(set two months after the aired episode Leviathan, and a week after the aired episode Cyborg)
Lessons learned are like bridges burned
You only need to cross them but once
Is the knowledge gained worth the price of the pain
Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt? *
Admiral Harriman Nelson stood on the front steps of the Nelson Institute’s Administration Building and watched the various individuals assembling for the daily flag-raising ceremony. His gaze was drawn to one of the few civilians in attendance. She stood straight and tall, slightly apart from the rest, her eyes riveted on the uniformed Institute security contingent charged with raising the flag. Judging from her bearing and the serious expression on her face, a casual observer would have thought she was service personnel, out of uniform. But Nelson knew better.
He smiled. He would have been surprised if she hadn’t been there. He’d been watching her off and on for months now, and she was as predictable as the tide. Every Monday morning at Colors she stood in the same spot beside the roses that bordered the quadrangle, at attention, right hand over her heart and her eyes reverently on the flag as it was raised to the top of its pole. Then she’d turn and leave for her day’s work as soon as the ceremony was over, But today she won’t be leaving quite so quickly, Nelson thought, walking down the steps and making his way over to her, "Good morning, Doctor," Nelson said.
"Admiral!" Doctor Lynn Murtagh exclaimed. "Good morning, sir."
She seemed surprised to see him, he thought, seeing the shock in her green eyes. "Your dedication isn’t something I’m used to seeing in my civilian employees."
She looked around at the uniform-clad people around them. "No, sir. It’s not something I’m used to seeing, either, I’m sorry to say. It’d be nice to see more civvies among the uniforms."
"Yes, it would," Nelson agreed. "Unfortunately, there isn’t all that much interest in our traditional ceremonies among the civilian personnel." They both fell silent then, Nelson saluting, Lynn standing at attention as the detail raised the flag.
At the end of the ceremony, Nelson turned to Lynn. "Doctor, I’d like to see you in my office later this morning. "
Again surprise flickered in her eyes. "Certainly, Admiral. What time would be convenient for you?" she asked calmly.
Nelson had to give her credit; she recovered well. "Ten hundred," he replied. "And bring that proposal you’ve been working on." He turned to go.
"Yes, sir," he heard her call after him.
Nelson climbed the steps of the Administration Building to find Lee Crane waiting for him at the entrance. "Good morning, Admiral," the younger man said.
"Yes, Lee, it is. And it promises to become more interesting, I think," Nelson said, watching the slim figure walking away from them, toward the Marine Mammal Building. "Chip is due back tomorrow, isn’t he?"
"Yes," Lee said, looking worried. "I still think he’s returning to duty too early from that concussion."
"Possibly, but I think light duty will suit him for a while," Nelson said. "In fact, I have just the thing for him. Let’s go to my office."
Lee followed Nelson to the Admiral’s office, seating himself across the desk from the older man. "What’s on your mind, Sir?"
Nelson leaned back in his high-backed chair and lit a cigarette. "How does a nice, easy, research-oriented cruise strike you?"
"It sounds like a well-deserved vacation after what we went through with Doctor Ulrich’s cyborg," the younger man said.
Nelson laughed humorlessly. "That’s a trip I’d rather forget."
"So would the rest of us. What does this research cruise entail?" Crane asked.
"We’ll be having one of Lucius Emery’s people on board for a few days, along with some of the Institute’s dolphins," Nelson replied. "Blue-water testing of some learned behaviors. Very simple on our end."
"These dolphins will be in the tank compartment, I presume?" Crane asked.
Nelson nodded. "Three of them. Bottlenose dolphins."
"Better them than Bessie," Lee said, smiling. "Who’s the researcher? Do I know him?"
"I don’t think so," Nelson said innocently. "Her name is Murtagh."
"Murtagh?" Crane asked, then shook his head. "The name sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place it."
"She did that dolphin echolocation research for us last year," Nelson told him.
Crane nodded. "Now I remember. The pre-development for that new sonar San Landeman is working on. It was a very good report. Very thorough, but pleasantly concise. Did she know what her research was to be used for?"
Nelson shook his head. "Not officially – she wasn’t told anything beyond the basics, but I think she may have had an idea. She’s a very bright girl, and Lucius tells me she’s very good at reading between the lines."
"Girl?" Crane asked, raising one eyebrow. "What age group are we talking about here, Admiral?"
"Young," Nelson said, a ghost of a smile playing about his mouth.
"How young?" Crane persisted.
"Early thirties." Nelson shrugged innocently.
"Early thirties?" Crane repeated. "She’s not going to set Seaview on her ear, is she?" he asked wryly.
"No," Nelson said with a little smile, "she’s not the type. She’s a very conscientious professional."
"Which translates to dowdy frump," Crane said, nodding. "Probably without a sense of humor."
Nelson shook his head. "Not in the least. She’s an attractive young woman with a very good sense of humor. But she has a very professional attitude, and she comes from a Navy family. Her father is Chief of Surgery at Bethesda, and one uncle is Commander of Naval Air Forces in the Pacific – scuttlebutt has it that he’ll be the next CNO. As a matter of fact, she has a total of six close male relatives in the Navy, including her youngest brother."
Crane emitted a low whistle. "Impressive family tree," he said.
"Very impressive," Nelson agreed. "She won’t cause any problems. I expect her to spend most of her time in the tank compartment with her dolphins."
"I guess not," Crane agreed. "Do you want me to have a liaison assigned to her?"
"I already have one in mind," Nelson told him.
"Who?" Crane asked, his hazel eyes widening.
"Chip," Nelson repeated patiently. "He’ll be back just in time, and Doc wants him on light duty. One four-hour supervisory watch in the control room per day and nothing more."
"That will drive him crazy," Crane warned. "You know how he hates being idle."
"Jamie won’t certify him any other way," Nelson said. "I know it sounds like overkill, but I had a hard enough time getting him to agree to even this arrangement. It’s the only way Jamie will let him dive."
"He’s going to be diving?"
"Doctor Murtagh will need a dive buddy – it might as well be Chip."
"Admiral, I can guarantee you these restrictions will go over like a lead balloon," Crane warned.
"That’s why I want him to be Doctor Murtagh’s liaison. She’ll be very busy herself and looking after her will keep him busy enough so he won’t even miss making his rounds. Besides, he does too much. It’ll do some of the junior officers good to take over some of his duties. They can use the experience."
"Well, sir, at the risk of repeating myself, if you say so. But Chip’s not going to like this," Crane warned.
"Maybe not at first," Nelson conceded, "but give him time."
** *** **
Lynn walked back to her office in a daze. The Admiral wanted to see her! And he was interested in her proposal! She frowned. She’d had no idea he was interested in the proposal. Had Lucius known? If he had known, and hadn’t told her, she’d skin him alive. Well, maybe not, but she’d certainly give him a piece of her mind.
"Where are you off to in such a hurry, little Lynnie?"
Lynn spun to see Doctor Bob Shaughnessey walking behind her. "Mornin’, Rocco," she said absently.
"And wearin’ such a puss, too. What’s up?" he asked, falling into step with her.
Lynn frowned at the big man, then decided to tell him. They’d been close friends since graduate school; he’d know she was keeping something from him and would only badger her until she told him. Giving in was much easier than listening to him nag her. And nagging was one of the things Rocco did best.
"Admiral Nelson wants to see me today," she said, trying for a casual tone.
"Your proposal about your dolphins?" Bob asked, excitement lighting his hazel eyes.
"He told me to bring it with me," Lynn acknowledged.
Bob stuck out his right hand and grabbed Lynn’s right hand, pumping her right arm vigorously, "All right, kid! Way to go!’
Lynn reclaimed her hand and shook it out to re-start the circulation. "Bobby, he might just want to tell me my idea’s no damned good," she said cautiously.
Bob shook his head emphatically. "No way, kiddo. Not face-to-face, He’d send a memo for that. No, little girl, you’re goin’ under the waves."
Lynn smiled nervously. "Don’t get my hopes up, Bobs."
"Don’t be such a defeatist, Lynn," Bob scolded. That’s not like you."
"I’m not being defeatist, Bobby. I’m being realistic. There’s a difference," Lynn told him.
"Whatever you say, kid." Bob turned to enter his office. ‘I’ll talk to you after your audience with the Great One, okay?"
"Sure, if I’m still in one piece," Lynn added, and walked to her own office. She passed Maureen’s empty desk in the common reception area off which opened the cetacean researchers’ offices – Still too early to expect Mo in, she thought wryly – and opened the door to her inner office. While she waited for her computer to boot. she opened her small closet. The Nelson Institute had no real dress code for its civilian employees, and while jeans and a white oxford shirt were fine for working in her office or in the lab, going to see the Admiral required slightly more formal dress, It was a good thing she kept a couple of changes of clothing handy, she reflected. Surveying the garments hanging on the rod, she chose a tailored white blouse and pleated navy blue gabardine slacks.
That decision made, she called up her proposal on the computer. She had two copies in her desk, but they were full of changes and scribbled annotations, and she wanted a pristine copy to take with her. She made the necessary changes, saved them to the unit’s hard disk, backed it up to a floppy, then sent it to the printer. Minutes later, with the proposal neatly bound in a pressboard folder, she shut everything down and left to check on her dolphins.
Dead silence greeted her as she entered the dolphin lab. Every person there stared at her, openly speculative.
"Okay, gang, get back to work," Lynn said. She wasn’t officially the department supervisor, but she had been the first one hired, and all the other researchers and research assistants had gotten into the habit of looking to her for advice and direction when Lucius wasn’t around. Most left the lab, grumbling good-naturedly about slave-drivers and workaholics.
Lynn approached the two who remained behind. "Is this your new office?" she asked her secretary, who was perched on one of the desks situated in the main part of the lab.
Maureen Garrity grinned at her. "I heard the scuttlebutt, so I decided to see what I could see."
Lynn looked towards the ceiling. "Mo, one of these days...."
"You can’t fire me," Maureen said cheekily. "I’m family."
"Nepotism is alive and well at the Nelson Institute," Doctor Dave Cousins said dryly.
"Nepotism, hell!" Lynn protested. "She was working here long before I ever got here!"
"But you requested her for your secretary," the tall black man reminded her, grinning at Lynn’s chagrin.
"Only to keep her out of trouble," Lynn shot back. "My sister-in-law asked me to keep an eye on her." She regarded Maureen stonily. "Don’t you have some work to do?"
Maureen gave her a lazy salute and hopped down from the desk. "Yes, Boss. I’ll go to work now." She spun on her heel and left the lab.
Lynn sighed. "If she wasn’t so damned good at what she does...."
"What’s a woman with a Masters in English Lit doing working as a secretary?" Dave asked.
"Besides making me nuts?" Lynn asked. "Getting paid a helluva lot more than she would in academia – that’s for damned sure."
"So you go to see Himself today, I hear," Dave ventured.
"Yeah. In precisely," Lynn looked at her watch, "one hour and ten minutes. Am I shaking enough to notice?"
"Just barely," Dave assured her. "You’ll do fine."
"l hope so," Lynn said, and climbed the stairs leading to the platform that ran down one side of the huge glass dolphin tank. Her three bottlenose dolphins greeted her with unbridled enthusiasm. Lynn decided against even a brief a training session before her meeting, since the dolphins would only pick up on her anxiety, and that would adversely affect their performance. So she merely sat on the edge of the tank, petting them and talking to them, and tossing them an occasional smelt. Still, the three dolphins sensed her anxiety and dashed from one end of the tank to the other in nervous excitement.
"You’re edgy and they feel it. Why don’t you return after you talk with Harriman?"
Lynn looked up to see her boss, Commander Lucius Emery, looking at her with concern in his black eyes. "Hi, Lu. Just tell me one thing, okay?"
"If I can," Lucius said cautiously.
"Did you know about this? That the Admiral was gonna call me in, I mean?"
"No," Lucius said, and shook his head. "I just found out myself."
"Oh." Lynn looked back at the dolphins, then cocked her head to look up at Lucius again. "But if you had known, would you have told me?"
"Seeing how a mere two hours’ notice affects you, probably not," the little man said flatly. "You would only have been a – how would you put it? – a total wreck for a longer period of time."
"I’m not sure I like the surprise method, either," Lynn said, absently petting Leo, the only dolphin of the three to remain relatively calm.
"You’re worried about the proposal?" Lucius prodded.
"Do I have anything else to be worried about?" she countered.
"Do you have claustrophobia?" Lucius asked in his usual forthright manner.
"Huh?" Lynn asked irritably, confused by the question.
"Do you?" Lucius persisted.
"No," Lynn replied, frowning up at him in puzzlement.
"Then you have nothing to worry about, Harriman is pleased with your work. Especially the echolocation work you did last fall."
"Lu, that was a piece of cake," Lynn said dismissively.
"It was well researched and equally well presented. As is all of your work," Lucius said firmly.
Lynn smiled wryly. "Yeah. I did do a good job on it, didn’t I?"
Lucius inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement. "I’m glad you realize it. And your present proposal is also well-researched and well-presented. Just go in there with confidence in yourself. He doesn’t bite."
"That’s not what I’ve heard," Lynn rebutted. "I’ve heard he could give your Bessie a run for her money if somebody gets his Irish up."
"If work is not done to his standards – which, admittedly, are high – he bites. Your work meets his standards. You will not be bitten, chewed, or otherwise mangled."
Lynn grinned at him, then extended her right hand. "Gimme a lift, Lu. It’s time for me to beard the lion in his den." She brushed off the seat of her jeans. "I’m changing my clothes, too."
"A small miracle, but one to be thankful for, nonetheless," Lucius said dryly.
"I doubt it’ll help."
"You don’t need it to help you. Come to my office when you’re through."
"Sure, Lu. And Lu?"
He turned back. "Yes?"
"Cross your fingers?"
"If you insist," Lucius said tiredly as he walked down the stairs. "But I don’t think you’ll need it. I’ve heard your security clearance was raised." He turned to leave.
"Huh?" Lynn asked, but Lucius kept on walking. She shook her head in exasperation and turned back to her dolphins. "I’d ask you guys to cross them, but I doubt it would work. Just keep it in mind, okay?" she asked, before she bounced down the stairs and back to her office.
She changed quickly, brushed out her hair, spruced up what little makeup she’d applied earlier that morning. Glancing at her watch – the large black diver’s watch she always wore for work didn’t quite complement the rest of her outfit, but she had no other choice than to wear it – she saw she still had ten minutes before her appointment. Well, better to be early, she decided, and picking up the presentation folder, she left the office.
** *** **
Angie Pierce, Admiral Nelson’s administrative assistant and one of Lynn’s best friends, looked up from her typewriter and smiled at Lynn as she entered the reception area of Nelson’s office in the Administration Building. "Early, as usual. Lynn, you are so predictable."
Lynn grimaced. "Perish forbid, Ange. Himself is in, I suppose?"
"And working up a storm, too," Angie told her. "My fingers are ready to fall off. Have a seat – I’ll tell him you’re here."
Lynn sat on the edge of a chair as Angie disappeared into the inner office. Moments later the other woman came back out. "Go on in." She smiled as Lynn passed her. "Don’t look so apprehensive. He’s in a good mood."
"God, I hope so," Lynn said and strode into the inner office, feigning more confidence than she actually felt. She stopped before the oaken desk, clutching her presentation folder in both hands.
Nelson looked up at her, a slight smile quirking the corners of his mouth. "Sit down, Lynn."
Only half-noting Nelson’s use of her first name, Lynn handed Nelson the folder, sitting on the very edge of one of the chairs arrayed before the desk as she waited for him to speak.
Nelson flipped quickly through the folder, then closed it, letting it lie on the desk in front of him. "You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into this proposal, Doctor. If your calculations are correct," he said, tapping the folder with a forefinger, "your experiments can be carried out with a minimum of fuss and with almost no disruption of Seaview’s normal routine." Nelson folded his hands and leaned across the desk towards Lynn. "That is one factor in the attraction of your proposal – Seaview has had entirely too many disruptions to her normal routine lately. A quiet cruise would be almost like a vacation."
Nelson rose and walked around to the front of the desk, half-seating himself on its edge as he handed the folder back to Lynn. "You and your dolphins will be the focus of Seaview’s next cruise. I expect that your three charges will require a great deal of your time. In view of that, I will assign one of Seaview’s officers as your liaison and dive buddy. If you need anything, just ask him. We sail Thursday at eight-hundred hours – that should give you sufficient time to have your dolphins and yourself ready." He looked at her expectantly.
Lynn was shocked out of her daze. "Yes, sir. That’s plenty of time. Sir," she added belatedly.
Nelson hid a smile. "Yes, it is. Requisition anything you need. You’ll have four days on board to acclimate your dolphins to Seaview, and your liaison to your procedures. Well, that’s it, Doctor. See you in two days." He returned to his chair.
"Yes, sir. Thank you, Admiral," Lynn said, and rose to leave.
"I don’t believe it," Lynn exclaimed as she heard the door click shut behind her.
Angie looked puzzled. "What did he say?"
"He went for it! I’m going on Seaview!" Lynn’s green eyes were wide with shock as she leaned against the doorjamb to catch her breath. "I’m really going on Seaview! I don’t believe this...."
"How could you doubt it?" Angie asked, not bothering to hide her amusement at Lynn’s reaction.
"Ange, I went in there expecting him to tell me how dumb my proposal was, and give me eighty-five reasons why it wouldn’t work, and nice as you please, he tells me that Thursday, my dolphins and I are going on Seaview!" She shook her head in disbelief. "I must be dreaming."
Angie grinned at her. "You’re not. The Admiral is very enthused about your idea."
Lynn looked at her in suspicion. "Did you talk to him about this?"
"Well…." Angie shrugged. "He does ask me for my opinion occasionally."
"And was this one of those occasional moments?" Lynn prodded.
"It could have been," Angie allowed.
"And?" Lynn persisted.
Angie looked up at her coyly. Her outwardly efficient appearance hid the soul of an instigator, someone who loved life and her friends – and who wasn’t afraid to show it. Then she smiled in reassurance. "I told him I thought it was a great idea – and it is. If your dolphins can save the life of just one diver, it’s more than worth it."
"Yeah, that’s how I look at it." Lynn slipped the folder under her arm and shoved her hands into her pockets. "Thanks, Ange."
Angie sighed theatrically. "I only use my powers for good."
Lynn snorted. "Yeah, Pierce. You’re Wonder Woman. I gotta go -- there’s tons of stuff to do, and I only have two days to do it."
"And change your clothes?"
"That’s first on my list."
"I guess you’ll be too busy for lunch the next couple of days?"
"Looks like," Lynn said, nodding. "Maybe I’ll share some mackerel with the dolphins."
"Mmmm…sushi. Sounds yummy." Angie came around the desk to hug Lynn. "Good luck," she said warmly.
"Thanks, Ange. I hope I won’t need it," Lynn said, and left.
Behind her, Angie called, "You’re treating all of us to lunch when you get back!"
Lynn laughed in response, then turned left after leaving Nelson’s office, heading for Lucius Emery’s office a little farther down the hall. As she walked, she nodded a greeting to several officers who passed wearing Seaview’s khaki uniform, and wondered which one would be her liaison. Probably one of the more junior officers, she surmised, since anyone over the rank of lieutenant j.g. could have better things to do than play nursemaid to a marine biologist and three bottlenose dolphins.
Lynn ducked into Lucius’s office. Amelia Konn, his longtime secretary, smiled at her. "It went well?" the older woman asked.
"Better than I’d ever dreamed," Lynn said with a grin.
"Good. Go in – Lu is expecting you."
Lynn entered the office, and walked over to the fish tank that filled the long stretch of wall between the windows, where Lucius stood feeding a large red-and-black-mottled Oscar. "Hi, Samson," she greeted the fish, who blew a bubble at her.
"No hello for me?" Lucius grumbled, sprinkling flake fish food across the surface of the water. Samson eagerly sucked each flake into his mouth, then looked for more, his bulbous eyes moving independently of each other as he searched.
"I said hello to you once already this morning," Lynn said in an offhand manner, again struck by the resemblance between fish and owner. Then she looked at Lucius, an embarrassed smile on her face. "I’m going on Seaview."
"Of course you’re going on Seaview. I knew that from the raised clearance you were given last week," Lucius said patiently, as if he were speaking to a small child.
"So if you knew, why didn’t you tell me?" Lynn asked with a frown.
Lucius sat at his desk and gestured her toward a chair. "You only would have worried."
"I’m worrying now," Lynn told him, sitting in the straight-backed chair and crossing her legs under her.
"Don’t," Lucius ordered. "You will acquit yourself – and this department – very well."
"Yeah, well, for that, all I have to do is make the proposal work," Lynn said sullenly.
"You have doubts?" Lucius asked.
"I’m worried about Sammy and Maxie," Lynn admitted. "What will they do when they’re faced with the open sea again?"
"I thought you had faith in your friends," Lucius chided gently.
"I do," Lynn said. "But I’m the one who took their freedom away in the first place."
"I doubt they remember their former life," he pointed out.
"But, Lu, we don’t know what they remember – they’ve only been with me for the past two years. What will they do when they leave Seaview? When they’re free again? Will I lose them?" Lynn worried.
"Do you want to call this off?" Lucius asked.
Lynn shook her head. "No," she said firmly, then shrugged. "This is just my jangled nerves talking."
"When Seaview gets underway you won’t have time to be nervous. Your dolphins will keep you too busy for that. Don’t be afraid to ask for help it you need it."
"The Admiral said I’ll have one of Seaview’s officers as a liaison. Any idea who it might be?" Lynn asked.
"No doubt one of the junior officers." He raised one eyebrow. "You disappoint me. I would have expected more excitement over this."
"Like I said – just nerves." With a final glance at Samson, she headed for the door. "See ya later."
** *** **
Maureen came around the desk as Lynn entered the anteroom of her office "Well?" she demanded, arms akimbo.
Lynn flashed her a smile and gave her a quick thumbs-up. "We leave Thursday, Mo. I’ll need your help for the next two days. Does Dave have anything pressing scheduled for you?"
"Nothing I can’t shove onto the back burner for a while. Lynnie, I knew he’d go for it!" Maureen said jubilantly.
Lynn shook her head in resignation. "Everybody knew he’d go for it, Mo. Everybody except me, that is. If someone had thought to tell me, I could have saved myself a lot of wasted worries. Is Dave in?"
Maureen shook her head. "Dani called. One of their kids is in that play at school, remember?"
"Yeah." Lynn nodded, and filled a mug at the coffeemaker that Maureen thoughtfully kept going. "The March of the Marigolds, or something like that."
"Well, old Dave forgot about it, and now he’s in hot water. He left to try to smooth things out."
"The road to true romance never runs smooth," Lynn said dryly, and opened her office door. She found Bob Shaughnessey seated in her chair drinking a mug of tea. "Would you jump in my grave that fast?" she asked dryly.
"Not on a bet," Shaughnessey replied, but obligingly moved his not-inconsiderable bulk to the chair alongside the desk. "How did it go, my dollink?" he asked.
Lynn dropped into her chair and stretched her legs out underneath the desk, crossing them at the ankles. "Just fine, but I’m glad it’s over."
"Oh, whatsamatter, little Lynnie?" Bob asked in a quavering falsetto. "Did the big old Admiral scare you?"
"He’s my height, he’s my Uncle Frannie’s age, and no, he did not scare me," Lynn shot back grumpily.
"He intimidated you?" Bob persisted, deliberately dunking the tea bag up and down in his mug, which declared, appropriately enough, Bobby with a Capital B.
Lynn shrugged. "He’s an intimidating kind of guy," she admitted.
"Oh, poor baby," he warbled.
Lynn glared at him. "Listen, bucko, I’ve seen you reduced to a stutter and a silly grin when you’ve had to talk to him, so don’t you give me any of this ‘poor baby’ crap."
"Me?" Bob asked indignantly. "Never!"
"Don’t lie, Bobby, your nose’ll grow," Lynn said nastily.
Shaughnessey looked overhead to the model of an F-14 Tomcat that hung suspended from the ceiling over Lynn’s desk by a nearly-invisible nylon line. "I keep waiting for that sucker to drop its bombs on your head."
"Don’t hold your breath. It’s a fighter, not a bomber," Lynn said, taking a sip of the hot coffee.
"Whatever," Bob said genially. "It gives the office a little character, y’know?"
Lynn looked around the office, decorated with posters of Bruce Springsteen, Secretariat, and a needlepoint representation of Naval flight wings, along with a four-foot-long model of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise on the credenza behind the desk. "‘Character’ is putting it mildly. At least my stuff fits in here better than it did at Mystic. Hell, I fit in better than I did at Mystic." She cocked her head and looked at Shaughnessey. You won’t be around to give me a hand on Thursday, will you?"
He shook his head. "Sorry, kiddo. Beth’s coming’ in on an early flight."
Lynn nodded. "Your daughter’s more important. Dave and I will make do."
"You leave Thursday, then?" Bob asked.
"Well, my dollink, my thoughts will be with you, even if I won’t," Bob told her.
"Thanks," Lynn said. "Listen, I have three dolphins to see. It’ll talk to you at lunch, okay?"
Bob rose in an unusually graceful manner for a man of his size. "I can take a hint. Don’t let the door hit me on the way out, right?"
"Something like that," Lynn said in an obliging tone. "I wouldn’t want to have to replace it."
"Funny. I’ll try to leave you some lunch," he called over his shoulder as he left.
"Thanks a bunch," Lynn said to the closed door. She took her jeans and shirt out of the closet and quickly changed in her small bathroom.
A few minutes later, more comfortably dressed, she entered the now-quiet dolphin lab. The three dolphins were happy to see her -- at least, Lynn thought they were. It was hard to tell with the perpetual smiles they wore. She sprinted up the stairs and came out on the top deck. Sammy immediately began tail-walking the length of the tank while Maxie, the lone female, did a backflip. Leo, the smaller of the two males and the most affectionate of all three, contented himself with surfacing at Lynn’s feet, chattering at her as she leaned on the railing that bordered part of the deck.
