Author: Anthony Butler
KRONOS TEN DAYS AGO
“Can’t you feel it, human?” Dav asked, hopping up on top of the desk and hanging daggers from the ceiling. “The Blood Feud Festival is almost upon us!”
“Whoopee,” Chris Richards muttered, tapping at his terminal.
“What’s the matter, human?” Dav asked, squatting down on his desk and staring Richards in the face. “Are you not in the holiday spirit?”
“You could say that.”
“What’s caused this?” Dav asked, with mock-concern. “Your complete alienation from the Klingon people? Your total loss of creative control over Days of Honor? The horrible beatings you’ve recieved since?”
“All of the above.”
“Well too bad!” Dav spat. “Your little stunt a couple months ago with that honorless episode of Days of Honor almost got us all killed. Not to mention ending our careers in show business. Thank goodness we were able to convince all those in attendance at the convention that your ‘Journey Home’ episode was just a hoax. Do you realize how close you came to screwing everything up?”
“It depends on how you qualify ‘screwing everything up.’”
“You are a funny little human, Mr. Richards. Now, hand me that blood-gusher. It must be ready to spurt blood on us by tomorrow.”
Richards handed the red rubber bag up to Dav. “Is all this really necessary?”
“Absolutely. The Blood Feud Festival celebrates the twelve day feud betwen Kahless and Morath, who fought because Morath had dishonored the family. Kahless eventually killed Morath. Quite messily, I hear.”
“You don’t say.”
“Hmm,” Dav reflected. “You have committed quite a bit of dishonor while here as well, have you not?”
“I guess so.”
“Maybe you will die as well.”
Richards sighed. “We can always hope.”
Dav grinned. “Yes we can.”
“Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to go bring my script to Krinok for approval.”
“Gee, you didn’t have to do that before.”
“I have to now. Now shut up and keep decorating.”
“My, we’re fiesty,” Dav said, turning to Richards with one of his daggers. “It would be a shame if I accidentally stabbed you with this.”
“Try, Dav,” Richards mumbled, downloading his script into a padd and backing out of the office. “I have nothing to live for.”
“And that’s reason enough to let you live,” Dav grinned.
Richards grumbled to himself as he made his way across the plaza of UKN’s home offices toward Krinok’s suite. It was a dark, hot, stormy day on Kronos. In other words, the weather hadn’t changed at all since Richards had arrived four months ago.
When Richards arrived at Krinok’s office, he barely had time to sit down in the waiting room when Krinok emerged from his office and dragged him in.
“I have something for you to look at, human.”
“What is it? Another prospectus for a new UKN series?” Richards asked dumbly.
“Not quite.” Krinok hit a control on his desk. On the viewer behind him, a schematic of a space station appeared, rotating above a planet.
“What do you think of that?”
“It looks like a space station.”
“That it is. But it is a special space station.”
“Several months ago, the High Council gave me funding to build this multipurpose station in orbit of Kronos Three. It has the capabilities we need to broadcast our programs throughout the quadrant. It contains offices, production facilities, and excellent weaponry. Aboard Krinokor, we would be able to operate all of UKN without worrying about rabid fans or the weather. We would be able to operate as a single, thriving, autonomous unit.”
“Excuse me, Krinokor?”
“Yes, that’s it’s name. What of it?” Without giving Richards time to reply, Krinok moved around his desk and gripped Richards’s shoulders. “This is the next step in giving UKN the power it needs to become a quadrant-wide source of entertainment. And eventually…base of power.”
“Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because I had to tell someone. And, after all, you’re really the only one around here with any brains.”
“I wouldn’t let that get out if I were you.”
Krinok slammed Richards on the back, knocking him over his desk and onto the floor.
Richards climbed to his feet, rubbing his aching head. Suddenly, his expression brightened a bit. “I don’t suppose I could get a tour of this…facility, could I?”
“I don’t see why not. You have been well-behaved the last few months. What harm could it do?”
“And these are the reactors. They’ll provide power to the shields and weapons, production facilities, broadcast mechanisms, living environments, and food carts,” said Dantag, Krinokor’s lead engineer.
“Impressive,” Krinok said, surveying the cavernous engineering room. “Is it not, human?”
The equipment was new, but didn’t really gleam since nothing Klingon really gleamed. Some parts of the room were still being constructed, judging by the sparks flying from welders all over the room.
“Yes, yes, very impressive,” Richards said. “Say, Krinok, is there a bathroom around here?”
Krinok rolled his eyes. “You humans. Always obsessed with comfort. You have a continuing need to relieve yourselves.”
“There is a waste extraction unit on the deck above us. Section G,” Dantag offered.
“Great. I’ll be right back,” Richards said, moving off to the turbolift.
“Stay out of trouble,” Krinok called after him.
Several minutes later, Krinok was still marveling at the engineering room. He was about to head to the turbolift to see what was taking Richards so long, when he felt the deck shake under him.
“What is that, Dantag?”
Dantag ran over to a console and examined the readouts. “That is peculiar. It would appear that our reactors are reaching critical mass.”
“Is that bad?”
“Terribly. It means Krinokor is about to explode!”
“Can you stop it?”
“I will try.” Dantag barked orders to the other engineers, ran about Engineering like a targ with his head cut off.
“Richards,” Krinok muttered, heading off in search of the human.
He scoured the restroom section, checking the toilet, the linen closet, and the bidet. No human.
He was about to head back down to Engineering when he noticed an open section of paneling.
Wires protruded from it, connected to a disruptor pistol.
“Krinok to Dantag. Get up here, quickly!”
While he waited for Dantag, Krinok moved over to the area that was adjacent to the rest room section. The escape pod section.
One of the pods, it appeared, had been jettisoned. Krinok looked out a nearby viewport and, sure enough, one of the cube- shaped pods was tumbling away from the station.
Dantag approached Krinok, waving the disruptor. “Krinok! Someone attached this disruptor to the power conduit shunt mechanisms. It caused a power feedback loop that was responsible for the reactor buildup. Whoever did it must have been a master engineer.”
“Richards!” Krinok screamed again, clenching his fist and gritting his teeth. The cube kept tumbling.
Once he regained his composure, he clutched his communicator. “Krinok to Sahr’gon. Intercept that escape pod and capture its occupant. I want him alive…I repeat, alive!”
“Aye, sir,” replied the Sahr’gon’s captain. Krinok considered it good luck to name his flagship after the ship in Days of Honor. Call it superstition.
“Freedom!” Richards cried, working the escape pod controls. All he had to do was get out some kind of distress call. Crashland on Kronos Three. With the pod’s resources and his Starfleet training, he’d be able to hold out long enough for the Explorer or some other Starfleet ship to come rescue him.
He was just about to tap in the distress call when the escape pod rumbled.
Richards looked at one of the readout panels. He was caught up in a tractor beam!
He peered out the small viewport. A Vor’cha class cruiser was pulling his pod into its shuttlebay.
Richards weighed his options. A lifepod against a Klingon battlecruiser. The odds were definitely not in his favor.
“Human. Do not resist. I am instructed by UKN President Krinok to tell you that will be painfully and messily killed soon. Please stand by while we tractor you in.”
THE PRESENT DAY TEN OF THE BLOOD FEUD FESTIVAL
“And that’s how I got in this predicament,” Richards explained, as J’hana and Dwanok looked in on his prison cell. He’d been moved out of the relatively comfy confines of his old cell in the UKN building and moved up to Krinokor, where he was placed in a much smaller, much less comfortable cell.
“Obviously you did not succeed in destroying Krinokor if it is still here,” J’hana observed.
“You catch on fast, J’hana,” Richards mumbled.
“Do not get snippy with me. Dwanok and I are here to help.”
“What can you do? Dwanok petitioned the council and they turned him down. There’s no way the Klingon High Council will allow me to live. You all might as well get good seats and watch me die.”
