The Little Army
Admiral Harriman Nelson sat in the observation
nose, watching the water sluice over the herculite hull plates as he drank
a well-deserved cup of fresh coffee.
President Brakas sat beside him, tapping nervously on the arm of
the chair. He was dressed in
camouflage gear, ready to go ashore.
Indeed, he had been waiting all night, but unusually heavy activity
all along the coast had made that extremely difficult.
It would seem, from underground reports, that there had been an
attack on several ground patrols as well as on a patrol boat.
Brakas had been delighted at the news.
There had been no activity for the last several
hours, but Nelson still felt caution was the better course. His companion felt otherwise and was not remiss in letting
him know that.
“Harriman, I feel I need to go ashore now.
It’s already light enough outside to make the landing even more
difficult,” Brakas huffed.
I know you’ve worked in the underground; you know your own
country, countrymen and General Niros.
However, it would be devastating if you were killed or captured.
Let this latest unrest spread today and you can more safely go
ashore tonight,” Nelson reasoned.
“Sometimes I think you Americans are too
cautious,” Brakas replied with a sigh.
“If I sit here too long, I might become used to the luxuries of
your miracle submarine.”
The admiral snorted.
“I doubt that.”
“Admiral,” a young voice interrupted.
Nelson looked up and saw Preston, the radio
operator on duty. “Yes?”
“This just came in from the Institute, sir.”
Harriman took the page and read it.
His eyes lit up with joy before settling into momentary puzzlement.
Looking up, he asked, “This all, Preston?”
The message was relayed to the Institute and sent here without
change,” the seaman reported. “A
one is supposed to know we’re out here this close to Tirea,” Nelson
“Admiral, does that mean that the captain….”
“Indeed, it appears that way, Preston,” Nelson
interjected with a satisfied smile.
“Well, Admiral,” Brakas queried when the
radioman had left. “What is
“It’s from the HMS Signet. I’ll read it. ‘We
have your two packages. We
also have fourteen smaller ones for you to take care of.
Please instruct on disposal of packages.’”
Brakas’ eyebrow rose considerably. “Obviously Captain Crane and Commander Morton are safely
out of my country, but what the devil did they mean by the smaller
Nelson had his suspicions, but he kept them to
himself. “I think we should
go and find out. They
aren’t far from here and we can get you into your country tonight.”
Harriman smiled. “Perhaps
my men will have something that will be of use to you and your efforts.”
Brakas sighed and then nodded.
Nelson got up and went into the control room.
“Lieutenant Rojas, set a course for the light cruiser, HMS Signet.
We had her on the
scope yesterday and she shouldn’t be far off.
We can most likely identify with the sonar signature, then verify
with periscope sighting. Let
me know when you have her in sight.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” Rojas replied.
Lee Crane woke with a pounding headache and a
raging thirst—and to the most welcome sight he could imagine.
He was on board a ship of some kind.
It appeared to be military escort or some kind of small destroyer.
That it wasn’t Seaview didn’t matter.
Also it didn’t matter that it was sickbay—for the moment. They had made it.
The kids had pulled it off when he and Chip were unable to.
“Well, my friend, I was wondering when you were
planning on joining the land of the living,” a friendly,
British-accented voice greeted him.
Crane turned his head slowly, not wanting to give
his headache reason to get worse. The
man had the look of a medical officer.
“My friend, Chip Morton. How
is he, Doc?”
“Ah, so that means you are Captain Lee Crane,”
the doctor said without replying.
“By the way, I am Lieutenant Robert Maxwell, the chief medical
officer on board this ship.
Lee wasn’t to be diverted from his question.
“Glad to meet you, but how is Commander Morton?” he insisted.
“And how’s my crew?”
“Commander Morton is still feverish, but the
bullet is out, the wound cleaned and he’s being pumped with antibiotics
and fluids.” The doctor’s
eyebrow lifted slightly. “Your
crew? Oh, right.
The children. I
quickly checked them out and they are all fine.
A bit dehydrated and in need of a few good meals, as are you and
your executive officer, but all in all they are really a fit group of
kids.” He smiled again.
