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The leng ‘uQ’a’

Posted on Wed Jan 7th, 2015 @ 5:33am by Civilian Haqtaj Matlh & Lieutenant Colonel Wolfric Bannister & Lieutenant Commander Soraya Delrisa & Lieutenant Thomas Stills

Mission: The move
Location: Transport Shuttle Hold
Timeline: The first evening in transit to the new station

Jrez looked again at the old fashioned invitation that he’d received. It was printed on paper and had come from the Klingon Embassy. Apparently, Ambassador Haqtaj was organising festivities to see out the old and see in the new.

He wondered why he’d been invited. He knew Madame Haqtaj, of course. Anyone who spent any time on DS12 knew the Ambassador. The Klingon woman was not one to hide her light under a bushel. It was not as if they were close though. Apart from that incident years ago where she’d kidnapped him to explore a suspected Borg base, he’d had little to do with her. Frankly, he was happy to keep it that way.

Still, it would be impolite not to go. He checked again. Madame Haqtaj had neatly set the time to straddle two duty shifts. That’s a nice touch, he thought approvingly. He was not rostered on duty at the appointed time. It would mean getting dressed in formal uniform. That was not something Jrez fancied; formal uniform reminded him of Thalal. Those were memories he preferred to keep in the back of his brain.

He searched around for a pen, a task easier said than done. Then he scribbled off an acceptance. He would have preferred to have a neater hand but was thankful that he could write at all. Too many people have let that skill go, he reflected. Not surprising when everything’s done on PADDs, I suppose. But sad, nonetheless.

That being done, he put the acceptance aside until he could deliver it by hand at the end of his shift. He could not, for the life of him, think of any other way to get a piece of paper delivered.

Cash received his invitation to the banquet while he was finishing up his review of the 'New" Deep Space 12 engineering specifications. He liked the concept of using existing stations rather than building new ones in theory, but then you ran into problems meshing old systems and new together. He hoped Captain Harrison had recruited or drafted some whiz computer specialists to help out. That, however, was a problem for another day. He had sent the new kid, Vasser, with the advance team to get the power systems up and running. He hoped Vasser would prove to be as good as he had bragged that he was. Cash turned his attention back to the invitation. He tapped out a quick reply that he would attend.

Lt Tom Stills, now Chief of Operations looked at himself in the mirror, the new uniform felt a little tight around the collar and so he fiddled with it to try and loosen it up a little. He would no doubt wear it in eventually. Almost satisfied, he smoothed his hair once more into place and brushed off an imaginary speck of dust from his shoulder. He couldn't help but feel pleased about his new recent promotion, his family would be proud.

Tom had replied to his invitation to the banquet and as his plus one he had invited his best friend Leckie. She was one of the best electricians he knew. She was a civvie, they had known each other a long time and were the best of friends. Some years ago Lecky had been involved in a serious accident and as a result became profoundly deaf. The damage to her ears was so severe that she was unable to have implants, but this didn't deter her and it didn't affect her voice. She was able to communicate in sign language and lip read and had even taught Tom.

Tom turned up at her door and rang the chimes. When the door opened he was surprised to see how wonderful she looked. Her long dark hair, normally worn up cascaded over her shoulders and touched the edges of a long strapless dress in midnight blue silk. He reached out for her hand.

Annabella Delrisa had had a very long and exciting day which did not include a nap; as a result, she was fast asleep on her mother's shoulder. Soraya adjusted her daughter slightly as they arrived at the gathering. Anna's fluffy pink and white dress was a sharp contrast to the doctor's dark green evening gown, making the girl look like an oversized corsage.

"Think the smell of Klingon food will wake this child?" Soraya asked Wolf with a grin.

Wolf chuckled and said winking at the end, "If it doesn't, I'm glad there's a doctor around."

She laughed as they entered the shuttle hold and began to greet their friends.

Once a crowd had gathered, Haqtaj stood on a slightly raised platform at one end of the cargo hold that had been converted to food hall for the occasion. The gesture was not really necessary since she stood a head taller than most of the people in the room already. She held her hands out to settle the murmuring guests.

“Thank you all for coming this evening. The leng ‘uQ’a’, or Farewell Feast, is a ceremony common to most cultures. I appreciate you all coming to indulge in mine. I hope to take this opportunity to show you something of the rich culture of my people; a culture few of you have seen more than a passing glimpse of. So ask questions about the food, customs and preparation freely.”

