Royal Mail Starship Queen Mary 6: Qo’nos System
Laria lay in her luxurious feather bed and stared at the bulkhead of her quarters. Despite her nerves, she was doing her best to savor the feeling. She knew it would be the last mattress she would enjoy for the next week.
Suddenly, she felt a familiar companion bouncing his way up her body.
“Grrr, Grrr, Grrr.” Rijo appeared over her shoulder and shoved his way into her face. “Grrrrrr,” Tigranian said pretending to speak for her favorite stuffed animal.
“I’m not grumpy!” Laria shouted grabbing the pugabeast from Tigranian’s grasp. “I’m nervous! And I left him in your quarters for a reason!” she said hugging him close to her chest.
“Yeah,” Tigranian said sitting down on the bed behind her. “He and I were talking before we left and he was wondering about that. After all, he always wanted to see Qo’nos too.”
“I left Rijo behind because if any of the Klingons see him I’ll be laughed out of your family’s estate and told to never return,” Laria pouted in reply.
“Laria,” Tigranian said leaning in close. “The whole point of this visit is that you show the Lady of the House who you really are. How can she decide who she permits into the family if she doesn’t see all of you?”
“What if I don’t want her to see all of me, Daniel?”
“Then, you still don’t know yourself like I do,” he said planting a kiss on her cheek.
“You still always know what to say…and I hate you right now because of it.”
Three chimes echoed over the ship’s public address system.
“Attention Ladies and Gentlemen, we are approaching the Docks of Qo’nos’ First City. If this is your final destination, please proceed to the main atrium to prepare to disembark. Non-Klingon Citizens and Klingon Citizens with “Commoner” annotated on their passport must complete a 7247 Customs Declaration Form and clear the Imperial Immigration Service located in the arrival terminal. Members of Great Houses may bypass the Imperial Immigration Service Kiosk by showing An Official Patent of Nobility to the Security Agents at the end of the gangway. On behalf of the Captain and Crew of the RMS Queen Mary 6, thank you for sailing with Cunard Lines, where ‘White Star Service’ now travels the stars.”
Tigranian already pulled a worn piece of targ leather from his bags.
“Are you sure we don’t need a passport?” Laria said nervously.
“This is the only passport we need,” Tigranian said holding up the parchment covered with Klingon writing. “The High Council gives me freedom of movement anywhere in the Empire as a member of the House of Torlek. You’re here as a prospective noble yourself.”
“This whole thing seems incredibly archaic,” Laria said skeptically. “Regular Klingons don’t get upset by this?”
Tigranian shook his head.
“Some of them do, but the Klingon Empire is still essentially a feudal society. Nobility is still very important here. It’s the foundation of government. Even having a commoner as Chancellor hasn’t changed that.”
* * * *
Tigranian and Laria disembarked from the Queen Mary and proceeded down the gangway. Throngs of non-Klingons and commoners queued at the entrance to the Imperial Immigration Kiosk, but Tigranian steered Laria right towards the exit of the arrival terminal. Two Immigration Security agents immediately moved to block their path.
“Where are you going, human?” one of them said to Tigranian in angry Federation Basic. “Do you think you are too good to obey the laws of the Klingon Empire?”
Tigranian growled at him and immediately began chastising the agent in tlhIngan Hol. Laria’s universal translator allowed her to understand the exchange.
“I am obeying the laws of the Klingon Empire,” Tigranian shouted angrily. “It is you who disrespect the Empire by assuming that I am nothing more than a common shu’Vak.” Tigranian immediately held up his patent and the color drained from the agent’s face.
“My apologies, My Lord, I had no idea…I mean, you can understand why I assumed…”
“SILENCE!” Tigranian screamed. “If you continue to assume, I will cut out your ignorant tongue and force you to swallow it while your companion watches.”
Laria felt her cheeks flush as she looked over to the line of commoners and foreigners in front of the Immigration Office. Every single one of them was staring. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to defend her future title like her par’Mach’kai. That alone was made her doubt she was worthy of it.
“She is with me,” Tigranian said continuing to berate the Klingon guards. “Any eye you lay on her will be an eye that is plucked from your skull.”
“Yes, My Lord!” the agents said in unison as they stepped aside. Each one clutched their fist to their chest in the traditional Klingon salute. “Qapla’, My Lord!”
“Long live the Empire!” Tigranian replied before grabbing his bag. He flashed Laria a grin and she quickly followed him out of the terminal, doing her best not to make eye contact with anyone.
