Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

   Chapter 17

 

 

Harriman moved to the edge of the deck.  Kowalski carefully pulled Crane up on the deck, Porter helping from behind.   The captain seemed barely conscious, but he suddenly stirred and stood up.  It was as though he had realized where he was and protocol had taken over.  He leaned heavily on Porter as he turned toward the assemblage on deck.  The two women were now on board, Nelson noted remotely. 

Under normal circumstances, Lee would have placed himself at the butt of many jokes by coming on board in a lava-lava.  However, no one was laughing.  One look at the captain of the Seaview was enough to show that Lee was standing by sheer will power alone.   Nelson was appalled.  Crane was gaunt and pale, his body shaking as though from either total exhaustion or fever.  Somehow, Nelson thought both might be the case.  Although there were no visible injuries, Lee was a very sick man.

“Per . . . permish . . .” Crane stammered, his voice barely above a whisper. 

“Granted!” Nelson cried out and reached to help him. 

The rescued man acted as though he hadn’t heard.  Lee swayed slightly, but continued standing.  “Permission to come aboard,” he repeated.  Then with a groan, he collapsed, even taking Porter by surprise.   

Harriman caught him in his arms and with the seaman’s help, lowered Lee to the deck.  He was burning up with fever.  “Doc!” he bellowed.

“Right here, Admiral,” the CMO said, his voice tight.  He knelt down by Crane’s side and began his examination. 

A female voice made Nelson glance up.  The two women were standing just outside the small knot of men ringing their injured captain.  The older one was addressing him in a melodious Polynesian tongue.  All he caught was his name, drawn out in the South Sea’s way where consonants were never pronounced together.  The woman had a commanding presence, as though she was a queen, despite the disheveled gray hair and water dripping from her brightly colored sarong.  Nelson felt no less authority from her than from many of the dignitaries he had met through the years.  Knowing Lee was in good hands, he stood, deciding to give her any honor that might rightfully belong to her.   His French was not extensive, but he tried it anyway.

“A’ona Matua somewhat understands the language of the Tahitians, but she prefers to speak though me,” the younger woman said.  “Allowing you to talk in the language most comfortable to you, Admiral.”

Nelson nodded.   That they knew his name indicated that Lee had been with them for at least a short while.  “Thank you for caring for Captain Crane,” he said with a slight bow. 

The young woman quickly translated and A’ona Matua replied.  “What the A’ona Matua did was to use her small skills to keep Lee alive long enough to get him to your doctor.  What the evil one has done can only be undone by one of your own doctors.” 

The admiral glanced back at the CMO and at Lee, who was still lying on the deck.  “What did Mendon do to him?”  He almost hated asking. 

“I am La’ani Rana’oanui.  I worked in the place where Lee was being held,” the young woman said softly. 

She was interrupted.  “Admiral,” Jamieson called out. 

“We will arrange quarters for you in a moment, but you will have to excuse me,” Nelson said.   He turned to the doctor. 

“Admiral,” the CMO began.  “I am taking the captain below.  I need to run tests but besides a burned hand, he has the most virulent case of influenza I have ever seen.  I’m going to use the quarantine room.” 

Harriman nodded.  "And I think these ladies, most particularly the younger one, might be able to give you more insight into what happened to Lee on the island.”

“I would appreciate all the help I can get,” Doc said.

“Admiral, we have visitors,” Morton called out from near the conning tower. 

As the med techs gently carried the injured man below deck, the women following, Nelson turned his attention to the sea.  The fishing canoes were paddling alongside the Seaview.  Some of the Polynesians gaped at the huge submarine in abject awe, while others approached with steely determination. 

Several men on deck started to pull side arms from their holsters, but the admiral ordered them to stand down.  “Look sharp,” he admonished them.  “But don’t do anything for the moment.”

The canoes lay bobbing, tiny ducklings around a monstrous blue-gray duck.  One of the foremost men hesitated and then clambered aboard.  He stood in front of Nelson, looking around briefly and then looking back at the admiral.  “This is the ship of Lee, the prisoner La’ani rescued?”

“Yes,” Nelson said, also nodding.  “This is the Seaview.”

“Lee promised A’ona Matua that we would be safe here.  We have no place now.  We have helped and the leader Bomar and the evil one will be angry,” the man said, his voice shaking with more than unfamiliarity of the language. 

