Star Trek: New Horizons Season 2, Episode 2 (Halcyon) by captaintigranian
Summary: When one of the Pershing's Crew receives remarkable news from Starfleet Command, Tigranian is asked to explain an unanswered chapter from his past.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: None
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 11275 Read: 8244 Published: 24 Jun 2016 Updated: 24 Jun 2016

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

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Kintathi Gap: Federation Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53303.7

Laria was already in bed reading when Tigranian arrived back in his quarters.

"Late night?" she asked not looking up from her PADD. Tigranian unzipped his uniform jacket and placed it on the back of his desk chair.

"Briefing with Starfleet Command ran long. They wanted updates on the weapons smuggling operations between the Romulan and Klingon Zones. Intelligence didn't have as much information as they initially led on." He walked over the bed and began removing his boots. "Admiral Paris wasn't too happy."

"Anything else from that Cardassian Slave Broker we captured on Velos?"

"Some, but not much. Once he realized his life was no longer in danger, he became far less willing to cooperate." Laria raised her eyebrows while still staring down at the page in front of her.

"Maybe you should have left him to deal with the bomb?" she said sarcastically.

"I'm starting to think we should have." He looked over his shoulder. "What are you reading?"

"The new biography of Jonathan Archer by Revat," she said turning another page.

"Ah, explorer, diplomat, and the fifth President of the Federation," Tigranian said with feigned awe as he changed into a civilian t-shirt and shorts. "Is it any good?"

"Eh, it's not bad but," Laria said shrugging her shoulders. "Chronology isn't very well constructed, it jumps around a lot, and it certainly challenges some of our most deeply held myths about Federation History."

"Really?" Tigranian said a little surprised.

"Oh yeah," Laria said flipping another page. "It actually paints him in a pretty negative light. Book says his command of the first Enterprise was sloppy, he was inconsistent as a leader, and let his personal issues cloud his judgement on a regular basis.

"Wow," Tigranian said climbing into bed next to Laria. "I wouldn't think anyone would read a book insulting a treasured national hero."

"For instance," Laria said pointing at her PADD. "Take this chapter on the morality of his command decisions in the early days of NX-01's maiden voyage. Did you know he considered attacking a group of aliens for poisoning his dog with a pathogen, but then reprimanded his chief engineer for interfering with another race even though they kept part of their species as uneducated sex slaves? Where's the consistency with the Prime Directive?" Laria said incredulously.

"Well, the Prime Directive wasn't even codified yet," Tigranian said looking over Laria's shoulder. "Starfleet was still trying to figure out what it stood for."

"Still, it seems shocking that he would care more about a dog than he would an entire gender of sentient lifeforms."

"That dog is legendary," Tigranian said furrowing his brow. "Where could Renat possibly get that kind of information? Historians have been studying Jonathan Archer for two centuries."

"From his personal logs. The Archer family was keeping them under wraps, but when his last great-granddaughter finally passed away, they entered public domain."

"I guess I should more careful about what I write in my personal logs."

"Honey, I love you, but I don't think you'll ever be as famous as Jonathan Archer," she replied with a wink. Tigranian scoffed as Laria chuckled.

Suddenly, the monitor on his desk beeped.

"Dammit," he said rolling out of bed.

"Can't it wait till tomorrow?" Laria asked annoyed.

"Well, Babe, I won't know that until I see what it is." Tigranian collapsed behind his desk and clicked "receive." Instantly, his eyes grew wide.

"Son of a bitch…"
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
* * * *

The next morning, the staff gathered in the ward room for their morning meeting. Laria was the last to arrive. She crossed to her seat and stared out at the others.

"You're usually one of the first here, something up?" Katie asked concerned.

"Something's up alright," Laria said readying a PADD to take notes.

"Trouble in paradise…or should I say in the captain's quarters?" Scharr asked as his antenna straightened with curiosity.

"Not that it's really any of your business, Sir," Laria said, "but yes, it is something with the captain. He received a subspace transmission last night. It made him furious but he refused to tell me what it was about. It's not like him."

The rest of the senior staff looked at each other with concern. The past year had taught them that the unexpected could come at any time.

The doors suddenly parted and Tigranian stormed in.

"The Captain!" Annabeth said bringing them all to their feet.

"Commander Geist!" he shouted staring at Annabeth angrily. "You can stay on your feet. The rest of you sit the hell down!" It was completely out of character for the captain to be so angry. It set everyone on edge as they took their seats. Annabeth immediately snapped to attention like a first year cadet at the Academy.

Laria looked over to Tigranian and caught his eye. She winked but he didn't break character. He walked right behind Annabeth and leaned close to her ear.

"Did you really think I wouldn't find out, Commander?" he said holding up a PADD just out of her field of vision. "Did you really think I was that stupid?"

"I am afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Sir," Annabeth said not taking her eyes off the bulkhead directly in front of her.

"Are you sure you don't want to reconsider that statement?" Tigranian said walking over to his place at the head of the table and slamming his PADD down. The rest of the table jumped.

"I cannot reconsider what I don't know, Sir," Annabeth said. Tigranian noticed she was balling her fists at her side. "And if you want to question my integrity, perhaps we should do it in private…Sir," she said holding back anger.

"It's not me who is questioning your integrity, Commander." Tigranian picked up the PADD again. "No, this goes all the way to the very top. No one, not even me, will be able to talk Starfleet Command out of what they want to do to you."

Annabeth couldn't keep her military bearing anymore. She turned her head and glared at Tigranian.

"Just what the hell are you talking about!?" she screamed at him.

"Fine," Tigranian said accessing the PADD. "If you want to know so badly…" He started reading the words in front of him.

"After review of official after action reports of the U.S.S. Pershing under temporary command of Commander Annabeth M. Geist in action against the Romulan Terrorist Kival at Rulathi System on Stardate 53271.8," Tigranian slowly starting making his way towards Annabeth. "I have approved the award of the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor to Commander Geist. Her actions reflect great credit upon her, Starfleet Command, and the United Federation of Planets. Signed: Min Zife, President of the Federation." Tigranian's dour expression immediately transformed into a huge smile. "Congratulations, Annabeth," he said extending out a hand.

Annabeth's face turned from anger, to shock, and then finally to understanding.

"I could kill you right now, Sir," she said bursting out into joy. She grabbed his hand and then they hugged. Laria immediately started clapping. The rest of the staff joined in once the shock of Tigranian's ruse wore off.

"Did you know about this?" Alex said to Laria. The Bajoran just shrugged. Alex then immediately ran around the table and grabbed Annabeth. "I'm so proud of you!" she said before planting a kiss on her wife's lips.

"Admiral Murphy is on his way to a conference on Cardassia Prime," Tigranian said taking his seat. "He'll stop by on the way to award the medal in three days."

"However," Laria said interjecting. "To celebrate, the captain and I would like to have you all over to our quarters tomorrow night for dinner."

"What do you mean 'your' quarters?" Katie said turning toward Tigranian. This time it was the captain's turn to shrug. The rest of the table snickered.

"Well, if it's alright with our hosts," Annabeth said turning to Scharr, "I would love for T'les to be there as well."

"Of course," Laria replied.

"I'll be sure to extend the invitation to her today," Scharr said leaning back in his chair. "However, I warn you, she is even more difficult to please than me when it comes to choices in cuisine."

"We like a challenge," Laria said grinning.

