joyfanfic (joyfanfic) wrote,
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Demora's Tale, Part 2

As he walked around the outside of the house that evening, Chekov saw Jana, Demora and Riju wrestling on the beach. At least, that’s what it looked like. Morn sat on a boulder a few feet away, arms crossed, watching…



“That’s not the way Daddy would do it,” he heard Demi declare as he approached. She disentangled herself from the other sprawled girls and looked up. “Uncle Pav!”

Chekov smiled as she dashed up, kicking sand onto his trousers and hugging him at the waist. “Hello, Demorshka.”

“Well, your daddy taught Kioshi karate and she taught me, so how bad could I be?” Jana retorted. She looked from Demora to Chekov. “She thinks my kicking is horrible.”

“She didn’t say it was horrible,” Riju put in. “Just that…”

“I know, I know,” Jana reached out to pat the younger girl’s shoulder. Catching the spark in the Russian’s eyes, she added, “Why don’t you all go on into the house and ask Zhr about the evening meal? We’ll be up soon.”

“Okay,” Demi agreed and gave her godfather a final squeeze. As Morn climbed off his rock and she and Riju walked away she spoke to the other girl just loud enough for them to hear, “They’re gonna do that kissy face thing again.”

Riju’s hand over her mouth couldn’t stifle her giggles.

Chekov climbed down the last few feet of slope to where Jana stood on the sand. “Is that right?” he asked her when he got there. “Are we?”

“What do you think?” she responded, and pressed herself against him.

She was absolutely amazing, Chekov thought, enjoying her kiss for a few moments—no one would’ve ever known she’d suffered the brute force of a Klingon just a few hours ago. He found himself looking for bruises as she pulled away, and said roughly, “Maybe you’d better show me how you kick, since we’re here. Demi could be right, you know.”

Jana smiled and tossed her head. “You mean you want me to kick you?”

Chekov’s lopsided grin surfaced. “Well…you can try,” he chuckled.

“I don’t know about this,” she murmured, worry written all over her face. But she moved a short distance away and put herself into defensive stance anyway. “Are you sure?”

The former security chief stepped one foot back to brace himself and dropped his hands open to his sides. “C’mon.”

Jana took a breath and let it out, put one foot just behind her. Then she pulled her fists in front of her face and feinted a punch at the air in front of his nose, swiftly cross striking with her full body weight to the other hand.

Chekov blinked but didn’t flinch. “Kick me,” he taunted, smiling.

Lightning fast, Jana kicked.

The next thing she knew she was flat on her back in the sand, gasping for breath, with Chekov’s hands wrapped firmly around her ankle. Now he was laughing.

“Oh, it’s not funny!” Furious, Jana pounded the beach with her fists. “How did you do that?”

Chekov dropped her leg and pounced downward, splashing up sand at her shoulders as he lowered and stretched the length of his body over hers. They weren’t touching, not yet. But Jana could feel his breath at her ear as he replied, “Didn’t Kioshi tell you to pull your leg back after you kick? That’s why.”

“I’ll remember next time,” she said, bringing her hands up around his shoulders. “Then I can’t get into this fix again.”

“Oh, I dunno,” Chekov said, lowering himself to trap her in the sand. “This is fun.”

They kissed again, and Jana moved one hand into his hair. Chekov pulled a little away so he could draw his lips across the upper curve of her breasts.

“Pavel…” she sighed with pleasure.

Encouraged, he levered himself backward and moved down, kissing her breastbone, and then leaving a trail of warm, sandy kisses along her midriff down to her bellybutton.

“Pav,” she said, more urgently. “We have to go inside.”

A tug on his hair made him look up. What a pig I am, he thought. Of course she doesn’t want to do this on the beach, although God knows it wouldn’t matter to me right now.

With a resigned sigh and one last kiss to her belly, he eased back on his heels and helped pull her up. Arms around each others’ waists, they climbed the sandy slope together back to the house…

Entering the vestibule between the studio and the library, they were barely inside before Chekov pulled her into the cool shadows and pressed against her, kissing her passionately now. His hands came up, moving, caressing…

Squirming a little between the tile wall and his body, Jana kissed him back…but stopped after only a moment or two and turned her head away. “Pavel…we can’t.”

Senses thoroughly drugged at the scent of her, Chekov moved to nuzzling her neck. “I know,” he whispered. “We’ll go into the studio. It’s all right…”

“No, Pavel,” and now her body stiffened against him.

In the split second before she next spoke, a prickling chill crept over him, and Chekov froze.

“I have a client, Pav. I can’t tonight.”

He pulled away at once and Jana staggered against the wall.

“I’m sorry. We will have time together soon, but not tonight.”

Some part of Chekov’s mind registered the genuine regret in her voice, in her eyes. But all his gut could scream was, You kicked me! My God, why did I let my guard down with you? Scowling, trying to control what showed on his face, he said nothing.

Jana reached out, tried to clasp his hand, but he pulled it out of her grasp. She didn’t try again. “I have to meet Barbara before I…get ready. I’ll see you later, Pav.”

He saw in her eyes she would have kissed him again, but he stepped back. She waited one more moment, then turned and slipped past him into the library.

Chekov stood for several seconds taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself. But he knew from long experience it was useless. He was angry, dammit. And it wasn’t enough this time to just wait for her. This time he wanted to know why.
He took two steps and yanked open the library door. Another two steps and he was inside. Barbara, wearing a pair of dark rimmed glasses, looked up from a small computer terminal both she and Jana had been consulting over. Jana stepped around the desk and toward him.

“Pavel! What…”

“I just want to know one thing,” Chekov heard himself say, loud enough to make the walls ring. “I realize I’m no more than a glorified workman on this trip,” he said, waving an arm for emphasis. “But suppose I did want to spend time with you, Jana. What’s your going rate? I mean, I don’t know if I can afford you or not. I want to be sure.”

As he talked, he watched Jana’s face go from surprised to embarrassed to—he didn’t know what: only she was as white as Siberian tundra. She cast a brief glance at Barbara, then walked into the center of the room and faced him as though she would answer. But then she shook her head and murmured, “Excuse me.”

She walked out.

Chekov turned to watch her as she stalked past him.

“Commander,” Barbara’s quiet voice came then.

The Russian turned his head and fixed her with his glare, “What?”

But she only said simply, “I’d like to show you something.” She beckoned him closer to the computer.

Something in her demeanor drew Chekov closer despite his reluctance. Grudgingly, he let her direct his attention to the computer screen.

“This is your client ledger.”

He glanced at it. “It’s empty, so what?”

“Please examine the dates.”

