DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. However, I sure wish that Paramount would create a new Star Trek series of good quality that would keep the idea alive so that we Fan Fiction writers don't have to do all the work. :)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: There are several sex scenes in this story. On top of that, sex is talked about. However, this story is not just sex (talk). It simply turned out to be a good base to build on other stuff. Note that this story deals with a relationship that has a more dominant and a more submissive partner. However, this is not Dom/sub by any stretch. This is merely two people that fit well together where BOTH people have an equal say in their relationship, just that they prefer to fulfill different roles in said relationship. Also, note, the Delaney sisters are in this story and they are close. Very close. So close that some people might have a problem with it, but rest assured it's not so close as some Voyager people would wish it to be. :P On a side note, Tal Celes also has a pretty decent role in this story. If you read some Voyager Fan Fiction, you will probably know her because she is very often featured as a supporting character. But when I was checking out her bio, I discovered that she has actually only been seen in two, count them, two, episodes. My point here is I find it interesting how some characters can just stick with you and appeal to so many; not just Tal, but also the Delaney sisters or Ro Laren. (Ro is not in this story, just using her as an example for this side note.) She was also in only a few episodes of TNG yet everyone pretty much knows her. But on the other hand, characters like Tuvok and Neelix are often nothing more than just mentioned because they are part of the main cast and therefore basically have to be mentioned. Strange.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To mhw.weckseler[at]gmail.com

Twenty-five to Life
By H.W.


Chapter 15

"So how did you end up here?" Kinal asked as she looked across the room. Just like the rest of the ship it looked so run down that one would easily believe that it had been a bad prop in one of the entertainment programs. Rust covered a big part of one wall and the door was missing. "You seem like a smart woman."

Ina grabbed a PADD from inside the nightstand draw. "Read file six."

Kinal did so as Ina pulled a suitcase out of a closet. After a moment of confusion she started to read out loud. "Her long fingers slid into my wetness, tearing a moan from my lips..." she stopped when the PADD was ripped out of her hands.

"Um, five, file five I meant," A furiously blushing Ina said.

Kinal smiled when the PADD was given back to her. This time it showed a picture of a truly beautifully looking starship. It wasn't an Urdian ship, but definitely one that had been very new, or extremely well kept, when coming across the Urdian Homeworld.

"That's the picture that was send along with the text below it," Ina explained as she started to put things in the suitcase, starting with some clothing to give a padded surface.

Kinal had to admit that it sounded like a dream come true for an advantageous person. Hop on a great and extremely fast ship for a year and then settle in a small colony that was unheard of by the masses. Only insiders knew of this great place. She went back to look at the other pictures that came with the file. And only now, standing in the garbage that was a ship, was it clear what had been done. The outside shot of the beautiful ship was done in such a way that just to the side and in the distance you could see the ship she was in now. Nothing you would think twice about; just another ship that was standing in the place where ships were sold.

Inside pictures looked wonderful as well, but were accompanied by expertly worded sentences like, 'this is the warp engine layout of our ship'. But that didn't mean that it was actually a picture of the engine of the ship. It was expertly done. Every court would know that it was a trap, but all would still uphold the contract as legit.

"I see," Kinal said. She glanced at Ina and saw that the woman was busy packing and not looking at her. Discreetly Kinal opened the other file again. She read on just to be sure, but she had recognized a sex scene from her favorite erotic writer when she saw it. She knew this story. It was one of her favorites in fact. She had it on a PADD of her own that she liked to read on those nights where nobody shared her bed. The sex scene was expertly written, so much so that it would still affect her even after having read it countless times. She, as a healer, especially liked the fact that though fiction, all that was described would fit perfectly into a real love session between people that found their soul. And that was another part that she really liked; the fact that it was a full story. A realistic, if bit short explanation of meeting that was believable, and even more important, a clear indicator that the sex scene was just the beginning and that a life together was following.

Ina suddenly stopped, not knowing that Kinal was no longer looking at the file that had promised her the universe. "Um, I don't want to alarm you, but I'm also taking that suitcase there along. You might want to let the others know that."

Kinal looked at the suitcase. Unlike the empty one that had stood in a closet, this one stood against the wall for easy reach. It was square and bulky, but not so much that it couldn't be carried by one person. It looked innocent enough. "Can I open it?"

Ina shook her head. "Not if you want to use those hands ever again for healing. It is booby-trapped. I can open it for you though."

