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Ghdar
Homeworld of the Gorn Confederation
 

• Another Dinner • Bloody Claws •


Another Dinner
By
Scott Hunter

This article originally appeared in Hailing Frequencies issue 5. It has been recreated here from the original material.

The clack of polished boots on metal presented a brief cacophony in the tight spaces, winding as they did in symmetrical form in seemingly all directions. A light of unparalleled clarity illuminated the entire hall. Every conceivably viewable part of that hall was spotless and glimmering, except for the expressions on some of the faces of those assuming positions in the rows.

  "If I jump out of my skin and run screaming down the corridor, tell them I can see the spirits of the dead..."

"... Does this look right? I think its level..."

"I really don't think they'll care too much what we look like... except for the meat on our bones."

The few commendations on display looked lonesome on their red dress tunics.

A great shadow passed slowly in front of the suns and the galaxies, eclipsing the cascade of starlight through the adjoining promenade windows. Those privy to the sight couldn't suppress a shiver as the behemoth moved across.

"Bridge to Captain: the cruiser is alongside and they are requesting permission to come aboard."

"Acknowledge. Permission granted."

Everyone settled down more rigidly into their places.

A colossal, thunderous crash jars the room; everybody looks about, and a quiet voice meant only for one utters, "Sir..."

"They don't waste time do they?" from elsewhere.

"No problem - they're just a little rough... ... I think." He gets a little nervous and queries back, "Trask is on Weapons today, isn't he?"

The familiar Vulcan nod gave him reassurance.

Everybody seemed to be holding themselves together rather well. Until the airlock doors opened, And there they were - in all their ghastly glory. Ready to step onboard across that gleaming threshold, crimson and yellow and harsh black-violet cascading forth from the monstrous interior beyond that corrupted the harmony and order and sanity of... Engineer Keith MacAlister - he lost his whistle.

Phoop!

All heads turned to MacAlister, a grizzly seeming man who was as unprepared for the event and the nature of their guests as he was for reforming his coarseness. Wide-eyed in every way he kept his cool and handled the situation.

"... Warpsucker!"

Beyond, the partially hooded figure gazed at the shooting object speeding across his view, then at the engineer.

The most hapless witness could only turn his authoritative head away, deftly retrieving and dry-swallowing in an experienced and quick jerk of the head the aspirin he kept handy at all times in his suit pocket. His expression was a deadpan of joy thereafter.

Then MacAlister impromptly placed his hands to his mouth and piped aboard the party in resoundingly unique style. He then wiped the spittle on his dress pants and put on the greatest fake smile ever known to mankind (but not to his superior...).

The figure alone stepped through, locking its shrouded gaze upon he who had stepped forward.

"On behalf of the United Federation Of Planets, I welcome you aboard the United Starship VanKeegan. I am Captain J'lel Annatan."

"And I...," the cowl, a tattered ripped black thing, fine but ragged, is pulled down to the sides - a two-piece covering, "...."

"Issz the module defective? Did you hear..."

He looks behind him, "Barelyy...," and grabs the small metallic device next to his chest, crushing it to pieces in his hand and spreading the technology's ashes to the ground before him. He reaches out for a replacement, which a leathery hand promptly offers. He resumes his address.

"... I bring greeetingsz from thee mightyy Gorn."

"I am Seenior Captain HeeeV of thee Guardians, formerlyy King'sz Fleet Guard. Wee are part ov thee 4th Fleet taszk force asssigned to patroll this sectorr, and unlessss you precsipitate itt, my shipp will remain parallel and sssteady and there shall bee no bloodshedd."

The Vulcan returned a quick stare to his superior who swiftly dealt with the concern, "I assure you we shall precipitate no such action."

As the rest of the party trudged menacingly onto the floor, towering ornate blades resting at hips and backs, the cascading harshness from the dim shuttle interior ceased: the shuttle iris interlocked once again. The room began to cool back to its normal temperature - the heat sweat abated.

"Thiss isz my Mechanisst, Seniorr Comman-der Rrraakk Kesss. Beside him is my Securrity officer Seniorr Comman-der Vorzazss and my second-in-command," he then pointed to his other side, "Crrodd is Juniorr Comman-der in charge of Weaponsz, and my Analyssis officer reemainedd behind."

To the considerable distress of his blue-skinned counterpart the Gorn strode forward and at him, "Yourr Speak Hall - wee should go to itt now..."

"Yes... yes of course. This way."

