SEASON 3: EPISODE 04
TO DELIGHT IN THE INHUMAN WORD: Part Five
Masters knew that any species was capable of getting depressed. However, he had never met a depressed Klingon before. He thought that even the depressed Klingons would get a pick me up from the fact there was a huge war going on. They lived for glory and combat and even if one was not the most honourable Klingon in the galaxy this was a chance for them to make a name for themselves, to have songs sung about them.
“Why be so defeated? War is your chance to make something of yourself,” he asked.
“I’m a pathetic survivor of a worthless vessel manned by drunks and fools,” said Thopok gesturing to the other Klingons.
Well, Masters was not sure he could disagree. The Klingons in the lounge were a drunken rabble at the moment. He suppressed a sigh, they would have to rescue alcoholics and troublemakers.
“Even amongst the drunk and fools you don’t seem very popular. There’s something about you that makes you different from the others, what is it?”
“Popularity does not mean anything to a Klingon,” dismissed Thopok.
Masters thought about arguing that point but decide on a different tact. “Okay, but respect does. They don’t respect you.”
Thopok paused before he replied, “I do not want to talk about it.”
Masters did not know why he was pushing this. Just three years ago he had wanted nothing to do with the Klingons. This previous assignment, the Excelsior class, USS Swiftfire had been destroyed by the Klingons for violating their borders. They had completely destroyed the ship and left no survivors. He only avoided that fate because he was off ship when it happened. Masters still remembered the name of the ship that had done the deed, the IKS Wo’tang. It had returned the remains of his ship to Starfleet. He wondered what he would do if he had been faced with the vessel or its crew now. If it was the Wo’tang and not the MalbeB that had been in trouble, would he have rescued them? If the Wo’tang and his ship were fighting side by side would he fully support the Klingon vessel, would he back it up? Or would he allow it to be destroyed by the Dominion? These were question he was not sure he knew the answer to.
Also Thopok was not his problem. He already had over six hundred beings that were his problem. In a few days Thopok would be off his ship and he would probably never see each other again, yet there was something about Thopok that drew him in. Maybe he saw in Thopok what he had seen in the mirror for several months after the previous USS Swiftfire had been destroyed. It was a sense of profound loss that did not seem redeemable, a hole that seemed so deep that there was no escape and far back almost hidden, the feeling that it would be better if you were dead now instead of alive. He saw this and he understood Thopok on some level, he even pitied him and that was why he was intruding on Thopok’s world. Masters wanted to save him.
There of course was no way he would say that to Thopok. However, he needed to say something to him as to why Thopok should let him in. “Look, you’re the ranking survivor I have to be able to rely on you being able to control and command your men if the need arises. Either tell me why they don’t respect you or as soon as one of them slip up its straight into the brig with you all,” he threatened. He pointed a thumb over his shoulder. “Given your shipmates behind us I don’t think it will be long before that happens.”
The two men locked stares. Thopok’s was not so much a challenge of him but to gauge what he thought of Masters. Masters held his stare with steely resolve to show that he was serious about his threat and would go through with it.
“If you insist,” gave in Thopok as he looked back down to the table.
Masters nodded slightly in victory and waited for Thopok to continue to speak.
“I use to be the commander of the personal guard to the House of Grilka,” Thopok started to explain. “An honourable house on the rise to greatness! We fought with honour and spirit during the war with the Cardassians and your Federation.”
Masters resisted the urge to cringe. He knew deep down that there was a good chance Thopok had taken part in that short conflict. It was also possible Thopok had killed people in Starfleet, his comrades. While the Klingon Empire and the Federation were once again allies Masters was not keen on being reminded that a close ally had just two years ago put in a lot of effort to destroy what he had sworn to defend.
