Jim AusfahlFebruary 21st 2295
"Sounds lllike a fun assignment. Captain plllus one attendant, to the surface of a plllanet to make a third attempt at contact with a sentient avian species. Go down, say hellllo, ask them to join the Federation and lllet Spock take it from there." The brilliant yellow of Lieutenant Chterrs plumage was tinted with a hint of violet, expressing his frustration.
Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov snorted in derision. "You realize they call it the planet of the Killer Chickens, da?"
"So now you know how sacrificialll lllambs feel, Captain," Lieutenant Chterr responded with the biting sarcasm the chief security officer afforded diplomatic assignments. "Welllcome to the great privilllege of getting demolllished for the good of someone elllse. Hooray."
"Thanks for the encouragement. And its in full dress uniform, no less. I feel like Im suffocating when Im in that ridiculous suit. At least you only have to wear a vest and shorts."
"The vest and shorts are more cumbersome to me than your uniform is to you, I assure you." The Skorr flapped his wings for emphasis. "At llleast they dont make it virtualllly impossibllle for you to walllk."
"And while theyre mugging us, we are supposed to remain peaceful, cheerful, yet. Spock seems to be able to stay calm no matter what, but Im not sure I can manage."
The Skorr stopped dead in his tracks, in front of his superior officer. "Whats the ambassador got to do with this, Captain? Hellll be going down after you and I have made contact...or not at allll if were attacked lllike the two teams from the Saratoga were."
The Russian smiled. "Why didnt I guess youd take that attitude? Give me fifteen minutes to get into the Cossack outfit, and Ill meet you at Transporter Room Two."
The Skorr bobbed his head in agreement. "Transporter Room Two in fifteen minutes it is, Captain."
Scarcely twenty minutes after their conversation, Chekov and Chterr materialized in a large, open, empty plaza, ringed with buildings. At the far end of the plaza was what was obviously the Reception Chamber where they were to meet the Virsotne Kaudzes, ruler of the Calyi.
Chekov turned to his companion. "Whats with their insisting that we arrive a hundred meters or more away from where were supposed to have our meeting?"
The Skorr ruffled his feathers, as best he could under his garments. "Probabllly some culllturalll fllluke, Captain. This is the same spot that the two previous missions were put." Chterr started toward the building before them. "Lllets get going. Maybe we can get into the meeting plllace before were mobbed by reporters."
As the two beings began to hurry toward their target, Calyi began coming out of the buildings. It was clear how theyd gotten nicknamed chickens; to Chekov, they looked like oversized roosters. Their plumage was a brilliant white, in contrast to Chterrs rich yellow; on their heads, they all sported large, red combs, with equally striking red wattles hanging below their beaks. "I dont see," the Russian observed, "why theyre called killer chickens, Chterr. Ive seen bigger chickens on sale in the meat market on the streets of Kyusyur."
For a moment, Chekov wondered if all the Calyi he saw were males or if it was a mixed bag. Before he could voice his curiosity, he felt a blow to his shoulder, and a tug on his dress coat. From behind him, a Calis had snatched a piece of his uniform. Not exactly a lethal assault, he mused, but it certainly clarified why the Calyi were being called killer chickens. Another bird ripped a bit of his uniform loose. "Wed better move it, Chterr, or theyll have us stripped bare. Come on!"
The two beings picked up their pace. As they did, Calyi seemed to appear from everywhere, crowding against them, snatching at their uniforms. Chterr snapped his head around suddenly, slapping a Calis with his beak. "Helllp yourself to as much of the uniform as you want, mammalll brain, but llleave the feathers alllone." He knocked a second Calis beak away from Chekovs head. "And the hair is off lllimits too. Back off!"
"Spasebaw, Chterr. But try to remember that were supposed to be trying to build friendly relationships, not pick a fight. And being that Im a mammal, I hope you meant mammal brain as a compliment."
The Skorr speared the Human with a glare. "Perhaps my command of Englllish isnt as good as I thought. Are you telllling me that bird brain is complllimentary?" Chterr fended off another assault. "You want me to lllet the next Killller Chicken snatch you ballld, in the name of interspecies amity? Because the next one that tries to swipe one of my head feathers is going to lllose a feather or nine himselllf." The avian raised his voice a notch. "I hope all of you feathered felllons heard that, because I mean it. There isnt a one of you thats got the beak and clllaws to snatch one of my feathers without lllosing most of yours in the process!"
