by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2247)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Return to Part Two of Hotel California: The Queen's Necklace

A Cautionary Tale

The street was garishly lit, the artificial atmosphere hazy with too much smoke and too much perfume. Air cars sped by, following the traffic flow, stirring the headiness into swirls before the names of the bars and clubs and dens. Maintenance was efficient, the building surfaces shone with reflected color from doorways and signs, all mixing and clashing with kaleidoscopic fantasy. In the doorways, on the corners, lounging against polished walls, were the young men and women; all colors, all races, in silks and satins, velvets and leathers, jumpsuits, tights, shorts, skirts, halters and shawls and vests, all beautiful, all exotic, all for sale.

“Oh, come on, Roy!” Ruth exclaimed in protest.

“Why is it my fault?”

“‘What’s this?’” Ruth mimicked his comment as the new drama had begun.

“And you are quite vocal about your enjoyment of many varied…” Jilla began innocently.

“Not anymore, hon,” Sulu broke in almost savagely.

She blinked. “I only meant…”

“I know,” Sulu muttered. “But that’s not what Ruth meant.”

The Indiian shifted positions, idly picking at the polish on her fingernails. It was such a slow night! Only two tricks. Roy was going to be pissed.

“For god’s sake…!” Ruth snarled again.

“It isn’t me!” Sulu snarled back. “And who added the ‘Roy’, huh?”

She watched as a car pulled up, the door opening. Sultry laughter preceded a shimmering torrent of gold as a lithe, long-legged woman climbed out, blowing a kiss to the occupant as the car soared away.

“Sucker!” the Antari called brightly, then turned, tucking a credit chip into a pouch at her hip.

“Catch a good one, Dei’larr’ei?” the Indiian purred.

“Jilla!” Ruth hissed.

Jilla was still staring at the screen in puzzled confusion.

“What’s…” Kevin began.

“Never you mind!”

“An overweight, under-worked desk jockey who couldn’t make it and paid double for the humiliation,” the Antari replied. Her sultry femininity had disappeared into cool boredom and assurance.

“Some people have all the luck,” the Indiian replied sourly.

“Some people have all the credit,” Dei’larr’ei returned, patting the pouch at her hip. “Which is gonna make my Kev a whole lot happier than your Roy, little Ril.”

“Ril?” Jilla asked.

“My guess is it’s short for ‘rilain’, isn’t it, Ruth?” Sulu muttered.

“Then ‘little ril’ is a redundancy,” Jilla pointed out.

“And I didn’t do it,” Ruth added.

“I still want to know what ‘dei’larr’ei’ is,” Kevin put in.

“None of your damned business is what it is!”

“But then Kev’s so easy to satisfy,” Ril said with a cutting smile.

“Hey, what did I ever do to you?”

“I do not understand…”

The Antari’s eyes grew cold. “Bitch.”

“Just trying to make conversation,” the Indiian replied airily, then smiled seductively at a passing Vegan.

“Alright, that’s enough. We’re getting out of here,” Ruth said, rising to her feet.

“Fine by me,” Sulu returned. “This wasn’t my idea.”

“Why are you both so angry?” Jilla wanted to know.

“They’re only tryin’ to protect your darlin’ innocence,” Kevin answered with a roguish grin and a wink.

“Shut up, Riley,” Sulu told him, and gently took Jilla’s arm.

The Vegan quickened his pace and Ril let out an exasperated sigh, then gasped as a hand clamped on her arm.

“You’re not street art,” a low, dark voice snarled at her. “Nobody’s gonna pay to look at you. Get out there and hustle!”

“Sulu, you’re hurting me!” Jilla rasped.

Sulu blinked, looking down at the hand that was barely touching Jilla’s arm. “Hon, I’m not…”

“Roy, you’re hurting me!” Ril exclaimed, jerking her arm away, rubbing the delicate flesh.

“Okay, now, this is getting twitchy,” Sulu said.

“Not yet I’m not. Move your ass.”

Ril pouted, but started walking down the street, her ample hips swaying in blatant invitation. Dei’larr’ei chuckled and Roy turned to her.

“Workin’ hard, angel?” he asked, his manner suddenly smooth and sensual. The Antari smiled, carefully looking him over. He leaned arrogantly against the side of the building, one hand reaching into his belt for a thin, tightly-rolled joint. “Your old man’s gotta get his credit some somewhere, I suppose,” he continued. “He’s livin’ high while you work your ass off in the street, you poor thing.” He lit the joint, inhaled deeply, then offered it to her. She shook her head. “It’s the best Rigellian, honey.”

“Kev doesn’t like me toked up on tricks,” she said and smiled again.