“We already have splendid seats,” J’hana said firmly.
Dwanok elbowed J’hana in the stomach. “Tell him.”
“The other thing.”
J’hana rolled her eyes. “Fine, fine. You are so persistent sometimes. I would knee you in the crotch right now if I did not think it would give you immense pleasure.”
Richards looked from J’hana to Dwanok. “Tell me what?”
J’hana glared at Dwanok then turned back to Richards. “I sent a message to Captain Baxter informing him of your predicament.”
“I felt it was in your best interest. Besides, if I had let you die without informing the captain he would have been very angry with me.”
“No doubt,” Dwanok agreed.
“I thought you said we’d keep this between us,” Richards said to Dwanok.
“It was not I that informed your friend.”
Richards covered his face. Who knew what crazy stunt Baxter would try to get him back. Not that he didn’t appreciate the help.
“I have spoken with Dwanok about this, Mr. Richards. Do not feel as if you are ‘crying to mommy.’ We are your friends. If we can help you, then we shall do so. You would do the same for us.”
“I guess,” Richards said. “It just scares me to think of what Captain Baxter might try to get me out of here.”
“Expect the unexpected, Mr. Richards.”
Kasatria997: You’re kidding!
CAPTANTH: Nope. I’m Captain of the Explorer. Days of Honor is kind of modeled after me and my crew.
Kasatria997: Really? :) do you have a girlfriend?
CAPTANTH: Um, actually I’m married.
Kasatria997: That sucks :(
CAPTANTH: I don’t mean to pry, Kasatria, but how old are you?
Kasatria997: I’ll be 17 in March! :)
“Get off there right now, Andy!” Counselor Peterman demanded, looking back from the Escort’s main viewscreen as Baxter rocked back and forth in the command chair.
“Hold your horses,” Baxter replied. “We still haven’t gotten the information we wanted.”
“I fail to see what information a 17-year-old Honoree would have that Starfleet Intelligence and Dwanok haven’t come up with already,” Tilleran mumbled, watching the screen with disgust.
“Yeah, Captain,” Dr. Browning said, looking on. “I think this source is coming up dry.”
“Give it time. You’d be surprised what these people know,” Baxter said defensively. He turned his attention back to the control panel beside his chair.
Kasatria997: I look a lot older than that, though.
CAPTANTH: That’s great, Kasatria. But I need your help right now.
I need you to tell me anything you know about Chris Richards’s
Kasatria997: I know that it’s scheduled to take place two days from now at noon Klingon time.
CAPTANTH: We already know that much. Can you tell me what chance there is that the producers of Days of Honor will stop this execution? Is there any way to stop it at all?
Kasatria997: Jeeze, I don’t really know. But I do know the exact number of emblems on Captain Krig’s uniform.
CAPTANTH: Uh-huh. Well, that’s certainly helpful.
CounslrPets: Hi there. I’m CAPTANTH’s wife. Get off this stupid computer terminal and go play outside. You should be off playing pareses squares, not talking over a computer terminal to a 30-year-old man!
Kasatria997: You’re just jealous. I’m spending more time with your husband then you are. :P
CAPTANTH: Ladies, ladies!
CounslrPets: Shows what you know. You’re not f***ing him on a semi-nightly basis!
Baxter looked over at the operations console, where Peterman had relieved Ensign Sefelt so she could give “Kasatria997” a piece of her mind.
“She is seventeen years old, Kelly!” Baxter said. “You could get in trouble for talking to her about sex! We could lose our Federnet account.”
“Please,” Peterman mumbled. “There are more important things at stake here.”
CAPTANTH: Sorry about that, Kasatria. My wife is a little touchy about other women.
KASATRIA997 IS NO LONGER SIGNED ON.
“Now look what you’ve done!” Baxter exclaimed.
“I hate to break this up,” Browning said, squeezing in between the ops panel and Baxter’s chair. “But shouldn’t we be working on a way to rescue Chris?”
“We’ve already talked to Starfleet Command and the Klingon High Council. Neither seems very helpful, I’m afraid,” Baxter murmurred, pressing the “log off” control on his console and switching the viewer back to an external view.
“Isn’t Starfleet Command sworn to protect Federation citizens?” Browning asked.
“Technically he’s not a Federation citizen anymore.”
“You told me you never even filed their resignations,” Peterman said.
“WHAT?” Browning asked, turning on Baxter.
“I figured this was only a phase so I never filed your resignations,” Baxter explained. “That way, when the two of you came to your senses, you could return to the Explorer without any bothersome red tape issues.”
“And the Captain knows what that’s like,” Tilleran said. “Look at what happened to him when he got back to the Alpha Quadrant. He had his captaincy revoked because of red tape.”
“I still don’t believe it. It’s like you had no faith that we would succeed,” Browning said, sinking into the chair beside Peterman.
“You did succeed. But you left anyway. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to worry about reapplying to Starfleet or anything?”
“I guess. So, why can’t Starfleet do anything for Chris?”
“Evidently, as part of his contract with the United Klingon Network, Chris had to denounce his citizenship with the Federation. Starfleet member or not, Klingon laws apply.”
“Is that why we can’t call the Explorer in?” Peterman asked.
“Exactly,” Baxter said, nodding. “It would be nice to throw the extra weight around, but unfortunately Starfleet won’t allow us to divert the Explorer from her mission in the Tiga sector. The Escort is still officially on detached duty, so it will be a lot easier to sneak in and get Chris back from the Klingons.”
“But if we get into a firefight…” Browning said.
Baxter patted his armrest. “This little baby has quite a bit of kick. Don’t you worry about that.”
“Believe me, I’m worried,” Browning mumbled.
“I think we all are,” Peterman said. “If we really tick the Klingons off, they may gut us right along with Chris.”
“What?” asked Ensign Sefelt from his position at tactical.
“Uh-oh,” Peterman sighed.
“Did I hear you right? Gut us?”
“Howard, relax,” Peterman said soothingly, rising from her chair.
Sefelt jumped up from his seat, backed toward the turbolift. “I don’t want to die. Don’t let them kill me, Counselor.”
Peterman moved toward Sefelt slowly. “No one’s going to kill you, Howard. You’re safe. You’re among friends.”
“No! I have to escape!” Sefelt shouted, jumping into the turbolift.
“Damn,” Peterman mumbled, jumping in after him. “Be right back.”
Browning put her head down on the ops console. “Don’t worry, you say?”
Captain Baxter stepped out onto the bridge, wrapping his robe around him and leaning on back of the command chair. Peterman was sitting there, tapping at the armrest. At the operations console beside her, Dr. Browning looked on.
“What is so important that you felt the need to get me off that comfy couch?” Baxter asked, staring down at Peterman as she worked.
“See for yourself,” Browning said, pointing at the viewscreen.
“We found some information out about the execution,” Peterman added.
CounslrPets: You’ve been very helpful. How can I thank you?
SovokMan: Let’s see…you could meet me on Raisa next
“Turn that thing off!” Baxter cried, crossing in front of the viewscreen.
“He’s been very nice to us,” Browning said defensively.
“Okay, okay,” Baxter said. “Log off. Tell me what you’ve found.”
CounslrPets: I’ll talk to you later, SovokMan.
SovokMan: Right on. Happy Blood Feud Days!
“Now look who’s addicted to this thing,” Baxter said, plopping down into the tactical chair on the other side of Peterman. “Can I please hear this information so I can go back to sleep?”
“Good morning, Mr. Grumpy,” Peterman said brightly. “We found out exactly where and when Chris is scheduled to be executed.”
“High Noon, day after tomorrow on the steps of the High Council,” Baxter said, leaning tiredly on the tactical panel.
