Author: Anthony Butler
“What are you doing, Denera?”
The burly Klingon male loomed over the sweating, grunting Klingon female. She was holding her face close to a huge flame. At the sound of the male’s voice, she turned.
“I am in love with another,” she said plainly. “I do not know if he returns my affection, so I must commit the ritual of son’telkH to find out.” The male nodded. “Who is this other male?”
“I see. Go about your business.”
“No, no, no!” Chris Richards called out, throwing his script padd down and walking over to the crew lounge set for the Bird of Prey Sahr’gon. “Captain Krig is supposed to be upset over the fact that Counselor Denera is in love with Crewman Flarg.”
“I don’t understand,” Bork, the actor who portrayed Krig, said, scratching his head and staring at his script. “What is my motivation, here? Why do I have these feelings for Denera?”
“You just do. You love her because you are lonely, and she happens to be there.”
“You do not understand Klingon romance,” Bork said. “If Captain Krig wanted Denera, he would kill Crewman Flarg and take her for his own.”
“Listen, Mr. Bork,” Richards said. “I’m paid to write the scripts. You’re paid to read them. It’s that simple. Either read those lines, or I’ll make sure Captain Krig gets sucked into a temporal vortex!”
“How dare you threaten me with temporal vortexes!” Bork cried, pulling out his dk’tang knife. “On your knees, human!”
“I can’t work like this!” Richards said, turning to Petrod, Days of Honor’s director. “Can you talk to him, please?”
Petrod threw up his hands. “I’m tired of dealing with both of you. Unless you have not noticed, we are over-budget and behind schedule with this episode. Either the two of you resolve your problems or we will have to show a re-run this week.”
“We are not doing that,” Richards snapped. It was getting more and more difficult to work with these Klingons. He’d convinced them to give him more input on the show; but they were still slow, stubborn people who had no tolerance for others’ opinions. Although, considering he’d had that strange encounter with the 20th century television industry last year, he realized that the Klingons were pretty much acting the same way.
Richards considered the dangers of bringing the values and traditions of 20th century television to the Klingons, but he figured that the damage had been done before he’d ever stepped into the picture. Starting with the game show, Win or Else!, the Klingon people had set off on a road to damnation: Multimedia entertainment. And, Richards figured, he might as well go along for the ride. What would be the harm?
“I need three Duck a la Janices and a steak tar-tar!”
“Three ducks and raw meat. Got it.”
“Check the temp on that oven! We’re fluctuating!” Janice Browning, former Chief Medical Officer of the USS Explorer and current Manager of Browning’s On The Rim, ordered as she oversaw operations in the restaurant’s chaotic kitchen. Three days in operation, and the restaurant was already packed to the gills. As Bradley Dillon had told her when he recruited her to be head chef, with her skills, Browning’s couldn’t help but be a success…a huge success.
“What are you doing?” Browning snapped, turning on the prep cook. “That’s way too much basil for Henzeris Goulash!” Her troops were still a bit rough around the edges, but they would gel as a unit soon enough. Under these conditions, they would have to.
“Party of twelve just walked in,” Mandy Jenson, Browning’s Head Waitress, shouted, poking her head into the kitchen.
“Let’s get it in gear, everybody,” Browning said, striding around the kitchen. “We’ve got a lot of hungry people out there!”
Bradley Dillon entered the kitchen, beaming broadly and impeccably dressed in a custom-tailored tuxedo.
“Janice, my dear, you are a marvel,” Bradley said.
“Thanks,” Browning said, hoping that Bradley wouldn’t be there long. Things were crazy enough without Bradley getting in the way.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Bradley asked.
“We’ve got everything under control,” Browning said.
“Of course you do. I had no doubts.”
“Just go out and be charming to the customers.”
“With pleasure,” Bradley said, heading toward the door. “I’ll leave you to it.” Bradley pasted on his best smile and charged out to his adoring public. In some ways, Browning guessed that Bradley could seem like a glory-hungry jerk, but he’d been more than generous in giving her her due. Bradley had gone so far as to put her picture and a short biography in every menu. There could be no doubt as to who the Browning was in Browning’s. Of course, if it failed, Bradley would have no one to blame but her…he’d made sure of that. Sneaky little guy.
Baughb leaned forward on his elbows and gazed out into the empty Mishtak pit, lazily humming along to the beautifully grinding strains of Zntar and the Poisonous Spinefish.
He winced as he felt a hand smack the back of his head, snapping him out of his reverie.
“Stop daydreaming you incompetent fool!” Ih’mad barked. “Explain to me where all our customers are.”
“They are not here,” Baughb said firmly.
Ih’mad smacked Baughb again. “I know that, imbecile. But where are they?”
“Perhaps they are eating at the Starfleet Suites restaurant.”
“Impossible. We took care of that problem weeks ago.”
“Then why is there an advertisement for it on that billboard over there?” Baughb asked, pointing at the blinking sign across the foodcourt. Several different ads cycled by.
Nendegar’s Secret…the Nausicaan masseuse…Dillon’s Pioneer Depot …the Klingon formal wear shop…Browning’s…
“Browning’s?” Ih’mad spat. “What is this? Mr. Dillon has brought in another chef to challenge us. Come, Baughb, we must go and investigate this…‘Browning.’ Perhaps we finally have a worthy opponent.”
“What do you plan on doing?” Baughb asked, trailing Ih’mad through the Food Court.
Richards soon began to realize that there could be a lot of harm involved in working for the Klingons as he lingered outside the office of Krinok, Producer of Days of Honor, Win or Else!, Modarsha, Fokor and Drubal, Home Destruction, Kronos Death Patrol: Life on the Streets, and the hip new talkshow geared toward the demographic of the young Klingon, Late Night Ascension.
Krinok was also the owner of UKN, the United Klingon Network, which specialized in the production of vid-chip shows like Days of Honor and holovision programs such as Win or Else!
Presently, Krinok was dealing with a contract dispute. The Klingon who portrayed Urkmug, the cheeky youth-next-door on Modarsha, wanted more money.
“More money!” Krinok screamed from inside the office. “You should be glad I pay you what I do. Urkmug might be a popular character, but he can be dispensed with, just like all of you letcherous, dishonorable actors.”
Richards jumped back as the skinny young Klingon smashed through the door to Krinok’s office and rolled to a stop at his feet.
“Are you okay, Janaro?”
“No,” Janaro muttered. “I have been dishonored.”
“DID I DO THAT?” Krinok laughed, hanging at the door to his office. “You had better return to your set and stop acting so childish, or you will find your family slaughtered and your land seized!”
“Yes, yes, Krinok,” Janaro said, backing away.
Krinok chortled again, then glared at Richards. “Human. What are you doing here?”
Richards gulped. He’d come to ask for more creative control over Days of Honor, but obviously this was a bad time. “I just…um…wanted to tell you what a good job I thought you were doing with the network. That special ‘When Targs Attack’ was pure genious.”
“Yes, yes it was,” Krinok said, grinning toothily. “Want to come get a look at my next project, human?”
Chris had been on Kronos working for UKN for over a month now. Hadn’t Krinok learned his name yet? “Sure, I guess.”
Krinok shoved a padd into Richards’s hand. “It is a series about a group of Klingons–friends–who sit around a barrel of blood wine and tell of their conquests in battle. Three would be three males and three females. Of course, a couple of them would have an on again, off again relationship. Two of them would be roomates. One would be a goofy folk singer, one a neurotic chef.”
