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Between a Rock and a Klingon

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Chekov hated being chased.

Being chased and lost was worse, though.

Just at the moment, he had no idea where he was going, and couldn’t see well enough in the dark, primitive forest to get his bearings. If he had time to stop and think about it, he would probably be glad he hadn’t yet tripped over some inconvenient tree root and broken an ankle or cracked his head on a rock. He would be even gladder that he hadn’t fallen into a hole, or a trap, or the lair of some high-level predator. Bad enough that the Klingons were out to get him, he didn’t need the local wildlife or vegetation to join in as well. All in all, he would probably been better to have skipped this round of shore leave, thank you very much.

He leapt over a fallen log, realizing at the height of his jump that his luck had run out. A deeper darkness almost hid a steep slope falling away from the log, and no amount of twisting in the air was going to put him on his feet. At least, not for longer than it took to pitch forward onto his face. He had that split-second insight, that fraction of a heartbeat crystallized in time, and remembered bits of advice from both unarmed combat training and working towards the obstacle course in his final year at the Academy. If you can’t control the fall, control the landing.

Chekov stretched out his legs, pointing his toes forward, and curled his arms in to turn the jump into a slide, and tried not to think about the dirt, rotting vegetation, and animal dung that probably littered the side of the hill.

The landing still pushed the air out of his lungs, but he kept his head from striking the ground, and let his momentum and gravity carry him a little farther forward. When friction with the earth and vegetation slowed him enough, he grabbed at a small tree and used it to arrest his motion. One deep breath in, which he tried to hold to listen. The Klingons weren’t stupid, and they wouldn’t be shouting commands to each other back-and-forth to the forest. Warriors, and cunning ones, they would be trying to sneak up on their enemy, on him. He didn’t understand why he was an enemy just now, but he also didn’t understand why they were even on this planet. Pentos was a designated Federation protectorate, if not actually a member, and if the border with the Empire was in sight, the Pentosians sat well on the Federation side of it. It was not disputed territory, by any stretch of any Klingon’s imagination.

And protectorate could mean many different things. In the case of Pentos, it mainly meant ‘leave us alone’. Only a very tiny land area had been allotted by the native sentients for a Federation presence, and only Starfleet personnel were permitted shore leave access to the limited facilities, and then only in small groups.

He’d been taking a nature tour on the fringes of that area and running from the Klingons had taken him well beyond that limit as well as getting him lost. If only he still had his communicator. If only he had anything.

Still lying on the ground, he let his breath out slowly and immediately drew another in. The Klingons couldn’t be far away, but they weren’t close enough to be making noise he could hear, so that was something. That was a good thing, really, or the beginnings of one. He found a tiny bit of sky above him, giving just enough light to see the three spear points appearing a few centimetres from his face. Perhaps not so good a thing.

He looked up, trying to pick the figures that held them out of the darkness, but they blended in almost too well. However much his vision adjusted, it would need to be nearly dawn before there was enough light for him to see much more than shadows. The spears pulled back, and one shadow moved, bending down to become a face he could almost see, dark spots for eyes and mouth in a more or less humanoid head. “Stay silent and you will live.” The words slid so quietly through the small space separating them, it took him a moment to be sure he’d heard correctly.

Chekov bobbed his head up and down several times. He whispered back, holding his voice to no more than a breath across his lips. “Da. Silent.”

A strong hand gripped his shoulder, squeezing once, then releasing to slide down and grab his hand, pulling him to his feet. “Stay close. We walk.”

Chekov followed three shadows deeper into the forest, understanding only that the natives must be here for some reasons of their own. Still, it would not be proper to refuse their hospitality when they had so graciously offered to move him away from the Klingons. He just had to hope they would be able, and willing, to provide further assistance.