The Klingon ships were gone, but, according to the life signs on the planet, they were still down there. I informed the ambassador what was happening, dispatched a quick report to Starfleet command, ordered a security team to transporter room one, gave Vala the Conn, and stepped into the turbolift. I was at least aware that there was no call for me to be heading to the surface. I should have sent Vala and stayed to direct the repair efforts, in case there were more cloaked Klingons out there. But my blood was up and, I have to admit, I was looking to continue the fight.
When I arrived at the transporter room, Chief Peale was there. To one side of the control panel, Corporal Shu was standing at attention with two of his marines, fully armed and ready to beam down. To my surprise—and eventual chagrin—Johnnie was also there with one of her medics.
“Doctor, were you planning on joining us?”
She held up her medical kit by way of explanation. “You’ve got a planet-full of Klingons and Vulcan monks. Don’t you think someone’s going to need medical attention?”
“Don’t you think the crew could use your services up here?”
“Oh,” she said in a sweetly innocent voice that I would shortly learn never to trust, “I suppose I could head up to the bridge and, I don’t know, maybe command the ship.”
“Point taken, doctor,” I conceded.
I nodded to Corporal Shu, he handed me a phaser rifle of my own—it had a solid feeling as it slapped into my palm—and we all stepped onto the transporter pad. After that typical moment of disorientation, the lot of us were standing in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by trees and high-roofed wood buildings. I could hear birds (or what I imagined to be birds) singing and the wind rustling the grass. And the occasional whines of disruptor fire.
Johnnie saw the cluster of our monks off to our left before I did, huddled next to one of the buildings, and ran over. Shu, his men, and I followed. When we arrived, we saw one Vulcan sitting on the ground, a gash in her head, and dried green blood caked to the side of her face. Johnnie was scanning her. Even from behind, I could detect the frown on her face. Shu and the other two fanned out to provide us with some measure of safety.
One of the standing monks, his features entirely too serene for the situation, gave me the traditional salute and inquired pointedly about the safety of the artifacts. I almost suggested he should be more worried about his friend with the hole in her head, but instead reassured him they were safe and asked what had happened here.
“Klingon soldiers arrived several hours ago. They have been patrolling the monastery grounds ever since. I do not know what they are looking for. They seem to be focused on the main temple at the top of the hill. This is where the artifacts would have been taken. I believe our abbess is still there.”
I hailed Corporal Shu and told him where we were heading. He nodded curtly from across the clearing and signaled to his fellows to move out. I took Johnnie’s arm—she resisted only for a moment to use a hypospray on the injured monk, and then followed along with her medic in tow.
The fight to the top of the hill was not an experience I’d want to repeat any time soon. We encountered several Klingon patrols. Shu and his men did a fantastic job, swift and professional. I cannot say the same for myself. At one point, there was so much disruptor fire, I couldn’t tell where it was all coming from. At another, I took refuge behind a tree, only to have it explode into splinters a few inches above my head. A few of our skirmishes turned into hand-to-hand struggles. I’d never seen a Klingon warrior up close and it is not an experience for the faint hearted. At first, there was a certain satisfaction in the crunch of my rifle against their skulls, but that sound became slightly sickening as the day wore on. By the time we reached the main temple, my rifle butt was slick with Klingon blood.
When we—by which I mean mostly Shu and his men—cleared the main temple grounds, we entered to find another cluster of monks. It was easy to spot the abbess. Possibly the oldest Vulcan I’d ever seen stepped forward, cradling her arm at an odd angle, and thanked us for coming. She too wasted no time in asking about the artifacts and, again, I testified to their safety. For her part, Johnnie was at her side instantly, examining what was probably a severely broken limb.
“Ardent to Captain O’Kennedy.” Vala’s voice rattled around that cavernous room, bouncing off the rafters, and making me jump nearly as high.
“O’Kennedy here.” I realized as I said it that this could only be bad news.
There was a long pause, which meant it was worse than I’d thought. “It looks as if the Klingons might have been right, sir. We’ve had an … incident with Ambassador Sokketh, or whatever claimed to be him.”
“We were monitoring the area for any other Klingon ships and detected some strange transmissions from the ambassador’s quarters. I was worried that the Klingons’ had found some way on board and sent down a security detail. They never reported in and we found them unconscious and the ambassador gone. The next we knew, Sokketh showed up in one of the transporter rooms, assaulted two crewmembers there, and beamed down to the planet. He’s disabled the transporter, sir.”
I could hear the tension in her voice. “Where? ”
“We’re working to fix it, but we can’t beam him or you back yet.”
“Where did he beam, Vala?”
There was a pause. “He’s just a few meters from your coordinates.”
I took a moment myself to sigh. “Lovely.” I caught Shu’s eye and motioned for him to follow me outside the temple.