Star Trek: New Horizons Season 5, Episode 3 (Frontiers of Freedom) by captaintigranian
Summary: As the Pershing inspects Federation positions along the Cardassian State border, a medical emergency turns into something unexpected.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Family, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10617 Read: 827 Published: 24 Dec 2017 Updated: 24 Dec 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

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Cyrbok System: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border

Stardate: 53425.3

"They out there?" Tigranian asked glancing over his shoulder from the captain's chair.

"Oh, yes Sir," Laria said shaking her head. "A Romulan warbird and two Cardassian State cruisers, less than a thousand kilometers from the border. Their sensor arrays are active and watching every move we make."

"Not surprising," Tigranian said pulling on the edges of his jacket. "Might as well give 'em something to look at, right?" he muttered with a glance to Annabeth. She chuckled and leaned back in her own seat. "Phil drop to one half impulse. Katie prep salute batteries: 3 flare burst."

"Aye Sir," the pair said in unison from their respective stations.

The Pershing flashed back into normal space. Ten thousand kilometers away, the USS Nevsky awaited their arrival.

"Fire our salute, Katie. They're ready to head home."

"Flares away, Sir," she responded.

Three white flashes brilliantly popped off their bow. Quickly, the other Pershing class vessel responded with a flare volley of her own.

"Phil, bring us alongside. Parallel her course."

"Aye Sir," Phil replied artfully bringing the two battlestarships less than kilometers apart. They sailed together hugging the border. The light from Cyrbok's star brilliantly illuminated their hull plating.

"Captain Tarn is hailing, Sir," Katie said.

"Put him onscreen," Tigranian said crossing his legs.

The image of the bemused Coridanite captain loomed large on the main viewer.

"Belen!" Tigranian said with a smile. "Fun month on the Cardassian border?"

"It was fun till you got here, Dan," he said laughing. "No, all quiet on the Cardassian Front. They're been afraid to test us ever since that first officer of yours took apart their best Admiral with a museum relic."

"What can I say, Sir?" Annabeth said shrugging her shoulders. "I'm just that good."

"No doubt, Annabeth," Tarn replied. "Kivrana couldn't stop talking about it when we relieved her last month."

"And I'm sure Shu Yin will want some payback when she relieves us," Tigranian replied.

"That mean the Nelson's back up and running?" Tarn said hopefully.

"Like new," Tigranian said. "She just completed her post drydock shakedown cruise last week. Got to hear ALL about it when she rendezvoused with us at Alpha Centauri three days ago."

Tarn laughed again.

"We're sending you all our logs and reports. Only thing we noticed out of place was the number of Romulan ships keep fluctuating. Warbird coverage is down at least twenty percent from six months ago."

"We probably have Rellas to thank for that," Annabeth muttered into her captain's ear. Tigranian nodded.

"Alright, Brother," Tigranian said turning back to the screen. "Thanks for the intel dump. I've got some hard mail in my hold for you. Beaming it over now and enjoy the goodies on the trip back to the Fed." He nodded to Laria who completed the transport sequence from her station.

"Now, you didn't eat all of the Tarborian ginger snaps my wife baked for me, did you?" Tarn said raising his brow.

"Of course not," Tigranian said grinning, "though, they did look delicious while I was rummaging through all of your other packages."

Tarn laughed out loud.

"Good luck, Lady Blackjack," Tarn said touching his right index finger to his forehead and miming a relaxed salute. "Stay frosty."

"Good winds and fair seas back home, Might of the Motherland," Tigranian replied. "Pershing out."

The viewscreen disconnected. The huge silhouette of the Nevksy pulled away and jumped to warp towards the Federation.

"Alright folks," Tigranian announced looking around the bridge. "We officially have the conn. The Cardassian State border is ours for the next month. Number One," Tigranian said turning to Annabeth, "I want the department heads to have their proposed rotation schedules to you for review by 1500 then on my desk by 0900 tomorrow morning."

"Roger Sir," Annnabeth said with a nod.

"Also, they're expecting us skids down at Camp Hayes at 1100 hours tomorrow. Hawkins will be joining us. I want him to link in with the Marine/Fleet LNO down their just to get some grunt specific updates with what's going on out here."

"Tracking Sir," Annabeth said confidently. "I'll make sure his folks are at the shuttlebay at 1030 to link up with us."

"Us?" Tigranian said skeptically.

"Yes Sir," Annabeth replied. "I'm going down with you and the away team. You'll handle the inspection while I supervise the download of the logistics shipment for the base ordnance depot."

"Annabeth," Tigranian said. "May I see you in my ready room?"

Katie and Laria exchanged glances.

"Of course," Annabeth said with more than a hint of annoyance. Tigranian offered a hand to help her up, but she gently declined.

"Katie, you have the bridge," Tigranian said.

"Aye, Sir," his tactical officer replied. The pair disappeared into the captain's office. "Somebody is about to get a talking too…" Laria muttered.

"Somebody needs to tell their husband to get out of the 19th century…" Katie muttered right back.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Laria asked.

"I'm pretty sure he's about to find out," Katie said chuckling.

In the ready room, Annabeth collapsed onto the couch and Tigranian walked over the replicator.

"AB, can I get you something?" he said hoping to set a friendly tone for this awkward conversation.

"Just some water please, Dan," she said.

He selected an iced Klingon tea for himself and also materialized a glass of water. He handed her the beverage before leaning on his desk.

"Dan," she said after taking a sip. "Do you mind telling me why you were surprised that a starship's first officer would want to supervise a logistical exchange? Or, in other words, why were you surprised that I would be doing my job?"

Tigranian sighed.

"Annabeth," he said like it was obvious. "You're eight months pregnant."

"And?" she said matter-of-factly.

"And I'm surprised that you aren't on limited duty yet. I might have to have a talk with my Chief Medical Officer…"

"Go ahead," Annabeth said confidently. "I already told her that if she put me on limited duty, I would make sure the duty roster would have her on every night shift from now until this ship is retired."

"Annabeth…" Tigranian grumbled.

"Daniel," she said looking straight back at him. "I am pregnant. I am not an invalid. I am going to do my job until the day that I can't. Otherwise, what I am here for?"

"Katie is perfectly capable of supervising an ordnance delivery…"

"That is not the point!" Annnabeth shouted back at him.

"Number One, it's a struggle for you to climb out of a chair right now."

"Dammit! I'm not asking for you to send me into hand to hand combat. I'm merely asking to be treated commensurate with my position on this ship. Wait, scratch that," she said cocking her head to one side. "I'm not asking to be treated. I'm telling you how it's going to be."

Tigranian dropped his chin and cleared his throat.

"Even a female Klingon warrior refrains from putting herself in dangerous situations during the final weeks of pregnancy."

"I'm not Klingon, Dan. I'm a Starfleet officer."

