December 21st 2273
Lieutenant Pavel Chekov, Security Chief of the U.S.S. Enterprise was seated at a workstation at the deep space stations Information Center, browsing information about available recreational opportunities on the base and its neighboring planet. It was much easier to get useful information about local events from the planets information networks than it was from the ships library-computer interface.
"So what do I want to do for shore leave?" Chekov wondered. With two days to fill, the young Russian hoped to find something worth his time. His friends, Sulu and Uhura, planned to attend a horticulture symposium at the Gomeisa III Botanical Gardens. Chekov had declined, joining them held no appeal; he did not wish to subject himself to endless lectures about plant biology.
He sighed, "And the Concord has probably already left orbit by now."
A few days ago, Chekov had received a subspace message from Lieutenant Aidan Christensen, one of his closest friends from his Starfleet Academy days. Christensen, currently Chief Helmsman on the Concord, mentioned that his ship was journeying to Deep Space Station 3. But to his disappointment, he saw that the Concord had left a day ago. He sighed again.
An entry on a local events calendar caught Chekovs eye. At 1400 that afternoon, the Fifth Annual Kraeuters Challenge was scheduled to take place at "Equine Knocks", a local equestrian center. Intrigued, Chekov checked more closely, finding that it consisted of various horse racing events, ranging from short sprints to challenging steeplechases of longer durations. Out of idle curiosity, the Russian ran his eyes down the list of horses and noticed that several of the horses entered in various events were owned by Vsadnikov Stables, a stable near Moscow where Pavel had taken horseback riding lessons as a child.
Before he had a chance to purchase a ticket, he heard a cacophony of voices from behind. Two of them sounded familiar, with one voice displaying a rich, Russian accent. He then felt a tap on his shoulder. "Pavel!"
Chekov swiveled his chair around and saw the smiling face of his old friend, Aidan Christensen. The Concords helmsman was a moderately tall but skinny officer whose black hair showed a hint of red highlights and whose features displayed a mix of Scandinavian, Irish and Malaysian ancestry.
Chekov jumped up and wrapped his arms around Christensen in a bear-hug. "Pleased to see you, Aidan!"
Christensen returned the Russians effusive hug, then extracted himself, letting his companions come into view. One of them was a slightly built young man with dark blond hair and penetrating blue eyes who approached Chekov and welcomed him with a hug. "Pavel Andreievich, its been so long since Ive seen you. And now were both Starfleet officers!"
"Andrei Alexandrovich!" exclaimed Chekov as he greeted Ensign Draganov who had graduated from the Academy only two months earlier. They exchanged rib-crushing bear hugs. Andrei, who was about six years younger than Chekov, had grown up near his familys residence just south of Moscow. They had swum for the same summer league team for years, and Draganov had always looked up to Chekov as a role model. In fact, he had followed in Chekovs footsteps by enrolling in Starfleet Academy. As an additional parallel, he was a junior navigator on the Concord just as Chekov had been a junior navigator aboard the Enterprise shortly after graduating from the Academy.
The third officer, a tall young man with longish brown hair, and in an ensigns uniform, whispered to Christensen, "I didnt think it was standard protocol for officers to hug each other."
Lieutenant Christensen shook his head, "No, that isnt standard protocol, Ensign, but Russians tend to be demonstrative when they greet each other. Protocol isnt going to suppress that, especially between good friends."
The ensign still looked confused. Noticing the young mans expression, Christensen then turned to him, "It looks like Ive been very remiss with introductions."
Christensen gestured towards his old friend. "Lieutenant, I would like you to meet Ensign Sean Shada, who was recently assigned to the Concord. Ensign, this is Lieutenant Pavel Chekov, an old Starfleet Academy friend."
Christensen continued, "Pavel, I see you already know Ensign Draganov. I always thought he reminded me of you, but I never would have dreamt that you already knew each other."
Draganov laughed heartily. "Pavel Andreievich was on my summer swim team. He put all the breaststroke records out of reach before I had a chance to try for them."
Christensen snorted, amused. "Everyone had the same complaint about me while I was at the Academy."
"Yes, I know," grumbled Draganov half-heartedly. "I am among them. You put the Starfleet Academy breaststroke records out of my reach."
With aplomb, Christensen inclined his head, accepting the remark as a compliment. "Well, Pavel and I did have some great races. Come on; lets find somewhere to get something to drink. Reminiscing is thirsty business. Theres got to be a snack bar somewhere near."
A short time later, the officers were seated at a table in a local café. Chekov sipped from a cup of tea before turning towards Christensen. "The port roster said you guys had already left. So how longs the Concord going to be here before its really gone, Aidan?"
