"To Hear the Sea-Maid's Music"
Hear the Sea-Maid's Music”
The last checklist
had been finished hours ago, he’d signed off on all the outstanding
reports, and still the call hadn’t come.
Lee Crane emerged onto the bridge of the Seaview and looked at his watch again, as he had a half dozen times
in the last thirty minutes. They
had a window of a couple more hours.
After that, an automobile would replace Seaview
as the vehicle for a trip down the coast with one of Admiral Nelson's
closest friends. That was
guaranteed to make Nelson very unhappy.
He would not be pleased if anything conspired to upset the details
of his Army-Navy Game party for the Class of '37, especially the
transportation for the guest of honor, Admiral Benjamin Westerman.
The phone calls had flown back and forth between Santa Barbara and
San Diego as Admiral Nelson and Angie, his secretary made the arrangements
for a brace of televisions, cocktails -- to celebrate a sure victory, he
had declared -- and then dinner at the San Diego Yacht Club.
Nelson had gone down a day early to make sure that everything was
The sight of his
executive officer dropping the dockside telephone onto its cradle gave Lee
hope. “Chip, tell me
that’s good news about our visitors!”
Chip Morton mimed
wiping his brow. “The car's
coming through the gate right now," he replied, stepping onto the
gangway that held Seaview to the
dock and advancing towards Lee. "The
flight was delayed and then they ran into fog.
Better late than never. We’ll
Lee blew the air
out of his cheeks. “About
time,” he growled. “The
admiral would've had a fit if we were late getting in.
He's been planning this party for weeks.”
Chip nodded in
agreement. "It won't
take long to get 'em stowed away -- party of two, Admiral Westerman and
his nurse, apparently. You
know he had that bad car crash in Europe a few months ago."
Lee grabbed the
rail of the bridge and stared down at his X.O. "Nurse! Nobody
said anything about a woman!"
"It's okay, I
checked on One and Two just this morning. Maybe I had a premonition that we were going to need both
cabins." It had been
curious, his sudden urge to check on the condition of their two best
visitor accommodations. Both
cabins were immaculate. Seaview’s First Lieutenant Division took their responsibilities
the nurse is not some old battlewagon from Balboa. They're tougher than any four stripe COB I've ever come
across," Lee said, flashing a grin.
Just then a claxon began ringing, the signal that the dock area’s
outer doors were opening. "We'll
find out soon enough. Bring
everyone aboard as soon as you can, Chip.
I'll meet 'em in the nose.”
appeared within minutes, Chip on point with two of the ship's company in
tow carrying suitcases. Admiral
Westerman followed, leaning heavily on a cane, dark glasses covering his
eyes. Westerman’s expensive
suit fit loosely on his gaunt frame and his gait was slow and deliberate,
every step an effort, the result of a car accident that had left him
blind. There was little
vestige of the powerful man who had commanded fleets and helped to shape
naval doctrine in the years since the Second World War.
He was being guided into the interior of the boat by a woman with a
firm grip on his arm. A large
fur-trimmed hood shadowed her face. She
wasn’t very tall, maybe 5’3,’’ and the knee length ski jacket she
had on kept Lee from discovering anything about her.
What was she hiding?
forward and raised his voice. “Welcome
aboard the Seaview, Admiral
Westerman. It's an honor to
see you again, sir.” And in
some ways, a surprise. Lee
had seen news reports of the accident and remembered being astonished that
anyone had survived the collision.
The admiral’s head came up, and he answered in
a thin but steady voice. “Thank
you, Crane. Sorry we're late,
but you know how the weather can be up north this time of year.”
The older man reached around and patted the hand of the woman who
clutched his elbow. “May I
present my granddaughter, Ellen Westerman.
She functions as my eyes and often, my ears,” he said. “Never go anywhere without her.”
The woman pushed
back the hood of her jacket, and in the act of holding out his hand to
shake hers, Lee stopped dead. This
was definitely no elderly nurse on loan from any hospital he'd ever been
in. Somebody behind him
actually swallowed so loudly the sound echoed through the space.
Ellen Westerman stared up at him with the strangest eyes he had
ever seen. The irises were
piercingly light blue, and steel blue pupils were fixing him in an
unswerving gaze. His
instincts told him that these were the kind of eyes that could see through
all manner of lies and deception, definitely the kind that would see right
through extravagant declarations of admiration.
He’d bet his next paycheck that she had heard plenty of those!
Her red-lipped mouth was small and curved up in a generous smile.
Shoulder length, shiny brown hair framed her slightly rounded face,
the cheeks tinted a healthy pink from the cold.
Wearing the hood had been deliberate, he realized.
She held her head up in a way that proclaimed she was aware of the
effect she had on others and anticipated their stunned responses – but
would never give the slightest indication that she was in any way
expectant of it.
“It's a pleasure
to meet you, Captain. I hope
we won't be a bother,” she said in a soft southern accent, slipping her
hand into his.
