Island of Death
“Hey listen, Mack. You and me, we just do our jobs, see? The Skipper says get two rafts ready; we get two rafts ready. Got it?” Chief Frances Sharkey knelt on one knee, loading supplies into the first of the two rafts that would carry the landing party from Seaview to the small island near by. Though the area was fairly tropical, it was still quite chilly at 0400 hours. Sharkey rubbed his hands together to warm his fingers, before continuing to tie down the survival packs in the raft.
‘Tanks’ Monroe finished inflating the second raft and began gathering the gear that he would need to stow. The whole situation made no sense to him. The Captain had brought the Seaview to this island without explanation, which was not too unusual, but it was the other little things that bothered him.
After a moment, Monroe spoke up again, “The reason I asked Chief, is that you usually have a good line into what’s going on, that’s all. It’s just, why all the hush, hush? And why take out a landing party to some island in the middle of the night?”
Sharkey rolled his eyes over at the younger crewman, answering, “The Admiral has his reasons. He and the Skipper got their heads together about… something, well, that’s their business. If they don’t want to tell anybody their plans, then that’s the way it’s going to be. All I know, is that we’ve been ordered to get this equipment ready, and that’s what we’re gonna do.” Glancing out at the air around him, he added, “I just wish the weather were better.”
He finished loading the last of the gear into the first raft and moved to help Monroe, when Admiral Harriman Nelson and Seaview’s Captain, Lee Crane, stepped out onto deck. Both officers wore lightweight, tan jackets over their uniforms against the chill of the early morning air. Crane surveyed the rafts with his eyes, then bent and placed a gray, metal box he had been carrying into the open space of the first raft. Watching the Captain place the box, Nelson then lifted his head, peering slowly around himself, examining the fog.
“It’s coming in pretty thick,” the Admiral remarked.
“I know. But as you said, we need to get this over with.”
“Yes, but I’d still rather have better visibility.”
Lee walked closer to his friend, “It will be at least five or six more hours before this stuff burns off. Do you really want to wait that long?”
“We can’t wait,” Nelson sighed, “and you know it.”
The Captain turned toward the two boats, “Chief, are you about finished?”
“Just tying down the last of it now, Skipper.” Sharkey stood. His knees felt like they hadn’t straightened in years. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s all this equipment and stuff for anyway?”
“Never mind that now,” interrupted Nelson. “We’re going to need two men to accompany us. We’ve got a lot of equipment to move and not a whole lot of time. Sharkey, I’d like you to be one, and you can pick our final member.”
“Aye, Sir.” Sharkey thought for a moment. “A lot of stuff to move, huh?” he thought out loud, then twisted around and noted Monroe’s muscular build. “All right, you’ve just volunteered, Tanks.”
“Me, Sir?” Monroe had received the nickname ‘Tanks’ from some of the guys shortly after coming on board. They gave it to him because he was probably one of the strongest members of the crew. Riley often joked that even Tanks’ muscles had muscles.
“Right, you. Now, if you’re done with that, then get over here.” Sharkey was already standing next to the Admiral. When Tanks joined him, he reported, “supplies loaded Skipper, we’re ready to shove off as soon as you give the order.”
“Good Chief. Go ahead and lower the boats into the water. The Admiral and I will take this boat,” Crane said pointing to the first raft. “You and Monroe will take the other.” Then turning to face Nelson, “ I’ll be with you in a moment Admiral, I want to inform O’Brien that we’re shoving off and taking Sharkey and Monroe with us.”
As Sharkey lowered himself into the raft, he pondered over the questions Monroe had asked him. Why the Skipper and the Admiral want to go out so early in the morning and in fog like this? I don’t understand it myself, but, hey! That’s not my job.
It took over twenty minutes to row to the island. The surrounding current was strong and fought against their efforts to reach shore. The fog surrounded the shore party like a thick blanket, and seemed to get thicker as they approached land. The fog obliterated most of the moonlight, making the beach and the land beyond depressingly dark. Upon hitting the beach, Sharkey handed out three of the emergency lanterns, retaining the last one for himself. Even with the strong beams of light produced by the lanterns, the rocky, sometimes lushly vegetated landscape, was shrouded in black, inky shadows.
Nelson ordered the rafts carried far up onto the beach, and the four men began the task of unloading the supplies. Included in the list of equipment, were the lanterns, a survival pack for each man, two canvas bags with long straps to be worn over the shoulder, three rifles, two pistols, three 5 foot long aluminum poles, various electronic instruments, and the gray, metal box that Lee put into one of the canvas bags and pulled the strap up over his shoulder. He and Nelson took the pistols securing the holster belts around their waists. Crane, Sharkey and Monroe picked up the rifles. Much of the electronics went into the canvas bags, the other of which Sharkey wore. The remainder of the equipment and the poles were gathered up by Monroe, as the team prepared to move out.
The Admiral waited for everyone to assemble, before he spoke up. “Chief, Monroe, the mission that we’re on is classified and on a need-to-know-only basis. You’re probably wondering why we’re here and what’s going on, but the Captain and I are under orders not to reveal any more than necessary. I don’t like leaving you in the dark, but I have to ask you to just trust us on this one.”
“Ahh, no problem Admiral.” Sharkey replied, promptly elbowing Tanks in the arm, “It’s no problem, right Monroe?”
Monroe got the Chief’s message, “Right Chief, no problem.”
“All right then, let’s move out, but stay alert.” Nelson turned and led the way into the dense vegetation followed by Crane, with Monroe bringing up the rear.
The terrain was anything but hospitable and the pace often slow as the foursome made it’s way along. At times, they were climbing over jagged rock, only soon to find themselves surrounded by plant growth so thick and tangled, that often the men had to fight their way through.
Man, a machete would be nice about now. That’s one thing the Admiral and the Skip didn’t think to bring. The muscles in Sharkey’s arms were beginning to ache. Between the rough terrain and his efforts to keep the Admiral’s equipment from swinging against the rocks they passed, he had his hands full. Despite the chill, beads of sweat clung to his face, causing him to wipe it against the sleeve of his uniform from time to time. The air was humid and felt heavy, as he struggled along. Boy, isn’t there just one piece of nice, level, open ground on this whole island?
The ground under their feet was spongy, covered by a carpet of some mossy growth. The men had been traveling for nearly an hour when suddenly there was a clattering of equipment and Monroe’s voice cried out. As if one, all three men turned to find their junior member kneeling on the ground, in obvious pain, surrounded by a scattering of all the equipment he had been carrying.
Sharkey quickly moved forward, followed by his senior officers. He reached out for Monroe'’ shoulder as he knelt beside him, and asked, “Hey Tanks, what’s the matter?”
Tanks grimaced as he tried to settle down on the moss. “My…ankle! Ohh, man, It hurts!” He reached down to touch the injury, but first contact sent a bolt of agony straight through his body. “This stupid green stuff covered right over a major hole…” Another jolt of pain surged through his body causing him to grit his teeth. “Ooohhh!” he moaned.
“Here, lean back and relax. Let me have a look,” offered Sharkey, removing his pack and the remainder of his gear.
Tanks groaned as the Chief lifted his pant leg and gingerly removed his shoe and sock. Nelson and Crane watched helplessly as Sharkey conducted his examination. One of the Chief’s many talents included elementary field medic training that he had received during his time in the Navy.
As the Admiral watched, Lee whispered in his ear, “I’m going to scout up ahead a few minutes. That clearing should be near by, with luck, I’ll find it. Anyway, I’ll be back in five minutes.”
“All right, Lee, but watch your back. We still don’t know what caused the radio blackout.”
“I’ll be careful.” Lee started off and disappeared into the dense foliage.
While Sharkey worked, Nelson took the opportunity to check in with the sub. He was greeted by the voice of his Executive Officer, Chip Morton, who had just gone on duty. While updating Chip, the Admiral was interrupted by an “Ahem Sir,” from Chief Sharkey.
“Hold on a minute, Chip,” the Admiral said. Then giving his attention to the Chief, he asked, “What do you have to report, Sharkey?”
Sharkey looked up at him with concern. “Well, I’m no doc, but I believe it’s broken. All I can do is wrap it until we can get him back to Seaview.”
“Do what you can, Chief.” Lifting the small radio once again, Nelson addressed the Exec, “Chip, it looks like we’re going to need a couple of men to pick up Monroe and return him to Seaview. Yes, Sharkey thinks his ankle’s broken. We’ll transmit a homing signal so that they can find him.”
Chip was acknowledging the order, when the Captain broke back through the bushes. “The clearing is just a couple of minutes ahead. We would be able to see it if this vegetation were thinner.”
“That may be to our advantage though, Lee. With the possibility of unfriendly forces on this island, I’d like to be as invisible as possible. Is there anyone at the clearing?”
“No, the place is a mess, something definitely happened there. So, how’s Monroe?” Crane inquired.
“Chip’s sending a shore party to pick him up. With his ankle, he won’t be able to travel.”
Lee nodded, “Well, let’s get him and the equipment to the clearing and we can get started while we wait for the shore party.”
After dropping off their supplies, Lee returned to Sharkey, and together the two of them helped get Monroe safely to the clearing. Nelson was surveying the area. The clearing was the home base for five scientists led by Dr. Jens Anderson. They were conducting experiments on a highly unstable substance whose base material was found within the island. On one hand, in the right combination with other substances, LLT-400 was the root of an immensely powerful explosive material. On the other, it was accidentally found out that in another combination of elements, it was a vital part of an extremely potent neural toxin. With it’s unstable nature and the degree of danger involved, Dr. Anderson brought his team to the source, far away from any populated regions.
Monroe did his best to get comfortable while the Admiral began assembling a tripod of sorts using the aluminum poles. Crane and Sharkey searched through the remains of the camp and the portable laboratory. Crane told Sharkey to look for anything that might give a clue to what happened to the scientists. All five were missing, leaving behind no apparent clue. The base camp showed signs of having been ransacked, personal belongings and equipment were strewn everywhere. The condition of the place made the search much more difficult. Papers blown by the breeze, were lost in trees and bushes. Clothing and books were torn to shreds and thrown about the ground. Crates of supplies were ripped open, and their contents spilled. Already insects crawled amongst the littered food, giving it the appearance of being alive. The sight of which, nearly turned Sharkey’s stomach.
