by Anna Mary Hall
Tarlokarne Kang shook himself back into the normal world and turned away from the Sick Bay door. For a few paces he tried the usual scowl and stomp he affected in the presence of Federates, but his heart wasn't in it. Besides, he admitted to himself with what would have been a chuckle had he let it out, this group of Federates had seen too much of Klingons to be impressed by such tactics. He contented himself with walking down the center of the corridor and forcing people to dodge him. He even stopped that when he realized the dodging was done so automatically as to have no emotional impact.
He eyed the females warily, for he now had a better understanding of their ability to entrance his men. Then he snarled softly. He preferred Mara who would fight by his side, bear his children, or plan a maneuver to advance their careers. The scowl he had forced before became real. He had changed since he had left Mara. The change had begun during the diplomatic talks and had accelerated during the months he had been trapped in the past with the Lady Lorna and with Gary Seven. Would Mara accept and adjust to his...his growth, or would he have to pretend to be the old Kang with her?
He entered the briefing room where he was to meet Kirk, only then aware that the Security Guard who had trailed him unobtrusively since he'd come aboard the Enterprise was a woman. He amused himself by staring at her until Kirk arrived, but he did not succeed in eliciting a squirm, blush, or fidget. A good warrior, as fine as one of his own.
Captain Kirk entered the briefing room cautiously, wondering just who he would be talking to. Would it be Kang, a typical Klingon; Kang, the diplomat; or the Kang who had just said goodbye to Lorna? He noted Ensign Romnel's small sigh of relief and decided that Kang had behaved reasonably - at least for a Klingon.
They skimmed quickly through the plans Kirk and Karnath had decided upon. As point after point went past without objection from Kang, Kirk realized, with an internal sigh of relief, that it was Kang the diplomat with whom he was dealing.
"No," Kang's sharp refusal startled all three of them. He shut the viewer off and glared at Kirk. "These details are satisfactory, but.... The first time, with Kaleth and Helen there was no choice; my ship was gone. This time, Kirk, the ceremony will be on my ship!"
Kirk almost smiled. This was more like the old Kang. "There are others involved." he said mildly as he activated the intercom. "Nurse Chapel to Briefing Room Three."
Christine had finished her last day's work in the Enterprise's Sick Bay, her last day of work as a nurse. Though she intended to keep her medical knowledge up to date, she was through with nursing. The Vulcan ship Otsud had no opening for a nurse, so she would be returning to her original career in research biology. She removed the blue uniform with few regrets. It marked a period of her life that had been filled with waiting, first for Roger Korby then for Spock. Now there was Karm, and the waiting was ended. He had pulled her back into life, into movement, into a situation where she would have to grow as a person.
At the Captain's summons she reached automatically for the uniform then she paused, a frown on her face. Since Kang was still aboard, this call was presumably about the wedding. They would have had no reason to call her unless a snag had developed. Her expression cleared. She and Karm were committed to each other, and it would take more than two starship Captains to keep them apart. She chose a jumpsuit in a warm brown, as different a choice from her uniform as her small wardrobe offered, and set out to protect her future.
Kang studied the tall, assured woman who entered the room and quietly took a seat across from him. He had never seen her before, except in Sick Bay. There she had always faded into the background, a mere automaton to carry out Doctor McCoy's orders. She seemed a different person in this setting. "We have decided the ceremony should be on the Klothar," Kang stated without preliminaries, or Kirk's approval.
Christine did not hurry her answer, but considered the statement carefully before replying. She was leaving the Enterprise, would moving the time up few hours make that much difference? "Certainly, if you wish. Are there any other changes?"
Yielding to an impulse to discover how determined this woman was, Kang nodded. "By making a detour that will cost us only two days, the Klothar can deliver you and Karm to the Otsud."
Christine's eyes widened, and she checked an impulse to turn toward Captain Kirk. He was no longer her Captain, and he had nothing to say about her life. Kang's offer was reasonable, and she'd already spent weeks aboard the Klothar. Of course, the Enterprise had always been within yelling distance then. She gave herself a mental shake. She would be with Karm, her husband. If she didn't trust him by now, she had no business marrying him. Besides, Lorna's attitude showed that she trusted this Klingon.