Scowling, Chekov looked again, and concentrated on translating the Risan glyphs. What he saw made his stomach feel like the first time he’d been in
zero-g. “I don’t understand,” he murmured.
Beside him, Barbara touched the screen at the first date. “This visit, your first, was to have been funded from the account of John Kyle.”

“Yes. I remember.”

“See here? The credits were deducted…but then later credited back to his account. Here’s your second visit with us—the one where you and your friends defended us against the rioters. There was no charge ever placed on your account.”

Chekov looked at her. “But we discussed that! Our credits were to go toward repairs to the house.”

Barbara nodded. “The credits of your friends did go for that purpose. But no credits were deducted for you. Jana wouldn’t allow it.”

Chekov swallowed. “But why? Why would she do these things?”

The desk chair creaked as Barbara leaned back. “I don’t ask the girls to give me their reasons for not charging the occasional client. I only ask that
they’re responsible for the privilege.” She paused, and then added, “But it might interest you to know that you’re the only client Jana has ever selected to receive an exemption.”

As the enormity of this hit him, Chekov felt sick. “I am a perfect idiot,” he said, with feeling.

“Of course you’re not,” Barbara said, reaching out to pat his hand. “Nobody’s perfect.”

She earned an embarrassed laugh from him. “Thank you, Barbara.”

“No problem,” she called after him as he left the room to look for Jana.

Chekov found her in the garden, exquisite in her green dress. She turned away as he approached, and the evening breeze picked up her long, red hair, tugging and teasing it away from her head. “Pavel,” she said, “I can’t talk right now.”

He shuffled up beside her, hands in his pockets, and a sideways glance showed him she’d been crying. “I just wanted to tell you,” he began, “that I am
a spiny Vegan scora! No, even worse—I am a smelly Klingon targ!” His peripheral vision showed him she was still turned away. Chekov snapped his fingers. “No! I have it now. I am a Denebian slime devil!”

“A what?” Jana turned to him at last, half laughing and half crying.

“Did it sound disgusting?”

“Yes, just awful.”

“Good!” Chekov looked into her eyes. “Jana, I am so sorry. Barbara showed me my ledger. I didn’t know.” Tenderly, he began wiping away her tears. “Why? Why did you do this?”

She looked down, then up at him again. “Because I care for you, because you’re more than a client to me. You’re a friend.”

“I wasn’t a very good one today,” Chekov sighed. “My only excuse is that I went Stage Two with Scotty, and that always…”

“You went what?”

“Oh, sorry,” he chuckled. “Sulu and I used to say drinking with Mr. Scott came in three stages. In the first stage, you listen to his stories and think happy thoughts. At Stage Two you want to pick a fight with someone—today it was you, unfortunately. In the third stage you all stagger home, singing in your native language, no one can tell what anyone else is singing and no one cares, either.”

By the time he was finished Jana was laughing. “I’m sorry too,” she said. “The client I had scheduled tomorrow arrived a day early. Or I would never have…”

Chekov gathered her hands into his. “This client…is he…violent, like--?” He jerked his head toward the house and saw she knew to whom he was referring.

“Oh, no,” she assured him. “He’s very gentle.”

Chekov gave a resigned nod and pulled her to her feet. “C’mon. You have someone to meet.”

Jana looped her arm through his and they walked back to the house again.

Just before they went in, Chekov tilted her chin up to look into her eyes. “So, will you go somewhere with me tomorrow? I want to take Demi and Nikki, too.”

“Of course, but where?”

Chekov’s lopsided grin emerged again. “It’s a surprise.”

**********************************************

When they stepped off the train at their destination, Jana gasped with delight even as Nikki and Demora squealed and dashed away toward the main gate.

“The zoo!” Jana exclaimed. “I’ve never been here.”

Chekov’s eyes sparkled. “Neither have I,” he said, looping his arm through hers. “C’mon.”

The first place they came to once inside was the sea lion enclosure. Risan sea lions looked more like blubbery gannets to Chekov, except their hides had a translucent blue sheen and their whiskers were longer. The Russian privately considered Earth’s humpback whales to be the most remarkable water creature he’d ever encountered. But Nikki and Demora yelped with delight as they dashed from one side of the pool to the other, following the movements of the creatures’ flat-billed noses and laughing at them screwing up their nostrils before each dive. Jana, quickly intuiting the underwater view to be better, grasped Chekov’s hand and pulled him down the stairs into the dimness, pausing to kiss him breathless before the girls could catch up.

Once they were watching the leisurely movements of the beasts surrounded by other patrons, Chekov paused to study Jana’s rapt face, and knew what she would be sculpting before the week was out…

As they walked toward the pens holding antelope from several worlds, Jana said, “I love animals! Oh, look—isn’t that a camel?”

Chekov frowned. “No…the sign says it’s a Vulcan Dromedan.” He looked at her. “If you love animals so much, why haven’t you ever been here?”

She glanced at him, then away. “Oh…no one’s ever asked me.”

Of course not, you idiot, Chekov reproached himself at once. It isn’t someplace a client would take her…

Demi and Nikki lead them from place to place, and at one point they came up behind them just as Demi lamented, “This one’s only a hologram.”

“Where is it?” Chekov frowned. They appeared to be staring at a blank stone wall.

Then Jana gasped, “Oh! Oh, my. Pavel…” she pulled back on his arm, tilting her head upward. At the same moment, the creature backed up…

“Dusha moya!” Chekov exclaimed. “It’s a diplodocus!”

Screams of enjoyment came from Demi and Nikki as the holo-dinosaur plodded away from the edge of its pen and backed up far enough they could squint at the sun to look up the length of its neck. Chekov’s opinion of the holographic engineers on this planet went up a few notches…

A few moments later, Nikki exclaimed from a couple of yards further up the trail. “This one’s real. Demi, look!”

Coming around the corner, at first all Chekov could see was leaves moving in the trees. But then a subtle movement caught his eye. He pointed for Jana and whispered, “There. See it now?”

“Oh, yes…”

It was a small Risan babookar, carrying a baby under her belly. Their tiny, red faces wore comical expressions as they both waved their tails at the girls through the glass. Glancing at Jana, Chekov caught his breath. Was it just some protective instinct that made her gaze at the two primates with such fascination? Or…did she ever think about children of her own?

He was still thinking about this when they crested the top of the next hill, and came upon the sandstalker environment. Except for protruding fangs and shorter tails, they were close to Earth-type lions. Chekov found himself disappointed though when instead of a familiar roar the closest male emitted a howl as they approached.

“They don’t look too happy,” he commented as Jana looked his way. Two of the females gave them desultory glances before padding away toward their pond…

Jana hugged his arm and laughed. “Don’t take it personally,” she advised. “Let’s see what the girls are doing.”

