Author: Brendan Chris
“Ah gotta get to the bridge!” Lt. Cmdr. Simon Jeffery was shouting, “Stern, Ah need you boys to keep things going down here! See if you can restart the computer, or we’re snarzed!”
And with that, he ran at top speed into the corridor and into the turbolift.
“But we’re not engineers!” Stern called back, futilely. Indeed, the Hazardous Team was just helping out, since the ship was seriously understaffed at the moment.
The ship shook again, as it had only seconds before when, for an unknown reason, systems started clicking on an off at random. And not just the lights, like in an ordinary systems malfunction either…everything was going absolutely bonkers. Thrusters were kicking in, altering the ships course, the sliding pocket doors were opening and closing randomly, almost like the micro-AIs that controlled them were being tickled profusely. The only system that didn’t seem to be affected was the warp core itself, even though the plasma injectors in both nacelles were mis-firing like crazy.
“Why does the Chief Engineer leave just when everything goes nuts?” Ensign Simmons moaned from the Master Systems display, which was flickering on and off, more and more red icons indicating failures in various systems.
“He probably knows something important we don’t,” Rengs shot back, tapping at the Impulse Control Systems panel, “I can’t get control over the impulse engines, the RCS thrusters or navigation!” he reported.
“Weapons and shields are…well,” Marsden swallowed as he played another console like a piano, “I’m not sure what they’re doing, these status reports keep changing! But I think somebody has a tractor beam on us!”
“Sylvia!” Stern shouted, summoning the omni-present computer, “What’s going on? We could use a hand here!”
“Computer!” Stern shouted again, “Initiate full system restart! Authorization Stern India Bangok Umbrella!”
“Init…iaaaaaaaat…t-t-t-t” the computer’s reply was lost in a squeal of electronic tones.
“Something’s gone,” Stern said, “And whatever it is, I think it was important!”
“Sylvia’s gone?” Marsden gulped, “That’s gotta be it!”
“All hands,” the all-call came suddenly to life, Stafford sounding like he was almost on the edge of tears as he gave the commands, “Abandon ship! Repeat, all hands abandon ship!”
The entirety of the Hazardous Team exchanged glances; Stern, Simmons, Rengs, Marsden, Kreklor and Dar’ugal all looking at each other and then to Stern, a questioning look on their faces.
“You heard the Captain,” Stern said, “C’mon, the closest lifeboats are aft, on the fantail,”
Seeing hesitation in his team, Stern’s expression darkened.
They raced through the corridors of Deck 21 towards the aft end of the secondary hull then up a Jefferies tube, their goal being the large, flat surface at the aft of the secondary hull formed by the two L-shaped nacelle pylons. Finally, they burst into the lifeboat launch area. Stern waited as Rengs, Simmons and Kreklor jumped into one lifeboat before joining Marsden and Dar’ugal in another. They quickly strapped in, hit the ‘Launch’ control and braced themselves as one set of explosive bolts flung the lifeboat hatch open before a second sent the lifeboat spinning into space.
“Holy shit…” Stern breathed.
Whatever he’d been expecting, the sight before him wasn’t it. An alien spacecraft had a tractor beam locked solidly on Silverado’s saucer, pulling the ship into the atmosphere of a large green and blue planet covered by a bizarre, shifting, iridescent sheen. Several lifeboats were already gliding away from the ship and towards the planet. Even as he watched more broke away from the lower edge of the saucer. The engineering hull had been largely deserted, and no other pods seemed to be leaving it, affording only the Hazardous Team with a clear view of events as they unfolded.
Catching a glimpse of the upper superstructure, Stern could see hatches blasting open as command-level escape pods prepared to launch. But before they could, a series of small explosions lit up the lower edge of the saucer section, right where it connected to the secondary hull.
“Oh my God!” Marsden cried, “The emergency explosive release for saucer separation!”
Silverado’s massive, discus-shaped saucer jumped, the aft end tilting up as it was launched free of the stardrive section just as the last escape pods were launching. The sudden movement of the saucer pulled the alien ship off course, nearly crushing some of the escaping lifeboats between the saucer and the alien ship. One pod was caught in the alien ship’s turbulence, colliding with another pod. The pods spun free and tumbled towards the planet; the first one straightening out and moving into a landing trajectory, the other spinning out of control. Both were quickly out of sight. The alien ship, caught off guard by the sudden saucer separation and clearly damaged by the sudden jolt, was unable to shut down its tractor beam in time. As the Hazardous Team watched, the saucer and the alien ship nose-dived into the planets atmosphere, flames from atmospheric friction licking the hulls. The alien ship, finally managing to free itself, started moving away from the saucer but was unable to break out of its crash course. Both vessels vanished from Stern’s view. The last he saw of Silverado, the saucer section was on a nose-dive trajectory straight for a moderately-sized ocean.
“We’re going down!” Marsden said, “We’re too far into the gravity well to break free in this tin can!”
“Can you bring us down near the saucer?” Stern asked.
Dar’ugal shook his head.
“I can’t get a fix on it,” Marsden said, “Something’s interfering with our sensors,”
“Best guess!” Stern snapped, “See if you can’t get Simmons and Rengs to follow us!”
“You got it,”
The lifeboat fell towards Deloria.
Some distance behind them, Silveradeo’s stardrive section continued to spin, a few thrusters still firing at random. After a moment, a phaser beam flashed into existence, fading just as quickly.
Inside, the computer softly repeated the same response over and over again, though nobody was there yet to hear it.
“Well, this sucks,” Simmons said flatly, observing the view outside the small window of the escape pod in which he had landed with Rengs and Kreklor.
“It does look a bit, um, dry out there,” Rengs observered.
“It looks pleasant,” Kreklor said, “The dry air, the hard, gritty sand. I have not had a decent sand scrub in a long time,”
Simmons looked at him.
“You Klingons have some pretty messed up ideas, you know that?”
“Just because you cannot understand honor-“
“Who said anything about honor?” Simmons cut him off, “I was talking about the pain fixation and the weird, fighting sex you people do,”
“It is sex as it is meant to be!” Kreklor shot back, “That foolish thing you humans do…with the affection and the…the…” he looked like he was trying to swallow a particularly feisty piece of gagh, “ugh…tenderness…”
“So, should we open the door or what?” Rengs asked, eager to change the topic before they decided to end the argument by collectively making fun of Bajoran mating habits, “We can’t just sit in the pod and wait to be rescued,”
“But the pod has air conditioning!” Simmons objected, “and besides, isn’t that what escape pods are for?”
