Crave Pardon for my Boldness

by Helen H.

 

 

 

"Lee, I think I got our point across, don’t you?"

"Looked like it to me, Admiral," Lee Crane answered.  "I caught the Secretary nodding his head several times.  After you, sir," he added as the doorman pulled the outer door of the Mayflower Hotel open.

It was a beautiful June day in the nation's capitol, sun high overhead, the humidity that wilted clothing and temperaments alike yet to make its appearance.  The two men were in Washington for a conference of the United States Naval Institute, where Admiral Nelson had just presented the keynote address.  He knew he had raised some controversial issues.  Overt criticism would be muted, however -- his four stars merited that.  It was time for a break and lunch at The Army and Navy Club.  The meal would be an opportunity to buttonhole sympathetic congressmen to lobby for the points emphasized in the speech: with the world embroiled in the throes of a "cold war," diplomacy, backed by vigilance, should be the keystone of upcoming policy. 

The admiral had taken motivation from a biography of Martin Frobisher he was currently reading, had even brought the book from Santa Barbara to finish the last few chapters.  Once one of Queen Elizabeth I's favorites, Frobisher's stock fell sharply after a disastrous voyage to find the "Northwest Passage" for his monarch, returning from one last attempt in 1578 with nothing for his troubles except several thousand pounds of worthless ore.  Cut off from a courtier’s bounty, he turned to privateering in the early 1580s, scheming to regain Elizabeth's favor and reclaim his reputation.  His sea battle against the Spanish Armada late in the decade would accomplish that and more.  It was evident from Frobisher's portraits, especially the full-length study by Cornelis Ketel, that he was a hard man to be reckoned with.  Under a bushy mustache and full beard his mouth turned down, more with impatience than discontent, Harry thought.  Dark lashes framed the darker eyes that regarded the world with a steady uncompromising gaze.  Prominent in the Ketel portrait was the flintlock pistol clutched in Frobisher's right hand, the symbolism not lost on those of his contemporaries who knew of his willingness to fight and coolness under fire.  Every successful military leader, whether on land or sea, needed these traits.  Harry had them himself.  He found the famed English sailor's exploits inspiring, albeit more ruthless than he liked. 

Along sidewalks full with office workers rushing to lunch, including a bevy of admiring females that Lee enjoyed trading glances with, they were making good time until one uncooperative light changed to red as soon as they reached the corner.  Stopping short, Harry checked the clasp on his briefcase and spoke to the younger, taller man.  "I saw Senator Hansen in the audience.  We need to concentrate on doing damage control with him.  As a senior member of the Defense Committee he carries a lot of clout." 

Mind busy with thoughts of how to approach the Senator and his colleagues, Harry was not to remember what caused him to focus on the face of a young woman who was pushing her way through the cluster of people on the opposite corner also waiting for the light to change.  The woman whose eyes suddenly changed color and shape to silver orbs that tilted up at the corners.  Granted, she had a different face than the last time he had seen her.  Nevertheless, the eyes made her unmistakable. 

Galené!  He hadn't seen Seaview’s goddess-guardian since she had saved him from an assassin.**  That had been weeks ago.  And here she was, on a Washington street corner, surrounded by hundreds of people.  In a Navy nurse's uniform, no less.  Not that he hadn’t thought about her in offhand moments or made her the subject of his dreams, quiet times when the desire to take her into his arms flooded his emotions.  She had claimed a piece of his heart that had never been offered up to anyone.  A fleeting, angry thought intruded, then just as quickly faded.  No doubt there was a good reason for her absence.  He would keep the questions to a minimum.  Just to have her to himself would be enough.  And he would have the real woman, not this brunette in a lieutenant's uniform.  He wanted the goddess, not a façade.  He needed to feel her body next to his, feel her respond as he traced the delicate lines of her pale green cheeks, burying his hands in the stunning mass of hair that curled around her like a mantle.  He needed to hear her softly call his name as he fastened his lips to hers.  The everyday world would be far away then.

Lunch can wait, hang it!  Harry scowled up at the traffic light, willing it to change.  He stepped off the curb just as the light flashed green, paying no attention to the taxi rushing up to the corner.  The taxi whose passenger was grousing about the time it was taking to get to the train station. 

"Admiral!"  Lee cried. 

Brakes screaming, the cab hit Harry and flung him backward into the metal support of the traffic light.  His head connected with the pole with a sickening thump.  As the car slammed to a halt the admiral slipped down in front of the bumper and folded into a heap.

It took Lee a few stunned seconds to react.  Kneeling, already furious at his failure to stop the admiral from stepping off the curb, he began a cursory examination just as two shapely legs appeared beside him.  He looked upward to an eye-catching face that was as white as the uniform she was wearing.  The woman clamped a hand on Lee's shoulder and went down on both knees.

Before he could stop her she took the admiral's head between her hands and whispered something Lee couldn't hear.  Then she spoke directly to him.  "Commander Crane, we’ll need an ambulance right away," she said in an almost mechanical tone, effectively hiding any sense of urgency.  She put her hand on the admiral's wrist and opened his eyelid.

Lee looked up and caught sight of the uniform of a DC policeman. 

"I’ll call it in," the cop said, turning to push his way through the crowd.  "Everybody get back!  Give them some room here!"

"Hold on, Harry," the nurse murmured softly.

Hold on... the dark was turning to light... and the smell of saltwater assailed his nostrils....

"Harry!  Sir Henry Palmer!  Man, did ye not hear me?  I said ye will have to take over command of this ship!"

The sound was deafening if you weren’t used to it, the creaking and squealing and groaning of heavy courses and oiled sheets, the shuddering thud of saltwater pounding against the bow, of men yelling at the top of their lungs to be heard above the clamor.  And he was among them, barely making out the words the man above him on the foc'sle was screaming, the man who was practically bouncing up and down on his toes, leather-clad hand pulling his sword out of its scabbard over and over.  He recognized him immediately -- or at least, he thought he did.  To be sure, his memory was a little hazy on the point....

"Have ye lost your wits, good sir?  You looked right dazed there for a moment!  Marry, if 'tis a joke you're wanting, cast back to the sight of those Spanish buffoons at Cartagena!  Remember them fancied up with their lace collars and golden threads and mulberry bottoms!  'Tis the same on yon Spanish ships.  They’ll soon all be despoiled by blood.  Come up, Harry, so that we may cease this confounded shouting!"

"Aye...Captain Frobisher," Harry replied, shaking his head and looking down, at his sleeveless jerkin of brown English wool and long-sleeved shirt of fine lawn.  Something was tickling his forehead, and he reached up and snatched off a woolen hat, its huge feather the source of the mild annoyance.  The violent trembling of the deck under his feet was proof enough that he was engaged in some great enterprise.  His mind was just playing tricks with him, nothing amiss.  God's teeth, the noise was enough to make a saint crazed. 

As he made his way upward he idly tightened the scarf tied around his left arm, its green and white colors repeated on the pennants and streamers that festooned the ship's masts and crosspieces, and decorated the men's clothing.  A huge banner flying from the mainmast proclaimed the favored status of the vessel.  It was the Royal Standard.  These were Tudor colors. 

Grinning, Martin Frobisher flung his arms wide as Harry approached him.  "Look at the dawn, Harry!  Soon it will be as red as the hair on that fine head of yours!  The Lord’s Day assuredly, look to it!  Today we beard the Spanish lion in his den.  There’ll be no piping to dinner tonight, unless our dinner be Spanish meat!"

Harry looked up into the shrouds, to the very tip of the topgallant yard, just in time to see the flowering brilliance of the sun make its appearance.  It caught a foretopman and splashed him with a thousand sparkling beams, and then began the ever quickening trip down the topsail, to the mainsail and thus to the deck.  Almost immediately the sound of two bells filled the air, followed by the pounding of four score and more of feet as the rest of the crew made haste to come topside.

Thus began the 21st day of July in the Year of Our Lord, 1588, the thirtieth year of Her Grace’s reign....

Lee watched silently as the nurse checked the admiral for broken bones.  He did a check of his own of the slim figure in the white uniform stained now with street dirt.  Her brown hair was tucked neatly underneath a nurse's cap with two golden stripes.  She had two red spots of color on her otherwise pale cheeks, color that was matching the bottom lip she was chewing on.  He noticed something else, too - a huge diamond ring on her left hand, the one that was holding the admiral's wrist.  "Nothing broken, as far as you can tell?" 

