"I can't believe that we're just going to fly home and let two thousand and forty-nine people die," F'Ve said to no one in particular. They had arrived back at the shuttle several moments earlier and F'Ve had sat staring out the port at the Zaretio.
"One thousand, nine hundred and fifty-eight," R'Zuti said as she stepped into the crew compartment of the shuttle. She and T'Lin had returned to the bridge to collect R'Zuti's tools before rejoining the rest of the party. "Despite all the failsafes, ninety-one of the tubes have either broken down entirely or have had malfunctions bad enough that it was likely lethal to the occupant."
"You're not helping," F'Ve responded, her eyes never leaving the ship.
"Are we ready to leave," Kareneter asked from the cockpit.
"Yes--" N'Tar started.
"Yes," T'Chorel interrupted, "but please swing us around to the starboard engines and hold position there."
"What? Do you intend to stick around to watch your old enemy die," N'Tar said bitterly.
"N'Tar," T'Chorel said as he stood up, "I fully expect you to ask for my resignation when we get home, and I fully intend to give it to you. But I have two things to do first and I want F'Ve to join me in the cockpit for the first of them.
T'Chorel walked forward into the cockpit without another word. F'Ve looked around at the others confused, then stood up and followed him.
"T'Chorel, what's going on," she asked as they settled into the jump-seats in the cockpit.
"Soon enough," he said and turned to the pilot, "Launch when ready, Kareneter."
The pilot's slender fingers moved over the control board. There was a slight jerk as the shuttle pulled away from the cargo hatch of the larger ship. Kareneter gave more power to the engines and the shuttle began a graceful arc around the Zaretio.
"How long until we're in position," T'Chorel asked.
"Right . . . about . . . now." Kareneter turned to the others with a puzzled look on his diamond-shaped face.
"You can broadcast on frequency 561.23 can't you," T'Chorel asked, though his smile said he already knew the answer.
"Of course," Kareneter replied.
"F'Ve, you're rather fond of prime numbers as I recall," T'Chorel turned to her.
"Yes," she replied, more puzzled than ever.
"Kareneter, I'd like you to broadcast the first hundred prime numbers, on a loop, on frequency 561.23, narrow beam, high power, aimed just in front of that cluster of starboard manuvering thrusters. Can you do that," T'Chorel's smile was infectious.
"Sure," Kareneter smiled back, still confused.
"What are we doing," F'Ve asked.
"T'Chorel," N'Tar called out, "what is going on up there?"
"Wait for it," T'Chorel said loud enough for N'Tar to hear but kept his eyes locked on F'Ve's face.
Suddenly the entire cluster of manuvering thrusters burst to life. At first it seemed to be having no effect. Then, slowly, the ship began to move forward, but not quite on its original course. The thrusters burned for several minutes while those aboard the shuttle looked on mutely. Then, one by one, their fuel expended, they when dark.
F'Ve turned to T'Chorel as the last thruster died, "How did you do that?
"That frequency was originally only used for certain rare automated systems. In the early days of space exploration, mysterious malfunctions plagued nearly every ship. Eventually, a very clever engineer put it all together and realized that frequency 561.23 at the right power level was causing control circuits to overheat which caused all sort of problems, including thrusters turning on by themselves," T'Chorel continued to smile at F'Ve.
"But," N'Tar's exaspertion exploded, "but-- but-- you said-- aaahh!"
"I knew that Dool would never trust me unless he thought he'd won the arguement, so I let him think that we were legally blocked from interfering. The fact that I voted to let him die just served to reassure him that I was giving him what he wanted."
"And he'll never know what you did, because it will look like a malfunction," Kareneter added.
"And he'll consider it divine intervention, in any case," P'Ku said.
"Of course they'll still all die out there in the void," F'Ve frowned.
"But not today," T'Chorel said.
"I'm sorry I doubted you, T'Chorel," F'Ve smiled.
T'Chorel leaned close and kissed her gently.
T'Chorel realease his seatbelt and turned to the passenger cabin. "Now, as my last official act as a memeber of the Council--"
"I won't be asking for you resignation," N'Tar interrupted.
"You're getting it anyhow," T'Chorel said, "But first, I'd like to place a motion before the Council. I move that everything that occurred from the time F'Ve spotted the Zaretio until the time that we touch down on K'Vinter be declared a matter of planetary security, that we all be sworn to secrecy, and that all mention of these events be stricken from the official records."
A United Allegiance Tale
and © Copyright 1980-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.