ita new her firearm was in one of the boxes they had hoisted to the deck close to the staircase on port.  They'd entered the ship via one of the lower loading doors where they planned to exit the vessel, so she was literally defenseless.  She quickly found a short piece of pipe to brandish in protection of herself.

Ready as she was ever going to be with just a club, she flattened herself into an indention in the wall now in the shade from the massive fallen tower.  Right now she was exceeding glad of all the time she'd spent with Sung Wu in hand to hand combat.

She could feel the big ship list as she took on water, how it shuddered and groaned, almost as if her soul were attempting to leave the body of the ship to the mercies of the unrelenting and unforgiving seas.

The huge ship would soon slide to the depths of the sea and make her mark there on the floor some five hundred feet below.  There, the salts would immediately begin their work although something this massive could take several centuries to disentagrate.

The breaches they'd created with the explosives weren't massive in comparison to the ship, but plenty big enough to prevent someone from closing some compartment doors to prevent the ship from sinking; that is, had anyone been there to try to save her.  Plus there were the open huge lower loading doors that would begin to take water soon.

There it was again.  Someone was walking around on this ship.  She waited with breath barely audible, and attempted to pin point the direction from which the sound was coming.  She finally realized, whoever it was were ascending the stairs from a lower level.   There was no place to go in which she would be able to make a get-away.  Especially since their boat had disappeared.

As she listened to the steps coming closer and closer, it was quite evident that someone was taking their time looking around the ship.  Was that person aware of her?  Or looking for her?

At that moment something in the bowels of the vessel collapsed and it leaned over another degree or so to port.  But it didn't distract her.  Someone was coming her way and would be on her in seconds.  How ironic to survive the blast and the collapse of the drilling tower only to be taken out but some unknown person.

She was even more amazed that anyone could survive the blasts belowdecks, but then, many un-explainable things had happened to sailors since man in his history of traversing the seas.

As she raised her club to strike the intruder, she followed attentively to judge the right moment to strike.  Finally, after what seemed like an hour, she saw the shadow of the person coming closer and closer to her.  Her muscles were taut as a springboard ready to pounce and to completely eliminate whoever was coming.

She desperately wanted to be away from this vessel before she slid beneath the waves, or, before another group of authorities arrived.  There's no doubt she would be arrested immediately or simply shot and left.

The unknown intruder stepped up to within inches of visual contact.  She saw the shadow pausing at the edge of where the sunlight stopped.  Rita stood waiting, itching to do battle and make her escape.

She watched as the shadow followed the someone who was coming closer, then saw the shadow melt into the shadow of the shack in which she hid.  With breath barely audible she stood poised, pipe above her head, muscles taut, itching to take out the problem that stalked her.

Something must have caught the attention of the stalker and he paused; a second or two in complete silence must have satisfied him, then he started back in the direction from which he came.  Rita leaned out far enough to take a look.  When she saw who it was, she screamed and took off running toward him.  How Donny had escaped, she had no clue.

Donny was incredulous that she escaped injury as well.  But they were still in trouble.  The skiff was gone and Port authorities had already come and gone but could return at any time, or some other person bent on some fast easy money could come looking.  Whatever it was that Leonard had used to convince the crew to abandon this ship was obviously well known in the town some twelve miles away.

It was quite an amazing thing in itself that they didn't get caught.  The Port authorities would only allow one officer on the vessel to check it out and obviously chosen by lot.  Not finding any evidence of persons, skiffs, or anything pertaining to a saboteur, he glanced quickly around on topside and seemed as if he did not like the chncing of catching the illness of the sailers. He hurried looked around not really looking at anything and certainly not willing to crawl over any of the twisted steel.

His search quickly ended, he climbed over the edge to his boat, and they took off across the ocean toward a point some five miles away.  They hightailed it away from that ship!  It was true that a thick column of black smoke was pouring out the stern.  And a chopper had made three passes, preventing them from making an escape even if they'd had a skiff.

They kept out of sight of the chopper not knowing if they were known to be on board.  At any rate, they sure didn't want to risk discovery this late in the game.

Donny and Rita finally located their skiff.  Part of the tower had fallen on it and sank it, the only portion of it being visible was a small top part of the bow being held barely below the surface of the water with the light rope tethering it.  It was destroyed and would sink as soon as the air in the point of the bow that was bubbling rapidly to the surface had escaped.

Abandoning all hope for that route of escape, they went back down the crazy leaning stairs to search out the equipment rooms in their attempt to locate some other means of escape.  In one of the emergency containers below they found a very small inflatable life boat with a couple of oars.

If they could make out till nightfall they could slip away and possibly make it to shore from where they'd entered the ocean to do the job before first light the prior morning.  A precursory search soon located several containers of munitions, both topside and belowdecks.  Hopefully it would go in the explosion, but lucky for them, it had not as of yet.

The ship supposedly was a mining ship in that it 'took' metals from the ocean floor.  Well, that was the story.  When General Randolph found out the true skinny, his first intention was to send a couple of his Old Patriots but there were only a small few that could be spared or mustered.  When he started seeking volunteers, Rita and Donny were the first to raise their hands.

The group was the result of a militia that was built by General Sherman Randolph, and his lifetime friend, William Travis.  General Randolph's "Tanks" had merged forces with Williams Old Patriots group.  The total of the group now had quite a span of years ranging from the early twenties to Old Joe in his seventies.

General Sherman was the heir to the huge underground bunker built by his grandfather from which they operated as a command center.  Rita was one of the girls saved by the two groups acting as one when they raided the The Bunkers' sister, the Hanoi Hilton.  Almost two dozen girls had been saved from certain death and many times being sexually molested before being killed by the moslems who seemed to have the upper hand.

Rita and Donny both had trained heavily under Sung Wu, one of the "Four."  Hearing how the Old Patriots, Last Mission Accepted had formed and had taken down many czars of the rogue POTUS was quite a story in itself, and Rita demanded she be allowed to help in any way possible.

Donny had started training as a pilot as soon as he joined up with General Randolphs militia and had checked out in one of the groups' Cessna 172's  He had flown left seat to this location for the 'job.'  Too, Rita, the oldest by some five years was by now already a seasoned pilot in several of the planes.

The job was almost scrubbed because of lack of men to do the job.  There were some eighteen or so other 'jobs' in progress at that time the Red U came up.  Considering the importance of the mission, William decided to ask for volunteers at the last minute before shelving the project.  Would he consider sending a man and a woman to do the job?

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Chapter II