Ebony Beauty

by Mylochka

(Standard Year 2247)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Go to Part Two

Pavel Chekov was uncomfortable. He sighed and pretended not to notice that the transporter chief was staring at him… again. Thus far, the most outstanding characteristic of this mission was the astonishing number of ways it provided to make him feel uncomfortable. Considering that that they had not yet left the ship, this was quite an accomplishment.

It had started innocently enough. Mr. Spock had called him, Uhura, and Daphne Gollub to the briefing room. He informed them that they were to investigate indications of alien interference in the technological development of the civilization on Omega Kelincar IV. Kelincar was one of the many planets on the border between Klingon and Federation territories that had been placed in the “disputed” category by imposition of the Organian Peace Treaty. Federation scouts had rated the planet PD-4, indicating that the planet was under the full protection of the Prime Directive for roughly around four more centuries. Unfortunately, the Klingons did not recognize Prime Directive prohibitions. Therefore, even though the Federation had no access to Kelincar’s resources, Starfleet was obligated to patrol the planet and make sure no one else was getting at them either.

“Government on Kelincar has been localized in the form of clan leadership or city-state oligarchies,” Spock had said, indicating a graphic on the briefing room table’s computer screens. A planetary map was dotted with widely dispersed colored globs. “Recently, there has been a spike in the development of armament technologies which has led to the consolidation of power into the hands of a number of powerful warlords.”

The colored globs puddled into a smaller number of larger globs.

“Klingons,” Chekov had concluded.

“Very likely, Lieutenant,” Spock had agreed. “Your mission will be to infiltrate the court of one of these warlords and obtain evidence of Klingon intervention. Lieutenant Uhura, you will be in command of this mission. The captain and I have confidence that your skill in intercultural communication and expertise in information gathering will prove useful.”

“Gossip as a science,” Daffy had muttered.

“And an art,” Uhura had retorted.

“Since the Enterprise’s presence would doubtlessly inhibit an alien power from making their presence known,” Spock continued, ignoring them, “the ship will leave this system and engage in starcharting. Lieutenant Uhura, you will be responsible for constructing and maintaining a subspace transmitter to keep us informed of your progress…”

“And to call for you to haul our asses the hell out of there if the Klingons do show?” Gollub suggested.

The Vulcan cleared his throat disapprovingly. “Quite,” he had to agree nonetheless. “Reports also indicate a marked increase in commerce – far beyond projected levels taking into account the influx of new weapons and the profits generated by civil unrest.”

“Orions?” Chekov speculated.

“Perhaps, but not likely,” Spock replied. “Kelincar is far from the Orion sphere of influence.”

Uhura frowned. “The Havens?”

Spock nodded. “That is a possibility, Lieutenant. Although the Havens have not been known to engage in this sort of covert colonization in the past, it is not beyond their means to do so. Since the declaration of hostilities between their Empire and the Federation, they have become more aggressive in establishing a presence in this quadrant.”

“Oh, great,” Gollub muttered. “Let’s get involved in the brand new war.”

“However, a Klingon presence is still the strongest possibility,” the First Officer continued. “Hyper-stimulation of the planetary economy may simply be a new technique for global domination with which they are currently experimenting.”

“Because it’s easier to kill rich people?” Daffy asked.

“Lieutenant Gollub,” Spock said, turning to her. “The possible presence of the Havens on Kelincar IV is the reason why you are being included in this landing party.”

Daphne’s eyes snapped open. “What?”

Spock disregarded her alarm. “A Haven presence on a planet is usually accompanied by an influx of a certain variety of narcotics.”

This didn’t make Gollub any less alarmed. “So?” she asked defensively.

“As a chemist,” Spock stressed. “You will be able to identify any alien substances in use on Kelincar.”

“Oh... yeah.” Daffy seemed relieved. “Yeah. I mean, yes, sir. As a chemist, I will be able to do that. Of course… sir.”

“What will be my assignment, Mr. Spock?” Chekov asked.

“Since this is a patriarchal society, the captain and I felt we should include a male officer,” Spock answered.

After his instructions to Gollub and Uhura, Chekov had been expecting Spock to cite some area of the navigator’s expertise that would establish his vital role in the mission. He did not expect to be chosen as a token male.

“Lend Lieutenants Uhura and Gollub whatever assistance they call for,” the Science Officer finished blandly.

