give my right arm to take a peek at Lee’s ‘memory’ book.
The last time I’d
seen it he was serving alongside me aboard Nautilus. It was a kind of journal and scrapbook, already stuffed to the gills
with personal observations, newspaper clippings, letters from family and friends, jokes written down on paper napkins, even
a few Presidential Citations. Why they were folded up and just shoved into it instead of being framed behind glass is anyone’s
So you can imagine my
curiosity when his friend Joe Jackson had asked him if he'd written about another (another?)President’s personal ‘thank
Now, we’d had
Presidential Unit Citations before, and Lee had (only God knows how many) Presidential Individual Citations, but a personal
‘thank you’ was an entirely different thing. And I was curious as to what this one had been about. Still, I felt
if I’d asked, I’d be intruding and had to wonder if it had been for saving this President’s life. (Lee’s
still doing Ops work for ONI, let alone field agent work-a bone of contention between us for I don’t know how long.)
I remember the last
President owing us. It had begun with a fall…
Tension was tight (and
classified), as the President was considered essential to the success of the Geneva Peace talks. But he’d fallen while
on a good will tour to South America, and had incurred a dangerous hematoma.
Now unconscious, the
powers that be decided to transport him to a destroyer, thence to us, (for secrecy) along with the new MG-Q machine and medical
team we picked up in Norfolk.
There was just one problem.
The MG-Q was a relatively new gadget (designed to dissolve various cancerous growths, and/or blood clots) and operator was
up to no good.
I’d been surprised
at the time with the scuttlebutt that the Captain had seemed a bit smitten when he welcomed Dr. Laura Rettig aboard. She was
attractive I suppose, in a washed out almost masculine way; still, whatever the case, things were far too busy for any romantic
inklings to progress any further along that line.
During our race to the
rendezvous, our instruments began to go haywire. At one point, they indicated that we were going in two different directions
at the same time! Lee wondered if we’d entered a magnetic field. But it was the magnetic field had entered us via the
MG-Q! However, its instruments indicated everything was fine. (BFM –Big Fat Mistake on my part!)
When we listed into
an underwater ridge, we managed to damage not only our hull plates, but a very important gear in a very inaccessible place!
If we couldn’t unjam the thing, we’d have to flood half the boat and the mission would be a bust.
Clark volunteered to
traverse the inner recesses to unstick the thing, even if it meant we might have to seal him in and begin the flooding if
he couldn’t do it within a few minutes. As time ran out it sure looked as if we would have to. Then Lee jumped in, knowing
damn well his life might be forfeit too. But he’s used to that sort of thing.
The minutes felt like
hours as we waited. But finally I had to order the Chief to seal the hatch and open the flood gate. Just as he began to turn
the wheel, the pressure needle began to turn back. Success! My boys had freed the jammed gear and Seaview was safe, and able
to resume course to our rendezvous.
I made a mental note
to myself to recommend both for a commendation for their selflessness.
The mission continue
that went without a hitch and the President was lowered by diving bell to us and taken to Sick Bay. It was up to the MG-Q
Suddenly the instruments
went crazy again, but Lee had already put a tracker code into the computer for future triangulation as to where magnetic interference
might originate, and that’s where my BFM had come in. Sick Bay!
I barged in, and after
a brief struggle with Rettig (the secret service guards assisted) I unplugged the thing before it could turn the President’s
brain into sawdust. (It exploded several shelves of chemicals and containers in the tussle.)
And so traditional surgery
It was successful, and
we returned to Norfolk with our Presidential patient. He’d asked to see the Captain
after I’d debriefed our Commander in Chief, and spoke to him privately quite a while.
Later I found Lee a
bit maudlin after we’d taken leave of him, and were headed to Florida. (We both have a mutual friend there and it was
as good an excuse as any for a place to park offshore to give the men a little shore leave (we’d been denied Leave in
Norfolk for security reasons) Anyway, I finally convinced Lee to tell me what was wrong.
He shook his head, saying
what a ‘lousy judge of character he’d been again’, hastening to add it was Rettig he meant and not the President.
Of course, I didn’t
dare tell him I hadn’t seen what had interested him in her in the first place, and let him ramble, all the while wondering
about that ‘again’ he’d mentioned. It was the first time that he confided in me regarding a personal matter.
(He tended to keep such things bottled up-secure-private) And I was honored, if embarrassed a bit. I’m a private man
too. At time I was sure there was no way would I ever tell him about my love life (or lack of it)!
Things have changed
since then, though I’m not as open with him as he is with me. Still, I wondered if I should ask him about this latest
Presidential ‘thank you’. It could be nothing more than Agent Catfish’s recipe for fried alligator that
she gave us on one of our visits to Florida. Or it could be a thank you for a clandestine operation for national security
(Lee has quite a few of those with ONI-still a bone of contention between us).
In the end, I decided
not to and am still wondering what lies now in Lee’s ‘memory book’. Perhaps I should ask Chip. He goes where
Angels (and Admiral’s) fear to tread, at least regarding Lee.