"Alright, everyone," Tigranian said bringing up the daily briefing up on the holoscreen behind him. "We've had our fun, but we still have a mission to accomplish here. Let's get to it."

* * * *

"This dish is really quite good," Scharr said as his antennae straightened with surprise. "And normally I hate Earth food." The rest of the group held back their laughter. What is it called again?"

"Lasagna," Tigranian said from the head of the table.

"Looks like we met the challenge," Laria said taking a sip of red wine next to Tigranian.

"It seems like you did, Laria," Scharr replied. "My compliments to your cooking."

"Oh, I didn't make it," Laria said shaking her head. Everyone turned to look at the captain with surprise.

"What? Just because I'm a starship captain means you think I can't cook?"

"You're definitely a man of many talents, Sir," Alex said raising her glass. "To the chef!"

"Oh no, this night is not about me," Tigranian said raising his glass for a counter-toast. "To Annabeth!"

"I'll drink to that!" Katie replied.

"Seconded," Phil said joining in.

"TO ANNABETH!" Everyone said taking a drink.

"I do hope that your vegetarian version came out alright, T'les," Laria said turning to her Vulcan crewmate. Daniel thought he might have overcooked the eggplant.

"It is more than agreeable, Captain," T'les said taking another forkful from her plate.

"High praise from a Vulcan, Sir," Annabeth said from the other end of the table.

"It certainly is," Tigranian said pushing back from the table. He went over to a sideboard and produced another bottle of wine. As soon as he pulled the cork he went around and re-filled everyone's glasses.

"A few more of these and the night crew might have to pull a double shift tomorrow, Sir," Katie said.

"I'll be sure to write us all up for being drunk on duty tomorrow," Tigranian joked before taking his seat again.

"Oh, the night is young," Scharr said confidently. "I was re-priming dilithium chambers hung-over when Laria was still learning how to tie her shoes."

"So, approximately five Earth years ago?" T'les said raising an eye-brow. The entire table burst out laughing.

"T'les," Alex said amazed. "Did you actually make a joke?"

"I have been studying humor among humanoid species in an attempt to facilitate socialization with the rest of the crew. I believe that comical barbs are most effective when they are the expense of another, usually the youngest and most inexperienced. By your physical reactions, it seems that hypothesis is correct."

"Definitely," Phil said still chuckling.

"It wasn't that funny," Laria muttered as she blushed.

"I'm afraid it was, L," Tigranian said with a smile as he supportively rubbed her back.

"Maybe…" Laria said as a grin crossed her face.

"So, Captain," Scharr said continuing. "In an effort to distract from Lieutenant Amira's wounded pride, I haven't heard you tell the story of how you earned the Christopher Pike Medal."

"Oh no," Tigranian said waving his hands in front of him. "Like I said, this is Annabeth's night. You don't want to hear any boring stories from my past."

"Actually," Annabeth said cocking her head to one side. "I kinda wanna hear that myself."

"I actually haven't your side of Ronara Prime either," Laria said a little surprised.

"Then it's settled, Sir!" Phil added. "Spill it."

"It is a long story," Tigranian said shaking his head.

"And we have a second bottle of wine to kill," Katie said. "C'mon, Sir. Tell us."

Tigranian sighed.

"Alright, if you all insist," he said taking another sip of wine.

"We do," Alex said leaning her head on Annabeth's shoulder. Her wife put an arm around her.

"It all started four years ago when Chancellor Gowron withdrew from the Khitomer Accords. Starfleet Command recalled me to the Federation and I had to leave the Sk'oh. As some of you know, my first posting was to Starfleet Intelligence on Earth as a senior analyst on the Klingon Empire…"

"I did hear from some old Academy classmates that you left that job under some pretty poor circumstances," Annabeth said cutting in.

"Glad to know my reputation precedes me," Tigranian said sarcastically. "Actually, that's a bit of understatement. In fact, if it wasn't for a soon to be Admrial I met at Starfleet Headquarters named Peter Murphy, I probably wouldn't have left wearing the rank I had, but that's a story for another time.

Anyways, he called in a few favors and got me a job as the tactical officer on an old Excelsior class refit named the U.S.S. Halcyon…"
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Three and a Half Years Ago

Zaranite System: Federation Space

Stardate: 50561.5

Tigranian materialized on the Halcyon's transporter pad. The first thing he saw was the stern face of a Starfleet Commander. It was eerily reminiscent of his arrival on the Sk'oh almost six years previously, but somehow, this man seemed even less welcoming than Commander Kentok.

"Lieutenant Commander Daniel Tigranian reporting as ordered, Sir," he said stepping off the transporter platform and reaching out a PADD containing his orders.

"I'm sure those are in line," the commander muttered somewhat indignantly. "I am Commander Harshbough, first officer of the Halcyon."

Tigranian expected a "welcome aboard" to accompany that statement, but none came. He realized his less than pleasant departure from Starfleet Intelligence had accompanied him here. Still, he was thankful. Anything was better than being asked to betray his Klingon brothers and sisters on a daily basis.

"We'll have your bags beamed to your quarters, Commander," Harshbough continued. "I'm taking you straight to the bridge. Captain Zelas is waiting in her ready room for you." Tigranian raised an eyebrow. That was definitely not standard protocol.

"Yes, Sir," was all he was able to get out.

"Follow me," Harshbough said turning his back on Tigranian and heading into the corridor. Tigranian silently followed.

The turbolift ride to the bridge was probably the longest of Tigranian's career. The first officer never said another word or made any eye contact. When the doors to the bridge opened, the two men stepped out and headed toward Captain Zelas' ready room. Tigranian couldn't help but look over to the empty tactical station, his new home. He knew that transitioning back to Starfleet life after all the years he spent with Klingons wouldn't be easy, but his personal honor made him promise to do the best he could.

Harshbough hit the buzzer on the outside of the ready room.

"Enter," said a firm female voice. The doors parted and they stepped inside. Trisha Zelas was a twenty-year space veteran. She had a distinguished career they were already talking about at the Academy when Tigranian was a cadet. Over the course of her voyages, she had been a part of no less than fifteen first contact missions: eight of them considered high risk. Her mother was human, but her father was Tellarite. As a result, her dark face was surrounded by a thick mane of red hair. Tigranian immediatly thought she was a sight to behold.

Harshbough took his place beside her desk, and both of them started to glare at their new arrival. She did not stand to greet Tigranian, but merely sized him up with her sunken eyes.

"So, you're the one?" she said after a few moments of awkward silence.

"I guess I am, Ma'am," Tigranian said still at attention. Finally, she motioned for him to stand easy.

"Tell me, Mr. Tigranian," she said picking up a PADD from her desk. "Where do your loyalties lie?" she said curtly.

"I'm afraid I don't understand your question, Ma'am," he said doing his best not to let his acquired Klingon temper from getting the better of him.

"It's a simple question, Commander," she said turning her chair towards him. "Do you feel that your allegiance is to the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet Command or do you feel a greater connection the Klingon Empire?"

"Ma'am," Tigranian said staring at her with just enough intensity to not be viewed as threatening, "I took an oath of loyalty to Starfleet Command and to serve the people of the Federation. While I wear this uniform I fully intend to live up to that oath and serve this ship!"

"Really?" she said suddenly climbing to her feet. "Because my friends in Starfleet Intelligence told me that while you were there, your commitment to the citizens of the Federation seemed to have waivered."

