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( All my love to Marielle Deniaud. Many thanks for her assistance in writing this series. )
There was not much in terms of entertainment in the prison, so prisoners and guards alike enjoyed the blood sport once a month. Bets were in the form of contraband - food from the outside world, extra blankets. A pillow. The rules were simple. Prisoners could only volunteer, not be coerced. Guards could not kill prisoners. Prisoners could not kill guards, and they ran the risk of retribution for winning against one. Bets were strictly not allowed, at least aloud.
The barrels were their only source of heat, and more were lit to fill the space with light. Fire roared and crackled within the metal bins. Prisoners lost their normal layers of cloth. Fight day meant a warmer space, bodies and fire barrels enough to push away the chill of the planet’s brutal temperatures. The sounds of whips and painful groans were gone, replaced by curses in every language. Jeers mingled easily with the resounding cheers.
The half-Bajoran stood next to one of the barrels in a pathetic attempt to warm himself. The chill of the underground seemed to have settled deep into his bones and it left him constantly cold. Dulled cobalt moved over the gathered crowd as they formed a circle around a Cardassian and a man he overheard was Betazoid. From the murmurings of the prisoners, the Cardassian had a clear advantage. Gideon kept his back to the fight and used the time to simply be warm. His face was flushed from the heat but he did not step back. He was glad that the general population ignored him, but he could hear the guards whispering that they wished Starfleet would fight so they could watch him get punished for his stubbornness. Apparently they disliked his tongue. His shoulders hunched in an effort to disappear.
Fregg made his way to Gideon in his daily attempt to make the half-Bajoran understand that he was a friend and not an enemy. The former Starfleet officer was a bulk of a man and his instincts told him that he would be a good fighter despite his morose attitude. He didn’t understand a word of what he said, but that just added to his mystery. The Ferengi benefited quite a lot from his silence and he was not a being who did not pay his debts. Well. He was, but his family deserved it. He nudged the man. “You should fight. Maybe get a new coat.” His own was was off his shoulders and he was in two thin shoddy linen layers.
His head shook slightly in his dismissal of the idea. Gideon didn’t want to fight. His internal struggle was a daily battle and he didn’t want to imagine having to pick at the ore with injuries. Cobalt strained to glance at the fight as he turned his chin to look over his shoulder. “You could trade for my new coat.” The half-Bajoran had started speaking to Fregg in the standard tongue, though his conversation was always lacking. He raised a brow as he looked down at the Ferengi in silent reminder that he hadn’t yet been paid for distracting the guards and taking the fall the week before.
“I traded so you wouldn’t get your daily beating,” the Ferengi countered easily. His hands came up and he warmed himself by the barrel. “Or would you prefer your daily bruises in the shuttle?” He turned his chin and motioned towards the ring. “Go, and I promise, hoo-man, that you will thank me.”
‘I should have known better,’ he chastised himself with a frown. His arms tightened across his chest and he closed his eyes. ‘Is this what I should do El?’ The diminutive woman would have told him ‘absolutely not’ with a stern look and shake of her head. Gideon could picture her doing so with clarity. His brows furrowed as he reminded himself that she was gone and his life was no longer his own. It belonged to the mine, to Rura Penthe, and to the Klingons. The half-Bajoran opened his eyes and glanced down at Fregg. “Get me a coat,” he commanded quietly as he turned and made his way to the ring.
The former security chief stepped to the edge of the circle and his gaze moved around the prisoners and guards that formed the barrier between the crowd and the ring. His cobalt met the dark brown of the head guard, a tall and formidable Klingon by the name of T’empek. Gideon nodded his chin once to signal his intent to fight.
The lead guard’s eyes seemed to twinkle with his excitement and his head snapped to the Cardassian and Betazoid who continued to fight. T’empek growled lowly and he barked a command. “Finish it!” He watched with joy as the taller dark grey skinned fighter appeared to flip a switch and knocked the telepath to the floor. The gathered crowd raised a mixture of cheers and boos and the line broke so they could collect the Betazoid and trade their secret bets. The Klingon guard growled again. “Clear the ring! Who wants Starfleet?!” The overwhelming response had him laughing heartily.