Six - Co'Mas
Deep in the recesses of the fortress stronghold where Tykar and his brothers were raised, a monitor was activated in a dark and richly-furbished room. A strong and sure hand reached to confirm the code in response to the urgent transmission. In answer to the message received, the receipient immediately became furious.
“You fool!” Co’Mas stood and raged at the viewscreen before him. “You have brought danger and disgrace to your family! Where is Tykar? How have you managed to make him a part of this deception? You will answer to me Rok’ta!” the imposing Klingon governor sat back down in his chair heavily, breathing hard.
“Tykar is here, father, but he is ill. If you will permit me to explain, I will tell you what has transpired to make him sick,” Rok’ta’s handsome face was set in grim lines of shame as he began his tale. “Ten standard months ago Kelsron, heir of the House of j’Wel, contacted Tykar to sue for peace between our clans.”
“Kelsron did what?!” Co’Mas was incredulous. “By what authority? Why wasn’t I informed?” He had been sick with worry over the disappearance of his eldest and youngest sons. He had made every inquiry available to his office. He had even searched in his own ship near the places he knew they were sometimes found, grappling with each other to hone their warriors’ skills or even deep in conversation. He had found no news nor trace of their ships or bodies. He had never contemplated contacting the cowardly j’Wel.
Rok’ta sighed heavily. How it began seemed so unimportant now. “”Father, Tykar did not agree to surrender our lands! He only agreed to meet with Kelsron to discuss possible terms. Tykar felt the feud had outlasted its usefulness. He felt we might be able to combine our Houses at some point to become allies against other outsiders.”
“Preposterous!” thundered Co’Mas. “Their clan stole some of our best lands and slaughtered..”
“I know our history Father!” Rok’ta interrupted with vengeance. He saw the governor’s eyes flash in surprise at his outburst. Rok’ta drew a deep breath. “Let us put that quarrel aside for now and discuss more recent events.” When the governor did not respond, only clenched his teeth together, his nostrils flaring heavily, Rok’ta continued. “I accompanied Tykar to discuss their terms. When they did not meet us at the rendezvous point, we suspected treachery and turned to leave. There was an detonation aboard Tykar’s ship.” Rok’ta bared his teeth as his voice rose. “Tykar was injured in the explosion and very badly burned while he fought to stabilize control. Just before the warp core breached, Tykar’s first officer, Kule, was able to knock him out and beamed him to the surface of qo’Hegh.”
“That Qu’vatlh nuch Kule!” Co’mas roared, “Why there? If Kule’s purpose was to save your brother, why send him to a certain dishonorable death! Was there no alternative?!” Co’mas demanded, his anger evident in the deep set of his thick brows and the gravel of his voice.
“No father, there was nothing more that could be done. The rendezvous was scheduled for that sector of space to decrease the possibility of observervation. I was not aware of Tykar’s difficulties until his ship was destroyed. We scanned for other vessels in the area, expecting further treason. It was only due to the diligence of my own first officer, in searching for other traitors on the planet, that we detected Tykar on the surface. We had not expect survivors.”
You claim to know your own history, Rok’ta!” Co’Mas thundered. “Do you now know qo’Hegh has been quarantined since before I was born! Our House will be dishonored for all time!”
“I could not leave him, Father.” Rok’ta’s voice conveyed his sense of shame, but his eyes held his father’s as he continued. “Before we could beam Tykar aboard, a small explosion occurred aboard my own ship. We were able to compensate quickly, but our scanners were knocked off-line by the blast. We were unaware that Tykar had contact with anyone on the surface until he had beamed aboard. He was furious when he materialized. Even though he was very weak from injuries, his bloodlust was upon him. He hit me again and again, but I would not fight him. I let him beat me until his rage was vented.”
Co’Mas looked drained of life as he listened to the tale his youngest son wove. In his warrior’s heart, he knew his son and heir, Tykar, should have been abandoned without further recourse for having set foot on qo’Hegh, but he began to feel a surge of hope that the situation could be salvaged. A germ of an idea began to form in his mind, but first he needed more information. “Where have you been all this time? How sick is Tykar?”
“For the first few weeks we remained in that sector of space, waiting to see if Tykar would recover from his wounds. We spent that time plotting our revenge against j’Wel. When Tykar was healed of his burns, we returned to Qo’noS to kidnap j’Wel’s heir, Kelsron. Our plan was to abandon him on qo’Hegh to pay for his crimes and those of his traitorous father, but he could not be found. So we took his eldest daughter Benia instead.”
“That is good, Rok’ta,” Co’Mas purred. “Did you take her to qo’Hegh?”
“Before we could return to that cursed planet, Tykar became ill again and burned with a high fever for three days. When he awoke, he was ravaged with scars. We have spent most of the past several months...” Rok’ta paused, “...in seclusion so that we do not spread the disease any further.”