"Who is already starting to brush up against Starfleet regulations, AB," Tigranian said furrowing his brow. "They're written down, clear as day. No away missions during the last trimester!"

"I know regulations, Dan! Don't explain things to me like I'm a green lieutenant."

"Then why fight them if they're for your own good? If something happens to you or the baby…"

"Because I made a promise to myself that I was never going to let motherhood be an excuse to not give my all! Jesus, you can be sexist sometimes."

She could tell her last statement landed like a blow. Tigranian rubbed his eyes.

"You don't care that captains get relieved for messing with the medical status of their officers, right?"

"Did you ever give a shit over the past two and a half years that first officers get relieved for letting their captains put themselves in suicidally stupid situations?"

Tigranian grumbled.

"What was that?" Annabeth said condescendingly. "I couldn't quite hear you."


"Then why did you keep doing suicidally stupid shit?"

"Because I always feel as a captain I should put myself out front…"

"And why is that?" Annabeth asked in an uncomfortably parental tone.

"Because it's my job…"

"I think this conversation is over," Annabeth said smugly finishing her glass. "Thanks for the water. I'll be on the bridge." She grunted as she stood up and walked out the doors. Tigranian just stood there with his tail between his legs.

"What just happened?" he thought to himself out loud.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
The captain stepped into his quarters and immediately unzipped his jacket. He stumbled over to the couch and collapsed on the floor. Laria was already at her desk studying technical schematics for her next scientific survey.

"That kind of day?" she said not looking up from her work.

"I really hate transitions," he muttered while staring up at the ceiling. "Twenty different admirals kept pinging my inbox all afternoon demanding to know the same pieces of information over and over again. 'Are you ready to fight tonight if necessary?' 'Did you conduct a good handover with the Nevksy?' 'What color of freakin' underwear do you have on?' I swear, no one in that monstrosity of a headquarters building in San Francisco talks to each other."

"If they did," Laria said making a few notes on a blank PADD, "there wouldn't need to be twenty of them. It's called 'job security,' Babe and you know it."

"You wear the rank of a lieutenant, but you speak with the wisdom of the ancients," Tigranian replied still staring upwards.

"It's kinda hard not to grow up fast on this ship. It has a captain that's never boring," Laria said flashing him the slightest of grins.

"Can I ask you a question?" Tigranian finally got out.

"Of course," Laria replied.

"And will you be honest with me?"

Tigranian's last statement caused her to pause and look over.


"Am I sexist?" he asked with a mix of meek regret and self-loathing curiosity.

"I'm guessing this had to do with that little closed door conversation you had with Annabeth earlier?" she asked. Tigranian tapped his nose.

"Remember, you promised to be honest."

Laria pondered her words carefully.

"Do you consider the women under your command to be different than the men under your command?" she asked.

"I acknowledge that there are some inherent differences between the biology of a male and a female. Don't ask me to explain Andorians though, I'm still trying to figure that four genders thing out."

"No one is talking about biology, Daniel," Laria replied shaking her head. "You have a penis. I don't. Big Deal. What I'm asking is 'Do you think you should treat the men and women under your command differently?'"

"Of course not," Tigranian replied. "And I never thought I did until today…"

"Some context here would be helpful," Laria said.

"But you acknowledge that this is a husband asking his wife for advice, not the ship's captain talking about the first officer to a lieutenant behind her back?"

"Well Duh, Daniel." Laria said rolling her eyes.

"I told Annabeth that she shouldn't go on the away mission to Cyrbok IV. She flamed me and then said she was going anyways."

"Do you think that she's unqualified for the away mission?"

"Of course not."

"Then why did you say she shouldn't go?" Laria asked plainly. Tigranian sat upright and stared at her.

"Because she's eight months pregnant!? It's a biological fact. I think it's something we have to acknowledge and regulations back me up."

"If everyone on this ship followed regulations to the letter, you'd be a champion gladiator in the Romulan Empire right now instead of lying on your carpet complaining about bureaucracy."

Tigranian stared back at her.

"That's a low blow, L," he said.

"But a necessary one. I've never known you to be so concerned with regulations. Why now?"

"I don't know…" he muttered.

"Could it be that you think you're worried about the baby's safety more than the woman who's carrying it?" Laria asked.

Tigranian shook his head, but then paused.

"No…" he said trailing off.

"You didn't sound very sure of yourself there."

"It is true. I am very concerned about this baby, but I've always given Annabeth and Alex the freedom to make the choices that are their rights as parents."

"Until now…" Laria said turning back to her work. "I think that answers your question, Daniel."

"That is not fair," he said spurned.

"Do you know what's not fair, Daniel?" she said turning back to him. "Being in Starfleet is hard enough without having to deal with people always assuming you can't do your job because you're a woman. That's what's unfair."

"It's the 24th Century, Laria. Women wear admiral's uniforms and command starships."

"Oh, Baby…" she muttered shaking her head. "Annabeth is a captain. But she is also dealing with the fact that a good amount of the crew, benignly or malignantly, thinks she suddenly can't perform her duties because she happens to pregnant. What's worse is that her commander apparently is one of them. Don't make her choices any harder than they are."

Tigranian tried defending himself.

"If Phil or Scharr had a medical condition that put their abilities at risk, I would ask them to stand down as well."

"Would you ask them to stand down for a whole month? That's what you're asking Annabeth to do. How would you like it if your boss said, 'Just go sit in the corner and twiddle your thumbs. You're not important enough to matter?'"

"I didn't say anything like that!" Tigranian shouted back. "Annabeth is one of the most important people on this ship."

"Didn't you though? Put yourself in her shoes and then re-examine the conversation."

Tigranian thought silently for a moment and then collapsed back down on the carpet.

"I think you know what you need to do now," Laria said turning back to her notes.

"Qu'vath guy'cha baQa…" Tigranian muttered. His knew his wife was right.
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Cyrbok IV: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border

Camp Hayes was a ten acre forward operating base on the barren face of a rocky, uninhabited Class M planetoid. Cyrbok IV had been completely unremarkable until a line drawn on a map by politicians a hundred lightyears away placed it on the frontline of a cold war. The UFPMC complex consisted of pre-fabricated metal shelters and bunkers dug deep into a mountainside and hardened against orbital bombardment.

In the center of the camp was a large, gravel landing pad surrounded by five meter tall permacrete blast barriers. Looming right where visitors first disembarked was a rectangular sign painted in red and gold with a UFP Marine Corps "Eagle, Galaxy, and Anchor." Block stenciled letters proudly proclaimed:



Two flagpoles flanking either side of the greeting contained the flags of the United Federation of Planets and the yellow and green banner of the Republic of Cardassia. They represented the only two occupants of the planetoid: the UFP's 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment and their partners, the 6th Regiment of the Republic of Cardassia's 1st Guard's Order.

Two marine officers in black fatigues stood with a Cardassian Glinn and stared up at the clear, cloudless sky.

