Star Trek: New Horizons Episode 8 (Dulce et Decorum Est Part One) by captaintigranian
Summary: Tigranian and Laria visit her parents on Gault, but while the captain struggles to prove himself to her traditional Bajoran father, an old enemy threatens the safety of the Pershing.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10844 Read: 10239 Published: 21 Feb 2016 Updated: 03 Mar 2016

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
Kolani System: Federation Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53267.4

Laria’s war cry echoed across the valley a she slashed through a Cardassian Soldier with one of her mek’leths. Tigranian stood at her side, wielding his bat’leth in wide arcs around his head. Dozens of Cardassians lay dead at their feet, but an entire Order of troops continued to climb the side of the jagged mountain towards them. They were pinned between the advancing soldiers and the burning wreckage of a crashed Klingon Bird of Prey behind them.

Both Tigranian and Laria’s grey armor was splattered with bright red blood. Sweat poured from their brows and the two long braids of hair running down Laria’s back were starting to come undone.

Their enemies now had terror in their eyes at the sight of the two mighty warriors, but they still kept charging up the hill. At a brief lull between waves of attackers, Tigranian shouted.

“Fall back towards the wreckage!”

“Then we won’t be able to escape! We’ll be trapped,” Laria said raising her mek’leths in front of her.

“I don’t think there’s any escape from this one, L,” Tigranian said trying to catch his breath. He gripped his bat’leth tighter as the Cardassians grew closer. The two of them stepped backwards until they could go no further. At least two dozen enemy Soldiers surrounded them, raising their bayonets for a final charge.

“I guess I’m about to find out about Sto’Vo’Kor,” she said looking towards him with a smile.

“Maybe,” Tigranian said grinning back at her. “Or maybe it will be a victory worthy of epic story and song.”

“Today is a good day to die…” Laria said looking back towards their foes. He took in the beautiful sight of his par’Mach’kai, her face and arms glistening with perspiration in the fading light. It was at these moments he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with this woman, however brief that might end up being.

“Qapla’ My Love,” Tigranian said spinning his bat’leth back to the ready.

They screamed as they charged forward, weapons held high in defiance. The Cardassians prepared to meet their onslaught when a voice interrupted their battle.

“Bridge to Lieutenant Amira…”

“ghay’cha’,” Tigranian said halting his charge. “Computer, freeze program.”

Suddenly the world around the two of them stood still.

“Sorry, sorry” Laria said apologetically. She tapped the comm badge hidden under her grey armored vest. “Go ahead.”

“Forgive my interruption, but you have an incoming transmission from Gault. It’s coded personal.”

“Oh Prophets,” Laria said nervously. “Patch it through down here. Computer end program.” The mountainside, wreckage, and legion of violent Cardassians vanished into an empty space of grey paneling covered with orange lines.

“L, you didn’t save the program!” Tigranian said with annoyance. “Now, we’re gonna have to kill the entire Order again.”

“Not now, Daniel,” she said stepping towards the panel next to the door. “Computer, Towel!” A white cloth appeared out of thin air. She grabbed it and started furiously wiping off the sweat from her face and body. Luckily, the gore had disappeared with the rest of the holograms.

“What’s wrong?” he asked confused. “It’s just your parents.”

“Yes, but they don’t know about all this Klingon fighting.”

“You think that will be a problem?”

“It was hard enough to tell them I was bringing a human boy home for the Gratitude Festival, Daniel. Let’s take things one step at a time.” She placed her mek’leths at her feet and pressed “Receive.” The smiling faces of two older Bajorans appeared to greet her. When they saw how she was dressed, their happy expressions were replaced with mild confusion.

“Hi Mommy, Hi Daddy,” Laria said with a wave of her hand. Tigranian chuckled to himself at this shift in personality. Not ten minutes prior, he saw this same woman cut down a Cardassian sergeant while uttering a Klingon curse so vulgar it would make a Nausciaan’s toes curl.

“Hello,” Mrs. Amira said with a glance. “What is that you’re wearing?”

“Oh this?” Laria said feigning innocence. “It’s just a costume….I’m on a holodeck.”

“A holodeck?” Lanassa said skeptically. “You know those electronic fantasies rot your brain, Laria-ga-ne.”

“Mom…” Laria said annoyed. “Don’t call me that. I’m not a baby anymore.”

“Don’t speak to your mother that way,” Jion interjected. “You will always be our baby, even if you ran off to Starfleet and dress in ridiculous holodeck costumes.”

Tigranian put his hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter.

“I’m very proud of being in Starfleet, Dad,” she said glancing over to Tigranian. “Also, I didn’t run off anywhere. I’m talking to you right now.”

“So, this human ha’shen you’re bringing home for Peldor? Will we get to speak to him before he arrives or will he just appear on our doorstep like a deptossik?” Jion asked.

“Dad, Daniel is not a ha’shen. He’s a gentleman and a very well-respected Starfleet officer. Could you try to be a little more polite when you meet him?”

“How do I know if I should be polite when I don’t know the man? I’m opening my home to him. I would at least like to know what he looks like first…”

Suddenly Tigranian stepped in front of the monitor.

“Mr. and Mrs. Amira, Peldor Joi. I’m Daniel Tigranian,” he said with a big smile.

They both looked at him with annoyed expressions.

“Peldor Joi,” they responded in unison.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” Laria whispered to him knowing exactly what was coming next.

Jion and Lanassa both turned to Laria and immediately switched from Federation Basic to Bajoran.

“Laria-ga-ne, tus annah sirah o’mal r’el gin yutan yis guytal?” Lanassa said pointing at Tigranian.

“Mama, Daniel kosst-chim o’mal gesik. Ist d’ajane erat sutak ay-ta-ya gehostuk,” Laria replied.

Lanassa turned to her husband.

“Tuk essik?” she said pointing back at Laria. “Estun ahn zhia boray stiris amak tuyn preyta denesh panne amayteen! Or’iez takash tuk….”

“Man-ne?” Jion said incredulously. “Tuk kosse ohne shia unarat eta sinarat r’etat va. Tuk ausi kosse ohna inta teras Federashayn besak ves!”

“T’an-ne si’na pylchyk,” Lanessa said with a derisive huff.

Laria placed one arm across her chest and rubbed her nose ridges with the other in a sign of embarrassed annoyance. Tigranian grinned stupidly as he realized he started a family squabble that he couldn’t understand.

“Laria-ga-ne,” Jion said turning back to Laria. “Tuk an-ne vos kosst dinas tuka mayr?”

“Ayan, Dade’,” Laria said almost rolling her eyes.

“Tuk eshakh boryhas tre’nul vas’trahn?”

“Vos, Dade’,” Laria replied again awkwardly shifting her weight from one leg to another. Tigranian realized her father was speaking to her like he would to a petulant child.

“Tren’ne resch’ik tuk eta von humayn sirah ettah eran dan’ne,” he said calming down a bit. “Yisa kezza shad les lave.”