“Hmm…sounds interesting,” Richards mused. “It’s a good idea. It all depends on what you do with it.”
“I am thinking about calling it Friends Who Gather Around A Barrel of Blood Wine and Tell of Their Conquests in Battle. What do you think?”
“Hmm,” Richards said, rubbing his chin. “How about just ‘Friends’?”
“Ha!” Krinok said, slapping Richards so hard on the back he fell down. “I knew I kept you around for some reason! Ha ha! Now get back to work!”
“Here comes trouble,” Mandy Jenson said softly as two Andorians stepped into the restaurant, surveying it with cold, calculating stares. She rushed over to them, menus in hand. “Two?”
One of the Andorians nodded grimly. “Agreed. Escort us to our table.”
Mandy swallowed hard. “Right this way.”
“So you have to understand, the matter in the Denusian belt is very tenuous,” Bradley said, twirling a piece of Tamarian lobster tail around on a toothpick. Judging by the looks on his business partners’ faces, they were enjoying the appetizers. “I can’t just put that big a portion of my resources toward this project if I can’t be assured a marginal profit.”
One of the well-dressed men at his table cleared his throat. “Mr. Dillon, I belive my associates are…”
Bradley stopped listening as soon as he saw Mandy show Baughb and Ih’mad to a corner table on the other side of the restaurant. What were they doing here? Janice had to be warned.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Bradley said, sliding out of his chair and hurrying toward the kitchen.
“Carving laser,” Janice said quickly to one of her assistants.
The assistant placed the laser gently into her hand. She sliced down into the leg.
“Darn, that’s too low. Increase power to the thermal generators.”
“Are you sure?”
“The idea is to sear the turkey while it bakes. Now, bump it up to 53, quickly!”
“And don’t call me doctor.”
“Yes, Ms. Browning.”
“Okay, someone get me some garlic STAT!”
Bradley rushed into the room. “Janice, I need to talk to you.”
“Not now, Mr. Dillon. I need to concentrate if you want this turkey done right.”
“We may have a lot bigger problems than that,” Bradley whispered urgently. “The two goons that run Andorian restaurant in the promenade just showed up.”
“What do they want?”
“Dinner, I think.”
“Then let me go out and meet them. This should be interesting.” Janice headed off toward the doors. “Mike, start making precise incisions in the turkey according to my diagram.”
“Yes, Ms. Browning.”
“Janice,” Bradley said, following after Browning. “You don’t know what you’re getting into.”
“Nonsense. I was in Starfleet for eight years. I’ve come in contact with dozens of alien races and visited tons of alien worlds. I can deal with anything. Besides, a good friend of mine is Andorian.”
Browning hurried over to Ih’mad and Bauhgb’s table, plastering on her best smile. Bradley hovered worriedly behind her.
“Hello, hello,” Browning said pleasantly. “Welcome to Browning’s on the Rim. I’m Janice Browning.”
“We have met,” Baughb said firmly. Ih’mad glared at him. Baughb was obviously taken by this human female.
“We have?” Browning questioned, biting her lip.
“Last year. You were here with the Explorer crew. I waited on you.”
“The ribs!” Browning said. “That’s right. They were really good.”
“Yes, they were,” Ih’mad said coldly.
Browning picked up on the vibe. “Well…why don’t I have Mandy bring you some menus to look over, and I’ll run get you some drinks.”
“We desire neither food nor beverages,” Ih’mad said. “We want to serve you. With a warning.”
Ih’mad stood up, attempting to face Browning down. “Leave this station immediately, or face the same fate as your predecessor.”
“Predecessor?” Browning asked, glancing back at Bradley. He shrugged, but obviously he was keeping something from Browning.
“Consider yourself flummoxed,” Ih’mad seethed, withdrawing a piece of red wax and drawing a huge “X” on the floor beside his table.
“Is that a crayon?” Browning asked with interest.
“ZZZZZZTAT!” Ih’mad cried, turning on a heel and leaving the restaurant in a huff.
“It was lovely meeting you,” Baughb said meekly, following after his boss. All eyes were on the Andorian pair as they left.
“Everyone return to your meals,” Bradley Dillon announced loudly, initiating crowd control. “Everything is all right…right, Janice?”
“Uh-huh,” Browning said, still staring down at the red “X.”
Richards rubbed his bruised ribs as he made his way back to the offices at Days of Honor.
“Well,” asked Dav, one of the other writers. “What did Krinok say?”
“I didn’t get around to asking.”
“Hey, I didn’t see you jump at the chance to talk to Krinok,” said Richards, sitting down in his hard, unforgiving chair at his blank, sparse metal desk.
“I’m not the one complaining.”
“This sucks,” Richards said, looking at the script on his terminal.
“You mean the script for episode 109?”
Richards shook his head. “This whole setup. It seems like we’re slave labor for Krinok. Write shows, get ratings. There’s no joy here. No feeling of satisfaction or compliments on a job well done. It’s all ratings, ratings, ratings.”
“I would be careful who I say that to, if I were you,” Dav said quietly. “You could find yourself in the same situation as Lardron.”
“You don’t really believe that story, do you, Dav?”
“You do not know Klingons. It is the only sensible explanation.”
Lardron was the writer who Richards had replaced. He had disappeared as soon as Days of Honor’s ratings began to fall. Some say he’d been exiled, some say he’d been killed. Whatever the case, it gave Richards chills.
“Let’s just not think about it, okay,” Richards said. “We have a show to write, let’s go ahead and do it.”
“You know,” Dav said, as Richards busily tapped at his terminal. “If you really are so unhappy here, you could always go back to your comfortable Federation starship.”
“I can’t go back to the Explorer. I left to pursue this successful writing carreer, and whether it is successful or not I have to at least give that impression. I can’t run back to my friends with my tail between my legs.”
“You humans never cease to confuse me. You have no problem being dishonorable, but you are not strong enough to admit when you have been dishonorable.”
“I’m not being dishonorable. I’m just trying to save face.”
“Well, you had better keep your mind on your work,” Dav said gravely. “Or your face may be ripped off.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You have been flummoxed,” J’hana said over the viewscreen in Browning’s spacious quarters within the Starfleet Suites complex. “That is unfortunate.”
Browning fought a brush through her hair as she sat on her bed, legs crossed, a set of padds displaying the Alpha Quadrant’s newest recipes spread before her. “What do you mean ‘unfortunate’?”
“The Andorian restauranteurs have initiated what, in Andorian business terms, might be called a blood feud. Ih’mad will not rest until you have left Waystation in disgrace.”
Browning frowned. “That’s not very nice of him.”
“Andorians are NOT nice!”
“You’re not so bad.”
“I am absolutely not nice. I will forget you even intimated otherwise.”
“Okay, okay, you’re not nice. So what do I do about these guys?”
J’hana shrugged. “You have two choices. Either leave Waystation or die.”
“They wouldn’t kill me…would they?”
J’hana let out a long, deep chortle. “Not only would they kill you, but according to Andorian law, they would receive a government subsidy for doing so.”
“No offense, J’hana, but Andorian society is really screwed up.”
“It is the way we like it.”
“Well,” Browning sighed, throwing her brush down in frustration. “Thanks for all your help.”
“You are quite welcomed. Explorer out.”
Richards pulled his targ-fur jacket closer around him as he shuffled down the Avenue dSagh, toward what had become a customary after-work hangout: Throndar’s.
“Hey everyone,” Richards said, tossing his targ-fur jacket onto a hook and taking a seat at the bar.