Roy shrugged and took another hit. “There’s a whole lot of things Kev doesn’t like.” He critically surveyed her body. “And a whole lot more he just doesn’t appreciate.”

Dei’larr’ei laughed seductively. “You wouldn’t work my ass off, is that it?” she taunted.

Roy didn’t smile. “The streets burn a woman out by the time she’s twenty-five,” he said. “You could work less, make more, and stay prime years longer from an established House.”

“Kev doesn’t keep a House, Roy.”

His smile was lazy and casually suggestive. “I do.”

“I thought we were getting out of here,” Sulu growled.

Ruth glanced over to him. “We were.” She shook her head. “I could’ve sworn we were standing.”

“Yeah,” Sulu returned uneasily, and stood again. “Let’s go.”

The Antari’s gaze turned skeptical. “Really? Then why is Ril on the streets?”

“I’ve got five of the best suites,” Roy returned, gesturing toward the hotel at his back, “with twenty rooms, and she simply hasn’t earned a permanent place in one. But I’ve been watching you.” He smiled again. “You’re a good earner.”

“I have an obligation to Kev,” Dei’larr’ei murmured, but she moved a step closer to Roy.

“The hell you do.”

“The hell she does!” Kevin burst out.

“I do not understand what is happening,” Jilla murmured.

“The hell she does,” a voice said from behind Roy.

Roy turned and smiled contemptuously at the thin, red-haired man. “Well, well, speak of the devil. How are you doin’ Kev?”

“I’d be doin’ a lot better if you’d stay the hell away from my women!” Kev snarled.

“If you can’t handle the competition, pimp,” Roy said pointedly, “you’d best get out of the game.” He took another slow hit from the joint, then closed his eyes to savor it.

“What is a ‘pimp?’”

“Holy Mary, nobody’s that innocent!” Kevin exclaimed.

“Shut up, Riley,” Sulu said, then turned to Jilla, vaguely aware that he was again sitting down. “Hon, this is a play about prostitution.” He shuddered involuntarily.

“The selling of sexual favors?” Jilla asked.

“Yeah. And a pimp is someone who – well – manages the actual workers.”

Jilla nodded thoughtfully, then looked up at him. “Why are you all so disturbed?”

“You mean you’re not?”

“I find the notion somewhat beyond my comprehension, but the profession is legal, is it not? And common among Terrans?”

Sulu blinked. “Well, not common, but…”

“And most Terran males have fantasies about the females of other species?”

“Some have them about the males of…” Kevin chimed in and Sulu glared at him, but Jilla continued to regard him mildly.

“Yes, that’s true, hon…”

“Why then are you disturbed that a psycho-cinema would have a feature which catered to such fantasies?”

Sulu caught Ruth’s eyes over the top of Jilla’s head.

“So who knew?” Ruth said with a shrug.

Dei’larr’ei had taken a hurried step back with Kev’s appearance. As he turned to her, she smiled, alluring and eager. “Hey, baby, where have you been all – “ Her voice was cut off at the sharp sting of Kev’s hand across her face.

Ruth solidly punched Kevin’s arm.

“Hey, what did I do?”

“You don’t get to hit me, boy!”

“I didn’t!”

“Oh. Yeah. Right. Sorry, Kev.”

“Didn’t I tell you not to talk to this peacock?” Kev thundered.

She bent her head, but didn’t back away. “He was talkin’ to me, “Kev.”

He slapped her again.

“Watch it!

“Don’t give me that bullshit! I’ve had it with your manipulation. We’re gonna get a few things straight right now!” He grabbed her arm and started to pull her down the street. Roy’s voice stopped him.

“Crude, man, really tasteless. Don’t you have any class?”

Kev pivoted to face the other man. “Keep the fuck out of my business, motherfucker!”

Roy chuckled, but it wasn’t a pleasant sound and his eyes were chillingly cold. “Dei is my business,” he said, “or at least she will be if you keep up the good work.”

Kev bared his teeth in something approximating a smile. “I’d hate to be around when that Indiian hellcat of yours gets wind of that.”

Roy shrugged. “I can take care of my girls.” He gazed sympathetically at Dei’larr’ei. “Too bad you can’t say the same.”

Kev flushed scarlet and reached for his knife. Roy’s was already in his hand, and Dei’larr’ei hissed, “It’s Kirk, get it together!”

“Kirk? How’d he get in this?” Kevin asked. Ruth was anxiously craning her neck, trying to look at all the other seats in the theater all at once.

“Why are you so afraid Bwana’s gonna catch you?” Sulu teased.

“Catch me? You’re producing this insipid piece of trash!” Ruth returned.