J'lel had made sure that the decks through which they walked were as devoid of incidental crew traffic as possible. Having the 'lizards' onboard would be sure to shock the Hell out of your typical recruit. They made their way to the modest but still luxurious accommodation, as deliberately close to the airlock as he could have made it.

Slowly and inexorably they made their way into the room and into their opposing seats at the long table. Each Gorn removed the massive blade weapons on their persons and laid them to their sides by their respective chairs. Federation attentions turned towards the singular exploring Gorn, checking doorways and accessways - he was not so quick to assume a position by his superior.

"Forrgive Comman-der Vorzazss... he iss diligently para-noid, and so he iz my Ssecurrrity officer and my second."

J'lel replied, "Certainly." A general easing began to materialize now that the group was at rest, eventually including Vorzazss, "So tell me Captain, why did you not transport over?"

"Huh huh hehh..." the entourage grinned chillingly, knowingly, "You are likely familiar with accidentss in the courrse of your own transporter developmentt - the Ravenor iz a new star-ship, and some fluctuations have been observved with that sysstem. We havve avoidedd its use until Commander Kesss's specialistss havve iso-lated and remedieed thee problemm."

"I could have a team go over to your ship and assist..."

"That will nott bee necsessaryy."

Commander Kesss tersely adds, "I will inspect thee system on your VanKeegan and apply thee observationz to our system. Yourr team would probably bee mosst... un-comfortable in our corridorrs..."

"Captain, I request permission to visit sickbay - I'm seeing funny colors everywhere and my eyes hurt considerably."

The Captain concerns himself with the request, "I apologize Annatan - yourr crew may havve sustainedd damage from ourr lightss: we favourr different frequencsiez of illuminationn... I shall havve Commander Heg on the Ravenor log it for thee future." Heev continued towards the affected, "Feemale crew-Man, the effectss will bee temporaryy, yourr ocular sensez shall returnn in mere hourz."

"Ummm... thank you Captain. Captain?"

"Yes, permission granted." Staggering slightly, she leaves the room. J'lel finally gets the opportunity to introduce his officers.

"This is Ta'let, my Science officer," the Vulcan nodded cordially, "This is my Weapons officer Roger Hannibal..."

"Hello."

"... And that is my Chief Engineer, Mr. MacAlister."

The ever-grizzly Gaelic bastard showed, despite the uniform and the shave, "Greetings...." He was rather unprepared for this prompt to speak - it showed on his apprehensive face.

Kesss spoke up again, now locked upon the nervous engineer "I am gen-er-al-ly unfamiliarr with yourr customs, but I guesss the device is meant to remain at yourr lipss..."

Low Gorn chuckling began to boil over and out, like a troll before it snatches the sheep or a witch before she grabbed Gretel. MacAlister immediately relaxed in the grip of his minor infuriation at the reference - bloody smartass snakes. He muttered under his breath, "Give me a good stick and I'd whack you silly, 2 ton bags a sh…" J'lel didn't have to hear MacAlister to know what it was he was muttering - his guess was invariably in the same ballpark. J'lel couldn't help but laugh some as well. This was nice....

"That was my Medical officer, Allana Honsberg."

"My Engineer iz curious az to yourr metallurgyy for thiss vessel."

Kesss takes the cue, "How iz it that you do not blow awayy with thee solar windz? Your sslenderr architecturre lackss thee masss to withstandd the rigourrz of combatt - thee veryy plates wee walk on threaten to co-llapsse under eeach ov our stepss; with effort I couldd snap ssome ov your bulkheadz in half. This ship would shatterr into a thousand piecez if it was struck by one ov our Plaszma weaponzs."

Ta'Let responds, "The hull superstructure is in actuality quite beyond your considerable personal capacity to damage. It is composed of a Molybdenum, Tri-tellarine, Titanium, and Di-tritichaic alloy molded and meshed to a supporting weave of poly-plasts and steel alloy fibers. These are joined together for the most part via molecular welds that seamlessly seal the outer shell to the vacuum of space."

The Gorn Security officer speaks, "Then why doez your floor bend beeneath uss?"

"Hmmm. I do not know. The mean weight of a Gorn being 475 lbs....” Kesss corrects him, "503 poundz. By our lasstt cen-suss..."

"Oh? Interesting. I must theorize that despite the specifications of our main structure, the corridor floor plates or their mountings are manufactured to less rigid tolerances. Perhaps when your combined mass is versus a given area... it could be an unforeseen stress. These access ways upon this Federation vessel were not meant for cargo capacities."

