PART THREE (of 4)
Port Charleston Docks
Jim and Chip shielded their eyes from the glare of the sun. It was close to setting but it was still high enough to cause them to squint.
"Well," reflected Jim, "that was a very enlightening conversation, wouldn't you say Chip?"
Chip, turning a bit red with embarrassment, shrugged his shoulders slightly and matter-of-factly replied, "I can't help it if she liked my blue eyes better than yours."
They both laughed as they started down the street. They were still talking about Miss Feather when they rounded the corner and began walking down the alley. Suddenly, they were taken by surprise by a couple of Loveless' men who appeared out of nowhere.
Jim and Chip slowly backed up and turned around only to come face to face with Dr. Loveless' giant of an ape Voltaire. "Hello, Voltaire. Did Dr. Loveless send you out to do his dirty work for him?"
"I do my own dirty work when it comes to you Mr. West," replied Voltaire not amused at his statement. "Dr. Loveless wants both you and your friend to come back with us."
"What if we don't want to?"
"I'll carry you back then, Mr. West, dead if I have to." Voltaire advanced towards Jim.
Chip motioned to move to Jim's side but the men grabbed him and pointed the barrel of a gun in his face. "
Move and you're dead," one of the men told him as he heard the gun being cocked in place. Chip had no choice but to remain still and watch the fight that ensued. He relaxed and held his temper.
Voltaire and Jim stood face to face, eyeing each other. Voltaire was larger than and quite a bit taller. He outweighed the secret service agent by a good 70 lb. but cleverness and ingenuity were on Jim's side as Voltaire was not very smart.
Voltaire made the first move by coming at Jim. Jim reacted with two fists aimed at Voltaire's mid-section. That caused Voltaire to double over but it didn't stop him. Jim threw another punch, this time it met Voltaire's right cheek and sent him sprawling to the ground.
Jim turned to try and free Chip when out of nowhere an empty barrel came crashing down over the nape of this neck. Jim swayed on his feet, spun around slowly, and looked at Voltaire as he went falling to the ground.
Chip struggled to get free and help Jim but the gun reminded him to keep his place. All he could do was watch as his friend and partner fell to the ground.
Voltaire leaned over the quiet body of James West and began laughing. A deep, dark, ugly laugh from the depths of his nasty being. Voltaire was pleased with himself. He picked up the secret service agent and flung him over his huge shoulders, still laughing with immense satisfaction, and led the way back to the boat.
By the time the boat arrived at Loveless' seaside hideout, Jim had come to. He swayed a bit as he climbed out of the boat. Chip grabbed his arm and helped him steady himself on the ground.
"Where are we?" Jim asked looking at his surroundings, still a bit dazed from the hit on his neck.
"Keep moving!" the two were told as they each felt a shove to the middle of their backs.
As they entered the home in front of them they heard a familiar voice greeting them. "Come in gentlemen, and welcome. I trust you were treated as guests?"
"Dr. Loveless," replied Jim dryly. "Voltaire was his old gentle self. He was full of surprises." At that moment Mr. Pem entered the foyer with a smile on his face. "Pem," Chip stated. "So this is where you've been. I hope you realize what you're doing."
"Oh I do, I do, Commander Morton. You see, my gold is close at hand. I can hardly contain myself," Pem replied placing his hands into his vest pockets.
"You do realize Pem, once Admiral Nelson finds you he'll wring your neck."
"Quite possibly so, Commander. But let me remind you that he's not here right now, and you are. And I took the liberty of telling Dr. Loveless what an excellent diver you are."
"Diver?" repeated Chip, turning his head slightly. "What do you mean Pem?"
"Oh yes, and the fact that you have the knowledge of operating his diving bell so that you can dive down to the wreck and retrieve his serum... and my gold."
"PEM! When I get my hands on you I'll kill you," shouted the Commander, moving toward Pem, only to be restrained by Loveless' goons.
"You WILL give your full cooperation Commander or else you will never see your century again!"
"And," added Loveless, "You will never see Mr. West alive again if you do not give me your full cooperation."
