Original story by S Sizemore
rewritten by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2247)

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

Return to Part One of Hotel California:Prologue - Captain's Log, Rentig VI

The Queen's Necklace

“Yes, it’s beautiful, but you know she’ll say no.” The handsome, dark-haired Guard’s voice was teasing as he closed the expensive case and handed it back to his fellow Guard. The reddish-haired man tucked it into the sleeve of his uniform.

“We’ll see,” was his only answer. He smoothed the front of his dark blue and gold uniform. “Hurry up, will you?” Guards were supposed to always travel in their Pairs when on leave, and he was anxious to be away from the ship.

“Personally,” his Pair said a few minutes later as the two young men moved at a brisk walk down the ship’s plank, “I prefer the old ‘girl in every port’ theory. Why settle down with one when the galaxy is just waiting to provide you with thousands of every size, shape and color?”

“I’m old fashioned,” was the other’s reply.

“A man makes his own opportunities in this life.” The response was given with a roguish smile.

After glancing at the saber that hung casually from his Pair’s hip, the Guard was forced to agree, albeit silently. While they both wore the blades as required by their dress uniforms, his Pair’s weapon was a part of him. He took his swordplay very seriously.

“What if they’re not in port?” the dark-haired Guard was asking.

The other was suddenly anxious. “What? I checked just before we docked. They were still working the shuttle run and playing at Pleiades Web.” There was a chuckle and he realized that his Pair had again been teasing. He scowled. “I notice you said ‘they,’ he added dourly, his own attempt at a taunt going flat.

His Pair laughed. “Why not? Jilla’s my girl in this port.”

“How did you two get to be the main characters in this little adventure?” Ruth asked.

“Am I?” Sulu said. “I figured everyone was seeing themselves.”

“Nope, you and Riley, big – well, bigger – than life.”

Sulu leaned forward in his theater seat. “Kevin?”

Kevin shrugged. “Don’t ask me. Maybe we were just picked by the random programming because we’re military men.”

Sulu glanced at Ruth, who shrugged an ‘it’s as good an explanation as any’ and went back to watching the videoplay.


Ruth held her hands up to show that they were empty, then smiled persuasively at the sandy-haired, hazel-eyed man who had been her partner. It was obvious from the rest of her attire that she had nothing concealed on her person. Her dazzling smile spoke clearly. I’m just an impoverished star pilot. Can I help it if I’m also the quadrant’s best fizzbin player?

Kirk tried to remain disgruntled at his rather extravagant loss, but he found the Antari utterly charming. He took more than a moment to enjoy the lithe, tawny, scarcely clad body before him, then stood.

“Oy, Bwana isn’t here, is he?” Ruth murmured nervously, looking around her at the other patrons.

“If he was, he wouldn’t’ve lost,” Sulu pointed out.

“Leaving so soon, Mister?” Ruth asked. “Don’t you want a chance to get even?”

“It’s ‘Captain’,” Kirk said, “ and I still think you cheat.” He grinned. “But I’ll let it go this time. Besides, how would I explain dropping another hundred credits?” He winked at her.

She smiled brightly. “Come back tonight and I’ll play guitar for you,” she offered.

Kirk laughed. “And how much will that cost me?”

She batted her large, purple eyes at him. “Only whatever you think it’s worth,” she breathed.

Kirk closed his eyes, biting his lips. He really wished he didn’t have to go. The girl promised to be just the thing he needed in a shore leave. But he had an appointment, and his duty demanded he see to it. His Executive Officer couldn’t be expected to hold the fort indefinitely. “We’ll see, darling,” he said, and turned, leaving the small café.

“Anyone want to take bets on who the ‘Executive Officer’ is?” Sulu grinned.

“You see any suckers in here, Roy?” Ruth returned.

As the door swung shut behind the Captain, Ruth called merrily after him “Sucker!” Then she collapsed back into her chair, laughing.

“How did that happen?” a startled Jilla asked.

“I told you, random input,” Kevin replied.

“And I’m entitled to have a little fun,” Ruth added smugly.

Jilla left the bar where she’d been making small talk with some fellow pilots. She eased her sensual body into the chair opposite the Antari as Ruth packed away her marked fizzbin deck.

“We’re rich,” she told the small Indiian.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Jilla drawled. Ruth had used both their pay chits as stakes for the game. Not that she’d been overly worried. Fizzbin had been invented on Antares.

“It was not!”

“I’m entitled to have a little fun,” Sulu returned with a grin.

Ruth divided the pile of chits into two equal halves and slid one across the table to Jilla. Jilla stuck the money into an embroidered velvet pouch that hung from her belt. She didn’t bother to count it. “I think I might have a job for us,” she told Ruth.

“Inter-system?” Ruth asked.

Jilla tossed her head contemptuously, her burgundy hair falling into her face as she did so. She pushed it back. “We’re star pilots,” said. “I, for one, am sick of shuttle runs. A freighter heading for Canopus is looking for a Duet.”

“Legal operation?”

Jilla frowned. “I did hear the name Mudd mentioned,” she confessed.

“Not legal,” Ruth rejoined sourly.

“Do you want to get out of the Pleiades or not?” Jilla demanded.

Ruth shrugged. “Listen, you’re the business end of Valjiir, it’s your call.” She smiled, a brilliant display of teeth. “Your wish is always my command.”