"You said they were on their way, XO?" the marine lieutenant colonel asked his assistant.

"They reported skids up ten minutes ago, Sir," the two meter tall major said. His species, the Acceroids, were known for their size and strength. They had become particularly welcome members of the UFPMC.

"The Federation is not exactly known for its punctuality," the Cardassian officer replied with a grin.

"Come now, Teras," the marine lieutenant colonel said. "I like to think we've earned at least a little respect form you in the past ten months."

"Perhaps a little," the Glinn said as the whine of a dropship's impulse engines started echoing through the air.

"There they are," the marine commander said with a hint of excitement. His troopers had deployed over thirty transport scramblers across the base to prevent infiltration by the Cardassian State. As a result, beaming in wasn't an option for the Pershing's away team.

The fleet drop ship appeared and quickly descended towards the pad. As it dropped below 100 meters, the landing thrusters kicked up huge clouds of brown dust. The three men covered their faces with their arms before the craft touched down and killed its engines. They quickly walked over as the hopper's rear ramp came down to reveal Tigranian, Alex, Hawkins, and Annabeth.

The away team descended the ramp to be greeted by the welcoming delegation.

"Sergeant!" the major shouted to a group of enlisted marines waiting on the edge of the landing zone. "Link in with the crew chief and start getting the cargo unloaded!"

"Aye Sir!" the NCO shouted putting his people into action. The lieutenant colonel and the Glinn looked at each other when they realized that one of the women in Captain Tigranian's party was very pregnant. However, they silently decided it would be better not to ask questions when they saw the captain's pips on her undershirt.

"Sir!" the marine lieutenant colonel screamed with a sharp salute to Tigranian. "Welcome to Camp Hayes."

Tigranian stared back at him through a pair of dark tinted sunglasses while returning the marine's salute.

"I never thought I would see the day," he said shaking his head. Suddenly, the captain let a huge grin cross his face. He rushed forward and wrapped his arms around the lieutenant colonel. The marine officer started laughing as well. Both the fleet and ground officers were taken aback with the sudden affection between the two men. "God, it's good to see you again, Tyler."

"Likewise, Sir."

"Alright," Tigranian said pulling back. "Guys," he said to the Pershing's entourage, "This is Tyler Hancock. He was my XO in 1-2 Marines." Alex looked over to Annabeth. Tigranian's current Number One stared at her predecessor with an emotionless face from behind her shades. "Tyler this is Captain Annabeth Geist, my first officer, Doctor Alex Hunter, my CMO, and then there's this one who I'm sorry to say you already know."

"Jesus Hawkins" Hancock said rolling his eyes. "They put a second gold pip on your collar? Goes to show you that my influence don't mean shit in the Corps anymore."

Hawkins laughed.

"It's good to see you again too, Sir," Hawkins replied.

"Damn, it is good to see you too, Kid," Hancock said pulling Hawkins into an embrace as well. "And it's also good to see that you still got Frontrunner 6 watching your back. If there was any AS3 on my staff that deserved a fleet detachment command, it was you."

"That's because you taught me well, Sir," Hawkins said gratefully.

"I like to think I also might have rubbed off on him a little," Tigranian added.

"It was a sad day when I heard that Commander T was headed back to the fleet. I thought the Corps had managed to convince him to stay," Hancock said to Tigranian's companions.

The two men suddenly realized how uncomfortable the others were becoming at the warm reunion they were not a part of.

"Of course," Hancock continued, "This is Major Kenset Nasho, my XO." The tall Acceroid nodded and looked down on the rest of the group.

"Major," Tigranian said shaking his hand.

"And may I introduce Glinn Teras Seroma of the 6th Regiment, 1st Guard's Order, our host nation commander here."

"Captain Tigranian," Seroma said extending a hand.

"Kiba'avzayn, Glinn Seroma," Tigranian said shaking back. "Lorhoc šadav-ra edek."

Seroma's eyes grew wide with pleasant surprise.

"You speak Cardassian, Captain?" he said.

"I've been in your country long enough that I've picked up a little," Tigranian said.

"You honor us," Seroma said with a nod. "It is especially shocking all other things considered."

"What do you mean by that?" Annabeth said incredulously.

"It is no secret that Captain Tigranian is married to a Bajoran. I would think he would be repulsed by all things Cardassian. After all, aren't most Federation officers?" Seroma said staring back at her. The entire group paused in a moment of extreme awkwardness.

"Glinn Seroma," Tigranian said finally breaking the silence. "If this alliance has any hope of working, both sides are going to have to try very hard to move beyond the prejudices of the past."

"Well put Captain," Seroma said with a nod.

"Well," Hancock said trying to get things back on track. "If your first officer and CMO want to link in with Major Nasho, he'll take your Doc over to the aide station and then arrange for the transfer of supplies. If you and Lieutenant Hawkins come with me and Glinn Seroma, we've arranged a little tour to show you what we've accomplished."

"Looking forward to it," Tigranian said. "Annabeth, Alex, take your time. Give me a call when you're complete."

"Yes Sir," Annabeth replied still keeping one eye on the Glinn.

After Hancock, Tigranian, Seroma, and Hawkins departed for the base perimeter, Alex and Annabeth were alone with Nasho.

"I hope he's not that abrasive all the time," Alex said.

"I've learned two things working with the Cardassian Guards for the past year, Doctor," Nasho said. "The first is that they are tenacious fighters who love this country more than their own lives."

"And the second thing?" Annabeth said.

"They tend to get very angry at anything that reminds of them of how far that country's fallen. That includes us."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
After the commanders finished touring Camp Hayes, Glinn Seroma said his farewells and returned to his own headquarters across the base. Hancock led Tigranian and Hawkins back to his own operations center where his staff manned several banks of computers monitoring Cyrbok IV and its surrounding space. Hancock introduced Hawkins to his intelligence officer and then led Tigranian back to his office for a private chat. Once Tigranian saw it, he realized the term "office" might be a liberal term for the prefabricated sheet metal room bolted to the side of the OPS Center, but it was still better than anything the two of them had during the war.

"Don't mind Teras," Hancock said. "He's a great leader, but he has perpetual stick up his ass when it comes to the Federation. However, at the end of the day, he actually gives a shit about making this work."

"If I let Cardassians get to me, I wouldn't last long in this job, Tyler," Tigranian replied with a grin.

"Can I get you something, Sir?" Hancock asked taking a seat behind his "desk." It was really a table made of sheets of plywood nailed together at right angles.

"No thanks, Tyler," Tigranian said taking a seat in a chair across from Hancock. "The whole point of this mission was for me to bring you stuff."

"Speaking of that," Hancock said leaning back in his chair. "C'mon, Sir," he said with an anticipatory grin on his face. "I know you. You remembered the thing I really need here."

"You do know me, Tyler," Tigranian said reaching down and unzipping a black backpack he had been carrying. He pulled out a roll of Klingon yIvjebol and placed it on Hancock's desk.