Nelson finished setting up the tripod and had affixed an instrument roughly the size of a camcorder to the top, when he heard Lee call for him to come. Lee was inside the portable lab with Sharkey at his side.
The air was becoming more humid as the sun began warming the island. Already the men felt sticky and dirty all over. Nelson wiped his forehead with his hand, probably making his face dirtier, but right now he didn’t care. Then he entered the lab and moved over to where Lee was kneeling on the floor. The portable lab wasn’t much more than a lightweight, snap together structure with a plywood floor. A gas powered generator behind the building provided electricity to run the equipment inside.
“Look here, Admiral,” Lee said, pointing to an area of the floor.
At first, Nelson didn’t see what Lee was so interested in, but as he followed the outline of the board on the floor, he realized that this one piece was less than half the size of the rest.
Lee pulled out his pocket knife, and began working the blade between the boards. He grunted, as he worked the blade into the tight fit of the joint. “Sharkey and I were moving this table over, in order to get to those shelves, when I noticed the irregularity in the floor. I hope it means something.”
The Admiral knelt down on the floor and pulling out his own knife, started helping Lee free the board. Finally persistence paid off, and the piece of wood lifted. Lee pushed it aside, and peered into the hole beneath.
Below the floor, was a wood lined compartment approximately two feet by three feet across, and around three feet deep. At the bottom were a several containers covered with plastic sheeting. On top of the plastic, rested a small notebook. Lee leaned into the hole, retrieved the notebook, and handed it to Nelson. The Admiral opened the cover and read the top page:
Someone is shooting at us. Radio is destroyed- Taylor injured. We’re going to the mine- can protect ourselves better there. Assistance needed- urgent.
The words were hastily written. The notebook was likely thrown into the compartment and sealed just before the scientists left. Nelson didn’t like the situation at all. Stuffing the small notebook into his shirt pocket, he stood and hurried from the room. Crane left Sharkey to replace the board, and followed Nelson outside.
Harriman stopped for a moment outside the lab and then hurried over to the equipment mounted on the tripod. His tight lip and wrinkled brow spoke volumes concerning the mood he was in. “I don’t like this Lee! Even if those men escaped, and now we know that someone was after them, we have no idea if they made it to the mine. On top of that, we have no way of contacting them except by finding them!”
“I thought that’s what this device is for. You said something about implants yesterday.”
Nelson adjusted the device as he spoke, “Each of the scientists had a tiny implant inserted into his upper arm, that emits a resonance frequency when activated.” Harry pushed a button on the side of the device. “I’ve just activated the implants. If Dr. Anderson’s team is anywhere on this island, this device should pick up the frequency and give us their approximate location.”
The two men waited giving the locator a chance to pick up and process the signal, if there was one. After a minute there was still no response, Harry made some minor adjustments to the device and started it up once more. This time there was a faint beeping almost inaudible, which was soon followed by several red numbers lighting up on the small display screen at the back of the machine.
Nelson locked in the figures, and switched the machine to standby. “This is a start, but look at the readout, Lee, the numbers aren’t complete. The signal is too weak for a conclusive reading.”
“Can’t we start out in the direction indicated and then refresh the readings as we go along?”
“It’s possible to a point. You see, the device needs to be stationary, that’s why we brought the tripod, and it really needs open ground to work properly. Also, without Monroe, we won’t have enough man power to handle all of this equipment.”
Lee rubbed his hand over his chin, “How many men is Chip sending to retrieve Monroe?”
“He sent Kowalski and Patterson, but it will take both of them just to get Monroe back to the boat. And we don’t have time to wait for reinforcements. We have to get moving now. We don’t have any idea of what danger Dr. Anderson’s team is in.”
“We don’t know what kind of danger we’re in. Who knows if there are still any hostile forces on this island.”
“Listen Lee, the shore party should be here shortly. Let’s get things packed up and be ready to move out as soon as they get here.”
“I agree, Admiral. I’ll have Sharkey keep watch while we get things ready.” With that, Lee began sorting and rearranging the equipment in order to efficiently carry as much as possible.
Within ten minutes, Patterson and Kowalski clambered into camp. The Captain spoke to them briefly before they shouldered Monroe and began the difficult trip back to Seaview. The three remaining officers stood and watched the departing threesome for a moment before loading up with their own gear. A few of the electronic devices, the tripod and some of the survival gear were left behind as the men resumed their journey.
The locator indicated a north, north west direction, but the distance was indeterminate. As the men traveled, the foliage thinned and the angle of the terrain became increasingly steeper. The land heated making the air feel more humid, adding to the discomfort of the climb.
After approximately thirty minutes a winded Nelson sat down on the edge of a large protruding rock and motioned for his companions to join him. Lee slid down onto the ground resting his back against the boulder that supported his friend. Sharkey moved to the other side of the Admiral and dropped to his knees.
Nelson took a deep breath, “Let’s rest for a few minutes and try setting up the locator again.” He took a couple more good breaths before continuing, “It should be stable enough on these rocks. Let’s just hope we get a better reading this time.”
“Admiral, if you don’t mind me asking, I mean, I know we’re looking for some scientists, and something bad has obviously happened. But with the way you and the Skipper keep looking over your shoulders and everything, I just wanted to know if we’re in any kind of danger?” Sharkey was a good officer and completely loyal to his senior officers. And he always had a way of getting to the root of things in his own round about fashion.
Lee scrutinized the Admiral, waiting to see how he would answer the Chief’s question. Taking in Lee’s look, Nelson decided that Sharkey deserved as much of the truth as he could give him. “Frances, what I’m going to tell you stays between us.” He paused allowing his statement to sink in. When the Chief nodded, The Admiral continued, “Just over a month ago, a scientific team was located onto this island to work on a project considered extremely hazardous. Two and a half days ago, all contact with the scientists, headed by a Dr. Anderson, was lost. Air surveillance has been inconclusive because of the terrain, so Washington sent us to check out the situation and protect the project. Undercover sources in Washington have revealed an information leak about the work going on here to whom, they don’t know. Our first priority is to find Dr. Anderson’s team, and in the process, we will very likely be putting ourselves in danger. We have to stay on our toes just in case.”
While the Admiral spoke, Lee reached into his bag removing the locator and the gray box. Handing the locator to Nelson, Lee leaned back and opened the latch on the box,drawing the attention of both Sharkey and Nelson. Harry watched for a second then returned his attention to setting up the locator. Sharkey stared as the Captain lifted the lid and removed a cylindrical object roughly the size of an electric razor. The object had a shiny metal surface with a button and a row of colored lights on one side. Crane pressed his thumb against the button and examined the row of lights.
“Well, Lee?” the Admiral inquired.
Lee rotated the object then examined it again. “All clear so far, Admiral.” He gently returned the cylinder to its case, latched it, and returned the case to his bag.
“Hey Skipper, what is that thing anyway?” Sharkey asked, pointing to the bag.
“You could say, it’s our canary in a cage. Do you remember the old stories of miners keeping birds inside mines as an early warning of dangerous gases. The premise being that if any poisonous gases were to leach into the mine, the bird would succumb first, alerting the miners to the danger. We may wind up facing an air born chemical agent that acts as a lethal neural toxin; it’s one of the things that Dr. Anderson’s team was working on. This device samples the air and measures any amount of present toxin.”
The Chief adjusted his position, leaning closer to Crane. “You mean, we could get killed by this stuff without even knowing it’s there?”
While Lee and Sharkey spoke, the Admiral busied himself setting up the resonance locator. He frowned as he checked over the new readings. We’re heading in the right direction, but still no distance reading. This island is just not that big to not be getting some kind of reading, unless…no! That’s not an option I’m ready to accept, not yet!
“What’s the matter, Admiral?” Lee queried, not liking
the worried look on his friend’s face.
Staring off into nowhere, Nelson said nothing for several long seconds. Finally, reaching for the locator, he snapped, “let’s get moving.”
The three men traveled in silence for some length of time, eventually finding something possibly resembling a trail lightly traveled. It seemed to follow the easiest route along the direction they were heading, so they hastened along its course. Twice they found spent shells from rounds probably fired either at the missing scientists, or by them. Each of the officers kept their eyes peeled for any sign of current occupation, but found nothing to indicate that the island was anything but deserted. Here and there, the trail was littered with old cigarette butts and occasional empty food packages, reminding Sharkey of some of the back lots he played in as a kid.
“These guys could have at least picked up after themselves,” the Chief grumbled in disgust.
Nelson glanced at his Chief, then returned his attention to the path ahead.
The trail ended abruptly at the face of a huge wall of rock some thirty feet high. A portable, nylon ladder hung from the top of the precipice, down in front of the men. Nelson scrutinized the scene with reservation, tapping the fingers of his left hand against the stony surface of the cliff face.
Lee tugged on the ladder, testing its sturdiness. “Well, what do you think, Admiral?”
“I think, we go up.”
Lee looked doubtful, “I don’t like it. Call it instinct, but it feels too easy.”
Sharkey interjected, “Easy! Skipper, you gotta be kidding!” He followed the course of the ladder with his eyes. His whole body ached from the arduous hike they had undergone reaching this place. Now the climb ahead was totally uninviting, besides, heights were one of his least favorite things.
“The Captain’s right, Chief,” Nelson replied, “but I don’t see any other alternative, do you?”
“You’re right. Let’s just hope I’m not.” Lee shifted his pack and mounted the flimsy ladder. “I think we’d better do this one at a time.”
Harriman watched as Lee made his way cautiously to the top. He held the ladder as taut as possible, hoping to keep it from swaying too much under the younger man’s weight. Finally, the Captain pulled himself over the edge out of sight, only to poke his head over a moment later, giving the ‘thumbs up’ to the men below. Nelson was the next to make the ascent, and in a few minutes, was sitting on a rocky plateau next to his friend.