At that last statement, Chip turned to look at Jim and then at Voltaire. His facial muscles began to relax, he was had and he knew it.
"It seems like you don't have a choice Chip, not at the moment at least. Dr. Loveless means what he says."
Loveless growing impatient commanded Voltaire to lock the men up. "Feed them also Voltaire, Mr. Morton will need his strength, for in the morning he will dive for us."
The Seaview, 1874
Artemus Gordon stood at the viewport as the Seaview moved closer to the ruins that they had discovered in the location where the Foster Dean was reported to have gone down. The big lights of the submarine lit up the area and Artie was amazed as schools of large fish swam by the viewport. Admiral Nelson walked up to stand beside him as he pointed out into the ocean. "That should be the location of the Foster Dean."
"How are you to know?" Artie asked.
"We have divers going out now. There should be something to identify her. I have nothing aboard to describe her unless you know anything about her?"
"No, we hadn't really heard about her until the call came in about the serum. I hadn't really thought about this part of the recovery but I'm certain that Loveless did." He stood silence for a few seconds before continuing, "He'll use your friend for this part of the plan."
"I hope that he does," Nelson confessed, causing Artie to turn at look at him. "Mr. Morton is a very resourceful man and I think we can depend on him to cause this fellow Loveless some problems. I am more concerned about keeping Pem alive to get back into our time than to worrying about this Loveless character. I will leave him to you and Mr. West."
Suddenly Artie saw movement under the sub and noticed two men -divers- moving from the sub's shadow out into the ocean. "Amazing!" he commented softly as he watched the men swim to the ship's wreckage. "So the artificial lung does work?"
"Yes," Nelson said. "It will keep them under the surface for two hours. We have other suits for longer times, and there is the flying sub and the mini sub for more complex trips."
"You have a machine that flies?" Artie asked, still staring out into the sea.
"Yes." Nelson answered. "Our world of the future has many bits of magic as well as the demons. We have to learn to try to balance them."
"And are you?"
"Time will only answer that question." Nelson pointed to the wreckage. "If Lee can confirm the name of the wreckage they are going to let us know."
The Foster Dean, 1874
The divers were Lee Crane and Seaman Kowalski. They approached the old ship, surprised to see that she was resting keel down in the sand, almost as thought she was really to sail from her nesting area. Of course, the sails and riggings were rotted and long gone. There was still a sense of nobility left to the old sailing ship.
On the lower side beneath the watermark gaped a large torn hole in her side.
She had most likely been rammed by one of the blockade ships and had taken on water rather rapidly and sank immediately. There was little or no damage to the upper levels of the ship and she rested, leaning slightly to one side with the hole being a convenient way for them to enter her interior.
Captain Crane swam slowly up to the ruins of the old ship, touching the boards carefully as not to disturb the growth of the plant and marine life. He was patted on the shoulder by Ski who pointed to something over to their right. They both swam in that direct as they came to a metal-forged sign that was slowly flaking off into the sea. Lee ran his fingers over the metal, trying to remove some of the rusting metal and barnacles so he could see what was under it. It seemed to be the perfect place for a nameplate to be found so he struggled to find something legible. The first past of the name had already crumbled into the sea. It appeared to be cast iron with a gold paint on the letters, with very little of the paint remaining. He could make out the remains of the word 'Dean' and nodded to Kowalski.
Lee touched his throat mike and spoke, "I have confirmation on the word "Dean".
We are going to check the outside and then enter the ship."
The Seaview, 1874
Gordon turned to the speaker and listened as the Captain's words came over it. He was amazed at the sound that he heard. The voice was somewhat distorted by the metal speaker but he would have recognized it immediately. Nelson stepped away from the viewport and picked up the mike attached to the table. "See what you can find, Lee. If it looks too unstable pull back and we will get a crew in there to search the vessel."
"Yes, Sir," was the reply.
Nelson hung up the mike and returned to the window as they watched the divers in the distance.
The Foster Dean
Crane was surprised at the condition of the ship, it felt firm in most areas, with just a few places showing the characteristic sponginess of water soaked wood. He was wondering if it would be safe to enter and nothing that he was seeing now led him to believe that it was not. He moved slowly around the outside looking for any hazards that might hamper them going in and found nothing. At one point near the damaged area there was a disturbance in the sand, but that could have been anything. They would be careful of any sand sharks or barracuda in the ruins.
