- Text Size +

Chapter 3: Tradition Ourselves to Death

Sarek’s eyes moved around the bloated figure of Korrd, taking in the form of Gorkon. Gorkon seemed both lithe and muscular by comparison to the rotund Korrd. And unlike Korrd, there was a deep sense of dignity that seemed to cling to Gorkon’s black and red leather cuirass. In his right hand he firmly held what passed for the Klingon version of a cane: a gigantic pincer finger bone from some unknown beast. He walked with a slight limp. The front of his left foot seemed to drag along the floor, as though his thigh and calf muscles couldn’t quite flex enough to enable him to lift up his foot entirely.

Korrd turned not just his head but his entire body to face Gorkon. He tilted his head to one side, baring his teeth as he spoke. “jIjax jInis. Gajchaj pag Kuv.”

[“I speak as I must. They are the ones without honor.”]

Korrd pointed first at Sarek, and then gestured sarcastically at Gorkon, his hand moving from his chin down towards his chest, palm turned upwards. “jIyin ni’poh gov Koh qamdi’ muXop.”

[“I have lived long enough to recognize a fool when he stands before me.”]

Gorkon moved towards Korrd, almost like a vulture circling around its prey. The creak of stiff leather and the dull thumping of bone were easily heard in the deadly silence of the hall. “Vup bIfo’ qoy “Ramjep’In”.”

[“A pity you are too old to hear ‘the chimes at midnight’.”]

A deep growl emitted from Korrd’s chest. He seemed to half laugh and half spit his next words at Gorkon. “jIqoy neh jevMud dak Quin’lat. HeglIj rurDa’nom!”

[“I hear only the storms at Quin’lat. Your death will be as swift as his!”]

Gorkon slammed the sharp pincer end of his bone cane into the stone floor. “Wa’nohbe’ Devwi’ ni’CeDaj Wiv’a cenmoh.”

[“A leader is not judged by the length of his reign but by the decisions he makes.”]

The two Klingons were now standing only inches apart from one another. Gorkon held up his chin with a superior air, looking down his nose at Korrd. “Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam.”

[“It is a good day to die.”]

Korrd let out a harsh breath of air through his mouth. He looked like he was about to strike Gorkon with the back of his hand, but suddenly he backed down and turned his body aside.

Though Sarek had understood none of the exchange between the two Klingons, he could tell through the body language that, whatever the argument had been about, Gorkon had won. Korrd seemed to steal back into the shadows, leaving only Gorkon visible in the dim lighting.

Gorkon’s eyes, two shining points of obsidian, took in the full view of Sarek, dressed as he was in his heavy ambassadorial robes. Gorkon kept his focus longest on the sight of Sarek’s mixture of white and gray hair. Something seemed to amuse Gorkon, because he smiled slightly. “Yes, the thing must be done properly, mustn’t it?” he said quietly, more to himself than to Sarek.

After bowing his head deeply, Gorkon held his head up proudly, his eyes wide open. “I am Gorkon, son of Toq, son of Kolos, from the House of Makok. I hear with the ears of the High Council.”

Automatically Sarek lifted his right hand to form the v-shaped ta’al. “Hgrtcha S’chn Xtmprsqzntwlbf T’gai Sarek, child of Skon, child of Solkar.”

“Your name is known, even in the Empire. I have wanted to meet you for a long time.” Gorkon stepped towards Sarek, so that they were standing almost as close to one another as he and Korrd had been a few moments ago.

Sarek allowed his hand to drop down to his side. He hesitated a moment before he spoke, carefully considering his words. “I must admit that I did not know your name until yesterday.” He held in his breath, wondering whether such honesty would offend the Klingon. Sarek wasn’t about to lie about knowing Gorkon’s name, however: he was Vulcan. The hall was silent for nearly 30 seconds.

Finally Gorkon nodded gravely, once. “Finally the Federation sends someone worthy to treat with the Klingon Empire. No legacy is so rich as honesty.