“Yis kezza shad les lave au’tan,” Laria said uncrossing her arms.

“Inchbas, Laria-ga-ne,” Lanassa said with a soft smile.

“Inchbas Mama, Inchbas Dade’,” Laria said reaching up and pressing the “End Transmission” button. Laria let herself exhale before turning to Tigranian.

“They’re really looking forward to meeting you,” she said.

“I gathered that,” was all he could reply.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
“I’ve uploaded your assumption of command orders into the computer,” Tigranian said as he walked side by side with Annabeth. She was in uniform. He was dressed in a leather jacket, t-shirt, and jeans. “There’s that stack of parts requisition requests that need to be submitted by the end of the week.”

“I’ve got it, Sir,” she said with an exasperated grin.

“Also, don’t forget, the weekly operations briefing with Starfleet Command is Friday at 1600 on subspace. The Admirals are already tracking you’ll be the one sitting in for me.”

“I told you, Sir. I’ve got it.”

“Oh, and don’t forget…”

Annabeth cut him off before they entered the door to the shuttlebay.

“Sir,” she said flashing him a look. “If you don’t shut up and get on that runabout with Laria in the next five minutes…I’m gonna punch you in the face.”

He smiled back at her.

“Thank you, Number One.”

“My pleasure, Sir. Just be sure you give thanks for having a first officer as good as I am during the Gratitude Festivities.”

“I’ll give thanks twice. Once for you as a first officer, the other for you as a friend,” he said walking through the doors. Annabeth followed. Laria was already inside saying her goodbyes to Katie, Phil, and Alex.

“Have a safe trip,” Katie said giving Laria a quick hug. “You and runabouts don’t exactly get along.”

“Very funny,” Laria said with a laugh. “I’ll have the captain with me this time.”

“That’s what we’re worried about,” Alex said seeing Tigranian walk in. “Oh Sir, didn’t you see there,” Alex said feigning surprise.

“You’re hilarious, Doc,” he replied raising his eyebrows.

“Safe trip, Kiddo,” Phil said giving Laria one last hug. “Good flight, Sir,” he said shaking Tigranian’s hand.

“Thanks, Gault’s not exactly a prime vacation spot,” Laria said. “But it’s home.”

“More importantly, it’s your home,” Tigranian said flashing Laria a smile.

“If you two don’t take off now, you’ll miss your launch window,” Annabeth said shooting Tigranian another look.

“Yes, Ma’am…” Tigranian replied with a smirk. “C’mon, L. Let’s get aboard.”

“Ma’am is right!” Annabeth continued with a joking tone. “Blackjack’s my ship for the next ten days.”

“Bye,” Laria said as she gave Annabeth one last hug.

“Bye, Sweetheart,” Annabeth said hugging her back. “Give the parents love from me.”

“Will do,” Laria said as she and Tigranian climbed aboard the runabout. Just before the hatch sealed Tigranian stuck his head back out.

“If something happens…”

“We won’t call you! Get out of here!” Annabeth said with a chuckle. He stuck his head back inside the craft just in time as the hatch sealed.

“I swear, that man needs to learn how to relax,” Alex muttered.

“Laria’s probably a good start on that front…” Katie said trailing off.

“Three days alone in a runabout…I wonder how they’ll pass the time?” Phil said.

The three women all looked at him with total disbelief.

“Right…stupid question,” he replied.

* * * *

As soon as the runabout cleared the Pershing’s shuttlebay, Tigranian set a course for Gault and engaged the warp drive. He pressed a few more keys and then leaned back in his chair.

“Computer’s got the helm, and now we relax…” he said looking over to Laria. She turned her chair to face his and then put her feet right in his lap.

“Hey! Watch wear you put those,” he said with a laugh.

“Trust me, I care about that area as much as you do,” she said with a grin. He flashed her a concerned look. “What?” she asked.

“Your parents just didn’t seem that excited for me to be coming with you.”

“Daniel, we’ve been over this,” she said slightly exasperated. “First off, you know how traditional they are. It’s gonna take awhile for them to accept that their daughter is dating an alien…especially one who thinks he’s a different species than his biology.”

Tigranian scoffed a little.

“Second, I’m their only child and their Laria-ga-ne. They’re still very over-protective of me,” she said with a sigh. “That one’s my fight.”

“Yeah, I heard them call you that. What does it mean anyways?”

“It doesn’t translate very well. Basically, it’s a way of saying ‘my precious little one.”

“Awww, that’s adorable,” Tigranian said pinching her cheek. He mostly did it because he knew it would annoy her.

“Stop that! I’m your par’Mach’kai! I don’t want you thinking of me that way.”

“What way? You mean adorable?”

“No, I don’t want to be adorable to you,” she said turning back towards the console. “Everyone thinks of me as ‘adorable.’ But with you, I only want to be beautiful, sexy, and powerful.”

“Hey,” he said turning her chair back to face him. He leaned in close and whispered. “You’re beautiful…” He then gave her a quick kiss. “You’re sexy…” he said with another kiss. “And you’re powerful…” he said with one final kiss. “But you can be all those things to me and still be adorable.”

She smiled and pouted at the same time.

“I guess I have to take what I can get,” she paused for a brief moment. “It’s gonna be hard sleeping apart from you again.”

“What?” Tigranian said with genuine surprise.

“I told you my parents are very traditional. I’ll be in the farmhouse, you’ll be in the guest cottage out back.”

“I don’t even get to be in the same building as you?” he said in shock.

“Nope. To Bajoran parents, their daughters have to stay as pure and white as a new snowfall until their wedding night….and sometimes for some of them, even that’s too soon.”

“We’ll be on Gault for four whole days! I don’t know what I’m gonna do without you for that long,” he said with a grin.

“Well, we have three days until we get there…we could make up for lost time right now.” She leaned right next to his ear and whispered. “There’s a reason why I picked out a special set of underwear for the trip this morning…” Tigranian’s eyes grew wide and he immediately stood up from his chair.

Laria laughed as she took his hand and ran to the aft cabin…
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Kora System: Federation/Klingon Demarcation Line, Cardassian Space
Stardate: 53267.7

Annabeth grabbed her mug of Chiraltan tea from the ready room’s replicator and took a seat at the desk. She leaned back in the captain’s chair and briefly let herself day-dream of the day she finally received the fourth pip on her collar.

Then, she checked the chronometer and realized it was time to dial in for the weekly operations briefing with Starfleet Command.

“Computer,” she said accessing the terminal. “Access Starfleet Encoded Subspace Channel 32945.” The screen behind the Federation emblem suddenly turned from black to red.

“Warning: You are attempting to access a classified Starfleet Channel. Present voiceprint and retinal scan for identity verification.”

“Authorization: Geist Whiskey 8-2 Bravo.”

“Standby for retinal scan.”

Annabeth held open her right eye and stared at a black dot on the top of the monitor. A red light appeared and scanned her eye first vertically and then horizontally. The screen background turned from red to green.

“Identify Confirmed. Welcome Commander Geist, Annabeth M.”

