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Part of the unit-wide mission Task Force 86: Refuge and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

Those in Glass Houses

Starbase 86, Klingon Bar
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The sound of the bloodwine tankard slamming down on the countertop caused a few heads to turn. Quizzical grumbles and grunts rippled across a sea of black hairy locks. Squinting eyes, scarred faces and mouths twisted into scowls all craned on meaty heads to aim a glare at whoever had disturbed the afternoon humdrum.

“I can’t stand it,” Ma’Qogh’s gravelly baritone broadcast to anyone in range. The crimson droplets of wine had splashed over the quarter-full tankard’s edge. He made an attempt to wipe them away with his sleeve before continuing, “They’re running out of space. They’ve got those doch’mey sleeping in the cargo bays, and there’s more on the way. Look at them!” he flung a hand towards the tavern’s entrance, “Homeless, their planets in flames, cities underwater or buried or irradiated. I wouldn’t wish such a fate on the filthiest Ha’DIbaH!”

A few murmurs rose amongst the bar’s inhabitants, mostly limited to comments on Ma’Qogh’s wine consumption, “Shut your mouth, you old fool!” a faceless voice hollered from a dingy corner. Roars of agreement followed, accompanied by a peal of hearty laughter.

“From one warrior who’s seen better days to another,” the Klingon behind the bar swiped away Ma’Qogh’s tankard with a giant hand. Its skin furrowed and cracked as he gave it a cursory wipe with a filthy rag, “you’d be wise to keep it down. Those are troops from the House of Bru’ch. Young and thirsty for glory. Certainly not in the mood for whimsical tales of time gone by.”

Ma’Qogh harrumphed, fixing the bartender with a stare, “Indolents. They know nothing of glory. Another.”

There was a pause. Beneath the grooves and weathered ridges of the bartender’s face, two gleaming blue eyes shone softly towards Ma’Qogh. They were reasoning eyes, analytical and unblinking. Yet the determined stare did not relent.

“Another,” Ma’Qogh said again.

The bloodwine flowed from the greened glass in a burgundy torrent. The pewter tankard slid back across the bar, slowly this time. Ma’Qogh took a long swig.

“Qapla’, Ma’Qogh,” said the bartender, before turning to another customer.

Barely suppressing a belch, Ma’Qogh wiped his coarse grey cuff across his mouth before turning on his stool to face the room. He stood up, tankard still in hand, and with eyes widened into circles he bore his teeth with a hiss. He stood, drawing himself up to his full, not un-imposing height. More eyes fixed themselves upon him, looking away from rumbled conversance and half full flagons of grog.

Ma’Qogh scanned the room slowly. The room full of surly Klingons looked him up and down in turn. Two fists hammered down for a few seconds on the closest of the long wooden tables. Their owner rose from the crowd, booming across the floor, “SILENCE, dogs! Can you not see there are elders among us who no doubt wish to dispense great wisdom of,” he turned back to M’Qogh, making a show of choosing his words, “centuries past.”

Laughter immediately erupted from the crowd, punctuated by more table hammering and foot stomping.

“Let the corpse speak!” came a cry.

“Speak of how he lost his teeth in battle!” followed another.

“Battle with a Hajvav weasel!” more laughing surged.

Ma’Qogh simply waited. He allowed a ghost of a smile to present itself, for this kind of ridicule was to be expected for anyone with the gall to interrupt that rare afternoon of drinking permitted by the Klingon Defence Force. He looked straight back at them as the shouts and insults subsided.

In a flash, his smile faded to stony determination, “What has the Empire become?!” the bark cut through the air like the thrust of a gin’tak spear, “This room here, full of warriors who merely want a drink. It’s a long way from Morska, or Meq’Puy, or Yah Mempa. You’re tired from the trip! Why not sit a while? Enjoy the hard fought perks of this comfortable station?” He took another sip of his wine and began to pace the floor between his audience and the bar.

“This hole is the only decent place on this station!” came an angered riposte, “At least in here there’s no blinding lights, cloying smells and padded seats. We find no comfort here you old fool.”

Ma’Qogh’s own retort was swift, “So fearsome you are, and yet you do not possess the strength of will to tolerate those same lights, cloying smells and padded seats. You come scurrying to this establishment to avoid your responsibilities, drowning them in bloodwine!” his words inflected upwards in accusation.