Jilla started to respond, but the room had grown suspiciously quiet. She glanced around, trying to see what the cause of the silence was. Two Guards had come swaggering through the doorway. Both were Human, one a slender, boyish-looking charmer with reddish hair. The other was Asian, dashingly handsome, his blue and gold skin-tight uniform accentuating his muscular build. They weren’t the type of customers who usually frequented the Web, hence the sudden silence. Spacers and Guards traditionally kept their distance.

Ruth and Jilla both were on their feet in seconds. Jilla shouted “Sulu!” and ran, glowing, into the Asian Guard’s arms. He picked her up and swung her around, then lowered her into an enthusiastic kiss. Ruth crossed her arms and waited by the table for the other Guard.

“Hello, Kevin, me boy,” she said with a seductive smile. “I could ask the traditional ‘what’s a nice Guard like you’, I suppose, but I’m sure you’re about to let me know.”

“Who’s writing this dialogue?” Sulu asked with a wince.

“What are you complaining about?” Ruth returned. “I’m the one who had to say it.”


Half an hour later, some non-Guild musicians wandered in to try their luck. Ruth rose from her chair – Kevin’s lap – and announced, “I love good music. Let’s get out of here.”

Sulu drained his tankard of ale and bounced to his feet, pulling Jilla with him. “I know exactly where I want to go,” he said.

“My place?” Jilla asked, “Or are you going to take me somewhere lush, comfortable and expensive?”

“That sounds more like Uhura than you, hon.”

Sulu pulled her close to him and looked down into her slate grey eyes. “Anywhere you want is fine with me.”

They lit with excitement. “I know a perfect place, my love,” she purred.

“Come on, Kevin, it’s getting a mite warm in here,” Ruth said as she took him by the hand and pulled him toward the door. Once out in the sunlit street, she put her arm through his and began directing them toward the marketplace. He might have had the same idea as Sulu, but she was more interested in spending her chits than his amorous mood – at least until she needed his amorous mood to gain access to his purse.

“Well, that’s cold,” Kevin muttered.

“It isn’t really me, Kev,” Ruth soothed, then giggled. “You don’t have a purse.”

“I’ve got more money in my pouch right now that I’ve had in months,” she told him. “I intend to buy something extravagant.”

“You’re worth it,” Kevin told her

She smiled at him, but her eyes were wary. “What brings the Star Guards back to the Pleiades?”

His grip tightened on her arm. “I could say you,” he replied softly.

“Save it for the natives, dear.”

“I was looking for you, Ruth.” He sounded hurt, and Ruth sighed, turning to him.

“Of course you were,” she placated, “but why are you in the Pleiades?”

He gave her a wry grin. “Escort duty for the Reaigin ambassador,” he said.

“Ah,” she returned. “Dylithium and diplomats and publicity. Have you seen it?”

“No,” he said with some disappointment. “Sulu got to sneak a look while one of his lovers was on honor duty. Even he was impressed.”

“Well, I don’t approve of it,” Ruth sniffed, trying to sound superior. “It’s such a waste, just decadent exhibitionism. Think of all the power those crystals hold.”

“Think of the history and tradition they represent,” Kevin countered. “Besides, the Reaigin have plenty more where those came from.”

“It’s still a waste.”

Kevin shrugged and they continued on in silence for a few more minutes. Then Ruth tugged on his arm. “Come on, this is the street I want.”

They had just crossed a square bordered with the panorama of the governmental offices and the residence of the System Governor. The Residence was a dramatic structure, an edifice of the purest white marble, gleaming in the sunlight. The style was almost fanciful, graceful spires and towers, huge, ornate, arched doorways, octagonal windows set in precise, exquisite alternating rows from floor to floor. The rest of the governmental buildings were done in increasingly dark shades of the same material, presenting a façade of an immense wall with the same ornate spires fading into a dark background. Ruth had lived in the Pleiades for a while and had grown accustomed to the impressive architecture. That this particular piece of real estate was famous and admired throughout the galaxy meant nothing to her. After all, she couldn’t realize a profit from it. While she had picked up some spare chits entertaining at the parties held there, it wasn’t the buildings who had paid her.

“Since when are you Haven, Ruth?” Sulu wanted to know.

“How should I know? I’m not writing this schlock.”

But the better-educated, more politically savvy Star Guard was more than impressed. Kevin came from a good family, one with leanings toward the Imperial lifestyle and pretensions to greatness. He found a career in the Guards useful, not only for the connections it would bring him, but for broadening his personal experience. Having fallen in love with a Spacer had been unexpected, but not, perhaps, disastrous to his life-plan. Bringing home an alien bride would certainly make him the envy of other men – if he could make her respectable. He didn’t look upon her as a status symbol – he was in love – but it never hurt to combine business and pleasure.

Of course, it would be helpful if she craved respectability.

“By the gods, this gets more beautiful every time I see it,” Kevin commented. Ruth glanced back over her shoulder at the magnificent square, then shrugged.

“I know exactly what I want, and this used to be the best place in the city to get it,” she said, and pulled him into a dimly lit shop. The wall of the small room they entered was lined with row upon row of colorful ceramic, pottery, and glass jars. Hundreds of aromas blended into a heady, sweet scent.

“Do you have any Rigellian Green?” Ruth asked the tentacled being behind the counter.

“Rigellian comes in colors?” Kevin asked.

