Star Trek: New Horizons Season 4, Episode 6 (All Along the Watchtower) by captaintigranian
Summary: Katie and Phil are looking forward to their wedding plans, while Annabeth is simply trying to make it through the early days of pregnancy. Meanwhile, a Cardassian State Legate seeks to break the stalemate at the border.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Family, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 10213 Read: 1517 Published: 13 Aug 2017 Updated: 13 Aug 2017

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
Avenal System: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 53370.8

Annabeth gripped the sides of her toilet, stuck her face inside, and wretched the entire contents of her exhausted stomach into the bowl. Even though she was only dressed in a tank top and underwear, she still felt like she was on fire. There was a knock at the door as she gasped for air between heaves.

"Beth…" Alex's concerned voice sounded through the fiberboard. "How are you feeling?"

"How do you think I'm feeling?" she shouted back as her stomach spasmed into another stream of vomit.

"This is completely normal for the first trimester," Alex said summoning her best bedside manner.

"I hate you for talking me into this!" Annabeth said with a mighty heave. "I hate Dan Tigranian for putting this hellspawn inside of me!" Another heave. "And I hate myself for being stupid enough to agree to be knocked up!" A final heave. She collapsed onto the cool deck plating. The feeling of heat pulling away from her flushed skin was wonderful.

Alex opened the doors and stepped inside their shared bathroom. She knelt down next to her wife and pricked her neck with a hypospray.

"This should help with the nausea, but it won't totally go away. Don't worry, once you hit the second trimester, the morning sickness should subside completely."

Annabeth put her hands over her face.

"That's six weeks away!" she said not sure if she could stand this agony another minute.

"I know, Baby" Alex said lifting her up into her arms and patting her back. "I know," she said in a saccharine voice.

"I haven't even met him, and I already hate this kid," Annabeth said pulling her sweaty mane of blonde hair behind her head.

"You don't mean that," Alex said giving her a slightly judgmental glance. "You are going to love our son more than anything you've ever known."

"Maybe," Annabeth replied before grabbing the sink and hoisting herself to standing, "but I'm never going to let him forget what he put me through."

"Good," Alex said with a grin.

"Good?"

"Yeah," Alex replied. "If you're the mean parent, I get to be the nice one."

"God," Annabeth said shaking her head. "This is what I get for being married to my OB/GYN."

The Pershing's first officer stared into the mirror. A haggard visage stared back and she was due on the bridge in 30 minutes.

"Shit, I look terrible."

"You look beautiful," Alex said wrapping her arms around her from behind and planting a kiss on her cheek.

"Is it too early to request maternity leave? This would be a lot better if I could go through it on a tropical beach somewhere with a virgin daiquiri in my hand."

"It's the 24th Century, Beth," Alex said leaning on her shoulder. "Women can have it all: a successful military career and a family, they just have to show up to work."

"Oh screw you," Annabeth said holding back a chuckle.

"If you think we have time for it before we go on duty," Alex said with a lascivious smirk as she went to put on her uniform.

"Don't tempt me," Annabeth said walking to the closet to grab her own set of duty blacks. "I can go from zero to horny in no time flat right now."

"Another fun side effect of the first three months," Alex said pulling up her trousers over the hem of her blue-green undershirt.

"Why does Starfleet make these things out of poly-wool?" Annabeth said gritting her teeth. "I'm gonna die from heat stroke before lunch."

"Probably because we spend most of time in space where the temperature is cold enough to freeze nitrogen solid," Alex said zipping up her gray trimmed jacket.

"Do you think I can get away with just the vest today?" Annabeth said holding up a sleeveless waistcoat usually reserved only for starship commanders.

"You are a captain," Alex said hesitantly, "but then again, starships usually only carry one aboard."

"Dammit," Annabeth said throwing back into her closet and grabbing a regular jacket. "Why do I always have to the responsible one?"

"Because, if you weren't, Dan would have gotten himself killed a long time ago," Alex replied.

"And yet we asked him to do this to me," Annabeth rolled her eyes while pointing to her abdomen."

Alex chuckled and put her arms around her again.

"Who knows, maybe luck is genetic?"

"In that case," Annabeth said grabbing her red command undershirt. "We'll have the luckiest baby in history."

"We already do," Alex said attaching her comm badge on the left side of her jacket. "He's got the two of us as moms."

****

Alex walked into the wardroom and took her regular seat. Scharr and Phil were listening to Katie and Laria talk about wedding plans. Tigranian was in his ready room checking the morning dispatches from Starfleet Command prior to the sync meeting.

"Figuring out where to do the ceremony was the easy part," Katie said. "Now, the reception, that took a lot of arguing."

"I just didn't want to get drop dead drunk on my wedding day," Phil said from next to her.

"Look, if society expects me to wear a giant, fluffy, ridiculous white dress for a day, you can bet I'm sure as hell gonna have fun in it."

"You know," Alex interjected from across the table, "you don't have to wear a white, fluffy dress to get married."

"What little girl fantasizes about wearing anything else?" Katie asked skeptically.

"More than you think," Alex said with a glance.

"Where are you two doing the ceremony?" Laria said.

"The Academy Chapel," Katie answered. "It's just such a great space and it has a lot of meaning to both of us."

"The Academy Chapel?" Scharr said rolling his eyes. "That is so lame."

"Tren!" Alex said jumping in again.

"It is!" he insisted. "We spend all this time out here in the void, seeing new and incredible places, and they choose to go back to school!"

"Ok, Sir," Phil said staring the Andorian down. "You've been married three times. Where were your weddings?"

Scharr blushed blue.

"Ok," he said holding up his hands defensively, "all of them were at my parent's house."

"LAME!" the other four said simultaneously.

"It's Andorian tradition!" Scharr said digging himself deeper into a hole. "Have you ever had to say no to all three of your mothers at once?"

"In any case," Alex said turning back to Katie. "Where are you guys having the reception?"

"How do you spell, 'Kick Ass Party' in Thai, Doc?" Katie said.

"What?" Alex looked confused. Katie held her hands in the air and swayed her shoulders back and forth.

"B-A-N-G-K-O-K!" she said grinning from ear to ear. "I know this great little dive bar near where I did my Muay Thai workouts. It's right on the river and has a great back deck. We do the ceremony first thing in the morning in San Fran, then all jump across the Pacific for brews and chow. We'll party from midnight to sun up!"

"My parents are gonna be thrilled…" Phil muttered. "Tropical heat and transporter lag."

"You put enough beer in a person, Phil, and everyone's internal chronometer starts ticking. Everybody loves Thailand. It'll be great. Trust me."

