August 2009 Challenge Winning Entry - There Can Be Only One Kang's Summit 2371 General Martok, head of the aptly named House of Martok, reveled in the hunt. He stood still, listening to the sounds of the forest, focusing every one of his senses on the goal. Leaves rustled in the gentle night breeze. Nearby, Martok could hear the buzzing of a glob fly and the babbling of a small brook. Nothing else. Martok muttered a few select curses under his breath, making sure his voice was low enough that only he could hear them. The trip to Kang's Summit had cost Martok a veritable Ferengi's ransom in favors. Time away from his duties on board the Hij'Qa. Promises to Lady Sirella, Martok's bride, that his next rare leave would be spent romancing her. Convincing the caretaker of the summit that there were more than enough Sabre bears to warrant a week's worth of hunting by a lone Klingon warrior. That last favor had hurt the most. It had cost Martok a rare vintage bottle of bloodwine, one of the last from a well-known winery on Praxis before its destruction. Martok had been looking forward to finally opening it on the day Sirella's mother took her voyage on the Barge of the Dead. However, the opportunity to hunt Sabre bear was far too good to pass up. It would be worth the bloodwine, the loss of training time, and enduring Sirella's... Enduring Sirella. Martok twisted, reversing direction as he closed his eyes and listened intently into the murky darkness of Kang's Summit. He ignored the brook, the leaves, and everything else that wasn't what he planned to insert his d'k tahg into, repeatedly if at all possible. Nothing. Martok sighed in frustration, opening his eyes and preparing to mutter another curse, when he heard it. This time, the rustling of leaves wasn't due to the wind. Something large was lumbering through the forest. Martok knew that the only beasts on this part of the planet large enough to create such a ruckus in the comparatively quiet forest was his intended prey. Martok drew his d'k tahg, although he didn't extend the secondary blades for fear of scaring off the creature. Not that scaring off a Sabre bear was a large concern; the large predatory beast would be far more likely to attack the source of a random noise in animalistic rage than it would be to retreat. It was one of the many reasons that Sabre bears were so prized as game, and hunted to near extinction. Martok willed his beating heart to slow, lessening the pounding in his ears as he tried to pinpoint the beast's exact location. A few seconds later, Martok heard the telltale crunch of a dry twig snapping under the animal's paw. South from here. Upwind. Martok crept slowly through the foliage, gently pushing branches out of his way, making his way toward his prey. In the moonlight ahead, Martok saw the silhouette of the Sabre bear lumbering toward a clearing. Martok didn't have to check his map to know where the beast was heading; there was a small pool of water fed by the creek, and the bear obviously wished to quench its late night thirst. This would be its final drink. A bush separated Martok from the clearing and his prey. He crouched behind it silently, holding his breath as he watched the silhouette of the Sabre bear lean down for a drink. It was a magnificent creature. The Sabre bear towered nearly three heads above Martok, and was probably triple the general's body weight. The bear's arms were nearly as thick as Martok's torso, and a bony protrusion resembling a straight blade extended from each of the beast's forearms. A magnificent creature, and worthy prey. Martok burst from the bush, brandishing his d'k tahg and roaring mightily. He was halfway to the pool of water when he stopped in his tracks. The Sabre bear was gone. A lifetime of training prevented Martok from verbalizing his surprise and perhaps betraying his position, never mind the fact that he had already roared at the top of his lungs barely a handful of seconds before. Martok looked to the right, and then to the left. Something the size of a Sabre bear couldn't just disappear. Martok's senses were all honed for the hunt; had the bear left, there was no way Martok could have missed it. It was... unthinkable, to say the very least. He could hear Sirella's laughter echoing mockingly through his skull, and swore to himself that he would never tell her. "Martok." The voice, seemingly from out of nowhere, startled Martok, and he cursed himself yet again for his lack of attention to his surroundings. Martok simultaneously backed away from the sound of the voice and twisted his body to face the source of it, gripping his d'k tahg even tighter. He then came a hair's breadth from dropping it in surprise. No amount of hunter's training could have prepared Martok for the shock of turning around only to face himself. The other Martok grinned, baring his teeth in the traditional Klingon greeting. "What the devil?" Martok cursed himself yet again. When faced with a foe, a Klingon warrior never betrayed surprise. Any sign of weakness could potentially lose a battle before it even began. Martok's twin, however, seemed utterly uninterested in Martok's surprise. The other's eyes were fixed on Martok's d'k tahg. Curiously, the other Martok unsheathed his own d'k tahg, comparing it to Martok's. Martok