, Matthew!” Koram barked at Matt, Quincy Talbot, Chris Roberts, and Alvin Thiesman as the four Starfleet officers stood on the warship’s transporter pads—all dressed in civilian clothing. Banner
, under the command of Lieutenant Turovik, assisted by two members of the crew, had been dropped off twenty-four hours before and was now approaching Vulcan. With that part of their cover intact, Matt and his small band had travelled to Earth aboard Amar
. “We will remain here in orbit . . . ostensibly to give my crew a chance to experience the many cultures of Earth and enjoy a few days of rest and recreation. Should you need us, we will be prepared my brother.”
Matt nodded briskly. “I have no doubt of that, Lord Koram. Have you managed to contact Cha’shin?”
The Klingon shook his head. “No . . . and that worries me, Matthew Dahlgren. Are you certain you trust this officer you hope will aid you?”
“Ben Maxwell? Koram, I trust him as much as I trust you.”
“Ah. I hope then that you find success, Matthew—and that your enemies will deliver themselves into your grasp.”
Koram turned to the crewman standing at the transporter controls and the barked out a series of command in the Klingon tongue. Matt raised his hand to his chest and he nodded at Koram as the device began to hum; then he and his companions dissolved within a curtain of light.
The quiet night was broken as a transporter beam emerged from nothing and then the forms of the four men solidified, the curtain of light surrounding them fading away into darkness once more. Although momentarily distraught by the sudden burst of light, the crickets and frogs once again began to chirp and croak.
“Right in the middle of nowhere,” grumbled Quincy. “And Starfleet Security will probably be beaming in right behind us to find out who is beaming down here in the middle of the damn night!”
“Relax, Doctor Talbot,” Matt said as he started walking. “Koram beamed down, and then right back up again, seventy-two Klingons from his ship—calibrating his systems, he is telling Security right now. Of course, he didn’t realize that Security frowns on such activity and will shut down the transporter units—at least that is what he is going to tell them. Security does
respond to unauthorized beam-downs—but they are going to be hard-pressed to get to us immediately since more than a dozen took place before the Klingons energized our
Matt stepped onto a gravel road running through the fields and took a left. “And if they do beam in? We are four humans out for a stroll on autumn eve—not Klingons.”
The doctor snorted. “And won’t they ask us why we are out and about for the night? And query our IDs?”
“Certainly,” Matt answered. And except for the chirping of the crickets and the croaking of the frogs and the crunch of the gravel beneath their boots, the night grew quiet once more.
Finally, Quincy sighed. “And what, O Great and Powerful Oz, will we do when they discover that all four of us are supposed to be aboard a Federation Starship heading towards the borders of the Federation?”
“Mister Thiesman, would you care to answer that?”
“Aye, aye, Sir. Doctor Talbot, I changed everyone’s ID back aboard ship.”
“You hacked the ID? I was under the impression that is impossible!”
“Nothing is impossible, Sir. I may be a Marine—and enlisted at that—but I know a few tricks. They won’t pass muster for a full security examination, but a cursory reading, in the field, in the early hours of the night? The overlay will show us as local residents, with only a few minor infractions against our records.”
“Minor infractions?” asked Chris as he kept scanning the woods to either side of the road with his eyes. “Why on earth would you give any of us a criminal record?”
“Because in the real world, Mister Roberts,” the Marine answered, “very few people are fine, upstanding citizens that volunteer for Starfleet. People get in altercations; they drink too much real alcohol; they drive too fast; they do dumb
things—and nothing in the universe sets off alarm bells in a Security officer’s head like someone with an immaculate past.”
In the distance behind them, there was a distant hum of a transporter beam.
“Eyes front, gentlemen,” Matt said, as he continued to walk. “You were saying, Mister Thiesman?”
“Yes, sir. Mister Roberts, once the Security officer looks at your ID, sees that you are from this area, a local who has never left home, sees that you have been detained four times in the past ten years for brawling and intoxication, he is going to mentally slot you into ‘harmless, local, yokel’. The Security beaming in now, they aren’t local—they don’t know you and they don’t expect to know you—but they certainly know people like the ones with your record.”
Ahead of them on the road, another transporter trace suddenly appeared, and two Security officers in armor and helmets suddenly appeared.
Matt stopped and he nodded. “Evening,” he said calmly. “You here about the Klingons who beamed down a few minutes ago? Back that way?” he said pointing towards the fields on the far side of the woods.
One of the Security officers frowned. “How did you know they were Klingons?”
Matt chuckled. “Because they beamed down in that field and we could see them from the road. Beamed down and beamed right back up again—is the Starfleet running an exercise tonight?”
“Identification,” the guard demanded. Matt shrugged and pulled out his card, passed it over. One by one, the others did the same.
“Why are you folks out this time of night?”
“Our wives are throwing a baby shower for that young man’s missus. We got out before the estrogen levels began to peak. Old Bill Maddox has a pub right down this lane . . . about another kilometer and a half ahead.” Matt smiled again and he leaned close to the Security officer. “Thought we might toast him starting up a family—you boys want a drink?” He asked as he pulled out a silver flask from his jacket pocket, the sharp smell of real whiskey rising in the night air as unscrewed the top.
The officer frowned, but the second one handed back the IDs and nodded. “Clean,” he said.
“Be on your way then,” the first said. “But don’t even think about driving if you are drinking real whiskey.”
“Why the hell do you think we are walking, officer? For our health? My old lady will skin me alive I get in trouble with the law again,” Matt thundered.
“Just you watch yourselves—the local constabulary will be at that pub in force if any of you start something,” the second officer warned, frowning at Chris.
Matt shook his head sadly. “We never start anything, officer—but we have finished it a time or two.”
The officers gave him a dirty look again as Matt raised the flask in salute and took a deep pull, then one of them spoke into his communicator and the pair beamed away. “Care for a snort, gentlemen?” Matt asked.
“No, sir,” answered Alvin. “Thank you, no, Captain,” replied Chris.
But Quincy grabbed the silver flask and pulled down a long swallow. He sighed and sealed the top before passing it back over to Matt. “I thought you were never going to ask,” he complained. “And how far much farther is it? My feet are already aching.”
“Bill lives in town not far from the pub. Just about fifteen hundred meters or so on down this road. As the crow flies,” he qualified his remark as the captain started forward again.
“As the crow flies? And how far, exactly, would that be as the doctor walks?”
“About three kilometers, give or take.”
“Well, we couldn’t beam in too close to town, Doctor Talbot.”
“Oh, my aching bunions.”