Star Trek: New Horizons Season 6, Episode 2 (Oath of Allegiance) by captaintigranian
Summary: As the galaxy draws closer to all out war, Tigranian must finally make the choice: obey the Federation or remain Klingon.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 8 Completed: Yes Word count: 10253 Read: 1530 Published: 20 May 2018 Updated: 20 May 2018

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

8. Chapter 8 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

I, [State Full Name], having been appointed an officer in the Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets in the grade of [State Rank], do solemnly swear (or affirm), that I will support and defend the Articles of the Federation against all enemies, foreign or domestic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I will obey the Prime Directive, and will well and faithfully discharge the duties of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, and boldly going where no one has gone before.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Government District, Ki-Baratan: Romulus

Stardate: 54506.4

As soon as he was appointed to the Continuing Committee, Senator Trallian purchased a small townhouse eleven blocks from the Senate Hall. It only made sense considering that he often didn't see his bed until several hours after midnight. It also kept his wife and two daughters safely away from the capital city. He always felt better when he remembered they were enjoying life at the family villa on the far shore of the Apnex Sea.

The townhouse was small enough that it didn't require house slaves. Instead, he hired a housekeeper that would arrive shortly before dawn to clean and prepare his morning meal. By the time he returned after the Senate and Continuing Committee adjourned for the evening, she had long since departed for the night.

The yellow silhouette of Remus loomed large in the night sky as Trallian shuffled along the stones of the ancient city. He cursed under his breath as he fought to keep his eyes open. It had been an exhausting and utterly sycophantic day. Proconsul Semachs was uncharacteristically chipper following a report that slave revolts had dropped to zero since the destruction of Rellas' asteroid base in the Pomparath Nebula. Slowly, the Empire was returning to normal.

Semachs even hoped that with a few more weeks of stability, he would finally be able arrange the death of the constant thorn in his side, Praetor Neral. A regime change was something Semachs lusted after, but was impossible until the Empire could establish the illusion of tranquil superiority once again. Soon after Neral's imminent demise, he would be replaced with a puppet that would obey the Senate unconditionally. Hiren, the junior Senator from the Sharusk District, looked to be a promising candidate.

Trallian trudged up the steps to his front door, entered his access code, and stepped inside the marble and brick, three-story Sekarian Revival. The front entryway was pitch black as he hung his cloak on the wooden stand next to the door. Afterwards, he stumbled down the marble hallway towards his living room before freezing as he sensed he wasn't alone. He reached into his robes and pulled out a disruptor. He pointed the weapon at a shadowy silhouette sitting in the senator's favorite armchair.

"Lights!" Trallian shouted. The room came to full illumination revealing a figure draped in a grey cloak. The man rose and pulled away his hood.

"Careful, Senator," Rellas said condescendingly. "You'll hurt yourself with that."

Trallian dropped the pistol and cursed again.

"What in the name of the Holy Raptors of Seleya are you doing here?" he shrieked. "You're supposed to be in the Klingon Empire!"

"You mean living in comfort like you in this palace?" Rellas said pointing to the opulent surroundings with disgust.

"If a Romulan senator doesn't live according to the standards of his noble rank," Trallian explained through gritted teeth, "people start asking questions. That's not good for anyone…"

"Questions?" Rellas said taking a step towards him. "Questions like why you hadn't come to the Pomparath Nebula for almost four months before our base was obliterated?"

"I'm on the Continuing Committee now!" Trallian said walking over to tray on the bar and pouring himself a double glass of Kali-fal. He downed it in one quick gulp. "I can't just disappear whenever it suits me. It would raise…"

"Too many questions?" Rellas muttered dropping his chin to his chest.

"Yes, as a matter of fact." Trallian replied rubbing his eyes. "And don't you dare insinuate that I turned my back on you," the senator said pointing his empty glass towards Rellas. "I was doing more for your cause in the halls of the Senate than you can possibly imagine."

"Onorok is dead!" Rellas screamed back at him. "Our forces are obliterated! You call that help?"

Trallian sighed and shook his head.

"What do you want me to say? I had nothing to do with any of that."

"How did they find us?" Rellas asked curling his lips back to reveal his teeth. Trallian placed the glass back on the bar and walked over to the sofa. He collapsed in an exhausted heap.

"Two months ago, the Imperial Navy reported that they were developing the ability to trace dormant warp trails by using high-intensity scans in the subspace omni-band. I didn't feel the need to risk warning you because it was only a theory…"

Rellas' eyes bored into him from across the room.

"Over one hundred brave warriors are dead because of your oversight, Trallian."

The Senator paused.

"For that, I am truly sorry, but there is nothing I can do for them now. However, it's not too late for you. As my last act on your behalf, I'll figure out a way to get you off Romulus. I might be able to arrange passage to a neutral system without raising too much suspicion…"

"Oh no, Senator," Rellas said shaking his head. "Your job isn't finished, the Soldiers of Akarath are not defeated, and our revolution against the Star Empire is just beginning. It's amazing what you can accomplish when Romulan arrogance presupposes the homeworld is invulnerable…"

Trallian's eyes grew wide.

"Oh gods, what did you do?" he asked barely above a whisper. Rellas looked at a clock hanging on the wall.

"You're about to find out."

A blinding flash of light burst outside. Six seconds later, the shockwave hit with a blow more powerful than a thunder clap. Dust poured from the ceiling, pictures clattered down the walls, and a marble statue of the winged goddess Romula fell from the mantle over the fireplace. It shattered into pieces against the marble floor. As the echoes subsided outside, the sound of emergency sirens began filling the streets. Trallian leapt up from the couch and ran to the windows.

He covered his mouth in horror as he saw the source of the blast a mere two kilometers away. A column of fire and smoke rose from the crater where the Romulan Ministry of Defense once stood. Rellas smiled behind him.

"Revenge is a dish which is best served cold, Senator."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Cardassia Prime: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54508.4

"Captain's Log: Stardate 54508.4. The Pershing has arrived at Cardassia Prime for a special meeting of the Assistance Force Joint Military Council. A fleet wide yellow alert is in effect. Tensions have flared since the destruction of the Imperial Defense Ministry on Romulus. There are indications that the Star Empire and the Cardassian State may be preparing for a retaliatory strike. The USS Nelson has also been deployed to the Republic of Cardassia as it appears that conflict may be imminent…"

Tigranian and Annabeth walked into the meeting room buried deep in the Republic of Cardassia's Military Headquarters. The building had been completely renovated since its use by the Founders during the Dominion War, but it's drab, industrial Cardassian aesthetic remained. Every surface seemed to be burnt orange, bronzed, and curved in a way that caused most non-Cardassian species to experience a minor bout of vertigo. The room was packed with top, Cardassian, Klingon, and Federation brass. The mingling Cardassians in their boxy, scale-covered tunics clashed with the Federation officers in their black and greys.

