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Career Officer
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 3,259
Into the night
Desperate and broken
The sound of a fight
Father has spoken...

Into your eyes
Hopeless and taken
We stole our new lives
Through blood and pain
In defense of our dreams...

The age of man is over
A darkness comes at dawn
These lessons that we've learned here
Have only just begun

We were the kings and queens of promise
We were the victims of ourselves
Maybe the children of a lesser god
Between heaven and hell...


Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars - "Kings and Queens"




THE VICTIM



On the outskirts of Tzoryp, on planet Seudath - Stardate 76859.70 (2399.11.06, 1748 local time)


Sway sprinted down the ringorb court, balancing the rubber-coated ball on the back of his left hand. Srenor blocked his path and tried to swat the ball away, but Sway skidded to a stop and flicked the ball to his right hand. Gripping the sphere with his claws, he leaned back away from his Selay friend, who was trying to reach for the orb without touching Sway and drawing a stationary foul. When Sway could reach no further, he rolled the ball onto the back of his wrist and spun away to get his feet under him. Srenor stepped up, but Sway twisted in the other direction to squeeze between his friend and the wall of the court and fired the ball at his target. The orb sailed through the red ring, turning it blue, and an electronic buzzer sounded.

"Ha! That's five-one, Srenor!" Sway exclaimed.

Srenor looked around the court as she retrieved the ball and saw that her Gorn friend was right. Only Srenor's home ring remained red. "It's no fair!" she complained. "Your hands are bigger than mine and you have more fingers!"

"So? You're a good quarter-meter taller," Sway pointed out. The two children, though roughly at the same stage of development were very different in age as well as height. Srenor was six standard years old. Sway was eleven. Both were the equivalent of a Human eight-year-old. They had been the same size when Srenor's family first arrived on Seudath two years ago. Tzoryp was a Gorn freeport, much like Y'Threzz on the Gorn continent of Cestus III. Alien merchants and traders were welcome here. Srenor's parents imported Tholian silk and crystalline ornaments.

Sway and both of his parents were from the Soldier caste. Sway's mother was named R'kssathln and his father was Royrork. They were both over three centuries old, and retired from service in the Gorn Defense Command. Thirteen years ago they had resettled on the exotic freeport colony world of Seudath with its warm and windy climate. Royrork took an administration job with the Tzoryp police force to supplement their pensions while R'kssathln put their new home in order. Life was almost too comfortable for the retired soldiers, and so they decided to raise another child.

Sway hatched twenty-eight months later into a world very different from the one where his egg was laid. While he was incubating, the Klingons had attacked and seized the Gila IV colony. Royrork and R'kssathln had five other children. One was the chief of the colonial militia on Gila IV. Another was the commander of a Vishap-class frigate assigned to the system's defense. Both had been killed. The other three immediately put in for transfers to the Seudath system, to protect their parents' home.

A cold war followed, occasionally flaring up in violent confrontations such as the Gorn attempt to take the strategic Gamma Orionis system, but life remained fairly peaceful on Seudath. The Gorn Defense Command maintained a strong fleet presence in orbit, since the planet was so close to the Klingon border. Klingons and Orions living on the planet were placed under a curfew and were restricted from accessing any military facility or vital infrastructure without a Gorn escort. Nausicaans traders had always been coming and going around Tzoryp, but after the Gorn Hegemony formed an alliance with them they were suddenly everywhere, and they were picking fights with Klingons, Orions, and even Humans and other unaligned species.

Sway grew up unaware that this was not how life was supposed to be. But the war didn't affect him directly, so he didn't pay much attention to anything. As long as he was going to the best school on the planet, and as long as the fleet kept the ridge-headed mammals away, what did he care? So what if the mammals were beating each other up in the streets. They were savages - his teacher said so. It was in their nature to fight for no good reason. It didn't matter to him. Until today...

"Sway!" his mother called. "Come inside! Srenor, run along home!"

"Aw, ma," Sway whined. "I've almost beat her, for the first time in like forever-"

"Now, Sway."

No threats about the "Great Father" gobbling me up? Sway thought. Either she's figured out I've outgrown that crazy story, or she's not that serious. "Just five more minut-"

"S'fwyrnamokaarn!" his father shouted, using all five syllables of his full name.

Uh-oh, Sway thought. They're serious.

"Get your hide in the house this instant!"

Sway flashed his friend an apologetic look and obeyed, scrambling off the court without saying a word.

"Srenor, you go to your house as fast as you can," Royrork ordered. "And tell your parents I said to take shelter!"

"Okay, sir." The Selay girl sprinted across the sand to her dwelling.

Sway reached his family's shrine room to find his parents checking over their antique disruptor blast weapons and strapping on belts loaded with grenades. He had never even seen these weapons before, but he recognized them for what they were. And they scared him. "What's going on?" he asked, in a frightened squeak.

"Klingons," his father growled. "Made a sneak attack on the dockyards on the far side of the planet. The fleet responded, flew straight into an ambush." Royrork looked skyward, inhaled deeply through his nostrils, and let out his breath through his teeth. "They're all dead."

"You don't know that, Roy," R'kssathln protested. "They could've made it to the escape pods, and-"

"The Klinks use escape pods for target practice," Royrork interrupted. "And even if they made it planetside, the Klinks are landing troops all over the surface. If they're not dead, they soon will be."

Sway glanced at the holo images of his siblings that rested on a shelf, interspersed with four burning candles. Two had died before he was hatched, but the others all visited as often as their duties allowed. They youngest of them was older than he was by a hundred and sixty years, and she had grandchildren of her own. But he loved them dearly. He had to. They were his family... He suddenly burned with anger. The Klingons have killed my family...

"All that matters now is protecting Sway," his father concluded.

"Alright," his mother agreed. "If you take defilade in the ringorb court and cover the road heading north, I'll watch the road from the city."

"You're the infantry tactics expert," Royrork said. He made his way to the door, and checked his old Federation-issue tricorder for Klingon lifesigns.

"Can't I help?" Sway asked.

"No, Sway," his mother replied.

"But I could watch father's tricorder, while you-"

"Sway!" his father snapped his jaws. "You will go to the sleeping chamber and hide there until this is over." And with that he took off for the ringorb court, his 400kg body disappearing in a green scaly blur.

"But-" Sway started to protest.

"Father has spoken," his mother hissed. "You will obey father."

"Yes, mother."

She ran out the door, her even more massive body moving just as fast as her husband's.

Sway went to the bedroom and burrowed under the thermal covers on his parent's mattress. Super not fair. I'm bred to be a Soldier like they are. I've been learning battle tactics. I'm at the top of my class in pistol marksmanship, with either hand! I could help them kill those marauding ridge-head bastar-

Sway's world exploded. There was light and noise and a hot rush of wind and everything went spinning and he wound up pinned to the ground with something heavy on his back. It took him a few seconds to figure out the heavy thing was the mattress. He tried to wriggle out from under it, but stopped when he saw the evening sky. Then the sky disappeared. A ship was landing outside. A Klingon heavy bird-of-prey, Hegh'ta-class. Sway had completely memorized the starship recognition guide, and he wasn't even supposed to start learning that for another year.

