The Cave

by

EmmaLynn Rose

 

 

 . . .my version of the Monster of the Week. :-)

*   *   *   *  

Raven dark hair, the curls wild and untamed, dripped water down the side of his face, the droplets like crystal against his olive tanned skin.  Black lashes, like the fringe of a raven's wing, framed a pair of eyes like molten gold, touched with green jade fire or the kiss of an emerald. It took two corpsmen to manhandle him out of the wetsuit, the top shredded and now completely useless. His torso, from his broad shoulders down to his navel, just above his narrow hips was crisscrossed with a dozen long scratches, some just along the surface, others cutting into the skin and muscle. Blood oozed and mixed with the seawater dripping to the deck of the Missile Room, turning the floor a deep pink.

“Doc, I don't have a pulse,” Frank sang out, kneeing by the skipper's side, his fingers feeling for a pulse under the jawline. “Wait, I've got one. Very weak, but we've got something.” Everyone in the room let out the breath they had been unconsciously holding. From the hatchway, Admiral Nelson watched as Jamie and Frank hovered over Seaview's skipper.

“What the devil happened out there? How does a simple dive to collect samples result in Lee  looking like he went ten rounds with a swordfish?” Nelson growled, rubbing at the back of his head, drawing his fingers across his jawline. The idea had been simple. Lee, Chip, Kowalski and Riley were going to collect a few coral and water samples and give O'Brien some time in the Control Room. Seaview was holding position, they were in friendly waters, nothing should have gone wrong.

Only it did.

Kowalski had a distracted, lost look on his face, his dark eyes still witnessing what ever it was the four of them has run into out there. The look was wrong on the seasoned rating, who had seen things that would have sent most mortal men screaming for their lives. Ski was not a man easily scared, but something had him spooked. Stu Riley didn't look any better. The youngest member of Seaview's crew was pale and shaking as he tried with trembling hands to peel out of his wetsuit

“I don't know what it was, sir. One minute everything was fine, the skipper and the exec, we were almost done, when this thing, it just came out of nowhere,” Ski stammered. Jamie hadn't followed the corpsmen down as they carried Lee to Sickbay, and in two quick steps he was standing in front of the rating, shining a light into his dark eyes.

“Kowalski, you're suffering from mild shock. You need to be in Sickbay.”

The admiral was looking around, accounting for the dive party. Four men went out. Lee was in Sickbay, Kowalski was being lead away by Doc and Riley looked like the walking dead, Chip was, Chip. Where was Chip?

“Kowalski, what happened to Mister Morton?” Nelson asked with more than a bit of worry edging into his voice. Ski slowly turned and blinked a few times as if he had to make an effort to remember.

“That thing, sir, it went after Mister Morton first. It attacked the skipper when he tried to help the exec. Mister Morton, he just disappeared, one minute he was there, the next he was gone. He just vanished, sir, the same time that thing did. Oh, god, it was horrible . . .” Ski sucked in a shaky breath as the shock began to catch up with him. Nelson watch him go and felt a chill settle over him. Lee in Sickbay, his senior rating in shock and his exec missing, carried off by some mysterious nightmare creature?

Nothing good could come of this.

*   *   *   *

Lee clawed his way back to the world of the living, even as Jamie hovered over him.

“Settle down Lee, take it easy,” Jamie urged, but Lee on the best of days wasn't the greatest patient. This was not the best of days.

“Jamie, I have to go back! That – that thing, it's got Chip,” Lee gasped out, trying to push past the doctor. Finally Jamie had had enough.

“Lee, if you don't settle down, I'll will sedate you, and I will restrain you. Now calm down.”

Lee and Jamie locked eyes and Lee realized he was fighting a losing battle. Slowly the skipper settled back down into the bunk and closed his eyes, feeling utterly drained and helpless.

“Jamie, please, I have to back for Chip, I can't leave him there.”

“Leave him where, Lee?” the velvet bass of Admiral Nelson asked from the door. Lee looked up.

“A cave, in the cliff face. We were collecting coral samples and were about to come back, when this thing, it came out from nowhere,” Lee closed his eyes against the last image he had of Chip, panicked eyes pleading with him from behind the face mask, Chip clawing franticly as pale tentacles wrapped around him, pulling him further and further away from him.

“What was it, Lee? We need some kind of idea of what we're fighting  before I send a rescue party out.”

Lee took a deep breath, trying to remember the hideous thing that he would just as soon forget. Coupled with fact that the thing had taken his best friend for who knows what . . .

