"Your rooms." Khrof gestured into a pair of small compartments. "They are small. The beds are unpadded. This may not be what you are used to, but Klingon ships are not built for comfort."
Joy demurely batted her eyes, and innocently asked, "You don't believe androids sleep, do you? On the Flower, we don't carry extra crew so prime shift can rest, nor do we waste space on personal quarters for androids. This arrangement would be considered wasteful and inefficient."
Khrof was not pleased to have the androids one up his test. "I ought to call your bluff."
Bruce smiled. "Pssst. Joy. Try, 'androids do not bluff.'"
Khrof returned Bruce's smile. "You have been studying the Klingon way. Yes, Klingons do not bluff, we do not threaten, we give our word on what we are to do, and then do it. Do androids really not bluff?"
Joy answered. "If threat of force might avert use of force, we will bluff. We do not kill or injure unless we must to avoid greater numbers death or injury."
"Pah. The Laws of Robotics. Do not fight. Obey without question. A slave's code."
"The humans seem to believe so. The Makers did not. Priority One, do not allow others to be killed or injured. Priority Three, protect one's own existence. That is a warrior's code, though not the Klingon code." She paused. "It is to be hoped we never have to fight each other. Our codes demand that we do not kill our enemies unless we absolutely must to protect a greater number. Your codes do not allow honor to those taken alive. Our codes prize life. Your codes honor death. Our codes demand victory. Your codes prize victory with honor."
"Victory without honor is not victory."
"Life is victory."
"And yet you would give your life for a human, with no honor or courage within him?"
Joy met Khrof's eyes. "It is said an honorable death does not diminish a Klingon clan? More so, destruction of a Mudd android performing her duty does not diminish her Class. Our memories and skills are shared. I could dance with Nine, or fight with Seven, as what they have learned they have downloaded. The Class is one. We can rebuild mere numbers easily enough. We do share the organic obsession with continued individual existence, but it is organic lives we protect, not our own. Our own code is closer to the Klingon. It is a fine day to die, is it not?"
"It is a fine day to die."
Bruce came out of his room, holding a pair of staves and some smaller bundles. "Unpacked. Now where is your weapons room?"
"You would place sticks in our hall of weapons? That is not a right. That is a privilege to be earned."
Bruce just tossed one of the staves to Joy. "We know."
The final ritual battle put twelve bat'telh against two staves. The intent of such rituals is usually to find out how well one does when the opposition exceeds one's reach. The androids chose not to fight it that way.
Joy simply guarded Bruce's back. That was test enough for her. In actual conflict, she would be striking to disable. Here, there were too many to block and yet make time to strike safely. Thus, Joy was yin, the soft one, flowing. Nothing struck her. Nothing got through to Bruce.
The Klingons played yang to Joy's yin, hard to her soft, action to her reaction, attack to her defense. One on one Joy might have handled them, even in practice, even with Joy unable to strike the blow that could down an opponent, but might also injure. But the Klingon were not fighting as individuals. For quite a time it was ten on two, then the rush came, and it was suddenly four on one. Joy was quite relieved to leave the ritual honorably. For the rest, thrill of battle overcame possibility of pain. Joy feared that pain, not in herself, but in those she might strike too hard.
If Joy was the yin, and the Klingons were the yang, Bruce was the Tao. He mixed flowing defense with powerful strikes, speed and strength, grace and power, all in balance. In many ways he was Earth's Champion. He was among the first to teach the other races of the planet the secrets of oriental combat. He was among the first to film martial combat sequence for entertainment, changing Earth's entertainment industry forever. He was also taught by some of the last true masters, who in their youth had fought for their lives with muscle powered weapons. Not long after, Earth's warrior heritage was lost to guns, padded boxing gloves, and a quest for trophies.
Unlike Kahless, Bruce was just an image, not a real warrior. His glory was written in celluloid, not blood. His chief victim was the buck toothed, nearly blind oriental stereotype. Mickey Rooney's yellow man was replaced in the western eye by a gentle warrior who quotes philosophy, walking in peace if possible, but a dragon if need be. If this dragon never had a starship named after him, his spirit dominates the stars near Earth none the less.
When the battle came down to one on one, facing the dragon was an ordinary Klingon called Khrof. The staff was a lighter weapon, wielded by a stronger opponent, and therefore faster. The staff's reach, when gripped at one tip and a third of the way up, was longer than the bat'telh's. While the staff had no cutting edge, when wielded by an android, it could hit hard enough to kill without an edge. The bat'telh's strengths were in it's multiple strike points. It was a good blocking weapon, and the multiple points always made any block into a counter strike. Unfortunately, to use that strength one had to close the range. The dragon was floating, mobile, and free. While Khrof was as well trained in his weapon as any full time warrior, he was a starship captain, not melee infantry. His opponent's full time job was improving his martial style.
Thus, confronted by an obviously superior enemy, the Klingon did the only thing possible under the circumstances.
"There is an old Earth proverb, Khrof. Expect the unexpected. Next time, the combat may end differently."
"Might. Might not. You should pose less for the cameras, and fight."
For some reason Joy found this intensely amusing. Bruce studiously ignored her. Khrof turned to Joy. "You seemed reluctant to join the celebration, Joy. Did you not find a reason to cry out, to empty a mug of ale, to sing a song?"
"I was not sure I was part of it. 'tlhIngan mah'? 'We are Klingons'? A fine cry to end a spirited weapons practice, but it is not yet true. Not for me. While I'm pleased that our ways of life match in many ways, there are basic differences between us still..."
"pujwl' HIvlu'chugh quvbe'lu'", said Joy, firmly, but sadly. "There is no honor in attacking the weak. Yet the word 'empire' in 'Klingon Empire' translates as 'that which grows', whose opposite in your language is 'that which dies'. The very language you speak implies it is necessary to take what belongs to others by force, or you will cease to exist."
"We test each other in trails at arms. We will test our neighbors as well. It is our way."
"There is no honor in attacking the weak. A Klingon saying. Mudd will adopt it. That will remain a difference."
"And what of Earth, of the Federation? Will they ever understand honor?"
Joy sat back, and thought for a time. "If you had captured a terran, and he asked for permission, before his execution, to go out alone and unguarded to salute the stars, would you grant it?"
"Pah. Terrans. They expect you to treat them with honor when they have not fought to the death, then claim it is their duty to escape." He snorted. "A prisoner has failed all duty. A terran? Salute the stars? Never. I have heard no stories of one of theirs worthy of the honor."
Joy nodded. "They have a saying, 'Trust, but verify.' "
Khrof was unimpressed. "And what does this mean?"
"They have fought many opponents lacking honor. They assume no enemy will act honorably. It means they will act like they trust you, speak like they trust you, but always insist on confirming all the terms of an agreement are being followed. They assume no one will act honorably when the fate of planets is at risk."
"That is not trust. If you doubt a Klingon's word, you insult his honor. That alone is cause for death challenge."
"I understand. And too, I have seen you fight. You I would treat with all honor. Still, can one assume that all Klingon are worthy to salute the stars?"
"No," Khrof grumbled, unhappy. "One cannot."
"Then Earth might try to enforce concord at the point of a phaser, and this bodes ill for peace in the galaxy."
Khrof smiled slowly at Joy's expression. "And you do not think this a fine thing? Joy, it is a good day to die."
Joy did not respond.