Admiral Khalian paced the short length of his office. Damn Kirk anyway! he thought viciously. Damn him to the Netherworld! He spat on the floor. He longed for the day that he could personally cut off the head of the Federation's leading starship commander. Suddenly, he made a decision.
He pounded a fist onto his desk top. "Get me Commander Kruk!" he snarled into the open deskcomm.
"Immediately, my lord!" came the terse reply.
There was a buzz. With uncontrolled fury, Khalian punched the on-off switch. "What is it?"
"Admiral Kusan to see you, Lord Admiral."
"Tell him to....tell him to come right in," Khalian snarled, a faint smile dawning on his face. There was little love lost between he and Kusan, but he was certain even his arch-rival would appreciate his plan.
"Well, Khalian. I see that you've had your plans foiled again by James T. Kirk," provoked Kusan, swaggering into the office. He sat down in a chair without it being offered.
"I am not the only one, Kusan, who has had my plans foiled at the hands of that wretched Earther."
"True enough," Kusan said. "So what shall we do with this problem of ours?"
"I propose a unique solution. Dispatch Commander Kruk to Kirk's present location with one purpose: the capture of the Enterprise commander."
Kusan roared in derisive laughter. "Do you think I haven't tried a similar plan? Do you not realize that all of my efforts have been hitherto foiled by that damnable luck of his?"
Khalian chuckled. "I realize every time you have attempted to have him captured your operatives have made the mistake of engaging the Enterprise in combat. That is not what I have in mind."
"Really? Pray tell."
"The Enterprise survived the ambush in the Ceti Void, did it not? I suspect that Kirk will put in a stop for shore-leave very soon, and when he does, Commander Kruk and his men will ensnare him."
The comm unit buzzed for attention again. "What is it now?" he snarled into the receiver.
"Commander Kruk to see you, Lord Admiral. He seems angry--" There was a shrill sound, and the door exploded inward.
When the acrid smoke cleared, Kruk stood at attention before the remnants of Khalian's wooden desk, Kusan and Khalian were behind the smoking plastic office fixture, pieces of the oak door lay scattered throughout the room, and Khalian's aide lay dead on the floor.
"Commander Kruk reporting to see you, sir," he sneered.
Khalian and Kusan looked at each other. Khalian recovered fairly quickly. "Kruk, I have an assignment for you."
"No kidding. What is it?"
"We want you to take a small science ship and, with the aid of a cloaking device, go into Federation territory and capture one of its operatives."
Kruk laughed. "It must be some operative to have summoned me for the task."
"The object of your attention is James Kirk, commander of the Battlecruiser Enterprise."
Kruk's eyes widened in delight. "Finally, an assignment with a challenge! No more petty civilian settlements to wipe out, not this time! An assignment with some real meat. I accept!"
"Good. Make whatever preparations you desire and leave immediately."
"Yes, Lord Admiral." He looked around at the state of Khalian's office. "Sorry about the mess." He swaggered from the room and headed down the hall.
Kusan chuckled. "I see why you've chosen him for the assignment."
Khalian laughed. "Exactly. If he fails, he'll die in the attempt, getting out of my hair in the process. But if he succeeds, we'll have Kirk's head hanging from the Emperor's tower." He narrowed his eyes. "Just you remember whose plan it was, Kusan."
Kusan chuckled. "I shall, Admiral Khalian. I shall."
"Damn it, Spock, can't you just relax and have a good time?" snapped McCoy.
"I have work to do, Doctor. Lieutenant Xon and I intend to spend the next two days organizing our Cetus probe data into a detailed star map of the region," explained the Vulcan science officer.
"All work and no play makes--"
"Doctor, please spare us from your quaint Terran expressions. The commander has made a logical decision," stated Xon emotionlessly.
"Listen here, Xon," began McCoy. "I've barely allowed you to come back on active duty. You nearly killed Ensign Lamarre when you lost control."
Spock's head turned quickly. "Doctor, you will cease to dwell on that issue. Lieutenant Xon was attacked and defended himself, and this was after an extremely stressful situation which cost one crew member her life."(1)
Seeing Spock's glare, McCoy hastily made for an exit. "Certainly, Commander," he said curtly in annoyance. "Have a nice day, sir!"
After the doors to the astronomy lab closed, Xon turned to his mentor. "I ask your indulgence," he said quietly.
"Proceed," said Spock absently as he made adjustments in their equipment.
"Why did you intervene with the doctor for me? I fail to see a logical reason for your defense of me."