A voice spoke. "I am Captain V'rengh of the Imperial Klingon warship HeH'gonDoq" The voice was everywhere. Sway could feel it in his bones. It must have been coming from loudspeakers on the ship. "My men are searching the area for survivors. Surrender, and you will be treated well. But if we have to find you, things will not go well for you."

Sway wasn't sure what HeH meant but he knew gonDoq was the Klingon word for razor. That ship sounded dangerous. He would stay right where he was. After a minute he could overhear Klingons talking. They were close. They had their universal translators on, presumably so their prisoners would understand them. "I've got a big dead lizard over here, Captain" one shouted. "Looks like she's... no, wait, here's another one. Looks like a male. Big old fellow. Almost as big as his mate."

"Make certain they are dead, Talor," the voice of Captain V'rengh replied, much less loud this time. "Gorn are extremely dangerous when injured. Especially if they are protecting family."

"Understood, sir."

Sway heard a disruptor bolt being fired, and a few seconds later another one. He muffled his mouth with thermal covers and silently screamed.

"Hey, sir?" someone else called. A female voice.

"What do you want, T'nemen?"

"I found some live lizards in this house here, sir. They don't look like Gorn. They say they're Selay. What should I do with them?"

"Bring them to the brig, Lieutenant. One reptile's as good as another as far as the Orions are concerned."

"Aye, sir."

"Got a lifesign here sir," the first Klingon called. "In that pile of debris there. Cold-blooded. Kind of faint."

"I'll check it out."

The mattress was pulled off Sway's back. He rolled over and looked up, opened his mouth and hissed, and raised his claws to defend himself.

Captain V'rengh almost burst out laughing. "Look it this scrawny little thing! I wouldn't feed this to my warrigul."

The Klingon called Talor who had shot Sway's parents walked up, tricorder in one hand and disruptor pistol in the other. "Shall I dispatch it, sir?"

"Nah, save your power cell. It's no threat. There's no honor in killing such pitiful, defenseless little creature."

"That's it sir!" Lt. T'nemen reported. "No more survivors in this area."

"Very well. We move on. I want to cover as much ground as possible before Brigadier Klag gets here to set up the occupation zone."

Another ear-splitting voice came from the parked bird-of-prey. "V'rengh!" A woman's voice, not using the U.T., and she sounded mad. "mo'Dajvo' pa'wIjDaq je narghpu' He'So'bogh SajlIj!" The Klingons' communicators translated after a moment. "Your stinking pet has escaped from its cage and appeared in my quarters!"

"Ghuy'cha', my wife," V'rengh muttered.

"I told you it would be bad luck to bring her along, sir," Talor said.

"It would be far worse not too..." the Klingons boarded their ship, and it took off and went after another settlement.

Sway stood up and walked out to the road. He saw his father's feet sticking up over the edge of the ringorb court. His mother was in a heap in the road behind an overturned hover car. He ran to her side. She was clearly dead. The disruptor had burned a hole right through her head. Sway nestled himself next to her body. And he laid there crying without tears all through the night. And the night after. And many nights after that...


Klingon Military Academy - Stardate 80671.32 (2403.09.02, 0658 local time)

Lt. S'stas looked over her desk at the diminutive, malnourished youth she'd been asked to process. "You can't possibly be over fourteen."

"I'm fifteen, ma'am," Sway said. "In standard years, anyway."

The Gorn female sighed. Fifteen - that made him legally an adult, as far as the Klingons were concerned, and therefore eligible for conscription. Nevermind that the Gorn don't reach maturity until twenty-four standard years of age on average. She looked over the records again, sent by the Klingon occupational governor's office on Seudath. S'fwyrnamokaarn, born SD 65669.32, parents deceased. She leaned back, scratched her cheek and sighed again. Fifteen and a day. Perfect timing, you filthy mammals. "What happened to your parents?"

"Murdered by the Klinks when they took the planet."

"You'd better not call them that," she told him. "You work for the Klingons now." The assignment officer looked for another loophole. "Any brothers or sisters?"

"Also killed. Some were in the fleet at Seudath. Others died at Gila IV before I was born."

Damn "Why'd they send you here, instead of a Gorn infantry unit?"

"I guess they thought I was officer material," Sway mumbled.

S'stas could see their point. The orphanage school had continued his caste-specific education. The boy's test scores were unbelievably high for strategic thinking, tactical analysis and small-unit command. His rifle marksmanship scores were subpar - S'stas couldn't even imagine the child holding a rifle butt up to his tiny shoulder - but his pistol skills were exceptional. He also possessed a perfect eidetic memory - not uncommon among the Gorn species but rare enough amongst the Klingons and the rest of their allies. Well, he'll probably be safer as an officer on a ship than he would be in front-line infantry, assuming the animals here don't tear him apart. She poked at her screen for a minute and announced sadly "Congratulations, Bekk Sway. You are now enrolled in the prestigious Klingon Military Academy."

Sway matched her glum tone. "Thanks."

She read the speech that scrolled across her screen without any enthusiasm. "The next two years will be difficult. But should you endure, you will prove that you have the heart of the warrior. You will be respected by your peers, and feared by your enemies." She managed to work up some energy to deliver the last word of encouragement, because Sway would need all of the success he could get. "Qapla'!"

For a second, Sway's face formed... not quite a smile, but at least a smirk, as he tapped his right fist to his chest and repeated the word. "Qapla'." He looked around the Academy command center. It was full of Klingon officers - and the odd Orion here and there - all sharing jokes, laughing and carousing as they went about their business. They were all dressed in dark-colored leather or fur and had uncomfortable-looking pieces of metal strapped to their bodies. They moved with the unmistakable swagger of the victor. They killed my family, the boy thought. And now they want to make me one of them.

S'stas leaned over her desk. "Listen. I've been working for the Klingons for a while now. I defected after Seudath fell; I could see which way the wind was blowing, and I put myself on the upwind side before anyone could put a disruptor to my head." She saw Sway wince at that phrase, and she hesitated, but then went on. "I've gotten to know the Klingons. I know they're rough and tough and rude and crude because they have to be. If you want to survive, you have to be just as mean as they are. You understand, kid?"

Sway nodded.

S'stas keyed her screen again. "I've added plenty of replicator credits to your account. It's linked to your retinal scan. Go see Master-at-Arms Torgo at the shooting range across the grounds past the calisthenics platforms. You'll need to requisition a target pistol, a d'k tahg, and a bat- hmm." A bat'leth stood on its point would be taller than the young Gorn. "Make that a mek'leth. Then see the uniform tailor on the other side of the statue of Kahless. From there, the barracks are just down the hill, on either side of the gate."

"Okay. Thank you, ma'am." Sway departed, wriggling through the crowd of Klingon bodies.