“Nope,” Browning said. “It’s been rescheduled by the President of UKN himself. We found out they’re holding the grand opening of the new UKN space station tomorrow evening. Klingon VIP’s, Days of Honor fans, and anyone who’s anyone in the world of Klingon vid broadcasting will be there.”
“I see,” Baxter said, rubbing his chin. “So Mr. Krinok’s going to make an even bigger show out of Chris’s death than before.”
“Not only that, but it’ll be broadcasted all over the quadrant.”
“Jeeze,” Baxter muttered, covering his face.
“We were able to download some schematics for this station,” Peterman said, keying a diagram of the station up on the viewscreen.
Baxter examined the schematic. “According to this, Chris will be gutted somewhere in the huge upper-level auditorium.”
“It’s not going to be easy infiltrating that station. We’d have had better luck getting into the high council chambers,” Browning said.
Baxter strolled around the front of the bridge, staring at the spinning diagram. “I don’t know. I have a few ideas germinating.”
“Uh-oh,” Peterman moaned.
“What, you want us to beam over there made up to look like Klingons?” Browning asked.
Baxter looked back at Peterman and Browning and smiled. “Not exactly.”
Captain’s Personal Log,
Stardate 53429.5. We’re finally nearing the heavily guarded Krinokor base. Needless to say, we’re in silent running mode with those nifty sensor-reflective shields raised. Hopefully we won’t be noticed, since there are something like a billion Klingon ships lurking about.
While Tilleran takes the Escort to Kronos to locate J’hana and Dwanok, Peterman, Browning, and I are beaming over to the station in an attempt to get a sense of the layout of the place. I only hope our disguises work.
“I feel stupid,” Peterman muttered under her breath, as she, Browning, and Baxter made their way into the front lobby of Krinokor’s main auditorium.
The group was dressed in cheap imitation Klingon uniforms, with polyester Federation-emblem bookbags slung over their shoulders. Otherwise, Browning and Peterman had twirled their hair into three kinky ponytails. Baxter had a wig of curly, dark, high-reaching hair that gave him a sadistic, crazed appearance. Additionally, their complexions were drastically altered to look as pale and pimply as possible.
“At least you’re not scheduled for execution,” Baxter snapped back, hitching his ill-fitting metal trousers up around his hips. It was important to give the impression of perpetual geekiness. Something Baxter knew more than a little about.
“Not yet, anyway,” Browning chimed in.
“Greetings,” Baxter said, extending his hand toward the gruff looking Klingon at the check-in table. “I’m Leroy, President of the Federation chapter of the Days of Honor fan club.”
“Federation…” the Klingon spat. “You have no honor. Why are you here?”
Baxter put a hand through his greasy, gelled hair. “Think of us as the diplomatic representation of Federation Days of Honor fans,” Baxter said in as nasal a voice as possible. “This thing is bigger than the Klingon Empire. It spans the entire galaxy. It has a message that can be understood by beings in galaxies we’ve never even…”
The Klingon grunted and stabbed Baxter’s hand with a stamping-device.
The Klingon emblem and the words “UKN ExecutionFest 2374” appeared there.
“Wow, this is so exciting!” Peterman shrieked giddly as her and Browning’s hands were stamped.
“I know, Sovok is so cute!” Browning giggled.
“So is SovokMan!”
Baxter looked over his shoulder at Petesen and Browning as they made their way into the auditorium. “Stop talking about SovokMan. That’s an order!”
“Are you kidding?”
“Is that some kind of threat?”
“Andy, look out!”
“What do you…?” Suddenly Baxter slammed into the chest of a giant Klingon warrior. “Oh…excuse me, sir.”
“Human. Do you wish to become part of the legend of Richards’s demise?”
Baxter considered that. “Hmm, I guess so.”
“Then sign here and make sure you get a vacuum-sealed peice of the Richards corpse.”
“Nifty!” Baxter said, thumbing a signature on the padd. “Want a piece of Richards, guys?”
“Yeah, neat!” Peterman exclaimed.
“Sure…um, neato!” Browning said warily.
“Jeeze,” Peterman said, as the group moved off into the crowd of Days of Honor fans. “If we collect enough of them, we’ll get the entire person.”
“A lot of good he’ll do us chopped up,” Baxter grumbled.
“Can we be a little more optimistic about this, please?” Browning asked.
“Sure,” Baxter said. “Let me just work the crowd, and we’ll find a way to free Richards.”
“‘Work the crowd’?” Peterman asked skeptically.
“You have to be very subtle with Klingons. They may seem stupid, but you have to read between the lines to understand what they’re really saying. Trust me, I’ll find a way to Chris. It just takes a little cunning, some deception, and a measure of…”
“Tours of Richards’s holding facility! Form a line here! See the squalor of human failure!” a Klingon called out, waving a flag that looked like an artist’s rendition of Richards being gutted.
“Or, we could just get extremely lucky,” Baxter mused.
“I don’t think that’s happened yet. Come on,” Browning said, leading the way over to the tour group.
“…came to Kronos four months ago to write for Days of Honor. At that time, he was simple ignorant. Since then, Richards has grown to represent everything dishonorable. He is the exact reason we have the Blood Feud Festival. To remind us of what true honor is about.”
“He’s good,” Baxter admitted quietly, following the tour guide through the winding tunnels that led to Richards’s dungeon.
“What’s more,” Browning said, studying the tricorder she had tucked under her jacket, “this security system is good. There doesn’t seem to be any way of getting Chris out of here without tripping at least thirty security alarms.”
“Damn,” Baxter said. “What about transporting him?”
“Not a chance. Krinokor’s shields aren’t up, but there are transporter scramblers all over this deck.”
“Then we have to get Richards past the transporter scramblers,” Peterman said.
“And how do we do that?” Baxter asked.
“Simple,” Browning said nervously. “We have to wait for him to get out in the open.”
Baxter put the pieces together. “In other words, wait for the time of his execution.”
“And here he is. The patak behind the near destruction of Days of Honor.”
Baxter stood on his tiptoes, peering over the assorted group of tourgoers. “Excuse me,” he said, pushing past a few of the bulkier Honorees.
“Hello, Days of Honor fans,” Richards muttered, addressing the crowd from behind his protective forcefield. “Welcome to Krinokor. Get ready for a great evening of drinking and battle. And to top it all off, I’m going to be executed for being completely without honor.”
Several of the Klingons in the group cheered loudly.
“Chris,” Baxter said under his breath. “Over here.”
Richards inched over toward Baxter. “Captain Baxter?”
“No, call me Leroy.”
“Leroy? What in the hell are you doing here? And why are you wearing a cheap imitation Klingon uniform? And what’s with your complexion?”
“We’re trying to rescue you, Chris!” Browning said, pushing past Baxter.
“Janice?” Richards’s eyes went wide. Then Peterman stuck her head in.
“Oh, jeeze,” Richards said, rolling his eyes. “I should have expected this.”
“Don’t you have faith in us?” Baxter asked.
“You guys shouldn’t have come. You should leave before you’re put to death, too. The more blood the merrier. That’s why they call it the Blood Feud Festival.”
“We have a plan,” Baxter said proudly.
“Don’t you worry about that,” Browning said. “You just sit tight here and we’ll do the rest.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”
“Think of it this way,” Peterman said, “things can’t get any worse for you, can they?”
“Well, when you put it that way…”
“Did I hear him call you Captain Baxter?” a small voice said from behind Baxter.
“No,” Baxter snapped back. “Now, Chris….”
Baxter was suddenly whirled around, to face a small, red- haired girl that looked to be in her teens.
Peterman ran a hand over her face. “For the love of God.”
“Um, Kasatria?” Baxter asked weakly.
“Chelsea, actually. Come on, Captanth. They have a ride in the main promenade that recreates the Sahr’gon’s trip through that spatial anomaly that brought it to the Delta Quadrant.”
“Um, I already kind of know what that feels like…”
Chelsea yanked harder. “Come on, silly head!”
