Again, the voice rattled in Lee Crane's
head. You're a dead man . . . a dead man--captain of a
dead boat . . . your ocean, your world destroyed . . . a world you
could have saved. Too bad, Crane. Everything you've ever
cared about--gone. Nothing left but dust and bones. Not
because of what you did, but because . . .
|| The voice withered
and died in a boil of silence. "Because of what?"
Crane cried, looking up to where the sky should have been, seeing
only a swirl of gray fog, random bursts of light and darkness.
He was caught in a dream. And he, the dreamer, wrapped in
the fog of the dream, could see no escape and no hope of
"Gone?" he shouted. "Why?
I've done nothing. Damn you--damn you! Why is everything
His question echoed through the fog
and the dream and returned as if posed by a stranger.
His heart pounded in his chest, ears and
The dreamer, wrapped in
the fog of the dream.
square inch of his skin. He could smell his own fear and
frustration, the taste of alum on his tongue.
the voice teased, you're not in control, Crane,
Not at all, now, are you? How does it feel to
be helpless, Captain?
slammed his fist into the ground; the pain of the blow brought
him focus and a reminder that beyond this nightmare, the real
world must still exist.
He found himself running . . . running
across a flat plane through ubiquitous mist. He flashed
back to a morning years before when he had stepped onto cold,
damp sand and taken flight down Beverly Beach just up from Newport
on the Oregon coast . . . his feet slapping the beach rhythmically,
nothing but fog flying by. But that had been different.
That had been real. Above the dense layer of mist, seagulls
had flown, cawed out and swooped away in search of food.
The morning sun had begun to burn away the fog, and although
unseen, he had felt the presence of these things and had taken
comfort from them. They had been genuine, and no strange
words had echoed in his head.
Again, he heard the
voice: How does it feel to be helpless--to be alone?
Lee Crane, captain of
USOS Seaview knew just how he felt - like a lone surviving grain
of sand from a beach long since swept away. A shroud of
bone-chilling cold blown fresh from the Arctic caught and held
him. It carried an alien presence - a shadow of death,
and even as he ran, legs pumping fiercely, it clung to him with
the tenacity of a devil.
sat bolt-upright in his bunk.
Sweat coated his brow and stung his eyes; he shook his head,
blinked and staring into the darkness, balled his unsteady
hands into fists to control their shaking.
"Fourth time in a week,"
he muttered, "the same dream. Talking to myself again.
What's wrong with me?" It was time to
consult with someone. Either Doc or Admiral Nelson.
He couldn't quite put his finger on why, but he guessed Nelson
was the one. Still drugged by the dream, he fell haltingly
into captain's garb and was soon out the door headed forward
toward Nelson's quarters.
pool of light bathed the desktop and the jumble of papers
before Nelson. Funny, he thought--the light does nothing
to illuminate any of this stuff. He squinted past
the glare at the topmost page, felt an eyebrow creep upwards.
None of this makes sense. I was there, and I
find it all hard to believe.
He ran a hand down
the back of his neck, heard approaching footsteps and a
distinctive knock at the door.
Admiral's smile cut through the shadows.
|| "Yes, Lee. Come
The door swung open and Crane entered.
He stood stiffly in the darkness just outside Nelson's
pool of light. "Admiral, do you have a moment?"
A shiver crept up Nelson's spine; he
could read his captain well. Something was up. "Turn
the lights on, Lee. I'm tired of spinning my wheels in the
Crane flicked the switch and did a double-take
at the boxes, files, photos and papers strewn about. The
jumble covered not only Nelson's desk, but the top of his bunk,
the adjacent bookcase and spilled up against his treasured
model of Seaview. "If I'm interrupting
something, I can
| come back later."
Nelson smiled and laughed. "Not
necessary. Sit down. I've been staring at this mess
trying to make sense of it long enough. What's the matter?"
Crane pulled up a chair and sat.
He stared past the lamp at the muddle on Nelson's desk.
