Lt. Commander Giotto was not a man easily impressed, or surprised.
So when he came onto the bridge one day with a security force and found a would-be assassin with a sizable hole in his neck with petit, nineteen-year-old, science geek Chekov cleaning the dagger that'd put it there...well, that was an impressive surprise.
He reviewed the security footage on the bridge and watched Chekov throw a Vulcan dagger from across the room for a perfect kill-shot. He had a second throwing knife come out to play for the other assassin, but Sulu beat him to it with a phaser.
Giotto compiled a report, submitted it, and the rumors started flying.
Chekov was raised by a warrior race that specialized in knives. No, he grew up in the circus as the knife-thrower. That's ridiculous; obviously StarFleet gave him some extra training because he joined up so young. He probably used knives because he had a crazy allergy to phaser-fire, or had a traumatic experience with phasers when he was kid...
Giotto had no idea which story was accurate, if any of them were. Chekov didn't say a damn word. He had never said a damn word in all the times the two had met up once a week for poker night. But frankly, Giotto didn't care about the rumors, or why Chekov was keeping it a secret. He parked himself in front of the kid at lunch. Chekov was hunched over a bowl of replicated stroganoff, as if he was trying to make himself as small as humanely possible. Giotto said, "I want to spar with you."
Chekov paused, and set his fork down. "Vhy?"
"Because if you are as good as everyone says you are, then I want to see it for myself. And if you aren't, then I want to spend some extra time with you working on that so you don't end up as an evil alien's mince-meat. That's my job: making sure you don't die," Giotto said. He tried not to think of the one time he'd almost seen the kid die, right after he'd managed to get back to the ship after getting kidnapped by Klingons. Everyone had gotten a bit over-protective of Chekov after that, especially the people (like Giotto and Mr. Scott and McCoy) who'd seen the kid pull a Klingon knife out of his own body and use it to kill his kidnapper before passing out from massive blood loss. That had not been a good day.
"Vas that an order, sir?"
Giotto blinked. He and Chekov had so little interaction outside of their weekly poker nights that the kid had only ever called him by Giotto. The fact that he was now resorting to ranks made Giotto's stomach twist. "No, it's not an order. I just want to see what you can do."
"I'll go easy on you, if it's any consideration."
"All due respect, Giotto, that's not vhat I'm vorried about." He didn't say it with any kind of arrogance in his tone, even though that was a slight against Giotto's combat skills (come on, he'd had years of training, he was pretty sure he could take on a teenager).
"Then what are you worried about?" Giotto asked.
Chekov shifted in his seat, picking at his sleeves. If Giotto tipped his head a little, he could see the flat handles of half a dozen throwing knives in a hidden arm sheath.
"Nothing good happens vhen people pay attention to me," Chekov blurted. "Vhen they know I can fight. I like being owerlooked."
Oooookay...there was something in there that Giotto really didn't like. He'd rarely met someone with combat skills who were shy about showing them off. Part of the reason so many people did martial arts was to gain confidence. Usually it worked too well and they became downright arrogant. But even rarer was a teenage boy with a highly valued (and traditionally masculine) skillset who was shy about showing it off.
Giotto shrugged it off. "We don't have to invite the entire ship to watch. I do private sessions all the time, and the details of what goes on are almost as hard to get to as medical files."
Giotto sighed. "Chekov. We play poker together. You know I can't bluff to save my skin. Do I look like I'm lying or bluffing?"
Chekov shook his head.
"All right then. Tomorrow after shift?"
"Nyet. I hawe to be in Engineering after shift."
"What about before?"
He hesitated again, before nodded. "Da. Okay."
Giotto is man enough to admit it: that nineteen-year-old kicked his ass.
He didn't use a lot of Starfleet training. If Giotto had to guess, he'd say it was a hodge-podge of boxing, taikwando, krav maga, judo, and American military self-defense. Something you'd find in street fighters.
And he was vicious.
