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A man sat in the dingy bar, doing his best to ignore the other patrons around him. His focus was the center of the sphere of zero-g atmosphere in front of him. Ardons VI was known for its bars, its bars were known for their patrons, and their patrons were known for their "rare" cargo. Some of that cargo was writhing in the center of the viewing sphere, doing its best to be noticed.
Orion animal women were said to be the one of the few commodities in the galaxy that no man could resist. Three of them were twisting and dancing in the center of the arena, offering a glimpse of their full abilities to the eager patrons of the bar. Already, several small purple laser lights were coming down from the private booths around the viewing area. As the girls caught each light, they slowly gravitated toward the patron in the booth for a "private dance." The old man toyed with his laser, almost tempted to use it. He'd spent a month on this miserable planet, establishing a reputation as a gambler and trader with a generous supply of latinum. Purchasing some company was also one of his reputed "pastimes."
He tugged lightly at the neck of his shirt. The outfit he wore was casual, but deceptively efficient. His muscles were hard under his shirt, his face set with hard lines, his eyes sharp and fierce. He sipped his drink slowly, waiting for his "usual" He wasn't long in waiting; she emerged from the slave hole right on time. Orion women were trained to dance as early as age seven. This one had shown high intelligence and her master had begun her training at 5. The man had been soliciting her company for almost his entire length of stay, and had become quite familiar with her history.
In Orion terms, she was a prime commodity, with both zeal and professionalism. In Ferengi terms, she was a property new enough to have a novel markup, yet experienced enough to ensure quality equity. In human terms, she was a talented gymnast for a girl barely thirteen.
It made him sick to watch any of them; however it broke his heart to watch her. She bore a passing resemblance to one of his daughters, and seeing her in this condition tore at his sense of right and wrong. She dutifully ignored the lights of the other patrons, doing as both her master and he had instructed. Her master's instruction was to drive up the price offer. His instruction was to guarantee her service. He counted off the seconds in his mind and turned his light towards her. She spotted it instantly and glided with grace and practiced ease up to his booth, causing dissatisfied grunts from a booth elsewhere in the bar. It took her only a few moments to reach his high perch. He preferred the upper booths, where the music was reduced from a mind-numbing pounding, to a mere annoyance. Now they could talk.
"You wish me?" she asked playfully, knowing full well he always requested her specifically.
"I do," he said, smiling. He held up a padd and she pressed her thumbprint against it. She was now his for a short time.
"Do you remember our last meeting?" he asked, sitting back and motioning out of the booth for more food and drink.
"Yes. Before I sleep I do what you say. I remember most of what you said," she replied. Her language skills were higher than most Orion girls. Slaves, as a rule, were not to be educated. The man had appreciated her mind as much as her body the moment he saw her. He'd been careful to let his search be discreet, but now it was paying off.
"Good girl," he said trying not to sound too doting. He procured his padd again, and again she pressed her thumb against it. "One more," he offered, nearly crushed to see the delight in her eyes at having time to rest. Slaves danced, and slept; occasionally they ate. They were worked hard and took any time to rest as being more precious than latinum.
A waiter brought him his usual order and set it on the table, casting a glance the girl's way. He leaned over to the man as if to inform him of the contents of his order. "If you desire others of her...status...I can accommodate you for a reasonable price," he said and smiled knowingly.
The man smiled back and held out his hand. The waiter passed him an isolinear chip which, the man suspected, contained the waiter’s "wares" and their prices. He made a note to himself to see to this man's arrest personally.
Dismissing the waiter he turned back to his guest who was already eating quickly. Noting that he was watching her she immediately reverted to training and began acting as seductive as possible with her meal. Remembering his personal preferences though, she sat up straight, and gingerly picked up the utensils and began to eat slowly and daintily. The man smiled approvingly.
"I perform to your liking Master?" she asked with a mixture of hopefulness and fear. He had never raised a hand to her, even when she attempted to force her abilities upon him, as her training instructed her to do. Still, her fear was deeply ingrained from previous experience. What disturbed him was not the look on her face, but when she called him by that title. She did it because he had paid for her for that fragment of time, however when he heard her say it to him, it almost had the inflection a girl would use for "Father."
"You always do," he replied, swallowing back a lump of anger and outrage. They sat and conversed lightly as they ate. Her vocal skills were improving with each session, just from their talking together. He was impressed by her ability to absorb information. She was highly intelligent considering her lack of proper education.
"Master," she asked after the conversation had slowed, "why you not purchase me? You are generous, yes. I enjoy what we do. I do not wish that you become poor on me."
"Not wanting a buyer's latinum is bad business sense," the man said with a smirk.
Before she could respond, the door to their box was suddenly forced open, causing the both of them to rise swiftly in shock. A burly Orion male was standing in the doorway. The girl immediately dropped to a crouch and brought up her claws.
"I signaled for her and you stole her from me," the Orion said without preamble. "You will give her to me and I will consider letting you live."
The man stepped in front of the girl, giving her both protection and a signal to stay back. He straightened to his not-so-inconsiderable height and squared off to the Orion, the left side of his body hidden in shadow, giving him a slightly ominous look. "I suggest," he said slowly, "that you find yourself another form of entertainment. This one is currently occupied."
Traskor had always considered himself a man of thought for an Orion. He never did anything without considering every possible consequence. He knew the bar's owner would be upset about the door; however a threat to the security of the man's family had quelled any protests before, and would undoubtedly do so again. He had spent some time studying the man who occupied this box, had judged his abilities based on his movements and his physique. He regretted not having a better view, however the bar was not well lit, so as to provide a more intimate setting. Nonetheless, he was reasonably sure he could take on this aging human with no difficulty. He'd planned everything he would say and do to intimidate his opponent. If intimidation seemed to fail, he was prepared to use force.
