Helek met Ajah and Korax at the hospital. "Where would they be?" Helek asked as they headed out into the city.
"I do not know," Korax replied. "But Anakin said he left Jaer in the forest outside the bar."
"He was unconscious at the time."
"Maybe he still is."
They made their way back to the forest where the bar was, but unfortunately, Jaer was not there. Korax studied the ground. "He was here," he said as he could see where someone had lain in the dirt. "It will not be difficult to follow his tracks in this dirt."
"Good," Helek replied. "I'm ready to take on a bad guy who thinks he can shock people."
"I am sure you will be much more shocking."
Ajah shook his head. "That is so corny," he declared.
They followed the trail until it came back to the hangars. "He must have gone back to his ship," Helek said. "Surely he wouldn't know Trogh is dead."
"I do not see how," Korax replied. "He would most likely be waiting for him."
"What kind of ship would they be in though?"
There were at least ten ship hangars there. There was a great number of people hanging around out there who had spilled out from the bar, they assumed. Most of them had brought their own drinks with them and had built fires. "I guess we could ask someone if they've seen Jaer," Helek suggested.
"We would not want them to alert him," Korax said.
"No human is going to like a Nausicaan, so why don't we find a human to ask?"
As they came to the second hangar, there was a guy lying on the ground beside his own campfire drinking from a bottle. As they approached, he suddenly sat up with a blaster in his hand. "What do you want?" he asked.
"We just wanted to ask if you've seen a Nausicaan out here?" Helek asked.
"Why should I tell you?"
"We're looking for him."
"Look somewhere else."
Helek, Ajah, and Korax walked on. "That idea was not the best one you have ever had," Korax remarked.
"Don't be a wise guy," Helek replied. "There must be someone out here who isn't so hostile."
"Are you kidding?" Ajah asked. "This planet is full of outlaws. They're wary of everyone they see."
The next hangar had a ship in it, but there was no one outside. They did not talk as they approached the door of the hangar. There was a small light on the outside of the building. Helek took the primitive bulb out and stuck his finger in the socket to draw some power. Korax watched him a moment. "Does that hurt?" he asked.
"No," Helek said. "It's like a tingle to me."
"He just likes to show out," Ajah said.
"You should power up too."
When they both had their usual display, Korax opened the door of the hangar. As they entered, they saw no one in the hangar. The ship inside was a Klingon bird of prey. "Well, it's likely that we found the right hangar," Helek said quietly.
Korax stared at the ship a moment. "This was Duras's bird of prey," he said. "Trogh took it for his own."
They moved closer to the ship and came around toward the boarding ramp which was still down. "If Jaer's in there, he must be waiting for something," Helek said.
Korax took his bat'leth off his back. "I will handle this menace," he declared.
"Hey, I thought I was going to handle him."
"You may put him out of his misery when I gravely wound him. You should also watch for the others."
Korax moved over to the boarding ramp and started up. Before he got to the top, Jaer appeared there. "Korax!" he said.
Korax stopped and got into a fighting stance. "I have come to take out the trash."
Jaer bared his teeth. "You will not find me such an easy target!" He took out his lance and it doubled in length.
Helek and Ajah stood to watch the fight and make sure no one else came to interfere. They watched as Korax and Jaer met in battle and heard the clang of metal as the blades of the bat'leth met the metal lance. Korax swung the bat'leth with precision and even grace, but Jaer also did the same with his lance. Helek had seen a lot of battles, but he had never seen one like this. Korax and Jaer somersaulted from the boarding ramp to the floor and began another duel.
Just as they got to the floor, Ajah saw others appear at the top of the boarding ramp of the ship. "Well, I guess it's our turn," he said.
Helek fired up his electrical display even more. "I've been waiting for a fight," he declared.
They met the two Klingons and the Romulan as they descended the ramp. They managed to dodge the electrical impulses that Ajah and Helek threw at them. The Klingons drew their bat'leths, and the Romulan drew his double sword. "Well, which do you want first?" Ajah asked.
"Oh, I'll take the one on the left," Helek replied.
