(Author’s note)… Things are not looking too good for our hero. Yes, he managed to avoid getting blown up by one of his best friends… who turned out to be another copy of his friend, sent over from the other dimension. And he did get the first fleet of enemy ships that came through the gate to switch sides without any loss of life. But he also learned that the fleet now gathering on the other side of the gate is ten times the size of the first one, and there is another fleet forming that is ten times bigger than that one. And don’t forget, most of the warships of the allied fleets have been sabotaged.
If it was anybody else but me… I mean, not this me, the me from the other dimension, now aided by yet another me from yet another reality… I would be really worried right now.
As they waited for the fleets to assemble Arthur asked every question he could think to ask that might be useful. First, he wanted to know more about Fahh’s plans. The other Arthur was not overly helpful in that regard.
What he said was, “It’s not like the Emperor takes me into his confidence. They only found me after you messed up that Glassaway guy’s plans. I was in boot camp to be a sailor in the Black Fleet. That is what they do with conquered people. You fight or build for them, or you die. But as you caused more and more trouble they began to train me as an officer. Then, just a week or so ago, they began to take even more of an interest in my career, so to speak.”
“Right around the time I was foiling their assassins,” Arthur told himself.
“I don’t know anything about that,” said the grand admiral once removed. “But it was like they were studying me. Seeing if there was anything special about me or something. To be honest, it was only a few days ago that they put me in charge of the fleet.”
“But you must have seen some of Fahh’s preparations,” insisted our Arthur.
“I know the second wave is gathering at the gate. And I know it was ten times bigger than the first wave,” the grand admiral who wasn’t sure if he was still a grand admiral said unhappily.
“30,000 ships,” Arthur spat out, “are you sure?”
“Oh, yeah, and they are manned, or crewed I guess I should say, by the best of Fahh’s conquered races. And there are lots of Keelar aboard those ships to keep an eye on things.”
The Keelar, Arthur thought desperately, they don’t like electricity. He had a sudden crazy idea.
“The third wave,” continued the turncoat Arthur, not realizing the other Arthur was distracted, “will be ten times bigger again. 300,000 ships, all full of Keelar.”
Arthur was so excited he didn’t even panic at this information. “Hold that thought,” he said, and then to Gup he added, “Get me the Orion on screen, and make it as secure as possible.” When Captain Hull’s face appeared on the screen he asked where she was.
“If you had a window, you could see me waving at you,” said the Captain with a smile.
“I need you to run a little errand for me,” said Arthur, returning the smile. “You need to zip over to Zitara and pick up a cargo. Hopefully a large cargo. I will have Mr. Toad call them and set it up, and get you a priority run through the Nexus Points.”
“Very well, Sir,” Captain Hulls replied, and her image vanished from the screen.
Arthur made a quick call to Mr. Toad to set things in motion, and then he returned to his questioning of the other admiral. He was interrupted by Rubar before he had a chance to speak. “Sir,” said the battle-hardened mercenary, “the Keelar are beginning to stir.”
“Admiral,” said Arthur to the other admiral, hoping that using his rank would show that he trusted his other self, “would you have some of your crew place the prisoners in your brig?”
The other Arthur turned to his first officer, who proceeded to carry out the orders. The crew members assigned to this task were not overly gentle, Arthur couldn’t help but notice.
Arthur had Gup put the two sub-commanders back on screen. “I am bringing my robots back,” he told them. “Please have the Keelar prisoners confined to your brigs and kept under guard.” They also seemed more than happy to obey theses orders. Arthur transported Number Two and Number Three back to the little spy ship. You have probably figured out by now that to transport machinery or other inanimate objects was a rather simple procedure, as long as you knew exactly where you were sending them, and their exact location when bringing them back. However, live beings needed to be in contact either with a remote unit or someone holding a remote unit.
At last Arthur had the opportunity to continue talking to himself, if you see what I mean. “Can you tell me about the gate? How does it work? Can we go through it in the other direction?”
“All I know is,” replied his slightly distorted reflection, “it has something to do with those transport machines. And ships have to go through one at a time. Oh, and big ships won’t fit through the tube thing.”
The ‘tube thing’ must be the husk of the dead Pickle, Arthur figured. Then he figured something else. “Then Fahh made yet another mistake. He concentrated his sabotage on our big ships, figuring there would be a space battle here. He never figured we would be crazy enough to try to attack him on his home turf.”
“Well there you go,” said the admiral in slimming black, which was also one of our Arthur’s favorite expressions.
“You have certainly been a font of useful information,” said the Arthur we have come to know.
“As you so cleverly pointed out,” retorted the other, “I am here mostly for comic relief. And my first gig apparently didn’t go nearly as well as yours.”
Arthur felt bad for the guy and decided to cut him some slack. “I am expecting great things from you in our little revolution. Now I am going to take my guys and get out of your hair.” He couldn’t stop himself from smiling. “Oh, I miss the hair. We look good with long hair. Get your fleet turned around, Admiral, and prepare to take the fight to the enemy.”
And in one of the more unusual sights ever seen, two Arthurs came to attention and saluted each other.
“The Obama has arrived with its fleet units,” said Number One in the Warlord’s voice. “The Xxo fleet will be arriving in twenty minutes.” Arthur and his friends, along with Number One and all the gear they had brought across, transported back to the spy ship.
Arthur told the Warlord to draw up close to the Obama, but to take care as the spy ship would not appear on their screens. Once again using as secure a line as possible, he contacted Captain Browne and asked her to have all the captains come at once to the Obama for a council of war, and told her he would be joining her shortly. Then he simply transported directly to the bridge of the warship.
As he flickered into existence in a new place, he was impressed by his reception. By the time the transport was done, Lt. Sarota and four heavily-armed Marines had him surrounded. He gave a chuckle and turned to Captain Browne. “I really do like monkeys,” he told her. The Captain ordered the Marines to stand down. Then she crossed the bridge to shake Arthur’s hand.
“Now that is how visitors arriving in an unexpected manner should be greeted on a warship’s bridge,” Arthur said proudly.
“I am glad you approve, Admiral,” said the Captain seriously.
Arthur also shook hands with the Marine Lieutenant, and congratulated him as well. The young officer looked pleased at the praise. “It is always interesting when you are around, Sir,” he said with a straight face.
“I do like to keep you on your toes,” said Arthur equally deadpan. “I know how you Marines love a challenge.” This got a smile from the younger man.
“The Captains are flying over via more conventional modes of transport,” Captain Browne informed Arthur. “They will be gathering in the ward room momentarily.”
“Then lead on, my good Captain,” said Arthur graciously. If the good Captain was harboring any doubts or resentments over his rapid, even unprecedented promotion, she had the good grace to conceal it. If Arthur could have read her mind, he would have been vastly surprised and a little amused to find that Captain Browne was actually thrilled that Arthur had been put in command. She wasn’t sure how, but Arthur Blacke had a weird way of overcoming obstacles and opposition. She couldn’t even explain it to herself. There was just something about the guy.