Dark of the Ocean's Depths

by Michelle Pichette & Holly Cushing

 

 

    

      Mists swirled around Santa Barbara harbor, all but obscuring the stars and moon over head. Impossibly, a portion of these mists congealed until three distinct figures stood on a small hill, looking out at the coast, and, more specifically, a well lighted area on that coastline. “Finally,” one of the figures whispered. “A fortress suitable for our needs.”

     “Yes, but he is there. He is not one of the sheep. He is a lion,” another growled, drawing his coat around himself. “He and his minions have stood against the supernatural before and he has wielded science like a sorcerer employs spells.”

     “He will not bow.  His will is strong, perhaps as strong as ours,” the third agreed.  “We cannot force his hand.  He will destroy all at his command sooner than see it serve us.  And his sheep have claws because of their belief in him.”

     The first figure’s eyes seemed to glow red in the blackness of the night and an eerie, disembodied laugh echoed out into the mists.  The second speaker cringed at the sound of that laugh, despite the fact that they were allies.  The third simply raised an eyebrow in her direction.  “Then we strike his followers away from him and we twist his science to our needs.”

     The second figure nodded eagerly, but the third said, “You are making a grave error.  And you know the rules.”

     “Rules,” first snorted derisively, tauntingly.  The second figure cringed again and glanced worriedly at the third, who seemed unaffected by the tone of the word.  “I can’t take them and break none of your precious rules.  When I have succeeded, you will have to admit that you have done nothing all these years because you’re afraid.”

     “I am realistic,” he corrected her almost absently, still looking down at the brightly lit base below them.  “And you will fail.  I advise you one last time against this action.  It will end badly.”

     “Then stay behind.  I don’t care.  Admiral Nelson and the Seaview will be mine.  Then you will be forced to admit that I am not the one who is mistaken.  I will rule all.”  As a breeze stirred the mists again, the figures dissolved into them as if they never were.

                              * * *

     Lee Crane, Captain of the Seaview, was not on duty at the moment and that was always an bothersome time for him.  He was a man of action and having no definite schedule or purpose did not suit his personality.  Chip Morton, his second in command and Lee’s best friend, had meant well, he supposed.  Chip was trying to get him to relax by dragging him to the party he was currently attending.  Lee had been standing along one wall, nursing the same drink for over an hour, watching people he didn’t know trying too hard to have fun.  This was a waste of his time, but he told Chip he’d stay for at least two hours.  Now that he had almost put in that much time, Lee was thinking about the work being done on the Seaview, wondering how it was coming.  He hadn’t been too pleased about the Admiral tossing him off his boat and telling him to relax in the first place, but Nelson had probably meant well too.

     “Pathetic, aren’t they?” a woman’s voice said from next to him.  Lee hadn’t realized someone was standing next to him, but when he looked to see who had spoken, he wondered how he could have missed this woman until this moment.  There was no way to describe her but captivating.  Her alabaster skin seemed to radiate a light all it’s own and her large green eyes, which now looked into his, seemed to hold him helpless in their gaze, her long auburn hair framing her perfect face as if it were a piece of priceless art.

     “I... I’m sorry,” Lee stammered, then shook his suddenly muzzy head, wondering if someone had put something more than alcohol in the drink he held.  The woman was touched his free hand, taking it in hers and he looked back at her.  The confusion seemed to fade as he met her eyes again.

     “Don’t be sorry.  Be happy,” the woman said, then glanced off into the room, back at the people milling, talking, drinking, dancing.  All of a sudden, as Lee looked back out at them, they became indistinct, like shadows and wraiths moving through the room with no rhyme or reason.  “They are all trying to be just that, you know, but they don’t have any idea how.  You do.  You know exactly how to be happy and you are incredibly good at it.  They don’t understand.  They never could.  But I do.”  Lee looked back at the woman and she smiled at him, a smile that seemed to light up the night as bright as day, that made something in him ache to see such beauty.  “I’m Callista, and I would like to make you happy forever,” she said.  The rest of the world faded off into the distance and Lee found himself nodding to what Callista had just said.  An alarm tried to go off in his head, to warn him that something wasn’t right, but it disappeared when Callista put a hand on his cheek and drew him to her for a kiss.

                              * * *

     Chip Morton had been talking to his friend Liam, the host of the party he was at, when he saw Lee leaving with an unfamiliar but breathtaking auburn haired woman.  Chip frowned.  That wasn’t like Lee, just to go without saying anything, and though the woman was on Lee’s arm, it looked to Chip like she was leading him off.  It was an innocent enough thing, but for some reason, Chip found he was reacting as if there were something sinister about it.  In his years aboard the Seaview, he’d come to know that danger could come in almost any shape and the prettier the package the better.  Lee knew that, too.   Chip hadn’t seen his friend talking to anyone when he looked over at him just five minutes ago.  What was Lee playing at?  Maybe Lee was trying to teach him a lesson for almost forcing him to come to the party in the first place.

     “Liam, who’s that?” he asked, nodding toward them, unable to stop the bad feeling he was getting about what he was seeing.

     Liam turned and looked to where Chip was motioning.  “Wow!  What a knockout!  I’d sure remember her if I’d met her.  Must’ve come with someone,” Liam told him.  “Boy, that Lee has all the luck, huh?”

     “Hmm.  I’ve got to go,” Chip said quickly, starting through the crowded room in the direction of his friend.  All of Chip’s instincts were telling him that something was wrong, terribly, terribly wrong.  He didn’t want to be rude, but when Lee vanished out the front door, Chip started to push his way past knots of people.  If everything was fine, he could always tell Lee that he was concerned about how to get in touch with him when the repairs to the Seaview were finished and she was finally be ready to put out to sea on their delayed mission.  He was nearly to the door, thinking just that when a woman stepped in front of him and he knocked her down, all but falling with her.  “I’m so sorry,” Chip apologized, starting to help her up.  She turned and their eyes met and Chip suddenly lost track of the rest of the room.

     “You can knock me over any time, blue eyes,” she said in a sensual voice that made his head swim.  Her hand gripped his a little more tightly and Chip pulled her to her feet, only to find her in his arms.  She was tall, only an inch or two shorter than he was, and had a dark complection, eyes and hair.  Her eyes, there was something about them, something mesmerizing.  “You don’t need to worry about your friend, you know,” she whispered practically into his mouth.  “I know just where he is.  Shall we go join him?”

     Chip nodded silently, all the uneasiness he’d felt a moment ago gone.  He took this woman on his arm and soon found himself outside and walking toward his car.  Lee was already there with the other woman, standing next to her, staring off at nothing in particular.  “This was too easy, Callista,” the woman on his arm said with a laugh.  The laugh was eerie and Chip began to wake a bit from his reverie.  He tried to fight off the rest of the sluggishness that had claimed his mind, but it was like swimming in molasses. 

     “Don’t be overconfident, Sita,” the other woman said, then she met Chip’s eyes and reality began to drift away again.  “The night is still young and there is still much to do,” was the last thing Chip heard before darkness seemed to enfold him.

                              * * *

     Stuart Riley was lying on his surf board, looking up at the stars.  What a beautiful night, he was thinking, and there was no better place to be than where he was right this moment.  That was until he got slapped across the back of his head and opened his eyes to see the Circuitry Room.  “Wake up, Riley,” Kowalski was telling him and Riley rubbed his neck, wondering how he’d fallen asleep sitting up in the first place.

     “What time is it?” he mumbled, stretching his back and standing up.

     “Ten minutes after you asked if you could take a five minute break,” Kowalski told him with a grin and a shake of his head.

     Riley looked at his watch.  It was two in the morning.  He sighed, thinking his dream was way more appealing than reality.  “Why is that the circuitry on this boat goes up like a Roman candle every time anything happens, even if it’s no where near the Circuitry Room?” Riley asked as he joined Ski at the board he was working on.

     “Beats me,” Ski said with a shrug, “But I’ll tell you one thing, if I ever find out it’s actually some person’s fault, I’m gonna kill him.”

     Riley rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself the rest of the way up, but he was exhausted.  They had been working on this since seven in the morning, as well as all day yesterday.  They thought they’d solved the flare out problem earlier on.  However, when the Chief did a test run, everything burnt out and they had to rewire the boat all over again.  They were supposed to have been out at sea two days ago, had been about to submerge and go, and that’s when the flare outs started and they never even budged from the dock.  Yesterday the Skipper had been pacing the Seaview like a caged tiger, but when it became clear that it was going to take more than just a quick repair to set things to right, the Admiral had just about thrown the Skipper off the boat and told him to relax a little until things were taken care of, probably to keep the skipper from going berserk.

     “Y’know, Ski, I swear all this has something to do with that funky mist that didn’t want to burn off.  Remember how it got in the boat right before everything went nuts?” Riley said as he started back work.

     Ski chuckled.  “Yeah, right, Stu.  Rogue weather patterns cause mechanical difficulties all the time.  Besides, it wasn’t right before the flare outs started.  We cleared it out of the boat a long time before we started having problems.”

     Riley frowned.  “Well, it’s nuts.  We’ve triple checked everything and it’s still all whacked out.”  He tried not to yawn, but he was so exhausted that he couldn’t stop himself.

     “Hang in there, Stu.  We’re just about done,” Ski said.  Riley sighed, hoping that was true.

     Chief Sharkey marched in, saying, “How’s it coming down here?  All the other repairs are done.”

     “Almost finished.  Is the Admiral still up in the Control Room?” Ski asked.

     “Yeah, him and Patterson.  Everybody else is catching a little shut eye incase we can ship out tomorrow,” Sharkey said.

     “What happens if we get another flare out?” Riley asked, not really sure he wanted to know the answer.

     “Then we rewire everything again,” Sharkey said.  “And we keep doing it until we fix whatever is causing it.”

     “Chief, I can barely see anymore.  You mean in the morning, after we get a little sleep, right?” Ski asked.

     Sharkey frowned and Riley knew the answer without him saying a word.  “It doesn’t matter.  We got it this time.  I can feel it.”

     “I sure hope so,” Kowalski said.  “I’m done.”

     Riley finished what he was soldering and closed the panel.  “Me, too.”

     “Okay, guys.  Cross your fingers,” Sharkey said, then picked up a mike, saying, “Admiral, everything’s a go in Circuitry.”

     “All right, Chief.  We’re going to try to start up active systems.  You’re ready to shut down?” came the Admiral’s voice, though Riley didn’t know why he had bothered to ask.  They’d tried to shut down the power every single time, to no avail.  Everything burnt out anyway and they had to start from scratch with repairs.

     “Yes, sir,” the Chief said, then put the mike back on its hook.  “Okay, guys.  Cross whatever you didn’t cross last time,” he said as he stood by the main cutoff switch.  Riley stood by with a fire extinguisher, fingers crossed behind his back so that Ski wouldn’t see and laugh at him.  He listened for the engines, the big turbines sending a hum through the quiet sub just before red lights came up across the board.  The Chief hit the cutoff, but that didn’t stop sparks from leaping out from all the circuit boards a moment later.  Riley took his fire extinguisher and doused everything that was smoking, Ski and the Chief struggling feverously to shut things down before they flared out.  Finally, everything was burnt out or shut down and everyone stood there in silence for a couple of seconds.

     “Rotten, stinkin’, no good, son of a...” Ski started yelling in fury, kicking the nearest panel repeatedly.

     “Kowalski, that’s not helping anything!” the Chief shouted over him, silencing him again.  Sharkey looked at the smoldering, foamy panels, shaking his head and muttering to himself.  Ski went over to the bulkhead and kicked that once, probably just to get the rest of his anger out on something.

     Riley wondered if he started coughing from the smoke, if the Chief would send him to Sickbay so he could get some sleep or if he’d just tell him to stop being a baby.  Most likely the later, Riley decided with a sigh, just before something caught his eye out in the corridor.  “Chief, I thought you said everyone was asleep but us,” he moving to the door.  He barely caught sight of a person moving around the corner, out of view.

     “You’re seeing things, Riley,” Sharkey said, then muttered, “We’re all going to be before we figure this out.”

     “No, really, Chief,” Riley said as he turned back to the Chief and Ski.  “I just saw someone hightail it aft.”

