Star Trek: New Horizons Season 3, Episode 1 (The Next Arena) by captaintigranian
Summary: SEASON 3 PREMIERE: Tigranian is now a prisoner of Lady Selonia of the Romulan Empire. The rest of the galaxy thinks he is dead, but one still clings to the hope that he is alive. Meanwhile, the Pershing's new Commander and First Officer threaten to destroy everything that the crew has worked to build.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 10483 Read: 7485 Published: 09 Jan 2017 Updated: 09 Jan 2017

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Alarms echoed across the Pershing's bridge.

"Daniel!" Laria shouted through the comm system. "I'm detecting a tri-static signature three meters from you! It's an active detonator!"

"Bridge to transporter room!" Katie shouted as she jumped to her feet. "Get them out of there now!"

"Standby," the transporter chief said through the comm. "Compensating for the mineral deposits. Three seconds to transport…"

A massive explosion ripped across the mountain range as the entire cache went sky high at once. A mushroom cloud pushed its way towards the planet's stratosphere. It was so large, it was visible on the Pershing's main viewscreen.

"DANIEL!" Laria shouted running out from behind her station.

Katie dropped back down into her chair.

"Transporter room, this is the bridge…" Katie asked staring blankly at the screen. "Do you have the captain?"

"Bridge, this is the transporter room…" the chief said with a profound emptiness in his voice. "Negative. There's nothing left to transport…"

"DANIEL! DANIEL NO!" Laria shouted collapsing to her knees. She was alone, scared, and surrounded by darkness. Suddenly, in front of her, Daniel appeared; a terrible sadness in his eyes…

"Laria…" he said starting straight into her face. "Find me…"

Laria bolted awake. She was unsure where she was. She looked around for a few terrified seconds, groping at the bed; hoping that everything had just been a dream. However, the bed was empty. It was always empty now… She was back in her old quarters, most of Daniel's possessions now in storage in the cargo bay.

She felt around her, desperately searching for a familiar friend. She then groped towards the floor and felt Rijo's snout on the carpet. She pulled her pugabeast into her chest, wrapped Daniel's klongat fur around her, and placed her knees into her chest. She knew Daniel would expect her to keep on living after he was gone, but as she stared at the bulkhead where a master-less bat'leth now hung a few meters away, she questioned whether she could.

Ludus Gladiatorum of House Cronenii: Dacen Prime, Romulan Empire

Stardate: 53322.5

Tigranian stumbled out into the bright sunlight. The training ground of the ludus was a sand-filled pit, twenty meters square and surrounded by tall, stone walls on three sides. The fourth side was the rear balcony of Seranius' villa where the Romulan and his guests observed the fighters while relaxing in the shade of a billowing green canopy. A flight of rough-cut stone stairs beneath the viewing area led down into the dungeons where the gladiators were kept.

Tigranian's chest still ached where Selonia had marked him two days prior. A disgusting red scab now covered her handiwork. He was already sweating from the planet's oppressive heat and the salt of his sweat stung his wounds.

Five pairs of gladiators were already sparring with practice weapons on the burning sands. Another alien dressed in leather armor coached them. He carried a whip in his right hand and every time a slave moved in a way he did not approve of, he struck them across the back accompanied by a harsh rebuke from his lips.

"Onorok!" Seranius' shrill voice echoed from the balcony above. "It seems our new guest is ready to join your training session. I am told he is not entirely unskilled. Perhaps you would like to test him? Cleesus, perhaps?"

"Yes, Master!" the instructor replied as he gazed up at the balcony. Tigranian shielded his eyes from the sun with his arm just enough to see Seranius looming over this godless sideshow with excitement on his face. "Slave!" Onorok said turning to Tigranian. "Present yourself to me!"

Tigranian stared back at him silently, not moving a centimeter towards the bronze skinned instructor. Onorok cracked his whip in an attempt to intimidate him, but still Tigranian didn't budge.

"Yes," Onorok said bearing his sharpened teeth. "They are all arrogant at first, but I will break you, Slave. Just as I have broken everyone else."

Tigranian grinned as he remembered Selonia's words in his cell.

"You are welcome to try…"

"Cleesus!" Onorok shouted. A tall, muscular alien with bright red skin and spiked black hair stepped forward from the other gladiators.

"Yes, Teacher," the alien replied. Tigranian wondered how he could move his mouth to form words as this creature had a massive fang jutting out from his lower lip that extended past his nose.

"Slave," Onorok said turning back to Tigranian. "This is Cleesus, the Unbeaten. Twenty matches in the arena and twenty fallen opponents. He is the best that I have ever trained. If you will not learn humility from me, you will learn it from him!"

The other gladiators snickered as they whispered among themselves.

"I'm not going to fight anyone," Tigranian said calmly shaking his head.

"Then you will die, you piece of human eslass!" Cleesus said puffing his chest out aggressively. The other gladiators were laughing now.

"According to the Romulans, I died back on Senath," Tigranian said turning around and walking towards the dungeons once more.

Two Romulan guards carrying teral'ns crossed their weapons in front of him to block his path.

"Practice swords!" Onorok ordered. A young slave grabbed two blunted metal swords from a stand of assorted melee weapons collected from around the galaxy. He hurried over to Cleesus who readily accepted the long, straight blade. However, when the boy approached Tigranian, Seranius called down once more.

"No! I am told the human slave's prowess lies with the Klingon weapon. Perhaps he will be kind enough to show us. The boy obediently ran back to the rack and picked up an old bat'leth. He returned and offered it Tigranian.

"I said I'm not fighting anyone. Kill me if you want to, but I will never be your slave!" Tigranian shouted.

"It is just as well," Cleesus said artfully waving his practice sword around him with a seasoned hand. "Those who fight with Klingon garbage are beneath me."

Tigranian froze.

"Klingon garbage?" he said turning towards Cleesus.

"Yes, human! Are you deaf? My shit has more warrior prowess than a Klingon and their pathetic weapons," Cleesus said grinning wide enough for his fang to move up and down.

Tigranian calmly chuckled as he took the bat'leth from the boy's grasp and examined it. It was dirty, dented, and covered with rust from years of neglect, but it seemed solid. He spun it around in his hands to get a feel for its balance.

"You know, it is easy to underestimate a bat'leth," Tigranian mused as he started stepping towards Cleesus. "Its design is incredibly simple, yet artfully complex…" Tigranian began spinning the bat'leth behind his back. He raised it over his head and then quickly brought it down in a simple mok'bara kata. "It requires many years of practice to even master the simplest of strikes. However, once a swordsman learns to make the sword a part of himself, even the simplest of strikes becomes deadly!"

