After leaving the little face-to-face with Kellerman, I went to the small tent I had set up for my hide-away. I had left Andy’s array out in the sun with the solar panels open. The shorter Alchibah day was stressing the recharge system considering how I had been running the system.
The two ice cubes I had left on copy had finished as well as the latest data correlation program. I looked briefly at the results screen and froze. I really wanted to howl at the moon and bark trail like an ole Coon Hound. My answer was not there but the data showed a clear trail to what I wanted. Damn but this array was good, did Andy really know what He had built? I put the whole system on suspend to allow the charging system time to catch up and maybe get a full charge for a change. Pocketing the ice cubes, I started for the landing field intending to arrive about ten minutes after the shuttle.
Stopping in the flats below the landing field, I stopped to watch the approach of the Galileo. I knew Travis had the stick; the guy had a smoothness about his control hand that just screamed “I be Good” to another pilot. Longing for a stick of my own, I ambled over the last ridge just as Travis was having his usual confab with either the Historian or Bartlett. At my request, today it was Bartlett.
“Good afternoon Gentlemen,” I greeted them.
“Like I said Ash, this had better be good,” Bartlett growled.
I took the two ice cubes out and handed them to the two of them. “Gentlemen, I present you the decrypted database of the PC 1192; minus four pages of entries and one appendix.”
Travis looked stunned, “I thought this was going to be a much tougher decryption problem?”
I kicked at the ground and replied, “I did not beat the system I beat the user. I used the time hacks on the outside of the entry packets to determine who the Senior Officer was and it was not the Political Officer. It was in fact the Damage Control Officer. I know that scum like the pores of my skin. I have spent ten years looking for a way to kill him and get away with it. I knew his favorite keys, tried them, and out came the clear copy. I cut some very personal stuff about a person near and dear to me out and recorded the rest on your cubes.”
I turned and walked a few steps then came back. “Bartlett, I know you want to know what’s on that missing section. But, boy if yall wanna live and breathe dontcha all ever chive me on that. Cause I’ll not give yall another free shot and who’ll thatall will chafe bad is worth more to me than your damn ass!” I knew my face was the Mommas side of the genes version of Andy’s Reaper but, for once I just dindt care. I liked Bartlett but, I had to stop this here!
I paused for just a moment, staring at Ash all the while, and then said, “Let me do some thinking out loud…. Captain…. Ash…. follow me on this and tell me if I get it right. First, we have Ash’s former command database with sections encoded. Ash tells us he didn’t know that there was hidden information but readily agrees to help find out what it is. We are looking primarily for information on UNWG plans and capability.
“Second,” and with a glance again at Ash, “Ash, in remarkably short time tells us he has cracked the coding problem and presents us with all of the information, he says, except for some personal stuff on someone near and dear to him. But then specifically tells me, though it must have been for your benefit also, or maybe even primarily Captain, that I should not inquire about said information. Seem correct so far Captain?”
“Sure does Bart and continue on. I am beginning to get a glimmer.”
“Ok Captain, I take it for granted that Ash isn’t stupid and he did have time to decide how to make his presentation. He could have easily omitted the part about the personal information or claimed that there were still a few things he hadn’t been able to decode. We might not have believed him but more likely we would have and then asked him to keep working on the problem. Ash chose instead to tell us there was more information he knew about but refused to talk to me, or I think us, about what that information was. Why would he do this? Because he must think that is info that is so very important that we ought to know about it, but that if he flat out tells us what it is he would be in a world of hurt.” I paused again.
Captain Travis nodded and said, “It’s becoming obvious, keep it up I think the end is in sight.”
“Therefore, and in conclusion”, I began, “Ash has told us there is a deep and dark secret. Something concerning some one near and dear to him that we are not meant to know, except we must be meant to know, or he wouldn’t have mentioned the secrete in the first place. Well, who might be near and dear to Ash? Could it be Andy Stuart? A good first approximation. It might be Mariana, it might even be someone else we would never consider, but I think Andy works for my purposes. I, and on the good chance this information was really and primarily for your benefit Captain, should pay a visit to Andy…. and ask him what it all means! After all if Andy is not the person being shielded he just might apply the screws to find out what this is really all about. If he is the one in question, at the very least his response will be instructive. Or, since we have gotten this far perhaps Ash might have something more to add.”
And as Captain Travis beamed, and Ash squirmed, I once more looked at Ash expectantly.
“I should have known better than to try to put something over on you Bartlett. But I had to try. I actually hoped you would lash out at me as a diversion. First, the decryption is complete and accurate. Some of the documents within I am well familiar with and could use them as an accuracy verification. The UNWG is going to be here at least a year sooner than the Capt.’s or my hot guess.”
“I don’t doubt that in the least. Might it be sooner?” asked Bartlett.
“A very good chance.” Captain Travis stated.
“There is a PHD Thesis in the files, which lays out in excruciating detail the pulse phase of Lancers DEE-HEE drive, as well as the Gravity Grabber Assist Drive that made the Mayflower possible. The name of the writer should be disgustingly familiar. The missing pages while containing nothing, which will not eventually become at least semipublic; do contain information which if released improperly or maliciously could cause serious damage to our technological development. The data concerns Mariana, and if handled wrong will put Andrew William Walker Stuart into a Black Scottish rage for weeks. During that period of time Mariana will then be useless and we need them both functional. I have a plan in place to prevent this but I need secrecy to pull it off. Frankly, I was hoping for a fight with Bartlett to buy me that cover!”
“Look Ash. You’ve gotten entirely too clever for me here. We are not UNWG bureaucrats. If you need time for something to happen, and it makes sense for the colony as a whole that’s fine with me. But if you are waiting for me to decide for you what to do then I need all the information that you possess. It’s obvious that that’s not your game, and whatever you are up to I will trust it is not against the colony as a whole. Just do it! Didn’t command teach you anything? Or are you just too damn skittish? Remember Ash, I trust You. Well to a point.”
“Captain Travis, may I be excused now? I have other fish to fry. And let me know how it all turns out.”
“Thanks Bart, I’ll take it from here.”
I watched Bartlett walk away and stared at Capt. Travis with what I knew was a stunned look on my face. “He trusts me, you coulda fooled me. Honest Travis I was ready to take a second sucker punch just to keep this quiet. Now Bartlett goes all logical on me. Well, He missed his chance. I will not take another one now and for some strange reason I think it’s not Bartlett who’s gonna find that out. Sorry to take your time, if you need any assistance with the math in that Thesis just give me a call!,” with that I nodded and walked away.
I just stood smiling watching Bartlett walk away in one direction and Andrews in another and the only thought that came to mind was; Peas in a Pod, Peas in a Pod!