He carefully allowed himself to float through the opening as he pulled his torch free from the belt. There were no hazards that he could see. Kowalski followed him, checking for anything that could cause problems but saw nothing other than marks in the sand. Once inside Lee pushed himself up, surprised as he broke the surface of the water. He had entered a large underwater chamber in the hold of the ship. Ski rose to the surface beside him, also flashing his torch into the darkness.
The Admiral had returned to the plotting table. Artie continued to watch the divers as they disappeared into the interior of the ship. He looked about the world that was under his feet, normally forbidden to him. He could swim but wasn't really comfortable diving in the deep water and James usually did that. He could not help but be amazed by the colors and all the life under him.
Movement drew his attention back to the wreckage of the ship, but he had been too late to really identify what he had seen moving on the outside of the vessel.
"Admiral, something moved out there."
Nelson returned to the viewport and looked through the glass. "What was it?"
"I'm not certain...just a shadow."
"Probably a fish, don't worry about it."
Voltaire arose early the next morning. He had to check on the two prisoners before he prepared for his early morning dive. Miguelito want him to take a dive down to the Foster Dean.
"I hope the two of you got a good night's sleep," he stated, laughing.
"There's no place like home," Jim responded stone-faced while Chip just stared.
"I know what Dr. Loveless has in store for me, Voltaire, but what about for Mr. West?" Chip said as Voltaire returned his stare.
"Mr. West is going to go for a deep swim later." Turning to Mr. West, Voltaire asked, "How well do you swim, Mr. West? Especially with your hands tied behind your back?"
Jim looked at Voltaire and said, smiling, "I was the best swimmer in the Secret Service."
"Your swimming talents won't help you very much, Mr. West. Not unless you can hold your breath a very long time."
Angelique opened the door and walked inside. In her arms was a tray with food on it. Voltaire unlocked the cell door and Angelique placed the tray down on a table close to Jim. She backed away and Voltaire re-locked the cell door.
"Miguelito wants to see you right away Voltaire."
They both turned and walked towards the door. As they reached it, Angelique turned and said before leaving, "Enjoy your breakfast gentlemen."
Sometime later Chip was brought into what was called the diving room. It was a small room not far from where he and Jim were being held captive. They could hear the roaring of the ocean beneath them all night long.
"Good morning Commander, I trust you had a good night."
"No thanks to you Pem. I see your conscience isn't bothering you much."
"My dear Commander, I see your humor hasn't changed much either."
"Mr. Morton," Loveless spoke up impatiently, "please pay attention. Your incessant talking irritates me! I need your full attention." Loveless continued speaking. "You will take the diving sphere below us approximately 100 ft down. After you have entered the ship, you will be in a dry area and able to walk around free from water. This will enable you to find the serum and the gold and load it back into the sphere, which will then be hauled back up here."
"The map is already in the sphere with the areas circled showing the whereabouts of the serum and gold. You will have plenty of time to study it while you are being lowered down. Are there any questions, Mr. Morton? I advise you to remember that Mr. West's life depends on your ability to retrieve the serum and gold."
"I have no questions. I understand what I'm to do. Is there a time limit?"
"You will have one hour with which to retrieve the items and return to the surface.
I do warn you to be very careful what you do as we will be watching you."
One hour," Chip repeated.
Throughout this conversation Voltaire was preparing for his own dive below the waters wearing the air helmet.
"Voltaire, are you ready to go down?" asked Dr. Loveless turning his attentions to his assistant. "You leave the work to Mr. Morton and watch him. I don't want you dropping the serum or doing anything stupid."
"Yes, Doctor. I am ready."
Voltaire walked over to the open hole and jumped into the water below. As he was descending he noticed his breathing was rapid and so was his heartbeat. He stopped several times to check his air gauge. He knew he only had a total of 14 minutes of air.
