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Old August 14 2007, 11:31 PM   #37
DavidFalkayn
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Lexington: Meet The Lady Part 6

Thanks for your comments, guys. Here's part 6--more questions and more mysteries...

Meet The Lady Part:6

************************************************** **********

As they walked slowly into the obelisk, Wesley and the remaining members of his party found themselves in a dimly lit chamber, the light source apparently coming from luminescent stones affixed to the walls. Advancing further into the chamber, they confronted K’Tan and K’Temoc, advancing from the opposite direction. Readying his atlatl, Wesley challenged his Klingon counterpart, “Are you responsible for this?”

“That was my question to you, Earther.” K’Tan spat out as he and his companion brandished their d’k tahqs. First you destroy our scoutship…”

“We didn’t destroy your ship!” Robert interrupted with a scowl, “You’re the ones attacking and destroying Federation starships in neutral space. Now, I want to know, what did you do to the Voltaire? Did you attack it without warning like you attacked our ship?”

“You were in Klingon space!” K’Tan snarled, “We destroy intruders!”

“We are not the intruders here…” Robert riposted, “You are.”

Flashing an evil grin as he and his fellow warrior crept slowly forward, K’Tan sneered, “I have had enough of your lies, Earther. I shall look forward to disemboweling you and your females.”

His eyes flashing with anger at the Klingon’s threat to the two ensigns, Robert launched his spear at the onrushing warrior. But, much to his astonishment, both spear and charging Klingon, encountering an invisible barrier, bounced back. Wesley, seeing the spear now coming at him ducked immediately as his counterpart, thrown back several feet, landed on the floor with a thud. As the two ship captains struggled to their feet, a voice resounded within the chamber, speaking Federation Standard to the humans while simultaneously speaking the Klingon’s own language to them.

“You represent the best of your races. You have triumphed over the obstacles put before you to have reached this goal. Now it is to be seen whether you are worthy or not.”

“Who are you?” Commodore Wesley called out, “Why have you taken us and where are we?”

“What gives you the right?” K’Tan shouted; his voice a challenge. “To kidnap us from my ship? If you are not cowards, then show yourselves!”

Agreeing somewhat with the Klingon standing on the opposite side of the barrier from him, Robert once again called out to the voice, “We are not rats that you can run through your maze. We demand to know who you are and why you have taken us.”

“If you seek answers—prove yourselves worthy!” The voice boomed.

“Worthy of what?” Wesley asked, forcing himself to calm down as he realized that bravado was not going to get the answers he sought.

As if in answer to his question, a crystal table appeared in the center of the chamber, bearing three objects on it: a spear, a book seemingly bound in leather, and a serpent in a circular form, devouring its tail. The spear glowing, the voice once again filled the chamber, “You have already passed the first test—that of battle. You have all exhibited physical and tactical prowess against the forces of nature. The spear, glowing brilliantly for a brief moment, disappeared as the book now glowed. "This test could prove much easier—or more difficult and could potentially carry great ramifications for the future. What will happen will depend solely on you.”

“What if we refuse to play your little game?” Wesley yelled back, receiving a confirming grunt from his Klingon counterpart.

“We are Klingon warriors.” K’Tan shouted, “We will fight whom we wish and when we wish!”

Immediately after the two captains had uttered their words of defiance, the far wall of the chamber seemed to suddenly fill with a multi-colored cloudy substance. Slowly, the cloudy tendrils coalesced into an image: the Lexington and K’Mar, both standing off near a large structure resembling, in some ways, a space station. Jet black, the central portion was a central spire, pointed at both ends spokes jutting out from the spire connected it to a ring.

“Failure to comply will result in serious consequences!”

“Are you threatening my ship?” Wesley demanded, his tone now taking on an angry edge.

“We will not be intimidated by empty boasts from empty voices!” K’Tan declared, adding his voice of protest.

“We threaten no one.” The voice responded. “We simply state that if you refuse to participate, you will not be permitted to return to your people. If that happens, there is the possibility that your ships, in their desire to recover you, could meet their own demise. The choice is yours.”

