Bonnie ReitzKathleen Little Hawk shifted the quiver of arrows at her belt and knelt cautiously at the edge of an acre-wide area of packed sand. The sensor indicated traces of metal, driven too hard into the ground to be identifiable as belonging to the missing Andorian expeditions. She sat back on her heels, frowning, and scanned the irregularly-shaped area through the mist of her breath in the cold. Ship landing? If so, the weight of it must have been tremendous. A few scattered stains were organic, but compressed under such pressure, their molecules almost became part of the sand's structure. Her fingers reached out toward the nearest of those dark blotches, but hesitated to touch it. She stood and whirled at a harsh command, yelped as a warning line of disruptor fire scored in front of her foot. "Oh, hell." The adjutant agent's hands went up in deference to the weapons held by four Klingons on the rise behind her. Why me all the time?" "jaHqu'." One of them pointed at his feet. To give her incentive, he fired again behind her. "jaHqu'." "I'm comin', I'm comin'," Kate grumbled. "It ain't so easy to jaHqu' in this stuff." Her temper flared as theKlingons watched her flounder across the deep, powdery sand. The foremost seized her arm and pinned her roughly to him, while the second removed phaser andcommunicator. The presence of the arrows and folding bow brought dumbfounded looks and started a rapidfirediscussion over her head. None of them spoke English. That put them in a foul mood, for they couldn'tinterrogate her here or understand her answers. Their first impulse seemed to be to shoot her on the spot. "Gods save me from enlisted men," she said skyward. Her lack of fear confused them even more. Scowling, one of them began searching her clothes. "Hey, watch those hands, fuzzy, or you're gonna lose 'em. Took you long enough to find that." She smiledbroadly at the Klingon, who had finally discovered the arm patch on the jacket. Even these lobster-nosesrecognized the rust, black, and green of the Adjutant's Office. The one who held her shoved Kate forward and poked her in the back with a disruptor. Hands out away fromher sides in concession to their nervous irritability, she walked in the direction they ordered. "Mind telling mewhat you fuzzies are doing here?" He poked harder with the disruptor and growled. "Just askin', just askin'." The sandskimmer carried four armored Klingons comfortably and one Human uncomfortably. By the time theyreached the camp, she was ready to chew nails. The camp raised both brows on the Irish/Comanche agent. Except for the multiple footprints, the entire areawas invisible to visual scans. The low survival domes were camouflaged, and she caught sight of moresandskimmers under a sensor-screened canopy. Only a few of the Klingon in sight were the genetically altered,battle-armored warriors that had captured her. "Nice little place you have here. What are you doing that's so iIIegal--smuggling drugs? Orion slave girls?" "We are not in Federation territory" Kate turned at the harsh words in English, to see a man striding toward them, officer's insignia on his tunic. "Your laws or those of the Organian Peace Treaty do not apply here." "Then why all the sneaking around in the sand? You in charge here?" He frowned. "My commander has been informed of your presence and has forbidden killing you until hecomes." He jerked her around, so he could see the Adjutant's patch, then spat a short word in Klingonese. Kate smiled. Their problem took a nasty tum since they found that. Out in the Free Ports, the Adjutant's Office juggled the laws of a multitude of planets not under Federation territory, including Klingon's, where their Empire overlapped certain sectors. On Folsom's Planet, they shared half-government with the race of the bearded warrior now in front of her. Agents were under multiple government sanctions, and nobody openly killed one, unless they were willing to touch off a trade war. "What world?" "Haralou Port--yl'Hal'chu," she gave the Klingon naming, in case they didn't recognize the Human one. "I see," he said sourly. "What does the Adjutant's Office want here?" "Hunting two missing archaeological teams. You the ones responsible for their disappearance?" She could have sworn his puzzlement was genuine. "I know nothing of such teams. If you are doing nothing more than this, why do you carry these?" He lifted the quiver. "Humans do not carry such weapons." "My Comanche ancestors did, and I happen to like them. Swift and silent." Klingon psychology wasn't Human, and she knew that. The fact she valued those physical weapons for those reasons raised her a peg in his eyes. But he still wasn't buying her story. "A pity we do not have mind-probes with us to determine why you are really here. You will be kept under guard until the commander decides what to do with you." "Oh? How long until he gets here?" The Klingon's face hardened. "When he comes." He tumed and gave guttural orders to his men. He smiled briefly as they put stasis bonds on her wrists--he was not risking his officer's wrath if she managed to escape. Kate sprawled on an unmade cot inside a sealed dome, her feet up against the wall. Wherever their commander hid himself, he was either too involved to come and interrogate a prisoner, or he was at a good distance. They fed her once, and in her opinion, they could have kept it. She passed the time using the spoon to catapult the unchewable bits of it against a target spot on the wall. When the door opened again, she lifted one eyelid, bored. "jaHqu'." One of the Klingons bent down, yanked her to her feet and dragged her out with him. "Don't know any other words?" The commander was standing with four other Klingons when she was shoved into the dome. He was one of the Human-appearing ones, overlooking the split eyebrows --and she knew him. She gave no visible reaction, until Kellic himself initiated the fact that they recognized each other. "Ah. my dear Kathleen Little Hawk-a peculiar place to nest." "You know this Tera'ngan?" the original officer demanded in astonishment. "Unfortunately. Y'lar. This time you have a taste of Klingon hospitality, eh?" "Your food is terrible." He stood with his hands on his hips, amused. "I sincerely hope' you didn't throw it back in the cook's face." "That's a cook? I though he came up with a way of disposing of old boots." The other Klingons were all taken aback and outraged at such easy familiarity. "My commander, this is aFederation Agent!" "No. A Free Port Independent. Their investigative services are open to any race that pays them. Even we haveused them in the past." "Used Tera'ngans? What Klingon would dare admit they could do less than a soft-bellied Human?" "Ah, but sometimes a Human can go where we cannot. Nor should you judge all Humans alike. This small one,for instance, is relatively harmless, unless angered. Then I doubt if even a full war party could stop her." Kelliccame over to her, smiling slightly. "Since I see no wounded bodies, I assume no one offered offense?" "Only the cook." "Nonsense. I can see you easily chewing through old boots." He frowned then. "Who do you work for this timeand why are you here?" "Andorians. They had an archaeological exploration team here that sent back word of an impressive discoverybefore communication stopped abruptly." "What sort of discovery?" Y'lar rapped. "Unknown. The second team came and vanished like the first. That's when the Adjutant's Office was notified.This planet isn't in Federation territory and can't call on its resources. They had to make do with me. So far,all I've found of two, ten-person expeditions is a smashed recorder. What tape I could salvage and run throughfrom that indicated nothing. My first thought