Originally published in Anchors Away, Patricia Ames, editor


Against The Wind

Early July, 1985

"...and that's the last one," Lee Crane said triumphantly, initialing the requisition and handing it over his desk to Chip Morton, who was sprawled bonelessly in a chair in front of Lee’s desk, his long legs stretched out in front of him.

"For now," Chip said genially as he added it to the pile on his clipboard, knowing Lee's distaste for paperwork. "But Mark is industriously working on another full stack for you at this very moment."

"Don't rub it in," Crane grumbled. "Tomlinson is as bad as you are when it comes to making paperwork disappear." Chip just grinned. "What are you doing tonight?"

Chip tossed the clipboard onto Lee's desk and leaned back with his hands behind his head. "I'm taking Lynn out for an early birthday celebration, remember? Seaview will be away on her birthday – this will be the first one I've missed since Shawn was born." He shook his head. "It's a lot better than a big blowout at home – and letting Jack throw one over at San Sarita would be even worse."

"That’s what you get when you marry a twin," Lee pointed out.

"Yeah – supersized birthday parties thrown by a doting big brother," Chip said with an expression of disgust. "Don’t remind me."

Crane grinned. Chip's distaste for birthday celebrations had become legendary among his friends. Lee found it ironic that he'd paired with a woman who so obviously loved them. "Well, she enjoys them enough for both of you. I've never met anyone who enjoys birthday parties more. Are you taking the girls?"

"Nope." Chip shook his head. "It’s just the two of us – we’re heading out after work. I’ve got it all planned – home to get changed and pick up the luggage, then we’ll check in at the Sheraton and stay there until Sunday. Tonight it’s dinner at Villa d'Amici, tomorrow we’re driving up to spend the day at Cassoli Winery, with dinner at that new steakhouse in Goleta, and Sunday it’s a nice, leisurely brunch at the Sheraton, before we go home and pick up our little darlings at Jack and Eileen’s."

"I’m impressed."

Chip shrugged. "It won't make up for my being gone on her birthday, but it'll be a nice change from the usual routine. Lynn's really looking forward to it. Hell, I'm looking forward to it even more. I can't remember the last time we were alone."

"Enjoy it while you can. After November, time alone will a lot harder to come by," Lee reminded him.

Chip nodded. "Oh, yeah. Two kids demand a lot of attention, but three...." He gave Lee a happy smile. "It’s worth it, though."

"Maybe the third time will be the charm?" Lee Ventured with a sly smile.

Chip looked at him quizzically, then shrugged. "You mean for a boy?" He shook his head. "Doesn’t matter to me. I wouldn’t mind having a third little princess around the house. Like Lynn says, ‘The air is the air – what can be done?’ As long as he or she is healthy and Lynn comes through the delivery in good shape, anything else is what it is."

"But don’t you want a son, so you can teach him how to throw a great spiral? Maybe be a second-generation Navy quarterback?"

Chip snorted. "Football? Lynn would probably just turn him into a middle infielder, like she’s doing with Shawn and Andy. And Shawn is getting pretty good at fielding grounders, too." Chip beamed at Lee. "She looks adorable with that tiny little glove Lynn got her, too."

Lee laughed. "That’s what happens when you marry a woman who’s addicted to baseball."

"She’s not a bad shortstop, either."

The phone rang, breaking into their banter; Lee picked it up after the first ring. "Crane…. Yes, Admiral.... Now, sir? Yes, sir, I'll make the arrangements." He replaced the receiver in the cradle and frowned.

"Trouble?" Chip asked.

"More of an inconvenience," Crane answered. "The Admiral is ready to come back from his inspection of the undersea lab, and I have those meetings all afternoon – how would you like to go pick him up?"

Chip grimaced. "That damned lab. If I never see it again, it'll be too soon."

Crane nodded ruefully. "Uh, right. I'll send Ed Walkanski instead – he’s been complaining about needing to log flight time." He reached for the phone.

Chip stood and shook his head. "No, that's okay. I need to log some flying time myself. As long as I'm back in time for dinner tonight. If I'm not...."

"Major guilt trip, huh?"

"Not guilt, no. But I don't like to disappoint her if I can help it."

"You softie." Crane grinned. "I figured something out about you a long time ago."

"Yeah? What's that?"

"Lynn will get whatever she wants from you -- and you like it that way."

Chip shrugged, then nodded. "You’re right – I do. But it works both ways, Lee – she gives as much as she gets. Maybe more. I often think I got the better deal out of our marriage."

"What do you mean?" Lee asked with a puzzled smile.

Chip frowned. "I'm gone so much, everything falls on her shoulders. She has to handle all the problems that come up at home, and she's here full-time, too – and she never complains. She has to be mommy and daddy to the girls, and now she's pregnant again. Did you know I've never been home when she found out she was pregnant?"

"As long as you were there at the beginning," Lee said, "I don't think you have anything to worry about."

"Yeah, right." Chip smiled weakly at the joke. "But just once, it would have been nice to find out at the same time she did – to be there with her when she found out."

"Chip, from my perspective, I think you two have it pretty good."

Chip smiled. '"There are worse ways to live, Lee." He headed for the door. "I'd better get going – the sooner I go, the sooner I get back, and the sooner I get to spend a romantic weekend with my wife."

** *** **

Busy going over a status report on three of the juvenile dolphins in her care, Lynn Murtagh Morton looked up as the door to her office in the NIMR Marine Mammal Building opened. Looking over her reading glasses, she saw a take-out cup with a straw sticking through the lid hanging suspended in mid-air beside the door jamb. She took off her glasses and tossed them onto the desktop. "Hmmm, a levitating milk shake. Maybe I should call the Ghostbusters."

Chip looked around the door, smiling. "It's a root beer float."

"Ooh! That’s even better."

"I thought you might be in need of some sustenance."

"Ice cream at ten in the AM? Hey, why not? I've had stranger things at stranger times, thanks to this baby." She got up from the desk and walked to meet him, kissing him as she took the container. "Thank you, sweetheart. This should keep me going until noontime." She put the container on the desk and patted her rounded stomach. "God, I am starving. I don't remember being this hungry when I was carrying the girls."

Chip snorted. "You never stopped eating when you were carrying the girls."

"I haven't stopped eating since we started this one, either. And I intend to do plenty of eating this weekend, too. I just love the Sheraton's brunch. And the appetizers at Cassoli's wine-tasting? Pure heaven!"

"Why don't you sit down and have that now?" Chip asked, surreptitiously looking at his watch.

But Lynn noticed the direction of his gaze, and cocked her head to look up at him. "You're up to something, Christopher," she said, her eyes narrowing. "What is it?"

"I have an errand to run," Chip admitted softly.

She sat back down in her chair and let her breath out in a rush. "What kind of errand?"

Chip shrugged. "The Admiral needs to be picked up at the lab."

"And you're going out there to get him. And I get an ice cream soda instead of dinner. Figures." She leaned back in her chair and sighed. "Such is the life of a Seaview wife."

Chip leaned down and kissed her forehead. "The lab isn't that far. I'll be back in plenty of time."

'You'd better be. Bad enough you won't be here for my birthday – I'm not about to let you weasel out of the make-up." But she smiled as she said it.


"Good. 'Cause I'd just have to sic Jack on you."

"Anything but that," Chip joked, making a warding-off gesture. "I know how he gets when he thinks you’ve been slighted."

"It’s what big brothers do," Lynn told him. "Just be careful, okay?"

"I'm always careful. I'll see the two of you later." He kissed her, patted her stomach, and was gone.

** *** **

Forty minutes into the flight, Chip could see that a storm system was forming up ahead. Checking the radar, he saw it was fairly extensive, and going around it would waste too much time. Nelson was anxious to get back to NIMR, Chip even more so, so he decided to press on through the storm. It would be safe enough, anyway.

He had barely entered the cloud bank when he realized he'd made a mistake. Lightning flashed around the little yellow craft and strong winds buffeted it. He pushed the nose up, attempting to get enough altitude to fly above the storm.

As the Flying Sub climbed, one lightning bolt struck home, the portside turbine its point of contact. Alarms sounded and warning lights flashed across the control panel. FS-1 began to lose altitude, nosing down through the clouds.

Don't panic, Chip told himself. Stay calm.

He fought with the controls but FS-1 was virtually unresponsive. The fly-by-wire system must be dead, and the backups must have been damaged as well, he thought. Time to call for help.

"Mayday, mayday, this is FS-1. I've been hit by lightning and am presently out of control. Mayday, mayday. Coordinates are -"

Yet another bolt of lightning flashed, striking home on the small yellow craft. With a shower of sparks, the radio ceased working. Chip lunged for the homing beacon's controls, but the indicator light was dead. He fought down a surge of panic. Concentrate on staying in one piece, he told himself. Worry about recovery later.

The cabin lights flickered and more alarms went off. A warbling tone announced that the reactor was beginning a SCRAM. Identifying the tones of the varying alarms, Chip realized he had a cascading malfunction on his hands. Somehow he managed to keep FS-1 at the correct attitude, so that her entry into the sea was fairly gentle, neither completely horizontal nor totally vertical. Her descent was swift, though, and she nosed toward the bottom.

** *** **

"Commander Tomlinson!"

At his desk in the bullpen of the Operations Center at NIMR, Mark Tomlinson looked up from a supply requisition as Tish Sweetly hailed him.

He hurried over to her console. He hadn't liked the edge to her voice – Tish wasn't the excitable type, but her tone had carried a decided tinge of panic. "What's wrong?" he asked, leaning over for a view of her screen.

"It's FS-1. We received a mayday that cut off in mid-transmission. That’s when we lost all contact. Lola was running a plot as per procedure and has an approximate position, but no true fix."

Mark straightened reflexively. "How long ago was the mayday?"

"Right before I called you."

"Call the Coast Guard and see if they have anything in the area. Get all of our helos up and searching, and then call Captain Crane and tell him I'm on my way up to see him."

Then he bolted for the door without waiting for her response.

** *** **

Lee reached for the phone. "Crane."

"Captain Crane, this is Tish Sweetly down in Operations. We just received a Mayday from FS-1. She's gone down. Commander Morton said he was hit by lightning and was out of control." She paused. "We don't have a complete fix on her, either, just an approximate position."

Lee felt the blood drain from his face and it took him a moment to find his voice. "Is...Commander Tomlinson there?"

"He's on his way to your office now."

"Has anyone told Doctor Murtagh?" Lee asked tightly.

"Commander Tomlinson gave no instructions regarding that, Captain. I – uh – assumed that you or he would want to...tell Lynn yourselves."

Lee sighed in relief. Even though Lynn and Tish were good friends, news like that would be better coming from him or Mark. "Good assumption, Tish. I'll take care of it."

As he replaced the handset into its cradle, there came a knock on the door; before Lee could say anything, Mark Tomlinson pushed open the door and strode to the desk, his body language displaying his tension. "You heard?"

"I heard," Lee confirmed.

"Her new anechoic coating – she’ll be a real bitch to find if her systems are down and she isn't making any noise."

"Tell me something I don't already know," Crane snapped. "Grab that phone and start calling Sharkey and Richter – get them to round up the alert crew. Then call Venture’s berth – we may need her, too." He headed for the door.

Tomlinson paused with the phone in his hand. "And what are you gonna do?"

"I'm going to tell Lynn."

'Not without me, you're not," Tomlinson said flatly.

Crane gave him a measuring stare, then nodded. "Okay. You call Venture. I'll call Sharkey and Richter."

Without a backward glance, Mark headed for the reception area and the desk of Elaine Harper, the administrative assistant Lee and Chip shared. He commandeered her phone and started dialing.

** *** **

Lynn was proofing her report when she was interrupted by a knock at the door. "I am fated to be interrupted this day," she grumbled, before calling, "Yeah. It's open."

She grinned as Mark and Lee entered the office. "Ah, setup man and the closer – come to take the poor abandoned fat pregnant lady to lunch?" she asked, taking off her glasses. The gaiety in her eyes faded as their somber expressions registered. '"What happened?" she asked, rising.

"Lynn…." Lee began. '"We – uh-"

"Spit it out, Lee," Lynn snapped, fighting the surge of fear that threatened to overflow into outright panic.

Crane took a deep breath before speaking. "FS-1 went down somewhere between Santa Barbara and the lab. We received a mayday that broke off in mid-transmission."

Lynn paled at the news. Tomlinson, closer to the desk, took a step towards her, but she shook her head, held up her hand, and drew herself up straighter. "What happened?"

"Chip was flying through heavy weather. We think it might have been a lightning strike."

"When are you leaving?"

"As soon as I can get enough crew on board to take Seaview out. Sharkey and Richter are making the calls now."

"Good. I'll get the dolphins ready." She met Crane's eyes levelly, as if in challenge. "We're going with you."

"Now, Lynn, wait a minute," Lee protested.

"No, you wait a minute. This is what my dolphins have been trained for. You need us."

"You're pregnant."

"No kidding. I don't plan to dive with them – the Dolphin Detail can do that. But I can direct the operation from Seaview."

"I can order you to stay here."

"You can try," Lynn shot back.

They stood, eyes locked, neither one giving an inch. "Lee, Chip is your friend and my husband. We both want the best out there searching for him. In this case, that includes me and my dolphins."

"Your dolphins, maybe -- not necessarily you as well."

"We work as a team."

"The crew has worked with them before," Lee rebutted.

"Chip has worked with them before," Lynn pointed out. "The crew feeds them and cleans up after them – they’re only been along on two dives, and they didn’t direct the dolphins in a search and rescue operation. Big difference. And search and rescue has been the focus of our latest round of training – particularly finding FS-1 with her new anechoic coating, You don't have anyone on board capable of handling them in this situation. They don't know the search procedures, and they don’t know the new hand signals."

"You can teach them before we leave."

Lynn looked at him in astonishment. "And waste precious time? I can do that more effectively while Seaview is on her way to the crash site."

"Lynn - " Lee began halfheartedly, feeling that he was rapidly losing control of the conversation – if, indeed, it had ever been in his control to begin with. "It'll be better if you stay here."

"Better for who?" Lynn asked incredulously.

"For you, of course," Lee replied in what he hoped was a solicitous tone. "You're pregnant."

Lynn snorted. "I've been on Seaview when I was pregnant before – several times, as you well know. It hasn’t been a problem."

"Not under conditions this stressful."

"Do you think staying here where I have no idea what's going on would be any less stressful?" She shook her head. "I don't wait well, Lee, and I don't like to have other people do my work for me."

"Send one of your staff -- Bob Shaughnessey or Dave Cousins," Lee suggested.

"Neither Dave nor Bob can handle it – they have their own projects and aren't involved in mine. But those are my dolphins – and they work best for me. And I have more at stake in this than anyone else."

"It's not a good idea," Lee said halfheartedly.

"You keep me off Seaview and I swear, Lee, I'll swim out there on my own," Lynn said vehemently. "I promise."

Lee looked at her and saw firm resolve in her eyes. And, like it or not, she was best suited for the job. He sighed in resignation. "All right. I must be crazy, but you're coming."

"Captain, I'd like to come along," Tomlinson said with a side glance at Lynn.

Crane easily picked up on his lead. "That might be a good idea."

"I don't need a babysitter, Mark," Lynn snapped.

"No, but I need an acting Exec," Crane said calmly. "Or would you prefer that Bishop filled in?"

"Good save, Captain," Lynn shot back, unmollified.

"How soon can you be ready?" Crane asked, ignoring her comment.

"I'll go home and pack. The research assistants can get the dolphins ready." She wet her lips. "Give me two hours."

"What about the girls?" Lee asked.

"That's why God made big brothers," Lynn answered. "Now, get the hell out of my office."

** *** **

Somehow, Chip had fought FS-1 to a fairly gentle landing – ‘fairly gentle' in the sense that he’d suffered no serious injuries, though he had been shaken up a bit.

He unbuckled his harness and stood, stretching. His neck felt a little sore, and his chest and shoulders ached where he’d been thrown against the straps of his harness. Other than that, he felt reasonably fine.

Chip turned off the blaring klaxons, then peered out of the viewscreen. The little craft had come to rest on the ocean floor, thankfully on an even keel. That would make repairs and moving about easier, to say nothing of rescue and eventual recovery of the craft. There was precious little light in evidence beyond the viewports, so he knew he was fairly deep.

He backed away from the viewscreen and turned to the computer. He attempted to call up the diagnostic program, but the cursor merely sat there, blinking at him. Then it winked out.

Fried, he thought. That must have been some surge to mess up all of the systems.

He sat back and took stock of the situation. Reactor – SCRAMmed. Radio – out. Lighting – out, though low emergency lighting still retained power on its own battery system. Heat – on, though low. He'd have to keep the flight jacket on; the emergency supplies included thermal blankets, so he was in good shape there. Food and water – he had enough emergency supplies to last a week for a crew of two, two weeks for one man. Air revitalization – and that was a biggie – somehow had retained full power, thanks to its high-capacity batteries. He said a quick prayer to Saint Jude that it would continue to do so.

