By George Miller
The Seaview and her crew had completed a research mission for Admiral Nelson, spending the last month sailing in the Pacific Ocean. The mission had been termed "successful" by the Admiral. He had been able to gather enough data on deep-sea life to keep him busy in the labs at the Nelson Institute.
The crew was anxious to return to port… looking forward to a well-deserved shore leave. At least most of the crew was eager to return to Santa Barbara. Captain Crane was not ready to return. He had made several requests to run the Seaview through more tests. His desire to delay their return was a curiosity to all on board. There were only a small number of his shipmates that actually knew the Captain's "real" reason.
Chip Morton was the only person who knew the whole reason and he wasn't going to allow Captain Crane to delay their arrival. He had told the Admiral of the situation and was assured by Nelson that they would indeed arrive as scheduled.
In the control room, Lee went to the Admiral and made yet another attempt to delay the inevitable docking, "Admiral… I think we need to run more tests on the reactor."
"Tests?" asked Nelson. "The reactor's fine, Lee."
"But Sharkey has made some changes to the coolant system and I think they should be thoroughly tested before returning to port."
"Captain, we've been at sea for five weeks. The crew has earned their shore leave. We can run the tests at another time."
"Lee… I said we'd run the test before our next mission. We'll be arriving at port as scheduled… 0800 tomorrow morning." Seeing the Captain was about to pose another objection, he said. "Why don't you go and get some rest… I've got everything under control here."
Lee held back what he knew would be another fruitless attempt to disagree. He just looked to the Admiral and said simply, "Yes, Sir."
As the Captain turned to leave, the Admiral said, "I'm sure that you too must be looking forward to shore leave."
"Yes, Sir. I am." He said, but without much enthusiasm. He glared at Chip as he passed him at the plotting table. He knew what was going on, as it was in Chip's plan to be sure to get back to port on time. What he didn't know was that the Admiral had been informed by Chip. He just couldn't tell the Admiral why he wanted to delay their arrival.
After Chip was sure that the Captain had left the control room he went over the Nelson, "Is he still trying to find delays?"
"Yes, Mr. Morton. He is."
"Are you going to let him run his tests?"
"No," the Admiral said, "but are you sure you want to go through with this?"
"Oh, Yes, Sir." Chip said with a grin. "I'm just glad that the Captain doesn't know that you know about it. He doesn't, does he?"
"No, he doesn't suspect that I know… and I'm really glad that he doesn't. I have to sail with him again… as you do. I hope you know what you're doing."
"It'll be fine, Admiral." Chip said. "Everything will be just fine…"
The Seaview docked right on schedule. The men were closing down all the systems aboard the submarine and were rushing to get their belongings together for the much-awaited shore leave.
The Captain, in a last ditch effort to still delay his departure approached the Admiral. "You can leave with the men for your leave. I'll stand aboard to make sure everything is secure."
"No need for that, Lee. I'll still need a few hours to gather my samples from the lab."
"I can help you with that, Sir."
"No… no… I can handle it. You're officially off duty as of now… it's only a 72-hour leave and you shouldn't miss any of it. You, like the men, deserve it… go… enjoy…"
"Aye, aye, Sir." Lee said dejectedly as he turned to leave.
Lee returned to his cabin and picked up his duffel bag that he'd packed the previous night in an attempt to keep his mind off his problem. He took one last look at the Admiral as he passed through the control room towards the hatch. He thought for a moment to try once again to find a logical excuse to delay… but knew there was none.
He spotted Chip waiting as he went down the gangway to shore. He just gave Chip a look of disgust… shaking his head as he approached. Chip, with a slight grin that he couldn't hide, opened the passenger door of his car.
"Get in, Lee. I'll give you a ride to your apartment." Checking his watch he added, "We only have about an hour till we need to be on our way."
"Chip… about all this…"
"Come on, Lee… we've talked about this. Let's go… get in."
Lee got into the passenger seat as Chip walked around the front of the car and climbed in and started the car. Chip could see that Lee wasn't thrilled about it… but they had talked about it… and Lee wasn't one to back down… or was he?
The ride to Lee's apartment was pretty much in silence. Lee continued to search his mind for any excuse… any excuse at all to stop this madness. But he "had" agreed to it. What was I thinking? How did I let him talk me into this? Was I crazy?" Lee thought.
When they arrived at Lee's place, he quickly got out of the car and said to Chip, "You wait here. I'll get ready… and be out in a few minutes."
Chip, knowing that Lee had other plans, said, "Sure you will… I think I'll just come along with you. Wouldn't want you to get lost… would we?"
Lee gave him another look that would have worried Chip in a normal circumstance, but he knew this was anything but normal. And he wasn't about to let Lee slip away now.
"Fine… come on then…"
A little more than a half hour Chip and Lee were back out on the highway. Lee just looked out the window… trying still to find a way to stop Chip. There just has to be some way, Lee thought. I've been in tough situations before… and always found a way out. There just HAS to be a way out of this.
Lee thought he could still stop Chip. Trying to lighten up the trip, "Chip… how about we stop for something to eat… I could use a bite."
Shaking his head, Chip answered, "Sorry, Lee. No time to stop."
Well, maybe just a stop for a couple of beers… won't take long."
"Sorry, Captain! No can do." Chip said.
Totally exasperated, Lee said, "Come on Chip. It's still not too late. Let's just stop… we'll have time."
