Crane was in the control room. No, it was a control room, but not on board Seaview. Smoke drifted from damaged systems, burnt wiring. An acrid odor permeated the room and caused him to gag. The lighting was emerald green, giving an ethereal cast to everything. A form presented itself to him from the smoky haze and Lee was shocked to realize that it was something that walked on four legs, waving a set of claw/digit hands in the air. The head was almost insect-like, with large ruby-red orb eyes, but set amid soft feathery fronds on top. There was a soft, short downy type of covering on most of the rest of the body. The head, not as small as, say a mantis, but of the same general wedge shape, sat upon a longish neck that gave the creatures extra height. It screeched out something, clicked and whistled, but surprisingly, Crane understood it; heard it in his head.
“….systems are damaged beyond control, Supreme Commander. We must abandon this fight. We have lost the primary continent and the enemy has begun to overrun this station.” There was a pause and then more clicking/whistling. “We have lost our planet, Leader.” The ruby-red eyes seemed to lose a bit of luster in the creature’s sadness. Lee could feel currents of sadness and anger from other sources, but he couldn’t tell where they were coming from.
“Tell the remainder of our forces to abandon
the defense. Take the
escape craft and quit the planet,” he heard in his head, even as he
heard himself making the same kinds of noises.
Then Crane realized he was experiencing someone else’s memories
through that individual’s eyes. Krilore’s,
he wondered? He
continued to watch as the six-limbed creature and others like it, who
had materialized out of the smoke, hastened to make good their escape.
The ground shook from nearby blasts, machinery fell from the
walls and crashed to the floor. More
smoke billowed into the room. The
others opened an escape hatch and scuttled down a narrow, rough-hewn
corridor. The individual, from whose eyes Lee was looking, raced back
to the sparking console and worked some of the controls. The popping, sparking noises were replaced with a soft
tapping noise, in cadence that reminded him of a ticking clock.
The dials were covered with different symbols, but Lee could feel
the undercurrents of emotion enough to deduce that this was a
self-destruct device. Whoever
this enemy was, they would soon be walking into a trap.
Then the creature dashed through the still open portal. Another down covered soldier waited just inside a dark corridor and closed the hatch behind them. Near darkness gathered around them, but the creature’s eyes quickly adjusted to the miniscule light and the way became clearer. It was rough hewn like a cave. The dim, almost non-existent lighting showed the small pancake shape on base of the neck of the creature ahead and Crane realized that these were the ‘hosts.’ The flight continued down the corridor until they came to a huge room, no, thought Lee, a natural rock bowl where he saw a vessel, presumably an escape craft. Krilore, and Lee knew that is who this had to be, and her companion entered the vessels and quickly closed the hatch. The craft lifted immediately and rushed toward the star-filled sky. Lee realized that the gee forces would have killed a human, so fast was the assent into space. Just as the craft entered the upper limits of the atmosphere there was a monstrously bright light that erupted below them, enveloped them and shook the little ship like a leaf in a hurricane….
The blaring of the collision alarm and a call over the communications system awakened him. Suddenly the boat shuddered violently and heeled over. It would have sent Lee tumbling from his bunk had he not already been on his feet. The wave of dizziness and nausea that he had felt on his sudden eruption from sleep was pushed aside in his concern. He grabbed his pants and shirt and was throwing on the latter even as he reached for the mike. This was when he was very glad he had been too tired to fully change for bed. “Control room. This is the captain. Status report!”
“Depth charge from what we had identified as fishing vessels,” Morton reported. “That’s all I have right now, Captain.”
“Give me a damage report as soon as you get it, Chip,” Crane ordered. He replaced the mike and finished buttoning his shirt. He pulled on his pants, just getting them zipped when Chip’s voice came through his intercom.
“Compartment 50 breach, Lee.”
Lower hold aft compartment, Lee quickly assessed. “Everyone out?” he asked.
are some men still in there. A
rescue crew is going aft to try to get them out.”
“I’ll join them.” Lee didn’t even bother to replace the mike. He wrenched the door open and headed aft at a sprint. He felt the undercurrent of alarm and curiosity from Krilore, but ignored that as well. Kowalski, and several other crewmen were already at the scene, pulling a crewman up a ladder. Water was boiling into the lower deck through an unseen breach. “You the last one?” he asked the half drowned man.
The rate shook his head, coughing. “Beatty is still down there, Skipper. RJ is down there trying to get him out.”