found himself just as curious. The impostor's d'k tahg was identical to Martok's own, so far as he could tell from several feet away in the darkness. The shape of the blade, traditionally unique to each weapon's crafter, matched Martok's perfectly. Martok even thought he could make out a copy of his family's crest on the hilt. After a moment, the impostor returned his gaze to Martok himself, staring the general in the eye. "Martok." Martok harrumphed, despite himself. "Is that supposed to be a greeting or an introduction?" The impostor cocked his head to the side, in a manner more evocative of a Vulcan's inquisitive stare than any stance Martok himself might take. He briefly wondered if he should correct his twin's stance, but decided against. This was a sign of weakness, and Martok knew that correcting an enemy's weakness would lead only to folly. Another few moments, and the impostor spoke again. "General Martok. IKS Hij'Qa. House of Martok." Martok laughed now, the absurdity of it all finally getting to him. "Friend, anyone can read my official biography on the Imperial Comnet. If you're planning to impersonate me for some reason, you'll-" "Wife, Sirella. You demanded marriage from her the night you earned your commission to general. She accepted seven months later. Son, Drex. Conceived on the eve of the Kot'baval Festival while you and Sirella were compromised by your first sips of Romulan ale." These were things not on Martok's official biography. As far as the general knew, no one outside of Sirella herself knew these things about their courtship. Martok grinned, baring his own teeth. "Sirella. Of course. She hired you to fool me, to play games with my mind. Less direct than she usually-" Martok's words were drowned out by the impostor's roar, startlingly similar to Martok's own from a few moments ago. The impostor swiped at Martok with his d'k tahg, giving the general merely a fraction of a second to jump back to avoid the blade. Martok's eyes only now widened in surprise as his other advanced on him. Martok, never one to shy away from a fight, grinned. Defeating himself in combat was a far worthier challenge than hunting a non sentient Sabre bear. Songs would be sung about this day. Martok returned the impostor's swipe with a slice from his own d'k tahg, but his foe leapt backward, mirroring Martok's own dodge. However, Martok pressed the attack, advancing on the impostor and alternating between swipes and thrusts with his blade, hoping to catch his opponent off guard. However, the other Martok seemed to move with a preternatural agility and speed, able to avoid attacks that Martok knew he himself would have fallen before. Martok's eyes narrowed in suspicion, but there was no time for interrogation in the heat of battle. After a particularly savage swing of Martok's d'k tahg, the impostor twisted to the side, ending on Martok's left and grabbing the wrist holding the d'k tahg. It was a simple maneuver to counter, requiring only that Martok also twist his own body away from his foe, wrenching his arm free and following with a downward thrust of his dagger. The added speed and momentum from the maneuver would likely allow Martok to plunge his blade into the impostor's ridged forehead. However, despite the perfectly executed maneuver, Martok's twin stood fast, gripping Martok's wrist like a duranium vise. The impostor tightened his grip, and Martok lost enough feeling in his hand that the dagger fell to the ground. With his other hand, the impostor grabbed Martok's throat, lifting the general a good foot above his dropped dagger. Martok struggled valiantly, attempting to force the hand off his throat, and kicking at his twin's legs and lower torso, but to no avail.The impostor grinned once more, and for the first time during the encounter, Martok wondered if he'd ever see Sirella again. The impostor threw Martok, as easily as if he'd been a mere baby targ. Martok flew through the air, grunting in pain when he slammed against a thick tree trunk at the edge of the clearing. Martok slumped to the ground as the impostor advanced. "I had thought that a Klingon warrior would put up more of a fight," Martok's twin said, mockingly, as he walked casually toward the fallen hunter. The impostor's voice, combined with the sudden flow of blood to his muscles, spurred Martok to rise. He roared once more, and his impostor's eyes widened in surprise. Martok leapt toward his foe, fists at the ready. Two quick jabs landed perfectly on the impostor's midsection, followed by a mighty uppercut into the enemy's chin. Martok's foe, however, didn't seem in any way injured by this attack. On the contrary; as Martok's fists found their target, his impostor seemed more bewildered than anything else. However, the impostor didn't fight back, instead allowing Martok to unleash wave after wave of Klingon martial fury onto him. Martok was only one Klingon, however, and exhaustion soon began to set in. Martok's punches and kicks, while still more powerful than most, began to slow and weaken in power. The impostor, presumably tiring of humoring Martok, caught one of the general's punches in the palm of his hand. The impostor used Martok's own momentum to flip the general over his head, tossing him several yards. Martok might have