Chapter 7 : Coffee, whipped cream, and Kilrathis

If I have to remember only one thing from this day, I finally know what it'll be: The look on everyone's face, a few seconds after I made the suggestion.
Anyone wants some coffee ? With those four words, a crew fighting for mankind's very survival shifts back to a bunch of men and women ready to kill anyone between themselves and a pot of coffee.
I know what almost everyone will drink, so I just speak to the most recent crew members before going to the kitchen of the ship, and, while the coffee is brewing, I begin thinking about those Marines fighting their way in a Kilrathi carrier, when Veronica comes:

"So, Ron, what do you think about it, now ?"
"Milk, not sugar."
"Ron...."
"Oh, you weren't speaking about the coffee. About the other "exciting thing" of the day, I still think only a moron could have designed such an attack plan, but since it worked, I'll say "a great plan, worth of greatest honours", don't you think ?"
"Yep, but we still have to get out", I tell her, while giving her a mug of coffee and taking the pot back to the CIC.

"Coffe time, guys", I say, before feeling my ears melting from the cheers coming from everyone here.
"What, is it attacking a carrier that gets you in such a mood, or the coffee ?" Maybe both….Note to self : to keep a crew happy, attack a Kilrathi carrier bare-handed. What moron said the life of a CO was an easy one ?

We barely had time to drink before the colonel call:
"Get ready, we're taking off !"
"You heard the man, guys", I tell the CIC, "get on."

I take a glance to the external video feed, and see sixty, maybe seventy guys in armor running for their lives to the Qin.
A few seconds later, we hear Amos' voice again:
"Go, go, go, go !! Everyone's here !! Take off !!"

We're still halfway through the hangar, almost ready, when he gets in the CIC:
"Are you OK ?"
"I've got five nukes primed and counting, so get the hell out of here, unless you want to be scattered all across Sol."
He made his point, no arguing with that.

As we accelerate, the Kamekh that chased us twenty minutes ago stops right in front of the bay, effectively preventing us to get out.

Oh, oh, looks like the movie will stop right now, either if we ram the corvette or if we wait for the nukes to detonate.

"Launch dumbfires one to four"

What ?

As the four rockets burn in the bay's atmosphere, cross the shields and race to the ship, I turn to the origin of the order, and ask her, 'cause it came from Veronica:
"What was that ?"
"Those were the dumbfire I had installed on the Qin during refitting and refueling. Looks like you were too busy drinking or inviting Marine guys aboard to read the FYI memo."

"…Oh."

Then, the corvette, desperately trying to evade the rockets, exploded in a blinding flash just in front of the carrier, destroying a few of the fighters around it, and forcing the rest to retreat.

We dash at flank speed, followed by the surviving ships. As we get clear of the debris field, I look at the scanners, and see the remaining fighters getting back to nail us.

Cr.....I have an idea......

I turn to Amos:
-How long before boom ?
-One minute fifty, he answers after looking at one of his armor' screens.

It can work, with a lot of luck.

I turn to Hal:
"Hal, you're fluent in Kil, don't you ?"
As he nods, I tell him to get at the communication board.

While he gets there, I turn to Ron:
"Turn towards those fighters, speed two-thirds."
"Are you crazy !? Those guys want fry us, no matter what, and you go right on them !", she almost yells, before saying: "And we've got no more rockets.....FYI"
"Shut up and trust me. I have to think, now. And by the way, tell to the other ships to stay close behind us, and, when I give the mark, to accelerate at flank speed."

While she transmits my orders, I close on another console in the comm section, to activate our of-course-illegal-but-waaaaaay-too-nice-to-get-rid-of-it frequency scanner. After a few seconds, during which I resume my thinking, the screen shows me the comm frequency those fighters seem to use to prepare their attack.

I see Amos touching his watch and making the sign "One". OK, so, one minute left. It'll work.

I whisper something to Hal. At first, he smiled, but as I finished, he looked upon me as if I was Trakhath himself after nuking Sirius. Yep, it should do the trick.

"Translate it."

The fighters are almost in position, when he begins to speak.

"Ron, on my mark, get on all our jammers, the starboard propellers and the remaining flares."

As he speaks, I see a few heads turning around and looking at Hal with disbelief.

Didn't know so many people on my ship knew this part of Kilrathi language. And I really don't want to know where they learnt it.

The answer came back pretty quickly, and was ferocious, even for a guy like me who didn't understand a word of what the pilot said.
"No need to translate the answer, Hal. I think I prefer not to know what he said."
I wait a few seconds, then I tell to Ron to begin all the evasive tactics.

At the same moment, the fighters launch all their missiles and rush towards us, all guns firing, but I anticipated that, and while the combined action of flares and jammers so early in the missile guidance threw away their lock, our lateral propulsion made it possible to avoid most of their fire, corrected too late to destroy our shield.

"Switch all power to rear shield, and tell the others to get in front of us."
"Great. They missed us on the first attack. And so what, now ? They're faster than us, and in thirty seconds we'll be dead.", Ron says angrily, while sending the message.
"Maybe, but in ten seconds, they'll be close to an exploding carrier."

And as they were changing course, the Snakeir blew away like a firework on Confed day, sending debris everywhere.

Everywhere including the fighters.

"Oops.", I said in a negligent tone.

After a few seconds of silence, I resumed:
"So, can we go back to Earth now, or do we need to take on another carrier, colonel ?"

"I've got no more nukes, so Earth is a good idea, if they haven't demolished it yet."

For the first time, I began to worry about what could have happened to it during our "leisure trip", and, during our way back, I tried to raise comms with a spaceport or a space station, until, as we were halway back, we heard an official announcment by Tolwyn himself on the main comm frequencies.

We lost several big cities, and, of course, lot of Marines (I even begin to appreciate those damn crazy bastards, now) and civilians, but we apparently won, since no rad weapons hit Earth.

Crap. I'd always wanted to see Paris.

Amos, holding a cup of coffee, came to see me a few minutes before we landed.
"Something's still wondering me."
"What ?"
"I've seen a lot of operations involving Cat fighters, and, most of time, even if they're prone to react to insults, they rarely go in berserk mode."
"Huh ? Didn't know that ? So.....we were lucky today."
"What did you tell this "Hal" to get them in such a mood ?"
"Nothing special, I told you."
"Francis......"
Crap. If I tell him, he'll react as the others.....

Huh. Since when a Marine's opinion bothered me ?

Oh, yes:
Maybe since one of them was in front of me in battle armor.

He still looks at me.

Crap.

"OK, OK, you won. Let's say it was something concerning me, their mothers and a can of whipped cream."
"Whipped cream ?", he repeats, obviously not understanding the last part of my sentence.
"Whipped cream."

Looking at me, he seems to have problems deciding if he should ask more or if what he could guess all by himself was already enough.

During all the landing, I saw him keeping an eye on me, the kind of look he would have had if he was in the same room as a pack of Kilrathi warriors discussing How to serve Man.

The Marines got off the ship as soon as we landed, and for the first time since we got off, we could think about what to do next. I was about to ask Ron if she agreed to resume with our original plan when someone in the hangar got near the hatch and asked for me.

Déjà vu.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

I get to the hatch with Neil and Andy, and I see one guy.
Heh, probably a CEO who doesn't know it's over.

"What do you want, pal ?"

"I 'ave something that could interest you."

Huh

"What are you talking about ?"

"Some well-paid jobs, that are probably easier than what you just achieved with that Snakeir."

How did he know ?

"Before anything, can I know who I'm talking with ?"

"Of course, laddie. The name's Taggart. But you'll soon call me "Paladin" ."