Star Trek: New Horizons Season 5, Episode 4 (Saints in Paradise) by captaintigranian
Summary: A distress call places the Pershing in a difficult and potentially dangerous situation. Meanwhile, Annabeth and Alex adjust to having a new baby in their life.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 8 Completed: Yes Word count: 11704 Read: 49 Published: 01 Jan 2018 Updated: 01 Jan 2018

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

8. Chapter 8 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Georgetown University: Washington D.C., Earth

Stardate: 53433.2

Crestia breathed in the cool autumn air of the campus. She zipped up her fleece jacket and adjusted her backpack. She had fifteen minutes for the quick walk across Georgetown's quad from the library to her next class. She always looked forward to her early Federation history class, though she definitely had some questions to ask her professor about the Xindi War. So much of it didn't make sense.

As she approached the center of the grassy expanse, she noticed six upperclassmen standing on the edge of the sidewalk. Two of them were Vulcan, but the other four were humans. They chanted in unison:

"OUT OF CARDASSIA, OFF THE NEUTRAL ZONE! OUT OF CARDASSIA, OFF THE NEUTRAL ZONE!"

Crestia slowed down to read the large, colorful pieces of poster board they held high over their heads. Her heart sank when she saw the words written in black and red paint.

"Cardassians are the real victims!"

"One Galaxy, No Borders!"

"Exploration, not Exploitation!"

"Stop Starfleet Imperialism!"

She increased the volume of the music in her headphones, averted her eyes, and tried to walk past. Just when she thought she was home free, one of the humans ran up to her with a PADD in his hands. He wore a black t-shirt with a human's face on it she didn't recognize. The image was a man wearing a beret with a red star on it. The student's jeans were torn and his hair was pulled back into a pony-tail.

"Excuse me?" he said. She could barely hear him over the sound of her music. She pulled out her earbuds. "Can you sign our petition?" he asked.

"What's it for?" Crestia asked nervously.

"It's a demand from the student body for the campus administration to immediately condemn Starfleet's imperialist and fascist aggression against the free peoples of Cardassia and the Romulan Empire."

"What?" Crestia asked in disbelief.

"Did you know that Starfleet and the Klingons murdered over 12 million Cardassians during the war? That the Romulan Empire only wants to be left alone, but Starfleet's aggressive stance forces them to maintain the Neutral Zone to protect themselves?" He said holding the PADD out to her. Crestia was shocked to see several dozen student names already on the list.

"I'm definitely following what's going on in Romulan and Cardassian Space…" Crestia said still trying to be polite.

"Then you must be outraged!" he said. "Starfleet is supposed to be explorers, but they have over thirty starships with their weapons pointed at innocent people. They create a fake threat so they can control us with their military-industrial complex. We demand that it stop immediately. Will you help us by signing?"

"I'm sorry," Crestia said shaking her head. "No, thank you."

She began walking away and was about put her earbuds back in when the student called after her.

"This is about justice! What has a Romulan ever done to you?"

Crestia froze. She felt blind rage rising inside of her as she turned around and faced the protestors.

"What has a Romulan ever done to me?" she said with an icy resolve. She walked right up to the student, but started yelling loud enough so the others could hear as well.

"Justice? What the hell do you know about justice!? Standing here in the middle of Earth lecturing people about imperialism," she scoffed. "If you really want to know what Romulans do, why don't you ask your mommy and daddy's permission to take a transport across the Zone? Why don't you experience firsthand what Romulans call 'justice'?" The other protestors slowly lowered their signs and stared at Crestia.

"Romulans have to act aggressively to protect themselves," one of the Vulcans replied. "Otherwise, they would have no reason to attack across the Neutral Zone. It is a logical response."

"No, of course not!" Crestia said sarcastically. "They would be too busy running their Empire! They would be too busy having fathers and brothers line up in stadiums so legionnaires can machine-disruptor them for entertainment! They would be too busy beating and starving mothers and sisters before selling them to the highest bidder like they were animals! You asked what a Romulan ever did to me? THAT'S WHAT THEY DID TO ME! I've seen it with my own eyes. I've lived the nightmare."

Her stare bore down into them all.

"And I'd still be in that nightmare, but Starfleet saved me. Now, I'm here…with you people…and I'm grateful every day for it! I'm grateful to live in a country with so much freedom and so few problems that we have to complement murderers to not feel guilty about our blessings. With all due respect, the only people here I see supporting fascist imperialism are you all. Now, if you excuse me, I'm running late for class."

Crestia spun around and walked away. There was blissful silence for a few seconds, but soon the chanting began again:

"OUT OF CARDASSIA, OFF THE NEUTRAL ZONE! OUT OF CARDASSIA, OFF THE NEUTRAL ZONE!"

Crestia sighed as she replaced her ear buds and boosted the volume to full.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Traxas Nebula: Republic of Cardassia

The shrill sound of a crying baby echoed through Annabeth and Alex's darkened quarters. Annabeth rolled over and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She looked at the nightstand next to the bed. It was 04:06 hours.

"How can he be hungry again?" she said staring up at the ceiling. Alex stirred and rolled onto her side.

"He's a boy," she said through a haze without opening her eyes. "He's going to be hungry for the next twenty years."

Annabeth sat up and stared down at the mass of black hair covering her wife's pillow.

"How helpful…" Annabeth muttered.

"Babies need food," Alex said pulling the comforter back over her shoulders. "What do you want me to do about it?"

"Isn't there some pill you can take that will bring your milk duds to the party?" Annabeth said climbing out of bed. Max was still crying at the top of his little lungs. "That way, we can at least trade off with night feedings."

"Beth," Alex said still trying to fall back asleep. "There are drugs in my dispensary that will also cause me to grow a third arm. That doesn't mean I should take them. I'll help bathe him, dress him, and change him, but the lactation luau is all yours."

"I am so not letting you forget this when you have the next one…" Annabeth said walking towards the living room.

"If there is a next one…" Alex mumbled.

"What?" Annabeth said looking over her shoulder.

"Nothing, Babe…" Alex said rolling over again. "You're imagining things," she said through a big yawn.

Annabeth hiked up her pajama pants as she walked up to the edge of Max's crib. He was bawling as hard as he could.

"Oh, mein kleiner Mann," she said in a soft, maternal tone. "Weine nicht. Weine nicht, mein Junge." She hoisted him over the wooden bars and began bouncing him up and down. He immediately calmed down when he heard his mother's heartbeat. "Oh, sehr gut. Sehr gut. Bist du hungrig?" she asked. His tired little arms rested on her chest.

"Don't teach our son to talk back to me in a language I can't understand…" Alex's voice sounded from the bedroom.

"Then learn German!" Annabeth snapped back. Max started crying again.

"Oh nein, nein, Liebling. Jetzt ruhig. Mama ist hier. Mama ist hier." She started bouncing him again. Finally, he calmed down. She grabbed a soft towel and took a seat in a chair. Just as she started to feed him, Alex's quiet snoring wafted into the room. Annabeth just rolled her eyes.

****

Alex leaned over her cup of coffee on the ward room table and fought valiantly to keep her eyes open. Phil, Katie, and Laria just stared at her. Scharr seemed to have little sympathy.

"You look like death warmed over, Doc," Katie said.

"Thank you…very much…" Alex said glaring at her as she took a sip of coffee.

"I'm guessing Max is still not sleeping very well?" Laria asked.

"He's a newborn," Scharr said with a chuckle. "He's not gonna sleep well until two Federation Days from now. Welcome to parenthood."

