Note: This story directly follows on from Star Trek: Bounty - 1 - Where Neither Moth nor Rust Destroys.

Prologue

Of all the bars he had visited across the galaxy, Kortar's Rest on the Klingon outpost Dona'tu vagh had long been Kahlor's favourite.

There was nothing especially remarkable about it. If anything, the opposite was true. Kortar's Rest was the sort of place that, in the bustling urban sprawl that surrounded it, you could walk past every day of the year on your way to somewhere more interesting and still not realise it existed.

And that was exactly what Kahlor looked for in a bar these days. Somewhere that offered a grizzled old warrior the comforting cloak of anonymity. He knew that there was no danger of running into his shipmates here.

The IKS Kron'gah, of the third fleet of the Klingon Empire, had arrived in orbit of the planet two days ago. Ostensibly seeking a safe haven while they completed repairs following a run-in with a Breen battle wing, now they were here, Captain K'lor had seen no reason not to allow his tired officers a few days of R&R.

The rest of the crew, younger and more boisterous warriors, had immediately headed for the more bustling nightspots that the outpost had to offer, seeking bloodwine, drunken scuffles and companionship. But Kahlor was happy to keep away from such crowds, and especially from his tiresome shipmates.

An officer of Kahlor's advancing age still serving with such a lowly rank always tended to be the butt of most of the jokes amongst the younger generation of soldiers at the best of times. After all, was he too good for Sto-vo-kor?

But in Kahlor's case, there were also rumours about the deeper reasons for his current rank. Nothing was officially stated in the public record, but gossip and hearsay had quickly spread amongst the rest of the crew about his past indiscretions, making his life onboard doubly miserable.

That was another reason why Kahlor came to places like this. His own company was all he deserved.

The bar had been empty when he had first arrived, and even as late as it was now, there were barely half a dozen patrons scattered around the place. Probably all with similar tales of misery to tell. Even so, Kahlor had opted to sit in one of the booths along the far side of the establishment, allowing himself a further layer of seclusion.

He finished the dregs of the drink in front of him, a particularly fiery chech'tluth-based cocktail blend that was a speciality at Kortar's Rest. Within moments, a fresh glass was placed in front of him by a discerning waitress.

He barely had time to take a sip before he heard footsteps approaching his booth.

She slipped into the seat opposite him without saying a word. Just from looking at her, he couldn't discern her species, but she was humanoid in appearance, with a slightly elongated cranium and a thick ridge of reddish bony protrusions running across the top of her forehead.

He might have had more luck trying to pin down her heritage if his inebriated eyeline hadn't been drawn further down.

She wore an elegant deep blue dress with an especially plunging neckline, which was leaving little to even the dullest of imaginations. She also didn't seem especially offended by the elderly Klingon's wandering gaze. If anything, the salacious smile on her face suggested that she had rather been expecting it.

Kahlor didn't need to be a genius to realise that the woman wasn't sitting with him in a formal capacity.

"I do not require...company this evening," he stated flatly.

She reached across the table and picked up his drink, taking a delicate sip. Kahlor snarled internally at her presumptuousness, but he remained composed for the moment.

"That's a shame," she smiled seductively, "Would it change your mind if I told you that my services have already been paid for, in full?"

Kahlor couldn't help but flash a furious glare at her as he scanned around the still mostly empty expanse of Kortar's Rest, looking for any sign of his shipmates from the Kron'gah. He was sure that some of them had tracked him down somehow, and would right now be having a hearty laugh at their latest plot to humiliate the old soldier.

But he could see nobody he recognised. In fact, none of the scant few patrons in Kortar's Rest seemed remotely interested in the scene that was unfolding in the secluded booth.

He turned back to his unwanted drinking companion. She traced her finger around the glass, slowly and deliberately.

"I don't give out the names of my clients," she said, answering his question before he even had a chance to ask it, "Perhaps someone on Dona'tu vagh thought you could do with being cheered up tonight."

Her perfect pronunciation of the outpost's name in original Klingon surprised and intrigued him, but he was in no mood to push the conversation any further.

"They are mistaken," he replied, irritably swatting her hand away from the glass and reclaiming his drink.

"Really?"

She looked the craggy warrior in front of her up and down, then silently balled up one of her hands into a fist and squeezed down with one of her long fingernails until she pierced the pale skin of her palm.

Kahlor felt his old heart beat faster as she carefully opened her hand, allowing the blood to pool in her palm. Keeping her eyes locked on his and ensuring that she had his complete attention, she brought her hand up to her mouth and licked the streak of blood from her skin.

The elderly Klingon suppressed a gulp. And several other urges that rose inside him as well.

"Suit yourself," she half-whispered, "Enjoy the rest of your evening."

She stood and slowly swaggered away towards the exit. Kahlor suppressed the impulse he felt to call after her and focused on calming himself. Realising how dry his mouth had become, he took a long slug from his drink.

It happened immediately. As the fiery liquid hit his stomach and he set the glass back down onto the table, a surge of pain pulsed through his body. It was enough to make him want to clutch his chest in agony. But he didn't. Because he couldn't move his arms.

In panicked torment, he instinctively tried to stand up. But he couldn't move his legs either. In fact, he couldn't move at all. He went to call out in anguish, but he couldn't even speak.