“HUMAN!” the crowd bellowed. He may not be loved here on Kronos, but at least he was accepted.
“NuqneH!” bellowed the barkeep. Fat, aging, and hobbled– Throndar was no Mirk.
“Um,” Richards said, glancing at a menu. “I’ll have the usual. Blood wine with a twist of lime and cheese and crackers.”
“Coming up,” the bartender grunted, shuffling off.
On the large screen next to the bar, the latest episode of “Days of Honor” was playing. Sovok was pacing his office, staring down his on-and-off romance, Kasatria. “You must give up this silly obsession with Captain Krig. He is lost forever. I gave up my relationship with Minister Vag, the least you can do is afford me this!”
Richards sunk lower on his stool. If the episode went over poorly, he’d have to get out quick.
“Never,” Kasatria said. “Don’t you see, things just aren’t working out.”
Richards chuckled to himself. Sovok would sort things out soon enough. After going backward in time to meet an ancestor of his and fight against Cardassians, he’d propose to Kasatria, supiciously like the events that led to his proposal to Janice.
Janice, who now owned a restaurant on Waystation. And if the last communiqué from Captain Baxter was any indication, the restaurant was coming along very well. But Richards wasn’t doing too poorly himself. He had a hit show, friends–sort of– and a well-paying job. What more could he ask for?
“Human,” barked a patron of Throndar’s, clamping a hand down on Richards’s shoulder.
Richards looked back reluctantly. “Uh, yeah?”
The Klingon threw his head back and emitted a howling belly laugh. “Excellent episode so far. Care to tell me how it ends?”
“Nah. I’d be gutted and displayed on the front steps of the Great Hall if I let out any secrets.”
“You say that now, human,” the Klingon chortled, “but wait until we get you up on stage at Honorcon ‘74. Under those hot lights…after we get some blood wine into you…you will break.”
“Honorees,” muttered Richards as a tankard of blood wine was slammed down in front of him.
“They prefer to be called Honorers,” snarled the bartender.
“Y-yes, I’ll remember that,” Richards said, quietly sipping his drink and avoiding Throndar’s glare.
“Ugh,” Richards said, grasping his stomach and climbing the stairs to his fourth floor studio apartment. The cheese and crackers weren’t sitting well. That probably had something to do with the fact that, to Klingons, cheese was boiled targ liver and crackers were thick slices of targ tusk.
Richards’s apartment was on the bad side of the First City of Kronos, but he could afford to live nowhere else. He earned pretty good money, but you had to be of imperial blood to own anything better than slum in the capitol city of Kronos. Unfortunately, the First City of Klingon government was also the First City of the Klingon filmmaking industry.
“Message waiting,” the computer chirped, as Richards disarmed the heavy duty security system he’d installed and swung his heavy door open.
“Play message,” he said, shoving the door closed and wiping the grime off the viewer with a rag. Kronos seemed to be a place of perpetual grime and dirt.
Captain Baxter appeared on the viewscreen. He was sitting on his couch, and in the foreground, Peterman and Charlie were wrestling around with a tennis ball on the floor.
“Hey, Chris. It’s Anthony. Just wanted to let you know that we finally got that clog out of the plasma injectors. Oh, and Lt. Unlathi finally had their baby. Sprayed juices all over Dr. Benzra. Almost succeeded in pulling her arm off with their tentacle. It was kind of funny. Anyway, Kelly and I miss you. Call us back soon, okay buddy?”
Richards sighed, tapping in the necessary codes on his terminal.
“Why do you want to send this message?” the angry female voice of the Klingon operator said.
“I want to talk to a friend. You know, it’s really none of your business.”
“I’m the KS&C overstars operator and I’ll talk to you however I want. Now do you want to be put through, or shall I send a warrior over to rough you up?”
“Put me through, damn it,” Richards orderd. “Damn Klingon Subspace and Communications Corporation.”
“Welcome, to Bell Galactic,” said a deep, basso voice. “Your call is being put through.”
A slowly rotating Fedreration emblem appeared on the screen, then, finally, the bridge of the starship Explorer. Captain Baxter was shifting from side to side in the command chair as smoke rose in front of him.
By the lighting on the bridge, Richards guessed that the ship was at Red Alert, most likely in combat. “Andy? Hey, it’s Chris.”
“Hi, Chris. I can’t talk long. We’re having another damn skirmish with the Leeramar.”
“The Leeramar,” Richards reminisced. “What jerks.”
“Yep,” Baxter said, leaning back as a piece of the ceiling dropped in front of him. “Another border dispute. So, what’s new with you?”
“Um…a little of this and a little of that. Did you catch this week’s Days of Honor?”
Baxter gripped his chair as the bridge quaked with another hit. “Evasive maneuvers, sequence Baxter Delta Two! Come about and attack their left wing! I haven’t had a chance yet. I will soon, though.”
“Do you want me to get back to you later?” Richards asked.
“Yeah, if you don’t mind,” Baxter said. Beside the captain, Commander Conway crawled back into his chair, a large piece of duranium stuck in his shoulder, spurting blood.
“Hope you’re having fun with your damn soap opera, Richards! Meanwhile, some of us are working for a living!”
“Stand down!” Baxter barked, glaring at Conway.
“Aye, sir,” replied J’hana from her station. “Lowering shields and disarming weapons.”
“I was telling Conway to stand down. Not you, you imbecile! You keep those shields up and keep firing.”
“Fine, whatever,” replied J’hana.
“Okay, then,” Richards said. “Talk to you later. Good luck.”
“Thanks. Bye, Chris.”
More explosions as the bridge clicked off the screen, replaced by the Federation logo.
“Sheesh,” Richards said, kicking at the ground. “Why do they get to have all the fun?”
Just as Richards was about to head to what was laughingly called a bathroom and get ready for bed, his terminal bleeped again.
“Incoming message,” droned the operator’s nasal voice.
Richards tapped a control. “Wonder who that could be?”
Janice Browning appeared on his viewscreen, curled up in bed with a padd. She put the padd down. “There you are, Chris! It took the computer awhile to get through to you.”
“It’s this damn Klingon subspace comm company. They’re jerks.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. How have things been going for you?”
“They couldn’t be better!” Richards lied, smiling broadly. “I’m really enjoying writing this soap opera.”
“How is the restaurant business coming?”
“Oh, I love it. I’m meeting all kinds of new people, I’m doing what I enjoy. It couldn’t be better!”
Richards and Browning sat there a moment in silence. Richards fought back the urge to tell Browning how miserable life on Kronos was. “Well…”
“Well, I just wanted to see how you were doing. I miss you.”
“Yeah. I miss you, too. We should get together some time soon.”
“I’ll ask Commander Beck if she expects any transports to be coming in from Klingon space. You could catch a ride…” Browning suggested.
“Yeah, that sounds like a great idea,” Richards agreed. “I know this is costing you a ton of latinum…so I’ll let you go.”
“Okay,” Browning said. “I’ll get back to you about that transport.”
Richards grinned. “I’ll be looking forward to it.” He let his grin fall as Browning blinked off the screen.
“Why am I here again?” Richards asked no one in particular, leaning back in his chair and staring up at the ceilng.
Early the next morning, Browning had decided to go to Waystation’s Chief of Security with her concerns about the Andorians. If anyone could help her, she was certain Lt. Sean Russell would.