"How's Annabeth holding up?" Phil asked.

"She's hanging in there," Alex said. "I feel guilty that I can't do more," she said looking down into her beverage.

"Don't," Scharr said plainly.

"Don't what?" Alex asked.

"Feel guilty," he said with a nod from his antennae. "Do what you can. Take care of Max as much as possible, but most of all just keep being there for your wife. She understands that there are things you can't do…even if she'll never admit it. However, at least you're here with her."

He suddenly looked a bit distant.

"You don't always get that privilege in Starfleet," he muttered.

Before Alex could reply, the doors opened and Tigranian walked in.

"The Captain!" Katie shouted as the room rose to its feet.

"As you were," Tigranian said heading to his place. "Please, take your seats. How is everyone this morning?"

He looked down the table only to be greeted by a glare from Alex.

"Ok then…" Tigranian said. "There're just a few things on the agenda this morning…"

His communicator suddenly beeped to life.

"Duty Officer to Captain Tigranian…."

"Go ahead, Ensign Gleeto," the captain replied.

"Sir, we're receiving a distress call on the intergalactic emergency band."

"Put it through to the ward room," Tigranian said exchanging glances with Katie.

"To any ships in the area," a desperate voice echoed through the room's speakers. "This is the Cardassian State Science Vessel Gosnath. We have struck a gravitic mine along the border and have lost primary power and life support. We are being pulled into the gravity well of one of the protostars in the nebula and cannot escape. Radiation level and hull temperature are rising by the minute. Please, if anyone is listening, help us!"

"Is anyone else having flashbacks to a Maru named Kobayashi at the Academy?" Scharr asked.

"Gleeto," Tigranian said. "What is their current position?"

"Ten thousand kilometers inside Cardassian State territory, Sir," the Ensign replied. "However, they're starting to accelerate towards the nebula."

"Stations everyone," Tigranian said. "Scharr, take the engineering station on the bridge."

"Aye Sir," the Andorian said.

"I'm headed to sickbay," Alex said heading for the doors. "They may have casualties."

The crowd spilled out onto the bridge and headed for their consoles. Tigranian took a seat in the captain's chair.

"Phil, lay in an intercept course at full impulse," the captain ordered.

"Sir, if we cross the border…"

"I'm aware of my responsibilities, Mister," Tigranian said.

"Aye Sir," Phil said. "One minute to intercept…"

"I have them on sensors, Sir," Laria said. "Now entering visual range."

"Onscreen," Tigranian said as he steepled his fingers and leaned forward. The small Cardassian ship had a huge gash in its hull and was venting atmosphere into space. They were on the verge of entering the periphery of the nebula where a series of unstable protostars were forming in the clouds of gas.

"Their hull integrity is down to twenty percent and falling," Laria said. "They'll break up in less than five minutes with that gravometric sheer."

"If the radiation doesn't kill them first," Tigranian muttered. "Phil, get us within tractor beam range. Katie, get ready to pull them out of there."

"Sir," Katie said nervously. "Without structural integrity fields intact, a tractor beam could rip their hull apart like tissue paper."

"I understand that, Katie," Tigranian replied, "but I'm not taking this ship into a Class IV nebula. The gamma rays would cook us from the inside out."

"Acknowledged," Katie said adjusting her instruments.

"Bridge to sickbay," Tigranian said into his intercom.

"Hunter here," Alex said from below decks.

"Standby to receive casualties. We'll beam them directly to you. Radiation protocol in full effect."

"Roger Sir," she replied. "We're ready."

"I'm detecting six life signs aboard," Laria said suddenly becoming very nervous. Tigranian looked at the tactical display on the arm of his chair and understood her trepidation as soon as he saw the sensor feed.

"Sir, maybe we should…" Laria said, but Tigranian held up his hand.

"We'll deal with that when we have too…" he said, "But I'm not leaving them to die out there. Katie, go ahead and dispatch a security team to help Alex in sickbay."

"Yes Sir," Katie said with a nervous glance to Laria. "Tractor beam ready."

"Engage," Tigranian said.

A blue beam projected from the Pershing's belly and grabbed onto the Cardassian ship. The vessel started moving away from the edge of the nebula, but it's exterior plating immediately began crushing under the force of the tow.

"Their structural integrity is down to five percent!" Laria shouted. "They're breaking up."

"Tren, get them out of there!"

"It's not that easy!" Scharr said from the engineering station. "The nebula is throwing out a huge amount of ionizing radiation. It's masking their patterns."

"Figure it out and quickly!" Tigranian commanded.

Scharr cursed in Andorian under his breath. Tigranian pretended he didn't understand the gist.

"Five seconds to complete hull failure!" Laria said.

"Stone," Scharr said trying to adjust his targeting scanners. "Hold them steady. This is gonna be close!"

"I'm doing everything I can, Sir," Katie replied. "Emitters are already starting to overload."

"Two seconds!" Laria said.

"Got 'em!" Scharr shouted. "Energizing."

The Cardassian ship exploded into a fireball.

"Shields up!" Tigranian shouted. "Phil, full reverse! Get us back across the border!"

"Already on it, Sir," he replied from the helm.

"Did we get them all?"

"Yes Sir, we did," Scharr replied.

"Katie, you have the bridge. I'm heading to sick bay," Tigranian said walking to the turbolift.

****

Below, Alex was standing in the middle of her sickbay with her medical tricorder at the ready. Suddenly, the doors parted and three armed security troopers walked in.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"We were dispatched to make sure the casualties didn't cause problems, Ma'am," their leader replied.

Six transporter signatures appeared on the biobeds and materialized into unconscious bodies. Four of the six were Cardassian scientists. However, the two that appeared directly in front of the doctor caused her gasp in shock. Now, she understood why the bridge had dispatched the security team. They were Romulan.
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Tigranian stood next to his Chief Medical Officer and stared down at the sleeping Romulans. Alex had repaired the radiation damage to their cells. One of them, a woman, also had a large gash on her forehead that Alex had patched up.

"There's not a lot of Romulan anatomy in the databank. Luckily, they appear to be identical to Vulcans."

"They're dressed in civilian clothes, and look at her hair," he said pointing to the long black locks hanging down from the woman's head. "I don't think they're military," Tigranian said hopefully.

"Maybe they're spies," Alex added with an aire of distaste. She still had a lot of pent up rage from her terrible ordeal on Remus.

"First thing we have to do is figure out who they are and what they were really doing there," Tigranian said walking over to the Cardassians. "This one is wearing a captain's rank. He must be the man in charge. Can you wake him?"

"He might still be a little light-headed from the radiation exposure, but I can. You sure?" Alex asked. Tigranian nodded. She grabbed a hypospray and injected the man's neck ridges. Slowly, his eyes opened. The Cardassian bolted upright, but a hand from Alex stayed him.

"It's alright," the doctor said. "You're fine and you're safe."

"My crew?" the Cardassian asked. "All fine," Alex said. She wasn't sure whether or not to include the Romulans in her statement.

"My name is Captain Daniel Tigranian," the captain began. "You're onboard the Federation starship, Pershing, inside the Republic of Cardassia."

The Cardassians eyes grew wide and he rapidly began looking back and forth.

"I don't know anything. I'm just a captain in the State Auxiliary Reserve!"

"This isn't an interrogation, Captain," Tigranian replied. "However, I do have a few questions. It might help if I knew who I was dealing with."

The Cardassian sighed.

"My name is Glivis Norbah," he said with a nod.

"Welcome onboard the Pershing, Captain Norbah."