“No,” Kreklor snapped, “They are for,” he rolled his eyes, “escaping! Perfect for cowardly humans do not wish to enjoy a proper death!”
“I didn’t see you complaining that much when Stern told us to abandon ship,” Simmons said, “Besides, if honorable death is such a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, shouldn’t I save myself for it?”
“The way you saved your virginity?”
“Maybe we should get going,” Reng said, opening the storage compartments and pulling out survival gear, “Before I’m tempted to hurt both of you,”
“This doesn’t look so bad,” Marsden said, looking out his viewport, “A bit dry maybe, but there are some fields, and some trees, and even a river,”
“Sounds like you have the better view,” Stern said glumly, looking out the opposite window, “All I see out my window is desert,”
“We must be near an agricultural band,” Marsden said, “I remember reading about how some places are very lush and fertile along a river or sea, but turn quickly to desert the further you go,”
“Something like that,”
Dar’ugal sighed loudly.
“What’s wrong, big guy?” Stern asked. Not that Dar’ugal would be telling him anything. The Barudan, like the rest of his species, was mute.
“No win situation for Darg here,” Marsden said, “He’s either going to get sand in his fur, or he’s going to get wet. He’s not big on either one,”
“Well, I’m not big on this whole situation,” Stern said, “But I suppose we better get started on something. Y’know, survival and all that. And we better blow the pod, looks like this place is inhabited,”
He looked oddly expectant for a moment.
“What?” Marsden asked.
“Oh,” Stern’s expression turned downcast, “I guess I was waiting for Simmons to make a smart-ass remark to that,”
“We’ll find them soon, sir,” Marsden assured him.
“Do we have to?” Stern whined.
They quickly grabbed what supplies they could, including the ever-useful tricorders, and moved to a safe distance before Stern hit the self-destruct on the pod.
“Well,” Marsden said, “As long as we don’t have to escape from any more exploding starships, we should be OK,”
“Yeah,” Stern nodded.
Dar’ugal made a negative gesture.
“Y’know, he’s right,” Stern said thoughtfully, “I never felt a shockwave from the warp core exploding. Did you?”
“No,” Marsden said, “But we did see the saucer going down in flames. Well, not in flames, but it crashed all right. Probably into a million pieces,”
“Not a pleasant thought,” Stern said, “Either way, I think the ship’s had it. We’re going to have to stick it out until we’re rescued,”
A short distance away, deeper in the desert, a similar conversation was taking place.
“Wait for rescue? In this glorious wasteland?” Kreklor was saying, “Wonderful. I am ready for a vacation!” he promptly started pulling off his uniform top.
“Uh, what are you doing?” Simmons asked as Kreklor’s pants joined his top on the ground.
“Getting ready to hunt, kill and suntan,” Kreklor stated, “Unless you wish to eat only emergency rations for the duration!”
“We’re in a DESERT!” Simmons snapped, “Nothing lives here! And…and…HA-HA-HA-HA!”
“What?” Kreklor demanded. He looked back and forth between Simmons and Rengs.
Rengs, stifling a chuckle, pointed down at Kreklor’s midsection, “Nice undies,”
Kreklor grabbed his uniform pants, covering up his ‘Ambassador Worf’ boxer briefs, complete with strategically-placed bat-leth on the front, an image of Ambassador Worf on the left buttock and a Galaxy-class starship on the right.
“They are a combination of Klingon honour and Starfleet pride!” Kreklor growled defensively, “You will stop laughing this instant!”
“The whole time we were escaping from the ship, you were sitting on the Ambassador’s face!” Simmons laughed hysterically.
“You might be interested to know,” Marsden was saying as he tapped at his tricorder, “I found the rest of the team. They’re about five kilometers into the desert,”
“Oh, good,” Stern said, relieved, “Then we don’t have to go running to rescue them,”
At that exact moment, a band of humanoid creatures became visible in the distance, coming up a path that led between the fields and towards to Stern and the others.
“But they might have to come rescue us,” Marsden said nervously.
“Um,” Stern bit his lip, “We don’t know that they’re hostile. They might just be coming to greet us,”
Dar’ugal had pulled out a set of micro-binoculars and was holding them to his face (which, if you’ve forgotten, is located in the center of his chest). He tapped Marsden on the shoulder and handed him the micro-binoculars.
“Uh-oh,” Marsden murmered.
“What?” Stern asked.
“This could be bad,”
“I really don’t like the looks of this,”
“For the love of-“ Stern snatched the binoculars from Marsden and held them to his face.
“Dar’ugal, are you shedding again?” he asked, quickly pulling them away and rubbing his eyes, “My allergies just flared up,”
“LOOK!” Marsden said, pushing the binoculars back up to Stern’s face.
The group of twelve or so beings coming towards them was definitely humanoid. And primitive. They walked in two ranks, each male being wearing a bronze…skirt of some kind. Armor for their sensitive parts? They were shirtless, but wore pectoral necklaces of hammered bronze. Their arms and legs were mostly bare, with leather sandals laced right up to the knee and heavy metal armbands covering some of the skin, which had a bluish cast. (Stern couldn’t know it, but Delori turned blue as they tanned) Their hair was long and such a deep shade of blue it looked almost like the night sky.
They also had swords.
“They look…almost Egyptian,” Stern said.
“Uh-huh,” Marsden said.
“Which means they’re probably very primitive,”
“Actually,” Marsden perked up, “the Egyptians were a highly advanced culture, with a complex written language and a strong understanding of-“
Stern bonked him on the head with the binoculars.
“I mean,” he said, “that they’re probably going to have seen the pod come crashing down, and they probably saw the explosion, and I don’t think they’re going to take very kindly to us for either!”
“Ohhh….” Marsden looked worried, “Should we hide?”
Dar’ugal shook his head no then mimed holding poker cards to his chest.
“Right,” Stern nodded, “That would immediately make it look like we’re hiding something. Which we would be.”
“So, we meet them?”
“Uh, I guess,” Stern said, “But keep your phaser handy,”
“No self-respecting Klingon would sit on the face of another!” Kreklor was snapping, “It is dishonourable! And the image on my undergarments is just that, an image!”
“I dunno,” Simmons said, “When Steven was telling me about his vacation to that Klingon resort, Wasaga-Kling, he made it sound like there wasn’t much those Klingons wouldn’t do,”
“I said self-respecting!”
“If I didn’t know any better,” Simmons went on, “I’d almost say that you could go for a vacation there,”
“DIE, VERMIN!” Kreklor snapped, jumping at Simmons and wrestling him to the ground.