“I’m sorry, I can’t do a thing for you,” Russell said reluctantly, leaning back in his chair and flopping his feet onto his desk. “I have to have a reason to bring them in, and drawing a big ‘X’ on your floor isn’t good enough.”
“But they didn’t only vandalize my restauant! They threatened my life!”
“That may well be, Ms. Browning; but, according to Andorian customs, they are well within their rights.”
“What about Starfleet regulations?”
“Starfleet Suites, ironically, is not part of Starfleet. It’s part of this station, and as such falls under my jurisdiction, but I can’t go applying Federation law when Ih’mad and Baughb are following Andorian customs.”
“Are you aware that killing me is also a part of Andorian custom? Will you let them do that, too?”
“Of course not,” Russell said firmly. “Starfleet’s openness to other races’ practices only goes so far.”
“So they can threaten me all they want, but if they kill me, then you step in.”
Russell grinned. “Yep. Is there anything else I can do for you?”
Browning shrugged and hopped out of her chair. “I guess not. I’ll let you know when they kill me.”
“Thanks for stopping by,” Russell said helpfully. “Come again soon!”
“Problems?” Mandy Jenson asked, following Browning back through the doors to the kitchen as she tied her apron on.
“You could say that,” Browning mumbled. “Two Andorians are conspiring to get me off this station, alive or otherwise.”
“Are you going to leave?”
“Are you kidding? I have some pride, you know.”
Mandy frowned, as Browning began quickly and angrily tossing a salad, sending shards of lettuce everywhere. “I didn’t mean…”
“I know, I know. You’re just concerned about me. Well, we’re going to have to press on with business as usual and just try to forget that these Andorians have it out for me.”
Mandy dodged chunks of flying tomato. “You have to do something about it, Ms. Browning.”
“I certainly won’t take the Andorians hijinx lying down, that’s for sure.”
“Then what will you do?”
“I’m not sure yet. We’ll have to wait for them to make the first move. Now get this out to table three…STAT!” Browning shoved the bowl of salad into Mandy’s arms.
“Right, Ms. Browning. Business as usual.” That was easy for Browning to say. She was in the nice, safe kitchen. Mandy was right out there on the front lines.
“Morning, Dav,” Richards said wearily, grabbing a cup of raktageeno out of the replicator and taking off his targ-fur jacket, tossing it over the back of his seat.
“Morning, human,” Dav replied, staring at the terminal screen intently. “I cannot figure out how to proceed. The Sarh’gon is still trapped in the Delta Quadrant and there are Ferengi and human traitors aboard, trying to undermine their efforts. What should happen next?”
Richards adjusted his sweater, reaching a hand back to scratch his shoulder. The damn chain mail was itching again. “I was thinking about that while trying to fall asleep on that damn hard shelf you guys call a bed last night. What if the Sarh’gon returns home?”
“What?” asked Dav. “Are you insane? The audience loves the courageous efforts of Krig and his crew in the galactic wilderness. If you rob them of that, they will kill you.”
“Says who?” Richards said.
“The public opinion polls. Ninety percent of viewers enjoy the episodes that deal with the Delta Quadrant.”
“Well, I think it’s time for the Sahr’gon to return home. It’s time Krig and Kasatria were reunited. It’ll make for great drama.”
“I think it’s a mistake. Klingons want action, not drama.”
“You’re not the senior writer,” Richards said firmly. “We’ll do it my way, and if we have problems down the road, the Sahr’gon will somehow find itself back in the Delta Quadrant.”
“If you were not the senior writer, I would slam you onto your desk and gut you with a pencil,” Dav murmurred.
“I knew you’d come around, you old pussycat,” Richards said, tapping away at his terminal.
This would be one of his most ambitious story arcs. The Sarh’gon’s return to Klingon space would be played out in a three part, sweeps-week style, all-action extravaganza the likes of which the Klingons had never seen.
Krig and crew would go home.
And, as Richards tapped at his terminal, he couldn’t help but envy them.
That evening, after finishing what he decided would be his defining masterwork, Richards marched over to Krinok’s office so the UKN President could read the script himself.
Richards rocked on his heels, watching Krinok read intently. The Klingon’s expression was blank as he scrolled down the padd.
Finally, he put the pad down, picked up a pitcher and filled his mug with blood wine, sipped, and slammed the mug down.
“Well?” Richards asked hopefully.
Krinok shoved the padd into Richards’s hand. “This is worthless. Rewrite it.”
Richards was a bit taken aback. “What don’t you like about it, sir?”
“It is wishy-washy, pedantic. All too human.”
“I am human, sir.”
“The characters in Days of Honor are NOT!” Krinok cried, slamming a fist into his desk. “You portray those Klingons as if they were sniveling humans. Instead of sacrificing their lives for the safety of the Delta Quadrant, they find their way back in a maneuver that is obviously dishonorable and cowardly. If the Klingon populace viewed this chip, we would be put out of business and I would most likely be killed.” Krinok narrowed his eyes. “And you would die as well. Now, rewrite the script.”
Richards picked up the padd, stared at it. “If you say so, sir.”
“I say so. Now be gone from my sight!”
Bradley Dillon straightened his necktie as he strolled into Browning’s, ready for another hurried lunch before his weekly board meeting.
Ducking through the doors to Browning’s, Bradley came face to face with a wall of fire.
“What on Earth–?”
Two huge blasts of white foam sprayed out at Bradley, slowly engulfing the flames and splashing onto his suit.
Mandy and Browning emerged from the smoke, wielding fire extinguishers.
Browning wiped the soot from her face. “Welcome to Browning’s, Mr. Dillon. One for lunch?”
Torn between watching the cleanup crew take care of the mess in the front of Browning’s restaurant and watching Mandy struggle with the foam stains on his latinum laced tie, Bradley sat impatiently at his usual table, rapping his fingers on the wood and tapping his foot.
“This is not good,” he mumbled.
“I almost have the stain out,” said Mandy cheerfully.
“That’s not what I’m concerned about. It’s this ‘burning restaurant’ thing. It tends to be bad for business.”
Lt. Sean Russell approached, clasping shut his tricorder. “A rather large bag of horta poop from the zoo on Level Ten. Set ablaze and stomped out by…” Russell looked down at Mandy’s soiled shoes. “Her.”
“Excellent work, Sherlock,” Bradley muttered. “What are you going to do about it?”
Russell pulled a padd out of his back pocket. “You have a suspect in mind?”
“Are you crazy?” Bradley grunted. “I have two suspects in mind. And they’re both Andorian.”
“And what makes you think this was them?”
Bradley arched an eyebrow. “The constant threats, perhaps?”
Russell shook his head. “Circumstancial. I need more than that to file charges.”
Browning walked up and collapsed into the chair opposite Bradley. “I just got a rather unpleasant message on the station’s Internal Messaging system referring to Horta dung.”
Bradley glared at Russell. “That enough for you?”
Russell shrugged. “It’s a good start. I’ll go examine the message. See if I can find any indication of who sent it.”
“You do that,” Bradley muttered. Once Russell was gone, he turned to Browning. “I’m really sorry about this, Janice. I thought the Andorians would have treated you differently…being that you’re an ex-Starfleet officer and a female.”
“I think it’s time you were honest with me, Mr. Dillon,” Browning said, folding her hands in front of her. “What did happen to your last restaurant manager?”
Bradley leaned back in his chair, rubbed a hand over his face, stared up at the ceiling lights. “Mandy, get me a drink. Something STRONG.”
“Yes, sir,” Mandy said, and scuttled off.
