Now or never
A Starship Polaris story
- For a hundred thousand years, the Tzenkethi had not known defeat. the Emperor Risson said, not forgetting the emphatic cough at the end of his words to emphasize his species' valour.
- A lot has changed during a hundred thousand years. Metlesits said Back then, Humans were hardly more than smart apes.
- Tosevites, hmpff! Risson hissed You know nothing about the Tzenkethi.
- As far as I know, you depend on us Tosevites now. Metlesits sighed The Kzinti will wipe out every male, female and hatchling once they land on this planet. Without our technology, this would not be a truth but that of the past.
- And how I hate to admit it being a truth. Risson's eye turrets focused upon the Human standing in front of him. The Human Tosevite in his language looked tired, his crimson wrappings stained with blood and that strange, odorous liquid his kind's skin secreted as a natural coolant. Risson, of course, was immaculately clean, his golden body paint glistening even in the twilight of the throne room. The Tzenkethi Emperor let out another sigh What can we do to prevent it from happening?
Metlesits shook his head, not knowing that the Emperor had no idea what such a gesture meant the Tzenkethi used hand gestures for such signals and scratched his greying beard. He eyes the short, lizardy creature in front of him, a sad little king on a burning little hill. The poor thing thought his kind to be powerful enough to attack and conquer the Kzinti, weakened after their war with the Federation. To Metlesits, everybody who went against the Kzinti just for the fun of it was not simply crazy but suicidal.
- Your Majesty, do you know that you have to sacrifice almost everything to come out from this war with a status quo ante bellum? the Human said slowly. It took the universal translator some time to translate the Latin to Terranglo and then to Tzikaan, but after that, Risson made the affirmative hand gesture.
- As I have said before, I hate to admit this being a truth. he sighed I would like to hear your opinions on this matter, Senior Shiplord.
Metlesits chuckled at his rank's Tzenkethi equivalent. His face turned serious almost in an instant after his mind started analyzing the possible outcomes.
- The Kzinti'll launch a massive attack in the upcoming three weeks. he said, musingly No more bombardments. No more raids. Just one massive wave of devastation. They'll kill most of you, take some as slaves and
and eat the rest. You can't stop them from landing. What you can do is to disable as many ships as you can while in orbit and fight from house to house, block to block when they do land. Most of your people won't see the end of this battle, Emperor, I have to tell you that. But the Kzinti can be stopped. Even they can be stopped.
Thick scales covering his skin, the paleness of dread was invisible on Risson's snouted face. This was a side of him no-one has ever seen before, especially not this Tosevite shiplord from some faraway planet.
- When the time comes, I shall fight beside my males and females. By the spirits of my departed ancestors, I shall do that. Risson said, eye turrets turning downward in reverence of his imperial forebearers And when the times comes, I shall die beside them.
- Spoken like a true leader. Metlesits said and extended his hand. Risson looked at him, one eye turret fixed upon the Tosevite's face, the other on his outstretched, clawless hand. He had seen this gesture once among Metlesits's crew and decided to honour it. His scaled fingers closed around the Humans' in a handshake.
- I thank you, Senior Shiplord. he said in a low voice.
- You are a good man, Emperor. Metlesits said A good male of Tzenketh.
- And you are a brave Tosevite. Risson let go of the Human's hand Maybe one day, after this war is over, your race and mine can live in cordial peace.
- I hope so. Metlesits nodded. He bent himself into the posture of respect as known by the Tzenkethi and left the throne room. He walked past statues of pure gold, a metal army created in the likenesses of the dead Emperors of Tzenketh going back to at least fifty thousand years. This dark, dry hall always gave him the chills, he always felt the watchful eyes of the spirits of Emperors past upon himself not as if he believed in their existence. He was happy to finally leave the House of Ab-Tzenketh and breath the clean, dry air of Prefillo, the capital city of the Tzenkethi Empire.
- In three weeks, this place will be nothing but burning ruins
- he sighed. This was not their war, not that of the USS Polaris. But they had to choose and now they were here. Come rain or shine, the Polaris will be fighting alongside the Tzenkethi.
He was so deep in his thoughts that he didn't see the figure materializing next to him in the bluish containment beam of the transporter. He only noticed the newcomer when being called by his rank:
- Big Chief. he nodded to his Chief Engineer How are the repairs going?
- Not as fast as it would back on Earth, but these Lizard critters give us every help they can spare.
- The phasers?
- On seventy-eight percent and stable. the Native American man held up a data slate for his Captain to see But there are more important things I wanted you to see, Captain. I just found this in the restricted archives.
- What the
? Metlesits' eyebrows shot up in a quite Vulcan-ish way Did you crack some codes, Big Chief?
- Not me, the ship. White Eagle shook his broad shoulders The codes were already in the system. Someone back in Leningrad probably thought we could use 'em.
- And what did you find? Metlesits took the data slate to scrutinize its contents. What he saw was a tubular starship, big and bulky with an integrated mid-line nacelle and two small manoeuvring nacelles mounted on short pylons Oh, I remember these ships. Romulan War era Earth ships, aren't they?
- It's not the ship, Captain. White Eagle said This ship
the Russkies built it using the standardised Bison hull used by all capital ships of the War. But they outfitted this class with something special. Look at this.
He pressed a touch-sensitive membrane switch and the image on the data slate changed to that of a tubular object filled with machinery. Metlesits skimmed through it. What he saw was, basically, two nuclear bombs on opposing sides creating enough heat and pressure helped by strong but temporary force fields that fuses not merely hydrogen to helium, but helium to carbon. A boosted fusion bomb.
- Édes Istenem! Metlesits whispered in his native Hungarian What is this, Big Chief, the H-bomb of all H-bombs?
- The specs call it a "Chapayev class vessel-to-system missile". White Eagle said I've heard storied back in my days from old farts who served in the War. They told these tall tales after a few good swings of Scotch
a bomb that can burn whole continents. A Sunbomb.
Metlesits looked at the diagrams. They looked harmless, filled with technical data the could only half-way comprehend. But if those tall tales were indeed true
- How long will it take you to build it? he said silently.
? White Eagle's words failed him but he managed to stutter out: - You really want to use that bomb?
- Not if we have any other way to end this war. Metlesits said, his voice still barely above a whisper Maybe the knowledge that we have this bomb will be enough to convince the cats to go home and end the hostilities. But if we have to
- Two weeks. White Eagle said in a grumble Maybe a little more, seventeen, eighteen days. I'll need some materials from the Lizards. And I'll need the help of somebody who knows a good deal about radioactivity.
- Can Ensign Ainsworth help you?
- Yes, I think she surely can.
- I'll inform her personally. Her and the whole crew.
- If we do this, Big Chief, we have to do this together. Metlesits ran his hand over his sweating forehead, the motion ending in him holding his chin in a musing way May the Federation forgive us if we fail. And may the Almighty forgive us if we succeed.