"I suppose I owe you and your crew a debt of thanks, Captain Tigranian. When we started to lose consciousness, I was sure I wouldn't wake up again. The Gosnath? My ship? Did it survive?"

"I'm afraid not," Tigranian said. "We had to pull you out of the nebula with a tractor beam. Your structural integrity field couldn't take it and she collapsed in the protostar's gravity well."

"I'm not surprised," Norbah said rolling his eyes. "That hulk should have been sent to the scrap heap ages ago. However, our resources have been a bit scarce since the Republic restricted our trade."

"I'm not here to discuss politics, Captain Norbah," Tigranian said leaning on the edge of a vacant biobed. "However, we both know it wasn't the Republic that cut off your trade."

"Reality is often dependent on perspective," Norbah replied. "I won't speak out against the people who are keeping us alive," he said eyeing the two unconscious Romulans.

"That leads me to my next inquiry," Tigranian said pulling out a PADD. "You see, I have a sensor report taken as your ship was breaking up. You said you hit a gravitic mine?"

"That's right…" Norbah said nervously.

"Interesting," Tigranian said looking at the data. "Because our sensors indicate that the original damage to your vessel was caused by an explosion that emanated from INSIDE your hull. There are also traces of some very unique energy signatures in the Gosnath's debris field. Tell me, what was a ship so small doing with a polaric field inverter right next to the Republic's border?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Norbah said shaking his head.

"My sensors are the best in Starfleet. My science officer is even better than that. Lies do not become gentlemen. Now, a polaric field inverter could only be used for two purposes. Either you were trying to ignite the plasma of the protostars to create an artificial supernova…which would be a war crime under interstellar law…"

"I promise you! I wouldn't do something so heinous! I still consider all of Cardassia my home!" Norbah emphatically stated.

"Or,"Tigranian continued, "you were trying to see if you could mine the plasma of the protostars as an energy source…"

Norbah shut his eyes and clenched his jaw.

"As I said, Captain, it is no secret how scarce our resources have become. However, my crew and I are only low-level reserve officers. The two you should be asking are them," he said pointing to the Romulans.

"I intend to," Tigranian said. "Doctor Hunter," the captain continued while turning towards Alex, "How soon will Captain Norbah and his crew be able to leave sick bay?"

"I have a few more tests to run," Alex replied, "but I think they'll be free in a few hours."

"Well then, Captain," Tigranian said. "I will contact Starfleet Command and the Republic to inform them of your special situation. Pending a further decision on your dispensation, consider yourself and your crew guests of the United Federation of Planets. I will have to assign a security detail to you all, but you will be granted quarters, have full access to food replicators and leisure facilities on board this ship, and I will arrange for you to send messages back to the Cardassian State through the Intergalactic Red Cross."

"That is more than generous, Captain," Norbah replied. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome."

"I wouldn't tell this to my government, but perhaps the Federation is not quite as backward and corrupt as I thought."

Tigranian didn't bother responding to that. He gestured for Alex to come with him into her office out of earshot.

"What about the Romulans?" he asked.

"Their conditions were more critical," Alex said. "I think they were closer to the initial explosion. It also meant their radiation poisoning was more pervasive. I don't think they'll be conscious till tomorrow morning at the earliest."

"Keep them here. I'll have Katie assign round the clock security just in case they turn out to be a bit more resilient than we thought."

****

Alex walked through the doors of her quarters and collapsed onto the sofa. Annabeth was bouncing a dozing Max on the far side of the room while dressed in a pair of shorts and a "STARFLEET CHEER" t-shirt. She started walking towards her wife, but a hand from Alex stopped her.

"It's best you keep him over there, Beth" Alex said exhausted. "I was exposed to some radiation at work today. Nothing serious, but I should shower and change before I hold him."

"Ok," Annabeth said more than a bit of upset. "What happened today? We moved in way closer to the nebula and I thought I heard an explosion earlier."

"That's because you did, Babe…" Alex said trailing off. Suddenly, she looked up and furrowed her brow. "Were you wearing that when I left earlier?"

"No, I had to change," Annabeth said with a grumble. She glanced down at Max. "He peed on me."

Alex held back a laugh.

"I'm serious, Alex!" Annabeth said. "I'm going crazy down here not knowing what's going on. Now, apparently, we had a radiation incident and a border incursion that the first officer had no clue about."

Alex sighed.

"We responded to a distress call from a Cardassian ship caught in the nebula. It was about to break apart, so we moved in across the border and beamed the crew out. Now, there's four Cardassians in the mess hall having dinner and two unconscious Romulans in my sick bay. Dan is on the line with Starfleet trying to figure out what to do."

Annabeth briefly stopped bouncing the baby and stared right back at her wife.

"And no one called me?" she said indignantly.

"Katie did a great job," Alex said shaking her head.

"That's not the point!" Annabeth shouted. "I'm first officer! I need to know these things."

The loud noise caused Max to start bawling again. Annabeth immediately resumed bouncing.

"Oh, nein, nein, nein, Leibling. Alles ist gut. Mama hat Mama nur angeschrien."

"Seriously, what are you telling him?" Alex said suspiciously.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Annabeth replied raising an eyebrow.

"Beth, what would you have done?" Alex replied to her earlier outburst. "You're on leave with a baby in our quarters. Would you have left Max with the computer and come up to the bridge to take charge?"

"No, of course not…" Annabeth said with a hint of derision.

"Then what? Would you pull Katie off the bridge to babysit? That would be a terrible idea even if there wasn't an ongoing security situation."

"No! However, I would like to know when we have hostile aliens onboard. I might have to keep a phaser under my pillow to protect the cub, here."

"There no sign that they're hostile…yet," Alex added the last word with some nervousness. "We've got them all under guard just in case."

Annabeth took a deep breath and glanced back out at space.

"Hurry up and take your shower," she said. "That why I can pass the munchkin off to you for a while."

"Sounds like you have plans," Alex mumbled while flashing her a nervous glance.

"I just want to get some air outside of our quarters. Maybe get a quick debrief from Dan."

"He's just going to tell you the same thing I did, Beth. You…are…on…leave. Let the rest of the crew keep the ship running right."

"You're my wife," Annabeth said. "I have to listen to that stupidity from you. But Dan's my captain. I can still knock some sense into him."

It was Alex's turn to roll her eyes before heading to the bathroom.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
The next morning, Tigranian and Alex stood together in a private room off of sick bay. Two security men armed with phasers stood next to the wall behind them Tigranian thought they were unnecessary, but he was keeping a promise he made the previous evening to a perturbed Annabeth to "not to anything stupid while I'm on leave."

The two Romulans still slept on a pair of biobeds.

"Are you ready?" Tigranian asked his doctor.

"Oh, I've been ready," Alex replied. "Are you?"

Tigranian nodded.

She grabbed a hypospray and then took a deep breath. She injected their necks and the Romulans stirred awake.

The male opened his eyes and struggled to bring them into focus. As soon as he saw the outline of Tigranian, he bolted upwards.

"Sora!" he shouted looking around. The woman shook herself awake and nearly fell to the floor as she screamed in shock.

"Wait, please!" Tigranian shouted holding up his hands. "You are safe."

The man stared back at him with fear filled eyes. The woman retreated against the wall and reached for the man's hand. They were obviously terrified.

"My name is Captain Daniel Tigranian. We rescued you from the Cardassian ship as it was breaking up. You're onboard the Federation starship, Pershing."

