The planet Mehjah'Loh
L'faneka made her way into the caves.
She was an old woman, and did not move too quickly, but she had a true advantage when it came to the caves, for she was completely blind, and had been so since she was young. She did not need to carry a heavy femur bone, carved and hollowed out at the top, and filled with congealed animal fat and twisted strands of long hairs and dried plant fibers, lit by their fires. She had both hands free, and could clamber as needed, on all fours if that was required, even on her belly like the lowest of all life forms on Mehjah'Loh.
One of the lowest, for lower than a slime thing with no legs was anyone who had killed of their own family. That was a far lower station. Those were the ones who looked up to the legless slime things, and well they should have.
She heard sounds, screams, and then silence. She could smell dripping animal fat and burning dried plant fibers. There were others nearby. She entered the cave chamber where they were. She could smell Pavant, and wrinkled her nose in disgust at the stench of one of the strangers – Vormarl. "What has happened here?" she asked.
"This is a new day," Pavant said.
She groped over to the sound of his voice and touched his face. The smell, it was a bit of burning, but not the burning of the animal fat and long hairs and dried plant fibers. This was a different burning, that of flesh. She found the wound on the side of his face, a shallow gash but inside it there was something that stung and burned her fingers as well. "It is the mark of the Buk'amah," she said, "I know this mark."
Unseen to her, Vormarl grinned. "See, you are marked as a leader!" he caressed the amulet, waiting for its power to rise.
"It is the mark of other things as well," she said.
"Other things?" Pavant asked.
She sensed it would mean danger for her if she said anything more. "Nothing that will interfere with your rule, my Chief," she bowed slightly and kept her thoughts to herself.
Her thoughts would have troubled Pavant, had he known them. She was sure, though, that Vormarl would not have cared. But the mark! All Buk'amah had some sort of mark on their faces, an indication of a scarring from a dying, desperate child clawing at life. O'mat had had it – they all had, back to before and before and before, to when the oldest of the old were young and before ships and strangers came from the sky to loot and burn and dismember and kill. But this was more than just the mark. The strange feeling of stinging and burning inside meant one other thing.
The dead child had had the burning blood. There were two types of blood that they knew about. One could mix perfectly with the others' blood and there would be no hissing and no acidic burning. But some, a small minority, had the burning blood. L'faneka had it. Kulnay had had it. And Lymet had had it as well. So the dead child was Lymet. There could be no other. L'faneka knew that Lymet was of Pavant's seed, for she had delivered the child and heard the mother's secrets, whispered during the agonies of labor.
And so L'faneka knew that the new Buk'amah was lesser and lower than the legless slime things.
Above, the village lay in ruins. It was charitable to call it a village, for it was little more than skins over the huge ribs of the great beasts that made the best game, and the number of skin-homes numbered fewer than one thousand. Blood had run, and most of it mixed well but some of it hissed and popped.
"That sounds like an acid," said one of the angry, marauding ridged ones as he snarled and surveyed the destruction.
"There is nothing to pillage from here," replied a companion.
"No," said the first, "there is the sound and smell of acid. Find that."
"But these people are not sophisticated enough to brew spirits, let alone manufacture acids!"
"I know what I am hearing and what I am smelling. Find that, and you will have your spoils of war."
The bridge of the USS ENTERPRISE
The Enterprise came about, on maneuvering thrusters, and narrowly managed to avoid the hulk of the Draco, which took more damage. "Open a channel to the Draco!" Kirk yelled.
"Hailing frequencies open, sir!" Uhura called back.
"Craddock, get your people to your Transporter or there won't be anything left!"
On the Draco, there were flames everywhere. Craddock motioned to Ensign Chambers – she'd been the one who'd saved him from falling before. She came close. "Get everyone to the Enterprise, any way you can."
"And you, sir?"
"I'm staying here."
The Klingon D7c Battle Cruiser Furious Charge
The Furious Charge turned slightly. "There are mines all around us," cautioned the Helm Officer, "possibly some that I cannot yet see. Our damages are not light."
Captain G'nahC smiled, "That freighter is moving right at the mighty Enterprise. Again, we can fire when ready."
"Sir!" the Helm Officer was insistent. "We cannot take another hit such as that. What if we fire upon a mine?"
"Then we shall find it, am I right?" G'nahC did not wish to have the moment of his triumph interrupted and sullied by a nervous officer who was barely old enough to hold a bat'leth.
"Sir!" This time it was the First Officer. "A word with you."
G'nahC's eyes narrowed to slits. "A word?"
"Yes," said the First Officer, slightly emboldened, "about honor."
"Honor? And what would you say to me about honor?"
"What I would say to any Klingon," replied the First Officer, "that there is little honor in firing upon a damaged, trapped ship. It is as little honor as there is in battling a child with no legs."
"Your squeamishness is noted."
"It is not squeamishness. It is a fact. This is not a battle; this is the shooting of targ in a tiny cage."
"I said it is noted. Or perhaps you would prefer to discuss honor with the crew members who scrub the plasma conduits?"
The First Officer stood and said nothing, then returned to his post, stepping over a body. He then noted, in his head, that the captain's actions were not only hazardous and impetuous, they were also without honor. And that was a far worse offense.
Back aboard the Enterprise
"Like shooting fish in a barrel," Kirk said, shaking his head.
"Excuse me, sir?" asked Chekhov.
"Firing upon the Klingon ship, or them firing on either us or the remains of the Draco and any jettisoned escape pods," Kirk explained, "there's no challenge in it. It would not be a battle. It would be a massacre, assuming we could – or any of the ships could – avoid collateral damage."
"Oh," Chekhov said as the light dawned. "Like shooting a bear in a trap; it is an old Russian expression of course."