Alone In The Night

Chapter 4

On board the Emperor's Wrath, the operations officer was staring at his sensor display screen unsure of what to do. Over his shoulder, Admiral DuGalle glared at the readout, barely containing his rage.

"What in the hell is he doing here!? He should be halfway to Terra by now, not in he middle of something that was never meant for him to find! Raise that ship, I want to hear Raynor's excuse for not being where he should be."

"Admiral, you yourself game me the orders for strict radio silence until we reached Mars. You told me I was to allow no external communication even if you gave the order."

DuGalle Raged, "Then belay the damned order! Raise that ship!"

"Aye aye, Admiral" He tapped at his board for a few seconds. "Admiral they aren't responding to hails."

"Damn your eyes!" DuGalle walked briskly over to the sensor station, shoved his way past the crewman there, and performed a full long-range sensor sweep himself. After interpreting the results, he began to think out loud, "I don't believe it. According to this, their ship is virtually helpless. Weapons, engines, computers, communications, all off-line. A large section of hull has been completely blown off and is drifting about 5,000 kilometers from the main hull. Sensors appear to be operational, so they must see us." He stood up and began to pace and rub his chin, a thing he only did when deep in thought. After a minute or so he turned to the navigator, "Mr. Michealson, set an intercept course at best speed. Notify me when we arrive, I'll be in main engineering."

Not even waiting for a reply, he strode toward the 'lift, and off the bridge.

When he arrived in main engineering, he immediately sought out his chief engineer and most trusted accomplice in this treasonous act. Upon finding him, he signaled him silently to a corner and began a hushed conversation.

"Mr. Apen, we have a slight problem. The Ares has somehow wondered into the debris field from our encounter with the Voltath. Fortunately, she was attacked and severely damaged, but they are in need of assistance. We need to find a way to explain this to Raynor so that he will not suspect what really happened. But unfortunately, if he doesn't accept our explanation, we may be forced to finish the job the Voltath started."

"If I may, sir, It might be difficult justifying to this crew why they must destroy another Terran vessel. However, admiral, I have an idea. The main risk with this mission is the lack of a scapegoat. If I could access their main computer core, I could alter their logs and generate evidence implicating them in this, not us."

"But their main computer core is off-line. Sensors indicate some kind of massive power surge. Virtually every main power conduit has been overloaded, and almost all systems were knocked off-line."

"Sir, the logs can be reconstructed from the core, even if it is partially destroyed. I can rig up a portable power source and access the data directly from the core. Just give me the modifications you want made, and I'll upload them."

"Good thinking. Isn't there one of the photonic charge mines left in cargo bay one?"

"Actually, there are two, sir."

"Good, put them both in the Ares' main cargo area, along with the equipment used to make the modifications. When you access the logs, make sure you upload every detail. Even the slightest inconsistency could destroy the illusion."

"Aye aye, sir."

As the engineer made his way to his office to begin his task, DuGalle walked over toward the nearest communication terminal, and pressed the control to connect him to the bridge. "DuGalle to bridge. Open a channel to command and request a tug and rescue vessel. Inform them that we found the Ares in what appears to be a battlefield and she is heavily damaged. Inform them also that we suspect she has gone beyond the scope of her orders and attacked the Voltath. DuGalle out."

With that said, he left engineering and made his way back to his cabin. This was definitely something that needed to be added to his journal.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, in the engineering section of the Ares, as Raynor was leaving for the bridge, the raspy, barking voice of the chief engineer rang out, "Captain! They're changing course! New heading one-oh-seven mark four eight. They're on an intercept course. They'll get here in about two hours."

Raynor turned on his heels and walked back towards the sensor board, Kelson on his heels, "Any ideas about the communications system?"

"Unfortunately not, Captain. The power relays were completely overloaded. The array is fully operable, we just have no way to get power to it."

"Can't you rig up some kind of portable power source? We have to establish contact with that vessel."

"I can try, Captain. But there's no guarantee it will work. The only portable power source I have left is the one for accessing the computer core. Unless… I could modify it to match the power modulation of the com array, but if it doesn't work, we may have no way of getting the computer back online."

