Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Go to Part Three
Return to Part One
Return to Valjiir Continum
Go to Part Three
Return to Part One
Go to Part Three
Return to Part One
“It’s Klingons,” Chekov announced as soon as he took his seat. The Enterprise party had decided not to discuss the navigator’s near-disastrous audience with the Kalee until they were clear of the palace. They’d stepped into a restaurant outside the gates.
“Oi, vai!” Gollub closed her eyes. “I was really hoping for Havens… or any other enemy who is less well known for their ability to maim and kill and more well known for their ability to party.”
“You saw Klingons?” Uhura asked as a waiter approached with a round of cool drinks.
Chekov waited for him to pass before answering, “No.”
“Guys,” Daphne began nervously, looking at a native loitering near the entrance. “I think we were followed.”
“Then what makes you think it’s Klingons?” Uhura asked, without acknowledging Gollub.
“He had a knife.” Chekov replied. “It was a Klingon design with Klingon lettering.”
“Guys, I’m not kidding,” Daffy insisted. “There’s someone watching us.”
“Maybe it is only another bartender who wants to sleep with you,” Chekov speculated sourly.
Uhura stopped Gollub’s hand on the table before it could rise to make violent contact with the back of the navigator’s head.
“Daffy’s right, we’re being followed,” she informed them in the same manner one would use to settle an argument between 10-year-olds.
It didn’t help that Gollub chose to celebrate her victory by sticking her tongue out at the Russian.
“Are you sure it was Klingon?” the communications officer asked, cutting off the scathing reply Chekov was trying to think up.
“Yes.” His hand went involuntarily to his neck. “I had the chance to examine it quite closely.
Uhura frowned. “That just doesn’t make any sense. Why would the Klingons be stupid enough to sell these people Klingon weapons?”
“Wait,” Gollub said. “He pulled a knife on you?”
Chekov sighed. Since Uhura had started to ignore most of what he and Daphne said to one another as meaningless bickering, he was more and more frequently ending up in situations where he was expected to carry on two conversations simultaneously. “That was the odd thing,” he said, choosing to reply to Uhura’s question first. “He didn’t buy this knife… He said that he…”
Gollub thumped him on the chest to get his attention. “What did you say that made him pull a knife on you?”
“It was nothing I said,” he assured her before turning back to Uhura. “What he said was that he had taken the knife from a Klingon he had strangled.”
“Strangled?” Both women repeated.
“Yes,” he said, grateful for the opportunity to address them both at once. “Teclum referred to the Klingons as “trolls.” Apparently there was some sort of uprising against them.”
“Trolls,” Uhura smiled a little. “That’s apt.”
“Score one for the wit and wisdom of the stone knives and bearskin crowd,” Gollub agreed.
“It isn’t possible, though,” Chekov said. “A sustained resistance to a Klingon occupation force by a population at this level of technological development would not be viable.”
“Maybe it wasn’t a full occupation force,” Uhura mused. “Perhaps they could have overcome the crew of a scout ship if…”
Gollub crossed her arms. “Did you grovel?”
Chekov blinked at her.
“To this knife-welding, Klingon-strangling madman,” Daffy elaborated. “Did you grovel?”
Uhura was saying, “The influence on the culture is too widespread to trace back to a small expeditionary force.”
“Because, as you’ll remember,” Daffy continued. “That’s what we strongly recommended that you do.”
“And even then, there would be reprisals,” Chekov pointed out to Uhura before turning to Gollub. “It wasn’t anything I said. He was just trying to extort money from me like everyone else on this planet.”
“Reprisals on a planetary scale,” Uhura agreed. “There’s got to be someone helping the Kelincarians and protecting them.”
“You didn’t grovel,” Daphne concluded.
“It’s hard to imagine the Havens or the Orions taking that sort of risk for a planet with so few resources of any importance,” Chekov said, before assuring the chemist, “I was polite.”
“Polite means bupkis to knife-welding, Klingon-strangling madmen,” Gollub replied. “We told you that you needed to grovel… But what did you do? I can imagine. You opened that piskaleh of yours…”
“If we’re going to talk about someone who has a big mouth…”
“We need more information.” Uhura chewed her finger. “How many people were with Teclum in the audience chamber when you were there?”
“Just a few of his wives.”
“You’re lucky he didn’t strangle you,” Gollub was saying.