Just around the next corner Demi and Nikki had joined a cluster of school children at an opening in a lighted display. Inside were dozens of brightly colored birds of all types and Jana’s eyes lit once again…

“Do you know that no matter where I go I think of you?” Chekov asked her. He leaned on the enclosure rail so he could look into her eyes.

Jana smiled. “That’s very flattering.”

“When I was gone this time, I met a man called Sybok—a Vulcan. He…helped me see that the one thing I’ve always regretted was not making time to…have a wife, and children. Every time I look at Demora, I wish…”

She turned to him then, listening intently.

Chekov swallowed, took her hand in his. “Jana,” he said, “do you think that you and I could ever…?” Then he stopped, letting silence ask his question.

The startled dismay that swept her face made his heart squeeze painfully.

“Oh, Pavel,” she clasped his hand in both of her own, “I don’t see how.”

“I could stay with you…” he began, knowing it was useless but unable to stop.

The compassion in her green eyes was the last thing he’d expected to see. “I’d never ask you to do that. You’d be so unhappy here. Like him.” She pointed at a morose sandstalker a few feet away, head on his paws on a high rock.

Chekov scowled and protested, “Then you could come away with me.”

“I could,” she said. “But I won’t, Pavel.”

A few feet away Demora and Nikki skipped by, on their way to the next attraction.

“But why?” he asked, gently drawing his hand away.

Resolve was written clearly on her features. “Mostly because I can’t imagine living anywhere but Risa, or doing…anything else. Here,” she turned him about so he was facing the sign near the water birds. “See what it says?”

Chekov silently translated the Risan: “These birds don’t need glass around their enclosure. They prefer to stay near the water and light.” He turned to face her again.

“I’m like them, Pavel. Do you see?”

He wished he didn’t.

“But also, I feel…” she stopped and looked down.

“What?” Chekov prompted. “You feel what?”

Jana looked directly into his eyes then. “That there’s someone else out there for you, Pav.”

He turned a little away from her, looking away across the park, clenching his jaw closed against his hurt, trying to get past this moment. Someone else. Not likely, at his age. If there was someone else he’d have met her by now…wouldn’t he?

“So,” he said finally, “what do we do now? If we don’t get…closer, where does our relationship…go?”

“Oh, Pavel,” Jana said, sliding one hand up to caress his cheek. “Why does anything have to change? Why can’t we just go on being…intimate friends?”

Could he really do that? Chekov hesitated.

“I know this visit has been hard on you,” Jana went on. “And I haven’t been very available to spend time with you until today. But it won’t always be like this. You’ll see.”

She reached up to kiss him then, and Chekov lost himself for several moments in her sweetness, her softness. There were worse things, he supposed reluctantly, than having such an attractive acquaintance with such obvious talents…

“Still friends?” she asked.

He sighed. “Of course. Always.”

They hugged one another then and by mutual consent left the railing and began walking toward the exit, beckoning the girls to follow them.

Later, as they lay in each other’s arms on the bed in Jana’s studio, Chekov stared through the skylight at the stars as Jana snuggled closer and kissed his jaw. “What will you do…when the job here is finished? Where will you go?”

His chest rose and fell in a restrained sigh. Where is there to go? he thought, but aloud said only, “I dunno…home, I suppose.”

She tilted her head to follow his gaze. “Out among the stars again?”

Chekov’s mouth twisted. “No,” he said firmly. “Really home.” How could he explain that exploring the stars in a small ship just held no appeal after having traveled all these years in starships? Nor did serving under another man any longer. How he envied Sulu!

Resolutely, he turned over, away from the sight of the distant galaxy and kissed her again, relishing the feel of her excited trembling. Jana would be his home now if she’d allow it. He had to make her see they should be together. But how?

“Ya ni panimayu,” Chekov whispered against her neck.

She turned and kissed him. “What did you say?”

“Hm? Oh…” Chekov laughed quietly. “Sometimes, when I’m not thinking, I speak the Russki. I just said, ‘I don’t understand’.”

“You don’t understand…what?”

“Nothing. It doesn’t matter.”

She sighed. “Teach me Russian. I want to talk to you like Demi does.”

Pulling a little away, he looked at her for a moment. Maybe this was the way, he realized. Learning his native language would be her first step toward thinking like he did—wouldn’t it?

“All right,” Chekov agreed. “What do you want to know?”

**********************************************************
The next morning right after breakfast, Chekov and Scott made short work of completing the man trap, the Scotsman making proud noises the while about how the right tool for the right job always made the difference. Chekov was happy he’d been able to find everything he needed in town the day before, but privately couldn’t wait to finish here so he could be with Jana again. He’d thoroughly enjoyed hearing her silky repetitions of his Russian words last night—their hushed laughter as he corrected her accent. Hearing her speak to him that way was an intimacy he’d never expected to have with Jana…and even now, the scent of her perfume lingering on his collar was far too distracting…

As soon as they were finished, they gathered all the girls again. The Russian rubbed his hands together and grinned, rocking back and forth on his heels. “We have something to show you.”

Excited murmuring swept the room as Scott stepped forward and gestured toward the open dining room doorway. “Follow us.”

They all trouped out into the foyer and Chekov directed their attention to the glowing panel at shoulder level next to the door. “Let’s see…Ki, come here.”

Kioshi stepped forward, her eyes widening.

“Now put your palm on the plate,” Chekov directed. She did so. Immediately there was a slight vibration, a mere prickling of the skin. “Now step through.”

Kioshi glanced at him, and at his reassuring nod, did as directed…then stood on the other side flushed and smiling.

Approving whispers issued from the assembled women. Until Chuma’s honeyed buzz came from the corner, “But now the door’s open. Anyone can go through…”

“Oh, can they?” Scott responded. “Why don’t you try it then?”

The Andorian girl came forward, her antenna in a position of challenge.

But Chekov made a wordless noise of protest and put his arm out to stop her. “I’ll do it.” He turned and stepped toward the door…

A second later the quiescent field went from sheer to opaque and buzzed. Chekov was forced back into the gaggle of girls, and shook his head to clear it of the light stun.

Jana went to him. “Are you all right?”

But he only laughed and hugged her. “Of course! There isn’t much force to these doors. They’re only intended to make someone think again before going into an area they don’t belong.”

“So anyone who has a blood or hair sample programmed into the main computer can simply palm the plate,” Barbara said, demonstrating as she spoke, “and then step through.” Beside Kioshi now she smiled approvingly. “But once on the other side the door resets.”

“Too right,” Scott agreed, casting a baleful glance at Chuma.

But the Andorian wasn’t through. Her blue cheeks flushed deep purple with defiance. “If that’s true, then what about Tanu? And what about Nikki? She can’t reach the panel.”