“See!” Simmons laughed as he was slammed into the sand, “He’s taking his cloths off and wrestling with me! Just like-“
“Simmons, give it a rest,” Rengs said, annoyed, “Ensign Beyosh’s quarters are just down the corridor from mine AND she’s a screamer,” Ensign Beyosh was Kreklor’s human girlfriend. Rengs had pulled out his tricorder and was tapping away.
“Hmm,” he said, scratching the Bajoran ridges on his nose which, unfortunately had a tendency to catch sweat from his forehead and itch, “Looks like the others aren’t far. But they’ve got a bunch of alien life signs closing in on them. I think. I can barely tell, I’m still compensating for this weird interference,”
He tapped his comm-badge.
“Rengs to Stern,”
No answer. Simmons and Kreklor climbed to their feet and tried theirs as well, to no effect.
“Must be the same interference that was jamming the pod sensors and messing up my tricorder,” Rengs said, “You know, I bet Fifebee and the senior staff figured out what it was, but just didn’t bother to tell the rest of us,”
“Well, the ship was crashing,” Simmons said, “They were probably busy,”
“And human officers tend to get far more attached to their vessels than they should,” Kreklor said, “I am sure at this moment Stafford is wishing for his teddy bear,”
“Uh-huh,” Rengs held back a grin. If Kreklor was making comments like that about his superiors then clearly the honour-minded Klingon wasn’t all that thrilled with Silverado’s destruction either. He had to admit that he, Rengs, wasn’t really that upset. His wife and child were safe back at the starbase. As long as they were OK, he could deal with the crash of what was, in the end, just a really big piece of technology.
“Can you get through the interference?” Simmons asked.
“Maybe if I had several hours to sit down and concentrate,” Rengs said, “But in the middle of the desert? I doubt it. Let’s find the others,”
“Hi, I’m David Stern,” Stern said, giving the commander of the Delori group what he hoped was a friendly smile, conscious of just how muscular the man was. He definitely didn’t want a fight.
“Neg sutori exponut,” the man breathed. He walked right past Stern and Marsden and approached Dar’ugal, dropping to his knees and lowering his head to the ground as the rest of the Delori stared whispering to each other.
“Ohhh shit, Stern said.
“Oh yeah!” Marsden realized, “He’s an alien! They’ve probably never seen anything like him,”
“Thanks, Ensign Obvious,” Stern groaned. What a mess! They’d been so careful about destroying the pod to protect the Prime Directive, but he’d totally forgotten that he was traveling with a two-meter tall, red-furred, headless alien. What if they thought he was a demon, a monster, a vile thing to be destroyed or sacrificed in some hellish ceremony?
Suddenly, the Universal Translator, having had ample time to sample the alien language, kicked in.
“-great being, who came to us from the sky, we stand ready to do your bidding,” the Delori leader was saying, “We offer our humble services,”
It was hard to tell who looked more shocked, Stern or Dar’ugal.
“We’ve got a group of aliens coming towards us now,” Rengs frowned, “And fast, too. Either that or this fuzzy interference patter just happens to look like-“
“How fast?” Kreklor asked, jumping into a fighting stance.
“Not that fast,” Rengs said, “I’d say they’re riding some kind of domestic animals, judging by the speed and lack of technology readings,”
In the distance they could see a series of dark dots coming over one of the sand dunes, a faint cloud of dust rising in their trails.
“Do we stay, or do we go?” Simmons asked.
“Go where?” Rengs asked, “We can’t exactly hide out here, and they’re going to know exactly where the pod is, if they’re coming this way. They must have seen us land.
“They’re going to be here pretty soon,” Simmons said nervously, “We have phasers right? We can shoot them…”
“Finally, you say something proper,” Kreklor said, slapping Simmons on the back.
“We could shoot them,” Rengs frowned, “But there’s a few hundred thousand more life-signs along a river. A city, or community of some kind. So we probably don’t want to piss them off,”
Both Kreklor and Simmons looked disappointed.
“Bajoran wimp,” Kreklor muttered.
And then the Delori where on them, circling the group atop large, six-legged animals that looked like a bizarre cross between a camel and an elephant, with skinny legs, lumpy body’s and long, slender trunks. They were slightly smaller than a camel though, a moved with swift, agile movements.
“Ideco, smet phori canuta,” on said, clearly the leader.
“Uh, we come in peace,” Rengs said, “Take us to your leader?”
“EDO PUSHMATI!” one screamed, pointed at Kreklor. The others drew back their lips in distinctly unfriendly snarls, pulling their swords from their scabbard and pointing them at the Klingon.
“Oopsie,” Simmons said, just as the Universal Translator kicked in.
“DEMON!” the Delori shouted.
“God dammit,” Stern was muttering angrily to himself, “Of all the stupid, idiotic mistakes to make…Prime Directive violation…T’Parief would skin me alive!”
“And maybe even eat the skin,” Marsden agreed.
“Greetings, oh holy master,” the Delori was saying to Dar’ugal, his face still pressed to the sand, “I am Joujub, Captain in our Pharoh’s personal guard,”
“That adds to the whole ‘Egyptian’ thing,” Marsden said.
“Don’t be stupid,” Stern said, “They’re not Egyptians. The translator’s just picking a suitable word,”
“Smart translator,” Mardsen commented.
At this point, all the Delori soldiers were still kneeling on the ground, some of them turning their eyes up to look expectantly at Dar’ugal.
“Have you no orders for us, master?” Joujub asked humbly.
“Oh boy,” Stern grit his teeth. What to do? He could jump in and try to salvage the situation, find some clever way to explain why the great god Dar’ugal wasn’t speaking. Of course, to do that would be to risk even greater damage to the primitive culture they’d found. On the other hand, he could try to explain who they really were, which would totally blast the already sinking Prime Directive out of the water. On the third hand…hmmm, that third had brought to mind the most lovely woman from Tau Ceti. She’d had so many arms. And hands. And other fascinating appendanges. But back on track: On the third hand they could cut and run, possibly ending up with Delori soldiers trying to skewer them like those little bacon-wrapped water chestnuts with the toothpicks in them that Steve always served at his cocktail parties.
“The great Dar’ugal-“ Stern started.
“Him,” Marsden pointed awkwardly at Dar’ugal with his thumb.
“Has found that, er, mere mortals haven’t the strength to bear the sound of his mighty voice,” Stern finished, deciding that the best thing to do would be to live up the god charade until they could escape. At best, they’d be forgotten about in a few years. At worst, somebody would go found a religion based on their visit, which would then responsible for centuries of religious wars, persecution and oppression. But what were the odds of that happening?
“We’re here to, um, interpret for him,” Marsden said, catching on.