Nelson kept an eye on Sharkey while Crane sat back, rubbing his index finger along his bottom lip. The Captain spoke up as Nelson helped the Chief over the edge. “You know, if the scientists made it this far, why didn’t they pull the ladder up behind them, so that they couldn’t be followed?” Alarm bells are going off inside my head. “I feel like we’re lambs being led to the slaughter.”
Sharkey was glad to have reached the plateau unscathed, but the Skipper’s words sent a shiver through him as if touched by icy fingers. He surveyed the scene around him. The Admiral was working with the locator device while the Skipper dropped his pack, grabbed hold of his rifle, and began investigating the area. Sharkey took note of the landscape as he too, removed his pack as well as the canvas bag he carried and joined the Skipper.
The plateau was a barren, rocky contradiction to the land below. There, the rocky terrain was cumbersome and difficult to travel through, but the rocks themselves were smooth and generally appeared to be what the Chief called ‘slab rock’. On the plateau, however, the stony surface was jagged and rough. The ground lay completely covered by rock, from the smallest pebbles to huge boulders.
Nelson examined the newest readings. Finally, the machine gave a distance recording, but neither it nor the other numbers made any sense. According to the device, they were within one hundred yards of the field team, and the direction given would have placed the men just north of the Admiral’s position, but looking in that direction, he saw nothing.
“Lee, Sharkey, the mine entrance must be around here someplace. The locator indicates we’re close.” Harriman began moving northward, searching the broken surface for any sign of an entrance.
Crane and Sharkey joined the Admiral and together, the three men scoured the landscape. Making his way around a large boulder, the Chief stumbled, kicking a rock the size of a softball out in front of him. Almost immediately, a series of huge explosions erupted. Shards of rock flew in every direction, showering the officers. And without warning, the ground gave way beneath their feet, dropping them into space. …Blackness came quickly…
The Captain came to, feeling more dead than alive. The air was so thick with dust he could hardly see anything and breathing was difficult. His chest and side felt as though on fire that intensified with each breath. As his mind cleared, he recalled the last moments before he blacked out. Explosions… falling… pain, intense pain… then nothing. He tried to sit up, but pain dropped him like a stone. All right Captain, let’s take this one step at a time. First, the hands…
Though the light dim and the air full of dust, Lee began taking in his surroundings as he assessed his injuries. He examined himself carefully. His exposed skin was littered with minor cuts and scratches, and behind his right ear was a matted patch of drying blood and hair. Hands, arms and legs were sore but unbroken, a good sign, but an intense stabbing pain radiated from his left side. Reaching over with his right hand, he felt the tattered remains of his jacket and shirt along his left side. Wincing at the pain as he stretched his arm further, Lee touched the warm, sticky gash cutting into his lower ribs. With the pain he felt with every breath, Lee was fairly certain that one or more of his ribs on that side were cracked. At long last, Lee decided it was safe to try sitting up again, slower, more carefully this time. Easier said than done as wave after wave of agony whipped through him from his head and side, making him nauseous. His whole body moved slowly as if made of lead, but eventually, he managed himself to a sitting position of sorts.
Rubble lay in every direction. Large sections of rock obscured portions of Lee’s field of view. The temperature was noticeably cooler here, and hazy rays of light filtered down from roughly twenty five feet above his head. Here and there, Lee heard what sounded like tiny trickles of water far away. This has to be a part of the mine, or perhaps a subterranean chamber of some sort. The explosions must have collapsed the ceiling.
“Admiral… Admiral, Sharkey, can you hear me?” he called out. Lee listened, but only the sound of loose falling rubble from above served as answer.
The lack of response worried Crane. He had been lucky in the fall, his injuries could easily have been much worse. What if the Admiral and Sharkey didn’t share his luck?
Time suddenly became crucial, as Lee dragged himself to his feet. His head reeled and blackness threatened to envelop him. Wiping perspiration from his brow, Seaview’s Captain staggered amongst the debris, searching for his companions. As he opened his mouth to call again, he was stopped abruptly by the sound of coughing a short distance to his left.
“Admiral?!” Frantically, Lee pushed forward into the shadows, skirting around a larger section of what had been the ceiling just a short time before. At the first sign of movement, he dropped to his knees brushing aside dust and gravel from the body of his friend. The Captain was rewarded by the sight of blue eyes opening and staring back at him. Dust, kicked up by Lee’s movement, hung in the air around them causing Harriman another fit of coughing. Grateful to have found his friend, Lee reached out and rested his hand on Nelson’s shoulder.
“It’s good to see you, Admiral. No… don’t try to move yet. Take it easy until we see what kind of shape you’re in.”
“Cave in?” Nelson whispered, his voice hoarse and scratchy from the dust he inhaled.
“Looks like it.” Lee performed a quick visual examination, moving debris as need be to get a better look at his friend. He felt relief as he found nothing more than superficial wounds. Like himself, the Admiral had been hit by the flying shards of rock created by the explosion, and his body, particularly his face and upper chest, was riddled with small cuts and minor punctures. There was plenty of drying blood though none of the wounds seemed to be bleeding any longer. “I don’t see anything too bad. How do you feel?”
“Like someone who just had an unhappy meeting with a Mac truck.” Nelson took a deep breath and was immediately sorry. He began coughing again, only this time deeper and longer until his whole body shook from the effort to clear his lungs.
“Listen Admiral,” Lee said, attempting to steady his companion. “Try and lay still. Sharkey’s still missing and I need to look for him.” Then remembering the Admiral’s stubbornness, “If you insist on moving, at least take it slow and easy. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Are you kidding? I’m going to help you look for Sharkey.”
“I meant what I said about slow and easy. Believe me, I found out the hard way.” With a last backward glance, Lee turned and calling Sharkey’s name, moved away from the Admiral.
Once Lee had left on his search, Nelson lifted himself from the stony floor. He had a headache for sure, a nice pounding headache and his skin stung from the thousand cuts and scrapes. He would have fun later trying to clean the bits of gravel and splinters of rock that had efficiently embedded themselves below the surface. Muscles, bruised and beaten, resisted their instructions to move. Harry grabbed hold of a large protrusion of stone for support as he attempted to get his feet underneath him. Searing pain shot through him like a rocket causing him to cry out. Pulling up his pant leg, he saw that a huge purple bruise covered much of his right leg below the knee. But that hadn’t caused extreme pain, pulling up further, the Admiral was faced with a knee swollen to twice its normal size. It too was black and blue. Nelson prodded the injured member gingerly, assessing the damage. At last, satisfied, he readjusted his pant leg.
This time, fully warned of the impending agony, Harry carefully pulled himself onto one of the slabs of rock and sat down. He tried several times to ease some of his weight onto his right leg, testing to see if it would support him. Walking would be difficult but not impossible. Looking around, he began visually assessing their situation. Suddenly he remembered his radio. He reached for his shirt pocket, but it was empty. Scavenging the ground around him, he searched for the small two-way radio, without success.
“Lee, have you found anything yet?” the Admiral called out into the near darkness.
For a moment, the air was still. Finally, the Captain’s voice rang back. “Admiral, over here! I’ve found him, but he’s pinned pretty badly. Are you well enough to give me a hand?”
Nelson immediately pulled himself to his feet. His
injured knee, a mass of agony, but Harry forced himself to ignore it as he
pushed forward, following Lee’s voice in the gloom.
At long last, Nelson, sweating and breathing heavily from the pain, reached Lee’s side. Instantly, he took in the scene. Sharkey’s legs and right arm were exposed, but much of the rest of him was pinned under two large sections of rock and smaller debris.
Lee was already working to clear some of the smaller debris from the edges. “I’ll need your help to free him, but I’m almost afraid to move anything. We could easily make things worse, and what if he’s bleeding?” Crane looked over at his long time friend. “If he’s bleeding, then moving the rocks could make that worse too.”
“Is he alive?”
“He’s got a pulse, I checked, but he doesn’t answer when I call. I’m sure he’s unconscious.”
“Well, he must be getting air under there, but we’re going to have to hurry.” The Admiral sat down hard on the stony surface. He shook the Chief’s exposed wrist. “Sharkey… Sharkey, can you respond? We’re right here and we’re going to get you out of there.”
The two men worked side by side clearing the area as much as possible. For the first time, Nelson realized that Lee was injured. Hefting stone after stone, Lee tried to hide the pain he felt in his side from the older man, but it was no use. Nelson could tell by Lee’s breathing and the way he moved that his friend was suffering. He was tempted to say something, but he knew that Lee was too stubborn to give in, especially with the critical nature of Sharkey’s predicament.
At last, they braced themselves to attempt moving the first of the two large pieces. They worked carefully so as not to add more injury if possible. It was more a process of sliding than lifting, but soon the rock was out of the way, and the exhausted officers sat back to catch their breath.
Sharkey’s face now exposed, was fairly bathed in blood, most of it coming from a good sized gash just above his hairline. The man was unconscious, but breathing, though each breath was raspy and labored.
All attempts to move the second piece of stone failed. The Admiral and Crane dug furiously at the surrounding rubble, until finally they managed to pull the Chief out from underneath. The rock had actually served to protect Sharkey more than anything because it had wedged solidly against the surrounding rock creating a shelf under which the Chief lay.
As with Harry and Lee, the Chief sustained multiple cuts and bruises, but the two officers prayed that he hadn’t also sustained internal injuries as well. They wouldn’t be able to tell much as long as the Chief remained unconscious, and the man resisted all of their attempts to rouse him.
“Lee, we have to try and do something about that wound on his head. See if you can find my survival pack, I had it when I fell.”
Lee got to his feet and wandered back in the direction that he had found the Admiral. The mere fact that he hadn’t verbally acknowledged the Admiral’s question, was an open reminder to Nelson of the pain that the younger man was suffering. It seemed like eternity before Crane returned carrying one of the rifles and a survival pack.
Handing the pack over, Lee said, “I’m going to scout around while you see to the Chief. Holler if you need me.”
“You should have a seat and take it easy. You’re hurt too, you know, and as soon as I’m done with Sharkey, I want to take a look at you.”
“I’m all right, just take care of the Chief.”