"He doesn't mean to refer to you lugs as cargo crates..." MacAlister chimes in. Vorsaszz looks at him, J'lel just does his officer best to move on. The Gorn Captain helps that along.

"Come now Sscience officerr Ta'let: were I to charge thee Ravenor into your VanKeegan vessell in a normal ramming maneuverr," J'lel looks at his engineer, knowing Kieth cringes to himself at the thought of the damage such would cause, and knowing that he shares his own disbelief at how readily these beings embrace such tactics, "it would snapp like thee bone of a Lyran brooodling! Our vessels are designedd to bee strong and resilient, while your UFP starships are sleek and flimzy. So they look, and so they seeem to bee az well. I do not understandd how you can claim militarry successez with such thingz."

"Our vessels aren't THAT flimsy..." J'lel pauses for a moment and then looks away into a wall - he begins to quaff his drink with relish.

"That is quite possible given what we know of Gorn architecture and priorities. You see Captain, the Gorn are said to utilize a triple hull cast alloy frame with solid blocks of fused stone ore interlocked throughout the entirety. Very strong indeed..."

Ta'lel continues, but on a different subject of momentary but immediate importance for him, speaking into a tricorder device he has produced from who knows where, "Computer, update status log for Species Entry - Gorn - Culture - Vital Statistics, subject: weight mean update..."

"Ta'lel... do that later, please..."

"Affirmative Captain."

"Listen, neither I nor, if you clamber over my dead blue carcass, Engineer Keith - never mind me - are going to let you and my intrepidly dedicated Science officer dash my ship to pieces in order to prove a point of resiliency!"

"Huh huh... of coursse nott, Captain. It would bee a waste ov good Federation rezourcez. Insteadd wee shall havve to acquire some of your sim-u-la-torr programz and allow for thee eventt in wargamez sometime, if our reespectivve leaderz agree to such in the near futurre. Let uss drinkk to such an occasion!"

Captain Annatan recomposes himself to join in the toast, a feeling he somehow thought he would be reserving for a gathering with Klingons or Romulans rather than with Allies. Engineer MacAlister needs no invitation to do so - his quaffing almost matches the slurps of the Gorn officers. It also drowns his concerns about the Gorn and his 'feeble' ship....

"So you do drink?"

"Yess Captain, but not like you do. Wee havve seen your selvez on leavve and off militarry dutiez."

"What do you mean?"

Slurp, "Wee po-ssesss a metabolizm which enabless uss to ignore thee effects of mosst 'inebriants'. It iz a core partt of our beeing that manyy of you will like-ly findd intriguing."

Kesss speaks again, "There iz a customm of yourrzs we havve not yet seeen, Captain. Thee guest dinner..."

"Huh, yes, thee Feasst!" Captain Heev continued, "Let uss pro-ceeed."

The Captain breaks himself out of the locking presence of his counter-parts and turns to a nearby ensign, "Jeremy..."

The studious Ensign proceeds to retrieve many dishes from a nearby alcove, returning to place them on the table. That done he is dismissed and exits. The Gorn sit rigidly and strangely motionless for a short time as the smell of the meats hits their nostrils. The leader takes the first cautious bite, then in labored fashion so do the others. Heev accelerates his consumption to a tremendous pace, his throat expanding as half-chewed morsels rush down his leathern gullet.

All begin to accelerate their pace at the table, and J'lel begins to eat too, until one of the Gorn, silent up until now, speaks up in disgust.

"Thiisss meat izz crude for a Feassttt! Such smalll morselz..."

Heev snaps his head towards him "Are enough for YOU Junior Commander Crrodd!" Crrodd settles down and resumes eating. Heev's teeth are showing quite well, "You will forget my officer`z state-mentt andd continue - he will bee disciplinedd on our reeturnn!"

Heev reaches for his chest and temporarily disables his translator to directly address his subordinate. Crrodd continues eating, but in a dedicated manner.... Hearing the naked Gorn tongue chills even the Vulcan.

The Captain responds in the awkwardness... not that this evening has been anything but, "I... I could easily provide more if you desire. We have other..."

Heev slowly moves his head in a negative manner as he re-engages the translating device, "The Feast iz ample for our reequire-mentss. There will bee no unnecessaryy extensionnzs."

The entirety eat, at times the two sides seemingly competing with each other, though of course the crocodilian dedication and capacities of the guests predetermine the outcome whether such was real or merely perceived. The Federation group eats a little more lightly than usual.