"Hiya, guys. Come’re, you two," she said, and beckoned to Sammy and Maxie. "We have to talk."
Sammy and Maxie streaked over lo Lynn. Sammy roughly shoved Leo to one side, only to receive a stern rebuke from Lynn. "Sammy, don’t be so fresh." At least the dolphin had the grace to look embarrassed, Lynn reflected, as he slid beneath the surface at her scolding.
Lynn studied the three sleek animals briefly, then sighed. "I wish I was smart enough to understand you," she told them. "You all obviously understand what I say. Anyway, listen up. We’re going on a trip, all four of us. It might be rough on you guys at first, but I promise, I’ll be there to help. And you’ll get to show some very important people that dolphins can do more than marine park tricks or recover dummy torpedoes." Chattering, Leo rose up in the water, and Lynn crouched down to pat his head. "Of course I know you can do it – it’s the rest of the world we have to convince." Maxie playfully sprayed a mouthful of water at Lynn. "Very funny, Maxie," she chided. "Just don’t do that to anybody in uniform, okay? There’s a certain amount of dignity these people are entitled to hang on to."
The three dolphins chattered agreement, and Lynn had to laugh. "Okay, gang, relax. I’ll be back for a swim and one last practice session later. You get to loaf for the next two days but after that, it’s showtime. "Lynn turned and trotted down the stairs. The last thing she heard as she left the lab was the tremendous splash of water caused by a backsplashing dolphin.
** *** **
Early on Tuesday morning, Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton turned his car into the Institute’s main gate. He was eager to get back into harness – sitting around doing nothing had never been his strong point, and the last two weeks had been utter torture. He showed his ID to the guard at the gatehouse, then parked his white 1972 Mustang fastback in the main parking garage under the Administration Building.
Chip found Lee Crane waiting for him in his office. "Have you been waiting long?" he asked with a grin.
"For two weeks. It’s about time you quit goldbricking and got back to work," Lee said with a smile. "How do you feel?"
"Fine," Chip said, hanging his uniform jacket in the closet and depositing his cover on the shelf above the clothes bar. "More than ready to get back to work." He riffled through the papers in his In box. "I suppose you’ve been the one making up the duty schedules for the past two weeks?" he asked as he opened the manila folder containing the paperwork for the next cruise.
"And for the next cruise," Lee said, knowing what was coming next.
"I see we’re leaving on Thursday. Good – I got back just in time." Chip flipped through the watch schedule, then looked quizzically at Lee. "You seen to have forgotten something. I’m only down for the forenoon navigation watch. what happened to my mid-afternoon rounds?"
"You’re on light duty as per Jamie’s orders," Lee said firmly. "Relax and enjoy it for a while."
Chip rolled his eyes. "Look, Lee, I told you – I feel fine. There’s no reason I can’t handle my regular duties," he protested.
"Listen, Chip," Lee began, holding up one hand when Chip started to protest, "you were pretty badly knocked around in that accident. Why do you think Kate flew three thousand miles across the country on ten minutes’ notice to stay with you for two weeks?"
"My baby sister would have flown three thousand miles if you’d called and told her I had a hangnail," Chip said dryly. "And you weren’t supposed to call her, remember?"
"Sorry, pal – but I’m more afraid of Kate than I am of you." Lee waved a hand at him dismissively. "But that’s beside the point. Chip, that accident wasn’t some simple little bump on the head. That hoist knocked you unconscious for a good five minutes, and you only took a glancing blow, at that."
"Don’t remind me," Chip said grumpily as he sat at his desk.
Lee shook his head. "You’re lucky you’re here in one piece. If you had any brains, you’d have taken another week off."
"And I’d have been saddled with Kate for another week. She’s unbearable when she’s pregnant, unbearable when she’s away from the kids, but when you combine the two...." He let his words trail off significantly.
Lee wasn’t fooled. "And you loved every minute of it," he rebutted confidently, knowing well his best friend’s feelings for his opinionated younger sister.
"Yeah, I did," Chip admitted sheepishly. "It was pretty nice having her around, despite the cause. But let’s get back to the matter at hand. I’m healthy enough for my regular duty shift."
Lee shook his head. "Don’t tell me. I didn’t have anything to do with it. Jamie and the Admiral put their heads together. If you want to argue with them...." He let his words trail off significantly.
Chip held up his hand. "No thanks, I know when I’m licked." He tossed the duty schedule back into the In box. "Light duty, huh? Meaning what?"
"In this case, looking after a researcher from the Institute who’ll be along on this cruise," Lee replied.
"What?" Chip asked, incredulous.
"Relax," Lee said. "It’s not as bad as it sounds. From what I’ve heard she’s –"
"She?" Chip interrupted again.
"— competent and sensible," Lee continued, ignoring Chip. "She works with the Institute’s dolphins and she’ll be running some field tests on them while she’s with us."
Chip dropped his head into his hands and raked his hands through his hair. "Could we take this from the top?" he asked tiredly.
Lee recognized surrender when he saw it. "We’re going to have a Doctor Murtagh from the Institute’s Marine Biology Department on board for a few days. She’ll be blue-water testing some of the Institute’s dolphins." Lee smiled. "From what I’ve heard, she’s one of Lu Emery’s shining lights."
"You mean there’s someone on this Earth Lucius Emery actually likes?" Chip asked in amazement. "I didn’t think that was possible."
Lee’s smile widened. "It seems that way. According to the Admiral, Lu has nothing but praise for the entire Cetacean Section, and this Murtagh seems to be chief of the whole section. They’re old friends."
"Oh, no," Chip groaned. "Just what I need. A female version of Lucius."
"I doubt she’s that bad," Lee said calmly. He knew she wasn’t – Nelson had pointed her out earlier in the Commissary, where she was having breakfast with a tall black man, who Nelson had said was one of the other cetacean researchers. She was a little plain for Lee’s taste, dressed in a long-sleeved dark green tee shirt and faded jeans, and she wasn’t the type of woman Chip went for either, but she was far prettier than a female version of Lucius could ever be.
"I don’t want to hear it. I need this assignment about as much as Seaview needs a screen door. This should be a lot of fun – some ‘sensible’ scientist who spends all day locked in a lab and doesn’t have a clue as to how the real world works. She probably doesn’t even know port from starboard. Light duty? This will probably be more work than taking double duty shifts. Thank the Old Man for me when you see him, okay?"
Disgruntled, Chip looked away from Lee and down at his desk, ready to plow through whatever work awaited him.
"You can tell him yourself," Lee said.
"What?" Chip asked irritably. Then he looked up and past Lee to see Nelson bearing down on them, his usual determined expression firmly in place. Closing his eyes briefly, it occurred to him that maybe he should have taken that extra week. At least it would have exempted him from babysitting.
"Chip!" Nelson said heartily, obviously pleased to see the younger man. "Welcome back. Are you ready to go back to work?"
"Yes, sir," Chip replied warily, standing.
"Good. I have something I’d like you to take care of for me this trip. Has Lee said anything to you about it?"
"Just the bare bones, sir," Lee put in quickly, to forestall any protest Chip might have made. "I felt I should leave the details to you."
Nelson nodded. "Well, then, we’ll be having one of the Institute’s civilian researchers along with us for a few days. Her name is Lynn Murtagh, and she has a PhD in marine biology. She specializes in bottlenose dolphins, and has been training three dolphins to aid in rescuing divers in distress. She’s been making quite a lot of progress in the lab, and is ready to test the dolphins in open water."
"Where do I come in, sir?" Chip asked, interested despite himself. The project seemed valuable, since Seaview always seemed to have more than her share of distressed divers.
"I’d like you to be her liaison. Make sure her stay goes smoothly. She’s been cleared for all sections of Seaview except highly restricted areas – and I don’t anticipate any trouble there. She’ll probably spend most of her time with her dolphins. She’s also to have free use of the computer. I’ve already informed her that one of Seaview’s officers will be her liaison."
"I was telling Chip that Lucius is very impressed with Doctor Murtagh," Lee said heartily.
"Extremely," Nelson said. "He hounded me for five years until I finally hired her. I can’t say I’ve been sorry. Her work for us has been exemplary. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you read her report on echolocation before she reports aboard."
"Yes, sir, I will," Chip agreed, then paused to formulate his next statement. "Sir, I find it – unusual – that Lu Emery is impressed by anyone," he said carefully. He liked Lucius and respected him, but the older man had a well-deserved reputation for being crusty and outspoken, especially with those who didn’t share his passion for marine biology.
"There are them that do, and then there are them that don’t," Lee said brightly before Nelson could respond.
"As I recall, you two were among the latter," Nelson said dryly.
"Well…." Chip hedged.
"As I recall, our entire graduating class fit the description, Admiral," Lee put in.
"Obviously, our guest fits into the first category," Nelson said.
"Competent and sensible, huh?" Chip asked. "And all that implies?"
"And a great deal more," Nelson said ambiguously, and turned, walking jauntily toward the door. "See you at lunch."
"This should be interesting," Chip mumbled, and turned to his desk. "Close the door when you leave. I want to be left alone with my misery."
Lee regarded Chip thoughtfully. If the Admiral hadn’t seen fit to give Chip all the particulars, so be it. He wasn’t about to spoil the Admiral’s little joke. He only hoped it didn’t backfire on all of them.
Lee knew Chip had a sense of humor – dry it may have been, and well-hidden most of the tine, but it was there. Lee just hoped this Doctor Murtagh – girl, woman, or whatever – had one to match.
** *** **
After Lee left, Chip cast a jaundiced eye at the folder on his desk. In the distinctive light blue pressboard of the Marine Mammal Department’s Cetacean Section, it was relatively thin – so thin, in fact, he thought it was empty.
He hooked a foot around the base of his high-backed desk chair and pulled it out, then sat back and reached for the folder.
Inside was a short description of the project’s goal – training three bottlenose dolphins (one Tursiops truncatus and two Tursiops truncatus gillii, as the writer described them) to come to the aid of divers in distress. The purpose of this cruise – the initial testing, as it was described, leading Chip to surmise this Doctor Murtagh had more up her sleeve than a one-time visit – was to test their responses to visual and auditory signals, including a distress signal. Pool-based tests had produced positive results so far, and it was time for the next step – open-water testing.
Chip put the narrative aside, and looked at the manifest of the items Doctor Murtagh was bringing aboard. Fish, fish, and more fish headed the list. Three dolphins must eat a lot, he supposed, but the amount of fish she intended to bring on board seemed excessive.
Institute-certified gear noted on the manifest included Doctor Murtagh’s own dive gear, a compact computer, and test equipment for the dolphins, including video and sonar gear. Personally, she seemed to travel light. The personal effects she intended to bring aboard consisted of a duffel bag, backpack, and briefcase. Point one in her favor, he thought. Most of the female scientists they’d hosted seemed to bring enough gear to outfit six women for an entire month. And too many of them had disrupted Seaview’s routine.
Life on a Navy sub is based on the comfort of routines. Every man aboard knew exactly what was expected of him and when. Seaview had her own routines, many of them similar to those in place on Navy subs, but since so many of her cruises were scientific in nature rather than military, often, other considerations took precedence.
It was normal for the massive submarine to host visitors – civilian scientists, politicians, representatives of other nations’ military forces. NIMR’s own scientists were rarely a problem – they’d been through the stringent vetting procedures performed by NIMR’s own Security Department. Because of this, Chip wasn’t anticipating any trouble from Lu Emery’s favorite subordinate.
However, simply being assigned as her liaison was going to disrupt Chip’s long-established routine. He usually spent four hours between 0800 and 1200 supervising the control room duty watch each morning, followed by two hours off, then either made rounds of the boat or held office hours as needed. Unless there was an emergency, his evenings were his to spend as he pleased – he occasionally watched the evening movie in the wardroom, played poker, or took to his cabin to catch up on his reading or listen to music.
This time, however, his rounds would be taken over by Larry Baker, Seaview’s Weapons Officer and a fellow plankowner, while Chip carried out his liaison duties. Baker’s normal duties, including his afternoon watch, would be carried out by one of his division officers. It was good training for them, but disruptive nevertheless.
Well, it couldn’t be avoided – but maybe it could be lessened. Chip pulled out a notepad, and started brainstorming ideas on how to make his presence elsewhere for most of this cruise a bit less disruptive for Larry and his department.
** ** **
The morning of departure, the control room crew reported for duty at 0400. Getting Seaview ready to depart was a well-honed routine by now, but no man took any part of the procedure for granted. Checklists were completed, procedures were run through, and double-checked.
In the nose, Chip plotted the course to the designated test area. Northwest of the Channel Islands, they’d run a triangular course for five days, returning to NIMR late Monday, if all went well.
Lee came into the nose from an inspection of the control room duty stations and looked at Chip. "Oh-five-thirty," he said pleasantly. Our guest should be here in half an hour."
"Aren’t you being a little optimistic?" Chip asked dryly as he initialed a report Lieutenant Bobby O’Brien handed him, then added it to his own clipboard. "It’s more likely she’ll be late."
"Humor me – I’m the captain," Lee said, grinning at Chip’s disgruntled expression.
"Skipper," came over the 1MC.
"Yes, Chief Nolan?" Lee acknowledged.
"Two duallys with dolphins and equipment just pulled up dockside and a bunch of civilians are getting out."
"Thank you, Chief."
Lee turned to Chip and smiled. "You were saying?"
Chip shot him a sour look. "So she’s early." He tossed his pencil to the plot table. "I’d ask you to wish me luck, but you’d probably just jinx me."
"Would I do that to you?" Lee asked innocently.
Chip rolled his eyes and shook his head, then climbed the spiral staircase, heading for Officers’ Country and his cabin.
** *** **
At 0530 hours on Thursday, Lynn jumped down from the cab of the Marine Biology Department’s big dual-axle Chevy pickup as it rolled to a halt at Seaview’s berth. "My God, she’s bigger than I thought! I’ll get lost in her and nobody’ll ever see me again!"
"No such luck, Lynnie," Maureen said, and hurriedly moved out of Lynn’s reach.
"One of these days, Garrity…." Lynn groused.
"Promises, promises," Maureen taunted from a safe distance.
The second pickup arrived and several crewmen in blue and red jumpsuits began unloading the gear from the cargo bed of the first truck. Lynn walked back to separate her personal effects from the research equipment.
Maureen handed the supervising petty officer a copy of the cargo manifest and began to review it with him. "Video equipment, sonar gear, Doctor Murtagh’s scuba gear – that case there is a portable computer, so I’d be a little extra careful with it, if I were you. Have the food supplies for the dolphins been loaded yet?’
"Yesterday, ma’am," the noncom answered.
They initialed and exchanged copies of the manifest, then Maureen walked back to Lynn and Dave. "All set," Maureen said after she placed her clipboard on the seat of the Chevy. "Is all your personal stuff there?"
"Yes, Mother," Lynn said.
Maureen glared at her. "There’s no need to be insulting, you know. Comparing me to Queen Bridget isn’t very nice."
"Payback is a bitch, Mo," Lynn said levelly.
"And you’re a master of it, too."
"The air is the air," Lynn said offhandedly. "What can be done?"
"Don’t quote Star Trek at me, either," Maureen shot back.
Lynn smiled. For all her facetious outward appearance, Maureen Garrity was the soul of efficiency. It seemed to be a trait in the Garrity women. Lynn’s brother’s wife Eileen, Maureen’s older sister, was the most organized person Lynn had ever seen – of course, with six children under the age of thirteen, organization seemed to be necessary for mere day-to-day survival. But as much as Lynn valued her professional ability, Maureen did tend to get on her nerves at times. Being able to give Maureen some of her own medicine was always highly satisfying, as infrequent as it was.
"Believe it or not, I managed to get everything from my house to here just fine. I’m all set."
"Are you sure?" Maureen persisted. "They won’t turn around if you’ve forgotten your toothbrush, you know."
Dave suppressed a laugh; Lynn sighed dramatically and waved expansively at the heavy-gauge navy blue nylon duffle on the dock near their feet. "Be my guest, Mo." She turned away to catch the project gear being loaded. One load swung dangerously close to the coaming of the cargo hatch aft of Seaview’s sail.
"Hey! Careful with that! That’s sonar gear!" Lynn yelled across to the red-headed rating in a red jumpsuit manning the hatch. The lanky sailor grinned and tossed off a casual two-fingered salute, but he seemed to be more respectful in handling the crate after that.
Lynn cringed and turned to Dave. "What have I gotten myself into?"
"Exactly what you’ve wanted for the past two years, Doctor," Dave reminded her in a mock-stern tone.
"Yeah. I know. Just ignore me." Lynn looked back to the larger of the two pickups, casting an anxious eye over her three silver-grey charges. "I wish I could ride down in the slings with them," she muttered. "They can’t be very happy with all of this."
"You can’t be in eighteen places at once," Dave reminded her gently. "The research assistants can handle that. They seemed calm enough when you got them into the slings."
"Nearly making yourself late in the process, too," Maureen chimed in. "What on earth will you do on Seaview without us around to ride herd on you?"
The image of Maureen riding herd on her set Lynn’s usually-dormant temper off. "Survive, I hope!" she snapped, and strode over to the second pickup as the cargo winch swung over for the first of the three dolphins.
"Which one first, Doctor Murtagh?" asked Nick Costelloe, one of the research assistants.
"Maxie," Lynn answered, her composure regained. "Best to get her settled first. You go with her, Nick, then you go with Sammy, Pete. Susan, you and Leo will go last." She reached in to caress Maxie as the winch took up the slack on the female’s canvas sling. "See ya later, baby girl."
Maxie gave a single high-pitched squeal as the winch hauled her out of the pickup, then continued to whistle complaints as she rose into the air. Lynn winced at the sound and fixed Dave with a baleful glance. "Yeah, I know. She’s fine and I shouldn’t worry. But unfortunately, saying it doesn’t make it so." She turned away from Dave and fixed her eyes on the sling dangling above them.
** *** **
Chip detoured to his cabin for his cover, then made his way to the sail access hatch. As he exited the sail hatch at precisely 0535 hours, he saw one dolphin in the air already, making an unholy racket at it was lowered to the tank compartment’s access hatch. "Good start," he mumbled to himself. "A nice, quiet cruise – just what the doctor ordered after a concussion."
He spotted the three civilians standing on the dock watching the dolphin being lowered through the cargo hatch. Unfortunately, none of them looked the way he expected their honored guest to look – one was male, which automatically eliminated him, and the other two were young women, neither of whom looked like she’d be one of Lucius Emery’s old friends He looked at his watch – there was still time for her to arrive before Seaview was due to sail. And if she was late – well, it wouldn’t be the first time they’d been held up by a civilian, and he doubted it would be the last.
He decided to walk dockside and find out where she was. Pushing his cover farther back on his head, he started up the brow to the concrete wharf. The civilians stood with their backs to him, watching another dolphin being raised by the cargo winch. "Excuse me," he said. "Can you tell me where I can find Doctor Murtagh?"
Lynn spun around quickly, startled from her worried observation of Maxie’s ascent by the sound of his voice. Raising an eyebrow, she took a moment to give him a quick once-over before introducing herself. Lynn wasn’t short, but she still had to look up to meet long-lashed and intelligent bright blue eyes which looked back at her from under a shock of wheat-blond hair exposed by a khaki cover that sat entirely too far back on his head to satisfy any uniform regulations she’d ever heard of.
That lean, athletic build with those long legs would have suited him better if he’d been on a ranch somewhere chasing cattle on a Quarter Horse, Lynn thought, rather than serving on a submarine – or, better yet, riding Grand Prix jumpers on the A-show circuit. His uniform trousers had creases so sharp they could cut you, and his well-tailored khaki shirt didn’t have one single wrinkle. It wouldn’t dare, she said to herself.
Then she noticed that his left collar point proudly bore the gold oak leaf of a lieutenant commander, and her eyes widened. Lieutenant commander? He’s way up in the food chain! What did I do to rate somebody with that high a rank as a babysitter? she asked herself. Or what did he do to deserve me and my guys?
Lynn belatedly realized that while she’d been indulging herself, everyone from the Cetacean Section had been looking at her, waiting for her to say something. She took a quick breath and extended her hand. "I’m Doctor Murtagh."
Chip took her hand, grasping it firmly, looking her over as he did so. This was definitely no female version of Lucius! And she certainly wasn’t the dowdy frump he’d been expecting. Her hair was cut to jaw-length, parted on the left, the loose waves of an indeterminate shade somewhere between red and blond, with lighter streaks of pale gold running through the strands. She wore a pair of well-broken-in jeans which fit well – okay, very well, he conceded – and a long-sleeved navy-blue tee shirt with the sleeves pushed up halfway to her elbows. Her complexion was neither pale nor florid, as he would have expected of someone with her shade – or shades – of hair, but was tanned to a deep honey tone, probably by the same sun that had put those light streaks in her hair. A few freckles peppered the bridge of her nose, just below clear, straightforward green eyes. And those green eyes had been looking at him very curiously.
Chip cleared his throat. "Doctor, I’m Commander Morton, Seaview’s Executive Officer. I’ll be your liaison while you’re on board. If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your quarters and give you a quick run-down of what to expect."
Lynn raised one eyebrow. So this was the legend. Hell, he certainly didn’t look anything like a legend. In fact, he looked like a perfectly normal, perfectly ordinary, perfectly pleasant person, instead of the Don Juan that the Institute gossip made him out to be – a honey-tongued rogue with the Devil’s own charm. He seemed capable and responsible and all that implied, but not overconfident. He certainly didn’t appear to be very full of himself – in fact, he was looking at her a tad uncertainly, and Lynn had a funny feeling that Lucius – or whoever – hadn’t filled him in completely.
And then his eyes changed, as if he realized he’d been the butt of a joke, one that seemed to strike him as funny, and he smiled. His smile was warm, open, and effortless, and Lynn couldn’t help smiling back. She suddenly remembered him – he’d been the one who’d shown her to Lu’s office on the day of her job interview nearly three years earlier.
She was impressed by the firm way he had returned her handshake – Lynn had never trusted men who shook hands with a woman as if they were afraid they night maim her for life if they applied any pressure at all. It seemed like a good beginning.
She bent to pick up her luggage and Chip moved to help her. "This is it? you don’t have any other luggage?" he asked as he picked up a dark blue nylon backpack.
Lynn shook her head. "Just my duffle, tote and briefcase," she replied, slinging the web strap of her canvas briefcase over her shoulder. She turned back to Maureen and dug a set of keys out of her jeans pocket. "Here are the spare keys to my Jeep, Mo. She’s in the Administration garage. Turn the engine over every other day, okay?"
"No problem," Maureen agreed, then leaned over to whisper in Lynn’s ear. "Not too shabby, Lynnie ol’ girl. You could have done a lot worse."
Lynn glowered at her secretary. "I don’t have time for that now, Maureen."
"Too bad. If I were going, I’d make the time," Maureen said smugly.
"Then it’s a good thing you’re not going!" Lynn hissed, turning her back on Maureen, who laughed softly. Lynn turned back, spearing Maureen with a glance calculated to wither any further remark Maureen night have been tempted to make.
It didn’t work. Maureen grinned unabashedly. "Sorry, Lynnie, I forgot. You’re all business."
"You might try it one of these days, Mo," Lynn advised.
"Are you kidding?" Maureen asked in mock horror. "That’s no fun!"
Despite herself, Lynn had to smile ruefully at her. "I suppose not. I’ll see you in a couple of days." She turned back to Chip, who was doing his best to look as if he hadn’t heard a word that had passed between her and Maureen. "I’m sorry for the delay, Commander. Shall we?"
Chip nodded. "Certainly. If you’ll follow me, Doctor?"
With a parting look at Sammy, now beginning his own journey, Lynn followed him down the brow gangplank and into the sail.
Chip stopped at the hatch, looked below, then looked at Lynn. He hefted her duffle, checking its weight. "Is there anything breakable in here?"
"Uh...no...." Lynn said, shaking her head, a puzzled frown on her face. "It’s just clothes."
"Good," Chip said, then called down the hatch, "Heads up!" He let the duffle fall to the deck below, where it landed with a muffled thump.
Lynn stopped him as he reached for her tote and briefcase, shaking her finger at him. "Ah-ah-ah. These we carry," she said, a merry light in her eyes as she handed him her briefcase and shrugged her backpack on. "They’re afraid of heights."
"Whatever you say, Doctor," Chip replied with as straight a face as he could manage. "I’ll go down first. Be careful, the rungs night be a little slippery."
"And you don’t want me to fall on top of you, right?"
"That would be my goal," he said with a quick grin.
"Then I’ll do my best not to," Lynn said, her grin mirroring his.
"Thank you," Chip said solemnly, and descended the ladder.
Chip watched as she came down the ladder behind him. There was nothing slow about her descent, and she skipped the last rung, ignoring his outstretched hand as she jumped to the deck. He couldn’t resist smiling at the unselfconscious expression of awed delight on her face.
"Wow!" Lynn breathed. "Oh, man! This is incredible!" Then she ducked her head ruefully as she realized the men at the duty stations in the control room were exchanging grins at her reaction. "I must sound pretty silly," she said.
"We’re used to it." Chip shook his head. "Don’t worry about it – Seaview affects almost everyone that way the first time they see her," he assured her.
"Almost everyone? You’d have to be dead not to be impressed by this!" Lynn asserted, looking around wide-eyed at the various duty stations.
"You’ve never been on a submarine, I take it?’ Chip asked, amused by her reaction.
Lynn shook her head. "I’ve been in plenty of submersibles, but there’s a world of difference between them and this lady. Oh, wow."
"That there is, Doctor," Chip replied, looking past her to see Lee Crane approaching then, a knowing smile on his face. Obviously Doctor Murtagh’s remarks had carried forward, and hadn’t been wasted on him.