"I'm going to need you to explain that remark, Ma'am. I would hate for there to be a misunderstanding between us right off the bat…"

"I don't owe you an explanation, Commander. Not while you serve on my ship."

"I think you do, Ma'am!"

* * * *

"No way! You did not challenge a starship captain when you had been on board for less than ten minutes," Katie intejected in amazement.

"I did actually," Tigranian said with a chuckle as he took another sip of wine.

"How did you not end up in the brig?" Phil said staring at him in amazement.

"I think the captain might be pulling our legs," Laria said batting her eyes at Tigranian in a way that made Tigranian's breath quicken, but he calmed himself.

"Hey, who's telling this story?" he said sending a playful look right back at her.

"Sorry," Laria said with a wink as she poured herself another glass.

* * * *

"Since you feel entitled, Mr. Tigranian," Zelas said angrily. "Your only job at Starfleet Intelligence was to provide timely and accurate analysis of Klingon ship and troop movements. However, your performance evaluations paint the picture of an officer whose reports varied from apathetic to downright hostile. In the six months you were on Earth, your recommendations never revealed any useful data to Starfleet, and in many cases, you were downright wrong. Either you were trying to hide something from Command, or you were just plain incompetent."

"I never submitted a report that was not entirely accurate," Tigranian said with such resolve that Harshbough readied himself to intercept Tigranian in the event he lunged at the captain.

"Then how do you explain what happened to the Hispaniola?"

"What happened to that ship was not my fault."

"Your own analysis stated that the likelihood of contact with Klingon raiders in that system was low!" Zelas said slamming her fist down on her desk.

"A low likelihood of contact doesn't mean you shut down your warp core and defensive systems to conduct maintenance all alone in space!"

"So you're blaming the crew?" Zelas said with disgust in her tone.

"The only person I blame is the captain who made that decision. The review board said he violated six separate regulations prior to the encounter…" Tigranian said trailing off.

"Watch your tone, Commander. Captain Hastings was a very old friend of mine. We went through the Academy together."

"That probably reflects more on you than it does on me," Tigranian muttered under his breath.

"What was that, Commander?" Zelas spit at Tigranian. "I didn't quite hear you."

"I was merely thinking, Captain," Tigranian replied. "If you're not confident in my abilities as your tactical officer, why did you accept my posting to the Halcyon?"

"I did everything I could to block it actually," Zelas said sitting back in her chair. "However, with relations between the Federation and the Klingons at their worst in the past eighty years, war could break out at any moment. We needed someone at Tactical, and you were the only qualified officer available."

"Lucky us, I guess," Tigranian said leaning back on his heels.

"I don't expect you'll have a very good time onboard with that kind of arrogant attitude, Mr. Tigranian. However, despite all your flaws, I hear you can at least fire phasers in a straight line. If we have to go into action, just be sure you point them in the right direction. Am I clear?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Good, then get out of my sight. Dismissed."

* * * *

"You certainly have a way with women, Sir," Annabeth said sarcastically.

"You asked to hear this, and I tried to talk you out of it."

"I just have a hard time believing that you were ever that brash," Alex said with disbelief. "You're always so concerned with loyalty and duty."

"I can believe it," Laria muttered. The rest of the table laughed again. The wine was definitely starting to go to her head.

"The war put a lot of things into the perspective for me, Alex," Tigranian replied. "I had to grow up a little to realize that there were honorable people outside of the Empire."

"Alright, enough philosophizing," Scharr said. "Get back to the story."

"Well," Tigranian continued. "Zelas was actually a pretty amazing commander. The crew supported her in every way. Unfortunately, that meant her attitude towards me carried over to everyone else…"
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Tigranian's first few weeks aboard the Halcyon continued much the same as his first encounter. No matter how hard he worked to prove his competence, everyone still viewed him as a potential enemy insurgent. However, he refused to renounce his Klingon family or beliefs. He was no longer with them, but still bound by blood and sacrifice.

Now, the only times he felt truly happy were his early morning training sessions. It was then he felt the strongest connection to his old mentor and friend. Tigranian prayed to Kahless that through some miracle, the Federation and the Empire would make peace and he would be able to see Torlek again.

Most of the ship was still asleep when Tigranian exited the holodeck doors. He was drenched in sweat and carried his bat'leth over his right shoulder. Normally, he would have headed straight for his quarters, but this morning he decided to make a quick stop at the mess hall. Those replicators did a better job at making his raktajino than the one in his quarters; probably because the replicator in his quarters hadn't been replaced since the Halcyon's last spacedock refit twenty years prior. He definitely felt like he owed Commander Harshbough that debt of gratitude for ensuring his room assignment was the worst one available.

In any case, the mess hall was still deserted when he stepped inside. He knew he could stomach rubbery eggs alone in his room as long as he had a decent cup of coffee to wash them down. As his mug materialized containing one of the few real pleasures in his life, he heard the doors behind him open.

"Well look what we have here, gents," came a familiar voice from behind him. "It's our resident gagh eater." Tigranian turned around to see Commander Harshbough accompanied by Lieutenant Commander Emmett Olsen, the chief engineer, and Lieutenant Lilia Tavin, the science officer. "Getting some breakfast, are we?" Olsen continued. "How does the saying go on Qo'nos? The early bird eats the worm?"

Tigranian turned around while taking a very long sip of his coffee.

"It is definitely too damn early for this," he thought angrily to himself.

"Actually, Emmett," Tigranian said doing his best to sound congenial, "I never eat replicated gagh. It's always best when served live."

"Well, you would know, wouldn't you?" Harshbough said walking towards him with the other two in tow. "So, you like to play with that thing do you?" he muttered while pointing to Tigranian's bat'leth.

"It's not a toy, Sir," Tigranian replied. "In the right hands, it's more dangerous than a phaser."

The other three laughed out loud.

"You can't be serious?" Tavin said. "That thing looks like a piece of deck plating someone hammered into the shape of fishing hook."

"Sounds like you need a lesson on what a phaser can really do, Tigranian," Harshbough said crossing his arms in front of him.

Tigranian smiled and looked down into his mug. He downed the rest of his raktajino in one gulp.

"Damn, that's a good replication." Without another word Tigranian tossed the empty aluminum mug into the air directly in front of the other's faces. He took a mighty swing with his bat'leth, so close to Harshbough's head, the rush of air caused the first officer's hair to move. The three froze in shock as two perfect halves of mug landed at their feet.

"A great man once told me, Sir," Tigranian said still grinning, "It's not the weapon, but the warrior that wields it." He walked past his peers and headed to the doors.

As he was about to head out back out to the corridor, he heard Harshbough's voice call after him. "Who was that supposedly 'great man', Tigranian?"

Tigranian looked back over his shoulder and answered:

"His name is Torlek and he's my brother." He then disappeared out the mess hall's doors.

"He might be Klingon lover, Sir," Olsen said finally letting himself breathe. "But maybe we should reconsider being on his bad side?"

"You know, Emmett, I'm starting to agree with you," Harshbough replied.

* * * *

"No, no, no," an exasperated Scharr said holding up his hand. "I just don't buy it anymore, Sir."

"What don't you buy, Tren?" Tigranian said looking over to his chief engineer's exasperated face. "That I could ever be so unloved by my fellow officers?"

