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Authors: Keith R. A. DeCandido

Tags: #Science Fiction

Diplomatic Implausibility (6 page)

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“Likewise,” Beverly said with a nod.

Klag said, “Commander Drex will escort you to the medical ward, and the ambassador’s aide to his quarters.”

Without preamble, Drex moved to the exit without bothering to see if Wu and Beverly followed. In a human, that would have been considered rude, but it was normal for Klingons.
If you don’t have the brains to follow, you
don’t deserve to be escorted in the first place,
Riker thought with a smile. He had to admit to admiring the blunt simplicity.

Once the door closed behind Beverly, Klag turned to Riker and slapped him on the arm. “It has been a long time, my friend. Come, let us drink and remember old times.”

“Lead on,” Riker said, glad he had had the foresight to take an anti-inebriant before leaving the
Enterprise.
Bloodwine went right to his head.

* * *

For the first time in Beverly Crusher’s medical career, she walked into a Klingon medical ward without wincing.

Well, not wincing
too
much, in any case. . . .

The pitiful state of Klingon medicine had been a constant source of annoyance to Beverly, especially once she signed onto a ship with a Klingon officer whom she would be responsible for treating. Starfleet’s smallest emergency medikit was better equipped than the best Klingon hospital.

But the
Gorkon’s
medical ward seemed almost adequate. And Beverly suspected she knew the reason why.

“Hello, B’Oraq,” she said to the woman presently sitting at a small desk, reading a computer screen.

The woman—short and compact by Klingon standards, which made her close to the average height for a human woman, and with dark green eyes—looked up, and bared her teeth. She cried,
“ghojmoHwI’,”
the Klingon word for
teacher
or
mentor.
“I had hoped to see you when I learned we were meeting with your ship.”

And then, in an un-Klingon-like gesture, B’Oraq got up and gave Beverly a hug.

“It’s good to see you, too, B’Oraq,” Beverly said, returning the hug. “I see you’ve made some progress.”

“Actually, you can thank the war,” B’Oraq said, pulling on her braid as she spoke, a nervous habit she hadn’t lost in the past decade. Her auburn hair, which had been waist-length ten years earlier, barely reached her neck now. However, she retained the braid that extended down past her right shoulder, secured at the end with a small pin in the shape of the emblem of her House. “Not only was it a glorious victory for the empire—and the rest of the quadrant,” she added quickly, “but it, more than
anything, enabled me to finally make some of the advances I had been trying to put forward in Defense Force medicine.”

Beverly, who had a hard time using the word
glorious
to apply to the drawn-out misery of the Dominion War, frowned and asked, “In what way?”

“Well, it’s all well and good to insist that you can survive with an injury and that to have it treated is a sign of weakness. But when the Federation and Romulan soldiers fighting alongside you are fully recovered from more devastating injuries in less than a day, you start to learn the value of being able to knit bones in an instant and return whole warriors to the field of battle.”

Beverly chuckled at that. The Klingon Empire had a lengthy history of warfare, but the Dominion War was the first time they’d fought for such a protracted period alongside such powerful allies.
I suppose it’s bound to
have an effect,
she thought.

Showing off her medical ward with a gesture, B’Oraq continued: “So they finally allowed me to design a new medical facility. Mind you, what you see here is
not
what I originally designed. For one thing, more or less every cosmetic application was rejected—we are too proud of our scars, it would seem.”

Smiling, Beverly said, “This
is
an empire with a one-eyed chancellor.”

B’Oraq laughed. “True, true. However, this is only the beginning. The door is open, but I am determined that by the time I die, Defense Force vessels will have sickbays to match those of Starfleet.”

“If anyone can do it, you can.”

Beverly had first met B’Oraq ten years ago, while serving as the head of Starfleet Medical. Sitting in her office,
going over starship personnel requisitions, Beverly had been interrupted by an auburn-haired Klingon, demanding to know why she was being discriminated against.

Knowing that the empire had appallingly bad medical standards, B’Oraq—the daughter of a physician—decided not only to follow in her father’s footsteps, but to bring better medicine to her people. To that end, she applied to the Starfleet Medical Academy. When she barged into Beverly’s office, she was in her final year, and working at Spacedock’s medical facility. Where her classmates worked with patients, sat in on surgical procedures, and gained valuable experience, B’Oraq had been given all scut work and the simplest patients to handle.

Beverly investigated, and it turned out that B’Oraq’s supervisor had, not unreasonably, assumed that B’Oraq—who had made clear her intention to return to the Empire after graduation—would not be practicing medicine at anything near Starfleet’s standard. B’Oraq pointed out that she intended to raise that standard, but she couldn’t if she never got the diversified experience her classmates were getting.

With Beverly’s help, she got that experience, and the two of them remained in touch for the rest of Beverly’s tenure at Starfleet Medical.

“I even managed to get some prosthetics on board,” B’Oraq was saying, opening a storage locker that was full of an assortment of limbs and other body parts, “though they’re not officially part of our manifest. But I got them from the same Ferengi dealer who supplies Captain Klag with his bloodwine, so I doubt there will be any problems.”

“Well, B’Oraq, I have to say, I’m impressed. I was skeptical ten years ago, but it looks like you’ve done wonders here.”

“As I said, I have only started.” She sat back down at
her desk, indicating the guest chair for Beverly. “So how have you been?”

“Busy,” Beverly said as she took the chair. “War is always boom-time for doctors. I’ve done more surgery in the last two years than I did in the ten years previous. But we did well. Ninety-nine percent of the people who actually made it to sickbay lived to tell about it.”

“Excellent.”

“I suppose,” Beverly said with a sigh.
The problem,
she thought,
were all those who never made it to sickbay.

“As I recall, you had a son who served on the
Enter
prise
with you, yes? Is he well?”