“I am not!”

“There is no need for such concern…” Jilla began.

“While you’re safely off-screen,” Ruth muttered.

“Me?” Jilla began.

“Screwing some nameless client,” Kevin put in helpfully.

“Now you’ve done it,” Ruth said, smacking Kevin on the arm. “Ladies and gentlebeings, the Majiir Nova, two seats to the left.”

Sulu put his arms around the suddenly embarrassed Indiian, murmuring, “It isn’t you, hon.” Then he glared at Ruth. “Can it, Spike” he growled.

“Not till I get sunshades.”

Dei’larr’ei smiled, brilliant and blinding, at the man who was striding up the street. “Evening, Captain,” she purred.

The man halted in front of her, a half-smile on his lips, taking in the sight of her. She smoothed the material of her skirt, a deliberate gesture. James Kirk was the captain of the Port Authority, and the most bribable man she’d ever met.

Now you can worry about Bwana being here,” Kevin remarked. “If he ever hears that you’ll be court-martialed for sure.”

“And whoever opens up his big Irish mouth to tell him will end up in pieces manageable for Roy’s chopsticks!”

“Are you out here again?” Kirk said. “I thought I told you I wanted you off the streets.”

“We’re just out for a little night air, Captain,” Kev replied.

Roy gazed disdainfully at him. He fitted what was left of his joint to a small pipe stem and handed it over to Kirk.

“Relax, Captain,” he said. Kirk grinned and took the pipe from him. Roy watched him inhale deeply, then nodded. “Galileo’s commander still givin’ you trouble?”

“Now what would you know about that, Mr. Takeda?” Kirk asked.

“Enough,” Roy replied, then jerked his thumb at Dei’larr’ei. “Will she do?”

Kirk looked surprised and Kev again drew his knife, hissing, “You ass-kissing little bastard!”

Kirk’s phaser was automatically in his hand. “Watch it, Riley.”

“If Kev approves, of course,” Roy added gallantly. Dei’larr’ei giggled and Kev turned, slapping her.

“Keep it up and I’ll take you in for disturbing the peace,” Kirk warned.

“Disturbing his piece, he means,” Sulu chuckled.

“And since when are you Mr. Cool?” Kevin wanted to know.

“Apparently since Ruth decided I was.”

“This is not my fantasy,” Ruth insisted.

“Who turned on the heat for Bwana?” Sulu returned.

“Who cast this thing?” Ruth countered.

“By the way, is he easy to bribe?”

“Keep it up, mister.”

“With the way you look, not a problem.”

“Sulu,” Jilla’s voice said hesitantly, “why do the characters look like us? Why do they have our names?”

“So Dei’larr’ei is Antari or something?” Kevin wanted to know.

“Shut up,” Ruth snarled.

“I don’t know, hon,” Sulu answered Jilla. “It doesn’t make sense.”

Kev backed away, growling angrily, and Roy caught sight of Ril just emerging from an alleyway, wrapped seductively on the arm of a Haven businessman. She stood up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek as he signaled for a taxi. He got in and she waved an airy goodbye, then turned and started to stroll toward the small knot of people. Then he noticed that Kirk, too, was watching Ril’s approach.

“Silver instead of gold, Captain?” he asked. “You won’t have Kev’s overhead to worry about. My services are always on the house for an old friend.”

“Oh Jesus…” Sulu groaned.

“If the lady wouldn’t mind spending a few quiet hours easing a troubled man’s burdens,” Kirk returned, smiling avidly at the Indiian.

“I can guarantee it,” Roy promised solemnly, then chuckled.

“I am not comfortable with this portrayal, Sulu,” Jilla murmured.

“I thought you said this kind of fantasy was…” Kevin began.

“Yeah, but not with her in it,” Sulu countered.

“You said it was not me,” Jilla put in.

Sulu blinked. “But you just said…”

“I said I was uncomfortable with the portrayal. It does not seem to be an accurate depiction of a legal profession.”

“And Rentig IV was an accurate depiction of Fleet?” Ruth scoffed.

“I see your point,” Jilla demurred. “I think.”

Roy took several steps forward to intercept Ril. “You’re going to earn your keep tonight, baby,” he murmured. Ril stared at him her eyes fearful.

“It’s been slow, honey,” she offered. “With the official hassles, I’m doing all I can.”

“And that’s precisely what you’re gonna take care of,” he told her.

She made a face. “Kirk? Again? Baby, he’s so…”

Roy’s eyes hardened. “You think I give a fuck what you think of him?”