Kinal nodded and Ina knelt in front of the suitcase. Moments later the lid popped open.

"Now you can look, but don't cut yourself," Ina warned as she moved away.

Kinal handed the PADD back, forgetting that the erotic file was still active. She opened the suitcase and was greeted with an arsenal of weapons that could, no, would, put a Clan training hall to shame. Except for the big weapons that wouldn't fit in the suitcase of course. She picked up one of the knives and felt the edge with her thumb. She was surprised that even after the lightest of touch she already felt the sting that she knew so well. She looked at her thumb and saw a small blue line of blood. She put the knife back and stood up.

"Those are sharp enough to operate with."

"The sharper, the more efficient," Ina pointed out as she handed Kinal the PADD back and kneeled to close the suitcase again.

After closing the suitcase Ina went back to packing the other suitcase. As she did so, Kinal glanced at the PADD and saw that the erotic file was still open, but that the text had shifted to another part. She smiled and looked at the woman that was now surprisingly focused on packing.

She glanced at the PADD once more and read. After a moment she scrolled back to where Ina had left the text and read out loud, "I never knew her name, but I burned to meet her again. I never believed in love at first sight, but she intrigued me. I wanted to meet her again, and I wanted to hold her in my arms. And just as my tears of desperation started to fall, there she stood in the door. She had told me why she couldn't stay, what she would be giving up if she did, and yet, there she stood. A choice made, a path chosen. I never expected to see her again. I could never have ask her to give all of that up, I never would have. And, as she told me later, because I didn't ask, she willingly chose the one option that had asked nothing of her; me. I thought my life was doomed to misery, yet there she stood. She lifted a hand, extended it to me, and not a word was spoken as I took it and accepted a life full of uncertainty, but also full or her."

The packing stopped, but Ina didn't turn as she spoke. "She writes good, but we all know that real life is nothing like that." Suddenly she felt a hand on her shoulder and her body reacted. She could stop herself just before she broke Kinal's arm. "Don't grab me if I don't know you are coming!"

"I'll work on that," Kinal assured. She waved the PADD. "Do you believe in this? In love at first sight?"

"No of course not," Was Ina's first reply. Only to then lower her eyes and admit shyly, "At least not until today."

Kinal caressed Ina's cheek with the back if her fingers. "Well, I don't believe in it at all."

"I see," Ina said as she started to move away.

But the hand was back on her shoulder and stopped her. "I don't think you do," Kinal disagreed. "Tell me, what is it about me, what calls to you?"

Ina lifted her eyes. "You are beautiful."

Kinal smiled. "Thank you. But I've seen better. And the fact that you like how I look alone is not a base to build on."

Ina moved her hand up slowly, stopping only a hair away from touching Kinal's facial tattoo. "You devoted your live to knowing how to keep people alive, I devoted my life to knowing how to make sure they are not. You could be my balance."

The smile disappeared and Kinal took a step back. "Ah, if it's redemption you are looking for,"

"I regret nothing," Ina was quick to say. "Other than the fact that I may have answered a question wrong that I don't know how to answer. I look at you and my heart start beating overtime. Before, it was your facial tattoo that stopped me from hitting you, but it were your eyes that made me tell you how to be safe around me."

Kinal stopped moving back, but also didn't come closer again, so in desperation, Ina admitted, "I need you."

"For?" Kinal asked, but a smile was starting to form again.

Ina shook her head. "You don't understand. There is no 'for'. I need you. I know you for minutes, and yet I would give my life for you. I need you. If you gave me the choice to stop breathing or watch you walk away,"

"You would watch me walk away," Kinal said amused. "Because just like in the story, I might change my mind and stand in that door moments later.


"Need," Kinal finished as Ina's words faltered. Well, as I said, I don't believe in love at fight sight," Kinal finally continued. "But I do believe that relationships that are for the good of the people often are better than relationships that are started because two people share an interest in something that only they care about. After all, isn't the good of the people an interest that touches all other interests? I am a leader in my Clan. It is my duty to keep the Clan strong. And a warrior that can take out our First Warrior with a single hit would be a great asset to the Clan."

Kinal came a step closer, and the nervous Ina took a step back. For the first time in years she forgot her surroundings and the back of her legs hit the bed, making her fall backwards.

Kinal couldn't help but laugh. "Eager aren't you? I didn't even state my intentions."

"I fell," Ina objected.

