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The screen went to the standard view of the station, then it changed into the seldom used rather old fashioned coat-of-arms of the station. After that there was a good clear view of Commander Straider.
Log Entry: Stardate 47321.6 [The following entry contains narration by Ensign Malcolm Davis, Station Historian.]
"Station log. This is Commander Straider. This is to be maintained in the official record of Space Lane Station 374-II, and is not to be deleted under any circumstances. I have not indulged in any consciousness altering vegetable or chemical substance for at least thirty-six hours. I am speaking Star Fleet Standard English. For the record, in my official capacity as station commander." He paused dramatically. "I wish it to be known that class-A inspections by flag officers serve no other purpose than to give a few absolutely incompetent, self-important, willingly deluded, hopelessly inept individuals something to do to justify their existence until they can con the service out of a pension." He paused again. "Computer. Copy this entry and forward it to every ranking fleet and command admiral in the book. Straider out."
The view showed a brief exterior of the station then it changed to the commander's office. Sitting in the room were the commander and two admirals.
One of the admiral's uniforms looked significantly less ornate than the others. When he moved or spoke he did so as if he were completely at ease here, he seemed, almost folksy. The only insignia on Admiral Gleason's collar was a small Federation crest. What he was was the single highest-ranking military officer in the entire Federation. The Commanding Admiral in Chief, Star Fleet Operations, Federation Security Headquarters. He just happened to be at Starbase Operations Headquarters when the commander's message came in. One of the recipients had exploded and began fuming out loud about how he'd have Straider fed to fire ants if it was the last thing he'd do. The admiral stopped in mid tirade when he stepped out of his office and walked into Admiral Gleason and a quartet of other brass.
Admiral Gleason wanted to read the log entry. He did.
Instead of having some sort of roaring fit, he wanted to go into the field and meet the station commander who felt strongly enough about inspections to put that in the official record and send it to every flag officer he could find.
A five ship convoy left for a small outpost most of the crews had never heard of.
Station record: "No. No cleaning. I want His Honor to see us as we are. But you will have to at least put on a uniform, no bathing suits, or dressing robes." Commander Straider said with a grin.
In spite of his saying no, the station was all but spit shined by the time two starships, a battle cruiser, and two frigates assumed positions around the station.
The official delegation that beamed into the station's shuttle bay contained enough brass to cast a nice bell for an ancient sailing ship. The Commanding Admiral, two fleet admirals, the admiral from star base operations, a couple of commodores, three captains, and assorted aids and assistants. Truly, more people beamed onto the station with the party than were assigned to the station. Conspicuously missing from the group was the vice admiral that had started all the furor with his evaluation and inspection of the station, and the commander's reaction to it. He was cooling his heels on one of the starships.
Admiral Gleason had the inspection report on a pad he was carrying around, complete with pictures of the offensive parts of the station. He frowned a lot.
"This is exactly the same storage area. I don't see what he saw." Admiral Coort said. "Or at least I don't see it the same way." She opened a parts locker, it was obvious the stuff inside hadn't been disturbed in months, it was musty, but organized after a fashion. "This is the way it should look, usable, not by the book perfection."
Admiral Gleason's face became longer, but he still didn't say anything.
The tour continued. They looked in some crew quarters, a fighter launch area, the inside of the support shuttle, ending up in the command area. Commander Straider pointed with pride to several things, brand new scanning controls, and sixteen years of dust in the corners under a power panel.
"I've made my decision." Admiral Gleason said as they gazed out at the spectacular view of the ships and escorts. A fighter wing from the battle cruiser zoomed by on patrol. He looked at the other flag officers, "I believe you have each reached the same conclusion.
"That Admiral DuGon just retired?" Coort said with a charming smile.
"I'm not letting him off that easily." He turned back toward the window, never tiring of the view of great space vessels against the background of stars. "Ask Admiral DuGon to join us here."
In a few minutes Dugon walked into the room. He stood proudly waiting for vindication. He truly could not read the body language of the others.
"Care to explain yourself?" Admiral Coort said when it was clear the ranking officer didn't wish to speak to him.
"I don't have to answer to you." DuGon said.
Admiral Gleason whirled on him. His face would have frozen a live quantum torpedo. "Mister DuGon, you are about three seconds from having to say 'Yes Sir' to a second year academy cadet." He voice was a low rumble in the room.
If somebody had taken DuGon's vital signs right then, they would have issued a death certificate on the spot. But he still didn't get it.
"On our trip here we reviewed every inspection you have done in the last year." Gleason rumbled.
"I'm sure you found everything in order sir, I try to be..."
DuGon backed up two full steps. He stopped when he came up against a control station.
Gleason turned back to the window, the ships drifting by seemed so peaceful. "What I found was more of what I found here. Overstatement, embellishment, sheer fabrication."
"But." Was all DuGon managed before Admiral Coort began.
Her voice was harder than the shield plating of the deck beneath her. "What he found in them, and what I found here is that you take appearance over substance, you value looks over usefulness, and you twist regulations and policy to suit your own agenda. Which seems to be to make your own sorry career and accomplishments seem more than the Vegan sow dust they really are."