"As I stated earlier, Xon, the emotions are there. But they are not meant for public display. To do so would only lessen them. I know you have reconciled this precept within yourself, this illogical dichotomy which is inherent in our race. And McCoy will soon recognize it for what it is. But you must give him time to do so."
The doors slid open again, and Spock turned, once more prepared to do verbal battle with the chief medical officer. Instead, he saw his captain entering the room. "Spock, Bones tells me you two are going to hole up in here for the next few days."
"The statement, though colloquially expressed, is essentially correct."
Spock's eyes met Kirk's. The captain understood. "Then I leave you to it. I'm heading down myself. You're in charge 'til I get back, Spock."
The captain spun and made for the door.
"Have...a good time, Captain."
Kirk smiled, and turned. "I will. Thanks, Spock."
Commander Kruk of the Imperial scout ship, paSloghlam(2), stepped onto the bridge of his small twelve-man vessel.
"yIDolthqu''a',"(3) he barked.
"yuQ bavtaH,"(4) came the response from the navigator. Suddenly he blanched as he realized he'd forgotten to add "sir."
"Do'Ha',"(5) said the commander. Lack of respect to a superior officer is a capital crime, of course. He pulled out his weapon and blasted the navigator out of existence.
"nuHotlhpu''a',"(6) he asked the science officer.
The science officer looked at the smoldering remains of the navigator. "No, my lord. The navigator activated the cloaking device long before we entered this star system," he explained in English.
"Good," responded Kruk likewise. "Tell all the crew to stand by to beam down to the planet. Their mission is simple: bring me James T. Kirk."
The officer's eyes widened in surprise. "Kirk? My lord, you must be joking!"
Kruk's disruptor blazed again. "I never joke," he said grimly as the science officer passed over into the Netherworld.
He snarled in annoyance. The science officer had not yet completed the announcement. Perhaps this was something best saved for the captain anyway, he decided.
Kirk sat at a table in front of the antebellum mansion. "This is a really good simulation, Bones."
"You're tellin' me? Hell, Jim, they haven't built 'em like this in over a hundred years."
"More like four hundred, Bones."
"Whatever," the chief medical officer growled. "You practicing to be a Vulcan, Jim?"
"No." Kirk's brow furrowed.
"Then shut up and pass me the lemonade."
There was a warm breeze from the nearby woods. Suddenly, a shrill scream broke the silence of the lazy, hazy summer day.
"Not again," moaned Kirk.
He stood and dashed into the nearby glade, looking for the source of the high- pitched screams. He found Transporter Chief Rand screaming at the top of her lungs, perched high in a tree as beneath her a Vegan Titanosaur was roaring in hunger. "Janice," he sighed and wished the Titanosaur would turn into a bunny rabbit.
There was a bright flash of light and the prehistoric reptile was no longer threatening the hapless officer. Kirk strode forward as Rand slowly climbed down from the tree. "I'm sorry, sir. I was--"
"I know you weren't on the Enterprise during our earlier visits here, Chief, but I thought I had made it clear to you. If you accidentally create something with a stray thought, and it's dangerous, then you simply wish it away."
"But I didn't wish for that, Captain," she said almost sullenly.
His eyes narrowed. "Well, what did you wish for?"
"I wished...that something would happen so that...you'd spend some time...with me on shore leave," she ended with a faint whisper.
"I see." He looked at her and smiled that all-too-infamous smile. "Let's go somewhere where we can talk about it."
Makhhkh and Blekhh were scouting the area with their tricorders, searching for their elusive prey. He was going to bring them a small fortune in Klingonese currency. [I cannot believe our luck!]Makhhkh signaled using ghopHol(7). [There he is!] he pointed to a man walking toward them, the infamous smile now even wider.
Blekhh pulled out his disruptor, and opened fire on the unsuspecting form of James T. Kirk.
The captain of United Star Ship Enterprise fell unceremoniously into a heap. The two Kh'myr looked at each other, grinning wolfishly. One of them howled as they gathered up Kirk's legs into their arms and began dragging him feet first and face down back to their scout ship.
He would bring them ten thousand klingots each, as their commander had promised. Perhaps this wasn't such a bad assignment after all!
"Damn it, Spock! I haven't seen him for hours! And now you tell me you think there's Klingons down here!!!" shouted McCoy angrily into his communicator.
The sigh that escaped Spock's lips was lost in the transmission between the planet and the starship. But McCoy knew what Spock's reaction would have been. "Doctor, we are not certain of our findings. Lieutenant Xon is running an analysis on the sensor data now. It is possible Mister Arex's conclusions are premature. All we detected was a deBroglie wave of suspicious origin. It could have been a random signal, generated by some natural phenomenon. But it did resemble those waves generated by a Klingon cloaking device."
