"They were dressed as what?"
Jim flinched as the loud voice got everyone's attention and the rest of the store quietened as Rafe waited for the answer to his question. Hurriedly, the Sentinel dialled down his hearing and, after exchanging a puzzled glance with his partner, Blair, he waited too.
The grocery store clerk looked embarrassed, but he repeated his answer. "Th-they were dressed as Klingons."
Rafe stared at his notepad then back at the young lad facing him. "Klingons?"
"That's with a K. K_l_i_n_g...."
"I know how to spell Klingons," Rafe interrupted, obviously wondering how this was going to look in his report.
The clerk subsided into an embarrassed silence.
Rafe's pen moved as he tried to write, then he demanded, "Are you sure they were dressed as Klingons?"
The lad took a deep breath and answered firmly. "Positive."
Over in his corner, Jim grinned. He was glad he wasn't writing that report.
"Okay, listen up." Simon cleared his throat as he passed around the papers containing the artist's impression of the thieves. He knew that armed robbers didn't have any respect for the law, but dressing as a bunch of Klingons really seemed to be taking it too far. "This gang are uh...using fancy dress in order to disguise themselves. The few witnesses who saw them leaving the premises of the stores they'd robbed, state that the uh...gang are escaping down a side alleyway and disappearing."
"Maybe they were beamed up?" someone muttered, to the hilarity of his colleagues.
Simon scowled and the laughter died down, although it was bubbling underneath the surface and he knew it.
"So far they haven't hurt anyone, but it's only a matter of time." He turned with a sense of relief to indicate the map he had pinned to the wall. Various locations had been circled. "All of the stores robbed so far are in this locale, therefore we'll be staking out the ones that haven't been hit yet." The police captain glared around the room. "Let's move, people."
Blair Sandburg sighed as he tried to concentrate on the lesson he was giving. It had been a strenuous week where his work with the police was concerned. He and Jim had spent hours on stake out watching various stores but to no avail - with the limited manpower they had, they weren't able to cover every store, and so far the luck had been with the Klingons.
Glancing at the clock he realised that the lesson was almost over, and made haste to set the assignment his class needed to complete.
"Don't forget I'll be in my office from six 'til seven tonight if you have any questions. If you don't, I'll see you all on Tuesday. Okay, that's it - have a good weekend."
Packing up his books, he idly listened to the chatter from the class as they departed. Suddenly he frowned and dashed after one of his students. "Paul, hey, Paul!"
The student addressed turned and looked at the TA. "What's up, Mr. Sandburg?"
Blair was stymied for a second, then plunged in. "Did you just say something about Star Trek?"
Paul grinned. "Yeah, I'm going to a Star Trek convention this weekend. It's gonna be so cool!"
"Oh...where's it being held?"
"In the Lincoln Way Motel. Most of us are staying over in the motel so that we can attend all the parties but lots of people have day tickets. In fact, some people are staying there already. It's like a week long event, although the guests aren't arriving until this weekend. Here..." the teenager rummaged in his backpack for a minute then pulled out a flyer, "that's got all the details."
Blair took it, a shocked look on his face. It couldn't be that easy, could it?
"You okay, Mr. Sandburg?"
The tutor looked up. "Yeah. Fine...thanks, Paul. Maybe I'll see you there."
"Okay. See you then."
As soon as he reached his office, Blair grabbed for his cell phone and dialled Jim's desk. He was positive there had to be a link between the robberies and the fact that there was a Star Trek convention taking place.
As soon as Blair arrived with the flyer still clutched in his hand, Simon called his team to order.
"Okay. The Lincoln Way Motel is in the centre of the area where all these robberies have been taking place. Therefore, it is a reasonable assumption that the uh... perpetrators are staying in the motel and using that as their base of operations."
Joel looked up. "Wouldn't they notice a gang of Klingons walking through the foyer?"
"People at Star Trek conventions frequently stay in character while they're at the con...it's part of the fun." Blair could see the curious looks being sent his way and he stopped, blushing furiously.
"And how would you know that, Chief?" Jim asked, his tone casual in the extreme.
