Jamieson’s hand. “He really was sleeping when I left Sick Bay, Jamie. I was able to convince him to let me help him to the head instead of going to his cabin. After that, he was worn out so it wasn’t hard to get him back into his rack. No damage was done.”

“Worn out? Of course he was worn out!” Jamieson retorted. “Need I remind you that he’d lost enough blood to go into hypovolemic shock earlier today? It wasn’t that long ago that I stitched him up and we're still pushing the whole blood to rebuild what he lost. I swear sometimes…”

“Easy, Will.” Nelson interrupted smoothly, an upraised hand stemming the well-deserved diatribe. “Lee wouldn’t be this concerned about one of Chip’s normal Sick Bay escape attempts, there must be something more.” He nodded towards Seaview’s skipper. “Am I right, Lee?”

“Yes, sir.” Crane paused to take a deep breath. As if facing a disciplinary review, he squared his shoulders and said in a rush, "Chip thinks you want him to leave Seaview."

"What?" Nelson's eyes widened in shock. "Where the devil could he have gotten that idea?"

Lee began pacing around the small cabin, anxiously ruffling his dark hair as he replied, "I don't know. He just kept saying that he had to leave Seaview." Turning back towards Nelson, he threw up his hands in obvious frustration. "Somehow or another, Chip believes that you think the men won't follow him and that you want him to return to the Navy."

Recalling his earlier conversation with Jamie, Harry's shock shifted into rueful understanding. Sinking back into his chair, he passed his hand over his face and groaned, "Chip must have overheard me talking with Will about Starke's offer of command." His apologetic gaze met that of the doctor who appeared to be equally stunned. "We thought he was sleeping! What I really said was how Chip deserved a shot at command, even if it meant his return to the Navy. I also said that the men WOULD follow him into battle, but he must have only heard part of our conversation."

“Well, he’s convinced that you want him off Seaview immediately and…um...” Lee paused, looking down at his feet and rubbing his temple with two fingers as he admitted sheepishly, “I sort of promised Chip that I’d help break him out of Sick Bay if he felt the same way in the morning…”


"Look, Jamie," Lee replied defensively. "You know how stubborn Chip can be! I needed to buy some time..."

“Of all the misguided, bone-headed…”

Harry inwardly flinched at the now thoroughly ticked off tone of Jamie's voice. Lee and Chip's constant conspiring together to escape the good doctor's watchful eye was one of the few things that could rile the normally unruffled medical officer. “Gentlemen! Now is not the time for this.” His bark caused instant silence between the two combatants. Looking at the still fuming Jamieson, he asked, “Will, I know you’ve had a chance to analyze the vial of serum found on Salii. Is there any possibility that he'll have forgotten what he thought he heard by morning?"

After one last glare at his skipper, Jamie made a visible effort to regain his professional equilibrium. “I still can’t say, Admiral. Though I’ve identified most of the substances in the serum and matched them to the list Lee gave me, there are just too many unknowns. Even Salii himself admitted that Chip had an unusual reaction to the serum. I just can’t predict what he will or will not remember. But I’m worried."

Nelson frowned and pushed back his chair. He desperately wanted to light a cigarette but as Jamieson was already annoyed enough with Lee he settled for tapping a pencil as he pondered. “Why? Why should a few misheard words be such a problem? He was able to resist Salii’s far more diabolical interrogation.”

Sighing, Jamieson allowed his lanky form to slide into the extra chair beside Nelson's desk. "Most truth drugs work by suppressing the higher level functions of logic and reasoning. Everyone, even our calm and emotionally stable exec, has inner doubts and fears that can be freed by mind-altering drugs such as Salii used. While Chip’s strong sense of duty and honor enabled him resist the twisted questioning of an unknown enemy, words of apparent condemnation from someone he holds in very high regard have the ability to wound deeply.” He paused, fixing Nelson with a piercing blue gaze. “In short, Admiral, Doctor Salii is not and never could be a figure that Chip trusts at a deep, visceral level the way he trusts you.”

Harry felt a slight flush cross his face as he digested Jamieson’s perceptive words. Trust and loyalty were a given between officers who had served together any length of time and the quiet, talented exec had been with him since before Seaview’s keel was laid. There wasn’t anyone he or Lee trusted more with their Grey Lady. The fact that such trust could be twisted to cause emotional pain and distress made him despise Salii all the more. “I’ll deal with it right away, of course,” he said gruffly. “I’m not about to lose one of my most loyal officers over a drug induced misunderstanding.” Tossing his pencil down, he stood and turned towards the door.

