Ebony Beauty

by Mylochka

(Standard Year 2247)

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PART THREE

“What was she thinking?” Chekov asked himself aloud for the tenth time. He was sitting in the tiny shelter he’d built in the woods near the palace. What their new accommodations lacked in opulence, they made up in security. The outside was thoroughly camouflaged and the interior was shielded from sensor probe. When Uhura and Daphne got here, they’d all be quite safe…. If they ever got here.

To keep his mind off all the things that could go wrong with Uhura’s escape plan, Chekov went back to sorting through the bag of supplies Gollub had brought with her from their hotel room. Although the chemist did a commendable job of quickly breaking down and transporting the essential equipment that needed to be removed from the hotel, she’d not done a very good job of packing supplies. From the look of the contents of this bag, it looked like she’d just swept off the top of her dresser. Instead of food, water, and medical supplies, the bag was filled with scarves, jewelry, makeup, perfumed soap, a pack of rolling papers, and a spoon.

“What was she thinking?” Chekov asked again as he pulled out a dainty monogrammed hand towel from the hotel.

There was a sudden banging from the outside of the shelter. “Let me in! Let me in!” Gollub shouted, ignoring the entry procedure they had agreed on.

Chekov only spent a second weighing the wisdom of asking her for the password against the likelihood he’d be smacked in the back of the head. He quickly unfastened the door. Gollub tumbled in mud-streaked and wild-eyed.

“Gage! Gage! Gage!” she gasped, taking him by the shoulders.

“Where’s Uhura?” he asked.

“Gage!” she repeated urgently, shaking him. “Gage! Gage!”

Chekov took her arms and stilled her. “Daphne, where is Uhura?” he asked slowly and clearly.

“Gaaaayyyy—ge,” she repeated drawing the word out as if he was hard of hearing. “It was Gage. Gage got her.”

“What are you talking about?”

Gollub took a moment to catch her breath and wipe the mud from her face. “Drink,” she requested. “Drink.”

“You didn’t pack any water,” Chekov said, searching through the bag. “All I can see is…”

Daffy grabbed the bottle of liquor from him and gulped down a surprising quantity of it.

“Who or what is Gage and what’s happened to Uhura?” the navigator asked after giving her a moment.

“Gage is a Haven,” Daphne explained. “The Havens grabbed Uhura.”

Chekov closed his eyes. “Oh, no.”

“Not only is Gage a Haven, he is a Haven who has known me since I was thirteen years old.”

“Did he see you?”

“I hope not. I don’t think anyone came after me.” Daffy took another big sip from the bottle. “If he saw me though, he’ll not only know that we’re from the Federation, he may even remember what ship I was on… in addition to all sorts of other awkward things he could possibly remember… What do you think they’ll do to Uhura?”

“Question her.” Chekov leaned back against the shelter wall and contemplated the enormity of this latest disaster. “At which time they will know we are from the Federation -- regardless of whether or not you were recognized.”

“We’re spies, aren’t we?” Gollub said, joining him.

“It could be interpreted that way.”

“What do you think Havens do to spies? Kill them? Sell them into sex slavery? Reveal embarrassing and possibly incriminating incidents from their youth to their commanding officers?”

“Nothing good,” Chekov confirmed, accepting the bottle she offered. “If only we could contact the ship.”

Gollub took in a deep breath. “So tell me again why we can’t do that?”

“Because the Havens are monitoring subspace frequencies,” the navigator explained patiently.

“And why you can’t think of some way to get around that?”

“Because I’m not a Communications specialist,” Chekov explained less patiently. “Do you have a solution?”

Gollub reclaimed her bottle. “My dear boy, I dabble in other people’s personal lives – not their professions.”

The Russian frowned. “I hope you remember this conversation the next time you’re berating me for wishing to spend time studying topics that are not going to be on the Officers Exam instead of drinking with you and your friends.”

“What I’m gonna remember is that being a prick in the past isn’t helping you think of a way out of this right now,” Daffy retorted. “Assuming I live long enough to hold a grudge about this… which I plan to do.”

They frowned at each other silently for a moment.

“So,” Gollub said after a moment. “What exactly are you not able to do that you need to be able to do to contact the ship?”

“I don’t know,” the navigator replied peevishly.

“Even though the Havens are monitoring us, couldn’t you bounce the signal off something so it would look like it’s coming from someone else?”