Looking at her, Chekov rubbed the side of his mouth. Then he turned to Demi, who was holding the cat and took it from her. Tanu immediately started purring, and the Russian rubbed him between the ears for a moment. “I thought you might ask that,” he said. Then he put the cat down in front of the door.

Riju and Nikki gasped in tandem as Tanu moved toward the now invisible field…and then simply strolled through, first rubbing against Kioshi’s leg then settling next to Barbara, his tail curled about him…

“How did you do that?” Zhr click-whistled, large whiteless eyes blinking in confusion.

“The how doesn’t matter,” Scott responded, giving her arm a fond squeeze. “The point is, the wee beastie won’t get his tail singed any more. Not from any safety door in the house. And the younger lassies will be able to get through just fine, too.”

Chuma leaned against the wall, her antennae taking on a sullen droop.

Chekov wagged his finger at them all now. “Just remember your clients have to step through exactly when you do…and service people coming into the house won’t be able to get into these areas if the system is active. When we leave, we will give Barbara the central codes that activate and deactivate the doors.”

“Better get Dr. Phlox’s samples,” Darsha, one of the Deltans, giggled. “Denobulans can be hard to wake up!”

“He’s the house physician,” Jana explained in an aside at Chekov’s questioning glance. “He comes to give us a clean bill of health once every cycle.”

“If you need him to come that often, his sample will have to be programmed in like yours were,” Scott reminded them.

“So the central codes will help us do that?” Chuma asked, while inspecting her nails. It was obvious she was now bored with the entire procedure.

“Exactly,” Chekov replied. “As well as adjust the strength of the doors—if you ever need to.”

Barbara regarded the two men with an appreciative smile. “This is perfect.”

“Och, ye haven’t seen anything yet!” Scott protested. “C’mon…”

With a festival air, the girls turned and trailed after them to the gleaming man trap at the entrance to the house. Chekov turned to wink at Nikki and Demi, who had helped him place plants all around inside the enclosed sun porch just before they’d called the others. They giggled and pranced next to him all the way to the front door.

This time Kioshi went right up to the palm lock, enjoying her role as model. She glanced at Chekov, but he patted her on the shoulder and said, “Not this time, Ki. Sorry.” She made a little face and stepped back with the other girls.

Chekov and Scott exchanged a glance. At the engineer’s nod, Chekov palmed the lock himself, stepped onto the porch, then palmed the outer lock and stepped out onto the front path beyond. He held his thumb and forefinger up to Scott in an OK.

“I’m now,” Scott explained to the girls behind him while opening a hidden panel behind one of the potted palms and tapping at a keyboard underneath, “accessing the main computer to temporarily rescind Commander Chekov’s access to the house. As you know, the man trap fields have a substantially higher charge than the safety doors. For that reason, I’m now lowering the settings. The trap is now running at thirty percent capacity…” So saying, he turned a thumb up to the Russian.

As Jana’s eyes widened apprehensively, Chekov ignored the palm lock and stepped through the first field onto the porch.

“But…nothing’s happening! It didn’t work!” Chuma was the first to speak up.

Scott shot her an annoyed sideways glance. “No, the trap’s functioning perfectly. Now—watch.”

Chekov walked forward, straight at the inner field. Immediately, it flashed into vibrant life and with an angry hum shoved him abruptly backward several feet, where he caught himself with one hand against one of the wicker chairs on the porch.

“Pav!” Jana disengaged herself from the other alarmed girls and stopped just short of the inner field, eyes large with concern. In response, Chekov just grinned and shook his head. Feeling foolish, she returned to where she’d been.

Meanwhile, Scott narrowed his eyes, watching Chuma. Her clever pink gaze was bright with interest but at least she’d become mercifully silent.

“Now, watch again,” the engineer said and offered Chekov another thumbs up.

Taking a deep breath and squaring his shoulders, the Russian turned and tried to leave the porch through the outer field. At once, the second frame crackled and slapped him back, nearly tossing him into the inner field with its force. This time, Chekov lost his footing entirely and landed flat on his back. A moment later, Jana’s face appeared above him on the other side of the inner door. “Are you all right?”

But he just laughed and whispered so the others wouldn’t hear, “You look lovely upside down.”

“Hence the name ‘man trap’,” Scott lectured. “The only way a visitor in this position gets out,” he said, tapping away again at the hidden keypad, “is if someone inside lets him out.”

So saying, he signaled Chekov, who sprang up and stepped through beside Jana.

Barbara came forward once again. “This is most impressive, gentlemen!”

Scott preened.

“I particularly like the positioning of the plants.”

Demora giggled and Scott frowned.

“It’s too bad we can’t test it at full capacity,” Chuma inserted, sending a sly glance toward where Chekov and Jana stood, hand in hand.

“I’ve got a solution for that too,” Scott retorted. “You know,” he said, “where I come from, tomorrow is the New Year. That means tonight we should have a party!”

“A party!” Darsha clapped her hands. Her excited cry was echoed by the other girls in a rising crescendo until Barbara finally held up both hands for silence.

“Please?” Nikki and Riju pleaded.

She looked around at all of them solemnly. “Well…we have clients tonight…”

“Oh, clients love parties,” Kioshi pointed out.

“True. But tomorrow is Kamaluron.”

“What’s…Kamal…?” Chekov asked.

“Kamaluron,” Jana smiled and explained. “It’s a traditional family holiday, so our Risan guests will leave at dawn…and no more clients will come until the following evening—it’s custom during this time.”

An uneasy feeling crept over Chekov, but he put it down to his awkwardness at parties and hugged Jana to him.

“Ye’ll have lots of guests to test the system,” Scott weedled.

Barbara relented at last, “Then a party it shall be!”

**************************************************

Chekov hated parties…

However, he had to admit, the Risans certainly knew how to throw one. The rest of the day the girls that weren’t working decorated the dining hall and he, Morn and Scott were pressed into service moving furniture out of the room to make a dance floor. Once that was complete, Chekov had made it his business to inspect deliveries as they came through the man trap…and the clients that went out.

Barbara had been right: with the impending holiday all the Risans hurried away by sunset, leaving only the offworlders—the Orions, the Boot…and whoever Jana’s afternoon client had been. Chekov had been pacing the foyer for some time, torn by wanting to set eyes on the man, half hoping he’d be called away by one of the other girls and miss him.

Well, at least the trap was working the way it was supposed to…

An hour later, after he’d gone upstairs to kiss Demi goodnight and the girls began coming into the hall with their party dresses on, Chekov watched for Jana but didn’t see her. He scowled. Perhaps she wasn’t in her room at all, and he’d been spared having to meet her client. The house had more than one back door, after all… Maybe she was in her sitting room waiting for him…

As Chekov stepped into the vestibule he could hear lowered voices coming from the studio and, following the trail of lamplight, turned into Jana’s domain, his footsteps quiet, his eyes narrowed. It was unlike her to entertain a client in her sitting room. Not impossible, mind you…but somewhat suspect. Chekov kept this in mind as he purposely muffled his footfalls and peered around the doorway.

