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Back on the forest floor, away from the city, the Pentosians spread out around Chekov, five of them in total. Elorra had not bothered to introduce any of others, and none of them had volunteered names. Just as well, he supposed. He was tremendously curious about anything they might want to share, but if the Prime Directive did not exactly apply, at least the Pentosians were very concerned about cultural contamination, so he should share that concern and respect their wish to remain silent.

He tried to extend that to how quietly he moved through the forest, but in the first hour of their walk, Chekov felt Elorra had spent more time scowling at him for making too much noise than she had worrying about scouting their route ahead. Of course, she probably knew the trails and paths even seen better than she knew her own face, and he didn't think he was doing that badly, at least not for someone raised in cities and who spent his time mainly on starships and starbases as an adult. He might not be the most competent woodsman anyone had ever seen, but he didn't think he was making that much noise.

Eventually, the sun began to set, and he reminded himself that the day was only 20 hours long, give or take a few minutes. Considering how long he'd run the evening before, and how long Elorra had made him walk afterwards, he didn't think it even remotely possible that they could reach the enclave in daylight. In fact, he had begun to wonder why they didn't wait until the next day to make the trip. Elorra must surely be eager to be rid of him. That thought made him wonder again just exactly what she had against off-worlders. He doubted he would find out during the trip, or at all.

Here and there, light from the fading K-class sun slipped between the many layers of leaves to reach the forest floor, but mostly, the world around them had already grown dark to the point he had begun to pay more attention to where he might be setting his feet than to the path ahead. Elorra held up a hand to stop, dropped into a crouch, and motioned for Chekov to do the same next to her. Two of her four companions join them while the other two stood, facing away from the little group with both hands on their spears, watching the forest around them.

"Much as I dislike conversation, there are things I must ask you, off-worlder."

He nodded, trying on a smile. "Of course. It is the least I can do to help you. I don't suppose I can convince you to user my name?"

"Doubtful, since I do not know it." When he opened his mouth to tell her, she shook her head. "And I do not care. It is not appropriate to the nature of our relationship for us to use personal names."

Chekov felt his smile slide away but kept a frown from forming as he filed that bit of knowledge for future reference. "So, what should I call you?"

Elorra's mouth twisted briefly and he wondered what answers she considered. "If you must address me at all, it is appropriate to say Ranger or Leader. For the others, because I see the question in your eyes, Ranger is also appropriate, but to avoid confusion, you should consider using Hunter or Warrior, if somehow the need arises."

"I understand." He didn't, but he could accept their preferences in the situation even while not understanding how they would know which hunter or warrior he was talking to.

"Good. Now, tell me why the ugly ones are here, and what they want of our world."

Chekov's first thought was to object to the phrase "ugly ones" again, but he decided to save his breath. While he did not personally find the Klingons ugly, merely different, and only slightly in that, it was not his place to correct another culture's standards. Even, especially, if he found them incorrect in his view. Instead, he focused on the question. But he had no idea what the Klingons might want specifically. Perhaps instead, he could speak in general.

"It is difficult to say with the information I have. From our perspective, there has not been a geological survey of your world, so we have no idea if there is anything they might want here in terms of resources. I can say that the Klingons pursue a very expansionist policy and are constantly pushing at the border. That border is closed, which they do not like. They may also consider that there is some advantage to be found for them if you choose to close your world Federation, even if only causing a certain amount of disruption to local relations. It would certainly be well within their normal operations."

Elorra shook her head. "That doesn't make any sense. We do not care where the border lines, or what your political differences might be with these Klingons. Why is there advantage to them if we decide to like you just a little less and so have the enclave closed?"

Chekov tried a small smile. Though he wasn't sure it was the appropriate expression, it kept him from a grimace. "I think I would have to ask the Klingons, but from my experience, they are not good at leaving things as they are. They do not enjoy the status quo. Unless there is a force to stop them, if they want something, they take it. They are conquerors."

"What can you tell me of their weapons?"

"That I hope we do not have to face them. They are difficult and deadly warriors. My experience suggests a taste for blades and cellular disruptors."

"Both have the potential to ruin your day." She stood, looking around, and he could not decide if the comment had been meant as a joke.

The other two members of the group followed suit, but Chekov took his time. "And you ask me these things now instead of before we left, because?"

"Because I have been told that more of them have been seen since last night and we will soon approach the depth to which they have walked into the forest."


Elorra shrugged and turned away to begin walking again in what he assumed was the direction of the enclave. Likely, these additional Klingons were the same ones who had chased him into the forest, or an expanded landing party from their ship. Either way, the thought did not give him comfort. While not all of his experiences with Klingons were bad ones, he thought it unlikely that this particular group might wish him well.

In any case, he would trust the Pentosians to get him safely back to where he belonged.

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