Chekov wasn’t sure if Daphne and Uhura had been offended by the notion that they needed a male escort or amused by Spock’s complete disregard of the care and feeding of the Russian’s ego. Either way, the two had waxed quite mirthful over it all for the past two weeks. They had largely left him out of the planning of the mission saying, “Oh, it’s just girl talk. Don’t worry your manly little head about it.”

He had been quite busy in the interval researching the role his fellow officers assigned him and assembling the materials they would need for the mission. Gollub and Uhura had decided that Chekov would pose as a wealthy merchant (“Wealthy was my idea,” Daffy had told him proudly) who specialized in the vending of precious jewels which they hoped would open a path for them into the court of the local warlord, or Kalee, of an area of the planet that had made an extraordinary jump from approximately early bronze age technologies to roughly late Renaissance in the past few years. The Kalee maintained a large harem, which his fellow officers calculated would necessitate a constant stream of jewel merchants to supply. Uhura would pose as Chekov’s servant/assistant and Daffy would be his wife (“Wife was Uhura’s idea,” she’d informed him.)

Chekov had therefore been very busy learning to fabricate precise imitations of local gems – which had proved to be an oddly pleasant task – and growing out his hair – which had not been pleasant at all. He’d gotten an injection from Sickbay to hasten the process. As a result, his hair had gotten dramatically longer every day. Bridge personnel had taken to coming up with a new nickname for him to match each new manifestation of hirsute glory. “The Siberian Caveman” was followed by “Siberian Jesus” which was superceded by “El Banditio” which was replaced the next day by “Drug Czar Jesus” and so forth. On an undercover mission like this one, it was important not to look like a Starfleet officer. His new look was accomplishing that task too well. Captain Kirk had taken one look at him when he reported for duty the day before, shuddered, and said, “For God’s sake, Chekov, go pack. Get off my bridge before you start a trend.”

Uhura and Daphne (as well as his own research) had assured him the long hair, oddly shaped beard, and pointed sideburns he now sported would blend in perfectly with Kelincar natives. Right now, the sideburns itched, more of his hair seemed to end up in his eyes or mouth than in the tie that was supposed to bind it, and his florescent-hued clothing was making the transporter chief stare at him.

“Well,” Uhura grinned as she stepped into the transporter room. “Don’t you look manly?”

“Please,” he pleaded.

Even in the strange native garb, Uhura looked marvelous. She was wearing a brief top draped in a lacy material and skirt that was a combination of short kilt and a long loincloth. She wore a ring in her nose that indicated that she was a bondservant working off a debt to her master.

“Where’s Daffy?”

“Still dressing.”

“I heard she had an attack of cold feet last night.”

Chekov nodded. Over dinner, Gollub had started to have second thoughts about going undercover to find Klingons. “I hate this mission,” she’d moaned. “I’m more of an inside-the-ship analyze-the-findings type person. Not an outside-the-ship getting-my-ass-vaporized person at all.”

“I tried to calm her down by describing some of the landing parties I’d been on,” Chekov told Uhura.

“Uh-huh.” She smiled. “Like the one where everyone else in the group aged fifty years? Or the one where you burned your hand on a flower? Or the one where Spock got struck by lightning? Or the one where Kang had you tortured and then you lost your mind for a few days?”

Chekov nodded slowly. “I may have mentioned one or two of those incidents.”

“And that didn’t help,” Uhura concluded.

“Not at all,” the navigator replied.

“I wonder why.”

Taking this as rhetorical, the navigator pointed towards the storage cart he’d packed their supplies in. “I have something for you.”

“A wheelbarrow?”

The natives of Kelincar had the wheel but very few animals suited to drawing a wheeled vehicle. Most of them used two-wheeled carts like this one to transport their belongings. With its two guiding poles, the cart did look somewhat like a highly ornamental wheelbarrow.

Chekov opened the lid and removed some jewelry. “Earrings.”

“Oh.” The communications officer held the sparkling baubles up to the light. They were done in the overblown style of the region. “That wasn’t necessary.”

“Actually it is,” Chekov replied. “A competent jewel dealer would be expected to be able to create simple settings for his stones. And as my assistant, you would be expected to display my merchandise.”

“Yes, master,” Uhura replied ironically, as she hooked the gaudy jewels into her earlobes.

