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Captain K'Vada watched as Klag's face faded from the small viewscreen. He then removed the Order of the Bat'leth medallion from his workstation, and was about to put it back in the drawer from which he'd retrieved it only a few minutes before. Just before he did, he hesitated, then decided to put the medallion at its proper place on his shoulder. It's been too long since I wore it. Longer still since wearing it actually meant anything.
K'Vada's service to the Empire went back to his youth -- a youth that went back fairly far, much as he hated to admit it. He had won many campaigns, brought honor to his House, and continued to grow older. Eventually, he knew, he would slow down, and some ambitious first officer would decide to challenge him. Or perhaps a worthy foe would send him to Sto-Vo-Kor -- though if the Romulan, Federation, Kinshaya, Kreel, Dominion, Cardassian, and Breen foes he'd faced over the years couldn't manage it, K'Vada didn't see how anyone else would. He had never considered himself to be an especially great warrior, yet here he was, still fighting after all these years, after all these campaigns.
With the decommissioning of his previous command following the war, he had only recently taken command of the I.K.S. Vidd. The previous captain had been the victim of a duel relating to some family feud or other. K'Vada came from a minor House that had never offended anyone; it was not of enough consequence to do so. As a result, his life had been refreshingly free of such distractions.
Unfortunately, Command placed him in charge rather than promoting the first officer, Commander Vigh. His House was of considerable consequence, which explained his high rank; his incompetence was also considerable, which explained K'Vada's placement on the ship over him. But it also meant that K'Vada needed to watch his back.
Entering the bridge, he saw that Vigh was sitting in the command chair. Although there was no regulation prohibiting it, Defense Force tradition held that no one save the ship's supreme commander sat in that chair, regardless of who was in command of the bridge. K'Vada supposed that Vigh could have come up with a more obvious insult, but one didn't readily spring to mind.
As the door to his office rumbled closed behind him, K'Vada said, "Pilot, change course to the Kavrot Sector, system loSmaH Soch, maximum warp."
Vigh, K'Vada noticed, did not rise from the command chair. "Sir, we have been assigned to patrol this sector for the next three days."
As if I did not know that. "We have new orders."
"No communications have arrived from Command."
This was, strictly speaking, true. The message from Klag came on a tight-beam subspace carrier wave that bypassed the Vidd's communications system and went straight to K'Vada's Order medallion. K'Vada did not respond directly to Vigh's statement, but instead turned back to the pilot. "Is the course laid in?"
"Execu -- "
Vigh rose from the command chair. "Belay that!"
K'Vada sighed. I should have known. "Pilot, execute at maximum warp, or I will replace you with a living officer who understands the chain of command." He turned to Vigh. "That goes for you as well, Commander."
"We have received no change in our orders!"
"We have not. I have." Indicating the Order medallion, K'Vada added, "This is official business of the Order of the Bat'leth, which supersedes any authority save that of the emperor himself."
To K'Vada's satisfaction, the pilot engaged the warp drive as soon as K'Vada mentioned the Order.
Whereupon Vigh unsheathed his d'k tahg, the secondary blades unfurling with a dual click. The captain sighed.
"It was not enough that Command did not give me this ship that was rightfully mine, but to put a lying sack of taknar droppings in my place is an insult I will bear no longer! The Vidd will be mine!"
K'Vada contemplated wasting his breath pointing out the rightness of his position with regard to the Order, but decided against it, choosing to simply unsheathe his own personal dagger. Vigh was making use of these events as an excuse to finally challenge K'Vada. Better to get this challenge out in the open and over with than to let it fester on the bridge for months on end.
"Now," Vigh continued, "you will be exposed for the honorless petaQ you trul -- "
His diatribe was cut off by K'Vada slashing at his face.
Vigh stumbled backward, apparently surprised that K'Vada didn't wait until he was done giving his speech before attacking. Blood seeped from the wound in his cheek.
