An Excerpt from Captured by the Hawk
A day later, while Katrina was waiting patiently for her regular meeting with the Black Hawk, she noticed an unwelcome change in the air. No fresh air circulated through the bedchamber and the lights dimmed. What was happening? She decided there must be a problem with the life support systems on the ship. It would be serious if the engines lost power. She paced the room, feeling helpless. No one came at the usual time to escort her to Black Hawk’s cabin.
At length, more than two hours later, Miriam entered, bearing the usual tray with food and water. By this time, Katrina was growing frantic with inaction in the face of peril, as the room’s lighting fluctuated wildly and the temperature cooled uncomfortably.
“What is going on, Miriam?” Kat blurted in a sharply pitched tone.
“The power is low. Captain’s checking the com circuits for the fault.”
“Let me speak to Captain Hawk,” Kat urged, believing she had the skill to trace the breakage.
Miriam shook her head. “He doesn’t want you on the bridge. I’m sorry.”
“You speak to him then. Tell him I’m the Grey Kat, code thief. If I can break into coms, certainly I can help repair them.”
The woman stared at Kat’s intense face, and slowly replied, “We could do with a good com tech. Our com expert was killed a year ago in a dock brawl on Aajaos port.”
“Take me to the bridge!” Kat insisted, eager to fix the problem.
Miriam nodded slowly. “I’ll take you up there, even if the Captain doesn’t like it.” She grabbed Kat by the hand and led her out into the narrow passage. They trotted along several passages and climbed the ladder to the upper level. Finally, they emerged on the bridge, seeing the stars scattered over wide screens.
Black Hawk knelt by the console, tinkering with the inner circuits. Two other men were present, also clad in black. One sat at the controls, leaning over the displays, and the other stood leaning against a wall with a frown on his wrinkled face.
The Hawk swung round as they entered. “Why is she here?” he barked. To her surprise and delight, he looked disheveled with turban askew and exposing unruly curls. The black scarf was unwrapped from his chin, revealing a short black beard and mustache. A good pirate’s chin, she thought, but his upper face was still concealed.
Miriam took a deep breath before responding. “Kat said she is a code thief and can help repair the com.”
His eyes narrowed as he scrutinized Kat’s face. “So, Grey Kat admits she breaks into coms and steals the secret codes.” He stood up, stretching his arms as if they were cramped from working too long in a tight space. His mouth had a grim downward curve and Kat noticed a tremor in his left hand. She could not keep her eyes from his exposed chin. His black beard showed a few threads of grey and his mouth had a grim downward curve. He must have noticed her stare, since he flung the scarf back around his face with a repellant glare in her direction.
He gestured to the central panel. “Go ahead, Kat, you can try your skills.” Then, he dropped into the nearest chair, leaning back wearily.
She sat down at the main console, ignoring the flashing red lights. She tapped some keys and listened. There was no reply from the central com. “Did you switch off the Rogue Star’s CC voice?”
“Yes, the repetitions are annoying.” Black Hawk answered.
Kat activated the com voice. A fruity female voice spoke, “Warning, malfunction! Warning, power outage in life support.” The warning droned on, monotonously. Kat delved further inside the unit, keying commands rapidly. Abruptly, the voice changed, calling, “Error. Unauthorized entry. Error!”
Kat grinned and reassured the computer, “You are under repair. I am searching for the breakage.”
She looked at Black Hawk, whose head was raised alertly. “Captain, I need access to the central com shell for the Rogue Star. Please enter your password.” She swiveled her chair around so he could reach the console.
He glared at her, evidently reluctant to give her the password.
She urged him, speaking softly, “It is easier for you to input the code. Otherwise, it will waste more time for me to crack your security and trace the fault in life support.”
He shrugged, stepped across and typed in the password. The central com voice stopped complaining about an unauthorized entry.
“Thank you,” Kat said absently, and she queried the CC brain. “What is your name, central com?”
The female voice said, “HON5Y029.”
Kat grinned and reassured the CC brain, “Sorry, Honey, you’ll feel the tickle in your circuits when I search for the breakage.”
She probed further into the network extending throughout the ship. She sent a test pulse winging down each connection, and listened for the echoed response. The link to the engine was fine. She smiled at that welcome news. “Engine links all clear,” She reported.
She searched patiently through the network, and eventually, found one unresponsive link. She rechecked to make sure it was faulty. “Got it!” she cried in triumph, pointing to the left panel. “The short to life support is in that section.”
The Hawk knelt by the panel and unbolted the cover. He reached inside, sorting through the tangle of wires and connectors.
“All right, Honey, we’re going to fix you,” Kat spoke soothingly to the brain of central com.
Meanwhile, Kat continued checking the com. She patched some loose code and buffered the CC brain. To her left, she heard the snap and sizzle of wire repairs from Hawk’s work under the panel. At length, Kat smiled as the signal pinged from the link to life support. The voice of central com said chirpily, “Life support power is restored.”