"Why is it always so damned hot in Cardassian buildings?" Annabeth muttered while pulling on the red collar of her uniform.

"That's what happens when your species shares a good amount of DNA with an iguana," Tigranian replied quietly enough so that the other occupants of the room couldn't hear.

"Really, iguanas?" Annabeth said with a smile. "I always figured it was a salamander or something. "Maybe those horned lizards that shoot blood out of their eyes…"

"Daniel!" a familiar voice echoed from across the room. Captain Shu Yin Quan of the USS Nelson, one of the Pershing's sister starbattleships, grinned as she crossed the room with a less than enthusiastic Starfleet Commander at her side.

"Hello, Shu Yin," Tigranian said politely as he shook her hand. "You remember Captain Annabeth Geist, of course?" he continued with a nod toward his first officer.

"Of course," Quan said with her polished Cantonese accent. "This is my first officer, Commander Trenton Deshawn."

"Sir, Ma'am," Deshawn said with an air of formality. It annoyed Tigranian to no end how serious Quan kept the climate on her ship. The use of first names was a privilege reserved for the captain alone on the Nelson. For a subordinate, it was an offense that angered her so much she would keel-haul offenders if she still could. The number of marriages on the Pershing's bridge would probably cause her to have an aneurysm.

"Glad to see you made it safely from the Federation," Tigranian said. "Sorry you had to get pulled away from Earth spacedock early."

"It's alright," Quan said smiling. "I much prefer being out in space anyways. An idle crew is one that tends to lose efficiency."

Annabeth reflexively cleared her throat. She cast a sympathetic look towards Deshawn. He gazed back at her with as much gratitude as possible without his captain noticing.

"Attention, Ladies and Gentlemen," a Starfleet staff commander announced, "please, take your seats. The CRGC and the DCAM will be entering shortly to begin the briefing."

The "CRGC" was Legate Gosolo Dyoldas, Commander of the Republican Guard of Cardassia. The "DCAM" was Vice Admiral Almasi Mukwotho, The Deputy Commanding Admiral for Maneuver, Federation Forces Cardassia. She was sitting in for her boss, Admiral Murphy, who was still on Earth providing updates to the Federation Council. Their Klingon Counterpart would have been the Imperial jenSa', or Senior General,for Cardassia, however the post was currently vacant as General B'krall had returned to Ty'Gokor to join Lord Torlek's staff. In the meantime, Admiral Mukwotho had operational control of all Klingon forces in the Republic.

As Tigranian, Shu Yin, and their Number Ones found seats at the end of the polished conference table, the Federation Forces Cardassia staff officers and their Klingon Defense Force counterparts sat down across from the leaders of the Cardassian Republican Guard.

"Wow, we get to sit at the big table," Annabeth whispered to Tigranian next to her with a chuckle. "I feel so grown-up."

"Hopefully we'll still be able to get chicken nuggets, though," Tigranian replied. They both laughed.

Quan cleared her throat loudly to signify her displeasure at their banter. Tigranian ignored her, but Annabeth cast a glance out of the side of her eye. It was moments like this she was grateful to already hold the rank of captain. She couldn't imagine the level of hassle that poor Deshawn had to endure. Annabeth was about to recommend to Shu Yin that she remove the twist currently residing in her feminine undergarments, but the sound of an opening door prevented the exchange.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the Starfleet Commander announced loudly, "The CRGC and DCAM!" The entire room jumped to their feet and snapped to attention.

A grey-haired Cardassian wearing a legate's badge entered followed by Admiral Mukwotho. Their chairs were at the head of the table.

"Please be seated," Dyoldas said immediately turning to the PADDs laid out in front of him. He began whispering to Mukwotho as he made note of a few briefing items. Tigranian couldn't help but respect Dyoldas, even though the two of them had spent most of their careers calling each other enemies. The old Cardassian had a pronounced scar next to his forehead spoon that was the result of a Klingon mek'leth to the head six years before. He had distinguished himself as a fleet commander during the Dominion War, and was one of the legates who switched sides during the Battle of Cardassia to assist the allied landings. Now, he was the senior military officer in the entire Cardassian Republic and probably the most experienced combat leader in the room.

"Are you ready to begin, Sir?" Admiral Mukwotho asked Legate Dyoldas respectfully. The old officer nodded. "Commander Richey," Mukwotho then said to the staff officer. "It's your briefing."

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Richey began while taking her place behind a podium, "Please refer to the briefing packets in front of you for the written notes."

Those seated at the table picked up the PADDs as Richey, the G3 operations officer for Federation Forces Cardassia, began speaking:

"Less than a week ago, a separatist group identified as the Soldiers of Akarath claimed responsibility for a bombing that destroyed the Romulan Defense Ministry…"

Tigranian took a deep breath. Only Annabeth noticed.

"The Romulan High Command blames Starfleet for the continued activities of this group and their attempt to gain independence from the Star Empire. As a result, the Romulans have mobilized their fleets for possible retaliation in both their home space as well as the Cardassian State. The Cardassian State has also mobilized honoring their joint-defense pact with Romulus…"

A three-dimensional holographic image of the border between the Republic of Cardassia and the Cardassian State appeared in mid-air above the conference table.

"Our joint-intelligence efforts as well as our deep sensor nets have detected Romulan naval movements in the Dopa and Quinor systems of the CS. There have been corresponding deployments from People's Fleet of the Cardassian State bases in the Unefra, Lazon, and Kelrabi systems…"

"Do we believe that these troop movements are just posturing or do any of them pose a direct threat to our territorial integrity?" Legate Dyoldas asked firmly.

"G2?" Mukwotho asked a Federation staff captain four seats down from Tigranian.

"Not at this time, Sir," a staff captain said respectfully. "Running through our simulations it would take at least 43 hours for these fleets to merge into a coherent attack force. We've identified several possible stellar assemble areas and other NAIs we have directed our intel assets to monitor in order to provide early warning."

This seemed to satisfy Dyoldas who nodded for Richey to continue.

"However, we have identified a developing issue on the border that may provide more localized threats to MDL stability…"

The holoimage zoomed in on two Cardassian State planets just inside the border.