“Bye, Andy,” Peterman said with a grin. “Have fun.”
“What the hell was that about?” Richards asked, watching Baxter disappear into the crowd.
“It’s not important,” Browning said. “Just wait here. We’ll rescue you as soon as they put you up on the execution altar.”
“We’ll be surrounded by angry, bloodthirsty Klingons,” Richards said. “Brilliant.”
“Hey, we’re the rescuers. Let us worry about that.”
“Come on,” Peterman said, grabbing Browning’s hand. “Let’s try to find Sovokman.”
“Sovokman?” Richards asked, his brow creasing.
“Don’t worry about it!” Browning called back.
“So, how was your fishing trip?” Lt. Tilleran asked amiably from the command chair as Ensign Madera guided the Escort back to Krinokor.
J’hana stood at the rear of the bridge, arms folded, staring at the stars on the viewscreen. “It was acceptable.”
“We achieved our goals. I personally captured the largest kvaGh in Klingon fishing history.”
“You must be very proud.”
“I am angry.”
Tilleran’s brow furrowed. “Angry? Why?”
“Why don’t you just scan me and find out, Betazoid?” J’hana demanded, slumping into the tactical/communications chair next to Tilleran.
“Okay, fine.” Tilleran focused on J’hana, closing her eyes. “Give me a second. Andorians are sort of hard to read. Oh, goodness. I’m very sorry.”
“I am as well.”
“But how could Dwanok suddenly become so…”
“Do not say it…”
“Inadequate in bed?”
J’hana whirled in her chair, unsheathing her Andorian blade and flipping open the two auxillary rotating frappe blades that flanked the main blade. “I will kill you if you make any more mention of this…”
“I thought Klingons were formidible in bed…”
“Ladies, please stop!” Ensign Sefelt said, ducking under the Ops/Science station. “You’re not acting very Starfleet!”
“You stay out of this, little toad!” J’hana grunted, grabbing the front of Tilleran’s uniform. “You’ll speak no more about this, Lieutenant! Klingons may be formidible in battle, but in bed…well, sometimes it’s all just a lot of shouting, stabbing, and punching.”
“My, my,” Tilleran said as J’hana released her. She turned toward the viewscreen. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”
“See that you do. Now, what of Richards?”
“Captain Baxter, Counselor Peterman, and Dr. Browning are making the rescue attempt.”
J’hana considered this. “Is that wise?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“They are good people. But they are also incompetent.”
“And all three of them outrank us.”
“True. I suppose the worst that could happen is that all four of them will die.”
“Well,” Tilleran said, punching some controls on the command chair. “We’ll have to make sure that doesn’t happen, won’t we?”
J’hana leaned back in her chair. “I suppose. But we will be severely outgunned. This is a tough little ship, but it is nothing compared to Krinok’s fleet.”
“That’s why we need the Devagh to assist us,” Tilleran said. “When did you say Dwanok would get out of his council session?”
“This evening. You do realize that he is putting his honor on the line helping us.”
“I’d say his honor has already been a bit compromised,” Tilleran chuckled.
“I told you not to speak of that, Tilleran!”
“What do you think?” Chelsea asked, strutting the Kasatria outfit she’d just bought in front of Baxter.
Baxter covered his eyes. “I think I’d be breaking Federation law just looking at it.”
“Oh, don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud,” Chelsea said, dragging Baxter toward another dealer table. “Ooh, the Days of Honor customizable card game. Have you ever played that?”
“It’s really good. I have a ton of them back on my ship. I’m the Days of Honor champ back on Cestus Three.”
“That’s interesting. Listen, Chelsea, I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m right in the middle of a rescue attempt…why don’t you…” Baxter’s voice trailed off when he noticed an odd couple dressed in black trenchcoats studying the customizable cards. A bald man and a tall, blonde woman.
“Sort of like poker, isn’t it, Beverly?” the man said, chortling. “Maybe we should get a few packs?”
“Yes, Jean-luc. Let’s do it!” the woman said giddily.
“I do so love Days of Honor,” the bald man said, reflecting joyfully as he studied the cards. “Maybe it’s just because it’s such a low, base form of entertainment. If the others knew about this, we’d never live it down…”
“Picard…” Baxter stammered. “Captain Jean-luc Picard?”
The bald man’s head whirled around. “No! I don’t know who you are but you never saw me here! Come on, Beverly. We have a runabout to catch!”
“How do you like that?” Baxter said to himself as the pair disappeared into the crowd.
“Come on, sillyhead!” Chelsea exclaimed, grabbing Baxter’s hand and dragging him across the promenade.
“Help,” Baxter muttered.
Peterman stood outside the comm booth staring at the crowds, tapping her foot impatiently. No sign of SovokMan yet.
She knocked on the booth’s glass door. “Come on, Janice! I want to check out the Days of Honor science exhibit.”
“It’s no good, really,” said a soothing British accent. “Don’t waste your latinum.”
Peterman turned to face a man dressed in a pale imitation of the regal robes a Klingon minister would wear. She couldn’t see his face because he was wearing a crimped, angry-looking Minister Vag mask.
“I’ll try to remember that.”
“You look familiar. Did we meet at a Federation Psychology conference?”
“I doubt it,” Peterman muttered. Boy, they really came out of the woodwork at these conventions, didn’t they?
“Are you sure? I think we debated on the difference between preganglionic nerves and postganglionic fibers one night, if I’m not mistaken.”
Peterman stared as the man removed his mask. “Dr. Bashir?”
“Also known as SovokMan. Hello, Counselor.”
“I don’t believe it. You’re the creep that tried to get me drunk the night of the reception!”
“Well, I do know my medicinals pretty well, but don’t hold that against me.”
“Call it a study of Klingon culture. It’s fascinating, actually. I mean, somehow a Klingon was able to steal a woman away from me. I want to know how he did it. Perfect his strategy. Duplicate it.”
Bashir grinned. “Is that your professional opinion?”
Suddenly the glass door to the comm booth slid open and Browning stepped out. “The Escort is on its way, Kelly.” She looked up at Bashir. “And who’s this?”
“Nobody,” Peterman muttered. “Come on.”
“You’re not so special yourself, Counselor,” Bashir called after Peterman. “And you’ve obviously let your complexion go all to hell. I can help with that, you know!”
Peterman ignored him and kept moving through the crowd.
“Where are we going now?” Baxter asked, as Chelsea dragged him toward one of the airlocks. “To my ship. I want you to see my room.”
“That’s really not necessary.”
“I think it is. Daddy always meets my new boyfriends.”
“Come on, Andy-poo.”
“Help!” Baxter called out as he was dragged into the airlock. He spotted Picard and Crusher ducking into an airlock on the other side of the docking bay but they ignored his pleas.
“Where in the hell is Andy?” Peterman asked, checking her chronometer. “It’s almost seven.”
“He’ll be here. This is really his show, after all,” Browning said.
“I’d think you’d be pretty concerned about getting Chris back, too,” Peterman remarked, staring at the lines of Klingon honor guard that began to trail up toward the main stage. The opening act of the execution was about to begin.
“Oh, I am. But Andy’s acting like he’s to blame for this whole situation. Haven’t you noticed?”
Peterman thought a moment. She was Ship’s Counselor. Could she have been so blind to Baxter’s feelings? “Sure I have.”
“I just hope we all don’t end up on the business end of a batleth.”
“You and me both.”
“What do you think?” Chelsea asked expectantly as Baxter looked around the room.
It was papered with action figures and models. It told the story of all of UKN’s Klingon series, plus a few obscure vid and holo series started by others in the Alpha Quadrant.
“I have all the Days of Honor figures in their original packaging!” Chelsea said, grinning.
