The next day Lee drove both he and Chip to the Institute. They were getting out of his car when one of the security guards approached and asked to have a moment of the Captain's time.
"I'll meet you in Med-bay in about forty-minutes?" Crane asked.
Chip nodded his agreement and left Crane to his meeting with security. When he arrived in Med-bay Jamie was nowhere to be found; wanting to talk to the doctor privately before Lee showed up, he grabbed one of the corpsmen.
"How's the Admiral doing today Bailey?"
"There's no change, sir; he's not any better. But at least he's not any worse either, so there's still hope" offered the young corpsman in what he hoped was a positive tone.
"Is the doc in this morning?"
"Yes, he had a meeting to attend to. He's probably still in the main building right now, sir."
"If the Captain shows up before I get back, tell him I just had to go and check on something and I'll return shortly."
The Commander arrived at on the sixth floor and made his way to Nelson's office. If Jamieson was in a meeting then Ryan would know where. Hopefully Jamie could run some test to determine whether or not Alexi was lying, and they could do it all without adding additional worry to Lee. When he walked into the office he found the personal assistant busy on her computer. A gentle knock on the open door broke her concentration and her eyes lit up as she realized who gained her attention; she got up and gave the exec a huge hug.
"You had me worried there for a minute Chip's Ahoy" said Ryan, as she gave the exec a playful slug to the shoulder.
"Only for a minute?" he replied.
"Ya well, you know" she shrugged with a smile, before getting back to business. "What brings you here anyway; shouldn't you be taking some time off?"
"I was looking for Jamie."
Ryan glanced at the clock. "He's probably still on his conference call."
"He's doing medical conferences when the Admiral's in critical condition?"
"It's not a conference meeting; it's an update meeting for Admiral Starke."
"Admiral Starke?" questioned Morton.
"Ya, he insists on daily updates on the Admiral, NIMR and Seaview."
"What does he need updates for? I thought if the Admiral was unable to run the Institute then Lee was in charge."
Ryan paused for a moment to figure out how she was going to phrase her thoughts. "He is, but . . ."
"But, Captain Crane tends to not focus on the business side of things." She sighed and added "after the captain missed several important meetings, Admiral Starke offered to step up and head things off on that front."
"Isn't getting help from Starke kind of like getting in bed with the enemy? And does it really matter if a few research meetings are missed? We do employ competent people after all, I'm sure they can direct themselves for a few weeks."
Ryan chucked at Morton's statement "I know you Navy boys think the sun rises and falls on Seaview, but there's more to the Nelson Empire than that sub. The Admiral doesn't pay for all of this out of his own pocket. NIMR Innovations division actually has share holders, whom we do have to answer to; we have benefactors and they don't just let anyone carry nuclear warheads. There are government checks, inspections and paperwork to be dealt with as well."
Warming to her theme, and her temper rising a little, she continued "oh and let's not forget that there's a little bit of ass kissing that takes place here and there to make all of this work too. So ya, getting Starke to help fend off the political and government wolves may be like sleeping with the enemy, but someone had to do it. Angie is trying to appease the benefactors and shareholders and I'm trying to send out every report everyone asks for; 'cause let me tell you, I'm not explaining it to the Admiral that we lost everything when he gets back."
Morton raised his hands in surrender "ok, got it. Things are falling apart everywhere without the Admiral."
A little calmer, Ryan nodded "ya well, you boys just run that sub and we'll take care of the office."
Chip had to admit that the stack of paperwork piled on Ryan's desk was easily five times its normal volume; and based on what he'd heard and observed about Crane's condition, he knew his friend would be avoiding the dreaded office work without realizing the consequences to such an oversight at this time.
"In light of recent events everyone is looking for us to mess up, to make a mistake they can exploit to push their own agenda. The fact that the Admiral isn't at the helm makes people nervous; so if you could make sure everything sparkles at your end, I know we'd appreciate it. Speaking of paperwork; could you look in on your temporary replacement and grab the latest maintenance report and weapons tests? If you do that, then I promise I'll keep Jamie here until you get back."
"I think I could manage that" Chip turned and headed towards the door.
