Summary: After three months of hunting the Crime Boss, Glinn Devek, across Cardassian Space, the crew of the Pershing takes some much needed shore leave. Katie and Phil confront the past, Annabeth and Alex look to the future, and Laria and Tigranian finally travel to Qo'nos to meet the Lady of the House of Torlek.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 8 Completed: Yes
Word count: 13701 Read: 3714
Published: 12 Jun 2016 Updated: 28 May 2018
1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
8. Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Three Months Later
Velos VII: Romulan Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space
A Cardassian led two cowering women through the ruins of the old internment camp. Since the end of the war, it had been turned into a bustling slave market. Once again, the Romulan authorities had turned a blind eye.
The women were dressed in tattered rags that matched their unseemly surroundings. Open air pens contained over two dozen souls condemned to a hellish life of servitude and degredation. One stopped in her tracks when she made eye contact with a terrified K’Tarian girl behind the bars of a cage. The young woman was about to extend the child a gentle, supportive hand when her Cardassian handler shoved her in the back. He motioned for her to keep moving towards the center of the compound.
About twenty buyers from twenty different species milled around a flat stone stage that served as a makeshift auction block. Another Cardassian man, the main broker of the camp, stood with his reptilian Gorn bodyguard and spoke with several of the potential customers. The sight of the two women being led towards him caught his attention. He motioned for the young Cardassian to bring them forward for his examination.
The younger Cardassian dragged the women forward and then forced them to their knees.
“What do we have here?” the broker said with an interested leer.
“Merchandise I wish to sell,” the young Cardassian replied.
“I can see that,” the broker said looking towards him. “Tell me, who are you and what makes you think you are welcome to come here unannounced?”
“Who I am is no consequence,” the young Cardassian replied curtly, “and I came here because I hear you only sell the best. These two are certainly the best.”
“I will be the judge of that,” the broker said grabbing the first women by the chin and looking her in the eyes. “Human…quite valuable. The Federation does a good job of keeping these gems off the market. However, that means she just fetches a higher price.”
Then, he turned his attention to the second woman. “…and a Bajoran…oh yes, very nice.” He grabbed her face and examined the large welt sealing her left eye shut. “However, I don’t know many men who would be willing to pay top latinum for damaged goods.”
“She proved a little more difficult to subdue than the other one, but it will heal.”
With the broker’s attention focused on Laria, Katie scanned the crowd of buyers. A man in a dark, brown cloak caught her eye. He looked out from underneath his large hood and nodded. Katie reached over and squeezed Laria’s hand supportively.
The broker flashed Laria a lascivious grin.
“Oh yes, it’s been a while since I’ve seen such a fine specimen of Bajoran womanhood. During her convalescence, I may have to break one of my cardinal rules…”
“And that is?” the young Cardassian asked.
“Sampling the merchandise.”
“As long as you pay me first, you can do whatever you wish,” the younger Cardassian said shifting his weight from one foot to another. Suddenly, the broker became nervous. Something about this wasn’t right.
Suddenly, a huge grin crossed Laria’s face. The broker stared back at her with angry confusion.
“And what exactly do you find some amusing, slave?” he growled at her.
“That you have no idea what’s about to happen…” she replied.
In a flash, Laria reached behind her back and pulled a concealed dk’tahg. She violently slashed upward into the broker’s face, sending chunks of his cheek, nose, and left eye flying across the compound. He collapsed to the ground shrieking in pain and clutching the mangled remains of his visage in his hands. His Gorn bodyguard pulled out a disruptor pistol, but before he could take aim at Laria, Katie produced a small phaser from her boot. She aimed, fired, and turned the lizard’s atoms into a cloud of ionized vapor.
Tigranian threw off his cloak pulled a Klingon disruptor from his belt. He dispatched two more guards moving towards Katie and Laria. He ran over and took a position covering them. Laria pulled two larger hand phasers from the back of the captain’s belt. She tossed one to Katie, and kept one for herself.
“Are you sure you can shoot straight with that eye?” Tigranian said over his shoulder.
“Alex did a pretty damn good job painting this thing on,” Laria replied with a grin. “But I can still handle myself.”
The young Cardassian was now lying flat on the ground at Katie’s feet with his hands over his head.
“You did great Deranin,” Katie said not taking her eyes off the panicking crowd around them. She spotted a Nausicaan pulling out a plasma rifle. She took aim and fired, sending him to the ground in a smoking heap. “Now, just stay down!” She looked over to Tigranian. “Alright, Sir, L and I got in and found him, now you have to get us out alive before we really become slaves.”
Tigranian pulled out a Klingon communicator and shouted into it.
In orbit of the planet, two ships decloaked. A Klingon bird of prey immediately streaked into the atmosphere while the Pershing launched a dropship from its shuttlebay. The two vessels soon punched through the clouds over the camp. The bird of prey maintained a protective hover a few hundred meters above while the dropship touched down a stone’s throw from Tigranian and the others.
A few of the buyers and assorted alien low-lives still hanging around the slave market attempted to board their ships in a vain attempt to reach orbit. However, any vessel that left the ground soon fell victim to the Bird of Prey’s waiting disruptor canons. The sight of the fearsome warship hanging overhead soon caused the remainder of the broker’s men to throw down their weapons and raise their hands in surrender.
The ramp of the dropship came down with an angry thud. The Pershing’s entire marine detachment led by Lieutenant Hawkins came streaming out with phaser rifles at the ready. Behind them, Alex led a team of medics towards Tigranian, Laria, and Katie.
“Fan out!” Hawkins said pointing towards the slave pens. “I want security on the high ground in one mike. Sweep the compound and then begin recovery of the personnel.”
“No one gets to the drop ship before they get checked out by my team!” Alex shouted in response to Hawkins.
“Yes Ma’am!” he replied before heading off with a fire team of marines.
“Are you alright?” Alex said running up to Laria and Katie and pulling out a tricorder.
“We’re fine,” Katie replied as Laria nodded in agreement. “Help them,” she continued pointing toward the slaves.
“What about him?” Alex said pointing toward the broker on the ground still writhing in pain.
“We’ll take care of him,” Tigranian said staring down at the Cardassian. Alex nodded in understanding before heading over to Deranin. She gently lifted him off the ground.
“Alex,” he said with a smile as he saw her.
“Thank you so much, Deranin,” she said throwing her arms around him. “Doctor Quezza would have been so proud of you.”
“I did it to honor her memory,” the young Cardassian said resolutely. “For the new Cardassia to live in peace, Cardassians must do what they know is right.”
Alex nodded before heading toward the rest of her team.
“Marine!” Tigranian shouted to a nearby dismount.
“Escort Mr. Deranin to the dropship. Make sure he’s well taken care of.”
“Aye, Sir!” the marine replied as he gently took Deranin’s arm.
Throughout the compound, the marines were breaking open the pens and leading the captives out into the compound. Immediately, Alex and her medics began checking their vital signs and escorted them to the safety of the dropship. Tigranian then turned his attention back to the broker.
The captain knelt down next to him, placed his knee into his chest, and pressed the muzzle of this disruptor pistol in the Cardassian’s temple.
“Where’s Devek?” Tigranian spat at him through gritted teeth. “I know you run this shit-hole for him.”
The broker grinned when he saw Katie and Laria standing behind Tigranian.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to take your females back to my tent, Human. I would have taken good care of them…”
Tigranian struck him across the face with the butt of his disruptor. Tigranian felt his nasal bone shatter under the blow as the Cardassian shuddered with pain. The captain then pointed the muzzle back to the broker’s head.
“Keep talking like that and I’ll blow your brains all over this gravel, you piece of slime. I said ‘where’s Devek?”
“He’ll kill me if I tell you!” the broker replied angrily.
“What makes you think I won’t?” Tigranian said with a grin.
“I know you won’t kill me! You’re Starfleet. Your kind doesn’t have the stomach for it.”
Tigranian looked over to see two marines approaching carrying a large silver box between them. They dropped it right next to the broker’s head.
“You know, you’re right,” Tigranian said with a sarcastic sigh. “I won’t kill you…but this might,” he said glancing over to the box. The marines opened an access panel on the side and pressed several buttons. A computer screen came to life and began counting down. “Fifty kiloton yield: blast radius of six kilometers. Everything from here to that ridgeline will be instantly heated to the surface of a star when this puppy cooks off.” The Cardassian suddenly got a nervous look on his face. “How fast can you run right now?”
