Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 19

 

 

Lee was in Nepal again.  It was the same temple, the same inner corridor and then in the same room where he had spent the short time with Mendez.  This time, though, there was no welcoming Prandjit, no dinner, no light.  The room was mostly dark. There was a candle in a far corner.  Lee felt the wall for a light switch.   He knew there had been one before.  Finally, he found it, but there was no light when he flipped it. 

He saw dark and ominous shapes, shadows exaggerated and grotesque.  Suddenly he tripped over something on the floor.  Feeling around his feet, Lee touched a still, cold body.  He sucked in his breath and crawled toward the candle.  With a trembling hand he picked it up off the tiny table where it had been sitting and carried it back to the body.  Mendez!  He checked for a pulse.  Mendez was dead. 

Suddenly it was gone.  There was still darkness, but instead of grotesque shadows, it was complete.  He heard the soft sounds of machinery and the gentle, almost imperceptible movements of a submarine at sea.  Seaview!   He was on board.  Then the memory of the recent past came back.  But how long had he been unconscious?  Lee listened, but heard nothing else.  He was alone.  The smell of antiseptics told him he was in sickbay. 

Lee slowly sat up, feeling lightly wrapped gauze around his burned hand as he did so.  His right wrist was encased in a rigid splint from the base of his fingers to several inches below the wrist, but there was no cast.  He flexed his fingers.  There was pain, but not any of the numbness as before.   Then he realized just how clear-headed he was.  Yes, he was still tired; exhausted, in fact, but he felt no headache, no nausea, and no fever.  One of those vials must have held the counter-agent for whatever Mendon had given him.    The dream came back with bruising force and Lee felt panic setting in.  He remembered Mendon’s words--“You will be the instrument in the destruction of my most bitter enemy.”   Panic was fed by horror that carved itself on his heart and seared his brain.  Mendon had been talking about the admiral!  He had to see the admiral!

Crane felt the presence of a needle and he again felt the overwhelming horror of something coursing through his veins.  He tried to reach for the IV, tried to follow its path, but the bandages thwarted him.  Cursing softly under his breath, gasping in sudden panic, he pondered what to do next when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  He hadn’t heard anyone approaching.  “Doc?”

“Yes,” came the voice of the CMO.  “You are obviously feeling better.”

“You found the antidote?”

“Yes,” Jamieson answered softly. 

He took a tremulous breath and felt a great shudder course through his body.  “Take it out,” he whispered.

“What, Lee?”

“The needle.  Please.  Take it out.”  His voice was a whisper, but he was hard pressed not to shout his desire.

“Captain, this is the only way I’ve had to replenish the fluids in your body and to give you the antibiotics you needed while you were asleep.   You were dangerously dehydrated and had a very high fever.”

“I know, Doc.  And I understand and appreciate what you’re doing.”  Suppressing the horror of what was violating his body, Lee brought his mind back to what he knew was most important.  “I have to see the admiral,” Lee said, his feeling of impending doom rising almost enough to choke him.  “Now!  It’s vital!”  He had tried to sound calm, but was afraid that he sounded hysterical.   Doc said nothing. 

 

Will Jamieson gazed steadily at the man in front of him—a man still very much under the effects of his two weeks in hell.  There was no doubt in the doctor’s mind that Lee Crane did have vitally important information, but the psychologist part of his medical degree saw something else.  There was some deeper need buried far into the heart and soul of the Seaview’s captain and he wasn’t sure exactly what it was or consequently, how to go about meeting it.   “I finally ordered the admiral to bed three hours ago, Lee.  It’s four in the morning.  He has been worried about you, engrossed in his project, and therefore not sleeping well.”

“I can relate to that sleeping well part,” Crane said bitterly. 

And Jamieson knew exactly what the captain was talking about.  It was his silence that had brought the doctor in from the main sickbay to check on Lee.  When he was sleeping, Crane was anything but restful and finally the CMO had given him a sedative.    It was always easy to tell when it wore off.   Doc paused in thought.  He knew Nelson had given strict orders to be informed when Lee was awake and coherent, so that wasn’t an issue.  But still….

“The admiral wants this information.  I know he left orders.”

If the situation weren’t so serious, Doc would be laughing.  Those two men were so much on each other’s wavelength at times; it wasn’t funny.  “I’ll call him, Lee.”  He turned toward the intercom, but Crane reached out and awkwardly caught his arm. 

“No, Doc, I’ll go to his cabin.” 