All right, don’t give me that, Lee. I can see what kind of shape you’re in. Why do you always have to be so stubborn? Nelson removed the first aid kit and began cleaning and dressing the Chief’s wounds as Lee disappeared once again. I know the real reason you want to go off by yourself. It’s because you don’t want me to know exactly how bad off you are…
Some time passed before Crane returned and sat down on a rock beside the Admiral. Wounds on Sharkey’s head and left shoulder had been cleaned and bandaged, and some of the blood had been wiped from his face. There wasn’t much more that Nelson could do as long as they were trapped in this place.
Lee bent over resting his face in his hands. “How’s the Chief?”
Nelson watched Lee with concern. “There’s no telling how long he’ll be out, but we need to get him out of here. So, what kind of shape are you in?”
“I’m sore is all. Got a couple of cracked ribs and some bumps and bruises. You?”
“Let’s worry about you first. Let me take a look.” Then without waiting for a response, Nelson stood and limped around to Lee’s left side. Lee didn’t resist as the Admiral removed his jacket, tore open the remainder of his already tattered shirt and examined what lie beneath. Moving in an attempt to get better lighting, he asked, “How’s your head?”
Lee’s voice sounded tired. “Hurts… but I’m sure I’ll live.”
Nelson lifted his head. It was reassuring to hear the slight attempt at humor from Lee. He smiled and replied, “Well, it’s good thing you’re so hard headed.”
The Captain lifted his face from his hands and returned Harry’s smile with a meager one of his own. “Yeah, I would have been in real trouble if I had landed on anything else.”
Nelson chuckled then returned to his examination. “Well, you’re bleeding a bit here. Cracked ribs… hopefully that’s all besides this open wound. It’s pretty bad, I’m going to have to try and take care of it before we start moving. Here, sit still, I’ll be right back.
“You don’t happen to have any aspirin in there by any chance. I could sure use a couple about now.”
“I’ll take a look. By the way, did you find anything while you were wandering around?”
Lee closed his eyes, “Yeah, outside of the hole over our heads, there is what appears to be a small tunnel entrance over in that direction.” Lee pointed back behind him.
“Is it large enough for us to get through?”
“If we crawl, it won’t be a problem. But I didn’t go in and there wasn’t much light, so I don’t know how far back it goes if it goes anywhere at all.”
Handing Lee a small packet containing two aspirin, Nelson said, ”You know that this wasn’t any accident.”
“You mean the minefield. Yes, I know.” Lee stiffened as the Admiral worked on his side.
“Sorry about that, Lee. Anyway, now we know why the ladder was left. Whoever set those mines wanted anyone who was following to find them.”
“Find them… the hard way. I’ve been replaying what happened. I think that Sharkey is the one who set them off.”
“That’s what worries me, especially since he hasn’t woke up yet. Since we don’t have any rope and neither one of us is a mountain goat, I think we’re going to have to try your tunnel and hope it goes somewhere. And on top of everything else, we still don’t know what happened to Dr. Anderson and his team.” Nelson finished his work and returned the remainder of the first aid supplies to the pack. “We’re going to have to take it easy if this is the only pack we have, and I take it, that’s the only rifle you found.”
“Yes, but we still have our hand guns. Sharkey and I set our packs down near the edge of the cliff face, I’m sure they’re still sitting where we left them, happily waiting for Chip to find when he sends out a search detail.”
“Well we can’t wait around for that. I want to get Sharkey out of here, and we still have to complete our mission, if we can. I couldn’t find my radio either, do you still have yours?”
“My radio is in my pack up there, but Admiral, you’ve got to be kidding. We’re, none of us in any condition to keep searching.”
Nelson frowned, “This mission is crucial, so we have to complete it if possible. Now I think that this chamber is either a part of the mine that Anderson referred to or it might lead into it. Either way, if we can get into the mine, then there should be another way out.”
“All right,” Lee sounded like a man defeated. He didn’t relish the thought of just sitting and waiting for rescue to arrive, but traipsing around down here didn’t appeal to him either. “We can’t leave Sharkey behind and neither of us is in any shape to carry him far. This is going to be interesting.”
It took both men to lift the unconscious Chief Sharkey,
and between them they shouldered their burden along with the remains of their
supplies. It didn’t take long before they stood along side the small tunnel
entrance. Carefully they laid the Chief on the ground and Nelson searched inside
the survival pack until at last he pulled out his hand holding a tiny
“Let’s just hope this works.” Nelson turned the top of the miniature light and a thin glow radiated from its bulb. Shining the light into the hole, he could see that the tunnel extended back as far as the illumination reached. “I’m going to go in a little way and see what’s there. You wait here with Sharkey.”
“No, I’ll go. It’s obvious your leg is hurt, and crawling around unnecessarily isn’t going to help.” Before the Admiral could object, Lee took the light and disappeared into the entrance.
While he waited, Nelson sat down and surveyed the surrounding area. Something caught his eye, but he couldn’t quite make it out without more light. He walked closer and was rewarded to find one of the two canvas bags they had been carrying. Peering inside, he recognized the things from Lee’s bag and lifted out the metal box. Opening it up, he found the device undamaged. Thank heavens for packing material! Harriman switched on the device and watched for the lights to go on. Green light, good. We’re still O.K.
In a very few minutes Lee reappeared, and sat down just outside the entrance. “It appears the tunnel goes through and it opens up farther down until we can stand, as long as we watch our heads. Some places are kind of narrow, but I’m sure we can make it.”
Nelson nodded, and Lee took hold of Sharkey and began pulling him into the hole after him. The Admiral followed behind, helping where he could, but Lee had been right about his knee. Walking was bad enough, but crawling brought excruciating pain. He bit his lip hard to keep from calling out, he had to keep moving, there was no other choice.
As the ceiling over their heads opened up allowing them to stand, the two men once again shouldered the Chief. Often the way was so narrow that they had to turn sideways and shuffle until the passage opened up again. Some time passed as the men pushed forward in silence. More than once they had to crawl or stoop through small openings, and the small flashlight was quickly losing power, the light dimming as they went.
All at once, Lee drew up short causing Nelson to push Sharkey into him, nearly knocking him over. The Captain shined the dimming light along the wall in front of him. Much of the passage was blocked by tons of rubble that looked recently deposited, but when he switched off the flashlight, a few tiny pinpricks of light could still be seen here and there along one side.
“Can you see this, Admiral?”
Nelson squeezed to get enough around Sharkey in the tight quarters of the passage, to enable him to see where Lee was indicating.
“Light! Here, help me get Sharkey back a little and lay him down. Then we’ll see where that light is coming from.” Nelson began backing back down the passage.
As they laid the Chief onto the cold floor of the passage, he groaned, giving the first signs of consciousness.
Harry leaned over him, “Lee, I’ll look after the Chief. Find out about that light source.”
“Aye, aye. I’ll let you know.” Lee handed the flashlight to the Admiral and felt his way back along the wall.
The sound of moving rock echoed in the narrow passage all around the Admiral as he examined his charge. Sharkey was swimming between unconsciousness and semi-consciousness, but Harry still couldn’t wake him. The Chief groaned again, rolling his head to one side, allowing the Admiral to see that blood had soaked through the bandages. His body trembled slightly, and his breathing became more uneven. Nelson felt helpless, he had known Sharkey for years and in their own way, they were friends. Come on Frances, hang in there. You’re too much of a fighter. We’re going to get you out of here, but you have to stay with us.
“Admiral, I’ve broken through! There’s a chamber beyond, and…” Lee’s voice paused long enough to worry Nelson. “You’ll have to come take a look.”
Nelson left Sharkey and hurried to join Lee. Light infused through the opening, and the Admiral climbed through assisted by Lee on the other side. Soon the two stood together examining the chamber. A single battery powered lantern, surrounded by several more batteries, illuminated the room. The place was a mass of debris, and the far side was completely caved in. Five bodies lay strewn about the chamber, one more than half buried in a massive pile of rock. Lee wandered slowly, checking each body for signs of life, not really expecting to find any.
“Who do you think would have done this? Crane asked, staring down into empty, lifeless eyes.
“We don’t have time to speculate about that now unless we find some real evidence, and I’m doubtful about that now. This was a clean hit, no survivors, no witnesses.”
Nelson bent down to check the body nearest him. The man was wrapped across his torso in bandages stained reddish brown with blood. As Nelson felt for a pulse, the body shivered and the man opened his eyes. Harry dropped down next to him and stared into eyes that barely saw him.
“I’m Admiral Nelson. Washington sent us to find you. Can you tell me who you are and what happened here?”
Through parched and cracked lips, the man whispered, “I’m Carl Taylor. I know who you are, Admiral. I’ve sat in a few of your lectures. Listen… you have to listen to me, Admiral.”
Upon hearing the voices, Lee moved quickly to the other
side of the stranger. He peered under the bandages, then looking at the Admiral,
he whispered, “Looks bad. I…” Lee shook his head ever so slightly, only enough
for Harry to see.
Nelson focused his attention on the dying man. He placed his hand on the man’s shoulder, and replied, “I’m listening.”
Taylor closed his eyes, then opened them again as he tried to speak. With great effort, he said, “were attacked. We reached the mine, but they followed…. Shot Ian and Jens, then set off explosives… caved in the entrance.” Taylor closed his eyes again and appeared to drift off. After a moment, his whispered voice returned only much more haggard. “They didn’t get the notes or samples… Jens buried them before he was shot… Over there,” he pointed, “under the stones.”
Nelson and Crane followed Taylor’s trembling finger with their eyes, then suddenly, the hand fell. They looked back and Nelson felt for a pulse, but Marcus was gone.
Lee turned to Nelson. “They died for this, all of them.”
“But not in vain, Lee. They protected all our lives, by keeping their secret. Come on, let’s get those notes and see if we can find a way out of here. First, let’s get Sharkey in here so we can keep an eye on him while we work.”