Kinal extended her hand and helped the woman to her feet again. "Sure you did. Ina Dranzo, I am Kinal, First Healer of the Red Hand Clan. In five days I will be Chief Physician of the House of BortaS. I hereby inform you that I want to claim your interest before any other Clan can woo such a talented warrior. Are you willing to surrender that interest?"

"You have it," Ina assured immediately. The way she felt for this stranger she only knew for minutes, she would have promised anything to be allowed to share more time with her. She agreeing to the first step of interests that every child on the planet knew didn't involve much thinking.

It was only a first stage. Something that could easily be undone by the right officially worded statement being spoken. But she was limited on some accounts now. For instance, she could not accept the interest of someone from another person; Clan or not, or even just fool around with someone. But then again, the Red Hand Clan was well known as being the biggest of the Clans on the Urdian Homeworld. And the potential of being mated to a Clan member, to become a Clan member herself through marriage... who hadn't dreamed of that? It's what she always wanted as a little girl.

One thing worried her a little though. She didn't worry about Kinal losing interest in her after some time. Kinal was a Clan's woman, and Ina knew enough of the stories to know that they spoke a sentence while taking the wedding vow that other Urdians didn't; that they would always do their best to give their partner a feeling of being needed in a loving way. "You, um, you, said that you don't believe in love at first sight. So, you aren't really interested in me?"

Kinal smiled. "That all depends on your definition of interested. For instance, I would love to push you back onto that bed and do some of those things that they were doing in that file, if we only had the time. And you intrigue me to where I want to know more about you. I have never been interested in men as potential partners, but I love to take women to bed. One thing I really like is when they are tall enough for me to look up into her eyes."

"Not much there then," Ina noted as she looked only slightly down into the eyes of the woman that was not much shorter than herself.

"No," Kinal admitted. "But it's still looking up, so it'll do. You have a body that I think I'll love. In fact, it happened so fast when you were moving around before, but I did get a glimpse of..."

She pulled Ina's loose hanging shirt up a little until the abdomen was visible, showing muscle after lean muscle flowing over each other. They weren't bulky. In fact, they did nothing to alter the diminutive form of the body when hiding under a shirt. Being a healer, Kinal knew how much work it took to get muscles like that, and what they were best used for. These were for fast strength, and not for the brute force that her brother excelled in so much.

"Oh, I like." Kinal trailed her finger over the muscles, finding them to be rock hard. She pulled one of the legs of the pants up as far as it would go and was once more greeted by lean muscles. "I like a lot. You don't have a gram of fat on you, do you?"

Her eyes came to rest on the swell of a modest but still clearly visible chest that was not too big to still fit the form of the small body, but definitely way too big for the lack of fat to allow.

Ina swallowed before admitting, "Implants. I like having boobs."

A smile bloomed on Kinal's lips. "And a smart woman on top of it. Good, because I like boobs too. Implants are fine; it's not like anyone can feel the difference these days. So, bottom line is, you have a great body, you are a woman, you have a skill that will enhance my Clan, that thrills me... I don't need more. The love will come once we are married. And if not, I will make you at least think that I love you."

Being daring, Kinal closed the distance between then and boldly leaned in for a kiss.

Ina reacted. She put a hand behind Kinal's head and pulled her closer. The healer had drawn her interest already when Ina was still watching the group walk through the ship, before she even knew that the taller woman was a healer. They kissed again, and it felt so right for Ina. She had heard about this attraction, and in fiction she loved to read about love at first sight. Even between Urdians that was a rare concept. Or maybe even exactly because of who they were. Everyone knew of 'the attraction'. It was so common, after all, everyone that married had felt it, that romance writers needed something even more potent. And for Urdians this was love at first sight. When you fell in love with someone even before you spoke to them; even before you had interacted enough for 'the attraction' to start forming.

Until day, until Ina has seen the rest of her life amongst that group of strangers, she had thought that it was all just nonsense, fun stuff to read about, but that didn't happen in real life. And yet, here she was kissing someone she only knew for minutes, someone she was hopelessly in love with.

Finally they broke apart and Kinal licked her lips in approval. "Mmm, good. I really don't think it will take much for me to start loving you if I let myself. You definitely know how to kiss. Had many lovers?"

"Only the ones in my head," Ina admitted before clarifying, "Fantasies I mean. You don't become as good as I am by sitting around, or lying around for that matter. I never had the time. I only finished my training with my Masters a couple of months back. So I only had stories I read, fantasies I then allowed to bloom in those few rare moments of private time."

