Chapter 1 <cont'd>
Amon Homeship Transcendent
78.2 Parsecs from the Tarantula Nebula
Sandhurst parried her blow easily and with a fluidity he would not have believed possible only weeks earlier. The staff felt right in his hands somehow, as if it had always been meant to be paired with him.
He had never been especially coordinated, and as an engineer his hand-to-hand combat skills had always been subpar. Now, however, he found himself moving with a speed and grace that he had never known. It was, Nestrala had informed him, yet another benefit of the life-essence. Though she had been weaning him off of it for some time now in preparation for his return to Starfleet, he still retained some of the physiological advantages from his exposure to that energy source.
She thrust her staff towards him. “Don’t think,” she instructed, “react!”
seemed to jump in his hands, as if he were trying to contain the bridled energy of the pole-arm. Before he was fully cognizant of what had happened, his staff clashed with hers, the resulting collision of weapons sending both of them staggering backwards.
“Just so,” Nestrala said with an approving smile.
Sandhurst brought his weapon back up into the ready stance, as she had taught him.
Nestrala began to circle him, probing for weakness with the occasional feint, but Sandhurst refused to be so easily baited.
“Zeischt,” she began as she set her staff to twirling around her waist and through both hands like a majorettes’ baton. “There is something of import we must discuss before you return to your people.”
He eyed the spinning weapon closely as he responded, “I’m listening.”
“We have spoken of other Amon tribes,” Nestrala noted as she swung the head of her staff low, prompting Sandhurst to sidestep deftly out of the way.
“We have,” he agreed noncommittally.
“One of our fellow tribes has done something you will doubtless find objectionable,” she revealed.
“Do tell,” Sandhurst said as he slid his hands to a wider grip on the battle-staff and drove towards her with it.
She brought the head of her staff up under the haft of his, pulling the weapon from his grasp, and then cuffing him across the back with the base of her weapon as momentum carried Sandhurst staggering past her. “Clumsy,” she assessed.
He reached back to rub the small of his back ruefully.
“Our brethren are far more steeped in our peoples’ martial traditions. It appears they wished to test their mettle against a warrior species from your quadrant,” she announced as he stooped to recover his weapon.
That stopped Sandhurst cold. The head of his deshouri
thudded against the padded floor as his concentration faltered. “What’s happened?”
“They fell upon a colony belonging to that warrior people. Klingons, you call them. They reportedly fought well, but as you yourself have seen, our capabilities are especially formidable.”
Sandhurst stepped towards her, his expression caught between anger and disbelief. “Nestrala, you told me your people don’t kill any longer to obtain life-essence.”
tribe does not, but there are other tribes whose culture has evolved in the millennia since our Diaspora began.”
“Evolved?” Sandhurst spat incredulously. “Annihilating an innocent colony doesn’t sound especially ‘evolved’ to me.”
“It is their way,” she replied simply.
“And that’s supposed to make it all right?” Sandhurst threw the battle-staff onto the mats angrily. “The Klingons are my people’s allies. They fought alongside us during the Dominion War. Without their ferocity and skill, we’d have been conquered.”
“Then I grieve their passing with you, Zeischt. Our Council of Battle has convened to discuss the matter, and I would expect a formal protest will be levied against the tribe responsible.”
“Oh, a formal protest,” Sandhurst exclaimed with mock enthusiasm. “I’m sure that’ll have them trembling in their armor.”
“It is an awkward situation for us,” Nestrala explained, looking vaguely unsettled. It was the first time Sandhurst had seen her express any discomfort with her people’s actions or beliefs. “The tribe in question is the very same that allows us transit to and from your galaxy. Without their help, we would be unable to successfully follow the Great Exodus from the Delta Quadrant.”
“And what prevents them from simply doing as you have?” Sandhurst pried. “Why won’t they simply feed off the available ‘supply’ that the exodus affords you?”
Her answer was as heartfelt as it was troubling. “They, like us, are predators at heart. To them, life is expressed most meaningfully in the challenge of the hunt, the glory of the battle, and the elation of the kill.”
“We’re talking about people
, Nestrala, not prey animals. Sentient beings.”
“No one is more aware of that than we,” Nestrala underscored. “We honor the energy of those beings that sustains us.”
“That’s all well and good if that energy falls into your lap because of a misfortune you didn’t cause, but going out and killing in order to collect it is barbarism!”
She stepped into him, looking up into his face with eyes that had grown suddenly flinty. Sandhurst had to consciously fight the urge to take a step back from her. “I share your feelings on the manner, Zeischt, but there is nothing we can do except raise our voices in protest. Even were we not dependent upon them for our translocation to your galaxy, no Amon tribe has ever made war on another.”
“I won’t be a party to the Amon wantonly killing to fill their stomachs.”
“You have my word that our tribe will do everything in our power to convince our brethren to follow our example.”
“And if that’s not enough?” he asked.
Nestrala had no answer for him.