Star Trek: New Horizons Season 2, Episode 6 (Path of Clarity) by captaintigranian
Summary: In the last days before Tigranian and Laria's wedding, Alex takes Laria to meet an old friend on Risa while the captain and his groomsmen embark on the ancient Klingon journey to kal'Hyah.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10164 Read: 9435 Published: 08 Aug 2016 Updated: 08 Aug 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

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Sector 25712: 10 Light Years from the Ceti Alpha System

Stardate: 53313.4

The computer's voice echoed through Alex and Annabeth's quarters.

"The time is now 0530 hours."

Alex rolled over and planted a kiss on Annabeth's cheek, causing her to stir awake.

"Good morning, Beth," she said staring into her wife's eyes. "I love you."

Annabeth smiled as she reached over to wipe away a strand of hair from Alex's face.

"The feeling's kinda mutual, Babe." Annabeth sighed as she remembered the date. "Today's the day. I can't believe I won't see you for almost a week."

"Hey," Alex said climbing out of bed and wrapping herself in a robe. "We both agreed to this. I'm the head dais bearer, and I have to arrange the bachelorette party. There was no way I was gonna let L suffer through some boring simulation on the holodeck."

"Alex," Annabeth said playfully reaching out a hand. "Come back to bed. We've got to make up some ground before you leave, then." Alex shot her back a look.

"We're on duty in an hour, Beth."

Annabeth looked over at the chronometer on her nightstand and cursed under her breath.

"You're right…you want to shower first?"

"Sure," Alex said disappearing towards the bathroom.

"You know," Annabeth said calling after her wife. "It would make this separation easier if I actually knew where you going with Laria and the girls."

"Oh no. You're the best man. If I tell you, you'll let it slip to the captain, who will let it slip to Laria, and the whole surprise will be ruined."

"I told you, it's not really the same as what you consider 'a best man'," Annabeth replied dragging herself from the under the covers. "Apparently, this Tawi'Yan doesn't do much. I don't even have anything to do with the bachelor party."

"What exactly is it you do then?" Alex called from inside the bathroom.

"They're still trying to figure that out in this crazy cultural mish-mash of a ceremony. I think I'm just going to stand there holding two bat'leths and grinning like an idiot. In fact, I was surprised Dan asked me considering both Admiral Murphy and General Torlek will be there."

Alex stuck her head out of the bathroom door and grinned.

"That just shows how much you mean to him."

"I suppose so."

Alex ducked back inside the bathroom. Annabeth heard the sound of the sonic shower warming up.

"So, what do Klingons do for their bachelor party?"

"Eh, Daniel said it was called something like Kaliah or Kahlua…" Annabeth said sarcastically as she shook her head.

"Figures they would name it after alcohol!" Alex called out. Both of them laughed.

"Anyways," Annabeth continued, "It's some gibberish like that. He also said it was going to be brutal, but honestly, I'm not worried. Whatever it is, it involves spending four straight nights on the holodeck. Probably means booze, boobs, and hours of debauchery."

Alex stuck her head out the door again.

"Four nights?" she asked very concerned. "I know Klingons are total heathens, but how much partying do they do?"

"Not as much as I did during the Academy…" Annabeth said grinning back at her. Alex scowled in reply.

"Hey," she said walking back to Annabeth. "Just remember, you're a married woman!"

Annabeth reached up, unfastened Alex's robe, and pulled her towards her.

"How could I forget?" she said with a smile.

They kissed.

****

The starship Gibraltar pulled alongside the Pershing. Tigranian and the rest of the senior staff stood in the transporter room ready to receive their first guest. The captain was so happy, it was contagious. As the other ship signaled they were ready for the transfer, Laria clandestinely grabbed his hand and squeezed. He squeezed back just as the transporter beam energized.

Annabeth called the group to attention as a crewman in the corner blew an electronic boatswain's whistle. In a sparkle of blue light, Admiral Murphy appeared in front of them.

"Dan!" he said stepping of the transporter pad.

"Welcome Aboard, Admiral," Tigranian replied reaching out his hand. "Number One," he said turning to Annabeth. "Alter ship's Starfleet transponder signal to include the Admiral's pennant frequency and note in ship's log: Pershing assumes flagship status of Occupation Fleet as of 1042 hours."

"Aye Aye, Sir," Annabeth said moving to a control panel on the bulkhead of the transporter room.

"Always with the formalities first, Dan," Murphy said shaking his head.

"I wouldn't be a very good captain if I forgot who I worked for, Sir." Tigranian replied.

Admiral Murphy literally burst out laughing.

"I'm gonna remind of that next time you tear off on some wild ass crusade. It's good to see you, everyone," Murphy said turning to the rest of the senior staff.

"It's good to see you too, Sir," Annabeth answered for the rest of the staff.

"Well," Murphy said turning back to Tigranian. "The only way I could convince Admiral Paris and the rest of the Command Staff to let me come out here before my leave started was to claim I was conducting an 'inspection.' What do you say we get the business out of the way first before moving on to the fun?"

"Right this way, Sir," Tigranian said leading him towards the doors. "Annabeth, take charge and dismiss the crew. I'll be taking the Admiral on his tour."

"Yes Sir," Annabeth replied with a grin. The captain and Murphy disappeared into the corridor. "Alright, you heard the Admiral business before pleasure, everyone. Dismissed."

An hour later, Tigranian and Murphy walked through the turbolift doors onto the bridge.

"Admiral on the bridge!" Annabeth shouted as she climbed out of the captain's chair. Katie, Laria, and Phil stood at attention at their consoles.

"Carry on, carry on," Murphy said moving forward with Tigranian in tow. Everyone returned to their business. "Captain, you've done amazing job with this ship. I'm still getting thank you messages from the Bajoran Ambassador."

"I didn't do anything, Sir," Tigranian said moving next to his first officer. "It was this crew."

"Well, I suspected that. I was skeptical that you were really that talented," Murphy chuckled as he put a hand on Tigranian's shoulder. Annabeth laughed as well.

"You've had a lot to do with this ship's success as well, Commander," Murphy said turning to Annabeth. "When do you think I'll finally be able to pry you outta Dan's chair into a captain's seat of your own?"

Annabeth suddenly looked uncomfortable.

"I still have a little more work to do here, Sir."

"Well, soon it might not be your choice, Commander." Murphy said raising an eyebrow. "Admiral Paris constantly reminds me that Starfleet is moving back into the exploration business. New missions are being planned every day. You passed up the Victory a few months back, but now the Venture is gearing up for a three year survey mission. Your name is on a VERY short list…and before you ask, yes, they do need a doctor onboard."

Annabeth's heart skipped a beat.