was some indigenous life-form that went undetected by the first sensor scans." "Lie." Y'lar's face congealed as he accused, "We have found nothing dangerous here." She looked up and raised a brow. "You know what's so interesting, fuzzy? Neither have I." Kellic sat with his arms folded, his back against the dome wall, watching her closely. "I've been over this planet, back and forth, and found absolutely nothing." She eyed the Klingons up and down. "Other than a few non-indigenous life forms--who astonishingly haven't shown up on my sensors." She lifted brows and stared pointedly at Kellic, but did not expect him to resolve the question. He didn't. She sat back, putting one boot up on a metal box. A flicker of a grin went across her lips as she saw one of the guards lift his weapon, as if she were going to try an escape. As she talked, Kate looked over at Kellic and saw his eyelids half lowered, a warning glance under them--Be careful, these men are not me. He had seen that shifted weapon, too. "Well, now, a niggling little thought occurred to me, after chasing down every hairy little life-form on this whole planet. Even though nothing registered on the sensors, somebody else might be interested enough in this supposedly important discovery to eliminate competition. I went back to the site of the first disappearance, and lo and behold, a Klingon Goon Squad appears. Did you destroy those Andorian teams?" She asked bluntly. "No," Kellic answered, and she believed him. "When we arrived, there were no traces of any camps here." Inadvertently, she now had a rough estimate of how long the Klingons themselves were here. This camp was fast work. "Okay, the question now is, did whoever it was know you fuzzies were up to something illegal here yourselves? Oh, c'mon--a sensor-screened camp?" Kate said sarcastically as Y'lar started angrily to deny that. "The Adjutant's Office would not concern itself with anything we do here. Reporting us would accomplish nothing, but we shall not allow you to call in nonetheless. Both you and your information now cause us difficulties." "Kill her," Y'lar said, "in spite of the risks." "That would cause even greater difficulties. I think we shall keep you here, out of trouble, Kate Little Hawk. That dome she was in before can be sealed, can it not?" "Yes, but..." "I have made my decision, Y'lar." Keliic stood up. "Our time here will not be that long, not if we are likely to have unknown visitors. Find her shuttle and bring it here, conceal it from sensor scans. You come with me," he said, grasping Kate's arm and pulling her outside. Out of earshot of the others, she observed, "'Commander, eh? Is that a step up or down?" "Actually down. But soldiery is more amicable to such open military authority." She snorted, and he tugged harder on her arm, keeping up a swift pace. The Klingon officer beside her was as much a fake as the buildings here, which looked like rock ledges. When sabotage broke out in the d'anthra production domes of Eyarbakkai, he was sent by the High Command to investigate, by that indicating he was an extremely high-ranking operative himself. On that assignment, she was the Adjutant's agent there. They had been partners--and briefly lovers--and she was one of the few Humans this Klingon believed spoke the truth. Peering into the dome to make certain it was empty of potential weapons, he thrust her inside, then followed. "Now, my dear Kate..." Kellic deliberately grasped both her forearms hard. "Ah, I thought so." Swiftly, he removed the pair of throwing knives, angry. "Stupid fools, not to search you for weapons!" "They took my phaser and communicator. Klingons don't think of Humans as carrying knives." Kellic's face went cold and distant. "I know you carry much more than that." He swiftly released her hands and stepped back. "You will strip, please." Both eyebrows went up. "Here? Now?" "Strip. Though even that might not thoroughly divest you of every device you have hidden. I have seen Federation agents whose hair was garroting wire." He grabbed a handful of hers. "Suspicious bastard." Muttering, she began to take off her clothes. "I sincerely hope I don't have to sit here stark naked in the middle of a Klingon camp." His face lost its dangerous-looking lines at that, and his lips twitched. "I shall make certain suitable clothes are delivered to you at once. It would be unfortunate if my men were turned from their pressing duties by the presence of such a delightful diversion." He reached out a finger to lightly trace a line between her breasts. She batted the hand away. "Ah, a pity for the sake of show I must install you here, instead of in my own quarters, yes? But that is how it must be." "What you're doing here is that important, eh? Don't even trust me?" He bent and bundled together her clothing. When she grasped his arm, he actually began to reach for his disruptor before he stopped. For all his seeming ease, he was hair-trigger quick in tenseness on this assignment. She pulled at her ear pointedly. "There are no listening devices here yet," he said stiffly. "Kellic, are you responsible for that large area of packed sand where your men found me?" A line formed between his brows. "I will investigate, though I do not think so. We have tried to keep our presence hidden. How big an area?" His mind worked fast. "Big enough for a ship. Try not to get wiped out like the other expeditions here, Kellic." "Ah, but they were mere Andorians, and we are Klingons, an entirely different proposition. They had better take care themselves." "Klingons have such damned inflated egos. And hurry up with those clothes, it's freezing." He bent to kiss her lingeringly on the mouth, daring her formidable Irish temper with Klingon audacity. "Or I may be tempted, also. When we finish our business here, I think I shall return and claim you as my war prize, eh?" "We're not at war." "A mere detail. Perhaps I shall have to start one, then, simply to end it." "Klingons are crazy." He straightened. "Mmmm, no doubt. I can see no sane reason for wanting a skinny little Earther woman." "This skinny little Earther woman is going to bite you next time you come in range, Klingon!" He grinned. "The prospect sounds fascinating. Especially in your present state." Then he lost the smile. "I warn you: do not attempt an escape. These men do not like your presence, and I should hate to come back and find you dead, my dear Kate." "By the way, what do you do here?" Kellic smiled slightly and left. Through the vent, she dimly heard his orders to the guard outside. "Do not let harm come to her, but guard her well." Kate stood for a few minutes, frowning at the door, then shivered and danced in place to get her circulation moving, until the promised clothes were shoved through the air vent. "Nuts." She inspected the sandsuit. Why do Klingons have to be so blamed tall?" After rolling up sleeves and cuffs, she began to brush her hair upward from her ears. Garroting wire, indeed, she snorted. Who could get that close to an enemy equipped with sensors to use it? A fourteen-foot, unbreakable filament was much more handy. She wanted it off and hidden in the room, like a great many other things now were. Good thing, too, before Kellic decided to take his precautions. Ah, Kelly, me boy, she chuckled, if ye ever find those tracers on yerself and Y'lar, there'll be roarin' hell to pay. She turned at a noise and saw an animal like an elongated rat briefly glare at her before it vanished with the bits of stew she had rejected and tossed at the wall before. "Better you than me, pal." But an animal shouldn't have been able to get in here. Kate went over and peered down a fist-wide hole in the floor, raising both brows. Whatever it was had tough teeth to