“Just a moment, Admiral,” said Jamieson, hauling his weary body out of the chair and positioning himself between the admiral’s desk and the door. “The main thing Chip needs right now is to rest. I recommend the same for both you and the skipper.” He gave both men one last glare for emphasis. “I don’t want to see either of you anywhere near Sick Bay before oh eight hundred.”

“Don’t worry, Will. I won’t wake Chip up if he’s sleeping.” Gathering together the pile of papers from his desk he slapped Jamieson on the shoulder. “I need to finish this report and I can do that just as well from Sick Bay.”

“Well, I should be used to at least one of you three keeping vigil in my Sick Bay," Jamieson said with a sarcastic snort. "Though it’s usually you or Morton hovering over Commander “Ignore the Broken Bones, I’m Fine” Crane.” He took a deep breath and sighed. “All right. You can use my desk. At least I have enough sense to get some sleep.”

Nelson caught Crane’s rebellious look and shook his head, wordlessly warning his friend not to challenge the exasperated doctor. “Lee, I want you to get some sleep then come to Sick Bay around oh eight hundred. If you show up any earlier, Chip might take it into his head to make a break for it. Hopefully I will have had a chance to talk some sense into him by the time you arrive.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” came the grudging reply. Nelson ushered his two friends out of his cabin and followed the doctor aft towards Sick Bay. He was going to make damn sure that Chip didn’t spend one more waking moment thinking that he had to leave Seaview.


**Part 6**

A strange scratching sound penetrated the hazy fog that surrounded Chip as he hovered at the edge of consciousness. What was that noise? Was something wrong with the boat? He slowly pried open his eyes, the stabbing pain in his head making it hard to focus. But an experienced submariner didn’t to see to sense the pulse of his steel mistress, especially one who had helped bring her to life as he had. Reaching out, he laid his hand on the smooth, cool metal of the bulkhead to one side of his rack. The steady vibration reassured him that all was well with his baby. His baby? The depressing words he'd overheard came flooding back into his memory. Not his for much longer, he thought sadly.

Resolutely turning away from his bleak thoughts, he focused all his energy on identifying the irregular sound. His sluggish brain finally determined that the steady scratching was someone writing nearby. It must be Jamieson, but the sound seemed closer than the doctor's office alcove. Damn it! The sneaky CMO was probably guarding against any possible escapes! That would make it next to impossible to get to his cabin unless Lee showed up as promised.

He shifted slightly in the soft sheets that cushioned his battered body, unable to find a comfortable position. His whole body was one huge ache. A slight tickle began to form in the back of his parched throat. Chip tried to suppress the resultant cough, but without luck. His coughing caused an explosion of fire in his wounded ribs and tore a groan from his dry, cracked lips.

Out of nowhere a straw was put in his mouth. Sucking reflexively, he allowed the cool water to soothe his throat, calming the cough and easing his discomfort. At least until he looked up and saw the face of his benefactor.

"Admiral, sir!" Chip's eyes widened and his jaw dropped, allowing the straw to fall on the covers. He instinctively tried to sit up but his body protested vehemently.

"Easy, lad." Nelson gently grabbed Chip's shoulders, encouraging him to lie back down. "How are you feeling?"

Unbidden, the words of censure Chip thought he'd heard from his boss cascaded through his mind. His tongue, still unguarded due to the drugs flowing through his system, took over. "I'm so very sorry, sir. I know I must have fouled up the Palau mission pretty badly for you to want me off Seaview so I'll pack my bag and be off the boat as soon as Lee can fly me home. I don't want to go back to the Navy, not after serving aboard Seaview for so long, but I'll be fine because a couple of computer companies have been bugging me about coming to work with them so I should be able to get a job and I'll move off Institute property as soon as I can find..."


Chip could not stop the torrent of words that poured from his heart. "Please think about promoting O'Brien and giving him the XO position. I know Lukela has the seniority, but he doesn't want to leave Engineering and O'Brien has passed his Chief Engineering quals with flying colors and so qualifies to be XO even under Navy rules so that would placate Admiral Starke and Lukela and I have been training him for it. But Mark will have to keep an eye on him until Frank settles in because O'Brien is still a bit too intimidated by you and Lee but he's getting more comfortable with the day to day requirements of the position. Again, I'm so very sorry that I've disappointed you 'cause it's been an honor to work with you and..."

"CHIP!" The full force of Admiral Harriman Nelson’s command voice finally brought a halt to Chip’s drug-induced babbling. To Nelson’s horror, the exec’s huge blue eyes were moist with unshed tears. For the first time in all their years together, Harry saw his friend with absolutely no emotional defenses up. Mentally damming Salii to an even lower level of Hell, he continued in a softer but still insistent voice, “Chip! I don't want you to leave Seaview!”