Screaming, Vigh lunged forward in a clumsy attack that K'Vada easily sidestepped. He had an opportunity to strike back, but decided against it. K'Vada hadn't had a good workout in far too long.
Within five minutes, it was clear he wasn't going to get one now, either. What Vigh lacked in command competence, he more than made up for in clumsiness. His attacks were the tiresomely predictable ones of a novice fighter. K'Vada had seen children fresh off their first hunt wield a d'k tahg with more skill than his soon-to-be-former first officer.
Finally, on Vigh's fourth obvious lunge, K'Vada again sidestepped, and plunged his own d'k tahg right into Vigh's chest. I should have done this weeks ago.
By this time, the entire complement of the bridge was chanting K'Vada's name. He removed the dagger and let Vigh's body fall to the deck. The captain then moved to the command chair, not bothering with the death ritual. That was only for honored warriors bound for Sto-Vo-Kor, a state of affairs that most assuredly did not apply to Vigh.
The second officer -- now the first officer -- grinned and said, "You have done a great service to this vessel today, Captain."
"I did nothing that Vigh did not bring upon himself," K'Vada said dismissively as he sat in his chair and saw the distorted starfield on the viewscreen that indicated that they were at warp. "Pilot, time to destination?"
"Twenty-seven hours, sir."
"Speak with engineering about increasing engine efficiency. I want us at that star system as soon as possible."
Stepping around from the operations console to K'Vada's side, the new first officer -- Lieutenant Yivogh -- spoke in a low voice, so their conversation would only be heard by the two of them. "Sir, may I know our new mission?"
"We go into battle to preserve the honor of our Empire, Commander," he said, making it clear that an elevation in rank went with the elevation in position, prompting a grin from Yivogh. "You will know more when the time is right."
0 "As you command, sir."
K'Vada nodded, and leaned back in his chair. Not a bad morning, he thought. First what appeared to be a call to glory. Then he rid himself of his burdensome first officer -- which, judging by the crew's reaction, would serve only to solidify his own position as captain. Yivogh might have had ambitions of his own, of course, and he was as likely as not to view the peculiar nature of this mission as an opportunity for advancement, much as his predecessor had.
For now, however, he is grateful to me, and I will use that for as long as I may. And then, Klag, we shall see if your call to glory is true...
Bekk Maris sat in his new bunk on the Gorkon, reading Warriors of the Deep Winter, the latest novel by K'Ratak. It was disappointing. There was a time when a new release from the novelist was a cause for celebration. Maris still remembered the day that The Vision of Judgment, the long-awaited sequel to The Dream of Fire, was released. He had arranged to have no duties to perform on that day, and spent all of it reading the new book. He finished it that day, and reread it, but it had not been the transcendent experience that the first one had been. Now, six books later, Maris was forced to admit that The Dream of Fire was not just K'Ratak's greatest work, but his only good one. The author was, in Maris's considered opinion, coasting on the reputation of that one bit of genius.
Maris wasn't the only one who felt that way. An irate reader had met K'Ratak at a public appearance and challenged him, saying he was no longer worthy of his accolades. However, to the irritation of many dissatisfied readers, K'Ratak won the duel handily, and no one had dared challenge him since.
Looking up from his reading, Maris surveyed his new surroundings. In truth, they were no different from his old surroundings: a bunk, two meters in length, one meter in width, and half a meter in height, the same as assigned to each of the fifteen hundred soldiers on the Gorkon. The difference was that he was now in the top bunk belonging to Fifteenth Squad instead of the middle one belonging to the seventh.
It had all begun last night when he returned from dinner to find that his belongings had been removed.
"You're in the wrong place, Bekk."
Maris had turned to see Avok, the Leader of the seventh. As usual, the Leader's hair was flying in all directions, his beard untended, with bits of the evening meal's bok-rat liver amid the hairs.
"What's going on, Avok?"
