Star Trek: New Horizons Season 5, Episode 5 (Blood Christening) by captaintigranian
Summary: Lord Torlek arrives to fulfill his duty to Max Geist-Hunter. Meanwhile, events transpire that may pull the crew of the Pershing apart.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 10512 Read: 564 Published: 07 Jan 2018 Updated: 07 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

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Womot Cluster: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54450.5

"Five more kilos," Tigranian said staring at the ceiling of the Pershing's gym. Corporals Irabban and Tolmeni looked at each other skeptically. Then, they each put another 2.5 kilo plate on the sides of the bench press's bar.

"The bar now weighs more than you do, Sir," Irabban said nervously. "Are you sure about this?"

"That's why I have you here to spot me, Rab," Tigranian said. "Let's do it."

"Ok…" she said taking her place near his head. Tigranian took a few deep breaths and put his hands on the bar. "Ready?" she asked. He nodded. "One, two, three!" she shouted as she helped him lift the heavy bar off the stands.

Tigranian grunted as the bar dropped to his chest and then screamed as he pushed back with all his might.

"C'mon, Sir! Time to beast it! PUSH! PUSH!" Tolmeni shouted. Tigranian yelled as he dug his heels into the floor and started pushing the bar towards the ceiling.

"YOU GOT IT, SIR! PUSH!" Irabban shouted. "Get it up there!"

Tigranian sucked in another breath of air and then gave it all he had. With every ounce of energy remaining, he finally locked his elbows out.

"Nice!" Irabban said as she helped him re-rack the weights. Tigranian slowly sat up. His arms felt like they were made of jelly.

"You are definitely gonna feel that one tomorrow, Sir," Tolmeni said hitting him on the shoulder.

"Baktag," Tigranian muttered while wiping his face with a towel. "I'm getting old."

"You can still kick some ass and take some names, Sir," Irabban replied trying to reassuring him.

"Yeah, what are you 23, 24?" he said looking at her and grinning. "I bet you can still bench your body weight two or three times."

"Five times actually, Sir," she said grinning back. "But who's counting?"

"You are apparently, Asshole," Tigranian said with a laugh as he climbed to his feet. "I'm done for tonight, Guys. Thanks for the spot, and keep getting some."

"We will, Sir," Tolmeni said confidently.

"You still ain't too old to be a Marine, Sir," Irabban said as Tigranian headed for doors. "You just gotta keep up with the PT."

"I leave that Hoorah shit to the young and the bold now, Rab," he said over his shoulder.

"Damn right…" Rab said turning to Tolmeni and holding out her hand.

"Hell, yeah," he said slapping her palm.

****

Tigranian wiped the sweat from his face with his towel as he headed down the corridor to his quarters. He was happy that this turn on the Cardassian border would be over in a few days. The Pershing would be heading back to Federation Space once the Nelson and Shu Yin arrived to relieve them. However, he was also dreading their return home. It meant that Annabeth and Max would be leaving the ship to return to Earth. It was hard enough to lose his right hand woman to the Venture before, but the fact that she was also taking Max this time made it even harder.

His mind kept reminding him that the baby was Alex and Annabeth's child, but in his heart he couldn't shake his bond with the boy. However, he would never let anyone, not Laria, not Torlek, and certainly not Annabeth or Alex know that being around Max made him feel like a proud father. It wasn't his place, and he knew that.

As he rounded the corridor, he froze in his tracks. Phil and Katie were headed toward the recreation deck, and arguing as usual.

"I don't understand why you're so nervous. It's just a new program," Phil said.

"Phil, I feel ridiculous dressed like this, but not as ridiculous as you should feel right now," she replied. She stopped when she saw the captain in his Starfleet Physical Training uniform and grew bright red.

"Now, here's something you don't see every day," the captain said with a grin.

Phil was dressed like an unemployed college professor living on the street. He had on threadbare tweed pants, a worn knit cardigan, long velvet coat, and an old-fashioned brimmed hat. Around his neck was a knitted scarf in a hideous pattern of green, purple, blue, and yellow stripes. Katie wore a denim miniskirt, leather jacket, and what appeared to be brown leather cowboy boots.

"You two wouldn't happen to be on the way to a homeless shelter, would you?" Tigranian asked.

"Oh no, Sir," Phil said proudly. "A new holoprogram I ordered just came in and I can't wait to give it a try."

"I have no idea what program that is, but you may what to get your credits back if you have to wear costumes like that."

"Are you kidding, Sir?" Phil said as Katie averted her eyes towards the starboard bulkhead. "If it's half as good as the Beta tests the programmer sent me, I might move onto the holodeck." He proudly threw his arms out and proclaimed. "I'm the Doctor."

"It's based on an old British television show he loved as a kid," Katie grumbled.

"As a kid?" Phil said almost insulted. "I still love it!"

"Yeah, I keep telling myself you loved it as a kid so I'm less humiliated…" Katie replied. Phil rolled his eyes.

"You don't look like any doctor I've ever seen," Tigranian said chuckling. "Which doctor are you?"

"Not which, Sir," Phil said with a twinkle in his eye, "Who."

"Ok, who is this doctor?" Tigranian asked.

"Who is the Doctor, Sir," Phil said. Katie turned even redder.

"What?" Tigranian said now completely confused.

"Who, Sir." Phil said plainly.

"This is why I hate British television," Tigranian muttered. "That's what I asked. Who is this doctor?" Finally, Katie had enough.

"Phil is some kind of crazy alien doctor, I'm his 'companion,' and we travel through space in a giant blue phone booth fighting monsters…" she said just trying to end this conversation.

"It's not a phone booth," Phil said slightly crestfallen. "It's a call box."

"Alright," Tigranian said gripping the ends of his towel. He realized his Chief of Security needed an out. "You kids have fun." He walked past them and continued on his to his quarters. Just before the two were out of earshot, he heard one last exchange.

"You said you thought the program looked fun!" Phil said very annoyed with his fiancée.

"As long as we don't have to fight those creepy crying angel things or those cyber guys," she replied. "They remind me too much of the Borg."

Tigranian shook his head and chuckled. He would never mention this again. There was a very important code of honor that Starfleet officers lived by while on board a starship.

"What happens on the holodeck, stays on the holodeck."

****

The captain walked into his quarters. Laria sat on the couch with a glass of wine and bowl of popcorn. Annabeth and T'les were seated beside her and Alex sat in his easy chair with Max in her arms. A random reality show was on the holoscreen.

"You're back early!" Laria said with a little surprise.

"I decided to cut the workout a little short tonight." He turned to his other unexpected guests. "Umm…hello all," Tigranian said. Annabeth and Alex exchanged glances with Laria who shrugged. T'les' Vulcan mindset prevented her from sensing the social awkwardness.