“I told you!” the broker said desperately. “He’ll kill me if I tell you anything!”
“Promise to cooperate, and I’ll let you tag along with us. You’ll spend the rest of your miserable life in a nice, comfy Starfleet detention center. Otherwise, I’ll leave you test your luck with the bomb.”
“But the Federation doesn’t act like this!”
Tigranian leaned in close to the broker’s bloody face.
“Do I look like the typical Federation officer to you?”
Lieutenant Hawkins approached.
“Sir, liberated prisoners have been loaded on the dropship. We’ve collected all the intel we can and are prepared to hand it over to G2.”
“Very good, Lieutenant,” Tigranian said slowly climbing to his feet. “STARFLEET!” Tigranian shouted across the compound. “WE ARE LEAVING!”
“You heard the C.O.!” Hawkins shouted to his marines. “Get your asses back on the boat!”
“Good luck,” Tigranian said to the broker and turned to leave with Katie and Laria.
“Wait!” the Cardassian shouted climbing to his feet. “I’ll cooperate, I’ll cooperate!”
“I thought you might come around,” Tigranian said with a smile. “Lieutenant Hawkins, please escort our new guest to the ship.”
“With pleasure, Sir,” Lieutenant Hawkins said before suddenly throwing the broker back to the ground. He placed a black bag over the Cardassian’s head and fastened his wrists behind his back with a pair of plastic ties. Two more marines ran over and carried the broker towards the dropship’s ramp.
Tigranian took a final look around the empty compound before he turned to Laria and Katie.
“Outstanding work, Ladies,” he putting his disruptor back into its holster. “We couldn’t have gotten in without you.”
“KATIE!” a voice screamed towards them. The three of them looked over to see Phil running towards them in a flight suit. “Are you alright?”
“Dammit, Phil,” she said with a smile, “Who is behind the stick of the ship?”
“Don’t worry, I left it under Ensign Toth’s reliable charge,” he said as he threw his arms around her. They kissed. Tigranian pulled Laria close to him as well.
“You are incredible,” he said as he placed a peck on her forehead.
“And don’t you forget it,” she replied with a grin.
“Excuse me, everybody,” Alex said running over from the dropship’s ramp. “I’m sorry to break-up this tender moment, but I’ve got 26 people who need to get back to sickbay immediately and I’d prefer to get out of here before this entire area becomes a cloud of radioactive vapor.”
“Agreed,” Tigranian said motioning them towards the ramp.
Soon they were streaking towards orbit under escort of the Bird of Prey. Tigranian, Katie, and Laria stared out the back of the dropship’s open ramp behind the safety of a forcefield.
“Do you think the bomb was really necessary, Sir?” Katie asked. “I mean, it was a nice touch, but it could be perceived as overkill by our pointy-eared friends on Romulus.”
“That place was the sight of a lot of terrible things when it was a Cardassian internment camp. Then slavers took it over and did even more terrible things. I want to send a message that those days are over.”
“Ten seconds!” Lieutenant Hawkins shouted to the entire crew compartment. “Don’t look at the blast!”
“Go ahead and raise the ramp,” Tigranian said as he calmly pulled out a pair of dark protective glasses from his pocket and put them over his face.
As the metal ramp slowly returned to the closed position, the rest of the cabin looked down at the deck and placed an arm over their face. However, the captain kept looking out. Suddenly, the sky light up in a brilliant flash of white. A smile crossed his face as the image of a mushroom cloud reflected in the lenses of his glasses.
As soon as the dropship returned to the safety of the Pershing, the Federation starship and her Klingon companion both engaged their cloaking devices and warped back towards friendly space.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
“The Romulans really didn’t care that you mopped up a slave market, Dan, but in the future they request that you refrain from using nuclear weapons on their territory without at least asking their permission first,” Murphy said through the monitor in Tigranian’s quarters. The captain scoffed as he unzipped his jacket and hung it on the back of his desk chair.
“I had to make sure the cockroaches wouldn’t move right back in when we left. If they didn’t want me to nuke the place, then they should police up their own trash.”
“I tend to agree with you, but luckily Velos VII is not exactly a garden spot. You can’t go around obliterating more desirable locations in the future without Neral and the Romulan Senate reneging on their deal to let you run rough shot over their Occupation Zone.”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Pete,” Tigranian said leaning back in his chair. “I just hope the intelligence that broker provides will keep moving us toward Devek. Shutting down that criminal network will be what makes this whole endeavor worth it.”
“If he knows where Devek is, Intelligence will get it out of him. In the meantime, enjoy your time off and be there for Laria as she goes through that ordeal.”
“She will be fine! I don’t understand why everyone thinks I’m leading her to an execution. Laria really enjoyed her time in Yerevan two months ago.”
“That was meeting your human relatives, Dan. Now, not only is she meeting her mother-in-law, she’s meeting her Klingon mother-in-law.”
“Elessa’s relationship with her is not quite the same as a ‘mother-in-law.’ All she’s doing is judging Laria’s fitness to join the House.”
“You have to understand how nerve-racking that must be for Laria?”
“I’m not worried at all, Sir. However, you just reminded me that I’ve got to start dinner.”
* * * *
Tigranian stood over a table covered with different ingredients, furiously combining them into a bowl. Just as he snuck a taste to make sure the blend of spices was right, the doors opened and Laria walked in.
“No!” he shouted. “Alex told me I’d at least another hour!”
“Getting rid of the fake black eye took a lot less time then she thought…” Laria muttered as she saw his culinary project. “You’re making hasparat?” she said with happy amazement.
“I had your mother send me her recipe,” Tigranian said with a grin. “She said it was favorite thing to eat after a hard day. I figured being sold into slavery counted.”
“You are amazing,” Laria said running over to Tigranian and planting a kiss on his lips.
“I’d wait to compliment me until after we see how it turns out,” he said before kissing her back. Laria held up his dk’tagh.
“Thanks for letting me borrow this, by the way,” she said. “It came in very handy down there.”
“As soon as Elessa approves of you, you’ll have one of your own to carry,” Tigranian said as he put the dagger back in its place underneath his batl’leth display.
“Oh Prophets, Daniel,” she said collapsing into a chair. “I had just stopped thinking about that for a while. Why did you have to bring it up?”
“She’s going to love you more than I do, L,” Tigranian said turning back to the hasparat.
“But what if she doesn’t?” Laria burying her face in her hands. “She can cancel our wedding!”
“I promise, she won’t do that,” Tigranian said flashing her a bemused look.
“How can you be sure?”
Tigranian walked over and lifted her out of the chair.
“Because I know the lady of my house, and I know you,” he kissed her again. “Now, I need your help to finish dinner,” he said pulling her over to the table.
“Oh, so much for being all romantic,” she replied in a mocking tone. “You just need me for free labor.”
“No,” Tigranian said. “I just need you as an official taste-taster.” He dipped his finger in the hasparat filling and held it up to her mouth.
“I hope that’s clean,” she said judging him with her eyes.
“I assure you, I’ve washed my hands more than once since we’ve been back.”
Laria tasted it.
“Hmmm, flavor is very good, but could use a little more hot pepper paste.”
“By Kahless’ hand! Do Bajorans have lead-lined stomachs?”
“Spicy food is just something we grow up with.”
“Well,” Tigranian said holding her close so she couldn’t get away. “You have to try this kava jam I got for the mapa bread…”
“Daniel, what are you doing?” Laria said nervously.
“It’s really sweet and delicious…” he said with a grin as he dipped a finger in it.
“Daniel…” she said feigning a struggle against his hold on her.
“It’s so tasty,” he said moving his finger toward her nose.
“Daniel, no!” she said starting to laugh. “DANIEL!”
He put a glob of jam onto the tip of her nose as she burst out laughing.
“What are you going to do?” he said not letting her go.
“Try to taste it,” she said playfully sticking out her tongue and attempting to lick the jam off her face. He pulled her closer and stared into her eyes.
“I love you.”
“Feeling’s kinda mutual,” she said leaning in for a kiss. Suddenly, he moved his lips upward and licked the jam off her nose.
“Ew! Daniel!” she said as they both laughed again.