“Tentacles, everywhere. Like a squid or an octopus but, longer, covered with spines or claws or something. Admiral, I've never seen anything like it. It took Chip, we have to get him back, “ Lee rose up off the bunk and Jamie growled a low warning from his corner of Sickbay.

“Skipper,”

“Jamie, I can't lay around here, that thing, it might come after Seaview! We have to do something,”

Nelson dropped a restraining hand on Lee's shoulder. “And we will, Lee. You're staying here, you're in no condition to be going anywhere. We'll bring Morton back, I promise you that.”

*   *   *   *

With a headache that defied description, Chip Morton picked himself up off the gravelly floor of the cave, rubbing at his arms and head. Looking around, he found himself in some kind grotto. The wall were covered in a greenish, glowing kind of fungus that gave off just enough light to see by. Chip pulled himself to his feet, looking down at himself, he saw his legs were covered in long cuts and gashes in the neoprene, blood oozed in thin rivulets down his legs.

“Lee? Riley?” Chip called out, but got no answer. He walked slowly along the water's edge, suddenly realizing his air tank was gone. The harness must have snapped when that thing grabbed him.

That thing. Chip suppressed a shiver, thinking about the creature that had grabbed him. One minute he was taking samples, enjoying the chance for some dive time, when something grabbed him around the legs and started pulling him backwards. He couldn't stop himself, there was nothing he could grab onto. Lee had seen what was happening and had come to his aid, but the thing had grabbed him around his chest. The last thing he had seen was Kowalski and Riley hacking at the tentacles around the skipper, while he had been pulled deep and deeper down. He had black out at some point and now he was here, where ever here was.

With no air tank, he couldn't swim out, and he had no idea how far he would have to swim in order to clear the grotto and make it back to Seaview. He was trapped here until someone came looking for him, if somebody came looking for him.

No, Lee would come back. He had to. Trying hard not to think about being trapped, Chip wondered around the grotto, noticing the floor was covered in rocks and drift wood. Closer inspection made the bottom drop out of Chip's stomach and his heart crawl up into the back of his throat.

Bones. The grotto floor was covered with bones. Whale bones, what looked like seal,  and human bones. A few skulls grinned up at Chip almost as if mocking him. Morton swallowed down the bitter taste of bile and his growing sense of dread.

Out of the corner of his eye something scurried across the back of the cave. It was about the size of a cat, only it was all tentacles like some kind of mutant octopus, with ten times the appendages, writhing and pulsating as in made its way across the cave floor. Chip saw one, then two. A third emerged from a crack along the back wall. Tentacles wavering in the air, the three things stop and slowly twisted toward Chip.  Chip took a step backward and the three creatures also moved forward. Chip saw more, moving out of the deep shadows.

They were stalking him. These things, what ever they were, were the young of what ever it was that had dragged him down here. Drawn by the smell of fresh blood, they were looking to feed.

*   *   *    *

 

Nelson made his way back down to Sickbay in response to Jamieson's frantic call. A five man rescue team was preparing to go out and Nelson assumed Lee was demanding to be let out of Sickbay so he could head up the team. Very few things stood in the way of the friendship between Crane and Morton. Nelson, in all honesty, could not argue with that bond. He felt a closeness with Lee that was hard to describe.

But an irate skipper was not what Harry found waiting for him in Sickbay. 

He found Crane tossing and turning restlessly in the lower bunk, sweat beading up on his forehead. He was mumbling incoherently as he tossed. Nelson could feel the heat radiating from Lee's slender body as he stood over the captain.

“Will?”

Jamieson leaned again the bulkhead, a tired look on his face. “I know, admiral. The fever came on pretty sudden. I'm doing everything I can, if he spikes again I'll have to consider immersion therapy. I don't want to risk him stroking out on me.”

“This doesn't make any sense. He was fine earlier, agitated sure, but not this.” Nelson glance down at one more time, pained to see Lee in such a condition.

“Poison. Entered the body though the dozen or so lacerations criss-crossing the skipper's torso. What ever attacked him . . .”

Nelson raised a forestalling hand. “I get the picture. I suppose this is a new, unknown poison, one for which we do not have an anti-venom for?”

Will nodded, rubbing at his eyes with his long fingers. “You suppose correctly. Admiral, we need a specimen and we need to find Chip. If the same thing that attacked Lee was the same thing that took Chip, in a very short time, he's going to be showing the same signs as Lee. We're going to lose them both if we don't come up with an anti-venom.