Now Jamie did a double take, aghast at the suggestion.  “Captain Crane, you may be feeling better, but you’re not that much better.”

“The admiral’s cabin is secure. He has the equipment to get part of what I have for him,” Lee insisted. 

Jamieson thought the voice sounded almost plaintive, pleading.  That need, the doctor thought again.  That desperate need to be a viable part of what was going on around him.  That’s it! Jamie thought.  Lee Crane had a deep, unverbalized need to be in control of something—anything, in an existence that had spiraled totally out of his control.   “Let me undo the IV’s and help you up,” he finally agreed.  “Then we’ll see.”

He felt exhaustion in the body that leaned against his, even after eighteen hours of rest and intravenous fluids.  How the hell Lee had managed to dive and swim under that gunboat and live was beyond him.  When Crane was free of the various liquid cocktails, he slid to the floor, where he stood wavering slightly.

“You all right?” Jamie queried.

“Sure as hell have felt better,” Crane admitted in a soft voice. 

“Let me help you to the admiral’s cabin.  Then I can guide you back when you two are finished.”  As soon as Jamieson had said the words, he knew he had said the wrong thing.”

“No.”

Doc waited. 

“No!  I have to do this myself.”  Then Lee laughed, a short bark that held a bitter edge.  “I told someone once that I knew the Seaview so well that I could walk her blindfolded.  Well, now’s my chance to prove it.”

“That’s not the issue, Captain,” Jamieson protested.

“The issue is that I may not ever be able to walk her corridors again!” he shouted angrily.  As though fighting an inner battle for control of his emotions, Lee added in a lower, calmer voice.  “Let me at least do this, Jamie.  Let me do this vitally important thing . . . myself.”

Jamieson said nothing.  Everything in his training told him that what the captain proposed was not only unnecessary, but also dangerous.  Lee wasn’t physically able.  He studied the angry, desperate, frightened—yes, Lee Crane was scared.  He was frightened of losing everything that was important to him.  “You sure you have the stamina to get to the admiral’s cabin?” he asked. 

“Of course,” Crane said with a wry smile.  “Up the corridor, ladder, down corridor….”

“You made your point, Captain.  But I want you to promise me something.”

“What?” he asked dubiously. 

“Use the intercom if you have trouble. Less than twenty-four hours ago, I wouldn’t have given much more than a tinker’s damn for your chances.  Pumped full of all kind of garbage and nothing to eat for Lord knows how long.”

“Your concoction is guaranteed,” Crane smirked. 

Bravado, thought Jamie.  “I would have given you the high test IV if I had known you wanted to make an excursion.”

Lee smiled.  “By the way, I promise.  Just promise me that you won’t send one of the men to shadow me.”

Jamieson sighed.  “I can’t do that, Lee and you know it.  When you leave, if I think you need someone just in case, I won’t hesitate.”   Crane frowned, but said nothing.  Jamie helped the captain on with the rubber-soled service shoes and then pulled out a robe, helping Crane put it on.  “I assume you realized that you only have a sprained wrist.  I have only immobilized it, but I still want you to avoid using the hand to do more than touch things.”

“Thank goodness for small favors,” Lee murmured. 

“Let me help you to the door.  Doctor’s prerogative.”

Crane nodded and leaned on Jamieson as they moved to the door.  Again, the doctor questioned his decision to allow the captain to do this.  They stopped in front of the door and the CMO opened it for his patient.  “Coast is clear, Captain,” he murmured. 

“Thanks, Jamie,” Lee replied in a fervent voice.  He stood quietly and then turned down the corridor toward officer’s country. 

Jamie was pleased to see that although the skipper’s pace was slow, it was steady.  The man was going to make it come hell or high water, he thought with a shake of his head.  He went back into the sick bay and shook the dozing medical technician.  “Cooper, I want you to very discreetly follow the captain.  He’s not to know you are behind him unless it appears he’s going to get hurt.” 

“Then I heard you two right?  The skipper’s heading to the admiral’s cabin on his own?”

“Yes, Coop.”  

The rating nodded, shoved his feet in his sneakers and then slipped out of sickbay.

Doc picked up the private line that would connect him with Admiral Nelson.  After several moments, a sleepy voice answered, almost incomprehensibly.  “Admiral?   It’s Doc.”

It was as if a switch had been flipped.  “Jamie?  How’s Lee?”

