November 17th 42
There is something strange, unusual, happening in the outskirts of Colombo. The sound of earthmoving machinery, concrete trucks, and shovels and picks is absent. The city’s fortifications, the location of frantic at first and steady building later are quiet.
The British command has decreed that, after achieving sixth level, there is no need to increase their strength any further as the IJN is not deemed capable of mounting an assault on the island anymore.
Far to the East, at Lunga in Guadalcanal, Major General Willis H. Hale looks on the busy harbor through his binoculars. Cargo ships unload a never ending stream of supplies, food, building materials, beans, guns, ammo; all the things that make war possible. He frowns a little seeing a different, never ending stream of small wooden boats, out of place in this military and naval outpost. They bring a different cargo and belong to a different people.
The natives, a group of men and women that have withstood the Japanese and the allies, like they did with the evangelical preachers that came before them. Like the coconuts on the beach, they let the hurricane winds blow over them, bending in the gale but, after it is over, remaining standing where stronger trees are but lumber on the sand.
Now they come bringing, in their pangas, fruit, coconuts, that supplement the GIs diet. The local trees have been stripped of their fruit long ago. Sometimes they bring a little information about what the enemy is doing, information that is never trustworthy and seldom timely. They also bring small black pigs; his mouth waters at the memory of the last squealer he ate not two days ago, at a luau with some other staff officers. They leave with cigarettes, beer and other stuff the soldiers are so good at liberating from his storage depots.
One of those Pangas is entering the harbor as he looks on. A little sturdier than usual, it sits low in the water, burdened by its load of pigs and, he notices, a white man in the center of the canoe.
He watches the native craft as it enters deeper into the anchorage. He sees the stout man sitting in the center of the boat, the tattered remnants of a naval shirt clinging to his chest.
“Truck me!” he says, amazed.
Then he runs to the pier.
“Admiral,” he salutes, “we thought you were dead.”
Admiral William ‘Bull’ Halsey stands up, leaning on a native crutch.
“The news of my death has been greatly exaggerated.”
“Tell me, how goes the war.”
Appear at places to which he must hasten; move swiftly where he does not expect you.