The screen changed to an image of a conference room at Starfleet Command Headquarters in San Francisco. A group of admirals and other high ranking brass were already taking their seats around the long, wooden table. Admiral Murphy looked over to one of the holoscreens on the wall and noticed her.

“Oh, there she is,” he said. “Hey, Annabeth. You’re right on time. We got good picture on this end. Can you hear us?”

“Loud and Clear, Sir.”

“Excellent. Just stand by. The Chief of Operations will be here in a few minutes.”

“I’ll be right here, Sir.”

Murphy nodded and then took his seat at the table. Annabeth picked up a PADD and reviewed her notes for the briefing while taking a few sips of tea. These meetings were often long, dull, and dry recaps of recent events around the fleet. The Pershing and her commander were now a featured part of the agenda due to the ship’s forward deployed role in the Occupation Zone. However, considering the only significant events from the past seven days were the survey of an uninhabited Class M moon for potential refugee resettlement, the arbitration of a labor dispute between a group of Cardassian Venderite miners and a Lissapian cargo ship, and their brief rendezvous yesterday with the Starfleet Support Command fuel tender, USFS Acheron, to top off their deuterium tanks and anti-matter pods, she expected this meeting to be nothing but boring.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Chief of Operations,” a voice from off-screen sounded. The room rose to its feet and Annabeth followed suit.

“Take your seats, please,” Admiral Paris said moving to the head of the table. As a Starfleet staff captain moved to the podium at the front of the room, Admiral Murphy took a few moments to acknowledge Annabeth.

“Sir, I would like to welcome Commander Geist dialing in from the Pershing for this brief. She’s in temporary command while Captain Tigranian is on leave. He’ll be back for next week.”

“Welcome Commander,” Admiral Paris said looking at the holoscreen. “I trust Captain Tigranian didn’t leave too much for you to clean up while he is away?”

“No more of a mess than usual, Sir,” she replied with a grin. Admiral Paris laughed.

“Excellent, well we seem to be ready here. Let’s begin.”

“Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen,” the staff captain began with an uncharacteristic seriousness in his voice. “I would like to open the meeting with a developing situation in the Romulan Occupation Zone of Cardassian Space...”

This statement immediately perked Annabeth’s attention.

“Starfleet Intelligence is still gathering reports,” the staff captain continued, “but it appears that this morning local time, there was some kind of failed uprising against Romulan Occupation Authorities on Telarak by local militia forces. We believe the local militias are being equipped and funded by the Orion Syndicate and former Cardassian military members now engaged in illicit black market trading.”

“You said the uprising failed?” Admiral Paris asked.

“Yes Sir,” the captain replied. “We’ve intercepted several Romulan transmissions that state that legionnaires have already subdued the populace, but they are still in the process of rounding up all the conspirators. Several lower ranking Romulan dignitaries are confirmed dead at this time, including this man…” the captain punched several keys on the podium. A picture simultaneously appeared on Annabeth’s monitor and on the holoscreen the briefing room. “Sub-Commander Sontek, of the 3rd Imperial Guards Regiment.”

“And I feel you’re about to get to the point and tell me why I should care about a dead Romulan Sub-Commander, Captain?” Paris quipped.
“Yes Sir, Sontek was the younger brother of a senior member of the Tal-Shiar. There is significant chatter on Romulus indicating that Promagistrate Kival’s dealings with the Orion Syndicate have finally gone too far. An order was issued for him to immediately return to the Empire to face a full inquiry.”
A smile crossed Paris’ face.

“And probably a firing squad immediately following…”
Annabeth’s heart skipped a beat. It’s a good thing Alex had clearance because she couldn’t wait to tell her wife that smug bastard was finally going to get what was coming to him.

“Sir,” the captain said growing somber again. “The other issue is that for the moment, it appears that Promagistrate Kival is unaccounted for on Telarek. It is unclear right now whether he was killed in the fighting or fled the planet.”

“Never deal with the Orion Syndicate without an escape plan…” Admiral Paris said trailing off. “We’ll keep our eyes on this, Captain. Let me know as soon as you have any more information. Commander Geist,” Paris said turning to the holoscreen.

“Yes Sir.”

“I don’t think this situation is developed enough for us to act just yet, so I won’t pull your boss off leave. However, I want you to continue to monitor from your end of space as well. This could have significant repercussions for all of Cardassian territory.”

“Acknowledged, Sir.”

“Does anyone else have any questions before we move on?”

“Just one, Sir,” Annabeth said. “Captain, you said you believed that former elements of the Cardassian military were involved. Could you elaborate a little more on that?”

“Yes Commander. It appears that Devek, the former Glinn who the Pershing encountered six months ago, is involved. The evidence supporting his motivations is spotty right now, but our analysts believe that his smuggling operation running weapons, drugs, and slaves through the former Cardassian Empire is growing at such a rate that the kick-backs he’s paying the Romulans are growing prohibitive.

We think he might have initiated the uprising in order to distract Romulan forces to allow him to operate more independently. Either that, or he simply doesn’t need them anymore. We have evidence that he has expanded into the Klingon Zone and could soon spill over into the Federation Zone.”

“Does that answer your question, Commander Geist?” Paris asked her.

“I believe it does, Sir. You can be damn sure that I’ll watch what’s going on like a Tarkalean Hawk.”
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Gault Farming Colony: Federation Space

Stardate: 53267.8

Laria and Tigranian carried their bags up a dirt road leading to a two-story stone farmhouse. The quaint building was surrounded by green fields of kava vines, sweet salam grass, moreka gourds, and boton root.

“It looks exactly like Bajor,” Tigranian said amazed.

“That was kinda the point,” Laria replied with a grin.

They had barely cleared the wooden gate to the front yard when the door flew open. A women came sprinting out to the meet them.

“Laria-ga-ne!” Amira Lanassa shouted as she ran into her daughter at full speed. “Blessings of the Prophets, you’re home,” she said squeezing the air out of Laria.

“Hi, Mom,” she said gasping for air. Her father wasn’t far behind, though his pace was far more measured than his wife’s.

“Laria-ga-ne,” he said with a huge smile and a hug.

“Hi, Daddy,” Laria said squeezing him back. He then turned to Tigranian and extended a hand.

“Amira Jion,” he said politely.

“Daniel Tigranian. Wonderful to finally meet you in person, Sir.”

“Yes, Peldor Joi,” he said awkwardly.

“Peldor Joi, Sir,” Tigranian said returning an equally awkward laugh.

The little dynamo of energy that was Mrs. Amira pushed her husband aside to get close to Tigranian. He expected another handshake, but instead she threw her arms him as well. She had the grip of a Klingon Kolar Beast.

“Peldor Joi, Daniel. Prophets bless you,” she said placing a hand on his ear. “You have to come to stay with us which means you are one of us.” As Tigranian returned her hug, he looked over to see the annoyed look on Mr. Amira’s face at that last statement. “Now, you men,” she said turning to back to her husband. “Carry the bags. Laria-ga-ne, va’me! Come to the kitchen. There’s loaves of mapa bread in the oven and hasparat to roll. You’ve probably forgotten everything your mother has taught you and must learn again.”