“Listen,” Baxter said, whirling. He knealt so he was face to face with the Days of Honor fanatic. “You need help. This whole obsession you have with imaginary characters is freaky. You need to go out and become a part of the real universe.”
“Because, you just do!” Baxter said tiredly. “Now, listen closely. One of my good friends is in grave danger. I have to help him. If I don’t get back to the convention soon, he’ll die. It’s been nice chatting with you, but I really have to go.”
Baxter headed for the door. Chelsea tapped a button on the console next to her. The door whizzed shut, right in Baxter’s face.
“Chelsea, that’s not funny.”
“You’re my prisoner, Sovok. I will teach you to love me again.”
“Come again?” Baxter asked, brow furrowing.
Chelsea picked up a small device that was lying next to her bed and pointed it at Baxter.
“That better not be a phaser.”
“It isn’t. Mini tractor beam.”
“Watch your mouth, Sovok!” Chelsea fired the beam at Baxter. Before he could duck, it grabbed him right by the crotch. With a twist of her wrist, Chelsea slammed Baxter up into the ceiling, then back down into the floor.
“Urk,” Baxter said, a tangle of arms and legs.
“Klingons love pain,” Chelsea giggled. “Klingons like me and you, Sovok.”
“Peterman to Baxter. They’re about to bring Chris out. Where are you?”
Baxter tried to reach his comm badge, but Chelsea was quick with another flick of her device. Baxter flew through the air, right into a wall.
“Why isn’t he answering?” Peterman asked, watching in concern as Klingon foghorns blew, announcing the beginning of Richards’s death march.
Browning covered her ears. “I don’t know. Wasn’t he with that Kasatria girl the last time we saw him?”
“I have a bad feeling about this,” Peterman muttered.
“I’m sure he isn’t going to–Kelly, she’s half his age.”
“That’s not what I’m worried about. Andy’s not smart enough to protect himself. Even from a 16-year-old girl.”
“So what do we do?”
Peterman frowned, waving weakly at Chris as he was dragged, in chains, down the aisle toward the raised stage at the center of the convention center. The crowds cheered, roaring for blood. “We get some help.”
Krinokor swung into view on the Escort viewscreen.
“A monument to stupidity,” J’hana muttered, pacing behind the command chair.
“A monument to stupidity that’s guarded by a Vor’cha-class cruiser and two Birds-of-Prey,” Tilleran corrected.
“It will be an interesting battle,” J’hana mused.
“It won’t be a battle. Not if the Captain succeeds in outwitting those Klingons.”
“As I said, it will be an interesting battle.”
Tilleran ignored J’hana, punching a button on the command chair. “Tilleran to Baxter.”
After waiting several moments for a response, she raised an eyebrow. “Tilleran to Baxter.”
Ensign Sefelt tapped on the ops console. “I’m looking for his comm badge. There he is. He’s aboard one of the transports that’s docked at the station. The SS Eden. Registered to the Barnum, Bailey, and Stranok Circus.”
“What is the captain doing with carnival folk?” J’hana asked, turning to look at Tilleran.
“Carnival folk?” Baxter asked weakly from his perch on the ceiling. Chelsea had used her tractor beam to keep him permanently mounted up there while she straightened up the mess he had made being tossed about her room.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing. The Barnum, Bailey, and Stranok Circus is very popular. How do you think I got all these figures? My Dad runs one of the most successful acts.”
“Let me guess. The freak show.”
Chelsea glared at Baxter. “You want me to throw you around again, Sovok?”
“No, no I don’t. But you have to admit, the circus took a serious nosedive when the Vulcans bought into it.”
“It did so! The humor got so complex. There’s a whole act based on symbolic logic.”
“Some people find symbolic logic hilarious.”
“You’re just not sophisticated enough, Sovok,” Chelsea said, grabbing a Kasatria doll and brushing its hair. “We’ll cure you of that.”
Baxter shivered. “I bet your dad would be pretty mad if he knew you took me hostage.”
“He wouldn’t care. He owns the largest anvil in the galaxy, you know.”
“What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, it is an indication that you’d better not screw with him. You’re going to make me happy, Sovok. We’ll get married, have lots of beautiful Klingon children, and fly the Sahr’gon out into the final frontier.”
“Sheesh,” Baxter said, struggling to push himself away from the ceiling. Some rescue this was turning out to be.
“We’re going over to that ship to find out what exactly is going on,” Tilleran’s voice said, as Peterman watched the Klingons chant for Richards’s death. “The downside is, you and Dr. Browning are going to have to free Richards yourselves. We’d send someone over to help, but as the Escort isn’t even officially on duty, there isn’t anyone we can spare. Except, maybe Sefelt.”
“That’s okay, really,” Peterman said. “We’ll take care of it.”
“We will?” Browning asked wryly.
“Sure. Just find Andy and get him back.”
“Will do. Escort out.”
Browning looked at her tricorder worriedly. “This isn’t good, Kelly. There are transport scramblers up all around Christopher. We have to get him out to the docking ring before the Escort can lock on to him. And how on Earth do we do that with a room full of bloodthirsty Klingons?”
Peterman thought to herself. “We need a distraction.”
Browning tapped her foot impatiently as Krinok climbed onto the stage, reading from a prepared speech, lauding Richards’s demise as the “event of the decade.”
“Well?” Browning finally asked. “Any ideas?”
Peterman bit her lower lip thoughtfully. “Nope.”
“Great,” Browning sighed. “Too bad neither of us know any obscure Klingon law to exploit.”
“Wait a minute,” Peterman said, snapping her fingers. “Why can’t we exploit an obscure Earth law?”
Peterman grabbed Browning’s wrist and lunged toward the stage, pushing past the cheering Klingons. “A last request!”
“Of course,” Browning muttered. “Maybe he can request for them to turn off the transport scramblers.”
“You’re going to be so pretty when I finish putting on your Klingon makeup,” Chelsea said, pulling out her “Days of Honor” make-up kit. “I promised I’d save this Sovok face for my one and only boyfriend.”
“How sick. I mean, how cute.”
Chelsea grabbed her tractor device and adjusted the beam so that Baxter floated down toward her. “Now hold still. I have to get the eyebrows just right.”
Baxter thought for a second. Chelsea was so absorbed adjusting the tractor beam controls, she wasn’t paying attention to him. He’d swore he would never hit a woman. And this was a young woman. What kind of person would he be if he lashed out at this warped person, even given the circumstances?
Given the circumstances…
Gently as possible, Baxter grabbed Chelsea’s arm and tossed her against the wall.
Unfortunately, since she was holding the tractor emitter, he followed after, the tractor snapping him into her like a rubber band.
“Ugh,” Chelsea grunted. “You’re crushing me.”
“Klingons love pain,” Baxter mumbled, pushing away from the wall.
Just then, sounds of rampant phaser fire echoed outside Chelsea’s door. The door burst open and in poured J’hana and Tilleran.
Tilleran’s eyes went wide.
J’hana simply glanced at Baxter reproachfully. “Sir, what are you doing?”
“I can explain this,” Baxter said weakly.
“She looks half your age!”
“I’ll be 17 in March.”
“You shut up!” J’hana cried.
“We have to get back to the ship,” Tilleran said. “They’re about to execute Chris. Don’t worry, J’hana. Evidently this little neophyte wanted the captain to be her very own plush Sovok doll.”
“Really?” J’hana said, arching an eyebrow.
Baxter marched out of the room. “Thank you, Lieutenant Tilleran. At least someone around here trusts me.”
“Trust has nothing to do with it. I read your mind.”
Baxter ignored Tilleran and waved a finger at Chelsea from the doorway to her room. “I don’t have the time or the firepower to arrest you and your carnie friends. But let me give you some advice. Seek professional help.”
“Do you know a good counselor?” Chelsea asked sweetly.
“Yes…I mean, no. Baxter to Escort. Three to beam up. Immediately!”