“When someone laces it with…” Sulu began, then fell silent.

“I don’t like her very much,” Ruth complained. “She isn’t honest.”

“And you always are, right Spike?” Sulu rejoined.

“And what was that about lacing Rigellian and how you’d know about sordid things like that?” Ruth countered.

“Just teasing,” Sulu returned, then smiled charmingly at her. “Besides, my character leaves a little something to be desired too.”

“Face it, you’re all seedy,” Kevin put in. “I’m the one from the upstanding family, looking to improve myself and take this poor Spacer girl from her squalid life into one of respectability and luxury… ow!” he exclaimed as Ruth gave his arm a solid smack.

She added insult to injury by sticking her tongue out at him.


“And I tell you,” the Reaigin ambassador repeated emphatically, “showing the Daasa Stones in a case surrounded by guards is an affront to all Reaiga!”

Captain Kirk was glad that the responsibility was finally out of his hands. Ambassador Cester could be unreasonable with someone else now that he and his precious necklace were safely off Kirk’s ship and in the hands of the civil authorities. The transfer had gone off without a hitch and it only waited for the System Governor to sign the official papers before Kirk and Spock could get the hell out of the residence and enjoy a much-deserved leave. Let Cester give ulcers to Governor Wallace.

He let his attention wander, his mind roaming back to the pleasant Spacer’s bar he had had a quick drink in before reporting to the Residence. And, of course, to the beautiful Antari he’d met there. With any luck, he’d be able to get back before too long. She might even still be there…

His thoughts returned to the discussion at hand when he heard Wallace’s exasperated voice shouting, “Just what, exactly, DO you want?!”

Kirk glanced at his Executive Officer. The Vulcan lifted one eyebrow in a gesture that was amused and unconcerned. Spock’s certainly got the proper attitude toward this whole affair, Kirk noted.

The Reaigin answered Wallace’s bellow with smooth superiority. “If the Stones are to be exhibited, let it be a living exhibit. On our world, they were always worn at ceremonial occasions by the reigning Queen. Of course, we have done away with the monarchy and no one has worn the Stones for a thousand years. But if they are to be shown to the rest of the Empire, let it be in the traditional way.”

“Security would be impossible,” Wallace countered.

“I don’t understand what you mean.” Cester insisted.

Spock leaned over, his voice murmuring softly in Kirk’s ear. “While I understand the Reaigin have no concept of theft on their homeworld,” he said, “one would think the Ambassador had traveled enough to have gotten the idea.”

“Cester’s being stubborn, Spock,” Kirk returned. “He’s just refusing to see things in Imperial terms. Like always.”

Spock straightened, nodding sagely, but his lips quirked in a fleeting smile. Wallace tried again to explain the concerns, but it was clear Cester wasn’t listening.

“But I still insist,” Cester said after Wallace had finished speaking.

Of course, Wallace had no choice but to eventually agree. Kirk would have found it all terribly amusing – except that Wallace turned to him, putting him in charge of that impossible security. It did no good to point out, as Spock did, that the Navy had no jurisdiction on planets that had Imperial Land Forces. Wallace was as stubborn as Cester. Besides, Cester liked Kirk and agreed wholeheartedly that Kirk was the best choice to guard his precious necklace. Sighing, Kirk bowed to the inevitable. At least Spock lowered his eyebrows.

“Now, who is going to wear this treasure?” Wallace wanted to know.

“The Gods will provide,” Cester answered blithely.

“Well, of course they will, there’s an Antari in the story,” Sulu pointed out.

“A vain one at that,” Kevin agreed with a wink at Ruth.


Ruth and Kevin sat relaxing on the steps of the Residence, lazily passing a pipe between them. His uniform was protection from any officious twerps telling them to move along. Neither were quite as aware of their surroundings as they had been when they sat down. Ruth had been right, the Rigellian was the best. Shadows fell over them and Kevin looked up, but the conversation that coalesced around them took place in a foggy dream.

“Well, what have we here?”

“Do you know her, Captain?”

“Not as well as I’d like. Don’t I know you, Guard?”

“He is quite incapable of answering. By the aroma, that is Rigellian Green, one of the most potent of the psychoactive herbs. He is Lieutenant Riley, one of the detachment of Star Guards to the Enterprise for this voyage.”

“Ah, Captain, I’m glad I caught up with you. About this evening… the Gods be praised!”

“Is something wrong, Mr. Ambassador?”

“No, something is in fact quite right.”

Ruth felt someone grasp her chin and tilt her head. Hands pushed her hair away from her face. Someone traced the column of her throat and across the width of her shoulders. She giggled.


She was assisted to her feet and led away, and heard a vaguely familiar voice grumbling something about fizzbin and life not being fair.

“See, what did I tell you?”


It was some time before Kevin noticed Ruth’s absence Slowly, his trance state diminished and he made the connection between the voices he’d heard and the reason Ruth was no longer at his side. Unfortunately, his condition led him to a somewhat erroneous if understandable conclusion.

They’ve taken her! The Reaigin bastard has taken her, aided and abetted by the Navy!

He stumbled to his feet and went searching for the one man who could help him recovered his kidnapped lover.


“Purple, to match her eyes?” Ambassador Cester suggested.

