GrayLady Sharon, EmmaLynn Rose & Sean Branigan
........follows the events of Journey with Fear
The watch hands were nearing the midnight mark as
Lee Crane made a final walk through his Seaview.
For once he was looking forward to his cabin and his bunk. Maybe, just
maybe he could sleep tonight. In the week since their encounter with the
aliens and their unorthodox trip to the planet Venus, Lee had found sleep
elusive. Troubled by strange dreams and snatches of memories, the
sleepless nights were beginning to wear on the skipper. He was close to
going to Jamie and asking for something to help him sleep, but Lee knew
Jamie would corner him and demand to know what was bothering him.
This was something that Lee wasn't ready to talk
about yet. He figured time would get him through this. He had never needed
to talk about anything before, he somehow always managed to work things
out on his own. He certainly didn't need Jamie rooting around in his head,
trying to uncover what he was suddenly afraid off.
Opening the door of his cabin, Lee slipped in and
shut the door behind him, his hand lingering on the knob, fighting back
the urge to lock the door. He had never locked his cabin door before, he
wasn't going to start now. Lee sat down on the edge of his bunk and heeled
out of his shoes, not bothering to untie them. For a long few seconds, Lee
just sat there, hands covering his eyes, trying to block out the images
that were already filtering through his head.
Lee Crane wouldn't be getting any sleep tonight.
Harriman Nelson ran a tired hand through his
auburn hair and studied his report, still unfiled, the pages scattered
haphazardly on his desk. Unbelievable. That's what he should have wrote.
Let the S.E.A. chew on that. Damn their regulations and rules. He should
have launched the second capsule the second they lost contact with Chip,
to hell with what their standard operation procedures. Instead he had
waited, and as a result, the same forces that had kidnapped Bob Wilson and
Chip had snatched Lee right out from under their very noses.
The whole episode had left a sour taste in Harry's
mouth. Somehow he felt he had let his officers down by not acting sooner.
Logically, Harry knew there was nothing he could have done. No one could
have anticipated aliens kidnapping his officers, practically right off Seaview. Were those same aliens finished with them? Were they a
threat to Earth? Wouldn't be the first time an other worldly force has
threatened his home world.
A knock on the door pulled Harry's attention from
the unfiled report. “Yes?” Nelson said and the door swung open.
William Jamison's lanky form entered, shut the door behind him, then
leaned against the door frame. For a long stretch of seconds, Jamie just
stood there, taking in the hazy blue-gray cloud of cigarette smoke, the
tray of ashes and crushed remains of a dozen or more cigarettes, the half
eaten sandwich, long since mummified and the empty coffee cup.
“House call, Will, or just bored?” Nelson
asked tiredly. A weak smile crossed Will's lips.
“Little of both, actually. Have you really paid
much attention to what's going on?” the doctor asked.
Nelson's cobalt blue eyes clouded with confusion.
“Going on where? Is it something Lee can't handle?”
“That's just it. Concerning Lee. And Chip. Have
you really worked with them, talked with them since you three got back
from your little interplanetary field trip?”
“No more than usual. I've had a ton of work to
catch up on, there hasn't been a lot of time for a social gathering. Are
you leading to something, Will?”
“Neither one of those men have had a decent
night's sleep since you got back. Lee's hiding it rather well, its what
he's good at, but Chip's starting lose it. His distracted, disjointed and
off center. I'm afraid he's going to crack soon.”
Nelson stared the the ship's CMO. “Chip?” Not
possible. Chip Morton was one of the most together, calm and collected
people Nelson had ever met. It was one of the traits that made Morton an
excellent XO. The idea that Chip was under enough stress to crack was
disturbing to Nelson.
“And Lee?” Nelson asked with trepidation. Will
“Like I said, hiding it well, Lee's got a gift
for this sort you thing, you know how he is. They need to talk about this.
Have you any idea what happened to them up there?”
“Nothing specific, just what I saw, and what I
read in their reports. Are you sure this isn't something they can't work
out on their own? Neither own is likely to want to sit down and open up
Will crossed his arms over his chest, his eyes
dark with concern and worry. “Admiral, what ever happened to those two
is affecting them in ways that can't be fixed by pills or an I.V.”
Chip Morton sat up in his bunk, knees drawn up to
his chin, his head lowered to his chest as another tremor shook him like a
leaf in the wind. What was wrong with him? He had faced monsters and spies
and ghosts, why was he acting like this? What was it about the dark that
bothered him so much?
