Chapter 5: V
K'nera crossed her arms and glared at Alexander as he tried to keep himself from laughing. "You programmed that animal to throw me, didn't you?"
"I didn't; I promise." Snickering slightly, Alexander slid off of his horse and walked over to help K'nera up from where she sat in the middle of the dusty street that he'd created within the holosuite program. "But I did create this program with my father in mind. If I had made them too gentle he would have balked and likely would have taken to reprogramming the whole holonovel before agreeing to come back in here with me."
K'nera accepted Alexander's hand stood up while shaking her head. "I was once thrown by a bregit on Zlireta Theta and I think I still preferred riding on one of them over a... a horse."
"It just takes some getting used to," Alexander assured K'nera while holding back a cheeky comment on the tip of his tongue. "Unfortunately, I think our time is up in the holosuite. Quark will be ready to run us out of here soon if we don't go ahead and leave now."
"That's fine with me. I don't think I'm suited to the Ancient West after all." K'nera brushed the dust from her uniform as she followed Alexander toward the exit. "I prefer living in a time period where transportation isn't so… primitive."
"That doesn't sound like someone who's lived among Klingons for most of their lives."
"Maybe not. But it's the truth. Give me a shuttle or a runabout any day."
K'nera and Alexander stepped out of the suite and began to descend the winding staircase to the lower level of Quark's bar. As they approached the bar to get something to drink Alexander noticed that Jadzia had done as she had promised and returned to spend some time with him after she had completed her duties in Ops. K'nera eyed the Trill before telling Alexander that she would see him later. She would go find DedaJ while he spoke with Jadzia.
"Is something wrong?"
"I just don't do mothers, is all," K'nera said as she started to turn away. "Or in this case, stepmothers."
Alexander raised a brow as the blonde left the bar then headed over to Jadzia. As he got closer to her, he noticed that she had a set and determined look on her face.
"Alexander! Why didn't you tell me that it was your birthday?" Jadzia gave the young Klingon a firm but light shove on his shoulder as he came within arm's reach. "You were planning to leave here in the morning without ever mentioning it, weren't you?"
Alexander shrugged and gave a half-smile. "It wasn't important."
"Nonsense. No wonder you looked so heart-broken when your father didn't greet you this morning."
"I don't think that I'd say that I was heart-broken, exactly, Jadzia." Alexander corrected his stepmother. "But just out of curiosity, how did you find out?"
"Your grandparents. They've contacted the station again to wish you a happy birthday. They are waiting on an open channel to speak with you now." Jadzia slipped her arm through Alexander's and steered him toward the habitat ring of the station. "You can speak to them from the comm station in your father and my quarters. I've already had a nice long chat with them and promised that I plan to visit them with Worf just as soon as the war with the Dominion is over."
"I'm sure they'll like that." Alexander knew that his grandparents had regretted not being able to attend Jadzia and Worf's wedding due to the quick nature of the change in wedding plans when it was decided to get married on the station. In addition, it had been deemed unsafe for the Rozhenkos to travel so far within the front-lines of the war with the Dominion. He had done his best to tell them all that he could about their new daughter-in-law since he had no doubt that his father had failed to fill them in on all that they would have wanted to know.
"Just don't tell your father. Not yet anyway," Jadzia gave a grin as she continued to walk with Alexander. "You let me handle him."
"Somehow, I think that you're the only one who could have a prayer at handling him." Alexander laughed as he spoke truthfully. "By all means, you deal with him." He then continued to the comm station to speak with his grandparents before spending the rest of the day on DS9 telling Dax stories from behind enemy-lines and hearing of the latest goings on about the space station. Alexander found the Trill exceptionally easy to talk to and the two even sparred in the holosuite so that Alexander could show his stepmother just what all he'd learned from Ch'Targh and his training sessions with the other Klingon.
The next morning Jadzia bade Alexander good-bye and promised to give Worf a good talking to the moment that she saw him in regards to not staying on board the station knowing that Alexander would be arriving so soon. Alexander had no doubt that she could probably cause even his father to flinch under the scorn of her words when riled. He made a mental note to never tangle with Jadzia. If his father didn't dare to upset her then he knew he shouldn't.
