Shiyau thol’es k’thorai ri k’ahm

The walk back to the central console room had never seemed longer. True, he had been up for nearly 36 hours now, feverishly studying nearly every known language in the Federation and beyond, and he had spent a good amount of time running up and down these same corridors despite his deteriorating health. By the time he reached the console, he was winded, and wondering with a little bit of fear whether his throat was being bathed in saliva or blood. Still, he pulled up the controls and got ready to make the Catalina clear for departure.
“You’re all set, Catalina,” he rasped into the communication channel. Cynthia’s friendly voice greeted him, overly cordial to offset the grim proceedings.
“Right-o, Churchill. This is Catalina in final preparations for departure. Waiting your mark for departure, Churchill.”
“Given,” Mike said with a sigh.
“We will commence advancement at one quarter impulse power when the mag-locks release. Communications will be disabled while mag-locks are being desensitized. Over and out.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…” Mike grumbled, turning off the comm channel. He’d heard it a million times before from a thousand captains… but hearing it from her, and now, made it sting more than ever before. This is it, he thought, this is the time and the place to make something amazing happen and, as usual, he’s left sitting on his butt. He’d grown up on stories of his father making amazing things happen, saving the lives of creatures across the galaxy. He even remembered hearing his mother tell stories of the rationing and sacrifices that happened after the siege, giving her a place in the sun. What does he have? A rusted out space-station, a secondhand uniform, and the uncanny ability to both save the day and erase any evidence that he had.
He began to think back to his years at the church: the Klingon incident with the Catalina, the Mol-Terin and his wife, the multiple secret repairs to the universal translator, and the one peculiar incident of having to escort a score of Orion “diplomats” to a less-than-savory meet-up with a group of wealthy off-world merchants. One wrongly translated word and the merchants would have left with it in their hands, quite literally…¬† detached from their original location. Still, it was never enough: he was just another hard-luck case of the CREI, another useless appendage to society that they shoved onto a crumbling wreck in space because he couldn’t find a decent job planetside. Mike had hoped, at one point, that after a few years of exemplary work someone higher up would have noticed. He even left enough clues to lead back to him if it ever came to that… but it never did.
Sure, he could have saddled a desk at a Calgary dilithium merchant and made a pretty penny, or just lazed about and collected a Federation stipend, like a writer… but he couldn’t. He wanted to see the stars, he wanted to see the shuttles and the ships and the turbolifts and the transporters and the doors that went whoosh when you approached them. He’d seen his father and an entire generation of amazing men and women save the Earth and more on a regular basis, sometimes with front row seats to the action. All he ever wanted was to be like them… was that too much to ask?
By this point he was nearly lost in self-pity, and barely heard the message barking out over every comm channel simultaneously. There was something deep in his ears that caught it, like a familiar song or phrase waking you from a deep slumber. To anyone else, it would have seemed a horrid mess of nonsense syllables and the garbled syntax of countless languages, but to Mike Smith, the human translator, it had been the same “language” he had been diligently studying, the same code that was nearly second nature to him now, and it was barking out instructions.
“Oh, God…” Mike muttered in horror, his hands trembling, “it’s the fail-safe.”
Something had gone wrong. He didn’t know what, but something had affected the plan for Khitomer and the interplanetary conspiracy had given the order to enact the fail-safe: rather than a calculated assassination of the Federation President, it was the outright extermination of the entire Klingon/Terran peace talks. Something must have gone wrong, someone must have caught on… was it him?
There was no time to think about that, now. The Catalina had to get there, and fast, now. The vessel that had been masquerading as a shipping barge had been ordered to put on all speed to Khitomer to engage in the grisly massacre, and it would  take every ounce of propulsion the CREI vessel had in its nacelles to intercept. A shipper like that could carry a terrifying payload; the Catalina had to reach it.
“Churchill to Catalina, Churchill to Catalina!” Mike heard his voice rising in tone and speeding out of his mouth like a runaway truck, “Catalina, do you copy?”
There was no answer. He tried again, on every channel, slamming his fist on the console in frustration. Blood erupted out from beneath his little finger’s nail, smearing the screen as he continued to try the comm.
“Bastards!” he swore, “They’ve jammed the whole thing!”