Masters had not technically taken part in the war. While on the previous Swiftfire their engagements with the Klingons were border clashes relating to the Klingon’s war with the Cardassian Union and while the Klingons had destroyed the Swiftfire it had not been during the war between the Federation and Klingon Empire, not that this fact made the loss of his previous assignment and his comrades and friends on that ship any easier to swallow. When the war had started and was being fought Masters was far away on Earth undergoing the Advanced Tactical Training course. So he had actually managed to completely miss that conflict.
Thopok continued with his tale, “The House took losses but they were honourable! Then the lady of the house started to fraternise with a Ferengi,” he said almost spitting the word out. “I could not allow such a union, even if it were casual. I went against Lady Grilka’s wishes and challenged the Ferengi to a fight to the death, one I expected to win. I lost! Worse, he spared my life! Honour was satisfied but it was a mark against my reputation. Damn that Quark!”
“Quark? As in the bartender on Deep Space 9?” Masters asked surprised. He could not imagine Quark defeating a Mizarian in combat let along a trained Klingon warrior.
“Yes, he defeated me in combat. By losing to a Ferengi and been dismissed from the House my reputation was ruined. I became a joke amongst my people, the Klingon who could not best a Ferengi in personal combat! My honour, for what it’s worth, might be intact but I am not respected. Honour means nothing if it does not come with respect and fear from my fellow warriors.”
“Can’t you regain it?” he asked.
Thopok sighed. “For a time I tried. But no one would fight me, my challenges were laughed away. No one would lower themselves to fighting a warrior who can’t defeat such a weak and pathetic opponent like the Ferengi. They won’t gain any honour in defeating me...I am not worth their time. Getting an assignment was next to impossible but losses to the Dominion saw that even those without respect and honour were required.”
“So you can regain it in battle now?”
Thopok gave Masters a look that said Masters obviously did not understand anything that had been said. That did not surprise Masters, the ins and outs of the Klingon honour system was something he did not care about nor did he really spend much time thinking about. The only time he did was when he gave Jadzia the bat’leth he had gained from killing a Klingon as a wedding gift.
Masters felt his heart ache as he thought of Jadzia Dax. He had known the vibrant young woman for nearly ten years and they had gotten close and were true friends. She had married around a year ago and he had been lucky enough to be able to attend her wedding. Her life was going so well, she was happy and what more could you want for your friend? Then only a few months ago he had attended her funeral after she was murdered. He had stood next to her coffin and said his goodbyes to her but there were still times when he found it hard to believe that a person as alive as Jadzia could really be dead. But who was he to argue with reality?
“Did you not see the junk heap I was stationed on?” asked Thopok incredulously. “The calibre of its crew?” he said gesturing once again to the drunken rabble not too far from them. “The MalbeB was a pathetic ship crewed by rejects and fools and it was the best I could do! Even then I could only manage third officer behind those who I would not have let polish my boots but a few years ago!” he snarled. Masters saw a fire burn in Thopok’s eyes as he spoke. It soon disappeared and Thopok just shook his head and said, “No, true honour is lost to me.”
“Then why fight? Why join the crew in the first place? Are you seeking death?”
“No! Not even Mauk-to’Vor is open to me; I do not wish to serve in Sto-Vo-Kor as a fool. It is better to be miserable in life than to be a clown for eternity in death.”
Masters did not know what Mauk-to’Vor was but decided not to ask. He was sure whatever it was that it was a violent and bloody ceremony or ritual. That was pretty much given with anything Klingon. He did at least find out that Thopok was not suicidal. “Why not take a non-combat role? You’re people are known as warriors but you still need engineers and trades people to maintain and build your empire. Fighting is but one end of the spectrum.”
“Would you leave Starfleet if you faced the same things?” questioned Thopok.
“Well, we are in very different systems...I don’t think I can really face the challenges you do,” he pointed out.
“Then what if you were punished for something and they took away command of this vessel and gave you some tramp freighter instead or a position behind a desk on some planet? Would you just leave your duty to become someone else?”