Ril swallowed. “No, of course not. I’ll be at my best, I promise.” Roy smiled, stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. “But can you give me something to pick me up?” Her grey eyes were pleading, and Roy studied her for a moment.

“How much have you had today?” he asked.

She lowered her gaze. “Not much.” His hand caught her jaw, forcing her head up. “Only two!” she clarified. He stared at her a moment more, then let go of her face. His grin was cold.

“Okay, hon,” he said, and reached into his belt pouch. The light caught a flicker of green as he held out his open palm. Ril quickly snatched at it, turning as her hand came to her mouth. Roy nodded grimly, then gave her a quick kiss. “Go turn it on for our dear friend, Ril.”

She smiled and walked sensually toward Kirk.

“A whore AND a junkie,” Ruth commented. “Nice.”

“Junkie?” Jilla asked.

“Never mind.”

“I never…”

“This stopped being fun a while ago,” Sulu cut her off.

“Why are we still here?”

“Maybe because you men are still feeding the fantasy?” Ruth suggested sweetly.

“For the last time,” Sulu began warningly, “It ISN’T me!”

Roy stepped back, bowing graciously at Kirk, who smiled hungrily at Ril. As the Indiian escorted Captain Kirk into the hotel behind them, Roy again leaned against the wall, turning to Dei’larr’ei. “Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?” he asked

You get back to work,” Kev snarled at her before she could respond. With a half-smile, she shrugged at Roy. “And don’t make any fucking apology to him!”

“Kev, I was just…”

“Damn it, woman…!” Kev grabbed her arm pulling her into a hard slap.

“That’s three, Riley.”

She flinched and it seemed to enrage him. He pushed her against the wall, raising his fist.

“Young man, such displays are not appreciated.”

Both Roy and Kev turned at the stern, unyielding voice.

“I knew she couldn’t leave him out of it,” Kevin muttered.

A tall man stood, arms folded, the expressionless eyes staring coldly from an equally expressionless face. He wore the uniform of a Imperial transport captain. Beside him was another man, his blue eyes twinkling, his own manner one of apologetic tolerance.

“Bones and the Ears? This should be cute.”

“It’s none of your business, mister,” Kev stated harshly.

“Commander,” the Vulcan corrected. “And if that is so, I suggest you take it where I cannot see it.”

”I suggest you stop looking,” was the dark reply.

“Indeed. Do you know who I am?”

“Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

“You forgot the ‘my dear,’” Ruth giggled.

“Now Commander, just calm down,” the other man drawled, and turned to Kev. “This is Commander Spock of the Galileo. I’m Doctor Leonard McCoy of the same ship.”

“And your presence in this port is an insult to the dignity of the Imperial Fleet,” Spock said tersely.

Kev bowed flamboyantly. “Well excuse me,” he taunted.

Spock smiled without smiling. “I am inclined not to,” he said. “I can have you arrested and deported with consummate ease, you and your golden whore.”

“Supercilious green asshole!”

“So report me to the authorities, Commander,” Kev sneered, then pulled Dei’larr’ei away from the wall. “Move it, honey,” he said. She gave Roy a fleeting, pleading glance before moving away with Kev.

Roy lit another joint, grinning at the disapproval that crossed the Vulcan’s features. He made careful note of the doctor’s gaze following Dei’larr’ei. There just might be another way to stop the harassment from the Fleet.


The room was ablaze with light, reflected off the mirrors that covered the walls, ceiling and floor, forming a focal point around the huge round bed. The black satin sheets were in wild disarray. Kirk sat on its edge, languidly pulling on his boot.

Three junior crewmembers and half the civilian audience rose to their feet, applauding, stomping and whistling.

He stood up, stretching, then called, “I’m leaving, Ril.” The Indiian appeared from an open doorway, clad only in sheer black panties and a seductive smile.

“So soon?” she breathed.

“Turn her off, Roy,” Ruth suggested.

“Saints preserve us!” Kevin gasped appreciatively, then turned to Sulu with a wicked leer. “Is she truly that lovely, boy-o?”

Sulu was speaking softly to his brightly glowing lover, but he raised his head long enough for Kevin to see the confirming twinkle in his eyes.

“I am on duty, honey,” Kirk returned.

Ril draped herself across the bed, propping her chin in one hand, an alluring pout on her full, dark lips. With a relenting grin, the officer moved closer to her. The Indiian lifted her body to her arms, planting a firm, sensual kiss directly to Kirk’s clothed genitals. Kirk’s hand immediately came forward to squeeze one of her full, ripe breasts.

“Off, Sulu, I said off!” Ruth repeated.

“I’m trying,” Sulu replied and tried again to pull Jilla’s hands from her face. “Honey, it’s not really you,” he insisted.