"Admiral, I, uh . . . well . . ."
Nelson leaned back in his chair and squinted.
Crane was practically stuttering. Nelson laughed.
"What is it, Lee?"
"The past seems to be coming back
on me, Admiral." Crane fidgeted and scratched his brow.
"I've had funny dreams lately. Not funny--that's
not what I mean, but--"
"How so? What kind of dreams?"
"They relate to . . . uh . . . well,
they relate to Nemesis."
Curiouser and curiouser, Nelson thought.
"Really? Tell me more."
Crane shook his head as if he were having
second thoughts. "Oh, I don't know . . . maybe I should
just get up and--."
"Why are you here, Captain Crane?"
Nelson snapped, then smiled.
"This isn't easy, Admiral."
Crane rubbed his brow, then cleared his throat. "It's
actually just one dream--it's come repeatedly for the last four
nights." He outlined the basics of his repeated nightmare.
When he was done, Nelson picked up the
nearest pile of papers and tossed them on the desk squarely
in front of Crane.
"Take a look."
Crane thumbed through the pages, his
brow increasingly furrowed; the tossed documents related to the
Nemesis incident; at the top of each page were stamped the
"Ultra-Top-Secret". "Admiral," he said,
a suggestion of amusement in his voice, "did I tell you
I've been I've been having this dream?"
"Yes you did, and so have I, by
the way . . . same as you, based on what you've told me.
Don't know why, but I'm convinced it
means something. I'm beginning to wonder . . ."
Crane sat back in his chair, put his
fingers to his chin. "About what, Admiral?"
"I'm beginning to wonder what we
really know of our dreams." Nelson gestured at the
mess on the desk. "I've been going through this stuff
trying to figure out what the hell is going on. I'm getting
nothing. Any thoughts?"
"Maybe we're both out of our minds."
Crane's brow furrowed and he shook his head. "What
could I have done that's so damn important it threatens the whole
planet? Nemesis is gone from Earth; it's not concerned with
us anymore. So why these dreams?"
Nelson scratched his forehead and threw
back his hand. "I don't know why, Lee, but I don't
think it was anything you did , nor I, nor any particular
one of us who was out there under the ice. Whatever
these dreams are about--assuming we aren't just
going crazy -- I think it's something we all had a part in
collectively--each one of us who was there in the Arctic
and confronted Nemesis."
Nelson eyed Crane uneasily. "And I don't think it's
something we did that's a problem. It's just a feeling,
but, I'm guessing it's something we didn't do."
lay in bed, rigid with terror, breathless since waking from the
repeated nightmare. More than anything in the world, she
wanted to jump up, hit the wall switch, and flood the room with
light. But she couldn't bring herself to do it.
For God's sake, she thought, I'm absolutely alone--no one else
here--nothing to be afraid of. I'm fine. I'm fine.
But no--I'm not fine! I'm a sweating, immobilized mess.
Eyes squeezed shut, she
winced, knowing in her heart she had every right to be as terrified
as she felt.
But, dear God, if she moved the slightest
bit, even just enough to draw a shallow breath, IT might
feel her presence. No. Noooo . . .
For the fifth time
in three nights, drenched in sweat, she had been slammed from
the dream to wakefulness. Her eyes roamed full-circle striving
to pierce the darkness; the alarm clock's glow signaled 1:57
a.m. and it suddenly struck her what the numbers meant.
The middle of the night, where shadows rule and I am so awfully,
Her eyes adjusted to the light and she gradually grasped the
meaning of nearby shadows.
In my room. Lying
on the bed in my very own room, but still I am paralyzed - still
unable to move. Like a child.
Logically, she knew her
fear was misplaced; it was, after all, spurred by a mere dream.