Her low giggle
brought him back to reality. “Not...
no, not at all,” he began, forcing his voice to its normal tones.
He was about to say something else but caught himself as she looked
around, a small frown line between her brows.
“Already in San
Diego, making sure everything’s in order for the party.”
Lee hesitated again as a look much like regret flitted across her
face, and then continued. “Mr. Morton here will show you to your cabins.
I’m sure that Admiral Westerman could use some peace and quiet
after his trip from Brussels.”
“I’m just glad
to be back in the States,” the admiral answered. “And no better occasion then to see Navy beat the pants off
laughed, Ellen whispered a few words into her grandfather’s ear and then
returned her attention to Lee. “I'm
sorry we won't be able to meet Admiral Nelson on board the Seaview,
but we’ll remedy that soon enough.”
She looked beyond him to the nose windows.
“My grandfather will rest. I’d
like to come back here if I may.” She
smiled again, her stare direct, eyes flashing.
“It’ll be a pleasure watching you take her out, Captain Crane. I’m sure you’re an old hand at this.”
Lee smiled back,
emboldened by the look in her eyes. “I
haven't run into anything lately. I'll
do my best to make it a smooth departure.”
He still had her hand in his, and squeezed her fingers tighter,
enjoying the warmth of the smooth skin.
She made no attempt to withdraw her hand.
He spoke over his shoulder to his X.O.
“Chip, we’ll get underway when you get back.
I’ll see you on the bridge.’’
Follow me, please,” Chip said, maneuvering around a captain who
was releasing Ellen Westerman's hand with reluctance.
Frowning, Chip glanced at his C.O. with an odd, almost angry look
on his face, and pointed aft. Ellen
gently grasped her grandfather's elbow again and began leading him away,
the tap of his cane in stark contrast to the room's silence. Just before they went through the hatch, she looked back
towards the control room.
Lee stood completely
still until she disappeared from view and then moved to the
charting table, sweeping his head from side to side bemusedly
as the crew returned reluctantly to their assigned tasks.
Ellen had smiled at them all, and in that moment became the girl in
the picture in the wallet, the one they wrote home to or called every
week. They were instantly,
crazily in love with her. She had also looked straight at him, and he had seen the
approval in her eyes as she recorded the reaction of the men. He allowed a small grin to form on his face, almost saying
aloud the words that had quickly formed in his
brain, the best description he could think of right then -- she was a
mesmerizing young woman.
The crewmembers that had been “volunteered”
to stow the luggage weren’t begrudging their latest assignment, either.
Kowalski and Patterson were both staring at the spot where the
stunning girl had stood, oblivious to the arrival of the Chief of the
Boat, Chief Curley Jones, who chose that moment to walk into the control
room. Seeing the men, his pug
face dissolved into a frown and he barked, “This ain't bunk time, you
two! Get that gear stowed!”
roused himself and punched Patterson on the arm.
think I'm in love, Kowalski,” Patterson said, picking up a suitcase.
I know what you mean. You
might just have to stand in line, buddy!”
They were still
talking as they disappeared aft, and Curley shook his head
talk! Don't like women on the
boat. Ain't natural,” he
* * * *
Chip soon joined
Lee on the bridge, both men bundled up against the brisk winds they'd face
as soon as the Seaview cleared
the Institute's docking facilities and made her way into Santa Barbara
Channel. Admiral Nelson had
selected the site on the California coast due to its suitability for cave
considerations had been his top priority, not comfort.
It didn’t help that the rocks that formed the ‘pen captured the
coldness of the surrounding waters and held it, never letting go.
settled, Chip?” Lee asked
with a smile.
“I guess so.
Soon as the Admiral was comfortable in his cabin our lady guest
made a beeline for the nose, just like she said she would.
I suppose she's still there. I
the need to check,” he said dryly.
“She wanted the crash doors closed, anyway.”
want to know more about a beautiful woman, Mr. Morton?
You're slipping!” Lee was laughing, but one look at Chip's face and he quickly
became serious. The frown
that Chip’s face wore
when he took the Westermans to their cabins was still there.
“What's bugging you?”
something different there, Lee. Something
strange, if you ask me. I felt it the minute she stepped out of the car.
Those eyes! It's like
she's looking right through you.” Chip heaved a big sigh.
“I think you felt it, too. I
saw how you couldn’t take your eyes off her.”
Lee said, his voice innocent.
One look at Chip and he knew that it was
foolish to prevaricate. “Okay, I admit it - I was staring. But damn, Chip, you saw her!”
shifted away and then strayed back to Lee.
Tension settled at the base of his neck, as it always did when he
had a truth to expose that was necessary but awkward.
“Just don't lose your head over this one, Lee.
You've had enough bad luck with women lately.”
hardened. It had been only
four months since the trial, and the shock of being accused of murdering a
woman he'd barely known was fresh in his mind.
He’d been found innocent of course, with the help of a mysterious
lawyer that had disappeared almost as quickly as he’d appeared.
That he’d be duped so easily still rankled.