With a rustle of silk and clank of jewelry, Daphne Gollub made her entrance into the Transporter Room. “I love this mission!” she grinned, striking a pose.

She looked like she’d raided a costume shop and decided to come away as a fairy pirate gypsy princess. Chekov couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen so many different colors on one person.

“Dafshka,” he scolded, ignoring her comment, “if you wear so many gems, we’ll be robbed.”

“So,” she shrugged. “If they take these, we’ll make more.”

“Not if they take the fabrication unit.”

“Or the subspace transmitter,” Uhura added.

Gollub sighed and unhooked her necklace. “So much for a dramatic entrance.”

“You can wear as much as you like when we get to our lodgings,” Chekov consoled, packing her excess finery in the cart. “And here. I made you a ring.”

“Ooooo.” Daffy placed the brightly colored trinket on her finger and held it out to evaluate. “Eh. I can see why you didn’t go into the family business.”

“Computer projections indicate that this combination of colors and shapes will be considered very fashionable in this region in the coming season,” Chekov informed her, pushing the cart up onto the transporter pad.

Gollub rolled her eyes at Uhura. “Computer projections?”

Chekov nodded. “Mr. Spock helped me set up the parameters.”

“Is this before or after his cordrazine addiction?”

“Okay, children,” Uhura said, before the navigator could respond. “Let’s go.”

“A mission that depends on jewelry made by Chekov, a computer, and Spock on cordrazine,” Daffy muttered as she took her place on the transporter pad. “How could this possibly go wrong?”


“Offer him more money,” Gollub suggested between her teeth.

The trip from the outskirts of town to an appropriate hotel had been longer and hotter than any of them had anticpated.

“Dafshka,” he sighed wearily, and mopped his forehead with a multicolored sleeve. “I don’t think my offering this man more currency will change the availability of a suitable room.”

Daffy crossed her arms. “You don’t get out much, do you?”

Uhura decided that this was a situation where a servant/assistant should come to the rescue. “I don’t think you understood my master, sir,” she purred, setting a bag of coins down in front of the clerk. “We need a suite, not just a room.” She took a large coin out from her belt and placed it on the counter. “For a month, not just a night.” She smiled and took another coin out of her bodice and put it in his hand. “For this afternoon, not tomorrow.”

Daffy contributed a jewel-encrusted bracelet. “With a private bath.”

The native smiled and bowed. “If you’d care to wait in the dining hall while your room is prepared, sir. I’ll have the porter take care of your belongings and the waiter bring you some refreshments.”

“Thank you,” Chekov replied as graciously as he could under the circumstances.

The dining hall was a large, airy chamber with tall windows that opened out onto the street. A slave walked on a treadmill to power a row of ceiling fans that rotated lazily.

“Look at that,” the navigator whispered disapprovingly, nodding in the slave’s direction.

“Oh, darling,” Gollub flopped into a chair and eagerly downed the frothy beverage offered to her by the waiter. “If you feel guilty, we’ll tip the poor son of a bitch. But right now, if I don’t get some air, I’m going to melt…. I think parts of my hair already have.”

“Oh, my feet,” Uhura, who had insisted it was role-appropriate for her to pull the storage cart once they hit the borders of the city, groaned.

“Tomorrow,” Chekov promised, “we buy one of those…”

“Pack mule deers,” Daffy finished.

“They’re called ocholi,” Chekov corrected. He indicated the drinks. “What is this?”

“It’s cold,” Uhura replied.

“And alcoholic,” Gollub recommended.

Chekov frowned over his shoulder at the porter who was rolling their cart down the hallway. “Do you think our equipment will be safe?”

“Did you lock the compartment?” Uhura asked.


“And seal it?”


“Using technology about 2000 years beyond the comprehension of any native of this planet?”

Chekov sighed. “Yes.”

“Then I think we should be all right for the next half hour.”

The waiter set a tray of peeled vegetables and white spirals of meat on ice on their table. The tray was as welcome for the ice as it was for the snack food.

“May Hilja, the Goddess of bounty, bless you and your offspring for a thousand years,” Daffy exclaimed in the native tongue. “Sweetie, you’re a jewel!”

“Thank you, madam.” The hunched old man smiled as he accepted her coin.

Gollub held up two more. “And these are for you if I don’t see the bottom of this glass for the next hour.”

