Star Trek: The Next Generation: I.K.S. Gorkon: Honor Bound (Star Trek: Klingon Empire) (Bk. 2)

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9780743457163: Star Trek: The Next Generation: I.K.S. Gorkon: Honor Bound (Star Trek: Klingon Empire) (Bk. 2)
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Klingon Captain Klag of the I.K.S. Gorkon, a new inductee to the Order of the Bat'leth, must face off against his fellow Klingons when his old rival, General Talak, orders him to go back on his word to the Children of San-Tarah to conquer their world. Original.

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About the Author:

Keith R.A. DeCandido was born and raised in New York City to a family of librarians. He has written over two dozen novels, as well as short stories, nonfiction, eBooks, and comic books, most of them in various media universes, among them Star Trek, World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Marvel Comics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity, Resident Evil, Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Farscape, Xena, and Doctor Who. His original novel Dragon Precinct was published in 2004, and he's also edited several anthologies, among them the award-nominated Imaginings and two Star Trek anthologies. Keith is also a musician, having played percussion for the bands the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players, the Boogie Knights, and the Randy Bandits, as well as several solo acts. In what he laughingly calls his spare time, Keith follows the New York Yankees and practices kenshikai karate. He still lives in New York City with his girlfriend and two insane cats.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Captain K'Vada watched as Klag's face faded from the small viewscreen. He then removed the Order of the Bat'leth medallion from his workstation, and was about to put it back in the drawer from which he'd retrieved it only a few minutes before. Just before he did, he hesitated, then decided to put the medallion at its proper place on his shoulder. It's been too long since I wore it. Longer still since wearing it actually meant anything.

K'Vada's service to the Empire went back to his youth -- a youth that went back fairly far, much as he hated to admit it. He had won many campaigns, brought honor to his House, and continued to grow older. Eventually, he knew, he would slow down, and some ambitious first officer would decide to challenge him. Or perhaps a worthy foe would send him to Sto-Vo-Kor -- though if the Romulan, Federation, Kinshaya, Kreel, Dominion, Cardassian, and Breen foes he'd faced over the years couldn't manage it, K'Vada didn't see how anyone else would. He had never considered himself to be an especially great warrior, yet here he was, still fighting after all these years, after all these campaigns.

With the decommissioning of his previous command following the war, he had only recently taken command of the I.K.S. Vidd. The previous captain had been the victim of a duel relating to some family feud or other. K'Vada came from a minor House that had never offended anyone; it was not of enough consequence to do so. As a result, his life had been refreshingly free of such distractions.

Unfortunately, Command placed him in charge rather than promoting the first officer, Commander Vigh. His House was of considerable consequence, which explained his high rank; his incompetence was also considerable, which explained K'Vada's placement on the ship over him. But it also meant that K'Vada needed to watch his back.

Entering the bridge, he saw that Vigh was sitting in the command chair. Although there was no regulation prohibiting it, Defense Force tradition held that no one save the ship's supreme commander sat in that chair, regardless of who was in command of the bridge. K'Vada supposed that Vigh could have come up with a more obvious insult, but one didn't readily spring to mind.

As the door to his office rumbled closed behind him, K'Vada said, "Pilot, change course to the Kavrot Sector, system loSmaH Soch, maximum warp."

Vigh, K'Vada noticed, did not rise from the command chair. "Sir, we have been assigned to patrol this sector for the next three days."

As if I did not know that. "We have new orders."

"No communications have arrived from Command."

This was, strictly speaking, true. The message from Klag came on a tight-beam subspace carrier wave that bypassed the Vidd's communications system and went straight to K'Vada's Order medallion. K'Vada did not respond directly to Vigh's statement, but instead turned back to the pilot. "Is the course laid in?"

"Yes, sir."

"Execu -- "

Vigh rose from the command chair. "Belay that!"

K'Vada sighed. I should have known. "Pilot, execute at maximum warp, or I will replace you with a living officer who understands the chain of command." He turned to Vigh. "That goes for you as well, Commander."

"We have received no change in our orders!"

"We have not. I have." Indicating the Order medallion, K'Vada added, "This is official business of the Order of the Bat'leth, which supersedes any authority save that of the emperor himself."

To K'Vada's satisfaction, the pilot engaged the warp drive as soon as K'Vada mentioned the Order.

Whereupon Vigh unsheathed his d'k tahg, the secondary blades unfurling with a dual click. The captain sighed.

"It was not enough that Command did not give me this ship that was rightfully mine, but to put a lying sack of taknar droppings in my place is an insult I will bear no longer! The Vidd will be mine!"