* * * *
Tigranian rolled over and looked at the chronometer on his nightstand. Laria was sleeping soundly at his side. Slowly, he pushed the covers off of him and gently removed his arm from around her shoulders. She stirred, and with a quiet whimper reached back and pulled his arm back around her. He smiled, leaned over, and kissed the back of her head. She finally relaxed enough in her slumber to let his limb go.
The captain climbed out of bed and walked over to his desk. He keyed a few buttons on his monitor and the face of his brother appeared on the screen.
“nuqneH, Daniel,” General Torlek said with a grin. “I hear your mission to Velos was quite successful.”
“It was indeed,” Tigranian replied. “Please thank Captain Loskitha for me. Her bird of prey proved very useful.”
“Eh, I was glad to send her. Chancellor Martok has most of the fleet scattered across the Kavrot Expanse hunting for new conquests. Meanwhile my fleet languishes in port denied battle and denied honor. At least one of us should have the chance to see action.”
“Brother, the Chancellor trusts you enough to have the Suk’valt guard Ty’Gokor: the very heart of the Empire. It is a great honor he bestows on you.”
“That is an uncharacteristically human interpretation of our mission, Daniel. A true Klingon is only happy with his disruptors charged and his blades pointed at the enemy. Not endlessly orbiting a headquarters without hope of combat.”
“I wouldn’t call what we just did ‘combat.’ We merely disposed of some vermin.”
“You should still rejoice. By conquering them, you have made the universe a better and more honorable place.”
“I don’t want to rejoice yet. We still have to find Devek.”
“The kill is merely the end of the hunt, my young brother. Do not forget to enjoy the journey to your foe. Often, that is what makes the triumph much sweeter.”
“It was always like you to look on the bright side.”
“No, the bright side will come shortly. When do you depart for Qo’nos?”
“We’re putting in at Earth Station McKinley for annual services first. Then Laria and I will board a civilian starliner for the Empire.”
“I would have sent a ship to bring you from Earth. A starliner was not necessary.”
“No, that would have been a little too much for Starfleet Command. Klingon warships entering the Sol System on personal business are a little hard to explain, even for me.”
Torlek scoffed, but let the matter drop.
“In any case, Elessa has everything prepared for her arrival.”
“I’ll make sure Laria is prepared for the trials.”
“Our lady has something special prepared. Of course, she refuses to tell me what it is.”
“I wasn’t concerned until you told me that.”
“Have faith, my brother. Elessa will make sure she feels worthy of joining our House.”
“I know she will,” Tigranian replied quietly. “I just wish I knew how to make Laria understand that.”
“Non-Klingons fear what the future will be far too much. Savor the approach to battle: even battles with our own loved ones. The Bloodwine will be ready to toast your arrival. I’ll see you on the homeworld in eight days.”
* * * *
“Oh, that feels so good,” Katie said as she lay on her bed with her eyes closed. Phil stood over her, rubbing her shoulders.
“It’s the least I can do for you, I suppose,” he said with a chuckle. “When the captain and Annabeth came up with that plan, I thought they were crazy.”
“It’s why they picked the two women on board most capable of handling themselves in a fight,” Katie replied. Phil laughed.
“What’s so funny?” Katie said turning to look up at him.
“It’s just I never thought Laria would become such a fighter. When she first came on board, she could barely walk straight without tripping over something.
“She really proved herself against Kival. I would have loved to see that spoon-head actually try to lay a hand on her.”
“You know, I’m not sure Cardassians enjoy being called that.”
“Then they shouldn’t have tried to conquer the Alpha Quadrant, Phil.”
“Point taken…” he said trailing off. After a few moments, he changed the subject. “You know, we haven’t talked about what we’re going to do for shore leave on Earth.”
“I didn’t really want to think that far ahead.”
“Well, I was thinking about spending a few days hiking around the Canadian Rockies. Maybe spend a night or two camping around Lake Louise. Then run over to Yorkshire to see my fam. What about you? You want to head to Long Beach see your parents?” Katie sighed even louder. “Sounds like you’re not thrilled by that idea.”
“No, it sounds fine, but I have to spend a day or two in Northern Virginia….”
Phil raised an eyebrow. Katie buried her face in her pillow.
“I promised Pam Montgomery I would drop by the next time I was Earth.” She immediately turned to face Phil again. “It’s just that since her husband and Paul passed away, I’m the only person she really has left. You’re not upset are you?”
“Of course not,” Phil said with a smile. “I’m just worried you might be putting too much on yourself.”
“Maybe, but it’s the right thing to do.”
Phil leaned over and kissed the back of her neck. “Tell you what, why don’t we take that camping trip and then I’ll head to England for a couple days while you visit Pam. Then, afterwards, we’ll link up in Tokyo for a night of sushi and sake in Ginza.”
“I love Japan…”
“That’s kind of the point,” he said with a wink.
Katie gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“You are incredible, you know that?”
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Royal Mail Starship Queen Mary 6: Qo’nos System
Laria lay in her luxurious feather bed and stared at the bulkhead of her quarters. Despite her nerves, she was doing her best to savor the feeling. She knew it would be the last mattress she would enjoy for the next week.
Suddenly, she felt a familiar companion bouncing his way up her body.
“Grrr, Grrr, Grrr.” Rijo appeared over her shoulder and shoved his way into her face. “Grrrrrr,” Tigranian said pretending to speak for her favorite stuffed animal.
“I’m not grumpy!” Laria shouted grabbing the pugabeast from Tigranian’s grasp. “I’m nervous! And I left him in your quarters for a reason!” she said hugging him close to her chest.
“Yeah,” Tigranian said sitting down on the bed behind her. “He and I were talking before we left and he was wondering about that. After all, he always wanted to see Qo’nos too.”
“I left Rijo behind because if any of the Klingons see him I’ll be laughed out of your family’s estate and told to never return,” Laria pouted in reply.
“Laria,” Tigranian said leaning in close. “The whole point of this visit is that you show the Lady of the House who you really are. How can she decide who she permits into the family if she doesn’t see all of you?”
“What if I don’t want her to see all of me, Daniel?”
“Then, you still don’t know yourself like I do,” he said planting a kiss on her cheek.
“You still always know what to say…and I hate you right now because of it.”
Three chimes echoed over the ship’s public address system.
“Attention Ladies and Gentlemen, we are approaching the Docks of Qo’nos’ First City. If this is your final destination, please proceed to the main atrium to prepare to disembark. Non-Klingon Citizens and Klingon Citizens with “Commoner” annotated on their passport must complete a 7247 Customs Declaration Form and clear the Imperial Immigration Service located in the arrival terminal. Members of Great Houses may bypass the Imperial Immigration Service Kiosk by showing An Official Patent of Nobility to the Security Agents at the end of the gangway. On behalf of the Captain and Crew of the RMS Queen Mary 6, thank you for sailing with Cunard Lines, where ‘White Star Service’ now travels the stars.”
Tigranian already pulled a worn piece of targ leather from his bags.
“Are you sure we don’t need a passport?” Laria said nervously.
“This is the only passport we need,” Tigranian said holding up the parchment covered with Klingon writing. “The High Council gives me freedom of movement anywhere in the Empire as a member of the House of Torlek. You’re here as a prospective noble yourself.”
“This whole thing seems incredibly archaic,” Laria said skeptically. “Regular Klingons don’t get upset by this?”
Tigranian shook his head.
“Some of them do, but the Klingon Empire is still essentially a feudal society. Nobility is still very important here. It’s the foundation of government. Even having a commoner as Chancellor hasn’t changed that.”
* * * *
Tigranian and Laria disembarked from the Queen Mary and proceeded down the gangway. Throngs of non-Klingons and commoners queued at the entrance to the Imperial Immigration Kiosk, but Tigranian steered Laria right towards the exit of the arrival terminal. Two Immigration Security agents immediately moved to block their path.
“Where are you going, human?” one of them said to Tigranian in angry Federation Basic. “Do you think you are too good to obey the laws of the Klingon Empire?”
Tigranian growled at him and immediately began chastising the agent in tlhIngan Hol. Laria’s universal translator allowed her to understand the exchange.
“I am obeying the laws of the Klingon Empire,” Tigranian shouted angrily. “It is you who disrespect the Empire by assuming that I am nothing more than a common shu’Vak.” Tigranian immediately held up his patent and the color drained from the agent’s face.
“My apologies, My Lord, I had no idea…I mean, you can understand why I assumed…”
“SILENCE!” Tigranian screamed. “If you continue to assume, I will cut out your ignorant tongue and force you to swallow it while your companion watches.”
