Star Trek: New Horizons Season 5, Episode 6 (Grace and Beauty) by captaintigranian
Summary: To catch those responsible for the assassination attempt on Chancellor Martok, Laria dives deeper into Klingon culture than ever before. Meanwhile, the crew of the Pershing deals with Alex's departure as her replacement arrives on board.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 11139 Read: 575 Published: 14 Jan 2018 Updated: 14 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

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Praetor's Villa: Romulus

Stardate: 54451.3

The praetorian guardsmen saluted with their teral'ns as Proconsul Semachs walked past and out onto the terrace overlooking the Apnex Sea. A frail Romulan man with a long beard and sunken eyes sat on a wooden stool in front of an easel. He held a pallet with oil paints in his left hand and a brush in his right. Semachs watched silently for a few moments as Neral gently placed a bit of light blue onto on his brush and carefully applied it to his magnificently detailed landscape of the coast. However, the proconsul's eyes drifted to the lower left corner of the painting and the image of a young woman with long blonde hair. Her silhouette gazed out over a marble railing towards the waters. Her back was to the artist, forever hiding her face from his eyes. For the briefest of moments, Semachs actually felt a twinge of real pity for Neral's loss. It was obvious how much he longed for his fallen wife, no matter how much damage he had allowed her to do to the Star Empire. Now, she only existed in his memories and in the brushstrokes of the art he made while locked in his secret house arrest.

"You are getting much better, Praetor," Semachs said finally breaking through the silence.

"I've had much time to practice…" Neral muttered, barely acknowledging the proconsul's presence as he continued his work. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit? Are you finally here to kill me?"

"Sadly, no," Semachs said taking a few cautious steps closer to Neral. "At the moment, you are still more valuable to us alive than dead…" he paused briefly before cocking his head to the side, "…but only slightly. The Romulan people are actually embracing the story that you have begun a cloistered prayer vigil for their sake. They find it quite moving, or so the Tal Shiar tells me."

Neral scoffed.

"Be very wary of what the Tal Shiar says," he replied. "I actually believed that they were on my side. As it turns out, they were only out for themselves."

"They still serve the Senate and People of Romulus," Semachs said curtly, "which is more than I can say for you."

"We all serve in our own ways," Neral countered. "Yours is a lust for power, mine is a desire to regain what I've lost." Semachs noticed his gaze dropped back down to the recreation of his wife.

"How little esteem you hold me in," Semachs said. "You really believe that what I do, I do for myself. I'm keeping this country afloat."

"Justify it however you must," Neral said gazing back over his shoulder. "Trust me, it provides no comfort in the end."

"I know this will shock you," Semachs continued, "but I actually do care. You are, after all, the Praetor of the Romulan People. I am here because I wanted to ensure you were still cared for and in good health."

"You have a strange way of showing your care for your praetor," Neral said still placing a few finishing touches on his painting. "However, if that is why you are here, I assure you, I'm fine."

Semachs shook his head and turned to leave.

"What did you really think you were going to accomplish by killing Martok?" Neral called after him before he departed. The proconsul froze.

"How did you know about that?" he asked.

"I may be confined, but as you said, I am still praetor," Neral replied calmly. "Did you think that your scheming would plunge the Klingons into another civil war? That they and the Federation would pull their forces from Cardassia? That finally our fleet would be free to put down the slave revolt? Forgive me, Semachs, but that kind of na´ve thinking is really quite amateurish for a man in your position."

"We had to do something!" Semachs spat back at him. "We no longer have the resources to fight a war both at home and abroad. A war at home, might I remind you," he said walking up behind Neral, "that your blunders started!"

"Perhaps you should have me imprisoned!" Neral said starting to laugh.

"It was a mistake to come here!" Semachs said turning back around. "I should just leave you to rot like the crazy old man you are."

"Your real mistake," Neral said cutting him off, "was trusting the Duras to carry it out. They have failed time and time again."

"Do you have a better suggestion for jackals that can do our dirty work?" Semachs asked sarcastically.

"I do not," Neral said shaking his head, "but I know someone who might…"
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Canara III: Federation Space

Tigranian examined a PADD at his desk. The chime on his ready room door sounded. He let out a deep sigh before commanding:

"Come in."

The doors parted and a man in his early thirties entered. He wore Starfleet Medical Green and the two gold and one black pip of a lieutenant commander. His dark hair and brown eyes smiled brighter than his mouth as he walked towards Tigranian's desk and snapped to attention.

"Yes Sir," he said before Tigranian's mouth had a chance to open. The captain winced as he realized he was just thinking that this man must be Doctor Kinzo Katan, Alex's replacement. "And I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, Sir. I'll do my best to refrain from answering questions before you ask them. My last commander found that trait useful. It seems you don't."

Tigranian grumbled. Katan was a Betazoid, and powerfully telepathic.

"Not really," Tigranian said gesturing to his couch. "Please, have a seat."

"Thank you, Sir," Katan said obliging. Tigranian went back to examining his PADD.

"I was just looking through your file. It's very impressive."

"I believe in taking care of my patients, Sir," Katan replied humbly.

"You've said 'Sir' four times in last fifteen seconds," Tigranian said. "We maintain professionalism on this ship Kinzo, but even I acknowledge that's overkill. Relax."

"Yes, Sir…" Katan said before he could catch himself. He nervously looked at the carpet. The captain momentarily wished that telepathy could go both ways.

"Is something wrong?" Tigranian asked.

"Um, no," Kazan said. "It's just that the last time I talked to Alex, she made it seem like you weren't very thrilled at the idea of us switching out."

"I wasn't," Tigranian replied bluntly. He pointed to his head, "and your gifts probably help you realize that's still the case. However, I want you know that I will never hold an officer responsible for someone else's decision."

"Thank you," Kazan said as a smile returned to his face. "And now I know telepaths make you nervous." Tigranian leaned forward to say something, but Kazan held up his hands. "I want you to know how seriously I take confidentiality, both out of Betazoid tradition and as a professional physician. Whatever passes through your head, don't worry. It will never cross my lips."

Tigranian chuckled.

"I admit, it's probably a real plus for your bedside manner to know exactly how your patients are feeling."

"Less than you'd think, Sir. It also means I know when they're lying to me."

"In that case," Tigranian replied. "That means you're probably going to hate me."

"Not at all," Kazan said shaking his head. "One of the reasons I wanted to join this crew is that Alex described it as one of the closest she's ever seen. I've never experienced that before."

"I'm genuinely sorry for that," Tigranian replied. "It won't be easy for you to fill Alex's shoes, but as long as you take care of this ship, it'll take care of you."

"That's all I ask for," Kazan replied.

Tigranian realized that something weighed heavily on Kazan's mind. He was pretty sure he knew what it was.

"You're worried that what happened on the Glasgow is going to affect my impression of you, isn't it?" Tigranian asked. Kazan's eyes grew wide.

"Are you sure you're not telepathic, Captain?" he asked.