K'Vada contemplated wasting his breath pointing out the rightness of his position with regard to the Order, but decided against it, choosing to simply unsheathe his own personal dagger. Vigh was making use of these events as an excuse to finally challenge K'Vada. Better to get this challenge out in the open and over with than to let it fester on the bridge for months on end.

"Now," Vigh continued, "you will be exposed for the honorless petaQ you trul -- "

His diatribe was cut off by K'Vada slashing at his face.

Vigh stumbled backward, apparently surprised that K'Vada didn't wait until he was done giving his speech before attacking. Blood seeped from the wound in his cheek.

Screaming, Vigh lunged forward in a clumsy attack that K'Vada easily sidestepped. He had an opportunity to strike back, but decided against it. K'Vada hadn't had a good workout in far too long.

Within five minutes, it was clear he wasn't going to get one now, either. What Vigh lacked in command competence, he more than made up for in clumsiness. His attacks were the tiresomely predictable ones of a novice fighter. K'Vada had seen children fresh off their first hunt wield a d'k tahg with more skill than his soon-to-be-former first officer.

Finally, on Vigh's fourth obvious lunge, K'Vada again sidestepped, and plunged his own d'k tahg right into Vigh's chest. I should have done this weeks ago.

By this time, the entire complement of the bridge was chanting K'Vada's name. He removed the dagger and let Vigh's body fall to the deck. The captain then moved to the command chair, not bothering with the death ritual. That was only for honored warriors bound for Sto-Vo-Kor, a state of affairs that most assuredly did not apply to Vigh.

The second officer -- now the first officer -- grinned and said, "You have done a great service to this vessel today, Captain."

"I did nothing that Vigh did not bring upon himself," K'Vada said dismissively as he sat in his chair and saw the distorted starfield on the viewscreen that indicated that they were at warp. "Pilot, time to destination?"

"Twenty-seven hours, sir."

"Speak with engineering about increasing engine efficiency. I want us at that star system as soon as possible."

Stepping around from the operations console to K'Vada's side, the new first officer -- Lieutenant Yivogh -- spoke in a low voice, so their conversation would only be heard by the two of them. "Sir, may I know our new mission?"

"We go into battle to preserve the honor of our Empire, Commander," he said, making it clear that an elevation in rank went with the elevation in position, prompting a grin from Yivogh. "You will know more when the time is right."

"As you command, sir."

K'Vada nodded, and leaned back in his chair. Not a bad morning, he thought. First what appeared to be a call to glory. Then he rid himself of his burdensome first officer -- which, judging by the crew's reaction, would serve only to solidify his own position as captain. Yivogh might have had ambitions of his own, of course, and he was as likely as not to view the peculiar nature of this mission as an opportunity for advancement, much as his predecessor had.

For now, however, he is grateful to me, and I will use that for as long as I may. And then, Klag, we shall see if your call to glory is true...

Bekk Maris sat in his new bunk on the Gorkon, reading Warriors of the Deep Winter, the latest novel by K'Ratak. It was disappointing. There was a time when a new release from the novelist was a cause for celebration. Maris still remembered the day that The Vision of Judgment, the long-awaited sequel to The Dream of Fire, was released. He had arranged to have no duties to perform on that day, and spent all of it reading the new book. He finished it that day, and reread it, but it had not been the transcendent experience that the first one had been. Now, six books later, Maris was forced to admit that The Dream of Fire was not just K'Ratak's greatest work, but his only good one. The author was, in Maris's considered opinion, coasting on the reputation of that one bit of genius.

Maris wasn't the only one who felt that way. An irate reader had met K'Ratak at a public appearance and challenged him, saying he was no longer worthy of his accolades. However, to the irritation of many dissatisfied readers, K'Ratak won the duel handily, and no one had dared challenge him since.

Looking up from his reading, Maris surveyed his new surroundings. In truth, they were no different from his old surroundings: a bunk, two meters in length, one meter in width, and half a meter in height, the same as assigned to each of the fifteen hundred soldiers on the Gorkon. The difference was that he was now in the top bunk belonging to Fifteenth Squad instead of the middle one belonging to the seventh.

It had all begun last night when he returned from dinner to find that his belongings had been removed.

"You're in the wrong place, Bekk."

Maris had turned to see Avok, the Leader of the seventh. As usual, the Leader's hair was flying in all directions, his beard untended, with bits of the evening meal's bok-rat liver amid the hairs.

"What's going on, Avok?"

"It seems that the entire eighteenth has been promoted to the seventh. QaS DevwI' Vok was impressed with their performance during the initial attack on San-Tarah."

Scowling, Maris said, "The entire eighteenth? All four?" Avok nodded. "But what of me? And Trant?" The other two members of the seventh had been killed during one of the contests against the San-Tarah.