What he saw startled him…but at least his sense of pending alarm faded. Jana had a visitor all right…but it was only a fragile old man, wearing a somewhat tattered, antique Starfleet uniform…

“Thank you,” the white-haired stranger said as he accepted a cup of something steaming hot from her outstretched hand.

“Of course,” Jana responded, and seated herself across from him, the frilly pink hem of her dress just brushing her silver sandals, long red hair curled daintily across one shoulder.

The man sipped from his cup. “Not for the tea,” he said. “For seeing me at all.”

“Oh, Jon. I love to see you, you know that.”

In the doorway, Chekov’s throat tightened, but he stood rooted in place by too many years of security training…listening…

The stranger reached across and patted her hand where it lay on her knee. “You’ve always been so good to me, Jana. Even now, when I can barely move, I’m so arthritic.”

“Don’t,” she stopped him, and Chekov bit his lip at the pain in her voice. “It doesn’t matter.”

A turn of his head, and the man’s profile was to him. At once, the silhouette was strangely familiar to the Russian, but he couldn’t place it. He scowled into the shadows.

Paper rustled, and a sheaf of something was handed from one to the other. “Would you?” Jon murmured. “I can hardly remember the Vulcan these days.”

“Of course,” Jana replied, and settled herself at his feet to read.

It was a bound paper journal, Chekov realized almost at once. But he didn’t know much Vulcan, only the common salutations. He wished Uhura were here! As it was, all he could do was stand and listen to Jana’s quiet lilt as she read the words, and Jon’s occasional chuckle.

But what struck him most was the compassionate air she displayed as she interacted with the old man…the kind gestures of a pat on the hand here, a shared smile there. This was a side of Jana he’d never seen and might be unlikely to see again.

This was how it would’ve been to grow old with her…

Slowly, Chekov turned away, confused and feeling a great need to be alone and think But when he got outside to the garden he found Scott already there, leaning against a tree and grinning.

“What are you doing here?” the Russian snapped, and was immediately sorry as the engineer’s face fell. Frustrated, Chekov knew he should apologize but didn’t know how.

“Well, you’re in a wee bit of a snit,” Scott complained. “Not in the mood for Hogmanay?”

“No,” Chekov agreed, “I suppose not.”

After a moment, Scott asked more gently, “Laddie…what is it?”

Chekov turned his head to look into the Scotsman’s knowing eyes and blurted, “I saw Jana with a client again tonight.”

“Aye,” the engineer said, the slightest bit of annoyance creeping into his voice. “But I thought you’d gotten over all that.”

Chekov folded his arms. “I did—at least…part of it. Only, this man was…older.” He glanced over and caught Scotty’s affronted look. “No, really older. He had white hair…and he’s Starfleet…or he was…”

“Aye,” Scott’s eyes brightened. “I saw him come in. Recognized him straight away—did ye not, now?”

Chekov turned to face his friend. “No, I didn’t,” he said, but then remembered the man had looked vaguely familiar…

“Lad,” Scott said, leaning forward to whisper, “that’s Jonathan Archer!” Then, at Chekov’s persistently blank look, “Captain of Enterprise NX-01!”

The Russian stared at him a moment, then made an incredulous noise. “You’ve gone out the airlock,” he declared. “Archer’s been dead a hundred years!”

“So they say,” Scott whispered back, undaunted. “But I say the man that put an end to the Temporal War could exist anywhere in time, any place he wanted.”

Chekov’s gaze became distant as he started putting things together. “He had a Vulcan first officer, didn’t he?”

“Aye--married her too, at the end of his tour on Enterprise. Y’see, lad, sometimes when a man doesn’t have a mission—he makes a new one.”

The Russian’s sharp gaze pinned the Scotsman’s. “What are you saying?”

Scott harrumphed. “I’m only sayin’ you oughta be darned sure you’re not makin’ this Jana gal your mission, Chekov. Missions end…if ye get what I’m tellin’ ya, Lad.”

Both men were silent for a time, thinking. Then Chekov ventured, “Still want to leave in the morning?”

“Aye,” Scott nodded. “I’m done here, aren’t I? And I want to see my family. I’ll have me a bonnie good time tonight, mebbe even get to see First Footing—if anyone even knows what that is here. Sure you won’t come along? Dannon and the others’d love ta meet ye.”

Chekov sat down on a rock and looked at him. “No thanks, Scotty. I haven’t heard anything from Janice yet—she volunteered to watch the ‘fleet news nets and give me the word when it looks like the treaty negotiations are winding down. I think Demi and I are safest here. Besides…I want to stay.”

Scott’s gaze was pitying. “Aye, lad. I understand.”

Half an hour later, Jana reappeared in the decorated dining hall, alone. Chekov felt his shoulders immediately relax. Still, he couldn’t help but wonder how she’d come to know the infamous Captain Archer…

The party was already in full swing, all the girls taking turns dancing with the Orions and Scott. This seemed to be an amicable arrangement, there being more females than males and with all the other clients gone. Chekov was reluctant to dance and it appeared The Boot was too. He contented himself with glowering across the room at Chekov from where he stood.

Scott swung Zhr around the dance floor like he was a man thirty years younger. Surprised into an admiring laugh, Chekov stood near Jana and clapped his hands to the music… Zhr, used to Coridani tribal music, easily adapted to Scott’s jig stomping style and flashed them a merry smile as they went past.

Then the Risan girls began a complicated holiday dance in the center of the floor. Scott joined Chekov next to the window with the offworld girls while the Orions lined up with The Boot around the other three sides of the room. The music sounded like many birds singing while wind rushed through the trees, and Scott remarked it was much like what the women danced to on Argelius.

Chekov didn’t know about that…all he knew was he couldn’t take his eyes off Jana as she moved, now closer now farther away. Her hands performed intricate maneuvers in time to the music, weaving around her head, then twisting around to lead her hips into intoxicating moves and sensual hints, even from this far away. God, she was beautiful! How could he leave her?

When it was over, the Orions started doing more suggestive dances with their girls. Scott was content to watch while the Boot’s lip came up into a disgusted snarl as he downed another blood wine. Dasan and Chuma nearly stripped naked right then and there as they danced. Chekov supposed such things were fine for shoreleave bars, but was secretly glad his godchild was safely abed.

He took Jana’s hand. “Let’s walk on the beach.”

She smiled and nodded.

Outside, the clear night air and velvety sky reminded Chekov to look at his wrist chronometer. “Nearly midnight,” he murmured.

