Bazaar Commercial Zone, Galaxy Station
The name of the establishment was an unpronounceable garble to humanoid tongues, a Habertaem expression that translated roughly to ‘The Drinking Hole.’ It was to this tavern-like locale that Lar’ragos brought Europa’s
senior officers, sans Wu and Counselor Liu. Wu had already established that she wasn’t the social type, and Lar’ragos had been unable to convince the reticent Liu to leave the holodeck where the man had been fly fishing a remote North American river.
relaunch was only two days away, and as the crew had been working long hours to have the ship ready in time for that deadline, Lar’ragos had wanted both to celebrate the achievement as well as foster camaraderie amongst the reconstituted senior staff.
It was evident that Starfleet engineers had exercised some influence on the formerly Habertaem design of the bar, adding more humanoid-friendly chairs and tables to the existing lounging troughs that the scorpion-like aliens rested in.
Lar’ragos was dressed casually in civilian clothing that seemed to defy categorization to any single era, but had replicated a Terran World War II-style bomber jacket for just this occasion. The back of the jacket was emblazoned with a ferocious looking cartoon rendition of a Luna
-class starship, reminiscent of the design-team logos favored by the SCE. Around the image were the words, ‘U.S.S. Europa. Mess With The Best, Burn Like The Rest.’
The others were dressed in a mishmash of uniforms or civilian attire, or a combination of the two. Ashok was clad in engineering overalls that still bore holes and stains from his day’s exertions in the ship’s access tubes, while Leone was dressed in a Starfleet Academy hooded sweatshirt and matching sweatpants.
The ship’s new Ops Chief, Lieutenant Georgia Kirk, wore a sleeveless t-shirt and jeans, her mannish figure further accentuated by her closely cropped red hair. The great granddaughter of Peter Kirk, Georgia was the first of the family lineage to pursue a Starfleet career in the past seventy-five years. She had done everything in her power to disassociate herself from her family’s legacy within Starfleet, and had joined Task Force Vanguard with an eye toward making a name for herself separate that of her nearly deified great-uncle.
A Habertaem server scuttled over to their table, taking drink orders as the creature’s glassy black eyes seemed to stare vacantly into their very souls. Those recent arrivals to the Delta Quadrant were still coming to terms with the horrific disfigurements the now deceased Husnock had inflicted on their slave species.
Kirk shook her head as the server moved off to another table. “You’re telling me you folks have grown used to that?”
The tall, ebony skinned Kuenre Shanthi smiled. “We’re getting there. The pheromone inhibitors we helped them to manufacture have taken the edge off the outright revulsion AQ’s typically feel when first meeting the Habertaem.” He craned his neck to look back at the entrance as a trio of large silhouettes darkened the doorway. “The fact that they’re genuinely the nicest people helps, too,” he added.
Lar’ragos gave Kirk a look that suggested he was assessing her. “They were slaves for untold generations, Lieutenant. Despite all they suffered under the Husnock, they’ve made every effort to welcome us to this region, even when their warm welcome invited attack by the Amon.”
Kirk didn’t shrink from his gaze. “I didn’t suggest they weren’t a trustworthy people, Captain. I’m merely noting that this part of the galaxy seems home to a higher-than-average number of exotically non-humanoid species.”
“By design,” Lar’ragos countered. “The Husnock wanted to defile them so completely that they would always be remembered. In that, at least, they succeeded.”
“Speaking of defilers,” Leone muttered, nodding his head towards the doorway.
The hulking trio stepped into the dim light of the bar, revealing themselves to be swaggering Klingon warriors. They pushed past a Habertaem attendant as though the creature wasn’t there, moving farther into the room where they spied a table occupied by a quartet of Yaoshan traders.
The three warriors surrounded the table, glowering at the occupants until the delicate, willowy Yaoshan decided to find a less hostile location to host their social gathering. The merchants beat a hasty retreat as the laughing Klingons seated themselves into their still-warm chairs.
The server returned to deliver the Starfleet officers’ drinks, before clacking over to the Klingon table on its spindly, segmented legs. The Habertaem tried to take the warriors’ drink orders while one of their number amused himself by throwing Gramilian sand peas at the host’s head.
Kirk closed her eyes and sipped at her ale. “I can’t stand bullies,” she murmured, reigning in her emotions.
Ashok frowned but remained silent.
Leone looked away, clearly disgusted but unwilling to risk a confrontation with their newly arrived allies.
