/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/ For Life and Loyalty /-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

The young Ensign stood in the lush garden, finding himself at peace among the many beautiful fragrances and large trees. Looking down at the Chinese garden, he could almost imagine himself an innocent cadet starring at one in his off hours, observing one with a curiosity he lost years before.

He sighed; watching sand wasn't something he was all too interested in. Gingerly, he pushed himself off of the large rock he had been using as a chair. With a wince, he rubbed his left side, all too aware of how easily it could be disturbed- he feared the pain might never leave, at least not the mental pain.

Slowly, he walked along the pathway; not minding the large leaves of a Betazoid plant hitting his face. Reaching up to itch his cheek, it took him a moment to register that the smooth, clean-shaven skin was indeed his.

After returning, he had been forced to shave the long, gritty beard that had grown; it seemed to reduce his age back to what it really was, rather than what he felt it was. Although he knew a beard wasn't as charming on his face, it did manage to hide the large scar his left cheek bore and his pale, gaunt skin. It would be a while, he knew, before his skin regained its old golden bronze complexion.

Looking up at the sky, he closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of the sun on his face; smiling as the light breeze whipped across his cheeks, disturbing his combed hair. A full stomach, a rested mind and body, the sun and fresh air: it was all he had ever dreamed of in the past years. But then, why wasn't it as exciting as he had thought it would be?

Perhaps it was the cost to get those things back.

"Ensign? Ensign Evans?" The Ensign turned to see a blonde security officer walking up the pathway. Waiting expectantly for a reason at being interrupted, he wasn't let down. "You're presence is requested."

The Ensign's first instinct would have been to ask by whom, but he refrained. He knew full well whom and why; his life for the past three years had taught him not to ask stupid questions. Without question or protest, he followed the man out of the garden and into the real reality of Earth.

Stepping inside behind the security office, he was lead down distantly familiar halls- the dullness of the standard walls leaving the corridor to seem almost completely indistinguishable from the last.

Suddenly, the officer stopped. Hitting the release on the door in front of him, he entered without a word to the Ensign. Looking down the hall, he sighed, and followed the man in just in time to hear his low voice announce, "Ensign Selak Evans, sirs."

With a nod from one of the five officers sitting at the long table on the other end of the room, the security officer left, leaving Selak alone with the five of them.

"Please, sit." Selak looked at the bland chair positioned in the center of the room. He shook his head, carefully lowering himself into the seat. Looking up at the panel of officers- two Captains and three Admirals- he found that his position gave them an ominous feel.

Squaring his shoulders and straightening his back, he looked straight at the female, who sat in the center, and waited for her to address him again.

"I am Admiral Richards. This is Captain Henrick-" she pointed to a younger man on her left- "Admiral Harnak-" a man farthest on her left- "Captain Yearwood-" a woman on her right- "And Admiral Sierra-" she pointed to the man on her farthest right- "Now, I assume you know why you are here?"

"Yes, it wasn't hard to figure out," he answered, not caring who these people were or what they were capable of doing to his career.

"Your position was taken over three years ago, Ensign," Admiral Sierra informed Selak.

The Vulcan, for his part, laughed out loud at this, not caring at all for the fact he was surrounded by Captains and Admiral in Starfleet. "Thank-you, I hadn't noticed I'd been gone that long. Thanks, yes, you cleared up a very important question."

"This is a serious matter, Ensign," Captain Henrick hissed at Selak, leaning forward in his chair, his frustration evident in his voice.

"Calm down, Max," Admiral Richards told the man, turning back to the young Vulcan. She took a deep breath, taking in Selak as she did so. It was easy to see that the woman was Bajorian, or at least partly. "Now, Ensign, you must understand that this is standard procedure."

"Of course, Admiral," he answered, his voice calm.

"We're just curious how someone fighting at an outpost taken over by the Amocku wound up in a stolen A'Kesh vessel," Admiral Sierra stated.

"That's quite simple," Selak said, leaning back in his chair and putting his foot up onto his knee, making himself comfortable under the intense speculation of the five officers.

"Would you like to enlighten us, Ensign?" Captain Yearwood inquired, folding her hands in front of her in anticipation of the answer.

"Not particularly."

By then, Captain Henrick was becoming livid- Selak was considering recommending anger therapy. This only caused him to snap at Selak, saying, "You're riding close on insubordination."

"Max!" Richards scolded the man.

"Do you think, after everything I've been through, that that really scares me?" Selak leaned forward, putting his two feet flat on the floor.

"Please, Ensign, would you mind telling us what happened?"

The Vulcan turned to Admiral Harnak, a Trill who had yet to speak. "Mind? Yes. Will I? What the hell. We were overrun, captured by the Amocku. I wound up on one of their ships a year or so later, it was attacked by the Heyta and I was taken prisoner. They tortured me for a year, and then the A'Kesh attacked the base or whatever I was on. They found me, took me, gave me some medical treatment for my wounds and put me into a mining camp. Some of the prisoners there got together and planned a way to get out after a couple of months there. We stole a ship, and flew out of there. Okay? That's what happened. Can I go now?"

The panel of officers looked at each other. Henrick and Sierra seemed not to believe his story, Yearwood was slightly amused- either because of its absurdity or irony- while Harnak and Richards were curious, they seemed to believe him enough.

"You managed to survive all of our enemies' prison camps?" Selak just nodded at Sierra, not allowing the laughter in his voice to faze him.

"That's impossible," Henrick spat.

"You know, I don't think it's very fair to have such an impartial officer on this panel," Selak snapped back.

"Now-"

"Max!" Richards interrupted him, getting annoyed herself at Henrick's behavior.

"I'm not finished," he protested, turning to see the Admiral.

"You are now," she spelled out, silencing the Captain. "Now, Ensign, we can talk more about such things later. But I do need to know if you told any of them anything?"

"I'm not weak, or stupid, Admiral. I didn't say anything… I didn't know anything by the time they tried to interrogate me. Can I go now?"

"No," Sierra replied. "Do you know what happened to the others at the outpost?"

Selak glared at the man; this was not something he wanted to talk about. "Those who didn't die? They're prisoners of the Amocku."

"Do you know where these prisoners are?"

"No."

"But you were among them," Harnak stated.

"Yes, some of them."

"And were any of them Starfleet?" Yearwood asked.

"I don't know; maybe. But they're… they died early on."

"But you didn't?"

"No, obviously," he snapped at Henrick. "What do you want to know all this for?"

"We'd like to find some of our officers, if possible," Richards told him, her voice calm and kind.

"Well, I don't know where they might be. They're taken all over… I couldn't begin to tell you if any of them are still alive," Selak told her, looking directly at her rather than the rest. It seemed to make it easier, her gray eyes reminding him of his mother's- an image that he almost couldn't see any longer.

"Can I leave now? I don't want to talk about this."

Richards heard the pleading in his voice, the grief and sorrow accumulated over almost three years. She nodded, "Very well. We would like you to write a report, of anything you can remember or feel like reporting. Lieutenant, please escort him to his temporary quarters."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Thank-you, Ensign, I know that must have been hard for you."

Selak just glared at the Admiral. "If you really knew how hard, you wouldn't bother asking." Turning away, he walked off with the Lieutenant.

"That kid's a real bastard," Henrick commented once the doors had closed behind them.

"If you weren't already a bastard, Max, you would have become a jerk like him after everything he's gone through. Three years in a hell we don't even know about."

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

"Come in," Selak called out, frustrated as he turned away from his PADD. He couldn't have even ten minutes alone without someone coming in to make sure he was still there.

"Hello, Ensign Selak Evans?"

"Who else would be in here?" Turning away from the unfamiliar face, he continued writing on his PADD, not really sure what the rambling was supposed to mean.

"Um, I'm Lieutenant Tylus Bradley."

"That's nice."

Tylus seemed, for a moment, unsure of how to respond to the Vulcan. Instead, he cleared his throat, trying to grab the young man's attention. "Uh, what are you working on?"

"Look," Selak said, turning to face him. "If you're here for something, do it or say it and leave. If not, leave."

"Fine. I'm here because… well, Starfleet isn't, um… sure about your attitude," he muttered out, seemingly embarrassed about his presence there, or intimidated by the Vulcan two years younger than him.

"Oh, great. So now Starfleet thinks I'm insane."

"They don't think-"

"They're sending in a shrink, aren't they? Well, I don't need one, all right? Just leave." Selak turned away, going back to his PADD.

"I'm afraid I can't. I'm not allowed to leave until I get you to talk."

"I'm talking now, aren't I?"

"I meant about what happened to you."

"Get comfortable then, because I ain't in the story-telling mood tonight."

"Really? Are you sure?" Tylus asked, pulling up a seat, bringing it as close to Selak as he thought necessary- and safe.

Selak turned and regarded the doctor, taking in his dark hair, brown eyes, and pointed ears. He, too, was Vulcan. After a paused, Selak asked, "Do you have any siblings, Doc?"

"Yes, an older brother and younger sister. My brother, Ryan, is a diplomat."

"Oh, that's good. Good for him."

"Actually, he hates it."

"With the war and all, who could blame him? What's you sister's name?"

"T'Pol, named after our grandmother seven hundred or something yeas past," Tylus told him.

"T'Pol? Yeah, from Enterprise NX-01, right?"

"Right. How-?"

"Bit of a history buff. Yeah, my brother, Vir, got his middle name- William- from my great, great grandfather. He was the first officer of the Enterprise-D and E."

"Really? You have a brother? Tell me about him. What does he do?"

"He's a medical researcher. You know, one of those guys who figures out how to scramble your brains even more and create bioweapons when the government and Starfleet tell you they're just… trying to find a cure for cancer or something."

"Cancer?" Tylus questioned, not sure he knew what that was.

"See, that's what they want you to think."

If Tylus hadn't realized that Selak wasn't nearly as sincere as he thought he was, he might have laughed at the look Selak gave when he spoke. He sounded serious while, at the same time, sarcastic with his response.

"How do you mean?" Tylus wasn't sure where either of them was going with this comment, but it was worth a look.

"That's not what you're here for, so just lay off." Selak turned away, not at all impressed at the idea of having such an idiot for a counselor.

"Then what am I here for?"

"I would hope that you knew."

"Come on, Selak, talk to me," he pushed, knowing that the young man- a man not very younger than himself- was trying to push his way back into sarcasm to protect himself.

"You want me to tell you everything that happened?" Selak stated more than asked, his voice venomous rather than joking.

"That's my job. That's what they want," Tylus said, much more calmly than his patient.

"Well, what do you want?" Selak retorted, stepping closer to his fellow Vulcan.

"I want to know what you want to tell."

An almost snort-like sound came from Selak. Gruffly, he said, "So… I guess you want me to start at the beginning?"

"That would be the best way to start." Tylus gave a quickly nod, happy that it hadn't taken that much to get Selak to speak with him. He just hoped it stayed that way, three years would make for a rather long story.

Selak looked away; he sighed, this would be a while…

The young Ensign stood still after he stepped off the platform. With one hand holding his bag, clumsily draped over his shoulder, his other gripped his plasma rifle tightly, shaking from combined nerves and fear.

People had joked- mostly those that worked on the transport- that OP-162 was nothing but a wasteland on the verge of destruction…

The Ensign had laughed at such things, hoping that they were lies to scare him. But, as he stood there, it was easy to see that they were quite right.

The scene in front of him was nothing but a moon charred from firefights and showered with blood from the innocent. The Ensign had read the report. The outpost had had 1,230 workers- most Starfleet- only three years ago. Since then, almost another four hundred had been sent there. The only problem was the constant threat of the Amocku base twenty kilometers away- fighting hard for the moon's control.

But that was not the only reason he was there. It was his job to keep the machines to continue extracting the rare mineral needed for certain ships to continue flying. To be there to fight was only because they were short handed on that part. He and the thirty others that had come there were there to replace those who had already tried to defend the planet- to fill in for the fifteen hundred that had died.

"Come on, Selak, it's not that bad."

Selak turned to see Alex walk up behind him. The Human gave his lopsided smile- the same Selak had witnessed made girls drool- and patted the Vulcan on the shoulder. He nodded, even though he could sense his uneasiness, his fear. For he too was fresh out of the Academy- and straight into a war, a long bloody war with no sign of ending soon.

The two friends continued on, taking in the sight. It wasn't much at all- the main complex a merely large building, broken and crumpling from being the victim of constant bombardment. The other buildings, small one-roomed apartment-like tents, seemed to have been hastily made- and just as easy to be hastily taken apart.

"Finally, the newbies have decided to grace us with their presence!" Selak heard the taunting voice declare. Looking around he noticed that the rest of the new crew had followed him and Alex. A Lieutenant was looking up at them from one of the pop-up buildings.

His uniforms had been half stripped off, leaving him in nothing but his black pants and grey tang-top shirt, showing off his thick biceps. His short hair stuck up in the back, giving him the appearance of just waking up. His hand wiped away the sweat from his forehead, leaving a smudge of dirt where it was.

A second man peaked out of the next pop-up building, obviously curious at who was there. But he was pushed aside for another man- this one a lieutenant commander- to exit.

"Well, well, well. What are ya just standin' there for?" The tease caught the anxious group by surprise, making them look uncertainly at their partners.

"Hey, I'm just kiddin'," he laughed, wiping his face off with a towel. Tossing it back into his housing, he stepped out, not seeming to mind that he was bare from the waist up, a plasma rifle hanging from his bare shoulder.

"Come on. I'll show ya where yer stayin'. I'm Lieutenant Commander Breckem, by the way. You guys can call me Matt," he told them as they walked on, finding nearly fifty other pop-up housings all around the larger building.

"You guys will share these five. Split 'em up how ya want. Breakfast is at 0600 every morning. Dinner's at 1800. Lunch is whenever ya got time. The accommodations may not be the best but they'll keep you warm and dry," he teased them, seeing some of their uncertain glances. "Bit cramped but not bad."

Selak shrugged, stepping forward. They didn't look any worse than the fall out shelters on his old colony- a place he had spent a lot of time in as he grew up.

Alex stepped closer to one of the housings with Selak, the two moving into it. Selak moved back to the far end, placing his bag on the bed to stake his claim. Six beds lined the walls, folding up to conserve space. A heater was placed in the center, a mirror and area to shave and wash yourself right next to it.

Alex placed his bag on the bed next to Selak's just as three more entered the room. The Vulcan looked up at them; the first two he knew from the transporter, Gary Mason and Joshua Coal, both Ensigns. Another Ensign followed in behind them, Selak only recognized him as the young red haired, freckled faced man at the front of the transporter- beyond that he hadn't interacted with the Ensign.

Their sixth roommate didn't enter for another few minutes, left with the bunk closest to the door. Without complaint, the blonde man sank down onto it. Again Selak recognized him but knew nothing about the man- he guessed they would learn more about each other eventually.

But it was late and they were all tired. In the morning perhaps…

Morning came quicker than expected, loud noises outside waking the six. But it was more the shaking of the housing and falling out of his bunk that woke Selak that morning.

With faster reflexes than Selak thought he possessed, he was up and on his feet, his plasma rifle in his hand. The others, as well, were up. The blonde's rifle in hand and ready to leave while the red-head seemed wide-eyes and glued to his bed. Alex, Gary, and Josh were up, shoes on and tongues flapping, with their rifles prepared, but no more willing to walk out the door than the red-head was to stand.

"Sh-should we g-go out?" Selak heard Gary say, his voice shaking in fear.

"Someone should," Alex stated, not even he moving to answer it.

"I will," the blonde stated more bravely than he felt. Opening the door, they were suddenly met with the smell of smoke and shouts of confusion.

"Move it out, newbies!" Matt's unmistakable voice yelled as he ran past. This was all the motivation needed for the blonde man to run outside. Selak swallowed, his Vulcan-side allowing him to suppress his fear- not helping much considering he still felt it. With only a second of hesitation, he stepped forward, following the blonde man. Alex moved behind him, the other two clumsily following.