"The Lissek and Warlan systems are located less than one billion kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line and both contain populated, Class M planets. For some time, the Cardassian State has had concerns that they are too close Republic Space and could provide possible staging areas for persons looking to flee. It appears that they are taking advantage of the current situation to conduct forcible relocation of the populations…"

"I'm sorry," Tigranian said speaking up. Everyone in the room turned to look at him. Quan turned white as a sheet. "Forcible Relocation? Is that some kind of euphemism I'm not aware of?"

Mukwotho looked annoyed, but Dyoldas' face remained like stone.

Richey cleared her throat.

"Well Sir," she explained to Tigranian, "the Cardassian State appears to be removing all civilians from their homes and moving them deeper into Cardassian State space. It also appears that a large portion of the populations are being sent to Romulan territory to act as supplementary labor."

"So, you're telling us that millions of people are being dragged from their homes at phaser point? On top of that crime against humanoidity, many of them will be used as slave labor on Romulus? Is that what you're trying to say?" Tigranian clarified.

"Yes Sir," Richey replied.

"Captain Tigranian," Mukwotho said forcefully. "You were asked here to observe this briefing. Not participate in it."

"Aye, Ma'am," Tigranian replied as Quan rubbed her eyes. "I'm sorry. The suffering of innocent people pisses me off. I like to call things how they are, not cover it up with flowery language."

"And please watch your language," Mukwotho added. "This is a professional environment."

"So this is Daniel Tigranian?" Dyoldas suddenly said.

"Yes Sir…" Mukwotho tried to explain. "I'm sorry for his outburst."

"Why, Admiral?" Dyoldas replied.

"Sir?" she said surprised.

"Why are you sorry that a Starfleet officer is showing genuine concern for the welfare of Cardassian families? Quite frankly, it's the most refreshing thing I've heard in the past month." Mukwotho was speechless. The legate turned to Tigranian.

"I especially didn't expect to hear it from a man with your reputation, Captain."

"Reputations are sometimes unwarranted, Legate," Tigranian replied.

"Is that so?" Dyoldas asked. "I suppose if a Starfleet officer, Klingon warrior, and husband of a Bajoran can express empathy for us," Dyoldas said turning to his staff, "there is hope for Cardassia after all." The other Cardassian officers laughed.

"I judge people by deeds, Sir," Tigranian clarified, "not by uniforms or nationality."

The other Starfleet officers nervously shifted as they realized that Tigranian had hijacked the entire meeting.

"And how do you judge me, Captain?" Dyoldas asked leaning on the table. "After all, I spent a few tours on Bajor in my forty years as a servant of Cardassia. Not to mention this little memento I received at the hands of the Klingons during the first war," he said pointing to his forehead.

"I judge you as a man who loves his country and would do anything to protect it. I also believe that seeing Cardassia split in two by foreign powers causes you more anger and pain that you are willing to admit to anyone."

The room fell dead silent.

"Jesus, Dan…" Annabeth whispered putting a hand over her face.

Dyoldas fell back into his seat.

"You are quite perceptive, Captain…" he said with a deep breath, "…and you are right. The reason I stay in this uniform is the hope that one day Cardassia will again be one. I don't know if I'll live to see it, I don't know if my children will live to see it, but perhaps my grandchildren will.

And those being 'forcibly relocated'," Dyoldas said glancing towards Richey, "are as much Cardassian as I am. Under the Republican Constitution, each one of them is a Republic citizen being held hostage by a foreign power. Unfortunately, I find myself in the disgraceful position that I cannot rescue them. I don't even have the ships to spare to look the Cardassian State collaborators in the eye as they sell their birthright in exchange for another day of life," he suddenly turned to Mukwotho, "but you might..."

He leaned over and whispered into the Admiral's ear. She briefly shut her eyes and then opened them again.

"Owing to the new found…confidence…that Legate Mukwotho has in the abilities of Captain Tigranian and Captain Quan," she began. The Pershing will proceed to the Lissek System. The Nelson will move to the Warlan system. Your jobs will be to show the Cardassian State that we are aware of what they are doing, and have the ability to respond if they violate Republic Territory. The bulk of the Triple Alliance fleets will move to defensive positions along the border to respond to any larger aggression. However, let me be clear, Captain Tigranian, Captain Quan, you are neither to violate Cardassian State Territory nor fire unless fired upon. Am I clear?"

"Yes Ma'am!" Tigranian and Quan said in unison. Mukwotho flashed another look in Tigranian's direction. "Before we continue this briefing," the Vice Admiral added, "I request that we hold all other questions and comments until the end. Commander Richey, please go on."

Quan looked like she wanted to reach over and punch Tigranian in the face.

"I think they're mad at you, Dan," Annabeth whispered into her captain's ear.

"Is it something I said?" he whispered back sarcastically. She literally put a hand over her mouth to keep from laughing.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Lissek System: Republic of Cardassia/Cardassian State Border

Stardate: 54509.1

The Pershing dropped out of warp just inside the Military Demarcation Line, or MDL in Starfleet memos. It was the invisible line in space dividing the two Cardassias. Less than ten AU away, the Cardassian State fleet was already hard at work. Five Galor Class cruisers ringed the fourth planet of the system. Two D'Deridex Romulan warbirds hung in space a few thousand kilometers behind and observed the chaos. Tigranian rubbed his chin as he realized they were probably dispatched in case one Starfleet showed up.

"I'm here now, you green-blooded bastards," he thought to himself. "Get a good look."

The Cardassians were marshalling civilian craft of all types and sizes into long convoys. Most were pointed on a heading that led deeper into Cardassian State Space. Two unfortunate groups were pointed in a direction that would lead them on a path towards the Romulan Star Empire.

Tigranian looked over from his chair towards Annabeth.

"Phil," Annabeth said from the first officer's chair after a deep breath. "Keep us at least 10,000 kilometers from the border. We don't want to get sucked into that shitshow by accident."

"Aye, Ma'am," he replied from the helm.

"By the Prophets," Laria muttered from the science station. "It's just like Bajor 30 years ago. We fought a war, but nothing has changed."

"Quite a bit has changed, L," Annabeth said. "Now, at least half of Cardassia is free and the other half is merely murdering itself."

Tigranian ignored the exchange as he rose to his feet.

"Katie," he said staring at the scene unfolding on the viewscreen, "Put civilian subspace frequency 327.90 on audio."

"Aye Sir," Katie replied pressing her controls.

"Attention, Residents of Lissek," a Cardassian voice echoed across the bridge. "This is a mandatory evacuation order issued by the People's Central Command of the Cardassian State. You are in danger of attack by Imperialist Forces of the United Federation of Planets and their collaborators in the Republic of Cardassia. You will be resettled on safer worlds deeper inside Cardassian State Space. Report to your evacuation stations with the prescribed packing list and your identification data rods.