     “Maybe there’s a saboteur aboard,” Ski said, looking quite pleased at the prospect of being able to pound someone to a pulp for causing all this trouble.

     “Well, we’d better check it out.  Probably the Skipper or the Exec got back, saw the disaster in here and they didn’t want to deal with it.  Riley, see if you can clean up some of this mess while Ski and I go see who it was,” the Chief said, nodding Kowalski toward the door.

     Riley watched them go, then looked back at the circuit boards and sighed as he took in the wreckage.  “This totally blows, man,” he told himself, the started up one of the portable fans to blow the smoke out of the room.  Air recycling was running, thank goodness, but there had been so many fires in Circuitry, it was having a hard time keeping up, so they were blowing the smoke out of the room so they could keep working.

     He was straightening from doing that when he bumped into someone.  Riley turned, thinking Ski or the Chief had come back to give him a hand, only to find himself looking up at a tall, slim, pale man with weird red eyes.  He was dressed totally in black.  Riley took a step back in surprise, since no one but crew was supposed to be on the boat this time out, and he tripped over a fan and fell.  Riley scrambled to his feet, looking around quickly for a weapon as the man let out the creepiest laugh he had ever heard.

     “Aren’t you pretty?” the man asked with another laugh as Riley picked up a the heaviest wrench he could find.  The man took a step forward, everything about him setting off warning sirens in Riley, especially when he found himself wanting to agree with the man when their eyes met.  Riley managed, somehow, to look away from those eerie, red eyes, and in that instant he swung at the man’s head with the wrench.  The man caught his wrist, squeezing it so hard that Riley gasped in pain and dropped his makeshift weapon.  The man lifted him off the floor by his wrist with no apparent effort and gave Riley a smile that made him quake in unbridled terror.  “I am Victor,” the man told him, still smiling, “But you may call me ‘Master.’”

     Riley fought down his fear and snarled, “In your dreams,” as he fought against the man’s grip on him.  The man shook his head and made a disappointed clucking sound, then lightly flicked the hand that held him, tossing Riley hard into the bulkhead.  Dazed, Riley tried to pick himself back up, only to have Victor seize him again, this time by the throat.  He pulled Riley up and facing him, Riley hitting and clawing at Victor’s arm and hand all the while, but it was like punching stone.

     Victor only chuckled again, then pushed his thumb into Riley’s throat a little harder.  Unable to breathe, Riley struggled with all his might, but was greeted with no better success as he slowly began to lose consciousness.  “Don’t worry, lovely boy,” Victor whispered to him almost tenderly, “Soon we’ll have all the time in the world.”  That was not at all reassuring to Riley as blackness swallowed him.

                              * * *

     Admiral Harriman Nelson was at his wits end.  He’d designed and built the Seaview, he knew all of her systems inside out and upside down, but he was at a loss to explain what was going on in her right now.  He and his crew, some of the best engineers and electricians to be had in the country, had run through the entire electrical system of the boat, had replaced almost every bit of it, but he was still sitting on the periscope island watching Patterson put out the last of the latest fires resulting from this flare out.  What was he missing, he asked himself.  There had to be something he hadn’t thought of.  Nothing came to mind, not even when Patterson started unscrewing one the boards to start rewiring yet again without having to be told to.

     They were two days late leaving on a resupply trip to the relatively new undersea lab on the edge of Marinas.  Nelson had already informed Doctor Lund that they were having technical problems and Lund had told him that things were fine at the lab, not to worry about being a few days late.  Nelson wasn’t worried, he was annoyed.  He didn’t like not being able to explain what was happening on his boat, especially when it shouldn’t be happening.  Nelson rubbed his eyes, telling himself to think harder when there was a scrape of metal on metal and the clatter of something falling to the deck as Patterson sucked in a pained breath, muttering, “Nuts!” as if it were a dire curse.

     Nelson looked up to see him squeezing his right hand, which was bleeding profusely.  He put two and two together and realized the sailor had slipped with the screwdriver, which now lay on the floor, and had cut his hand.  Actually, considering how tired the few men up and working on the flare out problem with him were, he was lucky there hadn’t been any other more serious accidents before now.  “Here, Patterson, let me see that,” Nelson said, reaching out for the sailor’s injured hand as he got back on his feet.

     “It’s just a little cut, sir.  I’m fine,” Patterson said, looking down sheepishly, but he held his hand out toward the Admiral as he approached.  Pat actually had given himself a good gash across his palm and Nelson pulled out his handkerchief and pressed it against the wound to staunch the flow of blood.  Pat winced, but he didn’t complain, still appearing embarrassed by what had happened.  Poor Pat was probably kicking himself for slipping in the first place despite the fact that it was after two in the morning and even Nelson was ready to drop after the last couple of days.

     “Let’s go get this seen to,” Nelson told him firmly.  Pat looked like he was about to say he was fine again, but Nelson wasn’t going to hear another word on the matter.  “And after we’re done there, we’ll go to Circuitry and let the others know we’re going to sleep on this for a little while and tackle the problem in the morning when we’re all a little fresher.”

     “Yes, sir,” Pat said and Nelson smiled a little because the young sailor actually sounded a little relieved.  “I just wish I didn’t have to get the Doc up this late.”

     “Knowing Doctor Jamieson, he’d probably be angry if we didn’t,” Nelson said, then walked him down to Sickbay.  To the Admiral’s surprise, Jamieson was not in his cabin, nor was he in Sickbay.  He wondered where the Doctor could be, but the intercom was dead, so he couldn’t page him.  Instead, Nelson sat Patterson down and bandaged up his hand, frowning as he did because he thought the wound might actually need some stitches.  “Tomorrow, before you report in for duty, I want you to have Doctor Jamieson take a look at your hand,” Nelson told him as he finished.  “It’s not hurting you too much, is it, Patterson?”

     “No, sir, it’s fine,” Pat said, flexing his fingers for the Admiral with no apparent discomfort.  “I wonder what happened to the Doc.  You don’t suppose somebody got sick or something, do you, sir?”

     Nelson thought about it, then became concerned that perhaps someone had gotten hurt down in Circuitry.  “It’s probably nothing,” he said, not seeing any sense in worrying about it until he knew for sure.  He let Patterson stand and said with a good natured smile, “Let’s stop by Circuitry, then put ourselves to bed.  I know if I just send you down there, the Chief not only wouldn’t turn in, he’d probably draft you into helping him with repairs.”

     “Most likely, sir,” Patterson agreed, which only made Nelson chuckle.  They went down to Circuitry, to find the fans were on,  and it looked like someone had started to clean up, but there was no one in the room now.  “This is weird,” Patterson commented.  “The Chief wouldn’t leave panels opened and extinguisher fluid all over the place like this, sir.  Neither would Kowalski or Riley.  Something really strange is going on.”

     Nelson nodded, still taking in the room.  “Yes.  First the Doctor and now here.  Let’s go down to the Crew’s Quarters and get a few men up to help us look for the Chief.”  Patterson only nodded, following the Admiral to the Crew’s Quarters without saying another word.  Once they got there, the Admiral was stunned to silence himself.  No one was there, all of the bunks empty, blankets and pillows scattered as though the men there had gotten up in a hurry.  “This is getting decidedly strange,” the Admiral said, mostly to break the silence in the room.  “If I find out this is some sort of Halloween prank...”  Halloween was in three days, but Nelson had never cared for the holiday, at least not the modern day version of it.  A celebration of the supernatural, something he didn’t believe in, would never be high on his list of things to commemorate.

     “No, sir.  I would have heard about it for sure if everyone was planning something, especially something this big.  Besides, how would anyone know we were coming down from the Control Room?  If I hadn’t cut my hand, we’d still be working there, sir,” Pat said when Nelson fell silent again.

     Nelson had to agree that Patterson certainly wouldn’t have sliced open his own hand just for some silly joke.  “Then there is something seriously wrong,” he said.  He turned back to Pat and said, “Patterson, I want you to go up to the Institute and get the Security guards and tell them to meet me in the Control Room.  We’ll search the Seaview and find out where everyone has vanished to.  The gate guards, too, Patterson, and you guard the gate until they get back or the morning shift comes on.”

     Patterson didn’t looked overly happy about it, but he nodded and said, “Yes, sir,” then returned to the Control Room with the Admiral and climbed the access ladder up off the Seaview.  Nelson knew well from bitter experience that when strange things like this started to happen, people started getting hurt, sometimes killed.  Since Patterson was already wounded, Nelson wanted him out of possible further harm’s way.  Thank goodness he’d gotten Lee off the Seaview earlier, Nelson chuckled to himself.  If this turned out to be something bizarre, Lee probably would have found himself in the middle of things, like usual.

     Nelson had just finished thinking that when he heard someone up in the nose of the boat.  “Chief?” Nelson asked, wondering if Sharkey had passed them when they’d been in Sickbay.

     “No, Admiral Nelson,” came a woman’s voice and a moment later, two women, Lee and Chip all stepped from the shadows of the unlit nose of the Seaview.  “But I’m sure we will be seeing him soon.”

     Nelson took in the two women, both exotically beautiful, then his senior officers, who both looked either drugged or hypnotized.  “Who are you?  What are you doing on my boat?” he demanded, hoping to jar Lee and Chip back to their senses.

     “I am Callista and this is Sita, and we’re all about to become one, big, happy family,” the auburn haired woman said, smiling warmly at him and stroking Lee’s face.  Nelson frowned when Lee didn’t react at all to the woman’s touch.  “Don’t worry, Admiral,” Callista said, turning back to him.  “Captain Crane is only resting until he’s needed.  Our Master is hunting down the last few of your crew and then all will be explained.”

     “All but Seaman Patterson,” Sita commented, shaking her head as if genuinely disappointed.  “Too bad you sent him up into the Institute.  I like men with green eyes.”  She hugged Chip’s arm and smiled briefly at him.  “Blue will do, I suppose.”

     Nelson didn’t like the sound of that one bit and turned to call the sailor back, only to see a tall, gaunt man just entering the other end of the Control Room.  Over one of his shoulders was Riley, who was plainly unconscious.  At least Nelson hoped the boy was only unconscious, especially since he didn’t like the looks of the man carrying him one bit.  He wished desperately that he wasn’t unarmed.  “Victor, you haven’t been snacking, have you,” Callista asked, disapproval ringing in her voice.  “You know what the Master said.”

     The man, Victor apparently, lowered Riley to the deck, then stroked Riley’s face, much the way Callista had stroked Lee’s earlier.  “Of course not.  I want to bring this one over.  Isn’t he exquisite?”

     “That’s not going to happen and you know it, Victor.  Not unless the Master approves it,” Sita said.  Nelson was getting frustrated and angry.  What the devil were these people talking about?

     Riley moaned and started to come to, so Nelson moved to the young sailor’s side, pulling him away from Victor.  There were fresh bruises on Riley’s throat, but he didn’t seem otherwise harmed.  Riley blinked up at him, disorientated, but Nelson said, “It’s all right, Riley.  Don’t try to move just yet.”

     “Oh, but we are moving.  We’re to meet with the Master in your office.  Shall I carry him?” Victor asked, sounding entirely too eager to do just that.

     “I’ll take him,” Nelson said, helping Riley to his feet.  “Are you all right, Riley?” he said more softly to the sailor as the boy leaned into him.

     “Just banged up a little, sir.  That guy... He tossed me around like I was a rag doll,” Riley murmured, then tried to right himself, tripping when he did.  Nelson was worried that perhaps the surfer was more hurt than he appeared to be, but Riley finally got his feet under him and seemed to be doing better after giving his head a shake.  “I know he doesn’t look like much, but he picked me up off the floor with one hand, sir.  And his hands were real cold and they felt weird.  He didn’t feel human, sir.”

     Nelson glanced back at the three strangers, taking them in again.  They were all strange in some way that Nelson couldn’t readily define, but looked human enough.  Victor was following him and Riley as they moved away, but the others remained behind in the Control Room.  He didn’t like leaving Lee and Chip in the control of whoever or whatever these people were, but he had little choice at the moment.