“Uh, much better, Admiral.  But I do want to warn you that you have a visitor coming to your cabin.”

There was a pause and then a muffled curse.  “At this hour?  You?  And if Lee is better, couldn’t you have waited another hour?”

“No, not me.  I’m afraid your visitor isn’t quite aware of the passage of time just yet,” he said and then paused, deciding just how to break this.  Bluntly, he decided almost instantly.  “It’s Lee.”   There was another pause and Jamieson held the receiver an inch or two from his ear. 

“What the hell possessed you to let him go wandering the corridors in his condition?”

“Admiral, his physical condition isn’t what prompted me to give in to his demand,” the CMO said meaningfully.  “And I sent someone to follow discreetly, just in case.”

There was a moment’s silence and then the voice answered more softly.  “I think I understand, Jamie.”

“I figured you would, Admiral.   When he’s finished giving you the information he told me was so vital, let him bunk in your cabin. I don’t want him back until he’s rested and had some breakfast.”

“Of course.”

“And when he’s sacked out, call me.  I want to check him over.”

“Yes,” Nelson said simply. 

Jamieson set down the receiver and then picked up a lukewarm cup of coffee.  He looked inside the cup and grimaced, then went ahead and took a swallow.   There was nothing to do but wait, he thought tiredly. 

 

Nelson replaced the receiver and pondered a moment.  Lee had felt it imperative to see him at this hour.  Of course, Lee had slept for almost eighteen hours.  Mendez’s information?  He shook his head.  No, there had to be more.  Something else had impelled Lee to see him alone.    Doc had hinted at a psychological need.  He would have to talk to Jamieson a bit more about that. He knew that what motivated his captain right now was pretty much determined by that two weeks in Mendon’s ‘care.’  But Lee would also have a concrete reason to see him, not just some deep-seated need to prowl the corridors blind.  Harriman looked down and realized that he was only dressed in his underwear.  Then he chuckled softly.   Captain Crane wouldn’t know.  That quickly sobered him at the thought of a possible future.  He threw on his pants and shirt and had turned to heat up a cup of instant coffee when someone tapped softly on his cabin door. 

Harriman almost said ‘come in,’ but he didn’t.  Although the admiral had left his door unlocked when the doctor had placed the ‘curfew’ on him, he realized that even so, Lee wouldn’t be able to negotiate the knob without difficulty.   Quickly, he turned and opened the door.  Lee was leaning against the frame catching his breath.  As the door opened, he straightened up.  Out of the corner of his eye, Nelson saw the med technician gazing at them.  He nodded and the man slipped silently back down the corridor. 

“Admiral, I have some important information.  Is it all right to come in?”

“Do you think I’d say no?”

Lee grinned sheepishly.  “No, but on my way I remembered what Doc said about the time.” 

Harriman put his arm around the captain’s shoulders.  His breath caught in his throat as he guided the injured man into his cabin.  “Lee, it’s just good to have you back.  I don’t care about the hour.”  He shut the door behind them.  “Have a seat on my bed while I make us a cup of coffee.”  While he poured water from a bottle into a couple of mugs, he watched Lee.  Even though it was obvious that the man was physically exhausted he didn’t hesitate, managing to navigate quite well around his desk and to the bed set into the wall. 

“Doc said you had something important to tell me,” Nelson prompted, even as he put the two mugs into a tiny microwave. 

“I figured he’d call you,” Lee said, leaning with a sigh against the wall.  

“Well, yes.  You didn’t think he would?”

There was a grin, characteristic of the young captain.  It heartened Nelson to see it.  “No, I figured he would,” Lee admitted.  “Kind of surprised me when he let me out of sickbay.”

“Surprise wouldn’t cover what I felt,” Harriman quipped.  He pulled the mugs out and then realized that Lee might have problems with his.  “You ready for some coffee, lad?”

“When it’s cooled a bit.”

Nelson nodded and placed Lee’s cup on the desk.

“Admiral, Mendon’s going to plant a contagion among his enemies—very, very soon.  I think my escape will push his timetable ahead.  He called it his jihad.  He worships Josef Mengele and he managed to create a different variant of this damned virus twice in a six day period,” Lee said in a rush.  “We need to go back now.  He once worked for the Republic, so I believe that he’ll target the U.S., probably LA or San Diego or . . . Santa Barbara.”  He stopped abruptly and took a deep, shuddering breath.  “But I think his real target is . . . you.”

 

 

Chapter 20
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
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