“We’re going to have to infiltrate the court,” Uhura decided.
“Why do you have to be so stubborn?” Gollub was complaining. “Remember what I told you last night about a little well-timed groveling…”
“There’s no need to bring last night into this,” Chekov quickly admonished his girlfriend before turning back to the commander of the expedition. “Even if I give him a very big bribe tomorrow, I don’t think Teclum and I are ever going to become the best of friends…”
“I’m not talking about you being his best friend,” Uhura replied. “I’m talking about me becoming his new best friend.”
Her companions’ heads swiveled. “What?”
“Chekov has to give Teclum a bribe,” Uhura explained. “What could be more respectful than giving your liege lord a beautiful and talented new concubine?”
“No,” Chekov and Gollub said in unison.
The Communications Officer merely smiled. “And here I was thinking you two couldn’t agree on anything.”
“This is a horrible plan,” Chekov said quietly.
“So you’ve said,” Uhura replied patiently.
They were standing line with the other petitioners in the antechamber to the Kalee’s reception chamber. Last night Chekov and Gollub had gone through a very long list of reasons why it was a bad idea for Uhura to become the Kalee’s concubine. Even though they’d not been able to dissuade her thus far, the Russian was revisiting highlights of arguments as they waited.
“What if you’re searched?” he asked as a new thought formed.
“I don’t know,” Uhura replied as if playing straight man to a bad knock-knock joke. “What if I’m searched?”
“They’ll find the blaster – which is obviously a product of alien technology – and we’ll be in violation of the Prime Directive.” Potentially violating the Prime Directive was one of the navigator’s favorite themes.
Uhura sighed. “They won’t find it because they won’t be looking for it. And even if they do look, they won’t look where I hid it.” Chekov gave her a dubious look. The blaster was a miniature stun weapon about half the size of a writing stylus.
Uhura rolled her eyes at what he was probably imagining. “I hid it in my hair. It looks like it’s part of one of the barrettes.”
Chekov crossed his arms and cast a sidelong glare at Teclum’s man who had been following him since he left this chamber yesterday. The Kelincarian spy leaned against a pillar on the other side of the room. “Spy” might have been a misnomer, since the Kalee’s agent had stayed in plain sight most of the time. The Enterprise officers had decided his presence was a not-so-subtle reminder from Teclum that Chekov was expected to return, not run. “It may take me several days to incorporate an image recording device into a piece of jewelry,” the navigator warned, turning back to Uhura.
“Well, just work as fast as you can. I hope I can start collecting evidence right away.”
“It may be large and unusually heavy…”
Uhura shrugged. “I’ve worn your big ugly jewelry for the past week and it’s not killed me yet.”
“Pasol Chavask!” the chamberlain called out.
“Here we go,” the communications officer said, taking in a deep breath.
Chekov’s brain didn’t stop working on reasons why they should abort this ill-advised gambit even as he stepped on to the red tile and announced, “I’ve brought gifts for you, Sire.”
“Gifts?” Teclum raised an eyebrow. “Are you giving me the girl as well?”
Chekov paused, giving his fellow officer one final chance to back out of this dangerous scheme. Her frown prompted him to sigh and say, “Yes, my Lord. I hope that you will accept her into your harem.”
The Kalee seemed surprised. “Approach,” he ordered.
Chekov tried to stop Uhura well beyond arm’s reach of the Kalee. However, the communications officer brushed him off easily and knelt at the foot of the throne.
Teclum frowned as he eyed her. “I do not usually take commoners into my harem.”
“Oh, well, then…” Chekov reached for Uhura’s shoulder, relieved to have an excuse to bow out of the deal.
The Kelcarian’s hand shot out to stop him. “However, I always make exceptions for the extraordinary.”
Uhura gave the Kalee her most sultry smile, as she offered him the box of jewels she carried. “Sire.”
“Lovely.” Teclum leered at her as he let a handful of jewels slip through his fingers. He glanced up in time to see the look the Russian was giving him. “Don’t you want to let her go, merchant?”
“No…” In response to Uhura’s warning frown, Chekov quickly amended his answer, “…gift is too good for your Majesty.”
“Hmm.” Teclum’s silence seemed expectant as he continued to pick through the box of precious stones and trinkets.
