Chapter One (cont.)
settled down on the plates of the deck within the ample hanger bay beneath the bulk of the Klingon ship. Built to hold a dozen Klingon shuttlecraft, only three were present. “Sir, where are their shuttles?” asked Chris.
“Their captain probably dumped them in order to accommodate us, Mister Roberts. Banner
is a just a bit
larger than your average Klingon shuttlecraft.”
?” the young Lieutenant asked incredulously. “Why not just store them in the cargo bay?”
“The Captain is correct, Lieutenant,” Turovik said. “The Klingons regard their shuttles as expendable assets—many ship commanders used them to provide close air-support in the Dominion War. If they are carrying cargo the Klingon consider important, they will just jettison the shuttles and replace them upon returning to base.”
“Aren’t they concerned someone like the Ferengi or the Pakleds or the Orions will find them and use them?”
“Lieutenant Roberts, the Klingons routinely equip any such discarded shuttles with lethal explosive devices tied into the systems.”
“Booby-traps, Mister Robert,” the Captain translated for the young officer. “Investigating an abandoned Klingon vessel—regardless of size—is fraught with danger. Remember that.” And with that Matt shut down the main reactor. “Shuttlebay is pressurized, gentlemen, so why don’t we meet our hosts?”
The armored hatch at the far end of the bay slid open and several Klingons marched into the shuttlebay. “Speak of the devil. Get a move on, Misters.”
Quincy Talbot and Alvin Thiesman were already waiting at the upper end of the ramp leading down to the interior of the Klingon ship. “I can smell it from here,” growled Quincy. “We’re spending eleven days on this rust-bucket?”
“Careful, Quincy,” Matt chuckled. “Those Klingons probably feel about this ship the way we do about Republic
—and I’m not going to order Corporal Thiesman there to save you if they take offense.”
“Probably have to eat their live food as well,” the doctor mumbled as he followed Matt down the ramp to the shuttlebay below.
The two lines of Klingon warriors snapped to attention, and a shrill noise echoed from the bulkheads. Their version of a bosun’s whistle, Matt thought with a smile. He walked up until he stood face to face with the ship’s commander, and Matt bared his teeth into a fierce grin.
“YOU!” he thundered. “The last time I saw you, you were fighting a dozen Jem’Hadar soldiers with an empty disruptor pistol and a bat’leth
—it is a pity for the universe that you survived, you miserable old pirate!”
“Dahlgren,” the Klingon noble growled. “Starfleet must be in a sorry condition to recall someone like you who does not understand how to obey orders from his lawful superior!”
Matt snorted. “When my lawful superior—of the same rank—gives a stupid order such as leave me behind to die, damn straight I’m not going to obey it!”
“And a good thing that was too!” the Klingon said with a deep-throated laugh. “While I could have taken those Jem’Hadar, it would have been a long fight—without a goblet of blood-wine to slack my thirst! It is good to see you again, Matthew Dahlgren!”
“And you, Lord Koram.”
“You know each other?” Quincy asked sotte voce
“HAH!” barked Koram. “We do indeed—were you aware that your Captain is a member of my House! He even endured the pain-sticks to prove his worth to my warriors! Qapla’
! This one has the heart of a warrior born! But he handles a blade like a female!” Koram added with laugh.
“Come, Matthew Dahlgren, we shall feast and drink and I will hear your tales of honor and glory. Amar
has already reentered warp and is speeding along to Vulcan as fast our engines will allow—faster even, we could well all wake in sto-vo-kor
if my engineer falls asleep at his post!”
“An officer asleep at his post on your
ship, Koram? You must be growing mellow with age,” Matt answered as he followed the Klingon from the bay, his officers trailing behind.
Koram stopped and he laughed, as did the dozen Klingon warriors of the honor guard. “It is good to see you again, indeed! And since I know that our food is not palatable for your species, I ordered the chef to cook
until it was burnt
! Come, we have blood-wine to drink, and songs to sing, and tales of valor to honor our dead!” Koram stepped through the hatch and into the narrow corridors of the dimly-lit ship.
And Matt followed.