chew through the building material. Then she prowfed, though she had been around the hut's interior twice before. The survival units were designed to withstand a variety of harsh planetary conditions, their lower rims chemically melting themselves into four feet of ground surface. They were effective, secure temporary housing and, at the moment, equally effective prisons. She sat cross-legged on the floor, frowning at the sealed door. An explosive charge would blow the wall out--and have every fuzzy here down on her head. She chuckled--maybe she could train a couple hundred of those 'rats' to chew in tandem. Blast it,though, she had to find out what was going on here. Learning about what the Klingons wanted was likely the key to the whole affair. They didn't send out Big Guns like Kellic to small jobs. "Shit." The roar of a distant explosion resonated through the ground under her. If the Klingons were trying to be unnoticed-- Kate dove for the ventilator and tried vainly to see out. The camp outside was in an uproar. Whatever happened was not of their doing. Within a few minutes, her door was opened violently, and Klingons came in. Kellic was in a rage, beyond reason. He seized her arms and yanked her upward to his savagely enraged face. "Your shuttle blew up and took my men with it! You rigged a bomb to go off if the controls were tampered with!" "What!? You're crazy," she yelled. "How in bloody hell would I know I'd be taken prisoner? If I escaped here, I'd have been flying off in that thing myself!" Kellic shook her. "Kate, if you lie, I will kill you! I lost three men!" "And you'll lose a lot more, ye flamin' cretin-brain!" she bellowed, shaking a free fist in his face. "That had to be put there between the time I got carried off and when your men went back. If it was meant for me, that was stupid--my death would have investigators here in herds and that shuttle was openly marked. That had to be for you Klingons." Kellic stared at her dumbfounded, only once before receiving the full blast of her Irish temper. "I don't ..." "Does hair grow inside your head as well?" she roared. "Your men blow up in my shuttle, therefore I must be responsible, right? What's the first thing any run-of-the-mill Klingon'd do? Blow my head off. Anybody else, and it'd have worked, too, wouldn't it?" She poked him repeatedly in the chest. "You'd cut your own fuzzy throats when word got back to the Adjutant for that. But right now, you'd think yourselves so damned smug safe from further attack 'cause who else but me could be responsible?" He saw. "They saw my men take you off." She calmed down and smiled grimly. "Had to. They could have knocked me off any time another way, and I'd be just another unexplained disappearance. But involving you makes a different wrinkle entirely. And just where were these unknowns standing that they could see all that? The only concealment was that rise behind me, and the Goon Squad themselves were on that." "And I am certain of my men. I hand-picked them all. We must investigate the flattened area more thoroughly." His hands were no longer grasping her tightly, "I think, as you no doubt do, that those pressurized pieces and stains are the remains of your Andorian expeditions. We will not be victims also." He dropped his hands. "You may have saved our necks, woman, but you will never speak to me in that tone of voice." By that, he gave hidden warning. Kate saw his fist rise, and she rolled with the blow, landing on the floor against the wall. The Klingon turned and went out, without a backward glance. Kate sat up, feeling her jaw. Kellic had to reassert his authority over her in front of his men, and she was pleased he deliberately pulled his punch. She reacted as if still stunned when one of the guards jerked her upright and put stasis bonds on her hands again, then doing the same with her feet to the cot frame. "How the hell am I supposed to go to the bathroom like this?" she muttered, hand over her jaw to hide the fact no mark was on it. The Klingon smiled maliciously. "I do not really care." He left, and she made a face after him. Bastard probably enjoyed seeing his commander hit me, too, she thought. Then she looked down at the stasis bonds. "Dear, dear, such precautions." She twisted her body around and groped under the cot frame for a concealed instrument. In a few seconds, she stood in the middle of the floor, fists on hips. Getting out was going to be a problem. They wouldn't be expecting her free and that would give her a brief advantage. But she assumed they would still send in more than one guard when they fed her again. The two tiny explosions above the door were barely audible. Even if Y'lar preferred to kill her instead, he was a Klingon and would obey his commander's orders. She turned at a scrabbling noise and saw the rat-thing was back, searching for more food. She suddenly grinned wolfishly. The first Klingon through the door that night went nose-first over the trip-wire, and crashed down over the food tray. Kate kicked him in the head and threw the rat directly into the face of the second guard in one motion. He ducked in instinct, his disruptor coming up in surprise as it hurtled past. Kate bounced over the fallen man and made a flying leap for the handholds she'd cut above the door and smashed both feet into the second guard's face. "Banzai!" He went down like a log. Kate dragged him inside, searching the darkness for others. So, far, so good. She stripped both guards of weapons and left the first with his nose down in the tray. The Klingons' desire to remain undetected meant no lights showing. She darted across open space that would be suicide in daylight. In a few minutes, an alarm should go up for her, and she knew they would expect her to try for a sandskimmer. She also knew that way would be impossible. Kate reached in a cockpit even as a shout went up in the direction of her hut. Without rush, she punched in a program and started the engine. Then she ducked and dove for a pile of supplies. The sandskimmer took off with satisfying noise. "Fool!" The voice was neither Kellic's nor Y'lar's. "Get that woman!" Two more skimmers took off in pursuit. "Shall we report to the commander?" "No! You want to lose your head for letting her escape? They will recapture her soon." Not chasing all the evasive maneuvers she had programed into that ship, hindered by the fact they couldn't shoot her down. Kate slid across the camp's darkness like a shadow. She found the command dome and slipped inside in spite of the lock. Kellic wasn't expecting anybody other than Klingons to rifle through his belongings. She closed the air vent and risked the light. Her clothes were all in a convenient pile, and she swiftly exchanged them, strapping on the familiar throwing knives to each foreann. There were things built inside those clothes she did not want to go without. With phaser and communicator in place once more, she doused the light and peered out, then ducked back. The natives were still restless. "How could they lose her!" a voice roared. Kate blinked. The Klingons weren't that poor as pilots. What happened? "We also lost contact with the two ships pursuing her. She must have confederates on this planet." "Of course she must. The commander was wrong. We should not have let her live." "But the Adjutant..." "H'rolth the tera'ngan Adjutant! We should have killed her! The commander must be told. Our communicators will not reach into the tunnels." Tunnels? "Take a sandskimmer and so inform him. We will see how long he holds rank after this. Well, go." The Klingon saluted and went. Kate paralleled him, moving rapidly behind the domes, then darted ahead of him. She understood why the man was dragging his feet--he wanted to avoid