Nelson tried to do the majority of the rock moving and digging. He was tired and sore, but he knew that all of the movement and heavy lifting had to be agony for Lee, though he also knew that the younger man would never complain. He sent Lee to watch over Sharkey and to look around for useful supplies. The cavern floor was littered with things that the scientists had hastily brought with them when they escaped. They had thought that they would be able to protect themselves here, but instead the mine had served as their tomb. The chamber wasn’t very large, and the oxygen it contained wouldn’t have sustained them long. But from the looks of things, none of them would have lasted that long anyway. The two men who weren’t shot must have been near the mine entrance and suffered the brunt of the explosion. One was buried in the rubble, the body of the other was a mangled, bloody mess. It was a scene not easily forgotten.
Lee returned, carrying an assortment of things including a working flashlight, some flares, a backpack, rope, food and water rations, the lantern, and a pocketknife. Showing them to the Admiral, he said, “I’m going to try and give a little of this water to Sharkey. You want some first?”
“No, go ahead. I think I’m just about there.” He didn’t say more. Instead he watched as Lee gave him a look and scooted toward Sharkey. I know you’re worried about me Lee. Frankly, I’m worried about all of us.
A few minutes later, Nelson reached his prize. Removing the last of the debris, he retrieved two thick binders of notes and a tablet containing more. Underneath the tablet were several small specimen containers roughly the size of test tubes. Gathering the backpack that Lee had dropped beside him, Harry slid the papers and vials inside. He placed the flares and flashlight into a small side pouch. Finally, he dropped the knife into his pants pocket.
When Lee returned, Nelson was holding the rope, staring at it. Both men were exhausted, but knew that resting for a while would only serve to stiffen aching joints and muscles that hardly wanted to move at this point. They had to keep going as long as they could.
Lee emptied most of the electronic gear from his canvas bag. It was all useless to them at this point. Then he filled the bag with the rations he had collected. Touching his friend’s arm, he said, “The entrance is totally blocked, we couldn’t dig our way out in a million years.”
“I know. I think our only way out of here is to go back.”
Lee rubbed his hand back and forth through his dark hair. “Back? But why? We couldn’t get out that way either, remember?”
“We might be able to with this.” Nelson shook the rope in his hands. “Anyway, it won’t do us any good to sit here, and if we can’t get out, Chip’s more likely to find us back there, don’t you think?”
“I guess you’re right, but I tell you, I sure wish the Seaview had a nice hot tub about now. I’m going to really need it when we get back.”
“You’re not the only one.” Nelson reached up and rubbed the back of his neck. “Though, I think that someone would have to bring us meals because I wouldn’t want to get out for at least a week.” Harry grinned at Lee. “Come on Captain, let’s get moving.”
It took close to an hour to get Sharkey and the supplies back to the sight of the cave in. Lee led the way, crawling out through the small tunnel backward in order to help drag the Chief and move the equipment. As they neared the entrance, Lee gave thanks on behalf of his aching body that soon he would be able to stretch and relax a little.
“I suggest you come out of there, nice and easy,” came a voice from behind.
At the sound, Lee instantly froze. Halfway through the opening and facing in, the thought crossed his mind to dart forward back into the tunnel. But with the Chief and the gear, there was too much in the way. Besides, then the unconscious Chief would be exposed. Lee tried to look behind him, but could see nothing unusual. Suddenly a sharp pain flashed through his right thigh. Something had hit him and hit him hard, knocking his left side against the ragged tunnel opening.
“I said move!” came the unseen voice, but this time along with the voice, Lee heard the unmistakable click of a gun being cocked.
“All right! I’m coming.” The Captain searched in the
darkness for the Admiral, but could see nothing. The lantern had been switched
off and they were using the last power of the flashlight to return, but the
Admiral was carrying it and even that was gone. Lee prayed that Nelson had heard
the voice because he had no way to warn him without giving away his presence.
Crane scooted the rifle as far up the tunnel as he could without being obvious. It was too late to do anything about the handgun at his hip. Letting go the rest of the gear, he slid backward as cautiously and slowly as possible, in the hopes of giving Nelson time to act. As he cleared the entrance, Lee tried to get a look at his assailant, but was shoved roughly, face first onto the gravel while his gun was removed. The sudden impact caused him to gasp and cough, and the feeling of faintness returned, but needing to keep a clear head he fought against it until he was able to breathe again.
“I have a gun to your head that I’m dying to use, so make one wrong move and your brains will decorate these drab walls, understand?”
The language is English, but I can’t place the accent. “Yes. Can I get up now?”
“Slowly, I want you to turn around and sit with your back against the wall. Scoot down, way from the tunnel.”
Lee got to his knees and turned slowly around. Four men in drab, gray fatigues stood with guns drawn. One stood closer than the rest and wore a sadistic expression, Lee was sure that he had been the one speaking earlier. As he sat down and scooted away from the entrance, he noticed that each of the men carried an assortment of weaponry, including knives, grenades and machetes.
“Just who are you, and why are you here?” Lee asked, trying to stall. He had to find some way to give the Admiral time. He hoped that they wouldn’t look in the tunnel and find Sharkey, but he knew it was only wishful thinking. Figuring these as the same men who killed the scientists and wrecked their camp, Lee knew what they were after and that they wouldn’t hesitate to kill all of them to get it.
“Shut up!” the leader snarled. He appeared to be an officer by the insignia on his uniform, but Lee didn’t recognize it or anything else about the uniform. Waving his pistol at one of the men on his right, he snapped, “you, Marco, check the tunnel.”
The younger man handed his rifle to his companion, then drawing his pistol and a flashlight, he dropped to his knees and peered into the hole. “There’s someone else in here, looks injured and unconscious.” The man poked the barrel of his gun several times into the Chief’s shoulder. “Yeah, he’s out.”
“Is that all?!”
“That and some gear,” Marco called back.
“You and Jaiz, pull him out, then go in there and have a look. Pull everything out, that tunnel must go somewhere, or you…” he said jabbing the gun in the Captain’s face, “wouldn’t have bothered taking your friend in there, would you now?”
Every muscle in Lee’s body wanted to snatch the gun and shove it back in the other man’s face, but he didn’t dare with Sharkey such an obvious target. Biting his lip, he stared coldly into his captor’s face, watching and waiting.
Dark brown eyes stared deep into Lee’s hazel eyes as if trying to penetrate his inner most thought, then a wicked grin came slowly over the weathered face. “I’ve seen that look in men’s faces before. You don’t scare easily, do you? Well, in this case you should because I’d just as soon shoot.” The man crouched down in front of the Captain, waving his gun as if trying to bait Lee into going for it. “You know why we’re here, don’t you? What I want to know from you is, first, who you are, and second, where is it?”
Lee sat still, staring hard, anger building inside of him, but he refused to let it take control. My only chance is to keep my head and wait for the right moment.
The officer’s face filled with rage. Suddenly, Lee saw a flash out of the corner of his eye and the side of the gun was brought crashing against his cheek. His face was afire as he was slapped with it again. Blood spilled freely from the gash in his lip and his teeth felt loose. He grabbed blindly for the gun, but it was instantly out of his reach. All at once, the last of the foursome was there, and two hands slammed Seaview’s Captain back into the wall behind him, with sufficient force to make his ears ring.
“Answer me! Or your silence will cost both your lives!”
Lee’s anger flared, “You don’t expect me to tell you anything, do you?! If you want to shoot that badly, go ahead, you don’t intend to let us live anyway!”
“Stubborn and stupid!” the officer yelled. “You will die, but WHEN and HOW is entirely up to you.” He motioned to the remaining man, “Leidon, tie his hands and feet with that rope. Tie the other one also, in case he decides to wake up.” Then walking back a few feet, he sat down on what appeared to be a large, broken stalagmite, all the while, keeping his gun trained directly on the Captain.
Despite the gun, Lee lashed out in an attempt to escape, knocking the man called Leidon to the ground and landing a right cross square in the man’s jaw. Scrambling for the man’s gun the two wrestled together until, in an instant, Lee heard a terrible concussion and a bullet whizzed past his ear almost hitting him. The momentary surprise was enough for Leidon to knock the Captain backward onto the ground.
“That was a warning, and I will only give it once,” the officer sneered. “Back off now… or else!”
By this time, Leidon had recovered and also trained his weapon on Crane. “Let me make him bleed, Major. I owe him!” The man stood back rubbing his jaw. “You’re gonna pay!”
“You’ll do nothing, stand fast!” The Major’s terrible grin returned. “The pleasure of hurting this one is mine.” The words drooled from the cruel lips. “Silence won’t help you, you know. I can tell just from looking at you and your uniform that you are American, like the scientists who were here. You see, in case you’re looking for them, they met with a little trouble and I’m afraid that no one will be seeing them again… ever.” He paused, rubbing his fingers over the graying, stubble on his chin, a deliberate tactic to give his captive time to think over his words. “Also… from the insignia you wear, I take it that you’re a commander. Well Commander, let me introduce myself, it doesn’t matter, since you’re right… you will never leave this island… alive, anyway. I am Major Ceva.”
Lee flinched as Leidon yanked the rope tight, but still he maintained a fiery stare on his opponent. He waited until the last knot was tied and the younger man let go, then he snapped, “whom are you working for?”
The Major’s grin grew making him look all the more evil. “First things first, Commander. Let’s start with your name, and then you will tell me about LLT-400.”
“Forget it, you’ll get nothing from me.”
“Oh, but I will, or I’ll have fun trying. Either way, it’s up to you. Now, let’s start again…”
Nelson heard the men coming and hurried down the passageway toward the chamber with the dead scientists, carrying the pack with the notes and samples. He had little time to pull off his plan, but his mind kept racing to his comrades he left behind. I hated leaving you, Lee, but I pray you understand. This is too dangerous to let them have, and if I had stayed we would all be killed. This way, there’s a chance, if only there’s time.
Marco and Jaiz clambered through the opening, into the chamber. The passage led nowhere else and the darkness enveloped them. They shined their flashlights around the room and over the dead bodies.
“I thought I heard something a minute ago,” muttered Marcos. “I thought it came from in here."
“You have too much imagination, No noise came from these guys. Hey, these are those guys we followed to that mine. This is a good omen, man.”