“It’s a bluff!” K’Temoc growled, “Nothing more.”

“Do not be so quick to dismiss their claim, young warrior.” K’Tan advised, his years of experience screaming out at him to exercise caution here. “Remember, only a fool fights in a burning house.”

Addressing the Klingon officer standing before him, Wesley said through clenched teeth, “I think we have a good ideas as to what happened to our two ships now…”

“Ungh…” K’Tan agreed with a single nod of the head, “So it would seem.”

“It seems we have no choice…” Wesley remarked, “But to go along with our host’s wishes if we wish to see either of our ships again.”

“Agreed.” K’Tan reluctantly conceded, “For now, we have a truce. But I make no promises for afterwards.”

“I guess that’ll have to do.” Wesley acknowledged as, raising his voice, he once again called out to the disembodied voices, “All right. We’ll agree to your tests—if you agree to the following conditions. First, you tell us who you are and why you are doing this to us. Second, you return us to our ships. And finally, you promise to stop doing this to our ships and people in the future.”

A booming sound that almost seemed like laughter filled the chamber. Then the loud voice once again resounded, “You are indeed bold! But is that boldness justified? We shall see. If you complete the tests, then we shall consider your terms. Prepare yourselves!”

“That’s probably the best we’re going to get…” Robert managed to get out, before the room, once again filling with thick, multi-colored fog, became totally opaque. “Jennifer? Aliz?”

************************************************** *************

“Launch shuttlecraft Aldrin.” Commander Alexei Kuznetsov ordered as he drummed his fingers on the center seat’s arm rest. “And raise Lieutenant Commander Zha’Thara once the shuttlecraft is underway.”

As both Lieutenants Oudekirk and Lawford simultaneously acknowledged the Russian first officer’s commands, the clamshell doors located in the rear of the giant Constitution class starship slowly slid open as the pad upon which the shuttlecraft Aldrin rested slowly rotated until the tiny craft was in launch position. Flashing a playful grin, Lieutenant Commander Talana Zha’Thara, the Lexington’s Andorian science officer, turned her head towards the enlisted human pilot sitting next to her, wearing a gold shirt with three chevrons on his sleeve, marking him as a petty officer, first class. “Ok, Coxsun, take us out.”

“Aye, Sir.” The petty officer, a lifer who had been on starships all his life, replied as he operated the tiny craft’s controls. The shuttlecraft slowly rose and then, as smooth as silk, exited the shuttlebay. “Setting course for the alien station.” The coxswain reported, “I’ve got the Klingon shuttlecraft.” He further announced, pointing with his free hand at a tiny dot emerging from the shadow of its Klingon mother-ship, the shark-like K’Mar.

Hearing the tell-tale beep of an incoming hail, Talana opening the communications channel, heard her friend Cilla Oudekirk’s Dutch accented voice, “Lexington to Aldrin…Lexington to Aldrin…”

“This is Aldrin.” Talana immediately responded, “We’re underway and have spotted the Klingon shuttlecraft.” Seeing the coxswain nodding his head slightly out of the corner of her eye, the Andorian science officer continued her report. “No scans of weapons or other shuttlecraft. Looks like they’re playing it straight this time.”

“Just the same…” Commander Kuznetsov cautioned, “…be careful, Lieutenant Commander and don’t forget to check in at regular intervals.”

“Aye, Sir.” Talana acknowledged with a playful lilt to her voice, “I promise I’ll call home and won’t go out with any strange Klingons.”

Hearing his science officer’s flippant response, the Bear growled in a low tone, “I’m serious, Ms. Zha’Thara. Watch yourselves—if something happens, we might not be able to help you in time…”

All traces of humor vanishing upon hearing the commander’s grave voice, the beautiful Andorian replied in a surprisingly tender tone, “We’ll be careful, Alexei…I promise.”

************************************************** **************

The opaque swirling mist clearing, Wesley, Aliz, and Jennifer found themselves on a glassy plain gazing at the setting sun, a dull red giant. Looking about the area, Wesley immediately spotted a crystalline structure standing in the middle of a circular depression. “That’s probably where we’re supposed to go…” He pointed as he and his companions regarded the structure.