Mrs. Amira grabbed Laria by the hand and started dragging her to the house. She flashed Daniel a silent expression that screamed “Save me.” All he could reply when faced with the force of nature that was Amira Lanassa was to give her a look back that said “What do you expect me to do?”

As soon as the women disappeared into the house, Jion reached down and grabbed Tigranian’s bags.

“Oh, I can take those,” Tigranian said reaching out a hand.

“No,” Jion said politely refusing. “You are a guest in my house, I carry your bags.”

“Yes, Sir,” Tigranian said humbly.

“Also, please don’t call me, ‘Sir.” It’s Jion. I’ll put them in the cottage out back. If you want, you can put Laria’s things in her room. It’s the room at the end of the hallway on the second floor.”

He disappeared around the side of the farmhouse and Tigranian found himself alone.

“Well, this is going to be interesting,” he muttered as he picked up Laria’s suitcase.

As soon as he stepped through the door, he took in the comfort of the Amira’s country home. In a corner next to the door was a small altar to the Prophets with the Bajoran Eternity Wheel above it. A small fire burned on a stone hearth surrounded by over-stuffed leather chairs. A rough-hewn wooden dining table with a large vase of yellow and white flowers was next to the back window and down the hall in the kitchen he could hear Lanassa ordering around poor Laria. The sweet scent of burning bateret incense hung in the air to mark the coming Gratitude Festival.

Tigranian saw the stairs to his left and started climbing to the second floor. He reached Laria’s childhood door and pushed it open.

As soon as he saw her old bedroom, a huge smile crept across his face. Piles of books in every genre on every subject were piled from floor to ceiling. Clippings from science magazines were tacked all over the pale yellow walls. At the window, a telescope pointed towards the sky with various notes on the positions of constellations still taped to its tripod.

As he dropped her bags next to the bed, he noticed a huge poster on her closet door. A female officer in uniform stared back at him with a confident smile on her face. Beneath her were the words, “Join Starfleet!” in bright, bold letters.

The next thing that caught his eye was a simple wooden desk in the corner, also piled high with books and magazines. He crossed to it and noticed a picture in a frame. He picked it up and saw the image of a laughing Laria, no more than eight or nine years old, on the back of a blue pony. Jion and Lanassa were on the ground next to her holding its reigns and smiling.

Suddenly, he heard the sounds of panicked footsteps running up the wooden stairs accompanied with the words, “Oh Prophets, Oh Prophets,” being repeated by a familiar voice.

Laria threw open the door and stared at him.

“Hello,” he said calmly. “Is there a problem?”

“My dad told me you were up here,” she said meekly. “I wasn’t ready for you to see this room yet.”

Tigranian grinned.

“Why?”

“Because,” she said glancing around the room nervously. “It’s…it’s a little too me. I was hoping to piece-meal out the nerdy Bajoran craziness over the course of the whole weekend so you wouldn’t get overwhelmed.”

Tigranian turned the picture frame so she could see its image.

“This is the room of the girl in this picture…” he said gently placing it back on the desk. “Who then grew into the woman I fell in love with…” he continued as he stepped towards the door. “I want to learn as much as I can about her: nerdy Bajoran craziness and all.”

She put her arms him and plopped her head into his chest.

“You’re not real….” she said. “You’re just a dream I’m going to wake up from and then Annabeth and the others will tell me how stupid it was.”

“Oh, I’m real,” he said squeezing her closer. “and I’ve got my own craziness to piecemeal out to you. Wait till I take you to Qo’nos.” He gently ran his fingers over her nose ridges.

Laria laughed as she pulled away.

“You know that tickles!”

“That’s why I do it.”

* * * *

“And so there is my seven year old daughter…” Jion said laughing as he remembered. “Covered in mud from head to toe, tears streaming down her face, running around the pasture with a bucket following a full grown bull pylchyk screaming ‘he won’t give me any milk!’ Well, I then had to have the awkward conversation with her about how he was a boy pylchyk and she didn’t want to have any milk he could give.”

Around the dinner table, Tigranian, Jion, and Lanassa all burst out laughing. Laria turned bright red and glared at her par’Mach’kai.

She leaned over and whispered in his ear.

“I hope you’re enjoying all my traumatic childhood memories…”

“Oh, I’m loving every second of this,” he said taking another sip of spring wine.

“Daniel,” Lanassa said to Tigranian. “You’re so skinny! You need to eat more!”

“Oh Lanassa,” he said putting a hand over his stomach. “This was incredible. I want to eat more, but I don’t think I could swallow another bite.”

“At least finish what’s on your plate. You’re still a growing boy.”

“Alright,” he said with a smile. He placed his last hasparat roll on top of a slice of warm mapa bread. His nostrils started burning before the pickled delicacy even reached his mouth.

“Oh, that is good hasparat,” he said as his eyes watered.

“Too many Bajoran women these days couldn’t brine a decent hasparat to save their lives. They use replicated brines,” she said with disgust. “At least I taught my daughter right. What do I always say, Laria-ga-ne?”

“Any woman who can’t pickle her own hot peppers isn’t worth lifting up on the marriage dais…” she grumbled taking another sip of her wine.

Tigranian reached under the table and squeezed her hand supportively. She smiled back at him.

“Ok,” Lanassa said sitting up from the table. “Now, how does Bajoran pastries and coffee sound?” she said to Tigranian.

“Wonderful,” he said smiling back at her. “Thank you.”

“Laria-ga-ne,” she said turning to her daughter. “You brought home a good boy. He knows how to make a Bajoran mother happy,” she said grabbing Tigranian’s ear again. “He finishes his food and drinks his coffee.” She pointed at the kitchen. “Vosp’ich an-ne soorja’.”

“It’s my job to get the coffee,” Laria said to him with another exasperated whisper as she headed down the hall. Lanassa grabbed Tigranian’s plate.

“Oh, I can get that,” he said.

“No, you sit there! That’s not how you make a Bajoran mother happy.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said obediently.

When the two of them disappeared into the kitchen, Jion turned to Tigranian.

“Laria said you visited Rakantha recently?”

“Yes, last month. We saw the temple where you and Lanassa were married.”

“She said that as well. How is old Vedek Grigan?”

“He seemed very pleased to find out all the Amiras were doing so well.”

Jion leaned back in his chair.

“We owe him our lives. I’m sure you can imagine what the famine was like there under the Cardassians.”

“Yes, it’s terrifying to think that things like that still happen in this day and age.”

“With Cardassians, any terror is possible…” he paused, but still asked the question on his mind. “Tell me, what do you think of the Cardassians, Daniel? I mean you command a ship whose primary job is to help them rebuild their empire after all?” Tigranian immediately knew this was a very loaded question.