Christensen took a sip of his flavored water. "Actually, the Concord has already left orbit. I dont know if youve heard about the tsunami that happened on Andor about three days ago. The Concord was among at least a dozen ships sent there to help the victims. I was left behind since the Ainia, one of our long-range heavy-duty shuttles needs to be repaired. Plus, some new crewmembers were scheduled to join us here, one of them being Sean, whom youve just met. With the emergency, the Concord could not wait any longer. So the captain left me behind to wait for the Ainia and the new crewmembers. Well rendezvous with the ship as soon as everythings ready." He smiled broadly. "Captain Skillman told me I get to enjoy a working vacation."
"A working vacation," chuckled Chekov as the whole group laughed. "Thats a good one. What will you be working on? Your tan?"
Christensen admitted, "My time here will be almost like being on shore leave, without being charged for leave. I can enjoy myself until the Ainias ready."
"Except that youre on call."
Christensen decided to change the subject. "Pavel, how long do you plan to be here?"
"About two days. At least, thats what Engineering is predicting."
"Have any plans?"
"I was planning to attend the horse races at the Equine Knocks Equestrian Center."
"No kidding! Were planning to go there, too! I hope you havent bought any tickets yet. You can attend as a guest of the Vsadnikov Stables. You see, Ensign Draganov here is going to be a jockey one of the races: the Five-K Steeplechase."
Chekov then turned to the younger officer, clearly surprised. "Andrei, I never knew you were a jockey."
The young man smiled. "I have many talents. Swimming, soccer, horseback riding. I worked at the Vsadnikov Stables for a couple of summers and occasionally took part in horse races."
"I did not know that," Chekov admitted.
"Its been a while since I watched any horse racing," commented Christensen, "which is bad considering I grew up not too far away from horse country in Virginia."
"The horse Im riding has never lost a race," boasted Draganov.
"And which horse is that?" Christensen inquired.
"What kind of name for a horse is Frou-Frou?" asked Shada. "That sounds more like a name for fancy fashion than for a horse."
Draganov shrugged his shoulders. "I guess a fancy fashion name makes sense for a female horse. It was named by Madame Vsadnikova herself only recently." He was referring to the elderly matriarch of the Vsadnikov clan.
A frown creased Chekovs face as a frightening thought came to him.
"Whats wrong?" Andrei noticed Pavels somber expression.
The security chiefs face held a deep scowl. "Your horse bears the same name as the one that was killed in Anna Karenina."
Shada glibly added, "I hope thats not a bad omen."
Draganov sat up a little straighter, confidently. "I plan to have better luck than Vronsky."
"Vronsky?" Aidan Christensen looked confused. "What are you guys talking about? Who in the galaxy is Vronsky?"
Pavel smiled grimly. "Obviously, you havent read Anna Karenina."
"Russian literature is not my area of expertise," the Corcords helmsman said dryly.
Chekov explained, "Vronsky was one of the main characters. He rode a horse named Frou-Frou in a race similar to the one were going to see today. Frou-Frou was in the lead but then fell, broke her back, and had to be destroyed."
"I see. That does sounds foreboding."
Draganov still exuded confidence. "Its only a silly coincidence. I plan to win with Frou-Frou even if a fictional horse with that name got killed. Im not superstitious enough to put any stock in your absurd bad omens."
"I should hope not. So, tell me how things are going aboard the Concord..."
On the surface of Gomeisa III, about an hour before the first race of the Kraeuters Challenge was scheduled to start, Chekov, Christensen, and Shada reported to the "Guest Services" window to pick up their guest passes for the events. They were allowed to visit with Draganov, who at that particular time was with his horse in the competitors stable at the rear of the pavilion, where all equestrian competitors were housed before their races.
Draganov introduced his comrades to Frou-Frou, a three year old, mostly white mare. Pavels initial impression of the horse was that she seemed somewhat skittish and nervous. Andrei also pointed out the horse that was Frou-Frous main competition, a three year old brown stallion named Gladiator. The stallion was owned by Crowes Stables, the principal arch-rival of the Vsadnikov Stables.
Draganovs face registered concern for a change. "The Crowes will do anything to win. Their owners son is going to be the jockey for Gladiator. Its suspected that hes cheated from time to time to win races, but nothing has ever been proven."
"Good luck, Andrei Alexandrovich. Please be careful," admonished Chekov, as he patted the younger man on the back.
"I promise, Pavel Andreievich."
