Someone once said ICE can be dangerous. Here’s a twist on that old saying…
He had never felt such pain before. Not the pain of a wound, of illness, but deep, intense bone-chilling pain. That was the part that was the worst. It was in his bones, in his being, becoming part of him, absorbing him into the deep, dark of frost. He was immobile, held in place by ropes, his arms outstretched, hands splayed against the metal he was bound to, fingers already numb, painfully cold, feeling so brittle that they might break. His legs also bound in place, apart, so no warmth might spread by contact with another limb. They'd removed his coat, shoes and gloves, left the work khaki uniform intact, and then sprayed him with water, as they bound him, laughing as they did, in a language that was harsh and brittle, like the cold that wrapped him in its cold womb. They then left him in the room, as the temperature began to rapidly drop. He began to shiver, the water forming icy drops all over his body, chilling him.
As the room got colder and colder, he could feel the numbness slowly creeping throughout him. It began in his hands and feet, as the cold continued its inexorable penetration of his very being.
He knew that he was facing death - something he was, in this place and time, powerless to stop. He had often imagined death, but never, never like this. All those other times, there had been no awareness of the absolute, of the end. He had faced the possibilities, but had always known the desire to fight, that there was hope, somewhere, somehow. But here, now, like this... there was no hope. He was going to freeze to death in this place, and be aware of it all, until the end came. And he could do nothing to fight it. His arms had no feeling but the icy needles of the cold, as blood slowed, and began to freeze, first in the capillaries, then the smaller veins, then the larger ones. It was so cold, he could almost feel the blood as it froze, and the crystals pierced the thin walls of the vessels that carried it throughout his body. He could no longer move his body at all, a thin layer of ice covering it, his eyes, his mouth, his nose, beginning to lose feeling. Internally, he was convulsing, shivering with the cold, but his body was unable to move, to even sag as it lost feeling, and slowly, every so slowly, began to die.
He knew it; he felt it; the slow death, the slow, painful, cold, freezing that was overwhelming his sluggish senses. The cold was at his neck now, no other part of him feeling anything but cold numbness... it was slowly spreading to his throat, his mouth, he couldn't breathe well, couldn't breathe much, and finally, he gave over to the cold, fearful frost that beckoned, as the icy prison claimed him, and his consciousness....
ICE - the results
As the scream tore through the very bowels of the boat, the ‘brother’, standing, watching, allowed unseen tears that had brimmed since the cries of agony began, to very slowly trickle down his face. He couldn’t fathom what the man on the gurney was experiencing; he had no experience to draw on that would give him even the most minute measure of understanding. Still, the body, writhing and convulsing, screaming in inexplicable pain was the one man closer to him than all others. His ‘brother’ in every way but birth, for they had shared all, including blood, once their lives had come together on that long ago day in July on the banks of the Severn River. Once intertwined, their lives had been shared, serving apart or together, as bonded brothers are. Now he watched, helpless, as his ‘brother’ fought to survive. He prayed, and watched, and silently wept, each scream of pain driving spike after spike of ache into his already wounded heart. They had thought his ‘brother’ dead, when they first found him, his core temperature was somewhere around 78ºF, he was in profound hypothermia, and there was little hope that he had survived. They had transported him here, as fast as humanly possible, and the doctor, refusing to give up, had begun to warm him. His heart had responded, he had begun to ‘come back’ but they were unable to give him any medication for his pain, and the pain that he was enduring as warmth and feeling returned to his frozen body was something no one could begin to measure. His screams rent the boat, his crew dying emotionally with each that was heard. They had been jubilant to find him, to bring him home, but now, as they heard him screaming in such unendurable pain, their jubilation turned quickly to sorrow at what he was going through.
ICE - the Doctor
The doctor stood at the side of the table, frustrated and angry that he could do little or nothing to help the man who lay there, momentarily quiet. He shared the tears of the 'brother' in the doorway, and of the older man, who, no longer able to bear the agony of one of his 'boys' had fled the Sick Bay in tears, seeking the solace of his cabin, seeking to no longer watch the agony of the young officer. The doctor was torn... he wanted to relieve in some way his patients' pain, but he knew even the mildest of pain relievers wouldn't work, and could cause further damage. They had tried to gently warm him, once they found his life force was a small, simmering spark. But he'd known, in his heart of hearts, that any warmth returning to the frozen limbs would bring unspeakable pain, the kind of which none of them had experienced, nor could they relieve it. The man on the gurney had to go thru it without anything but the support and prayers of all of those who loved and respected him. It was a battle, wearing on him, the doctor, the corpsmen, and all who were trying to help.