"You are a lifesaver, Sir!" Hancock said reaching over and ripping a metal can from the plastic wrapping. "Federation replicators won't let you upload the pattern for this stuff."

"Our nation is just concerned for our health, Tyler," Tigranian replied sarcastically.

"If they were really concerned for our health, they wouldn't send us off to warzones, would they?" Hancock said prying the lid off the can and taking a deep sniff. Both men laughed.

"That's the real deal," Tigranian said. Nothing replicated about it. I picked up some extra cans for your back on Qo'nos a few weeks ago.

"By the way, how did that summit go?"

"Talking, posturing, more talking," Tigranian said as Hancock tapped the can with his finger and putting a fingerful of tobacco into his lip. "It feels like it was productive. We'll see."

Hancock closed the can and then offered it to Tigranian.

"Why the hell not?" the captain said taking the can and putting a pinch in his own lip. After a few moments, Tigranian spoke again. "I was really sorry to hear about you and Mary."

Hancock sighed before spitting into an empty water bottle.

"I wasn't ready to leave the Corps," he said shrugging his shoulders. "She was. Whole divorce was as amicable as it could have been. She lets me see the kids as much as I want when I'm back home."

"Still," Tigranian said looking for a place to spit. Hancock passed him another empty bottle. "Ending a marriage can't be easy."

"Deaths aren't the only casualties of war, Sir," Hancock said a getting a bit deep. "Sometimes, it's our old lives too. Hardest thing about it is she's now dating a damned architect on Earth. Says, it gives her 'stability' whatever the hell that means. My daughter calls him 'Uncle Jeremy'."

"I'm sorry, Tyler," Tigranian said.

"Don't be," Hancock said trying to keep his composure. "Shit happens."

"Hoorah," Tigranian replied.

"Speaking of marriage," Hancock said switching to a lighter subject. "How's the married life treating you, Sir? I thought that they'd put you in the ground as a bachelor for all the interest you showed in women while you were with 1-2."

"Let's just say I found the one that changed my mind," Tigranian said.

"Alright, I'll buy that," Hancock said spitting into the water bottle again. "Now, let's cut the crap, Sir. Why are you really here?"

"Like I said, Tyler," Tigranian replied. "I'm just here to drop off some supplies."

"That horseshit might work back in the fleet, Sir," Hancock said grinning, "but you back among marines. There's at least twenty supply ships that can make a logistics run. Why is the most powerful starship in the sector paying me a visit and why is the Admiralty suddenly so concerned with how the corps is running a guard mount on a backwater planet?"

Tigranian sighed and spit in his bottle.

"You always had the Frontrunners at the best readiness rating in the regiment. You still that good?"

"I'll put it this way, Sir," Hancock said leaning forward. The harsh lights of his office glinted off the two Marine Corps insignia pinned to the lapels of his fatigues. "You give the order to go right now and my marines would be kicking ass and taking names five minutes ago."

"What about Seroma and his troops? Will they really stand 'shoulder to shoulder' when the phasers start flying or is that just bad publicity put out by the PAO?"

"Like I said, Teras may be an asshole, but he'll stand and fight. I know his boys and gals will too. A lot of them turned against the Dominion during the last days of the war. They know which side their mapa bread is buttered and don't want to see Romulus in control of anymore Cardassian territory than they have already."

"That's good to hear, Tyler," Tigranian said somberly.

"Is the situation really that bad?" Hancock replied.

"Yeah," Tigranian said nodding his head. "It really is. The fact that a Cardassian State Fleet could get within visual range of Earth before we could stop them has Starfleet's asshole puckered so tight you could force feed the Admiralty pieces of charcoal and they'd shit diamonds. The situation on Romulus gets worse every month. There's a lot of people that think they could use a war with us an excuse to get out of their domestic problems."

"So, they sent you all the way out here to make sure I wasn't dicking around? I appreciate the vote of confidence," Hancock said sarcastically.

"I was in the neighborhood anyways, Tyler. They know the Cardassian State and the Romulans watch every border outpost. The fleet just wants to send the message that we haven't forgotten about any of them."

"Show the colors? Do a little nautical display for the pointy-eared audience?" Hancock asked.

"That's about right," Tigranian said.

"Shit," Hancock said with a chuckle. "I hope they hit us here. Better to hold the line on the border than wait for another infiltration fleet to drop a plasma torpedo on Vulcan, or Andoria…or Earth."

"Be careful what you wish for, Brother," Tigranian said shaking his head. "This damned cold war could get very hot very quickly."

"Ha!" Hancock said leaning back in his chair. "You certainly could have fooled me when you and your crew stepped off that hopper back on the landing pad."

"Now, just what does that mean?" Tigranian said leaning forward and raising his eyebrows.

"Jesus Sir," Hancock said like it was obvious. "You brought your XO down here looking like she could pop if somebody cuts a fart too loud. This is about as forward an area as you can get and she's about as pregnant as you can get. Pretty sure that's a no-no if I remember correctly."

"Dammit Tyler," Tigranian said leaning back and shaking his head. "You ain't wrong."

"Then, if you don't mind me asking, how the hell did Daniel Tigranian, an asshole so tough he convinced the Klingons to let him in the front door, let something like that slide?"

"Let's just say I've had a shift in perspective recently."

"Sir" Hancock said plainly. "I once saw you go warp core breach for five full minutes on a lieutenant because he let his platoon take their body armor off during a patrol."

"That was different, Tyler," Tigranian replied. "That was an inexperienced leader making a bad call that could have gotten people hurt."

"So, an experienced leader making a call that could get people hurt is acceptable?"

Tigranian grimaced as he remembered the scars on his chest left there as a result of one of his own reckless decisions. After a moment of pondering, he shook off his doubts.

"You don't know Annabeth Geist like I do. She's a professional and she knows what she's doing."

"Alright, Sir," Hancock said acquiescing. "But you and I both know it's really easy to start believing you're bulletproof in this job. That's when terrible things tend to happen."

That last comment gave Tigranian pause.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
"Ok," Annabeth said staring out at a sea of crates and cargo containers the marines had off-loaded from the drop ship. She examined the PADD in her hand and started going down the manifest while pointing to each item.

"That's a thousand rounds of 100mm plasma mortar shells, five hundred Mark 76 hand grenades, twelve thousand Mark III phaser power packs, twenty-thousand Mark V heavy phaser power packs, a pallet of emergency rations, and a five thousand liter blivet of deuterium fuel," she said passing the PADD to Major Nasho. "Please sign on the dotted line and it was a pleasure doing business."

The marine tapped his thumbprint on the screen to indicate transfer of the supplies.

"Sergeant Gann," he said to an NCO standing next to him. "Start moving all this to the AHA. Make sure every single piece is accounted for and it's gets stored dressed right dressed and by the book."

"Yes Sir," Gann said moving towards his men.