"Well, Sir, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

"Yes…we will," Tigranian said flashing Murphy an annoyed expression.

As the three of them were talking, Laria froze at the science station. It was the strangest sensation she ever experienced. It was like she was being watched by a familiar set of eyes. Then, she suddenly understood.

"Shields up!" she shouted. "Arm phasers and quantum torpedoes. Helm, standby for evasive." The entire bridge looked at her as if she'd lost her mind, but Tigranian felt it as well.

"No, she's right! Do it now!"

Just as a confused Katie complied, an alarm echoed through the bridge as a ship appeared directly a stern.

"Klingon Bird of Prey decloaking: bearing 180 Mark 4!" Katie yelled. "They're arming disruptors and torpedoes and lining up for an attack run at full impulse!"

"What in God's name!?" Murphy said in shock. Tigranian only laughed as he sat down in his chair."

"He's no match for us and he knows it. Trying to ambush us like a Denebian Slime Devil from the mud…he's better than that."

The bird of prey streaked directly over the Pershing before coming rapidly about and facing the starship bow to bow, separated by only a few hundred meters. The rest of the bridge crew were stunned as they stared into the Klingon vessel's glowing torpedo bay and disruptor cannons pointed directly at the bridge.

"The bird of prey is hailing, Sir," Katie said from behind Tigranian. "They're demanding our surrender."

"Put that piece of baktag onscreen, Katie." Tigranian replied.

The image of General Torlek appeared in front of them.

"You little, Qa'Hom," Torlek said laughing. "There's no way your warrior's senses were sharp enough to feel me from that distance. You must have cheated with that abomination of a sensor array."

"Think what you will, Brother," Tigranian said glancing back towards Laria. "But I think the warriors' sense on this is ship is sharper than you realize."

Torlek laughed under his breath.

"Very well, Brother. I come now with open arms, ready to walk the path of clarity with you."

Tigranian rose to his feet.

"I am honored, Torlek, leader of my house. However, I must ask Admiral Murphy's permission to bring you aboard. Currently, we fly his flag."

Torlek turned to look at Admiral Murphy.

"I would be honored to receive you on my flagship, General Torlek, qaH yI'el, Qapla'!"

"Your Klingon needs practice, Admiral," Torlek said with a grin. "But we will have plenty of time for that on our journey."

"I look forward to it, General."

"I'll arrange to have you beamed aboard immediately, Brother," Tigranian said.

"I'll be standing by for your signal. Torlek out."

The screen returned to an image of Torlek's ship. It gave the rest of the bridge a chance to catch their breath.

"Laria, that was incredible," Annabeth said turning to Science.

"You had to have picked something on sensors," Katie said shaking her head.

"I can't explain it," Laria said trying to gather her own thoughts.

Tigranian walked over to her and smiled.

"You felt him, didn't you?" he asked proudly.

"Yes, it's like I just suddenly knew what to do."

"Laria, you just experienced your first tova'dok. It takes most warriors years to achieve that level of awareness."

"What did you do to her, Dan?" Murphy asked.

"Maybe the ridges should be on her forehead instead of her nose…" Phil said from the helm.

The bridge erupted in laughter.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Annabeth looked over as Alex packed the last few pieces of clothing into her suitcase.

"Hmm," she said examining the mysterious valise. "Crop tops, sundresses, swim-suits, and sunglasses…well, I can safely assume you're not going to Andoria."

"You know that much at least," Alex said zipping up her bag and walking around the bed to her wife. "Don't tell Scharr, I'm sure he'll be disappointed."

"You secret is safe with me," Annabeth replied adjusting the grey Klingon stole around her shoulders.

"You really have to wear that thing?" Alex said taking a look at the metal crests on either side of Annabeth's chest.

"Apparently, it's important to getting into the mood of the ceremony. Dan seemed very ardent about it."

"Well, just be sure you don't get too in the mood," Alex replied.

"I could say the same thing to you, Babe," Annabeth said with a chuckle. "Bachelorette parties are not exactly renowned for their virtue."

"I'll keep the other girls outta trouble. You can trust me," Alex said putting her arms around Annabeth's neck.

"Have a safe trip," Annabeth replied with a smile before planting a kiss on Alex's lips.

"You too, Beth. This "path of clarity" sounds like a hell of a time, and any voyage with a Klingon is one you have to take with your eyes open."

"Klingons have a bad habit of underestimating me," Annabeth said. "You don't start doing the same."

"How could I?" Alex said grabbing her suitcase and turning towards the shuttlebay. "Every single day with you is an adventure." Suddenly, Alex paused. "Hey, before I go, can you promise me something?"

"Of course," Annabeth said a little surprised.

"I heard what Admiral said about the Venture opening up. If you want it: take it. If you don't want it: don't take it, but don't use us as an excuse again. This ship and this crew are wonderful, but I go where you go, understand?"

"Alex, I really don't want to think about that right now, alright?" Annabeth said softly. "Now, get on that runabout to wherever it is you're going and party your ass off. I'll see you on Bajor in four days. We'll talk after the wedding."

"Ok," Alex said finally heading to the door. "I love you."

"Love you too."

The doctor disappeared out into the corridor and Annabeth found herself alone. She briefly shut her eyes trying to push her career out of her thoughts.

Annabeth Geist had never been this happy in her entire life. She had almost everything all in one place: the woman she loved, an incredible ship, and crewmates who were like family. There was just one thing missing: her command. The idea that she would walk away from the Pershing just to take a chair made her feel more selfish than she ever had before. That kind of ambition and career focus nearly cost Annabeth the woman she loved five years ago. It was only through sheer luck she had gotten Alex back. Still, the desire for that damned chair remained.

"No," Annabeth though to herself. That was for later. Now, she was going to embark on a "spiritual journey" as Daniel had put it. She opened her eyes and looked in the floor length mirror on the far side of her room. She adjusted her Klingon garb one final time.

"Qapla'," she said nodding to her reflection.

****

Annabeth rounded the corner. Scharr, Phil, and Admiral Murphy were already waiting outside the doors to Holodeck One. They all wore a Klingon stole identical to hers.

"There you are," Murphy said. "Ok, do you have any idea what the hell we're about to do?"

"I have no clue, Sir," Annabeth said shaking her head.

"Well," Phil said shaking his head. "Katie left to the runabout about fifteen minutes ago. She says if she finds any Klingon-scented stripper glitter in my things when she gets back, she's gonna rip my manhood from between my legs."

"Do Klingons even have exotic dancers?" Scharr said as his antennae twitched. "Cause I'm pretty sure they don't have glitter."