“Personally, I abhor much of Cardassian history…and I’ve killed my fair share of them over the years, but now Starfleet says it’s my mission to help them. Not to rebuild their empire, but to help them take their place among civilized nations as peacemakers, not butchers. It’s that simple.”

“Really, that simple? Starfleet says ‘do it,’ and you obey?” he said incredulously.

“Yes, Jion, to me it is,” he said taking another sip of wine. “It has to be.”

“Well, since you feel you can be honest to me, let me be honest with you.” Tigranian braced himself.

“I have been a Federation citizen for many years. I’ve lived in the Federation for even longer. When we went to war with Cardassia, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I hope that the day Bajor finally joins the Federation will be even happier. However, it still causes me great pain that my only child serves on a ship whose sole mission is to help the same race who did everything in their power to prevent her birth.”

Tigranian caught an image of Laria walking out of the kitchen carrying a tray with a silver coffee urn and four small cups.

“Jion, I’m very sorry that causes you pain, but I think that’s a testament to just how incredible a woman your daughter really is.” Jion didn’t know how to react.

Laria reached the table and placed four small ceramic cups in front of each place setting. With a practiced touch, she poured a steaming cup of dark coffee so strong it bordered on syrup into each one. She served her father first, Tigranian second, her mother’s place third, and finally herself. Tigranian somehow knew that she was trained from a very young age to pour it that way.

“S’chnor hanas Lave’,” Jion said softly to Laria who then placed a kiss on his forehead.

“Ist Lave, Dade’,” she replied quietly flashing both men a smile.

“Thank you, L,” Tigranian said to her as she took her seat. Lanassa then appeared with a tray filled with fruit and pastry.

“Now, Daniel, you must try everything!” she said very excited.

Tigranian chuckled. As he reached for a piece of kava cake, the sleeve of his t-shirt pulled up and revealed the brand of the House of Torlek. Lanassa gasped.

“By the Prophets, what is that!?” she exclaimed.

“It’s the symbol of loyalty to my house,” Tigranian said calmly.

“I had no idea humans did such things,” Lanassa replied.

“It’s not human. It’s my Klingon house.”

“You have a Klingon house?” Jion said surprised. He looked over to Laria who then looked down to her lap.

“I do,” Tigranian said with more than a hint of pride. “I served with the Imperial Klingon Defense Forces as an exchange officer for a long time. My captain adopted me and made me a Klingon warrior.” He dropped two cubes of crystallized kava into his sooja’ and stirred. “Laria never told you?” he said taking a sip of the strong, dark brew.

“No,” Jion said glaring at his daughter. “She didn’t.”
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Federation Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53268.0

Annabeth was fast asleep in her quarters. Alex was in her usual spot, curled up right next to her.

“Bridge to Commander Geist.”

Annabeth slowly opened her eyes, rolled over, and then slammed her arm on the nightstand to grab her comm badge. Alex stirred and rolled over as well.

“Go ahead…” she mumbled.

“Yes, Ma’am. This is Ensign Gleeto on night duty officer’s shift. You have an incoming Priority One message from Admiral Murphy at Starfleet Command.”

“Route it through to my quarters.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“What’s up?” Alex asked through a yawn. Annabeth kissed her forehead as she climbed out from under the covers.

“I don’t know, Babe. Try to go back to sleep.”

Annabeth sat at her desk and turned on the monitor. The worried face of Admiral Murphy appeared.

“Yes Sir?” Annabeth asked still rubbing sleep from her eyes.

“I’m sorry to wake you, Annabeth, but this couldn’t wait. It’s confirmed by Starfleet Intelligence: Kival’s gone rogue. The Senate has issued a warrant for his arrest. A shit-storm’s erupted on Romulus and the Tal-Shiar is cleaning house on anyone who’s associated with him.”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but isn’t this a good thing?”

“It would be…except that he’s secured the loyalty of three Warbird commanders. He’s missing, mobile, and has a squadron of heavily armed warships equipped with cloaking devices.”

“My God…”

“He could strike anywhere at anytime, and Starfleet thinks the Pershing could be a target.”

“Why would he come after us?”

“What better way that to earn some favor back from the Romulan High Command than destroying the bulk of the Federation’s combat power in Cardassian Space? Plus he doesn’t exactly like you all.”

“Well, the feeling’s mutual and he’s welcome to try…” Annabeth froze. “Dan and Laria!”

“Starfleet’s not taking any chances. They’ve already diverted the U.S.S. Repulse to Gault to escort them back to your position. It’ll arrive there the day after tomorrow,” he said trying to calm her down.

“Now, there’s still no direct evidence he’s hunting for you, but nobody knows where he is. I’m just asking you to be careful, alright? Might not be a bad idea to lay low for awhile and be on guard for pointy-eared surprises.”

“Yes Sir.”

“We’ll keep you updated if we find out anything else. Murphy out.”

Her screen went blank. Annabeth immediately pressed her comm badge again.

“Geist to Bridge.”

“Ensign Gleeto here, Ma’am.”

“Yellow alert. Cloak the ship.”

“Ma’am?”

“Just do it. Also, continue passive sensor monitoring out to twenty lightyears. Special emphasis on anything that could be a cloaked ship or a Romulan Quantum Singularity Drive.”

“Yes Ma’am.”

“Keep me informed if anything changes. Geist out.” She threw down her comm badge. All she wanted to do was climb back into bed with her wife, but when she looked over, Alex was sitting up with her knees in her chest. She was staring blankly out the window.

Annabeth climbed back into bed and pulled a trembling Alex into her chest.

“It’ll be alright,” she whispered gently stroking her hair.

“He’s already caused so much pain, Beth with what he did to me! What he did to us!”

“He can never hurt you again, Alex. Not while I’m here. It would be a suicide mission for him to try to take on this ship in a fight.”

“Then I hope he does…”

* * * *

Tigranian stepped out of the front door of the guest cottage and into the morning sunshine. He took a deep breath of the fresh air. The scent of baking bread was already wafting out from the farmhouse’s kitchen.

He noticed a figure already at work trimming a kava vine on the other side of the stone wall. Tigranian wandered out the gate to join Jion.

“Good morning, Jion.”

“Good morning…” he said not looking up from his task.

“Your home is very beautiful.”

“You say that like you have interest in staying, but I know you don’t, so spare me.” Tigranian did his best not to sound indignant, but Jion’s tone didn’t sit very well.

“Alright, man to man, what is your problem with me?”

Jion didn’t even hesistate.

“You’re going to ask her to marry you, aren’t you?”

“How did you know that?” he replied with genuine surprise.

“Because I saw it in your eyes the moment you walked through my gate. I was once a young man in love as well, you know?” Jion said looking straight at his face.

“So you know I love your daughter?”

“A blind man could see that.”

“Then what is your problem? If it makes you feel any better, I had every intention of asking your permission first. I understand that’s very important to Bajoran fathers.”

“And if I had said ‘no’?”

“Honestly, I refused to think of that possibility.”

Jion sighed.