"Good evening, Captain," she said with a polite nod.

"Sorry," Laria said trying to ease things over. "I didn't expect you back for another hour so I invited the girls over since we haven't had the group together in a while. Especially since AB is about to leave. Katie said she had a date with Phil, but everyone else could make it."

"Yeah," Tigranian said shaking his head. "I ran into her and Phil on the way to the holodeck."

"Dan," Annabeth said. "We can head over to our quarters if you need some space."

"No, no," Tigranian said. "You all deserve a night out with friends. Besides, I'm just going to take a shower and then get some reading done in the bedroom." He walked over to Alex. "Besides, I love any chance to see this little guy."

He leaned down next to Max. The baby realized someone new was nearby and his eyes fluttered open. Tigranian held up his right index finger and starting moving it side to side then up and down in front of Max's face.

"Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya," Tigranian said timing the words with each move of his hand. Finally, he bounced his finger sideways. "Gung…Gung…Gung." He then stopped his hand directly in front of Max's eyes.

"C'mon, Max," Tigranian said before repeating the whole strange process. "Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya. Gung…Gung…Gung." The baby briefly sucked on his pacifier and then closed his eyes again. The women all looked at him as if he lost his mind.

"Dan…" Alex finally said what the others were thinking. "What the hell are you doing?"

"HeH Dup," he said like it was obvious before rising back to his feet. Alex leaned forward slightly to hint that his Klingon explanation was no help. He rolled his eyes.

"HeH Dup," he repeated. "Edge Strategy." It's designed to help babies develop peripheral vision and depth perception."

"Dan," Annabeth said slowly. "He's a newborn. He can barely hold his head up."

"And barely keep his eyes open," Alex said gently rocking her son.

"It's never too early to start," Tigranian said defensively.

"I agree with the captain," T'les said chiming in. "Vulcan children are given basic toys to help develop logical thinking abilities almost as soon as they are born. Excellence can only be achieved if it is cultivated from the beginning."

"Logic toys?" Annabeth said skeptically. "What do you give them? A square peg and a board with a round hole and see if they can figure it out?"

"Do human children really need to be taught that most basic of concepts?" T'les said in amazement.

Annabeth, Alex, and Tigranian grumbled about her Vulcan arrogance. Laria just laughed as she took a sip of her Bajoran spring wine.

"I'm going to take a shower," Tigranian said walking towards the bathroom. Before he reached the door, his computer chimed with a new message.

"Ignore it…" Laria said not taking her eyes off the holoscreen. "If it really was important, Starfleet Command would call the bridge."

"You know it doesn't work that, Laria. I'm the captain and I'm always on call."

"Listen to your wife, Dan," Annabeth said flashing him a look.

"Hers is the logical course, Sir," T'les chimed in.

"That's easy for you to say, Annabeth. You're still on leave," he said heading to his desk. He opened the monitor and checked the message. He read it through as a grin slowly crossed his face.

"Well," Alex said shifting Max in his arms. "What does Starfleet have to say? It's obviously good news."

"It's good news alright," Tigranian said standing upright. "But it's not from Starfleet."

"What?" Laria said. "Who is it from, then?"

"I sent Torlek a message that Max and Annabeth wouldn't be on onboard much longer and we might have to delay we can all meet up on Earth. He just replied that it won't be a problem. The bat'leth is ready and he's on his way here with Lady Elessa."

Alex first looked to her wife and then down at her son. Even though she had agreed to the ceremony, the realization that it was now actually happening caused her stomach to churn with anxiety. Her newborn was about to be "blood christened" and she still wasn't sure if he…or she was ready for it.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Republic of Cardassia/Bajoran Republic Border

Stardate: 54454.1

Laria's console chirped.

"Sir," she said from behind Tigranian. Three Klingon vessels decloaking, IKS HoS and two B'rel class escorts. Bearing 048 Mark 014. Range 50,000 kilometers."

Tigranian rose out of his chair.

"Katie, standard VIP welcoming protocol. Phil, bring us alongside maintain one half impulse."

"Aye Sir," they replied in unison.

Torlek's attack cruiser flanked by two birds of prey on its nacelles glided towards them on the main viewscreen.

"Governor Torlek is hailing," Katie said from Tactical.

"Onscreen," Tigranian commanded.

Torlek's imposing face appeared in front of the Pershing's bridge.

"Governor Torlek, on behalf of the United Federation Planets, welcome to the Republic of Cardassia," Tigranian said with a smirk.

"You know exactly why I'm here," Torlek replied with a laugh. "And it has nothing to do with the United Federation of Planets."

"Still," Tigranian replied. "I have to go by the book when I'm on the clock."

"You are always so human when you're wearing that ridiculous uniform, Brother," Torlek said. "I actually thought we had broken you of that bad habit."

"reHtay' ghottuqDaj je," Tigranian said. Katie and Phil glanced over at Laria shrugged her shoulders indicating she didn't understand him either.

"I will try to not take that as insult, Brother," Torlek said stroking his beard.

"It was not meant as one," Tigranian replied. "Merely an acknowledgement of advice you gave me a long time ago."

"Glad to see that it finally got through that smooth skull of yours," Torlek chuckled. "We will perform the ceremony at mid-day tomorrow in the shrine on board the HoS."

"And you and the Lady Elessa will dine tonight with my officers in my quarters."

"I am honored by your invitation, my Brother. We are looking forward to meeting the newest addition to our house. I can offer the child his first taste of blood wine."

Katie and Laria exchanged nervous glances again.

"My Brother," Tigranian said. "Max is only a month old. That might be a little strong for him."

"Humanpu…" Torlek muttered with a shake of his head. "Fine, have it your way, Brother. Only warnog then."

****

Annabeth balanced Max in one arm and a glass of ginger ale in the other. She watched Laria put the finishing touches on the dining room table with help from Phil and Alex as Scharr, T'les, and Katie made small-talk in the living room. She wandered over while keeping a careful eye on the Klingon blades hanging on the wall a few meters away. Despite her wariness at having her baby around such deadly weapons, she reminded herself that very shortly, he would have one of his own. The idea still surprised her.

"So, how are you enjoying leave?" Katie asked Annabeth while taking a sip of her wine.

"Well, it's really rewarding taking care of this little guy…" she said with a bit of hesitation.

"Ma'am," Scharr said as his antenna straightened. "It's us, you can be honest."

"I'm bored out of mind!" Annabeth said with a wave of relief that soon hinted at guilt. "I mean, I love him more than anything," she said giving Max a bounce, "but I never thought I would miss being on the bridge so much."

"Don't worry," Scharr said. "That is completely normal and is nothing you have to feel ashamed of."