"According to Lieutenant Lokor, you've both been transferred to fill the two spots in the fifteenth."

Angrily, Maris asked, "Why have we been demoted?" Maris knew that the fifteenth, too, had lost a pair of soldiers to the San-Tarah, but that didn't explain why the ranks were being filled with superior soldiers. A post on one of the finest new warships in the fleet was a great honor, as was an assignment to the seventh. The Gorkon had three hundred five-soldier squads, and to be among the first fifteen of those -- under the general command of QaS DevwI' Vok -- was a great privilege. To have that privilege -- well, not revoked as such, but at least diminished did not sit at all well with Maris.

Avok smiled, showing a mouth full of gaps between too-rare instances of teeth. "You'll have to ask Lieutenant Lokor. I just do what they tell me."

That's always Avok's excuse, Maris thought. Aloud, he simply said, "I see."

"Leader Wol is waiting for you at the fifteenth's bunks."

Oh no. Oh no no no. Now it all made sense to Maris.

Before their arrival at San-Tarah, Trant and Maris had gotten into a fight. Maris couldn't even remember what it was about -- they were both just aggravated by the enforced inactivity of nine weeks of useless exploration of the Kavrot Sector. The second officer, Lieutenant Toq, had broken up the fight, along with Leader Wol of the fifteenth. Wol had convinced Toq not to report their brawl to the QaS DevwI' or to Lokor, for which Maris, at least, was grateful, but Toq's price for that was to make Maris and Trant's subsequent behavior Wol's responsibility.

It seems that it is to be taken literally now. Resigned to the inevitable, Maris made his way to the fifteenth's bunks.

Without thinking, he got into the middle bunk, assuming that he would occupy the same spot. However, the quartermaster had either not bothered to keep the same alignment, or simply didn't care. When Maris went to retrieve his personal padd, he found that they had put Trant's belongings in the middle bunk.

A few minutes later, Maris climbed to the topmost bunk, and found his own items there.

After a night's sleep, he awoke and tried to finish off Warriors when he heard footsteps approaching. He looked up to see Trant, walking stiffly. "I see that B'Oraq has finally freed you from your prison."

Trant's legs had been shredded by one of the alien creatures on the planet below. They appeared to have healed, but B'Oraq had, typically, insisted he remain in the medical bay overnight, as if a biobed were a proper place for a soldier. Trant was as proud a warrior as you could find, and might have made a fine officer. Apparently, though, his way was blocked. When they were assigned to the Gorkon together months ago, Trant had told Maris: "The sons of petty criminals do not become officers."

"Yes," he said now in reply to Maris's comment. "Our yIntagh of a doctor warned me that I would have 'difficulty' walking. She also said she was going to recommend I remain shipboard for the time being." He scowled. "I believe she meant that as a joke."

Maris grinned. "It is hard to tell with her. She learned medicine in the Federation, remember -- I believe she has picked up their peculiar sense of humor."

"Perhaps." He gazed dolefully at the bunks. "Lieutenant Toq had better hope that we do not encounter each other away from prying eyes."

Maris barked a laugh. "Speak a little louder, fool. Perhaps Lokor will hear you and kill you once and for all."

Another voice said, "Lokor wouldn't waste his time on such sputum as yourselves."

Looking past Trant, Maris saw Leader Wol approaching the bunk area, along with G'joth, an old bekk with waist-length white hair and a horn-shaped beard, and the infamous Bekk Goran, by far the largest and strongest Klingon on the Gorkon -- and, perhaps, in the Defense Force. He towered over the other two by a full head.

"And he won't need to," Wol said. "Because I will kill you long before he even has the chance to if given the slightest provocation. You were assigned to the fifteenth because I requested it. Toq made me responsible for you, and I take my responsibilities veryseriously."

"This is madness!" Trant spit on the deck. "We are warriors of the seventh. To be sent to the fifteenth is -- "

"Fitting." Wol smiled nastily as she said it. At least this Leader has all her teeth, Maris thought with amusement.

"I disagree," G'joth said. "I was hoping for worthy replacements for Davok and Krevor, not these two petaQ."

Trant advanced on the bekk. "You dare!"

Goran also advanced, his massive form looming over Trant. "If you touch my friend G'joth, I will break you in two, Trant."

Trant ceased his advance. Goran had held a superdense koltanium rock on his back for over seven hours on San-Tarah. He truly could break Trant into two separate pieces if he put his mind to it, and Maris was glad to see that his comrade wasn't foolish enough to put that to the test.

"This is Bekk G'joth," Wol said, indicating the white-haired man, "and this is Bekk Goran. They are part of the fifteenth. If you're lucky, Trant, you and Maris will live long enough to understand what that means."

"If we're<...

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