By now, Operations knew, or would easily surmise what had happened. They'd have been tracking FS-1 as a matter of course and would have an idea of where she'd gone down – at the very least, they knew where she’d been when they lost contact, so that would narrow the search area. They'd have alerted the Coast Guard and the Navy would be searching with patrol planes, as well. Neither would have a chance of spotting the little sub – not at this depth. Knowing Mark Tomlinson, he'd have hot-footed it to Lee's office as soon as FS-1 disappeared from the screen. Nelson would have been informed immediately as well.

He just hoped that Lynn hadn’t been told yet, and wouldn’t know for several hours. She didn't need the worry, and though she'd be furious when she finally found out, it would be the lesser of two evils.

** *** **

Mind racing, Lynn called the lab and instructed her research assistants to prepare the four dolphins for transit, pack the wetskins from her locker, assemble the dolphins’ harnesses and cameras plus the tracking beacons along with the dedicated monitors, and take the whole mess down to Seaview’s dock with enough fish and vitamins for ten days.

Then she called the ranch. Hoping against hope that Eileen would answer, she nervously listened to the phone on the other end ring.


Lynn's heart sank as she recognized her oldest brother's voice, but she marshaled her courage and pressed on. "Hi, Jack, it's me. Listen and don't interrupt. I need you to keep the girls at the ranch for a few days longer. I'm taking the dolphins on Seaview."

"Awful sudden, isn't it? What aren't you telling me? What happened to your birthday do?"

Lynn took a deep breath. "Chip went down in the Flying Sub this morning, lack," she said, trying to keep her voice strong. "I'm taking the dolphins out to try to find him."

'You're not going out on a dive, are you?"


She heard an explosive sigh. "That's one worry off my mind. You just be careful, you hear me?"


"Okay. Do what you gotta do. We'll take care of your girls. We'll be fine. And you take care of yourself, too."

'I will," she said softly and hung up.

She quickly cleared her desk, grabbed her purse and left the office, heading for the parking garage under the Administration Building, where she found Mark Tomlinson leaning against the right front fender of her white Jeep Wagoneer. When he saw her, he straightened and walked toward her, holding out his hand. "Keys."

"I told you – I don't need a babysitter," she growled, pushing past him.

But Mark wasn't easily dissuaded. "No – but you do need a driver," he said, following her around to the driver's side. "Or are you going to tell me you can keep your mind on your driving right now?"

She stopped and considered for a moment, then shrugged and handed him her keys. "Here."

"Thank you."

Lynn walked around to the passenger side and waited for Mark to open the door. She climbed inside and belted herself in, turning the radio on full blast as soon as Mark turned the key in the ignition.

"Whoa, Lynn!" he complained. "My ears!"

Lynn turned the volume down. "Sorry."

Lynn leaned her head back against the headrest and began to run through the search procedure in her mind. So occupied, she remained silent on the drive home. Mark just let her be.

Dressed in pale blue surgical scrubs, Kevin was waiting on the front porch when Mark pulled into the drive of Lynn and Chip's house. Lynn was out of the car almost before it rolled to a stop, running, closing the gap between herself and her twin, moving soundlessly into his embrace.

Kevin held her silently for a moment, then drew back to look at her, his yes dark with concern. "You okay?"

She nodded. "How did you know?"

"Jack called me."

"Oh. Shoulda figured."

"You gonna go over to see the girls before you go?"

Lynn shook her head. "No, it will only upset them -- and it’ll upset me more."

Mark unlocked the front door but kept Lynn's keys. "I'm goin’ home to pack. I'll be back in an hour -- is that enough time?"

"More than enough." Lynn reached up to hug him. "Thanks, Markie." Then she went into the house, Kevin trailing her. Callahan and Rags made their usual welcome-home racket, and Lynn spent more time than usual fussing over them as Kevin passed her and went into the kitchen.

Kevin came out of the kitchen and handed Lynn a glass of milk. "Here – gotta keep your strength up. Want me to make you something to eat?"

Lynn shook her head and accepted the tall glass. "No – I’m not really hungry. I’ll eat on Seaview. But you can come help me pack."

Kevin followed her into the bedroom. "You show me what suitcase you want and I'll get it down."

"You're getting as bad as Jack," Lynn grumbled, pointing to a large duffle bag.

"Don’t be insulting," Kevin shot back as he walked to the closet.

As Kevin pulled it off the closet shelf, Lynn began taking clothing out of dresser drawers, stacking them in neat piles on the bed.

Kevin put the duffle onto the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress to watch his sister pack. The dogs came into the bedroom; Callahan lay at Kevin’s feet while Rags jumped up onto the bed and lay down in Lynn's duffle, growling when she reached for it.

Lynn scooped the little dog up and kissed him, then deposited him on her pillow. "I know you don't want me to leave, Little Man," she said, scratching his chin, "but I don't have a choice."

The little terrier grumbled in reply, and Kevin chuckled. "Bossy, isn't he?"

Lynn shrugged. "Whaddaya want? He's a Jack Russell. They aren't obedient working men like Callahan."

At the mention of his name, the big German Shepherd lifted his head and wagged his tail.

Kevin grinned. "The terrier suits your personality better. Especially now."

"Funny," Lynn shot back.

Kevin sobered. "Are you gonna be able to do this?"

Lynn didn't look at him but continued packing. "There's no one better. I know, that sounds awfully pompous and conceited, but it's true."

"I wish I could go along for you."

"Me too, Kev. But the crew is okay, and Mark will be on board as -- acting exec." She held up a hand to forestall any comment Kevin might make. "S'okay -- better him than Bishop."

"You sure you'll be all right? Sure you don't want to stay here with us?"

Lynn shook her head. "No, Kevin, I have to go. I have to be there -- I have to do what I can to get him home. If I don't, I'll never forgive myself if...."

Kevin nodded. "I know. And I don't think a herd of wild horses could keep you here, anyway."

"Nope," Lynn said simply and kept packing.

She hurried through her packing, then gathered a week's worth of Shawn and Andrea's clothing for Kevin to take to the ranch.

She and Kevin were ready, waiting on the porch when Tomlinson returned in Lynn’s jeep. Kevin opened the back door and tossed Lynn's luggage into the back seat. "Call when you can, okay?"

Lynn reached up to hug him. "As soon as they let me." She climbed up into the passenger seat.

"Take care, Sis," Kevin said, kissing her temple. "Be strong."

Lynn nodded. "Keep an eye on the dogs and the fish, okay?"

Kevin grinned. "Who better than a veterinarian?" He looked past his sister to Tomlinson. "Mark, I’d tell you to keep an eye on her, but that’s a lost cause. You couldn’t keep up with her."

"Don’t I know it," Mark said, and gave Lynn an apologetic shrug when she glared at him.

Kevin gave Lynn another kiss, then shut the door and stepped back, and Mark pulled away.

Lynn turned to Mark. "Now, tell me everything you know."

"About what?"

"Come on, Mark – I'm sure there's more to this than a mayday that cut off in mid-transmission."

"Not really."

"Don't snow me, pal – I know you too long. Give."

Tomlinson looked over at her. "The mayday cut off in mid-transmission, and we have only a partial location fix. We can extrapolate possible position from that, but it'll be trial and error for most of it."

"The beacon – is it sending?"

"No. Not yet, anyway."


Mark hesitated.

"And?" Lynn prompted.

"And it may be too deep for divers," Mark finally said.

"Then it's a good thing the dolphins are along. They don't have depth restrictions."

"Lynn, you don't have to convince me," Mark protested.

"Sorry." She cocked her head and looked at him. "Do me a favor?"

"If I can."

"Keep an eye on Lee? He and Chip go back farther than you and I do."

Mark nodded. "Sure."

"Thanks," Lynn said, and turned to look out the window.

They made the rest of the drive in silence.

** *** **

Chip checked the depth gauge. Since it depended upon mechanical rather than electronic sensors, it was still working. It read two-hundred-fifty feet – far too deep for a free ascent, and too dangerous even with the scuba gear aboard, none of which contained an exotic gas mixture suitable for diving at his current depth.

He opened the rations locker next. Several five-gallon containers of drinking water were stacked alongside neatly arrayed cases of MREs. For all their neatness, though, they weren't at all appealing – he'd eaten MREs. before, and it hadn't exactly been a pleasant experience. Still, there was a two-week supply, and he supposed he should be grateful there was any food at all. But it was a far cry from the Villa d’Amici or the four-star restaurant at the Sheraton.

He shrugged off that thought and closed the rations locker, moving over to study the control panel. He could attempt repairs, but where to start?

He pulled out one board from the main circuitry panel. His heart sank at its state. It was hopeless. There would be no repairing this one, he realized. He moved on to the next; it was in identical condition. He blew out his cheeks and made a mental note to speak to the Admiral about carrying replacement parts for essential systems like the circuitry module.

He turned his attention to the reactor next. The reactor had powered itself down and the high levels of xenon gas now present in the unit would prevent it being restarted until it was pumped out. Just as well – he wasn't in the proper mood to fool with the reactor anyway.

The homing beacon was inaccessible from the interior of FS-l, so he couldn't even attempt to repair it. But he might have a chance with the radio. At least FS-1’s high-capacity batteries were still on-line, as evidenced by the continued operation of both the emergency lighting and air revitalization system. If he could direct some of the juice to the radio, he'd have a chance of being found.

Chip opened the tool locker and removed a high-powered work light, then opened the dropdown panel on the radio, exposing the circuit boards and wiring. Training the light on the interior, he could see that some of the panels were obviously ruined, but others seemed undamaged. He might be able to bypass the damaged components and get it working. And even if he couldn't, it would keep his hands and mind busy until FS-l was located.

As he worked, he hoped that no one had told Lynn. But even as he entertained the thought, he realized that it was completely unrealistic -- word traveled at the speed of light around NIMR, and Lynn was well-tied-in to the grapevine, often one of the first to hear of any new developments. But he wanted to spare her the worry and concern he'd experienced when she’d been missing a year earlier. Almost a year to the day, he realized, and suppressed a shudder. But that had turned out all right in the end.

Chip shook his head at the condition of the electrical systems. Jimmy Mack is not going to like this at all, he thought. Her last major overhaul wasn't that long ago, either.

He doggedly set to work.

** *** **

Mark surreptitiously watched Lynn as she walked alongside him. Her stride hadn’t changed – it was still long, swinging, confident. But her stance had altered ever-so slightly, as if to counterbalance the weight of the child she carried.

"Can you make it down the brow yourself?" Mark asked, then held up a hand to ward off the murderous glare Lynn shot him. "Okay, okay! Sorry."

"You know how I feel about that crap, Mark," Lynn hissed. "I'm not sick, I'm pregnant! Stop treating me like a china doll. And I'm barely showing, for cryin' out loud!"

"You're five months pregnant – you’re showing a lot more than you think."

"I'm fine – and you'd better treat me like I am, or there'll be hell to pay."

"Yes, ma'am," he said, then grinned at the murderous glare she sent his way. "Hey, I gotta get my licks in when I can."

Lynn huffed at him in annoyance, then marched down the gangplank, head high.

Lieutenant Garland Bishop, acting as Officer of the Deck, looked very uncomfortable as she walked up to him. He darted a glance at her stomach, but the oversized long-sleeved tee shirt she wore didn’t allow her condition to show.

She ignored it as best she could, letting Mark go through the formalities of boarding.


She blinked and looked at Mark, realizing that they’d been joined by Chief Sharkey. "Uh, yeah?"

"Chief Sharkey says that the dolphins are loaded and the equipment and supplies are secured."

Lynn turned to Sharkey. "Thanks, Chief. Did they give you any trouble?"

Sharkey shrugged. "They yelled a little, but I sent Riley down there. He'll stay there as long as you need him."

Lynn smiled at him. "Thank you, Chief. That was very thoughtful."

Sharkey looked embarrassed, and she finally sighed, and said, "Chief, please don’t do this to me now. Close your eyes and think of – Affirmed and Alydar."

Despite himself, Sharkey had to laugh. "Okay, Doc. Just…take it easy, okay?"

"I promise."

Mark gestured for Lynn to proceed him into the sail. She stopped at the hatch leading down into the control room. "Heads up!" she called, and dropped her duffle and began to descend the ladder. Her rate of descent was a bit slower than normal in deference to Mark's sensibilities.

Kowalski was at the bottom of the ladder, shouldering her duffle. "Afternoon, Doc. How’re you doin’?"

"Pretty good, Ski. I'll feel we get underway and a lot better when we get this search started."

"We're just about ready to cast off lines now. We were just waiting for you and Mister Tomlinson," Larry Baker said.

As if to confirm that, orders for the special sea detail blared over the 1MC, the deck watch scrambled down into the control room, and the control room watch began to make preparations to get underway.

"Mister Tomlinson, the Captain sends you his compliments and would like to see you ASAP," Larry Baker said. "Kowalski will take your gear."

Tomlinson nodded and looked toward the chart table. "Where is the Captain?" he asked, seeing Bobby O'Brien, Chris Hodges, and Ed Walkanski clustered there.

"He's in his cabin, sir," Baker supplied.

"On my way." He looked at Lynn. "Will you be okay?"

She smiled at him and jerked a thumb at Kowalski. "I'm in good hands."

"You sure are," Tomlinson said, turning his duffle over to Kowalski. "I’ll see you later." He headed toward the nose and the spiral stairs.

Around them, the control room buzzed with activity. "I'm in the way," Lynn said. "I’d better get settled…."

"Uh." Kowalski began hesitantly, "the Skipper unlocked the Exec's cabin for you, Doc."

Lynn cleared her throat and smiled reassuringly. "Fine, Ski, that's fine."

He reached for her tote. "I'll take this, Doc. Ready?"

"Lead on, Ski."

They made the trip to Chip's cabin in silence. Lynn stood aside as Kowalski opened the cabin door and ushered her in. "Thanks, Ski," she said as he deposited the duffle on the bunk and set the tote alongside it. She hoped her voice didn't betray her fear, or her anxiety to get Seaview off on her mission.

"Skipper said he'd like to see you after you get settled – at your convenience."

"Tell the Captain I'll be in to see him as soon as I check on the dolphins."

"They're okay, Doc. Loaded just fine, and Stu's with them now," Kowalski assured her.

Lynn nodded. "I know. Sharkey told me. But I'll feel better once I see them."

"Okay. Listen, Doc.... You need anything...anything at all..." Kowalski's voice trailed off and he colored slightly. "You just snap your fingers – you’ll get it."

Lynn smiled her thanks. "I know, Ski. Thanks."

Kowalski nodded, then left, shutting the door quietly behind him.

Lynn stood in the middle of the cabin. Chip's cabin – their cabin whenever she was aboard. It felt strange, bereft of his presence. Her eyes were drawn to the photos of herself and their daughters that hung on the walls. She resented the smile she wore in the photos, felt guilty for having been so happy in any of them.

Antsy, she put off unpacking and headed for the tank room. The four dolphins were excited and pleased to see her, chattering as she approached the tank.

"Hey, Doc!" Riley called from the worktable where he was sorting vitamins.

Lynn walked over to join him. "Hi, Rile. They give you any trouble?"

"Nah," the strawberry blond rating replied. "I think they're glad to be back."

"They have an important job ahead of them," Lynn said.

"Yeah," Riley said, sobering. "But they'll do it."

Lynn smiled gratefully. "Thanks, Rile. I needed to hear that."

"You gonna need our help this time out?"

"More than ever," Lynn said and patted her stomach. "My little passenger makes me ineligible to dive. I'll need you guys to go out with the dolphins." She walked to the pile of cases stacked along the bulkhead and began rummaging around.

"Whatcha lookin' for, Doc?" Riley asked.

"My wetskins." She found the equipment case that held them and opened it. Four brightly-colored Lycra garments lay inside. Good enough, she thought. "These should have gone to the cabin," she said, hefting the case.

"I'll get them there, Doc," Riley offered. "What else?"

"I need to see the Captain now – hang around a while, okay?"

"Sure. You go on and see the Skipper. We'll be okay – right, guys?" The dolphins chattered in response, and Riley grinned. "See?"

Lynn nodded. "Thanks, Rile. See ya later." She turned for the door.

** *** **

Crane was on the phone taking crew reports when Mark arrived in his cabin. "Fine, Chief – keep me posted," he said, then hung up. "Is Lynn settled?" he asked.

"I guess so," Mark said, sitting beside Crane's desk. "Kowalski took her to Chip’s cabin. I came here as soon as I heard you wanted to see me."

Sparks' voice came over the intercom. "Captain Crane, Captain Kyle on Venture reports they’ll be ready to sail tomorrow at oh-six-hundred. And the Institute helos just reported in. No surface wreckage was visible in the supposed crash area or in a twenty-mile radius. I’m still waiting for communiqués from the Coast Guard surface ships and the Navy patrol boats."

"Good news, Sparks, thanks." Then he looked up at Mark and raised an eyebrow.

