‘By the Cat's Whiskers'
... Back on Aubrellis Dwells
"I don't approve of your past mistakes Templar. But I'll give you credit for trying to change things around. Far too many cadets signing up to Starfleet are too squeaky clean. They cannot possibly comprehend the dirty underside to most worlds. You have a unique worldview, if you will, and it might just serve you to the better. As I said, your past is your past, my past is my past, and as far as I am concerned, none of it is of immediate concern. What matters is here and now." He hefted his phaser rifle and beckoned the ensign to follow him.
"And right now, we have trouble ahead."
Sebastian looked in the direction the muzzle of the phaser was pointed. A gang of fearsome bandits approached their position with a menacing intent. A hulking Klingon with a pitted face snarled to the mob and they parted to encircle the security officers. Repeatedly slapping a club into his palm, the Klingon's mouth split into a horrid grin anticipating the beating he was going to give.
Caleb bowed his head, not in submission but to hood his eyes in shadow. Sebastian took a defensive stance a short distance behind him, warily keeping an eye on the pack that formed a wall around them. He tried to take in the little details of the situation that might lend him a tactical advantage. At the very least, have the foreknowledge of just what a disadvantage they were at.
Looking up at the surrounding slums, Sebastian saw faces hide from behind grimy windows. At one end of the street opening, they now found themselves surrounded in the slums butted onto the walls of the higher warren of streets that constituted the centre of the Dwells. These pitiful buildings rose to paltry five stories. Two had balconies and these now filled with a sentry each, their weapons trained on them both.
On the lower sides, the buildings were two stories at the most. These buildings were cobbled together from a vast manner of debris forming the first ranks of the grimy slums that clung like dirt under the nails to the hub of the Dwells. The inhabitants of these slums slinked back into the shadows, the grime and smoke. They saw impending violence and knew there would be recriminations however it panned out. On Aubrellis, in these situations, it was best to be able to plead ignorance.
Other figures emerged from the shrouds of darkness though. In total, Sebastian counted a total of twenty-two figures of assorted aliens, with assorted weapons, take up positions. ‘Not good odds.'
The Klingon with the split mouth came further forward, stepping in the pitiful spill of light that fell from the tall slum buildings, in which stood Caleb and Sebastian. "I have a message for you that wants delivering."
Caleb replied in a nonchalant voice, though his body demeanour was anything but nonchalant. Instead, he was coiled and ready to strike. At this stage, Sebastian was still unaware of his chief's tactics or the degrees to which he might be pushed. It meant he was unable to anticipate his possible moves. That uncertainty played on Sebastian's mind. The uncertainty brought unpredictability and chaos into the situation. And for Sebastian, that brought him back to his dark days. With certainty, with knowledge, came strength. With uncertainty came weakness.
"And what message might that be Durmok? It hardly needs all of you?"
The Klingon, Durmok, was unimpressed by the steel in Caleb's voice. "Sometimes actions speak louder than words. T'Hos wanted me to convey in the strongest possible terms to you and your captain that you are not to seek him out."
"And should we decline to follow his advice?"
Durmok bared his yellowed, cracked, razor pointed teeth. "It was made very clear to me to make sure you understood the message perfectly. And the way I see it ... I have my own message to give you."
"Not still bearing a grudge Durmok?"
The tall imposing Klingon rubbed his jaw as he remembered the crow bar Caleb had swung at him with not so long ago on a boarding raid. "Time to settle an old score."
"All of you against us? Hardly seems fair."
Durmok chuckled. "I'm not worried about making things fair. Only about making things hurt. Hurt badly at that."
Suddenly he dashed forwards with the club swinging. Caleb ducked as it passed mere centimetres from his scalp. Sebastian caught the club, pulled on it and then reversed the force pushing it back up into the Klingon's face as he came on with the club. The sight of the Klingon dropping to his knees followed the satisfying crunch of the club smacking into bone.
Sebastian had to spin at that though to deflect a blow from behind. He did so deftly giving his opponent a swift kick to the sternum as he passed by. Around him, he heard Caleb fire off a number of shots and the sounds of falling bodies. Two significantly louder thuds told Sebastian that Dexter had downed the two point men on the balconies first.
This Sebastian took in, as a scrum of thugs crowded round him bringing him to the ground. Brutal kicks and heavy hits from steel poles rained down upon the ensign even as he brought himself up into a protective ball.
A chorus of hollers surrounded him even as the blows to the head impaired his hearing. A vile chanting relish at the beating they were serving up. He had a vague impression of another fight going on off to one side but he knew too that Dexter would soon be faring no better.
Then there was a still silence as the blows stopped and some slight filtered through to his puffed eyelids as the gang parted slightly to look up to the high rooftops. From whence they all had heard the roar of a lion. Disorientated and uninformed of the planet's indigenous animals, Sebastian was at a loss as to what creature made the noise.
Sebastian pushed himself up from the dirt amid the stunned silence as the thugs looked to the rooftops and saw silhouetted in the moonlight, the figure of the Kestrel's Chief of the Boat. With bravado, an injured Dexter called out, "About time Rah!"