He laid a hand, worn with time and care on the patient's shoulder, leaving a light touch, hoping that the slight pressure would be felt as reassuring through the blankets and warming pads. He leaned forward, murmuring, "Easy... take it easy, sir. You're back on the boat, back home..."
The patients' eyes opened, slightly, as recognition and awareness penetrated the blazing pain that was enveloping him... "HOME?" he whispered..."The boat?"
A slight smile split the serious face of the doctor..."Yessir... the boat."
The man's body began to go rigid, as another spasm began to rack his body, a scream building, he hissed at the medic, "Jamie, Please...make it stop!!" as the sound that erupted from his mouth tore the heart and soul of all who heard him... "MAKE IT STOP!"
ICE - the Admiral
He closed the door to his cabin and fell into his desk chair Coward!! Nelson, you’re a goddamn coward!!! You left him there, to go through that without your support!!! How in the hell could you leave him like that?
He pulled open the bottom desk drawer and removed a bottle of Glen Livet that he kept there. Anger, hurt, and frustration all came crashing together as he noted that the level of alcohol was surprisingly low. You’ve been hitting the bottle too much, Nelson! Ever since he went missing. Is this how you cope? You’re going to become a damned alcoholic!! You did this once in your life...it didn't work then and you know goddamn well it sure as hell isn't going to work now.
He slammed the bottle down onto the desk, and instead, reached for a cigarette, only to find the pack in his pocket was empty. He growled, and began to search the drawers of the desk for his nicotine fix. Finally, in the other bottom drawer, in the back, he found two unopened packs and pulled one pack out, rapidly peeling away the wrapper, and tearing a single cigarette from the pack. The act was so violent that the contents spilled all over the blotter on the desk. He didn‘t care, just took his lighter and lit the small stick of tobacco. He inhaled deeply, and collapsed back into the chair, taking two additional deep pulls on the cigarette. He filled the glass he’d taken from the drawer, filled it to the top, noting yet again, the near empty condition of the bottle. He took a deep drink, not feeling the burning that always accompanied a swallow, not feeling the warmth as it hit his long empty stomach.
Nelson, you’re one hell of a coward. You couldn’t even stay in the room and give him your support. His ‘brother’ stayed, Jamie wanted to flee with you, but he stayed. Francis was lurking in the doorway, but you...you had to push your way through the men! You ran!! Ran from the side of one of the men closest to you
He finished the drink, and poured another, emptying the bottle. It was then he heard the scream, the gut-wrenching, heart-rending scream of the man in SickBay. Closing his eyes tightly, he sought to shut out the hideousness of the sound that tore through him. Oh, God, help him!!! Please!!! Make it stop! Whatever it costs all of us, Give him peace, whatever it may be.
He swallowed the entire contents of the glass, let the cigarette burn itself out in the ashtray, and lowered his head to the folded arms on the desk, allowing his own private sobs of grief to fill the cabin.
ICE - Kowalski
When Sharkey left his post at the doors to go look after the OOM, Ski quietly took his place. As the most senior of the senior ratings, the men looked to him, as an indicator of attitude, behavior and much more. He was a reluctant leader, but accepted the role, just as he accepted all things, with quiet dignity and determination. He was feeling none of that now. He was angry- so angry about what had happened to the man in the Sick Bay. His CO and the command staff were men dedicated to their duty, country, boat, and all the things that men like that were dedicated to. They had earned the respect of the ratings by not asking any man to do anything they wouldn’t themselves do. And if it was something that required a risk, they took the risk, before asking their crew to do it. He could easily remember the time he had volunteered to try and free a fused door so that a poisonous gas wouldn’t flood the ship, and Mr. Morton had been right there with him. The Exec had taken the risk to his own life to help and work with him. The Skipper was the same way. Why, even the Admiral put his own life at risk several times to save the boat and the men.
Ski knew there wasn’t one man on the boat that wouldn’t willingly take the place of the man on the gurney. And he also knew that if he had done his job better, this wouldn’t be happening. That the man in Sick Bay wouldn’t be suffering so, wouldn’t be in such pain, wouldn’t have his life at risk.