Lar’ragos exhaled slowly, and Leone observed his commanding officer’s posture shift ever so slightly, muscles relaxing in preparation for explosive movement. The El Aurian turned in his chair to address the Klingon trio. “Your brigadier claims our allies are your allies.”
The sand pea tormentor paused his snack flicking assault just long enough to snort derisively. “What of it, human?”
“I’m curious as to which of you is the liar, you or your general?”
All three Klingons stood in unison, two of their chairs toppling over. The Habertaem server wisely decided to retreat.
“Watch your tongue, Starfleet, lest I remove it,” called the Klingon that Lar’ragos had identified as the senior among them.
“I would not behave as you have while aboard a Klingon station.”
“You would not dare,” snarled the leader, his hand resting not so subtly on the handle of his d’k tahg
“You’re correct,” Lar’ragos answered reasonably. “I would not dishonor my uniform or my ship by my actions towards the helpless.”
“Stand up and say that to my face, human,” the Klingon officer spat.
“I stand in the presence of warriors,” Lar’ragos said simply, “not cowards.”
The Klingon bolted forward as both Leone and Kirk began to rise from their chairs. The other officers, more familiar with Lar’ragos, remained seated. There was a flash of steel and a blur of movement, followed by a wet cleaving sound and nearly simultaneous grunts of pain.
The first Klingon sank slowly to his knees, his own d’k tahg's
blade plunged through his hand, pinning it to the table top. One of the other warriors was leaning against a faux-wood support beam, his hand pressed tightly to his throat as a trickle of blood seeped from between his fingers. The third man knelt on the floor, his hands grasping his groin as his eyes watered.
“This was unnecessary.” Lar’ragos said quietly to the leader, squatting down to look at the man eye-to-eye.
“What?” the officer hissed from between clenched teeth.
“All I asked was that you comport yourselves as soldiers of the Empire.” Lar’ragos ran his finger along the curves and points of the Klingon’s family crest, seeming to admire the emblem. “When you or your friends come in here, I expect you to mind your manners. And the next time you pull a knife on me, you’d best have made reservations in Gre’thor
Kirk and Leone shared a surprised look before slowly resuming their seats. Shanthi leaned over to the lieutenants and whispered, “Welcome to Europa.
Lar’ragos reached out and tapped the Klingon’s comms device attached to his gauntlet. “This is Commander Lar’ragos aboard Galaxy Station. I would cordially invite Brigadier Gan’Louk to come collect three of his ‘honorable warriors’ who appear to have had too much bloodwine.”
* * *
By the time Brigadier Gan’Louk and a host of Klingon soldiers arrived, station security had been summoned, as well as medical personnel whose ministrations the injured Klingons steadfastly refused.
Captain Ebnal had entered moments earlier, but rather than assume command of the scene, he had melted into the background to observe.
The general waved his entourage back as he stepped up to inspect the state of his three warriors. He turned his gaze on Lar’ragos, the only Starfleet member from Europa’s
contingent not seated. “Your work, I presume?” he inquired in a disinterested tone.
Lar’ragos leaned against the table in a casual posture, arms folded across his chest. “Your men were abusing the Habertaem. I attempted to address their behavior, and they chose to... escalate the situation.”
Gan’Louk reached out and jerked the knife free from both hand and table, freeing his soldier. The man rose to his feet, clutching his wounded hand to his chest to staunch the blood flow. The brigadier gestured to the cadre that had accompanied him, and they moved to envelope the three troublemakers and usher them out of the establishment.
With a flick of his wrist, Gan’Louk sent the d’k tahg
flying towards the deck, where it lodged tip-first in the floor barely an inch from Lar’ragos’ feet.
The El Aurian didn’t flinch, but it was a near thing. He hadn’t seen that coming.
“It’s yours,” Gan’Louk offered in a neutral tone, showing none of the bluster and outrage one might expect. “You earned it.”
“Thank you, no,” Lar’ragos demurred. “I’ve had more than enough Klingon toys in my day, Brigadier.”
The comment seemed to generate the briefest flicker of anger behind the Klingon officer’s eyes. The heat had barely registered on Gan’Louk’s face before he banished it. He turned to address the Habertaem owner of the social club. “You have my apologies for the unwarranted actions of my soldiers. They have dishonored their uniform, their houses, and the empire. We will pay for the damages in the currency or trade goods of your choice.”
