My version of a Nathan Sandoval story introduction:

South Sea Station 242, in a rigid inflatable boat:

Stowski has no idea how the cloak works and doesn’t care. He also doesn’t know how to prove it works, leaving that worry to the dweeb. No, not ‘dweeb’. He had known Ivan too long to call him that. And he had fought him to a stalemate too many times to put him down as if he were like other men. “There is Ivan, the kid from California, but the same age as me staring at his pad and worrying and cursing at the sea water splashing his gear and his face. Good. Good Marine.” Time to get on his case:

“Tie off, Lieutenant Ivan. Pick up that Fargo Bag.”

“Bite me, Sir. Keep trolling until I make sure your gear is cloaked.”

Stowski cut the motor instead and scrambled to the bow over the fuel Jerry’s, the Fargo bags, and his own cargo under its gray cloth… and the Data Marine. He grabbed the rod and a net.

“Fish on! Take the tiller, swabbie.” with a big incisor-free grin.

Stowski can reel in dinner on his own.

Ivan knows how to worry about the tech. Stowski’s exotic taste for black market electronics has put both of them on s*** lists from Beirut to Sydney. No more screw ups. Major Stowski kisses enough butts to track his next promotion, but he cannot carry me on his next ride, I am sure. Next violation will get Lt. Ivan Guilderfroy, Data Marine, guarding the Gitmo Straights.

This would have been a milk run if Stow just followed orders and took only the issue gear. Will he need another dirt-bound deployment in the ‘Kush to remind him how to travel light?

How many times had Ivan been busted when Stow’s tools did not live up to expectations? Cypress. CVN-77 and SSN-689. Darwin and Saipan. OCS… Stupid. Why do I keeping tailing this guy, taking his crap, covering his a**? Don’t answer that. His enthusiasms keeps Marine life interesting, but the BS only pisses me off nowadays. And that grin.

Well at least I know where I stand with Stow.

I’ve got to come up with my own scheme next time. “My own particular…. idiom.”

The trust bubble is burst, the world is big again, and paper is high-technology.

A jarhead like Stow should have stopped believing in next gen digital tech. After Officer Candidate School, Ivan should have stopped believing in Stowski… Okay maybe Stow will get a jump on the next war. Maybe… but not without his Ivan checking his tech. I think I should kick his butt next time and find a new home in the Army.

‘Sick of getting wet. This seawater will ruin this pad…

This cloak is awesome, though. As if the boat is empty except for the duty and mission-issue: two tagged Marines, Marine-issue side arms, Navy-issue rescue beacon and life vests, 12 iso-gel fuel Jerries, and sealed Fargo bags. Plus one Air Force sat-tracker. No track data for the old-school two way radios, new microdrones and the other crap Stow secreted under the cloak.

“Clear! When you have your guppy we can tie off. Sir. Sir, you can pick up the mail. I will ack Jacks”

South Sea Buoy SB242 will record our last Fargo bag swap. Lt. Jacks shipside will log our mission status and keep an eye on Dr T for us. Finally with Jacks we have a risk management plan and maybe will take some island R&R.

Stowski had used his poker face to fool no one about his motives for this sea detail. The duty officer didn’t need to be fooled. The detail had orders for fuel and rigid inflatable boat for two days. “Take the RIB and have a nice weekend, Major.” Courtesy of deep water Navy Captain ‘Jeeves’ Jarvis butling – or is it butlering – for the firm paying for their trip. Who are those guys? PsyatCorp and Dr. Teagarten – no, Dr. Terwilliker – with the Navy brass playing their pianos and wearing their beanies for bucks. Odd thing is why Dr. T asked for two Marine officers to do a Navy tech retrieval and a long RIB deployment. No air, just one Data Marine and one blue water Marine. He asked for Ivan and Stow by name.

The USS Plimpton captain’s bridge:

“Madame X.O., please will you activate the beacon. I must inform my superiors about the status of our operation?”

“X.O. or Lieutenant Jacks will do, sir. The RIB team has not made their last Fargo Buoy. Com will inform you when they are clear for your mission. We will clear the Comm room in ten minutes for your company report.”

“Thank you… Madame”

Dr. Teagarten clicks his rubber heels to no effect and turns down the pilot hatch. To activate his own trackers. This is his mission, his money, and his risk. No superiors, no Company this time. It’s a big world now.  Opportunity.

The night before, he deployed his flocks of drones. Flight One of six birds has been over SB242 for six hours – two hours until bingo fuel and return or commit. His second flock or twenty birds took station over the island one hour ago. Both have twelve more air hours in this clear weather.

The radioman indicates “SB242 clear.”

“Clear SB aye” and the logman pencils in the update and heads to the pilot hatch.

XO retrieves an old tech walkie-talkie from her binocular case, power, up and signals: “Ivan, In Com. L.T. Jacks”…

“Go, Jacks.”

“Doc has made inquiry. The weather is clear for the next 24 hours. Syn?”

“Syn Ack… Out.”

“Out Com.” The skippers marine guard and the helmsman do not watch XO stow the radio and case in the chart box and cover it with a gray cloth.