The trio left the competitors stable and walked up the stairs towards their seats. Chekov turned towards Christensen and expressed his feelings of misgivings. "Andreis race has me worried, Aidan."
"How so?" Christensen inquired.
"Maybe Im being irrationally superstitious, but Andrei mentioned that Frou-Frous main rival is named Gladiator. Thats the same name as her main rival in Anna Karenina."
"Thats wild! Do you think its a coincidence or that its deliberate?"
Chekov shrugged. "I dont know. But it bothers me that Gladiators owner has been suspected of cheating."
"Was it true in the book also?"
"No." The Enterprise officer shook his head sadly. "Frou-Frous race in the book had a bad outcome without the additional complication of cheating."
Christensen spoke sharply, "Pavel Chekov, I swear. Sometimes you can be so pessimistic."
"Not pessimistic. Realistic. Im simply waiting for the other shoe to drop."
"My mistake," grumbled Aidan.
"Interesting," remarked the usually taciturn Shada. "But is this the famous Russian fatalism Ive heard so much about?"
Christensen chuckled and nodded, biting his upper lip in a grimace.
The races soon began. The early events were mostly sprints between horses of the same age group. After that, some the longer events took place. The final event was the 5,000 meter steeplechase where Ensign Andrei Draganov was scheduled to jockey Frou-Frou. Immediately before the race, Draganov led her to his assigned starting gate. Meanwhile, Gladiator was led to the gate adjacent to Frou-Frou. During the trip to the starting gate, Gladiators jockey led him at a gallop-like pace as he passed the mare on the path. Frou-Frou appeared more jumpy after that particular encounter.
As soon as all the horses were in their assigned positions, the starting signal was sounded. A stampede of horses bolted from the gate. Frou-Frou started off slowly but by the time the horses reached the first obstacle, a narrow ditch, she had caught up with the pack. After the second obstacle, she had pulled ahead of all competitors, except for Gladiator, with whom she was in a dead heat. She was in a slight lead just before reaching the last obstacle on the course, a dry ditch that was two meters deep and a meter and a half wide.
"Go, my sweet," Draganov urged the horse.
At that moment, Frou-Frou started her leap across the ditch. As she started her jump, Gladiators jockey guided the stallion towards her rump and crashed into her flank hard. Frou-Frou was startled by the collision. She reared backwards, throwing Draganov from the saddle. He tumbled down to the bottom of the ditch. The mare stumbled and fell into the ditch, joining her jockey at the bottom.
Meanwhile, in the stands, the audience observed the events in shocked silence. Deeply concerned about his fellow officer and friend, Chekov leaped from his seat and quickly made his way down towards the field, closely followed by Christensen and Shada. At that point, none of them cared about who the winner of the race would be.
By the time they got near the ditch into which Draganov and his horse had fallen, a crowd had gathered in the area. The crowd included equestrian center employees, including the manager on duty, some representatives from the Vsadnikov Stables and other concerned onlookers.
"Has anyone called a doctor yet?" demanded Christensen. Since no answer was forthcoming, he tapped his wrist communicator and contacted the Deep Space Station 3 Medical Center.
In response, a pair of medical technicians materialized and made their way into the ditch. Soon, an air ambulance arrived, landing at the edge of the ditch. A veterinarian and his assistant worked on Frou-Frou, attaching a massive antigrav device to the mares back and lifted the horse out of the way. Draganov was gently lifted onto a stretcher and placed in the ambulance.
The young ensign was obviously in a great deal of agony, crying out in his native language. Chekov bent down near his stretcher and tried to reassure him. "By budete khorosho, Andrusha," soothed Pavel. "Youll be okay, Andrei."
In orbit above the planet, at the Deep Space Station 3 Medical Centers emergency room, Doctor Flanagan, the physician on duty at the time, examined Ensign Draganov with the diagnostic table. "Fractured skull. Brain concussion. Simple fracture of the right fibula. Compound fracture of the left forearm. Two cracked ribs. Several lacerations. Ive seen worse. Fortunately, most of this stuff will only take a day or two to heal properly. Whos his senior officer?"
"I guess that would be me," Christensen said as Chekov stood at his side. "Were from the Concord. Were presently awaiting repairs to a shuttlecraft and a few crew additions. The Concord had to"
"I know, of course. Its all over the newsnets right now. Tsunami on Andor. Terrible shame, terrible loss of life." Flanagan looked up from the readings from the diagnostic table to Christensen. "At least Ensign Draganovs prognosis is far better." He indicated the door with a nod of his head. "If you two will step back into the waiting room while I do my job?"
"Yes, Doctor," Chekov answered. "He will be all right then?"