Citizens selected for the Romulan-Cardassian Labor Exchange Program, will report to designated muster points immediately. Families are not authorized to accompany those selected for the Labor Exchange. Failure to report by your designated muster time will result in criminal penalties for both the offender and the offender's family members.

Our Romulan allies are here to assist you. Treat them with respect."

The message repeated.

"Turn it off," Tigranian said collapsing back into his chair. He felt absolutely powerless. His orders only authorized him to sit back and watch the horror unfolding in front of him.

"What can we do?" Annabeth asked softly looking towards him.

"There's nothing we can do," Tigranian replied steepling his fingers.

Suddenly, a Cardassian civilian transport broke ranks from one of the Romulus bound convoys. They blasted their impulse engines at full power in a desperate bid to get across the border to the Republic.

Tigranian and Annabeth jumped from their seats.

"Red Alert!" Tigranian shouted. "Weapons may start flying from that direction. I wanna be ready."

"Aye, Sir," Katie shouted as alarms echoed across the entire ship. The captain's instincts proved correct. One of the Galor class cruisers about faced and raced towards the offending ship.

"C'mon! C'mon!" Tigranian shouted at the viewscreen. If the ship made it across the border, they would be safe. If they were caught, he didn't want to watch the results.

The tiny, overloaded Cardassian freighter nearly ripped itself apart, but it managed to reach the MDL and cross into Republic space just in time. The bridge crew was about to let out a cheer, but to their horror, the Galor cruiser shot a yellow tractor beam from its bow. It grabbed the tiny vessel and held it fast. The Pershing was now witness to a terrifying tug-of-war where the freighter was fighting with all it's might to stay in freedom, but the Cardassian State cruiser was trying to pull it back across.

"Laria," Tigranian said desperately. "I need an EXACT position of those ships."

"Confirmed," she said quickly. "The freighter is twenty kilometers on our side, but the Cardassian ship is still thirty kilometers inside State space.

"Qu'vatlh!" Tigranian shouted in total frustration. "Katie, open a channel to the Cardassian Ship."

"Open Sir," she replied.

"Cardassian State Vessel, you are projecting an unauthorized tractor beam over the Military Demarcation Line in violation of the Non-Aggression Pact. Deactivate it immediately!"

"No response, Sir," Katie said.

"Sir," Laria jumped in. "The Galor has increased power to its tractor beam. The freighter's structural integrity field is going critical. They'll be ripped to pieces in less than thirty seconds."

Tigranian turned to the screen. External bulkheads and hull ruptures started forming across the tiny freighter's hull as they struggled to break free of their pursuers. The Galor began to reel them back towards their side of the border.

"Sir," Katie said. "Receiving a transmission from the freighter." She put it on speakers before the captain asked.

"Federation starship! Please help us!" its captain pleaded in total desperation. "They're sending us to Romulus to die! They're sending us…"

The transmission abruptly disconnected.

Tigranian looked around the bridge at the faces of his officers. Finally, he spoke.

"Computer, make note in the ship's log. The actions of which I am about to undertake are my responsibility and mine alone. Begin recording holographic visual record file with all concurrent sensor data on flight data recorder from this mark. Authorization, Tigranian Omega 3-6 Tango. Mark."

"Acknowledged," the computer replied. The color drained from Annabeth's face. She knew the captain would only give that command if he was about to do something that could get him arrested.

"Katie," Tigranian said. "Lock phasers onto the source of the Cardassian's tractor beam and fire.

"Aye Sir," she replied with a deep breath. An orange beam shot out from the Pershing's saucer and slammed into the tractor emitter on the Galor. The Cardassian shipped lurched and drifted away as the freighter broke free and zoomed safely out of reach.

"Good shooting, Katie!" Tigranian shouted, but his elation was short lived. Explosions began bursting through the Galor's hull.

"Sir!" Laria shouted. "The Cardassian's structural field has completely destabilized. They were pouring so much power into their tractor emitters, that the phaser hit created a feedback loop."

In an instant, the Galor exploded into massive fireball.

"Survivors?" Tigranian asked. Laria only shook her head.

Immediately, panic rushed through the other Cardassian ships which thought the weapons fire was the start of a larger Starfleet attack. They broke and ran deeper into State space. The long lines of civilian craft saw their opportunity to flee. Most ran away from the border, but a few took the chance to join the other freighter in the safety of the Republic. They gunned their engines and attempted their own runs towards freedom.

Immediately, the two D'Deridex warbirds jumped into action. They flew towards the helpless, fleeing ships. In a matter of seconds, a hail of green disruptor blasts turned their poor occupants into nothing but ionized vapor.

"No!" Tigranian shouted as his heart filled with rage. The two warbirds armed their plasma torpedoes which caused their fearsome, beaked noses to glow bright green. "Katie, lock all weapons on the Romulans. If they move to engage, fire everything we have!"

Then, as quickly as it began, the two Romulan vessels disappeared behind their cloaking shields. The Pershing was alone in space staring out a huge field of glowing debris. Until one minute, it was a small fleet of ships and their innocent passengers. Now, it was a monument to an atrocity.

Tigranian clenched his fists until blood ran from his palms. He tried to steady himself as he realized that shots had been fired, tens of thousands were dead, and the galaxy was now even closer to war. More horrifically, he realized that it was all his fault.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Tarnal System: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54509.4

"You better be damned grateful that President Zife was able to talk down Proconsul Semachs and the rest of the Romulan Senate!" Murphy roared at Tigranian all the way from Cardassia Prime. The captain sat in his ready room and stared at the image of his boss on the desktop monitor. "They wanted to retaliate with a full offensive against the Republic of Cardassia and the Federation simultaneously! The President had to issue a formal apology to the Cardassian State for the loss of their vessel and its crew. The Federation Council is up in arms and Starfleet is publicly humiliated."

"That vessel violated the integrity of the MDL with their tractor beam first, Sir," Tigranian said through gritted teeth. "I acted fully within Starfleet rules of the engagement and the terms of the Non-Aggression Pact. It's all in my report."

"It's gonna take a lot more than just your report to put out this fire," Murphy replied. "Do you understand how bad this is? People want your head on a platter. Protests are erupting from Earth all the way out to Archanis."

"Do the protestors give a shit about the thousand refugees that are now free because of us or the hundred thousand refugees that the Romulans murdered in cold blood?" Tigranian countered as he felt his own temper rising.

