Me That Man
Morton, all watchstanders are present and accounted for.
Second dogwatch is securing
and I’m heading out on leave.
See you in a week, sir,” Chief Jones added.
Morton pressed the key on his intercom.
“Acknowledged, Chief. Did
Kenyon get that burner replaced in the after galley?”
sir, everything’s okay in there now.”
hit the button again. “Thanks
for everything you did this week, Chief Jones.
I know how you hustled to get the exercise done on time. Pass
along a ‘well done’ to the reactor room crew for me, please.”
those slackers know better than to mess around with me breathing down
their necks. But I gotta
admit they did a good job. I’ll
be sure to pass it
you, Chief. Enjoy your
heavy sigh filtered over the intercom.
“The mother-in-law’s coming for her annual visit and bringing
a dozen relatives with her. I’d
rather be on the boat, sir,” Jones growled somewhat
forlornly in his familiar voice.
grinned. He imagined Seaview
would seem quiet compared to the chief’s large family.
“We’ll survive without you for a week, Curley.
Have a good trip.”
Mr. Morton. You should head
home, too, sir. G’night.”
Jones clicked the mic twice to close the conversation.
had been a long day.
Chip studied the mound of paperwork on his desk and rubbed his
hand over his face, eyes blinking tiredly.
He was convinced the pages multiplied when he wasn’t looking.
The file on the top was the most important: the monthly report to
the Atomic Energy Commission. Everything
had to be in the proper format, then checked and double-checked.
There was no room for error.
And since he hadn’t gotten to it earlier in the day, that meant
staying on after the end of the regular workweek to double-check that
every ‘t’ was crossed and every ‘i’ dotted.
It was either work on it tonight or take it home and work on it
tomorrow. He didn’t want
to work on it tomorrow. Chip
sighed and scratched his head with his pen, causing that section of
blond hair to stand up straight. It
shouldn’t take more than an hour, tops.
He picked up the report and began reading it.
better man on Seaview to do
this work. “Squared
away” were among the first words used in Chip’s Fitreps to describe
him. After that came “a
true leader and a dedicated professional.”
It was his job as executive officer to ensure the boat operated
at top efficiency. The
fitness of the men for duty was also his responsibility.
He left the mechanics of that to their supervisors, but the crew
knew that the XO expected the best out of them.
Above all, he made sure that the captain of the Seaview
was free to concentrate on the mission.
month’s test had come close to being late.
The chief engineer was
recovering from an emergency appendectomy
with his assistant on Reserve duty, regular Plan of the Day orders were out of the question.
The crew had pulled together, enlisted and officer alike, seeing
to it that the checks were
done and the reactor assessment finished.
Angie had quickly typed the report up and here it was, on his
desk. He bent to it again,
turning over another page.
could remember a time when he wasn’t giving orders but taking them,
shaking in his corfams, scared to death he’d do something that
wasn’t right. He’d
always striven to be the best officer he could be.
That’s what counted, what got you promoted, got you the
assignments and duty stations you wanted.
He liked to think that’s what had gotten him on Seaview.
Actually, he knew that it had gotten him to Seaview.
Nelson had been very clear on that point.
They’d had the discussion in Chip’s office at the Pentagon,
where he was working in the Submarine Warfare Division.
He had been pleasantly surprised to hear that the admiral had
been following his career and keeping track of his progress.
A boring day had brightened up considerably when Nelson explained
the reason for his unexpected visit -- he wanted Chip on the Seaview.
had seen her, under construction in a shipway normally reserved for
carriers. Security had been
too tight to wrangle a visit. While
Nelson made his proposal Chip had a fleeting vision of commanding the
giant submarine but Nelson
had put him straight before the
dream had time to take hold. The
job of executive officer was his, second to John Phillips, who was
coming over from COMSUBLANT. All
Chip had to do was say the word.
had given him a weekend to think it over, and Chip used every minutes of
the 48 hours. He knew he was
in line for his own boat and wouldn’t be able to do that moving over
to the Reserves. In the end,
however, being a plank owner on something like Seaview
was a challenge Chip couldn’t pass up.