That was a very good question. Masters mulled it over before he answered. Depression and apathy after the loss of the previous Swiftfire had nearly seen him leave Starfleet and that was even though he was set to be promoted and given his first command. In the end, and with a little help, he decided that he could not just abandon the person he was. It would be a disservice to him, his parents, those who had put in time to advance his career and to the beings that had died on the USS Swiftfire. “Probably not,” he answered finally. “I’d still harbour some hope to regain what I had or at least my sense of duty would keep me going.”
“That’s what I thought. You are a warrior.” Masters gave Thopok a quizzical look. “One does not get such a starship as an Akira if they are not skilled in the art of combat.”
Masters nodded. He had come to see himself as a warrior, as a soldier, due to the many conflicts he had fought in. While Starfleet was more than just a military it still needed people who were willing to live the life of a soldier without remorse. Not everyone in Starfleet could be a grand explorer of the unknown.
“So you do still harbour some hope of regaining your true honour?”
Thopok shook his head. “I am a loyal son of the Empire. When the call to arms came I answered it. I too am a warrior, I know nothing else.”
Masters did not believe that anyone was just one thing. Sentient beings had the capacity to learn and to adapt; the problem was you had to be willing to take on these tasks. Change was not easy or without its challenges, you had to be willing to endure the hard graft to gain the rewards at the end.
“Nothing is lost forever, Thopok. Now that the MalbeB is gone you might get a better assignment, one where you will be able to regain the respect of your people.”
Thopok leant back and Masters thought he saw him roll his eyes. “You humans are sickeningly optimistic. Even Mon’kor will get a position before me and likely a superior one and he is a drunk! By the time I get an assignment like the one you describe the Klingon Empire is likely to be already crumbling to dust.”
“Why not take up mercenary work?” asked Masters suddenly feeling very tired.
Thopok shook his head. “You do not…What’s wrong?”
Masters felt like a fog had descended on his mind. He could not focus on Thopok. “I...don’t...know,” he struggled out.
Masters tried to fight the feeling but it was overwhelming. Masters knew that he had to get to his feet and it took all his effort to force his frame up out of his chair. However, once he did he found his legs had turned to jelly and he plummeted to the ground. He never felt the impact as he had already lost consciousness.
Confusion filled G’Ethza as she saw Captain Masters stand and collapse to the floor. The Klingon he was conversing with stood rapidly and took a step to head for the captain before hesitating. He brought a hand to his head and she saw he was also unsteady on his feet. He then collapsed to the floor next to the captain.
She heard more crashing behind her and saw that the once noisy table of Klingons was silent. Bodies were strewn over the table and the floor around it. Their containers of liquid had fallen from their hands and the table and floor was awash with the red liquid.
She just stared at the surreal scene around her for several moments. G’Ethza had been the only member of the ship’s crew in the lounge before the captain had arrived. She had come in with a fellow technician but the strong smell of the Klingon’s drink and food had given the other technician away. She was not affected by the smells and while it was noisy G’Ethza had to admit that she had a fascination with Klingons that made her stay. In particular she had been drawn to one lone Klingon who sat away from the others with almost a constant pensive look on his face. She doubt that her friends on the ship would understand.
G’Ethza waited to see if the same thing would happen to her, but it did not. She stood from her table and made her way to the captain. G’Ethza felt the captain’s pulse and was relieved to find he was alive. There was only one reason she could think of to explain this occurrence, the life support system must have failed in their area, however in such an event the computer should have notified them of the problem.
“Computer, what is the status of the life support system?” she asked. She waited for a response but received none. “Computer?”
That worried her. The computer seemed to be offline as well. She guessed it could be a power failure, but she had not noticed any other systems effected. If power was failing lights, gravity, and the replicators would have been taken offline first to preserve life support as long as possible. As far as she could tell all the ship’s systems were running normally.
