Lim’s four little legs started to wobble, making him unsteady, though his shark-toothed jack-o-lantern grin did not waver.
“It’s all right, you will look just like the Doraimee, you just have to sound like him. Can you do it?” Arthur pressed.
“Maybe, but I not like it,” mumbled the unhappy little being.
“Gup,” Arthur said, “tell me we have a picture of the Doraimee somewhere.”
Gup pushed some buttons and a Keelar appeared on the screen. He was the most bloated and saggy Keelar Arthur had yet seen. And he was painted red from top to bottom. He was ranting into the screen at full screech. “This was in the memory banks,” supplied Gup helpfully.
The translator had difficulty keeping up with the ravings of what turned out to be the Doraimee’s inspirational speech to his troops of the first and second wave of the invasion forces. There was something about it that struck Arthur as hilarious. It was like listening to Adolph Hitler if he had swallowed a balloon-full of helium. Arthur scanned the screen with the small holograph projector. He was only getting the front view, but he hoped it would fool the monitor camera.
He gave the projector to Frak and showed him how to use it so that Lim could see what he would look like. When Frak turned suddenly into Fahh before his eyes, Lim was so impressed he literally fell over.
Arthur sent a quick secure message to the other Arthur to get his ships lined up to go back through the gate, but told him to leave room between his ship and the next in line so the Warlord could bring the spy ship through behind him. “I will be joining you shortly, I hope,” Arthur told his other self. Then he signed off and told Lim to proceed with his little one-Keelar show.
Lim turned on the projector and activated the comm channel. The captain, who was still seated at the comm station on the other ship, fell right off his seat when the Doraimee appeared on his screen shouting for him to bring his ships back. He was a little confused, because one of the Doraimee’s Ministers had just finished telling him not to do it, but no Keelar was going to argue with Fahh face to face. He trembled and groveled and that was that.
When the channel was clear Arthur thanked Lim profusely, then turned to Gup and said, “I really want you with me on the other side, but I need you to stay here to make sure we can get back, understand, buddy?”
Gup agreed with moist eyes.
Arthur called the other spy ship and told the Warlord to prepare to follow the other Arthur’s ship through the gate. “If you have any problem, call Gup,” Arthur suggested, and before anyone could object Arthur cut the line and beamed himself to the command ship of the first wave.
His other self gave him a wry smile once he was firmly in one place. “I don’t know how you did it, but we have a signal. We can go whenever you are ready.”
“Okay, let’s do it,” said Arthur with magnificent calm. “Remember, we have a stealth ship following us that won’t show up on your scanners. And don’t forget we are supposed to be damaged and running for our lives.”
“No problem there,” said the other Arthur in a voice as dry as space itself. He gave a gun-flicking hand gesture to his second in command, who told the officer at the controls to move the ship.
“Can you show me the gate?” asked Arthur, purely out of curiosity.
“You can’t see it from this side, I don’t think,” the other Arthur replied. “And on the other side, I think we should keep moving.” He paused for a bit, and then said, “You do have a plan for when we get over there, right?”
“Oh, sure, I got a plan,” said Arthur, rather convincingly. “But it’s kind of open-ended. You gotta play these things as they come.”
The other Arthur looked skeptical, but he kept quiet.
“Let me know when we get through the gate,” said the Arthur with which we are most familiar.
The other Arthur shot him a half-hearted smile. “Been there, done that.”
“That was it?” asked Arthur, feeling sort of let down.
“It’s a short, straight tube, not a roller coaster,” the other Arthur replied evenly. “You just follow the beacon. So now what do we do?”
“Just pull off to the side and try to look damaged,” said the Supreme Allied Commander.
“Oh, great,” sighed his other self.
“Communications coming in from both the beacon ship and the Command ship of the second wave,” said the comm officer. He didn’t know which Arthur to address, so he stared into the air between them as he spoke.
You’re on,” Arthur told the other Arthur. “Don’t over do it. They think the Doraimee ordered them to let you through.”