'Grovel,' Uhura mouthed to the navigator in a moment when the Kelincarian’s eyes were on his treasure instead of on her.
“I…uhm… wish to once more apologize for my thoughtlessness,” Chekov began reluctantly. “I hope these small offerings will in some way make up for my previous oversight.”
”Small offering?” Teclum repeated greedily. “You have more?”
“No,” the navigator said quickly, before he ended up giving this avaricious bastard the equivalent of half the projected gross national product of this region and throwing Daphne in for good measure. “This is the best I have. I was merely employing a figure of speech.”
“Instead of figures of speech, you need to go employ your fingers in making more treasures for me,” Teclum replied testily. “Should I find these pretty nothings insufficient, you will….”
The Kalee broke off when Uhura leaned forward and nibbled his hand.
“You… will…” the Kelicarian ground to halt as the Communications Officer let her lips brush down his finger before demurely resuming her place.
From the look Teclum was giving her, Chekov seriously doubted that there were going to be any complaints from the Kalee about the quality of his gifts.
“Go now, merchant,” Teclum growled, his eyes still glued to Uhura. “Go quickly and I may forget how much I dislike you.”
“May I suggest this?” The next morning Daphne Gollub held out a boxed pendant for Kalee’s newest concubine.
“Oooo,” the veiled woman cooed through the decorative latticework that separated and obscured the private side of the harem from the public side. “Big and ugly,” she said, signaling one of the eunuchs of her choice. “I’m impressed.”
“He worked on all night on it,” Gollub informed her as the eunuch opened the ornate gateway between the two areas and crossed to pick up the box.
“I can tell,” Uhura smiled. “That kind of tacky takes some thought.”
“So,” Gollub asked, as the eunuch took the box back to the table ten feet behind them where Chekov was stationed to negotiate a price. “How’s the new job?”
Now that Uhura was inside the harem, Daphne was the only one who could venture within the ten-foot no-man zone to talk with the wives about their display of stones and jewelry as the women peered through the latticework.
“I think I always thought of a harem as a place that was just smoldering with eroticism,” the communications officer answered.
“And it’s not?
“It’s a baby factory,” Uhura replied flatly. “Teclum is a commoner who became Kalee because he helped win an important battle. He has no noble blood, no family ties with the other ruling families on this continent. He has to establish a whole new bloodline with ties to all the right people that will eventually be able survive after he’s gone. So this harem is an heir apparent assembly line with schedules and charts showing everyone’s peak reproductive opportunities.”
Daphne pretended to point out a pair of earrings. “And you’re on charts and schedules now?
“No. Someone like me with no noble blood can only hope to be flavor of the month.”
Gollub wished she could see her fellow officer better. “So, hoping to be flavor of the month?”
“Girl, I could be the flavor of this man’s lifetime if I wanted,” Uhura assured her, gesturing to a collection of blue stones as if she were interested in them.
“So how was the sex?” Daffy asked, getting to her main question at last.
“Thus far, we haven’t got much further than a handshake and a smile.” Gollub could see Uhura well enough to tell that her gesture indicated that she was referring to a sex act instead of a greeting. “But he was impressed.”
“Most of these girls are just scared little virgins…” Uhura looked back at the women behind her. “…who rapidly become frustrated, bitter, competitive harpies… He’s not used to an aggressive woman who actually enjoys what she’s doing. We were in the middle… Hell, I thought we were about to wrap things up and he jumps up, says “‘Scuse me,” and bolts for the next room. It seems he has this new wife that he simply must reproduce with… who he just can’t get it up for. So he takes advantage of being in the mood for love to pay her a little surprise visit.”
“Really?” Daphne moved the blue stones closer to the latticework.
“Now she’s my best friend because she thinks that was the lucky shot for her and she’s going to be able to pop out her obligatory junior kalee and retire.”
“So, that’s good?”
“But there’s also at least three other girls who either didn’t want her to have a lucky night or thought they should have gotten lucky.”
“Oooo,” Gollub winced sympathetically. “And what does Kalee senior think of you?”
“That I’m the greatest thing since bread started coming in slices,” she replied without a hint of modesty. “He wants me to teach my special lovemaking techniques to some of his more clueless recently ex-virgin wives.”
“That should be interesting.”
“While the eunuchs watch and take notes.”
Gollub tried valiantly not to laugh. “Oi, vai!”