She wished she had a tricorder with her. She looked around the room and spotted an emergency medkit. She made her way to it and pulled out the medical tricorder, it was better than nothing. She did a test of the air. There was a normal atmosphere in the room, oxygen, nitrogen and other elements all in suitable quantities to support most humanoid life. Then another element appeared: anesthezine. That was definitely not normal. It was in a high enough count that it would render any species unconscious, as long as they were breathing in the air. Fortunately she was not.
G’Ethza was a Zaranite; she required a fluorine environment to survive. As such normal atmospheric conditions on a Federation ship would kill her, so she wore a protective mask connected to a tank that supplied her with the air she needed to survive. It was a completely closed system that was why she had not collapsed unconscious with the rest of the beings in the lounge.
G’Ethza did not understand why anesthezine would be in the air. The only thing that came to mind was that someone wanted the crew incapacitated, which also meant someone was trying to, or more likely, had succeeded in taking over the ship. She guessed that it would have to be a ship-wide deployment of the gas and that required control of the bridge or engineering. If they had fallen it was a very bad sign for the ship and its crew.
If that was the case everyone on the ship would be unconscious. As far as she could recall she was the only crew member who required a closed system breathing apparatus. That meant at this moment she was the only one mobile and possibly the ship’s only chance to repel the boarders.
She sighed, This is not good.
Jasis 13 materialised on the bridge of the USS Swiftfire-A. It was a sight that she was intimately familiar with despite this being her first actual visit to the starship. She had seen it almost every day for months now as she had prepared for this operation. The only difference was that instead of a Federation crew four Jem’Hadar manned the bridge stations. They all knew what they were doing; they had been training for this exact scenario for their entire lives, which was only three weeks, but more than enough time for beings of the capabilities and skills of the Jem’Hadar.
She slowly walked around the bridge. She ran her hands along the edges of the consoles as she made her way to the captain’s chair. She grasped onto the top of the chair and squeezed. It was all real; this was what she had dreamt of.
Boarding the ship had been the easy part. All it took was a hologram and voice of one of the crew of the Armidale, a young vulnerable looking woman to pull on the heart strings of the Swiftfire’s crew to get them to drop their guard. Once that was done getting one of her Jem’Hadar on board was simple. Once the Jem’Hadar was beamed to the Swiftfire the ship was hers.
Out of the corner of her eye she spotted blood stains on the floor. The body that had produced the stain was no longer in sight but the signs of the violence that had taken place were still present.
“Where are the bodies?” Jasis asked.
“I have beamed the deceased to a cargo bay,” reported First Rebis’Fetra. “Three of the bridge crew are still alive and are being kept in the lounge off the bridge under guard.”
She turned to the first, who was standing with three other Jem’Hadar. “Who are they?”
“The first officer, the gamma shift bridge officer and the gamma shift operations manager.”
Jasis smiled widely. She was glad to hear that Commander Core was still alive. By all accounts she was close with Captain Masters and that fact would be of use soon. Her mind raced as she thought about the immediate future. This was going just as she planned and soon she would be able to make Captain Masters pay for what he had done to her, she was almost salivating over the thought.
“What of the rest of the crew?” she asked.
“We have pumped enough anesthezine into the ventilation system to make sure they are all incapacitated for at least six hours.”
“So I take it the Nausicaans performed well?”
“They did succeed with their mission,” admitted the Jem’Hadar. Jasis could tell how much it pained him to do so. First Rebis’Fetra was one of the newer Alpha model Jem’Hadar. They were much more proud of themselves than the Gammas. She guessed it was due to the fact that they knew they were created to be superior in prosecuting the war in the Alpha Quadrant. While the Gammas also knew they were superior to those they fought against, the Alphas knew that they were also a step above the Gammas, which meant they had had developed a strong egotistical streak.
“Excellent. Signal the Armidale that we’ll be leaving immediately.”
“Rona’toran Jasis, we have received a hail from the fighters this ship launched. They are asking for a report on the ships plans,” reported the seventh, who manned the bridge’s operations station.
“Ignore them,” she directed.