"She's gonna be your wife, Lexington," Scharr said cautiously. "Those are famous last words. Trust me."

Annabeth walked in holding her mouth with the back of her right hand.

"You ok, X-O?" Katie asked concerned. "You look a little green."

"I'm fine, Katie," Annabeth said pulling out her chair. "Thanks for asking." The response was a bit more curt than anyone expected.

Tigranian entered a few seconds later.

"The captain!" Annabeth shouted to raise everyone else to their feet.

"As you were," Tigranian replied reflexively. The table took their seats as he began the meeting. "Welcome back to Cardassia everybody," he said grabbing a PADD with his notes. "I wish I could say things cooled down while were gone, but I can't…"

"No surprises there, Sir," Phil said leaning back in his chair.

Tigranian half laughed and half scoffed as he brought up a display on the holoscreen behind him.

"As a result of the civil unrest a few months back, the Romulans have deployed two additional heavy legions. One is always watching the demarcation line and the other is keeping an eye on the populated systems. A Cardassian can't break wind without the Tal Shiar and the Cardassian State Security Service knowing about it.

In the meantime, Premier Harok continues to do his part to sing the praises of the Romulan-Cardassian Alliance while his people pay the price…"

"What a little bitch…" Katie grumbled.

"That is one of putting it, Katie," Tigranian replied. "They know that most of Starfleet's capital ships are back in spacedock or along the Neutral Zone, so the Cardassian State just announced a massive joint training exercise with the Romulan fleet. It will take place in two days right along the border."

"Let me guess," Scharr said. "Starfleet Command wants us to observe?"

"On the nose, Tren," Tigranian replied. "Prime Minister Garak is still pretty upset that Federation and Klingon force numbers have dropped in the Republic over the past few months. President Zife wants a battleship up front as a show of solidarity."

"Does Starfleet Intelligence think this could be a pre-cursor to an attack?" Laria asked.

"The Cardassian State claims these exercises are solely defensive in nature, but what better way to rehearse an invasion than by putting all your forces up front?" Tigranian said.

"So, we just got back from enemy space where the Romulans almost sent a squadron of warbirds across the Neutral Zone to grab our asses. Now, we're going to put ourselves right within arm's reach of them?" Annabeth said.

Tigranian nodded his head.

"We don't have much choice, Number One. There's only six Federation starships in the Republic of Cardassia, and we're the only one that can pose any kind of threat to the enemy task force."

"We're a big ship, Dan," Alex said. "But do you think we can scare them off alone?"

"Katie?" the captain asked turning down the table. The Pershing's tactical officer stroked her chin.

"I'm not worried about the Cardassian State Navy. Their entire fleet is made up rustbuckets that still need to be dry-docked after the war. Latest intel says they only have about fifty Galor class capital battlecruisers still combat ready along with a random assortment of smaller cruisers, destroyers, fighters, and support ships. We can take them on easily. However, start throwing Romulan warbirds into the mix…that's where it gets a little hairy."

"Admiral Paris says they will be deploying the Exeter and the Kennedy along the border to back us up. Prime Minister Garak is sending twenty Republic battlecruisers as well."

"An Excelsior refit, an Akira class escort frigate, and collection of Cardy banana boats…this is going to be fun," Phil quipped.

"Don't worry your pretty little head thingies," Katie patronized him. "With 52 hours to prepare, I'll be able to shove a phaser broadside so far up their asses they'll taste nadion radiation."

"I hope that confidence is more than just words, Lieutenant!" Annabeth jabbed in her direction. The whole table turned to look at the ship's first officer.

"Beth…" Alex whispered under her breath. Laria looked over nervously.

"I'm sure that Lieutenant Stone will continue to perform her duties well above standard, Number One," Tigranian said trying to defuse the tension.

"Yes, I know she will," Annabeth replied. "I'm sorry, Katie, I…" Annabeth suddenly turned pale and put a hand over her mouth. "Oh God, excuse me!" she said sprinting out of the room.

"She's been feeling kinda sick the last couple days. I think it's something she ate. I'll go check on her," Alex said pushing back from the table.

"I think that's a good idea, Doc," Tigranian nodded.

"If she turned any whiter, I would have to start calling her pale skin…" Scharr said looking towards the doors.

"Alex's got her," the captain said trying to get the meeting back on track. "Now, I'd like to talk about our readiness drills. We've been pushing the crew hard the last couple months. I want to make sure they don't get complacent without burning them out…"

Phil, Scharr, and Laria turned their attention back to Tigranian, but Katie was still transfixed on what was happening with their first officer.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
That evening, Katie and Phil stumbled into his quarters. Both immediately unzipped their uniforms and threw their jackets onto the back of the couch. They collapsed in a heap and she immediately rested her exhausted head on his shoulder.

"Twelve hours of recalibrating guidance systems…" Phil muttered.

"Guidance systems?" Katie said rolling her eyes. "How about twelve hours of crawling through jefferies tubes checking phaser EPS relays? My back's got so many knots in it you could use it as a climbing wall."

Phil scoffed.

"At least we're ready to look at the business end of a D'Deridex and have a fighting chance." He glanced over at the replicator. "What are you thinking for dinner?"

"Whatever doesn't require me to get off this couch."

"That is so helpful," he replied climbing to his feet.

"That's the benefit of being a woman, Slick," she said collapsing onto her back and staring up at the ceiling. "I've can make you do stuff I don't want to do."

Phil started mindlessly perusing the replicator menu on the other side of the room.

"How about spaghetti and meatballs?"

"No, I don't feel like slurping noodles."

"Plomeek soup and Vulcan lavash?"

"I'm not a rabbit, Phil. If I wanted to keep vegan, I would have stayed in Cali."

"Alright, how about pot roast and potatoes?"

"Too heavy…"

"Dammit, Katie!"

"What?" she said leaning over the coach and looking at him innocently.

"Could you at least give me a hint? Otherwise I'm gonna replicate the first random thing I find and drop it in your lap," Phil said shrugging his shoulders.

"Jeez, someone is having their time of the month…" she said sarcastically.

Phil rolled his eyes again.

"How about tacos?" he said desperately

"We had tacos three nights ago."

"Yeah," he replied, "but you love tacos."

"When you right, you right," she said sitting upright. "Tacos it is."

He materialized two Mexican platters and a couple beers and brought them over to the coffee table.

"I can tell you one thing," she said taking a bite out of her shell. "Annabeth is not going to be having her time of the month for about nine months…"

Phil gagged and put his taco back down on his plate.

"What are you talking about?" he said taking a sip of beer to clear that image from his mind.

"X-O is pregnant," Katie said plainly.

