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Five Light Years from Atbar Prime: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 52983.6

“Alright,” Katie said walking across the mat on the floor of the Pershing’s starboard holodeck. She was dressed in a bright white gi and pleated, black hakama pants. “The ability to defend yourself is extremely important. We’re in a dangerous line of work, and you could find yourself in a rough situation without a phaser very easily.”

About twenty students, including Annabeth, Alex, and Laria, were gathered around her. They were dressed in their own white uniforms, and intently listening to every word. Katie’s self-defense course had become Wednesday morning’s most popular onboard event.

“The key to effective fighting is using as little effort as possible to do maximum damage to your opponent. It’s amazing how much you can do by using their own energy against them. Computer, activate Stone Sparring Opponent Level 1.”

A large human male appeared on the mat next to her.

“The most likely way you are likely to be attacked is from behind.” She turned her back to the hologram and announced, “Begin Program.” The human charged from behind and tried to wrap his arm around her neck. Effortlessly, Katie locked the hologram’s arm inside her own, used its momentum to heave it over her shoulder, and sent it careening into the mat. “Now, the key here is to maintain control of the wrist…” she said holding the hologram’s arm vertically, “because then all I have to do is come down with just my body weight.” She dropped her knee directly onto the hologram’s elbow which snapped with a loud crack. Everyone winced as her practice dummy started screaming. “Computer Reset Opponent.” The figure disappeared and re-appeared in its original stance.

“Another possibility is the direct frontal attack. You never want to try to stand still and take the force. Remember, redirect their energy as simply as you can. Computer, Begin Program.” The human charged directly at her and threw a punch. Katie raised her hands in front of her, gently deflecting the blow as she stepped to the side. With a gentle move of her right foot, she knocked her opponent’s feet from under him. The hologram fell backwards into her left knee before dropping to the mat unconscious.

“But what if the opponent is a lot bigger and stronger than you are? Won’t they just grab you and toss you around?” asked a female crewman standing next to Alex.

“That’s actually a really common fear among the women I train. They think that they’re at a real disadvantage in those situations. The reality is, the bigger the opponent, the easier it is to hurt them. They have to use more energy to come at you which is more energy you can use against them,” Katie replied.

No one paid much attention to Captain Tigranian, already in duty uniform, as he walked onto the holodeck and leaned against a wall to watch.

“Computer, activate Stone Sparring Opponent Level 5.” The unconscious human on the ground disappeared, and three fully grown Nausciaans surrounded Katie. Each one was at least a meter taller and 75 kilograms heavier than her.

“There’s no way!” Laria whispered to Annabeth off to the side of the mat.

“Just watch,” Annabeth said.

“Computer, Begin Program.” The first Nausicaan charged forward and attempted to wield his fist like a hammer to a nail. Katie side-stepped again, grabbed his wrist, and flipped him over onto his back. A quick strike to his face with her heel put him out of commission just in time for her to duck underneath the punch of the second Nausicaan. Katie raised her palms in front of her as he reared back for another strike. Effortlessly, she redirected his arm underneath her own, locking it with her elbows. A minor shift of her weight sent him flying down into the mat as well. The final Nausicaan attempted to grab her around the waist. She reached up behind his neck, dropped to one knee, and sent him tumbling down like a sack of dirt. He hit his head with his full body weight and went limp.

Everyone in the crowd starting applauding. Tigranian stood in the back with a smile on his face.

“Computer, delete opponents. Never underestimate yourself or what you can do with the right training. Now, let’s pair off and start practicing some of the wrist locks were learned last week.”

The rest of her students started their drills. Katie started coaching them while Annabeth walked over to the Captain.

“She’s really good,” Annabeth said to Tigranian.

“I can see that,” he said with a grin. “She was the Academy champion two years in a row…”

“Three years in a row, actually, Sir,” Katie said walking over to the pair. “You know, Sir, there’s always room for one more here if you’re interested.”

“No thanks,” he said with a chuckle. “I prefer training on my own.”

“You’re a Mok’Bara grand master, aren’t you?” Katie said curiously.

“Just a master,” Tigranian, said shaking his head. “Never been able to get past chenmoH’Itlh.”

“Fought a lot of different styles over the years, but never met anyone proficient in Klingon martial arts. Really like to spar. I think it would be good for them to see too, she said pointing to the others.”

“I don’t know,” Tigranian said skeptically.

“Sir, c’mon. You aren’t scared are you?” Katie said trying to edge him on.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Katie,” Annabeth said turning towards her.

“No, Commander,” Tigranian said unzipping his jacket and removing his boots. “Now, I’m curious, myself.” Katie grinned from ear to ear.

“Alright everybody!” Katie announced to the class. “We have a special guest today. Captain Tigranian is going to help me demonstrate some interstellar mixed martial arts. Circle around.” Everyone cheered and gathered around the mat.

Tigranian stood across from Katie.

“Don’t hold anything back, Sir,” she said looking him in the face. He nodded in reply.

