Foam on the Large Wave

 

(Fisi 'o e nauaoam)

 

 

 

Chapter 26

 

 

“What is it?” the admiral asked, his voice filled with concern.

“Mendon.  Car rental!  He’s going to drive the contagion to NIMR.”

“What?”

“Car rental, Admiral.  Where’s the car rental?”  His voice rose in his anxiety, but he didn’t care.

“That makes perfect sense,” Nelson said and guided Lee through the airport, down to the baggage area where there were more people, although still less than normal.  Apparently the entire airport was finally being evacuated.  If Mendon left with the rest of the crowd, he would be free to spread his terrible destruction. 

Suddenly Lee stopped in his tracks.  People jostled him, some muttering deprecating remarks, some apologetic.  He ignored them all.   Something in the air.  Some kind of smell.  It was familiar, but what?  Cologne.  Mendon’s cologne.  He remembered and was suddenly in the laboratory again.  No!!  The airport terminal.  Mendon was here!  He had gotten past the agents at the in-bound flight gates.  And he was now leaving with the rest of the crowd.  But Mendon was here!!   Reaching up, Lee jerked off the bandage.  His eyes instantly began to burn and water, were still unfocussed, but regardless, he saw Mendon walking rapidly away, a fuzzy apparition of death with a briefcase held tightly under one arm.  Oh, he looked taller, darker, heavier, but Lee would have been able to pick the scientist out anywhere, through any disguise. 

With his breath held tight in his chest, Lee started off after his tormenter.  “Cover me, Admiral.”  He broke into a run, shoving the few remaining people right and left.  Anger exploded in his mind and heart.  Finally he had the chance to get to his tormenter.  His left hand gave messages of pain and he realized that he was flexing it into a tight fist.  Good!  It could do that now.  Good….

Mendon looked over his shoulder and cried out sharply.  Lee bore him to the ground in a bone rattling tackle, unmindful of the sharp pain in his right wrist.  He was unmindful of anything except the man beneath him.  Lee suddenly gasped in shock at the mental picture that flashed in his mind.  Mendon had been at his brainwashing more than three years ago.  He had been one of his tormenters then, although only in the background.

“Get the case, Admiral!”   He remembered the real reason for his being here even through the red haze of his anger, pain and hatred.  Lee shoved his splinted wrist against Mendon’s throat and pushed. 

“Help me!” screamed Mendon before the pressure forced the cry into a croaking sound.  Hands tried to tear Lee away from his quarry, but he was now like one demon-possessed.  He could not, would not let go of Mendon.

“Lee, let the courts….”

“He’s killing him!” came another voice.  Shouts of panic and screams of fear, but Lee ignored them all.  All the frustration, the helplessness, sickness, pain and suffering were demanding their retribution.  They would not be denied. 

“No!” the admiral shouted.   Crane didn’t have any idea if the shout was for him or for those trying to pull him away from Mendon, but he didn’t care.  These were remote bothers, things to be ignored as Lee pushed harder.  Physical pain was also ignored.  All he could see was the opportunity to exorcise his personal demon.  Kill Mendon.

“Lee!” the admiral shouted, almost in his ear.  “Not this way!  Let him sit in a cell. Let him feel and think about what he did to you!”

What? Lee thought.  He saw that sometime during all of this, he had transferred his grip to his left hand and was choking the life out of Mendon.  His fingers seemed to have gained strength and he continued to squeeze.

“Lee,” the admiral said more softly. 

Crane felt a hard knot in his chest begin to unravel slightly.  But Mendon deserves death! a cold voice told him.   Not this way.  His hand continued to press against Mendon’s throat even as hate warred with logic.  Yes, let him rot….  Hell, no, kill him now. 

He must have said that last out loud, because the few people left in the area were screaming, calling for help. 

“Lee.”  The admiral was gripping his shoulder and trying to pull him away.

“Yes,” he said in automatic response, without really acknowledging.   With a great deal of satisfaction, he saw the terror in Mendon’s eyes, the blue cast to his lips.   Lee saw that the fugitive had released the briefcase, which he had kept clutched tightly to his chest.  The admiral had it.  The admiral had said something about letting Mendon rot?   Without loosening his grip, he gazed deeply into Mendon’s eyes.  “Do you remember me saying I’d follow you to hell?”  He smiled his satisfaction.   The admiral’s hand fell away.  “I found you, Mendon.  I found you, and I’ll see you in court, you son of a….”

Everything broke apart in an explosion of pain and blackness. 