“So…” Jennifer inquired, “What are we supposed to do here.”

“Well…” The commodore speculated as he recalled the three objects on the table. “The voices said that the spear stood for battle and that’d we’d met that challenge. And then, before we were transported here, the book glowed.”

“What would be the significance of a book?” Jennifer questioned; a confused look on her face.

“Well…what’s the purpose of a book?” Robert asked, once again taking on the role of instructor.

“Let’s see…” Aliz replied, “Books contain knowledge...”

Shrugging, Jennifer added, “You can read them for entertainment.”

“What about enlightenment?” Wesley prompted with a grin

“You mean like a religious text?” Ensign Bathory questioned.

“Or philosophical or ethical writings.” Robert replied. “In other words—wisdom.” Smiling, the commodore pointed towards their destination. “In any event, ensigns, we’re not going to find enlightenment, wisdom, knowledge, or entertainment standing around here. Our answers lie over there—in that crater.”

“Aye, Sir.” The two women responded as the threesome advanced towards the depression. As they advanced towards the structure, Ensign Watley pointed at the many crystal shards littering the glassy plain on either side of where the three officers walked. “Sir…Aliz…take a look.”

“They’re all different colors…but they seem to come in only a limited number of shapes.” Ensign Bathory noted as she bent down, picking up two of the shards. “See…” She commented, “This ruby one has a diamond shape while the sapphire is more of an oval.”

“And the emerald…” Wesley noted, “…is triangular in shape.”

“And the topaz…: Aliz said as she raised a topaz colored crystal, “…is in the form of a perfect square.”

“Yeah...but…” Jennifer pointed out, “…the shapes don’t always match the colors. See that sapphire triangle or the green diamond?”

“Interesting…” The commodore mused as he stuck some of the shards in his boots. “You girls might want to do the same…” He said, “…they could come in handy as samples.”

“Right…” Aliz grinned as she scooped up some of the crystals, “And if nothing else, Jennifer can use them for her new necklace.”

“Oh poo!” Jennifer joked, “You’re just jealous because I got to Ensign Friedman before you did.”

Laughing as his young ensigns kidded around with each other, Robert’s thoughts suddenly drifted back to his wife, I wonder what Virginia’s doing now, the suddenly pensive commodore thought to himself as the two women with him laughed merrily.

Seeing the smile on the ruggedly handsome Wesley’s face suddenly vanish, Aliz walked up to the older man. Looking up into his eyes, she tentatively asked, “Are you ok, Sir?”

“Yeah…” Robert answered back, snapped out of his reverie by the young auburn haired woman standing before him, “…I’m fine.” Forcing a smile to his face, he fibbed, “I was just thinking about the ship and how it’s doing.”

“I’m sure everything’s fine, Sir.” Aliz consoled, “After all, I don’t care what those stuck up snobs on the Enterprise say, as far as I’m concerned, we have the best ship and crew in the Fleet.”

“Thank you.” Wesley replied, his spirits buoyed by the youthful Hungarian helmsman. “Now…let’s see if we can solve this mystery so that we can get back home.”

************************************************** *********************

“Look at that!” Lieutenant Edward Forrester, one of the science specialists that Lieutenant Commander Zha’Thara had brought with her on this expedition, exclaimed, pointing at where a strut had suddenly extended out from the alien ring structure, with what appeared to be a square landing platform at its end.

“Looks like they’re expecting us.” The Andorian science officer observed, her antennae pointing forwards. Turning towards the petty officer piloting the shuttle, she commanded, “Ok, Coxsun. Bring us on in.”

“Aye, Sir.” Petty Officer Miller laconically acknowledged as he steered the tiny shuttlecraft towards its destination. Pointing towards a tiny object also headed towards the landing pad, the coxswain reported, “Looks like the Klingons have the same idea.”

“Is that pad big enough for both of us?” Talana asked, not looking forward to having to engage the Klingons in a race for the landing spot.