But rising himself from the ground, Durmok snarled, "You fools! Finish them off!"
Rah Eyrrs, however, roared yet again and like a banshee in the night came screaming down from the rooftop and citadel of the town centre's walls. With claws bared, Rah smashed into a gathering of brutes, mauling their chests as he did so. With abandon, he tossed one aside like a ragdoll and stalked forwards for more prey.
Again, the melee paused. This time for the commanding voice of Captain Gregory McGregor. He now stood on the rooftops preening himself as he pretended to ignore the fight below. He asked solicitously of Rah, "Did you drop the packages off as I asked Mr. Rah?"
Rah reluctantly broke eye contact with the Klingon to narrow his eyes at McGregor before giving a tiny nod of his head. Sebastian trying to regain his senses recalled that Rah had not beamed down with them. So he wondered where Rah had come from.
McGregor's voice rang clear from the rooftop. The figure of Stanley came to stand beside his captain. "Very good Mr. Rah, a ball of wool for you when we get back to the Kestrel. Now excuse me gentlemen, but am I to presume that you are currently in the employ of one T'Hos Likk?"
Durmok spat blood from his mouth. "You could say that McGregor. Since he has put a bounty on your head, dead or even more dead."
"You are as witty as you look lovely Durmok. But I must say, I am complimented that T'Hos would go to such efforts. However, I know you are on his payroll. I know of the work you do here in the Dwells for him Durmok. Now it is I, who has a message I want you to give to T'Hos. Tell T'Hos that not only am I coming after him, I'm bringing down every one of his crooked enterprises."
McGregor removed a small device from his pocket as he tossed one end of Stanley's knitted scarf over his shoulder before using his umbrella to lean on as he displayed the small palm sized device. "Each and every one, from here to the Cardassian borders. The warehouses, which hold the stolen goods." He depressed a button and a sudden roar echoed throughout the night sky as a giant mushroom of fire gushed into the night sky illuminating the skyline behind McGregor, bathing his silhouette with a murderous red.
"Each and every warehouse." He depressed the button again and a series of further explosions rocked the citadel area of the Dwells and in the area surrounding the slums. Debris and rubble rained down from a nearby explosion as the scene rocked with the destructive force. Screams permeated the night air as thick smoke choked out the moonlight and fiery tongues blossomed throughout the Dwells.
"It includes his brothels," he depressed the button again and several loud whooshes, followed by screams and shouts of fire, indicated those brothels, "and his illegally licensed space vessels." Another button was depressed. This time the spaceport, a series of platforms that protruded high into the sky over the citadel, became a scene of devastation as a series of space craft exploded into ruined, burning fragments.
"Tell him, McGregor is coming after him. As for you all ... well by the whisker of a cat you live. But I would imagine that after your failure to protect his interests here tonight, T'Hos is not going to be very pleased with you. Therefore, my advice is to find a new rock to hide under. Scram."
They did so, all except for Durmok. He hollered up McGregor, even as frantic cries and the rush of people to put out or escapes fierce fires resounded throughout the warrens of the Citadel and the scummy paths of the slums. "You expect me to run to T'Hos? Tell you where he is?"
McGregor put the device back into his pocket, before opening his umbrella and then in a stupefying move stepped off the five-storey roof. Then impossibly, his umbrella lifted him under a cushion of air and McGregor seemed to float to the ground.
Sebastian almost fell over, disbelieving his eyes. Durmok too, was suitably impressed and appalled. McGregor with a little panache adjusted the cuffs to his jacket and refixed his scarf before answering almost absently."Hardly Durmok. You ain't pretty but you're not completely suicidal. If you go anywhere near T'Hos, he'll skin you. I do expect you'll contact him, plead your excuses, and then run for the hills. That is if you wish to escape his wrath. To that end, it might be in your best interests that we do find him. That way, when he's out of the picture, you don't need to keep looking over your shoulder."
Stepping up closer to Durmok, McGregor smirked. "Unless you'd sooner turn over on your old boss and take a room with us onboard the Kestrel? We do a fine B&B service in the brig. The only problem is our guests tend to complain about the cat that we keep." McGregor tossed his head in the direction of Rah who picked at his claws, picking out the flesh from under them. "What's it going to be?"
Durmok said nothing but turned away cursing. A bruised and bleeding Caleb slapped Sebastian on the shoulder as he did. The ensign wanted to ask why they were happy to let him walk away freely but did not want to sound like Cutler.
Calen asked breathlessly and a little accusatory, "You never said you had planned this Captain."
"Not so much a plan as a delicious taste of revenge, Tac." McGregor licked his lips. A gesture mimicked by Rah licking his claws and lips too. "Get onto Eddie and tell me to get teams to help put out the fires. Also, get one of the geeks to keep an ear out for the call Durmok is going to make to T'Hos. It might help us to pin point a location. Ah ensign, did you enjoy your first visit to the Dwells?"
Sebastian gathered his best-composed cocky voice that he could try to muster at this stage. "It was ... memorable, captain."
"Good, good, but we had best be going." He held the umbrella up again. "It feels like there's going to be rain."
* * *