giving his commander the news and facing his wrath. As soon as the Klingon started the engine of one of the skimmers, Kate slithered over the back seat and into a rear storage compartment, the engine noise masking her sound. The skimmer took off. Inside the compartment, she was blind, but the tracer she wore instead of a thumbnail was tugging in the same direction they were heading. The skimmer was indeed aiming for Kellic's position, and Y'lar was somewhere near him. Tunnels .. .interesting. The Andorians hadn't reported any subsurface ruins. Whatever the K's found below ground, their unknown enemy found, too, and wanted badly enough to wipe out all comers. That answered the question of how they saw the Klingons take her off. Somewhere in that flattened area, there was an observation opening underfoot. Kate had no desire to go diving openly into a Klingon nest, even with Kellic there. She lifted the storage lid and rolled out. The Klingon's hearing was acute. He turned in swift surprise and saw her grin. "Hi, there..." Her hand shot out flat, and he went over in the seat. She leaned over him to adjust the controls for a landing. They thudded onto the sand, and she heaved the Klingon out, then took his weapons and communicator. The tracer indicated her targets weren't far away, and she didn't want this one warning the others. Since the skimmer she was carried to their camp in had stasis bonds, she burrowed in this one, hunting them. She had his hands immobile and was working on his feet when he came to. She shook her head at his words and jumped back as he kicked out viciously at her, missing with both feet fastened together. "Now, now, I could just as easily have cut your throat." "As you did the others?" he surprised her by lashing out in English. "Where's your mind, man? If I was hidden in your ship, I couldn't have been on the other one. That was only a decoy. I don't know what happened to your two skimmers, but it wasn't my doing." "Lie! Tera'ngan lie!" "Don't confuse me with the facts, eh? Believe whatever you want. Too bad these stasis things don't work on mouths. I'll have to make do with a gag of some..." The unholy screech which echoed across the night had her on her feet in an instant. "What in the hell was..." The faraway sound grated up her spine, and her voice was shaken. When she glanced down at the Klingon, she saw his face in the dim light from the still-open door. It had gone stark white, and he was looking off in the direction from which the sound had come. She grabbed her bow and the disruptor which was still in the car. A rumble like an avalanche began in the distance and roared closer with the speed of an oncoming express train. Kate had an instant's flash memory of flattened sand and metal. If metal drew it ... She slapped off the stasis on his feet before the Klingon could move. "Get away from the skimmer! Run!" The Klingon sprinted alongside the Human for the near-distant rocks, without question, running for their lives. The roar exploded in their ears behind them. Kate fell into a stream bed, and when the Klingon leaped over her, she reached up to grab for his boot and yanked. He crashed down, and she wrenched him into the crevice with her. "No!" he yelled, kicking to be free. "Get DOWN!" He covered his head and hugged the earth as she was, and the unseen terror went over them with a roar. Kate felt a scorching heat like a furnace sear across her back, and she rolled out of the water with a cry. It boiled in under them. It passed them, and Kate scrabbled out of the stream bed to glance after it, seeing nothing. One glance at the place the skimmer used to be sent her sliding back down fast. "Warn your camp!" She thrust the com into his bound hands. "Quick! It's heading straight for them..." He did not stop to question why she would let them be warned. He spoke rapid Klingonese into the com. He had one answer, and then cries drowned it out. The shriek and roar that followed transmitted with such volume, he threw it from him in pain. The com bounced on a rock and went dead. Kate picked it up, tapped on it. "Still working, but no signal coming through" She looked up at the Klingon, who had dragged himself to sit, breathing heavily. "It got them--like the Andorians." "You've won, tera'ngan," he cursed her, his voice full of outraged pain for all those deaths. "You were here before us and found out how to use the weapon!" "It might interest you to know that I'm as ignorant as you are about that thing." He spat a word even her fluent Klingonese couldn't translate. But its meaning was obvious. "Doesn't matter if you believe that or not. Somebody's got control of it. So good of you to tell me that it's a weapon and not a life-form." He repeated the word. "Yeah. But it's got to go. The controls must lie underground, and I've got to try to destroy them." He laughed in disbelief. "Not likely. You would use it to destroy us." "Yeah, yeah, I know. The whole propaganda thing. We don't pay much attention to that in the Free Ports. I think I'll leave you here and try to find Kellic to warn him." "Or go join your allies and finish us." Kate patted his face. "Ooooo. Such nasty thoughts. And wrong, wrong, wrong. I don't want anybody else killed by that thing, even Klingons. Damn it, that thing murdered two expeditions and an entire Klingon camp. It has to be destroyed." She peered up over the rim of the wash, but couldn't see anything in the dark. She drew her hand away from the top of the rock with a sharp cry of pain. The entire rim had been melted by the heat of that thing. "Gotta find someplace to put you." "What if it ... ?" The Klingon stopped short. "Comes back?" She went and crouched down by him in the darkness. As a Klingon, he wouldn't admit to any fear, but that thing had scared the shit out of both of them, and she knew it. "Look, fuzzy. if I wanted to kill you, I'd have done it instead of knocking you out. Neither of the guards on my hut have more than a smashed-in face. You saw that--anything sink into your head from it?" He was silent, but she was aware from his tenseness he was thinking furiously. "It might be safer inside those tunnels. If the controls are down there, then it's also a chance to take a crack at the ones responsible for sending that thing out. You willing to help, or do I leave you here?" He was silent for so long, she thought he would refuse. "Will you give me a weapon?" Kate stood up. "Hey, man, I may be amiable, but I'm not stupid. Well?" "I will come," he said reluctantly. "If you lie, and you attempt to kill the others left here, then I will be in a position to stop you." "I can't believe the opinion you have of yourselves. C'mon, then. I'll free your hands when I think it's necessary. You can show me an entrance faster than I can hunt for it. No, not that way. The whole rim is hot rock. We'll have to skirt around it. Move. Who are you, anyway?" "Koren. And I only go with you to have a chance to destroy those who killed my people." "Ah, bull," she chided, keeping a phaser on him as she followed over the rocks. "You're afraid of the dark..." "I am afraid of nothing'" Koren hissed, as they crouched on a railed landing above a machine-filled room. Kate ignored him, watching the floor below. The oblong casings of the unknown machinery were featureless, but hummed with power. "What do these things do?" Koren refused, in furious silence. "All right. you are a man born without fear, with nerves of solid iron. Now what are those machines for?" For a few seconds, he kept sullen, tight-lipped silence. Then, "Nothing. They maintain some life-support functions. That is all." "Life-support, nuts. It's colder in here than it is outside. How old is this place? Who built it?" "I do not know. Our sensors registered