The Long Journey
“Chip, are you there yet?” the admiral asked
over the vidphone.
Nelson looked tense, so Morton resisted making any
wise cracks about childhood requests on long trips. “Just doing a flyby now, sir,” he replied.
“They have no radio communications.”
“Keep circling,” the admiral said tersely and
then related all that he had found out from Doc and Starke.
“Whatever Lee’s disposition right now, we need him to try and
identify this mole. I don’t
recognize the voice, and Admiral Starke can’t pinpoint it either.”
“But you figure Lee can?”
admiral took a deep breath. Chip
didn’t think he was going to like the next part.
He was right . . . he didn’t.
“There’s a problem, though.”
“Chip, I think you need to be ready for this.
Let me play it.”
And as he listened, his breath caught in his throat.
“I . . . Admiral, we can’t play that.”
“Just enough for Lee to identify the voice,”
the admiral said.
“That’s just it, Admiral.
Lee will know. If you
only play a half a minute, he’ll know.”
“We’ve got to try.
I will just tell him that’s all we have.”
“You’d lie to him?” Chip asked.
“With this, wouldn’t you?”
Nelson groaned. “If
it wasn’t so important to catch this guy and prevent him from selling
out every other ONI agent, Lee would never know about this.”
“But who are we to decide something like that?”
He paused. “What a
hell of a dilemma. I’m
taking her down, Admiral.”
“Let me know when you’ve talked to Lee.”
As they had so many nights before, Lee and
La’ani sat on the beach listening to the waves crashing on the reef. Her head was on his chest and she was listening to the strong
heartbeat, lulled by the rhythmic rise and fall of his chest. She senses, however, that something was not quite right, but
she couldn’t figure out what it was.
Lee had not spoken for some time.
She knew that something was troubling him and she felt a strange
sort of disquiet. La’ani
had heard rumors from the village and wondered if Lee had heard them as
well. While the people liked
Lee, they were still distrustful of the motives of any mainlander toward
her. She had wanted to
believe that Lee was the exception, and she knew that once they knew Lee,
the rumors would go away. It
wasn’t fair, she thought, feeling tears prickling at the corners of her
“I have to go back, La’ani,” Lee said,
bringing her out of her aching reverie.
“When Mata returns I’ll return with him.”
Remembering her encouragement of just three days
past, still she ventured, “Couldn’t you just send word?
that I’ve been thinking clearly these past few days, I know I need to go
and tilt my own windmill.” He
turned to her and kissed her forehead.
That, too, had a different feel, as though Lee was holding back. “And wasn’t that you who first told me to fight this?”
Yes, she thought furiously, it had been her.
She concentrated on the first thing he had said.
“Tilt your own . . . what?”
Lee smiled and explained.
If he left, he would have to come back, she
thought desperately. “You
will come back.”
He smiled. She
could see his white teeth in the darkness.
They reassured her. “Yes,
when I can and we can correspond, too.”
Another pause. “You
have to get a communications center, a radio or something.
Words are fine, but the sound of a voice is much more personal.”
Despite the upbeat tone of his voice, she knew
that he had heard the concerns of the people.
She wondered who had told him.
Sighing, La’ani realized that it really didn’t matter.
Sooner or later, someone would have made an issue out of Lee’s
background. It still wasn’t
fair, her thoughts shouted.
“And maybe sometime you can visit me and
Meeka,” he ventured.
“And bring her to visit Hikeru,” she added.
Then with a cry, she flung herself into his arms.
“Lee, the people will get used to you.”
“I hope so, La’ani,” he said with a soft
laugh. “Because I do plan
on coming back sooner than I did this time.”
“They will!” she said.
She reached up and felt the ring that had been too large to wear on
her finger. It was warm to
the touch. His hand covered
hers and she felt somewhat comforted.
“They will,” she said more softly.
“Just as long as it’s before we get too
old,” he said softly, his voice more light-hearted.
Lee wondered, though, as he held her close, what
circumstances would determine the next meeting; just as he had wondered
the last time they had parted. They
sat quietly for a while longer, listening to the rhythm of the waves, the
soft wind in the palm trees. Then
Lee heard a soft whining sound. It
waned but he was sure he had heard it and he was also sure he knew what it
was. Sitting up slowly, not
wanting to disturb La’ani, he listened more intently, trying to block
out the sounds that had been so soothing and comforting before.
