The doctor repaired Crane's stitches. This time, he took no chances. He sedated Lee Crane with the goal of keeping him in bed and out of trouble for at least twelve hours. The next morning, Nelson came to visit the Captain after he received word Lee was awake.
"The Seaview, how is she, Admiral?"
"She'll be fine, Lee."
"Still on emergency lighting?"
"And oxygen conservation measures. We're having to rotate systems on and offline. Consequently, we've shut down all nonessential areas for the time being. The entire crew, including myself, is hot bunking, which my friend, means that you should enjoy your private bed in Sick Bay as long as you can."
"What's the status of repairs?"
"Patterson finished what you started with the new circuitry panel, which was enough to patch up crucial systems for a short while. Then he used batteries which he's tied directly into the reactor to get more systems on line."
"He used them as replacement circuit breakers. Good thinking under pressure."
"He had tough competition to follow with your and Ryder's act. I expect we should make it home just fine. Replacement circuitry panels will be waiting for us when we arrive in Santa Barbara. So now, tell me, how you are feeling?"
"You lie. Maybe you mean superior?"
Lee couldn't hide the smile. "A little."
"In the end, you'll see I was right about the seismic activity. It went off the chart, but it barely affected us except for throwing sonar off."
"That's how you want to play it, huh? Ignore Dr. Livsey's delivering us into the enemy's hands by praying upon your inability to resist a challenge?"
"I'll stick with my version, yes."
Lee laughed. "Maybe I should too. My version hurts way more than yours."
"I admire how you handled the Ryder situation. Not without a few missteps, but in principle and result, well done."
"Glad to hear that. Wasn't really sure where you fell on the spectrum of tolerance."
"I'm an old Navy man. Everyone worried when the services were ordered to be integrated, but our military didn't collapse. If anything, it got stronger. Just took time. This will too."
"Hopefully not as long as that did."
"We're a mighty wretched group, us humans. We fear that which we don't understand or personally know. So don't overestimate us."
"So I'll have to bring you along slowly?"
"I'm long past thinking anybody, male or female, is interested in checking out my privates, Lee. As long as decorum is observed on my boat, all is well."
"You underestimate Ryder and others if you think they would act on interests toward men not like them or not act as expected of every other man on a boat."
"Undoubtedly I do. If I have one major failing, it's that I overestimate my own abilities, and underestimate others."
"I gave Ryder every opportunity to break decorum if he'd wanted. I let him freely in and out of my cabin. I changed in front of him several times."
"Because Rogers accused him of breaking that decorum, and even though I didn't believe him for a second, he's been on the boat for two years and I knew the crew would give him credence. So I tested Ryder. He passed with flying colors."
"Yes, well, speaking of Rogers."
"He was the one who drugged me."
"He admitted spiking your coffee with a diuretic the first day and your food with the mushrooms the next day. Says one of his buddies gave him the mushrooms as a joke a while back. He just wanted to embarrass you, he claimed, not to hurt you. He denied having anything to do with the poison on the third night and claims no knowledge of Anderson and Foster's involvement with Dr. Livsey, although he says they did prod him on about Ryder and you, encouraging him to play with your food."
"Do you believe him?"
"Yes, not that it matters. He's done on Seaview. He knowingly gave you a hallucinogen."
"All because he's got a problem with Ryder's sexual orientation?"
"Yes, even after you and Ryder saved all our hides. He's now sharing very tight quarters with Livsey and Anderson in the Brig. Rather sad and pathetic, isn't it?"
"Kind of sums it all up."
"We're heading home, Lee. This mission has given us lots to think about on the way."
"I wonder how many of the crew thought that I was homosexual, or even still think it."
"Does it matter?"
"No, I guess not. Not if it doesn't affect how they do their jobs. Have you seen Ryder since last night?"
"He stayed here while Doc patched you up yet again. Then Chip and I took turns keeping a watch on him. He got lots of appreciation from the crew once they all knew what had happened. Chip and I think that some of his reaction might have been from killing Foster."
"I think you're right. That was why I was so worried about him. Even when you know it's the right thing to do, it takes a toll. I remember my first time. I pretended it was no big deal until I got off by myself. Spent half the night throwing up and the other half with nightmares. Took a week off to gather myself, but all that happened was I got more depressed. If Chip hadn't intervened, I'm not sure how it would have turned out."
"Well, we're keeping Ryder busy and surrounded by supporters, so not to worry. Not only that, but we'll be keeping a close eye on him for a long time."
"The Institute is going to pay for Ryder's graduate school. He'll be invited to join us to work during his summers and breaks, and offered a permanent job of his choice after he finishes school, that is if he's interested."
"That's kind, although I suspect the Institute will get the better part of that bargain."
"You just may be right again. Now, rest up. We're going out again in three weeks and I want Seaview's Captain ready."
"Aye, aye, Admiral. I have only one request."
"Going forward, I'd like an official food taster."
The Admiral laughed as he exited. Lee laughed too, but boy, did it hurt.