“A Woman’s Intuition”
(aka Susan Moore)
Chapter 3: “Knock, Knock. Who’s There?”
The outer and inner locks were blown, so Derek and Conroy were able to enter the ship unobstructed. Each checked his lifeline, making sure they didn’t get tangled up before going further in. Their hand lamps lit the corridor brightly, showing to the young men’s eyes signs of a pitched battle within as to match what was evident on the hull outside. It was dark and spooky here, no flashing warning lights, just dead space. With their hearts beating madly, the two ventured further in. At a conjunction of two corridors, they found a map of the ship then made their way to the bridge, looking for the device that was sending out the distress signal.
On the bridge, Derek swept one side while Conroy the other.
Wildstar found the radio station and noted that there was power there.
“Maybe,” said the pilot. He waved a hand at the wall he had been floating alongside. “See these scorch marks? Looks like someone was trying to cover their tracks. Look, the emblem seems to be wiped out. However, they didn’t do such a good job. I still can still make out a little bit of it.”
Sure enough, etched into the metal was a shallow triangle. Whoever had tried to wipe it out hadn’t cut completely through the metal. The score marks went horizontally across and was, on closer inspection, a slight triangle. As to what was on the triangle, there wasn’t a clue.
“Who uses a triangle as an emblem?” mused Derek. He radioed Hardy. “Ask Nova to check up on all Earth units that use a triangle as part of their logo.”
“Roger,” came Hardy’s reply.
“Let’s keep going.” It didn’t take long before they had entered yet another major intersection. Here, Derek consulted the ship’s map while Conroy kept looking around.
Meanwhile, when Hardy’s voice came floating out of the speakers, Nova was fairly dancing in her seat. She had remembered several former girlfriends who all used unusual codes when they were in the Academy. Turning their names over in her head, the blonde discarded many of these. Thus, by the time Hardy finished his request, she had already pulled up the records. She paused, looked at the screen before rising and skipping over to Homer’s station.
Her appearance at his elbow startled poor Homer. He jumped and stuttered, “Nova... how did you know what he was going to ask about these?”
“Oh,” grinned Nova widely, “a little bird told me.” She started to walk away but stopped and told Homer. “Here, let me tell him.”
Wordlessly, the communication officer rose and let Nova slip into his seat. She tuned in on Hardy and began, “Okay, Hardy, here you go...”
On the ship, Conroy asked Derek, “Have you ever seen or been in anything like this?”
“Nope. I believe it’s a class from Earth that was just commissioned before I went out on patrol for the first time.” Derek flashed his light along the walls. “What about you?”
“‘Fraid not,” answered the pilot. “I didn’t even know these were made.”
Hardy was surprised to hear Nova’s voice over his headset. “That was fast.”
“You bet. Now, here’s the list. First is the 121st Fighting Tigers of the Army, the 81st Division and…” Nova’s voice crowed here, “… the Special Intelligence Forces of the combined Earth Defense Command!”
At first, Hardy was speechless. “Can you repeat that last one, ma’am?”
“You heard me,” reported Nova dangerously. “Tell Derek that I’m almost positive that what they are in is part of a new craft made for the Intelligence forces.”
“Alright, ma’am,” Harry’s Southern accent was getting thick at the incredulous news. “I’ll let the Capt’n know. Hardy out.”
Nova leaned back in the seat with a smug look on her face. She whispered softly, making Homer jump again. “It has to be them.”
As Derek and Conroy floated further in, they found that the officer’s quarters were completely stripped, the captain’s quarters were in shambles and the galley was in a mess. Just as they were to go deeper, Hardy’s voice came in. “Capt’n, Nova says the computer came up with several leads on that there emblem.”
“Let’s hear it.” Derek stopped and Conroy followed his example.
“First, the 121st Fighting Tigers...” started Hardy.
“Somehow I don’t think the army was here,” muttered Conroy.
Derek shot him a quick look as Hardy went on. “...Then there’s the 81st Division, also army...and...uh...the...”
“Out with it,” growled Wildstar.
“The Special Intelligence Forces of the Combined Earth Defense Command.”
Conroy let out a long, controlled whistle.
“Are you sure?” Derek asked disbelievingly.
“Yep, Nova was positive, sir,” affirmed Hardy. He stopped for a second, then added, “Not only was she positive Capt’n, she was… like a jitter bug about the Intel findn’.”
‘Great,’ thought Derek. “All right, thanks. Keep your eyes open.” He turned to Conroy. “Let’s head for the engine section and check on the damage there.”
It wasn’t too long for them to find the ruined engine room. Here they found a large opening that had been blasted into the main engine. They paused just below the hole and looked up. Derek attached his light to his belt and floated up to the hole with Conroy following suit. Whatever did attack this ship had made sure it wasn’t going anywhere. They peered down the hole, their lights swallowed up by the darkness until it hit a plain- looking box.
A powerful subspace antenna poked up through its top and Derek surmised that this was where the real signal started before being fed to the bridge. As the two young men got closer, they could see that the box had been an Astrofighter radio unit which had been ingeniously converted into a long range, low frequency distress radio. But there were no markings as to who made it or if it was from a fighter.
“Just fine,” snorted Derek in disgust. “We came all this way for this.”
“It hasn’t been here long,” commented Conroy, touching the box.
“And how can you tell?” Wildstar snapped sarcastically and started back up. “Come on, let’s go. We have a comet to stop and a mysterious signal to follow, remember?”
All the way back to their tethered fighters, Conroy smiled behind Derek’s muttering back. For on the box, down towards the bottom corner, was etched a slogan that had endured for years: ‘Kilroy was here.’
Derek rattled on. “...of all the stupid, waste of time things to do. To come all this way and find a dumb black radio. Can’t tell who made it, who left it, it they are still here, if this is a trap or any other such nonsense.”
When they reached the airlock, he radioed Hardy. “We found nothing of use here.”
There was silence. Both men quickly scanned the outlying section of space before them. Hardy’s ship was nowhere to be seen. Derek felt suddenly cold. He tried again. “Hardy? Are you there?”
“Something’s wrong here,” sang Conroy, pulling out his gun.
“No kidding.” Derek’s voice was heavy.
“Looking for someone?” asked an undeniably female voice from behind them.
TO BE CONTINUED…
To Return to Susan’s Introduction….click here