“What?”

“Oh,” Chekov hugged her to him as they walked. “I was just wishing I had a bottle of real Scotch.”

“I didn’t think you drank it.”

Chekov laughed. “I don’t! Terrible stuff. I mean for Hogmanay.”

“Hog—what?”

He stopped and turned to face her, smiling. Why was it every single thing she said was charming? “It’s a Scottish holiday tradition. Someone brings a bottle of Scotch to the door at the stroke of midnight—for good luck.”

“Oh,” Jana smiled. “Actually, I do think we have some—Ki would know.” She bent and picked up a shell the tide was toying with. “Kak skazat eta pa Russki?”

Chekov sighed. “I bring you out here to this romantic setting and all you want to do is talk to me?” He crossed his arms. “I don’t think I’ll tell you what that word is in Russian.”

For a moment she actually looked dismayed that she might have thought of herself for once.

Relenting, Chekov hugged her. “I’m only teasing.”

Jana laughed. “Pazhalsta,” she pleaded.

“All right, I’ll tell you,” he said, “on one condition: think you can help me find that bottle of Scotch?”

“Wait here,” she whispered, and started back toward the house.

“Hurry,” Chekov called. “It’s almost time.”

Jana was quick. He barely had enough time to miss her before she was back, and they raced each other around to the other side of the house and through the garden. Panting, Chekov leaned against one of the large rocks. “Made it! Look, there’s Scotty…”

Scott and Zhr had come to stand in the foyer and were headed toward the man trap.

“Oh, let me!” Jana exclaimed and took the bottle from Chekov. She dashed nimbly toward the porch. Chekov followed more slowly, smiling at the pleased Scott’s burr as he saw her approach.

But as Jana got closer and palmed the lock on the outer door, Scott let out a curse. “Good God, Lass, no!”

Adrenalin lanced through Chekov and he sprinted the rest of the way, but not in time to keep Jana from moving into the sun porch, bottle in hand…

“Don’t take another step!” Scott ordered as he came into the porch himself, followed by Zhr.

Jana froze, a startled deer with a Scotch bottle held in her arms.

Seeing there was no real danger, Chekov came into the porch behind Jana and barked, “What the hell are you doing, yelling at her? She wanted to be the First Footer!”

Scott didn’t look angry, but dismayed. “Ye don’t understand, Lad. Not to be offendin’ anybody, mind ye—but if a woman does the First Footing it’s bad luck. In fact, a red-headed woman is the worst luck of all!”

*************************************************************

It had taken some time (and Scotch) to convince his friend the night before that a disaster wasn’t guaranteed just because Jana had been the first to step over the threshold on New Year’s Day. As it was, Chekov’s head hurt so badly the next morning from the alcohol he’d consumed that he wondered why, by now, man hadn’t come up with some way to negate its debilitating effects. He barely ate breakfast, and when he walked Scotty through the man trap back into the garden to say goodbye the malevolent sunlight lanced his eyes painfully.

The engineer looked at him. “Ye just need to sleep it off, lad. Then ye’ll be right as rain.”

Chekov winced. “It’s that obvious?”

The Scotsman shrugged. “Only to one who knows the hair of that particular dog.”

The two men laughed and hugged one another.

“Thank you for coming to help me,” Chekov said.

Scott waved goodbye to Zhr, standing just inside the sun porch. “My pleasure. Great party, too.” He sobered. “Ye’ll let me know when Sulu…”

“Absolutely,” Chekov promised.

Scott hefted his duffel onto one shoulder, held out his hand.

The Russian gave it a firm shake. “Be safe,” he said.

Chekov stood watching him walk down the street until he was too far away to discern, then sighed and went around the house toward the empty beach… He walked for awhile, listening to the sound of the surf and thinking, and was pleased that after a short time his head seemed less painful. He came back into the house through the studio vestibule.

That was when he saw Tanu.

Sunlight filtering through waving branches outside and the stained glass of the door cast mottled patterns on the animal’s fur that looked like
movement. At first, Chekov thought Tanu was still breathing… Then he took a step closer and saw the burn marks.

The cat was dead.

Adrenalin cleared his head in a dizzying rush. Something was wrong with the safe doors! Chekov took a breath and put his left hand out toward the door into the library… The pulsing shock he got in return was so intense he shook his hand against the searing burn for several moments before the pain subsided. Thinking quickly, he ran through the door behind him into the studio calling for Jana as he went. But she didn’t answer.

Chekov stopped and turned full circle in the middle of the room. Up to now, he’d been operating under the assumption the door in the hallway was malfunctioning—but the house was too quiet…and the garden and beach too barren.

Suppose…

Oh, my God, Chekov thought, Demi!

By the time he’d dashed through the arboretum and wound his way back through the house to his room he’d confirmed his worst fears: the house was eerily quiet and everywhere he went the safe doors were set on high heat burn. Snatching his phaser from his duffel, Chekov crept out into the hallway and moved into the corridor leading to the kitchen hallway. The next sound he heard was a woman crying. The Russian pressed himself against the wall and peered around the corner up ahead.

Jana crouched next to a smaller figure whose blonde curls were splayed on the floor next to her. Beside her stood Morn, moaning and swaying back and forth. Chekov came out of hiding and ran up to them. “What’s the hell’s going on? What happened?”

“Nikki…she tried to go through the door, but she…” Jana was nearly beside herself.

Chekov examined the girl’s burns—one on her hand, another small one on her cheek. She was still breathing. “She’s going to be all right. But we’ve got to get her medical attention.” He looked at Morn and demanded, “Where’s Demora?”

The big gray alien groaned and waved his hands around, then launched into one of his long winded stories.

“Wait,” Chekov interrupted. “What do you mean, you couldn’t find her?”

Morn went on with his story, pausing to add more groaning for effect, while the Russian threw an exasperated look at Jana and Nikki. “What about…the Klingon?” It alarmed him that he couldn’t remember the Klingon’s name…had he ever known it? But he could clearly recall the way The Boot had gazed at him from across the room the night before—his eyes filled with smoldering calculation. “Where is he? And where are the other girls?”

The chill that moved across him at both Morn and Jana’s puzzled shrugs made his burned hand throb in counterpoint… Chekov hefted Nikki into his arms and turned to face Morn. “Find him,” he ordered, “and don’t let him out of your sight—understand?”

Morn’s tiny eyes flashed as he nodded down at them. Then he turned and moved back the way Chekov had come.

“Where are we going?” Jana asked in short, breathless bursts as she trotted by his side.

Chekov’s thoughts raced: his room in the service wing had no safe door…and he had only one phaser. But presumably, whatever The Boot planned to get to Demora was to take place in the heart of the house—at least he had to hope so. He didn’t answer Jana until he was stretching Nikki out gently on his bedspread.