After a quick shuttle to the surface, they were met by a Klingon aero-car and another dour-looking warrior. As soon as he Tigranian, his serious face immediately changed into an expression of joy.
“Son of Tigranian!” the Klingon said immediately throwing his arms around the captain. Tigranian laughed as he returned the embrace.
“Tekloth!” Tigranian shouted. “It is so good to see again!” The warrior then turned to Laria and smiled.
“And this must be Lady Laria. I am honored to finally meet you.”
Laria was taken aback by a Klingon referring to her with an honorific title.
“Laria, this is Tekloth, ghIntaq to the House of Torlek and an old friend.”
“It’s very nice to meet you,” Laria said extending a polite hand. However, Tekloth executed a bow before opening the door of the vehicle.
“You’re going to have to get used to being treated as you deserve to be treated, my love,” Tigranian whispered in her ear.
“And how do I deserve to be treated?” Laria replied nervously as Tekloth grabbed their bags and placed them into the aero-car’s cargo compartment.
“Like a warrior princess,” Tigranian said with a smile.
“The General awaits you at the estate,” Tekloth said when he was finished. “Please,” he said beckoning them into the vehicle.
Soon, they were airborne and leaving the buildings of the First City behind. The House of Torlek’s estate was located 400 kellicams up the Qam-Chee River from the capital. As Laria looked down to see the verdant Ka’Toth plains surrounding the city change to dense forest, she turned back to Tigranian and grabbed his hand.
“Your palms are sweaty,” he said with a chuckle.
“Yes, Daniel,” she said exasperated. “My palms are sweaty because I’m not only meeting your Klingon family, I’m going to be judged by them.”
“Laria, judging is a relative term…”
“Just shut up!” she said squeezing his hand harder.
“Ok,” he said shaking his head.
“Talk to me about something. Take my mind off of things.”
“But you just told me to shut up,” he said raising an eyebrow.
“Daniel…” she said as the tone of her voice turned dangerous.
“Sorry,” he said looking back at her. “What do you want me talk about?”
“I don’t know,” Laria said somewhat angrily. “What’s a ghIntaq? I thought that word meant ‘spear?’ You made it sound like he was a servant.”
“ghIntaq does literally translate as ‘spear’ and it is a servant in a manner of speaking, but it means more than that. A ghIntaq is someone who devotes their entire existence to serving a Great House. They have such fierce loyalty they become part of the family. Tekloth helps Lady Elessa run the estate when Torlek is away. He also manages the other servants and kind of acts as an advisor to the family.
I met him seven years ago when Torlek brought me to Qo’nos for the first time. I could tell he wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of a human in the family, but one stern look from Torlek and he’s never even shown a hint of contempt since. I like to think I’ve earned his respect.”
“That much is obvious. He loves you…” Laria said trailing off.
“And he will love you too,” Tigranian said squeezing her hand.
“You’re getting dangerously close to talking about it again.”
Then, Tigranian’s attention immediately turned to the window.
“There it is!”
Laria followed Daniel’s gaze and it took her breath away. The family’s country manor sat perched on a rocky bluff several hundred feet above the roaring rapids of the Qam-Chee’s headwaters. The House of Torlek’s tenant farms stretched out through the river valley. Fields of grain, vines, and pastures teaming with livestock were farmed by commoners paying rent to the estate. Up on the bluff behind the great house, lay hundreds acres of dense forest: the family’s traditional hunting grounds. The trees teemed with all manner of wild beasts and game.
“All of this belongs to your brother?” Laria said in amazement.
“It belongs to the House. The family has shared it for over twenty generations.”
The aero-car gently descended towards the front steps of the manor and came to a rest on a gravel driveway between the house and the forest. Before Tekloth could open the car’s doors, Torlek was already running up to greet them.
The two brothers collided with such force that Laria felt it from two meters away.
“qaleghqa’mo’ jIQuch, my brother!” Torlek roared as he wrapped his massive arms around Tigranian. The captain replied with a shout and they slammed their chests into each other. “There she is!” Torlek said with a smile as Laria approached.
“nuqneH, My Lord,” Laria said trying her best to be polite.
“Do not address me as a servant to her master, Laria!” Torlek said hugging her off the ground. “Soon, you will both my sister and a daughter to this house.”
He released her from his tremendous grasp.
“With a little luck,” she said gasping for air.
“Klingons do not believe in luck, Laria,” Torlek said with a smirk. “The day that Elessa and I have prayed to Kahless for many turns has finally arrived. Soon, you will engage my mistress in battle, and you are the only foe that I would wish victory over my lady.”