 *  *  *  *

Chip took another step backward, stumbling over a grinning skull. Without taking his eyes of the horde of approaching creatures, he bent down and snatched the skull up, giving it a toss at the closest creature. It connected with a wet splat and the thing squealed, setting up and answering echo from the mob of moving tentacles.

A deeper rumble answered from further back in the cave. Clinging to the side of the cave, Chip watched as a larger version of the thing slithered out. Tentacles a mottled gray and white, the color of something long dead and bloated, covered in spikes four and five inches long writhed about. In the center of the mass was a ring of fangs. Chip was reminded of some space movie he and Lee sat up and watched one night, and this thing with rows of teeth and tentacles that reached out and dragged hapless victims into its gapping maw.

Chip had nowhere to go. He continued to back up, stepping over bones and rocks. He staggered, loosing his balance. The only thing keeping him upright was the cave wall. He leaned against it as a roar filled his ears and the grotto seemed to gray out for a moment before snapping back to the technicolor nightmare slithering toward him.

One of the creatures, seemingly emboldened by his hesitation, slithered forward and tried to wrap itself around Chip's leg. Panicking, Chip kicked out, sending the thing sailing through the air, squealing as it landed with a wet slurping splat against the wall.

The mother - the only word Chip could come up with – responded with an angry growl. Chip swore under his breath. “Probably shouldn't have done that,” he said out loud, as the thing surged forward. Again Chip felt dizzy and nausea rocketed through his gut, almost making him throw up. He took a deep breath trying to calm both his rolling stomach and the growing panic. He looked down one more time at the still oozing places on his legs, then back at the claw-encrusted tentacles of the larger monster. It didn't take much to put two and two together. Like a mother cat who brings back a mouse for her kittens to practice with, the 'mother' had brought the prey back for her young to feed on. He had probably been invenomated when the thing grabbed him. 

With growing horror, Chip knew that if he wasn't rescued soon, the poison he could feel coursing through his system would incapacitate him and these things would eat him alive.

*   *   *   *

Six divers armed to the teeth left the safety of Seaview, heading down for the cave Chip was reported to have disappeared into. Harriman lead the team, determined to get the specimen he needed to save Lee's – and Chip's - life.

The cave entrance was wide enough for three men to enter at once. The team swam down, Sharkey switching on a powerful lamp and shining it around. They were in a tunnel of sort. The walls worn smooth, the floor beneath them were covered in bones, shark teeth and a crushed air tank. Sharkey played the light over the floor, fascinated by the evidence of past carnage.  He turned over the mangled tank, recognizing the tank as the one Morton had taken out.

Nelson reached down and picked up a palm sized serrated sharks tooth, blackened with age. The floor was covered with them, some blackened like the first, others looking like they were only a few years old. Picking up on of the newer ones, Nelson was unable to ignore the implication of the find. He handed the two teeth off to Sharkey, who stowed them away. Nelson motioned for them to move ahead,

Swimming slowly, the five followed the tunnel up. It widened and the surface loomed ahead of them. Breaking the surface of the pool, the five saw they were not a minute too late.

The cave was alive with a waving, slithering mass of crawling, tentacled creatures, and one man franticly trying to fight them off, using what looked like a human long bone. Nelson surged out of the water, pulling his mouthpiece free. The rest followed, and the air hummed with the sound of the small hand held lasers taking out the smaller creatures.

“Get one of the smaller ones for a specimen!” Nelson yelled pounding across the cave floor to Chip's side as Morton staggered.

“Easy, lad, we're gonna get you out of here,” Nelson said to Morton. Chip managed a weak smile.

“Sir, you don't know how good it is to see you,” he replied. Nelson could not ignore the fever dulled blue eyes of his exec and the fact that he was having trouble standing on his own two feet.

“Admiral, the little ones, they don't have any claws!” Sharkey exclaimed, holding up a small creature with the tip of a spear gun. 

Nelson swore. Seeing the little ones, he had been hoping one of those would be all they needed. Instead it looked like they were going to need an appendage off the larger and infinity   more dangerous creature.

“Sharkey, we can't go back without a specimen. It will have to come from big one!” Nelson snapped out. Chip was leaning against the cave wall, looking paler and weaker by the minute.

Nelson barked at one of the team, “Stay with the exec,” and he shot forward to join Sharkey. The Chief was armed with a serrated diver's knife and was leading the charge against the  larger creature. The lasers only seemed to enrage the thing and it lashed out with a beefy spiked appendage and wrapped it around Sharkey. The claws extended further out, like a cat's claws, and Sharkey screamed as they punctured his wetsuit and into his flesh. The Chief dropped the knife as the creature tightened it's grip. Nelson darted forward while the remaining three crewmen kept the monster distracted with repeated bursts of laser fire as Nelson scooped up the knife and drove it deep into the tentacle wrapped around the Chief.  The thing roared, a deep gravely sound that made the ground beneath their feet rumble. Nelson sawed through the fleshy appendage, gore and fluid dripping to the floor.

