TRIP TO SEA LAB
By Liz Martin
The dock around the submarine Seaview was a hive of activity. Large numbers of crates sat nearby, waiting to be loaded in the sub's hold. Men and equipment were in constant motion as the task was carefully but efficiently carried out. Most of Seaview's crew had returned that morning from a six day leave and those who were not already on board would be arriving in the morning. The day's work had consisted of taking on all the necessary stores and it had been a particularly gruelling job.
It was busy enough whenever Seaview was being re-supplied but in this case the job was taking even longer because of all the supplies they were to transport to the Caroline Islands Sea Lab. The Lab was hosting a visit by several foreign dignitaries, including the Ministers of several South Pacific Nations whose economies relied heavily on the ocean for either fishing or tourism..
NIMR had helped the World Sea Lab Society finance the building of the Caroline Islands Sea Lab but the Society needed a lot more money to help pay for a planned expansion. The visit by the local government representatives was designed to show them just what kind of important work was being carried out by the Lab. Seaview would be taking not only the regular items needed for re supplying the lab but also a lot of extra amenities - most of it foodstuffs - for the visit by the dignitaries.
Seaview's Captain, Lee Crane, sat in his cabin going over some of the many reports he needed to approve before their morning departure. Lee was just about to get up to pour himself another cup of coffee from his percolator when Spark's voice came over the intercom.
"Captain Crane? Call for you sir, Admiral Nelson."
Lee sighed heavily. Ever since the NIMR annual audit the month before the Admiral's famous temper had been expressing itself almost daily and the Captain was weary of having to deflect the older man's anger. Not that he blamed the Admiral, the audit was always frustrating, trying to explain every dollar spent to people who had no idea what life on Seaview was really all about. The auditors had gone on and on about what they termed "waste". Everything from too many light bulbs to too much spent on uniforms, including the Captains! Taking a deep breath Lee spoke into his mic.
"Thanks Sparks, pipe it through."
"Lee? Are we still on schedule for the 10:00 departure tomorrow?"
Lee frowned, it wasn't like the Admiral to ask such a question. Seaview was always ready on time!
"Yes sir, everything's fine."
"Good, then it won't be too much trouble to make a small adjustment. We have some scientists joining us. They'll be boarding tomorrow, I'm meeting them here at my office around 08:00 so we'll be down at Seaview not long after that. I realize it's short notice, Lee but I just had the call yesterday from Dr. Marcus at the Pacific Ocean Studies Centre, it's two of his team and I had to do some checking before I approved it."
"I'm sure it will be no trouble at all Admiral, may I ask what these scientists want Seaview for sir?"
"Nothing too much. They'll be bringing their own equipment, they just need our lab computers. They're collecting information for their study on changes to ocean temperatures. We'll only need to make a small detour to get to the area where they need to take the readings. Then on the way back from Sea Lab another small detour will get the rest of their data. I'll send over the information. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to have paying guests on this trip! Actually their work ties in well with the work being done at the Caroline Islands Sea Lab. I think the Lab staff will be interested to see their results. It's amazing the difference a small temperature change makes to some fish stocks."
Lee smiled to himself, the Admiral sounded very enthusiastic and it was nice to have paying customers on what would otherwise be just a supply run. "Sounds good sir, we'll get the guest cabins ready and when the information arrives I'll plot the necessary adjustments to our course. We'll need to go through their equipment of course for security but we should still be able to make the 10:00 sailing."
"Fine, I have that conference call with Washington this afternoon about those meetings you and I are attending in a couple of weeks and now Angie tells me I have to meet with Dr. Sandelin this evening so I won't be on Seaview until tomorrow morning. I'll see you then."
"Aye sir. Crane out." Lee rubbed his hands over tired eyes. Although most of Seaview's crew had enjoyed a six day leave the Captain had only managed two days and despite having spent most of that time sleeping he still felt tired. Oh well, hopefully it would be a quiet cruise!
Executive Officer Chip Morton was not happy to hear about the sudden addition of the two scientists. Morton and Crane were sitting in the observation nose as Lee signed off on Chip's reports. "I hope they aren't bringing too much equipment, Lee, we're running full as it is what with all the extra supplies for Sea Lab. That must be some party they're holding. Maybe they'll invite us."
Lee smiled, "Well I think it's a very important party. They need the funding and these visiting government types are the ones who can secure it for them. I think one of the guests is a Deputy Prime Minister. The Admiral says these are all people who believe in the importance of the environmental work the Sea Lab does. This visit should give them the go ahead to expand."
Chip nodded his agreement but said, "O'Brien heard that there are a few people who aren't happy with the Sea Lab. I guess they don't like the suggested fishing quotas in some areas."
"Let's just hope they aren't the ones the governments listen to. Security at the Lab is going to be tight. The dignitaries are being delivered by a British Naval frigate. In this case we're just the supply ship. Makes a change doesn't it?" Lee said.
"Hmm, let's hope our two scientists aren't the usual high maintenance type. I was looking forward to a quiet trip. We just have one new crew member on board."
"That's the galley assistant?" Crane had only had a brief look at the report on crew changes.
"Yes sir, Bobby Grier, only 19. Looking forward to sub duty. I met him briefly, seems very eager. Let's hope he can stay on Cookie's good side."
Lee chuckled as he continued running his eyes down the reports, "Any more information on that replacement gear for the ballast pump?"
"It's on the way but they don't think it can be here before we sail." Said Chip. " I'm not too worried about it. It would have been nice to change it before sailing, this cruise would have been a good chance to test it out. Sharkey says it's running smoothly as is, you looked at it didn't you?"
"Yes, I would have liked to have installed the new one but you're right. We'll be okay without it."
The following day proved to be a very busy one. At 07:00 an express courier delivered the replacement gear. The Captain decided to go ahead with the installation figuring that if he and O'Brien helped with the work they should have it done in a couple of hours.
The Admiral arrived with Dr. Sam Millard and his assistant Paul Beldin at 09:20. Chip was not happy when he saw the large number of boxes and shipping cases the scientists had with them. There was going to be no way to do a security check on all that equipment and still make their sailing time.
When the Admiral realized that their sailing was going to be delayed he ordered Chip to give the equipment only a cursory examination. The Admiral didn't want to start the cruise on a sour note, he wanted to impress the scientists with Seaview's efficiency and ability to handle last minute changes. Those were the kind of things that would serve them well in getting more contracts for Seaview. Doing work for the Navy paid well but Nelson's first love was the science world and he preferred to go after more of that kind of work.
Nelson took Millard and Beldin for a tour of the boat. The first thing Nelson did was take them to see where their cabins were. As they rounded the corner leading to the cabins they almost ran into Lee Crane.
"Admiral! I'm sorry I wasn't in the Control room when you arrived sir. I wanted to get that new gear installed on the ballast pumps before we left port. I was just heading for a quick shower."