“Unlike their leaders…. At
first, Captain; I thought you had a concussion, however, I think most of
your symptoms are due to exhaustion.
You do have a bruised rib and are also under hydration therapy.
I’m going to give you something to allow you a more restful
sleep. How long has it been since you slept more than four or five
Lee bristled, but didn’t make any kind of
retort. Right now, this doctor seemed to be in a good mood and he figured
he’d humor him. But when he
tried to count the days, they seemed to flow into one another.
It was when the truck attacked, he decided.
“At least a couple of days, I would imagine.
I also noticed a couple of stitches in your scalp.
Fairly recent, too. What
was that from?”
“A truck with a nasty streak,” Crane said wryly. He explained quickly. “By the way, any chance of getting up, putting on something a bit more comfortable and seeing my XO and crew?”
“I insist you stay here for at least another
eight hours—sleeping, Captain, then I will reassess your condition.
As to seeing Commander Morton; that I will allow, probably in a few
hours. I will allow your
‘senior crewmembers’ to come and visit you, since it’s been all that
Captain Vincent could do to keep them from sneaking down here on their
He wasn’t surprised. “Thanks.
I would like to talk to Chief Meeka and Chief Stefan."
“So you really did give them all rank and
“Just seemed like the right thing to do at the
time,” Crane replied, hesitantly. The
last thing he wanted right now was to have to explain his reasoning from a
time when everyone seemed to want to kill or capture them all.
“Whatever the reason behind it, Commander Crane,
it worked and you are all alive; probably because of it,” another voice
interjected from the other side of the room.
A tall, slender, brown-haired British officer came to stand next to
his bunk. “I am Commander
Michael Vincent, captain of the HMS Signet.
Welcome aboard, Captain.”
“It’s good to be aboard, sir,” Lee answered
sincerely. He sat up slowly,
not wanting to talk to his rescuer flat on his back.
The doctor scowled slightly, but said nothing.
His headache remained at a tolerable level.
“And I thank you for your hospitality.”
“Anyone who arrived as you did deserves more
than mere hospitality. I
believe in your country that would entitle you to a book and movie
“For me? Not in any
“May I chat with you for a while?”
He looked over at Maxwell, who just shrugged and pushed a chair
across the room for Vincent to sit in.
“I guess that means it’s all right,” Lee
said with a smile.
“It means that I’ve won a battle but not the
war,” Vincent returned.
Glancing over to the doctor, Crane said, “I
promise. I will stay put.”
“I think I will go check on a patient who appreciates my
“If you’re talking about Commander Morton, he’ll appreciate them until he’s awake, Doc.”
“Well, Captain, where did you find these
children?” Vincent asked.
Keeping to the most important facts, Lee recounted
his and Chip’s adventures for the past six days.
When he was finished, Vincent just shook his head.
“And I suppose that would account for the reports of families
rising up against General Niros.”
“By the way, would you like a report from your
Chief of Boat?” Vincent asked. “She’s
been very worried about you. Keeps
telling me something about almost killing you.”
“Friendly fire,” Crane said, rubbing his chest
where one of the stones had hit him.
He winced at the sharp pain that caused.
Must be the bruised rib Maxwell was talking about.
“She and the rest were only doing what I had trained them to
“I thought it interesting that when she was giving me her
‘introductory’ report she said you called them a, uh, and I quote,
‘a damned fine crew.’”
Lee felt a bit of heat on his cheeks while he
tried to remember the incident. After
they had fired on him, when they were all on the patrol boat. “I guess I was half out of it.
I don’t usually teach children such language.”
“I thought it was a fine tribute to what those kids have
accomplished.” He ordered a
sailor to get Meeka.
Soon the girl was standing next to Vincent.
She had been dressed in a British sailor’s outfit.
It was a bit long in the arms and legs, but it became her well, Lee
thought. Her countenance was still gloomy. She gazed at the bandage on his head, but said nothing.
Crane was afraid the girl was going to start crying.