“I love my daughter very much, Daniel. So much so that I literally gave up my world for her. I knew that by raising her in the Federation she would not have the same life that Lanassa and I had, but I still had hope that somehow she would find a good Bajoran boy and one day inherit this farm. Carry on her family’s legacy like the Amiras have for generations.”

“That’s not her d’jarra, Jion,” Tigranian replied firmly. Jion scoffed and looked at the sky.

“Oh Prophets, the human speaks in terms he does not understand!”

“I don’t have to understand it! Just acknowledge it. Grigan said he saw it in her pagh. Are you going to tell me you haven’t seen it?”

“Of course I’ve seen it! I’ve seen it her whole life. When other little girls were asking their parents for a new doll, she was asking me for that telescope up there,” he said pointing to the farmhouse. “I just didn’t want to admit it because I knew I could only keep my precious little one safe if she stayed here with us.” Suddenly, he looked very ashamed. “But I know you’re right, Daniel. Her place in the stars with men like you, not down in the dirt with men like me…”

“Jion,” Daniel said taking a step towards him. “You daughter loves you very much. Maybe even more than she loves me. She may want to travel the stars, but she will never forget where she comes from. She is of Bajor, and of you.”

Jion’s expression softened when he heard Tigranian speak those words.

“Just promise me one thing, Daniel. Swear to me that you will always protect her. If you do, you will have my blessing.”

“If that’s what it takes, Jion, I will swear it as a human, as a Klingon, whatever you want…but your daughter doesn’t need to be protected. She’s the strongest woman I have ever known, and I know a lot of strong women.”

The old Bajoran laughed.

“You and me both. I guess it’s time for me to stop thinking of her as that little girl with the bucket.”

“No, she can always be that to you. You just have to understand she can be so much more as well.”

Jion stepped forward and grabbed Tigranian’s right ear.

“Your pagh is strong, Daniel. Maybe even strong enough to survive an Amira woman.”

They both laughed this time.

* * * *

That evening, the four of them gathered around the farmhouse’s stone hearth.

“The whole point of the Peldor is to remember the blessings we are grateful for. Put all your troubles behind you, and make a new start,” Jion said. He looked at Tigranian and Laria sitting next to each other and smiled. Perhaps, we are looking at something of that new start right here.” Tigranian awkwardly grinned and Laria looked a bit confused.

“What’s he talking about?” she whispered curiously.

“Don’t worry about it,” Tigranian whispered back. Jion picked up two small bottles of blue liquid from a nearby shelf. He walked over to the hearth and spoke a traditional blessing:

“T’esra Peldor impatri br’en. B’entel v’etan ul’lon sten…”

Laria smiled and turned to Tigranian.

“This is my favorite part!”

Jion poured the two vials into the fireplace which burst into a bright blue flame. Lanassa, Laria, and Tigranian all clapped.

“Laria-ga-ne, go get the renewal scrolls,” Lanassa said with a smile. Laria ran over to dining table and grabbed four pieces of parchment and four pens. She passed one to each of them.

“So, we just write any problems we have on this and then burn them?” Tigranian asked Laria.

“It’s not that complicated a ritual,” Lanassa said with a smile.

“Well, what if I feel like I don’t have a lot of problems to write down?” Tigranian said gently wrapping an arm around Laria.

“Then you are truly blessed by the Prophets, Jion said.”

“I think I might be…”

Suddenly, there was a beeping in Tigranian’s pocket. A worried expression crossed his face.

“I’m sorry,” he said getting up.

“Daniel?” Laria said concerned.

“It’s probably nothing,” he said trying to keep her calm. “I’ve just got to make a subspace transmission and I’ll be right back.”

As he stepped out the door, Laria’s shoulders dropped.

“Is this normal?” Lanassa asked.

“Unfortunately, for a starship captain…yes, it is.”

Ten minutes later, Tigranian walked back into the room.

“Again, I’m sorry,” he said playing off the interruption with a smile. “It really was nothing. My first officer just wanted to give me an update on a few things.”

Now, Laria really was nervous.

As soon as he sat back down, she leaned over again and whispered.

“What is going on? Annabeth wouldn’t have called you if something wasn’t seriously wrong!”

“I’ll tell you later,” he whispered back. “Our departure time tomorrow is still the same. We’re just getting back to the Pershing a lot faster than planned.”

Tigranian looked down at the empty piece of parchment in front of him. He regretted how he tempted fate just a few minutes before. Now, he had something new to write on his renewal scroll.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Laria and Tigranian lay on a blanket behind the guest cottage and stared up at the clear night sky. The smell of ripening kava and salam grass on the breeze was perfect. She pulled closer to him and rested her head on his chest.

“He’s out there, somewhere…” she said with concern in her voice.

“He is, but so are Annabeth, Katie, Alex, Phil, Tren…they can hold their own. When the Repulse gets here tomorrow, they’ll make sure we get back to them safely.”

She looked up into his eyes.

“Right now, there’s no place else in the galaxy than I’d rather be than right here. This would be everything I ever wanted, except for that Romulan petaQ!”

Tigranian raised his eyebrows.

“Very good. You’re pronunciation is getting much better.”

She smiled. “Thanks, I’ve been practicing.” Shen then turned somber again. “Why can’t we have just one perfect moment? Why does something else always have to ruin it?”

“Perfect moments are ones you make, L. They’ll always be a petaQ, or a family squabble, or something that gets in the way of being happy. Tomorrow, we may have to fight a disgraced Romulan for our lives, but tonight let’s just be here with each other.”

“I used to come lay down here all the time growing up. I dreamed of what it would be like to be on starship and visit every single one of those little specks of light. Now, all I want to do is stay here with you.”

“That’s kinda why I wanted to wait until we came to Gault: to give you another happy memory of this place.”

Now, it was Laria’s turn to raise her eyebrows.

“What do you mean?”

Tigranian reached down into his pocket and pulled out the little black box. He opened it and gently placed it front of her. Laria looked down in shock at the ring with the crest of the House of Torlek just a few centimeters from her nose.

“Marry me, Laria.”

She searched her mind, but couldn’t find the right words to say. Her silence started to worry Tigranian. So many things crossed her mind, but she only managed to utter one question.

“Is this how Klingons traditionally propose?”

Tigranian grinned.

“Usually there’s more raw animal parts and biting involved. I decided to skip that. Hope you’re not too insulted.”

“Daniel…”

His eyes started to show real concern.

“I love you with every fiber of my being, but how could I ever hope to be your wife? I’m a clumsy Bajoran girl from Gault who writes science papers when she’s at work and fetches cups of coffee when she’s at home. You need a real warrior, not someone who pretends to be one when she’s off-duty.”

At that statement, Tigranian sat up. He gently took her hand and placed it over her own heart.

“Do you feel that?”

“Of course I do, but…”

“I said, do you feel that?” he said more forcefully.

“Yes, Daniel, I have a pulse.”

