The young human glanced up from his work, his eyes scanning the ambassador's busy walls for a chronometer.
Ambassador Rozhenko had filled nearly every blank space of his large, Federation Embassy office with images, posters, plaques, flags, and other mementos and awards that he had collected or been presented with over the course of his more than twenty-five years in office. The bright, eye-catching collages seemed a surprisingly human motif for such a highly respected Klingon, although Sendak supposed a visiting dignitary could interpret the scheme as a display of the ambassador's achievements and experience. In that sense, the colorful walls were a show of prowess, sort of like a peacock displaying his tail, or a lion his teeth. Not that he would ever mention such a notion to the ambassador…
Spotting the chronometer at last, Sendak responded in halting Klingon, "Uh… It's, uh, wa'maH Hutvatlh rep." He winced. "I think. That's nineteen hundred hours, right sir?"
Alexander laughed and clasped his aide's narrow shoulder. "It is, indeed. Your pronunciation is improving, Zacharie."
"Thank you, sir," Sendak said, "although, I haven't had much time to practice this week. That whole issue with the Cromarg strike—"
"Is settled," the ambassador interrupted. "The Cromarg engineers return to work on maSjaj."
"MaSjaj," Sendak repeated carefully. "Monday?"
Alexander smiled, but it was more appraising than congratulatory. Sendak shrank back a little.
"Was I wrong, sir?"
"No," the ambassador said. "No, you were correct. And you know you were correct. But your fear of being wrong in front of me makes you come off like a cringing targ."
Sendak lowered his eyes. Alexander crossed his arms and fixed the nervous human with his firmest gaze. "You need to stop being so hesitant, Zacharie," he said. "And speak with more confidence, even if you are not entirely sure that you are right. Square your shoulders, look me in the eye! You may serve a Federation Embassy, but you are in the Klingon Empire. Your human diffidence and modesty will win you nothing here."
Sendak's pale face flushed and his blue eyes darted all around the room, but finally he managed to look up into the ambassador's face. "Yes, sir," he said, straightening his lanky frame. "I'll try, sir."
Alexander shook his head and strode across the dark wooden floor to stand behind his wide and cluttered desk. The sky outside his window was the warm, dusky pink of a fading sunset. "I suppose that's a start," he said, and turned back to face him. "It's seven o'clock, Mr. Sendak. Get out of here, go home. Tavana and I have a special night planned, and I don't want to stay in this office a moment longer than I have to."
Sendak nodded. "I understand, sir." He started to leave, then stopped and looked back, his posture straight as a pole. "Wa'leS, Ambassador."
Alexander inclined his crested head. "Wa'leS," he said, and grinned. "Until tomorrow." The young human returned his smile and strode out of the room.
Once his aide had gone, Alexander sank into his high-backed leather chair with a sigh. Most humans found themselves intimidated on their first assignment to the Klingon homeworld, but Alexander had a good feeling about Sendak. The boy was far stronger than he seemed, and he was eager to learn Klingon ways. He'd make it just fine on Qo'noS, given time.
Reaching across a pile of data pads, Alexander tapped his computer console, bringing up the rest of the message Tavana had left for him earlier in the afternoon, but which he hadn't had time to finish viewing. Her holographic image appeared over his desk at quarter-scale, wearing the official dress of an imperial prosecutor. Alexander drew in an appreciative breath between his teeth.
Tavana had a hectic schedule that more than matched his own. In fact, it was something of a minor miracle that they both had this particular night free. Yet, despite the stress of her job, her cumbersome robes, and the slight transparency of the holographic image, the woman before him was undeniably attractive. From her delicately crested skull to the lean, muscular curves of her body to her firm, confident stance, there wasn't a shapelier prosecutor in the Empire. But, what caught Alexander's heart was the wry twist of her lips, the glint of humor in her eyes, the playful little smile she showed only to him. These were the things that made her irresistible.
Alexander tapped the console again and his wife's floating image came to life.
"…and the trial's in recess until Tuesday," Tavana's hologram said. "So, if nothing comes up on your end, we're free and clear to meet for dinner. It'll be a double celebration. Our third anniversary and…shh…" She smiled the sly, secretive smile he loved. "The second part's a surprise." She winked and raked her mauve tongue over her sharp teeth. "I'll see you at 20:00."
The picture winked out and Alexander sat back with a broad smile of his own. "A surprise, eh?" He chuckled. "I wonder what she's up to."
A few quick taps on the computer confirmed their 8 p.m. dinner reservations, a few more summoned his personal transport to the main door of the Embassy, and Alexander was finally ready to go.
"Qu'vatlh!" Alexander swore, jumping from his chair and rushing to hang up his heavy ambassadorial robes before he could be snared into some last-minute crisis. Raising his voice, he shouted, "He's not here! The ambassador has left for the night! Whatever it is must wait until morning!"
"But, sir!" Zacharie Sendak skidded to a stop just outside the ambassador's door.
The impatient Klingon glared daggers at his breathless aide. "What is it, Mr. Sendak?" he demanded. "I thought I told you to go home!"
"I was, Ambassador," the young man said, still struggling to catch his breath. "That is, I was on my way. But…but sir, there's news. Terrible news, just received from the Federation Council itself. It's about…about your father."
"What?" Alexander felt as if a rug had been pulled out from under him. Of all the things he'd expected to come out of his aide's mouth, of all the problems that could possibly have come up to keep him from his anniversary date with his wife, news of his father was probably last on the list. "What about my father? What has happened?"
Zacharie bit his lip, his blue eyes wide and pained. "Governor Worf is… I'm afraid he's gone, sir. Missing. They…they think he was abducted and quite…quite possibly..."
"Quite possibly what?" Alexander roared, causing the young aide to jump. "Don't beat about the bush, man! This is no Earth-based office where you're expected to spare your superior's feelings! If you wish to work among Klingons, you must learn to act like one! Tell me what you know!"
Zacharie squared his shoulders and looked the anxious Klingon straight in the eye. "They believe Governor Worf may have been murdered, sir," he stated. "Councilor Kho'chi requests your presence for an emergency meeting to be held in her office. You are to join her at your soonest convenience."
Alexander clenched his teeth, his breath coming sharp and quick. Worf…his father…murdered? It was unthinkable!
"How," the ambassador demanded, his voice emerging as a growl from his tightened throat. "How did this happen? Who is responsible?"
"I don't have the details, sir," Zacharie told him, and although his voice stayed firm, his eyes were deep with sympathy. "I—I'm sorry this had to happen on your anniversary, Ambassador. You have my deepest condolences."
"My anniversary…" Alexander squeezed his eyes shut and swore under his breath in seven shades of purple. "Damn it," he rasped. "I will have to contact Tavana. Zacharie, go. Leave, go to your home. And…thank you."
"For delivering this news to me in person," Alexander said. "You're a good man, Mr. Sendak. Now do as I say, and go home."
"Yes, sir." Zacharie straightened his back and inclined his head in a polite, respectful bow. Then, the young aide turned on his heel and strode out the door, leaving the ambassador alone in his vast office, his face turned to the window where the twilight was cloaking the city beyond in the oncoming shadows of night.