     They could be cyborgs, Nelson thought, or aliens of some sort.  It wouldn’t be the first time the Admiral had run afoul of either of those things.  They seemed to know him and his boat and her crew fairly well, but not well enough though, he though with a mental smile.  They had done him a favor in herding him toward his office because he kept a gun locked in his desk there.  He’d think of some way of getting to it and then come back for his senior officers.  He just hoped that Lee and Chip would be all right until he could come back for them.  They hadn’t spoken or reacted to what was going on around them in the Control Room and that was very worrying indeed.  Then there was Patterson.  Nelson sighed, wondering what he’d sent the poor, unsuspecting sailor into.

                              * * *

     Patterson walked across the gangplank to the dock, muttering to himself.  Last night he’d only gotten about two hours of broken sleep because Fuentes had been snoring like an asthmatic rhino all night.  Today had been an exercise in frustration and futility with the electrical problem the boat was having.  Then, to top it off, he’d made an idiot out of himself in front of the Admiral by almost cutting his own hand off with his screwdriver.  He didn’t blame the old, old man for wanting him out of the way now that things were getting weird aboard the Seaview.

     “What a week,” Pat sighed as he crossed the dock, then went up the elevator into the Institute.  There were few lights on in the building as the doors of the elevator opened and everything was quiet, as anyone would expect it to be at nearly three in the morning.  Pat’s footfalls echoed lightly in the empty hall and for some reason, that made him jumpy.  “Been working too hard,” he told himself under his breath, but he couldn’t shake the creepy feeling he was getting suddenly.  He looked around, but didn’t see either of the security guards that patrolled the Institute right away.  Maybe that was what was setting him off, he reasoned, that no one had approached him yet.

     “Wenders!  Ballentine!” he called, wondering if they’d both taken a coffee break at the same time.  Maybe they were off in another wing and hadn’t heard the elevator.  No one answered him, so Patterson kept walking up the hall, wondering where the two security guards had gotten to.  He rounded a corner and got his answer.  There, on the floor, in a heap, was Ballentine, staring lifelessly at the ceiling.  Patterson bent to him, but his first assessment had been correct.  Ballentine was dead.  Pat grimaced, glad that he wasn’t squeamish.  He had grown up on a farm and had seen plenty of slaughtered animals and that was all he could think of as he took in the man before him.  Ballentine had been butchered, there was no two ways of putting it, but what was truly strange was that there was no blood, not anywhere.

     Patterson straightened by the body and looked around, but still saw nothing.  The dark hadn’t been bothering him all that much before.  It did now.  Something very, very bad was going down and he knew he was in the absolutely worst place he could be.

     “Baa!” someone bleated from the shadows up the hall and Patterson took a quick step back.  “Here, little sheep.  I’m still hungry and I can smell your blood,” a voice taunted from somewhere.  Pat couldn’t be sure where, the echoes confusing him.  Suddenly, someone touched his arm and he spun away as the person said, “Boo!”  Pat didn’t know the man that stood half in the shadows, laughing at him.  Pat took another step back, wishing he’d thought to arm himself before coming up here.  “If you run, I’ll only kill you slower,” the man said, then hissed at him.  Fangs, real fangs, glistened in the half light and Pat felt his eyes go wide.

     “Don’t play with your food, Leo,” another voice said from behind Pat and he turned to take in a second man.  “Hey, he’s not wearing a guard’s uniform.  Suppose he’s from the submarine?”

     “Doesn’t matter, does it?  The Master said we get anyone in the Institute, so he’s fair game,” the first man chuckled.

     Pat didn’t wait for them to say anything else.  He turned and ran for all he was worth up a side corridor.  He knew what was behind him.  He knew with horrible certainty, just as he knew he was dead if they caught up with him before he got hold of some sort of weapon.  His mind raced along with his body.  He had to get back to the Seaview and warn the Admiral what was going on, but he had to live to do that.  He could hear the two strangers coming up behind him, taunting him with calls of, “Here little sheep,” and “Baa!  Baa!  Better run faster.  The wolves are coming,” each jeer a little closer than the last.  They could have caught up to him any time, Patterson knew, but they were playing with him.  That made him shudder as he thought again about what would happen if they did catch up and he pushed his exhausted body even harder until he all but crashed into the Admiral’s office and slammed the doors behind himself, locking them.  Almost the instant he did, the doors shook, the wood cracking with the first blow as Leo and his companion hit them.  Strong as they were, the doors weren’t going to hold for long.

     “Come on, little sheep.  No where to run now,” Leo taunted him as the doors shook again, then broke in.  Patterson was done  running, though, already around the Admiral’s desk and reaching up onto the wall to the display there.  Armed now, Pat turned to face the monsters that were almost on top of him.  Pat’s fear disappeared as they rushed him.  He’d show them who was a sheep and who was a wolf.

                              * * *

     The Chief watched from the door as Kowalski searched yet another empty storage room.  They’d been at this for over an hour, but hadn’t found a thing out of place nor seen any sign of another living soul.  “This is stupid.  Riley was just so tired he was seeing things.  I’ll send him to bed and we’ll get back to work,” he commented when they still didn’t find anyone.

     “If I said I saw this person too, do I get some shut eye?” Ski asked as they stepped back into the hall.

     “Very funny, wise guy.  Do you want to explain to the Skipper why his boat still isn’t running in the morning?”

     “No, but I’m beat, Chief.  If the Admiral can’t figure out what’s causing the electrical problems, what chance have we got?” Ski asked, then saw a shadowy form move off toward the bow of the boat.  “Hey, Chief, I really did see someone.  Over that way!”  He started off in the direction that shadow had vanished, which only made Sharkey let out an exasperated sigh.

     “We just came from that way, Kowalski,” the Chief told him, trying to be patient.  “How would he have gotten around us?  We’ve been watching the hall.”

     “I don’t know, Chief.  Half the things that happen on this boat make no sense.  Come on!”  Kowalski was all but running now and Sharkey trailed him, wondering if Ski was seeing things too.  The two of them were just about to pass the Circuitry Room, only Ski, then Sharkey stopped when they saw a flurry of activity inside.  The Skipper was overseeing several men who were going at the burnt out boards with a vengeance.    

     “Sir, what’s...” Sharkey started, utterly confused.  Riley was nowhere to be seen and Captain Crane wasn’t supposed to be back until morning.

     “We’ve solved our little electrical problem, Chief,” Crane said with his usual confident tone, but he looked distracted.  At first, the Chief hadn’t noticed, but now, as he focused on the Skipper, he saw that Crane wasn’t so much watching the repair crew as staring off in their general direction.  That, in itself, was pretty odd.  The Skipper was not the sort of person to stand around dazed.  It was late, the Chief told himself, and the Skipper was probably just tired, like the rest of them.  “Mister Morton is overseeing the repairs in the Control Room and we’ll be heading out any time now.  The Admiral wanted to see you and Kowalski in his office right away.”

     “Uh, yes sir,” Sharkey said, trying to shrug off the feeling that something wasn’t quite right here.  None of the repair team had reacted in any way to his entering the room, no one looking up or over at him, and that, in itself, was a bit on the unusual side.  “Sir, was Riley here when you got here?”

     Captain Crane didn’t seem to be paying much attention to him and Sharkey almost repeated his question.  “He’s with the Admiral already, Chief,” he said as Sharkey was just opening his mouth to ask again.  “And I did say the Admiral wanted to see you now, didn’t I?”

     “Yes, sir.  Right away,” Sharkey said, nudging Kowalski back out the door.

     “Was it just me, or the Skipper seem kinda... funny,” Ski asked as they headed up the passageway toward the Admiral’s office.  Ski sounded genuinely concerned, but the Chief frowned at him all the same.

     “We’re all strung out, Kowalski, so I’ll let it go this time, but don’t let me hear you talking down the Captain again,” he told the younger sailor.

     “Aw, I wouldn’t do that, Chief.  It’s just... he seemed sort of out of it and that’s not like the Skipper, no matter how tired he is.  And why isn’t he in the Control Room if we’re shipping out the minute repairs get done instead of down in the Circuitry Room?  If someone needed to supervise repairs, Mister Morton could to that,” Kowalski replied, his troubled look intensifying.

     The Chief couldn’t help but nod, hoping that when they got to the Admiral’s office that he’d have some sort of explanation as to what was going on with Captain Crane.  It didn’t take them long to get there, and Sharkey knocked at the door.  “Come,” came the Admiral’s voice.  What was weird was that the Admiral’s call sounded somewhat reluctant.  Sharkey still opened the door and stepped inside to see Riley sitting in front of the Admiral’s desk, a tall, gaunt man standing behind him with his hands on the young surfer’s shoulders.  Riley looked scared and there were bruises on his throat, which led Sharkey to the conclusion that whoever the stranger was, he was no friend.  Sharkey stepped into the office, Kowalski right on his heals, but the office door slammed right behind them.

     Sharkey turned quickly to see a beautiful, dark skinned  woman by the door, smiling in a predatory manner at them.  Ski was already going at her, but she simply pushed at him, the blow sending the sailor flying as if he’d just hit by a linebacker.  Sharkey was about to see if he’d have better luck when there was the sharp report of a gunshot behind him.  The tall man jerked back, a second bullet catching him in the head, but he didn’t fall down.  In fact, aside from knocking him back, getting shot only seemed to stun him.  “Go!” Nelson yelled as he shot the woman by the door.  Sharkey grabbed Kowalski as Riley threw himself in their general direction.  He didn’t know who exactly got the door opened, he just yanked Kowalski along with him as they headed aft again.

     “Prepare to dive,” came Mister Morton’s voice over the intercom.  Wonderful, Sharkey thought, now the boat works fine.  He steered them all clear of Circuitry.  Whatever was going on, it had affected the Skipper and, probably, Mister Morton, so better to give them a wide berth for the time being, Sharkey reasoned.

     “Chief, aft missile room!” the Admiral yelled up to him, then there was another gunshot.  Sharkey didn’t reply, but he knew why the Admiral would head there.  It was fairly easy area to defend with only one way in and it was the last place they wanted any hostiles to take.  He didn’t need another announcement to know that they were submerging a moment later.  They’d be out of the channel soon, but where were they going after that?  The Chief wasn’t sure he wanted the answer to that question, hoping that the Admiral knew what was going on and had a plan to stop whoever those people were from hijacking the Seaview.

     The Chief was just rounding final corner before the missile room hatch when he had to draw up quick or he would have run right into the tall man from Nelson’s office.  How could he have gotten in front of them, Sharkey thought as Ski and Riley bumped into him.  “No where left to run,” the man said, smiling at them.  Sharkey had seen him shot in the head, but there was no wound, which only made him wonder in growing apprehension what the man in front of them was.

     “And no where to hide,” came a woman’s voice from behind them.  “Put down the gun, Admiral.  You know now that you can’t hurt us.”

     Sharkey looked up at the stranger before him and got ready to test that theory.  Before he could, though, something moved behind Victor.  Victor turned, actually snarling, then something metal flashed about neck level on him and he literally dissolved into dust.  Once he did, Sharkey could see Patterson in the hall, soaking wet, his coverall torn and bloody.  He was holding a saber in his left hand and something, Sharkey couldn’t tell what, in his right.  That was, he couldn’t tell what it was until Pat held it up saying, “That’s not entirely true.”  He was holding a crucifix, one of the ones from the Chapel in the Institute, if Sharkey remembered properly.  Sharkey was about to ask the sailor if he’d totally lost his mind when there was an angry shriek behind him.

     Sharkey turned to see the woman stumbling back away from them, still snarling in fury.  She seemed to force herself to stop and started back at them, hissing, “You want to put that down.  You want to put the cross and the sword down.”  Her eyes had gone red and eerie looking and Sharkey wanted to nod to what she was saying.  He shook his head, averting his gaze, backing next to Pat as Ski, Riley, and the Admiral closed their ranks a little.  Pat was trembling, maybe because he was faltering under the woman’s hypnotic gaze, maybe because he was wounded and still losing blood.  Sharkey wasn’t going to take a chance either way. He wrapped his hand around Pat’s and helped him lift the crucifix firmly up in the woman’s direction, since it seemed to be keeping her away from them.