She shook her head.  "No.  But he's taken a nasty blow to the head.  Unconscious from it, as you can see.  I believe Dr. Jamieson was meeting you at lunch, was he not?"

Lee was thoroughly taken aback.  "Yes, but how do--"

"I'll explain everything shortly," she said impatiently.  "There is a telephone booth at the end of the block.  Call The Army-Navy Club, have Dr. Jamieson paged and have him come to George Washington University Hospital immediately.  You have time, the ambulance won't leave until you get back."  She sat up and pushed her hands at him.  "Go!  Quickly!"

Lee's eyebrows immediately drew together.  What trick was this?  Jamie had been in Washington for a week, interviewing some potential additions to NIMR's medical staff.  Lee and Admiral Nelson had only arrived the day before.  Today's lunch would be the first time they'd been able to get together.  Watching her hands move expertly over the admiral's body, gently probing, Lee considered refusing to leave.  The request to contact William Jamieson, Seaview's M.O. couldn't be faulted, however.  Given time, he'd have thought of it himself.  With one last look at his friend and commanding officer, who lay quiet and still on the pavement, Lee heaved himself upward, moving off rapidly down the street.

The sun a'blazing, and he was being called again....

"Captain Palmer, 'tis a small matter I have to address with ye, but first -- the devil take me if I don’t have a spot of fathoms here!"  Frobisher proclaimed loudly.  "When we are done a'talking send a good man to the chains, we must have precise measurements, for we lie too close a’lee to run the risk of grievous error.  Think on that, sir, if we should find ourselves fast a’ground!  The Queen would have my head, if the Spaniards do not take it first."  Frobisher leaned into his shorter companion, and beckoned him closer to his mouth.  "I need your help, Harry.  You are the only one I trust."

"What did you mean, Martin, that I must take command?"

Frobisher's face was blankly innocent.  "I must go ashore.  Only for a short while, I assure you," he added hastily.  "There are...matters concerning Captain Drake that I must not allow to go unanswered.  It will be but a short visit, just time to meet a court courier who will bear away the documents proving my point.  There is a boat waiting, I will be gone and back in no time.  You know the Race as well as I.  Keep the Spanish guessing for as long as you can, Harry, I'll be back in two winks!"  He turned and in a flash, with a swirl of cape and jingle of sword, grasped the gunwale and disappeared over the side.

"Martin...!"  Harry had no time to think.  One moment Captain Frobisher was there, and the next, he was gone.  Shaking his head, Harry stood unmoving on the foc'sle, getting his bearings.  He could see the Spanish ships a few leagues away, taking advantage of the early morning winds to beat closer.  It was true that Triumph was the largest ship in the English Navy, but that wouldn't signify for long if the Spanish galleons managed to obtain an advantageous bearing.  "You there on the tiller, keep full and by, a-luff, come now higher, holabar!" Harry cried, more for the benefit of bringing his senses about him then for ship's orders. 

"Why, this be tidings enough for all.  Sir Henry, sir, thou art our captain now?"

Startled, Harry swung around.  Standing before him was a worried looking fellow crushing his hat in his hands.  The man's ornate doublet was slashed through and through with alternating stripes of green and white, and green tights covered his legs.  "Aye -- Badger, is it not?  You are the sailing master?"  The little man nodded.  "Badger, Captain Frobisher has been called away.  I have taken command."  He sensed the need for something more.  "I will not fail you, the ship or the crew.  By'r Lady, you have my word on it." 

The sailing master released his breath in a rush and emphatically nodded his head.  "What be your orders, then, sir Captain?"

Command!  He must seize it with dispatch, showing no hesitation.  He had honed his craft amongst the privateers in the West Indies, where cunning and intelligence were the order of the day.  No doubt many of the men amongst this crew had sailed with him.  They would not stand for indecision.  Harry began pacing, his hobnailed boots tapping out a staccato on the deck of the Triumph.  He stepped to the rail and looked across to the English shore, just visible through the heavy morning mist.  "We will play a game with these Spaniards, Badger.  I propose to let them think we are stuck in the Race, barely maneuvering.  Our size will be our masquerade, sailing master!  They will think we are my Lord Howard's flagship and strike for us.  It will prove to be their undoing.  So, we must profit by what wind we have."  Harry paused, his head turned slightly upward, catching the faintest of breezes rising softly from the near shore.  "Every breath is precious.  All hands to make sail!  'Bosuns, away aloft!"  The 'bosuns repeated the order, and immediately a brace of sailors went up the shrouds.  "Trice up.  Lay out."  Gaskets were pulled off, and the men held the yards of canvas in their arms, awaiting the final order.  "Let fall!"  The canvas came down and was sheeted home, and the Triumph, at first cautiously and then urgently so, heeled over and began picking up speed.  "Bring her up as close as may be," the new captain ordered.... 

The wail of a siren cut into Lee's thoughts as he half ran, half walked toward the phone booth, most of the sidewalk-dwellers having the courtesy to get out of his way.  He was still getting stares from women passing by, but no longer did he notice. 

Another man was just finishing a call as Lee raced up.  One look at the face of the frowning, dark-haired stranger pounding on the glass had the guy dropping the receiver onto the hook and flinging himself out of the booth.  Lee entered on his heels, jamming a dime into the coin slot.   He reached into his inside coat pocket for his address book, his "bible" of numbers that he kept updated and consulted frequently.  Quickly finding the DC number he needed, he dialed it and waited for an answer, beating time on top of the call box.

"Good afternoon, The Army-Navy Club!" a bright and cheery female voice answered on the second ring.

"Yes, I need you to find Dr. William Jamieson and have him come to the phone," Lee barked.  "It's an emergency."

The voice modulated and became more serious.  "Yes, sir, I know that table, we'll have the call put through immediately.  One moment, please."

It seemed like an eternity, waiting for Jamie to come to the phone.  Lee wrenched his tie loose and opened his collar.  The admiral, laying on the street...the image wouldn't leave his brain.  Was he getting help?  Had the ambulance arrived?  And that nurse showing up like that -- how had she known about Jamie?   It was in that instant he remembered she had called him by name.  Had it all been staged?  He was getting an answer for that as soon as he got back.  Damn it, Jamie, come to the phone!

 A click, and a voice came on the line.  "Dr. Jamieson here."

"Jamie, it's Lee.  Admiral Nelson's had an accident.  I need you to meet us at Washington University Hospital right away."

"I'll see you as soon as I can get there.  An explanation can wait."  The line went dead. 

Lee slammed the phone down and started back the way he had come.  He was beating himself up inside for not reacting in time, although the admiral had moved so fast, it was as he had been pulled on a string.  Lee ran a hand through his hair, disheveling the dark curls.  Golden hazel eyes grew shadowy as the reality of the situation took hold.  Admiral Harriman Nelson had supported him in everything life -- and the Navy -- had thrown at him, through horrific accidents, gut-pounding crises, murder accusations, and general mayhem.  Chip he counted on for brotherly love with no reservations, Jamie for seeing him through the bullet holes and broken limbs, but it was to the admiral he looked for quiet emotional support.  They had forged a special bond, so close to that of father to son that few could tell the difference.  He knew, with every breath of his being, that if he ever needed anything, Admiral Nelson -- he never would be able to call him Harry -- would be there for him.   Always.  And he hoped that the admiral knew the same about him.  One day he would find the words to say publically what was always in his heart.  Lee almost stumbled, the weight of what he was thinking suddenly pressing down on him like a vise.  This had to be a bad dream.  Soon he'd wake up and everything would be as it should be. 

But it wasn't a dream.  The crowd of craning necks ahead of him confirmed that.  Breathing a little heavier in the warm Washington air, his suit coat over his shoulder, Lee pressed his way through the bystanders and emerged next to a DC squad car whose occupants were engaged in keeping traffic moving around the ambulance pulled up to the corner.  The policeman that had been first on the scene was having a discussion with the ashen-faced cab driver.  Coming towards Lee was the very agitated passenger of the cab, who was muttering under his breath.

