Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 21

 

 

Nelson was getting an even clearer picture of what had most likely happened and he felt horror gripping his heart.  He had tried to calm Lee down and now . . . now Lee thought he was talking to his father.  And thought he was his father!  Harriman was no psychiatrist.  Lee’s face was turned toward him.  What the hell was he supposed to do, Harriman asked himself?  Almost instantly, he knew.  “No, Lee, I wouldn’t.  We would both be dead,” the admiral said softly, but meaningfully.  “It was an accident.  You shouldn’t blame yourself.” 

“But I . . . was mad at you.  You wouldn’t….”

“Lee, we all get angry at times.  Even those who love each other get angry at one another. Say things we really don’t mean.”

Lee was silent for several moments.  Then in a voice barely audible, he asked, “Then you still love me?”

Harriman would have cried if he didn’t have this role to play out.   He had never had children, but he could still imagine the pain and suffering that a young child might have with something like this.  That a child would have to carry such a burden; carry it and still rise above it….   Nelson was incredulous.   “Of course I do, Lee,” he said, his voice husky with emotion as he imagined just what the elder Crane would have said.   What else would Lee’s father most likely have said if he were here now?  “And very proud of you, too.”  And Harriman felt that his own feelings were similar.

Lee smiled softly, then he sucked in air in a sudden sobbing breath, murmuring something Harriman couldn’t understand. 

He had done all he could do.  “I have to go Lee.  But . . . but you only have to look inside you to find me.”  Where had that come from, Harriman asked himself?   Then he remembered his own father saying that to him just before he had died.  It had been just before his first command.

Lee Crane murmured something else and then turned his face to the wall.  After a moment, Nelson knew he was finally doing what he had been unable to do as a nine-year-old boy.

Almost silently, Harriman slipped out of the room.  He would not stay and watch something that was so very private.  He almost ran into Doc as he shut the door behind him. 

“Why are you leaving?” the CMO asked.  

“Jamie, believe me when I say that Lee is perfectly safe.  I just felt that he needed a few minutes of privacy,” Harriman tried to explain.

“Huh?”

“Don’t ask, because I am not going to tell you.  If Lee wants to later, it’s his prerogative,” the admiral said firmly.  Somehow, he doubted that Lee ever would. 

Doc shook his head.  “Serving on this sub has some rare benefits, Harriman.”

“What?”

“You and Lee Crane,” came the wry answer. 

Nelson smiled softly and headed down the corridor to Morton’s cabin, where Prandjit was staying.  He was greeted effusively.  The Nepalese man offered him some tea, which Harriman accepted, and a seat, which he also accepted. 

“I’m sorry I have neglected you, Mr. Prandjit.  Things have been rather busy lately.”

“I totally understand,” Prandjit answered thoughtfully.  “How is Captain Crane?”

“Recovering very well,” Nelson replied.  “In fact, I think we might be able to get that information from him this afternoon.” 

Prandjit nodded.  “I can set up everything for you.  The machine is quite easy to use.  I will also bring the captain some of my tea, now that your cook and I have come to an understanding….”

Harriman laughed as he left the cabin.  He returned to his own cabin and tapped softly.  There was no answer.  He tapped again and thought he heard a muffled something.  Nelson entered and found Crane emerging from the head, clumsily using both hands to wipe his face with a hand towel. 

“The best I can do until I can see what I’m doing,” he said lightly, laying the towel on the small sink and making his way back to the bunk. 

“Let me help you get that back on,” Harriman offered as Lee tried to reapply the bandage. 

“Thanks, Admiral.  I wish I didn’t have to wear it, but it hurt like hell when I had it off and opened my eyes,” he said resignedly as the admiral finished the job and applied the clips that would hold the bandage in place.  “How long have you been gone?”

“I just went out to stretch for a few minutes.  Bending over those blueprints can be very hard on the back.  You seemed to be sleeping well.  I didn’t wake you when I left, did I?”

Crane shook his head.  “I just wondered if you had felt . . . well, felt something different before you left.”

“Like what,” Nelson asked, not sure what Lee might be fishing for.

“Like a presence.”

Now Nelson was intrigued.  What had he felt, other than the pain of a past brought forward to the present?  Obviously Lee was referring to his pretending to be the younger man’s father.  “You referring to a ghost or something?”

“Maybe,” Lee said noncommittally.

“I did feel something, but it wasn’t unpleasant or menacing and it eventually went away.  Otherwise, I’d have never left the cabin.”

“I was also dreaming.  La’ani says I talk my head off when I sleep now.  I guess it has something to do with the psycho-whatever drugs Mendon gave me.”  Lee turned toward him expectantly.  More fishing.

Harriman chuckled.  “Oh, yes, you were, but it was mostly incomprehensible.  All I could gather was something about the time the sub sank and a little bit about your father,” Nelson said evasively.   “Someday you’ll have to tell me about him.”

Lee sighed, obviously relieved.  “I guess I should get back to sickbay,” he said, changing the subject.

“I guess you really need to get some more rest,” Nelson shot back.  “That little nap didn’t do more than tell your body that you need more.  You still look like something the cat dragged in.”

Lee laughed, this time comfortably.  “Thanks.”

“And if you don’t mind me coming and going periodically, I think you’ll be more comfortable in my cabin, rather than in sickbay.”  And private, Harriman added mentally.  There was absolutely no argument from his captain this time.  As if on cue, Doc showed up and gave his patient a cup of juice laced with a sedative.  Soon Lee was asleep again. 