He was paralysed. Mute. Completely, and invisibly, tied down to his seat.

"It is known as Replimol 16," a new voice said.

As Kahlor remained frozen in place, a stocky Klingon in plain warrior garb sat down opposite him. He didn't recall seeing him in the bar earlier, nor did he remember hearing anyone new walk in. But the stranger had clearly been watching for some time.

Kahlor's still-functioning eyesight was drawn to the ugly deep scars that ran down one side of his opponent's face. A sign of a brutal life, despite his relative youth.

"A powerful neurotoxin," the scarred Klingon continued, "Which, if I understand the potency of the dose you just received, is something you should already be very much aware of."

The stranger barely even bothered to lower his voice as he spoke. Their solitary location in the private booth meant that he didn't need to pay much care to any of the scant few other patrons overhearing him.

The intense burning in Kahlor's chest flared up even more. It felt as though his entire body was about to explode. Stabbing pains shot out in all directions, like a thousand painstiks trying to burrow their way out of his flesh.

And there was nothing he could do but sit stock-still in his seat, almost all external signs of the torture he was going through rendered invisible by his paralysis.

The other Klingon smiled in satisfaction as he saw a thick bead of sweat trickle down Kahlor's face, past his wide, swollen eyes.

"It was developed by the Breen during the final months of the war," he continued, as casually as if they had been discussing Klingon opera, "With the Dominion lines collapsing, they began to look for more desperate means of striking back. Including chemical warfare."

The searing pain continued to spread, sending ripples of agony down his arms and legs.

"Unfortunately for them, they didn't have time to complete their research. As such, Replimol 16 only works in highly concentrated doses, rendering it impractical as a means to attack a planet's water supply, or sow any form of mass devastation."

He picked up and examined the glass on the table, idly swirling the deep red liquid inside around.

"But, in far smaller quantities, it remains a very capable poison. Personally, I have found that all it usually takes is to ensure that the intended recipient is suitably...distracted."

He set the drink back down and gave Kahlor an evil leer.

"She was certainly worth the price."

Kahlor's eyes flickered in desperation. He remembered the mysterious woman, and the excessive attention she had paid to his drink. He also remembered the excessive attention he had paid to her, and how little she was wearing, rather than what she might have been doing with the glass.

The pain reached his head itself, thundering through his skull as his temples flared in red hot spasms of agony. Several more beads of sweat followed the first down his ridged forehead.

"First, it attacks the motor functions, rendering the victim completely immobile," the stranger continued, "Then it moves to the nervous system itself, focusing on the pain receptors, specifically designed to be a most agonising experience. Apparently, some of the test subjects the Breen worked on had over 92% of their neurons stimulated before they finally succumbed to death."

He leaned forwards over the table, glowering at the older Klingon with open contempt and watching as Kahlor's eyes began to flicker. Sweat was now pouring from his brow, dripping onto the table in front of him.

"And what a death it will be," he hissed, "There will be no honourable exit for you. No glorious battle or blood-soaked crusade. No place in Sto-vo-kor. Just this. A pitiful, agonising, lonely death in this backwards fleapit of a bar."

Kahlor's heart started to palpitate. His vision began to blur.

"Sit here and die without honour, Kahlor. Just as the Sons of Marlek did."

In his final moments of consciousness, a sliver of recognition flickered in Kahlor's eyes as he heard that name. Even as every inch of his body felt like it was on fire.

The scarred Klingon stood, adjusted his bulky armour and made for the exit. Not once looking back.

By the time he reached the door, Kahlor was dead.

'*'*'


'*'*'

He found her casually leaning on the side of his shuttle.

In the time it had taken him to complete his business, she had taken the opportunity to change into something significantly more dignified, and was finishing off treating the self-inflicted cut on her palm with a dermal regenerator.

"It is done," he stated simply.

She didn't look up and merely shrugged in disinterest and held her healed hand out expectantly. He removed a small pouch from his belt and passed it to her.

She examined the contents of the bag, the latinum inside rattling slightly. Her head immediately snapped back up.

"Where's the rest of it, Kolar?" she spat, "We agreed on double what's in here."

He calmly tapped the controls next to the door of his shuttle and it slowly opened.

"The task is not yet complete," Kolar explained.

"You told me that he was the last one! I want the rest of my latinum-!"

"One more," he stated firmly, "Then you will be paid in full. Do not worry about that."

Before she could offer a further retort, he clambered into the dusty green shuttle and moved over to the pilot's seat, powering the craft back up and preparing to lift off.

She looked down at the meagre funds in the bag again and scowled darkly, realising that she hadn't really left herself with another option. She was in this to the end, one way or another. She angrily climbed aboard the shuttle and sat down in the seat next to him.

As the shuttle door closed behind them, Kolar absently retrieved a small padd from a storage slot underneath the shuttle's controls. The screen of the device displayed little more than a list of twelve names. The surviving crewmen from the IKS Grontar, a Bird of Prey that had operated during the Klingon Civil War.

He hadn't been lying to her. Kahlor's name was the eleventh. He allowed himself a thin smile of satisfaction as he struck that name off. Now only one remained.

The shuttle lifted off, leaving the streets of Dona'tu vagh behind, and departed to search out the twelfth name on the list.

His sole remaining target.

Klath.