One of Sarek’s eyebrows lifted towards his hairline. “All’s Well That Ends Well, Act III, scene v.”

Again Gorkon’s eyes fell on Sarek’s white-gray hair. “Forgive me for staring -- yours is a hair color I do not often see.” He seemed to ponder the matter for another moment before moving across the hall towards the doorway. He stopped near a table that was laden with sand-filtering breathing masks. He offered one of the masks to Sarek. “Will you walk outside with me awhile? The air in here is foul.”

Gorkon hissed into the shadows. Coming from the other end of the long hall, Sarek could just hear the groaning of a metal door as it swung shut.


Up on Grissom’s bridge, Esteban rubbed fingers into his eyes as he sat in the command chair. His eyelids felt like they had dead weights attached to them. Esteban hadn’t slept well last night; the looming threat of Kronos One in orbit, far too close to his own ship for comfort, had prevented him from getting a good night’s sleep.

The ship’s surgeon, Dr. Ahsan Puri, held a green mug underneath his nose. “Here, J.T. Drink this.”

Esteban took a sniff of the steam that was rising up from the mug. Whatever it was that South Asian doctor was offering him, it smelled horrible. “What is it?”

“Coffee,” Puri answered evasively.

“Obviously not from the replicators though.” Esteban took the mug, sniffing at it again. He made a sour face of distaste. “This some special blend that you keep on hand just for yourself?”

“Something like that.”

“Hmmmm…” Esteban knew that Puri had an odd sense of taste when it came to food, but he decided to try the coffee since his friend and Chief Medical Officer thought it would do him good. He drank deeply, and immediately wished he hadn’t. He spat the offensive liquid back into his mug.

“Don’t like it?”

“Like it?” Esteban didn’t even want to stick his tongue back in his mouth, the taste had been so bad. “It’s like drinking an oil slick, but without the tangy aftertaste. I thought you said this was coffee.”

“It is. It’s Klingon coffee,” Puri said sagely. "They call it raktajino."

Esteban was barely able to keep the mug from slipping out of his fingers, he was so surprised by Puri’s answer. “The Klingons are breathing down our necks, and you think that it’s a good time for jokes?” He scowled. “Some days you really try my patience, Ahsan.”

“Say what you will about the Klingons, J.T., but they know how to make a cup of coffee. raktajino has about three times the amount of caffeine as Earth coffee.” Puri tapped a finger on the armrest of Esteban’s command chair. “I don’t want you falling asleep at the wheel. Now drink up.”

Whatever sarcastic comment Esteban was going to make in response was cut off by an urgent report from Marcelino. “Captain, I’m intercepting a message from the Klingon homeworld to Kronos One.”

“Is it coded?”

Marcelino held a finger to his ear piece, his eyes closing as he concentrated. Klingon wasn’t his best language. “No, sir,” he replied, sounding confused. “It’s something about a battle that happened yesterday between two ships in the Mutara sector.”

“The Mutara sector? You’re sure?” Esteban’s mind was racing. The Mutara sector was close to Klingon space, but it was still well within the Federation side of the border.

“Yes, sir. It sounds like a Klingon listening post picked it up at the edge of their range: a pitched battle somewhere between the Ceti Alpha and Regula systems, involving two Starfleet ships.”

Esteban grunted. The Klingons certainly had a lot of nerve, attacking Starfleet vessels in Federation space. “Ruddy Klingons -- so this is what they mean when they say they want peace…”

Marcelino pulled the receiver out of his ear. “Sir, I don’t think the Klingons had anything to do with it. There was a lot of confusion in the report. The listening post said it heard a battle, but the only ships it could detect in the area were Starfleet. I don’t think this battle made any more sense to them than it does to us.”

“And none of this was coded?” Esteban felt uneasy. Nothing about this felt right.

“No, sir.”

Puri scratched his head. “What do you think the Klingons are up to, J.T.? Why would they purposely let us hear something like this? They’d have to know we’d be listening.”

“No clue, Ahsan,” Esteban muttered back. “But in the words of Shakespeare, the game’s afoot, that’s for sure.”