“Oh, and tell Chekov that he needs to run out of chitalia beads very soon.”
“Why?” Gollub said, moving a box of those stones carefully to a less prominent position in the display.
“It sounded to me like the Klingons had a moritite mine in the area. Moritite is found near chitalia. The Kelincarians believe that the trolls’ magic sucked the life from the stones… It was probably pollution from the mining process... Anyway, all the chitalia in the area is now discolored. Red and bright, tacky green like Chekov likes, is now rare. It sells for about six to ten times what he’s asking for it…. If you can find it, that is. Apparently, after they couldn’t get the ugly stuff, everyone wanted it. Everyone assumes that Chekov’s crazy or stupid for selling it at the prices he does…”
Gollub shrugged. “Hey, I’ve had my doubts about him at times, too…”
“…Or that he has access to a new source of chitalia.”
“Which we can’t say because…?”
“Because sooner or later, Teclum is going to take out his knife and politely ask Chekov where he’s getting all his chitalia…”
“And we can’t just say it’s from a little magic box under our bed?”
“Somehow I think Star Fleet Command might take a dim view of that.”
A eunuch walked over to deliver Uhura’s necklace. “If you’re finished here, the First Wife would like to speak to you.”
“To me?” Uhura asked, sounding surprised.
“Yes,” the eunuch lowered his voice discreetly. “She has an appointment with the Kalee tonight and would like to ask your advice on… certain matters.”
The communications officer smiled and patted his arm. “Tell her I’ll be right there.”
“Umph,” Gollub snorted as the eunuch moved out of earshot. “I can’t wait to see what happens after you give him a blow job.”
Uhura grinned as she draped the pendant around her neck and rose to leave. “I’m going to be the Kalee then, Sugar.”
“Have you noticed that we don’t fight when Uhura isn’t here?” Daphne said. She and Chekov were laying side by side on the futon on the terrace of their apartment watching the sunset. “She must be a bad influence on us.”
The Russian’s noncommittal response confirmed Gollub’s suspicion that he wasn’t listening to her. “Hey,” she reached over and tapped him lightly on the nose. “Are you worried about her?”
Chekov shrugged. “She’s a competent officer. She was aware of the situation into which she was putting herself and seems confident of her ability to cope with any difficulties that might arise.”
“Uh-huh.” Gollub replied, although she didn’t buy a word of the official Russian party line. “You’re worried about her.”
“I didn’t say that.” He folded his hands behind his head. “She’s a competent officer…”
“You’ve already done that speech, bubee,” she reminded him gently.
“Oh.” The navigator sighed and put an arm around her. “Sorry.”
They were silent for a moment.
“You wish it was you, don’t you?” Gollub asked suddenly.
Chekov raised an eyebrow. “In the harem?”
“No,” she said giving him a playful pinch. “You wish that you were the one out facing danger in some manly way.”
The Russian agreed with a shrug. “I would have less time to worry.”
“You’re glad it’s not me, aren’t you?” Daphne asked, unable to resist pushing her point a little further.
“Yes,” her lover answered a little too quickly and emphatically.
“And is that because you love me so much? Or because you think I’d open my mouth and blow the whole operation within the first fifteen minutes?”
Chekov stopped, paused, and considered carefully before answering. “Because of the affection I have for you, of course.”
“Of course.” Daffy curled up against his chest and sighed. “I don’t like this mission any more. I wanna go home.”
“Now that Uhura has infiltrated the Kalee’s court, she should be able to obtain the information we need to complete the mission.” Chekov brushed the hair off her forehead and gave Gollub a reassuring kiss.
“Soon,” he replied easily.
“Really?” she asked, looking up at him.
“Theoretically,” Chekov said, being as simultaneously positive and honest as he felt it was prudent for him to be.
Daffy smiled at this charming manliness. “You still worried about her?”
“Somewhat,” he admitted.
She let her fingers walk up his chest. “Too worried to have sex?”
“Well,” Chekov said taking her into his arms. “Uhura is a very competent officer…”
Teclum narrowed his eyes at the sight of someone seated on his throne until he recognized the interloper. “You are lucky that you are my very good friend,” he said to the thin, dark-haired man. “Otherwise, I would have to kill you.”
Lane Gage, Dealer Extraordinaire, smiled as he relinquished his seat. “Similarly testosterone-laden greetings to you, too.”