"Is this really an appropriate conversation to be having…" Murphy said awkwardly giving Annabeth the slightest of glances.

"Oh please, Sir," she said crossing her arms in front of her chest. "I was single-girl for a long time before I met my wife. I was getting lap dances at the Purple Parakeet along with every guy in my Academy class."

"The Purple Parakeet is still in there?" Admiral Murphy said in shock. "I thought it had to have closed down years ago. I mean, it was dump when I went through the Academy 25 years ago."

"It still is, Sir. But at least it's a classy dump." Phil said.

"Sir, the Parakeet is an institution. They could never close it down," Scharr said. "I mean, they still have James T. Kirk's booth preserved as a memorial."

"Yeah, I might have had my picture taken in it as a Firstie…" Murphy said slightly blushing. "Don't tell my wife."

They all heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching and turned to see a very serious looking Torlek marching towards them. He had a large grey bottle in his hand.

"Good, you're all here," he said. "Daniel is already inside preparing himself for what lies ahead. Soon, we will join him."

"Ok," Annabeth finally said not able to take the mystery anymore. "What exactly is he 'preparing' himself for?"

"If you choose to go on the journey, all your questions will soon be answered, Annabeth," Torlek replied. "However, I must warn you, that the path to kal'Hyah is a difficult one. It will test us physically, mentally, and spiritually."

Phil and Scharr exchanged glances.

"I'm sorry, kal'Hyah?" Murphy asked.

"In the days before a Klingon man's wedding, he selects his closest male friends to accompany him on the Path of Clarity or kal'Hyah. It is the groom's final chance to purge the urges of youth from his soul.If he successfully completes his journey, he will be ready to become a husband and father. It will be our task to keep Daniel on the path. As difficult as our journeys will be, his will be the hardest of all."

"Sounds like fun…" Scharr said intrigued. Torlek laughed out loud.

"It can be a very pleasurable time, Andorian," Torlek replied. "But, I assure you, the Klingon concept of 'fun' is probably quite different than yours." He turned to Annabeth. "Annabeth, you are cha'Dich to the House of Torlek, and Daniel's Tawi'Yan. It is for this reason he asked for you to join us, but for any female to undertake the journey to kal'Hyah is unheard of, even for a Klingon woman. If you wish, you may leave now with no dishonor to you or your house."

Annabeth glared back at him.

"I wouldn't be much of a cha'Dich if I bailed when Daniel needed me most."

"As you wish, Daughter of Geist. May Glory and Honor accompany you."

Torlek drew his dk'tahg and sliced the cork from the bottle he was carrying. "If you wish to accompany my Brother and me to kal'Hyah," he said looking at each individual present, "Drink now, but once you do, there is no turning back. D'lak DOH!"

He held out the bottle of blood wine to Annabeth. She grabbed it and took a long swig of the powerful spirit. She then handed it to Phil, who drank as well. Scharr grabbed it next.

"Pssh," he said after drinking from the bottle. "On Andoria, we call that baby formula."

Torlek growled, but his eyes smiled at Scharr's confidence.

Murphy was the last to drink. He didn't exactly understand the importance of Klingon mysticism and tradition, but he loved Daniel Tigranian like a brother as much as Torlek. He drank, holding his breath so he wouldn't gag.

"Very well," Torlek said grabbing the bottle back from Murphy. "Let our journey begin!"

The General walked through the doors of the holodeck and the rest followed. As soon as they crossed the threshold, the air was nearly ripped from their lungs by an intense, humid heat.

The four non-Klingons looked around. They were in a cave, illuminated only by torches and a giant bonfire that burned nearly two meters tall in the center. Tigranian sat cross-legged in front of the flames, lost in meditation. They could see the sweat glistening on the back of his neck as he balanced his sword in his lap.

"It must be forty degrees celsius in here!" Phil said already wiping his brow.

"Tren, are you gonna be alright?" Annabeth asked very concerned for the Andorian's health. His species could withstand icy winds and bone chilling cold, but heat like this could kill an Andorian faster than a phaser blast.

"Don't worry about me, Ma'am," he replied as his antennae moved up and down with his labored breathing. "I'll live."

They looked around the rocky cavern.

"Guess, they don't have strippers after all," Phil muttered as the doors closed to seal them inside.

"Guess not," Annabeth muttered in reply. She couldn't take her eyes off the motionless form of Tigranian as the firelight danced around him. He seemed like a different person: dark, angry, and intense. To be honest, it frightened her.

A table overloaded with food from all over the galaxy was next to the wall. It's aroma was intoxicating. Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding, Roasted Andorian Ice Eel, Porterhouse Steak, Schnitzel with Mushroom Gravy, krada legs, Rokeg Blood Pie, Bajoran Mapa Bread with clarified butter. Immediately, they all realized that their favorite dish was staring them right in the face.

"At least the chow looks pretty good," Phil said walking over.

"No!" Tigranian yelled as he drove the hilt of his bat'leth into the ground next to him with a loud clang. "Do not touch it," he said climbing to his feet and turning around.

"That food is there as temptation," Torlek said. "To touch it is a sign of surrender and abandoning kal'Hyah. We will not eat again until the morning of the wedding."

"The wedding?" Phil said as his eyes grew wide. "That is four days away!"

"I told you it would be difficult," Torlek said. "It is the first trial we must face: Deprivation." He started walking towards Tigranian.

"The first trial? Phil said trying to conceal his nervousness.

"Just how many trials are there?" Scharr asked.

"Six," Torlek replied over his shoulder. "Deprivation, Blood, Pain, Sacrifice, Anguish, and Death." The proud Klingon took a knee in front of Daniel, his thick black mane already dripping with sweat. He held up the open bottle of blood wine and presented it to the captain. He began to speak in Klingon. The others listened as their universal translators kicked in: "We beseech you, Daniel, Son of Tigranian, as you begin your journey towards a new life with the woman of your heart, the woman who is the air to your lungs and food to your soul, let us journey with you. Let us battle together as one against the temptations of the flesh and reach a new plane of enlightenment where there is only love for the Lady Laria."

"I had no idea Klingons were such romantics," Murphy whispered to Annabeth who was overcome with the beauty and intensity of what she was witnessing in front of her. Suddenly, it made sense. All this crazy Klingon ritual and mysticism actually made sense. Daniel was about to go through absolute hell, not for vain pride, not for glory, but to prove that Laria was the most important thing in his life.

Tigranian reached down and took the bottle from Torlek's hand. He replied to his brother still in tlhIngan Hol.

"If you all would journey with me, it would be my greatest honor. I now dedicate this last drink before I depart to kal'Hyah to my Lady, Laria, Daughter of Amira, just as I will dedicate all things to her for the remainder of my life. May the Hand of Kahless, the Unforgettable, guide us on the path!"

