Alone In The Night

Chapter 6

As Admiral DuGalle terminated the transmission, he stood up from his chair and began to pace. After several laps, he stopped beside the console of his command chair and opened a channel to the engine room. "Mr. Apen, could you please report to my ready room?"

"Affirmative, sir. Is there a problem?"

"No. Just be in my ready room in five minutes."

"Aye, sir."

DuGalle quickly left the bridge and entered his office. Almost as an afterthought he called over his shoulder, "Mr. Michealson, you have the bridge." Once in the room, DuGalle waited impatiently for his accomplice to arrive. He walked to the synthesizer and summoned up a short glass half filled with single malt scotch. Taking a slow sip, he remarked in his thoughts how perfect the temperature was. As the liquid made the journey down his gullet, its light chill burn and tingle reminding him of better days gone by, the sharp ring of the door chime disturbed his tranquillity. He set the glass on his desk and quickly sat down, so as to appear comfortable and nonchalant. "Come in."

After the doors slid quickly open, Thomas Apen made his way into the moderately sized office. Once the doors had sealed, DuGalle stood up and pulled down on the tunic of his uniform.

"Computer, magnetically seal the door to the ready room, coded to my voiceprint only. Disable all sensors and recording devices in this room. Authorization: DuGalle 2-2-gamma-3-beta."

After the computer had issued its chime of verification, DuGalle began the conversation. "Tom, we have been given an opportunity of a lifetime to correct an unfortunate occurrence. When we rendezvous with that vessel, I will meet with Raynor and his senior staff. While this meeting is going on, repair teams from our ship will be working double shifts to repair the Ares' systems. You, meanwhile, will be in the computer core making the modifications to their logs we need. One of the repair teams will take with them our two remaining photonic charge mines and the equipment used to modify them. Once everything is in place, we will escort them back to Terra, where they will be placed under arrest. All remaining evidence on our ship must be destroyed before we get home. How are the preparations going for the log modifications?"

"Well sir, the equipment and manufactured data are almost ready, but I have a few misgivings about this. First, how will I be able to get into their computer core without someone questioning my actions? Second, won't someone notice that the logs have been modified?"

"In answer to your first question, you will be given authority to examine the power conduits in the computer core and ensure the integrity of the system, so your presence will be authorized. To the second, I can only say this: let's hope not."

"I'm not sure I feel any better, sir. It'll be my ass in the sling if I get caught down there."

"I realize that. But you must have faith in your own abilities, as well as Captain Raynor's feelings of duty and responsibility toward senior officers. I was Drake's Captain for 5 years on the Indefatigable. I know him better than he knows himself, everything will work just as planned."

"If you're so confident, sir, that's good enough for me. I'll be ready to leave as soon as I get my equipment."

"Very good. Now, get back to engineering and finish your work. Computer, disengage surveillance override, and unseal the door. Dismissed."

Apen saluted sharply, then turned on his heels and left the office. After he door closed behind him, DuGalle grabbed his glass and slowly drank the rest of his scotch. After a quick sigh of enjoyment, he tugged down on his uniform tunic, and strode briskly out the door, across the bridge, and into the autolift. He had not felt so good in weeks, and the broad smile on his face did not go unnoticed.

When the 'lift arrived at its destination, he stepped through the door and into the corridor. The door to the main hanger was only ten meters from where he was standing, and he could see the bustle of activity as Apen's work crews loaded their equipment onto the shuttle. DuGalle expertly maneuvered around the hustling work crews until he reached the cargo hatch of the shuttle. As he examined the contents his spirits rose even higher. Inside was not only the necessary parts and equipment to repair the most critical systems on the Ares, but also the two modified proton charge mines and the terminal for accessing the computer mainframe.

Satisfied with his inspection, he strolled around to the passenger entrance where his security detail was waiting patiently. He gave them all a leisurely salute, then climbed with ease into the blocky shuttle. From the outside, the thing looked like a rectangle with the corners rounded off. The front had a large viewing window, and it stood on twin landing struts. Inside, there were two front-facing chairs for the pilot and co-pilot, and behind these were two rows of seats against the wall facing inwards for the passengers. DuGalle took his seat in the middle of one row with his security detail, while the engineering teams, along with Mr. Apen, took seats on the opposite row. Once they and the pilots had strapped in, the shuttle slowly lifted and rotated so it faced the hanger door.