“No, my dear, that would not do at all. We are exhibiting the Daasa Stones, not the young lady,” his wife demurred

“The hair like so?” an aide asked, piling as much of the thick gold mane as he could hold in his hands on top of the Antari’s head.

“We will contrive something,” Lady Kirella replied with a worried frown. Her husband, as beloved as he was, could be quite exasperating. He had brought this girl in and informed her that here was the perfect display for the Daasa Stones, and that she must be made so in an hour’s time. The fact that the display was in a complete stupor wasn’t helping matters at all.

“Blue,” Lady Kirella decided. “Dark blue velvet will show the Stones to their best advantage. Something simple, clean lines, a high neck, I think.” She began sorting through the Designer Originals file of her fabricator until she found something suitable, then punched in modifications until it was perfect. Then she knelt next to the Antari’s chair.

“Dear,” she said gently, and waited for the girl to turn her head, the large purple eyes focusing.

“Ma’am?” the girl said.

“Are you carrying an ID?” Kirella asked, smiling benignly.

“You want to hire me?”

“In a way. Where is your identification?”

“No more shuttle runs, out-system only and not without Jilla…”

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about, child. I only want…”

“Music? I have to get my guitar…” The Antari began looking purposefully around the room.

Kirella remained patient. Being an Ambassador’s wife, she’d had much practice. “Just your ID, dear.”

The girl began fumbling for her belt pouch. She missed it, but Kirella got the idea and quickly dug out the information she needed. Along with the ident card, she found a fully qualified pilot’s clearance, an A-8 computers classification stamp, and a Minstrel’s Guild Membership coin. The girl’s name was Ruth. Her exact measurements were quickly fed into the fabricator.

“So, what are they!” Kevin shouted at the screen.

“You mean you don’t know?” Sulu teased.

“Oh, and you do?”

“Sure. Last time I checked they were… ow!”

“Shut up, Roy.”


Finding Sulu was easy enough. All Kevin had to do was get the name and location of the most expensive hotel in the city. His head had begun to clear, but he was still certain that Ruth had been kidnapped. His Guard uniform got him a pass key, and he burst into the suite, sure his Pair would be eager to help him search for the missing Spacer. “Sulu!” he bellowed.

Several things happened at once. A nova exploded in the large, ornate bed. There was a blur of motion away from the same place. A saber came swinging at him, barely missing his neck. And Sulu’s voice said, incredulously, “Kevin?


“You’re wasted,” Sulu said to Riley’s frantic, incoherent story. Kevin was lucky he was listening at all. He hadn’t exactly been pleased when his Pair had come bursting into their room. Jilla was still glowing a faint silver, and he had put away the sword which had come perilously close to decapitating the intruder.

Jilla angrily started to dress. Ruth was no longer with her lover’s Pair, and that meant her day was ruined. There was, in her opinion, nothing worse than the love-sick Star Guard away from his beloved. “When I get my hands on her…” she muttered.

“She was taken, I tell you,” Kevin moaned, and fell back onto the bed Sulu and Jilla were no longer occupying. “The Reaigin Ambassador and two Navy men kidnapped her… I think there were two… maybe more… I can’t remember…”

“You think there’s any chance you imagined the whole thing?” Jilla asked brusquely. “You Guards aren’t used to Rigellian.” She smiled at Sulu’s snort. “Present company excepted, my love.”

“They took her away from me!” Kevin wailed miserably. “The ambassador and - ” He sat up, his blue eyes wide. “They were from the ship, Sulu! The Captain and his Vulcan! I swear it!”

“A captain?” Jilla broke in abruptly. “What does he look like?”

“Like Captain Kirk,” Ruth giggled.

“Why?” Sulu asked.

“Because there was a Navy captain in the Web before you arrived. Baby-faced, light hair, charming smile…”

“That’s Kirk,” Sulu nodded.

“If Bwana ever hears this somebody is going to be in big trouble.”

Jilla sighed. “It’s all right, Kevin. She knows him. They no doubt went off to have a drink and a quiet, private game of fizzbin.” Her eyebrows arched meaningfully at Sulu, who stifled a chuckle.

“No, it wasn’t like that,” Kevin insisted. “They took her! You have to help me find her! Sulu, please, come to the Residence with me, help me look!”

“Why the Residence?” Sulu asked.

“That’s were we were smoking.”

“Saford’s Hell, Riley, how do you get into these messes?”

Now who's Haven?” Ruth giggled.


Sulu sighed. His Pair was pleading, the blue eyes brimming with Rigellian-induced paranoia. He glanced at Jilla, who stood, fully dressed, hands on her hips. Wide, soft welcoming hips…. And the missing Antari was her Pair – or at least as close to it as Spacers came. He sighed again, and started pulling on his uniform. “All right, Kevin, we’ll help you look for her.”


“She is lovely!” Ambassador Cester exclaimed.

Kirella stepped back and regarded her work. “Yes,” she agreed. “This will do.”

Ruth stared at her image in the large, full-length mirror. The dress was simple, a single line of heavy, rich blue that fell from her throat to the floor, the sleeveless design fitting tightly from shoulder to waist. It accented her slender frame, making her appear taller and more willowy. Her hair was simply dressed, thick braids from the crown pulling the rest back from her face to fall behind her shoulders.

“Not bad,” Ruth murmured

“Kirella isn’t exactly what I imagined a fairy godmother to look like,” Sulu chuckled.