“The whole crew has been together the entire time?” Co’Mas knew it was critical to isolate those that could have become infected as quickly as possible. But so much time had passed already, that he began to fear an outbreak would become inevitable after all.
“No Sir,” Rok’ta sighed wearily. The months of duress were beginning to get the better of him. He wanted to rest and leave this biological nightmare behind him, but honor demanded he follow the matter to its conclusion. “My tactical officer was killed during our raid, and we were forced to abandon our ship when j’Wel followed us and crippled my ship. Two of my officers cannot be found. I fear they were injured and or captured. The rest of us have been taking shelter in the hills outside of the city. We have been careful to avoid others at every cost, but we still hold Benia as our prisoner.”
“And Tykar?” the stately Klingon pulled his robes about him, drawing himself up in all of his formal severity. But even all of his years in political office, honing deception to an art, could not hide the concern in his voice.
“I think it is the wounds from the explosion of his own ship that have done the most harm. They do not seem to be healing well,” Rok’ta paused to consider. “Some days I can almost see the old warrior in him. He will continue to live for some time, but I am not a healer to predict how well he will fare.”
“Very well Rok’ta,” Co’Mas said. “You will come home, where we will develop further plans for our revenge on the House of j’Wel. See to it that you avoid detection. Sequester yourselves in the lower rooms. I will speak to you further when you arrive.” Co’Mas blanked the screen and sighed deeply. His old enemy j‘Wel would pay dearly for his treachery. But first, he had to find a way to cure Tykar. He knew the answers must lie on qo’Hegh. He activated his monitor once more and set about preparations to invade the doomed planet of outcasts.
Seven - Worf
“Mister Ambassador!” Picard stood, tugged his uniform into place and beamed his warmest smile at the image of the Federation’s new Ambassador to Qo’noS on the main viewscreen.
“Captain Picard,“ Worf began, “It is good to see you again, sir.”
“I am delighted to see you again, as well Mister Worf,” Picard continued, observing the Klingon’s new attire. Gone were all the colors and rank of the Starfleet he had served so long. Still in place, over an obviously militaristic uniform, was the baldric he had worn both aboard the Enterprise, and while serving at Deep Space Nine. Although the Klingon traditional gauntlets and sigils were present, his garments were toned down a bit from the usual heavy padding and armor, perhaps in deference to his diplomatic status.
“I cannot think of anyone else who could so perfectly represent both the Federation and the Klingon Empire,” the captain easily projected his sincerity.
“Thank you, sir,” Worf responded. Seeing his former captain provided a nostalgic tug which he did not allow himself to display. Sometimes, when remembering the years he served aboard the Enterprise, he wished he had never left. Other times, when remembering the quiet moments alone with Jadzia, his feisty and passionate Trill wife for such a preciously short time, he felt his service aboard the Federation’s flagship was another lifetime ago. It was easier to leave the thoughts of what could have been behind, since he had never been actually assigned to the newest Enterprise. Besides, he had his hands completely full at the moment, trying to integrate himself into a society in which he was always a part, but had never fully lived. It was exasperating at times and demanded his full attention. “How may I assist you?”
Picard, having known the quick-thinking and sometimes-surly Klingon for many years took no offense at the slightly aggravated tone of voice directed at him. Smiling inwardly at the conflict he knew his former officer must be feeling at being placed in a diplomatic position, Picard addressed their problem in a straightforward manner. “Mister Worf, we have a delicate situation on our hands with which you may be able to assist us. It seems there is a planet on the outer fringes of the Empire’s space, near the Cardassian border, which has been host to many of your people for the better part of a century.” Picard explained the situation as briefly as possible and waited for the new ambassador to respond.
“Captain, I will tell you that I have never heard of such a place, but you must remember that I have not lived my life in this sector of space,” the Klingon grunted as his face adopted a familiar scowl. “If this planet qo’Hegh does exist, I am not certain the High Council will…” he paused, searching for the right word, “appreciate,” he emphasized the word, “ Starfleet’s assistance in the matter.”
“Yes,” Picard allowed his eyes to be downcast for a moment, “that was my initial assessment as well. I’m certain Chancellor Martok has a number of pressing matters to attend to right now.” Picard then aimed his eyes with steely resolve towards his former chief of security. “However, Mister Ambassador, given the current status of the entire Federation after the Dominion War, the Empire might be able to use the few thousand recruits qo’Hegh might be able to offer if a cure were able to be effected.”
Worf held perfectly still. His initial reaction was anger at what the Empire done to its own people. And anger at the shame he felt by his own association with the High Council. He felt the need to hold an accounting for the dishonorable manner in which Empire’s leadership had so blatantly disregarded its obligation to its citizenry. Worf held no doubt the planet of qo'Hegh did, indeed, exist. He knew Picard would not have approached him with less than absolute knowledge that there were sick and dying outcasts in need of help. Help the Empire had determined not to provide.