"It seems that the entire eighteenth has been promoted to the seventh. QaS DevwI' Vok was impressed with their performance during the initial attack on San-Tarah."
Scowling, Maris said, "The entire eighteenth? All four?" Avok nodded. "But what of me? And Trant?" The other two members of the seventh had been killed during one of the contests against the San-Tarah.
"According to Lieutenant Lokor, you've both been transferred to fill the two spots in the fifteenth."
Angrily, Maris asked, "Why have we been demoted?" Maris knew that the fifteenth, too, had lost a pair of soldiers to the San-Tarah, but that didn't explain why the ranks were being filled with superior soldiers. A post on one of the finest new warships in the fleet was a great honor, as was an assignment to the seventh. The Gorkon had three hundred five-soldier squads, and to be among the first fifteen of those -- under the general command of QaS DevwI' Vok -- was a great privilege. To have that privilege -- well, not revoked as such, but at least diminished did not sit at all well with Maris.
Avok smiled, showing a mouth full of gaps between too-rare instances of teeth. "You'll have to ask Lieutenant Lokor. I just do what they tell me."
That's always Avok's excuse, Maris thought. Aloud, he simply said, "I see."
"Leader Wol is waiting for you at the fifteenth's bunks."
Oh no. Oh no no no. Now it all made sense to Maris.
Before their arrival at San-Tarah, Trant and Maris had gotten into a fight. Maris couldn't even remember what it was about -- they were both just aggravated by the enforced inactivity of nine weeks of useless exploration of the Kavrot Sector. The second officer, Lieutenant Toq, had broken up the fight, along with Leader Wol of the fifteenth. Wol had convinced Toq not to report their brawl to the QaS DevwI' or to Lokor, for which Maris, at least, was grateful, but Toq's price for that was to make Maris and Trant's subsequent behavior Wol's responsibility.
It seems that it is to be taken literally now. Resigned to the inevitable, Maris made his way to the fifteenth's bunks.
Without thinking, he got into the middle bunk, assuming that he would occupy the same spot. However, the quartermaster had either not bothered to keep the same alignment, or simply didn't care. When Maris went to retrieve his personal padd, he found that they had put Trant's belongings in the middle bunk.
A few minutes later, Maris climbed to the topmost bunk, and found his own items there.
After a night's sleep, he awoke and tried to finish off Warriors when he heard footsteps approaching. He looked up to see Trant, walking stiffly. "I see that B'Oraq has finally freed you from your prison."
Trant's legs had been shredded by one of the alien creatures on the planet below. They appeared to have healed, but B'Oraq had, typically, insisted he remain in the medical bay overnight, as if a biobed were a proper place for a soldier. Trant was as proud a warrior as you could find, and might have made a fine officer. Apparently, though, his way was blocked. When they were assigned to the Gorkon together months ago, Trant had told Maris: "The sons of petty criminals do not become officers."
"Yes," he said now in reply to Maris's comment. "Our yIntagh of a doctor warned me that I would have 'difficulty' walking. She also said she was going to recommend I remain shipboard for the time being." He scowled. "I believe she meant that as a joke."
Maris grinned. "It is hard to tell with her. She learned medicine in the Federation, remember -- I believe she has picked up their peculiar sense of humor."
"Perhaps." He gazed dolefully at the bunks. "Lieutenant Toq had better hope that we do not encounter each other away from prying eyes."
Maris barked a laugh. "Speak a little louder, fool. Perhaps Lokor will hear you and kill you once and for all."
Another voice said, "Lokor wouldn't waste his time on such sputum as yourselves."
Looking past Trant, Maris saw Leader Wol approaching the bunk area, along with G'joth, an old bekk with waist-length white hair and a horn-shaped beard, and the infamous Bekk Goran, by far the largest and strongest Klingon on the Gorkon -- and, perhaps, in the Defense Force. He towered over the other two by a full head.
"And he won't need to," Wol said. "Because I will kill you long before he even has the chance to if given the slightest provocation. You were assigned to the fifteenth because I requested it. Toq made me responsible for you, and I take my responsibilities veryseriously."
