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Altair System: Federation Space

A large bonfire crackled in the center of a stone platform. The tropical night sky twinkled above in an endless sea of black. The ancient stone ruins of a Klingon temple crumbled all around as vines, bushes, and trees slowly turned the once mighty Barrachkt Monastery back to wild jungle. At the edge of the firelight, the toppled statue of a warrior gazed eternally forward. A two-hundred kilo vIghro' cat rested on the Klingon's stone back with his paws planted firmly in front of him. The beast had its mouth open and let its tongue taste the air for its next meal. The flames sparkled across the hairy crest running along its back and the black stripes streaking its silver fur. In its glowing eyes, was the reflection of two fighters performing Mok'bara kata.

Tigranian and Katie, dressed in identical black gis, moved in perfect, silent unison. With their feet shoulder width apart, they slowly crouched down while extending their arms in front of them. When their palms reached chest height, they curled their fingers inward in a gesture reminiscent of the vIghro's claws. They crossed their wrists, raised their left foot off the ground, and then turned to their side. At the bottom of their crouch, they turned their palms outward, then punched forward with their right hand, followed by their left. Finally, they moved their right arms around their body to the crown of their heads with a large, circular motion. Then, they mirrored the motions to their other side. As the kata ended, they both took deep breaths and closed their eyes as they brought their hands back in front of their chest. The vIghro' roared from behind, apparently in approval.

"Alex isn't here to patch us up, anymore. There's no one here to stop things. Are you sure you're ready?" Tigranian said steadying himself on his feet.

Katie crouched low and held her claws in front of her.

"En'chA," she replied opening her eyes. Tigranian leapt towards her and threw out several punches as fast as he could. Katie threw up her arms in a series of blocks, each one attempting to gain a lock on the captain's exposed wrists. He rolled his torso from side to side to prevent her from gaining a grip on his limps. Suddenly, he threw a knee up from the ground and into her gut. Katie yelped with pain as Tigranian tried to follow up with another kick to her side. However, she managed to twist to the left and dodge his strike. With a yell, she curled her right hand into a fist and struck as hard as she could towards his head. Tigranian let the blow roll over his shoulder, grabbed her wrist and twisted his hips. Katie's chest was immediately exposed and Tigranian struck downward with a massive vIghro' claw strike right in the middle of her chest. She collapsed to the stone ground and coughed up a mass of blood.

The captain stared down into her eyes before raising his leg for a downward kick right into her face. Katie played opossum long enough for him to imbalance his stance. She kicked her legs out and trapped his lower limbs between her thighs. With a roll of her hips, Tigranian collapsed in a heap next to her. He tried to stand up, but a chop from Katie's hand landed directly on the bridge of his nose. He fell back down and momentarily clutched his shattered face in pain. They both climbed up to their feet and looked at each other in the burning fire light. Tigranian reached up, pinched one nostril closed, and blew a mix of blood and snot onto the ground next to him.

"That's gross," Katie said glancing down for a brief moment. Tigranian sneered as he ripped off his gi top and threw it aside. "For future reference, it's bad form to hit a girl in the tits, Sir."

"You said you wanted full contact," he replied as blood streamed down the sides of his face.

"And I meant it," Katie said ripping off her own shirt. Tigranian could see a massive bruise forming under her sports bra where his blow landed.

"SuH?" he asked taking in a few more labored breaths.

"jaH," Katie said with a nod. They charged at each other again raining large circular blows like animals attempting to maul each other.

She had grown up training for competition, but this was street Mok'bara. It was a fight meant to cripple opponents and see who could handle the most pain. Since her loss to Zhenia Scharr, she had wanted to broaden her fighting styles, and asked the captain to train her in Klingon martial arts. However, after several months, she told him she was tired of learning his pretty poses and meditative stances. She wanted him to start teaching her combat Klingon fighting: the stuff that turned a person into a living weapon. Tonight, she was getting a real lesson.

She threw a paw at the side of his head, but he ducked it and trapped her arm under his elbow. She attempted to break loose by throwing another strike with her left hand, but he was able to trap it as well. Tigranian pulled Katie into his chest and locked his palms together at the base of her spine. He leaned his full body weight down on top of her and she was trapped. The captain started striking with his knees into both sides of her chest and was literally beating the breath out of her body. She tried to scream, but all she could feel was pain and shattering bone.

In desperation, she flung her head like a mace and slammed her forehead into his bleeding nose. Tigranian nearly blacked out from the pain and his grip released. Katie dropped low to land a punch to his solar plexus, but he threw his arms wide and landed a double vIghro' claw strike to both sides of her head. She began to black out into unconsciousness. Tigranian raised another strike to finish her, but Katie suddenly threw an uppercut with all her remaining strength into his groin. Tigranian screamed with a high pitched yowl and collapsed to the ground holding his manhood. When Katie saw he was incapacitated she fell down next to him.