Nelson glanced at the gathered men and mentally shook his head.  What in the world was Lee thinking?  But then he knew exactly what the captain had been thinking.  Sick and injured at the hands of two morally corrupt men, Lee had promised safety for these people from the same fate. 

“Admiral, you’d better make up your mind soon,” Chip said, close to his ear.  “Sonar’s picking up a single plane heading our way and the best they can tell, it’s got some ordinance.”

“Lee made the decision,” Nelson replied.  To the Hikeru men, he ordered, “Get on board now.  Your leader is sending someone to bomb us.  Hurry!” 

As one the fishermen clamored up the side and quickly followed the Seaview’s men on board. 

“Prepare to dive,” Morton shouted.   The order was repeated inside the sub.

The officers were the last inside and before Nelson’s feet had left the ladder, the submarine was underway.  The dive was steep and swift, but the first depth charge hit aft with enough force to knock the Polynesians off their feet.  The crew was used to it and hung on. 

“General quarters!” Nelson ordered.  “Take us out of here.  Full speed.”

Another depth charge blew, causing the submarine to shudder and tip, but not slacken speed.  A third was felt, but had almost no effect on the flight of the powerful child of ingenuity and the sea.  Nelson found that he had been holding his breath, but slowly released it. 

“Orders, Admiral?” the XO asked.

“American Samoa, Commander,” Nelson said without hesitation.  “We can’t keep our visitors very long.  Take them down to the wardroom for now.  The men will have to share their racks with our visitors for the next couple of days.”  Then as though to himself, he added,  “As soon as we can, we come back.” 

“Aye, aye, sir,” Chip said crisply, also ordering an end to the general quarters. 

“I’ll be in sickbay.”  Harriman left without looking into the worried faces around him.  In sickbay, he saw the two women sitting on a bunk, but he only nodded to them.  He crossed the small room to the quarantine area.  He knocked on the door, but when he heard the commotion from within, he didn’t wait for an answer; he just barged on in.   Crane was on the exam table, thrashing wildly, his screams that of a terrified man.  It was all the physician’s assistants could do to keep him on the gurney.   “No more!  Please, no more!  Leave me alone!”

“Lee!” Harriman rushed to his captain’s side and placed a hand on his shoulder.  It was shoved away by the agitated man.   “What’s going on, Jamie?”

“I was only trying to give him a sedative so I could take care of his injuries,” Doc panted.  “But as soon as the needle touched him, he went berserk.”

Of course, he would, Nelson thought.  “Jamie, back off for now.”

“What?”

“I haven’t kept you apprised of what I learned from the double agent, but Lee’s regimen the past two weeks has been one hypodermic after another.  If my knowledge of his captors is correct, he has been not only injected with truth serums, but other psychosis inducing drugs.  He’s acting terrified, because he is terrified.  Can you give him something orally that will do the same thing?”

“Yes, I can,” Doc said.   “But we have to get him to calm down first.”

The admiral nodded and leaned closer, placing his hand gently on the injured man’s chest.  Crane was shaking, his breath a hoarse panting. “Lee, settle down.  Everyone is going to leave you alone now,” Harriman said soothingly. 

Crane’s eyes were tightly closed, but he did as he was told, turning toward the admiral.  “Not a trick?” he asked plaintively, his voice trembling.

Harriman’s heart wrenched.  He hated to think of the details of what they had done.   “No trick, Lee.”

The captain’s face was slick with sweat and Nelson took a cool cloth from one of the assistants and placed it on Lee’s forehead. 

“Admiral?” Crane asked.  “Admiral, is that you?”

“Yes, you’re home—and safe, Lee,” Nelson reassured his captain.

Lee reached up with one hand, fingertips touching the admiral’s chest.  Nelson was appalled to see how badly it had been burned.  Then Crane shuddered and cried out, his pain welling from somewhere deep inside.  “You didn’t know.  Please tell me you didn’t know.”  Then he bit his lower lip, as though trying to keep further words inside.

“Know what, lad?  What?” Harriman asked, although he thought he did know what Lee was talking about.

“Captured.  Supposed to be….”