The captain put the bottle to his lips and drank until it was empty. He then turned around and threw the empty bottle into the bonfire with all his strength. It shattered in the flames, sending them roaring towards the ceiling of the cavern.

Torlek climbed to his feet. He faced the fire with Tigranian who drew his bat'leth close to his side. As the General placed an arm around his brother's shoulders, the pair began to sing:

Ka'vek ko lee ko Eh to che mah lo!

Tah oo-wah kah esh to pah deh ah reee!

Yah bosh-ah! Yah bosh-ah!

Yah bosh tomah!

Scharr, Phil, and Murphy all exchanged glances. This was definitely not what they had signed up for, but helping Tigranian was as worthy a cause as any. They looked over to Annabeth, who was still in her daze. She walked over to the edge of the fire to stand next to Tigranian.

As the two warriors returned to the chorus of their anthem, she joined in. She stumbled over the pronunciation of the words, but passion was in her voice. As she stared into the flames, she saw Alex's eyes staring back at her. The trio sang so loudly, their words echoed off the stone walls.

Ka'vek ko lee ko Eh to che mah lo!

Tah oo-wah kah esh to pah deh ah reee!

Yah bosh-ah! Yah bosh-ah!

Yah bosh tomah!
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Twin Suns Resort: Suraya Bay, Risa

Stardate: 53313.5

As Laria finished rubbing sunscreen over her arms and chest, she sighed with contentment. Alex's surprise destination was certainly worth the trip. She just hoped that whatever Daniel was doing, he was enjoying himself half as much as she was. The temperature was perfect, the air smelled of sea-air and flowers, and the blue water of the resort's massive pool teased her from just a few meters away.

Katie was on her left, lying face down on her lounge chair with her swimsuit top unfastened. T'les was on the other side of Katie, flipping through a magazine.

"Hey, T'les," Laria said holding up her tube of sunscreen. "Are you sure you don't want some of this?"

T'les cocked her head towards her and replied:

"Laria, I am Vulcan. My skin provides over fifty times the ultraviolet protection of a human's. In the case of a Bajoran, over seventy times."

"Dear Lord…" Katie said as companions' dry conversation brought her back from the edge of slumber. "Leave it to these two to turn a vacation into a biology lesson..."

Alex walked over from the bar carrying a tray with a brightly colored sarong wrapped around her hips.

"Let's see," she said. "For T'les, an Andromedan Fireball…" she handed the Vulcan a highball glass filled with orange fizz.

"Thank you, Alex."

"For Katie, a Cerveza Mexicana with lime,"

"Gracias, Doc."

"And for the Queen of this weekend," she said turning Laria, "This beautiful number." She handed Laria a margarita glass filled with golden and red swirls.

"Ooo, what is it?" Laria asked accepting the beverage.

"Believe it or not," Alex said sitting down to Laria's right with her own daiquiri, "It's called a Bajoran Sunrise."

"What makes it Bajoran?" she asked with her usual curiosity.

"I have no idea, but it sounded yummy," Alex said removing the sarong to bare her legs to the warm sunshine. "Ok, Laria, the next three days are completely yours. We can stick to the plan, or we can do whatever you want."

"Well," she replied taking a sip of her Sunrise, "since I really don't know what you had planned, why don't we try that?"

"Alright," Alex said with excitement. "Today, is just lounge by the pool until we work off the warp-lag, but tonight, we're gonna hit someplace special for drinks and dancing."

Laria looked intrigued.

"Just be careful, L," Katie said taking a sip of her beer. "Last time you went for drinks and dancing on this planet, you ended up with a fiancÚ."

"Katie, be nice," Alex said sipping her drink through a straw.

"For me, this is being nice, Doc."

"Well," Alex said turning back to Laria. "If I might say so, L. You are rocking that bikini right now. You might actually end up with another fiancÚ before today is over."

Laria laughed.

"Well, I suppose you only do live once…" Laria muttered.

The other three women looked at her. T'les pulled down the sunglasses from her pointed ears and stared at Laria.

"Is that statement an attempt at making light of the fact that according to medical science, you died two weeks ago aboard Deep Space Nine?"

"I thought it was funny…" Laria muttered before returning to the conversation. "I don't think I'm interested in another wedding, Alex, but thank you. However, if my dad ever saw me wearing this, he would have an aneurysm."

"Don't worry, he'll never find out," Alex replied. "What happens on Risa…"

"Stays on Risa…" Katie and T'les said in unison.

"Speaking of new relationships," Alex continued looking over to T'les. "You never told us what ended up happening between you and Julian Bashir."

Laria and Katie both turned to look at their Vulcan companion.

"That is because I did not feel it was relevant," T'les said still looking through her magazine.

"I think it's kinda relevant now," Laria said getting very excited.

"C'mon, spill it, Sister," Katie said. "What happened between you and the pretty boy Doctor?"

"Since I am incapable of lying, I will answer honestly," T'les said calmly. "We exchanged contact information and agreed to maintain amicable communication. However, there is currently no change to either of our relationship statuses."

"Really?" Alex said slightly disappointed. "It's just you disappeared with him right after dinner and we didn't see you until the next day…"

"That is because we returned to his quarters on the station where we engaged in sexual intercourse," T'les said calmly flipping another page in magazine.

"WHAT!?" her three companions said in unison.

"I fail to see why you are all surprised. Despite my logical upbringing, I am woman with biological imperatives just like you. I mean, the three of you all engage in regular coitus, do you not?"

"Well, yes…" Alex said slightly self-consciously. Laria blushed and Katie drank more beer.

"Then, to steal a term from Katie's vernacular, why are you all 'hating' on me?"

"We're not 'hating' on you, T'les. It's just unexpected…"

"That shows that you still have much to understand about Vulcans. Logic and pleasure are not mutually exclusive."

Katie fastened the back of her bikini and leaned up to look at T'les.

"Well, I for one, think that's awesome, T. Live long and get a little," Katie held up her hand in the Vulcan salute.

"The same to you, Katie," T'les said returning the gesture. "However, I believe that the centerpiece of this celebration is Laria and she should be the center of conversation. What was it like to die, Laria? My scientific curiosity would like to know."

Laria blushed again and took another sip of her drink.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Badlands: Bajoran/Cardassian Frontier

"Are you alright, Ma'am?" Gleeto spoke from Tactical. "You look pretty rough."

Annabeth caught herself on the armrest of the captain's chair just as she was about to fall asleep.

"I'm fine, Ensign. Thanks for asking," she said pulling a loose strand of frazzled hair behind her ear. "It was just a bit of a long night."