“Stay with her,” he said. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“I will,” she responded. “And Pavel…da skorava.”

He couldn’t speak for his fear, but hugged her tightly.

Chekov then crept back toward the foyer until he got to the safe door where he’d found Jana and the others. Taking a step back, he drew his phaser and prepared to fire at it…then paused. The door to the library had emanated a soft, almost subsonic hum at the high heat setting. But as sunlight streamed through the windows and birds twittered out in the garden, no other sound came to him now on the still, morning air. Bracing himself, he extended a finger of his burned hand… But it passed through.

The door was dead.

So...a trap, then, his Security training alerted him. And I’m being watched, even now…

Then, as he stood considering his options, a high, sweet scream cut the air and lanced straight to his heart: Demora! Beyond thought and long past panic, Chekov bolted into the empty foyer and slam-palmed his way through both man trap doors and into the garden.

At first, Chekov could see nothing definite through the artful stand of trees and nested vines that surrounded the house on its inland side. He would’ve called to Demi except he couldn’t risk giving his position away as he slipped in among the waving branches to look for her…he had no idea what he was walking into…

Then she screamed again and a fresh knife of terror sliced through Chekov’s soul. Dusha moya! But the sound had come from somewhere up ahead…and the Russian forced himself to steal forward without haste.

A moment later he almost fell into the clearing among them: two of the Orions, holding Demora by the arms while a third used a fallen branch to poke and prod her like a helpless animal. Other than a few scrapes about the face she appeared unhurt—for the moment. And pride blossomed in Chekov’s heart as he saw from her face she was crying with anger…not fear.

It was only then it occurred to him: where was The Boot?

Watching only long enough to be satisfied the Orions weren’t armed, Chekov burst into the clearing, phaser drawn. Demi’s tearful face beamed. “Uncle Pav!”

“Leave her alone!” Chekov demanded.

One of the Orions that held Demora nodded to the other two and snatched her into his arms, making for the house at a dead run. The one closest to Chekov leapt forward and the Russian fired. But, with the elegant economy of movement born of a race of pirates, he dodged and rolled, coming up to his feet and dashing off after the first. Cursing, Chekov spun to face the third man, but he had sprinted around the clearing and away on the other side of the stand of trees…

Chekov followed, running as hard as he could. He saw the Orion carrying Demora disappear through the man trap, then the second slip in behind him. Rounding the side of the house in pursuit he palmed the outer lock, dashed through the sun porch to the other side and, still running, slapped the inner panel with his right hand—only to slam the entire length and momentum of his body into the fully charged inner force field…

The door hung onto him for several excruciating seconds, as it recalibrated its charge, while white agony sheeted up his torso and the right side of his neck and face. Then it flung him back across the porch. By a trick of fate, Chekov narrowly missed rebounding off the outer trap door, instead careening off a wicker chair next to it and landing, scorched and half-senseless, on the floor beside a potted palm. By the time he drew breath to scream, it was over.

Dimly, he heard Demora cry, “Uncle Pav!” before someone silenced the child with a slap.

Bastards, Chekov thought, I’ll get you for that. He tried to use his right hand to push himself over onto his knees…but it didn’t seem to work any longer. Awkwardly he managed to lever himself up using his left hand…only to have his gaze meet the eyes of one of the Orions, peering in the outer force field door at him and grinning.

What the--?

Then, following the glance of the Orion across the porch, Chekov saw Dasan using hand signals to communicate through the buzzing field without touching it. Just beyond stood the Andorian girl, Chuma, staring in at him. As he watched, she smiled slyly and tapped a finger to the edge of her lip.

In one shocking bolt it came to him then: just how they had done it…she’d bitten him to get a blood sample, and then they’d used it to reprogram the entire security system. Except—who was they, exactly?

Chekov levered his body onto his haunches, then shakily pulled himself up using the wicker chair. Once standing, he took a moment to shake off the burning pain and weak dizziness that threatened to overcome him, and paced two steps forward toward the inner force field of the man trap. The Orion on the other side backed away a proportionate distance.

They’re still worried, Chekov thought. They don’t know this will hold me…

Instinct made him palm downward for the phaser on his hip. But when he brought it up and fired, the expected discharge never came.

The Orion and Chuma both grinned this time, leering at the Russian as he tossed the useless weapon backward into the main porch area.

Damn, Chekov thought, it works.

Roaring from further in the house claimed his attention once again. There was movement at the dining room doorway, and two more Orions dashed toward it. Above their heads Chekov saw it was Morn…and the Klingon he’d ordered him to shadow. They were…fighting…

“Uncle Pav…” Demora’s whimper had him at the force field in a second.

She had wandered close enough that he could see the imprint of a hand on her cheek where they had hit her. Chekov awkwardly hunkered down on the other side of the field, holding his right arm cradled against him. He couldn’t feel anything on that side, from his shoulder down. He turned his scorched face so it was away from her gaze.

“Are you okay?” she asked, sniffling.

He glanced up long enough to see that their attackers were completely occupied with Morn and the Klingon fighting, then back to her tear streaked face. “Demorshka,” he began, and realized he was too shaken himself to construct Standard properly for what he wanted to say. “Kak dila?” he offered, hoping she remembered her language lessons.

“Spasiba, fyso narmaina, a kak vi?” she responded automatically.

Chekov forced a smile for her. Then, glancing over her shoulder he saw Kioshi, Riju and a couple of the other girls restrained behind the reactivated safe door into the service quarters. And there was Jana too, staring out at him…

*******************************************************************************

While Chekov had seen to Nikki and Jana, Morn tracked the Klingon into the library, where he found The Boot bent over the computer console for house security. The big Klingon was poking and prodding the unit, growling with frustration the while…

With a roar, Morn launched himself at The Boot, and a monumental struggle ensued. He had the greater weight, but the Klingon was a more skilled fighter. Nevertheless they were evenly matched for the first few moments. When Demora’s scream echoed from the foyer, followed by the crackling energy discharge of the Man Trap, they both paused, breathing heavily, among the wreckage they’d created.
Then, by unspoken mutual consent, they both dashed through the studio and into the dining hall to see what had happened, only fetching up at the safe door there when they saw it had been activated. Three Orions met them in the doorway, jeering. Just beyond they could see Chekov’s scorched form as he went to one knee inside the man trap to speak to Demora on the other side.

Despite himself, Morn groaned.

“PetaQ!” the Klingon spat through the doorway. “What have you done, Dasan?”

The Orion leader moved close enough to sneer into the face of the big Klingon. “I told you my plan, Koros.”

“And I vowed I would kill you if you took such a dishonorable course,” the Klingon growled back.