Picard watched as the emotions flickered briefly across the Klingon warrior’s face. For that is how Picard now regarded the man in front of him. He knew Worf would be torn in his decision. Which edict would he follow? Would he honor the silence his Empire had imposed, condemning his people to continue their suffering? Or would he uphold the ideals of the Federation, granting the possibility of the end of their misery?
Finally, after what seemed a terrible silence in its length, the ambassador heaved a great sigh and spoke. “I cannot grant you the authority you desire, Captain. General Martok will need to be informed of the situation before an official response can be made.” He paused, trusting his former commanding officer to understand his intent. “Despite being a member of the House of Martok, my position as the Federation’s ambassador is still precarious.” It was not an admission he would freely provide to many.
“I understand your situation, Mister Ambassador,” Picard bowed his head slightly in tact acknowledgement to the Klingon’s proclamation, “and perhaps we may need to rethink our position in the matter as well. Doctor Motar is looking for any help he can get, and I think Doctor Crusher certainly has the expertise to assist him. But the Federation does not want to interfere. We were once allies and are pursuing that avenue again. This may be an opportunity to do just that.”
“I agree with you, Captain, Doctor Crusher would be an ideal choice if the decision were mine to make. It is not. Bringing the Federation’s flagship into Klingon space without official authorization would not be a wise decision. However, if the situation is as you described, then perhaps the current government will continue its tact ignorance of a non-Starfleet vessel.”
“I understand, Worf,” Picard employed the Klingon’s name as a subtle acknowledgement of his precarious advice. “I will give the situation additional thought.”
“Captain,” Worf began, feeling frustrated at his lack of knowledge in this outrageous matter, “perhaps I can make some discreet inquires into the situation.”
“We would appreciate any assistance you may be able to give us, Mister Ambassador.”
“Very well then,” Worf sighed, “I will contact you when I have more information.”
“Good luck, Worf,” Picard paused. “I have complete faith in your ability to find the right answers for everyone involved.”
Eight - Kessec
Emperor Kessec was bored. And because of that boredom, the insatiable, self-serving plague would eventually be afforded the opportunity to mutate yet again.
Upon his succession as the emperor of Qo’noS, Kessec had the entirety of the planet’s single continent under his rule – and it was all he had envisioned it to be. Yet he longed for more. Kahless had done his job well when he had originally united the many warring factions with his ingenious bat’leth, and Anag had continued his legacy, as had Kessec’s four other previous predecessors. Thus, leaving little for Kessec to accomplish in his own right. True, there would always be the minor battles to be fought, small uprisings to contend with, and the annoyance of dealing with those who sought to assassinate him, but Kessec lusted for more. With the gentler times had come prosperous crops, healthy livestock in abundance, amazing technological advances, and overflowing coffers. But along with the spoils, came a sense of dissatisfaction, of something missing and still unaccomplished. He not only felt it in himself, but could sense it in those he allowed close to him. Peace. A very disturbing sensation for a Klingon, indeed.
Being possessed of a cunning intellect, he realized it was time to expand his rule beyond the lands over which he ruled. Many advances in the sciences had been made during the reigns of the previous emperors, and those who studied such things seemed to think the Empire was ready to take machines to the stars. So he did just that. For his first stellar conquest, Kessec turned first to the nearest celestial body, the moon Praxis.
It would take time, but Kessec was prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to make his fondest dreams a reality. Eventually, he set about the mapping of the previously unexplored satellite, discovering huge pockets of those elements and gasses which, when combined together, produced the substance which was harnessed to power his new star ships. On Praxis, just as his scientists had predicted, there was more - much more – of these precious elements than had yet been plumbed or uncovered anywhere on the planet. To be certain, the mining of Praxis would be expensive, but Kessec realized that if he could tap into this unused natural resource, he would be able to extend his vision of conquest to the worlds beyond Qo’noS. His name would be written in the very stars themselves.
So it was, on his first expedition to the moon, his heart filled with enthusiasm, deep in thoughts of his future conquest of the surrounding planets, that he did not notice the rock. It was that one small, unnoticed, unidentified piece of alien outcropping that made Kessec lose his footing. He fell into the lunar dust, awkward from the lack of gravity, unable to thrust out his arms in time to break his fall. Praxis was still an unpopulated, untamed place. It had not yet been terraformed or protected by the as-yet-undeveloped shielding which would allow future generation of miners to ply their trade unprotected.
When Kessec fell, tearing his environmental suit, he was exposed to all the inherent radiation, bacteria and biological pollutants the moon had to offer. Although young and nimble, the emperor could not immediately right himself. First he hit the lunar surface with his right shoulder, tearing a small hole in his protective suit, then slammed the top of his head hard into the unyielding rock. The transparent shield surrounding his face was jarred, loosening the straps which secured it in place. Kessec was the first to breathe the unfiltered air of Praxis.
Rolling to his knees, the stocky Klingon emitted a sharp bark of laughter. Instead of panic or danger, he felt embarrassment. How would he rule the stars if he could not even rule his own body! He shrugged, readjusting the face shield and began the trek back to his new starship. He gave no more thought to the incident. Indeed, why should he? He felt no ill effects from the alien environment, and he’d taken harder falls before.