"You seem impressed with our lady," Lee said, wearing his very best smile.
"Doctor Murtagh, this is Captain Lee Crane, Seaview’s skipper," Chip said.
"Welcome aboard, Doctor," Lee said, offering his hand.
Lynn smiled and nodded, taking the proffered hand. "Thank you, Captain. She’s really beautiful. You have a lot to be proud of here."
Lee beamed at her. "Thank you. We’re partial to her. By the way, the detail called – the last of your dolphins has just been loaded."
"Oh, good. I’d better get back to them and see how they’re settling in."
"According to the detail in the tank room, they’ve been raising quite a ruckus. We didn’t know dolphins could make that much noise," Lee finished.
Lynn flinched. The dolphins had every right to be upset, but they didn’t need to get off on the wrong foot. "I’m sorry. I was afraid of that. I’d better get back to them right away, or they’ll bring the house down."
"I’ll see you when I make my rounds later," Lee told her.
"And I’ll introduce you to my dolphins," Lynn offered.
"Fine," Lee said, gave her a smile, winked at Chip, then returned to his work.
Chip frowned at him, then shook it off and turned to Doctor Murtagh. "If you’re ready, I’ll show you to your cabin."
Lynn nodded and followed him through the control room to the spiral stairs. Her pace slowed as she got her first view from the immense windows in the nose, then she realized he was waiting for her, and hurried to catch up. "Sorry. I can’t help it."
"Wait until you see what it looks like when we’re submerged," Chip told her.
"I’ll be able to do that?" Lynn asked quickly.
"I don’t see why not," Chip replied, stopping in front of a cabin door. He opened it, then gestured for her to precede him inside. Lynn did, placing her backpack alongside the door. Chip placed her duffle and briefcase alongside the blue nylon backpack, than handed her a silver key on a key ring with the NIMR logo. "Would you like to get settled now? I can come back in a little while to take you to the tank compartment, if you’d like," he offered.
Lynn shook her head quickly. "No thanks, that can wait. I’d like to check on the dolphins before I do anything else. They must be disoriented by the strange surroundings, and they’ll be even more upset if they don’t see me pretty soon. They’re probably screaming bloody blue murder, and I don’t want Captain Crane throwing us off the sub before we’ve even started our tests."
Chip nodded. "No problem. I’ll take you to the tank compartment now."
As Chip led Lynn aft to the large compartment amidships that housed the huge salt-water tanks that were the dolphins’ temporary home, he observed her taking note of the hatches and passageways on their way, the expression on her face becoming more confused with every passing moment. "It’s easy to get lost if you don’t know where you’re going," he said.
"You’re tellin’ me," she replied. "I have a pretty good sense of direction, but I doubt it would do me much good down here."
"If you had enough time, you’d get used to it. The layout is actually pretty logical," Chip said, undogging a hatch. "Here we are."
Lynn slipped through the hatch and headed directly for the large tank that held the dolphins. She knelt at the edge, and the three dolphins swam over to her, one rising out of the water to chatter loudly and at length to her.
To Chip, it looked as if the sleek grey animal was scolding Doctor Murtagh. And, to his surprise, she responded as if she were, indeed, being scolded. He moved closer to listen, irrationally feeling as if he were eavesdropping. As he edged closer to the side of the tank, one of the dolphins swam over to him and began to make small chattering noises. He looked down at the dolphin, who nodded its head at him. Intrigued, he moved closer.
"Come on, Sammy, it couldn’t have been that bad." Lynn reached down to pet the dolphin, but he squawked once, then turned away, swimming to the far end of the tank, where he drifted, motionless, his regular breathing the only sound he made.
Lynn put her hands on her hips and looked at him. "Okay – so sulk. See if I care," she told him, then looked down at the other dolphins. "What about you two? Any complaints?"
The smaller dolphin chattered softly and rose up in the water, Lynn knelt at the edge of the tank, reaching down to gently stroke him alongside his blowhole. "Didn’t think you would, Leo-baby. How ’bout you, Maxie-girl?"
Hearing no response, Lynn looked in Maxie’s direction. The sleek female and Commander Morton were solemnly regarding each other. Lynn had to smile at the intent expression on the tall man’s face, until she realized that Maxie was clapping her beak, splashing water to either side of her. Then Lynn looked up again, to see that Commander Morton still hadn’t removed his cover. Oh hell, here comes trouble, she said to herself.
"Commander, I’d take that cover off, if I were you," she said quickly.
"Excuse me?" He sounded puzzled, but, continuing to stare at Maxie, he didn’t remove his cover.
"Your cover – take it off," Lynn prompted, then looked back to Maxie. The dolphin had progressed to shooting small jets of water toward the side of the tank. "Maxie," Lynn said sternly, but the dolphin ignored her, and the jets increased in size and strength.
Ignoring Chip’s puzzled frown, Lynn leaned forward and slapped the surface of the rater. "Maxie!" she yelled angrily.
That attracted the dolphin’s attention. The female turned to Lynn, who stood and made a sweeping gesture towards the far side of the tank. The dolphin turned swiftly, defiantly crashing her flukes against the surface as she dove. Both Lynn and Chip jumped back to escape the splash.
"I’m sorry," Lynn apologized. "She’s got a bit of a devil in her. And she hates hats. You could have taken a good soaking if she hadn’t decided to listen."
"Does she always decide to listen?" Chip asked, pulling his cover off to prevent another episode, and holding it behind his back for good measure.
Lynn shrugged. "Most of the time. She can tell when I mean business. Sammy gives me the hardest time – he’s so busy trying to be the alpha male, he feels he has to assert his authority. He’s the one sulking in the corner. I never have any problems with Leo. He’s the baby of the three, and he was born in captivity, so he’s used to humans. I have the feeling that sometimes he thinks I’m his mother."
"He thinks you’re his mother?" Chip asked, not sure if he’d heard right.
"Yeah, I think so," she agreed with a crooked grin.
"Oh," Chip said, nonplussed.
"That’s not what you expected me to say, is it?"
"No," Chip admitted. "It seems...a little less than scientific."
"It is," Lynn agreed. "It’s all intuition. But scientists use intuition all the time. The trick is getting any of us to admit to it." She smiled again, revealing even white teeth behind that crooked grin, then looked back down to the dolphins in the tank.
Chip regarded her with an appraising eye. She looked petite, but standing next to her, he realized she was taller than she looked. She wasn’t a classic beauty, more the wholesome, outdoorsy type, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t attractive – far from it. Her eyes drew his attention. There was pride in them as she looked at the dolphins; pride, and something beyond that, Something indefinable. No, he reflected, it wasn’t indefinable. It was love. She loved those three animals, and she didn’t care who knew it. He sensed that they were more than just a research project to her, more than just an experiment, and definitely more than just a means to an end.
And that alone made her different than any of the visiting scientists he’d met before, and certainly the complete opposite of what he’d expected. She didn’t have any of the bright packaging that so many other women had – in fact, she was dressed quite unimpressively. But he’d guess that she wasn’t in the least interested in impressing anyone. She fairly shouted ‘take me as I am’. To him, that was new and refreshing. Suddenly, liaison duty didn’t seem so bad.
Lynn turned back to Commander Morton to find him watching her with a neutral, assessing expression on his face. He was sizing her up, she realized. Well, that wasn’t unusual, and it didn’t bother her. Most men – and more than a few women – looked at her in the same way. It was a side-effect of her profession, and she’d grown used to it.
"I don’t see how you tell them apart," Chip said, in a sudden ploy to keep her talking, "They all look the same to me."
Lynn cocked her head to one side to look up at him. "Once you get to know them, it’s easy."
"And before you get to know them?"
"I’ll admit, in the beginning, it wasn’t so easy. Sammy and Maxie were the same color and size when I captured them, and for a couple of weeks, I kept checking out their bellies to tell them apart."
"Excuse me?" he asked in puzzlement.
She had the good grace to look abashed. "Sorry. I had to check to see who was the male and who was the female before I could tell them apart. You know, kinda the way you check out a strange dog to see whether you should say ‘hi, boy,’ or ‘hi, girl’? Dolphins have internal reproductive organs, but-- ."
"I get the picture," Chip said dryly. "And then what happened?"
"Well, I finally figured out who was who by observing them for quite a while. Both Sammy and Maxie are larger than Leo, which is due to their age, and their subspecies – they’re the Pacific subspecies, and they tend to be larger than Atlantic bottlenose – that’s Leo. Right now Sammy is larger than Maxie, but not by that much – she’s pretty big for a female. I use their color to tell them apart. Sammy is darker along his flanks, and light along the dorsal, with a pretty definite demarcation. But Maxie is dark along her dorsal and gradually lightens toward her ventral surface, with a more subtle shading. But besides the difference in color, each one has a distinct personality." She whistled, waving the dolphins over. Sammy and Maxie joined Leo, who’d been hovering near Lynn’s feet. "I hope you two are over your sulks now," she chided.
"You talk to them as if they’re human."
"That’s what gets me results – and they seem to understand. They have a very large brain with deep convolutions. Those are thought to signify the capability to deal with rational thought – or they are in humans, at least. The dolphin brain actually has a greater number of convolutions than the human brain, not to mention being thirty percent larger. And anyway, they talk to me like I’m a dolphin, so I reciprocate. But like people, they each have their own distinct likes and dislikes. I’ve met mules who are less stubborn than Sammy." The dolphin nodded in agreement.
"Maxie, as you’ve already seen, has a sense of humor. It’s bizarre, but it is a sense of humor. Right, girl?" In response, the female made a noise that could only be described as a Bronx cheer. "See what I mean? She’s fresh as paint, too."
Lynn signaled to Leo, and the youngest of the dolphins eased between Sammy and Maxie, rising slightly out of the water. "Leo is the most affectionate of the three. I’m not sure yet if it’s due to his age, or if it’s an intrinsic part of his nature. He’s also quicker to learn than the other two. Aren’t you, Leo baby? Like I said before, he was born in captivity and has spent his entire life around humans, so that may be why."
"The other two were wild once?"
"Yup," Lynn answered, shoving her hands into the hip pockets of her Levi’s. "I caught them a little over two years ago. I’m not one-hundred-percent sure of their ages, but I think they’re about ten or so. They both seem to be mature, and I’m hoping they’ll breed at some point down the line." She gestured at a pile of boxes to one side of the compartment. "And they’re all Oreo junkies."
Chip stared at the case of Oreos. "I wondered who the Oreos were for when I checked your supplies in yesterday. I thought some of Cookie’s supplies went astray."
"Nope. Dolphin goodies. It’s not exactly health food, so I use it sparingly, but it’s the best incentive I’ve found yet – even better than herring."
"I can’t imagine why," Chip said dryly.
"They love them, but I only use them when they’ve been especially cooperative. I don’t think little Maxie will be getting any today." She turned from him to kneel before the dolphins. "No, you won’t, and you know it, too. Don’t you, my girl. Yeah." Then she patted the ramp that extended into the tank beside them.
Chip looked on in astonishment the dolphin propelled itself out of the water. It just lay beside Doctor Murtagh, its regular breathing the only sound except for the low croons of reassurance made by the young woman on the deck. He listened to her talk to the dolphin. She had a low, soothing voice that could talk a dolphin out of the water, a voice that would easily be able to calm a frightened child – or a grown man, for that matter.
She gestured to the dolphin to return to the water, and when it had done so, she straightened and looked him straight in the eye as if challenging him to comment. She appeared unashamed for him to have witnessed her interlude with the dolphin, and he felt a new respect for her. She seemed to be extremely at ease in a situation that had to be highly unfamiliar to her. "You really enjoy your work, don’t you?" he asked with sudden insight.
Lynn looked up at him in surprise. "Every minute of it," she affirmed. "Dolphins are so rewarding to work with. They try so hard to please – most of the time, anyway – and they know when they’ve done what I want. They’re extremely intelligent, and they deserve respect – which is something cetaceans as a whole haven’t received from our species, I’m afraid. I respect them, they respect me – again, most of the time – and we get along well. Sometimes, Sammy and Maxie try to see how far they can push me, but that just proves their intelligence."
Lynn saw him look quickly at his watch. "I’m keeping you from something, aren’t I?" she asked.
Chip nodded. "I’m due in the control room – we’re about to sail. Is there anything you need before I go?"
Lynn looked around, taking a quick inventory of the cases stacked to one side of the tank. "No, I think I’m set. And I can probably find my way back to my cabin. At least, I think I can." She gave him a quick little smile.
Chip smiled back. "I’ll be back to check on you later."
"Thank you – I’ll be right here."
Lynn watched him go, then sat cross-legged on the deck at the edge of the tank. "Well, guys, so far, so good," she said to the dolphins, who chattered in agreement.
** *** **
The control room was alive with activity when Chip returned shortly after 0630. Several crewmen, busy with pre-sailing duties, paused to nod a greeting as he passed.
Chip joined Crane at the plot table. "You knew, didn’t you?" he asked quietly.
"Knew what?" Lee asked, hazel eyes sparkling.
"You knew," Chip shot back. "But that’s okay – I’ll pay you back," he said, busying himself with his duties.
"You were enjoying your self-pity so much, I didn’t have the heart to spoil it for you," Lee said solicitously.
"Your concern is so touching," Chip said dryly and reached for a protractor.
Lee grinned and decided to change the subject. "Did the dolphins quiet down when Doctor Murtagh arrived?"
Chip shrugged. "After they read her the riot act." He broke off to beckon to Chief Sharkey. "Chief, make sure no one goes into the tank compartment wearing a cover. One of the dolphins likes to use them for target practice."
Sharkey hid well any surprise he might have felt. "Aye, sir," he acknowledged, and moved off to implement the order.
"The dolphins ‘read her the riot act’?" Lee frowned at Chip. "Maybe you should have taken that extra sick leave."
Chip glared at him. "That was her interpretation, not mine."
"It’s good to know the accident didn’t alter your personality," Lee said, absolutely straight-faced.
Chip continued to glare at him, then broke into a reluctant grin. "Enjoy yourself while you can, Captain, because one of these days...." He left the threat hanging.
"Promises, promises. All I get are promises," Lee said, and moved away.
Chip watched him move on down the line of duty stations, exchanging a word with each man, before he turned back to his own duties.
** *** **
Lynn spent the morning studying the dolphins, talking constantly to reassure them, and observing them as they explored their new surroundings. As she’d expected, Leo was calm, accepting, Maxie was nosy, slightly anxious, and Sammy was demanding, full of questions. She soothed the dolphins the best she could, while making rapid notes on their behavior. That was just as important an aspect of her project as the actual testing. Continuing study was imperative if humankind was ever to understand the dolphin.
She was interrupted by a gruff "Harrumph" somewhere over her head. Startled, she looked up quickly.
Lynn took in the insignia of the stocky man standing above her – three chevrons topped by a rocker, a pair of crossed anchors centered inside, all surmounted by a spread-winged eagle – a chief boatswain’s mate. Something about his stance told her he was the top dog here – Chief of the Boat, and as such, the third most important man on the sub, after Seaview’s captain and XO.
Lynn had listened to her uncles extol the virtues of noncoms over and over again – according to Joe Cullen, Charlie Wagner, and Peter Goddard, they were the heart and soul of the Armed Forces. Without them, nothing would ever be accomplished, and the Navy would become mired in its own bureaucracy. The chiefs made the difference between a finely-tuned warship and a useless rustbucket.
Lynn blew her bangs out of her eyes and offered him a tentative smile. "Hi, Chief," she said, standing. She was about as tall as he was, she realized, noticing the faintly disapproving frown he sent in her direction. If he was surprised that she recognized his rank, he hid it well.
"I’m Chief Sharkey, ma’am," the noncom replied brusquely.
"Doc is fine," Lynn said hastily, hoping to ward off any other form of address. She hated the word ‘ma’am’ with a passion, even more when the word was applied to her.
Sharkey looked around the compartment. "We can haul a desk in here, ’steada you havin’ to sit on the deck," he offered.
Lynn shook her head. "Thanks, Chief, but that’s okay. The deck’s fine, and I’m closer to the guys that way."
In the tank behind them, Maxie reared up and chattered. Sharkey turned and looked at the dolphin suspiciously. "If you say so, ma’am."
Lynn smiled tightly. "Yeah, I’m fine." Then a stray thought struck her. "Uh, Chief? Could you warn your guys not to wear covers in here? Maxie is -- "
Sharkey held up one hand. "Mister Morton gave me the lowdown already. There won’t be any trouble."
And you’ll see to that, Lynn said silently. "Gotcha, Chief." She had a bit of trouble hiding her smile, but managed somehow. "Thank you."
Sharkey turned to leave. Halfway to the hatch, he turned back to Lynn. "You need anything, ma’am, you just ask."
"I’ll do that, Chief, Thanks again," Lynn called after his departing form. Then she settled back onto the deck to resume her note-taking.
** *** **
His watch over, Chip strode down the passage to the tank compartment. At an intersecting corridor, he ran into Sharkey. "Chief," he acknowledged, nodding.
"Uh, Mister Morton…." Sharkey ventured hesitantly.
Chip stopped, alerted by something in the Chief’s tone. His thoughts raced ahead to the dolphins in the tank compartment. Had Maxie done a number on Sharkey? He seemed to be dry, yet.... "Yes, Chief?" he asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.
"I just checked on our guest," Sharkey said, then stopped.
"Nothing important, sir. Just...." He let his voice trail off uncertainly.
"Spit it out, Chief," Chip ordered impatiently.
"Well…you know how I feel about women on the boat, sir," Sharkey blurted. "And her age, well, she should be home with a husband and kids."
Chip relaxed. He should have expected an attitude like this from the traditionalist Sharkey. "Chief, you might want to keep that to yourself in her hearing," he replied, his features carefully bland.
"I was just wondering, sir," Sharkey explained hastily. "You know...."
"Well, Chief…. You could always ask her," Chip suggested.
"Uh, I’ll pass on that, Mister Morton," Sharkey replied. "If you’ll excuse me, sir, I’ll just get on about my business."
"Carry on, Chief."
"Aye, sir," Sharkey replied, spun on his heel, and left the way Chip had come.
Chip grinned, watched Sharkey leave, and resumed his progress to the tank compartment. Hearing a soft lilting noise as he stepped through the open hatchway, he stopped momentarily to listen. Standing there quietly, holding his breath, he could hear it perfectly. Doctor Murtagh was sitting cross-legged on the deck, singing. Singing to three dolphins, who gazed at her in rapt attention.
"Well he never traveled heavy, and he always rode alone
And he soon put many other guns to shame
And he never had a sweetheart, and he never had a home
But the cowboy and the rancher knew his name."
Surprised, Chip let himself indulge in a stare. This was a dignified, stodgy researcher? Sitting cross-legged on the deck like that, she looked like she should have been in a playroom, playing with dolls, her hair up in pigtails.
She must have realized he was standing there, for she stopped singing, looked up, closed her notebook and gave him a quirky little smile as she pushed a pair of oversized metal-rim aviator glasses up on her head. Then she unfolded herself from the deck, ruining the childlike image.
Chip took that as his cue to leave the hatchway and he walked to join her.
She automatically moved back a pace as she looked up at him. "Hi, there."
"You don’t like to stand too close to people, do you?" Chip asked.
"Not if I want to see them comfortably," Lynn replied. Noting Chip’s confusion, she continued, "I’m farsighted. There’s less strain on my eyes if I stand at a comfortable distance when I talk to a person."
"Don’t your glasses help?" Chip asked, indicating the glasses perched on top of her head.
Lynn shook her head. "Only when I read. I’m not supposed to use them for looking at people."
"Uh-huh," Chip said dubiously, and decided to change the subject. "You have a very nice voice."
"Thank you. The dolphins seem to like it."
"Do you often sing to them?"
"All the time. There’s nothing like having a captive audience," Lynn told him, grinning. "They couldn’t leave, even if they wanted to."
"No, I suppose not," Chip said, looking down at the dolphins. While they occasionally spared him a glance, their attention remained firmly directed toward Doctor Murtagh.
She shrugged. "They seem to enjoy it. It calms them when they’re edgy or nervous, too."
"I hate to admit this, but I’ve forgotten their names," Chip said sheepishly.
Leo, Sammy and Maxie," Lynn said, pointing to each in turn.
"Would you mind if I just called them the Three Stooges?" Too late, he realized that what he’d said might be misconstrued as an insult. He hoped his comment wouldn’t offend her. "I apologize. That was uncalled for."
Instead, she laughed. "Don’t worry about it. I don’t mind at all. Sometimes they act that way – this morning sure proved that."
He shook his head in amusement, relieved that she hadn’t taken offense. "Have they settled in yet?" he asked, looking around.
"Oh, yeah," Lynn nodded. "They’re three happy little campers. There’s been a steady stream of officers and crew through here all morning long."
"I can put a stop to that right now," Chip replied firmly.
"Oh, no, please don’t," Lynn said quickly. "It doesn’t bother me, and the dolphins love the attention. They’re very social animals, and they like having people around. It’s good for them, too."
Chip looked at her dubiously, but shrugged. "If you say so – you’re the expert. But if anyone becomes too much of a nuisance, just let me know."
"I will," Lynn promised.
They both looked in the direction of the forward hatch as it opened, admitting two blue-jumpsuited enlisted men. "Hi, Doctor M," a tall blond with short-cropped hair said, his eyes widening as Chip’s presence registered. "Mister Morton, sir, we were just--" he stammered. The other didn’t even open his mouth, just looked at Chip nervously.
Chip shook his head and waved the sailor’s explanations into silence. "It’s all right, Weening. Doctor Murtagh assures me the dolphins enjoy the attention. Carry on."
"Yes, sir," both chorused, then left the way they had come.
"Doctor M?" he questioned, with a raised eyebrow.
"It’s less of a mouthful than Murtagh," Lynn explained. "You did a good job of crampin’ their style," she said, laughing.
"It goes along with the job," Chip replied with a smile. "It’s time for lunch. Are you hungry?"
"I’m a little too excited to be hungry, but I’ll keep you company while you eat," Lynn offered.
I’d like that," Chip said, and they left the tank compartment.
They walked to the wardroom, chatting companionably. "I don’t think I made a very good impression on your Chief Sharkey," Lynn said as they entered the wardroom. "I don’t think he likes me all that much."
Chip shook his head. "Don’t take it personally. He doesn’t think women belong on Seaview."
"No?" Lynn asked, raising an eyebrow as if in challenge. "Does he realize we have the vote now?"
Chip made a mental note of her reaction, and continued. "He says they need ‘special attention, special quarters, special details’."
"And I seem to qualify on all counts, don’t I?" Lynn asked wryly.
Chip gave her a reassuring smile. "For what it’s worth, so do a number of our male researchers."
"I’ll try to stay out of his way."
"I’d appreciate that," Chip said, guiding her to a table. "He’s a good petty officer."
"Just a little crusty, huh?"
"More than a little," Chip told her. "But the best ones usually are."
"My uncle says they’re the heart and soul of the service. He says the Navy could lose all its admirals and every jarhead with stars and it would still do just fine, but let the noncoms go and that would be the end. He oughta know, I guess -- " She broke off as a steward came to the table.
"Are you sure you’re not hungry?" Chip asked.
Lynn looked at the photocopied menu. "Breakfast was really early," she admitted. "It all looks good – I’ll just have what you’re having."
"Two steak platters with sides, Morgan."
"Aye, sir." The steward said. "What can I get you to drink?"
"Just coffee," Chip said, then looked at Lynn.
"Coffee sounds good – can I get a large glass of milk, too? With ice?"
"One icy cow, coming up," Morgan said, and retraced his steps to the galley.
Chip turned to Lynn as the steward left. "I take it your uncle is a petty officer in the Navy?"
Lynn shook her head. "Actually, no...that one was a sergeant in the Marine Corps in World War Two. He enlisted right after Pearl Harbor, and didn’t see my mother or my grandfather until September of 1945."
"He saw a lot of action, I take it?"
"Yup – he was in the First Marine Division, and he came home with a boatload of medals. None of them was a Purple Heart, thankfully, which was a huge relief to Mom and Granda." Lynn didn’t mention that one of the boatload was a Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded for valor in action he’d seen on Pelelieu in 1944 – it would only come off as bragging. She was ridiculously proud of her Uncle Joe, but he downplayed his Medal of Honor, and the rest of the family followed his lead.
Any comment Chip might have made was forestalled by the return of the steward, bearing their lunches.
As the man left, Lynn looked down at her plate in amazement. "This is lunch? Are you serious? I’ll never eat all this!"
Chip frowned at her. "Doctor, there isn’t enough on your plate to keep a bird alive."
Lynn sent him a matching frown. "That, Commander, depends on what species of bird you’re talking about."
Chip cast a quick glance at her plate. Rib eye steak, mashed potatoes, and broccoli in cheese sauce. It didn’t seem like too much to him. Then again, she was a slender little thing – not skinny, but she could use a little more meat on her bones. Judging from her wholesome, all-American appearance, she probably didn’t eat anything made with white flour or refined sugar. She probably snacked on granola bars or trail mix instead of potato chips, too. "I can ask Cookie to fix you a salad instead, if you like," he offered.
Lynn shook her head and began to cut into her meat. "What, and waste a perfectly good steak? No, I can probably get somewhere on the outside of this. I think." She took a piece of steak and swished it around in the juices. "Hmmm, nice and rare."
"Cookie says it’s uncivilized to eat anything that’s been cooked past medium rare," Chip told her.
"Nuh-uh," Lynn said, and shook her fork at him. "That’s even too well done," she said after she swallowed a mouthful of steak.
Chip raised an eyebrow. He’d never met a woman who liked her beef as rare as he did. Medium was usually too rare for the women he’d dated.
They ate in silence for a while, then Lynn pushed her plate away. "That’s it. I can’t eat another bite, but boy, it was good. I haven’t had mashed potatoes that good since I left home – and I hafta tell ya, the ones I make are a meal all on their own."