There was no time to think about it. The ship was nearly out of dock, now, and with their current instructions they would never make it on time. There would be carnage over Khitomer the likes of which had not been seen in decades… unless he did something about it. There was no time to think about it.
The pressurization of the suit made every last capillary of his body sting and cry out for mercy. In the reflection of the tempered visor Mike now saw that both of his eyes had turned red, but the pressure of the suit had stemmed the bleeding in his hand. If only his mother could see him, it flashed across his mind, he looked a fright. As he slammed the button into place to open the airlock, another thought flashed across his mind, this time in the words of his father.
“One thing about the Federation, Mikey… they’ve got a contingency for everything.”
“Well,” Mike said to himself as he gripped the handle on the spacesuit’s propulsion device and leaped into the void, rocketing himself at the Catalina’s hull, “this is as good a contingency as any.”
Meanwhile, Humak was diligently monitoring the screens on the bridge of the Catalina, and was as thrilled as he would allow himself to be. For the first time since arriving, he was not only able, but encouraged to do the work of three men, and was succeeding. He was halfway through a routine check of asteroid shields when something peculiar cropped up.
“Commander Harvey?”
Cynthia was in the captain’s chair, peering out uneasily at the exit of the spacedock, and the unknown she would no d0ubt be entering. Who knew what kind of frosty reception would await them in the coldness of space.
“Commander?”
“Hm?” she was shaken out of her thoughts, “Yes, Humak?”
“We appear to have a small asteroid approaching our aft cargo bay.”
“We’re still in spacedock, Mack,” Cynthia scoffed, “it’s a glitch.”
“It is not a glitch,” Humak replied immediately, “I have checked and reset the reports four times, each with the same result. Something is coming for us.”
“If that’s Turtle, tell him I haven’t changed my mind. He can’t come.”
“I can’t, Commander.”
“Why not?” Cynthia was starting to get angry.
“All of our channels have been jammed.”
Cynthia stood up then, her eyes going wide as she knew something was wrong.
“Damn,” she hissed, “Humak, open that cargo bay and get him in here!
“Him, Commander?”
“You know who it is.”
“The lack of logic in the situation suggests no other,” Humak said with just a hint of sarcasm. Cynthia bolted out of the door and to the cargo bay, only to be met halfway to the bridge by two of the maintenance men, half carrying and half dragging Mike through the corridor.
“What the hell…?”
“Wants to speak to you, Commander,” one of them said, “wants to go to the bridge.”
“Well, we can’t drop him in a hallway,” Cynthia was trembling with nerves as she saw the tears of blood coming from his barely-conscious eyes, “bring him up, on the double!”
They dumped him in the Captain’s chair in a heap, and Cynthia immediately removed the helmet.
“Oh, God!” She shuddered, noting all the blood inside the helmet, “Turtle, Turtle! Mike! Say something!”
“Commander… I have a report to make…” he said, giving half a laugh before coughing on his own blood.
“Knock off that appropriate garbage!” she hollered, “what on earth made you do that, you damned fool?!”
“They activated… the fail safe…” Mike’s words came in short, dramatic bursts as he swallowed his blood, “communications… jammed. Had to tell you… the ship is on the way…fast… you need to… intercept.”
His head lolled sickeningly to one side as he regarded Humak with red eyes.
“Mr. Engelbretson,” he cocked a weak smile, “ahead Warp Eight.”
“She’ll fly apart!” one of the maintenance crew gasped.
“Shut it!” Cynthia shouted him down, “if we need to go Eight, we’ll go Eight…”
She looked down at Mike then, her body beginning to shiver as she wiped blood from the corner of his mouth.
“but Mike… we can’t. If we go to warp… we can’t.”
“Warp Eight…” he rasped, nearly delirious.
“You’ll bust like a ripe tomato!”
Then, summoning all his strength, Mike placed both his hands on the arms of the captain’s chair. With blood dripping from one hand, he hauled himself up to a standing position, with weakly-red tears running openly down his face and staining the white of the space suit. He pushed away from the captain’s chair and stood on his own, looking out through the on-screen display at the stars. The Catalina was out of the dock now, and ready for warp.
“Do it.”
“But you’ll die!!!
Mike closed his eyes, pushing out a few more tears, and gave one last, shuddering breath and made peace.
Then call me Captain.

“Oh, God…” Mike muttered in horror, his hands trembling, “it’s the fail-safe.”
Something had gone wrong. He didn’t know what, but something had affected the plan for Khitomer and the interplanetary conspiracy had given the order to enact the fail-safe: rather than a calculated assassination of the Federation President, it was the outright extermination of the entire Klingon/Terran peace talks. Something must have gone wrong, someone must have caught on… was it him?

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