S. N. A. F. U.
By H. P. Oliver
2016 HPO Productions
All Rights Reserved
0000 Hours - Tuesday - 25 November 1941
Hangar One - Moffett NAS - Sunnyvale
Three brilliant yellow-orange splotches flared in the blackness overhead. FLASH, FLASH, . . . FLASH. Those muzzle flashes were accompanied by corresponding pops echoing through the darkness. POP, POP, . . . POP. All that commotion was followed a split second later by the whining of three slugs ricocheting off of the concrete floor.
I was directly below him and in plain view. If he turned and saw me, he had me. I decided this particular spy was not going to be taken alive. I put him squarely in my sights and squeezed the trigger twice.
Having someone aiming to kill you is generally a worrisome thing, but at the moment I was more concerned about the guy hitting me by accident than with a well-aimed shot. I estimated the distance between us at around 350 feet, and from the sound of it, he was shooting a Colt forty-five semiautomatic, which has an effective range of about 50 yards. My long-barrel thirty-eight caliber Smith and Wesson revolver had a little more range, but not enough to matter. In other words, we could shoot up a lot of ammo without much risk of doing any damage to each other unless somebody got very lucky.
All this long-distance shooting was taking place inside Moffett Naval Air Station's Hangar One and the place is huge. It had to be because it was designed to accommodate the dirigible Macon. The hangar measures more than eleven-hundred feet in length, roughly 300 feet in width, and nearly 200 feet in height, The building is so big it even has its own weather system with patches of fog occasionally forming up near the curved roof.
The Macon, however, was no longer in residence because it crashed five years ago, helping bring an end the Navy's enthusiasm for dirigibles. Now the battleship boys are all excited about blimps, which are lighter-than-air ships of much smaller proportions. In fact, they can park nine blimps in less space than one dirigible. The Navy's current interest in blimps is part of a scheme for patrolling the California coast in case some enemy tried to attack us from that direction.
So until the blimps arrived, Hangar One was empty—empty, that is, except for me and one Japanese espionage agent. The Military Intelligence Division in which I was currently serving spotted this guy a while back and was just waiting for an opportunity to put him out of business.
He was a crafty character, though, so when he didn't offer any such opportunities they set a trap for him. The plan was to lure him into a deserted location—Hangar One—for the purpose of stealing a gadget the Navy called an ocuscope—a top secret bombsite device supposedly stored in the hangar for use on the top secret blimps to come. In truth there wasn't an ocuscope, top secret or otherwise, within a hundred miles, and for all I knew, ocuscopes might not even exist.
My part in the scheme was to spring the trap and catch the mouse if he went after the cheese. The orders I'd been given specifically said, "by whatever means available," but my boss, Colonel Si Peterson, did mention it would be preferable to take the guy alive if possible. At the moment that prospect was looking less and less likely.
Despite my arriving promptly at the appointed hour, the Jap was already there. I spotted him in the light from outside when I came in through one of the small doors along the side of the hangar. He also spotted me and decided to get while the getting was good. We were just inside the north end of the hangar and the guy headed for the nearest high ground—one of the longitudinal catwalks mounted way up on the hangar wall. To make matters even more difficult, he was on the east side of the hangar and I was on the west side, putting us well out of each other's range, and even if we had been within range, we couldn't see each other in the pitch black hangar.
To catch this mouse I had to get a whole lot closer and shed some light on the subject. I knew there was an electrical control panel below his position on the east wall. If I could get across the hangar to that panel, I would have the light I needed and I would be within killing range. So would he.
About a minute passed since his last shots, and I knew if I was going to nail the guy before he found a way out of the hangar, I had to get moving. Looking across the floor, I noticed something I hadn't seen before; a dim orange light. I was pretty sure it was an indicator of some kind on the electrical panel over there. That put a small advantage on my side of the ledger because I could see my destination, but there was no chance he could see the tiny light from where he was.
Thinking, "now or never," I took off across the hangar floor running a broken field pattern like a UCLA halfback. And like that halfback, I had a hundred yards to cover if I was going to score.
The Jap heard me and unleashed a volley of shots. They flashed and echoed throughout the hangar again like Fourth of July fireworks. I heard one slug smack into the concrete floor a few feet behind me and found the energy for a little more speed.
When I thought I was close enough, I changed sports and dove for the floor like a baserunner stealing home. I smacked into the electrical panel head first, and reached for a row of red switches above my head. I flipped them up two and three at a time. Hangar One lit up like a motion picture sound stage.
Looking up from the electrical panel, I couldn't see the Jap, but I heard him. Fixing the position of the sound, I scuttled out onto the hangar floor and looked for the guy. The sound I'd heard had been him moving the locking levers for a maintenance hatch in wall.