"WHAT?" Phil said shocked. "How do you know that?"

"Because I'm not an idiot, Lexington," she said shaking her head. "C'mon, think like a detective and use a little deductive reasoning."

"Ok, Ms. Holmes," he said skeptically. "Explain."

"Really?" she replied. "She's been exhausted lately…"

"We've all been exhausted lately…"

"Her mood goes back and forth like a tennis ball at Wimbledon. You saw it today."

"She's first officer on a starship that just got told it was going back into harm's way…"

"And," Katie said holding up a finger, "she upchucked like Old Faithful during the sync meeting this morning."

"Alex said she had eaten something that didn't agree with her…"

"We eat from replicators and stasis pods, Genius!" Katie said shoving a taco in his face. "When was the last time someone got food poisoning from a replicator?"

"Ok," Phil said with a laugh as he pushed her food out of his face. "Say, you're right and Annabeth is pregnant, which I'm not agreeing with yet. Just how exactly does a woman, married to another woman, get pregnant?"

Katie dropped her chin and gave him an, "Are you serious?" expression.

"The exact same way every other woman does, Bro. Did your Mommy and Daddy never have, 'The Talk' with you?"

"You know what I mean!" he said playfully pushing her away as she chomped another bite of fried tortilla.

"Well," Katie replied holding the ground beef filling in her mouth as she spoke. "We were on Earth a couple weeks back. You think the Wonder Twins visited a donor clinic when we weren't paying attention?"

"I guess it's possible," Phil said carefully considering her theory. "But you think that's enough time for her to be showing symptoms?"

"Dammit Phil, I'm a tactical officer, not a doctor," she said holding up her hands. Suddenly, her eyes grew wide.

"What if it's somebody on this ship?" she said in shock.

"Really?" Phil said with a chuckle. "The idea she's pregnant is ridiculous enough, but the thought of Annabeth Geist letting any man on this ship put a bun in her oven is just impossible."

"Yeah," Katie said leaning back on the couch. "I mean, I wouldn't let any man on this ship put a bun in my oven either…"

Phil's jaw dropped as he contemplated whether she was serious or not.

"That look on your face should be the cover of our wedding invitation," she said with a smirk.

"But you want kids, right?" he replied, his voice dripping with genuine concern.

"Of course I want kids!" she said laughing out loud, "just not for a while. We've got a lot more life to live with just the two of us before we add another Lexington to the band…" She leaned forward and kissed him. "Mmmm, taco flavored…"

"I have to say, Katie Stone, life with you is never boring," he said pulling her into his chest.

"I can promise you that much at least," she said with a sly grin. They gazed out the large window at the stars rushing by at warp speed. Both of them silently promised to enjoy the next few hours of calm before the Pershing took them face to face with their next adventure.

****

"Approaching the border, Sir," Phil said adjusting the ship's helm.

"All stop. Thrusters to station keeping," Tigranian replied before taking a long sip of raktajino. He was not going to face the Cardassian State un-caffeinated this morning. "Maintain a distance of 2000 kilometers to the demarcation line. Let's give them a berth, but not too wide."

"Aye, Sir," Phil answered.

"Laria?" Tigranian asked looking over his shoulder.

"Oh, they are out there, Sir," she said. "Twenty-two Galor class battlecruisers within sensor range: distance 8 million kilometers, bearing 010 Mark 016."

"Dead ahead," Annabeth said from the first officer's chair. "Any sign of our friends from Romulus?"

"No, Ma'am," Laria replied. "But if they're cloaked…"

"Which they are…" Katie added. "Romulans don't go anywhere still in the visible spectrum. Shields up, Captain?"

"Not yet, Katie," Tigranian replied staring at the viewscreen. "I don't want them to see us sweat quite yet, but load the quantum torpedo tubes and charge phasers. Let's let them know we're not here as old friends."

"Aye, Sir."

No sooner had Katie brought the armament online, her console chirped.

"The lead Cardassian State ship is hailing, Sir."

"Glad to see they're paying attention," Annabeth said raising an eyebrow.

"Put them onscreen, Katie," Tigranian said adjusting his uniform.

The face of an angry Cardassian Legate appeared at the front of the bridge.

"Federation Starship, I am Legate Varak of the CSS Korban in command of the First People's Fleet. You have no business in this sector. Leave Immediately."

"Legate Varak," Tigranian said climbing to his feet. "I am Captain Daniel Tigranian of the Federation Starship, Pershing. Last time I checked, we were on the Republic side of the border. Therefore, the Cardassian State Navy has no say in what we choose to do."

"We know who you are, Tigranian. You're a recognized war criminal who has no respect for interstellar law or the rights of free peoples. If you did, you would leave the Cardassian public in peace. What possible activity could you have at this particular location except to conduct espionage on behalf of your imperialist masters?"

Tigranian glanced down at Annabeth who merely rubbed her temple in bemusement.

"Glad that my reputation precedes me, Legate. Not that it's any of your business," Tigranian said sternly, "but we've been assigned this sector as part of our regular patrol schedule. Now, if you just stay on your side of the border, I'll stay on mine, and we'll both have a nice day."

The Cardassian scoffed and shook his head.

"Do not move any closer than 1000 kilometers to the demarcation line or attempt to conduct any active sensor scans of our fleet. We would construe any such as actions as a hostile act and move to engage you. This transmission ends now."

The screen switched back to a neutral starscape.

"I don't think they like you very much, Sir," Katie said from Tactical.

"Feeling's mutual," Tigranian said sitting back in his chair. "Phil, don't budge a centimeter from this position. Katie, shields to standby mode. I want them up in less than three seconds if there's any hint of trouble. Laria, I'm counting on that wonderful sensor suite of yours to allow us to keep tabs on them without active scanning."

"Aye Sir," Laria said dialing in the range. "I've already got a passive visual feed."

"Onscreen," Tigranian said with a grin.

A drone ship was moving left to right across the field of vision dropping objects from its ventral hull. The Galor cruisers remained in tight formation a few hundred thousand kilometers distant. They were divided into waves of seven with the Korban observing from a distance.

"What are those?" Phil asked staring at the spheres the drone ship deployed one at a time.

"Target beacons," Katie said looking at her instruments. "Each one is putting out a fake Federation or Klingon warp signature."

"They're doing more than that," Laria said checking her feeds as well. "I'm reading active maneuvering systems on each one. I think they're programmed to change course and speed like they're actual ships. One of them even matches a Pershing class battlestarship."

"Talk about realistic target practice…" Annabeth said looking at the tactical display on the arm of her chair. "Do you think they have an accurate picture of our capabilities?"