Selak was met by the utter chaos that the Amocku's early morning attack had caused. He and four of his roommates moved with as much stealth as their limited experience- and untied shoes- allowed them. Soon they found Matt kneeling behind a large crate, firing into the smoke, obviously at the Amocku unseen through smoke and dust.

"What are we supposed to do?" Gary asked Josh, ducking under debris as more plasma blasts shook the ground.

"What do you think? Fire at them!"

Selak did as Matt said, propping his rifle up against the debris he was hidden behind. His eyes burned from the smoke, tearing them up and making it impossible to see past his plasma rifle.

A large blast landed behind them, sending clumps of dirt and dust in the air, hitting the lot. Selak unfolded his body, having dropped to the ground to protect himself. Dirt slipped through his shirt, making his back itch with the annoyance. He shook his head, charred dirt falling out.

Looking to his left, he saw Matt firing, having never paused to consider the explosion. Josh gingerly rose, his hands shacking as he fired again. The blonde, who was kneeling next to him, fired repeatedly, moving his rifle expertly in hopes of hitting something.

He could see Alex from the corner of his eye. The man was getting up, collecting himself. Selak could sense that he was just as afraid as he was. Alex looked over at him; his eyes shone with fear. His face was already dirty, smudged with dirt and grim.

Selak looked beyond him, wanting to see how well Gary was holding up. But he wasn't there. The Vulcan's eyes whipped around, trying desperately to locate the man. But he was nowhere to be seen.

Someone shouted in the distance, grabbing a hold of Selak's attention. He had turned around in time to see a large explosion, three men forced into the air. He watched, wide-eyed as the one man failed his arms and legs. His shouts ended abruptly as his body hit the ground.

He turned back around, searching savagely for his plasma rifle. His fingers dug around in the dirt, not able to see in the smoky dawn. He ducked, feeling the heat of another plasma blast brush by, his back burning as debris tore into his skin. But he didn't pause for long, his fingers returning to their search for his missing plasma rifle.

But his search was in vain; it was too dark and smoky to see. His hand pounded the ground, frustrated at the poor earth.

He peaked over the debris, looking to see it he could see anything that was going on. His eyes widened. A plasma blast exploded right in front of him sending him flying back.

"What happened to you?" Tylus asked, not appreciating him stopping in the mist of excitement.

"I woke up in a make-shift hospital with a broken arm, a concussion and a couple of burns on my chest and face."

Tylus nodded. "What happened to Gary?"

"Gary? Oh, um... I think that he moved somewhere else. I don't remember. But he was fine."

Again Tylus just nodded. He nodded a lot, Selak noted. "So you blacked out before you actually did anything?"

Selak looked away, starring off out the window. "That's not entirely true," he whispered. "I woke up before that- before I got to the hospital…"

Selak groaned, trying to turn his head, succeeding only in causing a larger headache to form. He slowly inhaled, nearly choking on the thick, smoke-filed air.

Punching hard on the ground with his elbows, he cried in pain, his right hand throbbing in protest. But he ignored it a moment, forcing himself to rise. He managed to sit up, but the movement sent pains through his right arm and chest- excruciation pain pulsing through his veins. His head felt as if it would explode.

He closed his eyes, lying back down on his side. Taking slow, deep breathes, he tried to calm the pain pounding in his eyes and arm. His mind paused, flustered when he couldn't recall what had sent him to the ground. Finally, the image of an explosion rushed back into his mind. He suddenly remembered floating through the air, ridding the energy current the blast had created.

He blinked opened his eyes; the smoke burning them, causing them to water once again. Blinking away the tears, his sight was bleared.

He froze.

There in front of him was the blonde man that shared his tent... and had been fighting besides him. He must have gotten caught in the blast as well. Selak looked him over quickly, not able to see much considering the man had his back to him. But, from what he could see, the man was paler than he should be and his blonde hair was dyed with red.

He pushed himself up, wondering how well the blonde was doing. Pulling himself closer as he tried to stay as low as possible, shouted at the man. "Hey! Hey! Can you hear me?" He suddenly wished that he had introduced himself- the least he could do was know the man's name.

Selak grabbed his shoulder, pulling the man onto his back so that he could see his face. The Vulcan's hand shot back, away from the young Human, fright controlling his actions. Half of the blonde's face had been blown off, revealing blood and bones. His one remaining eyes starred forward, lifeless and unseeing.

Selak felt sick, horrified by the sight. Turning quickly, he stomach heaved, pushing out the last of any food his had eaten. Dry heaves raked his body a moment, his body trying to force out something that was no longer there.

He crawled away, trying to find a familiar- or Federation- face. But, through the thick smoke and noise, his search was in vain. It only took a few moments to find himself a prisoner to his unconscious mind once again.

"Was that the first time you'd ever seen someone die?"

Selak glanced up at Tylus. "No. I'd seen some die on my colony; we were attacked often, mostly once the war stared. You know, officially. But I've never seen a man that I didn't even know yet did know… die that way. I mean, it was like my own mortality hit me at that moment- he died from the same blast that hit me. Yet he was dead, and I wasn't."

Tylus nodded. "Then what happened?"

"Well, nothing really. There were skirmishes… boredom… skirmishes… boredom. It went back and forth. We… well, I occupied my time working on the machine and going on patrol. And there was Miles- the red head I told you about. He was a nice boy. We talked when we could."

Selak sighed. Suddenly, he said, "Nine months, two weeks, three days, five hours, and fifty-one minutes."

"That was how long you were there?"

He turned, a smile on his face. "No… no, that was how much longer I had when… when the base was attacked… when…" He sighed, turning away, his smirk replaced with a solemn look.

"I had only been there for three months, not even. I'd been in probably fifty firefights. By then nearly half of the base had die. The next shipment of supplies and men wouldn't be for another two months- some said we wouldn't last that long…"

Selak glanced over at Miles. The boy was shaking- he was always shaking. The poor kid- he had a beautiful mind and was a great engineer, that was how he got in so young, but he didn't deserve such a rough post. He was eighteen and serving in a place ready to collapse and be run over at any moment. If their position were reversed, he'd be trembling too.

But he had to admit, Miles was getting better. He talked more and more with each day and was even starting to join in on card games and so forth. He didn't shake as much and he would get up and into the skirmishes when they happened- albeit hesitantly. He just hoped that the poor kid got out of there before too long.

Turning away, he scanned the area once again. His hands shook with cold; the nights were getting chillier every day. It must be closing in on the planet's winter. Rubbing his fingers, we tried to warm himself, keeping an eye out for Amocku.

He sighed. He was an engineer- he fixed things- he wasn't there to guard the perimeter. Miles definably wasn't. So why were they there again?

A noise caught Selak's attention, snapping his body awake and warm. Miles noticed his attentive listening, creasing his brown as he too tried to hear what the Vulcan had heard. But there was nothing.

Miles shrugged, looking away. But Selak wasn't as sure- he was positive he had heard something. His ears perked, trying to hear something; his eyes scanning the dark, looking for whatever he could find.

And he was granted with the sickening sizzling sound plasma bursts make when they sail through the air. At the same time, his keen eyes widened as they watched the burst slice through the air, heading towards them. The Vulcan tried to shout, but nothing came from his mouth. Instead he heard a chocked grunt from Miles, his body falling limp to the ground.

The Vulcan looked at the boy, his eyes starring forward. They were blank, devoid of the spark of life he had occasionally seen in the boy's eyes. His mouth was slightly agape, blood trickling down his cheek.

Selak ducked, dozens more blasts heading for him. Pulling himself to Miles, he checked the boy's pulse: nothing. The young Irish engineer was dead- it was the one thing he had feared most for the boy.

Grabbing a hold of his plasma rifle, he shot it three times in the sky- signaling which patrol was under attack- and began to fire at where the shots were coming from. Selak didn't have a clue how many there were, but that didn't really matter- help would be there soon.

A couple minutes later, Matt and everyone else came charging over. Josh slid down next to Selak, firing off a few shots as he went. Matt and Gary dropped behind a large boulder, firing after they were safely hidden. Alex, however, dived to the ground in an attempted to protect himself from an incoming volley.

"Alex! Hurry up!" Josh called. He pushed himself up, running to where he was. He dived in quickly.

"Miles?"

"Dead," Selak responded quickly, turning to fire at the rocky horizon.

A loud explosion caught their attention. Matt and Gary were thrown into the air by a blast.

"Gary!" Josh shouted, Selak grabbing him to keep him from running after the body.

It was then that he looked around- the blast had come from behind. Josh and Alex looked behind them as well, more shots coming from the back. Josh finally got out of Selak's hold, running for Gary.

"Josh! Come back here! Josh!" But Selak's cries were met on deaf ears as a second plasma burst hit him dead on. Selak fired in the general area the blasts had come from, only to find that hundreds of Amocku were pointing their weapons at him.

They were surrounded. Outnumbered. And without a commander.

Selak threw his weapon down, seeing many others do the same. Alex, reluctantly, dropped his as well, rising in defeat and surrender.

"Were Gary and Josh brothers?"

"No, just good friends. From the stories they told, they met when they were like two. So, I guess you could say they considered themselves brothers."

Tylus quieted, letting Selak think. "So, where did they take you?"

"A ship. I don't know how long we traveled but it seemed rather far," Selak told him, reaching nearly three years back in his memory to get everything accurate. To get things he had tried to forget accurate.

"Then what? Where did you end up?"

"They beamed us down into this large building…"

Selak's vision was obscured by a large mass of people, many- like himself- were confused and dazed at what was going on. Everyone wore similar restraints as him; a belt around the waist hold their hands to the sides, another chain leading to a collar comfortably buckled around the neck.

Almost immediately into their arrival the group was pushed into the crowd, being shoved like mad in all directions. Selak tried to keep his eye on Alex, the Human being pushed around and unable to help himself- unused to the limited function his hands now played.

Slowly the two, and most of their fellow Starfleet crewmates, were growing closer to the front. The Vulcan craned his neck, trying to see what was up there. But all he could see was heads and other people in front of him.

Suddenly an Amocku- dressed in uniform but not as a soldier- immerged from the crowd. He spotted the group, moving closer with a malevolent smile plastered on his face. "Di!" He shouted in his native tongue, the translation lost amoung them. When he realized that they weren't following his instructions, he grabbed Alex roughly by the arm, his smile gone.

Alex, of course, resisted but could do very little with the chains. The Amocku did not seem to care as he tapped a long stick on Alex's belt. The Human, for a moment, seemed more shocked than anything but Selak could tell that he was in a lot of pain.

With the distraction, the Amocku pulled him into the crowd of aliens and away from Selak. "Alex!" he tried to shout, but his words were lost upon the noise of the room. The Vulcan tried to push forward and to catch up to them, but his efforts were in vain- he only managed to lose the rest of the Starfleet personnel.

Soon, though, Selak reached a point surrounded with many of the same uniformed Amocku that had taken Alex. He too was grabbed by one. The man looked down at his belt, on there was a little card with- what looked like- writing. The man read it, nodding as if Selak had said something to him.

He pushed the Vulcan forward onto one of the podiums. Selak looked around, seeing that, in front of him, were not the same confused prisoners but Amocku shouting and smiling up at the podiums.

Looking to his left, Selak saw a smaller, bonnier species he didn't recognize- the man seemed unfazed by the events going on around him and impartial to what was to happen to him. He just stood, gazing but unseeing at the far wall.

To his right, a man was thrust upon the stage. His paler skin and hand and facial ridges pointed him out to be clearly A'Kesh. The alien didn't look at him, just scowled at the people below.

More frantically, Selak tried to look at the other podiums. But there was no sight of Alex or any other Humans. He was alone and, worst of all, he was a prisoner…

"What happened after that?" Asked Tylus, his detached professional voice becoming slowly more interested as time went on.

Selak looked up him with a small tugging of a smile. "Well, I put on my best Vulcan, emotion-less face, squared my shoulders, and glared daringly at anyone who looked at me. Then…"

"Ho-di-chu!"

Selak looked down to see one of the Amocku looking up at him, smiling and nodding his head as he spoke with the same uniformed Amocku that had put him up there. Unfortunately, the universal translator couldn't- and never had been able to- pick up the language, so their discussion was lost upon him.

He had, however, figured out what was going on. Stories, of course, had flowed through Starfleet ships and outposts about what their enemies did to their captives. Rumors that the Amocku had put P.O.W.s into slave trade had been some that Selak had heard. He knew, as did everyone else for it was common knowledge, that the Amocku made slaves of some of their conquered worlds.

And that was what was happening to him. He was being sold as a slave…

And that man was interested in buying him. The thought, he had to admit, was sickening. Like many, he had learned of Earth's history, how many years ago they had owned slaves and the brutal conditions many lived in. He had been taught about how even Teleritans and Bolians had owned slaves until only just centuries before. But never had he applied such a thought to himself. The Federation was, of course, above such things, right?

But those thoughts were ripped from his mind as the two Amocku approached the podium. He looked down at them, trying desperately to put on a face of resilience and courage when he was truly trying desperately not to cower away from them.

"Hac-ka-toe!"

Selak heard the sounds from the guard, he saw the movement of his lips but none of what he said registered in his mind. He was accustom to speaking with members of other species, he knew very well how the universal translator worked, and that words spoken were fluently translated and changed to allow everyone to understand them.

But not for the Amocku…

"Hac-ka-toe!" the alien shouted once more, this time taking the long, black stick he held in his hands and touching it to Selak's mid-section. The Vulcan flinched but nothing more than that- it didn't seem to be made to cause massive amounts of pain, just enough to made someone more cooperative.

"I don't understand you," he muttered, looking down at the Amocku's face.

"Hac-ka-toe-mesa-kaunt!"

Selak winced at the second wave of pain that shot through his torso- it seemed that the device was programmed to increase each time. He looked to the guard again, his eyes reflecting honesty- whether or not the alien knew Human facial expressions.

"I don't understand," he repeated slowly, not sure if the alien could understand him either.

For the third time, Selak was tapped by the stick, feeling the sickening waves of pain creep through him. "I don't understand!" He yelled before the Amocku even spoke, knowing it would be the same, un-understood message.

The guard seemed to be going to tap him a forth time when the prisoner to his left- the alien Selak had not recognized- spoke. His words came clearly to Selak, though monotoned, and it appeared that the translator was able to quickly pick up the language.

"He doesn't understand your language, master. You cannot blame him."

The guard, too, seemed to understand his language for he nodded, lowering his stick. This time he spoke to the alien, repeating what he had said before, adding a few different sounds to the beginning.

The alien turned slightly and looked at Selak. His eyes were just as vague and uncaring as they had seemed before. When he spoke, again his voice came out with a monotone sound- Selak wondered if that was just because the translator couldn't pick up on the use of emotion or if that was simply how his talked.

"He wants you to step down and follow him."

"Why?" Selak asked, hoping that the alien would continue speaking, even though he knew he shouldn't test the guard's patience.

"It would be wise not to ask questions or even speak unless told." The alien, too, seemed to already understand this for he would not say another word. Instead he looked away, starring again at the wall.

Selak sighed, knowing it would be better to do as told. Stepping down, he felt the guard roughly pull him down and push him forward- the other man seemed to have already left while Selak was busy trying to figure out what was being said.

The Vulcan looked back at the alien. He was too fragile and weak and Selak doubted he'd last much longer as a slave, depending on how they were treated. Perhaps he wouldn't be chosen at all; he wondered what would happen if that came true.

"What happened to the alien?"

Selak shrugged at the counselor. "I don't know. I never saw him again; I never saw any of them again. Not even Alex. From what I had seen, I'd imagine that he had never even been chosen by any of the buyers- not unless he had some kind of talent that required his brain not body. Otherwise, if he had been bought, a few days of work probably would of killed him."

"You said you didn't know his species?"

"I ran across another after that. They were a conquered species inside of Amocku space. They've been on the run and made into slaves for nearly two centuries, the Grinwald. At least that's what I heard."

Tylus nodded, it was no secret that the Amocku had had slaves for thousands of years; it was a way of life for them. "So what happened to you once you were off the podium?"