Poor thing, S'stas thought. I almost hope someone just stabs him and gets it over with quick.


That night

Sway's head slammed crest-first into the massive pedestal supporting the great statue of Kahless the Unforgettable. The Gorn pulled his face from the mud, grimacing in pain. Even though his head-spines would not grow in for several years, the crest was nonetheless an extremely sensitive part of the Gorn anatomy, especially for young males. He flashed a glare skyward at the face of the statue, and then back at the four laughing Bekks who'd thrown him there. And their Klingon drill sergeant, who was laughing hardest of all.

"C'mon, get up, lizard boy," Master Sergeant Rejets called.

"Nah, let him sleep there," a Klingon called J'ngav suggested.

"What, in front of the statue of the Great Kahless?" another Klingon male, Magh'nt argued. "are you kidding me? Let him sleep with the targs."

"Just as long as he doesn't come tracking mud back in the barracks," said an Orion by the name of Sechukr. He went back inside, passing two female bekks who had come out to watch.

Another Orion male, Ciraybe, laughed as he followed his friend. "I think the mud would actually cover up his lizard stink..."

It started raining again. The laughing Klingons went back inside before they could get wet. S'Yahazah forbid you should be exposed to anything resembling a shower, Sway thought, as he staggered to his feet, and let the cold rain rinse off his body.

"Get back inside, boy," Sgt. Rejets ordered from the doorway. "Or don't. It's not like I give half a bok-rat's ass."

Sway watched the rest of his Academy unit go indoors. He didn't want to follow. But the rain was so cold... He could hear laughter inside. They can hurt me all they want, Sway thought, but they will not laugh at me. He walked back to his barracks and went inside. The other bekks stopped laughing. Sway ignored them as he stood in the doorway, dripping and shivering, but he feel them glaring at him. He could feel their hate. And it felt... good. He went to his bed, or the slab the Klingons called a bed. He pushed the heavy block of metal closer to the fire in the middle of the room. It made an unpleasant screeching noise. He removed his belt with its ridiculous uniform loincloth, rolled it into a pillow and laid down on his side, facing the fire.

"Qajay, lizard?"

Sway turned his head just enough to see who was swearing at him. It was J'ngav, the Klingon who was apparently the alpha of this pack of mammals he'd thrown to. "What do you want?"

"Can't you take a guess? We don't want you here."

"Believe me, I don't want to be here either," Sway muttered. He turned away and shifted his shoulders. "Yet here I am." He felt the Klingon's hand seize his neck. He reacted with blinding speed, scratching J'ngav's face with his claws and kicking him the chest.

"You Hu'tegh petaQ!" J'ngav drew his d'k tagh and snapped open its secondary blades. "I'll have your hide for nIvnavmey!"

Sway bared his teeth and hissed back.

"Hey!" Sgt. Rejets shouted from across the room. "No fighting in the barracks, remember? That's why I had you throw him out in the first place."

"Can I throw him out again?" J'ngav asked.

Rejets checked the time. "Too late. It's after curfew."

J'ngav closed his d'k tagh and returned it to his belt. "Tomorrow, lizard, your qIv is mine."

Sway stared at the fire as J'ngav went back to his own bed. Sway smiled a little, imagining how ridiculous the Klingon would look wearing Gorn-skin pajamas.


The next morning

After reverie, uniform inspection, breakfast and kitchen duty came the morning calisthenics drill. Sgt. Rejets led his unit out to the platforms in the middle of the grounds. Other bekks were already on some of the platforms, swinging away at each other with bat'leths. Sway was expecting to exercise, but apparently the Klingons defined calisthenics differently than most other species. Master-at-Arms Torgo walked down their line distributing weapons. Sway was given a mek'leth. The others had bat'leths, three times the length of his sword. Of course, Sway thought. The little guy gets the little sword.

Rejets stood in front of the bekks. "I will pair you off. You will fight each other with swords. If you lose your sword, you lose the match. If you fall down three times, you lose the match. If you fall off the platform once, you lose the match. If you are injured too badly to lift your sword, you lose the match. And if you die, you lose the match. Try not to die. I hate dealing with the paperwork." He looked at the line. "Aleida, Naja," he called to the females. They went up the nearest platform and faced off. "Ciraybe, Magh'nt." The Klingon with big hair and the bigger, dumber Orion went off together. "Sechukr, you're with me. J'ngav, take the lizard."

"With pleasure." J'ngav looked over at Sway and grinned maliciously.

Sway walked over to the nearest empty platform like an automaton, with absolutely no thought about how he would survive this encounter. He reached the edge of the platform and looked back at his opponent. Rejets had held up J'ngav and was whispering something to him. Sway was able to read his lips well enough to pick out part of a sentence: ghaH HoHQo'... Don't kill me? Sway wrinkled his nose in confusion, then remembered Right, paperwork. He caught a look from J'ngav and saw something in his eyes that made him think the younger Klingon was not planning to obey the sergeant's order.

Sway clambered on to the platform. J'ngev leaped up using a nearby crate an immediately aimed a cleaving blow at Sway's head. The Gorn ducked and rolled away. He turned back and caught J'ngev's boot on his chin and was laid out flat on his back.

"That's your first fall, lizard."

Sway sat where he fell.

"C'mon, get up," J'ngev goaded.

"The Master Sergeant said we'd fight with our swords, not our legs," Sway said as he warily rose to his feet, and quickly stepped back out of range.

"When you fight with the sword, your body becomes the sword," J'ngev quoted. He whirled his blade around, passing it from hand to hand, before holding it couched in his right arm. He beckoned to Sway.

The young Gorn circled his opponent, eyeing his feet, gauging how quickly he would need to strike to avoid the blow.

"It's a fight, lizard, not a dance." J'ngev stepped up and slashed at Sway's neck. Sway ducked, and raised his sword to block J'ngev's reversed backslash. He leaned both of his arms into the handle of his mek'leth to keep the stronger Klingon from overpowering him. J'ngev suddenly spun his sword away. Sway stumbled forward, and J'ngev struck at his backside. Sway jumped and yelped, and turned to find J'ngev almost doubled over with laughter. "I told you your qIv is mine!"

Sway reached back and felt the stinging wound in his left buttock. The razor-edged point of the bat'leth had sliced through his loincloth, the seat of his stippled pants, and two cm of his scaly flesh. Not too bad. He'd heal after a day or two. He checked his hand. Not too much blood. He looked at the mek'leth in his other hand. Your body becomes the sword... He charged. J'ngev was ready, and he extended his sword to impale the Gorn. Sway slapped it away with his own blade, spun away from J'ngev's counter-slash, and lashed out with a sweeping kick, connecting with both of the Klingon's ankles and dropping him to the mat.