“There’s nothing to “bounce” off,” Chekov explained. “No other computers or transmission devices on this planet at all.”

Daffy considered this for a moment as she reclaimed her bottle and took another drink. “The Havens have computers.”

The Russian shrugged. “They do.”

Gollub offered him the bottle. “And you can’t use them?”

“I couldn’t…” Chekov stopped himself in the midst of a negative reply. He paused and took a sip of the Kelicarian liquor as he considered. “Perhaps… I suppose I could disguise the signal as… No, it wouldn’t work. I would have to know the exact location of their ship.”

“Does it have to be the ship?” Gollub dug the hand towel out of her bag and began to clean her face. “Couldn’t you just use one of their communicators?”

“Communicators?” The navigator turned this unusual idea over in his mind as he took another sip from the bottle. “Again, we would have to know the exact location of the devices, but I could disguise a signal as positioning data and relay it through one of… It would have to be a very brief message.”

“Save our asses.” Gollub counted the words off on her fingers. “How long can that take?

“Yes, a simple S.O.S. message would be sufficient,” Chekov agreed. “But we will have to locate the Havens.”

“Considering that the Havens are looking for us, that might not be so hard,” Daffy pointed out, using a piece of soft soap to get some of the mud stains from her arms. “We’re going to have to find them before they find us.” She turned to find her boyfriend giving her a strange look. “What?” she demanded. “I can be smart and brave too, you know.”

He nodded approvingly. “So, I see.”

“Surprised?”

Chekov smiled. “I’m impressed.”

“Well, if you’re impressed now, bubee,” she said, grinning as she lined up a range of items from her bag. “Wait until I tell you the plan I just thought up….”

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“Okay,” Tomor Rand said, setting his captive down on the huge bed in Lane Gage’s quarters. “Here are the ground rules. You are going to sit here and look pretty and I am going to sit over there and watch you look pretty ‘til the boss gets back. Got it?”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying to me!” Uhura protested in the native dialect. “Why have you abducted me? I’ve done nothing!”

“Here’s the thing,” Rand said, sitting down beside her. “Like my boss, I assumed we weren’t going to be on this planet more than a few minutes so I didn’t bother to learn the language. Unlike my boss, though, I didn’t buy a gimmick translator from a vending machine the last time we were on Wriggly’s.”

“I don’t understand you,” Uhura repeated, sticking to her guns. “Please, let me go!“

“Right,” Rand replied reasonably. “I’d tell you to cut the crap and speak Klingonese, but I don’t know enough Klingonese to say that.”

The Communications Officers briefly wondered how much strategic value there would be in babbling a few words in that language to further the Havens’ mistaken assumption. She decided to hold that tactic in reserve. It might be more convincing under duress.

The Haven’s black eyes were running over her with the probing intensity of a scanner beam. “Somehow I get the feeling that you might not know that much Klingonese yourself. If this is all a skin job –“ He ran a finger down her cheek. “—then it’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

There was palpable electricity in his touch. Oh, Lord, Uhura sighed to herself. Why do I always get all the right chemistry with all the wrong people at all the wrong times?

“Somehow I get the feeling that if I were to switch to Standard,” Rand said, changing to that language. “Which I speak very well – that you would understand every word.” He let his hand drop to her shoulder. “Even if I were to say that what I really want to do right now is to unwrap this annoying piece of silk from your sweet, firm…”

“Okay, Buster,” Uhura said in the Kelicarian tongue she knew he didn’t understand as she removed his sliding hand from her body and placed it in his lap. “Even a native girl would be able to read nonverbals.”

“Yeah, probably better to keep this professional,” Rand replied to her action instead of her words. He wiped his hands off on his pants and stood. “Fine, then all you need to know is that I am Tomor Rand, Security Advisor and personal bodyguard of Lane Gage, Dealer Extraordinaire and proprietor of the H.T.E. Leather. And for the next half hour or so I will be guarding your body… though not as personally as I’d like.”

Then again… Uhura said to herself, reaching for the Haven’s hand. What would one of the Kalee’s concubines assume she was supposed to do if she suddenly found herself in a bedroom with a man she’d been offered to earlier that day?

The Haven’s black eyes were full of hunger when he turned back towards her.

“Come on, big boy,” she said, lowering her eyes demurely as she placed the Security Advisor’s hand on her breast. “Let’s see how personal we let this get.”

