Two weeks after the rescue of that family from the storm, Jennings was aboard the destroyer DE-173. She had been refitted decades ago, modified to do a number of things, all of which were classified.
The way this had come about had been a surprise to Jennings, who had been arguing for continuing the search for the island, and Aoki he often thought but kept to himself, but the Navy had been acting like it was a closed case, and would hear nothing more about it. This despite the fact that not only Jennings, but Williams and the rest of his crew had reported seeing the huge winged dinosaur fly by their helicopter the night they had rescued the family.
Not only that but both of the little girls they had rescued had reported that a sea monster had crashed into the sailboat and made a hole in the side of it, which was why it had started sinking.
Despite all of that, the Navy had insisted that the search for the island was over.
It was very frustrating to Jennings and just when his fruition was about to boil over and cause him to do something he knew might get him busted and locked in prison for a good number of years, he had been called into Captain Haywood’s office once again.
Of course when he had gone in to see the Old Man, Jennings had started by arguing for continuing the search for the island, to which Haywood had replied that officially the Navy was calling off the search, and officially he was being sent to Pearl to work as a flight training instructor.
Jennings had frowned at that, “Officially?”
Haywood had turned and looked at him for a long moment before telling him he was, in fact, being reassigned to the USS Eldridge.
“The Eldridge?” Jennings had almost laughed.
Captain Haywood nodded his head. “What do you know of her, the Eldridge?”
“Sir, the Eldridge was decommissioned in 1946 and sold to Greece for . . . whatever they wanted to use her for,” Jennings explained.
“Is that all?”
“No sir,” Jennings said with a smirk. “If you believe pop culture, the Eldridge was involved in some secret experiment back in 1943.”
Captain Haywood nodded his head. “Off the record, it was called Project Rainbow. It was meant to try and develop a technology that would render a war ship invisible to enemy radar. Back then it was Nazi Germany. The experiment resulted in the Eldridge being teleported from the shipyards in Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, and then teleporting back to Philadelphia. Not only that but she reportedly went backwards in time.”
Jennings just stood there looking at Haywood, wondering if this was all a joke.
“On the record the Eldridge doesn’t exist,” Captain Haywood went on to say. “And on the record those are not your orders, assigning you to her, while she conducts a search and survey of the area you claim that island is in.”
For a long moment Jennings just stood there looking from Haywood down at the envelope on his desk and back again.
“You’re telling me that I am being assigned to a ship that doesn’t exist to search for an Island we can’t find?”
Haywood just stood there staring at him for a long silent moment with those steel gray eyes of his. “No,” he finally said. “As far as I know, you’re being sent to Pearl to train pilots to fly rescue helicopters.”
Jennings stood there a long moment looking from the Old Man to the envelope on his desk and then finally said the only thing that came into his mind, the only world he was able to speak, and that was, “when?”
“As soon as you get out of my office,” Haywood answered.
Jennings had snatched his orders off of the Captain’s desk and rushed for the door, but before he opened it, Haywood said, “Stephen, I hope you don’t regret this.”
“God be with you,” Haywood then said as he sat down at his desk and pretended to be interested in something on the screen on his laptop.
“Sir,” Jennings started to say.
“You have your orders, Commander, for what they’re worth,” Haywood said in a soft tone. “Dismissed.”
Jennings orders posted him on the Eldridge for the remainder of his contract with the Navy, which just happened to be less than six months.
The Eldridge had been upgrades several times since the 1940s, her hull reinforced, and there was a lot of instrumentation on her tower that looked alien to Jennings, as he had never seen anything like it. Two of her cannons had been replaced; one forward and one aft, with classified weapons that Jennings had learned were basically modified and upgraded Rail Guns. In addition to this, the Eldridge had been fitted to be able to fire four missiles, with two launchers to each side of her on her Port and Starboard sides, and had several backups if needed. Two landing pads for aircraft had been added as well. Forward was the helicopter landing pad, where the helicopter he would pilot on the searches—a modified HH-65 Dolphin twin engine aircraft that had been enhanced to be able to fly longer distances than it normally could, and was painted a dull jet black—would take off from and land. Aft, or to the rear of the ship was a landing pad where the SP-10 was, which was basically a shrunk down, modified version of a Harrier Jump Jet, would operate from.