     “Just back off, lady,” Sharkey told her and she hissed at him, her pretty face twisted with fury.  Impossibly, her form became indistinct and she turned to mist.

     Ski grabbed Riley and the Admiral each by an arm and pushed them close to The Chief and Patterson.  “Everybody touch the Cross,” he told them.  “She can’t go near it.”  Sure enough, the mist, which seemed to spread all around them, stopped mere inches from where they stood and recoiled as everyone quickly did as Kowalski had instructed.  Sharkey felt goose bumps rising on him as he watched the mist writhe around them, seeming to search for some sort of opening, but finding none.  Only after probing repeatedly did the mists reform to become the woman once again.  Now, she looked positively livid.

     “You’ll be sorry, Admiral Nelson.  This didn’t have to be unpleasant,” she spat at Nelson, then she looked past him, her eyes almost seeming to bore holes through everyone so that she could give a look of unbridled hatred to Patterson.  “And for killing Victor, I promise you a slow, excruciating death.”  With that, she turned and stalked away, leaving them standing there in silence.

     “What the hell was that!” Sharkey asked when no one moved or spoke.  That got everyone to let go of the cross and spread out a little anyway.

     “A vampire,” Kowalski said, sounding totally serious.

     “A what?” Nelson questioned, giving Kowalski a look of utter disbelief.                                           

     “A vampire, sir,” Kowalski repeated, sounding no less sure of what he was saying, as ludicrous as it sounded.  “You know, like Dracula.”

     Nelson let out an exasperated sigh and said, “I know what vampires are, Kowalski, if they were real.”

     “That one sure looked real, sir,” Riley said.

     Sharkey wasn’t even going to entertain the idea of vampires at the moment.  He had gently taken the cross and saber from Pat, who’d offered him no resistance, and was looking at the sailor’s wounds.  It looked like a tiger or something else with good sized claws had raked down his across his chest from his shoulder, the wounds still bleeding a little.  Pat was looking a little pasty and Sharkey said, “We’d better get you to Sickbay, Patterson.”

     “No,” Nelson said.  “We’ve got intruders aboard the Seaview and they’ll be expecting us to go to there.  Come on.  We have a lot to talk about.”  He turned without further comment, leading them off.  Ski put Pat’s unwounded arm over his shoulder and helped his friend off after the Admiral.

     “Chief, if those things weren’t vampires, what were they?” Riley asked as they fell into step behind them.

     “Be darned if I know, kid.  Be darned if I know,” Sharkey said, wondering why all this weird stuff always seemed to happen on their boat.

                              * * *

     “Prepare for dive,” came Chip’s deep voice over the newly repaired intercom.  There were still some minor repairs being finished up in Circuitry, but nothing that would keep the Seaview from starting her mission.  Lee was still there, watching the men work, but his thoughts were distant, trapped in a fog.  Chip’s announcement bothered Lee.  Why should it bother him, he asked himself, not fully understanding at first.  Because he wasn’t in the Control Room, a little voice told him from somewhere in the back of his clouded mind.  He should be in the Control Room, he should be in command of his boat and himself, but he wasn’t, the little voice howled it him, but the words were swallowed up in the haze that Callista had set in his head.  That part of Lee that was trying to fight back was swallowed in that fog and couldn’t escape, especially when she appeared and kissed him on the cheek.

     “Are repairs almost complete?” she asked, smiling at him.

     “Almost,” he echoed, trying to remember what he had just been thinking.  It slipped away from his mental grasp and was forgotten as Callista took his arm.

     “Good,” she said, his mental fog only letting him hear her voice, her approval.  “The Master is very pleased with your crew.  They work quickly.”

     “The Master...” Lee murmured.  He didn’t know who that was, but the words grated on him until Callista caressed his arm.

     “Don’t worry.  No one wants to take authority from you here on your submarine,” she cooed at him.

     “I should be in the Control Room,” Lee murmured absently, glancing off in that general direction.

     “Oh, now I understand your confusion.  I thought that you would want to oversee these important repairs, but you’re right,” she agreed with him, again silencing the nagging in the back of his mind.  “You should be in the Control Room.  Let’s go there now.”  Lee nodded and let her lead him toward the Circuitry Room door, wondering why he had been so concerned a moment ago.  He was on his boat and Callista was here with him.  Wasn’t that all that was important?  He didn’t hear the voice in the back of his mind telling him that just wasn’t so.

                              * * *

     The Admiral helped Sharkey clean Patterson up as the sailor told him what had happened up in the Institute.  Patterson was calm and seemed totally rational, despite the fact that he was pale from blood loss and exhaustion.  Nelson was glad that at least the sailor had stopped shivering now that he was dry, so, with any luck, Doctor Jamieson wouldn’t have a case of pneumonia to treat along with Patterson’s wounds, when they finally found out what had happened to the doctor.  Nelson just wished that what Patterson was saying didn’t sound like something out of a bad horror movie.  “So, Patterson, you’re telling me that when the two men in the Institute smashed down my office door, you beheaded them with my grandfather’s saber and they turned into dust, just like the man here on the Seaview?” he asked, trying to be patient, especially considering Patterson’s current condition.

     “Yes, sir,” Patterson said, then gave Nelson a sheepish look.  “And I swear I wouldn’t have touched the sword if it weren’t for...”

     Nelson waved him to a halt impatiently, not certain what to think about what he’d heard so far.  Patterson was not usually a violent person, more prone to asking questions first rather than defending himself, which was how he wound up in Sickbay so often.  The fact that Pat had even considered beheading anyone as a first course of action was far more disturbing to Nelson than what he had chosen as a weapon.  “And the second person in the Institute was the one who wounded you, not the one named Leo?” he asked, wondering how much of Patterson’s story was factual and how much was muddled by shock and exhaustion.

     Pat nodded.  “Yes, sir.  After I took Leo down, the second one, he sprouted these big claws and jumped at me.  He was so fast and strong!  I don’t know how I...”  He sucked in a quick breath and winced as the Chief pulled the bandage he was winding around the sailor’s shoulder tight.

     “Then you came back to the Seaview?” Nelson prompted him once the pained expression on Patterson’s face eased.  He didn’t want to take a chance that Patterson’s injuries would take their toll before he could finish his story.

     “No, sir.  I went to the Chapel and borrowed the crucifix, then I heard the warning alarm that the Seaview was about to submerge and I ran to the docks.  I just made it to the aft diving locks as the deck went awash and as soon as I got aboard, I went to find you, sir.  That was when I came up behind that guy in the passageway and, well, you were there for the rest, sir,” Pat explained, then glanced at the cross on the bunk’s pillow next to him.  “Boy, Father Flaherty is gonna kill me.”  He was referring to the Institute’s Chaplin.

     “He’s a priest, Patterson,” Sharkey told him as he lifted the sailor’s arm so he could wind the gauze around his chest and bind the sterile pads over the wounds there.  “He doesn’t go around killing people.”

     “Okay, so he’ll excommunicate me,” Pat sighed.

     “No, he won’t.  I’ll explain things to him when I return the cross to him,” Nelson told Patterson, but he was wondering how he was going to explain the ‘borrowing’ of the cross without Father Flaherty thinking him insane.

     “You’re lucky you didn’t get yourself killed, Patterson.  What were you thinking, pulling a stunt like jumping onto the boat from the dock wounded like this.  You think you’re Jackie Chan now?” Sharkey asked as he finished bandaging him up, then gave Pat a gentle cuff across the back of the head, probably to let the sailor know he wasn’t as annoyed as he had just sounded.  “Need help to finish getting dressed?”  Pat shook his head and pulled on the shirt the Chief was handing toward him.

     Nelson paced to the other side of the cell as he did.  He didn’t think anyone would bother them down in the brig, and so far he’d been correct.  There were basic first aid supplies here,  but Nelson knew Patterson needed some professional attention as soon as it was available.  He didn’t know where the doctor was, or if he’d be a zombie, like Lee or the men that Sharkey had seen working in Circuitry.  Nelson stopped his pacing when he again stood before Patterson, who sat on a bunk in the cell they were waiting in, and rubbed the back of his neck.  He was tired and so were the men that he knew he could count on at the moment, but there’d be no rest until they’d stopped whoever had taken control of the Seaview and her crew.

     “Patterson, these men, the ones at the Institute, did they say anything, anything at all that might tell us who has control over Captain Crane and has hijacked the Seaview?” he asked.  Pat hung his head and began to shake it, but Nelson pressed him, saying, “Think harder, Patterson.  What, exactly, did they say?”

     “They called me a sheep,” Patterson murmured finally.

     Nelson’s brow knit.  “A sheep?”

     Patterson looked unhappy about it, but said, “Yes, sir, a sheep.  Kept saying stuff like ‘Baa!  Baa!  Here come the wolves, little sheep.’  It was supposed to scare me, I guess.”

     “Nothing else?” Nelson persisted because he knew that Pat wouldn’t fall apart.

     Pat looked like he was about to say no, then he stopped and said, “One of them said something about me not being a guard, then the other one said it was okay for them to kill me because ‘the Master’ had told them everyone in the Institute was fair game.”

     “But they didn’t say who this ‘Master’ was?” Nelson pushed him one final time.

     “They meant the head honcho vampire, sir,” Kowalski’s voice came from behind them.  Nelson turned to see that Kowalski and Riley had just returned from the errand that the Admiral had sent them on.  Each carried two boxes, which they set down at the back of the cell, then Kowalski handed the Chief the keys to the arm’s locker.  “I’m betting that he’s on the Seaview somewhere, sir.  That’s who we need to find.  If we can kill him...”

     “Kowalski, there is no such thing as a vampire,” Nelson told the sailor patiently.  “And it seems to me that you and Patterson both know a rather large amount vampires and how to deal with them.  Would you care to explain that to me?”

     Kowalski glanced over at Patterson, then cleared his throat and squared his shoulders, plainly meaning to take any heat that the Admiral was going give them over it on himself, saying, “Sir, we’ve been doing some research on our own time.  I mean, what with all the strange stuff that’s been happening lately, we thought it might be a good idea to sort of... be ready for whatever came up next.  So we’ve been studying everything we could on things like vampires and bigfoot and sirens and voodoo and...”

     “I get the idea, Kowalski,” Nelson told him, not sure what he wanted to say about this revelation.  He didn’t want his crew to be ruled by silly superstitions, but he could hardly deny that they’d seen their fair share of bizarre things.  What was really worrying was that his usually most reliable senior ratings had apparently been seriously studying myths and legends so they’d be prepared to combat them.  It was all Nelson could do not to groan in dismay.

     “That guy did sort of disintegrate when Pat chopped his head off, sir,” Riley said, but he was looking down sheepishly when Nelson turned his gaze to the boy.  Wonderful, Nelson thought, now Riley was backing Kowalski and Patterson up.  At least Sharkey seemed to be reserving judgement for the time being.  “And the cross did protect us when that chick went all killer mist on us.  Maybe it’d be a good idea for Kowalski and Patterson to tell us what else works on vampires, incase it works on these guys too, sir?”

     Nelson rubbed his neck again and sat down next to Patterson.  He couldn’t explain why the cross had protected them from Sita when she’d turned to mist or how she had turned to mist, for that matter.  He was at a loss to as to why Victor had disintegrated when he’d been decapitated.  All he could think was that somehow Halloween was to blame for this happening and it made him loathe the holiday all the more.  “All right, gentlemen.  Should we start sharpening stakes?” he asked finally, surrendering at least partly to the concept of vampires.

     “Well, when Kowalski and I were reading up on vampires, sir, we found out that a wooden stake wouldn’t necessarily kill a vampire,” Patterson said.  “There were three things that most sources did agree with that would, though.  Fire, beheading, and sunlight.  Beheading does work.”

     “What about the cross?” the Chief asked, but by his tone, Nelson could tell he was still on the fence as to what he thought about what was going on.

     Kowalski shook his head.  “The cross you can use to protect yourself, but that’s about it.  It’s like a charm... something to ward off evil, as long as you believe in it, that is.  One of the books explained it as Faith being like a focus of your will.  If you believe hard enough in something, you give it power, and since we’re talking about a Christian symbol, a symbol of peace and sacrifice, you can’t use it as a weapon, just for defense.  I don’t know if I totally agree with what the book was saying about why it works, just so long as it keeps working.”