"I was taken to this back room. The buyer, the one I had seen talking to the guard was there…"

The rough hand gripped Selak's face, forcing his mouth opened to inspect his teeth- an action much mirroring one in the process of buying an animal. With his hands locked to his sides, he could do little more than struggle against the men that held him in place.

A pleased smile grew over the buyer's face; a curt nod all he offered to the guard- or merchant- that had herded him onto the podium. He stepped back, releasing his face, as his eyes took in the Vulcan once more. His hand reached up, scratching his bald head- all of them were bald, something Selak was amused by.

Pushing down the urge to spit at the alien, Selak stood there, his eyes betraying none of his fear or bewilderment. But, at the sound of their grunts they called a language, his ears perked, the translator implanted in his ear working hard to translate the complex dialect.

Though he tried, his effort was in vain. Not a single word could be translated into Federation standard; none of the words meaning anything to him. But, suddenly and obviously ordered, one of the guards removed his restraints. Quickly, others came in to hold him down.

But the others' hands only came when, and only when, the Vulcan's eyes came upon the other alien. Removing a sharp, battle knife, Selak tried to back away. But, of course, the hands stopped him.

The same pleased smirk appeared; the alien raising his knife to the Vulcan's neck. But rather than hurting him, the knife moved, slicing opened his uniform shirt. Ripping it down the front, the hands let go only long enough to slide the material over his arms.

His uniform, one solid piece, pooled down at his feet, leaving the rest of his body exposed- nude. As he knew many humans would do, he did not let his fear or embarrassment show. He felt no shame at the exposure, the Vulcan having no problem with nudity. He did not even flinch or blush in shy embarrassment as he knew his captors had wanted. Just stood there.

"Ta-ch. Ko-kac-hac."

The harsh word spat out at him; his translator again picking up none of the language. They really needed a linguist to work on that, was his only thought. His mind still ignoring his nudity, the Vulcan having had grown up where it was considered common practice to walk around in the nude.

"Ta-ch," the "buyer" said once again, his eyes roaming around the Vulcan's body, only that unnerving him but not enough to evoke a response. "Ti-ch. La-to-kin."

A curt nod-like gesture was made by the other alien, the one that had stripped him, just before he walked over to the Vulcan, carrying an unfamiliar machine. Pushing the Vulcan's head to the right, he placed it just above his left pectoral. For a second, nothing happened. Bu, after a short moment, a sharp pain ripped through his chest and arm. When the machine was removed, Selak could see that some type of their writing had been stamped onto him.

"Cha-for-te."

Though he couldn't understand the words, he knew what he meant. He had been branded; labeled and marked for the computer to know him. He was now officially a prisoner of war.

"Ta-ke!"

Immediately, the same alien approached him, this time with bulky arm restraints. Locking his hands in place- this time in front- the aliens pushed him forward and out the room, still naked. Still alone…

"I recall hearing about that… tattoo thing."

"Yeah."

Tylus sighed, he had hoped to hear more about it, perhaps later. For now he wanted the rest of the story. He changed the topic, asking another question that had arisen while Selak had spoken. "You were raised on Betazed?"

"On and off throughout my childhood; more or less though, I lived at the science colony on Omega III."

"How much, you know, Betazoid blood do you have?"

"Um… I'm about a quarter. A little less, I guess. Why?"

"Just wondering. What house are you?"

"What makes you think I have a house?"

"Most do now," he retorted. Selak just smiled and nodded. Like most, the Betazoid lines were becoming as polluted as Vulcans', if you can say such a thing about bloodlines.

"Fifth house. Holder of… some such garbage. My great-great-great-great-so on and so forth grandmother was Lwaxana Troi," he told the physiologist with pride.

"Really? That's how you got your human blood?"

"Yeah, when her daughter married Will Riker. That's how I got some of it, most of it is on my father's side, though."

"I can imagine," Tylus commented, he himself being more or less half human. "Oh, um, so what happened next?"

Tylus's tone made it almost sound like some action-adventure story. But Selak didn't mind; maybe if he could pretend it was, it wouldn't be so hard to plunge back into these memories.

"Well, I was… brought to a ship, still naked. Then the entire time I was hanging on a little anti-gravity pad without anything to cover me…"

Selak felt hands pulling and pushing him through halls and into a room. But he couldn't see anything. He had already tried to shake off the blindfold, much to the amusement to his captors.

His hands were still bound in front of him, his body still stripped of his clothes. That only helped to heighten his awareness of the drop in temperature.

He tried hard to hide his discomfort as the Amocku forced him farther into the cold room. His feet stepped upon something hot, burning the soles of his foot- even through the hard calluses that had formed on them. Selak tried to maneuver around the hot area but the Amocku shoved him onto it.

Selak hissed in pain, the Amocku stopping him there. Selak felt his hands being raised above his head. His shoulders pulled hard, something holding them up above his head. It was quite uncomfortable, only made worse as he felt the ground drop from beneath him.

The blindfold was suddenly removed, making Selak shut his eyes quickly from the bright light. Squinting, he was able to see the white walls of the ship and pale face of his buyer.

"Sha-yo?" Selak blinked away the tears in his eyes, starring blankly at the Amocku, waiting for him to repeat it or show what he meant.

But the alien smiled, pulling something from his shirt pocket. He bent over, setting something on the floor- Selak not able to see what it was. The Vulcan heard a small beep, obviously coming from the device that the Amocku had set down.

The Vulcan was met with sentences in the Amocku language- Mokun, their major language. Afterwards, words in Federation standard began. Selak realized with a start that the recording was meant to teach him Mokun. He sighed. It might actually do him some good as, it seemed, that his translator never would be able to catch onto the language.

The Amocku stood, walking away and out the door without another word. Not that Selak would have understood it. He sighed, looking down at the device, surprised to find that, rather than the ground having lowered, he was raised off the ground.

A moan escaped him. His arms already ached, his shoulders making odd sounds in protest. He didn't even know how long he'd be there...

"Yu-ta-cum. Follow me. Tae-hoe-ja. Come this way," the machine droned on, the emotionless computer voice seemingly taunting him. He had nearly fallen asleep time and time again from the constant, steady pace. But the pulling on his shoulders and vacancy of feeling in his arms prevented him from trying. He sighed, he hadn't slept in nearly two days- at least he was almost positive that it had been that long.

He rested his chin on his chest, closing his eyes so that he couldn't see the foot of air between his feet and the ground. His body shook, shivering from the cold gust of wind that hit his naked body. His head tilted up, glancing at the door he had seen the Amocku walk out a few days before.

The door had opened. Behind it stood a naked man, his eyes hidden beneath a blindfold. He was shoved in, stumbling. Hands grabbed a hold of him, steering him. Selak immediately recognized the scene as what he must have gone through.

Looking both over, he noted that the newest prisoner was an A'Kesh, small pointy ridges covering his jaw line. The man behind him was the same Amocku as before. It was evident that he had just "purchased" a new POW.

"I-hac-toe-friend-ko-you." Selak starred at him as he walked the A'Kesh to a similar glowing pad, surprised that he knew some of the words. "Cone-tum?" He didn't recognize the first word but was pretty sure that the second was 'words'.

When Selak didn't respond, he just smiled and forced the A'Kesh onto the glowing pad. His arms were immediately put in the air, his body following suit. His blindfold was ripped off soon after. The A'Kesh started to squirm, trying to get down. His breathing quickened as if he were terrified- it wouldn't be hard for him to be.

"Ha-fun," was all the Amocku said before walking out.

The A'Kesh waved his legs under him, trying to find the floor, only accomplishing to pain his shoulders and arms more.

"Stop moving and it won't hurt as much," Selak warned. The alien paused, finally noticing Selak. "Selak Evans. Federation. You?" He knew who he was talking to- one of his enemies. But he had also never met one and had never had the opportunity to talk to one.

"Your name has no meaning to me."

"Ok." Selak relented, looking away, again starting to listen to the droning of the device as it taught him Mokun. "Hor-tu-las-pon. Would you like food? Tor-min-hor. I am hungry."

"Do you know where we're going? Or where we are right now?"

The A'Kesh glared at him. Then he smiled. "The arena- no Federation have ever lived to tell about it."

The Vulcan gulped. That didn't sound very good. "And A'Kesh? Do they live?"

"Some." He nodded. It really didn't sound very good.

"The arena? What exactly is that?"

"A sandpit, pretty much. Well, ok, the arena was a large building including a stadium and sandpit, along with the underground housings for the gladiators."

"Wait a minute, wait a minute!" Tylus interrupted. "What do you mean gladiator? And what's the sandpit?"

"Exactly that. As entertainment, the Amocku watch gladiator fights. Slaves fighting each other in what we- the slaves- call a sandpit. Which was a large pit below the stadiums that was covered with sand. You play "games" in which you have to wound or kill your opponent using some kind of weapon- usually knifes. Some times they would add obstacles- stakes and hidden traps and so forth. I didn't deal with those that often. But, then, you really didn't know about them until they shot out of the ground or you fell into one."

"Right. Okay, so I take it you got there?"

"Yes. After one last encounter with the Amocku that bought me."

Seven days…

No… no… it had been eight. Eight days.

Three since they had taken the other away… But it had been eight days of hanging there,

His arms pulled awkwardly above his head, the magnetic restraints holding him just above the ground. His entire body ached, his stomach growled for food just as his mind screamed out its need for sleep.

Every few hours- his mind only entertained by counting out the seconds- many other prisoners would walk through the room, it connecting to many others. At first, some had turned and looked his way, seeing his continued nakedness. The majority- by then, all- would ignore him. None laughed, yet none seemed at all shocked by the occurrence.

But there was still another two hours, twenty-two minutes, and thirty-seven seconds until they would walk in. But in a few minutes, he knew the same Amocku that had bought him would come in. He would ask if he was embarrassed enough to be taken down; humiliated enough to want to work- to be sent to the arena, as the other alien had told him about. The man taunted him with the thought of food and clothing and rest. But, as he always did, the Vulcan just ignored him.

A soft hum escaped his lips; a song stuck in his mind, keeping him entertained for some two hours as he tried, in vain, to remember the words. Instead, he hummed out the melody; the tune coming out effortlessly.

"Why do you insist on making that horrid sound?" Echoed the alien, the Vulcan nearly smiling when his head bobbed to the side to see him. Always right on time. But rather than answering, his head moved back into its former position, still humming the tune.

"Stop that! Now, this is the last time I will ask. Are you ready to give in? Is all this finally getting to be too much for you?" He asked, his mechanical sounding voice actually appearing to be taunting.

"Look there." His arm extended, pointing to the door many went through every day. "There are the doors to a bed, clothes… food. You know you want to go through them. You just want to give in. But you're too proud." The Vulcan watched him closely as he pretended to hide behind his insane demeanor. Suddenly, the alien stepped closer, shocking the Vulcan with his proximity- though the humming never stopped, merely stuttered.

"Pride will earn you nothing here. No longer do you have a name. You have been stripped to nothing. This is your only chance. If you don't, I leave you here to die."

The Vulcan's singing stopped; the shadow of a smile appearing on his face. "I do not believe so. This is merely an attempt to humiliate me, to make me bow down to you in disgrace and shame. That has not worked, but you still paid for me. You won't kill me."

"I don't care what happens to you-" he warned, the Vulcan's humming starting once again, "but I won't have slaves who won't listen to me. You have twenty seconds to decide."

"Cree craw toad's foot," came out of the Vulcan's mouth, his appearance suggesting that he never heard the warning.

"Ten… Nine… Eight…"

"Geese walk bare foot," he continued, ignoring the countdown as he infuriated the alien.

"Five… Four… Three… Two… One. Not again."

With that, he turned away from the prisoner, marching toward the door. "Wait!" The Vulcan called, pivoting around, using his foot to try and maneuver himself, a painful endeavor as it put more strain on his already pained shoulders.

"What?"

"What would you do if I say that I will do as you want, whatever it is that you want," he asked, seeing the same amused smile he had seen only nine days before.

"What? You haven't figured that out yet?"

Selak just looked at him, no longer feeling the horrible rumbling in his stomach.

"Are you sure you want to work for me? Perhaps death would be better? More honorable?"

"Just let me down," he croaked, his throat dry from thirst.

"Very well." With a mere touch of a device on his hand, the handcuffs opened, sending the Vulcan's nude body to the floor. A foreign gesture of the hand instructed a guard to leave, returning with some clothes. The pile was tossed at his feet, the Vulcan not reaching out for them to cover him.

"Well, put them on. You'll need them. As I'm sure you know, the nights can get awfully cold." The Vulcan looked up at the alien in annoyance, the taunting continuing to annoy him. Then, doing as instructed, he stood and put on the thin uniform he had been given. The material reached to his ankles and his shirt collar was oddly cut to expose the new tattoo they had branded him with.

"Very good, 726. Very good."

"726?"

"Cha-for-te. My designation. The number they put on my chest."

Tylus nodded, he was getting farther with the tattoo but nowhere near knowing much about it. But, like before, he decided not to push. "So, what happened after that? He let you down, but what did he make you do?"

"According to him, the card on my belt said that I knew how to fight. When I concurred, he said that I looked like the kind of fighter he had been looking for."

"I'm not sure I'm catching on."

"The man that bought me was in charge of one of the larger arenas; he was bringing me there to become one of his newest gladiators. I just didn't know what to expect…"

Selak stumbled forward as hands pushed him, his own hands bound to his sides and useless. He sifted his arms, trying to make himself more comfortable in the new, itchy clothing he had been given. Even to just let his wrists be alleviated of some of their pain. He wasn't even going to bother with how annoying the shackle-like device around his neck was, though the chain appeared to give him enough slack to lean far backwards.

He looked up and around himself, trying to take in his surrounds. The corridor they were taking him through was dark, lit only by dim light fixtures hidden in the walls. It seemed to be made mostly of a brown clay-like material. The ground was hard dirt, or so it looked.

Even the air smelt of dirt and sand. It was stale, as well. Thinner than he was used to, but not overly difficult to breathe. Just uncomfortable.

The hands- those belonging to two aliens, their species he couldn't identify- stopped him once they reached a gate. The gate itself seemed to fit the rest of the area: it was made of a black metal. It reminded him of pictures he had seen in old books about Earth's 1400's Europe. Or some time in there.

He could see two small windows in the gate. They were high off the ground, but just over his eye level. He couldn't see anything out of them; sand and dirt had smudged them over. They seemed as if they had never seen any water in their existence.

Suddenly, one of the aliens unlocked the restraints around his wrists. After that, he removed them from the belt around his waist that they were connected to. Selak looked at him in confusion, watching his actions closely as he stored them away.

The second alien, who he hadn't been watching, startled him by roughly grabbing his hand, shoving a knife into it.

"Uh, no. No, thanks. I don't- no, I don't ne-" but the alien ignored his plead, not taking back the weapon when offered to him and turning away. Selak looked down at it, wondering if he could hide it and use it for escape.

Selak then looked between the two aliens, but neither would look at him. Instead they seemed focused on whatever was going-on on the other side of the gate.

"Excuse me," Selak began, hoping that one of them had a universal translator. "Excuse me!" He tried, but neither looked. They just continued to ignore him.

Finally, one turned away, keying in a sequence on some sort of keypad. Selak tried to see what he was doing, but his bulky body blocked the device quite well.

After just a moment, the gate started to creak opened, sliding slowly up into the wall. Selak watched it work its way up; it seemed to take forever. All the while his heart began to pound- he had no idea what to expect on the other side. They had given him a knife, did they think he'd need to protect himself?

The gate opened high enough for him to see that the area was completely covered with sand. White sand, glowing brightly from the lights inside. He starred at it a moment, recalling how he had been told about the planet Vulcan and how it was covered with sand.

He anticipation grew; his fear mounted. He was terrified of what they might have in there. Was this what that A'Kesh had told him about? Was he going to be forced to fight? No, he was kidding him. They couldn't possibly… could they?

The gate was almost level with his eyes. He could see almost everything on the other side. No rabid animal or alien creature. No other person like him, knife in hand and branded like some animal.

But there was a very large stadium, people filled the entire thing. Row after row of seats were occupied. The first row was nearly seven meters off the ground, looking down on the sand filled pit.