J'ngev was on his feet an instant later, snarling has he parried a pair of wild swings from Sway. The Gorn tried to press his advantage, but he lacked the skill to do so. Soon J'ngev squarely blocked a chop, and using his superior height and strength he simply pushed the Gorn to the floor. But Sway was a fast learner. He realized that his advantage was in speed, not strength or skill. He successfully fended of a whirlwind of strikes from the Klingon and landed a blow of his own, cutting the Klingon on the back of his forearm. J'ngev swore and backed away to check the wound.

"Qajay', what's taking you so long?" Bekk Naja demanded.

J'ngev flashed a glare at her, then glanced around. The rest of the unit had finished their matches and had surrounded the platform, watching him and Sway. They young Gorn took advantage of his distraction, lunging through the air, drawing up both of his feet and delivering a powerful kick to the Klingon's chest, knocking him on his back. Their classmates laughed.

J'ngev bounced back to his feet and came after Sway in a rage, delivering one powerful blow after another. Sway was able to deflect the strikes, but he had to backpedal to absorb each one, until he stepped right off the edge of the platform. J'ngev leaped down after him and raised his bat'leth, ready to drive it through Sway like a stake.

Rejets caught his arm. "Bekk J'ngev! The match is over. You have defeated your opponent."

Sway scrambled out of striking range and stood up, brushing dust from his uniform tunic and loincloth.

Rejets looked him over with a cold eye and said to his bekks "Return your weapons to the Master-at-Arms, then assemble before the Great Statue to hear a song of victory from Loresinger Ch'toh!"

Sway trailed behind the others. "I want a better sword," he told the fat Klingon who was in charge of the weapons. "I want a bat'leth."

"For you, there is no better sword," Master-at-Arms Torgo replied as he took hold of Sway's mek'leth. He twirled it in his hand. "Have you ever used one of these before?"

"No," Sway admitted.

"Have you ever held a bat'leth in battle?"

"No."

"Then what makes think it is better?"

"Well, its longer, it hits harder-"

"It would slow you down, taking away the one advantage you have. You are too small; you do not have the strength to wield a bat'leth effectively. But you are also fast. And you have the eyes to see the weakness in your enemy. With these gifts, and this sword, you could defeat a bat'leth champion, if you learn how to use it."

Sway fixed the fat Klingon with a suspicious gaze. Torgo stared back "I speak truth, young lizard. Listen, I do not care what species you are - you are to be trained to be an officer of the KDF. And so you must learn to use a sword. The mek'leth can be a lethal instrument, but you must make it so. You must learn to attack your enemy."

"That's what I was trying to do," Sway grumbled.

"No, you were only pretending to attack so that your enemy would not attack you. A defensive strike is not a killing blow. When you drew blood on your opponents arm, his left ribcage and throat were also exposed. Why did you not strike him there?"

"Because if I missed, he would have had a free shot at my head," the Gorn replied.

"Only if you held back," Torgo told him. "Or if he moved away, but I am sure he is too slow. A true warrior cannot focus on his own self-preservation. He must always look for a way to defeat his enemy. This is what you must learn."

Sway watched Torgo return his weapon to its velvet-lined case. The case had a cutout that nested the mek'leth perfectly, protecting it from any harm. Sway then realized that weapon he had been offered was indeed much more than a mere child's toy. "Will you teach me?" He asked the Master-at-Arms.

"That is my purpose here. But now you are late for your next lesson. The song has begun."

Sway tilted his head and heard someone bellowing in tlhIngan Hol at the bottom of the hill. "Thank you, Master Torgo," he called as he raced away.

* * *

Life settled into a sort of routine for Sway. He went to class (where he excelled) he drilled with his unit (where he performed well, in spite of his classmates' best attempts to sabotage him) he ate his meals alone (or tried to, anyway) and he slept on his uncomfortable bed. And of course there were the daily beatings to break up the monotony. He could stand up against any of the other bekks individually, but they always ganged up on him. They were careful though, not to injure him too badly. Mostly because if they killed him or crippled him, then he wouldn't be around anymore and their fun would be over. Also they were afraid of Rejets, who hated to lose bekks. They also had a particular prank they liked to play on him at mealtime. Knowing how the Gorn hated the cold, they would replicate a dish of a Human treat called ice cream and shove Sway's face in it. He pretended he hated it, but he really didn't mind. He actually developed a taste for ice cream, and started to look forward to his free dessert surprises.

Sway took his revenge little by little, starting with his nicknames for the gang of bullies. He pretended to struggle with his pronunciation whenever he addressed them and they quickly got used to his version of their names. Actually, Sway spoke Klingon very well, but his English was better, being by far the easiest of all common humanoid languages for a Gorn to speak. J'ngav became "Junk," Magh'nt was "Maggot," Ciraybe got called "Crybaby" and Sechukr transposed to "Sucker." And then the biggest bully of all, Sgt. Rejets: Sway called him "Reject." Sgt. Reject was cruel to all of his bekks but he really had it out for Sway. Reject was short for a Klingon, but he was built like a boulder and his authority was unchallenged. He picked Sway to handle the most unpleasant duties of cleaning their barracks and always left him in an unfair position for their war games.

There were also two females in their unit. Bekk Aleida was an Orion. She didn't participate in the attacks on Sway directly, but she enjoyed the show, and egged the males on with the influence of her pheromones. Bekk Naja was a Klingon, and the closest thing Sway had to a friend. She wouldn't actually be seen helping him, and she rarely spoke to him, but when no one was looking she would help with his cleaning chores or tend to his wounds. He didn't know why she treated him kindly, but he was grateful.

Torgo kept his word, and Sway's skills with the mek'leth steadily improved. Of course, his opponents were receiving the same sort of training, so he still got knocked down and cut up a lot. But he was able to hold his own, and at least Torgo didn't treat him like dead gagh. He also learned how to handle a disruptor rifle. Even though he couldn't hold a target rifle to his shoulder comfortably, with practice he got quite good at firing from the hip. And his pistol marksmanship was the envy of the unit.

As the months went on, more Gorn appeared at the Academy. Mostly older, all males. They were divided up into different units though, and Sway wasn't permitted to socialize outside of his unit. The odd Nausicaan started to wander in as well. One of them, Tidrip, got assigned to Sway's unit. At first he treated Sway sympathetically - their species had been allies during the war with the Klingons, after all. But then to gain the acceptance of the Klingons and the Orions he soon joined in with the bullying. Sway called him "Drip."


Stardate 81453.54 (2404.06.13, 1202 local time)

Bekk Sway was eating lunch - alone, as usual - the first time Naja sat down across from him. He looked up from his meal and said a surprised "Hi!" She nodded at him and started eating her leg of targ, seeming to forget he was even there. Sway shrugged and returned to his meal.

Naja glanced up as she chewed and watched Sway cut a slice of pale flesh with his d'k tahg. (The only utensils in the Klingon Academy mess hall were spoons.) "Are you eating... kradge tail?"

"Yup." Sway impaled the slice of meat with his knife and lifted it to his mouth.

Naja looked revolted. "Isn't that like... cannibalism?"

