Author's note: I started this fic many, many years ago but never finished it. Then I left Voyage for another fandom and wrote several fics over there. Last summer, while recovering from surgery, I rediscovered my love of Admiral Nelson and started writing Voyage again. You could definitely say that Richard Basehart provided the motivation and posting the first chapter on what would have been his 100th birthday was added incentive.
This is a sequel of sorts to "A Midsummer Day's Dream" since it picks up and runs with a premise started there. However, it's not necessary to have read that story in order to follow this one, although it might help to know how certain characters feel about others. This takes place in S2 sometime after the episode, "The Deadliest Game".
Admiral Nelson and the characters from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea do not belong to me. I get nothing from this but the joy of don't own Voyage and get nothing from this but the joy of writing Harriman Nelson. Special thanks to N. for giving it a much needed read through but as usual, I added more after the fact so any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
Lacking the strength to lift his aching head, Harriman Nelson watched with surreal fascination as drop after red drop fell onto the floor, splattering like a starburst between his feet. It took him several unfocused minutes to realize it was blood. His blood.
Someone moved into his line of sight—a woman with short, neatly styled dark hair—and for a moment a spark of recognition flashed in his mind.
The woman grabbed a fistful of his hair and jerked his head backwards. "He's awake."
The voice sounded distant, tinny, drowned out by the ringing in his ears. He could sense the presence of another and strained to make out this second person. His vision was clouded, obstructed by pain and the awkward angle of his head, but it was enough to make out the tall, lean frame and dark hair.
"Lee?" he choked out before seeing the glint of stainless steel against the dull yellow light. "No, please." He struggled in vain against the restraints.
"Keep him still." The voice was heavily accented—not at all like Lee Crane's.
The grip on his hair tightened and his head went back further. Now he could only see dark water stains on the dingy ceiling tiles. He tried to move but any kind of action only sent flashes of agony through his head, neck and shoulders.
He felt the rush of cool air as his shirt was stripped away and then flinched as the alcohol soaked swab made contact with his skin.
Fingers probed the upper right quadrant of his chest, drawing out the anticipation of what was about to happen. In the long seconds that followed his mind ran through the possibilities as his body tensed in an involuntary response to the pending action.
Closing his eyes, he winced as the knife sliced into his skin, through tissue and muscle and sensitive nerve endings. He had no idea what they had done to him until several minutes later when his solitary, agonizing cry reverberated off the concrete walls.
Chip entered Admiral Nelson's Institute office, expecting to leave his report on Angie Moreira's neat desk, only to find Lee Crane standing in the middle of the room.
"The admiral's late," Lee said, staring at his watch and not looking up at Chip. "He was supposed to check in an hour and a half ago."
"He's at a research conference in San Francisco. Anything could have happened."
Anything. That's precisely what troubled Lee. Monty Jacobs, SAC with the FBI, had called earlier and although he stressed it was nothing to worry about, Jacobs had been very insistent in locating Nelson. Lee passed along the conference center phone number but that only seemed to make Jacobs more agitated. As Lee pressed for more information, Jacobs only became more tight-lipped, further adding to Lee's worry-and irritation.
"You know how the admiral gets when he's surrounded by his own kind," Chip said, ignoring Crane's furrowed brow.
"His own kind?"
"Well, you know. Boffins."
"Boffins?" If he hadn't felt that irritating niggling in the back of his mind, Lee might have laughed out loud.
"Yeah, research scientists. Boffins."
Lee rolled his eyes. "You've got to stop watching cable."
Chip looked around the room, noticing for the first time that Angie's neat desk reflected her absence and not just her customary efficiency. "No Angie?"
"The admiral called a couple of days ago. The conference planner came down with food poisoning and they were desperate to find someone to fill in. She volunteered to fly up and help out."
"Well that explains it."
"Why the admiral hasn't called in. The only person who constantly knows his whereabouts is up there with him."
This time Lee couldn't help but laugh at Chip's logic.