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“Return my ebony beauty to me immediately!” Teclum thundered, pounding on the armrest of his throne. All around him, concubines and eunuchs were weeping from fear or distress. “I have need of her.”

“I can’t,” Gage replied for what seemed like the hundredth time. “She’s a Klingon agent.” His translator squealed in protest. “I mean she’s a Troll.”

“She does not appear as one,” the Kalee argued.

“She’s been…. magically enchanted by the Trolls,” Gage said, wondering why he’d not had the foresight to delegate this unpleasant task to one of the crewmembers who were sitting on their useless asses on the Leather right now.

“Then bring her to me,” Teclum demanded. “I have sorcerers who can free a soul from any occult curse.”

“The problem with that plan is that to free the soul, your sorcerers usually kill the body,” Gage pointed out – unintentionally provoking a fresh round of wailing from a few of the concubines. “And I need her alive… at least for the moment.”

“I have offered her to you,” the Kelincarian reminded him accusingly. “If you wish to enjoy her – do so. But I will have my ebony one back!”

“It’s not quite that simple.”

“I will deliver the skin of the jeweler and his wife, as you ask,” Teclum promised grimly.

The Haven commander held up a finger as he attempted to interrupt. “That’s not exactly what I’m asking…”

“But you must return my woman. My need for her is great.” The Kalee cast a meaningful glare at one of his less attractive wives. She burst noisily into tears and was joined by the women and eunuchs surrounding her.

“Oh, hell.” Gage plugged his ears against the din. “How much longer can this possibly take?”

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“This won’t work,” Pavel Chekov objected for the hundredth time in fifteen minutes.

“Don’t move,” Gollub warned him. “You’ll smear your eyeliner again.”

“I don’t look like a woman,” Chekov said, reiterating the main flaw in her plan. They had decided that the Havens were most likely to be headquartered in the Kalee’s palace. It was the last place where anyone in their right mind would expect the Enterprise officers to return. Then again, being in one’s right mind had nothing to do with Daffy Gollub’s plan.

“Yeah, you do.” Daffy sat back on her heels and surveyed her work critically. “Like an ugly little Slavic woman with a taste for steroids who’s wearing too much makeup.”

“So?” the navigator said as invitation for her to admit defeat.

“So we put on more makeup,” she said cheerfully, reaching for the lipstick. “I know, I know, it’s not logical, but it is often true.”

Chekov stopped her hand. “I won’t let you put that on me.”

“You said that about the eyeliner, the mascara, the powder, the blush… Oh, wait, I forgot the blush.”

“No!” her boyfriend wailed miserably.

“Shhhhh. Like I was saying, you’ve objected to everything except for shaving off your beard, but here you are in costume except for this lipstick. And since time is of the essence, I’m just going to page forward to the point where you stop kvetching and agree.”

“I’ll be wearing a veil,” the Russian protested.

“A thick one, sweetheart,” his girlfriend assured him. “A very, very thick one. Like a muffler, this veil will be.”

“Then what’s the point?”

“Darling,” she said gently. “This sheyner ponim needs all the help it can get.”

It was obvious that the easiest way to enter the palace from their location would be through the hedge adjoining the women’s quarters. The reasoning behind the rest of Gollub’s plan was less clear.

“I don’t see why I must go,” Chekov burst out, when the lipstick was an inch from his face.

“Because,” she said, grabbing him firmly by the chin. “Lane Gage knows me.”

“You would be in disguise,” the Russian pointed out, pulling back as much as he was able to.

“Oh, he’s seen me in costumes before…” Daphne said, carefully rouging her boyfriend’s unwilling lips. Then perceiving that the narrow look he was giving her was not all due to the makeup, she added innocently, “At Halloween parties, bubee.”

Finally satisfied, she released him. “There you go.”

Chekov frowned at her, looking every bit as ridiculous as he felt. “This is a crazy plan.”

“I know,” Daffy said, then concluded in her trademark manner, “That’s why it will work.”

Boizhe moi,” Chekov grumbled, collecting the items he was going to take with him. “How do I get myself into such situations as this?”

Gollub stopped him as he started to rise. “Be careful, Moscow,” she cautioned, tenderly brushing back the long thick bangs she’d cut to hide his unfeminine eyebrows. “If you get killed, I’m going to be really, really mad at you.”