As he approached the hole and was about to enter, something to his left caught his attention. He thought he had seen a light. He hesitated, and turned to look. He must have been seeing things. There couldn't be a light down this deep. His mind must be playing tricks on him, plus the size of he helmet actually made it difficult to see much of anything.
He brushed the thought off and entered the ship. It was probably just a fish...
The Foster Dean, 1874
Lee Crane and Seaman Kowalski emerged from the water, dripping as they entered the huge air bubble captured under the deck of the Foster Dean. It seemed like the entire hold of the ship was filled with air, despite the fact that it lay on the bottom of the ocean.
"Now how do you suppose that this happened?" Ski asked. He had removed his mask and was sniffing the air to see if it was breathable. "It's a bit stale and smells but it is breathable."
"Oh, is that your medical opinion, Ski?" Lee asked as he removed his tanks and laid them to the side.
Ski smiled at the Skipper's question. "We are breathing, aren't we?"
"Yeah, let's make sure that we keep it up too," Lee agreed. "Suppose that we split up and keep a sharp eye out for the serum."
"What will it be in?" Ski asked.
"I really don't know, Jamieson said it should be in a medical vial. It will be shaped like a small bottle, glass or metal. He said that it would be sealed with a cork stopper and wax on top of that." He looked over at Ski. "I don't have to tell you not to open it?"
"No, Sir!" Ski answered as he dropped his tanks beside the Skipper. He looked at the walls of the old ship. The wood was soaked, sporting strange growths and in some places straining against the weight of the ocean. "Are we sure that this will hold up?"
Lee looked around them at the walls of the old ship. "It was here until a hurricane at the turn of the century destroyed it. That will be in about 25 years. We should be finished searching by that time," he answered, smiling at Ski.
Ski nearly missed the Skipper's attempt at humor as he looked to the wooden ceiling above him. He was totally unhappy being here and did not like the looks of the ship but he was also unwilling to let the Skipper make the dive alone.
"What do we do if we find the gold?"
"We want the serum," Lee answered. "When we find it and if there is enough time, we might recover the gold. That is not a priority with us."
"Okay, Skipper. Shall I go this way?" He pointed off to his right.
Lee looked over. "Yeah. I'll take the other side." He looked at his watch. "Be back here in 45 minutes. Ski, don't do anything foolhardy."
I won't, Sir," Ski answered as he wandered off through a passageway into the bowels of the ship.
Lee looked about the room that they had entered. It looked like the main hold of the ship; maybe they should work themselves further up to some of the small storage rooms on the ship. It looked small from the view port of the sub, but standing in the hold he was impressed with the size. He wasn't sure if he would be comfortable, surrounded by the wood and pitch that kept out the sea. He removed the swim fins and dropped them on the tanks.
He didn't bother to take off the wet suit but walked over to a ladder that went up into the darkness of the upper levels of the ship. Unhooking his light, he pointed it up, seeing only two possible passageways and decided that he needed to get started on his search. The first level led off to his right and seemed to lead to a large room. Most that had been here had decayed, leaving a terrible stench of old air and decaying matter. He looked about in the light of the torch, seeing nothing that really interested him. He was wishing that they had brought Jamieson along, as Jamieson would probably have an idea what they were looking for.
Where would one put a vial to destroy the world? What serum would render men into zombies? Most important, what would they do with the serum if they did find it? That was something that would have to be turned over to the Admiral for him to worry about, not to the man who waited aboard the submarine.
Crane wasn't happy with the room that he was in. It seemed that this would be a general crews quarters and not used for storage of something this important. He was suddenly aware that he knew nothing of the layouts of old sailing ships and where cargo would be carried. Even the Admiral could not help him with this as they did not know if it was considered as vital... or did the captain of long ago know that he was carrying death with him?
He moved from the room and returned to the ladder to climb up another level. This time it opened into a corridor with several small rooms off each side. This would be the more likely place to find something like this. He entered the first room, which was the size of a small cabin and seemed to be used for that purpose even thought time had weathered it and the room was in ruins. He could hear the creaking of the ship, amazed that it was withstanding the pressure. Crane realized that the air was probably holding out the sea but the old board would not last that long. He wondered if it was in one piece when the hurricane actually did scatter it up the coast.
