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Posted on Fri Sep 19th, 2014 @ 7:35am by Civilian Haqtaj Matlh & Petty Officer 1st Class Vartog

Mission: Trouble on the frontier
Location: Klingon Embassy

The Klingon Embassy was very busy. Like most of the Promenade locations it was being left operational, just waiting for a new Ambassador to be appointed. There was however, a massive egress of Klingon personnel and that meant mountains of paper work. Guess who got landed with all of that?

Petty Officer Vartog looked up, not for the first time. The front room of the Embassy was fitted with banners of the Empire, though those particular to House Matlh had now been removed. That annoyed him. More than that, it saddened him. Madame Haqtaj had given much to the role of Ambassador. She had served the Empire well and had built good relations with the Federation.

That last seemed, to Vartog's way of thinking, to have been her downfall. Everywhere he looked, all he could see was indications that she was no longer in favour with the High Council. The Black and Red that the Federation associated with the Klingons were in abundance. There were torches in sconces on the wall, though close examination would reveal they were holographic flames only. To not have real flames burning was almost worse than having no flames at all. At least unlit torches said clearly that something was amiss. Holographic flames spoke of subterfuge; of pretense that all was as normal when nothing was further from the truth.

Maybe I'm reading more into this than is warranted, he thought, but Madame Haqtaj deserves better.

As one Klingon warrior entered, he or she would be met by Vartog, a Starfleet officer and Liaison for the Klingon Ambassador. No one got past him, not even the CO, without express permission. Fortunately, he had been told to expect the new CSecO.

Svardberg stopped outside of the Embassy and took a deep breath, squaring her shoulders as she prepared to enter. The Security officer had never been on sovereign Klingon territory, every fiber of her being was yelling that it was enemy ground. Paranoia and hyper vigilance surrounded her, as she took in every detail of the door, bracing herself to enter.

The Lieutenant opened the door and walked in, taking in the banners and decorations. The distinct lack of points of egress, defensible spots in the room, the possible combatants. Her eyes darted quickly, a plan solidifying in her mind in case trouble arose. Then her eyes fell on the Starfleet Petty Officer. Her Petty Officer. Was he a spy? A turncoat? A man serving two masters? That bothered her, but she couldn't let it show.

"Petty Officer Vartog, I assume." She said, her voice loud, but neutral. "I believe the Ambassador is expecting me. I would like to ask you a favor, though, a little bird told me you are very good with holograms. How would you feel about helping in an investigation?"

Vartog was momentarily taken aback by the unexpected request. Hour after hour of filling out and filing forms had left him with only a small part of his brain functioning; the rest had shut down long ago from sheer boredom.

“A little bird....” he repeated while he recovered. “Chief Jrez told you.”

Tori cocked her head slightly. "That is correct, but I don't see how you came to that conclusion."

“It’s a human phrase. The Chief has a fondness for human phrases though he is not human himself. I think he collects them. I would have to seek Madame Haqtaj’s permission, of course. She is no longer the Ambassador but, in the absence of a replacement, she is the one who would have to authorise my absence from my post. Captain Harrison would have to authorise using my time in a role outside my normal Starfleet duties.”

Tori laughed for a brief second. Had he been dropped on his head as a child? Haqtaj might not be the Ambassador for this station much longer, but he wouldn't be on the station any longer than she would. "Two things, Mr.Vartog. First, regardless of Chief Jrez collecting human phrases, I am human and use my species' phrases. Secondly, I am your department chief, I can authorize this to be part of your Starfleet duties."

“Then I will be pleased to assist. I must warn you that I have not written a holo-program in some time. I will need to reacquaint myself the latest technology....”

Tori nodded, "That will be fine. Just do not take too long, and make it as accurate as possible."

“Then, as I said, Lieutenant, I will be pleased to assist. As for Madame Haqtaj, if you will excuse me, I will see if she is available.”

Vartog rose and walked over to the door opposite. His back was straight and his gait crisp yet he walked with a lightness he had not known for some time. This might be his chance to redeem himself after his dishonourable conduct earlier.

Haqtaj was inside her office up to her arms in blood, and standing over a large vat. She glanced up at Vartog and waved him over. "It has been a long time since I prepared gagh myself. I know I need to feed them the watered down blood so they are hungry enough to gorge on the poison sauce, but I can remember the consistency. Is it 1:1, 1:3, 1:5?"

“It depends on the type of qagh Madame,” Vartog replied. “If you are using Wistan qagh then it has already had its fill of blood. I would only use a 1:5 ration blood to water, if that. Other qagh need more blood but I would not go to 1:1, not unless you plan to eat the qagh immediately. Too much will kill them and they will only be fit to be stewed.”

Haqtaj smiled, "I am not one to 'Kill gagh' as the saying goes."