“Yeah, um,” Stern gulped, “Take us to your leader!”
“As my master commands,” Joujub said, face still planted in the ground.
“Uh, that means you can get up now,” Marsden said helpfully.
Dar’ugal sighed inwardly, wondering just what he was doing hanging around with humans anyway.
They were led down the path, the soldiers breaking into what Stern assumed was the local equivalent of an honor guard. As they neared the river (which, according to the tricorders topographical scans, emptied into a large sea) the terrain became less and less like a desert and more and more like a paradise. It wasn’t long before the sand was completely replaced by thick, fertile black soil, in which grew a wide assortment of trees, ferns, fronds and other undergrowth. Large tracts of cultivated land were carefully placed to take advantage of the shelter offered by the trees, and as they came over the crest of a hill they could see the city.
It wasn’t that big, especially by 24th century standards, but it was still obviously a major center. A conglomeration of small stone hovels quickly gave way to larger and more elaborate mansions, with what was clearly a palace laying near the river. Further downstream were docks and what looked like storage areas, likely for commercial traffic of the time (barges and canoes?). And across the river…
“Oh geez,” Stern groaned, slapping a hand over his face, “like this wasn’t getting weird enough,”
“It’s not that weird,” Marsden said helpfully, “I mean, they’ve found similar structures on dozens of worlds-“
“It’s a frickin’ ziggurat!” Stern snapped, gesturing at the big, huge, massive, unbelievably large construction, “How did we miss that from the escape pod?”
But as he spoke, all the soldiers’ hands snapped to their swords and, to man, they spit on the ground.
“Uh, was it something I said?” Stern asked feebly.
“It is a pyramid, not a ziggurat!” Joujub said fiercely.
“Uh, what’s the difference?” Stern asked.
“A pyramid has smooth sides,” Marsden said, “A ziggurat has stepped sides,”
“We, the Jurcun, build the pyramid to honour our gods,” Joujub said, reverently giving a small bow towards Dar’ugal, “Our enemies, the Yewitch, build their ziggurat to honour their false gods!”
“He seems rather unwise for a sage,” Joujub’s second in command commented.
“Uh, how dare you say that about the servant of the mighty Dar’ugal,” Stern said, trying to look angry which, from his almost two-meter height, wasn’t hard.
“Of course,” Joujub said, bowing at Stern, “Forgive us,”
He drew his sword and, before anybody could move, gutted his second in command like a fish.
“WOAH!’ Marsden gulped, jumping back from the flood of fluids and entrails as the dying Delori collapsed to the stone path and emitted a gurgling death rattle.
“We offer his soul in sacrifice to the mighty Dar’ugal, may it repay his sin,” Joujub said, bowing low,”
“Um,” Stern, Marsden and Dar’ugal exchanged glances, wondering just what the hell one is supposed to say in such a situation.
“Thanks?” Stern smiled weakly.
“You know,” Simmons said, straining to break his wrists free of the thick leather thongs than had been used to bind them, “Crewman Shwaluk loaned me this neat bondage book his girlfriend bought him, and I’m pretty sure you guys tied these straps on wrong. Why don’t you take them off and give it another try?”
“Silence, damned one!” his captor snapped, pushing him roughly forward.
Simmons and Rengs had been bound at the wrist and collared with heavy, iron bands, from which chains ran to the hand of the commander of the scouting party that had caught them. The iron was chafing his neck, the straps were cutting off his circulation, and Simmons really wasn’t eager to find out if the rumors about what happened in primitive prisons were true.
Kreklor, on the other hand, had been bound hand and foot, and a large gag had been forced into his mouth, apparently to prevent him from muttering any of his ‘cursed spells’. Sadly, one Delori had lost two fingers off his left hand trying to gag the furious Klingon. Kreklor had spit them out, declaring that the taste was terrible, but as there was no ice nearby Simmons really doubted they could be re-attached to the unfortunate man.
Simmons was suddenly comforted that whatever kind of prison he wound up in, Kreklor would be there to protect him. Unless…surely the Klingon wouldn’t want any kind of…repayment? Simmons shuddered. Sure, Kreklor had a girlfriend, but rumors abounded, especially after his hand went somewhere sensitive during a sparring match with Marsden. And there were the stories Steven told of that Klingon resort…never mind the rumors about what happened in the ‘big house’ back in primitive times…and Klingons were definitely a socially primitive culture in Simmons’ opinion.
Maybe he should work to get on Kreklor’s good side, make sure Kreklor saw him as a friend and not as a potential…target…
“So, Kreklor,” Simmons said, “If we end up in prison, if I try and get you as many…um…‘prison friends’ as possible, you’ll leave me alone, right?”
Kreklor couldn’t speak, but his eyes were so full of rage it was a wonder Simmons didn’t burst into flames. He flexed his arms, the leather straps creaking as muscles strained, standing out in sharp relief.
“Silence!” roared the commander, a hard tug on the chains jerking Simmons’ head forward. The Delori, upon whose mount Kreklor’s heavily bound body was slung, belted the Klingon in the back of the head. Kreklor’s struggles did not stop.
“I feel I should warn you,” Rengs said, sounding downright miserable, “That’s just going to make him mad,”
Their phasers and tricorders had been smashed, however their captors failed to notice their communicators. Now they were being led across the desert, slightly downstream of where the other escape pod had touched down.
“So, um, what are you going to do with us?” Rengs asked, careful to keep his voice as respectful as though he were addressing his local Vedek.
“You are to be punished for serving this demon,” the commander said curtly.
“What kind of punishment?”
“I know not. Though most likely you will become slaves for the short remainders of your lives,”
“The kind of slave Nurse Kerry makes of Crewman Shwaluk?” Simmons asked hopefully.
“I doubt it,” Rengs muttered.
They were both rewarded by another sharp tug on the chains.
“And your demon friend will be sacrificed to the gods,” the commander finished.
Kreklor’s struggles increased.
Rengs had to give the Delori credit, their justice system was fast. Within two hours they’d been tried of heresy and consorting with the undead. Simmons tried to convince their captors that Kreklor was alive and pointed out the fact that Kreklor had started bleeding when the tribunal’s guard poked him with a dagger, but the tribunal was not convinced.
Krelkor, of course, was sentenced to death. Luckily for him, he was a ‘demon’ and not a ‘mortal’. Had a regular, mortal Delori been sentenced to death, they’d simply be taken behind the Chamber of Judgment to the Platform of Execution (since so many people were illiterate in the city, names had to be kept simple and easy to remember) and his head would have been sliced off. Fortunately, a demonic execution meant days if not weeks of ritual sacrifice.