The alien hands pushed him forward, forcing him onto the hot, white sand. He winced, his feet burning. Sand slid through his toes, a feeling he had only experience a few times in his short life.

He walked farther into the area- the arena, he assumed. Cheers erupted from the crowd, as if excited that he had entered. He looked up in the stadium, once again feeling awkward, as he was the object of everyone's mind. Hundred, maybe thousands, of A'Mocku were watching his every move. There was cheering and booing as he walked around the sandy arena.

The applause slowed to a low rumble, the audience turning their attention away from him. For a moment, he was relieved, only to realize that they were now looking at a gate on the other side of the arena. It was slowly opening, but already he could see the bare feet of another person- another slave of the Amocku.

There was very little that was overly distinct about the alien. Nothing except for his blue skin- a Bolian. Selak approached him slowly just as he walked out into the sand. The Vulcan took in his appearance- he was thin, tired, and very weak. Selak had never seen one of his species that was so… blank, so unapproachable or emotional. He looked as if he might die any day.

The Bolian just walked to the middle of the arena, a place marked by a circular structure, Selak had just walked past it without care. The only thing in the sand that he had noticed had been a jungle-gym-like object over to the left corner.

Selak followed him, noticed how casually he carried the weapon in his hand, how much more at ease he was with the process.

"Hey, what's going on in here?" Selak asked, hoping to get an answer out of the man. Their species were, after all, allies. He had no reason or want to injury the starved Bolian.

The alien just looked at him, not answering but not ignoring him. "What do they want us to do?" Selak rephrased. Perhaps he was just too tired to talk or comprehend him at the moment.

"They want you to kill me. Just do it quickly," the Bolian answered, his voice weak but sincere.

"I won't. We can get out of here."

The alien actually laughed. "There is no out. Only life. And the only way to live, is to fight and kill me."

"I won-" but he never finished. Already, the Bolian sliced his knife through his bare shoulder. Selak hissed in pain, trying to catch his breath at the sudden blow.

The crowd laughed and cheered; Selak looked up at them, confused at their behavior as well. The Bolian just stood there, impassive.

"What the hell was that for?"

"Fight. Or die." With that, the Bolian went to hit him again with his weapon. This time Selak blocked his blow, knocking the weapon too easily from the alien's hand. He avoided using his knife, even his wounded arm, but did fight the alien until he was on the ground.

Selak bent over him, his knife stiffly held in his hand. The Bolian just starred up at him, his nose bloodied, blue dripping from it.

"Kill me. End this nightmare."

"I won't kill you," Selak enforced. He would fire blindly on an Amocku that was charging him, or firing at him. He would kill one of his enemies if and only if he was threatened. But he wouldn't kill a half starved man that had allied himself to his people.

"You will," he whispered, his hand reaching out to grab the Vulcan's throat. Selak chocked on his breathe, shocked by the alien's actions. He clawed at the Bolian's hand, trying to force him to let go. All the while he felt more and more light headed as his oxygen was depleted.

"Kill me, and you live. Do it now, give me some kind of honorable death, or let them kill me. I'll die either way. You have a choice."

Selak gasped for air, hoping that the weak alien would loosen his grip. But it was strong as ever. He could only last a few more seconds.

Selak looked into the alien's eyes; he was completely sincere. He would kill him just as he wanted to die. And he knew he would die even if Selak didn't do it.

His knife was still in his hand, he could feel the rough grip under his fingers. It was near the Bolian's stomach, if he just…

But could he live with the absolute knowledge that he had indeed killed someone? Would he just be presented with this over and over again as he lived there as an Amocku prisoner?

"Kill me," the Bolian pleaded. His mind was slipping, he couldn't last much longer.

He shut his eyes, trying to hide the tear that slipped from his grasp. His stomach churned with the sound of the knife piercing the Bolian's skin, slipping farther into his body. He pushed it in hard before pulling it out.

"Thank-you," the alien whispered before his eyelids slid closed. His hand loosened, releasing Selak.

The Vulcan pushed himself up, disgusted by the sight. He look down at his hand, blue blood covered his hand. The blood of the first man he killed knowingly… the first man he killed on purpose.

He vaguely noticed slaves rushing out, two holding an anti-gravity stretcher. They pulled up the body, tossing him on and taking him away. At the same time, the crowd burst in applause. Shouts and jeers echoed in the arena, nothing making it to Selak's ears.

A hand grabbed his wrist, thrusting his hand covered in blood up in the air, showing it to the audience. He weakly tried to pull it away, wanting nothing to do with the sicken sport they seemed to have. He wanted nothing to do with anything involving the Amocku…

"You killed a Bolian?"

Selak shrugged, sighing. "I killed a lot of people. One human, once. Many species I didn't know, some we're fighting. A Trill; a few others from the Federation."

Selak sighed, running a hand through his hair. "He was my first. But I've never forgotten a face. Never. And there were a lot of them. A whole lot."

"You remember every fight?"

"Not every one in complete detail. A few things here and there. Some things that have replayed themselves in my dreams. Moments and faces."

"What was the next thing that happened? That you remember?"

He took a deep breath, expelling it as he thought. "Oh, um… they took me to one of the sleeping areas- there were eight of them. You only fought against those that weren't in yours.

"Um, I was shown to this small area in the back. It looked the same as the corridor did- small, dark, and made of brown clay. But then, everything did…"

"Take this." Selak spun, the voice startling him, adrenaline still rushing through his system. It was an A'Kesh man, one nearly in his forties by Human standards. His hand was outstretched, in it was a knife, one similar to the one he used in the arena.

"Why?" Selak had little trust of the A'Kesh, they had after all violated their alliance with the Federation. Not to mention he simply didn't trust their eyes- it was just something about them.

"This will be one of the few times you'll be able to practice. I suggest you take them when they come. Take it."

His voice was more forceful, shaking the knife in his hand as if it would make Selak take it faster. "Practice? They just made me kill a man for no reason and you want me to practice with you? An A'Kesh?"

The man laughed, amused by him. He dropped his arm, the weight of gravity starting to tire it. His hand ran through his short hair- a reddish brown color that seemed to be the only shade A'Kesh had. "You've never had to kill before, have you? You're young, by your standards. But don't worry, boy, you'll soon learn to have the stomach for it."

"Learn to kill? I-"

"You will," he interrupted, startling the Vulcan by tossing the knife at his feet. "You will or you will die. It is as simple as that."

"Fine." Reluctantly, Selak bent down, picking up the knife though his eyes never left the A'Kesh.

"I will not stab you in the back. Besides, I cannot." Selak's wrinkled brow showed his confusion. "See that light on your belt? Whenever it's on, which is whenever you are outside the arena, no other prisoner can harm you. It places a forceshield around you. See?"

Selak jumped back, his reflexes quick but not putting him out of the way of the knife in time. The blade hit him straight on, the tip just below his rib cage. But, true to his word, the knife stopped only three centimeters from his body, bouncing off the forceshield the man had promised would be there.

"What's your designation?"

"Selak."

"There are no names here, only numbers. Your designation."

"726. You?"

"238. But, since I am no good with numbers, I will call you Selak."

"What's your name? Your real name?"

"It has been a long time."

"Surely not long enough to forget such a thing."

He looked away, moving towards him to pick up his knife without seeing the Vulcan at all. When he straightened, Selak saw that he held both knifes, obviously offering the one to him. With a sigh, he looked down at the A'Kesh's hands. He noticed that they had a gill like ridges on them, something he had never seen on one before.

Selak's hand reached up, taking the knife, thinking that it may save his life the next time he was forced to fight.

"Leto."

"I'm sorry."

"My name was Leto."

"You mean it is Leto."

"Not anymore."

"Then to me."

Leto smiled, an amused nod telling Selak that he did, indeed, have the permission to call him by that title. "Well, are we here to talk, or fight?"

"Apparently fight."

"Good. Stance," he stated, suddenly shifting quickly from relaxed to, what looked like, a karate stance. Selak mimicked it, hoping it was appropriate. Leto didn't scold him. Then Selak lashed out, trying to hit the man.

Leto, with very little effort, grabbed him by the wrist, twisting his arm. Selak hissed in pain, dropping the knife to the ground. Only then did the A'Kesh let him go, a soft smile playing on his lips, a chuckle escaping him as Selak rubbed his injury.

Selak huffed, bending over and picking up the knife as Leto taunted, "Be careful, Federation Hybrid, such a pathetic move could get you killed."

"Federation Hybrid?" Selak spat angrily.

"It's what you are. Don't try to deny it; a half blind man could see your ears."

Selak glared angrily at him; he didn't appreciate the insult, as such a nickname was considered in Federation space. But, then, he wasn't in Federation space, was he?

Frustrated, Selak jumped into his stance, prepared to take on Leto once again. This time he wouldn't be so foolish; instead he'd try to employ the martial arts lessons he had learned.

Once Leto was in his own stance, Selak quickly kicked his hand, forcing the A'Kesh to drop his weapon. He sliced the knife through the air, determined to hit Leto. But the man dodged him with ease, insulting the amount of energy Selak had put into his attack.

Leto threw a punch, aiming for Selak's chest, but he blocked it, using his angle to connect his elbow with Leto's chin. The A'Kesh fell to the ground, his eyes catching the sight of his knife next to him. Selak went to kneel, a smirk on his face with the smug thought that he had won against the A'Kesh.

But he never made it to the ground. In the blink of an eye, quite literally, Leto was gone. Selak could see almost an echo of his movements behind him. But, before he could react to it, a knife was only four centimeters from his neck.

Selak tensed, his stomach muscles reacting to having Leto's arm around his waist. "How the hell did you do that?" Selak asked, quickly spinning around when Leto released him.

"It's called speed-walking. Few A'Kesh are able to do it. Only those by the name of K'Na."

"K'Na? Never heard of them."

Leto laughed. "Of course you haven't, Hybrid. Come on, Stance."

"After a while, Leto became one- well, the only- friend I had there. Eventually he taught me to speed-walk."

Selak turned to look at Tylus. At some point, he had risen, walking over to look out the window without realizing what he was doing. "You must have heard about the implant in my neck?"

"Yes, but-"

"The Amocku put that there later to stop me from using it. Even now I can't. But, I learned. Long and hard did I train, but I learned…"

Selak tripped, falling on his face. He groaned, hitting the dirt ground with his fists.

"Being angry with the ground won't help you do this correctly," Leto scolded.

Selak just sighed, pushing himself up. "I'm never going to get this. Maybe it's just not possible," the Vulcan said in defeat, touching his tender forehead. That was the third time he had hit it.

"It is too possible. You just have to get up and try again. This time, maybe you should try believing that you can do it." Selak sighed, taking Leto's offered hand.

"But not even your entire species can, why do you think I'll be able to?"

"You want to know why only certain A'Kesh can speed-walk?" Selak shrugged. "It's because centuries ago, our ancestors could. As the years went on, less bothered with it. So, for those who "can", it is merely something that comes naturally and easily. For those who supposedly "can't", just don't have the inclination or care to try."

Selak looked away. "Now, let's try this again." Selak sighed. He stepped to the side, readying himself to try. He took slow, deep breathes, concentrating on the spot a few meters in front of him.

Suddenly he felt dizzy, as if the entire world was spinning all around him. He stumbled over his feet, tripping himself. Again he pounded the ground in frustration. But Leto just laughed, clapping.

Selak looked up at him in confusion as the A'Kesh crotched down. "Very good, you moved a whole… five meters. Very good for your first try. Now we'll just have to practice direction and balance."

"You mean… I did it?"

Leto beamed, shouting, "You did it!"

"I did it! I really did it!"

"You did it? Just like that?"

"Just like that?" Selak repeated in disgust. "It took a lot of practice and falling for a week to move those five meters. It took nearly a month of work to make me any good at it. Then another month before I was even going to dare use it."

"So, did you ever? Use it, that is?"

"Yeah, for the last… five months that I was there. Oh, it was a big hit with people. They thought it was amusing, pretty much. Um… but yeah. I can still remember the first time…"

Selak took a deep breath, shifting his feet in the sand as he watch the gate slowly open. His mind went through some of the basics- looking over the arena, taking in his stance, his weapon, waiting to see what alien he would be fighting. It was always important to know their strengths and weaknesses.

He glanced over his shoulder. Leto, like always, was waiting at the window watching how well he did. He sighed; he'd give it a try. Leto said he was ready, but he also said to hold out on it. No one would expect him to be able to- not even all A'Kesh could, so why would a Federation Hybrid know?

If he used it, then he'd lose a measure of surprise. Such a thing spread like wildfire.

The gate grinded to a stop, his opponent marching out: an A'Kesh. His breath caught, he'd never fought one. Well, with the exception of Leto.

He took a deep breath; this might be the perfect person to use it on. He could defeat Leto if he concentrated- he could defeat this A'Kesh.

The alien stepped forward, stopping a few steps from Selak. Discreetly, the Vulcan looked at the alien's hands. Only those capable of speed-walking possessed the gill-like skin on their hands. Leto had told him that, but not that it was significant. Just that it was so.

Luckily, this A'Kesh had none. Which meant Selak was one up on him. Two if you counted the surprise element.

The A'Kesh grunted with effort as he moved. Selak dodged him easily. He rolled on the ground, getting some distance between him and the alien. He sighed, only if he were concentrated could he speed-walk, he wasn't practiced enough yet. Which meant he'd have to give it a shot soon or he probably wouldn't be able to at all.

He pushed himself back onto his feet, readying his weapon. The A'Kesh looked at him, an odd smile on his lips. And Selak made his move.

The same feeling of disorientation took over him, his body suddenly finding itself right next to the alien, his knife imbedded in his chest.

The A'Kesh looked at him in shock and surprise. "K'Na," was all his whispered before he fell to the ground, taking Selak's weapon with him.

The Vulcan took a deep breath, dropping to his knees. It still took a lot out of him to try- practicing for it was brutal enough; he'd never had to really use it.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he heard the crowd cheering, shocking and intrigued words being spoken. But Selak didn't listen, he just laughed as two slaves pulled him off the ground, dragging him back through the gate.

"You just can't imagine what it's like to… to move like that. To feel like… like you're on top of the world. Or… or that you control it somehow. I don't know… it's probably not a good thing, but I do love it. I only wish they'd remove that chip."

"Why won't they?"

"You tell me. You're the shrink." Selak sighed. "They think it'll make me kill people or something. Or maybe they're just afraid of it. I don't know."

Tylus shrugged. After a pause, he asked, "Selak, may I ask you something?"

"If you'd like," Selak responded, absent-mindedly, as he gazed outside the room.

"Was there ever a time, in the arena, when you… well, feared that you… wouldn't leave?" Tylus asked, trying to beat around the bush rather than say the word out loud.

"You mean," he smirked, turning to see the man, "Did I ever think that I was going to die in the arena? Of course… every time I stepped foot out there. Well, that is until one day…"

It had been five months by the Human calendar. Five months since he had gotten there, and still no word. No word of escape or a way out.

Stepping forward, he accepted his weapon- the same bland knife- and stepped up to the gate. Cheering erupted on the other side of the gate; his opponent must have entered. In a few moments his gate would open and allow him entrance.

With a deep breathe, he watched the gate inch its way up, slowly allowing him to see more and more of the arena. First the brown sand, the stadiums only once the door had risen to eye level. A second deep breathe, he pushed away his worry, cleared his mind and readied himself to fight.

A nod from the guard told him to walk out. Selak didn't respond, just stepped forward, out into the waiting crowds' eyes. A second wave of cheering and jeers met him, coaching him further into the arena, all the while scaring him into wanting to leave.

The Vulcan felt the familiar feel of sand beneath his feet, moving through his toes as he walked forward, coming face to face with his opponent. It was a rough faced, large alien- one he had learned was enslaved by the Amochu for centuries: the Gwri.

Taking in the man quickly, it was easy to find his weak points- his stomach, the only part of his upper body that wasn't covered in the thick blue scales. Selak already knew, without seeing, that his back was covered with them, designed to protect the spin and lungs hidden behind a weak ribcage.

