His vision cleared and Chekov realized he still stood in front of the Council. The blue-skinned woman across the table from him frowned as she stared into his eyes. To either side of her, the councilmembers removed their hands, and gradually all resumed their rigid sitting postures. No one spoke, though he could feel many eyes upon him. Expressions seemed a little less blank in a serious direction, and the speaker put a better name to the change for him. "I am confused."
Chekov tried on a smile he didn't feel. "What may I explain?"
"You may explain why you're here."
Chekov smile disappeared, replaced by a frown he definitely felt. "I think that now I am the one who is confused. I thought the memories that we just watched, my memories, told you how I came to be here." He wondered if there were something like a language barrier. His standard English was quite fluent, though he would always have a noticeable accent, but at least English was a human language, which gave it at least one similarity to Russian. Every new alien language had to be approached in a new way and he had no idea how aliens would approach English.
The woman wrinkled her nose, and he had no idea what the expression might signify to her. "Yes, they certainly establish that. But there were many things I did not understand about those memories, things I lack context for. Why you are concerned about our planet continuing to allow a Federation presence and why you consider it important. Who the ugly ones are and where they came from. What you were doing at the edge of the enclave. Why you did not seek help from those in your... tour group. I am confused."
Chekov tried to parse the group of statements. Explaining the Klingons to a people who had never wanted to bother with spacecraft or visiting other worlds, much less conquering them, would be difficult. And he had no idea why they were here, though that would be interesting to find out if he could.
Perhaps it would be better to tackle the questions in order. "The Federation sees each species as unique and having a unique way of viewing the universe. Diversity is a fundamental principle of our society, as is the freedom of a society to make its own choices. I think I would choose for communication rather than isolation since there is always more to learn."
He thought about his next words carefully. "The ugly ones, they are called Klingons. They are not our enemies, exactly, though they are certainly not our friends. They have a different way of looking at the universe than the Federation does. We have a peace treaty with them, but they are unsatisfied with it and wish to expand the territory they hold. Your world is somewhat near to the border in space that we share with them. That may be enough for them to want to disturb your peace, but there may be far more to it. I do not know.
"I was at the edge of the enclave, and listening to a lecture of sorts, albeit from a distance and not very closely, about the ecology of the area, from a Xenobiologist. It is a fascinating world, and I am always interested to learn new things."
She continued to stare at him while he spoke, her expression smoother again, giving him nothing to work with, but that wasn't new. "And why did you deliberately run away from the rest of the group of humans. Is there not strength in numbers?"
Strength in numbers was an interesting concept, one he would like to revisit if he could. In this case, the Klingons' disruptors were a significant force multiplier. Too significant. "We were unarmed, a nature party seeking only to observe and learn. The Klingons... The Klingons carried weapons and clearly had other ideas. I had hoped to lead them away from the others, protect them, lose the Klingons and circle back around to rejoin my group. As you know, it did not work out quite as I had planned."
Chekov thought the impassive Pentosian facial expressions might be more difficult to read than Vulcan, though he only had Mr. Spock for true comparison. It was probably the eyes. Though they didn't seem to be very expressive in the main, Pentosian eyes were large and not quite like most humanoid eyes in his experience, nor like Catian, nor Reptiloid, nor quite anything else he had encountered. His interrogator had golden eyes, like most of the native residents, but the pupils, instead of being black, were merely a darker shade of gold. To his sight, it was difficult to see exactly where the pupil ended and the eye began. At a glance, without staring, it would look like all one color, gaining intensity towards the center. Focus was difficult.
Finally, she nodded, raising her voice. "Elorra, you will escort the alien back to the off-worlder enclave."
Chekov's rescuer appeared at his side. Peripherally, her movements seem stiff, and if, as he suspected, she liked neither him nor aliens in general, she was probably not happy with the order. "As you wish, Council Leader." She took a deep breath and threw out a long string of syllables in Pentosian. But the councilwoman made a clicking noise with her tongue, and they cut off in what seemed Chekov to be the middle of a sentence.
"We do not abrogate your right to question and understand, but the decision is made. You are familiar with the off-worlder, and you speak the language well. Few of the other rangers can make the second claim, and only two the first, not even as much as you. Be unhappy if you wish but be true to your nature and guide him to safety."
"Walking, it will take most of the day to get back to the edge. Longer, if the ugly ones are still about. I have but two eyes."
"We did not say this is a task for you alone, and you should certainly take those who are willing to make the journey at your side. We would not wish you lost to us merely to see the alien returned. Select those who will come."
Mouth pressed into a thin line, and the bowed, a fist wrapped around her spear. "I obey."
Elorra spun on the ball of one foot and started walking away. Chekov attempted to duplicate the bow. It didn't seem to him to be quite the same motion as any of the other cultures he'd visited, but usually small mistakes were forgiven foreigners fairly easily, at least for those foreigners who made an effort to respect local customs, and he made certain his bow was longer than those he'd seen. "I thank you very much for your help, and when I am called upon to report, I shall certainly speak of your generosity and reiterate your desire to be left alone. With luck, no one will leave the enclave again anytime soon. Or, um, at all, I hope."
The woman's mouth twitched, one side lifting for just a moment, and it seemed to him that she allowed herself the briefest smile. "Your understanding is appreciated, but I wonder, should you be more concerned about keeping up with your guide at the moment?"
Glancing over his shoulder, Chekov saw that Elorra was already many paces way, heading in the direction she'd led him from. He turned back the Council and bowed again, more quickly this time. "Thank you. Thank you all." He ran after Elorra, uncaring, if not unaware, of all the eyes the followed him.
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...