The other Arthur looked askance at his other self, and then turned toward the comm screen. “This is the commander of the first wave. I am withdrawing my forces through the gate. We have sustained damage. Hell, most of my ships are damaged. We have taken heavy losses.”
On the screen Arthur saw two faces, that of the Keelar captain of the spy/beacon ship, and, Arthur felt a surge of hopefulness, a Dram who looked very old and was wearing a big, fancy hat with a purple plume sticking rakishly out of it. His fleshy face and huge nose wobbled, and his multitude of chins rippled as he spluttered at the screen. “What has been happening over there?” the second wave commander, or so Arthur assumed him to be, was demanding to know.
“We got our asses handed to us, that’s what,” snapped the slightly thinner Arthur. “We received orders from the Doraimee himself to come back and join his fleet to protect him.”
The unhappy Keelar captain of the beacon/spy ship confirmed that the Doraimee had indeed ordered the ships of the first wave back. The black-clad Arthur signed off before anyone could object.
The young comm officer appeared confused. “I’m getting another comm from someone calling himself ‘the General’”.
“Put it up on the screen,” commanded the more popular Arthur. When he saw his friend he continued, “Well, General, you made it. Any problems?”
“No, the gate is simple enough. Just point and go, as long as you know where you are going,” said the General.
“I will be joining you in a minute,” said Arthur. He turned to the cracked-mirror image of himself. “Just form your ships up and pretend you are doing repairs. I’ll let you know what our next step is when most of our people are on this side of the gate.” And with that he beamed himself back to the spy ship.
He stood for a while behind the two Xxos, watching one ship a second pop back through the gate. He had the Warlord switch over to outside camera view on the screen, but quickly grew bored with the view of a Giant Pickle with both ends blown off spitting out space ships like watermelon seeds. They switched back to flight view with its blips and vector lines, and he kept an eye on the huge mass of blips that floated nearby, the 28,300 or so of the second wave that had not surrendered. It would take him an hour just to get 3,600 of his own ships through the gate, but at least they were flowing out of his universe and not in to it.
He thought of something else as he stood there. Before the hour was over he would need to decide how many ships he would need to leave behind to guard the second wave ships on the other side of the gate. Were those captains of the ‘trusted’ races going to betray that trust and join him? He could only sit and wait. They needed a little time to make such an important decision. He sat wearily in one of the sturdy seats in the cabin of the remarkable little spy ship. He was asleep in moments, drifting off as he wondered why the seats were obviously meant for someone who was very human-shaped and sized.
He slept for all of thirty minutes before the General woke him. “You have a comm from the second wave sub-commander,” the General informed him.
The Dram called Vitar something-or-other the 47th made his message short and sweet. Very sweet. Arthur had new allies.
“Start funneling your ships through the gate with the human first wave ships. I want you to come first and as soon as possible. Maybe you can convince the second wave commander to see the light,” Arthur instructed the Dram Captain.
“See the light,” replied the Dram. “I like that expression. I may indeed be able to persuade the Grand Commander. He is my uncle.”
Not only that, but it turned out that Vitar Nomsinica Devleonis the 47th was the Prince of the Dram Systems. His uncle, Vinar Nomsinica Preyastener the 212th was Regent and brother to the King, Vitar Nomsinica Devleonis the 46th.
The King, and I use this term even though obviously the Dram had their own words for Kings and Princes and Regents, and the Monarchy does not work exactly as one on your Earth might, was very old and in poor health. He was on the Dram Homeworld confined to his bed chamber.
To make a long story short, (I love that expression even though I seldom take it to heart, as I’m sure you have noticed), as the second wave ships came back through the gate, and their captains spoke with the captains of their own races, it didn’t take too long for the idea to spread through the mass of second wave ships who hadn’t gone through the gate that this might be their one and only chance to get rid of Fahh. By the time the last ships of the Allied Fleet were passing through the gate, Arthur was in command of 33,300 ships, not to mention the Obama, the Orion, two spy ships and his own Reaver ship nestled in the Orion’s hold. Arthur was unaware of these developments because he had fallen asleep in the comfy chair again and missed all the excitement.