But Qo’noS’ Emperor Kessec’s anatomy was already changing. The exposure to an alien microorganism caused a traveling wave of chemical and electrical changes within his physiology. The impulses traveled rapidly throughout his central nervous system, through each cell’s dendrite responsible for incoming messages, passing the nucleus, out through the axon, which carried the message to the next dendrite, until the communication was complete. In the end, small changes involving the membrane of certain nerve cells were carried out, creating a small change in the synapses of the emperor’s brain.
Some would argue that the change was a blessing. Klingons harbored many physiological redundancies, including an eight-chambered heart, two livers and a double-lined pia mater membrane enclosing the brain. These differences made Klingons stronger opponents and less susceptible to the weaknesses they would learn to despise in other humanoid species. Because of Kessec’s unprotected chance encounter with an alien microorganism, the outermost membrane enclosing his brain would eventually become much stronger, less flexible and less porous, than that of his brethren.
But Kessec knew nothing of microorganisms or of his pia mater. Indeed, he was the most feared and respected Klingon of his time. In this case, it was the fact that Kessec chose Tynal as his mate that was the undoing of future generations. She, too, had come from hardy stock, born of a noble house of warriors, and comely in appearance.
Kessec had succeed in his goal of seizing the position of Emperor for himself, and was making his presence felt by appearing personally at many of those sessions where previously important landowners and politicians sought position, power, or favors. He could have easily chosen any female as his mate, or merely enjoyed the company of many of the daughters of those who had once opposed him. But it was at Tolar’tu, where Kahless, son of Kanjis, once rallied his rebel army to go after Molor in his own citadel, that Kessec was to find his soul mate.
Though his passion for dominion and supremacy over the entire planet was ferocious, Kessec had learned to express himself with subtlety and restraint insofar as the treatment of the captured citizenry was concerned. He wanted his empire to prosper under his reign, not wither from mistreatment. He had learned to watch his enemies and allies alike for the small signs of impending treason, as well as he had long ago learned to read the subtle signs of the changing of the seasons. So, too, did he notice the suggestive signals Tynal aimed at him while he was engaged in discussions with her father, Dervak, over the status of their former family estates. Kessec took a personal interest in the negotiations for Dervak’s surrender so as to have an opportunity to confirm his observations. Tynal stole covert, yet bold, glances at the new lord over her family’s lands, baring her pointed teeth in a most pleasing smile. And, although Kessec had many servants of his own, Tynal insisted on serving both her father and Kessec, often brushing deftly against his arm or making excuses to be near him. Kessec thought that, perhaps, Dervak was using his daughter as a ploy in a bid to retain some small portion of his former wealth.
When Dervak had made what Kessec thought would be his final plea, and Tynal was not included in the offer, he was genuinely surprised. Many were the supplicants who had offered their daughters as servants or mates. Yet Dervak had not. Had he misjudged the man? Did Dervak not see the advances made by his daughter? Did he not arrange for her performance himself? Perhaps it was a more subtle ploy. Perhaps Dervak did not wish to offer his daughter if he thought it would offend his new lord.
When he could no longer tolerate the unsolved puzzle, Kessec dismissed Dervak, saying he would send a messenger with an answer in two days time. As Dervak rose to leave, Kessec bade Tynal to remain behind, as he had some small matter he wished to discuss with her.
“With her?” Dervak demanded, surprise and anger warring on his face.
“Dervak, you forget yourself!” Kessec rose abruptly from the table, scattering half-empty bowls and goblets on the floor. While the others of Kessec’s party straightened their stances in preparation to protect their emperor, servants fled for the nearest exit. Tynal, Kessec noticed, stood her ground, lifting her chin. Had she been a male, Kessec would have thought she was taking him to task for challenging her father. With the defiance clearly painted on her face, perhaps that was exactly her intention. While outwardly maintaining his appearance of outrage towards Dervak, Kessec allowed himself an inner smile at the spark of arrogance Tynal displayed.
“Forgive me, Lord Kessec,” Dervak began, lowering his head until his neck was bared. “I meant no disrespect. This child has accompanied me only to serve and learn her proper place as a female. She has no beauty, as all can see, and was made to accompany me as punishment for her disrespect. She was to observe other females in their work, so as to learn proper behavior for a future mate.” Dervak unfolded himself, standing once more before the emperor, albeit with a more submissive stance than he had displayed during their earlier conversations.
“Does your father speak true, Tynal?” Kessec aimed his penetrating gaze at her, observing the way she continued to hold her place, despite Dervak’s scowl and the volume in his own voice.
“My Lord,” Tynal paused, for the first time uncertain since Kessec had laid eyes on her. Her warm brown eyes wavered in indecision ever so slightly. She seemed to be searching her inner thoughts before she continued. Then she straightened, announcing: “Dervak is not my father.”