"I am sure the feeling will grow less intense once you return to Earth," T'les said calmly. "Once the stimulus of the Pershing is removed, logic dictates that you will become more focused on your child and not think of your career."

Scharr and Katie both turned to look at the Vulcan.

"Is something wrong?" T'les asked.

"No," Katie said taking another sip of wine. "It's just now I realize how humans must sound to you when we say something stupid."

Annabeth looked down at Max and then at the carpet.

"Ok," Laria said looking at the table. "The roast is resting, the mapa bread is staying warm in the oven with the potato casserole, and the salads are ready to go with the dressing. I think we're ready. Thanks for the help guys."

"You did all the hard work," Phil said. "Laria this looks incredible."

"Thank you," she replied gratefully.

"It really does, L," Alex said. "But are you sure that Torlek and Elessa can stomach non-Klingon food? I thought they hated anything that was cooked."

"Klingons are a lot more flexible than most people think," Laria said, "but if worse comes to worse, Daniel keeps a barrel of gagh in stasis. When we have the cake, Torlek and Elessa can have worms for desert if they're still hungry."

"Delightful," Phil said rolling his eyes.

The front doors parted and Tigranian walked in with his Klingon relatives. Torlek had changed into his informal tunic while Elessa wore a purple and black dress trimmed in bronze embroidery. Her hair was in a long, red braid down her back.

"Can I get you something to drink?" Tigranian asked.

"Blood wine," Torlek said. "Do you have any of the 2357 left?"

"I've been saving a bottle for you," Tigranian replied. "My lady?"

"Nothing for me yet," she said as her eyes caught sight of Max in Annabeth's arms. "There he is…" Elessa said as her fierce fangs were revealed beneath her smiling cheeks. She charged straight for Annabeth as Tigranian went to a sideboard for the drinks. "nuqneH, SuvwI'mach," she said with a sweetness that clashed with her imposing figure.

"He's beautiful, isn't he?" Laria said walking up with Alex and the others in tow.

"They are so wonderful at this age," Elessa said staring down at the baby's head of dark hair.

"Soon, he will be causing more trouble than you can believe," Torlek said with a chuckle.

"I don't know," Tigranian said walking up with two tankards of bloodwine. He handed one to his brother. "He comes from pretty good genes."

"I'm sure you were a terror to your mother," Elessa said looking up to him. "All boys are, but we love them just the same," she said softly looking back down at Max. "May I hold him?"

Annabeth glanced nervously at Laria, but the Bajoran confidently nodded back. Reluctantly, Annabeth passed Max into Elessa's waiting arms. The Klingon received the baby with an amazingly experienced, gentle touch. Alex was amazed.

"AbomBhay mish?" Elessa said bouncing Max up and down in her massive arms. AbomBhay mish?" The baby waved his arms and then relaxed into the crook of her elbow. Everyone swore they saw the hint of a smile emerge from behind his pacifier. "Hija'," Elessa said sweetly. "qaghu QaQ."

"Great," Alex thought to herself. "Another language my baby is learning that I don't know." She looked over to Elessa. "So, you have son?"

"Two of them," Elessa replied still rocking a contented Max in her arms. "The older is a cadet at the Elite Command Academy and the younger is in his last year of secondary school on Qo'nos. He will join the Defense Forces next autumn."

"The children of Klingon lords often do not have much choice in their careers," Torlek said sarcastically. Tigranian laughed.

"What about the other children in a lord's house?" Annabeth asked before she could stop herself. Tigranian looked over to her nervously.

"Relax, Daughter of Geist," Torlek said with a chuckle. "The House of Torlek has enough representatives in the KDF," he said looking down at Max. "However, when the time comes, I can always order another set of armor in human size if he so desires."

Torlek raised his finger and began his own HeH DuP with Max.

"Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya. Gung…Gung…Gung." Once again, the infant barely acknowledged the movements.

"Does that actually work?" Laria asked, "Or is it like those "Classical Music for Babies" recordings?"

"Oh, it will work," Elessa said. "It just takes time."

"Well," Tigranian said to the group, "let's sit down to dinner."

"I'll take him," Alex said walking up to Elessa. "That way you can enjoy your dinner."

The Klingon lady extended Max towards his mother, but he immediately started fussing as Alex started reached for him.

"Oh, ghu ghobe'," Elessa said trying to calm him down. Alex looked shocked that her son didn't want to leave Elessa's arms. "It's the klongat fur on the sleeves," the lady said searching for a less offensive explanation. "All babies love it." She tried passing Max to Alex again. When his mother picked him up, he started crying.

"Do you want me to take him?" Annabeth asked.

"No," Alex said rocking her son. "I've got him."

As the others moved towards the dining table, Alex walked across the living room trying to calm her son down.

"What's wrong, Baby?" she asked softly. "Mama is here. It's mama." She walked out of earshot from everyone else and whispered in his ear. "Pretty soon, it's gonna be just the two of us. You need to get used to me. No more crying…no more crying."

****

After an uneventful, but rather boisterous dinner, Annabeth laid Max down into his crib back in their quarters.

"Schläfst gut," Annabeth whispered as she placed a soft kiss on Max's forehead. "It's going to be a big day tomorrow."

She turned out the lights in the living room and then joined Alex back in their bedroom. Her wife was already in pajamas but stared nervously at the wall.

"Alright, what's wrong?" Annabeth said sitting down and pulling off her shoes. Alex took a deep breath.

"Are you sure we're doing the right thing?" she asked.

"It's a little late to back out now," Annabeth said undressing and reaching for her nightgown. "Torlek and Elessa traveled almost two hundred lightyears."

"No, not about that," Alex said shaking her head. "About taking Max back to Earth. It's just everyone here seems to have connected with him. This ship has become his home."

"Babe," Annabeth said taking a seat next to her and rubbing her back, "we don't have a choice. He can't stay aboard the Pershing. It's policy plus it's too dangerous."

"But for him not see one of his mothers for months at a time. Dammit, Beth! It's just so cruel!" she leaned her head on Annabeth's shoulder.

"I know," Annabeth whispered. "I know."

"Isn't there anything we can tell Starfleet to change their minds?"

"No," Annabeth replied, "and even if there was, I wouldn't want to. I love our son and I want to make sure he's safe on Earth. I've made my decision, and that's final. Besides, the Pershing will only be away from Earth for another five weeks. Then, we'll have a chance to be together again."

Alex looked up and shook her head.

"I don't think you realize how long five weeks can be when you're talking about our son."

"Alex," Annabeth said rising to her feet. "Please don't make this any harder than it already is."

"I'm sorry," she replied. "I guess I was just a little freaked out tonight. The way Max responded to Elessa, it was a little unnerving."