Blair shrugged and reminded himself that there was nothing to be embarrassed about. "I've attended a few conventions in the past." The grins on his friends' faces told him everything he needed to know, and his blush remained in spite of himself.
"Then I guess you're our expert in the field, Sandburg," Simon growled. "If we go looking for a gang of Klingons at this convention, will we find them?"
"Probably more than one gang, Simon. People like Klingons."
"I thought they were sneaky and under-handed?" Joel asked.
Rafe shook his head. "No, I think that's the Romulans."
The two detectives glanced at their captain and fell silent.
"Sandburg, what can we expect if we go to this convention?"
"Well, Star Trek is actually a very interesting cultural phenomenon. They were the first fandom to hold a convention that got the attention of the media...."
"Anyway...yeah. Well, there'll be people dressed as different species and...yes, there'll be ones dressed as Klingons."
"Do they mix with each other?"
"Oh yeah! Star Trek is culturally diverse - all races, all species are welcome!" Blair grinned at the captain, then stopped grinning as the captain's glare hit him.
"So if we attend this convention, we'll find our robbers."
It was more of a statement than a question, but Blair answered it anyway. "Well, hopefully...."
"I can't believe you thought this was a good idea, Sandburg." Jim sounded annoyed as he got changed in his bedroom.
"Simon thought you were the one for the job," Blair called up from his own room. "I merely made a suggestion."
Clunking footsteps on the stairs told Blair that his partner was ready to go, and he rushed out into the living room ready to take a photo of the historic moment.
"Jim, you look fantastic!"
The Klingon glared down at him in true Klingon fashion. "Put the camera down, Sandburg."
Hastily, Blair took a couple of snaps then lowered it, grinning at his friend. "It suits you, man!" He was right. From the top of Jim's wig to the boots with spikes, his friend looked perfect for the part.
Jim stared his friend up and down. "At least it's better than that...lycra jumpsuit you're wearing!"
"Hey, this is a Starfleet uniform. See?" Blair pointed proudly to his communicator badge.
"I thought that was the Enterprise symbol?"
"Oh they changed it. When TNG came along they used the Enterprise symbol for the communicator design. Isn't it neat?"
"TNG?" Jim adjusted his uniform, obviously feeling uncomfortable. He poked at the prosthetic forehead that covered his own and fiddled with the wig, an annoyed look on his face. The teeth that he was grinding were his own as he'd forcibly rejected the false ones, offered by Blair earlier, intended to complete the Klingon look.
"Next Generation. Remember? It was in my notes and we watched a couple of episodes. I can't believe you didn't notice the communicators in that - they used them all the time!"
"Oh yeah." There was a marked lack of enthusiasm in Jim's voice that went unnoticed by his friend. The past day or so had been spent in the bullpen reading Blair's copious notes about the show and watching various episodes of the different series - all in the name of research for their covers, of course. Jim had been the leader of the attempted breakout that had fizzled out when Blair had produced pictures of a space babe named T'Pol and swore that he had an episode that featured her in a pair of pyjamas. To be fair, he hadn't been lying. The detectives in the bullpen had agreed that that episode had had 'interesting scenery'. "So how come you aren't dressed as a Klingon, Chief?"
Blair looked down at himself. "I'm uh...not tall enough."
Jim looked his friend up and down. He guessed Blair had a point. "Okay. Here's Simon."
"What? Oh..." Blair headed for the door and opened it as Simon knocked. "Hey Si... where's your costume?"
"I'm going in ordinary clothes," Simon rumbled. A grin threatened to split his face in two as he gazed as his best team. "Although I have to say you look mighty fine, Jim. Might-ee fine!"
The Klingon glare was back in place, and Blair hoped it was a practice run for later. "Okay then," Blair looked from one irate Klingon to one grinning captain, "let's go!"
Getting into the convention posed no problems as Simon had contacted the organisers. He had considered just buying day tickets for the event, but after hearing from Blair that the organisers took security seriously at conventions, he decided against it. He didn't want one of his team taken down by a phaser-wielding Vulcan.
As they stepped inside the motel, Jim paused for a second to dial down his hearing. The noise was tremendous, as was the excitement in the air. Glancing around, Jim noticed various colleagues of his already signing in - he also noticed the grins they directed at him. For the most part, his colleagues had got away with either plain clothes or Starfleet uniforms. Brown and Rafe had been unlucky however; they were dressed as Vulcans and looking like they hated every inch of the costumes.
As Simon walked past them, Jim distinctly heard him growl, "Stop scratching your ears!" and their hands dropped guiltily.
Jim grinned, then resisted the urge to give his forehead a good scratch too. It was warm outside, and the amount of bodies in the motel meant that inside was even hotter. Jim sighed. Klingon uniforms were not exactly summer clothing.
Blair signed in and grinned as he looked around, the enthusiasm coming off him in waves. "Isn't this fantastic?" he demanded. "People always have so much fun at conventions!" Grabbing his convention pack he headed over to a seat to take a good look through it while Jim signed in and slowly joined him. "Ooh, look - Nana Visitor is one of the guests!"
Blair flashed a picture of a good looking woman at Jim, who took a second look and exclaimed, "What happened to her nose?!" Receiving Blair's none-too-gentle elbow in his ribs, Jim shut up.
"She plays a Bajoran in Deep Space Nine," Blair murmured, his voice pitched so that only the Sentinel at his side could hear him.
Jim nodded, wondering why Blair thought that explained anything, then took a deep breath before reminding himself that no matter what anyone looked like today, he had to act like they looked normal. He hoped he could keep it up.
Looking through his own convention pack, Jim noticed his convention pass on a long chain. "Do we wear these?" he asked quietly.
Blair nodded, tossing the chain on his own pass around his neck. "Anyone without a pass is asked to leave."
Glancing around, Jim noticed that not everyone wore their passes around their necks, and a few of the Klingons he saw were wearing them attached to their uh...gun holsters. Or whatever those things were. Presumably so they could shoot anyone who challenged them - he'd learnt that much about Klingons from the episodes Blair had made them watch.
"Ready?" Blair looked at Jim and waited.
The Sentinel nodded and extended his hearing carefully. At first it was hard to filter out the general hubbub of excitement, but he did it and focussed on various groups of Klingons around the room. After a while he shook his head. If any of these were the thieves they were after, they weren't saying a word about their recent activities. Well, apart from drinking Blood Wine. Shaking his head slightly, Jim pulled his hearing back to normal, letting the mass of sounds fade into the background.
Blair shrugged. "Okay, let's try some of the other rooms."
They wandered through to a large hall filled with stalls. Everywhere Jim looked he could see Star Trek merchandise for sale. Pausing at a table filled with Klingon buttons and badges, as well as a few types of weird looking phasers, Jim stared at the large curved weapon on the back on the stall.
"Do you like my bat'leth?" the tall, obviously female Klingon asked him, her eyes gleaming as she checked out the noble warrior.
"Er...." Jim grinned. He wasn't sure which part of her she was referring to but it all looked good to him.
"Her sword. On the wall."
His Sentinel ears picked up Blair's quiet warning and his grin grew. Oh, was that what she was referring to? "Yeah. It's incredible."
"My father made it for me." She smiled beguilingly at him, and spared a glance for his companion whose attention was, apparently, riveted upon the buttons on the display stand. "I haven't seen you at any conventions before."
"Well, I've...just got into it."
"And you decided to be a Klingon." Leaning forward she ran her fingers over the stitching on his jacket. "Nice costume."
"Thanks." He resisted the urge to run his fingers over the stitching on her...well, he resisted the urge. "I like your costume too."
"Thanks." She smiled again, obviously knowing which part of her costume Jim found to be the most admirable. She moved a tray of Federation badges forward so that Blair could take a closer look at them, but her eyes were fixed on Jim's. "So, what's your name?"
Jim smiled back. Maybe there was something to this Klingon attitude after all. "Jim. What's yours?"
"Be'boH...well, that's my Klingon name. My real name's Janice."
"It means woman, an impatient woman."
Jim watched as her eyes raked over him, and tried to keep his eyes on her face as he grinned. "It uh...suits you."
Another customer came up and she glanced away, a hint of displeasure on her face. "I have to go. Maybe I'll see you later?"
"I certainly hope so." Jim's eyes followed her, then he grabbed Blair's arm and hustled him along. Once they'd reached a quiet corner he stopped. "Do they always have that uh...gap in their uh...tops....?" His hands described what he was unwilling to say.
"Yeah." He realised that Jim was waiting for some kind of explanation as to why the female Klingons had part of their bust on such prominent display and paused. Finally, deciding that he really wasn't about to get into a discussion on a Klingon's lusty appetites for life, food and the opposite sex, he added, "It's so you can tell the men from the women."
Jim suspected that his Guide was lying to him and asked, "Wouldn't the facial hair give that away?"
"Not with Klingons, man!"
By the time several hours had passed, Jim had seen more of a Star Trek convention than he'd ever wanted to see - including an amazing variety of aliens - and he'd listened to a variety of conversations, none of which included a word about robberies but some of which he'd been unable to understand.
"What do you mean you couldn't understand them?" Simon demanded, the usual cigar clenched between his teeth.
Jim glared at him from under the prosthetic forehead. "They weren't speaking English. In fact, they weren't speaking any language I've heard. I couldn't recognise a word of it."
"Uh...it could have been Klingon."
Two pairs of eyes turned in Blair's direction.
"Klingon...as in...a language?" Jim demanded, his tone incredulous. Okay, dressing up as a Klingon had been well...interesting, and meeting Bebo, or Janice as he preferred to think of her, had definitely been the highlight of the day, but learning Klingon as a language?
"Uh...yeah. Some people like to immerse themselves in the...the culture of their favourite species. And learning their language is just an aspect of that."
"But it's a fake language!" Simon protested, mangling the end of his cigar.
"So's Elvish and Sindarin, but tell that to the Tolkien fans!" Blair joked.
His joke fell flat.
Jim tried to speak, closed his eyes, then finally turned back to Simon. "If it is another language then we'd need a translator."
"And how do you propose we find a translator for a language that doesn't officially exist?" Simon's eyes were bulging slightly.
From the look on Blair's face, he'd realised that he was about to sound more geeky than usual. "Actually, uh...uh...."
"Don't tell me, you speak Klingon." Jim's voice was practically a monotone, but between the looks on Blair's and Simon's faces, he was longing to laugh.
The blush on Blair's face rivalled Rudolph's nose. "I dated a girl who was seriously into this stuff. I mean, I never dressed up as a Klingon because, well...."
"Well?" The tone in Simon's voice would have unnerved a Klingon.
Blair remained silent as Jim smirked and stood a little straighter. "Height seems to be a pre-requisite for Klingons, sir," he admitted with a hint of pride.
Blair scowled, obviously wishing that he'd never heard of grocery store robbing Klingons. "Well, the point is, she was all into Klingon culture and we studied the language. It was actually very interesting. I mean, it's a fictional language but they actually stick pretty closely to standard grammar rules - what with tenses and conjugations of verbs and - "
"Sandburg!" Simon interrupted.
"Uh...yeah. Anyway, yes, I speak the language. I'm pretty rusty at it, and I only learnt the basics but you know, I did learn some."
"So if you could overhear a group of Klingons talking in Klingon, you'd be able to understand them," Simon stated.
"Well, at least part of it, I should think."
"That'll have to do. Tomorrow, you and Ellison will be back at that convention trying to get close enough to hear their conversations. Dismissed!"
Blair turned towards the door but Jim held back.
"Simon, if I could just have a minute?" At Simon's nod, Jim added, "Chief, I'll be out in a second."
Blair nodded, wondering what Jim had to say that he couldn't hear, but judging by Simon's scowl the sooner he left, the better. He shut the door behind him and lingered for a second. He could hear Jim's voice, but not having super-sensitive hearing meant that eavesdropping was far harder for him. He would just have to ask his partner later.
By the time Jim came out with a smile on his face, Blair was almost dancing with impatience. At least, he would have been dancing, but that lycra uniform was beginning to itch in certain places and dancing was sure to exacerbate the situation.
"Okay, Chief, let's head home for the night."
