Excerpt of Cuba by Stephen Coonts
(Page 4 of 8)
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"There's a marine battalion landing team aboard Kearsarge, which
is supposed to rendezvous with us tomorrow. I want Kearsarge to
stay with United States. We'll put both ships in a race-track
pattern about fifty miles south of here, outside Cuban territorial waters,
and get on with our exercises. But we'll keep a weather eye peeled on this
"What about the base commander, sir? He may know more about this
than we do."
"Get on the ship-to-shore net and invite him to have dinner with
me tonight. Send a helo in to pick him up."
"Sir, your instructions specifically directed that you maintain a
business-as-usual security posture."
"I remember," Jake said dryly.
"Of course, 'business as usual' is an ambiguous phrase," Toad
mused. "If anything goes wrong you can be blamed for not doing enough
or doing too much, whichever way the wind blows."
Jake Grafton snorted. "If a bunch of wild-eyed terrorists lay
hands on those warheads, Tarkington, you and I will be fried, screwed, and
tattooed regardless of what we did or didn't do. We'll have to will our
bodies to science."
"What about the CO of the cruiser, Admiral? What do we tell
"Draft a top-secret message directing him to keep his people ready
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Nuestra Senora de Colon is sailing this evening for
Norfolk. Have a destroyer accompany her until she is well out of Cuban
"Yo." Toad was making notes on a small memo pad he kept in
his hip pocket.
"And have the weather people give me a cloud-cover prediction for
the next five days, or as far out as they can. I want to try to figure out
what, if anything, the satellites might be seeing."
"You mean, are they keeping an eye on the Cuban military?"
"Or terrorists. Whoever."
"I'll take care of it, sir."
"I'm going to run a couple laps around the deck," Jake
"May I suggest putting a company of marines ashore to do a
security survey of the base perimeter? Strictly routine."
"That sounds feasible," Jake Grafton said. "Tonight
let's ask the base commander what he thinks."
"Terrorists or the Cuban Army--wanna bet ten bucks? Take your
"I only bet on sure things, sir, like prizefights and Super Bowls,
occasionally a cockroach race."
"You're wise beyond your years, Toad," the admiral tossed
over his shoulder as he headed for the hatch.
"That's what I tell Rita," Toad shot back. Rita Moravia was
Jake Grafton didn't hear the rest of Toad's comment. "And wisdom
is a heavy burden, let me tell you. Real heavy. Sorta like biological
warheads." He put the binoculars to his eyes and carefully studied
the naval base.
Copyright (c) 1999 Stephen Coonts. All Rights Reserved
Guantanamo Bay, on the southeast coast of the island of Cuba, is the
prettiest spot on the planet, thought Rear Admiral Jake Grafton, USN.
He was leaning on the railing on top of the carrier United States's superstructure,
her island, a place the sailors called Steel Beach. Here off-duty crew
members gathered to soak up some rays and do a few calisthenics. Jake
Grafton was not normally a sun worshiper; at sea he rarely visited Steel
Beach, preferring to arrange his day so that he could spend at least a
half hour running on the flight deck. Today he was dressed in gym shorts,
T-shirt, and tennis shoes, but he had yet to make it to the flight deck.
Copyright (c) 1999 Stephen Coonts. All