He watched as a gamut of emotions played across Chip’s face, settling at last into a quiet despair. “I heard you myself, sir.” Chip looked down and picked at a loose bit of tape on his arm where the IV port was. “You said I should go back to the Navy and I don’t even know what I did wrong.”

The hurt in Chip’s voice hit Harry hard. “You did absolutely nothing wrong! Not on Palau and not on Seaview! I am very proud of your courageous actions, especially since you did it all despite the despicable drugs in your system. I did say you should go back to the Navy but that was because I feel you deserve a command of your own!”

Chip looked up, the surprise on his face liberally mixed with confusion. “A...a command of my own? But, sir,  you said the men wouldn't follow me! How can I command if no one will follow?”

Running his hand through his russet hair, Nelson sighed. This was going to be harder than he thought. “Chip, you didn't hear me correctly. What I actually said was that there's not a man on the boat that would NOT follow you into battle!”

“Really?” A skeptical blond eyebrow was quirked at the admiral.

Nelson’s brow knit as he considered the best way to convince Chip. Perhaps the past... “Do you remember when you turned down command of Seaview after Captain Phillips was murdered?”

Chip nodded. “Sure.  I knew the Navy had demanded certain conditions from you 'cause Seaview carries nukes and is part of the Fail Safe system, even if she's technically a civilian boat. All officers had to be Navy reservists and qualified submariners and the skipper had to have command experience. You grabbed me directly from being XO of NR-1 to being XO of Seaview. She hadn't been launched very long before we got the call for the mission to the Arctic so I hadn't even had temporary command yet! Navy brass would have been all over your six if I'd taken over, even just as a 'temporary' skipper and you didn't need more hassles then.”

“I know you, Chip," Harry smiled as he poured the blond another cup of water. "If something had happened to me, I knew full well that you would have carried on the mission to the best of your not-inconsiderable ability.”

Chip's fair skin reddened at the compliment, causing him cast his eyes downward as he sipped the freshly poured water. “Thank you, sir, but my turning down command was best for the boat and the mission. You know the XO handles the men and the details of running the boat." Nelson nodded in agreement as Chip continued, "Well, better a temp skipper borrowed from the Navy working with a veteran XO who knows the boat than a rookie skipper with Bishop as XO. That blivet had been aboard barely two months. There was no way he could have handled the men under such desperate conditions.”

“He didn’t handle them much better even with more time on the boat,” said Nelson with a disgusted snort. Bishop was one of his few failures. Taken on as a favor to an old friend, Bishop looked great on paper. Gifted engineer, up on all the latest technology. Unfortunately, the man had minimal leadership skills which had directly contributed to Seaview being sunk in an abandoned mine field. Nelson had refused to let the man back aboard his salvaged boat, and ‘encouraged’ Bishop’s transfer to permanent shore duty due to his injuries. “I understood your reasoning, Chip, but the men didn’t and they were very unhappy that you were not put in command. Chief Jones in particular made his feelings quite obvious.”

"That sounds like Curley," Chip’s smile was melancholy. “Did you know he called me 'Skipper' when we rode the diving bell down through the mines? He always believed in me, even when I didn’t.”

"Never forget that I believe in you too, Chip," Nelson answered firmly. "During that first mission, the men looked to you for stability. Their skipper, their father figure, was gone, brutally murdered and they depended on you to keep them on course and together. I know very well that Lee would have had a much rougher time of it if you hadn't been so supportive." He shook his head. "Of course, Lee pulling that bone-headed stunt of sneaking aboard didn't help matters any with the crew. They took his actions very personally."

To the admiral's surprise, a very evil grin flashed across Chip's pale face. "Yes, I know. S'okay though, Admiral. I got him back for that one."

“How did you…?” Nelson paused a moment then smiled wryly. “On second thought, it’s probably better that I don’t know. Plausible deniability and all that.” He sobered. “Chip, that was five years ago. You've had plenty of command experience since then and have proven yourself time and time again. That's why I feel you should consider a command of your own.”

“Sir, I am thankful that both you and Admiral Starke think I'm capable of command.” He smiled shyly, looking up through his pale blond lashes, reminding Nelson of a certain captain's favorite mannerism. “I appreciate it more than you could possible know, sir. Command is something all naval officers dream about. It's a goal that we all strive to achieve. But I really do love serving aboard Seaview. I helped you build her, sir! If anyone should understand how she can bewitch a man, it's you! I've dedicated seven years to her and they've been the best years of my life." He snorted, "Well, aside from the occasional alien or rampaging monster... But it's not just her, it's the crew. We get to pick and chose the finest officers and crew in or out of the Navy! There is no other boat... there is no other crew like hers sailing these seas.”