“She reminds me of the Zehara,” Ruth said, “except she’d never cover up that much skin.”

“We’ve noticed,” Kevin replied with a suggestive wink.

“There is a resemblance to my mother,” Jilla put in softly. “What is a fairy…?”

“Never mind, Jilla,” Ruth interrupted.

Jilla sighed. “I never do.

The Ambassador stepped up to her, a carved wooden case in his hands. Suspended from a gold chain were dozens of icy bright, faceted jewels. Each one was perfect, each one holding a whispered intimation of limitless power. Frozen starlight, beautiful and compelling and cold, more perfect than any diamond could hope to be and far more priceless. “This,” he told her, “is the most sacred relic of the Reaigin culture. Will you honor us by being its display this evening?”

Ruth blinked, beginning to realize what all this was about. “Honor you? You want me to wear about a billion credits worth of dylithium like its some simple adornment and you…” She paused, looking at the shock coming into the ambassador’s face. “Oh. You really mean it.”

“Of course we do, dear,” Kirella said. “The Daasa Stones have always been shown as a living thing.”

“Can I touch it?” Ruth asked.

“We would prefer it not be handled,” the Ambassador returned, then carefully lifted the necklace from its case, encircling Ruth’s neck. It was heavier than it looked – but then, dylithium crystals always were. Ruth again glanced in the mirror. An elegant, regal beauty looked back at her, an image of Antari wisdom and perfection..

“Hot damn!” she breathed softly.

“Indeed,” Kevin sighed.

“Fascinating,” Sulu added, then grinned at Ruth. “Come on, Spike, it had to be said.”


By the time the evening’s festivities were to begin, Ruth was completely sober. And annoyed. She paced in one of the hundreds of guest rooms in the Residence, desperately wishing for her pouch and comlink. She had to contact Jilla. This could be the score of the century if she could only talk to her partner! She’d tried to leave the room a few times, but was always stopped by the tall Vulcan Navy man who was stationed outside it. She’d tried feigning illness, needing hygienic facilities – he’d actually followed her into the bathroom that time! – even the old ‘act as if you know what you’re doing and no one will question you’ ruse. Nothing worked. She was still stuck here.

So try honesty.

You’re joking!

Always the last resort – and this is pretty ‘last’ isn’t it?

She took a breath, and opened the door. “Hey, Vulcan!”

“What is it now, girl?” the Vulcan replied with more than a little annoyance of his own.

“I need my comlink. I have to let my partner know where I am. She worries.”


“This isn’t fair! I didn’t exactly consent to this, you know!”

“You’ll be well compensated for your time, spacer.”

Ruth thought quickly. “I’m half of a registered Duet. Whatever I get, my partner gets, too.”

“I’ll be certain to report it to the authorities.”

“Damn it, let me call her!”


The door closed firmly in her face.



“We were right there,” Kevin said, pointing to the steps of the Residence. “That’s when they took her.”

Sulu glanced across the Government Square. There was quite a bit of activity, air cars stopping and important-looking people in fancy clothes getting out and heading up the steps.

“Looks like something big’s going on,” Jilla murmured, and Sulu caught the note of avarice in her voice.

“The Reaigin Daasa Stones are being shown,” he said, “and put those thoughts right out of your pretty little head.” She stared at him, her mouth opening in a protest, but he smiled and kissed her. “And your attempt at effrontery won’t work either, hon. I’ve known you too long.” She scowled and he returned his attention to Kevin.

“If we’re gonna look for her in there, we have to present ourselves as an on-duty Pair,” he said.

“Fine, I just need to find her,” was Kevin’s response.

“What about me?” Jilla asked.

“Well, if I leave you out here, we’ll just have to come back out here and pick you up for thievery,” Sulu mused. Jilla struck him hard on the arm but he paid no attention. “And you’re not dressed for anything this upscale.” He thought for a moment. “We could bring you in as a prisoner to be interrogated.”

“A prisoner!” Jilla exclaimed indignantly.

“You are a spacer, hon. No one would question it.”

“You fucking Star Guard bastard!”

“Now now, it would just be pretense,” Sulu soothed, but with a wicked gleam in his eye. “And you do want to find Ruth, don’t you?”

“She may not even be in there,” Jilla said.

“True, but we have to start somewhere, and the last place she was seen is the best place to start.”

“You’d damn well better make it up to me,” Jilla snarled, and he held out her wrists for the arrest bands.

“I do not understand why such profanity is required,” Jilla said uneasily.

“It’s just the character, hon, not you,” Sulu soothed.

Sulu was quite correct. No one questioned the Pair as they walked purposefully up to the Residence. Even the Land Forces stood aside at Sulu’s, “She has information for the Governor on threats to the Daasa Stones.” They even quite helpfully directed the Pair to the rooms where the Governor and his guests were awaiting the beginning of the Reaigin Display. Sulu and Kevin marched down the indicated hallway until they were certain they were out of sight.

“Okay, let’s split up and see if we can catch any information,” Sulu whispered.

“What about these damned bands?” Jilla asked.

“We have to leave them on. That way, if you’re found, we’ll get in trouble for letting you escape.”

“Sulu!” Kevin protested, but Jilla sighed romantically and kissed him. Sulu grinned and gave her a swat on the ass.

“Go on, you delightful little thief.” He watched her sidle down the corridor, then bit his lip with a soft groan.