 

                             ============================

 

La’ani stood next to A’ona Matua on the deck of the Seaview, watching as their countrymen disembarked into small harbor craft.   Most were only too quick to leave, having felt enclosed by the narrow corridors and small, cramped rooms with no windows.  While she preferred the open sky and sea, La’ani had felt strangely comfortable on board the submarine.  She thought A’ona Matua felt the same way.  American Samoa turned gold in the setting sun.  There had been a storm earlier in the day and the submarine had stayed out to sea until it passed.   Now they sat just outside the harbor that was too shallow to accommodate the Seaview.

As she watched, a manta-like shape glided under the Seaview and swam toward the open ocean.  It was bright yellow and certainly was not a living thing.  And yet it was alive in a strange sort of way.  The admiral, during a very brief visit, had told her of its origin and uses.  She watched, fascinated, as it surfaced several hundred feet into the harbor, briefly skimmed the water and then shot into the sky.  Within a minute it had disappeared, followed by a loud boom. 

“Guess it worked,” a familiar voice said from behind them. 

La’ani smiled her delight.  “Lee!” she cried.   Commander Morton, who smiled and greeted the ladies, accompanied him.  She had not seen Lee since the blonde-haired officer had taken her to see him and he was in absolutely no condition to see anyone at the time.  Now, two days later, Lee was wearing a uniform.  Only the bandages told of the recent past.  She was amazed at how much better he looked; then La’ani realized that she had been holding her breath.   She let it out with a soft sigh.  It had been the same when she had risked punishment to take him things that would help him feel better and when she had stayed longer to talk to him in the prison than she was allowed to.  She liked Lee Crane and enjoyed being around him.  It was something she couldn’t explain; something very deep that drew her to him.  

“You have dealt with the ghosts of your past,” A’ona Matua said, walking up to the captain and laying a hand on his arm.  “And you have done well.”

When La’ani translated, Lee looked startled, but said nothing.  The girl had no intention of asking either person to what they were referring.  “Your Flying Sub is very fast,” she said, changing the subject. 

Lee looked at her gratefully. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Commander Morton said.  “Her new engine system is going to revolutionize travel if it holds up.”

“Holds up?” La’ani asked. 

“Well, it has to be tested for longer and longer distances to make sure everything is running right.”

La’ani nodded.  A’ona Matua was saying something else to Lee, as though oblivious to the commander.  She heard but didn’t translate right away.  Commander Morton had stopped speaking, mostly out of politeness, she knew, but probably out of curiosity, as well.  Then A’ona Matua said something else that caused stabbings of alarm.  She looked at Lee and then back at the old woman, who simply nodded.  Taking a deep breath, she said, “A’ona Matua says that you now need to deal with the ghost of your present.  She says when you go to Hikeru, she and I will go with you—as is our right.”

 

Lee was speechless in shock.  Again, he wondered how she had known.  Despite what he had said to the admiral, Lee had tried to put the issue out of his mind during the past day.  Part of him did want to go back and beat the crap out of Bomar and Mendon—if they were still there.  Another part of him was scared to death—not only of returning to his personal house of horror, but that when he got there he wouldn’t be able to confront them much less do anything to them. 

An angry voice broke through his reverie.  “Are you all nuts?” Chip cried.  “Lee, surely you can’t be considering this after what you’ve been through?”

Lee sighed.  “The admiral was the first to suggest it.  I . . . I’ve been thinking about it.”

“Then you’re nuts, too,” the XO said fervently.  “And the admiral should have known better than to even ask.”

Lee didn’t have to see Chip’s face to know how angry he was, it was palpable in the air as well as in the tone of his voice.   “Chip, there are reasons why I will probably go.  What are those reasons? Lee asked himself.  Did he have to walk back into that prison, step back on that island?   Couldn’t someone else deal with Mendon and Bomar?  Despite what he had said, the admiral would be able to recognize Mendon.  Perhaps it was the fall off, get back on thing.    Perhaps it was more personal than that.  Maybe it was the idea that if he asked someone else to finish his battles for him now, he might find it easier in the future to avoid doing what he needed to do.  Easier to send others into harm’s way.  Lee mentally shook himself.  No, he could never do that and he wasn’t going to start now.

“I’m going with the admiral, Chip,” he said decisively.  “If he believes I’m needed, then I’m going.”

“Lee,” Chip’s voice sounded frustrated and angry, but it was less strident than before.  “Less than forty-eight hours ago you were more dead than alive.  You . . . you aren’t physically able.”

On a purely intellectual level, Lee knew his XO was correct, but he felt anger rising along with a frustration that more than matched Chip’s.   He turned in the direction of Chip’s voice and addressed him, struggling to keep his anger under minimal control.  “What am I supposed to do, Commander?  Feel my way up and down Seaview’s corridors, waiting and hoping that someone else might find the antidote for this?” he demanded, pointing to his eyes.  “Feeling helpless?  Wondering if this will be my last voyage on this boat?  On any ship?”     The frustration increased, boiled over.  “What the hell did you do, Chip?”  He took a deep breath.  “I’m going, not because I expect to be able to contribute anything, because Lord knows I’m the far side of useless.  I’m going because if I don’t go, if I don’t do something, then I’ll end up putting on the biggest pity party of the century.  And I refuse to do that.”  He stopped and found that he was practically panting.  While he felt much closer to normal, Lee realized that it wouldn’t take much to use up the little reserves of energy he had.  He softly cursed Mendon as he had so many times in the past two plus weeks.  It didn’t make him feel any better than it had any of those times, either. 

“I’m going below,” he growled.  Then he paused.  The only sound was the water slapping against the hull of the Seaview and seabirds overhead.    He wasn't sure of the direction of the conning tower hatch.

“Directly in front of you, Captain,” Chip said softly.

“Thank you,” said Lee curtly. 

“And the hatch is open,” his friend added. 

 

 

Chapter 22
Foam on the Large Wave Prologue
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Contents
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