"We're a democracy, Dan," Murphy replied. "The people rule and right now they're more concerned that your actions almost dragged a hundred billion people into another catastrophic war. The Federation has gone through about eight of its nine lives already. The days of Kirk-style phaser diplomacy are dead."

"What the hell good are principles like humanoid rights or democracy if you ignore them when things get difficult?" Tigranian said staring back at the screen.

"Are you listening?" Murphy shouted. "President Zife is up for re-election and his approval rating is at an all-time low. The public is tired from six years of constant conflict and they want this Cold War to end. After all, we're supposed to be explorers…even though I can't remember the last time I explored anything," Murphy paused. "Zife's ordered a full Admiral's inquiry into your actions at Lissek. It could lead to a court martial."

"A court martial?" Tigranian said incredulously. "Is it for real this time?"

"This is funny to you!? You think this is a joke?" Murphy said looking like he wanted to reach through the screen and choke his petulant subordinate.

"I'm just tired of being the blunt instrument the Federation needs out here but refuses to acknowledge," Tigranian replied rubbing his eyes.

"Oh, you can shut the hell up right now, Captain!" Murphy screamed. "I am so sick of your 'holier than thou' bullshit! I have spent the better part of ten years covering your ass and I AM DONE.

You don't do any of your stupid shit because the Federation needs it. You do it because it makes you feel superior to everyone who doesn't subscribe to your narrow, bellicose definition of 'honor.' You're insolent, you're arrogant, and let's not forget this whole f*cking situation is because the man you begged for us to send back to Romulus set off a bomb!

Well, Starfleet was around a long time before you, and it will be around a long time after you…" he paused again "…and that might be a lot sooner than you think. Get your ass to Cardassia Prime. It is 'for real' this time, and I don't know how it's gonna end for you. Murphy out."

The screen cut out to the blue and white seal of the Federation. As it stared back at him, he felt like the entire nation was indicting him. He had been fighting for his country most of his adult life, and now he wasn't sure if that meant anything at all. The quiet, background thrum of the ship droned in his ears. As he stared around his empty office, he felt truly alone.


Tigranian sat on the carpet of his quarters and leaned back against the side of the bed. His glassy eyes stared out at the stars rushing past as the Pershing made its way towards Cardassia Prime. His shoes and jacket were off, and a half-empty glass of brown liquor was in his hand.

Suddenly, a stuffed pugabeast landed on his shoulder.

"SNORT, SNORT!" the beast grunted while bouncing up and down.

"Hi, Rijo," Tigranian said not taking his eyes away from the window.

"SNORT, SNORT!" Rijo repeated. Tigranian didn't budge. Laria placed her stuffed animal on the bed before sitting cross-legged behind her husband.

"Wow, Rijo usually cheers you right up," Laria said before reaching out and beginning to rub Tigranian's neck. He immediately leaned back into her touch. "By the Prophets, Daniel," she said moving her fingers up and down his spine. "Your muscles have knots that feel like they're made out of solid duranium."

"It's been a rough couple of days," he said taking a sip from his glass.

"Is that really the solution?" she asked skeptically.

"Can't hurt right now," he muttered.

"Do you wanna watch an episode of Battlecruiser: Vengeance?" she asked hopefully. He shook his head. "How about we go to the holodeck and kill some skull-faced monsters?" He shook his head again.

Laria's eyes darted back and forth as she tried to think of something else.

"Do you want me to put on that black lace bra and panty set you like so much?" she asked while raising her eyebrows. The thought actually got a small grin out of Tigranian.

"Maybe later…" he said briefly glancing up before turning back towards space. She sighed.

"Daniel, I went back over the sensor logs. There is no way you could have known that phaser hit would destroy the Cardassian ship. You did everything right. Everyone on that bridge will back you up. Plus, you have the holo-recording from the flight data recorder. It's going to be fine."

He reached up and rubbed his eyes.

"Can I confess something to you?" he said barely loud enough to be heard.

"Of course," she said softly.

"I don't know if I want to do this anymore."

"What do you mean?" she asked nervously.

"I mean having every action put under scrutiny. Always being judged by people who weren't there. Watching the other side violate every single value we supposedly hold dear and then having to apologize for trying to stop them."

"It's our jobs, Daniel," Laria said wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "That's what Starfleet does."

"Is it?" he asked glancing back towards her. "Cause it's not what I signed up for."

"What do any of us sign up for?" she replied. "Just the chance to make a difference, right? I can assure you, you make a difference every day."

"Make a difference to who?" he asked. "To the admirals investigating me? To the people back in the Fed who paint my name on a sign next to the word 'Murderer'? Certainly not to those people in the civilian ships that the Romulans destroyed. I just stood there and watched it happen."

Laria shut her eyes as she felt the pain in her husband's heart.

"Well, you make a difference to me." She leaned forward and kissed the top of his head. He reached up and grasped her hand. They simply sat and watched the stars together in silence.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
In Orbit of Cardassia Prime: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54510.1

Tigranian knelt over a pair of leather dress boots with a cotton cloth in one hand and a round tin of black parade gloss in the other. He methodically transferred small dabs of thick polish onto the surface of the shoes, and slowly brought out a mirror shine on the exterior of the shoes. The holoscreen in his quarters was tuned to the SFN morning news in the background.

"We now go live to Slyvan Dorshala at the Federation Forces Cardassia Headquarters on Cardassia Prime…" the talking head announced to his live audience, unaware that one of them was the target of the report.

Tigranian wasn't sure how many times he polished uniform shoes in his career. It must have been over several thousand by now. When he first learned the activity his plebe year at the Academy, he hated it. It seemed like an archaic and pointless ritual. After all, why waste the energy to polish your shoes when you could simply replicate a new, perfect pair after every use?

However, as the instructors hammered the activity home with every formation and cadet review, his view of the activity began to change. The more times he dabbed the surface of the tin's black polish with a cloth, the more times he brought out the gloss in his standard issue footwear, the more pride he began to feel. It wasn't a sign of his organization's ancient traditions. It was a sign of discipline. It was a sign of dedication to the uniform. It was the price of admission one paid to say you were a member of Starfleet…

"It has been a tense three days here on Cardassia Prime," Dorshala began his report from the planet below. "A panel of five Starfleet Admirals has been conducting its investigation into the Lissek Border Incident or what many back in the Federation have dubbed the 'Tigranian Affair,' the latest controversy surrounding embattled Starfleet Captain Daniel Tigranian, commander of the starship, USS Pershing…"

Tigranian, satisfied with his handiwork, placed the shoes on his feet and zipped them over his ankles. He then expertly cuffed his pressed black and gold striped mess trousers over his low quarters…

"The admirals have reviewed hours of holo-recordings from the ship's flight data recorder, eye-witness testimony from members of the Pershing's bridge crew, as well as testimony from representatives of both the Cardassian State and Romulan Star Empires. Yesterday was especially emotional as both Governor Torlek of the Klingon Defense Forces and Legate Dyoldas of the Cardassian Republican Guard offered their own opinions of the defendant's character.