Flanagan nodded. "Hell be fine. Ill call you when Im finished here."
While Draganov underwent treatment, Chekov and Christensen sat together on a couch in the waiting area. Aidan turned to his friend, with a sorrowful expression. "You said that the race with Frou-Frou in Anna Karenina ended badly."
Chekov replied somberly, "Yes, I did. Some of the coincidences between this race and that one were downright frightening. Except that Andrei was even more unlucky. Vronsky didnt get injured. Andrei did. And Id like to find out why it happened."
"We know who did it, Pavel. That idiot of a rider on the other horse. And we can guess why, too: he wanted to win at any cost!"
"Possibly," Chekov conceded. "But something tells me theres more to this than meets the eye."
"Now youre being paranoid, Pavel. Why would anyone want to hurt Andrei? Sometimes he can be such an overconfident show-off, but all the same, the kid is very likeable."
"Thats true," agreed Pavel. "Ive known him since he was six or seven, and he was always that way. I remember several times back in summer swim team, kids on the other team would really want to beat him since he boasted about how great he was. I sometimes had to tell him to tone it down. Yet, I have great affection for him. I even wrote a letter of recommendation for him when he was applying to the Academy."
"He reminds me of you, Pavel. Hes a superb navigator and good at most of the same things as you. Both of you are hypercompetitive Russians who have to be the best at everything they try."
"And youre a hypercompetitive Northern Virginian," retorted Pavel.
"I guess were two of a kind and thats why weve been friends for so long, and thats why we mentor cocky kids like Andrei Draganov."
"Da. Zso pravda," Chekov nodded.
At that moment, Christensens communicator chimed. Automatically, he raised the wristcomm to his lips, "Lieutenant Aidan Christensen here."
"Shada here." The deeply concerned voice of the Concord ensign could be heard from the communicator. "So hows Andrei?"
"Hes in surgery at the moment. He has several broken bones, but hell probably be okay in a couple of days. I should have more info later today."
"Thanks. Poor guy! It looked to me like that rider deliberately ran his horse into Frou-Frou."
"I agree, but itll be up to the racing officials to decide if anything illegal happened. Stand by there at the track. Well let you know when Andreis out of surgery. Keep us informed about the official inquiry."
"Will do. Shada out."
Christensen turned to Chekov. "Seans pretty upset about this accident, I can tell. He and Andrei were really close at the academy, especially their last couple of years. If I remember correctly, I think they were both in Zeta Company, although a year apart. When Sean learned that Andrei was taking part in the horse race, he reported here early so he could see it and wish him well."
"Only to watch him get injured," the security chief added somberly.
Their discussion was interrupted by the beep of Pavels communicator. "Chekov here."
"The names Proskuryakov, Konstantine Sergeyevich," came a determined, Russian-accented voice from the comm channel. "I am Competition Manager for Vsadnikov Stables. I understand that you accompanied the injured jockey to the hospital."
"So whats the word on his condition?"
"Hes in surgery at the moment. He broke several bones, but the doctor thinks hell be okay in a couple of days. Ill have more definitive news after his surgerys complete. What is happening at the track?"
"The racing officials for this track have disqualified Gladiator even though he did cross the finish line first. He was disqualified because of the deliberate collision with Frou-Frou. Our veterinarian tried to save her but her injuries were too extensive. Our business manager, Feodor Tochilnikov, decided it was best to euthanize her."
"Bozhe moi!" cursed Chekov. "Isnt that unusual these days, with all the advances in veterinary sciences?"
"Quite so." The subject changed quickly. "That was a terrible thing for Matthew Crowe to do to the poor horse. We are going to sue them for damages. I think that stable has won more than their share of races because Matthew is such an ill-tempered, spoiled brat who harasses his opponents."
"I hope you win. Crowes Stables deserves to be sued."
"We think so, too. Well, Ive got to run now. A representative from the Federation Racing Commission has just arrived. Theyre investigating what happened at todays race, and they want to interview me and Mister Tochilnikov. They dont sound too happy."
"Good luck. I hope they lose their racing license as a result of this."
After terminating his conversation with the Vsadnikov Stable representative, Chekov was contacted via communicator one more time.
"This is Sulu," the Enterprise helmsman spoke. "I am really learning a lot at this horticulture conference. You should have come with me."
"Thats okay," Chekov answered, his tone of voice betraying boredom at the idea of the conference.
"So what are you doing with yourself? Staying out of trouble, I hope."
"No, trouble seems to find me," cracked Chekov. He described the recent event of running into Christensen and Draganov, the horse race and the injuries.
