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The shouts behind them remained fairly constant and, considering both his burden and the slim lead they began with, he couldn't understand why the Klingons hadn't caught up. Crashing through the forest, his breath and heart sounded loud his own years, and he couldn't imagine not leaving and clear trail through the brush and dirt behind him.

And yet, the Klingons didn't seem to get any closer, almost as if they didn't quite want to.

Almost as if they were herding prey.

"Ranger!" The word hissed out at the end of his breath. She dropped back couple steps, enough that her voice would not have to carry, enough that if she wanted to she could make peripheral eye contact.

"What is it?" Her own words didn't seem nearly so laboured, though she wasn't carrying another person across her shoulders.

He tried not to think about that too much, or the extra weight would begin to make him tired. Chekov chided himself, thinking he maybe wasn't quite so fit as he'd thought, but a fervent wish not to be Klingon prisoner kept him pushing hard. "Playing. With. Us."

She nodded, her steps making the motion a jerking bounce. "Yes. They are too many. The enclave too far."

"What. Then."

Elorra shrugged. "Every step is a longer life."

Every step is a longer life. He considered the words carefully over a dozen paces and then discarded the thought. It wasn't enough. The Klingons were treating them like prey, and whatever else Lieutenant Pavel Chekov might be, he was not prey. Young, yes. Inexperienced, perhaps by some measures. But he was well trained and had an excellent brain. He had not spent almost five years on the Enterprise to be run down in the woods by a pack of wolves.

But he needed time and space, time to think and space to breathe.

Chekov. "Change direction."

"But if we can reach your enclave–"

He cut Elorra off with another puff. "Klingons. Want that. So change. Direction."

Shaking her head, but not really having a reason to argue, she turned away from the line they'd been following, angling off at fifty or sixty degrees from it. Chekov tried kept his eyes on the ground ahead while the considered the situation. A stray tree root at this point would be devastating.

Foiling whatever trap the Klingons were planning to spring would only give them a little more life, and would also serve to irritate their enemies. Sooner or later, the three of them would have to make a stand of some kind. Counting sixteen Klingons, if they had been right about the total number, then one dead still made fifteen. He thought it unlikely that they would all be pursuing one lost captive and whoever had freed her, for that would mean they knew that Chekov and Elorra were alone. He didn't think there was any way they could know that without doubt and so they would plan accordingly.

Of course, he'd been wrong about a lot of things but still thought it likely the Klingons would have at least a token guard behind at the camp, perhaps only two or three lookouts in case someone else had been trying to sneak by. He wondered what sensors they might have had in the area, and if they dared to use communicators so close to a Federation enclave, isolated or not. The station on Pentos might not be set up for a listening station, but they certainly had monitoring systems on the planet, if only to try to absorb the local transmissions and culture.

And none of that helped them. Chekov kept running because he had no idea what else to do.

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