Members of the media have been given unprecedented access to the proceedings by President Zife who has promised greater transparency to the public on all Starfleet operations…"

Tigranian moved to his white mess jacket hanging on his wardrobe. He went over every centimeter with a small ruler and ensured each medal, award, and badge was exactly in its proper place. He paid special attention to the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor hanging next to his comm badge. It was Starfleet's highest award, and he wanted to reflect it. He took a few extra moments to polish the surface with another small cloth. It brought the phrase "SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS" ringing a portrait of the award's namesake to a bright sheen…

"Before adjourning yesterday evening, the admiral's announced that they will render their decision this morning on whether to pursue criminal charges against Daniel Tigranian for destroying the Cardassian State warship, Lorkrana, in Cardassian State territory almost two weeks ago. Many across the United Federation of Planets have taken to the streets to protest what they see as Starfleet's growing violence as well as the organization's influence on Federation government," Dorshala said before the screen cut to a pre-recorded interview with a protestor outside of the Presidential Palace in central Paris. The Rigellian carried a piece of posterboard that read:


He was surrounded by hundreds of other people carrying similar signs. A reporter held a microphone up to the man's mouth.

"You know, we're sick of it," the man said shaking his head. "Starfleet is supposed to go out there and just explore, you know? Make new friends, not new enemies. Instead, they just kill people without regard to what the Federation is really about. The war has been over for almost three years. The Dominion is gone. Zife has got to stop these people so we can take our country back. If he won't listen, then he'll be gone after the next election and we'll get some real leaders up in here."

Tigranian slipped his white jacket off its hanger and placed his hands through the sleeves. He zipped up its front and pulled down sharply on the hem. Dorshala returned to the holoscreen.

"We've already received permission from Starfleet to have our cameras broadcasting live from the tribunal chamber as the admirals' decision is announced. Regardless of the outcome, I'm sure that many in the Federation will have something to say about it. Reporting live for the Federation News Service, this is Slyvan Dorshala on Cardassia Prime."

Tigranian inspected himself in a mirror.

"Computer," he said without stopping his self-inspection. "Holoscreen off."

The image disappeared on the far side of the room. A few seconds later, Laria entered from the bathroom wearing her regular black and grey duty uniform. Only the defendant had to be in mess dress this morning.

"You look sharp," she said trying to sound reassuring. She walked over and swept her hands over his shoulders.

"The least I can do is to look professional as they judge my professionalism…" he said.

"Hey," she replied turning his head to look into her eyes. "No matter what happens today, I'll be right beside you."

"I know," he said. "And I love you."

The front door to their quarters chimed.

"Come in," Tigranian said already knowing who it was. The doors parted to reveal Annabeth.

"They're signaling they're ready for us to beam down." She and Laria would be the only members of the Pershing's crew joining him on the surface. Everyone else would be watching from the ship. Torlek, as a VIP member of a foreign military, had been granted a seat in the tribunal chamber to be with his brother as his fate was announced.

Tigranian took a final deep breath.

"Whelp, let's get to it," he said heading towards the doors of his quarters. As he emerged into the hallway, he froze. Both sides of the corridor were lined with every member of the Pershing's complement.

"Captain on Deck!" Lieutenant Hawkins shouted from outside of the Tigranians'door. "Attention!"

The supportive phalanx of red, gold, and green all stood ramrod straight in unison.

"They knew they couldn't stand with you on the surface," Annabeth explained from behind Tigranian. "So, they all wanted you to know they would be standing with you up here…"

Tigranian choked back his emotions. After wiping his eyes, he put on his best stoic face and began the long march with Annabeth and Laria following behind. As he passed by the men and women who had become his family over the past three years, he hoped it wouldn't be for the last time as their captain.

Finally, the trio arrived outside of the transporter room. T'les, Scharr, Phil, Katie, and Katan were all waiting.

"Don't be gone too long, Sir," Scharr said with a confident smirk. "We need to get back to work."

"I'm afraid that's not entirely up to me, Tren," Tigranian replied after forcing a smile. "But I think it will to turn out alright."

"It's illogical to assume otherwise, Sir," T'les said.

"I'll keep the impulse engines warm," Phil added. "They'll be ready to go for you to give the word to break orbit."

Tigranian nodded. Suddenly, Katan reached out a hand.

"I haven't been here long, but it's been an honor, Sir," the Betazoid said.

"Yes, it has." Tigranian turned to Katie. "Lieutenant Lexington, you have the conn."

"Aye Sir," Katie said smiling as Tigranian disappeared into the transporter room.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Tigranian sat at a small table in front of a raised platform where five empty seats waited for the admirals in charge of the hearing. Behind a low railing, a large audience of Starfleet officers, civilian dignitaries, and News Service reporters all looked on from the galleries. Their cameras were all trained on the captain's face.

Tigranian did his best to show no sign of anxiety. He was sure that back on Earth, a slew of anchors, talking heads, and so-called "experts" were commenting on every move he made to an audience of billions. His insides were screaming, but he still did not want to give them the satisfaction of seeing him sweat.

Laria, Annabeth, and Torlek sat a few meters away from Tigranian. The captain was disgusted that his brother had once again been forced to put his own personal honor at stake for his actions. It made him feel like less of a Klingon and less of a man. He wondered how, or even if, he could ever repay him.

"All rise!" a junior Starfleet officer said signaling the entrance of the tribunal. The room climbed to its feet as Murphy entered followed by Vice-Admiral Mukwotho and three other flag officers. All were also dressed in their mess whites. As Commander of Federation Forces Cardassia, Murphy took the middle seat on the platform. Mukwotho sat immediately to his right, and the other three filled in the remaining places. Murphy reached forward and rang a small ship's bell three times to bring the proceedings to order.

"All except the defendant, please be seated," Murphy said. There was a brief sound of shuffling chairs behind Tigranian as the room complied. "Before we render our decision," Murphy said looking down at the man he used to take such pride in mentoring, "do you have any statements you wish to enter into record, Captain Tigranian?"

Tigranian stood rigidly staring right back at his old friend.

"No Sir," he replied. "All that I wish to say was entered as part of my testimony."