Tomor Rand shook his head. “You’ve got a lot of faith in that translator, Boss,” he said in their native language.
Apparently Gage’s faith was justified, for Teclum smiled as he gestured the owner of the H.T.E. Leather to a cushion beside him. “What do you wish of me, my friend?”
“This time it might be what we can do for you,” Gage replied, seating himself comfortably and accepting a cool drink from one of the Kalee’s concubines. “We’ve picked up what may be subspace transmissions…” Gage’s translation device gave a warning beep. “Uhm… magical vibrations in this area. Have you seen any signs that the….uhm… trolls may have returned?”
A deep chuckle escaped from Gage’s Security Advisor. He quickly converted the sound into a cough.
“No,” Teclum answered, gesturing for one of his women to bring him something from the other side of the room. “I have remained vigilant, as you warned, but I have seen nothing.”
A beautiful, veiled concubine offered Gage a shisofa cigar from a bejeweled box.
“Nothing?” the Haven repeated. “No unusual incidents? No noticeably curious newcomers to the area?”
The Kelincarian considered. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “A delegation of Covonites arrived last week. Nothing other than that.”
Gage turned off his translator. “Dammit. I was hoping this wouldn’t take long.”
“They always give us some really fine weed,” Tomor commented as he accepted a cigar from a lovely dark-skinned concubine who was wearing a large pendant. “But they never smoke any with us.”
“I’d say it’s because they know our reputation,” Gage said, “but it’s cultural thing. They think it keeps us from killing them.”
“Works for me.” Tomor smiled at the concubine as he pocketed an extra cigar. He was a somewhat surprised when she gave him a saucy little flicker of a smile in return before turning back to her master’s side.
Gage turned his translator back on. “Why were the Covonites here?”
The Kalee’s hand strayed to the thigh of the beautiful woman beside him. “They brought me a new wife.”
“Lucky you,” Gage said, assuming the translator would render this as some form of congratulations.
“She smells like a goat and squeals like a pig,” Teclum replied sourly.
“Oh?” Gage wondered if the Kelincarian was talking about the woman beside him. If he was, the way he was stroking her leg made it look like the Kalee had a definite taste for farmlife.
“But fortunately, I acquired this ebony beauty soon after.” Teclum grinned wolfishly at woman as he caressed her thigh. “She pleases me greatly.”
Gage stifled a yawn. “Well, that’s nice.”
“She is as skilled as she is beautiful.” Teclum growled sensuously at the woman before dismissing her with a playful slap to her shapely backside. “Go. You distract me.”
The concubine pouted charmingly, but obeyed.
“I would permit you to sample her, if you wish,” the Kelincarian offered generously.
As Gage was framing a polite refusal, Rand broke in, “If you think you’re going to offend him by saying no, Boss, I could…”
The Haven commander rolled his eyes. “Such devotion to duty,” he said sardonically.
Rand shrugged. “Just saying…”
Teclum reached into a chest near his throne and pulled out a handful of jewelry. “Her master also gave me these.”
Gage took one of the necklaces dangling from the Kalee’s fingers. His eyes were immediately drawn to the garish red-veined green stones that had proved so popular in the Tellurite markets. “This is chitalia, isn’t it? It looks untainted.”
Teclum nodded. “He had large supply of pristine stones.”
The Haven smiled. Maybe a little profit could be squeezed out of this miserable little planet after all. “Then there’s a new mine in the region?”
“I know of none.”
“Apparently this merchant does,” Gage said, examining a second and third rope of jewels.
“I’m having him followed,” Teclum informed him. “When he restocks, I’ll find his source and seize it.”
“Hmmm.” It was a sensible plan, but the timetable was a little too indefinite to suit Gage’s schedule. “Far be it from me to tell a capable leader like you your business, but you could just bring him in and have him questioned.”
“Very well.” The Kalee smiled as he reclaimed his jewelry. “I will bring him in. And then you will question him.”
Pavel Chekov tested the bars of his cage and wondered how much worse things were going to get. Apparently, the Kalee had decided that detaining him in clean, well-lit room wasn’t barbaric enough. On what should have been a routine daily visit to the harem, Chekov had been unceremoniously accosted by armed guards and taken to what without exaggeration could be classified as a dungeon. He was led to a dank room with high, stone walls and only a hole in the ceiling for illumination. As if this weren’t enough to hold him, the guards had thrown him into a cage in the middle of the room with sturdy chains attaching it to a hoist in the ceiling. This enclosure was then hauled three feet off the ground.