“It’ll be tight…” The experienced shuttle pilot judged, “…but it’s doable.” Expertly piloting the shuttlecraft in, Miller set the craft down on the left half of the pad as his Klingon counterpart did the same on the right. As the craft powered down, the occupants of the shuttle felt a slight lurch. Looking out the window, one of the disguised security specialists, a Vulcan, Ensign Xylvan, noted in a flat, matter of fact tone, “It would appear that we are being brought into the structure.”

“Well…” Talana smiled, “That’s where we’re supposed to be going anyway, isn’t it? So…” She advised in a nonchalant tone, “Let’s relax and enjoy the ride.”

************************************************** **********************

The mist dispersing around Captain K’Tan and his companion, the two Klingons found themselves in exactly the same situation as their Federation counterparts. Spotting the spire in the distance, K’Tan snorted, “I tire of playing the role of the fool, K’Temoc. Still…we might find something of use here.” Pausing for a moment as he took in the stark surroundings, he sounded a note of caution, “Be on your guard. There is more here than meets the eye.”

As the two Klingons hiked towards the crater, they, like their counterparts, spied crystalline shards of varying shapes and colors. “Interesting.” K’Temoc noted, holding up an emerald lozenge, “There are only these four shapes and these four colors.”

“Yes…” K’Tan growled, “Another part of the test, no doubt. Collect them. I have a feeling they will prove useful.”

************************************************** *********************

“Captain!” K’Temoc exclaimed, pointing at a stele at the edge of the crater that was the destination of the two Klingon warriors. His eyes carefully scanning the area around the crater, he pointed at three other, identical structures, “What are they?”

“Perhaps answers.” K’Tan answered back as he approached the nearest slab.

************************************************** *********************

As Commodore Wesley and his party drew nearer the crater, they, like the Klingons, immediately spied four stelae, each at opposite sides of the crater. “You know…” Ensign Whatley observed, “If you were to draw lines connecting the stelae, they’d intersect dead center.”

“Right where that object is located.” Aliz interjected, pointing at an irregularly shaped crystalline structure approximately two meters tall. “Should we take a closer look?”

“You two stay back.” The commodore ordered, “I’ll go.” Approaching the first stele, Wesley examined several bas relief images decorating the top and bottom of the stele with the middle consisting of four depressions. “That’s interesting…” he murmured as he motioned for the two ensigns to join him. “See how those depressions are about the same size and shape as the shards we picked up.

************************************************** *******************

As K’Tan approached the stele, he growled. “K’Temoc…come here. It looks like our jailers have set a test for us.”

The younger Klingon, nodding his head, grunted as he pointed at the images on the top of the slab. “Look at the pictographs, Captain. The first one is of fire.”

************************************************** *********************

“This pictograph resembles crossed spears…” Jennifer noted, pointing at the image in question.

“Could it stand for battle?” Aliz inquired.

“Possibly…” Wesley replied as he decoded the pictographs.

************************************************** ********************

“Through the fire of battle…” K’Tan immediately translated, his lips turning up into a smile.

************************************************** *******************

“…is great wealth for those who survive.” Commodore Wesley finished, pointing at what appeared to be a picture of a gemstone.

************************************************** ******************

Laughing, K’Tan exclaimed, “A warrior’s saying!” Then examining the second set of images, he translated, “Corrosive and poisonous…the triumph of the ambush brings no reward.”

“A victory attained through treachery is an empty victory.” K’Temoc pronounced.

Shaking his head, K’Tan chuckled, “Ah…the vanity and folly of youth. Listen, young warrior and learn…” The grizzled Klingon veteran admonished, “Victory is victory. Whether it is achieved in combat with an alert and worthy foe…or in stealth…or through ambush…does not matter. All that is important is defeating your foe. The only true emptiness comes from defeat.”

************************************************** *******************

Successfully deciphering the third set of images, Ensign Watley read aloud, “Caution brings neither reward nor penalty.”

“In other words…” Wesley quipped, “Nothing ventured…nothing gained.”