DuGon didn't get a chance to respond.
Commodore Trakok used his Vulcan heritage to his full advantage as he turned the irony in his voice full up. "Your promotion to the Admiralty is the only case I could find on record in all of Star Fleet's history where there was nothing at all to recommend your appointment save the fact that you had never been court-martialed." No, he wasn't smiling, exactly.
Admiral Connover stood his full two and a half meters tall so he could look well down on DuGon. "According to your service record, you were instrumental in establishing the Zarden-Tian protocol for radioactive waste disposal. However, when I looked more closely, you were on Earth when the conference was in session, and you never communicated with anyone at the conference until several months afterward. When the report came through channels for adoption, mysteriously your name appeared at the top of the list of authors."
DuGon's eyes narrowed, he looked like a snake ready to strike.
"Is that true?" Gleason rumbled.
DuGon didn't look at him, but he did mutter something in the affirmative.
Admiral Gleason's face was unreadable. He was silent for a second. He turned back to the window and stared at the battle cruiser as it launched another brace of fighters.
"Computer." He said sternly.
"Working." The station's computer responded in a slightly raspy feminine voice.
He continued, "Authorization, Gleason CA-in-C, Voice Recognition, patch me into Star Fleet Command Central Network."
It took a long couple of minutes, the room was silent as he watched the off-duty patrol landing in the fighter bay of the cruiser. The computer acknowledged the link.
"Effective current star date. Rear Admiral Strwn Dugon is reduced in rank to Dispatching Lieutenant and assigned to Starbase 117 in the personnel transport shuttle wing. His record is to be amended to include the previous discussions on this station, and his admission of same. All honors and commendations in his file are to be suspended pending review, all benefits of his service including time in rank is frozen, I'll decide later if and how much is to be reinstated. Any performance reviews and inspections he has done as inspecting admiral are to be deleted with this order entered in their place. Signed Gleason CA-in-C, and so on. End Transmission."
"Confirm message. Countersign, Knight to King two."
"Bishop takes pawn, check."
"Countersign confirmed. Message relayed."
DuGon was wide eyed. Evidently he didn't realize what had just happened.
"I love the old chess countersign protocol." Gleason smiled.
"I still use it." Straider said ignoring the officers around them.
"Have somebody send over a Lieutenant's duty uniform in his size." Gleason jerked his head toward the new junior officer.
"We have them here." Straider nodded at Ensign White who bolted from the room as if spring loaded.
DuGon didn't resign himself to the fates just yet. "You can't do that to me. I'll resign my commission."
The Vulcan Commodore cleared his throat. "Sir. You do not have much of a commission to resign, and if you do quit, all you will have to show for a life's work is two week's pay as a junior lieutenant. It will take that long to muster you out."
Admiral Connover smiled broadly, "Now I understand the Human expression of having somebody between their Devil and the deep blue sea." He looked down his considerable nose at DuGon, "And what is remarkable, he still believes he has done nothing worthy this treatment."
DuGon looked at them, his chest was heaving, but he didn't speak.
Gleason looked at his aid, "Take Mister DuGon and find that Ensign with his new uniform." He turned toward Straider, "Does the replicator in your office make a decent ale?"
"I've never tried it sir. Let's find out."
"Join us?" Gleason said to the other officers. Only Connover accepted the offer.
They sat in the office and chatted for some time. Admiral Gleason appraised the ale as acceptable.
"So what do you need around here?" The Commodore asked after awhile.
Gleason laughed. "Even I can't get you a new station."
Straider smiled at the officer. "Actually the station itself is OK."
"And you just happen to have an entire shield generator array laying as scrap in a cargo hold." The taller officer noted sitting easily in a chair far too small for him.
"We could use a few things."
The commanding admiral smiled. "I bet you just happen to have a wish list handy too."
"As matter of fact." Straider pushed a pile of odds and ends to one side and picked up a pad.
Gleason touched his communicator. "Commander Reynolds come to the base commander's office." He looked over the list, "Is this everything?"
Straider nodded. "Everything and a few extras."
The aid stepped into the office silently. Gleason handed her the pad. "Call the ships, get this stuff sent over here immediately. Where's DuGon?"
"On a long distance shuttle from the EXCELSIOR on his way to Starbase 117, sir."
"How long are you going to leave him out there?" Commander Straider asked him.
"For a few months. Then I'll re-commission him and let him retire."
"An emotional response?" Trakok said from the door behind them.
"Probably." Connover said.
"Doesn't matter. It's my decision to make."
"I think you don't believe he can dispatch shuttles without fouling it up." Admiral Connover said to nods from the others.
Gleason silently sipped his ale.
It took ship's stores officers from every ship in orbit and one that just happened to be passing by to come up with everything on the list, but they got it.
"I was happy to see them come, I was delighted they agreed with me and busted that plume-head down to dispatcher, but I am delighted to see them go." Straider said to the others in the command center as they watched the last of the convoy of ships go to warp.
The view returned to the outside look at the station.
Continued in: The Station Part 5
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