"And yet you kiss like you have done it thousands of times," Kinal noted, but she made sure that her tone conveyed the fact that she didn't doubt Ina, just that she was surprised by that fact.

Ina smiled. "Because those are the kinds of fantasies I could enjoy when I was around others but wasn't training. I may never have kissed someone before now," she looked Kinal deep in the eyes as she stated boldly, "But I kissed you every day for years now. Your lips taste just like I imagined. They feel like I knew they would. I may have only met you in body today, but in mind you have been with me for years."

"I've been sexually active for six years now, and I've slept with every unmarried woman in my Clan that wasn't only interested in men," Kinal admitted.

This was nothing to be ashamed about since it was very common for Urdians to fool around when they weren't married. In fact, she slept with the other unmarried women in the Clan, but they also slept with the other women and men as well on other occasions. It had never bothered Kinal that the woman she was with had slept with a man the night before. It was Kinal that didn't sleep with men, but that didn't mean that she begrudged the other women to do something 'they' did like. It was surprising to see how close ties became between Clan members if sex and fighting over someone was taking out of the equation.

"So I have a little bit of experience. All the better I would say. That way I can teach you a thing or two, and our sex life will be perfectly matched as well." Kinal sighed. "But now we have people waiting for us. Finish your packing."

As Ina started to turn, Kinal stopped her. "Wait. Here take this."

Kinal lifted a necklace from around her neck. It was merely meant for decoration, but it did have the Clan's insignia as pendant; it would do for now since Kinal still had her tattoos that indicated her as Clan. "Take this. Wear it until you can get your Clan tattoo."

After the necklace was placed around her neck, Ina looked at the pendant in disbelief. Just like that. Just like that her childhood dreams had come true. She was a Clan member. Well, technically not yet because she wasn't married. But she knew that even now others would recognize her as a Clan member.

"Only until I get my tattoo?" Ina asked, looking down into beautiful grass green eyes that were set in a surprisingly gentle looking face. She knew that it would not be hard for her to read that look as love, though she knew that it wasn't. But, that she could easily forget, if it was needed.

Kinal smiled and smartly corrected, "No, until the day you die, I mean."

Ina lifted a shaking hand to cup Kinal's cheek. "Alright, my wife to be. But I have only one demand of you."


"Never tell me that you love me unless you truly mean it. I much rather spend the rest of my life as your wife and knowing that you like me enough to make me feel loved, than hear words of love from you and having to wonder if you mean them."

Kinal smiled again. "Love is a broad term. I can use it in describing things that have to do with a person I'm not in love with as well. So, I might use it. But tell you what, after this example, I will only say 'I love you' again if I truly mean that."

"Thank you."

"And now, let's pack before people come get us."

They did so and no word was spoken again until the suitcase was closed.

"There is one more thing," Ina said as she opened the nightstand draw again. She pulled out a small black leather covered box. "You gave me something to wear, let me give you something as well."

She opened the box and in it there was a small gold medallion hanging on a silk ribbon. "We will need to find a matching chain so that you can wear it every day."

Kinal picked up the medallion and looked at it. It depicted the aura of a person with the head bowed and arms outstretched to the sides. It looked serene because you couldn't see the actual person, just something best described as a force flowing around them.

"It's beautiful," Kinal said honestly.

"That's the earth-prayer pose," Ina explained. "That medallion is the proof that I fulfilled my training and am a third square Ranki Master."

Kinal's eyes shot up from the medallion in surprise and she gasped. She had served her Clan by bringing an excellent warrior into it. But she had no idea of just what prize she had brought her Clan, and soon her House. "Master,"

"Don't even start," Ina interrupted. "I like what I learned and I do carry the name of Master as far as that is concerned proudly. But as my life has shown me ever since I left the learning grounds, I'm no Master in normal life. I was stupid enough to fall for a scheme to become security on a ship that needs an Engineer more than security."

She blushed before saying softly, "And I know how to kill with one hit, but have no idea where to touch a woman to bring her pleasure." Kinal lifted her eyebrows and Ina relented, "Well, beside the obvious of course. It's not like I never touched myself. So don't call me a Master. I want a wife, not a student."

Kinal nodded in understanding. She saw the admiration of people every day when they saw her facial tattoo, when they saw how many Clans owed her a debt of life. "How about we make a pact right here? I will treat you as my wife, if you do the same for me." She touched her face, indicating the tattoo. "Between us, pretend that this isn't there."