“Even so, I would be wary of the type of blood used. I presume you will use targ blood but if you only have sheep or cow or that animal Vulcan’s keep as pets then you would need a stronger ratio.”

Haqtaj asked distractedly, "Who is out front?"

“The new Chief of Security, Madame. She wishes to speak with you. I gather you are expecting her.”

"ToH! Better show her in then."

Vartog turned smartly and returned to the reception room. “Madame Haqtaj will see you now,” he announced.

The image of Haqtaj that met Tori's eyes did nothing to dispel the idea of Klingons as bloodthirsty savages. The giant woman looked up at her as she came in, "NuqneH, Sogh?"

"De', Quy'a." Svardberg replied brusquely. Her pronunciation was off, and she was slow on forming her words, but she hasn't actually practiced speaking Klingon in over a decade. "I need to know about your interactions with Commander Durrow prior to his demise. It seems not many people had the opportunity to interact with him."

"ToH! tlhIngan Hol Dajatlh," Haqtaj responded, "though my title is Duy'a, it is a softer sound."

She wiped her bloodied hands on a cloth nearby, "There is not much to tell about Durrow. He came onto the station dressed up ro'; soQ rur during the plague and relieved me of duty without so much as a blow. He wanted to expose my people to the infection. I declined to allow that. Surely you can ask him yourself, though. I do not believe he has left the station."

The Lieutenant's eyes narrowed considerably, an eyebrow rising on her forehead. The Klingon was playing cagey with her. Given her reaction to talking about Durrow earlier, and how she kept track of Vartog, the likelihood of her not knowing Durrow was dead was somewhere around the same as Tori hearing a dog whistle. "I see. Duy'a, if there was nothing of interest, why not discuss this earlier? Rumor in the Security department was that he did indeed assault you, a blow to the face. And you forced him out of his protective gear in order to lead your men. Then you were stripped of your rank and title with Starfleet in a less than honorable fashion. That can always make anger flair."

Haqtaj grinned, but there was no mirth in her smile, "And since you already know your answers why ask me the questions? The interchange is on Security Tape, as are all interactions inside the Security room. It should be enough to show you the interaction. What you don't know is what any of it meant. You find a dead body and you assume the Klingon is far more likely to be responsible than the ex-marine."

She stepped forward, "So I am going to give this to you. I did it. I used a series of subroutines I implanted in your system while I was Chief of Security to access his room, murder him, and erase any trace of my presence. Then I removed the subroutines so I could not be traced. But I didn't do it for revenge or injured honour, I did it because he was human and deserved to die."

Haqtaj turned her back on the Lt, "Now it is your job to prove it. Until you do, it is just your word. I am hardly going to write a confession for you."

As much as Tori hated Klingons, the confession made absolutely no sense to her. A killing, yes, that would make sense. Few species were strong enough to cause that much trauma with a single blow. The argument they had was more motive than him being human. There were hundreds of humans on the station, including those that were supposedly the Ambassador's friends. The confession had to be sarcasm.

Of course, the outrageous confession could be all an elaborate plot to keep Tori on her toes. Admit to doing it in a crazy way, rather than dodging the truth. Protesting too much was a sure sign of guilt, openly admitting it was often seen as suspicious. She was being played one way or another, and she didn't like that one bit.

Tori's head hurt. She could feel the blood pounding against her forehead. The Security Officer tried to look calm, but she became even more acutely aware that she was in a room with a warrior, and possible cold blooded killer, and it was not her home territory. Haqtaj had every advantage in the Embassy; it was Klingon ground. The Ambassador could do or say anything on Klingon soil and it meant bupkiss. Of course, diplomatic immunity would stop a trial anyway, but it could be enough of an upset to get her recalled. If she could prove anything; if there was anything to prove.

"You know I can't arrest you, and you made sure to admit it on Klingon ground, but why admit it at all?" Tori asked, her voice slightly raspy as her mouth had lost all it's moisture. "Why claim it was because he was human, when you haven't stabbed any other humans aboard the station? And what ex-Marine?"

"Wolf, the previous incumbent to your role," Haqtaj responded. "Ex-Marine if ever I saw one. As for confession, why not? Yaymeyvam vaj mIylaHbe'taH'a'? May not a warrior boast of their exploits. And you have nothing better to go on, or you wouldn't be here asking me inane questions. You wouldn't have agreed to meet me on Klingon turf if you had thought there was a reasonable chance to arrest me. No wonder ti took you so long to make mere Lieutenant."

Haqtaj sneered, being openly offensive now.

Svardberg's fists curled without thinking, she started to move forward, then stopped.. "Bannister is a Marine, not ex-Marine. I knew I couldn't arrest you, and didn't have plans to do so. I came for information, which is something I have gathered. As for boasting exploits, that wasn't exactly an honorable slaying. Although, honor has always taken a back seat to political expediency and gain."