Ryan shouted after him "it would be really helpful if you could read it over and make sure it's perfect too; not that I doubt his ability, but it would save me some time from having to check it myself!"
Chip took the very familiar steps down the hall to his office; correction what was his office. In his absence a new executive officer had been brought in to fill his post. It wasn't often that one got to meet their replacement under these circumstances. Alexi had shown him the man's personnel file, so Morton knew he was qualified; but what would he be like? What made him special enough to join Nelson's crew?
It was quite a strange experience to have to knock on his own office door and wait to be allowed entrance. Hearing his summonse he opened the door and walked in.
"Just leave it on my desk" said the young man without looking up from his paperwork.
Chip surveyed the desk before him. Where on the desk? He thought. This was defiantly not how he left his office; the messy stacks of paper littering every flat surface almost caused him to start hyperventilating.
The lack of movement caused Davenport to raise his head. If he was startled at the appearance of Seaview's previous exec, he didn't show it. "I wasn't expecting you Commander Morton. What can I do for you; besides vacate your office?"
"At the moment I'll settle for the maintenance and weapons test reports. Did you need a minute to find them?"
Lyndon caught the scrutinizing glance of the chaos he called his 'filing system'. "I know exactly where they are. The Maintenance report is the fifth file from the top of the pile that's third from the right on the filing cabinet and the Weapons Test Results are the twelfth paper down on the bookshelf." Morton cocked his eyebrow disbelieving he would find what he was looking for in the exact location he was told.
"Not all of us organize our paper clips you know. Some people can function better in chaos than structure. Ryan will probably also want my Mission report which should be the second file on your left" commented Lyndon.
Much to his surprise, Chip found all the documents he was looking for exactly where they were supposed to be.
"I can have my stuff packed and be out of your office by tomorrow afternoon. Unfortunately I won't be able to get out of your hair until Crane sends in an official request to transfer me back and reinstate you; and we all know the speed in which paperwork moves."
Morton nodded his understanding. He flipped through the mission report, causally skimming its contents and notes. Chip came to a decision; he wasn't sure Lee was going to like it but it would be best for all.
"Why would you want to transfer out of here so soon?"
Lyndon was taken by surprise by the question. "What? I figured you'd probably want your job back. Based on everything I've heard about you, you're an organized control freak who lives for his job; I guess I just figured you'd want to get back to it as soon as possible. I know your buddy Crane is probably organizing a 'he's finally gone' party as we speak."
Chip smiled. Lee had indicated a less than appreciative attitude towards Davenport's service when they had talked last night. The ever resourceful Jamieson had managed to obtain Nelson's personal mission report and covertly send it to Morton, in hopes of informing the prior exec of the interpersonal interactions of his Captain with the current exec.
"Well maybe you should stick around for a little while and take some of the work load off of me. It wouldn't hurt to ease back into things for a little while; and you said yourself that transfer could take awhile. Consider it earning your keep."
Lyndon eyed Morton up suspiciously. He knew the other man's type, and there was no way someone like Chip was just going to let another person take his position; he was sure there was definitely more going on.
"And you can keep the office for now" Morton was saying, pulling Davenport back from his musings. "You clearly have your...filing system established; it would be easier for me to just grab an office down the hall" Chip finished.
"Sure; I'll stick around for now."
Morton grabbed the files he came for and left Lyndon to go back to his paperwork; but instead Davenport paused for a moment, thinking about the strange interaction he'd just had "things use to be so simple; what is it with these people? he thought, before finally shaking his head and returning to his work.
"You wanted to see me Commander?" asked Will as he ran into Morton in the hallway.
"Yes Doc, can we speak privately somewhere?"
Jamie nodded and led the exec to his office in Med-bay. Crane had yet to make an appearance and after checking on the Admiral's unchanged status, Will devoted his attention to the XO.
"What can I do for you?" asked the doctor as he took stock of the man before him.
Here goes nothing. Morton took a deep breath. "We may have a problem; well, I might have a problem."
"I received a phone call last night from Alexi and he told me I've been poisoned."
Jamie sat down heavily on his seat as Chip went over every detail about what Alexi had told him about the poison, and the symptoms he had noticed Shaw displaying before he died. Of all the different scenarios he had thought could happen to them now, he had not even considered this revelation from Chip.