He’d beaten himself up over it a million times since then, had
talked it over with Chip a million times more.
Even the admiral and Jamie had come in for bull sessions.
In time the remnants of remorse and bad judgment subsided, joining
the other secrets hidden away. Lately
he’d even been on a few friendly dates.
He had told Chip he was over it.
Chip’s bringing it up meant that he wasn’t completely sure that
searched his feelings, knew that he had put it behind him, but it
wouldn’t hurt to say it again. “Okay,
I had that coming. But
everything's back to normal. I
got caught off guard with what happened, but you know I haven’t sworn
off women completely. If
I’d said I had, you'd never believe me, anyway.”
He wouldn’t believe himself -- not if today’s reaction was
anything to go by!
Chip rested his
arms on the rail. “You’d
be right about that. I’m
just antsy I guess, been sitting around on land
too long.” Lee had
certainly seemed like his old self over the past couple of weeks.
The two friends had few secrets from each other.
Chip knew Lee wasn’t seeing anyone seriously now and maybe a new
romance wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
But whether Ellen Westerman was the best candidate...he'd reserve
judgment on that.
better once we get this show on the road.” Lee turned and looked forward and then aft, automatically
checking that the crew was in place.
The big submarine was vibrating quietly, seemingly eager to leave
the confines of land behind. “Prepare
to get under way, Mr. Morton.”
Sir!” Stepping to the other
side of the bridge, Chip shouted, “Single up all lines!
Take in the gangway!” The
crew obeyed immediately. In a
few minutes they were ready. “The
boat is ready to get under way, Captain.”
well, X.O. Take her out slow.
Oh, and do me a favor," he added.
"Don’t hit anything. I
certainly don't want to disappoint Miss Westerman.”
narrowed his eyes and threw him a thin-lipped smile.
Once safely into
the Pacific Lee looked up, into a cloudless sky lit by a million stars.
“Let's stay on the surface, Chip.
It's a perfect night for steaming.
We’ve got plenty of time to get there now.”
plenty of time to think about a certain passenger,” Chip
Admiral Westerman has done great things.
It’s a privilege to be taking him to San Diego.”
his friend a look of utter skepticism.
Then both men burst out laughing, the sound echoing far across the
water, while the lookouts snuck glances at each other and rolled their
eyes with satisfaction. It
was good to hear the skipper laugh again.
The hour was late
and only safety lights lit the boat’s interior as the Seaview
cruised silently through the night. Changing
into her own body she rose from the bed, happy to be free again from
mortal boundaries, and made spirals in the air.
spirit cast a long shadow as she soared about, loosening earth-bound bonds
that clung to her like spent leaves after a rain.
Her green-gray hair was moving as if it had its own free will,
touching and caressing the objects on the desk, the light fixtures and the
furniture in the modest cabin. The mass of hair fell to the floor, the flowing waves her
only garment. There was no
need for modesty, no one saw her unless she permitted it.
It was easier to remain a wraith, something glimpsed out of the
corner of an eye, a flicker of movement perceived in an instant and then
gone as if it had never been.
Her name was Galené,
and she was a daughter of Nereus, god of the sea.
Nereus had not wanted her to take so completely to his watery
domain, but with her sister Amphitrité as an example the decision had
been one he was powerless to forbid. Bowing to her will, father and daughter had devised a way for
Galené to roam the world with impunity.
By assuming different identities, both male and female, she could
fulfill whatever mission the mortal being had been set upon before
unexpected death overtook them. Most
often it was to ensure that someone, or many someones, stayed alive.
Much of her time
was taken up in combating the wickedness of the world.
had seen evil in every form.
it came on silent feet behind a nod and a smile, concealed as a mystic, or
a mother. It manifested
itself in frightful warriors and grasping kings -- and queens, conquerors
that wanted more of the earth
than anyone had a right to. War and death were
commonplace in her immortal world.
did not concern herself with matters on land; there were plenty of gods
for that, too many, perhaps. Her
provenance was the sea. The
bottoms of the oceans bore testimony to cataclysmic events, littered as
they were with triremes and galleons and dreadnoughts, the ruins
sanctified by the bones of the men who had fought and died in them.
Some of the details of the conflicts had been lost in the mist, but
she never forgot the faces of those she had come to in the heat of battle,
the disbelief followed by ultimate acceptance of what she wanted, and why.
Westerman had been one of those faces.
She had been accompanying her grandfather and serving as unofficial
hostess for the negotiating team hammering out a NATO treaty that had been
under acrimonious review for weeks. Without
his personal input the personalities on both sides of the table would
never be able to agree to anything, and thus a drunken driver weaving
across a Belgian highway could not be allowed to end Admiral Westerman’s
life. The goddess had used
her powers to ensure that he would survive the crash, but his
granddaughter had not been as lucky, lingering just long enough for Galené
to reach her side. The
transformation had taken place immediately.