"No, but I trust my instincts," Tigranian said, "and I can read a personnel file. I know your only fleet posting ended on a poor note, but that was five years ago and there are two sides to every story. When you're ready, you can let me know yours."

"I appreciate that," Kazan said.

"I trust Alex Hunter with my life," Tigranian added. "She wouldn't send me someone who couldn't hack it."

Kazan nodded.

"We'll talk again in a few days one you have a chance to settle in," Tigranian continued. "Captain Geist can help with any issues. In the meantime, take care of your personal business and make sickbay your own. It's yours now."

"No," Kazan shaking his head. "I'm only keeping it warm till Alex gets back."

Tigranian nodded. He hoped that Kazan was right about that.

"Dismissed, Doctor. Welcome aboard."

Kazan stood up and headed back for the doors. Just before he exited, he turned around.

"Thank you, Sir," he said. "I mean it."

"You can thank me by patching up any disruptor holes or knife wounds in my body. I have the tendency to get in trouble."

"Alex did mention that as well, Sir," Kazan said before he left. Tigranian shook his head and got back to work.

****

After duty hours, Tigranian went to check on his first officer. When he found out that she wasn't in her quarters, he queried the computer.

"Captain Geist is in Holodeck Two."

He wasn't sure what it was, but something in his gut told him she needed to talk. He went to the holodeck and found it locked. The display read "PRIVATE PROGRAM." Despite etiquette, he still couldn't shake his concerns. He entered his command code and overrode the security protocol.

The doors parted and he was immediately hit in the face by blaring music and the scent of vanilla body spray. He quickly stepped inside so the doors would reseal. Tigranian found himself in a dark hallway. A few meters ahead, a massive Caitian bouncer in a black shirt guarded a doorway. Beyond, was flashing lights and pounding bass. The captain walked towards the opening, only to find the Caitian's paw on his shoulder. Tigranian looked down in surprise.

"This is the VIP area," the feline bouncer growled at him, "and a private party for a very important client."

"You have exactly two seconds to take your hand off my shoulder," Tigranin replied while calmly staring back into the bouncer's eyes. The Caitian did remove his hand, but still stubbornly stood in his way. "Let me pass."

"Perhaps you didn't understand me, Pipsqueak," the Caitian said as his throat emanated a deep growl. "Get lost!"

Tigranian didn't break his gaze. Suddenly, an even deeper growl came from the human's throat. The bouncer actually took a step back.

"Do you know what the best part about you being a hologram is?" Tigranian asked. "I could kill you right now, and nobody would give a damn." The captain reached behind his back and pulled a d'k tahg from underneath his jacket. The blades clicked open and Tigranian cocked his head to the side. "Now, which is it gonna be, Pussycat?"

The Caitian held up his paws in surrender and slowly stood to the side.

"It's cool man. Be cool. Go right in."

"Go right in, what?" Tigranian said.

"Go right in, Sir," the bouncer said grinning. "Go right in…Sir."

"That's what I thought," the captain said returning his blade to its sheath and stepping through the door. A narrow raised stage with a brass pole jutted out from a red, satin curtain. Cheap spotlights flashed multiple colors in seizure inducing pulses. There was a bar on the far side of the room manned by several scantily clad women. The atmosphere was a confusing cacophony of neon, stale alcohol, and cheap perfume. All the other tables and chairs were empty except for one right on the edge of the stage. Tigranian immediately recognized the blonde woman leaning over a bottle of Earth lager. There were already several empties next to it.

A hidden announcer came over a speaker system.

"All right, All right, All right!" an overexcited man cried out. "Guests of the Platinum Panther, put your hands together and welcome the beautiful Miss Chastity to the stage!" The music came roaring back as the red curtains parted. An Orion woman dressed only in black lace lingerie twirled out, found the brass pole, and immediately started writhing to the rhythm of an electric guitar.

We've been here too long tryin' to get along
Pretending that you're, oh, so shy.
I'm a natural man doin' all I can
My temperature is runnin' high.

Friday night, no one in sight.
And we got so much to share…
Talkin's fine if you got the time
But I ain't got the time to spare…

Tigranian walked up behind Annabeth, crossed his arms, and said loud enough to be heard over the classic rock:

"Your wife's been off the ship less than two days and I already find you in a strip club…"

Annabeth spun around and nearly spilled her beer.

"Schei▀e, Dan!" she screamed. Once the shock wore off, she got a very annoyed look on her face. "I could say the same thing to you!" she spit back. "Obviously, you couldn't get the hint that I wanted to be alone when I sealed the holodeck!"

"No, you don't," Tigranian said shaking his head. "If you wanted to be alone, you wouldn't be spending your evening with Miss Chastity here, would you?" he said gesturing up at the dancer. The green woman looked down at him and winked as she continued to dance seductively. "I figure both our wives are gone and we're in the same boat. Might as well commiserate together, right?"

Do you wanna touch? Yeah!
Do you wanna touch? Yeah!
Do you wanna touch me there?
Where? There, yeah…

Despite her best efforts, a grin crossed Annabeth's face, and Tigranian could detect a hint of gratitude as well. She reached over and pulled out the stool next to her.

"Why not? We can do shameful things together."

Tigranian nodded and had a seat.

"Wanna beer?" Annabeth asked.

"Sure."

"Hey Delilah!" Annabeth turned around and shouted to a waitress dressed only in a sequined bra and miniskirt. "Two beers!" The hologram smiled, nodded, and loaded two more bottles of cheap piss onto her tray. She sauntered over and placed them in front of the establishment's only guests. She suggestively removed a bar blade from her waistband and flicked off the bottle caps with an experienced touch. Next, she leaned forward to show Tigranian her cleavage as she placed the bottle next to his hand. Then, she paused.

"Umm…Thank you?" Tigranian said, unsure of what was happening. The waitress raised her eyebrows and looked down at her chest. Tigranian became increasingly uncomfortable. Annabeth finally rolled her eyes.

"Don't worry, I'll spot you." Annabeth said as she reached into her pants pocket and pulled out an ancient Earth banknote. She then gently placed it underneath the right cup of the waitress' bra. The server smiled and winked back.

"Thanks, Cutie, you're the best tipper in this place."

"Just spreading the love, Delilah," she replied as the waitress headed back for the bar. Tigranian looked at her and rubbed his eyes. "What?" Annabeth said shrugging her shoulders. "It's part of the program."

"Right…" Tigranian muttered.

Annabeth held up her fresh bottle in a toast.

"To being alone together and hating it…"

"I'll drink to that," Tigranian said clinking their beers together. They both took a sip and looked up at Chastity.

Every girl and boy needs a little joy.
All you do is sit and stare.
Beggin' on my knees, baby won't you please?
Run your fingers through my hair…

At that verse, the green lady dropped to her knees, looked Tigranian in the face, and placed her thumb underneath the waistband of her g-string.

"What does this one want now?" the captain asked.