“No!  I swear to you, Lee, I didn’t know that was anyone’s directive.  I would never do that to you.  Believe me.  I would never do anything like that to you,” Nelson said softly.   Crane reached up again.  Harriman took his outstretched hand, careful not to touch the raw burn.

“They told me you had.  Called me sacri . . . ficial lamb, but I knew—deep inside.  I knew….  Shouldn’t have ever doubted.   Sorry I doubted.”

“Lee, you had every right to doubt.  Damn them, you had every right.  I should have seen it.”  He felt his heart tearing apart inside.  What had Mendon done?  And the ONI?  Damn them, too.

Crane cried out in pain.  “Admiral, please.  Hurting.” 

In horror, he saw that he had squeezed the burned hand.   He let go.  “Oh, God.  I’m sorry, Lee.”

Crane moaned and sucked in several deep breaths before responding.  “ S‘kay.”  He smiled wanly.  “Home.  Feels good….” 

Harriman noticed that the CMO was holding a small cup.  “Lee, are you thirsty?” Crane nodded and Doc handed Nelson the cup.  “Here’s something for you to drink.”  The admiral held Lee’s head and shoulders up while he drank and then he handed the empty cup to the nearest assistant.  Gently he eased Lee back down.   

“Thanks.  Hope . . . it stays down.”

Nelson hoped it did, too.   “Just relax, Lee.”  Almost instantly, it seemed to Harriman, the medication worked.  Crane sagged into sleep. 

The admiral backed away and let Doc and the assistants do their jobs.  His eyes prickled and he swiped his sleeve across his face to try to regain some measure of control.  Then he heard a sound and turned. 

La’ani was standing just inside the door, tears coursing down her cheeks.  He walked the short distance and gazed into her dark eyes.  “Doc will take care of him.  He will probably want some information from you soon, though.” 

“He and you will probably want this,” she replied, holding up a waterproof canvas bag.

Harriman hadn’t even noticed that she had been carrying something.  “What is this?" 

“Lee and I stole these from the evil one’s room of torture.”  She handed him the bag.  

He looked inside and gasped.  Numerous tiny vials were neatly packed to avoid breakage.  “Are these what I think they are?”

La’ani nodded.  “Lee said they would be useful.  He would not leave before we got them.  That was when he hurt his arm.  He told me these would help prevent sickness that Mendon might give people—including his own sickness.” 

Harriman turned to Jamieson, who had been listening to the exchange.  “Doc, I’m taking these to the lab.  I want a blood sample immediately so I can match one of these to Lee’s malady.  That ‘influenza’ is a biological agent that Mendon gave him.”

“God help us,” the CMO breathed, his eyes large.  He gave hurried instructions to the assistants and turned to Nelson. 

“Lee said that what the evil one had given him was not yet ready.  It would not give sickness to anyone else,” La’ani said quickly, understanding the doctor’s fears. 

“Are you sure?” Doc asked.  

La’ani nodded.  “Lee was with us for a little more than a day.  No one else has become sick.” 

“We’re taking blood samples now, Admiral.  I’ll get one to you in a few minutes.  Right now, he’s got over a hundred and four temperature and we’ve got to get it under control.”

Nelson turned to La’ani.  “I’m sorry to leave you and Ms Matua, but this is important.”

“Yes, it is,” La’ani nodded.  “Please find the one that will help Lee.  He has been through so much.”

“I know he has,” Harriman said, taking her hand and squeezing it gently.  “Thank you.”  He left with the bag and went to the lab.  Quickly setting up his equipment, the admiral was ready to begin when one of Jamie’s assistants came with a blood sample. 

“Do you need some help, Admiral?” he asked.  “The CMO told me to assist you.”

“Yes, I want you to label and store the vials as I examine them.  Prepare the blood sample for microscopic study,” he ordered. 

It was as though the time stood still.  Everything was so slow.  Harriman went through each vial, rejecting each when the markers didn’t match.  He was beginning to despair when he looked at the next to last one.  He checked it again, comparing both the sample and Lee’s blood sample.  “Yes!” he hissed.   Looking up, his eyes gleaming, he saw that the seaman had been watching him intently.  Harriman grinned.  “Let’s get this to Doc.”

“Is that the antidote, sir?”

“Yes!”

 

 

Chapter 18
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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