"Pavel, youre supposed to go on shore leave to relax, not get stressed out. Getting involved with a racing scandal is not my idea of relaxing. You should have come to the conference with me."
"Except that conferences on plants are not my idea of relaxing, either."
"Take care, Pavel. I hope your young friend will be okay. Sulu out."
As the young blond Russian ensign was antigraved to his room, Doctor Flanagan described his condition to the two waiting lieutenants. "My diagnosis was correct. Ensign Draganov can probably be released tomorrow morning. Even in this day and age, head injuries can be tricky. He can have visitors as long as hes awake."
"Thank you, Doctor!" Chekov pumped the physicians hand and arm.
They quickly made their way to the ward where Draganov lay on his hospital bed. He appeared even younger and more vulnerable than his twenty-two years would suggest. His head was bandaged, but his blond hair was still visible. There was a small device on his forehead, and Chekov assumed it was for treating the concussion. His bandaged left arm lay outside the blanket. Bone regeneration devices, designed to speed healing, were attached to his fractured leg, arm, and head. "At least hes waking up to familiar faces," whispered Pavel to Aidan. "Too bad we are so ugly."
"Speak for yourself, Pav," Christensen teased. "But I agree; I think he needs us."
The two dark-haired lieutenants maintained an uneasy vigil at Draganovs bedside most of the evening. Periodically, one of them would try to grab sleep on a nearby chair. But they made sure one of them stayed up with Andrei at all times. Both were too worried to sleep well.
Once, during the late evening, Draganovs eyes flickered open. He looked at Chekov, asking him in Russian, "Pasha, did Frou-Frou have to be destroyed?"
Pavel nodded his head, "Im afraid she did, Andrusha."
"Are the people at Vsadnikov Stables mad at me? Mister Tochilnikov said that Madame Vsadnikova herself personally requested that I ride Frou-Frou," Draganovs eyes were beginning to fill up with tears.
"Of course not!" Chekov shook his head emphatically. "Theyre worried about you, and they are furious at Crowes Stables. Even now, the Federation Racing Commission is investigating the events of this race. I would not be surprised to see them revoke Crowes Stables racing license after todays shenanigans!"
"Thank you for staying with me, Pasha," Draganov said dreamily just before drifting off to sleep again, courtesy of a painkiller administered by the doctor.
The next morning, Chekov contacted the Enterprise. It was standard protocol for officers on shore leave to check in with the ship at least once a day. "Chekov to Enterprise."
"Enterprise. Hows it going, Pavel?" came Lieutenant Dantzens voice. The back-up communications officer was apparently serving as Officer-of-the-Day on the bridge.
"Aside from being sleep deprived, Im okay."
"Chekov, youre supposed to use shore leave for rest and relaxation. Whos the girl whos been keeping you up at night?" There was a faint lilt to her teasing.
"I ran into some old friends of mine from the Concord, and one of them got seriously injured in a horse race of all things."
"Oh, that was on the local newsnets! Tragic! They had to put down that beautiful horse. Is your friend all right?"
"Hes getting better."
"Thats good to hear. Listen, Ive got calls coming in. I hope your friend will be okay. And you take care of yourself. Thats an order."
Later that morning, Chekov and Christensen were in a coffee shop on Deep Space Station 3, eating breakfast and discussing their plans for the day.
Aidan, after swallowing a mouthful of food, looked across the table at Pavel. "I assume well go over to the hospital and visit Andrei. But Ill need to check in with Station Engineering to see how the shuttle repairs are progressing. If I dont hear anything by noon today, Ill follow up with them."
Chekov drank some tea as he considered his options. "I plan to beam down to Gomeisa Three and pay a visit to Vsadnikov Stables to see how their meeting with the Federation Horse Racing Association went. Ill stop there first and then meet you in Andreis room."
"Thats okay with me. Even if youre late, Andrei will have no shortage of visitors since Sean plans to stop over there this morning also. I talked to Sean last night and told him whats going on. He said the racing commission investigator spoke with him and several other witnesses at the track."
"I still cant understand why that rider would try to cause such an accident..."
Upon arriving at the office on Gomeisa III used by Vsadnikov Stables at the Equine Knocks equestrian center, Chekov was greeted effusively by its occupant.
A man, who appeared to be the business manager of the stables, approached him, "Pavel Andreievich, youre the Starfleet lieutenant who knew Andrei Alexandrovich as a child."
"Yes, I am," Chekov affirmed as they shook hands.