Giotto tried to punch Chekov, the kid grabbed his arm and used the momentum to slam him into the ground. Giotto tried to grapple, Chekov slithered out of his grip and kicked his feet out from under him. Giotto swung a kick, Chekov ducked, rolled, popped up behind him and nailed him in the kidneys (ow).
Then Chekov made a mistake, and Giotto's nose went crunch.
Chekov stifled his mortified gasp with both hands while Giotto's broken nose bled all over the gym floor. "I am so sorry!"
Giotto waved him away, grinning. "This is not the first time a session ended with a broken nose."
Chekov pulled Giotto's head down to get a closer look, cringing at what he saw. He looked on the verge of tears. "Let's get you to McCoy. Come on."
Giotto thought he'd have to do an embarrassing explanation of how a teenager had gotten the best of him, and expected merciless teasing from Dr. McCoy.
McCoy was completely unsurprised. So was Captain Kirk, when he came down to bug them about that evening's peaceful mission with the Andorian nobles.
Chekov apologized about a dozen more times. McCoy cleaned and fixed his nose. Kirk ordered all three of them to come to the banqut with him: Giotto for security, Chekov for "disciplinary action," and McCoy to help keep Kirk out of trouble.
Which turned out to be a very good idea, because their food was drugged.
Giotto woke in Medical (twice in one day; not good) with a pounding headache that felt suspiciously like a hangover. It went away with one of McCoy's magic hypos.
"What happened?" he demanded, as soon as two of his guards came in: Smith and Rogers.
Smith explained that the Andorian nobles had drugged their food, trying to capture the crew and use them as ransom against Starfleet, which made them idiots, since everyone knew that Starfleet had a no-ransom policy. But Kirk had been allergic to the food and so hadn't eaten it, and neither had McCoy (upset stomach), Spock or Uhura (both vegetarians). And Chekov...
Smith hesitated. "...he took out six of the hostile guards. Sir."
Giotto blinked. "Six?"
"Well, there were seven bodies, but Lt. Sulu says he was responsible for one of them, broke his neck. Chekov took care of all the others with throwing knives, of all things."
"While drugged," Rogers added. He pointed a few biobeds down, and sure enough, Chekov was curled up on it. Lt. Sulu was sitting next to him, reading from a PADD.
"Yeah, and he freaked out when he found out he was drugged, too. Wouldn't let anyone get near him until Uhura calmed him down," Smith said.
"...huh," was all Giotto had to say.
"Vhy am I doing this again?" Chekov whimpered, watching the thirty crewmembers stretching in the gym.
"'Cause you broke my nose," Giotto replied.
"You said it vas fine!"
Giotto grinned. Chekov fumed.
At least the kid didn't have his eighty throwing knives on him. Giotto knew because they were all wearing short sleeves as part of their exercise clothes--with the exception of the two Muslim women near the back. But Giotto was pretty sure he saw the outline of a bowie knife on his leg.
How the hell had he not noticed how utterly paranoid this kid was?
Pushing it aside, Giotto whistled, loud enough to capture everyone's attention. "Listen up! Now that you're all warmed up, we're going to be pairing up for some light sparring. Lieutenants Barton, Conroy, Rip'chin, and myself will be going around to make sure you're doing it properly."
"All due respect sir, most of us are way too advanced for this basic stuff," a lieutenant said.
"Then you'll have no problem completing it," Giotto replied. "And since you're so advanced, you can help those who aren't."
"I'm not a teacher, sir."
"Jenson, shut up," Sulu hissed. He was standing closest to the lieutenant and probably hoped he wouldn't be heard by anyone else.
But Giotto was grinning. He jabbed a thumb at Chekov. "You're not even capable of beating this teenager, lieutenant."
Chekov glared at him while Jenson snorted, looking the kid up and down. "Are you serious? Sir?"
"Dead serious. You'll lose. And when you do, you'll shut up and finish this refresher."
Several of the others looked thrilled, probably having heard the rumors. Most were concerned, wincing as they compared Chekov's toothpick-like frame with Jenson's bear-like build. Sulu was shaking his head at Jenson, nothing but pity on his face.
Jenson didn't even notice. He grinned, and stepped forward.