"And send a runner down to the motor pool! Tell Chief Watley to send a detail up here and grab this deuterium that's he's been screaming for in his LOGSTAT! He requested it, he can figure out how to move it!"

"Roger that, Sir!" Gann said throwing a thumbs up.

Annabeth placed both her hands in the small of her back and stretched. Standing on the gravel of the landing pad for two hours made her entire body ache.

"You look like you're getting pretty close, Ma'am," Nasho said trying to fill the awkward pause.

"Pretty close," Annabeth said still rubbing her tired muscles.

"Your husband must be pretty excited," Nasho added without a second thought.

Annabeth paused and slowly turned. She glared at him through her sunglasses.

"I don't have a husband," she said furrowing her brow.

"Oh," Nasho said very uncomfortably. "I just figured because of the wedding band…and…" he gestured towards her mid-section, "…and that."

"Oh this," Annabeth said pointing at her belly. "This isn't because of a husband. I used a public toilet seat and didn't wipe it off first. Apparently, that's actually a thing. Guess my mother was right. Who'd have figured?" she said shrugging sarcastically.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean too…" Nasho stammered.

"Look Marine," Annabeth said pulling off her shades. "I don't mean to sound rude, but my personal life is none of your damned business. So, let's keep things on a purely professional level, shall we?"

"Yes Ma'am!" Nasho said while straightening his back respectfully.

Annabeth tapped her comm badge.

"Geist to Hunter."

"Hunter here, go ahead," Alex responded from the camp's aide station.

"We're almost done out here with the supply transfer. How much longer do you need checking out their medical status?"

"Just finished," Alex replied. "They're looking pretty good. The corpsmen are on it, but they don't have a PROFIS Physician."

"They've been here almost a year!" Annabeth said in shock.

"Tell me about it," Nasho muttered. "Keep getting told by command there's a shortage of doctors everywhere."

Annabeth's mind flashed back to the debacle with Alex and the Venture.

"I wish I could say I was surprised by that…" Annabeth replied.

"I've made a couple notes on some additional equipment and supplies they can request," Alex continued. "Even when they get their doc, the aide station will only be a Role II, but as long as someone doesn't need internal surgery, they'll be just fine. I'm going to tell Starfleet Medical they should be proud of what these guys have accomplished."

"We appreciate that, Doctor," Nasho said. "I'll be sure to pass that along to Lieutenant Colonel Hancock."

"Roger," Annabeth said. "We got a few more forms to sign out here and then we'll head in your direction. Geist out."


An alarm echoed through the base operations center. Hancock and Tigranian emerged from the commander's office to the OPS floor.

"Report," Hancock said to a lieutenant seated behind a computer console.

"Long range sensors just detected a Romulan warbird decloaking," the young officer replied. "They're moving a full impulse straight at the border. They'll cross in less than three minutes."

"What do you link, LT?" Hancock asked raising an eyebrow.

"A raptor run?" the lieutenant replied.

"Bingo," Hancock said crossing his arms.

"A raptor run?" Tigranian asked confused.

"It's a common tactic the Romulans have been using the last few months," Hancock said. "We call it, 'the raptor run.' They'll appear and then charge straight at the border like they're going to engage. Then, at the last minute, they turn away. We think they're trying to get us to lock on with active sensors and weapons."

"That way they can see exactly what defenses you have installed here," Tigranian said nodding his head in understanding.

"Roger that," Hancock said without much concern. "Usually, we just keep going on like things are normal. Sometimes, we send them a subspace message warning them not to cross. They never answer back."

Suddenly, a second alarm echoed through the metal room.

"Sir!" the lieutenant shouted, "Romulan warbird is activating all weapons and raising shields. We detect a charged plasma torpedo."

"What?" Hancock said in shock.

"Confirmed, Sir, They're lining up for an attack run. Less than two minutes till they're in weapons range."

"I thought you said they never do this," Tigranian asked.

"They don't!" Hancock replied. "Shit," Hancock muttered while stroking his chin. "Arm the COBS, raise shields, and sound the incoming alarm. Get everyone inside to the bunkers."

The "Counter Orbital Bombardment System" or COBS was a series of four heavy phaser emitters designed to destroy incoming torpedoes and missiles before they could impact the base. Unfortunately, it wouldn't do them much good against disruptors or other directed energy weapons.

"Aye Sir," the lieutenant said pressing the red button that brought the camp to full alert.


Out on the landing pad, Annabeth was still signing paperwork with Nasho when the sound of screeching metal echoed from twenty meters behind them. The looked over to see a five meter long box just outside the blast barriers fly open and a large phaser cannon emerge. It immediately pointed to the sky.

"What the hell is that?" Annabeth said in shock.

"Oh shit…" Nasho said.

Before she could process his statement, ear-splittingly loud alarms echoed across the entire base. A recorded voice shouted from the camp's speakers loudly enough to echo off the buildings.


Marines still unloading pallets of ordnance dropped whatever they were carrying and sprinted towards a permacrete structure fifty meters from the gravel pad.

"We gotta go, Ma'am!" Nasho said taking off towards the bunker himself. Annabeth dropped the PADD she was carrying and tried to sprint after him, but her awkward weight threw her off balance. Her boot caught on the gravel just after she began to run and she fell full force on the corner of a crate of plasma mortars. As soon as she hit, she felt something tear inside of her abdomen. The pain was incredible.

She instinctively pulled into the fetal position on the sun-scorched gravel, grabbed her stomach, and screamed through the agony. Nasho heard her cries and turned around.

"Ma'am!" he shouted running back to her. "Ma'am what happened?"

"I fell!" she shouted fighting back tears. "Something's wrong! Something's really wrong! I'm hurt bad."

Nasho reached down and pulled her up into his arms. Without another word he started running full speed off the landing zone. Two other marines emerged from the bunker and ran towards him.

"Sir, you need help?" the lance corporal asked.

"Get your ass into the bunker, Marine!" Nasho screamed back. "I'm heading for the aide station."


"Ten seconds till they cross the border," the marine lieutenant said.

"How long till weapons range?" Hancock asked.

"Eleven seconds," the young officer replied nervously.

"God dammit!" Hancock said fighting the urge to kick the computer console. He couldn't respond until they crossed the border, but by the time they did, they could be staring at a plasma torpedo headed right for them. All the officers had studied their history books and knew what those weapons could do to a surface target. The only thing they could hope for is that the warbird would turn away before it crossed.

"Five, four, three, two…" the lieutenant said when he heard another alert from his computer. He leaned forward and checked his instruments.

"What?" Hancock asked.

"They're holding right inside the border, Sir," the lieutenant said. "Their weapons are still armed and still pointed right at us."

"What are they doing?" Tigranian asked. He had never seen anything like this.

"I don't know…" Hancock said.

"Nasho to OPS!" the sound of the executive officer's voice echoed through the room's speakers.