“We’re gonna get kicked out,” Kevin warned.

“And who’d mind that?” Ruth snapped. “If you’d stop with the sexual fantasies…”

“It isn’t me!” both men exclaimed.

“And Chekov’s the…”

“Oh, shut up!”

The Indiian nuzzled for a moment, then with a wicked smile, took a hold of the seam in her teeth, deftly pulling it open. Kirk moaned his approval, and Ril’s dark tongue moistened her lips, her mouth opening.

Kirk groaned again and…

“If someone doesn’t stop this right now….”

…turned his head, abruptly backing away as the door opened and a stern, icy voice said, “Are we intruding, Captain?”

Almost as one, the audience sighed in disappointment. Sulu took a moment away from reassuring Jilla to give Ruth a grateful smile.

With a lazy grin, Kirk stepped away from Ril’s ministrations, easily refastening the opening of his pants. “I was finished, Commander,” he said, “though the little one here was trying to change my mind.” He patted the top of her head, and she dropped to the mattress with a sigh. “What did you need, Spock?”

“For you to do your job, Captain,” the Vulcan returned coldly. “To clear the streets of this – pestilence, rather than taking them yourself as bribes.”

“Bribes? Now that’s a serious charge,” Kirk mused. He reached into his belt and handed Ril his credit chip. He winked at her, hoping she was smart enough to take the hint and not express any surprise at the unprecedented payment. “It’s not bribery if I pay for the privilege like everyone else now, is it?”

“He’s got you there, Spock,” cackled the doctor who had come in with Spock and who Kirk had barely noticed.

“He doesn’t ‘have me’ anywhere, Doctor,” Spock growled. “And he has just given me grounds to raise a morals charge against him.”

Kirk snorted. “You wouldn’t be the first, Commander, and since I can guarantee it won’t stick, you might want to rethink this vendetta of yours.”

“I engage in no vendetta, Captain,” Spock retorted. “I am simply doing my job, which is to uphold Imperial standards.”

“Uphold Imperial standards,” McCoy chuckled. “Now that’s funny.”

Spock ignored him. “The streets of this port will be cleansed of the vermin you allow to plague it,” he intoned solemnly. “It will be done by the time my ship leaves, which is in three days. If it is not, I will declare martial law and cleanse it myself. Am I understood, Captain Kirk?”

“Take it up with Cal—“

“NO!” Sulu cried frantically.

“—iente,” Kirk finished. “He’s the governor here. I do what he tells me.” He turned back to the bed, holding out his hand for his credit chip. If anyone noticed that the Indiian hadn’t charged it, no one mentioned it.


Dei’larr’ei was bruised, but no more. She was a fast healer anyway, being Antari, so it wouldn’t affect her take much.

“Kevin Thomas Riley, I will so smack the holy shit out of you!” Ruth blazed.

“What did I do?” the Irishman blinked.

Her clothing, however, was a disheveled mess, and she went to the closet to choose new attire. Kev came out of the bathroom as she dressed and gave her a sharp swat on the behind.

“It’s still early, sweetheart,” he said. “Get your pretty ass back out there.”

“What if Commander Spock’s still there?” she pouted.

“Turn on the charm, just don’t make him an offer he’ll have to refuse,” Kev returned with a nasty smile.

Dei’larr’ei sighed but was careful not to frown. She brushed out her hair, and replaced the pouch at her hips. It carried the compact chip reader that recorded the monetary transactions of her clients, along with the panic button that was set to Kev’s personal comm frequency, just in case she got into trouble she couldn’t handle. She stalled as long as she could, just until it was clear Kev was getting ready to strike her again, then kissed him and left the small apartment.

“Well, isn’t that sweet,” Sulu muttered. Jilla had calmed down, and he’d resumed his seat, both he and his companions apparently forgetting that they had intended to leave the theater.

“So sweet I know someone who’s gonna have a Black Irish eye by the end of this fershluginer bullshit,” Ruth returned.

“Look, Sulu and I have told you…” Kevin began.

“Yeah, yeah, it isn’t you. In a pig’s eye.”

Roy was still leaning against the wall and, after a quick glance up and down the street, Dei’larr’ei hurried over to him.

“Roy, are serious about taking me on in the House?” she asked quietly.

He smiled at her, night and incongruous sunshine. “Anytime, baby – provided you really are as good as you look.” His gaze moved boldly over her.

“I’m better,” she breathed.

“You willin’ to show me how much better?” Roy grinned.

The Antari hesitated. “I’d have to charge you, Roy – to keep Kev from getting suspicious.”