"Capabilities, maybe," Tigranian taking another sip of raktajino. "But they continue to underestimate their crews…"

Annabeth smiled back as the turbolift doors opened to reveal Alex.

"Welcome to the bridge, Doc," Tigranian said. "Here to watch the fireworks?"

"Sick bay's pretty quiet right now. I figured I could add a medical perspective to whatever we're observing."

"Hopefully, there won't need to be a medical perspective," Tigranian replied. "But you're always welcome topside, CMO."

"Sir," Laria said with excitement. "The first wave of Cardassian ships is moving into attack positions."

The rest of the bridge crew watched as a wave of seven Galor class ships moved in unison at the target beacons. Their massive main phaser banks opened fire in bright yellow beams. The beacons counter-maneuvered to avoid being hit, but several blasts found their marks. One exploded immediately, but four more stayed intact.

"I think the Romulans have been tinkering with those ships, Sir," Katie said nervously. "I'm reading a twelve percent increase above the normal Galor class discharge."

"Interesting…" Tigranian said steepling his fingers.

"That comes at a price, Sir," Laria added. "When those beams fire, I'm detecting a fifty millisievert increase in radiation in the forward half of their primary hulls."

"Translation for the scientifically challenged?" Phil said glancing over his shoulder.

"They're nuking themselves for extra power, Mr. Lexington," Alex said leaning forward on the bridge rail. She shook her head. "Fifty millisieverts by itself isn't that dangerous, but over time with cumulative exposure…"

Laria jumped in.

"Blindness, gastro-intestinal problems, leukemia, anemia…"

"I think we get the idea, L," Annabeth said clandestinely placing her hands over her abdomen. "We're not at risk are we?"

"No, with our deflectors, we're well out of range of any danger, Ma'am," Laria said reassuringly.

"Cardassians are slightly more resistant than most humanoids, but why knowingly irradiate themselves for a marginal increase in weapons strength?" Alex said shaking her head.

"Because they don't care about the welfare of individuals, Doc," Tigranian said looking straight ahead. "Merely what one can do for the state…"

"The Romulan State for that matter," Annabeth added.

"Sir, the next wave is attacking," Katie interjected. Seven more cruisers approached at full speed and sprayed another wave of phaser blasts into the targets. "The beacons' simulated shields are significantly degraded. Their computers are rerouting power from their ventral, lateral, and dorsal shields to their forward emitters to compensate."

"Exactly what the rule book says a Federation ship should do that situation…" Annabeth noted.

The alarms on Laria and Katie's consoles screamed to life.

"Sir!" Laria shouted. "Four Romulan warbirds just decloaked less a thousand kilometers from the target beacons."

"They're making an attack run across the lateral axis at full impulse," Katie added. "Each is firing a full spread of plasma torpedoes."

The four warbirds streaked in and let loose a massive spread of green spheres. Seconds later, they impacted the weakened side shields of the targets. Most exploded in brilliant flashes of light. Under the cover of the blasts, the massive ships disappeared again.

Without any delay, the final wave of Cardassian ships engaged. The target beacons were overwhelmed by the strikes from multiple directions. A final barrage of phaser fire turned the last of them into glowing debris.

"Distract them with a bunch of jabs to the face, and then sucker punch them in their blind spot…" Phil said clenching his jaw.

"It's an intelligent technique," Annabeth said, "but not very honorable…" she added muttering in Tigranian's direction.

The captain sighed.

"noHghoblu'DI' yayquv law' HochquvpuS, Annabeth," he replied.

"And what the hell does that mean, Sir?" Katie asked.

"In war, there is nothing more honorable than victory," Laria translated.

"If none of your enemies survive to complain, you have nothing to worry about," Tigranian said clarifying his comment.

"In case you're wondering, Sir," Katie said from behind him. "The Pershing class simulator was the last to go, but it didn't have enough structural integrity left after the torpedo barrage to withstand the last phaser hit. It was destroyed in 89 seconds."

"Their cheap-ass Cardy computer lasted 89 seconds," the captain replied. "This ship shoots back, and as far as I can remember, you haven't missed yet, Ms. Stone."

The drone ship returned and began laying beacons for a second exercise.

Suddenly, one of the targets began moving in erratic, violent bursts.

"Captain," Laria exclaimed, "one of the beacons has been activated. It's locked on to our impulse signature!"

"What?" Tigranian replied.

The beacon accelerated to its maximum speed, and turned right at them.

"It's charging at us, Sir," Katie said. "Collision course!"

"Red Alert! Shields up!" Annabeth commanded.

"Lock phasers, prepare for evasive maneuvers," Tigranian said bracing himself against the chair.

"It's locked onto to us. Twenty seconds till impact," Laria said.

"It just crossed the border!" Katie said.

"It's an enemy weapon in our territory. Destroy it!" Tigranian shouted.

"It's actively trying to jam my targeting sensors. It's fighting me, Sir," Katie exclaimed.

"I don't care!" Tigranian replied. "Fire manually, full lateral spread if you have to!"

"Belay that!" Annabeth shouted at Katie. "Dan, they're baiting you. If one of our phaser shots hits a Cardassian ship, it's all they need to say we started it!

"Ten seconds!" Laria yelled.

"Qu'vatlh!" Tigranian screamed. "Quantum torpedoes, close in burst. All hands, brace!"

"On the way!" Katie screamed as she sent three torpedoes out from the forward tubes. The projectiles flew in a tight cluster until meeting the target beacon in mid-flight. They exploded in a brilliant flash. The shockwave of the blast immediately overtook the ship, rattling every bulkhead and deck plate. Sparks flew from the overhead lights as debris from the destroyed beacon bounced of their shields.

"Damage report," Annabeth called.

"All decks reporting, Ma'am," Katie replied. "Only minor damage from the torpedo shockwave. No injuries."

"Dispatch damage control teams to affected areas and put that bastard, Varak on the screen!" Tigranian was so angry he shook.

A few seconds later, a grinning Varak appeared in front him.

"Captain Tigranian, are you and your vessel alright?" he asked sarcastically.

"What the hell was that?" Tigranian shouted back. "You shot a target beacon across the border at a Federation starship, Varak! That it is an act of war!"

"Captain, please calm yourself. I assure you, it was…an accident. One disadvantage of using beacons guided by autonomous computers is that sometimes those computers malfunction. As you can imagine, quality control is not quite as high as it used to be since we've had to rebuild after the Federation's and Klingon's brutal war."

"An accident?" Tigranian said as his knuckles turned white. "That probe actively tried to disrupt our sensors with active jamming!"