Tigranian lunged forward and slashed at Cleesus. The tall alien barely parried the blow in time. The shocked Cleesus began to wildly hack at Tigranian, but the captain artfully balanced his weight over his heels and gracefully deflected the blows away from his body.

"But do you want to know what the real secret is?" Tigranian kept speaking as the duel continued. Cleesus grew increasingly angry, shouting and grunting as he tried to land a killing blow on his smaller opponent. "Every weapon has a spirit. You must learn to hear its words, obey its will…" Tigranian rolled the bat'leth over his left arm, locking Cleesus' blade against his own and pushing it aside. A hard strike from Tigranian's open right hand into the alien's gut sent Cleesus backwards almost a meter. "Because once you do, the weapon will not allow you to lose." Tigranian held the bat'leth out in front of him, blade facing the sky. Cleesus roared and charged straight for him with his sword towering over his head.

Just as he was about to land a killing blow, Tigranian raised his sword and caught Cleesus' blade in the right crook of his bat'leth. He spun the weapon around his wrists, using Cleesus' own strength against him. The alien's sword twisted out of his grasp and skittered across the sand. Tigranian struck upwards with the handle-side of his bat'leth and hit Cleesus in the face, breaking his fang in half. The alien dropped to his knees in a daze, blood dripping from his mouth.

Tigranian shouldered his sword, turned his back, and started walking back towards the dungeons. As Cleesus regained his senses, he grabbed his blade, rose to his feet and charged screaming at Tigranian's exposed back. Cleesus swung with all his might, hoping to cleave the human in two, but Tigranian ducked underneath his blade, spun around, and swung his bat'leth like a baseball bat directly into Cleesus' skull. The alien dropped to the sand, blood and brains pouring out from the massive gash caused by the blunt bat'leth. He twitched for a few seconds before dying face down in the dirt.

The other gladiators gasped in shock as they watched the ludus' champion fall so easily at the hands of this stranger. Tigranian calmly walked back over to a speechless Onorok, who stared at him with a horrified expression.

"If he really was the best you ever trained, you are truly pathetic." Tigranian said before turning to the rest of the gladiators. "If any of you try to lay a hand on me, you will die." He turned back to the instructor. "That goes for you as well."

Tigranian turned his back to Onorok, tossed the bloody bat'leth back to the young slave, and again tried to return to his cell. Onorok bellowed, raised his whip, and charged at Tigranian. The captain dropped into a low crouch, caught Onorok's arm, and flipped him over his shoulder down to the sand. He was about land a blow to the instructor's head when a green disruptor blast impacted the ground next to him.

"Tigranian!" Seranius shouted desperately from the balcony. "Enough! You may return to your cell now. Guards please escort him back below ground." The two Romulan guards stepped forward and Tigranian released Onorok.

Tigranian glared at the dazed instructor. He balled his fists as he began to speak.

"From this day forward, avert your gaze when you are in my presence. Never speak to me unless I wish it. I am Daniel, Son of Tigranian, of the House of Torlek. Let that name be burned into your mind, for if you call me 'slave' again. No amount of Romulan guards will stop me from ending your life in agony." The captain reached down, grabbed the whip from Onorok's hand, and threw it to the other side of the enclosure.

The two guards flanked Tigranian and cautiously escorted him from the practice pit. When he was gone, Seranius managed to exhale.

"I see what you mean when you said he was difficult to acquire, My Lady," he said retreating back under the shade of the balcony. Selonia lay on a plush, velvet couch with a glass of blue kali-fal in her hand. Two female slaves fanned her to keep the oppressive heat from her skin. Another stood a few feet away holding a tray of fruit.

"Yet he is magnificent, is he not?" she said taking a sip of her potent drink. "Put him in the arena."

"My Lady," Seranius said cautiously. "Do you not think it is too soon? Perhaps with a little more training…"

"Did you not just watch the sparring match I did?" Selonia said angrily. "He killed your best gladiator without batting an eye. He is ready now and I want him in the arena at the earliest opportunity. Is that clear?"

"Yes, My Lady," Seranius said with polite bow. "However, what if he refuses to fight? The weapons in the arena are not blunted. A very valuable slave could be lost to you."

"He will fight, Seranius," Selonia said stretching out her couch. "It is the one predictable thing about this human."
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Bryma System: Federation/Cardassian Border

Stardate: 53322.7

"Buenos Aires to Pershing, ready to transport."

Katie nodded to the chief at the control panel.

"Acknowledged, Buenos Aires. Energizing," the crewman said sliding her hand over the display. Katie stood in front of the formation with Scharr, Alex, Phil, and Laria behind her. Annabeth had departed with the Venture back to Gamma Hydra two days prior and the remainder of the Pershing's senior staff anxiously awaited the arrival of their replacement captain and first officer.

Two columns of blue energy appeared on the transporter platform. The first to appear was an older, graying human male with a slightly haughty smirk on his face. To his right was a lanky human female with long, straight black hair and very pursed lips. It appeared to Katie that this officer sucked on a lemon right before beaming over.

As soon as the matter stream dissipated, Katie stepped forward.

"Welcome aboard the Pershing, Sir," she said respectfully. He blankly stared back at her for a few seconds. After the awkwardness became palpable, he cocked his head to one side.

"Lieutenant," the woman said like she was talking to a child. "The captain would like to take command of his starship now."

Scharr's antenna curled at her dictatorial tone.

"My apologies, Sir," Katie said without faltering. "Computer, transfer command codes to Captain Terrance Grigsby. Authorization: Stone Tau Four Three."

"All command codes transferred."

"Mr. Lexington, please note the time in the ship's log," Katie said glancing over at Phil.

"Aye, Ma'am."

"Excellent!" Grigsby said bounding off the transporter pad and holding out his hand. "It's very nice to finally meet you, Ms. Stone." He grabbed Katie's hand and shook violently. "I trust that you've taken good care of my ship."

Laria looked down at the deck plating. She was instantly upset at the way he referred to the Pershing as 'his ship' when he had been aboard less than two minutes.

"Allow me to introduce our new first officer, Commander Cecily Hardnett," Grigsby said gesturing back to the woman. She walked forward with her hands behind her back, giving the impression she was a secondary school principal. "She's going to do very well taking care of this staff."

"I'm sure of that, Sir," Katie said looking over towards Hardnett. "Allow me to introduce the rest of the senior staff beginning with our chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander Tren Scharr…"

Grigsby held up a hand to silence her.

"That won't be necessary, Lieutenant. I've read all your files in detail. I probably know you all better than you know each other."

Alex and Phil exchanged nervous looks. Laria still refrained from making direct eye contact.