Hidden in Ellen's body, Galené had seen to it that her
"grandfather" was able to participate in the final treaty
meetings. In perilous health
despite her best efforts, his eyesight now gone, the admiral had wanted to
visit with his classmates one more time.
They had flown straight from Brussels to San Francisco and taken a
limousine for the ride to Santa Barbara.
It was the final leg of a long journey, a journey she would see him
through to the end of his days.
She hovered over
the bed, satisfying herself that the arrangement of pillows and blankets
looked like a body fast asleep. Aboard
this vessel no one would dare to come into the cabin without permission,
but she was not one to take even the slightest chance of discovery.
The watch would be in the passageways, but they would not see her.
Invisibility had its definite advantages.
Galené flowed through the door and began her conquest of Seaview.
First, a visit to
the other guest cabin. Admiral
Westerman was sleeping soundly, lost in a dreamland of mighty ships and
fearless seamen, a courtesy from Morpheus.
She moved from there to the engineering department, then spent a
few minutes in the missile room, all the while observing the crew on duty,
competent and professional sailors, everyone.
Here were men who took pride in their work.
Ensconced in the
galley, she was watching Cookie washing dishes he'd picked up from the
wardroom when Kowalski and Patterson came off their watch and headed for
the mess. The cook was busily
engaged in cleaning the admiral's coffee cup, a souvenir from the Nautilus. Whether the
two seamen's arrival distracted him or what, she never knew, but as he
turned around to greet them the soapy cup flew out of his hands.
Yelling an oath, he dived forward at the same time that Kowalski
leaned over and caught the cup as it settled gently into his hand.
Cookie came to a
screeching halt. “How did
you...gimme that!” He
grabbed a towel and plucked the cup out of Kowalski's grasp.
equally impressed. “Kowalski,
you're faster than greased lightning!
How'd you catch that?”
dunno, Pat, it just seemed to glide into my hand.
Cookie, you see that?”
nothin'. You want some
java?” Cradling the
precious cup, he laid it on the sideboard.
The truth was he had seen
the impossible angle of the cup, knew that there was no way to keep it
from smashing into a million pieces on the deck.
Yet there it was, unharmed. He
could swear that it had slowed and floated into 'Ski's hand.
But that was nuts. Running
a beefy hand over his tired face, the cook
turned back to the galley and reached for the coffee pot.
Galené smiled to
herself, enjoying the moment. It
was not often she could do things for the sheer joy of helping.
She took a turn around the table, watching the men as they bantered
with each other, noting their easy way of talking, obviously
good friends. The one
named Kowalski seemed brash, tough, capable of disobedience, a handful for
his superior officers, she was sure.
The other she remembered was named Patterson; Kowalski had called
him Pat. He had a
comfortable, open face, probably hard to rouse to action, unlike his
buddy. But he would be quick
to back up his friend if the need arose.
And both would be quick to aid their fellow crewmembers in
defending the Seaview. She could count on these men.
It was soon
apparent they were talking about her, Kowalski making movements with his
hands that would have brought a blush to her pale green cheeks if it had
been possible. Just as she
toyed with the idea of running an invisible finger under his chin, she
suddenly pulled up, her hair forming a giant cocoon around her body.
Flinging herself backward, she turned and flew through the
Up ahead in the
Control Room, deep down within the electronic components of the device
that measured the oxygen levels in the ship a tiny circuit had begun to
fail. Reacting to the loss of
data, the dial began an almost imperceptible vibration and immediately the
reading was incorrect, first dropping by several degrees, than correcting
and moving back up, only to fall back again.
Soon another relay would close and an alarm would sound to summon
repair, but that would be some minutes yet.
She would be faster.
* * * *
The object of her
dash stood at the chart table in the ship's command center double-checking
their course, making notes in the navigational log.
As executive officer Mr. Morton stood no watches, but as part of
his routine before turning in he always made one last check of the boat.
Busy with an entry, Chip hadn't noticed the indicator make a
sudden, erratic move.
Chip would never
let on, but he never minded the midwatch. You could get a lot done; it was a time for sorting and
organizing, and thinking. Around
him the helmsmen, Sparks, sonar, navigation and computer operators stood
their watches, overseeing the boat’s operations.
Aft, Engineering kept track of propulsion and the reactor.
Topside, lookouts were on alert.
The sonar ping and the clacking
of the computers were reassuring and real.
And hypnotic. It was
easy to become inattentive in this quiet, compact space.
This was a place where you worked on your feet, alert for any
Thus the sound,
when Chip heard it, caused his head to snap up.
He looked quickly around for the source of the -- he could only
describe it as a creaking -- noise that had caught his attention.
His eyes went to the helmsmen; no changes there, their hands were
tight on the wheels, knew without checking that they were fully alert.
He cast a glance around and all was as it should be. Shaking his head, he went back to his log.
heard it again, louder this time. Off
to the side of where he was standing.
men hear anything?”
may have been awake, but Mr. Morton's voice jolted them to full awareness.
creaking noise, like the sound old diesels make.”
shook his head. “Didn't
hear a thing, sir.” Everyone
else in the space agreed.
