Rebirth

 

A WHN to the episode Submarine Sunk Here

by sherlockette

 

As Harriman Nelson plodded down the Goleta pier he lifted his collar and pulled his Izod jacket tightly over his shoulders. Despite his efforts, he was unable to keep out the damp chill of the June gloom that had gripped the entire coast. In recent days the tourists and migrating shorebirds had all but abandoned the pier area leaving it to the regular assemblage of gulls and the few fishermen who could withstand their incessant begging. Nelson had visited the pier many times while his Institute was being built nearby and he typically found it to be the perfect place to walk off stress or to flesh out new ideas. Today he could do neither.

 

It had been just over two months since a moment of inattention had caused his submarine Seaview to be trapped in a derelict minefield. An accidental collision with a mine by the mini-sub and its aftermath had resulted in the loss of fourteen men including Lieutenant Doster, the CHENG, and Seaman Cranston the son of a close friend. With submariners more like a family than most crews, each loss had been felt deeply by those remaining. Rattled but responsible, Nelson and his command officers had spent the past month attending memorials and making arrangements for Seaview to be raised and repaired. When he finally returned to Santa Barbara he found the gloom mirrored how he felt inside. Hoping to shake his funk, he headed out to his place of creativity.

 

Pausing at the railing, Nelson looked down towards the water. The stiff breeze was blowing and whipping the low hung fog into little peaks, similar to those on an iced cake. At first he marveled at Mother Natureís painting skills but when the peaks morphed into the faces of those lost on the boat he cursed her and moved further down the pier. As he neared the end he sidled up to the telescope and reached into his jacket for a quarter. Coming up empty, he shoved his hands into his pockets and set his gaze on the horizon. Soon he became lost in his own world.

 

"Hello, Harry. You look like you could use this."

 

A voice and an outstretched hand bearing a twenty five cent piece startled him. Nelson jumped back and spun around. Recognizing the haggard but familiar face of an old Navy friend he cracked a smile. "Brooks, Brooks Sturdivant! Itís been a long time. What the devil are you doing here?"

 

"As you know, I retired out to the cape. When Marlene passed away last November I thought I would be fine. ButÖI found I couldnít bear the harsh winter without her. I moved out here to sunny California to live with my daughter and her family. Her husbandís on the Ike."

 

"I was sorry to hear about Marlene. She was a gem. But itís good to see you. How do you like our California sunshine?" he asked sarcastically.

 

Sturdivant waved his hand. "This beats a noríeaster, hands down," he chuckled. "I really like it out here. Enjoy spending time with the grandkids and the fishing is great. As you can see," he added as he raised his string of bass and halibut. "Even on the bad days I catch plenty of sbrs."

 

Nelsonís eyes brightened. "Itís a very productive area, particularly for rockfish." He pointed towards the Goleta slough. "Lots of kelp over there for protection. The variety is one of reasons I built the Institute here. Plenty of specimens to study and the view from the boat is fantastic."

 

Sturdivant cast a sympathetic eye on his friend. "Harry, Iím sorry to hear about Seaview. Such a tragedy."

 

"Thanks. Sheís been raised and is in dry dock for repairs. Should be ready in a couple of months."

 

"You know what I mean. All those men. What the hell happened, Harry? With all your technology I would never have guessed sheíd sink in U. S. waters."

 

Nelson pursed his lips. He would not let emotion slip through. Concerned about losing political or military support, he also weighed the pros and cons of revealing anything about the accident, even to a close friend. Finally he decided to stick with the script he had given to the public. "Mines, deep tethered mines. Combine those with an unusually high tide and you have a disaster. We were fortunate to save those we did."

 

"God bless the eternal patrol."

 

Nelson nodded but he could barely eke out a response. "Yes," he said hoarsely.

 

After a period of respectful silence Nelson patted his friend on the shoulder. "How about stopping by the Institute on the tenth? My captain and exec will be here for a meeting and Iíd like you to meet them. And lunch is on me."

 

"Iíll take you up on that, Harry, but only if you promise not to tell them about the time we closed down that bar in Providence. My head still spins when I think about it. Besides I have a reputation to protect."

 

Nelson chuckled. He had similar reactions to the time he and his small group of friends celebrated their first weekend away from the confines of sub school. "Itís a promise. See you at noon?"