"What, just because I'm a reptile and so's the kradge? Seriously?" Sway cut another slice. "Genetically, you're closer to your targ than I am to this tasty little critter." He took another bite and smiled at her. "You should know that. You scored ninety-eight percent in biology last term, didn't you?"

Naja giggled. "I'm sorry. I just... I look at you and even though I know you're an intelligent, rational and sensitive being, I see a lizard. I can't help it."

"That's okay." Sway kept eating. "I look at you, and I see just another hairy, ridge-headed mammal, even though I know you're not a blood-thirsty, violent maniac with an irrational hatred for my species."

"I guess our people have a lot to learn about each other, if we're going to be allies."

"Yup."

Naja abruptly got up and jumped two chairs over, and dug into her food. Sway heard Junk, Maggot and Crybaby laughing behind him. "Yup," he repeated to himself. He stuffed the rest of his kradge tail in his mouth and cleared his plate.


Stardate 81941.88 (2404.12.09, 1740 local time)

The beating was particularly savage this evening. Sway knew he'd brought it on himself. He'd been a bit of a show-off at the pistol range earlier that afternoon. After getting perfect hits on all of his targets with the minimum number of shots, he'd started firing at his neighbor's targets and nailing those too. Junk and Drip didn't care for that. And they got their gang together to let him know it.

After fifteen months of beating up Sway on a daily basis, they had learned how to cause him maximum pain with a minimum of physical injury. Part of this included waiting just before the evening meal to inflict their punishment, so he would be either in the infirmary or in too much pain to eat his dinner, leaving him hungry all night. Sucker and Maggot held his arms and legs while Junk applied a chokehold and dug his knuckles into Sway's crest and Drip and Crybaby took turns pummeling other sensitive areas.

This went on for about fifteen minutes before the bullies started to get bored. Sway had learned they got bored easily if he took their abuse with stoicism instead of screaming in pain like he wanted to. They finally released him. He collapsed in a quivering heap. The bullies laughed and started to walk off. "S'Yahazah bless you!" Sway called out as loudly as he could, knowing they really hated that.

Junk immediately spun around and kicked Sway in the face. The claw in the toe of his boot flayed the Gorn's cheek open. "You know why you ghuy' lizards lost the war, don't you?" J'ngev sneered. "It's because you were waiting for your Hu'tegh lizard-god to save you. See, we Klingons know better. We don't need our gods. We never did. So we killed them. And if I ever meet your great *****-in-the-sky, I'll kill her too." He turned and stomped off, following his laughing comrades to the mess hall.

They can insult me all they want, Sway thought, but they shall not insult S'Yahazah.

As soon as the pain levels subsided enough for him to move, he staggered to his feet. He tongued the wound in his cheek. The bleeding had stopped. It would heal in a few days, but it might leave a scar. He tested his joints before he walked up the hill. A sprained ankle, a wrenched elbow, a dislocated finger. Nothing he couldn't live with.

A few merchants had set up stalls along the parade grounds, selling various souvenirs and trinkets to ship captains who visited the academy to recruit warriors. They also sold various supplies and non-regulation articles of clothing to the bekks. A couple of weeks ago during a harsh cold spell, Sway had purchased a scarf that was almost immediately stolen. One of the merchants was a Gorn elder named S'kaa, who dealt mainly in "specialty" items.

"I need a gun, S'kaa," Sway hissed, leaning across the arms' dealer's counter, trying to keep weight off of his swollen ankle.

"What do you have for money?" S'kaa asked him. "Szeket? Latinum? Quatloos?"

"What can I get for sixteen hundred replicator credits?"

"Energy credits?" S'kaa leaned back and frowned. "Ya see, credit purchases can be traced, and that's no good for me."

"Well, that's all I got," Sway told him. "Thanks anyway." He gingerly pushed away from the counter.

"Now hold on." S'kaa scratched his lower jaw. "I could sell you a power cell. It would be a bit overpriced, but, it might come with a nice pistol attached."

Sway nodded. "I need a disruptor pistol with a wide-beam setting, and enough power to vaporize a room full of people."

"Ssshh!!" S'kaa waved his hands in front of Sway's face. "You know wide-beam pistols are illegal!" he whispered.

"Yeah, so's half the other baQa' you sell," Sway came back without lowering his voice. "Can you get it or not?"

"Listen, kid, I'm on sliding sand with the authorities as it is. The only reason I'm in business is because Lieutenant B'Emara thinks she's getting half my profits. If you shoot one Klingon, and then immediately overload the pistol so it blows up, you can get away with it. But what you're talking about doing, that would drain the power cell, so there's no way you could destroy the evidence. And if the security force finds out that I sold a gun that was used in a mass murder, I'd be on the first transport to Rura Penthe. And I do not want to go to Rura Penthe."

"And I do not want Bekk Junk to live through tonight after he insulted S'Yahazah."

S'kaa winced. "Okay, listen, kid. I've seen you take hits that would leave me begging for mercy, but you don't even flinch. You have no idea how often I've been tempted to use my merchandise on those filthy sons of targs you're with. But if you want to really live among these animals - and I don't just mean here, I mean when you leave this place and get out into space - you gotta learn to take an insult just like you take a punch. And I don't mean just a personal insult, like 'you stinking lizard.' I mean an insult to your honor, your culture, your family, your faith, to everything that makes you Gorn. Because that's a part of life outside these walls. For all of us, we have to live with the insult of being servants to these mammals every waking hour. Do you get what I'm saying, kid?"

"Yeah." Sway knew sense when he heard it, and S'kaa was talking sense.

"As much pleasure as it would bring me to do business with you, you should save your money. Get yourself some food instead, before the mess hall closes."

"Arright." Sway pushed away from the counter. His injured joints had numbed and he felt only the usual dull ache. "Thanks for talking me down, S'kaa."

"Sure thing, kid. Now get out of here before your sergeant sees you and wonders what you're up to."

Sway limped toward the mess hall. He ducked behind a pillar when he saw Junk and the others emerge, still laughing. S'Yahazah, as surely as you live, I will kill that petaQ.


Stardate 82061.26 (2405.01.22, 0838 local time)

"Today's drill will have you firing at a live, moving target," Sgt. Reject announced. "Your practice rifles do not have the power to kill. You must use your d'k tahgs to finish off your victim. You can thank the Orion Syndicate for providing the targets. And the Syndicate thanks you for finding a use for worthless slaves."

Sway sheltered his eyes and stared into the rising sun. At this latitude and at this time of year, daylight only lasted for about seven hours. He could make out a hover-truck across the drill range with figures being unloaded and shoved roughly into line.

Reject went on. "The targets have been told that your weapons will only stun them, while the soldiers behind them will kill them if they do not run toward you. They are armed with knives and clubs, and they will hurt you if you allow them to. This will be a test of your shooting skill, but primarily a test of your resolve. Can you kill a person who has done you no harm? Because you will have to, one day, on the field of battle. If it helps, know that you are giving these people an honorable death." Reject looked at his bekks, spread out along the range, and glanced across the field. "Your target is directly in front of you. Begin firing as soon as he enters weapons range." He turned and shouted at the Orion slaver thugs handling the prisoners. "Release them!"

