The hot, humid air of the dilithium mine sucked my energy. I slung the bucket of waste rock into the crusher, pausing only long enough to wipe my face on my dirty sleeve.
Fredericks tripped over his own feet, spilling his bucket across the tunnel. The guard kicked him. Herring picked him up while I scooped the rocks back into the bucket and dumped it for him. The guard grumbled and shoved us towards the mining face.
Fredericks stumbled badly, barely walking with the captain’s support.
“We have to move tonight,” I whispered once we were past the guard.
“The three of us don’t stand a chance yet,” Herring whispered over Fredericks’ head.
“Another week here and Fredericks won’t need rescued. Maybe not even that long.”
“I’ll be fine, sir.” Fredericks tried to walk by himself. Herring caught his arm before he fell on his face.
I grabbed Fredericks’ other arm. “I’ve got enough wire and small crystals hidden to rig a bomb. It should distract them long enough for us to get up the chute to the surface.”
“I don’t like it,” Herring whispered.
“I know you don’t but what other choice do we have? They have to have communications. We break in and send a message. If Delphi works the way you say it will, Bradley should have control of the Voyager. He should be somewhere close.”
“I know all that. I just don’t like the plan. I need more intel.”
“You aren’t going to get it.” I shifted Frederick’s bucket to my own shoulder. It clanked against mine. “I’d like a full squad of marines and the weapons to back them up. We’ve got some stolen wires and dilithium crystals too small to be marketable.”
“You’re sure you can make them explode?”
“I just need a power source and five minutes.”
“And I thought you only knew how to cook.”
We reached the rock face. Piles of crushed and broken rock littered the tunnel. We let Fredericks sit while we scooped all three buckets full. I picked out three more tiny crystals, tucking them into my pocket as I worked.
Herring squatted on his heels, watching Fredericks. “Tonight, then, after the guard shift change.”
I nodded, slinging the full bucket over my shoulder.
The day crept by, marked only by the shouts of the guards and repeated trips from the crusher to the rock face. Fredericks staggered beside Herring. Those who collapsed disappeared with the guards. Herring kept him on his feet, I hauled his bucket of rocks along with my own.
The guards finally herded us into the inactive tunnels, locking the gates after delivering supper.
The three of us crawled into our corner. I picked at the stale crust of bread I’d managed to grab before the other slaves took the rest. They were mean and tough, they had to be to survive the dilithium mines.
Herring gave his crust to Fredericks.
I shifted rocks away from a small crevice. The pile of stolen wire inside was pitifully small.
“You’ve got about an hour,” Herring said.
“I need a distraction so I can get into the power box near the gate.”
“I’ll pick a fight with the Klingons.”
I glanced at their group while I twisted wires around crystals. The five Klingons had been in the mines only a month, two weeks longer than we’d been there. They stayed to themselves, mostly. No one dared approach them. They radiated anger and menace. Even the guards kept their distance.
The Klingon leader caught my eye. From the glitter on his torn tunic, he had to be high-ranking. He strode across the tunnel to our nook.
“Starfleet?” His voice was deep, almost a growl.
“Captain Herring of the USS Voyager.” Herring stood. The Klingon towered over him.
I surreptitiously shifted the wires and crystals under my leg.
“You are planning escape. We wish to escape, also. I am Hruk’Tal of the House Tu’Garath. My ship was captured by subterfuge by these honorless Fellucian pirates.” The Klingon spat into the dust. “I shall return and avenge my honor.”
“I’ll settle for getting out alive,” I said.
Hruk’Tal turned his glare on me. “It is better to die with honor than to merely live.”
“You die, then, and I’ll survive.” I twisted wire around another crystal.
“She’s useful, and she does have honor, of a sort,” Herring spoke quickly.
“I have heard tales of you, Captain Herring.” Hruk’Tal turned his attention to Herring. “Our warriors speak highly of your honor. Though our people are enemies, we both seem to be caught in this trap.”
“This is the time to put aside enmity. Perhaps extend an offer of alliance?” Herring smiled his polished smile as he held out his hand.
Hruk’Tal deliberately ignored the outstretched hand. “Until we are free of this place, we shall work together.”
“Then let us plan.”
“There isn’t much to plan,” I said. “We blow up the gate, then we run for the lift and beat up anyone who gets in our way. We get to the surface and find a communicator. Steal it if we have to, then signal Starfleet. After that, it’s a matter of waiting.”
“There is a Starfleet vessel waiting?” Hruk’Tal lifted his eyebrow skeptically, a very impressive expression with his ridged forehead.
“There should be,” Herring answered. “If Vasha and Delphi work.”
“Not Bradley?” I twisted another wire into place.
“On my honor, Hruk’Tal. You shall be given an escort to Klingon space if you help us win free.”
“On your honor, I accept your terms.”
“On three, you need to start a fight so I can set these up.” I waved the handful of cracked crystals. “I just hope it works.”
Herring smiled at the Klingon and his warriors. “Three?”
Personal Log 1-10: Never Pick a Fight with a Klingon