“Hold on! Stop the execution!” Peterman cried, bounding up onto the stage before the meaty security guards could grab her.
“What do you want?” Krinok asked, eying Peterman and Browning suspiciously.
“We want to claim the rite of the last request.”
“I know of no such rite,” Krinok replied. “Now, let’s proceed with the gutting.”
Browning heard Richards gulp from where he was chained up at the center of the stage. Two Klingon warriors waited beside him with painstick. Another was directly in front of him, holding a batleth for Krinok to use for the actual gutting.
“It’s a human custom,” Peterman said quickly.
The audience booed.
“We don’t follow human customs here, female,” Krinok grunted. “Now…”
“What’s the matter, Krinok? Afraid?”
The lumbering Klingon gritted his teeth, turned on Peterman, latched a hand on her arm. “Klingons fear nothing!”
“Then let Richards have a last request. What’s the worst that could happen? Think him and two weak human females are capable of outwitting hundreds of Klingon warriors?”
The crowd stared at Krinok expectantly.
“Mmm…of course not.” He glared at Richards. “You have one request. Make it fast.”
Richards gulped again. Looked from Browning to Peterman.
Distract them. Browning mouthed. Distract them!
“Um…” Richards said weakly. His mind raced. Distraction. What on Earth could he…then it came to him. “I want to sing a song.”
“A song!” Krinok shouted gleefully. “Of course. A song of conquest, courage. Which warrior’s opera will you sing?”
“It’s a song I wrote myself, actually,” Richards said. “If you’ll be so kind as to unchain me, I want to sing it.”
Krinok considred this. “Fine. I did not take you for a songwriter, human.”
“I’m a man of many talents. Besides, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands, recently.”
The audience roared with laughter at that. Richards glanced around nervously. “Microphone,” he said weakly.
“I hope he knows what he’s doing,” Peterman mumbled through gritted teeth.
A Klingon techie tossed Richards a microphone and he took an Elvis-like stance on the stage.
“Here goes nothing,” Richards mumbled to himself. “This is a song I wrote based on a 20th century Earth song a friend taught to me.” Richards flashed a grin at the audience. “And it goes a little something like this:”
(To the tune of “Mexican Radio”)
Feel a pounding on my shoulder, In my crotch a pain that is bolder.
Write the scripts for “Days of Honor” If they’re not good I’m a goner!
Hear the rythyms of their singing, Their music sucks, my head is ringing.
Hear them talkin’, they say “nuqneH,” Can’t understand just what do they say?
I’m on a Klingon TV Show, On a Klingon, woah oh, tv show.
I’m on a Klingon TV Show, On a Klingon, woah oh, tv show.
The audience roared as Richards walked among them, shouting into the microphone. Peterman and Browning just looked at one another and shrugged.
Contacting the Federation, They talk about a new invasion.
I understand just a little, jIyajbe’! It’s a riddle!
I’m on a Klingon TV Show On a Klingon, woah oh, tv show,
I’m on a Klingon TV Show On a Klingon, woah oh, tv show,
Peterman glanced at Browning, inclined her head toward one of the painstick-bearing Klingons. He had his painstick resting at his hip as he clapped along with the music. The one on the other side of the stage was likewise entertained by Richards’s singing.
Browning and Peterman casually split apart, each walking toward one of the two Klingons.
Wish I was on Targa Five, Eating barbecued blood pie.
I’m here on Kronos, all alone, I’m on a planet far from home.
Feel a pounding on my shoulder, In my crotch a pain that is bolder.
Hear them talking, they say “nuqneH,” Can’t understand just what do they say?
I’m on a Klingon TV Show, On a Klingon, woah oh, tv show.
I’m on a Klingon TV Show, On a Klingon, woah oh, tv show.
“Is it over?” Browning shouted hopefully.
Richards stood at the base of the stage, shrugged. “I guess.”
“Good,” Peterman said. “Now, Janice!” she jabbed the Klingon next to her in the stomach and grabbed his painstick, jamming it into his chest. Browning did likewise.
The third Klingon dropped the batleth and went for his disruptor. He fired a bolt at Browning, who ducked in time for the blast to vaporize the Klingon she’d attacked.
Peterman lunged for the Klingon warrior, jumping on his back and using the pain stick to strangle him.
Richards scrambled up onto the stage, ramming a shoulder into Krinok just as he grabbed for the fallen batleth.
“Want this?” Browning asked, holding the batleth in front of Krinok.
“Yes, yes!” Krinok demanded.
Browning shoved her painstick into Krinok’s gut. “Sorry, you can’t have it!”
Richards grabbed the batleth. “Watch where you stick that thing, Janice.”
“It’s great to see you again, too.”
“Look out, I can’t steer this guy!” Peterman cried, as the Klingon she was riding tumbled toward Richards and Browning.
“No problem,” Richards said, using the batleth to knock the warrior off his feet. He then rammed the dull end of the sword into the Klingon’s head.
“Where did you learn to use a batleth?”
“I had to study them to write for Days of Honor.”
“Good thing,” Peterman said breathlessly, grabbing disruptors from the unconcious Klingons.
“Uh, guys…” Browning said worriedly.
Hordes of Klingons rushed the stage, screaming for vengeance.
“Remember that rock concert video chip Commander Conway showed us last year?” Richards asked quickly.
“Not really,” Browning replied.
“Just jump off the stage!” Richards cried, grabbing Browning and Peterman’s arms and dragging them with him off the stage and into the melee several feet below.
Baxter tossed aside his Days of Honor bookbag and shrugged on his Starfleet vest as he rushed onto the bridge of the Escort.
Sefelt looked up from the ops console fearfully. “All hell broke loose down there just a minute ago, sir. What’s happening down there? We’re all going to die, aren’t we?”
“Keep it together, Sefelt,” Baxter barked. What did Sefelt know of fear? Lock him up with Chelsea for a few minutes, then he’d know fear. “Tilleran, lock on to Peterman, Browning, and Richards and get them out of there!”
Tilleran leaned over the ops/science console as Sefelt squirmed away toward the aft stations. “No good, sir. Transporter scramblers are up all over the main promenade. Looks like they were ready for someone to try a rescue.”
“We have to get them out of that mess,” Baxter said worriedly.
A powerful hand gripped his shoulder. “I like a challenge, sir. Just let me replicate a batleth and I’ll bring back your cursed wife.”
Baxter nodded. “Get going, J’hana.”
“Under here!” Richards cried, firing madly at the crowd of screaming Klingons, lifting the tablecloth that was encircled a Days of Honor comic book display and shoving Peterman and Browning under the table.
“We won’t be safe under here for long,” Browning said anxiously, gripping her painstick.
Peterman stared at the tablecloth as she heard the sound of approaching roars. “What in the hell are we going to do?”
“I’m fresh out of ideas,” Richards admitted.
Peterman cocked her head as the roaring suddenly turned to screams of terror. “What’s happening out there?”
Then a blue head poked underneath the tablecloths. “I should have known. Hiding down here like scared voles. You three should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Browning wrapped her arms around J’hana. “J’hana!”
“Stop hugging me at once. Stay behind me. Stay low. And try not to get killed.”
J’hana crawled back out from under the table and the others scrambled after her.
When Richards emerged, he gasped. A pile of dead Klingons were stacked in front of him like a barricade. Other Klingons pounded at the pile.
“Come on!” J’hana urged, wiping the blood off her batleth and gesturing. “This way!”
“I love you, J’hana!” Richards cried, firing his disruptor as Klingons broke through the barricade and charged toward them, screaming for revenge.
“Save it!” J’hana rammed her batleth into an onrushing Klingon and ducked a swinging batleth blade, grabbing it and swinging it around, breaking her attacker’s arm. With her own batleth, she chopped the Klingon’s head off and hurled it into the crowd. She harrumphed. “Much more satisfying than fishing. Come on, cowards. Down this corridor. You do wish to be rescued, do you not?”