     “We haven’t exactly got tons of sunshine down here and we can’t burn up the vampires on the Seaview,” Riley said.

     “No, fires are definitely not advisable,” Nelson agreed.  “And I’m afraid that I’m not willing to advocate wholesale beheading of our crew mates just yet.”

     “I thought that was what the tranquilizer guns were for, sir,” Riley said, sounding a little confused.

     Kowalski nodded.  “They ought to still work on the crew, sir.  They might be under the vampires’ control, but they’re still vulnerable to the same things we are.  That is as long as the vampires haven’t brought anyone over yet... uh, changed them into vampires too.”

     “I’m somewhat familiar with the concept, Kowalski,” Nelson admitted.  “A cross should tell us if that’s the case, correct?”

     “Yes, sir,” Patterson affirmed.  “Anyone who isn’t a vampire wouldn’t be affected by a cross.  And any cross ought to work on a vampire, even just two sticks, so long as you believe in it the same way.”

     “So you don’t mind if we take the cross from the church with us if we lash together another from the wood from the crates?” Nelson asked.  He wanted Patterson to be aware he was staying put until they could bring him to Sickbay.

     “No, sir.  I don’t mind,” Pat replied.  Nelson was both glad and concerned that Pat wasn’t putting up a fight about being left out of retaking the Seaview.  For one of his crew, his core crew, to give in so easily, they had to be in pretty bad shape or under threat of reprisal from Doctor Jamieson.  Well, maybe not Pat, Nelson mused, he usually was the most reasonable of the men he was thinking about as far as being carted off to Sickbay.

     “Good.  We’ll do that, then, and make a couple more for ourselves,” Nelson said, rising.  “I have another sword in my cabin and there’s one in Captain Crane’s quarters, so we’ll go and get those first.  Riley, I want you to hold this one and stay here with Patterson and keep this area secure so we have a fall back position.”

     Riley immediately got a look on his face that said he didn’t want to be left out of the action, but what really amazed Nelson was that Patterson said, “Sir, I’ll be all right down here alone.  You need every available hand.”

     Nelson looked to him, still somewhat amazed that the sailor hadn’t just plain fallen down from his injuries, to find Pat wearing a brave face, probably ready to back up his claim if he needed to.  “No, I want Riley here.  These invaders seemed to be pretty set on making him one of them, from what they were saying in my cabin.  Riley, Captain Crane, Commander Morton, and myself, apparently, were the only immediate candidates for being made part of their ‘family,’ as they put it.  Kowalski, Chief, if you’ll start cracking open those crates, we’ll get ourselves armed.  Riley, a word.”

     Riley still didn’t look happy about being left behind, but Nelson didn’t want the boy chasing off after them as soon as he thought he could safely ditch Patterson.  The Admiral had been truthful about what Sita and Victor had said in his cabin, but more than that, he was a bit worried about the bruises on Riley’s throat, which now stood out dark purple, and any other injuries that the young sailor might have suffered at Victor’s hands and was keeping to himself for the time being.  Nelson led Riley to the far end of the Brig and then looked him in the eye, saying, “I didn’t want to worry Patterson too much, but he’s pretty badly hurt.”

     That seemed to catch Riley flatfooted and he glanced over his shoulder to where Patterson was sitting, then said, “But... he doesn’t seem too bad, sir.”

     Nelson gave Riley a shake of his head.  “He knows how long the odds against us are, so he’s keeping his chin up, letting the Chief and Kowalski keep their minds on helping me rather than his injuries.  The moment we’re gone, if he can hold on that long, I’m sure he’s going to collapse.  I don’t want him down here alone and defenseless.  We would’ve all been captured, maybe killed, if Patterson hadn’t come on us when he had.  And another thing, I don’t want him to lose consciousness if we can help it.  He’s lost a lot of blood and he’s probably in mild shock as it is.  I don’t want it to get worse.”

     Riley blanched a little, the reluctance gone from his face, replaced by worry.  “Worse, sir?” he murmured.

     “Deep shock or a coma.  You can keep him up and talking can’t you, Riley?” Nelson said, knowing he had the boy hooked.  He only hoped Patterson and Jamieson would forgive him for this.

     Riley straightened his back and shoulders.  “Yes, sir.  You can count on me.”

     “Good,” the Admiral said, then gave Riley a reassuring pat on the shoulder.  “Now, if any of the crew comes down here before I come back, and I don’t care who it is, you tranquilize them and put them in one of the other cells.  The darts should knock them out for a few hours, so don’t close the cell door right away.  You might be putting quite a few men in there before this is over with.  And if those strangers show up...”  Nelson was still loathe to use the word vampire.

     “I know, sir.  The cross and the sword.  I won’t let you down, sir,” Riley told him.

     Nelson patted him shoulder again and nodded for him to go back to the other cell.  Patterson, despite what Nelson had said to Riley, seemed to be holding up fine and was checking over a dart gun, another next to him on the bunk, spare rounds ready by it.  Riley went to help the Chief and Kowalski, who were breaking up the boxes to make crosses from the wood.  Soon, everyone had two dart guns with plenty of extra rounds and a cross of some sort, and Riley was testing the weight of the saber, swinging it in lazy arcs to get a feel for it.  Nelson doubted the boy had ever held a sword before in his life and he sincerely hoped that Riley wouldn’t have to use it.

     “All right, gentlemen.  Let’s go take the Seaview back,” Nelson said.  The Chief and Kowalski picked up their arms and their crosses, Nelson taking up the one from the Chapel, and the three of them left for his quarters.  He just hoped that when this was over, he wouldn’t have to talk Kowalski and Patterson out of forming training classes to study paranormal combat.

                              * * *

     Riley watched Admiral Nelson and the others leave, then looked to where Patterson was sitting quietly on the bunk.  “So, Pat, uh... well...” Riley said, getting tongue-tied with Pat for the first time in their association.  He was all unnerved by what the Admiral had told him and he suddenly didn’t know how to behave around his friend.

     “Riley, don’t worry.  We’ll be fine,” Patterson said, giving Riley an encouraging smile and a nod.

     “I know I will,” Riley muttered under his breath.

     “What?”

     “Nothing.  Are you comfortable or...”

     “I’m fine, Riley.  Just tired.  We’re all tired.  Just give the Admiral a little time and we’ll all get a good long sleep, okay?” Patterson told him, then he stood up and stretched.  Riley started to rush toward him, thinking he might have to catch Pat or something.  Pat was plainly startled by Riley’s sudden movement and quickly looked behind himself, then turned back to Riley, asking, “What’s wrong?  Did you see something?”

     “No.  I just thought...” Riley started, then shrugged, feeling foolish.  “I thought you might pass out or something.”

     “Why would I pass out?  Do I look that bad?” Pat asked, then let out a short laugh and shook his head.  “Riley, believe me, Hell Week was way rougher than this.  I’ll be fine.  How are you doing?  You look like you got roughed up a little.”

     Now Riley was feeling really foolish, but for a totally different reason.  “Aw, I am such a sucker,” he moaned, sitting down on the floor and putting his face into his hands.

     “Hey, don’t be so rough on yourself.  They’re vampires.  They’ve got all these weird hypnotic powers,” Pat tried to reassure him.

     Riley looked up at him through his fingers.  “Admiral Nelson told me that you were all dying and stuff.  That’s how he got me to stop arguing about sticking around here with you.”  Pat lowered his head and put a hand over his mouth and cleared his throat, probably to keep from laughing.  “Hey, come on.  I was really worried here, Pat,” Riley complained.

     Pat dropped his hand and shook his head at Riley.  “Stu, it’s the Admiral’s boat.  You know he could have just ordered you.  At least he let you think that it was your idea,” Pat said, sitting back down on the bunk he’d just vacated.  “So let’s just make the best of this and get some rest while we can.  Things might get really tense really soon.”

     Riley nodded, got up from where he was and went to sit next to Pat.  The two of them were quiet for a few minutes, but Riley was tense and the quiet was making it worse, so he was itching to talk about something so he wouldn’t have to thinking about what they were waiting for.  “So, you killed three vampires, huh?”

     “Yup.”

     “Does that make you Buffy the Vampire Slayer are something?”

     Pat glanced at him, not looking at all amused, then looked back out into the corridor.  “I’ll forget you said that.”

     “No, really, I...”

     “Drop it now or die, Riley.”  Riley thought about it for two seconds, then decided that dropping it was a good idea.

                              * * *

     Nelson got to the Captain’s cabin without incident.  That came as a relief, especially when Nelson passed Lee’s saber over to Chief.  Sharkey handed the saber to Kowalski, who took it without a word.  Nelson didn’t say anything either, especially when Kowalski gave the sword a couple of test swings, for he seemed far more adept than Riley had.  “Sir, none of us has seen this ‘Master’ guy.  He seems to be the key to whatever is going on.  So, how do we know if he’s even here?  He could be somewhere off the boat, radioing orders in,” Sharkey said as Kowalski strapped on the sword’s scabbard.

     “I’ve been thinking about that, Chief.  He was supposed to be coming to my cabin to ‘meet’ with us all, so he could be there right now.  If he isn’t in my cabin, he could be almost anywhere on the Seaview, but I think he is here.  We’ll stick to our plan.  Let’s get my saber, we’ll start working on our plan of attrition, then we’ll worry about finding him,” Nelson told Sharkey.

     Sharkey nodded, but he still didn’t look convinced that the ‘Master’ was on the Seaview at all.  Nelson wished they had a better method of taking back the Seaview.  His plan, at the moment, consisted of drugging whoever they met and locking them up wherever was available until the mind control currently gripping the crew was broken.  Just the three of them against a hundred and twenty five crew mates and at least three powerful invaders.  Nelson hated the odds almost as much as his nearly nonexistent plan.

     “Sir, if the Master is in your cabin, he’s going to be a lot more powerful than the other vampires we’ve met up with.  What if one of us gets the whammy put on us?” Kowalski asked.

     Nelson ignored the vampire issue, saying, “We know what the intruders are capable of.  Don’t look in his eyes.  They seem to be key to these hypnotic powers of theirs.  Just hold onto your cross and say your prayers.”  Prayer was the best defense he could think of at the moment.  Without another word, Nelson led the way to his cabin.  Cautiously, the three of them stole up the corridor.  The door was still open and Nelson carefully glanced in.  No one was there.  Nelson moved quickly to the closet where he kept his saber and pulled it out swiftly and rejoined Kowalski and the Chief in the corridor.  “Let’s get out of here,” he said, casting his eyes around.  Something wasn’t right, he could feel it.  Everything was too still, as it had been when he and Patterson had found everyone gone from the crew’s quarters.

     “Yes, sir,” Sharkey said.  He was tense, probably feeling the same wrongness that Nelson was.  Kowalski didn’t comment, but he looked happy enough to be leaving the general area.

     Just as Nelson was about to take the bend in the corridor after them, he was halted by Callista’s voice.  “Oh, Admiral.”  Nelson turned in spite of his better judgement and was horrified by what he saw.  Lee was standing with Callista, staring off at nothing, his head tilted to one side, Callista stroking the side of his throat almost tenderly.  She was running her tongue over her lips, as if anticipating something tasty.  “The Master would like a word, Admiral.  Please, don’t come.  I’d love to taste him,” Callista said, her voice soft and sensual.

     Sharkey and Kowalski had halted just around the corner, unable to see what was happening.  “Sir?” Sharkey questioned almost inaudibly.

     “Go.  Follow the plan.  Go!” Nelson hissed out.  Sharkey tightened his jaw, then waved Kowalski on, the two of them vanishing up the corridor.  Nelson turned back to Callista and said, “Fine.  Let’s go meet this ‘Master’ of yours.”

     Callista eased her grip off of Captain Crane, pouting, “How disappointing.  Very well.  This way.”  She turned, Lee following her without having to be beckoned.  That disturbed Nelson beyond words, but he forced his mind to his impending confrontation.  He wondered where they were going as they moved further and further forward.  Finally, Callista lead him through the Control Room, Nelson realized that they were heading for the nose.  There, looking out of the Herculite windows, stood a tall, hooded form.  “Master, I have brought Admiral Nelson, as you desired,” Callista said as they stopped at the crash doors.

