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"Then it's clear," Kirk spat out, pounding the conference table with one fist dramatically. "The colony's transporter malfunction was no malfunction. It was... sabataj."
From Kirk's side, Spock cocked his head quizzically.
"It was what?" said the Rylian III ambassador, blinking both sets of eyes at Kirk.
McCoy and Uhura exchanged a look.
Kirk leaned back in his chair. "A phrase from Earth," he explained. "It means the transporter was deliberately tampered with."
"Ah," said the Rylian III ambassador, but she still looked a little unsure. She tapped her translator earpiece slightly, as if she thought it were malfunctioning.
"Yes," said Uhura, with a tight smile. "Sabotage."
The ambassador was still frowning, but then her earpiece clicked.
"Ah!" she said again, brightly this time.
"Yes, a term from the ancient Dutch," continued Kirk solemnly. "A group of mistreated workers decided to destroy their factory by tossing their wooden clogs, called sabot, into the works."
Everyone looked relieved.
"Thus ... sabataj," concluded Kirk.
There was a small silence.
Spock cocked his head the other way. At the end of the table, McCoy and Scotty glanced at each other. Chekov looked spellbound.
"Yes, indeed," Uhura said through her beaming smile. Her eyes were desperate. "SABO. Tage."
"And," mused Kirk, rubbing his chin, "we can conclude that it was one of your own employees, Ambassador. No one else would have had the clearance needed to commit sabataj on such a scale."
"Sabotage," said Sulu, suddenly.
Kirk nodded, pointing a forefinger Sulu's way. "Mr. Sulu's got the right of it. The question now is the possible motive for sabataj."
"Sabotage." Sulu was staring down the table at Kirk.
Spock lifted one eyebrow. The Rylian III ambassador looked very uncomfortable. Uhura, McCoy, and Scotty stared at each other.
"Uh ... right." Kirk chuckled uncomfortably, glancing at Sulu. "Sabataj."
Sulu closed his eyes. "SAH. BOW. TA. JUH," he said through gritted teeth, beating the base of his palms against the table with every syllable.
"Yes, Lieutenant," Kirk replied slowly, suddenly seeming very doubtful of Sulu's sanity. "We've established that it was sabataj."
"SABOTAGE!" Sulu exploded, slamming his palm onto the table. He leapt to his feet, his chair clattering to the floor. "It's 'sabotage,' not 'SEH BEH TEHJ'! You keep christing mispronouncing it! 'Sabotage,' Jesus, it's not that hard a word! Sabotage!"
Kirk stared at Sulu in shock.
Scotty had closed his eyes and pressed one hand hard against his mouth, though a weird chuffling hysterical sound or two still managed to escape him. Uhura's head was buried in her arms. The Rylian III ambassador stared at Sulu and Kirk with a look of horror frozen on her face.
"Uh," said Kirk, finally. He raised his hands a little. "I'm, uh, sorry. Thank you, Mr. Sulu. Sa, bo, tage."
Sulu's panting gradually slowed as he looked around at the table. After a minute, he cleared his throat a little, awkwardly. Avoiding their gazes, he picked up his chair and sat back down.
"No problem," he mumbled.
When the coast seemed clear, Kirk warily walked his chair forward.
"Ahem. Now. My chief engineer, Mr. Scott, has been able to recover the visuals from the actual moment of the... sabotage..."
Here Kirk glanced down at the end of the table. Sulu was staring into his lap, silently. Kirk let out a little breath and continued.
"... of your transporter console. Mr. Scott has also been so kind as to compile the most important moments for us. I have here the footage arranged into a montaj ..."
No one actually saw the second Sulu leapt across the table and took Kirk by the throat, but his scream of fury could be heard all the way on deck sixteen.
Everyone watched as the medical team wheeled Kirk and Sulu out of the room.
"Fascinating," said Spock.
"He vas pronouncing the vord vrong?" asked Chekov, surprised.