“It was only about a month after the Starfleet Suites opened,” Bradley explained. “I had my new hotel and restaurant and I needed a chef. Gremlak, a Cardassian expatriate with a nack for tuna rolls and grexca pudding, seemed the perfect choice. He was great. Business was booming. We were both a cult success. But once the Andorians found out about him, things quickly began to change. They rigged his door mechanism to hit him with 200 volts of electricity when he pressed it, they dumped gallons of rancid Andorian guava juice on him, they even went so far as to unleash a Circassian razorcat in the restaurant. Needless to say, that was incredibly bad for business.” Mandy sat a triple shot of aged Benzite vodka in front of Bradley and he downed it in one swallow.
“What did he do?” Browning asked, leaning forward with interest.
“Well, like most Cardassians, Gremlak was stubborn. He’d had experience with torture, so this wasn’t anything new. He stayed on, until the very…” Bradley became misty-eyed. “Until…”
Gremlak bowed gently as the two Pakled traders devoured their meals. “I trust all is well, gentelmen?”
“Food good,” one Pakled said.
“Good food,” said the other.
Gremlak grinned. “I’m glad you are enjoying it. Flavian Pizza is one of my specialties. Just make sure you save room for the Bajoran tortes. They’re…” Gremlak put his thumb and forefinger together and kissed them with a flourishing smack. “Magnificent!”
“We eat now,” said one of the Pakleds.
“Yes. Leave,” said the other.
“Right, right. Anyway, you two enjoy.” Gremlak strolled among the tables, nodding and grinning at customers, chatting idly, as he made his way back to the kitchen. Obviously, despite the fact that his people had recently been involved in an ugly war with the Federation, Gremlak was well liked at Gremlak’s On The Rim.
“Good evening, troops,” Gremlak said brightly as he crossed into the kitchen. “How are the evening meals coming, Maria?”
“Fine,” Maria, who was one of Gremlak’s most prized chefs, said, stirring a large bowl of orange glop. “Although this Gorn Cheese Soufflee seems to be reacting a bit strangely.”
“Gorn Cheese Soufflee?” Gremlak asked, walking over to the bowl and studying it. “That wasn’t on the menu. Who told you to make this?”
“It was listed as one of tonight’s specials in the computer. Reccomended by you,” Maria said, tossing a cup of white powder into the mix.
“That’s impossible.” Gremlak grabbed a tricorder from a nearby table and ran it over the bowl. “This stuff is unstable. We’ve been sabotaged!”
Maria eyed the bowl. “Should I throw it out?”
Gremlak shook his head worriedly as the glop began to ooze out of the bowl, growing tremendously in size. “No…you should GET OUT!”
Stamping a nearby control, Gremlak called out, “All hands, this is Gremlak! Evacuate the kitchen! We’re moments away from a soufflee breach. There’s nothing I can do!”
The glop flowed out of the bowl, growing exponentially like rising bread.
Maria waved the corps of chefs out of the kitchen. “Come on, everyone! Move it, move it!”
“Help, I’m stuck!” one of the chef’s, a less-than-bright Bolian cried, as the unstoppable soufflee glop wrestled his legs under. It seemed to have its own personality…a very mean one.
“Derv!” cried Maria, running to save the Bolian.
“I’ll get him,” Gremlak insisted. “You just get out of here.”
“Be careful, Gremlak!” Maria called over her shoulder as she rushed out of the kitchen’s slowly sealing pressure doors.
“Come on,” Gremlak cried, heaving at the Bolian with all his might. Finally, the glop gave up its hold on Derv and Gremlak rushed him out the closing doors, just as they sealed shut in front of him, trapping him inside the kitchen.
“No…no…” Gremlak said softly, as the glop advanced on him…
“It crushed nearly every bone in his body,” Bradley said sadly. “The damage was so severe, in fact, that they had to put Gremlak into a maneuvering chair. Since his voicebox was crushed, they had to install a blinking red light on the chair that would translate his thoughts. One blink for yes, two for no.”
Browning was mesmerized. “This is turning out to be more dangerous than serving on the Explorer.”
“Hey, I warned you there would be risks!” Bradley said.
“Yeah, risks like grease burn. Not the total crushing of all my bones!”
“I’m sure they won’t do that to you. Andorians seldom use an attack method twice.”
“That’s truly comforting,” Browning muttered, slapping her legs and standing up. “Well, I’m not going to just sit here and wait until they attack again.”
Bradley looked up at Browning worriedly. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to go over there and talk to them. I’m sure if I explain that we’re not here to put them out of business and that we can all live on the station together peacefully they will understand.”
“Don’t get your hopes up.”
As he threaded his way through the crowded streets of the First City, Richards considered the problem at hand. It was a question of creative freedom. He had a vision for the noble crew of the Sahr’gon and his other characters. Could he allow Krinok to undermine that? Would he allow himself to be compromised?
Obviously, he couldn’t. A plan began to form in his mind. One that was very dangerous–and not very smart.
The next morning, Richards walked into the offices of Days of Honor and hung up his targ fur jacket.
“Well?” Dav asked, hunched over his desk terminal.
“Krinok loved the story,” Richards replied. “He gave us the go-ahead.”
“I don’t believe it. Krinok is stupider than I took him for.”
“Krinok’s decisions are not yours to question!” Richards barked, trying to sound Klingon. “Now, begin preparing the set, costume, and special effects requirements for the first episode in the story arc.”
Dav growled low as he began his work. He peered over his monitor as Richards flipped on his own terminal and began typing.
“What are you doing?” Dav asked suspiciously.
“That is not your concern!”
Richards continued to type. If Krinok was to give him the budget to produce his masterwork, he would have to think Richards was producing an alternate episode. One that was more to Krinok’s liking.
“Now this is more like it!” Krinok bellowed, slapping Richards hard on the back. Richards slammed into the wall, steadied himself, head spinning.
“G-glad you like it.”
The new script depicted the Sahr’gon obliterating Flarn Prime and the Borg. To do so, half the crew died and many of the other crew were maimed. They then went to Beldana, the all-female planet the Aerostar had once visited, and had a ludicrous amount of sex with that planet’s population.
Kasatria, meanwhile, committed a ritual suicide because she did not love Sovok. Sovok then killed Minister Vag for loving him and took a Klingon Battlecruiser into the Bermuda Expanse to find Krig and kill him, since he blamed Krig for Kasatria’s suicide.
The episode disgusted Richards in its cheapness and predictability, but Krinok seemed to adore it.
“Film this right away,” Krinok said, shoving Richards out the door. “I’ll alert Petrod to give you his full cooperation.”
“That’s okay,” Richards said, as Krinok shoved him out the door. “I can tell Petrod.”
“Initiative!” Krinok said merrily. “I like that. Go on then, human. Soon you too may produce a Klingon video program.”
Not bloody likely, Richards thought, shrugging on his coat and hurrying across the plaza toward his apartment.
Browning marched purposefully into the Andorian restaurant, scanning the seating area that overlooked Starfleet Square Mall in search of her target.
Baughb immediately ran up, a menu in hand. “Ms. Browning! How good to see you! One for dinner?”
“No. I want to talk to Ih’mad,” Browning said impatiently. “This silly feud has got to stop right now.”
“Okay…I’ll go get him,” Baughb said, scuttling into the back room.
Browning found Lt. Russell digging into large plate of zhnargat at a nearby table, and hurried over. “Busy with your investigation?” she asked angrily.
