( a WHN for Mist of Silence)
Welcome…Silence… to my place
I’ve missed you for so long
I sought your face a thousand times in voices loud and strong
In searching for your solitude… I looked and looked without
And when else should I find your face, save on the holy ground…
He sat on his the deck, watching the surging sea, absorbing the quiet, the silence. He was, finally, alone. All the good thoughts, good feelings that everyone tried to give to him, share with him, were tossed aside as he sat. He really didn’t need them telling him, nor did he believe that it ‘would get better’; that ‘time would help’. He’d lost men before, in situations that couldn’t be helped. But this could have been ‘helped’. Jeff Farrell had died, because of him. Because he’d refused to cooperate with the enemy. Because he’d been taught, trained, ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ first. It had been pounded into his head in every way at the Academy, and since. In the ONI training courses, in every course, at Groton, Norfolk, even Mare Island. Every possible way. It would have been simple enough to cooperate until rescue came. Simple, but not ‘right’. He’d done the ‘right thing’ and one man had died, and Patterson had almost died, been shot… he’d never forget Farrell’s cries for him, for ‘Ski. Never forget. Never forget that D’Alvarez was seemingly delighted to kill Farrell; that he seemed pleased that that he could kill any man he chose, even the President of his country. The fight that he’d had, with the dictator had felt good… It had made him feel as if he was getting Farrell’s last shots in with the evil man. And later, when he found out that D’Alvarez had himself been killed, Lee felt a guilty pleasure in the evil man’s death.
Lee rose, holding his side, the ace bandage that Jamie had around his midsection to support the damaged ribs pulling slightly, and giving him cause to take a sharp breath. His left arm rested in a sling, to take pressure off the healing ribs, much to his chagrin. Dressed in an open white shirt, jeans and docksiders, he hardly looked the Captain of the most powerful boat in the oceans. Which was the reason he was here, in his new home, instead of on his boat; His boat!! He had command of the Seaview, Nelson’s ‘folly’. His boat!!’ Perhaps at other times the boat would win the battle of need to be there, but not this time. This time, he needed the silence, to figure it all out, to determine why…and perhaps to also just be alone… that in and of itself was something he valued. To be alone, at least for a while. He turned to go into the great room of his new home, one of the perks of being the captain of Nelson’s boat. He had this house, assigned to him, just down the hill from Nelson’s brick Georgian that sat atop the hill. The house was large, new, with a deck off the great room and the master suite, a two car garage, office, formal dining room, great room, kitchen, foyer, and five bedrooms. Smaller than Nelson’s but huge to a man who was used to the small apartments in the BOQ of various bases. Huge and full of boxes of new furniture, wall hangings, window treatments, etc. The reality of it was the only room that was lived in was the bedroom, and sometimes the kitchen which was used, to make coffee or a sandwich. Lee didn’t need all the room, but right now, he appreciated the space and the silence.
After they’d gotten back to the boat, had President Fuentes safely installed in the guest quarters, Jamie had called him, ostensibly to go over the President’s condition. Actually, it was to check him over, after Kowalski had informed the medic of Lee’s blinding and his fight with the D’Alvarez.
When Lee walked into the Sick Bay, he found he’d been out foxed by the rating; and before he could protest, Doc was quoting the Captain’s own standing orders. regarding reporting for a physical after a return to the boat following a mission, that Lee had initiated after becoming the boat’s permanent Captain; so, there he was, sitting on an exam table, being poked and prodded by Seaview’s medic. He found he was unable to tell what the doctor was thinking, as all Jamison did during the exam, save tell Lee to lift an arm, open an eye, etc, was issue a grunt here, and a groan there, sometimes in concert with Crane’s response to a poke or prod in a sensitive area; some-times without any provocation from his patient. The end result of the exam was that the Captain had three cracked ribs and severe irritation of eyes, requiring rest, and several days of dim lights and frequent bathing of the eyes. Lee was relieved of duty, and ‘finessed’ into a rack. That’s not to say that it was an easy accomplishment for the doctor.
Still finding his way with the Captain, Jamison had learned early on that Crane was ‘fine’ even when he wasn’t and that he had an almost pathological aversion to Sick Bay, although he respected the Doctor and the work he did. Someday, Jamison would find out why, but for now, he just had to make sure that Crane was truly ‘fine’, even when the medic knew he wasn’t.