"But here's the thing doc, you have to promise me you won't say anything to Lee."
"I can't promise that Commander. . ."
Morton cut him off "what about doctor patient confidentiality?"
"Doesn't count if it affects your work performance; which if this is true, it will. Not only will it affect you, but it will put the whole crew in danger if something happens and you're in command," argued Jamie.
"If something happens'; you mean if I die. But we don't know for sure it's even true yet, so there's no need to worry the Captain over something that might not even happen."
"Commander!" Jamie stopped and took a second, then continued more calmly " Chip, he needs to know, and if it is true . . ."
"Look, I've asked Davenport to stay on; he'll be making the decisions, so even if I am affected it won't endanger the crew. I wouldn't let that happen; you should know that by now. Until we know for sure, there's no point in telling anyone."
"And if it is true?"
"You'll just have to come up with an antidote, and in the remote possibility that you can't; then we can tell the Captain. Please Jamie..." Chip begged.
The doctor let out an exasperated sigh; Morton wasn't wrong about adding to Crane's stress levels "alright, I'll do the test in private; but after that I'm not promising anything."
Chip offered heartfelt thanks as Jamie went and grabbed a needle to take a blood sample. After he drew the blood he had it rushed to the lab for a whole battery of tests; there was nothing left to do after that but wait.
Morton resumed his vigil with Crane at Nelson's side, whilst Jamie went about trying to pretend he wasn't keeping possible life changing news from his Commanding officer. The day wore on in the same monotonous way, but as it was drawing to a close the most miraculous things happened: Nelson started to wake up.
The soft moans from the man in the bed grabbed the attention of both Lee and Chip who had been permanent fixtures at his side all day. Slowly Nelson opened his eyes and tried to focus on the two blurry figures that were leaning over him. He went to lick his dry lips, but found that something was in the way. His sluggish brain eventually focused on the voice that was speaking to him, and heard Jamieson mention something about a breathing tube. The Admiral felt his eyelids growing heavy and he quickly lacked the energy to keep them open any longer.
It was a brief sign of life from their commander but it did mean that things were moving in a positive direction; a wave of relief washed over Lee. The small seed of hope was starting to take root and sprout. With any luck, very soon the Admiral would be back on his feet, Alexi would be in jail and they could all put this horrific chapter of their lives behind them.
"Mr. Morton, can I have a word with you?" requested Jamieson.
While Chip was standing up, Lee asked, "Is something wrong Jamie?" If the doctor had anything to say he usually said it in front of both of them.
The doctor used his best poker face "no, I just have some questions for Chip; things I want to note in his file from his time away from us. Nothing important; I just didn't want to disturb the Admiral with conversation noise."
Chip nodded in concurrence and followed Will into his office. He took a seat across from the doctor and waited for the news.
Jamie looked up with sorrow in his eye. "they couldn't find any known substance, but they did find an anomaly. Upon further research, one of the technicians found it resembled a theoretical blueprint for a virus proposed by an enemy agent; that was the only information they could find. I'm sorry Commander, but it looks like Alexi's threat is real."
A million thoughts ran through Chip's head, but at the same time he forgot how to breathe. All he could do was sit there and stare; no part of his body would respond to any command given by his brain. After a few moments cold dread finally released its vice like hold on him and Morton found his voice "you can't tell Lee, Doc."
Morton pleaded "please Jamie!"
"He has to be told."
"Alright, but I'll tell him; just not today, Jamie. Not when he finally has some good news for a change."
Maybe it was empathy for the young man before him or just the fact that he couldn't tell a dying man no, but Jamieson relented. "OK, I'll leave it up to you to tell him, but you must tell him. If you don't, I will Commander; in the mean time I'll do everything I can to try and fix this."
"I know you will Jamie, and thanks."
Chip left to join Lee at the Admiral's side. In a moment of frustration Will shoved all of the books off of his desk and onto the floor. Ah Harry, we need you more than ever now; your boys need you. I need you to help me figure this out.
(Story 4of 5)
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Thank-you to Tracy137 for another terrific beta job!