"My name is Feodor Tochilnikov. I run the stables for Madame Vsadnikova. Pardon the mess. There was barely enough time to set up things before the Kraeuters Challenge race. And now were cleaning up after it and moving on to the next competition. But since the Federation Racing Commission is over here investigating the racing accident, none of the stables who competed here can move out yet."
"I see," Pavel scanned the office.
"Here, let me get Kostia for you." Tochilnikov then turned away from Chekov and yelled out, "Kostia! Kostia! Konstantine Sergeyevich!"
A man with light brown hair, who appeared to be in his thirties, turned around and walked towards the assistants desk with a rapid gait. He held out his hand towards Chekov. "Pavel Andreievich!"
"You must be Konstantine Sergeyevich! We finally meet." Pavel smiled at Proskuryakov as they shook hands. Both of them took seats at the assistants desk.
Chekov explained, "I came here to update you on Andrei Alexandrovichs condition and to find out how your meeting with the Federation Horse Racing Commission went."
Proskuryakov appeared more concerned. "How is Andrei Alexandrovich?"
"He was in pain yesterday, but the doctor thinks hell be released very soon. Im going over to the hospital to see him after I leave here."
"Thanks for keeping me updated. Anyway, I met with an official from the Federation Horse Racing Commission yesterday. Today he contacted me and informed me that they will probably revoke Crowes Stables racing permit. In addition, they are considering revoking their permit to even breed horses."
"That sounds really drastic. But Crowes deserves it. Dirty rotten Cossack cheaters!"
"Amen to that."
"But have you determined why the jockey did this?"
"Aside from cheating, you mean? It seems as if your friend made quite an enemy all these years ago as a rider for the Vsadnikov Stables. It seems he won a race against the Crowe boy, and made quite a deal of it in front of everyone."
"Andrei did have an unfortunate tendency to gloat after a win."
"Well, it may be years after the fact, but the Crowe boy didnt forget...or forgive. Pity, too, that such a talented jockey would toss his career away over such a matter."
"The Klingons have an expression: Revenge is a dish best served cold," said Chekov.
"Pity that he didnt know a Russian expression: When setting out for vengeance, dig two graves..." The competition manager sighed. "Thank you for your time, Pavel Andreievich."
"Youre welcome, Konstantine Sergeyevich. Good fortune to you!" Chekov said, heading out the door.
As he walked through the stables, he noticed a veterinary ambulance parked off to the side of one of the holding pens. Thats odd, he decided. Glancing around, he surreptitiously made his way over to the vehicle. Once there, he unclasped the small tricorder he always kept with him off his uniform and made a quick scan. Inside the truck was a perfectly healthy mare.
If asked later, Chekov would not know what had made him do it, but the young security chief opened the rear door of the ambulance and stepped inside. "Frou-Frou!" he whispered in recognition. The horses ears twitched in recognition. "But youre supposed to be dead!"
He made a few adjustments to his tricorder, and detected several tranquilizers still present in the horses blood stream. A scan of her mane resulted in a small radio-controlled device which appeared to have vials of tranquilizer. It was now apparent that something was very wrong.
Scanning outside the vehicle, he detected no one, so he stepped out, closed the door and made his way to the stable doors. Unfortunately, three men blocked his path. The leader was Feodor Tochilnikov. All three men had what were clearly illegal phasers in their hands.
"Pavel Andreievich, Im sorry youve chosen to involve yourself in all of this." Tochilnikov pointed to the somewhat concealed holo-cams that had revealed Chekovs presence.
"And Im sorry you chose to involve Andrei Draganov in your plans to discredit Crowe Stables. How much does Andrei know?" Chekov apparently tugged on his uniform sleeve.
"Pah! The boy knows nothing. He was just the perfect stooge. A young, handsome friend of the Vsadnikov family, a valued member of Starfleet. His injury sparked an immediate revocation of the Crowe Stable racing and breeding permits."
"And his death? What would that have accomplished? Even more?"
"The publicity alone wouldve played across the galaxy!" Feodor Tochilnikov sneered.
"But it was so unnecessary. Crowes Stables would eventually have been discredited on their own merits. You know the old Russian saying, Give them enough rope and theyll hang themselves."
"Waiting would take too much time, Pavel Andreievich." Tochilnikov lifted his phaser and aimed at Chekov. "Too bad you had to stick your nose into this matter. Too bad youre going to have to die. I hate killing another Russian..." He clicked his phaser into the kill setting. "But it wont be the first time!"
"Enough!" came a womans voice from behind the three men.
Tochilnikov turned. "Madame Vsadnikova!"
