A Moment of Doubt
Lee Crane flinched inwardly, hearing the accusation in the voice behind him. He glared at his snickering exec, Chip Morton, standing by his side. Pasting on a grin, Lee turned around to face the medical officier of the S.S.R.N. Seaview.
“Something on your mind, Doc,” he said innocently.
Snorting, Jamieson knew this man would try anything to stall the inevitable and held up a small white packet. “Forget these?”
“Oh,” Lee muttered and Chip’s snickers became louder. Holding out his hand, the captain said hopefully, “I’ll take them later-”
“No, Captain. You will take your medicine now. It’s already an hour overdo.”
With as much dignity he could muster Lee swallowed the large antibiotic pills amidst the onlookers’ knowing grins.
Jamieson started in. “Look, Skipper. We went over this before I let you out of Sickbay-”
“All right, Doc.” Lee broke in, flushing with embarassment.
The Admiral, he and Kowalski had landed on an uncharted island. Exploring, they found the natives were friendly. Friendly enough to invite the trio to stay for supper. Only after the Admiral started to investigate did they find they were on the menu. In the flight back to the Seaview a spear had gazed Crane’s upper thigh. Once back Doc had found only Crane needed stitches and antibiotics to combat any infections. Only hours away from port, today was also the last day for the pills.
After Crane had taken the medicine Doc started to leave, pausing at the hatchway to watch the two officers talking low. Those two, and the Admiral, were the worse patients he ever had, here or at the naval hospitals where he once worked. Sighing heavily, he wondered why he even bothered, then turned and headed for Sickbay to finish up his own reports of this mission.
Chip waited until Doc left before shaking his head. “Lee, one day you’re going to drive Doc out of his mind. Why don’t you just take your medicine like you should.”
“Me?” Lee looked at his long time friend incredulously. “Who was it that drove him to take a month’s leave from their last stay in Sickbay? If I hadn’t come and read you the riot act to obey orders, Doc was talking about releasing you all right, via one of the torpedo tubes.”
Chip had the grace to sheepishly grin, remembering when he hit his head on the periscope island and ended up with a mild concussion. Doc kept him in Sickbay for observation where he quickly became bored. Taking out his frustration of not being able to go back on duty, he aggravated the corpsmen until Doc caught wind of it.
“Let’s get ready to dock,” was his only reply.
When Jamieson handed the Exec the mission’s medical summaries Chip tried to smooth things over with him. “You know how the Skipper can be. It’s not like he doesn’t want to cooperate. He just-” Chip shrugged his shoulders, “doesn’t like Sickbay.”
Jamieson nodded slightly. “And so does everyone else, Mr. Morton. But it would be nice if just once he would remember I’m not the enemy. I’m only trying to keep him alive, along with every other man on board.” With a curt nod the man left Chip to wonder just how badly doctor’s feeling had been hurt.
Once everyone was off the Seaview except him and the captain, Chip brought up the subject again. Crane frowned his displeasure. “I need to be in the Control Room while we’re out, not stuck in Sickbay, Chip.”
“Look at it from Doc’s point of view, Lee,” Chip pleaded, the one whose duty it was to keep things running smoothly on the large sub. A duty he was very good at, not only between the captain and the crew, but also Crane and the Admiral. “He usually has you, me, or the Admiral laid up by the end of a mission-”
Lee’s merriment reached his eyes. “Or two of us.”
“Hey, remember when all three of us were there? Doc couldn’t wait to get rid of us.”
Forgetting their initial conversation, the two finished their duties amid memories until heading out for their own shore leave.
Drawing in a deep breath, Jamieson unlocked and opened the door of his apartment. Putting his duffle bag to one side, the first thing he did was open windows to let the fresh air into the stale rooms. Walking through the place, he ended up by the couch, bending over and gently caressing a 4X8 picture of a lovely woman sitting to one side on the coffee table.
“Sweetheart, maybe I should go back to the Naval Hospital,” he murmured. “No more weeks out at sea, with men who complain when I won’t allow them command while more dead than alive.”
He shook his head slightly, and got up to do the same chores he always done at the end of a cruise. Throughout the next week his thoughts turned the issue over and over in his mind. Often he would go over and talk to the framed woman, who he had known over half of his life. How his heart still ached that she was taken from him so soon. Walking into the empty house after she had died almost drove him crazy. Wasn’t that what had driven him out of the hospital’s bland routine and made him take the Admiral’s offer in the first place, he thought.