Ensign Rengs was sentence to work slave labour on the building of the Master Pyramid, whatever that was, while Ensign Simmons was sentence to life as a house-slave to a powerful Jurcun family.
“Sounds like you got the better deal,” Rengs commented as the two of them were stripped, doused with buckets of water, shaved and forced into slave robes and collars.
“Don’t you know anything about ancient cultures?” Simmons moaned, “When say ‘house-slave’ they probably mean total house-slave! I’m probably going to be expected provide, er, services I don’t wanna give!”
“Like what?” Rengs grumbled, “Taking out the garbage? Compared to being a construction slave in the Dark Ages, I think you’ve got it pretty good,”
“Not that kind of service,” Simmons whined. But before they could exchange further words, they were roughly pulled out of the cleansing chamber and hauled off to their new masters.
The next morning Stern woke up in the plush bedchamber that had been given to him as a ‘Speaker of the Gods’.
“Not bad for prehistoric,” he commented, climbing out of the bed and rubbing his eyes. Thick hangings had been pulled back to reveal the large archway leading to his private balcony, the stone railing shining in the sunlight. The heavy stone used to build the structure was great; absorbing heat during the day to keep the place cool then releasing it at night to keep it warm. He stretched, wondering just where the bathroom was.
“Master,” a demur voice came from behind him. Spinning, he found two slaves, a scantily clothed woman and a young man in a loincloth, kneeling by the doorway. The woman wore a simple linen shift, cut short to expose her trim legs, and her dark hair was pulled back in a plain but attractive pony tail. Her eyes and hands were painted with strange Delori symbols and her scent was a strange mix of lilac and cinnamon, while the male had tattoos adorning both arms from wrist to shoulder.
“Wow,” Stern said.
“We are here to serve, Master,” the woman said, eyes downcast, “Do you wish for your morning bathing?”
He finally saw Marsden and Dar’ugal at breakfast. Suji, and Sanji, the slaves he’d been ‘assigned’ escorted him to an opulent dining hall in which Dar’ugal was sitting at the head of the table, looking somewhat nervous. Marsden was brought in from the other direction, escorted by another beautiful pair of servants.
“Have a good morning?” Stern asked, a glint in his eyes.
“Um, um,” Marsden gulped, “I’ve never been so thoroughly bathed before,” he said quickly, blushing a little.
Stern winked and gave a wicked smile.
“YOU DIDN’T!” Marsden’s eyebrows rose, “Dave! I mean, Lieutenant! Sir! You can’t just…I mean, she’s…”
“They started it,” Stern shrugged, “I guess the slaves here have to do whatever it takes to make ya happy!”
“I can’t believe you’d have such a cavalier attitude about this kind of thing!” Marsden accused, showing more anger in his face than Stern could ever recall seeing in the normally shy man, “These people are forced into this lifestyle, against the strongest principles of the Federation we’re sworn to uphold, and you’re taking advantage of it!”
“Hey,” Stern frowned, “I didn’t see you complaining when we went to that Orion strip club-“
“That’s different!” Marsden shot back, “Those women wanted to be there!”
“Uh, huh,” Stern said, “And how do you know my woman didn’t ‘want’ to pleasure me in the bath tub?”
Dar’ugal slammed both his fists down on the table, causing the gold flatware to jump. He started making a series of gestures lasting several minutes.
“He’s right,” Marsden said, “We have no business taking advantage of anything these people may offer. We’re just passing through on our way to…to…what are we looking for?”
“Saucer wreckage,” Stern said.
There was silence for several moments.
“Soo,” Marsden said, ‘What did you think of the Pharoh?”
“You mean King Chupanethanderatin?”
“How the hell did you remember that?”
“When you get around as much as I do,” he said, “You need to be really good at remembering names,” he shrugged again, “He seemed like a decent guy. Looked a bit nervous though,”
“Well, he was meeting one of his gods, right?”
“I guess,” Stern shrugged again, then gave Marsden a pointed look as he turned off his Universal Translator. Both Marsden and Dar’ugal followed suit.
“How do they know he’s a god?” Stern said, sure now that they couldn’t be overheard, “I mean, you saw that temple of theirs, none of their gods are headless!”
“Noo,” Marsden said thoughtfully, “But did you notice that the statues they had in there were all covered in fur? And he did come crashing down from the sky, right?”
“True,” Stern stared picking at the foods that had been set out for them, “So, how do we get out of here now? I can’t imagine they’d take very kindly to us just waltzing out with their new god,”
“What about the rest of the team?”
“Yeah, and we need them too,” Stern peeled the skin of something resembling a blue orange before popping a chunk into this mouth, “Hmm…disgusting,” he said thoughtfully.
“I’ve been trying to get through this weird interference,” Marsden went on, “I can’t get the comm-badges to work, but I am picking up the saucer’s emergency beacon. It’s coming from way down the river, maybe even in that big sea we saw. I’m thinking we need to steal a boat and make our way down there,”
“Excellent work!” Stern grinned widely, “That was faster than I expected!”
“What can I say?” Marsden shrugged, “I’m good,”
Well, it’s not so much that he’s good, but being part of the only group of survivors so far to have actually SEEN the crash, he’s got one hell of a head start, doesn’t he? But let’s let him have his moment of glory. There. Done. And back to our story…
The three turned their translators back on as a regally dressed Delori entered the room. He wore gold on every conceivable body part, and his face was painted to give it appearance of being made of solid marble.
“My masters,” he bowed slightly, his escorts bowing much lower.
“Oh, hey,” Mardsen gave a small wave, ‘How’s it going, King Chupatittykitty?”
Stern kicked him under the table.
“Chupanethanderatin,” he corrected.
“Master enjoys his little amusements,” Chupanejank…aw, fuck it, can’t I just call him King Chupa?
The management apologizes for the lazy author’s sudden lack of cooperation and assures you all he will be punished most severely. We furthermore apologize for the reference to King Chupa, as there are apparently some East Indian languages where ‘Chupa’ is a slang word for…something best not mentioned in civilized conversation. In the meantime, King Chupanethu…Chupanetenda…geez. Um, we’ll just call him ‘the King’, OK?
“Master enjoys his little amusements,” King Chupa…OW! Fine! Said the King!
“Yeah, he sure does,” Stern said darkly.
“Wonderful news!” the King went on, “I learned yesterday that one of the demons of the underworld was found in the desert yesterday, along with two of his slaves!”
The three team members exchanged glances.
