Izzy held her finger above the big, red button. It was the oft-spoken about, often-depicted Big Red Button. Izzy tried to keep her attention on the four world leaders she had very much gained the attention of by threatening to atomize their planet, but the button kept grabbing her attention. It was a bit underwhelming.
“You’ll kill us all if you do that,” the Supreme Leader said flatly, the sweat rolling down his face as he spoke.
Izzy shook her head. “Doubt it,” she replied. “A big, scary bomb like this doesn’t show up for free. It’s to look scary and sound scary, but there’s definitely fine print attached to it.”
Prime Minister Todan raised an eyebrow, a hint of a smile on her face. “I wonder if you’re right,” she said. “How to determine such a thing?”
“Todan, have you gone mad?” Archbishop Geln snapped. “This isn’t a matter of trial and error. She presses that button and none of this matters. The Rigellians and the Ruklans all…” Geln trailed off, realization bright in his eyes.
“Press the button,” President Kelran said.
Fontaine gasped audibly, having regained consciousness just long enough to hear the exchange, process the gravity of the Big, Red Button, and faint back into Professor Everest’s arms.
“If this actually kills us, might I offer my heartfelt apologies and a hearty oops,” Izzy said, pressing the button. A countdown appeared in the upper right corner of the monitor, beginning at 30.
“You know, this is highly irregular,” CMO Carter said. “I’m beginning to fear you’re not exactly fit to lead such a complex mission.” It was a type of doubt Izzy had grown accustomed to and learned to ignore.
Izzy instead offered a smile. “You seem nice enough, CMO Carter,” she said. “Smart, I’d bet. Looking forward to getting to know you better. How’s about this? If we all die, you’re right and wow will I be embarrassed. If I’m right, you join my crew. We could use a medic.”
CMO Carter blinked a number of times, her response stopping short of being spoken as her eyes kept moving back to the countdown.
“This wasn’t planned for at all.”
“Shit. Shitshitshit. What do we tell the Weapons Master?”
“Transmission received. Response pending…”
A sigh. “Something tells me he already knows.”
Long strings of red text, unintelligible coding language, moved up and down the display, the countdown suddenly disabled. At the same time, the Supreme Leader let out a startled cry.
“My Superheated Plasmoid Barriers are down!” the Supreme Leader shouted. “You monster, you’ve let the Ruklans right into my palace!”
General Inar’s communicator began to chirp madly. He glanced at it, then to the three leaders. “A million pardons, but these are all…Quite urgent. Excuse me.” He walked to the back of the room, towards the entrance, briskly before answering the first of many commlink calls.
Izzy couldn’t stop smiling.
“The timer,” CMO Carter muttered. It had stopped between numbers, a solid block of black.
“Color me awestruck,” Professor Everest said. “Brilliantly done, Captain!”
“Lieges of the Citadel,” General Inar said, returning. “Our troops are reporting their weapons have failed. None are functioning as the should.”
“Excellent! They will be taken into custody and interrogated,” the Supreme Leader said. “Whoever gives up the location of your wretched Citadel will be given a light sentence.”
General Inar held up a finger. “They have reported the Rigellian weapons are not working either,” he added. “The troops have set down their weapons and are…Conversing, from the chatter I’m picking up.”
“Conversing?” Prime Minister Todan asked, smirking.
President Kelran held a hand up. “It would appear there is much to discuss,” she said.
The Supreme Leader deflated, the bluster gone from him. “May a moon fall upon my house, I never thought I’d arrive at the day when I’d say this,” he said. “You’re right. We have much to discuss indeed.”
Izzy held up a hand. “Slow it down a little there, buddy,” she said. “Let’s start off with an easy-peasy question to answer. What’s your name? You weren’t born as Supreme Leader, or if you were I don’t know how you dealt with the bullying.”
Prime Minister Todan stifled a chuckle. Archbishop Geln shook his head, but a hint of a smile played at his lips.