"This is Titan 6," Hancock said pressing the intercom on the console next to him. "Go ahead Titan 5."

"We got a casualty. I'm on foot headed straight for the aide station. Let Witchdoctor know I'll be there in 30 seconds."

Tigranian and Hancock exchanged glances.

"Titan 5," Hancock replied. "How can we have a casualty? The Romulans haven't fired."

"It's the Pershing's first officer. She fell when we ran for the bunkers. She looks pretty bad. I think it's serious."

Tigranian's eyes grew wide as he slapped his own comm badge.

"Tigranian to Hunter, Alex you still at the aide station?"

"Yes Sir," Alex replied.

"Get ready," he said trying to keep the panic out of his voice. "Annabeth is about twenty seconds from your door and she's hurt."

After a few agonizing seconds of silence, she replied:

"Yes Sir. We'll be ready."
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Nasho crashed through the front door of the aide station with Annabeth in his arms. In the one minute it had taken to get here from the landing pad, the woman in his arms had grown clammy and pale. She shivered as shock set in.

"CORPSMAN!" the big marine said rushing towards the triage stretcher behind the front desk.

"Right here!" Alex said already waiting with three marine medics. "Oh God," Alex said when she saw her wife shaking as Nasho set her on the stretcher. "What happened?" Alex asked pulling the probe out of her tricorder.

"Incoming alarm went off," Nasho replied catching his breath. "She fell, I think on her stomach. I've only seen someone get that pale that fast when they're bleeding out."

Alex resisted the urge to snap back at the big marine. Unfortunately, her instruments confirmed his assessment. Annabeth was bleeding internally and it was getting worse by the second.

"Hunter to Tigranian," Alex said tapping her comm badge.

"Tigranian here."

"Annabeth suffered blunt force trauma to her mid-section. The placenta is partially detached and she's bleeding into her abdomen. I've got ten minutes to conduct emergency surgery or I'm gonna lose her and the baby. Drop these shields and get me emergency transport to the Pershing now."


In the operations center Tigranian looked at Hancock.

"Is that warbird still there?" the marine commander asked his battle lieutenant.

"Yes Sir," he said. "No change. Still cocked and locked."

"There are 973 people on this camp," Hancock said. "If we drop our shields, we'll be defenseless."

"Qu'vatlh," Tigranian said rubbing his eyes.

"I don't understand," Hancock said. "They've never done this! I don't know what's different now."

"By Kahless," Tigranian said as he realized the truth. "It's the Pershing. You got a battlestarship orbiting right above your heads." He tapped his comm badge. "Tigranian to Pershing."

"Stone here!" Katie shouted from the bridge. "We're at Red Alert, Sir. Shields up. We have phaser and torpedo lock on the warbird. Do you need assistance?"

"Katie," Tigranian said painfully as he knew what he had to do. "Break orbit and then cloak the ship."

"What?" Katie replied in shock.

"That warbird is not going to leave until they see you stand down and depart. They won't fire…" Tigranian said trying to hide his doubt with confidence. "Remain cloaked, and then return as soon as they break contact and head back into State space."

Silence answered him from the other end.

"Lieutenant!" Tigranian shouted.

"Aye Sir," Katie replied. "Breaking orbit. Good luck. Pershing out."

"The Pershing is pulling away," the lieutenant said. "I just lost contact. She must have cloaked."

"Hunter to Tigranian!" Alex said desperately over the comm. "Where's my emergency transport?"

"Alex…" Tigranian replied stoically. "We can't drop the shields. There's an armed warbird 100,000 kilometers away bearing down at us. If we do, we could be exposing almost one thousand people to Romulan attack. "

"Dan, Annabeth is dying! If I don't get her into surgery, I will lose her!" she replied desperately.

"Doctor Hunter!" Tigranian replied in his command voice. "You have to do what you can here."


"God dammit!" Alex shouted staring down at Annabeth.

"Allleexxx," Annabeth said fighting to stay conscious. She reached up and grabbed her wife's hand. Nasho saw the two wedding bands together. Suddenly, he understood the previous conversation. "Do not let our baby die. I don't care what happens to me. Save the baby."

She finally passed out. Alex's tricorder started beeping. Alex knew what she had to do.

"You!" she said pointing at Nasho. "Get out of my O-R! I need this area sterile." Nasho sprinted for the door. "Does anybody here have any operating room or hospital experience?" she said to the corpsmen standing around her. Two of the younger medics shook their heads, but their NCO stepped forward.

"I worked at the Fleet Hospital on Ybles V for three years, Ma'am," she said.

"Ok, you're my assistant. You two," she said to the other corpsmen. "I shout for an instrument, you get it as fast as you can, tracking?"

"Yes, Ma'am!" they said in unison.

"Do we have a quantum suture?" Alex asked.

"No," the NCO said shaking her head, "we just have a Level II dermal regenerator."

Alex cursed under her breath.

"That means I have to open…" Alex muttered. She grabbed a surgical kit from a shelf two meters away. "Activate sterile field! I need a laser scapel and a somatic generator. Prep five liters of artificial blood: Human: Type A POS."

"Aye Ma'am," the two corpsmen shouted running to grab the instruments.

"Help me!" Alex said to the NCO as she used a pair of scissors to cut away Annabeth's uniform jacket. Once her abdomen was exposed, the medics returned with the equipment. "Put her under," Alex said. The NCO placed the somatic generator on Annabeth's pale forehead and activated it.

"Somatic field active," the NCO responded. Alex grasped the laser scapel in her right hand as she stared at her wife's vital signs on a screen bolted to the metal wall. She took a deep breath, steadied her grip, and activated the laser. All she could think of was her son growing up without one of his mothers.

"Kahless…we prayed to you to keep this child safe back on Qo'nos," Alex thought to herself, "I have no idea if you're real, but if you are, guide my hands."

Alex placed the scapel against Annabeth's skin and began to cut.


"Open hailing frequencies," Hancock said. "I want to talk to this bastard."

"Aye Sir," another marine in OPS said. "Frequencies open."

"Imperial Romulan Warbird," Hancock said with a booming voice. "This is Lieutenant Colonel Tyler Hancock of the United Federation of Planets Marine Corps. Arming weapons and directing them against a recognized outpost of the United Federation of Planets and the Republic of Cardassia is a hostile act and is in violation of the non-aggression pact between the Romulan Star Empire, Cardassian State, and the Allied Powers. If you do not immediately power down your offensive systems and break contact, I will be forced to begin escalation of force as dictated by the Treaty of Bajor and Interstellar Law."

The Romulan warbird did not respond. Hancock ran his hand across his throat. His marines closed the channel.

"Do you think he bought it?" Hancock asked Tigranian.

"If he didn't," the captain replied, "I'll call the Pershing back and do this the old fashioned way." He couldn't get his mind off of Annabeth. He was very tired of putting his crew at risk because of Romulan posturing.

