t was a go.  The mighty Chervana Ukraina (Red Ukraine) was vacant and the green light was urging them on.  They'd held up on the mission simply because did not want to have to work around the personnel who would no doubt try to stop them.  And they weren't up to simply killing the innocents who were aboard so they'd waited until Leonard had cleared the ship.

Problem is, he'd gotten sick and had been evacuated off the ship with everybody else.  It had taken just a little over a week to get the ship completely abandoned.  But he had done it!  He'd finished his first part of the mission, now it was their turn.  At the last minute the fourth person had broken an arm, and Leonard, the third person of the group had been hauled off to the hospital.  That left two of them to do a six man job.

Marguerite, ((French) - pronounced margureet), derived from the noun margaron meaning 'pearl', was quite a beauty.  And she was ALL American.  Although her name was taken from a French name list, she made sure everybody knew she was not French!  And, she always introduced herself as "Rita."  Her last name was Bennett

Now, here she was standing at the opposite end (and opposite side), of the ship watching her cohort, Donny Clyborn go over the side when the topside explosion took place.  Everything within ten feet of the blast had been obliterated but she was sure he had somewhat of a chance simply because the operator shack was between him and the charge.

He was standing quite near the edge of the ship where the removable rail was down for loading and within two hundred feet of the blast.  Had the doghouse (control shack for loading), not been located between him and the blast, he would have been incinerated.

When the explosion happened, he was thrown off like a rag and she doubted whether he was even alive when he hit the water.  Had the explosions went off according to plan, Donny and Rita would have been safely off the ship and in the air prior to any danger.

But something went wrong; not only had the explosion gone off unexpectedly; the fuel tank charges and one of the four charges set to knock out the tower legs, did not explode.  Because of this, only one leg had collapsed throwing it toward the stern and starboard instead of port, and, it came right in her direction.  She heard the haunting, ghostly screaming of the heavy metal as it warped and bent and collapsed.  It was coming right for her.

The starboard legs of the tower had intentionally been left intact with the idea for it to fall directly across the ship toward the port side to make it roll and aid in the sinking of her.  Charges had been set in the port side to open up the hull in four different places.  It was quite a chore to scuttle a ship of this size with dual walls of three/quarter inch plate.  They had spent the biggest part of the day rigging the charges.

Fictitious Ship

"Well," she thought to herself.  "I knew this was a dangerous mission when I took it, and so did Donny.  She instantly glanced up into the falling mass of metal, the catwalk frame around the top, the gigantic rollers over which the cable looped again and again to increase the lift.  All of it, coming down on her.  There was no where to run quick enough to get out of the way of the huge mass of iron.  No doubt it consisted of many tons.

She stood perfectly still and waited for it.  She wondered how long she would be conscious, how much of the crush she would feel as it smashed her body into a bloody pulp.  The noise was deafening, the whole ship shook and vibrated from the awesome force coming down around her.  Everything was in slow motion and it seemed as if she could pick out the sounds each part was making.

She was sorry for Donny, and hoped he hadn't suffered.  All this in microseconds as the mountain of metal collapsed onto the deck of the huge ship, sending shudders through her vast bulk.

She did not have even the slightest idea that the ship would survive the blasts and especially with the wreckage that would occur from the falling mast.  The explosions were to go off fifteen minutes after they had left the ship.  But that was before a piece of iron against the wall of the machine shop fell striking an electric welder stinger cable and pulling it down.  It cut through the heavy insulation and shorted to the detonation timer of that portion of the charges.

Several of the charges went off instantly.  Donny had no idea why the welder was left on in the first place.  Could be the sickness induced by Leonard had stricken the man using it suddenly.  I mean, let's face it.  When explosive diarrhea hits you . . . . .

The explosions were activated much too early, but they went off like clockwork, in the correct sequence.  Donny and Rita both heard the rumble of the explosions belowdecks and knew they were in trouble.  They pretty much knew they would both die.  Donny might have made it had he been a little further away from the final explosion of that series.

There was quite a breeze kicked up by the falling mast, and the upper deck of the massive ship rattled, shook and swayed as it impacted.  All happening within six seconds; and it was all over with.  Rita was absolutely amazed as she realized she had not gotten one scratch on her body.  A couple of the huge steel beams were within mere inches from her.  What seemed to be louder than anything was the instantaneous quietness which was quite overwhelming to her.

Amazing wasn't even the slightest description of the sequence of events, beginning with the explosions.  She'd simply stood still as she heard the huge cable beginning to uncoil from the block over which it was strung, and heard the whine as it snaked its way into the sea.  Not because of bravery; but frozen with fear.

With as much equipment, huge engines, tanks, and the like that covered the deck sometimes three stories high, she was fortunate to be standing in a place that shielded her from the mass of falling iron.  She looked around quickly to see how she would be able to get out of the tangled mess, and quickly spotted the easiest route out through the debris.

She was going to have to do some crawling and climbing, and no doubt would probably break a nail, maybe even a bumped head or a scrape, but there was no doubt about it would be a whole lot better than being crushed to a bloody blob on the deck!  Compared to what could have been . . .  This was an amazing ordeal!

No.  The word amazing didn't even come close to describing the ordeal.  It was a massive miracle!

She was wanting to look after Donny.  He had gone over the rail approximately thirty seconds ago and she should be able to spot his body.  Within another thirty seconds, she was through the maze of tangled steel, equipment and well drilling stuff and was looking over the side where Donny went off.

Donny was no where to be seen.  She traversed the entire length of the ship, all across the stern, then up the starboard side.  Something else was wrong . . .  The little skiff in which they had gotten to the ship was gone.  She had no idea when it vamoosed because she would have heard the engine running.  Certainly not during the collapse of the tower, because it would take a few minutes for it to get out of earshot.

Rita had looked all around the ship even though it was already listing, and with each minute further and further.  It had taken her a good while to walk the entire ship and already ten or so minutes had passed since the explosions.  Then she heard something, sounded like footsteps.  She stopped then heard it again.  Obviously their handler had failed to make sure the ship was completely un-inhabited while they set the charges to scuttle her.

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Chapter I