In addition to all of that, Jennings learned that the Eldridge could deploy up to twenty drones, which were equipped for combat if needed, and at the very bottom of her, there was supposedly a deck that opened up into the sea, where they could launch an unmanned, ROV or if needed, a one manned underwater submersible vessel of some type.
When Jennings had been talking to one of the other pilots about the ship, a very large, muscular man named Juan, who was a commander like himself and liked to be called by his call-sign of Falcon, he had remarked to Juan, “the next thing you’re going to tell me is the Eldridge can dive underwater like a sub, or take off and fly into orbit.”
At the time the two men had been standing on the Port side deck, looking out over the railing, watching the ocean waves roll around the ship. Commander Juan, Falcon, Ortiz had been puffing on a cigar at the time and he looked over at Jennings and smiled. “Oh she can fly,” he said in a proud tone. “She can fly right alright.”
Jennings had laughed at that, and was about to make a sarcastic remark, but both the look of pride on Juan’s face and the tone of it in his voice stopped him, and for a while he kept his mouth shut about what the other pilot had said, but he did wonder a lot about it.
Jennings and Juan were not the only pilots onboard. There were four of them. Two pilots for the SP-10, which happened to be Juan and another man who Jennings just knew as Hector.
Himself and one other pilot, a woman, where to fly the helicopter. Not that either the helicopter or the SP-10 required two pilots to fly them. They were single person aircraft, so they alternated flying them on searches. When Jennings was out searching the ocean in the helicopter, the woman, Commander Maloy was her name but she liked to be called Odd Ball, would be on standby, and resting, and when she was out searching, Jennings would be on standby and usually took a nap or would be with one of the other pilots for the SP-10, standing on the deck, looking out over the ocean and not doing much else but talking and waiting, and in Jennings’s case, hoping.
While the Navy understood what they were looking for, and about what he had told them of the island, when Jennings had first reported to the Eldridge he had been asked to give the command staff a briefing on what he knew, which of course had made him a little nervous.
In the past when he had done this on other ships, he had been greeted with disbelief, sarcasm, and overall people had taken what he had to say as a joke and suggested he was delusional, and he had expected the same thing from the command staff of the Eldridge.
In this meeting had been the captain of the Eldridge, Captain Valtarie, who was a tall, slender, yet muscular man beneath his uniform, with a handsome face, sharp blue eyes and light brown hair that was cropped short on the sides of his head where it was turning silver. The executive officer, his second in command had been there as well, and he was Captain Tie, a short, muscular, bald headed African American man who while handsome, always had a stern look on his face, which you would expect from someone in his position.
There had been several other officers there as well as the other three pilots, Hector, Juan and Maloy, and the captain of a detachment of marines, stationed on the Eldridge.
In attendants were a few people Jennings had not been accustomed to seeing in military briefings. One was a doctor, but of what, Jennings had no idea. The other two where scientists. Doctor Harold Bartford, who was British, specialized in physics. Doctor Karan Sanders, a very attractive small woman with the lean body of a gymnast, flowing strawberry blond hair and a pretty face dusted with a faint dusting of freckles which gave her a cute, girlish look, was a paleontologist.
That had surprised Jennings that she was on board, and was someone Jennings would have always thought the Navy would wanted on their searches for the island, considering the nature of the animals that lived there—but this was actually the first time in the last five years he had ever encountered a paleontologist on the search.
There had also been two other people in attendance who Jennings had not been introduced to and who stood off in the far corners of the briefing room, both not wearing typical Navy uniforms or civilian clothing. One was a very tall man, who was almost as muscular as Juan was, and he had very pale skin tones that looked as if they had a weird blue tint to them. His hair also looked a blue-black color and was cropped short, and he had very large, oval shaped eyes that were of a deep indigo blue coloring. He had been dressed in an odd, dark blue jumper like outfit, such as a jet polite would wear.
The other person was a female, a small, petite woman with a smooth, hairless, bald head, very attractive oval shaped face, with eyes larger than the other man’s, which were of a deep brown coloring. Oddly her ears looked as if they were pointy, and her skin was a very pale, almost paper white in coloring. She was wearing an odd, gray and white uniform that sort of reminded Jennings of someone in the medical field.