 

"Great." Sturdivant again held out the quarter. "Donít forget this."

 

With a nod Nelson took the coin and slipped it into the slot. He spun the telescope around to scan the horizon. Through gaps in the gray curtain he could make out several freighters likely en route to L. A. or San Diego. Closer to shore he could also discern a few scattered fishing rigs. Without thinking he looked for the easily identified sail of a submarine. There was none.

 

"Help me! Help me!"

 

The words spoken by Seaman Collins as he made a futile attempt to escape the trapped Seaview and reach the surface using a Steinke hood had disturbed Nelsonís sleep. Now it appeared they would haunt his waking hours. Though he closed his eyes and ran his hands through his hair he was unable to escape.

 

"TrappedÖlineÖhellllpppp!"

 

Nelsonís eyes popped open. It wasnít a voice from the dead that he was hearing; it was the cries of a young fisherman struggling in the surf below the pier. He raced up the boardwalk. "Hold on!" he repeated in his penetrating baritone.

 

After jumping onto the sand he slipped around the pilings and splashed into the surf. When he reached the young man he grabbed his collar and tried to raise his head above the water. It wouldnít budge; a tangle of fishing line and debris was dragging the man down. Assaults by waves and poor visibility made any rescue even more complicated. With time ticking away Nelson slipped a hand in his pocket and pulled out his penknife. He managed to open it and began to hack away at the line. Unfortunately, an unusually high wave knocked the knife from his grasp and it became lost in the swirling water. Unable to locate it, he made another futile yank then felt around the drowning manís pockets for something sharp. He found nothing. He reached back into his own pocket and grabbed his lighter. Cupping his hands to protect the flame, he tried to burn through the only visible portion of line. He fought hard but the wind won the battle.

 

The situation appeared hopeless until a large man in fishing gear appeared out of the fog. Without a word, he set to work with a line cutter. When Nelson glanced up at him he did a double take. The man was a dead-ringer for the late CHENG! In a matter of seconds the pair had the younger man freed. After both rescuers dragged him up onto dry sand, Nelson performed mouth to mouth breathing then rolled the man over and began to pound on his back. Water soon surged from his mouth and color returned to his face. It appeared he had a good chance.

 

"Go call an ambulanÖ" Nelson looked around but the stranger had vanished. He had little time to consider what it meant; as the young man rose to consciousness he flailed his arms, nearly clocking him. "Hold on, hold on. Youíre going to be fine now, just fine."

 

Sturdivant had apparently seen the developing crisis and had called for assistance. He was now heading towards his friend. "Harry! Weíve got help on the way."

 

Nelson acknowledged him and returned his attention to the teen. "What had you trapped?

 

"Had a stingray on the line and he was pulling hard," he rasped. "Was afraid he would shoot his barb at me so I tied the line to a board. The whole thing twisted on me."

 

Nelson scowled. "Rays and skates are docile. They wonít sting unless cornered. What you did made him dangerous. I donít know why you would want to catch a ray anyway. They make a pretty terrible tasting lunch. "

 

The young man looked sheepish. "I guess it was a mistake to hold on."

 

Nelson rose and patted the young man on the shoulder. "Itís never a mistake to hold on, son, but when you have the option, make sure the battle is worth it."

 

Before long the rescue crew arrived. After a quick check of his vital signs the injured party was carted away. The crowd quickly dispersed leaving only the two Navy friends on the beach. "Did you see a fisherman out here, five nine, one-eighty, green slicker?" queried Nelson.

 

"Didnít see a soul, why?"

 

"Just wondering. You got your cutters with you?" When Sturdivant nodded he waved his friend towards the water. "Come onł letís clear that up before anyone else gets caught in it."

 

****

Nelson said goodbye to his friend and walked slowly along the beach towards the Institute. He tried to control his thoughts but inevitably they returned to the Seaview and the lost men. Of all of them he was closest to Doster. The lieutenant was an older man but he still thrived on challenges. Seaviewís unique design and unusual missions certainly provided plenty of those. Doster never said "it canít be done". It was the main reason Nelson had made him a permanent CHENG. The two of them had spent many evenings discussing the boat and its design. They had also batted around various changes they might like to make in the future. One conversation in particular stuck in his mind. That conversation was begun by Seaviewís first captain, John Phillips, and occurred following the near loss of two men in the mini-sub.