"That's something at least," Mark said.

"It's something." Crane handed him a crew roster form. "Here's the roster. We have a skeleton crew on board – except for Jimmy Mack, all of the officers and non-coms were able to make it, since all of them were on Institute grounds."

"And the crew?" Mark scanned the list of names. "This looks pretty thin."

Crane frowned. "About fifty percent -– and those only because of reprovisioning and instrument calibration for the coming mission. We have a lot on leave."

Mark frowned. "That means short sleep schedules."

"Especially with the Dolphin Detail away from their regular duty stations." Crane shook his head. "It'll make it tough on everyone else. At least we won’t need crewmen in the Weapons Department – that frees them for other duties."

"Good thing the Admiral believes in cross-training instead of over-specialization," Mark said, handing back the clipboard. "You don't think she should be here, do you?"

"I'm not entirely convinced, no," Crane admitted. "I think it will be too stressful for her."

"She thinks she – and the dolphins -– can make a difference."

Crane sighed. "The hell of it is, she's probably right. FS-1 will be extremely difficult to find. If the new sonar was only ready...."

Tomlinson shook his head. "Two more months, minimum. Then on-site training, a shakedown –"

Crane waved his hand at him. "I get the picture. So we'll have to rely on Lynn's dolphins."

"They're all we have right now," Tomlinson reminded him. "It looks like using FS-1 as the test bed for the new hull coating before the only sonar that can locate it was ready was a bad move."

Crane disgustedly threw his pen to the desktop. "You know what they say about hindsight, Mister Tomlinson."

To that, Tomlinson was silent. He studied Lee for a moment, looking away when Crane frowned. "Is something wrong?"

"Nope," Mark said hastily.

"Then why are you looking at me like that?"

Mark hesitated for a moment, then decided to come clean with his captain. "Lynn asked me to keep an eye on you. She's worried about you."

"She's worried about me?" Crane shook his head and laughed mirthlessly. "That's rich."

Tomlinson raised an eyebrow. "You know how she feels about you," he said. "And she’s worried about how this will affect you."

"Of course it affects me – Chip is my friend."

"More like a brother, it seems to me," Mark rebutted.

Crane shrugged. "As Lynn always says, ‘The air is the air’."

"That she does. She also says you take stuff like this personally."

"Mister Tomlinson, I take everything about Seaview personally," Lee said dryly.

"That's probably why the crew would go to hell and back for you."

Crane remained silent, simply looking down at the clipboard on his desk. Before he could say anything, the intercom sounded. "Captain, the Admiral's on the vidphone for you."

Tomlinson grinned. "Saved by the bell. I'll be in the control room." He rose and headed for the door.

Crane grimaced. "Go on, get out of here. Go do some XO-type work."

"Those are big shoes to fill." Tomlinson opened the door to find Lynn outside, fist poised to knock. "Timing is everything," he said. "Go on in."

She walked to the desk and sat in the chair Mark had just vacated.

"Hang on, Admiral – Lynn's here." Crane turned the screen around to face her.

Nelson didn't waste any time on preliminaries. "Doctor, I hadn't planned for you to come along on this run."

Lynn leaned forward slightly, refusing to back down. "No, sir, I'm sure you hadn't – then again, this wasn’t a planned mission to begin with. But I'm here and so are my dolphins."

"So I've heard. Do you think they'll make a difference?"

"I hope they might give us an edge, Admiral."

Nelson's eyes softened. "I hope so, too, Lynn. Lee, Keep me posted. Nelson out."

"Short and sweet," Lynn said.

"Thankfully," Lee said. "Venture reported in – they’ll be sailing early tomorrow morning and will meet us in the search area."

"You think we’ll need the DSRV?" Lynn asked.

"It depends on FS-1’s inclination. If she’s at a bad angle, we may not be able to use our automatic recovery system."

"Yeah, right," Lynn said absently.

Lee studied her, concern in his hazel eyes. "Are you settled?"

"My stuff is in Chip’s cabin, if that’s what you mean. But emotionally...." She shrugged. "I'll manage."

"Take it easy – don't push yourself. I know how much it galls you to ask for help, but put that Irish pride aside for once and ask for help if you need it."

Lynn nodded. "Okay, I will. Right now, I'd like to see the Dolphin Detail in the tank room. I want to start training them as soon as possible – the equipment has been upgraded since the last time they trained on it, and there are new signals they need to learn."

Lee frowned. "Is there a significant difference?"

"Nothing major, equipment-wise," Lynn said, shaking her head. "But I don’t want to take any chances. The signals? They’ll pick them up in no time. The dolphins will need time to acclimate to new handlers, though."

"When do you need them?"

"When can I have them?" Lynn asked in response.

"Is Riley still there?" Lee asked.

Lynn nodded. "I told him to stay there until I talked to you."

Lee he reached for the desk intercom. "Kowalski, Rodrigo, and Weening, report to the tank compartment in fifteen minutes." He switched the intercom off. "How's that?"

"Fast service."

"We aim to please." He paused a moment. "Are you sure you’re all right?"

Lynn chewed her lip and looked away for a moment before meeting his eyes again. "There are only two people on board I'd admit this to, but I'm scared to death."

"Don't you have any confidence in those big grey bloodhounds of yours?" Lee asked with forced joviality.

Lynn nodded slowly. "Uh-huh. But I'm not fooling myself. That's a big ocean out there and we don't know exactly where FS-1 went down."

Lee frowned. "How did you know that?'

"I have friends in high places. And I know which questions to ask."

"Tomlinson," Lee said.

Lynn shrugged. "I asked, he answered." She met his gaze unflinchingly. "I have the right to know, Lee."

He nodded slowly. "I know. I didn't want to tell you right away – you had enough to digest in the beginning. And I knew you'd ask when you calmed down enough to think."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," she said dryly.

"If I didn't have confidence in you, you wouldn't be aboard," Lee said levelly.

"Funny – I thought it had something to do with my steamroller manner." She paused, then asked softly, "You said it was a lightning strike?"

"That's what Chip said in the distress call."

"You have it on tape." It was not a question.

Lee nodded. "That's routine."

"I want to hear it," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

"Lynn…." Lee stared at her in surprise. "I don't think that's such a good idea," he said slowly.

"I want to hear it." Her voice was soft, almost expressionless. "Please, Lee."

Crane regarded her before switching on the intercom. "Sparks, cue up Mister Morton’s distress call and play it."

"Intra-ship, Captain?"

"No – my cabin only."

"Aye, sir."

A moment later, the recording filled the cabin. Lynn jumped when it began, then relaxed. Chip's voice had no trace of fear or panic; it sounded full of long-suffering patience instead.

She looked at Lee as the brief message ended. "He sounded annoyed," she observed. "Not worried at all."

"He wasn't," Lee said. "He probably thought he could get her back up and running right away. And who knows – maybe he will, and this will be a wild goose chase."

Lynn smiled at him, She knew exactly what he was trying to do, and blessed him for it. "Maybe," she said finally. "I hope so." She stood. "I'm going to see my dolphins. You might want to go keep an eye on Bishop – he might run us aground or something."

Crane chuckled. "Call if you need me."

"I will. Thanks, Lee – for everything."

** *** **

The Dolphin Detail had assembled in the tank compartment by the time Lynn returned. She looked at the four solemn faces before her, venturing a tight smile before sitting on the deck and gesturing to them to do the same.

"Okay, listen up. You'll be split into two teams, with two men and two dolphins in each. There's a good chance that FS-1 is too deep for you guys to dive on, so if it is, let the dolphins do the work. Got that?"

'Yeah, Doc, but --"

"No buts, Ski," Lynn said firmly. "I'm responsible for your safety. I don't want you going below a safe depth. Let the dolphins do it – it's natural to them. They've been trained for rescue missions like this – you haven't. Stay safe. You know what they say about old divers and bold divers?"


"I want you all to be old divers – real old divers. Besides, if you take stupid chances, I'll sic Lieutenant Bishop on you."

The four ratings grimaced and groaned, and Lynn grinned. "All right – this is the drill. One team will go out at a time, and will scan one quadrant. You'll stay out for one hour, then return. The second team will relieve you, starting on the next section. Each dolphin will wear a camera, and we'll record everything they see."

Lynn looked at her watch. "It's nearly dinner time, and lately, my stomach and my passenger like it better if I stick to a regular schedule. Whaddaya say we feed the dolphins, then we all get something to eat, then meet back here in wetsuits for a run-through? These guys have to eat and digest their food before we can do anything anyway."

'"Who's on first, Doc?" Andy Weening asked.

Lynn resisted the urge to go into the old Abbott and Costello joke. "You and Lou take the dinner feeding – Ski, you and Riley are cleanup detail. Switch around after that. Andy, make this feeding a little lighter than usual."

"Sure, Doc. Why dont'cha go get dinner? We have this in hand," Kowalski said.

"Okay. See you guys later." She rose and walked toward the hatch.

** *** **

Back in Chip's cabin, Lynn unceremoniously dumped the contents of her luggage onto the bunk.

"Damnit, Chip, I told you to be careful. Did you listen? No, of course not. When I get my hands on you…." She broke off and threw underwear and socks into a pile. Jerking open an under-bunk drawer, she froze at the sight of Chip's clothing.

She shook her head as if to clear it. "This is his cabin, silly. What did you expect to see?" She moved the clothing to make room for hers.

The knock on her cabin door surprised her. "It's open," she called.

It was Doctor Jamieson, and he was carrying two pillows. "These might make you more comfortable," he said, holding them out.

"Thanks." Lynn gestured for him to enter the cabin. "Come to check up on me?"

Jamieson tossed the pillows onto the bunk. "All part of my job."

"I'm healthy, I assure you."

"I'm happy to hear that. And I want you to stay that way." He crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm going to keep my eye on you."

"I expected no less. Maybe I should have brought my medical records along," Lynn said dryly.

"I won't clear you for a dive," Jamieson said, sitting in the desk chair and resting his right ankle atop his left knee.

"Give me some credit, Jamie!" Lynn exploded. "I know better than that, and you know me better than that. I have no intention of making a dive in my condition!"

"I'm glad to hear you say that," Jamieson said dryly. "We all know how single-minded you get when you get an idea in your head."

"Single-minded, yes," Lynn admitted. "Outright stupid, no. I know better. Listen, Jamie, I've done this baby thing twice already and it gets easier each time. I've had hardly any morning sickness this time and I have a lot more energy than I did when I was carrying the girls. My temper shouldn’t be tested this time around, however," she warned.

Jamieson smiled. "Those are notable differences. Maybe it's a boy."

Lynn shrugged. "Maybe. That’s what my mother said, too. But I'm not going to count on that, though. A third daughter will be fine with both of us."

"There are ways to tell, you know," Jamie pointed out.

Lynn nodded. "I know. Karen offered to tell us when she gets the results of the amnio, and they might be able to tell us when they do the ultrasound, but I don't want to know. Chip especially doesn't want to know."

Jamieson grinned. "I'd have thought he'd jump at the chance."

Lynn shook her head. "Nope. He wants to be surprised. He doesn’t read ahead to the last page of a mystery, either."

Jamieson smiled. "You learn something new every day."

"Oh, Chip's full of surprises."

"You’d be the one to know," Jamieson said with a smile. He turned for the door. "Come see me if you need to."

"I will, Jamie. I promise."

Jamieson studied her for a moment, then nodded. "You know where to find me," he said, then left the cabin, the soot snicking softly shut behind him.

Lynn was almost done putting her things to rights when there was another knock on the door. "It’s open," she called, and in came Riley, carrying the case with her wetskins.

"Special delivery, Doc," he said. "Where d’ya want ’em?"

"Just leave it on the desk, Rile. I’ll hang them up later."

"Sure." He placed the case on the desk, being careful not to knock Chip and Lynn’s wedding picture over. "The XO has nice digs."

Lynn raised an eyebrow. "You’ve never been here, I take it?"

"Nope. Never needed to. I like the photos. They make things homey." He cocked a hip against the desk and studied her a moment. "Y’know, Doc, I never told you this, but you’ve been really good for him."

"Have I now?"

"Yeah. You softened him up – and from our point of view – the crew’s, I mean – that’s not a bad thing."

"No, I suppose it wouldn’t be," Lynn said, letting her amusement show.

"Not that he’s a pushover – we just see him smile a lot more now."

"And you give the credit for that to me?"

"Yeah. It all started right after you got together. Oh, he’s still strict when he has to be – but there’s a little less of an edge to it. Know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I think I do."

"Cool." Riley looked at his watch. "Well, duty calls – gotta go vacuum the tank. I’ll catch you later, gator."

"Yeah, right." Lynn shook her head and gave a wry laugh as the door closed in Riley’s wake.

** *** **

The loud grumbling coming from his stomach caught Chip up short. He remembered that he hadn't eaten since breakfast. He wiped his hands on a work rag, then crossed to the supply cabinet.

He opened it, grimacing again at the rows of neatly-stacked cases of MREs. Yes, they'd keep him alive, but they weren't exactly palatable. He remembered the time, not long after their wedding, that he and Lynn had tried them on a lark. Lynn had taken one bite and had refused to eat any more. Chip had to laugh as the memory of her horrified expression came back to him. Chip had done his best to finish his, on the 'That which does not kill you will make you stronger' principle – the same aphorism which had gotten him through four long years at Annapolis. Lynn had watched with mixed reactions of amazement and horror. She'd shaken her head and remarked, "You really will eat anything."

Chip remembered her comment now, and smiled as he reached for a foil packet.

** *** **

Lynn knocked on Crane's cabin door. At his muffled, "Come," she stepped inside.

Lee looked surprised to see her. "Lynn? What's wrong?"

Lynn shook her head. "Nothing. I'm just a little lonely. Come on down to the wardroom – you can buy me dinner and we can indulge in a little mutual comfort."

"Is that your way of telling me you're worried about me?" he asked, smiling.

"Mark squealed," Lynn accused.

"He's a loyal officer," Lee pointed out, smiling.

"With a big mouth," Lynn shot back.

"Don't worry about me – I'm fine. And I already knew you were worried about me. But we're all more worried about you."

"Yeah, Lee – I know. But no one seems to be worried about you. So I’ve nominated myself for the position."

"You don't have to."

"Someone has to," Lynn said, her voice gentle. "Might as well be me. Chip is important to you – not like he is to me, but you still have claims on him. You know, Lee, you need someone to lean on, too."

"And who do you suggest?"

"Me," Lynn said softly. "We can lean on each other."

Lee shook his head. "Chip's right – you are something else."

"Didn't you know that already?" She held out her hand. "Let's go."

Several officers were eating dinner when they arrived in the wardroom. Lynn slipped into the chair next to Mark Tomlinson. "Looks good," she said, eyeing his plate.

Cookie hurried over when he saw that Crane and Lynn had arrived. "Skipper," he said brusquely. "What can I get you, Doc?" he asked in a far more solicitous manner.

Lynn smiled up at him. "Just some of your marvelous tea for now, please, Cookie. I'll order in a little bit. I want to look at the menu first."

"Make it decaf tea," Mark Tomlinson said.

"Mark, I'm surrounded by big babysitters – I don't need this from you, too," Lynn protested.

"It's decaf or nothin', fat lady," Mark said, implacable.

Lynn sighed, then gave Cookie a sickly grin. "See what they do to me?"

"She’s drinkin’ tea, Commander – she’s fine. Decaf tea tastes like cardboard, and I don’t serve that crap on my boat."

"Far be it from me to argue with the best cook I’ve ever met. But bring her a plate of what I'm havin'."

Cookie glared at him. "She’s a big girl – she can order her own dinner. I’ll be back with your tea in a few, Doc. Check out the menu – some of your favorites are on it," he said, and walked off to the galley.

Lynn waited until Cookie was gone before turning back to Tomlinson with a withering glare. "I can order my own dinner. And I need this macho nonsense like I need a hole in the head. Cut the crap."

"Lynn, how are you -- " Ray Carter started to ask, but Lynn cut him off.

"I am fine – F-I-N-E. And if I hear that verdamnt question one more time, I will quite cheerfully kill the person who asks me -– so you’d all better hope it’s Bishop doin’ the askin’. I'm not made of porcelain, I'm not gonna break – but if you guys keep acting like I will, I might break one of you."

"Hmmm, touchy, huh?" Ed Walkanski teased.

Lynn shook her head. "No, not touchy – just tired of being asked how I feel every five minutes. I appreciate the concern, guys, but it gets real old real fast."

"Okay, guys, cool it," Larry Baker said. "Gotta keep the little mama happy."

"Want to keep me happy? Keep Bishop out of my tank room. He unnerves my dolphins."

"Only the dolphins?" Mark asked. "What about you?"

Lynn shook her head. "Nah. Me he just gets mad."

"I'm sure that's a sight terrible to behold," Mark scoffed. Lynn swatted at his shoulder. "I've seen you mad," he reminded her. "Even in Alpha Bitch mode, it's not that frightening."

"You've never seen her mad at Bishop," Ray Carter told him.