Jamison had gone through Lee’s medical file when he first came aboard, after John Philip’s death, and before Lee became the boat’s permanent Skipper. He was, simply, surprised that the young officer had been through so much, and had, on necessary occasions, healed so well, in spite of what Jamie saw as a streak of bull-headedness. As the new Captain, Crane had issued a standing order that anyone returning from a mission off-boat HAD to report to Jamison first, when they returned. It helped the Doctor keep up with the injuries and mishaps that did or could occur. What he had not counted on was that the Captain himself frequently ‘busted’ orders, avoiding the Doctor in whatever manner he could. This time, with the help of Kowalski, Crane found himself at the doctor’s ‘tender mercies’, with no escape. Having given the CMO carte blanche with regard to the crew’s health, Doctor’s Orders superceded even the Captain’s except in a dire, world-threatening emergency. So, the Captain was ordered to the rack, and there was no recourse. Given an IV with pain meds, and ‘slight sedation’, Crane was quickly asleep.
It was during this stay in Sick Bay, only a few missions into Lee’s command, that the ‘tradition’ of rack-side watches began. Once in the rack, and lightly sedated, Crane slept, and Morton came into the Sick Bay, pulling up a chair and small table to wait with the Captain, doing his paperwork, until he woke. When Crane had not awakened, and Chip’s regular watch came due, Nelson silently took Morton’s place, a pile of file folders and papers accompanying him in his ‘watch’. During Nelson’s turn, Crane woke, to blue eyes filled with concern, something Crane would find often, but as yet was not used to. His surprise at finding Nelson at his rack-side was compounded by the word that Morton had also been there earlier, on ‘watch’.
In these few months, Crane was slowly finding his way about the boat and in his relationship with Nelson; renewing his ‘brotherhood’ with Morton, and establishing himself with the rest of the crew. His relationship with Nelson which began as a Plebe at the Academy, was a mix of admiration, inspiration and plain, ordinary respect for the amazing man who had built a solid career in the Navy, won numerous awards in science and the military, had a list of inventions that would fill a room, and who was a certified genius. There was something of ‘idol-worship’ also mixed in. And the simple fact that the young man, fatherless, saw Nelson as a ‘father-figure’ as well. Nelson was transferred out of the Academy some 18 months after Crane and Morton had begun there, but the older man did keep an eye on the two, who, by the end of Plebe summer, were leading their class in grades, athletics and leadership.
As much as Nelson had followed his, Crane also followed Nelson’s career, and was surprised and pleased to find himself as a Junior Officer on the Nautilus under Captain Nelson. The friendship had been cemented on that assignment, as short as it was for Crane, who found himself pulled off the boat midway through the assignment to run not one but two ONI missions. By the time he’d finished the missions (and the subsequent recuperation), he’d been promoted, and assigned to the sub school at Groton, pending another posting.
He didn’t seen Harriman Nelson until the Seaview’s keel was laid. He’d been told by Chip Morton months before that Morton had been chosen as the new boat’s Exec; rescued from the Pentagon by Nelson himself; and Lee was pleased to have been among the invited guests to the keel laying ceremony for the first non-military, privately owned and funded submarine so that he could congratulate his ‘brother in arms’ for his coup of a position. Little did he know that Harriman Nelson had been trying to move every obstacle to have Crane ‘mustered’ out of the Navy and into the Reserves, so he could ‘Captain’ the Seaview, but to no avail. The Powers in the Pentagon at the time saw the uniqueness of the young officer, and wanted to do all they could to keep him in their ranks. They had succeeded mightily, until Dr. Gamma had threatened the world and killed John Philips, narrowly missing Nelson himself, the real target of the attack. That had put Lee Crane right where Nelson wanted him, and right where Lee had dreamed of being.
Which brought Crane to his present situation; After waking in Sick Bay, finding Nelson at ‘rack-side’ and Jamison hovering nearby, he was beset with questions as to ‘How do you feel?’; ‘Tell us what happened in the cell?’; ‘How did Farrell die?’ etc. Lee was cautious with his answers, quietly brooding over Farrell’s death and sorting out his feelings. Within hours of waking, he was allowed to his quarters, properly supervised, and given Jamie’s ‘do it my way or the highway’, line. Properly belligerent, he went to his quarters, planning to go to the Control Room, but finding himself out-maneuvered in the person of Curly Jones, who had been assigned to ‘give him a hand if he needed it’. Curly’s affability put Lee in a somewhat better mood at being trapped in his cabin. However, while the CPO’s easy personality made Lee’s time in his cabin at the very least, easier, the COB’s sixth sense made it impossible for Lee to escape to the Control Room for the rest of the cruise.