 

"Admiral, weíve had too many near miss incidents and weíre still in trials. How about installing a better lighting system on the mini-sub? Give her better eyes."

 

Nelson and Doster exchanged glances. "We might make that work, John, but Mister Doster here thinks there is an inherent problem with the mini-sub design. He says we might be pushing her limits."

 

"May I speak freely, sirs?"

 

"Of course," answered the flag officer.

 

"I think we all agree that sheís great when it comes to exploring shallow areas such as reefs and when checking the hull for damage in calm waters. The problem comes when we expect her to maneuver in deeper waters, tight spaces or in heavy seas. Sheís too small for sufficient ballast and lacks power to maneuver out of the way. Frankly, adding lights only means the crew will see the disaster coming, not that they could do anything about it. If you donít mind my saying so, sheís anÖ"

 

"Accident waiting to happen. She also cost a pretty penny and sheís ready to go. The Navy is not going to wait. Weíll look at a redesign once we finish Seaviewís trials."

 

Nelson had listened but he had been unable to make good on his promise. Back to back missions and the loss of Phillips to an assassin had kept him busy. At least that is what he had been telling himself recently.

 

A persistent buzzing noise much like that of a radio controlled airplane snapped Nelson from his reverie. He looked around but in the fog he couldnít see much. When the buzz became increasingly louder a frisson of fear traveled down his spine. It wouldnít be the first time an enemy had attempted to do him in so he sought cover behind a large rock. As the sound slowly faded away he chastised himself for being so cautious.

 

"Youíre Admiral Nelson arenít you?"

 

Nelsonís heart skipped a beat and he spun around. When he looked into the dark brown eyes of a young woman he felt he knew her, somehow. She was holding a model craft of some kind in one hand and a remote control in the other.

 

"Yes, may I help you?"

 

"Iím Valerie, Valerie Doster Kemp. My uncle was on Seaview. We met at the memorial."

 

Nelsonís response was a cautious one. "Yes, yes, I remember. He was a good man, the best in fact. Weíll miss him."

 

"I certainly will," she answered quietly

 

Nelson shifted the weight on his feet. "If you donít mind my asking, what brings you here?"

 

"Iím helping my dad clear out my uncleís things. I found this and some other models in his workroom and I thought I would try out some of them. He got me interested in boat design among other things."

 

Nelson held out his hand. "Do you mind?"

 

The model appeared to be a modified submarine, one with a flat nose that could be adapted to make repairs along the hull. He studied it for several minutes before handing it back. "What was all the buzzing I was hearing?"

 

She set it down and with a flip of the controls the craft moved across the sand and into the water. "Amphibious, I guess."

 

"Fascinating."

 

"He has more, lots more. Would you like to see them?"

 

Nelson waved her off. "I wouldnít want to impose on your family time."

 

"Not at all, Admiral. Uncle Drake admired you very much. And if it makes you feel any better, he knew exactly what he was getting into. Thereís no blame on my part."

 

Nelson was relieved but still uncomfortable and it showed.

 

"Come on. My mom and dad are at the house now."

 

****

Doster lived a short distance from the Institute so it took less than ten minutes for the pair to reach the Spanish colonial style home. They were met at the door by a pleasant looking middle-aged woman. "Come in, Admiral. Would you like some coffee?"

 

"Please donít bother, Mrs. Doster."

 

"Let me know if you change your mind. What can we do for you?"

 

"Mom, I told Admiral Nelson about Uncle Drakeís models. He would like to see them."

 

"Of course, Darren is in the workroom now."

 

At that moment a face appeared in the doorway it quickly became clear to Nelson who had assisted him in the rescue. "Mr. Doster. Glad to meet you, but certainly not under these circumstances."

 

"You steal his life and now youíve come here to steal my brotherís ideas?"

 

"I invited him, Dad. And you know as well as I do that an employer owns their employees work product."

 

"Iím sorry to say that I was unaware that Drake had been an inventor. I knew him as a very capable officer, a very skilled engineer and a much better friend."

 

"Then why didnít you know about his work?" he asked scathingly.