Helek charged, and the Klingon swung the bat'leth at him, but Helek went under it and grabbed the Klingon by the arm as he got behind him. The Klingon let out a wale as he felt electricity going through him. Korax could even smell burned flesh as he continued his battle with Jaer. The Klingon fell to the ground, but then the Romulan was coming for Helek with his sword. Helek tried to do the same thing again, but the Romulan had been expecting it, and as Helek dodged around him, the Romulan whirled and swung his sword at him. Helek flipped away from the sword and as the Romulan was about to come back with the sword again, Helek grabbed that arm from behind and shocked the Romulan as he had the Klingon. Ajah had taken care of the Klingon opponent he had as well.
Korax finally pretended he would swing the bat'leth to the right, and when Jaer moved to block it, he came around to the left and made a swat across Jaer's legs. He went down then, but he tried to stab Korax with the lance. Korax knocked the lance from his hands. "I should leave you alive to take a message back to Omahk," Korax said. "He will not win this battle, and if he tries once more to take Admiral Kirk, there will be civil war among the Klingons, but it will not be as before!"
Jaer hissed at him. "You would lose!"
Korax swung his bat'leth, and Jaer fell to the floor no longer living. Helek could hardly believe how fast that was. "Are you gonna take their ship?" he asked.
"It is mine to take," Korax said. "I will take it to Kronos."
"What if they track it? They could ambush you."
"They will not know that I have taken it. Are you sure there's no one else in there?"
"We will be certain."
Helek followed him inside and they searched the ship, but there was no one else aboard. "I will return to Kronos when our friend has recovered," Korax said. He sealed the ship.
They left the hangar and locked it as well. "I guess this is nearly over," Helek said.
"Let's hope," Ajah replied.
Helek reigned in most of his electric display, but he always felt like he was buzzing when he did that. "So, are we going back to the hospital?" he asked. "We should tell Spock what happened in there."
They arrived back at the hospital and told Spock what had happened. "I have already told the ambassadors about this situation," he said. "They are unconcerned. Once Jim and Mac are ready to travel, we will leave this planet and report to Starfleet. Mac will be kept in the Brig under full guard."
"How is the admiral?" Helek asked.
"He is still with the doctor."
"I will be returning to Kronos with Duras's ship," Korax said. "It will be a trophy."
"Very well," Spock replied.
It was the next morning before Jim was ready to travel. Bones did not like moving him, but they wanted to get him to the Enterprise. They made him as comfortable as possible on Solan's ship. Carol and Alex lay on the bed with him, but he was asleep. She was so relieved that she had them back with her. She rubbed Jim's arm. She leaned over him. "Jim, if you can hear me…I love you," she whispered. Of course, Jim did not reply. She knew he had fought hard for Alex and almost died. She lay down close to him and listened to his breathing. She thought it still sounded a little labored, but Doctor McCoy was keeping a constant vigil. She did not have to worry.
After three days, they arrived at Caleb IV where the Enterprise was still docked. Jim was sitting in the co-pilot's seat when they docked in the shuttle bay. His arm was in what he called a sling because Bones did not want him moving it too much until his wound was healed more, and he was certainly not back to his full strength but he felt better. He had lain on the bed for two days and Alex had been sitting watching him just about every time he woke up. They had spent more time together and of course, he had spent more time with Carol as well. Bones had made sure he stayed on the bed and had only that morning allowed him up.
"I have to say I'm glad to be back aboard the Enterprise," Jim said. "I want to go home."
"You mean you're not gonna stay on Pacifica for a while?" Bones asked just to be annoying. "I figured you might be ready for a vacation."
"No thanks. I've had all the vacations I need."
"You know that matter with the Klingons isn't over," Solan reminded him. "Korax took Duras's ship back to Kronos as a trophy."
Jim scowled at that. "What?"
"Now you see what you did?" Bones asked. "He doesn't need to be worried about that right now."
"It's no big deal now," Solan said. "Trogh was using Duras's bird of prey. Korax defeated Jaer and took the ship back to Kronos. He said it was a trophy for him. You know how the Klingons are."