“But what if there was another like her?”

“Sir?” The puzzled look on Chip’s face was priceless.

“What if we built another sister ship to Seaview?” Nelson’s eyes began to glow with enthusiasm as the seed Jamie had planted took root. “The Navy is always demanding more time for experimental sub testing. With Seaview focused primarily on marine research as well as her more secretive missions, we certainly could use another boat. Especially one focused on even deeper diving and exploration than Seaview can manage.” He began to pace back and forth beside Chip’s rack. “She’d be smaller, of course, but much more flexible and self-sufficient than a traditional bathyscaphe.”

“But you’d always said you’d never build another after Polidor was lost.”

Nelson stopped, casting a look over to where Jamieson was keeping a vigilant but unobtrusive watch on his patient from the shadows, and smiled. “As a very wise man told me, perhaps it’s time I allowed Polidor and her crew to rest in peace.” Turning back to the still befuddled Chip he continued, “It will take us years to develop a new boat but she’s yours if you want her. What do you think?”

The glow of happiness in Chip’s summer blue eyes and echoed in his huge grin was answer enough. But the glow quickly dimmed, replaced by a dogged determination that had Nelson totally perplexed. “It's a wonderful dream, sir, but I can't. Not as long as....”

“Not as long as what?” Nelson was astonished at Chip’s reply! He could see how much such a command meant to the exec… Why on earth would he turn this opportunity down?

The blond shook his head, wincing at the pain caused by the ill-advised motion. "I can't, sir. Lee would kill me if he knew that..." He covered his mouth with both hands in an obvious attempt to stop any more words from spilling out.

"Chip, please know that whatever you tell me will remain strictly confidential, even from Lee, if you wish. I won't force you to tell me but I would like to understand this!”

After a long moment, as Nelson was about to give up hope, Chip finally removed his hands, looking everywhere except at his boss as he said in a low voice. “I can't leave the boat as long as Lee keeps taking ONI missions.”

“What? What the devil does that have to do with anything?” Of all the possible responses, that was one that hadn’t occurred to Nelson.

Chip looked pleadingly at Nelson, wordlessly begging him to understand. “Don't you see, sir? As long as he’s still going on ONI missions I have to be there to pick up the pieces when things fall apart, which they almost always do! Now that Seaview and her skipper are becoming more famous, every time he goes on a mission I'm terrified that his cover is going to be blown! Unlike the Navy, most of us aboard this boat have served together for many years. Do you have any idea what the loss of either or both of you would do to this crew, sir? I can't leave that burden to O'Brien! Lee’s my brother. I have to watch his back and his crew for him.” Reaching the end of his meager energy, Chip sagged back into the pillows of his rack as he softly repeated, "I have to watch his back."

Harry shook his head in amazement. Most officers would kill for the chance to command a new class of sub but Chip was willing to put his own ambitions and desires on hold for the sake of his brother-in-arms and Seaview’s crew. Truly Chip was the epitome of Kipling's Thousandth Man. "I do understand, Chip. Better than you know." Nelson himself had been getting increasingly unhappy at the frequency of ONI's poaching of Seaview's skipper. After all, Harry had some very special plans for Lee and the future of N.I.M.R. and they did not include being sacrificed on the altar of Vice Admiral Johnson's machinations! And he wasn't about to give up his idea of a new experimental boat with Chip in command either!

A wicked grin spread across his craggy face. “Chip, I'm thinking that Seaview’s captain might just be called upon to do more television press conferences and other kinds of high publicity events over the next few years. Of course, it could mean that the ONI might just find the good captain a bit less 'attractive' for their purposes..."

Chip’s answering grin was equally wicked. “It just so happens that I know a bunch of ladies that would kill to be part of an Official Captain Crane Fan Club. Should be all the rage in Hollywood… would get his picture plastered all over the place.”

Their plotting was curtailed as their intended victim appeared in Sick Bay. Nelson smiled at Lee in quiet reassurance that things had been worked out between him and Chip. The relief on Crane's face was obvious. He sidled close to Chip’s rack and asked in a mock conspiratorial voice, “So, Chip, are you ready to escape this place?”

His eyes shining with gratitude, Chip shook his head and smiled up at Nelson. “No bro. I think I’m going to stay right here.”