"Lieutenant Tigranian," Grigsby said looking over to Laria who finally raised her eyes from the floor. "Allow me to express my deepest condolences. I'm not sure if you know this, but I was the very first Starfleet officer that Captain Tigranian met after returning from the Klingon Empire in '72. He made quite an impression. I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thank you, Sir," Laria said politely nodding her head. Inside, her heart dropped. Daniel had told her about the Lieutenant Commander he once met on the Yokohama. He did not have nearly as favorable an impression of that man as Grigsby claimed to have of him.

"Sir," Katie said stepping forward again. "We've arranged for a small welcoming party in the mess hall for you and Commander Hardnett. It will be a chance for you both to relax and get to meet the remainder of the crew."

"I appreciate the effort, Ms. Stone," Grigsby said smiling again. "But I'm afraid I'll have to decline." Phil joined Alex and Scharr in their nervous expressions.

"Sir, I don't understand," Katie said quite confused.

"I'd like to get to my quarters as soon as possible. I have a lot of reports to study if I want to get up to speed. I also suggest that you all get plenty of rest." He turned to face the rest of the staff. "First thing you need to know about me: I never slow down. My only piece of initial counseling to you all: Do what you're told and keep up with me. You do those two things and you'll be successful on my ship."

Laria was no longer upset. She was angry. How dare this stranger come into their family and lecture them on what it would take to be successful on the Pershing? This was their ship. He was merely joining the team mid-game.

"Now, Commander Hardnett and I had a lot of time en route here to come up with our strategy. She has the plan for what starts tomorrow morning," he said walking towards the doors. "Get ready everyone. The vacation is over!" He disappeared into the corridor as Commander Hardnett stepped forward and pulled out a PADD.

"Listen up!" she said scanning her notes. "I've already messaged your user accounts with each of my initial command inspection checklists for your sections. I suggest you study them carefully tonight. Next hard time will be 0600 tomorrow morning in the ward room. We will begin with Tactical, Science, and Navigation in that order before proceeding to Sick Bay and Engineering. You will have 48 hours to correct deficiencies before my re-inspection…"

"If there are deficiencies," Phil said calmly.

"Excuse me, Lieutenant? I didn't quite hear you," Hardnett said walking over trying to intimidate Phil.

"Ma'am, I meant no disrespect. However, this ship was run to a very high level of proficiency. I believe you will be impressed with what we've been able to accomplish here."

"A bold statement, Lexington," Hardnett replied. "However, Captain Grigsby and I examined your ship's efficiency reports. Needless to say, I believe your definition of proficiency and mine are quite different. Luckily, Captain Grigsby shares my views. I believe he will take this ship to new levels and we are lucky to have him."

"Excuse me, Ma'am," Scharr said interjecting indignantly. "The only reason we have Captain Grigsby at all is because our captain died in service to the Federation less than three weeks ago! His widow is standing barely two meters away from you, and before you start extolling the virtues of his replacement at the expense of Captain Tigranian's memory, perhaps you should show a little respect!"

Laria looked at Scharr with grateful eyes.

Hardnett strutted over to Scharr. "Looks like we have a change of schedule, Ladies and Gentlemen," she said placing her hands behind her back again. "We're going to start in Engineering in one hour. Recall your entire section, Mr. Scharr, both shifts. Also, if I want your opinion again, I'll ask for it. Otherwise, shut your mouth when I'm talking to you!"

Hardnett stormed out of the transporter room and disappeared.

"Is this real life?" Phil said still in shock. "Is this really happening?"

"They can't be serious, can they?" Alex said looking to the others.

"A pompous fool served by a wannabe tyrant. At least I'm only three years away from retirement…" Scharr said shaking his head.

"Katie, is there anything we can do?" Alex asked.

"No," she replied dejectedly. "He was right, it's his ship. Unless they do something illegal, immoral, or unethical, we're stuck with them for the duration. Look on the bright side, Doc, you'll be leaving for the Venture relatively soon."

"Laria," Alex said turning towards her friend. "Are you alright? The way they were talking…"

"No, I'm not alright," Laria said with an eerie calm in her voice. "But at least I know that I can't be in denial anymore." She walked out of the room without another word.

"I'm really worried about her," Phil said after the doors had closed.

"We all are, Phil. We all are," Katie said wrapping an arm around him.
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Chancellor's Study, Great Hall: First City, Qo'nos

Stardate: 53322.9

Torlek stood in the entranceway to Martok's study. He was surrounded by a half-dozen marble statues representing the six chancellors who ruled the Empire prior to Martok's ascension: Azetbur, Kaarg, Ditagh, Kravokh, K'mpec, and finally Gowron. The commissioning of the statues was the new chancellor's contribution to the rebuilding of the Great Hall following Morjod's failed coup last year.

The general took special notice of the figure of Gowron, standing with his arms crossed, stone eyes angrily protruding from his face. This previous chancellor's downfall at the hands of the Son of Mogh had become part of Martok's legend.

Many outsiders wonder how Klingon politics function. Torlek even had to explain it to Daniel one evening over a bottle of blood wine. Just because you kill your predecessor to gain power, does not mean you do not respect them enough to build a monument to them, if for anything else to remind you of what led to their downfall. To Klingons, violent death in support of ones ideals is preferable to any other. In many ways, Worf did Gowron a favor.

The doors at the rear of the study flew open and Martok walked inside. He quickly crossed to his massive wooden desk and took a seat. Two bodyguards from the Yan-Isleth followed and took their places to either side of Martok's chair. Behind them, three massive windows looked out at the green-tinged skyline of the First City. Torlek walked past the chancellor's conference table littered with maps and reports from all over the Empire and stood at attention in front of Martok. He then offered a salute.

"Glory to you and your house, Chancellor."

"The same to you, General," Martok said returning his respectful gesture. "Please, take a seat. I regret my tardiness. My minister of internal security was briefing me on some late breaking developments in the First City."

"Yes, Chancellor," Torlek said lowering himself into a targ-leather upholstered chair. "I passed the large protest occurring in the Market District on my way here. However, it appeared that Imperial Guard was relishing the opportunity to disperse it with clubs and concussion grenades." The distasteful tone in Torlek's voice piqued Martok's interest.

"I read your reports on your actions at Senath and was quite impressed with the Suk'Valt's performance. You certainly won the Empire the rapid victory it required. You have my gratitude."

"The job is not finished yet, Chancellor. There are still insurgent positions in the mountains, but the loss of many of their weapons caches has greatly diminished their supply lines. The Cardassian Provisional Guard should be able to continue our efforts."

"Yes, I know," Martok said examining a PADD in front of him. He slowly placed it back down on the table and looked at Torlek with his one eye. "I heard about the loss of the Son of Tigranian."

"My brother is in paradise, Chancellor. He died in service of the Federation and the Empire. I will see him again in Sto'Vo'Kor."