"No, I actually think that's the most believable part of the story," the Andorian said as his antenna straightened. Even T'les showed signs of being amused by that cutting remark. "I just don't believe that you could earn a medal for heroism. How could fight for people who cared for you so little?"

Tigranian just leaned back in his chair.

"Things slowly began to thaw between me and rest of the Halcyon's crew over the next few months. I like to think they slowly started to respect my convictions, but I know it's because of two other reasons…"

"And those were?" Alex asked curiously.

"The most important was that Gowron re-signed the Khitomer Accords. Overnight, the Klingon Empire and the Federation were allies again. Klingon martial prowess was suddenly seen as a major benefit rather than a threat."

"And the second reason?" Phil said continuing to press Tigranian.

"The Federation suddenly had a much more dangerous enemy on its doorstep."

"The Dominion moved into Cardassian territory…" Annabeth said. Tigranian nodded before taking a deep breath.

"That changed everything. The reports coming out of Bajoran Space were bad enough before, but after the Jem'Hadar moved into the Demilitarized Zone and Cardassia began re-arming, war seemed inevitable. The Halcyon was transferred to the Ninth Fleet and we began a regular patrol along the Badlands…"
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Umoth System: Federation/Cardassian Border

Stardate: 50974.9

Tigranian lay on his klongat fur listening to a new Klingon opera he just acquired. The First City's Metropolitan Company had released the cast recording of their latest production of Aktuh and Melota and it was far better than expected. Unfortunately, Tigranian had to listen with headphones as the Halcyon's eighty year old bulkheads were not as sound-proof as he (or his neighbors) would have liked. He almost didn't realize his desk monitor was ringing across the room.

"Computer, pause playback." He knew it was important. Only two people ever called unexpectedly and Torlek was out patrolling the Klingon side of the Cardassian border over forty light years away.

As Tigranian hit, "receive" he smiled as he saw the familiar face on the screen.

"Hello, Sir."

"It's good to see you, Dan," Captain Murphy said. "I'm also pleasantly surprised that I don't seem to be reading as many negative reports from Captain Zelas these days."

"Yeah, I'm definitely the ship's new favorite resident," Tigranian said sarcastically.

"I'm not sure I would go that far yet, but at least the ire of your shipmates seems to have shifted away from Klingons towards a more Cardassian/Jem'Hadar flavor for now."

"Enemies seem to shift quickly out here, Pete. I'm just happy that I can get real bloodwine again."

"Unfortunately, I didn't call to call to chat about your beverage choices, Dan. Starfleet Intelligence has picked up some chatter from its few remaining contacts in the DMZ, and I think it concerns you…"

* * * *

"In two days, we'll enter the Ronara System and continue our scans of the Cardassian Border. Starfleet was impressed with our investigation of the suspected Jem'Hadar listening posts in the former DMZ. However, they're still concerned that the Dominion could be using the former Maquis bases as possible staging areas for a future invasion," Captain Zelas said finishing the Halcyon's morning staff meeting in the observation lounge. "Lilia, is there anything you can do to increase our sensor definition? The more information we can get without crossing the border, the better."

"Not without getting some serious attention back in our direction. The Dominion sensors are as good as ours," the science officer said furrowing her brow.

"Active scans of their facilities could be viewed as an act of aggression," Harshbough added.

"And that could make an already tense situation ten times worse," Olsen said nodding his head.

"Xenia," Zelas said turning towards the Halcyon's Betazoid helmswoman, "Ensure we don't get within 100,000 kilometers of the border. Any closer could be viewed as a provocation."

"Yes, Ma'am," Lieutenant Relia responded.

"We should still be able to get a good sensor view at that range. We won't see much of a drop in resolution," Tavin said reassuringly.

"Make it so," Zelas said confidently. "Now, unless anyone has anything else to add?" she said moving to stand up.

"Actually, Ma'am," Tigranian said speaking up. "I do." There was audible groan from the rest of the table at the prospect of the meeting going on any longer.

"Well, Mr. Tigranian, what is it?" Zelas said settling back into her seat.

"Last night, I received a message from one of my contacts at Starfleet Intelligence…"

"We all know you only have one contact at Starfleet Intelligence left, Tigranian," Harshbough said cutting in.

"What does Captain Murphy have to say?" Zelas said sarcastically. Tigranian had to resist the urge roll his eyes as he stood up and headed to the holoscreen. He entered a few commands and brought up the schematic of a Cardassian warship no one else had ever seen before. It was quite different than the more linear Galor class. This vessel was shaped more like a bird-of-prey with two long, downturned wings. It looked extremely powerful…and dangerous.

"It's called the Velkath class. Starfleet Intelligence learned of its existence through a third-party Lissapian contact. Vorta engineers have been helping the Cardassians build a new generation of capital ships augmented with Dominion and captured Klingon technology."

"How powerful is it?" Olsen asked leaning towards the screen.

"Ten photon torpedo tubes, multiple phaser banks in the wing pylons, and a centrally mounted disruptor cannon powerful enough to cripple a small starship at close range."

"The Cardassians wouldn't be building a ship of that type right now if they didn't intend to use it," Harshbough said turning to Zelas concerned.

"This is all very interesting, Mr. Tigranian," Zelas said skeptically. "But why bring this up now."

"The Lissapian contact said he knew of one complete prototype and there's a strong possibility that a second one is nearing completion or already complete. I believe that these ships are currently engaging in space trials in the Badlands near the Ronara System."

"Right where we're heading…" Lieutenant Relia said as her eyes grew wide.

"Alright, everyone, calm down!" Zelas said. "Let's not jump to conclusions before we have a few more details. Tigranian, now that you've tried to scare the hell out of us, just what makes you think these two ghost ships, that may or not may not exist, are operating near Ronara and why do you think they are a threat to us?"

"Ma'am," Tigranian said steeling himself for a tongue-lashing, "The area around the Ronara system is a traditional proving ground for the lead classes of Cardassian ships. In addition, many in the Cardassian military feel that quite a bit of prestige was lost when Gul Dukat turned over control of the government to the Founders. After all, the Jem'Hadar accomplished in a few days what the Cardassians couldn't accomplish in over a decade: wiping out anti-Cardassian forces in the DMZ. What better way to simultaneously prove the viability of these new ships and regain the respect of the Alpha Quadrant than taking down a Federation starship? Also, no disrespect to the Halcyon, but an older Excelsior class is a much softer target than a newer, more heavily armed design."

"So, you have a hunch?" Zelas said more than a little dismissively.

"Duj tlvoqtaH," Tigranian replied.

"Just what the hell does that mean?" Harshbough said.

"A very old Klingon proverb, Sir. Always trust your instincts. Mine haven't failed me yet."

"Well, Mr. Tigranian," Zelas continued. "No disrespect to your instincts, but I'm not going to alter the course of this ship without some more substantial evidence. I will also not be intimidated by Cardassians, Jem'Hadar, Vorta, your Lissapian friend, or anyone else who thinks they are better than this ship or its crew. We will continue to Ronara Prime and we will face any threat we find there with the same professionalism and courage that I expect from everyone on board. I think you will be presently surprised what this 'old ship' can do in the right hands." Everyone around the table but Tigranian laughed.

"Ma'am…" he continued before the captain cut him off by raising her hand.

"We will maintain yellow alert just as we have been Mr. Tigranian. If your ghost ships do appear, there are three other Federation starships within a few hours warp. We'll regroup and act accordingly. The Dominion doesn't want a war on its hands yet. They'll respect our borders."