"Where’s home?" Chip asked.
"Colts Neck, New Jersey. It’s near the Shore, and it’s all apple orchards and horse farms – Jersey’s answer to Lexington, Kentucky. We grew up surrounded by horses – hell, we spent so much time with them, we practically grew up in the barns. I’ve slept in enough of them on foal watch, too."
Chip nodded. "I know where it is. I’m originally from Far Hills."
Lynn raised one eyebrow. "I thought I recognized your accent. Did you whinny when you were born?"
"Actually, I did." Chip smiled. "I see you know the area."
"Oh, yeah – we used to go out to Beval’s Saddlery a lot," Lynn confirmed.
"That’s a long drive from Colts Neck," Chip pointed out. "You have to have tack shops in your area."
She nodded. "Oh, yeah. There are plenty, and we patronize them – but comparing them to Beval’s is like comparing hamburger to filet mignon. The selection and quality are worth it, and it’s a nice drive. My mother still makes the trip at least once a month." She cocked her head to look at him. "Do you ride?"
Chip shook his head. "Not as much as I’d like to any more. When I visit my sister, I ride one of her horses."
Chip nodded. "Hunters and jumpers."
Lynn laughed. "Then my first impression was right and wrong at the same time."
Chip gave her a puzzled frown. "Excuse me?"
"When you introduced yourself at dockside, I thought you looked like you should have been out on the range, chasing cattle. I got the horseman part right, but the discipline wrong. My second impression was the jumper ring, but that doesn’t count."
Chip smiled at her obvious delight. "What about you – do you still ride?"
"As much as humanly possible. I have a three-year-old Arabian colt I’m training, and a nine-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. We just started showing at Third Level in dressage, and I hope to move him up to Fourth Level by the spring. He’s really talented."
It was Chip’s turn to raise an eyebrow. "Dressage? That’s pretty serious stuff."
She shrugged. "Yeah, but it’s fun, too. I love dancing with my horse. I’m lucky that there are a lot of shows in this area with dressage classes, and my brothers just pack us up and take us along with them."
"Your brothers ride, too?"
Lynn nodded. "We’ve all ridden since we were kids. I rode hunters and jumpers when I was a kid – there were no dressage classes at my age level. Jack – that’s my older brother – and his wife own a breeding farm out in the hills, and Kevin – he’s my twin – rides Grand Prix jumpers. I show my big boy, and I still ride one of my brothers’ horses in hunter and jumper classes when the urge strikes – sometimes you want to fly instead of dance, y’know? But you know what I had the most fun doing?"
Chip let his mind wander, picturing her for a moment in breeches and boots – tight breeches and high, shining black show boots – taking a Grand Prix jumper over a tall and wide oxer. It was a very pleasant image, and he hid his smile.
"You still there?" she asked hesitantly.
Chip gave her what he thought was an attentive look to hide his brief moment of inattention. "Still here."
"You looked like you went away for a bit. I’ll shut up now," she said ruefully.
"No, don’t. What did you have the most fun doing?" He smiled. "See, I really was listening."
She smiled back, reassured. "Riding racehorses at Monmouth Park."
"Racehorses?" Chip asked dryly. "Aren’t you a little big to be a jockey?"
Lynn grinned. "Bless you. I’m a lot big for a jockey – but I was an exercise rider for my grandfather while I was in high school and college. Racehorses are the family business – my mother makes the breeding decisions, my granda was a trainer for over fifty years. He just retired last year but he’s still very free with his advice to Uncle Joe, who took over as head trainer. I still ride for my uncle when I go home on vacation. Jack and Kevin and I grew up doing every job there is on the farm – feeding, mucking stalls, grooming, hotwalking, cleaning tack, working with the babies, backing the yearlings, teaching them how to be racehorses, and exercising the racers, then helping to retrain them as show and pleasure horses when their racing days were over. We spent a lot of time in the summer and on weekends at Monmouth. It was a great place to grow up, and I learned a lot there."
"There’s nothing like keeping it in the family," Chip said.
"That’s not the half of it. My mother and her…partner take retired racers and retrain them, show them, and sell them. Or they send them out here to us." She laughed, a sharp, bright sound. "That’s where my gelding came from. My mother sends horses cross-country like most mothers send care packages."
Chip smiled at the imagery his words created. "I’ve never met anyone who broke racehorses before."
"There aren’t too many of us working at the Institute," Lynn said with a wry grin. "Right up until I walked off that stage at UCSB with my doctorate, my mother thought I was going to change my mind and join them in the business."
"My mother was disappointed, but she’s always been a firm believer in following your bliss, wherever it leads you. Mine led me to dolphins, and she’s okay with that." She drained her milk glass. "So, you only get to ride when you go visit your sister?"
Chip nodded. "That’s about it. Other than that, I don’t have time anymore."
"You miss it?"
Chip regarded her for a moment. "Yes, I do."
Chip looked at her in surprise, then smiled. "You mean that."
"Yeah, I do. I know what it’s like. When I worked at Mystic, I had my horse boarded there, but I could only ride a couple of days each week because of the job. It killed me, and it wasn’t any good for my horse, either. So when the Admiral made me the job offer, I quit as soon as I signed the contract – which was six months before the job officially started. I moved back to New Jersey and immersed myself in horses. I had dressage lessons from my mother’s…partner every day, and brought Korbel from a barely trained racehorse to First Level in four months."
Chip gave a low whistle. "Very impressive."
Lynn shrugged. "I had a good teacher."
They fell silent then, and Lynn took the opportunity to observe him as he finished his lunch. There was an understated air of command about him, one she’d observed in other officers she knew – the ones who didn’t have to throw their weight around to demonstrate good leadership. He had an easy grace, a confidence in himself that, even on short acquaintance, she somehow knew was not misplaced. All that self-confidence could easily have mutated into arrogance, but Lynn felt that it hadn’t.
"I think the standard question is, ‘do I have dirt on my nose?’" Chip asked dryly.
Lynn blinked, then smiled sheepishly. "Was I staring?"
"You were," Chip confirmed.
"Oh. Sorry. I was thinking," she told him.
"Do you ever stop?"
"I didn’t think so." He paused briefly, as if gathering his thoughts, then went on. "Doctor, I want to apologize for that stunt I pulled on you this morning."
"Huh?" Lynn blinked in surprise at the abrupt change the conversation had taken. "What stunt?"
"Dropping your luggage down the control room hatch. I should have warned you first. What I did wasn’t fair, and I’m sorry."
"Oh, that. You don’t have to apologize. I figured it was SOP. Besides, with my three brothers, I don’t shock that easily any more. I’ve gotten to the point where nothing like that really bothers me. I’m used to finding frogs in my sneakers, or popcorn in my riding boots – and believe me, that takes a lot of popcorn."
"It could have been worse," Chip pointed out. "It could have been Jello."
"I used to put Jello in their riding boots. Payback, as they say, truly is a bitch – and I can be one too. That usually ended the matter."
"I can see where it would," Chip said with a smile. "You know, you could have paid me back by letting Maxie blast my cover this morning."
Lynn shook her head emphatically. "No way – that wouldn’t have been fair. You couldn’t have known she’d try anything like that. Besides, I had a feeling you were going to do something outlandish."
Chip frowned at her. "How did you know?" he asked, puzzled. He hadn’t even known until the idea had struck him when they entered the sail. It was standard for the crew to drop their duffels down the sail, but guests were usually treated more gently.
"I could see it in your eyes," Lynn told him.
"In my eyes," Chip repeated, clearly disbelieving.
"Sure," Lynn said, nodding. "Eyes are easy. They say the eyes are the mirror of the soul, but they’re more like a dead giveaway. Yours sure were this morning."
"I’ll have to remember that." Chip refilled their coffee mugs from the carafe on the table. "By the way, we have movies in the wardroom in the evening, if you’re interested."
"That depends on the movie," Lynn said. "It’s not a slasher flick, is it? Because if it is I’ll pass – that’s not my style."
"No. Tonight’s is The Final Countdown," Chip told her.
"Really?" Her eyes lit up. "That was a great movie!"
"It was good," Chip conceded, "but I didn’t think it was great."
Lynn shook her head. "Other than being a cool blending of history and science fiction – both of which I adore – my youngest brother was in the movie. He’s a Sea King driver in Nimitz, and he flew the helo in the Search and Rescue sequences."
"Now I understand your enthusiasm." Chip grinned. "So your brother flies S and R off Nimitz? The angels have a tough job," Chip acknowledged.
"Um...well, no...he’s not an angel pilot," Lynn said evasively, toying with her coffee mug.
"He’s not?" Chip said, confused and trying to follow her.
"Uh, no," Lynn said hesitantly, moving the mug back and forth in a semicircle on the tabletop before her.
"But he does fly a helicopter," Chip persisted. "Off a carrier?"
"He’s very good at it, too," Lynn stated. "He’s the best helo driver in Nimitz."
Chip pursed his lips as he looked at her. "Since you don’t want to make this easy for me, why don’t I take a guess.... He flies ASW patrols off the carrier, right?"
"Yeah," Lynn said and nodded. "I guess that’s a dirty word around here, huh?"
"Anti-sub warfare isn’t something we like to think about, but as long as he’s on our side...." Chip let his voice trail off suggestively.
"He was the last time I looked. Anyway, the production company wanted the best helo driver for the helo sequences, so the CAG assigned Donnie. They couldn’t have done any better, either. The kid’s a natural."
"You sound like a proud big sister," Chip observed.
"I am," she confirmed. "He’s an easy kid to be proud of. Top ten percent at Annapolis – boy, is my mother proud of that ring – top three percent in flight school, and now he’s part of the air wing on the biggest, best carrier we have. He wants to be an admiral before he’s forty." She chuckled. "God help us all if he makes it. But just in case, I’d better start teaching my dolphins how to salute."
"I’d think you’d already have done that. Admiral Nelson mentioned that your father is an admiral."
Lynn bit her lower lip. "Yeah, well…he’s not a part of our lives. He never really has been."
"Now it’s my turn to shut up. I apologize."
"Please don’t. It was his choice and it’s his loss. And we like it that way. We all think we’re better off without him." She looked at him and smiled in reassurance.
Chip couldn’t resist smiling back at her. She had an easy, infectious smile that lit up her eyes. He decided it might be a good time to change the subject. "Doctor, what is it that you do, anyway?"
"I’m a cetacean ethologist."
"Are you still speaking English?" Chip asked dryly.
"Only barely," Lynn acknowledged. My doctorate is in marine biology, and I specialize in cetology – the study of whales and dolphins – especially dolphins, and I’m especially interested in their behavior, which makes me an ethologist. Voila – cetacean ethologist."
Lynn took a long swallow of her coffee. "Has anyone been assigned yet to go out on the dive with me and the dolphins?"
Chip looked at her quizzically. "I’m your liaison – I’ll be diving with you. I thought you knew that."
Lynn nodded. "I figured you might be, but I didn’t want to assume anything. But since you are, I’ll need a lot of your time."
"I already knew that," Chip informed her.
"Yeah, I guess you would." This one probably knows everything that goes on around here – and then some, Lynn thought. And if he doesn’t, he’ll find out quickly enough.
"What do you need me to do?" Chip asked.
"Well, since you’re going out with us, I’ll need to accustom the dolphins to you. For the series of timed-response tests I’ll be running, they should be familiar with any divers involved, not just with me. The Admiral gave me four days to acclimate them to Seaview – and whatever -- before we begin the actual tests. I think we should work with them this afternoon, and at least once a day for the next two days."
"That sounds reasonable," Chip acknowledged. "I supervise the forenoon navigation watch – that’s from eight-hundred until noon –"
"I know," Lynn interrupted.
" -- but I’m free after lunch," Chip finished.
"Good. And can you do me a favor?"
"If I can."
"Would you make the tank room off limits while we’re working with the dolphins? I want them to concentrate on their lessons without any distractions, and it’ll be easier without an audience."
"I’ll make sure no one bothers us," Chip assured her, thinking that the grapevine would have a field day with that order.
"Thanks," Lynn said, then snapped her fingers. "One more thing – you have a wetsuit, right?"
"Yes," Chip said, nodding.
"Good – wear it. The dolphins like the way it feels."
"Excuse me?" Chip asked, looking at her blankly.
"They like the way a wetsuit feels – its texture makes a human feel more like a dolphin. See, dolphins have no sense of smell, though their eyesight isn’t as good as ours in the air and much better in the water. They rely on their sonar and their tactile senses. They love to touch things – if you watch them as they swim, you’ll see that they stay in contact with each other a good part of the time. They do the same if a human is in with them. Emotionally, it’s very satisfying to then."
"If you say so."
She hid a smile at the dubious tone of his statement. "A skeptic, huh?"
Chip shrugged. "I’m an engineer."
Lynn shook her head. "Lord save me. Are you ready to go to work?" she asked, draining her coffee mug.
"I suppose so," he said, rising. "To tell you the truth, when the Admiral first told me about this project, I wondered how anyone could make such a harebrained idea as rescue dolphins work."
"Harebrained idea?" Lynn asked quickly. "Commander, if you’re trying to test my ego, I’ll tell you right now, where my dolphins are concerned, my ego is pretty fragile."
"Doctor, I was trying to give you a compliment," Chip said gently.
"Oh. Well, in that case, compliment – and implied apology – accepted. Thank you."
Chip laughed softly. "You’re welcome. I’ll have that order posted immediately."
"Okay. I’ll meet you in the tank room in fifteen minutes," Lynn said. "If I can find my cabin from here."
"Are you sure you won’t get lost on the way?" Chip asked, hiding a smile.
"Not really," Lynn admitted cheerfully.
Chip couldn’t help grinning, "Come on. I’ll walk you to your cabin."
** *** **
Twenty minutes later, dressed in his wetsuit, Chip found himself shielding his eyes as he entered the tank chamber. Dressed in a lightweight Lycra wetskin of pale aqua and hot purple, Doctor Murtagh was standing beside the larger tank examining a piece of equipment he didn’t recognize. "Whoa, wait a minute – I have to get a pair of snow goggles," he said, shielding his eyes. "Isn’t that suit a little loud?"
Lynn turned, held her arms out from her sides and looked down at herself. "My wetskin? Yeah, maybe just a little," she conceded. "It’s the latest trend in dive gear. In fact, this is one of the tamer wetskins I own. Most of them are a lot louder. But they’re a lot easier to see underwater than black or silver," she said, indicating his somber black wetsuit. Actually, she mused, he looked pretty nice in black. It contrasted so well with his fair hair.
Chip looked at her, his blue eyes twinkling in amusement. "A simple yes or no would have sufficed, Doctor. "
Unashamed, she grinned back at him. "I’m not capable of short and sweet, Commander."
"I’m starting to realize that," he said, smiling back. Blue eyes held green, and in that instant, they started to become friends. "Still, you usually have something interesting to say, even if it takes you all day to say it."
"Thanks – I think," she said doubtfully.
"You’re very welcome." Chip’s smile widened to a grin.
Lynn grinned right back. "By the way, my airtank cover and my swim fins and mask match the trim on my wetsuit – which is just as loud – if not louder – than this wetskin."
"I’m not sure I can stand it," Chip said solemnly.
"You probably can’t," she agreed, then became all business. "May I see your hands?" she requested.
"Excuse me?" Chip asked, startled by the question as well as her sudden change in demeanor.
"Your hands," she repeated, holding out her own, palms up. "I need to check your nails."
Chip placed his hands in hers, watching quizzically as she carefully inspected each nail. He looked down at the hand that held his. It was fine-boned, her fingers long and slim, with short, rounded, unpolished nails. They to be seemed capable, no frills to spoil the illusion of practicality. ‘No frills’ seemed to describe her well, he concluded. When you got right down to it, there was nothing fancy about her at all. She seemed to be capable and competent, but with a sense of humor that balanced out the more businesslike aspects of her personality.
Lynn examined his hands in silence. She noted the long, slender fingers and blunt, neatly-filed nails. Piano-player’s hands, she thought, and wondered if he played. It wasn’t an appropriate time to ask him, though, so she released his hands and placed her own behind her back. "You’ll do," she said brightly.
"Thank you," he said dryly, looking at his hands, then back at her. "I’m glad you approve."
She sailed sheepishly. "I’m sorry. Dolphins have extremely sensitive skin. It abrades easily, and long or ragged nails can do more damage than you’d expect. Anything rough or sharp can. That’s why I use a soft weight belt. It’s better than the add-on lead weights." She turned and rummaged in one of her equipment bags, withdrawing a tubular object and handing it to Chip for inspection.
He turned the belt over in his hands, hefting it to see that it was heavier than it appeared. "I’ve never seen one of these before. What’s in here?"
"Plastic-coated lead shot."
"How are they to dive with?" Chip asked, opening and closing the quick-release on the belt.
"A lot more comfortable than using add-ons. The edges of the lead weights always seem to cut into my ribs and hips. I got tired of all the black and blues, so I switched."
"These don’t seem to be adjustable. What do you do if you need to add weight?"
"Some are adjustable – you can add or remove the shot if you need to. I also have a few belts in different weights that I can use, depending on how deep I’m going. But it’s easier just to use the buoyancy vest for minor adjustments." She frowned as she took the belt from him. "You guys don’t use vests, do you?"
"How did you know that?" Chip asked.
"Lucius mentioned it. He said you guys run a streamlined operation. Safety first, and not much else after."
"That sounds like Lucius," Chip agreed. "Judging from the equipment you brought, ‘streamlined’ isn’t in your vocabulary."
"Over in Marine Biology, we get an equipment allowance – we can buy anything we want, as long as it’s within reason."
"And if it’s not?"
"Then we pay the difference. It’s a very generous allowance, however. It pretty much covers all the toys we could ever want." She stretched quickly, then grinned at him. "Ready?"
"Do I have to be?"
Lynn smiled. "You’ve never done anything like this before, have you?"
"There has to be a first time for everything, I suppose," Chip replied.
His expression was so doleful, Lynn had to laugh out loud. "It’s not that bad, really," she assured him, and, as if to underscore her statement, Maxie surfaced, loudly chattering her agreement. "See?"
"It looks like you and your friends have me outnumbered, Doctor." He gestured towards the tank. After you."
Lynn jumped in, shaking her hair out of her eyes as she surfaced. "What are you waiting for?" she challenged.
"A reprieve?" Chip asked hopefully.
She grinned. "No way. Not happenin’. Come on in. It’s fun, really."
"For you, maybe," Chip said doubtfully. He looked down at her, so relaxed, so obviously in her element, floating on her back as the three dolphins cavorted around her. One jumped over her, cleaving the water neatly.
Oh, hell, Chip thought, and stepped off the side into the chest-high water. The three dolphins immediately left Lynn and surrounded him, the two larger jostling him during their inspection. As she had said they would, they swam closely, brushing up against him. Chip stiffened, looking uncertainly from one to the other.
"Commander, your apprehension is showing," Lynn said gently.
"That’s a remarkable deduction, Doctor," Chip shot back dryly, his eyes still on the dolphins. "Any suggestions?"
"Make eye contact – they like that."
"Really. Go ahead."
Chip looked at the closest dolphin – who looked right back at him. He felt a little disconcerted. The dolphin was definitely returning his gaze. It felt like the creature was trying to communicate with him. They it flipped and swam away to join the other two.
"It’ll help if you can relax," Lynn said softly. "They can sense your feelings and you’re making them nervous."
"Please convey my apologies," he said dryly.
Lynn shook her head. It was understandable – even Kevin, a veterinarian and experienced diver, had been somewhat leery of her dolphins the first time he’d swum with them; she could hardly expect a career Naval officer to be more comfortable. "Be nice, kids," Lynn warned the dolphins. "If they get too pushy, let me know," she told Chip. "Like I said, they like to see how much they can get away with, and you’re unexplored territory."
"That’s reassuring," Chip said. One dolphin swam over and insistently pushed its head up under his hand, demanding to be petted. He stroked the sleek grey head, finding the animal to be quite warm to the touch. Surprised, he looked at Lynn.
She nodded. "You thought they’d be cold and slimy, like a fish, right? They’re warm-blooded mammals, just like we are. They bear living young, nurse them, and drown if they can’t get to the surface." She paused, about to say more, then thought better of it and pointed to the dolphin. "That’s Maxie, by the way. Once she finds you’re a soft touch, she’ll never leave you alone. Now, Sammy here would rather spend his time playing catch, and showing off all the neat things he can do – like retrieving coins from the floor of the tank – not an easy trick, when you consider the size of a coin and the size of his mouth."
Lynn swam to the side of the tank, picked up a stack of brightly-colored rings that lay on the deck. "But those are only parlor tricks when it comes to what these three can really do," she said, casting six of the rings toward the other side of the tank. "Dolphins are colorblind, so the colors of these are more for our benefit then theirs. But they can see very well in low-light conditions. And though the lens of a dolphin’s eye is optimized for sight underwater, they can see very well with their heads out of water."
Lynn took a deep breath and looked at the three dolphins, who were exploring the tank. "Okay -- Sammy," she said, and the big male instantly swam over to her, chattering. "It’s time to go to work, big guy. Now, I want you to get the third ring from the left," she held up three fingers on her left hand, moving the hand in an arc from right to left as she did so, "and take it to Leo. Okay?"
The dolphin chattered in agreement, nodding his head vigorously.
Sammy dove, streaking away towards the rings, coming up directly under the third ring from the left, as Lynn had instructed. Spearing it with his beak, he swam over to Leo and transferred the ring onto the beak of the younger male. Then he swam back to Lynn, looking extremely pleased with himself.
"Good boy," Lynn said, rubbing Sammy under the jaw. "Very good, Sammy. Thank you."
The dolphin squeaked something that night have been ‘you’re welcome’, then dashed away to circle the tank.
Lynn licked her lips and looked at Maxie. "Okay. Maxie?" she called, and the female swam over. "I want you to get the first one on the right," she held up one finger on her right hand, arcing it from left to right, "and the second one from the left," she continued, again moving her hand in an arc, "and bring them to me. Okay?" The dolphin made a sharp, bark-like sound. "Then go."
Maxie moved below the surface, collected the correct rings in the correct order, and brought then back to Lynn, flipping them to her one at a time. "Good girl. Thank you," Lynn praised, rubbing the female under the jaw, and Maxie tail-walked away from her. "Leo? you ready?" Lynn asked, looking towards the smallest of the dolphins. He swam over to her, the ring he had received from Sammy still on his beak. "Now, take these," she said, placing on his beak the rings she had taken from Maxie, "and put them in a row in front of the Commander." She made a flat, spreading notion with her with her hand, then pointed to Chip. "Okay?"
Leo nodded, and chattered a reply.
"Then go." The young male dove with the rings, surfacing in front of Chip and just slightly to his right. The dolphin sank down, leaving the rings on the surface. Allowing the top ring to remain floating, he took the lower two in his teeth, positioning first one, then the other in perfect spacing in front of Chip. Then he swam back to Lynn.
"Good boy, Leo," Lynn said, using a softer tone than she had used to praise the two older dolphins. "Thank you, sweetie."
The young male sidled against her and she petted him briefly, then rested her hand on his head as she looked at Chip for his reaction.
"That’s incredible," he said. "They can actually distinguish the exact rings you chose. Do you always have to give them both the voice and hand signals?"
Lynn shook her head. "No. They’ll respond to either. The hand signals are mainly used underwater when they can’t hear my voice. You want to try?"
His eyes widened. "You think they’ll do it for me?"
"No reason why they shouldn’t," Lynn replied. "You don’t know the hand signals, but they’ll respond to vocal commands. Just tell them what you want them to do."
"It can’t be that easy," Chip said dubiously.
"Try it and see," Lynn encouraged. "Just talk to them like you would a person."
Chip looked at her skeptically, then shrugged. "What have I got to lose?"
"Your skepticism, maybe?" Lynn asked, raising an eyebrow.
Chip raised an eyebrow back at her, then shook his head. "Here goes nothing." He looked at the three dolphins. Sammy seemed to be ignoring him, and Leo had his attention firmly on Doctor Murtagh, but Maxie was looking directly at him. "Maxie?" he asked tentatively, pondering why he was talking to a dolphin. The female whistled in reply, startling him briefly. He hadn’t expected such a rapid reply, So far, so good, he thought, regaining his composure. "See these rings?" he asked the dolphin. Put them with the others, okay?"
Maxie chirped in reply, but didn’t move, and Chip gave Lynn his very best ‘I-told-you-so’ look.
Lynn shook her head. "You have to finish the command with ‘then go’ -- that’s the key phrase."
"Okay ." Chip nodded in acknowledgment. "Then go," he said.
Maxie picked up the rings, streaked across the pool and left them with the others. Then she swam back to him, looking, he thought, quite pleased with herself. She edged under his hand, looking to be petted. "Good girl, Maxie," he said, dutifully petting her as he looked at Lynn for her reaction.
She raised an approving eyebrow. "Not bad. You ever want to change careers, let me know. You two seem to be pretty good friends. I think she may have forgiven you for the cover."
"She’s forgiven me?" Chip asked.
"Well, you did have the nerve to wear a cover in her presence," Lynn reminded him. "But all seems to be forgiven. She’s a real sweetie, and a little flirt. She definitely prefers men over women."
"Even over you?"
She shook her head. "No, I seen to be Number One Human for all three of them. But she prefers the male researchers and assistants to the women. She has a real – well, I guess you could call it a crush – on Bob Shaughnessey."
"One of your colleagues?"
Lynn nodded. "My occasional research partner. He’s trying to decipher dolphin language, and he works with my guys, taping their vocalizations when we have a training session. He swears he can tell when they’re saying my name, but I’m not quite convinced. I really should have taped this session for him."
"Why didn’t you?"
"I wasn’t sure if you’d want your reactions preserved for posterity," Lynn told him.