"Of that, I am sure, General," Martok said remembering his own recent losses. "I hope that if he meets the Lady Sirella, he doesn't find her too taxing. It takes her a while to warm up to non-Klingons."

"Daniel may have been born human, Sir, but his blood became one with ours. His heart was of Qo'nos." Torlek paused. "Just before his death, he acquired evidence that the Romulans may have been supplying the Cardassian Insurgents all along. It will certainly discredit our enemies one the people are informed."

"The Romulans probably are supporting the insurgents," Martok said matter-of-factly staring out the panoramic windows with his one good eye. "However, our people will never know."

"What?" Torlek said in disbelief. "You suspect that our allies have betrayed us, brought chaos to the empire, and caused the death of thousands of innocents, and yet you conceal it?"

"Watch your tone, General," Martok said as a courtesy to keep Torlek from signing his own death warrant. "The Romulans are no ally of ours, and they never were. They fought the Dominion out of convenience, not honor.

They see an opportunity now to cripple us, just as they have tried time and time again over the past century: Narendra, Khitomer, The Duras Civil War, What they have already done is of no consequence. Informing the masses will only fuel their fears that we can no longer protect them. All that matters now is that many of our own people now doubt the strength and stability of our traditional way of life. The Romulans did not plant that seed. They merely watered it."

Martok steered the subject back towards this meeting's true purpose.

"The reason I asked to meet with you personally was to see if there was anything you wished to add that was not in your official reports."

"Sir?" Torlek asked inquisitively.

"You are a senior commander, Torlek. You know that Imperial Intelligence imbeds agents on all capital ships. I received several reports from them about the unpleasantness that occurred surrounding the death of a certain Bekk Ratnek"

Torlek growled. He knew that Imperial Intelligence probably had agents on the HoS, but he still was disgusted at any Klingon who refused to show their true face to him. It was a common complaint the military had about the clandestine nature of I-I.

"It was a very difficult incident for most of the crew to bear. The young Bekk proved himself in battle, only to die at the hands of a fellow Klingon because he spoke his heart."

"There is two sides to every story, General," Martok said leaning back in his chair. "However, Imperial Intelligence also reported that you banished the lieutenant back to Qo'nos in public disgrace for enforcing discipline in his platoon."

"I would not call what the lieutenant did 'discipline,' Chancellor."

"I have executed a fair number of subordinates in my time, General, often to the chagrin of our Federation allies."

"I do not care what the Federation thinks of us, Sir," Torlek said firmly. "I have executed many subordinates myself, but it was always for a proper reason. The whole point of our mission was to secure the loyalty of the commoners. Lieutenant Tang jeopardized all of that with his rash actions."

"I tend to agree with you, Torlek," Martok replied. "However, your very public response to Qas DevwI' Warkan may have been too far in the other direction. I-I felt that you should have executed him as well. His words apparently came dangerously close to sedition. They questioned both your actions and your loyalty in their report."

"Then those cowardly petaQpu can say that to my face!"

Martok raised his right hand to calm Torlek's fury.

"It was a very serious charge to level against any Klingon officer, especially one with such a distinguished record as yours. Before I make a decision on how to proceed, I wanted to look in the eyes and speak warrior to warrior. That is why you are here."

"What do you see in my eyes, Chancellor?" Torlek spoke as he leaned forward.

"I see a man who is deeply troubled. Speak your mind, Torlek. We will not solve this crisis facing the Empire by hiding in the muck of deceit like Ferengi."

Torlek sighed contemplatively.

"Tell me, do you remember what it was like to grow up in the Ketha lowlands?"

Martok leaned forward and banged his fists on his desk.

"Excuse me?"

"I meant no disrespect, Sir," Torlek said. "It is just that I grew up on my family's estate. I was raised to be an officer from before I could walk. When I was not practicing Mok'bara, I was studying history, science, mathematics, philosophy, the words of Kahless�"

"Is there a point to this, General?" Martok asked still quite incensed. Torlek looked the Chancellor in the eyes.

"I never had to wonder if I would have enough to eat at night. I never had to labor to earn a day's pay. I never doubted what my future would be.

One of my officer's on the HoS served with you on the raid on the Trelka V Raid with Kor, the Dahar Master." The sound of that man's name still made Martok grit his teeth. "He told me of your troubles with that man. That you had to spend five years cleaning an officer's mess before you could earn your commission�"

"I don't need you to remind me of my own biography, General!" Martok shouted.

"Then I ask you to answer me this question: in another life, if you never were able to earn that commission, would you be satisfied living and dying at the command of people like me with no say in your own destiny?"

Martok scoffed.

"You have spent too much time around humans, General, thinking about what MIGHT have been. A warrior's destiny is written in fate before he or she is born."

Torlek paused. His next comment could very well make him the next subordinate Martok executed.

"Did you believe that when you were scrubbing those tables on General ShiVang's flagship? Did you think it would always be your destiny to clean up spilled grapok sauce and pipius shells, or did you believe you could be something more if only given the opportunity?"

"You are coming dangerously close to challenging me, General!" Martok said briefly raising his voice. His bodyguards slowly began moving their bat'leths from their shoulders, but Martok soon collapsed backwards into his seat. "However, there were days when I felt like I would never become anything more than the pathetic servant that I was. What kept me from ending my life in disgrace was the everlasting hope that I would be given the chance to prove myself in battle. That I would force those officers to see the real me! To listen to my words! To regard me as more than just�" Martok stopped himself, closing his one remaining eye.

"As what, Chancellor?" Torlek emphasized Martok's title in the hope that it would remind him how far he had risen from his humble beginnings.

"As more than just a wretched commoner." Martok suddenly rose from his chair and marched over to the statues in the entranceway to his study. He stared at the stone statues of his predecessors, each one bearing the crest of a noble house on their shoulder. Torlek slowly walked up behind him. Martok didn't turn his head to look at him. "You have made your point, General. But what exactly do you suggest I do about it?"

"I am a Soldier, My Lord, not a politician."

Martok turned and glared at him again.

"Are you suggesting that I am only a politician now?"

"No, Chancellor. However, the mantle of leadership rests upon your shoulders, not mine. It will be your choice whether or not you will give a voice to all Klingons." Martok scoffed.

"A voice? Exactly what kind of voice do you propose I give them? Should we cast out the High Councilors into the streets? Should I rip off my cassock and drop to my knees in front of the mob?"

"Before he died," Torlek began, "My brother reminded me that too much power, too soon will result only in chaos, disorder, and death. However, if we show the people that there is hope for tomorrow, that they have a choice in the affairs of the Empire, I think it will prove that there is a future for all of Kahless' children."

"The Son of Tigranian was wise," Martok said gently bowing his head.