Laria felt her cheeks flush as she looked over to the line of commoners and foreigners in front of the Immigration Office. Every single one of them was staring. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to defend her future title like her par’Mach’kai. That alone was made her doubt she was worthy of it.
“She is with me,” Tigranian said continuing to berate the Klingon guards. “Any eye you lay on her will be an eye that is plucked from your skull.”
“Yes, My Lord!” the agents said in unison as they stepped aside. Each one clutched their fist to their chest in the traditional Klingon salute. “Qapla’, My Lord!”
“Long live the Empire!” Tigranian replied before grabbing his bag. He flashed Laria a grin and she quickly followed him out of the terminal, doing her best not to make eye contact with anyone.
After a quick shuttle to the surface, they were met by a Klingon aero-car and another dour-looking warrior. As soon as he Tigranian, his serious face immediately changed into an expression of joy.
“Son of Tigranian!” the Klingon said immediately throwing his arms around the captain. Tigranian laughed as he returned the embrace.
“Tekloth!” Tigranian shouted. “It is so good to see again!” The warrior then turned to Laria and smiled.
“And this must be Lady Laria. I am honored to finally meet you.”
Laria was taken aback by a Klingon referring to her with an honorific title.
“Laria, this is Tekloth, ghIntaq to the House of Torlek and an old friend.”
“It’s very nice to meet you,” Laria said extending a polite hand. However, Tekloth executed a bow before opening the door of the vehicle.
“You’re going to have to get used to being treated as you deserve to be treated, my love,” Tigranian whispered in her ear.
“And how do I deserve to be treated?” Laria replied nervously as Tekloth grabbed their bags and placed them into the aero-car’s cargo compartment.
“Like a warrior princess,” Tigranian said with a smile.
“The General awaits you at the estate,” Tekloth said when he was finished. “Please,” he said beckoning them into the vehicle.
Soon, they were airborne and leaving the buildings of the First City behind. The House of Torlek’s estate was located 400 kellicams up the Qam-Chee River from the capital. As Laria looked down to see the verdant Ka’Toth plains surrounding the city change to dense forest, she turned back to Tigranian and grabbed his hand.
“Your palms are sweaty,” he said with a chuckle.
“Yes, Daniel,” she said exasperated. “My palms are sweaty because I’m not only meeting your Klingon family, I’m going to be judged by them.”
“Laria, judging is a relative term…”
“Just shut up!” she said squeezing his hand harder.
“Ok,” he said shaking his head.
“Talk to me about something. Take my mind off of things.”
“But you just told me to shut up,” he said raising an eyebrow.
“Daniel…” she said as the tone of her voice turned dangerous.
“Sorry,” he said looking back at her. “What do you want me talk about?”
“I don’t know,” Laria said somewhat angrily. “What’s a ghIntaq? I thought that word meant ‘spear?’ You made it sound like he was a servant.”
“ghIntaq does literally translate as ‘spear’ and it is a servant in a manner of speaking, but it means more than that. A ghIntaq is someone who devotes their entire existence to serving a Great House. They have such fierce loyalty they become part of the family. Tekloth helps Lady Elessa run the estate when Torlek is away. He also manages the other servants and kind of acts as an advisor to the family.
I met him seven years ago when Torlek brought me to Qo’nos for the first time. I could tell he wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of a human in the family, but one stern look from Torlek and he’s never even shown a hint of contempt since. I like to think I’ve earned his respect.”
“That much is obvious. He loves you…” Laria said trailing off.
“And he will love you too,” Tigranian said squeezing her hand.
“You’re getting dangerously close to talking about it again.”
Then, Tigranian’s attention immediately turned to the window.
“There it is!”
Laria followed Daniel’s gaze and it took her breath away. The family’s country manor sat perched on a rocky bluff several hundred feet above the roaring rapids of the Qam-Chee’s headwaters. The House of Torlek’s tenant farms stretched out through the river valley. Fields of grain, vines, and pastures teaming with livestock were farmed by commoners paying rent to the estate. Up on the bluff behind the great house, lay hundreds acres of dense forest: the family’s traditional hunting grounds. The trees teemed with all manner of wild beasts and game.
“All of this belongs to your brother?” Laria said in amazement.
“It belongs to the House. The family has shared it for over twenty generations.”
The aero-car gently descended towards the front steps of the manor and came to a rest on a gravel driveway between the house and the forest. Before Tekloth could open the car’s doors, Torlek was already running up to greet them.
The two brothers collided with such force that Laria felt it from two meters away.
“qaleghqa’mo’ jIQuch, my brother!” Torlek roared as he wrapped his massive arms around Tigranian. The captain replied with a shout and they slammed their chests into each other. “There she is!” Torlek said with a smile as Laria approached.
“nuqneH, My Lord,” Laria said trying her best to be polite.
“Do not address me as a servant to her master, Laria!” Torlek said hugging her off the ground. “Soon, you will both my sister and a daughter to this house.”
He released her from his tremendous grasp.
“With a little luck,” she said gasping for air.
“Klingons do not believe in luck, Laria,” Torlek said with a smirk. “The day that Elessa and I have prayed to Kahless for many turns has finally arrived. Soon, you will engage my mistress in battle, and you are the only foe that I would wish victory over my lady.”
“So, I’m a foe now?” Laria said nervously.
“To us, an opponent is not a necessarily an enemy. Battle enriches the spirit, especially when it is with ones we love.” Tigranian whispered to her.
Laria stared back at him with even more trepidation than before.
“Leska! Kesreth!” Torlek shouted back towards the house. Two teenaged girls appeared from the front door. They quickly made their way down the steps towards them. As soon as he saw them, Tigranian shouted with joy and hugged them as well. He started speaking to them in Klingon and Laria’s translator kicked in again.
“Look at you two! You must have shot up a meter since I saw you last!” The girls smiled and politely bowed to Tigranian.
“Leska and Kesreth will care for you while you stay in my home,” Torlek said to Laria. “They are two of my most trusted servants.”
“Laria,” Tigranian said introducing his fiancée to the pair. “Leska and Kesreth were born into this house. Leska’s father is the chief game-keeper on the hunting reserve and Kesreth’s mother is the head chef of the kitchens. The last time I saw them, they were barely as tall as my bat’leth, now they’re all grown up.”
“That shows how much time you have been spending in your home over the past few turns,” Torlek said shooting Tigranian a grin. “We’ve prepared your chambers for two on this visit. They’re ready now if you still remember the way to them.”
“Of course I do, Brother,” Tigranian replied with a grin. “No matter how far I travel the stars, this will always be home.
Munich, Germany: Earth
Annabeth unlocked the old wooden door and stepped inside the apartment. Sunshine poured in through the large vaulted windows. Alex followed close behind. Their footsteps sounded across the hardwood floor and echoed off the high ceilings. Annabeth sighed as she took in the sight of the empty rooms.
“It looks like your tenants left everything in order when they moved out last month,” Alex said reassuringly. “Your mother’s things are still in storage?”
“Yes, Annabeth said stepping further into the front room. “I didn’t see any need to move them back in.”
“Why not?” Alex asked curiously. “This is your place again.”
“I guess I still consider it her place,” Annabeth replied quietly.
“Beth,” Alex said placing a hand on her wife’s shoulder. “Your mother passed away two years ago. You grew up here. It’s your home now.”
“Actually, I’m thinking about selling it,” Annabeth said turning to meet her gaze. “I haven’t lived here since I went to the Academy ten years ago.”
“Why?” Alex said flashing her a concerned look.
“Too many memories, I guess.” Annabeth said walking over to the windows. She looked down at the River Isar flowing below. “There were a lot of happy times, but I still can’t help thinking about what it was like after Dad died on the Rutledge: Mom just standing here, staring out of these windows for hours. The day I told her I was joining Starfleet was the biggest fight we ever had. I stormed out of that door and didn’t come home for two days.” Alex softly hugged her from behind as Annabeth continued. “I don’t know if this place belongs in my adult life. I mean, we’re married now, I spend almost all my time two hundred light-years from Earth…I just don’t think it’s right for me anymore.”
“I think the question you need to be asking is ‘Is it right for us?”
Annabeth turned to her with surprise.
“I never pictured you as somebody who’d find Germany appealing.”
