The LIEF Press

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fatherhood

Book 2 of "Tales of Death and Honour"
In a society where Honour is valued above life itself your first mistake could be your last.
The long hours slid slowly past as the unfathomable stars inched their stately circle towards the dawn. The child quietly waited for his parents' return - Klingon babies do not cry much - but finally hunger made it cry out. Minutes after the childs' first wail cut through the chill, pre-dawn air - for the sun would be up shortly - a dark shape separated from the inky blackness of the Temples' entrance.

"Life is not fair." His fathers' voice was surprisingly soft, almost wistful. "All these years we have been wanting a child, a son. No one could have been more proud than I when I found I was to be a father."

"You should have died at birth! You should have died last night!" His tone was now bitter as he contemplated what he must do. "What irony that a body so deformed can hold such warrior spirit. It is of no matter. There is no way forward for you and it is only I who can save you from the disgrace and dishonour that would be inevitable if I let you live."

"I said that if you saw the dawn, I would help you - I did not say I would allow that to happen. Life is not fair."

From the darkness came another voice, soft, almost baritone.

"This is true. That is why sometimes a neutral third party is required to ensure fair play."

The Klingon spun to face the direction the voice had come from, dropping instinctively into a knife fighters stance, blade drawn.

"Your wife assumed you would take matters into your own hands and through her family contacts got in touch with me."

A lantern clicked on and, once his eyes had accustomed to the new light, the Klingon recognised the interloper.

"Vulcan!"

For long seconds the two faced off. The wild-eyed Klingon shifting his weight easily, weaving his knife-hand in lazy circles. "I know you – you are T'Lor of L'Stok. Why do you interfere in a Klingon affair of honour?

The Vulcan stood perfectly still, his hands clasped in front of him.

"You shall not take the child's life." Calmly, unemotionally ignoring the question.

"And how do you think you will stop me?" Snarled the menacing Klingon as he started to edge his way around the stone altar.

The Vulcan raised one eyebrow. "It is a statement of fact, not a challenge …"
With a lightning burst of speed, the Klingon flipped his knife in the air, caught it by the tip and threw it with deadly force and accuracy, launching himself with a mighty roar after it!

For a split second the Vulcan looked certain death in the eye and did not flinch. The attack was over nearly as soon as it had begun though, for, within metres of their target, the knife and the Klingon rebounded in a blinding flash from the invisible force field before him.

The Vulcan continued after a brief pause. "It would be illogical to fight when there is no necessity."

Like an enraged animal, the Klingon leapt to his feet and once more charged the force field, this time standing his ground against it, a pyrotechnic aura lighting up the temple. After what seemed like an age but was in fact less than ten seconds, he fell back from the barrier, semiconscious, amidst a smoking haze, tinged with the stink of Ozone and singed flesh.

"Most impressive - you are obviously a brave and mighty warrior - however your attack is ultimately futile."

T'Lor stepped forward to the stone on which the now-silent baby was lying. "My purpose here is not to confront you, but to take the child to safety. If you have any feeling for the child, you might wish to bid him farewell."

The Klingon looked up with hatred glaring from his eyes. "You fool! It is you who is killing my son, for unless he completes the nights ordeal, he is not now, nor ever can be a Klingon. He will be dead in our eyes."

"Everything that transpired here last night and this morning has been recorded - I know your customs and laws and your fixation with death is illogical - death is not the purpose of life. Life is a gamble in which we, the players, confront one challenge after another. Some are trivial, others are virtually 'life or death'. The child has confronted his challenge and won. Unless I am mistaken, " he gestured towards the horizon " it is dawn."

Taken by surprise, the Klingon staggered to his feet and limped to the door of the temple where he could glimpse the first rays of the sun glinting over the mountainside opposite. He turned to glare at the Vulcan like a caged animal, his eyes shifting wildly here and there.

"Let us not delude ourselves though." T'Lors voice was calm and even, as if he were discussing a book or a recipe. "No matter what the outcome here, you had no intention of letting the child live …!"

His calm words were interupted by a sudden flashing and spluttering of the force field between them. The Vulcan correctly concluded that there had been an overload in one of the plasma couplings caused by the Klingons struggle. Seven minutes until his ship was in position to beam them up, when he spoke he was the model of control.

"It would seem that there is now a necessity to fight."

Seeing his opportunity the Klingon shambled back into the temple. "You Vulcans rely too heavily on your toys!" he growled through clenched teeth." Without them you are nothing!"

Without any appearance of haste, the Vulcan shrugged off the long trailing outer garment he wore to show a more tight-fitting jump suit underneath. "… and you Klingons rely too heavily on your blades." He said, stooping to pick up the dagger at his feet. Tossing it over his shoulder, he smoothly went on "I cannot allow you to harm the child."

As if this was a formal challenge the Klingon once more threw himself forward with an unintelligible battle cry. The Vulcan dropped into a sideways-on crouch with his right foot back, his left hand held like a vertical blade in front of him, his right hand palm upwards in front of his chest.