"Jesus, Dan," Annabeth muttered. "You really need to figure out the etiquette of this place." She pulled out another bill and handed it to him. "These girls gotta make ends meet! Put themselves through school! Make things worth her while."

Tigranian looked down at the money and then up to Chastity's underwear.

"Haven't they heard of scholarships?" He cleared his throat before inserting the note underneath the black lace. She winked before jumping back up to her feet and spinning around the pole.

"There we go!" Annabeth shouted before taking another sip of beer. "Work it girl!"

My my my whiskey and rye!
Don't it make you feel so fine?
Right or wrong, don't it turn you on?
Can't you see we're wastin' time?

"You actually like these places?" Tigranian asked. Annabeth sighed and leaned back on her stool. Tigranian could tell that her tolerance was still low and she was drunk on holographic booze. At least it would clear her system as soon as she left the holodeck.

"Not really," Annabeth replied, "but they take me back to a time when all I needed was my career, a few brews, and to occasionally stare at a pair of boobs that weren't mine…speaking of that…" Annabeth pulled out another banknote and held it straight up in the air. "Alright, Chastity! C'mon, let's see 'em!"

The Orion grinned as she sensually reached behind her back and undid the clasp on her bra. It fell free and landed on the stage directly in front of Tigranian. Chastity gave Annabeth a full view as she leaned forward, grabbed the money, and then slipped it next to Tigranian's contribution.

The captain stared briefly before shaking himself back to reality.

"But that's not you anymore, Annabeth," he said trying to bring her back. Suddenly, she looked a bit ashamed.

"No, it's not…" she finally replied. "I'm a wife and a mother, and I did exactly what I promised I would never do again," she said with a sigh.

"And what is that?" Tigranian asked though he already knew the answer.

"Putting a starship over the people I love, dammit!" she said slamming her hand on the table.

"Bullshit, Annabeth," Tigranian said. "You didn't do anything wrong, and you didn't put your career first. You did exactly what a good mother would do. Max is safe and sound with a woman you both love. Plus, you're doing what you have to do to take care of them both! Alex wanted to go back to Earth. You didn't. One of you had to stay."

"I could have resigned my commission," she said staring back at him.

"That would have made you miserable, and that's not good for you, your wife, or your child." She finally broke a smile.

"Thanks Dan, you're right," she said leaning over and putting a hand on his shoulder, "and you're a good friend."

"I just tell the truth…" he said looking back towards the stage.

Chastity twirled, locked her legs around the pole, and then hung upside down as the music crescendoed to an end. Her long dark hair hung down and splashed on the stage. Both Tigranian and Annabeth thought her finale warranted applause.

"Hey," Chastity said still hanging upside down like a Tiberian Bat, "you two wanna come with me to the Champagne Room?"

"Yes!" Annabeth said excitedly.

"No!" Tigranian emphatically shouted at the same time.

"No?" Annabeth asked turning to Tigranian surprised.

"No," he repeated shaking his head.

"Sorry," Annabeth said with more than a hint of regret. "Maybe next time."

Chastity flipped over and rose to her feet.

"Wow…" the hologram said grabbing her bra and scurrying back behind the red curtain.

"Give it up one more time for Chastity!" the announcer said. "Now, a brief intermission before our evening entertainment continues…"

The music faded into relatively benign soft jazz giving the pair a chance to keep talking.

"Still," Annabeth said with a sigh, "Alex and Max are gone, and Laria is off doing Lord knows what with Torlek."

"Yeah…" Tigranian said taking another sip of his beer. He was proud that his wife was off serving the Federation and the Empire, but he just prayed she was safe.

"You know," Annabeth said turning to Tigranian. "We've known each other three years, and I don't think you've ever told me how you got into all that Klingon stuff. I mean, I know it was when you were a kid, but I want details."

Tigranian let out a chuckle.

"It's really not that exciting of a story."

"C'mon, Dan," she said. "It's just the two of us…and Delilah."

"As long as she promises not to gossip," he said sarcastically.

"If she does, I'll delete her," Annabeth replied.

"Alright then," he said leaning forward and grasping his beer. "The Second Khitomer Accords was signed in 2252 when I seven years old. The Klingons were now our allies and they were all over the news. Everyone wanted to know everything about them.

In the neighborhood where I grew up in Yerevan, there was a small bookstore on the way to my elementary school. One day, my mother picked me up same as always, but we stopped by the shop so she could pick up something. I can't remember what. On the display table by the front window was a random assortment of popular interest books on Klingons. One of them caught my eye. It was a picture book with this big, cartoon warrior on the front called 'Klingons For Kids.' For some reason, I have no idea why, I begged her to get it for me. She thought it was good that I was interested in current events, so she said yes."

"Klingons for Kids?" Annabeth said grinning. "Really?"

"I was seven!" Tigranian replied with an exasperated smirk.

"Ok, ok…" Annabeth said taking another sip of beer.

"Anyways, I must have read that book cover to cover a hundred times. Then, I asked for another book, then another, and another. Pretty soon, I was trying to stitch armor out of my father's old overcoat and making bat'leths out of old broomsticks."

"And your parents went along with this?"

He shrugged.

"I think they thought it was a phase."

"Boy, were they wrong about that, Son of Tigranian," Annabeth said chuckling as she took another drink. "Do you still have that book?" she asked jokingly.

"It's on the shelf in my quarters right next to my IKS Vengeance model…" he said raising an eyebrow.

Annabeth laughed.

"That must have be one hell of a book," she said.

"It changed my life," he replied. "It made me believe I could go anywhere, and do anything."

"And what do you know…you did," she said.

"You know, it's funny," he continued. "By the time I went to the Academy, I could speak tlhIngan Hol fluently, read and write pIqaD like a native. I could tell you everything from Klingon creation myths to Klingon table manners, but do you know the first time when I actually met a real Klingon warrior?"

"When?" Annabeth asked.

"The first day I beamed on the Sk'oh. Before then, I only knew them in my imagination. Even though I was eventually accepted, it always made me feel like an outsider," he said as he looked down into his beer. "Like I was a fraud. I never wanted my wife to feel that way when I brought her into Torlek's house, and I never want your son to feel that way either."

Annabeth paused.

"You really do love him, don't you?" she asked looking him in the face.

"Like he was my own."

Annabeth reached out and hugged his arm.

"He is. Not just by blood, but you're also his godfather. We picked a good one."

Tigranian smiled, but now she was having trouble keeping her eyes open.

"Ok, Number One," he said softly, "I think we should call it a night."

"Alright," she said as he helped her up. "I just need to close out my tab first."

"I got that," Tigranian replied. "Computer, Save and end program."

The Platinum Panther vanished along with all the holographic alcohol in Annabeth's body. Instantly, she was sober as a priest in church.