"Yeah," Bobby O'Brien said. "Riley calls her the avenging angel."

"When did he say that?" Lynn demanded.

"The second time you went after that skunk," O'Brien shot back.

"You have to admit, Lynn, that was a memorable day," Larry Baker said. "We were all cheering you on."

"Does anybody here like Bishop?" Mark asked the room in general.

Lee pretended to think for a moment, then said, "Maybe his mother.…"

Laughter exploded around the table, and even Lynn had to smile at Lee’s comment.

She scanned the menu while the officers at the table finished their own meals. Cookie had been right – it was full of her favorites. Hearing a soft "Ahem" coming from behind her, she looked up to see Cookie standing there, holding a tray with a teapot and a mug. Lynn obligingly leaned to her left to allow him to place it on the table before her.

"Didja decide what ya want?" Cookie asked, his Bronx accent broad and gravelly. "Or d’ya just want one of each?"

Lynn shook her head wryly. "The salmon in the champagne cream sauce – with extra sauce, please."

"Good choice. You’re the only one who appreciates it," he said, glaring around the table. "Want the roasted spuds and asparagus, too?"

"Yes, please."

"Soup and salad?"

Lynn shook her head. "Just the entrée, please."

"Back in a few," Cookie said, with one last glare around the table, and returned to the galley.

"How did he manage to re-provision the galley on such short notice?" Ray Carter asked.

"He raided the Institute dining room," Ed Walkanski said. "He actually shut it down during lunch service and transferred all the fresh food in the kitchen over to Seaview."

"That must have gone over well with the Institute staff," Carter said.

"It got just the reaction you’d expect it would," Ed told him.

"A minor riot?" Lynn asked.

"Close," Ed said. "Then one of the mess specialists explained why and people shut up in a big hurry."

"Mmmm," Lynn murmured.

She listened to the conversation ebbing and flowing around her, glad no one was trying to draw her into participating. Cookie soon returned with her dinner – a plate with a generous serving of salmon topped with champagne cream sauce, a ramekin of extra sauce on the side, and side dishes of roasted baby potatoes and steamed baby asparagus.

As soon as the aroma hit her, Lynn realized she was ravenous. Though she was rarely able to make her way through the huge portions Cookie served on Seaview, she cleaned her plate, to the astonishment of her dinner companions.

"The baby is hungry, I guess," Lee said with a smile.

"Must be," Lynn allowed.

She looked up to see a grinning Cookie appear at her side. "Now that’s the kinda appetite I want to see from ya."

"Don’t get used to it," Lynn said dryly.

"Want dessert?"

Lynn looked up at him and shook her head. "Don’t push your luck."

Cookie just laughed and cleared the plates away.

** *** **

Chip gathered the refuse from his dinner. Actually, the chicken and dumplings meal hadn't been all that bad – it wasn't up to the level of Villa d'Amici’s gourmet food, certainly, and definitely not on a par with the amazing meals Cookie served on Seaview, but it had been better than many a fast food meal he'd eaten. The brownie, especially, had been very good.

His impromptu dinner over, he returned to work on the radio.

** *** **

After dinner, Lynn returned to Chip’s cabin, where she changed into one of her Lycra wetskins. Over it, she donned her Seaview sweatshirt and a pair of navy blue sweatpants, then left.

She made it back into the tank compartment before the Dolphin Detail returned from their dinner break. She could see that the four dolphins had been fed and the tank had been cleaned. Stripping off her sweatsuit, she eased into the tank. The dolphins immediately surrounded her. "Hi, guys," she said, caressing each one in turn.

She latched on to Leo's dorsal fin and let him pull her slowly around the tank. The other dolphins accompanied them quietly, seeming to sense her mood.

The hatch opened and the Dolphin Detail entered, dressed, as Lynn had instructed, in wetsuits. She released Leo's dorsal and swam to the edge, pushing herself out of the tank and onto the deck. "Hi, guys. Let's get started."

The four seamen stopped dead when they caught sight of her. Her pregnancy, so well hidden by the sweatsuits or the maternity jeans and oversized shirts she'd been wearing, was more than evident now in the clinging hot-pink-and-purple wetskin. While Riley, an uncle of six, seemed at ease, Lynn could feel protectiveness rising around her from the other three, and she looked at each man in turn. "Look, guys, don't say it. I know you mean well, but really, I'm fine. And it’s not like you’ve never seen this belly before!"

The detail didn't say anything but the sheepish expressions on their faces told all. Kowalski stepped forward and sat down at the tank's edge. "Should you be doing that?"

Lynn took a deep breath. "Yeah, Ski. Believe it or not, it's good for me. Now, everybody into the pool." Lynn eased herself back into the pool; the detail followed. She positioned herself at one end and directed the men to line up at the other. "We’ve done this before, but I want to give you guys a refresher on the hand signals – and you have some new ones to learn, too. The old hand signals should come back to you pretty quickly, and it won’t take you long to pick up the new ones. You'll be in pairs on the dives – Riley, Ski, you'll work with Sammy and Maxie. Andy, Lou, you'll work with Polly and Leo."

"Yeah, but will they work with us?" Andy Weening wisecracked.

Lynn looked at the tall rating. "That's what we're here to find out."

"How are we gonna work this, Doc?" Kowalski asked.

"The same way we did it when we initially tested the cameras and responders a couple of years ago. You'll go out in two teams – two men, two dolphins per team. Each team will be in the water for one hour at a time – when you come in, the relief team will spell you. Each team will be out for an hour, in for an hour, then we repeat. We'll break for a meal, then go out an hour later and repeat the process. Think you guys can handle that?"

All four nodded.

"Okay. Each dolphin will wear a compact camera – we'll go over those later, because they’ve gotten smaller since you last worked with them. The images will be sent back here, to a bank of monitors. When the dolphins find FS-1, they'll plant the transponder which will direct us and the DSRV on Venture to FS-1. They're small but noisy." She gestured toward the stack of cases. "The dolphins carry them on their harnesses – Sammy carries them for Maxie and vice-versa. The same applies to Leo and Polly."

Lynn called the dolphins to her with a hand signal. "You'll need a refresher on the signals to direct the search." She made another gesture, and the dolphins dashed to the opposite end of the tank, mingling with the men. "Ski, Riley, Lou, Andy, come down this end." When the ratings stood beside her, two on either side, she repeated the gesture she'd used to send the dolphins to the other end of the tank.

"Try it." The men mimicked her.

"Close. Try again." The ratings did, and Lynn smiled. "One more time."

When they had it right, she called the dolphins to her. "Go ahead, Ski."

The rating gave her a nod, then gestured at the dolphins. All four streaked away from him and he turned to Lynn with a smile. "Yeah, it’s coming back now."

"I never doubted you for a minute," Lynn said and grinned. "Andy, you and Lou go back to the other end – we're going to practice sending them back and forth."

They practiced sending the dolphins back and forth for a while, and then it was time to work on the recall signal. "It's just the opposite of the send signal," Lynn said, demonstrating. The men practiced, refining the motion, and then alternated sending the dolphins away and recalling them.

After a few minutes, Lynn was satisfied that the men had a good handle on the old commands. "Okay. Now it’s time to learn the new commands. There’s one that signifies the new hull coating," she said, holding her arms in front of her at the level of her waist at a right angle to her body, palms facing upward, and the outer edges of her hands touching. "This signifies FS-1," she said, and held her hands in front of her as if she were holding an imaginary basketball in both hands. "And this means search." She held her hands in front of her, palms touching as if she were praying, then straightened her arms, moving her hands forward in an arc and using them to point away from her.

"They look easy," Riley said.

"They are – but they have to be used in that exact sequence. The sequence tells them what return to expect, what they’re looking for, and the search signal sends them on their way."

After fifteen minutes of drilling the Dolphin Detail on the new signals, Lynn looked at the men and dolphins arrayed before her. "Okay – split up into teams with the dolphins you’ll be working with, and work with them alone."

After fifteen minutes of watching the dolphins and crewmen become accustomed to working with each other, Lynn called a halt to the training. "Enough for tonight," she said. "We don't want them to get sour." She pushed herself out of the tank and walked to the equipment cases, where she retrieved several toys."

"Playtime," she said, tossing the balls, frisbees, and striped rings into the pool.

"What do you want us to do, Doc?" Kowalski asked.

"Play with them like you would a dog – it’s good socialization for all of you. I’ll be working on my notes for a while."

Lynn watched the dolphins interact with the Dolphin Detail. They were at ease with the men, who they’d heretofore known primarily as caretakers, though they’d been on a couple of dives with them over the past several of years. Lynn or Chip had been on the dives as well, however, and the dolphins were used to looking to them for their instructions. This time, however, their familiar humans wouldn’t be present, and they had to be able to accept direct orders from unfamiliar divers. So far, though, that seemed to be progressing well. But in all the times the dolphins had been aboard for one reason or another, they’d never just played with the Dolphin Detail. It was a good bonding experience for all of them, human and cetacean.

Lynn sat on the deck and watched them play, making notes on the dolphins’ behavior as they did. The four ratings were really getting into the spirit, carousing like high school kids playing hooky. And the dolphins seemed to be having as much fun as they did playing with Lynn and her research assistants. It was a good omen.

Her notes done, Lynn rose and walked to the cooler. The dolphins, watching her, recognized her destination and began chattering and squealing in excitement.

"You're a noisy bunch," Lynn said fondly, "but you deserve this." She tossed two fish to each and then called the ratings to her, gesturing to them to take the fish. "They worked for you, now you give them treats. Two apiece, from each of you."

She watched the ratings share out the fish among the dolphins, then began packing up.

"I'll do that, Doc," Kowalski offered.

Lynn shook her head. "I'll finish up, Ski."

He must have heard something in her voice, because he nodded without argument. "Okay. But I'll come back and clean the tank later."

"Okay – thanks," Lynn agreed, and watched him leave. Then she walked to the tank, where the dolphins popped up, looking for more fish. "Greedy guts," she said fondly. "You've had enough. You'll get more tomorrow, my loves."

She sat down and dangled her feet into the tank, reaching down to stroke each dolphin in turn. 'You did well, kids. More work tomorrow – shine for me, okay?"

She rose and headed for Chip’s cabin. She pulled off the wetskin, hanging it on a plastic hanger which she hung from the shower head. Lynn turned the shower on, turning it down from the high temperature setting Chip had last set. She liked a hot shower as much as the next person, but she preferred not to be parboiled. She still couldn't understand how he could stand to shower in water that hot. It made shared showers…interesting.

She dawdled in the shower for a longer time than usual, allowing the warm water to sluice away her tension and anxiety. She pulled the wetskin into the stream of water, rinsing off the salt water from the garment.

When she finally fell into the bunk, she waited a long time for sleep to come.

** *** **

Day Two

After a restless night, Lynn finally dragged herself out of bed. There was no sense staying in the bunk if she wasn't going to be able to sleep, so she got up, brushed her teeth, pulled her hair into a ponytail, splashed some water on her face, then dressed in a dry wetskin and her sweatsuit and headed for the tank room. The dolphins surrounded her as soon as she eased into the water. As they sensed her state of mind, they crowded around, offering comfort.

Lynn gave each one attention in turn, saving special attention for Leo. Then she slapped the water, and they all looked alertly at her. "Thanks, gang. I needed that. Now I need a swim – and a long one, so don't get in the way. We'll play later, okay?"

The dolphins backed away and Lynn struck out for the opposite side of the tank. It wasn't a long tank, and a dozen easy strokes brought her to the other side, where she flipped and struck out again. She'd been swimming for a while, taking out her frustration and easing her tension with strong, rhythmic strokes, when she heard an "Ahem."

Lynn turned to see Lee standing at the edge of the pool, arms crossed over his chest, foot tapping. "Shouldn't you be at breakfast?"

She ducked her head backwards under the water, slicking her hair back out of her eyes. "I'll eat later. Swimming is wonderful exercise for fat pregnant ladies, and I couldn't do that on a full stomach. Besides, it's less damaging than punching bulkheads."

"For you or for Seaview?"

"That’s a tossup."

Lee looked down at the dolphins, who'd all gathered at his feet and were chattering loudly. "What's with them?"

"You forgot to say hello, Captain. They're insulted. Really, Lee, I thought you had better manners than that."

He lifted an eyebrow at her, then looked down at the dolphins. "Hello." The dolphins all chattered back politely.

"That's better." She gave him a crooked smile.

Lee extended a hand. "We're having a mission briefing in the nose in five minutes. I need you there."

Lynn looked up at the outstretched hand and for a fleeting moment, thought about pulling him into the tank. Nah. Wouldn't be nice.

Lee narrowed his eyes. "Don't you dare," he warned.

Lynn shook her head and let him pull her out of the water. "Never, dear brother-in-law. Though you could suit up and come play with us."

"I'll keep that in mind," Lee said, then grinned. "The meeting?" he prompted.

"I have to go change my clothes – I don't want to drip all over your nice clean control room."

"Five minutes – we’ll be hooking up a conference call with Matt Kyle on Venture and the Admiral at the lab."


"And then you can have breakfast," Lee said firmly.

"Okay again."

** *** **

Sparks had established the vidphone link with Venture by the time Lee returned to the nose. "Matt, how's it going?"

"Everything is ready," replied Commander Matt Kyle, captain of the Nelson Institute's surface exploration ship, Venture. "How's it going on your end, Lee?"

"As well as can be expected. Lynn’s on board with her dolphins."

Kyle smiled. "I’d heard. I didn't think anything could keep her on the beach -- not now. "

Crane grimaced. "We did encounter Hurricane Lynn when I broached the idea of her staying behind."

Kyle chuckled. "I bet you did. Give her my best."

'You'll be able to do that yourself in a few minutes – she's on her way up now."

"Are you taking good care of her?"

Lee nodded. "Mark Tomlinson is on board as our acting exec. She'll be fine."

Kyle chuckled. "I've always thought those two were separated at birth." He paused momentarily. "Lee, do you think the dolphins will be able to find FS-l?"

"Lynn has a lot of confidence in them."

"I hope it's not misplaced."

"Don't be such a pessimist, Matt," Lynn put in, coming down the spiral stairs. "My confidence is never misplaced." She blew him a kiss and smiled. The last time she'd seen him, he'd been at her dining room table, beating Lee and Mark and Chip at poker – trouncing them soundly, in fact.

"I'll have Venture’s ROVers out looking anyway," Matt said.

"The more help, the better," Crane said. He gestured toward a chair, which Lynn ignored in preference to a perch on the table.

Mark Tomlinson entered from the control room. "On course at flank speed, Captain."

"Very well, Mister Tomlinson." He picked up the nearest mike. "Sparks, do you have a link with the Admiral yet?"

"Patching the Admiral through now, sir," Sparks replied.

The screen split and Nelson's face appeared in a pane next to Matt Kyle. "Is everyone here? Let's get started. Lynn, how much progress have you made?"

"The Dolphin Detail is working out fine, sir – the commands have come back to them faster than I thought they would, and they picked up the new search commands very quickly. We have another training session scheduled for this afternoon."

"Will they be ready in time?" Nelson asked.

Lynn nodded. "They should be."

"And the dolphins?" Lee asked.

"FS-1 should be a snap for them to locate – we’ve been running simulations on different shapes and sizes of titanium coated with the new hull coating for a few months now," Lynn said. "They recognize it easily."

"What good will that do?" Matt Kyle asked.

"They're the ultimate sonar operators, Matt," Nelson put in. "Her new coating won't fool them at all. They’ll know FS-1 when they sense her return."

Lynn nodded. "They’ve been trained to recognize the specific return they get from it – like a dog in an obedience trial who recognizes a dumbbell that’s been handled by its owner," Lynn told him. "Then they'll plant the responder and activate it, and return to the divers. They'll be wearing miniaturized cameras and all of this will be sent back to Seaview to a bank of monitors and recorders."

"You and your dog analogies," Lee said softly.

"They’re appropriate. And remember how easily they located FS-1 herself on the field trials in January?"

"We knew where she was during those tests," Lee pointed out. "We still have to find FS-1."

"Lee, are the calculations for the search area complete?" Nelson asked.

"Yes, Admiral. It’s a relatively small area to search – but it’s still pretty large in terms of overall area."

"Your dolphins will have a lot of area to cover, Lynn – are they up to it?"

"Yes, sir," Lynn answered without any hesitation.

"Lynn, I'd like to set up the monitors in the nose, if you don't mind," Lee said.

Lynn shrugged. "Makes no matter to me, Lee. The nose is just as good as the tank room."

"Good. What happens after the responder is planted?" Lee asked.

"The DSRV on Venture takes over at that point," Matt supplied. "We'll transit to FS-1’s location as supplied by the responder and launch Seasprite, which will dive, mate with FS-l's upper hatch, and bring Chip up."

"Sounds simple," Crane muttered.

"It can be, if we're lucky," Nelson said.

"Matt, once you have Chip safely aboard Seaview, you're to bring Venture here and send the DSRV to pick me up," Nelson ordered.

