Chip & Lee's Very Bad Day

("All You Need Is Duct Tape")

Lee Crane wondered if he was dreaming that a phone was ringing or if a phone actually was ringing. His hugged the pillow tightly to his head. Mercifully, the sound stopped. Then it began again. "Real, damn it."

He reached his arm across the nightstand and saw the clock glowing: 5:14 a.m. "NIMR" blazed on the front of his cell phone.

"Crane," he mumbled.

"Lee, it's Angie. I'm sorry for calling so early."

"It can't be good if you're calling me at two a.m, Pacific." Lee felt his stomach fluids gurgle as if to gird against what he was about to hear. Maybe the rich New Orleans food and a little much to drink were at fault too.

"It's nothing to panic about, Lee."

"At least not yet, you mean?"

"Seaview's experiencing a bit of mechanical trouble. Mister O'Brien would like you and Chip to pick up replacement parts and bring them aboard before things get out of hand."

Lee rolled his legs to the floor and sat up as he pondered Angie's words. "Let me understand this. O'Brien asked, not the Admiral. O'Brien implied a.s.a.p. I take it that I should read between the lines here."

"Maybe a call to Bobby, I mean Mr. O'Brien, would be a good idea."

"First tell me all you know."

"Not that much. It's something to do with the air revitalization control system. Seems like they've been burning through relay circuits at a crazy rate. Bobby thinks it's a bad batch of relays, but says things seemed to have calmed down since the engineer replaced the voltage regulation module. Replacement parts are being flown in to the Institute as we speak. They should be here by 0900."

"I think I get the picture. You can patch me into Bobby when we're through."

"Thanks for keeping me out of the middle, Lee."

"Angie, just out of an abundance of caution, throw in any extra parts to the air revitalization system that we may have in storage."

"Everything?"

"No, limit it to electrical and moving parts. Don't worry about filters and the like."

"Are you worried about a larger failure, Lee?"

"I just like to be prepared. Also, before you connect me to Seaview, could you do me a favor and call Chip to let him know. That way, I can get moving faster."

"He's not with you?"

"With me? I thought those rumors died a long time ago."

"You know I didn't mean that! I just figured you were staying a room or two apart as usual."

"Paul's sister insisted I stay with the family since I was a groomsman. You don't argue with a force of nature."

"One of those. Is she married?"

"Let's just say that when I said yes to staying with her, I thought she still was."

"Sounds like you spent the weekend on the run."

"Pretty much. Chip's at the Lake Ponchartrain Arms, Room 136."

"I'll call him right after I patch you through to Bobby."

"Thanks. Grab some shut eye when you can. I'd hate to see bags under those beautiful blues."

A minute later, Sparks acknowledged Lee. "He'll be with you in a minute, Skipper."

"Where's the Admiral?"

"In his lab with Professor Tolliver. Do you want him too?"

"No, let's not disturb him until after I talk to Mister O'Brien."

"He's coming through the door now, Skipper."

"Sorry to interrupt your leave, Captain."

"No problem. I got a general idea from Angie what's going on. How serious is this?"

"Sparks, give me a few minutes, will you?" O'Brien spoke softly to Lee afterwards. "We think we've fixed the problem, but we don't have enough spare relays if it should recur. If that happens, we'll either have to get to periscope depth and use the snorkel mast or surface for fresh air."

"But it's monsoon season."

"That and we're getting seismic instability readings in the area."

"Which could mean a tsunami. You don't want to be on or near the surface then."

"No, sir. That was my thinking."

"So let me guess. A certain senior officer doesn't want to interrupt the mission by moving to a safer place for now."

"He feels confident that we can handle the eventualities."

"That's quite the compliment, Bobby."

"If only it felt that way, Skipper. I'm not nearly as confident, nor is engineering."

"Chip and I will rendezvous with you as soon as possible."

"I appreciate that, Sir."

"One more thing. There's no need to let the Admiral know that we're returning early. I'll deal with any fallout when I get there."

"Thanks, Skipper. He sure does like to get his own way. If I hadn't seen you deal with him over the years, I'm not sure I would have had the courage to hold my own."

"You're a good man, Bobby. I trust your judgment as to the men's safety completely. The Admiral just gets caught up in other stuff. We should be in FS1 in about an hour or so. Don't hesitate to call."

Lee dragged himself to the washroom and splashed some cool water on his face. Given the hour, and the circumstances, he decided to throw on his dress blues that he'd worn at the wedding. Those commander bars could come in handy with getting in and out of NAS JRB New Orleans quicker so early on a Sunday morning. Their wrinkled state was less than ideal, but Lee decided that he'd best use the few minutes he could spare to leave a thank you note to his hostess explaining his hasty departure instead of ironing. Darlene wouldn't be happy that he'd left, but she would understand his skipping brunch. He couldn't make the same claim about Chip.