"Well, don't you think we ought to lock on to his communicator and have him beamed aboard?!"
"We are endeavoring to do so, Doctor. However, his unit does not seem to be functioning. We are receiving no reply to our signal."
"The transponder circuit has either malfunctioned or been removed."
"Damn. Beam down a search party then! We've got to find him!"
Lieutenant Chekov assembled eighteen men in the cargo transporter room. "You have your orders. Break off into teams of three and find the captain as quickly as you can." He surveyed them with his steely gaze.
"Sir?" It was the upstart assistant security chief. Always asking stupid questions. That was why Chekov had put in a promotion request for her. She'd get a stripe and a transfer to someplace where she wouldn't be bothering him.
"Yes, Lieutenant Nored?"
"Why is it so important that we find the captain? Maybe he just turned his communicator off so he wouldn't be bothered."
"When you've served under Captain Kirk as long as I have, you'll learn that's one thing he'd never do," he said patronizingly. He addressed the group. "We have reason to suspect the presence of Klingons below. Extreme caution, and phasers on heavy stun. Anything suspicious, and you're to shoot first, and ask questions later."
He surveyed them one last time, and again was reminded how little protection their body armor would give them from a Kh'myr warrior. "Stand by to beam down."
"My Lord, we have captured him!" Blekhh announced as they walked up the ramp into the cloaked ship.
"Well done, well done!" Commander Kruk praised, looking at their captive. The commander of the Enterprise was a little worse for wear, but still smiling the renowned, damnable smile.
"Lock him in Security Bay One. I will personally interrogate him shortly."
"And our reward?" asked Makhhkh.
Kruk blasted the hapless officer into the Netherworld. "Greedy fool!" he snarled. "You, take him to security!" he ordered Blekhh.
Lieutenant Anne Nored was pissed off.
During the end of the first five year mission, she had been chief security officer of the Enterprise, and Chekov had been some flunky ensign who served on the bridge or in the engineering section. She'd never liked him. Unlike most of the security crew, she wasn't happy when Captain Decker had placed Chekov in her position as the head of security. When Captain Kirk resumed command of the Enterprise, she remained in the background. It really bothered her.
She remembered during the first mission when her predecessor, Lieutenant McMahan, had left for the Farragut; McMahan had been transferred by Kirk for reasons she never really understood, but knew it had something to do with McMahan's inability to take criticism. But she knew she had no such problem; she could offer criticism (and usually did) as well as take it (which Chekov usually offered).
She supposed it could have something to do with Carter Winston...
"Hello, Anne," said Carter, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
She rolled her eyes. She'd been to this planet before; she knew the procedure. All she had to do was wish him away. But she didn't. "Hello, Carter. It's been quite some time."
"I know. Will you walk with me?"
"I can't, Carter. I've got to find Captain Kirk."
"Yes, Lieutenant?" came Kirk's voice from behind her.
She turned with a start. "Captain, oh--" She turned back to face Winston, but the simulation was gone.
"Report, Lieutenant," he ordered.
She turned back to face her captain. "Sir, the ship's sensors show the possible presence of Klingons on this planet."
"Good work, Lieutenant. I'll return with you to the Enterprise." He paused for a moment and smiled. "By the way, I've decided to promote you to security chief and transfer Chekov down to the engine room."
And she knew it wasn't him. "Look, I've got to find the real Captain Kirk, so why don't you just stop this silly game?" she asked aloud for the computer to hear.
"I'm sorry to hear you feel that way, Lieutenant Nored. Perhaps some other time," he said, smiling, as he walked down the trail.
She sighed and proceeded in another direction.
Glompff'h and ''hchUkm were witness to the conversation, although they didn't understand what was being said. The pair were too distant to be heard clearly, but it sounded like Kirk was unconcerned about a possible Klingon presence on the planet. So much the better, they decided.
They silently tracked him for a few moments, then pounced on him with a bag. Stuffing the struggling form into the bag took several seconds, and soon they were on their way back to their ship. Every once in a while (roughly every minute or so), they kicked or punched the bag, hopefully injuring their prized catch. Soon the bag had several satisfying red stains.
They carried the bag to Kruk who was in the mess hall, dining on some prime rib of an equine-type animal. "What is it?" he greeted them gruffly.
"My Lord, we have captured James T. Kirk!" announced ''hchUkm proudly.
"But how can this be? Blekhh and Makhhkh brought him in a few minutes ago."
"You must be mistaken, Lord," said ''hchUkm.
