One man’s paradise was another man’s purgatory.
Major Bruno Michel of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command lowered his backpack onto the jetty at Curlew Bay and did a slow three-sixty. Turquoise ocean. Blond crescent beach. Sun loungers—empty, seeing it was stupid o’clock in the morning. Villas, apartments, a restaurant and bar with a big deck. A glassy pool. Tightly packed gums and pines, rolling down a cliff to the water. Big, screechy birds swooping into the trees, their white feathers flashing in the rising sun—his first cockatoos, he decided. The jetty. The retreating ferry, its wash rolling into the beach, doubling the three-inch swell. Who the hell ever got sent to a place like this on ‘emergency deployment’?
True, he’d had worse postings, but no matter how much of a shitshow the op was, he usually had a general understanding of why he was there.
Hecaught the scent of brine and baking bread—not from the same source, presumably. And roasting coffee beans, which alone nearly had him breaking rule number one of this batshit assignment: no fraternising with the locals.
Was this deployment a punishment or a reward? If a reward, it was wasted on Bruno. A punishment from someone who knew him well seemed more likely. If so, it was outstanding trolling. Curiosity Island, the Whitsundays, Queensland, Australia. Contents: one resort, one backpackers, plenty of spiders but no koalas or kangaroos (according to the captain of the ‘ferry’, as the nine-seater boat that had dropped him off was ambitiously called), and the newest transnational training base in the Pacific. Some lark dreamed up by an Australian naval officer as a hobby job en route to retirement?