"Of course, Captain," Varak said stroking his chin. "What good is a practice target that is easy to hit? This, of course, would not have been an issue if you had vacated this sector as I recommended to you in the first place."

"Rest assured, Legate," Tigranian spoke with a voice sharper than a d'k tahg. "I will be reporting this incident to both Starfleet and the Republic of Cardassia with a firm recommendation that they increase our own military patrolling along the border as a result of this hostility.

Varak laughed.

"Report all you like, Captain Tigranian. I welcome a greater imperialist presence along our space. It serves as a poignant reminder to our troops of what we're fighting for. After all…" He leaned forward to stare right at the viewscreen. "What good is training for battle if you never fight? Surely you can understand that?"

It was Tigranian's turn to abruptly end a conversation.

"Lieutenant Stone, turn him off."

The screen went black and he collapsed back in his chair. He violently rubbed his eyes, angered that his rules of engagement prevented him from personally wiping the arrogant smirk off the legate's face.

"Calm down, Dan," Annabeth whispered into his ear. "Don't give them what they want."

"You're right, of course," he said steading his breathing and repeating the strains of the "Daj qeylIS qaD," in his mind. "And thank you for preventing from making a real error back there. I wasn't thinking straight."

"It's not often a first officer receives gratitude for countermanding her captain's orders on the bridge," she mused with a grin.

"It's not often a first officer is as good as you, Number One," he said with another deep inhale of air. "Phil…"

"Sir?" the helmsman said over his shoulder.

"Reverse course, take us back a million kilometers from the border, I think we have enough information for a preliminary report to command."

"Aye Sir."

"Alex, I'd like you to do an analysis of the radiation levels we monitored with Laria. I want to know how long a Cardassian crewman could safely man one of their line ships. It might give us insight into their crew rotation patterns and ship movements."

"Yes Sir," the two women said in unison.

"Katie?" Tigranian said looking towards Tactical.

"Yes Sir?" she asked looking downtrodden. He could tell she felt guilty for the back blast damage to the ship.

"There was absolutely nothing you could do to lessen that shockwave. Your actions probably saved us a lot more damage and prevented people from getting hurt," he said softly. "Well done."

"Thank you, Sir."

He rose to his feet.

"I'd like your annexes to me within the hour. I'll be compiling my debrief in my ready room if anything else happens. Annabeth, you have the bridge."

****

On his own viewscreen, Varak watched the Pershing slowly back away.

He took great satisfaction in humiliating Daniel Tigranian, even if it was only slight. When his former wartime commander, Harok, had asked him to put together a small strike force to attack Bajor a year and a half ago with weapons acquired from the Romulans, he thought the time for revenge had finally come. He was livid when he found out Tigranian and his crew had saved that planet of terrorists, criminals, and vagrants.

Now, with the Romulans directly supporting the only real Cardassians left, he felt like he had another chance to bring things to a head. He had hated the Dominion, but at least they helped re-arm his people in the face of humiliating defeat at the hands of the barbarian Klingons. He hated the Federation even more.

It was their incessant and persistent opposition that had lost Bajor for Cardassia and turned the once mighty Union into a third-rate galactic power. It was the Federation that had forced the split of Cardassian territory. It was the Federation that forced his fellow countrymen into poverty and starvation by occupying the most profitable parts of the former empire. It was the Federation that necessitated Harok's political repression to restore a proper and traditional Cardassian social order. And it would be the Federation to first face his wrath.

Unfortunately, he knew Harok had neither the intelligence, nor the courage to do anything. The Romulans, though formidable, were far too cautious and political to strike the first blow. No, he had come up with the idea for Operation Cataclysm. It was a good plan, a soldier's plan, and it would be up to him and the rest of the Cardassian State Military to force the politicians to act.
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Goralis System: Republic of Cardassia

"I swear, Sir," Katie said spooning another mouthful of Tigranian's chicken curry and rice into her mouth. "You looked like you about to have an aneurysm while that Cardassian was speaking to you."

Tigranian leaned back in his chair at the head of the dining room table. He and Laria were continuing the tradition of having the entire senior staff over for dinner. He had even left the bridge early to cook a real, unreplicated meal.

"Let's just say I don't have a lot of patience when dealing with our grey-skinned friends on the other side of the demarcation line…" he said pouring himself another glass of the cardamom and kava iced tea Laria had brewed.

"Or with their pointy-eared friends, present company accepted," Annabeth said motioning towards T'les seated next to Scharr.

"No offense taken, Round Ear," T'les replied holding up a glass of water. Annabeth laughed.

"Let's just say you're not alone in those feelings, Dan," Annabeth said.

"Glad to hear it," the captain said taking a bite of his own food. "The ridiculous baktag he was spewing in our direction. I wanted to reach through the viewscreen and choke slam him."

"He was just trying to ruffle your feathers, Dan," Alex said with a smirk. "As your doctor, I have to advise you to keep calm. It's not good for a man of your age to have your blood pressure rise like that…"

"OOOOOOO," the entire table leered.

"A man of my age?" Tigranian said incredulously. "Tren is more than decade older than I am."

"Yeah, but I'm not a weak-ass, pink-skin," Scharr replied putting a forkful of sauced chicken into his gullet.

"I will have you know that I am in better shape now than when I graduated the Academy."

"The waist size of your trousers begs to differ, dear," Laria said batting her eyes.

An even louder hoot of approval echoed around the room.

"Whoah!" Tigranian said to everyone. "This is what I get for slaving over a hot stove for this crew?"

"You'll make someone a really great wife, one day, C-O," Annabeth chuckled.

"Eh, if I can ever get him to do a load of laundry right," Laria complained. "He mixes colors and whites together!"

"Gasp, Dan," Alex replied satirically.

"yInDayajmeH 'oy' yISIQ," Tigranian muttered rubbing his eyes.

"I'm not sure that's the correct usage of that particular phrase, Sir," Katie said.

"Oh, you speak Klingon now?" Tigranian replied acerbically.

"No," Katie said. "But I have hard time believing any Klingon proverb has to do with cooking or washing clothes."

Her barb elicited another chuckle from everyone, including Tigranian.

"Count it!" Phil said holding up his palm. Katie slapped it triumphantly.

"Speaking of ridiculous conversations," Phil said taking another bite from his plate. "I had a crazy one with Katie the other night…"

"The one where you told her you were going to be the man in the relationship?" Scharr interjected. Another snicker circled around the table.

"For the record, I make Phil do all the cooking and laundry," Katie said holding up her fork.

"So noted, Katie," Tigranian said nodding his head.