Sway squinted at the target running towards him in haphazard zigzag. Once it closed within fifty meters, he opened fire. He missed, short and wide left. The target stopped. Sway adjusted and fired again. High, this time, and still a little wide to the left. A burst of disruptor fire from behind the target struck the ground at its feet. It ran, forwards and to its left, Sway's right. The Gorn fired again. Just missed to the right. The target zigged the other way. Sway fired two more quick bursts, bracketing his target. It ran straight toward him. Sway fired yet again, and this time the target spun away just as he pulled the trigger. The target was close now, just inside of twenty meters. The shouting of his fellow bekks told him they'd already hit their targets. This made Sway angry. He fired again, and the target again spun away. It started shouting something at him, but he couldn't make it out through the noise around him. Ten meters now. It raised its arms. Sway saw sunlight glinting off the knife it held. He pulled the trigger again, and finally hit the target squarely, center-mass torso. He pulled his d'k tahg from his belt and sprang forward, covering nine meters in less than a second. He pounced - the claws on his toes dug in the target's flesh even has he drove his blade into the Selay female's throat-

"Sway..." she whispered, as air, blood and life seeped out of her body.

Sway stared down at the body he suddenly recognized as the girl who had been his best friend. "Srenor?"

She didn't answer. She couldn't. She was dead.

Sway retrieved his knife and stood up. He felt... nothing. No remorse, no sadness, no sense of loss. He had followed orders to kill someone. That someone turned out to be his best friend. And he didn't care... "S'Yahazah save me," he muttered. "They've done it to me. They've made me one of them..."


Stardate 82207.96 (2405.03.16, 2144 local time)

Sway crawled across the floor of the barracks, in too much pain to stand. He pulled himself onto his bed-slab, clenching his jaw so he wouldn't scream. He gingerly rolled onto his back and lay there for a few minutes, gasping for air in agonizing breaths. Then he peeled off his bloody tunic and slowly ran his undamaged left hand over his torso and counted which ribs were broken, cracked or dislocated. The door opened. Sway's hand dropped to his d'k tahg, but then he remembered he'd lost in the fight. He painfully tilted his head to see who was there.

"Oh, Sway, what did they do to you?"

It was Naja. The nice one. Sway relaxed. "The usual, just... more of it."

"You're... you're bruised! I didn't even know that was possible!"

Sway looked down and saw that she was right. The pale skin of his chest was discolored from blood pooling under the surface. "Huh. Yeah."

Naja knelt at his side and examined his extensive injuries. "They really banged you up this time, Sway. ghuy'cha. I've got to get you to the infirmary. I don't care who sees me carrying you. This has to stop, Sway."

"Tell that Sergeant Reject," Sway mumbled. "He's the only one who can do anything about it."

"I can do something about it too." She stroked his head. He flinched when she touched his crest. She jerked her hand back. "Oh! Sorry, I-"

"It's okay," Sway assured her. "I'm just used to it hurting when someone touches me there."

Naja gently stroked him again. This time when her fingertips brushed the nubs of his head-spines, he gave a contented sigh.

"Qajay', what are you doing with that piece of baQa'?"

Naja spun to face J'ngev. "He needs medical attention! You petaQpu' almost killed him!"

"What of it, lizard-lover?"

"What of it?" Naja sprang to her feet and drew and snapped open her d'k tahg with the same motion. "I'll show you what of it-"

J'ngev slapped the knife out of her hand and punched her in the face.

Sway saw her go down and yelled out "Leave her alone!"

"Shut up, toDSah!" J'ngev ground his boot into the bruise on Sway's chest. Sway screamed in agony.

"Get off!" Naja pushed J'ngev over and he landed in the firepit. He yelped and cursed and threw off his burning jacket and came after her. He wrapped his hands around her throat and slammed her against the wall. She got her arms inside of his and pushed them away, and headbutted him in the face, breaking his nose.

"You Hu'tegh *****!" He moaned, his hands holding his face together.

"Hey!" Sgt. Rejets had arrived. "How many times must I tell you: no fighting in the barracks!"

"Sway needs to go to the infirmary!" Naja said, pointing at the whimpering Gorn.

"Me too," J'ngev muttered, still holding his nose.

Rejets glanced at the bloodied Klingon. "Go." J'ngev departed. Rejets looked at Sway. "What's the matter with him?"

"I'll tell you what's wrong with him Master Sergeant," Naja spat venemously. "Your pet yIntaghpu' beat him to a pulp, and crushed his ribcage." She approached Sway again. His breaths were coming in shallow gasps. "QI'yaH, I think J'ngev just punctured one of his lungs. He'll die without medical attention, Sergeant!"

Rejets waved toward the door. "Take him."

Naja carefully placed her arms under his shoulders and hips and picked him up. She was surprised by how light he was. Not even seventy kilos, for a one-point-eight meter Gorn? "You're too skinny, Sway," she told him as she carried him out into the cold night air. "You need to put on some fat to cushion yourself."

"Heh." That was the best he could do for a laugh. He started shivering and his breathing grew even more ragged. "Naj-a..."

"Shh! Don't try to speak."

He tried anyway. "Why are- you so- nice to me-?"

Naja started to cry. "Because you are the most courageous and noble person I have ever known, Sway. You deserve kindness. I only wish I'd shown you more."

Sway felt her hot tears splash on his chest. "It's okay-"

"No, no it's not. It's not right..." She was sobbing now. "Ghuy'cha, why didn't I have the courage to stand up for you before..."

* * *

Sway had lost track of the time that had passed since he was brought to the infirmary. The medics had anesthetized him for the surgery to repair his damaged lung. He woke up to the throbbing ache of boneknitters doing their work. They'd given a hypo of painkiller and everything was sort of hazy after that. He knew at least a few days had passed before he was finally able to sit up.

"How's your pain level?" the medic with him asked. She was a Ferasan call H'rassa.

Sway gave her a wry smile. "Well, no one's walloped me for a few days now so... better than normal, I guess."

There was a commotion as another patient was brought into the infirmary. "H'rassa, we could use a paw- a hand here," Dr. Prongo called.

H'rassa sprang to the Orion's side. "Another beating?" she asked him.

"Looks like it," Prongo replied. "She has numerous contusions and lacerations, broken bones in her face and hands..."

Sway felt a sudden and overwhelming sense of dread as Dr. Prongo described the victim. "Who is she?"

"A... Klingon female," H'rassa replied.

Sway got up from his biobed. "Is it Bekk Naja?"

H'rassa looked back at him. "Sit down, Sway!"

The Gorn ignored her and pushed her aside, and looked down at his only real friend. "Naja!"

"Sway..." she was weak. She had been in a serious fight.

"Get back to your bed, Bekk," Dr. Prongo ordered.

Sway stayed where he was. "Who did this?" he demanded.

