Crane parked his red Cobra next to Lt. O'Brien's midnight blue Yukon. His walk from the parking lot to the office was uneventful, unlike the events of the other night. The Institute was on high security and Lee had to pass through several check points to get to his office. Deep down, he knew that if his tormentor really wanted to get to him there would be no amount of security that would keep them all safe.
The waiting added to the stress of the situation. The Admiral had found someone willing to take on the role of Seaview's executive officer and now had the blessing of the Pentagon to pursue those responsible for the destruction of Base 21. The only problem; Lola's last inquiry to ONI regarding possible suspects had turned up empty and Malcolm had yet to find any clues while going over the data and wreckage retrieved from the base. With no leads, all the Captain could do was wait.
Waiting wasn't Lee's strong suit. Being in the action, that's where he thrived and right now he wanted someone to pound. He grabbed a cup of coffee and went into his office. After typing out several reports, he checked his email. It was mostly the usual, but the last one caught his eye.
Ryan was busy at her computer working on the notes for the Admiral's next meeting. The swelling around her eye had gone down but she still displayed a variety of shades of purple. She jumped slightly when Lee ran into the office.
"Where's the Admiral?" asked Crane, forgoing any pleasantries.
"He's in his office . . ." Ryan was cut off as Lee strode boldly towards the door. "You can't go in there Lee. He's in the middle of a meeting."
The Captain paid no attention to Ryan's protests as he opened the door. Nelson, who was in the middle of discussingthe budget with the NIMR department heads looked up at the intrusion.
"He's alive!" shouted Crane, not caring who was in the meeting.
"Angie, gentlemen, we'll have to continue this later," said Nelson as he dismissed the meeting. The staff did not need to witness the scene that was about to play out.
The gathered department heads left the office and Crane went to Nelson.
"He's alive Admiral!" continued Crane, bursting with excitement. His hazel eyes locked with his commander's to convey the gravity of his statement.
"Calm down Lee. Who . . . who's alive?" asked Nelson
"Chip? What the devil are you talking about?" Concern etched the older man's face. Had the stress finally gotten to the Captain that he was engaging in delusions about their fallen comrade?
"Chip's alive. The email couldn't have come from anyone else."
"Lee, just take a moment. Now start from the beginning. What email?"
"I received a message today from Oliver Shaw, and in the email was an audio file. It was Livin on a prayer by Bon Jovi. Don't you see, it has to be from Chip. No one else knows about it," stressed Crane.
"Now you're not making any sense. What does any of this have to do with Chip?"
"I gave him a birthday card that played that song. It was part of a joke. I bug him about it all the time. Admiral, no one else knows about it, so there's no way Shaw would send it to me. It has to be from Chip," explained Crane.
Nelson felt a flicker of hope ignite. Experience had taught him not to nurture that flame for fear it would die but what if Lee was right and Morton was still alive?
"Why would he send you a message from Shaw?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's the only way he could get it out. Maybe he's trying to tell us something. We know either Shaw or Highner sabotaged us and destroyed the base. Whoever did it would have had an escape plan. Maybe they took Chip with them. He's alive sir, I know it."
Daring to join in Crane's excitement, Nelson agreed it kind of made sense. The possibility of Chip Morton being alive was the best news he'd received in a long time. The Admiral wanted nothing more than for it to be true. Perhaps things were not as dark as they seemed.
Nelson hit the button on the intercom.
"Ryan, I want you to contact Lola and have her get ONI to go over every detail of Oliver Shaw's life. I want everything they can find, from childhood friends to where he bought his groceries, and I want it by the end of the day."
It wasn't a lot, but it was a place to start. Now there was a minuscule spark of hope. Both men were fueled with a renewed drive to find this enemy, bring him down, and bring Chip Morton home.
(Story 2 of 5)
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