Then Gan’Louk stepped close to Lar’ragos, leaning in to whisper, “You never fail to disappoint, outworlder.”
Lar’ragos’ expression was hard enough to humble neutronium. He replied in an equally subdued tone, “Keep your dogs on a tighter leash, and I won’t have to repeat this lesson.”
“Next time, bring the lesson to me in person,” Gan’Louk said in a lethal purr.
A slow smile crept across Lar’ragos’ lips. “I await your invitation... General.”
Gan’Louk turned on his heel and stormed out.
Lar’ragos pulled out his chair and was about to take a seat when a hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Not so goddamn fast, Commander,” came the growling voice of Lucian Ebnal.
Lar’ragos favored him with an innocent expression. “Yes, sir?”
“We have an unscheduled appointment with Vice Admiral T’Cirya.”
* * *
“So Commander Twinkletoes here decides it’d be a hoot to brawl with the Klingons in the bazaar, and then drag the brigadier into the mess to highlight the oafishness of his men.”
Admirals T'Cirya listened to Ebnal's report from behind her desk with Rear Admiral Brotman standing near by. They had been mid-discussion when news of the altercation reached them. Brotman remained within the office at her insistence. "Your penchant for color notwithstanding, Captain, I prefer concise brevity when hearing from my officers," she said tonelessly.
“Very well, sir. In that case, Pava started a fucking fight with the Klinks,” Ebnal enthused.
Brotman began a chortle, but it bit off into a sudden coughing fit. "Pardon me, sir."
T'Cirya paid Brotman no attention. She rose from her seat and approached the viewscreen on the left side of the desk. "Captain Lar'ragos?"
Lar’ragos was seated with his legs crossed, looking rather disinterested in the proceedings. When addressed by T’Cirya, he stood. “Sir?”
"Rear Admiral Brotman and I would appreciate a verbal report on your assessment of General Gan'Louk," she said. "It's timely, considering we were just discussing their strength. It would be helpful to know his character."
“Yes, sir,” Lar’ragos answered crisply. “The brigadier came to the bazaar straightaway and apologized for his mens’ actions. He even offered restitution. It’s likely the three soldiers involved are already dead for having shamed their general.”
Brotman scoffed. "That's to be expected, isn't it? Their idea of maintaining discipline has little to do with discipline at all." His demeanor and reaction betrayed his prejudice toward the Klingons. "Their style of military function is archaic. It's a wonder they've survived this long."
"Thank you, Admiral," T'Cirya nearly cut him off, then turned back to face Lar'ragos. "And thank you, Captain. That's a rather interesting and useful bit of information about him. I daresay you've managed to uncover precisely what we were looking for."
Ebnal stood with arms crossed, his gaze fixed on Lar’ragos. “They way you two spoke, I’d wager that wasn’t your first encounter. Where do you know Gan’Louk from?”
For the first time since arriving in T’Cirya’s office, Lar’ragos appeared vaguely uncomfortable. “Metralus II. He led the Klingon contingent that ransacked our colony there when the Empire invaded. I was captured just before the armistice, and Gan’Louk and I had words. We’re not each other’s biggest fans.”
That drew the very Vulcan expression of the lifted eyebrow from T'Cirya. "Indeed," she said. She returned to her desk and touched the control panel. "Lieutenant, please inform Captain Grelk that I will be delayed in meeting with him. And then, send for Commander Worf. Thank you." She addressed the group once more. "Captain Lar'ragos, Admiral Brotman will be in touch with you regarding any information that you can provide about the general. Furthermore, I believe that Brigadier General Bainbridge may see fit to receive you. He is here with Teams Six, Eight, and Nine."
Lar’ragos inclined his head. “Good timing, sir. Additional assets from the Teams will be a definite force multiplier out here.”
Ebnal continued to give Lar’ragos a skeptical look as the two men exited the office. “I don’t mind you slapping around a few Klingons for a good cause, Pava, but calling Gan’Louk out in front of his people risked kicking over the hornets’ nest.”
Lar’ragos turned to face him. “I’ll keep that in mind, Captain. Thank you.”
“See that you do,” Ebnal retorted. “I know you're demon of hand-to-hand combat, but if you’d fucked up and the Klingons had gone to disruptors, you’d have only been the first person they shot, not the last. You’ve got a crew to think about now, so no more of this interstellar cowboy shit.”
“Less me, more Sandhurst?”
Ebnal grunted. “Something like that.”
* * *