“Well enough,” Beverly said with a lopsided smile. “He’s, ah, not with Starfleet anymore. He’s—traveling.”
How do I explain to B’Oraq that my son is living on
another plane of existence when I don’t entirely under
stand it myself?

She was saved from having to explain further by the door to the medical ward opening on a face Beverly had never expected to see again. “Kurak?”

Kurak—now wearing the uniform of a commander—looked at Beverly and snarled. Then again, Kurak always seemed to be snarling. Her large brown eyes always smoldered with anger, and her lips were always pursed, when they weren’t curled in a snarl. “You! What are
you
doing here?”

“She is my friend, Kurak,” B’Oraq said, then looked at Beverly. “I take it you two know each other.”

“This
toDSaH
invited me onto her ship,” Kurak said before Beverly could answer, “for a demonstration of a metaphasic shield. When its inventor was killed, your
friend
accused me of the murder.”

“Kurak, I—” Beverly started.

“I do not wish to hear it,” Kurak said, holding up her hand. “I have business to discuss with the doctor. You will leave—now.”

B’Oraq snarled. “This is not engineering, Kurak. In the medical ward,
I
say who stays and goes.”

“It’s all right,” Beverly said, getting up, not wanting to start a dispute between doctor and engineer. “I should probably be getting back to the
Enterprise
in any case. It was good seeing you again, B’Oraq.”

Well, there’s something I never expected to come back
and bite me on the rear,
Beverly thought as she left the
Gorkon’s
medical ward. Her attempt to sponsor Dr. Reyga, a Ferengi scientist, and his metaphasic shield was not one of Beverly’s proudest moments, seeing as it cost Reyga his life and almost cost Beverly her career.
To be
honest, Kurak has every right to be angry with me.

She stood in the corridor, trying to adjust her eyes.
The
transporter room was this way, I think.
She hated trying to navigate by herself on a Klingon ship; they always kept the lights dimmed to near-darkness. Medically, she understood the reasons—Klingons were much more sensitive to bright lights than humans—but it didn’t make it easier for her to stumble her way around.

“Excuse me?” said a surprisingly timid voice.

Beverly turned to see a very strange sight: a well-groomed Klingon. His hair was short and combed, something Beverly had only seen on Worf—and he did so only to conform to Starfleet uniform standards. More unusually, this Klingon lieutenant had no facial hair whatsoever, his teeth were straight, and he seemed to have an athletic, swimmer’s build.

“Uh, yes?” she said.

“I am looking for Commander Kurak. Did she just go
into the medical ward?” The voice was not only timid, but slightly nasal.

“Yes, she did.”

“Good.” The Klingon stared at her for a moment, then said, “You look familiar—do I know you?”

“I don’t think so,” Beverly said, perhaps too emphatically.
I would’ve remembered if I met this one before.

Suddenly, the Klingon straightened. “You are Beverly of the House of Crusher! You are the doctor who performed the blood test on Kahless II to prove his legitimacy on the
Enterprise!”

Blinking, Beverly said, “Uh, yes—yes, that was me.”

“It is a
great
honor to meet you, Doctor!” the Klingon said eagerly.

“Uh, if you don’t mind, Lieutenant—?”

“Vall.”

Beverly nodded in acknowledgment. “How did you know that was me?”

Vall blinked, as if the question was ridiculous. “It is in the song.”

“Song?”

“The song about Kahless’s return. You are in the fourth verse. I will sing it for you.”

Vall took a deep breath, as if about to break into song. Holding up a hand to head off this dire possibility, Beverly said, “No, no, that’s okay. I, uh—I really have to be getting back to the
Enterprise,
but it was a pleasure meeting you, Vall.”

“The pleasure was mine, Doctor!”

“Don’t mention it.”
Please, don’t
ever
mention it. . . .

Vall walked quickly toward the medical ward.

Beverly stood in the corridor for a moment.
Well, that
was weird.

She continued her journey to the transporter room, debating with herself whether or not to look up the song about Kahless’s return on the
Enterprise
computer.

“So,” Martok said as two civilians brought trays of food for him and Worf, “how are you liking the new post so far?”

“The honor is to serve,” Worf said as one of the trays was placed before him.

Martok laughed. “So you hate your new role as much as I do. Good. It serves you right for forcing me into mine.”

“Hate
is too strong a word. I view it as—a challenge.”

Scooping a handful of skull stew into his mouth, Martok said, “As well you should. I regret giving you such a vexing one to start. But we need speak no more of that. You know my feelings, and I would not wish Klag to think we were plotting behind his back. We have concluded our business. Now is a time for family.” Martok sighed. “Which reminds me of one other piece of business that perhaps we should discuss. Family business.”

“Oh?”

“As you may know, my son Drex is the first officer on the
Gorkon.”

“Yes.” Worf had been expecting something like this from the moment he saw Drex’s name on the ship’s crew roster.

“I would ask a favor of you, Worf. Keep an eye on him.”

Then again, I was
not
expecting that. . . .
“An eye for what, precisely?”

“My son has many flaws, as you well know. He has always preferred to let his father’s honor speak for him
instead of creating his own. He grew worse during the time I was captured by the Jem’Hadar and that Lubbockian slime devil of a changeling took my place.” Martok spat on the deck. Worf could sympathize. The idea that someone had taken over your life—the way one of the shape-shifting Founders had done to Martok four years ago—was not appetizing. If the changeling had not been so publicly unmasked on Ty’Gokor as it was, Martok’s honor may never have recovered.

“What is it you wish of me?” Worf asked.

“I speak not as chancellor to ambassador, but as brother to brother, Worf. Help him find his own honor.”

Worf refrained from pointing out that one cannot find something that does not exist. Instead he simply said, “I will try.”

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