eight thousand years." She swiftly transposed Klingon years to Earth's and whistled softly. "Ooops, somebody's..." She made a grab for the Klingon's mouth just as he was about to yell a warning and jammed the phaser against his ear. Then he stiffened, and she freed his mouth. The three figures below weren't Klingon. One of the men turned his head to speak to the others and the green skin was unmistakable. "'orayn'ngan!" Koren tried to take her phaser away to kill them. She held that arm out of his reach and clamped the other hand on his wrist as he sprawled across her. "It's too noisy. you fool," she hissed. "What if there are others?" He saw. "Get off me, damn it, before they hear us!" The Klingon drew back. "They are the ones who..." "Yes." Klingons were nasty. Orions were nastier. She could well believe they sent out that weapon to wipe out everyone who landed on this planet. She watched one of the aliens fasten a palm-held box onto one of the machines and turn it on. The hum started off-key. They were cutting off life-support. Even a phaser on stun would be too loud, if they had confederates. "Koren, me boy," she whispered, clipping the phaser to her belt. "Here's where you decide if you're with me or against me." She snapped the bow into open position and nocked an arrow. "Watch if any more come in sight." She took aim on the first Orion below them and drew back hard. Three arrows left the string in blinding succession. All on target. Koren had his hands on the rail as the last man went down with an arrow in his neck. "By the Lords of Kh'eloz, you..." He began gleefully, then realized who and what she was and stopped. But he was impressed. "You know a way down?" "This way." Kate loped after him. With both hands needed to shoot the bow that was a time he could have gone for her clipped phaser, but didn't. He crouched behind a machine, glancing repeatedly over his shoulder to where she searched a body. "You sure that little machine of theirs is turned off? Good. Hide these three." Koren obeyed, then watched as she shrugged into the robe. "You think to pass as one of these?" "First glance only. Also conceals the fact that I'm a woman. I doubt if they'd bring theirs." "Why not both of us?" "If we run into Klingons, I want you visible. Otherwise, we can pretend you're my prisoner to any Orion, if we're taken by surprise. Can I trust you?" She indicated the still bound hands. "A Klingon spits on an Orion!" he said angrily. "Good." She released him. He rubbed his wrists. "C'mon, we better find Kellic." Koren hesitated, then pointed in the same direction the nail sensor also told her to look. They sprinted off down a branching tunnel. The Klingon she was with was a hunter. Even in boots, he made little noise. She knew the instant he ducked down another corridor, away from her. She shook her head at the predictable reaction. She stopped and pulled out a palm-sized tricorder to find him then grinned at the reading. The two tunnels came together again up ahead; he wouldn't get far. She put the tricorder back and moved forward in the dim lighting. The flying body caught her high in the back with a shoulder lock and both of them went over. In the motion of turning, her foot lashed out hard, in fear of a knife. Her attacker curled over with a curse, and she gave a short, astonished laugh. "Kelly?" "Curse you, woman," Kellic gasped from the blow and sat up. "You were sent here to plague me! You kick like a targ." He fingered his ribs and came across to her where she still lay on the floor. "How did you get here?"
She drew a breath.
"No, don't tell me," he growled. "I don't think I want to know. Where are you hurt?"
"You damn near took my shoulder off," she panted.
She gave a sharp indrawn breath as his fingers probed the area. "The bone is out of place. This will be extremely painful to fix."
"Hurry up. Koren was with me and should be here any second." She put her hand in her mouth to stifle the cry as Kellic snapped the bone back in place.
He laid her back on the floor and smiled briefly. "That's what you get for wearing Orion clothing." An uncharacteristically gentle finger wiped away the tears of pain in her eyes. "I will be the only one to see these, my Kate. How could you and Koren...?"
His disruptor came out in a blur as Koren came around the machine. The warrior froze in astonishment. "Commander!" He glanced at Kate, who waggled fingers at him in greeting. "I..." He stopped, disconcerted.
Kellic, for once, apparently decided to make one of his men squirm. "And precisely how did you ally yourself with this woman?"
"Let him alone, Kellic. Not his fault." She put a hand on his arm. We're the last from the camp that's still alive."
Tersely, she gave him an abbreviated version.
"Those of us in the tunnels are all that are left?" Kellic gave a low noise like a hunting tiger. "I will kill the 'orayn'ngan for this!" He stood up. "Come with me. We have a base area nor far from here. Communicators do not work well among this machinery. Bring the woman carefully," he ordered Koren.
When the Klingon hesitated, Kellic turned sharply. "Something wrong?"
The coldness of his voice intimidated Koren. "No, my commander."
"I...saw you strike the woman before, yet she bears no bruise..."
"He just made up for that now," Kate muttered, but not loudly, for the two men were speaking Klingonese.
"You question?" Kellic asked dangerously.
"The woman is beautiful--it is your business. But she is a Human, my commander--there can be no trust between our races. She will betray us as soon as the opportunity presents itself."
"A dependable knife ally is more important than a face, Koren. If you wish to remain in my command, you will learn to follow my judgement. This agent has worked for Klingons before; she will do so again. Now, come."
He turned and strode down the line of machines.
Kate scrambled to her feet to follow, wincing at the pain in her shoulder. Then she went off her feet as Koren abruptly swept both arms down and lifted her. "I can walk, you fuzz-head," she said testily.
"Shut up," he snapped.
Only two Klingons were in the area designated as their base of operations in the tunnels; unfortunately, one of them was Y'lar. "What is this?" he roared at the sight of her.
Koren stood stoically while Kellic gave the story in short, angry words. "'orayn 'ngan?"
"They cannot use the weapon force in here without destroying the machinery which generates it. They have already tried to tamper with the life-support system. I want two men guarding that room from further attack. It is imperative we find that generating machinery now and also the air-producing apparatus, before they can cut that off from us. Where are the others?"
Y'lar began to relay positions, when Kellic stopped him and turned to Koren, who was still holding Kate. "There is a medical kit over there," he said in English. "See to her."
"Nuts," Kate grumbled. An open way of getting her out of hearing. She noticed boxes of explosives among the equipment, but knew she'd never get close to them. Koren fitted a hypo with painkiller. "Better only give me a quarter of that," she said, knowing Klingon anesthetics were strong enough to knock out a horse. He obeyed, with ill grace, and injected it.
"So, you Klingons were down here hunting that weapon all this time? No wonder you didn't show up on my sensors." Speaking to Koren was like talking to a wall, but she did it anyway. "You knew it was here, somewhere, but obviously haven't found it yet. This tunnel complex must be the important discovery the Andorians made, but they'd be interested only in the builders. Odd, they picked this planet for an archaeological expedition--nothing shows up on scanner. Wonder if you both picked up the rumor at the same place?"