Here also the walls were wet and covered with the slimy green growth that was slowly taking over the interior of the ship. It was probably responsible for the smell also. Crane saw nothing of promise and moved to the next room. It was smaller and nearly empty except for a chest in the corner. Lee smiled as he saw it, wondering if his search was over. He would welcome the chance to get off the ship. He walked over to the chest, finding it locked with an old lock that practically fell apart in his hands. "Probably the salt," he thought as he worked the bits of metal loose so he could open it chest.
The chest opened, revealing metal. The gold was quite evident and glittered in the light from the torch. The silver had turned black from the air but seemed to be in good for the amount of time that it had been under the sea. He saw a small black box and picked it up. Opening it, Lee drew out a small glass vial that was filled with a colorless liquid, So this is what Loveless is going to use to control the world?
Lee heard a sound behind him, knowing that Ski had entered the room. "Well, Ski, here's your gold."
"That belongs to the Doctor!" a menacing voice called out. Lee turned to see a huge giant of a man standing over him. He tried to rise from his kneeling position on the floor, but the man's enormous hand caught him upside the head, knocking him prone into the far wall. The torch went flying into the opposite direction, flickering a couple times before going out completely. As Lee struggled to rise, the man moved over him, chuckling as he clamped his hand on Lee's throat and lifting him from the floor.
"You steal from the Doctor," the man growled at him as Crane struggled for breath. The only light in the room was from a small lantern that the huge man had sat down by the door. Crane struggled against his power; his vision fading as darkness loomed in on him. He couldn't get any air and knew that he had to get away but he could not fight the strength of this giant. His head was hurting badly and his lungs were on fire as he fought to get oxygen, but the big man's fingers dug into his throat. His strength failed him and he finally collapsed as the man threw him to the floor.
"You will die!" the man stated. He lifted Crane's body from the floor of the room and carried him into the corridor. Walking to the small room across the hall, he dumped the body of the unconscious man into the room. He quickly tied up the unconscious man and bolted the door. The doctor did not need this man so he could stay here. He would die in time... either from no water or no air. It didn't matter to Voltaire.
* * * * * * * * *
Kowalski waited in the hold of the ship for Crane to return. It had been early 50 minutes now and if Crane wasn't back in a minute Ski would go looking for him. He wanted off the ship; the eerie stillness was beginning to bother him. He had found nothing to interest him and no remains of any crew members either. How could they sail a ship without men?
He rose from the box he was leaning against as he heard a noise on the ladder. "Man, am I glad you are back," he called out as feet appeared from the ladder. Ski 's eyes widened as he saw the huge body of Voltaire drop to the deck and turn to him. It was then that he realized that the man was holding a gun. "Who are you?" he asked, shocked to see a man in street clothing walking around the ship.
"You die," Voltaire roared at him, bring up the gun. He fired it, the sound echoing through the ruins of the ship.
Ski felt a burning in his shoulder as he fell forward to the deck. The man continued moving on him, leveling the gun down as Ski rolled into the water, disappearing into the depths of the sea. The water washed over him as he sank into it, allowing the currents to carry him from the wreckage, out into the sea.
Aboard the Foster Dean
Lee wasn't sure how long he had been awake when he became aware of the pain coursing through his body. He was lying on his back, and the floor under him seemed wet and slimy to his fingers. Suddenly, he remembered the huge man towering over him as he turned at the sound.
He assumed that his sight was working but he could see nothing except for pitch-blackness that surrounded him. The bare wood was cold to his touch and he felt the chill down in his bones, but the ropes would not let him move. His hands were secured behind him and his ankles were tied, tightly. He couldn't move and he wasn't sure if the numbness was from the lack of circulation or the cold floor. He struggled to free himself of the ropes binding his wrists but could not slide his hands at all; who ever had tied him had done a professional job.
He could hear the creaking of the boards, under the pressure of the ocean and decided that he was still aboard the Foster Dean. Listening, he could hear no other movement in the room so it gave him hope that Ski wasn't there with him. He started to call out but decided that it would be better not to make the man aware that there had been two men aboard the ship. He would give Ski some time.