They looked up at the image projected on the viewscreen. Suddenly, the warbird activated its cloaking device and shimmered to invisible.

"Contact lost, Sir," the lieutenant said.

"Stand down the COBS, drop the shields," Hancock ordered.

"How do you get to your aide station?" Tigranian asked desperately.

"I'll take you there, myself," Hancock responded.


Two hours later, and Tigranian leaned against the smooth metal exterior of the aide station. The sun was beginning to set on the western horizon and the gravel, permacrete, and sheet metal of the camp started to glow brilliantly in the reddening light. If one of his crew…one of his closest friends…wasn't fighting for her life and the life of her unborn child just a few meters away, it would have been an absolutely gorgeous site. Instead, it was hell.

Nasho approached with two cups of coffee in his hands. He passed them to Tigranian and Hancock.

"You looked like you needed them, Gentlemen," Nasho said. "Chow hall is closing soon. I told the cooks to keep a replicator on for you."

"Thank you, Kenset," Hancock said. Tigranian stared down at the dark brown liquid in his hand. He almost never drank human coffee anymore, but he decided to make an exception. He took a sip.

"By Kahless," he muttered. "I forgot how bad marine coffee was," he said forcing a smile.

"Only the best for the best, Sir," Nasho replied with a laugh. "I'm heading back to OPS. Please call if you need anything." He disappeared around a corner.

Tigranian stared back at the sunset.

"Too much of this damned job is spent waiting…waiting for orders…waiting for conditions to change…waiting for life…waiting for…" he stopped. He wouldn't let himself say that last word. Not about Annabeth Geist.

"I've been following you, Sir," Hancock said. "What you and the Pershing have been going though since the end of the war."

"By Kahless, Tyler," Tigranian said shaking his head. "We've known each other for four years. It's just us. Call me 'Dan.'"

"No Sir," Hancock responded. "That might fly in the fleet, but not in the corps."

"Always a marine…" Tigranian muttered.

"Always loyal," Hancock said taking a sip of coffee. "What I mean is, I know what she means to you," he said motioning with head towards the aide station.

"I would feel this way for any crew member."

"That's a laudable sentiment, Sir," Hancock continued. "But you and I both know it's not true. It's when you get close to someone. Work with them every day, help them through their life's challenges that it gets real. It's how I felt working with you back on those hellholes in the Badlands. It's how I feel about Kenset, and it's how I know you felt about me. She's your first officer."

Tigranian rubbed his face.

"She's more than that, Tyler."

"What?" the marine asked surprised.

"Can I tell you something that only my senior staff and family knows?"

"Of course."

"Annabeth is Alex's wife, but I'm the father of that baby."

"What?" Hancock said even more surprised.

"Eight months ago, they asked me to help them have a child. I agreed."

"Jesus, Sir," Hancock said rubbing his eyes. "It's shipboard shit like that makes me glad I didn't go into the fleet at the Academy."

From any other person, Tigranian would've flown into a rage at that comment, but he knew Tyler Hancock well enough to let it go.

"It certainly would've been easier," Tigranian said. "To stay in this life. To stay in places like this with a phaser rifle staring at sunsets like that every night."

"May I say something, Sir?" Hancock asked.


"For all the shit I talk about your decision to go back to starships, it's where you belong."

Tigranian turned to him with an astounded expression. The only thing that Tyler Hancock liked less than fleet officers was starships themselves.

"I mean it," Hancock continued. "You were a great commander. One of the best I ever served with, but you were never happy just staring down into the dirt with the rest of us devil dogs. You always looked up to the stars. Klingon warrior or not, you were always meant to be out hopping galaxies at warp speed with people like the crew of the Pershing."

"I can't tell if you're trying to insult me or not," Tigranian said sarcastically.

"It's not an insult to admit the damn truth to yourself," Hancock countered. "If what I just said was bullshit, you would have turned that command down when they offered it to you and stayed with the Frontrunners. Instead, you jumped at the chance to sit your ass back down on a bridge.

If you don't mind me saying, it turned out pretty well for you. I know how influential you've become with the top brass. You got your life together, put on a wedding ring, and still managed to not become a complete asshole by putting on the fourth pip. I'd call that a win."

"Do you ever regret being out here, Tyler?" Tigranian asked.

"Now," Hancock said taking a sip of his coffee, "I'd be lying if there are times when I wonder about the alternative. When I kick myself in the ass for not sticking it out with Mary. I could be back on Earth right now, getting fat off replicator cheesecake, taking my kids to their soccer games, not having to suffer with shit water coffee like this…" he paused. "But then, I think about what it means to be out here. How so few people back in the Fed will ever get to see or do the things I see and do every day. I command five hundred infantry marines out here on the Frontiers of Freedom. I'm also responsible for another five hundred Cardassian soldiers who were trying to kill us four years ago. I interact with other species and cultures and make decisions that could change the course of four countries on a dime. So, no…" he paused. "No, Dan…I don't regret being out here. How about you?"

Tigranian didn't get the chance to answer. The door to the aide station opened and Alex walked out. Her uniform was splattered with blood as she removed two surgical gloves from her hands and leaned against the exterior wall with a huge sigh.

Tigranian and Hancock just stared at her, but Alex took a moment to collect herself.

"The placenta had disconnected from the uterine wall," she began. "There wasn't enough vascular tissue left to keep providing nutrients to the fetus. There was no away around it with this equipment. I had to do an emergency C-Section," Alex said tearing up.

Tigranian shut his eyes and said a quick prayer.

"The baby is fine," Alex said still crying. "2.3 kilos, 44 cm long. He's a little early, but I can rig up a neo-natal unit when we get back to the ship."

"And Annabeth?" Tigranian asked quietly. He held his breath bracing for the worst.

"I think she's going to be just fine too," Alex said shaking. "She's sleeping, but I stopped the hemorrhaging and pumped her up with enough artificial blood to keep her stabilized for a few hours."

"Kahless, be praised," Tigranian said towards the first stars of evening. "Kahless, be praised," he repeated covering his own tears with his hands.

"I don't know if it was him, but somebody was in that operating room with us," Alex said still shaking her head in disbelief. "We're mothers, Dan," Alex said as tears streamed down her face. "We're mothers."

Tigranian dropped down to the ground and wrapped his arms around Alex.

"Congratulations," Hancock said standing above them. "I think your son might be the first Federation citizen ever born on an active forward operating base."

"Somehow, that's appropriate," Alex said allowing herself to finally laugh out loud. "Now, is that damned warbird still here or can we finally get my patients up to the Pershing?"

Tigranian looked over to Hancock.

"You two stay right here," the lieutenant colonel said reassuringly. "I'll have OPS make the call."