"What do you mean?" Annabeth asked.

"He didn't want to leave her arms, Beth," Alex replied, "even when I tried to pick him up. Sometimes, I wonder if he really sees me as his mother."

"He does," Annabeth said heading to the bathroom to brush her teeth.

"How do you know?" Alex called after her.

"Cause I'm his mother too, and I know my son."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
IKS HoS

Stardate: 54450.7

The doors of the HoS' shrine room parted with a metallic hiss. Alex and Annabeth walked in first. As Max's parents, they were both wearing grey stoles emblazoned with the crest of House Torlek. Max himself was wrapped in red swaddling clothes so that only his head and arms were free. Elessa had arrived at their quarters earlier in the morning to dress him "in the traditional manner." It was such a complicated procedure, Alex wondered if she would ever be able to get him out of it. However, the baby didn't seem to mind as he slumbered in Annabeth's arms.

Tigranian and Laria followed behind them. Laria was also in a stole, but Tigranian decided to wear full Klingon armor. He told them that as Max's qa'vav, hisgodfather, anything less would be an insult both to Torlek and to Max. The Governor and Elessa entered next with the rest of the Pershing's staff filling out the guest list.

Behind the altar, a large statue of Kahless loomed over everything. However, a table covered with a thick klongat fur was placed in the center of the room. On a sword stand behind it was a bat'leth as striking as it was deadly. The wall torches reflected brilliantly off the swirling patterns on the weapon's curved, baakonite blades. It's handles were wrapped in black krencha skin and two roaring vIghro' cats were engraved along the inner spine with amazing detail. From across the room, you could see their striped bodies and extended claws shimmering in the orange light.

"Is this the same bat'leth we saw on Qo'nos?" Alex said in disbelief as she walked up to the sword stand.

"Yes," Torlek said walking up from behind her. "Master Ho'mach and his apprentices did excellent work."

"The way you described it, I never thought it would be so beautiful," Annabeth said examining the blade's construction.

"And that is for Max?" Laria asked in disbelief.

"Yes," Torlek replied with a nod of his head. "They came into existence together, and they will spend their entire lives in partnership."

Alex gently rubbed her hand as she remembered the small piece of herself that was forever inside the sword thanks to Master Ho'mach.

"When my parents baptized me," Phil said from behind them, "all I got was an ugly white christening gown, a Bible, and lifetime of embarrassing stories."

"Your parents made you wear a dress?" Katie replied with a chuckle. "That lifetime of embarrassing stories just got a little worse for you, Babe."

"Human practices are quite strange," T'les said.

"I've been around them for my entire adult life, and I still don't understand them," Scharr whispered to her.

Tigranian leaned forward to examine Max's bat'leth even more closely. As he read the Klingon letters engraved between the two vIghro' cats' outstretched paws, he smiled.

"That's a very appropriate choice for the inscription," he said to his brother, "and I know Max will come to understand it."

"Why?" Alex asked curiously. "What does it say?"

"The words are from the end of a very old story," Torlek explained. "In the ancient days, when the memory of Kahless was still new, before the Hur'q had darkened our skies, a father took his son hunting in the Hamar Mountains. At the end of the day, they sat around the fire together, feasting on the flesh of a fresh targ kill.

The boy, still too young for the First Rite of Ascension, looked up to his father and asked, 'What does it mean to be Klingon?' The father looked at his son and explained that all was temporary. The words of the Unforgettable might one day fade. All great houses could fall. He could someday find himself alone in a strange and unfamiliar land away from his home and people. However, the father then pointed to his bat'leth and said that to be Klingon is to always know your sword, for 'vam voq laH SoH.'"

Alex and Annabeth looked to Tigranian for a translation. The captain smiled as he spoke:

"This, you can trust."

"We should begin now before he gets fussy," Elessa said looking down at Max. Torlek nodded. The Lady gestured towards the klongat fur and Annabeth gently placed her son down at the foot of the sword. Tigranian beckoned for Annabeth and Alex to join him standing behind Torlek in front of the altar. Elessa stayed at Max's side and gently stroked the fur next to his head to keep the boy calm. The rest of the audience stepped back and watched in awed silence. They adjusted their universal translators to understand the ceremony.

Torlek bowed deeply to the statue of Kahless. Tigranian led Max's parents in a similar bow.

"Kahless, the Unforgettable, Prophet of Honor, Bringer of Truth," Torlek began, "today we beseech you to look upon us with favor as we bring into our House Maximilian George, Son of Hunter-Geist. Watch over him as he grows every day in the shadow of your wisdom. Strike fear into those that stand against him, and from this day forward guide the blades of our house into the hearts of his enemies. Be with Maximilian now until the hour that you call him to the gates of Sto'Vo'Kor, for I swear unto you in the presence of these witnesses that the House of Torlek will be his shield and protection just as you are the shield and protection of all Klingons. pIyajchu'."

"pIyajchu'," Tigranian echoed from behind him as Annabeth and Alex glanced at each other. Now, they were worried exactly what they agreed to.

Torlek rose back straight and turned to face the three humans behind him.

"Who presents this child for Blood Christening?" Torlek spoke in a booming voice.

"We do," Annabeth and Alex said in unison. Their unvarnished Klingon accents actually made Elessa wince, but Torlek didn't break stride.

"Daughter of Geist, Daughter of Hunter, do you swear to raise this child with honor in service of both his people and his house?" Torlek asked.

"We swear," they replied.

"Then I, Torlek, Son of Ro'vagh, joH of our house, swear to you that I shall protect Maximilian George with all that I have and all that I am."

A strange feeling washed over Alex. She had heard many promises in her life, and many of those had been broken. However, when this Klingon spoke to her, she knew in her heart that he meant what he said.

"Who stands with the parents as qa'vav?" Torlek asked next.

"I do," Tigranian replied.

"Daniel, Son of Tigranian, do you swear to help raise this child in the teachings of Kahless? Do you swear to stand with him against his enemies and protect him at the cost of your life?"

"I swear," Tigranian said. Torlek stepped forward. He and Tigranian took a position on either side of the bat'leth and looked down at Max. Annabeth and Alex looked on with the others.

The two brothers each reached up a hand and touched their palms to the razor sharp edges of the bat'leth until they drew blood.

"boghtlhInganpu', SuvwI'pu' moj, Hegh," they said in unison. The Starfleet UTs let the other witnesses understand. "Klingons are born, live as warriors, and then die."

"SuvmeH'ejcharghmeHboghtlhInganpu'," they continued. "Klingons are born to fight and conquer."

The pair removed their hands from the bat'leth and then walked to either side of Max's head. He now had his eyes open and stared up at the two men with wonder. Elessa smiled as she continued to gently rub the baby's little arm.

