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Loyalty

By Almi

Adventure

Chapter 1

Sarek looked down at the sandy arena seemingly apathetic that his daughter was about to enter mortal combat.  The worry and fear he felt was much more prominent on Amanda’s face as she sat next to him, knuckles white from clenching her handkerchief. 

Sarek reprimanded himself; his fear was illogical.  This was not Spock’s first match by any stretch, she had completed her training with the highest grades, and she and her partner were undefeated.  Besides, even if they did lose, only a small percentage of the failed contestants actually died.  It was far more likely that Spock would become a vegetable-

Sarek ruthlessly cut that thought off.  Spock and Jennifer were undefeated.

“They’ll be fine,” Amanda murmured, more to herself than to Sarek.  “They’ll be fine because the bond they have is stronger than any other contestant pairs.”  This was true; it took some debate to get Spock and Jennifer into registration, what with Jennifer being human, but it was well known that the House of Surak produced champions for generations, both as Flesh and Sword.  The Elders were forced to allow them to be Analyzed (due in no small part to Jennifer taking Spock’s arm and dragging her up to the Analysis Platform while Sarek was still negotiating).  When their bond flagged a record breaking 9.8 out of 10 there could be no more arguments made against them.

The gong sounded, silencing the audience and signaling the arrival of the contenders.  From the left hand gate appeared the Defenders from the previous year’s Games, Stonn and T’Pring.  The pair moved with a lethal kind of grace to the middle of the arena where they bowed to the referee and then to the audience in perfect unison.  Amanda called them the ‘home team’ which was illogical because all the teams were native to Vulcan (or partially native in the case of Spock and Jennifer).  Sarek’s heart thudded almost painfully in his side as images of Stonn and T’Pring’s previous matches flashed through his mind.  They were ruthlessly efficient in cutting down their opponents, often leaving behind considerable damage both mentally and physically. He could feel Amanda’s fear even as she straightened her spine.

Out came the Challengers from the right hand gate. 

The silence was suddenly heavy with disapproval and Sarek knew it was almost entirely to do with the sizable grin on Jennifer’s face and the obvious emotions that coloured every single move she made.  Spock looked like the ideal Vulcan in comparison.  They too arrived in the middle, bowed to the referee, bowed to the audience, that grin never leaving Jennifer’s face.  Sarek could sense Spock’s amused affection for her Sword.  The pairs bowed to each other.

The referee gave the signal for each team to move back to their respective sides of the arena and the Flesh of each team to be manacled to the dirt.  That completed, the referee removed himself from the arena, to his elevated box where he could oversee the proceedings.  The match begun.

As per their usual strategy, Spock lashed her arm out, flinging Jennifer almost all the way across the arena, their golden Chain manifesting and glinting brightly in the sun.  Normally, Jennifer’s own ingenuity and small stature would come into play and she would finagle her way past the opposing Sword while taking as little damage as possible and land at least one significant hit on the Flesh before Spock would reel her back for some defensive tactics. 

This match was not going according to plan.

T’Pring had not sent Stonn out to meet Jennifer, instead choosing to sit like a spider in its web, waiting for Jennifer to come to them.  The poor girl, caught off guard, took Stonn’s fist right to her nose. Green trailed down Spock’s face from the impact as she tugged Jennifer back a few feet to regroup.  The blonde was already back on her feet. 

Sarek remembered asking Jennifer how she intended to survive the aftermath of the matches.  Of course Spock would absorb any damage during the fight, but afterwards that damage gets returned all at once and humans are a fair amount more fragile than Vulcans.  Jennifer smiled and said something about ‘rolling’ with the punches which Sarek didn’t understand until Spock explained that it was a method of shifting one’s center of gravity in such a way as to lessen an impact.  It was a tactic that Jennifer was rather adept at. 

Stonn and Jennifer had moved to the middle of the arena, the human mostly ducking and dodging Stonn’s attacks, many of which could have been lethal had they hit dead on.  As it was, Spock was collecting more and more gashes and abrasions.  After a minute of this, Spock jerked her Sword back so that they were standing side by side again and –

What were they doing with the Chain?

It was a testament to the shock that Stonn and T’Pring were experiencing that they just stood there and watched as Jennifer unwound the Chain from her neck as Spock did the same from her wrist.  Jennifer leaned over and pressed her lips lightly to Spock’s cheek before Spock whipped her back out to face Stonn, the ends of the chain now being held in their palms.  The result was immediately apparent.

Jennifer flew like a thrown rag doll, not an ounce of her previous grace, and at three times the speed.  Stonn, unprepared for the sudden attack, failed to dodge in time.  What happened next took a while to comprehend but it ended with Stonn’s left knee bent the wrong way and T’Pring letting out a shriek as she collapsed.  Spock then pushed Jennifer further toward T’Pring and – yes, this was their usual plan of attack.  It had been inspired by Amanda once making a joke about Jennifer being too much for any one Vulcan but Spock to handle.  She found out the very first match that she was right.

Being human and a small human at that, Jennifer doesn’t have the physical strength to harm a Vulcan with punches or kicks so her attacks were psionic in nature.  It made little sense to Sarek, given that Jennifer was psi-null but then the girls explained that the bond between Flesh and Sword compromised the mind’s ability to shield itself.  Jennifer just had to put a hand on the opposing Flesh let her emotions, her thoughts, her feelings loose.  Her first opponent screamed forfeit in seconds.