"I should hope so. You're a mess!" Indeed the Captain was covered with large amounts of oil not just on his uniform but on his hands and even his face. "Didn't you have time to put on something else before you started work on that gear? Those auditors were all over me for the cost of officer uniforms." The Admiral had been in a good mood but seeing another of Lee's uniforms ruined reminded him of the time he had spent trying to account for every penny to the dratted auditors!
"I'm sorry sir." Lee stood at attention as the Admiral questioned him. There didn't seem any point in trying to explain that he wanted the gear changed to meet the sailing deadline. He had meant to try to remember to be more careful about his uniforms but he didn't seem to be making a very good job of it.
Nelson glared at him. "Too late to worry about it now. Let me introduce you to Dr. Sam Millard and his assistant Paul Beldin, I was just showing them to their cabins. We'll do a tour of the boat and Chip should have their equipment in the lab by then. Why don't you meet us in the observation nose for lunch at 13:00?"
"Thank you sir, I'd like that." Lee turned to the scientists who had stood patiently watching his exchange with the Admiral, "Welcome aboard gentlemen, if there's anything we can do to assist you in your work, please don't hesitate to ask. Admiral." And with a nod to his superior Lee headed to his cabin for a shower and a fresh uniform.
Lunch in the nose went very well. The scientists were suitably impressed by the fabulous view. The Admiral and Dr. Millard spent much of the meal discussing the environmental issues they both held dear. Dr. Millard was very interested in the work of the Caroline Islands Sea Lab and the Admiral told him he was sure he could arrange a tour for he and Mr. Beldin. Dr. Millard said that he would take over some of the results of his work, although the work had not yet been published the Doctor was sure it would interest the staff at the Lab. Lee answered questions about Seaview as they arose and tried several times to make conversation with Paul Beldin but found him to be an unwilling conversationalist. In fact Lee thought Beldin was far more interested in following the conversation of his boss and the Admiral. By the end of the meal Lee had become rather suspicious of Beldin. What was making the man so nervous?
The next couple of days ran smoothly. Dr. Millard and his assistant seemed quite content in the lab and were little trouble. Diving details went out to gather the information they needed and the two men seemed very involved with their results. The Admiral too spent long hours in his cabin or the lab working on his own research.
On the evening of the third day Lee went to look for Nelson. He found the Admiral alone in the lab engrossed in his work. The Admiral looked up when Lee came into the lab and said "Give me a minute, Lee."
"Of course, Admiral, take your time sir." Lee wandered around the lab looking at the area where Dr. Millard and Beldin were working. He stood for several minutes studying their equipment but had to admit most of it was foreign to him. Lee was still lost in thought when he heard Nelson from behind him.
"Okay, Lee, what can I do for you?"
Lee moved back to the counter where Nelson was working on what looked to Lee like nothing so much as a lot of clear water running from one test tube into another. "A couple of things, Admiral. I just wanted to let you know that I had a call from Gary at the Lab. Some of their guests will be arriving a bit early so he asked if we could move up our arrival time. It would give them more preparation time. I told him we would definitely be there at least six hours earlier but I thought if we ran at flank for a few hours we could be there even earlier and Chip could run a couple of drills for the engineering crew." As he spoke Lee had picked up one of several small bottles of what looked like food colouring, he was turning the green one around in his hand as he waited for the Admiral's reply.
The Admiral knew there were a couple of drills Chip liked to put the engineering crew through that he only used when they were running at flank speed. "Good idea, by all means let's arrive earlier. We can even send over a couple of crew to help if they need it and Dr.Millard wanted to see the Sea Lab and discuss some of his work with Gary's personnel so I'll have even more time to give him a tour. Lee," the Admiral pointed to the food colouring, "Put that down! If the lid comes off it'll be all over your uniform and that'll be another one we have to write off."
Sheepishly Lee smiled at Nelson, "Sorry sir. What do you use these for?"
"They help when I'm using petri dishes. I use a drop in different colours to identify the various stages of the samples."
"Hm. Maybe you could add them to your current experiment, all that clear liquid is kind of boring. A touch of colour would brighten things up." The Captain smiled.
Nelson chuckled, "Lee, I'll run the experiments, you run the boat. I'm almost finished down here, what else was it you wanted?"
"Cookie said you missed dinner yesterday and lunch today, I'm supposed to make sure you don't miss dinner tonight."
Nelson glared at his Captain but in this case it had no effect. "All right, all right. I'm sure you'll just follow me around if I try to avoid dinner. Don't worry, now that I'm finished here I'm hungry. Give me five minutes and we'll head for the wardroom."
It was well after midnight when Lee Crane finished work on the reports on his desk. He leaned back in his chair and stretched. Although he knew he was tired Lee felt too restless to sleep. There was no point going to bed just yet. He might as well do a tour through the boat. Maybe even check the lab one more time. Lee had not been pleased when Chip had told him about the cursory examination they'd had to do on the equipment Dr. Millard had brought aboard. The Captain understood the Admiral's concerns regarding their need to be flexible but they didn't really know much about Dr. Millard. Lee would rather have left a little late and completed the proper security procedures, he had made it clear to Chip that in future that was the procedure he was to follow.
After a stop in the control room where all was running smoothly Lee headed for the Lab. He wanted to take another look at Dr. Millard's equipment. As he turned down the corridor towards the lab Lee was very surprised to see the door slightly open and the lights on. Nothing he had heard about the Doctor's experiments had lead him to believe they would have to work through the night. As soon as Lee stepped into the lab he knew something was very wrong. The air of tension in the room was palpable and he saw a brief flicker of panic, quickly masked, in Dr. Millard's eyes.
"You gentlemen are working late tonight." Lee had immediately decided to act as though there was nothing unusual going on. He needed time to try to figure out what they were doing. The Captain moved towards the table where Admiral Nelson's experiment was still bubbling away and picked up the green food colour.
"Paul and I were just cleaning up and taking some notes, it's been a very busy day Captain. Uh, I suppose you often work this late?" Inquired Dr. Millard.
"No, not often, but when the Admiral heard I was going to be up late tonight working on reports he asked me to drop in here to add this to the 500 ml tube." As he spoke Lee held up the green colouring and then squirted half the bottle into the tube. If anything went wrong in the next few minutes at least Nelson would know he had been in the lab and that there had been a problem!
Lee replaced the bottle and turned back to face the scientists, "I won't keep you gentlemen from your work. If you're up much longer just remember there's always coffee available in the crew's mess." He turned towards the door and then he saw why the two men were so nervous. On the floor behind Beldin was a bomb. My God, it was already counting down! He kept his eyes on Beldin and smiled but he was busy thinking, it looked like it had a count of 47 hours, it must be set for detonating on or near Sea Lab. Lee was just raising his hand to open the door when a pain exploded in his head and blackness closed in.