Phillips wasn’t too far from retirement; barring some
unforeseen circumstance the job would be open soon enough.
No one could have anticipated the captain’s death only a couple
of months after the boat’s commissioning.
For another long moment, the dream had been alive again, but
his anticipation was short lived. Disappointment
was his first reaction, a reaction he’d buried deep inside himself.
That had quickly dissipated when he’d been informed of the new
commanding officer's identity. The
finest sub in the world
now had the finest skipper in
though, when the work went wrong and there were things happening on the
boat that defied description and his
captain and friend, Lee Crane,
had disappeared to Lord knows where for ONI, then, just then, it was
second-guessing time. This
week had been particularly trying, with the AEC report due, the engineer
missing in action and Lee flying back in from… somewhere and probably in pieces again. If
at times like this, he questioned why he put himself through all the
stress, he was careful to keep it from Admiral Nelson and the rest of
the crew. At least with the
certifications done and the file on his desk he
could breathe easier for another day.
hour passed quickly. The
report, accompanying charts and technical data were complete and
correct. He would put the
file into the mail on Monday knowing that it was free of errors.
Most importantly, the reactor on Seaview
was in perfect condition. Nuclear
power was still a scary subject for many.
Hell, Seaview was still
a controversial subject. It
was his job to ensure that no one, Capitol Hill, Pentagon, the press --
especially the press, could find cause for complaint.
was putting the pages in an envelope when the papers left on the desk
ruffled as though a breeze had swept through the cabin.
Chip raised his startled
eyes into the eyes of Galené, the Goddess of Calm Seas.
are you doing here?” he scowled, and then his eyebrows went up and
he started to rise. “Has
something happened to the admiral?”
woman, perched on his desk, shook her head and indicated he should remain seated.
“No, no, be assured on that point.
And before you ask, Lee hasn’t gotten himself in any trouble,
either. He’s sitting on
the deck at his apartment, drinking a beer and enjoying life.
Like you should be. Instead,
you’re still working.” The
words had a hint of reproach in them.
You’re not supposed to be here unless something is wrong--”
up from the desk Chip crossed to the door in three swift strides,
grabbed the doorknob and tugged. Nothing
happened. He pulled again,
and then stopped in frustration, realizing how ridiculous he must look.
are so predictable, Commander. Of
course I’ve locked it.”
took a few deep breaths, straightened his tie, and looked at Galené
again. She was sitting on
the desktop, legs crossed. Long,
slim legs. The tops were
hidden underneath the blue chiton she wore, the clingy fabric doing
little to hide the body underneath.
Her hair, the color of foamy waves was remarkably still for a
change, tucked behind her ears and hanging far down her back.
It occurred to him that it was impossible that anyone could
possess such a head of hair, and realized that even in this one little
thing, she was set apart from mere humans.
The face was uniquely attractive; pale celadon skin covering
high, classically rounded cheekbones, the sharply pointed chin, and
always the mesmerizing eyes, tipped at the corners.
Those same silver eyes were twinkling at him, the laughter in
them in concert with the smile on her strawberry-red lips.
There was an unmistakable authority behind that gaze, an
assumption that any setting or situation would shape itself to her
command. He was not
attracted to her; she was too otherworldly for him, far beyond what he
considered normal and therefore safe.
Still, he was disconcerted to see that her smile held a touch of
amusement. She was aware of the effect her appearance was having
upon him and was enjoying it.
in turn, studied him. Had he
always been this serious? Galené
found herself wondering if once
he had been an ordinary
little boy, growing up happy and carefree, words like
‘responsibility’ and ‘obligation’ never entering his thoughts.
Perhaps he had caught sight of a ship on an ocean somewhere and
imagined himself on it someday. Whatever
the cause, eventually the idea had transformed into a goal.
The essence of his character demanded that wanting something
so much meant dedication
so profound it became all consuming.
Not a problem, not a burden, but his duty.
