Twilight seemed to last a long time in the forest. While that reminded Chekov of summers in the northern Russia, it didn't exactly make him comfortable at the pace Elorra was setting through the undergrowth. The darker it got, the harder time he had even seeing through the trees, never mind where he might be setting his feet.
It was nearly full dark when Elorra suddenly stopped the group, and with his non- night vision, Chekov nearly ran into her before he realized it. She looked back over her shoulder, and while her face was mostly shadow, he had no problem visualizing a scowl there. He did see her head shake back and forth, and so settled in to wait, breathing as slowly as he could manage to reduce the volume of even that.
After a moment, he heard something that she must have several minutes before. Two quiet voices, speaking neither Pentosian nor English. He couldn't make out any of the words, but even so far away and such a reduced volume, easily recognized the harsh consonants of Klingon standard.
Elorra sank into a crouch, still staring straight ahead, and Chekov followed suit, not so much to mimic her as to make a smaller target in case the Klingons suddenly realized they were there and wanted to start shooting. He wished mightily for a universal translator, or even an earpiece programmed for Klingon. The second might actually be better, to but so long as he were wishing, a well-armed security detail from the Enterprise would be nice.
Not the first time since he graduated, Chekov wondered if he should perhaps study a little bit of Klingon. It was an idle thought, and an unrealistic. Languages had never been his thing. He barely got through his Standard English language requirements at the Academy class but, he thought, he had come through with a good command of the language. Besides, was that not what the universal translator was for?
Shadow moved to his right, and Elorra reached out to touch the shadow's arm. Contact remained for several seconds and then the shadow melted away again. Without warning, Elorra leaned towards Chekov and grabbed his neck, pulling his ear to her lips. "She has made a full circuit of the Klingon camp and counts ten. We will move back, and away, trying a different route." Remembering her prescription against talking, Chekov nodded and assumed she would take the motion for assent.
Following Elorra, he took two steps back the way they'd come and had lifted his leg for third when the entire forest around him flashed a brilliant white that destroyed the darkness, destroyed his vision, and released a pandemonium of crazed animal noises around them. Something pulled his sleeve, not roughly, exactly, but unsteady hand of someone keeping their balance, or trying to. He guessed that Elorra had been blinded as well.
His vision didn't clear right away, didn't even start to. Whatever had caused flash, the after image burned in his eyes, and the world around him had become a rippling gray color with nothing he could identify by shape.
Small animals and birds stumbled and flapped around them, screeching their blindness and discomfort, but those screeches did nothing to hide the whine of Klingon disruptors. He changed his mind about wanting to stand up, flipped his hand over to grab Elorra's wrist, and pulled her down to the ground on top of him.
"You stupid off-worlder, watch–?"
"They are shooting at us! Can you see where to run? Where to hide?"
"Of course I can't see!"
Someone screamed off to his left. It was a scream of pain and did not come with Klingon cursing attached. "Then concentrate on being a smaller target for now. We will run when we can see."
His sight began to coalesce into the shadows again, but the Pentosian forest had a deep night, and he had no idea how long it would take his eyes to adapt again even to how well they had been before. It seemed unlikely he would have that long.
Chekov wondered if, perhaps, his vision might return before Elorra's. Not that he was a biologist in any way, but it seemed to Chekov that the native Pentosians eyes were better adapted to nighttime conditions than his. Considering the dense forests and jungles that seemed to cover most of the planet's temperate and tropical land area as their primary environment, they'd be naturally more ready for lower light levels. It seemed likely they would have a harder time with a blinding flash, and while once the readjustment began, it might go faster, he thought the initial recovery might be much more difficult for his guides.
Klingon voices. Closer now, snarling harsh words to each other. Chekov tried to understand, tried to pull some meaning from the speech based on the handful of Klingon words he knew, even as he desperately tried to force his eyes open wider to let in more light. He recognized the inherent danger, worried that another flash grenade would follow on the heels first. So he kept his head mostly down for long seconds, hoping for his eyes to see again.
Slowly, Elorra became a blurry humanoid shadow. The trees around him straightened, and the branches and plants gathered beneath them took on more definite shapes, though not nearly as defined as they were before.
Another Klingon shout, this one seeming much closer, convinced him they could afford to wait no longer. He moved his head closer to Elorra's. "How are your eyes?"
She practically snarled. "The ugly ones have blinded me, off-worlder. I cannot see a damned thing."
"I would say so, damn you! Are you deaf as well?"
"Keep your voice down, please. They are looking for us."
"Then we are done."
It gave him absolutely no satisfaction to be right about Elorra's eyes and now was not the time to point out how differences between people could be a good thing. The twin whines of two disruptors pushed him into making a decision. "Come. We must go." He started to rise, grasping her forearm, but she jerked it free of his hand.
"You are brain injured. I cannot see a thing. We will be lost immediately."
"Better lost than captured. I can see just fine." Or almost fine. And not so well in the dark.
"For a human."
Well, that was better than off-worlder, maybe. "Yes, for a human, one who sees better than you at the moment."
She growled before answering. "Very well." Her hand groped for his forearm and she allowed him to steady her as she pulled herself into a standing position. Her hand slid up his arm and grabbed onto the uniform shoulder. "Stay low, stay quiet. Try not to lead us back exactly the way we came, if you can."
He didn't think he would have too much difficulty with that unless he were very unlucky. Other than having a general idea of where most of the Klingons were, he didn't really know which direction was which. Anything away from them would be preferable. "I will do my best."
"One hopes it will be good enough."
"Yes, one hopes." Chekov did, at least. As they pushed through the brush, he wondered if he were better or worse off than he had been the night before, and eventually decided on better. At least now he had someone to talk to. If they escaped.
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...