“Silence!” Dervak shouted, raising his hand as though to strike her.
“Hold Dervak!” Kessec countered, catching the other man’s hand in mid-strike. “What is the meaning of this?” When neither answered, Kessec turned once more to Tynal. “You must speak the truth. Honor always demands truth.” When he knew he held her attention exclusively, he nodded at Tynal to continue. “You may speak.”
She glanced once more at Dervak, then, mind made-up, she explained. “I am Tynal, daughter of Gar’Nast. Dervak was my father’s brother,” she spat with obvious bitterness. “Gar’Nast was a good and honorable man, who loved his family and his lands as a true Klingon should.” She drew herself up even further now, determined to tell the tale regardless of the consequences. “Before he came to our home ten years ago, Dervak was hardly ever mentioned. But my father welcomed his younger brother when he arrived at our house one day, without notice. We gave him honor with the traditional Feast of Homecoming,” Her eyes hardened now, as she continued her recital. “Dervak desired my sister, as was plain to see. His intentions towards his own kin were disgusting and dishonorable. He stole into our room after the feast, thinking everyone was asleep. My sister’s screams woke my mother. When she came upon my sister, Dervak had choked her to death, trying to silence her screams.
“Tynal,” interrupted Dervak, speaking softly, as if to a child, “You must stop these lies. For many years you have been harboring these fantasies, hoping to gain pity.”
Kessec’s eyes were hard. He folding his massive arms across his chest, stepping closer to Dervak in challenge. “To what end would she weave such a tale?”
“She has always blamed me for the accidental death of her mother, my wife,” Dervak sighed, his eyes appealing to Kessec to believe him. “She hopes to leave the protection of our home and …” he faltered, “me, I would guess.” Dervak extended one hand, with the palm exposed, as if in supplication.
“Dervak!” Tynal’s voice resounded clearly throughout the hall. It was the voice of challenge, and of impending doom. Both men turned toward her. “I will be your slave no longer! I will hide away no longer! Not from the truth, and not from you!” She snapped her wrist, as she spoke, producing a knife in her hand where it had been hidden in her sleeve. Crossing the room before anyone could stop her, she held the point to Dervak’s neck, pulling his head back with a fistful of hair.
Kessec knew he could easily take the weapon from her, but the small things he had observed about her demeanor stayed his hand. He slowly lowered himself into the nearest chair, holding himself perfectly still, watching the drama unfold before him. He felt Tynal had rehearsed this scene many times, and was willing to be her audience.
“I will tell this tale, Uncle,” she spat in anger, her breath coming in ragged gasps, “For it is long in coming.” She paused, “And you will listen to the truth, Lord Kessec, because I swear on my father, Gar’Nast’s, honor that it is the truth!” She searched Kessec’s face for some sign that he would either attempt to disarm her or honor her request. When she was satisfied that he would listen, she leaned in closer to Dervak’s face, her cheek laid against his, speaking through clenched teeth. “When my mother found you with my dead sister, she ran back to my father to warn him. But your honor was already tarnished, and you knew my father would not believe your word against my mother. You caught my mother and slew her. But the sounds of your treachery had brought my father out of his sleep in time to see you standing over his dead wife, your knife still dripping with her blood. You approached my father, begging for mercy, claiming you had too much bloodwine during the feast.” Tynal pulled harder on Dervak’s hair now, causing his eyes to widen even further in fear. Caught up in the events of that long ago night, Tynal didn’t notice Dervak’s left hand searching for the knife hidden in the hem of his cloak.
“I know these things happened, because I was there. I watched every wretched thing you did to my sister and to my mother. For all these years I have felt ashamed because I did not try to stop you myself, no matter that I was only a child,” Tynal’s eyes were on fire, her teeth grinding in anger as she continued. “I saw you drop the knife to the floor, hands pleading with my father for mercy. My heart was frozen with fear as I watched my father embrace you in his pain,” Tynal’s body shivered with the memory. “And as you pulled him nearer, you pulled out another dagger you had hidden in your…”
Kessec saw Tynal’s eyes widen at the memory. Saw her suddenly plunge the knife she held in her right hand deep into Dervak’s throat, ending his life in a gush of lavender blood. Pulling him by the hair with her left hand, Kessec watched Tynal lower Dervak to the floor. A weapon clanged to the floor, spilling from Dervak’s opened hand. As Kessec began to rise from where he was still seated, he saw Tynal pick up Dervak’s knife and plunge it with both hands deep into his chest. “Now the circle of revenge is complete!” Tynal shouted. Kessec reached her as she began to pour her heart into her voice, pounding the heavens with a howl of great release; telling of her anguish finally being unleashed. Kessec held her close until she was spent.
Nine - Kidnap
Beverly Crusher finished extracting the sample of tissue from her latest patient, then turned and gave it to T’Tala. “Please put this with the other samples from this group and begin the analysis,” she said.