Chekov continued to glare at Giotto. "I hate you wery much, sir," he grumbled, stepping forward to meet Jenson.
Jenson cracked his neck and raised his fists. "I'll go easy on you," he promised.
"You shouldn't," Chekov warned, in a dark tone of voice Giotto had never heard before. He wasn't even in a fighting stance, standing tall with his hands at his sides, staring Jenson down.
Jenson swung. Chekov easily dodged. Swing. Dodge. Swing. Dodge. Swing. Dodge.
It was very amusing (for Giotto, at least) to watch Jenson go from confidently not even trying, to confused, to frustrated, to downright pissed as he put serious force and energy into his blows. Chekov dodged every last one of them, not even blocking or striking back. He was riling Jenson up, making him get so angry he got careless.
Finally, Jenson kicked. Chekov grabbed his leg and swung him around, using his own momentum to throw him to the floor. Jenson went skidding across the mat. He jumped to his feet and charged.
Chekov waited until the very last moment, when the two were centimeters apart, before he dropped and rolled out of the way. Jenson skidded to a halt and turned. Chekov was already on him. He ducked under Jenson's arm and elbowed him in the gut, then grabbed his hand and twisted the arm behind his back. Jenson howled as Chekov brought him down.
Seeing Jenson face-down on the matt, with Chekov giving him an arm lock, while the crew stared slack-jawed, was the highlight of Giotto's year.
"Okay, then," Giotto said as Chekov stood, keeping his head down and avoiding all eye contact. "Everyone pair up."
It went like that for a few weeks as the entire crew rotated through the refresher course. Chekov was Giotto's silent, primary assistant. Empty-hand, he was good. With a knife, he was downright deadly. Luckily they used dull plastic knives when doing those exercises, otherwise Giotto is pretty sure Chekov would've accidentally slit a few throats. The kid played for keeps. Very slowly, very gradually, Chekov grew more comfortable in the demonstrations. He gravitated toward the "students" who were like him--small, slim, often downright tiny--and helped them correct a mistake or give advice, especially when dealing with larger opponents (which, considering their build, was all the time).
Giotto did not think about why Chekov was so good at rough fighting at his young age.
He did not think about why he went for kill shots every time, and didn't flinch at the bloodshed during a real fight.
He did not think about the way Chekov blinked, confused whenever someone offered a genuine compliment on his skills or expressed gratitude for helping them, and stutter out an awkward response.
With Chekov, it was better not to ask questions. Because Giotto knew, he did not want to know the answers.
Near the end of the refresher courses, a goddamn miracle happened.
Chekov had been working closely with a female lieutenant named Elizabeth Wylde. She was a five-foot-one brunette who was amazing in linguistics, almost to Uhura's caliber, but god awful at combat. All of the confidence she had when speaking a foreign language evaporated when she was thrown in a fight. Chekov had been paying special attention to her over the three weeks of refreshers.
Near the end, Wylde managed to win her first spar. It was against a six-foot tall Andorian who worked in Engineering. Wylde whooped when she managed to bring him down.
And in the back of the room, watching the fight, Chekov grinned.
There were only two people on the Enterprise that Chekov could not win against: Lieutenant Sulu and Commander Spock.
So of course, the kid routinely went against both of them whenever he could. Spock was a rarity. He never liked fighting humans, afraid to hurt them with his Vulcan strength, and anyway the guy had, like, five high-ranked positions on this ship, so it's not like he had a ton of time on his hands. So whenever Giotto happened to stumble upon one of Chekov's sparring sessions it was almost always with Sulu.
And wow, were they a sight to see. Especially when they went with weapons, Sulu's sword against Chekov's knives. It was a deadly, beautiful dance that you simply could not look away from. Giotto ended up blocking a solid hour out of his schedule every week just to come to the officers' gym and watch them. Others quickly caught on and did the same. Sulu and Chekov didn't seem to mind, even as the crowd reached half of the Enterprise.
Giotto was there when Chekov managed to win his first fight against Sulu. The two had been going at it for almost eight minutes, sweat staining both of their shirts, when Chekov managed to disarm Sulu and put a knife to his throat.
