Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 20

 

 

“Me?  What makes you think that, Lee?”   But Harriman remembered Ajaamil’s statement about his effect on the downfall of the Republic. 

Crane shrugged and then took a deep breath.  “Mostly it’s a gut feeling, but it’s based on small things Mendon mentioned.   Much of it’s jumbled and some could be exaggerated because of the drugs.”  Lee grimaced.  “But I know I wasn’t imagining Mendon’s hatred of the Navy or me.  I’m positive that included you.” 

Harriman paced the small confines of his office.  And Mendon had a hero worship of Mengele.  That would explain the cute trick he’d done to Lee’s eyes.   Somehow, he didn’t doubt the veracity of Lee’s feelings and suppositions.   He sat down behind his desk. 

“Admiral, what about Mendon?” Lee asked impatiently. 

“Lee, let me explain what’s going on and then we can consider how we’re going to stop this maniac.”

Crane’s lips tightened and Harriman knew that his captain was not happy with this apparent inactivity.    “We are about eighteen hours out from American Samoa; about twenty from Hikeru.  We can’t undertake a mission to neutralize Mendon or Bomar with two dozen civilians on board.”

“But Admiral…."

“Here me out, Captain,” Nelson said brusquely.  Then his voice softened.  “Lee, I guessed some of what you told me, knew some more.   I am not unmindful of Mendon’s threat, but two or, at the most, three days of careful planning and intelligence gathering, I believe, could mean a much better chance of victory against these people.” 

“But Admiral, if we go to American Samoa first, then at the earliest, that’s thirty-six hours back.”  Lee paused and then made a self-deprecating gesture.  “The Flying Sub.  Someone could get back to Hikeru in five or six hours.”

Nelson smiled.  “You are beginning to think strategically again, but you don’t have all the facts.”  Harriman gazed at all the diagrams and notes on his desk.  “Did you want that cup of coffee now?  Might be too cool.”

Crane nodded.  He took the cup awkwardly, but managed enough to take a sip.  Then he grimaced.  “Here,” he said tersely, handing the cup back to the admiral.  “I’ll wait for Cookie’s version, if you don’t mind.”

Nelson laughed.  “You’ve always been too picky about your coffee to be a real military man.”  He set the cup aside and continued soberly.   “Doctor’s orders-- you do need something to drink, especially if we’re going to plan a particularly fitting reward for Mendon.”

Lee snorted.  “Anything wet.”

As Nelson poured water into another mug, he was relieved to see that Lee seemed to have accepted, at least for the moment, that his concerns weren’t being ignored.  He was also gratified that Lee had started shifting from prisoner to captain mode.   “The Flying Sub is being refitted right now,” Nelson explained, as he placed the new mug in Lee’s bandaged hand.  “I have the new propulsion system in place, only lacking a few modifications.”

Lee started, almost dropping the mug, then he frowned.  “You mean…” he began angrily.

“I mean that I only lack what you carry in your head to finish.”  He paused and watched as Lee calmed, also noticing how haggard he still appeared.  This conversation would have to end soon.  “This propulsion drive, which you know so little about and yet has caused you such pain and suffering, is going to put transportation on its ear.”

“Bomar said something about fleets to the stars.”

“He did?”  Harriman rubbed his chin.  “No wonder he wanted you so badly.”  With a sigh, the admiral leaned forward and took the now empty cup from his captain’s hand.  “I’m sorry, Lee, I truly am.  I….”

“It’s over,” Crane said tersely, shrugging.

Nelson nodded, realizing that this would be a separate conversation at a later date.  Or it may never happen, he thought in chagrin.  Lee was so reticent about his own inner feelings.  Harriman sighed, realizing that he was, too.  “Bomar is right to a certain degree, but that’s years away.  The propulsion drive is based on the ionization of particles.  It would be easier to show you on paper, but suffice it to say, a vehicle with such a drive unit would make a supersonic transport seem like a tricycle.”

Crane leaned forward, his mouth open in astonishment.  “And you’re testing it on the Flying Sub?”

“Yes. The only problem we have is how to avoid the stress that such speeds would cause a vehicle.”

“And that’s where Mendez comes in.”

Harriman sighed.  “That’s where you come in.  Mendez is dead.”

“What?” Lee gasped.  “Dead?” he asked in a small voice, but continued before Nelson could respond.  “I just dreamed about him.  That’s why I came tonight.  In my dream, I found him dead . . . in his hideaway.”