Sarek and Gorkon made their way through the streets of Paradise City in virtual silence. The only sounds that passed between them were the sucking and puffing sounds of their masks as the devices worked to filter out the sand particles that flew in the air. Occasionally one would look at the other, only to look away. Neither seemed to know exactly what to say to the other -- it was as if they were each still trying to feel the other out before speaking.

The wind and the dust had quickly settled a thick layer of grime on Sarek’s robes and the jewels of his necklace. Every few minutes he would wipe off the polished stones with one sleeve. Without speaking a word, Gorkon would watch him do this. It was more than apparent to him that Sarek was fighting a losing battle, although it seemed that the same thought had not occurred to Sarek.

Gorkon also seemed to be struggling as they walked. The uneven surface of the streets, combined with the thick layers of sand that sat like miniature dunes across the cobblestones, was making hell for him with his lame left leg.

At last Sarek chose to break the silence. “The last I knew, weapons were forbidden on Nimbus III…yet I saw enough in your embassy to take this city.”

“You wonder why they were there, yes?”

Sarek nodded.

Gorkon grunted quietly. “The war trophies of an old man, on display for all to see. They are all the honor he has left.”

Sarek’s feet stopped as he paused once more to clean his necklace. “Yet he holds an important position for your people, one that would seem to be an honorable one.”

Gorkon caught Sarek’s eye. Sadness was reflected in the Klingon’s obsidian eyes. “Korrd was a great general. He won many battles in his younger days on account of his skill, and therein lays the irony. He did not have the good fortune to die for the Empire, so now he has the misfortune of living past his usefulness. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Korrd’s position is one that comes with honor. It does not.”

Gorkon leaned upon his cane, watching as Sarek tipped his head to one side. It was easy for him to read into the puzzlement that the action indicated. “This confuses you. Why?”

“In the Federation, diplomatic posts are positions that bear great respect. The individuals who hold those posts have great potential to effect change.”

“The same is true in the Empire.”

Sarek folded his hands together in front of him as he tried to organize his thoughts. “So if Korrd’s position is not one of respect…then then your people do not expect him to be able to effect change here on Nimbus III.”

“A sound piece of reasoning. To us, his position is an empty one.”

Sarek dusted the latest layer of dirt from the shoulders of his robe. “If any place in the galaxy needed change, Councilor, Nimbus III would seem to be the place. It is why I am here, after all.”

“Unfortunately the Empire does not share your concern. It is not in our nature.”

“I am not certain I understand.”

“Tell me, what do you know of my world, Ambassador?”

“Federation files are limited. Qo’noS is a Minshara class planet first visited by humans in 2151. Records state that the surface of Qo’noS comprises of a single supercontinent and a vast ocean. In addition, the planet has a severely tilted axis which causes extreme seasonal changes and results in a turbulent atmosphere that is prone to producing intense and prolonged storms.”

“A fair description, though it lacks passion...and so fails to provide true meaning.”

Sarek gave Gorkon a puzzled look. He could not understand how an answer of passion would be any more useful in this case than an answer of logic would be. “Can you explain this statement?”

“Qo’noS is a world of wild extremes, Ambassador. Klingons are a product of that world: we are her children. The world itself runs in our blood. Life is too inconstant, too unpredictable, for logic. It is a world that breeds passion. One minute the air is clear and bright. The next minute you may find yourself in a storm that lasts ten days and that is capable of wiping whole cities off the face of the land. It is a resource poor world, so all creatures great and small hoard what they do possess. Unlike most other M-class planets, there is very little vegetation. The land is rocky and tough: it makes for poor farming, and so one must roam widely to sustain oneself. As a result, almost every species that dwells on my world is carnivorous and hostile in nature. Everything must fight and struggle to survive. Only the strong can endure on my world.”