“So, I’m a foe now?” Laria said nervously.
“To us, an opponent is not a necessarily an enemy. Battle enriches the spirit, especially when it is with ones we love.” Tigranian whispered to her.
Laria stared back at him with even more trepidation than before.
“Leska! Kesreth!” Torlek shouted back towards the house. Two teenaged girls appeared from the front door. They quickly made their way down the steps towards them. As soon as he saw them, Tigranian shouted with joy and hugged them as well. He started speaking to them in Klingon and Laria’s translator kicked in again.
“Look at you two! You must have shot up a meter since I saw you last!” The girls smiled and politely bowed to Tigranian.
“Leska and Kesreth will care for you while you stay in my home,” Torlek said to Laria. “They are two of my most trusted servants.”
“Laria,” Tigranian said introducing his fiancée to the pair. “Leska and Kesreth were born into this house. Leska’s father is the chief game-keeper on the hunting reserve and Kesreth’s mother is the head chef of the kitchens. The last time I saw them, they were barely as tall as my bat’leth, now they’re all grown up.”
“That shows how much time you have been spending in your home over the past few turns,” Torlek said shooting Tigranian a grin. “We’ve prepared your chambers for two on this visit. They’re ready now if you still remember the way to them.”
“Of course I do, Brother,” Tigranian replied with a grin. “No matter how far I travel the stars, this will always be home.
Munich, Germany: Earth
Annabeth unlocked the old wooden door and stepped inside the apartment. Sunshine poured in through the large vaulted windows. Alex followed close behind. Their footsteps sounded across the hardwood floor and echoed off the high ceilings. Annabeth sighed as she took in the sight of the empty rooms.
“It looks like your tenants left everything in order when they moved out last month,” Alex said reassuringly. “Your mother’s things are still in storage?”
“Yes, Annabeth said stepping further into the front room. “I didn’t see any need to move them back in.”
“Why not?” Alex asked curiously. “This is your place again.”
“I guess I still consider it her place,” Annabeth replied quietly.
“Beth,” Alex said placing a hand on her wife’s shoulder. “Your mother passed away two years ago. You grew up here. It’s your home now.”
“Actually, I’m thinking about selling it,” Annabeth said turning to meet her gaze. “I haven’t lived here since I went to the Academy ten years ago.”
“Why?” Alex said flashing her a concerned look.
“Too many memories, I guess.” Annabeth said walking over to the windows. She looked down at the River Isar flowing below. “There were a lot of happy times, but I still can’t help thinking about what it was like after Dad died on the Rutledge: Mom just standing here, staring out of these windows for hours. The day I told her I was joining Starfleet was the biggest fight we ever had. I stormed out of that door and didn’t come home for two days.” Alex softly hugged her from behind as Annabeth continued. “I don’t know if this place belongs in my adult life. I mean, we’re married now, I spend almost all my time two hundred light-years from Earth…I just don’t think it’s right for me anymore.”
“I think the question you need to be asking is ‘Is it right for us?”
Annabeth turned to her with surprise.
“I never pictured you as somebody who’d find Germany appealing.”
“What’s not to like about it? Clean air, friendly people, and I’ve seen more beer in the past two hours than I’ve seen in my entire life.”
“I thought you said you wanted to be close to your family in Toronto?”
“It’s the same planet, Beth. We’re a quick public transporter trip away.”
Annabeth turned around and held Alex close.
“I still don’t know…” she said trailing off.
“If it’s the memories you’re worried about, we’ll just have to make more happy ones. I mean, we’re not going to be in Starfleet forever. Just imagine, a Christmas tree right over there in the corner, snow falling outside these windows, carols playing in the background. All three kids waking us up as the sun’s coming up…”
“I thought we’d agreed on two kids,” Annabeth said raising an eyebrow.
“Well, we can flip a coin to see who gets to carry the last one,” Alex replied. They both laughed.
“That thought does make holding onto this place far more appealing. Christmas in Bavaria is pretty amazing.”
“Then that settles it,” Alex said leaning in for quick kiss. “Because if any place could make a woman as amazing as you, this is where I want to raise my family.”
“Ok then,” Annabeth said with a smile. “I guess I better call the storage company.”
* * * *
Since his adoption by the House of Torlek, Tigranian had been given his own set of rooms inside the family estate. They were quite large and luxurious by Klingon standards, but Laria was secretly still a little disappointed that the bed was still nothing more than a large metal slab. Tigranian had felt her unease and had quickly requested several thick animal skins to cover it.