Chip walked over to the closest starboard bulkhead, the surface housing
the environmental controls. His
eyes skimmed over the instruments, noting that everything was in order, everything
shipsha...he stopped still, blinked his eyes rapidly, looked again as
the indicator inside the gauge
shook and shimmied, the arrow dipping up and down erratically.
automatically for the mike, he called, “Engineering to the Control Room,
on the double!”
got everyone's attention.
Chip stayed long
enough to ensure that the technician knew what he was doing and then
headed for his cabin, Galené following.
She tickled the tops of his ears, laughing silently at his pained
expression as he swatted at a fly that wasn't there. She knew that here was a man that would take a lot of
convincing. She had almost
resorted to punching him in the shoulder, but the old style noises had
been effective, even if he was a little slow believing his own ears. He was a good man, and an even better X.O.
She moved in front
of him, studying him carefully, liking what she saw.
From a feminine point of view he was very attractive, his blonde
good looks and blue eyes attention-getters.
She had seen the look in his face when she came aboard, his
suspicion that there was something about her that he did not understand.
Entirely too intuitive for her tastes, Commander Morton would
require that the goddess be very sure of her ground when dealing with him.
She would need to win this one over.
There would be
time for that later. She was
waiting upon another. He
would be along soon. Turning
away, she headed for the observation nose.
* * * *
happening for Lee Crane this night. He
was idly imagining an evening with Ellen, running possible scenarios
through his mind. A ride
through the mountains in his Jag, followed by dinner at Cold Spring
Tavern, the moonlight filtering through the trees as they sat and talked. Or dinner at the Biltmore, where he could take her out on the
dance floor and show her off to the room.
She might even enjoy a “top down” ride all the way to Malibu.
They could hang out at the Sea Lion and let Chris the owner whip up
a mean Martini, laughing the afternoon away.
For a moment he regretted not being a member of the Class of ’37,
then rejected that idea. That
wouldn’t be the right atmosphere, anyway. She’d be preoccupied with keeping an eye on her
grandfather. No, he’d want
her all to himself, unencumbered by responsibilities.
prospects were exciting, the prospect of being up all night was not.
Tossing back and forth and willing his eyes to close only made it
worse. He couldn't figure it
out; they were headed for a weekend in San Diego and free time, nothing
stressful on tap, nothing filling his brain with jumbles of tasks or
complaints or concerns. And
as long as Navy won the football game, they could expect nothing but
smiles from the admiral. Sure,
Chip had mentioned it,
but that hadn’t caused more than a momentary pang.
His mind had shunted the trial away to that mental compartment
where all such troubles resided. Falling
into his rack for a few hours of well-deserved rest should have been easy.
The only problem was, just when he was about to drift off, Ellen
Westerman smiled that mysterious little smile and he was awake again.
threw back the blanket and grabbed his bathrobe, then opened the door to
his cabin, making sure that no one was in the p-way. Moving as silently as possible he made his way forward,
praying he wouldn't run into any of the crew.
It wouldn't do for the watch to see their captain in his skivvies
making for the nose. A few
minutes there watching the ocean plunge by and he’d be back in his bunk
in no time.
He was relieved to
see that the crash doors were still closed.
Lee settled down in the middle chair, wiggling back and forth until
he was comfortable, then folded his hands over his stomach and stared
towards the windows. Almost
immediately his eyelids grew heavy. He pulled himself up straight and gathered his robe close.
It also wouldn't do for anyone to come in here and find him snoring
again, maybe just a couple
Galené watched as
he fell into sleep, his chest raising and lowering gently as he slipped
down into the chair, long dark lashes resting lightly on his tanned
cheeks. The lines of his
sharp cheekbones practically cast shadows.
The robe had fallen away from his body -- how that had happened,
she simply couldn’t imagine as she smiled
playfully. Skin the
color of dark honey lay exposed. The
body wasn’t perfect; there were too many pockmarks
of scar tissue, jagged circles of mangled skin where violence had left its
mark. That only added to the
urge to explore, trace the edges, and take the memory of the pain away.
For a moment she considered running a hand along the taut field of
muscle that rippled under his well-defined abdomen.
The khaki uniform he had worn earlier concealed these hidden
treasures. She was happy to
revel in their discovery.
His arms were
hidden inside the robe, strong arms that could trap and tantalize. She
would not mind being captured by those arms, held against that body while
she combed her fingers through the mass of dark curls that covered his
head, bent to hers as he crushed a kiss against her lips.
Women fell hard for him, she was sure.
She was also sure that he would be more reticent.
He could be immediately attracted to someone, of course.
had instantly intrigued him
when she’d first slipped her hand
into his, but she knew he would not allow himself to be unduly influenced
by merely a pretty face again. She
was well aware of the evil woman who had come into his life and
caused havoc to his reputation and self-respect.
The goddess had sent the lawyer who had been the commander’s
triumphant champion. With
her help, he had exposed the real murderer.