Looking him over, he immediately could tell that, though he was strong and appeared quite brutal, he was neither agile nor fast. He could use those to his advantage; hopefully he'd be able to get to his stomach.

Automatically, he mimicked the greeting gesture, clasping his hands over the knife handle he held in his hand. With a small bow, both instantly moved to fight. Selak starred at the other slave, waiting for him to make the first move, for him to be able to use the Gwri's strength to his advantage.

The alien tried to lash out at him, his knife gleaming in the artificial sunlight in the arena. Selak dodged the maneuver easily, able to jab him in the side, the Gwri's scales protecting him from the brunt of the impact.

Selak scurried away, luring him away from the center and towards a platform off to the left of the arena. The structure reminded him of the playground he had once seen on Earth, platforms of different heights surrounded by bars and poles stuck in the ground and rising high in the air.

The Vulcan swung himself up onto the lower podium, turning to see the Gwrin on his tail. Selak knew for a fact that his small, more agile body could operate quite well on the structure, making it easier for him to fight against the bulkier, slower alien who would find it hard to maneuver on the thing.

The Gwri grunted with effort as he tried to cut Selak in the leg, not yet ready to jump onto the platform. Selak dodged the knife easily, recognizing his strategy for what it was- he wanted to try and drive him off the platform to shift the playing field once again to his advantage. But Selak wasn't having that- instead, he went further up the structure, forcing the alien up onto it.

Quickly, before the Gwri noticed what he was doing, he jumped down, leveling his knife with the Gwri's stomach. But the Gwri turned at just the right moment, causing Selak to not stab him but, instead, cut off a few scales. The alien shouted in rage, anger growing in his clouded eyes.

Selak's smile grew, the young Vulcan jumping away from his fierce attacks. Without problem he climbed and jumped and maneuvered through the structure, causing the bulky Gwri to get confused and stuck in certain places.

The frustrated Gwri shouted once again in rage, making the crowd laugh at his stupidity. Selak looked up at the crowd, knowing that half the point of the arena was to keep the audience on your side- that was the only sure way of staying alive in the sand pit.

Suddenly, the smug grin faded from Selak's face, surprise and shock replacing it. Looking down, he saw, to his amazement, that the Gwri was removing his bloodied knife, covered in a greenish red liquid.

The Vulcan's own weapon slipped from his hand, allowing it to move over his abdomen. He could feel the hot blood against his palm as he looked up at the alien, his brain still trying to process the last few minutes.

His knees began to feel weak, bending under his body's weight. The alien's face began to spin; he, like the rest of the arena, distorting and moving. Selak barely felt his back hit the ground when his knees finally caved in.

He closed his eyes, the artificial light too bright for his head to take. Breathing started to hurt, every inhale disturbing his wound. By then the pain was finding its way up his chest, his neck, and down his right leg. It was far worse than he had experienced so far in the arena.

Resting his head on the cold podium, he let his eyes slowly open. Just as the shouts of the crowds seemed so distant, so did the light. All he could see was the waves of pain flowing through his veins; all he could think about was the fact that he was dead. The audience would have a majority vote for the kill- he was dead, and he accepted it.

He let his eyes slide closed, waiting for the second piercing blow that would finish him off. Waiting for the Gwri to kill him. For the hell he had been living in to end, to just get life over with.

For a moment, he even allowed himself to imagine what might await him- would there be a God like his Human part thought, or would his katra live on forever on a higher plain? Maybe he would see the Profits, his pagh could go to the Celestral Temple. But what did the Trill believe? He couldn't remember…

Through his musing, he never noticed that two other slaves were pulling him off the podium, dragging him onto an anti-gravity stretcher and bringing him to the gate. Selak opened his eyes, barely glimpsing the Gwri moving away to his gate- he must have moved away some time before and Selak had never noticed. Never noticed that he wasn't going to die…

"They, of course, had ways to quickly heal you. I was only in the "Infirmary" for a couple days. I went back in the arena barely a week later.

"After that, dying wasn't such a scary thought; I started to become cold, distance even from Leto. I think he understood- he must have seen something like that before- hell, I saw it before me." A soft, humorless chuckle escaped him. "I promised myself I wouldn't become like that, guess I broke it."

Sighing, he turned away from his fellow Vulcan. "Tylus? Do you know what the three most important things in life are?"

"No." The counselor looked at the Vulcan with curiosity, he had no idea where this was going.

"Love, honor, and freedom. Leto taught me that- it's an A'Kesh thing."

"He taught you a lot about the A'Kesh?"

"Yes, but only the religion and so forth- not anything that Starfleet would be interested in."

"What about speed-walking?" Selak just glared at him; Tylus knew that he wasn't going to repeat that to anyone, not that he hadn't already stated what a bitch it was to learn. "And this? When did he teach you about this?"

Selak turned, remembering when he had talked to Leto more than learned or practiced- it seemed more important at the time…

"You're not focused."

"Should I be?" Selak snapped, throwing down his knife. It was an odd week, which meant practice with Leto. But it didn't mean he wanted to fight. At that moment, he just wanted to go home. To go away from there.

The A'Kesh looked at the knife he had thrown away; he was obviously annoyed at the younger man's irritation. "I'm sorry, Leto. I shouldn't have-"

"Acted your age? It's quite all right. In fact, I've been waiting for you to lose your tight control." The A'Kesh sighed, sitting down on the cot nearby. Selak followed him, sitting a foot or so away.

"You've been distant lately. Not talking to me, or any of the others. You're fighting is becoming stiffer. I've seen it happen many times; I had hoped that, perhaps, you would be spared."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know what the Kal'har are, don't you?"

"Yeah, the living dead. They're all over; the one's that just want to die," Selak said, almost matter-o-factly. He had seen them before, they were indeed everywhere. Slowly becoming that way, just wandering around pointlessly. Not eating or drinking. Then, one day, they either just don't wake up or they allow themselves to be killed in the arena.

"You're becoming one. I can see it."

"I am not!" Selak protested, looking in horror at the man he was slowly calling mentor… and friend.

"You are. You still have time, but you will eventually." Leto sighed once again, seeing the young man look away.

"But you haven't," he suddenly protested. "You've been here for a long time and never became a Kal'har."

"No. Because I know what many do not realize. There are three things in life worth living for, my young friend. Love, honor, and freedom. You have all those things, no matter what you may think. And always will, as long as you know you have them. Never forget that, Selak."

The Vulcan nodded slowly to himself. He wasn't sure what the alien was talking about- he had no freedom, he was a slave. But he would take his words to heart. Leto rose, picking up Selak's discarded knife.

"We do not have to practice today if you do not wish it. Tomorrow, if we can." Selak just nodded, stood and walked away.

"You know, I lost all of those things there. He told me to try and keep that from happening- but it still did," he explained, not looking at Tylus any more.

"The freedom's obvious but-"

"I lost my family, my friends… I thought I had lost everything I could ever possibly love. After only a few months I was parading around my successes with no thought at all- I killed without a shred of honor. I thought my physical incarceration meant I had lost my freedom, but it didn't…"

Selak stood at the gate, waiting patiently, if not excitedly, for it to open. In a way, he just wanted to get it over with. He was tired after all the fighting he had done in the past week, it was starting to drain on him.

"Ready to kill another person?" Leto taunted, his voice no longer the playful sarcasm Selak had grown accustom to.

"What are you talking about?"

"Just look at yourself! You enjoy this!" He yelled, apparently ready to fight, verbally if not physically.

"Enjoy it? You think I like killing people? That I want to do this?"

"You sure act that way!"

"Me? What about… never mind, I don't have time for this." Selak brushed him off, turning away.

But Leto persisted. He grabbed Selak's shoulder, thankful that his shield had already been deactivated, and spun him towards him. "No, I want to hear what you have to say."

"Well, then. Let me refresh you memory, Leto, you're the one who trained me! So don't you go having doubts about what you created!"

"I created? You're the one who's gone way over your head. That's not my fault! Good-bye Selak, I hope somehow you'll find peace from this hell."

"Leto! Leto! Get back here! I'm not through with you! Leto!" But the A'Kesh was already well down the hall, he wasn't going to turn around. Selak sighed; the gate was rising. He was no longer looking forward to this fight.

Selak stepped over the threshold, his feet hitting the soft dirt, a dramatic change from that of the warm sand. He looked over his shoulder, seeing the other man being taken away- not worried that one day it would be him far from his mind as he saw the gate close.

His hand reached up to push the long strands of hair from his eyes. He could feel how unkempt, how oily and dirty, it had become, but he simply hadn't had the time to shower between sleeping, eating, training, and fighting in the last week. The same went for shaving; running a hand over his chin, his fingers were met with rough stubble, the hair growing much more than he had allowed before. Perhaps he would bath that night, shave and cut his hair.

"Your weapon."

Selak looked over at the guard. The same procedure as always. With a simple flick of his wrist, he easily caught the blade in his hand. The guard taking it indifferently. Turning away, Selak barely notice the sticky feel on his right hand, bit it was there nonetheless. Looking down at it, is eyes caught the faint redness in the dim light.

Out of impulse, his hand went to wipe itself on his pant leg, his mind telling him to move forward. But then, suddenly, he stopped- froze where he was. Once again, his hand turned towards him, his eyes starring almost blankly down at it.

Another man's blood- a man he killed. That was what was covering his hand, the hand of a gladiator- no, a murderer. A slave.

Killing was never meant to be a sport, never for any reason.

But where- when- did he cross that line? When did he go from innocent child to popular gladiator? When did his attitude change- when did he lose his disgust at the thought of seeing blood? His hatred of what he was ding? When did he talk about his dead opponents with pride? When did he learn to smile at his enemy- with his enemy- and laugh about the "game"? When did everything go wrong?

Selak's eyes were glazed over, starring but not seeing. His hand began to shake. Sobs raked through his body as the realization of what he'd become hit him. He was no creation Leto had made… he was his own creation- he was what the arena made him. What survival had made him.

He saw that… saw that Leto was right…

And he didn't like it…

He didn't like it at all…

"Leto and I didn't talk after that. Not for a few days. He wasn't around and I… I just didn't care anymore. I barely ate, couldn't sleep. I'd seen it before; it happens to everyone after a while. I had always hoped that it wouldn't happen to me…"

Selak stopped, taking a deep breath. "Three… no more than four days later I had my first match since that last one. I was up against a Yion. Ugly creatures- large but fast. I don't remember a lot about the beginning. Just the basic things happened I guess.

"The first thing I remember really about the fight was that he cut me in the thigh before it began. Then he just suddenly grabbed me…"

Selak felt the Yion grab a hold of his chain, tugging it closer to him. The pressure on the back on his neck increased, forcing Selak to move closer to the alien, able to feel his hot breath on his face. The back of his neck burned; he could feel that his collar had cut him.

"I had heard you were one of the best," the alien whispered, Selak's translator able to pick most of it up easily. "I even had a moment when I feared I would die in this sandtrap," he admitted, a coy smile playing in his eyes as the tip on his knife danced across Selak's stomach, hard enough to feel but not pierce the skin.

With a second tug, he pulled Selak's ear to his mouth. "I think that was premature." In an instant, Selak felt himself meet the sand below him, his entire right side covered with the hot sand, wincing as his open cut filled with the particles.

Looking up at the Yion, his face a question. The alien just grinned, like a mad hunter who was playing with his prey. "Run, little boy. Play the game." The Yion approached steadily, his insane look enough to make Selak crawl away, his eyes darting back and forth between the arena and the alien.

"Run, Hybrid, make this all the more fun for me. Come on, I wanna have some fun."

Selak looked up at the crowd, their jeers and shouts growing louder, their fists pounding their chests in the sign of the kill: they wanted the Yion to kill him. His breathing quickened, his heart pounded- he couldn't do this.

Pushing himself up, he looked around, knowing that he was growing close to the podium. He was backing himself into a corner with no weapon- he was surly dead. There was no way out for him, he couldn't kill the man, he was too afraid, too off guard. He couldn't do this. Perhaps it would be better, everything would finally be over.

Looking over at the gate, he could see- or thought he saw- Leto's face in the small barred window they sometimes allowed others to look out. Leto was watching him; he could tell, even from the distance, that Leto was scarred for him, worried that he would be killed.

Looking back at the Yion, he could see his leer. He was ecstatic; he was about to kill the only Federation slave to last over three months. To kill the hybrid that had gained so much popularity. He was about to win the battle of his life.

But then, he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Something was shinning; something silver was reflecting the lighting. Furtively he looked a bit more in that direction, careful to keep the Yion from noticing.

There was his knife, the one that had been so easily knocked from his hand. If he could only reach it, only get to it. But there was no way, he couldn't move fast enough, couldn't possibly keep the Yion from knowing what he was doing, the alien would kill him before he had time.

Selak felt his heart pounding in his chest. He was dead. He only had a few more meters before he hit the podium, then he was a dead man. The Yion would corner him and kill him… and the audience had lost their interest in him, they wouldn't vote him to live. He was dead, he was…

Selak looked back at Leto. The one and only friend he had found in that hellhole. The only of his kind he had ever met or befriended. A good man; he didn't deserve to be locked up in the arena, he deserved better.

Leto nodded, seemingly in the direction of the knife. He wished he could tell Leto that he wanted to try, that he really would have tried. But it was pointless, there was no way to go fast enough to…

Not fast enough for a Federation Hybrid, sure. But for someone who could speed-walk. All he needed was for the Yion to be in just the right position. Enough that he could get to him fast and finish this, but keep him out of the way of the knife.

Continuing to back up, Selak tried to quickly figure it out in his head. He took a deep breath- it was now or never. In the blink of an eye, Selak moved to grab the knife, spinning around to get behind the Yion. The alien was so shocked he hadn't a clue what to do.

Turning around as quickly as he could, he only made himself walk into Selak's blade. The Vulcan pulled out the knife, his hand once again bloodied. He looked down at the wound; he had intended to kill him in one, swift blow- a deadly one. But, instead, the alien had caused himself to extend his life for another few, painful minutes.

"I guess… I was wrong," he said, his face etched in shock, before he collapsed. The Vulcan looked at him, he was dead and Selak was once again a murderer for the benefit of his captors. Pitifully, he stuck his hand up in the air, showing off the bloody knife, as waves of applause filled the stadium.

Two slaves ran out, holding a stretcher, as they ran for the dead slave. Another came from Selak's gate, taking his hand and leading him back to the gate, taking the knife from him as they went.

Selak's mind processed everything as if it were a second were a century. Things slowed down, noises and voices blurred together.

"Spectacular finish," Leto commented, bowing his head. "Look, Selak, I was a jerk- I was right, but I was still a jerk about it."

The Vulcan chuckled, nodding. "Forget about it."

Leto nodded. "Are you going to be alright?"

"I don't think I'll ever be alright."

"I was ready to die. I had accepted that I was going to. But, something, somehow, I realized… I realized that I didn't want to.

"And, you see, I realized I was wrong. My freedom was not truly dependant on my ability to come and go as I pleased or to be free of restraint- it was to be free in my mind. To still be able to think and feel as I wanted.

"And I hadn't lost all that I loved- there was still Leto. A man I respected and regarded as a friend. I still had his love and respect as a friend.

"But honor… honor came with the fight. Showing mercy to those I fought and who I killed… that was how I started my life over…"

Selak starred down at the young Ferlin at his feet. He was barely a boy, no more than twenty years old. His fighting was limited; it amazed the Vulcan that he had even been selected to fight. Perhaps he had lied.

The Ferlin had lasted only minutes against Selak, fighting and diving and running in a manner that Selak had very little tolerance for. It had been a simple enough matter to hit him in the face, knocking him to the hot sand beneath his feet.

The Ferlin starred up at him with scared, brown eyes. His lip seemed to quiver in anticipation of his death. His chest rose and dropped quickly, mounting in sync with the crowd's pounding of their chest, chanting words of death.

Selak looked away from the young boy, watching the audience for a moment. It was ultimately their choice whether or not a slave that had been disarmed and fallen would die. If they chose it, that was what the winning slave was compelled to do…

Selak saw their fists pounding their chests, telling him to kill the Ferlin. He had obviously not amused them in the few weeks he had been in the arena.