"Why did you do that!" Wailed Beldin.
"He'd seen the bomb, I saw his eyes flick over there."
"Maybe he didn't know what it was?"
Millard shook his head. "He knew."
"What are we going to do with him?"
Dr. Millard had bent down next to Crane to check his pulse. "We don't have much choice. We have to kill him. But it has to look like an accident." He rose and paced the lab. After a few minutes he smiled and headed for the door. "I'll be right back."
"What if he starts to wake up?" Beldin still had an edge of panic to his voice.
"He won't, he'll be out for hours, and I intend to make sure he never wakes up." With those words Millard strode off down the corridor.
It took only a few minutes for the Doctor to return. "Okay, I've got a plan. Remember that first day on board when we were having dinner? Those crewmen at our table were talking about how many more supplies than usual were on board"
Beldin nodded his head.
"Well, they went on and on about how difficult it had been to get everything stowed safely. We'll just make it look like Crane was checking some of the stuff and it fell on him. Very unfortunate but these things happen when men are working too fast and do a sloppy job. Someone will probably get in trouble for stowing the supplies badly. An unfortunate accident." Dr. Millard looked quite pleased with himself.
"Won't they be suspicious?"
"Maybe, but they won't be able to prove anything. If they ask us we say we were in the Lab, he dropped by to do something for Nelson and then left. Come on, the storage compartment I found is about three corridors away."
They carried the Captain to the storage compartment and Millard carefully positioned him on his side next to some large crates. Then the two of them tipped the top crate onto the unconscious man.
"That should do it." Dr. Millard had to get on his hands and knees to check to see if his plan had worked. He found the Captain's wrist and checked for a pulse. "He's still alive, but not for long. He's bleeding, this crate has to have broken some bones. They won't even notice he's missing until 07:00 or 08:00 and then they'll have to start searching. No way he'll survive. Let's go finish up in the lab." The two men turned off the light and closed the door.
Lee Crane fought his way to consciousness despite the waves of pain wracking his body. It took him several minutes to reach awareness. He found he could move his left arm a few inches, but any movement, even breathing, intensified the pain to almost intolerable levels. He knew he must be in a storage compartment, it felt like a crate was on top of him, but he had no way of moving and he couldn't even call for help because any attempt to take even a normal breath was stopped by the pain. He knew he should probably be scared, he was probably going to die long before help arrived, but the overwhelming emotion he felt was frustration. He knew he had seen a bomb in the lab and he knew Millard must be planning to get that bomb into the Sea Lab. But he had no way to tell anyone. Hopefully the Admiral would be suspicious when he saw the green food colouring in his perfect clear liquid. Despite his situation Lee almost smiled as he thought of Nelson arriving in the lab to find his green experiment.
Another feeble attempt to move whatever had been dropped on him did nothing to move the crate but almost caused Lee to black out again. He felt a stickiness on his chest. No wonder he hurt so much, his ribs were in bad shape. Another uniform ruined! Still, it gave him an idea. There was just enough mobility in his left arm, he hoped it would work because it was getting more difficult to breath.
Bobby Grier lay in his bunk reviewing his first few days aboard Seaview. It had been an exciting time. So many new faces, so much to learn. He had met with the Executive Officer Mr. Morton when he first came aboard and Chief Sharkey had taken him through emergency procedures but he knew he still had a lot to learn. His job as galley assistant kept him very busy and the work was tiring, still the crew seemed like a friendly group. Of course Bobby was seeing them off duty, at their most relaxed. He had even met Captain Crane who had dropped by just to meet the new crewman! Grier thought that was a nice touch. He hadn't met Admiral Nelson yet but he wasn't sure he wanted to. He had already heard a couple of stories about the Admiral's temper. The crewmen telling the stories seemed to admire and respect Nelson a great deal but he sounded scary to Bobby. Still, surely he couldn't be much worse than Cookie! It was because of Cookie's temper that he was now wide awake at 03:45. Cookie had asked him to prepare a potato dish and that had been easy. But while it was cooking Bobby had worked on his other chores and tried at the same time to listen to all the interesting stories being told in the mess. The potatoes had been forgotten until they were past being edible. The result was a dressing down from Cookie like he had never had before!! Bobby was determined to make sure Cookie didn't have cause to yell at him again.
It was his desire to stay on Cookie's good side that had Bobby considering getting up at 04:00. Cookie would expect him in the galley to begin work on breakfast by 05:00 anyway, and Bobby wanted to go down to the storage compartment where he knew a supply of jam had been secured. Cookie had been complaining that they had missed stocking his peach jam but Bobby was sure he had seen some. If he could find that jam Cookie would be very happy with him.
Bobby crept from his bunk trying not to disturb his crewmates. He grabbed his clothes, showered quickly and headed for the storage compartment.
It was a little after 04:00 when Bobby walked into the storage compartment and turned on the light. He stood frozen for several seconds, then a tiny voice in his head said 'do something' and Bobby sprang into action. He had already realized that the dark head he could see was that of the Captain. One thing he had been taught on his first day was how to contact sick bay. He couldn't see a mic in the room so he ran down the corridor and grabbed the one there.
"Sick bay, emergency!"
"Sick bay here."
"This is Grier, please get down to storage compartment 5 in corridor D, right away. The Captain's hurt. It looks really bad!"
"On our way" came the crisp reply.
Bobby ran back to the storage compartment. Now that he had time to look more carefully his first question was how had this happened? What had caused the crate to fall? He considered trying to move the crate but decided to wait for help, he was fairly sure he couldn't move it on his own and he didn't want to make the Captain's situation worse.
The two medical corpsmen who served as night staff in sickbay, Frank and Steve, came running in carrying a large emergency kit. Doctor Jamieson, in pyjamas and robe, followed right behind them. Jamieson immediately took over.
"Let's get this off him, Steve, Bobby, give me a hand, Frank get that kit open."
The three men lifted the crate and moved it over against the bulkhead, well out of their way. As Bobby carefully carried his side of the crate he looked down to be sure he wasn't stepping on the Captain and in that one glance he thought he saw something. Once he'd put down his side of the crate he moved back to take a closer look but Jamieson had dropped down beside the Captain and started issuing a string of orders to his men. Bobby was trying to decide if he really had seen anything and if he should mention it when he realized the Doctor was speaking to him.
"Bobby, call the control room, I need the Admiral and Mr. Morton down here right away, and ask them to send me a stretcher detail on the double, move it!" His own concerns forgotten for the moment Bobby ran to do the Doctor's bidding.
Admiral Nelson and Chip Morton arrived in the storage compartment still doing up their shirts. A call at this early hour meant trouble. Both men let out audible gasps when they saw the Captain.