Once the Ya'Vang disembarked from the space station it made its way to join the Federation's Tenth Fleet near the Cyndriel system. After their most recent mission to locate the Dominion shipyard in orbit around Monac Four much of the Ya'Vang's crew were disappointed with their more sedate assignment attached to the Federation's Tenth Fleet. K'nera was not among those that found the patrol duty to be boring, however.
After spending days away from the front-lines, K'nera sat in her quarters doing her best to meditate before the beginning of her shift. She knew that starting her day without the moment of peace was always unwise; even if she had been forced to on occasion. Concentrating on the methods that she learned from the Klingon Psionic Monks on Celyn Four, K'nera did her best to shunt her telepathic abilities aside to avoid catching every stray thought of the dozens of men and women on board the warship.
Klingons produce very few full-fledged telepaths. In the ancient days of the Empire's infancy, Klingon warlords fiercely coveted the ability to read an enemy's mind. At the same time they despised mind-reading as a cowardly act. Those who attained such power found that being surrounded by the violence of Klingon minds to be extremely overwhelming. The few Klingon mutants who have developed their psionic abilities found that prolonged exposure often leads to neural degradation, violent hallucinations, and death; mind-readers tended to live short and miserable lives within the Empire.
In the past, some Klingon lords forced telepaths into slavery. Those who escaped were typically hunted down and lynched. After centuries of trying to harness the telepathic abilities of those who had the misfortune of displaying them, the Empire finally determined that doing so was more trouble than it was worth. Now the few Klingons with telepathic or empathic abilities seemed to prefer to live in isolation away from the rest of society; both to avoid the scorn that modern Klingon culture holds for such individuals and to keep their minds free of the clutter that comes from just existing alongside the warrior race.
When K'nera's own extreme abilities became evident shortly after being taken in by Lor'vah she had been taken there to study under the monks. To this day, K'nera drew on the things that she learned on Celyn Four and would frequently go there for solace when living day to day among Klingons became too taxing on her telepathic, as well as empathic, side.
K'nera stared into the candle that she had set on the small table in her quarters while trying to block out the endless conversations that were going on around the ship. As of late, controlling her abilities had become more challenging and as a result it took longer in the mornings to calm her own thoughts. Twice this week alone she had nearly been late for the start of her duty rotation due to her inability to prepare herself for the day in a timely manner. Today she had gotten up extra early to give herself more time but it seemed to have been to no avail. The more she sought calm the more it eluded her.
When her alarm went off to tell her that she had to leave now so she would not be late for her shift in Engineering she groaned loudly in the empty quarters and blew the candle out. She then stood from her seated position on the floor and headed toward the door. Today is going to be a bad day, K'nera told herself as she made her way to her post.
Once in the Engine Room, K'nera took her assignment pad from her superior and went straight to work on the day's duties. She did everything that she could to tune out everyone on board as she worked and she must have succeeded since it was hours later when she looked up to realize that someone was standing over her and talking.
"K'nera? Did you hear me?" Alexander had come looking for her when she had failed to show for the evening meal. K'nera looked down at her chronometer and was surprised that she had remained in the department all day yet had really accomplished nothing productive.
"I'm sorry. I was kind of out of it. What were you saying?"
"I just came to check to see if anything was wrong. No one had seen you since early this morning and with the tensions on board and all…"
Alexander fidgeted a bit as he waited for K'nera to stand. When she failed to show for any of the meals on the Mess Deck he had been concerned that she may have had a run in with the remaining members of R'jnol's group on the Ya'Vang. After his own run in, and ultimate unlikely victory against the man, Alexander had been given a level of new-found respect among many on the ship. K'nera, however, was still seen as more of an outsider since she didn't have a drop of Klingon blood running through her veins. With all of the sit and waiting that the crew had done since joining the Federation Fleet, Alexander knew that many were looking for an outlet for their penned up energy. He had feared that she had wound up being that outlet.