Torlek and Tigranian both touched the tips of their index fingers to their bloody palms like they were dipping old fashioned pens into an inkwell.

"Maximilian George," Torlek spoke in as he gazed down at the baby, "From this day forward: Conquer! Conquer your fears, conquer your enemies, and conquer death. For, from this day forward, you are Klingon."

Torlek and Tigranian reached down with their crimson fingers and painted two streaks from between Max's eyebrows to the top of his forehead. If he had a crest, either side would be bright red. Annabeth was shocked that he didn't make a sound.

Elessa smiled, reached down, and lifted Max into her arms.

"Welcome to the House of Torlek, Little Warrior," she said in tlhIngan Hol as she touched her little finger to his nose. The audience all applauded as Annabeth and Alex rushed up to see their son. They were still amazed that he seemed more curious than afraid of everything happening around him.

"You were so brave," Elessa said sweetly into Max's wide eyes.

"I don't think he'll ever be this well-behaved again," Annabeth said with a chuckle.

"He shouldn't be. Well behaved warriors seldom fight when they must," Torlek said with a laugh. He looked down and repeated the HeH DuP. "Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya. Gung…Gung…Gung…"

As his finger came to stop in front of Max's face, the baby suddenly reached up with his tiny right hand and grabbed Torlek's digit with surprising accuracy.

Annabeth and Alex's jaws dropped. Tigranian wrapped a proud arm around Laria.

"Oh my God," Alex said in amazement. "It does work."

"Very good, Max," Torlek said to him in tlhIngan Hol. "That is the first step." Torlek looked up to the boy's parents, still standing aghast. "First comes faith. Then comes work," he said. "Now, we move forward, Qapla'."

Alex looked down beneath Max's bloody forehead and into his tiny eyes as they glinted in the firelight. He still was holding onto Torlek's finger as he shifted his tiny head to look past the bat'leth to the statue of Kahless. As the stone face of the ancient Klingon gazed back, Alex realized that her son had now started down a path that she didn't understand and filled her with more than a little dread. However, she also could tell by looking into her baby's tiny face that somehow he belonged here. If she tried to pull him away now, he would never forgive her.

All she could do was pull Annabeth close to her and whisper, "Qapla'."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Bajoran/Federation Border

Stardate: 54451.0

Captain's Log: Stardate 54451.0. After a successful and uneventful handover with Captain Quan and the USS Nelson at Garnrik IV, we have officially been relieved of Cardassian State border security for another four months. After crossing into Bajoran space, we have rendezvoused with the starship, USS Gemini which will transport Captain Geist and Max back to Earth as we continue our patrol schedule in Federation Space. The IKS HoS and her escorts will remain alongside the Pershing as far as Vulcan before breaking off and heading home.

On a note that might be too personal for this recording, I am relieved that my brother and sister-in-law will be with us for a few more days. I have no doubt that the loss of Annabeth Geist and her son will be felt deeply throughout this entire crew. Though I pray it is only a temporary loss, the new normal will be a bit empty for the foreseeable future…"

The doors to the transporter room opened. Alex walked in carrying Max while Annabeth carried a bag. The rest of the luggage, including Max's new bat'leth, would be beamed over and waiting for them in her guest quarters on the Gemini. Tigranian, Laria, and the rest of the senior staff filtered in behind them to say their last goodbyes. Torlek and Elessa were there as well. It seemed appropriate as they were now saying farewell to a member of the family.

"I never thought I'd say this," Scharr said as his antenna curled, "but I don't know how this ship is going to run without you, Ma'am," he said looking towards Annnabeth.

"It is true," T'les added. "We seem to have reached a stable efficiency level. Any change in variables will no doubt take a great deal of time to correct itself."

"Thank you, T'les," Annabeth replied. "I think…"

"You are most welcome," the Vulcan replied. Alex looked over to her wife and furrowed her brow. Annabeth knew it was time to finally come clean.

"We are gonna miss you, Ma'am," Phil said. "Especially with this one sitting in your chair," he said nodding towards Katie.

"Phil, are you sure you want to piss off both your fiancée and the woman who now makes the duty roster?"

The group laughed but Annabeth finally raised her hands.

"Well Phil," she began slowly. "You don't have to worry because I'm not going anywhere."

"What?" Laria said shocked.

"I am," Alex said adjusting Max in her arms.

"What are you talking about?" Tigranian asked totally confused. "You're my Chief Medical Officer."

"Actually Sir," Alex said as the color drained from her face. "As of 1200 hours today, I'm not. Two weeks ago, I received an offer from Starfleet Medical for a yearlong visiting professorship teaching Comparative Anatomy at the Academy. I accepted."

"You've known this for two weeks and you didn't tell me?" Tigranian said almost shouting. "Why not?"

"Because I knew you would try to talk us out of it," Alex said. "I know how particular you are about your doctors. Don't worry. I handpicked a replacement for you. His name is Lieutenant Commander Kinzo Katan and he's a trauma specialist from Betazed. We interned together. He'll rendezvous with the Pershing the day after tomorrow at Canara III."

Tigranian still shook his head in disbelief.

"How did the captain of this ship not know this was going on?" Tigranian said holding back anger.

"Because who is it that handles the personnel transfers on a starship?" Annabeth asked. Tigranian closed his eyes and pursed his lips as he understood.

"You do as the first officer."

"Alex wanted time to bond with Max. I wanted to say onboard and keep working. It seemed like the best solution," Annabeth said.

Tigranian looked as if he ready to explode

"You had no right to do this without consulting me first…" he began angrily. However, Lady Elessa shouted:

"Mev'yap!" Everyone turned to look at her. She switched to tlhIngan Hol so Tigranian could save face in front of his officers. "They had every right! Listen closely, Son of Tigranian. Perhaps you need reminding because you spend too much of your life around barbarians. We are Klingons! In a Klingon House, the ladies have absolute authority in all domestic matters. All men, including my husband, follow our commands in such things. That child is now a member of the House of Torlek, and therefore under my charge. If the mothers of Maximilian believe that Alexandra should return to Earth with the child, then it will be so."

"My Lady," Tigranian said desperately pleading as the others watched in amazement. No one but Torlek understood anything that was going on. "They are my officers and this is my ship…"

"Elessa, perhaps he is right…" Torlek said desperate to defend his brother.

"His command means nothing when it comes to our children!" Elessa replied with a glare like polished baakonite. "The Son of Tigranian will obey or I will kill him," she said turning to Tigranian. "Is that understood?"

Tigranian dropped his gaze. A sharp glance from Elessa caused Torlek to follow suite.

"Understood clearly, My Lady," Tigranian replied.

