The lone figure lying on the beach slowly opened his eyes and looked up into the night sky, uttering a prayer of thanks that he was still alive. But for how long? He began to shiver uncontrollably and the pain emanating from his left leg sent a wave of nausea through his already exhausted body. He could do nothing but lie there, his clothes soaked, his body battered and bruised. The crashing waves sounded like thunder in the distance and as each wave reached the shore it tossed him about and threatened to drag him back into the cold, dark waters.
Lee Crane knew he had to find shelter; to get further up the beach and away from the waves that were washing over him. He turned his head painfully and set his sights on some large rocks about fifty yards up the beach. He could find shelter there from the storm and from the men that he knew could not be far behind.
Lying on his back, Crane dug into the sand with his elbows and laboriously dragged himself backwards across the pebbly beach. Just my luck to find a beach without sand. He winced as his shattered ankle brushed against the rocky surface. He continued his struggle up the beach, resting every few yards, gritting his teeth as the pain threatened to wash over him and engulf him completely.
After an exhaustive struggle, Crane collapsed against the side of a large rock at the foot of the cliffs and began to laugh. Whether from exhaustion or hysteria or the irony of the situation, he didn't know, but he hurt too much and laughing seemed to be the only thing left to do.
Well, Lee, you've done it to yourself now. He tried to settle himself more comfortably between two overhanging rocks that gave a small bit of shelter from the rain and the wind. He continued to shiver and looked around for something to cover himself with. Large piles of seaweed that had been washed up by the storm lay all about him. It was wet and smelly but it was the only covering around. He dragged armfuls of the pungent stuff over himself and lay back again, closing his eyes.
Crane found that as long as he didn't move, the pain was bearable. He took stock of the situation. Broken ankle, bruised hip, possible cracked ribs and a large gash on the side of the head that had finally stopped bleeding. Now all I have to do is wait here until someone finds me. You didn't quite make the rendezvous point, Lee Crane, in fact Seaview is probably still out there waiting for you. She can't come any closer to shore in this storm. The Admiral will probably give orders to stay put and hug the bottom until the storm lets up. He wouldn't risk a raft in these waters. Crane laughed out loud again and made the mistake of moving his leg. A quick intake of breath was all he could manage as the pain radiated through his body and he collapsed back into his cocoon of seaweed.
He awoke a few minutes later, unsure at first as to where he was. Then he remembered and his thoughts returned to earlier in the evening when he had completed his mission and had recovered the information that the ONI was looking for. It had been an easy mission compared to others that he had been on. Easy, until the storm had come up.
Crane had made his escape from the enemy agents and had headed down to the beach well ahead of his pursuers. The rowboat was still there, safely tucked away under an outcropping in the cove. Crane had looked out at the heavy swell and the threatening clouds and thought he had enough time to make it out to the coordinates where Seaview was waiting. But he had underestimated the power of Mother Nature. By the time he launched the boat, the storm had intensified considerably. He had to risk it anyway. It was either that or turn back and fight it out with the men who were coming after him. He took his chances with the storm.
The small rowboat was tossed about mercilessly, as Lee frantically rowed away from the beach, hoping to make it past the breakwater where the sea was slightly calmer. Wave after wave crashed over him as he headed out past the reefs, praying that the tiny craft would hold together. His arms strained with the effort of fighting against the power of the water. With each successive wave, he struggled to keep the boat from overturning. He felt a glimmer of hope as he spotted the last of the large rocks that protected the small cove. Just as he reached the edge of the reef, a tremendous wave lifted the boat up and smashed it against the side of the rocks. The boat splintered in two and Lee was thrown against the unyielding rock, his left side bearing the brunt of the collision. He sank below the crashing waves, feeling only the pain and a strange calmness as the violent sounds of the storm above were muffled by the water below.
Somehow, Lee had made his way back to shore. He didn't know how long he had been in the water, he only knew that he was hurt and that he hadn't found Seaview.
The submarine, Seaview, sat at ninety feet, periscope depth, waiting for its Captain. The executive officer, Chip Morton, manned the periscope and as the rendezvous time passed and there was still no sign of Captain Crane, Chip's anxiety increased. The men of the Seaview knew that the weather topside was worsening and it seemed unlikely that their Captain would be able to reach them in the rowboat at the appointed time. All they could do was wait-- wait until the storm passed and they could launch a raft and search for Captain Crane. And it was the waiting that was the hardest.
Morton looked around at the anxious faces of the men in the Control Room. He knew they all felt the same way about their Skipper. There was a fierce loyalty toward the man who had risked his life countless of times to save the lives of his crew. Captain Crane had been on a number of missions for the ONI and had always returned, a bit worse for wear more often than not, but he had always come back to them.