"Shut up," he said.
"Can't. Klingon anesthetic makes Humans babble, didn't you know that?"
From the drawn-back, baffled expression on the Klingon's face, he didn't know if he should believe that or not.
Kellic ordered them to him. "We find the weapon center and take it from the Orions. Our last probes indicated the most likely area. We shall begin there and continue until it is found."
"Commander, the Orions we killed entered the other room from a different direction than we used," Koren said.
Kellic turned his head sharply to him. "Then we go there. You and Kate come with me. Take those supplies."
"A Human?" Y'lar protested.
"You think I cannot control her?"
Y'lar backed down hastily. "I do not think that, my commander."
Partway down the tunnel, Kellic took her arm and ordered, "Give Koren back his weapon."
She thrust it out mutinously. "The Orions 'we' killed?" she said sarcastically. Koren ignored her totally.
In the life-support chamber, the commander grasped her arm and held her, while Koren scouted for the hidden opening the Orions had used.
"You keeping me from running off?"
"I am keeping you on your feet. The painkiller has you weaving, my Kate."
"When you expected me to be put out cold?"
"I never expect such hopeful outcomes with you." He frowned. "I should like to know sometime how you escaped from that hut."
She grinned. "Rats."
He glanced at her, baffled.
"Commander! This way!"
They went swiftly over to the place Koren indicated. Having seen the direction the three men came from, the Klingon searched the walls with a sensor and found a space behind one. But he couldn't find a way to open it.
"Go to the other side of that machine," Kellic ordered, and they retreated.
Curious, Kate watched the Klingon bend down before the wall and do something. Then Kellic ran for their position. The door exploded inward behind him.
The area behind the wall was as maze-like as the outside and seemed to stretch into infinity. They explored four hours, finding power emanating from a general direction only. When they came upon the car and track, Kate exploded when Kellic briefly stated those vehicles were in the areas previously explored, and they had used them. "You mean we trudged all that way, and we could have ridden in one of these things?"
"You are growing soft with port life. I did not look for one of these because their noise would alert others to our presence. Nor could we be sure one would go in the right direction."
Kate still grumbled, until Kellic called a halt in the tunnel further on. "This area can be defended; we will sleep here."
Kate dropped down on the floor hard, testing her shoulder muscles. The soreness was an irritant, and the cold amplified it. Their breath made steam clouds, and a thin frost covered the cracks of the floor. She dropped back on her pack and watched as Kellic placed a coin-sized object in each of the downward-slanting corridors offshooting this circular area. Waming sensors? The Klingon operative had as many devices hidden on him as she did. It would be interesting to find out what they were.
Kellic came back and spread out his blanket. "We will have warning if intruders come this way."
Koren rolled up in his blanket as far away from Kate as he could get. As soon has Kellic settled, Kate burrowed up against the big Klingon's back. It would be warmer if he tumed around, but he couldn't do that in front of Koren. She squirmed around, trying to find a soft, warm spot on the icy floor.
"Will you settle? You are as pestiferous as a tribble," he muttered peevishly.
""Pestiferous?' My, your command of the language has suddenly improved. I bet you understand all sorts of words Klingons don't usually..."
"Be quiet," he ordered.
"One wonders where and how a Klingon..."
"Woman, your tongue will freeze if it flaps any longer. Now be silent, or I will shut you up."
"Go freeze," she said and rolled away from him.
The sudden loss of heat at his back was instantly effective. "Kate?"
She grinned and settled into place again, their body heat melting the hoarfrost that formed on the edges of the blankets from their breathing. "What about Koren?"
"He is an enlisted man; they were meant to freeze. And you had better not offer to warm his back."
"Jealousy, la dee dee..."
He started to rise up in threat, and she hastily pretended sleep.
Then she lost humor and sighed heavily. Too many deaths. What if the Orions could produce that weapon offworld?
As before this Klingon seemed to follow her thoughts. His hand came back under the blanket and rested on her hip, then left. Then he spoke a short sentence, the Klingon equivalent of 'the hell with it!,' and rolled over.
Kellic's eyes opened instantly when she put a hand on his arm, but the warning pressure of that grip kept him from moving. His face was toward her, his command of English fluent enough that he could read the shape of the words on her lips. Slowly...
He did not stop to question why his sensors had not worked. Imperceptibly, his hand began to slide to his disruptor. Her eyes indicated the direction of target. His brows raised in silent query, and her eyes narrowed sharply. Kill.
He rolled over in a blur and fired.
Koren was on his feet, weapon out, the two Orions vanished in disruptor fire.
"Commander!" Kellic checked the immediate area for more enemies. "I abase myseff, Commander!" he cried out in shame. "I was asleep."
"So was I!" Kellic had his back against the corridor wall, peering down it. "I thought we were safe here. Obviously we were not." He picked up his useless sensing device, examined it, then threw it aside.
The implication of that struck home on the other Klingon. Kellic turned. "Yes, the Human is responsible for our continued breathing. I suggest we move out of this area swiftly. They have probably reported our position." Kate and Koren were already gathering blankets together.
"Hey!" Her call stopped the other two as they were about to move down the opposite tunnel. "Let's go this way."
Kellic turned around. "You have more guts than sense, but you're right. We go down the hunter's throat."
The light in hidden steps on the walls was dim, as if the alien builders used this tunnel only rarely. They had not gone more than a few hundred feet in a curving line when their way was blocked by a translucent membrane stretched over the entire opening. Kellic passed his sensor over it. "Not living. The tunnel continues on the other side, with the air at an even colder temperature than here. The Orions did not put this here as they passed; it is part of the original structure."
"Airlock?" Koren guessed and stretched out to touch it. The substance bent in with that pressure, like rubber, then enveloped his hand. Hissing in fear, he tried to pull free, and it resisted. As slowly as it went in, his hand came out, and when it was loose, he cradled it, swearing, seeking damage. Nothing clung to it.
Kate lifted her phaser, and the two Klingons stepped back quickly. She fired at the membrane, and the beam struck, was sucked in, and passed through. They watched the light line travel in incredibly slow motion, then flare on the other side. The membrane was undamaged. She touched it warily. "The phaser beam went through. You think...?"
"The Orions came this way, and it is the only way through."
Still stung by his panic of before, Koren said, "I will go." He put a hand to his nose and mouth, disruptor out, and pushed forward, into the membrane.
"Koren!" Kate lunged after the younger warrior, but Kellic's arm went across in front of her.
"No. Let him go. He is expiating the shame to himself of showing fear."
Kate watched, holding breath, as the blurred figure moved slowly through the unknown substance. The blur jerked forward, and she realized he must have broken free on the other side. The distance could not have been more than five feet.