“Right away, doctor,” Selar’s Romulan-turned-Vulcan assistant replied.
Crusher turned back to the silent Klingon female seated on the bio-bed, smiled pleasantly and said, “Thank you for your cooperation,” indicating the patient was free to leave.
Instead, the Klingon glared at her and snapped “What are you aliens doing here?”
Dr. Motar, clearly startled by the question, opened his mouth to speak, but Crusher held up a hand to delay his rejoinder. It was not the first time Crusher had this question posed, nor was she taken aback by the vehemence in her patient’s voice. Nonplused, Beverly casually crossed her arms and leaned one hip against the bed, leveled her eyes at the Klingon and said, “We are hoping to find the cause of the virus that afflicts so many of your people.”
“Ha!” The Klingon retorted, eyes blazing, “So you say. I have never shown any signs of the sickness. What can you learn from me?” she snarled, leaning closer to the doctor. “How do I know you didn’t just inject with the very virus you claim to want to cure?” The Klingon rose arrogantly from the bed and strode toward the exit.
Crusher quickly racked her brain, trying to remember this particular patient’s name, in an attempt to formulate a more personal rapport with her. But, having had most of the population of the planet come through the laboratory in the past several days, she drew a blank.
Dr. Motar’s young assistant, Colna, was standing nearby. Crusher quickly crossed the space between them, lightly grabbed Colna’s arm and whispered, “Quickly, what is her name?” while nodding at the back of the departing female.
Colna had tensed when the doctor grabbed her, instincts on immediate alert, but relaxed again instantly when she perceived the situation. “Her name is Jansa,” Colna whispered in reply, then when Crusher nodded in thanks and started to walk away, she quickly grabbed the doctor’s arm in return. When Beverly turned back to Colna, clearly impatient to intercept the rapidly departing Jansa, Colna quickly added “Be careful. She is very powerful and wants you gone.”
Crusher nodded tightly, with a look of determination stealing through her eyes. Instead of pursuing the Klingon as she originally intended, she took a couple of steps away from Colna, distancing the young Klingon from the situation she was about to create. Crusher adopted a less-casual pose and called out her patient’s name in a tone which brooked no argument.
Jansa whirled in surprise, clearly not expecting any resistance from the weak human. She had been one of the last of the outcast Klingons to submit to the so-called testing by the alien doctors, grudgingly agreeing to participate only because of the constant pleading and harassment from Dr. Motar.
She was the last of her family still alive. Her parents, three sisters and two brothers had all been victims of the sickness during the past four decades, although she had never shown any of the signs herself. She had no friends, and only those who had never shown any weakness from the sickness did she choose as her allies and subordinates. In her heart of hearts, she was terrified of the disease which seemed to stalk her. To the population of qo’Hegh, she and her healthy coalition of cohorts were nothing less than ruthless. It was they who formed what existed of a government, and they who decided when a fellow outcast had outlived their usefulness.
Jansa had, so far, tolerated Dr. Motar and his feeble attempts at finding a cure, because he had not bothered her. But she did not allow the old man to interfere when it was time to release the soul of yet another Klingon tortured by the disease.
Right now, Jansa was inclined to believe this Starfleet doctor had outlived her usefulness to qo’Hegh. “What do you want?” Jansa sneered.
“I want,” Crusher began, “the chance to answer your questions.” She raised her chin in challenge, mentally preparing herself by reviewing the exercises and hand-to-hand battle techniques Worf had once taught her while he was the Chief-of-Security aboard the Enterprise. Fortunately, she had not neglected her training in his absence.
“There is nothing you can say that will convince me you speak the truth,” Jansa barked and started to turn to resume her departure from the medical facility. To her surprise, she found herself face-to-face with a wall near the door, a small stream of blood dripping from her nose, and the beginning of a headache from the impact. Her strength had always lain in the fact she had been healthy all her life, while those around her were sick and dying. The mere threat of injury was usually sufficient to cow those she wished to intimidate. That, or a visit she would direct from a group of her subordinates, eager to please her. She rarely had the need to display her own physical prowess. As a result, despite her superior Klingon physiology, she was sluggish in responding to Crusher’s opening salvo.
Crusher stole a quick look around, mentally noting where the rest of the staff was. She was less than thrilled with being required to resort to physical combat to make her point. However, she had realized before departing on this mission that, on a planet of dying Klingons, it was a distinct possibility. She just hoped she wouldn’t end up with a dagger embedded in her heart for her trouble. She prepared for Jansa’s retaliation and launched into her verbal attack.
“What we can learn from you, “ Crusher shouted across the medical bay, while sidestepping the Klingon’s full-bodied frontal lunge, “and the others who are not affected is what differences there are between the two groups.”
