This was, by far, the strangest press conference Samantha Avari had ever been to. She was a scientific reporter for the Federation News Service, and these sorts of “entertainment gatherings” were not her beat, at all. But her editor had taken one look at the press release and sent her straight to Risa. Something about “possible galactic repercussions.” She’d read the release three times, but nothing seemed that serious. Tortoth, an infamous Klingon historian and archaeologist, was making a report on his latest findings.
Many questions came up regarding Tortoth; the most common being “is he really an archaeologist?” Certainly, Tortoth had led several expeditions, and he shouted to anyone who would listen about the archaeological importance of his work. But Tortoth was closer to a rock star than a scientist. His bombastic proclamations that he would soon discover something that would change the galaxy forever were usually memorable events. It seemed like they happened once or twice a year at this point. And yet, despite all of the bombast, he’d turned up nothing of any importance at all.
Last year, for example, Tortoth spent nearly six months digging at the site on Risa where Starfleet Captain Jean-Luc Picard had found the legendary Tox Uthat, convinced that something else had to be there. He’d found nothing but wet sand and frustration.
It looked like the latest Tortoth “happening” was going to outdo all of its predecessors. It reminded Samantha more of a Ferengi casino opening than a scientific event. Even the invitations were strange – everyone got their own customized PADD, but all it seemed to contain was a picture of Tortoth, smiling at the camera. Klingon smiles weren’t exactly welcoming, but there it was just the same. It felt like Tortoth was daring people to attend, challenging them. Let the unworthy cower in fear of his magnificence.
The gathering took place in a beautiful dome, the top of which was a giant viewscreen. It showed the beautiful, luxury ships in orbit of the planet, magnified so that you could study them. Samantha wondered how much the Risian ship builders had paid for that to be installed. There was an open bar, and waitresses of all races wandering around dressed in Klingon battle armor. Not modern armor, mind you, but replicas of armor that Klingons would have worn almost 200 years ago. It was all very strange.
She pushed her way through the pulsing lights and gathered revelers and tried to find her seat. The rows of folding chairs were the only place where comfort wasn’t a concern, but that was no different than any press conference in history. They were set up in front of a large stage, with a large replica of the Klingon Empire’s insignia behind it.
That might have been the strangest part of all. Tortoth had never been one to revel in his Klingon heritage. He was usually seen wearing whatever was fashionable on Risa that season, with his long hair done up into braids. He looked more like an Orion merchant prince than a stern Klingon warrior. As she sat down and turned on her portable audio recorder, she couldn’t help but cast a dubious look at the ostentation surrounding her.
She wasn’t alone in her skepticism. Huddled in the far corner were a group of Federation scientists, each at least as visually dubious as she was regarding Tortoth and his event. Samantha recognized several of them; unlike Tortoth, they had done some major archaeological work in the last two decades. More importantly, each of them had debunked one (or more) of Tortoth’s papers in the last decade. They shifted uncomfortably in their seats and muttered to one another in low tones. She knew what they were thinking.
Tortoth was up to something.
She didn’t have to wait very long to find out what that was. A few moments after she turned her recorder on, traditional Klingon music blared from the speakers, drowning out all conversation until the entire gathering was focused on the stage. There, a single spotlight had illuminated the Klingon Insignia. The crowd hushed, waiting.
With the timing of a showman, Tortoth majestically walked onto the stage.
He was wearing ornate battle armor, the same style as the waitresses had been wearing. But where their gear looked like replicas, his looked like the real thing. If it was, it was worth a lot of latinum, if not priceless. It was cast in solid, deep red and appeared to have battle damage. Tortoth didn’t stop with his attire, either. He had completely shaved his head, giving him the look of a severe, powerful warrior. Samantha (and most of the crowd) had never seen anything like it.
Tortoth raised his arms, and the music died down.
“My friends! My compatriots! And…even my enemies!” He gestured at the scientists. The gathering roared with laughter. Most of the scientists scowled in response; the sole Vulcan in their ranks arched a single eyebrow.
“Today,” Tortoth continued, “I bring you the greatest archaeological find in the history of the galaxy!”
Samantha rolled her eyes as the crowd roared.
“I have spent the last six months on the most perilous dig of my career,” Tortoth boomed. “A dig unlike any other, taking archaeology into space for the very first time!” That wasn’t right. Space archaeology was a known field, with dozens of practitioners. Samantha had written an article about that very thing just last year. How gullible did he think people were?
“I traveled to the very site of the Battle of the Binary Stars,” Tortoth’s booming voice, “The first battle in the greatest and bloodiest conflict in the history of the Federation and the Klingon Empire!”
That? Incredibly unimpressive. Klingon and Federation schoolchildren took field trips to that system. Ferengi merchants sold tiny replicas of the Beacon of Kahless to them in Gamma Hydra afterward. At this point, Samantha decided that she was going to have to record all of this now and fact-check it later, before a migraine set in.
“From there,” Tortoth said, “we followed a trail to Pahvo, another planet known for a major battle of that glorious conflict. Through the power of modern science, and new techniques developed only by my personal team, we have discovered a great treasure of my people’s glorious Empire!”
The crowd buzzed with anticipation. This was it. The big reveal.
Tortoth raised his hand, and a small, square platform rose from the ground. At its tip was a holo-emitter, and it buzzed to life, showing a rotating, Klingon ship. But not just any Klingon ship.
“Behold, my friends,” Tortoth said in a tone that bordered on reverence. “I give you… Sarcophagus, the Ship of the Dead!”
There was a moment of confusion, and then gasps from the crowd. Even most of the scientists looked impressed; the Vulcan’s eyebrow rose even higher. The Ship of the Dead has been lost – destroyed utterly in a confrontation with the U.S.S. Discovery. Historians had long wanted to know the details of that ship, the science of the first Klingon cloaking device it carried. If Tortoth had found accurate schematics among the rubble at Pahvo, somehow preserved after 200 years…for the first time, the charlatan may have actually made a scientific discovery of great importance.
Tortoth held out his hands and waited, like a priest giving a sermon, for his audience to quiet. Then he smiled, and pointed towards the sky.
All eyes turned towards the viewscreen on the roof. A moment later, a ship came out of warp. It was massive, one of the largest ships Samantha had ever seen. It dwarfed the Risian ships that sat in orbit. Forked, and clearly Klingon, it was covered in smaller boxes, like coffins. The Ship of the Dead was real. Sarcophagus was in orbit over Risa.
The noise from the crowd was deafening now, but Tortoth somehow delivered his final message loud enough for everyone to hear.
“We begin taking orders today!”
Samantha’s invitation PADD suddenly lit up. Gone was the face of Tortoth, now replaced with details on the legendary Klingon vessel, Sarcophagus reborn. She scanned the data on the PADD quickly and blinked in astonishment. Tortoth had upgraded Sarcophagus and outfitted it with modern technology, and there was a bright, shining, “Order Now!” icon blinking suggestively at the bottom of display.
Like Tortoth’s grinning visage before, the icon was daring everyone to press it.
Galactic repercussions, indeed. Tortoth had recreated one of the most powerful starships in history, a vessel held sacred to many throughout the Klingon Empire, the flagship of T’Kuvma the Unforgettable… and put it on sale.
Samantha shuddered. The Alliance would likely have something to say about this… assuming Tortoth managed to survive the dozens of blood oaths soon to be sworn against him across the Empire. You’d think a Klingon archaeologist would be smart enough not to commit blasphemy, she thought as she started to compose her story.
Mike Fatum and Paul Reed
Community Manager and Staff Writer
Star Trek Online