“May Gronja, the Goddess of Fermentation, bless your consumption,” the old waiter grinned, topping off her drink.

“What?” Daffy asked in response to Chekov’s frown as the waiter walked away.

The navigator crossed his arms. “I have precisely calculated the amount of money we can inject into the local economy without having an appreciable impact that might exacerbate the hyper-stimulation of the financial system already at work and put us in violation of the Prime Directive.”


“Try not to spend it all on the first day.”

Gollub stuck out her tongue. “Have I mentioned that I would never really marry you?”

“Not in the last fifteen minutes.”

“Have I explained why?”

“Yes.” Chekov nodded. “I think we’ve covered both general principles and specific personal characteristics…”

“Children, please.” Uhura pressed her drink against her forehead. “Mommy has a headache and blisters. Can we have some quiet time?”

“Sorry, Lieutenant.”

“Try some ice on your feet,” Daffy suggested.

“That’ll help?’

“It won’t hurt.”

They drank a round in silence.

“Hyper-stimulation of the economy certainly hasn’t brought about general prosperity,” Chekov observed as he watched the foot traffic on the street outside the hotel. “If that was the aim of the Klingons, it’s failing.”

“If we’re dealing with the Klingons,” Uhura said, rubbing her foot with a soothing chunk of frozen liquid. “I doubt that peace and prosperity were part of the plan.”

“Of course,” Chekov said, considering this idea. “A greater divide between the rich and the poor would tend to heighten civil unrest and perhaps lead to class struggles that would destabilize traditional power bases.”

“Encouraging the locals to kill themselves off,” Daffy concluded. “What a time saver.”

“Lots of poor people.” Uhura watched a fat native pass by on a liter born on the shoulder of eight servants. She tapped the ring in her nose. “Lots of this.”

“Runaway debt,” Chekov agreed, then added pointedly. “I wonder how that happens?”

Daffy smiled sweetly. “Pavel, can I borrow enough money to buy a new husband?”

“Children, do I have to raise my voice?” Uhura warned.

“Sorry.” Gollub leaned back in her chair and scanned the near-empty hall. “Bubbee, why don’t you go visit the little merchants’ room?”


“Go check the luggage or something,” she said, fluffing her hair back into shape. “I want to see if I can make a purchase.”

“Of what?”

“Drugs,” she whispered dramatically.

“Why must I leave?”

“You cramp my style.”

“Go check on the room,” Uhura ordered before the navigator could respond. “The porter might have figured out how to defeat a Federation security lock with a hairpin by now.”

Chekov snorted as if he thought this was a ridiculous notion, but rose and excused himself anyway.

“That’s a good, manly job for him,” Daffy said.

“The two of you…” Uhura began.

“I know, I know,” Gollub interrupted.

“If the bickering doesn’t stop, I may have to have to kill one of you,” the communications officer promised. “And I don’t really care which one it will be right now.”

“Shhh,” Gollub hushed her as the waiter approached.

“Madame.” The old servant refilled her glass.

“Sweetie, this drink is just wonderful,” she gushed. “I’d like to thank the beverage mixer if he’s free.”

The waiter hesitated.

“Please?” Gollub smiled winningly and slipped the native a shiny coin.

“If Madame wishes…”

“I do.”

The waiter refilled the other glasses on the table and shuffled away.

“Don’t worry about Pavel and me,” Daffy said, as the native spoke to his fellow employee behind the bar. “We usually make up by bedtime.”

”You’d better.” Uhura sipped her drink. “Neither one of you is going to be sleeping with me.”

A younger native approached their table. “Madame?”

“There you are!” Gollub turned to him with a bright smile and a shiny coin. “These drinks are so good!”

“Madame is gracious.”

“No, you really may have saved my life. I was positively melting.”

“Glad to oblige.”

“We had such a terrible trip,” Daffy continued. “I’m afraid I’m going to need something to help me get to sleep tonight.”

The native gestured to the street. “There is a druggist nearby if you…”

“No, I just need something to relax.” Gollub gave the young man a knowing smile and slid a small pile of coins across the table. “I find a smoke before bed so relaxing. Don’t you?”

The native pocketed the currency. “May Narja, Goddess of Sleep, grant Madame pleasant dreams.”

“May Onanj, Goddess of Commerce, grant you prosperity,” Gollub replied.