"I think I'm done, Sir…" she said laying on her back and staring up at sky.

"Me too…" Tigranian croaked while still shaking from the last attack. The vIghro' cat licked his lips and rose to a crouch expecting an easy dinner. Katie moved her head and stared at it.

"Don't even think about it, Skraal," she said as blood continued to drip from the corners of her mouth. "Go back to sleep."

The vIghro' growled, yawned, and rested its head on its massive forelegs.

"My nose is definitely broken," Tigranian said rolling onto his back as the pain finally began to subside in his nether regions.

"So are my ribs," Katie said laboring a bit to breathe. "I don't remember those knee strike things being a part of your instruction."

"I admit," he said trying to cock his head to prevent blood from his sinuses dripping down his throat. "I might have stolen that move from one of Scharr's Ushaan manuals." He took another deep breath. "You also said you wanted to talk tonight…Let's talk."

"Now?" Katie said as her broken body started to agonizingly stiffen.

"No time like the present," Tigranian replied still bleeding internally.

"I'm getting married in two weeks," Katie said dropping her head back to the stones. "And I'm freaking out about it."

"Don't you think Annabeth might be able to give you better advice?" Tigranian said. "After all, I've always been a groom and never a bride."

"A rule I've always lived by, Sir," she said, "is that I prefer to take advice from someone who can fight almost as good as me."

"Almost?" Tigranian replied.

"Take it as a compliment, Sir," she said. "That's the best you're gonna get."

"Ok," he said fighting to not pass out, "what are you freaking out about?"

"I don't know," Katie said, "Phil is a great guy…"

"I sense a 'but' coming…" Tigranian replied.

"But he's nothing like the man I thought I would marry," she said. "He puts on this cocky fighter pilot shtick to make people think he's a tough guy, but in reality, he's such a nerd."

Tigranian started laughing but the pain immediately caused him to clutch his shattered face.

"I'm serious, Sir," Katie said. "I don't know if I can spend the rest of my life talking about old television shows and the handling characteristics of ancient aircraft run by dinosaur juice."

"What would you be doing instead with the man of your dreams?"

"I never said Phil wasn't the main of my dreams," Katie muttered defensively.

"No, but you implied it," Tigranian continued. "Seriously, what would you rather be doing?"

"I don't know," Katie said still lying flat on her back, "hiking, surfing, swimming, planning workouts we want to do, watching shitty movies made for people with an eighth grade reading level, getting into fights like this…"

"Katie, no one should ever get in a fight like this…" Tigranian muttered.

"Sir…" she said cocking her head over to glare at him.

"Do you love him?" Tigranian said out of the blue.

"What?" she asked.

"It's a simple question, do you love him? Check 'yes' or 'no.'"

"Of course I love him," Katie said like it was obvious.

"Then you have your answer," Tigranian replied as if it was equally obvious. "Katie, a marriage is fun, but it is also a lot of work and constant compromise. Some days you get to go to the holodeck and fight a horde of space monsters with a bat'leth. Others, it's helping your wife edit her science paper on quantum varices inside the event horizons of black holes."

"Or watching your fiancée do an engine lube job on a MK XVI Spitfire from World War II…"

"Phil can do that?" Tigranian said raising his head enough to show a hint of surprise. "I had no idea he was so good with his hands."

"He is definitely talented in the manual manipulation department…" Katie replied. It was her turn to laugh, but she immediately grasped her ribs and writhed with pain. "And he never seems to lose patience when I can't decide what to eat for dinner…"

"An important skill," Tigranian said.

"How do you handle it, Sir?" Katie finally asked.

"Handle what?"

"Handle when the person you love just seems so far away at times, but you still want to drop everything and be with them? Even if it means putting yourself in a position you're scared to be in."

"I go to the holodeck and fight one of my other officers," Tigranian replied. His senses had been driving him crazy all night. Somehow, he knew Laria was in danger, but there was nothing he could do to help. It was a nightmare. "Sometimes, you just have to tell yourself that your needs come second, and you have to let them do what they must whether it's their job, their family obligations, or just plain what they want."

"That can't be easy," Katie muttered.

"It's not…" Tigranian replied. "But it's the price we pay for being with the person we were meant to be with." Suddenly, Tigranian looked very concerned. "I just lost feeling in my legs…" he said.

"Yeah," Katie said. "I can't feel my fingertips either."

"Computer, activate intercom." Tigranian said towards the sky. "Tigranian to Doctor Katan."

"Katan here, Sir. Is everything alright?"

"Not really, Kinzo," Tigranian replied. "Medical Emergency on Holodeck One. Bring two stretchers. There's no way we're walking out of here."

There was a pause on the other end.

"I'm on my way…" Katan said. Tigranian could hear the man rolling his eyes from three decks away.


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