**PART 7**

Two days later, Lee Crane set his pencil down on the plotting table and sighed. Pressing both hands to the small of his back he tried to stretch the kinks out of his tall frame. Not that he'd admit it to anyone, but he was tired! As captain of Seaview, he normally didn't stand any watches so he'd be free to be anywhere on the boat as needed or to act as a go-between with the admiral and any scientists/guests they carried. However, with Chip still recovering in Sick Bay, Lee was sharing the XO's watches with Lukela and O'Brien, as well as attempting to control the endless reams of paperwork required to keep the boat afloat. He shook his head ruefully, wondering, not for the first time, how the heck Chip managed it all. His memories of his own time as XO of the Narwhal* were not the most pleasant ones of his sub career. But his detail merchant of a buddy seemed to thrive on the complex organizational demands of both Seaview and N.I.M.R.

"Sir! The Flying Sub is ready to dock," reported a relieved Sharkey.

"Very well, Chief." Rolling his head in a futile attempt to release the tension in his neck, Lee strode over to the Flying Sub hatch to wait for the admiral to finish docking FS-1. Crane knew the COB had been worried about the admiral returning Doctor Salii to the Palau government with only Kowalski for backup, but they had needed to get the man off the boat.

While in time-honored Navy tradition Seaview's crew loved to grumble and complain about their tough, taskmaster exec, in reality, they had a deep respect and fondness for the man, knowing that his loyalty both to them and the other officers was absolute and that he never demanded more from them than he required of himself. Between the painful injuries their officer suffered, the affect of Salii's drugs and an angry Ski and Pat reporting the amount of blood they'd had to clean up from the Flying Sub, the entire crew wanted to administer their own brand of justice to the Palauan doctor.

Lee's musings were interrupted by a head of tousled auburn hair appearing in the hatch. As Nelson handed his briefcase to Sharkey and hauled himself up the last couple rungs of the ladder he caught sight of his captain's weary expression. His sparkling eyes belayed the innocent tone of his voice as he asked, "Tough day, Lee?"

Crane tossed his best sardonic look towards his boss and friend. "Let's just say that I'll be very glad when Chip is back on his feet."

That drew a chuckle from Nelson. "Admit it. You just hate all the extra paperwork that piles up when our esteemed executive officer is not around." He took the briefcase back from the chief and laid it on the plotting table then shucked off his flight jacket.

"Admiral, Chip even has his dang paperclips organized! Do you realize what he'll do to me if I mess up any little part of his system while he's recovering in Sick Bay?" Lee knew his voice had more than a hint of petulance, but he was too tired to care.

"Better you than me, Lee. When it comes to our Mr. Morton's organizational system for Seaview, even rank doesn't have much of a privilege." The two men traded tolerant grins, knowing how very lucky they were to have Morton's skills as XO keeping their beloved Lady ready for anything. "How is he?"

"There doesn't seem to be any sign of infection in the wound and it looks like the drugs have finally cleared out of his system. Of course, that means he's getting back to his usual charming self while in Sick Bay." Crane rolled his eyes at the thought. Though most of the boat believed that their captain was the most difficult of the CMO's patients, his buddy certainly ran a very close second. "What's the word from Palau, Admiral?"

Nelson snorted, "The President was shocked when he saw the evidence Kaia had recovered from the data disks proving that General Rizal and Doctor Salii planned on overthrowing the government. But he froze both men's financial assets and round up the remainder of the general's men. The ONI still has personnel there helping stabilize the situation and clean up the mess left by Chip's rather precipitous actions."

"Chip's not in any sort of trouble, is he, sir?" Lee's hazel eyes flashed with concern for his friend. "I mean, he wasn't exactly himself during everything that happened!"

Nelson shook his head. "No, no. He's not in trouble. Far from it." He opened his briefcase and handed Lee a very official looking document. "Here, this will explain it better than I can."

As Crane scanned the document, a devilish grin slowly spread across his face. Wicked glee gleamed from his amber eyes as he finished reading and looked up at the admiral. "You realize that he's going to hate this." Nelson's only response was an equally roguish grin. The smirking skipper turned to his acting exec. "Mr. Lukela, belay the current charting mission orders and set course for Palau. All ahead full. That should get us there in time."

Confused by the unexpected behavior of his commanding officers, Chief Sharkey was nearly dancing with curiosity over the contents of the mysterious document. Finally, unable to control himself any longer, he asked, "In time for what, sir?"

"Read it for yourself, Chief." Nelson handed the document over to his COB then turned back to Lee who was still chuckling. "Do you want to tell Chip or shall I?"

