Beyond any doubt, Elorra was very angry. Chekov didn't need to be telepathic to read that in her body language, nor any more familiar with Pentosians than he was yet. Crowds, such as they were on the treetops terrace, parted for her before she got close, and he found himself trying to apologize, or at least smile apologetically, to everyone they passed. No one responded, of course, but he felt better having made the effort. It seemed likely that his body language might not match up with theirs in many respects, but the effort made him feel better.
She guided him almost all the way back to the staircase they'd come up, although, guided seemed like it might be the wrong word. Led didn't work either. She walked quickly. He followed, keeping up as best he could.
At the edge of the long terrace, where the population density seemed much less, she stopped in front of what seemed to be a deep alcove in the trunk of the tree itself, or rather one of its larger boughs. Spinning around, she pointed in through the open doorway. "Wait there. Touch nothing."
Chekov thought about saluting, or doing something equally sarcastic to acknowledge the brusque commands, resisting anything more than a raised eyebrow. He very much needed her assistance and wanted to retain some hope of carrying on an actual conversation with her at some point. Humour might not be his friend at the moment. It was also easy to admit that she'd been given something to do that she didn't much like, which he couldn't hold against her. Still, it would have been nice to do something other than smile and nod. "As you say."
She turned away almost before he spoke, and he watched her retreating back, reading resignation and resentment across her shoulders. Perhaps it was only youth, but her feeling seemed to stretch beyond the typical distrust and dislike of off-worlders the Pentosians seemed to have. In his head, he was careful to generalize because she had no reason to dislike him specifically, other than as a convenient personification of something she did not like about her world. Trying not to sigh, he turned to examine the alcove, which proved to be quite a bit bigger than he'd initially suspected.
He wondered if there were a Pentosian name for this place, for it seemed to be not just a waiting area, but a place to invite silent meditation and reflection. What he'd thought of as an alcove was about three metres deep, broadening out into a room beyond the doorway. Like everything else, it didn't look as if it had been mechanically shaped, but rather grown from the tree, or rather having a tree grown around the empty space. If Chekov had not had cause to marvel at the bioengineering works of the Pentosians before, this room made sure he did now.
Ultimately, he stepped into a room with four rounded corners, a chair in each of those. Filtered light spilled through from the doorway, but in the farther corners, above two of the chairs, small shelves grew out of the walls and each held a bowl that emitted a soft green glow. He wasn't tall enough to see inside but expected the presence of some kind of bioluminescent plant or algae. In the center of the room, a small round protuberance came up out of the floor, something he wanted to call a table. On it, four smooth stones rested, each of uniform color, more or less, but each different than the others.
Chekov wondered what true the purpose of the room was. Besides the two chairs, and a tiny table of stones, there was nothing here. No decorations, and no food—which suddenly reminded him how hungry he was—and nothing really to do.
He'd never really done boredom very well. Without enough to do, his mind began to wander, and as an ensign fresh out of the Academy, that had almost gotten him into trouble more than once. Still, the had learned a few tricks during his service on the Enterprise, and after spending several minutes examining the stones, without touching them, he decided it was a good time to sit down and collect his thoughts, catalog the things he'd learned. The captain would expect a detailed report, and Commander Bolt, head of the enclave science team, would certainly demand an extensive debriefing. He hoped it wouldn't interfere too heavily with his duties.
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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...