Roy’s eyes hardened, but his smile grew lazier. “Well, there’s a first time for everything, I suppose.” He slid his arm around her, pulling her close. “And if the deal works out, I’m sure I’ll make it back in no time.” Dei’larr’ei’s heart was beating wildly in her chest. There was something about Roy, an aura of both danger and sensuality that was far more alluring than it should have been. After all, she was a professional. She was supposed to be beyond that kind of reaction.

“Oh Lord, Cassanova again,” Kevin grumbled.

“None of this is my doing, you know,” Sulu protested.

“Even though it’s true,” Ruth grinned.

Sulu made a face. “And I think I said, ‘not anymore’ before, too.”

Jilla’s left hand was clenched, and Sulu turned his attention to her, gently prying her fingers open, then entwining his own with them.

“It’s all right,” he murmured. “It’s just make-believe.”

She stared into his dark eyes and before she knew what she was doing, she had kissed him – not the falsely affectionate touching of lips she did with Kev, but an open-mouthed, tongue-and-breath-mingling, hedonistic, possessive oral embrace. Roy let her control it, deciding when to deepen it and when to pull away. When she at last did so, his hands were firmly at her waist.

“Come on, honey,” he whispered. “I’ll even give you double the rate. I’m gonna wanna take my time with you.”

Dei shivered and started to walk beside him when Ril came around the corner from Roy’s hotel.

“Baby, wait!” she called, and ran up to them. “That Vulcan commander says he’ll declare martial law if Kirk doesn’t clean us off the streets in the next three days!”

“So?” Roy replied. “Cal will take care of him.”

“Caliente,” Sulu was repeating, his eyes closed. “Caliente, Caliente…”

Ruth reached over, placing her hand on top of Sulu and Jilla’s joined ones. “It’s all right, Roy,” she murmured. “These damned headsets seemed to have fixated on us.”

“We should remove them,” Jilla said. “We should leave.”

Ruth glanced up, as if she could see the top and sides of her own head. “Damn. I was sure we had.”

Ril shuddered. “I don’t think so, Roy. Not with the way the Vulcan feels.”

Roy let go of Ruth, grasping the Indiian’s arm. “What do you mean?” he asked sharply.

“When he said ‘cleanse’ it felt more like ‘kill’,” Ril whispered. Her grey eyes were filled with terror. “I’m scared, Roy.”

The handsome face frowned. “Okay, baby, take it inside until I can check this out with Kirk.” He glanced at Dei’larr’ei. “You too, sweetheart. Indiian instincts don’t lie.”

As the golden beauty opened her mouth to protest, he held up a hand.

“Stay with Ril. I’ll handle any trouble with Kev. Shouldn’t be more than a hour, tops.”

Ril grasped his hand, kissing it. “I love you, baby!” she said, her voice infused with gratitude.

He grinned. “Yeah, make it up to me, hon.” Then he turned and moved down the street.

Ril grabbed Dei’s hand. “Come on, I’ll take you to the House lobby. They’ll find us an empty waiting room.”

Dei’larr’ei nodded, but her eyes never left Roy’s retreating figure.


When Kirk returned to the station, his lieutenant, a dark-haired, brown-eyed, short, sturdy young man saluted crisply.

“We have a homicide, Captain,” he reported. His voice carried a thick Russian accent.

“How did he get into this?” Ruth wondered, then glanced around the audience, apparently searching. “I don’t see Daffy here…”

“Anyone important?” Kirk asked

“It was one of the street women, sir.”

The look of interest on Kirk’s face fled. “So?”

“It was – a fairly brutal murder, sir.”

Kirk shrugged. “A pissed off john or the bitch’s pimp,” he said. “What does that have to do with us?”

“Tourists discovered the body, Captain,” the young man confided.

“Oh shit,” Kirk groaned. “Has the media got hold of this?”

“I’m afraid so, sir.”

“Fuck!” The captain sighed. “Where’s the damned body?”

“The medical examiner has it now.”

Kirk stalked off toward the Medical office, the pup of an officer behind him.

Ruth snorted loudly. Kevin laughed out loud. Sulu was grinning despite himself.

“Pup?” Jilla asked.

The young officer must have had a gift for understatement. Kirk nearly lost his dinner at the sight of the mutilated, desecrated body. She’d been ripped open from pubis to breast-bone, her heart and liver removed, her intestines pulled out and looped around her left shoulder. Her throat was slashed, her ears and nose sliced off, making her face unrecognizable. Only the wide-open blue eyes, and short, light brownish-red hair with its signature feather allowed Kirk to make an identification.

“That’s Monique,” he managed, then had to turn to the examination room sink, retching loudly.