A burly Sogh leapt up from his seat, jabbing a finger at Ma’Qogh, “Take a look at yourself, d’blok! How many barrels have you drunk? How many days have you whiled away in this place? You talk to us about responsibilities? Our only responsibility should be to put you out of your misery right now!” more roars went up from the crowd.

Ma’Qogh waited again, taming the instinctual anger that rose up within him, “Take a look out there!” he pointed a gnarled index finger in the direction of the tavern doors, “People- your allies- suffer in droves. You’re of the House of Bru’ch! A fine house. Honourable. Much of the Ninth Fleet came from your ranks. It was a squadron of your ships that led the evacuation of Chellek Prime, the Romulan colonies at Heyphor, you aided these people and it was glorious. Your house was showered with praise from across the galaxy. Now you sit, resting on those laurels like princeling curs.”

The Sogh gnashed his teeth, “We don’t evacuate. We FIGHT!” three of his comrades leapt up, their disgruntled snarls mingling with the scraping of chairs on the metal floor.

Ma’Qogh spread his arms wide, as if bearing his chest to all, “Then perhaps you should instead THINK! You seek honour! From those transports come the families, relatives of warriors with whom your house once stood in battle. Now, displaced by forces of galactic nature, you offer them nothing. We must open the feasting hall, Sogh! The opera house, the liaison centre and let them know the warmth of a delicious bowl of targ skull stew. Or is that too hard for you? Is that too hard for these dregs of the House of Bru’ch?”

“Enough! You’ll die in this Starfleet hole. Petaq,” the Sogh spat, unclipping his d’k tahg. The secondary blades flicked out with a glint which, for a nanosecond, reflected prismatic colours from a half empty bottle of grej’nuj sat on the shelf behind the counter. Ma’Qogh readied himself for Sto’Vo’Kor.

A groping hand reached behind its owner. Studying the situation, he clasped it around a serendipitously placed bottle of 2389 Ketha; a fine vintage by any warrior’s standards. The Klingon behind the bar’s eyes were fixed on the chromed streak of forged silver, poised to deliver up a soul to Fek’lhr. But as those fingers encircled the glass neck, he came back to his senses. The bottle shattered across the countertop with such fury that shards of it flew skittering along the polished stone. A piece spun, razor slicing the air itself and catching the Sogh across the side of his neck. The officer felt the warmth of blood against the grey leather of his uniform, yet no one in the room bayed for more. There was only silence.

Alcoholic fumes rose up towards the bartender’s flared nostrils. Deftly, he leapt over the counter and inhaled, “THIS STARFLEET HOLE,” another breath, “belongs to the HOUSE of KLENN!”

An even greater wave of howls tore through the bar. The Sogh instinctively raised the knife, but Ma’Qogh could almost pinpoint the moment at which his life was granted further lease within the mortal realm. The soldier had realised his mistake. Blood still seeping from his neck, the Sogh took a step back. His face had grown pale and his eyes wide, “Klenn? Of the high council?” he stuttered in disbelief.

“The very same!” sneered the barman with an added growl for good measure. He stepped towards the Sogh, discarding the shattered bottle neck. Reaching into a pocket on the inside of his thick, shapeless coat, he produced a brooch that filled the palm of his hand. Cast in dark grey brushed metal, it displayed an emblem that the Sogh recognised instantly. Two bat’leths curved in towards each other. In the centre of the resulting oval there nestled a Klingon trefoil that left no doubt as to the barman’s allegiances, “You know as well as I do, Sogh, the penalty for the fraudulent carrying of such a symbol.”

“I do not doubt your credentials…” the Sogh straightened up, sheathing the d’k tahg, “I meant no dishonour,” a subtle nod of his head, grumbles of disappointment from the crowd, and the situation was diffused as quickly as it had escalated.

“Ahaaa! Well met, Sogh!” the bartender stepped close with a wide grin, clapping a hand squarely on his shoulder. The Sogh, unsure at first, relented with a toothy smile of his own, “The House of Bru’ch defends its honour with the ferocity of a sabre bear.”

Ma’Qogh frowned, somewhat confused by the fact that he would not be meeting death, however good a day it might have been for such an occasion. He frowned as he approached the pair, disjointed by the speed with which the mood had changed.

“Tell me,” Ma’Qogh kicked a piece of broken glass over towards the pair, “how does a Klingon of the House of Klenn come to be serving dresh like this on a Federation starbase?”

“I cannot help but wonder too,” the Sogh continued, “I would never have expected one from such an honourable house to occupy so lowly a station.”

