He looked around as the tour group walked. The forest made the enclave seem quite a bit bigger than the cluster of buildings, gardens, and small field that visiting Starfleet personnel were allowed access to. Broadly speaking, the enclave consisted of a circle of land exactly one-point-six-three kilometres in radius, most of which was near-pristine nature with a few paths leading through and around it to interesting sights. Actual Federation offices for the tiny station—he had a harder time saying starbase each time he needed a word—were underground. It was large for the size of the facility that had been built, even counting the subsurface levels, and the sparse amenities provided. Plus, there were quite a large number of specifications in the treaty that allowed the enclave. Chekov had been a little stunned trying to skim the 50,000-word document. After some reading, and some judicious heading selection, he concluded that the document could be summarized as if you were not Pentosian, you stayed inside the circle. There were no death penalty specifications or even harsh punishments, and there were no reparations to be paid for people who disobeyed, at least not on the Pentosian side, but it was certainly a mark on your record in Starfleet, and probably worthy of some disciplinary action. An explanatory note detailed that when whatever passed for central authority on Pentos met, every nine local years, one of the items on the agenda was always whether or not to renew the allowance of Starfleet on the planet.
The voting had been close on all three occasions so far.
He hoped he wasn't helping push things in the wrong direction.
So most of the enclave consisted of wild space, or as wild as things typically got on Pentos. The Pentosians liked nature to take its course as much as possible, but also had a strong sense of balance for their own society and monitored everything that might affect it. Modifications were not made lightly, and the enclave was one such, still hotly debated according to the orientation document.
For visiting Starfleet personnel interested, the permanent enclave staff could arrange walking tours of the wilder parts of the enclave. The Enterprise had only intended to stay in orbit for three days, and Chekov would only have one chance at a landing party, one chance to stretch his legs. He placed his name on the list for one of those walking tours before they had entered the system.
And he did not regret the choice. It was always nice to breathe clean, non-recycled air, and the plant species on Pentos had developed several chlorophyll analogues, names that he had not bothered to remember or even try because he was sure that Sulu would remind him soon enough, and these did not tend towards green, but rather blue or red. It made for a beautiful kaleidoscope, but also made it difficult for him to pick out details. That didn't bother him so much though, for it was not a new experience to be confused or overwhelmed by the sights and sounds on alien world, and frankly, he enjoyed it even if he found himself distracted and falling to the back of the small group as he took in the world around him.
In fact, assured that none of the local plants were harmful or toxic to humans, and that the sonic defense grid would keep any large-scale predators away from the enclave's edge without harm or difficulty, he wasn't worried at all about keeping up enough to hear the words of his guide. Instead, Chekov was far more interested in wandering along the path, seeing what he could see, enjoying the air and the scenery.
Beyond any doubt, Chekov would not have heard the transporter buzz had he been with the rest of his tour. And if he hadn't heard the transporter, he would not have turned around in time see the Klingons materialize. Of course, if he had not turned around to see them materialize, they might not have noticed him as he walked slowly behind the out-of-sight group. Even if they had noticed him, he would not have known to take off running in the opposite direction to lead them away from the rest of the unarmed Starfleet personnel.
Well, not exactly the opposite direction, and he did wonder if it might have been smarter to run for the center of the enclave rather than past the edge to perhaps trip a sensor. But the rest of the personnel in the enclave would be no less unarmed than he was.
Hoping to lose the Klingons and circle back around, he tried to gain a little distance, maybe even find a few seconds to open his communicator and arrange for a transporter beam while the Klingons were left looking for him. If not, it was certainly better to lead them away from Federation personnel and towards nothing. Yes, he was technically out of compliance with the Pentosian agreement, but, under one of Captain Kirk's unwritten rules, as long as you used common sense and produced a good result, forgiveness was often easier to get than permission. So he clamped his mouth shut on a yell and took off diagonally into the forest.
He felt his communicator chirp as he passed the warning line, making him less than fifty metres from the enclave's border. Allowing himself to breathe more as he ran, he ignored it, and the tingle of guilt that went with it. He didn't need to get very far into the forest, just far enough to keep them guessing. A few hundred meters most.
The whine of a disruptor disabused him of that notion quickly. To his left, and uncomfortably close, a small, leafy bush shivered and fell apart. The Klingon beam continued through the bush and dug a furrow in the soil beyond and Chekov was suddenly glad for dimming light and his luck in drawing a spot on an evening tour when there might be a greater variety of native wildlife to see. The gathering darkness might make the Klingons less likely to hit him, though it clearly made them more likely to fire on him. He began looking for bigger things to put between himself and his pursuers, to have something covering his back.
The next disruptor shot went wider, but with similar results.
He started being more careful about where he put his feet, as vegetation got thicker around him, and Chekov realized he wasn't being very quiet running through the forest, but at least he might be becoming a harder target. Chosing just the wrong moment to look back over his shoulder, a thick tree limb cracked across his chest, knocking him from his feet, driving the air from his lungs. His vision blurry, his ribs aching, he knew he couldn't let himself sit still. More than a second or two could cost him his life. No, would cost him his life since the Klingons were clearly willing to shoot him. Pushing back to his feet, he stumbled back into a run, not realizing for several dozen steps that he could no longer feel the comforting presence of his communicator on his belt, gently pressing into his side.
Not good. He was not quite lost, not yet, but he needed to keep an awareness of where the enclave lay behind him. He felt reasonably sure, at the moment, he could find his way back as long as he lost the Klingons.
YOU ARE READING
Between a Rock and a KlingonScience Fiction
Stuck on a primitive planet with a troop of Klingons between him and the Federation enclave, Chekov has to enlist the help of the native sentient species to stay in one piece and find his way back to the Enterprise. "Between a Rock and a Klingon" is...