"What the hell happened?" demanded Nelson.
"I don't know Admiral, Bobby here found him, that crate had fallen on him." Jamieson indicated the crate at the side of the room. Two more crewmen arrived with a stretcher. Nelson and Morton moved out of the way. The Admiral was staring thoughtfully at the crate.
"How bad is it Doc?" Asked a worried Morton. There was a lot of blood on the floor and Jamieson already had a respirator breathing for Lee and an IV set up.
"It's very bad. Lots of damage to his ribs and lungs. We're going to take him straight into surgery to see what we can do. I'll need blood donors, I may not have enough on hand."
"I'll take care of it." Replied Chip. By now Lee had been placed carefully on a stretcher and Doc and his team headed for sick bay. Bobby stayed where he was thinking that the Admiral would want to hear how he had found the Captain.
Chip turned from the departing medical team to Nelson. "Why would Lee have been in here and how did that crate fall?" Chip asked. He moved towards the crate, it was one of the ones containing supplies for the Sea Lab.
Nelson turned to Bobby, "What happened?"
Bobby was very nervous but stuttered through his story explaining his reasons for getting up so early and coming down to the storage compartment and then finding the Skipper and calling for help. When he was finished the Admiral turned away, again gazing at the crates. Realizing that the Admiral was deep in thought Chip nodded to Bobby and dismissed him.
Chip turned to the Admiral and said in an undertone "No way this was an accident. Lee rarely checks storage compartments on his late night tours of the boat and even if he did, why would it fall. He had no reason to try to move a crate."
Nelson sighed. "It's possible with all the extra supplies on board that he may have decided to look in the storage compartments but you're right, I can't see him trying to move one, and even if he did, if it started to fall he should have been able to jump out of the way. No, I think we have to assume someone did this. How many new crew members do we have aboard?"
"Just Bobby Grier! He looked pretty shaken."
"Hmm. Then there's Millard and Beldin. Did Lee say anything to you about them? I rather gathered from a comment he made at dinner last night that he was suspicious of them, I thought he was just concerned about the less than thorough security check we gave their equipment, he certainly had a few words for me about that."
Chip almost smiled. Lee had been quite vocal about the security issue. As for Millard and Beldin, "He said they put his sixth sense on alert. Beldin in particular. After that first lunch with them he told me Beldin struck him as very nervous and he couldn't figure out why. You know Lee sir, he seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to something being wrong on or with Seaview."
"It's beginning to look like his sixth sense was right. Okay Chip, go to the control room and find out if Lee was up there and what time it was. Ask them if there was any major turbulence last night although I doubt it, I think you and I would have woken at the kind of turbulence it would have taken to knock over a crate, but let's be sure. I'll go down to the lab and take a quick look around then join you in the nose."
The Admiral walked into the lab, turned up the lights and slowly looked around the room. His eyes came to rest on his own experiment. The liquid was still bubbling - but it was green! Nelson's heart twisted at the implications of the colour change. He was trying not to think about how badly injured his friend and Captain was, but seeing his green experiment he realized that Lee had definitely been in the lab and he must have known something was seriously wrong. The green colouring had to be a sign to Nelson, that he was sure of. Lee had seen something and had been concerned that he wasn't going to get a chance to tell Nelson about it. He had been right. His face set in a grim determination Nelson completed his search of the Lab but seeing nothing else amiss he headed forward to meet Chip.
Chip was waiting for Nelson in the nose with fresh coffee. "No word from sick bay yet?" asked Nelson.
"No sir." Chip looked at his watch. "I figure Doc will need at least a couple of hours if he had to operate. I woke Sharkey and put him in charge of the blood donations."
Nelson nodded. "Good, what did you find out?"
"Andrews says Lee was here at 01:10, stayed for about 15 minutes and said he'd be going through the boat before he turned in. But no one else saw him after that."
"He was in the lab."
Chip sounded surprised. "Dr. Millard is already up?"
"No, my experiment's been tampered with and it could only have been Lee." Nelson related his conversation with Lee about the food colouring… He could see from Chip's expression that he too understood the full implications.
"So they knew he'd seen something and decided to kill him, trying to make it look like an accident."
"That's what I suspect. Think about it, if the kid from the galley hadn't gone in there so early we wouldn't have noticed Lee was missing until about 08:00. If he'd missed breakfast you would have assumed he was up here. Only when you arrived in here would you have wondered where he was. When you couldn't reach him you would have started a search, that would have taken 20 or 30 more minutes. I think he'd have been dead before we found him." At that moment Cookie came down the spiral stairs into the nose carrying a tray. Bobby was behind him with a coffee pot. Cookie put down the tray and said loudly "Thought I'd bring you gentlemen some food, I knew you'd be too busy to drop by the mess." In an undertone he said to Nelson "could we have a quiet word sir?"
Realizing what Cookie wanted Nelson signalled to Chip to close the crash doors for privacy, then he turned back to Cookie, an eyebrow raised in inquiry.
Cookie turned to Bobby and took the coffee pot from him. "Tell the Admiral and Exec what you told me, Bobby."
"Yes sir." Bobby pulled himself to attention. "It was just a quick glance sir. But when we lifted that crate off the Skipper I had to climb over him with my end so I was watching him and my feet. I was sure, well, pretty sure, that he'd tried to write something."
"Write something?" queried Chip.
"Using blood sir. I...I think it said bomb, or at least the b,o and m were clear but the last b wasn't finished. I tried to take a better look but the doctor and his team had dropped down by the Skipper and I didn't want to interrupt them and when they finally moved everything was just smeared blood."
"Why didn't you mention this earlier?" asked Nelson.
"I half thought I'd imagined it sir. But when I went back to the galley I kept seeing it in my mind. So I asked Cookie if he thought it was possible."
"Of course it's possible. The Skipper wouldn't go getting himself trapped under a crate in calm seas in the middle of the night!" growled Cookie.
"Have you told anyone else about this?" asked Nelson.
Both men shook their heads no. "Okay, keep it between us for now. Thank you Grier."
The Admiral took another look at his watch. "Our scientists won't be up for over an hour. Let's wait until they're at work in the lab before we question them."
"Should we speak to them separately? See if we get the same story?"
Nelson stood looking out of the nose at the ocean depths. He was silent for several minutes. "No, I don't want them to be suspicious. I want them to think we believe it was an accident. A very unfortunate one." Nelson's tone was bitter. " If there's a bomb on board my guess is it's for the Sea Lab. Dr. Millard had been eager to see it and I had promised him a tour of their facilities. He had planned on taking some of his work over there. There are groups out there who don't like the work Sea Lab does, they don't want anyone stopping their destruction of ocean environments if it in any way affects their profits. On top of that some of the visitors expected at the Lab are powerful men in their own governments, it could be something to do with one of them." The Admiral sighed and turned back to face Chip. "I'm going to place a call to Sam Lawrence at NIMR and have him make a few calls to look for things the first security check could have missed. You go down to sick bay and see if there's any news. Meet me in my cabin around 08:00 and we'll go find our guests."