Was the weight of that dedication sometimes too much?
was holding himself very erect, staring suspiciously at her.
His mouth was set tight, the strong, square jaw pulled slightly
downward. She had seen that
mouth on other occasions open in a radiant, heart-stopping smile.
Right now his tanned skin was darkening, the expression on his
face serious and a trifle angry. He
did have beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair with sunny highlights that
spoke of the outdoors, the hair shorter now from a recent haircut.
A healthy metabolism helped to keep him slim, firm muscles hidden
under the uniform shirt. He
was tall, carried himself very well, and would be a good catch for any
woman. Even so, Galené knew Seaview
had him in her thrall, a possessive mistress to all the men of this
to what do I owe the honor
of this visit?”
tilted her head and looked at him sideways, lips pursed.
Narrowed eyes stared back, managing to look down his long, finely
shaped nose at her. Even in
his present mood, suspicious and annoyed, he seemed to breathe life in
at every pore. Chip Morton,
prepared for battle.
have come to know since my first time on Seaview
that you don’t like me very much, Mr. Morton.
Your manner and your words revealed that on several occasions.”
Using his voice, she said, “There's
something different there, Lee. Something
strange, if you ask me.” Laughing
at the look on his face, Galené put her hands behind her on the
desktop and leaned back. “You
were right, in your own way. And
now I’d like to know why my presence seems to bother you so much.”
he could stop himself he colored, skin flushing like a crimson tide. What
he felt or didn’t feel was something he liked to keep to himself.
Certainly, he did not intend to share his opinions and feelings
That she was as real as an ethereal being could be, he had no
doubt; at the same time he was gripped by the idea her presence was some
twisted bit of his imagination, that soon he would awake and know that
this was after all, just a dream. His
particular reality didn’t include as part of its scenario having the
admiral smitten by this woman, nor Lee tolerant of her efforts to
safeguard the Seaview and its
crew. Admiral Nelson’s
private life was his business. But
the submarine -- that was the XO’s.
And how he went about it was none of her business.
don’t have time for this, it’s late and I’m tired and I’d like
to go home.” He jerked a
thumb over his shoulder at the door.
I knew this wouldn’t be easy,” Galené murmured, blowing air from
her cheeks and bringing her gaze
to concentrate on the mortal before her.
“I shouldn’t be here; I should
be in Cornwall, dealing with a situation.
There, it’s emmets causing trouble.
Here, it’s you,” she said wryly.
free to leave any time,” he responded, matching her mocking tone.
“Am I supposed to know what an emmet is?”
sorry! Emmet is an old
Celtish word for ant. It’s
used to describe the hordes of tourists that descend upon Cornwall in
the summer. In this case, we
have a few that aren’t in a holiday mood.
Security of the realm and all that.
But first -- a little stopover in Santa Barbara.
I thought I’d see what I’d done to make Seaview’s
executive officer dislike me so.”
nothing going on around here that needs your intervention.
So how about you continue to your destination, unlocking my door before you go!”
your door lock
is jammed. I’ve just taken
advantage of the situation. I’ll
get it unlocked for you. All
in good time.”
interview, if that was what it was, had begun badly. Chip had been
on the defensive from the start. He
looked full at her then. A
fierce, assessing stare that
withered many an errant sailor but had no effect on this unwanted guest.
his eyes steadily with what she hoped was reassurance she hopped off the
desk and began a circuit of the cabin.
The large space befitted his status aboard.
Above the bed -- covered by a Naval Academy monogrammed blanket
-- was a small bookshelf. She
looked quickly at the spines -- naval engineering titles and leadership
books next to Thunder Below and The Cruel Sea. Most
interesting were the mysteries stuck in amongst the others; apparently,
he was a fan of Raymond Chandler and Ed McBain.
paused at the desktop, her eyes taking in the objects in turn.
Everything -- folders, penholder, “in” and “out” box --
was neatly placed, corners squared.