Crane dropped to his stomach and peered into the dark hold. A single reddish light showed a chaos of boxes and equipment strewn everywhere. He could see movement, but he could also see that there was too much for Porter to contend with. Without pausing, Lee reversed his position and slid down the ladder to help. He felt an undercurrent in his mind and a slight shifting of something soft between his shoulder blades, but like the previous stirring, this one was ignored as well. Kowalski called from above and Lee replied over his shoulder, “Stay on the ladder. Be ready to help us up!” The water buffeted him and chilled him to the bone at the same time. With the breach affecting both hulls, it would be below freezing. “Porter!”
“Here, Skipper!” came a shaky voice on the other side of the room. “I have him, but havin’ trouble keepin’ him.”
Boxes banged into his chest and Crane almost tripped over something bolted to the floor. “Keep calling out, RJ!”
“Aye, sir. Over here!”
The freezing water was quickly overcoming Porter. Another few feet and Lee had reached the beleaguered man. “It’s coming in too fast. We need to get out of here.”
“Got Bill, sir. Don’t know if he’s still alive.”
“Grab onto my belt, Porter.” Then he remembered that he hadn’t put on his belt. “Just grab on.”
The rate did as he was told and Lee, in turn, grabbed Porter’s shirt and drew him closer. The water was up to their chests and rising rapidly. Porter had on a life vest, thankfully, and was buoyant. There was extra weight, though, and Crane figured it had to be Bill Beatty. “Keep moving with me, Porter.” The only light now was coming from the hatch. Water rose higher and Lee was suddenly swept off his feet.
“Gotcha, Skipper,” Kowalski shouted near his ear. The seaman had his legs wrapped around the ladder and had reached out and snatched them before they went under. Crane got a grip on his rescuer’s hand and hung on as tightly as he could.
Another crewman was hanging down through the hatch with a rescue line in one hand. “Pass that down here,” Crane shouted. The line played out and Lee let go of Kowalski and grabbed it. With half frozen fingers he attempted to attach the clip to Porter’s life vest. It took a couple of tries, but finally he got it. “Pull him up, Ski. I think he’s still got Beatty.” Crane was now able to clutch onto the ladder, trying to help push Porter up as the men above pulled him. He then reached into the ice-cold water and felt down Porter’s arm. Incredibly, the man still had a hold of Beatty. Lee grabbed the inert seaman’s shirt and pulled him closer to the ladder, trying to get the man’s head above water. Thankfully, ocean water was rising much less quickly now, but still, it was rising enough that it was at his chest when the captain found the middle rungs of the ladder with his feet and began to climb up. He slipped once, his bare feet numb.
Porter’s grasp finally loosened on Beatty and Lee drew the rate up with him. The current was insidious and Crane found his grip loosening, both on the seaman and on the ladder. Now two men crowded at the hatch, partly hanging down inside, and reached down to grab him. He felt himself lifted through the hatch and someone doing the same with Beatty. Suddenly, he was on the dry deck on his hands and knees, his shoulder against a solid bulkhead, shivering violently. Lee heard the hatch clanged shut and dogged. A distant voice reported the sealing off of the breached room. And then, suddenly, he felt the nausea return in full force and he lost what was left of his dinner. “Sorry,” was all he could mumble, as everything seemed to close in on him. The last thing he felt were hands gently lifting him off the deck, and then nothing.
“Lee? Can you hear me?” It was Chip.
Crane slowly opened his eyes and immediately saw Chip’s worried face. He shifted and found his movement restricted by an IV. “Status, Chip?”
“It was touch and go with Beatty, but Doc thinks that he will be all right. But he was almost as worried about you.”
“I’m okay.” He tried to sit up and felt his stomach lurch. The headache was back in full force as well. He lay back down with a groan. “What about the boat?”
“We have been able to make temporary repairs on the surface after coming to an understanding with the whaling ship’s captain. Didn’t help that he didn’t have anyone who spoke more than a tiny bit of English. Cliff Tanaka was able to interpret for us.”
“I hope you surfaced close enough to rock them out of their beds,” Lee said sourly.
“Indeed we did and you should have seen the look on the captain’s face when he recognized us. Until we got Cliff up there to tell them off all you could see were men hanging on the rails, gawking and pointing. They knew who we were all right and they almost wet their pants when we told them we had a mind to report this to the U.N., the Australian Ministry of Environmental Science, Greenpeace and anyone else we could think of.”
