Chekov tried to decide if it was worth the effort discarding his uniform shirt. It hadn't gotten particularly cold in the forest the two nights he'd spent in it, but then he'd slept with his shirt on. He might be Russian, but that didn't mean he actually believed himself invulnerable to a chill. Still, the gold tunic didn't exactly help him blend in with the red and blue foliage surrounding them. In the end, he left it on, preferring not to have to explain to his travelling companion why he felt the need to partially undress, though he suspected she would have understood well enough. Attached to that thought was that he'd rather any sharp or scratchy bits of vegetation grab at his uniform instead of his flesh. Gold or not, out of place or not, the shirt remained. But perhaps he should consider making it dirtier.
Vision far from perfect, and Elorra complained about that only once more before they began moving back towards the ambush point, the Pentosian ranger saw well enough to determine their location and what direction they needed to take to return to the site of the attack. Almost grudgingly, she complimented Chekov on the direction he'd led them away from the Klingons, an angled line that took them quickly away from the avenue of pursuit. He chose not to admit that his choice had been more or less random and that he thought they'd put more distance between them and the Klingon trap than they really had. Better to let things go, he thought, and excepted the minor praise.
Circling around a much larger area than the Klingons had used, they came to a place that clearly marked an encampment. There had been no fires, so far as Chekov could tell, but a great deal of trampled vegetation and wanton damage to trees, he suspected during armed combat practice. Bits of scattered ration packs lay strewn across part of the area, torn open and apart to be discarded when empty, or nearly. It was, frankly, a mess, but the Klingons were long gone.
"This is disgusting."
Chekov had certainly seen worse, but he kept his voice as level as possible. "Klingons are not consistently wise in the use of available resources."
Sparkling eyes turned on him. "That is a statement calculated to be neutral while still making a judgement that the subject is immature and has yet to learn better."
He shrugged but didn't smile. It was hard to disagree with the accurate statement. He was clearly being judgemental even while leaving the Klingons opportunity for improvement. "It is my nature to cast things in a positive light, where possible, and to assume future growth in understanding where not. The universe is not a fair place, so I see no reason to directly contribute to that unfairness."
"It seems a somewhat dishonest to me."
Chekov thought about not for a moment, considering if dishonest was really the word she wanted. Elorra's spoken English was excellent, but it was certainly not her first language, and they shared that of it. "It is not my intention to be dishonest with you or myself. My intent is more to not prejudice us against the Klingons beyond what events and direct experience this particular party of them is providing."
Defending his words seemed personal, and she pressed him further. "So the Klingons are not your enemies."
Another difficult statement to respond to. And yet, after a moment's thought, perhaps not. "I would say rather that they are my adversaries at the moment. Not quite the same thing. There is a peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, which may not stop them from seeking whatever advantage they can find, but that does not make us enemies."
Mouth open to respond, Elorra's eyes widened suddenly and she rushed a dozen steps away from the center of the former Klingon camp to drop to one knee in the trampled grass as he took a few steps forward to see what had captured her attention. Hidden by brush and long grass, a Pentosian man lay on his back, brilliant green eyes open to the sky but unseeing. When Elorra looked up, her eyes were hot, the skin around them tight. "Perhaps they are only your adversaries, but this certainly makes them my enemies."
He finished his approach, slower than she had, his eyes never leaving the body. It was difficult for him to object to her phrasing. Judging by the bruises and cuts that could be seen though the almost shreds of his clothing, the man had clearly been beaten, severely, and most likely for information.
Information about Chekov.
He felt his jaw tighten and his teeth ground against each other. "For these particular Klingons, I most certainly agree." Quietly, in his heart, he dismissed any doubts about the stakes of his current journey.
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...