Ina nodded her head. "Deal." Then she looked at the medallion still in her hand. "Will you wear it for me? It deserves to be worn, but I can't do it. It might give me away when I need to move silent, it might glister in the dark, or if you want it more mundane; it might get damaged."

Kinal lifted Ina's hands to indicate that she should place it around her neck. As Ina did so, Kinal promised, "I will always wear this with pride and honor. How about we have a chain for it made from red silver? A silversmith in one of the other Clans has asked me several times already to let him make something for me as thanks for saving his son's life."

Ina nodded her agreement.

Once the medallion was secured around her neck, Kinal wondered. "Don't you also have a medallion for becoming a first square and second square Master? We don't want to leave those behind either."

"I only have that one," Ina explained. "As long as you stay at the school you don't get physical indicators of how far you evolved. It's only when you go out in the world that they give you a medallion and documentation to prove how far your training evolved. It's mostly done so that you can prove that you aren't just talking crap when you say that you have trained this or that far. I have the documentation at the bottom on my weapon's suitcase. Normally I kept this medallion there as well, but I took it out a few days ago to be able to look at it sometimes and remember what I left behind to join this, um, ship."

"Torres to Kinal," the communicator suddenly interrupted. "How about you get moving, or do you need help?"

"No, we are done packing. We just had to discuss a few things that I think you will love to hear, my Lord."

There was a hesitation that clearly came from Kinal calling B'Elanna 'my Lord' while they were on duty, but apparently B'Elanna decided to let it slide. "Then let's go. Voyager already contacted me again to see what the holdup is."

"We are on our way," Kinal assured. As the channel was closed she pointed at the suitcase with weapons. "Do you mind if I carry that for now?"

"I think that it's a great idea," Ina agreed. "Besides, that's yours now as well. What's mine is thine, and what's thine is mine."

"So the vow says," Kinal agreed. She caressed Ina's gentle face again before moving to the deadly suitcase. No, it would not be hard at all to learn to love this woman.

"What took you so long?" B'Elanna asked.

"We had a few things to discuss," Kinal said before lifting the suitcase for a moment. "But before I get to that, this is full of weapons. I'm carrying it so that no wrong impression can form."

"Weapons?" Seven asked as all eyes traveled to Ina.

"Knifes," Kinal started, only to stop when Olik suddenly moved closer. His eyes had traveled to Ina as well, and he had seen the necklace she now wore.

"You move fast, sister," Olik noted with clear approval. Then he suddenly hugged Ina. "And welcome to the Clan sister."

"Ug, thanks for the hug," Ina said as arms closed around her. She had expected some vice grip, but instead the hug was strong, but not uncomfortably so. Maybe in his own best interest? His ribs must be killing him, she was sure. "But next time don't move too fast so close to me. My body is trained to act before my mind does."

Kinal placed a hand on her future wife's shoulder. She saw the flinch and smiled. "Don't say anything. You are going to be my wife, we have to train your body to recognize me. I will not ask permission to touch you every time I want to."

Ina didn't reply, but nodded her head in concession of that point.

Kinal looked at her brother before saying proudly, "Olik, Master Warrior of my Clan, and Marine Commander of my future House, let me introduce the latest Clan warrior to you. This is Ina Dranzo; third square Ranki Master."

Olik's eyes widened and he let himself drop to his knees. "Master, I yield my position as First Warrior of my Clan to you."

"I um," Ina started, not really sure what to say. She had dreamed of being a Clan member, but didn't really know anything of their traditions. She was glad for the whispered words of her future wife that told her how to reply. "I accept your recognition of me as the superior warrior, but I won't accept your place. I have another destiny waiting."

She frowned. And as Olik got up again she turned to Kinal. "What other destiny?"

"I have no idea," Kinal said with a shrug. "But that's the standard reply for if you bested a warrior but don't want to take his place."

"Alright, hold up here," B'Elanna spoke up, this time the commanding tone was hard to miss. She was the commanding officer on that mission and she sure could act that way if needed. "Anyone care to tell us what's going on?"

Kinal nodded. "How about I give you the short version now and the long version on the ship?"

"Alright," B'Elanna merely said.

"Since Ina proved such a good fighter, I proposed to her so that she can marry me and become a Clan member; strengthen the Clan," Kinal explained. "Then it turned out that Ina is not just a good fighter, but that she is actually a martial arts expert; a Master even. The martial arts she is an expert in concentrates on the art of fighting without weapons, and on the use of small weapons; knives, throwing triangles, that kind of thing."