"Aye, sir."

Lynn slid off the table. "If you'll excuse me, I'll be in the tank room." She walked aft.

The men watched her leave. "Lee, how is she holding up?" Nelson asked.

"Pretty well, sir," Crane answered. "At least, she seems to be."

"Stiff upper lip," Mark said. "She's hurting, but she won't let anyone see it – at least, she hasn't yet."

'Jamie is keeping his eye on her, sir," Crane supplied. "And so are we."

"I can imagine how happy that makes her," Nelson said, eyes twinkling.

"You imagine correctly, Admiral," Mark muttered.

"Just don't ask her how she feels," Lee said.

Nelson shot him a tight smile. "Keep me informed, Captains. Nelson out."

** *** **

Lieutenant Garland Bishop resented Mark Tomlinson's temporary posting as acting XO. He believed that he should have been tapped for the billet instead of the younger officer, especially since he had more experience on Seaview. Mark's higher rank and three tours on a ballistic missile boat – including one as XO – carried no weight with him.

He didn't complain to anyone – no one would have listened, anyway. But he made his displeasure known with a surly manner, and was more condescending than usual to those of Seaview’s enlisted complement who had the temerity or misfortune to cross his path.

Mark simply ignored him. During the time he spent in the control room, he said precisely what he needed to say to the navigator – no more, no less. He was scrupulously correct in his dealings with the man, though he was far more genial with the rest of the duty watch, stopping to speak with each man as he made his rounds of the control room.

"Commander Tomlinson?"

Tomlinson turned toward the young sonar operator. "Yes, Dorsey?"

"What's our ETA in the search zone?" the sonarman asked.

"Nine hundred hours tomorrow. We’ll have time for two sets of searches. I hope we don’t need them."

Dorsey nodded. "How's the Doc doin'?"

Tomlinson hesitated. It wasn't exactly polite to discuss the XO's wife, but hell, Lynn enjoyed a special status with the crew. Long before she had become the XO's wife, she had brought her dolphins on board Seaview for open-water tests, twice putting her life on the line while doing so. She’s never looked down on a single one of them, instead offering sincere and open-handed friendliness to every man on board. They counted her as one of their own and had a right to be concerned. It couldn't hurt to keep them informed.

He'd just opened his mouth to answer when Bishop came up on Dorsey's other side. "That's none of your business, sailor. Shut your mouth."

Dorsey cringed at Bishop’s dressing-down, and Tomlinson fixed Bishop with a cold stare. "The Doc is fine, Dorsey," he said levelly, never taking his eyes away from Bishop. "She's worried, of course, but she has confidence in us and in her dolphins."

"Thanks, Mister Tomlinson," the rating said nervously, thankful for Tomlinson’s attitude, yet uncomfortable at being caught in the middle between two officers.

"Don't mention it, Dorsey. I'm sure she appreciates your concern." He jerked his head at Bishop. "In the nose. Mister O'Brien, you have the conn."

Tomlinson led the way into the nose, where he closed the doors to shut the two of them away from curious eyes. Once there, he confronted Bishop. "Lieutenant, if you ever interrupt another conversation of mine again, I will place you on report, and add my own disparaging comments to those in that already voluminous file jacket of yours in Seaview’s office. Do I make myself clear?"

"That violates procedure and protocol, Commander." Bishop's posture and attitude oozed disrespect.

With difficulty, Mark held his temper. "And you're being insubordinate, Lieutenant. Do you understand?"

"I don't think -."

Tomlinson cut him off. "And that's your problem," he said flatly.

"Is there some problem here, gentlemen?" Crane asked, coming down the spiral staircase.

"I was explaining procedure to Lieutenant Bishop, Captain," Tomlinson grated out.

"I see. Carry on, Lieutenant."

Bishop wasn't happy at being dismissed, but he spun on his heel and left. Crane watched him go, then turned to Tomlinson. "Trouble?"

"He tried to reprimand Dorsey for asking me how Lynn is doing."

Crane shook his head. "He'll never learn."

"Why don't you just fire his ass off the boat?" Mark demanded.

"Funny – Lynn asked me that very same question not too long ago."

Mark snorted. "I bet she was a lot more genteel about it."

Crane grinned. "Oh, she was quite ladylike – but she got her point across."

"She always does," Mark said wryly. "And?'

"And he's good enough at his job that we keep him – but we keep him on a very short leash."

Mark snorted again, louder this time. "Deal with the devil, huh?"

Crane shrugged. "Whatever it takes to keep this girl running."

"Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it." Tomlinson grimaced. "He's a waste of good oxygen."

Crane shook his head. "I've heard it all before. I know all of the arguments. His ability as a navigator just outweighs all of his bad points."


"Just barely," Crane agreed, then he frowned. "You'll never see him stand a watch as officer of the deck, though – that I promise you."

Mark snorted. "Yeah – I heard about that little debacle."

"It's not just that – the crew doesn't respect him and they certainly don’t trust him. He's not effective as anything but a navigator."

"Chip's complete opposite."


"Speaking of Chip...Lee, does Seaview feel odd to you?"


"Seaview. She misses Chip," Mark said uneasily.

Crane favored him with a disbelieving glance. "You've been hanging around Lynn too long," he said with a short laugh.

Mark shook his head. "Come on, Lee, admit it. She doesn't feel right."

Crane sighed. He felt it too, though he didn't want to admit it. Falling silent for a moment, Lee turned to look out the viewports. He decided to change the subject. "You and Chip – you've come a long way since your initial meeting."

Mark grinned at the non-sequitur. "Yeah – he actually likes me now."

"I don't think he ever really saw you as a threat, Mark," Lee said gently.

"Jealousy is a strange thing, Captain – it makes you see things that aren't really there."

"I must admit – I was a little surprised when he told me he and Lynn had asked you to be the new baby's godfather."

"No more than I was. I expected them to ask Donnie – or you."

Lee shook his head. "I'm not Catholic."

"Yeah." Mark shrugged. "There's that."

"You're uncomfortable as acting exec."

"Wow. Now who’s been hanging out with Lynn too much?" Mark gave a puzzled frown at the abrupt change in subject, then he shrugged. "A little. This time, anyway. It’s one thing filling in for Chip when he’s off the boat on leave, but this?" He shook his head.

"You'll get over it."

"Yeah, well…I'd rather have her legit XO back on board."

"Mark, don't take this the wrong way, but – so would I."

"I can see where you would." Mark nodded in wry acknowledgement. "Well, Captain, I'd better get back to work." He started for the control room.

"Mark," Lee said, and the other man paused, turning back to him. "You're doing a good job. Thanks."

Tomlinson nodded and walked back into the control room.

** *** **

Day Three

Chip had always been a patient person, but his frustration was rapidly increasing. He'd never been good at sitting around and doing nothing. He often wondered what he'd have done if, as in the old days, he'd been forced to wait in the waiting room instead of staying in labor and delivery with Lynn when the girls had been born. He thought he'd have gone stark raving mad.

Chip sat back on his haunches. This was the third day FS-1 had been on the bottom. Lynn must have been told by now. He wondered how she was holding up. She was strong, and he knew she'd be putting up a brave front for the world.

When she was alone, though....

He shook that off. No sense worrying about what he couldn't change – and thinking about it just made things worse. He pulled a breakfast MRE from the cabinet -- he’d eaten stranger things for breakfast then beef stew – and settled in to choke it down before getting back to his repair attempts.

** *** **

They arrived in the search area slightly before schedule. Lynn had purposely stayed away from the control room, lingering over breakfast after the officers had gone on to their duties or to their racks, then remaining in the tank compartment with her dolphins and the dolphin detail, giving them a last run-through of the signals involved.

"Captain, we're at the coordinates," Mark Tomlinson announced.

"Thank you, Mister Tomlinson. Come to all stop."

" Aye, sir." Mark picked up the chart table mike. "Engineering, all stop."

The big sub glided to a stop. Lee reached for the mike. "Lynn, we're in the search area. The show's all yours."

In the tank room, Lynn looked up at the speaker and released a shaky breath. "Okay, guys. Here we go. Team One, get the harnesses." She eased into the tank and signaled Maxie and Sammy to her side.

At her signal, Riley and Kowalski took the dolphins’ color-coded harnesses out of their cases and brought them into the tank. They positioned the harnesses on the dolphins' backs and waited for Lynn to secure them. Then Kowalski climbed out of the tank to retrieve the cameras and responders.

Lynn's fingers shook as she buckled the straps on an excited Maxie. "Want me to do that?" Riley asked softly.

Lynn shook her head and managed to fasten the quick-release buckle on the fourth try. "Busy hands are happy hands," she said, then gave him a nervous grin. "See? I can do it."

"I never doubted you for a second, Doc," Riley said as he took the electronics gear from Kowalski and secured it in place on Maxie’s harness.

She moved on to Sammy, Kowalski's partner. The older of the two males was calmer, though he seemed to sense that this was more than just another training run. This time, she made short work of the buckles, then pushed back and looked at the two seamen. "Ready?"

"Can't be much readier than we are, Doc," Riley said.

"Readier? Is that a word?" Kowalski asked as he secured the gear in place on Sammy’s harness.

"It is now."

Lynn smiled nervously at them. "Get your diving gear on."

Edgy, Lynn hauled herself out of the tank and busied herself with safety checks on the diving party's air tanks as they geared up, checking the security of the various fastenings and testing the purge valves on their regulators.

"Is it up to your standards?" Riley asked, trying to hide a smile.

"Looks like it."

Riley looked at Lynn over his shoulder as she inspected his gear. "Busy hands are happy hands?"

"Cute, Riley. Real cute."

"It's gonna be okay, Doc. Really," Riley said softly, his words low, intended for Lynn's ears alone.

She smiled at him, silently thanking him for his concern. "I know, Riley. But thanks."

He returned her smile, then jumped into the tank. "Let's go, Ski!" Kowalski followed him into the tank. They lowered their masks and dove for the airlock.

"Okay, kids. It's time for you to earn your keep." Lynn patted each of the dolphins and sent them after the divers.

Lee’s voice came over the 1MC overhead. "Tank compartment?"

Patterson picked up the mike at his station at the airlock controls. "Aye, Skipper."

"Pat, where's Doctor Murtagh?"

"She's right here, Skipper." He held out the mike to Lynn.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Doctor, would you care to join me in the control room?"

"Let me get into dry clothes and I’ll be right there." She pulled her sweatsuit on over her wetskin and headed for Chip’s cabin and a set of dry clothing.

** *** **

Lee watched Lynn move forward through the control room, smiling and nodding at the men who manned the duty stations when they greeted her.

"You wanted me?"

Lee nodded. "We’re ready for you."

"Thanks." She moved to the viewports, looking out toward the diving party who tread water just in front of the nose.

Lee looked at Lynn. From the expression on her face, it was obvious that she wanted nothing more than to be outside, directing the dolphins herself. "Forget it," he said.

She looked at him in annoyance. "Oh, can it, Lee. I know better.


"But what?" Lynn asked, frowning in confusion.

"There was a ‘but’ at the end of that sentence,"

She looked at him. "It bothers me."

"What bothers you?"

Lynn pursed her lips. "You know I don't like asking people to do something I should be doing myself."

"They understand, Lynn. None of them fault you for staying on board. They all know you want to be out with them, and they also know why you can't," he assured her.

"I know. Well, it can’t be helped." She walked to the bank of monitors and watched the team’s progress.

** *** **

The first team searched for the allotted period of time, and returned to be relieved by the second team. Neither was successful. They broke for lunch, then went out again an hour later. But the second pair of searches was no more successful than the first.

Lynn did her best to hide her dismay and retain a professional manner. But the letdown the crew felt, especially the Dolphin Detail, could be felt throughout the boat.

"Nothin', Doc," Rodrigo said, removing his diving gear. "I thought for sure we'd find...."

"Me too, Lou." She handed him a bucket of fish. "Give out the mackerel, okay?" She sat at the edge of the pool and watched as the dolphins came for their treats.

"They worked real good for us, Doc," Kowalski said as he helped Weening remove his gear.

Lynn nodded. "I hope we do better tomorrow, Ski."

** *** **

Day Four

But the next day the teams fared no better in their searches. Lynn alternated between the tank compartment and the control room, keeping an eye on the monitors that showed the views sent back by the dolphins' cameras.

Once the final team had been recovered, she stayed in the tank room. She didn't feel like being scintillating company, and besides, the mood in the wardroom wasn't exactly upbeat, either. She asked Kowalski to have Cookie make up a tray for her dinner, which she ate without really tasting.

"I figured you'd be here."

Lynn looked up to see Lee coming through the hatch, Mark in his wake. "I prefer not to indulge in self-pity before an audience," she said dryly.

Lee regarded Lynn. She looked fine, but he knew she had been pushing herself. "I think you should go lie down for a while."

"I'll do that when we find Chip."

"Why not now?" he asked in what he thought was a reasonable tone.

"I'm not tired."

"Lynn, you need rest."

"I need to find FS-l!" The easygoing, genial marine biologist he’d known for five years was gone, replaced by an intense stranger. "I'll find the Flying Sub if it's the last thing I do."

"It just might be."

Her green eyes held fear – a fear he'd only seen once before, when Doctor Terrence Danson had attempted to murder her and Chip. Then it was gone, replaced by annoyance mixed with a touch of sadness.

"Lee, when you find someone you love as much as I love Chip, you'll understand. I have to do everything I can to find him – if that means long hours, so be it. If I don't put out maximum effort in this, I'll never forgive myself."

"You can't keep going around the clock. I'll have Jamie confine you to sickbay if you try."

"I’m not going around the clock. Believe me, I know how to pace myself."

"I haven’t seen any evidence of that over the past couple of days."

Lynn stood and glared at him. "What do you suggest, Captain?"

If Lee noticed the undue emphasis she placed on his rank, he ignored it. "We'll keep searching with sonar through the night. The teams will go out tomorrow – after you've gotten a night's sleep."

"I can’t argue with that," Lynn said and left the compartment, her shoulders slumping.

Lee shook his head. "Stubborn."

"Growing up the only girl surrounded by seven boys will do that to you," Mark said dryly. "But you know her. What else did you expect?" Tomlinson asked. "Do you think she'll sit back and let everyone else do the work?"

"I expect her to take care of herself," Lee said flatly. "Because if she doesn't, it'll be my head on the chopping block when Chip gets back." He glared at Tomlinson. "And yours will be next."

"If Jack and Kevin don’t get to me first."

** *** **

Lynn let herself into Chip's cabin and headed directly for the shower. She knew Lee was right – she needed to rest, not drive herself into exhaustion. But it was extremely difficult to let everyone else do the work, to watch as they did the job she should have been doing.

She showered, then dressed in an oversized tee shirt and climbed into the bunk. Placing a hand on her stomach, she said, "Don't worry, little one, I won't jeopardize either of our lives. You're important to me, too. But we have to bring Daddy home."

Lynn rolled onto her side, beat the pillow into submission and closed her eyes. As it had been the night before, sleep was a long time in coming.

** *** **

Day Five

On the third day of searching, all four searches were again unsuccessful. Lynn felt tension rising in her and knew there was only one way to rid herself of it. "Lee, can I ask you for a favor?" she asked after the dolphins and divers had returned from the final search of the day.


"Can I – is it possible to move the piano down here from the wardroom?" She looked over at Mark, who met her eyes in understanding.

"I think that's a great idea," Mark said before Crane could answer. "I'll take care of it, if you don't mind, Captain."

Crane, aware that something was going on that he didn't quite fathom, nodded. "I don't see any problem. Mister Tomlinson, we're needed in the control room." He gestured for Mark to precede him from the chamber.

When they reached the corridor, he grasped Tomlinson's bicep, stopping the younger man. "I presume you have a good reason for that breach of protocol?" he asked tightly.

Tomlinson nodded. "Sorry, Captain, but that was a distress signal if I ever heard one."

Lee gave him a puzzled frown. "Wanting the piano?"

Mark shook his head. '"No – that was needing the piano – needing to take her stress and frustration out on the keys."

Lee nodded. "I guess you'd understand that better than I would."

"Probably better than anyone else on board. The piano has always been an emotional release for her – she needs it now."

Crane regarded him in silence for a moment, then gave a short, sharp nod. "See to it."

"Aye, sir."

** *** **

Lynn had already changed into jeans and a long-sleeved tee shirt when two ratings brought the keyboard down from the wardroom. Mark, following behind them with the bench and a long heavy-duty extension cord, watched Lynn as she directed them in its placement, close enough to the tank for her to interact with the dolphins, but far enough away so that any splashing wouldn't reach it. He set the bench before the keyboard and plugged the cord into the closest receptacle.

Lynn looked up at Mark, and the gratitude in her eyes would have been visible to a dead man. "Thanks, Mark."

"Don't thank me – Lee gave the orders."

"Maybe." Lynn gave him a knowing look. "But you went out on a limb for me. Thanks."

He shrugged. "Hey, it was nothing."