In between gulps and slurps Senior Captain Heev spoke again.

"I havve not seen a blue-skin beforre in person. This iz an evventt - your aggressivve selvez have beenn unbe-hol-den to mee, exceppt for thee picturez wee obtainedd from an Earther during a stopoverr at your Starrbase 31. The pamphletss werre, I beelieve, part ov your 'Tou-r-izm package'..."

"Sorry..." J'lel had to chuckle some more.

"Yes, we apologize - we have aggressive commercial elements..." Ta'let tried to finish but was brought to an abrupt halt at the finality of his listener.

"Most annoying."

After a few moments Kesss adds, "Some verryy ug-lyy placez."

Heev adds, "Your medical officerz acceptedd our apologiezs for thee incidentt."

An unconscious burst of laughter escaped from the far table end - MacAlister's belly. He could imagine what happened to the poor fellow. He probably just wound up getting the complete attention of the Gorns... that may have been enough for a heart attack.

Kesss grins.

" So tell me something about Ambassador Kerrvalzz - is he arriving shortly? We..."

The Gorn Captain's mood immediately tightens.

"He haz beeen EATENN..."

A terrible pause ensues.

Trust the Vulcan to break it, "That would certainly explain why he is not here, Captain..."

"You are surprized? Perr-hapss you are nott familiar with ourr punishmenttss for trreeazonn."

J'lel is aghast, "Eaten?!? Isn't that a little... phhh…I can't speak...” "Capital punishment for capital crimez, Captain Annatan. Conn-suumm-ationn. It hasz beeenn so for hundreddz of millenia."

"That's bloody barbaric!" MacAlister bravely interjected.

"It izz ourr WAYY. Wee discovered his traitorous activvitties - hee betrayyed uss to thee Orionz for personal gain. Az rare az that iz for thee Gorn it haz happenedd and wee deal with it appropriatelyy."

J'lel is still dumbfounded by the revelation. Heev recognizes the reaction and takes it in stride.

"Wee actt, Captain." Heev adds shortly after, "Do not worryy: we sllayy thee Meatt with bladezs before we ripp downn thee piecez. We are not base flesh-beeasttss, human."

Heev's inveighing against insult stifles further debate by the amazed Federation.

The Gorn Captain turns the tables.

"Why arre you not at Warr with thee Klingon Empire?"

"WHAT?" flabbergasts J'lel. What a night.

"Why doo you not fight thee Klingonz? I waz quite clearr in my meaning, Captain."

"The Federation does not look for trouble - we do not initiate wars or look for conflict! ..."

"Then you turrn a blind eye to 'conflictt'." The Captain pauses deliberately and then continues, "Thee Confederation haz beeen fighting thee Romulan fleetss forr many yearz now. It iz no borderr skirmishh - it iz a limitedd warr! They strike at tar-gets ov opportunity and hide, wee then huntt them downn and deestroyy them. Theyy are accomplishhed hiderzs, wee are accomp-lishhed hunterzs. Though wee do not intentionallyy penetrate deep into theirr terr-rit-or-yy, wee willl purrssuue themm wherever theyy may go."

Vorzazss grips his mammoth drink flagon and purposefully squeezes, then lets go, squeezes, then lets go. Eventually the flagon metal no longer springs back into form. He looks about in as sheepish a manner as a Gorn may look, to find that if anyone has noticed his vandalism, no one pays heed. They are listening to the Gorn Captain.

"And wee are winning! So far wee havve deestroyyedd many of their main-line fleetss, while theyy havve done little to no damage to ourz. But still they raid our outpostss and settlementss - they do so becauze it iz easy. Wee do not ignore them! Wee do not stand byy! Weee strike back - wee punish thee In-va-dderz. Wee divulge nothing critical by telling you thatt our intelligence beelieves thee Star Empire iz reigning itself in in prepara-tionn for another largerr seriez of maneuverrz against uss... something more bold and ambitious. They buildd their warr machine Captain, and wee shall do more than what iz nec-sessaryy to stop them."

He comes full circle to his original querying point, "A-gainsst thee Klingonz you doo noth-thing."

"Why should we? Are you suggesting we instigate war?"