Morton's thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of Admiral Nelson who was descending the spiral staircase into the Control Room. Nelson didn't need to ask if there had been any sign of the Captain, the faces of the men told him what he wanted to know.
"Nothing yet?" Nelson felt he had to ask the question anyway.
Chip shook his head. "Any further orders, Admiral?"
"No, Chip. We will have to sit tight and wait out the storm. There's nothing else we can do."
Chip nodded in agreement and returned to the periscope, readjusting the focus in case he might have missed the little rowboat among the crashing waves overhead. Nelson wandered about the Control Room, finding it hard to settle down to anything else. It was simply a waiting game for them all at this point.
Somehow the old saying "The operation was a success but the patient died" jumped into Lee Crane's thoughts. He smiled ruefully at the implication. His seaweed blanket was not doing the job it was supposed to do and his shivering had resumed. He tried to position himself to get more comfortable but soon realized it was impossible.
With my luck, it will be those agents from the People's Republic who will find me first. The gun! Not here. Must have lost that when I got tossed into the water. The knife! Yes, here it is. I'll just stick it behind this rock. I might be able to get one of them before they get me. Can hardly keep my eyes open. I'll just rest a while. It's so cold………
The two men scrambled down the embankment that led to the beach. The wind and rain battered them as they tried to find some trace of the American agent. Any footprints would be wiped out by the relentless rain. They gazed out at the waves crashing onto the reefs that sheltered the cove and knew it would be impossible for the American to have escaped by sea. It was too dark to start a search of the beach area. They would have to return at daybreak when hopefully the storm would be over.
With the coming of dawn, the wind began to abate and the sea above the submarine began to calm down. Admiral Nelson ordered a shore party to leave immediately to search for Captain Crane. Nelson would accompany them to the small cove where the Captain had landed three days earlier. Seaman Kowalski and Chief Sharkey were to join the Admiral along with Doc Jamieson. Nelson hoped that the Doc's services would not be needed but unfortunately whenever Crane returned from an ONI assignment, he often returned by way of the Sickbay. Nelson hoped that this time would be an exception but he wasn't taking any chances and so had ordered Doc to accompany the shore party.
Lee Crane had spent a very uncomfortable night. He had become feverish and drifted in and out of consciousness. His dreams were a confusion of enemy agents chasing him, boats smashing into reefs and seaweed monsters attacking the Seaview.
As the shore party landed their small craft on the stony beach, the sea was calm and the sun was shining. The area that they had to cover was not large and it was only a few moments before Kowalski spotted the wreckage of the rowboat that had been tossed up onto the beach by last night's storm.
"Admiral! Over here, sir!"
Nelson and the others joined Kowalski and they dismally surveyed the wreckage of the small rowboat. A few yards further down the beach they found Crane's jacket. There was no doubt that he had tried to take the boat out in the storm, and hadn't made it.
"He could have made it to shore," said Nelson quietly, not wanting to think about the alternative.
"Sure he made it, sir," replied Sharkey with more enthusiasm than he felt.
"We had better start looking for him then," added Doc Jamieson.
"All right, spread out! Chief, you and Kowalski head over there," ordered Nelson, pointing in the direction of the cliffs to the east. "Doc and I will search over this way."
Nelson and Jamieson followed the shoreline, looking for some sign that might indicate that Lee had made it back to the beach. They had barely traveled fifty yards when they saw some markings on the ground. They knelt down to examine them.
"Looks like something has been dragged across the beach here," remarked Nelson, feeling a faint glimmer of hope.
Doc's gaze followed the marks where the pebbles had been disturbed. "The marks seem to lead up toward those rocks, Admiral."
Both men straightened up and began to walk quickly up the beach toward the rocks that Doc had indicated. The markings were easy to follow and led to some large boulders at the base of the cliff.
At first glance, there didn't seem to be anything there except some large piles of seaweed. The two men stood there, disappointed that the trail had reached a dead end. As they turned back to continue their search of the beach, they were suddenly aware of a slight movement under one of the piles of seaweed. Doc and Nelson stood there, hardly daring to hope. The movement increased and they heard a groaning sound. Nelson leaned down and began pulling at the seaweed, quickly uncovering the face of a feverish Lee Crane.
"Lee!" Nelson knelt down and gently shook Lee's shoulder, trying to wake him. Suddenly, there was a blur of a fist as it connected with Nelson's face, knocking him over onto his back. He lay there stunned for a moment, unable to get up.
"Doc, look out!" yelled Nelson as Lee rolled over towards Doc, a knife in his hand.
Struggling to get to his feet, Nelson threw himself onto the ground near Lee and tried to grab for the knife that Lee was swinging dangerously close to the both of them. Doc scrambled out of the way, at the same time yelling for Sharkey and Kowalski.