"--Hell's bells, I'm gonna miss my train, just my luck this guy runs into somebody, what a waste of money, the boss will never understan--"

Lee caught the words and knew immediately their significance.  He stepped in front of the other man, hands balled into fists.  "So -- did you pass that driver an extra ten bucks if he'd cut a few minutes off your trip?" he asked, slowly and deliberately. 

The stranger stopped short.  "What the hell are you talking about?"  His eyes shifted away from Lee's face.  "Hey, I was late, I had--" his face registered his discomfort.  "I told you, I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Yeah, you do.  You see that man being loaded into the ambulance?  Anything happens to him," and here Lee's eyes narrowed and his voice grew quieter still, while the object of his attention grew stiffer, "you better hope the hole you'll crawl into can't be found."   Face going white, the man melted back into the crowd while Lee strode forward and halted at the ambulance doors as the attendants lifted the gurney inside.

* * * * * *

"He's in good hands now, Lieutenant," the tallest of the attendants said as his partner ran up to the driver's door and got in.  "Thanks for the help, we'll take it from--" His voice trailed away as the Navy nurse jumped up into the back of the vehicle and motioned Lee to the other side. 

"We're going with you to George Washington," she said, and there was no mistaking the determination in her voice.

"We're not going to that hospital, ma'am.  There's no room for you or this guy in my ambulance either, so if you would just--"

Silver eyes fired to life, and both Lee and the attendant did a double take.  She leaned forward and took the ambulance attendant by the shoulders, forcing him to face her squarely.  "We are going to George Washington University Hospital.  You are going to sit with the driver."

Without another word, the attendant shut the doors and in a few seconds was sitting up front.  "Driver, do what your companion tells you.  We are going to George Washington!" she shouted.  The vehicle and the siren started up at the same time, and the ambulance began to move away. 

Working quickly, the nurse placed a portable oxygen mask over the admiral's nose and mouth.  Long fingers opened his collar and gently pulled the tie away, handing it to Lee, who stuffed it into a pocket.  There were still no signs of consciousness.  Picking up Nelson's wrist, her eyes returning to a cocoa-colored brown, she said calmly, "I would say it's nice to see you again, Lee, but now is perhaps not the time."

Inside her heart was racing, mind aghast at what she'd witnessed.  I could have stopped the cab, but everyone would have seen....  To reveal her powers in front of such a crowd would have been unthinkable.  She had made a split-second decision...no.  It had not really been a decision at all, she knew.  She had had no choice. 

"Galené.  That answers my questions about how somebody I've never seen before knew my name."   

The words were accusatory, with no hint of surprise.  Galené, goddess of Greek mythology, the Nereid who had appeared on the Seaview a few months back announcing herself as the boat's guardian.

"I apologize for not identifying myself immediately.   I must say, it was quite a surprise to see you and Harry on that street corner." 

"Why do I figure that it wasn't much of a surprise at all?  Just a chance to spend a few minutes getting the admiral all excited about seeing you, and then you'd take off again?"  

The harsh tone stunned her.  "That was rather uncalled for."  Better to redirect the conversation.  "Were you able to reach Dr. Jamieson?"

"I'm sure you know the answer to that question, too.  In fact--"  He checked himself and looked down at the admiral instead.  "Forget it.  How's he doing?"

Her heart settled a little.  Lee knew how to pick his battles, too.  She leaned back and studied the storm forming on his face.  She had always thought Lee Crane attractive, no more so than when he was in high dudgeon as he was right now, when his breathing was labored and suntanned skin stretched tight over his razor-sharp cheekbones, a hint of perspiration on the fine features.  She put those thoughts away as she concentrated on the situation at hand.  "He is in a deep unconscious state.  There is a contusion where his head hit the light standard; you can see that for yourself.  Right now, his pulse is steady, if a little weak.  We must be concerned about swelling on his frontal lobe.  Luckily we are only a few minutes from the hospital." 

Lee began twisting his Academy ring.  Her eyes drifted sideways, and he abruptly stopped the movement.  She shifted on her seat and took Harry's hand up again, feeling for the pulse.  There was no putting this off, then.  "Do not hold back, Commander.  You have something else you wish to say."

"Really?  What makes you think so?"

"Come, Commander Crane, don't dissemble!"

"Okay.  I think you’re to blame for all this!"  Lee said with startling suddenness.

The implication made her uncomfortable, but not for long.  "You're being totally irrational.  I will forgive your harsh words, I understand what is motivating them.  I did not expect to see you on that street corner.  I was on my way to...never mind where I was going.  Harry...Admiral Nelson saw me and made a mistake."

Her flippant answers were fueling his anger.  "So you're saying it was all a big surprise, that you didn't know we were in Washington?  Some guardian you are!"

She gasped.  "I do not have to explain what I am doing every minute of the day to the likes of you, human!  You would do well to remember who and what I am!"

"Your threats don't mean anything to me!  Do your worst."  He made a point of folding his arms over his chest.  "I'll wait."

Her eyes opened like saucers.  "D-d-d-on't tempt me!"

"Not liking the truth much, I see.  If you hadn’t been there he wouldn’t be here – like this!"

"What?  Did I somehow reach out and pull him off that curb?"

"He reacted without thinking -- happens a lot around you, I'll bet.  Do you think you can just appear and disappear with no consequences whenever it suits you?"

The eyes didn't change color this time, but they blazed just the same.  "I am doing no such thing!  What gives you the moral high ground to dictate to me -- to me -- how I feel about Harriman Nelson?  Did you hit your head somewhere along the way, too?  This is a totally pointless conversation in the present circumstances!"  She slapped her hands down on the top of her skirt.  "By Hera, be glad I do not change you into a tree, or a rock, or a goat!  Oh, sometimes I miss the old days!"

Lee opened his mouth for an angry reply then clamped his lips together as Admiral Nelson made a sound deep in his throat. 

 

What strange circumstances are these....

Harry turned to Badger, a quizzical look on his face.  Rubbing the top of an ear, he asked, "Marry, sir, is there a buzz hereabouts?  I swear by the Queen's grace that I hear a faint faraway hum, like angry bees caught up in a boxy trap."

"Nay, Cap'n, I cannot make out any sound the like whereof you're hearin'.  Just the usual symphony of ship and sea."

"Ah, Badger, you astound me.  A poet's sensibilities, methinks!" 

The sailing master bent a knee.  Rising, he studied the man that Frobisher had left in command.  It seemed to Badger that Sir Henry got bigger the longer he stood on the quarterdeck, first shouting orders and then speaking in earnest low tones to the helmsman and the other masters.  The new captain had drawn himself up straight as an arrow, the top of his head pulling towards the heavens, his arms bent and hands grasping his sides.  Sir Henry was in constant motion, roaming fore and aft, keeping track of the Spanish galleons still astern and then turning his attention to the waves crashing against the nearby English shore.  A moment later he would be studying the sails drifting lazily back and forth.  Nodding, Badger thought here was a man that indeed, would stay the course and see them all safely home.  They would survive whatever the Spanish threw at them, by the Blessed Virgin they would, with this man as their chief!

Coming closer, Harry pointed skyward.  "We are hove to, sir, with our foretopsail at the mast and our main almost bellowing, which will keep us almost in one place, heaven be praised.  And so, we wait…."  Heaving a deep breath, Harry turned to address the crew.  "Harken to me, men!  We’ll slide right up to Portland Bill, lads.  I know every inch of this coastline, every quirk of the tide.  I've sailed many a time into these wee coves.  They’ll think I’ve gone mad, letting this fine English ship fall abaft the wind, stuck in the bay.  They have no idea how to work the Race to keep from dashing on the shore.  I do.  It’ll be their downfall!  Here we will make our stand!  Here, by God's good grace, we will see to it that these Spanish invaders come no closer to our homeland than this.  England will remember us on this day!"  He ended his speech by swinging from the closest stay, while the crew stamped their feet and cheered lustily.

"See what you've done with your fine accusations!"  Galené cried, stroking a hand on the admiral's forehead.

"Me?"  Lee was at once both hurt and astounded.

"It's all right, Harry," she said soothingly, her lips drawn together in a thin line as she looked daggers at Lee.  "Commander Crane is just very concerned about you.  It has nothing to do with his attitude towards me at the moment."