T’Pring’s injury had further affected her control when Jennifer laid her hand on the Vulcan’s face.  They both went kind of quiet for a minute, kneeled face to face, and Stonn started moving of his own volition toward Spock.  It would seem though that the battle between Jennifer and T’Pring was hitting Stonn hard, what with the way he wobbled around.  It almost seemed that he had partaken in significant amounts of chocolate.  He was almost within reach of Spock when T’Pring fell to the dirt, unconscious, and the bright blue Chain connecting her to Stonn shattered.  Jennifer stood up, was tugged back to Spock, unchained her from the ground and they both bowed to the audience and then to the referee.  The match was over. 

T’Pring’s mother stood from the crowd and declared “Cheat.”

The referee asked what she saw to prompt that claim. “They disconnected the Chain.  They were no longer bound together, in clear violation of Article 2.”

Article 2: The Flesh and Sword must be of one heart and mind and this connection shall be manifested as the Chain that binds them skin to skin.

The referee disputed this claim, saying that while the use of the Chain was unorthodox, neither girl ever completely disconnected from the other.  Someone else declared Cheat on the grounds that Jennifer, a human, should not have been able to deal such significant damage to Stonn’s leg and therefore must have had a weapon, violating Article 3.

Article 3: The Flesh and Sword must fight only using their strength, wit, and whatever materials are found in the arena.  No weapons may be brought into the arena by the contestants.

The referee decided to show a zoomed in quarter speed playback of Jennifer’s attack to dispute this claim. The large screen that normally showed the tournament bracket revealed that Jennifer had slid past Stonn’s left side, Chain in her left hand only to reach back between Stonn’s legs to grab the Chain with her right hand while still in motion.  Inertia carried Jennifer further back so that the Chain caught on Stonn’s knee and Spock pushed Jennifer again, forcing the joint to bend backward. 

The arena was silent. 

It was not uncommon in especially powerful pairs like Jennifer and Spock that the Chain would manifest physically as well as visually, but never, in all the history of Vulcan, had anyone thought to use the Chain as a weapon

…which means that there was never any rule against doing exactly that. 

The referee confirmed this notion by reiterating that the unorthodox use of the Chain was not in violation of any rules.  Amanda muttered something about not even Stonn’s parents being stupid enough to call Cheat on the grounds of Article 1, because a Chain wouldn’t manifest if the bond connected two Swords or two Fleshes. 

Article 1: A contending team must consist of only two members: one Flesh and one Sword.

Indeed no more arguments against Spock and Jennifer were brought forth, though that by no means meant that the audience was pleased with the final outcome.  The referee declared Spock and Jennifer the Champions of this year’s Games just as T’Pring started to wake back up.  Spock and Jennifer released their Chain and the young human’s injuries returned to her, causing her to momentarily sway dizzily before steadying herself.  Healers collected the pairs from the field and set to work patching up the injured parties under a tent set up for this specific purpose. 

Sarek and Amanda went down to collect Spock and Jennifer.  The healers moved around their work stations, a number of which working to properly set Stonn’s leg back into proper place.  Sarek noted one particular healer tending to T’Pring’s mind among others.  This man was quite proficient at undoing the damage Jennifer’s emotions had caused, having dealt with every one of her opponents.  He once remarked to Sarek that it was rather intriguing to him that Jennifer never manipulated the shape of her thoughts into anything resembling a weapon, instead simply knocking her opponent over with the sheer force and weight of her feelings and drowning them.  It was quite effective in the short term but left very little lasting harm, especially when treated promptly. 

Jennifer played to win, not to hurt.

Speaking of, the blond was chatting amicably with Spock on the other side of the tent as a single healer went over her skin with a dermal regenerator.  Sarek told himself that one healer was all that was necessary for Jennifer’s wounds, but he could feel the pulse of frustration from Amanda that often accompanied similar examples of his race’s bigotry. 

Amanda gave her daughter some fresh clothes to change into and fussed over Jennifer, who giggled and waved her off.  Sarek often marveled at how different Amanda acted with Jennifer as opposed to Spock; so much more expressive and physically affectionate.  Amanda certainly hugged Spock, patted her head and shoulders, especially as a child but there was more with Jennifer.  There were fingers in hair and stroked cheeks, this thing called an Eskimo kiss where their noses touched, arms interlinked as they walked.  Sarek realized that he hadn’t fully understood how much Amanda had to hold back on Vulcan.  He once inquired of Jennifer if such contact was common among human mothers and children, to which blond shrugged.

“I think it’s generally done more with smaller children and slowly lessens trough the years, but my mom was in space most of my life so I’m not really sure.”

Sarek was brought back to the present by the return of his daughter.  The healer finished patching up Jennifer, who received spare clothes of her own from Amanda and changed, and soon the group was on their way home.  The Ambassador knew that his family garnered more than its fair share of attention, what with all its humanity, but he also knew that the women he was surrounded with were much stronger than to let a few lingering stares affect them.  The four crossed the threshold into their home and Sarek indulged in a small upward quirk of his lips.  His daughters excused themselves to celebrate their victory in their room (Sarek didn’t miss the way their fingers brushed each other’s, but he let them go), and as his wife moved to the kitchen to make some tea he could feel her happiness and unconditional love mix with his own.  He followed Amanda, reflecting on the fact that being a family of misfits made them that much closer a family. 

And all was right with the world because of it.

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