 

"DadÖ"

 

Nelson raised his hand. "No, no, he has every right to be angry about what happened."

 

"Tell us, what did happen?" he snarled.

 

Nelson knew he needed to provide these grieving people with more answers. "Please, may we sit down?"

 

"I donít want any excuses, I want the truth."

 

"The truth is that in the war our own Navy planted mines along the coast to protect its own fleet and merchant ships. The truth is there were very poor records of the locations of those mines. The truth is that not all of them were removed. Truth is the oceans are dangerous places and no matter how well you engineer a craft, you canít prevent all accidents. And the truth is an exploding mine broke the seals to the engineering compartments and all the crew that was working down there drowned. Drake Doster had absolutely nothing to do with the accident. And the absolute truth is he will be missed."

 

Silence thicker than June gloom fog enveloped the room. It was Valerie who finally dared to speak and she addressed Nelson. "Uncle Drake was my hero. He was always there for me, even when my own parents were too busy. Too busy traveling the world to go to his commissioning, or his promotion ceremonies or even to attend his memorial. If there is any blame it belongs to us for not making the time to be with him." She turned to her parents. "Itís not the admiralís fault. He spent more time with Uncle Drake than anyone. Uncle Drake considered him his best friend."

 

The already awkward situation was made more difficult when the telephone rang and Valerie excused herself to answer it. Mrs. Doster followed behind her.

 

"Mr. Doster, I canít tell you how very sorry I am for the loss of your brother. What I can tell you is that Drakeís legacy will live on. He had something rare."

 

It was a deflated Darren Doster that tuned away. "Whatís left of him, his stuff, is in the last room on the right." He then ducked into the den.

 

Nelson took a few tentative steps then straightened up and walked briskly down the hall. When he stepped into the workroom room his jaw dropped. There were at least twenty models scattered around the room and each one appeared to be meticulously constructed. Most were similar to the model that Valerie had shown him, a craft meant to service other vessels. Spying a model of Seaview, he removed it from the shelf and studied it. The detail was as good as any of the mock-ups created by the boat company that had constructed her. He flipped it over and noticed a cutout area in the hull below the bow. Scanning the room he caught sight of a small crab shell-shaped model. He picked it up and slipped it into the compartment. It fit perfectly! It appeared that the CHENG had done more than just discuss modifications; he had tried to implement them.

 

Lost in his thoughts Nelson didnít notice he was no longer alone. Valerie had joined him.

 

"He was a genius, wouldnít you say, Admiral?"

 

"YesÖoh yes, a genius. Do you know how long he worked on this?"

 

"I didnít see it until Christmas a little over a year ago. You guys didnít make it back and he asked me to check out his place."

 

Nelson turned to the young woman. "This is fabulous work. Why do you suppose he didnít tell me about it?"

 

Valerie smiled. "Donít take this wrong. Think about it from the position of a mere mortal like my uncle. How would you approach Admiral Nelson, genius inventor and scientific expert, and not feel a littleÖ inadequate?"

 

"I never intended for him to feel that way."

 

"He knew that. It was something in him, I suppose. Iím sure he would have brought it to you eventually."

 

Nelson shook his head. "Iím sorry he didnít."

 

"If you want me to box these up Iíll have them sent over to the Institute. Just make sure they expect them," she added with a chuckle.

 

"Yes, of course. And bring any drawings you might find."

 

"Now that you mention it there were a few."

 

"She reached into the desk drawer, pulled out several documents and handed them over. Nelson eyed one of the drawings but didnít comment.

 

"I didnít see any others."

 

"Thanks. There is one other thing I would like you to do. Could you meet me at the Institute next Tuesday, say at nine oíclock? I have something I would like you see."

 

****

Something about Dosterís drawing caused Nelsonís mind to spark and by the time he had returned to the Institute it had turned into a flame. As a prolific inventor, he had produced numerous blueprints, schematics and plans over the years. Most had been retained in an archive and he hoped the one he was looking for was there. He thumbed through the contents of several drawers before spying the portfolio. As he flipped through the pages a smile crept over his lips.