"Yes, Ma'am…" Tigranian said balling his fists under the table.

"Now, if no one else has anything useful to discuss…" the rest of the senior staff shook their heads. "Dismissed…except for you, Mr. Tigranian."

Everyone climbed to their feet and exited to the bridge. When the captain and Tigranian were alone, Zelas flashed a very angry look in his direction.

"You know, I actually thought you were starting to get it. Then, you pull a stunt like that."

"Ma'am," Tigranian said resisting the urge to rub his eyes with frustration. "As the chief tactical officer, threats to this ship are my primary business."

"Correct," Zelas snapped. "However, you don't just dump something like that out in the middle of a meeting without running it by me or Commander Harshbough first!"

"I didn't realize that my recommendations were to be censored."

"Dammit," Zelas said slapping the back of her chair. "I'm not censoring you! I'm trying to teach you something about how to talk to your commanding officer. If by some miracle you get promoted, you have to understand that you can't just change your decisions at the drop of a hat. Everything you put out to your crew has to be carefully weighed and measured. Once you decide on a course of action, you can't keep changing it or else you just look weak and indecisive."

"Well, if you or Commander Harshbough actually took my recommendations seriously…"

"Watch your tone, Lieutenant Commander," Zelas said cutting in. "I realize that you didn't have the best examples on leadership to learn from as a junior officer…"

Now, it was Tigranian's turn to cut in.

"Ma'am, I really hope you're not referring to the officers of the Sk'oh."

"What if I am?" Zelas said straightening her back. "I have no idea why you have such an admiration for Klingons, Tigranian. I'm going to be honest with you. Despite my professional obligation to tolerate all alien races and their traditions, I have never respected Klingons. They represent every belligerent, ignorant, unenlightened, and un-disciplined tenet that the United Federation of Planets has worked for centuries to overcome."

"So, you're willing to put this ship and everyone on board at risk because you don't respect what I stand for?"

"I'm going to stop you right there, Mister," Zelas said trying to stare him down. "Don't you ever think for one second I would put myself or my pride before the security of this ship. Now, we are going to continue to Ronara as planned, and if you don't agree with that, perhaps you will find the brig more comfortable than the tactical station. Am I understood?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Good, now get your ass on the bridge and take your station." Zelas turned around and exited the observation lounge leaving Tigranian alone. It was at that moment he was reminded of another Klingon proverb:

"Today is a good day to die."

* * * *

"What did you do?" T'les asked with as much surprise as a Vulcan could muster.

"What could I do?" Tigranian said rhetorically. "She was the captain. I had made my recommendation and she ignored it."

"But you were heading right into a Cardassian trap," Alex said shaking her head.

"In hindsight, it was probably more like bad timing. Nobody knew that Sisko took it upon himself to mine the wormhole and that the war was about to begin."

"Yet you found yourself right in the middle of one of the war's first engagements," Phil added. Tigranian chuckled.

"It's getting late guys," the captain said. "Are you sure you want to hear this part? It's all in the official record."

"Oh no," Annabeth said raising her hand. "We're this far into it. You're gonna finish the damn story, Sir."

"Yeah, Sir," Katie said. "We want to hear what happened from your perspective. From the guy who was actually there."

"Alright, alright," Tigranian said looking at Laria. She gave him a soft reassuring smile.

"We approached Ronara Prime at Yellow Alert. To her credit, Captain Zelas was doing things by the book. Nothing appeared on our long range scans. Of course, that was about to rapidly change…"



Ronara Prime: Federation/Cardassian Border

Stardate: 50975.3

"We are now entering the Ronara System," Lieutenant Relia said from the helm.

"Maintain full impulse, Xenia," Zelas said. "Lilia, give me a long range scan."

"Yes, Ma'am," Lieutenant Tavin said adjusting her instruments. "Nothing yet. The border is still quiet."

"Any sign of Tigranian's mystery ships?" Harshbough said with a laugh.

"Not a thing Sir," Lieutenant Tavin said from Science.

Tigranian balled his fists at his console. He didn't need more attitude from anyone. Especially for trying to do his job…

Suddenly, his console began flashing.

"Ma'am," Tigranian said hitting a few keys on the panel in front of him. "Priority One Message from Starfleet Command."

Zelas and Harshbough turned to look at him.

"What does it say?" the captain said concerned.

"We are to proceed at maximum warp to rendezvous with the rest of the Ninth Fleet at the Valo System. A joint Federation/Klingon task force under Admiral Ross is being assembled immediately."

"For what purpose?" Harsbough said in shock.

"Sir, you only assemble a fleet like that for one reason," Tigranian said staring at him. "Valo is within striking range of at least three separate major Cardassian bases. I think this is it."

"Oh my God," Relia said with a hint of terror in her voice.

"Ma'am!" Tavin shouted. "Something's wrong!"

"What do you mean something's wrong?" Harshbough asked angrily. "You said you weren't reading anything?"

"Exactly, Sir," Tavin said looking up at him. "I'm not reading anything. No civilian traffic, no border stations, not even any natural subspace disturbances. It's almost like…"

"Like our long range sensors are being jammed," Zelas said as her eyes grew wide.

"Xenia, get us out of here now!"

It was already too late.

"Ma'am!" Tavin shouted again. "Two ships approaching at high warp!"

"Visual!" Harshbough said. The viewscreen came to life just in time to reveal two shapes dropping out of warp. Everyone recognized them from Tigranian's briefing two days before.

"Red Alert! All power to shields!" Zelas said. Tigranian made the adjustments just as the nearest Velkath cruiser opened fire with its primary disruptor. The energy beam slammed into the Halcyon right in between the warp nacelles. The entire ship lurched, knocking everyone off their feet. A plasma conduit exploded a few meters away from the first officer's chair and sent Commander Harshbough flying across the bridge. As the emergency lighting engaged, Zelas immediately ran over. There was nothing she could do. He was already dead.

"Lock phasers and return fire!" she shouted clawing her way back to her chair.

"Yes, Ma'am," Tigranian said bringing the main arrays to life. Several beams lashed out from the Halcyon's saucer. "Direct hits. Minor damage to both ships, but their shields are holding."

"Bridge, this is main engineering!" Olsen shouted over the comm system. "That disruptor blast hit us right in the primary plasma network. We're limited to Warp 2. There's no way we can outrun them."

"Bridge, Sick bay!" Doctor Alonzo said cutting in. "I'm receiving casualty reports from all over the ship."

"Xenia," Zelas said trying to get her bearings in the chaos. "Bring us about. Tigranian, ready photon torpedoes."

"Yes, Captain," Lieutenant Relia said trying to get the ship back under control.

"Captain," Tigranian looking at his instruments. "The lead Cardassian ship is hailing."

Everyone froze and waited for the captain to speak. Finally, Zelas managed to utter a phrase.

"Put him on screen."

Tigranian obeyed and the viewscreen changed to the image of a grinning Cardassian.

"Why have you attacked my ship?" Zelas shouted at him angrily.

"Federation vessel," the Cardassian replied, "I am Gul Delutas of the Cardassian Union. The reason I attacked your vessel should be obvious. You are an enemy vessel in a period of declared hostility."

"What declared hostility?" Zelas continued to shout. "There's been no attack by the Federation or any of its allies against the Cardassian Union."