“What are you talking about, Jaiz? There’s nothing here but rotting corpses. It gives me the creeps.”
Jaiz kicked his foot against one of the bodies, rolling it over. “No, think man! Remember what the Major said after we didn’t find anything at the camp? He said we blew up the mine too fast. Those guys could have had the stuff up here, right? Now we got a chance to search.”
“We gotta tell the Major.”
“No, wait! Let’s look around for a couple of minutes. If we find the stuff, we’ll take it to the Major and come off lookin good, huh? Jaiz poked the other man with his elbow. “I’m ready to get out of this stinkin hole and off this cursed island, but it’ll be worth it if we can get Ceva off our backs for a while. Come on man, whatta ya say?”
“All right, but only for a couple of minutes. If we’re gone too long, Ceva will have our necks, and nothing’s worth what he’ll do to us, and you know it.”
“Then let’s get moving. You take that side and I’ll go over here. Check the bodies too, they may be carrying somethin.”
The two men moved in opposite directions, searching with their flashlights. Marco ran his hand along one of the bodies, feeling the pockets. “Ugghhh! …You know what? We would have a better chance of finding something with one of the lanterns. Maybe, I’ll go back and…”
“Shut up, and keep lookin!”
Suddenly there was a sickening thud, the sound of movement and a flashlight fell to the ground. Marcos heard Jaiz moan and spun around searching the darkness, heading for the abandoned light. He heard the sound of a scuffle, but saw nothing for a second. “Hey Jaiz, you’re creeping me out. Let me see you.”
Admiral Nelson pushed away the limp body that had fallen on him and scooped up two handfuls of the small stones littering the floor. He swung his arms sending the dirt and rocks in every direction. The effect was instantaneous. The other man turned wildly, searching for the source of the noise. Harry grabbed the flashlight from the ground and switched it off, jamming it into his pocket. Then he threw two more handfuls of gravel, giving him precious seconds to search the body of the fallen man with his hands. Nelson barely ducked out of the way as the beam of the other man’s light struck the body.
“Jaiz! Jaiz! No, man, what happened?” Marcos ran forward and dropped down along side his companion. Blood ran from Jaiz’s temple. Terrified, Marcos shook the body while scanning erratically with his light. He caught the sight of movement and once again he heard sound from everywhere, this time he was pelted by small stones. He bent down, shrieking, “wake up, Jaiz wake up!”
Panic raced through Marcos, driving him to run, but as
he started to stand, unseen hands shoved him forward onto Jaiz’s body. On the
edge of hysteria, he twisted and tried to fight off his unseen attacker, only to
succumb as the butt of a pistol was brought down full force on the back of his
Nelson stood up, still holding the pistol in his hand. He pulled the flashlight from his pocket and examined the two prone forms. Both men were unconscious, though the first man, Jaiz, was probably suffering from a concussion as a result of the blow Nelson gave him. The rock he used lay a few feet from his body, and Nelson shuddered at the memory of the sound when it impacted the man’s skull.
The second man moaned as Harry pulled up his shirttail, and using the knife in his pocket, tore strips from it and began tying up the men. The Admiral removed all of their weapons, taking them into the outer passage. Then he dragged the two men apart and vacated, leaving them behind.
Traveling as quickly as his injured leg would allow, Harry hurried toward the entrance, not knowing if either of his friends were alive. As he approached, he heard voices and slowed down, moving just close enough to see a single armed man pointing a rifle toward something to the left of the entrance. The Admiral also got a view of Sharkey, still apparently unconscious, laying a few yards away. From what Nelson could tell, the Chief hadn’t suffered more injury, but Lee was nowhere to be seen.
“Where are they? Those two should have come back by now!… But you, you I’m not done with. Leidon, wake him up, then go check on the others.”
Nelson listened and shivers ran cold up his spine. It had to be Lee to which the voice was referring and he was unconscious. At least you’re alive, thank heaven. He watched as the man with the rifle, shouldered it, removed his canteen from his belt and disappeared from view. Harry heard the sound of pouring water followed by hard slapping sounds.
“Wake up you, the Major’s talking, and if you don’t pay attention, then you’re gonna hurt a lot more.”
Lee groaned and the sound echoed in the Admiral’s soul. He tried to weigh the best possible plan of attack, but he knew that time was running out and he needed to act quickly. Then suddenly he remembered that Leidon had been ordered down the tunnel. He was completely exposed if someone were to actually look into the opening, so he gathered himself and skirted back along the passage. There would be no time to reach the end, so instead, he headed for the first place wide enough to hide him from direct view and waited. The wait was short, within a minute or two, Harry heard the scraping of someone moving along the tunnel. Come on, one more, but how many others?
“Enough of this!” roared Ceva, laying his boot once again into his victim. “You’ve out lived your usefulness and delayed me long enough I’m afraid. I enjoyed your stubbornness for a while, but now you’re not even an interesting plaything anymore.”
Lee was barely able to turn his head enough to face his nemesis, breathing hard through the blood that flowed from his nose and mouth, causing him to gag. He was past speaking or caring to speak, the pain from Ceva’s interrogation had become so intense that now, his brain had become mostly numbed to the continued assault. There was little the man could do anymore, they both knew it, and the welcome cloud of blessed unconsciousness was returning…
Ceva stared down, frustration showed plainly on his face. He needed to achieve his objective and time was growing short. He had made a mistake not accompanying Marcos and Jaiz when they pursued the scientists toward the mine, and then they set off the explosives, caving in everything. The worst news came back at the camp, when they had found nothing… NOTHING! He would pay for his mistakes, but he would make sure that his men suffered more. Then they heard the explosion from the minefield they left behind and knew that others were on the island too, and his hope of salvation returned. Finding these two men alive was the second chance he needed to save his hide, he could fabricate something to cover the rest as long as he returned successful. But one of the men still lay unconscious, unmoving, and the other had more will power than brains. I give you credit, Commander, few men would have been able to stand so much.
The Major took a step forward, watching as the beaten man’s eyes became dull and rolled away from consciousness. “Oh, no you don’t! I want you to witness the moment of your death!” Thrusting the gun up in front of him, Ceva spat, “LOOK AT ME!”
A gunshot rang out and Ceva spun to his left, toward the passage entrance. “What?!” He jogged quickly to the opening and hollered for his men. He listened, but only heard silence. The Major called again, then retrieved his pack and pulled out the radio. Leidon was the only other man carrying a radio, so he switched it on and yelled, “Leidon, Report!” Long seconds ticked by as he listened to the static. “Leidon, this is Ceva, report!”
Dropping the pack and radio, Ceva swooped toward the opening. All lay in darkness, he could see nothing. He scrambled back for his pack practically ripping his flashlight from its pouch, and shined it into the opening. At first there was nothing caught in the beam, then he saw Leidon returning. Ceva stood up and switched off the light. “Stupid idiot! Why didn’t you answer me? What was that shot?”
The Major busied himself retrieving and switching on the lantern from his pack. The sun had fallen below the edge of the outer plateau and the chamber was flooding with shadows. It took a moment for him to realize that he hadn’t received answers to his questions though he heard the man exit the passage. Turning, he was confronted by a stranger with two handguns aimed directly at him… two guns trained directly at his heart.
“ I suggest you remove your weapons and toss them over there.”
Ceva remained motionless, examining the auburn haired stranger. Finally, he asked, “Who are you?”
Nelson glanced quickly over at Lee’s beaten body then refocused on Ceva. “I think you’ve asked all the questions you’re going to for one day. Now, remove your weapons. I won’t ask again.”
The Major’s unshaven lip curled and he started to laugh. “You don’t seriously think that…”
The Admiral moved his left hand slightly and squeezed the trigger. The bullet shattered the debris at Ceva’s feet sending gravel in all directions. “Oh, I am deadly serious, and I think you’d better get moving.”
“All right…” Ceva kept his eyes trained on Nelson as he slowly reached down and removed the knife and machete from his belt, tossing them one by one in the direction indicated. “You are not going to succeed.”
“Don’t count on it.”
If you were smart, you would have pulled the trigger as soon as you saw me. I’m not alone, as I’m sure you’re aware.”
“Oh, you must be referring to your friends, let’s just say that they won’t be joining us.”
“Lee!” Harry’s heart filled with relief, but he had to keep himself focused on the Major. “Lee, lay still, talk to me.”
Ceva let his hands fall ever so slowly to his gun belt as though to unfasten the buckle. He watched the exchange between the two Americans, and heard the concern in the older man’s words. Fools, you’ve shown me your weakness. He turned slightly, just enough to mask his right hand slipping toward his pant pocket…
Lee didn’t answer and Nelson’s concern grew. Keeping his eye on Ceva, he cautiously stepped toward his friend. Suddenly, the Major’s arm jerked back and Harry saw the flash of the switchblade as it flew in Lee’s direction. Lee, only half conscious, cried out and Nelson turned his head.
“You fools!” Ceva shrieked, firing off a shot.
Nelson spun toward Ceva and squeezed both triggers without bothering to take aim. The Major’s bullet grazed the Admiral’s forearm and imbedded in the rock behind him. Harry watched as Ceva fell backward, taking one bullet in his right side, the other in his chest. He rushed forward, prepared to fire again, but the other man lay motionless, his life draining away within seconds.
Harry found no pulse, and turned his attention on his two officers. First, he looked at Sharkey, who lay the closest. He was relieved to find no sign that the Chief had been touched.
Limping over, Nelson found his Captain in far worse shape. He was badly beaten and fresh blood flowed from a cut just above his knee where Ceva’s knife sliced across his skin. His face looked the worst and blood soaked the bandage on his side. Harry snatched up the knife and cut the ropes binding his friend.
“Lee!” the Admiral called, gently shaking him. “Lee, are you with me?”
Not far from Lee’s body, Harry spied a canteen lying on the ground. Grabbing it, he gave it a shake. Oh good, there’s still some left. He tilted the Captain’s face up and slowly dripped water onto the bloodied lips, then into his own hand and carefully began washing away some of the remaining blood. “Come on Lad, I need you here.”