He had been left there with nothing to do but contemplate his miserable fate for an hour or so when something remarkable happened. The air in front of him began to glitter in the blue glow of a transporter beam. Two humanoid males appeared. One of them carried a torch.
Chekov squinted against the sudden brightness. The other humanoid was carrying what at first looked like a very small torch. Chekov had to blink several times before he figured out the object was actually a lit cigar.
The humanoid took a long drag on the cigar. “You are in a lot of trouble,” he said in Standard into a little box he was carrying in his other hand. The box boomed out, “Prepare to meet thy doom!” in the native dialect of this region of Kelincar.
Chekov wondered if he was hallucinating.
“I am a powerful witch,” his visitor said, then waited for his translator to announce, “I am a chief of the carachachinol,” in an impressive vibrato.
The other humanoid made a stifled snorting noise.
“Oh, shut up, Rand,” the first man said in the common tongue of the Haven Trading Empire -- which Chekov could identify by sound but did not speak or understand. “It’s hard enough to do this without laughing.” He took in a deep breath and turned his translator back on. “He’s a demon, too… An assistant demon… An evil assistant demon.”
Chekov waited while the translator box – which he could now clearly recognize as a novelty item that had been popular on Wriggley’s Planet a few years ago – turned the statement into a much more fearsome introduction of the second man as a minion. Now that his eyes had adjusted, Chekov could positively identify both men as Havens with the black eyes and golden skin of that race. They seemed to be waiting for some sort of reaction from him.
“Uhm….” The navigator’s mind was a complete blank. “Pleased to make your acquaintance?”
The first man snapped off his translator again. “He’s not terrified, Rand. Why is he not terrified?”
“I dunno, Boss,” his companion answered dryly as he used the torch to light a cigar of his own. “You’re scaring the shit out of me.”
Lane Gage, proprietor of the H.T.E. Leather, took another long drag on his cigar. “You have greatly displeased your ruler,” he said to Chekov.
Chekov nodded and looked at the cage enclosing him. “I’ve become aware of that.”
“He’s not groveling in terror, Rand.” Gage turned to his personal guard. “We’ve materialized in a suitably inexplicable manner. I’ve got this damned thing set to what should be pants-wetting level of mystical babble for him… And he seems -- at most --mildly surprised.” He peered at up at the caged navigator. “I suppose I could do some magic….”
“Don’t make it worse, Boss.” Tomor Rand advised.
“He’s not intimidated.” Gage puffed discontentedly on his cigar. “Intimidate him for me, Rand.”
The big Haven put his torch in a holder in the wall. Chomping his cigar between his bared teeth, he walked up to the cage and took hold of the bars.
Chekov took an automatic step backwards.
Rand gave the cage a savage shake. “Sit!” he ordered with a growl.
The navigator sat.
“Thank you, Rand.” Gage smiled and snapped the translator back on. “Your lord and master wants to know the location of your secret cache of chitalia,” the Haven said, then added as he waited for the translation, “And I and a host of Tellurite hausfraus wouldn’t mind knowing either.” Realizing this comment had also been picked up by the box, he had to explain. “Witches like jewels very much, too. We use them for our… evilness.”
Chekov considered what he knew about the psychology of Havens, then replied, “If you free me, I will bring you jewels. Many jewels.”
“Ooooo.” Gage snapped off the translator. “He’s trying to bribe me. Rand, can I be bribed?”
“Normally, or just in this case?”
“Just in this case.”
The big Haven weighed the idea for a moment. “No. I don’t think we can screw Teclum over a minor operator…. Besides, this guy’s not going to last long when we go to work on him.”
Gage frowned at the navigator. “We’re going to have to hurt him, aren’t we?”
Rand shrugged. “It won’t take long.”
The dealer sighed and snapped on his translator. “If you do not give us the location of your cache, we will take your life.” He turned off the device and took another slow drag on his cigar. “Next time I agree to do something because I think it’s going to be a laugh, talk me out of it.”
“There is no secret cache,” Chekov insisted stubbornly. “I obtained the chitalia from a trader I encountered in the mountains.”