Unable to handle it any longer, he reached up and
flipped on the reading light over his bunk. The small light filled the
cabin with enough of a glow that the young officer could finally stop
trembling. He hadn't wanted to admit it, but the darkness closed in around
him and touch off a fear in him that he had never experienced before. Ever
since Venus. Ever since being blinding by a pack of marauding aliens from
Blind. At the time, he had been more angry than
scared. He and Lee had done what they had to do to survive and come back
in one piece. But now, when the lights were out, those memories clawed
their way to the surface of his mind. How he had felt so helpless. When
they asked him about their space program, he'd been unable to stop
himself, he'd spilled his guts to the aliens. What if they had asked him
classified information about Seaview or Earth's other defenses? He would have told them what ever
they had wanted. If it hadn't been for Lee . . .
Chip lay back down, pulling the blankets up over
his shoulders. He closed his eyes, hoping that tonight he could sleep with
remembering the darkness, the fear that he and Lee weren't going to make
it back home. . . .die here, or on their planet . . . the words he had
spoken to Lee echoed back to him in the night. Chip closed his eyes and
tried to block out the images of Bob being vaporized.
Lee was yanked out of his light sleep by a thud on
the bulkhead. The first was followed by a second and this time Lee tracked
the sound to Chip's cabin.
Throwing on his robe and shoving his bare feet
into a pair of slippers, Lee slipped out of his room and the three steps
over to Chip's cabin door. Lee knocked twice and called Morton's name, but
he got no answer.
Griping the handle, Lee turned the knob and was
stopped short. The cabin door was locked. Chip never locked his door.
“Chip? Chip, buddy, are you okay?” Lee called
through the closed door, but again got no answer. Pressing his ear to the
door, Lee tried to listen for something, anything that could help him
figure out what was going on with Chip.
Suddenly a sound began to rise from the other side
of the door. It started out low, then began to build. A deep, long, drawn
out 'no' began to repeat itself, growing louder and longer with each
repetition. Feeling his heart hammering, Lee threw himself against the
door, ramming his shoulder against the door, desperation fueling the need
to get in to help his friend. Lee wasn't even aware he was calling out
Chip's name over the mantra of 'no' being screamed from the cabin.
The door frame splintered and Lee blundered into
the Exec's cabin. The reading light over Chip's bunk was on, illuminating
the pale, shaking figure of the XO. Chip was setting up in his bunk,
wedged in the corner of the bunk, his eyes closed, his arms wrapped around
himself, screaming 'No' over and over again, as fast as he could draw
breath in to scream.
Lee crawled up onto the edge of the bed, grabbed
Chip by his shoulders.
“CHIP! Snap out of it, Chip! Come on, buddy,
wake up for me!”
color of a cloudless winter sky snapped open, wide and staring, seeing
nothing. For a long few seconds there was absolutely no recondition in
those eyes and Lee felt his heart contract and skip a beat.
Finally the shadows cleared from Chip's eyes and
comprehension slowly leaked through, like moonlight streaming through
storm clouds. He glanced around familiar surroundings and finally focused
“Lee? Is that you, Lee?”
“Chip, what's wrong? You can talk to me, you can
tell me anything, you know that,” Lee said softly, tightening his grip
on his friend. Under Lee's touch, Chip's trembling subsided some.
Chip couldn't stop himself. He was the Seaview's Executive office, he was Lee's XO, hand picked by Harriman
Nelson before the keel was even laid. He had faced death in the face more
time than he could count. Why was this bothering him, why couldn't he move
past this? Why couldn't he just move on with his life and put what
happened on Venus behind him? The shaking started again.
“I couldn't stop myself. Everything they asked,
I answered. I could have betrayed everything I believe in. I couldn't stop
myself. I was blind, Lee, I couldn't see a damn thing! Do you know how
terrifying that feeling is? How was I going to get away? Where was I going
to go? I was on another damn planet! Until I heard your voice, I thought I
was going to die.”
Lee tried to break though Chip's apparent terror.
“But you didn't die, you made it back in one piece. What ever they did
to you wore off, and your sight came completely back.
Doc said you shouldn't even have any after effects.
Everything is fine now.”
“THEN WHY CAN”T I TURN OFF THE LIGHT AND
SLEEP!? Tell me, Lee, why can't I? Why can't I walk into a dark room, why
can't I close my eyes? Every time I do, I'm afraid when I open my eyes,
all I'm going to see is the dark. Why am I afraid? Why?” Chip's voice
dropped of to a whisper, full of despair. Chip looked so lost, he didn't
look like a man in his thirties, who had stood by Lee's side through some
of the worst situations Lee had ever known. Morton looked like a frighten
young child, haunted by nightmares he couldn't explain.
But Lee understood. He was haunted by his own
nightmares, past missions gone wrong, the faces of crewmen who had died
under his watch. Failed ONI missions. Interrogation. Torture. Facing
death. He knew all too well what was eating at Chip. It was something he
fought within himself but never admitted.