She gestured expansively to the wide table in the center of the room covered in food, “In deference to Federation sensibilities we have prepared a buffet, so you may see and choose that which you can stomach the easiest, though I have not included any Federation fare in the selection. I have included an uncommonly large amount of vegetable matter and some bland broth for those of delicate constitution.”

“Very little food is heated in food preparation, indeed our term vut refers to preparing a meal or drink and not cooking specifically. Most of it is to be eaten freshly killed, or even still alive. You will find we have roast Targ here, though, cooked with the skin on. There is no cutlery; one is expected to use one’s hands. The food should come off the bone in clumps. Simply pile as much as you want on your platter, and anything you do not want can be thrown on the floor or, if you must, to the Targ pit, there,” Haqtaj gestured to a small pen with some stringy looking animals collected together.

“Klingons do not talk about food being good or bad,” she continued, “all food is good unless a cook has spoiled it. We talk about how the food makes us feel. This broth feels or tastes salty, or this Rokeg Pie makes me feel like I did at my first kill. If you wish to say the food has been well prepared you would say ‘ey Soj, the food is delicious, or even, DuQ Soj, the food stabs me. This is seen as a good thing; it has reached you in a strong way.”

“Alternatively, you may say the food is sharp or pungent, jej pach, or dull, jejHa; pach. For us the strength of the sensation is the key. We do not consider if the smell or taste is good or bad, it is just an odour, but the stronger, the better.”

She indicated a pile of metal platters and tankards along one wall, “Take a plate and a goblet, and fill both freely. Drinking and singing are a part of any feast, and I look forward to hearing some of the drinking songs of Starfleet. However, a Klingon does not drink with an enemy, or a person one does not trust completely.”

She turned to face Lt Svardberg, “So the appropriate behaviour is this.”

She let the liquid pour from the cup onto the floor before throwing the mug over her shoulder.

“Now, enjoy yourselves!” She said addressing the crowd again before stepping down and reaching for a platter, and helping herself to generous handfuls of food from the central table.

Svardberg stood firmly where she had been, unfazed by the Klingon's less than subtle insult. The Lieutenant viewed her as an enemy as well. It was only because she had said she would attend, and was expected to attend this [I]mandatory fun[/i] that she was here. Non-optional parties were typically no different than this, except Federation food and they smelled better. The expectation to drink and rabble-rouse was still there. It always led to too many people in the brig the next morning wondering where their pants were.

Harrison turned to a young Klingon woman standing next to him. She was resplendent in full warrior’s uniform. The leather shone so rightly he could see his reflection in it. This was not a uniform that had been fought in but, Harrison reflected, this woman had seen many battles. There was a look in her eyes that spoke of horrors seen and hardships endured. Just your ordinary, everyday Klingon warrior, Harrison thought.

“Excuse me,” he said. “I have tasted Klingon food on many occasions but I do not consider myself a connoisseur. Would you mind assisting me? Madame Haqtaj has been good enough to offer some pointers on appreciation of your cuisine but I think I would find it difficult to put my thoughts into words. Not words appropriate to your usage anyway.”

Tori overheard the Captain address a Klingon and actually smirked slightly as she sauntered over. It could be most interesting to watch how this went down. Most Klingons would take offense to being asked to give further instruction on enjoying the food. "Captain." She nodded at Harrison, then looked at the Klingon carefully. Klingon warriors traditionally did not show rank on their armor, but did for some.occasions with the Federation. "Sogh." She finally said, recognizing the rank as equivalent to Lieutenant.

The Klingon woman looked the two humans up and down quickly, then smiled with her pointed teeth. "We do not speak eloquently about our food. Only speak of the feelings. I will tell you how our foods are prepared, and what a Human might prefer, HoD. First, a drink! Banquets are not complete without a drink."

Tori turned her head as she rolled her eyes. She was fairly certain the sogh did not see her. Maybe she would find someone else to harass.

Wolf wandered over to the table and eyed the selection with an appreciative eye. He looked up at the Klingon on the other side and said with a broad smile, "Good! The Gagh seems to be alive and kicking as it were!"

Haqtaj appeared at his shoulder, "With as discerning an eater as Ann, I could risk no less. Unfortunately, this is far from the best stock I have consumed."