"No," Phil said rolling his eyes. "Katie was telling me she thought X-O was pregnant…"

Dead silence encompassed the senior end of the table. The sound of Annabeth's fork dropping to her plate echoed across the bulkheads.

"I mean…" Phil stammered picking up on the awkwardness. "It's ridiculous…that you could be pregnant, Ma'am," he paused as she looked down at her plate. "Right, Ma'am?"

"Phil…" Alex said from across the table.

"Actually, I am pregnant," Annabeth said confidently raising her head. "I mean," she said turning to Alex. "There's really no point in hiding it. My stomach is going to betray me pretty soon anyways."

"Fascinating," T'les said pausing at Annabeth's revelation.

"Congratulations, Ma'am and Ma'am," Katie said raising a glass of wine in Alex and Annabeth's direction while attempting to smooth over the awkwardness caused by her loose-lipped fiancÚ.

"Thank you, Katie," Alex said pushing the food around on her plate. She wasn't sure why this sudden reveal was so difficult. She glanced over to Tigranian and Laria who were pursing their lips tightly.

"We found a donor who was willing to help us," Alex said to everyone. "He is a good friend of both of us, but we strongly looked at all the candidates. No one should feel bad we didn't ask them instead," she said trying to prevent anyone's feelings from being hurt.

"You say that like we all know him, Doc," Phil said laughing.

Alex twitched as she realized she revealed too much.

Katie's instincts immediately picked up on it. She glanced over to the captain and Annabeth and realized both their cheeks were flushed.

"Ohhh…Dear…God…" she thought to herself as her eyes grew wider than her plate. She immediately slammed both hands down on the table.

"Katie, what's wrong?" Phil asked concerned.

"Nothing!" she said grabbing a napkin and wiping her face. "I just remembered that I have a diagnostic on the torpedo targeting sensors scheduled for 0500 tomorrow morning."

"You never said anything about a diagnostic tomorrow morning?" Phil replied.

"That's because I don't tell you everything…." she said gritting her teeth.

"There wasn't any diagnostic on the schedule for tomorrow morning," Annabeth said very confused. "And certainly not at 0500."

"That's because it's a surprise inspection," Katie stammered. "Trying to keep the night crew on their toes. Don't want them getting complacent, right Sir?" she stammered to Tigranian. He grew very concerned.

"Katie, are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine, Sir, but I better call it a night," she said pushing back from the table and stretching her arms over her head. "Thank you for the meal, it was delicious."

"Half of it is still on your plate, Lieutenant," T'les said pointing with her fork.

"Then, I'll take it to go!" she said running to the replicator and materializing a paper container. She ran back, quickly shoveled her food inside, closed the lid, and then kissed Phil on the cheek. "Early day tomorrow, I'll spend the night in my quarters. Wouldn't want to wake you up early. See you!" she said running out of the room.

"The hell was that?" Scharr said looking down the table. "That was weird even for Stone."

"I don't know," Phil said putting his napkin back on the table, "but I'm going to find out."

"Let her go, Phil," Annabeth said softly. She was convinced that Katie had figured out the whole thing and was not reacting well. "It was obvious she wanted to get away from the group for a while."

"Ma'am," Phil said more than a little desperately. "We all know that when she wants to get away from people, it can be dangerous…"

"She'll be alright, Phil," Tigranian said rubbing the side of his face. "I don't think it's that." He flashed a glance over to Annabeth and Laria. They each took a deep breath.

"That was great!" Scharr said putting his fork and knife across his empty plate. His words broke the uncomfortable silence. "What's for desert?"

"Sir," Phil said turning his head around. "With all due respect, how can you think of desert at a time like this?"

Scharr leaned back in his chair, his antennae slowly moving from side to side.

"Philip," the way the old Andorian said his full name automatically made him seem wiser and more paternal. The entire table shifted to hear his words. "We all love Katie. By Uzevah the Infinite, I don't know why I do, but I do.

I have three wives and ten kids back home with another on the way. I've been in Starfleet for a quarter of a century. I've been to over two hundred planets across three quadrants of this galaxy, and do you know what I've figured out over the years? It's always gonna be something.

Alien parasites are inside a crewman's bloodstream, the baby's got colic, there's a radiation leak in the warp core, your middle daughter got a skinned knee cause your oldest son pushed her down, or somebody at this table is struggling with something we don't understand," he subtly raised his eyes towards the two married couples at the other end of the table. "If you fly off the hinges every time something in work or family life is amiss, you won't make it very long in this life. However, there are very few problems that can't be made better by sitting back and enjoying a good piece of uttaberry pie a la mode."

The others were stunned at his frank and rather poignant advice.

"Mr. Scharr," Phil said leaning forward. "That was either the wisest or the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

"The best counsel is usually a bit of both, Kid," the Andorian said with a grin.

"I'm afraid we don't have any uttaberry pie, Tren," Tigranian said, "but would you be willing to settle from some peach cobbler?"

Scharr sighed.

"I guess that will have to do, Sir."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
The next morning, Katie stood at her station on the bridge. She wiped her sweaty palms on the sides of her black trousers before stepping out to the front of the captain's chair.

"Sir," she said to a surprised Tigranian very formally. "May I speak to you in private?"

Tigranian exchanged side glances with Annabeth seated next to him.

"Of course, Katie," he said rising to his feet and motioning towards his ready room.

They stepped inside. Tigranian immediately took a seat at his desk, while Katie stiffly stood at attention in front of it.

"Relax, Lieutenant," he said motioning for her to stand easy. She placed her hands behind her back and stared straight at him.

"Permission to speak freely, Sir?" she said.

"Granted."

"As provost marshal of this ship and head of security, it is my duty to investigate any and all misconduct or violations of regulation to report to the proper authorities." She paused and took another deep breath. "Adultery is a crime under Article 134 of the Starfleet Code of Conduct. Now, you have the right not to answer the following the question and request appropriate legal counsel, but are you the father of Captain Geist's unborn child?"

Now, it was Tigranian's turn to take a deep breath.

"I waive my right to remain silent and answer 'yes' I am the father of that child. However," he said raising a hand before she had a chance to counter, "it was exactly as Alex described it last night. I provided a sample that Alex used to impregnate Captain Geist. There was no sexual contact or intercourse at any time. If you need to corroborate my statement, Alex can do so, however, her medical logs cannot be subpoenaed without a magistrate's written order."

Katie pursed her lips and nodded.

"I am aware of that, Sir. And I don't think that will be necessary. However, is Laria aware of this?"

Tigranian was taken aback by her question.

"Does that also fall under your purview as provost marshal, Lieutenant Stone?" he asked somewhat defensively.