Lee had come away with added emotional
strain that would further reinforce his reluctance to expose
himself and his feelings. Here
before her was a man who was determined to never allow his head to be
ruled by his heart.
in to temptation, she traced a line down his chest with a suddenly solid
finger, smiling as the skin reacted to the unexpected, icy touch.
“It is perhaps a good thing for us both that we do not find
ourselves in your cabin, Captain,” she said pensively.
“Come, time to wake up.”
Lee's eyes flew
open, and he hesitated only a moment before bolting out of the chair.
He turned in a full circle, searching for the owner of the
melodious voice. OK,
that's it, I'm sleepy enough to be hearing things!
Then something else assaulted his senses, and he breathed in
the unmistakable scent of salt air. Now I’m smelling things, too.
I'm here.” And in an
instant Galené was there, flowing over his shoulder in a cascade of
curls, turning to face him. His
robe had slipped off one shoulder, and a thick skein of her hair grasped
it and pulled it upward, straightening it properly.
Flustered, Lee pulled it even tighter around him.
It took a lot to
shake Commander Lee Crane. He'd
lived through terrifying accidents at sea and confronted enemy agents that
wanted nothing more than to destroy him and all he stood for.
But the apparition that bobbed gently up and down in front of him,
green skin shimmering, dressed in nothing except her Medusa-like hair was
something else entirely.
But she had Ellen's eyes!
asleep, and this is not really happening," he whispered, hoping the
crew on the other side of the crash doors wouldn't hear. He took a step back and bumped into the console, hard enough
to bring a muffled curse to his lips.
Asleep he was not. "Okay,
I'm awake. But you can't be
Ellen. My mind is playing
tricks on me. Either
that, or I'm going crazy!”
definitely awake, and you're not going crazy,” she said, laughing at his
discomfiture. “And you’re
right - I’m not Ellen. Not
at the moment, anyway.”
With the color
coming up in his cheeks, and shock igniting his heart rate, he was
breathing a little heavily. Even
with incredulity animating his features, Lee was deliciously sexy, she
thought wickedly. A wisp
of her hair curled out and encircled his wrist.
He pulled back, and she smiled knowingly.
“My name is Galené, and I am the goddess of calm seas.
Here, I will demonstrate.” She
turned from him and melted through the Herculite windows, becoming a
shimmering line of undulating form and substance barely visible as she
leaned back against the bow of the ship, her long hair cleaving to the
large windows like a translucent blanket.
As Lee watched
incredulously, the waves that normally crashed against the thick glass
slowed down, their power and intensity softening as they struck her body.
It might have been a minute and then she was floating next to him
again. He looked into her
eyes, the shocking blue radiating a depth of age and wisdom he could not
begin to understand. By the
imperious way she held herself this was someone used to being admired.
This was the woman he had met earlier.
There was no doubt about it.
Lee said the first
thing that came into his mind. “You'd
make a fine ship's figurehead.”
She threw back her
head and laughed, the hair shifting around her like the wave tops the Seaview
was plowing through again. It
was mesmerizing to watch, and Lee recalled what he had thought the first
time he'd seen her. Chip had
been right, too.
He sat down, more
heavily this time, and drew a hand across his forehead.
“OK, you've told me who you are and what you are.
I guess I have to take that on faith for
now. But what are you doing aboard my boat?”
Speaking in an
accent that reminded him of his London friends, she began with Ellen’s story
as she explained herself to him. “It
is obviously much easier to move about in the world of humans when a human
form is utilized. It is also
much easier when a familiar form is used.
Ellen Westerman has been her grandfather’s companion for some
time and he is very much used to her caring for him while he has been in
Europe working tirelessly for NATO. That
a drunken driver could destroy his life was unacceptable to those who
watch over such affairs. Without
Ellen, Admiral Westerman would be ineffective, imperiling months of work
and endangering once again the peace of a region that has seen so much
tragedy. Unfortunately it was
not possible to save her life as well.
And so -- you find me standing before you.
“Now that the
treaty has been signed Admiral Westerman’s work is finished.
This will be his last trip.”
“The accident did more damage than your doctors found.
It is time that he be allowed to rest.
Vice Admiral Benjamin Westerman will have safe winds and following
seas very soon. He has lived
his life magnificently, a credit to his country,
to his country's Navy and to his unerring sense of duty. Much like another admiral you know,” she added.
“When the time comes, I will accompany him to Arlington.
I hope that you and Admiral Nelson can be present."
darkened for a few moments, and then she smiled again.
"The invitation from your admiral was very timely.
It has given me the chance to come aboard Seaview
and introduce myself to you without complications."
Her lips thinned. "I
regret that he is not here. Then
again, I am not sure it is the proper time to
meet him yet.”
“You are captain
of this ship. She is yours.
It is to you I must present myself.”
In some matters I play fair.
In others -- we shall see.
"Myself as the goddess I am, that is.
As you can appreciate, you must keep this secret to yourself.
