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The Little Army

 

 

 

Captain Crane and Commander Morton find themselves in a foreign country embroiled in a violent government overthrow.  They find surprising allies in their quest to escape from the country in this story set just after "The New Man."

I have gratefully used the characters of Lee Crane, Chip Morton, Harriman Nelson, Sparks and the Seaview from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with no thought of profit.  All other characters are my own creations.  Please ask me if you want to take them out to play.   

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

“I could think of more useful things we could be doing,” growled Lt. Commander Chip Morton over his shoulder to his commanding officer, Captain Lee Crane.  “And safer—like testing the boat at 10,000 feet.”

“Yeah, I could, too, but would you kindly stop acting so blasted paranoid,” Crane murmured.   Morton was standing back to back with him and it was making him nervous.  Not that he wasn’t anxious already.   The ice cubes in his bourbon and water had long since increased the percentage of water without so much as a sip to taste it.  He had disliked the idea of coming to this inaugural celebration from the moment he had been invited along with the admiral.  Admiral Nelson was still getting over a nasty bout of flu and the CMO had expressly vetoed any type of travel.  So when it was suggested that he and Chip go, President Laronne Brakas had been very amenable to the suggestion.  I wish I knew the idiot who had made that particular suggestion, Lee thought irritably.   He suspected that it was someone in ONI, or the State Department, as they had been asked to gather their impressions of the new government of Tirea while they were there.  

Brakas was the first pro-democratic president Tirea had in over twenty years.  Up until the recent election, which had followed a surprisingly smooth coup, a tight-fisted dictator named Mical Niros had ruled the country.  Niros had seemingly disappeared and while the west had been ecstatic over the new government, many politicians were nervous. 

The only reason that Brakas had wanted the admiral at his inaugural was because they had become friends back in the days that Brakas had led the underground in Tirea.  While Nelson had nowhere near the experience with ONI service that he did, Lee knew that the admiral had done more than a little bit of espionage work.  Admiral Nelson had pulled Brakas’ fat out of the fire back when the former was still captain of the Nautilus.  That was when Crane had met him the first time, too.  Only last year, when Lee had been undercover in the coastal city of Magris, he had worked with Brakas.  So there had been nothing unusual in their invitation.  Now here they were, decked out in their dress blues, at a pre-inaugural bash, supposedly celebrating, and instead feeling as paranoid as two cats in a pen of pit bulls.

“Well, I….”

“I know, Chip, I know.  There is something in the air and it’s making me nervous, too.  We just don’t have to show our hosts that we’re antsy.”

Morton sighed and moved slightly, so that he was almost shoulder-to-shoulder now with Crane.  The half-dozen uniformed men around the perimeter of the room walked slowly, their machine guns lowered, but still undoubtedly at ready. “I’m just glad the admiral had a good excuse for not coming.”

On that, Lee could definitely agree.  Then something stirred the hairs on the back of his neck.  “Chip, nonchalantly head over to the punchbowl,” Lee hissed.  There was something going down.  He could feel it, taste it; it buzzed like an alarm in his head. 

“Sure thing, boss.  You’re more attune to this stuff than I am.”

Crane followed him.  As a waiter was ladling some of the sharply sweet fruit juice into Chip’s cup, Lee noticed more guards in the room, as well as more servers.  There was something a bit different about the guards, though.  He began noticing that some of the guards’ uniforms didn’t fit quite so well.  Something wasn’t right, but Lee couldn’t put a finger on it.  “Okay, Chip, time to prepare for action.  Staircase.  If something happens and we get separated, go upstairs.”

“Why upstairs?”

“Because the majority of the crowd will be trying to go out the doors or windows.”

“Okay, Lee.”

Crane thought he saw someone he knew. A smallish guard had come from the kitchen wearing a uniform that was clearly cut too tall for him.  There was something familiar about the individual.  Motioning to Morton to stand fast, he eased over to the guard, who stiffened as he approached.  As the guard watched him under the brim of his felt service cap, Lee nonchalantly leaned against the wall.  “Nice party, but the punch is too sweet and the bourbon is watered down.”

The guard just grunted, but didn’t say a thing for a moment.  Then, with barely perceptible movement of the lips, “You are going to blow the whole thing, seagull.”

“It’s a crane and I would like to know what I’m going to blow, except this party,” he hissed.  “What the hell’s going on, Tiny Tim?” he asked, using the guard’s code name.  He put the cup to his lips, took a sip of his now weak drink.

“We have to get the party guests out of here,” Tim whispered. “There’s been a coup. The guards that have been here for the past half hour are members of Niros’ elite guard, intent on taking everyone at the inaugural party hostage. My people have been slowly filtering in the past few minutes. In about ten seconds it’s going to be obvious to them and all hell will break loose.” 

“What would you like me to do?”

“See the pair of guards over by the window?” 

“Mmm,” Crane said with a slight nod.

“Make a scene and a couple of my people will take them out.”

“I wasn’t hired on for this gig, you know,” Lee countered.

“You’re here.”

“I know, and I offered.” Lee took another swallow of his drink and then sauntered back over to Chip. He motioned for the XO to follow his lead. Crane went to the drink table and curtly ordered the bartender to dump the remainder of the weak drink and replenish his bourbon—straight.  The man behind the bar gazed at him a moment and then poured two fingers of the whiskey over ice.  Lee took a short gulp and then meandered toward the window.  The bourbon, despite his previous words, was very potent and it slid down his throat with eye-watering speed. The guards watched him warily. 

“Hey, Skipper, haven’t you had enough?”Morton piped up from behind him. 