"How dare you feign ignorance? I suppose that Starfleet mining the entrance to the Bajoran wormhole is not a direct act of war against the Dominion/Cardassian alliance? I also suppose the Federation and Klingon fleet massing in the Valo system is not meant to attack Cardassian and Jem'Hadar targets?"

"I assure you, Gul Delutas, my orders are merely to patrol the border. I have received no instructions to attack any Cardassian or Dominion forces…"

"Irrelevant," Delutas said, "You will immediately drop your shields and allow my forces to board your vessel. You will then be escorted to Cardassian space where you will be held as prisoners of war."

"You must be out of your mind!" Zelas said climbing to her feet.

"What choice do you have, Captain? Refuse, and I will destroy you."

The entire bridge crew tensed at that remark.

"You can try…" Zelas said defiantly sitting in her chair. "Tigranian, turn that bastard off." The screen cut back to an image of the two cruisers. "Are those photons ready?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Tigranian said placing his finger over the button.

"Target Delutas' ship and fire."

Tigranian immediately launched four photon torpedoes into the Velkath's forward shields.

"Moderate Damage, their forward shields are down to forty percent."

"Xenia, evasive now!" Zelas ordered.

"Aye, Ma'am," Lieutenant Relia did her best to maneuver the old starship, but the two Cardassian ships were already maneuvering to engage. Their disruptors began battering the Halcyon and the entire vessel rocked and heaved. Consoles and power conduits exploded everywhere showering the entire deck with sparks and flashes. The lights flickered in and out of existence.

"Olsen! Hold us together until you can get full warp power back!" Zelas shouted into her intercom.

"Ma'am, a few more shots like that and there won't be anything to hold together!"

"You heard me!"

"Yes, Ma'am…"

Tigranian was already firing everything he could at the Cardassian ships. The arrays and launchers were pushed to their limits, but a few tricks he learned on the Sk'oh kept them from overloading. His random weapons patterns were able to confuse their sensors, but only enough to delay the inevitable killing blow.

"Focus your fire on the lead cruiser. Our only chance is to try to disable one of them."

"Aye, Ma'am," Tigranian replied. "Delutas' shields are down to fifteen percent, but I'm losing power to the phaser arrays. Plasma is venting into space. It's like we're bleeding to death."

"I don't want excuses, I want results. I thought you were a Klingon warrior?"

Before Tigranian could reply to Zelas' challenge, another disruptor blast hit directly on the saucer section and the ship's weakened shields finally collapsed. Another explosion rocked the bridge, this time sending a hail of razor sharp debris directly at the captain's chair. Zelas screamed in pain as the shards of duranium and polycarbonate sliced opened her chest. She collapsed to the deck with a gasp.

"Captain!" Tigranian shouted diving over his console towards her. She was lying flat on her back, blood pouring from her chest and mouth. Tigranian cradled her in his arms and stared into her eyes. "Captain!" he repeated trying to rouse her from her dazed state. Suddenly, her eyes cleared and she stared right into his face.

"You were right…" she said coughing up more blood.

"Don't talk," Tigranian commanded as he tapped his comm badge. "Sick bay! Medical emergency on the bridge!"

"No," she said placing a bloody hand on his chest. "You have to keep fighting. Keep Fighting…" she struggled with her last bit of strength to maintain consciousness. "Computer, transfer all command codes to Lieutenant Commander Tigranian, Daniel V. Authorization: Zelas Beta 7-4 Romeo ..."

"Command codes transferred."

As soon as she heard the computer's voice confirm her command, she immediately fell limp.

"Captain! Captain!" Tigranian repeated trying to shake her awake, but she was already gone. Tigranian instinctively reared back his head and howled. The rest of the bridge crew trembled at the realization that their captain and first officer were dead and Tigranian was in charge.

The battle was still far from over. The ship continued to shake under fire from the Cardassians. Tigranian immediately leaped back over his console and continued firing phasers. However, the weakened beams did almost nothing to the Cardassians' shields.

The awareness that he was about to lose this ship flashed through his consciousness. He desperately grabbed at any thought: any idea at all that could save them. Suddenly, a memory pushed its way into his mind.

He was back on board the Sk'oh in the sparring room. It was in his first few weeks onboard and the captain was teaching him the way of the sword. Torlek was landing blow after blow with his bat'leth. It was everything in Tigranian's power not to collapse under the onslaught. Finally, it was too much and he fell to the mat.

Torlek cursed.

"Daniel, you cannot defeat me with a forward attack! To choose a foolish strategy is to choose defeat."

"You're too strong," Tigranian said trying to catch his breath. "You're too fast…"

"For your sword, yes!" Torlek said reaching out a hand and hoisting the young human to his feet. It's not the weapon, but the warrior that wields it! Your legs, your fists, even your stubborn head. Strike at me with whatever you can.

This is true of all combat. Think what you have at your disposal and do not stop fighting until the breath leaves your corpse. Your weapons may fail, your shields may collapse, your warp core may breach. If Kahless the Unforgettable calls you home, point your bow into the enemy's maw and charge forward to meet your destiny….

Tigranian's eyes grew wide. His fingers flew over the tactical console as he readied one final burst of torpedoes with the remaining power they had left.

"What do we do now, Sir?" Tavin asked on the verge of panic.

"Are the lead Velkath's shields still about to fail?" Tigranian asked as a new confidence overtook him.

"Yes! But they still have ten centimeters of reinforced armor and another very angry ship that's still at full power…"

Tigranian cut her off and keyed the intercom.

"Olsen! I'm in command."

"God help us all…" the chief engineer replied.

"Shut the hell up and listen to me! Do we still have the capability to jump to warp?"

"Yes, but I already told you it would never be enough to outrun them…"

"We're not going to outrun them…" Tigranian said quietly. "Computer, how many crewmembers are left alive?"

"Currently, there are 678 crew members still alive onboard."

"Olsen, tie the transporters into the main warp power grid. I need enough power to simultaneously transport 678 people. If it's not enough, tie in life support."

"WHAT!?!"

"Just do it and do it now!"

"That's not physically possible."

"Well, you have about twenty seconds to make it possible or we all die!"

"Aye, Sir…" Before the intercom cut off, Tigranian heard "that crazy mother…."

Another burst of disruptor fire shook the ship. Xenia cursed at the helm.

"We don't have enough power left to maneuver. One more hit from their main arrays and we're dead in space."

Tigranian ignored her as he keyed the shipwide intercom.

"All hands, this is the acting captain. You are immediately ordered to grab the nearest weapon and prepare for transport. You're going to fight hand-to-hand when you re-materialize at the far side. Wherever you appear, gain control of that area."

The rest of the bridge crew's eyes grew wide as dinner plates as they realized what Tigranian was planning. They fumbled underneath their consoles and grabbed their emergency hand phasers.

"Computer, initiate Tigranian Omega Protocol."

He held his hands out as the computer engaged the site to site transporter interlocks beaming his bat'leth and dk'tagh directly in front of him. As he grabbed his weapons, Lieutenant Tavin started breathing heavily.

"You never know when you'll be in a hand to hand fight. Programmed that little contingency just in case…" he said with a smirk.

"Oh my God," she said nearly hyperventilating as she held her phaser. "We're all gonna die…"

Tigranian also ignored her lack of confidence as he continued to put in his plan into action.

"Computer, set automatic heading of 352 Mark Seven Five."