Getting a laugh out of his friend and seeing some of the tension ease made Chip smile. "Look, why don't we head over to the Brown Pelican and I'll buy you a beer."
"While you weasel dinner out of me?"
"Hey, I am but a lowly XO. You make more than me, remember?" Chip led the way out, holding the door open and waiting for Lee to follow. "Lee, the admiral's a big boy. You and I both know he's more than capable of taking care of himself. Don't worry."
Lee looked around the empty office one last time for what reason, he couldn't say. It wasn't as if there was anything in the room that could alleviate his worry.
Giving up the unwarranted vigil, he turned on his heel and headed for the door. Chip was right; the admiral could take care of himself. Still, Lee couldn't completely ignore the unsettling feeling. Too many times even the admiral had discounted that feeling only to find out later that he should have heeded his captain's advice.
Jacobs had to have some motivation for wanting to get in touch with Nelson. Although he had been acquainted with Admiral Nelson for several years, it wasn't like the SAC to call for no reason. And if it had been a personal call, Lee was certain Jacobs would have mentioned it. There was no getting away from it. Any way Lee looked at it, all arrows pointed towards some kind of trouble.
Lying on a filthy mattress atop a wire cot in the dark confines of the dank room, a frightened young woman shivered, not from the damp chill in the air, but from a deepening, numbing fear. She had no idea where she was or more importantly, what had happened to Admiral Nelson, who had been in the car with her. She was certain he was still alive; she wouldn't let herself think otherwise.
Thinking of the admiral and the incident that brought her to the small, windowless, locked room, her fear quickly gave way to pangs of worry.
They'd left before the sun came up in a hired car driven by a man she had personally vetted. Bill Hayes, one of the Institute's security officers, had traveled up from Santa Barbara with the admiral and occupied the front passenger seat on the drive back. For reasons she hadn't questioned, the admiral changed his plans shortly after they'd left the hotel. Instead of taking the much faster freeway for the return the Santa Barbara, he'd ordered the driver to take the Pacific Coast Highway to the Half Moon Bay airport where she would take a chartered flight back to the Institute while he continued down the coast.
Since they were traveling as the first tendrils of light were painting the sky with hints of gold, she'd asked if they could stop at a pull-off just after Gray Whale Cove and watch the sunrise. Bill had protested but the admiral overrode him, saying that could spare a few minutes. It was a brief interlude, a moment in time where she and the admiral stood quietly together at the edge of a tall cliff, listening to the waves crash against the rocks and breathing in the familiar sea air. Having left the conference earlier than planned, she'd gotten the sense the admiral was worried about something but she hadn't asked. And as they stood in the cool, breeze, watching the sun make its first appearance, bring with it a litany of bright color, he seemed to relax a little. Rubbing her elbow, she still felt his hand there, signaling it was time to go. It had been a moment that she'd wanted to remember forever. Now it was just a memory to forget.
Back on the road again, they'd just rounded a curve on an isolated stretch of highway, the ocean on one side and tall cliffs on the other, when their car had blown a tire. Despite the high rate of speed they'd been traveling, the driver had managed to keep the big sedan under control and pull to a stop on the shoulder next to the guardrail. She had thought it was just an accident until the admiral pushed her onto the floor board, pulled a .45 out of his briefcase, and told her to keep her head down. Everything after that happened so fast.
She heard the whoosh of a silencer, the crack of breaking glass, and the side door open. Glancing up, she briefly saw the admiral scuffling with someone. It was the smack of something hitting flesh that caused her to reach out and try to open the door on her side but something was obstructing it. The guardrail, she now realized, so she had stayed on the floor, hugging her knees tightly, too afraid to move. The door opened wider and she could see Admiral Nelson lying on the gravel just before someone grabbed her arms, pulled her from the car, and hustled her into the back of a dark van. Shivering with fear, she jumped when they unceremoniously dumped the barely conscious, bleeding admiral next to her, slammed the doors shut, and sped away. She'd been afraid that they had killed him but the man who held the gun on her had assured her that he was still alive.