"I'm fine, really." K'nera gathered up her tools and gave Alexander a smile in response to his worry for her. "Besides, if someone had really meant to harm me I would have known-"
"Would you? I've been here for five minutes before you realized it," Alexander gave K'nera a skeptical look. He knew that five minutes were more than enough time to hurt, or kill, an individual; particularly one who was not paying attention to their surroundings and was caught unaware. Knowing that gave Alexander pause to avoid scolding his friend much the same way he could imagine that his father would have done to him in a similar situation.
Spoken or not, K'nera heard those words loud and clear and knew that he was right. She'd been so concerned with calming the voices around her and blocking them out that she had gone too far. She had lost that balance that she needed while on board the ship. The thing was, she wasn't sure what she could really do about it for now. She couldn't just up and ask for leave in the middle of a war but every day that she spent surrounded by the untamed thoughts of her Klingon comrades was one more day closer to feeling completely overwhelmed. K'nera needed to find a balance if she was to remain on board. She just wasn't sure how she could go about finding that balance in a way that she hadn't already tried.
Days later, K'nera was in the secondary transporter room doing a routine maintenance when she suddenly felt a great sense of dread. It was too large to pin-point just where it was coming from. She knew that the Fleet was scheduled to perform some practice battle exercises today to help break up the monotony of patrol duty. That didn't account for the dread that she sensed in the system. K'nera was about to contact her uncle to learn what was going on when the Alert Status One rang out.
Jem'Hadar ships had come out of nowhere to attack the Cyndriel system; including the other Klingon ships and those of the Federation. The Fleet had been caught completely unaware by the Dominion. There were nowhere near enough ships to defend Betazed and M'jaK knew it. Nor was the planet armed well enough to aid in its own defense. M'jaK doubted that the people of Betazed had upgraded the planetary defense systems since joining the Federation.
All around him his crew performed as they had been trained despite the state of confusion that the Starfleet ships appeared to be in. M'jaK ordered his crew to prepare to engage the enemy even as he watched many of the other ships in the sector take heavy casualties through the view screen. As the Ya'Vang plunged further into battle many of the ships in the rest of the fleet began to reluctantly pull back when it was clear that they could no longer stay in the fight.
"Captain! We are being hailed by Admiral Reliz's ship," Ch'Targh shouted from his station.
Growling, M'jaK suspected that the man was calling to order a retreat. A suspicion that was confirmed just by looking at him as his image was put up on the screen.
"Admiral! Why are your ships breaking away?! They are cowards!"
"Captain, this is a fight that we cannot hope to win. I've ordered each ship to try to take on a compliment of survivors from the planet before leaving the system. I want your ship to do the same."
"There is no honor for a warrior that runs from a fight simply because he is outnumbered, Admiral!"
Through the comm system, Admiral Reliz scowled at the Klingon captain and his crew. "Nor is there honor in leaving civilians behind to the Dominion. You were instructed to follow my orders, Captain. If you don't like them then you can lodge a formal complaint later if we can get out of here. For now, you are to do as I say. Reliz out!"
M'jaK howled at the indignation of being ordered to retreat but he was no fool. He knew that the fleet was outnumbered ten to one, with the fleet growing smaller by the minute. Through gritted teeth, M'jaK ordered to be patched through to the transporter rooms.
"This is your captain speaking. We have been ordered to take on civilians before making a retreat." The word retreat left a bitter taste in M'jaK's mouth but he forced himself to continue. "We will be dropping our shields for three seconds. Not a moment longer. Prepare to lock onto any signal that you can get from the planet below and energize on my mark…NOW!"
The ship's shields were lowered and Alexander swore that those three seconds were the longest in his life. Knowing that they were now totally exposed in the middle of a fight with the Jem'Hadar. He examined his station and saw that their vulnerability had been detected as three ships broke away from the main formation and were heading their way.
"Captain, enemy ships approaching bearing zero point two five!"