Chekov had to smile. “Well, if it’s going to make you angry, Dafshka, I will make an effort to stay alive.” He leaned forward.

She quickly put a hand on his chest and turned her head away.

“Don’t kiss me.”

“Why not?” the Russian teased, reaching forward.

“Honey, even if I were a lesbian,” she grimaced, pushing him towards the door. “I would not be that kind of a lesbian.”

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“Wow.” Tomor Rand rolled over onto the now sweaty and twisted sheets of Lane Gage’s bed. “That was….Wow. Girl, that was…. Damn.”

“Amen, brother,” Uhura sighed, remembering not to speak in Standard.

"Mmmm.” The Haven smiled and turned back to kiss her. “I’m almost ashamed to admit that I assumed you were just seducing me so you could try to escape.”

“Actually,” the Communications Officer whispered in his ear in a language she knew he didn’t understand. “That was the plan. I just didn’t foresee getting sidetracked by the best sex I’ve had in… ever.”

“Ebony Beauty,” Rand purred, running his hand down her deliciously warm body. “That what Teclum called you, isn’t it? I can see why he’s going to be sad to lose you.”

She nibbled his neck. “I’m not all that broken up about it.”

“I wish I could keep you.” The Haven caressed one of her breasts possessively. “Surely I’ve got enough blackmail material on Gage to cover one little favor…”

“I wish you could, Sugar,” Uhura confided, running her fingers affectionately over her favorite part of his anatomy. “I sure wish you could.”

“Speaking of the boss…” Rand sighed heavily. “He should be back by now. We’d better get dressed. Although if we didn’t, I don’t know he’d do anything other than dive in the middle….”

The Haven reluctantly disengaged himself and rolled over to the other side of the bed. His automatic first impulse was to retrieve the laser pistol he’d hastily stashed under the bedside table in the mad dash to rid himself and his new lover of all their clothing.

It wasn’t there.

“That’s weird,” he said to himself, feeling further under the table. “I know I put it there. And I know I didn’t give you a chance to steal it…”

He really hadn’t. It was only by purest chance her outflung hand had hit on something cold and metal while he had her draped over the side of the bed. Many minutes passed before her overheated and preoccupied brain realized what she’d touched. Longer stretches of time went by before she could manage to get herself into the same position again. She had enjoyed getting in place so much she’d initially forgotten any secondary reason for being there. The communications officer ended up with only a second to bat the gun underneath the bed and hope it reached the other side... and hope she’d remember to look for it should an opportune moment present itself. At this opportune moment, Uhura paused only to check the setting was on stun before firing the purloined weapon.

“You just don’t know me very well, Sugar,” she said, regretfully kissing the unconscious Haven’s cheek. “Although… damn, big boy, I so would love to give you the opportunity to know me inside and out.”

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Chekov was getting desperate. By his calculations, the first of the string of guards he’d had to stun to penetrate this far into the Kalee’s palace would be waking up within the next ten minutes. He was nowhere near completing his objective. To be perfectly honest, he was lost. The navigator had become quite familiar with the public areas of the palace, but the maze of corridors in the private area was a complete mystery that was not getting any clearer.

The Russian paused and tried to get a fix on his location. Women’s clothing, he reflected as he tugged the mass of shawls and draperies Daphne had layered on him back into place, was difficult to manage and not terribly comfortable. He hoped real women had a better time of it than he was having.

The sound of a voice and footsteps heading rapidly in his direction froze the Russian in his tracks. He ducked into a nearby alcove and pretended to be engrossed in examining the statue standing there as he readied his weapon.

The voice turned out to be Haven, and from the epithet-laden mutterings, Chekov gathered that this was Lane Gage. The Haven seemed to be bemoaning finding his security advisor naked and unconscious in his empty room, and could scarcely believe that, as he snarled, “the highly professional and nearly infallible Tomor Rand made the first and worst rookie mistake in the book.”

“I’ll never let him live this down,” the Haven vowed, stalking down the maze of corridors to inform Teclum that his precious ebony beauty had escaped and was at liberty somewhere in the palace.

As the Haven stormed past him, Chekov thought he’d gone unnoticed. However, the Haven stopped suddenly at a junction of hallways and snapped on his translator.

“Woman!” the translator box thundered ominously. “Which is the quickest way to the Kalee’s chamber?”