His eyes traveled outside, seeing and not seeing the buildings and cars flash by as the ambulance continued toward the hospital.  "You can’t expect me to just sit back and say nothing about your actions, not where his life is concerned.  He's like...I care about him, too, you know that."

Her anger dissolved in an instant.  She knew how this young man felt about Harry, the older man substituting for the father figure that had been missing from Lee's life for a long time.  Even as both men acted in public as the professional naval officers they were, those who knew them best understood the feelings each had for the other.  It was this relationship, one that also included Chip Morton that had drawn her to the Seaview.  Goddesses did not often get to experience such simple elements of human life as the celebration of lifelong friendships. 

She reached out and grasped Lee's forearm.  "I do know that.  He'll come through this."

Lee ran a hand through his hair, his eyes still far away.  "And with Jamie's help, he's got a fighting chance!  It's just...this type of injury...I'm trying not to imagine the worst."

"I understand.  But he will awaken from a deep sleep and heavy dreams, nothing more.  He will remember nothing of the accident.  And since you seem to think that my presence will disturb him, he will remember nothing of me."  The words came out in a rush.  She grimaced, aching to take them back, to say they were said in the heat of the moment.  But she had to show Lee Crane that where Harry was involved, she would do anything that was necessary.  "You have that promise from me, Commander Crane." 

She would leave him.  Again.  Soon he would forget all about her. 

A beat or two passed, then Lee said, "As long as he's okay, that's all I care about.  We can talk about all this later."  He pointed with his chin at her hand.  "Who's the lucky fella?"

"What?"

"The big diamond."

She held up her hand as if she was looking at the glittering ring for the first time.  "The woman I am impersonating died of an allergic reaction two months ago.  That has been ingeniously covered up, because she was -- is -- engaged to a minor Pentagon official who has been selling government secrets to the East.  What he thought were secrets, anyway.  The FBI arrested him this morning.  I am to be the star witness.  The engagement ring will be just another souvenir of a job well done.  Simplicity itself." 

As simple as her disappearing act as soon as Harry was out of danger.  But not nearly as heart wrenching.


CHAPTER TWO

The ambulance made an amazingly fast trip to the hospital.  Lee noticed something else as soon as they actually got to the emergency entrance and the doors flew open -- a doctor and two nurses were waiting outside, expectant and respectful.

"Seems our arrival was anticipated," Lee murmured as the medical staff surged forward.

"Yes.  They were told we were coming."

"And just who are they expecting?"

"My advance party has told the hospital staff that it's a Very Important Person.  Do you see any reason why that is not so?"  Without waiting for an answer Galené jumped out of the ambulance and followed the gurney in as the medical personnel took over from the attendants and swept the admiral through the crowded waiting area to a short hallway and a private room.  As Lee made to follow, she laid a hand on his chest.  "Go out and wait for Dr. Jamieson.  I'll make sure that they make Harry comfortable." 

Lee nodded reluctantly and walked back out. 

The emergency room of any hospital is always abuzz with activity, and this University's hospital was no exception.  Lee planted himself in a spot where Jamie couldn't miss him, oblivious to the patients and staff who had to walk around him.  He was still mulling over events, castigating himself for not being quick enough, angry at getting into an argument he couldn't win, and feeling foolish for starting the argument in the first place.  As far as it was possible, Lee had to agree that she had everything under control.  Advance party, indeed.  Her presence -- and her power -- was something that few, including the man who Lee could see was just about to come through the emergency room doors, could possibly begin to understand.  Sometimes Lee had a hard time believing it himself.

"Jamie, over here!"

Hearing his name, Dr. Will Jamieson picked up his pace.  His face was set in a carefully neutral pose, but Lee recognized the set to his jaw and knew there were questions brewing.  As NIMR's medical director, Jamie was used to finding out that Lee and Chip Morton, Seaview's Executive Officer had gotten into one kind of scrape or another.  Sick bay stays were nothing new for them.  But Admiral Nelson was another story. 

"Lee, what happened?"

Seaview's captain quickly filled him in on the details.  "We were on our way to meet you when the admiral stepped off a curb and got hit by a cab.  He just wasn't paying attention at that moment, and the cabdriver was in too big of a hurry," he said grimly.  "He was flung backward into a light fixture and hit his head.  Luckily there was a nurse right there to take charge."  Jamie didn't know about Galené.  "We got here really fast.  It didn't take you very long, either."

"Yes, there was a cab driving up just as I walked outside, and we made all the lights.  First time that's ever happened.  Let's go see my patient, shall we?"

The room was filled with people as the two men entered.  Harry had been moved to the bed, and the doctor who'd accompanied the gurney was holding a stethoscope to the admiral's chest as Galené hovered behind him.  His skin was a good color, at least the portion that Lee could see above the sheets, where his head, shoulders and chest were exposed.  They had wasted no time getting his clothes off and preparing him for examination.

"Good breath sounds on both sides," the doctor announced.  "I don't think he's got any rib fractures.  We'll need skull x-rays.  What's his blood pressure?  Where are the ambulance attendants?  Somebody's gonna have to tell me what happened!"

"I'll explain, doctor, if you don't mind," Galené interjected.  "First, may I introduce Dr. William Jamieson.  I'm sure you know that name, Dr. -- what's your name?"

"Barker, Donald Barker," he said, hesitating only a moment.  This Navy nurse was intimidating, and damned good looking, to boot!  "Of course, Dr. Jamieson is well known to those of us in the medical profession.  A pleasure to meet you, Doctor."

Jamie nodded as she continued.  "Admiral Nelson sustained a sharp blow when his skull impacted a street light standard after being struck by a taxicab.  He was unconscious within a second or two.  You will find his pupils are reactive.  His pulse rate was understandably weak, but has become steadier.  Oxygen was administered in the ambulance.  There is no skull fracture, your x-rays will confirm that fact.  There is a slight hematoma, but it has not grown in size.  He is breathing on his own.  I would suggest that you--"

"Excuse me.  Excuse me," Jamie interrupted.  "Could someone please explain to me who's in charge here?"

Galené and Lee looked at each other.  "Your pardon, Dr. Jamison," she said.  "Admiral Nelson is your patient of course.  But there are extenuating circumstances you need to be made aware of."  She heaved a sigh.  "It's time.  Dr. Barker, would you and your staff give us a private moment, please?"  Without waiting for an answer she opened the door and indicated the way out.  

The young physician was going to protest, but there was something about the look in those deep brown eyes that made him a willing subject.  "Let's go, everyone."

"Doctor!"  the senior nurse exclaimed in shocked disapproval.  This was her hospital.  She had not liked how the other nurse had moved in and without deference started to order everyone around, as if they were amateurs at their jobs.  "We can't just leave this patient alone!"

"He will not be alone," Galené said emphatically.  "Dr. Jamieson and I will be here.  He'll take full responsibility," she added, ignoring Jamie's astonished expression. 

"Whatever you say," Dr. Barker said, and hustled the hospital staff out.  The nurse that had objected was the last to leave, her face a sour mask of disapproval.

Jamie watched them walk out and then rounded on Galené.  "Just what do you think you are doing? Admiral Nelson needs to be examined and monitored, for God's sake!"

"He will be fine, doctor.  The comatose state he's in is a consequence of my actions.  He is in my hands."  Shutting the door firmly, Galené's face took on a resigned look.  "I thought I could delay this a while longer.  Lee, make sure no one enters."  Turning to the patient on the bed she whispered softly, trembling fingers resting on his cheek, "Harry, dear, sleep on.  I'll only be a moment."  Moving over to Jamie, Galené took him by the hand.  "We will be working closely in the future, doctor, I am sure of it.  The men of the Seaview are not very good at keeping themselves out of hospital beds, are they?"

"No," Jamie answered cautiously, intrigued by the fact that this young woman, in her stained white uniform and mangled stockings was holding his right hand in a firm and unyielding grip.  He could swear her fingers were getting warmer and warmer by the second.

"So, while you heal their wounds, I am equally trying to keep them from being injured in the first place.  Sometimes I do not succeed.  But I do try.  My name is Galené.  I am Seaview's guardian."