"We know who you are…" the woman said not taking her eyes off him. "There's not a school child in the Star Empire that doesn't know your ugly, human face."

Alex looked over at her captain nervously.

"You're a war criminal!" the man shouted. "You killed all those people on Grallus and Gotanna. Gods know how many more you would have killed if the fleet hadn't scared you off."

Tigranian shook his head and crossed his arms.

"The reports of my cruelty have been greatly exaggerated. Forgive me, but I don't think you have the whole story about what happened on those worlds."

"Don't lie to us!" the woman spit back at him. "Your cruelty was so profound it drove the praetor into seclusion. He now spends his days praying for the sake of the Romulan people."

Alex couldn't help but laugh. Tigranian shot her a warning glance.

"The suffering you have imposed on us is funny to you animals?" the man said.

"This must be the famous Federation Doctor Alexandra Hunter…" the woman said. "Everyone knew that you didn't deserve mercy, but the lies of your captain fooled us. We won't make the same mistake again."

Alex shuddered.

"I'm sorry, Sir, I can't," she said. "I'll be outside if you need me." She quickly disappeared back into sick bay.

"She can't what?" the man said. "Be around us? She really hates Romulans so much?"

"No Sir," Tigranian replied shaking his head. "It's just in our culture, people are usually more grateful when you save their lives."

"What are you talking about?" the woman asked.

"You both had Stage III radiation poisoning," Tigranian said plainly. "You also suffered numerous broken bones, contusions, and lacerations when the polaric field inverter you were using to mine the protostar exploded. From the pattern of your wounds, you must have been right next to it. She spent the last twenty hours saving your lives."

"How did you know about the field inverter?" the man asked in shock.

"Because we're not stupid," Tigranian said walking over to them. "Besides, Captain Norbah was a bit more polite than you."

"I told you we shouldn't have trusted him with the details of our experiment…" the woman chided the man.

"We needed his help with the power connections," the man grumbled back at her.

"And look at the good it did," she replied.

"Look," Tigranian said. "If it makes you feel any better, I'm about as excited for you to be onboard my ship as you are to be here. You're inside Republic Space, but Starfleet is arranging for us to rendezvous with a Cardassian State Diplomatic skiff that will return you to the Romulan Embassy on Simperia. Until then, you will be our guests will full diplomatic courtesies extended. I give you my word, you will be treated with the utmost respect. I ask that you extend my crew the same courtesy."

The pair of Romulans exchanged nervous glances. Then, the man stepped off the biobed and straightened the suit he was wearing.

"My name is Dr. Jedras Vran. This is my partner, Dr. Sora Talv."

Tigranian bowed his head respectfully.

"Welcome aboard," he added. "Is there anyone else you would like us to contact on your behalf? The Romulan Science Ministry, perhaps?"

"Captain," Jedras said. "The Romulan Science Ministry was not exactly thrilled with our experiments. If they were, do you think we would be forced to carry them out in Cardassia?"

"They should be," Sora muttered. "No one else has come as far as we have to address the energy crisis."

"Sora!" Jedras shouted.

"Do you possibly think they don't know?" she shouted back. "Do you really think their surveillance outposts haven't seen our humiliation?" She turned to Tigranian. "The slave insurrection has shuttered almost every single fuel refinery. All available deuterium goes either to the military or to Romulus itself. Half our planets have gone dark at night because they don't have enough energy to keep the lights on."

"The situation is even worse in the Cardassian State," Jedras added. "Worlds experiencing winter are suffering food shortages. Some homes cannot be heated. We proposed an experiment to see if mining protostar plasma could be a viable alternative to refined deuterium."

"If it worked, the Science Ministry would have no choice but to let us attempt the same process in Romulan Space," Sora said.

"The Federation has offered both food relief and energy exports to Romulus and the Cardassian State as long as neutral observers ensure it doesn't go to military applications," Tigranian said. "The Ferengi offered to facilitate…for a small commission of course."

"What?" Sora said in shock. "That can't be possible."

"Our government would never let innocent people starve to death," Jedras said shaking his head.

"As I said," Tigranian replied. "Your government isn't giving you the whole story."

"Of course those noble bastards in the Senate don't care about the commoners," Sora said gritting her teeth. "They're not the ones lighting candles in their homes or burning logs to boil their rationed starch roots."

"Sora..." Jedras pleaded again.

"Jedras, you know as well as I do what the Empire is capable of. Does it really sound so far-fetched?"

He answered her with silence.

"We have arranged quarters for you while onboard," Tigranian said cutting through the awkwardness. "These two security officers will have to accompany you when moving around the ship. However, you will access to all unrestricted areas. The replicators can provide you with any toiletries or comfort items you require. If you need something else, ask one of your escorts. They will contact the appropriate staff head."

"Thank you, Captain," Jedras said. "Regretfully, I believe that if the situation were reversed, Romulan hosts would not be as accommodating."

The captain turned to leave. Just as he passed through the doors, he spoke under his breath.

"I can tell you that for a fact."

****

Jedras and Sora uncomfortably sat alone at a table in the mess hall pecking at their food. They had actually found two basic Romulan dishes in the Federation replicator. They slowly spooned blue broth into their mouths as they felt fifty pairs of eyes staring at them from all over the room.

Three tables away, Katie, Phil, and Laria were eating lunch.

"I can't believe the captain is just letting them eat in here with the rest of us," Katie grumbled under her breath.

"They're not prisoners, Katie," Phil said taking another bite of his corned beef sandwich.

"Well, maybe they should be…" Katie replied quietly. "We've all seen what Romulans are capable of. They probably rigged the whole accident just to get onboard the Pershing."

"Don't perpetuate conspiracy theories, Katie," Laria said shaking her head.

"Conspiracy theories?" Katie said incredulously. "Were you there when that entire warbird squadron chased us back across the border. They don't exactly like the captain…or you," she said with a hint of warning.

"My beef was with a very particular Romulan," Laria said taking a bite of an apple. "She's no longer with us."

"But her friends are," Katie replied.

Laria shook her head and picked up her tray.

"Where are you going?" Phil asked.

"Call it diplomatic relations," Laria said walking over to the other end of the mess hall. The two security guards posted with the Romulans nodded as she walked past.

"Is this seat taken?" Laria asked politely.

"Are you joking?" Sora replied looking up from her Teshralan stew.

"Not at all," Laria said. "I just figured that you could use some company."

"I can't remember, Jedras," Sora asked looking at her partner. "Do Bajorans age more slowly than other humanoids?"

"No, very similar to humans," he replied casually.

"By Gods, then she really is that young and na´ve," Sora muttered while shaking her head.

Laria grew tired of standing there awkwardly. She placed her tray down next to Jedras and sat down.

"I've spoken to a few Romulans in my life," Laria said picking up her apple again. "If you don't mind me making an observation, if you weren't such assholes, maybe you wouldn't have to be so isolated all the time."

"What does the word 'asshole' mean?" Sora asked Jedras. "My translator must be malfunctioning."

"Che'vaschurona'van," he replied in Romulan. Sora slammed her spoon down loudly enough to catch the attention of the security detail.

"Tread very carefully, Bajoran," Sora said glaring at Laria. "Most Romulans don't tolerate insults from outworlders very well…"

"I've insulted Romulans before," Laria said leaning forward and looking into her eyes. "It wasn't a problem…"

The confident tone in her voice made the pair think twice before pressing deeper.

"You know…" Laria said continuing. "There was a girl in my high school a lot like you both. She was arrogant, angry, and loved putting other people down. As a result, she was one of the most popular girls in our class."