The Admiral had just finished his second conversation with Sam Lawrence, the NIMR Chief of Security, when Chip arrived. 'No news on Lee yet, Admiral, still in surgery."
"Damn. They're taking a while!" Nelson rubbed the back of his neck trying to release the tension. "I just spoke to Sam again and Dr. Millard and Beldin both show as clean but he's going to put more staff on it today and dig deeper. Just because nothing pops up in any of the security data-bases doesn't mean they're clean. Let's go down to the lab and see what they have to say."
The two scientists looked like they were just starting their work for the day. They looked up expectantly when Nelson and Morton came into the lab. The Admiral spoke first, "Gentlemen, I'm sorry to bother you when I know you're busy."
"No problem Admiral." Said Dr. Millard, "We were hoping to see you. We heard at breakfast that Captain Crane had been hurt. Will he be all right? He was in here late last night, in fact he must have been hurt not long after that."
"Indeed. Yes, we're trying to trace his movements and I knew he would be visiting the lab, what time was that?"
"Oh, I guess it was about 01:15 or something like that, we were just cleaning up for the night. Does that sound like the right time Paul?"
"Yes, yes I think it was about that time sir."
"And how long did he stay?" asked the Admiral.
"Not long, said he had that job to do for you, adding the dye to your experiment." And Dr. Millard pointed to the green liquid. "Then he left, saying he'd see us in the morning."
"Thank you Doctor. No one saw him after he left the lab but then the storage compartments were probably his next stop."
"He'll recover won't he?" asked Dr. Millard.
"We haven't had a report from sick bay yet. We're all praying for him of course but I have to say that it looked very serious. The Doctor was very concerned."
"We'll add our prayers too. Please keep us informed, Admiral." Said Millard.
Nelson forced a smile on his face. "Thank you Doctor. We'll let you get back to your work."
"Yes Doctor?" The Admiral turned back from the door.
"I realize this may not be your primary concern right now but are we still on the way to Sea Lab? I was going to spend some time today getting some reports ready to take over to them."
"Yes, of course, we're still on schedule. Our mission will continue. We'll see you at lunch perhaps."
As the Admiral and Chip walked down the corridor Nelson asked. "Notice anything unusual Chip?"
"Only that Beldin did seem very jumpy. His eyes kept darting between you and Dr. Millard and I think if I'd jabbed him with my finger he'd have jumped at least three feet. And obviously if Dr. Millard is planning on taking a bomb over to the Lab that explains his concern that we still be on schedule."
"Yes he was very eager to ensure we were continuing with the mission. Hmm, okay, we need to take some precautions. First, we need to post a guard in sick bay. I don't want another attempt on Lee's life. Nothing obvious though, get Ski on it. Tell him to get into robe and pyjamas, with a gun hidden. Once Lee's out of surgery he's to stay in the room with him at all times. Then get Patterson and ask him to go through Millard and Beldin's cabins, he can pretend he's cleaning them, tell him to look for a bomb, but to keep it quiet. If word gets out Millard and Beldin will hear of it and that will ruin my plans. Once you get Pat's report, meet me in sick bay."
When Chip joined the Admiral in sick bay 40 minutes later he found the Admiral seated in a chair leaning back against the wall, his eyes closed.
"Any news sir?" Chip asked quietly.
"No, Chip." Nelson sounded very weary. "But Frank said it shouldn't be long now."
At that moment the door to sick bay's small operating room opened and Will Jamieson emerged, still wearing his surgical scrubs. "Should have known you two would be here."
The Admiral and Chip followed Jamieson into his small office where the Doctor sank tiredly into his chair.
"How is he, Jamie?" asked Chip.
"Pretty bad. Three ribs on his left side were broken and two on the right. Badly broken. Compound fractures. Two ribs on the right damaged the lung. His right arm was broken and his hip is badly bruised. We are very lucky he was found when he was. He was barely breathing. He still can't breathe on his own. He lost a lot of blood both before we found him and during surgery but we had plenty of blood donors. Now it's just wait and see. On top of all that he has a bad concussion." Jamieson paused and looked at them both, "any idea how it happened?"
The Admiral closed the door to the office. "It wasn't an accident. Lee saw something in the lab, probably a bomb. Dr. Millard and Mr. Beldin knew he'd seen it and must have decided to kill him."
The doctor nodded "I'm not an expert on these things but the blow to the right side of his head looked more like the result of someone hitting him with a blunt object rather than his head connecting with the floor."
The Admiral nodded, that piece of news did not surprise him. "We're going to have Kowalski in here for security. He'll look like a patient but he'll be armed. When Millard and Beldin hear that Lee is still alive they could decide he's a threat to their plans."
"Okay, I'm leaving Lee in our operating room for at least the next 24 hours. We can work better around him that way and he's going to be unconscious at least that long. I don't want him even trying to move till I think his lungs are working and he can breathe on his own."
"But he'll recover?" Chip sounded hopeful
"Ask me again tomorrow. I guess I'm guardedly optimistic. His vitals are all reasonably strong including his heart. It's his right lung I'm most concerned with and any sign of infection. He's weak so he won't be able to fight any major infections."
"Can we see him?" Asked Nelson.
"Just for a few minutes. At this stage he's only lightly unconscious but I need him resting. On the other hand, even at a sub-conscious level I think a friendly voice would be a good thing."
The lighting in the operating room was low. Chip thought his friend looked very pale. The Captain was still connected to the respirator, IV, plasma and a heart monitor. Chip carefully took Lee's hand in his and leaned in close to his ear. "Lee, it's Chip. We're here for you buddy. You just get better, just rest quietly and concentrate on breathing." He patted one bare shoulder very gently and stood back, still holding onto Lee's hand. "He looks so pale Jamie." Chip whispered.
"All his readings are fairly good Chip and so far there's no sign of fever. We'll probably try to take him off the respirator this evening if everything stays steady."
"Call us if there's any change Jamie." Said Nelson, "keep us informed. But if he wakes up don't let anyone else know, if Millard and Beldin find out he's conscious they may do something drastic. For now, let's tell everyone you're keeping him unconscious for the next few days so his body can heal."
"That's not far from the truth Admiral so that won't be hard to do. I'll be staying here and so will Frank and so with us and Ski he should be protected."
Nelson nodded. "Come on, Chip, we've got more work to do."
Reluctantly Chip let go of his friend's hand and followed Nelson from sick bay.
Back in the lab Sam Millard sat watching his agitated assistant pacing the room. "What are we going to do now?" Asked Beldin.