She gave his hand a tight squeeze, and he was looking down at that when the first thick skein of hair curled across his wrist.  Startled, Jamie's eyes flew upward to her face, finding her utterly changed.  Gone was a nurse in white clothing.  The woman standing before him was dressed in a silver shift that fell in folds to the ground.  Skin that had been flesh-colored was now a soft, pale green.  Waves of greenish-gray hair surrounded her like a cape, the ends moving to a mysterious rhythm.  He had noticed all this in mere seconds.  What had captivated him completely, actually captured his senses, were the silver blue eyes he was staring at, eyes so pale that they were practically translucent.  Not that he could see through them.  He doubted that anyone could.

"What kind of magic trick is this?" Jamie blurted out confusedly.  He fixed Lee with an accusing stare.  "Lee?  What do you know about all this?"

"Pretty much everything, Jamie," Lee admitted frankly.  "I noticed she didn't mention she's a Greek goddess.  She's been around for a good deal longer than you or I.  She first came aboard Seaview while you were TAD to NATO for that humanitarian mission.  You were gone again when Admiral Nelson had his run-in with Alex Dunning.  We haven't seen her since."  His voice grated on those words.  If she noticed, there was no sign.  "Since then, there really hasn't been a chance to tell you...." Lee's voice trailed off when Jamie made a scoffing noise.

"My decision, doctor," Galené interjected.  "As you will appreciate, I am not an everyday occurrence.  Not even aboard the Seaview.  What you see before you is my normal self.  What you see now--" she transformed back into the nurse "--is a role that I am engaged in.  I happened to be present when Admiral Nelson had his accident."  She glanced at Lee, and saw his expression change.  Her mood deflated again, as it had when he had mentioned her absence.

How to tell him that she was torn in so many directions?  There were so many reasons, so many worthwhile men and women that needed her help maintaining the balance tipped to good instead of evil.  She was indulged by the Moraie, immortals that controlled the destiny of all humans, more often than she cared to admit.  To stay in their good graces she had to maintain her distance from the ones -- the one, in this case -- that she really cared about.  If she could, she would be with Harry morning, noon and night -- if he wanted her.  She was not very sure of that, either.  He was a proud, stubborn man that wouldn't open his heart without a million good reasons.  How was it possible for him to care about someone that darted in and out of his life like she did?  He had every right to turn his back on her, and as his good friend, concerned about his welfare, Lee had every right to do so, too. 

"You realize this is almost too impossible to take in?" 

She turned her attention back to Jamie.  "When we have more time, I will explain myself fully.  Once we are back on the Seaview.  If I am ever allowed on Seaview again," she murmured under her breath.  "Admiral Nelson's injury is real.  We must concentrate on that."  She reached up and straightened her cap.  "Bring the staff in, won't you, Lee?  They can move him to x-ray immediately.  Dr. Jamieson -- there's no need to mention what we've been talking about, correct?"

Totally floored by the revelations he had been witness to Jamie nodded tersely. Truth to tell he wasn’t sure anyone would believe him anyway!   He would concentrate on Harry’s welfare and take time later to think about his reactions.

Lee opened the door, and the medical staff filed back in, resentment still on some of the faces.  "Meeting over?  Dr. Jamieson, I assume we can resume our efforts now?"  Dr. Barker asked.

"Uh, yes, of course," Jamie said, distraction evident in his voice.  Gathering his wits about him, he added, "Let's get him down to Radiology and get x-rays taken immediately.  Lieutenant," he said, turning to Galené.  "Stay here.  I can handle this."

"Of course, Doctor."

The staff working quickly, Admiral Nelson's bed was soon wheeled out the door with the two doctors exiting last.  Jamie gave Galené one last confused look before shutting the door behind him.

Stand fast, stand fast....  

"What is it you shall look to in this upcoming battle, Sir Henry?  For battle it will be, one that will seal our fate, if we lose.  Which we will not," Badger added in an optimistic voice.

"Look to, Master Badger?"

"Aye.  Should we be hopin' for instant fame and fortune, bought in the crash of guns, or a slow and steady course?"

Harry thought about that for some time.  A test this was, no doubt.  Frobisher’s reputation for brash action was renowned.  Should he, Henry Palmer, match him shot for shot with this crew?  Harry searched his feelings.  What indeed, did he think about the fury of battle, when the scuppers ran red with blood, when dead and dying men littered the decks?  He tightened the scarf on his arm before he spoke again.  "I will not shirk my duty, Badger.  Since courage is required, courage you will have, and more.  I fight for England, and its queen.  But ‘tis peace she desires above all else for her people, and I join wholeheartedly in that regard.  There are times when diplomats and courtiers rule the day.  That is as it should be.  But diplomacy is of no help to us at this moment.  The King of Spain is angry because Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher keep his treasure ships at their harbors, unable to bring him the wealth he needs to pay his troops in the Low Countries, and so they revolt.  He will have his revenge for that if he can.  Phillip will not rest until he has our Queen destroyed and England under his heel!  When action is called upon men of the sea must face the danger and meet it squarely.  I will do my best, with God's help, and expect the crew to do the same."  

Badger's eyes lit up like fire pits and he bowed deeply.  "Aye, and in that I agree completely, Captain.  As will the crew."  His first impression had been correct.  Here was a man who would fight!

Harry grasped his sword.  "Clear for action!" 

The crew pulled up the spindly hammocks and strips of cloth that they used as bedding and tucked them away.  Lesser sailors began scattering sawdust and sand on the main and gun deck, sawdust to hide the blood and the gore that would be the individual aftermath of the battle, the sand to provide at least some modicum of footing.  Buckets filled with seawater were placed in advantageous positions.  The effects of fire on wooden ships could not be underestimated; that was another tactic the enemy would employ, given the opportunity.  Indeed, as everyone aboard knew, Spanish commanders followed a time-tested approach of sailing close enough to effect a boarding action.  If the galleons managed to get a grappling hook aboard, there would be no quarter for the men of the Triumph.   

Everything that could be done had been done.  The crew grew quiet and still, each keeping one eye on the sails and the other on their captain, who stood quietly on the foc'sle, occasionally exchanging low words with Badger.  The Spanish galleons were bearing done upon them, slowly but surely.  It was up to the ship, now.

The officers and masters assembled on the foc'sle for final orders.  Harry, having explained his intentions, to wait for the Spaniards to come ever closer until they were caught in the unforgiving current of the Portland Race, slowly came to realize the men below were standing quietly, waiting for him to offer them more, a word of comfort, an admonition, whatever would best serve the circumstances.  He gathered his thoughts for a space, then spoke loudly and distinctly.

"Men, there is no holy table available on our fine ship, nor do I have a copy of the service-book, so forgive me if I do not do justice to that Holy Word that binds us to the heavens.  A prayer to our Lord God that we find ourselves safe and sound after this engagement would not be amiss.  I leave that task to your own introspection and inclination; I do not intend to govern men's souls.  It is, however, meet and proper that I offer up some few words that mayhap will give you courage to see this battle through to a speedy and successful conclusion, one that will be remembered by men of ages yet to come.  It is this:  there must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory.  Feeble words of mine they may be, but heartfelt.  Let them be your guide as we remember that we fight for England's true gloriana, her gracious sovereign, so that she may continue to rule us in the benevolent fashion that we have come to know."  Harry pulled his sword out of its scabbard and drew it into the air.  "For the Triumph!  For Elizabeth!  For England!"

In the bed, Harry's fingers twitched.  The medical staff, busy with getting the x-rays ready, didn't notice.

* * * * *

Lee and Galené were left alone in the room.  An awkward silence fell between them.  Galené threw herself down on a chair, idly working a corner of her stained skirt, avoiding Lee's eyes. 

Gone was the imperious woman that usually surveyed her surroundings with head held high on her shoulders.  Weren't goddesses supposed to be all-seeing and all-knowing?  That was what Lee remembered from the mythology he'd read.  She seemed at a loss, something that he had never experienced from her before.  He remembered her grasping the admiral's head and saying something outside his hearing.  "When it comes to something like this -- what have you been able to do?"

"I can initiate recovery, if I am there in time.  I have also petitioned Aceso and Iaso for their intervention.  My supplications are not always granted -- I have told you of the Moirae.  Right now it is up to Harry and his remarkable constitution.  They'll be back from x-rays in a little while," she said, wiping her hands on her skirt.  "They won't find anything.  I have done all I can."  Her head bowed, and she placed the palms of her hands against her forehead. 