“No, Laria, its more than just your heartbeat. It’s your nature: powerful, alive, and steady. You say you pretend to be a warrior?” he said still looking into her eyes. “I’ve seen plenty of people pretend to be things in my life, but when you fight, you’re not pretending. You’re letting your true self emerge. When you pick up a blade, you forget everything that people have told you that you can’t be and instead remember what…you…are.

Back in Rakantha, you were told you are of Bajor…but also something else. I know what that something else is now. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t ask you to embark on a journey with me that will bind us together in this life and into the next.”

“But what about Torlek? How will you convince your Klingon family to let me join your house? I don’t even speak Klingon!”

“I won’t need to convince them. I know they will soon see it as I have.”

“But what if they don’t?” she said still unsure of herself.

“No,” he said placing a hand on her face. “Don’t let doubt creep in! Look inside yourself, Laria, daughter of Amira. If you truly ask yourself what your heart wants and somehow still feel you shouldn’t be my wife, than I will put that ring away and never speak of it again. But if it tells you the truth, then I will stand with you against all who would oppose us. No one can oppose the beating of two Klingon hearts…even if they were born human and Bajoran.”

Laria managed to laugh before pausing to consider his words. She looked up at the sky and then back towards the farmhouse. Finally, she looked back at Tigranian and smiled. She reached down, plucked the ring from its box, and slid it onto her left hand.

“tlhIngan maH,” she said with tears forming in her eyes.

He smiled and gently placed his hands on the sides of her head.

“tlhIngan maH.”

They kissed under the stars.

* * * *

The next morning, Tigranian and Laria dropped their bags just on the other side of the gate.

Lanassa wrapped her arms around Tigranian, once again squeezing the breath from his body.

“I always asked the Prophets to give me a son as well. Now, they’ve finally answered my prayers.”

“Thank…you, Lanassa,” Tigranian said with a wheeze.

“Oh, Ga hane chat mes,” she said hugging Laria next. “Yis kezza shad les lave.”

“I love you too, Mama.”

“You be careful,” she said sternly to Laria. Lanassa then turned to Tigranian. “Please make sure she eats, she’s getting so skinny.” He chuckled.

“I’ll do what I can, Ma’am.”

Jion walked up to his daughter and hugged her.

“Goodbye, Daddy,” she said with a smile.

“I am so proud of you, Laria.”

She leaned back from his embrace and looked at him with surprise.

“No, Laria-ga-ne?” she asked. Jion pointed to his heart.

“You will always be Laria-ga-ne in here, but someone finally helped me realize what an amazing young woman you’ve grown into.”

Laria looked over to Tigranian. He flashed her a feigned look of ignorance and shrugged his shoulders. She looked back to her grinning father.

Laria hugged him again and smiled.

“Yis kezza shad les lave, Dade’”

“Yis kezza shad les lave, Laria.”

“Now you,” he said turning to Tigranian. “When you two are planning that wedding, just remember that Gault can be beautiful in the spring time.”

“Actually, Jion,” Tigranian said taking a step towards him. He looked over to Laria who nodded. “We were thinking about Bajor. We found this beautiful little temple in Rakantha and a very friendly vedek we’ve grown rather fond of…”

Jion stood there for a second in amazement. Then Tigranian leaned forward and hugged him.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Jion said happily. “You’re a part of this family now, which means you answer to me.”

Tigranian laughed.

“I think things are gonna work out just fine…” Tigranian said stepping back over to their bags. Laria walked up next to him.

“Have a good trip,” Lanassa said wrapping an arm around her husband.

“Call us when you get there!” Jion said to Laria.

Laria resisted the urge to roll her eyes again.

“I will, Dad.”

Tigranian reached into his pocket and tapped his comm badge.

“Tigranian to Elbe, two to beam up.” The runabout’s computer acknowledged his message and they disappeared.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Arias Nebula: Federation Zone of Occupation, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53270.1

As soon as the runabout entered the Pershing’s shuttlebay, the U.S.S. Repulse turned around and headed back to Federation space.

Tigranian opened the port hatch and stepped out onto the deck. The rest of the senior staff was there to greet him.

“It’s good to see you back safe, Sir,” Annabeth said stepping forward.

“It’s good to be back, Number One. Even if it is a little ahead of schedule,” he said with more than a hint of annoyance. “Any sign of our favorite Romulan?”

“Not a damn thing,” Annabeth said with a bit of reserved relief. “If he’s out there, he’s certainly not drawing any attention to himself.”

“That’s some good news at least,” Tigranian said adjusting the shoulder strap of his bag across his chest. The rest of the group gathered around.

“Where’s Laria?” Alex asked looking back towards the ship.

“Right here,” she said confidently stepping out of the runabout and walking over to them.

“Oh my God…” Phil said looking down at her hand. “I guess miracles do happen.”

Alex and Annabeth shrieked with excitement when they saw the ring and threw their arms around Laria. She hugged them back and the three of them started jumping up and down. Tigranian smiled as Phil and Scharr stepped over to him.

“I guess congratulations are in order, Sir,” Scharr said reaching out his hand.

“They are, indeed,” Tigranian said shaking back.

“Congratulations, Sir,” Phil said echoing Scharr’s sentiments.

“Let me see it! Let me see it!” Alex said grabbing Laria’s hand. She and Annabeth examined the simple golden band with the Klingon symbol. They both looked over at Tigranian.

“Well,” Annabeth said sarcastically. “There’s no accounting for taste, but I suppose it’s the thought that counts, right Sir?”

“Hey,” Tigranian said somewhat defensively. “I would have you know that any Klingon woman would literally kill for that ring.”

“I don’t think he’s kidding,” Phil said.

“I don’t think he is either,” Alex said. “But Sir, does Laria look like a Klingon woman?”

Laria and Tigranian silently exchanged looked and grinned.

“Looks can be deceiving, Alex…” Laria said trailing off.

It was then they realized someone was missing from the crowd.

They all looked back to see Katie standing motionless. Her sad eyes stared at Laria’s ring as tears started streaming down her cheeks. Then the expression on her face turned to guilt.

“I’m so sorry, L,” Katie said apologetically. “I’m so sorry!” Then she turned and ran out of the shuttlebay.

“Oh Prophets, Katie!” Laria shouted. She started to move towards the doors, but Phil put a hand on the Bajoran’s shoulder.

“No, I’ve got her,” he said quietly.

* * * *

Katie sat cross-legged on her bed and stared down at her lap. She furiously ran her hands through her hair, nearly tearing it out. Then, the door chimed.

“Who is it?” she asked with more anger than she intended.

“It’s me,” Phil said through the intercom. “Can we talk?”

Katie sighed.

“Come in.”

Phil stepped inside, walked over to the bed, and took a seat behind her.

“What’s up, Katie bug? C’mon talk to me,” he said gently running his hand up and down her back.

“Oh nothing,” she replied sarcastically. “It’s just I took what should have been an incredibly special moment for one of my best friends and completely ruined it with my selfish insanity!” she spit out angrily.