"Good!" Elessa said suddenly beaming with a large smile. The captain then turned to back to Annabeth and Alex.

"Best of luck to you, Alex," he said with a grin. "I hope you and Max have a safe trip."

Everyone else present was dumbstruck. Laria leaned to Torlek and whispered,

"What did she say to him?"

"You may want to ask my wife that," Torlek replied. "You have powers beyond your belief."

"Oh, well thank you, Dan," Alex said balancing Max on her hip. Annabeth handed the bag she was carrying to her wife. Then, Alex climbed on top of the transporter pad.

It was at that moment that Annabeth finally came to the full realization that she was about to say goodbye to her wife and son. She covered her nose and mouth with her hands to hold back imminent tears.

"It's going to be great," Alex said holding up Max for a final goodbye. It was obvious to everyone that she was fighting back her emotions as well. Everyone grew very quiet. "We'll be able to live in our place in Munich, and I'll drop off Max everyday with my parents in Toronto on the way to work," she looked down into Max's face. "Gran and Grandpa are going to love this little Timbit. They said they can't wait to meet you."

"What is a Timbit?" Elessa whispered to Torlek in tlhIngan Hol. He shrugged his shoulders in ignorance.

"And he'll get to spend his first Christmas in Germany…even if Mommy can't be with him…" Annabeth said clenching her eyes tight.

"We'll wait," Alex said desperately. "Christmas doesn't come till we're all together again."

"No," Annabeth said shaking her head. "I want him to visit the Munich Christmas Market, and see the snow, and I want you to have a hot Gluhwine as you show him every lighted tree on the Marienplatz. And I want holophotos of everything!"

Alex laughed.

"Don't worry, they'll be more pictures than you can handle."

Nobody knew what to say as the wives stared at each other.

"Sir," Chief Carter finally said softly to Tigranian. "The Gemini is signaling they're ready for transport." Tigranian nodded and looked towards Laria. The Bajoran leaned over and squeezed Annabeth's hand.

"Ich liebe dich, mein Liebling," Annabeth said holding up her hand to Max. "And I love you," she said gazing at Alex. The doctor kissed the fingers on her free hand and held them up towards her wife.

Annabeth cleared her throat and took a deep breath.

"Chief," she said trying to still trying to hold herself together. "Energize."

Alex and Max were surrounded with blue, sparkling light. Then, in a flash, they were gone.

"Chief, could you give us all a minute?" Tigranian said looking over his shoulder to Carter.

"Yes Sir," he said shutting down the transporter and then stepping out into the corridor. As soon as he was gone, Annabeth broke down. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed.

"I don't know what's come over me, but I just want my baby back already," Annabeth said through her tears.

"Laria, T'les," Katie said motioning for their other two friends to come over. She then put an arm around Annabeth. "C'mon, Mama Bear, we need to get a stiff drink into you." Lady Elessa walked over and also pulled Annabeth into an embrace.

"If memory serves, you didn't have much of a taste for bloodwine when you visited my home. Perhaps, now is the time to try again. There is a reason why Klingon mothers call it, 'The Courage of Kahless.'"

Annabeth nodded in agreement.

"It is a good thing I had a barrel of our estate's best vintage beamed over to your ship this morning…" Elessa said.

The newly formed maternal support group headed out into the corridor.

"That was really rough," Phil said looking towards the doors. "I hope she'll be alright."

"She will be," Scharr said as his antennae straightened. "She's strong. It'll just take some time."

Tigranian remained silent. It was hard enough to lose Max, but he had spent the past few weeks preparing to say farewell to Annabeth. Now, his friend and CMO had disappeared instead. This ship and its crew were his family. Losing any of them was difficult enough, but for it to happen so unexpectedly made it far worse.

He was actually happy that Elessa violently reminded him of his obligations as a Klingon warrior. It made him remember that there can never be true love without sacrifice, and that it was sometimes a warrior's duty to say goodbye.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Chancellor's Palace: First City, Qo'nos

Troth, Son of Met'an stood on the narrow walkway at the top of the palace's high stone walls. The barriers separated the bustling, urban metropolis of the First City from the tranquil gardens that provided a refuge for Martok when he was at his residence. It was a stark contrast between the synthetic, modern world constructed by a major interstellar power and the wild beauty that all Klingons seemed to crave.

Troth laughed when he thought about it. Men like Martok were rich and powerful enough to create this island of nature in the middle of artificial sprawl, but for a commoner like Troth, the only part of the First City he ever knew was the working class slums on the other side of the central boulevard.

After he had been discharged from the KDF at the end of the war, he was disgusted with the idea of returning to his old life in the filth and urban decay. He was fortunate enough to find a job with the Imperial Guard and luckier still to be assigned as security for the Chancellor's compound. It wasn't the military, but it was a still a uniform and it was still prestigious when compared to the menial labor most of his childhood friends were now suffering through.

Sometimes in his spare moments, he would gaze upon the Yan'Isleth, the Chancellor's personal body guards, with their polished bat'leths and black armor and dream that he was one of them. However, only the best QaS DevwI' of the KDF were invited to attend the selection process (men from common families were used because no chancellor wanted a rival from a noble house guarding him). Even fewer selectees made it through the brutal training regimen based on physical hardship, discipline, and hand to hand combat to earn the title of "Brother of the Sword." Their loyalty was absolute, their discipline was perfect, and they even had to take an oath of celibacy for the duration of their service. Troth had never risen beyond the rank of basic bekk and certainly wasn't the best even among the lower soldiers. He had to lie on his application to be accepted into the Imperial Guard, but you would never know it from his reputation in the old neighborhood. His mother spoke of him to her friends now as if he was a warship commander.

Normally, this job was a dream. Tonight, it was only a burden. A friend was having a birthday party in a bar in the Old City. He had purchased a barrel of bloodwine and invited every single woman in the old neighborhood. Unfortunately, Troth had pulled a night shift walking a section of perimeter wall. His pleas to his supervisor had gone ignored and instead of drunkenness, debauchery, and song, he found himself staring through the stone crenulations at the blinking lights beyond. He grumbled again in frustration as he pulled up his cloak against the night chill and held a worn out disruptor rifle instead of an intoxicated woman looking forward to his companionship.

He was so angry that he didn't notice a hand reach over the stones behind him. A figure dressed from head to toe in black silently climbed over the wall. The man's eyes and painted face peaked through his black hood and snuck up beyond Troth. The man flung his arms around Troth's throat. The last thing the Son of Me'tan ever heard was his own neck snap in two before collapsing to the ground.

Once the hapless Troth was no longer in the land of the living, the figure in black removed a long rope from his torso and flung it down the exterior of the wall to the ground below. Nineteen more assassins soon had reached the top and disappeared into the palace gardens without a word.