"We're not meant to be enemies, you know," Lee said softly.  "I apologize for my angry words earlier.  You've already saved Admiral Nelson's life once.  No way can I ever forget that."

Her head came up, a hesitant smile on her lips.  "Thank you for telling me that, Lee."

Both were remembering the events of a few weeks past, when the admiral had been the target of an assassin.  It would have been impossible for her to protect him without revealing her true identity, thus the Goddess of Calm Seas had made her presence known to Admiral Nelson at that time.  In foiling that attack she had come into closer contact with Nelson.  They had clashed, argued and clashed again, two head-strong adversaries, Harriman Nelson insisting he didn't need a nursemaid, goddess or no goddess, the "nursemaid" insisting that whether he liked it or not, she would be there to protect him.  The time together, though, had changed them.  Aversion had given way to an attraction that was definitely mutual.  Lee Crane had seen the change in Admiral Nelson ever since this woman had come into his life.  And he had definitely seen the effect that the admiral had on her.  It was evident in the way the man reacted when her name was mentioned, and telling in the way Galené had looked at the still form in the ambulance and the hospital bed, fingers trembling when she touched him.  Lee wondered if that what why she had stayed away in the weeks following.  Not because she didn't care, but because she did. 

The door opened and the admiral's bed was pushed back inside the room again, the two doctors following closely.  "The films are being developed," Jamie said.  "They'll call us when they're done.  But I don't think he has a skull fracture."

"He doesn't," Galené said flatly.  Dr. Barker's head swiveled and he stared fixedly at her, but said nothing as she continued.  "The x-rays will show that there aren't any fractures.  Swelling is what we must guard against now, consistent with blood clots.  I'm sure I don't have to tell you what increased pressure in the brain can mean."

Jamie looked around the room.  "Dr. Barker, I'll be the attending physician from now on, if you don't mind.  "Lieutenant--" he looked at the sea nymph’s name tag "--Hobbs will be assisting me.  I'd like oxygen brought in, and we'll be monitoring his fluid levels.  Lieutenant, please raise the head of the bed."  Galené nodded and reached for the controls.  "We'll take over from here," Jamie said pointedly.  "I appreciate all you've done."

"I'll have to inform the administrator. This is a highly unusual situation," Dr. Barker said, physically bristling. 

Jamie smiled a thin smile.  "I understand.  John Daniel is a good friend of mine, knew him at Bethesda.  If he'd like to hear it from me, I'm here."

"I think I know when I've been outgunned," Barker answered with obvious resignation, shrugging his shoulders and looking from Jamie to where Galené was adjusting the pillows under the admiral's head.  "I'll square it with everybody.  After all, we're all only a yell away."

"Of course, Doctor, thank you for your help," Jamie said, shaking hands.

The room was soon empty except for the three of them.  Jamie studied his sleeping friend. "Whatever he’s doing in there, he’s fully committed.  For a few minutes after we took the x-rays I thought he was waking up," Jamie said, eyes thoughtful.  "Perhaps the rest and quiet will equate to consciousness soon.  In the meantime, it's time to make a few calls."

"Jamie--"

"Don't worry, Lee, I'll phone Chip and let him know what's going on.  I don't want anybody in Santa Barbara to find out about this from television or the newspapers.  I think I'll pay a visit to Dr. Daniel.  I'll probably meet Dr. Barker there," Jamie added, smiling.  "You’ll call me if there’s the slightest change.  I'll be gone for about twenty minutes, give or take."  He stared at the mysterious woman who was now revealed to him.  "For his sake, I'll reserve judgment over your appearance here.  What's best for Harry is all that matters to me at the moment."

"As it should be, Dr. Jamieson.  Thank you."  As Jamie left the room, she said, "What time is it, Lee?"

He looked down at his watch.  "1400.  We’ve only been here a couple of hours."

Another chair appeared at the side of the bed.  "Get settled in.  He's healing, but it will take time."

"Time is pretty much all we have at the moment, from what you've said already." 

He sounded accusatory, and Galené bristled.  "Are you saying that you think I wanted this to happen, too?"

"No.  No," Lee said, waving that off.  "We're not going to argue again. It was just a statement of fact; nothing more was implied."

She dragged a hand over her forehead.  "I’m sorry. You're right, of course. I did think he would be awake by now."  Her brow furrowed.   "Apparently the story he is involved in is not quite resolved.  When it is, he will come back to this world.  What is important is that he will have no permanent effects from the injury.  I have been able to effect that, at least." 

Lee watched as she tucked some stray wisps of hair behind her ears, and straightened the covers over the admiral yet again.  Her face was grey, and her shoulders sagged.  He decided against sitting down in the chair just yet.  Instead, he held out his arms.  "You look like someone who could use a little propping up."

"Lee, that isn't necessary, I app--"

"Lieutenant Hobbs, I'm giving you a direct order."

Her shoulders went up and down, and she smiled tiredly as she went into his arms.  "Aye aye, sir."   

He rested his chin lightly on the top of her head.  "In the beginning, I thought there was a chance...but I've seen how you are around the admiral.  I'll settle for being your friend, if you'll let me."

She clutched him tighter.  "In the beginning, there probably was.  You're an absolutely exciting, drop dead gorgeous man.  There's just something about him.... I love his intelligence, his commitment to making the world a better place, the way he looks you in the eye when he's talking to you, the smile when he sees the humorous side of life and the frown when he doesn't.   And especially how much he really, really cares for the people he cares about.  That definitely includes you and Chip.  He'd do anything for you, you know.  And you can see it all happening behind those beautiful blue eyes."

Lee nodded.  "I can't ever thank you enough for what you've done for him, and for me.  I think I wouldn't be far wrong in saying you might know a little something about a certain Irish lawyer I ran into a while back.  I had the same feeling about Sean that I have about you -- that he would be there for me, whatever it took.  And you can expect the same from me.  Just remember that friendship is a two way street, and don’t shut me out.  Ever."

"I won't.  Ever."  she whispered, voice catching.  They stood holding each other, the comfort satisfying for both.  Finally, Galené regained some degree of composure and pulled back from Lee, looking up at him.  "I'm so used to working with the darker side of life that I neglect the good ones that I come into contact with," she said softly, rising up on her toes and kissing him on the cheek.  "Φίλοι δείχνω δικό τουs αγαπώ μέσα ώρα του πρόβλημα, όχι μέσα ευτυχία."

"Ah, Euripides.  Another friend of yours?"

She held him at arm's length.  "You recognized that?  I am impressed."

He lifted up his hand with the heavy gold ring.  "They don't just teach us strategy and tactics."

She went into his arms again.  "No.  They actually do teach you to be an officer and a gentleman."


CHAPTER THREE

 

As the hours went by, Harry's condition remained unchanged.  She had thought that the internal battle he was fighting would be concluded quickly, but that had not been the case.  Lee and Jamie had been sent away to get coffee.  She used the excuse that she wanted Harry to herself for a few minutes.  The truth was she did not want them to see how worried she was getting.  She had noticed the darkening, and it was definitely not the sun going down through the slats of the venetian blinds.  The corners of the room were falling into an unnatural shadow.  They had entered the room.      

Harry was still, his chest rising rhythmically, no hitch in his breathing.  She smoothed his hair back from his forehead, hoping for some reaction, something that would give her a modicum of optimism.  She pulled the sheet up a little higher on his chest, reminding herself of the scars and uneven places on the skin underneath.  He had been injured several times in the course of his life.  No warrior such as he could come through battle unscathed.  His face was weathered, evidence of a lifetime spent at sea.  She would tell him when he awoke that he should cherish every line, every wrinkle as a symbol of honor.  When he awoke.... Her reserve snapped at that moment, as her feelings seeped through, control eliminated in an instant by the horrific thought that despite her ministrations, he would not awake.  Her eyes filled, the tears betraying her by rolling down the sides of her nose.  She quickly wiped them away. 

A bark of derisive laughter followed that act.  The sound hung in the air.

Time to stop acting like a human.  Lifting up from the chair, she stood quietly by the bed, one protective hand on Harry's unmoving shoulder.  Galené stared defiantly into the room, gaze sweeping from corner to corner.  "Who has sent you this time?" she asked from between set lips.

A soft voice, like a whisper on the wind, filled the room.  "You know."