Rand waited a long moment for his employer to give the order that should come next. “Heart not in this gig, Boss?”
“My sympathies are with him,” Gage replied. “Coercing a businessman into giving up a monopoly… Is nothing sacred to these barbarians?”
“That’s why they call ‘em barbarians, Boss.”
The Haven turned his head to one side and considered the caged Russian. “And he is a pretty little thing, isn’t he?”
“Quarter of a tab of venus and you could probably fuck the truth out of him,” Rand suggested.
“Drugs.” Gage hit himself on the forehead. “Why didn’t I think of that sooner? How long do you think it would take to mix up a truth serum that will work on this creature?”
“Ten minutes.” Rand grinned and retrieved his torch. “Fifteen, tops.”
“You have an hour to contemplate your intransigence,” Gage said into the translator. “When we return, we will have a magic potion that will make you talk.”
The device rendered the last as “magic poison” in the native language. Chekov was much more alarmed by the untranslated version.
“Why an hour, boss?” Rand asked, getting out his communicator and signaling the Leather.
“I need a drink,” Gage replied as they de-materialized. “And I’m starting to get stoned. Aren’t you?”
Chekov was still sitting on the floor of his cage when Uhura entered flanked by two armed natives. He was surprised to see her here. He was even more surprised when she ran up to the bars, reached through, pulled him forward and kissed him. His level of surprise rose even higher when this turned out to be a quite passionate kiss. Something pressed past his lips. Words alone could not describe his surprise when this thing turned out to be something metal.
“It’s the blaster,” Uhura whispered quickly. “Keep your mouth closed.” Then at a dramatically loud level for the guards, “Oh, Master, you are in such danger!”
Keeping his mouth locked around the tiny weapon, Chekov whispered, “Havens.”
“Big as life and twice as fabulous,” Uhura agreed softly. “I’ve seen them too. I bribed the guards so I’ve only got a minute here.” Loudly. “Master, you must tell the Kalee what he wants to know!”
“We must get out,” Chekov tried to say. It came out sounding more like, “Vemusgout.”
“Don’t talk,” Uhura advised, brushing his hair back and smoothing his jacket with what she hoped would read to the guards as gestures of concern. “You’ve got to get out. The easiest way is to burn through the lock with the blaster and climb out through the ceiling. Can you do it?”
The navigator glanced up at the daunting twenty feet of chain above him before he nodded. “You?”
“On the west side of the palace, there’s a women’s quarter garden that’s separated from a private residence by a hedge. Two guards patrol it. As soon as you were arrested, I sent word to Daffy. If she got it, she’s in a wooded area near that private residence with our equipment. Find her. Give her the blaster and have her meet me at that hedge.”
“Mmm…” the Russian began his objections to the plan.
“No. Daffy. Not you.” Uhura said, and then raised her voice for the guards. “No jewels are more precious than your life, Master!” Lower. “ Too dangerous for you to be near the women’s quarters… or the palace at all.”
The navigator conceded this point with a nod, but tried to voice other potential flaws, “Mmm..””
“The two of you need to change your appearance as much as possible,” the communications officer ordered. “And don’t try to contact the ship. The Havens are monitoring subspace frequencies.”
Chekov’s eyebrows shot up in alarm at this last piece of news. “Vavill…?”
“What will we do?” Uhura translated. “I’m working on that. But we’ve got everything we need. Our job here is done. All we have to do now is get home.”
The Russian gave a little laugh to indicate how easy he didn’t think that was going to prove to be.
“Yes, Master,” Uhura said for the benefit of the guards. “I will go immediately to the Kalee and plead for your life.” She leaned forward and gave him a much more sisterly kiss on his cheek. “Good luck, Sugar. Don’t have too much fun without me.”
Half an hour later, Chekov’s cell received a pair of visitors.
“Where the hell is he?” Lane Gage demanded.
Tomor Rand went forward to examine the swinging door of the cage. “Not here.”
“Thank you, Captain Obvious.” Gage crossed his arms. “Anything a little more useful?”
Rand put his finger through the neat hole in the door’s lock left by the blaster. “I think I’ve found our Klingon spy.”