"Is there a point to this ridiculous story?" Jedras asked.

"I'm getting to it," Laria said taking another bite of apple. "A few months before graduation, word got out that her farm was in trouble…I'm from a farming world, did I mention that?"

Sora rubbed her eyes.

"Anyways," Laria continued. "Her family's farm was in trouble. Their crop yields were dropping, her father was threatening to give it all up and was thinking about moving the family to a mining colony in the Ne'tral system. If you think Gault was remote and country, you've obviously never heard of Ne'tral…"

"By Gods, why are you still talking?" Sora exclaimed.

"That girl wasn't as strong and confident as she led on. It turns out, she was just scared and lonely all along."

"Hmmm….a green shirt, pathetic anecdotes, and overly friendly? Let me guess," Jedras said turning to Laria. "You are the ship's counselor sent here to analyze us?"

"No," Laria said leaning back in her chair. "Chief Science Officer. My specialties are Theoretical Astrophysics and Subspace Wave Spectral Analysis."

"You're a scientist?" Sora said with surprise.

"Yes," Laria said leaning forward. "Just like you two."

"My specialty is also Astrophysics," Jedras replied a bit apologetically. "Sora is a Chemical Engineer."

"Lieutenant Tigranian Laria. It's always a pleasure to meet colleagues."

"Tigranian?" Sora asked.

"Yes, I believe you already know my husband."

Jedras and Sora exchanged looks again.

"In the Romulan Empire," Jedras said with hesitation, "Relationships in a professional setting are strongly discouraged." Laria took note of how he glanced at Sora when he said that.

"I wouldn't say they're encouraged in the Federation, but at least we have the freedom to choose."

"Freedom is a relative concept…" Sora said glancing down at her tray.

"Until you're forbidden from doing something you feel is right…" Laria replied. The two Romulans remained quiet. "Well, I'll leave you two to your meal. Have a good day."

"You as well, Lieutenant Tigranian," Jedras said averting his gaze.

Laria stood up. However, as soon as she took two steps, she turned back around.

"You hypothesis wasn't flawed," she said.

"What?" Sora said.

"The polaric field was strong enough to contain the active plasma. However, you didn't account for the quantum variance in the protostar's accretion disk. You should have set your resonance compensators to 3.5682 terra-cochranes to compensate. That's why the unit overloaded and exploded."

"The Federation already knows how to mine protostars?" Jedras asked in amazement.

"No," Laria said calmly shaking her head, "but I do."

She smiled and walked away. The two Romulans bewilderedly stared at each other in silence.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
"Passing 3000 megajoules!" Sora shouted with excitement as she studied her instruments.

"The polaric field is stable. Plasma transfer proceeding exactly as predicted. Your modifications worked!" Jedras exclaimed.

"I told you," Laria said with a grin as she stared at the viewscreen. A stream of burning plasma was being pulled out of the protostar and right into a collector mounted on their lower hull.

"We can power millions of homes with free, clean energy with this technology," Sora said happily. "This could change everything…"

Her happiness was interrupted by a chirping alarm.

"The capacitors are overloading again," Jedras said nervously. "Attempting to compensate."

"Reroute auxiliary power to the field emitters," Laria said joining him at the control console. "We have to stabilize them before the temperature climbs over 6000 degrees Kelvin."

"Temperature at 5600 degrees and rising!" Sora shouted.

"It's getting too hot!" Laria replied. "We have to shut it down."

"We can't!" Jedras said. "If we shut off the polaric field while the collectors still contain plasma, it will burn through the outer hull of the ship like cardboard."

"Dammit," Laria said shaking her head. "The field is about to collapse!" She tried to think of something. "Sora! Can you purge the collectors with a gravometric inversion from the deflector?"

"I don't have that much power! The auxiliary circuits are already overloaded." An even louder alarm echoed through the laboratory. The computer spoke:

"WARNING: temperature at 5900 degrees. Overload will occur in ten seconds…"

"We have to do something!" Jedras screamed.

"Overload will occur in five…four…three…two…"

A bright flash lit up the entire room indicating that the polaric generator had exploded. The world froze around them. The three scientists hung their heads low.

"By the Prophets," Laria muttered shaking her head. "Computer, end program."

The laboratory disappeared into the orange and gray grid pattern of the Pershing's holodeck.

"I don't understand it," Jedras said in disbelief. "Everything was working perfectly."

Laria walked over to a control panel on the wall an examined the data from the simulation.

"It wasn't the polaric generator," she said shaking her head. "Look here," she said pointing to a screen.

"The warp core power transfer grid couldn't keep up the demand. There's a large drop off here when the field climbed to full power. You needed another 1.7 Terawatts of energy to keep the field strength above the danger limit."

"1.7 Terrawatts?" Sora said hopelessly. "Only a capital ship could generate that much power."

"Containing high energy plasma in the volumes we're talking about isn't a mom and pop operation," Laria replied shaking your head. "Take this data to the Romulan Science Ministry. When they see your theory is sound they'll give you a vessel that can handle it."

"How little you know of the Science Ministry," Jedras said taking a seat against a wall. "It was everything we could do just to get a Cardassian State Reserve vessel."

The doors opened and Tigranian walked in. He furrowed his brow when he saw Laria with the two Romulans alone on the holodeck.

"I hope I'm not interrupting anything…" he said staring straight at her.

"No Sir," Laria said shaking her head. "Just running a few simulations. I think Dr. Vran and Dr. Talv's experiments can be successful. They just need a more powerful vessel to help."

"In any case," Tigranian said turning to the Romulans. "I have just been informed by Starfleet that the Cardassian State Ship, Yodorost, will be rendezvousing with us the day after tomorrow. You're going home."

"Thank you, Captain," Jedras said climbing to his feet. "That is good news."

"Yes, good news…" Sora said sarcastically.

"Lieutenant Tigranian, may I speak with you?" Tigranian said.

"Yes Sir," she said skeptically. "It is getting quite late, I think we have done all we can tonight."

"I'll have your escorts take you back to your quarters," Tigranian said to his Romulan guests.

"I guess we should pack," Sora said shaking her head. "Soon, we'll be back in Paradise…"

"Sora…" Jedras grumbled.

They departed back towards their room. Tigranian motioned for Laria to walk with him. As soon as they were alone in the corridor, Tigranian turned to her.

"What the hell are you doing?" Tigranian asked his wife angrily.

"Helping two fellow scientists solve a problem that has the potential to help billions of people," she replied without regret.

"You mean billions of Romulans," Tigranian replied angrily.

"I didn't realize there was a difference," Laria said flashing him a judgmental look. He stopped and turned to face her.

"Do you remember why there is a fuel shortage in the Romulan Star Empire?" he asked clenching his jaw. "Because the slaves that the Romulans were beating and starving to death in the mines were freed by the rebellion we helped start!"

"And I am very happy that they are free, Daniel," Laria replied. "However, we both know that the people suffering the most are innocent civilians caught in the middle! If Jedras and Sora can make this process work, all that suffering ends!"

"Do you really think so?" Tigranian asked shaking his head. "Because if the Romulans find a new source of energy, I think that means that they'll bring their fleet back to full strength, hunt down Rellas, kill Crestia's mother, and then turn their attentions to destroying the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Then, the suffering will just be beginning."

Laria looked at him.

"Daniel, I understand how dangerous the game we're playing is. However, if you're asking me if I'm willing to stand by and let billions of innocents die…"

He rubbed his eyes.