"I guess I was asleep during all that," Jim replied.
"Helek and Ajah saw that fight and had one of their own. They said it was brutal."
"I'm sure it was. But let's get out of here and go home."
Jim stood up, refusing the urge to grunt as he still had some pain in that leg as well, but he was on the mend. They all left Solan's ship feeling like they were lucky to be alive after that ordeal.
"Admiral," Spock said. "If it is okay with you, I would like to get on our way. We will stop at Pacifica to return Doctor McCoy and Andrea home."
"It's your ship, Spock."
Spock simply nodded and headed for the Bridge. Jim thought of the fact that he had not had much time to even see Bones' daughter while they were aboard. He had been occupied with the mission. Right now, he went on to his quarters with Carol and Alex. After all, Bones was gonna make him stay still too much.
Ajah was finishing up something he had been writing. He wanted to let Admiral Kirk read it soon to see if it was to his liking. He had asked Ajah to write something about him for Alex in case he did not return from his mission. Ajah frowned as he thought of how close he had come to actually making that so. He had been writing ever since they left Earth. It was not difficult to find enough information about James T. Kirk. As Admiral Winston was always pointing out, Kirk was already a legend before he finished the five-year mission.
Within six days, they were back at Earth. Jim was feeling very well now, although he still had a little soreness. As the shuttle set down at Starfleet Headquarters, Jim could see Admiral Winston waiting for him. Carol was sitting beside him. "I wonder if he's just here to greet you or if there's another problem," she said.
"Hopefully, it's just for greeting," Jim replied. "Maybe I should just start wearing a uniform when I'm coming back," he mumbled to himself as he was heading for the boarding ramp.
Jim descended the ramp with Carol and Alex. He and Carol stood at attention as they met Admiral Winston. "Sir," Jim said.
"At ease," Admiral Winston replied. "We've had a good report from Denobula, Kirk. Everything seems to be progressing there."
"I'm glad to hear that, Sir."
Admiral Winston actually grinned slightly. "Reenata said to tell that young, handsome admiral that she appreciates your help."
Jim could see the amusement on Admiral Winston's face. "Thank you, Sir."
Carol smiled. "If you would excuse me, Admiral, I'd like to take Alex home."
"You're dismissed," Winston replied. "We won't be long."
Carol kissed Jim on the cheek. "I'll see you later…Handsome Admiral."
Jim heard her snickering as she walked away. "I assume you received our reports, Sir," he said.
"I did," Winston replied. "Mac is incapacitated, and you had a run-in with a rogue Klingon. Are your wounds healed well?"
"Yes, Sir. I'm doing fine."
"Question is: how did he know where you were going?"
"I don't know, Sir, but I suppose we'll never find out. He would have killed me if…Anakin hadn't acted when he did. He and Padme stayed on Denobula to help them. Padme is an excellent negotiator."
"It's a shame that all that intelligence Mac had went to waste. His trial will take place in a few days. I expect you to testify as well as anyone else who knows anything about this situation."
"Yes, Sir. We'll be ready."
"We also still have the matter of Kuaya and his colony."
"He hasn't caused any trouble, has he?"
"No. Everything has been quiet. Do you intend to take him back to his world?"
Jim frowned at the thought of that. "We would have to figure out exactly how to do that," he replied. "Maybe by the time they are ready to go we'll have something figured out."
"Do you think he can do any good by returning there? You were there."
"I was but that planet has a different effect on humans than it does on the inhabitants there."
"And if he stays on Earth?"
"I don't know, Sir."
Winston was silent a moment. "If he wants to return to his world, I think you should take him," he said. "But don't risk your life to do it."
"Maybe they could exit the ship in the air, and that way, we wouldn't even have to sit down on the surface," Jim said thoughtfully.
"Make it happen."
"Yes, Sir. By the way, Sir, there are some young Antarans and Denobulans who want to join Starfleet. Spock will be bringing them down to the planet."
"It has been reported. I'm looking forward to meeting them. You're dismissed."