"Are you familiar with how Gagh is prepared? You starve them for weeks, feeding them very watered down blood, hence their name. Then, just before they are served you provide them with a thick sauce which they consume greedily, stuffing themselves to bursting. The sauce is toxic to them, but not to us, so they must be eaten just at the point when they have gorged their fill, but before they actually die."

"Another tip, the strongest ones burrow to the bottom, so you should plunge your hand in deep."

Annabella was now awake but groggy. Soraya put the girl down but she stubbornly clung to her leg, looking at the adults around her. Is that the lady who wouldn't let her take Daisy? She whined a little but her mother didn't pick her up.

"There's Mister Wolf and Auntie, aren't you hungry Anna?" the doctor asked hopefully. The girl just nodded, then walked over to Wolf and Haqtaj, giving the Klingon Ambassador a sleepy hug.

Tori wandered around, keeping a steady bead on the door in case she needed a quick exit. She was half tempted to get a drink to make her feel more at ease, but she didn't drink anymore. No alcohol. Of course, at Klingon banquets that was usually all that was served. She doubted she would find any water, or juice. Tea was ceremonial and deadly.

There were many jugs of what looked like, and smelled like, warnog. Many bottles of bloodwine. A few bottles of fire whiskey. All ready to be consumed. Svardberg did not see what she was looking for, though.

She looked around for someone who might be able to help. Someone not Klingon. Her eyes focused on the Doctor and Colonel Bannister, then Annabeth hugging Haqtaj. It was the strangest view. An idea formed in her mind and she sauntered towards them. "Hey Doc, Colonel." She said in greeting to the doctor, then lowered herself into a squat. "Hi Annabeth. How're you doing? Sleepy?"

Anna looked up and yawned. "I'm Annabella Delrisa," the child said, running the words together. "I'm not sleepy," she said as another yawn betrayed her.

Tori cringed slightly. "Sorry, Annabella, I can be bad with names sometimes. You do look sleepy though." She said with a smile, "Sometimes when I want to wake up, I find something to drink. Growing up, I really liked 'awje'. Has your Aunt Haqtaj introduced you to that? It's kind of like root beer, only with character."

The girl let herself 'feel' the woman again; as earlier she felt warm, genuine. Auntie and Mommy were nearby and they felt comforting.

"I like root beer," she said tentatively.

"Pah!" Haqtaj snorted derisively, "The sweetness turns my stomach and sets my teeth on edge. But I expect I will have little choice at our new home; teg'bat marrow is hard to come by out there. Perhaps I could talk to the Commander about setting a side an area for livestock."

She moved off into the crowd which parted around her.

Tori his making a face at Haqtaj over 'awje' being too sweet. Sweet wasn't a bad thing. Apparently, though, they did not have any tonight. Tori sighed, "Sounds like no 'awje'. Shame, it is enjoyable." She same, standing straight. "Hopefully the food will help wale you up instead." She said as she grabbed a plate.

Standing upon the edge of the room avoiding the large food tables like a plague Counsellor O'Reily had be watching his comrades mingle. On more than one occasion his eye had fallen upon Lieutenant Svardberg the troubled security officer he'd seen earlier. Given her dislike of Klingon's she appeared to be handling the situation well, it was early days still with the feast only beginning. He smiled as Victoria spoke with little Anabella - the child who could charm everyone in the room without trying.

Haqtaj arrived at his side, though more through accident than design.

"Lieutenant," she smiled, "you do not have a drink in your hand. Don't tell me you ate before you came!"

"Ambassador," Nick greeted with a respectful nod. "Alas Klingon cuisine does not agree with my digestion," he jested.

"Well if you will not join the food and drink, perhaps a song? I understand Music is part of your Irish heritage? And I know Betazoids love music. Come now, Share a rousing ballad with us!"

Wordlessly his mouth moved momentarily as he tried to string a sentence together or rescue the situation before Haqtaj placed him upon a pedestal to entertain the masses. ""I'm not sure I could find anything suitable for this occasion."

Haqtaj laughed, "Pah! I am not asking for 'O Danny Boy'. However, I have always been a fan of "I'm a Rover, Seldom Sober. Although," she winked, "it is better in the original Klingon."

Smiling nervously Nick hoped she'd leave it at that.

She raised her voice over the crowd, "Attention! Mr O'Reily will be leading the first drinking song!"