"I sympathize with the civilians, Laria," Tigranian replied, "but that's how change happens. If we don't keep the pressure on the Romulan Empire, it will only become more dangerous. We can't let up until the government reforms or collapses."

"By then it could be too late!"

"That's the risk we have to take, L," he said.

"Daniel, tell me one thing," she said briefly shutting her eyes. "Are you letting your personal feelings cloud your judgement here?"

"Excuse me?" he said angrily.

"Are you taking your hate for the few and transforming it to hate for the many?"

He gritted his teeth and almost lost his temper, but at the last minute, he gained control of his emotions.

"My…personal feelings about Romulans definitely help color my perspective," he said clenching his jaw. "However, I also understand the bigger picture. I understand what Romulans do to their captives. Alex, taught me that. I understand what the life of a slave is like under the Romulan yoke. Crestiataught me that. Selonia certainly helped…" he said pausing to check his anger again. "I also understand that Romulan civilians might not be so innocent. They have tacitly supported the crimes of their government for centuries. The Star Empire has no incentive to change until it is forced too.

I hope Rellas destroys every single target of military value from here to Remus. I hope the diplomatic pressure that the Federation and the Klingons keep putting on Romulus forces their oppressive government to collapse into ashes, and I hope something far better for all people emerges to replace it. To make that dream happen, it might be the Romulans' turn to understand what it's like to be cold, hungry, and afraid for a change.

I don't care if you want to make friends with those scientists. I don't care if you spend time with them, tell jokes over drinks. By Gre'thor, I don't care if you invite them over to our quarters for dinner. However, you will not assist their experiments or further their research in any way. Am I clear, Lieutenant Tigranian?"

Laria stared back at him in shock.

"Is that an order…Sir?" she said with an icy glare.

"Yes it is," he replied.

"In that case…Sir…" she said accentuating the word by stiffening her spine, "I think I will see if Alex and Annabeth could use some help with the baby tonight. Have a good evening."

She turned and walked away.

"Laria," he said calling after her. However, his wife turned a corner and was already gone.

Tigranian leaned against the nearest bulkhead and rubbed his eyes. Finally, he turned and walked to his quarters alone.

****

"Can you believe him?" Laria said bouncing Max up and down. "Trying to justify xenophobic racism to me?" Surprisingly, Max remained calmly asleep in her arms despite her angry tirade. "Hell, I know that the Romulan government is all criminals. What they did to you, what they did to Daniel, what they did to Crestia. But if we let ourselves descend to their level, we're no better than they are. Am I right?"

Alex and Annabeth exchanged nervous glances with each other on the couch. They both took a deep breath and remained silent.

"Well, I'm right, right?" Laria asked suddenly standing still. Max began to stir and she began to rock him again. "Guys?"

"Do you want the short answer of the long answer?" Annabeth asked.

"I want the right answer," Laria replied.

"Well, in that case…" Alex said reaching for a glass of wine.

"You're wrong, Laria," Annabeth said.

"What?" she said staring at them with a completely deadpanned expression.

"No one wants to see innocent people suffer," Annabeth clarified.

"But you cannot separate what the Romulan government is doing from their civilians in this case," Alex said. "If you help those two scientists solve the energy crisis, it takes pressure off their government, which will give them more freedom to continue their crimes."

"So, we just do nothing?" Laria asked incredulously.

"No," Annabeth said shaking her head. "We offer to help, but in ways that won't assist the Romulan government or the military."

"They won't accept Federation food aide!" Laria said. "Jedras and Sora told me it would make the Romulan government look too weak."

"Then, that's on them," Alex said. "I saw plenty of civilians working in the prisons on Romulus and Remus, Laria. Do you know what they did when they saw a captive suffering?" she asked becoming more serious. "Not a damn thing. They were just happy it wasn't them."

"What about the Romulan civilians who were happy to see Dan fight in the arena? The Romulan civilians who worked in the slave markets?" Annabeth added. "Do you think they bear any responsibility?"

"Of course they do, but I still feel dirty about doing nothing to help when I know I can. It seems unethical," Laria said looking out the window towards space.

Annabeth took a deep breath.

"Would you be upset if someone tried to help the Cardassians when they were occupying Bajor?" she asked. "What if the Federation helped them free up enough troops to put down the Resistance?"

Laria froze.

"The Occupation was different…" Laria said.

"How?" Alex asked.

Laria looked like she was about to speak, but suddenly didn't have answer to give them.

Alex got up and walked over to Laria. She placed an understanding hand on the Bajoran's shoulder.

"I can understand why you're angry at the situation. It just means you're a good person who wants to find a way to take care of others. However, I think you should listen to Dan on this one."

"You're more than welcome to spend the night here and let things calm down," Annabeth added. "But I think you should talk to him in the morning."

"Ok…" Laria said suddenly feeling very guilty about how she talked to Tigranian. Alex and Annabeth turned to head towards their bedroom, but Laria suddenly sniffed the air. She detected a foul smell coming from the baby in her arms. "Umm, guys? I think he just had an accident," Laria called out to them.

"Clean diapers and wipes are under his crib," Annabeth said without turning around. "Consider it practice for when you and Dan decided to pop one out."

"Really appreciate you staying here and helping out with Max," Alex said disappearing through a door. "Be careful, he tends to pee on people."

Laria looked down just as Max started to cry.

"Oh, shit…" Laria grumbled.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Sora couldn't sleep. Jedras slumbered next to her on their comfortable Federation mattress. She stared out of the window as the stars rushed by. She also knew that in just over twenty-four hours, they would be returned to the Cardassian State. She guessed that a Tal Shiar field agent at the embassy on Simperia would immediately debrief them and send them back to Romulus for further questioning. She had seen it before.

Once, during her youth, a freighter captain had drifted into Breen space. He was returned only to be paraded across the newsfeeds. He lambasted the cruel and backward nature of outsiders while publicly rejoicing at his return home to the Star Empire. She knew in her heart, that was exactly what she and Jedras would be forced to do. However, she also knew it would all have to be a lie. The Federation wasn't cruel or backward. They had been treated well, fed, clothed, and were even given the chance to salvage some of their data.

Sora sat up in the darkness and buried her head into her hands. Her life was just that: a lie, all of it. The hardships and intimidation she and everyone she knew had suffered were for nothing. The government claimed it was all necessary because of the threats posed by outsiders, however, it was only for the benefit of the nobles and the military they controlled.

She stepped out of bed and walked into the living room of the guest quarters. On the desk was a computer terminal. She pulled out a pair of headphones and turned the device on. A blue screen with a Federation seal appeared above the words:

Computer Access Terminal:

Guest Access Enabled

"Computer," she said softly enough not to wake Jedras. "Tell me about the United Federation of Planets."

Pictures appeared across the screen showing scenes from all corners of Federation space.

"The United Federation of Planets is an Interstellar Federal Republic located primarily in the Alpha Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy. It consists of 150 member worlds spread across over 8,000 light years of space. Its population is currently 3,212, 527,462, 543 sentient beings as of the last census in 2375. The capital planet is Earth. Each individual member world maintains sovereignty over internal domestic matters, but individual rights are codified by the Articles of Federation which supersede all local laws and regulations on all member worlds.

Once every four years, each member world elects a representative through universal suffrage to the Federation Council and also casts electoral votes for the office of President of the United Federation of Planets. The ten justices of the Federation Supreme Court are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Federation Council.