"And that's enough for you and Olik to see her as your better?" B'Elanna asked surprised.

"Not just that," Kinal assured before thinking about how best to explain it. "You know how we Clans have something of an... admired position?"

B'Elanna merely nodded.

"Well, triple that and you have how people think of a Ranki Master. Ranki fighters are kinda like mystical fighters you only ever hear of. They are trained on only one place on the entire planet, and there are never more than a thousand students at a time. Now, only about one student every year is good enough to become a Master. Once someone has managed to become a Master, that Master can specialize in certain styles that enhance the base. Stories say that these special styles are taught in separate buildings so that no student that isn't worthy of it can see the training. These buildings are said to be big and square. And that's where the name comes from."

"Stories are right about there being four buildings, but wrong about other students not being allowed to see the training," Ina interrupted. "It's simple; different training needs different training tools. The buildings are merely to have a permanent inside terrain that is excellently suited for that style. But two thirds of the training is actually done outside."

"Well, I did say that it's something of a mystery, to us at least," Kinal reminded with a smile. "Is the following correct then? If you are a Ranki Master you are an expert in the base style,"

She looked back at B'Elanna. "Don't let the word 'base' mislead you by the way. All other martial arts we have on our Homeworld have been based on this base style; so I guess you can say it's damn good."

The she looked back at Ina as she continued, wanting to see if her wife to see would agree with the next words. "If you become a Master in one of the specialized styles on top of that, you are called a first square Master. If you master a second style you are a second square Master. So, three square means that beside that base style, Ina here knows three of the four base enhancing styles to the degree of being called a Master in them. If you want, you could also call her a four time master; base, and style one through tree. From the weapons in the suitcase I would guess that those are one of the styles. From how she took most of the team out, I would say that nerve endings and pressure points is the second style. And third?" She looked at Ina.

"Third is the iron body," Ina said, indicating at the same time that the guess for the first two had been right.

"Ah, yes, I should have guessed that from the muscles."

"Iron body?" B'Elanna repeated.

"It is a technique where the body is trained to work as somewhat of a basic armor for itself," Olik explained. "There are stories of ages gone by, when bows and arrows were still used, of the arrows not being able to pierce the body of someone that knew the iron body technique."

"Doubtful, tales of popular entertainment," Ina admitted. "Sharp point, kinetic energy, flesh is still weaker than metal, nope. I know for sure that a knife still cuts me. But we were trained by being hit with sticks until the sticks broke, if that helps in understanding. And I am able to take a hit like I gave the big guy here and hardly feel it, let alone be affected by it."

B'Elanna thought about pointing out that Kinal and Olik sure were easy to believe that this woman was truly a Master. But the way she had attacked the team had proven that she at least sure knew what she was doing. More so if you took in mind that two people that had been take out had been trained security of Voyager, while the third was even knows as being one of the best warriors around; the best one of his Clan. Someone that was that good didn't need to boast about being even better than they were. Actions spoke as well. Still, Ina had admitted that she was just twenty-four years old. So B'Elanna asked, "Aren't you a bit young to be a Master?"

Ina pretended to think about it. "I don't know, how old does someone have to be with your species to become a Master?"

Before B'Elanna could reply, Ina continued. "With us it's more about the amount of training and if your trainers felt that you were good enough. I for one trained eighteen hours per day, every day of the week, every week of the year, for fifteen years. I remember one day, I'll never forget it. It was in my first year of training, it was my tenth birthday actually. I broke my left arm in training. After it was healed in the med-wing, I was told that I couldn't use it in training for a week. My trainer nodded and told me that this was a good opportunity to work on the strength of my right hand. He pointed me to a brick wall and instructed me to hit it with my bare fist as hard as I could. After the initial pain had dulled down I got daring and hit a little too hard; broke three fingers. Another trip to the infirmary, and the news that I couldn't use that hand in training for two weeks. My trainer beamed at me and told me that apparently it truly was my lucky day. It was the perfect opportunity for me to learn what to do if I can't use my hands. He pointed me to the same wall and instructed me to start kicking it, with bare feet of course."

She smiled as if thinking of something fondly. "Yeah, I often think back to those early years of my training. How easy it all was then, how our trainers babied us. Yeah, that was the good old times. They only get really serious once you have been with them for five years. That's when they start to actually touch you for real in training. And your training for the day is decided by what bones were broken the day before and therefore need some rest."