Lee snorted, "I don't think I'd survive his reaction. You'd better do it, sir. He won't shoot the messenger if it's you." Nelson grinned and nodded in agreement, heading towards Sick Bay. With a final chuckle, Crane handed over the conn to O'Brien and followed his boss out the aft hatchway. His last glimpse of the control room was of the chief of the boat looking up from the document, his expressive face torn between pride and concern.


Crane's nose twitched, savoring the delicious scent wafting out from under the covered tray Patterson was carrying as they walked down the passageway. Cookie had waylaid the captain as Lee passed by the Galley, gruffly shoving a tray-laden Pat towards his commanding officer. "This is for the XO, sir. He's gotta keep up his strength so he can sign my paycheck," grumbled the volatile cook.

Lee acknowledged the gesture with due gravity while inwardly chuckling at Cookie's obvious concern for his most appreciative customer. The man had practically shoved the best cuts of steak at the exec as soon as Chip was allowed to eat solid food, ostensibly to help him rebuild all the blood lost from his wound. Since Lee was usually the focus of Cookie's over-solicitousness when it came to eating properly, he was relieved that Morton was the target this time. Lee inhaled the enticing aroma once more, deciding that he'd somehow have to get his buddy to share this particular treat.

Approaching Sick Bay, Crane was surprised to see the admiral hovering in the passageway outside. As he drew closer, he could hear loud angry voices coming from inside the medical facilities.

"Sheesh, Jamie! It's just a scratch! I'm fine!" declared the irritated voice of Chip Morton.

Doc Jamieson's acerbic retort floated through the half open door, "The truth drug definitely must have worn off, Commander, because that's a lie if I ever heard one."

Nelson turned to grin at Crane and the now nervous Patterson, gesturing for silence. It sounded like a classic XO vs. CMO verbal battle was underway and obviously the admiral didn't want to miss a single juicy moment.

Lee smirked, the sounds of the quarrel reassuring him more than mere words that his buddy would be okay. Having been through enough battles of his own with the crusty CMO, Lee was always eager to observe others' conflicts. While he himself tended to blow up like a volcano, he knew Chip generally used icy-edged logic to pierce the arguments of his worthy opponent. Crane and Nelson quietly sidled closer and peered cautiously around the edge of the door. Patterson remained in the relative safety of the passageway until his skipper indicated that the coast was clear.

Crane and Nelson saw Morton standing next to the lower rack he'd occupied for the last three days, one hand grasping the upper rack's rail for support. Clad only in pajama bottoms, the exec's fit muscular body revealed a rainbow of multicolored bruises crisscrossing his torso, a gauze bandage covering a large section of his left side with a smaller bandage on his right temple. His wan face still hadn't regained its usual light tan as his bright blue eyes flashed with the intensity of his argument with the doctor.

Jamieson stood toe to toe with his recalcitrant patient, his own pale blue glower strong enough to peel the paint off the nearby bulkhead. While he was inwardly relieved that one of his most challenging patients was finally feeling well enough to be his usual ornery self, he was not about to see all his hard work go to waste. "Commander, you have twenty stitches in your side, two cracked ribs, assorted bruises, a concussion, and you needed a blood transfusion to pull your sorry six out of shock only three days ago! What part of 'not ready for duty' don’t you understand?!"

Chip's reply was permeated with a chill frost, lowering the temperature in the area by several degrees, as he mustered his defense. "I feel I must point out, Doctor; the wound is healing cleanly with no sign of infection, the only thing that will help the cracked ribs is time, the bruises are fading, I'm no longer dizzy from the concussion and Cookie has been shoving enough rare steak at me to feed the entire Navy football team!"

"I don't care if you've been eating raw liver! It takes time to rebuild what you lost, especially after dealing with the side effects of the nasty drug cocktail they gave you! Aside from trips to the head, you are going to keep your butt glued to that rack for at least another 48 hours IF you want to be released to light duty before we head back to Santa Barbara. And I do mean LIGHT duty, Commander." Jamieson's finger stabbed at Chip's bare chest for emphasis. "NO standing watches, NO crawling through access panels... nothing more strenuous than pushing a pencil! I don't want any of your shenanigans messing up my fancy stitching!"

Before Chip could do more than open his mouth to return volley, Nelson decided it was prudent to intervene. His exec had lost enough blood already. Pushing the door fully open, he bustled in, followed closely by his grinning captain. "Sorry, Will, but the charting mission has been overridden yet again. That means a few more days delay in getting back to Santa Barbara." Nelson's eyes sparkled with humor as the two combatants jumped at the sound of his voice then looked sheepishly at their boss.