"We aren't going to panic. The Captain may still die, his condition sounds very serious. We just proceed as planned. We get to the Sea Lab, Nelson takes me for the tour, I take our bomb with us in my briefcase. The Captain's accident hasn't done anything to delay our schedule."
"This all seemed so much easier when we were back at work. I never expected we'd have to kill anyone!"
Millard laughed. "What did you think the bomb was for?"
"That's different, we won't be there when it goes off."
"Oh so you can wash your hands of it as long as you aren't there? How convenient for you. All I know is we are being paid very well for doing this so if it means getting rid of anyone who gets in our way we have to do it." Dr. Millard glared at his assistant. "Now, we need to know how the Captain is. If there is any chance of his regaining consciousness we have to prevent that. You go down to sick bay in a little while and ask how he's doing."
"And if they say he's improving?"
"Then I'll make a visit myself to offer my support and take a syringe of something down there that will definitely prevent any further improvements. It's a quick acting poison and although they could find it if they were looking for it I think they'd just attribute his death to his injuries. For now, let's just return to work. At lunch time while I get us something to eat, you go to sick bay. Just stay calm, this will all be over soon."
That afternoon Admiral Nelson sat in the observation nose looking out at the ocean. Chip had spent the morning carrying out his regular duties. The crew had been told that their Captain had been badly injured and was in serious condition in sick bay. Everyone had heard how the Skipper had been found under the crate in the storage compartment and if they had concerns as to how that had happened Chip and Sharkey had done their best to convey the message that for now they would worry about getting the Skipper better, how it had happened would be looked at later. Seaview's crew were well trained and had understood the message that more information would be forthcoming at a later point.
Per instructions from the Admiral they had picked up speed during the morning and were even further ahead of schedule. Now, Chip moved up to the nose to join the Admiral and find out what he had in mind.
"Admiral, we're on schedule, we should now reach Caroline Islands Sea Lab in less than 24 hours. Do you want me to call Gary to let him know we're ahead of schedule? Are we going to tell him about the bomb?"
"No don't call him, Chip, I have a plan that I'm hoping will force Millard, or maybe Beldin, to let us know where the bomb is."
"What kind of bomb do you think it is, Admiral?"
"That's what I've been sitting here considering, Chip. It must be small enough to carry on to Sea Lab unnoticed. I've been giving more thought to how it detonates. I'm sure Millard and Beldin are not experts at such things. My guess is that the bomb is already ticking down. They probably had to get it on board, be fairly certain they were going to get to visit the Lab and then prepare the bomb per their instructions."
"You don't think it's the kind you can detonate from another site?"
"A remote control? No, I don't think so. Those are more tricky, they have a nasty tendency to go off before they're supposed to. I have something I want to try..." The Admiral's words were interrupted by the sound of someone clattering down the spiral stairs. It was Steve from sickbay.
Steve was slightly out of breath but he pulled to a stop in front of the Admiral and stood to attention. "Admiral Nelson sir, Doc asked me to come and get you. He didn't want to use the intercom, the Skipper insists on talking to you and Doc doesn't want to sedate him so..."
Nelson was already out of his seat. "I'll be right back, Chip." and he headed for sick bay at a run.
Entering sick bay Nelson saw Kowalski sitting on one of the bunks looking anxiously towards the room where Lee was, Nelson headed towards the room but was met by Jamieson who grabbed his arm and pulled him to the side before he could get in to Lee. "Harry, we took out the respirator about an hour ago and he's breathing just fine but about 15 minutes ago he woke up and he keeps calling for you. I think he's saying something about a bomb. Whatever it is he's very agitated and rather than sedate him I thought I'd let you speak to him. I realize it's probably important. But you've only got a few minutes. If you haven't calmed him down after that I'm going to have to sedate him."
The Admiral nodded and headed in to the operating room. Frank was telling the Skipper to lie still, that Nelson was on the way, when he saw the Admiral he moved back to let the Admiral take his place by the Captain's side.
"Lee," Nelson took one of Lee's hands in his and placed his other hand on Lee's forehead, "I'm right here, take it easy. What did you want to tell me?"
"Yes, we saw your message, you wrote bomb in the storage compartment where we found you. You saw the bomb?"
Lee tried to nod but moving his head was obviously painful and he moaned. The Admiral smoothed his hair from his brow and squeezed his hand. "Don't try to move Lee. I just have one question that will help us immensely. Was the bomb already counting down?"
"It was at 47 hours?"
"Okay, you stop worrying about it. Lee, just rest okay? Do what Jamie tells you. Ski is nearby, he'll make sure you don't have any unwanted visitors. Chip and I will take care of it. Get some sleep Captain, that's an order." Jamie had come in while Nelson spoke, obviously ready to end their conversation. Jamie relaxed when he realized that Nelson had managed to quiet the Captain.
Nelson stood up again but kept his grip on Lee's hand as the Captain drifted back to sleep. "Thanks for calling me, Jamie. I just got the one piece of information I was missing. Is he all right?"
"Yes, he's doing well actually. No breathing problems, no fever. We're going to move him out to a bunk. That was a good idea sending Ski down here by the way, Mr. Beldin came down at lunch to ask how the Skipper was doing. I told him it didn't look good."
"Good. Hopefully they'll be too distracted to worry about Lee. I have a plan I'm just about to discuss with Chip. I'll drop by later to see how he is. Take care of him." And Nelson headed back towards the nose.
About an hour later the Admiral was working in the lab ostensibly to write up some notes for his experiment. Nelson thought Dr. Millard and his assistant both seemed rather tense and he smiled to himself, he knew that helped his plan. The scientists were very quiet and didn't seem to be very busy but Nelson ignored them. The Admiral had just asked Dr. Millard how their work was progressing when Seaview seemed to shudder and the three of them all gripped a counter to stay steady.
"What was that?" Beldin sounded panicky.
"I'm not sure." said the Admiral. He picked up a mic, "Nelson to control, what's the problem up there?"
"Morton here Admiral. There's a problem in the reactor room. I'm waiting for a report from the Chief."
"Tell him I'll join him down there. Nelson out."
The Admiral started shutting his various note books. "The reactor? Isn't that serious?" Dr. Millard asked.
"Could be, but I'm sure it's nothing. We've been running full out to test a new engine, maybe we just overdid it. I'm sure I'll be back in here in a few minutes with good news." and the Admiral left the lab.
Nelson did go to the reactor room to meet the Chief. "Good work Chief, that felt like a definite power surge."
"Thank you sir, I'll pass that on to the engine room. We've shut the reactor to half power, if our guests came down to look at it they'd be able to see something was wrong. Haney and Ericson are going to take advantage of the shut down to do a bit of maintenance" the Chief indicated two men in the room in protective gear. "I'm posting someone on the door with orders to tell either Beldin or Millard that they're working on fixing it."