slipped into unconsciousness as he landed, had his head not fallen halfway into the pool of water. "Are you quite done?" the impostor asked, sounding almost bored. Martok rose, spitting out the half mouthful of water that had somehow found its way into his mouth. He rose to his feet shakily, but his eyes betrayed none of the weakness his body was now feeling. He gazed defiantly at his impostor. "A Klingon warrior does not give up so easily. Perhaps you should have busied yourself learning that lesson, instead of wasting your time on the minutia of my own life." "Easily? Look at you. Bruised and bloodied, and still you don't give in." The impostor snorted. "In a way, I suppose you're much like the Jem'Hadar. Defiant, powerful, unwilling to surrender even when it's plainly obvious that it would be in your best interest." Martok's eyes widened in sudden understanding. "Jem'Hadar. You're from that empire in the Gamma Quadrant." Martok, in his role as general in the Klingon Defense Force, had long been privy to intelligence briefings about each of the major Alpha Quadrant powers. The recent references to the Dominion, a considerable power in the Gamma Quadrant, had especially caught Martok's eye. The impostor glowered. "You weren't supposed to know that, but in the end, I suppose it doesn't matter. I should probably just kill you now, but... I think some of the Jem'Hadar might enjoy pitting themselves against a warrior who was able to hold their own in battle against one of the Founders of the Dominion." "Founders? What are-" However Martok was going to finish that sentence, he suddenly found he could not. The impostor raised his arms, and before Martok's eyes, they transformed into a pair of shimmering amber tentacles. Martok found himself at a loss for words. He reflexively backed away, but he was too slow. The impostor - the Founder - whipped his arms downward. The amber tentacles extended in length, crossing the gap between Martok and his impostor. Martok opened his mouth to speak, to demand further explanation, but one of the tentacles forced its way into his mouth and down his throat. The tentacle seemed to melt into some sort of viscous fluid as it forced its way into his body, filling each of his airways and preventing Martok from catching his breath. Meanwhile, the second tentacle wrapped itself around Martok's body, forcing him to his knees and preventing any hope of escape. Martok's impostor cocked his head to the side, and his entire body transformed into a mass of amber goo, matching the tentacles that kept Martok helpless. The mass of goo further transformed into a pale, smooth-faced humanoid. Martok thought he recognized the species from another intelligence briefing, but he was too focused on staying conscious to place the features. The dark night was starting to blacken even more, and Martok knew he wasn't long for this world. As he finally began to slip into sweet oblivion, Martok briefly wondered whether he'd be going to Sto-vo-kor, of if he'd find himself on the Barge of the Dead, destined for Gre'thor. Martok's second to last waking thought was of Sirella. Martok's last waking thought was of how happy he was that she would never know that. ***** "Wake, Klingon." Martok sputtered as he was splashed with an urn full of tepid water. He shot upward into a sitting position, staring up at his apparent tormentor. A green, reptilian humanoid stared down at Martok with disdain. Martok rose slowly, noting as he did so that he lacked his d'k tahg. "Welcome to Internment Camp 371. You will, of course, be spending the rest of your natural life here." "Of course," Martok muttered sardonically as he took in his surroundings. Nothing here was familiar - the coloring, the architecture, it was all very different than that used by any race Martok was familiar with. The reptilians, however, he recognized from his intelligence briefings as the Jem'Hadar, which spoke volumes about where Martok was now. The Gamma Quadrant. Over seventy thousand light years from Qo'noS. A prisoner. Martok cursed his luck. A Klingon warrior was supposed to die before being taken prisoner. There was no greater humiliation. "You will fight." The Jem'Hadar who'd spoken gestured toward a small fighting ring set up in the middle of the room. Martok apparently waited too long in responding, as the Jem'Hadar guard roughly pushed him toward the ring. Martok took a position on one side, flexing his muscles and fighting to overcome the lingering effects of his recent unconsciousness, while the Jem'Hadar readied himself on the other. "I am First Ikat'ika. I have never been defeated in single combat. I would not blame you if you chose to surrender immediately." Martok grinned ferally. "Then, my friend, you do not know Klingons." No, Martok would not die this day. The briefings from the Federation described the Dominion as a formidable power in the Gamma Quadrant, a force perhaps even mightier than the entirety of the Klingon Empire itself. He would fight, learning all about the Dominion and these Jem'Hadar. He would escape, and he would teach his fellow Klingons how to defeat the Dominion army in combat. The Klingon Empire would know the glory of conquering the Dominion, and Martok would earn his rightful place in Sto-vo-kor. It was a good day to die.