Lee couldn’t help it, he grinned. “What the hell were they doing tossing depth charges into the ocean?”
“Thankfully they weren’t full sized canisters and that only one blew close enough to us to do any damage. They were experimenting.” Chip shook his head in disgust. “Believe it or not, they were trying to use them to herd whales toward their companion ship,” Chip explained. “Some idiot thought we were a pod just under the surface.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! Why not blow up the bathtub to get rid of the water?” Lee said in disbelief.
“They told me that the theory was that explosives were quicker and less expensive than chasing individual animals. All they had to do was set off a couple of depth charges and then harpoon any and all whales that headed toward the factory ship in panic.”
“I hate to interrupt this little chat, gentlemen,” Doc said, walking up to the bunk. “But I need to examine my patient.”
“How’s Porter and Beatty?” Lee asked the CMO, ignoring his comment for the moment.
“Porter is fine. He’s just in here for observation for another couple of hours. Beatty will stay for a while. He’s still on oxygen and I worry that he was under for so long. I think in the long haul, he’ll be okay.” Doc studied him for a moment before speaking again. “I heard that you lost your cookies down there.”
“Yeah,” Lee said, feeling the beat of the drums in his head lessening slightly. He put his hand over his eyes to cut out some of the harsh light.
“Yeah,” he admitted. “But it’s easing up.”
“I’d give you something, but not sure how that would affect your ‘guest’,” Doc said.
<Tell your doctor thank you for his consideration, Lee> There was a slight pause. <Your men have much to be grateful for>
Crane ignored her for the moment. “What’s the IV for, Doc?
And what time is it?
“It was 0500 when you were brought in. It’s 0800 now and the IV is liquid nourishment since you are having such a hard time with the other kind,” Doc replied. “You finish this bottle and I’ll be satisfied for now. Then it will be light duty for you, if any at all.”
“You heard me, Captain. Despite my ill-advised joking last night, for which I do apologize, you still have to realize that for better or for worse, you are taking care of another entity. Krilore, of necessity, is taking some of the nutrients that you would normally be using for yourself. That is causing the tiredness you are feeling. The other problems are probably the result of compatibility issues; in other words, something in the alien biochemistry that your body doesn’t like. As long as you take it easy and don’t try to go swimming in the Antarctic Ocean again, you should be okay until you reach the other site and Krilore gets a regular host.”
Lee was grateful to Doc for his careful words. Chip was gazing at them, a puzzled look on his face, but he said nothing. “Well, all right,” Crane answered. “And by the way, Krilore told me to tell you thank you for your consideration.”
“No problem, Lee. But let’s keep this in perspective. YOU, Captain, are my first priority. If I feel you need something a bit stronger than Tylenol 3 and a nutrish IV, then I’ll jolly well give it to you,” Doc stated firmly.
Crane slowly sat up.
The headache had retreated to the shadowy corner of his head
where it had holed up since yesterday afternoon.
There was a slight bit of queasiness, but that too, was within
the realm of acceptability.
<Understood perfectly> Krilore immediately
said, her thoughts tinged with slight humor.
Lee couldn’t help it; he began chuckling.
He repeated what the alien had said.
“Go take care of the boat, Captain,” Doc said resignedly as he unhooked the now depleted IV. “But I want you back here after your watch, which incidentally will be only four hours.”
“What?” Lee squawked.
“You heard me.
If you trust Krilore and remain a host, then I am not just taking
care of you, Skipper. I
literally am taking care of two individuals.”
Lee fumed as he put on his shirt, but did see the wisdom in what Doc was saying. He just didn’t want to admit it.
<As soon as I am back among my own people, you will be relieved of my presence and you can get back to your command, Lee> Krilore told him.
Although Lee knew that she was striving to be as
emotionless as possible, he sensed something that he couldn’t quite
lay a finger on. He
didn’t pursue it, though, and he finished dressing under Doc’s
“I guess I’ll see you in the control room in a short while, then, right, Lee?” Chip asked with a soft smile.
“Yes. I want to check out that damaged area first, though.”
“And get some breakfast,” Doc admonished.
Lee frowned, but just nodded. As it was, after he had gone to his cabin, showered, shaved and properly dressed, and then headed to the aft section to check on repairs, he was already tired. With Doc’s admonition still bouncing around in his mind, he headed toward the officer’s mess to get a bite to eat. Through all of this, Krilore had been very quiet.