In all of this, there had been no crying.
“Report, Chief,” he said gently.
“All safe, Captain Lee.
All but you and XO. I
ordered stones fired.”
“Chief, what did I say to you on the patrol
“You asked for report.”
Meeka paused a moment and then said, “You said
we were fine crew.”
“Indeed I did and I meant it then and I mean it
now. I haven’t served with
a more loyal and dedicated group in my life.”
“You mean that, Skipper?”
“Yes, I do!
All of you have been superb. This
crew’s bravery saved me and the XO.”
“Thank you, Captain Lee.”
And she leaned forward and threw her arms around his neck.
“Thank you. We free
“Yes,” he murmured.
“You are all free now.”
She stepped back and gave a smart British salute.
Lee returned the salute. “Orders,
Skipper?” she asked.
“Relax for now, Chief.
If there is something Captain Vincent would like you and the others
to do, fine, but otherwise, enjoy your first day of freedom.”
“Aye, aye, Captain,” she said with a grin.
“Later I would like to see both you and
Stefan,” Lee said.
She nodded and left with the sailor.
The intercom sounded.
He excused himself and went to the wall phone.
watched as the British captain glanced over at him and then replied to
whatever information he had received.
“Of course. Have
them come along side, Lieutenant.”
He placed the receiver back on the cradle and turned to Crane. “We are about to have visitors, Captain. The Seaview is approaching below on the starboard
side. ETA approximately ten
She’s here?” Crane asked, incredulous.
Vincent nodded. He
grinned. “Maybe the
children would like to watch her surface.”
“I think they would like that very much.
I will gather them on deck to watch and as soon as Admiral Nelson
is aboard, I’ll escort him down.”
“Thanks, Captain,” he said and then
surreptitiously looked toward where the doctor was checking out Chip.
“You know, I would really like to greet the Admiral on deck with
The doctor straightened up immediately and pivoted
to face him. “Captain….”
“I’m fine, doctor, just a slight headache and
some bruises. I really would
like to be on deck to greet my boat with my young crew,” he repeated
Maxwell threw up his hands in disgust.
“No,” Crane responded.
“No weakness, no excessive pain, no double vision….”
“Apparently you’ve heard all the questions,
Captain,” the CMO said sarcastically.
“And driven another doctor crazy.
All right, get up slowly and then I’ll decide.”
Lee got up, pushing the insistent headache to the
background of his conscious thought.
“I see that you are still exhausted, but I
concede. Go meet your
admiral. I daresay that your
‘crew’ will look better than you will,” Maxwell said irritably.
But Lee could see a smile quirking the corners of his mouth.
Crane looked down at his attire. Standard hospital. Not
even the decency of being an orderly’s outfit.
“Uh, Captain Vincent?” he asked his British counterpart.
Vincent grinned, seeing the American’s
consternation. “I believe
we’re close enough in size that you can wear one of my uniforms until
you can get one of your own.” He
turned to the seaman who had been helping the doctor.
“If the doctor doesn’t need you, Barston, please go to my
quarters and get a spare uniform.”
At Maxwell’s nod, the young man saluted and
left. Lee took those few
moments to walk over to Chip’s bunk and study his friend.
He looked a great deal better than the day before. “We did it, buddy,” Crane murmured to Chip.
“Yeah . . . good job, pal,” Chip said as he
slowly opened his eyes and focused on the captain.
“But don’t try to talk me into any espionage assignments in the
“Hey, this wasn’t my idea, Chip,” Crane
protested. “And those kids
would have mutinied if you hadn’t been there.
We were a team.”
Chip smiled and gazed at Lee’s bandage.
“Just a bit of friendly fire that raised some
“Did I hear someone say that Seaview is
“Say hi to the admiral for me,” Chip said with
a wan smile. “And tell the
kids that I think they did a fabulous job.”
“I will,” Lee said, as a sailor handed him a
By the time the admiral had arrived by skiff, to
the Signet, Lee had taken his place with the fourteen children on
deck—in a British Naval officer’s uniform and minus the bandage.
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