"Whoah," she said steadying herself on her feet. "I will never get used to that…"
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Chancellor's Study, Great Hall: First City, Qo'noS

Stardate: 54451.6

Laria stood around a wooden planning table covered with charts, reports, and maps. Lady Elessa stood next to her as Torlek briefed Martok on what the Defense Forces had uncovered so far about the attempt on his life. It wasn't much. There was also another Klingon man dressed in a black tunic standing a few meters away. His conniving demeanor and unfeeling eyes set Laria on edge. Earlier Martok had introduced him as Agent Dokath, liason to the Chancellory from Imperial Intelligence. Also known as I-I, it was the branch of Klingon government responsible for espionage, subterfuge, and counter-spy operations. Their reputation for ruthlessness and dishonorable practices had made them unpopular even among their own people, but both Martok and the High Council continued to realize their necessity.

As Laria shifted in her newly acquired set of Klingon armor, her mind drifted back to her history classes at the Academy. The most widely known I-I operation in Federation history was also one of its most embarrassing. In late 2367, an Imperial Intelligence agent, posing as a Federation bureaucrat, attempted to disrupt colonization efforts on Sherman's Planet by poisoning a shipment of food grain on Space Station K7. The entire plot unraveled thanks to a group of hungry tribbles and the ingenuity of the Enterprise-1701 crew. The responsible agent was arrested, charged with espionage, and sentenced to 75 years in a Federation Penal Colony. His Klingon punishment, carried out in absentia, was far worse. He was discommended by the High Council for treasonable incompetence. The Klingon Chancellor at the time, Lorak, also declared Blood Feud against the entire Tribble species. The following year, a Klingon armada of 20 warships rendered the Tribble homeworld uninhabitable with almost eight months of orbital bombardment. Nearly 110 years later, the radiation levels on the surface were still toxic to most humanoids. It was a stark warning to other species not to get on the bad side of Klingons.

"So, we know at least some the qutluchpu were connected to the House of Duras," Martok said studying the notes Torlek handed him. "We also know that they were financed through a secret bank account on Ferenginar…"

"However, we do not know who the account belongs too, or if it is linked to Romulus," Torlek replied. "The data is encrypted and the Ferengi are not talking."

"There are some days," Martok muttered, "when I miss the old times before we allied with the Federation. All it would take is three or four attack cruisers, and then Grand Nagus Rom would sing like an Arturian Canary," he grumbled. "Dokath, will Imperial Intelligence be able to crack the encryption?"

"Chancellor, I once again strongly recommend against Federation personnel being present during this briefing," Dokath said glaring at Laria. "We don't want to share all our capabilities with them."

"Your recommendation is noted and rejected!" Martok screamed. "The Daughter of Amira is here not only because she is Starfleet, but because she is a brilliant scholar and a formidable warrior: two things that I cannot say about you. Now, answer my question!"

"Yes Chancellor," Dokath replied. "The encryption protocol used by the Ferengi Central Bank is a quintuple redundant quantum regenerating algorithm. We have our best code breakers on it, but they say it could take months…"

"If they're using standard decryption protocols," Laria interjected, "more like years. Have you tried using the Cardassian Rotating Terminus Equation to find the decryption key?"

"No one has been able to decipher any of the Cardassian Decryption Equations since the Obsidian Order was liquidated," Dokath said like he was talking to a moron.

"Are you sure about that?" Laria said cocking her head to the side. "Oops, I guess Starfleet Intelligence doesn't share everything with you either…"

Dokath growled and Laria slowly reached for one of her mek'leths.

"Enough!" Torlek said. "This is bickering gets us nowhere. There must be another way to find out the origins of the assassins."

"If the assassins came from the House of Duras," Elessa interjected. "Why don't we just ask someone from the House of Duras?"

"Lady Elessa," Martok said, "The House of Duras is a house in name only. Their lands seized, their warships gone. Where would we find their leader?"

"We're not even sure if Toral, Son of Duras, is still alive," Torlek added.

Elessa laughed.

"Typical men…" she chuckled. "We're dealing with a house's finances here. Tell me husband," she said turning to Torlek. "Do you know how much your estate is worth?"

Torlek nervously looked around the table.

"Only because you tell me…" he finally uttered.

"Exactly!" Elessa said making her point. "If we want to find out about a bank account, we must ask a woman."

"Lursa and B'Etor have been dead almost a decade," Dokath said.

"A house has more than two women in it," Elessa said rolling her eyes. "And I think I know exactly where to find the one that counts. Laria, you will accompany me. These others may not join us."

The three Klingon men nodded their heads in understanding.

"Qapla', Elessa, Daughter of Krisn'ath," Martok said. "We await your findings."

"Yes Chancellor," she said with a bow.

"Go with Kahless, my wife," Torlek added as Elessa grabbed Laria's arm and dragged her towards the doors.

"Wait," Laria said very confused. "Where are we going and why can't they come with us?"

"Where we go, no man may enter," Elessa said confidently.

"And where is that?" Laria asked. Elessa grinned as she looked back over her shoulder at the baffled Bajoran.

"To the qo'InSong," Elessa replied. "The Flower World."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Jin'tka District, Quin'lat: Qo'noS

Laria's transformation was astounding. After a hovercar ride to the estate, Lady Elessa, wrapped Laria in a tight fitting and richly embroidered robe of red silk with a matching belt that was nearly half a meter thick. The silk gathered together in the small of her back forming a large, decorative knot. Leska and Kesrath, her favorite maids, styled Laria's thick, Bajoran hair. They steamed it straight and braided it into an elaborate bun behind her head.

"I can barely breathe!" Laria said as her pair of attendants finished their work.

"Then you are wearing the kamakha correctly," Elessa said as she worked herself into a similar garment. "Daniel has done well teaching you the ways of a Klingon warrior, but now I must do my duty and teach you the ways of a Klingon noblewoman."

"I thought they were the same thing," Laria said struggling to adjust the heavy garment so she could walk.

"Much of the time, yes." Elessa said selecting a red silk fan from a collection in one of her chests, "However, today you are something more. The line has blurred in most cultures, but in ours, we preserve the separateness. To do what men cannot, to be refined and poised, gives us tremendous power over them. It is our way," she said snapping the fan closed and placing it into the front of Laria's belt.

Now, the pair walked through the stone streets of the ancient city of Quin'lat. A heavy snow gently drifted down from the grey sky, and despite its bulk, Laria was grateful for the warmth provided by the heavy silk kamakha. The women hid their faces from onlookers with red paper parasols painted with the House of Torlek's crest. Laria couldn't help but notice how every commoner they passed stopped to bow respectfully.

"Why are they doing that?" Laria asked.

"Because," Elessa answered, "we are the women of the warrior caste. We are the wives of lords. We survived the Bre'Nan, and control lands and estates beyond their imaginations. We are what they aspire to be, but that which is also beyond their reach. Despite the reforms, if we are displeased with their deference, their lives are ours to take. It creates respect, but also fear."

Laria didn't know how to respond to that.