“Where do we start?” Kevin asked.

“Find the Navy men,” Sulu said. “They may know something, and since we were detached to their ship, they may even be willing to tell us.”


The door opened and the Vulcan stepped into the room, along with Captain Kirk. “It’s time, sweetheart,” Kirk said.

“You!” Ruth snapped. He frowned at her.

“This wasn’t my idea.” A half-grin stole across his features. “I would’ve been much more interested in another game of fizzbin, believe me.”

Ruth smiled alluringly. “Maybe after this gig, sailor.”

“Straighten up, girl,” the Vulcan hissed at her, and he stepped forward to grab her arm. She tried to pull it away, and Kirk stepped up to her other side.

“We’re your escort,” he explained. “It’s all official. Just take it easy.” He took her other arm, and they stepped out of the guest room and walked her down the hall.

They stopped at a huge pair of gleaming double doors. “All you need to do is mingle among the guests,” Kirk told her. “Don’t talk, don’t smile and above all, don’t slouch.”

“I could get rather annoyed with the way you people insist on thinking that I normally reside in a cage,” she commented.

The grip on her other arm tightened. “Try to remember that you are representing not only the Reaigin System and the Daasa Stones themselves, but the whole of the Empire,” the cold, alien voice snarled. “We will have none of your spacer tricks.”

“Fuck off, Vulcan,” Ruth replied casually.

The entire psychocin audience cheered.

“Just don’t give me any trouble,” Kirk continued, “or I’ll… well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but you won’t enjoy it.”

“Are you sure?” Ruth asked wickedly.

Kirk blushed. “Just act respectable. That’s all I ask.”

Ruth frowned. “I’m not quite as uncouth as I look,” she said, then added, “well, as I usually look.”

“Indeed,” the Vulcan sniffed. “One can hardly tell from the way you behave.”

Ruth haughtily ignored him. She took a deep breath, forcing the nervous tension from her body, then lifted her head proudly. A light imperious look was enough to make Kirk let go of her arm, and Spock followed suit. They swung the doors open, and she stepped into the large banquet hall.


Jilla had found her way to the hall, and was hiding beneath the head banquet table. At the collective gasp from the assemblage, she peeked out and had to stifle her own reaction. She barely saw her partner. All her eyes registered was the billion credits of dylithium hanging from Ruth’s throat. The stunned silence soon gave way to murmurs of awe and speculation.

“By all the gods, have you ever seen so many perfectly cut stones?”

“They must be worth a fortune!”


“Imagine the power!”

“How crass, they are far too beautiful to be used as ordinary dylithium.”

“If I could have just one…”

A tall, strongly built male stepped up to Ruth, graciously offering his arm. Ruth placed her hand on it and glided into the room, looking straight ahead. In small groups, and one by one, the guests came up to her, admiring the famous Daasa Stones. From her hiding place, Jilla saw the Navy men following at a respectful distance. She saw Sulu and Kevin as they entered the banquet hall, saw Sulu’s restraining hand on Kevin’s arm as he caught sight of Ruth. Quickly Jilla fumbled into her pouch, again damning the arrest bands. She worked her comlink out of it and signaled Sulu’s personal frequency. She couldn’t hear the beep from across the room, but she watched as Sulu reached to the small of his back, retrieving his link. Before he could respond, she whispered fiercely, “Don’t say anything! I’m under the head table!” and closed the link. She saw his surprise, and then his gaze moved across the room. She twitched the table-cover. He nodded, then leaned over, speaking softly to Kevin, who also looked in the direction of the table. They stood unmoving for a moment, then slowly, casually began to make their way across the hall.

Jilla backed up, sneaking out from under the table towards the back of the room. She found a convenient pillar of marble to stand behind, and when Sulu got close enough, she made a short, twittering sound. Sulu moved unerringly to the pillar.

“I found her,” Jilla said, smiling.

“No shit,” Sulu replied with a smile of his own. He turned to Kevin. “I told you she was all right, Kev.”

Kevin was looking sheepish. “Well, I had to make sure….”

“No harm done,” Sulu returned.

“Ahem!” Jilla said, holding out her still-bound wrists. Sulu stared at them.

“I’m not sure I want to take them off,” he murmured. “They could come in handy when we get back to the hotel.” Jilla scowled at him, and he grinned and released her wrists from the bands.

“You’re going back to the hotel?” Kevin asked.

“We found Ruth, what more do you want?”

“I know what more I want,” Jilla said, and Sulu grinned again, then realized she was gazing across the room at Ruth – and at the Daasa Stones.

“Oh no you don’t,” he said.

“I won’t,” she agreed petulantly. “Still, do you know what those are worth?”

“More than you or I will ever see in a lifetime,” Sulu conceded.

“And think what kind of life we could lead if…”


“I said I won’t.”

“Do you think I should just wait for her, or go and try to talk to her?” Kevin asked.

“Whatever, Kevin,” Sulu replied, pulling Jilla close to him. “I just want to continue my leave.” He nuzzled her neck, but she didn’t melt into his arms. He pulled away, looking sternly down at her. “Jilla, I said…”

“Look!” she whispered.

Ruth was standing next to another table and there was the unmistakable twitch of fabric from below it.

“Some other spacers must not have a loving Star Guard to help them resist the goods,” Sulu muttered.

