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Two lightyears from the Badlands: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space

Stardate: 53242.9

“Sir,” Scharr said from the science station. “I’m picking up a debris field approximately five hundred kilometers off our starboard bow.”

“Composition?” Tigranian said nervously.

“High concentrations of tritanium, polymer composites, and duranium alloys…it’s consistent with a Federation runabout.”

Tigranian closed his tightly and clenched his fists.

“I’m picking up something else, Sir…it doesn’t make any sense.”

“What is it?” Tigranian turning towards him.

“There’s more debris out there. I’ve only seen its composition in one place. It’s a Dominion Ship.”

“What!?”

“Yes, Sir. Confirmed,” the Andorian continued. “It’s definitely a Jem’Hadar attack fighter.”

“What are the Jem’Hadar still doing in this sector of space?” Annabeth said.

“I don’t know, Ma’am,” Scharr said shaking his head. “But it looks like both ships were consumed in an anti-matter explosion. Full warp-core breach. Most of the debris was vaporized. There’s not a lot left.”

“Do you think she was attacked?” Katie said from Tactical.

“It’s possible,” Scharr said, “the weapons signatures would have dissipated by now.”

“Scan the area for any signs of escape pods.”

“Sir,” Scharr replied, “I already have. There’s nothing out there.”

“Don’t you say that to me, Tren. There’s an escape pod somewhere and she’s in it!”

“Confirmed, Sir…” Katie said softly from behind them. “No emergency beacons, no subspace transmissions, it’s just empty space.”

Annabeth closed her eyes.

“Sir, I think we have to consider the possibility that Laria was attacked by a rogue Jem’Hadar ship and killed trying to defend herself.”

The captain turned his chair away from her.

“I refuse to believe that…there’s been no Dominion activity in this area for over eight months.”

“Sir, we haven’t received a single distress call or emergency ping…there’s nothing on long range sensors….”

Katie began tearing up at Tactical. Scharr’s antennae dropped.

“What about the Badlands, could she be in there?” Tigranian said, refusing to let go of hope.

“Sir, the shockwave from a warp core breach would have severely damaged that escape pod…if she made it to the Badlands, she wouldn’t last long in those plasma storms.”

“You’re right, of course,” he said climbing to his feet. “If she was killed in battle with the Jem’Hadar, we should not mourn, for she is in Sto’Vo’Kor. You have the bridge, Number One,” he said walking to the turbolift.

As he stepped inside, Annabeth called after him.

“Dan!”

“I SAID YOU HAVE THE BRIDGE!” he screamed so loudly it shook the entire compartment. The turbolift doors closed and he disappeared.

* * * *

Tigranian was lost in thought. He was vaguely aware that he was moving through the ship, walking the corridors, not acknowledging anyone who passed by. Then, he stopped. He was in front of her quarters.

“Computer, override door lock, Authorization: Tigranian Omega 3-6 Tango.”

The doors slid open and he stepped inside. Everything was just as she’d left it. All her books, all her pictures, her non-regulation green and white bedspread…all of it, just waiting for her return. On her nightstand, a photo of the entire crew taken at Annabeth and Alex’s wedding just two weeks before stared out at him.

He walked over to her bed and sat down. Rijo, her stuffed pugabeast, leaned against the pillow. He picked it up and stared into its plastic eyes.

“I somehow knew I’d find you in here…”

He looked up to see Annabeth standing across from him. He looked back to the stuffed animal in his hands and ran his fingers over its fur. Annabeth walked over, took a seat next to him, and placed an arm around him.

“Before today, I’d lost 97 people under my command, Annabeth. Each and every one of them was difficult, but I was always able to justify it away. We were fighting for a cause, and they sacrificed their lives for a greater good. They were warriors, engaging in battle, and Kahless would reward them in the next life with eternal paradise…”

“Faith of any kind can be very comforting at times like this…”

“Then, today I lost my 98th…and the only thing I can think of is how I’ll never see her again…”

He started shaking and fought back tears. The captain clutched the pugabeast to his chest, threw his head back, and howled. Annabeth could feel the pain in its bone jarring force.

She pulled him into her arms. The captain broke down and wept.

“It’s alright, Dan…It’s alright.”

Through his sobbing, he started gently singing to himself:

Mi’ qul qar’a’ ‘ej Do’ QI’ la’
QI’ DO’ Sum, qarI’ Do’ QI’la’
Sutem pa’ rI’ tlho’ mara’ ‘e’ Laria…

“That was beautiful…” Annabeth gently whispered. “What does it mean?”

“See the fires burning clearly as I wish you good fortune…

I wish you only the greatest of luck as I hail you …

Though, you are silent now, I will always praise your name, my Laria…”


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