“Do you think that worked?” Uhura asked as the native walked away.

Daffy shrugged. “He didn’t give me directions to the cigar store when I asked for a smoke, did he?”

Uhura laughed. “Why, Lieutenant, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d done this before.”

“Research, darling,” Daffy assured her. “Research.”

“If an amateur can ask a question,” Uhura began. “Why the bartender instead of the waiter?”

“Young, handsome guy with no nose ring working the dead-as-a-proverbial-doornail afternoon shift instead of the more tip-friendly night shift,” Gollub replied. “Probably likes to have his nights free for recreation.”

“He could be going to night school.”

“Also.” Daffy sipped her drink. “He was cuter.”

Uhura nodded. “That’s what I thought.”


Gollub thumped her faux husband on the back. “What are you muttering about?”

“I am rehearsing what I need to say to the guildmaster,” Chekov replied, shifting his pack of jewels to his other shoulder.

The previous evening had gone well. Their room -- when they were finally able to get into it -- was excellent. The bartender had discreetly delivered a bag of non-Haven, mildly narcotic, tobacco-like leaf. And as Daffy predicted, she and Chekov made up just in time to go to bed. It was now the next morning and they were standing in an antechamber of the jewel merchant’s guildhall. With its somber stone walls and understated tile floor, the room might have been called austere were it not for the jewels that encrusted all the picture frames, candle holders, and door knobs.

“Getting stage fright?” Uhura asked sympathetically as she balanced the case she was carrying against a bejeweled footstool.

Chekov sighed. “I’m not very good at role playing.”

“He’s not,” Daffy agreed. “You’ll be right in the middle of the good part of “Captain Reprimands the Naughty Yeoman”….”

“Dafshka…” her lover interrupted a moment too late.

“And he’ll call you out on factual errors,” Gollub continued heedlessly.

Chekov put a hand over his eyes. “Daphne…”

“What?” Daffy replied innocently. “I’m just engaging in a frank and open discussion of your mission-critical skills.”

“You do not have to be quite that frank,” the navigator informed her, “or quite so very open.”

“Don’t worry about it, Chekov,” Uhura said, trying not to smile too much. “We’ll be right here behind you to back you up if you get into any trouble.”

“Yes,” Gollub agreed. “We’ll use subtle hand signals. This…” She pinched his side.


“…Will mean you need to talk. This…” She smacked the back of his head. “Will mean you need to shut up.”

“Oh,” Chekov said acerbically, “so, it’s the usual, then.”

A secretary stepped out of the chamber before them and held open the massive door. “The master will see you now.”

The guildmaster was a thin, sour looking man. He was seated behind large desk made of the local version of marble, which was, of course, embedded with jewels around its intricately carved edges. The guildmaster was frowning at the paperwork they had filled out.

“Pasol Chavask,” he said, calling Chekov by the native name Uhura and Gollub had chosen for him.

“Guild Master,” Chekov replied, making a polite bow.

The native beckoned them forward. “You come from the Vebron region?”

“Yes, sir.” Obeying another gesture from the Kelincarian, Chekov placed the pack of his wares on the master’s desk. Uhura opened the case she’d been carrying and arranged their samples into an attractive exhibit.

“Mmmm.” The guildmaster made a finicky noise through his nose as he fingered through the king’s ransom of gems the Enterprise party displayed.

Chekov fidgeted silently. It felt odd not to acknowledge the presence of his female companions in any way, but this was the convention of this culture. He was beginning to feel guilty about participating in this overt patriarchal snub of his crewmates when Gollub lightly kicked his shin to remind him to stand still.

“Nice.” It was hard to tell if the Kelincarian was talking about the gems laid out for his perusal or Uhura’s breasts… since that was where his eyes were focused. “Very nice.”

“Thank you, Guild Master.” Under the pretense of showing off a particularly sparkly gem, Chekov stepped between the communications officer and the native’s ogling gaze.

Since it was apparently in the best interests of the mission that she be ogled, Uhura smoothly moved to the other jewel case and pointed out another colorful stone to the Kelincarian.

“So,” the guildmaster began, his voice betraying none of the eagerness of his eyes as they followed the lieutenant. “You wish to open a shop?”