This caused a rowdy cheer from the Klingons present and a few raised eyebrows from the Federation crew.

Colour faded from Nick's face as the eyes of the room turned upon him, suddenly he felt incredibly small, cotton mouthed and putrefied. Damn that woman!

Harrison saw the distress on O’Rielly’s face and hurried over before the situation could grow tense.

“Counsellor, do you know a song called ‘Follow me up to Carlow’? I heard it many years ago when I was in my ‘folk music’ phase. I think I can remember most of the words and I possess a passable baritone voice. I think it would past muster at this gathering.”

Stiffly, the counsellor nodded at Harrison's whispers. "That would be great, a duet maybe? I'm sure the words will come to me."

Harrison was not sure if his voice was up to it. Memories came back to him of his singing tutor saying he was off-key. He looked around at the expectant faces and decided that they probably had had too much bloodwine to notice. More than that, this was a good opportunity for him to be human. In so many roles on the station, he had to be perfect; here he could make mistakes.

He drew a deep breath and puffed up his chest then counted down for he and O’Reily to begin.

The words may well have been unfamiliar to the crowd, but the sentiment was recognised, and soon those around the room were joining in with the bits they picked up. It seemed rowdy volume was prized over harmony so O'Reily and Harrison need not have worried over the occasional dropped note. After they finished to a rousing cheer another took up a song and soon the carousing was in full swing.

Tori piled her plate with zilm'kach, na'ran, pipius claw and krada leg. She preferred the fruits to the heavy meats, but definitely was grateful for some dead meat. She hadn't ever been fond of live cuisine. Meat was suppose to be dead. Zilm'kach and na'ran were good fruits, there were groves of them on her home colony, originally planted years before the Federation settled the planet.

"So, Doc, how did you and the ambassador become such good friends?" She asked, curiously, hoping it didn't sound like an interrogation. Svardberg just couldn't figure out how such an outspoken critic of Humans and the Federation would come to think of the doc and Annabella as family. Family enough to be referred to as auntie.

Soraya smiled and took a drink of her wine; this was one of her favorite stories to tell.

"Well Lieutenant, Annabella had just turned three when I was reassigned to this Starbase," she began, watching her dark-haired child eating gagh with Wolf. "She occasionally took a little 'walk' away from her learning group when we were aboard the Hernandez and she decided to go exploring here as well, but she got lost. Ambassador Haqtaj found her on the Promenade and brought her to me in Sickbay."

Tori nodded, that explained a little. Didn't explain why the Ambassador would do that when she proclaimed to hate Humans so much. There were too many questions on that line. "That's really sweet."

"I did my residency on a starbase near Barisa Prime, a major trading post for the area. There was a large Klingon community there as well. Anna had a Klingon nanny for when we lived there and loves Klingon food. I think she may be empathic," the doctor added softly. "Her father is Betazoid."

Tori raised an eyebrow. "She's really young to be showing talent. Most develop it at puberty. Must be difficult not having a Betazoid around to help with it."

Soraya's smile disappeared and her eyes went automatically to Nick, then back to Tori. "Sometimes it is. I'm not certain what will happen when she gets older."

Tori was silent for a moment as she chewed a piece of zilm'kach. "I have a friend, a Betazoid friend. If you ever need help, I can contact him. He's a good guy, very good with all the telepathic empathic abilities...stuff." She said, finishing the last part awkwardly. She suddenly felt like she needed something to drink for this conversation. Like coffee.

The doctor smiled again. "Thank you, I may have need of your friend. Who can know what the future holds?" she asked warmly.

Tori nodded, smiling a little in response. Then she heard the Counselor and Captain start singing. "Oh, here goes. Better them than me, the only drinking songs I know are stupid, or involve chasing people with sticks."

Wolf was listening from afar, having watched Annabelle finish off even more Gagh. The girl either was starting a growth spurt, had a hollow leg he didn't know about or else was going to need to be rolled out of here. He lifted her up after she was done, and smiled saying, "Let's take a break. I need to walk around and see if more space opens up in my tummy, okay?"

"Okay," the girl said, relaxing against Wolf as he carried her. "The gagh is so good!" she added, licking her lips.

Tori felt someone collide with her, knocking most of the food from her platter and spilling some dark liquid over her uniform. She turned to see a bleary eyed Klingon scowling at her as if it had been her fault for standing still as he fell into her. The hit had been hard enough to momentarily jar her and make her head spin.