Both of them froze, staring at each other, before they burst out laughing. They pretty much collapsed on the spot, from laughter and exhaustion. Giotto got them both water so they wouldn't die.
"Okay," Sulu gasped, once he got it under control and had downed half of his water bottle. "Go again?"
Chekov nodded. He tossed his empty bottle and gave Sulu his sword back.
Giotto decided then and there that everyone on this ship was batshit insane.
When Captain Kirk gave Giotto the file of one Andrei Chekov, it answered a lot of questions Giotto had been trying really, really hard not to think about.
Seriously?! How the fuck did something like this happen in the 23rd Century?! How could it happen to someone like Chekov?! Oh, Andrei had never been convicted or even accused of child abuse, but Giotto could read between the lines. And Chekov had dropped off the grid after his uncle's death and was completely unsupervised and on his own until four months after starting his term at Starfleet. (Which answered the question as to how he'd gotten so good at street fighting: there were big winnings if you managed not to die.)
And now the son of a bitch was loose, and obviously after Chekov, and if Giotto ever got his hands on him he'd regret the day he was born.
Giotto found Chekov alone in the officers' gym, halfway through Gamma shift when he should've been asleep. He was throwing knives at a dummy.
Chekov spotted him out of the corner of his eye, but didn't acknowledge him until he was out of blades and had to go pry them from the dummy's skull. "Captain Kirk briefed you?"
"Yeah," Giotto said, subdued. "Yeah, he did."
"And?" He resumed throwing.
"And I'll be giving you access to as many places above your clearance level as I can. They have more security."
Chekov nodded. "Okay. Thank you, sir."
Giotto bit the inside of his cheek, watching the knives spiral through the air and hit their target with unerring accuracy. Chekov went to collect them again, slipping them in the sheaths around his forearms. As he did, he flipped the dagger in his hands. "My uncle gawe me my first knife," he said out of the blue.
Giotto stayed quiet, listening as Chekov continued: "It vas a butterfly knife, vith a blue handle. He von it in a poker game. He should've sold it; vould've gotten enough money to buy a new car or start a retirement fund, or maybe ewen a trip to China. He'd alvays vanted to go."
When Chekov didn't say anything else, Giotto spoke: "He knew you needed it more. If you hadn't been able to defend yourself..."
Chekov snorted, twirling the dagger in his fingers. "I should've left sooner. Killed Andrei on my vay out, too."
Giotto shook his head. "No. You shouldn't have."
"Vhy not?" Chekov snapped.
"Because you're not the kind of person who kills out of revenge or hate. You don't do it unless your life or the life of someone you care about is in immediate danger, and that is exactly what Vadim would've wanted," Giotto said. "He gave you that knife to protect you. Not to kill Andrei or to protect himself. For you. Because you're the kind of person who would use it for good. You have used it for good. You used it to save the Captain's life!"
Chekov didn't say anything for a long moment. Giotto marched up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Vadim knew exactly what he was doing. He knew he could've sold it, given it away, or used it himself. He didn't. He gave it to you, because you're worth it."
Chekov's eyes got suspiciously wet. He rubbed them with his sleeve and sniffed before any tears could fall and nodded. "Maybe ewentually I'll start believing that."
Giotto squeezed his arm before he stepped back. "I gotta get to bed. You should, too."
Giotto paused, then frowned. "Could I ask...where did these knives come from?"
Chekov gave him a look, holding up the dagger. "Vhere else vould I get something like this?"
Giotto looked at the dagger. The Vulcan dagger.
He shook his head as he turned around and left. "Batshit insane, every one of us..."
In the end, Giotto doesn't get to make Andrei regret the day he'd been born. Too many witnesses.
He does, however, get to see Chekov metaphorically spit in his face, which is almost as good. And the bastard will be rotting in prison for at least a decade. It works.
Three months later, Giotto scheduled the next round of refresher courses. An email popped up on his PADD from Chekov. Giotto grinned when he read it.
Need a demonstration?