Selak looked back at the fear-filled eyes of the Ferlin. They reminded him of another young man with brown eyes. Selak hadn't thought of him for months, having other thoughts- other nightmares- the past few weeks.

But, as if a dam had broken, he suddenly remembered the young Irish Human named Miles. Suddenly remembered the blank look in his eyes as he stared off, dead in an instant after the blast hit him.

But that boy was always afraid. Always skittish when he walked out of the walls of the complex. Always afraid that he would die that day. And, the one day Selak had convinced him otherwise, he had been killed; shot dead in a mere second.

The Ferlin at his feet reminded him of Miles. Afraid and young. He knew he was going to die, just as Miles had in a way, and it terrified him. The thought of being killed by an enemy he didn't know.

Selak looked into his eyes, watching them for a moment, his face passive. Then, ripping his sight away from the boy, he looked back at the crowd. They were still pounding their chests, waiting for him to finish off the Ferlin. Slowly becoming bored with him as well.

Selak sighed, looking back down at the Ferlin. He adjusted the knife in his hand. And, with a flick of his wrist, he tossed it down. The knife dug into the sand next to the Ferlin, missing his body by a few centimeters.

He starred up at Selak with stunned confusion before looking back at the knife. Then he looked back up at Selak, who now held his hand out. Selak pulled him to his feet, ignoring the shocked protests of the crowd.

Then, just as casually as he would walk out of his own bedroom, he turned and walked away. Heading for the gate that would allow him access to his sleeping area.

"So, you sparred him against their wishes?"

"Yes. Though it didn't go over well with the audience, it was with Koval. He had like me since the first time he had seen me in the arena."

"What did he want?" Tylus asked.

"Me."

"How do you mean?"

"He wanted me to become his bodyguard, basically. Leto said it was not uncommon for it to happen- bodyguards can only be made from slaves, the soldiers are too busy. Therefore it's often gladiators that are chosen."

"So you went with him?" Tylus looked at him, almost thankful that he was looking away. If he said yes, his words would be almost as good as admitting to treason.

"Only because Leto insisted that I would never get another chance like that. He said that few ever survived as long in the arena as I had." Selak paused, not bothering to look at Tylus. He could sense what he felt about that. It was bad enough that he had interacted so much with an A'Kesh but the Amocku as well.

"That's when I got the implant," he continued, as if he had never ceased. "That way I couldn't use speed-walking to escape. Koval said that he wished he hadn't had to. It seemed that my speed walking amused him, but he wasn't yet sure of my loyalties."

"I've been watching you for the past few months, 726," an Amocku stated, approaching Selak as he spoke.

"Really, what an honor," he drawled, not sparring the man a second glance as he cleaned his arm protector- something he had won weeks past.

"That was a good fight; bad idea, but good fight."

"What are you talking about?"

"They told you to kill him, you didn't. You went against a couple of rules there," he said, his voice neither scolding nor amused.

"Too bad, I did what I thought was right."

"You just left him open to be killed by the guards; you diminished your reputation even more."

"What do you mean, 'even more'?" Selak asked, still not looking up at the man.

"Well, you've been getting softer after that… fiasco a week or so ago."

"What 'fiasco'?"

"When you were nearly killed by that Yion. Look, 726, I'm an Amocku-"

Selak looked up at this, commenting, "I've noticed."

"Which means I've been watching gladiator fights since I was young-"

"Great pastime, perhaps your people should consider baseball."

"And I know what gladiator moods are," he finished, ignoring Selak's insubordination.

"Please, enlighten me, since you're the expert."

"Slaves like you go through phases, if you survive long enough. You start out scared, afraid, at first not having a clue what's going on around you. Then, after a while, you go cold, not caring about killing everyone around you- out in that arena. Then, one day, you walk out and you know that you are going to die- not because the other's bigger than you but because you're ready to die and give up."

Selak had watched the Amocku closely as he spoke, the alien growing closer as he spoke. "Really, thanks for the insight. Now if you don't mind-"

"Something happened in that arena. You were ready to die- I saw that. But, then at the very end, you decided to win. Why?"

"That's personal."

The Amocku nodded, stepping back some. "Really? Well, you do realize that your popularity is dropping fast. One slip, you're dead."

"Thanks for the tip."

"I have an offer for you-"

"I'm a slave, remember? I can't accept or deny you the right to buy me. But you'll have to talk to my master. Now, if you'll excuse me-"

The Amocku grabbed his arms, stopping him from walking away. "I already did, and I already own you, 726. I want you to be my bodyguard; you have two days to finish up here and I'll be back." With that, he let go of Selak, walking away without a second word.

"Good, good, you look better," Ambassador Koval- Selak's newest master- commented, seeing his new, flashier clothing.

"It's harder to move in," Selak complained, not caring that none of the other slaves back-talked the Ambassador. He really didn't care that his sarcasm could get him killed; it really didn't matter anymore.

"You'll get used to it. You just need some practice." The man snapped his fingers, a slave walking out at his command two staffs in hand. It was a young man, eighteen or nineteen in human years.

He stepped up to Selak, offering the staff to him. Selak looked to Koval, the man nodding to him. Selak sighed, taking the staff and checking it out, finding its center of gravity and getting a feel for the weapon. The boy prepared himself, waiting for Selak to do the same.

The boy lashed out, Selak able to block the blow easily; the boy was hardly as trained as Selak had assumed. He himself dished out a few offensive blows, hitting the boy but only hard enough to make him feel it. The boy, however, was trying his hardest to pull a muscle as he operated the staff, lashing out with all the strength he had, Selak able to easily block them.

Getting bored of the entire thing, he made up his mind to get behind the boy and disarm him, ending the fight. Preparing himself to speed-walk, he found himself stepping right into the boy's staff, soon finding himself on the ground.

"Oh, yes," Koval laughed, seeing what Selak had tried to do. At the same time, the boy tried to take one last hit, Selak just grabbing the staff in his frustration and pulling it away from him. Jumping up, he looked to Koval to see what he had to say.

"We gave you a small implant; it'll keep you from speed-walking. Just, of course, until I know I can trust you. Wouldn't want you to… run away. It's so unfortunate, I do so like that little move."

Selak glared at him, reaching up to his neck, his fingers searching out the place the implant might be. "Under your right ear. Right there," Koval instructed him, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Selak was looking for it in hopes of ripping it off.

Sliding his fingers over his skin, just under his ear, he found the slight bulge. Perhaps it wouldn't be as easy as he had thought. "Don't worry, you won't notice it after awhile. Trust me."

"So you were his slave?" Tylus asked, watching Selak pace.

"Yeah, not like that lasted very long. I only stayed with him for… four, maybe five months," Selak shrugged.

"Do you remember anything about being there? Anything-"

"Nothing Starfleet cares about," he spat.

"Alright, something you want to talk about?"

Selak diverted his eyes, looking once again out the window. "There was one thing…"

Selak stepped through the triangle doors, carrying a large tray of food. He scowled in disgust at how much Amocku could eat- at least this time he only had to delivered fruit. A few days before it had been raw meats.

"Here, boy," Koval grunted, his eyes starring at the vid-screen in front of him. Selak walked up, careful not to make a noise as he knew Koval would be upset by the disruption it caused. He had entered before while Koval had been in a meeting or watching televised programs, he knew very well not to speak during those.

Quickly, yet quietly, he put the tray down, stepping back and away. He stood off by the wall, an area that made it difficult to see the screen, but he knew that Koval didn't appreciate people reading or watching over his shoulder.

"No, no. Come here, boy. I think you'll enjoy this." The Vulcan looked at him, a bewildered frown on his face. But, as told, he stepped closer and peaked over to see the vid-screen. His eyes widened as he recognized what Koval was watching. On it was a large, 3-D image of the sandpit.

It was his arena, if he wasn't mistaken- not that he had ever seen any others. His eyes moved to the fighters, wondering if any were from his barracks. But then he would assume it was someone he knew to make it interesting- a past challenger? When the image zoomed in closer, he saw that he was right.

There stood the Ferlin he had fought last, the same young man he had sparred the life of. Selak almost smiled- he had survived four more months because he hadn't killed him. But that joyful spark evaporated when he saw his opponent. Leto stood at the ready, his position poised to kill. Selak had seen him fight only three times in his many months in the arena.

He had been fortunate enough to survive almost two years in the arena and his owner- Selak's former- had seen fit to make him a trainer. He was only used for entertainment, a quick kill, or stand-in, as Leto had once told him. For nearly three years Leto had lived that life. He had survived the arena for five years, it was amazing that no one had bought him. Selak had no doubts in Leto's ability to fight.

On the contrary, he knew first hand how good he was. He was more afraid for the young Ferlin who had very little experience compared to the A'Kesh. And no speed-walking ability. The Ferlin was dead. But Selak hadn't missed the look in Leto's eyes: he was prepared to die. He was a Kal'har.

"Hmm, I thought that A'Kesh was killed years ago. He's a good fighter though; this should be interesting." Selak rolled his eyes at Koval- he must have seen some of Leto's matches. Selak watched as Leto moved towards the Ferlin, his body moving faster than the eye could follow.

But the Ferlin ducked at just the right moment, dodging the knife and knocking over Leto in the process. Leto was quick to get up, shaken by the event but the Ferlin was already on him. In barely ten minutes, the match was over, Koval himself surprised at the speed.

Selak just starred at the screen, not blinking- not breathing- as he watched slaves carry out the gurney.

"Well, I guess he's dead now. I've never seen anyone do that before- see where an A'Kesh was going when they do that. Interesting. Positively fascinating."

Koval remarked through his fruit filled mouth, running a hand through the projection just as the slaves removed the dead body. Selak just starred at the empty space, not even blinking when he heard, "Come on, boy, hurry along. You've got things to do."

"So… you watched Leto die?"

"Yes. If I had just killed the Ferlin, that wouldn't have happened- he'd still be alive," Selak raved.

"And you might not be. Most likely you wouldn't have survived much longer."

"What do you know about it?" Tylus quieted, Selak solemnly starring back. "I'm sorry."

He sighed, "You know, as horrible as I thought he was in that moment, I don't think he knew that I knew Leto. I think he just thought it was amusing that I was watching the Ferlin."

Tylus nodded. He wasn't so sure about that, but he would take Selak's word for it. "Is that all you remember about being with Koval? Anything else that stands out?"

"Yes. One thing really. I think it was that one thing- a small thing- that made me… I hate to say it, but it made me respect him."

Selak sighed, trying hard not to shift on the padded seat. For almost an hour he had been traveling with Koval in a small but rather luxurious transport pod.

Once again he glanced to his side, a habit he had acquired in his youth from the amount of time he had spent traveling. But, as always, he was met with a darkened window, making it impossible to see out.

He finally adjusted his arm, unaccustomed to the feel of the restraints digging into his wrists as he was unable to bend his elbows enough to make himself comfortable.

Sitting up straighter, he looked over at Koval. The Amocku paid no attention to him as he read over his notes. It was what he always did on these trips, just sit and read notes or talk on the vid-phone with someone.

Then he would spend his time in meetings or party or host "guests"; Selak would just stand around, somewhere close but nothing too close to infringe on his "personal space". No, he was never paid much attention, not even the other Amocku gave him much more than a glance.

He turned his head away, looking at the window as if it might suddenly undarken. A sudden wave of longing washed over him. Even through the days in the arena and on OP-167 he hadn't thought much of his home- neither the colony or Betazed, or even Earth. He had, at times, wished that he could hear his mother's voice or feel his father's strong arms around him like when he was a child.

But, in that moment, he would give his life just to see Earth's blue oceans or Betazed's beautiful skies. At that moment, he would have settled for Omega III's fall out shelters.

"You've never seen the outside of Devenion, have you?"

Selak's head spun around to see Koval looking thoughtfully at him. No, in truth he never had. Any windows in the house were always covered when slaves were around, and he hadn't seen any of the surface when he was in the arena. Also his trips outside the house gave him no opportunity to see anything. The house had its own docking bay and so did the Embassy they were going to. With the window darkened and the windows in the Embassy covered with fancy curtains, he never got the chance to see anything.

"No, I guess I haven't."

"Would you like to?" Selak's head tilted to the side, he had never known Koval to speak without a taunt or tease or rage in his voice- at least not to a slave. He had especially never heard the kindness in his voice that he had just heard.

At Koval's nod, he looked to his window, the rustic scenery flashing by as they went. A vast amount of trees obscured his view of anything past them, vines having grown overtop of the tall plants. The path cleared some; Selak able to see the many small hills and valleys that created someone's plantation. And, just beyond that, tree-covered mountains lined the horizon. He looked up, seeing the warm, pastel hues in the sky- it reminded him of a summer afternoon on Betazed.

A sad smile tugged at the tips of his lips as he thought once again of his mother's home, the one she and her twin brother had grown up on. The one his cousin had grown up on; the one he had spent many days living on with his brother in the winter months of his planet. He just hoped he would live to one day see it again.

"Do you like it?"

Selak turned to look at him. "Yes, it's lovely."

"Our homeworld once looked like this; perhaps that is why I am so drawn to this place." Koval was no longer looking at him, instead intent on reading his notes. Selak looked away, back at the window. It was darkened again.

"How long were you with Koval?"

"Not long. It wasn't long after that… three more months, maybe. Koval, um… had an off world meeting. It was something he rarely did, mostly he stayed there, but he did go."

"And you went with him as security?"

"Yes, each time. It wasn't until the last time that it happened…"

Selak walked two strides behind Koval, careful not to lag behind or walk too close- he was supposed to be inconspicuous, not lost.

He reached his hands behind his back, clasping them securely with his hands. It was a far more comfortable position but made nearly impossible by the constant restraints on his arms. But, just recently, Koval felt that he trusted him enough to not use them any longer. And, for some reason, he felt that he was- too loyal? Or too respectful?- to go back on that trust.

He slid his one hand along the handle of his new knife. On his newest freedom, he earned himself a knife- Koval had thought him quite capable of hand-to-hand after seeing him in a match in which he killed a man with his bare hands. It had a beautiful, smooth handle, grip-fitting rather than the leather covered ones in the arena. He even got a leather sheath to put it in- the sheath fitting on his belt.

He moved fluently behind his master, not sparring a glance for other slaves or Amocku. Though many other slaves would part and bow to all Amocku, his status left him able to ignore such things, not that his ego would allow him to do so anyway.

Suddenly, the ship lurched forward, sending him right into Koval. The Amocku landed with a thud, Selak right on top of him. He rolled off quickly, not able to stand because the ship was shook again.

Red lights flashed, alarms blaring as the lights dimmed. Selak jumped up, putting out a hand to help up Koval. The Amocku took it, leaning into Selak as the ship shuddered violently, making them both crash into the wall.

"What's happening?" Selak yelled over the noise.

"We're under attack!"

"What's this ship's weaponry systems? How well can it defend itself?"

"Not well. There is a small escort, but they could be taken out with a large enough attack force. This ship has very limited shields and weapons."

The lights changed abruptly, switching from blood red to dark blue. "What does that mean?"

"We're being boarded!"

"We should get out-" Selak was interrupted by plasma-fire, pulling down Koval as he dropped under the cover of fallen bulkheads.

"As you were saying?" Selak opened his mouth to say something, but stopped when he saw three Heyta walking into the corridor. "Well? What are you standing there for! Fight them!"

"They have plasma rifles, what do you expect me to do?"

"There are only three of them!"

Selak sighed, shaking his head at the terrified man. Then he looked out at the boarders- they were Heyta, once the allies of the Amocku. Heyta were so furious and dangerous that they weren't even kept as slaves to be in the arena- just shot and executed.

The Vulcan gulped; he couldn't take down three Heyta by himself with only a knife. Shifting, he ran from his shelter to another spot, pressing against the wall to protect himself from the plasma fire. He peaked out, hoping to find a way around them.

There wasn't one.

Selak sighed, his mind in overdrive. A small piece of debris caught his eye. Bending over, he picked it up. Then, maneuvering backwards, he hid himself in the debris around him. He chucked a piece of metal down the hall, hoping that they didn't find Koval before he could take care of them- or that they would at least be dumb enough to take the bait.