“Uh, that’s great news,” Stern said, “Um, his exaltedness, Dar’ugal, is pleased with your work,”
At the mention of his name, Dar’ugal sat up properly in his seat as the King, his escorts and the slaves assigned to Stern and Marsden dropped to their knees.
“What is the name of the demon?” Stern asked.
“He is called Kreklor,” the King said.
“I could have told you that,” Marsden muttered.
“And what’s become of his slaves?” Stern asked.
“A rather loud one has been given to Captain Joujub’s household, as a reward for finding the exalted god,”
“Simmons,” Marsden groaned.
“And the other has been sent to work on the pyramid,” the King finished.
Dar’ugal pointed to his eyes, then held a finger up above each shoulder, trying to mime devil horns. Not an easy task when one is without a head.
“We wish to see this demon and his slaves,” Stern translated, “Uh, but can I have a few minutes alone with my slave first?”
The King shrugged and gestured. Suji rose to her feet and began approaching Stern.
“No, no,” Stern said, “You’ve had your turn,” he gave Sanji a ‘come-hither’ gesture, “I’m in the mood for something…different,”
Even as the slave timidly raised his head, Dar’ugal rose from his chair and started walking towards the door, smacking Stern upside the head on his way by.
“The mighty Dar’ugal says ‘no’,” Marsden translated dutifully.
“Thanks, I got that,” Stern grumbled, rubbing his head and following.
Their first stop was Simmons.
Captain Joujub was thrilled to welcome them to his home, giving them a royal welcome. Which made sense, as the King was royalty. His home was huge, with a large, open entrance hall leading off to a maze of hallways and chambers. Behind the house was a walled-in garden.
“Yes, the new slave was a wonderful gift,” he was saying to Stern, “Though, he is not well trained. We are still working on that,”
He clapped his hands softly together.
“I’m coming, I’m c..YEOWITCH!!”
Simmons’ voice was accompanied by the crack of a whip.
“My apologies,” Joujub said, “The hardest part of training him is getting him to be silent,” he looked thoughtful, “I am considering having his vocal cords removed,”
Dar’ugal was suddenly overcome by fits of giggles.
“It it amuses my god, I will do so at once,” Joujub said, noticing Dar’ugal’s reaction.
“No, no,” Stern said quickly, “It’s just that…the might Dar’ugal finds it amusing that this slave is…annoying,” he finished rather weakly.
Finally, Simmons came into view, dressed in a white loincloth, leather sandals, and sporting several angry-red welts on his back.
“Finally!” he said, “It’s about…what?”
Stern had given him a cold look.
“How long will this slave be staying here?” he asked.
“Until he is killed,” Joujub shrugged, “Hopefully, that won’t happen for several years. Strapping young male slaves are very hard to come by these days; most are sent immediately to the Pyramid,”
“And what do you have to say for yourself?” Stern said to Simmons, “Consorting with a ‘demon’, huh?”
“Oh, er, yeah,” Simmons said, trying to play along, “That Kreklor. He’s a…a nasty piece of work,”
“And where did this demon come from?” Marsden jumped in.
“Uh, the underworld?” Simmons looked confused.
“Right,” Stern cut back in, “But this underworld…would you say it was…round? Perhaps even, saucer shaped?”
“Uh, sure,” Simmons shrugged, “Why not,”
Dar’ugal, having been rubbing his face with one hand in frustration, tapped Stern’s arm, then pointed at his comm-badge.
“Ohhh, right,” Stern coloured. Right. Why bother trying to speak in an obscure code when none of the Delori understood Standard anyway? But how to explain?
“Uh,” Stern said, “The mighty Dar’ugal-“
Everybody dropped to their knees, then rose,”
“Damn, that’s getting annoying,” Marsden grunted.
“Right, anyway, the mighty Dar’ugal-“
Everybody dropped to their knees. Stern waited for them to rise.
They dropped again.
“Dar!” Stern stopped halfway through the name. The Delori started kneeling, then stopped.
“UGAL!” Stern shouted. The Delori fell to their knees.
Dar’ugal smacked Stern upside the head again.
“That means ‘quit it’,” Marsden translated.
“Guess what this means,” Stern grumbled, raising one finger.
“Actually,” Marsden blushed, “In Delori society, it means you want us to get married,”
Stern quickly put his finger down.
“Rejected!” one of the Delori muttered.
Stern glared at the speaker. Joujub pulled out his sword, but Marsden quickly stopped him from slaying the man.
“Anyway,” Stern said, “The mighty…uh, master here, has ordered us to use our holy language to force this slave to tell us what we wish to know! So, uh, cover your ears,”
They turned off their translators and explained the situation, including the location of the crashed saucer, to Simmons, who did his best to act as though he were being tortured.
“That is so unfair!” he wailed, “You guys get waited on hand and foot while I’ve been doing…kitchen work! Do you KNOW how disgusting a compost pile is??”
“You’re safe enough here for the moment,” Stern shrugged, “Just sit tight. We’ll come get you before we go anywhere,”
“Hurry,” Simmons pleaded, “I don’t know what all they’re gonna make me do!”
“Well,” Marsden said, “Judging from Stern’s slaves, you’d better hope you’re not here too long,”
“Wait, what? Simmons cried, “WHAT?”
Winking, Marsden re-activated his translator.
“Take him away,” he said, waving a hand.
Still shouting for answers, Simmons was dragged back into the kitchens.
The visit to Rengs was somewhat calmer. They repeated the translator trick, advising Rengs of their plan to steal a ship, and left the Bajoran to his job of hauling rocks. Unlike Simmons, his tasks were straightforward: Help his gang of slaves haul a very big rock up the tiered sides of the pyramid, go down and get another one. Repeat. As long as he didn’t get crushed, he’d be just fine.
Finally, the time came to visit Kreklor.
“Do you guys smell barbeque?” Marsden asked, sniffing the air.
“Yeah, actually,” Stern said, “Hey, King, what are you guys cooking for dinner?”
“Dinner?” the King raised an eyebrow, “It is only two turns of the dial. Evening meal is not for four more turns, but if Master is hungry…”
“No, no,” Stern said, “It was just…nevermind…”
They were led up the steps of an elaborate temple. Marsden was reminded almost of the Greek Acropolis, which of course had nothing to do with Egypt. But that was OK, since Delorea II was light-years away from Earth.
They were led past what must have been the temple to their head god, whatever he or she was called. Anyway, it was the largest temple. Off to one side was another, smaller temple. Its walls were the grey of ash, the entranceway was guarded by two stone statues of strange creatures. They looked almost like a mix between a Klingon and a squid, with high, wrinkled foreheads and ten sucker-tipped tentacles.