     The Master turned, regarded them for a moment, then drew back the hood of his cloak.  Admiral Nelson amended ‘his’ to ‘her’ as a regal, oriental woman with large green eyes took him in.  She was about five foot eight, with shining black hair that was braided and twisted, done up with cloisonne combs.  She appeared to be about forty, but Nelson suspected that she was older.  She didn’t waste movement and her face was neutral in expression.  Everything about her was smooth, refined, beautiful, and, Nelson was sure, dangerous in the extreme.

     “Admiral Nelson, please, join me,” she said, turning back to look out at the water.  Surprise as much as anything else got Nelson to slowly close the distance between them.  “Callista, leave us,” the Master ordered with an absent wave of her hand.

     “Master, he had a sword.  He knows...” Callista started.

     “I said leave us,” the Master said.  Her voice was soft, even, not in the slightest bit harsh, but Callista actually looked frightened at her words and backed a step as if she had been threatened.

     “Of course, Master,” she replied, visibly cowed, taking Crane’s arm and drawing him back into the control room.

     “Please, Admiral.  Join me,” the Master invited him, her back still to him.  Nelson supposed he could draw his saber and rush her, but if she was stronger and faster than the others, that would get him exactly no where and likely dead or worse.  Better to see what it was that this woman, this ‘Master,’ wanted, he decided as he moved to stand next to her.

     “You have commandeered my boat,” Nelson stated the obvious, wondering what her response would be.

     “It was necessary,” she responded offhandedly.  “The sailor who killed Vincent, Leonard, and Anton, is he still alive?  Sita said that he was wounded.”

     “And if he is?”

     “I would like to make him part of my family, as I would you and certain other members of your crew.”

     Nelson let out a short laugh and rubbed his chin.  “I see.  Your family.  And what would this family be a family of?”

     “Vampires, of course.”

     “Of course,” Nelson echoed with another short laugh.

     “You don’t believe.  Pity.  That would have made things... simpler.  It’s beautiful here, under the sea, down low, where the sun does not reach.  The sun.  I used to love the sun.  It was warmth and life and happiness.  Now it is only death.  But here, this far under the sea,” the Master gave an elegant shrug, “It is not a factor.  The base you were to bring supplies to, it would be a sanctuary to my family.  No sunrise.  No sun.  Paradise.”

     “And you are suggesting that I just allow you to set up housekeeping at the Lund Base because you would then let us go and won’t bother anyone else if I do?”

     “Not at all.  I’m suggesting you join me.  I’m suggesting that you live forever.  I’m suggesting that you stand at my side at the head of my family, your sons, my daughters.”

     Nelson looked over at the Master, raising an eyebrow.  She was still looking out the front viewport, her face serene.  “My sons?”

     “Of course.  I would allow you the honor of bringing over those you thought would serve the family best.  Your Captain, I’m sure, and your Executive Officer, would top the list.  If you do not chose to bring over the young man who I mentioned earlier, I would like him.  If he killed three of my children as a mortal, he would make a truly formidable warrior once he is one of us.  You didn’t say if he was still alive.”

     “No, I didn’t,” Nelson said.  “Of course, I would somehow have to become a vampire myself to do all this.”

     The Master turned now, to smile at him.  She had a truly disarming smile.  “Yes.  I would like to give you immortality.”

     “I have that through my work,” Nelson told her, frowning.

     “And if you had a thousand years, how much more would you accomplish?  I have lived more than twice that.  Shall I tell you about my life?  Come, let us sit and be comfortable.  There is so much for us to speak of,” she said.  Nelson felt himself swayed by her beauty and the scientific interest in hearing about the life of a two thousand year old person.  He still had no intention of letting her keep the Seaview or take the Lund Base.  He thought of lifting the cross toward her, but since she hadn’t tried to take it from him, he wasn’t certain if it would work on her as well as it had on Sita.

     “As master to slave?” Nelson questioned her, declining to move for the moment.

     Again, she turned to face him and smiled.  “As woman to man.  I find intelligent conversation so difficult to find, don’t you?  And, please, call me Amaya, Harriman.  Or would you prefer I continue to call you Admiral?  Call me Amaya in any case.”

     Again, Nelson raised an eyebrow at her, both because she had offered her name to him and because the ‘please’ had sounded sincere.  This time she saw what he’d done and she laughed lightly, a laugh like bells ringing in the wind.  “Why do you look so surprised?  Do you think that one lives thousands of years and never gets lonely?  You are an intelligent, attractive man, and though I may be many other things, I am still a woman.  This way, please.”  Amaya extended a hand to him, but Nelson did not take it, though he did follow her.  Hearing what she had to say, perhaps even gaining her confidence, could only help him.  Soon enough, he would stop her.

                              * * *

     Chief Sharkey didn’t like leaving the Admiral like he had, but orders were orders.  He and Kowalski had been prowling the corridors of the Seaview for the last hour, knocking out and locking up everyone they met in that time, eighteen men so far.  Sharkey knew the odds were still long against them, though, and he wasn’t holding his breath on them coming out of this whole.  For the time being, he was concentrating on not getting caught and not going anywhere near the Brig.  Patterson and Riley had enough problems without him and Ski drawing more to them.

     “Where to now, Chief?” Kowalski asked as they locked a store room door on their latest three ‘victims.’

     “Crew’s Mess,” Sharkey said, thinking people had to eat sooner or later.  Then he thought about finding twenty or more guys there and the two of them getting overwhelmed.  “No, wait.  Officer’s Mess,” Sharkey amended, liking those odds better.  “If we take down enough Control Room staff, we’ll cripple the boat.”

     “You want us to crash, Chief?” Kowalski asked in disbelief.

     “Not crash, just stop.  We don’t want to get to... wherever it is that these weirdos want to take us,” Sharkey said, waving a hand in frustration.  Suddenly he stopped and grinned.  “Hey!  That’s what we need to do!”

     Kowalski gave him a wary look.  “What do we need to do, Chief?”

     “Sabotage the boat, of course,” Sharkey said, wondering why this wasn’t as obvious to Kowalski as it was to him.  “Let’s start in the Engine Room.  We can take out whoever’s in there, then knock out the engines.”

     “We do what?!  Chief, you’re talking about sinking the Seaview!” Kowalski exclaimed as he came to a halt.

     “Shhh!” Sharkey insisted, pushing Kowalski around the next corner and looking to see if anyone had heard the sailor’s outburst.  “Look, do you want to wind up like that Victor guy?  Or that creepy mist chick?  I sure as heck don’t.  The Admiral needs some time and we’re gonna give it to him.”

     Kowalski looked down, frowning, and shook his head.  “The Admiral’s been captured.  He’s probably one of them now.”

     “No.  Not the Admiral.  He’s always five steps of everyone, these guys included,” Sharkey told him, meaning every word.  “So, we knock out the engines... well... slow ‘em down.  I don’t know how much water we have under us and I don’t want to kill us all.”

     “That’s reassuring,” Kowalski muttered.

     “Let’s just go do it.  Hey, if this works out, we’ll hit Circuitry next,” Sharkey said, feeling suddenly enthusiastic about his plan.

     Kowalski winced.  “Have a heart, Chief.  We spent the last two days fixing the Circuitry.”

     “Okay, okay, Engineering then.  Let’s just get to it,” the Chief said as he hurried them toward the Engine Room.

                              * * *

     Sita was prowling the corridors of the Seaview.  She was hunting.  There were three, possibly four men for her to find, for her to feast on.  She hoped there were four.  The Master had ordered her not to kill Patterson if he was still alive, but she would claim that he attacked her when she was taking care of one of the others.  Victor, Leonard, and Anton were all dead by his hand and Patterson would be dead, too, by hers.  She would take her time.  She would make it hurt.  He would beg, something that he hadn’t given her brothers a chance to do.  She would take the Master’s punishment for failing her, whatever it was, and she would be happy for it.  A little pain would probably make her feel better.

     Sita didn’t like this vessel.  It was cold and hollow, like a tomb.  She had accepted being brought over to escape the grave, the inevitableness of it.  Death, the thought of it terrified her and so losing the day, living in the dark, making the night her day, it was a small price to pay for never having to face death.  She dealt it often enough over the years, but it had been over a hundred years since death had touched her family.  To lose three brothers in one day, that was unheard of and Sita meant to have revenge.  It was a pity that he had green eyes.

     Sita had just rounded a corner when she heard two heartbeats ahead of her where there should have been no men.  They were not talking, but Sita smelled blood.  She smiled, knowing who was there, but then frowned.  These were not the slow heartbeats of men sleeping, which meant they were probably on their guard.  If they had a cross, which was likely, they could hold her at bay indefinitely.  Then there was the matter of the sword.  Sita knew she would have to be careful, find a way to take them unawares.  As she thought, a cold smile graced her face.  She knew just the way to fool them into letting down their guard, then she would have a nice warm meal.

                              * * *

     Callista was standing on the periscope island watching all the sailors work.  She didn’t pretend to understand what most of them were doing, but she assumed it had to be something to do with the running of the Seaview.  So many dials and screens and buttons and displays.  Callista smiled at the handsome Captain, thinking he must be very intelligent to know what all of them did so that he could coordinate his sailors and make the submarine work property.

     Callista found herself thinking about his soft, curly hair, his brilliant eyes, his lean, muscular body and she mused about how she would enjoy having him as a lover.  She had been kind to him, after all, and he had seemed attracted to her even before she had used her hypnotic powers on him.  Victor had wanted the red-haired boy named Riley, but he’d been impatient about it and it had cost him his life.  Callista, however, could wait until they reached the undersea base and the Master had brought over the Admiral.  After that, she was certain Nelson would bring over Crane, then she would claim him.  She smiled as thought about that, thinking she had all the time in the world.

     Then the Seaview lurched violently, tipping her off her perch and slamming her into a bank of instruments.  If she had been human, she would have been severely injured.  As it was, it had hurt and Callista snarled as sirens wailed through the boat.  “What happened?  Have we struck something?” she demanded as she picked herself up.

     “Engines at five percent.  We can’t hold trim,” Captain Crane said after looking at some readouts.  He picked up a mike and said, “All stop.  Engine Room, is there a problem?”  There was no response.  “Engine Room, report!” Crane repeated beginning to sound impatient.  Callista could feel her hold on him waver as he concentrated on the matter at hand, but she kept herself from flexing her control over him until he handled the emergency.  “Security detail to the Engine Room!”

     Callista stepped to Crane and put her arms around his waist as she reasserted her presence in his mind.  “Will we be underway soon?  It is important that we reach the Lund Base.  They so need the supplies we have for them,” she cooed to him.

     Crane wavered, his intense look becoming vacant.  “We’ll need to find out what happened in the Engine Room.  If there’s damage, we’ll need to do repairs,” he murmured.

     “Then you should send men to do those things.  Perhaps Sita and Mister Morton should go with them,” Callista suggested.  The Master had Nelson with her, but Callista had heard him tell the men with him to continue with ‘the plan,’ and making the engines malfunction certainly seemed likely to be part of this plan.  The men that had been with Nelson were probably in the Engine Room or nearby, so Sita would be able to track them easily given that lead.  “You should call them to the Bridge, don’t you think?  Where is Mister Morton?”  She had been daydreaming and hadn’t been aware of Morton leaving the Bridge.  Sita was responsible for him.  Perhaps she had summoned him.

     Crane looked around, seeming confused.  “Chip isn’t here?”

     Callista rolled her eyes.  Sometimes mind controlling people had these sorts of drawbacks.  “It’s all right.  I’m certain he’s gone to do something about the broken engines.”

     “Captain, this is Security.  The Engine Room is empty and it looks like we have some saboteurs aboard,” a voice droned over the intercom.  Callista frowned again.  This was just what she had expected and now Mister Morton was missing.  She knew the Master was aware of what was going on and that her plans were being delayed.  Someone was about to become very unhappy and Callista was glad that she couldn’t be held responsible for any of this.