"With another captain, it would been a lot more than nothing," Lynn pointed out.

"Maybe," Mark echoed. "Want me to stay?"

Lynn shook her head. "Thanks, but I'd like to be alone for a while."

'No problem." He looked at the keyboard, then back to Lynn. "I'll come and get you for dinner."


Lynn watched him go, then turned the electronic piano on and lightly ran the keys. Perfect. She sat at the keyboard and flexed her fingers and wrists, warming them up before running through some scales and simple exercises.

When the dolphins heard her, they popped their heads above the rim of the tank and began chattering excitedly. "You guys like that, huh?"

She took refuge in her favorites – Backstreets, Racing in the Streets, Lost in the Flood, New York City Serenade – Springsteen songs with intricate piano lines. Each one flowed into the other effortlessly, while the dolphins listened in rapt attention.

"You’d think you were all born in New Jersey," she muttered, cracking a smile as she moved into Jungleland.

"That's nice -- "

Lynn nearly fell off the padded bench. "Geez, Riley, don't do that! I didn't hear you come in."

"Sorry, Doc. Got lost in the music, huh?"

Lynn took a deep breath to calm herself and nodded. It was a question only another musician would ask. "Yeah, Rile. I got lost in the music." She looked at her watch. "You're not due for an hour."

"I figured you’d be here – I thought you might like some company," he said diffidently.

Lynn smiled. What she really wanted was to be alone, but couldn't in good conscience refuse Riley's offer. "Sure, Rile." She patted the bench seat beside her. "Sit."

Riley sat beside her and looked at the keyboard. "Wow. Looks complicated."

Lynn ran the palm of her hand over the controls above the keyboard. "Rile, with this thing, I can be an entire band if I want."

"That sounds like overkill."

"It can be. I like to just leave it on the piano setting and go from there." Lynn resumed playing, the melody of Jungleland a soft background to their words.

"And Mister Morton?" Riley asked. "What does he like?"

Lynn gave a little chuckle. "He'd never notice – he always falls asleep when I play."

Riley winced. "Ouch."

"He says my playing relaxes him, but I'd rather have an appreciative audience," Lynn said dryly. "The girls, now...I have two pianos at home, my upright -- that was my grammar school graduation present – and the baby grand my mother gave us as a housewarming present when we built the house. The baby grand is off limits for now, but I sit them at the bench of the upright and let them bang on the keys. Shawn is old enough for lessons – I think after the baby's born, we'll start her." Lynn chuckled. "That ought to be good for a few laughs."

"Hey, maybe she inherited your talent."

Lynn snorted. "Better that than her father's tin ear."

Riley grinned at her. "You know, you two are legends around here."

Lynn stopped playing. "Huh?"

"You know – the way you met on Seaview, the way we watched you fall in love when you didn't even realize what was happening to you"

"Come on, Stu – you're being overdramatic," Lynn said dryly.

But Riley was undeterred. "The way you almost had Shawn in your office."


"Come on, Doc, it's a great story!" Riley protested.

"Oh, it's a story, all right." She shook her head. "You have a better imagination than Shawn does."

Riley ignored that. "The way you tamed the Legend of the Nelson Institute --"

"The way I what?" Lynn stared at him in utter stupefaction. "Stu, Riley, have you been drinking bilgewater again?"

"Submarines don't have bilges," he said patiently.

'You know what I mean."

"Say what you want, Doc. We know the real story – and it’s a good one." He rose from the bench. "Gotta go get dinner. See ya later."

Lynn watched him leave, then shook her head wryly and resumed her playing.

** *** **

In the wardroom, Lee pointedly looked at his watch then looked at Mark.

"She'll forget to eat if one of us doesn't go drag her up here," Mark said, rising.

Crane rose as well. "We'll both go."

"Good idea – it might take the two of us to get her away from that keyboard."

Lee nodded. "You take her shoulders, I’ll take her feet.

The music from the tank compartment spilled out into the passageway, greeting them before they set one foot inside. They both recognized the melody as It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City, an early Springsteen song that had a very involved piano line, almost frantic in parts.

Mark held up one hand to stop Lee. "Wait."



Lee listened. He’d heard Lynn play the song many times. It was involved, intricate, as if Lynn had more energy than she needed – or knew what to do with. He and Mark stood for a moment, listening. She didn't seem to be slowing down – if anything, her energy level seemed to be increasing.

"It’s the ‘octopus on crack’ song," Lee said, using Chip’s nickname for the song.

"Yeah – Saint in the City – one of her favorites. Right now, it's get-your-mind-off-it music." At Crane's look of disbelief, he shrugged, saying, "You asked. It's not quite the musical version of comfort food, but I wouldn't worry – not until she starts playing Chopin nocturnes."

"As if I'd know one," Crane scoffed, and stepped over the sill.

He came up behind Lynn. "Did you forget about dinner?"

Lynn looked at her watch. "I didn't realize it was that late. I'm not really hungry, anyway."

"You ought to be. You've been working non-stop, and you're eating for two."

"That's a fallacy," Lynn shot back.

"Whatever – you still need balanced meals. Let’s go."

"You know what your problem is?" Lynn asked, then went on without waiting for an answer. "You have the knight-in-shining-armor complex. You want to rescue the damsel in distress. Well, some of us don't want to be rescued because we aren't in distress – and after two kids and another one on the way, I’m certainly not a damsel."

"You’re not in distress yet, you mean," Mark put in.

Lynn glared at him. "When I am, I'll be sure to let both of you know."

"Lynn, remember what you said about the two of us leaning on each other?" Lee asked. "You're trying to go it on your own."

Lynn placed a hand on her stomach. "I'm not exactly alone."

"That's precisely why you should lean on one of us."

She nodded. "When I need to, I will. I promise." She stood and gestured toward the hatch. "Go on. Get out of here and do some male bonding stuff and leave me and my passenger alone. We'll be fine. This is helping. Honestly, I need the piano more than I need a wardroom full of testosterone. And I really do want to be alone."

Lee stared at her for a long moment, then sighed. "I’ll have Cookie send a tray down."

"Sounds good, Now sssscoot," Lynn said, making shooing motions with her hands. "You too, Markie."

Crane looked at her with concern, then nodded. "But get some rest, all right? Or Jamie will have my head."

"Perish forbid," Lynn said, then reached up to hug him. "Thanks for caring."

Lee smiled, then turned to Tomlinson. "Coming, Commander?"

"In a moment, Captain," Tomlinson replied, looking at Lynn. Crane nodded and left.

Tomlinson looked Lynn over, then shook his head. "You may have fooled Lee, but you didn't fool me. You're not okay, and you're going to crash very soon."

"You only think so." She glared at him. "God, how I hate being coddled."

"I know. But I'm not gonna stop nagging. You're skating on the edge, Lynn," Mark stated flatly. "Somebody's gotta be around to pull you back, for your sake and the sake of that little passenger you're carrying around."

"Mark, I meant what I said. I'll be all right. I know my limitations."

Tomlinson shook his head in resignation. "Call me if you need me."

"I will. I promise."

"For anything," he pressed.

"I will," Lynn said, holding up her right hand. "Scout's honor."

Tomlinson snorted. "You were never a Girl Scout."

"No, but it sounds good."

He sighed, then leaned down and kissed her forehead. "I'll be back and check on you later."

"I knew that was coming."

** *** **

Lee Crane was nothing if not true to his word. Within twenty minutes of his departure, Cookie himself appeared in the tank compartment with a tray laden with more of Lynn’s favorites – Maryland fried chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans. A slice of lemon meringue pie and a large mug of freshly brewed tea completed the meal.

"I don’t hafta stand here and watch ya eat that, do I?" Cookie asked.

‘The way this smells? Hell no," Lynn answered, and dug in.

Cookie nodded in satisfaction. "Good."

After the first bite, Lynn closed her eyes and sighed. "It tastes even better than it smells, if that’s possible," Lynn told him.

"Glad I can tickle your fancy, Doc." Cookie jerked his head in the direction of the tray. "Just leave the tray here – I’ll send one of my guys to come get it later."

"Cookie, thank you."

"It’s the least I can do," Seaview’s culinary genius said, and headed back to the galley.

Surprising herself, Lynn finished the entire meal. Immediately after, she felt a sudden wave of fatigue. Sighing, she took herself back to Chip’s cabin, where she barely kept her eyes open as she undressed for bed. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.

** *** **

Chip knew it was psychologically important to maintain a schedule as close to normal as possible. His watch – the Rolex Submariner Lynn had given him at their first Christmas together – was working, so he at least had a clear referent of time. He’d continued to eat at regular times, and hit the rack when he normally would.

Tonight, though, sleep was elusive. Normally a light sleeper who could fall asleep instantly, Chip had a hard time relaxing enough to drop off. His mind remained too active. Submarine duty was often boring, but this, Chip thought, was pure torture. He had faith that he'd be rescued sooner or later, but the waiting was killing him.

He reviewed his actions from the time the lightning had struck FS-1, but he couldn’t think of anything he could have or should have done differently. Then he reviewed his repeated attempts to repair FS-1. He'd spent most of the first day trying to repair the fried radio, but nothing he'd done had made a difference. Still, it had kept his mind and hands busy. He'd tried to get the heater to produce a higher output on the second day, but again, hadn't been successful. He hadn't noticed the chill during the day, when he'd been busy, but at night, the cold was hard to ignore. He'd slept in his uniform, flight jacket, and bundled himself in the thermal blankets from the emergency kit, topped with a Mylar cover, closing off the small sleeping area with Mylar curtains to keep the warmth in. That had kept him sufficiently warm, though not particularly comfortable.

His third day on the bottom had seen him back at work on the radio. He hadn't made any progress, but again, it kept his hands and mind busy.

Now, on the fourth day, after hours of unsuccessfully trying to rewire the secondary electrical bus in the circuitry panel, he just wanted to sleep. After what seemed an eternity, he finally dropped off into a restless sleep punctuated with disturbing dreams. Somewhere, Lynn was singing – singing to him.

That wasn’t unusual. Lynn loved to sing. Even when she sang with the band to a packed audience at Ciasulli’s, he felt – knew – that she was singing to him alone. She might not have been looking at him, but he knew the audience didn’t matter. He was the only one that mattered.

Now, in his dream, he could hear her voice, but couldn't make out the words. She sang low, with a melancholy tone, her voice catching at points. He knew she was there, but he couldn't see her. Every time he turned to find her, she was gone. He could only hear her, not see her, no matter how diligently he searched. And all the while she kept singing.

** *** **

Day Six

The fourth day of searching started out badly and headed downhill from there. Lynn awoke with a sour stomach, and even a light breakfast of poached eggs on toast didn't sit well.

The first team got away without a hitch, so Lynn left the tank compartment for the monitor station in the nose. This time, this time they'd find FS-l – she was sure of it. But eight hours later, after two more sets of unsuccessful searches, they were no closer to finding the little craft than they had been when they'd started out days earlier.

"I'll be in the tank room," she said to Larry Baker, who'd been monitoring the cameras along with her during the afternoon watch. She turned to pass through the control room, but stopped dead when she caught sight of Bishop. He was standing near the plot table, holding Chip's blue clipboard, the one she'd given him two years earlier as a joke, because it exactly matched the blue of his eyes.

After all that had happened, this last was just too much. Lynn marched over to Bishop, snatched the blue clipboard out of his hand, removed the papers, slapped them onto the chart table, and stalked away, head high, clipboard in hand.

Lee entered the control room just as Lynn passed the periscope island. He noticed the unnatural stillness of the duty watch, saw the clipboard she clutched so tightly, but decided to say nothing about it. But then he saw the expression in her eyes and he had to assure himself that she was all right.

"Lynn?" he questioned, laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. He felt her unnatural tenseness and sensed her struggle to compose herself before she spoke.

She looked toward the chart table, where Bishop was trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, despite having the eyes of the entire duty watch staring reproachfully at him. "I'm fine, Lee. Or I will be, as long as that mealy-mouthed little bastard over there knows his place. Chip's not dead yet, and I'll thank him to remember that." With that she pulled away and stalked out through the aft hatch.

Leave it to Bishop, Crane thought. He's never had a good sense of timing. He casually walked over to the chart table, and checked the course. "You'd better find yourself another clipboard, Mister Bishop," he said in an offhand manner. "We can't have the XO finding his chart table in disarray when he returns, now, can we?"

"No, sir," Bishop mumbled.

"Good." Crane made a leisurely circuit of the control room, chatting casually with each man to foster an air of normalcy, then left. Once outside the control room, he quickened his steps, hurrying on to the tank room.

He found Lynn at tankside, idly tossing treats to the dolphins. "That was uncalled for. I'm sorry." She didn't bother to turn towards him.

"Uncalled for, maybe. But you don't sound very contrite," Lee pointed out.

She looked up at him, challenge in her eyes. "Pro forma apology. So sue me." She held up a bit of fish. '"Want a piece of herring?"

Lee frowned. Right now, she seemed totally unaffected by the little scene she'd incited. Her upturned face was calm, the expression in her green eyes even impish as she looked up at him, fish in her outstretched hand. He realized it was a facade and decided to play along.

"Thanks, no. I'll pass. But please, let Maxie have it with my compliments." He sat down alongside her, heedless of the water splashed on the deck.

She tossed the tidbit to the larger female dolphin. "I really flipped back there, didn't I?"

"You might say that," Lee said in a conciliatory tone. "But it wasn't entirely --"

"Don't you dare patronize me, Lee Crane!" Lynn snapped.

"I'm not patronizing you, Lynn," he said calmly.

"Sure felt like it," she muttered.

{ don't like to see you upset. Not now, especially."

"Then you might want to invest in a blindfold," she said dryly. "Bishop the moron strikes again."

"A little bit of Bishop goes a long way," Lee agreed.

"I dunno – you have a great guy like Mark stationed on shore most of the time, and that idiot gets to sail around on Seaview. Doesn't seem quite fair."

"Would you rather have Bishop running Operations?" Lee asked dryly.

"I wouldn't want him running a garbage scow," Lynn shot back. "He's a disaster waiting to happen."

"Believe me, it’s already happened," Lee said, shuddering at the memory of Seaview, dead in the water, resting on the bottom after her encounter with the derelict minefield.


They turned to see Will Jamieson standing in the hatchway. From the expression on his face, he was not pleased. "I want to see you in Sick Bay, Doctor."

"Not necessary, Jamie," Lynn said, turning back to the dolphins. "I’m fine and dandy."

"Now, Doctor," Jamieson said, his tone implacable.

"What for?" Lynn asked, trying to hide her annoyance.

"You'll see when you get there."

Lee gave Lynn an 'I can't help you now' look, and rose, courteously assisting her to her feet.

The three of them walked to sickbay in silence, Jamieson alongside Lynn and Lee trailing a few strides behind. Lee remained near the doorway when Jamieson gestured for Lynn to sit on the examining table. He took her pulse, then fastened the blood pressure cuff around her upper arm.

Lynn waited until he'd removed the cuff before speaking. "Well?" she asked.

"Your pulse is strong, your BP is a little low," Jamieson said grudgingly. "Otherwise, you’re fine."

"It's always been low – that’s my normal," she shot back. "Can I go back to work now?"

"Yes, but...try to take it a little easier."

"Easy. Sure." She pushed herself down off the table. "Give me a break, Jamie. My husband is out there, God-knows-where, in God-also-knows-what condition. I'll take it easy when we find him."

She stalked toward the door. "Excuse me – I have to get ready for dinner."

** *** **

Lynn ate dinner in a very perfunctory manner, eating only enough to keep Lee and Mark quiet. She left the wardroom before dessert, giving a nebulous excuse that no one believed. But no one contested it, either.

Back in Chip's cabin, she took refuge in yet another shower. Her frequent forays into water when she felt down or unsettled were an unending source of amusement for Chip, but water had the ability to relax her, to somehow reduce her problems and frustrations. The best thing would have been a swim with the dolphins, but that wouldn’t have been wise with food in her stomach.

Dressed in a lightweight sweatsuit and drying her hair after her shower, Lynn was surprised to hear a knock at the cabin door. Frowning, she opened it to find Kowalski standing there, carrying a tray which held a steaming mug, a piece of chocolate cake, and a bowl filled with an unidentified substance.

"Cookie said you missed dessert, and he knows how much you like chocolate," Kowalski said with a smile. "So he sent me with a little pick-me-up."

She stepped back, allowing the rating to enter. He placed the tray on the desk. "Hot chocolate too?"

"And real whipped cream. My mom always says it's the best when you need a lift."

"So does mine." She looked at the mug, then up at the rating. "Thanks, Ski," she said softly, taking his hand and squeezing it. "Thanks."

Kowalski blushed. "You – you just call if you need anything."

"I will." Still blushing, Kowalski beat a hasty retreat.

