Perry Island was in a zone so restricted that it was listed on maps as a hazard to navigation when it was listed at all. An artificial island built near Andros, it had the distinction of being the only island in the Bahamas no one knew much about. Even the native fishermen knew to steer clear else they would be harassed by ever present patrol boats armed with large caliber machine guns. A blue and white Super Constellation circled lazily over the island’s airfield, her four engines droning a lament at the prospect of leaving the sky.
Lieutenant Commander Michael Hardy finished reading his orders for the twentieth time since leaving Miami and looked out of one of the Connie’s porthole windows. More palm trees and white sandy beaches, he thought as he placed his orders packet in his briefcase. I was on a fast track to one of the new nuclear boats before being hustled on a flight out of the States. A shame too because I was looking forward to meeting Rickover.
A MATS Stewardess stopped to remind him to fasten his seat belt as she made her way to the cockpit. Hardy nodded, clicking the harness in place and stowing his briefcase on the floor between his knees. The deck tilted below his feet and for the briefest of moments, he caught a glimpse of a submarine tied up at one of the piers, its teardrop hull painted a shade of bluish-gray that almost rendered it indistinguishable from the surrounding waters. The submarine banked out of sight and he heard the engines throttle back for landing. The shape reminded him of a Thresher, no Permit, Class boat. The change in class name was still new to everyone in the community, especially since Thresher was considered one of the best boats in the fleet.
The orders specified that he was not to arrive in uniform, so a tan suit and thin tie, white shirt and black dress shoes buffed to a glossy sheen were his uniform of the day. He still had his military ID but to any onlookers, he appeared like any other businessman on a business trip to the Caribbean. He watched the Connie’s landing gear make contact with the runway and the engines put on a burst of power to take the plane to the small terminal building. He collected his gear and waited for the plane to come to a stop.
He put on a pair of dark sunglasses, feeling very much like James Bond, as he stepped down the boarding stairs. He loosened the collar as he walked toward the terminal, the squat building holding up the control tower like Atlas, hoping for some respite from the tropical heat. A gray Oldsmobile Jetfire roared to a stop beside him, its US Navy markings stenciled in letters just dark enough to be seen at close range but not much further. The passenger side window rolled down and a voice called out. “Commander Hardy?”
The driver’s door opened and a young man with close-cropped red hair jumped out and headed around to open the passenger door. “Petty Officer Simmons, Sir. Admiral Jennay sent me down to collect you, Sir.”
“Well, it’s about time,” Hardy said, settling in. “I was starting to think that I would have to call the base for a ride.”
Simmons got back behind the wheel and restarted the engine. “Good one, Sir.” He put the car in gear and turned toward the airfield’s exit. A press on the gas pedal and they were on their way.
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