"This is madness!" Trant spit on the deck. "We are warriors of the seventh. To be sent to the fifteenth is -- "
"Fitting." Wol smiled nastily as she said it. At least this Leader has all her teeth, Maris thought with amusement.
"I disagree," G'joth said. "I was hoping for worthy replacements for Davok and Krevor, not these two petaQ."
Trant advanced on the bekk. "You dare!"
Goran also advanced, his massive form looming over Trant. "If you touch my friend G'joth, I will break you in two, Trant."
Trant ceased his advance. Goran had held a superdense koltanium rock on his back for over seven hours on San-Tarah. He truly could break Trant into two separate pieces if he put his mind to it, and Maris was glad to see that his comrade wasn't foolish enough to put that to the test.
"This is Bekk G'joth," Wol said, indicating the white-haired man, "and this is Bekk Goran. They are part of the fifteenth. If you're lucky, Trant, you and Maris will live long enough to understand what that means."
"If we're lucky," G'joth added, "you won't."
With a sneer, Trant said, "I already know what it means, G'joth -- that we are being punished for nothing!"
Wol moved in close enough so that her nose was almost touching Trant's crest. "Oh no, Trant. Not nothing. After your pathetic display near the armory last week, you could very easily have been demoted to the three hundredth and given waste-extraction duty. Instead, you have been given a chance at redemption."
"With you?" Again, Trant sneered.
"We held the road at the San-Tarah's Prime Village. We defended the prize in the third contest. Davok and Krevor died with honor. You and Maris have a chance to be a part of that -- or you can die a fool's death. The choice is yours. But make it quickly -- because if you are to prove worthy, I want to know, and if you aren't I want you dead so we can put someone more deserving in your place."
With that, Wol turned her back on Trant and walked away. Goran and G'joth followed her, also with their backs to him.
Maris laughed. "You should've just gotten into your bunk and kept your mouth shut. It worked for me."
Trant said nothing in response.
The Ruling Pack surrounded Klag, lying on their stomachs in a circle inside what they called their Meeting Hut. The walls of the hut were decorated with the heads of san-reak -- massive game animals that lived on a distant island. Once a year, shortly before winter, selected members of the Children of San-Tarah hunted this animal, one of which was enough to feed the populace for the entire cold season. The heads -- which by themselves were almost larger than a Klingon child -- were mounted on the walls as trophies of Great Hunts past.
All fourteen members of the Ruling Pack lay before Klag. The colors of the fur that covered each of the be-snouted bipeds ranged from as white as the snow on Rura Penthe to as black as space, with several variations of brown, gray, and dark red in between. They wore no clothing -- their fur was more than adequate protection from the elements, and until Klag's first ground troops beamed to the surface a week ago, they had not known of the concept of body armor. Though it was sometimes difficult to read alien species, Klag was quite certain that they were each looking upon him with a combination of anger and confusion.
Klag had requested the audience with Me-Larr after sending out the call to the Order. Talak's fleet would not arrive for five days. Klag had no idea what results he would get from his summons, if any, but in the meantime, he owed it to Me-Larr's people to inform them of what had happened.
Me-Larr had been angry when Klag transported down, since the captain had sworn an oath not to set foot on San-Tarah again, but that display was as nothing compared with the fury he exhibited when Klag finished telling the story of Talak's betrayal of Klingon honor. He rose and began to pace the length of the hut. The other members of the Ruling Pack seemed equally restless, but remained in their prone state.
"You told me, Captain Klag, that no true Klingon would betray your word of honor. You told me that your people valued honor above all else. Was that a lie?"
"No. It was, however, a mistake."
"A mistake?" Me-Larr's eyes burned with fury; saliva dripped from his teeth. "You said it was the most important tenet of your people!"