"As you wish," Murphy said bringing a PADD in front of him. He briefly looked over at the news cameras before beginning to read his prepared statement. "This has been a difficult case for Starfleet, but after hearing relevant testimony, this tribunal believes it not only has a firm grasp on the events which occurred at Lissek on Stardate 54509.1, but also better understanding of the defendant's motivations prior to his actions that resulted in the destruction of the Cardassian State Ship, Lorkrana.

Keeping all relevant evidence in mind, we, the investigating officers of this admiral's inquiry convened by the President of the United Federation of Planets, do hereby render the following decision:

That the actions of Captain Daniel V. Tigranian of the USS Pershing at the Lissek System on Stardate 54509.1 were intended to safeguard the welfare of civilians and were not conducted with criminal intent or negligence. In light of these facts, we recommend that no criminal charges be levied against him and these proceedings not continue to full court martial…"

An audible gasp passed through the audience. Tigranian briefly allowed himself a bit of joy. Laria let out a muffled cry of happiness behind him.

"However…" Murphy suddenly added with a tone like ice. Instantly, the mood of the chambers grew heavy once more. "Captain Tigranian's use of force could be considered by reasonable observers to be reckless and not consistent with the core values of the United Federation of Planets. His actions led to the unnecessary deaths of 473 Cardassian State Naval personnel, the loss of a Cardassian State vessel, and contributed to the further instability of relations between the Romulus Pact and the Triple Alliance at a difficult period when restraint is warranted. Both the President and the People of the United Federation of Planets have lost confidence in his abilities…"

Tigranian braced himself for the crushing words that he knew would follow.

"Therefore," Murphy said averting his eyes with a hint of shame, "Captain Tigranian's commission is revoked and he will be immediately discharged from Starfleet."

Another gasp went through the room. Then, things fell absolutely silent. Tigranian gripped the sides of table to prevent from keeling over. It was if he had been stabbed through the gut with a blunt knife. In an instant, everything he had worked for was ripped away. His ship, his crew, and his career were gone. The glint of his Christopher Pike Medal briefly caught his eye in the lights of the room. Then, his gaze shifted to his Starfleet insignia. The realization hit that he was no longer permitted to wear it.

Without another word, he reached up, pulled off his comm badge, and placed it on the table in front of him. He then stiffened his spine and stared back at the tribunal. He knew how many people were watching, and he would face them with all the bravery he could muster. He would face them like a Klingon.

Just as Murphy was reaching up to ring the ship's bell, Tigranian caught a flash of black and grey in his peripheral vision.

"Lieutenant Tigranian," Vice Admiral Mukwotho said sharply from her seat next to Murphy. "You have not been given permission to step forward. Please return to your seat."

Tigranian turned to see Laria glaring at the admirals with a look of utter betrayal and anger in her face. Without a word, she reached up, ripped off her own comm badge, and let it drop to the floor. His wife had kept her word. She was right beside him.

Murphy briefly buried his head in his hands and then sighed.

"Recorder, please make a note in the official transcript," Murphy added sadly. "Lieutenant Tigranian Laria officially resigned her Starfleet commission at 0943 hours on Stardate 54510.1. Her security clearance and access to all Starfleet facilities is hereby revoked."

Behind the railing, Annabeth rose to her feet. She walked to face the tribunal and began reaching for her own comm badge. A hand reached out and grabbed her wrist. Tigranian leaned over and whispered in her ear:

"No, the Pershing is yours now," he said softly.

"Not like this," Annabeth replied with quiet desperation. "Not like this, Dan."

"We don't have a choice. She's your ship, and they're your crew. You have to take care of them, Captain. I stand relieved."

Annabeth's lip quivered as she realized she was saying goodbye to her commander on live holovision.

"Tell Max," Tigranian whispered fighting back tears of his own. "Tell him I love him, and that I'm sorry…"

Tigranian and Laria both turned to exit to the chamber. Before they went two steps, a voice boomed through the room.

"MEVYAP!" Torlek howled rising to his feet. The old Klingon slowly walked from the gallery towards Tigranian and Laria. He spoke with a voice that reminded all present of the sea before the arrival of a tempest.

"I once told my brother that his place was back among his own people," Torlek began slowly pacing back and forth in front of the admirals like a wild beast about to pounce on prey. "At the time, I thought this meant the Federation, but I see now that I was wrong…"

"Lord Torlek," Admiral Murphy said while nervously glancing towards the reporters and news cameras watching every second of this drama unfold live. "Though we always appreciate the input of our closest ally, this is a Federation matter. If the Klingon Empire would like to make a statement, please wait until the tribunal has closed."

"I am a Klingon warrior, Human!" Torlek roared even louder and angrier than before. He then pointed a finger directly at Murphy's heart. "I speak whenever it suits me."

The admirals were so shell-shocked, they had no response.

"The Klingon Empire is your ally because we believed that you are an honorable nation guided by the twin pillars of duty and loyalty," he said before turning his burning eyes directly towards the cameras. "But today we see that the Federation is merely guided by the selfish and fickle whims of the mob. You say the actions of Captain Tigranian were done to protect the innocent, yet you condemn him because you fear your enemies. Ha'DibaHpu. The actions of this tribunal today were the actions of cowards, and the Klingon Empire does not ally itself with cowards…we conquer them."

Torlek turned back towards the admirals.

"I will speak to the Chancellor and the High Council. It will be their decision whether or not we must re-evaluate the Khitomer Accords. However, by my own authority as Lord Governor of Ty'Gokor and Military Chief of Staff, the following changes are immediately in effect." With every sentence, he took a step closer to Murphy and Mukwotho to hammer his points home. "No Klingon troops will be placed under the command of any Federation officer. No Klingon ships will participate in any action with Starfleet without the presence of a KDF flag officer. Finally, no Klingon resources will be allocated to any Federation operation in the Republic of Cardassia without express approval from the Imperial jenSa' on Cardassia Prime."

The color then drained from the admirals' faces. Klingon forces were critical for their operations. These new policies would effectively cripple their ability to secure the Cardassian Republic. However, the live holovision audience meant they had to save face.

"Lord Torlek," Murphy said after loudly clearing his throat, "that will put a significant strain on our resources at a critical time."

"Also, Sir," Mukwotho interjected, "the position of Imperial jenSa' is currently vacant. How can we negotiate operations with a counterpart that we do not have?"

Torlek grinned and confidently backed away.

"You know, Admiral," he replied matter-of-factly, "you are absolutely correct."

Suddenly, he turned.