“If it’s not too much trouble,” Browning muttered, jabbing her painstick into a Klingon and shoving him away.
“Come on, Janice!” Peterman cried, pulling Browning along with her down the corridor after Richards and J’hana.
“Stop them!” Krinok cried, shouldering his way through the rioting crowd of Days of Honor fans and Krinokor security personnel.
“Shelat,” J’hana muttered, staring at the wall before her. “Dead end.”
“Dead end?” Richards asked frantically. “Didn’t you have a tricorder map of the place?”
“They must have sealed off this corridor as we ran into it. I did not anticpate that,” J’hana said thoughtfully, as the Klingon mob advanced on them, disruptor fire blazing.
“Just f***ing great,” Peterman sighed. “What do we do now?”
“We die honorably,” J’hana said reasonably. “It was a good fight. Do you wish me to kill you painlessly or let the Klingons have you? It makes no difference to me.”
“Peterman to Escort,” Peterman said, glaring at J’hana. “Are we out of range of the transport scramblers yet?”
“Kelly! Thank goodness your alive!” Baxter’s voice replied.
“Andy! We’re at a dead end. You have to get us out of here, now!”
“We’re working on it, Kelly. Just hold tight!”
Peterman watched the Klingons advance. A batleth sailed toward her.
And slammed into the wall.
“Could you have cut that any freaking closer?” Peterman demanded, jogging onto the bridge, Richards, J’hana, and Browning on her heels.
“Hey, you got out alive, didn’t you?”
“Maybe, but one second later and I would have been a batleth kabob.”
“What the hell is this thing?” Richards asked, as J’hana nudged against him to get to the tactical station.
“The Escort. That companion ship I told you about,” Baxter said. “J’hana, get the shields up and heat up the weapons. Ensign Madera, step on the gas!”
“Aye, sir.” Madera brought the Escort around, just as weapons fire slammed into it, knocking Richards into Browning and Peterman.
“This bridge is getting way too crowded,” Sefelt cried as Richards and Browning bumped against him. “I’m claustrophobic, you know.”
“Why am I not surprised,” Baxter muttered. “Where is the enemy fire coming from?”
“Krinokor. And four Klingon ships,” Tilleran said.
“I thought we had sensor-reflective forcefieldds!” Baxter moaned. “Admiral McGrath said no one could see the Escort when the fields were up unless they looked out a viewport.”
“Well I guess someone looked out a f***ing viewport, sir!” J’hana cried as her hands danced across the tactical panel.
“Great,” Richards muttered. “Four big ships against one tiny one.”
Baxter sighed. “I guess we’re about to see how much of a pounding this little ship can take. Madera, try to get us into warp.”
“Can’t sir. They knocked the dilithium crystals out of alignment with that last hit.”
“Bring us around, then,” Baxter ordered. “J’hana, load the quantums. Target the battlecruiser’s engines. FIRE!”
The Escort flitted around the massive battlecruiser like a tiny fly, pounding it with stinging quantum torpedoes.
“Major shield damage to the battlecruiser. The two Birds of Prey are on top of us,” J’hana ordered.
“I’ll try to increase power to the aft shields,” Richards said. “Excuse me, Janice. Kelly, move your elbow. Ensign Sefelt, get off my f***ing foot!” Richards squeezed himself up against the engineering panel and started tapping controls. “It would be great if there was a little more room on this bridge!”
“Tell the designers!” Baxter shouted. “J’hana, fire again. Keep pouring it on!”
“They’ve knocked out our shields!” Tilleran cried, as a ceiling panel exploded, showering the group with sparks and drenching the bridge in darkness.
“Emergency power!” Baxter cried.
“Our ablative armor won’t hold out long. We still haven’t put a dent in the Vor’cha’s weapons,” J’hana growled.
“We can’t give up now,” Baxter muttered. “Not after all this.”
“Maybe we won’t have to,” Tilleran said, looking up from her panel. “Another ship is approaching. It’s the Devagh!”
“Dwanok’s ship,” J’hana observed. “It is fighting off the other ships. Taking a position over us and extending its shields.”
“Thank Kahless!” Baxter cried.
“Captain Baxter,” Dwanok’s voice boomed over the bridge’s loudspeakers. “I have good news for you. The council has come to a decision. There is a way for you to save your friend’s life.”
“I’ll do whatever it takes, Dwanok,” Baxter said eagerly.
“You may not like it.”
“Stop laughing, J’hana,” Baxter muttered, as Peterman adjusted the straps on Baxter’s new, authentic Klingon uniform.
“You have to admit, it’s quite amusing,” J’hana said in between chuckles.
“There is nothing amusing about the Son’ChagH ceremony,” Dwanok growled.
“Could you explain it to me one more time?” Richards asked, as Baxter examined his new uniform in the mirror.
“Captain Baxter is your former commanding officer,” Dwanok said, exasperated. “You left him to take a job with Krinok Therefore, if your former commander wishes to have you back, he must face Krinok in honorable combat.”
“So, this Krinok guy is a pretty good fighter, I suppose,” Browning mused.
“He is more than likely capable of crushing Captain Baxter like a targfly,” Dwanok said simply.
“Lovely,” Baxter muttered. He glared at Richards. “I hope you appreciate this.”
“Is there any way I can do this instead?” Richards asked. “It is my fault we’re in this mess, after all.”
“That is not possible,” Dwanok said. “However, if Krinok kills Captain Baxter, you can claim the rite of vengeance.”
“That’s reassuring,” Baxter mumbled.
“What happens if Andy doesn’t fight Krinok?”
Dwanok nodded in Richards’s direction. “He dies.”
Baxter grabbed his batleth. “Okay, let’s do this before I chicken out.”
“Remember, Captain,” J’hana urged. “You have to be the blade. Make it part of you.”
“Why don’t you be the blade,” Baxter mumbled.
Suddenly a Klingon stuck his head into the chamber. “It is time! Come, face Krinok, human fool!”
“Showtime,” Baxter said, grinning.
“I don’t believe he’s going through with this,” Richards muttered.
Dwanok and J’hana flanked Baxter as he walked out of the room, into the High Council’s main chambers, with Browning, Peterman, and Richards close behind.
“In the matter of Baxter versus the High Council of Kronos, rite of Son’ChagH has been declared,” the Klingon clerk called out, banging a gong. “Let the ceremony commence!”
Richards watched fearfully as Baxter approached the center of the council chamber. Chancellor Martok stood there in the middle of a ring of Klingon council members. Next to him, Krinok stood, staring at Baxter with a look of barely-restrained glee. Days of Honor was being preempted so Krinok could broadcast this fight across the quadrant. The jerk would be making money off this one way or another.
Martok looked at Baxter with a mixture of amusement and concern. “You know what you are getting into, little man?”
Baxter gulped. “Yes, sir. Let’s just get it on, shall we?”
“I like him!” Martok grinned at Krinok, who merely chuckled.
The clerk handed Krinok his batleth. “Krinok, the request for honorable combat has been delcared. How do you wish to proceed?”
“I choose to fight!” Krinok called out, eyes bulging.
“How do you choose,” the clerk asked, turning to Baxter.
J’hana hovered near Baxter. “Fight,” she whispered.
“Right. I choose…I choose to fight,” Baxter said weakly, holding up his batleth.
Please don’t kill me, Baxter pleaded silently, staring into Krinok’s bulging eyes.
“Ha ha ha ha!” Krinok bellowed. “It is a good day to die, human!”
He grabbed his batleth and swung.
Baxter ducked, backpedaling toward the rear of the gallery. Krinok chased after him, grinning like a demon.
“Kick his ass, Andy!” Peterman cried. “Bash his head in!”