Luckily, they did. The one sent the other two to investigate, while he stood there. Selak pulled out his knife slowly, trying not to make any sound as he worked. All the while, he tried to go over Heyta anatomy. Right in the left hip was the most deadly place to hit them.

Once the two guards had passed, he straightened some, aiming his knife for the stationary Heyta's hip. He hit him dead on, the Heyta crumpling over dead.

The other two turned to see what happened, hopping to the ready and walking closer to their dead companion. When they almost reached Selak's hiding spot, a rustling movement caught their attention. Selak knew immediately that it had been Koval. He cringed, unsure as to what he'd do next.

One of the Heyta walked over to the sound, the other turning his back to Selak. The Vulcan took his chance and jumped on him, trying to find the correct pressure point. But, before he could, the Heyta flipped him onto his back, his gun trained on his chest.

"Look what I found," he taunted. "A Federation slave."

The other snickered, responding, "I think I found his master- cowering in the corner." Selak looked, finding that he did indeed have Koval in his grasp. "What should I do with him?"

"I don't know," he spat. "Oh, um… kill him! We'll take the Hybrid with us."

"Yes, sir."

"Nooo!" Selak shouted, his voice lost among the trembling of the ship, the blaring alarms, and the plasma blast.

Tylus sighed, he was starting to get a little confused. "So you tried to save Koval? Save an Amocku from a Heyta?"

"Yeah, I guess. But I did have a better shot at living with Koval than the Heyta." Tylus shrugged, taking in the last scene that had been told to him. "You know, the thing was that by that time, I was actually starting to like Koval."

"What do you mean? As a master?"

"No, as a person. He really wasn't a cruel man. And, contrary to popular belief, not every member of the species of our enemies are evil. He could be kind if he wanted to and it was a good household to live in by Amocku standards."

Tylus nodded, urging him to continue. "At first being with the Heyta didn't seem that bad… I guess I just didn't allow myself to image what more they could do to me."

"Ah. Now doesn't that feel better?" Copus said as he removed the shackles. "Must feel nice to finally have those off."

"Thank-you," Selak groaned, nodding his appreciation to the man.

Copus chuckled softly. "I have never met a Federation who could utter such a language as the Amocku's. But, I suppose you must have had to learn if you were to live among them."

Selak's brow furrowed, he never realized that he spoke in Mokun, it was just something he did after a time. With effort, he spoke once again, pushing his own language forward in his mind. "It was… mandatory that I… learn it."

"Yes well…" he paused. "Your hands, they weren't bound. As I understand it, that is what this is for, correct?" Selak saw him gesture to the hooks designed to connect the hand restraints. He looked away, knowing that the Heyta was taunting him.

"Now, why would they leave yours disconnected?" Copus looked down at him, a small frown appearing. "Answer me." Selak looked up at him, surprised by the change in the sound of his voice. It seemed to have changed, sounding far more computer-like than natural. Selak almost wanted to do as he asked.

"I was a gladiator before being bought by Ambassador Koval," he explained, as if it made perfect sense.

"And you traveled to protect him?" Selak nodded, his mind sluggish. Copus spoke again, switching his voice back to normal. "Now, what I can't decide is whether or not you feel bad because you didn't protect your master… or because you protected your enemy."

Selak snapped himself out of his stupor, angered. "I did what I did to survive."

"And will you still do what you must do to survive under this, different, situation?"

"Every moment is a different situation. Survival is only having the knowledge of how to go from one moment to the next."

Copus just laughed. "You amuse me, child. But you know what I want?" His voice changed once again as he shouted. "Tell me what you know! Tell me what you know of the Federation ships. About the Amocku ships."

Selak shut his eyes, his jaw tightening as he tried to shut out Copus's voice. "I will tell you nothing."

"Tell me!"

"No!"

His voice changed back to normal. A strange frown appeared over his face, his scales shifting in the movement. "I have heard that you Federation hybrids were strong- both physically and mentally- but I had no idea how good you were. But-"

The Heyta grabbed his shirt, pulling him far off the ground. "Perhaps a few days locked in a dark room with no food or water will change that." Selak's breath caught as Copus threw him across the room.

"Take him away!"

Selak let out a soft moan as his head hit the solid wall. He looked up at the Heyta, the alien frowning at him. It looked like the same expression he had seen on Copus only moments before.

The Heyta let out a grim cackle- the same the bad guys in old movies would always use- telling him, "I hope you enjoy your stay."

Selak cringed at the loud screeching the door made in protest. As soon as the door shut, he was met with darkness. Selak tried to look around, but there was nothing. No light, no nothing.

He sighed, leaning back until he felt his back against the cool wall. He would just have to wait for them to come get him or for his eyes to adjust so that he could see the room he was in. That is, if there was anything to see.

Selak groaned, resting his head on the wall. Copus had said that he wouldn't be allowed to eat or drink. As a part Vulcan, he couldn't survive almost eight days without water, ten or eleven without food. Unfortunately had he tested that before- he could handle it once again.

Selak opened his eyes. It was dark. It was always dark… there was never any light. Light was almost a foreign idea to him.

He pushed himself up, his arms shaking with hunger. Five days… five very long days without food or water.

He sighed. His stomach was growling with hunger. He tried to swallow, hoping to help his dry, cracking throat. But it did nothing more than feed his thirst.

His ears perked, hearing a strange screeching sound. It sounded familiar in a way. He looked over to where it was coming from. Selak quickly put his arm up, trying to shield his eyes from the light shinning through the opening door.

"Oh, good. You're still alive. How are you doing? Hungry yet? Oh, light too bright? I can turn it off… or get you some food."

Selak frowned… he was pretty sure the voice belonged to Copus. His nose flared- he could smell something, something good. Sweet… meat perhaps. His mouth watered, he nearly forgot what was going on around him.

"Just tell me," Copus said, his voice changing. "What I want to know."

"What do you want to know?" Selak started to laugh. "I know quantum physics and algebra and… Latin. I know Latin… I think I know Latin."

The Vulcan grunted as Copus's shoe hit his jaw. "I was giving you a chance… now I'll get what I want. Pick him up."

Two Heyta grabbed onto his shoulders, pulling him off the ground, his feet a couple of inches above the ground.

Selak's eyes watered uncomfortably as he tried to shield the bright light from his sensitive eyes. He fought against the Heyta, scarred of where they were taking him and what they were about to do.

He wasn't able to see where they were, only able to feel as his body was tossed onto a chair. His hands and arms were chained to the chair immediately. He heard the two guards walk away, though he didn't know if they left or not.

Selak whipped his head around, trying to find a way to see better. His eyes were still tearing, adjusting slowly to the light. He had never experienced such a fierce burning in the back of his eyes as he did then.

"Uncomfortable, it is? I'm sorry… this isn't the Federation's finest." He frowned- what Selak was learning was a smile. Copus moved closer, blocking the light that was glaring in Selak's eyes. "Now you'll wish you had just talked to me."

Selak's heart quickened; he didn't like the sound of Copus's voice. It scarred him more than his first skirmish. "If you had only listened, I wouldn't have to do this."

Selak's breath caught as Copus's scaly hand grabbed his forehead, holding it still as he pressed a few buttons. The beep echoed in the Vulcan's pointed ear. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see what was going to happen.

He gasped. Something pierced his neck, burning and tearing at his flesh.

"Right now, there are several liters of a mind altering drug being pumped into your body. Isn't it ironic that we got it from your Federation?"

Selak starred up at him. He had heard of such drugs being produced, he had never thought them true. "Right now, it's molding your brain- making you much more pliable. You'll start hallucinating - those hallucinations will start showing themselves soon…

"I hope they're not too scary," he taunted.

Everything starting to become a blur. He couldn't see Copus's face anymore, it was only a mixture of yellow and brown. His mouth was agape, sucking in air as his eyes rolled back.

He tried to look away, trying to focus on something, but everything was the same as Copus's face… distorted and twisted.

He could see his world in front of him… his mother cradling his little brother when he was only a babe. Selak couldn't help but smile, his father's kind voice was just behind him.

He wanted to stay there for eternity…

"Obviously, I don't remember much about those experiences."

"You hallucinated a lot?" Selak looked at the doctor, understanding that his sentence was more a statement then anything else. "Did you tell them anything?"

Selak sighed. "I don't know. I don't think so. I mean, Copus was never satisfied, so I must not have told him anything of value."

The Vulcan ran a hand through his hair, standing and walking over to the window. He watched the flowers sway in the gentle wind for a moment, noticing how well the sunset captured a pair of purple plants.

"They did that… for days. Letting my body expel the toxin before starting a new. It was horrible every time…"

Selak's body was dumped in a heap on the ground. He looked up in time to see the blurred vision of the Heyta guard shut the door, his world once again enveloped in darkness.

He lowered his head to the ground, tears falling from his eyes. Silently, he wept, his body rocking gently as if calming himself.

Then, just as suddenly as his serenity came, he halted, heaving. His stomach clenched, forcing out his stomach continence, expelling the drugs that had been pumped into his system.

He heaved again, gasping for breath in between the liquid pouring from his mouth. Selak spat, clearing his mouth, only to heave yet again.

With deep breaths, he tried to calm his stomach. Crawling away, he dropped to his side. His eyes slide shut, well aware of the fever spiking in his body.

The stench of his bile hit his nose in constant waves as he woke- he was just thankful of the dark that kept him from seeing it. The tightness of his stomach muscles and soar throat hurt badly, but not more than the waves of nausea did. But then there were the tremors, the sudden enhancement of the cold mixed with his fever.

His vision was blurred; he couldn't remember where he was. He couldn't remember much. Just the desire for something… a place were nothing mattered… where he wasn't hungry or sick or cold or in pain. He just wanted it to stop.

As another wave of nausea hit him, he doubled over. His stomach heaving as it tried to rid itself of something that wasn't there. A few deep breaths calmed him enough but his stomachache hadn't subsided, through the hunger and nausea it was horrible.

"I don't remember much of the days between those sessions. They brought some food and water… I tried eating it. I think it only made it worse at times."

Tylus nodded, he had had his days of being sick in the past. When he was young, he had caught a bad strain of the Bolian flu. He was in bed for five days. But he had a bed, his mother there to give him good food and a cold cloth, along with painkillers to make him feel better.

"It was the worst few weeks of my life."

"I couldn't image. Going through withdraw in a dark cell by yourself. How horrible is that?"

Selak was only able to nod. Just thinking about what had happened to him made his stomach turn. "There wasn't much specific that ever happened. Copus tried and tried to torture and drug me into helping him. Telling him something. I don't know how I managed to survive nine months there."

He took a deep breath. "I… was often taken to this room. It was dark, kind of. I sort of liked it, the lighting that is. He hung me from the ceiling on these… shackles, just like you see in museums. They dug into your wrists, I still have scars.

"Um… there were all sorts of things he'd do to me. I slipped unconscious once in a while, it hurt that much sometimes." Selak sighed, "There was only really one time that I remember to any degree…"

The shackles dug deep into his skin, sending small streams of green blood down his arms. His arms were tired, practically asleep, from being held in an upright position for so long. The strain on his arms grew, as they had to support his body for a longer and longer period.

His upper body was cold; they had stripped him of his clothes and there was a strong draft. His eyes stun, dried tears on his checks from when they had watered at the sudden bright lights. His voice, he knew must have been hoarse after all his screaming.

The smell of copper hit his nose in steady streams. Thick, green blood covered his torso. Burns had been placed all along his back, glossed with his green blood. His chest was sliced; a sharp knife, he barely recalled, had been repeatedly run across his bronze tinted skin. Light green stained his body, the visible traces of red proving his mixed heritage. The dried blood was becoming uncomfortable, sticking and pulling in certain places.

The taunting voice of Copus hit his ears once again. "How are you feeling?"

"Fine. Doin' good."

Copus grunted, hitting Selak hard across the face. "If you have noting to say that will interest me, then I do not want to hear your voice!"

The Vulcan looked down, taking a deep breath. "Well, you're in quite a mood today." He chuckled at himself, asking, "Did you wake up on the wrong side of your plasma rifle?"

Copus yelled in frustration, his hand coming down hard on Selak's shoulder. The Vulcan screamed in pain. He could feel, and hear, his shoulder popping out of its socket. His body titled awkwardly on the chains, pulling harder on his good shoulder.

The Vulcan's eyes closed in pain, trying to quite his whimpering as he felt waves upon waves of pain burning through his arm and chest.

Selak looked up at his torturer. The Heyta looked almost shocked with his actions, storming off after ordering someone to let him down.

"He dislocated your shoulder?"

"Yeah. I'd never seen him like that before. He was abusive, but he never did something like that, before or ever again. It scared me to death. When I got back to my cell, I had to… repair it on my own. God that hurt. I don't recommend it."

Tylus nodded, "Yeah, I've had my shoulder dislocated before. But I at least had painkillers, and a doctor, before they set it."

Selak nodded in amusement. "Other than that moment, there wasn't much else… substantial. Nothing that I really remember in bulk. Other than that they… broke three fingers once. That hurt a lot too. Other than that… not much."

"How did you get out of there?"

"Get out? Well… like most days, I was hanging, having been tortured when the place was attacked…"

Selak's arms were completely numb, not a completely uncommon feeling over the past year. The burning in his wrists had disappeared with the rest of his arm's feeling. His nerves were spent- they hardly felt the pain as it was given; now it was nearly gone.

His feet were flat, trying to lessen the amount of gravity pulling on his body. The chain swung slightly, tugging harder on his shoulders.

He coughed suddenly, smelling something burning. Looking up, he noticed that smoke was starting to filter in the room. Pulling hard on the chains, his mind spun as he realized what was going on outside the room he was trapped in.

Shouts and explosions filled the room, making it to Selak's ears. Plasma blasts rang just outside the door. Words in Heyta caught his attention; the few of them he could understand saying that they were to retreat.

His eyes and throat stung, making him cough again. His fidgeting grew more frantic, his arms throbbing with pain as they began to wake up. His feet fought to find the ground, pulling harder on his shoulders- one of which he was certain was beginning to be dislocated.

The door slid open, a four-person team of A'Kesh stormed in. Selak froze as four plasma weapons were trained on him. After all he had gone through in the past two years, he couldn't believe he was going to die there- like that, shot with an A'Kesh plasma rifle.

His face was completely passive as he watched, waiting for them to fire and finish him off. At least it would end his suffering…

But that never happened. The second man to enter- presumably the leader- straightened from his crouch, lowering his weapon as he stepped forward. His face displayed his shock, his voice mirroring it as he asked, "Are you a prisoner of the Heyta?"

Selak starred at him a moment, tears filling his eyes just as his lungs burned from the smoke. But the A'Kesh seemed unaffected by it, which didn't surprise the Vulcan.

"No, I just like handing around here. You know- dark, cold, damp, drafty. I'm thinking it could use one small window right there… but you know the Heyta." Selak would have shrugged if not for the position he was in. And yet he almost flinched knowing that any Heyta interrogating him would have struck him at that point.

The A'Kesh smiled at him, apparently catching the sarcasm in his voice. "Cut him down," he said in his native tongue to the three commandos. Two ready their weapons, aiming them high. Again, Selak hung, impassive in the face of his enemies' weapons.

Selak heard the plasma fire almost simultaneously as felt the impact of his feet on the ground, hurting his ankles. He fell to his knees, grunted as he was gathered into the lead A'Kesh's arms.

"How badly injured are you?" He asked, seeing the condition the man was in.

"I don't know; I can't feel much anymore." He grinded his teeth, deciding that it wasn't worth correcting himself and telling them how painful it was to have his arms waking up.

"Very well. Take him- bring him to the ship. I want him to have medical treatment for these wounds."

Selak starred up at the man- he was completely serious. His gray eyes looked the Vulcan over as he helped him stand; he seemed disgusted, but not nauseated, by what he saw. Perhaps he had seen similar things before.

But, before Selak could analyze it farther, the commander turned away, leaving him secured by two of the commandos.