After another few minutes of winding their way through the narrow streets crowded with pedestrians, vendors, and handcarts, they arrived at the large wooden gate of a walled compound. Laria knew enough pIqaD to decipher the sign:

Por SuS Tea House

"Follow my lead, and do as I do," Elessa warned her companion before ringing the bell. She then raised her parasol to the gate. She beckoned Laria to do the same. A tiny slit opened in the door and a pair of eyes examined the crests painted on their umbrellas. Then, the slit slammed shut. Laria could hear a wooden bar being slid away and the gates pulled open. Elessa and Laria stepped aside, and the gates were immediately shut. Laria glanced behind her just long enough to see the people in the street longingly gaze at a world they only knew from story and fantasy.

As Laria pulled the parasol away, she looked at her new surroundings in amazement. They were in a lush, manicured garden full of evergreen trees and wild bushes now covered with pristine white powder. Raised stone walkways meandered above an artificial stream trickling through the rocks and foliage. In the compound's center, was a large wooden building with a green tiled roof set on a foundation of rough-hewn stone. From outside the high walls, a person in the dirty city would have no idea that such of a place of wild beauty existed. Laria once again realized that it was what they kept hidden from view that made Klingons truly remarkable. The Bajoran marveled at the other patrons as they strolled down the walkways trimmed with frozen beauty. All carried parasols emblazoned with the designs of their own houses. Quickly, Laria realized there wasn't a man to be seen.

"Where are we?" she asked as Elessa beckoned her to follow towards the main building.

"This is the qo'InSong," answered. "The Flower World exists inside every Klingon tea house. It is a refuge where women gather to relax and rid themselves of the stress we often experience as the mothers and daughters of great houses. It is a place of only grace and beauty where the highest arts of Klingon etiquette are practiced: conversation, painting, floristry, music, dance, and the tea ceremony. Politics are discouraged. Men are forbidden under pain of death," Elessa said flashing her a grin. "They are beneath the elegance of this place."

They approached the stone steps leading up into the tea house. Elessa collapsed her parasol and Laria followed suit. At the top, they were met by two female attendants. They dropped to their knees and bowed so deeply, their forehead crests touched the wooden floorboards. Elessa handed her parasol to one of them. Laria gave up hers as well. The attendants silently beckoned for them to sit on a nearby bench. They removed their walking shoes and replaced them with leather sandals. Laria wasn't used to this level of attention. Elessa acted as if it was completely normal.

A door in the side of the building slid open. A third attendant inside bowed and motioned for them to enter. Elessa went first with Laria right behind. They descended a flight of steps and found themselves in a large stone chamber illuminated with burning braziers. Another artificial stream trickled down a series of rocks in the middle of the room. Dozens of women sat on targ skin rugs around eight low wooden tables arranged in rows on either side of the running water. They carried on lively conversations while sipping on ceramic demitasses of potent Klingon tea. More attendants dressed in white kneeled nearby with stone kettles and ensured no patron ever had their cup run dry. On a raised platform at the end of the room, two Klingon women dressed in elaborate kamakha kneeled on mats woven from klongat wool. They strummed out a hypnotic tone on a type of necked instrument Laria had never seen before. A third woman rhythmically danced to the beat while hiding her painted face with an unfolded fan. She sang in strange, atonal words that Laria found hypnotically captivating. She had no idea how she would ever explain this to anyone back in the Federation. It was nothing like what outsiders pictured as Klingon entertainment. It was a metaphor of wild passion brought under control by civilized sophistication. It was so very Klingon and Laria was immediately lost in its spell.

Elessa scanned the room until her eyes finally came to a stop at a table on the far side of the hall. A Klingon woman knelt alone as an attendant refilled her cup with tea. She wore a black kamakha with a gold tIq ghob broach indicating that she had lost her husband in battle. Elessa scoffed.

She walked across the room and took a seat across from the mysterious woman. Laria again followed. The woman in black sneered as she realized she now had unwanted company. Elessa ignored her. An attendant approached the two women of the House of Torlek and gracefully placed two empty cups in front of them. With practiced poise, she poured the tea, bowed, and then returned to her place in the wings.

Elessa took a sip while Laria stared nervously down at her cup. The Bajoran remembered the lethality of Klingon tea and realized she hadn't taken antidote prior to coming. Elessa smiled as she leaned over and whispered:

"Don't worry, this is not the tea that tests courage. It's the por Sus' signature blend: peppadugh spiced chai. Wonderful for cold weather and perfectly safe for non-Klingons. Try it."

Laria took her tea and sampled a small taste. It was boiling hot, but it had a strange effect as it hit her tongue. The liquid turned to vapor and filled her sinuses with a wonderful herbal aroma that instantaneously made her more alert. She couldn't help but crack a smile. However, it soon faded as she noticed the other woman was glaring at them from the sides of her eyes.

"Normally," Elessa said taking another sip before putting the cup down on the table, "I would wonder what warranted such disrespect from a fellow patron, but considering your lineage, it is no surprise."

The other woman growled, but Elessa was still unfazed. She motioned for the attendant to return and refill her cup. The lady in white obliged.

"And what precisely do you mean by that?" the woman replied still glaring in Laria's direction.

"You are Drusilla," Elessa said as her tea was poured, "first cousin of Duras and mother of Toral. Leave it to your house to sin twice: once for incest, and once for proclaiming your own off-spring as a bastard to cover it up."

"How dare you!?" the woman aggressively spit at Elessa. "I am not of the House of Duras, but if I was, I should kill you for those remarks." The attendant looked at both women with harsh glares. Noble lineage aside, they were coming dangerously close to violating the tea house's strict rules on politeness.

"Why? Everything I said is true," Elessa said calmly. "I am Elessa, Daughter of Krisn'ath, Wife of Lord Torlek. My family's honor goes back twenty generations and my husband commands the entirety of the Defense Forces. The man that you consider your fallen husband…your cousin…betrayed us to the Romulans, died in disgrace, and then the abomination that sprang from your womb tried to rip the Empire apart," Elessa said grinning while taking another sip of tea.

"The House of Duras was discommended by that dead Ha'DIbaHGowron! Not the Klingon people! If I was who you claim, I would be well within my rights to claim blood vengeance for your blasphemy."

Laria began to look nervously on this exchange. Elessa was certainly pushing the limits of Klingon etiquette.

"Very well," Elessa replied. "I'll play pretend in your fantasy. You are not Drusilla. Then, join me in toast to the dishonorable death of all who have the blood of Duras in their veins. After all, they just tried to murder the Chancellor. It is good that my husband's troops are in hot pursuit. Soon the few surviving stragglers will join their baktag-sucking slime devil of a leader being roasted across Fek'lhr's coals in Gre'thor."

Laria could see the blood vessels in Drusilla's eyes popping with rage. In hiding or not, she wanted Elessa's head.

"My Lady…" Laria said quietly. Elessa calmly held her hand up. She was trying to draw her adversary out and displayed no fear.

"You speak very boldly for someone from a House that has no honor…" Drusilla growled.

"Excuse me?" Elessa said looking at her target with a death stare.

"The House of Torlek is guilty of bestiality! And the proof is sitting at this very table. You allow sub-Klingon animals into your family, and then bring them into our people's most sacred places! You can put any dog in a kamakha, but the Qa'Hom still doesn't have the ngech for it." Drusilla said taking another sip of tea. "If I was the woman you claim me to be, I would kill you just for your blatant hypocrisy. Don't worry, the day is coming when a real Klingon will once again lead our people and wipe away the malignant cancer that your kind has inflicted on the Children of Kahless…"

"Is there a problem here?" a woman in a gold and white kamakha said. Her imposing eyes stared down at the table from beneath her formidable forehead crest.

"Not at all, Madame Ra'tijik," Elessa said with a polite bow before turning to Laria. "May I introduce my sister-in-law, Lady Laria?" Elessa gracefully gestured towards the woman. "Laria, Madame Ra'tijik is the proprietor of this honorable establishment."

"We are always honored to welcome the family of the Governor of Ty'Gokor as well as a holder of the Order of the Bat'leth, Lady Laria," Madame Ra'tijik said returning Elessa's bow, "however, I feel the need to remind you that this is a place of tranquility. If you ladies are about to draw blood, please take it outside the gates."

"Draw blood?" Elessa said feigning surprise. "Oh no, we were merely drinking your wonderful tea in a toast to the downfall of the enemies of the Empire. Specifically, the honorless glob flies of the House of Duras. They are, after all, discommended traitors and any businesswoman found knowingly serving the family of a traitor would be arrested for violating our sacred laws. Luckily, none of them are here, right?"

"Right…" Madame Ra'tijik said glaring at Drusilla who was now absolutely quivering with rage. "However, with the greatest possible honor and respect, I will have to ask you to place any personal quarrels aside here. You are disturbing our other guests in their conversations."

"Of course," Elessa replied with a bow. "I ask forgiveness, Madame. Not only for our conversation, but also the implication that would you would allow an honorless k'pekt into this place of beauty. After all, the only place a whore of the Duras family belongs is on her knees, sucking the moQDu' of her Romulan masters…"

A roar erupted from the end of the table. Drusilla reached into the waist of her kamakha and drew her fan. She snapped it open to reveal eight razor sharp blades hidden inside the crescent shaped piece of black paper. Madame Ra'tijik screamed for her to stop, but Drusilla lunged straight at Elessa's throat. She did not get far before a d'k tahg drawn from the rear knot of Laria's belt flew straight into her chest. Drusilla coughed as a dribble of blood appeared at the corner of her lips. She looked down in shock at the piece of baakonite lodged in her torso before collapsing onto the table. The chamber went eerily quiet as all the other women stared at the bloody scene. Laria held out her hand and gasped for air. She had no idea how she acted so quickly. She had killed a woman completely on instinct. It terrified and thrilled her at the same time.

"Normally," Elessa said finishing her beverage, "killing someone in the tea house is a bit of a faux pas. However, you will have to forgive my sister-in-law, Madame," she said placing her empty cup back on the table with a high lady's refinement. "She serves the Empire by killing a traitor this day." Elessa stood up, calmly walked around the table, and rolled the dying Drusilla onto her back. She stared into the woman's fading eyes. "There will be no roars for you this day, My Dear, for Sto'Vo'Kor does not await. Give the Chancellor's regards to Duras in hell. Fear not, for if your son still lives, you will see him again soon." Drusilla coughed in an attempt to curse Lady Elessa, but only more blood bubbled from her mouth. Elessa reached up, grabbed the handle of the d'k tahg, and ripped it out. It instantly cleaved Drusilla's heart in two. The woman fell still. Elessa calmly wiped the blood off her sister-in-law's blade using Drusilla's sleeve before handing it Madame Ra'tijik. "Would you be so kind as to return that to Lady Laria?" Elessa said smiling. Ra'tijik was in such shock, she did what the lady asked without question. Laria accepted her weapon as Elessa began searching inside the corpse's robes.

"Ah, there we are," she said pulling out a piece of green plastic and holding it up to the light. "Laria?" she asked softly. However, the Bajoran was still so stunned she wasn't paying attention. Instead, she merely stared at the hand that didn't seem to completely belong to her anymore. "Laria!" Elessa said more firmly.

"Yes, My Lady?" she said finally breaking through her mental haze.

"Do you recognize this object?" she said loudly enough for the rest of the tea house's guests to hear.

"Yes, My Lady," Laria replied. "It is a Romulan iso-linear data chip."

"Very interesting…" Elessa muttered sarcastically before placing it in her own sleeve. She rose back to her feet and beckoned for her sister-in-law to join her. "Madame," she said bowing deeply to Ra'tijik. "Thank you for your wonderful hospitality, but we really must be going. As always, the tea was excellent. Please place our beverages on my house's account. Also, please include a generous gratuity for you and your staff. We apologize for the trouble we brought to your door."

"Yes My Lady," Ra'tijik said returning the bow. "Do not worry. It was no trouble at all." She couldn't get angry, not only because it would violate her own rules, but also because a traitor had been revealed under her own roof. If word of this got out, her reputation would be ruined.

"Are you going to have any trouble disposing of that, or should I send some men for it?" Elessa asked pointing to Drusilla's corpse.

"No, it will be cold tonight and the refuse is picked up tomorrow," Ra'tijik responded.

"Excellent!" Lady Elessa replied cheerfully.

"My attendants will return your checked items and show you out," Ra'tijik said gesturing towards the door.

"Come along, Laria, Chancellor Martok and Lord Torlek await us," Elessa said heading to the exit. Without a word, Laria followed in a daze. Once they were gone, Madame Ra'tijik clapped her hands and two women in white grabbed Drusilla's body and dragged it towards the backroom. Another appeared with a cloth and bucket and began mopping up the gore. The other patrons returned to their tea, annoyed at the disturbance to their day of relaxation.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Imperial Intelligence Headquarters, First City: Qo'noS

There's a port on a western bay
And it serves a hundred ships a day
Lonely sailors pass the time away
And talk about their homes…

By the time Elessa and Laria had returned to the First City, it was nearly midnight. Laria bypassed the security protocols to help herself to a deserted room in the Imperial Intelligence decryption laboratory. She figured that the Chancellor would want an update on the contents of the Romulan data chip as soon as possible. She also took the liberty of uploading her own music playlist into the computer. It would take her mind off the earlier bloodshed and the fact she was still away from Daniel. She danced around the empty computer stations as she prepared to extract Drusilla's secrets.

And there's a girl in this harbor town
And she works layin' whiskey down
They say, Brandy, fetch another round
She serves them whiskey and wine…

"How did you get in here and what is that noise?" an angry voice screamed from behind her. She spun around to see a very perturbed Dokath staring at her.

"Oh it's you," she said looking at him before going back to her work. "For a second, I thought it was someone important."