She did know.  Her courage failed her for only a moment, and then the Goddess of Calm Seas was back.  Into her silver eyes sprang a savage coldness.  "You have come to the wrong place.  You will not leave with this man."

"You are not more powerful than I."

"Oh, but I am," she said acidly.  With a sweep of her fingers her eyes changed color, from shining translucent silver to black, bottomless pits.  "Your memory is very short, Thanatos.  I have robbed you of this one, just as with the others."

The laughter filtered through the air again.  "We'll see.  It would seem to be just a matter of time." 

Her voice took on a harsh tone.  "They are not like us, things do not always go as planned.  He will awake.  Leave.  Find the others you have come for."  Her voice sounded stronger than she felt.  The decision to keep her identity hidden came to the fore in her thoughts.  She could have saved him then.  Would the harbinger of death win this time?

The room lightened suddenly.  "Remember, I am always but a step behind you...." 

Galené blew out the air in her cheeks and fell back into the chair, willing her body to relax.  A moment, to savor a small triumph.  Her enemies were strong, but she was stronger.  How long before they won at last?   

No matter -- now it was his turn.  "Do not make me out to be a liar, Harry!"

She returned to the chair, her hand tightening on his shoulder again.  Softly, then slightly louder as she sought to deny the powers of darkness their place in this quiet hospital room, she began singing, a lyrical melody that had been taught to her by Euterpe.  She could only hope that the daughter of Zeus would hear this entreaty and find it pleasing.  She was still at it when footsteps sounded outside the door and Lee and Jamie came back into the room.

"No changes?"

She shook her head, incapable of speech.   

Come back, come back....

 "Oh, a king’s ransom for a loom gale!"  Badger cried, causing Harry to turn and regale him with distaste. 

"We’ll not be needing as stiff a breeze as all that, sir!  Beseeching our Lord and Savior for a zephyr will do just fine!  Ah, there – luff and touch her!  Where is the wind?" 

Badger pointed forward.  "Dead ahead, sir, what there is of it!  It is barely scant.  Aye, I fear we'll be aback soon, captain.  It’ll be the rowers for us!"

"I know these headlands well, man," Harry countered.  "We will be betwixt two sheets soon enough!"  His words were defiant, giving him time to think and pray and think still more on the upcoming battle.  Could he, Harry Palmer, carry the fight to the Spanish?  True, he had been preparing for this for some time.  He had been involved in perilous situations, but never as the commander of as great a ship as the Triumph.  Come what may, this would prove his mettle.

"The ship is coming up, captain!"  There was joy in Badger's voice.

"Man the topsail halyards!  Rise sheets!  Let fly roundly!"  Harry cried, and the men obeyed, releasing the sails as quickly as they could.  "Handsomely, now, handsomely!  We don’t want to give ourselves away just yet!  Ho there, Badger, what are these breakers gone by the board?"

"Methinks they have been thrown overboard from some unfortunate, captain.  Water, probably."

"Ah, a waste of a fine barrel, then, Badger.  I would be partial to a dram of good rum!"

"The wind, captain, the wind!  It rises – but from the southeast!" 

Harry spun around, to gaze upon the sailing master's stricken face.  "Not from the west?  Then we are doomed.  We’re too close to the shore, we cannot maneuver.  So – we fight, good master!"

Just then a familiar voice sounded from midships.  "Did I not say that I would be back swift as may be?  I am a man of my word."  Frobisher, advancing as lightly on his feet as if he'd was practicing a galliard with the Queen, danced up to Sir Harry's side. 

"And pleased I am to see you, Martin!"

Frobisher quickly took stock of the situation.  "''Tis your time now, Harry!  Send out your boats – we’ll tow her away."

The command was followed in a matter of minutes.  Ponderously at first, then faster, the Triumph pulled away from the land, the Spanish commanders aboard their great galleons either afraid to come close for fear of grounding themselves, or unsure of the English intentions.  In any event, as quickly as the Spanish ships would gain the advantage of what little wind there was, the English ships (for Triumph had come to be accompanied by three smaller companions, who sailed up under the Spanish guns to her aid) would sheer aside and force the weather-gage once again.  Frobisher, using all the sailing skills he possessed kept the great ship skipping and hopping over the waves, her guns firing to good effect.  Harry Palmer, having been ordered to command the little squadron of pinnaces, directed them with skill and daring, racing from the stern to the bowsprit and back again to the foc'sle, 'til his body and his mind was drained of all energy.  He had done the best he could.

Finally, they felt it.  Those on deck turned their heads almost simultaneously.  Harry wasted no time in crying out the words that were on everyone's tongues.  "The wind is ours, Martin!"

"Aye, and now the Spanish themselves cannot maneuver, Harry!  We've done it!  Against four Spanish ships of the line!  You will be handsomely rewarded for this, Sir Henry!  God's teeth, your boat captains, they have surely saved us!"

Harry accepted the compliment with a grand grace.  "I will acknowledge your praise on behalf of the crew, Martin.  Surely our success can be attributed to their competency, of which they have abundance.  I would lead this group of Englishmen into battle at any time."

 Any further speech was cut off by the roar of Triumph’s 32 pounders as she fired off another broadside, and she shook to the keel as the smoke of the demi-cannons wafted across the water.

"Three cheers for Captain Frobisher!  Three cheers for Sir Henry!"

Hanging from a port brace, Harry doffed his cap in a rousing salute to his captain, joining in the huzzahs and applause from the assembled crew as the honoree himself stood on the foc'sle waving a desultory hand, a great smile on his dark face.  Harry whooped and shouted in his turn.  The skirmish was over.  They had faced four of Philip’s most dreaded galleons and had escaped destruction.  For now, he would bask in the glow of having a small part in saving his country and her Queen from the Spanish heel.  He caught Frobisher’s eye and, doffing his cap once again, leaned forward in a courtly salute. 

At that moment the world exploded.

The last Spanish ship caroming past made one last gesture, one final, feeble attempt to strike a blow for Spanish pride.  The cannonball landed squarely on the planking beneath Harry’s perch and the wood disintegrated in a deadly shower of splinters and iron nails.  Harry had time to take note of Frobisher’s started expression, and as he fell backwards, arms flaying towards the frothy waters of Portland Bay, felt that somehow, he was rushing towards something that he had already experienced.  Then he hit the cold water, and all thought disappeared.

Burdened by his boots and heavy clothing, Harry began rapidly sinking.  "Sweet Jesu, I’m drowning," he though languidly.  "And there’s something wrong with my head…." If this was death, so be it.  It held no mystery for him.  The only mystery came suddenly, the appearance of a pair of shapely hands grasping the lapels of his jerkin.  He was startled away from contemplating that when the head of a very comely female appeared in his vision, her hair wafting to and fro before her, wrapping itself around his upper arms, staying his descent. 

"Come, Henry Palmer, you’re not dying yet.  You have a long and fruitful career in front of you.  But I’ll be taking my Harry back now."

The next thing he knew strong hands were lifting him out of the water, and into one of Triumphs little boats.

"You’re saved, God be praised!"

"Yea, God and the saints be praised," Harry said, still betwixt and befuddled.  "An angel, an angel saved me.  No, 'twas a mermaid, instead."

"You musta hit your head ‘gainst the side when you went over, Sir Henry.  You’re seeing things, begging your pardon, sir !   But don't worry, we'll have you back a'board in no time, ta live and fight another day."

 

Harry gave a short convulsive gasp, his arms moving under the sheets. 

Jamie sat his coffee cup down hurriedly and took up Harry's wrist.  "His pulse is increasing.  Harry, can you hear me?  Open your eyes."

From the other side of the bed Lieutenant Hobbs bent over the prone figure and said softly, "As I said, darling Harry, back to us now, where you belong."  She stepped aside and indicated that Lee should take her place.  "He'll be happy to see another familiar face, Captain Crane."

"I've had the strangest dream," Nelson's hoarse voice said groggily.  He opened his eyes and focused on Jamie.  "Jamie?  What the hell's going on?  Where am I?"

Jamie grasped his shoulder.  "Washington University Hospital in DC, Harry.  You had an accident.  Lee's here, he'll tell you all about it soon."