"He was, My Lord," Torlek said. "Daniel was a formidable warrior and a man of true honor. He was a brother not only to me, but to all Klingons."

Martok placed a hand on Torlek's shoulder.

"I pray that Kahless lifts him out of the Cavern of Despair and reveals himself to him in all his glory."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Amphitheatre Imperium: Dacen Prime

Stardate: 53323.0

Tigranian was in hell.

Deep underneath the ground in the burning heat of arena's dim catacombs, he was surrounded by dozens of alien gladiators speaking in as many varied languages. All were preparing to meet their fate on the bloody sands above them. A long stone ramp in front of him led to what they called, "The Gate of the Damned." It was the entrance to the battle ground.

Two muscular aliens were dragging the mangled corpses of the arena's most recent occupants down the ramp towards a pit in the far corner of the catacombs, leaving a trail of gore and blood behind them. The deep hole was already filled with assorted body parts from all the slave races of the Romulan Star Empire and beyond: men and women slaughtered for the enjoyment of the crowd sitting in the stands above.

Tigranian had been given a pair of leather breeches to replace his loincloth and a segmented metal sleeve that fit over his right arm. Otherwise, he was still without clothing or armor.

"Human!" a Romulan guard shouted to him from the end of the ramp. "Prepare yourself, your match is next."

Tigranian walked over to a wooden table littered with various melee weapons and armor. He examined the assorted collection.

"No Klingon weapons, not even anything close to a Klingon weapon…" he thought to himself.

It really didn't matter. He had no intention of fighting for the enjoyment of those who believed themselves to be his master. His hand finally stopped over a small, short sword. He lifted it and gave it a few practice swings. It was simple, solid, and reliable. It would serve its purpose.

Tigranian walked to the base of the ramp, closed his eyes, and began to move in a calming, rhythmic motion. He extended his right leg behind him, raised his arms over his head, and slowly lowered them to his sides. He then shifted his weight to his left leg and repeated the motion. Next, he crouched back, crossed his arms in front of him, and then pushed them away while breathing deeply.

"What is that?" another one of Seranius' gladiators who had completed his match half an hour before asked loudly. "Do you dance to ask your gods for mercy? If so, do not bother, no righteous god can hear your pleas in the darkness of the Romulan Empire."

Tigranian slowly opened his eyes while continuing his movements.

"My people killed their gods," he replied calmly. "We had no need for them. No, this is the Mok'bara. It clears the mind and centers the body."

"Call it whatever you like, human. You will die or you will live. Either way, your life is over," he said with utter dejection in his eyes.

In the stands above, Selonia sat in the arena's pulvinus, a luxury box where the most senior dignitaries viewed the games. She lounged on a luxurious couch trimmed in blue and gold. Next to her, Vrixia, Seranius' wife, sat on a similar couch. Several slaves attended to their needs while Seranius himself sat between them on a wooden throne overlooking the stadium. In front of their balcony, a huge banner emblazoned with the Imperial Raptor fluttered in the hot breeze.

"It is so terrible that the games have fallen out of favor on Romulus," Vrixia complained in a high-pitched simper as a female attendant handed her another glass of wine. A male slave fanned her with a large, white feather that caused her long black hair to flutter. "Bloodsport is so wonderfully entertaining."

"As long as the blood isn't green, My Love," Seranius said to her over his shoulder. He wore his dress robes. They were bright white and trimmed with the Imperial colors of silver, blue, and green.

"My Darling Vrixia," Selonia said rolling over on her side. "Worry not. Much will change on Romulus now that my voice will finally be heard. Soon, the Forum Magnus in Ki Baratan will once again ring with the agonizing screams of our inferiors."

"I envy you so, Selonia," Vrixia said taking a sip of wine. "You are truly the noblest of Romulan women: strong, beautiful, cunning. You embody all that makes our people the masters of the galaxy."

"Flattery will not work on me, Vrixia," Selonia replied with a grin. "However, you can keep trying."

A Romulan male dressed in flowing gold and silver entered the box and bowed to the three patricians.

"Ladies, My Lord," he said bowing his head. "It is time for the primus."

Selonia leaped forward and clapped her hands together.

"Finally!" she said almost out of breath with excitement.

"Will you do the honors, Pirrus?" Seranius said gesturing towards the edge of the balcony.

"Of course, My Lord," he said stepping towards the marble railing and activating the stadium's loudspeakers.

"Romulans of Dacen!" Pirrus' voice echoed through the circular amphitheater, "Your Imperial Governor, Seranius, once again bids you welcome!"

The crowd of several thousand Romulan citizens roared in appreciation. They raised their hands in the air and began to chant Seranius' name in unison. Seranius stepped forward, waved his arms, and then took his seat once more.

"Now, Human!" the Romulan guard said taking his place behind Tigranian. He escorted the captain up the ramp towards the "Gate of the Damned." Tigranian could hear the voice of a Romulan male speaking above. He looked out the gate's slatted openings and saw a large black tube being wheeled into the opposite end of the arena.

"Governor Seranius now offers for your enjoyment, his primus, the main event!"

The crowd roared to life again as the "Gate of the Damned" opened ten meters beneath him.

Pirrus looked over his shoulder and muted the microphone.

"I am sorry, My Lord. What is this new fighter called?" Seranius looked back to Selonia.

"I hadn't really thought of a new name for him," Selonia said raising her eyebrows. Then, she recalled that idiot promagistrate and his constant berating of Tigranian. Selonia seemed to recall that Kival kept referring to Tigranian as a "blunt instrument" and that served as a constant source of irritation to her new slave.

"Call him, 'The Hammer of Terra," Selonia replied with a grin. Pirrus nodded and turned back towards the crowd.

"From the far reaches of the barbaric galaxy, a new gladiator emerges to fight and win for your enjoyment! From Earth, the very capital of the Federation, I give you the human phenomenon, the slayer from Sol, The Hammer of Terra!"

The Romulan guard pushed Tigranian out into the arena. He walked towards the center of the sands, still stained crimson from the day's carnage. Tigranian looked up to meet the eyes of two thousand angry Romulans all staring down at him and booing his heritage. He turned around and realized he was standing directly in front of the Imperial Banner. The Romulan announcer and Seranius stared down at him. He gripped his short sword tighter as he guessed Selonia was up there as well.

"Now, standing in opposition is a true hero of this arena! A titan of sword, spear, and teral'n! Plucked from the angry seas of Aquinos VI, I give you, MARMALLUS!"

The roar of the crowd became deafening as the black tube tipped over, spilling water all over the sand of the arena floor. A massive form jumped from the tank, rolled forward, and stood to his feet, roaring loudly.