"We are not a monolithic species, Me-Larr. We aspire to certain ideals, laid down by Kahless fifteen hundred years ago. It is, however, much easier to aspire than achieve. General Talak has had more difficulty making that journey than I had previously thought."
Te-Run, the oldest and wisest of the Ruling Pack, said, "Then the events of the past few days were for naught. We are to be conquered."
"Not if I have anything to say about it," Klag said. "The Gorkon will defend your world to the last dying breath of each warrior on board. General Talak may be willing to turn his back on honor, but I will not."
Another of the Ruling Pack -- Ga-Tror, whom Klag knew was their Fight Leader -- said, "How many of these ships does General Talak command?"
Technically, as Chancellor Martok's chief of staff, he commanded all of them, but Klag saw no reason to get into that. "His present fleet numbers twelve, possibly thirteen, but they will not all be sent here. Even so, there will be at least two ships and possibly more that are the equal of the Gorkon."
Over the days, Klag had begun to get a grasp of the San-Tarah's body language, so he knew that Ga-Tror's turning his eyes away from Klag now was a decided insult. "Then your defense of our planet would seem to be lacking, Captain Klag."
For his part, Klag looked right at the Fight Leader. "If I were alone, that would be so, but I am not. Even now, ships from throughout the Klingon Empire are wending their way to this star system to come to our aid." Strictly speaking, he did not know this for sure, but he needed to reassure them that his fight on their behalf would be more than a suicidal gesture -- even though it may well be that in the end, he thought bitterly. "We have also been studying the subspace eddies."
"This is what blocks the stars from our view?" another of the Pack asked.
"Yes. We have begun to find ways to make our weapons and other tools work properly amidst the eddies, and this is not intelligence we will share with our enemies." He looked at each member of the Ruling Pack one by one as he spoke, finally resting his eyes on Me-Larr. "The road to victory will not be an easy one. But I swear to you that the road will be paved with the blood of the honorless cowards who would betray everything that has made the Klingon Empire great. I know you to be among the finest warriors I have ever seen. Those who serve under me have sworn to die defending your planet. I ask now that you join us in doing so. Talak will send troops to the surface -- you must be ready for them."
"You can be assured that we will be." The fury had not left Me-Larr's voice. "I told you that we would not surrender to invaders, and we still will not. If this General Talak is to take San-Tarah from us, he must pry it from our dead claws."
Klag smiled. "Good. As I said, you will not be alone. I wish to send our own ground troops down, to fight alongside your people against the troops Talak will send. He will not be prepared for fighters of your caliber, nor for Klingon warriors who have honor on their side."
The head of the Ruling Pack went to one corner of the Hut. One of the San-Tarah's odd two-bladed swords hung from a strap on the wall. The blade curved sharply, first angling out from the hilt and then around into a deep crescent. The blade split in two, one going straight upward, the other continuing to form the rest of the crescent. Each blade ended in a V formation. It was with just such a sword that Me-Larr had defeated Klag -- armed with a bat'leth -- in the final contest just a day ago.
Me-Larr turned to the other members of the Ruling Pack. "Spread the word to all the villages that we must go to arms. For many seasons we have lived for fighting. Now we must fight to live." He held the sword aloft. "Our foes will fall before us!"
All the Ruling Pack -- save for Me-Larr and Te-Run -- howled their approval. The sound pierced the air, and they howled in such perfect harmony that the metals in Klag's uniform seemed to vibrate.
Then the dozen members of the Pack who had howled departed to carry out Me-Larr's instructions, leaving Klag alone with Me-Larr and Te-Run.
After a moment of silence, Te-Run spoke softly. "I knew that this day would come, but never did I believe it would come so soon -- nor that it would come from your people, Captain Klag."
"Neither did I, Te-Run," Klag said honestly. "In truth, I am still amazed that this is happening. I have watched the message that Talak sent me informing me of his intentions many times, yet I cannot believe that it is a Klingon general speaking. I had thought the days of such honorless, cowardly behavior to be behind us as a people."