"Daniel, Son of Tigranian," Torlek commanded. "Step forward." Tigranian's feet obeyed before his brain could process what was happening. "By the power vested in me by the High Chancellor of the Klingon People, I hereby grant you commission in the Klingon Defense Forces at the rank of general and position of Imperial jenSa', Commander of all Klingons in Cardassia. Do you accept?"

Admiral Murphy slammed his hands down on the table in front of him. Tigranian shook briefly, but then stood straight. He balled his hands into fists and placed them both over his heart.

"Lord Torlek," Tigranian replied with a deep breath. "I accept the lives of all Klingons in Cardassia into my hands. De'lak DoH!"

"Very good, General Daniel, Son of Tigranian," Torlek said with a smile and nod. "With your new position, of course, comes the ability to commission whatever officers you choose to serve under you," he said glancing at Laria. She grinned with understanding.

"jIyaj, My Lord," Tigranian replied with a respectful nod.

Torlek then turned back to the admirals.

"He now speaks for the Empire in Cardassia," he said pointing at Tigranian for emphasis. "Remember this until your dying breaths, BiHnuchpu, disrespect and dishonor are things that Klingons can never forgive, nor forget," Torlek said before balling his fists and throwing his gauntlets across his chest. "tlhIngan maH taHjaj!" he shouted before turning his back towards them.

"tlhIngan maH taHjaj!" Laria echoed before crossing her arms and turning her own back.

Tigranian looked back towards his old mentor with the last bit of human sentimentality he could muster. Torlek whispered towards him in tlhIngan Hol:

"They have made their choice, Brother. Now, you must make yours."

Tigranian gritted his teeth, raised his fists next to his head, and roared loud enough for the entire Federation to hear him:

"tlhIngan maH taHjaj!"

Then, he slammed his arms into his chest and turned his back on humanity for the final time.

Without another word, Torlek exited the chamber with Tigranian and Laria on his heels. Annabeth was now the one who found herself alone and staring into the confused and terrified faces of Starfleet's leaders.
Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
Twenty-Four Hours Later

En route to Grengall System: Republic of Cardassia

"And they didn't even return to the ship to say goodbye?" Alex asked into her subspace terminal back on Earth.

"No," Annabeth said shaking her head. She was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and had a massive glass of wine in her hand. "They merely beamed their belongings to the surface and that was it."

"That's terrible," Alex said briefly pausing for a moment of quiet reflection before dipping a brightly colored plastic spoon back into a bowl full of pureed carrots. "C'mon, Little Man," Alex said trying to maneuver the spoon into Max's tightly closed mouth. As he banged his hands on his high chair's tray, their son had as much food on his bib and face as he did in his belly. "I spend all day trying to teach whiny med students the differences between four, six, and eight chambered hearts. Then, I come home and I can't get this kid to eat, Beth," Alex said with frustration. "Compared to what you're going through right now, I know that probably seems pretty pathetic, but that's my war right now."

Annabeth smiled and gently ran her hand down the image of her wife's face. She wished with all her heart that she was back home right now with her family instead of in a foreign land trying to feel her way through the hardest challenge of her career.

"No, Babe," Annabeth said shaking her head. "It doesn't sound pathetic at all." She paused briefly. "If I feel this torn up while back on the Pershing supported by everyone I know, I can't imagine how Dan and Laria are feeling right now."

Alex sighed as she briefly glanced over her shoulder to Max's bat'leth hanging on the living room wall.

"They obviously did what they felt was right, Beth," Alex said gazing into the subspace terminal. "I think all we can do is accept that and move on."

"Yeah," Annabeth said rubbing her eyes. "I guess that's all we can do."

Alex tried again in frustration to get another spoonful of baby food into Max's mouth, but the child was still not having any of it. He tightly pursed his lips shut, squeeled, and whipped his head back and forth. "C'mon, Max. It's good for you. It will help you grow up big and strong."

"Oh, mein kleiner Mann," Annabeth said cooing her son across the galaxy in German. "Isst bitte. Gemüse sind gut für dich." The attempted language shift had no effect and Max continued to obstinately refuse his dinner. Alex rolled her eyes and dropped the spoon back into the bowl.

"I'm running out of ideas here," the poor doctor said dropping her head down on the kitchen table. Annabeth couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "This isn't funny, Beth," Alex immediately countered.

"I'm sorry, Babe," Annabeth said shaking her head. "But from a hundred lightyears away, it kinda is."

"I'll remember that the next time you're back here and have to try to feed him dinner."

"I would expect nothing less."

The conversation inevitably drifted back to life on the Pershing.

"So, is it final that you're taking over as permanent captain?" Alex asked.

"Not yet," Annabeth said, "but I was able to speak with Admiral Murphy after the News Service finally left. "He thinks that with all the chaos surrounding Dan and Laria's departure, a little stability is what the crew needs right now. He's going to speak with Admiral Paris as soon as things die down a little and lock it in. I don't think he'll have any problems convincing him to see it his way."

"How is the crew doing?" Alex asked next.

"They're pretty shaken up," Annabeth answered honestly. "I sat down with the senior staff in the ward room yesterday and had a long talk. They'll feeling betrayed by both sides right now: at Starfleet for axing Dan and at the Tigranians for walking off into the sunset without so much as a 'thank you.' I think Phil said it best when he said it was "like finding out your brother and sister didn't care for you as much as you cared for them."

"Oh no," Alex said shaking her head. "I don't think that's it all. I think the reason that Dan and Laria didn't say goodbye is that it would have been far too painful to lose their lives, their country, and their friends on the same day."

Annabeth grinned and shook her head.

"What?" Alex asked.

"Nothing. It's just that I choosing to believe that the reason they didn't say goodbye is that we haven't seen the last of the Tigranians. Not by a long shot."

"I hope that's true," Alex said before gallantly trying one final time to feed their son a spoonful of carrots. "Ok, Max, see it's easy," she said raising the spoon to his tiny mouth. "Just open up and I'll pop it right in."

His mouth opened, but before Alex could pop the spoon in, a strange sound came out.

"gho…be'!" Max said before instantly closing his mouth again.

"What?" Annabeth gasped while lunging towards her screen.

"Max?" Alex asked dropping the spoon in shock.

"ghobe'!" Max repeated before beating his hands on the highchair tray again. "ghobe', ghobe', ghobe'!" he repeated while rhythmically pounding.

"Isn't that?" Alex said turning towards the screen.

"That's Klingon for 'no!' That's his first word!" Annabeth said covering her open mouth with her hands.

It seemed that the Tigranians were still closer than either of them thought…
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