In the center of the palace's ornately manicured forest of trees was a stone courtyard with a tiered pagoda shrine. It was Martok's personal refuge and place of faith. Every night, his last act before bed was to walk through darkened gardens, kneel in the shrine, and say his daily Plea for the Dead. Though it was customary to recite the prayer at noon, his demanding schedule often prevented it from happening.

He actually found that in the quiet and solitude of night, it resonated much deeper with him, especially when he was forced by cruel fate to add his daughters and beloved Sirella to the list after Morjod and Gothmara's hideous coup two years ago. It was almost as if he was saying goodnight to his family each evening, and it brought him a bit of comfort.

This night, Martok leaned on his right knee beneath the shrine's roof. He had commissioned a new statue of Kahless to rest in the center of the pagoda. Instead of the Unforgettable's traditional pose holding his sword high above his head, this life size rendition carved in black marble had his bat'leth at his side. This Kahless held a pen in his right hand and a blank piece of parchment in his left. Martok thought this scholarly version of the divine Prophet of Honor was more appropriate for the future he imagined, even though he could never show it to the public.

As the chancellor prayed in flickering candlelight, four Yan'Isleth guards knelt on the stones behind him and faced outward in silent meditation. Their deadly bat'leths rested on the ground in front of them. Though their eyes were closed, their ears were open. They listened to the solemn words of their chancellor as he spoke with the "Father of All Klingons," while also searching for dangers that could be lurking in the shadows.

"Kahless," Martok said gazing at the statue in front of him, "we implore you to remember those warriors who have fallen in your name. Lift them out of the cavern of despair and reveal yourself to them in all your glory. Remember Urthog, Son of Martok. Remember Krigar, Daughter of Bhran. Remember Shen, Daughter of Martok. Remember Lazhna, Daughter of Martok. Remember Sirella, Daughter of Linkasa… "

The bells in the spire of the new Great Hall across Victory Square from the Chancellory began ringing midnight. Deep chimes echoed across the courtyard and drowned out the chirping crickets. One of the Yan'Isleth guards suddenly had a strange rush of tova'dok. He felt someone's gaze watching him from the trees on the far side of the courtyard. He opened his eyes and scanned the darkness. The moonlight from the hulk of Praxis shimmered off the stones in front of him. He focused his eyes and then saw movement. He reached down, picked up his sword, and leapt to his feet.

"YAN'ISLETH!" he roared loud enough to be heard in Sto'Vo'Kor, "Protect our Lord!" The other three swordsmen rose with their weapons at the ready just in time to see twenty black clad assassins charge out of forest and straight at the shrine. Each enemy drew a tik'leth straight sword from a sheath on their back and raised them high over their heads. Without hesitation, the four honor guards charged forward bellowing their war cry, which was also their pledge of loyalty to their Empire:

"TILL DEATH!"

Martok turned around just in time to see a spectacle which gave even the veteran warrior pause. His four protectors were running across a moonlit battlefield into a sea of black qutluchpu each with a blade aimed straight at his heart. He unsheathed his dk'tahg and clicked open the blades.

The Yan'Isleth was outnumbered five to one, but they each dove into the fray with the ferocity of a Cob'lat. The clash of baakonite on baakonite was deafening. The first three assassins lunged at the nearest honor guard and simultaneously slashed downward with their tik'leths, but an overhead block from the Yan'Isleth's bat'leth stopped their blows cold. The guard spun his sword in a powerful arc and cut the assailants down with a single slash.

Two more assassins rushed at the next guard. Effortlessly, the master swordsman stepped aside and thrust his knee into the gut of the nearest qutluch. The man in black doubled over and was immediately beheaded. Without breaking his bat'leth's momentum, the Yan'Isleth dropped to a crouch, extended his arm, and impaled the second assassin through the chest. As the honor guard pulled his sword out of his enemy's ribcage. The stones beneath his feet were spattered with gore. The other two honor guards were also locked in combat with the seemingly endless stream of killers bent on killing Martok.

The chancellor held back and watched from a few meters away. He now understood, more than ever, why his men were called "The Brotherhood of the Sword." They were all eerily calm, lost in the highest state of blood euphoria the Klingons called yabHuv or "clear mind" in Federation Standard. It was obvious that their bat'leth's had become more than just extensions of their bodies. The blades were in total control and eager to defend the man they had been sworn to protect. The Yan'Isleth were merely allowing themselves to be used by the yinqa' inside their swords. It was a voluntary and hellishly lethal form of spiritual possession.

One of the assassins broke through the killing ground and pulled a disruptor pistol from his sash. Martok turned just in time to see the particle weapons pointed straight at him.

"MY LORD!" one of the Yan'Isleth screamed as he saw the chancellor about to be vaporized. He leapt through the air as the qutluch fired and used his own chest to block the green blast. The honor guard shrieked in pain as his entire body was reduced to atoms. His bat'leth clattered to the stones. Martok threw his d'k tahg straight into the assassin's chest, rolled forward, and grabbed his fallen warrior's sword. As the Klingon leader charged to his feet, he sliced his attempted murder in half from groin to skull.

The chancellor was now enraged. Not only were these honorless veQ trying to kill him in his own home, but one of his finest had been lost. Martok leapt into the fray to fight alongside his protectors. When they saw that their leader was amongst them, the Yan'Isleth began to howl in anticipation of victory. The remaining assassins began to fill with fear as they fell in bloodied heaps. Too late, they realized they had underestimated Martok and his swordsmen. It was a fight worthy of the highest story and song.

The last three assailants finally broke and ran. Two were immediately cut down by guardsmen, but the final one rolled out of range and took off at a sprint. The chancellor focused his good eye and heaved the fallen brother's bat'leth end over end with all his remaining strength. It's yinqa' did not waiver. The crescent of glistening baakonite sailed through the darkness and buried itself in the qutluch's back. The man in black collapsed to the stones, impaled through his chest.

Martok marched forward and ripped the sword out of the lifeless corpse at his feet. He held the bat'leth up with his right arm and examined the script engraved beneath the blade's middle edge. When selected for the Yan'Isleth, each guardsman was allowed to commission a personal sword to their own specifications. As the "Brotherhood of the Sword" was drawn exclusively from the ranks of common soldiers, it was a tremendous honor beyond the grasp of most born outside a noble house. Commoners usually fought with mass-produced weapons issued to them from factories.

The fallen guardsman was named Gros, Son of Barkran. Martok knew of him because both their families had come from the Ketha Lowlands. Each had followed their path to the Chancellor's palace after a lifetime of service, albeit in different ways. When Martok read what Gros had chosen for his sword's dedication, he shut in his eyes and bowed in respect:

"tay' Hu' maH"

"We rise together."