He stepped aside and left Tigranian and Alex alone to celebrate as more stars slowly appeared overhead.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Trenari Cluster: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border

"Captain's Personal Log: Stardate 53426.2. The Pershing continues on its patrol schedule with Lieutenant Stone as acting first officer. The prospect of war is still unsettling, but sometimes life gives you moments that cause a person to step back and examine the true miracles of the universe. There is an old Klingon saying that comes to mind: "The truest motivation of battle can be found in the eyes of love." Until now, I never quite understood what it meant. However, I can safely say that love has certainly visited this ship and given us an even deeper perspective of what we fight for.

Alex and Annabeth have welcomed their child into the world. Katie and Phil continue to drive each other insane as the date of their wedding approaches. Tren constantly speaks of the day when he can finally see his daughter without a holoscreen between them. Even Brett Hawkins, our marine detachment commander continues to become better acquainted with Ms. Zhenia Scharr thanks to the miracle of subspace radio…much to the chagrin of her father, Mr. Tren Scharr.

As for me and my own wife…Laria makes me more grateful every time I see her. Speaking with Tyler Hancock reminded me that a marriage is a new challenge each day. Often, you are fortunate enough to not have to choose between a uniform and your wedding band. Sometimes, fate expects you to choose one or the other. Tyler made that choice, and accepted the consequences. I respect that, but he also made me realize that my choice would be different.

It will be several weeks before we can return Captain Geist to the Federation to begin her maternity leave. In the meantime, I will happily continue to report the updated ship's personnel status as 'USS Pershing: 176 souls aboard. 28 officers, 147 enlisted…and 1 civilian.'"

The doors to sickbay parted and Laria and Tigranian stepped inside. The lights had been dimmed, but they could make out a biobed in the far corner. Annabeth was still pale, but the color was definitely returning to her cheeks. Alex stood above her while holding her wife's hands. Beside Annabeth's bed was a rectangular incubator made of clear plastic. The two stared into it like the box contained the greatest treasure in all the stars. In a way, it did.

The two new mothers looked up, saw the Tigranians, and smiled.

"It's ok," Alex said barely above a whisper. "He's sleeping." They gestured for Laria and Tigranian to come over. The two visitors tip-toed up and finally got a good look at the infant wrapped in a blue ship's blanket. The words, USS Pershing: NCC-19860 were embroidered in soft fleece right next to his tiny head that was already crowned with a tuft of dark hair. It made Tigranian smile.

"He's so beautiful," Laria said softly.

"He's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life," Annabeth replied.

"We brought something for him," Laria said pulling an object from behind her back. It was a freshly replicated stuffed pugabeast.

"That's adorable," Alex said smiling.

"I figured Rijo needed a friend," Laria said gently placing the stuffed animal on top of the box.

"I'm sure that will be his favorite," Annabeth added.

"I hope so," Tigranian said taking Laria's hand.

"We would have brought a card, but we weren't sure what name to write on it," Laria added.

Annabeth and Alex looked at each other.

"We decided to name him after our fathers," Alex said.

"Meet Maximilian George Hunter-Geist," Annabeth said reaching her hand out and stroking the edge of the incubator.

"That is one hell of a name," Tigranian said with a chuckle.

"Don't worry," Alex said flashing a smile. "We're going to call him Max."

"So Dan," Annabeth said with a bit of humility in her voice. "Go ahead and say it."

"Say what?" Tigranian asked with surprise.

"Don't mess with me, Captain," Annabeth said glaring at him. "Go ahead and say how you were right and I was stupid for going down to that planet. Go ahead and say that if my wife wasn't the greatest doctor ever to live, it would have been a tragedy rather than a miracle…"

"Yeah, make sure you emphasize that part," Alex said with a grin. Annabeth reached over and playfully tapped Alex's arm.

"And go ahead and say," Annabeth continued, "that regulations are there for a reason and it was irresponsible for two senior officers to ignore them."

Tigranian paused. Laria glanced over to him.

"I'm not going to say that, Annabeth. I'm not going to say any of that. Sorry, Alex," he added. The doctor shrugged her shoulders. "But I am going to apologize to you, Annabeth."

"Why?" Annabeth said incredulously.

"Because you are the most important officer on this ship, myself included. You made a call that you thought was right, and it's my job to support you, no matter what."

Annabeth smiled.

"Thank you, Dan."

"Things may not have turned out like we expected," Tigranian said, "but every day I understand more and more why Klingons don't believe in luck." He reached over and gently placed his hand on the glass over Max's sleeping body. "Everything happens for a reason. He just wanted to come a little earlier and give us this moment. Kahless heard his plea and approved."

Alex sighed.

"Speaking of Kahless, Dan," she said. "I asked for his help back on Cyrbok. I guess he listened, even though I don't really believe in him."

"The truly miraculous thing about Kahless, Alex," Tigranian said, "is not that he founded an Empire or that he was a great warrior. The truly miraculous thing is that he cares for the honorable even if they don't know how to honor him."

Alex shook her head as she reached into her lab coat. She pulled out a small card with a painting on one side and Klingon script on the other.

"It was the best picture I could find of him in the computer. I suppose I owe him one." She tucked it into the side of the incubator so that the face of Kahless the Unforgettable looked down on her son. The Klingon was dressed in shimmering white armor and held his sword high above his head. Mount Kri'stak erupted with burning lava in the background. "It will have to do until Torlek gets here with his bat'leth."

"What?" Tigranian said in shock. Alex and Annabeth nodded at each other.

"Beth and I talked after I got back from Qo'nos," Alex said. "Then, after how this little guy came into the world, it just seemed wrong to claim that all that Klingon stuff didn't mean anything. It obviously does to you and a lot of other people."

"When he's old enough," Annabeth added. "We're going to let him make the choice if he wants to continue on the warrior's path. But until then, a little extra protection couldn't hurt."

Tigranian put his hand over his face to hide the emotions coursing through him. He felt it wouldn't be appropriate for a warrior to lose his composure at this moment. Laria slowly wrapped her arm around him until he steadied himself.

"Well Dan," Annabeth said cocking her head to one side. "Are you ready to be a godfather?"

Tigranian took a deep breath and stood up straight.

"Did you look up what the back of that card says?" Tigranian asked Alex.

She held back an uncomfortable laugh.

"Actually no," she admitted with a hint of embarrassment.

"It's called 'The Warrior's Prayer.' Klingons say it before they go into battle." He began translating for them:

In the Name of Honor, Duty, and Loyalty,

Kahless the Unforgettable, guide our hands in battle.

Be our protection against the wickedness and dishonor of Fek'lhr and all his demons.

Give us the strength to fight and conquer all the enemies of our people in your holy name.

Guide us to salvation across the River of Blood and to feast at your bountiful table

when we are called to your celestial home in Sto'Vo'Kor.

All this, we pray in your honorable name.

We clearly understand.

Annabeth and Alex took it all in for a moment. Finally, Annabeth spoke.

"All that on the back of a little card?" she said with a smirk. Tigranian looked down at Max and smiled as he replied:

"Big things come in small packages."
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