Fear. Grown men weren't suppose to admit to fear.
Chip was no coward but what they faced on Venus defied logic and rational
explanation. Only someone who had been there could understand. Lee's
brotherly instincts kicked in and he reached forward and wrapped his arms
around Chip's broad shoulders in a protective embrace.
Chip didn't protest. Lee was his friend, his
comrade in arms, his brother. He could confess fears to him that he
couldn't admit to anyone, including his own father. Something deep inside
Chip opened up and the unthinkable happened.
Charles Phillip Morton lost control. Lost his
center, lost his grip, just simply lost. Watching Wilson being vaporized,
the memory of being blinded with nothing but the darkness surrounding him,
and the nightmare of trapped on a strange planet light years away from
Earth, not knowing if rescue was possible, all that came rushing back and
Chip choked back a half sob, and clung to Lee Crane as only a brother can.
“Let it go. I
understand. But it's over now. You have to let this go, we both
have to move past this,” Lee urged, holding his trembling friend and
brother while Morton desperately tried to get his emotions under control.
Lee wasn't sure what was more frightening-Chip being so affected, or
watching Chip lose control of his tightly control emotions. Lee had never
seen Chip lose control like this. He'd seen him furious, mad enough to
kill, but never so broken. Lee tightened his grip on his friend as Chip
took a deep shuddering breath.
There was a light 'click' and Lee turned his head
slightly to see Harriman Nelson standing in the doorway. On the desk was a
three quarter full bottle of scotch. Nelson sat two shot glasses down by
the bottle and took two steps back.
“Lad?” Nelson asked quietly, his eyes shifting
from Lee to Chip.
“We'll be fine, Admiral,” Lee replied. He
wasn't even sure if Chip was aware of Nelson's presence. The Exec
continued to shake as his nerves gave out under the strain.
“We're on our way home. I see no reason for
either of you have to report to duty tomorrow. I need my officers in one
piece. If you two won't talk to Jamie, than at least work it out between
yourselves. The scotch is on the house.”
“Yes, sir. A day would clear the air,” Lee
replied, with a guarded glance at his brother.
Nelson silently drifted away, pulling the door to,
leaving Lee and Chip alone.
“Chip, buddy, let me up a second,” Lee pulled
himself away from Morton and got up. He went to the desk and poured two
stiff measures and took them back to the bunk. He handed one to Chip, the
pulled over the desk chair and dropped down into it. Lee tossed back the
contents and sat the glass on the desk.
“You don't have to hang around, Lee,” Chip
said, contemplating the amber liquid in the small glass between his long
fingers. Mirroring Lee, he tossed back the glass in one swallow, feeling
the alcohol burn the whole way down.
“Chip, we both have to move through this. Let's
move over to my cabin. We can close the door and follow orders.”
“What orders, Lee?”
“Permission granted to get sloshed. We need to
work this out and I can't to that sober. Come on, Mister Morton, up off
Crane and Morton moved into the next cabin, Lee
pushing Chip's chair, Chip holding the gifted scotch bottle and his glass.
Once in Lee's cabin, Crane surrendered the chair to its owner and he
dropped bonelessly into his own while Chip shut the door and flipped the
reading lamp over the bunk on. Lee sat the glass on the table. Chip
dropped into his chair, uncapped the bottle and poured them both another
“The Admiral gave us permission to get drunk?”
Chip asked, tossing back half the shot. Lee nodded.
“Not in so many words, but he said he didn't
expect either of us to be on duty tomorrow. Sounds like an invitation to
“Starke would have our stripes.” Another shot
“Then it's a good thing Starke ain't here. Drink
up and open up, buddy. This is the good stuff. The Admiral wouldn't turn
loose of his family label without good reason. Talk to me, big brother.”
It was nearing 0530 when Harry made his way to the
Ward Room. The door to Chip's cabin still swung open a few inches. As
Harry tapped lightly on the frame, then touched the door. It swung open to
reveal an empty cabin. The desk chair was gone.
Nelson moved to Crane's cabin, and gently eased
the door open. Harry felt the smile tug at his lips as he looked into the
semi gloom of the skipper's cabin.
Lee and Chip were both asleep, kicked back in
separate chairs, their feet propped up on the desk. The scotch bottle on
the desk was empty. Both men sat with arms crossed over flat stomaches,
breathing slow and easy. No tossing, no turning.
Quiet snores from both men told Harry all he needed to know.
With a smirk, Nelson pulled the door shut. What
ever had happened up there on that planet, Lee and Chip had needed time to
work this out and talk it over. From the looks of things, that journey had
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