Suddenly, they lunged at each other. Katie grabbed the captain’s wrist and sent him flying into the mat. She dropped a knee into his chest and raised her fist into the air.

“Dammit, Sir,” she whispered. “I told you, don’t hold anything back. I’m trying to teach them what it’s like to be in a real fight. They need to see it…” She dropped her fist and offered him a hand.

“Ok,” he said grabbing her hand. They took their positions again. This time, Tigranian closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Gracefully, he extended his right leg behind him, and leaned his weight onto his left foot. In a circular motion, he brought his arms around over his head, placing his palms facing up and down directly in front of his chest. His fingers curled like a sabre bear’s claws. Katie placed her own hands, palms out, in front of her.

“Are you ready, Sir?” she asked confidently. Tigranian slowly opened his eyes.

“En’chA,” he replied before flying forward, striking at Katie with large circular blows. She used her hands to deflect his strikes, but was unable to get a hold of him this time. Finally, he reared back and struck her face with an open palm strike. She flew backwards several feet. A slow trickle of blood began from the corner of her mouth. She grinned as she wiped it away with the back of her sleeve.

“Better?” he said calmly.

“Much,” she said before charging forward again. This time, she was on the offensive. Punching, kicking, throwing elbows, all at full speed.

“They’re going to kill each other!” Laria said to Alex and Annabeth.

“They know what they’re doing…” Annabeth replied just as Katie sent a knee flying into Tigranian’s stomach. He doubled forward as Katie backhanded him across the face. He saw stars and tasted blood, but kept fighting.

“Are you sure?” Alex said raising an eyebrow.

Before she could get him a headlock, Tigranian spun around and attempted a strike into her side. Katie dropped to the mat and somersaulted sideways, barely avoiding a nasty set of broken ribs.

She jumped back to her feet, spun around, and roundhouse kicked to Tigranian’s head. He deflected it, and attempted another palm strike with his left hand, but Katie had learned from her last mistake. She raised her palms and deflected its energy sideways, allowing herself to get a grip on his wrist. Before she could throw him, Tigranian wrapped his lower leg around her heel, effectively locking the two them together. With a pair of screams, both reared back with their right fists.

“That’s enough!” Annabeth yelled from the sideline.

Katie and Tigranian paused, both breathing heavily. Suddenly, they both started laughing. The captain threw his arms around Katie and gave her a big hug.

“Great job,” he said.

“You too, Sir,” she replied as the assembled crowd breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Alright, everybody,” that’s all the time we have for this week, but I’ll see you next Wednesday. Be sure you practice Forms 1 and 2 on your own so we can test out on them.” As the rest of the students dispersed, Annabeth and Alex stepped up to Katie and the captain.

“Don’t you think that was a little much?” Annabeth asked.

“Not at all,” Tigranian said placing his hands on his hips. “I really needed that.”

“You have got to teach me that circular move you need with your arms, Sir. That was awesome!” Katie said reaching for her water bottle. Her mouth was still bleeding and she was walking with a pronounced limp.

“It’s called way’gho,” Tigranian said with another smile. “It lets you carry straight into majQa’.” He suddenly realized his left eye was starting to swell shut. He finally let himself wince. “But you’re pretty good in the strike department already.”

“Ok, ok,” Alex said walking up to the two of them. “You can talk about ways to injure each other later, but right now the both of you get to sick bay, Chief Medical Officer’s orders.”

Half an hour later, Katie and Tigranian sat meekly on a biobed next to each other like children in the school nurse’s office after a fight.

“You’re both pretty lucky,” Alex said putting away her dermal regenerator. “I’m a fantastic doctor, but a terrible dentist. Two centimeters to the right or left and both of you would be walking around without front teeth.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Katie said sarcastically. Tigranian chuckled.

“Despite my best efforts, you’re probably both gonna be a little bit sore tomorrow.”

“Not the first time, and won’t be the last…” Tigranian said cheerfully. Alex just grumbled.

“Captain,” the intercom came to life. “Priority One Message from Admiral Murphy at Starfleet Command.”

Tigranian tapped the communicator on his chest. “I’ll take it in my ready room.” He turned to Alex, “Unless…”

“Oh we’re done here,” she replied with a look. Tigranian hopped off the bed and walked out the doors.

“I need a shower,” Katie said stepping down.

“Yes, you do.” Alex said with a laugh.

* * * *

An hour later, the senior staff assembled in the ward room behind the bridge for their daily meeting. Taking their seats at the conference table, Katie was still bragging to Phil about the fight.

“I would have had him,” Katie said confidently.

“Really?” Alex said cocking her head to one side. “Because I was standing right there, and it looked like you about to render each other unconscious.”

“Been punched in the face plenty of times and kept going before,” Katie said proudly. “Laria, back me up on this.”

“Oh no, not getting involved,” Laria said raising both hands in the air.

Tren Scharr, the Pershing’s chief engineer chuckled to himself at the end of the table.