She looked up at the chronometer on the wall and saw it was about to hit 1830 hours. The doors to the turbolifts opened and new crewmen stepped out onto the bridge. The first officer climbed to her feet.

"Alright, day shift, you stand relieved. Conduct changeover briefs with your counterpart and then call it." She reached down to the floor and grabbed a curved, wooden stave with a padded leather ball on one end. Tigranian had given one to each of them last night calling it a Ma'Staka. While traveling to kal'Hyah, they would have to carry it with them at all times in order to attack the captain and Laria after the wedding ceremony. It had something to do with Kahless and his wife, but in her dazed state, she couldn't remember the details of the story.

The doors to the captain's ready room opened and Torlek, Murphy, and Tigranian walked out.

"Admiral on the bridge!" Annabeth shouted steadying herself against the captain's chair.

"Carry on," Murphy said rubbing his head.

"The time approaches for us to meet once more," Torlek said. I will see you all on the holodeck in an hour. "Come Daniel, we have some details to discuss in your quarters."

"Sir, if you don't have anything else," the captain asked Murphy.

"No, no," Murphy said shaking his head. "I'll see you soon."

The two Klingon warriors departed in the turbolift. Murphy walked over to Annabeth and spoke quietly so the other crew members would not hear.

"How are you doing?"

"I feel like I got ripped apart in a black hole, Sir."

"You're not kidding," he replied. "My head is pounding like a Nausicaan is playing drums on it. We have to do this for three more nights?"

"Look at it this way, Sir," Annabeth said forcing a smile. "If we die, at least we'll wake up in Sto'Vo'Kor."

"God…" Murphy said walking towards the turbolift with Annabeth right behind him.

When they were gone, Ensign Ferrarro, the night science officer, turned to Gleeto.

"What happened to them?" he asked curiously.

"It's a Klingon bachelor party for the captain," Gleeto said shaking his head. "Use your imagination."

****

Back in the cavern, Annabeth, Murphy, Phil, Scharr, and Torlek stood in a line facing Tigranian.

"You all have honored your oath so far," Tigranian said. "Your sacrifices honor me."

"Anything for you, Sir," Scharr said barely masking the sarcasm in his voice. "I might take another wife just so I can take you ice fishing on Andoria's northern cap."

Phil and Murphy burst out laughing but Annabeth kept her bearing.

"I will look forward to that my friend," Tigranian said. "But for now, we begin the second trial: The Trial of Blood."

"Let rivers flow from our veins!" Torlek shouted. The Klingon approached Tigranian and ripped the sleeve from his shirt.

"This is crazy," Phil said shaking his head in disbelief.

Torlek drew his dk'tahg and clicked open the blades.

"Are you ready, my Brother?"

"Yes," Tigranian said nodding his head.

"What's he gonna do?" Murphy asked nervously.

Torlek grabbed Tigranian's arm and inserted the tip of his blade into the inside of the captain's elbow. With a quick downward slash, he opened the vein and bright red blood gushed out onto the ground.

"Oh God," Phil said grabbing her mouth to prevent from vomiting.

"Let this blood, your very lifeforce, flow as a sign of dedication to your Lady, Daniel, Son of Tigranian," Torlek said.

Then the captain ripped open the General's sleeve, drew his own dk'tahg, and repeated the process on Torlek. The other four gasped at the horror show that was quickly developing in front of them.

"Who is next?" Torlek said holding up his dripping forearm.

"I am," Annabeth said, the words leaving her mouth before she realized she had spoken them.

"As you wish, step forward, Annabeth, Daughter of Geist," Torlek growled with approval.

She took a deep breath as she stepped towards them, stopping just as she felt the heat from the burning bonfire. Tigranian shoved his blade into the flames until the fire caused the residual blood to burn away. He reached up and grabbed Annabeth's sleeve. She quickly grabbed his hand.

"Let this be a sign of dedication to my Lady," Annabeth said.

"To Alex, Daughter of Hunter," Tigranian said tearing away the fabric from Annabeth's arm. He immediately inserted the red hot dk'tagh into Annabeth's flesh. It sizzled as it cut. Annabeth winced for a brief moment as the searing pain cut into her consciousness, but soon the sensation was replaced with a mild, light-headed exhilaration.

As she watched the red liquid pour from her wound, she thought of her wife, lightyears away from her embrace. She hoped that somehow, Alex could feel how much she loved her.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
The Golden Orchid, Twin Suns Resort: Risa

"Alex…" Katie asked nervously. "What is this place?"

"The best damn dance club on this planet!" she said sauntering up towards the velvet ropes. "The Golden Orchid" was tucked away at the back of the Twin Suns near the beachfront. Its front marble fašade was modelled on the Temple of Artemis with large sweeping columns that housed at least a hundred women from a dozen species waiting to gain entrance. The back of the club's dance floor opened directly onto the sands of Suraya Bay; the bright moonlight blending perfectly with the lights and sounds of pulsing electronic music emanating from inside.

The girls were dressed for dancing and Laria in particular was excited at the opportunity to redeem herself after her last drunken debacle on Risa. Alex was nearly giddy, and T'les was her usual curious self, but Katie was skeptical to say the least.

"That's not quite what I meant, Alex…" Katie said.

"C'mon, Katie!" Alex said not backing down. She grabbed Stone's hand and dragged to her towards the front doors.

"Don't we have to wait in line?" Laria said looking past the velvet ropes.

"Not here, Babe," Alex replied. "In this place we're VIPs!"

A pair of three-meter tall Risian Horga'hns flanked the entranceway along with an Angellian bouncer who was easily stood two meters tall herself. Her gruff expression immediately melted away when she saw Alex.

"LETAHN!" Alex shouted running into her arms.

"Alexandra!" the Angellian said wrapping her arms around Alex and lifting her clear off the ground. "Welcome back."

"It's good to be back. I'm assuming we're all on the list?" she asked playfully flashing a seductive look.

"Of course you are," Letahn said with a wink. "Go right in, Ivy is expecting you."

"Who is Ivy?" T'les asked raising an eyebrow to Alex as Letahn opened the doors.

"Ivy Wong," Alex said as the velvet rope lifted for the four of them. "This is her club."

They stepped inside the Golden Orchid and were immediately overcome with sensory overload. Lasers, smoke, and pounding electronic music echoed everywhere. The main dance floor contained hundreds of women swaying and writhing to the beat while two smaller raised stages on either side housed professional female dancers exhibiting their skills for the masses' enjoyment.

T'les continued being intrigued, Laria continued being in awe, but Katie was becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

"AAAALLLLEXXX!" a voice screamed from behind them. Alex turned around and started jumping up and down.

