Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Next Generation belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry.
The day the Duy'a' was to come, be'Hom laid awake in her rack all through a faint and nebulous dawn and into the rathe morning, when the temperature lowered and a listless, tepid rain began to fall, wetting her hand when she opened the window.
The light was low and gray, tinctured with iron. It lacked the greenish nacre that suffused the atmosphere when k'lai klinzhai burned the atmosphere, the air unusually clear of drifting tephra. The firmament was a sheet of dark and swollen clouds from one side of the horizon to the other, and she could smell the ozone that charged the emerging thunderheads. Huge gusts of wind were scattering the apathetic spate, lowering the temperature even further and warning of a downpour to come.
She'd had trouble breathing those first few, narcotic days, when even the air had seemed to weigh her down and every breath was half water. be'Hom had tolerated it without mention, until the discomfort passed on its own. Now she didn't even notice the gravity, or the heat, or the humidity. She had even begun sweating less. No one else sweat as much as she did, she'd been galled to find. Perhaps as time went on, she would sweat less and less, until she sweated no more than anyone else.
The hospice was beginning the morning shift—be'Hom could hear movement and talking, the doctors beginning their rounds. The Duy'a' would come early, she'd been told, just after the first meal. Sogh had told her that the Duy'a' had been put off by the HoD for so long that she had had to threaten to appeal to the Chancellor's office, and so had been able to appoint the interview for this particular morning. HoD was in no hurry.
be'Hom made her ablutions in the lavatory, making sure to wash her hair and rinse her teeth, and then put on the clothes that Sogh had brought her the day before. A long-sleeved shirt with a sharply pointed neckline went over a pair of looser pants. The shirt's split hem went to the knees, and a belt clasped shirt and pants to her hips. Over the shirt she put on a short-sleeved jacket that only went a hand's width down her front and back, and had stiff shoulders that flared over her upper arms. Boots went over her feet, the same tough, supple leather as her belt, and across her chest, from right shoulder to left hip, wrapped a black sash on which was hung a single badge. The badge came already attached to the sash, to her relief. The belt had been difficult enough to fasten.
She wore her hair loose and free. All that was missing, she was convinced, was a knife of her own.
The first meal came soon after she had dressed, brought in by one of the staff, a woman wearing the hospice's uniform. The woman's eyes went wide, her teeth clacking. be'Hom lifted her chin proudly. The woman set the tray down and left. The staff did not talk to her, and be'Hom suspected that they had been ordered not to. Why, she didn't know, but Sogh talked enough for all of them anyway, even if he refused to answer some of her questions.
The food was hot but be'Hom was too agitated to eat, so she put away her bedclothes, straightened the bedding on her rack, sipped some of the watery tea that had come with the meal. She had to concentrate with the cup, to control her fingers—she'd broken so many of them already. Then she stood at the window and watched the storm. She stayed there, her eyes on the coagulating clouds flashing white with bursts of lightening, until the door to her room opened.
be'Hom turned and saw HoD.
He had to bend his neck to get through the door. He'd come uniformed and armored, his baldric heavy with the badges of his House and commission. The gray in his hair had damped to nearer black, but it did not make him look any younger.
Behind him were two others. One was a young man be'Hom had never seen before, and the second was a woman.
The woman stopped almost on the threshold, wide-eyed.
The young man that had come in behind HoD reacted with more bearing, but not by much. His brows lifted and his nostrils flared.
“be'Hom,” said HoD, “this is Duy'a' K'Ehleyr, the Federation Ambassador to the Empire. She has come with news of your family.”
The woman, K'Ehleyr, glanced at HoD, irritated. “I suppose I do, in a way. But I would like to speak to—” She stopped, and the glance became a glare. “I was never informed of her name.”
“She has none,” said HoD.
K'Ehleyr seemed shocked. “No name?”
HoD inclined his head, and said, “Yet.”
“Well,” said K'Ehleyr, after a pointed silence, “that's just one more thing I need to discuss with her. Alone. Captain, Lieutenant, if you will leave us for our interview?”
HoD turned and went out without looking at be'Hom. The young man, the Sogh, glanced at be'Hom again and then followed HoD out.
When the door closed behind them, K'Ehleyr looked at be'Hom.