Russell wiped his mouth. “Almost finished, actually. I talked to Ih’mad and Baughb. They’re very sorry about what happened at your restaurant, but they don’t know anything about it. And they gave me a free meal!”
Browning rolled her eyes.
“How was everything?” Baughb asked, approaching Russell’s table.
“Excellent,” Russell said, standing up. “Well, I have to get back to my office. If you see anything else out of the ordinary, Ms. Browning, be sure to report it to me.”
“For all the good it’ll do,” Browning muttered, as Russell walked off.
“You wanted to see me,” Ih’mad asked disinterestedly, hovering behind Browning.
Browning whirled. “This has to stop, Ih’mad.”
“I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Ih’mad replied innocently.
“This little war with me. There’s no reason for it.”
Ih’mad inched closer. “You’re not on a Starship, Ms. Browning. You are on a space station that’s teeming with all sorts of life. You have to learn to live with it, or go.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Browning said defiantly. “Mr. Dillon is a very powerful man. He can see to it…”
“Bradley Dillon is a dzhaat, Ms. Browning. Further, he is not the one who has been flummoxed. If you have any honor in you, you will not go to him for help. You are a worthy adversary. Surely, you can see that this is the way entrepreneurship should be. Two equal opponents battling for superiority. If you really have the stuff to make it out here you will feel the call in your heart as well. The call of the flummoxer.”
“Hmm,” Browning said, biting her lip as she thought. “I’ll have to get back to you on that.”
“Get back to me whenever you want,” Ih’mad called after Browning as she left. “I’ll always be glad to hear from you!”
Richards climbed the steps to his apartment, stuck his palm up to the scanner and plodded through the entrance to his apartment.
Tomorrow, filming began on his new episode of Days of Honor. If it did well, he’d find new acclaim on Kronos. If it did poorly…well, he didn’t want to think about that.
Richards hung his coat on its rack and then turned around. And came face to face with an enormous stomach.
He looked up at the head that was attached to the stomach.
A meaty hand grabbed his shoulder and slammed him down into a seat.
“I wish to speak with you,” Dwanok rumbled.
“I’m in no position to refuse,” Richards said fearfuly.
Dwanok hefted his bulk about the apartment, his purple robe of office swinging about his large frame.
“I have concerns about your program. And Klingon television in general.”
“Yeah. I know. Captain Baxter talked to me about it. Said I should expect to hear from you. I didn’t expect you to break into my apartment.”
“And I did not expect you to dilute the Klingon soul!” Dwanok leaned down and bellowed, spewing gagh-breath into Richards’s face.
“Sorry. You know, Krinok’s really the one in charge. I just write one show.”
“Yes, I am aware of that. But I figured that you might be able to give me some information that might help me stop this insanity. Before it weakens my people beyond repair.”
“I don’t know what I can do for you, Dwanok.”
Dwanok peered at Richards. “You do not belong here.”
Richards shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “What makes you say that?”
“I can sense it in your demeanor, and in the dribble you churn out. I must warn you, Mr. Richards. There is a foul wind blowing on Kronos. And I mean to wipe it out. You would be wise to quit your job and leave here at once, before you are caught in the crossfire.”
“Even if I wanted to do that, I can’t get out of my contract.”
Dwanok considered that. “That is a pity. Still, I warn you to be careful. When the gagh hits the fan, I cannot ensure your safety.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”
“Good.” Dwanok heaved himself through Richards’s door and rumbled down the steps.
Richards sat there in the dark wondering how the hell Dwanok got past his security system.
Richards didn’t get much sleep that night.
THUDUDUDUDUDUDUDUDUD went the hands of the Naausican maseuse on Commander Lisa Beck’s back.
“Oh, Vrodin, you really know how to loosen up those muscles,” Beck said softly as the Naausican continued to work.
“There you are, Commander Beck! The computer said I’d find you here!”
Beck turned her head at the sound of the familiar voice and immediately winced, both from the realization that it was Janice Browning talking to her and the fact that Vrodin’s hands had just twisted her head so hard it nearly popped off.
“Ms. Browning,” Beck said, rubbing her neck as Vrodin draped her robe around her shoulders and she swung her legs over the side of the massage table. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m having a problem with the two Andorians that run that restaurant in the mall.”
“Madam?” Vrodin asked, waiting patiently.
“That’s enough for today, Vrodin. Could you excuse us?”
Vrodin bared his row of long, jagged teeth. “Certainly, Commander.”
Beck tied off her robe and pushed off the table. “What’s the problem?”
“They flummoxed me, Commander.”
Beck sighed, ducking into the dressing room. “Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time,” her muffled voice called out from inside the room.
“You knew about this?”
“It’s an unfortunate Andorian custom, Ms. Browning. Andorians are very territorial about their business interests. You should have seen what they did to the Sandwhich Star stand. They loaded it into our lower photon tube and had it fired out into space.”
“And you just stand by and let them bully other restauranteurs around?”
Beck stepped out of the dressing room, zipping up the front of her red Starfleet turtleneck. “In these cases, Starfleet preaches understanding, Ms. Browning. They haven’t done any serious harm, yet…”
“What about Gremlak?” Browning demanded.
“Well, we were never able to trace that back to the Andorians. Anyway, what has always worked best with the Andorians is to try to beat them at their own game.”
“So I’m expected to do something destrcutive to their restaurant now?”
Beck nodded. “When on Romulus, you do as the Romulans do.”
Browning scooted up onto the massage table. “This is not at all like I imagined it would be. I thought it would be relaxing…fun. It’s always been my dream to open up a restaurant, and now that I have, it’s turning out to be a lot more work than I thought it would be.”
Beck folded her arms. “Would it suprise you to know that I’ve always wanted my own command?”
“Well, do you think that commanding this station was what I thought it would be?”
“I couldn’t say. What does this have to do with…”
Beck clapped Browning on the back. “We face new challenges every day, whether that be commanding a space station or a restaurant. The secret is to face those challenges and adapt to them.”
“All right,” Browning said, sliding off the table. “I’ll do that.”
“Glad I could be of help,” Beck said dully, watching Browning scurry off. She idly wondered if she’d just created a monster.
Petrod cracked his knuckles and leaned forward in his director’s chair as he watched the scene unfold.
“The G’dak Expanse is closing,” the Sahr’gon’s science officer cried out.
“Increase speed to lateral thrusters,” the actor portraying Krig replied, moving from side to side as if turbulence was wracking the Sahr’gon bridge.
“We will not make it,” Denera said from her position next to Krig.
“Nonsense. This mission will end in glory. It is our destiny,” Krig replied.
Richards leaned over and whispered to Petrod. “Now is when we add in the computerized graphic of the demon Fekhlar.”
“Right,” Petrod replied.
“It is Fekhlar!” Krig cried, leaning back in his chair. “What have we done to anger you, great overlord of dishonored souls?”
From off the set, a Klingon spoke into a microphone. Though he was wiry and unassuming, his voice boomed. “We have been testing you, Krig. You have passed. We find you honorable, so we are granting you passage back to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“About bloody time,” the navigation officer grunted.
“Cue the electric blast,” Richards ordered.
A surge of electricity crackled through the bridge and the navigator flew backward to the deck.
“Once we add the special effects, it will look like he’s disintegrating,” Richards whispered.
“Do not anger Fekhlar!” the wiry Klingon bellowed.
“We understand. No one else will anger you,” Krig boomed. “Now please, let us go home.”