“Damn it!” Gage exclaimed, hitting himself on the forehead for missing what now seemed like an obvious set of clues. “And to think, for a full ten seconds, I was actually considering fucking that little bastard…”
“That was just the weed talking, Boss,” Rand consoled, letting his eyes trace the possible escape path up to the ceiling grate which was now missing several bars.
“Well, this falls into your jurisdiction, now, Security Advisor,” Gage said crossly. “Where the hell is he?”
“I don’t know where he is.” Rand put his face closer to the bars to better evaluate the hint of a familiar scent. “But I’m getting a good idea where he’s going to be.”
“Come on. Come on. Come on,” Uhura urged silently, trying to remember to keep a pleasant expression on her face.
The eunuchs guarding this garden didn’t patrol in a predictable pattern. They ambled back and forth randomly, frequently pausing to eavesdrop on the animated conversation or musical performances of the gathered concubines.
“Just a few more steps…” The communications officer pleaded silently. A few more steps would take the guard on the right in front of the spot in the hedge where Daphne Gollub, miserable and mud stained, was laying in wait, ready to stun him when she got the signal from her fellow officer.
The signal would be hard to miss. Under the cup Uhura was casually holding on her lap there was a tiny little toad/rodent-like creature. The communications officer estimated it would take the repellant little vermin only seconds to turn this picturesque group of lounging ladies in to a screaming, scrambling mob. In the confusion, no one was going to notice the collapse of the guard and her subsequent escape….. Or would if that idiot would just move a little closer….
“Oh, shit,” Uhura thought, noticing that the woman sitting in front of her playing on harp-like instrument was looking at someone approach from the direction of the palace. “Not Teclum. Not now.”
She glanced over to the spot thirty feet away where Daffy was crouched under the hedge. Uhura wracked her brain trying to figure out a way to signal, “Come back in fifteen minutes.” For a second, she caught a very clear glimpse of Gollub’s face from between the leaves. Daffy’s eyes went as wide as saucers before she disappeared back into the hedge like a scared rabbit.
What’s got into her? she wondered.
A heavy, golden-skinned hand landed on each one of her shoulders.
“My colleague and I would like ask you...” a masculine voice was saying.
Uhura released the little creature she was hiding. As predicted, the group of women was immediately plunged into frantic motion.
Unfortunately, the Haven who had a grip on her was not scared of mouse-toads. Instead of fleeing in terror, when she ducked from under his grip, he grabbed her around her waist and lifted her off her feet.
The other Haven was frowning. “Was that entirely necessary?” he asked her acidly.
“Resistance is useless,” the first Haven informed her, tightening his grip. When she turned back so she could see his face, he grinned. “But don’t let that stop you. It kinda tickles.”
“The Klingonese capacity for sheer bone-headed stupidity never ceases to amaze me,” Lane Gage said, crossing his arms. “Once more the Haven Trading Empire is going to be forced to resort to violence where a simple “Keep Out” sign should suffice.”
He thinks I’m a Klingon, Uhura thought. Well that’s going to be great for the two seconds it lasts.
“Your partner may have slipped our grasp,” Gage was saying. “But I assure you that is only a temporary state of affairs…”
A gaggle of eunuchs stormed up. “Sir,” one of them gasped. “You must unhand the Master’s woman!”
When the Haven took out his translator, Uhura belatedly realized that they had been speaking to her in their own language. She hoped she’d looked confused enough to plausibly deny she’d understood anything.
“She’s an agent of the…Troll people,” Gage was saying. “We’re going to take her to our… magic sky palace.”
“You cannot take her!” The guards’ tone was less demanding and more pleading this time.
“Oh, yes, I can,” the Haven retorted. “I am a great and powerful… and at this point, very easily pissed off witch. I can do anything I want.”
The eunuchs threw themselves at his feet, all pretence of threat gone. “Oh, please, my Lord! He’ll kill us if you take her! Please, don’t take her to your sky palace!”
Gage sighed impatiently and looked to his Security Advisor.
“He will probably kill them,” Rand confirmed.
“Do I need this aggravation?” the Haven dealer asked any listening deity. When no divine intervention presented itself, he sighed again. “Fine. I’ll go work this out with our pal, Teclum. Rand, take the Klingon to our room and hold her there.”
“Okay, Boss,” Rand grinned and firmed his grip on his captive. “I’ll hold her anywhere you want.”
Go to Part Three
Return to Part One
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum