Thursday, September 26, 2013

When a Klingon says "Four thousand," they just mean "a lot," or "scads."

It wouldn't really be fair to characterize all Klingons as congenital liars, but they do have a tendency to blow up stories in the retelling, and to believe their own hype. Like today's book! From 2009, Star Trek: Alien Spotlight: Klingons, written by Keith R.A. DeCandido, art and color by J.K. Woodward.

This issue follows one of the three Klingon captains from the original series: Kang. (At first glance, I thought Koloth and Kor were in the framing sequences as well, but nope, just Kang!) After the events of "Day of the Dove," Kang sadly informs his crew that thanks to the Organians forcing the issue, the Federation and the Klingons were negotiating peace. As his men complain about not getting to kill all humans, Kang tells of his first dealing with proxy. When the Federation makes a Klingon-conquered world a protectorate, a young Kang is part of a crew sent to retake their conquest. Unfortunately, the alien Fortrans have upgraded with Federation-made phasers and tractor beams, and destroy a Klingon satellite and capture a ship and crew.

Caged, Kang's captain, Kraviq, counsels patience. Wait for an opportunity, which Kraviq takes when he was removed for questioning. Killing his guards, Kraviq escapes and makes a weapon, and according to Kang, kills four thousand Fortrans in a single night; holding out long enough for Klingon reinforcements to arrive. The Federation claims to have known nothing of the Fortrans' intentions or of arming them; but Kang calls that a load.

Some years later, Kang is home after a mission, and his somewhat estranged wife asks him about it. After the destruction of the energy-producing moon Praxis, many Klingon houses went broke, causing economic strife throughout the Empire. The Enterprise-B is running relief supplies, but the planet Qadyaq refuses any aid. Kang and Captain Harriman visit the planet, since Kang knows the ruling family had sold off its farming and mining equipment, but it appears to be doing all right for itself. An aide to the governor lets Kang in on the secret: piracy. By ripping off other Klingon planets, Qadyaq was able to prosper. Kang reports to his superiors, but the aide takes matters into his own hands, slitting the throats of all four thousand and fourteen Klingons on planet, before killing himself. Kang sees the aide's actions as honorable; his wife, not so much.

Years after that, Kang is caring for a dying Klingon woman, the wife of the Albino; who was responsible for the deaths of Kang, Koloth, and Kor's sons. (Setting this episode right before the Deep Space Nine episode "Blood Oath" and it really is a crime that it took that long to get Kang, Koloth, and Kor into the same episode!) She asks him the origin of his favored phrase, "four thousand throats may be cut in a single night by a running man." Kang tells her of the impenetrable fortress of Goqlath Castle, defended by four thousand Klingons who didn't believe in the ways of Kahless. Finally, a young warrior uses the path of stealth and guile, to sneak in and kill the all the defenders in a single night. The woman dies in her sleep, but still gives Kang the information he needed.

It's a tough call, if Kang is full of crap, or just believes the legends. Or at the very least, believes in the value of the legends. And if a thousand slit throats makes for a good story, hell, four thousand's better. I'd have to say it's up to the reader if Kang's a reliable narrator or not. Maybe the moral is, "One Klingon in four thousand, can take four thousand Klingons."

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