An elderly woman of at least a hundred years stepped forward, with Proskuryakov and another man of her own beside her. "Feodor Igorovich, there is to be no killing. I went along with this crazy scheme at the beginning because our stables are hurting for business while the Crowes continue to grow and prosper. But when you told me what you intended to do with Andrei Alexandrovich, a young boy I once held in my arms, I drew the line."
"Yes, you did, Anastasia Denisovna. Thats why we locked you in your chamber with one of my men to keep an eye on you."
She glanced at Chekov. "I tried my best to warn someone, anyone. I even changed the name of the mare as a clue."
"Pah! Some clue!" Tochilnikov spat. "No one guessed it, and even if they did, no one did anything about it."
"I did," Chekov said proudly. "I just couldnt convince anyone of the danger..."
"So," Tochilnikov began dramatically. "Here we are, Madame. You have two men, I have mine, and we have a Starfleet security officer. I think its best if we all..."
"Everyone, drop your weapons!" came a womans voice from behind Chekov.
Tochilnikov turned to see a contingent of security officers from Deep Space Station 3, the Enterprise and even a few from the Federation Horse Racing Commission.
"Drop them...now!" said Lieutenant Anne Nored, Assistant Chief of Security of the Enterprise.
Tochilnikov hesitated, and he and his men were immediately stunned into unconsciousness.
"Pity youre not capable of following instructions, Feodor Tochilnikov." Chekov stepped forward to Madame Vsadnikova. "Thank you, madam." He bowed slightly.
The Madame inclined her head in acknowledgment. "I am greatly troubled by Andrei Alexandrovichs injuries, Mister Chekov. Will he be all right?"
"Hell be fine, madam. I suspect hell be most concerned about you and your stables."
Vsadnikova nodded. "He is such a good boy. But I think its time that the Vsadnikov family retires from the stable business."
An official wearing a dark-blue suit with yellow piping stepped forward. "I think that is inevitable, Madame." He showed his identification to her. "Im Parker Calhoun from the Federation Horse Racing Commission. However, if you cooperate with our investigation, well see what we can do about how graceful your...retirement will be."
Nored stepped forward to Chekov. "Nice thinking there, Chief. Hitting your wristcom so that wed come running."
"That is why they pay me the big bucks, Lieutenant." He winked at her. Watching the various henchmen gathered up by the security details, he smiled. "But if you will recall, I am on shore-leave. Its time I get back to relaxing."
Nored smirked. "Have fun, Chief. And remember, next time its my turn for R and R."
After leaving the stable in the able hands of the various security forces, Chekov stopped at a gift shop. He wished to purchase a small gift for Draganov, who he figured probably needed to be cheered up. He found a medium-sized green dragon. It brought back memories of their time as teammates on summer swim team when they swam for a team named the Gators whose primary team color was green.
When the Enterprise officer arrived at the hospital room, Christensen was already there, although deeply engrossed in a conversation via communicator. Chekov took a seat as far away from the Concords helmsman as possible since it appeared that the conversation was important and did not wish to cause any unnecessary interruptions.
He turned to Draganov and presented him the dragon. He spoke as quietly as possible so as not to bother Aidan. "I thought you might get a chuckle out of this."
"Thank you, Pavel Andreievich. Everyone in Zeta Company at the Academy called me The Green Dragon because of my name."
"Its amazing how unoriginal jokes about last names are. I kept hearing the same wisecracks about whether or not I was related to Anton Chekhov. But the dragon in many ways reminds me of our old team, the Gators."
Draganov changed the subject. "So what has happened at the Vsadnikov stables? Are the reports true? This years race involved a plot to drive the Crowes out of the racing industry?"
Chekov nodded. "Sadly, true. Even your presence on the horse was part of the plan. Fortunately, Madame Vsadnikova is cooperating in the investigation. They will probably go easy on her as a result."
"All right, Concord. Christensen out." The helmsman turned to Chekov. "Pavel, do you think I can ask a favor of your captain?"
"You can ask," the security chief answered. "Chekov to Enterprise."
"Dantzen here," the communications officer answered the page.
"Lieutenant, could I please speak with Captain Kirk?"
"One moment, please, Mister Chekov."
"Mister Chekov, youre not in some kind of trouble again, are you?" came the captains concerned voice. "You and your friends are all over the newsnets right now."
Suddenly, Chekovs heart was racing as he tried to convey a tone of voice to dissuade the notion that he was in trouble. "No, sir! Its just that Lieutenant Christensen would like to ask a favor of you?"
"Well, thats a relief, but would you mind telling me what is going on?"
"I dont know, sir. Mister Christensen will explain, Im sure." Chekov slipped the communicator off his wrist and handed it to his friend.