Two days later, the boat docked, and the Captain was ordered home, with regular checking in by Jamison’s corpsman, Frank Lerner. Ordered to remain there, until he heard from the Doctor, he was told to rest and relax, so that he could get back to the boat as soon as he was able.
So now, he wandered thru the house, making a mental note to ask Angie, Nelson’s secretary to see if she could find someone to help him set up his house. There were a number of women at the Institute that had offered to help him, but he hadn’t wanted to bother anyone. He was still too busy acclimating himself to the boat, the men, and his duties on land to bother with fixing up a house himself. Finding himself at the head of ‘Ship’s Stores’, he was learning just what that meant, and what he had to learn how to do outside of the boat. Grant writing was one of his ‘land’ duties, and he was finding that an additional challenge.
He looked at the boxes that lay all over the Great Room, wishing he had the ability to wish things as mundane as this all into place. Well, he really had no excuse now, not to get the house organized, and knew he would have to call Angie in a day or so. Filing that in his personal ‘to-do’ list, he sighed, and headed up the stairs to his bedroom.
As he walked down his hallway to the ‘Master Suite’ he still was amazed at the size of this house. It was the first place, since he’d left Providence for the Academy that he actually felt at ‘home’ in. Yes, it was empty, for now, but it was his home. Something that he’d not had in many years. Maybe one day, he’d resolve things with his mother, and she would come and visit and meet his ‘family’ here at the Institute. Maybe… if she had the time…
One of the things he had to resolve was the feeling that he’d walked around his duty as Captain. He’d written t o Jeff Farrell’s family, the proper letter, I regret to inform you…, it is with deepest sympathy… etc, etc. But there was so much more he had to say, so much more he wanted to say, needed to say about the man that Farrell was.
Farrell had been one of the plank owners of the Seaview, and next to Patterson, Ski’s best friend on the boat, a senior rating, a helmsman, and nuclear specialist. He had a steady girl, and lived in one of the apartments on the Institute grounds, that was in the complex for the unmarried ratings. His parents lived in Port Huneme. Jeff and his twin brother, Dan were born and raised in California, and both had, literally, joined the Navy to see the world. Jeff had become a submariner, his brother choosing to go into surface ships, and Jeff had specialized in nuclear reactors, along with learning the helm. He loved his work, being very good at it. He was also surprised beyond belief when he was tapped by Harriman Nelson, at the end of his second enlistment tour, to join the crew of the Seaview. He’d heard about ‘Nelson’s Folly’, but never ever dreamed he’d be part of it.
When he arrived at the Institute, he’d found several friends from his Navy days, Kowalski being one of them. The three ratings, 'Ski, Patterson and Farrell had made an unbeatable team when it came to getting things done, and so it was a natural for the Captain to take the three of them onto the Yacht to look for Presidente Fuentes, and then take the boat back towards a secure port. It had also been the strength of that friendship that had enabled them to get through the initial capture and imprisonment. Unfortunately, that relationship had been shattered by D'Alvarez’ actions. Lee Crane also blamed himself, in large part for that destruction. Right or wrong, he placed it squarely on his lean shoulders. Now he had to do something.
He reached for the phone on his desk, in his bedroom, the only room in the house with a semblance of order, and lack of boxes. He waited while the phone rang thru.
"Hullo, Kowalski here."
"Ski, this is the Captain. I have something I need you to do for me."
"Sure, Skipper. What is it?"
smiled ruefully, knowing that his request was going to get the rating in ‘Dutch’
with Jamison, but also knowing that he could easily say 'no' if he wanted to.
Lee didn't know how the rating would react, but he sighed slightly, and
proceeded. "Ski, I need you to get me a car from the motor pool. I can't drive
my Cobra with my arm like this. I'd like you to get into your dress blues, and
meet me here at the house. We're going to pay a visit..."
"To Jeff's family, Skipper?"