Kellic's communicator clicked, and he swiftly flipped it open. The series of taps which sounded had only a slight indication of a shaken hand giving them. He did not risk speech, in case the Orions could pick up the transmission, but Kate thought he might be afraid to trust his voice.
"He is through and safe. Shall we?"
Kate squeezed her eyes shut, put a hand over her nose as Koren had done, and pushed forward. It was like walking through thick gel. Her arm broke free, and she tried to pull out faster, but the membrane allowed only a certain speed and no other. She finally came through, cursing the alien builders. The muscle strain hurt her shoulder again. "God, Koren--that took guts," she panted.
The Klingon blinked in surprise at such praise from a Human. "Indeed," Kellic stated. "Come."
Koren followed, no expression showing on his face, but Kate hid a grin--the young warrior was practically busting his buttons.
The shaft ended when it connected with another curved tunnel. Short openings led off from it, and they peered over the end of one to a circular room below. Kate spread out on her belly on the frost crystals and glanced over the edge of a drop into the wide area below. The curving tunnel behind them must run around the cavern, for she saw similar openings at regular intervals around the wall. The purpose was baffling, for there was no visible way down from here. Generating machinery filled most of the space below and around the entire bottom rim ran a membrane like the one they had come through. A crystalline haze swirled over the top of the column, obscuring their vision until drafts blew it aside.
"Air circulation?" Kellic asked low, his hair blowing as he looked down. "These tubes must carry it through the complex."
As if in confirmation, a sudden suction was set up in their own tube, not enough to pull them backward, but for a few minutes they were blinded as snow whirled through the opening.
Kate turned her head sharply away from the stinging particles, then ducked. Only the blowing snow blinding the Orions' aim kept the phaser beam from hitting target.
She heard two disruptors fire blindly and one answering scream in the swirling snow. But that flash glimpse of a second ago showed one of those Orions in battle armor, resistant even to phaser fire.
The air stopped, arid the abrupt clearing showed the suited Orion on top of them. Kellic lunged upward, seized the man's phaser rifle and continued the momentum with the thrust of both hands. For the first time, Kate witnessed the Klingon's strength enhancers on full--a shatterproof helmet flew apart like glass with the force of that blow. Kate fired her own phaser, still on her side, and the other Orion fell.
"Out of here--swiftly!" Kellic dropped the broken weapon. "They'll have called others." Then he stopped short, seeing Koren's unbelieving expression.
"Sir! You..." No ordinary Klingon had such power--only the dimly rumored high agents in the Council's employ.
Kate braced tensely as Koren visibly assimilated that, phaser ready just in case.
Koren stood for a few seconds, staring at his commander. Then his face altered, and he gave a stiff, military bow. "Orders, sir?"
"Good man..." Kellic's hand gripped the warrior's shoulder, then pushed. "Move. We must get out of here."
Then he stopped short, so fast Kate blundered into him. All three turned at the sound like low thunder behind them. Koren's face went white. "It is the weapon!"
Kellic's disruptor jerked up as he arched back in a yell of surprise-high overhead a panel slid back. Sky was visible until the snow swirled out and obscured it.
"This doesn't circulate air!" Kate cried out. The circular shape wasn't a ventilation system--it was an alien cyclotron. The vibration at their feet warned of the power building up--and they were inside the generator.
"Kate!" Kellic was stripping off his belt and insignia from his tunic with seeming madness. "Explosives!"
She understood. If they had the time before the weapon formed... She had her own concealed detonation devices twisted in the cloth of her headband. Her bow snapped open in the space it took the Klingon agent to spear his belt on one of the arrows. She released the bow to him.
Kellic braced his back against the short tube wall and pulled back on the string. It would take power to propel an arrow into that storm, and only he, with those artificial implants, had strength enough. The bow curved almost in half, and he let fly. -Fifteen seconds,- he warned, dropped the bow and ran.
Koren was crouching in the tunnel, braced against the wind fury. He could have run when they turned back, but didn't. All three of them struck into the membrane.
Like nightmares, the seal let them go only so fast. Kate silently snarled at the helplessness of it, with the generated weapon roaring on their heels. She burst out the other side and sobbed in frustration, trying to pull free faster. Kellic and Koren flopped out and staggered, then turned their heads swiftly away from the airlock as it lit up in intolerable brightness.
The wind was blocked from this side. The alien membrane was more than an airlock--it was a cork. Was that your explosion? She stumbled forward in a run, then lost her footing as the tunnel shook. Good God... She sprawled on her back, facing the membrane. That Klingon's clothing hid a nuclear device!
"Listen!" Koren hissed, pushing to his feet.
A hissing presaged a cloud of steam erupting from the edge of the membrane.
Kate broke records racing for that car. None of them bothered to fasten a seat belt. The rest of the Klingons were on the opposite side of that detonation and prudently decided to run for it, too.
Kellic ordered them out of the complex entirely. "We may have destroyed the weapon, but I do not wish to take the risk of staying inside. We will evacuate until the reaction stops."
No one saw Kate lean down and collect one of the explosive boxes in the confusion of gathering up sensors and equipment.
Whatever connections the tunnels made across the complex maze carried the uncontrolled energy of the weapon in a spreading flood. It still might have contained itself, if a second eruption in the life-support room had not freed a new pathway for it. Its edges licked out, and the tunnel exit shattered as Kate and the Klingons fled through it. Its collapse kept the main body of the weapon from following them.
Kate made an undignified trip to the safety of a solid rock shelf draped over the shoulder of a dust-covered Klingon, out cold.
She came to with her nose in the sand and felt relief at hearing a sound few Humans would welcome--Klingon voices. Very carefully, so her head wouldn't fall off and roll over under their feet, Kate sat up.
"So you are with us once more?" Kellic bent down and observed her clinically. "How do you feel?"
"Like I was run over by a herd of stampeding Gorn. What's happening?"
"Most of the complex is experiencing a chain-reaction collapse from the initial explosion." The words were tightly delivered. "Whatever secrets lay under there are now useless."
She held her head. "I'll worry about it later," she muttered into her hand, ears still roaring. "Your men get out safe?"
"Yes. Damn the 'orayn'ngan!" He stood up and looked back to the rising dust clouds in the distance. "They have taken away any chance of our potential weapon, and we will go to war for that!"
In spite of the ringing headache, Kate hid the betraying smile with her hands. She had been afraid for a minute she didn't use enough explosives in the life-support room. They'd have to do something about that impending war, but the Klingons didn't gain a weapon of that magnitude. Half-heartedly, she beat at the dust and sand covering her. It was then she discovered her com unit and phaser missing. Ah, well. Now that they were back to the beginning again, the fuzzies were taking no chances. She spat sand and tried to scrape it off her nose and mouth.