“Calvin Rigellus, of the ruling Rigellus family,” the Supreme Leader, Calvin, replied. “Captain what was it, again?”
“Izzy Warpt,” Izzy replied.
Supreme Leader Calvin nodded. “I would expect these talks could only benefit from you and your crew present,” he continued. “Are there any objections among the Ruklan leadership?”
“I should think not,” President Kelran said, looking to the Archbishop and Prime Minister.
“Then it’s settled,” President Kelran said. “Should I assume you will be expecting us shortly?”
Supreme Leader Calvin nodded. “Our mutual troops appear to have set up small encampments around the Palace, so I’ve requested the staff to begin preparing suitable rations for all.”
“I’d like to bring Captain Warpt along if that’s quite all right,” Prime Minister Todan said.
“I see no issue with your request so long as Captain Warpt does not,” President Kelran said.
Izzy raised an eyebrow. “No problem here as long as you don’t try anything shady with my crew,” she replied. “No surprise imprisonment, please. Not a fan of that kind of thing.”
“We wouldn’t dream of it,” President Kelran said.
Prime Minister Todan rose from her throne gracefully, gliding down the stairs. She stood at least twice as tall as Professor Everest. Two of her arms were folded behind her back.
“This way, Captain Warpt,” Prime Minister Todan said, leading Izzy to a small alcove off to the side of the Citadel’s main chamber. Izzy followed, stopping at the wall they reached. The Prime Minister placed her right hand against it. A panel flashed with a dully, mossy green light for a brief moment. When the light had gone, the area that had illuminated was replaced by a simple doorway. Beyond it was a cavernous chamber lined with burrowing tanks similar to the one they’d arrived in.
“Easiest way to travel is to do so unseen by prying eyes,” Prime Minister Todan said.
Izzy chuckled. “A friend of mine’s got a similar philosophy,” she said, following the Prime Minister.
“I’d ask you listen and consider what I have to say with care,” Prime Minister Todan said. “With some measure of luck, perhaps my words will have some use to you.”
“Listening,” Izzy said. “Ears wide open.”
“You seem to be a clever young woman, full of energy and enthusiasm,” Prime Minister Todan continued. “Not everyone you meet will appreciate that. Some will twist it and try to use those qualities against you.”
“Uh-huh, I’m already noticing,” Izzy muttered in response. “Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt.”
Prime Minister Todan shook her head. “I’ll have no apologies from you, young Captain. Your bold approach was exactly what Rigel Six needed. Not just the Ruklans. Not the Rigellians. All of us. I’d very much like to send my regards to your commanding officer on your performance here.”
Izzy stopped dead in her tracks. “Ah, yeah,” she said. “Maybe…Oh, right. Duh. This was actually a very secret mission. Couldn’t discuss much with my immediate CO, so best to keep it under wraps.”
Prime Minister Todan stopped and smiled. “Is that so? In that case, your confidential mission will remain as such for the time being.”
“Can you make sure you mention that to the others, too?”
Prime Minister Todan’s smile was a warm, summer day back at home for Izzy, pure comfort in a simple gesture.
“Don’t you worry about them,” Prime Minister Todan said. “I’ve got my ways of sorting them out, whether they realize it and admit it or not.”
They arrived at a plain tank, unremarkable in its outside appearance. Its front hatch opened, revealing a luxuriously comfortable interior. Izzy ran past the Prime Minister, leaping into the cushioned seat. She felt the tension leaving every fiber of her body as she settled in, the Prime Minister joining her.
“One last thing,” Prime Minister Todan said as the tank closed up and began its ascent. “How are you with formal dinners? I suspect this one will have all of the trappings of one.”
Izzy wrinkled her nose. “Never been to one? Last time I had to do something even a little fancy I got my family banned from the restaurant, but to be fair it was awful and stuffy and full of people who thought their farts had greater worth than us.”
“Oh, wonderful,” Prime Minister Todan chuckled. “Did I mention you’ll certainly be the guest of honor? May want to consider having a few words prepared before we arrive, Captain Warpt.”