Despite his weakened condition, Lee was fighting for his life and was determined to kill the enemy agents. His raging fever seemed to give him a strength he didn't realize he had. After striking one in the face with his fist, he had grabbed his knife and, unable to stand up, had ignored the pain in his leg and had gone after the second one. He slashed out with the knife, hoping to draw blood. His vision blurred from the pain and the fever. He knew it was only a matter of time before they would be able to overpower him. He planned on taking at least one of them with him.
Hearing Doc's shouts, Sharkey and Kowalski began running toward the boulders where Doc was standing and gesturing for them to hurry. As they reached Doc's side they were surprised to see the Skipper brandishing a knife at the Admiral.
"He doesn't know who we are," yelled Doc, "be careful! Watch out for the knife!"
Nelson tried once more to grab Lee's arm that held the knife but was rewarded with a gash to the hand. In the struggle, Lee managed to grab Nelson's gun from its holster and began firing into the air. Nelson rolled out of range of the Captain and staggered over to where the others were now crouching behind a large boulder.
Doc grabbed his medical kit and quickly wrapped the cut on the Admiral's hand. He then reached in for a syringe and a small bottle of liquid. He eyed the three men next to him. "If someone can get close enough to hold him down, I can give him a shot to put him to sleep for a while."
Nelson shook his head doubtfully. "I don't know, Doc. No one is going to be able to get close enough with that gun in his hand." He thought for a minute. "Let me try and talk to him. Maybe he'll recognize my voice."
"It's worth a try," said Doc, "but the state he's in, I don't think he's going to hear what you are saying."
Nelson peered out from behind the rock and called over to Crane. "Lee, it's me. Nelson. Lee, do you hear me?"
A shot rang out in answer to his question, narrowly missing him as it ricocheted off the boulder, sending bits of dust and rock into the Admiral's face. Nelson ducked back behind the boulder and sighed deeply, "You might be right, Doc. He sure isn't going to listen to anything we say right now." He turned to Sharkey and Kowalski, "Anybody got any ideas?"
He felt a surge of hope as his hand clutched the revolver that he had managed to grab from one of the men. Firing indiscriminately at anything that moved, he hoped that one of the bullets would find its target. He shook his head, trying to clear his blurred vision so that he could aim more accurately. The pain in his leg was making it increasingly difficult to think. He lay back down and began to shake again with the fever that he had been battling all night.
A voice pierced his consciousness. Someone was calling his name. It's a trick. They want me to give up the gun. But I won't. I have to find the rowboat. I have to get to .. ..
His mind tried to reach out to remember but his thoughts were jumbled, the dizziness was returning. He wanted to close his eyes and sleep; to make the pain go away. He heard the voice and wanted to stop it. He raised the gun and pulled the trigger.
From the safety of the rock, Doc tried to assess the Skipper's condition. Lee was obviously in a lot of pain. He seemed to be favoring his left leg and was shivering uncontrollably. Blood was caked on the side of his head. His irrational behavior is probably a combination of fever and head injury. I expect the pain from his injuries wouldn't be helping him to think clearly either.
Doc glanced over at Nelson who seemed deep in thought. The whole side of the Admiral's face was swollen and his eye was turning an interesting shade of purple. The bandage on his hand had controlled the bleeding but it looked like he would need a few stitches when they got back to Sickbay. Doc managed a smile as he thought of how Nelson was going to explain those injuries to Lee. His musings were interrupted by the sound of Nelson's voice as he addressed the others.
"We can't just sit here and wait. We're going to have to try and get that gun away from him." Nelson turned to Doc. "What do you think, Jamie?"
Doc pondered the question. "He looks in pretty bad shape, Admiral. He's feverish and in a lot of pain. He may just pass out on his own in a while but I'm concerned for him. I'd rather not wait, but on the other hand I don't want anyone getting shot trying to get that gun away from him."
Nelson turned to the Chief and Kowalski. "Okay, how many shots do you think he has fired already? The clip was full when he took the gun from me."
Kowalski thought for a moment. "I figure he has about five shots left, Admiral."
"About five shots, Kowalski?"
"Yes, sir. I can't be sure. I was too busy ducking to be counting that well."
Nelson managed a quick smile. He turned to Sharkey. "What's your estimate, Chief?"
Sharkey shook his head, "I'm sorry, Admiral. I can't be too sure, either. I would say five shots left would be pretty close."
"All right. Listen carefully. This is what we'll do."