Lynn tossed the towel into the head, then walked to the desk. Cookie had outdone himself -- rich chocolate cake topped with a creamy chocolate fudge icing – just what the doctor had ordered. She savored the cake, taking small bites and making it last and thinking about how much Chip – who loved chocolate even more than she did – would have loved a piece. The hot chocolate was perfect – the correct temperature, neither too bitter nor too sweet, and the whipped cream was the crowning touch.

She felt the baby stir. "You like that, huh? Genes will tell, little one. You get it from both sides."

There came another knock on the door. Lynn looked up. "So much for quiet time for just the two of us, kid," she muttered. "It's open," she called.

"Hey, fat lady," Mark Tomlinson said as he entered, closing the door gently behind him.

"Hi, Mark."

"Hot chocolate and chocolate cake? Tell me your secret, willya?" He looked at the bottle on the desk. "Did you take your vitamins?"

"My mother isn't half as annoying as the men on this boat," Lynn grumbled. "Yes, Mom, I took my vitamins."

"Hey, give me a little smile, at least. Frowns aren't good for your passenger."

Her mouth quirked up a bit at his words, but not for long.

"Lynn, you aren't mad at me, are you?"

She frowned at him. "Mad? Your over-solicitousness is driving me nuts but no, I'm not mad at you for it. You can’t help yourself."

'That's not what I meant. I'm acting Exec – taking Chip's place. I thought…."

"Oh, Mark." Lynn pulled a face. "You mean, since I occasionally get irrational, you thought I'd be mad at one of my oldest and dearest friends for doing what had to be done? Thanks, pal." She shook her head. "Better you than Bishop. Far better. You won't run us aground or into a minefield, and you couldn't be a pompous ass if you tried." A devilish expression even stole into her eyes. "I'd even let you use Chip's clipboard."

"I’m impressed. That's the ultimate compliment."

"If it hasn't been contaminated by contact with Bishop, that is. We’ll need to disinfect it before we let Chip use it again."

"I can't imagine why you don't like him," Mark teased.

"Markie, my list is so long, you'll be back on duty before I finish reciting it." She narrowed her eyes at him. 'You know, Mister Acting XO, you seem to have an awful lot of time to spend with me."


"So Chip never seems to have this much time to spare. You're good, Markie, but you're not that good."

"Maybe he's trying to tell you something?"

"Har-dee-har. Very funny – don’t give up your day job, and don't change the subject. Now give."

Tomlinson shrugged. "We don't want you to be alone."

"We?" Lynn asked, raising an eyebrow. "As in who, precisely?"

"As in Lee and myself."

"Like I said in Lee's office, I don't need a babysitter."

"No. But you do need a friend."

That was all it took. Tomlinson watched as the facade of strength she'd maintained for the crew crumbled. She seemed to shrink in upon herself. "I can't lose him, Mark. I just can't."

"C'mere." Tomlinson walked to her chair, pulled her up and into his arms, engulfing her in a brotherly hug. "You won't lose him."

Lynn slipped her arms around his waist and squeezed. "Don't make promises you can't keep." She shuddered. "Know when I said that last? When I was trapped in the lab last year and Seaview was on her way to pull us out. Chip promised he'd get there in time – and he did."

"That's a good omen."

Lynn laughed mirthlessly. "It might just be wishful thinking – or maybe we used up all of our luck back then."

"We didn't lose you and we won't lose Chip, either," Mark said firmly, hugging her a bit tighter.

"I want to believe that, Mark. I really do."

"Then believe it."

Lynn squeezed him gratefully. "Thanks – I needed that."

"Hey, what are big brothers for?"

Lynn looked up at him. "Markie, you're two months younger than I am."

"But I'm a lot bigger than you are, " he said, and released her, pushing her gently toward the bunk. "Go put your feet up," he said, and crossed to the tape player.

"I am surrounded by mother hens," Lynn grumbled, but she sat on the bunk. The strains of Twist and Shout filled the cabin. "Geez, Mark, you want me to rest and you put that on? I don't think so."

He shot her a disgusted look and stopped the tape. Digging through the case for a moment, he stopped, did a double-take at the label on one tape, then slipped it into the player.

Lynn winced as she recognized the music. "Not fair, Mark," she said softly. "Not fair at all."

"Why?" he asked in puzzlement. "Can't stand listening to your own playing? I think it's pretty good myself, but I know what a perfectionist you are."

Lynn hugged the pillow to her chest. "That's one of the tapes I made for Chip. It helps him to sleep."

"Clair de Lune always did it for me, too." He walked to the bunk, leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Sleep tight. Tomorrow’s another day."

"Good night, Scarlett," Lynn called after him as he shut the cabin door behind him.

** *** **

Day Seven

Chip had never been one to dwell long on his own mortality. He'd chosen a hazardous profession, and had come to terms with that long ago. Even after he'd married Lynn and the girls had come along he'd refused to think about it. Seaview got into trouble often but it usually happened so quickly, and they got out of it relatively quickly, as well – he'd never really had the time to reflect on his own mortality. But now....

Now, trapped on the sea floor for a week, it was hard not to think about dying. All he had to do was think – the repairs he'd attempted, while they'd kept him busy, hadn't done anything to get FS-1 off the bottom or allow her to connect with the outside world. The odds were against him – they’d known they were taking a chance installing the new anechoic coating on FS-1 before the only sonar that could detect it was ready for installation, but they'd encountered so many delays with the new sonar suite, and with the coating ready, they'd made the decision to go ahead. They'd known that it was a calculated risk, but they'd never anticipated that FS-1 would be totally disabled, her beacon dead – essentially blind, deaf and dumb on the sea floor, invisible to standard sonar.

Time to face facts, Chip thought. You're not going to get out of this. He wouldn't be able to do a free ascent – he'd end up with the bends. If FS-1 had tanks filled with exotic gas mixtures, he might have a chance, but all of the tanks on board were filled with the standard mixture. So much for that.

What if they didn't find him? Lynn had Jack and Kevin nearby, and Lee and Mark would do everything they could to help. She wouldn't be alone.

For some reason, that thought didn't cheer him at all.

** *** **

Maxie and Sammy were higher than kites when their friends Kowalski and Riley fastened the camera rigs on them for the morning’s first set of searches. It took longer than usual to get them tacked up, and they only settled down when their Lynn scolded them. They settled down, but both were eager to get to work.

Once outside, Maxie shot away from Kowalski, swimming in a wide zigzag pattern, ranging the ocean floor with her sonar as they’d done repeatedly over their past few forays into the ocean. Going on the big steel tube – their Lynn called it ‘Seaview’ – was always an adventure, a chance to implement the new tasks they’d learned. And that always made their human happy. Maxie didn’t know why their Lynn had stayed onboard instead of swimming with them, but she thought it might have something to do with the tiny human she carried inside. She always stopped swimming in the ocean when she had a tiny human inside. Maxie didn’t understand it, because Lynn never stopped swimming in their tanks with them, tiny human or not. It was just another puzzle the humans presented.

Maxie found a lot of interesting things as she searched – lobsters fighting, eels defending their territory, a starfish opening a clam, assorted debris on the ocean floor that she instinctively knew didn't belong there, even a far-off pod of wild dolphins feeding – but not what she sought. The yellow underwater boat, the one that looked like a large clam and made such interesting noises when it was in motion – and gave such a distinct return when she ranged it – that was the ultimate object of their searches.

That boat, she knew, was what was making their Lynn so sad – the waves of pain that radiated off her were painful to all four dolphins. Find the boat and their human pod member would be happy again.

Sammy had ranged off a few hundred yards to Maxie’s right, intent on his own search. The two dolphins kept in touch with clicks and whistles, keeping each other informed of their findings – or the lack of them.

Wait. Stop. That last return had felt familiar – could they have finally found what they were looking for? Maxie whistled Sammy's signature, and he swam to join her, questioning her with a series of clicks and whistles.

She ranged again. Again that same return. Squealing in excitement, Maxie dashed off in that direction, Sammy following. Twin sonar pulses ranged out, and the desired return came back, stronger each time.

There! Maxie squealed in joy as she dove for the yellow boat. Sammy, the faster swimmer, reached the boat first, looking curiously into the viewports. He called to Maxie, who arrived mere seconds later.

They'd found it! And their other human pod member was inside!

** *** **

A ghostly light played over the rear of the passenger compartment. Chip jumped, then turned to see what looked to be the beam from an underwater torch shining through the viewports.

He rose and walked forward. The beam began bouncing up and down, as if it were bobbing in the water. Then he realized that the light was attached to a dolphin.

Lynn's dolphins! And where the dolphins were, could she be far behind? He hastily discarded that thought – she wasn't that foolhardy. No doubt someone else was handling them – most likely the Dolphin Detail. He didn't see any divers, but FS-l was too deep for safe diving. Anyone who'd come out with the dolphins would be at a shallower depth, waiting.

As he watched, another dolphin hove into view. It also wore a torch, and as it swam up to the first dolphin, it removed a small device from a harness the first dolphin wore. It swam up to the viewport, stopping momentarily and swinging its head from side to side as if it were showing the device to him. Then it swam upward, disappearing from his field of view.

Seconds later, he heard a soft click from somewhere near FS-1’s dorsal hatch. Homing device, he realized. Soon he'd be back on board Seaview.

The dolphin returned and nodded at him, looking expectantly at him as if awaiting an answer. He nodded, made the gesture that meant ‘thank you’. The dolphin nodded back in acknowledgement, rolled to its side, waved a pectoral fin, and shot away, followed by its partner.

He gave a huge sigh of relief as the dolphins arrowed away.

** *** **

Maxie shot away from the little yellow craft, followed by Sammy. She headed directly for Seaview and the divers, excitedly calling to them. They couldn't understand her, and that bothered her. Humans seemed so smart sometimes, but they had so many limitations. Even their Lynn had them, which was perplexing and upsetting at the same time. They understood her – why couldn’t she understand them?

Maxie chattered at Kowalski, nudging him, while Sammy tried to tell Riley what they'd found. Somehow, someway, it sunk in, and the two dolphins spun off into dizzying circles of joy.

** *** **

Lynn had just entered the control room after changing into dry clothes. She hadn’t even had the chance to turn on the monitors when the dolphins came speeding back, swimming in dizzying acrobatic loops around Riley and Kowalski. "They found something," Lynn said at the same time Kowalski's voice came over the speaker above her head. She flipped on the two monitors and the feeds from the dolphins’ cameras came on line.

"Doc, I think they found FS-l," Kowalski said, and the excitement in his voice spread to all who heard him. "Doc, are you guys gettin' this?"

Lynn could do no more than stare at the screen, so Lee answered for her. "We see them, Kowalski, Good work."

"What do we do now, Doc?"

Lynn shook her head as if to clear it. "Ski, has Maxie planted the responder yet?"

"There was one missing from Sammy's harness, Doc."

"Ski, send them back," Lynn said. "We need to see what's going on at the site. Keep them there, too."

"Gotcha, Doc," Ski said, and sent the dolphins back to their target.

Lynn looked at Lee. "I want another perspective on what's going on," she explained.

"Good idea." He walked to the viewscreen in the nose and turned it on. "Mister Tomlinson," he called back into the control room.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Turn the main viewscreen on so the watch can see this."

"Aye, sir."

The feeds from cameras one and two came alive, illuminated sea floor speeding past as the dolphins swam. Occasionally the view would change, as the dolphins rose in tandem for air, and then the view of the sea floor would return, speeding past. Once they saw a dizzying vista of sea spiraling into sky as one of the dolphins leapt out of the water, somersaulting three times before submerging again.

"That’s Sammy," Lynn explained to Lee. "That boy is such a showoff."

And then the Flying Sub hove into view, illuminated by the searchlights the dolphins wore. She was level, sitting alongside an outcropping of rock. Lee put his arm around Lynn’s shoulders and they stood together for a moment, waiting, each taking comfort in the other's presence.

Disengaging his arm from Lynn's shoulders, Lee walked to the console and activated the pickup for the tracer, both on the monitor and in the radio shack. The screen came alive, showing depth and coordinates. Lee picked up the mike on the side of the monitor stand. "Sparks, do you have the coordinates?"

"Aye, Skipper."

"Then transmit them to Venture. Navigation, make all possible speed to these coordinates." He scribbled figures down on a scrap of paper and handed it to Bishop. "How long, Lieutenant?"

Bishop looked at the coordinates, made a few calculations, then looked up at his captain. "Less than ten minutes, sir."

"Very well. Mister Tomlinson, set course two-three-seven, all ahead flank."

"Aye sir," Tomlinson acknowledged, and gave the order to the helmsmen.

"Diving Officer, set your depth for two-three-oh feet." He looked at Lynn. "It's almost over."

Lynn sighed and gave him a tired smile. "Lee, can we take her on board ourselves?" she asked. "Do we have to wait for Venture?"

Lee recognized her urgency; it matched the urgency he felt. But he shook his head and pointed at the screen. "See that ledge? The starboard fin is caught under it. It won't interfere with the DSRV, but it's in the way of a normal recovery by Seaview."

"Oh. I had to ask."

"Believe me, Lynn, I would have done the same thing in your place," Lee said.

Then both Sammy and Maxie dove for FS-1. Lee and Lynn followed their progress on the monitor. Suddenly they were in front of the viewscreen, their waterproof torches lighting up the interior of FS-1. Lynn imagined she could see movement inside, but it could just be her imagination – or wishful thinking.

And then, a scant moment later, there was Chip, looking back at them. He certainly looked the worse for wear, but he was definitely alive, and definitely in one piece.

The duty watch erupted in cheers, and Lynn threw her arms around Lee’s neck, a bubble of joyous laughter erupting from her throat, joined by Lee’s low laugh of relief.

** *** **

Chip looked out the viewscreen as two pinpoints of light approached, the dolphins drawing steadily closer until the tips of their lower jaws practically touched the Herculite surface of the viewscreens. The two dolphins positioned themselves in front of FS-1, each taking a separate viewscreen and looking inside at an odd angle.

Then it hit him – they had cameras on their harnesses, and the odd, slightly head-down angle both dolphins had adopted allowed the cameras to zero in on the interior of the Flying Sub. Even though dolphins had incredible vision underwater, they had no need for light at this depth – their sonar gave them all the sensory capability they needed this far down. The torches were there for one reason – to provide light for the miniature cameras they wore.

He shook his head. You’re really out of it, he told himself. You’ve helped Lynn hook up those very same cameras dozens of times. You should have realized there were cameras on the harnesses the second you saw the light.

He looked directly at the dolphin looking in through the right side of the viewport. This time, he recognized Maxie in the light reflected back by the Herculite windows. Looking directly at her camera, he said, "It took you long enough to get here." He knew they couldn’t hear him, but maybe someone watching could read his lips.

** *** **

Back on Seaview, all eyes were riveted to the viewscreens. Lynn couldn’t take her eyes off Chip’s face. Then she noticed his lips moving, and backed up the feed from Maxie’s camera. She leaned in closer, trying to read his lips, and suddenly burst out laughing.

Lee and Mark looked at her in concern, their thoughts clear on their faces – that the stress of the past week had finally tipped her over into hysteria. Still laughing. She beckoned them over and pointed at the monitor. "Watch his lips," she said, backing up the tape again.

Lee and Mark leaned in, then both laughed in relief. "He’s right," Lee said. "Let’s not keep the XO waiting."

The next few minutes seemed to take an eternity, but finally, Mark Tomlinson broke the silence. "We’re at the coordinates, Captain."

"Searchlights, Mister Tomlinson."

"Aye, sir," Mark acknowledged, and Seaview’s powerful nose, sail, and ventral searchlights snapped on, illuminating the ocean floor.

And there it was – the little yellow craft that had been the object of their intense search. The duty watch started buzzing excitedly. Lynn closed her eyes, thinking her heart would beat right out of her chest. It was one thing to see it through the dolphins’ cameras, but to see it close up, so near, yet so far….

But before anyone could say anything, Sparks called forward from the radio shack. "Message coming through from Venture, Skipper," Sparks said.

"Patch it through here, Sparks," Lee ordered, and the vidscreen in the nose lit up with Matt Kyle's visage. "Matt, are you ready up there?"

"Everything's go, Lee. How's Lynn?"

Lynn walked into his line of sight. "She wishes you'd stop wasting time and get that damned submersible of yours into the water and pick up her husband, that's how she is."

"Yes, ma'am, Doctor, ma'am," Kyle said. Not much longer. I promise."

"No promises, Matt. Just results."

"Matt, tell that DSRV to come directly here," Lee ordered. "We aren't in the mood for a middleman."

"Sure thing, Lee." He looked away for a moment, then back at the screen. "We're launching now."

Lynn walked away to stand in the nose, where she stared out of the viewport, looking at the still form of FS-1, illuminated by Seaview’s searchlights. The dolphins were still outside, and in their trips to the surface to breathe, they swam past Seaview, looking in at her and nodding excitedly.

"Ski, please bring them back on board," she ordered.

"Right away, Doc," he acknowledged, and the two divers and two dolphins swam out of their field of vision.