DuGalle enjoyed the view as the large bay doors opened. Less than a kilometer away, he could see clearly the shape of Drake's stricken starship. He watched as the vessel sat where she was, waiting. As the shuttle approached the landing bay on the Ares, he was able to himself see the damage to her ion engines, and knew that they could not be repaired without the facilities of a full starport. So much the better.

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

In the main hanger bay of the Ares, the situation was quickly becoming tense. Drake, Kelson, Bledthag, and a full security team were standing in the corridor by the hanger entrance, waiting for the Admiral to arrive. Drake had an idea of what to expect from DuGalle, if only because he had known him for so many years. He knew DuGalle could be very tricky when he needed to be, and had no idea of what the man might be capable of if his suspicions were correct.

As the seconds wore past with no action, Bledthag leaned over to Drake and whispered in his ear, "Captain, the synthesizer we had functioning overloaded about 20 minutes ago. What we have is all we will have until the teams from the other ship arrive."

Drake responded in an equally low tone, "Then it is fortunate that it died when it did. We will not have to wait long."

The long seconds turned slowly into minutes as the frustration built in every man's mind. Drake himself was beginning to get very impatient when a nearby com station beeped. Thankful for the distraction, he walked over to it and pressed the acknowledgement switch. "This is the Captain, what's the word?"

The voice of his communications officer, Lieutenant Eileen Johnson, reached out to him through the hidden speakers. "Captain, Johnson reporting. The Admiral's shuttle has just taken off and is en route."

"Thank you, lieutenant. Begin docking procedures and tell the Admiral I will be waiting for him."

"Aye aye, Captain."

Drake switched off the com channel and walked back to the group standing around the door. He could sense the question that all of them wanted to ask and simply answered it before they could ask, "The Admiral's shuttle is en route. When he docks, we can open the door."

Even as Drake was finishing his sentence, every member of the group could feel a thundering vibration in the deck as the exterior hanger door opened. When the noise ended, it was replaced by the low and steady hum of the shuttle's engines. The hum grew steadily louder as the craft landed, ending at virtually the exact instant the landing struts clanged on the metal deck. After the outer hanger door closed, the hanger bay re-pressurized. Drake then entered his access code and opened the interior door.

As Drake and his entourage entered the hanger bay, DuGalle was climbing deftly out of the blocky craft. Drake adopted his most formal demeanor and walked up to the Admiral. Once no more than five feet from the man, Drake snapped a handsome salute and commenced the formalities. "Admiral DuGalle, welcome aboard the Ares, it is an honor to have you aboard, sir. I trust you will make yourself at home while you are here."

DuGalle half-heartedly returned the salute and deflected the formalities with directness.

"Captain, not to be rude, but I believe your vessel is in need of repair. I have brought a number of engineering personnel and parts to assist in the repairs."

"That is most gracious of you, sir. We appreciate the Admiral's help and offer him all the services on this ship that are still functioning."

"Thank you, Captain. Now, if you have no objections, could you have someone escort my men to where they are needed? Mr. Apen here will be examining your main computer core and trying to recover any useful data. The more cooperation my men receive, the faster this whole operation will be finished and we can get you home. I have radioed in to the nearby space colony of Taurus. They have dispatched a tug, and she will arrive within 4 days. In that time we shall repair as much on this ship as we can, and hope we are not attacked."

"Very good, sir. Unless the Admiral has any objections, I would very much like to speak with him in my ready room. That way these men can get to work and we can do some catching up."

"A good idea, Drake. It's been far too long since last we spoke. I'm sure we have much to talk about."

DuGalle walked past the group of men and headed towards the door. As Drake followed him, he noticed out of the side of his vision that Kelson was following him. He quickly turned around and stopped him. "Mr. Kelson, I need you to brief these men on the task at hand. When that is finished, take the con. I fear my little chat with the Admiral may run over."

"Aye aye, Captain."

Drake turned quickly so he could catch up with DuGalle, nearly running in to him. The Admiral had stopped in his tracks when Drake had paused to talk with Kelson. After taking a brief instant to purge the fear that DuGalle had heard his remarks, he composed himself and assumed an apologetic stance. "I'm sorry, Admiral. I didn't see you stop."

"Quite all right. I trust nothing is amiss."

"Certainly not, sir, just a minor detail that unfortunately I must attend to later. Shall we?" With a nod, DuGalle followed Drake through the twists and turns of the corridor to an access tube. As Drake was opening the hatch, DuGalle gave only a quick thought to the unusual action before realizing that the 'lifts must be off-line. He crawled in after Drake and, after many winding turns and claustrophobic corridors, found himself climbing out of a tube in the back of the bridge.