Ina tilted her head a little before asking, "So, please tell me how old do I have to be again before I can be a Master with your species?"

B'Elanna lifted her hands in surrender. "I apologize. I never met someone that only trains. We are used to people that train besides having a fulltime job that feeds them. So they have a lot less time to train."

Ina looked at B'Elanna to see if that was a dig about her not working. But seeing that the stranger was apparently sincere, she decided to merely explain. "Not everyone becomes a Master or spends fifteen years on school grounds. There are a lot of organizations that sponsor the Ranki school so that they can promote job offers in the school liaison building. Most students decide after five years that they are pretty good and leave to go work for someone. Funny enough, that's exactly the same moment where the training switches to the trainers actually hitting you back in training for real. So a lot of people leave then to find work. Of course normally at one of the places that had tempting offers up at the school."

She laughed humorlessly. "That's in fact how I ended up here. Be head of security on an excellently kept ship that was setting out to one of the colonies. It sounded too good to be true; apparently it was."

"No disrespect, but simple curiosity," B'Elanna said, wanting to make sure that her next question didn't offend the martial arts expert. "If you are that good, if you reached the level of third square Master, why not go for the fourth?"

"Ah, that was the big choice to make," Ina sighed, but it was obvious that the sigh was more for the fact of life, and not because B'Elanna had asked. "You see, the fourth square is only taught to the Masters that have decided that they want to stay at the school for the rest of their life to train other students. It's an old tradition from before the time of beam weapons. It's simple; if you teach someone all that you know, then it means that he can also use all of that knowledge against you. But if there is one thing that you never train anyone but the people that never leave the school, then anyone that attacks you will find out that it was a really bad move really soon. But now? Now it's simply tradition. The school knows that their students head out into the world to do all kinds of modern jobs, so there is one part they simply want to keep to just themselves. As simple as that."

"And you didn't want to stay at the school," Seven pointed out the obvious before looking at Kinal and asking, "And you proposed to her?"

"Yep," Kinal happily agreed. "As my wife she is honor bound to aid the Clan to the best of her abilities; which means passing on her knowledge. And since my Clan joins your House in a few days, she will be honor bound to train all House members that want to be trained."

"And are worthy of being trained," Ina reminded. "I will not train people that think it's a game."

"Interesting, Seven said. "But did you inform Ina of the small fact that we will be leaving your Homeworld and will not be back?"

"Well, no," Kinal admitted. "I figured that it was a non-issue since she was leaving as it is to go to some colony."

"A colony is not the Fleet," B'Elanna reminded. "Maybe she has enough of space travel after this debacle and wants to go back to the planet."

Ina shook her head. "No, I left the planet because I'm looking for something new. I had gone as far as I could at the school. It was either leave, or stay for good."

"If you could choose to leave, why would you stay at all?" Seven asked. "Your training sounds quite...brutal."

Ina shrugged. "We were training to fight. In a fight an opponent also won't ask you if your arm hurts; he will make use of the fact that your arm hurts. Believe me, by the time you reached the level of Master, you have long since learned to ignore pain. Believe it or not, an empty stomach bothers me more than a broken bone, cut, or bruise. I'm so used to those things that in the last four years of my training I was ordered to go to the infirmary at the end of every day for a quick scan to see if I didn't break anything without noticing it. But boy do I get distracted when my tummy starts rumbling."

"Actually, there might be a very good reason for allowing so much breaking of bones," Kinal spoke up. "If, and I repeat the if, if a broken bone is set properly and then healed properly with a bone gluer, then they actually become stronger than they were before. So allowing the breaks on such regular basis is basically toughening you up from the inside as well. It goes along with that Iron body training I guess. Even if you aren't prepared for it, your body can take a lot more than a normal Urdian can."

She smiled before adding, "Though you must be a real joy to be around on a cold and wet day."

Ina grinned. "Actually, I think I might be. Remember, I don't feel pain that I don't want to feel. Pain is good; it's an alarm system of your body, so it's not like I don't feel pain at all. It's just that I have learned to ignore sudden sharp pains, and also to ignore old dull aches once I identified them as nothing new."

"Alright, time to get moving," B'Elanna said, ending the conversation for the moment. She tapped her communicator. "Voyager, we are ready for beam out, one person extra, the life sign located between Kinal and Olik."

Part 16

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