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Part of USS Atlantis: What Price for Peace and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

What Price for Peace – 9

Handl Dryf - The Pit
March 2401
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The sound of sand grinding underfoot against a metal floor.

Her own breathing.

That one piece of hair that had just fallen over her vision.

The Klingon warrior five meters from her wielding a bat’leth with the intent to win this fight.

All of these things Adelinde Gantzmann noticed far more than the hooting and hollering, the screams for violence in over a dozen different languages. None of that noise mattered right now.

As much as the fight was going to be physical, to start with it would be mental. She and Hor’keth had started their circling, their judgements and assessments. She was confident he would tire of this first and strike. He would test her, bringing curved sword upon her shield a few times, learn the obvious disadvantages of the length of her spear and the size of her shield against his weapon. Learn the advantage the shield would grant in defence, the spear in striking distance.

She practised with these. She fought someone who preferred shorter weapons, to get in close. She practised against simulations of the sundry melee weapons of a half-dozen worlds for fun. She knew the weapons she’d brought were meant for a particular type of fighting.

She watched Hork’keth for just a moment more, noticing his attention on the shield, a slightly quizzical look. And smiled in response. He never reacted, his attention on the shield.

The upside-down shield.

It was round, with the Starfleet Academy logo indicating a definitive top and a bottom. She’d been holding it at her side, out of view of him. Raising it had shown him the logo, purposefully held incorrectly just to confuse him. To buy her the precious moments she needed for her assessments before he came to the same conclusions.

There would be no probing, no working out what to do against someone clearly more interested in defence or holding him at range. He’d have to figure it all out while being on the defence himself.

She charged forward, just enough to lunge the spear tip forward, to force him into some sort of defence. He opted for a short leap to the side, then brought the bat’leth down in a sweep at the haft of the spear, the clang of metal on metal betraying the lightweight but sturdy all-metal construction. But before he could try anything he was forced to raise the weapon in defence against her directly as she charged in with the shield held at chest height. Bat’leth met aspis and the crowd went wild.

“Ha!” Hor’keth cried. “She has fight in her!” His eyes were wide, his mouth contoured in a rictus, baring his teeth in joy.

She opted to respond with a short jump back, opening the distance, pulling her arm back as far as she could and sweeping the spear sideways low. Either Hor’keth had been slow to react or to notice as she cut through the fabric of his left leg, slicing flesh and drawing pink Klingon blood.

That riled the crowd up.

That riled Hor’keth up.

“Tricorder ready Doc?” Tikva asked, not taking her eyes off the fight. She’d just seen Lin draw blood, then whether a barrage of sweeping attacks from Hor’keth. Both fighters were moving rapidly, both falling into a rhythm with each other.

“Always,” Terax replied. He hadn’t checked though. It would be a few minutes for Mitchell and his team to beam out of the worst parts of the station to a nearby location and then make their way to the Pit. “There,” the Edosian said as pointed into the crowd. “And there.” Another hand pointed out a different individual.

Both groups he was pointing at were a few levels up from the front-row seats, but both stood out once identified. They looked out of place with their very obvious officers and security details mixed in with the common populace of Handl Dryf that could afford to be here.

“Our Romulan contacts,” Tikva said with a sigh. “Great. Fantastic first impression. This just got complicated.”

“Oh?” Terax asked.

“Lin loses and Starfleet looks weak. Probably kiss the Free State goodbye. She wins and I end up having to ride herd on Klingon-Romulan relations to make sure snide remarks don’t restart the whole Velorum crisis, but at least we look strong because we’ve –“

“Brought the Klingons under control?” Terax finished the thought for her.

“Klingons and Romulans –“

Terax cut her off for the second time, this time with mirth and a very rare smile for the doctor. “And Tholians oh my.”

“Now you tell jokes?” Tikva asked as she turned to look at Terax, an eyebrow raised and a very unamused look on her face.

“I have a very black sense of humour.” His defence wasn’t particularly strong in the face of such disappointment but was mercifully saved by the sound of the door to the waiting room creaking open and the entire Hazard Team Silver pouring in, a few sporting the start of some very interesting bruises.