“No, sir,” Chekov said, resigned to following his part in the script his fellow officers had created. “We are merely passing through. I am petitioning to be granted permission to sell my merchandise at the court of the Kalee.”

“Mmm.” The guildmaster gave him a narrow look. “Such commissions can be exceedingly profitable… and are rarely granted to newcomers.”


The Kelicarian’s eyebrows rose at the navigator’s yelp.

Chekov smiled through gritted teeth. “My wife has reminded me that I have forgotten to give you the gift I prepared to thank you for granting me this audience.”

“Allow me, Master,” Uhura said, stepping forward and unhooking her necklace.

It turned out that it was the jewelry Uhura was wearing that was fascinating the guildmaster. Once the necklace was in his hands, he ignored her completely. “These chitalia beads are real?”

“Of course.” Chekov was a little puzzled by the question. Chitalia were a semi-precious stone mined in the mountains nearby. He’d only included them for their color.

“And in the earrings?” The Kelicarian’s eyes returned greedily to the communications officer.

Uhura surrendered Chekov’s handiwork with what seemed to the navigator to be undue eagerness to be rid of the baubles.

“It’s all genuine.” The navigator stole a questioning look at Uhura while the guildmaster stroked an unremarkable bead with his thumb.

She gave him a there’s-no-accounting-for-taste shrug in return.

“Mmmm.” The Kelicarian took a tablet out of his desk and signed it.

Chekov smiled at his companions as he accepted the commission. “How soon may I see the Kalee?”

“You may visit the court today, if you like.” The native turned his attention back to the necklace. “But you will conduct your business with the harem eunuchs.”

“We won’t see the Kalee?” Daffy burst out, although she’d been cautioned that this was a situation where a respectable, well-to-do woman needed to be seen not heard.

“Madame,” the guildmaster replied, unperturbed. “Pray the occasion never arises for you to see that ravening beast at all.”


“What are you doing?” Chekov asked as he stepped out onto the balcony of their room later that day. Their visit to court had gone smoothly, but had been disappointingly uneventful. The eunuchs had bought not only a respectable number of uncut stones, but also what Gollub and Uhura found to be a surprising amount of Chekov’s computer designed jewelry.

The balcony was fast becoming Daphne’s favorite part of their lodgings. The covered terrace was screened in and draped in flowing, gauzy fabrics. The primary seating was a comfy futon with plenty of overstuffed pillows. It was a perfect spot for lounging.

“Cultural research,” she replied lazily indicating the troupe of actor/musicians playing out a scene in the courtyard below them.

“Oh?” Chekov folded his arms. “I thought you were just smoking.”

“Oh, God,” Gollub grumbled as she retrieved the pipe she’d hastily stashed under the futon. “It’s like dating my father…. Wait… Ick… That was a little too Oedipal. Say something quick before I fixate on the thought.”

The navigator sighed as he sat down beside her. “I think we are fighting too much.”

“Define too much,” Daffy replied as she moved over to make room for him.

“I think we’ve begun to annoy Lieutenant Uhura.”

Gollub snorted. “What gave that away? The way she constantly says that we’re annoying her? Or was it the steadily increasing number of death threats?”

“A little of each,” Chekov admitted as he kicked off his sandals.

“Well,” Daffy began seriously, “you know what you’re going to have to do, don’t you?”

“No, what?”

“You’re just going to have to agree with me about everything.”

The navigator smiled. “Oh, that is what I must do?”

“Two simple words.” Gollub nodded. “Yes. Dear.”

“Yes dear?” the navigator repeated.

“Exactly. Whatever I say, you just say, 'Yes, dear' and we will all be perfectly fine.”

Chekov laughed. “I see.”

“No,” Gollub corrected firmly. “Yes, dear.”

“Yes, dear,” he repeated obediently as he took her into his arms.

“Getting ready for bed so soon?” Uhura asked, as she entered.

“Actually,” Chekov said, abruptly breaking off their kiss. “We were doing some cultural research.”

“Uh-huh,” the communications officer agreed dubiously. “Learning anything?”

“I’ve learned that these people are crazy,” Daffy said, gesturing to the musician/actors who were still emoting in the courtyard below. “Kench told me that this was going to be a historical drama, but it’s all about trolls, witches, wood nymphs, and magic elves.”

Uhura leaned against the balcony’s banister. “They don’t differentiate between mythology and history.”

