As I walked into the arena, the crowds, although small, roared. I still wasn't sure I wanted to do this, but this wasn't just about me any more. It was about Bairn too.
My heart was beating loudly in my ears, so loud I swear Rutter, Bairn and Dr Morris who were walking behind me could have heard it too.
The crowd hollered again and I turned to see Urtok enter the arena. I swallowed hard. He looked as intimidating as ever.
Dressed in the garb of T'Ker Chan, his black jumpsuit was subtly equipped to handicap him in the competition. It fit him snugly, covering him from head to toe and leaving only his hands and face exposed. It emphasised his incredible physique with its black sheen, and was not only reminiscent of a Borg but equally as chilling.
As for myself, not needing any handicapping, my suit consisted of formal exercise wear: a light, v-necked jumpsuit with short-sleeves. This was just as well because, for this to work, I needed as much of my flesh exposed as possible.
I turned to Bairn and saw her bite her lip anxiously. None of us knew if this would work.
The horn sounded to summon the competitors to the centre of the ring. Ten metres across, it is marked like a target with a centre spot and two rings. One marks the ten-meter boundary, the 'fight zone', and all combat must stay within this area. The inner circle, the 'greet zone', is where the competitors meet and stare-down before the bout begins. In addition to that, a line runs from one side to the other. Called the Chan, this is the line upon which the competitors start each bout ensuring they are on opposite sides of the ring.
I didn't really hear the referee as he reminded us of the rules: one round only, one pinfall to win.
We stood in the greet zone and stared-down ... or in my case, stared-up. Urtok towered above me, glaring with his huge, black Klingon eyes. It was hard to resist the urge to blink.
The bell sounded and we backed off along the Chan to the outer ring. At the second bell, we stepped forward into the fight zone and began to circle. The battle had begun.
Despite his handicapping, the speed at which Urtok moved took me by surprise. He flew across the zone and punched out, smacking me hard in the face. It felt like I'd been hit with a baseball bat, and the force sent me sprawling onto my back. Quickly I swivelled onto my feet, but my senses were reeling and the room spinning before my eyes. I had already vowed that with my inexperience and lack of expertise in hand-to-hand combat, I'd take no more than five blows and then, if I hadn't achieved my objective, I would throw the match, feigning delirium if necessary. After that first blow though, I doubted I'd have to feign anything.
Back on my feet, we circled again. I could feel something wet trickling down the side of my face. Blood no doubt, but I ignored it. As he lashed out again, thanks to Rutter's tutoring, I was able to dodge, throwing myself onto the floor and rolling, but this was not what I needed. I had to avoid the blows, yes, but more importantly, I needed close physical contact.
I stepped closer, looking for an opening. Urtok struck out again, with his foot this time but I dodged it, feeling only the draught as it sailed through the air above my head. Twice more he aimed blows at me, and both times I dodged them. Sweat was beginning to form on my back. I could feel it moistening my clothes, dampening my skin.
He lunged forward, grabbed my arm, swung me around and picked me up by the waist, lifting me high like a puling child. He laughed heartily and then released me just enough to allow me to slip through his hands so that he could grab me around the waist and squeeze the life out of me.
As the air was pressed out of my lungs, I chopped down with both hands into the sides of his neck, but he just laughed at the effort. It should have made contact with a nerve and prompted my release, but either I missed or his neck was so thickly muscled that my blows failed to strike deep enough, so I grabbed his ears and twisted. I knew it would cause little damage, but I also knew how annoying it would be. Sure enough, he released his grip, eager to be free of the silly nuisance and we scuffled like a couple of daft schoolboys on the floor, neither able to get a firm grip on the other.
An iron fist struck out and smacked me in the upper chest. A shaft of sheer pain shot through my body and a further blow knocked me clean off my feet.
Gasping for breath, I clambered from my knees, shakily rising to my feet. My sweaty palms slipped on the floor and sent me sprawling again. And then, as I looked up, I saw it! My opportunity!
I shot forward, leapt up, grabbed Urtok around the neck and wrapped my legs around his waist. As I locked my ankles behind his back, surprise registered on his face; it was such a peculiar tactic.
I felt Urtok's cool hands upon my hot, sweaty shoulders. He guffawed and threw me off with ease, hurling me across the arena.
Exhausted, I lifted my head, uncertain if I could continue ... but then I saw Urtok and knew I could.
He stood with his head held high, his mouth slightly open, tasting the air like a cat.
That's it, Urtok. Breathe it in, breathe it in deep, I thought.
After a few moments, Urtok dropped his head, lifted his hands and looked at them, confused. He was floundering. His mental processes were becoming fuddled and distracted. He stared at his hands for a few moments and then cupped them around his nose to savour the scent fully. And then he slowly and meticulously licked my sweat off his palms.
Gotcha! I thought, and hurled myself at him.
As I hit him, he offered no resistance. Under my body slam, he toppled like a caber, landing with me on his chest, and as we hit the deck, the whole world seemed to slow down.
I saw the dust bounce off the floor, rising into the air and then slowly settling again. As I lifted my head and looked down at Urtok, I saw total bewilderment on his face and a glazed look in his eyes.
I felt his strong hands, slide up my back and take hold of my hair. His fingers knitted themselves into it. His eyes were dilated and his mouth ajar. Deftly, he slid me higher up his body and pulled my face down, closer towards his before burying his face into the nape of my neck. There, he noisily took in deep gasps of air. Suddenly I was wondering if this was such a good idea ...
Like a huge wake-up call, the horn sounded blasting away any illusion of slow time. Whoops and hollers bellowed around the arena also breaking the moment, but I was almost as confused as Urtok ... and then I realised. It was one pinfall to win ... and I had it!
In my distraction, I hadn't realised just how long I'd had Urtok pinned to the floor. Delight filled me, but I had just one problem: an oversized Klingon nuzzling at my neck.
Clumsily, I managed to pull myself free from Urtok who remained stupefied on the floor. His eyes were foggy and half closed as he rolled over and struggled onto his hands and knees. That's where I left him.
I climbed down from the ring and fell into Bairn's arms, exhausted. She was ecstatic with joy and hugged me warmly.
"You did it, Jen! You did it!" she cried.
But I hadn't done it at all. Bairn had, with her pheromone technology. She had already proven that an Orion could become as mundane as a Human. This final test proved that by tweaking Human pheromones, the reverse could also be applied. A Terran could become as intoxicating as an Orion slave girl.
But now we have to face the consequences ... and so does the Academy ...