"Medic, please get him out of the way," Prongo commanded.

"Come on, young one," the Ferasan said - and pulled - firmly.

"Naja! Give me his name!"

"J'ngev..."

Sway pushed off from H'rassa and ran for the door.

"Hey!" Prongo called after him. "I haven't cleared you to leave yet!"

Sway got outside and paused. It was daytime. He looked at the position of the sun in the sky and guessed it was mid-day mealtime. He sauntered toward the mess hall, soaking the rays of the sun, letting them energize him. He breathed deeply through his nostrils, filling his lungs. It hurt, especially on his right side, where the lung had been punctured. But he'd defeated J'ngev in a calisthenics match feeling much worse.

He pulled open both doors to the mess hall. His eyes went straight to his unit's table and locked on J'ngev. He pointed and roared "YOU!!"

Everyone in the packed mess hall looked up to face him. His table started laughing, and many others joined.

Sway glanced down and realized he looked more than a little ridiculous, wearing only a baggy pair of synth-cotton pants and the flex-seal bandage still on his chest. His eyes went back to J'ngev. He sneered and strode through the room on a straight line to his enemy, shoving tables, chairs and people out of his path. He stepped up on to his table and stopped directly in front of Bekk Junk, with one foot in his food. He crossed his arms and looked dowm. "You. Hurt. Naja."

J'ngev looked up with a deadpan expression. "You're standing in my racht."

Sway crouched, hooked his fingers under J'ngev's shoulder pads and stood to his full height, lifting the much-larger Klingon off the floor and up to his eye-level. "I challenge you to a duel of honor."

"Ha! You must first have honor to challenge, lizard."

Sway pulled J'ngev closer and snarled in his face "You and your friends beat up a female, whose only crime was showing kindness to me. It is you who is without honor!"

J'ngev looked down at his friend Magh'nt.

Sway shook him and shouted "Don't look at him, petaQ! Look at me!"

J'ngev gave Sway his full attention.

"Are you afraid to die by my hand?"

"There is nothing in you for any Klingon to fear," J'ngev said defiantly.

Sway could see the lie in the Klingon's eyes. Junk was terrified. "You will accept this challenge, or you are no Klingon." Sway drew back his right hand and slapped J'ngev across the face as he released him. The Klingon flew back and crumbled against the wall.

His friends leaped to their feet, d'k tahgs at the ready. Sgt. Rejets was standing as well. "Stop this!" he ordered.

"I accept!" J'ngev yelled, as he rose to his feet. "Our blades shall cross, and you shall die, little lizard!"

"NO WEAPONS!" Reject shouted. "And no killing!"

Sway looked down at his unit's leader. "Mok'bara. First to three falls. If he defeats me, nothing changes. If I defeat him..." he looked around at the other bekks "none of you ever lays a hand on me or Naja again!"

"Agreed," said Reject.

Sway glared at his opponent. "Junk?"

"Agreed," was the reply.

"You will be at the mok'bara court in fifteen minutes, where you will face me alone, or else..." he turned the face the rest of the hall "everyone in this room will know that you are a coward, and no Klingon warrior." With that he strode along the tables toward the exit.

He paused halfway, and looked down at an Orion eating a bowl of ice cream. "Is that mint chip?"

She stared up at him with goggling eyes and a spoon in her mouth and nodded.

"Do you mind?" he asked.

She shook her head.

Sway picked up the dish and slid its contents down his throat. He tossed the bowl over his shoulder and kept walking down the tables and out the door.

* * *

The young Gorn stopped at the barracks to change clothes. He pulled on a fresh pair of pants and cinched his belt - sans the preposterous loincloths. He peeled off the bandage and checked the wound. It had mostly healed, but there was faint red line where his scales hadn't grown back. And the bruising was still evident. He pulled on his padded tunic and left.

The mok'bara court was already crowded with spectators when he arrived. The sea of bodies parted for him as he approached. He stood in the middle of the court and waited. He saw S'kaa in the crowd. And Master-at-Arms Torgo. And Lt. S'stas. And a very large Gorn wearing the uniform of a KDF Commander was staring at him with great interest.

Junk arrived, with his friends, and Sgt. Reject. Junk and Reject stepped up onto the court with Sway. "You have agreed to the rules," the Master Sergeant announced. "This duel of honor will be settled by unarmed, hand-to-hand combat. Three falls, and you're out. I will officiate-"

"Not you!" Sway snapped. "I don't trust you." He scanned the crowd. "Master Torgo! Would you please oversee this contest?"

"It would be my pleasure, Bekk." Torgo stepped up, and Reject backed away with a sour expression. Junk's apprehension seemed to grow. Torgo asked "Are you ready, Bekk Sway?" The Gorn nodded. Torgo looked at his opponent. "Are you ready, Bekk J'ngev?" The Klingon hesitated, but then nodded as well. "Then begin."

Sway immediately dropped into a defensive posture and waited for Junk to make the first move. J'ngev was pensive. The Gorn's display in the mess hall had shown him that he could not rely on superior strength any longer. The scrawny adolescent Gorn was fueled by pure rage, making him at least as strong as J'ngev himself. Nor did he have any advantage in speed. He knew that from their calisthenics matches. He had size and reach on his side. That was all. He approached Sway, and stuck with a straight-arm jab at his throat.

Sway twisted away from the clumsy first strike and seized his opponent's wrist. He swatted away Junk's other arm that chopped at his neck, hooked his left leg under Junk's kick, and spun on his back heel, pulling the Klingon off-balance. He then leaped forward, driving his chest into Junk's side. (This hurt, but not as much as it would hurt Junk.) Simultaneously he slammed his free hand into the Klingon's hip and shoved him to the ground.

"First fall for Bekk J'ngev!" Torgo announced.

Junk rolled over and got to his feet, giving Sway a hateful look. Sway charged, making a feint to drive head-first into Junk's chest. J'ngev braced his feet and readied his hands to repel the brute-force lunge. Sway swerved and spun away at the last second, lashing out instead with a sweeping kick aimed at Junk's leading ankle. J'ngev jumped away just in time. He tripped over Sway's shin and stumbled, but did not go down. Sway's back was to him. He seized his arms, trying to put him in a hammerlock. Sway ducked and twisted away, and J'ngev repositioned to go for a chokehold.

Sway got his chin down under Junk's forearm. He opened his mouth and bit hard. Junk yowled in pain, and Sway snapped his head back, striking the Klingon in the jaw with a stunning blow. The Gorn drove both elbows back into Junk's ribs, putting a little distance between the adversaries. Sway jumped and spun and delivered a powerful kick to the head, laying J'ngev out.

"Second fall!" Torgo announced.

"Foul!" Reject protested. "The lizard bit him!"

"Did anyone establish a rule that said 'No biting'?" Torgo asked.

Reject opened his mouth and closed it without saying anything. J'ngev staggered to his feet, cradled his left arm and shook his head dejectedly. Sway licked blood off his chin and smiled.