It was supposed to have been a simple in and out observation of a listening post in the Antarctic, that there had been suspicions about. In and out, they said; one man, they said; didn’t need to be ONI, they said. Whoever can do it, you all had training in Arctic Ops, they said. Admiral Starke wasn’t happy; neither was Nelson. But it came down directly from the SecNav, and it had to be done. Nelson had an hellacious argument with Starke, slammed the phone, summoned the Skipper and the Exec, and then had an argument with them. The three men, each a thundercloud of their own, had then set up the mission, and executed it. When it went wrong, Nelson was barely able to contain himself, and until they had implemented and succeeded with the rescue, he stayed in the Nose, pacing, sitting and smoking, until Doc had stopped him, and sent him to his cabin, to await the arrival of the rescue party and the freed captive.
Ski had wanted to go on the insertion, but was turned down by Nelson himself, who understood the younger man's need, but also the need for fewer possible mistakes. He wanted to go on the rescue, but Nelson refused that as well, knowing that they needed his fine hands on the boat, in case of any emergency.
So he was left here, now taking his turn, his duty, to wait, watch and die a little, each time a scream was heard. If he’d gone on the insertion, the man in the SickBay wouldn’t have been captured, wouldn’t have been hurt, and wouldn’t have his life hanging in the balance. Ski shook his head, sadly. It was his fault- all his fault!
Ice - Riley and Rod
Marco Rodriguez sat in the crew's mess. The entire boat was quiet, the abnormal silence broken only by the screams coming from Sick Bay. Tradition on ships of the line is that the corridor outside Sick Bay is silent, in deference to anyone who may be there, the sick and recovering. Seaview had her own Sick Bay, a dramatic departure from other subs, where there was no established 'Sick Bay', or Doctor for that matter. Admiral Nelson believed in only the best, and his boat had it. Scoffed at first for 'pampering' his hand picked crew, it soon became more than apparent that the state-of-the-art submarine medical facility had saved more lives than even Nelson could have anticipated. It had started with Bishop, when the boat had sunk in a uncharted, abandoned minefield off the East Coast of the United States, on the edge of the Continental Shelf, and simply continued from there. The Sick Bay and its environs were hallowed ground on this boat, but the entire boat was silent since they'd brought their officer back from that mission that had cost him so much. Doc said it was still going to be touch and go for a while. The screams had lessened, as he gradually warmed up, but Jamison was worried about damage that couldn't be immediately assessed. Frostbite, permanent damage to the extremities, all of these things would take time to become evident, all the while the officer would be in physical distress, and the extent of the damage would surely affect his career and service on the boat.
Marco stared deeper into his coffee, fingering his St. Christopher medal. The Captain wore one like this. Rod himself had given it to him early in his service on the boat, though not early in Crane's service for ONI. Crane had replaced Rod's medal with a gift of his own, and Marco immediately attached it to his own dog tag chain. It gave him a special bond with the Captain, one that more than once had helped both men in dire situations. Marco could only hope and wonder.
He was deep in thought when Stu Riley entered the Mess. He stopped at the coffee urn, and then quietly simply sat across from Rodriguez. The younger man looked as if he had aged years in a matter of hours, and he simply sat, as Rod had, and stared into his coffee cup.
"Any word, Stu?"
Riley morosely shook his head. "Nope. The Doc isn't saying anything. I wish we'd've gotten there sooner, Rod. Maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't be in such bad shape..."
"Stu, we're lucky we got him at all... And we're lucky he isn't dead." He shook his head, "Although, I kinda think he'd rather be, if he'd had his druthers. I can't imagine..."
"No, man, neither can I ... I mean he was frozen, really frozen. And Doc was only able to bring him back cause of the stuff he has in Sick Bay. I mean, down here, we're so far from any real medical digs, well, we're lucky we're the boat we are... you know..."
Rod nodded. "You know and I know it couldn't have been any different, Stu. This mission was what it was... No more no less... I only have one wish. One that I should have acted on long ago."
Riley looked at his companion, the young rating's blue eyes connecting with Marco's rich brown ones. "What's that? What do you wish?"
He held his medal out to Riley, " I wish I'd given the medal of the Saint to Mr. Morton after I'd given the Captain one... maybe the Saint would have protected him, if he'd been wearing a medal... maybe."
Ice – the Ending?
