Major Timothy Torrance looked at the young Lieutenant at the intelligence station. He didn't remember the name of the young man, he was the newcomer in his crew. Aboard the USNASF spaceship Edison, the crew was not simply a crew but a family. The young Lieutenant was not a member of the family, anything but. He had to earn the right to become one of them, a veteran spaceship crew of the United States of North American Air and Space Force. As things were, maybe he'll earn it with his baptism by fire.
- It's a Soviet ship, Sir. – the Lieutenant said. His name was Michaelson, Torrance quickly checked the nameplate on his spacesuit – Outbound for Jupiter.
- As if the Russkies have any excuse for going that far. – Captain Randy DiAngelo hissed in annoyance.
- They have Warp drive now, we just can't restrict them. – Torrance shrugged his shoulders.
- We nuked Moscow. We nuked Baikonur. We nuked bloody Star City dammit, and still…!
- Enough of that, Randy! – Torrance growled – Let's see what they want. On screen, Lieutenant.
- Aye-aye. – Michaelson nodded. On the dmily lit bridge of the Edison, a screen flickered into life. The face of a man in his mid-forties appeared on it: long, angular, with hair receding – typically Russian, at least as according to how Torrance envisioned Russians. Still, no horns and probably no hooves and forked tail – just another astronaut. Or was it cosmonaut? Torrance taught so. Anyway, an ordinary man, but his eyes… the American Major was shocked at his visage. The Russian man was pale with sweat pouring down his face, grey eyes wide with fear.
- Ya polkovnik Sergei Philippov, komandir Polyarnoy Zvezdy, kosmycheskogo korabl. – he said, trying hard to keep his voice steady.
- What's he saying? – Torrance barked at Michaelson.
- His name is colonel Sergei Philippov of the spaceship Pole Star. – the young lieutenant said. Philippov kept on speaking in Russian, but before Michaelson could translate that, he switched to English:
- This is colonel Sergei Philippov of the Soviet spaceship Polyarnaya Zvezda. This is a… a general warning – he seemed to work hard to remember this phrase – to all spacecraft. Soviets and also Americans. We were being… intercepted by three ships belonging to the… Tellarites. They intend to… annex our territories to occupy us. In the name of Humankind, please help us!
He spoke English with a good enough accent, probably learnt it from the Soviets' Limey cronies. Accented or not, this was the message all of Humankind has feared since First Contact with the Vulcans a decade ago.
- Put me through all available channels, Lieutenant. – Torrance said, his shaky voice not that different from Philippov's.
- Channels open, Major. – Michaelson said.
- This is Major Torrance of the Edison. Did anybody recieve the Russians' message?
- This is Major McPherson of the Admiral Peary. – a female voice reponded from a wall-mounted speaker – Everybody on this side of Heaven recieved it, Major Torrance.
- So… is this an alien invasion?
- Looks damn sure like that to me.
- Helm, set a course for that Soviet ship. – Torrance howled, forgetting McPherson altogether – Tactical alert! Prepare for anything! Ahead, maximum Warp!
Ahead the Edison flew. And she was not together. Whatever the Americans and Soviets had up in space and had a Warp drive followed. This was the time to forget what being American or Soviet was. Outside, in the deep coldness of space, it mattered not. Out there, they were Humankind, perhaps on the brink of a war for their freedom.
The Edison arrived just in time. The Tellarite ships were huge compared to the tiny Polyarnaya Zvezda. Torrance knew the Soviet ship was armed with laser emitters and nuclear warheads, but what were they against a true starship with God-knows-how-many centuries of refinement behind it.
- This Tellarite Concordium is. – a gruttual voice spoke from a speaker, both the accent and the grammar (or lack of) was enough to flay the nerves of Torrance even further – You creatures annexed will be.
- How the hell do they speak English? – Torrance demanded.
- They must have studied us. – Randy DiAngelo suggested.
- Let's tell them to get the fuck out of our solar system. – Torrance grabbed for the frequency dial, turning it to a standard all-ship hailing frequency bound to be picked up by any nearby ship, Terran or alien. But it was Philippov's voice that blared from the speakers before he could make his own little speech:
- I suggest you imperialist aliens to turn around and leave in peace before we show you Kuzka's mother! And that means, we'll give you a beating it'll shake your ancestors! – he added for the sake of clarification.
- Charming as the Russian he is. – Di Angelo mused.
- Cut it out, Randy, it's not funny. – Torrance barked – The man talks straight like he ought to do with these extraterrestrials!
- Too bad Cochrane didn't talk like that to the Vulcans back in '63. – Lieutenant Michaelson said – Now they are everywhere on Earth!
- Do you hear me, Tellarites? – Philippov's voice blared from the speakers – Retreat or you'll be asking for what you get… from the people of Earth!
And he was speaking the truth. More and more Earth spaceships dropped out of Warp to join the little fleet of Humankind's finest. Flying little tin cans with pathetic excuses of what the Vulcans called a real Warp drive, but armed to the boots – you just couldn't be cautious enough. And the Tellarites knew when to be sensible and turn around. Before anybody was foolish enough to fire the first shot, the three starships departed.
- It's… over. – Torrance sighed. He saw DiAngelo making the sign of the Cross. He reached for the subspace radio and called for the Pole Star, the Polyarnaya Zvezda.
- Colonel Philippov, this is Major Torrance of the North American Air and Space Force. I think we need to talk.
The two ships docked together. As the airlocks opened, one kind of stale air mixed with another kind. Torrance glided forward through the docking arm's length and saw Philippov gliding toward him. The two men extended their arms for a handshake. A handshake that will be followed by many. A handshake that foretold the future.
The crew burst out in standing ovation. They always did when the movie ended, the last scene of the two spacemen shaking hands being replaced by the credits. Captain Metlesits stood up from his seat and with a flick of a button, he de-activated the projector which screened the movie upon the wall of the cantine of the Starship USS Polaris.
- Terra Prevails! – he shouted, and the crew echoed him. It was also a ritual, just like watching the movie on the anniversary of the Battle of Cheron. It was a tradition ever since Captain Boccioni commanded the Polaris, and that was quite a long time ago.
- I still insist that the Russian version of the film is better. – Vasya Nussbaum said in mock disdain – The American one is just a cheap copy. "Heroes of the Pole Star", come on! Geroi Polyarnoy Zvezdy, that's the real thing.
- We'll watch that some other time, Vasya. – Metlesits said – Remember, this film is the traditional one here.
- I haven't seen any of them, up till now. – Charlotte Ainsworth said.
- They are hard to come by. – Metlesits shrugged – The disks were aboard this ship long before I was.
- Can you imagine it, Herr Kaleu? – Rochus Heimann said in a musing voice – A few little ships out against a superior enemy, against all odds, and they still win? I know it's our history, but it's hard to believe…
- A small ship beating all the odds? – Metlesits smiled – You should know better, Rochus. Just look at there.
He turned toward the Ship Wall, as everybody on the Polaris called this place. It was just another wall segment, except for it was decorated by three paintings: the Polyarnaya Zvezda, the Romulan War era light cruiser UESN Polaris and the Pallada class USS Polaris. Heimann smiled and nodded to himself. He knew better, allright. He was part of the legend, after all.