"No, Sir," she said straightening her back. "But she is my friend, and I'm not sure I could stand knowing something so significant about her husband and another woman."

Tigranian rubbed the sides of his mouth with his right hand.

"I'm sure she would appreciate that kind of loyalty, Katie," Tigranian replied, "but yes, she knows. She was right at my side during the whole procedure."

"Sir, I'm sorry," Katie looking down at his carpet. "It probably wasn't my place to…"

Tigranian held up his hand.

"It was exactly your place, Katie. It is your duty exactly to root out misconduct, especially among senior officers. Too often in a service as regimented as ours, higher ranks get away with terrible things because the people charged with doing the right thing turn a blind eye for fear of hurting their careers. What you just did took real courage, and I respect you for it."

"Thank you, Sir," she said raising her chin to look at him again. "That's…that's all I have, Sir." He nodded. She turned to leave, but he stopped her.

"Katie…"

"Yes, Sir," she said turning back around.

"I would appreciate you keeping this information confidential. I don't want it getting around to the rest of the crew unless Annabeth and Alex feel comfortable revealing it."

"I understand, Sir," she said softly. "Consider it forgotten."

"Thank you, Katie," he said nervously stroking his face. "I appreciate that."

"Sir, if my permission to speak freely has not expired?"

He stifled a laugh.

"Of course not. Go ahead."

"You speak a lot about how this crew is a family. Now, our first officer, chief medical officer, C-O, and science officer are expecting a baby together.

My grandmother used to tell me, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' I didn't understand it at the time, but I think I do now. Do you think it might be appropriate for the rest of us to know so we can help?"

Tigranian shut his eyes tightly before speaking.

"Katie, you might be more Klingon than you know."

"Sir?" she said confused.

"Let's just say my brother and you would probably get along quite nicely." He paused. "Though I might agree with you, it's not up to me in this case."

"I understand, Sir," she said slightly nodding her head.

"Nothing further, Lieutenant. Dismissed." He said turning his chair towards the starscape behind him.

Katie departed through the ready room doors and crossed the bridge towards her station. As she passed the first officer's chair, she clandestinely reached down, grabbed Annabeth's hand, and squeezed it tightly. Before Annabeth could react, Katie took her station like nothing was amiss.

Captain Geist looked over her shoulder in amazement, but didn't say anything. She didn't have to.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Continuing Committee Chambers, Ki-Baratan: Romulus, Romulan Star Empire

Stardate: 53371.4

"Why were these exercises allowed to continue when Starfleet could observe them?" Senator Semachs said banging his fist on the table. "They now have a dangerous and intimate understanding of how we would fight during an invasion."

"Senator," Chairman Koval said steepling his fingers, "One of the primary purposes of these wargames was to show the Federation of the new capabilities of the Romulan/Cardassian State Alliance. Indeed, there would be no point in continuing the engagements if the Federation was not observing. We want to strike fear into their ranks…"

"Spare us, Chairman," Senator Barchrus said from the far end of the table. "Everyone in this room knows how incompetent the Cardassian creatures are. They are as stupid and arrogant as humans or Klingons. The Tal Shiar representatives at the exercises should have ordered their suspension until this body was at least briefed! We don't spend the good talons of the taxpayers of the Star Empire to justify spoon-headed incompetence."

"Ladies and Gentlemen," a voice echoed from the other end of the room. The group turned to see Senator Trallian, the committee's newest member, raise his hand. "I know I do not have the experience of most of the members of this body, but I would suggest that Chairman Koval may be correct in his assessment…"

"Ahhh, the junior senator from Tremaxus…" Barchrus laughed. "Please, enlighten us with your wisdom…"

"Senator," Trallian began by averting his gaze downward. "As I said, this committee's wisdom probably surpasses mine, however, what is the most powerful weapon Romulus has at its disposal?" He looked up and down the table to meet a series of confused glances. "Is it disruptors? Plasma torpedoes? No, it is fear!"

"Fear?" Semachs said incredulously, his white hair shimmering in the dim light of the chamber. "You suggest that a few grey-skinned thugs are enough to scare the Federation?"

His barb elicited laughs from a few other committee members.

"No, I agree, the Cardassians are a sub-Romulan race. They are barely sentient at best, but the Federation does view them as dangerous. Combine that with the fact that we have begun to rearm the animals in our image, and I think that is enough to show our enemies that we are a force to be reckoned with."

"A force to be reckoned with?" Senator S'trita said from three seats away. "As I continue to emphatically state, our enemies will not view us with respect until we crush our own slave rebellion. They laugh as we struggle to keep our own house in order…"

"The slaves will be dealt with Shokanna," Semachs said with a deep breath. "However, it does us no good to slaughter servants when wolves are at our door…"

"You expect the wolves to run when we cannot keep our own sheep obedient?" S'trita said raising an eyebrow.

The doors to the chamber flew open. A man with a long beard and disheveled robes stared back at them with eyes on fire.

"All rise for the praetor!" Koval said. The other members of the committee immediately jumped to attention. Neral stepped inside, fuming with rage.

"What is this!?" he demanded passing back and forth on the marble floor.

"My Lord," Koval said doubling down with a penitent tone, "we did not want to disturb you in your studies…"

"My own Continuing Committee?" he said moving down the table, "Meeting without me?"

"Esteemed Praetor," Barchrus replied, "as Chairman Koval said, you stated that you did not wish to be disturbed with trivial matters. We were meeting to discuss the current training being undertaken by the Fifth and Eighth Legions with the Cardassian State…"

"SILENCE!" Neral yelled. His stink was enough to cause most of the committee to cover their faces. It was obvious he had not bathed in days. "You dare to justify your treason to me?" he spit at them.

The Senators and military officials exchanged frustrated glances.

"Praetor," Semachs said, "there is no treason here. We merely are continuing the business of state while the praetor concerns himself with greater matters…"

"Greater matters?" Neral said stroking his beard. "You mean like plotting against me? Plotting against the treasured memory of my beloved wife? Your First Lady!"

"Preator!" S'trita said raising to her feet. "The passing of Lady Selonia wounds us all, but for the Romulan government to survive, we must continue functioning."

"You think I do not function, Senator?" Neral said walking up to the table and slamming his fists on the wooden surface in front of her. "I assure you, avenging her death is all that the Romulan Empire needs to do to triumph against barbarism!"

"Praetor," Koval said walking around the table and placing a hand on Neral's shoulder. "We understand your agony. No doubt, the realization that Vrnealious was aiding the seditious forces against us wounded you even more, but his execution has done much to relieve our collective pain."

The Senators exchanged another glance between themselves.