                              * * *

     Riley was leaning against the Brig wall looking out at the corridor.  Everything was quiet.  No one had come this way and Riley was starting to seriously doubt anyone would.  He glanced next to him.  Pat had been dozing a little earlier and now he was just plain asleep.  Riley didn’t mind.  Even if Pat wasn’t hurt as bad as the Admiral had led him to believe, the poor guy was pretty hacked up.  Riley was impressed that Patterson hadn’t passed out before this.  He only hoped Pat wouldn’t be ticked with him for not waking him up.  At the moment, there was nothing to wake him up for, so Riley couldn’t see the sense.

     Riley looked back out at the corridor a moment before he heard someone approaching.  He wrapped one hand around the cross next to him and lifted his dart gun with the other, half praying that it would be the Admiral telling him everything was cool again.  He stood up carefully, not wanting to rouse Patterson if he didn’t have to, then waited for whoever was coming to round the corner.  To his surprise, the Exec came into view and stopped just as he did.  “Riley, put down the gun,” Mister Morton said, giving him ‘the look.’

     Momentarily cowed, Riley started to lower this pistol, then brought it back up again as his resolve firmed.  “I’m sorry, Mister Morton, but the Admiral gave me orders...”

     “Yes.  I know, but he sent me to come get you and Patterson now that the intruders had been dealt with,” the Exec interrupted him, sounding impatient.  “The intercom is down again and the Admiral is busy interrogating the Master, so let’s go down to Sickbay and get a stretcher team for Patterson.”

     Riley glanced at Patterson, who hadn’t woken, and began to worry again because usually Pat was a light sleeper.  Mister Morton seemed like his normal self.  Riley was so tired.  He wanted to believe that everything was all right.  He had just gotten to his feet when the Seaview lurched, flinging Riley out of cell, almost straight into Mister Morton’s arms.  Instead of helping Riley up, he pushed him to the floor, taking the cross off of him, and throwing it away from the two of them.  A cruel look crossed Morton’s face and he backhanded Riley hard, sending him back to the deck, then kicked Riley’s pistol away and started to reach for the undrawn saber at his waist.  Suddenly, the Exec lurched and straightened, snarling, but this time Riley heard the ‘thunk’ of a dart as it struck him and Morton wavered, then dropped to the deck next to Riley.

     There was a feral shriek of indignity and something came rushing at Riley.  It froze inches from him and Riley saw that Sita was standing over him.  She let out a piercing howl of rage at something behind him.  Riley started to scuttle back, then remembered the saber at his waist, drew it, nearly flinging it from him as he did, then swung it at the distracted vampire.  Sita never saw the blow coming and an instant later, dust showered down on Riley.  He finished getting up then turned to see Patterson standing in the cell door, just lowering his cross and pistol.  “Uh... Thanks?” he ventured sheepishly.

     Pat shook his head, rolling his eyes.  “Riley, next time I fall asleep, remember the mind controlled officer and the insane vampire woman trying to kill you and wake me up, okay?  What were you doing?  The Admiral told us...”

     “I know, I know!  I already told you I’m an idiot,” Riley groaned, sure that he looked as shamed as he felt.

     “And I thought I was naive.  Think you can get Mister Morton into the cell by yourself?” Pat asked.  Before Riley could ask why, he noted flesh blood on Pat’s shirt and the fact that Pat was starting to waver on his feet.

     “Your bleeding again,” Riley said, quickly moving to Pat’s side and helping him to sit down.

     Pat lifted a hand to the bloody area and he winced as he pressed on it.  “I know.  I felt something tear open when I got thrown off the bunk.”  Riley assumed he meant when the Seaview had lurched and considered trying to get Pat to lie down.  Pat must have seen the worry on Riley’s face because he offered Riley a thin smile.  “It’ll be okay.  Get Mister Morton out of the corridor and get your pistol and cross, Stu.  There might be more trouble on the way and I don’t know how much good I’m going to be to you from here on out.”

     Pat was not looking at all good and Riley bit down on the comments that came to mind, thinking his stricken friend didn’t need arguments at the moment.  He moved out into the corridor and dragged Mister Morton off into the other cell.  Pat had hit him with two darts, so the Exec was going to be out for a good long while, so, as the Admiral suggested, Riley didn’t close the cell door yet.  As he retrieved his lost weapons then returned to the other cell to see to Pat’s wounds, Riley wondered what had caused the Seaview to lurch.  He’d vaguely heard the Skipper on the intercom saying something about the Engine Room, but things had been too tense at the time for Riley to pay any real attention to the announcement.

     “What do you think is going on, Steve?” Riley asked Pat as he carefully helped him take his shirt off.  Pat shook his head, his jaw tight.  He was in pain and Riley didn’t like that any more than he liked the look of the bloody bandages he saw once Pat’s shirt was off.  Things were bad and Riley hoped that the Admiral and Chief and Ski would fix everything before matters got much worse.

                              * * *

     Nelson leaned back in the chair he occupied in the Officer’s Lounge, still listening to Amaya as she spoke about her life as a vampire.  She didn’t talk about where she was from or what had happened to her before that time and Nelson didn’t ask.  He listened and watched her as each successive ‘annoyance’ struck the Seaview.  Sharkey had been busy over the last few hours, Nelson mused with a barely suppressed smile, as calls went out for Security teams to visit the Engine Room, then Engineering, then Climate Control, and finally Circuitry.  The lights had gone out that time, even emergency lighting, leaving everyone to fumble about in the dark for about a half hour.  As it was, the Seaview was at a dead halt in the water, probably out of fear of what would get sabotaged next.

     Amaya didn’t react to any of Sharkey’s efforts, though.  She would pause as each incident happened, then go right back to her story.  It was interesting, all the things she’d seen in her long life, but Nelson was no more swayed than when she’d first offered him ‘eternal life’ or death, depending on how one viewed being a vampire.  It was a moot point, since the Seaview was Nelson’s immortality and he wanted no other.  Nelson noticed something else.  Amaya kept talking and didn’t ask him to comment on what she was saying, nor did she look away from him, even when the lights had gone out.  Her eyes glowed red in the dark and Nelson knew that even though he couldn’t see her, she had been able to see him just fine in the inky blackness.

     There was another lurch, this one violent, a sensation like being in a high speed elevator rising almost out of control and Nelson knew that the Seaview had just done an emergency blow.  He waited a moment, the boat broke the surface, then settled back into the water with a bit of a shake.  Nelson released his grip on the arms of his chair as Lee’s voice came over the intercom, saying, “Security detail to Engineering!”  It was only then that Nelson realized Amaya hadn’t restarted her story as usual.  In fact, she was finally starting to look less than relaxed, though Nelson couldn’t read any clear emotion on her face yet.

     “Perhaps you should order you’re servant to cease his efforts until we’ve finished our discussion,” Amaya suggested, waving a hand toward the mike by the door.

     Nelson finally did smile.  “Chief Sharkey isn’t my servant.”

     “Ah.  Francis Sharkey.  Yes.  I should have known,” Amaya said with a nod, steepling her fingers beneath her chin.

     “You ‘know’ quite a bit about the Seaview and her crew,” Nelson commented, the smile leaking from his face.

     “You would be surprised at the knowledge that can be gathered if one is patient.  Do you suppose that we came unprepared to you, Harriman?” she asked.  Nelson only shrugged, declining to answer.  “Yes, I know about Francis Sharkey and Lee Crane and Charles Morton and Robert O’Brien and Anthony Esposito and...”

     “I get the general idea,” Nelson interrupted her.  He wasn’t used to hearing Sparks called by his given name and it irritated him for some reason.  Amaya knew about his officers and quite possibly his crew, but she didn’t know the men, not personally like he did.

     “They are like sons to you, each special and treasured,” Amaya said, raising her chin from her finger tips.  “When you brought them here, to work aboard the Seaview, it was like adopting them, making them your own.  When you bring them over, they will be your sons in fact, not just conceptually.”

     “My men have their own families and lives.  Some are married and have children.  How much could I truly care for them if I took something as important as that from them?” Nelson questioned her.  “What you’re suggesting would be selfish in the extreme.  I am still not certain what it is that you hope to gain from all this.  The Lund Base as a home?  The Seaview as what?  A ferry?”

     Amaya leaned back, her eyes locking with his.  “Nothing so crass.  The Seaview will be the first of our fleet.  We will take other submarines, other crews.  We will rule the seas.  Let men have the land, let them be fruitful and multiply.  Then we will come to them and cull the herds, keep them strong.  That is the rhythm of nature.  We are the top of the food chain, Harriman.  Wouldn’t you rather be a shark than a minnow?  A lion than a gazelle?”

     “A wolf than a sheep?” Nelson asked, remembering what Patterson had told him.

     Amaya smiled suddenly, her beauty becoming dazzling.  “Exactly.  I knew you would understand.”

     “Oh, I understand,” Nelson said, his tone growing cold.  “You want to make a murderer out of me.”

     Amaya’s smile dimmed and she shook her head.  “Then it’s murder every time a cow or a chicken or a pig is killed to feed you?”

     Nelson let out a tense laugh and rubbed his neck.  “So we humans are only food, is that it?”

     “Of course not.  I was human once too.  Now I’m more.  You could be too, you just have to let me,” Amaya told him.

     Nelson’s brow knit for a moment, then he let out an easier laugh.  “Now I’m beginning to understand.  I had wondered why you didn’t just do what you wanted, just change me, but you can’t, can you?  I have to agree to it, don’t I?”

     Amaya let out a deep, heartfelt sigh, and looked down.  “It would make things... less difficult.”

     “And you think that my men would just blindly accept being ‘altered’ if I did.  Oh, but not all of them.  What were the rest to be?  Slaves to do your bidding or steaks for your larder?” the Admiral questioned her.  She looked up and Nelson saw something in her eyes, something wild and dangerous, though the rest of her face was the picture of serenity.  It disappeared quickly, but Nelson knew that was the true Amaya, that wild, dangerous something that he’d seen, the red eyes in the darkness.

     “I will not harm your sons, Harriman, not unless you force me to,” Amaya told him as if she were discussing the weather.  “I know.  Perhaps if we were to ask one of them for his opinion on the matter, then your mind would be more at ease.”

     “And you are suggesting someone currently under your control giving his ‘opinion’ is going to convince me?”

     “There are Francis Sharkey and Seamen Riley, Kowalski, and Patterson who are still obviously capable of giving us their own thoughts on the matter.  Simply order one or all of them here and I promise they shall not be harmed.”

     Nelson shook his head, letting out another soft laugh.  “I didn’t think so.  No, I want to talk to Captain Crane.  I want to talk to him while he isn’t under your influence.”

     Now it was Amaya’s turn to laugh.  “That would most likely prove unwise, given your current state of mind and the history the two of you share.  I am disappointed, though, Harriman.  Is it such an unpleasant thought to spend eternity with me?  Am I that unappealing, either as a person or in appearance?”

     “You are beautiful,” Nelson conceded.  “And charming, but I’m afraid my first love simply outshines even your splendor.”

     Amaya gave him a quizzical look, then smiled softly again, “The Seaview.  Ah, she is enchanting, but can she give you this?” Having said that, she moved to him, caressed his face, then kissed him.  Nelson was no stranger to being kissed, but this particular kiss was beyond anything he had experienced before.  It was truly Amaya’s most compelling argument so far.

                              * * *

     Sharkey was snickering as he and Kowalski hid out in one of labs well away from their last bit of sabotage.  It had been a good one.  They had done an emergency purge of all ballast tanks and then jammed them, making it impossible for anyone to flood them until extensive repairs were done.  Not only that, but they had managed to lock up forty seven members of the crew.  Even when they woke up, they weren’t getting out of the store rooms until Sharkey or the Admiral let them out unless someone cut through the doors.  Best of all, those creepy, smarty-pants vampire chicks hadn’t come near to catching them yet.  Sharkey was almost giddy with delight.

     “So, what now?” Ski asked.  The kid didn’t look like he was having anywhere near as much fun as Sharkey.  In fact, he just looked nervous and dead tired.