"I thought not," Master Torgo declared. "Two falls to none. Continue!"

J'ngev went on the offensive, launching a wild flurry of punches so that Sway could only defend himself and left no opening for a handhold. Sway was being pushed back off the court. He dove to his left and rolled into a somersault, repositioning himself in the middle of the ring with some distance between him and Junk. Sway was breathing hard, and he realized he needed this fight to end soon, before he ran out of energy.

J'ngev stepped up again, but this time he dropped into the defensive form, daring Sway to come after him. Sway did. He tensed every muscle in his body to exert all of his strength at once, and lunged. He reached top speed in only two steps and leaped feet-first into his target. Junk's eyes bulged, clearly never expecting a cold-blooded creature to move that fast - and Sway ploughed into him at over 40kph, overpowering his rooted resistance and hurling the Klingon out of the ring.

"Victory to Bekk Sway!" Torgo shouted, amidst a collection of groans and angry curses with a smattering of cheers.

"NOOO!!" J'ngev ran back to the court, his d'k tagh held high, ready to strike.

"No weapons, damn you!" Reject hollered, ignored by everyone.

Sway caught Junk's knife arm by the elbow with both hands and ripped, tearing bone from tendon from muscle from ligament. J'ngev grabbed his own wrist with his left hand tried to push through with his momentum and drive the knife into the Gorn's neck. Sway backpedalled and pulled the knife down and twisted it, forcing J'ngev to stab himself in the chest.

A mix of pain and fear entered J'ngev's eyes. Sway's filled with hatred and cruelty, as he reached for the handle of the knife. He squeezed the tab that caused the secondary blades to spring open inside J'ngev's chest cavity. The Klingon's face warped with agony. Sway twisted the handle ninety degrees. J'ngev made sickly gasp. Another quarter-turn, and the Klingon's mouth opened in a silent scream. Sway closed the d'k tahg, pulled it out and stepped away from the gushing blood as J'ngev fell to the ground and died a painful, messy and dishonorable death.

Sgt. Rejets came out of nowhere, tackling Sway to the ground and screaming incoherently. Too exhausted to fight back, Sway curled up into a ball and braced himself for the beating. Reject kicked, stomped and pummeled Sway relentlessly until someone came up behind him and shouted "Hey!"

Rejets spun to meet a scaly fist crashing into his chin with meteoric force, launching him off his feet and over the edge of the court. The blow would have knocked almost any other humanoid unconscious, if not killed them outright, but Klingons have incredibly strong neck muscles and a very thick skull. Rejets started to sit up, shaking his head in a daze.

The Gorn Commander who had delivered the punch carefully stepped over Sway, walked up to Sgt. Rejets, kicked him back to the ground and planted a boot on his chest. Rejets stared up at over two-and-a-half meters of hulking, armor-clad Gorn, wearing a linked metal sash that declared him a Commander of a KDF warship. The Gorn glared down at him and spoke in a deep, vicious growl. "If you, or any of the bekks in your unit ever lays a hand on that boy again, I will hear of it. And I will come for you. And on that day..." he sucked air through his teeth and continued. "It would be better for you to face Fek'Ihr himself a thousand times than me on that day. Do you understand?"

"I... understand... Commander..." Rejets could barely breathe from the crushing weight on his chest.

"Good. Then remember this: the next time you see me, you will be addressing me as Captain, and that boy will be a member of my crew. My crew is my family, and you should know what happens to anyone who stands between a Gorn and his family..." The Commander suddenly lost interest in Sgt. Rejets and he turned his head toward young Sway. The youth was still curled up in his ball, but he was watching the Commander with wide eyes, and listening. S'stas, S'kaa, and Torgo were standing around Sway, unsure of what to do.

The Commander walked back over and crouched beside the boy. "Hello, young one. My name is Ssharki. What is your name?"

"Sway."

Ssharki smiled and gently placed his huge hand on the youngster's head. "That is what you are called. But what is your name?"

Sway tried to remember. It had been a long time since he heard it. "Suffa- no... S'fwyrna... S'fwyrnamokaarn."

Ssharki closed his eyes for a moment before looking up at Torgo. "It means 'Sweet Delight' in the old language," he explained. He turned his attention back to Sway. "Your mother must have loved you very much. What happened to her?"

"Killed. Her and my father. They were trying to protect me..."

"I understand. What about the rest of your family?"

"Killed. Fighting the Klingons."

Ssharki brought his head down the boy's level. "S'fwyrnamokaarn, I lost my family too. Many years ago. I would like to start a new family with you, if that's alright."

"You mean..." Sway started to uncurl himself "you want to... adopt me? You want to be my father?"

Ssharki nodded. "If you'll have me."

Sway felt the fear, hatred and anger he'd carried with him for the last five years drain away, replaced by an emotion he'd never felt before - hope. "Yes, please!" he cried.

Ssharki carefully picked up the battered child, stood to his full height and cradled the boy to his chest. He looked at S'stas and S'kaa. "You will witness this." The two Gorn nodded, and Ssharki looked skyward. "S'Yahazah, you have cared for this boy who has no family. Now I ask your leave to care for him myself, to make him a part of my family. May you deal with me ever so harshly if I fail in my duty to protect him from harm, or to raise him to honor the Four Sides of Life. I am now the father of S'fwyrnamokaarn."

S'kaa looked up and said "S'Yahazah is my witness, I recognize Ssharki as the father of S'fwyrnamokaarn."

S'stas and then Master Torgo repeated the same words.

Ssharki looked into Sway's eyes and smiled. "We are family now, my little Soldier Boy."

"Um." Lt. S'stas shifted her feet. "Sway doesn't graduate for another six months. But he could leave here after two, and complete his coursework aboard your ship. Uh, unless, as his legal guardian, you want to remove him from the Academy program."

Ssharki kneeled and placed Sway standing on the court. "What do you want to do, my son?"

"I... think I can stick it out for two months," the boy said. "I have a friend who needs looking after, and I don't think I'll have to worry about anyone hurting me again. I heard what you said to Sergeant Reject."

S'stas and Torgo had a chuckle at the nickname.

"I'll be around," Ssharki told him. "Right now I'm handling security for the House of Martok, so I'll be on-planet for a while and I'll drop by as often as I can. And in two months, I'll bring you up to the Norgh'Iw."

Sway hugged Ssharki and said "Thank you, father."


IKS Norgh'Iw, Qo'noS Shipyards - three hours later.

Commander Ssharki entered his quarters aboard the battlecruiser. He dug around his repair kit until he found his plasma torch, and then he approached the shelf on the far side of the cabin. There were four candles on the shelf. Only fourth one was lit. Ssharki focused on the first one.

The first candle represented Family. Ssharki closed his eyes, thanked S'Yahazah for bringing him a son, and lit the candle.


"Freedom is just a pretty idea unless it's backed by Force."

The Masterverse Timeline / Ten Forward Fanfics

Last edited by sander233; 07-08-2013 at 11:16 PM. Reason: typos