The lone seaman made his way to the Sick Bay. The crew had slowly and reluctantly returned to their duty watches and posts, once the screams from the Medical area of the boat had lessened and finally ceased. The men didn’t want to leave the hatchway, but Duty came first, and the man in Sick Bay would be the first to remind them all of that. Both men in Sick Bay would do that, if either had the ability to do so. But right now, the Second was in command, and he was, as he had learned to, shepherding the crew back to duty, to get the boat back to the home base, and get the man in Sick Bay to the Med Bay where his care would continue.
The seaman stood in the hatchway, looking in at the center of the facility. The gurney stood under the center light, machines and wires connected by snaking cords to the figure on the gurney. He was still for now. The convulsive pain, the screams had stopped. Doc Jamison had finally been able to sedate him, give him pain medication, and quiet him down. That didn’t help that man whose dark head lay on folded arms on the side bars of the gurney. Neither man was stirring. Rodriguez didn’t want to disturb the Skipper, or the Exec, hoping that each man would find his peace.
Softly, his sneakers making no sound on the polished deck, he moved to the gurney. His first, hard look at the Exec, since they’d brought him back, was brutal. Mr. Morton’s face was tight, a grimace, even unconscious. His hands and feet were heavily covered in a thick layer of gel, as were parts of his face and ears. His arms and legs were elevated, and areas of his body, left uncovered in the warm room, also showed layers of gel. There were several bags of IV’s, all attached to a hep-lock on his left arm, and they read sodium solution with contents of pentoxifylline, aspirin, and Vitamin C, along with heavy painkillers. Rod had read up on treatment of severe frostbite and it seemed that as usual, the doctor of the Seaview was on top of the most advanced treatment for these extenuating circumstances. He moved closer to the gurney, and at that moment, Crane looked up. Momentarily surprised at the visitor, after a moment, he gave the rating a small smile of acknowledgement.
Rod stood at the gurney, now directly opposite his CO. He extended his hand towards the Exec. In a low voice, he asked "How…is he, sir?"
Crane, straightening his posture somewhat, replied "Doc doesn’t know yet. Says he won’t know for at least two to four weeks. Worst case scenario, he could lose his hands and feet; least case, tissue loss, to what degree, only time will tell. Doc has him heavily sedated. He doesn’t want him to wake up just yet."
Rod nodded, "I understand, sir." He dug into his pocket, " I brought him this, sir. Like yours," The light above the gurney glinted on the medal in Rodriguez’s hand. "I don’t know if he believes, as you and I do. I just thought that since you did, and you are his friend, well, he wouldn’t mind if I brought a medal of the Saint to take care of him. To watch over. He's a good man, sir."
"Yes, yes he is. The best, Rod. I know that. I’ve known that for as long as I’ve known him." Lee laid a hand lightly on Morton’s arm. "He'll recover, he has to!"
It was Marco's turn to offer comfort to a man he admired above all others, "Sir… Captain Crane, you must put your trust in a Higher Power. The saint, and Our Father will help him. Con su permisso, I will leave this with you, for him. The doctor will know better where to put it, so that the Saint will help him, and you, sir. The Saint will help all of us. And Mr. Morton, sir, he will recover. You must believe that, you know of the times the Saint has helped you! He will recover, sir." Rod handed the medal of St. Christopher to Crane, who nodded in thanks, and then took it, and pinned it to the blanket that lay lightly on Chip’s stomach. Rod nodded, turned quietly, and left.
Lee Crane returned to his silent vigil, praying anew that his ‘brother’s’ recovery would indeed take place, knowing the long road ahead, and being aware of the needs of the man who lay so quietly now.
Note: When I first found Voyage fan fiction, I discovered a page called NIMR Reports. At the time, it had more fanfic than anywhere else, on the web at that time about Voyage. That was in ‘98. I dove in, and thoroughly enjoyed all of it. One of the owners of the page and contributors was Deb Post. Deb wrote a number of stories on the site, and one that I enjoyed and was intrigued by was Escape. In it, she has Rodriguez, who is based on Marco Lopez's character on the show, the one Hispanic crewman who was there, but didn’t talk, give Crane a St. Christopher medal. It’s one of those moments in fanfic that I loved. I corresponded with her for a while, after telling her how I loved the piece, and then requesting permission to use Rod and his medal, in our stories. She graciously gave permission to take and use him, and I have done so unabashedly. I love the connection Rod has with Crane, and this piece leads to me developing that same relationship with Chip and Rod.
Enough already. Here’s the link to Escape, if you care to read it. http://members.cox.net/nimr123/escape.htm
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