With a snap, Nelson cut through the arm and Sharkey collapsed to the floor. One of the team tossed the Admiral a heavy-weight collection bag and Nelson stuffed the still writhing arm down into it, then zipped it shut. He grabbed up the radio off his hip and called out to Seaview.

“Dive party to Seaview, come in Seaview,” he panted, as he and the rest of the team waded through the nest of dying creatures, back to the pool and  - hopefully  - safety.

“We read you, admiral, go ahead,” Sparks' reassuring voice echoed through the cavern and Nelson breathed a sigh of relief, afraid they wouldn't have reception this deep in the cave.

“Pipe this through, The second we're clear, have the laser ready, seal this cave once and for all!” Nelson ordered. He barely heard the acknowledgment as he grabbed up Morton, one arm around the other man's waist. Two other divers were already helping Sharkey, and making a beeline for the water's edge.

“Chip, work with me here,” Nelson urged the exec. Morton nodded, holding on to consciousness with tooth and nail. Nelson got Chip to his feet and together they staggered to the water's edge. Nelson grabbed his mouthpiece and jammed it between the exec's lips. Together the sank beneath the water's surface, even as the creature slithered after them.

*   *   *   *

The team emerged out from the cave's entrance and made for Seaview as fast as they could go. Nelson was buddy breathing with Morton, the two lagging behind the others. A sudden flash of light cut through the ocean and the laser connected with its target. The blast knocked loose tons of rock, sealing the cave – and the creature within- up forever.

*   *   *   *

The dim light of Sickbay illuminated the solitary figure of the man sitting in the chair. Harriman rubbed the back of his head, scratching the back of one ear before crossing both arms over his chest.

They had been lucky. From the glands in the tentacle they recovered, he and Will were able to synthesize an anti-venom. With a healthy dose for Lee, Chip and Sharkey, they were able to counteract the effect of the toxin. Right now all three were guests with first class accommodations and a bunk of their very own in Sickbay. Nelson sat in vigil, keeping an eye on his men, wondering who was going to wake first. It shouldn't have been a hard guess.

One smoky amber eye gazed up at him and a weak smile filtered across the lips of Lee Crane.

“Admiral?” he asked, voice rough and low.

Nelson grinned and rested a hand on Lee's arm, offering the support his captain needed but seldom asked for. “Easy son. Everything's fine now. Chip's fine, we took care of the creature, and we're heading for Pearl. Everything's fine.”

Lee seemed to relax some, but maintained his gaze on the admiral. “What was it? Are there any more?” he asked. Nelson would only shake his head.

“Lee, I only wish I knew. It matched nothing from any species of creature I've ever heard about. I can only assume it was some kind of mutant. We sealed the cave and I seriously doubt we're ever going to see the likes of it again.”

“If we do, it will be too soon for me. Why am I so tired, I feel like a truck ran over me.”

Nelson smirked. “My question is, have you ever been run over to compare the feeling to?”

This time Lee managed a real grin. “Once, this time in Mexico, Chip and I were . . .” he began, only to have Nelson wave a hand.

“I think we'd better leave it there. The less I know, the better off I'll be. You need to rest. Doc says he might clear you for light duty if you do as he says. It's a straight shot to Pearl, no reason you can't settle down and recover.”

“Chip. You said Chip was going to be okay?”

“He's fine. Chewed up a little bit, no worse than you, but he's sleeping, like you should be.”

Lee closed his eyes, the familiar smirk teasing the edges of his mouth. “I get the hint, admiral.  I'll behave.” he said. His breathing soon evened out and Nelson knew Crane had given up the battle. Nelson let his eyes drift to the sleeping form of Chip, just an arm's reach away. Harry decided he would hang around a little longer, before heading to the Control Room. He should probably check on O'Brien to see how the younger officer was doing. They were a few days yet from Pearl, but Harry didn't anticipate any problems. With any luck, the rest of this cruise would be uneventful, at least until his officers were back on their feet.  His officers, his friends, he thought with a glance at the sleep Sharkey, were safe and in one piece. Nothing else was important right now. Nelson

 Harry Nelson let out a long slow breath and settled in to wait a little longer.

*    *    *    *

 

 

 

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