Star Blitzers, Episode 6–“Serena”

A scream and a thundering thud  had me counting my teeth, but I put on a cheerful face. “See? Our luck’s starting to turn already. And only another 45 kilometers–”

Serena broke in, suddenly much clearer. “…down their spears and watered heaven….”

Another impact rattled me down to my tailbone, but Firth was concentrating on what she was saying. “…down their spears. That’s from the original message. When the stars threw down their spears.”

“Compare them,” I said. “If they’re identical, it’s just a loop.”

“Already done it. There’s a difference of half a second in the length of the phrase and the meteorite impacts in the background come at different times.”

“Yeah. And in the second one she sounds more desperate.”

“More desperate?”

“Yeah. And I don’t blame her. I’m getting a little desperate myself and she’s been up here a lot longer than I have.”

Then she was there again. “Is anyone listening?”

I jumped at the console “You bet we are!”

The gadgets in the cockpit were banging around like the percussion section in a Martian symphony, but I yelled over the clatter. “This is Beta-Alpha nine-zero-one-one, Zak Bowman, seven-four-three-eight, and Commander Abel Firth. Who are you? What’s your location?”

Serena answered.: “I’m seven-eight-four-one-four-nine-five-zero-zero. Position eighty-nine-point seven-three by ninety-four-point-eight-seven, the crash site of Aldebaran Sirius two-seven-four-five.”

I glanced at Firth. He was intent on the data bank. “She’s got the code right. It’s the 480. Who is she?”

He continued to scan the bank.  “According to her code, Serena Yuri. A Daulian civilian.”

“And she’s got the code for a 480? What’s going on here?” The racket died down enough for me to talk to her again. “‘What’s the status of your craft?”

She was clear now, crisp and clear. “One-eight-seven-four Alpha Centauri.”

“She’s got the supercode right, too,” I told Firth. “Scrubbed clean.” Now we were getting somewhere. “Four-nine-five-zero-zero, what’s the status of your crew?”


That stopped me for a second–that and another impact.

“Say again?”

She was calm. I”ll say that for her. “Three perished upon impact and the other two went out to reconnoiter while I deleted the craft’s programs and codes. During a squall I lost contact with them and there’s no signal from their transponder. I have to assume the worst.”

“The message you’ve been sending, what’s its reference file?”

She laughed. Even coming through the static, it put me at ease. “It wasn’t code. It was a poem. All I have left is voice transmission. At first I filled it with the standard distress call, but after a while I needed something to keep my spirits up, so I started reciting poetry.”

“We’re one hundred fifty kilometers from your position and closing,” I said. “ETA, three universal hours, ten minutes.”

Silence again and then she said, “I’ll wait.”

She’s got a flair for understatement,” I said. “I wonder if–“

Firth turned away from the console as if to cut her out of the conversation and looked at me with those stony eyes. “She’s a hundred and fifty kilometers away, Bowman. There are two obstacles.”

Next: Episode 7–“She May Not Be Who You Think She Is.”

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