Thank you, Chip Morton. What a nice lead in. “Hell, no, Chip. Just gettin’ started.” He walked, slightly off balance, up to one of the men, feeling very vulnerable and obvious.  Oh, well, wouldn’t be the first time.

“Captain!”

Crane spun around to face his XO and then faked being off balance. He careened into the burly guard, who shoved him out of the way. “Hey, that’s no way to treat visiting dig . . . dignitaries.” Then with his hand curled into a fist, he swung around, punching the guard in the stomach, followed with a knee to his chin. The guard dropped like a stone. A shout came from across the room, but Lee ignored it. He and Chip round-housed the other guard, who only had had time to look surprised before he got a fist on each side of his face. 

“What’s….?” 

Crane ignored his executive officer and turned to face chaos.  There were now about a dozen of the underground soldiers now.  They were in control.  All of the previous guards were securely covered or, like Crane and Morton’s pair, unconscious.  Lee grabbed one of the machine guns and Chip picked up the other. 

“Now can you tell me what’s going on?” Chip asked tersely.

Again, Lee ignored his XO.   Tiny Tim stepped to the middle of the room.  “President Brakas, Minister Morley, Secretary Henson….”  She rattled off several other names.  “You will be escorted out of here in secure vehicles.  Members of the old regime have just moments ago overthrown the new government.  Every one of you is in grave danger.  We cannot take all of you.  I would suggest that support personnel and my countrymen known to be loyal to the new democratic government please go to the nearest foreign embassy.”   The agent walked over to Lee and Chip.  “I’m sorry, that goes for you, too.”

“Do you really think the embassies will be that safe, Marla?” Lee asked point blank.    Chip did a double take.  Lee knew there would be questions later, along with the obligatory, ‘why don’t you let the Navy take care of these things and go back to being the skipper.’

“Perhaps for a short while.”  She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I wasn’t thinking when I included you in this little melee here.   You are both going to be highly wanted now as participants.”  She sighed.  “I don’t think an embassy would be safe for you, even for the short term.  We are giving alternate directions to everyone in case the sanctity of the embassies becomes violated.”  

“Where on the coast is the pick up point?” Lee asked bluntly.  

“Very astute, Lee. There’s a six mile stretch of coastline twenty miles south of Magris,” she said.  “There will be vessels of nations friendly to the democratic government waiting beyond the three mile limit for as long as it takes.   But getting there is going to be mostly up to each individual.  We have our hands full with the coup and with getting some of the more important dignitaries out.”

Lee nodded.  “Any tips for traveling in the countryside?  I was only in Magris that two day stretch.”

You might get away with showing yourself occasionally, Captain, but for now, I would suggest that the commander keep a very low profile.  And don’t trust anyone.” 

“Goes with the territory,” Chip interjected. 

Marla’s gaze was troubled.   “Lee, I had no idea you were going to be here.  The last we had heard was that due to illness, Admiral Nelson had declined.  I didn’t know someone else had been sent in his place.”

“Hmm, well, he got a nudge to send Commander Morton and I to represent him,” Lee murmured as they walked through the door to the kitchen.  The named dignitaries had already been escorted out.  

“Let me guess--to give impressions of the new government,” Marla replied bitterly.  “What’s the matter, doesn’t your government trust us?”

Chip gave his captain an accusatory glance before turning his attention back to Marla

Crane shrugged.  “For some reason, the ONI has pretty much kept me in the dark, which has been par for the course lately.  I can only guess that someone in our government might have suspected that this very thing might happen.”

They had reached the outside door.  “You’d better go.  Right now, take off the brass and leave on the coats, even if it is a bit warm outside,” she warned. 

“Right.  Hope to see you again under better circumstances, Marla.”

“We always hope that and it never happens, Lee,” she murmured and then she was out the door. 

When they followed, she was nowhere in sight, but the howling of sirens in the distance sounded as though they were quickly coming closer.  

“I think we’d better get our butts out of here, Lee,” Chip said, his voice tight with anxiety. 

Lee unpinned his insignia, sticking it in his pocket.  “Definitely.”  Chip did the same.

“How about hotwiring one of the security vehicles?”

“What security vehicles?” Lee asked, gazing around. 

“There.  The motorcycle.”

Lee sighed.  He knew how to drive a motorcycle, but he was never totally comfortable on one—at least as a passenger.  That was Kowalski’s department.   “Uh, I command a sub, fly a submersible, have a darned fine sports car, and I even let Stu talk me into trying out a surfboard, but….”

“Quit whining, Skipper, and let me do the driving.  At least it’s not the admiral driving.  Just get behind and hang on tight.”  Chip approached the vehicle and quickly checked it as the sirens came closer.  Shouting in the large mansion indicated that some of the guards were coming back to life, too.  Chip straddled the bike, stomped on the starter and smiled when it roared into life.  “Nice of them to use a crank starter.  Get on, Lee.  I think we have company.” 

Lee shoved his and Chips’ machine guns so they would hang on his back and then did as he was told.  Chip gunned the motorcycle.  At first they slithered across gravel that almost threatened to spill the bike.  Lee gritted his teeth as Chip gained control of the vehicle.  Shots followed their exit through a wrought iron gate that was being closed even as they whizzed past the guards.  More shots, but in the darkness, they were well over the two men’s heads.  Soon they were navigating through the gloomy, narrow streets of the old capital city. 

“You have any idea where you’re going?” Lee asked. 

“No, just as long as it’s away from the idiots with the guns,” Chip answered quickly. 

Lee didn’t feel reassured at all. 

 

 

Chapter Two
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