Christine straightened slightly in her chair, and her chin came up. "Thank you, Tarlokarne Kang," she said in a calm, assured voice. "That will save us a long detour. Can the Klothar spare the time?"
Kang regarded her levelly, concealing his surprise. He had not expected instant acceptance. Apparently Karm had found himself a strong female. "I will make the time." His life had certainly been more interesting since he began dealing with Federates; they reacted in such a perplexing variety of ways.
Kirk watched Christine leave, a trifle surprised at her bearing. She had never put up a fight like that for Spock. Karm was having a definite effect on her behavior, and for the better.
He dismissed Christine-as-a-person from his mind and turned back to Kang. "Have you any other 'suggestions,' Kang?"
"I have complicated your life enough for today," Kang said with his wolfish grin. "I will return to the Klothar and inform Karm of the changes."
The Captains left the briefing room side by side, but after a few steps Kang came to a halt. "I can find my own way to the transporter, Kirk." He gestured to Ensign Romnel who was a few steps behind them. "Your guard will see that I do not get lost."
Kirk did have better things to do than walk Kang to the transporter. He smiled frostily, said the proper words, and left Kang to Romnel's watchful eyes.
Kang waited until Kirk was out of sight then he motioned the guard to come closer.
Romnel, her doubts carefully concealed, decided instantly to treat him as she would one of her own superiors, as long as he continued to do nothing to abuse that trust. "Yes, sir?" she inquired crisply, from just beyond arm's length.
"I wish to speak privately with Doctor McCoy. Can it be arranged?"
Romnel blinked once then said evenly, "I believe so, sir. If you will return to the briefing room, I will check."
Kang admired Romnel's skill. With no fuss, seemingly quite by accident, she ended up between him and the door, where she could face him as she used the intercom.
"What is it now?" McCoy barked.
"Tarlokarne Kang wishes to talk privately with you." Romnel's voice made the request commonplace, an everyday occurrence.
McCoy pushed his tiredness aside. Lorna's condition had the Sick Bay complex humming like a hive of bees. The middle of a corridor would have more privacy than the complex did now. "Bring him to my quarters."
"A doctor is always on call," McCoy grumbled to himself, "but I never expected that to include Klingons." He looked around the room littered with the tapes he'd been studying the night before. He made a gesture to pick them up, but drew his hand back. If Kang was going to intrude on his free time like a member of the Enterprise's crew, he'd get the same treatment. He met Kang at the door and matter-of-factly gestured him to a chair in front of the desk.
Romnel's hesitation was only internal as she stepped into McCoy's quarters and posted herself beside the door.
"I don't think we'll need..." McCoy began, his usual irritation with intrusive guards showing.
"She may stay," Kang said. "She is curious," he glanced toward the silent figure, "and she will not discuss what she hears."
Romnel inclined her head in silent agreement.
Kang turned back to the doctor waiting patiently behind the desk. "After my daughter was destroyed as unfit," Kang said harshly, "the Lady Lorna said such methods were unnecessary. That there were other ways to prevent such defects from weakening the race."
None of McCoy's shock at the pain in Kang's voice reached the surface. "Yes, Kang, that is true."
"I do not have the training to understand the techniques she mentioned. It might take me years to talk my government into asking yours for the information." The strain of revealing his pain before this Terran, of being polite at the same time became too much. Kang's last words were barked as an order. "I want tapes to give to our doctors!"
Romnel stiffened. Had she made a mistake when she arranged this meeting?
Doctor McCoy raised one eyebrow at the roar then ignored it. Give information to the enemy? There were regulations about that, but they did not cover medical data, which was free to anyone who asked for it. "It will take some time to pick the correct tapes. I'll give them to you tomorrow at the ceremony."
Kang, Karnath, and an outwardly composed Karm waited beside the transporter. The time agreed upon arrived and crept by with no signal from the Enterprise.
"Enterprise to Klothar. Ready to transport."