"Very good Chief. Time for the next step." Nelson picked up the nearest mic, making sure his call would be heard ship wide. "Mr. Morton."
"Morton here sir."
"We have a problem down here in the reactor room. We've had to cut power to one third. Stop all engines."
"Do you want us to maintain trim Admiral?"
"No, I want to limit power usage to essential services. Just make sure we have lights and air circulation. I'm afraid this may take a while. Contact Sea Lab and let them know we may be delayed."
With a satisfied grin Nelson replaced the mic. "Did that sound believable, Chief?"
"I thought so sir, and if I were those scientists I'd be starting to sweat about now."
"I hope you're right, Chief. If anyone's looking for me, I'm in my cabin working on the reactor problem"
Sharkey was right, Millard and Beldin were sweating. "You heard him! They've cut all power. We're sitting dead in the water with a live bomb!" Beldin was frantic with worry.
"Don't panic! It could all be fixed in an hour. We have lots of time. The bomb won't go off for another 32 hours and I'm sure we'll still be at the Sea Lab by tomorrow morning. That still gives me plenty of time to get my tour and take the bomb over there." Millard tried to reason with his partner. Inside Millard was feeling far less confident than he was letting on to Beldin. No amount of money was worth finding yourself on the bottom of the ocean in a submarine with a live bomb on board. "Let's just wait for a while and if we don't hear anything we'll go and look for Nelson."
They didn't have to wait long. About an hour later Nelson came into the lab his face creased with worry. Giving the scientists a grim nod he headed for his experiment and started to shut off all the still bubbling liquids.
"What are you doing, Admiral?" Asked Dr. Millard, trying hard to contain his nervousness.
"I'm not going to have time to get back to this for a while so I thought I'd turn it off. I'm going to be busy in the reactor room I'm afraid."
"Why, what happened?" Millard was struggling to sound merely interested. In truth he wanted to grab Nelson and shake him and beg for every detail on their current situation.
"That's what we haven't figured out yet. Until we know what's wrong we're stuck here on the bottom. It's not life threatening gentlemen so please don't worry. It's just damned inconvenient. We'll never make the Sea Lab in time I'm afraid. You'll still get your tour Dr. Millard but it will probably be at least a couple of days late. We can still send out divers though so if you want some more samples maybe we can take some here and give you new data to work on." Nelson was almost enjoying himself. He could see that Beldin in particular was almost frozen with fear. Now to move to the next stage of the plan. "Actually Dr. Millard, before we get you new samples maybe I can ask you to do me a favour? Come on down with me to the reactor room and take a quick look at some print outs with me. I know you've done a lot of work on computer simulations so you may spot something I haven't seen. It would only take a few minutes. You won't even be late for dinner."
With Nelson standing there looking at him eagerly Dr. Millard had no choice but to accept. He headed out with the Admiral towards the reactor room and didn't even notice Patterson in the next corridor apparently repairing a broken mic housing. As Nelson and Millard went by, Patterson hit a button on the walkie talkie at his side. The beep was heard by Chip Morton who was waiting in the same storage compartment where they had found Lee so badly injured. Chip headed for the lab.
"Oh, Mr. Beldin, did I miss the Admiral?" Asked Chip.
"Yes. Yes, I'm afraid you did, he just went down to the reactor room with Dr. Millard."
"Okay, I'll go and find him there." Chip paused in the act of turning towards the door and asked solicitously "Are you all right Mr. Beldin? You look a little pale?" Chip noticed that the scientist was sweating and wringing his hands.
Beldin was going to try to say he was fine but in truth he was rigid with fear. As soon as Seaview had submerged Beldin had realized that he was not going to enjoy the experience of being on a submarine. He had been trying to avoid thinking about the fact that he was hundreds of feet underwater. Fortunately Seaview was roomy for a submarine and he'd managed to convince himself he was in a science lab. But now, knowing that he was trapped in a cigar shaped hunk of metal with a bomb, it was more than he could take.
"Are we going to be moving again soon?"
"Well, I don't know about soon. It's a fairly serious problem. We had something like this happen once before and it took us over three days to correct it because we had to dismantle parts of the reactor and then re-build it. Hopefully it will be quicker this time. Very unfortunate for Sea Lab of course but sometimes these things happen." Chip watched closely as Beldin used a shaking hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. "Don't worry, Mr. Beldin, we'll be fine if we don't spring any leaks."
There was a choked cry from Beldin. The thought of all that water pouring in was too much. He started shrieking. "The water will be pouring in. There's a bomb on board, it's in Dr. Millard's cabin. It's already ticking down and we can't stop it. You've got to do something! We'll all be killed"
Chip was all business. "Where in the cabin?"
"We shoved it up in the vent so no one would see it. It should have gone off tomorrow night, we were supposed to reach Sea Lab by early tomorrow morning and Dr. Millard was going to take it over in his briefcase." Now that it was out Beldin felt such an overwhelming relief he didn't care what he said. He hadn't realized how much he had hated the whole situation and how very scared he'd been. The money he'd been paid for doing this was in no way worth the experience.
Chip had already opened the lab door and signalled someone down the corridor. Chief Sharkey and a security detail arrived on the run. "Take Mr. Beldin and put him in the brig. Chief, come with me." They ran to the reactor room where the Admiral was showing Dr. Millard some print outs from the operating console. Nelson looked up as Chip and the Chief ran into the room. Chip gasped out "The bomb's in Millard's cabin Admiral, it's in his vent. Beldin doesn't know how to disarm it."
Dr. Millard's eyes widened in shock. They'd been set up! Crane must have been able to tell them about the bomb. He should have killed Crane in that storage compartment, he'd left too much to chance and look where it had got him! He turned angrily to Nelson, "You faked this whole break down didn't you? There's nothing wrong with the reactor. You just wanted us to get in a panic about the bomb exploding! Crane told you he'd seen the bomb, I should have made sure he was killed by those crates."
Nelson bit down on his anger. "Crane didn't say anything, even if you had killed him it was too late, he'd already sent me a warning. The green dye was a sign to me that something was wrong. I never asked him to add colour to the experiment. As soon as we saw that we knew you were responsible for his 'accident'." Nelson and Morton both gained some small level of satisfaction as they saw the look of rage cross Millard's face.
"All in all Doctor, I think our plans worked rather well." The Admiral glared at Millard. "Chief, throw him in the brig. Chip, let's go disarm that bomb."
The bomb proved relatively easy for Nelson to disarm. Seaview resumed her journey and reached Sea Lab in plenty of time to deliver the supplies.
Millard and Beldin were handed over to the British Naval Frigate once it was discovered that their plan was more politically motivated than anything else. Both men were found to have had large deposits made to their personal bank accounts just before Seaview had sailed. The money had been supplied by a group who wanted to kill two of the senior government representatives attending the meetings on Sea Lab.
