The Day the Earth Went Dark Episode 3: Caught Mid-Transmission

      Xal could smell the charred metal as he walked across the open bays designed for muscle retention. The Fleet Admiral’s Office sat a few hundred meters away from Xal’s room, but with the minimized gravity, he’d already covered over half the ground. Maybe Admiral Crafton is ready to listen to my plan. Xal sent the Fleet Admiral a plan the day after the initial attack. He’d discovered some outgoing messages from the ship that attacked Dark Specter 1 before leaving their Area of Operations. The foreign ship, which Xal still hadn’t identified make or country of origin, sent out a message claiming that threats of Earth 25.1 possible breach of space immobilized. 

      The steel door of the Fleet Admiral’s office shone like polished silver, though the patterns of the metalwork made it look more like Damascus steel. Xal wasn’t sure about the door’s composition, but it didn’t look like the same material as the one in his room. Xal knocked twice and went to the position of attention. The camera at the top right of the door sounded like a wheel on a track as it powered on and then rotated to face Xal. Where did he have it watching before I came? Then Fleet Admiral Crafton’s voice boomed from the speaker next to Xal’s ear.

      “State your business, Space Ranger,” Fleet Admiral Crafton said.

      “Sir,” Xal replied with a snap, “Spaceman First Class Xal Robinson here. I report as per your request. The purpose is unknown to me.”

      The door hissed open as the pneumatic pistons pushed the door along its track. A large steel desk devoid of any decoration besides a name placard sat bolted into the floor, which kept it from floating when the artificial gravity deactivated. The man behind the desk was as burly and grumpy looking as any general Xal remembered from the movies back home. If he had to compare him to any actor, Xal thought it would be Colt McNeally, a man who could never rid himself of a military or law enforcement look. 

      “Spaceman First Class Robinson, please sit down,” Fleet Admiral Crafton said.

      The steel chair sat bolted in front of the desk allowed for more legroom than Xal expected.

      “I’m going to get down to the point and save you any wasted explanations,” Fleet Admiral Crafton said. “I already know that you just sent a message out across the frequencies to try and contact someone. It seems that someone on Earth is trying to respond or start their form of communication. You found the initial leak, and I’ll be damned if you can’t find who leaked it. Until that point, though, we need to assume everyone leaked the information. So I need you to send out a series of messages that will hopefully weed out the varmint who sent out our location for the foreigners to attack.”

      “Sir,” Xal asked, “are you saying you know who attacked us?” 

      “Yes,” Fleet Admiral Crafton said, “but in a way, we have no idea who they are. In the last few days, I received one message that claimed they were part of some intergalactic organization and saw us as a threat. They spoke English as clear as day.”

      “Sir, why are you telling me all of this?” Xal asked.

      “Because they requested a response from us,” Fleet Admiral Crafton said, “and you’re our last surviving LCS on this ship. Seeing as you were off duty when the attack happened, it saved your life. So I will feed you a series of messages to relay over the next few days or weeks, depending on how the enemy responds. Also, some keywords should flush out our traitor in the process. You’re dismissed Spaceman First Class Robinson.”

            Fleet Admiral Crafton handed Xal a folded piece of paper and then returned to work on his computer. The door hissed open behind Xal, and the stale air of the Dark Specter 1 replaced the stench of B.O. he hadn’t realized was there until that moment. Xal tucked the paper into his uniform’s right breast pocket before starting the walk back to his room. Good job Xal, maybe next time you can’t be a dumb ass and encrypt your transmission. While the Fleet Admiral seemed convinced that the attackers were otherworldly, Xal didn’t see it as possible. Someone had broken into their systems and leaked their position. And then another group took advantage of that information for an attack. Xal just needed to retrace the messages a little bit more to find the mole.

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