“Hey,” Phil said starting to rub her tensed shoulders. “You didn’t ruin anything. Laria’s not upset. The captain’s not upset. No one is upset. We’re all just worried about you.”

“This crew has far more important things to worry about instead of me!”

“Katie, you are important. You’re important to all of us.”

She paused for a moment and then made a revelation.

“I’m thinking about resigning from Starfleet, Phil.”

“Why? I thought you loved being here?”

“I do!” she said whipping around to face him. “But this ship’s mission is too critical and dangerous to have an unstable person behind its tactical station.”

“When have you ever failed us, Katie? Name one time that you weren’t up to the task.”

“That’s not the point, Phil. I don’t want to put that to the test! All we were supposed to do today was welcome L and Captain T back from shore leave, and at the most innocent moment, all the memories of Paul and the Trinity came flooding back.

All I could think about was Paul and my old life. Then, I thought how I’ve found this new home…and then what would happen to me if I lost this ship too. I couldn’t handle it and I ran! What if that happens when we’re staring out at a fleet of Romulan warbirds with their disruptors charged?”

“I don’t think it will, Katie. We all know you how much you care about this ship and this crew, and that you’d never let us down. You’re too solid for that.”

Tears formed in her eyes and she buried her face in his uniform.

“Worse yet, I have this amazing boyfriend who deserves so much more than this broken, crazy mess in front of him and I don’t understand why I can’t give him everything he deserves!” She started sobbing.

“Hey,” Phil said pulling her closer. “You’re not crazy and you’re not broken, and you certainly give me more than I deserve. You’ve just been through some terrible experiences in your life and you’re working through them. We knew this would be hard, but we both agreed to get through it together.” He kissed her forehead. “I’m right here, and I’m not going anywhere.”

“Thank you…”

“You don’t have to thank me, Katie Bug.”

She managed to smile through her tears.

“Just don’t ever call me that in front of anybody else.”

“I wouldn’t dare risk it. I remember how hard your right hook is.”

“Am I really that abusive?”

“No, you’re not abusive. You just have a much more physical way of making your points than other women. I kinda like it, actually. Makes communication more simple.”

She laughed.

“Wow, I guess we’re both pretty messed up.”

“I think that’s why we work so well together.”

* * * *

“There’s a couple of ideas I can try,” Laria said. “However, the Romulans have had almost a century to improve on their cloaking technology. It’s pretty damn good.”

The senior staff sat around the table in the ward room finishing their morning synch meeting.

“So Kival could be watching us through that window right now and there’s no way we could tell until it’s too late?” Phil asked.

“There’s plenty of ways to detect a cloaked ship, Phil,” Laria replied. “However, most of them involve already knowing it’s there first.”

“What kind of ways?” Annabeth asked.

“The most reliable is a high yield tachyon burst, but that’s limited to a few thousand kilometers. I also know the Dominion experimented with concentrated tachyon beams that are good for a few light years, but those are only effective against point targets.”

“Keep developing some courses of action, L,” Tigranian said from the head of the table. “Use whatever resources or personnel you need from the other departments.”

“Yes Sir,” she said with a nod. “Mr. Scharr, if it’s alright with you, I’d like to pull in T’les. I could use a skilled engineer. Ideas are great, but I need help actually building them.”

“That’s fine,” Scharr replied. “Just don’t hold onto her too long. She’s one of the few people in main engineering I actually trust around my warp core.”

Annabeth and Tigranian flashed each other a look.

“We’re preparing for increased levels of casualties in the event of an attack,” Alex said. “We’re replicating some extra triage kits and placing them throughout the ship. We’re also making sure everyone with additional medical training gets re-certified in case sick bay gets overwhelmed.”

“I’m also running all the damage control teams through practice drills. By the time I’m done with them, they’ll be able to seal a ruptured plasma manifold blindfolded,” Scharr added.

“Good,” Tigranian said. “I think that’s the best we can do for right now. However, I want us to continue on as normally as possible. There’s no use getting nervous over something that’s just a contingency at this point.” The entire table nodded in agreement. “Alright, if no one has anything, else, let’s get to work.”

Everyone rose to their feet and exited onto the bridge. Katie, Laria, and Phil took their stations while Annabeth and Tigranian sat down in their chairs. Alex and Scharr were almost at the turbolift when Katie’s console started beeping.

“Sir,” Katie said with concern. “Priority one message from Admiral Murphy. He requests to speak to you immediately.” The entire bridge crew froze in place.

“Put him onscreen, Katie,” Tigranian said leaning back in his chair. The somber face of Admiral Murphy appeared in front of him.

“What can I do for you, Sir?” Tigranian asked.

“Welcome back, Dan. I wish I could just say ‘congratulations’ to you and Laria and be done with it, but the real world keeps pushing its way in.”

“It has a tendency to do that, Sir.”

“Are you ready to step through the looking glass?”

“Sir?”

“As soon as I get off comms with you, the U.S.S. Trieste is standing by to take me across the Neutral Zone to Romulus…”

“Romulus?” Tigranian said shocked.

“Yes, they’ve requested a face to face meeting. Suffice it to say, something of this magnitude wouldn’t happen unless the request came from the very top.”

“Why?” Tigranian asked.

“Not over subspace, but I’ll be able to explain it to you in person soon. I’m ordering you to meet me in orbit of Romulus in four days.”

“You actually want us to head back to that tyrannical hell-hole?” Tigranian said with more than a hint of disgust. He glanced back at Alex who had grown white as a sheet.

“I’m afraid so, Brother. The Romulans were very explicit that they wanted to talk to you in person as well.”

“I suppose that saying ‘no’ isn’t an option?”

“Afraid not, Dan.”

“Then, I guess I’ll see you there, Sir,” Tigranian said through gritted teeth.

Murphy sighed.

“I don’t like this anymore than you do. However, trust me on this one. You’re gonna wanna hear what they have to say.”

“I’ll have to take your word on that, Sir.”

“I know, Dan. I’ll see you in four days.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Murphy, out.”

The screen cut to black. Tigranian looked over to his first officer who looked even less thrilled at the prospect of traveling to the Romulan Empire than he did.

“Annabeth,” he said softly. “You had to put up with a lot while I was away. Why don’t you and Alex take some shore leave of your own over the next week or so? Head back to Risa and enjoy some alone time?”

“Sir,” he heard Alex’s voice from behind him. He turned to face her. “I mean this with the greatest possible amount of love and respect, but ‘Go to Hell.’ If I turn tail and run than I’m admitting to those pointy-eared bastards that they beat me. I want to look them in the eyes and show them what kind of woman I am.”

Annabeth looked at her and mouthed the words, “I love you.” Alex looked back at her and nodded.

“Alright then,” Tigranian said turning his chair back forward. “Mr. Lexington, set a course for Romulus.”

“Course laid in, Sir,” Phil said with a deep breath. Tigranian resolutely pulled down on the bottom of his uniform jacket.

“Engage.”

TO BE CONTINUED
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