************************************************** *******************

“Placid selflessness bears unforeseen consequences…” K’Tan translated, laughing aloud as he slapped his companion on the shoulder, “Of course it does!” The worldly captain declared, “Only a flaccid Earther would believe otherwise.”

************************************************** ******************

“Or…” Commodore Wesley chuckled as he read the inscription, “…no good deed goes unpunished.” Turning towards his young officers, Robert opened the discussion, “So…we have four clues, four shapes of shards, four colors, four stelae, and four depressions in each of the stelae. Now, let’s put it all together and see what we come up with.”

************************************************** ********************

“Fire is red…” K’Temoc surmised, “Therefore the red stones must stand for the fire prophecy.

“When we go to yellow alert…” Aliz grinned, “…it means that we’re taking a cautious posture. So…it’s a safe bet that the topazes stand for the third inscription.”

“Some poisons are green…” K’Tan mused, “…and some metals appear green when corroded. Which would mean that the second verse refers to them.”

“A blue sky is placid…” Commodore Wesley observed, “…as is a calm sea or lake. The last stanza must refer to the sapphire. “

************************************************** *********************

“So, K’Temoc…” K’Tan smiled, “Which color stones would you put into the depressions?”

“Hmmm…” The young Klingon answered, “Before I would have chosen red, but now, after listening to your words, I would choose green.”

“Why…other than heeding my earlier words, would you have chosen green?” K’Tan asked, stroking his beard as he gave the younger officer an appraising gaze.

Realizing that his commanding officer was carefully gauging his response and that his career—and possibly his life—depended upon how he answered his captain’s question, K’Temoc carefully pondered his answer, “There are several reasons, Captain. First, what use is great wealth if it cannot be enjoyed? Also, fighting a battle now would serve no useful purpose, while at the same time possibly putting the Empire at a disadvantage. Should we fall, then the Earthers would triumph as they will surely take one of the other options. They would reap the rewards all to themselves. Had there been a few more of us, then I would be more willing to risk battle, but, as Kahless said, ‘Losing a battle to win a war is no defeat...”

“And winning a battle while losing a war is no victory.” K’Tan nodded his head, pleased at his subordinate’s answer. “Very good, K’Temoc—I see I was right to promote you. A fool such as D’Kor would have chosen the red stone, but you are wise in that you understand that a true warrior knows that he must never allow his love for battle to blind him to the wider view.” Placing his right hand on the younger Klingon’s shoulder, the grizzled veteran nodded his head, “You will go far, young K’Temoc…so long as you remember to leaven your courage with wisdom.”

Picking up the green stones, K’Tan placed one of each within the appropriate depression. As the last stone was emplaced, a faint green light bathed the stele in its glow. “Now…” the Klingon captain commanded, “Let us do the same to the other slabs and we shall see how wise we are.”

************************************************** ********************

“Working under the assumption that we’re not going to go with either the rubies or the emeralds…” Commodore Wesley stated as he posed yet another ethical question to his junior officers, even though he had already decided which set of stones he was going to use, “Which of the other two would you go with?”

“The topaz would be safe…” Jennifer began, only to be interrupted by her friend and roommate.

“But if we went with that, we would be passing up a possibly great opportunity. Aliz argued enthusiastically.

“Or a possible disaster.” Jennifer countered, “Remember, the inscription for the sapphire reads, ‘…unintended consequences’. There’s a wide range of possible results in that statement—and not all of them good.”

“If we’re afraid to take chances, then we don’t have any business being out here.” Aliz smoothly riposted, getting into the verbal exchange.

“Calculated risks…” Jennifer argued back, “Yes…I agree. But there are too many variables here. We just don’t have enough to go on to chance it.”

Watching and listening carefully as the two young ensigns debated their positions, Wesley nodding his head sagely. Clearing his throat, he interrupted their argument, “You both have made good points, but, in this instance, I agree with Ensign Bathory. The possible opportunities to learn and make contact with a new life form outweigh the possible risks. We go with the sapphires.”