"Captain Kirk, Lieutenant Aidan Christensen here. I was wondering if we could hitch a ride with your ship?"
"Yes, sir. The shuttlecraft I was to bring back to the Concord is just not going to be ready any time soon. Apparently the ol girl is destined for the scrapheap here at Deep Space Three."
"A tragedy, Im sure," Kirks voice carried a certain undertone of sarcasm.
Christensen wisely chose to ignore it. "Anyway, sir, I was wondering if the new crew transfers for the Concord, as well as the two of us who were here to meet them, could hitch a ride with the Enterprise for a few days, just until were at your closest point to Andor, and then we could use the replacement shuttle were being issued to rejoin the Concord."
"Saving you days on the journey, I suppose."
"Yes, sir," the helmsman admitted.
"All right, Lieutenant. Stand by. Im going to talk things over with your captain... Enterprise out."
"That sounded ominous." Christensen handed the wristcom back to Chekov.
"Yes, it does," the Enterprises security chief conceded. "So the Ainia had to be retired?"
"It was an old Mark Three heavy-duty shuttlecraft. Theyre replacing her with one just like it named Penthesilea."
A wristcom chirped. "Chekov here."
It was the voice of Captain Kirk. "Captain Skillman and I have talked over Mister Christensens current situation. He and I agree that the most efficient way to return his crewmembers is for us to transport them to Andor rather than waiting for them to arrive by shuttle. So round up those new officers and your injured friend, and have them bring the shuttlecraft up to the Enterprise."
"Yes, Captain," Chekov replied. "Ensign Draganov is being released by the medical center presently. Should I have him beamed aboard?"
"Good idea, Lieutenant. Ill notify Sickbay and Chief Rand to stand by."
A few minutes later, Doctor Flanagan came into the ward and signed off on the paperwork, releasing Draganov. "Now you stay off of race horses in the future, will you, young man?"
"Quite probably so, Doctor," the young ensign answered. "Not a lot of horses to ride in Starfleet."
Flanagan grabbed a medical scanner from his medical kit. The hum of the sensor could be heard as he examined Ensign Draganov. "Son, your injuries are healing nicely but it looks like youll need to take it easy for another day or so."
"Ill be fine, sir," the ensign replied.
"Of course you will," Flanagan agreed, but raised a finger in caution. "As long as you follow doctors orders."
Later that evening, Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy came down to the Rec Deck to check on the status of the Concords crew who had already come aboard by means of the shuttlecraft. They saw them assembled near one of the board game tables, along with Lieutenant Chekov.
"Ah, Mister Christensen, Im Captain James T. Kirk," the captain walked behind the chair where the young lieutenant sat.
The helmsman extended his hand. "Pleased to meet you, sir."
Protocol a little askew, Kirk looked at the hand for a second before accepting it. "I understand from your captain that you always manage to run into an old friend to bail you out of any trouble you get into. Captain Skillman says youve never met a stranger."
Christensen looked embarrassed. "I really appreciate Lieutenant Chekovs help in all this."
Kirk continued, "Captain Skillman said its a good thing were meeting him soon. He hinted that I was trying to steal his crew replacements and one of his key officers left behind on Deep Space Station Three while the Concord undertook a mercy mission."
McCoy remarked, "Leave it to Mister Chekov to try to recruit another Russian while hes supposed to be on shore leave." He gestured to Ensign Draganov. "And speaking of which, doesnt this young man remind you a great deal of Mister Chekov when he was younger?"
"A bit," Kirk admitted. "I wonder if he gets injured as often?"
McCoy grumbled, "Sometimes I think that Starfleet should have its officers sign a contract to refrain from doing dangerous activities while on shore leave. No orbital skydiving. No downhill skiing. No mountain climbing. No being jockeys in horse races. Like professional athletes have had to sign over the years. I have spent entirely too much time during my career patching up young officers whove done dangerous things on shore leaves, such as Mister Chekov over here." He elbowed the captain in the ribs. "Or you," he whispered softly so that only Kirk could hear him.
"Hey, I never raced a horse while on shore leave," protested Chekov.
"You never got the opportunity," retorted the doctor.
Chekov then turned to Draganov, "Andrei, I guess we should add another rule to the rules for young men."
"As in the rules for life for young men as quoted by the American novelist, Nelson Algren?" guessed McCoy. "Hes the one that said, Never play cards with a man named Doc and never eat at a place called Moms. So what rule do you wish to add, Mister Chekov?"
"Never ride a horse race on a horse named Frou-Frou."
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