“Is that wise, Vorta?” questioned the first.
“They’re not a threat and they won’t be able to keep up with us once we are at warp,” she said dismissing his concerns.
“Yes, rona’toran,” replied the first. He then repeated her orders to the seventh and ordered the eighth, who was manning flight control to prepare to go to warp.
“Once we are at warp and the rest of the ship has been cleared of the gas we shall pay Captain Masters a visit in his quarters.”
Jasis smiled widely, her fun was about to begin.
Benton and her flight cruised at a distance from the larger Starfleet capital ships. The Swiftfire had taken a stationary position near the Centaur and was probably already beginning the recovery operation, which most likely meant that the rest of her squadron should be joining her soon. She then realised that she had not heard anything new from the Swiftfire for several minutes now. She liked to be kept apprised of the ship’s plans. Benton thought she might as well call them if they were not going to call her.
“Swiftfire, this is Overcome flight. What’s the game plan here? Are you going to be sending out the rest of my squadron or aren’t we staying long?”
She waited for a reply but none came. She checked that she was getting a clear signal through to the Swiftfire as there was some interference in the area. Her computer did think that the Swiftfire should have received her hail.
“Swiftfire, I say again, what is the plan?” Benton again received no reply. “Two, see if you can raise the Swiftfire,” she ordered.
Vitorri acknowledged her order and she heard him send a similar message for a clarification of the situation to the ship.
“They’re not talking to me either, Lead. Maybe we upset them? Hold on...I’m reading a marked increase in the power levels of the Centaur,” reported Vitorri.
“Maybe they’ve sent an away team already and have got her working,” suggested Pre’ja.
“Its shields just went up!” came a surprised report from Vitorri. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
So do I, Benton agreed. Something was definitely going on. It was concerning that the Swiftfire was no longer responding to their hails and the sudden activation of the seemingly disabled Centaur filled her with dread.
“Flight, shields on and arm weapons. Head towards the Centaur.” With a turn of the wrist she rolled her fighter around and had its nose pointed at the distant Centaur class cruiser. She got back on the communication channel to the Swiftfire. “Swiftfire, the Centaur’s gone active, what are your orders?”
She continued to get nothing but silence from the Swiftfire. Worry was quickly turning into panic.
“Swiftfire, what the hell is going on?” she tried one last time.
Centaur started to light up as power flowed through her and activated her systems. She no longer looked like a dying vessel. It edged towards the Swiftfire and Benton thought it was about to attack, instead it looped around the still stationary Swiftfire. The Centaur flew around the larger vessel and took a position in front of the Swiftfire and slowly moved away. The Swiftfire like an obedient pet started to follow after it.
“I think they’re going to leave without us,” said Vitorri.
Something had to have happened on the Swiftfire. The unusual behaviour could only be explained by one thing, someone had boarded her and taken control. Unfortunately there was little she could do; her four fighters could not stop the Centaur let along the Swiftfire or both vessels if they decided to make a fight out of it.
“They’re preparing to go to warp,” commented Vitorri.
Benton did not need to be told that she could see it as clear as day on her own sensors. Both ships travelled at impulse for a few more seconds before they jumped to warp.
“Prepare to go to warp,” she ordered. “We’re going after them.”
Benton knew what the others would be thinking: it was pointless. Their fighters were fast for a smaller vessel, capable of warp 8. However, both the Centaur and Swiftfire could go in excess of warp 9 for a sustained period. In a chase they were going to be seriously lacking.
She jumped to warp speed and behind her came the rest of her flight. The two ships they were pursuing at the moment were only going at warp 3. She upped her speed and closed in on the larger starships. The starships then started to pull away.
“They’re going to warp 6…7…8...9,” reported Vitorri. “We’re going to lose them quickly.”
Benton swore. She knew it would be futile to try and chase them but she had to do something.
“Keep tracking them for as long as you can,” she ordered. “I’m going to call for some help.”