Now, he sat and looked over at Laria, sitting at a dressing table in the corner. She stared at herself in a large mirror as Leska and Kesreth finished styling her hair. Laria had been dressed in a tight-fitting green dress that showed far more cleavage than she was really comfortable with. Her Klingon ladies maids had also given a pair of leather, fingerless gloves which she nervously played with. Once Leska had finished braiding Laria’s hair in an intricate braid, Kesreth helped her wrap it around Laria’s head and pin it in place. Once they finished their work, they turned to Tigranian for final approval.
“’IH be’Hompu. tlho’”
The pair both smiled, politely bowed, and left. Tigranian walked over behind Laria and gently kissed her neck.
“You look absolutely beautiful,” he said softly.
“That was the strangest experience I ever had,” Laria said not taking her eyes off her reflection.
“What?” Tigranian said furrowing his brow.
“Not long ago, I was a destitute refugee that barely had enough food to eat. When we got our farm on Gault, we thought we had become the richest people in the galaxy, but now, I’m in a Great House’s estate being dressed in ritual finery by a pair of servants.” Laria turned and looked up at Tigranian. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that.”
“I think you will,” Tigranian giving her a reassuring grin.
“I’m also very surprised at you, Daniel,” she said with more judgement in her voice than she meant. “The way you ordered that pair of guards around at the arrival terminal, the way you’re comfortable commanding servants about in this house. Seeing you on Qo’nos: it’s like you’re a different person.” Tigranian suddenly got a look on his face that was mixture of surprise and shame. Laria realized that she might have gone too far. “I’m sorry…” she said looking down at her lap apologetically. “I’m very nervous and this all a little overwhelming.”
Tigranian placed his hands on her shoulders. She visibly relaxed as he started to rub them.
“I haven’t been fair to you, L. I’ve had a very long time to learn how to walk between these worlds. I guess I forget that you’re just now taking your first real steps into the Klingon one.”
“A holodeck really doesn’t prepare you for this part…”
“No, it doesn’t. Torlek has always been a little more progressive than other Klingons on his social views. Otherwise, he would have never considered bringing me into the family. However, he’s still a Klingon. Warriors from noble houses are expected to be proud of their nobility. They must appear to be strong, or they will fall prey to others.”
Laria turned and looked up at him again.
“I just need to know, that you’re still the same kind, fair man I fell in love with. That you’ll be happy with your common farmer’s daughter and that you don’t think you’re better than others who share her humble upbringing.”
Tigranian’s face softened and he kissed her cheek.
“Laria, I could never think I was better than you, your family, or anyone who grew up like you. You have a strength I could never hope to have.” He paused. “Also, you may be a farmer’s daughter, but there is nothing common about you.”
Laria smiled and leaned back into his arms. As she stared back into the mirror, she cocked her head to one side.
“Do you think I look like a good Klingon woman?”
Tigranian looked down and noticed that Laria’s Bajoran earring was still resting on the table in front of her. He gently picked it up and placed it back onto her ear.
“I think there’s a lot of good Klingon women that will want to look more like you.”
She laughed as the door chimed. She stiffened as Tigranian turned towards the door.
“pe’el,” he said firmly.
Torlek walked in and grinned at them. Laria quickly climbed to her feet.
“General Torlek,” Laria said politely nodding her head.
“Please, Laria,” he said staring at her again. “To you, I am not ‘My Lord’ or ‘General’ I am just ‘Torlek.’ You look stunning, My Dear.”
“tlho’ Torlek,” Laria said with a small smile.
“Is it time?” Tigranian asked.
“Yes, Elessa is waiting for Laria in the sunroom.”
Laria turned to Tigranian and gave him one more nervous look.
“You will do wonderfully.”
“Ok, how does it go again?” Laria said trying to catch her breath. “nuqneH ‘ej tlho’ Elessa Koh. Ek’taH roh masa qee’puk?”
“Very good,” Tigranian tried to say reassuringly, except it’s ‘Ek’taH roh masa qee’plok.”
“Oh, Prophets,” Laria said starting to shake. “I’m going to screw this up with the first sentence.”
“Hey,” Tigranian said with another smile. “Don’t be nervous, you’ll be great.”
Torlek coughed from the door.
“It would probably not be advisable to keep Mistress Elessa waiting right now,” he said gesturing out the door. Laria nodded and moved towards the corridor as Tigranian followed.
“I’ll get to see you right afterwards right?” Laria said looking back at Tigranian.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you with Torlek.”