"WHAT!!?!!" Xenia screamed from the helm.

"Warning: specified heading will result in collision."

"Override, Authorization: Tigranian Omega 3-6 Tango."

"Acknowledged. Specified heading set."

"Bridge: this is main engineering. You have your transporter power! We're ready for whatever the hell you're gonna do!"

"Computer, From my mark institute the following sequence: Deactivate shields, energize simultaneous transport of all surviving Halcyon crew members onto the nearest Velkath cruiser, and one millisecond after the last crewmembers rematerializes, engage automatic heading at maximum available warp."

"Acknowledged."

"Everybody ready?" Tigranian said preparing to fire his last torpedoes.

"HELL NO!" Tavin said climbing to her feet.

"That was really a rhetorical question," he said launching his weapons at Delutas' ship. The burning red spheres impacted with the Cardassian's weakened shields and they finally collapsed.

"Computer, Mark!" Tigranian shouted as he raised his bat'leth. Less than a second later, he and the rest of the Halcyon's crew disappeared in a shimmering blue haze….

* * * *

In space, the Halcyon automatically turned away from Delutas' ship and pointed directly at the second Velkath cruiser. Without warning, the old ship's warp engines engaged.

Even with its powerful shields and thick armor, the Cardassian ship was no match for a 2.3 million metric ton starship moving at several times the speed of light. Both vessels exploded in a brilliant flash of white light. Delutas' ship tumbled with the shockwave, but survived, now with two crews on board fighting for control.

* * * *

Tigranian appeared in a corridor with the rest of the bridge crew. Intruder alarms echoed across the metal bulkheads as the ship's internal sensors registered their presence. Now, the Cardassians found themselves outnumbered nearly two to one on their own ship.

The acting captain tapped his comm badge.

"Olsen, where the hell are you?"

"I'm with the rest of the engineering crew in what looks like a cargo bay." Tigranian heard the sound of phaser fire in the background. "The ten spoon-heads working in here weren't too happy to see us appear."

"See if you can't break out and gain control of main engineering."

"No problem," Olsen shouted with his usual mix of anger and sarcasm. "I can ask these guys for directions!"

Without warning, three Cardassians appeared from around a darkened corner. Tigranian lunged at the nearest one and nearly sliced him in two with his bat'leth. Tavin and Relia dispatched the others with blasts from their phasers.

As the rush of the adrenaline started to come under control, Tavin nodded towards Tigranian's bat'leth.

"I'm starting to understand what you see in that thing."

"We have to get to the bridge! Tigranian shouted. "Follow me!" he said charging forward.

Navigating in the strange and unfamiliar Cardassian ship was hard enough, but the loud and vicious sounds of battle echoing across the corridors made it harder. Determined groups of Halcyon survivors were attempting to pry control of the Velkath away from its original owners. Power fluctuations continually caused the lights to flicker and acrid brown smoke choked their lungs.

However, this was when Tigranian felt most alive. The blood pounded through his veins with a vigor he had not felt since his days on the Sk'oh. His confidence gave his frightened companions a new strength.

Tigranian's blades dispatched several more Cardassians along the way, and after a few minutes of searching, the trio found themselves outside the metal hatch leading to the main bridge. However, it was magnetically sealed shut.

"Lilia," Tigranian said motioning to Tavin. "See if you can get it open." She immediately started to pry open an access panel while he and Relia took positions to cover her. A Cardassian flew around the corner and raised his phaser. He took aim right at Tavin, but Tigranian slapped his arm away just in time. The science officer winced as a shower of sparks from the beam's impact rained down from above her.

"This is hard enough without people shooting at me!" she shouted as Tigranian dispatched the Cardassian with another blow from his bat'leth.

"Figure it out!" he shouted as he pried the phaser pistol from the Cardassian's dead hand.

Relia took aim at another pair of Cardassians around a corner. She and Tigranian immediately began firing as Tavin pulled several fiber optic cables from behind the panel and began splicing them together. Phaser blasts cascaded across the hall, illuminating them all in a hellish glow of sparks. Ozone created by the energy bolts stung their nostrils.

"Lilia!" Revin shouted as one of the Cardassians she was firing at finally fell to the ground. "Now would be a good time!"

"Got it!" Tavin shouted just as Tigranian hit the second Cardassian right in the chest. The doors parted and they all rushed onto the bridge. They ducked just in time as another hail of phaser blasts from the Cardassians still manning their stations impacted the bulkheads behind them.

Tavin and Relia took cover behind two empty consoles and started to return fire. Tigranian, however, bobbed and weaved through the energy beams with the skill of a seasoned warrior. A Cardassian shouted in surprise as the flash of a bat'leth ended his existence. Tigranian rolled forward and took aim with his captured phaser. A well-aimed shot took out another Cardassian standing across the bridge.

Tavin and Relia's fire finally found their marks and killed the remaining two. Tigranian spun around and pointed his phaser at a trembling form huddled behind the captain's chair. He stepped forward, not taking his muzzle off the target.

Delutas had a phaser in his hand, but he didn't point it Tigranian. He merely stared back at him with paralyzing fear. Tigranian couldn't help but savor the irony that just a few short minutes ago, this Gul was threatening to destroy him and his entire ship. Now, he was cowering on his own bridge as Tigranian loomed in front of him.

"You killed my first officer…" Tigranian said stepping towards him.

"It's not possible…" Delutas whimpered.

"You forced me to destroy my ship…" Tigranian said taking another step.

"We should have obliterated you!"

"And you killed my captain…"

"My entire family will pay for my failure…"

"You should have thought of that before you attacked us," Tigranian growled readying his bat'leth.

"THE FEDERATION WILL FALL!" Delutas pointed his phaser at his own chest and fired. He burst apart into a cloud of charged ions.

Tigranian finally exhaled.

"Not as long as I have I say…" he said before turning around to his compatriots.

"Xenia, take the helm. See if you can figure it out."

"Yes, Sir."

"Lilia, see if you can get us full access to their computer."

"I'll do what I can."

Tigranian tapped his comm badge again.

"Olsen, you still alive?"

"Thanks for your vote of confidence," Olsen replied. "We're in control of main engineering. If I read this Cardassian chicken-scratch right, we've got full warp power."

"Good, we're about to get the hell out of here." Tigranian found the shipwide intercom and keyed it.

"This is the Starfleet Commander to all remaining Cardassian forces. We are now in control of this ship. If you surrender now, I give you my word of honor you will be treated fairly as prisoners of war in accordance with treaty regulation and interstellar law."
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
"What happened next?" Laria asked in shock.

"We captured sixty-three surviving Cardassians and set a course for the nearest starbase."

"Incredible," Phil said still in shock. "I had no idea it happened like that."

"The others battles of the war quickly overshadowed that little victory. It was a hard next couple of months, as you all know too well."

"And they didn't say anything about you destroying the Halcyon?" Scharr asked. Tigranian stifled a laugh.

"There was brief talk of a court-martial, but eventually Starfleet decided that it was worth it to prevent the ship and her crew from falling into enemy hands. The capture of an experimental Cardassian design also helped."

"Still, you were quite fortunate," T'les said in the only sober voice left at the table. No amount of Earth wine could phase her Vulcan metabolism. "Starfleet generally does not condone tactics as aggressive as yours."