The admiral just stared at the injured man a moment before saying anything.  “That’s exactly where he was murdered.  Prandjit brought word along with the device Mendez had used to implant the information.” 

“But that means that someone else has his notes,” Lee said sourly.

“No.  Prandjit claims, and I believe him, that Mendez kept no permanent notes.   The equations were all in his head. 

“And now in mine,” Lee mused. 

“Yes.”

“If you have the machine, you have to extract the information-- now.” 

“No, Captain,” Harriman said gently.  “This is the timetable.  And hear me out before you start protesting again.”  After a bit of hesitation, Crane nodded.  “You are going to have a good breakfast, courtesy of Cookie.   Oh, and by the way, our illustrious cook told me when we set out that he was saving a package of sausage, some real eggs and the fixings for fresh biscuits for just this occasion.”   Lee chuckled, but Nelson could tell that he was also touched by the gesture.  “Then you’re going to rest up.  Later today, if Doc declares you fit enough, we’ll extract Mendez’s information.  I will then make the modifications and take the Flying Sub on a test run.  If all goes well, in about a day and a half, we’ll return to Hikeru and, hopefully catch Mendon.”

“We?”

“Yes, Lee.  If at all possible, you need to be involved.  You have been on the island; you know it better.  You know Mendon better,” he said with a sigh, running his hand through his hair.  “Hell, I don’t even know what he looks like, only who he is.”   Lee seemed taken aback for a moment.  “I know it will be hard on you, Lee, but if you pace it and rest on the Seaview, I think you can do it.”

Crane’s face become stone hard.  “Anything to put Mendon away,” Lee said bitterly.

“Nothing strenuous—mainly consulting,” Nelson said sternly.  His tone softened considerably.  “But I also think it fitting that you be one of the first to experience this new drive.”

“Thanks.”  Lee leaned back against the wall and yawned. 

Harriman smiled and went to the intercom, tapping a couple of buttons.  “Yes, this is the admiral.  Have two breakfasts sent to my cabin for Captain Crane and I.  The works.  And tell Cookie to make sure the coffee is fresh.”

When he turned back, he saw Lee grinning softly.  “It’s mighty good to be back home.”

“And mighty good for you to be back, too.”

When breakfast came, Harriman saw that most of the items on the captain’s tray were easily handled.  He made breakfast sandwiches out of the biscuits, eggs and sausage and then set the tray on Lee’s lap. He knew Crane well enough to not offer to do more.  “Coffee’s pretty hot.  I’ll hand it over when it’s tolerably cooled.  Let me know if you need anything else.” 

The meal was consumed in contented silence.  Lee leaned against the wall again before he was totally finished with the meal, but he gave a contented sigh. 

Nelson took the tray, noticing that the burned hand was twitching.  “You get enough?”

“Yeah, for now,” he replied.  “Gotta give this hand a break anyway.” 

“Painful?”

Lee nodded, yawning again, acting as though he was trying hard to stay awake.  “I guess I ought to get to my cabin,” he mumbled. 

“Your cabin is occupied by the ladies,” Nelson said dryly, realizing that Lee was already half asleep.  “You’re bunking here, and that’s an order.  You are in no shape to go anywhere, Captain.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” Lee murmured, promptly lying down.  He was immediately asleep.

Nelson pulled an extra blanket out and laid it over the injured man.  He returned to his desk and studied the charts.  After a while he called sickbay.  “You wanted to check Lee over?” he asked softly, even though he figured he could drop a bomb and it wouldn’t affect his cabin mate. 

Doc arrived in a few minutes.  He noticed the trays and nodded in approval.  He then did a quick check of his patient.  After he was finished, Jamieson sat down in the empty chair and gazed at Nelson, who had said nothing throughout the examination. 

“Well?” Harriman asked, his voice low.

“He is remarkably well, physically,” the doctor said.  “I think he will fully recover in time.”

“Even the eyes?”

“I think so,” Doc said and told the admiral almost verbatim what he had explained to Chip.

Harriman mentally cursed Mendon.  “I want Lee with me when I test the Flying Sub.”

Jamieson gaped at him.  “You can’t be serious.”

“He’ll be needed on Hikeru when I go back to deal with Bomar and Mendon.”