“How do you know it’s …” Jilla began indignantly.

Then the lights went out.


Ruth felt the tug on the bottom of her skirt just before the lights went out. She kicked, feeling the weight of the table against her foot as it toppled over with a crash. “Ouch!” she snapped, then kicked again at the hand that grabbed her ankle.

“Hey, Navy!” she called stridently, her high-heeled shoe coming down on an offensive hand. She heard a muffled cry, then the floor moved out from under her. She landed on her backside and something grabbed her by the hair. She opened her mouth to scream and a rag was pushed over her face. Immediately her eyes started to sting and she felt dizzy. She felt hands on her chest just as she lost consciousness.


Kirk and Spock reacted immediately. They lunged the few paces to where the Antari had been standing. Kirk knocked into someone he assumed was Ambassador Cester and grabbed for the feel of velvet. He heard Spock grunt, a crash, and the velvet against his fingers moved away from his grasp.

“Hey, Navy!” Ruth’s voice snapped and Kirk tried to answer but was rendered breathless by a sudden punch to his solar plexus. He gasped, eyes watering, and felt something step over him. He heard an intake of breath, then nothing as a rag came over his mouth and nose.


“Ruth!” Kevin shouted, and bounded across the darkened room.

“Kevin, you’re gonna get yourself - oh shit!” Sulu called after him, then turned to where he thought Jilla. “Wait here, hon.”

“To hell I will!” Jilla’s voice called from somewhere in front of him.

With a long string of obscenities, Sulu launched himself in the direction of Ruth’s last position.


Shrieks and cries and grunts of confusion filled the banquet hall. Star Guards, Navy personnel, and Land Forces all converged around the Daasa Stones and their display. The Reaigins were screaming, the Governor bellowing and finally someone managed to get to the controls and switch on the emergency power. Ruth and the Navy Captain, Kirk, lay next to one another, both quite unconscious. The table was toppled, pinning a small Vulcan female with a bleeding hand. There was no sign of either the Daasa Stones or the Vulcan Executive Officer.


“Sir, wait, sir!” Kevin shouted after the Vulcan. He had seen the Executive Officer moving rapidly away from the table as the lights came on and followed him. “Can you send some medical help, sir! There are people hurt!”

“I have no time for you, Guard,” the Vulcan replied. Kevin caught up to him and grabbed his arm.

“Surely, sir, just a call to your ship…” Then he saw the glint of icy beauty from the sleeve of the Vulcan’s uniform. He stared, then glanced up at the dark, hooded eyes. Then he backed a step.

“The Vulcan? Oh my god, not the Vulcan!”

“Forget what you’ve seen, Lieutenant,” Spock growled. “It would be safest for all concerned, not the least for your Antari beauty.”

“But she…” Kevin stuttered. “She had nothing to do…”

“And will anyone believe a spacer whore?” Spock laughed, “I think not.”

“But they might believe two Star Guards,” Sulu’s voice said, and Kevin ducked. Sulu’s saber missed his head by a fraction of an inch, slicing open the Vulcan’s arm. Kevin immediately butted his head into Spock’s side, again feeling the saber missing his hair as it pressed into the Vulcan’s chest.

Spock fell and Jilla came running up with two Land Force Officials. “Take this man into custody,” Sulu said imperiously, his saber still resting against the Vulcan’s torso.

“And I’ll take this,” Jilla said as she deftly removed the Daasa Stones from Spock’s tunic. She caught Sulu’s warning gaze and stared at him. “She’s my partner. I won’t have her stand accused.” He continued to stare at her. “Or don’t you trust me, Master Guard?” she finished threateningly.

After only a moment more, he relented. “You’ll have to come with us and give your statements,” one of the Land Force Officials said. Sulu stepped aside as the Officials dragged the Vulcan to his feet and down the hallway.

“You’d better meet me right here after this,” Sulu warned. Jilla smiled sweetly.

“Of course, my love.”

“And Ruth!” Kevin called.

“And Ruth,” Jilla promised.


Ruth came to sudden consciousness, her hand automatically going to her throat. Shit! she swore when all she felt was velvet. I’m fucked now. She started to rise, then felt a cool cloth on her forehead.

“No, dear, don’t try to get up,” Kirella’s voice murmured. “You’ll only make yourself sick, like the good Captain.” Vaguely, Ruth heard retching noises.

“Ew, gross!”

“We are eternally in your debt, dear,” Kirella continued. “Yours and your partner’s. If not for her quick action, the Daasa Stones could have been lost.”

“Jilla?” Ruth asked, and saw the smiling face come into her view.

“Here, Ruth,” Jilla said. Ruth felt hands at her throat and felt again the weight of the necklace. “All safe and sound and back on display.” Ruth thought she detected an undertone to Jilla’s soft words, but didn’t bother to ask. If the Indiian was up to something, now would not be the time to get curious.

“Oh, no, we cannot go on with the reception,” Ambassador Cester’s voice said. “The Stones must not be exposed to such disharmony.”

“Very well, my husband,” Kirella said. “If you would place them in their case?”

Again Ruth felt Jilla’s hands, lifting the necklace from her this time.

“What would you have for reward?” Cester asked.

“You may keep the dress, of course,” Kirella added. “It was crafted specifically for you, it would be of no use to another.”