"I was," Tigranian admitted. "Several people voiced their discontent at me be awarded the Pike Medal, but Starfleet needed hope in those days. However, I also think that's why they decided to detach me to the Marine Corps. The brass thought I'd be easier to manage if I was on one planet at a time." That comment elicited a chuckle from around the table.

"One hell of a story, Sir," Katie said with a smirk. "One day, maybe you'll tell us about how you learned how to speak Orion so well."

In his wine-induced haze, Tigranian was stupid enough to answer honestly.

"Oh that one's easy. The Sk'oh would capture an Orion pirate skimmer once every couple of weeks. They were always trying to run contraband through the Klingon frontier. The lodubyaln were often very grateful for being liberated from their masters. You pick up phrases pretty quick where those women are concerned…"

"WHAT?" Laria screamed with more than hint of anger in her voice. Tigranian immediately realized his mistake.

"Wow, would you look at the time?" Tigranian said looking at the chronometer on the wall. "Didn't realize it had gotten so late. Alright, everybody thanks for coming, but we're all on duty in a few hours. Why don't we all get back to our quarters and get some sleep? See you all tomorrow bright and early!"

He hurried everyone out into the corridor. Just before the doors to the captain's quarters closed, the rest of the officers heard Laria start to shout in Tigranian's face.

"Orion Slave Girls!? You never told me anything about those green sex machines!"

"L, I can explain…"

Annabeth and Alex looked at each other and started laughing. Katie looked at Phil and glared.

"Don't get any ideas there, Stud." Phil just shook his head.

T'les raised an eyebrow and looked to the rest of the group.

"So, is it my understanding that Laria is upset because the captain had possible sexual liasons with other women years before she met him?"

"Oh, she's not only upset…" Annabeth said still chuckling.

"She's very upset." Alex said finishing her wife's statement.

"Curious, does this mean that the captain is in trouble?"

"Definitely," all three women said simultaneously.

Phil and Scharr kept silent.







In Orbit of Cardassia Prime

Stardate: 53304.1

Annabeth exhaled deeply and stepped forward. The Pershing's mess hall was packed to capacity to watch this moment. She snapped to attention as Admiral Murphy stepped forward with Tigranian right behind him. The captain held up a small wooden box containing a bright bronze medal. An identical award dangled from the right breast of Tigranian's white mess jacket.

Murphy cleared his throat and began to address the crowd.

"Only the President of the United Federation of Planets can authorize this award. That should give you some hint of just how incredible it really is. The Christopher Pike Medal of Valor is reserved for those Starfleet personnel who have exhibited only the most remarkable leadership, meritorious conduct, and personal courage.

Those attributes and more are exemplified in this woman standing before you today. Commander Annabeth Geist, I am honored to present you this medal on behalf of the President."

Murphy pinned the award to Annabeth's jacket and then shook her hand.

"Congratulations, well earned!"

"Thank you, Sir," Annabeth said with a huge smile as shook back.

"Round of applause!" Murphy shouted as the room erupted. Tigranian walked up next and shook Annabeth's hand as well.

"I'm so lucky to have a first officer like you. Congratulations, Annabeth."

"Thank you, Sir," Annabeth smiled before leaning close to his ear and whispering. "And don't you forget it." Both of them laughed.

As the clapping died down, Murphy stepped forward again.

"Commander, the floor is yours."

Annabeth caught her breath again and started to speak.

"I just want to say, that this isn't about me. This is about this ship and its crew. You all are the ones who always pull through when the going gets tough. I was just the one in the captain's chair at the time.

I would like to thank you, Admiral Murphy, for giving me the opportunity to serve as the Pershing's first officer. Captain Tigranian, thank you for your leadership and your mentorship. And to the rest of the crew, a million thanks for making this ship run as well as it does.

Finally, and most importantly, I have to thank my wife," Annabeth said motioning to the doctor standing at the front of crowd. She felt herself tearing up, but held it back. "Without her, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be anything. Alex, you are my rock, my strength…" At that moment, Annabeth couldn't control herself anymore and tears started streaming down her face. "You are my everything and I love you." Both women were now crying. They ran forward and kissed. Everyone started clapping again.

As everyone else moved to congratulate Annabeth, Tigranian stood off in the background until he felt someone step close to him.

"You still mad?" he said quietly to Laria.

"Yup, but that beautiful romantic sentiment from Annabeth might have shaken me a little bit."

"Does that mean you've forgiven me for my more youthful transgressions?" Laria smiled and looked down.

"Of course, I've forgiven you," Laria said placing her arm behind his back. "But I'm going to hold it over your head for a very long time." They both smiled and leaned forward for a kiss. Then, Laria's face grew serious again. "But you did use protection, right?"

* * * *

The reception was an amazing success as throngs of people continued to surround Annabeth and Alex. Tigranian looked on with a grin as Laria and Katie posed for a photo with them. Phil kept pointing at Annabeth's new medal with great admiration while Scharr seemed to be telling the helmsman something about how he would never get one.

The captain looked over to the large windows where Murphy was standing. The Admiral motioned for him to come closer.

"It's always good to see you in person, Dan," Murphy said with a nod.

"Well, except for that one night on Romulus."

The admiral laughed.

"At least some good came out of it," Murphy replied.

"For now, at least," Tigranian mumbled.

"I'm guessing you haven't told them why I've been called to Cardassia Prime?"

"You asked me not to."

"You know as well as I do, Dan, no matter how many complaints the Cardassians lodge with the Occupation Authority, the Klingons and the Romulans will never allow them to re-arm. Those two together have the majority vote. Plus, the Federation council is still not exactly willing to hear grievances from Garak."

"As much as I hate agreeing with that man, he has a point, Pete. The Romulans still aren't doing anything to stem the crime going on in Cardassian Space. It might take a new and powerful Cardassia to finally bring peace to this part of space."

"You think the Klingons want to see new waves of Cardassian ships and soldiers? Hell, they can barely secure their own space right now."

Tigranian sighed as his love of the Empire gave way to pragmatic reality.

"They would allow it if they could, Pete. You know as well as I do the Empire is stretched to its limits. It has to expand to survive. Cardassia is becoming a political nightmare. With the social situation on Qo'nos is tense as it is, the Empire can't afford to make it seem like the Cardassians came out on top."

"Thanks for honesty in that report, by the way. Starfleet Intelligence was pretty grateful."

"I was honest so Starfleet understands that it's not the right time to put any more pressure on Martok and the High Council."

"The Federation Council is turning a blind eye to his new conquests in the Kavrot Expanse, are they not?"

"That's something at least, but if we could get Devek. If we could shut down his smuggling network, it would go a long way to helping stabilize things."

"We'll get him, Dan. Just be patient."

"Patience may not be a virtue here…" Murphy scoffed and changed the subject.

"Speaking of patience," Murphy said looking back towards Annabeth. "Starfleet Command may not have much more with Geist. They were pretty shocked when she turned down command of the Victory."

"She had her reasons."

"I know she did, Dan, but we need great starship captains. This award is just more proof she needs to be one of them."

"As you said, Pete, just be patient." Tigranian smiled as he saw Annabeth and Alex embrace each other again. "When she finds the right big chair, she'll take it."

Murphy grinned.

"Kinda reminds me of a young lieutenant commander I met about four years ago..."

"No, she's better than that guy," Tigranian replied. "She managed not to blow up her first command."

The old friends shared a much needed laugh.
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