Me-Larr put his sword back on the wall. "You were obviously mistaken."
"Yes. With your permission, Me-Larr, I will begin transporting troops to the surface. They will begin instructing your own warriors in how best to combat our ground troops."
Baring his teeth, Me-Larr said, "That won't be necessary. If you recall, we had little trouble dealing with your ground troops when they first arrived."
Klag scowled. "This time it will be different. Talak is likely to send more than a hundred troops in the initial attack, and he is also aware of your capabilities."
"How is that?" Te-Run asked sharply. "You said you would share no intelligence with the enemy."
"Talak has our initial reports. I sent him records of our encounters to date when I first informed him of this planet, shortly after the final contest. I did not know then what his reaction would be. He is my commanding officer. Until I received his own obscene orders, I had no reason to mistrust him. So he knows of your capabilities, your passion, your fire. That gives him an advantage that the Gorkon soldiers did not have a week ago. So we must give you a further advantage."
"Very well." Me-Larr seemed very reluctant to concede the point, for which Klag couldn't really blame him.
"Worry not, Me-Larr -- I will not allow your world to be taken from you without a fight."
Me-Larr nodded. "I do worry, Captain Klag -- but not about that. I am responsible for my people, and I fear that I may have led them into ruin."
"You've done no such thing," Te-Run said snappishly. "If anything, you've given us the best hope we have for survival. Imagine if General Talak had come instead of Captain Klag here. He would not have accepted our challenge, and they quite likely would have destroyed us all. Now we have an ally in our fight, and one who knows the foe better than we do." She cradled Me-Larr's snout in one claw. "Either way, Me-Larr, you are leading us to the greatest battle the Children of San-Tarah have ever seen. Win or lose, you have guaranteed that yours will be the story most told by future generations."
Me-Larr did not sound convinced. "And if we are wiped out?"
"Then you will be at the forefront of those who run with the dead."
Klag assumed that this was a good thing. It didn't cheer Me-Larr as much as Klag thought it should, however, so the captain added, "Te-Run is wise, Me-Larr. I have learned in my time as captain of the Gorkon that it is better to listen to wise counsel than to ignore it."
"You are both, of course, correct." He bared his teeth. "It will be our most magnificent fight."
Smiling, Klag activated his communicator. "Klag to Gorkon."
His first officer replied, "Kornan."
"Have QaS DevwI' Vok, Klaris, and B'Yrak transport down with their troops for training with the Children of San-Tarah."
That would put the two hundred and twenty-five best ground troops from the Gorkon on the surface. They would begin the work of training with the San-Tarah for the next five days until Talak's arrival. By the time the fleet did show up, Klag intended to have a thousand troops aiding the Children of San-Tarah. You may win the day, General, but your victory will be the hardest-won of your misbegotten life.
"Bridge to Captain Triak."
Triak, son of H'Ren, captain of the I.K.S. Kreltek, looked up at the sound of his first officer's voice. Commander Vekma had been given strict orders not to disturb him. Does that fool woman think that because we share a bed she may disregard my instructions?
Before he could rebuke his second-in-command she added, "I would not disturb you normally, Captain, but Lieutenant Hevna says she must see you immediately. That it is business of the highest order."
"What kind of business?"
"She won't say," Vekma said, her voice dripping with anger. Triak smiled. Vekma did not like being uninformed. He suspected that her desire for him was as much due to the greater access she had to Triak and his thoughts as his bedmate than she would as simply his first officer. Since she was so adept at both, Triak did not mind. "She will only say that it is urgent."
Normally, Triak would tell Vekma that the first-shift pilot could either explain herself or not get her audience -- and perhaps get rotated off the bridge -- but Hevna was not given to this sort of thing, normally. She was one of his finest officers, and the best pilot he had ever served with; she performed Kalmat's Maneuver in battle against the Jem'Hadar during the war, which wasn't supposed to be possible with a ship as large as the Kreltek. She had even been inducted into the Order of the Bat'leth two months ago on Ty'Gokor.