It was a running joke throughout the crew that no matter how hard
they tried the guys doing field day could never get his desk exactly to
his specifications. They
were convinced he straightened it himself after the cleaning crew had
come and gone.
delicately, as if she was performing surgery, she bent over the
penholder and turned it until it was sitting ninety degrees to its
original position. Disturbing
the folders came next. Finally,
as a fitting touch, the stapler was shifted to the opposite corner of
the desk. Only then did she
straighten up, giving him a daring look and turning her back to study
the documents on the bulkhead behind the chair.
eyes swept the line of frames, each spaced exactly apart. She
was aware that he had silently approached the desk while she carried on
with her perusal.
diploma, L. Y. Spear Award, Naval Postgraduate School....”
She stopped, her brow furrowing, and bent in to look closer.
“All copies! Just
as I thought, you are so predictable, Commander.
The originals are in a safety deposit box somewhere, aren’t
they?” Pausing, she looked
down, turning inward. “Yes,
they are. Santa Barbara
National Bank. Safe.
Like your emotions and feelings.”
turned back to the desk, and began chuckling.
Everything was in its original place.
She looked into his watchful,
never get the best of me, Commander.”
“Why should I need to?”
“Oh, the needs are there, Commander.
A need to carry out your duties to the best of your ability.
A need to organize and manage.
Fine attributes all.”
held up a shapely hand tipped with bright red fingernails, and began
ticking things off.
Cool under pressure.” She
paused as her face assumed a thoughtful
expression as his personality
came into sharper focus for her and she considered him afresh.
“Lieutenant Commander Morton
worries that something will happen that he won’t be able to control.
It bothers him that he can’t be on top of everything every
moment of every day. Has the
captain’s back at all times, or as near as he can get and
considers ONI a curse upon his
friend's life. He
is single-minded about the boat and the men aboard her.
He conceals this intensity as much as possible.
He does the same with his excellent sense of humor.
Instead, his seriousness extends to grave attendance upon his
grief,” Chip growled, hiding his embarrassment behind sneering words.
“You writing my obituary or
nominating me for the Nobel Prize? Is
this the kind of stuff they teach you in goddess school?"
tossed her head, sending the waves of hair flying.
“No need to be sarcastic. I’m
just giving you the recognition you so richly deserve.”
shook his head violently, lips pressed close together.
“Is that right? I
don’t need your kind of attention.
I am perfectly at ease with my life. What
I know about myself is quite sufficient, thank you.”
stiffened and glared warningly
at him. “I would
never presume to bother you, Commander, when it wasn’t necessary.”
Storm clouds rose
in her eyes. “However,
anything that threatens the equilibrium aboard Seaview
bothers me. I’ve sensed
this week has been especially trying.
The AEC report came close to being late this month but
the men came through. You
didn’t really expect anything else, nor would you have settled for
Galené came close and
looked at him speculatively. “You’ve
handpicked many of these men, Mr. Morton, officers and enlisted, and you
trust in their abilities. Still,
you fret. Do you not know that they would
never let you down or disappoint you?”
this is too much. I’d like
to get home before midnight,
and my coach turns into a
silenced him with a withering glance.
Chip swallowed hard.
This sort of introspection was making him uncomfortable.
He did not appreciate her intrusion into his private feelings and
wanted to end this conversation but saw only her steely determination to
force some answer from him.
Sighing, he said, “Fine, if it will satisfy you and get me out of here, I trust in the men
They do what is asked of them without complaint.
They haven’t let me down yet, I’ll agree with you about
that enough?” The words
were bit off. Her
questioning was getting exasperating now.
put her hand to her chin, her face assuming a thinking expression.
There was something here she was missing, something she
couldn’t put her finger on, the reason why he was so ill at ease
around her. What could she
say to make them both understand?
had studied the men aboard Seaview,
the better to appreciate the responsibility she’d assumed.
Invisible, she had gone among them and listened as they went
about their duties. There
was a little grumbling and grousing, but on the whole, this was a happy
crew. Perhaps it was time to
share some of what she’d found out with him.
know the men would lay down their lives for Captain Crane and
Admiral Nelson if they should need to, all the while retaining strong
expectations that one or
the other will find a way out of whatever predicament was at hand, and
all will be well.”