Meanwhile in the secondary Transporter Room, K'nera had just finished beaming aboard more than a dozen Betazoids. To say that they were surprised to see one of their own kind operating the transporter on a Klingon ship was a bit of an understatement. Nearly the moment that the energy beam had cleared each had begun to ask questions to which K'nera had no answers. What had made it worse, however, was that all of the questions had been shot her way telepathically. A new experience for her since even when she was among the few Klingon telepaths on Celyn Four no one had ever intentionally tried to speak with her on that level. Add that to the fact that the refugees were using Federation Standard instead of the Klingon language increased her stress level.
"Everyone, please! I do not have any answers for you right now. We are still in the middle of a fight but as soon as we break away I'll be sure to try to find out just what all is going on!" K'nera blurted out after digging around in her memory for the correct words in the Starfleet standard language.
From among the crowd stepped forth a woman with an exotic looking wig that matched her rather gaudy outfit and she walked right up to the woman in Klingon attire. K'nera could sense her curiosity of her but she hoped that she would hold any questions about how a Betazoid had ended up on the ship for later. This was certainly not the time for such questions.
The ship rocked as the Jem'Hadar began to attack the Klingon ship as it pulled up from the orbit around the planet that it had sunk into while beaming aboard the civilians. Outside, the enemy ships were finding fresh prey scarce as now they outnumbered the Tenth Fleet twenty to one. Nearly every ship that remained was severely crippled. The Ya'Vang included. As the shields failed the captain ordered for the cloaking device to be activated as it began to limp toward the coordinates that they needed to reach before jumping to warp.
After months of victories behind enemy lines defeat today was very humiliating for the crew of the warship. When the Ya'Vang broke away from the fighting the captain and his crew could feel the shame of their actions very palatable in the air. M'jaK was not any happier with their orders to fall back than any of the rest of his crew. He was sure to alert his superiors of his opinions of having to take instructions from such cowards but for now he was honor bound to follow those retched orders.
M'jaK watched as the rest of the fleet made a quick departure from the now Dominion controlled planet that would put them in position to invade Vulcan, Andor, Tellar and Alpha Centauri before giving the order to follow suit. Disgusted, M'jaK turned toward his ready room only to be stopped by Ch'Targh as he informed the captain that K'nera was calling up from the secondary transporter room and was requesting to speak with him.
"What?" M'jaK asked gruffly as he heard the bustling background of the transporter room.
"Captain, we have a-"
K'nera was interrupted as another woman was heard speaking over the young woman, "I am the daughter of the Fifth House of Betazed, the Holder of the Sacred Chalice of Rixx, and the Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed. I demand to know what has happened to my son and valet."
Alexander's head jerked up as he recognized that voice with a smile. The captain told K'nera to take each of the refugees to the VIP quarters that were aboard for visiting dignitaries. He suspected that it was mainly to keep them all in one place and out of his hair. The quarters were lush by Klingon standards with several movable chairs and tables located in the middle of the room but Alexander knew that they were significantly less so by Betazoid standards. As the comm link to the transporter room was closed Alexander turned from his station and addressed the captain.
"Sir, request permission to assist with the refugees. I think that I might be of some assistance."
Alexander glanced around the bridge briefly before responding, "I have had personal dealings with the Ambassador from Betazed; the woman that you just heard." Captain M'jaK raised a brow at Alexander's comment which encouraged him to explain, "Her daughter was designated as my Soh-chim should anything ever happen to my father while I was growing up."
Soh-chim? M'jaK couldn't believe his ears. It was a wonder that his bekk had any knowledge of the ways of his heritage at all. Not only had his father not bothered to raise the boy in the ways of the Klingon Warrior (preferring to surround his son with Human culture) but he had even seen to it that Alexander would remain ignorant of all things Klingon if he was to die before the younger Klingon reached the age of maturity. What was more, he had chosen one from a pacifist race to fill the role of guardian for a boy whose warrior's blood had already been diluted.
Shaking his head, knowing that such thoughts could wait until later, M'jaK granted his permission to leave the bridge. "Go, and see to it that they do not interfere with the ship's function. We have been ordered to Star-base 1182 with them. Once there they will no longer be my problem."
"Yes Sir," Alexander jumped up from his station and left the bridge to make his way to greet the eccentric woman whom he'd not seen in years. Alexander only wished that such a reunion could have been under better circumstances.