************************************************** *****************

As the landing platform retracted completely into the black ring and the outer doors of the structure closed, the occupants of the Aldrin, gazing out of the windows of the tiny vessel, could see only inky blackness until, without warning, the area immediately around both of the shuttlecraft was bathed in a dim yellow light.

“Sensors report an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere and one standard gravity. No known pathogens.” Lieutenant Forrester reported.

“See if you can raise the Lexington.” Zha’Thara ordered as she took a phaser and communicator handed to her by Ensign Xylvan, attaching them to the belt around her waist.

“No joy, Commander.” The coxswain reported, frowning at his inability to raise the Aldrin’s mother ship.

“Well…” Talana replied, putting on a brave face for her command, “That shouldn’t come as a big surprise. After all, if our scans couldn’t get through that structure, there’s no reason to think our communications would either. It just means we’re going to have to be extra careful.” Moving towards the shuttlecraft’s main egress, the Andorian science officer turned back to address her away team, “Ok everyone, remember, we have a truce with the Klingons. Don’t do anything to provoke them—but don’t take any crap off of them either. Watch yourselves…watch them…and remember why you’re here—to try to find out as much as we can about what this thing is and whether it had anything to do with the disappearance of the commodore and the rest of our people.” Exhaling, she punched the button to open the door, “Ok people…let’s see what’s out there.”

************************************************** *******************

“We’ve lost contact with the Aldrin, Commander.” Lieutenant Cilla Oudekirk, the Lexington’s communications officer reported from her station.

“Damn.” Commander Kuznetsov swore, “Even though we anticipated that possibility…” Commander Kuznetsov growled, “…I still don’t like it. Keep trying at regular intervals, Lieutenant and continue monitoring our ‘watchdogs’. I want to know the moment the Klingons try anything.”

************************************************** *******************

“Our shuttlecraft has disappeared within the structure and we have lost contact.” D’Kor informed his acting captain. Your orders, Sir?”

“We wait…” Commander Kalas decided, “But not forever, my friend.” He smiled, “Have your warriors ready to move. Their moment will come very soon.”

************************************************** ********************

Exiting the Aldrin first, Petty Officer Miller by her side, Talana immediately spotted her counterpart, a Klingon woman, another one of those referred to by their fellow Klingons as the ‘unfortunate ones’ due to the presence of human augment DNA in their system, standing next to a Klingon male. Drawing his phaser immediately on seeing the two Klingons, the coxswain cautioned, “Careful, Ma’am.”

“Lower your weapon.” The Andorian science officer ordered in a soft voice, as she held both her hands outstretched. “I am Lieutenant Commander Zha’Thara!” She called out to the Klingons. “We have a truce.”

The Klingon female, also motioning for the warrior standing next to her to lower his weapon, promptly responded in a loud, clear voice, “I am Lieutenant Lyssan. Let us begin the mutual inspections so that we can commence our business.”

“You heard the Lieutenant.” Talana whispered to the crewman standing next to her. “Tell the others to break out the equipment.” Calling out to her Klingon counterpart, the lovely Andorian suggested, “Let’s start with ourselves. We’ll meet in the middle between our two shuttlecrafts.” Not waiting for an answer, Talana started towards the Klingon craft, stopping dead center between the two vessels.

Approaching from the opposite direction, Lyssan made her way alone down the ramp that extended from the hatch at the side of her craft to the landing pad deck, crossing the area between her craft and the Aldrin, immediately coming to a halt as she reached the tall Andorian woman.

Taking her phaser out from its place of concealment at the small of her back, Talana handed it to the shorter olive skinned Klingon woman standing before her as, simultaneously, Lyssan handed her disruptor, butt first, over to her. Both officers nodding their heads in agreement that the terms of the truce had been adhered to—by them at least, Lyssan spoke with, much to the surprise of her Andorian counterpart, a slight smile on her face, “I would suggest, Lieutenant Commander, that we have the rest of our teams carry out their inspections of each other one at a time—that would limit the possibilities for any unfortunate…misunderstandings.”

