Home > Purgatory's Key(Star Trek_ Legacies #3)

Purgatory's Key(Star Trek_ Legacies #3)
Author: Dayton Ward


   Pivoting on her heel and flattening the wooden training bat’leth as she lifted it from its resting place on her left shoulder, Visla swung the weapon with her right arm and let its heavy blade arc across her body. The impact against her opponent’s simulated blade made her arm shudder but she ignored it. Instinct guided her to her left and she ducked under her adversary’s counterattack, feeling the rush of air as the training weapon sliced through the air above her head. Adjusting her stance and raising her own bat’leth in preparation for another attack, Visla realized something about her counterpart’s movements was not quite right.


   The response to her command was immediate, with her opponent, Lieutenant Koveq, halting his own movements and returning to a basic ready stance. With both hands, he held his bat’leth before him, cutting edge pointed toward the deck plating.


   Visla eyed him. “You do not attack me with full force. Why?”

   “I do not understand,” replied Koveq, his heavy brow furrowing in confusion. “This was to be an exercise interval.”

   “I have no wish to be coddled like a child.” Feeling her grip tighten on her own weapon, she relished the anger flowing through her for another moment. “Attack me. Spare none of your strength and skill.”

   Regarding her with obvious doubt, her weapons officer replied, “Are you certain, Commander?”

   It was not an unreasonable question, Visla conceded. Her subordinate was well trained in close combat, both with bladed weapons and his own hands. He outweighed her by a considerable margin, and there was no denying that his brute physical strength was superior to her own. There also was the simple fact that she had engaged Koveq in this exercise as a training bout, for which there were rules and protocols in order to reduce the number of preventable, even stupid injuries.

   She cared nothing about any of that today.

   “Stop questioning my orders, attack me!”

   In response to her command, Koveq said nothing more. His expression darkened and Visla recognized the determined set to his jaw. He raised his bat’leth blade, angling the weapon so that the end to Visla’s left was higher and tilted toward her. With skill born from countless hours of training and actual combat, he advanced, neither rushing his movements nor offering any insight into what he was planning. Visla felt her pulse quicken in anticipation, and she could not resist a small smile of satisfaction as she hefted her blade and began stepping to her right.

   She expected Koveq to feint to his left before launching an assault to her left flank, but the weapons officer surprised her by lunging left, shifting the angle of his bat’leth, and then continuing with his original attack angle. Visla brought her blade up and over in time to block the strike, by which time Koveq was pivoting away, using his momentum to swing his weapon with one hand back toward her head. She parried that attack, backpedaling to give herself maneuvering room, but her subordinate had already gathered himself and was charging again. She started to counter his move, but he spun at the last instant, turning away from her blade as she took one step too far and overextended her reach. Koveq’s bat’leth swung across his body, and Visla felt the sting of the training weapon across her back. The force of the strike pushed her off her feet and she stumbled, stopping her fall with her free hand and pushing herself back to her feet.

   “Mev,” said Koveq, dropping his bat’leth to a carry position that indicated he was neither attacking nor defending.

   Visla glowered at him. “I did not command you to stop.”

   “I know, Commander. As the ship’s combat training officer, it is my prerogative. This exercise is concluded.”

   “Why?” She used her forearm to wipe perspiration from her brow. “You were winning.”

   “Training is not about winning or losing, Commander,” said Koveq, his voice calm. “It is for learning.”

   Growling in irritation, Visla shook her head. “You sound like a Vulcan when you talk like that.”

   “Despite their annoying tendencies to incessantly ramble about subjects of little consequence, Vulcans are quite adept in the fighting arts.” Crossing the room, Koveq paused before the bench that angled outward from the training room’s slanted bulkhead. There, he retrieved a towel and began to wipe down his training bat’leth. “I have studied some of their unarmed combat disciplines. There is much to learn and to admire.”

   Her ire rising, Visla held up her own simulated weapon. “Before I find a way to kill you with this toy, what does any of the nonsense you spout have to do with anything?”

   Setting the bat’leth on the bench, Koveq turned back to her. “The Vulcans are masters of opening their minds to new ideas and new ways of doing things. For this reason, they are most adaptable to almost any situation, including combat. It is this attitude that facilitates their learning and their ability to meet any challenge. For one to learn, one’s mind must be attuned to the task at hand. Your mind is elsewhere, Commander.”

   She was opening her mouth to respond when Visla caught herself. Several heartbeats passed before she took a step backward, drawing a deep breath and letting the wooden bat’leth drop from her hand. The weapon clattered as it struck the metal deck plating. For the first time since entering the training room, she smiled and released a small laugh.

   “You understand that not even my first officer is permitted to address me in such a manner, and I actually like him.”

   The comment elicited a deep belly laugh from the weapons officer. “Yes, but you have entrusted me with being the keeper of your conscience, Commander. It is not a responsibility I take lightly. You are obviously troubled, and it affects your focus.”

   Though Visla valued his counsel, there were times when Koveq’s calm, unflappable demeanor made her want to drive his face into the nearest bulkhead or simply fire him from one of the ship’s torpedo tubes. When he spoke to her this way, it only heightened her annoyance because she knew he was well aware of the source of her anger.

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