“So,” the Duy'a' said, “you don't have a name?”
be'Hom shrugged. “I don't know.”
“Then what have they been calling you?”
“be'Hom,” said be'Hom.
K'Ehleyr's mouth pressed tight. “We'll use it for now. I am K'Ehleyr. I'm here to talk to you about what happened to you.”
be'Hom said nothing.
K'Ehleyr raised an eyebrow. “Don't you have any questions?”
“I don't know.”
“I'm sorry.” K'Ehleyr clasped her hands behind her back. “I knew you had memory loss, but I wasn't told how extensive. Is there—anything, at all, that you remember?”
Shouting. Explosions. A knife in her hand, and HoD's face. “No.”
Then they were just looking at each other.
Duy'a' K'Ehleyr had a fine-looking face, with a bold brow and features, and long brownish hair. Yet there was something wrong about her—something about her face struck be'Hom as awry. The Duy'a''s cranial ridges seemed more uniform than be'Hom had become used to seeing, with softer edges and chines. She smelled differently too.
She wore no armor and no uniform. Her shirt and lower garment were gray, and her shoulders had been slashed with metal pieces, but be'Hom did not recognize the badge she wore, and the Duy'a' did not hold herself as a warrior did, as even other people did.
“That's the insignia of the House of Haragga, isn't it?” K'Ehleyr's tone was nonchalant. “Do you know what a House badge on a cloth baldric means?”
“It means I'm a ward of the House,” said be'Hom straight off, “and not a blood daughter.”
“That's...right.” The badge reflected a bar of solid light as K'Ehleyr moved. “They told you?”
“Sogh Goroth visits every day,” said be'Hom. “So does HoD. HoD says it's not the same as having an instructor, but it is sufficient while I'm in here.”
“Ah.” The Duy'a' looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. “They told me you spoke tlhIngan Hol, but I didn't know you were so fluent.”
“HoD taught me,” said be'Hom, and she couldn't help the small smile.
K'Ehleyr's eyes were on be'Hom's face, and then they moved to the rack, to the footlocker, to the tripod with the meal tray still on it, to the window and to the table where be'Hom had left her hand-held interface.
“be'Hom,” said the Duy'a', “why don't we start at the beginning?”
The Duy'a' took the bench at the table, and be'Hom took the footlocker as she always did when HoD or Sogh were visiting. K'Ehleyr raised an eyebrow, but did not object.
“Now,” the ambassador said, “what have they told you?”
“They found me in stasis on a ship,” be'Hom answered, “in the Mempa sector. The H'Grot found me just in time to get me out, but the stasis unit I was in was so damaged that they didn't know if I'd live. I did, but Sogh says the head trauma destroyed my memories.”
“This stasis unit,” said K'Ehleyr, “did they say what it was?”
be'Hom frowned. “No.”
“You didn't ask?”
She hadn't. “No.”
K'Ehleyr seemed to search be'Hom's eyes, but be'Hom did not react. “The report said that the ship was destroyed.”
“That's what HoD and Sogh say,” agreed be'Hom.
be'Hom frowned again. “What?”
“What destroyed the ship?”
What a queer question to ask her. “Wouldn't that be in the report?”
“But it's not.” K'Ehleyr folded her hands and put them over one knee. “Do you know?”
“No.” be'Hom tried to think. Hadn't she heard something about an explosion? But she couldn't quite recall. “You should ask HoD.”
Another pause, and this one was tenser than the one before, though be'Hom did not understand why.
“You seem very calm,” said K'Ehleyr, “for someone in your position.”
be'Hom shifted. “My position?”
“A Human in the tlhIngan wo'. A young woman with amnesia and severe brain injuries.”
“Oh,” said be'Hom, and stopped there.
K'Ehleyr frowned. “That's it?”
be'Hom shrugged one shoulder.
“Aren't you afraid? Or worried?”
That seemed to throw the Duy'a'. “be'Hom, you're injured and alone on an alien planet. You can't even remember your own name, but you don't seem frightened or worried at all.”
“I'm not alone,” said be'Hom, “I've got HoD.”
K'Ehleyr looked nonplussed. “HoD?”
“He's my vavneS,” be'Hom said, explaining.