The Klingon didn’t bother to reply, just turned, grabbed Crusher’s left arm and tried to return the earlier favor by slamming her into the nearest wall. Crusher saw it coming and turned into the Klingon so she did, indeed, hit the wall, but with her back instead of her face, as Jansa had intended. In the process, she knocked over a cart full of medical supplies, making a very loud crash. Quickly using the momentum of the swing Jansa had started, along with the leverage the wall afforded, Crusher delivered a blow to the Klingon’s sternum, knocking her backward. Through gritted teeth, she continued her explanation, “If I had the virus code, I might not need to inject you with it. I might be able to just drop it from the atmosphere.” In truth, the doctor had no idea if the virus was airborne, but needed the Klingon to continue to listen to her long enough so she could tell her the truth.
Jansa’s eyes widen at the human’s proclamation. The entire colony - gone - just like that. She advanced on Crusher, using the heel of her right palm to Crusher’s chin, hoping to knock her to the floor with one powerful thrust and then pummel her into submission until she agreed to leave.
What happened, instead, was that Crusher fell against a bio-bed instead of the floor. As she caught herself, the Klingon advanced on her. Boosting herself into a sitting position on the bed, Crusher caught her opponent around the waist with her powerful dancer’s legs and twisted her torso to double Jansa over, then delivered a two-fisted blow to the back of the Klingon’s skull. Jansa fell to the floor as Beverly retracted her legs. She quickly took advantage of the situation by straddling the fallen Klingon’s back. Expecting further resistance, she remained tense, fists poised. But Jansa lay still, breathing heavily, blood still streaming from her nose and a cut on her cheek she had sustained during their encounter.
“Now,” Crusher panted, chest heaving with exertion, “just listen for a minute. I am. Here. To. Help.”
“Doctor Selar and I - all of us - have risked a great deal to come here. We’re doctors!” Crusher spat out in indignation. “That means we help people no matter who they are.”
Again, the Klingon grunted, then asked “Even Romulans?”
“Yes,” Crusher sighed, getting off her downed opponent’s back, and sweeping the matted hair out of her face, “even Romulans.” She stepped back as Jansa got to her feet, wondering if she was going to be required to break her vow to “Do no harm” any more seriously than she already had. “The fact of the matter is we’re your only hope right now,” she told the still wary Klingon. “If we can find a cure, then many of you may have more options available to you. Maybe even returning to the Home World.”
Jansa had conflicting feelings about the restoration of health on qo’Hegh. Here, with no one to question her authority, she had true power of life and death over all her fellow outcasts. On Qo’noS, her role would be much different. But, without the cure, there were no guarantees that she, herself, would not subcome to the devastating disease.
Crusher tried one last tactic, calling to mind the reasoning she and Captain Picard had used to convince Starfleet Command of the necessity of rendering aid to the colonists of qo’Hegh without the consent of the Klingon High Council.
“Jansa, if our team is unsuccessful in curing this disease, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t be. The Federation and Klingons have a long history of cooperation. If we’re lucky enough to find a cure, we will use it to help you. Others may use it against you to eliminate not only those of you here, on qo’Hegh, but also everyone on the Home World.”
The Klingon took a moment to digest the truth of the human’s words, never before considering the possibility of an enemy using the disease as a weapon. Before she could formulate a reply, however, they heard a scream from the other room and suddenly they were surrounded, as several heavily-armed Klingon warriors materialized. Despite her exhaustion from her earlier battle with the doctor, Jansa lunged at the nearest warrior. She let out a bloodcurdling scream as the energies from another warrior’s disruptor engulfed her.
Beverly heard shouting and more screams from the laboratory next door and quickly raised her hands, palms out, in a gesture of surrender, hoping her staff would do the same. She looked at the room at large, unable to discern who the leader of this group of warriors might be.
"What do you want?" she asked loudly.
All the Klingons continued to hold their weapons in a silently threatening manner until one of them reluctantly separated himself from the others and approached the doctor.
"We are here for the cure," the Klingon stated simply.
"Well, that certainly makes us even," Crusher said, placing her hands on her hips.
"Who are you?” Colna stepped forward, despite the mortal danger all around her.
"Who I am is of no importance to - "
"You're Rok'ta, aren't you?" Colna interrupted, her eyes lit with glee for being vindicated. "And you're here because Tykar is sick."
Weary beyond tolerance of the nightmare he’d had to endure, the Klingon warrior aimed his raw and ragged visage at the young female with the purple scars clearly evidently on her face and arms. Here had to be one of the very ones which had infected his most beloved brother. There was no other way she could have known who he was. She must have been practically sitting on Tykar to know their names. Rok'ta should have felt instant hatred and loathing for someone who had brought certain death to his very heart. To the brother who, even now, was laying sick and dying at home, waiting for their return and help. But he could not. Instead, he recognized a kindred soul, ripe with the Warrior Spirit. He could see it shining through her eyes and in her posture.
"Yes. I am Rok'ta and Tykar is very sick," he directed his comments to the youth. Colna flashed a look of triumph toward Dr. Motar, but he only looked miserable, as if the weight of the universe had been placed squarely on his shoulders.