"I suggest noth-thing Captain. Reelationz beetween your people havve settledd down in recent time. Thiss provez that your idealzs are worth-lesss." Heev has the undivided attention of the UFP group - even Ta'let shows some small signs of consternation at this. He explains, "Within thee Imperriall Fleeet iz a veteran commanderr, much honourredd by hiz brethrenn for hiz victoriez in ac-tionn. He iz Goth Maaghe'. Do you know thee namez of thee star-shipss in hiz bat-tle fleet? Enslaverr, Conquerring Heeel, and In-flic-ttorr. How did theyy get thoze namez, Captain? For thee sake ov 'prosperityy' you look away while thee Klingonz hold worldz - entire civilizationzs - in thrall. Wee do nott: if a Klingon star-ship enterz our space, it shall bee destroyedd."

"We are aware of the problems in Klingon society. Personally, I hate them and their lust for violence. My people are warriors too, but there is a time for such things. We cannot forego diplomacy and move to force... then we become as they and dictate. We must give civilized approaches a chance."

"WORDZ! WORDZ! You are ridden with them. You arre fulll ov politicss. Wee do not approve!"

Ta'lel interjects, "With the rare exception, the Klingons employ slaves of their criminals - said work being a form of penal servitude and punishment. At least from that perspective what their society does is comparable to our own."

Hah. To thee Klingonz, thoze who suf-fer deefeeat in battle are criminalzs. So yess, what you say iz true."

He continues.

"Thee Klingonz consider bat-tle to bee natural. Thee instinct for vi-o-lence, thee drive to killl and dom-in-nate and ravage, iz parrt of all sentient culturez. Gorn havve realized thiss, but Gorn havve also realized thatt instinct musst bee tem-peredd or it de-stroyz thee Animal. Wee arre a higher life-formm. This iz thee mark ov intellectt."

The Captain relinquishes the flagon he has been cradling upon the table for some time.

"Klingonz make no such diztinctionn... thee strong ruule. To them, thoze that they enslave deserrvve to bee." Heev points viciously at his Federation counterparts, "They fail to realize, Captain, that there iz alwayz someone who iz stronger than youu, whether az individualz or az Empire."

MacAlister pipes up, "Except for the bleedin' Confederation, right..."

Vorzazss chuckles as Gorn do. The Captain continues.

"YOUU share a borderr with themm andd yourr goverrnnmentt does not even ob-jecktt!"

"At what cost do we object, Sir? Have you thought about the lives we would lose if we forced the issue - if we precipitated a conflict with the entire Empire? We might bring the Federation to Armageddon! You don't want to fight such wars... you want to fight the ones you can win."

"Per-haps your leaderrz should devote efforrt to thee con-sidera-tionn ov thee livez ov thee enslavedd - your ambassadorz can deeliver theirr diplomatick ssen-timentss to theirr Worldz az well."

An uneasy silence.

"The Federationn would mobilize itss entire militaryy force if I were to take onlyy one ov yourr crew-men, but for Worldz, you offerr noth-thing." He raises his voice to a timultuous roar, "If wee shared a common borr-derr, thee Klingonz would bee CRUSHED and wee would put an enndd to theirr Empire! Dee-ci-ssivve ACTIONN! We DO - you talkk!"

Heev quietened down into a more reflective insistence, "... That iz why thee Empire livez: bee-cauze they can, and bee-cauze you let themm!"

Captain Annatan pondered in the silence, then spoke up, "Captain Heev, I come from a lineage of Warriors, my great great grandfather was decorated by the old Andorian tribal councils themselves.... A scholar of old Earth once declared that you first arrange for victory before you pursue it. On a personal note, I must admit I am reviled by the oppression you speak of, but I am one cruiser, and I am bound by my chain of command - I am sure that when the chance presents itself those further up that chain will recognize the opportunity and seize it, but until then my actions in that regard would be foolhardy and wasted."

"Az iz thee initi-ativvve ov your warrriorrz and leeaderzs."

Heev rose, and his officers followed suit, gathering their ceremonial weapons.

"That iz all, Captain Annatan. We must return to my shipp and rendezvous with the Cruiserz Grotto and Bloodd-Trickle-Blade in a nearby sysstem. Wee will now leavve..."

He awaited J'lel's permission, guest to host.

"Permission accorded. Granted..."

The Gorn proceeded from the table and the room without any further utterance, heading with purpose back to the docking door from whence they came.

MacAlister shakes himself with a vigorous shiver. Finally muttering, "Leave already....” J'lel remained stunned at the table, absorbing the events. Suddenly he scrambled out of his chair to see them off, after a subtle cue from his Science Officer.

The lonely Engineer stepped up to the portal window looking out upon the Gorn hull. His throat was thick with Gaelic contempt.

"Damn flying brick..."

 

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