"Hospital?  Accident?  I remember finishing up the session at the conference, then we were going to meet you for lunch...it happened then?"  Harry asked weakly as he turned his head and locked eyes with Lee.  A pause, and then, "Is everything alright?"

Lee grinned and nodded his head exuberantly.  "I won't say we can give you a completely clean bill of health, but I'm pretty sure an examination will show that except for some residual pain and bruises you're fit for duty.   Not that you're jumping out of bed right now," Lee added hastily, in response to Jamie's eyebrows knitting themselves together.  "Doc is going to have to run some tests, just to be sure.  There's a...nurse here who would like to talk to you."  Lee looked around, quickly realizing that the room was empty except for the three of them.  Galené had disappeared.  He felt a whisper of regret that he had had a hand in that.  "Never mind.  Anything we can do for you right now?"

"My mouth's as dry as a desert.  I could use a glass of water.  After that, somebody needs to do some explaining."  The blue eyes flashed, the command in his voice evident.  "A hell of a lot of explaining."

Lee grinned again, then quickly sobered as the corners of the admiral's mouth turned down.  He gave himself a moment to sound as businesslike as if he was on the bridge of the Seaview.  "Aye aye, sir."

* * * * *

The lieutenant patted her hair under her cap, straightened her skirt and strode out of the hospital, crossing to a large, four door sedan parked conveniently across the street.  The black, nondescript automobile screamed "official government business."

"You do get around," the sunglass-clad driver opined as she opened the passenger side door and slid in.  "Care to tell me how you wound up at this hospital?  You're supposed to be in federal custody."

"Someone I think highly of managed to get himself hit by a cab.  I wanted to see him before Martha Hobbs is arrested for spying.  So I'm a little late.  They'll wait." 

"Your boyfriend's going to be very surprised when you show up in court.  He thinks you're on your way to Switzerland."

"Poor baby. Things do not always go as planned, do they?  Great, I'm repeating myself."  She held up her left hand, regarding the huge diamond in the engagement ring.  "I'm keeping the ring, by the way.  A fair exchange, as far as I'm concerned."

The driver started up the car and prepared to merge into traffic.  "Whatever you say."

Galené turned her head, craning her neck to keep the hospital in view for as long as possible.  "I'm going to Santa Barbara," she announced suddenly.  "I need to be with him.  After all, I only said I wouldn't be there when he woke up.  That's all."

Keeping his eyes on the road, her driver spoke out of the side of his mouth.  "You want to tell me what you're talking about?"

"Nothing you'd be interested in.  Just a trip to visit a friend."

"Uh, you've got this little court case--"

"--Which is why you should drive faster and talk less, Agent Reeman."

"Yes, ma'am!"

 * * * * *

"She was here?  Galené was here?"

"You don't remember?"

"No...I don't.  Damn!"

"I'm sorry, sir.  She's saved your life again, Admiral.  I guess you better be getting used to it."

Admiral Nelson growled his response.  "It was just my head, Lee, nothing would come of that." The small grin on his face quickly faded.  "Why didn't she stay... didn't she want to see me?  I would have...wanted to see her." 

It was a small but astonishing admission.  Lee took a deep breath, preparing himself.  "Of course, sir.  I'm afraid...it was something I said.  Let me take it from the beginning...."

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Rank, especially four-star retired rank, has its privileges.  Three days later a shiny C-47 on loan from the Chief of Naval Operations sat on the tarmac at Andrews AFB, waiting to take them home.  Two additional days had been spent in the hospital, the admiral putting up little resistance.  Lee suspected that Nelson just wanted one more chance to allow Galené to visit.  That was unlikely; Lee had seen a story in the Post about the breakup of a suspected spy ring and subsequent arrests. 

Lee had explained everything, leaving nothing out, including his own role in her decision to leave.  Admiral Nelson had sat quietly, taking it all in, the disappointment apparent for all that he tried to hide his feelings.  Lee knew him too well. 

The voyage to the airfield had its moments.  Harry had thundered about, but Jamie had been adamant -- first a trip by ambulance, and then a wheelchair out to the aircraft.  The ramp up to the cabin Harry would navigate by himself, however.  Lee and Jamie stood behind him, just in case.  It gave Jamie a chance to acknowledge that, other than the bandage on his temple, the admiral bore no effects of the accident.   Lee could practically see the wheels turning as Jamie had to begrudgingly admit that Nelson's speech and mobility were unimpaired, a "miracle" diagnosis easily made.  Lee had agreed to sit down with the C.M.O. and tell everything he knew about the goddess.  It promised to be an interesting conversation.

They were soon settled in the cabin, Lee taking a few extra minutes to stow their bags.  Harry looked out the window -- one last look -- and then turned to Lee.  "You got everything from the hotel room, lad?"

"Yes, sir.  Jamie and I packed up your luggage.  Everything's been brought aboard.  Including --" and here Lee held out a hardcover book --"including the book you especially wanted me to get."  He flipped it over and looked at the spine.  "A biography of Martin Frobisher.  Are you enjoying it?"

Harry reached up and took it, letting the book settle in his hand.  "Yes.  It definitely has piqued my interest.  An interesting man, Frobisher.  Took on a portion of the Armada and lived to tell the tale.  I seem to recall some stories...they must have been dreams I had while I was unconscious.  I'll have to tell you about them sometime."

As the aircraft's two Pratt & Whitney engines started up Lee raised his voice to answer.  "Dreams, sir?"

"Yes...vivid ones, almost like I was there."

 Lee looked at him thoughtfully.  Apparently the story he is involved in is not quite resolved.  When it is, he will come back to this world..."I'll look forward to hearing about it, Admiral."  

 

Thus my most honorable good Lord I crave pardon for my boldness....

Letter from Martin Frobisher to the Lord High Treasurer, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, 1590


GLOSSARY

** An earlier appearance of Galené, referenced in Duty is an Icy Shadow.

Abaft -- toward the stern.

Aceso and Iaso - Greek goddesses of healing, Aceso for recovery and Iaso for recuperation.

A' luff -- to take the ship up into the wind.  Luff and touch her -- the same, a gentle nudge in the right direction. "The ship is coming up, captain!"  -- the wind is drawing around to be more favorable.  Holabar -- from the French haut la barre, meaning to turn the helm to the source of the wind.

Bells -- used to keep watch time aboard ship.  Here, two bells equal 0500.

Breakers -- small barrels; gone by the board -- anything spotted floating past the ship.

Courses -- sails.  Sheets -- sheets are ropes (or chains) used to hold the courses.   Shrouds -- standing rigging running from a mast to the sides of a ship.  Stay -- the rigging that runs from the mast in a fore-and-aft direction.  Yard -- The horizontal spar from which a square sail is suspended.

Euterpe -- one of the three Muses.  She was the patroness of music.

Foc'sle -- short for forecastle, a forward area near the bow used to direct activities aboard the ship.

Loom gale -- gentle burst of wind.

Pinnaces -- small vessels that serve as tenders to larger ships.

Portland Bill -- narrow promontory which forms the most southerly part of the Isle of Portland, part of the county of Dorset, England.  A major landmark for sailors.

The Race -- a phenomenon occurring off Portland Ledge (the Shambles) that causes an extremely strong current to flow in this part of the English Channel.  Sailors who know the existence of this current can use it to their advantage.

Thanatos -- the ancient Greek personification of death.   

We will be betwixt two sheets soon enough!"  -- sailing before the wind.

Φίλοι δείχνω δικό τουs αγαπώ μέσα ώρα του πρόβλημα, όχι μέσα ευτυχία -- it is indeed, a quote from Euripides.  The clearest English translation is "Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness."

And finally...Admiral Sir Henry Palmer (I have taken liberties with his first name, giving him the same nickname as Henry VIII used) had a long and distinguished career in the Royal Navy, finishing up as Comptroller.  It is more than likely he was aboard another English ship, the Antelope, during the Battle.  And Martin Frobisher never left the Triumph, commanding her with an élan that would seal his reputation forever.

In regards to the "prayer" that Harry utters just prior to the engagement ("there must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory"), unfortunately Henry Palmer cannot lay claim to be the author.  The statement was actually written by Sir Francis Drake in 1587, expressed in a letter to Sir Francis Walshingham, Elizabeth I's secretary (and chief spy).  Dramatic license is a wonderful thing.

 

 

 

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