"IVVVVVYYYYY!"

The two women jumped into each other's arms and continued their excited display.

"Hey everyone," Alex said finally calming down a bit, "This is Ivy."

Ivy was half-human and half-Risian. Her jet black hair was pulled back behind her head and her narrow eyes were painted with bright purple mascara.

"This must be them! Ivy said running up and placing a quick kiss on each of their cheeks. Welcome to Risa, all that is ours is yours!"

"Thank you…" Katie said tensing as soon as Ivy's lips touched her.

"And you must be Laria! Congratulations, Sweetie!" Ivy said giving Laria an extra hug. "I'm so happy you're spending your last bit of freedom with us."

"I am too!" Laria said smiling. "This place is incredible! How do you know Alex?" Katie and T'les both looked at the Bajoran. Katie actually put her palm into her face.

"Alex and I have been friends for a very long time, all the way back to when I was trying to make it as a DJ in San Fran's Castro and she was a stressed-out med school student who needed to…relax."

"How did you end up running an establishment on Risa?" T'les asked over the pounding beat of the next dance track.

"My father is from Shanghai, but my mother was from Risa. When I realized the clubs on Earth wouldn't let me play the type of music I wanted, I decided to move here and open my own club. That way, I can play whatever I want!"

"That seems logical," T'les said with a nod.

"What type of music was that?" Katie asked curiously.

"I love the classics. 1970 to 2030 were the golden years of dance music, but everyone back home thought it was WAY too old-fashioned."

"Are you kidding? That's my favorite!" Laria said with a smile.

"And you doubt me, Little Lady?" Alex said rolling her eyes at Laria's comment.

"Alright, let me see it! Let me see it!" Ivy said jumping up and down again. Alex raised her hand and displayed her wedding band.

"OOOO!" Ivy squeed. "I can't believe Annabeth finally did it! If she didn't, I probably would have put a ring on that hand myself."

"Ivy…" Alex said cocking her head to one side. "You know I'm a one woman girl."

"Hey, Cutie," Ivy said brushing Alex's curls away from her face. "I can dream can't I?" she said feigning a pout. Both of them burst out laughing. "Celeste!" Ivy said waving to one of her staff.

A woman dressed in an impeccably tailored navy suit walked up to them attached a golden wristband to each of the party's arms.

"This is will give you the highest tier of access to everything in the club, deluxe bottle service, and you have your own private box up there behind the dancers. They're good for your entire stay on Risa and I will be personally insulted if I don't see you every night till you leave." Ivy said pointing towards the dance floor. "You have an incredible view of high moon on the bay coming up in about three hours. Don't miss it. In the meantime, make sure this one party's so hard she never forgets it!" Ivy said grabbing Laria again. "Remember, this place is all about being yourself!" Ivy gave Laria a small peck on her forehead before heading back to tend to her other guests.

"I love her!" Laria said once Ivy had disappeared. "She's so friendly."

"Alex!" Katie said finally not able to take it anymore.

"Yes, Katie?" Alex replied equally annoyed.

"What are we doing here?"

Alex sighed.

"Katie, you don't have to act so uptight. Try to have fun!"

"It's gonna kind of hard for me to have fun here because I like men…and unless my internal sensors need some serious recalibration, there are no men here!"

"Katie," Alex said suddenly turning serious. "I don't expect you to walk out of here with a damned girlfriend. What I ask is that you realize it doesn't matter what company you keep as long as you enjoy yourself! Now, it's up to Laria whether we stay here or go, but if being around people like me makes you so unhappy, there's the door! You're welcome to leave."

Suddenly, Katie looked ashamed.

"I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean it that way."

"It's ok, Katie. I know you didn't mean it that way either. Even in the 24th Century, you'd be surprised what we have to put up with sometimes."

"What do you think, L?" Katie said turning to Laria.

It didn't take the Bajoran long to decide.

"It would be a shame to miss that high moon…"
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Bajoran Frontier

Stardate: 53313.8

It was day four. The Pershing would enter orbit of Bajor in just a few short hours and tonight would be the final trial: Death. As far as Annabeth and the rest of the travelers to kal'Hyah were concerned, Death could not come soon enough. They had spent the wee hours of this morning suspended from an iron bar over a searing bed of red-hot coals, their lower bodies literally roasting in the Trial of Anguish.

Admiral Murphy was in his quarters still nursing the burns on the soles of his feet while General Torlek was back on the holodeck utilizing Tigranian's Klingon sparring program. Annabeth, Scharr, and Phil were in the ward room with the rest of the acting senior staff preparing for the morning huddle.

The first officer looked out from her gaunt face, the dark circles under her eyes highlighting her utter exhaustion. Scharr was so dehydrated his antennae almost lay flat on his head. Phil fought to stay awake. He leaned back in his chair, barely keeping his face from planting into the table.

"What are you guys doing in there?" Gleeto asked staring at them.

"Ensign…" Scharr said blinking his dry eyes.

"Yes, Sir?" Gleeto responded.

"Shhhuuut…upppp!" Scharr spat back at him.

"Yes Sir…"

The doors parted and Tigranian walked in, doing his best to keep upright.

"The cap…" Annabeth said struggling to get to her feet.

"No, stay down…just stay down…" Tigranian said as he collapsed into his own chair.

They went through their routine morning situation reports and Tigranian dismissed everyone except Phil, Scharr, and Annabeth.

"We'll be in orbit of Bajor at 0100 tomorrow morning, Sir." Annabeth said.

"Good," Tigranian said rubbing his raw hands. "We will reach kal'Hyah just in time. Tomorrow, we will feast for breakfast."

"If we make it to then," Scharr said blinking slowly.

"We will…" Annabeth said more resolutely than even she thought possible.

"I got a message from Katie right before the meeting," Phil said trying to prop himself up. "They're on Risa."

"Why am I not surprised?" Tigranian muttered.

"Apparently, they spent the last two night at this crazy club where Alex knows the owner."

"Our chief medical officer probably knows half the club owners on Risa," Scharr said fighting to climb to his feet.

Annabeth started laughing.

"Is something funny, Annabeth?" Tigranian asked his first officer.

"Alex took the girls to the Orchid?" Annabeth said, her amusement amplified by her exhaustion and critically low blood sugar.

"Annabeth…could you please enlighten the rest of us as to what is so funny?"

"Oh, it's nothing, Sir," she said as her head swayed from one side to the other.

"It's just the Orchid is one of Alex and my favorite clubs…"

"That's very interesting, but why is it funny?"

"I told you, Sir," Annabeth said looking directly at Tigranian. "It's one of ALEX AND MY FAVORITE clubs. The TWO OF US feel very AT HOME there."