"Apologize!" he bellowed.

Just out of the corner of her eye Tori caught the sight of Vartog moving to intervene but being stopped by Haqtaj who was watching the interplay with a keen eye. She grunted, wondering what the scheming Ambassador was planning by interfering. She looked at the Klingon in front of her with a greater level of disgust.

"Qu'vatlh ghuy'cha'! The only apology you deserve is that you were born, you drunken k'pekt!" Her voice was dripping with disdain as much as her uniform was with alcohol.

Wolf quietly passed Anna to Soraya and winked at the two, before wandering closer to to the potential combatants. He managed to hide a smile as he watched on. He had an idea if things got ugly.

The Klingon snarled and grabbed at Tori's shirt front. She could tell his reflexes were slowed by drink but he was Strong and tough, and would feel little pain in his state.

"Hold," Wolf roared.

As Executive Officer and Federation Marshal he wasn't about to watch all hell break loose as the Chief of Security and a Klingon in good standing brawled in the middle of a party.

In a smooth, fluid move he blind sided the Klingon with a right hook from a man that had trained and fought with Klingons before. He didn't move for a fatal shot but it damned well had leveled bigger warriors than this one.

The blow caught the Warrior squarely and sent him reeling. Unfortunately he did not release his grip and Tori was sent staggering as well. As the Klingon began to topple he threatened to drag Tori down with him.

Tag: Tori

"As Federation Marshall, let alone Executive Officer, I will not have two of my security officers try to tear each other apart. If this turns out to a fight, I'd suggest a holodeck spar.....I am not willing to lose people we need due to a grudge match," Wolf grated out.

Now Haqtaj decided to make an appearance.

"Marshall," she began, her lips dripping honey, "You misunderstand the nature of the encounter. Good natured fighting is all part of a leng ‘uQ’a’; allowing old grudges to be sorted and clean starts. Nothing poisons the soul like holding on to hatred for a person you have not seen for years."

At the last bit she glanced at Tori, still struggling to keep her feet under the weight of the sagging Klingon who hadn't quite got to terms with the fact he was now unconscious.

"Allow me to demonstrate. VARTOG!"

“Madame Ambassador,” his deep voice replied from the other side of the room. He immediately strode across, pushing any Klingons in his way roughly aside. None made to stop him; they too had heard the call.

Haqtaj grinned, "You up for a game of wuQ'a?"

“Madame, I consider it a privilege to be chosen. It is one I will retell many times over mugs of bloodwine. I will tell grandchildren being bounced on my knee. ‘Let me tell you about the time I butted foreheads with the great Haqtaj of House Matlh’.”

Haqtaj laughed openly, "As if you had only one story, and as if you were the only person here with such a tale."

Vartog and Haqtaj faced each other and gripped the other's shoulders. With sudden and sickening force they brought their rigged skulls together. The crack was enough to send Soraya's hand instinctively to her tricorder, but the pair seemed unhurt and, in fact, repeated the smacking blow another two times. Then the released each other and reached for their mugs of wine.

"You see," Haqtaj smiled to the unamused Human, "No harm done. But in deference to your culture's weaker anatomy...."

She turned and bellowed to the room, "No fighting with the humans. They damage too easily."

Harrison had seen the incident brewing between his Chief of Security and the unknown Klingon. He was about to intervene himself though he wasn’t sure at all how to go about it. He was glad that Bannister beat him to it. Bannister’s voice carried a different authority to his own. Harrison might be good at keeping order in a meeting of senior officers but this called for a different style of order.

Then Haqtaj stepped in and he feared the worst. What followed intrigued and amused him. What most impressed him was the part played by Vartog. He would have to have words with the Petty Officer. The tension had been relieved expertly.

Now the mood needed to be lifted again and quickly. Maybe it was the bloodwine talking but he decided that another song was called for. In a very un-Captain like action he banged his mug on a table then climbed on top of it. He opened his mouth and broke into ‘Nelson’s Death’. It was a sombre song so he started stamping his foot to the beat. That got the attention of the crowd.

And so the evening progressed without much further incident. Oh, there were fights, but only in a good natured kind of way, and none between species. The blood wine flowed, and the food was consumed and spilled freely. Thus the crew of the old Station said good bye to their old home, and made ready for the new with a fresh slate and sore heads.


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