“Obviously, Lieutenant,” you’ve never been punched by an Andorian before. “Back home, we train by shattering blocks of ice with our bare hands.”

“Which I’m sure is very useful if you ever have to get in a fight with a snowman, Sir.” Phil laughed and Annabeth just shook her head.

Suddenly, the doors opened and Captain Tigranian walked in.

“The Captain,” Annabeth said as everyone climbed to their feet.

“As you were,” Tigranian said taking his seat at the head of the table with his ubiquitous mug of raktajino.

“Lieutenant Stone was just regaling us with the story of your mighty battle this morning, Sir,” Annabeth said as everyone took their seats again.

“Really?” Tigranian said taking a sip of his coffee. “I’ll be sure to have her tell me what really happened when we have time.” He flashed Katie a smile which was returned with a grin. “However, duty finally calls!” Tigranian punched a few keys on the control panel in front of him. The image of a star system appeared on the holoscreen on the wall.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Telarak, a gas giant located twenty five light years from here. One of its moons is Class M…barely…and supports a small native population of sentient lifeforms in a few scattered settlements. Before the war, Telarak was a rather unremarkable Cardassian possession, a stop-over on the Lissapian and Ventaxian trade routes between Cardassia Prime and Romulus, with only a minor presence of constabulary militia. However, after its occupation by Romulan forces, it has since become a major military transportation hub due to its proximity to the Romulan frontier as well as large deposits of meladium gas located in the atmosphere of the gas giant…”

“I’m sorry, Sir, meladium gas?” Phil asked. “I’ve never heard of it.” Tigranian glanced over at Laria who picked up on her cue.

“It’s a rare molecular compound that’s not very common in most warp-capable societies. However, the unique characteristics of the Romulan D’Deridex class warbird’s quantum singularity drive means the ship requires it as a stabilizing agent. It is one of the few substances that can absorb Hawking Radiation without being ionized and the Romulans use it as a sort of ‘control rod’ in their warp drives…”

“I knew there was a reason we kept her around,” Phil said causing Laria to blush.

“I keep her around because all you know how to do is drive, Phil, and not very well at that,” Tigranian said taking another sip of raktajino. The whole table laughed before getting back to the topic at hand. “The Telarak system has since become the home of a Romulan gas mining station, a small space dock, and a garrison of about 800 legionnaires in the moon’s primary settlement. It is also the base of operations for one of the Romulans’ occupational governors, Promagistrate Kival…”

“As you’ve said, Sir,” Scharr interjected himself. “Telarak is in the Romulan Zone. Why does it concern us?”

“And that brings me to the point, Mr. Scharr,” Tigranian continued. “According to Article X of the Treaty of Bajor, all surplus Dominion, Cardassian, and Breen weapons and munitions are to be immediately collected by Occupation Authorities and turned over to the Central Authority on Cardassia Prime for registration and disposal. Telarak, however, has been turning over a surprisingly low amount of weaponry for the amount of Dominion activity that occurred in that sector…”

“They think Kival might be skimming off the top? Selling weapons on the black market?” Katie asked.

“Yes, but Starfleet can’t prove it. They’ve lodged two separate requests for an official inquiry to the Romulan Senate, but predictably, nothing has been done. Apparently, Kival is pretty well connected with the Tal Shiar.”

“And I’m guessing Starfleet Intelligence wants us to find a way to prove it,” Alex said.

“How?” Annabeth said concerned. “Even with the cloaking device as soon as we activate transporters, Romulan sensors will detect the signature, and I doubt they’ll let a Federation Runabout just park at the spaceport without being watched like a hawk…”

“We’re making a quick stop at Cardassia Prime. The Field Office in the Federation Embassy has acquired a small, civilian cargo shuttle. We’ll launch it just outside of their sensor nets and it will take in the three-man away team.”

“Who exactly is on this away team?” Katie asked.

“Well, you of course,” Tigranian continued.

“Naturally,” Katie replied with more than a bit of smugness.

“Then, there’s Laria.”

“Me?!” she asked surprised. “What value to espionage do I possibly have?”

“The team needs an experienced sensor operator to use the listening devices Intelligence is also providing us with. You’re the best I got.”

“Who’s the third member of this away team?” Annabeth asked, concerned she already knew the answer.

“Me,” Tigranian said. Annabeth sighed in frustration.

“Sir, you do realize there are at least half a dozen Starfleet regulations that I’m required to remind you of about captains not going on risky away missions?”

“Save your breath, Commander,” he replied. “I can handle myself pretty damn well.”

“I knew this assignment was going to be fun…” Annabeth said trailing off.

“Where do we start, Sir?” Katie asked.

“Not far from the headquarters building there’s a local watering hole pretty popular with the Soldiers. Since the Romulans moved in, it’s been re-named, ‘The Raptor’s Claw.”

“What makes Starfleet Intelligence think that Kival is doing these transactions in a bar?” Scharr asked incredulously.

“Because, Mr. Scharr,” Tigranian said matter-of-factly, “it’s a known front for the Orion Syndicate.”


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