"Another critical mission, sir?"

"That depends on your definition of critical, Will. It seems we have an appointment in Palau two days from now." Nelson turned his sharp gaze on his exec. "At least, you do, Chip, if the good doctor clears you."

"Begging your pardon, Admiral, but I'd rather not see that blasted island ever again!"

"Not even to receive the grateful acknowledgement of the Palau people for single-handedly defeating the plot against their government, complete with a medal presentation and a formal reception with the President?" Nelson grinned with a certain amount of evil satisfaction, knowing how much the reticent Morton hated official functions, especially if he was to be the center of attention.

"Oh no!" The blond lost what little remaining color he had and abruptly sat back down on the rack he'd been trying so hard to leave, flinching as the sudden movement pulled at his bruised body and cracked ribs. Chip raised a forlorn face up towards his thoroughly amused boss and begged, "Please, sir, can't you tell them that I'm not well enough for all that fuss?"

"But I thought you said were fine, Commander," purred Jamieson in devilish delight at the exec's obvious discomfort. "If you're going to be ready for LIGHT duty in 48 hours, I don't see why you couldn't manage a nice peaceful reception and award ceremony by then."

The exec's glacial blue stare could have flash frozen Mt. Vesuvius. Unfortunately it only caused the doctor's smirk to widen. Deciding to shift his attack to a more susceptible target, Chip mentally shifted gears, turning his best wounded-puppy look on his oldest and closest friend. "Lee-e-e..."

Seeing the totally pathetic plea in his buddy's shimmering azure eyes, Lee was almost ready to argue on his behalf until he felt the heated glares emanating from both Nelson and Jamieson. Wisely deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Crane shook his head sympathetically, holding up both hands in a gesture of surrender as he replied. "Sorry, Chip. It's out of my hands."

"But my memories of the whole thing are rather jumbled and confused due to the drugs! How can I accept a medal for actions committed while I was under the influence?" Chip complained with a sigh, shoulders slumping with the weariness he wouldn't admit to the doctor.

Lee gently encouraged Chip to swing his legs back up onto the rack, piling a number of pillows behind the tired man's back to prop him up in a more comfortable sitting position. "Don't worry, buddy. You gave us plenty of details on your trip back to Seaview." Crane suppressed a smile as the reminder of Chip's less-than-dignified behavior caused a deep blush to flood Morton's still pale skin. "Add in the data disks you recovered, the testimony of the loyalists and the stories about a 'yellow haired ghost' from the survivors of your little rainforest adventure, I'd say the Palau government has a pretty good idea of what you did on their behalf."

"Oh, great! Now I'm a yellow haired ghost," Chip grumbled half-heartedly. Lee grabbed a blanket from the rack above and carefully tucked it around his friend's bare torso. It was a mark of Chip's fatigue from the verbal battle with Jamie that he allowed his friend to fuss over him without complaint.

Crane waved to the patiently waiting Patterson, indicating the coast was clear. The rating entered Sick Bay, setting down his tray on a small table that had been pulled to the side of the exec's rack and pulling off the cover.

Chip gazed with worshipful awe at the plate of heavenly confection that was revealed. Thick warm brownies - threaded through with fudge and semi-sweet chocolate chunks and frosted with an inch of Cookie's homemade chocolate buttercream frosting - were piled high on the china plate. A pitcher of preciously hoarded whole milk was nestled beside the desserts.

Morton's taste buds eagerly anticipated the wondrous feast. This was perfection. This was Heaven! This was... This was a treat usually reserved for times when his beanpole buddy wasn't taking care of himself! The exec glared daggers at his captain. "Lee! Have you been eating properly? Cookie never makes these unless you're not eating..."

"Begging your pardon, Mr. Morton, sir," interrupted Patterson smoothly as he poured cold milk from the pitcher into a tall glass and handed it to the concerned officer. "But Cookie made these especially for you." At the exec's inquiring look, Pat grinned and explained. "Cookie figured some medicinal chocolate might help your recovery, sir. He wants to make sure you're able to sign his paycheck when we return to port."

Not fooled by the crotchety chef's bluster and touched by his concern, Chip blushed again and cleared his throat. "Please give him my thanks." He looked with suspicion at Patterson's calm, trustworthy face. "You're sure the skipper has been taking care of himself?"