Lee was taken aback by Kowalski's intuition, but he was inwardly relieved. It also proved that despite his rocky start with the senior rating, Ski knew him well, and was willing to assist him, regardless of the ‘mission’.
“Yes, that’s the plan. Will you help me out?”
“Of course, sir. I’ll be to you at your house in twenty minutes. That ok with you, Skipper?”
“Yes, it is. It gives me time to get into my uniform. Just ring the bell, if I’m not waiting for you.”
“Aye, aye, sir. I’ll be there shortly.” The phone clicked off, and Crane returned his to the cradle. He went to his closet, and pulled out a set of dress blues. He eased off the sling, and laid the uniform on his bed, going to his chest of drawers for socks. He eased himself out of his civvies, and slowly into the Uniform, respecting his body’s demands that he go slow. He wanted to be sure the he would be at his best when he spoke to Farrell’s family.
He finished dressing, and carefully slid into his uniform jacket. He had decided to forgo the sling for this visit. He promised himself he would be careful, and slowly picked up his cover, and went down the hall to the stairs to the foyer. He glanced at his watch, and saw that Kowalski would be out front, if he kept to his promised time. He opened his door, and as he did, one of the Institute cars pulled in front of the house. He noted that it was one of the Town Cars that they kept for ‘important’ visitors, one two that Nelson, on a whim, had ordered in a royal blue to match the colors he had chosen for the Institute insignia. Emblazoned on the side was the insignia in white. It was one of the cars that the Admiral had said was for ‘stuff and nonsense, and to make us look good to the #^&#@x* people’ they had to periodically impress. The cars were also used for other times, like this one, which, thankfully, did not occur too often.
Kowalski jumped out of the car, and trotted up the Captain’s walk, stopping in front of his CO. In his dress blues, he looked sharp, and he snapped a tight and proper salute.
“Seaman Kowalski, reporting as requested, Skipper.”
Lee grinned, returned the salute, “Nicely done, ‘Ski. Ready for the drive?”
“Yessir. It’s not that far, and if we don’t hit traffic, we’ll be there in under an hour.”
“Are you up to this, Ski?”
“Yessir. I’ve known Jeff’s mom and dad for quite a while. He was close to them, and he and Francie were gonna have them move down here, after they got married. I don’t know what they’re going to do now, but, I’ll be helping them in whatever they need. They’re not that far from here, and I can shoot down there whenever they need me.”
They were walking down the front walk, to the car and in one smooth move, Ski opened the door for the Captain, and he slid in, waiting for ‘Ski to close the door, and still looking at him, finishing his thought, “That’s, good, ‘Ski. They’re lucky Jeff had a friend like you.”
Kowalski nodded and closed the door. Lee began to settle in the seat, and then started. Behind the driver, in the seat next to him, was none other than his XO, Chip Morton.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
A wide grin spread across Morton’s face. “Well…” he drawled, “I was over at the car pool with my Jeep. Bart Reynolds, one of the best mechanics they've got there, by the way, was going to take a look at her. She’s been eating oil, and he said he’d check her over to see what needed to be done. Anyway, ‘Ski here comes in, and takes the keys to this, signing it out to your use. Well, I’m the XO and I want to know details. He tells me that you’re going to Farrell’s family, so I decided to tag along. Moral support and all that.”
“You’re not dressed.” Lee growled at him.
“I certainly am. Work khakis is dressed. Just because I don’t have the blues on, doesn’t mean I’m not dressed. You know that as well as I do.” He smiled at Lee, who saw no humor in the situation, and didn’t want to have his XO along. This was something he needed to do, with Kowalski, and no one else.
“You’re not dressed!” he growled again.
Patiently, Chip replied, “I am dressed. And I’m not stopping at my house to change, because, I know you! I’ll get out and then you’ll order Kowalski here to take off and leave me in the dust.” He settled back further into the soft seat, crossing his arms across his chest, in a softly defiant pose. “…And that ain’t gonna happen, buddy!”
Tersely, “I don’t need a babysitter or a watchdog. I want to do this myself.”
Chip tipped his cover forward, to cover his eyes, and melded further with the seat. “Well, guess what? I’m sure as hell not your babysitter or a damn watchdog. What I am is your friend/XO/whatever, and you, my captain, are stuck with me, ‘cause I’m not getting out of this seat. I hear Port Hueneme is a pretty town, right ‘Ski?”