“Ahhh,” the bartender gave a deep sigh, “so you wish to know my business here. Then I must know the names of those who ask,” he looked on expectantly.

“Klurge, son of Ge’Qloj,” the Sogh offered.

“Ma’Qogh, son of Pri’Vech.”

The bartender nodded before reciprocating, “Charl, son of Hijj,” he reached behind the counter, pulling out a fresh carafe of bloodwine and three pewter tumblers. Distributing them to the others, they clinked the vessels together before drinking deeply, “A place like this is good for the Empire,” he asserted, “our warriors can rest. They can sing songs of their exploits, be proud of simply being Klingon.”

“They can do this anywhere,” Ma’Qogh raised an eyebrow.

“But here they can be seen,” Charl rebounded, “there’s no place like this in the quadrant! Certainly no Federation base with anywhere like the number of Klingons here. We stand right at the crossroads! By being here we can show them what it truly means to be Klingons. Amongst allies.” he looked Klurge straight in the eye, “They come in here sometimes. Starfleet officers, civilians, traders. And they’re welcome. We share our culture here with those brave enough to learn of our honour. Our allies on the battlefield come to know our ways so that we may then stand together, with greater strength, in all our deeds. And it will be glorious. That is why I am here S’ogh,” he jabbed a finger towards Klurge, then back towards Ma’Qogh, “and that is why he is right.”

Klurge’s eyes lowered as an understanding descended upon him. Ma’Qogh, arms folded, looked from Charl to the rest of the room and back. Its occupants were fully absorbed once again in a boisterous afternoon of retelling adventures past.

“You’ll have to give the order, Sogh,” Ma’Qogh said simply.

“Cancelling their leave will not be easy,” a last spark of stubbornness flared in Klurge.

“For the Empire,” Charl said, almost quietly.

 

***

 

From over the promenade railing, Captain Mek and Commodore Tharc watched as the Klingons moved in columns. What had once been the thriving, beating heart of starbase society was now still. The flows of people, goods, stories and experiences had ceased. Where shop fronts had invited passers by and market wares had hung punctuating lives lived by thousands, there were now only the rustling murmurs of the displaced. They lay in neat rows, careful to not intrude on neighbours’ personal space despite the destruction and chaos wrought on their own by the Century Storm. Meagre belongings wrapped in canvas doubled as pillows while they waited for word from their home colonies; their fates handed down by the roll of a cosmic dice.

The Klingons moved between them. The clomp of their boots seemed disturbing at first. Waking children, they moved in the way that Klingons do. What they possessed in purpose and urgency, the group lacked in organisation. When the realisation came, however, it didn’t matter. Humans, Betazoids, Gelersi and Denobulans alike were helped to their feet and dusted down. They were pointed in the same direction, towards the feasting hall, the opera house, and the liaison centre. There they would know the deliciousness of a steaming bowl of targ skull stew. The Bloodwine barrels would be prised open and they would sleep in the warmth of an open fire.

“You know,” Mek said, “It’s hard to believe it wasn’t all that long ago we were fighting each other.”

“Galaxy changes fast,” Tharc surmised.

Mek hmphed, trying hard not to dignify such a trite response, “It reminds me of something the Vulcans used to say about Humans,” Mek thought out loud, “it’s on the tip of my tongue…”

“You can always rely on them to do the right thing after exhausting all other options.” Tharc smirked, looking away from the promenade towards Mek.

“That’s the one.” Mek looked down at Tharc in mild annoyance at his failure to recall the quote, “Looks like they’ve finally done the right thing.”

Tharc tucked a strand of hair behind a small Tellarite ear, “And that’s what progress looks like.”

“I have to admit, it’s happened a lot faster than I expected.”

“Then you’ve still got a lot to learn about Klingons, Captain.”

“Ah,” Mek smiled, “I’ll miss them.”

Comments

  • This was trippy! Of all the twists and turns the Century Storm gave us, I never would have predicted a philosophical battle between Klingons -- with a heartwarming conclusion to boot! I really ate up the competing arguments between honour born of battle, honour born of storytelling, honour born of generosity. It was buoyed all the more by the lush and evocative language. General Chang would be proud of how Shakespearean it all was! “Princeling curs”, “ferocity of a sabre bear”, and “poised to deliver up a soul” were my favourite turns of phrases. I could see it all so clearly.

    April 13, 2022