For now you know me only as Ellen Westerman."
She faced him squarely, eyes suddenly stern. "When it is time to reveal my true identity to others, I
will do so."
could be dangerous things. It
was as Ellen that she had presented herself to him.
Young, beautiful and vibrant, flesh and blood desirable.
A part of him had wanted her then.
What was he to think now?
And what was he to call her? A
ghost, perhaps, one that was telling him that she was skillfully
playing a part, a ghost that claimed to be a goddess, someone who could
use deceit to her will.
“What you saw
earlier was only a guise, Captain. It
is Ellen who is the façade, not me,” she said, as if she could read his
Then what of the
beautiful woman, the one that he was still attracted to?
The idea was utterly disconcerting.
“So obviously the Ellen I thought I met
“She has become
an -- illusion,” Galené said firmly, with a hit of exasperation
in her face. “However,
I am real, Captain.”
His eyes moved up
and down. “I can see
definitely see that." Her
hair moved to wrap about her more closely, and he grinned inwardly.
At least he could distract her a little bit.
It was a victory of sorts. "Something
tells me that this isn't the way you normally go about things."
She hesitated and
then nodded. More
explanations were in order for this one to
understand and believe. “Your
ship has called to my sisters, Captain.
Have you never felt a soft breeze catch your attention as
you came aboard? Or perhaps
felt a brush past your legs as you stood scanning the night sky from the
bridge?” His face registered that he had.
“I have chosen to reveal myself because Seaview is a special case. She
has many hearts, but only one head, Captain.
It is perhaps Admiral Nelson’s baby,” she grinned, “but she
has become your responsibility. If I am to be her guardian, her
master must accept me. That,
sir, is you.”
made so matter of factly, sent a thrill down Lee’s spine.
The disappointment at ending his regular Navy career advancement
had long ago faded. To
command the Seaview was the
epitome of anyone’s career ladder.
“I see my words
have pleased you. Do I also
please you?” she teased.
Lee tore his eyes
away, concentrating on a spot over her head. "You've given me a lot to think about," he said
evasively. "It's going
to take a while to sort through everything you’ve
did you become such a coward?"
from about ten minutes ago," he answered softly, his eyes
She laughed again,
then turned and floated over to the model of the Seaview, running a hand down its surface. "We shall speak to more serious matters, then.
Your admiral has demonstrated that he feels it his duty to guard
the oceans, as we do. This
submarine is a testament to that. She
is in my charge now, along with her
at not being able to meet Admiral Nelson flared up again.
She could have taken the chance in Santa Barbara during the trial,
but something had not seemed right. She
needed to meet this man, needed to confirm that he was worthy of her and
her protection. Addressing Lee again, she said, “But we cannot be
everywhere. The oceans are
too large, and there are too few of us.
You humans must use your talents -- and your luck -- to keep out of
harm's way as much as possible.”
do our best. This is a
special ship, with a special crew. The best in the world.”
“I agree with
you. Come,” she said,
lifting him effortlessly up by the shoulders and turning him towards the
hatch. “The hour is late. You need your sleep.”
She would not tell him that it was she that had kept him awake, she
that had willed him to come to her. She
would parcel out the knowledge of herself as it became necessary.
you leave the Seaview, will I
know you when -- if -- I see you again?”
“Of course you
will see me again,” Galené said quietly.
“There will be times when other guises are necessary."
She would not explain that with Admiral Westerman's passing, Ellen
Westerman would go away also. She
would leave that for another time. "Seaview
is needed in this world you humans have made.
Protected she will be, as much as it is in my power to achieve.
And may I remind you that I am the goddess of calm
seas,” she said, emphasizing the word with a hint of laughter in her
voice. She was rewarded with
one of his magnificent smiles. This
was another secret she would keep to herself.
Placing herself in danger at every turn was something she did as a
matter of course. If that
meant being aboard this vessel when it happened, so be it.
She would welcome the challenge.
She was a goddess, after all.
souvenir to seal our pact.”
With a slice of a long fingernail she clipped a curl from her mass
of hair and placed it in his palm. “My
real identity must always be safe with you.
For now you know me only as Ellen Westerman.
Are we agreed?” Coming
around in front of him, Galené took both his hands in hers.
She heard him suck in his breath, and willed her hands to become
warm, not the cold pieces of chiseled green marble that held him in a firm
but comfortable grip.
Lee thought of
Admiral Nelson and how he would react to all this. Knowing the admiral as he did, he doubted that he would be
pleased with this turn of events. “Admiral
Nelson is not going to like this.”
She waved that
away. “It will be a simple
matter to overcome his objections, if any.”
met him, have you?”
She looked up at
him through dark lashes, the silver-blue eyes flashing.
“It makes no difference. He
will come around to my point of view...just as you have.”
“And if I say,
‘thanks but no thanks’?”
“You will not.
You are intrigued by this turn of events, and will reserve judgment.”
And you are intrigued by me.
won’t get any argument from me, then.”