“Ohgodohgodohgod…” Ruth moaned. Kevin blanched. Sulu closed his eyes, gritting his teeth against the nausea.

“That cannot really be Monique…” Jilla whispered, her voice full of dread.

The dark-skinned doctor, M’Benga, turned to him. “Sorry, Captain,” he said. “If I’d known you were coming in, I would’ve covered her.”

After a few minutes, Kirk ran the water, rinsing his mouth and drenching his face and the back of his neck. Then he stood.

“Who did this?” he rasped.

“Unknown, Captain,” M’Benga said. “But he had to have plenty of time, and some knowledge of science or physiology …”

“Where was the body found?”

“On L-street, near the dock transporters.”

“Any forensics?”

“Lots – unfortunately, all from her,” M’Benga answered, gestured to the exam table.

“Get me a suspect, Doctor – any suspect. Once this hits the news cycle, we stand to lose a lot of revenue.” He turned to the young officer behind him. “Pick up Ordona for questioning. I want to be able to tell the media we’re doing something.” He strode out of the room, his face set in stern displeasure.

“And all he cares about is how it will look?!” Ruth managed indignantly.

“This is dangerous,” Jilla was murmuring. “We must leave here.” Her companions, however, were glued to the unfolding drama.


“Good evening, ladies,” a soft, gentle voice said from behind them.

Dei and Ril turned, both automatically smiling from long habit.

“Why hello, Doctor,” Dei murmured breathily. “Where’s Commander Spock?”

The blue-eyed man chuckled. “Plannin’ a major assault against you fine ladies,” he answered. “A move I don’t hold with, I’ll have you know.”

Beside Dei, Ril shivered. The Antari ignored her. “Is there anything you can to do – change his plans?” she asked, moving closer to him.

“Why, I don’t know, Miss,” he said. “Once he’s made up his damn Vulcan mind, it can be pretty hard to change.”

“And he isn’t open to – persuasion,” Dei pouted.

“No, he’s not.” The blue eyes gleamed at her. “But I might be.”

“Dei, Roy said to…” Ril began.

“To get off the street,” the Antari returned. “Surely we can entertain the good doctor in one of the House’s waiting rooms.” She fluttered her eyelashes at the older man.

“Now that sounds pleasant,” McCoy returned, “but I’m sure I’d have to pay for the room and I have limited disposable income.” He grinned. “Fleet salary isn’t all that – generous.”

“Ril…” Dei began, turning toward her.

“Roy would have to okay it,” the Indiian said with another shiver. “And he won’t.”

The Antari sighed, then gave McCoy another smile. “Well, I’m sure I’ll be safe enough with a Fleet officer,” she breathed. “And you did say the Commander gave Kirk three days.”

“Dei’larr’ei…!” Ril hissed.

Dei ignored her, sliding her arm in the doctor’s. “I’ll be back before Roy gets there,” she promised with a wink, then strode off with McCoy.

Ril stared after her, trembling. Then she hugged herself and walked briskly toward the Hotel.

“Ruth, you must not go with him!” Jilla insisted urgently.

“It’s Spock,” Kevin muttered. “It’s gotta be Spock.”

“I don’t think so, Kev,” Sulu demurred. “Trust Indiian instincts, remember?”


Roy wasted no time in heading to the station. One of the things that kept him on top of the game was listening to Ril’s warnings. It was why she was still on the street: despite what he’d told Dei’larr’ei, the Indiian had more than earned a place in the House, and in one of the best rooms. But she was too valuable where she was. He kept her needing so she wouldn’t figure that out and confront him. Not that he expected she’d be able to charm him, but he also knew not to put anything past alien seductions. He’d learned that one the hard way, a long time ago when he was low rent with his first girl. And he wasn’t a man who made the same mistake twice.

When he reached the station, it was surrounded by reporters. He scowled. That’s all I need, he thought, some high-profile case to make the officers too conscious of their public face. If that were true, it would be harder to get Kirk alone and cooperative.

He caught a glimpse of Kirk’s favorite lieutenant trying to distribute the official briefing and managed to catch his eye. The young man frowned, but nodded to him to go around to the side entrance that was reserved for official personnel. That made Roy chuckle. The Russian had been eager to gain Kirk’s favor, and had quickly learned the best way to do that was to be as corrupt as the captain.

“Oh, Chekov’s not gonna like that,” Kevin chuckled.

“If you don’t give me some help here, I’ll tell Daf you put him in this damned thing!” Ruth snapped.

Kevin turned to see Jilla curled in on herself, with Sulu staring blankly at the screen, his lip curled in amused disdain.

“What can I…?” he began.