At the Institute he had found a family. And, he had to admit, there was never a dull moment while on the Seaview where his grief seldom had time to surface. Not with over one hundred crewmen including the brilliant Admiral, the stubborn Captain, and the sharp Exec to keep him on his toes. If only they’d realize he was only doing his job, he sighed.
Suddenly the phone rang and he grabbed it, wondering if the Seaview was being called out. “Jamieson here.”
“Doc. Uh, this is Captain Crane.” For days Crane had pondered over Chip’s words. With one thing and another going on at the Institute this was the first time Lee had been able to get to a phone without being interrupted.
“Skipper, what’s wrong?” Worry colored his voice, since usually call backs came from the Exec.
“Nothing’s wrong,” growled Crane. He paused, running a hand through his hair. “Look, Jamie. I’m sorry I forgot to come back to Sickbay. I just want you to know I appreciate all you do for the Admiral and the crew.”
“Don’t forget yourself,” Jamieson snorted. “By the way, how’s the leg?” already knowing the answer.
“I’m fine. Don’t-” Crane started to grumble, then chuckled. “It’s only slightly sore. Goodnight,” quickly hanging up before the Doc got the idea he was getting soft.
“Goodnight, Captain,” Jamieson said into the dead phone, grinning slightly.
It was days later that Jamieson sat down to watch the TV, something he seldom did while on leave. Flipping the channels idly, he wondered if there was anything on worthwhile, then settled on one station.
“Oh, good. An Abbott and Costello movie.” He grinned widely, loving the slapstick comedy of the duo, but the grin faded as the werewolf jumped out to attack. Remembering when he had to treat the Admiral for the mutant virus that changed him into a werewolf, he got up and changed the channel, knowing no one ever did figure out how the wolf got on the island in the first place.
Not bothering to see what he turned on, Jamieson went into the kitchen. Returning while drinking from a large glass of juice, he choked as the liquid went down the wrong way. There on the screen was an active volcano. That brought back memories of when Admiral Nelson and Sharkey crashed on a volcanic island. Just before it exploded the Captain, Patterson, and Kowalski found them. Not only had the Admiral received minor injuries and the Chief a broken leg, but the Captain almost resigned from the guilt of losing two men that mission.
Quickly he turned the channel again. Moving back to the couch, he stared at the figures on the screen. A dark-haired man, pulling a primitive looking woman along, were running about with what looked like giant lizards fighting around them. He moved closer to the TV, trying to glimpse the actor’s face. It was strange how muc the man looked like the Skipper. Except for that silly neckerchief hanging about his neck, he thought.
Jamieson tried again, and started to chuckle as he caught a round spaceship land and a silver colored alien walk down the ramp. Trying hard not to roar with laughter, he watched the being’s robot companion wobble its way down to the grass, then thought of the many aliens they had met. Somehow the time Chip was turned into the gold-skinned robot popped into his mind and he sighed regretfully. No, he thought, aliens and robots weren’t exactly what I want to watch tonight.
Wondering why he was even bothering, he decided to try once more, turned the channel and shivered. It was a documentary on WW1 submarines. Jamieson quickly turned it off as that brought back too many bad memories. For Captain Crane had almost died by a gunshot wound inflicted by the Admiral. Close to death he had left the Seaview and abducted a woman. The Admiral had been placed under arrest, but Chip listened to his wild story about Lee being taken over by the dead Krueger. Only Chip’s unshakened belief in the Admiral and his desire to help Lee had saved them all.
Slowly making his way to bed, he was amazed that each program reminded him when one of the crew had gotten hurt. Was he really willing to leave his men to someone else’s competency. Or inflict another doctor to their hardheadedness, flimsy excuses, and attempted escapes from Sickbay. No, Jamieson decided he couldn’t give up the fight. Someday he would win, but until that day he would use his skills with every available thing he had at his disposal to keep the men of the Seaview alive. And he had to admit, grinning to himself, the Skipper had called, although knowing the next time the man ended up in Sickbay he would be just as difficult as ever.
The next morning when the phone rang Jamieson eagerly answered it, and grinned when ordered to report to the Institute by 0300 for a briefing on the upcoming mission. He picked up the framed picture. “Well, Sweetheart,” he said contentedly. “I’ll see you next time I’m home. My boys need me.” After shutting and locking the door, Jamieson turned towards the Seaview, wanting to make sure the Sickbay was up to its usual standard before the briefing. His eyes lit up when he saw the Seaview bobbing upon the water. The same large, grey submarine that had captured many mens’ hearts, including one certain doctor’s.
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