DuGalle stood up to his full 6'3" height and looked around. He glanced over the works crew that was slowly replacing the fried circuits on the bridge console with what remained of the replicated parts. Standing as firm and tall as a statue, DuGalle cleared his throat so as to be heard, but not seem over-obvious. Not seeing any effect he turned to Drake in an annoyed fashion.

Drake could tell immediately what had perturbed the admiral. He caught Lt. Kelson's eye and glared at him. The man then stood at full brace and bellowed, "Admiral on deck!"

Immediately all hands on the bridge stood at attention and saluted the admiral. DuGalle casually shifted to relaxed attention beside Raynor and sharply returned the salute. In a tone of faux sincerity he told the crew, "Gentlemen, what you all have done with this ship is commendable. I congratulate every one of you."

The men proudly snapped another salute and announced in unison, "Thank you, admiral."

Drake stepped forward and, once he had the admiral's attention, asked him to follow him into his office. DuGalle simply nodded and preceded Drake into the office off the corner of the bridge. As he walked in, Drake turned back to his new XO, "Mr. Kelson, you have the bridge. Do not interrupt us unless it's important."

"Aye aye, Captain."

Drake followed DuGalle into the office and sealed in as it slid closed. That done, he turned just in time to see DuGalle sit nonchalantly in his chair. As Drake was about to raise a protest, DuGalle began the meeting with little formality.

"Captain, we have a great deal to discuss here today. I suggest we start with your oral report."

"Very well, admiral."

Drake then began to provide detailed report of all goings on during the entire mission. He began from the moment he left his homeport, and ended with the admiral's arrival on board the Ares. Leaving out no details, Drake gave a thorough report that lasted almost thirty minutes. DuGalle nodded along with every word as if the contents of the report really interested him. As his head bobbed up and down, his mind was picturing Apen in the computer core uploading the manufactured logs. He envisioned the work crews placing the equipment in the cargo hold that would soon place Raynor behind a security field, if not on the end of a rope.

When his report was concluded, Drake waited patiently for the admiral's response. After a few short moments DuGalle realized the report was finished. He looked up at Raynor and said, "Captain, I shall of course need a copy in writing to present to my superiors."

Drake grabbed a data pad from his desk, switched it on, and handed it to the admiral. "I took the liberty, sir, of writing the report as we awaited your arrival."

DuGalle took the pad and placed it in his uniform pocket without so much as a glance. He then stood up and headed for the door. He reached out for the control to unseal the door, but paused before he pressed it, "Captain, would you care to dine on my ship this evening, with my officers?"

Drake took his time before responding, "A very generous offer, admiral. I would be delighted. Might I ask if my first officer and chief engineer can join us, sir?"

DuGalle seemed to think it over for a moment before he responded. "Of course, captain. Be sure to arrive in style."

"Aye sir."

Without further ceremony, DuGalle walked out of the office and onto the bridge, with Raynor two steps behind.

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

Lt. Cdr. Apen sneezed violently as he was kneeling in front of the main console in the computer core. Sitting only a few feet away, replacing damaged circuits and chips, sat one of Drake's loyal crewmen. Apen had been hoping to be alone while he did his work on the memory core, but he had been learning to improvise. His only ally as he attempted to finish his treacherous task was his rank. To a mere computer technician, a Lieutenant Commander was virtually a demigod. The technician was making trips to and from a nearby synthesizer form more parts, but these only lasted thirty seconds at most. It would take at least that long to upload the data and he hadn't even isolated the files to be deleted yet. He had approximately 25 minutes before the technician would be able to bring main power back to the core, at which point there would be no way to upload the new data without setting off some kind of alarm. When the crewman made his next journey, Apen had isolated the files he needed, and while the man was gone he deleted them. By his next trip, Apen had all the equipment set up and began the upload the instant the technician was around the bend. Barely half a second before the man returned the upload completed and he began to disassemble the equipment. As he exited the core, he heard a dull hum and felt an almost imperceptible shudder as the core powered up.

He breathed a slight sigh of relief before he activated his wrist communicator, "Apen to DuGalle. Computer core is back online, and I have assured the integrity of all critical files."

The reply echoed slightly in the constricting tunnel, "Very good. Pack up your gear and return to the ship on the next shuttle. I want that ship ready for inspection the instant I come aboard."

"Aye aye, sir."