Lee Crane's fevered mind wouldn't allow him to rest. He lay there, listening and wondering. Maybe they've gone? No, they are probably waiting for me to make a move. I don't know how much longer I can stay awake. So tired . . . . Somewhere in the back of his mind something was bothering him. The voice? No, it's a trick. How many of them are out there? Why don't they shoot? What do they want? Have to stay awake. I'll just close my eyes for a minute . . . . No! have to stay awake, have to . . . .
Suddenly there was a noise over to his left. He aimed the gun in the direction of the noise and fired twice. Another noise. Behind him. He twisted around and fired. More noises, over to the right. Lee fired twice more. He was confused. How many of them were out there? He lay back, exhausted, his finger on the trigger, ready to fire. His eyes closed and the swirling mists of unconsciousness finally took hold of him.
Nelson's plan had worked. They hoped. The men had thrown pebbles, a few at a time and in different directions to force the Captain to use up his ammunition. He had fired five times. Was the gun empty?
Doc surveyed his patient once again from the safety of the rock. Lee's eyes were closed and he wasn't moving. He held the gun close to him. Doc maneuvered his way over to where Nelson was sitting. "I think he's either unconscious or sleeping, Admiral."
"Which is it?"
"Can't say for sure, Admiral." Doc knew what Nelson was thinking. If someone approached the Captain and if he was only in a light sleep and if the gun wasn't empty . . There were a lot of "ifs" in that scenario.
Nelson merely nodded and seemed to come to a decision. He stood up and began to walk slowly toward the still figure of the Captain. "Lee?" he called quietly, watching for any sign of movement. "Lee, are you awake? It's Nelson. We've come to help you. You're safe now."
He heard the voice as the figure approached him. He kept his eyes closed. He had to wait as long as possible. If he missed, it would be all over. The voice. It was the same voice. The man came closer, calling to him. Have to lie still. Can't move. A few more seconds . . . .
The Admiral kept calling to him, telling him that everything was going to be all right. He watched Lee's gun hand carefully. The fingers moved ever so slightly. "Lee, it's Nelson. You're hurt. Put the gun down. Let me help you."
Nelson stopped, frozen in his tracks. He stared into the barrel of the gun as Lee pointed it at him. Time stood still as Nelson watched in fascination as Lee's finger began to squeeze the trigger. "Lee! No!"
Lee opened his eyes and stared at the man that he was about to shoot. As his finger started to squeeze the trigger he heard it again. The voice! He remembered now. He smiled and lowered the gun and the only word that he uttered as he lapsed into unconsciousness was "Admiral".
That night, lying in his bed in the Sickbay aboard the Seaview, Lee Crane opened his eyes and sighed with relief at the familiar surroundings. His mind was filled with snatches of a strange dream that he was trying to remember.
Doc Jamieson smiled as he saw his patient's eyes open. The fever had broken but Doc expected that Captain Crane would have some difficulty recalling the events of the past few days. Doc reached for the intercom and informed the Admiral that the Skipper was awake.
A few minutes later, Admiral Nelson opened the door of the Sickbay and walked over to where Lee was lying. As Lee looked up into the Admiral's smiling face, the astonished look that crossed the young Captain's face was almost comical.
"What happened to you?" were the first words out of Lee's mouth as he stared into the swollen face of the Admiral. His left eye was nearly swollen shut and the whole side of his face was bruised and reddened. Lee noticed Nelson's bandaged hand and he couldn't help but wonder where the Admiral had sustained these injuries.
Nelson glanced over at Doc who was anxiously waiting to hear Nelson's explanation. He turned back to Lee and smiled. "I'll tell you all about it when you are feeling better. But let's just say that I ran into some unexpected trouble while we were looking for you on the beach."
Doc leaned over and smiled at Lee, "I think the Admiral is trying to tell you that he zigged when he should have zagged."
Lee wasn't quite sure what the Admiral and Doc were talking about. He was too tired to think clearly. He closed his eyes and drifted off into the first restful sleep in days.
Nelson breathed a sigh of relief as he saw Lee's eyes close. He turned to Doc, "He's going to be all right, isn't he Doc?"
"He'll be fine, Admiral." He looked over at the Admiral. "You need to get some sleep yourself."
Nelson nodded and turned to leave but then, remembering something, he addressed Doc again. "You remember the gun, Jamie? I checked the clip."
Doc's curiosity was aroused, "And?"
"It was empty."
Doc looked over at the sleeping Captain. "Why do you think he didn't pull the trigger?"
"I guess that's something we will have to ask him sometime."
"He may never remember the time that he spent on the beach," added Doc.
As Nelson opened the door and stepped out into the passageway, he turned to Doc again. "Sometimes it's best that way, don't you think?"
Doc looked into the tired face of the Admiral. He knew that the most important thing was that Lee was safe and back aboard Seaview where he belonged. "Aye sir, I suppose it is."
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