The rating had been concentrating on his driving, trying not to listen to the byplay in the back seat, but he was now being pulled in.
With some trepidation, he answered, “Yes, sir, Mr. Morton. It’s a real pretty town, at least the part where Jeff’s family lives. A real old-fashioned neighborhood. Jeff said he and Danny had a great childhood there, and that he always wanted to go to sea, him and Danny. It was good of the Admiral to arrange his compassionate leave so quick. His mom and dad really appreciated Danny being able to be there to help them do everything. Especially since things were so confused when we got back.”
Both officers were quiet, listening to the rating. When Kowalski finished, there was silence in the car. Neither officer spoke for seconds that seemed like minutes, both lost in their own thoughts and reactions to ‘Ski’s answer.
Finally, “Lee, I… I’m sorry that I didn’t warn you I was coming, but, well, you know, bro, it’s all about support…”
“And I’m sorry that I told you I didn’t want you here. It’s just that it’s taken me awhile, you know, and I didn’t make the service; you and the Admiral went, and the men, since Jamie had me in lockdown. But I need to do this, and I need to do it now, today. And I didn’t plan on anyone else, except Kowalski.”
Chip nodded. “I can stay in the car. I’m just doing what an XO does, supporting his skipper.” He paused for a moment, “and doing what a brother does. Being there for his brother.” He reached for Lee’s left arm and clasped it tightly. “I didn’t want you to do this alone. I also wanted to let you know something that we all decided when John died. We, the Seaview’s crew and officers, we take care of our own. We’re a family, from the OOM on down, and we all take it as part of who we are. We take care of our own. You’re one of our own, buddy, just like Farrell, ‘Ski, Curley all of us. And we do take care of one another.”
As Lee returned Chip’s grasp of friendship, he thought for a few moments about what Chip had just said. It was an unwritten code in many areas of service that the group of individuals took care of one another, no matter the circumstances. But the Seaview was different. Looking back at the men and the boat since he’d come aboard, he began to realize what Chip meant. Family… friends… a sense of belonging that he’d never known before. Harriman Nelson had built this, and he was lucky enough to have become part of it. Chip said that the Seaview’s crew took care of her own. But it was more than that. Seaview’s family took care of their own. And once you were part of that family, you were family forever, even if you were no longer on the boat, for whatever reason. John Philips had been part of that family. The Institute had provided a house for his family, and John’s wife didn’t have to work, if she chose not to, and could stay home and raise their two young children. . Then the families of Anders, Henley and all the men on the Polidor… the Institute was seeing to all of them… many had been on the Seaview before they died on Polidor. Chip called them all a family. He was right, that’s what they were.
He looked over at his best friend and ‘brother’, grateful to Nelson that they were finally serving together, grateful to Nelson for the gift of command of the ‘Grey Lady’ of the Institute, and very grateful for making him part of the family that The Nelson Institute of Marine Research was. He didn’t need to worry about being alone, about not having a place to call home, about not having a family. It was all here. He shook his head at his foolishness. Thanks to Chip, he understood.
The car came to a halt, and ‘Ski stopped it and waited for Crane’s orders.
Lee turned to Morton, “Why don’t you come in with us. I’m sure Jeff’s family will be glad to see you again.”
“Nope, brought some files to go over. You go on, and do this, like you need to. I’ll be here when you come out… Like I said, it’s all about support.”
Lee nodded, ‘Thanks…bro’.”
Chip flashed a smile, then buried his head in the file that had appeared on his lap. Kowalski got out, and held the door for the Seaview’s Captain. Lee got out of the car, and straightened his jacket, squared his cover, and followed Kowalski to the door of the California Bungalow style house.
Feeling more at ease than he had in a while, Lee waited while ‘Ski rang the bell, the door was opened, and the rating was embraced by a stately, dark – haired woman. Once the embrace ended, Lee was introduced, and they stepped inside the house.
As the door closed, Chip watched from the car. He was glad he’d ‘pushed’ himself on Lee on this trip. If nothing else, Lee had a better understanding now, of what all their relationships were, and how important he was to all of them, the men, the boat and the Institute. Hopefully, now, Lee also realized that he had become part of them, and they of him, and that in the future, difficult journeys, like the one he had just travelled would be shared, by his ‘family’. At least that was Chip’s hope. The reality of it, well, only time would tell.
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