“That's just as it should be.
The men trust in their strong leadership,” Chip asserted.
don't you include yourself, Commander?”
Chip straightened up, refusing to be intimidated by
“I would hope that Admiral Nelson and Captain Crane
know they can always rely on me. I
wouldn't be here otherwise.”
“And the men? Do
you believe they trust in you and your leadership?”
He shifted uneasily but answered clearly.
“Yes. This is a
good crew who do their duty without exception.”
regarded him solemnly, hands on hips. So
far the crew of the Seaview
had been lucky, their troubles overcome by
the bravery of their officers and some little help from her.
This man would never shy
away from danger, whatever the cost.
She mentally shook the fear away that such a thought conveyed,
and the twinkle came back into her eyes.
“Oh, Mr. Morton, your crew would
die for you, and there would be no hesitation.
If you gave the word, they would plunge right in.
That is how they regard you.
You hope for their
respect and have it unconditionally but with so much more!”
saw the look of disbelief on
you not believe me? I
inflate men’s egos only when it’s necessary, Commander.”
She laid a slender hand lightly on his arm.
“Please accept what I am telling you, Chip.
Lee and Admiral Nelson also know your value. They
have different ways of showing it, but it’s there.
Treasure this, for you
have earned it.”
face as he digested this information confirmed her good opinion.
She hadn’t meant to stay long but
the longer she was here, watching him, taking his measure, the more
avenues of understanding opened. Harry
had her heart and devotion;
Lee her dedication and
protection, but this man
also commanded attention.
Accepting she had pushed him far enough this evening,
she smiled brightly. “Now,
would you like to be that omnipotent being that the men of the Seaview
think you are?” When all
the answer he could give
was just a raised eyebrow, Galené laughed.
“Very good. Let’s
take a stroll down to Engineering. I
think you might find something very interesting behind the environmental
control panel.” She
indicated the cabin door. “After
you, Commander.” Moving to
face him, she faded from sight. “Come
along, dear sir. You’ve
got something to make right.”
tried the door. It opened
silently to his touch. Sighing
deeply, he debated for a moment on the merits of her statement and then
started toward Engineering. She
had never steered them wrong about Seaview
as far as he knew. He
would go on a little trust this time. As
to the rest -- he hoped that his face hadn’t revealed too much how her
words had touched him.
made sure the passageway was empty and then said aloud, “What am I
soft breeze wafted around his shoulders, accompanied by the whisper of a
voice in his ear. “I was
correct earlier when I said there was nothing wrong with Seaview.
However, things break when you least expect them, as you
know. A problem has
developed with the air purification system that is going to require a
bit of attention. Go along,
and you will see. Open up
the panel housing the compressor circuits.”
had this kind of thing happen before,” Chip said suspiciously.
“In the Control Room... I
saw the indicator acting up before the alarm sounded.*
Did you have anything to do with that?”
with the failure. With you
noticing it, yes. You would
have seen it in due course, I
just alerted you a tad sooner.”
was the duty electrician that evening.
It took a second for him to register who had just walked into
Engineering, but when he did, he shot up from the desk.
Morton! Sorry, sir, I was
just going over the log....”
ease, Santiago. Open up
environmental -- I want you to check on the C-7 circuit.”
sir. Any particular
An invisible goddess
is telling me there’s a reason. Somehow,
I don’t think you’d believe me if
I told you that.
a feeling. Just want to make
sure the evaporators for that section are at 100 percent.”
rating, not expecting to find anything, casually placed the leads from
the multimeter on the circuit Chip had zeroed in on.
The indicator barely moved. Frowning,
he confirmed the connection and tried the instrument again.
there’s hardly any juice showing at all.”
I need to pull the control relay for the oxygen generator.
The carbon through sensor might be going bad.
It won’t take long, not more than an hour or two.”