“As you wish!” replied “Fekhlar.”
“Cue bridge lighting,” Richards ordered.
Strobes flickered throughout the bridge. The “crewmembers” flopped about as if the “ship” really was being rocked.
Richards glanced at one of the technicians. “Lights out!”
Then everything went dark.
“Up on lights three percent.”
Subtle lighting flickered on. Richards followed behind the Klingon operating the vid imager and directed him to close in on Krig and Denera, who were embracing each other tightly.
“Are we back in the Alpha Quadrant, Krig?”
“I do not know,” Krig replied.
Off the set, the wiry Klingon changed voices. “Sahr’gon, this is listening post Morska. Where did you come from? What has happened?”
“That is a long story,” Sovok replied.
“Cut!” Richards said proudly. “And print. Nice job, everyone. That was perfect.”
“I felt uncertain about it,” Bork, the actor who portrayed Krig, said. “Krig and Denera seemed so…cowardly.”
Richards patted the large Klingon on his shoulder. “There’s honor in facing your fears, Mr. Bork.”
“Maybe to humans,” Bork grunted.
Richards considered the wisdom of his recent decision as Bork stomped away.
“Excellent shoot,” Petrod barked, clapping Richards on the back. “But I still cannot believe Krinok sanctioned this.”
“He must’ve had his reasons,” Richards said weakly.
“I am just glad I won’t have to be there during the previews at Honorcon ‘74 tomorrow. The audience may get ugly.”
They’ll be ugly to begin with, Richards thought as he slumped into the Director’s chair.
An entire convention. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of ‘Honor’ fans. Was he in over his head?
The next day, Commander Beck walked into the Andorian restaurant for breakfast, sat down at her usual table, and browsed the menu.
“What can I get for you, Commander?” Baughb asked, appearing, as if magically, at Beck’s side.
“I think I’ll have…” Beck began, when suddenly, sticky red fluid began to rain down from the ceiling, splashing before her on the table.
“Someone’s activated the fire suppression system…and reprogrammed it to spurt out something else!” Ih’mad cried, emerging from the kitchen.
Beck ran a finger across the table and licked it. “Ketchup, I think.”
“This Janice Browning is a cunning foe indeed!” Baughb exclaimed.
“Finally, an oppenent worth our attention!” Ih’mad cried with joy.
Beck sighed and stood up, wiping the ketchup off her face with a towel. She was glad Browning took her advice to heart, but why was it she had to be there to witness it?
“Know anywhere else good to eat?” Beck asked, looking from Ih’mad to Baughb.
I’m in over my head, Richards thought, straightening his chainmail tie and peering behind the iron curtain at the crowd that milled in the arena, sipping bloodwine and talking about their obsession with the Days of Honor phenomenon.
Much like at any Klingon gathering, the festivities began the previous night with tubs of blood wine. Twelve hours later, only the most hearty Klingons were able to pose thoughtful questions. The others were either totally unconcious, or in the mood to ask completely inappropriate questions.
Richards was shocked to see some non-Klingon faces in the audience. Some dedicated fans had traveled into what many still considered hostile space just so they could get a glimpse of the stars and writers behind Days of Honor, and maybe get some hot Days of Honor memorabilia.
“You look worried,” Dav said, slapping Richards on the back. He pitched forward into the heavy metal wall he was next to.
Richards turned, rubbed his shoulder, and straightened his chainmail sportcoat. “What, me worry?”
Outside, Janaro, the actor that portrayed the loveable “Urkmug” as well as the host of the day’s festivities, called the audience to order.
“Thanks for coming, everyone!” Urkmug said, looking out over the huge crowd. “I have a few announcements to make before we get into the main part of the program. First, I’d like to thank you all for coming. Second, I’ve been told that there is a Bird-of- Prey in orbit with the registration NKC 44300 that has a malfunctioning antimatter regulator. That could lead to warp core breach, so if you are the owner, please take care of that as soon as you can. Also, make sure to stay for the magic of Jurok and Nordas later today. And, throughout the day we’ll be having the dealer tables, the Days of Honor trivia contest, and special guests, including Bork, better known as ‘Captain Krig.’ And in a little while, you’ll get to see some sneak previews of upcoming episodes of Days of Honor. So sit tight and enjoy your blood wine! It promises to be a…Day of Honor!!”
Janaro hurried off stage and ducked behind the curtain.
“How does the crowd look?” Richards asked worriedly.
“Drunk,” Janaro muttered. “You have your work cut out for you, human.”
Throughout the day, Richards moved through the crowd, shaking hands, speaking to fans, visiting the dealers’ booths and signing collectibles.
“There you go, little guy,” Richards said, patting a burgeoning little Klingon warrior on the head and handing him the “Tickle Me Sovok” doll he had just signed.
He scanned the crowd. It seemed a little silly to him, but he was disappointed that none of the Explorer crew showed up. Especially since they had that new companion ship, it seemed to Richards it should be easy for one or two of his friends to break free from their busy workday to visit him on Kronos. Especially at such a big event as the Honorcon.
Then again, Richards remembered how hard it was to get away from starship duty. People tended to stick together for the most part on those ships. The Explorer was their home, the crew their family. Why would they want to travel to Kronos? Why would he?
“Richards!” Dwanok cried, slapping him so hard on the back he fell on the ground, right into a fallen blood-pie.
Wiping blood pie off his face, Richards picked himself up and glanced up at Dwanok’s looming visage. “What are you doing here?”
“The council has adjourned to discuss the matter of Klingon entertainment. If my motion is successful, you will soon be out of a job. As my vote has already been entered, I wished to be here to personally oversee the dismantling of this…industry firsthand.”
“That’s mighty thoughtful of you, Dwanok.”
“I am sorry it had to happen this way. But I suspect you wish it so as well?”
“Between you and me, Dwanok…” Richards said, as suddenly Janaro grabbed his arm and dragged him through the crowd.
“Come on, human. It is time for you to introduce the previews.”
“Oh, man,” Richards muttered. Judgment day. At least Dwanok was here to back him up if things got rough. The Aerostar saved him from the Flarn. Surely that meant he would save a former crewmember.
Then again, looking at the size of the crowd as he climbed the steps up to the stage, Richards decided that even the massive Dwanok was not a match for them all.
Richards fumbled for his notes as he stepped up to the podium. The giant viewscreen was being lowered behind him like an ancient guillotine.
“Good afternoon,” Richards said to the crowd, clearing his throat.
“HUMAN!!!” the crowd bellowed.
“Yes, well, let’s get right down to it.” Richards pressed a control, and the opening graphics for the soap opera played across the viewscreen.
Cheers across the auditorium.
As the credits played, Richards began to read from his cards. “As many of you know, Days of Honor has become the story of a search for purpose. We’ve followed the wayward crew of the Sahr’gon as it battled through the Delta Quadrant, coming against the worst of odds.”
The credits disappeared, replaced by the giant words:
“Now,” Richards said grandly. “The Sahr’gon gets to go home.”
As the Sahr’gon did battle with Flarn warships on the screen, Richards narrated: “Faced with the prospect of returning to the phenomenon that brought them to the Delta Quadrant in the first place, Krig takes his crew through the swelling Flarn fleets and makes a run for the expanse, leaving them to the mercy of the villainous Borg. What will happen to the Flarn? What will happen to the Borg? Will the Sahr’gon make it home in one piece? Find out, next week, in an all new episode of DAYS OF HONOR!”