"Doctor Crusher and Doctor Selar have been working on a cure," Colna said with enthusiasm.
"Yes, but we have not yet been successful," Selar pointed out.
"Enough!" bellowed a voice from the adjoining laboratory. Then Co'Mas entered the main medical facility. "You will all come with me!" At that, he activated a control on his wrist communicator and the entire medical bay was abruptly emptied of life.
Ten - j'Wel
In the House of j’Wel chaos reigned. Where only a few short weeks ago, there had been playful rivalry between his only son, Kelsron and oldest daughter, Benia, there was now silence. Where there had been lustful bellowing and singing of Klingon opera, there were wary glances and respectful quiet for the dead. Where there should be the clanging of weapons training and the thrill of adrenaline racing through veins, now there was the uncertainty of shuffling feet and smoldering rage. An eerie silence had fallen upon the House of j’Wel. A very unKlingonlike silence. Many of j’Wel’s personal warriors had been slain when Rok’ta, son of his many-times enemy, Co’Mas had attacked his House.
Now that been a glorious battle! Every heart and vein pulsing with bloodlust! It had been especially invigorating since the attack had been completely unexpected. Or, at least as unexpected as a surprise attack could be considering both sides were Klingons, and always battle-ready. His warriors had responded exactly as he had trained them, and he was well-pleased.
They, however, were growing more and more displeased and confused with their leader and Head of House. Vengeance was called for. The attack by the House of Co’Mas was unprovoked and they were eager to claim revenge. And yet, j’Wel did nothing.
Yes, he had questioned and disposed of the prisoners from Rok’ta’s crew. Yes, he had contacted his allies to prepare themselves to join him in the completing the Circle of Revenge. But now he was still. When j’Wel should have already sought the lifeblood of his enemy and the return of his daughter, he did nothing. Nor did he explain himself. Many of the House of j’Wel began to consider he had lost his warrior’s heart when he had lost his son, Kelsron.
What j’Wel did not share with his warriors was the cause of Kelsron’s death. His only son, his heir, the blood of his blood - had betrayed him. Kelsron had extended a hand of reconciliation to his weak and unworthy petaQ enemy, Co’Mas, through negotiations with Tykar. Negotiations!! With Co’Mas!! The very Klingon who’d had a hand in the killing of his mate, Kelsron’s own mother. Unthinkable. Impossible! j’Wel felt as if his whole life had been for nothing. Klingons don’t sue for peace. They take it! How had he failed to teach his son such basic values?
Monar, his closest friend and advisor through many years and hardships, had discovered Kelsron’s treason and had acted upon it immediately, saving j’Wel the pain of slaying his own son. Monar knew j’Wel would never consider something so distasteful and dishonorable as reconciliation with Co’Mas, so he had exacted j’Wel’s revenge for him. It was Monar who had infiltrated the House of Co’Mas to set the charges in the ships of Tykar and Rok’ta to ensure a price was paid by j’Wel’s enemy for his past crimes. And it was Monar, even knowing his life was forfeit for doing so, who had slain Kelsron to preserve j’Wel’s honor. j’Wel had honored Monar’s sacrifice by driving his own dagger into Monar’s heart. And now he was empty. His mate long gone, his friend and ally dead by his own hand, his only son another corpse among the pile of those who had served him, and his daughter captured by his oldest enemy.
j’Wel knew those who remained loyal to him were more than anxious to wreak revenge at his command, but were standing in silent chaos at his inaction. They didn’t know of the terrible secret of betrayal Kelsron had wrought and were utterly confused. As luck, or irony, would have it, Monar had chosen to slay Kelsron during the surprise attack lead by Rok’ta, thus effectively hiding Kelsron’s dishonor. Everyone but j’Wel and the now-dead Monar, thought Kelsron to be a casualty of the House of Co’Mas - j’Wel’s hesitation to seek immediate revenge a terrible crime in their eyes.
j’Wel sighed. A very weary sigh. He recalled the information he had extracted from two of Rok’ta’s warriors. They were all too pleased, before they met their deaths at j’Wel’s own hands, to brag of their vengeance against him!
Monar had failed in killing Tykar and Rok’ta. j’Wel shook his head in shame for Monar. If only he had succeeded! Kelsron’s dishonor would not need to be hidden and he could seek vengeance with a clear conscience. As it stood, j’Wel had no choice in saving his own honor; he would have to follow Co’Mas to qo’Hegh. He was certain Benia had already been left to die there, the victim of a horrible and disfiguring disease. He could not allow the same fate to befall his daughter which had claimed Co’Mas’ son, Tykar. Better a swift, clean death than a lingering disease-ridden existence. Like Co’Mas, he could not abandon his flesh and blood to such a destiny.
j’Wel sighed once more and roused himself. It was time to take action. He had made contact with certain influential members of the Defense Force and was certain they would play their role by destroying every living thing on the cursed planet of qo’Hegh.