Gorkon looked away from Sarek, gesturing to their surroundings. “Klingons enjoy the struggle, Ambassador. We like it in ourselves, and we derive pleasure from watching others engage in the same struggle, because the battle may make them stronger. If the people of this world cannot survive through their own means, they should be allowed to perish. To help them…to coddle them…it is a waste of our limited resources. That is the Klingon view of this planet.”

“I find it odd, Councilor. You describe your world as one of passion, one which is wild and unpredictable. But given those traits as a baseline for behavior, Klingon society follows those traits closely. One might almost say that Klingon culture, for all its passions, is predictable. And within that scope of predictability, it becomes logical.”

Gorkon laughed heartily, a full Klingon belly and body laugh. “You are determined to see something of yourself in us, I see. I suppose, in some limited way, we two are very much alike.”

Gorkon slapped a hand firmly on Sarek’s back, which caused Sarek’s knees to buckle under the pressure. He very nearly fell to the ground.

“Let us go outside the city, and view one of the sites you propose for your atmospheric condensers,” Gorkon said, still sounding amused.

Sarek looked at Gorkon appraisingly. The Klingon’s suggestion seemed highly illogical, given what Gorkon described as the prevailing attitudes of Klingons about the planet. “Despite the fact that Klingons have no interest in developing Nimbus III?”

“Yes, despite that. I believe I saw a stable filled with quadrupeds earlier. We can borrow a pair of beasts and ride out to the nearest site.”

A feeling of reluctance rose up within Sarek. “Councilor, I would prefer alternate transportation.”

“Why do you ask for this?” Gorkon asked the question respectfully, rather than with impatience, as a normal Klingon might.

“Vulcans have an inherent respect for all living beings. On my world, it is not proper to ride another intelligent creature or treat it as a beast of burden.”

“I see. Unfortunately, Ambassador, I know of no other means of transport that are available on this planet, besides walking of course. And I will be damned if I’m going to walk 10 kilometers in the sand with this leg.” Gorkon knocked the pincer end of his cane into the boot of his left foot. “If it is any consolation to you, I also find the notion of riding one of those creatures a strange one. On Qo’noS we do not ride such animals. We eat them.”


Amanda paced back and forth in her quarters. She had been feeling restless most of the day. She knew that she was picking up the agitation that was in the air; the entire crew seemed to be on edge. The air itself seemed to breed unease. Every time she had sat down she had felt the need to start moving again.

Finally, while wringing her hands together, she activated a nearby communication panel. “Bridge? This is Amanda.”

Marcelino’s calming tenor answered. “Yes, ma’am? What can I do for you?”

“How long has my husband been down on the planet?”

A pause. “Computer logs show that he transported down about 3 hours ago.”

Amanda nibbled on her lower lip. “And what’s the surface temperature right now?”

Another pause as Marcelino tapped into the ship’s sensors. “Surface temperature in Paradise City reads as 45.3 Celsius.”

“I see.”

“I’m sure that the Ambassador is just fine, ma’am. He would have contacted us if he had needed anything.”

I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Amanda bit back the response. “I don’t suppose you’ve logged a return letter from my son, have you?” Really she knew it was too early for Spock to have responded to her letter. He had told her that he was going to be busy on the Enterprise. She just wanted to hear back from him; no matter the contents, she always found it soothing to read his letters.

“No, ma’am. Sometimes it takes a while when messages have to go between ships -- there’s so many different relay points for intership communications.”

“No, I understand. I was just checking. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

Amanda closed the comm. channel to the bridge. She strolled over to the sofa that sat in the living section of the quarters. She sat down upon it and stared out the window into space. For a time her eyes watched the planet as it slipped past beneath Grissom, but eventually her eyes were drawn out towards the stars.


After riding for the better part of an hour, Sarek and Gorkon finally reached the nearest proposed location for one of the atmospheric condensers. With a loud grunt, Gorkon dismounted his midnight blue steed. He hobbled for a few steps, holding his left hand to his thigh and leaning heavily on his cane.