Instead of the collision of two bulls meeting head to head as the Klingon expected, it was as if he went straight through him to crash to the ground on the other side! It was a classic absorption, redirection and return of force. It started with a downward trap of the Klingons grasping hand, followed by a crunching "Bear Claw" strike to his nose which would have stunned a lesser being! The anti-clockwise turning motion started by the strike was continued as the Vulcan spun to the right of his opponent. Almost elegantly he rapped him over the back of the head as he passed him and finally dropped into a round-house kick to the back of the knees which knocked the legs from underneath him.

Six minutes, thirty seconds he thought - he had to stall for time and the best way was to get him talking. "You are a force without control. A missile without guidance circuits."

The Klingon looked up from the ground. "You have no honour! " He spat " Stand and fight! " He shouted.

"… and let you tear me limb from limb? I think not." Whilst his opponent was on the ground, the T'Lor lowered his hands from their defensive stance.

"You seek to harm the child, I cannot allow that to happen. You seek to get to the child, I redirect you away. If you come to harm it is in direct response to your attack. Cease your attempts to harm the child and the confrontation is over."

The Klingon staggered to his feet "You insult me, Vulcan, my son must be given an honourable death - hegh'bat. I am the only one that can do it." With a grunt of effort – his enraged attack on the force field had sapped his strength – he once more advanced on his opponent, albeit with more caution, and the battle was joined in earnest. T'Lor had been right in that this particular Klingon at least knew little about unarmed combat. He was as strong as a bull, single minded in his attack and fast. Fast, but not as fast as the Vulcan and what he lacked in strength, he made up in skill.

The battle now took on an almost surreal, dance-like quality as the two whirled and clashed.

This was no holonovel fight of pretty poses and dramatic oaths. The Klingon threw a virtual hurricane of punches, any one of which would have stunned a lesser opponent, however each attack was met with precisely the right block or counter. The Vulcans' style was beautiful to behold! His reflexes were so fast that to the uninitiated observer it looked as if his blocks, instead of being in response to the Klingons attacks, were drawing them like magnets!

He jumped and spun with the grace of a Denubian ballet dancer and yet his counter-attacking puches and kicks were delivered with deadly force. In the real world outside holonovels, most fights were over in minutes, sometimes seconds of the first blow being struck. As this fight wore on, it became obvious that the Klingon had the advantage. The Vulcans' only chance was to stop his opponent as soon as possible, but no matter how powerful or deadly the strike, the Klingon kept coming.He was tiring, of that there was no doubt, but so too was T'Lor, and the pauses when they faced each other, chests heaving, gasping for breath, were getting perceptively longer.

Eventually the inevitable happened, and one of the Klingon's punches slid past a block that was just a fraction of a second too slow and slammed into T'Lor's shoulder. Not enough in itself to end the fight, but enough to let through a flurry of blows that ended with the Vulcan crashing to the ground.

With a roar of triumph, the Klingon pounced on his adversary and the two rolled in the dirt grappling for an advantage. When the Vulcan came to rest, pinned to the ground, it was with the Klingon ceremonial blade – the D'k tagh – centimetres from his heart. Too late, T'Lor realised that he had underestimated the cunning of his opponent who had been manoeuvring towards the weapon all the time. The Klingon leered down into the face of the Vulcan, sweat & saliva dripping on his cheek.

This test of strength could only have one outcome. At such close quarters the Vulcans skill was of no avail against an enraged Klingon warrior whose every fibre was dedicated to war. The knife shakily bobbed & jerked between the two fighters but gradually with agonising slowness it bore down on the green Vulcan blood pumping at breakneck speed below it.

The Klingon gathered himself for his supreme effort and with a guttural roar of triumph, plunged the blade into the Vulcans' chest, pushing himself free the moment after! Not pausing for a second, he leapt to his feet and staggered towards the alter stone and the baby on it.

Even in his bloodlust though he realised something was wrong - was the force field up again? Too late he realised that the whole fight had been allowed to go ahead for a reason. As he lunged with his last reserves of strength to grab his son, he saw the tell-tale sparkle of lights spread through him as the child was transported to orbit.

Collapsing against the side of the alter, he tasted the bitterness of defeat and shame. In the end, the Vulcan had won. He had been unable to save his son from a life of shame and according to Klingon custom that shame was now his and his familys'.

He looked around and saw that the body of his Vulcan adversary had been transported as well but one thing had been left behind, the outer garment he had shrugged off at the start of the fight. Staggering to it and scooping it up, he crushed it to his face to memorise the scent and study the clan mark on the shoulder.

"L'Stok!" he whispered to himself.

"L'Stok!" his roar boomed out over the mountainside.

"A Blood Curse on you and your clan! I will destroy you and all you hold dear, just as you have destroyed my life!"

... and so saying he lifted his head and screamed a blood curdling howl that echoed through the still morning air.

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