“Report,” Tikva demanded, finally turning her back on the fight taking place in the Arena after a pause and a deep breath.

She’s got this.

She shouldn’t have to be fighting the Klingon.

I should be the one fighting him. Not like we haven’t already lost an arm and a leg before.

We got played, now suck it up and deal with the other problems.

“We encountered a Founder while looking into Lieutenant Ch’tkk’va’s potential sentient smuggling ring.” Mitchell was straight to the point at least. With a brief nod the team’s medic, Amber Leckie, stepped forward and offered her vial of Changeling for inspection.

Terax’s tricorder was barely over the sample before he snapped the instrument closed. “That’s a Changeling all right. And out of time and place. The quantum signature matches the data from Caliburn.”

Tikva merely nodded once in acceptance of that finding. “Where’s the Founder?”

“Escaped,” Amber reported before her commander could, with a scowl that could that fended off the Dominion invasion of the Deneb Sector by itself. “Sorry sir,” she then immediately offered to Mitchell before stepping back, earning a wink from Rosa, a small nod from Brek and Tikva noticed the slight grin from Stirling.

“As Ensign Leckie said ma’am, they escaped into the air vents. Could be anywhere on the station, or off the station by now.”

“Founders can’t resist a chance to infiltrate power structures.” She knew she was operating on good and bad documentaries, histories of various qualities and all the reports she’d been able to dig up and read since they’d received their more details orders only a few days ago. She didn’t know the validity of that statement, but it presented the illusion of certainty.

“Stirling,” she said after a moment, eyes having gone to the floor while she thought. “Brief Silver Team in full. Lieutenant Mitchell, your team are taking point on any security-related issues until further notice. I trust all of you have ways of verifying who you say you are to each other without needing blood tests?”

“Plenty of embarrassing training accidents we don’t put in reports ma’am,” Mitchell reassured her.

She merely nodded then turned away from the hazard team, letting Mitchell take his people back past the door, to let Stirling brief them while she turned her attention back to the fight.

There was pain, numbness, and a slick feeling running down her left leg.

It was matched by the expression on Hor’keth’s face, the pink-purple staining his uniform, and the way he was favouring his left and holding his weapon in a less precise manner.

She’d got him in the shoulder, the arm, the thigh, all on his left. He’d butted her in the face with the grip of his weapon, slashed at her leg below the line of her shield, and slashed at her shield arm after a feint.

Klingons had staying power. She did not. Her grip was loosened on the shield’s strap momentarily, shaking her arm, trying to get feeling back and to test her grip. Both of them were using the short reprieve to test themselves as such. What moved, what didn’t, what hurt, what didn’t, what was numb? What did the opponent look to be favouring?

She shuffled her hand around the spear, working her grip slightly differently. With a flick of her chin, an acknowledgement to Hor’keth, then she struck while he was returning the gesture. The spear leapt from her hand in a short but powerful throw. He flicked his bat’leth in defence, sending the weapon skittering to the ground. But she’d followed it herself. Grip tight on her shield, she ducked just behind it, she charged, rushing him. The collision shook through her as she carried him to the ground with an audible gasp, hearing his weapon go sliding away.

But while he went flat on his back, she’d started this after all and at the last moment added a forward jump. It carried her down on top of him and she mercilessly took advantage, slamming the shield in his face two, three, four times before quickly rolling off of him, discarding her shield and scrambling for her spear not too far off.

When she spun around to face him, getting one foot on the ground and resting on the opposite knee, she swung the tip right at his face. She could see now she’d broken his nose, maybe a cheekbone as well. He was dazed, his face awash in blood. He reached for the spear, but she flicked the weapon around in a disengagement, slow by her standards but fast enough. He swiped once more, she disengaged and he fell back onto his back.

He was breathing, panting, chuckling even as she struggled to her feet and levelled the spearhead at him once more. “Yield,” she demanded.

The crowd had finally gone quiet.

“I,” he got out, coughed, then spat out some blood, before reaching up to his mouth and ignoring the weapon pointed at him as he patiently pulled a tooth out and flicked it into the distance, “am glad you are on my side.”

“Am I?” she demanded, half-stepping forward to present the spear tip once more. “Am I?”