“Looks like a Klingon mated with a Velvattian,” Stern muttered.
“Actually,” Marsden said helpfully, “Velvattians self-impregnate.
“I hear they make great security officers,” Stern said.
“Maybe we can get one when we get back to Federation space,”
“Yeah, but who would feed it and take care of it?”
“Don’t be an ass, sir,” Marsden rolled his eyes.
“This is the Temple of the Vexed,” the King advised them, “Home of the dark gods,”
“Doesn’t look very popular,” Stern observed. Indeed, they were the only people climbing the steps into the temple. Everybody else was going to the larger, more splendid temple or one of the smaller but less foreboding temples nearby.
“Yes, well,” the King shrugged, “Few have chosen to worship the dark gods after we declared that any who did would be executed,”
“Good point,” Stern nodded.
They walked through a small antechamber, within which stood two very large guards holding huge war-axes. One ax still had fresh blood on it and a slave was busy scrubbing more blood off the floor.
“Somebody tried to worship the demon, I take it?” the King asked.
“Yes, your majesty,” the guard said, both of them dropping to their knees.
“Any difficulties with the execution?”
The guard looked uncomfortable.
“He hit him too hard,” the other guard broke in, “The fool’s head bounced halfway down the stairs before he could catch it!”
The King chuckled.
“Ahh, to be young again,” he laughed as he gestured reverently for Stern and party to proceed him.
“Er, right,” Stern said.
A short hallway brought them into the central hall itself, the smell growing stronger with each step.
“My god!” Marsden breathed.
Dar’ugal smiled and gave a gesture of thanks.
“Not you!” Marsden said, pointing.
In the center of the room, suspended above a pit of hot coals (the source of the barbeque smell) was Kreklor. He wore only a dark loincloth, his hair fell in thick tangles down his shoulders and sweat shone on his skin. He had welts and burns all over his body and even as they watched a pair of Delori in red ceremonial garb pressed red-hot pokers to his flesh, electing a scream.
“Kreklor!” Stern gasped, trying hard not to let his concern show, fully aware that he was supposed to be Kreklor’s enemy. He couldn’t believe what had been done to the officer, how on earth could sentient beings treat each other like this? What gave them the right?
The situation was suddenly much less amusing than it had been before.
He turned off his comm-badge and tried to sound angry.
“Are you OK? Talk to me?”
Kreklor said something in Klingon.
“Shit,” Marsden swore angrily, “I knew we all wore those translators for a reason,”
“I am..” Kreklor said, words heavily accented as he struggled to speak Standard.
“Yes?” Stern asked, “Are you OK? Are you in pain? Do we need to bust you out right now?”
“I am,” Kreklor struggled to raise his head, “having a wonderful vacation!”
“Stupid pain-loving cultures and their stupid…pain-loving!” Stern said angrily as he stormed back into the dining hall of the palace, Marsden and Dar’ugal close behind him, “Red-hot pokers, flaming pits, no food, no water. And the sick bastard’s loving it!”
“He could setup a Klingon resort here,” Marsden said, “Who knows? Leave him hanging there long enough and he might start having visions of Kahless or something,”
“Maybe he was just too delirious to realize he was being tortured,” Stern said, half to himself, “I mean, nobody would actually WANT to endure days of searing pain, right?”
“He’s only been in there for less than a day,” Marsden said, “An Andorian wouldn’t even be sweating at this point.”
“We gotta get him out of their and blow this joint,” Stern said firmly, “Enough playing around. It’s time to go,”
“But we just got here,” Marsden said arching an eybrow and looking at Stern, “Don’t you want to spend a few more days exploiting innocent slaves and making a mockery of this culture’s religion while your fellow officers are subjected to depravity and cruelty?”
Stern looked at him for a moment.
“Is that a hypothetical question?” Stern asked.
Dar’ugal grabbed them both by the scruff of the neck and started dragging them towards the nearest window.
“You will fetch me my dinner immediately,”
“Right, got it,” Simmons sighed.
He was quickly rewarded with a hard kick.
“You will address me as ‘Master’, slave!” snapped the youth.
“Right, Master,” Simmons said, sounding heavily sarcastic. He started walking down the hall to the kitchen.
“Serving that oaf,” Simmons grunted, “Sure, he’s the son of one of the more important men in the city, and he’s got three wives already, and all the girls think he’s dreamy, but he’s still dumb as a post!”
He reached the kitchen where another slave had already prepared and set out the thick stew that was that evening’s meal. Grabbing the ornate silver tray, Simmons started back towards his master’s room. He decided to make a quick pit-stop in an empty guest room to make a few ‘additions’ to the meal.
Placing the platter on the floor he quickly adjusted his loincloth and commenced
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“AIIYYYEEE!” Simmons squealed, quickly grabbing up the tray and kneeling, “Nothing, master, I thought I saw, er a bug in your stew…hey, I know that voice…”
“Heya slave-boy,” Stern said from the window, “Had enough punishment yet?”
“Yes, yes I have!” Simmons said, “You have no idea how degrading this is!”
“Yeah,” Stern nodded, “I can see how having to serve food with your willy hanging out could be degrading,”
“It wasn’t…oh,” Simmons quickly adjust his loincloth again, “Look, just let me take this food to the mighty fat jerk. I want at least some revenge before I leave,”
“Whatever,” Stern said, “Just be quick! They’re going to miss us at the palance any minute now!”
Grabbing up the, um, contaminated meal, Simmons hurried down the stone corridor to his master’s chamber.
Wordlessly, he placed the tray on the table, gave an awkward bow and started to back out.
“Come here,” his master was standing by the bed, his three wives lying back on the pillows.
“Uh, yeah?” Simmons gulped, “Uh, master?”
“I have need of your…special services…” his master said, a dark gleam in his eye.
Oh no, Simmons thought to himself, here it is. This is where I have to be the total slave, the bitch, the sex monkey…and if only I’d just left! I don’t want to be violated! This is so unfair!
“My secondary wife desires pleasuring,” his master said, “And I have other matters to attend to. Accompany her to her chambers,”
“I…what?” Simmons’ eyebrows rose in shock, “Your wife?”
“Yes, yes, don’t bother me with the details; just get it done,” his master said.
“Yes, great master!” Simmons said gleefully, leading the woman out of the room.
He followed her a few doors down the hall. As soon as the door shut she turned to kiss him. After a few moments she pulled back.
“Listen carefully, slave,” she said, “This is what I expect: You will serve me completely. I don’t want any foolish male posturing, simply do as I command,”
“You will start with-“
A phaser beam shot in the window, hitting the woman in the back and sending her falling to the floor, stunned.