Her hair shifted and he looked her up and down again.
She tapped him
lightly on both cheeks. “Such
thoughts, Captain Crane! I
say again, are we agreed?”
nodded, laughing. “We are
agreed, Miss Westerman.”
Now, I need to finish my tour of the boat. I
have not yet seen all there is to see.
We will speak again soon, Captain.
However, remember," she put a finger to his lips, "the
next time we see each other I shall be Ellen
She floated up and
away and faced the vast windows. The
waves were breaking hard as the Seaview
plowed through the water, moonlight and phosphorous combining to
illuminate a mighty roiling that carried all the power of the sea within
it. With a whiff of seaweed
and seawater she was gone, blinking from his eyesight as if she had never
been there at all.
He stood still for
a few moments, still finding it difficult to believe what he had just seen
and heard. That there really
was no such thing as Ellen Westerman...saddened
him. A young life taken so
abruptly seemed so wasteful. Then
again, this woman, this goddess that could become anything -- or anyone --
in the blink of an eye set his senses to reeling again.
She was fascinating, beautiful, unbelievably intriguing. There would also be something new to discover.
Lee dragged a hand over his face and headed for the ladder.
think I'll be logging this any time soon.”
The rest of the
night passed uneventfully. Lee
had gone back to his cabin and immediately fallen into a deep sleep,
rested enough upon awakening to think that what he remembered was only a
dream. But the lock of grey-green
hair on his desk immediately removed any doubts of the events of the past
this apparition spiriting him into a world of possibilities and promises
that he would not be able to pull back from?
The thought gave him pause. He’d
already been nearly destroyed by a beautiful female form!
Could a guy get close to such a creature? Was that a good idea?
things first. Picking up the
cabin microphone, he cried, “OOD, report!”
answer came back almost immediately.
“Lieutenant O'Brien reporting.”
I'm going to take a shower and get a shave, and then I'll be up.”
He fingered the strands of hair.
“How far out from San Diego are we?”
the Ocean Beach pier. Day has
dawned cold but clear. Slightly
choppy seas. Bring a jacket,
“I will, thank
you, Mr. O'Brien.” He set
the microphone down and headed for the shower.
“More surprises I do not need.”
There were none.
Seaview slipped around Point Loma and was soon safely berthed
at the Sub Base. When Lee
came down from the bridge Admiral Westerman was talking quietly with Chip
and Ellen in the Control Room. She
threw a glance his way and he caught the scent of seawater, and wondered
if he was the only one who could smell the familiar fragrance.
The parka was under her arm this time, and just as before, the crew
was entranced. Mr. Morton's
scowl soon had them engrossed in their instruments again.
had added a huge blue and gold scarf to his outfit of the day before.
“Smooth sailing, smooth sailing, Crane.
I slept like a baby last night.
And once again, I appreciate the ride.”
Lee searched the
Admiral's smiling face, sealing it into his memory.
It was difficult to contemplate that here was someone he would most
likely never see again. A small cough from Ellen brought him back to the moment.
“It was an honor to have you aboard Seaview,
Admiral. Commander Morton,
any news from Admiral Nelson?”
is waiting at the club to welcome his special guests.
There's a car already outside.”
Chip turned and grasped the admiral's elbow.
“With your permission, I'll accompany you topside, sir.”
Ellen took one
last look around and reached out to grasp his hand.
“Your hospitality was much appreciated, Captain.
I’m very pleased to have experienced it.”
surreptitiously thumbed her skin. It
was pink, warm, and alive. “Goodbye,
Miss Westerman,” he responded. “It
was a...pleasant surprise meeting you.”
One blue eye disappeared in a slow wink as she smiled.
“Believe me, the pleasure was all mine.” She let go of his hand and followed her grandfather out.
again in a few minutes. “All
squared away, Lee.” In a
quieter voice, he said, “I feel much better now that they're off the
Lee thought about
that for a moment and then nodded. “I
guess it does make it easier, Chip." Before his friend could ask what he meant by that, Lee
clapped Chip on the shoulder, saying, “What say we hit the “O” Club
and watch the game?”
like a plan to me.”
got to get something in my cabin. I'll
meet you on the pier.”
- - - -
Lee walked slowly
towards the gangway, thinking about what the last few hours had brought.
He was used to the strange things he saw in the sea and sometimes,
even stranger things on board. But
this was the topper. He had
gone back to his cabin specifically to pick up the lock of hair, which now
occupied a place in his wallet. He'd
think of it as a good luck charm for the Midshipmen.
He clamped a hand down on his cover as a strong breeze brushed up
the back of his head. A
whispered Keep her safe, Captain was followed by a giggle that echoed in his
ear as the breeze, softer now, wafted past his face. He would stake his
professional reputation and his life if necessary, to keep his boat and
his men secure. Having a
beautiful goddess offer help couldn't hurt, though.
He'd have no problem looking forward to that.
Picking up his pace, he went to meet his X.O.
Midsummer Night's Dream
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