After taking a quick glance to make sure he was the only other person within earshot, the navigator wrapped his hand in the loose end of one shawl and gestured to the right, keeping his head bowed and his face averted.

“Right.” Gage set off down the hallway. Apparently he forgot to deactivate his translator, though. Chekov could clearly hear it say, “If I were that fucking ugly, I’d be shy too.”

The navigator frowned as he set off at discrete distance behind the Haven. He’d not gotten more than three steps when he was stopped by another familiar voice.

“Chekov?” Uhura stepped out from the shelter of a doorway. “Is that you? What the hell are you doing here?”

The Russian was so relieved to see her alive and not in the custody of the Havens that he could have given her the sort of kiss she’d surprised him with earlier. He grinned. “Rescuing you?”

“Gee, thanks,” she replied, putting a hand on her hip. “I’ve always wanted a knight in bright shining eyeshadow.”

“Actually, Daphne and I decided to try bouncing a signal through one of the Havens’ communicators in order to get an S.O.S. through to the ship.”

The Communications Officer nodded. “That’s a good idea.”

“I needed to ascertain the exact location of one of the Havens’ communicators.”

“Well, other than the one that just stomped off that way there are parts of one in a room 30 meters behind me.”

“Parts?”

Uhura held up a tiny glittering gem. “I removed the resonating crystal -- just as a precaution.”

Chekov looked down the hallway Gage had taken and did a quick mental calculation of the number of guards that lay in that direction. “Can you put it back?” he asked apologetically.

Uhura sighed. “Yes.”

“And make certain it stays in the same location for at least twenty minutes?”

Unbidden, a very pleasant way to accomplish this task came into the Communications Officer’s mind. “Yes.”

“You’ll need this.” The Russian handed her a tiny circle of metal. “It’s ganzarite. Not normally found on this planet. I was going to use it to mark the location of the communicator.”

“And now we can use it to mark the location of me.” Uhura nodded approvingly.

“You need to stay within five feet of the communicator until after I’ve signaled the ship.”

“Will do.” She took the pendant containing the imaging device from around her neck and draped it around his. “Here. You can have this.”

“Thank you.” Chekov smiled unenthusiastically. “It’s lovely.”

“It goes with your outfit,” she said brightly. “And brings out the color of your eyes.”

“You can take this.” The navigator held out the tiny blaster.

“No, Sugar.” She pushed the tiny weapon back towards him. “Looking like that, you’re gonna need it more than me.”

“Hmph,” the Russian snorted, but kept the blaster nonetheless.

“I know that I said you needed to change your appearance as much as possible, but this isn’t exactly what I meant.”

“It was Daphne’s idea.”

“Kinky,” Uhura commented just to tease him. “Listen, what kind of E.T.A. are we looking at for the ship?”

“After I signal…” Chekov did a rough estimate in his head. “Around two hours. Are you confident that you can keep the Haven occupied for so long?”

“Oh, yeah,” she assured him, then turned her fellow officer so he was facing opposite the direction Gage had taken. “Left. Right. Right. Left to the end of the courtyard and you’re back in the garden. Got it?”

“Yes.” He turned to look at her over his shoulder. “Be careful, Lieutenant.”

“You too, Sugar.” She sent him off with a satirical slap to his silk-clad backside. “Remember not to flirt with the eunuchs. There’s just no future in it.”

He gave her a final glare, but set off down the corridor.

Uhura turned back in the direction of the Havens’ quarters with a sigh. “Oh, the things I do for the Federation…”

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“If he’s dead,” Daphne Gollub said to herself. “I’m going to kill him.”

She had almost completed assembling the communications unit. “Great Academy training,” she congratulated herself. “I can set it up. I can break it down. I know how to turn it on. I know how to turn it off. But I don’t really don’t have a clue as to how it works.”

It seemed like at least one piece of the useless general knowledge Chekov loved so much to collect was actually turning out to be worth something. If anything happened to him, she was up clueless creek without a subspace transmitting station.

“I hate it when he’s right,” Daffy fumed. “Sanctimonious, geeky bastard. If he’s not dead, I’m going to break up with him.”

The thought stopped her cold.

She closed her eyes. “Oh, God, please don’t let him be dead.”

As in response to her plea, there were three distinct knocks at the door.

“What the hell took you so long?” she demanded, opening the door without bothering to complete the recognition code they’d agreed on. “I bet you got lost.”