A sudden, agonizing wail echoed throughout her room, disrupting her thoughts and making her cower against the wall. She had no doubt that dreadful sound had come from the admiral and tried desperately not to imagine the horrible things they were doing to him or what they might eventually do to her.
Shaking uncontrollably, Angie Moreira had never been so scared in her life.
It took a few minutes of concerted effort to lift his head but once he did, he immediately regretted it. Bright, blinding light shining onto his face caused him to quickly close his watering eyes and look away. The sudden movement sent splinters of pain through his shoulders and chest, eliciting a sharp intake of breath.
His throat was dry and sore and his head pounded so fiercely, he found it difficult to think beyond his present situation. How long had it been? Minutes, hours…days? Slowly opening his eyes again, squinting against the brightness, he again looked up and tried to take in his surroundings.
He faced a mirrored wall that undoubtedly hid person or persons unknown but at the moment only conveyed his own haggard and abused image. Someone had wiped the blood from his face, leaving a dark red smear over his left eye. On his chest just below his collarbone the half-moon cut crusted over with dried blood stood out against his pale skin and instantly, his mind recalled the excruciating pain that left him in this fog. He had little memory of how he'd come to be bound to a chair, half naked and shivering in the cold, empty room but he remembered the crash and his companion in the backseat. "Angie." He said the name with a clarity that echoed throughout the room. Closing his eyes, he tried to visualize his pretty, young assistant but the details of her face seemed to fade in and out. Shaking his head, he had to clear his mind of any weakness; he had to show them he was stronger than they were. He heard a door open behind him, heard the click of heels on the tile floor. Seeing her reflection in the mirror, he sat up taller in the steel chair.
The woman put her hand on his shoulder, letting her fingers linger on his bare skin before digging in her nails into his flesh as she came around to stand before him.
Letting his gaze drift to hers, he forced a weak smile, hoping it masked his shock.
"You're not surprised to see me, admiral?"
"Why should I be?" It took effort to speak above a whisper but he'd be damned if he was going to let her win. "You've already proven that you would sell out to anyone with deep enough pockets."
She smiled, white teeth framed by perfect, red lips. He'd once been tempted to kiss those lips. Thankfully, he'd resisted.
Her finger traced the angry cut near his right armpit. "You might be interested to know that earlier we inserted a device at your brachial plexus. It's a very tiny transmitter that affects your motor and sensory nerves by sending pain signals through the three nerve bundles. Unfortunately, it's never really been properly tested. The first subject went out of his head and killed himself."
"What do you want from me?" He caught the brief wave of her hand just before pain ripped through his body, stealing his breath and causing the involuntary cry to catch in his throat.
"First we must establish one thing. I will ask the questions, do you understand?"
Pain radiated from every pore making the simple task of nodding his head nearly impossible.
"I don't think you understand."
Nelson arched and bucked in the chair as another searing bolt tore through his back. Any idea he had of retaining his control had been squashed; he was losing the game.
"Tell me about Invictus."
"It's Latin for unconquered, invincible," he said, earnestly.
"Don't be impertinent! We both know it has another meaning. You and Lamont have been working on the design for months. There was a reason you chose that name. Is it a high energy laser? Some sort of defense shield? I want to know details."
He shook his head emphatically. "No, I…I don't know."
"You're not cooperating, Harry. You don't mind if I call you Harry, do you? After all, you almost kissed me once."
Before he could tell her to go to hell another jolt of pain tightened every muscle in his body, paralyzing him. And then as quickly as it began, it stopped, leaving him gasping for breath against the unnatural strain and fatigue. His skin tingled with needle-like pricks as taxed nerve endings came alive. Even when the pain stopped, he could still feel his muscles contracting unremittingly, as if they were trying to tear themselves away from his bones. Lifting his head, droplets of sweat trickling off his chin like rainwater, he stared at the mirrored wall.
"Don't try to fight it, Harry. Just tell me about Invictus?"