Blair nodded and followed Jim out of the room, calling goodnight to the few members of Major Crime who were still there. At the door he stopped and turned back, a gleam in his eyes. "Brown, Rafe!" He waited until the pair were looking at him then added, "Live long and prosper," before ducking out of the way. The sound of a notepad hitting the wall made him chuckle and he followed his partner down the hall with a grin on his face.
"Simon, c'mon in." Jim shut the door behind his boss.
"Hey Simon, you come for breakfast?" Blair put his cup of tea down and moved towards the coffee pot to pour him some.
"I won't say no to a cup of coffee, but that's not why I'm here." Simon smiled as his eyes moved from one well-dressed Klingon to Blair's Federation uniform.
"Oh? What's up? Is there a new lead in the case?" The questions tumbled from Blair before he spotted the huge grins both of his friends were wearing. "What's going on?"
Jim and Simon exchanged glances before Simon handed over the carrier bags he'd brought with him.
"Seeing as Detective Ellison will be attempting to get closer to a group of Klingons, we thought you'd be less conspicuous dressed as one too."
With a look of horror on his face, Blair glanced inside the bags and nearly died on the spot. "You want me to dress as a Klingon?!" he asked, his voice half an octave higher than normal.
"Not want," Simon told him, his face serious now in spite of the gleam in his eyes, "insist."
"C'mon, Chief, I'll give you a hand with that forehead."
Blair could see the glee on his face as his partner took his arm and steered him into his bedroom. "But I told you guys - Klingons are tall!"
"You can be the ship's mascot."
"Jim! Let go! I can...."
"Get a move on, Sandburg. We don't want to be late for the convention. Where's the zipper on this thing?"
"Jim!" The word was almost a yelp. "I can get changed by myself!"
The Sentinel found himself shoved outside the door and the door slammed shut. "I guess he's ready to be a Klingon now."
Simon nodded, and pulled a camera out of his pocket. "I promised the guys I'd take some pictures."
"We'd better not let Sandburg hear or he'll lock the door on us."
"I brought my gun. I can shoot the lock off."
Simon drank his coffee as they waited for the world's shyest Klingon to emerge from his bedroom. Then he drank another cup as it became obvious that Sandburg was going to have to be talked out.
"Chief?" Jim knocked on the door, his grin still in place. "You doin' okay in there?"
"I'm fine, man, just fine!"
"Okay. If you need a hand, just let me know." Turning to his captain he added, "He takes longer than a woman to get ready."
Another five minutes passed and Jim knocked again. "Sandburg, we need to get a move on here."
The door slowly opened, and Simon hurried over to be ready with his camera. Blair's eyes were on the floor and his face was red.
Jim grinned. "Doesn't he look every inch a warrior?" he demanded, wrapping one arm around his Guide's shoulders.
"He certainly does," Simon agreed, raising the camera to eye height.
"Chief, smile for the camera!"
Blair's glance shot up as the camera flashed and he gasped in shock. "No, no!" He tried to make a hasty retreat, but Jim's arm prevented him from backtracking. "Simon, turn the camera off!"
"Not on your life," Simon grinned, snapping away at the struggling Klingon. "I think this'll make a nice Christmas card. I was looking for something unusual."
Needless to say, Blair was not looking forward to their second day at the convention. He sat in the truck beside Jim trying to resist the urge to scratch his forehead, and casting the odd red-hot glare towards his companion. Once inside the motel, he stuck closely to Jim's side hoping that the taller man would hide him from view as they worked their way around the busy rooms trying to eavesdrop.
Passing Janice's stall, Blair found himself yanked to a stop and Jim lingered, insisting that he had to buy his mascot a Klingon badge.
Blair's voice was insistent as he tried to shake off the grip on his arm, but Jim ignored him, smiling at Janice as her widening eyes took in the shorter Klingon at his side.
"Ship's mascot," Jim murmured, much to Blair's annoyance.
She grinned. "Everyone wants to be a Klingon."
By the time Jim left, Blair had a couple of badges adorning the front of his uniform (all for valour in battle, of course), and Jim had Janice's phone number tucked in his pocket. Jim also had a smirk on his face that had nothing to do with police work.