Tigranian immediately took stock of his opponent. This creature was humanoid, but stood over two meters tall. His muscular, bluish-green skin glistened in the sun and a pair of gills opened and closed along the sides of his chest. Four tentacles covered with suction cups danged from the sides of his open mouth and several rows of pointed teeth growled in Tigranian's direction from the alien's hairless head. An attendant ran over and handed Marmullus a long, curved sword with a serrated edge that mimicked his teeth.

"Gladiators! Salute your masters and come out fighting! Earn immortality today with your blood!" Pirrus said before stepping aside.

Marmullus raised his blade in the air, bowed to the pulvinus, and shouted:

"Jolan Tru! Glory to the Senate and People of Romulus!"

Tigranian remained silent.

Above him, Vrixia leaned over to Selonia.

"Marmullus is a champion. Do you think it wise for this to be your human's first match?"

"I believe we will see something spectacular today," Selonia said still grinning from pointed ear to pointed ear.

"Gladiators! Fight!" Pirrus commanded.

Marmullus raised his sword. He paced sideways, sizing up his opponent and preparing his attack. Tigranian stared back at him, his short sword still resting at his side.

Suddenly, Tigranian flung his weapon away from him and sat cross-legged in the dirt. The crowd roared in disapproval. Marmallus lowered his sword, wondering if this was some kind of trick. His black eyes stared up at the pulvinus as Selonia leaped off her couch and ran to the edge of the balcony, her eyes full of rage.

"Get up! Get up and fight!" she screamed over the din of the crowd.

Tigranian, however, only wanted this nightmare to end. He was a prisoner, a slave of his enemies. Sto'Vo'Kor was lost to him. If his family knew he was alive, his disgrace would be shared by them. He would never see Laria, Torlek, or his crew again, in this life or the next. No, it was his fate to sail on the Barge of the Dead and have Kortar row him towards Feklar's demons awaiting in Gre'thor. He might as well give the boatman his new passenger now rather than keep him waiting. Tigranian shut his eyes and awaited his end.

The boos and jeers of the onlookers became too much for Marmullus. He was not used to fighting under such pitiable conditions. He raised his sword and charged, hoping this fight would end and he could earn the masses favor again.

As he began to swing his blade towards Tigranian's neck, the captain took his last breath. Then, as the air singed with approach of Marmullus' sword, Laria's disembodied voice suddenly echoed in Tigranian's ears.

"Daniel, not yet."

A split-second before Marmullus separated Tigranian's head from his body, Daniel dropped forward and the aquatic killer's sword sailed clean over his body. The crowd gasped in amazement. Marmullus swung again. This time, it was Torlek's voice who spoke to Daniel.

"Keep fighting."

As the Aquinosian tried to end his opponent once more, Tigranian ducked his long reach, raised his hands, and caught Marmullus' wrists. Tigranian leaped up onto his heels, and kicked Marmullus' with all his might in the gills. The Aquinosian gasped and fell to his knees as Tigranian rolled away. The crowd roared triumphantly as the human grabbed his sword from the ground and raised it into a guard.

"You see!" Selonia said beckoning for her wine glass from a waiting slave. "I told you we would see something spectacular!"

Marmullus was dazed, his breath still knocked out of him as Tigranian charged forward, slashing with his weapon. Marmullus could barely deflect Tigranian's blows. For the first time, a smaller opponent was able to get inside his massive reach, and the Aquinosian had no defense against it. Finally, Tigranian's sword caught in one of the serrations on Marmullus' blade. This paused the onslaught long enough for Marmullus to strike Tigranian in the chest with his free hand, sending him backwards almost three meters. The Aquinosian climbed to his shaky legs, roared again, and fought back.

"I was going to kill you quickly, human!" Marmullus growled through his waving mouth tentacles. "Now, you will suffer!"

The giant charged forward again, but Tigranian rolled forward over his shoulder, ducking his opponent's strike. The captain lashed out with his short sword, and sliced clean through the Aquinosian's leg, severing it just below the knee. Marmullus dropped his sword, roared in pain, and collapsed to the sand.

Tigranian stood up, grabbed his opponent's weapon, and held both blades aloft over his Marmullus' face. The Aquinosian's black eyes grew wide in terror and the tentacles around his mouth quivered. The crowed began to chant in a single massive roar. "KILL! KILL! KILL!"

Marmullus' breath quickened as he began to shake in shock.

Tigranian still held the weapons at the ready as he looked up towards the pulvinus. Seranius smiled as he gestured to Selonia. She laughed as she raised her arm and ran her thumb across her throat. The crowd went wild in anticipation.

Tigranian looked back down at Marmullus, still pleading for his life with his wide eyes. Tigranian looked down and saw his opponent wouldn't survive much longer with blood gushing from his leg.

Suddenly, Tigranian threw Marmullus' serrated sword aside, leaned over, and cut the Aquinosian's leather belt free from his waist. The captain knelt down, and fastened it tightly as a tourniquet around the alien's leg.

Tigranian stood up.

"You are not my enemy, and your life is not mine to take."

Marmullus' nodded in silent gratitude.

The crowd suddenly went completely silent.

"Slave!" Seranius shouted down from the pulvinus. "Kill him now!"

Tigranian reared back his head and laughed. He began to yell loud enough for the entire arena to his words.

"The mupwI' who hides behinds guards and bathes in perfume still thinks he controls me!" Tigranian gripped his sword at stared Seranius and Selonia. "I AM NO ONE'S SLAVE!" Then Tigranian turned to the crowd. "But you are!" Tigranian said looking at the common Romulans in the stands. "They hold these games to keep you docile and placated while they sit in their villas, live off your labor, and plot your destruction. Do nothing and your entire race will perish in the flames of its own ignorance and arrogance. Romulus can be free, but not while they live!"

Tigranian reared back and heaved his sword end over end towards the pulvinus. It landed squarely in the middle of the Imperial banner, impaling the Raptor through the heart. He then walked back towards the "Gate of the Damned." When the Romulan guard pulled out a disruptor to stop him, Tigranian simply batted it away.

"Live free, Romulan," he said walking past him. He confidently strode down the ramp back into the catacombs and passed the other gladiators who had assembled below to hear his words. The same gladiator who spoke to him before reached out and grabbed his arm.

"Perhaps the gods will hear you after all," the gladiator said, the look in eyes replaced with hope for the first time. Tigranian said nothing and continued walking. The gladiator raised his fist in the air and began chanting. "Terran! Terran! Terran!"

The other slaves quickly joined in.

In the pulvinus above, Selonia listened to the terror and rage building in the crowd. She gritted her teeth and shook with anger as her wine glass shattered in her hand.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Darshesna Cluster: Federation Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space

Laria knelt at the burning duranja in the corner of her quarters. The Bajoran lamp for the dead had flickered non-step since she had lost her husband. After saying her prayers each evening, she liked to speak to Daniel for a few minutes before crawling into bed.