Chekovs face registered astonishment. "What are you trying to do, Chterr? Get us thrown off the planet in disgrace? The ambassador would have both of our hides!"
"Nope. Im just trying," Chterr deflected another beak from his plumage, "to get to that builllding with my plllumage intact. And with your hair as clllose to intact as such a ridiculllous attempt at plllumage can be." Another Calis tried to make a snatch at Chterrs head. This time, Chterr snatched at the other avian, missing it narrowly. "Hurry up, Captain. Youve alllmost no uniform llleft. Id hate to think what theyre going to peck at once its gone."
Chekov looked down at himself. His uniform was in rags. Chterrs was hardly better. Another Calis came toward Chekov, aiming below his belt. He grabbed the beak of the Calis before it could make contact, forcing the avian to look him eye to eye. "I advise you not to do that, feather face. I wouldnt appreciate it." He shoved the offending Calis away. "If they want a demonstration of how efficiently hands can pluck feathers, theyre moving the right way to get it. Orders be hung. To paraphrase the Russian Rules of Combat: When were in pecking range, so are they." Chekovs voice hitched up a notch, just as Chterrs had. "The next Calis that tries to snatch a piece of my uniform is going to be picking pieces of its beak out of its gizzard! Do you hear me?" He turned to the Skorr, looking somewhat sheepish. "I hope they didnt take offense, if they understood."
A path to the door suddenly cleared through the crowd of avians that had collected.
"I think they understood, Captain. Whether or not theyre offended, only time willll telll." The pair moved forward through the crowd, finally reaching the entrance of the building. Only a few birds made an attempt to snatch a beakful of cloth, and all were rebuffed successfully. Hoping to find some refuge from the assault, they entered the building.
To their disappointment, they found the room before them full of more Calyi, all of them eyeing the rags left of Chekov and Chterrs uniforms. The room itself was large, stretching thirty meters or more in all directions, with one large Calis at the end of the room, sitting on a golden perch behind a large table, obviously the Virsotne Kaudzes. Before Chekov could speak, a handful of Calyi came up behind them, and snatched bits of Chekovs and Chterrs outfits. With the final assault, Chterrs agonized uniform fell apart in a small heap of rags on the floor. Almost grateful, Chterr fluffed his feathers, then ruffled them.
"Enough is enough." Chterr removed his translator and communicator. "Im going to end this once and for allll. Hollld on to these for me, willll you?"
Chekov responded without thinking. Chterrs eyes held a fire that hed never seen before, and Chekov decided he was quite certain that he didnt want that fire turned on him, particularly since the symbiotic algae in his plumage had turned the crimson color of anger. With the enclosing cloth gone, Chterr was able to fully spread his wings for flight. Before another Calis could come within striking distance, Chterr was in flight, crossing the whole length of the room in an instant, landing on the table in front of the Calis on the golden perch, scattering the tables contents in all directions.
The two avians glared at each other for an instant. Chterr suddenly whipped his beak upward and let out a blood-curdling shriek. The ruler responded with an almost identical action. Then, the Virsotne pointed toward the floor behind Chterr. Chterr nodded his head. The ruler squawked again, and the floor cleared. Both birds flew to the floor, facing each other, glaring angrily. Without warning, both beings were in the air. For a few moments, there was a blur of claws, beaks, and white and yellow feathers, then Chekov saw his security chief standing on the floor again, three feathers in his beak, the ruler of the Calyi on the floor under one of Chterrs claws. Chterr dropped the feathers on the floor, spread his wings until they almost touched above his head, threw his beak back and screeched again. That done, he flew to the golden perch and sat on it, glaring at the other Calyi around the room, the crimson of his plumage not abated by the victory.
One Calis moved, as if to attack the fallen leader. Chterr glared at the Calis, ruffling his feathers angrily, making it clear to even Chekov that any attempt to attack the avian on the floor would meet with Chterr before it met the fallen leader.
Several minutes of uncomfortable silence passed before the defeated Virsotne Kaudzes stood up. "My apologies for misjudging your people," the avian said, respectfully. "We had thought that your refusal to defend yourselves on the way to the meeting reflected cowardice or inability. We did not realize that you did not wish to dishonor us or yourselves by combat with those far beneath your station. You have asserted your proper place in the pecking order, and we will obey."