Lynn paced the width of the nose, looking out the viewports on each pass. She stopped dead in her tracks as Seasprite hove into view, heading for the downed Flying Sub. She stared at the DSRV, her eyes wide and staring.

Lee had never seen Lynn in such a state before. The 'unflappable Doctor Murtagh' – as he'd tagged her so long ago and as so many of the crew still thought of her despite four years of marriage to their executive officer – was close to the edge. So close, in fact, that Lee thought that one wrong word would shatter her into a million pieces.

And then she regained her calm, that outwardly controlled mien that had given Lee cause to coin the nickname so long ago. She looked at him and smiled. "It's almost over."

** *** **

Chip jumped as the DSRV made seal with FS-1. He heard the access hatch being opened and hurried to the ladder.

"Hey, did somebody here call a cab?" asked Lieutenant Joe Lawson, Venture’s Submersibles Officer and a former member of Seaview’s crew.

Chip grinned and scrambled up the ladder. "A couple of days ago," he joked. "You guys don't move too fast. That’s gonna affect the size of my tip."

"Hey, what can I say, sir? We had to get directions from a dolphin." Thompson dogged the hatch behind Chip. "Ready when you are, Chief Lunden," he called to the DSRV's pilot. "We're taking you directly to Seaview, sir."

"You won't get any argument from me."

** *** **

Mark joined Lee and Lynn in the nose, and together they watched as the DSRV settled onto FS-l's upper hatch, remaining there for several moments before lifting. Passing Seaview, it winked its running lights several times, then disappeared from the viewports.

"Seasprite reports they've taken on one passenger, Captain," Sparks reported, and a cheer went up through the control room.

Crane switched on the viewer. "Sail camera," he ordered, and the screen came to life with a view of the approaching submersible. Slowly she settled onto Seaview’s forward access hatch. A soft clunk could be heard as its collar mated with Seaview’s hatch.

Lynn jumped at the sound, nervously looking overhead as if she could see into the submersible by sheer willpower.

"Skipper, the team is back on board," reported Sharkey, who stood. "Doc, Weening says the dolphins are high as kites – they know they did good."

Lynn looked at Lee, then smiled. "Tell him to feed them now, Chief, and throw in some Oreos. And send Riley and Kowalski my compliments."

"Gotcha, Doc. Paterson is in the access hatch, Skipper." He spoke into his headset, then looked back at Crane. "All lights green."

"Very well, Chief," Crane acknowledged. He walked aft.

** *** **

Chip exhaled forcefully as the DSRV made soft seal with Seaview. Home – or close enough to it.

Lawson opened the hatch. "Take it easy, Commander."

"Thanks for the ride, Joe."

"Glad to be of service."

Chip descended the ladder into the escape trunk that abutted the sail, where he was met by a grinning Patterson. "Welcome aboard, Mister Morton. It’s good to have you back again."

"It's good to be back, Pat."

Paterson bent to open the hatch that led into the control room. After you, sir."

Chip stepped to the ladder and began to descend. Below he could see a knot of khaki-clad figures, all looking upwards.

** *** **

Standing beside the chart table, Lynn froze as she heard the hatch open. The duty watch remained at their stations, but Sharkey and the officers gathered at the base of the ladder. But Lynn was unable to move. As if in a dream, she watched as a familiar pair of khaki-clad legs appeared on the ladder.

Mark Tomlinson, sensing her absence, turned toward the nose, looking for her. At her stance and the apprehensive expression on her face, he left the knot of men at the foot of the ladder and walked forward. "You okay?" he asked.

Lynn looked at him briefly, then back toward the ladder. Chip was nearly at the foot now, and as he reached the bottom he turned, looked towards the nose, and spotted Lynn. His eyes widened in surprise, and he moved forward.

Then Lynn sank to the deck in a dead faint.

** *** **

Chip eagerly climbed down the ladder. At the moment, all he wanted to do was use up all of Seaview’s hot water in a nice, long shower, shave, and change his clothes – and have one of Cookie’s five-course masterpieces.

Lee Crane was the first man he saw. The relief in his eyes was palpable. Now you know what I go through when you get into trouble, buddy, Chip said to himself.

At that moment, something made Chip look toward the nose and he started in shock as he saw Lynn, standing just aft of the chart table. Eyes widening, his mouth dropping open in surprise, he took one step forward, and as he did, he saw her eyes roll back into her head as she slumped soundlessly to the deck. Mark Tomlinson, standing beside her, reached out and caught her as she began to fall, easing her down to the deck and cradling her in his arms.

Chip sprinted forward, half-registering Larry Baker's alarmed call to sickbay. Kneeling, he took her from a worried Tomlinson. "Why is she here?" he demanded, brushing her hair out of her eyes as Crane rushed up.

"Because none of us was stupid enough to try to keep her off," Tomlinson responded, unfazed by the fierce glare Chip gave him.

"Lynn – Lynn, wake up," Chip said softly, stroking her cheek. "Come on, baby, wake up." When she didn’t respond to his entreaties, he Chip gathered her into his arms and stood. "I'm taking her to Sick Bay."

Crane shook his head. "Jamie will be here in a minute. Why don't you wait?"

"Wait? She's unconscious!" He faced Lee squarely, his eyes spitting blue fire. "You're in my way."

Deciding that the better part of valor truly was, in this case, discretion, Lee moved aside.

The men before Chip melted away, giving him a dear path out of the control room. Lee and Mark looked at each other, then silently fell in behind Chip.

Chip got as far as the periscope island, where he was met by Doc and two corpsmen. "We'll take over now," Jamieson said gently. "Just put her on the gurney."

Chip glared at him momentarily, then reluctantly did as Jamieson had instructed. He carefully adjusted the pillow under Lynn’s head, his worried blue eyes never leaving her face as one corpsman pulled a blanket up to her shoulders. He slipped his hand under the blanket, brought Lynn's right hand out from underneath and squeezed it. Lynn didn't respond.

"Let's go," Jamieson ordered, and the corpsmen rushed out with the gurney.

"Doc, is she okay?" Chip asked, watching the corpsmen lift the gurney over the hatch coaming.

"I'll know once I examine her. I'm not going to tell you not to worry, but she's been fine all along." He followed the gurney out and Chip hurried after him.

Lee and Mark looked briefly at each other.

"Mister Baker, you have the conn," Lee ordered. "Mister Tomlinson, you're with me."

"Aye, sir," Mark responded, and together they headed for Sick Bay.

** *** **

Chip was pacing nervously through sickbay when they arrived. McElhatton, the corpsman manning the desk, looked up and quickly made himself scarce.

Chip stomped over when he spotted Lee and Mark. "How is she?" Lee asked.

"I don't know – Jamie's still in with her, and he won't let me go inside," Chip grumbled.

"She'll be okay," Mark said, looking past him toward the closed-off examination room.

"She'd be better if she wasn't on board," Chip muttered. "How could you let her come along?"

"Like I told you in the control room, nobody was stupid enough to try to stop her," Mark said dryly. "She went into full Alfie mode the second she heard you were missing."

Chip shot him a look of disgust and turned to Lee. "One more time – what is she doing on board?"

"It's a long story," Lee said.

"Why don't you start with the short version and we'll take it from there?"

"The short version is – what Mark said. Does the phrase ‘stubborn as a mule’ describe anyone you know?" Lee asked.

Chip snorted. "That could describe ninety-nine percent of the people on board this boat – including her captain."

"Funny. As Lynn reminded us," Lee said calmly, "she had a bigger stake in this than anyone else aboard."

"And I'm sure she reminded you of that fact whenever she felt it was necessary," Chip shot back.

"She can be pretty single-minded," Lee said in a non-committal tone.

"Tell me something I don't already know." Chip turned to Mark. "What did you let her come on board?"

Tomlinson stood his ground. "You know what the odds were against keeping her back on shore with you missing? She would have swum out after us."

"She's pregnant! She shouldn't have been here!"

"Maybe she should have stayed at home, where she would have worried herself sick, not knowing?" Tomlinson shot back.

"Better there than here!"

"Here she was involved – she was doing something to find you," Mark pointed out. "Besides, I learned to pick my battles with her over twenty years ago – and this was one nobody but her had a chance of winning."

"It wouldn't have been fair to make her stay behind," Lee added in a conciliatory tone.

"Fair?" Chip asked incredulously. "She fainted dead away in the control room and you talk about fair?" He began to pace the outer office. "You both need your heads examined."

Crane and Tomlinson merely watched him, staying well out of his way.

** *** **

In the examination room Jamieson removed the blood-pressure cuff from Lynn's arm – her pressure was slightly low, but her pulse was good and growing stronger. She'd be coming around any moment now.

He pressed the stethoscope against her stomach. The baby's heartbeat was strong and regular. Everything seemed fine. He put the stethoscope away and rolled the sphygmomanometer back into its cubby.

He'd just turned to wash his hands when he heard a soft groan behind him. He turned to see Lynn looking at him with puzzled green eyes. Jamieson was at her side in an instant."Welcome back."

She frowned at him. "I didn't," she said, shaking her head. "Oh, Jamie, please tell me I did not faint."

"I'd like to oblige, but you did. Dead away. Scared the entire watch, too."

Lynn groaned again. "Just peachy. I'll never live this down." She shook her head. "I never fainted in my life."

"There's a first time for everything, Lynn," Jamieson pointed out.

The sounds of an argument floated through the folding door. "Don't tell me – they're fighting about me."

"Very perceptive, Doctor. Your husband isn't too happy with your presence."

"That’s too damned tough for him. He's here because of it." She shook her head. "Lord save me from overprotective men."

Jamieson shook his head in amusement. "How do you feel?" He reached for her wrist to take her pulse again.

"Stupid," she said flatly. "When can I get up?"

"In a little while. Just lie there for a bit longer."

"Jamie? How did he seem to you? Did you examine him yet?"

Jamieson crossed his arms and regarded her steadily. "I didn't take the time to check him."

"Why not?"

"You've been my first priority."

"So tell me about your second priority," Lynn prodded. "How did he look to you?"

"He looked all right – just with a week’s worth of scruffy."

"Scruffy lookin', huh?" She grinned. "Scruffy I can handle."

"I think you've handled a lot more than that this week."

"You do what you have to do, whether you like it or not. But right now I'd like to talk to Chip before you get your clutches on him."

Jamieson smiled and patted her shoulder. "I'll send him in."

Chip, Lee and Mark stopped squabbling when Jamieson came into the outer office. Chip was at his side instantly. "How is she?" he demanded.

"Physically, she’s fine. She’s more embarrassed than anything else. Annoyed at the argument going on out here."

"That's not what I meant," Chip replied, angling to look past Jamieson, but the closed folding door blocked his view. "She's awake?"

"Wide awake," Jamieson confirmed. "Physically, she's fine. The faint was an emotional reaction compounded by the stress of the past week, not a reflection of a physical problem. The baby's fine, too."

"Can I see her?"

"The sooner the better – for both your sakes. And try to rein in your protective instincts," Jamieson said dryly. "They won't go over too well right now."

"That’s too bad." Chip walked past the others and through the folding door.

When Lynn saw him, she silently held out her arms, and he moved into them, feeling her tighten them around him. She hugged him fiercely, as if she could meld her torso to his. They remained that way for a good few minutes, holding each other in silent thankfulness.

Chip was the first to pull away. He kissed Lynn gently, then held her at arm's length, searching her eyes. They were filled with unshed tears but shining with relief. "Are you okay?"

She nodded. "I'm fine." She lightly stroked his cheek. "You need a shave."

Chip smiled ruefully. "I need more than a shave – FS-1 isn't much on amenities."

Lynn leaned forward and kissed him again. "I hadn't noticed."

"Are you sure you're okay? How's the baby?" He placed his hand on her stomach.

"We're fine. Honest. Jamie's been keeping a close eye on us. I think I'm too healthy for him."

He frowned. "You shouldn't have come."

"Oh, horse hockey." Lynn shook her head vehemently. "You're the other half of me – I'd have gone to hell and back if it had made a difference."

"That's not necessary."

"It damn well is," Lynn asserted.

"Seaview would have found me," Chip rebutted.

"In another week, maybe – if she was lucky. The dolphins did it in five days. And they had a lot of ocean to search."

"You didn't have to come along. The Dolphin Detail -- "

"The Dolphin Detail didn't know the new commands and gestures."

"They could have picked them up."

"How? By telepathy?" Lynn glared at him. "Now let me tell you something, Commander. Those are my dolphins, and they work best for me. If my being here gave them an edge and helped us find you that much faster, so be it! Or would you rather still be out in FS-l with those rotten amenities?"

"That's not the point." He sighed. "You should have been home with the girls."

"It most certainly is the point," Lynn shot back. "What did you do when I was trapped at the lab last year? Did you stay home with the girls? No. You got your butt on board this boat."

"That's my job."

"And working with those dolphins is mine – and they did their end damned well."

"I'm not questioning that – I’m questioning your health."

Lynn sighed in frustration. "Oh, honey, I'm pregnant, not sick. Don't coddle me. You know how much I hate that."

"You fainted," Chip reminded her.

"It distracted Jamie, didn’t it? He hasn’t come after you yet." Chip tried to interrupt, but she cut him off. "You look me in the eye right now and tell me you honestly believed I would stay on shore when I could have been here, making a difference." She poked his shoulder – hard. "You tell me that."

Chip regarded her for a long moment, then shook his head. "No. It was an unrealistic expectation."

"Damn straight," Lynn said flatly. "And you're not supposed to get into this sort of trouble."

"I'm not?" Chip asked, a ghost of a smile appearing in his eyes. "And why is that?"

"You're not the hero type. Leave that for Lee – he wears it better."

"What type am I?" he asked in a disgruntled tone.

Lynn reached out and traced the scar on his upper lip. "The solid type – the Rock of Gibraltar. The steady, solid one who gets to pick up the pieces and straighten things out when the hero types are through. The kind who makes it easy for the hero types to be heroes."

"Do I have to ask you which type you prefer?" Chip asked dryly.

"Not hardly." She gave him a deep and relieved smile.

"This was a far cry from the romantic weekend I promised you."

"As romantic as you can get with a belly like this one," Lynn scoffed.

"Don't sell yourself short – you do all right."

"I'm glad you think so. And you still owe me dinner."

"That's not all I owe you." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Lynn grinned. "That will follow, just like it always does." She pushed herself off the examining table. "I have to use the facilities. Go on – I’ll meet you outside."

"You don't want me to wait?"

She shook her head. "I can handle this on my own. Go talk to Lee – he’s had a bad few days, too."

Chip nodded. This would be a good opportunity to ask Jamie about Lynn's condition without her knowing. He slid open the door and walked over to Jamieson. "Okay, I got her version, now I want yours. How is she really?"

"She's fine. As she's so fond of reminding me, she's only pregnant, not sick. I have to agree with her. She's healthy as a horse, and the baby seems to be in good condition."

"But I wouldn't vouch for your continued health if you ever pull a stunt like this one again," Crane said.

"Pull a stunt? It’s not like I asked for lightning to hit FS-1!" Chip shot back.

"You better not have," came from the entrance to the inner room.

Chip turned to see Lynn standing there, glaring. "That was quick."

"I'm real quick when I have to be. Checking up on me?"

"Can you blame me?"

"Not really. But even Jamie admits I'm fine. Right, Jamie?" Her eyes gleamed with mischief.

Jamieson just looked disgusted. "They both hear grass grow." He glared at Lynn. "I haven't released you yet," he reminded her.

Lynn shook her head. "You don't want me hanging around here. You need Sick Bay for authentic sick people."

Jamieson shook his head in defeat. "I know when I'm licked. Go on, Doctor I'm-not-sick-I'm-just-pregnant – get out of here."

Lynn tossed him a casual salute. "Whatever you say. Doctor."

Jamieson reached out and snagged Chip's elbow as he started after Lynn. "Where do you think you're going, Commander?"

"To my cabin and a two-hour-long hot shower," Chip shot back.

"Not until I'm done with you," Jamieson said sternly.

"If he's stayin’, so am I," Lynn asserted.

Jamieson sighed in resignation. "I don't suppose I can get you to leave while I examine him?"

Lynn shook her head sharply. "No way. After this past week, where he goes, I go."

"I knew this wouldn’t be easy," Jamieson said in resignation.

"Ah, come on, Will," Chip protested. "I'm fine. I need a shower more than anything."

"After I'm done with you," Jamieson asserted.

"That's our cue to leave," Lee said. He gestured to Mark to precede him through the door. Then he turned back to Chip. "Mister Morton, how would you like to be a passenger on the way home?"

"I wouldn't complain very much, and I don't think Mama here would, either." He looked at Lynn, who nodded vigorously and smiled.

Crane grinned. "I thought as much. Mister Tomlinson, what do you say we go on up to the control room and head for home?"

"That's the best idea you've had in a long time, Captain," Mark said. He followed Crane out the door.

As they left Sick Bay, they could hear Jamieson directing Chip onto the examining table and Chip's complaints in response.

"Some things never change," Lee said, then led the way forward.


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