His disruptor blazed and the two officers ceased to exist. "I'm never wrong," he said. He opened the bag to see the damaged, but still smiling, James Kirk. "Obviously, Blekhh has allowed his captive to escape. He shall pay dearly for his negligence."
He punched a wallcom, breaking it in the process. "Kruk to Security. Bring me Blekhh in chains."
Suddenly, as she walked, Lieutenant Anne Nored heard something in the bushes ahead. It sounded like some fierce animal in anguish. She spun and fired her phaser, set on heavy stun. No need to take any chances, of course. She walked over to the hedge, and parted it to see the naked, sprawled forms of the stalwart Captain James T. Kirk and the lithe form of Transporter Chief Janice Rand. A communicator atop a pile of uniforms left no doubt why the ship's call to Kirk had not been answered.
"Ooops!" she started. Her eyes darted about. Had anyone heard her phaser fire?
She listened very quietly for several seconds. No one was coming. She backed away and, looking around once last time, checked the trail for any signs of a security team rushing to her area. Nothing. "Whew!" she said aloud, and then proceeded down the trail. After all, it would not look good on her record if anyone ever discovered she had shot her captain during the throes of his passion.
Blekhh was dragged forward. Klingon Security officers often took the liberty of pre-interrogation beatings. Blekhh had received no exception. His cranial fur was matted, and there was the dark blood of a Kh'myr everywhere. "Per your orders, Lord Commander," said Security Officer Jumm.
"Excellent," remarked Kruk on Blekhh's condition. "You were too careless, Blekhh, and now you must pay the price."
"My lord, I don't understand! I've done nothing wrong!"
Kruk took out his ceremonial dagger and ripped Blekhh's neck open. "Idiot," Kruk snarled. "I am never wrong."
Blekhh's twitching form was dropped to the deck. Kruk kicked the bag containing Kirk. "Take this to the brig and secure its occupant carefully."
Malkor and Toghy'ym spotted their elusive prey, the redoubtable James Kirk. The Terran was simply walking along, whistling as he proceeded down the trail. The Lords of Kh'eloz must have been smiling on them to deliver their enemy so easily into their hands. Malkor fired his disruptor, and Kirk fell to the ground unconscious.
[Let's get him!] signaled Toghy'ym using ghopHol.
Security Officer Jumm had a problem. In the brig were seventeen exact images of Captain James T. Kirk. But that wasn't the problem.
His captain was.
As security officer, he had overseen the placement of each of them into the brig since Blekhh had been executed. There was already one James Kirk present when he had thrown the bag containing another in. Commander Kruk had retired for an afternoon nap, during which time he had received the other fifteen from fifteen shore parties. In fact, every shore party that had been sent out returned with James Kirk. The last party approaching them appeared to be no exception.
"Hail, Jumm!" Toghy'ym called. "We have captured him."
"So I see," said Jumm, noting their captive.
"When shall we receive our reward?"
"I'm not sure," Jumm said, opening the cell.
Maddeningly, all of the other James T. Kirks were still smiling that damnable grin.
"But how?" Malkor asked, amazed.
"Does it matter? joHma'(9) will surely kill us in a fit of anger."
"'ol,"(10) snapped Malkor in the battle language.
"How many of our comrades have been executed since Kruk became joHma'?" asked Jumm carefully.
"Too damn many," Toghy'ym, a minor bridge officer, muttered.
Malkor, though, was a loyalist to Kruk. Lacking in common sense, he spoke openly. "I shall speak with joHwI' immediately about your insubordination!"
Jumm, having a great deal of common sense (you don't get to be a security officer without having a great deal of common sense), vaporized him instantly. "I think not," he said to the ashes as they settled on the floor. "Come, Toghy'ym. We have work to do."
Kruk was rudely awakened by the barking noise from the intercom. "What is it?" he asked grumpily.
"This is Jumm in the brig! joHwI', there is a problem with the prisoner!"
"Sir, each shore party sent out has returned with a Captain Kirk."
"What foolishness is this? Have you been drinking?"
"No, joHwI'! I swear it. No one is at fault. I placed the bag with Kirk in the brig, and since then, there have been several more added by our guards."
"I'll be right down, and tell whoever's responsible that he shall pay dearly for this!"
James T. Kirk, stalwart commander of the esteemed U.S.S. Enterprise, woke up with a hangover. Shit, he thought bemusedly, if I'd've known she was that good, I'd've balled her years ago.
He shook his head to clear the mental cobwebs. He pulled on his trousers and gently shook her shoulder. "Janice, nap time's over."
Her eyes slowly fluttered opened, and even more slowly focused on his face. Shit, she thought bemusedly, if I'd've known he was that good, I'd've balled him years ago.