Tigranian looked at her in total confusion until his eyes grew wide.

"Are you serious?" Tigranian said. Annabeth nodded.

Scharr and Phil started laughing as well.

"I don't know what you're laughing about, Lexington," the Andorian said turning to Phil. "Your girlfriend is with them." Phil immediately stopped as he considered what Scharr was saying.

"In any case," Annabeth said. "They're gonna have some pretty incredible stories that we'll probably never hear."

"Are you kidding, Ma'am?" Phil said pushing back from the table. "Katie better tell me every detail."

****

"I don't know if I can do this?" Katie said looking over to Alex and Laria.

"C'mon, if T'les could do it, so can you!" Alex shouted back over the roars of the crowd of onlookers.

"We're gonna do it together, L?" Katie asked looking at Laria. A friend they had met the previous night had presented Laria with a rhinestone tiara and yellow sash emblazoned with "Bachelorette" that she now wore as proudly as Klingon chain mail.

"Yup! together!" Laria said reaching out and grabbing Katie's hand.

"One…" Katie said.

"Two…" Laria continued.

"THREE!" they said in unison. Both women put their hands behind their backs and leaned forward. A female Kriosian was lying flat on the bar with her shirt pulled up, balancing two shot glasses on her stomach. Katie and Laria placed their mouths around the glasses, stood up straight and then knocked them back in one gulp. As they caught their breath, the other women gathered around the bar cheered.

"Oh Prophets, I don't want to throw up," Laria said holding her hand over her mouth.

"Laria, it is your party," T'les said putting a hand on her shoulder. "You can throw up if you want to."

Katie was holding her liquor slightly better than Laria, but still starting to feel its effects. She spun around climbed up on the bar and raised her arms over her head.

"I AM ALL THAT IS WOMAN!"

The crowd continued to cheer as she helped the Kriosian to her feet.

"And special thanks to our lovely volunteer, Karmala!" As people cheered, Karmala leaned over and whispered in Katie's ear.

"Any time, Blondie, I've got a room in up in the resort if you're interested…" she leaned over and gave Katie a kiss on her cheek.

"Um, you're very pretty, but no thank you," Katie said starting to blush. I've got a boyfriend back home…"

"Too bad…" Karmala said jumping down from the bar. A smiling Alex helped Katie back down.

"Don't worry, I won't tell Phil," she said with a wink.

"I don't think he'd care about her," Katie said shaking her head. "But no, don't tell him."

Ivy Wong appeared and pushed her way towards the group of friends. She placed an arm around Alex and Katie.

"I cannot believe you have to leave tomorrow. You've become quite the show for my other guests."

"I hope that's a good thing," Alex replied.

"Oh believe me, it is."

"Hey Ivy," Katie said swallowing her pride. "Thank you very much for everything."

"Anything for Doc Hunter and her girls," Ivy said turning to Laria. "I just hope the star of the show had the time of her life."

"It will definitely be something I never forget," Laria said straightening her tiara.

"Be sure you don't," Ivy said. "I'm not married, but can I still give you a little piece of advice before you tie the knot?"

"Sure," Laria said intrigued.

"Never forget who you are! Just because you put M-R-S in front of your name doesn't mean you aren't your own person! Never let a man, woman, or anybody else convince you otherwise!" Ivy shouted over the music.

"We happen to know the lucky man very well, and we won't let that happen," Alex said.

"You better not!" Ivy said. "And the same goes for you, Alex. If either of you ever need a reminder, I'll be here!"

Ivy finished saying her goodbyes and headed back out on her rounds.

"Well," Alex said looking down at her watch. "We have a skids-up time at 0600 tomorrow. Should we head back to the room and get some sleep?"

"I think we might have time for one more dance…" Katie said looking at Laria.

The music changed to a new song.

I come home in the morning light
My mother says when you gonna live your life right?
Oh mother dear we're not the fortunate ones
And girls they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun…

Laria started jumping up and down.

"I LOVE THIS SONG!"

"I believe that settles that question," T'les said pulling a strand of dark hair back behind her ears.

The four of them pushed their way back towards the dance floor.

Some boys take a beautiful girl
And hide her away from the rest of the world.
I want to be the one to walk in the sun
Oh girls they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun…

****

The travelers sat around the bonfire staring into the burning flames. They were fast approaching kal'Hyah. Consciousness faded in and out. They began to hear sights and sounds from other planes of existence as their exhaustion and hunger released their minds from their corporeal confinement.

Tigranian sat cross-legged. Despite the intense heat, he was shivering as his brother began to speak.

"Now begins the Trial of Death…" Torlek said as he pulled out a small book from his armor. He opened it to a page and began to read:

"From the Apocrypha of the Trials of Kahless, Book Four, Chapter 7, Verse 12:

And Kahless and his disciples entered the city of Tong Vey after it had fallen. The crowds rejoiced at the sight of their leader and moved to surround him and touch his armor. A young man, still covered with blood of battle, called to Kahless and said, 'Master, all who oppose you fall! What is the secret of being a warrior?' Kahless held up his sword to silence the masses and bared his fangs. He answered, 'It is no secret, boy. The way of the warrior is found in death. When it comes to living in safety or choosing death, there is only the quick choice of death. Be determined and advance into the blades of your foe. If you set your heart right every day as the sun rises, and live as if your body is already dead, you will achieve total clarity and gain mastery of the way.' These are the words of Kahless, the Unforgettable."

"pIyajchu'," Tigranian said with a small bow of his head. He then touched his forehead, and both shoulders, making the sign of the tIq ghob.

Torlek closed the book and set it aside.

"As we near the end of our journey together, stare into the fire and meditate on your death. Let the thought of your destruction permeate your consciousness and see your end. Only then will your eyes be opened…"

The six travelers sat in silence. Minutes, then an hour passed without a single word from anyone. All Annabeth wanted to do was close her eyes and sleep, but she fought the urge as her anger and frustration grew.

"Why? Why am I doing this stupid Klingon ritual? Dan and Laria will just be married no matter what and then I have to face all the same problems I do every day. I will keep having to save Dan's ass when he does something idiotic, and Starfleet will keep demanding I transfer to take a command," her train of thought paused. "God, I've tried so hard not to think about that these past few days. Leaving the Pershing behind, taking the Venture, starting over again…"

Then, Annabeth found herself someplace else.

It was a cool spring day. The sun was shining, but there was a strange somberness hanging over everything. Annabeth saw several rows of chairs filled with people dressed in black. Some were crying, but all seemed morose.