Richards shook a fist in the air to accentuate the last few words, screaming out into the audience.
The crowd hushed.
Emotionless faces blinked back at him.
“Well?” Richards asked, looking back at the previews. “Any quest–”
He was cut off when a batleth swung through the air, piercing the viewscreen about six inches from his face. He turned to stare at the batleth, his eyes wide with fear.
“How do you skin a human?” one voice called from the audience.
“Make a shambles of Klingon honor, will you?”
The crowd rumbled. Richards turned back around to face the crowd slowly, dreading what he knew he would see.
Honorees scrambled up toward the stage, screaming sundry battlecries.
“I had nothing to do with this! It’s all his fault!” Dav called out, diving behind the curtain.
“I did not do that!” Janaro screamed, following suit.
“Crap,” Richards muttered, ripping the batleth out of the screen and diving from the stage.
He’d seen J’hana use one of these things on several occasions. It didn’t look hard. All he had to do was grab it at both ends and slash like crazy.
And that’s what he did, screaming, through the crowded arena.
Relying on his Starfleet battle training to guide him, Richards deftly weaved around overweight, geeky diving Klingons.
Disruptor blasts seared the air. Klingons screamed. Richards heard one Klingon shouting his name.
“Mr. Richards! Come with me!”
Dwanok. Firing his disruptor pistol into the crowd. Across a sea of rampaging Klingons.
“I can’t–” Richards cried, as two meaty hands grabbed him.
“Krinok wants you, NOW!” one of the two warriors that had him in custody cried.
Richards struggled against the two burly Klingons without much luck. As he was dragged toward the door, the young Klingon whose doll he had signed spotted him.
“Dishonorable p’tak!” the youngster spat, shoving his Warmates “Days of Honor” Daktagh knife into Richards’s thigh.
“Can you please help me with this?” Richards asked, tentatively touching the area where the kid had stabbed him. Someone had been nice enough to rip the knife out and give him a cloth to stop the bleeding. For a child’s toy, its pain-inflicting capacity was amazingly real.
“In good time,” Krinok growled, staring across his massive desk at Richards. “I don’t understand it. You had everything. Respect. Money. Some power. Fame. Why did you want to throw it all away?”
“I wanted to preserve my creativity, sir,” Richards said meekly.
“Ha ha. And where has it gotten you? Sitting before me, your life in jeapardy. A five-inch knife wound in your thigh? I hope this has taught you a lesson.”
Richards shrugged. “I don’t know what that lesson would be.”
“You’ll learn soon enough.”
“Are you going to kill me?”
“Not yet.” Krinok steepled his fingers, leaning forward at his desk. “No. The people are hungry for more of your stories. And Dav is not half the writer you are. We still need you. But what you have done today will not be forgotten. Your life before this day is a memory, human. You are a prisoner, property of the United Klingon Network and its subsidiaries. You will write exactly what we tell you for as long as we wish, or you will die.”
Richards winced. “What about when the series ends?”
“Then you will die.”
“So this is pretty much a no-win scenario.”
“You are perceptive–for a human.”
“Okay,” Richards said, leaning out of the chair. “I’ll just get back to my apartment and see if I can find some antiseptic.”
“I don’t think so,” Krinok said, circling his desk and laying powerful hands on Richards’s shoulders. “We must keep an eye on you. Be assured that you are not contacting your Starfleet friends. No doubt they would try to rescue you. Stop you from serving UKN and its subsidiaries. We cannot let that happen.”
“That’s very understandable.”
“You will be assigned to one of the UKN detention cells, along with all the other talent that has given us trouble in the past. Garv will show you the way.”
“Right,” Richards said, shuffling toward the door. “Can I ask you one question?”
“What happened to the motion in the high council? The one made by Dwanok to disband UKN?”
“Turned down, I’m afraid. Good day, Mr Richards. See you bright and early tomorrow at the office.”
“It’s been too quiet around here,” Bradley Dillon said, pacing Browning’s kitchen the next evening. “What did you say to those Andorians?”
“Oh, it’s safe to say we have an understanding,” Browning said, stirring a vat of Petrarkan pea soup with zeal.
“Good to hear,” Bradley said. “Well, I have some clients to entertain. If you’ll excuse me…”
“Go right ahead,” Browning grinned, keeping her smile plastered on as Bradley left.
Once Bradley was gone, Browning called over her shoulder, “Okay, Mandy. You can come out now!”
Mandy emerged from the storeroom, a growling Klingon targ in tow. “Whew, that was close.”
“Yeah. Now, we should thank Ih’mad and Baugb for their little gift here.” Browning waved a dripping spoon at the targ.
Browning grinned. “Several.”
“Human! You have a visitor.”
Richards leaned up on his shelf and arched his back, wincing as it cracked. At least someone had been nice enough to dress his thigh wound. A few more days and the pain would probably be only a bit less than excruciating.
Dwanok squeezed through the door to Richards’s cell, barking for the guard to leave.
The hefty Klingon slammed the door behind him and glowered down at Richards. “You acted quite honorably yesterday, Mr. Richards.”
“Thanks. For what good it did me.”
“Listen closely. I do not have much time. As you may know by now, the motion to end Klingon video programs has been turned down. But that does not mean you have to stay here and suffer. I have already spoken to the council on your behalf. If you wish, I will contact the Explorer. I am sure they would petition the High Council…enact some sort of rescue…”
“No,” Richards said quickly. “I have to get out of this myself.”
“But why work alone, when you have friends that would help?”
“It’s hard to explain. It’s kind of like Klingon honor, Dwanok. I feel like I just have to do this myself.”
“I understand. In that case, I will leave you.”
Dwanok turned to go.
“Yes, Mr. Richards?”
“Please, don’t tell anyone about this.”
“You have my word. Goodbye.”
Richards shuddered as Dwanok slammed the door. He heard grumblings in Klingon and an electronic key inititating the forcefield around his door.
“Well,” he muttered. “So much for creative freedom.”
“Inmate 44073. You have a communique,” came a rigid voice that permeated the prison complex.
“Probably Krinok calling to remind me that I’m his property again,” Richards mumbled. He switched on the viewscreen, which was about the only feature beside grime in his dim cell.
He pressed a button, and Janice Browning flashed on the screen, standing in a kitchen, her smock smeared with food stains. “Chris? Where are you? I paged your apartment and they routed my call to some complex owned by the United Klingon Network.”
“Oh. I’m living here now. Rent’s cheaper,” Richards said weakly. “What do you want?”
“I talked to Commander Beck. There’s a transport leaving Kronos next week. Its captain said he’d be glad to give you passage…”
“Sorry, Janice. I can’t go. I’m…very busy right now.”
“Oh, okay. Maybe some other time?”
“Yeah. Right. Some other time.” Richards forced a smile. “Well, better get going.”
“Okay. Is there something wrong, Chris?”
“Nope, not at all. I couldn’t be happier.” Richards switched off the viewer and collapsed onto his cot. How did he get himself into things like this?
There was only one thing he could do: Keep writing Days of Honor and hope for a chance to escape before the show gets canceled. His only other hope for life was that Days of Honor got so popular that it turned into a franchise that spawned enough spinoffs to keep him alive for decades. But then again, how likely was that?
Commander Conway has been pining for the Explorer’s Trill Colony Specialist for several months now. When Dr. Shar’s tour of duty is complete, will he make one final play for her affections or choke? And will she survive her final day on the Explorer? Find out in “The Host With the Most” in one week!