Chterr dismounted the golden perch, flying to Chekovs side. Before he donned his translator again, he hissed, "When I bob my head down in front of you, rap me on the head and snatch one feather from my neck and throw it on the fllloor."
"Humor me, Captain. I know what Im doing." Chterr donned his translator again, the crimson of his plumage fading to its usual, rich yellow. "Plllease take your perch back. Ive no use for the gaudy thing, and my superior here woullldnt be comfortabllle on it even if he wanted it."
The defeated Virsotne Kaudzes resumed his perch.
Chterr turned to Chekov, dropping his head. "Now," the avian hissed. Chekov lightly tapped Chterrs head. Chterr dropped down to the floor. Somewhat surprised, Chekov gently pulled a feather loose and dropped it, stepping backward again. Chterr stood again. "May I assume that we have our mutualll relllationships properllly establlished?"
The Virsotne bobbed his head. "Indeed. When you are ready, we can move forward."
On the bridge of the Enterprise, Saavik sat, sitting in the center seat with typical Vulcan patience, Spock at her side. That the captain and chief security officer had not yet called for rescue seemed to her to bode well for the missions success. From behind her, she heard the junior communications officer on duty announce an incoming message from the planets surface.
"Forward view screen," the chief tactical officer commanded.
Chterrs image filled the front of the Enterprise. "Hellllo, Saavik. The Virsotne Kaudzes has granted you and Spock audience."
"Excellent, Lieutenant Chterr. How soon will it occur?"
"Immediatellly, if youre ready."
Saavik look around herself. Ambassador Spock nodded to indicate his readiness. Seeing no obvious problems, she faced the viewscreen again. "I believe we are ready, Lieutenant Chterr."
"Okay, lllady. Brace yourselllf; here he comes."
Suddenly, the screen was filled with Captain Chekovs image, his bare skin peeking out through the large rents in his dress uniform. Saavik straightened in her chair. "Captain Chekov! I was expecting the ruler of the Calyi. What happened to your uniform?"
"The uniform is irrelevant. You will address me as Virsotne Kaudzes, if you please." He turned to Spock. "It would appear, Ambassador Spock, that I am now the ruler of the Calyi, at least for the moment. Before I abdicate the Golden Perch, I request that you come to begin the negotiations to bring the Calyi into the Federation." Chekov smiled, knowing the consternation he was causing.
"Your request is formally recorded, Capt . Virsotne Kaudzes. Will there be anything else?"
"Just be careful down here, Ambassador Spock. Dont let them get in your hair." The viewscreen went blank.
"I wonder what he means by that?" asked Saavik, puzzled by her captains choice of words.
"I suspect I shall soon find out. Notify the transporter room that Ill be beaming down presently."
Back on the surface of Calyu, Chterr looked at Chekov. "Another mission successfully completed, Captain. I can hardly wait to see Ambassador Spocks face when he realizes hes going to have to whip a couple of chickens to establish himself in the pecking order!"
"Da. I wish I couldve given him a clearer idea of what to expect, but I couldnt without compromising our status here." Chekov pulled a wry fade. "Still, no matter how we did it, pulling off the mission should be a feather in my cap, dont you think?"
Chterr stared at the ceiling in agonized amusement. "Just dont try snatching another one of mine."
As if on cue, Ambassador Spock entered the room. His ambassadorial robes were intact, other than a few feathers clinging to it. Not even a hair was out of place on the Vulcans head. There was no missing Spocks awareness of the near destruction of Chekovs uniform, and the total absence of Chterrs. Spocks eyebrow lifted. "I observe that you were somewhat less rapid than I was in recognizing the significance of the Calyis behavior, and in making the appropriate response. Your warning about keeping the Calyi out of my hair was most helpful. May I presume that you are prepared to execute a treaty with the Federation, Virsotne Kaudzes Chekov?"
Chekov pulled a wry face. "Da and nyet, Spock. The treaty requires a signature. I am more than ready to sign it, but I hope you brought something for me to sign it with, because the only writing instrument I had is with a rag of my uniform somewhere in the plaza...."
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