Beneath the blood and dirt, Crane’s face looked a bit better. It was cut in a few places, swollen, bruised, and his lip looked terrible, filling the Admiral with a great sense of guilt. Taking Lee’s head in his hands and whispered, “Come on…”
The movement in his hands was so weak at first that Nelson wasn’t sure if he had imagined it. Greatly worried, he stared hard into the younger man’s face, almost pleading for another sign. Gradually, Lee’s hazel eyes opened and peered up him.
“Lee, are you all right?”
“Admiral, I thought I heard your voice. What happened? Where’s Major Ceva?
Nelson glanced over at the dead officer. “Don’t worry about him, he’s dead. I’m more concerned about you at the moment.”
“Gonna hurt for a while, but I’m really glad to see you, Admiral. You had me worried for a while after those goons followed you into the tunnel.”
“I had you worried! You’re the one who looks like death warmed over! As for the other two, I left them tied and unconscious back there. I’ll have to check on them soon, in case they manage to free themselves.”
Lee pushed himself shakily up into a sitting position.
“Oh man, I think he really did a number on my side. Did they do anything to the
“I looked him over, I don’t think he’s any worse off. Let me get the gear and rebandage that side of yours. Then I want you to take it easy while I check on our two friends back there and retrieve the notes.”
Lee gasped as he changed his sitting position. “You’ll get no argument from me. Not moving, sounds pretty good at the moment.”
Settling down next to Lee, Nelson smiled, “at least we finally found something that can get you to behave yourself.”
“I think this is a bit extreme.” Lee flashed the Admiral a look and rolled his eyes.
Nelson removed the bloodied bandage and grimaced at what he saw. “You’re right about your side, it’s bleeding again. I’ll wrap it best I can, but we’re getting low on bandages. You are going to have to be careful with this.”
Lee tensed and gritted his teeth as the Admiral poured water over the wound. “I… I will, don’t worry.”
In a few minutes the work was done. Nelson handed Lee, the Major’s handgun and one of the rifles, then taking some rope, disappeared down the tunnel. Each trip took its toll on his knee until the agony grew so intense that he could hardly stand. He found both men still tied though the second man was conscious. After retying them both with the rope, Nelson went over to where he had roughly buried the pack with Anderson’s work and retrieved it. The conscious man begged Nelson not to leave them alone in the darkness, but he knew that the darkness gave him an advantage by disorienting the men if they tried to escape. He would have liked to take them back to where Lee was so that they could keep an eye on them, but he wouldn’t be able to manage on his own and right now there was no one who could help him. So, for the time being they would have to stay, and though Nelson regretted being so cruel, he left the two men once again alone in the darkness.
Upon returning, the Admiral found Lee leaning back against the wall with his eyes closed. For a moment, he thought Crane might be asleep until he heard Lee ask, “How did things go back there? Is everything all right?”
“They’re tucked in nice and tight. Shouldn’t bother us now, and we’ll get them back to Seaview as soon as we can get ourselves out of here,” he said staring at two ropes that dangled from the opening above. Walking over, he tugged on each of the ropes seeing if they were secure. “This is obviously how they got in here.”
“And how we’ll get out.”
“Let’s not jump the gun. We need to get things together, see what we have, before we go off half cocked. Who knows if these are the only hostile forces on the island. We will have to be ready.”
“I guess you’re right, but I have to admit that I don’t really want to stay here much longer. We’re too easy of a target.”
“I agree, but first things first.”
“Oh, by the way, while I was waiting for you to return, I heard the Chief stirring and thought for a minute he might come to. But when I checked on him, he still wouldn’t wake up. I only hope we can bring him out of this soon, or at least get him back to Seaview.
Nelson helped Lee to a standing position, and then crouched down to check on Sharkey. He was beyond exhausted, but he didn’t dare let Lee know. Lee needed him now, as did Sharkey, and if he showed even the slightest bit of what he felt at the moment, the Captain would be all over him. Lee Crane would push himself beyond his limits to help, that, the Admiral knew for sure. The two worked together in silence, inventorying their supplies and moving Ceva’s body. Neither one would openly admit the concern they had for each other and Sharkey too. Nelson found the Major’s radio and tried it, but it was of the type that could only send or receive on a single frequency, which made it useless.
Finally, Lee, on the edge of collapse, dropped down on a pile of debris near the center of the chamber. He saw the Admiral a way off, sorting the last of the supplies. He picked up a fist-sized rock and threw it against the wall in frustration. Every part of his body screamed for attention and his insides were in an uproar. And the worst of it all was knowing that the Admiral and Sharkey were also suffering and he couldn’t stop it.
The sky had grown completely dark and the air chilled the sweat on their bodies. Crane stared up at the sky and thought, what’s happened to Chip. Surely by now a rescue party is looking for us. Then a picture of the rough and dense terrain that they had traveled earlier ran through his mind, and he added that to the darkness of the night sky. No, it would be a million to one shot to find us tonight, though I know they’re probably trying.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Admiral. “Lee we need to get some sleep. We’re both too worn out to attempt getting out of here tonight, we’d probably wind up breaking our necks.”
Lee turned his face to look at Nelson. He wanted to leave this nightmare behind, but the Admiral’s words made sense and he had no strength to argue. His face showed both his unhappiness and his resignation. At last he said, “O.K., but what I wouldn’t give right now to be sitting on the front porch surrounded by a huge pile of paperwork.”
The comment caught Nelson off guard and he broke into laughter. “Now that’s a new one for you, Lee. You must be desperate.”
Lee chuckled, it felt good to let go a little after today. “I guess I am. By the way, I get the nice, soft gravel over by Sharkey. You can have the lumpy stuff.” With a wink, Lee settled down laying is head on the canvas bag and soon drifted off to sleep. Harry selected a spot for himself, and soon joined his friends. Weariness washed over them, and neither man dreamed.
Lee awoke to the sound of coughing. Early morning light
filtered in from overhead. Still groggy, he sat up too quickly and the wound in
his side shot pain like the searing of a branding iron through him causing him
to cry out. Nelson was at his side in an instant, but could offer no help. Crane
doubled over, holding his stomach, as he rode out the pain. As soon as he could
make any understandable sound, he whispered, “Sh…Sharkey…”
The Admiral quickly shifted over to the Chief. The man curled up and moaned. Nelson lightly slapped Sharkey’s cheek several times, calling his name as he did so.
“Sharkey, wake up. It’s me, Nelson. Come on Frances, wake up.”
The Chief answered back with a few dry, raspy coughs, and then slowly opened his eyes, squinting as they searched through the dim light.
“Chief, Chief,” Nelson smiled, “are you all right?”
Sharkey rolled his eyes and his hands shot up to the bandages ringing his head. “I…I…”
“Here, take it easy.” Nelson turned to retrieve the canteen of water and was met by Lee’s hand offering it to him. Placing his hand under Sharkey’s head, the Admiral gave a small amount of water to the Chief.
Lee moved in closer. “It sure is good to see you, Chief. We were beginning to wonder if you were ever going to join us.”
“Skipper… Admiral, my head…” came the dry, strained voice. The Chief moved as if to sit up, but the Admiral put out his hand, restraining him.
“Whoa, first things first. Tell me how many fingers I’m holding up?”
“How many fingers? Admiral, I…”
“I know it sounds silly, just humor me would you? How many fingers?”
“Three, Sir. Now can I get up? Man, my whole body hurts. That was some fall.”
Lee interrupted, “That was some fall, yesterday.”
The Chief’s eyes widened as he stared at the Skipper. “Naw, you’re kidding right? It couldn’t have been… I mean, I wasn’t… How long was I out?
Lee dusted off his watch. “Well, it’s now 0621 Tuesday morning, if that helps.”
Sharkey was still staring in disbelief when the Admiral spoke, “Sharkey, how are you feeling?”
Still holding his head, he slowly rolled his eyes shut and considered for a few moments, eventually speaking again. “I tell you, I have a headache the size of Mount Everest and the rest of me feels like I’ve been in a fight with a bunch of marines and lost. It hurts even to breathe, and the inside of my chest and throat feel like they’ve been through a meat grinder. But other than that, I’m fit as a fiddle and ready to get back to the sub.”
Nelson smiled, “Well, he sounds like the Chief. What do you think, Lee, you ready to get out of here?”
“You don’t have to tell me twice, but first, I think we should see if he can handle sitting up, let alone anything else.”
Both Lee and the Admiral reached out and took Sharkey by the arms. Gently, they helped ease him up in case he was in worse shape than he thought. Steadying him, they let go, but caught him again as he started to swoon.
Sharkey endeavored to brush them off. “I’m O.K… Boy, I feel like I’ve been on the wrong side of a bottle. Make that a few bottles.”
The men sat together while the Chief’s mind cleared and he got his bearings. Then Crane took out some of the meager rations he had found in the mine and distributed them. He was starving and his stomach churned in on itself, making almost anything into a gourmet meal. Anything, that is, except the fine delicacies in his hands. Ugghh! He thought as he forced down his share of the can of Spam he opened and some pickled beets. Who brought this stuff anyway? I’ll take sea rats any day!
Upon completing his meal, enjoying it every bit as much as the Captain, Nelson stood, taking one of the ropes in his hand. “Let’s just hope,” he said to no one in particular, “they’re secure up there.”
Lee came over and said, “here, let me see.” He gave each of the ropes a few sharp tugs. “They feel secure to me. There’s only one way to know for sure…” The Captain climbed up on the highest pile of debris, gaining him about six feet of height from where the Admiral stood.
Realizing what Crane had in mind, Nelson called out, “all right, Lee. Now come back down and give me….”
Too late, Lee grabbed on to the rope and started climbing. Harry flinched as he watched his friend grit his teeth against searing pain. Watching from the ground, the climb seemed to last forever until finally, Lee reached the lip and hauled himself over.