Chekov had to crouch to enter the low-ceilinged shelter. “I saw Uhura.”

“Was she all right?”

“Yes.” The navigator crawled over to the comm unit, shedding shawls and veils as he went.

Gollub moved out of his way. “They hadn’t beamed her up to their ship?”

“I don’t think so.” Chekov began fitting the remaining pieces of the transmitter into place. “She’d escaped from them.”

Daffy frowned. “And you made her go back?”

The Russian paused and sighed guiltily. ‘There didn’t seem to be any other solution.”

Schmuck,” Gollub accused.

“Yes.” The navigator resumed piecing together components. “I am.”

Schmuck in drag,” she said just to see if she could make it worse.

“Yes. Exactly.” Chekov didn’t even look up from his work. “I am not only a schmuck, but the lowest and most ridiculous possible form of schmuck.”

There wasn’t any pleasure in beading up someone who was too busy beating themselves up to notice.

Chekov was shaking his head as he snapped the unit’s cover into place. “I should have found some way to convince her to let me take her place.”

The mental image this prompted was enough to break Gollub’s bad mood.

Bubee,” she said, unable to suppress a smile. “Those guys are pretty smart. I think they’d notice they had a different girl… especially a girl as different as you are.”

Chekov was too busy entering commands into the transmitter’s control panel to reply. After a few moments of intense button-mashing, the Russian sat back on his heels. “There.”

“Did it work?” she asked as the little machine began to automatically deactivate.

Chekov shrugged. “We will see.”

“How long?”

“Basing their current position on a projection of their heading when we beamed down and assuming a constant speed with no significant course changes --- And assuming the ship recognizes the signal and heads this way at top speed – And factoring in at least a 30% slow down once the Haven ship is detected..” Chekov paused and seemed to calculate something out on his fingertips. “…They should be here in one hour, forty- three minutes and fifty-seven seconds.”

“Nice Spock impression,” Gollub complimented him. “Is it worth anything?”

The Russian shrugged. “We’ll know in one hour, forty-three minutes and fifty-five seconds.”

“What are we supposed to do until then?”

Chekov looked around the cluttered survival shelter and made a quick mental list of mission priorities. “I’m going to wash my face,” he decided.

Gollub handed him the softsoap. “Better hurry. You’ve only got one hour, forty-two minutes and fifteen seconds to get it done.”

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“Gotcha.”

Uhura gasped as the Haven grasped her around the waist. He’d come within seconds of catching her finishing reassembling his communicator.

“Sorry I fell asleep.” The Haven nuzzled her neck. “That doesn’t usually happen. But that sex… Mmmm. I feel like I just came out from under a light stun.”

Uhura smiled in spite of the fact that Rand’s tone made it sound like he knew exactly what had happened. She carefully fastened the barrette containing the ganzarite very securely in her hair.

“Glad you didn’t try anything stupid while I was out.” Rand reached past her to put his weapon in the drawer in front of her and turn the lock.

“Yeah,” she agreed in the Kelincarian dialect of this region. “That would have been just awful.”

“Glad you didn’t run away,” the big Haven said, gently relieving her of her clothes.

“So am I, baby,” she replied, smiling as she did the same for him. “So am I.”

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“No Klingon life signs?” Gage was arguing with his communicator as he watched a group of the Kalee’s guardsman question the patrons of a bar a few streets away from the palace. “What do you mean, no Klingon life signs? There are three Klingon agents disguised as natives within a 20-mile radius of my location. How much more do I need to narrow it down for you?”

“Maybe if you could stand in the same room with them and point?” the Haven officer on the other end of the line suggested.

“Nobody likes a smartass,” Gage reminded his subordinate.

“Otherwise you’d be really popular,” the officer replied, unfazed.

“Maybe our forked-eyebrowed friends have gotten clever – as unlikely as that seems,” Gage mused. “Scan again. This time look for any anomalous readings – any bio-signature that is as much as one degree off spec for this planet.”

“We’ll find them, Lane,” the officer assured him. “Sooner or later.”

“Your confidence overwhelms me,” Gage replied. “I’ll expect a report in ten minutes.”

The Haven watched one of Teclum’s guards threaten a bar patron with a broken chair. While replacing his communicator in his jacket pocket, his fingers hit on the only thing he liked about this whole profitless planet.