With that, Winston turned and walked back into the Headquarters building. Jim just stood there a moment. He blew out a breath he thought he was holding. He seemed to always hold his breath when he was talking to the head of Starfleet. Why did it always have to be him? Why did he always end up having to go on these missions? He knew why it was always him…because he was the one who discovered all this. Now, it was coming back to haunt him. He could not imagine what it would be like to tell Carol about this, not even Solan.
Jim realized he was standing alone. Everyone else had scattered. He supposed they were all ready for some rest after that ordeal. He thought he would just walk home since it was not far. He could still feel where he had been stabbed in the leg. It still had a slight ache and so did the one in his chest, but it was not enough to pay much attention. He just hoped Mac never got out of prison again, but he was glad to be walking in the sunlight on Earth…and he was hungry. He would just go home and get Carol and Alex, and they would all go for something to eat.
During the next three months, Jim consulted with Artie and the others about taking Kuaya back to his home world. They thought it was possible for him to leave the ship without going down to the ground. Jim was on his way to the Amazon to talk to Kuaya about this idea. The trees had grown several more feet since Jim had seen them, but Kuaya had kept his word and had not let any more grow there.
Kuaya had definitely grown his wing back. He flew down to Jim as he approached the village. Solan was with Jim as well as Carol. Jim could smell the fragrance of the trees, but of course, it was not as strong as it was on Garresant. "Greetings," Kuaya said.
"I see you've grown your wing back," Jim replied.
"Yes. It has mended well. Your planet is quite adequate for us."
"I'm glad. We've figured out a way to take you back to your planet. I want to know if you could exit a ship from the air."
Kuaya considered that. "Of course," he said. "That would be safer for you."
"Yes. But would it be safer for your little ones?"
"They are strong fliers already."
"Well, that's our plan. We'll take you to the planet and let you all fly out without landing the ship."
Kuaya was silent a moment. "I have learned a great deal while I have been on this planet…and while I mended," he said. "I have learned that I was wrong about humans. You were forced to stay on our planet like so many others. Could we stay on Earth?"
Jim was a little surprised by that question. "You mean you don't want to go back to Garresant?" he asked.
"Perhaps someday we will. I want to learn more about your world. Perhaps we could even be…friends."
Jim would have never thought he would hear that coming from a Garre. "Maybe we can," he said. "Have you met people around here?"
"There are people who live in the forest. They are like us and are simply trying to survive. I believe if I had not escaped from Garresant, I would be dead by now. The human who brought you there helped my wives and children."
Jim frowned. "Is that why he wouldn't tell us anything?" he asked.
"He thought it was best."
Jim looked at Solan who looked a bit skeptical, but also troubled. However, Jim did not think Kuaya was lying this time. He seemed completely amicable. "There's no reason why you can't stay," Jim said. "But you can't let more of those trees grow."
"We will not," Kuaya declared. "We have a sufficient number for us. We must have them to reproduce."
"Oh. Then, welcome to Earth."
Kuaya smiled for the first time Jim had ever seen him smile. "Your greeting is…shaking hands…is it not?" he asked.
Jim nodded. "Yes."
Kuaya held out his hand to Jim. Jim smiled as he shook his hand. "It's good to know you, Kuaya," he said. "I think I'm learning something too."
"You may visit anytime you wish."
"I may just do that. Any time you need anything, or if there's a problem, you should let me know." Jim put his arm around Carol. "I wanted you to meet my wife."
Kuaya bowed. "I am pleased to meet you," he said.
"I'm pleased to meet you as well," Carol replied.
"Would you all stay and visit for a while? I would introduce you to my family."
Jim shrugged. "Why not? I have nothing else to do."
As they climbed up into the treehouses that Kuaya had built, Jim remembered doing that on Garresant. However, this time was very different. He supposed he should have learned that people can learn since he had Klingon friends now, and that was something he had never expected to have. As he saw the little ones of Kuaya's small tribe, he looked at Carol who smiled a knowing smile at him. They would soon have another little one of their own…