"Everything is taped?" Chip asked uncertainly. She was right – he didn’t want his actions preserved for posterity, especially the hesitation he’d shown upon entering the tank. He wasn’t a vain man, but he did have his pride.
"Everything – s o don’t say anything embarrassing when the tape is on. But I won’t begin taping until tomorrow. Hey, why don’t you ask Leo to do something? He can handle some pretty complicated directions."
"What did you have in mind?"
Lynn spread her hands. "Wing it."
Chip’s eyes gleamed as inspiration struck. "Wing it, huh? okay. Don’t move."
Lynn frowned quizzically, but kept her arms perpendicular to her body and parallel to the water. "This looks interesting," she mused.
"If it doesn’t work, it’s your fault," Chip warned.
"My fault?" Lynn shot back. "How does that figure?"
"They’re your dolphins," Chip reminded her. He looked around for Leo. The young male floated near Lynn, his interest captured by her strange position. "Leo?"
The dolphin turned gracefully and swam over to Chip, looking from him to Lynn, then back to Chip again as if to ask if he knew why Lynn was standing in such a strange position.
Chip looked into the dolphin’s eyes, seeing a spark of intelligence there. "Go get two rings and put one on Doctor Murtagh’s left arm, then put the other ring on her right arm. Okay?"
Leo whistled in reply, looking back at Lynn once more. "Then go."
Leo shot over to the floating rings, picked up the two closest, then swam to Lynn, who was watching him intently. He rose up out of the water, keeping up a steady stream of chatter as he precisely placed one ring on each of her outstretched arms. Then he swam back to Chip and waited.
Chip praised the dolphin in the same quiet way he had seen Lynn praise him. "Good boy, Leo. Thank you," he added as an afterthought, feeling slightly silly.
"Yeah, Leo, good boy," Lynn said, her eyes wide and thoughtful as she swam over to them. "That’s a new one – I’ve never tried to do anything like that with any of them before. Like I said, if you ever want to change careers...."
"That’s not one of his tricks?" Chip asked.
Lynn glared at him. "Dolphins in a marine park do tricks, Commander. Mine perform tasks. And they occasionally come up with a few surprises – like this one. This opens up a whole new range of possibilities."
"I have to think about it," she said, stroking Leo. "It would be Leo who’d come up with something like this."
"And why is that?"
"Like I said this morning, Leo seems to learn more quickly than the others. It may be because he’s younger, but he’s also a different species. He’s an Atlantic bottlenose, and some researchers feel that the Atlantic bottlenose is, well, I don’t want to say more intelligent, because the researchers proposing this theory use the phrase ‘more trainable’ than the Pacific subspecies."
"Do you agree with that assessment?"
She frowned. "I’m not quite sure. I’ve worked solely with the Atlantic subspecies in the past. Sammy and Maxie are the first Pacific bottlenose I’ve ever known. Most of the bottlenose in captivity are the Atlantic variety, because it’s so easy to catch them in the waters off Florida. Capture parties just drive then into shallow water and net them. But on the West Coast, the water is so deep, it’s more difficult."
"You’re speaking from experience, I take it?"
"These two led us a merry chase before we finally took ’em." She shook her head at the memory. "But Leo is a little bit quicker to pick up things than they are. I wonder…."
"You wonder if they can do it too," Chip finished for her.
"Yeah." She tossed the rings in his direction. "Ask ’em."
Chip snagged the rings out of the air. "Me?"
"Why not?" Lynn asked. "Leo worked for you. If Sammy and Maxie won’t, then I’ll ask them. Try Maxie first. She might be more receptive than Sammy, and she’s already worked for you."
Chip nodded. It was worth a try, and if it didn’t work, well, he wasn’t planning on changing careers at any time in the near future anyway.
He called Maxie. She swam to him immediately, and when he looked at her to give her the instructions, he was again struck by the gleam of intelligence in the dark eyes that looked back at him so intently. Looking over to Lynn, he asked, "Ready?"
She struck a pose. "Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...." Then she grinned and held her arms out in the proper position to receive the rings. "I’m ready."
Chip shook his head. Then he looked at Maxie, who seemed to find the exchange between the two humans funny. Chip instructed the dolphin, using the same set of orders he had given Leo. ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ seemed to apply here as well as it did anywhere else, he reflected.
Maxie took the rings, swimming once around Lynn after depositing then on each arm. Then she tailwalked back to Chip.
"Hey, Maxie – want some cheese with that ham?" Lynn asked, tossing the rings back to Chip. "Sammy’s turn."
Sammy also performed flawlessly, adding a backsplash at the end.
Lynn swam over to Chip. "Oreo time," she said, gesturing for him to follow her out of the tank. She opened the case of cookies and took a cellophane sleeve out of a box to hand to Chip. "Two apiece."
"Don’t you want to give them the cookies?"
Lynn shook her head. "They worked for you, not me. Therefore, you get to dole out the treats."
"Whatever you say," Chip said, but he had his doubts. The dolphins chattered excitedly when they saw the cellophane sleeve of Oreos. "How do I do this?" Chip asked. "Throw them the cookies?"
"Nope." Lynn shook her head. "Just hold one out. They’ll come up for it."
Chip was impressed by the behavior of the dolphins as they came for the cookies. They took turns, one at a time, politely moving out of the way so the next one could get a treat. "They have good manners," he said.
"No manners, no cookies," Lynn told him. "And they learned that the hard way." She took two cookies out of the sleeve. "We were good, so we can have some too."
Taking a cookie, Chip looked down at the dolphins. "I’m impressed."
"By what?" Lynn asked around a mouthful of Oreo.
"They’re more intelligent than I’d thought. They seem to understand everything you say to them."
Lynn indicated the three dolphins who looked up at then. "I don’t agree with everything that Doctor Lilly said, but I think he was right when he said that the limitations aren’t in them, but in us. We – the dolphins and I – communicate pretty well, but it’s only because they understand me. I, however, don’t fully understand them. I guess that means they’re a lot smarter than I am." She smiled ruefully. "Or maybe just a little less arrogant."
"Who’s this Doctor Lilly you mentioned?" The name seemed familiar, but Chip couldn’t seem to place it.
"He was a neurophysicist who did some dolphin research. He was convinced that he had taught dolphins to speak English. But most of the results Lilly claimed couldn’t be duplicated by other researchers, either, and it eventually turned out that the dolphins were only mimicking what they’d heard."
"So much for that," Chip said.
"Yeah. It was a real shame, too. What a breakthrough that would have been." She gestured with the remaining cookie as she talked. "That’s enough for today. I like to end a session on a positive note," she said. "We can just let them amuse themselves for now. Tomorrow afternoon, I’d like to go over the test sequence with you."
"No problem," Chip said, an amused little grin on his face as he watched her motion with the cookie.
Lynn noticed the direction of his gaze and laughed. "My mother says I wouldn’t be able to say a single word if my hands were tied. My brothers have been tempted to see if she’s right. Fortunately, I run faster than they do." She looked down at the dolphins, who hovered at the side of the tank in hope of more Oreos. "No more, all gone," she said, showing then her empty hands. "Go play, kids."
The dolphins darted off and were soon engaged in what seemed to be a game of tag. They sped around the tank, coning near, but never touching, the steel sides of the holding tank.
"They’re so graceful," Chip said. "They probably think we’re awfully clumsy."
"Compared to them, we are – especially in the water. When I watch them swim, or watch one of our horses running in a paddock, I realize how clumsy human beings are."
"All we really have going for us is our brains," Chip mused.
Lynn waggled a thumb at him. "And a hand with an opposable thumb. A dolphin’s brain is considerably larger than a human’s. I often wonder where cetaceans would be if they’d evolved past flippers."
"Probably sending us through our paces," Chip said dryly.
Lynn grinned up at him. "No doubt." Then she walked over to the computer that had been set up on a worktable, well out of splashing range. Munching the second Oreo, she turned it on and waited for it to boot. When the unit informed her of its readiness, she typed a series of commands that would connect it to Seaview’s host computer.
Chip strolled over to watch. "You seem very comfortable with that," he said as her fingers flew over the keys.
She nodded without looking away from the screen. "Jack would disown me if I wasn’t." Then she turned to him, her expression thoughtful. "You know, maybe that’s not such a bad idea." Then she grinned. "Jack and his wife own San Sarita Software."
"The game company?"
"Mostly, though they’re branching out into various types of management programs for horse breeders to use. You’re looking at one of their research consultants, and part-owner of the company. I get to play the games while they’re still in the development phase."
"That sounds like it might be fun."
"Sometimes. Then there are the hidden glitches that make your system lock up and flash weird hieroglyphics at you – stuff that needs ironing out." Seeing that he still held the sleeve of Oreos, Lynn reached out for another. "So…how’d you get stuck with me, anyway?"
"Excuse me?" Chip asked blankly, her abrupt change of subject taking him completely by surprise.
"I know you’re the one responsible for running this boat, and scheduling duty assignments. This liaison duty? That’s something that you’d have assigned to a junior division officer, not taken on for yourself. So someone assigned you to it. Right?"
Chip smiled at her. "Right. Normally, I’d be too busy for any liaison work. But I had an accident and I’m on light duty for a while, and the Admiral asked me to take this on as a favor to him."
"Would it be too nosy if I asked you what kind of accident you had?" Lynn asked tentatively.
Chip shook his head. "I was in the way when a cargo hoist let go."
"Ouch," Lynn said, wincing. "That’ll teach you to move faster next time."
"Doctor, I sincerely hope there won’t be a next time," he said dryly.
Maxie rose out of the water and chattered her agreement, nodding vigorously. "Shy, she’s not," Lynn commented pleasantly. "You okay now?"
"I feel fine," Chip replied. "Doc’s even cleared me for the test dive." He looked around the compartment at the equipment scattered about. "They’re a lot of work, aren’t they?"
Lynn shrugged. "Yeah, but they’re worth it."
"That’s what my sister says about her kids," Chip replied.
"It’s not such a bad analogy. They’re one-hundred-percent dependent on me, just like kids are when they’re little."
"But kids grow up and become less dependent," Chip pointed out. "Your dolphins won’t. Do you do all the work yourself?"
"I have three research assistants who do a lot of the donkey work," she said in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Would you like some help while you’re here?" Chip asked.
She looked up at him quickly. "I wasn’t hinting, Commander," Lynn said quickly.
"And I wasn’t patronizing, Doctor," he said gently. "I can assign you a couple of crewmembers to act as your assistants while you’re on board."
"I’d appreciate that. I wasn’t going to ask, but if you’re offering...." She let her voice trail off.
"I’m offering," Chip told her.
"I won’t turn them away," Lynn said with a grin. "Thank you."
"You’re welcome. Now, what needs to be done?" Chip asked, looking around.
"Feeding, mostly – the fish have to be defrosted and gutted, then have vitamins inserted before they’re fed to the dolphins. That’s more than a little messy. Then the tank has to be vacuumed when they’re done, and again two hours later."
"In other words, you want a cook and a housekeeper," Chip concluded.
She nodded. "Pretty much."
"How often do they eat?" Chip asked.
"Four times a day, five pounds of herring or mackerel each time," Lynn said, almost apologetically.
"That’s a lot of fish," Chip responded. No wonder they’d taken so much frozen fish aboard!
"They’re a lot of dolphin." She grinned, then snapped her fingers. "Before I forget, any problem if I play my tapes?"
‘"Your dolphins are music lovers, too?" Chip asked good-naturedly, looking at the three inhabitants of the tank.
"They’re used to music being on in the lab all day," Lynn explained.
"So are you, I suppose," he said dryly.
"Well...our tastes are similar," she admitted.
Chip grinned. "No problem. But if you hear klaxons –"
"Shut it off and shut up," Lynn said. "Right?"
He had to smile at the little cat’s grin she gave him. "That’s right. And stay put, too."
"That goes without saying," Lynn told him.
"Hmmm.... When do you want the detail?"
"When can I have them?" she shot back.
Chip shook his head in amusement. "I’ll go set it up now," he said, and took one more Oreo. "One for the road," he explained. He was already thinking about who to assign to work with the dolphins – Kowalski, certainly, and Riley would probably get along famously with Doctor Murtagh. "Oh, before I forget, the Admiral would like you to join him for dinner in the nose this evening."
"One on one?" Lynn asked.
Chip suppressed a smile at the dismay on her face. "No. Captain Crane and I will be there, too."
"Good. I’ll be glad to see a familiar face," she said, relieved.
"The Nelson mystique strikes again," Chip said, watching for her reaction.
"He does tend to be a little intimidating," Lynn said.
"He can be," Chip agreed. "But it’s not so bad once you get used to him."
"That’s easy for you to say," Lynn informed him. "You see him every day. I don’t have that much time." She frowned. "Chinos will be okay, won’t they? I didn’t bring anything more formal than that."
Chip shook his head. "They’re fine. We don’t make anything out of dinner."
"Good," Lynn said, relaxing a bit. "What time?"
"Seventeen-thirty. I’ll meet you at your cabin."
"Hey, are there any restrictions on water use? Timers on the plumbing or stuff like that? I don’t want to show up at the Admiral’s table looking like a bum." She waved a hand in the direction of her tangled, still-wet hair.
Chip grinned. "No. We desalinate our own fresh water. You can take as many showers as you want for as long as you want."
"That’s a relief. I’d hate to have to wait God-knows-how-long for a shower. Salt water feels like a suit of armor when it dries on you, and I don’t like the feeling very much."
"I gather you anticipate being in the tank a lot," Chip ventured.
"At least six hours a day," Lynn told him. "They’re still antsy, and besides, I don’t believe in doing research from afar." She paused as another thought occurred to her. "Will this be another gargantuan meal like we had at lunch?"
Chip smiled at her. "Doctor, compared to dinner, lunch is only a snack."
"Oh, no. "
"Oh, yes. Cookie goes all out when we have guests."
"Can I have a doggie bag?" Lynn asked plaintively.
"I’ll see what I can do," Chip promised, and left.
Lynn watched him leave, then sat down at the edge of the tank. He was a really nice guy – much nicer than she would have thought, from all the talk about him that was floating around. If the afternoon’s training session was any indication, they’d get along just fine. Somehow, they seemed to have omitted the ‘awkward strangers’ phase. She felt as if she’d known him for years.
"This looks like it’ll be a lot of fun, guys," Lynn told the dolphins as they rose up, begging for a rub. "But it’ll be more fun with music, right?" She got up, slipped a Dan Fogelberg tape into the player she’d set up on the work table, then jumped back into the tank as the strains of Aspen filled the compartment.
Lynn watched the dolphins cavort around her. At last, she was on Seaview, and it felt wonderful. She made no attempt to restrain the laughter that bubbled up from deep inside. It was an incredible feeling, similar to, yet different from, the way she felt when a song the band had been practicing finally came together, or when Korbel finally performed a difficult dressage movement in a flawless manner.
"Okay, girl, settle down," she warned, and tried to follow her own advice. But it was too hard, and she began to laugh again. Her happiness carried over to the dolphins and they began acting up, leaping, darting around the tank in a frenzied game of tag; Lynn decided to let them have their fun. They’d settle down easily enough when she asked them to.
"Wow! That’s great music!"
Lynn glanced up to see a blue-jumpsuited sailor towering over her from his vantage point on the deck. "Yeah, it is," she agreed. She studied the new arrival. He was tall, with dark blue eyes and strawberry blond hair of a shade just a bit darker than her own, and Lynn figured him to be in his early-to-mid twenties. "Why don’t you come on down here so I don’t break my neck talking to you?"
"Oh, sure. "Sorry, ma’am," he apologized, then hunkered down to face her.
"That’s better," Lynn said, boosting herself out of the tank to sit on the decking alongside him. "First off , don’t call me ma’am. Okay?"
"Sure, Doc. You don’t mind if I call you Doc, do you?"
"Nope. I like it. In fact, I like it a lot better than ma’am. So who are you?" Lynn asked.
"I’m Riley, ma- – uh, Doc. Stu Riley." He looked toward the source of the music. "You gonna leave that on?"
"Shouldn’t I?" Lynn asked.
"Yeah, sure, leave it on. I can work with music – no problem. Whaddaya want me to do?"
Lynn snapped her fingers. "I get it – you’re one of my assistants."
"Seaman Stuart Riley, reporting for duty, as ordered. The XO assigned me to help you. So whaddaya want me to do?"
"You mind gettin’ messy?" Lynn asked.
"What kind of messy?" Riley asked suspiciously.
"Dead-fish-guts messy," Lynn told him.
"We don’t have to clean them or anything, do we?" Riley asked.
"'Fraid so, Riley," Lynn told him. "Then we stick some vitamins inside."
"I guess that’s not so bad," Riley said dubiously.
"You’ll get used to it," Lynn assured him, and stood up. "First off, though, you have to say hello to the guys. "
"The guys…? Oh, the dolphins! Hello," he said to the three grey onlookers.
Lynn shook her head and waved a hand at him. "Nah. That doesn’t cut it. Kids, say hello to Riley," Lynn instructed, and the compartment was filled with the chattering of three responsive dolphins.
"Hey, that’s neat! Can they do anything else?" Riley asked eagerly.
"Tons of stuff," Lynn told him. "But right now, they’re hungry."
"Yeah, Right. The fish," Riley said, sounding completely unenthusiastic.
Lynn laughed, and led him to the worktable. "Cheer up, Rile, you’re not in this alone." She handed him a filleting knife and pulled a bag of already-defrosted fish from a cooler next to the freezer.
"You mean you’re gonna clean fish, too?" Riley asked in surprise.
"Sure," she said, opening the large bag.
"But you’re the Doc," Riley protested.
"That doesn’t mean beans to them," Lynn said, gesturing with the knife over her shoulder at the tank. "When they’re hungry, they don’t care who feeds them."
"If you say so," Riley said, and shrugged. "What do you want me to do?"
"Watch." Lynn sliced the head off a mackerel, slit its belly and removed the entrails, then set it aside. "See?" she asked. "Simple."
"Then what?" Riley asked, following her example.
"Then we shove two vitamins inside and give it to one of the dolphins." She demonstrated by slipping two vitamin capsules from a large plastic bottle that sat farther back on the worktable into the body cavity of the fish.
"Sounds easy," Riley told her.
"It is. It’s also time-consuming, and boring as hell after you’ve done it long enough. It helps to have someone around to talk to. So, what’s your rate, Riley?"
"Sonar technician. You know what a rate is, Doc?" Riley asked, his interest piqued.
"Uh-huh," Lynn responded. "I have family in the Navy."
"Outasight, Doc!" Riley exclaimed. "What do they do?"
"Two of my cousins drive Tomcats, one’s a Seal, and my youngest brother is a helo driver in Nimitz," Lynn said. "And my uncle is COMNAVAIRPAC." She saw no reason to mention that her biological father was Chief of Surgery at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and an admiral to boot. She didn’t acknowledge that particular relationship unless she absolutely had to.
"Officers, huh?" He sounded disappointed.
"Guess so," Lynn replied. "But they’re okay guys." She placed another gutted fish into the big stainless steel bowl between then. So you’re a sonarman, huh? Were you in the Navy long?"
"One four-year hitch. I’ve been on Seaview for a year now."
Lynn raised one eyebrow. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-two. I lied about my age when I enlisted."
"Thought so." Lynn nodded.
Determined chattering filled the compartment and both Lynn and Riley turned to see Maxie rise above the water, vigorously working her flukes forward and back to remain in a vertical position.
"Stop showin’ off, Maxie. Dinner’ll be ready soon," Lynn said flatly and returned to her task.
Riley stared openmouthed. "How’d she do that?" he asked. "She was standin’ on her tail!"
"Flukes, Riley. Dolphins have flukes, not a tail," Lynn corrected absently. Then she winced. Sure, start lecturing and alienate the whole boat, why don’t you? she scolded herself.
But Riley didn’t seem to be offended. "What’s the diff, Doc?" he asked.
"A tail runs vertically, but flukes run horizontally."
"Uh-huh," Riley said doubtfully.
"Come here – I’ll show you." Lynn smiled and gestured for Sammy to swim to the edge of the tank. "Hey, Sammy, stand on your head," she said, accompanying the vocal instructions with a hand signal. The dolphin obeyed, his flukes raving slowly back and forth above the surface as if in a gentle breeze. "See?" Lynn asked. the fluke spreads side to side as it grows out of the peduncle – that’s what we call the root of the tail. Fish have tails that spread up and down."
Riley looked at her and smiled." Yeah, Doc. I get it. Flukes, huh?"
"Flukes," Lynn agreed, smiling back at him. "But we call it tailwalking when she does what she did before."
Lynn grinned at his confusion. "Now that I’ve got you totally confused, let’s gut some more fish."
"Sure, Doc. Whatever you say," replied the confused seaman.
They worked in silence for a while, then Riley looked at the tape player. "I never heard this before."
"That’s Dan Fogelberg." Lynn shook her head. "He doesn’t get as much airplay as he should. I don’t know why."
"You like this kind of music, huh?"
Yeah, I do. He can get pretty ornate with some of his arrangements, but most of his stuff is really good to listen to, and not hard at all to play."
"What else do you like, Doc?"
"A little bit of everything, I guess, mostly good old-fashioned get-down rock-and-roll -- the kind that makes you want to get up and dance, or floor it on the highway, you know?"
"Gotcha, Doc," Riley acknowledged. "You like the Beach Boys?" he asked eagerly.
Lynn grimaced. "Sorry. They never did much for me."
"Oh," Riley said, looking disappointed. "Well, to each his own."
"Yeah," Lynn agreed. "To each his own."
Riley’s eyes gleamed with mischief. "Hey, Doc, maybe I’d better warn you. One of the officers – Lieutenant O’Brien – is a real music nut. He can’t play worth a darn, but he claims he’s the best at recognizing a song from the first few notes. He likes to grab all the new arrivals and challenge then to a game."
"You mean like ‘Name That Tune’ ?" Lynn asked.
"Yeah. He’ll probably glom onto you tonight, after dinner. He’s pretty good -- you night want to be ready for that."
"Thanks for the warning, Riley," Lynn said, her eyes gleaming. "He may be in for a bit of a surprise."
** *** **
Chip stopped just inside the tank compartment to listen to the music. Doctor Murtagh must have put the tape player on right after he’d left. He looked over to the work table. Doctor Murtagh and Riley had their backs to him. He saw her gesture with a knife, then both laughed. Chip allowed himself a slight smile. He’d thought they’d get along well but it was always nice to know you were right.
He cleared his throat as he walked into the compartment, making for the work table. "Don’t let this one put anything over on you, Doctor," he said, the twinkle in his blue eyes giving the lie to his stern tone.
"What if he does?" Lynn asked.
"I’ll put him on galley service," Chip shot back genially.
"Galley service can’t be much worse than this, Mister Morton," Riley said, and sliced the head off a mackerel.
"Thanks a lot, Riley," Lynn said.
"On second thought, your company is a lot better than Cookie’s," Riley said. "He’s a fate worse than death."
"He’s temperamental, but his cooking is worth it," Chip explained.
"Anybody who makes mashed potatoes like we had at lunch can’t be all bad," Lynn said.
"Amen," Chip agreed, looking at the work table. "Lemon juice?" he asked, indicating the bottle near the back of the table.
Riley held up the bottle and shook it. "It takes the fish smell off your hands."
"Yeah – you smell like a lemon for a while, but it’s the lesser of two evils," Lynn said.
"What will they think of next?" Chip said dryly. "What are you doing?" he asked, looking over Lynn’s shoulder.
"Sticking vitamin tablets where the guts used to be." Lynn gave him an innocent smile. "Wanna help?"
"I think I’ll pass," Chip said quickly.
"You don’t know what you’re missing," she said brightly, making short work of another fish.
"Doctor, I don’t think I want to find out."
Lynn turned to Riley. "Would you get a bag marked ‘one’, please?" she requested.
"Sure, Doc." As eager to please as a puppy, he moved to the cooler that sat beside the tank compartment’s industrial-sized freezer, out of earshot.
"How’s Riley doing?" Chip asked in a low voice, though he was sure he already knew.
Lynn looked around him to make sure Riley was far enough away before answering. "Can I keep him?"
Chip rolled his eyes. "Doctor, you don’t know what you’re asking."
"Probably not. But to answer your question, he’s working out fine." She reached for one of the few remaining fish, gutted it, and added it to the rest. Then she pushed the watery residue into the slop sink.
"Messy job," Chip said.
"It’s not for the squeamish," Lynn said pleasantly.
Her earlier jibes had been hints, but that last was a challenge Chip could not let go unanswered. He unbuttoned his cuffs, lapped his sleeves halfway to the elbow, then picked up a spare knife, pulled a mackerel toward him and gutted it.
Lynn pursed her lips reflectively. "You do that well," she said as Chip added the fish to the pile.
"My father always made me clean whatever I caught," he told her.
"So did my mother. My brothers and cousins paid me to clean theirs." She grinned. "Being an enterprising soul, I made a pretty piece of change off those boys."
"I can imagine," Chip said. "Good experience for your future career, too."
She grinned up at him. "Yeah, it was."
Riley returned with a bag of fish. He looked curiously at Chip, but whatever remark he might have made withered on the vine as he took in the expression on Chip’s face.
The hatch opened again. The dark-haired sailor in a red jumpsuit who stepped through hesitated, then made his way to the work table, frowning in confusion at the sight of Chip, tie and all, casually gutting fish. "Uh, Mister Morton?" he asked.
"Kowalski," Chip acknowledged without missing a beat, continuing to work on a mackerel. "This is Doctor Murtagh," he said, inclining his head toward Lynn, who smiled at the new arrival. You’ll be assisting her while she’s aboard."
"Doctor," the sailor said, nodding at Lynn.
"Hi, Kowalski," Lynn said, fighting off a fit of giggles.
"Call me Ski, ma’am," Kowalski offered.
"Okay, Ski. And you can call me anything but ma’am. Doc’ll be fine."
"Okay, Doc. Whaddaya want me to do?"