“What’s not to like about it? Clean air, friendly people, and I’ve seen more beer in the past two hours than I’ve seen in my entire life.”
“I thought you said you wanted to be close to your family in Toronto?”
“It’s the same planet, Beth. We’re a quick public transporter trip away.”
Annabeth turned around and held Alex close.
“I still don’t know…” she said trailing off.
“If it’s the memories you’re worried about, we’ll just have to make more happy ones. I mean, we’re not going to be in Starfleet forever. Just imagine, a Christmas tree right over there in the corner, snow falling outside these windows, carols playing in the background. All three kids waking us up as the sun’s coming up…”
“I thought we’d agreed on two kids,” Annabeth said raising an eyebrow.
“Well, we can flip a coin to see who gets to carry the last one,” Alex replied. They both laughed.
“That thought does make holding onto this place far more appealing. Christmas in Bavaria is pretty amazing.”
“Then that settles it,” Alex said leaning in for quick kiss. “Because if any place could make a woman as amazing as you, this is where I want to raise my family.”
“Ok then,” Annabeth said with a smile. “I guess I better call the storage company.”
* * * *
Since his adoption by the House of Torlek, Tigranian had been given his own set of rooms inside the family estate. They were quite large and luxurious by Klingon standards, but Laria was secretly still a little disappointed that the bed was still nothing more than a large metal slab. Tigranian had felt her unease and had quickly requested several thick animal skins to cover it.
Now, he sat and looked over at Laria, sitting at a dressing table in the corner. She stared at herself in a large mirror as Leska and Kesreth finished styling her hair. Laria had been dressed in a tight-fitting green dress that showed far more cleavage than she was really comfortable with. Her Klingon ladies maids had also given a pair of leather, fingerless gloves which she nervously played with. Once Leska had finished braiding Laria’s hair in an intricate braid, Kesreth helped her wrap it around Laria’s head and pin it in place. Once they finished their work, they turned to Tigranian for final approval.
“’IH be’Hompu. tlho’”
The pair both smiled, politely bowed, and left. Tigranian walked over behind Laria and gently kissed her neck.
“You look absolutely beautiful,” he said softly.
“That was the strangest experience I ever had,” Laria said not taking her eyes off her reflection.
“What?” Tigranian said furrowing his brow.
“Not long ago, I was a destitute refugee that barely had enough food to eat. When we got our farm on Gault, we thought we had become the richest people in the galaxy, but now, I’m in a Great House’s estate being dressed in ritual finery by a pair of servants.” Laria turned and looked up at Tigranian. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.”
“I think you will,” Tigranian giving her a reassuring grin.
“I’m also very surprised at you, Daniel,” she said with more judgement in her voice than she meant. “The way you ordered that pair of guards around at the arrival terminal, the way you’re comfortable commanding servants about in this house. Seeing you on Qo’nos: it’s like you’re a different person.” Tigranian suddenly got a look on his face that was mixture of surprise and shame. Laria realized that she might have gone too far. “I’m sorry…” she said looking down at her lap apologetically. “I’m very nervous and this all a little overwhelming.”
Tigranian placed his hands on her shoulders. She visibly relaxed as he started to rub them.
“I haven’t been fair to you, L. I’ve had a very long time to learn how to walk between these worlds. I guess I forget that you’re just now taking your first real steps into the Klingon one.”
“A holodeck really doesn’t prepare you for this part…”
“No, it doesn’t. Torlek has always been a little more progressive than other Klingons on his social views. Otherwise, he would have never considered bringing me into the family. However, he’s still a Klingon. Warriors from noble houses are expected to be proud of their nobility. They must appear to be strong, or they will fall prey to others.”
Laria turned and looked up at him again.
“I just need to know, that you’re still the same kind, fair man I fell in love with. That you’ll be happy with your common farmer’s daughter and that you don’t think you’re better than others who share her humble upbringing.”
Tigranian’s face softened and he kissed her cheek.
“Laria, I could never think I was better than you, your family, or anyone who grew up like you. You have a strength I could never hope to have.” He paused. “Also, you may be a farmer’s daughter, but there is nothing common about you.”
Laria smiled and leaned back into his arms. As she stared back into the mirror, she cocked her head to one side.
“Do you think I look like a good Klingon woman?”
Tigranian looked down and noticed that Laria’s Bajoran earring was still resting on the table in front of her. He gently picked it up and placed it back onto her ear.
“I think there’s a lot of good Klingon women that will want to look more like you.”
She laughed as the door chimed. She stiffened as Tigranian turned towards the door.
“pe’el,” he said firmly.
Torlek walked in and grinned at them. Laria quickly climbed to her feet.
“General Torlek,” Laria said politely nodding her head.
“Please, Laria,” he said staring at her again. “To you, I am not ‘My Lord’ or ‘General’ I am just ‘Torlek.’ You look stunning, My Dear.”
“tlho’ Torlek,” Laria said with a small smile.
“Is it time?” Tigranian asked.
“Yes, Elessa is waiting for Laria in the sunroom.”
Laria turned to Tigranian and gave him one more nervous look.
“You will do wonderfully.”
“Ok, how does it go again?” Laria said trying to catch her breath. “nuqneH ‘ej tlho’ Elessa Koh. Ek’taH roh masa qee’puk?”
“Very good,” Tigranian tried to say reassuringly, except it’s ‘Ek’taH roh masa qee’plok.”
“Oh, Prophets,” Laria said starting to shake. “I’m going to screw this up with the first sentence.”
“Hey,” Tigranian said with another smile. “Don’t be nervous, you’ll be great.”
Torlek coughed from the door.
“It would probably not be advisable to keep Mistress Elessa waiting right now,” he said gesturing out the door. Laria nodded and moved towards the corridor as Tigranian followed.
“I’ll get to see you right afterwards right?” Laria said looking back at Tigranian.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you with Torlek.”
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
The heavy metal doors of the sunroom parted and Laria stepped into the huge chamber. She did her best to walk with confidence, keeping her shoulders back and her head up, but inside she was nearly in a panic. As her eyes adjusted to the bright light streaming in through the massive stone windows, her nose caught the scent of a dozen different flowers and blooms planted in pots around the periphery of the room. In was an amazing mix of smells: sweet, but harsh and wild at the same time.
At the far end of the room, a woman sat at a massive loom covered in strands of brightly colored targ wool. Laria was immediately intrigued by the way she skillfully wove a strand from the shuttle in her hand across the vertical threads. She then slammed the loom’s wooden batten down with a heavy thud, causing the two braids of bright red hair running down her back to bounce in unison. The young Bajoran was afraid to speak. She did not want to break the Klingon’s intense concentration.
Laria’s eyes wondered over to a nearby plant. It was beautiful in its coarse ugliness with several long, thorny branches covered in bright white flowers. Without thinking, she slowly raised a hand to feel one of the blooms.
“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you,” the Klingon woman said without looking up from her loom. The force in her voice caused Laria to jump. “That’s Fire-Hibiscus for the Klingon Tea Ceremony. It’s extremely toxic for most humanoid species. If one of those thorns pricks a little Bajoran like you, you’d be dead in less than five minutes.”
Laria quickly drew her hand back and looked towards the loom. Gathering all the confidence she could, she spoke.
“nuqneH ‘ej tlho’ Elessa Koh. Ek’taH roh masa qee’plok.”
Elessa briefly paused her weaving and looked over her shoulder. Flashing two fierce, green eyes in Laria’s direction, she lowered her forehead’s crest towards her perspective daughter-in-law.
“Your sentiment is acknowledged, but you don’t so much speak my language as you chew it up and spit it out. If it’s the same to you, why don’t we continue to converse in your Federation language? Both for my sake and yours.”
She then turned back to her weaving. Laria felt her stomach turn to her stone and her heart fell through the floor.
“If that’s what you prefer, My Lady,” Laria said sounding very disappointed.
“Tell me, did you ask my maids to fix your hair like that, or did they do it of their own accord?”
“I don’t understand, My Lady,” Laria said still frozen under Elessa’s gaze.
“I’m saying, do you think you are worthy of that braid?”
“I still don’t understand. Daniel spoke to Leska and Kesreth…”
Elessa raised a hand, which silenced Laria again.
“That braid is called ‘The Weave of the Wam Serpent.’ It is reserved for female warriors who have killed an opponent in battle. Have you killed an opponent in battle?” That question made Laria raise her shoulders again.