“We don’t have time for this!” Stern said sharply from the window, gesturing for Simmons to join him.
“So, what did you think of that last rock?” Rengs asked, “Pretty heavy, huh?”
His neighbors said nothing.
“Right then,” Rengs rubbed his nose, “I’ll be quiet then. Not that I’m not used to it, noo. My dear wife never tells me to shut up so she can have a quiet night,”
The thought of his wife gave him a momentary sense of loneliness, which was quickly chased away by a feeling of gratitude that she was safe on Starbase 45.
“Well,” he muttered, “I guess I’ll just find an empty…corner to curl up in until the morning,”
The slave’s quarters at the foot of the pyramid were hardly luxurious; one would barely call them livable. They had too few latrines, not enough food and too many people. Rengs was a healthy, active security officer, and he’d been quickly spotted by the overseers as a strong worker. It was no wonder the long-time slaves were on the verge of dropping dead; many of them were so emaciated he could count each rib. Strangely, the starving prisoners reminded him of photographs of 20th Century Earth fashion models he’d seen in a Datapad Digest article.
He looked around. Either one of his slave-mates had just passed gas, or somebody was trying to get his attention.
Well that settled it. People didn’t usually speak with their flatulence. Except for the Muntegans, and they were one of the less popular races in the galaxy.
He quickly exited the long shack that served as the sleeping barracks, heading towards the latrine before quickly cutting into the shadows next to the building. There he found Stern, Dar’ugal and Marsden.
“Ready to go?” Stern asked.
“Um, no,” Rengs said.
“What, you like being a slave?” Stern crossed his arm, “I mean, Simmons was having fun, but-“
“You were?” Rengs asked.
“The woman was hot!”
“Enough!” Stern hissed, “C’mon!”
“Wait,” Rengs said, “What about the rest of them? The other slaves?”
“Oh no, no, no!” Stern shook his finger, “Prime Directive-“
“Is shot!” Rengs said, “Look, I know we don’t have to, but, I mean, at the same time I really think we do.”
Stern looked pain.
“We could use a distraction while we get Kreklor out of the temple,” Marsden said.
“Oh fine!” Stern groaned, throwing up his arms, “Darg, give Rengs your phaser and come with me. Marsden, you two wait for our signal, then start blasting guards,”
Stern and Dar’ugal easily gained access to the Temple of the Vexed; Dar’ugal’s godly status was more than enough to get them in. Unwilling to risk resistance on the way out, Stern stunned the guards from behind.
“Don’t tell Kreklor I shot them in the back,” he said to Dar’ugal, “He’d start going on about that whole ‘honor’ thing,”
The main hall was deserted, except for Kreklor, who was singing a Klingon opera as he hung from the chains.
“Any idea what he’s singing?” Stern asked.
Dar’ugal made a series of gestures.
“Something about, um, battle and, er, constipation?”
Dar’ugal shook his shoulders ‘no’ and started a fresh gesture.
“Pain? Hurting? Your’ve stubbed your toe?” Stern guessed.
Dar’ugal tried again.
“You know, I suck at charades,” Stern said, “Where’s Marsden when you need him?”
Dar’ugal waved towards Kreklor.
“Right, right, let’s cut him down and get out of here,”
“Did we remember to ask Stern what the signal was going to be?” Simmons asked.
“Nope,” Marsden replied.
“Cuz it’s, you know, a signal,” Marsden said, “I mean, we’ll know it when we see it, right?”
A phaser beam shot up into the sky, coming from somewhere in the direction of the temple.
“I bet that’s the signal!” Simmons said.
“Or they tried to shoot somebody and missed,” Marsden said.
“They shot somebody straight up?”
They proceeded to charge the guards, blasting them with their phasers while Rengs started shouting for the slaves to wake up and make a run for it. At first, his shouts were met with a few skeptical glances, but after the first slave caught sight of Marsden shooting an energy beam from his hand and stunning a guard a sudden cry went up and the tired, sagging slaves instantly transformed into a stampeding wave of running, fleeing ex-slaves.
“That works as a distraction!”
Stern ran as quickly as he could from the temple to the royal docks. The distance wasn’t far, but he kept having to stun guards with his phaser. Alarmed, he noticed that he’d gone through nearly half of the weapon’s charge already.
“Stupid hand phasers,” he muttered. Dar’ugal followed him, Kreklor’s body slung over his shoulder. The Klingon was still groggy and seemed to be muttering something about having an impact therapy session in an hour.
They rushed the docks as shouts started going up from nearby. Clearly somebody had found the unconscious guards.
“Which ship should we take?” he asked. The heavy stone pathway they were on had dropped to the level of the river with several large ships moored alongside, sails gathered tightly to the rigging. Clearly these boats and ships belonged to the well-to-do of Delori society.
“You always want the red ship!” Stern snapped, “Look at that green one…it looks fast,”
Dar’ugal spread his arms to indicated ‘big’, nearly dropping Kreklor in the process.
“Right, right,” Stern muttered, “Size matters. Fine!”
Then ran up the gangplank, pushing it down into the water and rushing to untie the ship from the docks.
“How are they doing?” Marsden asked as he, Rengs and Simmons rowed the small canoe they’d used to cross the river on their way to the pyramid to free Rengs.
“Well,” Rengs squinted, watching as a the sails on one of the ships sails suddenly fell open, hanging far to limply on their masts, “I don’t think they know how to sail,”
“Shouldn’t the ship be moving now?” Simmons asked.
“I honestly have no idea how you’re supposed to drive one of those things,” Marsden admitted.
“I do,” Rengs said.
“Doesn’t do them much good from here, huh?”
“Then let’s row faster!”
They came alongside the larger ship and waited as Dar’ugal dropped down a rope ladder.
“Some help would be good,” Stern called, “We’ve got company!”
They quickly climbed to the deck and looked back. Two more ships were pulling free of the dock, starting to move slowly in their direction.
Rengs started barking commands.
“Tighten up the mainsail!” he snapped, “Somebody tie down that rope! No, Simmons, that one over there! I’ll take the wheel,”
Stern stared at him for a moment.
“You know what you’re doing?” he asked.
“Then by all means, you have the conn!”
“Where are we going anyway?” Rengs asked.
Marsden tapped at his tricorder, trying to trace the source of the saucer’s distress beacon.
“Follow the river to the sea,” he said, “And let’s make it fast, we’ve got a long way to go,”
“One saucer section, coming right up,” Simmons said, dangling upside down from a rope he’d somehow become entangled in.