The Federation Council is primarily concerned with passing national legislation, negotiating interstellar agreements, and providing common defense through the Department of the Starfleet. The Federation President must approve all legislation passed by the Council, but may be overridden by a two thirds vote. The Federation President is also the Head of State as well as Command-In-Chief of the Starfleet. The Federation Supreme Court may override any legislation deemed to conflict with the rights guaranteed by the Articles of Federation.

Standard of living in the United Federation of Planets is classified as Extremely High on the Humanoid Development Index. Currency is abolished for domestic matters as it is unnecessary as a means of regulating domestic trade…"

"Pause," Sora said rubbing her eyes. "Computer, tell me about the Romulan Star Empire…"

"The Romulan Star Empire is a Constitutional Monarchy organized as a de facto oligarchy spanning the Beta Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy. It consists of an unknown number of subject worlds populated by a mix of local, conquered inhabitants and Romulan colonists. The territory of the Romulan Star Empire extends over 10,000 lightyears. Its exact population is currently unknown, but estimates state that upward of 950,000,000,000 sentient beings are non-Romulan subjects without full or equal protection under the law. The capital planet is Romulus. All other worlds in the Star Empire are subordinate to Romulus with varying degrees of freedom based on the numbers of Romulan colonists. There is no known system of legal protections for individuals.

Each jurisdiction of the Star Empire appoints a Senator to represent them at the national level through a nominal election, however, the validity of the elections remains suspect…"

Sora scoffed. Even the Federation computer was being too generous. A ballot presented to a commoner consisted of the name of a Senator with one block for "Yes" and one for "No." She never knew anyone who checked "No" and didn't disappear in the night.

"The leader of the Senate is known as the Proconsul and works in conjunction with the Praetor: an official appointed by the Senate for a life-term who acts with limited dictatorial powers as Chief Executive. The Head of State is the Empress who has no known function beyond a ceremonial role. There is no written law stating that Senators and the Praetor must be members of the Romulan species, but no known non-Romulans have ever been elected."

"And if they ever are, it will be the beginning of the end…" Sora mumbled.

"The Military and the Tal Shiar or "State Security Service" wield enormous authority within the Romulan Star Empire. Most labor consists of slaves conscripted from subject worlds. These factors lead to extreme levels of humanoid rights violations within Romulan territory…"

"Computer," Sora said leaning forward. "Clarify humanoid rights violations." Graphic pictures suddenly appeared on the screen. Sora covered her mouth with shock. Images showed legionnaires leading around captured aliens on long chains. Another picture showed a Romulan conducting a slave auction of Elohsians and Gralluscans in front of a crowd of well-dressed nobles. Finally, one showed a Romulan soldier holding a disruptor pistol to the head of a Gotannan child.

"The Interstellar Red Cross classifies the Romulan Star Empire as an extreme violator of humanoid rights. Non-Romulans have no legal standing within the framework of government and are often used as forced slave labor. Romulan citizens of common birth have limited recognized rights and are often subject to the unregulated rule of traditional noble families. The Empire exists under a stated policy of "Imperium ethh D'Deridexium Primus" which is translated as "Empire and Military Power First." This means that Imperial officials, noble families, and the military may confiscate any resources prior to distribution to commoners or non-Romulan inhabitants. Though no official data exists, the Intergalactic Red Cross believes that there may have been as many as four significant famines throughout the territory of the Star Empire within the past fifty Earth years resulting in over five hundred million deaths…"

Sora reached up and shut down the terminal. She knew in her gut that it was all true, but still didn't want to hear anymore…

****

Tigranian rolled over in his empty bed and threw off the klongat fur. He stared at the ceiling, desperate for sleep that wouldn't come. Suddenly, his communicator beeped. He looked over and saw the chronometer read "0347" hours. He reached out an arm and slammed it on the nightstand.

"This is Captain Tigranian, go ahead."

"Sir, it's Lieutenant Stone…" a very annoyed and sleepy voice sounded from the other end.

"What's up, Katie?"

"Sir, I'm really sorry to bother you, but she wouldn't wait till morning. She wants to talk to you right now."

"And who would that be, Lieutenant?"

"The Romulan woman, Sir…" Katie replied. "She's standing in my quarters down the corridor and wants to speak to you alone."

Tigranian sighed, stood up, and pulled a t-shirt off the floor.

"Send her over, Katie," he replied while throwing on the top and pair of shorts.

Less than a minute later, his door chimed. He walked over and parted the doors to reveal a very nervous looking Sora. The two security guards with her looked upset. Tigranian raised a hand to simultaneously let them know it was alright and to stay in the hall.

"Come in please," Tigranian said motioning for her to enter. "Forgive me, I wasn't expecting guests," he said sarcastically walking to the living room. She followed him inside without a word. "Have a seat," he said pointing to his couch. She sat down as he pulled up a chair from the dining room table. "How might I be of assistance, Doctor?" he said fighting back a yawn. "Obviously, it's very important if no one else on this entire ship could help."

She stared at him with a haggard and worried expression. He knew something real was going on.

"Jedras doesn't know I'm here," she began. "He's been sleeping this whole time."

"Ok," Tigranian said. "What's going on?"

"When we first arrived on board, you said we didn't have the full story about the Star Empire. Well, tonight I did some research, and I think you're right. Very shortly, you will return us to the Cardassian State, and then shortly after that, we will return to Romulus."

"Yes…" Tigranian said nodding his head nervously.

"When I go back, I want to help my people…by helping you."

Tigranian was speechless as he tried to comprehend what she was telling him.

"Jedras has no love for the government, but he would never actively oppose the Empire," Sora said rubbing her temples. "However, I can't stand by idly anymore while legionnaires commit atrocities in my name. I know you don't have any reason to trust me, but I want to be another voice telling the Federation what is going on behind the Neutral Zone."

Tigranian took a deep breath and stood up. He considered his next words carefully.

"If you're asking what I think you're asking," Tigranian began, "Starfleet Intelligence will need more than just what you see. You'll have to seek out things: specific information, names, documents, schematics…it will be extremely dangerous for you and everyone you know. Are you prepared for that?"

"If I wasn't," Sora said replacing a strand of frazzled, black hair behind her pointed ears, "I wouldn't be in your quarters right now."

"I'm not a spy. I'll have to speak with Starfleet Intelligence."

"I understand," she said.

"If they say 'yes,' that's the final word," he warned once more. "They'll be no going back. However, if you want to walk out of my quarters right now, I'll go back to bed and forget this conversation every happened."

"You may be able to forget, Captain," she replied. "But I'll never be able to forget those pictures I saw on your computer of what is going on beyond the view of the Romulan public. We're not bad people, Captain," she said finding resolve in her voice. "There are some of us who aren't willing to turn a blind eye to unnecessary suffering anymore. We want change. By helping the Federation, I can make that happen."

"Alright," he said reasonably convinced of her sincerity. "I'll make the call."

"Thank you," she said standing up. "I should get back to my quarters before Jedras realizes I'm gone." She turned to leave.

"Sora," Tigranian called after her. "I know most of you are good people," he said holding himself steady. "But show your fellow Romulans you can be more than just followers. Show them that they can put their country on the right path."

She nodded and headed back into the corridor.

****

The next evening, Laria nervously emerged from the turbolift onto the senior staff's quarter deck. She hadn't seen her husband all day. Katie had taken the morning meeting while Tigranian shuttered himself in his ready room with explicit orders to not be disturbed. She had no idea why. Then, two hours ago, he suddenly walked out of his office and disappeared off the bridge without a word.

With a deep breath, she opened the doors to her quarters and stepped inside. She was expecting to walk into another yelling match. What she found caused her to freeze in surprise.