“I surrender to the better fighter,” he got out, with a fair bit of volume. “I am yours to command.”

“I should have brought a doctor,” Hor’keth would concede just a few minutes later in one of the preparations rooms off the arena. He was sat on one of the benches, being seen to by Terax and watched over by his second, who had introduced himself as First Officer Kor’met.

“You shouldn’t have fought this fight,” Terax chided. “But you’ll live.” He hadn’t bothered at any point to tell Hor’keth that anything would hurt or to use an anaesthetic. Just went about treating the man’s injuries in as blunt a manner as possible.

“Are we settled then?” Tikva asked.

Hor’keth chuckled. “I’ll spend the next day or two having to beat a few of the stubborn heads in, but we’re good now Captain. Those officers saw me beaten and concede, saw me commit to follow your Lieutenant Commander Gantzmann. They’ll tell their crews soon enough. I suspect my reputation will have taken a beating in all of this.” He chuckled once more, then winced in pain briefly.

“Politics demands unorthodox concessions.” Kor’met’s voice was softer than any of them had expected of the man. “But the Captain has loyal men who will ensure no unfortunate attempts are made on his life.”

“You’ll want to check those men and women twice over,” Tikva said, producing the vial of Changeling and showing it to the Klingons and the Adelinde as well. “We can’t assume there is just the one on the station.”

With a string of curses, Hor’keth got himself to his feet. “Keep that,” he indicated to the vial. “You’ll need it to convince the Romulans.”

“You saw them?”

“No, but I suspected and you just confirmed.” He turned to Adelinde then, holding out his hand for her, grasping her arm when she returned the gesture. “You fought well and without mercy when required. We have spilt blood with the intent of forming an alliance here today. As far as I am concerned, you are now my blood sister.”

“And you my blood-brother,” Lin responded.

Silence hung over the room and then Hor’keth and Kor’met both departed and as they did so Silver team poured back in.

“The Romulans can wait till tomorrow,” Tikva declared. “Let’s get back to the ship before anything else happens.”

“Uh, before that,” Rosa spoke up, raising a hand like she was addressing a classroom. “Commander Gantzmann, your share.” She stepped forward with a small pouch, clattering with the sound of metal.

“Share?” Lin asked.

“Lieutenant Mackeson gambled some currency we recovered from the Founder we fought and made a bet on the fight when we arrived. The Ferengi adjusters did not favour a human female over a Klingon male.” Brek’s explanation was perfunctory and dry.

“Pretty sure that exploiting misogyny should be a Rule of Acquisition,” Rosa said with a smile.


  • Unknown Author

    Definitely an interesting battle to witness. It must have taken so much time and effort to write out an entire hand-to-hand combat scene. Absolutely admirable!

    May 27, 2023
  • "Now you tell jokes?" "I have a very black sense of humour." Oh, Terax just keeps creeping along in the background, better and better in every scene. I know you were worried about the combat and how to depict it, but it was great - just enough detail, and far more about developing Lin as a character than worrying about the particulars. We see her cunning tricks with the upside-down shield, with using a moment of respite to exploit a weakness, but then she's ruthless on the follow through. It's rare we get these kinds of raw moments with characters, and this absolutely delivered. It's a simple plot beat - Klingon challenges, Klingon loses, Klingon plotline resolved, but the strength of the characters involved, from Hor'keth to Lin to Tikva, really sells it wonderfully. And the changelings continue as a little rustling background problem, liable to rear their head again when the time is worst. You've set up the Romulans delightfully, too, and it's a sign of Tikva's brains that she's thinking two steps ahead with the negative implications of winning OR losing against Hor'keth. Silver Team are also a delight throughout, from their more clear-cut adventures to just exploiting misogyny for profit - good eggs. Great stuff!

    May 28, 2023
  • Awesome story mcgig. The only downside for me is I lost or didn't get the sense of time in the pit fight scene. Maybe because it was broken up with the side conversation. Just maybe how my brain works though as the story in it's entirety was excellent and well written. I enjoy reading the Atlantis stories as they are well thought out and written and there is so many stories with in the stories that make your storytelling such a good and captivating read.

    June 3, 2023