“Who is Kench?” Chekov asked.

“He’s our bartender/dealer,” Gollub said, re-loading her pipe.

“Oh, him,” the Russian replied in tone he usually reserved for Klingons and traitors to the Federation.

“There’s something bothering me about that exchange,” Uhura said.

“How much of it Daphne has smoked?” the navigator asked, then winced as the chemist’s hand made solid contact with the back of his head. “Dafshka, native women do not strike their husbands.”

“Okay,” Gollub replied. “Then let me put it this way, if Vanml, the Remover of Obstacles, doesn’t get that big stick of uptightness from up your ass, then Wula, the Goddess of Sexual Pleasure, is not going to be visiting you tonight.”

“What bothered me,” Uhura continued, ignoring them, “was what he said when you asked if he could get something stronger.”

“We were just joking around.”

Chekov eyed his girlfriend narrowly. “What did you say?”

“He said that he could get some shisofa, which is what their priests smoke to induce visions,” Gollub explained. “And I said no, I didn’t want to turn into a witch… Because they believe that’s how you become a carachachino, a witch. You blaspheme. You make a deal with dark powers. In return, you lose your immortal soul, but you get superpowers and get to smoke as much dope as you can steal.”

“According to their folklore,” Uhura said, looking down at the scene being played out in the courtyard, “you get rid of one of the carachachinol by bribing him or her with money and shisofa.”

Chekov frowned. “So you think he assumes that Daphne is a….”

“Don’t say it,” Gollub warned.

“I’m gonna say it,” Uhura asserted. “Do you think Kench thinks you’re a witch?”

“Oh, hell, no,” Daffy dismissed the idea. “The carachachinol aren’t just mythology to these people. They scare the shit out of them. You don’t give a witch the hey-I’d-be-cool-with-sleeping-with-you look.”

Chekov’s eyes snapped open. “What?”

“It was what he said after that that bothered me,” Uhura said.

“What did he say?” the navigator demanded.

“It was nothing,” Gollub assured him. “When I said I didn’t want to turn into a carachachino, he laughed and said that he should be so lucky.”

“Hmph,” the Russian snorted disapprovingly.

“He was just being irreverent,” Daffy said.

This didn’t raise Chekov’s opinion of the Kelincarian. “Hmph.”

“Either that,” Uhura said, watching as the heroine of the drama below them walked away hand in hand with a menacing figure in black, “or these people have found a reason to not be afraid of witches anymore.”


Pavel Chekov stood in the antechamber of Teclum, Kalee of the Five Clans, shifting nervously from foot to foot. After several days of routine visits to the court to take orders and make deliveries, he’d been unexpectedly summoned to the reception chamber of the Kalee. Uhura and Gollub had been ordered to remain in the harem’s public area. Although it would probably mean getting smacked in the back of his head yet again, Chekov really wished one or both of them had been allowed to accompany him.

“Pasol Chavask?” A chamberlain with a large tablet approached him.


“The Kalee will see you now,” the native informed him, making a mark against his name on the tablet. “What is the nature of your business with the Kalee?”

“I don’t know.” Chekov gave an apologetic half-laugh. “I was summoned.”

The chamberlain gave the Russian a pitying look for a full half-second before he caught himself. “Do not speak until you are spoken to. Stand on the red tile and do not move forward unless the Kalee orders you to do so. And above all, do not let your eyes linger on any of the Kalee’s wives. Understood?”

Chekov squared his shoulders. “Yes.”

The native beckoned him forward. “Then follow me.”

The Kalee’s audience chamber was a large, splendid room with an impressive domed ceiling, elegant tiled floors, and colorful glass windows. A massive stone throne dominated the chamber. Upon the throne sat Teclum, the Kalee, a powerfully-built middle-aged man. A mane of burnt orange hair framed his scarred, grizzled features. In contrast to the hulking Kalee, the assortment of wives seated on pillows around his throne were as delicately beautiful as the silken draperies that decorated the chamber.

Realizing that he was on the verge of staring, Chekov directed his eyes to the red tile under his feet.

“Jeweler,” the Kalee greeted him in a rumbling bass voice.

The navigator bowed. “Sire.”

“My wives have been spending a lot of my money on your trinkets.” Although the Kelicarian ruler’s tone was pleasant on the surface, there was an underline edge of accusation.

