Chapter 6

Written by: Joe Labrum

“Any word from E.R.O. command, over”

Bishop spoke into a silver microphone, his voice low, trying not to wake his comrade. He waited several minutes for a reply then tried again; again no response.

He leaned closer, his lips brushing the mike, and tried again, “Sherwin, are you there... come in”.

The old Hallicrafters SX122 squealed and hummed but produced no encouraging sound. In the blackness, the glow of its vacuum tubes lit the corner of the room the way a safelight illuminated a photographic darkroom. The last time Bishop saw Rankin was just before they lost power again. He was wide-mouthed, propped against the back wall on the rear legs of his chair. Bishop heard him mumble something before he fell asleep. Was that an hour ago, or several; he lost himself in time as he tried to restore their connection with the “Organization”.

“If it weren’t for the batteries, we would be isolated again," he said to himself as he spun the tuning dial. 'The antenna mast should still be up and functioning,' he thought. 'The storm wasn’t that bad, just a lot of rain.'  His mind wandered as he stared into the glowing dials searching for a signal, any signal. Finally, without meaning to, he gave into sleep.

The sun shone high in the sky when Bishop finally awoke. Hot rays streamed through the small porthole overlooking a catwalk on the east side of the massive oil rig. He looked out at the coastline several miles away trying to conjure up rescue craft.

Realization that he was alone struck him. He looked to where Rankin had been sleeping and saw the overturned chair. A feeling of helplessness shot through him, knowing that Rankin was the one who could fix things. The radio was still not working.

Bishop crossed the room and studied Rankin’s chair and surrounding area for clues. From footprints in the white powder covering the floor, he deduced that Rankin left voluntarily with someone or at least without a struggle. Perhaps the intruder had a weapon.  The prints showed someone woke him; he tipped his chair forward onto four legs and stood up. Then the two of them left together. Why the chair was overturned didn’t add up. Something else didn’t make sense. The footprints led straight to the hatchway that he and Rankin blocked closed. Now, it was open again. How on earth could one man manage to push it open from below with so much weighing it down?

The dust on the floor held clues; Bishop examined every inch again. Suddenly the question was obvious; where did the intruder come from? The footprints only went from the chair to the hatch, how did he get in? Looking up Bishop saw an open ceiling tile above the chair, insulation floating down from it in a fine mist. There was something else more troubling. Bishop noticed a faint footprint, that didn’t match the others, on the seat of the chair.

Joe Labrum (USA)

 

Comments

I think this is one of the best serials so far. Loads of action, suspense, and mystery; all very believable. Joe has created doubt in the readers mind that there are only three men on the rig. Why hasn't Bishop been killed? Where is Rankin? How many terrorists are now on board? Will Bishop raise base? So many questions that help make this a darn good read. Nice work Joe.
Thanks Ray, your too kind.