"Very well. Send her in."
"As you wish." Vekma didn't sound happy. Triak suspected that she wanted the captain to refuse the request. I may well pay for my accession tonight, he thought with regret.
A moment later, the door to his tiny office rumbled open, and Lieutenant Hevna entered. Hevna was appallingly young -- or perhaps I'm simply getting old, Triak thought with a bit of melancholy -- with hardly any muscle on her whatsoever. Had he not known of her piloting prowess, he would not have thought to look at her that she was Defense Force material. But warriors fought their battles in their own ways with the weapons best suited to them, and Hevna's were the helm controls of spacefaring vessels.
"Speak, Lieutenant. And make it quick. I do not appreciate being disturbed."
"I know, sir, and I would not have done so were the reason not so important." She took a breath. "Captain, I must respectfully request that you divert the Kreltek to the Kavrot Sector for urgent business of the Order of the Bat'leth."
Triak stared incredulously at Hevna for a moment, then threw his head back and threw a hearty laugh at the ceiling. "Vekma put you up to this, did she not? I did not credit her with this vicious a sense of humor. Thank you, Lieutenant, you may -- "
"Sir, this is not a joke. I have received a summons from a fellow member of the Order."
"And this is supposed to matter why, exactly?"
Hevna blinked. "Did Commander Vekma not tell you?"
"Tell me what?" This was rapidly turning less amusing and more irritating. If Hevna was not more forthcoming, she was going to taste his d'k tahg.
"Chancellor Martok has summoned the Order back to its original purpose."
"What original purpose?" Then a memory of the night after Hevna's induction came back to him, from his and Vekma's postcoital conversation, where she told him about the all-night celebrating followed by the induction ceremony. Triak had only been paying partial attention, as he had remained on the Kreltek for the whole thing -- Vekma had always wanted to attend an Order induction, and Triak thought it would be imprudent for both captain and first officer to be off-ship for so long -- and so had been denied Vekma's company the previous night. He was mostly eager to make up for lost time, so he had forgotten. "Wait, something about spreading the word of Kahless -- ?"
Hevna breathlessly explained to Triak what Martok had said regarding the Order. So old Chancellor One-Eye wants to drag that foolishness from the past back to the present? This is what happens when commoners are given power. He remembered now that he had laughed at Vekma when she had told him of it two months ago, and dismissed it as romantic foolishness.
"And now one of the inductees has decided to use this as an excuse to summon the Order?" he asked.
"Yes. Captain Klag has -- "
"Klag?" Triak knew of Klag: the son of M'Raq, who, like some kind of human, used his father's right arm to replace the one he lost during the war. If they were letting animals like Klag into the Order, then its future as a means of maintaining honor in the Empire was a bleak one indeed.
"Yes, sir. Captain Klag has given his word to -- "
Triak held up a hand. "Enough. This conversation has gone on far longer than I should have allowed it. The Kreltek is assigned to patrol the outer colonies. Unless I receive orders from Command that say otherwise, I will not divert from that assignment."
"Sir, you have discretion to -- "
Angrily, Triak stood up, unsheathing his d'k tahg. "I do have discretion, yes, Lieutenant, but I certainly will not use it to chase honorless jatyIn conjured by a fool such as Klag! If you say one more word on this subject, you will be rotated off the bridge -- assuming I do not decide to kill you." He held up his dagger, the outer blades clicking into their open position. "You have only lived this far into this discussion because of your accomplishments as a pilot. Am I understood, Lieutenant?"
Hevna stood at attention. "Yes, sir!"
"Good. Get out of my sight."
Without another word, Hevna turned on her heel and left the office.
Triak resheathed his weapon and sat back down. Order of the Bat'leth, he thought, shaking his head, what a sad, pathetic joke.
Copyright © 2003 by Paramount Pictures.
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