Lee was aware of the pain in his head; his temples pounded each time he struggled to move. He had to rest, to do something to alleviate the pain in his head before he tried to do anything else. As he was considering his opinions, a far deeper darkness swept over him as he lost consciousness.
* * * * * * * * *
As soon as Chip was led from the room, Jim West began working on his escape. He removed a fuse from one of his inside coat pockets and a plastic explosive from another. He placed it on the outside of the lock and quickly stepped to the back of the cell bringing his arms up over his ears just in case there was any flying debris.
The plastic device made a small sizzle sound and then a 'pop'. It was a quiet sound but Jim nonetheless hesitated before moving towards the cell door. His hesitation was only momentary. He quickly walked over to the door and gently but firmly gave it a push open.
He then moved quietly out into the hall, staying close to the wall. He walked almost on tiptoe to the diving room. Peeking inside, he noticed where Chip, Pem, and Loveless were standing, going over the diving bell.
Jim saw the opening to the water, and, puckering his lips, he made a run for it! By the time the occupants of the room noticed him, Jim had already dove into the water.
"I see Mr. West has managed to escape again. No matter, Voltaire will take care of him. Now Mr. Morton, back to work! Mr. West's life still depends on you," Loveless reminded him.
* * * * * * * * *
Jim remembered to take very deep breaths but he wasn't certain as to how long he could exactly hold his breath underwater. He knew he had about 90ft. of water below him before he reached the Foster Dean.
It was a clear path down to the sunken ship but the water was murky, churned up by some activity. He found the wreck easily; good thing as he was about out of breath.
Jim swam through the opening in the side of the ship and emerged into the room gasping for air. His lungs felt as though they were going to explode any minute. He pulled himself out of the cold water and just sat on the floor trying to catch his breath. While his breathing was slowly returning to normal, he glanced around the room. It was dimly lit by a couple of lamps left there by Voltaire. As Jim's eyes became accustomed to the low light, he noticed Voltaire's aqua helmet.
What he also noticed surprised him. Two metal looking objects that he assumed were some devices for breathing underwater, which also meant he and Voltaire were not alone. He presumed the two tanks didn't belong to any of Loveless' men so they had to belong to friends of Chip.
Jim spotted water tracks leading out of the room. He decided to follow the tracks that led upstairs. He knew that was where the sickbay room was which would undoubtedly lead him to the serum Loveless was after. Grabbing one of the lanterns he climbed the ladder to the upper deck. He proceeded cautiously, acutely aware that Voltaire was aboard somewhere. Jim was just approaching the sickbay room when out of nowhere he heard a gunshot.
He jerked his head in the direction he had just come from. He quickly ran back to the top of the ladder and slid down. He reached the bottom just in time to see Voltaire watching something rolling outside of the hole in the ship's side.
Jim's eyes darted back to Voltaire and met his gaze. Voltaire aimed the gun he was holding directly at Jim and said, "Mr. West, so we meet again."
Waving the gun Voltaire commanded, "Back up the ladder, Mr. West. I have someone you can keep company."
Jim climbed back up the ladder with Voltaire following close behind. They walked the short distance to the room Voltaire had locked Lee Crane. Voltaire unlocked the door and threw West in and then re-bolted the door. He returned to the diving room to wait for Chip Morton to arrive.
Jim could barely make out the figure of a bound man lying on the floor unconscious. He walked over to the man, holding the light up so he could see the identity of the person. Jim looked at the face closely. He could tell it wasn't Artie; it must be the man Chip called 'Captain'.
Chip Morton, Commander of the nuclear submarine Seaview, prepared himself for his impending descent down to the Foster Dean. The diving bell was noticeably antiquated but Chip hadn't expected otherwise. It certainly wasn't going to be anything similar to the bell he had used on several occasions in the past, well, the future... at any rate, anything aboard the Seaview.
The South Carolina waters below were murky, which would make it difficult to maneuver in... but surely they couldn't be any more challenging then when he and Chief Jones had to maneuver the Seaview's diving bell in between a mine field to rescue the crippled sub.