He'd had his eye on this girl for some time now. He had almost acquired her services, but he'd been called away on business when she came to his booth. He'd grown fond of watching her and would not let some human stand in his way. He'd faced down hundreds of opponents. He was a master tactician when it came to people, and he never made a mistake in judging his adversary. When he saw he would not intimidate this one, he chose his next tactic. He slowly turned as if to leave then swung his right fist with almost lightning speed.
That was his first mistake.
The man's right hand lashed out like a cobra, halting the Orion's fist a mere inch in front of his face. Traskor was surprised, but too well-practiced to let it show. This human was either considerably stronger than he appeared, or was a veteran fighter. He showed almost none of the strain he must have been experiencing. The Orion judged his position and brought his left arm up to put more pressure on his opponent’s right hand, thereby throwing the human off balance (and with a little luck, off the balcony box).
Mistake number two.
The man's own left hand came up to the Orion's throat as he stepped forward into the same shadow the human was in. Instantly Traskor realized he was in trouble. The hand holding his throat began to squeeze with superhuman strength. He tried to step back, but only succeeded in pulling the human out of the shadow, the hand still firmly clamped on his neck.
"When I invite a young lady to dine," the human said suddenly, "I expect to be left alone. You will leave, or I will end your existence here and now. I have too important a timetable to allow you to disrupt it."
The Orion made a gurgling noise as he was let go, and took his left hand back, attempting to throw the other man off. He grabbed a knife behind his back and lunged.
The man easily stepped aside, grabbed the man's arm, and snapped, breaking the bone swiftly and cleanly. The Orion howled in pain, dropping the knife. He stared with a murderous rage and with more adrenaline than strength, grabbed the man and hauled him completely into the light.
The man's left hand came up to Traskor's neck and before the Orion could even react, he felt the two injection tubules enter his neck. He made one more strangled noise, and collapsed to the deck.
The slave girl had sat and watched the entire scene while huddled in a corner and suddenly was very, very afraid. The man's expression softened as he looked at her, relaxing her somewhat but keeping her wary. "I’m sorry you had to see that," he said finally. Making a decision, he offered his hand to help her up. "It’s time. Let's find your master and purchase you."
"You...you have latinum?" she said, swallowing her fear and accepting his hand.
"I do. We'll get you away from your master, and then you'll be free,” the human said, smiling.
"Master...master will not let me go," the girl said, almost shaking with fear.
"We shall see,” the man said, taking a case he’d been sitting next to in one hand, and holding her hand in the other.
They walked down the corridor in the bar. A brazen move, considering the girl did not belong to him. Most of the bar's regulars knew this particular slave and knew who she belonged to. This human was certainly not him.
Suddenly, an Orion male blocked his way once again. "Release my slave," he said in as low and dangerous a voice as he could manage. He was clearly furious.
"I have come to buy her from you," the human said, no trace of fear in his voice whatsoever.
The girl watched the two and immediately held herself closer to the human. He frightened her, but she felt safer around him than her Master.
The burly Orion laughed, throwing his head back. "What one human has that much latinum? For the price I would charge you, you could buy a small planet."
"I do not want a planet," the man said. "I want the girl."
The Orion considered it. This slave was his favorite, for more than merely familial appearance. She brought him the best business and he was hesitant to give her up.
The human watched him and finally reached somewhere into his clothes and pulled out a small key to the case he carried. Opening it with practiced ease, he displayed brick after brick of gold-pressed latinum. The Orion's eyes lit up in spite of himself. The amount the man was offering was far more than he would have settled for.
"Do we have a deal?" the human said.
"I propose an alternate arrangement," said the Orion.
"And that would be?" the man said.
"My men kill you, and I get both the girl and the latinum," said the slave owner, snapping his fingers.
Instantly, 10 men were on their feet in the bar and advancing upon the human and the girl. The human pulled the girl behind him again but she pushed back to his side.
"No Master,” she said, “you told me to help those in need. You are my Master now; I will protect you." She leapt at the nearest attacker, her claws lashing out. Seeing he couldn't stop her, the man lashed out at the closest two attackers to him and knocked them to the floor. Knowing better than to harm the girl, the other men converged on the human. The human leapt up, landing on the shoulders of the girl's former master. The Orions charged, knocking both of them off their feet.
Fists shot out, claws and teeth were bared. The human found himself staring down a charging Orion with no support. He grabbed the attacker, rolling down onto his back and throwing the man over him and across the room with his legs. The Orions fought hard and long, and the human and girl were eventually worn down and held by the last three men while the others slowly sat up, bloody and bruised. Two held the arms of the human and one held the screaming girl in his arms.
"Any final words Human?" the slave master said, and then actually looked scared when the human suddenly smiled.
"Attack," he said.
An Orion male stepped into the room, grabbing the neck of the man holding the girl and snapping it quickly and efficiently. The other members of the bar gasped in horror seeing the Orion's new Borg implants.
"TRASKOR!" shouted the slave owner. "What have they done to you?"
The Human stood from were the two shocked attackers had dropped him. He looked at Traskor and simply said, "dispose of them, and then yourself." And with that, he picked up his case, took the girl by the hand and walked out of the bar, not even giving a backwards glance to the screams behind him.
"Where are we going Master?" asked the girl. “It will need to be far. He will come after me if he can.”
"To my ship. You have much to learn if you’re going to serve with me," said the man.
"As you wish Master," the girl said.
"I am not your Master, You’re free now. You may leave if you wish, or you may stay with me, be educated, and serve on my ship."
The girl thought for a moment, stopping dead in the corridor; the sudden shock to her mind was almost overwhelming. She pulled the man down to her eye level and gave him a kiss on his human cheek. "Thank you. What do I call you?"
"Admiral,” he said.