Disclaimer: The Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea characters are not mine, just borrowed for this story.

Reviews are always welcome.

Business of a Personal Nature

Chapter 1

The dim lights in Med-bay were just bright enough for Jamie to read his notes. His only companion was the constant beep that reflected Nelson's heartbeat. Having chased out Crane and Morton hours earlier, Jamie had occupied the seat by his friend's bedside. The doctor closed the file in his lap and leaned back in his chair; running a hand through his thinning hair he let out a deep sigh. How the hell did it ever come to this?

The last few months had been some of the most stressful the crew of the mighty Seaview had ever faced, and having saved the world a time or two, that was saying a lot. Even their good news was tainted with heartache. Morton had been believed to be dead in an explosion that destroyed the underwater base and, after several attacks on various crewmen, there had been reason to believe that Chip was in fact alive and being held by the people responsible for the bombing. That news had been overshadowed by the failed attempt to locate the exec, the disappearance of Lieutenant O'Brien and the attempted murder of Admiral Nelson at the hands of someone they all trusted. Again, the return of Morton and O'Brien should have been a joyous occasion but Michelle O'Brien's efforts had been rather successful in leaving the Admiral hanging by a thread. The most recent contradiction of fortune occurred when Nelson had showed signs of regaining consciousness but as he was slowly on the mend Jamie was forced to start looking for a cure to a poison that was slowly killing Chip.

Jamieson had been reading information produced from the lab regarding Morton's blood sample for the last two days, and had yet to stumble on a break though. Alexi had spoke of an antidote, so it was possible to save the Commander's life; but would Will be able to find it before it was too late?

He was exhausted; his days were spent tending to Nelson and making sure Lee and Chip were taking care of themselves. Having to find excuses to see Chip in private and run additional tests, away from Crane's eyes, was a constant source of frustration; but a promise was a promise. If Morton didn't tell the Captain very soon about his current predicament, then Jamie was definitely going to do so and then tear a stripe off of Chip. While he found the exec's motive for secrecy admirable, Lee still need to be told that his best friend was dying; unless Jamieson pulled out another miracle. The main problem with telling Crane about the poison was the promise of an antidote that Alexi had offered; their adversary was more than willing to spare the exec if the Captain came to personally claim the cure and offer up his life to the mad man. Morton always went to great lengths to protect Lee from himself, but this time it could very well end up costing Chip his life.

The exec awoke to the smell of breakfast being cooked. Staying at Lee's house did have some perks, but Chip would be glad when he could move back into his own place. It always took a few moments for reality to hit and he had to remind himself that he might not have much time left. Based on how he felt, Morton could blissfully pretend that it wasn't true and if Jamieson's test hadn't said otherwise than Chip would have believed that Alexi had been lying. He had absolute faith that Jamie would be able to figure this out in time, but Morton knew he had to be real about the whole situation; then there was what to do about telling his friend. If he didn't do it he knew that the doctor would, and then Lee would gladly go and be the sacrificial lamb. He had to give Alexi credit; he seemed to always have one over on the Seaview crew.

"I'm sorry sir" said the man in the leather jacket, "Crane got away as well."

"I want you to bring the body back here Jeff. Now get out of my sight" snapped Alexi.

Anger began to boil his blood and an incredible urge to unload an arsenal on NIMR called to him. It was personal before, but now Crane had just pushed it to another level by killing Itami. Logan being thrown in prison was in part his brother's doing but to murder the one person Alexi viewed as his own child? That would require going back to the drawing board and adding a little more death and torture to his game plan.

A bullet to the head would be too kind now. No, more was needed to balance the scale; retribution would be swift, complete and bloody, and would not end with Crane.

Alexi proceeded to drown his sorrows in a very expensive bottle of scotch and plan out various scenarios regarding destroying everyone involved with Nelson's institute; they would all pay for spilling his blood. He knew once he was sober, objective sensibility would return to his plans; but right now it was nice to dream of convoluted schemes and bathing in the blood of his enemies.

He would leave his next course of action up to Morton. The XO would either hang himself or Crane; though he suspected the idiot would choose the former. Which possibility would provide him with the greatest amount of pleasure?

Misery loves company. Alexi picked up the phone.