“I have,” she said resolutely.
Elessa placed the shuttle down on the loom’s bench and rose to her feet. She turned to face Laria still staring her down with her eyes. Laria’s eyes moved down to Elessa’s neck. The mistress wore a large, silver pendant in the shape of the crest of the House of Torlek. With the confidence of a great lady, she took a few steps toward Laria like a hunter sizing up her prey.
“If you are referring to that Romulan petaQ, yes, Torlek told me that it was battle worthy of story and song. However, it seems to me that most of the fighting was done by Daniel. You just administered a coup de grace at the last moment.”
“I did it to save Daniel’s life!” Laria said. She was almost shouting now.
“So you think my husband’s brother: the man I consider my adopted son, owes you his life?” Elessa said taking another step towards Laria.
“No,” Laria said. “Because he saved mine as well.”
Elessa snorted derisively.
“How does that Federation expression go? Let us cut to the chase. I have no intention of administering the trials to you. It would be a waste of time.” Laria felt herself on the verge of tears.
“Why not?” she asked trying to keep her voice from cracking.
“Look at you,” Elessa replied looking her up and down. The Klingon towered over Laria by a full head’s height. “You look like you’re about to burst into tears and run away just from looking at a real Klingon woman. Do you even know who you are?”
Laria answered with far more honesty than she wanted to.
“No, I don’t…” she said looking down towards the stones in the floor, but before Elessa could reply, she raised her eyes and looked the Klingon in her face. “But I do know one thing: I love Daniel Tigranian, and he loves me. We are meant to be together, no matter what you or anyone else says!” Laria heard herself shouting again. “You can call me weak, you can call me unworthy of your name and your house, but nothing will change how I feel about him. We will find a way to be together. Even if I’m never allowed back on Qo’nos, I swear on my life we will find a way to be together!”
Elessa’s face instantly softened and a smile crept across it.
“I know that, little warrior,” she said with warmth that shocked Laria. “I knew that you were worthy to join the House of Torlek before I had even met you. Daniel would not have asked for this meeting if you weren’t. I just had to make sure you understood that. That’s why I hadn’t planned on the trials. There was no need for them.”
“I…I…” Laria said starting to stammer.
“Calm down, young one,” Elessa said softly. “Come over here,” she said beckoning Laria closer to her. When she was within arm’s reach of Elessa, the Klingon took her hand and led her up to the loom. “Do you see that?”
Laria examined the half-complete tapestry. The picture coming together depicted a huge tree. Its trunk was surrounded by many warriors starting to climb towards the branches.
“Do you know the story of Kortar the Mighty and his mate, Baka?” Laria shook her head. Elessa nodded understandingly and began to tell the tale. “Thousands of years before Kahless the Unforgettable brought Honor to the Klingon People, we worshipped the ancient gods. They lived at the top of the great qo’Sor tree on the plains of Balduq.
The people were little more than slaves to the whims of the gods. Those creatures demanded much and gave little in return. The ancient Klingons were angered that they were forced to serve such unworthy masters, but did nothing to fight back until two brave warriors stepped forward. A man named Kortar and his faithful mate, Baka, travelled from village to village and said ‘Who will stand with us to end this injustice?’
Eventually, one hundred joined their cause. They charged across the Balduq Plains, climbed to the very top of the qo’Sor, and slew the gods who created them. They freed the Klingon people and then razed the tree to the ground. However, they left its massive stump to always remind us of the tyranny we once endured at the hands of those who arrogantly believed they could be our masters.”
Laria continued to marvel at Elessa’s intricate weaving. The Klingon woman smiled.
“I am making this as your wedding present.”
Laria turned to her with an expression that was a mix of shock and gratitude.
“Why?” she asked.
“As a reminder to you, little warrior, that true Klingons make their own destiny. They let no one stand in their way.”
Laria looked over to Elessa and smiled.
“What happened to Kortar and Baka?” Elessa looked down for a brief moment.
“That is a tale for another day. Now, Laria, Daughter of Amira,” Elessa said extending her arms. “Embrace me as a daughter to her mother before we discuss your wedding plans.”
* * * *
Torlek and Tigranian sat in the estate’s dining room with a spread of food between them. As Torlek finished off a piece of bakrat liver, Tigranian took a look around the empty hall.
“Is it just me,” Tigranian mused as he reached for a shell squid tentacle. “Or does this house get a little emptier every time I visit?”
“Unfortunately, it is not just you, my brother,” Torlek said contemplatively as Tigranian chewed on the tentacle. “The war changed much for us.”
“I knew things were changing on the homeworld, but I didn’t know they were happening this fast.”
“The commoners endured much during the fighting. We were fighting for our very existence as a race. Social conventions fell away to pragmatism. As the warriors of Great Houses fell in droves, they rose to the challenge.”
“Surely, you believe that was a good thing?” Tigranian said leaning back in his metal chair.
“I do indeed,” Torlek said staring at the wall behind the captain, “but the commoners demand rights from the High Council commensurate with their sacrifices. They seek economic equality, upward mobility, and the most ground-breaking thing of all: political power.” Tigranian took a deep breath. He understood what that meant for the feudal system that had dominated the Empire for centuries. “I am prepared to release our servants to seek their fortunes off our lands. Many other nobles are not.”
“Soon it might not be a choice for the nobles…” Tigranian said looking down at the table.
“Be careful, Daniel,” Torlek said looking at him. “I understand that your Federation upbringing makes you more tolerant of democracy than most Klingons…but many fellow warriors might view a statement as borderline sedition.”
“Then I’ll be more cautious about voicing my support for democracy around other Klingons,” Tigranian said with a grin before taking a sip of bloodwine. Torlek smiled back.
“Ensure that you do, my brother.”
Suddenly, the doors to the dining room opened. The two men turned to see Laria walk inside with a sullen look on her face. Elessa followed a few steps behind. Tigranian’s heart dropped and Torlek stared at his wife with concern.
Silently, Laria made her way to her par’Mach’kai and stood silently. He was afraid to ask what had happened when, without warning, Laria backhanded him across the face. The captain tasted blood. Laria reared back and screamed in his face.
“You never told me what an incredible, honorable, and understanding lady the House of Torlek has as its mistress! You let me carry on like a fool in fear!” Elessa had to place her arm over her mouth to prevent from laughing out loud. Slowly, Tigranian put his hand to his mouth and examined the streak of crimson slowly oozing from his lips. A grin crept across his face.
“I kind of tried, you just were too nervous to listen…” Laria backhanded him again.
“Well, you should have tried harder!” she said with her own smile. Torlek leaned over and whispered into Tigranian’s ear.
“I think this means you’re going to have a very fun evening when you get back to your chambers…”
Laria pretended not to hear Torlek as she jumped into Tigranian’s lap and started kissing him violently. Torlek looked to Elessa and chuckled. His wife only answered with an approving nod.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Arlington National Cemetery: Earth
Phil walked into the marbled visitor center. He gazed for a few moments at a tour group of elementary school children near the entrance. A guide was gently discussing the significance of this place and attempting to explain the sacrifices of the fallen men and women resting just outside the doors. He could see respect in the children’s faces. This generation, more than any other in recent Federation history, had felt the loss and pain of war. He wondered how many of these innocents had relatives killed by the Dominion.
Phil wondered over to a computer terminal and input a name. Instantly, the computer indicated which section and row he would find the person he was looking for. Silently, he wondered out into the cemetery grounds.
Arlington had been a resting place for the honored dead long before the United Federation of Planets had come into being. Nearly destroyed by World War III three centuries earlier, the Federation had restored these hallowed grounds and continued their sacred purpose as a place for remembrance. Now, alongside countless heroes of the past, Starfleet memorialized their fallen here as well.
As Phil walked alongside the countless thousands of white marble headstones, he looked out and saw several solemn scenes. A few families walked through the fields to visit the final resting places of their loved ones. Many knew the location in the vast cemetery by heart while others were re-discovering friends and family for the first time.
Then, Phil became aware of the sounds of marching feet behind him. He looked over his shoulder and saw a procession of uniformed Starfleet honor guards leading a horse-drawn caisson. A casket, draped in the blue banner of the Federation, slowly wheeled its way towards the site of another memorial ceremony. Phil stepped to the side and bowed his head as they past. A few family members quietly followed behind. A middle-aged man was supporting an older woman, quietly sobbing to herself. Phil felt deeply for her.