Cautiously, Ruth sat up. Her head was spinning, but it was no worse than after a rowdy night at the Web. “Enough credit to get us out of the Pleiades?” she suggested.

“Will a hundred thousand do?” the Ambassador suggested.

Ruth met Jilla’s eyes. They were shining. “Yes,” she answered slowly. “I think that will do very well indeed.”


They were heading out of the Residence when Kirk came up to them. “I hope you weren’t too badly hurt,” he said to Ruth.

“I’ll live,” she replied, then grinned. “Quite well, in fact. At least for a while.”

“I don’t suppose you’ll have any time after this whole mess is cleaned up, will you?” Kirk asked ruefully.

Ruth smiled gently. “No, Captain, I don’t suppose I will.”

“A pity. I was hoping for some lessons in fizzbin.” He smiled, and turned, walking away.

There were riotous applause, as though the departing ‘actor’ could hear their appreciation.

“You still think the Captain would hate this?” Sulu asked.

“Come on, Ruth,” Jilla said, and grabbed the Antari’s arms.

“Wait, what about Sulu and Kevin?”

“We’ll meet them later. There’s something I have to do.”

“Like hock the Daasa Stones?”

Jilla only smiled.

“Ha! I knew it!” Ruth crowed. ‘I knew she wasn’t as innocent as she seemed!”

“No, she isn't,” Sulu murmured with a lascivious chuckle.


“What do you mean, they’re fake?!” Jilla shrieked at the proprietor of the little shop where Ruth had purchased her Rigellian Green.

“I’m sorry, spacer, these are nothing more than cut crystal. Not dylithium.”

Ruth started laughing. “Don’t tell me you mixed them up!” she managed.

“No, the Vulcan had two sets on him and I know which one I gave to the Ambassador!”

“So do I,” Sulu’s voice said from the doorway. Jilla whirled, throwing herself at the Star Guard.

“You goddamned bastard…!” She stopped short at the point of his saber.

“You didn’t really think I’d let you get away with it, did you?”

“It was perfect,” Jilla screamed at him. “I’ve been planning this with Spock for months!

“Jilla?!” Ruth gasped.

Ruth stared at her partner. “Jilla?!” she gasped.

The Indiian turned to her. “I’m so fucking sick of scraping by day to day, waiting for runs, stuck in backwater ports like this for months on end. Spock said he’d found a way out for both of us.” She glared at Sulu. “Hell, for all of us! Even you and your sniveling little Pair! Don’t you want to be wealthy enough to buy all your little bitches all the pretty trinkets that make them put out for you?”

“If that’s what you thought, why didn’t you let me in on it?” Sulu countered.

“Because that would’ve spoiled the plan,” Kevin’s voice said. They all turned again to the doorway. Kevin stood there, holding a leather pouch. “I believe these are what you’re looking for,” he told Jilla. He pushed his way inside, contemptuously moving the tip of Sulu’s sword aside with his finger. He spilled the pouch onto the counter. Glittering pieces of starlight fell to the dark wood, unmistakable in their beauty. “Spock tried to doublecross you,” he said to Jilla. “He’d had two fakes made up and clipped the real stones from their setting.” He grinned. “I felt them when I head-butted him.”

“I don’t believe this,” Sulu muttered.

“Me neither,” Ruth agreed.

“And have you never heard of the Black Irish?” Kevin asked smugly.

“Kevin, I don’t believe this,” Sulu stammered.

“Cut that out!"

“Why not? A man makes his own opportunities in this life. And I needed to be able to ensure my new wife the best of everything.”

Ruth’s eyes widened. “Kevin, I don’t know what to say…” she began.

“Don’t say anything,” Kevin replied, and turned to Jilla. “How about it, darlin’?” He removed a small case from his jacket pocket and opened it. A diamond solitaire rested there.

“I don’t carry this much credit,” the fence broke in. “but I can give you a million now and pledge another two million each month for the next fifty years, guaranteed by the Haven Sovereign Bank.”

“Done,” Kevin said, and Jilla squealed.

“And done – darling,” she said to Kevin, snatching up the ring and placing it on her finger.


Kevin was laughing so hard that he was nearly falling off his theater chair. Ruth kept hitting him on the arm. Jilla had long since gone nova. Sulu stood and stretched, trying to keep the sour look from his face. “Okay, I’m done,” he announced. “It’s an interesting experience, Kev, thanks.”

The other patrons were beginning to file out of the theater. Kevin wiped tears from his face.

“I told you you’d enjoy it,” he managed.

“Enjoy isn’t exactly the word I would’ve picked,” Ruth told him. “And look what you’ve done to poor Jilla!”

The Indiian sat with her face in her hands. Sulu bent down to her. “Hon, are you all right?” he asked.

Jilla glanced up. “Kevin,” she began, her voice trembling, “you do not believe that I… I could never…”

“No, no Jilla, it was just the psychocin,” Sulu tried to assure her.

“Of course not,” Kevin replied. “Random input, someone in the audience must’ve wanted that kind of surprise ending.”

“And ‘someone’ better watch it from now on,” Ruth muttered. She stood. “Well, now what?”

Abruptly, the lights flickered again, and the screen came to life once more. A deep red background with gold scrollwork surrounding it came into focus, and elaborate gold lettering promised, “A Cautionary Tale.”

“What’s this?” Sulu asked curiously.


Go to Part Three of Hotel California - A Cautionary Tale

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