The sub cruised silently under the azure waters, ripples of light reflecting off her dark hull, looking not unlike the blue and grey sharks that inhabited these seas. And like the sharks, the sub was wide-awake and alert.
Captain Frank Little entered the bridge and took up his position in the centre of the small, crowded room.
‘Officer on deck!’ the shout went out. His junior officers stood to attention, and he relaxed them with a lazy wave of the hand. He was well respected by his crew, and rightly so. Young for command, he led his men by example, and expected his officers to follow suit. He was strict but fair, and not above sharing a joke with even the lowliest of men.
‘All in order?’ he asked nobody in particular.
‘Good,’ he replied. ‘Give me an update. Heading and position, if you please,’ he instructed.
‘We are currently on station off the north coast of Cuba, Sir – fifty-three nautical miles due north of Cayo Romano, and thirty-nine miles south of South Andros Island, Sir. Heading one-two-zero.’
Captain Little looked down at the charts on the desk in front of him which showed the islands of the Bahamas. The twin islands of Andros stared back at him, with the bulk of Cuba to the south. East of Andros was a tiny line of islands, like a string of pearls, with evoking names like Rudder Cut Cay, Compass Cay, and Big Farmers Cay.
He pondered the map for a moment before raising his head. ‘Make ready to surface,’ he barked. ‘New heading zero-one-five.’
The helmsman echoed his order as bells and alarms signalled the sub’s intentions. He made his way to the conning tower, and the moment they were on the surface he opened the hatch and clambered outside.
‘Aah …’ he breathed in the sweet, warm air. It was stunningly beautiful outside, and not for the first time did he dream of the day that he could afford to take a year out of his life and sail his little yacht, “The Swallow”, around these islands at his leisure, dropping anchor on a whim.
His second in command, Lieutenant Seers, joined him on the tower.
‘Anything out of place, Captain?’ he asked politely. Little stood with both hands on the bridge, staring across the unbelievably blue sea at the smudge of land in the distance that was Andros. He ignored the question. Lieutenant Seers was well aware, as were the rest of the crew, that a nuclear submarine such as this could remain submerged indefinitely, and his polite enquiry masked genuine curiosity.
‘Order full stop, Lieutenant,’ he ordered. Seers’ eyebrows rose a few inches, but he knew better than to question his captains orders.
‘All stop! I repeat: All stop!’ he shouted into the black hand piece.
Captain Frank Little gave his second-in-command his sternest glare. ‘I want the crew organized into teams of twenty, mister Seers. I want them paraded one group at a time on deck for my personal inspection.’
‘Dress code, Seers: Bathing trunks and water wings! Understood?’ he asked, frowning.
A wide grin split Seers’ face as he replied, ‘Understood, Sir!’ before disappearing down the ladder into the gloom of the sub.
Let them have some fun, Little thought. Two months bottled up in this tin can with no clear assignment is enough to drive anyone crazy, and he wanted to let his men blow off some steam.
The first group arrived shortly, excited and cheerful, and he smiled indulgently as they swam and bathed in the sun. By sunset they would be under the water again, and not feel the warmth of the sun for many, many days.
Published Titles in the Johnny Roberts Series:
Book Two: Johnny Roberts and the Gods of Eden
Andrew Noble © 2013
Cover artwork: John Killin © 2013
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© 2013 Andrew Noble All Rights Reserved