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Kammus Corelli: "The Fourteen"

Kammus Corelli

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Kammus took a drink of whiskey, staring off into the black through the window in his quarters. The rounded edge was warmed by his breath has he slowly ran the rim past the little dip in his upper lip.   He was totally lost in thought. Garrard set opposite him, awkwardly leaning on the edge of the softa.  

“Its today isn’t it”, whispered Garrard.  

Kammus slowly nodded, still holding the glass to his lips.  He took a long, slow breath in through his nose.  The room was still, but the hum of the environmental systems permeated the silence. 

“You never told me the story”, Garrard said, as he stood to pour himself another drink. “You always say fourteen cadets, but I’ve known you 10 years.  Ever year, we play this sad drinking game of remembering their names, but are you ever going to tell the whole thing?”.  Garrard wasn’t annoyed, and as long as he had known Kammus, they had been friends.

Kammus wiggled his glass back and forth with the twist of his wrist in the direction of Garrard, who got the hint.  He grabbed the decanter, and moved to fill Kammus’ glass.  The faithful ice cubes began to give up their life in the exploration of deeper flavor.  Kammus watched the water radiate outwards, mixing with the alcohol.  Taking one last sip, he placed the glass on the side table, wiping his hand on the pant leg of his uniform to clear the condensation.

“You never really forget a thing like that,” Kammus spoke softly.  Garrard slowly shifted his eyes, wondering if the whole story was going to come out now.  He moved softly around the room to resume his seat.  “We were nearing completion of the USS Robin, a prototype experimental vessel.  Cadets from Farpoint academy had been assigned to engineering as a culminating learning experience to get field training.   I was overseeing the initial startup of the warp core, everything was going smoothly.   Suddenly, without warning, engineering exploded into chaos. Everything went black, and we were all thrown against the bulkhead”, said Kammus, standing.  He started to pace around the room, whiskey glass in hand.

“When I opened my eyes, the emergency lighting painted a pretty grim picture.  A coolant leak was filling the compartment from above with toxic vapor, a plasma fire was burning out of control, and the emergency blast door had been jammed half open by the explosion.  The warp core was offline, but that didn’t stop the matter injectors from sticking open.  Raw deuterium was spilling out of the hole where the reaction control chamber used to be.  I started grabbing anyone I could find to drag them out of engineering.  Alex, Joans, Kaidan, Max, Miles, Quinn, Alura, T’ren, Q’pok, Clara, Burton, Drids, Elix, Colrin” he continued as he motioned with his arms, dragging in the air. 

“One by one, I tried to get them all out.  All except one.  Alex was closest to the core when it exploded.  He was still conscious when I got to him.  The plasma fire ignited the slush deuterium and a wall of fire burst into my face.  My hands were in so much pain from dragging those kids out.”.

“You were just a kid too, don’t forget”, interjected Garrard, now sitting wide eyed at the details of the story.

“The heat was so intense;  the texture of their shirt… I’ll never forget the way it felt in my hand that day,” Kammus finished, running his empty hand over the front of his own uniform.

“So you saved 13 lives. That’s kind of a big deal.” Replied Garrard.

He stood still for a moment, remembering the pain, the texture of burnt fabric. Kammus shrugged quietly, shaking his head, and turning the corners of his lips down as he tried so very hard to hold back a tear. “Accidents happen.”

He raised his glass and nodded his head towards Garrard, “To the fourteen.”.

“The fourteen”, answered Garrard, taking a deep and final draft from his glass.

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