“You’re nuts,” the CMO said candidly.  “What consequences do you think that will have on Lee?  Physically, he’s been abused enough, but mentally?  We don’t know what effect all those damned psycho-altering drugs have had on him,” he hissed, trying to keep his voice low as well.  “And for another thing, do you think they’ll still be there by the time you get back there?”

Nelson sighed.  “I leave the ultimate decision up to you, Jamie.  The last month all I have geared toward is getting Lee back.  I certainly don’t want to do anything that will prevent him from staying.”

Doc nodded, mollified.  “Let’s see what a day of rest does and I will talk with him; feel him out.”

Nelson expressed his acceptance and then changed the subject.  “The Flying Sub, when I finish the modifications, will get to Hikeru in about an hour from American Samoa.”

Doc whistled softly.  “You weren’t kidding about the importance of this new invention, were you?” 

“And if you also come, we might find the counter-agent for that chemical Mendon gave Lee a great deal more quickly,” Nelson added. 

Jamieson’s brow was furrowed in thought.  “What is your time table for all of this?”

“I’m thinking a day and a half, tops.”

Jamieson didn’t look totally happy.  He kept glancing at Lee, who had begun muttering in his sleep.   “He’s done quite a bit of that since he came back.  Doesn’t make for very restful sleep.  I’m going to sickbay and get a sedative.  I hate to do it, but….”

“Go ahead, I’ll keep an eye on him.”

“Try not to wake him, unless it appears he’s going to do himself harm,” the CMO instructed as he left.

Harriman tried to concentrate on his notes, but Lee’s babblings became louder and more coherent.  Finally, the admiral moved his chair closer to the bed.  The dreams, if they could be called that, seemed to involve Seaview when she had sunk several years ago.  Lee felt keenly the deaths that had occurred at that time, even as he had.  This dream/nightmare proved that Lee’s feelings of guilt had not entirely gone away. 

As Lee kept calling, not only Blake’s name, but the names of others who had died, Nelson reached out to wake him.  This had to stop.  Then he remembered Doc’s admonition and dropped his hand to his lap.  Instead Harriman spoke softly, hoping to reassure Lee without waking him up. 

With a gasp, the captain fell silent.  He lay quietly for a while and the admiral began to think his strategy had worked.  Then Lee began again.  “Don’t go away, Dad.  Please, don’t go.  I didn’t mean it.  I . . . I don’t….”  As though peeling itself from a deep, dark, hidden and forgotten childhood memory, a single set of whispered words.   “….hate you.”  A pause.  “Believe me, Dad.  Please.  I don’t….”

Harriman remembered the phone call he had received after the captain’s debriefing following the Republic’s almost successful attempt to brainwash him.  It had been from Lee’s mother.  She had been worried.  Lee wouldn’t talk to her; wouldn’t tell her what had happened, except to say that he had almost killed the admiral and almost killed his crew.  Then he had said no more; had been emotionless and silent for another day before he had abruptly left.  Allison Crane had been worried about him. He had been like he was when his father had been killed in a boating accident, she said.  How old was he, Harriman had asked her.  Lee had not said much to him about his childhood, and certainly nothing about his father.  He had been nine at the time, she had told him.  And he had not cried at his father’s funeral or any time after. 

Something had caused young Lee Crane to shut away, but not totally forget some feeling, thought or action that caused guilt.  Realization hit Nelson.  Lee’s deeper feelings of personal responsibility over the deaths of any crewmember had to stem from this early incident.  The captain felt these things inside in a way that while, not debilitating, certainly were deeply internalized.  Mendon’s psycho drugs had made it much harder to deal with the old emotions.  Jamie had been right. Lee’s physical condition was the least of his problems. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t go with you, Dad,” Lee continued.  “I’m sorry I was mad at you.”  The voice was rising in its anguish.  “Then you wouldn’t have gone out alone.”

“Lee, it’s all right,” Harriman said gently.  “It’s all right.”

Again, Crane was silent, then in a very small voice he asked, “What?”

“It’s all right, Lee.  It was an accident,” Harriman said, his voice just as soft.  He didn’t know what else to do, how else he could help this guilt ridden, tortured young man.  He was beginning to get a picture of what most likely happened to Lee so long ago.  A child, angry with his parent, bursting out with things he didn’t really mean….

“But . . . but two of us….   So hard to man the boat alone. You said so….” Lee moaned.  “You’d be alive if I had come with you.”

 

 

Chapter 21
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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