 

For the next several days he worked at his drafting board. Satisfied with the design he began to perform calculations to flesh out the details. By the time the tenth had arrived he had what he hope would be an impressive memorial to his friend. He disclosed none of what he was doing, even to Seaviewís captain, Lee Crane. When 0900 arrived, he could barely hold in his excitement. When the intercom sounded he jumped to his feet.

 

"Mrs. Kemp to see you Admiral."

 

"Thank you, Angie, send her in."

 

Valerie Kemp arrived with an inquisitive look on her face. Nelson quickly put her at ease with a grin. "Good morning, Mrs. Kemp, glad to see you. Please, sit down."

 

As the woman took her seat, Nelson stepped over to the easel. "I want to give credit to your uncle for all his work, even the parts I didnít know about, so I made plans for this." He slipped the cover off and revealed a drawing. Along with a small image of the CHENG were the words "Lieutenant Drake Doster, U.S.N.R.. Co-designer and engineer."

 

"Because the project is classified I canít tell you where this will go just yet. When it is in place I will invite you back to see it."

 

"Itís wonderful, Admiral," she said with a broad smile. "Iím certain that whatever it is it will have impact."

 

"No less than Drakeís. Here, I have something else for you."

 

He handed her an envelope and she slipped a hand inside and pulled out a photo of her uncle standing by the ribbing of what would become the Seaview. It was that image of Doster that would appear on the plaque. "Thank you, so much," she said as tears began to roll down her cheeks.

 

****

When Lee Crane and Seaviewís XO, Chip Morton arrived back at the Institute on the tenth, they were already drained so when the admiral announced he would be making substantial modifications to Seaview they couldnít hold back groans.

 

"Now wait, just wait. We already have to make sizeable repairs so this is the best time to make changes. And believe it or not the designs are practically done. Here let me show you."

 

Lee took the sketches from Nelson and studied them then passed them to Chip. "Admiral, why all of a sudden? These changes are huge. Theyíll keep us out of the water for well over a year."

 

"Lee, weíve discussed the need to add something to supplement or even replace the mini-sub. Look at what just happened. Had we done it sooner we might have prevented the explosion that sunk Seaview. While we were talking about it, our CHENG attempted to address it. Those designs are his. They only need minor modifications. I have already started on them."

 

Lee and Chip exchanged looks. The admiralís definition of the term "minor" was often quite different from their own. Nelson knew exactly what they were thinking. "You both knew when you signed on we would be constantly pushing new technologies. We canít afford to continue as we have."

 

Lee slid the schematics back to Nelson. "They are impressive plans, Admiral. So how do we handle this?"

 

"Chip," he said turning to the blond. "I want you and Curley to continue seeking replacements for the crew. Lee and I will work on the refit."

 

"Sir, are you looking for any specific skills in regards to the new mini-sub?"

 

"That depends on how we plan to use the sub." He slid an additional drawing to his officers. "This sub is going to be different than any other."

 

The officers looked at the admiral quizzically.

 

"Itís going to fly!"

 

Lee and Chip were dumbstruck. Nelson was practically gleeful. "My plan is to have the three of us with flight experience be trained to pilot her. Other crew can be trained to operate her in the water. Just think about it, we wonít need commercial airlines for shuttles and we remove the risk of transferring by ship or copter."

 

"We can come and go more secretly, and travel further distances from Seaview," added Lee.

 

"And we can ferry our special guests to wherever they need to go, and pick up the supplies they inevitably forget."

 

"Precisely! I have some ideas of my own but what I need from both of you is a list of things you would like to see her do so we can build those into the design."

 

"Serve as a diving platform."

 

"Ferry medical equipment and provide rescues."

 

"Special photography equipment."

 

As Nelson watched and listened to the men rattle off a list of over a dozen items he had to chuckle. Their turnabout was quick, just as he had expected. His amusement was disrupted by the buzz of the intercom.

 

"Admiral Nelson, Admiral Sturdivant is here."

 

"Good, weíll be right out."

 

The officers rose and joined their guest in the outer office. After introductions the younger men left to gather up their jackets and to bring the car around. As the flag officers stood in front of the elevator Sturdivant looked to his friend. "Harry, you look a hundred percent better than the last time I saw you. Has something changed?"

 

Nelson smiled. "It will soon, Brooks. Thanks to a gift from a great friend, it will soon."

 

Finis

 

 

 

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