He didn't have a working guidance system then, so what would the difference be? He didn't have a guidance system now either.
"All I have to do," he thought, "is to hold her steady as I'm being lowered by the steam powered pulley system."
"I may not be able to see in these murky waters, Dr. Loveless."
"That is not my concern, Mr. Morton, that concern belongs to you. I will be overlooking the working of the steam engine. You are equipped with several lanterns so I suggest you use them."
"You're mad, Loveless."
Loveless chuckled. "Yes, I recall being told that sometime before. By that menacing Mr. West, who's always thwarting my plans. Well, he won't win this time I can assure you. Now inside, Mr. Morton, and prepare to dive!"
"That's my line," grinned Chip to himself. On the outside he was glaring at the Doctor, with not so much as a crack in his demeanor. Chip closed and locked the hatch door. There wasn't anything else to do except make the dive.
Chip felt a lurch and felt himself moving inside of the bell. He looked outside of the porthole and watched as he was being lowered through the hatch opening into the waters below. He turned his attention to his dials being run by the steam pump in the room above.
As Chip suspected, the water just underneath him was murky. It was also a bit turbulent but he managed to keep the bell steady. He was assuming the turbulence would subside once he was lower down.
As he continued his descent, the turbulence subsided and he could catch some glimpses of fish outside of the portholes. After another 70 ft., Chip could begin making out the image of a ship still below him and knew he was nearing the bottom and the Foster Dean.
He could make a rather large gaping hole in its side. "That must be the entrance," he mused to himself. "She's lying on her port side so I'll be able to couple with her and enter inside without a problem."
Chip maneuvered the bell over the obvious hole and set the bell down, inside, onto a type of plateau or shelf. When he was certain everything was steady, he released the pressure caused by the steam, watched the gauges go down to zero, and opened the hatch door.
Standing there in front of him was a huge figure of a man. Chip grabbed one of the lanterns and held it up in front of himself to see who the figure belonged to.
"Welcome, Mr. Morton."
"I've been expecting you."
* * * * * * * * *
Lee Crane moaned, rubbing his throat and fighting for consciousness. It was difficult to breathe. He wasn't sure if it was due to that monster's grip around his throat or the stale air in the room he was in. It was then that Lee realized that he was no longer tied up with the ropes and that there was a man leaning over him. It wasn't that giant man, he could tell that much. Who then? he wondered. After Lee's eyes became accustomed to the dim light, he focused on the man and asked hoarsely, "Who are you?"
"Relax, don't try to talk right now." Jim could make out the hand markings on the man's throat and guessed at what had happened. "I'm James West. I'm with the Secret Service."
Lee's eyes opened wide as he tried to sit up. Jim helped him to a sitting position.
"You're Artemus Gordon's partner?" Lee asked incredulously.
"Yes, that's right. Do you know where Artemus is?"
Lee shook his head, all doubt gone from his mind regarding Mr. Gordon.
"Yes, he is safely aboard my submarine."
"You are Captain Crane of the SSRN Seaview?" Jim asked, guessing from what Chip had told him.
"Yes, how did you know that? Have you talked with my Executive Officer, Chip Morton? Do you know where he is?"
"Not at the moment, but I suspect he'll be arriving shortly. Dr. Loveless is using him to retrieve the serum and Mr. Pem's gold."
"Oh," groaned the Captain. "I should have suspected those two would have found each other and joined forces. Who was that big ape of a guy who tried to strangle me?"
"Oh, you mean Voltaire. He's Loveless' man."
"I thought he was going to kill me!" Lee replied with emphases in his voice.
Jim asked Lee, "What happened?"
"I was in one of the rooms and had just located the gold when I heard someone enter the room. I assumed it was my crewman and began telling him what I had found when he started advancing towards me, and you know the rest. By the way, Mr. West, have you seen my crewman anywhere?"
"No, Captain, but I did hear a gunshot. When I went back down to the lower level to check it out, Voltaire was down there and he was holding a gun and watching something roll out of the ship. I'm afraid your crewman is may be dead."
Lee took a deep breath at that statement."Captain, are you well enough to get up?"