 

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

 

Harriman didn’t even have time to shout a warning as one airport security man jerked him aside and another rushed up and blindsided Lee, bearing him hard against a large concrete pillar.  Mendon had apparently been more aware, because he leaped to his feet.  The scientist took in the fact that the admiral had a tight grasp of the briefcase, so he turned and began to flee toward the nearest exit. 

“He’s a bioterrorist!” Harriman shouted.  “That man must be stopped!” 

Almost before the words were out of his mouth, two men in plain clothes grabbed Mendon and threw him to the floor.

“Get this building evacuated—now!” Nelson shouted.  “He could be carrying more biological agents in his clothes.”

That seemed to mobilize the airport security.  Civilians were quickly evacuated from the building without their luggage, even as the two men held Mendon in a tight grip.  With the suitcase tightly gripped in one hand, Harriman knelt down beside Lee, who lay still on the hard floor.  The admiral felt for a pulse and quickly found one.  He sighed in relief, but tensed again when he felt a lump forming on the side of Crane’s head and saw blood on his fingers when he drew his hand away. 

“Admiral Nelson?”

Harriman looked up.  He assumed this new person was yet another plain-clothes federal agent.  “FBI?” he asked.

The agent nodded and showed his identification.  “We have a doctor coming to take care of your captain."  Nelson nodded, got up, looked again at Lee and figured he’d be all right for a moment.  He strode over to the still struggling Mendon.  “I think you may ultimately wish Captain Crane had followed through on his impulses,” Harriman hissed.  “ID’s, gentlemen?” he asked the two men holding the scientist.    The men each reached in their jackets with one hand and pulled out identification.  Nelson nodded.  “He might have something concealed.”

They nodded indulgently and began to take Mendon from the terminal.  Several LA policemen had shown up by that time.

“Where are you taking him?” Nelson asked, thinking that hell would be too good.

“Police station for now and then to a more secure federal holding, Admiral,” one of the agents told him. 

Harriman sighed.  As soon as he could, he would call Washington.  This man should really be in a more secure location now, not later.   He returned to Lee’s side.  A dark-haired, middle-aged woman approached.  “I am Dr. Dorene Davis.  What happened?”   She knelt down by Crane’s side, even as Harriman began explaining briefly the recent events. 

 

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

 

Lee woke to muted talk and soft laughter.  He was in a hospital bed.  His eyes were bandaged.  Reaching back into his memory, he tried to figure out how in the world he had gotten to a hospital, but he had no clues.   The last thing he remembered was Mendon.  “Mendon!!” he cried out.

The voices grew silent. 

“Lee,” the admiral said from near his bedside. Chip echoed him.   “How are you feeling?” Nelson asked.

“Admiral, uh, what about Mendon?  Is he….?”

“Indeed he is, thanks to your keen . . . whatever it was,” Nelson replied.  “That is the journalistic mystery of the day.”  He chuckled softly. 

“Huh?” Lee asked, thoroughly confused. 

“First of all, Mendon is being held under high security, courtesy of the FBI.  It would seem that LA-X is trying to backpedal from their lack of, um, rapid response to the whole bio-terrorist episode,” explained Nelson. 

“And the captain of the Seaview was the hero of the hour who pulled their bureaucratic butts from the fiasco that could have been,” added Morton, his voice filled with relieved laughter.  “By the way, the admiral asked a question, I think.”

Lee felt as though he was on a roller coaster of confusion.  “What happened at the airport?   I mean after I caught Mendon?”

“You mean after you almost killed the scum?” Chip asked.  “To be perfectly honest, Lee, you would have been doing the world a great favor if you had followed through.”

Lee remembered the white-hot anger of the moment, and while he knew the admiral had been right to try and stop him, he didn’t regret his actions, not in the least.  If Mendon was in front of him now?  He felt his fingers flexing again.  Then he noted the more rigid splint on his right arm. 

The admiral took up the story.  “Apparently, one of the airport security men thought you had gone berserk, attacked a passenger and figured the only way to remedy the situation was to play linebacker and tackle you.  He slammed you pretty hard.  Added a mild concussion to the mix.”

“He wasn’t far off,” Lee said with a feral smile.  “I guess I really lost it.”

“But by that time the FBI had responded and Mendon didn’t make it another ten feet,” Nelson continued.  “And also by this time, the local network affiliates had pounced.  The ONI has been having six kinds of fits trying to maintain some semblance of anonymity for you.”

Lee shrugged.  It was at times like these that a loss of usefulness to the ONI would be welcome.  “To hell with ONI.”