"Oh, hi," she said, yawning the words.
He grinned that ever-so-tiresome grin, and chuckled. "That was...something."
"It certainly was," she said, reaching for her slacks. "I mean, talk about your mind-blowing orgasms, I've never had one that...that powerful. Drained me completely. How long was I asleep?"
"I don't know. I fell asleep, too."
They chuckled and quickly dressed. "Look, Chief--"
"Chief? So formal afterwards?"
"Just call it a reminder. This can't be a regular...maneuver."
She nodded. "Agreed. I've got my reputation to think about, you know."
Kirk laughed aloud. Picking up his communicator, he spoke into it. "Kirk to Enterprise."
"Captain! Are ye all right, sir?!" came Scotty's worried voice.
Kirk's eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement. "Perfectly fine, Mister Scott. Why do you ask?"
"Sir, we think we've detected Klingons on the planet's surface! I'm to beam ye up immediately, according to Mister Spock."
Kirk sighed heavily. "Very well, Mister Scott. Two to beam up, these coordinates."
"Energizing now, sir."
The two Enterprise officers faded from view.
Kruk burst from the travel tube into the security section. "Now what is going on here?!" he demanded, brandishing his disruptor menacingly.
"There's a problem with the prisoner," explained Jumm enigmatically.
"Is he dead? If so, Jumm, your life will be forfeited."
"He's far from dead. In fact, he has the strength of seventeen warriors." Jumm opened the door to the brig.
All seventeen James T. Kirks stood there, grinning ear-to-ear.
Something inside Kruk snapped. He became Ha'DIbaHqempa', the ancestral beast that lies within each and every Klingon, that lies so close to the surface in the genetically engineered Kh'myr. He fired his disruptor wildly, destroying the Kirks left and right, screaming not in pIqaD, the Kh'myr dialect, but in Holqempa, the ancestral tongue.
What Jumm had arranged with Toghy'ym was the audio-visual recording of the incident, purportedly for historical record. It was to serve as netQIjbogh, "that which explains" why a subordinate is justified in killing a superior officer. While not usually required, some Kh'myr had friends in high places that could make things difficult for those who had taken their life. Jumm did not want to risk Kruk's blood brothers, if any still were alive, coming after him in accord with an oath of vengeance.
What Jumm failed to realize was that Toghy'ym had designs of his own, and the "minor bridge officer" soon achieved command of the paSloghlam as Kruk's operatives avenged their leader's ignominious death en route back to Kazh, the Klingon Homeworld. It seems that Toghy'ym, despite years of training in communications, had failed to check to see if the a-v camera was working properly. Without a recording to substantiate his claims, Jumm found himself floating out an airlock without a spacesuit or life support belt.
Of the planet-manufactured Kirks, all that was left were the heads of the androids, all grinning that loathsome grin. Toghy'ym had one mounted in his quarters, and the rest were dumped with the rest of the ship's wastes onto the planet's surface as the paSloghlam lifted off.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the almighty James T. Kirk," McCoy called from the far end of the corridor.
Kirk turned and smiled. "Hello, Bones. Scotty tells me all of you were really concerned about me. Sorry about that. Turns out it was all for nothing. I just had a communicator failure."
"Oh, I can see it wasn't all for nothing." McCoy pointed to the grass stains on the tunic and pants. "Let me guess..."
"Don't bother, Bones. I wouldn't tell you anyway."
"I'm afraid you don't have to." The doctor pointed to Janice Rand and her stained uniform going down an intersecting corridor. "Don't worry; your secret is safe with me."
"That I don't doubt. But someone else, I'm not so sure about."
"What do you mean?"
"I've got a phaser stun burn on my butt."
The doctor laughed. It would be interesting to see who got a promotion in the next few weeks.
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1. See "The Human Equation," by Nomad.
2. Literally, "The Dirty Socks." The Kh'myr are noted for their disdain of the sciences (except, of course, those which directly facilitate killing people). This is reflected in the names of their science scout vessels and other non-fighting ships.
3. Literally, "Status!?"
4. Literally, "Orbiting planet."
5. Literally, "It is unfortunate."
6. Literally, "Have they scanned us?"
7. Literally, "hand language"--a little known sign language developed among some Kh'myr crews for combat situations.
8. Literally, "my lord."
9. Literally, "our lord," referring to "our captain." Sometimes used in a sarcastic vein, but such a tone in the voice often results in death...or worse.
10. "Verify!" Note: Battle language is also known as "clipped Klingonese." Proper Klingon grammar is completely ignored, and only verbs and objects are used in this particular tense of the Kh'myr dialect.
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