“I don’t want to die!” Baxter cried, diving for the floor as Krinok swung again, jamming his sword into one of the towering columns.
“Hit him while he is vulnerable, Captain!” J’hana cried from the sidelines “It is your only chance!”
“Okay, okay!” Baxter replied, wondering if this was kosher with Starfleet. He never did call for clearance. Who knew, this could constitute a diplomatic incident. That was the last thing he’d need on his resume.
While Baxter considered this, Krinok yanked out his batleth and lashed at Baxter with the dull end, knocking the captain’s own weapon out of his hands. It twisted in the air, end-over- end, and landed in the shoulder of one of the Klingon spectators.
“Whoops,” Baxter said. Those things were harder to wield than they looked.
Krinok laughed insanely and advanced on Baxter. The Klingon warrior in the audience ripped the batleth out of his shoulder and tossed it at Baxter.
“Be more careful next time, human!”
“The battle continues!” Krinok seethed, as he and Baxter circled the center of the room, eyes intent on each other like two battling cheetas.
“Just let me and my friends leave, Krinok!” Baxter pleaded. “We don’t care about honor. We just want to get out of here!”
“You will leave!” Krinok shouted. “In stasis tubes!” He swung at Baxter, who deftly scrambled between his legs. Krinok whirled around angrily, swinging again.
Baxter ducked another swing, spun around on a heel, then slammed the dull end of his batleth into Krinok’s head.
“I don’t want to kill you, Krinok!”
“I want to kill YOU!” Krinok shrieked.
“Pick on someone your own size, creep!” Browning cried from the audience.
“Kill yourself! It is the only way out!” J’hana shouted at Baxter.
“Thanks for the support,” Baxter muttered, lunging at Krinok and ramming him into a column. His batleth clattered to the ground.
“Pin him!” J’hana called out.
“Right,” Baxter said, quickly shoving his batleth up against Krinok’s throat.
“Now, Krinok, I’ll say it again,” Baxter said, breathless. “Let us go. I don’t want to kill you. There would be all kinds of paperwork, explanations at Starfleet HQ…”
“Kill me, if you have an ounce of honor in you, patak!” Krinok spat.
“Hey, that’s not very…”
And Krinok thrust a knee into Baxter’s crotch, sending the Captain down for the count.
The room fell silent.
“The belgH’pew!” Dwanok said with disbelief. “That is a dishonorable maneuver!”
“Klingons can’t go for the family jewels?” Richards asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Of course not. It’s the most dishonorable strategy known.”
“Captain Baxter would have done it.”
“Exactly my point.”
“Shut off the cameras, now!” the council clerk demanded, as Krinok stood over Baxter. “This never happened! You all hear me? This never happened!”
“What a disgrace,” Martok muttered, heading back to his throne. “All of you, get out of my chambers. I…want to be alone.”
“Does…that…mean…” Baxter groaned, still on the floor.
“Yes,” Krinok snapped. “You can go home. Take your cursed friend and leave Kronos. And promise never to return. You are all bad luck!”
“Not a problem,” Richards said, running into the center of the court and shouldering Baxter back toward the rest of the group. “Let’s get the hell out of here before he changes his mind, guys.”
“I don’t believe it,” Dwanok said in disbelief, looking to Martok. “Is there no honor left in the Klingon heart?”
“Apparently not,” Martok grunted.
“Thank you for your help, Dwanok,” Baxter said weakly. “I owe you one.”
Dwanok nodded. “I will remember that.”
“Escort,” Peterman said, slapping her comm badge. “Prepare for beamout.”
“You coming, J’hana?” Browning asked.
“I suppose,” J’hana said, looking up at Dwanok. “Thank you for the fishing trip. And good luck with your…problem.”
“There are many problems I now face, J’hana,” Dwanok said gravely. “Impotence is the least of them.”
J’hana kissed him long and ravenously. “Don’t be so sure.”
“Hey,” Baxter called out. “I need to get to a Sickbay.”
“Right,” J’hana said, joining Baxter and the rest of the away team. “I’m ready, sir.”
“Take care of yourself, Dwanok,” Richards said.
“You as well,” Dwanok replied, bowing. “Q’plah!”
“Energize already, Escort,” Baxter called out, wincing as pain jolted through his crotch.
“Morning, Ryan,” Lt. Hartley said, strolling into Engineering and whistling a happy tune.
Stuart looked up from the master systems console. “Oh. Uh, good morning, Lieutenant.”
“Why so glum, Ensign?” Hartley asked, hovering over Stuart’s shoulder.
“Uh…no reason,” Stuart said, hunching over the console as he worked, pretending to be very interested in the warp core schematics. “Captain Baxter got back last night.”
“He did, did he?” Hartley asked, rubbing her chin. “Did he have a good trip?”
“Um, I guess.”
“Well, you’re a fountain of conversation this morning, aren’t you?” Hartley said. “Fine. I’ll be in my office if you have any juicy gossip to share later.”
“Oh, I will,” Stuart said under his breath.
“What was that?”
Hartley stepped through the doors to her office and walked over to the replicator. “Orange juice. Extra large.”
She picked up the glass and turned around. And dropped it.
Richards was back in uniform, looking over a padd, feet up on his desk. “Lt. Commander Richards, you mean?” he asked, grinning.
Ten minutes later, Richards stumbled out of the office.
“Half of that stuff is yours, you know!” he called over his shoulder, ducking as a tortellini statuette of Dr. Browning sailed over his head and smashed into the opposite wall.
“Not taking the news of your return well?” Stuart asked.
“You could say that,” Richards muttered, wincing as more shouts and pounding echoed from inside his office. He sat down next to Stuart. “Oh well, I was going to redecorate in there anyway. I’m more worried about Janice, actually. After all, she has to deal with an angry Flarn, right?”
“I suppose so, sir.”
Richards sighed, looking around Engineering and smiling. “So, what’s new around here?”
Later that afternoon, after fixing his office back up and setting Hartley up with a counseling appointment, Richards decided to go up to Sickbay and check on Janice. Who knew what problems she’d encounter with that Flarn doctor?
“Janice?” Richards asked, peering into Sickbay.
“In the lab!” Browning’s voice called, in between peals of laughter.
Richards ducked into the lab. “Janice?”
Browning was perched on a biobed, sipping from a mug of hot chocolate.
“Christopher, this is Dr. Benzra,” Browning said, gesturing toward the Flarn.
Benzra extended a claw. Richards shook it tentatively. “Nice to meet you.”
“Likewissssssse, Misssssster Richardsssss,” Benzra said, flashing rows of sharp teeth. “Dr. Browning and I were just sssharing Ssssssickbay ssssssstoriesss.”
“You aren’t mad about her coming back and taking your job?” Richards asked.
“Mad? Directorssss, no. There are much more fulfilling thingsssssss for me to do. Hunting those basssstardsssss in the Sssssssstarshine Cult, for insssstance.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Richards said. “I guess.”
“Anyway, a Sssssstarship isssss on itsssss way to pick me up. I mussst be packing,” Benzra said, lumbering out of the room.
Richards hopped onto the biobed next to Browning and put an arm around her. “It’s been a hell of a few months, hasn’t it, Janice?”
Browning leaned her head on Richards’s shoulder, squeezed his hand. “Sure has, Christopher.”
“So I guess we just pick up where we left off,” Richards said with a grin.
“Yep. You with your job, me with mine.”
“Good friends,” Browning said, patting Richards on the back and hopping off the biobed. “Well, gotta get to work!”
Browning left Richards sitting on the biobed, alone in the lab.
Just in time for the holidays, the crew gets together to share some quality time, only someone’s performing weird, unnatural experiments on them. Will Baxter find the cause of these in time to decorate the tree? Or will the holidays bring tidings of doom? Tune in Christmas Eve for a very special holiday edition of Star Traks: The Vexed Generation!