“What is it, Lee,” she asked, feeling the
tension in his body. She had
heard the foreign sound, too, but hadn’t been able to figure what it
was. He recognized it, though.
“Shh!” was his only reply.
Then he heard it again. It
was unmistakable. The Flying
Sub! He said as much to
La’ani. Then it came louder
to their ears. It was
descending, getting ready to land nearby.
“Perhaps they have good news,” she ventured.
Lee continued listening.
The craft seemed to be circling.
It did for some minutes. He
was puzzled. Why didn’t it
just land? Finally, it
dropped closer to the island and then it splashed into the water.
Teva rushed up.
“My queen, please come away from here!”
La’ani laughed, but it was hollow, more to
reassure Teva. She knew that
the Flying Sub was here to take Lee away.
He would go with it and she would be alone.
“No, Teva. Lee says
it’s his submarine’s little jet.
Don’t you remember from before?”
“Yes,” she replied.
A light was appearing from under the waves, coming closer.
It appeared as something eerie and mysterious as it came closer and
Teva said no more about her leaving, but he
didn’t leave either. They
backed away as the Flying Sub broke from the water near them and beached
like some vastly overgrown outrigger.
Lee approached as the engines powered down and
walked to the rear hatch. Banging
on the hull, he heard the hatch wheel engage and he stood back. When the hatch opened, Crane blinked at the bright light from
the interior and then he grinned as he recognized the exec.
“Nice of you to drop in,” Lee said sardonically, still feeling
the effects of his recent conversation with La’ani, but nevertheless
glad to see Chip.
“Good to see you again, Miss La’ani,” he
said in acknowledgement to the young woman by his side. He turned back to Lee and snorted. “Well, someone had to make the first move.
That note didn’t quite cut it.”
He gazed at Lee in the light from the Flying Sub’s interior.
“You’re looking a great deal better than the last time you
dressed like that.”
“The going thing now for desk jockeys,” he
said sarcastically. “Did
they give you the ‘Lady’?”
Chip frowned slightly and then brightened.
“Yep, but I wouldn’t take her.”
Lee did a double take.
“What? Are you nuts?
Who’s the skipper then?
Morton grinned Cheshire cat-like. “You are, Lee, pending a new physical. I’m only minding the boat until you get back and give
credence to all the squawking we’ve done the past few weeks.”
Lee said nothing for a few minutes.
He should have known.
Morton sobered quickly.
“Yeah, we’ve found out quite a few things. It wasn’t just incompetence that landed you that ONI
mission from hell, Lee. And
while revenge may have been a factor in the timing of that physical, it
was far more serious than we thought.
There is a mole in ONI.”
evidence do you have of that?”
“Marcum got conscience after Doc phoned him and made some
inquiries. He sent the
results of his investigation to Jamieson.”
There was a pause. “Including
part of a conversation.”
Lee was intensely curious now, as well as
angry—at himself as much as at a double agent.
“The Republic? And
who was it?”
“Yes, we’re pretty sure it’s The Republic
behind it. As to who?
We aren’t sure.”
Lee looked puzzled and then comprehension dawned.
“You can’t ask Admiral Johnson because you don’t want to tip
anyone’s hand there. Bugs.”
Chip was elated, while at the same time still
fearful. This was more like
the Lee he knew. “Exactly.”
“Maybe I can recognize something from what Doc
“The admiral was hoping you might be able to,
having had more dealings with ONI than the rest of us.”
He paused. “The
admiral can direct it to the Flying Sub now.”
“Yes, that would expedite things a bit,” Lee
mused. He felt some tension
in his companions. La’ani
was most likely thinking of what Chip’s arrival meant, but Chip?
He wasn’t sure. Relief
that he wasn’t a broken down nutcase?
A short while ago that wouldn’t have been too far off the mark.
Or was there something else they had found out?
Was Admiral Johnson involved?
Until he listened to the tape, he wouldn’t know.
Lee stepped through the open hatch and Chip and La’ani followed.
He sat in the pilot’s chair and realized then just how much he
had missed all of this. “Admiral
expecting my call?” he asked.
“Your Highness!” Teva called from just outside
the hatch. Water lapped
around his ankles as he stood there, seemingly at ready to come and drag
Lee found his temper flaring as he contemplated
the connotation of the Polynesian’s action.