Most of the Klingons chose to mill around. watching the destruction and cursing. Koren came on one knee beside her. "My commander will not allow you to be taken prisoner," he said in a low voice.
"Oh? Why deliberately go out of your way to reassure me, if that's what that was?"
Koren did not look at her, but at the sand rising in clouds in the far distance. "He is...an arm of the High Council," he said fiercely, for her ears alone. "Whatever he does is not questioned." Even Kate hadn't realized how important he was. "If he chooses to ally with you, then you must not be Human." He glanced, frowning, at her, and she raised her brows. "Not as we have conceived of Humans."
"A rather moot point." she said. "Unless you had a ship coming back for you, we might be stuck here in one jolly little bunch."
The Klingons were coming back, muttering, and Koren swiftly stood and melted back.
Kellic and Y'lar both wore identical frowns. "That Orion-cursed weapon leveled our camp," the subcommander spat. "We have sensors, but our signalling device is destroyed. They will not come for us without a call." He glared at the seated Kate as if it were her fault. then back to Kellic. "Our communicators cannot reach that far."
Kellic's eyes went to Kate's. "Well? You wish to stay here?"
Hardly. "Mine can reach--with adjustments." The Klingons turned to her, frowning. No doubt Kellic had a method of signalling at a distance. too, but he was maintaining his false identity completely. Or, as Koren said, not letting her be taken, for any call the Klingons made would be only to a Klingon ship. "If I can have it back, with my phaser?"
Kellic gave a swift motion with one hand, and a guard bolted off to fetch those objects. Y'lar's mouth opened, and then shut tightly in a snap. "You realize I am taking a risk giving you such a weapon?" Kellic said softly.
"To contact Humans!" Y'lar finally broke out in protest.
"Your word--only to the Adjutant," Kellic demanded.
"Got it." Once she had the com in her hands, she crouched down in the sand and swiftly lifted a feeder extension on the communicator into the power-pack of the specially made phaser. Then she thumbed the call button, stood when a light finally went on six long minutes later. "Hold your ears shut," she warned the Klingons around her, grinning.
Y'lar blinked. "What?"
"Little Hawk," she identified herself.
"You!" The answering male voice was tight with rage. "You are eighteen hours overdue on a call-in! I don't care if you do think you can throw out military discipline because you're no longer in Starfleet--by God, you're going to obey proper..."
She broke in. "Hey. Harry, I've been captured by Klingons."
The voice cut off. into a long silence. Then, "That's present tense."
"Well, yes. They're milling about here in all their bearded belligerence, so watch what you say.""What do they want?" he asked flatly. Y'lar tried to take tne com unit from her at that point, but she moved deftly aside. "Same thing I want, Harry--a way off this censored dustball. Orions blew up both our transports." Y'lar made another grab for the unit, and Kate turned around in the opposite direction. "Can you get a ship here to pick me up and notify the Klingons to come and get them? Preferably after I leave?" "H'rolichr," Y'lar erupted. "What?" Harry questioned. Kate looked over her shoulder and glared. "Oh, that's Y'lar growling again. Look, can I have that ship?" After a brief space, during which she knew sensor connections were scanned at high speed on a world lightyears away, Harrek reported, "The Klingon scout Rammar is in the general area. I've informed them to pick up their party. I've deviated the Lamron for you; it's patrolling practically on top of you right now." "Oh, shit, Harry--I can't stand that ship's captain." Amusement entered the previously stiff military voice. "I know." "Harry, you miserable--Harry!" He had cut her off just as Y'lar succeeded in finally snatching the com from her. "Who is this 'Harry' she speaks with?" he demanded suspiciously of Kellic. "Major Arren Harrek, Adjutant of Haralou Port." "Adjutant? She speaks in that manner to a superior officer?" The Klingon was amused. "I don't think she considers anyone her superior officer." Though the entire exchange had been in Klingonese, Y'lar glanced at her bland expression. "Can she speak Klingonese?" "Ask her." When he made his demand, Kate answered, "I know 'come,' 'stay,' 'sit,' and 'where is the bathroom?'" The expression on Y'lar's face was almost apoplectic as he roared in Klingonese, "How in the name of insanity would she learn 'where is the bathroom!'" Kellic took her arm and moved off with her alone, behind some nearby rocks. There he chuckled wryly at his subcommander's fit and took her in his arms. Kate laid her head against his hard chest and nuzzled, arms around his waist. "You going to get in trouble for this fiasco?" "We did not gain a weapon, but then neither did the Orions. A new enemy and war will satisfy the High Council enough." "Good." "You worry? I am in no danger of being executed for this or for my association with you." He sighed. "I do not think we will meet again on Haralou Port. It would be extremely difficult to explain." "I'm sure you'll find compensations. Superspies are supposed to have a woman in every port." "Indeed? I shall make a note of that. Ah, Kate, I wish I could take you with me." She felt him give a short laugh. "Though we would likely kill each other. I would also have a difficult time explaining you to my son." "Son?" "A woman in every port, remember?" He took her face in one hand, and his own face abruptly lost its humor. "Kate," he said harshly. His kisses were hard and rough, as if he, too, sensed this was likely their last meeting. "Commander!" Kellic erupted with a short, unprintable word. "Koren, I will either make you a starship captain or kill you first!" The Klingon smiled slightly. "Forgive me, my commander. I thought it prudent to warn you before you became too...involved. Ground sensors have picked up a ship entering orbit, no doubt the Federation vessel." Kate grimaced. "Harry said it was almost on top of us. Damn it, I hate short goodbyes." Kellic touched her face in front of Koren, with impunity. Now that the young officer knew how powerful he was, he had no compunctions about maintaining false fronts. "Get out of here," he said, without looking. The man vanished. Slowly he kissed her, face in both hands. "Live gloriously, Kate." "Yeah. An' you give 'em hell, Kellic--as long as it's not us you're giving it to." He laughed. "I will leave that to you, little hell-raiser." "Ha! You are better versed in English than Klingons are supposed to be. One wonders how." Kellic smiled broadly. "By the way, that phaser and com unit have a self-destruct built into them, which I activated." "Predictable. I had better tell Y'lar before they melt in his hand." Kate grinned. "Don't tell him." The Klingon stepped back fast as her outline shimmered. He held one hand up, and the emergency transporter scattered her molecules.
On board the Federation scout ship, its captain took one look and roared in outraged disbelief, "You!"
"Oh, hell," she said.
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