"This ship is now a completely different place," she whispered staring up at Tigranian's bat'leth. A triangular wooden case beneath it held the folded Federation flag from his funeral. "Those of us left still remember your leadership, but Grigsby and Hardnett seem to be doing everything to erase all we accomplished together.

This isn't the Starfleet I wanted to be a part of. I'm thinking about putting in a transfer to the Venture to be a part of Annabeth's crew, but I don't think Hardnett would approve it. She doesn't care about anyone on this crew. All she cares about is earning that incompetent moron's favor so she can get promoted. Scharr takes the brunt of her abuse. He says it doesn't bother him, but it does. Every time Katie or Phil try to offer her a suggestion, she relishes the opportunity to make them feel stupid. Alex is more desperate than ever to get back to Annabeth, and T'les is simply retreating back into her closed-off Vulcan mind.

It makes me sick, Daniel. Honestly, I may just resign. It's too painful to put on this uniform every day. I love you, and I always will."

Laria stood up, walked over to her bed, and lay down. She grabbed Rijo and held him into her chest again. She lay motionless for a few minutes, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was very wrong. Every night, she could hear Daniel's voice calling to her. He wasn't at peace, and she knew it. Suddenly, she froze with thought.

Laria got up and walked over to her computer terminal.

"Computer," she said taking a deep breath. "Display sensor logs for Stardate 53320.9, Time Index 1132.4." She hugged Rijo close to her as she waited for the screen to populate.

Images of electromagnetic waveforms appeared on the screen in front of her. She studied the patterns intently, culminating in the massive spike where the weapons cache exploded.

"Cross reference and analyze for any anomalies."

"Working," the computer said. "No anomalies are present."

"Isolate bio-sign for Captain Daniel Tigranian. At what moment was his bio-sign terminated?"

"Sensors lost contact with the bio-sign of Captain Daniel Tigranian at Time Index 1132.4765."

"Display Time Index 1132.4600 through 1132.4900. Overlay with electromagnetic and subspace radiation spectral analysis."

"Working. Requested Data Displayed."

Laria's eyes grew wide.

"Computer, enhance grid 5645," Laria began furiously entering key strokes on her panel. Something indeed was very wrong, and if her sensor array didn't have this level of resolution, no one would ever have known. "Computer, using backwards analysis of energy release of the known explosives, can you postulate at what time index the explosion started to the nearest millisecond?"

"Affirmative."

"Postulate, then."

"Based on analysis, explosion commenced at Time Index 1132.4770."

"Computer, you just said sensors lost contact with Captain Tigranian's bio-sign at 1132.4765, correct?"

"Affirmative."

"Can you explain the discrepancy of 50 milliseconds?"

"Insufficient Data."

"If you can't, than I will…" Laria said placing Rijo on the desk next to her. She started furiously pounding the keys on her monitor. Finally, she honed in on a rogue electromagnetic frequency different than the normal background radiation or subspace radio. "Computer, identify this signal."

"Signal matches characteristics of a transport scanning beam in the L2 theta band oscillating at two terra-hertz."

"By the Prophets!" Laria said placing her hands over her gapping mouth. She jumped up from the desk grabbed Rijo, and kissed him. She then ran over to Daniel's duranja and blew it out.

"Sir," Laria said pointing to the PADD she dropped on Grigsby's desk again. "It's right there!"

"Lieutenant, I would hardly call that evidence conclusive."

Laria looked around the captain's ready room again. Grigsby had already taken the liberty of hanging pictures of himself shaking hands with every single Starfleet Flag Officer all over the walls.

"Sir, look at the gap. Captain Tigranian disappeared a full 50 milliseconds prior to the explosion beginning. Also, when I say 'disappeared,' I mean 'disappeared.' There is no trace of his body."

"Ms. Tigranian, that is well within the margin of error of a sensor schematic, especially one that is then exposed to such a powerful explosion immediately following," Grigsby replied. Laria got the distinct imperssion that Grigsby was quite nervous, but patronizing her to cover up his uncertainty.

"With respect, Sir," Laria said. "That may be within the margin of error of most sensor arrays, but not mine."

"Honestly," Hardnett said standing behind Grigsby, "You think you are better than every other sensor designer in Starfleet history?"

"Ma'am," Laria said standing up straight. "I don't think that I'm better, I know that I'm better."

"Now, listen here!" Hardnett said staring back at Laria. "I will not tolerate your arrogance or your disrespect towards me…"

"Cecily," Grigsby said raising his hand. "We have to remember that grief can sometimes overcome the better judgement of people." He turned back to Laria. "Please listen to reason, Lieutenant. If Captain Tigranian wasn't killed in the explosion, where did he 'disappear' to? Was it a dimensional shift? Subspace anomaly?"

"I can explain that, Sir," Laria said changing the data on the PADD. "He was beamed out of the cavern. I detected a transport scanning beam."

"That was the transport scanning beam from the Pershing," Grigsby said casually dismissing her claim.

"Sir, the Pershing's transport scanning beam operates in the L4 band at two and half terahertz. This beam was in the L2 at two terahertz. Now, it is identical to another transport scanning beam we encountered before, when I was abducted by Romulans last year. This, combined with the radiation we detected in the Evora Oxide conclusively link both the insurgency and the abduction of Captain Tigranian to the Romulan Star Empire. Starfleet has to know, Sir! This could be an act of war!"

"Stop," Grigsby said raising a hand. "First, radiation in explosives only means the explosives passed through Romulan territory. It doesn't mean the Romulans were involved. Second, why would the Romulans abduct Captain Tigranian? You're not making any sense," Grigsby said. "Now, I understand that you are still grieving the loss of your husband, but I cannot afford to have my science officer off on a wild goose chase when there's work to be done. I'm sorry, but I'm gonna have to order you to not pursue this any further. Starfleet Command has ruled that Captain Tigranian was killed in action, and we have to accept that and move on."

"I get it," Laria said shaking her head. "You're afraid that if we find out Daniel is alive, he'll get his ship back and you'll lose your command. You would rather let a man suffer in captivity than do the right thing. You are pathetic! You're not even worthy to say Daniel Tigranian's name aloud!"

"What did you say, Lieutenant!?" Hardnett shouted at her.

"I will not tolerate dissent on MY ship, Lieutenant," Grigsby said gritting his teeth. "Consider yourself confined to quarters until further notice. All ship to shore communication privileges are suspended…"

"You afraid I'm gonna take this evidence to Starfleet Command?"

"Shut your mouth!" Grigsby said slamming his hands on the desk and rising to his feet.

"Commander Hardnett, place an official letter of reprimand in Lieutenant Tigranian's file."