Sarek dismounted with a great deal more grace. Noticing the thick layer of grime that had accumulated on his necklace, he began wiping the polished stones clean again. He frowned slightly when he saw that his fingers were leaving streaks on the surface of the jewels: he was actually sweating ever so slightly.

Gorkon rolled some small pebbles and hunks of dried earth beneath his right foot. He lifted his eyes, squinting as he gazed out at a parched landscape, its surface pockmarked with shallow holes. “Ambassador, may I ask you something?”

Sarek wiped trace amounts of perspiration from his brow. “Of course.”

“You seem preoccupied with the task of keeping your robes and your ornate jewelry clean, in spite of the futility of those endeavors. Why do you insist upon fighting this battle against the environment?”

“My attire is dictated by tradition, Councilor. It would show a lack of respect, both to my own people and to you, if I were to allow these ceremonial garments to become soiled.”

Gorkon walked back towards Sarek, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Ceremony. Such a strange thing it is. Show me but thy worth! What is thy soul of adoration? Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form, creating awe and fear in other men? Wherein thou art less happy being fear’d than they in fearing. What drink’st thou oft, instead of homage sweet, but poison’d flattery? O, be sick, great greatness, and bid thy ceremony give thee cure!

Sarek folded his hands behind his back. “Henry V, Act IV, scene i.”

“Yes -- and how that English king bemoaned ceremony. It creates illusions, hiding the true nature of men from even themselves. I tell you truly, Sarek of Vulcan, I do not know what we would be without ceremony. Do you?” Gorkon shook his head, sounding a little discouraged. He looked away.

“It is a difficult question. It is one that cannot be easily answered.”

Gorkon scratched the pincer end of his cane into the fruitless field. “Has it occurred to you that maybe we ought not to change this planet?”

Sarek shook his head. “The thought had not crossed my mind. When I look here, at these fields, I see a world waiting for us to change it.”

“You asked me in the city why Korrd displays those weapons. He does it for ceremony, in defiance of the laws of this planet.” Gorkon turned his dark eyes back upon Sarek. It seemed as though the cares of the world were contained within him, and his obsidian eyes were the windows into his soul. “You wear those robes for ceremony, on a planet that makes them impractical. It seems to me that neither of our cultures is meant for this place, Sarek. Culture drops away here, becoming meaningless. There is such freedom on this planet: its vastness is almost overwhelming unless you are prepared for it. It frightens those of us who live within boundaries, but it leaves its inhabitants free to find their own path. A terrible, wonderful thing.”

After taking in one last, deep breath, Gorkon removed his breathing mask. He exhaled into the air, particles of sand whirling around his face. “Perhaps it is not for us to change this place. Perhaps it is for this place to change us, however we may fight it. And fight it we do, with our weapons and our clothes and our ceremony! I tell thee, Sarek, I wonder if we have that capacity for change. I fear very much that we do not. Unless some great moment of upheaval strikes us all and forces us to change, I fear very much that we shall all tradition ourselves to death.”

Gorkon inhaled deeply, causing him to cough violently. The air of Nimbus III was simply too harsh for him, as it was too harsh for all of its residents, no matter their species. Gorkon replaced the breathing mask on his face. He walked back towards his mount slowly. “Forgive me for waxing philosophic, Ambassador. There is much on my mind these days.”

Sarek watched Gorkon carefully. The Councilor seemed tired. “You need not apologize. From time to time, we must all unburden our minds of their cares.”

“Send me your proposal for the atmospheric condensers.” Gorkon stroked the long neck of his mount gently with a hand. He spoke quietly, more to himself than to Sarek. “When we mean to build, we first survey the plot, then draw the model; and when we figure of the house, then must we rate the cost of the erection.

Henry IV Part 2, Act I, scene iii.”

“Your memory is good, Ambassador.” Gorkon nodded slowly, approvingly. “Tonight I will give you my answer. For now, I must ponder this matter carefully, and weigh the costs of your proposal as they concern the future of the Empire.”

Sarek tilted his head, appreciative and grateful that Gorkon seemed willing to consider his plans.


You must login (register) to review.