Why, oh why, he asked himself, lighting one of the Kalee’s cigars, do the missions that generate the least revenue always seem to generate the most bullshit?

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Daphne Gollub was getting bored. She wouldn’t have thought it was possible, but after more than an hour of being forced to sit still in the tiny, cramped, Star Fleet issued survival shelter she was getting too bored to even be scared. She knew there were good reasons to be scared. She’d gone over all the possible clues she’d left in her wake in her frantic escape from their hotel. First there was the bartender -- tower of trustworthiness that he wasn’t – who she’d bribed to sneak her out through the back. Then there was the pack animal she’d rented to haul the bags… She’d assumed the creature would amble back to its master after she released it, but now had a picture of the stupid thing standing where she’d left it, pointing out her location like a golden retriever. And what about the hundreds of unknown others who could have seen her sneak over the outer walls of this estate – not once, but twice because she’d dropped the re-gen unit the first time?

Gollub sighed and decided it was impossible to stay too concerned about anything when one had well over a half a bottle of Kelincarian gin in them.

Chekov wasn’t much entertainment. He had the sort of blank look on his face that either meant he was doing math in his head or that he was preparing to lapse into a coma.

“You’re worried about her, aren’t you?” she said to make conversation.

Chekov didn’t take his eyes off a dark indicator that he’d set to light up when the ship came within transporter range. “I’m certain she will be all right.”

“It’s okay, bubee.” She patted him on the shoulder reassuringly. “I can tell you’re really worried about her.”

“Oh?” he replied, not paying attention to her.

“Yeah. Wanna know how?

“How?”

Daffy smiled. “Because you don’t seem to notice that you’re still wearing some of my clothes.”

This finally got the navigator’s attention. The idea to set up an automatically activating proximity indicator had hit him when he was in the middle of cleaning off the makeup she’d applied. He’d hastily completed that task and gone to work on the indicator without bothering to change out of the silk skirt and gold sandals she’d lent him.

After looking down to confirm that yes, he was still wearing women’s clothing; the navigator began to scan the tiny hut. “Where are my clothes?”

“I hid them,” Gollub informed him, straight-faced.

Chekov blinked at her for a moment. “Why would you do that?”

“Because I thought it would be funny.”

He folded his arms. “And is it?”

“Oh, yes.” Daffy smiled and nodded. “And according to your calculations, it’s going to get funnier in seventeen minutes and 32 seconds.”

The navigator apparently was not in the same dire need of entertainment as she was. “Dafshka, give me my clothes.”

Daffy wasn’t going to let that spoil her fun, though. “Wrestle you for them,” she offered with a grin.

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

“What the hell are you doing?” Gage demanded.

When the Leather’s Science officer had called to inform him that the only anomalous bio-signs in the area were located in this room, Gage had beamed in expecting to find Tomor Rand locked in mortal combat with the Klingon spy.

The Security Officer did seem to have their prisoner pinned in a position where she wasn’t likely to offer much resistance. When the pair hastily parted, neither looked particularly overjoyed by his arrival on the scene.

“Well, Boss,” Rand answered, breathing heavily. “If you don’t know, there are a few books I could recommend.”

“But... but...” Gage sputtered as the Klingon agent wrapped a sheet around herself. “She wasn’t here. She escaped.”

“No she didn’t,” the Security officer contradicted calmly as he retrieved his pants.

Gage noticed that their Klingonese prisoner put the highest immediate priority on fixing her hair. “Two hours ago she was gone and you were bare-assed and unconscious on the bed.”

“Well, we did have sex…” Rand admitted, unlocking the drawer where he’d stashed his gun.

The Haven commander crossed his arms. “No shit.”

“And I dozed off for a minute…”

“And she escaped,” Gage concluded. “That’s when she wasn’t here.”

“Did you check the bathroom?” Rand asked.

“I…” Gage stopped cold as he realized he hadn’t checked anything. “Oh, fuck it. Let’s get out of here. Put some clothes on your naughty little Klingon friend. We’re beaming up to the ship.”

“Did you work it out with Teclum so we could take her?” the Security officer asked, holding the sheet up so his lady love could dress behind it.

Gage took out his cigar and re-lit it. “I think he’s resigned to the loss.”

“Really?”

“I told him having sex with a Troll woman would make his dick fall off.”

“Think he bought it?”