The lights had been dimmed and flickering candles decorated the entire living room. The dining room had been set with a homemade dinner and a Bajoran kava cake sat in the middle of the table. As she walked closer, she saw the words, "I'M SORRY," clumsily written with red icing in Bajoran pictogryphs.

"Do you know how hard it is to write in Bajoran on a cake?" she heard from behind her. She spun around to see Tigranian standing in the doorway to the bedroom. His uniform jacket was unzipped and splattered in white and red fondant. A smile crept across Laria's face.

"It's the thought that counts…" she said quietly.

"The thought is real, L," he said cautiously stepping towards her. "I am sorry. Just because we have to be captain and lieutenant on the bridge, doesn't mean we have to be when we're alone. You were trying to tell me something. I refused to listen."

She held up her arms and gestured for him to come to her. He walked forward into her embrace.

"No," she said resting her head on his shoulder. "You were the one trying to tell me something and I was the one who wouldn't hear it. Just be glad that Alex and Annabeth are better friends than we thought."

"I suspected they were pretty good friends. I mean, they let us have a child with them. How did last night go by the way?"

Laria laughed.

"I'll put it like this, if you want to have a kid, you get to change the diapers."

It was his turn to laugh.

She turned to look at the table.

"You made hasparat?" she said. "You must have really thought you were in trouble."

"I know it's your favorite," he replied.

"My mother's is my favorite," Laria said looking at him, "but yours is a close second."

"I'll take that," Tigranian replied looking into her eyes. "You know, I'm so thankful that I'm married to you."

Laria stared back into his loving gaze.

"Me too," she said.

They leaned forward into a wonderful kiss.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Mokrab Expanse: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border

The Pershing stared across the border at a Galor class Cardassian cruiser.

"The Yodorost is signaling they're ready for transport," Chief Carter said from the transporter console.

"Well, Captain," Norbah said to Tigranian. "Thank you for the hospitality, but all things considered, I'm happy to going home. My wife and children are beside themselves."

"Best of luck to you and your crew, Captain," Tigranian said shaking his hand. "I hope your next ship is better than your last."

"Hopefully, we'll never have to stare at each other again with weapons charged," Norbah replied with a bit of gallows humor.

"Seconded," Tigranian replied. Norbah motioned for the rest of his compatriots to join him on the transporter pad. Jedras and Sora walked up next.

"Captain Tigranian," Jedras said. "You and your ship are very professional. However, I would advise you to never step foot in the Romulan Empire again. I doubt the authorities would be patient enough to find out you're not actually a criminal."

"Goodbye, Jedras," Laria said shaking his hand.

"Thank you for your help in our research, Lieutenant," he said shaking back. He stepped up onto the transporter pad to join the Cardassians. Tigranian clandestinely reached into his pocket.

"Captain Tigranian, Laria," Sora said. "Jolan Tru."

"Goodbye, Sora," Laria said giving her a quick embrace. Tigranian held out his hand. She reached for it and felt the micro-transmitter in Tigranian's palm. She wrapped her hands around the device and then placed it into her robes without the others noticing. Then, she stepped onto the transporter.

"I hope you don't take this the wrong way," Tigranian said to the assembled group, "but I hope to stop meeting people from your countries like this."

"Oh no, Captain Tigranian," Sora replied. "I doubt you've heard the last from the Romulan Empire."

The telling grin on her face made him smirk back in her direction.

"Chief," Tigranian said. "Energize."
Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
Central Dining Hall, Georgetown University: Washington D.C., Earth

Stardate: 54440.3

Crestia pulled a bowl of oatmeal from a replicator and put it on her tray. She then grabbed a banana from a pile of fresh fruit. She had to admit, human food was growing on her. She walked from the food line and then found an empty table to enjoy her breakfast. On Thursdays she didn't have class until 10:00, which gave her plenty of time to enjoy the morning.

She was just about to take her first bite when the holoscreen mounted on the far wall caught her attention over the noise of the other students in the room. She looked up to see the talking head of a morning news program:

"And now to breaking story coming out of the Romulan Star Empire. Last week, the crew of a Cardassian State Science vessel was rescued by the Federation starship USS Pershing along the border with the Republic of Cardassia. The Federation Diplomatic Corps reports that two Romulan scientists that were also aboard the Cardassian ship have been safely returned to Romulus. The State Information Bureau released this televised press conference in which the two individuals describe their experiences while in Federation custody:"

The screen transitioned from the Federation News Service studio to a marble hall on Romulus. The official Raptor Crest of the Romulan State Information Bureau was watermarked on the top right corner of the screen. A reporter asked a Romulan man and woman questions while a uniformed Tal Shiar escort stood behind them.

"Dr. Vran, Dr. Talv," the reporter asked while making notes on a digital PADD. "If it is not too difficult, could you please describe your experiences while being held hostage by the convicted war criminal, Daniel Tigranian? Is it true that he treats captives with brutality?"

The Romulan man was about to speak, but the Romulan woman grabbed the microphone and began to speak loudly to the assembled media.

"I would like to answer that question, if I can," she began. "Unfortunately, I can absolutely confirm that Daniel Tigranian is as brutal and unforgiving as the Information Bureau has suggested. We and our fellow captives from the Cardassian State were treated with utter contempt. Our movements were controlled and he often spoke of how he wished to be rid of us once and for all. I would often lay awake at night, worried if I would survive till the next morning.

However, the intense lobbying from our allies in the Cardassian State Central Command as well as the tireless efforts of the Tal Shiar ensured that we not only survived this terrible ordeal, but that we were able to come home as safely and quickly as possible. The Star Empire and its leaders have my eternal gratitude."

Crestia was shocked. Even though she knew that there was no way the report was anything more than propaganda, it still chilled her to hear someone talking about the Son of Tigranian and the crew of the Pershing with such vitriolic contempt.

The feed returned to the Federation News Service studio.

"Of course, Dr. Sora Talv was referring to Captain Daniel Tigranian, captain of the USS Pershing. We reached out to Starfleet Command for comment on the allegations against Captain Tigranian and received the following response:

"Starfleet Command takes all allegations about misconduct by its senior officers extremely seriously. However, at this time, we only have unconfirmed allegations from the Romulan Star Empire. A full investigation will be conducted and appropriate measures will be taken if evidence proves that violations of laws and standards have occurred."

The news anchor continued:

"The civilian watch-dog group, 'Uphold the Prime Directive,' has strongly condemned the Starfleet response as 'window dressing' and 'camouflage of serious abuses being committed by Starfleet personnel against the Cardassian State and Romulan Star Empire.' They have demanded that Captain Tigranian, already the subject of several investigations at the behest of the Romulan Empire, be immediately relieved of command for his 'systematic and deliberate disregard of Federation principles and humanoid rights.'

Starfleet has responded with the assurance that if abuses are uncovered, 'appropriate civil and criminal measures will be taken.' The office of the President as well as the office of Federation Council Head Speaker, Yupina Zhvong, declined comment at this time citing ongoing investigations. We'll bring you more as this story develops."

"That's Starfleet for you!" a student cried out from a few tables down. "They commit crimes and the government covers them up! It's got to change!" Dozens of students in the dining hall began to cheer, but a few more started booing.

"Why don't you go back to Romulus, Hippie?" another upperclassman shouted back. "All Romulans are liars and murderers!" A different group then clapped their hands in approval.

Crestia placed her spoon back on her tray. Suddenly, she wasn't very hungry anymore.
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