The funeral procession continued down the line and Phil resumed his search. A cool autumn breeze rushed past him carrying the first fallen leaves of the season. He zipped up his jacket and continued on. Finally, he found who he was looking for.
The lettering on the white marker was in gold instead of the normal black enamel. It simply read:
In Remembrance of
Lieutenant Junior Grade Paul Richard Montgomery
Christopher Pike Medal of Valor
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
He stood quietly a few more moments. Phil knew that Paul’s body wasn’t physically here. His remains had been forever committed to the stars when his ship was destroyed, but this stone provided some closure for all those who knew and loved him, and that was special enough. Eventually, he gained enough courage to speak.
“She doesn’t know I’m here…” Phil said looking down at the grass in front of headstone. “I decided to come on my own.” He waited a few seconds, almost expecting a response, but was met only with the tranquil sounds of the wind and the birds.
“Katie still loves you. I know it. You would think that would upset me, but it doesn’t. It’s just a reminder of what an incredible heart she has.” He took another deep breath.
“So, you’re probably wondering why I came? Well, I had to think about that for a while, but I think it’s to ask how I could be better man for her. I know from the way she speaks about you, you knew exactly what to do to make her happy.
You knew how to make her laugh, you knew how to stop her from crying…you knew exactly how to make her a drink at the end of the day,” he wiped a tear from his face, but found himself grinning at the same time. “She still says I don’t get her Trillian Martini quite right, but she still thanks me every time I mix her one.”
Now, he found himself fighting back tears.
“It’s just when she’s angry, or scared, or wakes up covered in sweat after another nightmare, I just feel so helpless! I hold her, I try to comfort her, but I know it’s not enough!.” He stopped himself and tried to calm down.
“I’m sorry,” Phil said trailing off again. “I’m not angry at you. I just want to be the best man I can for Katie. It’s what she deserves after all the shit she’s gone through.” He looked away at the serene scenery around him before turning back to headstone. “I love her,” he finally managed to get out. “I love her so much that I can’t imagine life without her anymore. I just wish that you could somehow say you were alright with us being together. Because as much as I want to be with her, I want to know that I could make her as happy as you could have. I’m just not sure I can.”
“Maybe you’re asking the wrong person…”
Phil’s stomach turned to ice as he heard a voice behind him. He turned around and saw an older woman carrying a bouquet of flowers. He immediately recognized her as Pam Montgomery. Katie was standing right next to her.
Pam lovingly gripped Katie’s hand before stepping forward. She knelt down to place the flowers on her son’s grave. As she stood back to her feet, she gently gave the terrified Phil a peck on his cheek.
“For what’s it’s worth,” Pam said with a gentle smile. “I think my son would have been very happy to see you two together.” She turned towards Katie. “I’ll give you two a few moments alone.” Pam then walked just out of earshot.
“Katie,” Phil said with a look of worry on his face. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t want you to hear that…” Katie walked over and gently kissed him.
“But I’m glad I did,” she said quietly.
“I…” Phil continued to stammer but a shake of her head stopped him again. She turned Phil towards Paul’s headstone and sat him down.
“Hey, Paulie,” Katie said wiping away her own tears. “I’m sorry I haven’t visited recently,” she said gripping Phil’s hand. He felt her start to tremble. “I don’t get back to Earth that much anymore,” she said with her trademark playful grin. “I thought I wasn’t ready to do this, but I guess now’s as good a time as any,” she said turning to Phil. “This is Phil Lexington. I’ve been dating him for a couple of months now. He’s a little rough around the edges, needs a little more practice with a cocktail shaker, and certainly could use a little more time in the gym…” Phil found himself smiling at those barbs. “But he’s done some amazing things to help me move forward. He’s been there when I thought I was all alone. He’s helped me realize that I can’t live my life looking backwards, and he’s helped me see that the future can still be bright.”
She softly placed an arm around Phil’s back. “But most important of all, I think he’s someone that you would call a friend. So, I think I’m going to be staying with him for a while and see where this goes. I just wanted to let you know.”
Phil squeezed Katie tight and she rested her head on his shoulder.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
“I feel ridiculous, Beth” Alex said adjusting her newly fitted skirt and apron.
“If you want to live in Bavaria, than you have to dress like a Bavarian,” Annabeth said. “Besides, do you know how long I’ve been waiting to get you into a dirndl?” she said with a wink.
“They definitely do wondrous things for the girls,” Alex said adjusting her white blouse.
“They do indeed,” Annabeth said pulling open the beer hall’s massive wooden doors. The pair was immediately confronted by the blaring sounds of a German brass band and the cacophony of happy conversations in dozens of languages from around the galaxy. Hundreds of individuals from every corner of the Federation and beyond were crammed into row after row of wooden tables. Waiters frantically moved through the crowd to deliver heaping plates of sausage, sauerkraut, and massive glass mugs of beer.
“Are you sure you want to eat here, Beth?” Alex shouted over the noise as she followed Annabeth through the maze of people of tables. “I read that this is one of the most touristy places in all of Munich.” Annabeth looked over her shoulder with a huge grin.
“Alex, this place is Munich!” she said smiling from ear to ear.
Annabeth found two places at a table in the center of the massive room near the band. Warm yellow light bounced off the white plaster walls and the brilliantly painted murals of the high arched ceilings. The pair squeezed past a family of Tellurites enjoying their dinner. Alex smiled uncomfortably and their pig-faces smiled right back.
The doctor took in the sensory overload of the raucous party going around her. She looked over to Annabeth, her blonde hair in two long braids framing her happy face. She could tell that just being here brought back a lot of happy memories for her, and it started to make Alex happy as well.
A waiter dressed in a pair of leather lederhosen and a blue checkered shirt quickly made his way towards them.
“Guten nacht,” he said pulling out a pad of paper.
“Guten nacht,” Annabeth replied. “Zwei Maßkrug, bitte,” she said holding up her thumb and index finger. He nodded politely and disappeared.
“What did you just get us,” Alex asked curiously.
“Refreshments!” Annabeth exclaimed happily.
A few minutes later the waiter re-appeared hefting two of the huge liter mugs of amber beer.
“I can’t drink all that!” Alex said as the stein dropped to the wooden table in front of her.
“Not with that attitude,” Annabeth taunted as she hoisted Alex onto her aproned lap. “You’ll be amazed what you can do when you set your mind to it.”
Another waitress wondered past them carrying a huge basket of pretzels larger than Alex’s head. Annabeth waved her over and ordered two of them.
“This helps,” she said breaking off a piece of the salted bread and playfully popping it into her wife’s mouth. Alex laughed as she hoisted her mug to her lips and took a sip of the fresh beer.
Suddenly, the band began playing a well-rehearsed song and the crowd went wild. Annabeth literally started bouncing up and down. The leader of the band began singing.
“Im München steht ein Hofbräuhaus!”
In unison the crowd answered with a thunderous reply:
“Eins, zwei, g’suffa!”
Annabeth hoisted her mug and took a long drink. The band leader continued as the brass instruments continued their booming rhythm.
“Da läuft so manches Fäßchen aus!”
Again, the crowd answered.
“Eins, zwei, g’suffa!”
And everyone took another drink.
“What are we all saying?” Alex asked happily.
“One, two, down the hatch!” Annabeth answered. “That means drink!”
Alex playfully took a small sip of beer, but Annabeth wasn’t satisfied. “C’mon princess, drink!” Annabeth tipped the bottom of Alex’s mug up so beer ran down her cheeks and dribbled onto her shirt. She started laughing before dropping her mug to the table.
“That’s not funny, Beth!” she said wiping beer from her mouth.
“I’m German, Babe,” Annabeth said flashing her a look. “I never joke where beer is concerned. Prost!” Annabeth slammed her glass into Alex’s and took another long drink.
The crowd was now stomping their feet and clapping their hands in such a frenzy that Alex thought the roof would fly off the eight-hundred year old building. As the alcohol started making its way through her system, Alex finally let the experience wash over her.
“You know, I think I could get used to this,” she whispered into Annabeth’s ear.
“That’s the spirit,” Annabeth whispered before giving her a long kiss.
The band began another song and the crowd continued singing along. This time Alex joined in whole-heartedly. As the band reached the chorus, both women raised their beers into the air and belted out the refrain:
“Iha Iha Iha oh! Iha Iha Iha oh!”