“Enough to go check.” Gage replied, reaching into his jacket again for his communicator. Before his fingers could reach it, the device began to beep. He flipped it open. “What now?”

“Federation ship in orbit,” his communications officer informed him.

“Perfect.” Lane Gage sighed and took a long drag on his cigar. “That’s just perfect.”

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

On the bridge of the Leather a few moments later, the Haven dealer was less than thrilled to find himself being harangued by the Federation captain who turned out to be the famous and -- at this moment -- very annoying James T. Kirk.

“…without any regard for the long range consequences of social and economic contamination…” the Fed was saying.

Gage rolled his eyes. Was this war or a civics lesson? “Check a map, Captain. Kelincar is Haven territory.”

“The Federation does not recognize your claim,” Kirk rebutted doggedly. “What we do recognize, however, is the massive scale of your interference with this culture...”

“We can do what we wish within our own borders, Captain.” It wasn’t improving Gage’s mood to realize that the Klingon agents had been so hard to find because none of them were Klingon.

“Interfering with this culture puts you in violation of the Organian Peace Treaty.”

“If you’ll read the fine print, Kirk, you’ll notice that treaty applies only to the Federation and the Klingon Empire,” Gage reminded him. “I am happy to say that I am a citizen of neither.”

“Even the Havens must recognize….”

“Let’s cut the sanctimonious crap, shall we?” Gage interrupted. “I have in mind a very reasonable set of terms for the release of your enchanting little spy in the Kalee’s palace, as well as the rest of your people on the planet. However, if I have to listen to much more of this…”

“I have no people on Kelincar,” Kirk said after exchanging a look with someone off screen.

That’s why he why he was stalling, Gage realized. He’s gathering his lost lambs. Aloud he ordered his communications officer, “Cut audio.” He hit the button on the intercom beside him. “Rand, we still have our ebony beauty, don’t we?”

Several decks below him, his security advisor broke off the deep kiss that had been delaying him outside the interrogation room. He stepped away from his prisoner to press the intercom’s switch. “Yeah, Boss. I…”

When he turned, his beautiful captive had started to sparkle.

Call me, she mouthed in Standard before completely disappearing in the Enterprise’s transporter beam.

Rand sighed sadly. “I had her.”

On the Leather’s Bridge, Lane Gage shook his head at this latest unprofitable twist of fate. “And yet somehow, I am not surprised.”

“I think it’s in the best interests for your government and mine that we agree,” Kirk was saying, “we were never here.”

“Good choice, Captain,” Gage nodded. “And for the sake of your ass and mine, the next time I’m “not” here, make damned certain I never find you and yours “not” here again.”

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO

“So,” Ruth Valley asked the guest of honor at the Congratulations on Surviving Your Landing Party party that Daphne Gollub had thrown herself on Deck Five’s rec room. “How was it?”

“Awful,” replied Gollub as she finished scrawling “Last” between the words “Your” and “Landing” in her banner. “Except maybe for the parts where I was spending lots of money, wearing lots of jewelry, eating great food, and smoking some pretty good dope.”

Valley rolled her eyes. “Sounds terrible.”

“Actually,” Chekov said, passing her a tray of appetizers. “It was, at times, a very challenging mission.”

“Hey, Pavel,” Valley said, squinting at him. “You’ve got something red on your mouth… You aren’t wearing lipstick, are you?”

Despite the fact that people had been playing variations of this joke on him for the past day and a half, the navigator seemed to have not yet caught onto the fact that Uhura and Gollub had immediately told everyone he knew about his brief stint as a lady of the palace.

“Excuse me,” he mumbled, covering his mouth and blushing deeply. “I believe that am due on the Bridge.”

“It just seems so pointless,” Daffy said, as her boyfriend beat a hasty retreat. “We bust our asses for weeks prepping to go. Once we’re there we’re abducted, arrested, and chased through mud… And all for what? “We were never here”?”

“You verified that the Klingons had been there and that the Havens are there and think the place belongs to them,” Valley pointed out. “What did you want to do? Start a war?”

“All I know is this,” Gollub concluded, sitting down and pouring herself a drink, “There’s no friggin’ place like home. Right, Uhura?”

“It wasn’t all bad,” her fellow officer replied, without turning away from the extracurricular research on known crewmembers of certain vessels of the Haven Trading Empire. “Not bad at all.”

The End

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