Chekov cleared his dry throat. “I am.. uhm… gratified that my work has been found pleasing.”

“Very pleasing.” Teclum smiled unpleasantly. “I’m going to grant you the opportunity to give some of my money back.”

The navigator blinked. “What?”

“Is your hearing poor?” The Kalee’s smile became even more unpleasant. “I said that you’re going to give some of my money back.”

Chekov was beginning to really dislike this native. “Are you accusing me of overcharging you?”

Teclum’s laugh was even more unpleasant than his smile. “What if I am, little man?”

“I would apologize, sire,” Chekov replied stiffly. Even though he knew it was unwise, he had to add, “But I’m certain that my prices are within the guidelines set by my guild.”

The Kalee laughed again. “Come here.”

Chekov moved to what he felt was a respectful distance from the throne.

“Closer.” Teclum pointed to a spot on the dais uncomfortably near his feet.

The Russian obeyed reluctantly.


This is not good, the navigator thought as he carefully lowered himself to the stone platform.

Chekov’s heart skipped a beat when the Kelicarian drew a knife from his belt. It was unmistakably the distinctive tri-bladed dagger carried by all Klingon line officers. The navigator’s heart jumped briskly back into action as the Kalee gripped the back of his hair and pulled Chekov’s head back so that he could place the primary point of the dagger to the Russian’s throat.

“Do you like my knife?” Teclum’s smile looked even crueler from close up.

“I-I-it’s very nice,” Chekov stammered, struggling to remain calm. “W-w-where did you get it?”

“Are you accusing me of stealing it?” the Kalee replied, mimicking the navigator’s offended tone from a few moments before.

“N-no, sire. It’s simply an… interesting design.” From his vantage point, Chekov could make out the Klingonese lettering that decorated the handle. If he was near a library computer, he might be able to identify the ship the original owner had been assigned to. Chekov swallowed hard and hoped he would live to see a library computer again. “It would… sell very well, I think.”

The Kalee laughed…. which had the unfortunate side effect of shaking the knife. “I suppose it would.” He pressed the point a little more uncomfortably close. “I took it from the body of a dead troll I strangled…”

Chekov wondered if he was exaggerating. Klingons weren’t easy to strangle. Looking into the Kelcarian’s cruel eyes, the navigator decided that Teclum was the sort of person who had the intestinal fortitude to give such a thing a try.

“You are not too young to remember that I battled the trolls so that sniveling cowards like you could have an easy life of making pretty baubles for women, are you?” Teclum growled.

The Russian bristled at being called a coward. However the knife at his throat reminded him to answer respectfully, “No, sire.”

“Then you’ll be happy to bring a large contribution to my treasury when you visit my harem tomorrow,” Teclum’s toothy grin returned. He tapped his dagger reprovingly on the navigator’s nose as he added, “Which you should have done long before this.”

Chekov fought the urge to roll his eyes. Apparently in order to do business on this planet, one was expected to bribe everyone from the doorman to the emperor. He didn’t know how businessmen without a fabrication unit could manage. “I apologize for the oversight, Kalee.”

Seeing that he had made his point, Teclum relaxed and turned the evil down a notch. “As well you should, merchant. Remember that your first duty is to please your lord.” The Kalee released his grip on Chekov’s hair and used that hand to give the Russian a admonishing thump on the top of his head. “Now, go.”

The navigator wasted no time in collecting what was left of his composure and turning to leave.

“Jeweler,” Teclum called, before he reached the safe haven of the door.

Chekov turned reluctantly. “Yes, Kalee?”

The Kelincarian used his knife to point at the earrings on the wife nearest to him. “In your gift to me, be sure to include plenty of stones like these.”

Chekov frowned. Chitalia beads again. He was puzzled at the popularity of what should be a perfectly ordinary gem in this region. Perhaps the projection of cultural trends that he and Mr. Spock had created had been more accurate than they anticipated. “Yes, sire.”

“Jeweler,” Teclum stopped him again.

“Yes, Kalee?”

“You do have more of this stone?” There was a peculiar glint in the Kelincarian’s eye. “Don’t you?”

Chekov couldn’t think of any reason why anyone would assume he wouldn’t. “Yes, sire.”

Teclum grinned. “I look forward to tomorrow.”

“I don’t,” the Russian muttered to himself as he turned away.


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