Chip handed Kowalski the knife he’d been using. "Gut fish." His eyes met Lynn’s and they shared a conspiratorial smile.
"Yeah, Ski," Lynn said. "Gut some fish. Show him what to do, okay, Riley?"
"Sure, Doc," Riley agreed, and began to demonstrate the technique.
Chip rinsed his hands in the slop sink, turning to find Lynn obligingly holding out the bottle of lemon juice.
"Trust me, it works."
"I guess I’ll find out, won’t I?" he asked wryly.
"Believe me, smelling like a lemon is the lesser of two evils," Lynn assured him. "Hold out your hands."
Chip favored her with a raised eyebrow, but did as he’d been instructed. He washed his hands in the lemon juice, rinsed it off, then gave a tentative sniff.
"See?" Lynn asked.
"Will wonders never cease?"
"Gee, I hope not," Lynn said brightly.
Chip inclined his head towards the two ratings. "Let me know if they get out of line."
"We won’t have any problems. I’m real good at bein’ one of the boys."
Chip began to make a comment, then shook his head. "Seventeen-thirty, Doctor. Don’t forget."
"No, of course not." Lynn rolled her eyes.
Chip laughed and left.
Lynn watched him leave, then walked back to the work table.
"Hey, uh, Doc?" Kowalski said hesitantly. "You don’t play surfing music on that, do you?"
Lynn looked at him with a startled expression. "Good lord, Kowalski, why would I want to do that?"
"That’s good news, Doc," Kowalski said with a relieved sigh. "That’s all this guy likes, and it gets pretty tired after a while."
"Yeah, huh?" Lynn asked, with a sideways glance at Riley. "Well, there’s no accounting for taste. No, Ski, I don’t play surfer music. I hope you like good old-fashioned rock-and-roll, though."
"The Beatles, Boston, Bob Seger, a little Motown, a lot of Bruce," Lynn answered.
"Bruce who?" Riley asked.
Lynn’s mouth dropped open, and she stared at Riley in shock. "Are you serious?"
Lynn looked at Kowalski, who nodded in affirmation. "He’s serious, Doc. He’s a lost cause."
Lynn cocked her head and looked up at Riley. "Son, you need some musical re-education. And fast," she finished. She shook her head sadly. "Bruce, by the way, is Springsteen. The Boss."
"Yeah," Lynn said, a quizzical frown appearing on her face. "You know – Born to Run?"
Riley shoot his head. "Uh-uh."
Lynn threw her hands up in the air. "Oh, good grief. I know he’s originally a Jersey musician, but he has toured on the West Coast – a lot! He’s even played here in Santa Barbara!"
Riley burst out laughing. "Sorry, Doc. I couldn’t help it. You looked so upset!"
Lynn glared at him, then began to smile. "You had me goin’ for a while," she admitted.
The fun over, Kowalski wandered to the freezer and peered curiously inside. "Awful lot of fish in here," he remarked.
"Those three are pigs in dolphins’ clothing, Ski," Lynn said. "While you’re there, toss three more bags into the cooler for tonight’s feeding."
"How come it’s all frozen, Doc?" Kowalski asked, dropping the bags into the cooler.
"We feed them frozen fish for convenience sake," Lynn explained. "I often wonder if they’d even take a live fish anymore."
"And you have to give them these vitamins in every fish?" Kowalski asked. "When do you have time to do anything else?"
"They get the vitamins at the third feeding each day, and my research assistants do most of what you’re doing," Lynn explained.
"Is that what we are?" Kowalski asked. "Research assistants?"
Lynn thought for a second. "Well...yeah. I’m here doing research, and you’re my assistants, so I guess you are."
"Hey, Stu!" Kowalski said, elbowing his crewmate in the ribs. "Howddaya like that?"
"I’d like it better if we drew the same pay the Doc does," Riley said.
Lynn chuckled and picked up the bowl. The dolphins were already waiting at the edge of the tank, calling loudly. "Such excitement," she said fondly, giving each one a fish in turn.
The fish were soon gone and the dolphins, receiving the empty-hands gesture that meant ‘no more’, swam away. Lynn washed up and watched the two seamen police the area. "You guys seem to be managing all right. Mind if I check out of here? I have a dinner date."
"With the XO?" Riley asked, and received a none-too-gentle elbow in the ribs from Kowalski.
Lynn ignored the by-play. "No. With the Admiral, as a matter of fact. It’s a command performance."
"Go ahead, Doc. We’ll finish up here," Kowalski said.
"The tank will need vacuuming in about two hours," Lynn said. "I can come back and help."
"Nah," Kowalski said, shaking his head. "We’ve done that enough with Bessie."
"Yeah. And the dolphins don’t bite," Riley added. "Do they?" he finished uncertainly.
"Not unless you’re a fish," Lynn said and smiled. "Okay. You’re on your own. But come get me if there’s any trouble, okay?"
"Sure, Doc," they agreed.
"Any trouble at all," Lynn said.
"Okay," the seamen chorused.
"Any trouble. At all," Lynn repeated.
"Do you always worry like this?" Riley asked.
"In a word – yes," Lynn admitted.
"It shows," Riley said, taking Lynn’s arm and guiding her toward the hatch. He guided her through, then clanged the hatch shut between them.
Giving up, Lynn sighed and made her way forward to her cabin, where she stared at the luggage still beside the door. She made relatively short work of unpacking. most of the clothing she’d brought was utilitarian, chosen for its durability and resistance to salt water. Jeans, socks and underwear, a cotton fatigue sweater – she’d heard that nuclear-powered subs were notorious for their chilly ambient temperature – all went into the drawers beneath the bunk. Her tee shirts and oxford shirts went on hangers in the closet.
The files from the briefcase she set out on the desk alongside the computer terminal that already dominated the desk. Then she removed a snapshot in a silver frame, setting it next to the computer. "Hi, gang," she said to the photo of her three brothers. "I’m finally here."
She kicked off her sneakers, sat cross-legged on the bunk, flipped open a binder and began to review the testing sequence and procedures. It was an unnecessary time-waster, since she already knew the entire drill by heart; but when she was nervous, she took refuge in routine. And at that moment, she had a case of jilters the size of Mount McKinley. So she went over the sequence one more time.
Lynn wished Jack or Kevin were along. They’d make her forget her anxiety in no time. Kevin would jolly her out of it, while Jack would annoy her so thoroughly she wouldn’t have time to worry. Either way, she’d have her mind taken off the importance of the next few days.
Routine kept Lynn occupied for a while. Then she caught a glimpse of the time and she shot off the bunk. She had about twenty minutes to shower, wash her hair, dress, and apply a modicum of makeup before dinner with the Admiral.
Grabbing a clean set of clothing, she dashed into the head. Sharing a big farmhouse with three brothers, three male cousins, her mother, aunt, grandfather and bachelor uncle until he’d married – and her other uncle when he’d been home on leave – had taught Lynn the value of speed and efficiency in the bathroom, and those lessons came in handy now.
She was just tying her sneakers when the knock came on the door. "Come on in," she called, thinking that Commander Morton could add punctuality to his list of virtues.
Chip gave her a quick once-over as he entered the cabin. The light blue chinos, blue-and-white checked oxford shirt and navy-blue fatigue sweater she’d draped around her shoulders suited her, and were practical wear for Seaview. She wasn’t overburdened in the jewelry department, either, wearing only a narrow gold chain at her throat, gold stud earrings, and a large black diver’s watch revealed by the neatly lapped sleeve of her shirt. Purely out of habit, he checked her left hand for a ring; she wore only a class ring, small in size, fashioned of yellow gold with a dark red stone.
"Well?" Lynn asked. "Do I pass inspection?"
Chip knew from her tone she’d noticed his curiosity. He cleared his throat. "You look... businesslike," he said, slightly discomfited.
"I’m here on business – I should look businesslike. If I didn’t, I’d have no right to be here."
Chip nodded his head thoughtfully. "Good point, Doctor. Are you ready?"
"Is that what they asked the Christians before they threw them to the lions?"
"I don’t think the Romans cared," Chip said, gesturing for her to precede him into the passageway.
"Probably not," Lynn agreed as Chip pulled the door to her cabin shut behind them. "I hope this is over quickly. I never know what to say to the Admiral. How do you make small talk with a genius?"
Chip raised a dubious eyebrow. "Doctor, I can’t see you having any trouble at all in that department."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I wish Lucius was here," she said wistfully. "He usually runs interference for me."
She fell silent while they walked, which gave Chip the chance to study her. What struck him most was how girl-next-door nice she was. She obviously knew her stuff, or she wouldn’t be working at NIMR. And while she liked to talk about her dolphins – and almost anything else, from what he’d seen – she made no attempts to impress or overpower him with her knowledge. Everything she said was delivered in a friendly, chatty manner.
She was fairly ordinary, too. He didn’t think she was plain – nobody with hair that color or eyes that bright could be called plain. But she wore glasses when she read, wore very little makeup, and wore practical clothing suited to the task at hand. Her nails were short out of consideration for her beloved dolphins, not long polished talons. Her chinos and cotton shirt, a refreshing change from the way some of their female guests had dressed on past cruises, were far more suitable than a dress or a tailored suit, and illustrated a curious lack of vanity. Here she was, in the middle of one hundred and twenty-five men, and she didn’t appear to be trying to play up her looks in any way. Her clothing was purely functional, doing nothing to enhance or emphasize her figure, and nothing to attract undue attention that could possibly distract the crew from their jobs. Chalk one up for her, he thought.
Chip suddenly realized that she was easily keeping up with his long stride. He normally had to check himself, shorten his stride to allow most women, either dates or scientists Seaview had hosted, to keep up with him in the high heels they favored. But Doctor Murtagh didn’t seem to find their present speed either uncomfortable or unusual. He found he liked walking along a woman who could match him stride for stride without wobbling. There was something companionable about it. Chalk another one up.
They reached the spiral staircase leading into the nose, and Chip started down first. Lynn stopped midway down the staircase as she caught sight of the vista beyond the nose. "Wow! Where’s the John Williams music?"
Amused, Chip looked back at her. "Do you always say what’s on your mind?"
Lynn nodded. "Usually. I save a lot of time that way."
"I can believe that."
Her eyes fixed on the view beyond the windows, Lynn came down the final few steps. Then she slowly became aware of the two men standing beside a rectangular table on the port side of the nose near the windows, set for four.
Lee Crane came forward. "Doctor," he greeted pleasantly, extending his hand. "I hope your first day has been enjoyable."
"That, and enlightening, too," she replied.
Crane showed her to a seat facing the windows. She found herself sitting kitty-corner to the Admiral, alongside Commander Morton, and opposite the Captain. I’m surrounded, she thought, then found herself blinking in confusion as Nelson cleared his throat. "Excuse me, sir," she apologized. "The windows are distracting."
"I can see that. I said, enlightening in what way?"
"Oh," Lynn said, vaguely aware of a twinkle in the older man’s blue eyes. "Well, it seems my dolphins have been keeping some secrets from me."
"Commander Morton seemed to think you’d been surprised by their behavior during the training session," Nelson ventured.
"That, sir, is an understatement," Lynn replied, nodding once. "It’s given me a few ideas, though."
"Oh?" Nelson asked eagerly. "Such as?"
"I’d rather not say until I’ve given the possible applications more thought, sir," Lynn replied uneasily. "They may not pan out."
"Highly understandable, Doctor," Nelson said and nodded in acquiescence.
"Thank you, Admiral."
"Doctor, would you like a glass of wine?" Chip asked.
Lynn’s eyes widened in surprise. "Wine?"
"We’re not completely dry," Crane said. "We often indulge when we have civilian guests aboard.
"In that case, yes, please. White, if you have it."
Chip rose. "One Chablis, coming right up." He walked to the port bulkhead and brought a silver wine cooler back to the table. He uncorked it quickly and poured
Nelson held up his glass. "To a successful test." Chip and Lee echoed him, touching their glasses to his.
Lynn blinked, then raised her glass to theirs. "Yes, a successful test. Thank you."
They ordered dinner from the menus on atop their place settings. In deference to the huge lunch she’d eaten earlier, Lynn chose chicken rice soup, followed by grilled salmon in a brandy cream sauce with leeks and a side of steamed broccoli.
They chatted inconsequentially, falling silent as a steward served them their soup. "Doctor Murtagh – care for some salt?" Chip asked, offering Lynn the salt shaker.
"No, thank you," she said, shaking her head. "I never add salt to my food."
Nelson cleared his throat, and Chip and Crane exchanged glances.
"Uh-oh." Lynn looked around the table uncertainly. "Did I say something wrong?"
"Oh, no," Nelson quickly reassured her. "You just sparked some memories."
"Unpleasant ones, judging from your expressions," Lynn said. Good move, Lynnie.
"Well, we’ve had better," Chip told her.
"I hope my dolphins and I don’t add any more of the unpleasant variety."
"Doctor, we hardly know you’re on board," Crane said, smiling.
"I’m not so sure I like the way that sounds," Lynn said with a quizzical frown.
"Believe me, it’s a pleasant change," Crane assured her. "How are your dolphins doing? Have they settled in?"
"Nicely, thank you. With all the attention they’ve been getting, they’ll be completely spoiled when they get back to the lab."
"And how are your assistants working out?" Nelson asked.
"They’re great. Riley and Kowalski are two good workers. And we’re getting along fine, too."
"Riley? Stu Riley?" Crane asked, throwing Chip an incredulous look. Nelson did the same. Chip just nodded calmly.
Lynn looked from one man to the other. "Is something wrong? I mean, is there something I should know, like he’s an axe murderer or something?"
"No," Crane hurried to assure her, "nothing like that. But he can try the patience of a saint at times."
Lynn shrugged. "I didn’t have any problems. He did everything I asked him to do, and the dolphins like him. He seems to be a nice kid – even if his taste in music is abominable."
Crane picked up on the last like a hound on the scent of a fox. "Doctor, I hear you’ve been playing music in the tank compartment," he said as the salad course was served.
Lynn looked at Chip uncertainly, then turned back to Crane. "Commander Morton said it would be all right," she said tentatively.
"Oh, it is," Chip said quickly.
"But the crew will be in your debt if you can get Riley away from that surfer music and onto something else," Crane added.
"I can try," Lynn said, then shivered. She stood to pull on her sweater. "I was surprised to see that there weren’t any families on the dock this morning," Lynn said. "You don’t have dockside farewells?"
"For longer cruises we do," Crane said. "But for Seaview, this is just a spin around the block."
"And not worth the aggravation and sadness?" Lynn ventured.
"More or less – but most of the crew are single," Chip put in. "You’ve been in on a few, I’d gather."
Lynn nodded. "A couple, for my uncle and cousins, and now my brother. I never liked them. It’s the ‘welcome homes’ that I like. I’ve even been on a couple of carriers for tours when the ships came back from deployment."
"When your uncle is COMNAVAIRPAC, I imagine it’s easy," Nelson commented.
Lynn grinned. "All those nice young pilots, fallin’ all over themselves to show me their planes and helos. It was great."
"I’ll bet. You must have been a big hit," Chip said.
"After a ten-month-long deployment? You got that right." She turned, grinning, and her gaze was once again caught by the vista beyond the nose. She looked at the three men sitting at the table, then shook her head. "I can’t believe how nonchalant you all are about what’s out there."
Chip looked out the windows, then turned to Lynn. "We’ve come to take it for granted, I suppose. It’s always there, all through our watches. We’ve gotten used to it."
Lynn looked at him, then back out the windows before speaking. "I don’t think I could ever get that used to anything," she said, shaking her head slowly, her eyes still on the sea.
"You know, Doctor, I think you’re right."
Lynn turned to look at him, then, seeing that he was serious and not sarcastic, she gave him a shy smile of thanks.
Lee Crane surreptitiously watched Chip and the marine biologist. While Chip had always been courteous towards the scientists they’d hosted in the past, he’d nonetheless kept his distance, and maintained his reserve. None of their former guests had been able to breach that invisible wall – at least, not for the duration of the cruise.
But this one – while Chip never had any trouble holding up his end of any conversation, he’d turned positively garrulous since Doctor Murtagh had come aboard. He was attentive, but in a friendly sort of way, Crane thought. He certainly didn’t seem to be coming on to her. And she was responding in a natural fashion. There was none of the coquette to her, and she wasn’t falling all over Chip like most of their female guests did.
It was good to see Chip relax this way, Lee thought. He usually worked so hard, taking everything on himself. Not that he wasn’t capable; he was. He was the best executive officer Crane had ever met. Competent, fair, well-liked by the crew, he knew exactly what needed to be done, and made sure it was done properly.
Crane exchanged a small grin with Nelson, then turned his attention to his dinner.
After dessert and coffee, Nelson stood. "I’m afraid I have a great deal of work to do in my cabin, but, Lynn, please feel free to join the officers in the wardroom. The movie should be starting soon."
"Yes, sir. Commander Morton already told me." She looked up at the exec and smiled. "I’m looking forward to it."
"Good. Then enjoy your evening. Goodnight, Chip, Lynn. Lee, I’d like to see you in my cabin."
"Certainly, Admiral," Crane acknowledged. "Doctor, it’s been a pleasure."
"Thank you, Captain. Same here."
"Goodnight, Commander," Crane said to Chip, shooting him a quick wink before darting up the stairs.
"Goodnight, Lee," Chip called after him, shaking his head. He turned to Lynn. "The movie?’
"I’m not gonna pass up a chance to see my baby brother," Lynn informed him.
"I didn’t think so," Chip replied, and together they left the nose for the wardroom.
They met a dark-haired young officer on the way. Chip nodded a greeting, then made introductions.
"Doctor Murtagh, this is Lieutenant O’Brien. Lieutenant, this is Doctor Murtagh."
"The dolphin lady," O’Brien said, a strange gleam in his eye. "Hi."
"O’Brien?" Lynn questioned, knowing this was the officer Riley had warned her about. "You don’t look very Irish."
"My mother’s name was DeMaria, ma’am."
"That explains it," Lynn said. "And please don’t call me ma’am. I hate that," she explained to Chip in an aside, "and I must have been called that fifty times today."
"I’ll make sure the crew knows not to address you that way," Chip assured her with a nod, ushering her into the wardroom. "You prefer Doc, I take it?"
"Yes, please. No sense standing on formality."
"I’ll include it in the Plan of the Day."
"Thank you," Lynn said, looking around. The starboard half of the room was dominated by a large TV screen, in front of which were arrayed several sofas and comfortable chairs. Several men in officers’ work khakis were already seated, but they all rose as she and Commander Morton approached.
Commander Morton made a quick introduction. Lynn recognized several of the men as nodding acquaintances from the grounds of the Institute; others had come by the tank compartment earlier in the day.
A baby-faced lieutenant Introduced himself. "I’m Chris Hodges. I’m the Chop. That’s the – "
"Supply Officer. I know."
"Did your homework, huh?"
"Something like that."
"If you need anything, just tell the XO – I’ll make sure you get it."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
"Yeah, Chris is very efficient," a tall, blue-eyed lieutenant said. "I’m Larry Baker. Weapons Officer."
"You’re Lisa’s husband, aren’t you?"
The tall man smiled. "Yes. Do you know Lisa?"
"We have lunch together pretty often. She talks about you all the time."
"Uh-oh," Baker said, smiling. "Should I file for divorce?"
"That depends. She said you’re a pretty nice guy, aside from being a Red Sox fan."
Baker grinned. "Yeah. My wife has great taste in most things, but she roots for the Orioles."
"That’s what you get for marrying an Annapolis girl," Chip pointed out.
"So far as I’m concerned, you both have rotten taste," Lynn said with a mischievous grin. "The only team worth rooting for is the New York Yankees."
"Battle stations," muttered Bobby O’Brien. "Noncombatants, take cover."
Baker grinned good-naturedly. "Doctor, since you’re a guest, I’ll refrain from commenting on your abysmal taste in teams – or lack of same."
"You’re all heart, Lieutenant," Lynn said.
"That’s what my wife says, too."
"All right, all right – enough baseball chatter. Let’s watch the movie!" Lieutenant Ed Walkanski interrupted, and everyone found seats. Walkanski doused the lights. Moments later the screen brightened and the movie began.
Lynn sat back and relaxed. Though she had seen the movie several times, including a special screening held for Nimitz’s crew and their families, she enjoyed it as much as the first time she’d seen it. Aircraft carriers had long been a special interest of hers – entirely natural in light of the career choices of her uncle, younger brother, and two of her cousins. And though Kirk Douglas didn’t resemble the captain of the real Nimitz one bit, he made a satisfactory commander.
Chip looked sideways at the marine biologist sitting next to him on the leather couch. Had he been alone he might have skipped the movie and cleared some paperwork, or spent time shooting bull with Lee, but as Doctor Murtagh’s liaison, he’d felt compelled to attend. Now he was glad he had. She was so obviously enjoying the movie, he had to smile. Watching her reactions was more fun than watching the movie itself.
Soon enough, the movie ended. Bobby O’Brien sauntered over, grinned at Chip, and addressed Lynn. "Doctor, we’re gonna play Name That Tune. Want to join us?"
"Sure. That sounds like fun," Lynn said, and stood.
"Great. We’re setting up on that table over there," O’Brien said. "It’ll be a minute ’til we’re ready." Then he walked back to the table.
"This should be fun," Lynn said, and made to follow.
Chip reached out and took her arm. "Doctor, before you go, I think I ought to warn you that Lieutenant Trivia over there thinks he knows every song that’s ever been written."
"You mean he’s run out of patsies on board and he’s looking for new blood?"
"Something like that," Chip confirmed.
Lynn grinned rapaciously. "Then Lieutenant Trivia may be in for a big surprise."
Chip raised an eloquent eyebrow and rose from the couch. "This I have to see. Lead on, Doctor. I’m right behind you."
Lynn took a chair directly across from O’Brien. "So…how do we do this?" she asked brightly, ignoring the grinning faces around the table.
O’Brien selected a cassette from a pile of tapes next to a portable player. "I’ll play a piece of a song, and you have thirty seconds to identify it. And since you’re new to this, I’ll play one of the easier tapes."
"That’s mighty big of you, O’Brien," Chip said dryly. "I warn you, Doctor – what he thinks is easy, isn’t."
"That’s okay," Lynn assured him. "I’m game."
Chip studied her. She seemed very confident, like she knew something no one else present did. He switched his attention to O’Brien. Sure of an easy victory, Bobby was unaware of Doctor Murtagh’s attitude. Chip slouched down in his chair, folded his arms across his chest, stretched his long legs out in front of him, and sat back to watch the game.
"Ready?" O’Brien asked.
"Any time you are," Lynn replied.
"Okay." He depressed the play button, and music spilled out of the speakers.
Lynn waved her hand at him and reached over to stop the tape. "Got it."
"Sure. Rock and Roll Music, the Beatles. Cover version of Chuck Berry’s song, and they did it better than he did."
"Uh...yeah." O’Brien frowned at the tape player, then reached out and let the song play on. Sure enough, the Beatles’ version of Rock and Roll Music came from the speakers.
"That’s one for our guest, O’Brien," Chip pointed out.
"Uh-huh," O’Brien mumbled, connecting the earphones and fast-forwarding the tape to another song, "Try this."
Her eyes slightly unfocused, Lynn listened. But not for long. She reached out and clicked off the tape after six notes, grinning impudently at O’Brien. "Layla – Derek and the Dominoes. Got any more?"
Aware that the game had rapidly moved out of his control, O’Brien switched tapes. "Try this."
The wail of a tenor saxophone poured from the speakers. Again, Lynn reached out and clicked off the tape player. "Thought you’d get me by startin’ in the middle, huh?" Lynn asked smugly. "Only the Good Die Young, Billy Joel. You’re right, Lieutenant, this is fun, even if it is too easy."
"Go easy on him, Doctor," Chip advised. "He’s not used to losing."
"Neither am I," Lynn said, so softly only Chip could hear her.
"Looks like it," he replied in the same low tone. "How about it, Bobby? Any more?" he asked, more loudly.
"Sure," O’Brien said, hoping to salvage at least some of his pride. "One more."
The song began with a drumbeat, and Lynn stopped the tape after three beats. "I’m sorry, Lieutenant. Cripple Creek, by The Band."
O’Brien threw his hands into the air. "I give up. I concede, Doc. You won."
"Obviously," Chip said dryly. "Bobby, you’ve finally met your match."
"Looks like it," O’Brien said with no rancor. "You’re pretty good, Doc."
"Well, I might have an unfair advantage," Lynn said. "I listen to the radio an awful lot."
"So do I," O’Brien asserted. "Can I get a rematch?"
"You’re really a glutton for punishment, aren’t you, Bobby?" asked Lieutenant Ray Carter.
"Hey, I have a reputation to maintain," O’Brien protested.
"Sure, Lieutenant, you’ll get a rematch," Lynn agreed. "But I get to bring some of my tapes and challenge you, too."
"You got a deal, Doc," O’Brien agreed eagerly. "But it’ll have to be another time – I have an early watch and I have to hit my rack soon."
"No problem," Lynn told him, then stood. "Gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me – it’s been a long day. Goodnight."
Amid a chorus of ‘goodnights’, Chip rose and escorted Lynn to the doorway. "That was a nice performance back there."
"Kevin calls me the music computer." She shrugged. "I guess when you have the radio on as much as I do, it all sinks in." Telling him about the years of piano lessons, or the bands she and her brothers had played in since high school would only have soundest like bragging.
"I suppose. O’Brien never knew what hit him."
"He was a good sport about it."
"He brought it upon himself." Chip paused, wondering how to phrase his next statement; he finally decided to say it straight out. "Doctor, I’d like to compliment you on your ‘one of the boys’ act. It’s just the right tack to take around here."