"So you were saved from the Heyta by the A'Kesh?"

"Yeah. The weird thing was… the only thing I really remember about that man… was how much he looked like Leto. Now that I think about it, he had… ridges on his hand," Selak said, deep in thought as he remembered a face from long ago.

"But, um, anyway. They took me on their ship, gave me some medical assistance. But I was still pretty hurt and scarred. Suddenly… terrified in my own skin. I mean, I had been so… cocky and arrogant and just talked back to everyone else before. I laughed in the face of the Heyta's punishments, and talked back to Koval without fear no matter how much he threatened me or punished me for it."

He took a deep breath, admitting, "It was something about how… how caught up everything got. It was like suddenly I realized what had happened to me in the past few years. Like I suddenly had an actual fear of dying. It was terrifying."

Selak sighed, "The first that happened when we got… wherever we got… they took me off the ship, blindfolded. Then interrogated me…"

Selak glanced around nervously, not able to see anything. The cloth stuck to his mouth as he inhaled, making it harder to breathe. The wooly material made his face itch, driving him insane for he had no control of his hands.

The A'Kesh guard suddenly stopped, pushing down on his shoulders. Selak's knees buckled, landing him in a chair. He felt his arms unbound, only to have the guard force them in front of him. It felt as if they had been put on a table and strapped down.

Selak struggled against the binds, trying again to free himself, but it was to no avail. He sighed, giving in for the time. It would be useless to waste all his energy. "Ah, you are the Federation Hybrid my men found in the Heyta prison. It must be quite refreshing to be able to smell clean air once again," a voice joked.

Selak turned his head, trying to determine where the voice was. It sounded like the man was moving- he could faintly hear footsteps.
"I'm not going to ask you many times. Just once, hybrid… what did the Heyta want with you?"

Selak sighed, keeping his mouth shut. "Maybe I didn't make myself clear." Selak tried to look up at where the voice was, but was occupied by the feeling of a sharp knife being run over his hand.
"Now, why did they torture you? Heyta, though barbaric, have more… effective torture methods."

"He didn't like me much," Selak responded, more sarcastic than he knew the man would tolerate.
Selak's breath caught when he heard the knife cut into the wood table his hands were on. His one finger could almost feel the metal of the knife's blade.

"Oh, well. I haven't practiced in some time." He said, giving Selak the impression that he had meant to stab him.
" Now tell me!"

"I don't know!" He flinched as the knife cut into the table again, this time very close to his pinky finger. "They tried other things, it didn't work."


"That's better." Selak almost heard the smile in his voice. "Now, what kind of things did they ask?"


"I don't know." He flinched again, the knife close to his thumb. "They mostly asked about ship designs. I never told them anything."


"Very loyal of you. How long?"


"What?"


"How long were you there?"


"I don't know. A while," he answered. He couldn't image what they wanted with him. Anything he knew was most certainly out of date.
"

Tell me what you know of the new Federation ship," he demanded.


"Nothing," Selak croaked. He did not survive the Heyta to tell the A'Kesh what they wanted.
The blade came very close to his finger; this time he didn't flinch. If the A'Kesh had wanted to hurt him, he would have by then. He was just trying to scare him.

"Tell me!"


"I didn't tell the Heyta. I won't tell you," he said.


"Very well." Selak took a deep breath. It sounded as if it might be over. He almost smiled with satisfaction.
Once again, he heard the sound of the knife slicing through the air and toward the table. Before he could react, he screamed. The knife had gone straight through his hand.

"Woops, I told you I was a little rusty with this thing." Selak was panting, trying to catch his breath as the pain shot through his arm. "Now, tell me."


"No."
In one, swift moment, the A'Kesh pulled out the knife, sending a new wave of pain through his body.

"Tell me!"


"No!"
Suddenly, the A'Kesh began to laugh.

"I like you, hybrid. You are very brave… that or foolish. But the Heyta, they are hard to resist. If you resisted them as you say, then I shall never get anything from you. Take him away. And fix his hand, he can't work with that wound."
Selak felt the bounds undone as hands pulled him out of the chair, taking him away from the man.

"They stabbed you in the hand?"

"Yeah, you can still see the scar if you look," Selak explained, holding out his hand for Tylus's inspection, pointing to the flesh between his thumb and forefinger.

"Then what happened? After they decided you didn't know much?"

"Well… I'm not really sure. I don't remember that much. They gave everyone- all the prisoners- implants in the wrists to keep track of us. That's one of the few things I remember. Scar- one of the guards, he had a huge burn scar on his cheek- was the one to do it…"

"Hello, my dear friend. How are you this fine eve?" Selak looked up at Scar, scowling. Every day for nearly a week, Scar had been by to give him food and generally annoy him.

Scar pulled out a small, triangular device. The Vulcan looked at it in confusion, a stray feeling of fear creeping up upon him.

Without noticing, Scar motioned for another guard to come over. Suddenly, the Vulcan was on his knees looking up at the taller, intimidating version of Scar. But he just smiled, peering down at the young man, enjoying the sight of his prisoner.

Barely noticing what was going on, his mind so focused on the device, a hand snatched his right wrist, holding his now outstretched hand still. Instinctually he tried to pull away, the sudden movement startling Scar but didn't hinder him.

Turning his attention quickly from his hand to Scar, he watched as the alien placed the machine on his opened palm, just above his wrist. The dark shade of black clashed with his pale skin. Then a sharp pain burned through his skin; the feeling striking him as what he imagined small needles ripping at skin and muscles might feel like.

A few seconds later, the pain had subsided some, the hand releasing its tight hold. Scar bent down to look the Vulcan in the eye. "Have fun. I am sure that we will be seeing each other soon."

Scar only gave a quick, odd gesture to the guard before leaving, his long, loose fitting clothing swaying with him as he marched away.

Strong hands grabbed the Vulcan, pulling him to his feet and dragging him away…

"After that, I was assigned quarters. That's when I met Lieutenants Willow and Douglas and Ensign Carter- they were my… roommates, for lack of a better word. That's also when I found out that I was at a mining facility…"

Selak stepped through the opened door, feeling himself stumble as the A'Kesh pushed him through. He spun around, wanting to glare at the alien, but the door shut closed on his face.

"What do we have here?" Selak's head shot around, hearing the familiar cadence of Matt's voice, a man he knew to be dead for nearly two years.

"Look, we got ourselves a Vulcan!" A second exclaimed, a smirk on his face just as it was in his voice.

Selak looked over at him- a brunette with filthy, long hair. He was reclined comfortably on a bunk. The first man to talk was behind him on another bunk. Eerily enough, he looked a lot like Matt, dark hair and crystal blue eyes. Even his voice was too close a match for Selak's taste.

Looking over the room, he found it was completely bland, owning nothing but four gray wall, a gray floor and ceiling and four bunks.

He saw that across from the Matt look-a-like, sat another person, this one female. She was paler- much like Selak's skin was at that moment- with short blonde hair and hazel eyes.

"Ah, we're just teasin' ya! Sit down, make yerself at home."

Selak looked up at the ceiling- two light fixtures were built in, making the room brighter than his eyes were used to. Walking slowly, he approached the empty bunk. He starred down at it- he hadn't slept on anything but the floor for some time.

"It ain't gonna bite!" Selak looked over at the brunette, raising an eyebrow. That was always his response to something stupid Copus would say. He barely spoke to him, choosing to annoy him with his silence instead on most days.

Sighing, he sank down onto the bed, his body rigid. "Damn yer tense, man. Just relax, lie down, bury yer burdens," the Matt look-a-like teased. "I'm Roger, but the way." Selak nodded, vaguely remembering that it was a proper acknowledgment.

"Oh, Daniel."

"I'm Kathryn. And you are?"

He looked her over a moment, realizing that she was expecting an answer, as were the other two. "Selak."

"Selak, welcome to A'Kesh prison camp fifty-three."

He thought a moment, remembering that he had to speak to be heard. "It's much better than the other places I've been to."

"Ah, been a prisoner long?" Selak nodded, finding he enjoyed Daniel's soft Betazoid accent. "Just under two years here," Daniel stated. "Roger's been here sixteen months; same with Kathryn. You?"

"Twenty seven months."

"Really? Move around a lot?"

"You could say that," he responded, feeling more comfortable speaking.

"How many camps?"

"This is my first."

"There wasn't a lot that went on there, in the A'Kesh camps. They definably were a lot better than anything else. The occasional beating of a prisoner, but they weren't random or unprovoked. I mean, if you talked back or something like that were the only real reasons they hit you."

Selak sighed, maybe that wasn't the way to phrase it. "Anyway, all we did there was… mine. Nothing else. Just mined whatever it was. Some kind of compound they used for whatever. I don't remember many things on their own, just a mess of things that happened there."

Tylus nodded. It wasn't often that one could tell such mundane things from another. Most of what the mind recalled were specific events that stood out for whatever reason.

"There was one thing I remember quite clearly. My first day mining. I was a little… confused…"

Selak was already awake long before the others. He had slept on the ground that night, not able to get comfortable on the cot that had been left for him. Instead, he was now sitting calmly on the ground, trying to mediate. He had often used his time in the Heyta cell to do just that.

But the others didn't rise until a bright light filled the cabin, flashing in five-second intervals. Two loud noises followed that. 'An alarm clock,' Selak thought, amused.

He opened his eyes, standing only to find that the other three were sitting up in bed.

"Have a good nap, everyone?" Roger joked, standing and stretching.

"Five hours is hardly a nap."

"Really?" Daniel retorted, laughing at the Vulcan's joke. He looked up at the Vulcan; Selak could feel the vaguely familiar feeling of someone brushing his mind. Selak couldn't remember the last time he had encountered someone telepathic.

"Don't mind, Roger. That's just his way of keeping sane."

Selak nodded at Kathryn, startled out of his stupor when she spoke. "So, what do we do here?"

"We mine."

"Mine?"

"Yeah. Never mined before?" Daniel asked with a smirk. Selak shook his head; it definably wasn't his forte. "Have fun then."

The door opened automatically, the three walking out without thought. Selak followed behind, seeing dozens of others walking out of their barracks as well.

Selak got into the single file line, staying behind Roger so that he knew someone he was around. An A'Kesh guard shoved a tool in his hand, not sparring him a second glance as they all squeezed into a turbolift, descending down into the mineshaft.

Selak, surrounded by people and the dark, small shaft, suddenly felt the air forced out of his lungs. His heart felt as if it had stopped. He only knew it hadn't because of how fast it was beating in his ears. His hands were sweating madly on his tool.

"You ok?" Selak turned to see Roger watching him oddly. He just nodded, his mouth too dry to try to speak.

The car stopped, the doors opening to let everyone out. The Vulcan let out a deep sigh, rushing to get out. But what he found on the other side didn't do much in the way of making him feel better.

A guard led them forward, suddenly telling them to stop. Selak just looked around- everyone else seemed to know exactly what to do.

"Roger? What am I supposed to do with this thing?"

The man looked at him, glancing over his shoulder. "Shh, there's no talking allowed."

"Yeah, but-"

"No talking!" one of the guards yelled from behind Selak, his voice loud and echoing in the quiet cavern. The Vulcan winced when he felt the butt of his plasma-rifle make contact with his back, sending his face hard into the rock wall.

He slid down, stopping only once he hit the floor. The A'Kesh guard kicked him in the back, only adding to the bruise he had created.

Selak moaned; pushing himself up once he knew the guard would not strike again. He reached up to the skin just under his left eye. It stung badly, obviously in pain from scrapping against the wall. Sure enough, once he took his hand away, he could scarcely see the red tint of blood on his fingers in the darkness of the mine.

"Is that how you got that scar there?" Tylus asked, having noticed the scar the minute he saw Selak's face.

The Vulcan nodded. "Yeah, it scarred rather badly, as you can tell. It got infected and whatever. Then I had no way of shaving, so that hurt. But it did cover it up."

"Why didn't you keep the beard, then?"

"The doctors at Starfleet Medical wouldn't let me. They said it would be healthier if I shaved it and started again later. But I don't think I'm going to. I… don't really want one," Selak admitted.

He cleared his throat, going back to his story. "Um, the three roommate I had, they all remained. I mean, none of them were killed or taken somewhere else. Over the year I was there, we actually became friends.

"Daniel and I talked a lot about Betazed, family and whatever. We found out we're very distantly related."

"Really? How?"

"Well, our great-great-great-great- and so many great grandmothers were sisters. They were the great-grandchildren of Deanna and William Riker."

"Really?"

"Yep. Very distantly related. Um, Roger, I found out, was Matt's… cousin I want to say. They're related somehow. And um, Kathryn was… is very nice. She actually is… like a twelfth Trill. The rest Human. So we talked a little about Trill. But we're not related, though. I don't think anyway."

"So, you liked them all?"

"Yeah, they were the only three people I had to talk to for a year, what do you think? I mean, we had our arguments, but working every day we were too beat to argue. Except for the one off day we had, but that was it."

He took a breath, standing and walking once again to the window. "Anyway, the last… two months we were there, we started to think up a way out. It wasn't overly complicated… we just found out when and where the transport pods came, to take the shipments away. Then we managed to get certain… distractions to escape the mines and get to the ship…"

His feet felt heavy, his breathing labored. His muscles were tight, barely willing to function. The adrenaline pounding through his system. But his eyes, they were focused on his destination: Freedom.

A mechanical clicking alerted the four; locking mechanism were locking all doors and halls were about to be blocked by barriers. They sped up, their escape dependent on it. Roger ducked underneath the door first, making it to the safety of the other room. And then Daniel, following the first, made it under easily.

Selak looked over his shoulder, waiting for Kathryn to catch up. He beckoned her under, then dropped to the ground, trying to roll under the door to make it through.

He was almost out… almost to freedom…

Hands grabbed his feet, turning him awkwardly under the closing door. A sudden white-hot pain ran through his torso, spreading over the rest of his body. A shriek of pain alerted his friends of his distress. His friends turned, seeing him trapped underneath the door, crushing him to the floor…

"And… that's about it. They pulled me out and carried me to the transport. We got out and were found. The rest I assume you know."

Tylus nodded. "Yeah, I've read the report."

"Well, now that I've told you," Selak paused, looking at him. He took a deep breath, finishing, "I think it's time for you to leave."

"Oh… right. Thanks," he said with a nod, shocked by Selak's sudden detachment. "Um, wow, yeah, it's getting late. Thank-you for… talking. Telling me. You know if you want to talk-"

"Yeah, yeah. You'll be around."

"Right." Tylus stood, heading for the door.

"Oh and doc?"

"Yes?"

"Next time they send you to record something, hide the recorder better." Tylus blushed, ashamed, as Selak pointed out the device he thought had been well hidden.

"I'm sorry but-"

"Hey, I know. I didn't mind."

"Why did you tell me all that if you knew?"

"Because I want them to know something. I don't care how court-martialed I might get for some of the things I did. I had little choice- I never expected to be freed."

Tylus nodded, turning again with the pretense of walking out. He stopped suddenly, turning back to Selak after a moment.

"You know what?" He said, pulling out the recorder. "Computer, erase all data. Just between the two of us, huh?"

With that, he turned and left. Selak just smirked.

/-/-/-/-/ The End /-/-/-/-/

Well, I hope you enjoyed it all.

I really love the end- the point was to show that they become friends. (Just a note, Tylus is the man with Selak at the end of the last chapter, which is about four years after this last clip). There was some more that was supposed to fill in those four years so that you could see the bioweapon being created and Selak working on his time-traveling device, then even some clips from where he went back to his time in the middle of the story. But it just didn't flow well and I couldn't get some to work.

I still have the clips I wrote, if anyone really wants to read them. But I will warn you that they're scattered and some aren't complete. I don't even remember if I proofread them, so… but it you want them, email me at . It'll be no problem to give it to you.

Again, thanks very much to all of you who have read this story and reviewed. I appreciate it very much. I hope you enjoyed it. Please R/R with your final notes, and if you want those scenes.

Also feel free to check out my other stories, I have StarTrek and Stargate stories.

Thanks! Love ya'll!