As worried as he was about telling them all what he knew, Jennings had begun the meeting by explaining what had happened to the kids, the rescue and then had paused for a moment, thinking about what he wanted to say next, and just decided to say it.
“So you all understand, as impossible as this sounds, we’re talking about an island inhabited by very large animals. Very large, supposedly extinct animals.” He paused there again and looked around the room. “I mean dinosaurs.” Again he paused and looked at the group, waiting for the sarcasm and jokes to start. To his amazement, everyone in the group just stood or sat where they were, looking at him and waiting for him to say more.
It totally took him by surprise and for a longer moment he just stood there in front of everyone, confused by their reaction.
“Is something wrong, Commander,” Captain Valtarie, had then asked?
Jennings stammered for a moment. “No-no sir, it’s just that, usually this is where people ask me if I am on drugs or seeing a psychologist.”
Captain Valtarie chuckled at that, while Captain Tie said loudly, in a boastful tone, “This is the Eldridge, Commander Jennings. If you know the history of this ship, you’ll understand that nothing surprises her crew or is impossible to believe.”
Jennings sill didn’t know what to say or how to react to that so he just nodded his head and said, “Yes, sir. Good.”
At that point Doctor Sanders held up her hand and asked, “how much interaction did you have with the dinosaurs?”
Jennings frowned at that. “Interaction? Mostly just running for my life. Especially from the raptors.”
“Rap—raptors,” the captain of the marines asked?
“You said there are raptors on the island,” Doctor Sanders asked in an excited tone? “You mean, Velociraptors?”
Jennings nodded his head. “Yes I do, and they are very dangerous. Any shore party will need to be heavily armed.”
“No need to worry about that,” the marine officer remarked. “We’ll make them extinct again.”
It was at that point when Captain Valtarie stepped forward and asked Doctor Sanders, if she had prepared the portfolio on the various types of animals they might encounter should they find the island, and the dangers concern them, to which she replied that she had.
Captain Valtarie then looked over at Captain Tie and said he wanted all the officers and N.C.Os to seriously look over what Doctor Sanders had prepared and prepare their crews based on the information she had provided them.
Listening to them, Jennings had been a bit shocked, and impressed. He then mentioned the rescue he had been on and seeing the flying dinosaur like animal that had flown by his helicopter after they had rescued the family.
To that the marine officer had remarked, “that was Rodan.”
At first Jennings had thought he was joking, but before he could react to it, Doctor Sanders said, “it was a Pterodactylus.”
“Looked like Rodan,” the marine captain muttered.
“You saw it,” Jennings asked?
“We were nearby the night of that rescue you mentioned,” Captain Valtarie said. “We were monitoring the situation and com traffic. For the record we made every attempt to capture the animal alive,” he said as he glanced at Doctor Sanders. “However, the weather was not in or favor and in the interest to public safety on the main land, it was necessary to . . . put it down.”
Jennings gawked at the captain for a moment before asking, “you killed it?” He was amazed.
“It was necessary,” Captain Valtarie said with a nod of his head.
The marine smiled as he also nodded his head.
“The animal’s remains were sent to our land base at 61, for exam and further study,” Captain Valtarie concluded.
“I still would have liked to have had more time to examine the animal’s remains,” Doctor Sanders muttered.
“If we find the island, you’ll get to do that and more,” Doctor Bartford remarked as he shifted in his seat.
Jennings had stood there looking around at everyone, and feeling both impressed and a little frustrated.
“Something wrong, Commander,” Captain Tie asked?
“Just wishing I had been sent to the Eldridge five years ago to look for the island instead of now,” Jennings commented. And that was what he honestly felt and was what had been thinking at that moment. Wishing he had been sent to this ship right away with these people, and thinking of little Mae all alone all these years on that island.
“Yes,” Captain Valtarie said. “Well, we were on mission until recently.” As he finished that he looked over at the tall man in the odd flight suit, with the faint blue tint to his skin.
This odd man smiled as he looked at Captain Valtarie, and bowed slightly as he spoke. “For which I and my people are grateful for.” He had a slight accent to his speech that sounded like it might be French, but wasn’t.
Captain Valtarie slightly bowed in return. “The darkness will never prevail,” he said softly.
Both the man and the small woman with the point ears and bald head bowed slightly to the captain.