Dasan snapped his fingers, and Chuma came over to wind herself around him. “Why so you did, my friend. That’s exactly why you’re behind that field. Too bad, really. You would’ve made quite a profit on the deal…”

The Klingon threw back his head with a roar of outrage and thrust one arm straight into the safe door’s perimeter… A spitting crackle immediately ensued and Koros howled with agony before Morn could pull him free, then stood shaking his arm on the other side of the field and gnashing his teeth as smoke rose from the heavy gauntlet on his arm.

“Excellent,” Dasan commented. “Starfleet’s engineers put out such quality work, don’t they?”

Chuma laughed and smirked at Koros and Morn.

“Mark my words, BiHnuch,” Koros said, holding Dasan’s gaze steadily through the doorway, “I will hold your throat in my fist before this day’s end.”

Morn was gratified to see Dasan swallow before replying, “Spoken like a true Klingon—slow and stupid. When will you learn that the races that think far surpass you?” He turned away, steering Chuma with him across the room. Koros followed them with his eyes until all the Orions had drifted away, and then turned back to Morn.

The big gray alien regarded him with distrustful eyes as Koros walked across the room and sat down, throwing a sullen look through the safe door forcefield. Morn followed his gaze to where Dasan and Chuma had drifted across the foyer and were speaking now to Chekov through the man trap field.

“So…it seems we have the same opponents, you and I,” Koros commented. “That door is the first,” he went on, regarding his ruined gauntlet with a growl, “and Dasan the second.”

After a wary moment, Morn nodded. He folded his arms and sat down too.

“Speak,” Koros barked. “Tell me how you came to be allied with a Starfleet officer.”

Morn considered this demand and then, seeing they had nothing else to do, told him the whole story…

***********************************************************************************************

Before Chekov could ask Demi anything more, Dasan swaggered over and pushed the child aside. Chuma immediately pulled her away, saying, “Be quiet or I’ll hit you again…”

The Russian got to his feet, narrowing his eyes at the Andorian woman. Then he glared at Dasan. “You Cossack! What do you want?”

“I think you know what I want, Commander. And if I know Hikaru Sulu, I’ll get it.”

“What are you talking about?”

Dasan drew a long knife from his tunic and brandished it in front of the forcefield. “His daughter is a lovely girl as human children go. Of course she might not look quite the same when Captain Sulu gets her back. That depends on how quickly he meets my demands.”

Despite the painful heat throbbing along his right side, Chekov felt a sudden chill.
“What do you mean?” he whispered.

“We mark them, you know—the slaves. Here, I’ll show you…” Dasan snapped his fingers and Chuma shoved Demora into the arms of one of the other Orions long enough to come at his bidding. At the slavemaster’s nod, she pulled her tunic off the shoulder far enough for Chekov to see the angry, jagged scar she bore along her collarbone. Dasan chuckled at his indrawn breath and wide eyes. At another snap of his fingers Chuma returned to her place. “We always mark the most alluring area on the females—for Andorians, that’s the shoulder. But in humans I believe it’s…the face, isn’t it?”

Despite himself, Chekov’s gaze was drawn to Demora’s innocent, tear-streaked skin and brimming eyes. “What do you want, damn you? What are your demands?”

Dasan sheathed his knife. “The lives of a dozen diplomats—enough to start a war with the Federation. Enough to result in the annihilation of the Empire.”

Chekov sneered despite his pain. “Why does Orion suddenly care about the Klingon-Federation Treaty?”

“Suddenly?” Dasan spat, naked hate standing so bright in his eyes that Chekov took a step back. “We’ve waited decades for this, Commander—waited for the Klingons to finally destroy themselves once and for all, and leave their precious territory for us to salvage. And at last they have, as we knew they would…only the mighty Federation stepped in to save them. But…if Sulu loves his daughter, the diplomats will die…and thereby seal the Klingons’ fate.”

Dasan leaned closer to the field, so close it hissed warningly. “Ironic, isn’t it? That the fate of an entire empire now rests with one little girl?”

Miserable with guilt and pain, Chekov didn’t answer.

Dasan laughed and walked away…

After a time, Chekov sank to the floor of the sun porch, leaning against the wicker chair and cradling his useless right arm in his lap. It was hard to think across the pain, harder to concentrate…harder still to push away his crushing guilt over what had happened.

All this time, the Russian thought, all this time, I should’ve been more alert. But Jana… I thought she was the mission! But it was Demi…just one little girl and I screwed up. Oh, my God—what am I going to tell Sulu?

He lifted his head and looked across at Jana, saw the same guilt in her eyes too.

Think, Chekov, think, he implored himself. There must be a way out of this—but how?

While he absently watched Dasan stroll over to the service corridor and begin speaking to the girls there, the Russian reviewed everything he knew about the science of how to break through a forcefield… If it were only low reciprocal force he had to deal with, he might’ve tried slowly pushing through. But with the field set to high heat burn, he’d never be able to stand the pain long enough to try that tactic. Not to mention what the cellular disruption would do to his arm. No, better to short the trap out—but with what? Trying to look as though he was only angling for a more comfortable sitting position, Chekov ducked his head and scanned his immediate area…but nothing useful lay anywhere about.

Damn Scotty anyway for being so neat with his tools! And there wasn’t so much as a gardening implement left beside the potted palms…

Still, disabling the forcefield itself was useless so long as four of the six Orions were watching him. There were two on either side of the dining room doorway, one at the kitchen entrance and one to the left of the service corridor.

Chekov frowned—where was Dasan’s missing man? And how the hell was he going to get them all distracted from what he was doing in here?


****************************************************************************************

From the other side of the amplified safe door into the service quarters, Jana watched in despair as Demi knelt at the foot of the entrance to the man trap and spoke soft Russian through the field to her godfather… Glancing to her left she saw three of the Orions, one of them Dasan, approach the secured door into the dining hall, and the big Klingon pacing just on the other side. There was so much shouting she couldn’t make out what was being said exactly, but there was an argument in process, that much was plain…

Kioshi sidled up next to her and whispered, “I thought the Klingon was with them.”

“I thought so too,” Jana said.

The two women were silent for a moment, watching the confused goings on among their captors, and underneath it all Chekov’s voice as he tried to cheer Demora by whispering a bit from a Russian folk song he’d taught her. It was useless though as she burst into tears a moment later.

“I wish I could get through this door,” Kioshi fumed. “I’d kick that Chuma so hard!”

Jana almost smiled at that, but then something occurred to her. “Ki…I think I know a way we can get through.”

“Tell me,” the other girl said.

Glancing at Chekov, now talking to Dasan, Jana thought a silent prayer toward him. Then, turning back to Kioshi, she began to whisper…
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