"Perhaps you should return to your chambers to rest. You can tell me what issues you wish us to discuss and we can do so…"

"Rest if for lesser men, Koval!" Neral spit at him while throwing his arms back. "I am here to guide this committee towards enlightenment!"

"Praetor!" Koval said more forcefully. "Please, come with me."

"Do you all feel this way?" Neral said, his wild eyes making contact with every member of the committee up and down the table. Most averted contact. "Oh, I see…" Neral said trailing off. "You are afraid! Afraid of what I will command of you! You are not worthy to sit at this table!"

Koval motioned for two praetorians to come and assist him. They grabbed Neral by the robes and began to pull him back towards the doors.

"Traitors! Traitors all of you! Only one man is strong enough to keep the raptor flying! That is me!"

His voice echoed down the marble halls as he disappeared into the corridor. The other senators exchanged a collective exhale of relief once he was gone. An awkward silence permeated the room. Finally, Trallian spoke.

"Are we really going to allow him to remain in power?"

"What are you suggesting, Senator?" S'trita said incredulously.

"You know exactly what I am suggesting," Trallian replied.

"We have not come to that point yet," Barchrus interjected.

"Have we?" Trallian muttered.

"You need more than six months on this committee before suggesting murdering the leader of the Empire," Semachs said hiding a laugh.

"Then maybe one of you should…" Trallian said trailing off.

That gave the other Senators pause.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Lazon System: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 53372.1

The doors to the Pershing's wardroom parted and Scharr and T'les stepped inside. It was the end of a rather taxing day in Engineering fighting with the power flow regulators. Both were looking forward to a hot meal in their quarters. However, Annabeth and Alex had asked to see them along with the rest of the senior staff.

"Does anybody know what this is about?" the Andorian said taking a seat next to Katie and Phil.

"Presumably, it is related to a rather important personal matter, likely relating to Captain Geist's pregnancy," T'les said pulling out the chair next to Laria.

"What makes you say that, T?" Phil asked confused.

"If it was duty-related," the Vulcan said in her typical flat tone, "this conversation would have occurred during duty hours. Therefore, since it is of a personal nature, it is significant enough to bring us all in together at once. Barring another epiphany, the most current event of such significance is the fact that the two are expecting a child."

"How logical of you, T'les," Katie muttered sarcastically.

"Thank you," T'les replied with a respectful nod.

Laria rubbed her nose ridges. Despite the Vulcan's obliviousness to Katie's jab, she was dead on about the topic of this meeting. She just hoped that this new information would do less harm than good.

The doors opened again and Tigranian walked in. Katie moved to call the room attention, but the captain motioned for them to stay seated.

"At ease guys," he said passing his usual seat at the head of the table for another one next to his wife. "We're off duty. This is about AB and Alex."

At that moment, both women walked in a stood at the head of the table in front of everyone.

"Thank you for coming," Annabeth said with a deep breath. Everyone noticed she reached out and grabbed Alex's hand for support. "I know a lot of you were surprised when we announced the other night that we were pregnant, but that wasn't the entire truth…"

"After everything we have been through together, and talking with our donor," Alex said, "we agreed that we should let you all know the rest of the story. It's better that it comes directly from us instead of via rumor and conjecture. After all, it takes a village right?"

Katie did her best to hide a smirk.

"The man who volunteered to help us did so after we asked him, out of the kindest of his heart," Alex continued.

"He did so with the complete understanding we would raise this child as our own and asked for nothing in return," Annabeth added.

"And that man is…" Alex said nervously.

"Daniel Tigranian," Annabeth said.

The table fell silent. Those that already knew scanned the eyes of those that didn't looking for some sense of shock or betrayal.

"That's it?" Scharr said holding up his hands. "You brought us all in here to let us know that?"

In many ways, Scharr's lack of surprise was even more shocking than Annabeth's revelation.

"We were just concerned that you all would think it was inappropriate or showed unnecessary favoritism to us," Alex replied.

"Hardly," T'les said cocking her head to one side. "If anything, it was a very logical solution to a biological problem set."

"Is everything logical to you, T?" Katie said grinning.

"Like all members of my species, I try to view things through the lens of logic. The primary goal of most paired humanoids is to procreate their species. Homosexual relationships are unable to do so through usual means, therefore you had to devise a solution. If the captain was willing to contribute, he was fulfilling his duty of dedication to the welfare of his subordinates."

"Most captains I know don't fulfill duty to that level," Phil said still trying to wrap his head around it.

"Our captain is more dedicated than most, Phil," Katie said taking his hand.

"Team," Tigranian said leaning forward. "I want you all to know that this won't affect my ability to lead. This was merely an act of kindness…"

"Sir…" Scharr said cutting him off. "Has this really been bothering you all this much?" the Andorian asked incredulously.

"A little bit, yes," Annabeth said. "We don't like keeping secrets from this crew."

"Then, Ma'am," he said curling his antennae, "With all due respect, you're way too concerned with other people's feelings."

The room fell silent.

"Honestly," Scharr continued. "What you crazy group of pink-skins do behind closed doors in your quarters is your own damned business. Don't get me wrong, if you want me to spend a little time with the rug rat and teach it the right way to turn a wrench, I'd be happy too, but if you want me to have zero contact from the second you push it out, I'm fine with that too.

What really matters to the men and women in this room is that we continue to work as a team. If you all think we can do that as a result of this little revelation: rock on.

But, if anybody here can't put their personal stupidity aside and act like a grown-ass adult, I'll drop my transfer to the Shran right now. Captain Zhe'vasda has already tried to bribe me by offering to drop the ambient temperature of the ship twenty degrees."

Tigranian looked around the table.

"I don't think that will be necessary, Tren," he said meeting the eyes of everyone in the room. "However, if anyone here thinks differently, feel free to speak up now. They're won't be any consequences."

The entire table looked back at him and nodded.

"Alright then," Tigranian said with pause. He then turned to his first officer and doctor. "Anything else you want to talk about?"

Annabeth grabbed the back of a chair and leaned forward.

"Captain Tigranian says it all the time, but I don't think I've said it enough…I am so proud of this crew. You're the best I've ever served with."

"And probably the best you ever will serve with," Katie said with a chuckle.

Scharr grumbled something and raised his hand.

"Yes, Tren?"Alex said.

"I love you all as much as the next guy," he said. "I get it, it's your first kid. You're all excited. However, I'm tired as hell and have an appointment with a cold shower in my quarters. If we're done with this anti-climactic, emotional circle-jerk…"

Annabeth began to laugh.

"We're good, Tren," she said flashing him a grin. She then looked over to Tigranian and Laria who smiled back at her. "We're all good."
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