Nelson chuckled.  “They were only partially successful.  The news feeds still credit you with the save, but ONI has limited the amount of background and details allowed out.  And they have left word that you are not to give interviews.”

Lee bristled.  “Oh?” he said caustically.  “The only reason I would consent to an interview would be to irritate ONI; especially after what they did to me.  In fact….”  He grinned conspiratorially, “Which station did you say?”

Nelson chuckled.  “I don’t blame you in the least, Lee,” the admiral said.  “You saved a lot of lives and deserve some recognition for it.”

“Well, I’m a little camera shy, so maybe I’ll let ONI off the hook,” Crane said hesitantly.  “Maybe.”  Then he thought again about what they had put him through.  “That nice looking reporter on KXLA still around?”

Chip laughed uproariously. 

“Well, either way, ONI isn’t off the hook, lad.  I have already requested a Naval review board of inquiry into the planning and execution of this mission.  What they did was unconscionable,” Nelson said heatedly.  “By the way, not to change the subject, but how did you know Mendon was so close?”

“His cologne.  Very distinctive,” Lee replied.  “Now I have a question.”  There was expectant silence.  “What about the eyes?  Found the counter-agent for that one?”   There was another silence, an awkward one, which told Lee the answer. 

“No, but the oculist who’s working with Doc believes that he has figured out how to stop your body from reproducing the chemical that is preventing your eyes from working properly.  From there, he believes that it will only be a short time for them to heal and return to normal,” the admiral explained. 

Lee knew that was excellent news, but he wouldn’t rejoice until it actually happened.  He nodded.  “Thanks.  And what can I do to get out of here?”  Again, the two men laughed.  Lee frowned.  It was a perfectly viable question.

“We’ll let Doc deal with that one,” Nelson said. 

“I’m surprised that he’s not in here now, hovering like a mother hen,” Lee replied sarcastically.

“He’s been pretty busy with that biological agent that Mendon tried to release.  And with the chemical agent he used on you,” Nelson said patiently.  “He’s been in and out.”  The admiral chuckled.  “But I think that this time, he’s very adamant about you spending quality time sleeping and relaxing.”

Chip snorted.  “I believe his exact words were, ‘The captain’s going to take a break from saving the world if I have to sedate him!’”

Lee smiled, then he remembered something else.  “La’ani?  And Na’alu?”

“I will let La’ani tell you herself,” the admiral said.  “She’s been waiting for you to wake up and is just outside.”

“I’ll get her,” Chip offered. 

“We both will,” Nelson said firmly.  The two men left and Lee was left with his thoughts for a moment before the door opened again. 

“Lee?  How are you feeling?  It seemed like such a long time before they would tell me anything.” 

He felt her light touch on his left hand and realized that only a light gauze wrapping remained.   Her fingers seemed to caress without moving and he felt his mood lighten.  “Better.  How long has it been?   Since the airport, I mean?”   He had meant to ask the admiral or Chip.

“It has been over two days.”

Lee whistled.  “Doc was serious.”  Her fingers still lay lightly on his arm.  “How’s Na’alu?”

“He is feeling ashamed at having been fooled by Mendon, but otherwise he’s ready to go home.”

“And when is that?” he asked, feeling sad, knowing that most likely she would be going home rather soon.

“Tomorrow morning.”  She, too, sounded sad. 

“I’ll miss you, La’ani.”  And he realized that he would.  He would have liked to show her around the Institute, Santa Barbara, taken her….    Then Lee stopped in mid-thought.  Was he thinking of her as a young friend, or like he would one of his nieces or Meeka, the Tirean girl he had partial custody of?  He realized that his feelings were beyond that and he berated himself.  She was practically young enough to be his child, not his girlfriend.   He could be taken into custody for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

“I will miss you, too, Lee,” she said, her touch still light on his arm.  “But you know you will always be welcome on Hikeru.”

“Thanks.  Someday, I would actually like to come and ‘see’ your home.”

She laughed softly and that, too, lightened his heart.  Then suddenly her lips were on his, in a kiss that was definitely more than that of a child to a parent or a big brother.  And before he could stop himself, Lee responded in kind, his own lips tasting the sweetness of her affection. His fingers caressed the back of her neck, filtered through the long, dark hair. Too soon she pulled away and he was left with only the wonder of her presence. 

“Good-bye, Lee.  Please, come and visit.”

He could only nod at first, then he spoke.  “I will.”  But he knew that, like his profession to want to see her home, it was most likely a hollow promise.  “And please thank A’ona Matua for me.”  

“I will.”   And then she was gone.

 

 

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