When a member of the Yan'Iseth died protecting the chancellor, it was traditional to carve their name into a black granite memorial wall in the Hall of Warriors located on the banks of the Qam'Chee River. The brother's bat'leth would then rest beneath the inscription as a living memorial to its fallen owner. Martok decided he would deliver this weapon personally.

He raised the crimson blade towards the sky, reared back his head, and howled towards Praxis. The remaining three Yan'Isleth joined him, their cries echoing off the walls until finally only the chirping of the garden's insects could be heard again.

"My lord," Quolor, one of the other honor guards, said walking up to Martok, "are you injured?"

"No," Martok said shaking his head. "These bIHnuchpu were not worthy enough to die by our swords tonight. Next time, bring a hundred if you hope to have a chance," he said to the dead assassin at his feet before spitting on the corpse.

"Who would be brazen enough to attack a chancellor in his home?" Katar, another guardsman asked.

Kron the leader of this squad walked over to the dead qutluch and rolled him over. He ripped open the black tunic and revealed the house brand on the veQ's right arm. As the men looked down they clenched their jaws. The symbol of a tower rising from flames was well known to all Klingons. Martok growled as he realized the implications of this attack for the whole of the Empire. He could barely bring himself to say the cursed name:

"Duras…"
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Penthath System: United Federation of Planets

Tigranian sat in his ready room examining the ship's daily efficiency reports. He had offered Annabeth another few days off, but she had insisted on doing them. She claimed, "It would help her stay focused." It was the least he could do to read them.

He glanced over his shoulder and caught site of the HoS sailing a few hundred kilometers away. They would reach Vulcan in two days. The Pershing would turn for Omicron. Torlek and Elessa would continue towards the homeworld.

Suddenly, the doors to his ready room opened without a chime. Torlek stormed in. He had no idea how his brother had managed to circumvent the ship's security protocols, but he had long ago learned to never underestimate the abilities of the Son of Ro'vagh.

As soon as Tigranian saw the look on Torlek's face, his heart sank. The captain rose from his desk.

"What happened, Brother?"

Torlek's eyes looked at him from underneath his graying mane and fierce crest.

"There has been an attempt on the chancellor's life. An armed platoon of qutluchpu managed to breach the palace and attacked him as he prayed. The Yan'Isleth fought them off and the chancellor is unharmed, but I must return to Qo'nos immediately."

"Who was behind it?" Tigranian asked as if he didn't already know the answer.

Torlek's shoulders sank.

"One of the assassins was branded with the crest of the Duras," he replied.

Tigranian sank back down into his chair and turned to face the stars behind him. His gnawing fears were confirmed.

"The Romulans…" he said steepling his fingers.

Tigranian's intercom chimed.

"Geist to Tigranian."

"Go ahead, Number One," he replied tapping his comm badge.

"Priority One Message from Admiral Murphy. He wants to talk to you and Governor Torlek now." The captain and his brother exchanged telling glances.

"Annabeth, put him through to my ready room."

The Pershing's senior staff sat around the ward room table. They had no idea what this emergency meeting was about, but knew that Tigranian had called it as soon as he got off subspace with Starfleet Command.

Annabeth stared across the table toward Alex's empty seat and wrung her hands. Whatever was going on, she hoped that Alex and Max would arrive at Earth safely in blissful ignorance. Phil and Katie also sat silently while Scharr studied a set of engineering schematics on a PADD. Laria leaned back in her seat and rested a hand underneath her chin. Of all the people in the room, Annabeth felt for her the most. When the unexpected hit this ship, it usually meant that her husband was about to disappear for several weeks.

The doors parted and Tigranian and Torlek entered. Annabeth was about to call the room to attention, but Tigranian waved her off. He didn't even take his seat at the table. Instead, he merely leaned on the back of his chair while Torlek loomed behind him.

"Dan," Annabeth said what everyone in the room was thinking. "What is going on?"

The captain spent the next few minutes explaining the assassination plot, as well as the House of Duras' historical connections to the Romulan Star Empire.

"I understand why the Klingons are on alert right now," Scharr said as his antennae curled in confusion, "but with respect to Governor Torlek here, what does this have to do with us?"

Tigranian sighed and looked down at the carpet before continuing.

"Starfleet Intelligence thinks the attempt of Chancellor Martok's life might be part of a larger Romulan plot to destabilize the Federation/Klingon Alliance…"

"When the Duras are involved, it usually is…" Torlek muttered.

"As I explained to Admiral Yoshizaki, it is very common for former retainers of discommended houses to take free-lance jobs as qutluch. It could just be a coincidence," Tigranian said with an obvious amount of frustration in his voice.

"We cannot take that risk, Brother, and you know it," Torlek replied. Tigranian sighed and continued.

"Admiral Paris wants a Starfleet Officer working the investigation in the Klingon Empire. He and the rest of the staff think this is important enough to warrant a joint operation."

Laria shut her eyes and cursed under her breath.

"When do you leave?" she asked staring back at him. He looked at her and shook his head.

"I'm not going anywhere," Tigranian said. "With all the political heat from the Romulans and civilian watch-dogs after the scientist rescue debacle, Admiral Paris wants me glued into my chair on the bridge and nowhere else."

"Wow," Annabeth said with an exasperated chuckle. "For once I agree with the Admiralty…"

"Then who are they going to send?" Laria asked. "Not some staff flunkie from Starfleet Intelligence who speaks Klingon with a Tellurite accent, I hope."

Tigranian lifted his gaze and looked right into her eyes.

"They're sending you," he said painfully. The table went dead silent.

"ME?" Laria said in complete shock. "I just started learning Klingon. I've barely gotten past how to how to order food in a restaurant!"

"You are a Starfleet Officer and a member of my house," Torlek replied. "Our family connections can gain you access to places that even Ambassador Worf cannot go."

"Still, I'm a scientist, not an intelligence or security officer," she said shaking her head.

"You are a member of the Order of the Bat'leth and a former warship commander!" Torlek said loud enough to get her attention. "Gather what you need and then beam aboard the HoS. We sail for Qo'nos in one hour. Don't bother packing Starfleet uniforms. Elessa is preparing more appropriate clothing for you," he briefly paused. "You will need your mek'leths, though." The old Klingon placed an understanding hand on Tigranian's shoulder before heading out the doors towards the transporter room.

The room was still silent. First Alex was gone and now Laria was leaving. Tigranian walked over, gently lifted the Bajoran out of her chair, and then kissed her lips. He then took two steps back and placed his fist over his heart.

"Qapla' Laria, Daughter of Amira, my wife and strength," he said firmly. "Come back with your honor, or not at all." Once again, he knew it was his duty to say goodbye.
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