Where was Angie? Could she be on the other side of the mirror, watching him, pitying him for his loss of dignity and control, for being less than a man?
Questions, confusion, and pain: it was all a blur. He'd been in a car, sitting in the back seat with Angie. They had been somewhere with a crowd of people and music and she had looked beautiful. What was Invictus? Closing his eyes, he tried to concentrate. He had to be involved in it, otherwise why was he here? But other than its Latin meaning nothing about it was familiar. Where was Angie? The thought that they might put her through something like this knotted his stomach. Balling his hands into fists, he tried to speak but the words seemed to be stuck in his head. Concentrating, looking up at the woman with unmitigated hate, he finally managed to spit out "go to hell" between clenched teeth.
Another penetrating jolt ripped through him, tearing an agonizing scream from his throat and causing him to bite down hard on his tongue.
"What is Invictus?"
His breath coming in rasping gasps, he mustered all his strength for one last stand. "I don't know!" he yelled back. "I don't know anything about Invictus!" Blood sprayed from his mouth as he spoke, sprinkling little red droplets onto his pale legs.
Grabbing hold of Nelson's shoulder, the woman pulled him upright and leaned in close, her voice coming as a whisper in his ear. "Would you like the pain to go away?"
Blood pounded in Nelson's head making it difficult to hear the question. The residual ache in his body was reaching a crescendo. The point where her hand touched his skin felt as if it were on fire.
"I asked you," she said again, grabbing a handful of Nelson's hair and yanking his head backward, "would you like the pain to go away?"
Swallowing hard, the strong taste of iron sliding down his tightened throat, the Admiral closed his eyes, steeled his jaw and shook his head defiantly. His thoughts were disjointed, clouded by pain, but he was just lucid enough to know what she was asking and still, he refused to concede.
Letting him go and tugging on the hem of her blouse, the woman took a step back. "Well, well, it appears our stubborn friend has decided not to answer us. He's decided he'd like to test our device to its full capacity. I thought he was smarter than that but apparently, I was mistaken."
With his hands bound tightly to the chair and his chest rising and falling heavily, Nelson swallowed back the fear and braced himself against what was coming. He tried to focus his thoughts, to separate his mind from the pain but nothing would prepare him for what came next. The cry that tore from his throat, that caused his muscles to convulse and contract uncontrollably carried no sound. He had nothing left.
A few seconds later and there was no longer pain, just an empty whiteness that left him completely numb. No longer able to maintain his control, losing the last thread of resilience and coherence, he found solace in letting go. As his body relaxed, he slipped effortlessly into the comfort of darkness.
They had danced together at the reception. As thrilled as she was to dance with him, she felt awkward and uneasy, as if she were doing something completely inappropriate.
"What will they think?" she had asked him, hesitant to take his outstretched hand.
"They'll be envious of the fact that I have a very beautiful assistant," he had replied with a twinkle in is eye and that familiar lopsided grin on his lips.
She smiled as she recalled the now distant memory. No one had ever told her she was beautiful, very beautiful, before. She could still recall the way his shoulder felt under her palm, the way their fingers entwined perfectly, the way his eyes never left hers as he led her across the dance floor and later, the way his hand felt on her back as he guided her protectively through the crowd. He made her feel special and for one night, she was. She knew she would never be anything more to him than his administrative assistant. She told herself that he was only being polite and that it was all just the unrequited dream of a mildly delusional woman. But for one fleeting moment, the fantasy was real.
Shivering against the cold, she wrapped her arms around her shins, hugged her legs tighter, and rested her chin on her knees. That had been one brief moment in time, never to be repeated. Right now this dank, dimly lit room was her reality and Admiral Nelson wasn't there to protect her. She thought of him again but this time he wasn't wearing a dinner jacket. This time he was lying on the side of the road, barely conscious, blood oozing from the cut on his face.
Angie wasn't a particularly religious woman but as the cries faded into the darkness, she prayed to any god who would listen.