Blair's muttered complaints were ignored as he followed his Sentinel to a quiet corner and waited as Jim started filtering through the conversations he could hear. After a few minutes, he shook his head and they moved onto another section of the motel.
"Okay, I've got something. C'mon."
Carefully the pair of Klingons snuck closer to the group of very tall Klingons who were laughing and joking.
Seeing them, Blair rolled his eyes. Could he look more out of place? Scowling, he thought he would have looked better as a Ferengi, but there's no way a Klingon and a Ferengi would be caught dead together.
Once they were close enough, Blair listened in. A few seconds of conversation was enough to give him the gist and he shook his head.
"Are you sure?"
"Positive." At Jim's impatient look he added, "That one was discussing the uh...merits of his girlfriend."
Blair grinned suddenly. "And here she comes now."
He directed Jim's attention to the furious female who was just descending upon the group and grinned as she started laying into the man who'd just been talking. He knew that he didn't need to translate it for Jim to understand her - she was taking her man apart for talking about her in public.
"Oh boy!" Blair could barely control his giggling as he dragged Jim away.
"She's just started discussing his merits."
It wasn't until they'd been in almost every part of the motel that Jim zeroed on in one conversation that, fortunately for him, he could understand plainly.
"You're crazy, man! Why don't we just leave it?"
"Because no one's gonna miss us if we slip out for twenty minutes and we never made that hit on the grocery store on the corner. I promised myself a bit of fun with that girl assistant - so, c'mon!"
Jim grabbed Blair's arm. "They're planning another robbery! Let's move!"
Jim raced through the room, his Guide at his heels, and headed for the main desk. They were just in time to see four Klingons leave, and the duo dived through the door after them as Jim grabbed his phone.
He could hear Simon's voice easily as he shouted over the Blood Wine celebration in the bar.
"They're on their way to rob another store - we're in pursuit. Just leaving the motel now and heading East on Lincoln Way."
"We're on our way!"
The uniformed cop was obviously having a hard time keeping everything straight. "They were dressed as what?"
"They were dressed as Klingons."
"So lemme get this straight: these four guys dressed as Klingons came into the store and started smashing up the place, harassing your sister and demanding the money from the till. Then what?"
The grocery store clerk gulped. If the cop had a hard time believing four Klingons, how on earth was he going to get him to believe the rest? "Well...then two more Klingons came in and...and one of them shouted 'Cascade PD' and pulled his gun out."
"Don't you mean his disrupter?"
"No...his gun. He was a police officer."
The cop shook his head and wrote it down anyway. "Okay, cops undercover as Klingons. I guess anything's possible. And then?"
"The first Klingons pulled out their guns and started firing back. Ev-everyone dived for cover, and then some guys arrived with two Vulcans."
"They brought the Vulcans with them?"
"Uh...yes." The clerk took a deep breath and continued. "In the end, two of the first Klingons were shot and the other two gave themselves up and the Vulcans arrested them."
The police officer stopped writing. "Why would the Vulcans want to arrest Klingons?"
The grocery clerk shrugged. "Maybe they insulted T'Pau?"
Jim stretched his legs out and scratched his prosthetic-free forehead, a look of blissful relief on his face.
Blair chuckled away to himself as he thought back to the frenzied five minutes in the grocery store. "I can't believe Simon insisted on a uniformed cop taking their statements. I would have loved to have seen his face when the clerk started explaining."
His friend laughed. "Me too, Chief." He laughed even harder and then asked, "Did you see the looks on the Klingons' faces when Simon came in with two Vulcans?"
"Did I? Oh, man!" Blair practically bounced in his seat at the memory. "That is one arrest I'm never gonna be able to forget!"
"That's one weekend I won't be able to forget!" Jim retorted, pulling out Janice's phone number and grinning.
"I see that look on your face, man. Are you gonna call her?"
"I thought I'd phone her tomorrow night." The tone was casual, but the gleam in Jim's eyes wasn't.
Blair grinned widely then stood up to lean over his friend. "Don't forget though," he murmured confidentially, "if she bites ya, it means she likes ya!" And with that he retreated into his bedroom and shut the door.
"Hey, wait a minute, Chief... Bites?"
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