But the all-too-recent memory of Nemesis, rekindled by this bloody
nightmare, held her in its vice-like grip. Again she felt
the tendrils of the beast breach her skin and pierce her ears,
eyes, nose and mouth to merge with her nervous system, chewing
away at her on so many different levels. The monster had
taken her mind, and almost taken her soul; again she sensed
the sting of perpetual Arctic cold in which she, Harriman Nelson,
Lee Crane and Bill Harlow had so recently dueled with the devil
- the devil they had all come to know so intimately as Nemesis.
I really must make myself
breathe, she thought
She inhaled, steeled
herself and lunged for the light switch.
The room snapped into sudden, brilliant focus revealing the everyday
things so familiar to her. Her bed, her
heirloom clothes dresser, the portrait of Nelson on her
The new spring jacket she'd flung over the back of a chair, the
decades-old picture of her mother and father at the family home
With the light came confidence, something she most seriously
needed in the shadow of the dream. "What a mess
The hell with protocol!" Walking deliberately back
to her bed, she sat down, picked up the phone, and punched in
the code for NiCom* . "Put me through
to Admiral Nelson on Seaview." Her voice rang with
a calm she didn't feel and that didn't last. "I
don't care what time it is. I don't care whether he's
off duty and sound asleep. Put me through to Nelson. You
want my clearance code? My voice is my clearance coed,
Put me through!"
"Forgive me, Ms. Malloy," said
the man on the other end. "I didn't recognize you.
I'll put you through ASAP. Admiral Nelson will
be with you shortly." The voice apologized again and
left her waiting, still shivering from the effects of the
Come to the phone, Harriman.
We have to talk. Something bad is going to happen.
I can feel it.
me through to Admiral Nelson."
Crane sat quietly beside Nelson in the cramped cockpit
of FS-1, enjoying the ride. He knew they needed more information
before there could be profit from words. Besides, they
knew each other more than well enough to ride the silence comfortably.
So Crane contemplated.
He hated mysteries. He hated them because, at
their uncontrolled worst, they could kill and maim, injure
and otherwise do harm, and for Captain Lee Crane, the buck
here" when it came to his crew. He was the one left
holding the bag when something unpleasant happened. He
was the one stuck with writing letters to unsuspecting family
should one of the crew suffer injury or, God forbid, meet
his death. And these things did occur. There
was simply no way they could work at the bottom of the
sea, in the killing, crushing depths, and not occasionally
have things go wrong. Unfortunate things. Ugly
when events did miscarry and someone was gravely hurt or
died, Lee Crane could simply not help but wonder if there
wasn't something more he could have or should have done to
prevent it. He was,
after all, the captain. And the twilight thoughts that came
before a captain's sleep could be awfully, damnably unforgiving.
The Admiral, on the other hand Crane
knew, loved mysteries. He seemed to have been born for
the sheer delight of them. Harriman Nelson had, in
fact, been a scientist as far back as anyone could remember.
How does this work? he'd ask his dad. Can I have
this clock to take apart? Where did all the hydrogen
come from? Why shouldn't there be life on other
nature ever do anything just once? Questions, questions,
They had delighted his mother and driven his teachers up the
wall. And in the end they had propelled Harriman Nelson
to achievements unimagined by most. Financial resources
had been important and come from East Coast old-family money.
The rest of it - the Institute, the invention of herculite,
submarine Seaview, the proposed Manned Mars Explorer and so
many other achievements past, present and on the drawing boards
- were the product of hard work and the Admiral's propensity
for, and love of solving mysteries.
Nelson stared at the band of moonlit
clouds on the horizon and the black sea below. "Not
this time, Lee," he said, as if he'd been reading Crane's
thoughts. This is one mystery I want no further part
of." It was the only reference he made to the reason
for their journey during the remainder of the flight.
In light of Robin Malloy's phone call to Nelson, even Crane,
the man of action, intuitively knew that the four principals
must unite for the purpose of considering their dreams.
With any luck, by the time they arrived at the Institute, Bill
Harlow would be tracked down and ready to join the party.
It would be most interesting to see if Harlow too, was
having nightmare visions.
|*Nelson Institute for
Marine Research COMunications