Santiago’s eyes were wide with wonder.
“How did you know, Mr. Morton?”
he asked in hushed tones, eyes wide, marveling at how calm and
collected the XO looked. Damn,
he’d just pointed out an invisible problem!
Wait until the guys got a load of this!
“Just what we’da
needed, the a/c going out on that long cruise to Hawaii next week!”
the question, Chip said, “This work has top priority, Santiago.
I’ll advise the duty officer.
You take care of the power shutdown.
Get in any help you need.”
was still staring at him, eyes wide open.
Chip thought that if he had spouted wings and flown across the
room the young petty officer would have considered it a normal
you planning on getting this done sometime this century?”
sir!” The man came awake,
fastening back the panel door and reaching for the circuit chart kept
inside. “I’ll get on it
right away! Thanks for the
heads-up, Mr. Morton! The
first class would have skinned my hide if this had failed while we were
in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Everything that goes wrong is always my fault,” he muttered
under his breath.
was that, Santiago?”
sir, just talking to myself.”
hid a grin. “This is
definitely not your fault, Santiago.
I’ll make sure that Quincy knows that.
You just take care of the work.”
face lit up with pleasure. “You
got it, sir!” He made a
quick exit into the tools locker.
in the passageway, Chip felt an invisible hand on his shoulder.
story will be all over the boat by the morning.”
it was the idea that it seemed like smoke and mirrors.
It wasn’t, of course; a real problem had been discovered, a
problem that would have caused a few uncomfortable hours of high
temperatures while the system was repaired.
There was just something about it that didn’t sit well.
He had never been interested in drawing attention to himself in
such a fashion. The words
came out, harsher then he intended.
got any more tricks up your sleeve for fixing things?
Or maybe I should just head on home and leave you to discover
anything else that might be wrong.”
found himself being drawn into an empty storeroom, the door closing
under her invisible touch. Her
form slowly became solid as she floated in front of him, strands of her
hair flowing across his shoulders. He
expected anger, but her voice was soft when she finally spoke.
not here to somehow take away your job, Mr. Morton.”
was clear from his expression that the words had hit home.
Here, then, was the crux of the problem.
How had she not realized it before?
Too caught up in the novelty of being guardian to a giant
submarine to see that the feelings of the people aboard her mattered just
as much. Galené
chided herself for her blindness.
have no wish to replace or weaken your position.
That would be impossible in itself; your work ethic is known to
everybody. But sometimes,
it’s not a bad idea having the men see you
as infallible, capable of taking care of anything that comes up.
Tonight will have
enhanced your reputation to near legend.
Is that such a bad thing?
Being a god has its advantages, Commander.”
mouth flinched up at the corners, and she knew their relationship had changed.
man was not easy but he was worth the extra effort it took to know him.
must leave now.
Do please go home or even better, go see Lee. He’s
got cold beer in the fridge and stories to tell.”
scowled, but there was no anger behind it.
“What if I don’t want to hear them this time?”
will. He’s made it back
again, and nary a scratch. And
you’ll be happy without letting him know, like always.”
was suddenly translucent, the door of the storeroom visible through her
body, her hair curling up and down in wild swoops and circles.
“I think I understand
you better now which can only be to the good.
Harry chose well as always. Till
we meet again, Commander, stay
Her voice faded as the distance between them grew and
she was gone.
waited a moment, and then opened the door and started for the
quarterdeck and the OOD, going over in his mind the events of the past
few minutes. She was
entirely too perceptive for his taste, although he supposed that
goddesses had a corner on that market.
He didn’t like to think of her like that, nor was her
involvement with Seaview
something he was comfortable with. She
did seem to have their welfare
paramount so he guessed he'd have to learn to live with that for the
moment. There was certainly
no training manual he could consult!
tiredness left his body as he grinned.
A beer with Lee sounded like a really good idea.
Maybe he’d tell him about Galené, maybe not.
XOs could have secrets too, just like ONI agents.
Give me that man
Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 71–74
*Referenced in “To Hear The