The visitors to Sea Lab were very impressed by what they learned during their tour of the facility. The work being done at the Lab was going to help not only maintain their fish supplies but prevent damage to some fragile beach eco-systems. Anything that could be shown to have such an economic impact to countries that relied on fishing and tourism was to be encouraged. The World Sea Lab Society received hefty donations to continue their work.
A week later Admiral Nelson walked down the corridors of Seaview towards Lee Crane's cabin. Nelson had just been to sick bay to see if the Captain was ready to go ashore and had been informed by a frustrated Jamieson that Crane had gone down to his cabin insisting he wanted to leave dressed in a uniform. Jamieson had wanted to transfer the Captain to the Institute Clinic for a few days. Lee's ribs were still giving him a lot of pain, he couldn't stay on his feet very long because he was still weak and his hip was bothering him. On top of that his right arm was in a cast so he couldn't manage a lot of day to day activities.
Crane and Jamieson's arguments about the Captain's need to be in the Clinic had been ended by Chip's offer to have Lee stay at his place until he was well enough to go home. Jamieson hadn't liked that idea at first, he didn't think Chip was going to be able to insist the Captain do nothing but rest. But when Jamie had heard that Chip's mother was visiting for at least the first week he had changed his mind. Marie Morton wouldn't let Lee get away with anything! She would insist Lee rest completely and she would also ensure he ate well.
Nelson had allowed Chip to leave the boat as soon as Seaview had docked so he could meet his mother at the airport and set things up at home for Lee's arrival. The Admiral was to drive Lee to Chip's place. Nelson and O'Brien had handled all the docking procedures - the Admiral had almost forgotten how many endless forms seemed to be required before the boat could be handed over to the maintenance crew. The Admiral had also made sure to seek out Bobby Grier to thank him for keeping his head and getting help as quickly as he did. The Admiral wasn't the only one who appreciated Grier's work, judging by the words of praise coming from Cookie they had themselves a permanent crew member!
The Admiral found Lee's cabin door ajar so he knocked quietly. "Lee, are you ready? Do you need any help?"
The Captain was sitting on his bunk. He was wearing his uniform trousers but the shirt was crumpled at his side and he was holding a sweatsuit in his lap. Nelson was shocked at all the bruising on his friend's chest. In sickbay Lee had been wearing pyjamas but sitting now bare chested Nelson was amazed that Lee was able to move at all. The Captain's chest was a garish mixture of purple, dark blue and yellow bruising. A bandage still covered the scar from his surgery and the white of the bandage only made the bruising look worse.
"No thank you Admiral, I'm fine." Lee started to turn the top of the sweat suit round in preparation for putting it on.
The Admiral thought Lee sounded anything but fine. "I thought you were putting on a uniform?"
"The shirt doesn't go over the cast. I thought it would just fit but it doesn't."
"Then let's cut the sleeve. Do you have scissors in here?" Nelson moved over to Crane's desk and opened the top drawer taking out the scissors he found there.
"Admiral, I was only on duty for three days of this cruise. If you cut that shirt that will be three uniforms in three days." Although Lee tried to make it sound like a joke Nelson could hear an underlying tone of bitterness to the words.
Keeping his own tone light the Admiral said "It's only the shirt and we'll save it for next time you break that arm, that way it won't be wasted. Remind me to tell Chip to note it in inventory." Nelson pulled the sweatsuit out of Lee's hands and picked up the shirt and held it out.
Carefully Crane stood up, unable to stop a grimace of pain. The Admiral tried putting the shirt on the casted arm and realized that if he just cut about two inches above the cuff, the shirt should fit. He leaned against the desk to work and Lee leaned against his bunk and closed his eyes.
As he worked Nelson asked, "Do you think we would have found the bomb if we had done a more thorough security check of their luggage?"
Surprised Lee looked up at him. "No sir. Has that been worrying you? Chip and I discussed it when he described the bomb to me. The individual parts would have just passed for some of their equipment. None of it was stuff they might not have had. When we do those checks we're usually looking for items the person has no need for."
"What about the security check we do on the individual?" The Admiral held up the shirt and carefully helped Lee into it.
As he finished putting his good arm into a sleeve Lee shook his head. "We can check for criminal records and a few other things but we're never going to be able to do the kind of in-depth search that eventually turned up that money in their bank accounts. Their connection with that terrorist group wouldn't have been found without tracing that money. We'd never set sail if we tried to check every tiny detail, Admiral."
As the Admiral helped with buttons and tie he looked carefully at his Captain. "You don't sound like you hold me to blame for any of this but I can't help feeling a bit guilty. I probably would have told Marcus his team had to wait for another trip if it wasn't for those auditors, and it was me who rushed Chip through his security check. I think I broke one of my own rules doing that." Nelson helped Lee on with his uniform jacket, they didn't even try to get the right arm into the sleeve.
Lee picked up his duffel bag - which Nelson immediately took from him - and headed slowly out of his cabin towards the control room. "Admiral, this was in no way your fault. We all want to be able to take on work at short notice. We do it all the time for the Navy. What happened with Millard and Beldin was the kind of thing Seaview is always going to come up against. I was thinking of talking to you about us putting together a core group of crew members with scientific backgrounds whose job would be to keep a closer eye on the work some of our visitors do. They could report to you and perhaps give you daily updates. It might help prevent some of the situations we've been in with scientists whose work goes terribly wrong. Sometimes we do give them free rein and it has occasionally back fired badly."
"Sounds interesting, let's talk about it when I return from Washington."
"Ah yes, your trip to Washington. When I think that I was supposed to go with you to those meetings Admiral, it almost makes a few broken ribs worth while. Those meetings are the worst part of this whole job. Now, I not only don't have to go to the boring meetings, I get to enjoy Marie Morton's excellent cooking for a week. Not a bad deal really."
They had arrived in the control room and O'Brien informed them that the Admiral's car had been brought to the dock.
As Nelson herded Lee towards the ladder to the bridge he shook his head. "Your optimistic outlook on life never ceases to amaze me, Captain. Come on, let's get you over to Chip's place. The sooner I can be on my way to Washington the sooner I can be home. Take care of the boat O'Brien." And the two men disappeared up the ladder.
As he climbed into the driver's seat a few minutes later Nelson caught Lee's wistful glance at Seaview. "Don't worry Lee, O'Brien will take good care of her and you'll feel much better after a week in Marie Morton's care." and Nelson patted his friend's shoulder as he started the car.
Smiling Lee turned to Nelson, "Better than you'll feel after a week of hotel food and Pentagon meetings." They drove away leaving Seaview's sleek hull glinting in the Santa Barbara sunlight.
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