He looked more like a bartender than a privateer. Balding, slouching, facing the Kilrathi warrior, he was standing more or less erect, arms loosely at his sides, hands open. A beard shot with gray was recently cut short. Hair not fully dried was pulled back and he was dressed in what looked like faded dark gray pajamas. The taking of the station by the Kilrathi had obviously caught him by surprise.

He was out of place, down to his "live or die" challenge. Didn't even have his taunts and comments right. Flew a Galaxy even, with a funny gun mount.

As the warrior sprang, launching into the man, the man turned. No academy Judo here, pulling when pushed and no marine karate or brawler's kick. The twist broke the leaping cat's balance, and the driving pivot on his chin drove the cat's head back and down -- through the floor -- without ever allowing a recovery.

The man looked at his apprentice pilot/gunner. "When pushed, turn." The words ended with the next warrior's lunging open grab that blocked a pivot ...

When the Kilrathi had taken the station with a surprise blockade and landing, most had resigned themselves to a victims' end in the slave trade. A few, known privateers, had broken locks and blasted into the asteroids, Orions and Centurions flaming. Two had made it past the seeker mines.

When the mining station's personnel had been herded out into the concourse, the old man had issued a challenge. Some ritual was involved. You could tell it was a last hope. He'd been sleeping and awoke too late to break and run with the other privateers.

To everyone's amazement, the challenge took. The big cats took it as a joke, but drew lots and lined up in two hands of eights, clan colors tied to arm bands.

A hip shifted inward and the hip and knee blocked any thought of the disemboweling leg strike that was Kilrathi second nature. Hands shifting, his elbow took out the soft portion of the neck as the warrior lunged to close with his jaws. A second body dropped to the deck.

"When pulled, enter."

A roaring swirl broke ranks, launching a blurring strike with a ritual sword. Two deaths in the space of two breaths was too much for one warrior who lunged in rage.

And collided with the next challenge warrior's leap. One warrior had tracked the movement of the man's body, the other had locked eyes and bought the head fake. The man grasped fur and extended the line of the lunge, keeping the two Kilrathi tangled while straightening the sword arm and then breaking the wrist with a twist. He released the warriors while taking the sword. A reversing strike killed both warriors as they broke apart.

The man turned, the sword dragging point down, hilt up. Still the narrow stance, the slight slouch, an old man looking ages past his prime.

"Half an eight on your terms, with a forfeit" was all he said before the commander cut him off.

"No. You'll not change terms. Honor or no, no ape will use this as an excuse to jump into a ship and run. You'll not escape us now!"

The man smiled. "Rather, if I take ship, you'll not escape me."

"Enough. Swords!"

Another swordsman leapt forward, ritual sword scattering light. The block was a straight motion, a mere raising of the hilt. Another block and another. Each a slight shifting motion, each stopping a strike aimed at the gap a counter strike would have made, each closing the gap between cat and man.

The last too close as a side kick folded first the Kilrathi's knee and then the Kilrathi's neck. The cat had attempted to go corp a corp.

"Never let a weapon steal your hands and feet" the old man said, punctuating his comment as he allowed the sword to be taken in a bind by a chain wielding warrior who suddenly lost his eyes and throat to hands no longer holding a sword.

A roar brought a grabbing twist as one of the commander's bodyguard's launched himself from the portable dais at the old man. One hand caught the wrist, the other hand forced the claws into the palm as the man pivoted, extending the flight path of the leaping warrior into a sudden meeting with the station wall.

The segment was plastic, not stone, but the guard turned blue, stumbled and then collapsed.

"Poison claws. I assume poison has just been added as a challenge weapon?" In the background the apprentice pilot counted off a clock.

"I counted two landing craft, a mine layer, a Kamekh, six Dralthi and three Gothri when you came in. You lost two Dralthi during the breakout and that means you have only two Dralthi on patrol, everything else is docked and on station air. Not one of your two hundred marines has a mask. And you've just made poison an honorable challenge weapon."

The Kilrathi commander struggled in his chair while his troops fell around him. Paralyzing gas had taken them all.

"Forgive me if I don't attend to your fall, but I've your two Dralthi to kill in order to finish the eighth. Since you didn't answer the challenge personally, you'll forgive me if I leave you for now."

A mewing cry was all that made it out of what would have been an answering roar.

"Porter, I believe I have cargo room for a unit or two of ceremonial Kilrathi colors and weapons. Put them in with the two hundred units of Kilrathi I reserved earlier on the station commerce computer. I believe you can fill that order now. Make it snappy. I have places to be and cats to kill before they figure out why its so quiet and launch an attack on the station. Give my best to Major Goodwin when she comes by." With that he was off to deliver the central players for the Rebel Worlds Sidar.

Notes on hand-to-claw combat, etc.

Claw attacks reach out and rip or tear as they draw across or back. Since clawing across also pushes away, large cats claw inward when seriously hunting or fighting. When pulled, either by grasp or claw, ride it, striking. The Pan Cretian phrase (from the Greek) is "when pulled, enter."

When pushed by someone large, do not pull them on top of you. Instead pivot, which breaks their balance. Follow the momentum, pushing the person the same direction of their movement, but with different balance, matching the floor's strength against their's -- adding to the force rather than meeting it.

Rip proof (ckevlar) fabric helps, as the cats claws are sharp, but if they can't cut, you might survive an extra second or two. Especially when they use poison, preventing penetration is everything. As vulnerable as they are to nerve agents, they ought to know better. At least poison is an acceptable tool in obtaining sacrifices for Sidar and some cat specific agents don't harm humans at all and don't damage the station's air supply.

As for privateering in a Galaxy, spine mount a torpedo launcher with an extended magazine and use it as a third gun. Slave the turrets to fire along the same axis as the main guns. With gatling lasers in the turrets and fusion cannon on the main axis you can match the output of almost any ship available. With the new Omni IV, featuring enhanced targeting at range, few things can get close to you. Who needs a green gun?

Notes collected from Intelligence's intercept of Avraam Starbright's video journal. Currently used in training special ops personnel who may have to go hand-to-hand with Kilrathi.