"Lee… we're not stopping to eat… we're not stopping for a few beers. Come on now, Lee… cheer up… you remember what you said…"
"I know what I said," Lee replied. I just don't know what I was thinking when I said it. I refuse to believe he's going to hold me to something that I said while I obviously was NOT thinking clearly.
"Well then… if you remember our talk, I don't have to remind you."
"No, Chip… you don't!"
They continued on their trek with an eerie silence in the car. But Lee's mind was racing. It's not too late. Chip can't expect me to do this. I don't care what I told him…I've got to think of a way to convince Chip that this doesn't have to be. But I can't let him think that I'm going back on my commitment… But how?
A few hours later they arrived at their destination. Lee looked at the building. Come on… think… how do I stop this? There has to be a way. I just have to think!
"Well, Lee. Here we are," Chip said as he pulled into the parking area.
"Yeah… We're here. But let's reconsider this… there's still time. I know… we can come back at another time," Lee said, hoping for any sign of agreement from Chip.
Checking his watch as he got out of the car, "Sorry, Lee… you agreed. You said you would… and you're not going to back out now. I won't let you."
"But, you can't make me do it."
"I'm not making you do anything… anything that you have not already committed to do."
"Don't remind me."
"Seems that I need to remind you. Come on, Lee… you're not a quitter."
That did it. Lee was definitely NOT a quitter. He never had been… and never will be.
"Well, then… let's go," Lee said as he got out of the car.
"That's more like it," Chip said, "It's going to be fine. Trust me!"
Trust me… he says… calling me a quitter was the last draw. I may do this… but I won't forget it either. Some day, some time… Chip will pay for this.
Chip and Lee entered the building only to be met by two men. They were two men that they had not met before. One of the men took Chip down one corridor and out of Lee's sight. The remaining man took Crane's arm and led him off through a series of hallways and rooms. Lee was trying to concentrate on the direction the man was taking him… so he could possibly escape and still get out in time.
The grasp this man had on Lee was strong and there was urgency in the man's actions. Lee tried to look at his watch to see if he still had time to make his move, but the darkness of the halls made it unreadable.
Lee was then put into this small room, "You wait here… my men will be back for you in a few minutes," said his escort as he turned to leave.
"Wait… can we discuss this?"
"Nothing more to discuss. You know what you have to do," he said, closing the door.
Oh yeah, Lee thought, I know what I need to do… I have to get out of here. I need to find my way out of this building while there is time. I never should have come here. How did I let Chip talk me into this? Was this even Chip's fault… or was he being forced by someone else to get me involved? Chip had been Lee's best friend for many years and it wasn't like Chip to set him up like this… to put him through this…
Lee tried the door and found it unlocked. That's strange… must be a test. He opened it slowly and glanced into the hall. Sure enough… there were two guys just outside the door. He thought he could take one of them, but two was doubtful.
But, he decided he had to try. He had to get out of here. Just as he was about to thrust open the door and take the men by surprise... he heard other voices coming toward him from the hall.
"Is he here?"
"Yes, he's in the room, right there," He said, indicating the door behind the two guards.
"Well, let's get him. It's his time. We need to get him moving, we only have a few minutes left."
Lee thought, Only a few minutes. Maybe I can still get a chance to get out. But that thought was quickly smashed when the two guards entered along with the two new arrivals.
"Let's go Crane. It's time."
Lee decided against trying to get away from these men as they flanked him and escorted him down even more hallways.
After they reached their destination, they urged Lee to sit in a chair that they pointed out. He was told to not move. Lee was also informed that he would be watched and it would cause extreme problems if he were to get out of that chair.
The room they put him in was poorly lit. He couldn't see more than a few feet. Was he being watched as they said? He didn't see anyone… couldn't see anyone in the darkness even if they were there.
In my years aboard Seaview I've had to deal with enemy agents… I've had to deal with alien beings of many types. I've been exposed to dangers of just about every kind. I've been forcibly brainwashed to kill Admiral Nelson… I've even had to go into the giant whale. I've been shot at… beaten… and faced all kinds of dangers…
But, this… this was different. And this time, there's no escape.
Lee continued to sit there in the dark as instructed. His heart raced. His breathing was becoming more rapid. He realized now that he was not going to escape this. He had to face it. He had to deal with it. But, he decided he would not let them see his fear. He worked at gaining his composure.
His watch, that he still could not see, had beeped at the passing of another hour. At that very moment it happened.
The light came on. A blinding light after the time spent in the subdued lighting. He saw it then… right there in front of him. It was pointed right at him… and he knew that this was it. There would be no turning back now… The red light seemed to penetrate his entire being…
I need strength. Put on a brave face. Show them no fear, were his final thoughts…
As a voice came from someone he couldn't see… as his eyes tried to compensate for the intense light. The voice seemed to be coming from next room, but was too clear…
"Hello everyone… I'm Jim Lange… your host and I want to welcome you to a new episode of the Dating Game."
Before we bring out our contestant for tonight… let's meet tonight's eligible bachelors.
Bachelor number one is thirty-two years old. He enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic candlelight dinners and the opera. His hobbies include scuba diving, camping and sports cars.
Let's give a great Dating Game welcome to Captain Lee Crane… of the Submarine Seaview…
As Lee's vision returned from the bright lights from the cameras… he spotted Chip sitting in the front row. All this because I lost that stupid bet with Chip… and he insisted I keep my commitment and pay off the bet… by being bachelor number one…
Chip could see the glare that Lee was sending his way… and for the first time he was feeling he may have made a "slight" mistake by insisting that Lee do this… he now was having his own second thoughts… but he'd have to deal with them… soon enough…
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