"Do it. If it works, that ship is sure to have its own power sources."

"Aye aye, Captain."

"When you're ready to try, notify me. I'll be on the bridge trying to put it back together."

"Aye aye, Captain."

Before Bledthag had even finished speaking, Raynor turned on his heels and headed toward the access tunnels and crawlspaces that constituted the long way to the bridge, with Kelson just behind him. As he worked his way up ladders and through the small tunnels, he began to work out in his aching head what he would say if and when he spoke with DuGalle. As he stepped onto the bridge, he was met with a scene of absolute confusion. The powered VR viewscreen had been raised to expose the transparent view port. All around the bridge, wires and power conduits hung from the ceiling and protruded from the scorched walls. Amidst all this confusion, Lt. Kelson shot out from behind the Captain and began directing the controlled chaos in a feigned manner of calm. Barking and shouting orders and suggestions over the dull roar of the work crews, he didn't even let them notice the captain crawling from the access port near the 'lift entrance.

Raynor climbed out of the tube, and worked his way through the thick sea of work crews and stood beside his new XO. He listened calmly to the report Kelson was given by a nearby seaman. The man was telling Kelson that they could get some of the bridge consoles working with spare power cables, but that they didn't have the proper tools.

Raynor spoke from where he was standing, startling both men. "Is there a reason you don't have the proper tools?"

The seaman snapped to attention so quickly, Raynor thought he might have broken his back. After saluting he gave his response. "Well Captain, the repair equipment is locked in the maintenance lockers. But the locks on the lockers are powered and the main relays in that section are shorted out."

"Mr. Kelson, we have hand lasers don't we? Issue them to three crewmen, and have them burn through the doors of the lockers. We need to get these systems repaired."

"Aye captain. Allens! Caparzo! Williams! Get your asses over here." With that, three men broke away from their respective repair teams and sprinted across the bridge to where Kelson was waiting. Drake frowned at the profanity, but elected to say nothing in light of his own infractions earlier that day.

They stood at attention and declared simultaneously, "Reporting as ordered, sir."

"Report to the Master-at-Arms on deck 4, and have him issue hand lasers, Captain's orders. Then get over to the maintenance room on deck 15 and burn your way into the equipment lockers. Bring back everything you can carry. Understood?"

"Aye aye, sir. Anything specific you want?"

"Talk to the repair team leaders and find out what they need, then bring it. You may need to requisition more help on the way. Feel free to do so. You have your orders gentlemen, dismissed."

With their orders fully understood, all three men saluted and headed toward the access tunnel, and filed in. When they had gone, Drake and Kelson were alone in the sea of work parties. Raynor turned toward Kelson and whispered in his ear, "The Emperor's Wrath will be here in 3 hours. I would like to have weapons and thrusters online when they arrive." Drake saw Kelson about to interrupt and spat out, "You know better than to argue, Mr. Kelson. I don't care if it's impossible, just get it done."

Kelson just nodded along as if the Captain were merely commenting on the weather. When Drake was finished, he leaned over and replied, "Aye aye, Captain. I'll relay your orders to the repair crews. The photon cannon was completely polarized by the overload, but we may be able to get some ion lasers online with emergency power. Since they are relatively useless, we can divert power from the main engines, if we can repair the power conduits. We'll be ready, sir. You have my word."

"I would expect no less. I'm going back to engineering to assist with the work on the com system. If you need me, send a runner."

"Aye aye, Captain. Good luck, sir."

Drake then nodded at his first officer and turned away. He headed for the access tunnel, stopped to rub his chilled hands together, and climbed in. With the life support and environmental systems running only on their own backup power reserves, teamed up with the massive hull breach where the starboard wing had been partially severed, the cold of space was beginning to leak through the ship. It would be another seven hours before the temperature reached a life-threatening level, but it was still becoming rather chilly. He stopped on the way to grab his thick duty coat from his cabin so the cold would not be as pressing a problem.