“How the hell do I know, this was your idea!”

He skirted the media and slipped to the side of the building, catching Kirk just coming out. The captain scowled at him.

“I don’t have time for you, Mr. Takeda,” he said.

Roy cut to the chase. “I just wanna know how much it’ll take to keep Spock off my back.”

“I said not now…”

Roy stepped in front of him. “You’re not gonna double-cross me, are you, Captain?” His voice was soft, but full of cold menace.

Kirk glared at him, trying not to be intimidated. “We’ve got a killer loose, and he’s after hookers, so I’d say Commander Spock is the least of your problems.”

Roy dropped the cool façade, grabbing Kirk’s uniform. “How many?” he demanded.

“Three so far. We’ve got one in Medical and received calls on two more in the past hour.”


Kirk glanced around to make sure no reporters were in earshot. “The only one we’ve identified is Monique. The others are being brought in now.”

“How do you know they were done by…?”

“Trust me, Takeda, you don’t want to know. Get your girls off the streets and spread the word. If Spock gets wind of this…”

“What does Caliente say?” Roy asked.

Kirk snorted. “I’m not planning on telling him until we’ve caught the bastard. If you want to break the news, be my guest.”

The captain hurried to his car, and Roy sucked in the night air. Ril’s “when he said ‘cleanse’ it felt more like ‘kill’,” was echoing in his mind, and he shuddered, then turned and headed back to the hotel as fast as he could.


Kev heard the scream as he came down the stairs and onto the street. It was Dei’larr’ei’s voice, and immediately afterward his personal communicator gave its soft but piercing alarm. He drew his knife and the communicator, following the indicator on its small screen into the alley behind the row of buildings. He saw the bright gold of the Antari’s hair and leapt forward toward the shape that was hunched over her. The gleam of madness in the blue eyes that turned to him was the last thing he saw.

On the screen, a large knife flashed, followed by a gory spurt of red, and Kevin’s cry caught in a gurgle in his throat. Ruth screamed.


The two other bodies were mutilated in nearly the same way as Monique’s had been and Kirk’s stomach brought up bile. They were less than a block apart, right in the middle of the territory that was claimed by Takeda. He recognized them both, again more from their usual accoutrements than their devastated faces; Roy’s girls, Sakura and Tara. He shuddered, thinking of the retribution the pimp would exact. Kirk was paid well to ignore the trade, but he was also paid well to ensure the safety of the streets. The governor would be just as unhappy as Takeda, and neither were men to be trifled with. And if Spock got wind of it…martial law had been declared once before, nearly ten years ago, and it was the Vulcan’s ruthless efficiency during that crisis that had gotten him his own command. The captain of the Port Authority then, Chris Pike, had been busted and sent to some hell-hole of a world in the worst sector of the colonies. It was a fate Kirk was determined to avoid.

He told the officers on the scene to keep it quiet and to get the bodies to the morgue as quickly as possible. He gave CSI instructions to work quick and avoid civilians at all costs. They’d caught a break; officers on routine patrol had found these two. If he could keep it in house…

The scream that came from the next street over made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Stay here,” he told the forensics team, and signaled to one of his officers. “Come with me.”

He was running as fast as he could when he saw Riley bolting down toward the alley. He followed, but was stopped by a death-grip on his arm. He turned, staring into the stern face of Commander Spock.

“Go, go!” he told his officer, and the Vulcan fired his phaser. The officer crumbled.

“That would be most unwise, Captain,” Spock said, leveling the weapon at Kirk. “The doctor prefers to work alone.”


The screen went blank. Ruth stared at the emptiness, her eyes wide, her mouth opened in soundless shrieks. Sulu shook himself, gave Jilla a quick, reassuring embrace, then turned to crouch in front of the Antari.

“Spike, it’s over,” he said. “The damned thing’s over. Honey, come on, snap out of it!”

Ruth blinked, then started shaking, then fell into his arms, sobbing. “Why aren’t we out of here?” she rasped. “We tried to get out, why didn’t we go?”

“I don’t know, but I think we’d better move our asses before the next feature starts,” Sulu replied grimly.

“Where’s Kevin!?” the Antari gasped, pushing away from Sulu’s embrace, staring wildly around her.

“I’m here, darlin’,” Kevin’s weak voice said, and Ruth swiveled in her seat, throwing her arms around his neck. He gave a twisted grin. “If this is the reaction I’ll be gettin’,” he joked, “I’d best be dyin’ more often.”

“Once was more than enough, Kevin,” Sulu said wearily. “Let’s get the hell out of here.” He rose and stepped toward Jilla, reaching for the wire net that rested on her head.


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