"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 him?"
"Draft a top-secret message directing him to keep his people ready to shoot."
"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 waters."
"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 Grafton added.
"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 pick."
"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 his wife.
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
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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