Newport News, Virginia —
Jennifer Maybeau knocked on Admiral McHugh’s office door and walked in.
“Admiral, Captain Mannington needs to speak with you urgently sir.”
“Send him right in, Jennifer.”
Captain Joseph Mannington was McHugh’s deputy operations officer at CSAC. He had just gotten some exciting news that he knew the admiral would want to know. He entered McHugh’s office and carefully closed the door behind him.
“Admiral, they found the missing Benthic Ranger from Watch Station Three.” The vessel had gone missing after the attack on Watch Station Three by unidentified forces in 1993.
“In Papua New Guinea of all places. We just got an inquiry from the Royal Australian Navy who had been called to investigate.”
“The Royal Australian Navy? I thought you said they found it in Papua New Guinea.”
“Apparently, the two countries have a mutual assistance pact.”
“I doubt it, given the passage of time.” It had been over three years.
“Any bodies, I’d like to see those boys come home.”
“Don’t know, Admiral.” The Aussies pulled back when they detected radiation emanating from the vessel.”
“I would like you to take charge of the recovery, Joe. Can you pull together a team and get out there immediately?”
“Aye, sir. By the way Admiral, I don’t know if this is important, but when I was a London last summer, I thought that I had bumped into Carlton Messinger.”
“Messinger? How can that be?”
“I know. It was spooky, I have known Carlton since Annapolis and I swore it was him. When I called him Carlton, the person just stared at me and then turned and walked slowly away. That was the weirdest part of the encounter. Carlton’s nickname at Annapolis was “two-hue” because he had one brown eye and one hazel.”
“Well, this guy had the coldest pale blue eyes I had ever seen. Before he turned away, he looked at me for a moment and I had chills run down my spine. It was as though he was drilling into my soul with those eyes.”
“Yeah, that is freaky. Why do you think it was Carlton? Wouldn’t he have checked in if he survived the attack on Watch Station Three?”
“Not after I saw those piercing pale blue eyes, sir.”
“Must have been a doppelganger,” replied McHugh.
“Yes, sir, but it was chilling.”
“How soon can you get to Papua New Guinea?”
“I already dispatched the U.S.S. Thomas Morrow and other assets; I’m scheduled to leave as soon as you give me orders.”
Named for the navy reconnaissance pilot who discovered the first mysterious object buried deep in the ocean in 1967, the Morrow was ostensibly a fleet supply ship. In reality it was clandestinely outfitted with a launching bay for Benthic Rangers and supply robots to CSAC’s watch stations.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
As Mannington turned to leave, McHugh reached out and touched his arm.
“Be careful, Joe. I think that we are getting into some very choppy water.”