He had thought Teva a friend and now he felt as though he was a
suspect in a kidnapping case. Turning,
he opened his mouth to give a quick retort, but La’ani beat him too it.
“I am not going anywhere, Teva!” she answered
testily. She looked
apologetically at Lee and Chip.
With a sigh, Lee turned back toward the
communications board. “Let’s
see if we can nail this guy.” He
reached for the throat mike and strapped it on.
Then he activated the radio. Chip
sat next to him while La’ani stood behind him.
Later Lee would remember the details.
Right now, he only noticed how comfortable he was sitting in this
seat, working these controls, wondering if he dared hope that it could be
his again. “FS 1 to….”
He looked at Chip. “They
“Yes, at the Institute. Hadn’t
gotten in when I left, but arrived only a few hours ago.”
“FS 1 to Seaview.”
“Seaview here,” Sparks answered, his
voice uncharacteristically joyful. “Good
to hear your voice, Skipper.” Then
he cleared his throat and continued.
“The admiral’s been awaiting your call, sir.”
Lee gazed at Chip and flipped the transmit switch
off a moment. “You two had
a lot of faith I’d be willing to . . . um, have anything to do with
Chip nodded again.
“Lee, we felt that you only needed a bit of time and then you’d
be up and fighting as you have every other time.”
Lee sighed. “Chip,
I’m afraid there will come a day when that won’t happen.”
He smiled softly. “But not today.”
“FS 1, this is Seaview. Are you still there, Captain?”
Lee flipped the switch back on. “I’m here, Sparks. Would
you get the admiral?”
“He’s ready in his cabin, sir. I’m switching you over.”
are you? Switch on the
Crane complied and found himself gazing at an
obviously relieved as well as happy Nelson.
Just barely on screen behind the admiral was Doc.
He should have known. “You’re
a sight for sore eyes, Lee.”
it took so long to get back to you,” Lee said apologetically.
“Lee, you deserved that time. We just gave you some of that accrued vacation time.”
“Chip says you and Doc have uncovered a double
agent in ONI. That would
explain some of the botched missions of the past couple of years.
Not just mine, either. Chip
also said you have a copy of a voice transmission?”
complete . . . but hopefully enough to recognize the other speaker.”
A quick look passed between the two men in the
admiral’s cabin but Lee didn’t catch enough to do more than wonder and
then dismiss it. He would
remember that later, too. “Play
They did. Lee
listened intently. Marcum and
someone else. The voice
was very familiar. He
knew it! But who?
Marcum, voice angry and strident: ‘Why didn’t you give me Captain Crane’s background?
To administer a physical under those circumstances….’
ONI man. The
voice was harsh and openly derisive:
‘Crane is dangerous. I
told you that!’
you mean dangerous to his men if he sailed in the shape he is in, he is
only dangerous enough for a short medical or bereavement leave. Do you realize that this is against all protocol?’
‘Yes, I did realize it was against protocol.
A short leave was not an option.
The man is dangerous and needed to be neutralized—he needed to be
gotten rid of . . . by any means necessary.’
Marcum: ‘The only threat I can see Crane offered
was to an enemy. Give me
something more concrete than that, Commander.’
The transmission suddenly ended, but Lee had
determined who the other speaker was. It
was Hartfield, Commander Jonathan Hartfield.
He hadn’t liked the man since before he had become one of Admiral
Johnson’s main staffers a year ago.
Lee wondered about what had been said on the tape—and what had
been left off.
“Did you recognize the voice, Lee?” the
admiral asked anxiously.
“I think so,” he said hesitantly, as he
continued to ponder the message. Then
a very nasty thought came to him. That
nasty thought was followed by another.
He gazed directly into the admiral’s eyes.
“Admiral, was that really all of the tape?”
He turned his gaze to Jamieson.
“It had more of the sound of having been shut off.”
The admiral looked decidedly unhappy.
“Please don’t hold anything back on this.
There’s more, isn’t there?”
“Lee, you’re not going to like this,” Nelson
said softly. He looked
very uncomfortable and Lee’s suspicions grew.
“I already don’t,” Crane replied tersely.
“Look, there have been enough hidden things most of this past
year. Don’t you start, for
whatever reason, Admiral. I
want to know just what I’m dealing with now.”
The admiral took a deep breath, still looking hesitant.
“‘By any means….’” Lee repeated.
“Does that mean what I think it means?”
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