Lynn looked up at him, a wry smile on her face. "Commander, it’s no act. I’ve been ‘one of the boys’ practically all my life." At his quizzical expression, she went on. "I grew up the only girl in a big house with three brothers, and three male cousins. All of their friends were male. When I got to college, most of the students in my major were male, and I was one of two women in grad school. I’m used to being surrounded by men. I learned to cope a very long time ago."
"That’s a very practical attitude, Doctor."
"Ah, Commander, ‘practical’ is my middle name. " She looked up, realizing they’d reached her cabin. "I want to thank you."
"For making things as easy as you have, and for being so nice, despite this being a job I know you didn’t particularly want."
He pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes at her, trying to decide how to reply. He finally decided to be as honest as she had been. "Doctor, I may not originally have wanted the assignment, but I’m finding it to be one of the most interesting assignments that’s come my way."
"Really?" she asked, brightening.
"Really," he assured her.
"Okay," Lynn said, nodding once. "I’ll see what I can do to make it even more interesting." She grinned, and stepped inside her cabin. "Goodnight, Commander."
‘Goodnight, Doctor," Chip replied, but she’d already shut the door. Shaking his head in amusement, he walked next door to his own quarters.
** *** **
Lynn dropped her pen onto the notebook. Their first day on board Seaview had gone pretty well. Very well, she corrected. That surprising performance the dolphins had put on that afternoon still had her mind reeling. She’d never thought to try something like that with then. And why not? Probably because she knew the limitations of her charges – or she thought she did. "Lynnie, girl, you’re gettin’ into a rut," she said to the empty cabin. It had taken someone with absolutely no knowledge of dolphins to come up with the task. But the possibilities it opened.... She thought of another application and quickly jotted it down on her pad.
This was work? More like a vacation! The cabin was quite comfortable, more so than she had expected, not to mention much larger than her expectations; the food was sublime, and the crew was going out of its way to be helpful. Even the Admiral didn’t seen as daunting as he had always seemed back at the Institute.
And her liaison? That part of it had really turned out well. She’d been lucky there. He was intelligent, with a good sense of humor. Of course, it helped that he was damned easy on the eyes, too.
Come on, Lynnie, she chided herself. You’re starting to sound like Maureen, for cryin’ out loud. You’re here to work, not ogle the command crew.
Lynn read over her notes, then chewed thoughtfully on her pen. It was so strange, she reflected, how you could meet some people and take an instant and intense dislike to them; then there were those you met who seemed to fill up a spot that had been empty for so long you didn’t even know it was there. Meeting Bob Shaughnessey had filled up one such spot, and now it seemed that Commander Morton might possibly be destined to fill yet another.
Deciding to like him had been easy. His cool exterior didn’t hide an arrogant SOB, as it did in so many of the other line officers she’d met. He was a nice guy, but different from anyone she had ever met before. She liked the way he listened, then asked intelligent questions that showed he’d been paying attention. She also liked the dry sense of humor that had surfaced at various times during the day. That trait reminded her of Kevin.
Lynn absently looked at her nails. They were getting a bit long, and she knew she’d have to file them down pretty soon, before they got long enough to scratch the dolphins. It was just as well she had to keep them short; they were so soft they seemed to break at the slightest excuse, so she’d never be able to grow a decent set, anyway. Still, she’d always wondered what it would have been like to have a set of long, impractical, feminine nails.
Picking up the pen, she returned to her notes. The first draft, written in ordinary blue ink on loose-leaf paper, seemed dull and flat. But that was unimportant; getting the words down, in whatever form, was what mattered. She could always go back and edit, alter or add, with each set of changes made in a different color ink so she would have an idea of the way her thoughts had progressed. When she was satisfied, she would enter it onto the computer and polish it into an almost-final draft.
She wrote quickly, almost scribbling in her haste to commit her thoughts and feelings to paper. Impressions of the sub, the crew, of the dolphins flowed from her pen in no discernible fashion or logical order. The irrelevant items could easily be edited out later.
Finally, she was done. Dropping her pen on the notebook, she leaned back against the pillow and sighed as she stretched her legs out in front of her and leaned her head back against the bulkhead.
And then the letdown hit. Oh, the sense of adventure remained, but it was tempered by melancholy. Sure, she was on Seaview, but for all intents and purposes, she was alone, surrounded by one hundred twenty-five strangers.
Lynn slipped her notebook into her briefcase and left the cabin. Moments later she stood beside the tank, contemplating her three dolphins. "Hey, guys, did I wake you up?" she asked, knowing how foolish her question was. Dolphins didn’t sleep – not the way humans did, anyway. She’d asked the question knowing that the dolphins would reply.
And reply they did. Excited chattering filled the tank room, increasing in volume until Lynn winced and held up her hands to cut them off. "Okay, okay, I get the picture!" She sat on the decking and reached out to caress each one in turn. "You guys doin’ okay?" she asked, casting an eye towards the tank bottom. It showed signs of having been vacuumed recently and she nodded in approval. "Spic and span, the Navy way," she muttered, then looked up as the hatch swung open, and Commander Morton stepped over the hatch rim.
He didn’t look too surprised to see her there, Lynn reflected as he walked up to her. "I’m making my rounds, and I thought I’d see how our friends are doing. I see you had the same idea."
"I couldn’t sleep," Lynn admitted as she stood.
"Lonely?" he asked.
There was no point in lying. "Yeah," Lynn said softly.
"It’s happened to all of us at one time or another," Chip told her sympathetically. "It takes time to adjust.
"That’s time I don’t have. But I’ll be okay," she assured him. "I am enjoying myself. I’m so excited, I don’t know how I’m gonna get to sleep tonight."
"Try some warm milk," Chip suggested.
"Yeccch," Lynn said, pulling a face, "what an awful suggestion. Remember lunch? I take my milk with ice."
"Sorry. It’s the big brother in me coming out," he said quickly. "It’s what I’d hope someone would do for my sister in a similar situation."
Lynn shook her head. "Oh, Jack would love you -- somebody to watch little sis when he’s not around to do it. He hasn’t quite gotten it through his thick Irish skull that I can take care of myself."
"What does he think about your being here?"
"A lot of it’s not exactly repeatable in polite company," Lynn said flatly.
"That encouraging, huh?" Chip asked.
"Worse. My big brother doesn’t know the meaning of ‘small talk’. He always cuts right to the chase. No exceptions." She smiled indulgently. "He always speaks his mind, so you always know where you stand with him – and it saves a lot of time. Now, Kevin’s a little more circumspect – he’ll actually think before he talks. Then again, he can corrode steel in a voice that sounds like honey. And we’d all go to hell and back for each other."
"It sounds like you have a good relationship with your brothers," Chip ventured. It sounded a lot like his relationship with Kate, though in much closer proximity.
"We’re lucky we’re all in the same place – we get to do a lot together. I don’t see Donnie nearly as much as I’d like, but when he’s around, we make up for it. I’ve even been on the boat a couple of times."
"The boat?" Chip asked blankly.
"Nimitz," she said, eyes sparkling.
"Doctor," Chip said, trying to find a gentle way to correct her, "Seaview is a boat. Nimitz is a ship."
"Not to her air wing, she’s not," Lynn said, grinning. "Sorry, I’ve been around too many Navy flyboys. It’s rubbin’ off ."
"Naval aviators, scientists of the air," Chip said dryly, nodding. "I’ve known a few, too."
"They’re not exactly known for their humility," Lynn said, "but they’re fun to be around. Almost as much fun as my dolphins," she added mischievously.
"And a lot less work," Chip agreed. "This seems to be a very demanding profession you’ve chosen for yourself."
"Pretty much," Lynn agreed. "They take a lot of time, they take a lot of effort, and they take a lot of energy, but they’re worth it." She smiled indulgently at the dolphins.
"Do they leave you any time for yourself?"
"Oh, sure. I have a great bunch of research assistants. They can handle a lot of stuff on their own, but I like to do a lot of the work myself, to enhance our bond. These guys have intruded on my free time quite a bit in the past few years."
"And that doesn’t bother you?"
"It does and it doesn’t. It’s a matter of priorities, I guess."
"And you know where yours lie," Chip concluded.
"Yeah. These guys are totally dependent on us, and I won’t let them down."
Her tone was firm, almost vehement, and Chip was momentarily surprised. "What makes you think you would?" he asked gently.
She hesitated momentarily before looking at the far bulkhead, as if she might find the answer there. "I won’t allow myself to," she said quietly.
"That didn’t answer my question," Chip pointed out.
Lynn pursed her lips and met his eyes before answering. "I feel guilty sometimes."
"Because I’m the one who took their freedom away – Sammy and Maxie, at least. Leo was born in captivity."
"They seem happy," Chip told her.
"I suppose. But…. They’re very social. Dolphins have spindle cells in their brains – in humans, those are linked to emotion, communication, and a heightened sense of social sensitivity. Emotional awareness is regarded as one of the highest forms if intelligence. These guys exhibit empathy – when we do medical procedures, the other two stand vigil over whoever’s being examined. They form long-standing relationships with other dolphins. What kind of relationships did I break up when I captured then? Do they still remember their friends and families? Do they miss them?"
"You’ll never know, Doctor," Chip said gently. "It seems useless to worry about it."
"Maybe," she conceded. "But I can’t help wondering. And that’s why I can’t let them down. I captured Sammy and Maxie, but I bought Leo. I’m the one who changed their lives, and I’ll be damned if it’ll be for the worse. It’s up to me to take care of then emotionally and physically. And I will."
"I believe you," was all Chip said. "In fact, I think you’ve already done it."
"Yeah," he echoed. "They obviously reciprocate your feelings. Even I can see that."
"I believe that when you have an emotional connection with an animal – when they trust you – you have a better chance of understanding their behavior."
"You’ve obviously succeeded. Even I can see that."
"It’s strange – sometimes they know what I want them to do before I even ask them to do it. It can be spooky at times."
"Like their performance today, with the rings."
"It makes you think." She frowned slightly, crossing one leg behind the other. "Some researchers have theorized that there’s an empathic, almost psychic link among members of a dolphin school or whale pod. They’ve used this theory to explain altruistic behavior -- like trying to aid an injured pod member – as well as mass strandings. If it does exist, what’s to say it can’t be taken further to include humans?"
"You think they may be linked with you?" Chip asked, his tone skeptical.
Lynn shook her head. "No . I have nothing to base that on. They’re probably just reading my body language. But when I’m upset, or down, they seem to know, and they do what they can to make me feel better. It’s one thing to be emotionally aware of your own species, but awareness of emotions in another? That’s impressive." She frowned. "I just hope I’m not imagining it."
"Doctor, there seems to be a lot we don’t know about our own species, let alone another."
"Yeah. And I wonder if we’re even capable of ever understanding." Then she smiled. "But it’s worth thinkin’ about."
Chip looked down at the dolphins. Two drifted peacefully, almost sleepily, in the center of the tank. The third, the smallest of the three, eyed then with an almost-human gleam of interest in his eyes. What’s going on in that mind? Chip wondered. They were animals, it was obvious; but, after that afternoon’s training session, it was also more than obvious that they did have minds. Minds quite different from those of humans, but probably similar in many ways. What kind of person did it take to understand them?
"Why did you go into this line of work?’ he asked. "From the things you’ve told me, you love horses. Why not have a career working with them?"
"I do love horses – I can’t imagine life without them. I was a horse-crazy little girl who grew up into a horse-crazy adult. But ever since I was a kid, I wanted to work with dolphins. I suppose it had something to do with my seeing a school of dolphins just off the beach at Asbury Park when I was three. That made a big impression on me."
"You can remember that far back?" Chip questioned.
"Yeah. At least, I can remember that day. One dolphin leaped straight out of the water and somersaulted, and I was hooked. I even tried to run in after them."
"Did you succeed?"
She shook her head. "Nope. My mother was faster. She grabbed me in time, and that was the end of that. I remember having my fanny paddled for it, too. Boy, my mother had a hard hand."
He laughed at the imagery her words evoked. "But it didn’t dissuade you."
"Nuh-uh. When I got older, I read as much about dolphins as I could find. There wasn’t much back then, but I read what was out there. And I asked questions – lots of 'em. I was lucky – my mother is a college professor and she had a bunch of colleagues who didn’t mind answering questions for a nosy kid. I even managed to audit some college-level marine biology classes when I was in high school, thanks to her."
Chip smiled, remembering. He’d done much the same thing, pumping his father’s old Navy buddies for information. The tales they’d spun of their escapades during World War II had made an everlasting impression on him, and he could repeat many, verbatim, to that very day. "Very ambitious, Doctor."
Lynn shrugged. "Maybe. Nosy, more like. I wanted to know everything I could about dolphins."
"And do you?"
"Nope." She grinned ruefully. "Sometimes I sound like I do, but once I get started talking about them, it’s hard to stop."
"I’ve noticed," Chip said dryly.
"You’re very patient, Commander," Lynn said. "And that begs the question – why did you choose the Navy?"
He smiled at her. "For the same reason you chose dolphins."
"You saw a sub do an emergency blow off the Jersey Shore?" she asked with a little grin.
Chip laughed. "Not quite. But my father was in the Navy during the war – part of the Naval Attaché’s staff at the Embassy in London. That’s where he met my mother, in fact."
"Your mother is English?"
Chip shook his head. "German. My grandfather managed to sneak her out of Hitler’s Germany several years earlier – right before he and my uncle were sent to Dachau for opposing Hitler. She was living with relatives and working as a translator in the US Embassy when they met."
"Sprechen sie Deutsch?"
"Ja." Chip raised an eyebrow. "You have a very good accent."
"Thank you." Lynn shrugged, and thought it might not be a good time to tell him that the man she considered her father had been a major in the Wehrmacht before being captured in France in 1944 and sent to the US as a POW. So she said merely, "My mother’s partner in the training end of the farm is German. He’s been a good teacher."
"Were you born in England?"
Chip shook his head. "No – when they discovered she was pregnant, my father managed to get her to the States. She lived with my grandparents until he was discharged. I was born in Far Hills."
They were interrupted by a loud squeal, then Sammy started slapping his tail against the surface of the water.
Both humans jumped back. "Sammy, stop that," Lynn cautioned, but the dolphin ignored her.
"Sammy," Lynn said, using a sterner tone, but the slapping continued. Lynn pursed her lips, sighed heavily, then called out, "Sammy, would you please stop that?"
The slapping stopped.
"Doctor, you forgot the magic word the first time," Chip chided.
"Yeah,’’ she agreed. "Working with dolphins can be a humbling experience. You can’t make them obey, like you can with a horse or a dog – though I don’t advise trying that with either. Dolphins have to want to cooperate with you, or you won’t get anywhere."
"And your job is to figure out ways to get them to cooperate."
"You got it. You know, there are days when this seems like the ideal job, and I feel like I should be paying the Institute for letting me do it. And then there are days when I wish I was doing something – anything – else."
"I gather from the way you say it that those days have been few and far between."
"Pretty much. Do you feel the same way about your position here?" Lynn asked.
Chip studied her for a moment. "Doctor, I feel exactly the same way."
"I thought you might."
"How long have you been working at the Institute?"
"Almost two-and-a-half years. I’ve gotten the chance to do some deep research here, and I feel like I’m really making progress into understanding dolphins." Her eyes brightened. "Like their sonar – it’s incredible. Maxie could probably tell you what you had for dinner."
"I don’t think I’d want her to go quite that far, thank you." He paused, looking thoughtful. "You did that echolocation work last year."
Lynn nodded. "I used these guys. Mostly Maxie – Leo was a little too young, and Sammy decided he wanted to play big shot."
Chip frowned. "Big shot?"
"Disobeying. Refusing to cooperate. I have to stay on my toes to try to figure out how to outsmart him." She frowned. "You have to use positive reinforcement -- rewarding correct behavior – with a dolphin. Negative reinforcement – punishment – won’t work at all. I can yell at then – they’re so used to hearing me speak in a nice tone of voice that if I sound like a raving maniac, they know they’ve done something wrong."
"Precisely. What’s been working with Sammy lately is withholding treats while Leo and Maxie get their usual ration. If he refuses to work after that, I ignore him, and work Leo and Maxie in the same tank. Then when it’s treat time, they get the usual, and Sammy gets none. It drives him nuts, and he’ll behave the next time." She shook her head. "He’s so smart, he’s always trying to figure the angles"
"It seems to me he has them all figured out already," Chip said.
"You know, Commander, for a ringknocker, you’re pretty savvy about dolphins. I thought engineers only cared about the hard sciences."
"We’re not all quite that limited, Doctor. I even took a semester of marine biology at Annapolis."
Lynn nodded. "I know. Core curriculum. So did Donnie. He was a bull major – history – and he hated biology, which, I have to say, was unbelievably embarrassing. He was always calling me up for help."
"Collect, of course," Chip said knowingly.
"Of course," Lynn agreed. "What are big sisters for?"
Chip consulted his watch. "Doctor, if you’ll excuse me…it’s getting late. Breakfast is served in the wardroom starting at 0545. But if you want to sleep in, Cookie will serve you later."
Lynn shook her head. "Oh no. Regular breakfast hours are okay. I’m an early riser anyway. Besides – I don’t want to be one of those women Chief Sharkey complains about."
"Good point." Chip smiled. "Then I’ll see you at breakfast. Goodnight. Again."
"Yeah, goodnight again," Lynn replied, and watched him leave. After one final check of the compartment, she gave each dolphin a goodnight pat, then returned to her own cabin and got ready for bed. The vibration of the massive sub was unfamiliar but soothing, and Lynn was soon fast asleep.
** *** **
Lee Crane was already seated when Chip entered the wardroom the next morning at 0600 for breakfast. "Well, if it isn’t my XO. I haven’t seen much of you since you threw me over for a marine biologist," Lee said, his hazel eyes sparkling with a teasing light.
"She’s easier on the eyes than you are," Chip shot back.
"How’s it feel being a gentleman of leisure with one watch per day?"
"I could get used to it," Chip said, filling his mug from the carafe of hot coffee in the center of their table.. "Especially if the company off watch is as pleasant as Doctor Murtagh."
"Really?" Lee said, raising an eyebrow.
"Down, boy. That’s not how I meant it."
"How did you mean it?"
"She’s easy to talk to – and she doesn’t take herself too seriously."
"Unlike other scientists of our acquaintance?" Lee asked.
Chip snorted. "Too many of them. Like I said, she is easier on the eyes than you are – especially in those wetskins she wears for training sessions."
"Hmmm…maybe I’ll drop by this afternoon and check out the scenery."
"The tank compartment is off-limits to spectators, remember?"
"Even to me?"
Doctor Murtagh made no exceptions as to rank in her request."
"Convenient," Lee said dryly.
"Yes, it is, isn’t it?"
"It’s nice to know you’ve adapted so quickly to this assignment."
"Honestly, it’s been pretty easy to adapt to."
"Speak of the devil," Lee said softly, and Chip turned to see Lynn entering the wardroom.
** *** **
Lynn’s alarm went off at five AM. 0500 hours, she corrected as she padded to the head. The sub was still cold, so Lynn dressed quickly, pulling on Donny’s old Academy basketball sweatshirt over a navy blue turtleneck. She still had time before breakfast was served, so she puttered around, straightening up the cabin, arranging her files in a logical order, and going over her notes one more time.
The wardroom was filling up as she reached the door. Lee Crane beckoned to her and she made her way to the table where he and several other officers were already seated. "You keep a cold boat, Captain," she said, shivering slightly as she reached for the coffee.
"Nuclear-powered air conditioning. But it’s not usually this cold. We’ve been having some trouble with the system. And call me Lee, please."
"I will if you call me Lynn," she replied.
"It’s a deal," Lee said, nodding a greeting to Chip as he approached the table.
"Aren’t you a little...bundled up?" Chip asked as he seated himself beside Lynn and took in the dark blue turtleneck and the gray sweatshirt that proudly proclaimed Navy Basketball over the Annapolis crest.
"Commander, in case you haven’t noticed it, this boat is cold," Lynn said firmly.
"Do you think we might have a Seaview sweatshirt in Lynn’s size in stores?" Lee asked Chip.
Chip raised an eyebrow at Lee’s casual use of Doctor Murtagh’s first name, but made no comment. "l think we might. Would a small do?"
Lynn shook her head. "Could you make it a large, instead?"
The steward interrupted to take their breakfast order. "A large?" Chip asked incredulously when the man had left.
"Yup. That way I can wear it over a turtleneck or a shirt. And I’ve never met a sweatshirt that didn’t shrink."
"Large it is, Doctor," Chip agreed, and helped himself to more coffee.
Lee Crane’s curiosity finally got the better of him. "Doctor, do you know someone at Annapolis?"
Lynn looked down at her sweatshirt. "I know a lot of someones who went to Canoe U. This was my younger brother’s," she explained, pointing at the sweatshirt. "He was on the varsity team his second and first-class years."
"Wait – you’re related to that Murtagh?" Mark Videtti asked. "The Mongoose?"
Lynn nodded. "Yup."
"Hey – we have a celebrity at the table," Chris Hodges put in.
Lynn shook her head. "Nah. Not me. My brother’s the celebrity. I’m just the one who scapped up his t-shirts and sweatshirts after he graduated." She grinned wickedly. "And I cornbeefed a neat flight jacket last time he was on leave, too."
"Have you no shame?" Chip asked in a mock-stern tone.
"Not when it comes to souvenirs, I don’t," Lynn said. "I’m greedy."
"Get her a Seaview t-shirt, too," Lee told Chip.
"Aye-aye, sir," Chip replied, grinning. "It looks like this is turning into a profitable cruise for you, Doctor."
"I thank you and my t-shirt collection thanks you," Lynn said.
"We aim to please," Lee said. Chip just raised his eyes to the overhead.
Lynn left to tend to her dolphins immediately after she’d finished eating, taking along a full carafe of coffee with her. Chip waited until she was safely down the passageway before turning to Lee. "I don’t think it’s working," he said dryly.
"You don’t think what’s working?" Lee asked.
"Your ‘Hi-I’m-Lee-Crane-the-Navy’s-gift-to-women’ act," Chip said flatly. "She’s not buying it."
"Was I doing that?" Lee asked innocently.
"It sure seemed that way to me," Chip informed him.
"I’m just trying to make her feel at home," Lee protested innocently.
"Sure you were, Skipper," Chip said, unconvinced.
"Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained," Lee said, and took a long swallow of coffee.
"Besides, she’s all business. But with a smile," Chip added absently.
" ‘All business’? Really?" Lee mused. "The last visitor we referred to that way was Cara Sloane."
Chip shot him a glare. "Cara Sloane she’s not."
"Good thing. I’ve had my fill of hallucinations."
"So have we all," Chip replied, refilling his own mug.
"So, Chip," Lee said, "How are things going with the dolphins?"
Chip sipped the hot coffee before answering. "The assignment is more work than I’d expected, but it’s interesting."
"And how are things going with Doctor Murtagh?"
"In what respect?" Chip asked, shooting his friend an oblique glance over the rim of his mug.
"Have you asked her out yet?"
Chip nearly choked on his coffee. "Have I what?" he sputtered. At that, the junior officers still at the table finishing their coffee quickly took their leave.
Lee watched them hurry out of the wardroom with an amused smile. "Have you asked her out?"
"What makes you think I’d ask her out?" Chip asked when he’d recovered, checking his tie and uniform shirt to see if he’d spilled any coffee on himself.
"She’s female, isn’t she?" Lee shot back
"So?" Chip challenged.
"So you haven’t asked her out," Lee said confidently.
"She’s not my type," Chip told him. "And I’m not hers."
"What is her type?"
"I’m not sure – I just know I’m not it."
"That makes no sense at all."
"It does to me. So no, there’s nothing there."
"Your actions say different," Lee pointed out. "You were downright garrulous at dinner last night."
"Lee, I talk to you but I haven’t asked you for a date yet," Chip told him.
"Does this mean you’re not going to?" Lee asked.
"Ask you out? No. You’re not my type, either," Chip said patiently. "And neither is Doctor Murtagh."
"I find that hard to believe," Lee said.
"Because virtually anyone female is your type," Lee said flatly. "At least, that’s been true until now."
"No, it hasn’t!" Chip protested. "Besides, it’s pretty stupid to get involved with someone you work with."
Lee pounced on that statement like a dog with a nice, meaty bone. "So you do like her!"
Exasperated, Chip exhaled forcefully. "What’s not to like? She’s friendly, she’s funny, she’s smart, and yeah, I like her. But that’s all it is."
"You sound like you’re trying to convince yourself," Lee said.
"Just who was it that started this conversation, anyway?" Chip asked, disgruntled.
"I can’t seem to remember," Lee said, and raised his mug. "Cheers."
** *** **
The following days sped past quickly, their pattern set by the routine of the first -- mornings on watch, afternoons spent working with Doctor Murtagh and the dolphins in the tank compartment, evenings in the wardroom watching movies, playing Name That Tune – in which O’Brien never could seem to beat Doctor Murtagh, no matter what song he played – or just sitting around talking. Chip’s forenoon supervisory watches were routine – plot the course, check his figures, check the duty stations, give necessary orders, make log entries. It was all very routine. Routine, and more than a little boring, since Seaview was cruising the same triangular course northwest of the Channel Islands over and over again.
Invariably, in the quiet moments, he found his mind drifting towards Doctor Murtagh. He’d told Lee the truth -- he did like her. She was funny, informative and friendly, and she didn’t take herself too seriously. She took her assignment seriously, though, and Chip knew she had every intention of seeing it through to a successful conclusion.
He enjoyed their talks at meals and in the tank compartment. She seemed fairly well-versed in a variety of subjects – not entirely surprising for a woman whose mother was a college professor – and generally had something to offer in any conversation, whether in a group or one-on-one. Their close contact had allowed them to begin to develop a playful camaraderie that he’d never enjoyed with any woman other than his sister.
It was an odd feeling to sit and talk with a woman just for the pleasure of talking. He felt comfortable with the Doctor, relaxed, at ease. She wasn’t a date; there was no pressure. They were slowly building the foundation of a friendship, and he found he liked it.