"With pleasure, Sir," Hardnett said.

"And you. If you open your mouth one more time, you'll be in the brig instead of your quarters. Now, get out of my ready room."

Laria snapped to attention and then exited.

Grigsby collapsed back down into his chair.

"She's not going to let this go, is she?" Grigsby said to Hardnett quietly.

"I do not believe so Sir. As long as she keeps throwing out these wild theories, the rest of the crew won't be willing to accept that we're now in charge. It is very dangerous."

"That gagh-eater was an embarrassment to Starfleet. It was bad enough to see so many qualified officers passed over so he could get this ship. I refuse to let that mistake be repeated."

"Understood clearly, Sir," Hardnett said nodding.

"Watch her. If she so much as breathes in the wrong direction, I want her confined to the brig until we can get her off this ship."

"Yes, Sir," Hardnett said smiling.

Laria charged straight through the bridge and towards the turbolift.

"L?" Phil asked from the helm. "What's wrong?"

"Everything!" Laria said entering the doors and disappearing. Katie looked over from Tactical and sighed.

"She came to me last night, Phil," Katie said looking over towards the closed doors of the ready room. The two of them were still alone on the bridge.

"Katie, what's going on?" Phil asked firmly.

"The less you know about it, the better."

The doors to the ready room opened and Commander Hardnett walked out. She walked over to the first officer's chair and took a seat.

"Ms. Stone?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Assign a security detail outside of Lieutenant Tigranian's quarters. Instruct them to keep her in her confined there no matter what. Any force necessary is authorized."

Alone in the turbolift, Laria stared at the wall. She knew what she had to do now. Starfleet be damned, it was up to her.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Ludus Gladiatorum of House Cronenii: Dacen Prime, Romulan Empire

Tigranian paced back and forth in his cell at the ludus awaiting Selonia's response. His armor and leather breeches were taken as soon as he arrived back from the arena. He hated having no real clothes, it made him feel more like an animal than a man. The least these Romulan bastards could do was let him cover himself.

There was commotion out in the corridor. He heard the sound of a key in the door's lock. He took in a deep breath and readied himself. He wasn't going down without a fight. The cell door flew open and four guards rushed in with clubs.

"Come at me!" Tigranian shouted as the first swung his stick. Tigranian managed to deflect his blow, but the other three were on top of him, striking with all their might. He felt the impacts all over his body. Eventually, he fell to the floor, covering his head and neck. Then, as rapidly as the onslaught started, it was over.

Tigranian forced open his eyes and saw the ornate hem of Selonia's gown walking towards him across the stone floor.

"Leave us." She said angrily.

"Mistress," one of the guards said worried.

"I SAID LEAVE US NOW!"

The guards hurried out into the corridor, shutting the door behind them. Tigranian felt bloodied and bruised, but he didn't think any bones were broken. He tried to lift himself to his feet, but a powerful kick from Selonia to his gut sent him falling back into the floor.

"That was quite a show you put on in the arena. The entire population of this planet is already calling for your execution. It will be weeks before you can re-enter the arena, and then only after you make the proper acts of contrition."

Tigranian tried standing again, but this time Selonia struck him on his lower back. The pain was sharp and he couldn't help but wince.

"When I want you stand, I will give you permission to stand!"

Tigranian spit blood onto the ground. Apparently, the beating had been worse than he thought.

"You are not in control of me."

Selonia chuckled.

"Perhaps, you're right. Perhaps I have been too lenient. I thought you were at least rational enough to understand that you have lost," she said still pacing back and forth in front of him.

"Defeat spurs the wise warrior to new victories," Tigranian said quoting the qeS'a' from memory.

"Victories?" she said stopping. "You still think you can win? Very well…"

She reached down and grabbed him by the throat. She pulled him to his feet, nearly crushing Tigranian's windpipe in the process. She released him and glared straight into his eyes.

"Fight me."

"What?" Tigranian managed to get out with a cough.

"I said, 'fight me,' Human. If you can knock me to the ground, you are free."

Tigranian stared blankly at the well-dressed woman in front of him. Selonia was nearly a head shorter than he was. It hardly seemed honorable to challenge her to combat, even if she had no honor of her own.

She slowly blinked from underneath her angled eyebrows.

"What are you waiting for?" Selonia said calmly. "Hit me. That is, if you want to see your wife and home again…"

Tigranian took several deep breaths.

"I said, 'what are you waiting for?" Selonia asked aggressively. "HIT ME!" Tigranian reared back and punched with all his might. His fist slammed into Selonia's face, and trickle of green blood started flowing from the corner of her mouth. She turned back towards him, a salacious grin on her face. "Not good enough."

Faster than Tigranian could see, she struck him in the stomach and then back-handed him across the face. He collapsed in a heap back to the ground.

"Get up!" she commanded. Tigranian's saw stars dancing in his vision. His hears rang painfully. He pushed himself back to his feet only to have Selonia push him backwards into the stone wall of the cell. She grabbed his throat once more and lifted him off the ground with one hand. His feet dangled helplessly as he struggled to breathe.

"You fool!" she spit at him through her gritted teeth. "Do you think I desire to possess you because of your strength? I AM ROMULAN! I have three times your strength, three times your speed, and three times your intelligence!" Tigranian began to black out as she cut off his air with her powerful grip. "The noble, passionate blood of the ancient Vulcan gods flows through my veins. If I desired, I could rip you in half and piss on your mangled corpse."

Tigranian still struggled, but he couldn't break free of her iron grip.

"No, Human, I desire you because you are arrogant enough to think you're strong when you…are…NOTHING! I want to remind you that I am your superior in every way. I want you to understand that no matter how much carnage you can wreak on the battlefield, in the stars, or at my command in the arena, you are only a plaything for my enjoyment! I want you to call me 'mistress' because you submit yourself to my will."

Tigranian gathered all his strength. He tensed his body and forced a breath into his lungs.

"I am not your plaything, I will never call you 'mistress,' and I will never submit!" he said before spitting blood into her face.

Selonia glared at him.

"Perhaps a demonstration is in order." She glanced over at the wooden shelf jutting from the far wall that served as Tigranian's bed. She carried him across the room, and slammed his back down on top of the planks. "I don't expect you to enjoy this, but I certainly will." She reached down and tore away the burlap around his waist like it was made of paper. Tigranian was naked and completely defenseless.

"I told you," she said releasing his throat just long enough for him to get the tiniest gasp of air, "That every breath you take would be in my service." She used her free hand to hike up her dress before climbing on top of him…

Until that night, Daniel Tigranian ardently believed that he could endure any agony that the universe could inflict on him, but the hollow, emotional agony that remained after Selonia's violation made him question everything.
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