There seemed to be nothing the Duy'a' could think of to say to that. She exhaled, a long breath that took much of the tautness of her shoulders with it. “Do you know how old you are?”
be'Hom shook her head. “Sogh says I might be around twenty.”
“But you're not certain?”
be'Hom didn't answer.
K'Ehleyr went on. “Is there anything else, no matter how trivial, that you can think of? A name, a face, or perhaps a place, a building? Anything?”
Screaming, and green blood, and a tight, hot pain on her arm. Something cold and oppressive, that stole her breath and made an unbearable pressure on her head. “No.”
The Duy'a' looked at be'Hom. And then she tapped the badge on her shirt.
When K'Ehleyr spoke, be'Hom could make no sense of the sounds she was making. be'Hom frowned and listened attentively, but this language was nothing like tlhIngan Hol, and she heard only gibberish.
Without tapping the badge again, K'Ehleyr switched to tlhIngan Hol. “You didn't understand any of that.”
be'Hom shook her head.
The Duy'a''s face was noncommittal. “A Human who doesn't speak Federation Standard.”
Had be'Hom done something wrong? She didn't know, but by the expression on the Duya'a''s face, she'd definitely erred somehow. An anxious twinge made her stomach tighten. Had she made trouble for HoD?
Suddenly, K'Ehleyr asked, “How do you feel?”
be'Hom started. “Feel?”
“The physician says you're recovering well.” The Duy'a' watched her. “But how do you feel?”
be'Hom hesitated, but could think of no reason not to tell the truth. “I feel—tired, mostly. I don't know why, I sleep a lot. Some nights I have a temperature, but Sogh says it's fine. He says it's just my body repairing itself.”
“And when you're not sleeping?”
How could she explain? “I...it's...hard to think, sometimes. My head hurts. Sogh says it will pass.” Soon,
Sogh had told her. It was already much improved over the week before. Then, be'Hom had spent most of her time awake in a fugue, too hot and sweating through her bedclothes and the bedding, or lapsing catatonic. She did not remember much of those days, but most of what she did remember was the window, and HoD's voice.
K'Ehleyr quietly asked, “be'Hom, why don't you come with me?”
The question was not unexpected, but be'Hom's eyes opened wide anyway. “With you?”
“You need real medical care,” said K'Ehleyr, “and even the Medical Enclave isn't really equipped or trained to treat Humans. It's shocking that you've even recovered as well as you have, no offense to Sogh Goroth. There's a doctor from Starfleet Medical on staff at the embassy, and a Federation starship very close by that's ready to take you to a starbase for further treatment. I happen to know that they also have an empath on board who could talk to you, help you.”
It all seemed very reasonable. Yet be'Hom's throat was closing. “Does that mean you've found my House?”
“Your—” K'Ehleyr clenched her teeth together. “You mean your family
, and...no. I haven't. Not yet.”
be'Hom's head was hurting. “Sogh says I'm getting better.”
“Sogh Goroth is not trained to doctor Humans.” K'Ehleyr scowled. She looked more tlhIngan in that moment than she had during the entire conversation previous. “You need someone trained in Human medicine.”
be'Hom was shaking her head, even though it was beginning to really hurt. “I think I should talk to HoD—”
K'Ehleyr's face stiffened. When she spoke, it was authoritatively. “I am the Federation Ambassador to tlhIngan wo'. As a Human, you fall under my jurisdiction. I could always just take you into custody.”
be'Hom stood up.
The pain in her head extinguished. A stillness came over her that seemed to cut away her disoriented self-consciousness, and looked out her eyes.
“You should not threaten me, K'Ehleyr,” said be'Hom, softly.
K'Ehleyr stared at her. The muscles in her face were rigid.
The door opened.
be'Hom looked away first, at HoD coming in. The young man was not with him.
HoD glared at her. And then he looked at K'Ehleyr.
“You should be ashamed of yourself, K'Ehleyr,” said HoD. The dreadful voice and those terrible eyes were proud. “Even my Human daughter is more tlhIngan than you.”Glossary
Duy'a' | ambassador
be'Hom | girl
k'lai klinzhai | the star of the Klinzhai system
Sogh | lieutenant
HoD | captain
tlhIngan wo' | Klingon Empire