Annabeth saw Alex sitting in the front row, but something was wrong. She was decades older. A dark haired man and blonde-haired woman, both approaching middle age, sat on either side of her holding hands. A single tear rolled down Alex's cheek.

A man dressed in black robes walked up to Alex and whispered something to her that Annabeth could not make out. She nodded and he departed.

Her wife climbed to her feet and took a few steps forward, the other man and woman following close behind. Alex knelt down and Annabeth finally saw what she was looking at. It was a casket.

Alex placed a hand on its wooden lid and wiped away another tear from her face.

"We went through so much together," Alex said softly. "We travelled billions of miles, and saw dozens of worlds. We brought new life into the galaxy together. Anyone would say we lived enough for twenty lifetimes, but it still went by in the blink of an eye." Alex was fighting back tears, but suddenly a smile crept across her face. "But I have no regrets. Not a single one, because we lived it together, My Love. We never looked back. I love you, Beth, and I always will…"

Annabeth gasped and opened her eyes. She stared into the faces of her companions, the roof of the cave behind them.

"Annabeth, Are you alright?" Murphy asked leaning over her with a water skin. Just as he was about to pour some liquid into her mouth, she reached up and pushed it away. She sat up and looked at Tigranian kneeling next to the Admiral. Her face lit up with a smile as tears began to stream down her pale face.

"It's clear to me now. It's all so clear…."

Tigranian smiled back and they both began to laugh.

Scharr's antennae perked back up with surprise and Phil just shook his head in amazement.

Torlek picked up his book and gently kissed its cover.

"Kahless be praised."
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
In Orbit of Bajor

Stardate: 53313.9

Tigranian, Torlek, and Murphy strolled onto the bridge.

"Admiral on the Bridge!" Annabeth shouted as she stepped out of the turbolift behind them.

"Carry on," Murphy said happily.

They had broken their fast this morning. The food did wonders to return their strength.

Tigranian offered his chair to Murphy, but the Admiral declined. The captain and first officer took their positions as Phil made his way to the helm.

"Today's the big day, Dan. Are you ready?" Murphy asked.

Tigranian chuckled and looked at his old friend.

"I'm more ready than I have been for anything else in my life, Pete."

"Lady Elessa signaled me this morning," Torlek interjected. "She already awaits us on the surface."

"Ensign Gleeto, what about the rest of our crewmates?"

"Bajoran Space Traffic Control reports that the runabout carrying Doctor Hunter, Lieutenant Stone, Lieutenant T'les, and Lieutenant Laria landed safely in Rakantha, Sir."

"Well, it seems like we're the last to arrive," Tigranian said.

"Better late than never, Sir," Annabeth said with a wink.

"Sir," Ensign Gleeto said looking at his console. "I'm receiving a priority message for General Torlek from the Klingon High Command. It's coded for his eyes only."

"I will take it my quarters," he said heading for the turbolift.

"Gentlemen," Annabeth said to Admiral Murphy and Tigranian once he was gone. "May I speak to you privately?"

The two men exchanged glances.

"Of course, Number One," the captain replied nervously and the three of them headed for his ready room.

Once the doors had sealed, Annabeth began to speak.

"Sir," she said to Tigranian, "I want you to enjoy your honeymoon on Guada. I'll handle everything as subspace communication will be almost impossible there."

"Of course, Annabeth, I know you'll keep everything ship-shape as usual."

"Yes Sir," Annabeth said taking a deep breath. "But after you get back…Admiral Murphy, you said that the Venture needed a commander and chief medical officer. Are those positions still available?"

"Yes."

"Then, I formally request to be named Captain of the USS Venture. I think it's time."

She looked over to Tigranian who looked like he had just been punched in the stomach.

"Well, Annabeth," Murphy replied. "The decision is not up to me, but I'll let Admiral Paris know immediately. I'll think he'll be quite pleased to hear that."

"Sir," she said turning back to Tigranian. "I want you know, this has nothing to do with you or the ship. I love it here, but I can't sit in the jump seat forever."

"I know," Tigranian said with a contemplative nod. He walked over and held out his hand. "Congratulations, Captain."

The door chimed.

"Come in," Tigranian said.

Torlek entered with a scowl on his face.

"General, what is it?" Annabeth asked.

"This morning, Cardassian insurgents seized control of two planets from the Klingon Occupation Authority and declared themselves to be independent of the Provisional Government. They appear to be part of the same movement that attacked Bajor.

The High Council has mobilized the Suk'valt with orders to reconquer the lost worlds and put down the insurgency. The HoS will meet me at Bajor tomorrow after the wedding and I will rejoin the rest of my ships."

"You will soon taste battle again, my Brother," Tigranian said trying to be optimistic. "May Glory and Honor follow you on your mission."

"Though I cannot wait to punish these Cardassian veQ, I am still concerned, Daniel. Imperial Intelligence is already receiving reports of unrest on Qo'nos. Many of the commoners feel this will lead to further degradation of the Klingon Economy and give the noble houses an excuse to crack down on reforms. Where battle usually unites our people, I feel that this fight will divide us even further."

"Please tell the High Council to keep Starfleet informed, General," Murphy. "We're still allies. I'm sure we can be of assistance, especially since it's only a matter of time until the insurgency spills across into our zone."

"The Empire thanks you for your concern, Admiral," Torlek replied, "But to be victorious, The Klingon Defense Force must contain this cancer alone. There are many who feel that we have become too dependent on the Federation already. We must show the people that we can still be strong."

"Still, we will do all we can to help, Brother," Tigranian said.

"I know you will, Daniel," Torlek said walking over to him. "But today is not the day to think of troubles. Today, we will focus only on you and your bride. Let the rest wait until tomorrow."

"Bridge to Captain," Gleeto's voice sounded through the intercom.

"Go ahead," Tigranian said tapping his comm badge.

"We're in position over Rakantha province, Sir. We're ready to beam down you and your party immediately."

"Thank you. We'll start heading towards the transporter room. Tell Chief Dawson to be standing by."

"Aye Sir," Gleeto replied.

"It's time," Tigranian with a nervous sigh.

"The galaxy will still be there when you get back from your Honeymoon, Dan," Murphy said with a smile. "But now, there's a woman waiting for you on the surface, and she's not gonna wait forever."

"Be determined and advance, Sir," Annabeth seconded. "We didn't travel the whole path to kal'Hyah for you to chicken out now."

"I have no intention of doing that, Number One," Tigranian replied with a grin.

"Then, let's go!" Torlek said. "My wife does not like to be kept waiting."

"No, she doesn't," Tigranian said. After a brief moment of contemplation, he looked the General in his eyes. "Today is a good day to live, my Brother."

"It is indeed, Son of Tigranian. It is indeed."
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