"Yes, I think so, I'm feeling better now. We have to find a way to get out of this room. I remember hearing Voltaire bolting the door."
Jim got up from where he was sitting and walked across the small room over to the door. He felt the door all around and reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a piece of putty and stuck it onto the part of the door between the wall. He quickly ran back to where Lee was now standing and the two hovered against the wall.
"BOOM!" The explosive went off and wood and debris went flying everywhere. The two men uncovered their heads, looked at the door, which was now missing, and quickly exited the room. Once outside, Lee led Jim down the hall to the room that contained the chest filled with the precious metals and the small case with the glass vial.
"This is the room," Lee stated.
Jim opened the door and Lee led him into the room where the chest had been containing the gold and serum. "Its empty! It was right here!" Lee said incredulously.
"Then that means Chip is aboard and he already has the gold and the serum. He is probably back in the hold of the ship where the diving bell is."
"Diving bell?" Lee asked.
"Yes, something that Loveless has rigged up," James answered as the two men quickly left the room and ran back down the hall, stopping when they came to the ladder that led to the lower deck. They could hear voices down below; one of the voices was that of Chip Morton. It meant they were still aboard. Jim and Lee began climbing down the ladder quietly. Chip saw them and tried not to show his surprise and pleasure at seeing them alive. He tried to hold Voltaire's attention.
"Loveless only wants the serum," he said to the large man. "You take the gold and give the serum to the Doctor."
Voltaire ignored Chip's remark and told him to load up the serum and the gold into the netting that Voltaire had spread out on the floor.
"Are you sure of that Voltaire? Wouldn't you like to have the Confederate gold and be rich so you wouldn't have to depend on Loveless?"
As Voltaire contemplated Chip's last remark, Jim suddenly leaped from behind him and that caused the gun to go flying out of Voltaire's hand. Lee immediately picked up the gun and went over to his Lt. Commander and friend.
"Chip, are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Lee."
The two stood watching the fight that was going on. "Shouldn't we help?" Lee asked, concerned.
"No," Chip said calmly, "he's fine. He owes Voltaire."
"I see," Lee said, a little puzzled.
Voltaire had James by the neck close to the opening of the sea but Jim broke his grip with an inside break to Voltaire's wrists and kicked him back. Voltaire made one more plunge for Jim. West tossed the giant over his back and Voltaire's last plunge was into the vastness of the sea.
Jim stood looking down at the depths of the ocean and then turned back to Chip and Lee.
"I guess we won't be seeing any more of him," said Chip matter of factly.
Jim rubbed his hands together and said, "I guess not," and the two of them began to laugh.
Lee just shook his head as he looked from his Exec to the Secret Service agent.
"Do you mind telling me what's so funny?"
"It's a long story Lee, I'll tell you everything later."
"I can't wait," was Lee's response.
"Lee, this ship is very unsteady."
"I know, while I was being held in the room, I could feel the movement back and forth. I don't know how much longer she'll hold together, before slipping off of the ledge she's on."
"Plus with our additional movements she may not be able to withstand the extra weight," added Jim. "This ship is going to slip over the edge, and soon, from the feel of it."
"We should leave as soon as possible," stated the Captain. "Chip, do we have everything we need to take with us?"
"Yes sir, we do, but some of the vials are still up above. Is it wise to leave them? They will become accessible to anyone else who stumbles aboard."
"Yeah, like Dr. Loveless and Mr. Pem," reminded James.
"The optimal thing to do would be to seal in the hole in the side of the ship after we leave. That would prevent anyone else from entering. But we don't have any explosives and the Seaview is too close to use her torpedoes. Everyone aboard would be blown to bits."
"Or back into our own century," added Chip. Facing Jim, Chip asked, "Do you have one of those plastic explosives to plant here so it could go off after we leave?"
Jim reached into his pocket and produced one last explosive. The men donned their diving gear and Jim placed it on one of the walls close by. They took one last look around at the Foster Dean and then jumped into the waters below.
Up above them they could see the diving bell ascending. They swam away from it so they wouldn't be seen. Pem and Loveless were about to get what they deserved.