"You are a Federation officer and the decryption lab is one of the most secure areas of Imperial Intelligence Headquarters!"

"If that's the case," Laria said making a few adjustments to a computer screen. "Then you should probably update your door access panels to something above Class III Security Protocols. It's kinda the equivalent of making your password, 'password,'" she said feigning a smile.

"I should have you arrested for espionage!" he shouted again.

"That would be a poor idea, Agent Dokath," a booming voice echoed from the doorway. It was Chancellor Martok with Torlek and Lady Elessa in tow. "Right now, she's doing your job better than you are."

"My Lord," he said desperately, "the equipment in this room is highly sensitive. She is a foreign agent and doesn't have the access to be in here…"

"Please," Laria said inserting the captured data chip into a reader attached to her station. "I built computers more complicated than this in grammar school…"

The sailors say: "Brandy, you're a fine girl"
"What a good wife you would be"
"Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea!"

"Interesting choice of soundtrack…" Martok muttered as he stepped towards Dokath and Laria.

"Yes, Chancellor," Laria said entering a few codes into her computer. "It's Agent Dokath's personal playlist…"

Martok turned and glared at the Klingon agent with his one good eye. Dokath frantically waved his arms as Torlek and Elessa held back laughter.

"If you would just tell her to refrain from attempting to access the data chip until our analysts have a chance to examine it," Dokath pleaded. "We don't know what kind of security protocols it has. If she makes a mistake, it could wipe the entire chip or worse. If you give us just one or two weeks, we can safely…"

"I just cracked the encryption on the chip," Laria said interrupting him. "I'm bringing up the data on the main screen."

"That's impossible!" Dokath replied. "It would take our best agents days to do that."

"You mean the same ones that couldn't figure out how to fool a tribble?" Laria said with more than a bit of side eye cast in his direction.

On the room's central holoscreen, a huge list of numbers and information appeared.

"It's in Klingon," Laria said shaking her head. She turned to Torlek and Elessa. "What does it say?"

Torlek blinked twice and took a step forward.

"Everything…" he replied in amazement. Martok, Elessa, and Dokath were also shocked. "This is far more than just a bank ledger. This has their bases of operation, their business partners, the locations of all their secret off-world accounts. It's a running backup of their private computer network!"

"With this, we can finally bring down the worst group of traitors in the Empire's history," Dokath said.

"First things first," Martok said trying to bring focus back to the matter at hand. "Did the Duras try to kill me, and if so, who paid them to do it?"

"Agent Dokath," Laria said turning to her new best friend, "I believe you can take it from here." She relinquished control of her monitor to him. He quickly scanned the chip's contents.

"Here it is," he said after a few seconds of searching. "The Ferengi account did belong to the Duras family. The last deposit reads as 10,000 Bars of Gold Pressed Latinum from the Zupindi Mining Consortium. It was five days before the assassination attempt."

"Mining Consortium?" Elessa said confused.

"I've heard that name once before," Torlek said. "During the war, I conducted a joint operation with the Romulans to retake a system near the Badlands. They asked for the assistance of a Klingon squadron. We wondered why the Romulans would be expending so much effort to retake a group of minor planetoids, until we landed and realized it was a Tal Shiar listening post. It was in the Zupindi Cluster and camouflaged to look like a venderite mine."

"The Tal Shiar," Martok said. "So it was the Romulans…"

"It appears a data packet was sent along with the deposit," Dokath added. "I'm bringing it up on the screen."

Everyone in the room gritted their teeth when they saw it. It was surveillance footage taken of the Chancellory. Martok's daily schedule, his locations at various times a day, even the composition of his security detail was prepared in a neat little package and given straight to the assassins.

"And yet they still failed…" Torlek said.

"The Romulans believe that information is power," Martok said. "I tend to believe that power comes from the strength of your people's spirit. In that regard, they will never be stronger than we can be."

"Who in the House of Duras ordered the mission?" Laria asked. "And where are they? The sooner we kill them, the sooner I can get back to my ship and Agent Dokath can be rid of me."

Martok chuckled as Dokath continued to search the chip.

"The assassins were already on Qo'nos, but they received their orders from a Duras compound in the Suchon System on the outskirts of the Empire," Dokath said. When he read the transcript of the transmission, he turned to his companions. "It is signed, Toral, Lord of the House of Duras."

"So, he does live…" Elessa said. "It looks like we must fulfill a promise made to his recently departed mother."

"Lord Torlek," Martok said turning to his Chief of Staff, "Take a strike team to the Suchon System. Find the lair of the traitors. Capture them if possible. If not, I want his corpse in my office so I can eat his heart."

"jIyaj joHwI," Torlek said with a bow. "May I recommend a smaller strike team on a bird of prey? Their signature will be smaller and less likely to signal our arrival."

Martok nodded his ascent before departing. Dokath continued to copy data from the chip into the Imperial Intelligence mainframe. In one day, Laria had accomplished more than his entire organization had in ten years.

"Laria, you will accompany me to the traitor's base," Torlek said. "Lady Elessa, you will remain here on Qo'nos. We leave in three hours."

"Qapla', My Love," Elessa said touching her husband's crest to her own. "Go to victory with honor."

"Once again," Torlek said grinning at Elessa, "you have brought great honor to us and our house."

Laria sat on a stool watching the old couple express their love before battle. She just wished she could do the same with her own husband right now. She reached out with her heart:

"I hope you can hear me right now, Daniel. There's more blood on my hands, and I'm not sure I like it. But, I love you, and there's one more I have to kill to get home. Don't worry, I'll see you soon."

As she stood up to go change back into armor, the music still played on the lab's speakers…

He said, "Brandy, you're a fine girl"

"What a good wife you would be"

"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Tellar System: Federation Space

"Annabeth," Tigranian said as he plated several boiled Betazoid oscoid shrimp on top of a bed of linguine. "Can you get the door?"

The first officer put down her wine and went to the front of the captain's quarters. As she passed through the living room, she laughed at the captain's tiny Christmas tree on the living room coffee table. When the doors parted, Doctor Katan stood there dressed in a knit sweater and slacks. He carried a bottle of Betazoid Pinot Gris in his hand.

"Kinzo, welcome," she said as she beckoned for him to come inside.

"I brought some wine," he said walking over to Tigranian working over his portable stove near the dining table.

"Wow that is perfect!" Tigranian said fishing a corkscrew out of a drawer. He suddenly paused. "It's like you knew what I was making…"

"Well," Katan said tapping his temple with a finger. "I had a bit of a hint. I hope you don't mind."

"Baktag," Tigranian said shaking his head. "Normally, I would be upset, but a meal this good warrants a wine that good. Sit down."

"Thank you," Katan said taking a seat. Annabeth joined him while Tigranian served. He then poured the doctor's offering into their glasses.

"I hope you don't mind that I invited Captain Geist," Tigranian said taking his place at the head of the table. "Sadley, I think it will be awhile before she gets another home-cooked meal."