Pat - knowing that Mr. Morton's mother hen complex concerning the skipper and the boat would be at its worst with the forced confinement in Sick Bay - answered with a firm "Yes, sir!" As Crane turned away briefly to answer a question from the admiral, Patterson leaned over to whisper quietly to the exec, "He's a bit tired, sir, but now that the admiral's back, we'll get him to sleep properly." Straightening up, he continued in a normal voice. "The chief's not allowing anyone any slack while you recover, sir."

"Thanks, Pat. Tell the crew not to expect their vacation to last much longer," he said, trading smiles with the rating.

Without warning, long nimble fingers lifted two of the warm fudge brownies off the china plate causing blue eyes to flash with indignant fire. "Hey, those are MINE! Cookie said so!"

Hazel eyes sparkled with evil glee. "Chip, you called me 'Captain Fussy Pants' in front of the crew! Not to mention the 'harem' remark! I think you owe me at least a couple of Cookie's killer brownies for that!" Lee's smirk was quickly obscured as he took a generous bite out of one of the small squares of Heaven.

"Well, why didn't you switch to a private line once you realized my condition? That damn nitrogen narcosis thing was bad enough and now this..."

"Hey! There was no time..." More and more brownies vanished from the plate as the two men relaxed into the familiar teasing banter that characterized their close friendship.

A very amused Nelson interrupted brusquely, "Gentlemen!" Chip and Lee responded instinctively to the command tone in the admiral's voice and quickly snapped their crumb coated mouths closed. Harry had to suppress a chuckle at the sight of his two ultra competent command officers looking like a couple of kids with their hands caught in the cookie jar. The attempt to glare sternly at his boys was hindered by the indulgent twinkle in his deep blue eyes. "Chip, follow the doctor's orders to the letter or I'll authorize the use of restraints. You will be ready for that award ceremony in two days. Lee, you may not help him escape from Sick Bay before then."

Acknowledging their reluctantly obedient responses with a nod, Nelson snatched his own square of the rapidly disappearing decadent desserts then grinned mischievously. "I don't want to be disturbed by any complaints from our CMO. I'm off to redesign the Flying Sub docking bay to include access to the rear hatch. As the good doctor pointed out, we need a faster and easier way in than the narrow top hatch while she's berthed especially as both of my command officers seem to be....how did Will put it? ...major league trouble magnets." With that parting shot, the admiral gathered up Patterson with a look and sauntered out of Sick Bay, leaving Jamieson to the tender mercies of his now indignant command team.

Before Nelson could completely close the door to Sick Bay, he heard two annoyed voices yell in unison, "Jamie!!!"

The admiral headed down the passageway, humming cheerfully. Things were getting back to normal on his boat.



* Airdales - nickname among the Navy for Naval Aviators. The corresponding nickname for surface ship personnel is skimmers, SEAL's are snake-eaters or frogmen, ONI agents are spooks and submariners are bubbleheads. These nicknames can range from somewhat affectionate to quite insulting depending on context, intonation and the presence (or not) of an 'f' word modifier. <g>
* Navy Expert Rifleman Medal and Navy Expert Pistol Shot Medal. Highest level of weapons qualification in the Navy. There are two lesser levels, Marksman (plain Marksman ribbon) and Sharpshooter (Marksman ribbon with 'S' device added), but only the Expert level is a Medal. When worn as a ribbon, it is the regular Marksman ribbon with an 'E' for Expert device added.
* Prospective Commanding Officer tour - months of formal training required of all potential sub or ship commanders before they can report to their boat/ship. During Department Head and XO tours, officers are expected to complete requirements for command qualification. Not every officer gets a XO billet, let alone a CO billet, as both are decided upon by selection boards. For more detailed information on a submarine officer's career path see
* Ava Winters, a naval architect who helped design Seaview, appeared in "Death Ship" and was played by June Vincent.
* O'Brien is called "Frank" by the skipper in Submarine Sunk Here.
* Lt. Cmdr. Mark Lukela was inspired by the following handsome actor/extra seen in "Mutiny"
* CHENG or Cheng- CHief ENGineer of a ship or boat. Usually third in command of a boat. Must pass rigorous technical training before being selected for a Chief Engineer's billet. All prospective XO's must have qualified as Chief Engineers before they can be considered for an XO billet.
* blivet - a slang term for "ten pounds of manure in a five pound bag" or a person with less than stellar qualities <g>
* U.S.S. Narwhal, SSN - 671, a unique submarine that carried out many classified/intelligence missions in the sixties and seventies. I have Chip as a plankowner/OPS officer during his LT/Department Head sea cruise and Lee being the XO during his LCDR/XO sea cruise, with both men earning their Bronze Stars aboard her. <g>


© 2008 Kim Q. All Rights Reserved