Lee lay on the ground outside the abyss that held his friends for a couple of minutes, panting and unable to move. He couldn’t remember ever having hurt this badly in his life. He heard the Admiral call up to him, asking if he was all right, but he didn’t dare even draw a deep enough breath to respond. The thought of moving made him sick, but after a few minutes, he forced himself to lift his head and look around. The area was a mess, the explosions had seen to that. He feared that more of the ground beneath him might be unstable or still contain unexploded mines, increasing the risk of another cave in, and decided he’d better move carefully.
Dragging himself up, Lee staggered over and retrieved the rope. Carrying it far enough from the edge that he felt comfortable, he secured the line and called out. “Admiral, the line’s secure, but I can’t pull you up, at least not yet.” Then he slumped to the ground holding himself and squeezed his eyes shut. He was barely aware of the Admiral’s faint voice answering him, telling him not to worry.
As the waves of pain began to subside, Lee became vaguely aware of what sounded like distant voices. He had hoped that those responsible for murdering the scientists were all below, but now, alarm bells were going off. Adrenaline pumped through Lee like a freight train. If only I had the rifle or one of the pistols he thought, as he remembered them lying down amongst the supplies below.
The hole that the Seaview officers had fallen through the day before lay like an open wound in the earth. Quickly, Lee scurried toward the opening, hoping to have the Admiral tie the rifle to the end of the rope, so that he could hoist it up. As he peered over the edge, however, he was met by the face of Admiral Nelson who hung just below the lip. Instinctively, Lee reached out and helped Nelson over the top. The Admiral wore the backpack and had the canvas bag hanging around his neck.
“Admiral, listen. Do you have your pistol with you?”
“Of course, what the…”
“I heard voices. We may have more company.”
Instantly alert, Nelson looked at Lee, “Where?”
“Over that way, toward the ladder.”
Harry leaned over the edge and called quietly, “Sharkey, hold on a minute, we’ll be right back.” Then the Admiral drew his gun and the two men crept silently in the direction Lee had indicated.
As they neared the place where the portable ladder was secured to the rocky terrain, both men distinctly picked up on the sound of voices. They were distant and unreadable, but definitely real.
Nelson put his arm out, halting Crane. “If they’re hostile, we’ve got to do something. We have all of Anderson’s notes and samples, and that’s what they’re after. We can’t let them have it.”
“Suppose they’re not hostile. What if it’s a search party? You know they have to be looking for us.”
“Nevertheless, we can’t take any chances until we’re sure. I’d rather burn all of it, then see it fall into the wrong hands. We need to find out.”
“Give me your gun,” Lee said quietly, holding out his hand. “I’ll go. You need to help Sharkey up, I can’t. If it’s our men, I’ll fire off the signal and we’ll come after you. If not, I’ll get back here as soon as I can, or if I can’t, you’ll hear that too.
Harry reluctantly relinquished his pistol. “All right Lee, but get back here in one piece. That’s an order, Captain.”
“Aye, Sir, but just in case, pull the ladder up behind me. I’ll holler when I need you to drop it.” Then peering over the edge, Lee turned, mounted the ladder and disappeared from sight.
Nelson leaned out, watching Lee descend until disappearing into a cloud of fog. After drawing up the ladder, he went back to help Sharkey. Nelson had secured the Chief with a homemade harness fashioned from the other end of the rope before he had made his own ascent earlier. The Chief of the boat would never make the climb in his condition, so the Admiral had to pull him up inch by inch, wrapping the line around a large boulder as he went. The rope dug mercilessly into his hands until they burned, but at long last, he saw Sharkey’s hands then arms rise above the surface.
Lee followed the voices, moving stealthily, staying to the cover of the foliage whenever possible. The fog had returned during the night and this part of the island seemed shrouded in mist, making it difficult to see far. Lee crept carefully, listening to everything. Being so cautious slowed him down considerably, but he wasn’t about to risk being caught out in the open. His life wasn’t the only at stake, he had to help the others too.
He was closing in and nearly had a fix on the sounds when suddenly they stopped. Lee froze in his tracks, staying low, listening. All sound close to him had vanished, including the sound of insects. His skin tingled, something was wrong, but he didn’t dare move. The thought crossed his mind that perhaps he had been spotted, or maybe, they had been leading him on purposely to trap him. Seconds ticked by, as Lee stared hard into the fog and greenery, but saw nothing.
Suddenly, something jabbed him hard between the shoulder blades, and he heard, “Don’t move.”
Nelson and Sharkey waited impatiently near the edge of the cliff face. The Captain had been gone for over an hour, and both men were worried. The Admiral had spent part of their time redressing the Chief’s wounds, but now there was nothing to do but wait. The sound of voices had disappeared some time ago, filling Nelson with a feeling of dread. They took turns peeking out over the precipice hoping to see something… anything, that would give them some kind of idea of what was going on. The fog was thick below, but thinned as it climbed to where they sat. Still the air was damp and chilly, making them shiver involuntarily. Remembering Lee’s radio, the Admiral began picking his way around, searching for the two survival packs.
Suddenly there were sounds from below. Nelson listened and heard Lee’s voice call out. Immediately he dropped the ladder, Lee was in trouble. There had been no signal, that meant there were still hostile forces still on the island, and they were sitting ducks.
Nelson reached over to help Lee, but the hand that topped the edge wasn’t Lee’s. This one was smaller and paler. The Admiral drew back and seized a good-sized stone ready to attack the intruder. He waited as the head of sandy brown hair came into view, and stopped himself suddenly as the face of Patterson appeared.
Seeing the rock aimed straight at his head, Patterson ducked, “Admiral, it’s me, Patterson. The Skipper sent me up to get you.”
The Admiral dropped the rock and helped Patterson up.
Sharkey’s eyes lit up, “Patterson, boy, are we glad to see you. We thought… well, you don’t want to know what we thought.”
Patterson relaxed, “It’s good to see you too Chief, and Admiral. We’ve been out searching for you since yesterday. It’s a good thing we ran into the Skipper, or who knows how long it would have taken for us to find you up here.”
“I take it that the Captain is below?” inquired Nelson as all of his anxiety drained away.
“Yes, Sir. He doesn’t look in too good of shape. I don’t think he was looking forward to climbing up here.”
Nelson understood, “Well, let’s get some men up here to help get the Chief down. I personally, am looking forward to returning to Seaview.”
The next morning, Harriman Nelson sat on his front porch in Seaview’s observation nose, admiring the sea as it lapped against the clear herculite panes. The sun shone brilliantly, without even the hint of fog to obstruct his view. Lying on the floor next to his chair, a simple aluminum cane rested, a reminder of their most recent adventure. Its use would only be temporary as his knee healed, so he didn’t mind its intrusion too much. As he sat relaxing, another of Seaview’s officers descended the spiral staircase off to his right and joined him.
“Enjoying the morning, Admiral?” queried Seaview’s Captain.
“Good morning, Lee. There aren’t many things better than a view like this first thing in the day, you agree?”
“Absolutely, though I could think of a few things…” Lee smiled mischievously and pulled up a chair.
The Admiral rolled his eyes. “Weren’t you looking forward to a huge pile of paperwork?”
“Did I say that? No, it couldn’t have been me, you must be mistaken. I’ll go anywhere, do anything, but paperwork, ugghh!”
Nelson grinned and shook his head. “I see you’re back to normal, the brain fever’s gone already. That’s too bad. So, what did Doc have to say?
“You know Doc. He has more gauze wrapped around my chest then a mummy could use in a year. At least, he acquiesced to my being on light duty. He wanted to lock me up in sickbay for a day or two, but I promised to behave myself and take it easy.”
“What about Sharkey?”
Well, that’s another story. Doc says he has a serious concussion and will have to spend a couple of days in sickbay for sure. The Chief was none too happy with the news. You should have seen him when Doc put the stitches in. It took both corpsmen to hold him down, even after I ordered him to lie still. He was still arguing with Jamieson when I left sickbay last night. Poor Doc.” Lee stopped for a moment, remembering. “Oh, by the way, did you get your messages off to Washington?”
“Yes, they’re assembling a team right now to take over where Anderson left off. They will have it together by the time we reach port, and we’ll turn everything over then. Are we ready to head back to Santa Barbara yet?”
“Almost, Chip just informed me that all of the equipment and supplies have been picked up and are being stowed now. We also had a detail recover the bodies so that they can be returned for proper burial, and our two guests are quietly sulking in the brig. Doc said that one of them has a pretty bad concussion. By now, the island should show little evidence that anyone was even there. I just wish that whoever was ultimately responsible for the deaths of Anderson’s team would have to pay for what they did.”
“Washington has a pretty good idea of who is responsible, and they’re sending a team to the island to investigate, though it will be almost impossible to prove. You know, you had me pretty worried when you didn’t fire off a signal, yesterday.”
“I tried, but the pistol jammed. It must have been damaged when we fell. It’s a good thing that we didn’t wind up needing it after all.”
Silence fell over the officers until the Captain was snapped back to the present as a clipboard was placed in front of him.
Chip Morton glanced at both men then addressed the Skipper. “Here is that requisition form you asked for, Lee. Also, we’re ready to sail as soon as you give the word.
Crane turned to his Exec, “thanks Chip, I’ll be right there.” He then took the clipboard from Morton’s hand and began writing on the top sheet.
Nelson watched with interest as the Captain filled out the form. Lee kept the clipboard turned so that the Admiral couldn’t see what he was writing without seeming too obvious. Chip peeked over his shoulder, then rolled his eyes in a look of disbelief, and walked back the way he came.
Harry’s interest peaked, and he asked, “Just what do you want to requisition?”
“Just a moment,” Lee answered as he added his signature. Handing the clipboard over to the Admiral, he added, “here, take a look.”
Nelson’s eyes scanned the form then suddenly he burst into laughter. “A hot tub! And just where do you propose we put it?”
Lee maintained a look of pure innocence. “I was thinking that we could put it in my cabin. Even you thought it sounded good the other day.”
The entire control room watch took notice as both men broke into laughter.
Finally, Admiral Nelson shoved the clipboard back into Lee’s hands. “Captain, I think it’s time we head home. I believe you’ve had a little too much fresh sea air.”
Still smiling, Lee stood and headed for the plot table where Chip waited. “Prepare to get underway, Mr. Morton…”
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