Lee whistled as he walked through the cafeteria and picked up an apple at the counter; he proceeded to toss it in the air and catch it as he made his way to the coffee station. This was the first morning he had woken up in a good mood and was drinking coffee because he wanted to, and not because it would be the only thing keeping him going throughout the day.

Chip had managed not only to get himself home, but O'Brien as well; and while the Admiral was still in bad shape, he was making progress. It would be a slow improvement, as the man had yet to be able to hold a conversation with anyone for more than five minutes before he tired himself out. The crew was in good shape, and Riley would be returning to duty within the next few weeks.

There was still Alexi's dark cloud hanging over all of their heads, but Lee wasn't going to let it ruin their positive momentum. Despite the man's success rate at the start of their tango, things had recently been going Crane's way. Alexi had failed to kill the Admiral and he had failed to confine Morton and O'Brien; things seemed to be slowly unravelling on that end, while information and success seemed to be blooming on theirs.

At present Logan was sitting in an interrogation room and, with any luck, he was spilling his guts to ONI. If they could get the location of all Alexi's bases, then there would be no place left for the man to hide. A search was immediately launched in the area that O'Brien and Morton had been found for Alexi's compound, but the place had been abandoned by the time it was located; it appeared that the man still had a few rat holes left to hide in.

Lee took his apple and coffee back up to his office to read through the latest transcripts of Logan's interrogations; Crane had forgotten how the man liked the sound of his own voice. Logan had lots to say at this point; unfortunately it didn't pertain to anything of any value.

Chip was sitting in his temporary office with the lights off. The darkness mildly helped to alleviate the sharp stabbing pain in his head. Morton had taken several pain relievers in the last two hours but they didn't even take the edge off of his blinding headache. He knew he should probably go down to see Jamie and try to get something stronger but the thought of having to go out into the hall amongst all those bright lights made him rather nauseous. The sharp ring of his office phone made the exec jump. The thought of picking up the offending object and smashing it into a million pieces was very tempting but Chip answered it instead.


"How do you feel today Charles?"

Chip pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes; Alexi was never going to go away. Morton had nightmares of the man giving his eulogy; somehow that would be fitting. Alexi had managed to worm his way into every part of Chip's life, including obtaining a phone number to an unlisted number in his temporary office; why not be the person to say the final words about his life?

"Like I could run a marathon," Chip replied trying to keep the pain from his voice.

"Going to be stoic to end are we? I was hoping you had changed your mind and decided to tell your Captain about the exchange. Of course we are both assuming that he would be willing to die for you; we could be wrong, he might value his own life more than yours. I mean it would only be fair if he did; this is what, the second time, you're going to die for him Charles?"

If the clock was counting down, Morton wasn't going to waste time playing games with a mad man. "I imagine your Christmas is going to suck this year, what with Michelle and Logan in prison."

Morton had gone for unbalancing Alexi; but even in the short silence that followed Chip, could sense that awful smile of his.

"My loyalty doesn't lie with Michelle; she can rot there for all I care. As for Logan; well, it took you long enough to figure out. But I wouldn't worry about my future holiday plans; I'd be more worried how Karen and Jack are going to handle the holidays with one less child."

"My time might be running out, but you're going to be right behind me!"

"That could very well be true Charles, but I'm still going to win."

"And what is it you're going to win from all of this?"

"Retribution. Your Captain took everything from me, and I plan to take everything from him. If you've learnt anything at all, you should know I keep my word; after all, I did let you go unharmed."

Chip snorted at the preposterousness of Alexi's statement. "You didn't let me go, we escaped; and poisoning me is hardly unharmed."

"Oh, you didn't think it would be that easy did you? Watching you die painfully is so much more satisfying then finding a dead body, so you had to go home Charles. But I'll leave you with this thought: if you had stayed here like a good little prisoner you'd still be receiving the antidote and Crane wouldn't have to offer himself up in exchange for your life."

"He won't do it, I won't let him!" shouted Chip.

"He'll do it; we both know he will and his death will be your fault." His last line was punctuated by a click of the phone.

The killer headache that Chip was trying to relieve faded into the background as his heart started to pound and his breathing picked up. Alexi's words while cruel were true; Lee would do anything Alexi asked if he dangled the exec in front of him.