     “How about we jam open the aft diving lock.  They won’t see it until they try to submerge again and get the red light and there shouldn’t be anybody back there,” Sharkey said, deciding that Kowalski needed a break more than they needed to take out more men.  Sharkey had to admit, he was pretty much running on adrenalin himself, but fortunately, all the success they were having with their raids was keeping him pumped up.

     Kowalski shook his head.  “No.  The Admiral was right.  We need to stick with his plans and keep cutting the odds against us.  Holding up the Seaview while we do it was a good idea, Chief, and we should keep doing that too, but the diving lock won’t slow anything much down.  The thing is, I don’t know what else to hit.  We don’t dare do anything to Air Revitalization or the reactor.”

     Sharkey rubbed down his face with one hand, trying to think of what else they could knock out that wasn’t too vital.  He didn’t want to go back to one of the areas they’d already sabotaged because they were sure to have more guards in those places.  He also didn’t want to go too near the Control Room.  Sharkey didn’t want to take a chance facing off against even a mind controlled Captain Crane.  “How about the Diving Planes?  Or we could just go to the Crew’s Quarters or the Crew’s Mess and see if anyone’s there.  They won’t have the Ballast System repaired for a couple of hours.  We’ve got time.”

     “Less than you think,” came a woman’s voice from behind them.  Before Sharkey could respond, someone just about dropped on him from above.  She was small, but when Callista grabbed him by the throat, it was like being caught in a vice.  The Vampire backhanded Kowalski, the move looking casual, but the young sailor was flung back against the wall and slid limp to the floor.  Sharkey fumbled for his own weapons, but Callista rammed him against the wall, nearly knocking him out, certainly taking the fight out of him.  She pulled him down to her eye level, then said, “I am most annoyed that I have had to come deal with you myself.  What have you done with Sita and Mister Morton?”  As her eyes met his, Sharkey felt like something was rummaging through his head and he closed his eyes.

     “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sharkey wheezed out.  The hand around his throat eased, letting him draw a full breath just as he felt hands on him, wrestling his arms behind his back and disarming him.  Sharkey’s wrists were bound but he still didn’t open his eyes.  She couldn’t hypnotize him if he didn’t look at her.  Sharkey just hoped Kowalski was all right.

     “Hmm.  You probably don’t.  Oh, me.  Whatever shall we talk about then?  Oh, yes.  I know.  Where can I find Seamen Riley and Patterson?  The Master is most anxious to meet them as well,” she said.  Her voice was so sweet it was practically dripping honey, the beauty of it pulling at him, making him want to answer her, making him want to do anything for her.  Sharkey fought it and won, at least for now.  He was no woman’s plaything, no matter how beautiful she was.  “You aren’t speaking to me?  Or looking at me when I speak to you?  How rude.  Let us go to see Admiral Nelson and ask him what he thinks of your behavior.”  Sharkey heard her snap her fingers.  “Bring them.”  The Chief was roughly seized and pulled out the door, now hoping that he hadn’t been wrong in what he’d told Kowalski about the Admiral earlier, otherwise they were all in really big trouble.

                              * * *

     After a bit of intimate ‘persuasion,’ Nelson was surprised when Amaya stopped what she was doing rather abruptly.  She seemed to listen to something he couldn’t hear for a few moments, then said, “Callista is bringing a surprise for you to the room where we were watching the water.  Shall we go?”

     Nelson knew Amaya meant the Observation Nose and, judging by the glib look she wore, Callista’s ‘surprise’ was going to be one or more of his remaining men.  Nelson followed Amaya back to the Control Room.  He grew worried because the same men were still on duty and Mister Morton was no where to be seen.  Lee was standing by the crash door controls, looking off at nothing as if in a daze.  Nelson glanced in the direction he was gazing, seeing the titanium crash doors were closed over the Herculite windows in nose.  Nelson wondered if Lee was thinking the same thing he was, frowning when he realized it didn’t matter.  Nelson scanned the rest of the room and saw Chief Sharkey and Kowalski both handcuffed to the spiral stairs in the Observation Nose.  Neither looked injured, but they both looked pretty demoralized.  “Sorry, sir,” Sharkey said as Nelson entered.

     Nelson wanted to tell Sharkey that he had nothing to be sorry for, when Callista came from behind them.  She ran her fingers lightly over Kowalski’s jaw appreciatively, Ski jerking away from her touch.  She let out a disappointed coo, then said,  “We’ve been discussing the whereabouts of Mister Morton and Seamen Riley and Patterson, Admiral, but Seaman Kowalski and Chief Sharkey have been most uncooperative.”

     Amaya walked over to where they were shackled and shaking her head.  “You have been most troublesome, gentlemen, damaging this vessel as you have.  And now you are being disagreeable when asked simple questions.  This is very inappropriate behavior,” she scolded them as if talking to naughty children.  “Harriman, would you like to discipline them or shall I?”

     Nelson looked at the two men, who had stiffened a bit at the word ‘discipline,’ then dropped a hand to the cross at his waist.  “I will not let you harm them, Amaya.  They were following my orders, so I am responsible for their actions.”  He pulled up the cross and Callista shied from him as he did.  Amaya, however, simply gave him a cool glance, and, as he feared, seemed unaffected by what he’d done.

     “Harriman, I thought we were beyond these petty actions,” she said, sounding genuinely disappointed.  Before he could stop her, she seemed to appear next to him and swatted the cross from his hand and across the room.  She smiled at him, their faces a fraction of an inch apart.  “You see,” she whispered seductively to him, “You don’t desire protection from me, so your Christian symbol is useless against me, no matter how deeply you believe in it.  You should choose your weapons more carefully, Harriman.  You should know what you want.  Do you know what you want?”

     Nelson found it difficult to focus with her breathing almost into his mouth, her breath sweet, her red lips close to his, desire starting to burn in him.  Nelson tried to concentrate on something other than her presence so close to him.  Did he know what he wanted?  Yes, he wanted a way to stop her.  That way was close, but guarded, not that Amaya would ever let him reach it.  He should chose his weapons carefully, she had told him.  The answer was there, and in what Kowalski had told him in the Brig.  For something to be effective against the Vampires, Nelson had to believe in it fully.  Nelson closed his eyes and focused his belief in the one thing he could count on, that he could always count on.

     “Lee,” he said as firmly and loudly as he could as he opened his eyes again.

     Amaya searched his eyes, questions in hers at what he’d said.  “He is unharmed, are you not, Lee Crane?”

     “Yes,” came Lee’s stiff reply from behind him.  Or was it stiff.  Was there an edge to that ‘yes?’

     “Lee,” Nelson repeated, concentrating harder, putting every ounce of strength and faith and will into his friend’s name.  “Do it now, Lee!” he shouted.

     Amaya’s eyes went wide and Nelson saw her start to form the word ‘no,’ when there was a sudden thump behind him.  The crash doors suddenly opened, sunlight flooding the room, Amaya reaching out to Nelson just before she burst into flame.  The fire didn’t last, the vampire reduced to a pile of smoldering ash almost before Nelson could register the heat of the flame.  Nelson quickly looked for Callista, but another smoking pile of dust told him that she had met the same fate as her Master.

     Suddenly, the Control Room was resounding with men’s moans and Nelson turned just in time to steady Lee as he stumbled from the crash door controls.  “Lee, are you all right?” Nelson asked him.  Lee nodded, but raised a hand to his forehead, not commenting.

     “Admiral?  Sir?” came Sharkey’s voice from behind him.  The Admiral turned and Sharkey gave him a sheepish look.  “My keys are over there, sir,” he said, nodding to the table just out of his reach.

     “What’s going on here?” Lee asked, obviously seeing Sharkey and Kowalski handcuffed to the rail.  “I was at a party with Chip and...”  The rest of what he wanted to say seemed to escape the good Captain for the moment and Nelson smiled at he retrieved Sharkey’s keys, then freed the two men.  “What is going on?” Lee repeated as came after the Admiral.

     “It’s a long story.  For now, we need to find a vampire and Chip,” Nelson said, then cast a suspicious look over at Sharkey, who was rubbing his newly freed wrists.  “Unless you have Mister Morton locked up somewhere, Chief.”

     “Uh, no sir, but we did kind of lock up the Doc.  Maybe we ought to see if he’s awake yet and bring’m down to the Brig?” Sharkey suggested, a worried look claiming his features.

     Nelson grew a little concerned, remembering Patterson’s untended wounds.  He walked to the nearest mike and picked it up, saying, “Riley, Patterson, report.”  There was silence for a few moments, then Nelson repeated, “Riley, Patterson, report in now.”  There was still no response and Nelson began to fear the worst.  “We may have found our last vampire,” he said, then quickly lead the way down to the Brig, Sharkey, Kowalski, and Lee following him as he went.

     As they were growing near, they started to hearing the shouting.  It was such an angry rush of sound that by the time they reached the Brig, the noise was near deafening.  Chief among the raised voices was Chip, demanding that Riley unlock the door, half a dozen other men backing up those demands as they pressed in behind him.  Riley was sitting out in the hall, his hands pressed over his ears, humming something off-key, plainly trying to drown out the din.  Nelson almost laughed in relief, nodding Chief Sharkey to the cell door as he went to Riley himself.

     “Riley,” Nelson said, touching the boy’s shoulder.  Riley looked up quickly, fumbling for his weapons until he saw who was standing over him.  Nelson looked over to the other cell to see that Patterson was just lowering his own pistol and cross, a relieved look forming on his face.

     “What’s going on here?” Chip asked Lee as he and the others were freed.

     Lee shook his head, saying, “You’re asking the wrong man that question.”

     “Sir, is it over?” Riley asked the Admiral as he stood up.

     “That all depends.  Was Sita here?” Nelson asked in return.

     Patterson came up to him, more shuffling that walking, and he said, “Is that the vampire woman from the hall earlier, sir?”  Nelson nodded and Pat let out a deep sigh.  “Then Riley took care of her, sir.  Permission to report to Sickbay, sir.”

     Nelson considered paging some corpsmen, especially when he saw that Pat swaying on his feet, but he didn’t know if any were any currently free to do their jobs and Patterson had waited long enough.  “Yes.  Riley, Kowalski, would you accompany him?  Chief, would you release the Doctor and get him there too.  Then release the other men.”

     He was responded to by a volley of “Yes, sirs,” and the four men went off in the general direction of Sickbay.

     “Was Patterson wounded?  Admiral, what is going on?” Lee asked again, this time beginning to sound alarmed.

     “It’s a very, very long story, Lee.  Let’s get the Seaview repaired and get those supplies to the Lund Base.  I’ll tell you all about it between the trip there and back home,” Admiral Nelson told him, clapping him on the back and turning him toward the Control Room.

                              * * *

     When the Seaview appeared in Santa Barbara harbor, a shadowy figure watched from a nearby hillside, the wind stirring a light mist around the unmoving form.  “I warned you, Amaya, but you never heard me, did you?  To think that you could beard the lion in his den.  I always knew your pride and vanity would be your downfall,” the willowy, pale, beautiful man said.  He drew his coat more tightly about himself as if warding off a chill, not that he was ever cold anymore.  It had been so long since he felt anything, either physically or emotionally, that he wondered if he was capable of it anymore.  Seeing the Seaview return confirmed what he had known would happen, that Nelson would kill Amaya and her brood.  The man shook his head, not able to even feel grief for the passing of his long time acquaintance.

     He thought about Nelson, about Amaya’s unwavering arrogance in believing she could defeat him easily, about her plan to take over the seas.  Amaya had wanted to rule the world and it had confused her that he had wanted no part of it.  He knew what he was.  He was not a king and he didn’t want to be.  He was not a conqueror, nor would he play at being one.  He was a shadow and a hunter and a thing from men’s darkest dreams and there was nothing he could do to change that, much as he had wanted to many, many years ago.

     He looked down on the lighted Institute and mused, “What would you have done, Admiral Nelson, if she had come to you for help, as I had told her she should, rather than with her ridiculous proposal and plans for domination?  Would you believe me if I came to you asking for help now, or would I be so much dust the minute I bowed my head in submission?  I suppose I’ll never know, will I?”  He let out a soft laugh, a laugh with no mirth in it, then he began to slowly walk down the hill and back into his dark, endless world.

 

 

                             The End?

 

 

 

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