The figures of Kirk, McCoy, Christine, and Uhura sparkled into being. "You are late, Kirk," Kang pointed out unnecessarily.
"My fault, Tarlokarne Kang," said McCoy as he stepped down from the dais. "I've got a patient I didn't want to leave until the last moment then I had to go back for these tapes." He dropped a double handful of tapes into Kang's hands. "I had just enough time to research these last night before I was called to Sick Bay. However, I think these will cover the problem completely." McCoy followed Kang as he sought a convenient place to leave the tapes and lowered his voice to a confidential tone. "The patient I mentioned is the Lady Lorna."
Kang's head came around, the tapes forgotten. That explained the feeling of unease he had been trying to ignore since awakening. "What is wrong?"
"Lorna will be fine. Her daughter will not live to reach Vulcan."
Kang raised his head, looking upward for a moment. Should he contact Lorna? No, such an intrusion would be unwise at this time. Lowering his gaze to meet McCoy's, he asked, "When the correct time comes, will you relay a message to the Lady Lorna for me? Tell her that as she shared my sorrow, I share hers."
"We are ready, Tarlokarne," announced Karm's joyous voice.
The ceremony, transmitted to all screens on both ships, was brief and business like, incorporating sections from both Terran and Klingon services. Since Karm would continue as Chief Engineer until the Klothar reached the Otsud, he wore his uniform. Christine, now officially a civilian, had chosen to wear a long green gown. She carried two green orchids, the only gift she would accept from the Enterprise's crew.
Kang silently approved of the green dress, symbol of the renewal of life, but he considered the flowers less appropriate than the fruit a Klingon woman would have held.
When the brief ceremony ended Kirk, McCoy, and Uhura joined the Klingons in a toast to the newlyweds. Uhura kissed Christine's cheek and whispered, "Find happiness, Christine," then made way for Captain Kirk.
Karm had been told of the old Terran custom of the male guests kissing the bride and was braced to allow it without a word, but Christine took Kirk's hands, and she held him away. "No, Jim. Married Klingon women kiss only their husbands. I think I'll play by their rules." She knew by the lightening of Karm's face that she had made the correct choice. He might never try to command her, but she was going to willingly make some changes to please him.
Kang made it a point to seek out Christine during the trip to the rendezvous with the Otsud. He was fighting his way through the medical tapes McCoy had given him, and every time he got stuck, he called Christine. She didn't mind. Karm was in the midst of trying to fill all the gaps of training he had suddenly discovered in his perfectly competent replacement. Having felt a twinge of the same disease herself before she left the Enterprise, Christine wisely let Karm work it out with no help from her. The medical class she was conducting gave her a perfect excuse to avoid offering advice.
The medical class was very informal, and after Kang's current question had been answered, they usually strayed off the subject. Kang discovered Christine to be a flexible, well- informed person, and grew to respect the opinions she voiced. They had several rousing arguments about differences in Klingon and Terran culture, and if neither of them changed the other's mind, they at least left the quarrels with food for further thought.
At last the day came when Karm and Christine were beamed to the Otsud, and then the Klothar turned her nose toward the Klingon Empire, and Shabas, which was home to most Klingons, as Earth was home to most Terrans.
Kang began work on the report he would deliver to the Imperial High Command. They had pledged themselves to honor his decision before he would accept the task, but if they were not pleased with what he had achieved, his future, and that of Mara and their son, could be most unpleasant.
Yet, the thought of his future brought with it a thrill that he had not known for years. His mind kept returning to the last words he had exchanged with Gary Seven. That conversation raised possibilities that the future might be vastly different from what he had envisioned it to be. The continual struggle to hold the power he had, to gain ever more, to bind others to his will, all this could be abandoned - if Seven's organization wanted him. But, only if they contacted him. To change otherwise was to court disaster.
Therefore, the Kang who stood before the High Command to deliver the report on the Turon-Lura Treaty seemed little different from the man who had stood there to accept the job. Kang's explanation of the Treaty was in itself a masterpiece of strategy. The Treaty became the prize of a battle fought with words rather than with weapons. A battle, in which the Empire gained as much as if ships and men had fought, and the ships and men were still available to put to another use.