“Agreed.” Talana answered back, her lips turning up into a smile as well. This might…the Andorian science officer hoped as she said a quiet prayer to the goddess of luck…actually work.

************************************************** ******************

Placing a green oval into the final depression on the final stele, K’Tan stood back as the object began to glow. The green glow from all four slabs grew brighter and brighter until finally, four beams of green light lanced from each of the stelae, shattering the crystalline structure in the middle into thousands of tiny fragments.

As the glow around the stelae subsided, a voice boomed as the swirling mist once again surrounded and took the two warriors, “An interesting…and most unexpected…choice. We shall have to ponder this.”

************************************************** ******************

As Wesley placed the last blue lozenge in its slot, a blue glow, similar to that which emanated from the other stelae, suffused the area around the slab. Unlike with the Klingons, the blue glow, instead of shining with a brighter intensity, radiated gentle warmth as its beams bathed the crystalline object in the center, slowly melting the hard outer shell until only an amber amorphous mass remained. The mass oozed to the floor, pulsating for several moments until, much to the surprise of Wesley and the two women standing beside him, it took on the form of an avian creature totally alien to any of the humans. Flying to its benefactors, the…for lack of a better word, Wesley thought…shapeshifter flew around the three Starfleet officers as if it was studying them. Then, pausing in front of Commodore Wesley, the creature hovered for several seconds before taking off to the sky, free once again.

“What?” Aliz questioned, blinking in surprise, “Was that?”

“Did you see the way it assumed the shape of that bird?” Jennifer asked in an astonished voice.

“Very interesting…the loud voice of their host boomed…very interesting indeed. You have set forces in motion—forces that will not come to fruition in your lifetimes but that will bring both great opportunities—and great perils. This test is over!” The voice boomed as Wesley and his companions were once again taken by the mist.

************************************************** **********************

Wesley and his people as well as K’Tan finding themselves once again in the large chamber, the commodore called out, “What did you mean by us setting forces in motion? Do they involve what we freed?”

“The answers to those questions must wait for future generations.” The voice responded, “You acted as we had anticipated. But you…” the voice spoke, now seemingly addressing the Klingon captain, “…surprised us. We had anticipated that you would choose the red stones—that you would want to engage in battle.”

Laughing, K’Tan replied, “Then you are not as wise, nor do you know us, as well as you thought. It is a foolish warrior who engages in wasteful struggle.” Frowning, the Klingon warrior added, “It is also foolish to allow a potential enemy to escape.”

“Your actions…” The voice pronounced, echoing the information that it had imparted earlier to Wesley, “…will also weigh heavily on the future.”

Raising his voice, Commodore Wesley demanded in a crisp, clear tone, “We have met your conditions and participated in your tests. Now…return us to our ships.”

“Not yet.” The voice answered back, “There are two more tests we must conduct.”

“What are these tests?” K’Tan demanded in a low growl.

“In the next…” The voice explained as the serpent on the table glowed, “…we shall see how you respond when faced with who you were…who you are…and who you will be. The final test, the one that will determine your survival, will depend…” The voice declared as an image appeared of the science teams from the Lexington and K’Mar, led by their respective science officers, surveying and investigating the immediate area around their shuttlecraft, “…upon these ones’…as well as your own…abilities to rise above yourselves.”

“Lyssan…” K’Tan whispered in a low, affectionate tone inaudible to everyone but Wesley who, while cocking an eyebrow in surprise, remained silent. Realizing that he had been overheard, the Klingon warrior gazed into Wesley’s eyes seeing within them not the mocking stare or disbelieving look that he expected, but rather, the sympathetic expression that one warrior has for another when that one’s loved one is at risk. Nodding his head slightly, K’Tan grunted as Wesley looked away, giving the Klingon his dignity as an unspoken bond was suddenly formed between these two totally different individuals.

“Seeing as we have no choice!” Wesley called out as K’Tan nodded his head, “We agree to your test. Now…let’s get it over with.”

“Very well!” The voice resounded through the chamber as once again the mist surrounded everyone within the room, “Let the test commence!”

************************************************** *********************
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