Haqtaj eyes flicked to the woman's fists. Good. She was getting riled.

"I really wouldn't know, Lieutenant," she purred. "MY honour has never taken a back seat. Now, as I have already confessed, are we finished, or would you like to try to insult me some more. Obviously I have never had a DIvI'Hom call me names and will instantly launch myself at someone who wants the wind to respect them."

"I never insulted you, only stated facts. Any offense you take to facts is a result of your own doing." Svardberg replied, her voice a low growl. "One last thing, I came here looking for information on if there were any violent lunatics aboard, since you were the Security Chief before him, as well as your feel for the man. So let's try this again, are there any other violent lunatics aboard?"

"You state, as fact, that honour is second to politics, but I challenge you to prove your fact, at blade's point if necessary," Haqtaj spat. "Are there violent lunatics on board? How should I know? I can not tell a person's sanity. Are there violent people on this station? Yes, Hundreds. I have fought besides most of them. The Plague has shown that even a timid man is capable of great violence, and under its grip there is little sanity. You could well say that, at the time of the plague, there were few on the station indeed who were not insane and violent. Go away and return when you can ask me some questions that can't be found out by a simple computer query and some basic deduction."

Tori barked a laugh, but her eyes gleamed with a fire of subtle victory. "Would you like a dissertation for proof? Since a blade's point would only prove that you're better with a d'k tagh or betleH and too defensive to argue rationally. As for knowing if there are lunatics, were you not the acting Chief of Security? Any Security personnel worth their salt will know who on a station or colony is more likely to cause trouble, who is unstable. It is always best to ask a local, which would be you. I was operating under the assumption, and assurances of others, that you, a mighty warrior, were competent. I apologize for asking you a question outside of your comfort zone."

"Oh, yes, please give me more words which prove your first lot of words," Haqtaj rolled her eyes. "If you are not a good enough warrior and officer to be able to put your point forward by a blade you are not a good enough officer to question those who are. I have reached my position by not dying in the heat of battle. You have reached your position, it seems, by simply waiting long enough. Even a beq'Hom would make your rank at half your age, or die trying."

"Let me tell you why I have not struck you down for your many and varied attempts to insult me," Haqtaj said moving back to the put of gagh. "When I kill a Targ it squeals and bellows and thrashes. I respect it because it is entirely possible, if I do not take care, that it could injure me. You on the other hand are a mewling pedant. I take more notice of the words of the little child I was caring than I do of your lofty assertions. You criticize what you do not know and you are threatened by what you do not understand."

She laughed, "You do not even string your questions together. 'Are their Lunatics' is not the same as are there people who are unstable, or violent. Nor does being a violent lunatic make you a suspect in this case. You have no motive, you have no method and you have no opportunity. So you come looking for the person you can place the blame on easiest. And guess what? I confess, and I gave you a motive. Opportunity is easy, as I had free access to the station. I am certainly capable of beating a man's brains out. All you have to do is prove any of it. I have already done all of the hard work for you. Surely they covered DNA scanning in Security, or was it still fingerprints when you did your training? "

Tori actually shook her head, chuckling at the Ambassador's rant. Despite her usual professional demeanor, she was amused. The rant was so bad that she could not even be angry at the Klingon blowhard. She chuckled for several moments before stopping. "I'm sorry, are you finished? I suppose I should defend my honor against your flailing insults, but, damn, Ambassador."

She composed herself, "I fought in three different wars, direct combat in all of them. I have killed hundreds of enemies in close combat, and been commended for bravery above and beyond the call of duty seven times. I have killed Jem'hadar with my bare hands. I lived in enemy territory for over a year, keeping civilians alive. I have survived, though, not by being stronger or a more skilled fighter, but by fighting smarter than my enemies. I have not advanced quickly in the ranks because I do not enjoy politics and Starfleet frowns upon injuring diplomats. Finally, Starfleet is not Klingon, we don't exalt people because they are merely capable of avoiding being killed. You would never succeed in the Federation, because you lack the ability to fix anything without threats or violence."

Tori shot a look at the exits again. "DNA scans in the room were inconclusive. Finger prints did show other persons in the room, but the information to match is not on record. As for finding the easiest person to blame, in all investigations, you start with the most obvious options and rule them out. When you hear hooves, you think horses. I will investigate your claims, but I will also be looking at other options." She turned on her heel and left, knowing full well that showing her back to the Klingon could mean her death.

Haqtaj didn't bother looking up, but after Tori had been shown the door Haqtaj smiled to Vartog, "I think that went rather well, don't you? That woman is so tight hot you could user her as a cutting torch. With any luck there will be a formal investigation. That should silence a few vat'a' on Qo'nos."


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