** *** **
In the tank compartment, Lynn’s thoughts drifted along in a similar vein. She was also impressed with their effortless friendship. She enjoyed the easy familiarity that had sprung up between then. He acted as if he’d known her for years, and knew exactly what was going on inside her head. It was a pleasant, comfortable feeling.
And for all his good looks, he didn’t seem to be at all conceited, or terribly impressed with himself. He was pleasant, respectful, and considerate. He asked intelligent questions about her dolphins, and seemed to be genuinely interested in her work. He was a professional in a tough, demanding profession, but she sensed he’d still been able to remain idealistic, all too difficult in the undersea warfare specialty, where burnout was all too common.
** *** **
Well aware of the consequences
Should the dream fall through
You threw down your last defenses
Wanting to try something new
All too soon, the day of the test arrived. Dressed in her wetsuit and dive boots, Lynn paced the length of the tank compartment. The morning stretched out before her, endless, filled with anxiety. Commander Morton had suggested they postpone lunch until after the test to minimize the chance of dangerous cramps and Lynn had readily agreed. It was doubtful that she’d have been able to eat, anyway, Lynn stared pensively at the three dolphins. This afternoon’s test would tell – would they stay with her or would they take their freedom when it was offered?
Her practical nature asserted itself, and she began a systematic check of the equipment. It had all been checked before, but once again, she felt the need to take refuge in routine. With the three dolphins kibitzing from the tank, she pulled out and examined every piece of diving and test equipment she’d brought along, as well as the backup systems.
She was in the midst of running a simulation program on the computer when Chip came in at the end of his watch. Already dressed in his wetsuit, he stood momentarily, watching Lynn’s fingers play over the keyboard, "Ready?" he asked softly.
Engrossed in her work, she was surprised to see him, and Lynn spun around. "Almost."
He placed a small case on the worktable. "Kowalski should be here momentarily. He’ll be operating the airlock controls for us."
"Okay," Lynn said, and walked to the side of the tank.
Chip followed and looked down at the dolphins. Sammy and Leo looked up in an interested manner, but Maxie merely drifted. "Is she asleep?"
"Half of her is," Lynn said in an offhand manner.
"What?" Chip asked, not sure he’d heard right.
Lynn smiled up at him. "In humans, breathing is part of our autonomic nervous system – it’s an involuntary reflex. We breathe without thinking about it. In dolphins, though, it’s just the opposite. They breathe consciously. If they slept, they’d drown."
"So they never sleep?" Chip asked, puzzled. He’d thought sleep was necessary for every living creature to function.
"No, they do – but only half of the brain sleeps at a time, and then only for a short while. Part of it has to stay awake to regulate breathing, or the dolphin will drown."
"It is," Lynn agreed. "It took years before researchers were even able to develop a technique to successfully anaesthetize dolphins for surgery – they used to die on the operating table. A civilian researcher working with the Navy out at Point Mugu finally hooked a dolphin up to a respirator for surgery."
"Did it work?"
"Beautifully," Lynn assured him. "I’m not qualified to operate, but I’ve been able to observe a few procedures. It’s amazing." She looked at her watch, then up at him nervously. "Shall we get to work?"
"That’s why we’re here, Doctor. Whenever you’re ready."
Together they walked to the waiting equipment. "Dolphins will instinctively save a drowning human. These three have been trained to deliver a diver in distress to a predetermined location. The location itself doesn’t matter since they’ll go to wherever the recall pager has been placed."
"The unit that was installed outside the tank’s access hatch?" Chip asked.
"Yeah. It’s ultrasonic -- they’ll hear it for a good distance." She picked up an object resembling a small point-and-shoot camera and handed it to him. Chip turned the offering over in his hand, Encased in a membrane of soft, clear plastic, it felt light, insubstantial. He turned curious eyes to Lynn.
"That’s the pager," she said in response to his unvoiced question. "You’ll wear it clipped to your tank harness. We use it to call the dolphins in. It emits ultrasonic waves the dolphins will respond to. Just press that round green button to call them to you; it’ll signal until you press the square red one. Press the red button twice, and the unit on Seaview’s hull will call them home."
"It’s pretty small," Chip said, turning it over in his hands. The membrane was sealed along one end, and seemed ample protection for the unit, but it gave easily enough, allowing the unhampered operation of the two large buttons.
"Bigger doesn’t always mean better. You don’t want a humongous box hanging off your buoyancy vest – or, in your case, your harness. Any bigger and it’d cause unnecessary drag," she explained, taking it from him and returning it to the pile.
"What happens if the diver is unconscious, or can’t reach the belt unit?"
"Fabricating is working on a micro sensor to go in the regulator. The sensor will automatically signal the dolphins if respiration speeds up past a certain rate or drops too low. The team in Fabricating is also working on a pressure-sensitive sensor. If you can’t manage to reach the pager, all you have to do is bite down – hard – and the dolphins are signaled. Normal bite pressure on the regulator is ignored."
"It looks like you have all the angles covered," Chip said.
Lynn smiled at his approval. "We think we do – we hope we do, anyway. It took a long time and a lot of late nights to come up with these ideas. And I still wonder if something’s gonna come out of left field to throw us."
"Doesn’t it usually?"
She held out a smaller unit. "This is our last resort. We use it only when nothing else works." Lynn pressed a button on the belt unit. "Can you hear that?" she asked, as behind them, the dolphins in the tank went berserk.
Chip shook his head. "I can feel it – right here." He pointed behind his ear.
"Good," Lynn nodded. "That’s your mastoid. That’s right where you should feel it. What you’re feeling – and what they just heard – is a dolphin distress call. It’s just slightly above the upper range of human hearing so we feel it, rather than hear it. But the dolphins hear it," she said, handing him the belt unit and hurrying to reassure the three dolphins.
Satisfied that the dolphins were again calm, Lynn returned to Chip and the pile of equipment.
"You have your toys – I have mine." Chip opened the case resting on the worktable. "Can you use a regulator mike?" he asked, holding one out to Lynn.
She nodded as she took the small mike with the accompanying earpiece. "I can now. I think I swallowed half the Pacific before I got the hang of it, though."
"That’s par for the course," Chip told her. "I think we all did when we were training to use them."
"Then I’m in good company." She smiled up at him, and his answering smile was wide and warm.
Kowalski entered, carrying Chip’s diving gear. "All checked out, Mister Morton," he reported.
"Very well, Kowalski," Chip replied. "Thank you."
Then he and Lynn began to don their equipment. Chip helped Lynn ease into the buoyancy control vest that held her tank, then examined the dials and readouts on the tank. "Everything seems good to go." He nodded at her, then shrugged into his own harness.
Moving behind him, Lynn checked the gauges on the tank, then clipped the belt unit and pager to his tank harness before fastening similar units to her buoyancy vest. She took her regulator and pressed the purge button. A draft of cool compressed air brushed against her lips, deflecting around her cheeks. She nodded, then fitted the miniaturized mike inside. One more satisfactory test of the airflow, and she was ready.
They sat on the edge of the tank to wash out their masks. Lynn fitted hers to her face, testing its seal by pulling on the headband; when the mask stayed firmly in place, she nodded to Chip, seeing that he was in the process of testing his own mask. Then, after putting on their swim fins, they slid into the water.
"When the panel turns green, we’ll enter the airlock," Chip told Lynn, nodding their readiness to Kowalski. "Follow my lead."
"Okay." The butterflies in her stomach had gone into overdrive, and she hoped the dolphins couldn’t sense them. Looking over the three sleek gray animals, she saw their eagerness, their willingness to work, and she mentally crossed her fingers as she sent a quick prayer heavenward.
They proceeded through the airlock. It cycled through quickly, and then they were outside the sub. The three dolphins arrowed toward the surface for a breath of air, then just as quickly returned.
Lynn looked at her dive computer. It showed their depth as forty-three feet, close enough to the suggested test depth of forty feet. "Okay – let’s do this."
They swam around to the bow of the sub. Chattering excitedly, the three dolphins clustered at the glass nose, seemingly fascinated by the sight of the control room and the humans within. Lee Crane and Admiral Nelson stood in the nose, observing.
"I wonder if that’s dolphin for ‘turnabout is fair play’," Chip said.
Lynn spread her hands. "It wouldn’t surprise me," she said.
"Doctor, by now nothing about those three would surprise me," Chip said. He noticed the wide-eyed expression on her face, easily visible behind the large facemask. "Something wrong?"
Lynn shook her head. "No, not really…. It’s just...from here, Seaview...she almost looks...alive." She turned to him, awe clearly visible in her eyes. "Look at her!"
Chip looked towards the sub. From that angle, the lights of the control room shining through the nose windows, Seaview did seem to have a semblance of life. A living being, responsible for the safety of her puny human crew, protecting them from the hostile marine environment.
Through the windows, he could see Admiral Nelson beaming, obviously pleased with Lynn’s statement, which she apparently didn’t realize could be heard over the communications circuit. Next to Nelson, Lee Crane was smiling as well, giving Lynn a thumbs-up in approval.
Lynn’s voice, tinny through the earpiece, interrupted this thoughts. "Okay – I sounded like a real dork just then. You’ve seen this a million times. Ready to get to work so I can stop making a fool of myself?"
"You didn’t sound foolish."
"Commander, you are truly, an officer and a gentleman," Lynn said. "Ready?"
"If you are, Doctor."
"Okay. We’ll start with some simple commands – directions, actions, stuff like that. The stuff we did in the tank compartment"
"I’m all yours."
Lynn somehow stifled the impulse to wisecrack. "Swim out about twenty yards or so," she told Chip, and he swam off. The dolphins remained by Lynn, attentively waiting for the first signal. She sent them to Chip one by one, then called them back in reverse order. The dolphins were as attentive and obedient as usual, showing no signs of curiosity about their surroundings, simply responding to the commands, occasionally surfacing to breathe, but returning to her immediately.
Chip spotted the shark first. It was the largest shark he’d ever seen, and he was sorry he’d seen either of the two Jaws movies, because his imagination had gone into overdrive, beginning to conjure up all sorts of scenarios – all of them extremely unpleasant.
He attempted to keep the alarm out of his voice as he alerted Lynn. She was a good sixty feet away, and had her attention so fixed on the three dolphins arrayed before her, giving them the instructions for the next phase of testing, that he was sure she hadn’t spotted the intruder. "Doctor Murtagh, we have a visitor."
As Lynn looked at him, then in the direction he’d indicated, her first thought was that they were too far south for a great white shark’s liking. But there one was, a large male as big as – bigger than – life.
The three dolphins spotted the shark, Sammy and Leo immediately arrowing away to investigate while Maxie positioned herself as a guard between the shark and the humans.
The shark circled lazily, and Lynn kept turning, keeping him in view. All her instincts screamed at her to flee, but she tried to remain calm. She’d been in open water with all sorts of sharks before, including those species confirmed as man-eaters, and including a few great whites. But then, she’d observed them from the safety of a diving cage. And this shark was the largest great white she’d ever seen -- a good sixteen feet long.
She cautioned herself to breathe slowly and shallowly. The shark – the scientist in her recognized him as a magnificent, beautifully proportioned male – wasn’t making any threatening gestures, merely swimming in a wide circle. In fact, he seemed to be ignoring them.
But Lynn knew he wasn’t. He was as aware of them as she was of him. Everything in the sea was a potential meal to a carnivore like a white. He stood at the top of the food chain, eating fish, cephalopods, mammals, anything he wanted – including the occasional float, license plate, rubber boot or sou’wester hat. His only natural enemy was man.
Chip schooled his breathing to a more deliberate rhythm. Slow, he cautioned himself. Don’t use up all your air. Remembering from lectures on ocean survival that jerky, choppy movements attracted sharks, he mimicked Lynn’s slow, deliberate movements, barely treading water.
He noticed that the dolphins had interposed themselves between the shark and the two humans they instinctively sought to protect. Maxie had swum fairly close to Chip on her circuit between him and Doctor Murtagh, while the two males swam closer to the shark, taking turns rising to the surface to breathe. One male dolphin remained between the shark and the divers at all times.
Then the shark abruptly turned and swam off, and Chip heaved a sigh of relief.
"Did you see him?" Lynn’s voice crackled in his earpiece.
"See him? How could I miss him?" Chip shot back.
"Where’s my camera when I need it?" she asked. "Damn, he was a beauty!"
"They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Doctor," Chip said dryly. "I thought he was more menacing than anything else."
"To each his own, Commander," Lynn said back, and Chip knew she was smiling behind her regulator. "Shall we get on with the rest of the test"?
"By all means," Chip began to reply, breaking off as a dolphin roughly knocked him aside. Recovering, he looked up in astonishment to see the great white streak past him in Lynn’s direction.
The scene seemed to unfold in slow motion. Mouth open to reveal several rows of large triangular teeth, the shark arrowed toward the woman he’d marked as prey. Chip tried to swim to help her, but found himself restrained by a very determined dolphin. He could only look on in horror.
Suddenly the shark was attacked by the other two dolphins. One bashed him in the midsection while the other rammed him in the gill area. The shark faltered, half-swimming, half-falling away. The dolphins continued the attack as a cloud of blood began to waft from the shark’s gills.
Then the third dolphin quit hampering Chip, Chattering at him, it turned and began swimming for Lynn. Recognizing the dolphin as Maxie, Chip impulsively reached out as she turned, grabbing the animal’s dorsal to hitch a ride.
Maxie stopped before Lynn, who tread water, watching the descending shark and the dolphins escorting him downward. Chip reached out and, grabbing her shoulders, he forced her to look at him. "Are you all right?" he demanded.
She blinked once, then nodded weakly. Then she swung back to look downward again.
Chip squeezed her shoulders. "We’re heading back in. Now," he said firmly, and she nodded vigorously, apparently forgetting the presence of her regulator mike. "Go on," he said.
Lynn reached out, took Maxie’s dorsal, and pressed the red button on the recall unit. They moved away, toward Seaview.
Chip anxiously looked into the depths. He didn’t know much more about sharks than what he’d learned in his ocean survival classes, but he did know that the blood in the water would attract any other sharks in the vicinity, sending even relatively innocuous species into a feeding frenzy.
Seeing that Doctor Murtagh and Maxie were safely in the airlock, Chip started downward. The two male dolphins were out there somewhere, and had to be recalled. He knew Doctor Murtagh would have done so if she’d been thinking straight, but a near-miss with a shark that size would have rattled Superman.
"Kowalski," Chip said.
"Aye, sir," was the prompt response.
"How’s Doctor Murtagh?"
"Just comin’ in the airlock now. What happened, sir?"
"I’ll fill you in later. Tell Doctor Murtagh I’m going back for her dolphins."
Chip fumbled on his harness, looking for the pager. Finding it hanging from its lanyard, he brought it up before his faceplate. Objects lose color underwater, but the day-glo green button was still recognizable. He held his breath, depressed it, and waited.
It seemed an eternity before the two males responded. But they came swimming up from the murky depths, eying Chip suspiciously, obviously expecting Doctor Murtagh. He could feel then scanning him with their sonar; then they relaxed, seeming to recognize him.
Leo obligingly moved close to him, and he grasped the dolphin’s dorsal firmly. Then Chip pressed the red button, and they were off, the two dolphins streaking away, the lights gleaming from Seaview’s nose steadily beckoning them to her.
** *** **
Pushing herself out of the tank, Lynn hit the quick release on her buoyancy vest, let it slide to the deck, then lay back to catch her breath. "Holy Mother Mary," she muttered between gasps, her eyes wide and staring. "He nearly – he –." She suddenly sat bolt upright. "The dolphins and Commander Morton! Where are they?" she demanded of Kowalski.
"They’re comin’ through the airlock now, Doc," Kowalski called from the console.
Scant moments later two sleek grey heads broke the surface chattering anxiously. Lynn slid down into the tank between then, hugging first Sammy, then Leo.
Chip surfaced slightly away from then. As he moved to the side of the tank, Lynn reached out and stopped him. "You went back for them," she said softly, gratitude shining from her eyes.
He pulled his regulator out of his mouth and let it hang from the neck strap. "You were in good hands with Maxie, and I didn’t think you’d want them out there alone."
He looked at the two males, reaching out to stroke Leo. "They responded to the pager almost immediately." He shed his tanks, hood, and mask, depositing them on the deck beside the tank, then looked at Lynn with a critical eye. "Are you all right?’
She nodded. "I think so. I’m still in one piece, thanks to them." She looked quickly at the dolphins, "But they’re hurt!" She quickly examined the males. The delicate skin on the tips of their snouts had been abraded when they had rammed the shark, leaving large patches of angry-looking raw flesh.
"What can I do to help?" Chip asked.
Lynn shot him a look full of gratitude. "That big blue plastic case on the deck by the work table – it’s a medical kit. Can you get it for me?"
"You may have to hold them while I clean and treat the wounds, too."
"Whatever you need, Doctor. I’ll do whatever I can," he said, then left the tank to retrieve the case she’d requested.
Holding the dolphins firmly but gently, Chip watched as Lynn treated the dolphins. The medical kit was designed to float, and Lynn secured it to her left wrist with a lanyard, keeping it nearby as she tended to the dolphins.
Her hands were sure as she cleaned the wounds with antiseptic, then covered them with an oil-based antibiotic. She kept up a low-pitched stream of reassuring words as she worked, explaining each step to him in the same low tone, never taking her eyes away from her two charges. Maxie hovered worriedly in the background, occasionally giving Lynn some unsolicited advice.
Her first-aid complete, Lynn became aware that they had been joined at some time in the past few minutes by Admiral Nelson and Lee Crane. Crane’s gaze was appraising, while Nelson’s was frankly approving.
"Well?" Nelson asked Chip.
"The situation is under control, sir," Chip replied, looking to Lynn and receiving a brief nod in return.
"Yes, sir, the dolphins are okay," Lynn told him. She reached out to Leo, who butted her hand.
Nelson laughed mirthlessly. "But are you all right?"
Aware of three pairs of eyes on her, Lynn straightened. "I think so – thanks to them, anyway. Did you see what happened?"
"We have the entire encounter on videotape," Nelson said. "Do you feel up to watching it?" he asked solicitously.
Lynn took a deep breath. "Yeah, I guess I do. You got all of it?" she asked, her scientific curiosity overcoming any residual fear. They had documented evidence of dolphins saving humans from a shark!
"All of it," Crane put in. "The nose and sail cameras had unobstructed views."
"We saw and heard it all," Nelson told Lynn and Chip. "We didn’t want to distract you by contacting you."
"But you got all of it?" Lynn persisted. "It’s down in black and white?"
"In living color, actually," Lee said, hiding a smile.
"Maybe we could sell it to Spielberg for the next Jaws movie," Chip said dryly.
"Can we see it now?" Lynn asked eagerly.
Crane crossed to the control console, and palmed the mike. "Sparks, cue up the tape of the shark attack and channel it through the tank compartment viewer."
Crane turned to his executive officer. "Chip?"
"Aye, sir," Chip responded, reluctantly turning on the viewer and returning to Lynn’s side. she looked at him curiously, but he just shook his head.
They watched the taped attack in silence. Though Lynn stared at the viewer in horrified fascination, a certain detached part of her mind registered approval at the responses of the dolphins during the testing that had preceded the shark’s attack.
"Wow," was all she could say when the tape had finished."
"I think that’s a bit of an understatement," Nelson remarked.
"Yeah, but it’s all I can manage at the moment." Her expression turned thoughtful. "Admiral, can I get a copy of this?
"Certainly," Nelson agreed. "The stills should make an interesting addition to your paper."
"What an impact this’ll make!" Lynn enthused.
"Why?" Crane asked, exchanging a curious glance with Chip.
"Because now we have documentary evidence of dolphins saving humans from a shark. There have been plenty of eyewitness reports, anecdotal evidence, but nothing on film, or tape. Until now," she finished, her eyes gleaming. "We have documentary evidence that they treated us like they’d have treated one of their own pod. The way they attacked? That was a classic defense strategy. The first male goes in and hits the shark in the underbelly, rupturing the liver. Then the second male rams it in the gills. That draws blood, which draws more sharks, who head for the wounded shark and leave the dolphins alone."
"But why didn’t the dolphins attack as soon as the shark showed up?" Chip asked.
"He didn’t seem to present a threat at that time. Dolphins and sharks have been observed feeding together in the wild, practically ignoring each other. But they will attack sharks when they present a clear danger to pod members."
"Meaning us," Chip finished.
"Meaning us," Lynn confirmed. "I think they would have left him alone if he hadn’t attacked."
"Why do you keep referring to the shark as ‘he’?" Lee Crane asked.
"I checked him out the first time he swam past," Lynn explained. "His claspers were a good two feet long."
Nelson suppressed a smile at the disconcerted expressions on the faces of the two younger officers, and Lynn smiled and spread her hands. "You asked," she reminded them.
"Yes, you did," Chip said low enough for only Lee to hear him.
"Admiral?" Lynn asked hesitantly. "When can I finish my tests?"
"Whenever you’re ready," Nelson said, his smile conveying his approval.
"You want to go out again?" Chip asked in disbelief. "After being attacked by a great white?"
"Sure," Lynn told him. "We’ll be safe. Realistically, the chances of another attack are pretty low."
"The chances of the first attack were pretty low, too," Chip responded.
"I’ll assign a detail to go out with spearguns," Lee offered.
Lynn shook her head. "Our best chances lie with the dolphins. And if there was another attack, the dolphins would have to protect the additional divers, too – they’d be spread too thin. The two of us can handle it." She looked at Chip, but he only raised his eyes heavenward. "Right?"
"Whatever you say, Doctor."
"Since that’s agreed," Nelson said, with a side glance at Chip, "when do you want to resume the testing?"
"Tomorrow, if that’s okay with you. The dolphins have had enough excitement for one day."
"So have we," Chip mumbled.
Nelson and Crane suppressed grins and left the compartment, taking Kowalski along with them.
Chip waited until they had dogged the hatch behind them before turning to Lynn. "Are you really sure you want to go out again? You had a bad scare today."
"I know," Lynn conceded. "But it’s like falling off a horse. You have to get back on, or, in this case, go right back out. And the way I see it, we have to go out again. The tests haven’t been completed."
"Isn’t it enough that the dolphins rescued us from a shark?"
"That’s a side benefit. Pure serendipity. But that was instinctive behavior. I’m testing learned behavior, and the testing wasn’t completed. Yet," she added.
"You’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?" Chip asked wryly.
"Where’s your sense of adventure?" Lynn asked.
"The shark ate it."
** *** **
The second day of open water trials proceeded without a hitch. No shark appeared to disrupt the orderly progression of tests. All three dolphins responded perfectly to the signals emitted by the belt units, and exhibited excellent response to the hand signals, and a pleased Lynn called an end to the tests after an hour.
Once back aboard Seaview, Kowalski helped her shrug out of her buoyancy vest. She was unable to hide her wide smile as she stowed her gear.
"You look satisfied," Chip said, his own grin wide and pleased as he pulled off his dive hood.
Lynn nodded. "Yup – it couldn’t have gone better. It feels good – real good."
"Tell you what – why don’t you meet me in the wardroom to celebrate, say, in ten minutes?" Chip suggested. "The coffee and donuts are on me."
"Sounds good. But make it twenty. I have to get the dolphins settled first."
** *** **
Chip took a quick shower, dressed in a fresh uniform, and made it to the wardroom before Lynn did. He took a carafe of coffee from Cookie, picked up two mugs and a plate with two fresh jelly donuts from the sideboard, and carried then to a table along the bulkhead.
He looked up as Lynn, dressed in a tee shirt and jeans, sat down across from him. Her hair was still damp, but she had obviously taken the time to put on a bit of makeup. He filed away that bit of information for further consideration.
"Cheers," Lynn said as they clinked mugs.
"Cheers," he acknowledged. "So now what?"
"Well," she said, taking a sip of the hot coffee, her eyes closing briefly in pleasure at the taste, "once we get back, I write up my report, submit it to Lucius for clearance, send it in to a journal, and wait for the reaction from the scientific community. Both cetacean and shark biologists should be interested in it. In the meantime, I’ll just keep on working with the dolphins and move on to the next step of the training."
"I have several ideas, but I have to sort them out and decide which is the logical next step for them. But it’ll be interesting."
"Doctor, of that I have no doubt."
Lynn smiled. "Commander, thank you. I enjoyed this cruise, I really did. I’ve wanted to get on board Seaview for a long time – ever since I came to work at the Institute, to be honest. And now that I’m here, I don’t want to leave. I had a ball."
"A ball," Chip repeated. "Is that how you describe a shark attack?"
Lynn smiled ruefully. "No, but I’ll say this – it’s not something I’ll easily forget."
Neither will I," Chip said. His eyes met hers and held them.
Lynn was the first to look away, albeit with difficulty. "Yeah, well, it’ll make for an interesting report. I came here for one purpose, and I’m going away with evidence of behavior we’ve never before been able to document. Hard scientific proof, not just anecdotal testimony from a layman. It’s unreal."
"Doctor, ‘unreal’ doesn’t begin to describe the experience. But I wouldn’t have missed it, either."
"Mister Morton, please report to the control room," sounded over the PA system.
Chip stood. "Duty calls, Doctor. Until this evening."
"Yeah. Later." Lynn looked after him thoughtfully, realizing that the time they had spent together had been special. They had shared a secret, silent world on the dives; near-tragedy had drawn them together. Something warm and solid had been built between them, the beginning of a relationship that she somehow knew would continue to grow.
Refilling her mug, Lynn left the wardroom to tend to her charges.
Born on the first warm winds of feeling newly found
Fly, but remember, don’t look down
Take as much as you think you ought to
Give just as much as you can
Don’t forget what your failures have taught you
Or else you’ll have to learn them all over again
Or else you’ll have to learn them all over again*
*copyright 1977, Dan Fogelberg/Sony Music