Kang stood before the High Command grimly amused as he watched them discuss his report. He had used every skill he had learned during the diplomatic talks to persuade them, and he had been successful. This fighting with words could get into a man's blood, and if the rewards were less obvious than a conquered nation bowing in subjection, they were still there if one knew where to look. He accepted the commendations from the High Command solemnly, concealing a smile that would have been a sneer in the old days, as he marveled at the power of words.
He did not allow his amusement, his feeling of power, to show until he was alone with Mara telling her of his victory.
Mara listened carefully, studying this man who was her husband. She had been aware of a difference in him ever since his return. Now, her joy grew as she finally defined the change. He had the key to great power, and he laughed at it in genuine amusement. He was not scheming to take advantage of his power, but was laughing at it, sharing it with her as a joke. He had learned compassion.
She put her arms around him, and stopped his words with a kiss, drawing back to meet his puzzled look with a smile. "Will you now have a few hours for your family?" She tugged on his hand, moving him into their sleeping quarters. "You have admired our son, played with him, talked to him," she faced him demandingly, "but you have not fulfilled a father's duty of naming him. I am tired of calling him 'Boy'."
They stood beside the crib staring at the sleeping child. "This son, our first-born, will be called Kiloran," Kang said softly.
Mara tried the name silently a few times then repeated it aloud. "Kiloran, our son. May his life be as...." Mara paused and studied the man brooding over his son, and altered the traditional wording, "As honorable as that of his father."
As the words penetrated, Kang turned to face Mara, his eyebrows drawing together as he frowned. "Do you not wish him victories, power, success over his enemies?"
Mara shook her head. "I wish him what I said. Honor in a life where every person is not assumed to be an enemy. Where power is not the only measure of a person's worth. I grow so tired of scheming and fighting since I have seen there is another way to live."
Kang held her in his arms, wondering if he dared speak of Gary Seven, but did not. That future depended on the word of a man long dead. Could a promise reach across that gulf of years and change his life? Kang tightened his hold and gave Mara what comfort he dared. "There will be other diplomatic missions. You and Kiloran will be at my side during them."
The long weeks of implementing the Treaty dragged on, and as day after day passed with no contact from Seven's people, Kang's faith, never complete, began to wane. He fought for the Treaty, seeing that it was followed to the letter, and he began an apparently endless series of arguments with Klingon doctors in an attempt to have the Federation tapes studied. But his bright hope for the future began to fade.
He arrived for his latest appointment in a foul humor. Gekelok, the head of the Imperial Medical Service, had a reputation as a reactionary, even among his own associates. This would be another afternoon wasted, but there was no one left to whom he could appeal.
Kang's despair deepened as he arrived at Gekelok's office. The office was in such an old section of the laboratory complex that it had doors with knobs that one turned to gain admittance. The secretary was unimpressed with Kang's rank, and allowed him into Gekelok's inner office with obvious reluctance.
The interview quickly turned into the same old argument:
"How do you know this is not false information given to you by the Federation doctor to weaken us?" demanded Gekelok.
Kang had given up trying to explain Federation doctors many interviews ago.
"Would you trust the data if I had stolen it?" he snarled. "At least test it. If it proves wrong, I, myself, will destroy the children for you."
Gekelok drew a deep breath then said mildly, "That seems a reasonable offer. I will give the matter further consideration."
He watched silently as Kang stifled his anger and accepted the small advance he had made. He waited until Kang had his hand on the doorknob before saying, "While you are here, there is another matter I wish to discuss with you...."
The doctor busily rustled papers on his desk (kept there for that very purpose) until Kang turned to face him.
Gekelok hid his amusement and carefully watched Kang's expression as he continued. "I have here a communiqué from my superiors, requesting that I continue a conversation that you began with a former - colleague of mine. A..." he peered at the papers. "A Mister Gary Seven, of Old Earth."
He nodded with satisfaction at the succession of expressions that crossed Kang's face then he suggested gently, "The sooner you return to your seat, Tarlokarne, the sooner your new future will begin...."
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