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
First City Departure Terminal: Qo’nos
As Tekloth maneuvered the aero-car toward the entrance to the terminal, Laria gripped Tigranian’s hand and rested her head on his shoulder. The remainder of their visit had passed far too quickly.
“That place was magical,” Laria said with a relaxed smile.
“I’m glad you think so,” Tigranian smiled back. “Soon, it will be as much your home as it is mine.”
“Elessa even offered to teach me her recipe for Rokeg Blood Pie,” Laria said with a satisfied smirk. Tigranian raised his eyebrows.
“You have no idea what an honor that is. She won’t even share that recipe with me or Torlek.”
“Yes, she said ‘there are some things too important to be left to the ineptitudes of men.”
“I guess that means she really trusts you…” Tigranian said trailing off with a hint of wounded pride.
“Of course she does. I’m her new daughter,” Laria said still smirking. Tigranian simply shook his head.
The aero-car descended to the ground and came to a rest outside the entrance to the departure terminal. Tekloth stepped from the driver’s seat and rushed to open the door for Laria. After helping her step onto the curb, he wrapped his arms around her.
“It fills my heart with joy that our house continues to grow.”
“And it fills my heart with joy to soon join it,” Laria replied. Tigranian stepped out next and reached out a hand to Tekloth. The two men grabbed each other’s wrists and nodded.
“Qapla’, Daniel, Son of Tigranian. I hope this means we will see you more frequently.”
“Qapla’, Tekloth. I think more time on Qo’nos is just what I need.”
“I will ensure your bags are beamed aboard your ship. I wish your voyage to be honorable and free of troubles.”
“Goodbye, my friend.”
Suddenly, a commotion near the terminal’s doors caught their attention. Two Imperial Guardsman, the gendarmerie entrusted to maintain law and order on Qo’nos, were shouting at two scared children near the doors. A crowd of commoners were yealling at the guardsmen to leave the children alone, but when the lawmen pulled a pair of painsticks from their belts, the crowd stepped back.
The guardsmen then turned their attention back to the frightened children: a boy and girl. One of them shoved his painstick into the girl’s arm and laughed sadistically as she collapsed to the ground screaming.
Laria charged forward.
“What is going on here?” she commanded with a new authority in her voice. Tigranian followed just behind her.
“This is none of your concern, Alien,” the guardsman with the painstick shouted back.
“Dishonorable conduct is always my concern, petaQ!” she said sticking her chest out aggressively. The Klingon towered over her, but she still didn’t back down.
“How dare you, Creature!” The guardsmen moved their painsticks towards her, but with a flash, she pulled a dk’tahg from behind her back and held its blade to his throat. With a sneer, she clicked open it’s blades. The shocked Klingon looked down and saw the crest of a noble house staring him in the face.
“I am under the protection of the House of Torlek and I demand to know why two grown men feel it is their right to treat innocent children like this?”
“These children are not innocent,” the other guardsman said cautiously keeping an eye on Tigranian. The captain stared back at him. His eyes showing he was ready to strike if necessary.
“All forms of begging outside of the departure terminal are illegal. It is well within our rights to send these children to the workhouse.”
“Perhaps instead, you should ask them why they need to beg?” Laria asked.
“As I said, it is none of your concern. No true member of a Klingon Great House would care about a couple of street vermin.”
“I am told that times are changing in the Empire,” Tigranian said unsheathing his own dk’tahg.
“Yes, My Lord,” the second guardsman said sarcastically. “In the old days, a man knew how to properly control his woman.”
Tigranian immediately unclicked the blades of dk’tahg.
“I don’t know what whore-house gave birth to you, but if you don’t walk away right now, the two of us will send you back there in pieces.”
“Assaulting an Imperial Guardsman during the commission of their duties in punishable by death.”
“Not for us,” Laria said cocking her head to one side.
“In any case, are you confident that you could kill us both? It’s just the two of you with your blades,” the first guardsman said not taking his eyes away from Laria’s dk’tahg: the blades still at his throat.
“And we have an advantage,” the second guardsman said drawing a disruptor pistol from his belt. The blade of a bat’leth immediately kissed his neck.
“Make that three,” Tekloth said appearing from behind them. The House of Torlek’s ghIntaq never went anywhere without the ability to defend his family’s honor.
“Actually, it’s a lot more than that!” A woman shouted. The angry crowd had closed back in around them. They stared at the two guardsmen ready to charge.
“I suggest you drop your weapons and leave now.” Laria said. The guardsmen knew they were outmatched. They dropped their painsticks and disruptors and ran like scared prickle mice.
“You have not heard the last of this!” They called over their shoulder as they disappeared down the street. “Not even the noble houses are above the law anymore.”
Once they had vanished, Laria sheathed her dk’tahg and knelt down next to the trembling children.
“It’s alright, they can’t hurt you anymore.” The boy was still cradling his sister in his arms.
“My name is Letok,” he said trying to steady his voice. “This is my sister Shresh. Our father was a Soldier and fought under Chancellor Martok during the war. He fell in battle at Avenal VII. The stipend the government gave us has run out and my mother is now too sick to work. I am sorry to disgrace my family name by begging, but if we don’t, we’ll starve.”
Laria gently smiled as she stroked the boy’s matted hair.
“The only dishonor here, Letok, was theirs,” Laria said. Her touch immediately calmed him down. “I know what is like to live with nothing.” She reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out two strips of gold-pressed latinum and placed them into his hand. “Now, go. Get some food for your sister and mother.” The look of gratitude in the boy’s eyes almost brought her to tears. He took his sister by the hand and disappeared into the crowd.
Laria climbed back to her feet and looked at Tigranian.
“If I’m going to be noble, Daniel,” she said resolutely. “I will use my power and privilege for the right reasons.”
“It is good to see that at least some of the Great Houses have not forgotten their true purpose,” the woman at the head of the mob shouted at Laria. “They should protect the people! Glory and Honor to the House of Torlek, My Lady.” The woman bowed and the rest of the crowd soon followed suit.
Laria was amazed as Tigranian whispered in her ear.
“I told you there was nothing common about you.”
Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
The Baths of the Praetor’s Villa: Romulus
Neral contently lay face down on a padded table in front of a large marble pool. Enormous statues of Ancient Romulan gods and goddesses stared down at him as he received his daily Laurentian massage.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a figure in a black uniform approaching him.
“You know,” he said annoyed, “For everything the Tal Shiar knows, you would think they understand I do not like to be disturbed while I am in my baths.”
“My apologies, Praetor, but you said you wanted to be informed the moment the Pershing left Earth. It has departed McKinley Station and will arrive in Cardassian Space in less than 72 hours.”
Neral raised his head and nodded. “I suppose that means Tigranian will soon return to his annoying habits. Thank you, Titus. Go now, Keep me informed.”
“Yes, Praetor,” the figure in black said before turning around and departing.
Below, a figure broke through the surface of the pool’s heated water. Selonia walked up a set of stone steps and confidently strode over to the massage table, her naked body still dripping wet.
“I appreciate you waiting until after Titus departed to show yourself. Even the Tal Shiar doesn’t need to know what you look like under your robes.”
“Modesty is the virtue I need the most practice with my husband,” Selonia said extending her arms. Two slaves ran up and began drying her.
The praetor rolled over onto his side and took in the sight of his wife.
“You know, I command the entirety of the Romulan Empire, but what appears before me now is what I enjoy commanding the most.”
Selonia smirked at him.
“You think you command me, Husband?” she replied sarcastically as a slave ran a towel over her long blonde hair. “That is adorable.”
“I could have you executed for such an insolent remark.”
“But you won’t,” she said with a smile. Seductively, she sauntered over to the side of the table. Neral began running his hand over her bare stomach.
“You say you command the entirety of the Romulan Empire, yet you cannot control the childish whims of one pathetic human and his ramshackle crew of misfits.”
He angrily propped himself up.
“Selonia, we have been over this! I grow tired of discussing it!”
“Calm yourself, Husband,” she said gently pushing him onto his back. She climbed on top of him and rested her arms beside his head. She instantly sensed his breathing increase in anticipation. “Now, I know that you cannot officially dispose of Tigranian, but maybe there is another way…”
“I suppose you have a plan?” Neral leered as he ran his hands over the points of her ears.
“Perhaps…if I could convince you to listen to me,” She whispered before leaning forward and kissing his neck.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.