"I would starve to death without a replicator," she reluctantly admitted before taking a taste of Tigranian's seafood pasta with cream sauce. "Oh God," she said. "This is amazing, Dan."

"Sir," Katan added. "I haven't had oscoids this good since I last visited home…"

"The conversations in my ready room are formalities," Tigranian explained. "You don't really get to know someone until they try a dinner you make for them."

"When Alex first told me about you, I didn't figure you'd be a chef as well," Katan added.

"Being a healthy warrior begins with having a healthy body. Having a healthy body starts with having good food. They are not mutually exclusive."

The small talk continued until the meal was gone. As Tigranian poured raktajino to go with dessert, Katan took a deep breath.

"I can tell I'm going to enjoy serving on this ship. The sick bay is top of the line, the crew is welcoming, and I haven't met a CO and XO in a long time that went through this much trouble to get to know me."

"It's our job," Annabeth said taking a bite of Tigranian's kava cake. "You better thank Lanassa again for this recipe, Dan."

"My mother-in-law," Tigranian clarified for Kazan.

"Ah," the doctor said looking down at his plate. Then he stopped beating around the bush. "You're both wondering how a man as quiet as me got in so much trouble on the Glasgow…and you're also wondering if you can trust me as a result."

Tigranian and Annabeth exchanged worried glances. They both knew they would have to watch their thoughts more closely around this man.

"It's alright." he said. "You need to have faith in your CMO. Captain, you said I should tell you my side when I was ready. Now's as good a time as any."

"Alright," Tigranian said taking a sip of coffee. "Go ahead."

"I had been on board the Glasgow only two months. It was a small ship, so I made CMO as a Lieutenant. Narcotics in a starship's dispensary are very closely monitored. Normally, it's the job of the senior nurse to make sure they're accounted for every day between shifts, but I knew that nothing could get a new doctor in trouble quicker than a pharmaceutical violation. So, I kept an eye on things behind the scenes.

One day, I noticed a discrepancy in the logs. We were supposed to have four doses of Bicoradone in the locker, and we only had three. This happens sometimes. Normally, someone issues a dose and doesn't log it properly. However, I was the only person on the ship authorized to administer Bicor. I confronted my nurse about it, but he said not to worry. That I would 'learn how things worked on this ship' soon enough. I did some more digging by checking the security recorders.

Our Chief of Security would come into the sick bay at night, sneak a dose of Bicor, and then leave. Apparently, it had been happening for almost a year. He had developed a problem after surgery and never admitted he needed help.

I took the whole mess to our first officer, a Commander with 15 years of deep-space time, and received the second worst dressing down of my life. He told me that Lieutenant Commander Grayson was the best security chief in Starfleet, and he wasn't going to have a 'piss-ass' green shirt like me ruin his career by citing him for substance abuse.

So, the next day I went straight to the captain. I knew I was doing the right thing. But, Captain Rajad only asked me if I had entered it into my medical logs. I said 'no' because I wanted to start an investigation first. He then proceeded to give me the WORST dressing down of my life. He told me that this crew was his family and that I was the outsider. Not only that, he then accused me of going over Commander Gruk's head. He never even let me go back to sick bay. He relieved me on the spot, dropped a reprimand for insubordination in my file, and kicked me off at the next star base."

Annabeth looked back in shock.

"And you never told anyone at Starfleet Medical this?"

"It takes serious influence to alter narcotic control logs. I didn't know who else in Starfleet Medical was on their side, so I kept quiet. I wanted to get back to the fleet one day. As a result, I've developed some trust issues with the chain of command."

Tigranian dropped back in his chair and rubbed the side of his head.

"The Pershing is a family," Tigranian began. He could see Kazan's gaze drop, but Tigranian continued. "But we are a real family. That group on the Glasgow just sounds like a gang. We protect our own, but never do things for the wrong reasons." He leaned forward and looked Kazan in the eyes. "That piece of shit, Rajad, was covering up a crime to save his own ass instead of taking responsibility for his crew like a grown-ass man.

I don't care if you read my mind right now. It'll let you know I'm being serious. I swear to you, on my honor as a Klingon warrior, you will never be punished on my ship for doing the right thing. I always expect you to do your duty, or I'll kick your ass myself. Tracking?"

Kazan smiled.

"Yes Sir," he said gratefully.

"Good. That's settled," Tigranian said. "Would you like some more cake?"
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Praetor's Villa: Romulus

Stardate: 54451.9

The praetorians rendered another salute to Semachs as he walked through the doors into Neral's private dining room. The praetor was already sitting at the head of the table enjoying a plate of roasted hlai bird. Semachs noticed that two other places were set.

"Please," Neral said gesturing to the seat at his right. "Join me, Proconsul. I apologize for not waiting, but it was getting cold."

"I was delayed on state business. Besides, I am very wary of your advice."

"Yet, you are still here. Please, don't let good food go to waste."

Semachs reluctantly sat down as a slave poured him a glass of Kali-fal.

"Thank you again for coming Semachs," Neral said with a broad smile. "It is so very rare I get to entertain these days. I miss the company."

"I am not here to give you company nor am I here for entertainment," Semachs retorted. "You said you had a contact that could help us get the better of the Klingons and the Federation. I am here to see if you are telling the truth."

"No sense of patience or decorum," Neral said. "All business…" he condescendingly chuckled from behind his beard.

"This is a waste of time," Semachs muttered as he threw a napkin on the table and prepared to leave.

"Proconsul please…" a woman's voice echoed from behind a marble column. "We have much to discuss." A Romulan officer stepped out and stared at him. She kept one hand underneath her chin as if she was already calculating his next move. However, Semachs was taken aback at her cropped blonde hair and human-like features. "And I would hate to think you would leave here thinking the praetor failed you."

"Who are you?" Semachs asked furrowing his brow.

"My name is Commander Sela of the Volskiarii, Proconsul," she replied with a polite bow. "And I am very anxious to help you destroy that which I hate as much as you."

"Your father was General Volskiar, Hero of Narendra III?" Semachs said in shock. "I had no idea he had a child."

"Who my mother was is unimportant," Sela replied. "What I can do for you, however, is."

"I've followed the commander's career with great interest over the last decade," Neral said taking another bite of his food. "Her record as a squadron commander in the war was impressive. Before that, she was in charge of a few of my most sensitive special projects. If I had listened to her counsel with greater clarity, I wouldn't be here."

"Tell me, Commander," Semachs said skeptically. "Do you have the skills to accomplish such a thing or is your green blood as thin as this man's?" Neral ignored his barb and continued to eat.

Sela walked forward and leaned in uncomfortably close to the proconsul.

"My blood is greener than most," she said emphatically. "And I know the Federation and the Klingons better than the entire Tal Shiar put together. I exist because of them." Something in her seething tone intrigued him.

"Very well, Commander," Semachs said pointing to the chair across from him. "You have my attention. Speak."

She grinned deviously as she took a seat.
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