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Three and a Half Years Ago

Zaranite System: Federation Space

Stardate: 50561.5

Tigranian materialized on the Halcyon's transporter pad. The first thing he saw was the stern face of a Starfleet Commander. It was eerily reminiscent of his arrival on the Sk'oh almost six years previously, but somehow, this man seemed even less welcoming than Commander Kentok.

"Lieutenant Commander Daniel Tigranian reporting as ordered, Sir," he said stepping off the transporter platform and reaching out a PADD containing his orders.

"I'm sure those are in line," the commander muttered somewhat indignantly. "I am Commander Harshbough, first officer of the Halcyon."

Tigranian expected a "welcome aboard" to accompany that statement, but none came. He realized his less than pleasant departure from Starfleet Intelligence had accompanied him here. Still, he was thankful. Anything was better than being asked to betray his Klingon brothers and sisters on a daily basis.

"We'll have your bags beamed to your quarters, Commander," Harshbough continued. "I'm taking you straight to the bridge. Captain Zelas is waiting in her ready room for you." Tigranian raised an eyebrow. That was definitely not standard protocol.

"Yes, Sir," was all he was able to get out.

"Follow me," Harshbough said turning his back on Tigranian and heading into the corridor. Tigranian silently followed.

The turbolift ride to the bridge was probably the longest of Tigranian's career. The first officer never said another word or made any eye contact. When the doors to the bridge opened, the two men stepped out and headed toward Captain Zelas' ready room. Tigranian couldn't help but look over to the empty tactical station, his new home. He knew that transitioning back to Starfleet life after all the years he spent with Klingons wouldn't be easy, but his personal honor made him promise to do the best he could.

Harshbough hit the buzzer on the outside of the ready room.

"Enter," said a firm female voice. The doors parted and they stepped inside. Trisha Zelas was a twenty-year space veteran. She had a distinguished career they were already talking about at the Academy when Tigranian was a cadet. Over the course of her voyages, she had been a part of no less than fifteen first contact missions: eight of them considered high risk. Her mother was human, but her father was Tellarite. As a result, her dark face was surrounded by a thick mane of red hair. Tigranian immediatly thought she was a sight to behold.

Harshbough took his place beside her desk, and both of them started to glare at their new arrival. She did not stand to greet Tigranian, but merely sized him up with her sunken eyes.

"So, you're the one?" she said after a few moments of awkward silence.

"I guess I am, Ma'am," Tigranian said still at attention. Finally, she motioned for him to stand easy.

"Tell me, Mr. Tigranian," she said picking up a PADD from her desk. "Where do your loyalties lie?" she said curtly.

"I'm afraid I don't understand your question, Ma'am," he said doing his best not to let his acquired Klingon temper from getting the better of him.

"It's a simple question, Commander," she said turning her chair towards him. "Do you feel that your allegiance is to the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet Command or do you feel a greater connection the Klingon Empire?"

"Ma'am," Tigranian said staring at her with just enough intensity to not be viewed as threatening, "I took an oath of loyalty to Starfleet Command and to serve the people of the Federation. While I wear this uniform I fully intend to live up to that oath and serve this ship!"

"Really?" she said suddenly climbing to her feet. "Because my friends in Starfleet Intelligence told me that while you were there, your commitment to the citizens of the Federation seemed to have waivered."

"I'm going to need you to explain that remark, Ma'am. I would hate for there to be a misunderstanding between us right off the bat…"

"I don't owe you an explanation, Commander. Not while you serve on my ship."

"I think you do, Ma'am!"

* * * *

"No way! You did not challenge a starship captain when you had been on board for less than ten minutes," Katie intejected in amazement.

"I did actually," Tigranian said with a chuckle as he took another sip of wine.

"How did you not end up in the brig?" Phil said staring at him in amazement.

"I think the captain might be pulling our legs," Laria said batting her eyes at Tigranian in a way that made Tigranian's breath quicken, but he calmed himself.

"Hey, who's telling this story?" he said sending a playful look right back at her.

"Sorry," Laria said with a wink as she poured herself another glass.

* * * *

"Since you feel entitled, Mr. Tigranian," Zelas said angrily. "Your only job at Starfleet Intelligence was to provide timely and accurate analysis of Klingon ship and troop movements. However, your performance evaluations paint the picture of an officer whose reports varied from apathetic to downright hostile. In the six months you were on Earth, your recommendations never revealed any useful data to Starfleet, and in many cases, you were downright wrong. Either you were trying to hide something from Command, or you were just plain incompetent."

"I never submitted a report that was not entirely accurate," Tigranian said with such resolve that Harshbough readied himself to intercept Tigranian in the event he lunged at the captain.

"Then how do you explain what happened to the Hispaniola?"

"What happened to that ship was not my fault."

"Your own analysis stated that the likelihood of contact with Klingon raiders in that system was low!" Zelas said slamming her fist down on her desk.

"A low likelihood of contact doesn't mean you shut down your warp core and defensive systems to conduct maintenance all alone in space!"

"So you're blaming the crew?" Zelas said with disgust in her tone.

"The only person I blame is the captain who made that decision. The review board said he violated six separate regulations prior to the encounter…" Tigranian said trailing off.

"Watch your tone, Commander. Captain Hastings was a very old friend of mine. We went through the Academy together."

"That probably reflects more on you than it does on me," Tigranian muttered under his breath.

"What was that, Commander?" Zelas spit at Tigranian. "I didn't quite hear you."

"I was merely thinking, Captain," Tigranian replied. "If you're not confident in my abilities as your tactical officer, why did you accept my posting to the Halcyon?"

"I did everything I could to block it actually," Zelas said sitting back in her chair. "However, with relations between the Federation and the Klingons at their worst in the past eighty years, war could break out at any moment. We needed someone at Tactical, and you were the only qualified officer available."

"Lucky us, I guess," Tigranian said leaning back on his heels.

"I don't expect you'll have a very good time onboard with that kind of arrogant attitude, Mr. Tigranian. However, despite all your flaws, I hear you can at least fire phasers in a straight line. If we have to go into action, just be sure you point them in the right direction. Am I clear?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Good, then get out of my sight. Dismissed."

* * * *

"You certainly have a way with women, Sir," Annabeth said sarcastically.

"You asked to hear this, and I tried to talk you out of it."

"I just have a hard time believing that you were ever that brash," Alex said with disbelief. "You're always so concerned with loyalty and duty."

"I can believe it," Laria muttered. The rest of the table laughed again. The wine was definitely starting to go to her head.

"The war put a lot of things into the perspective for me, Alex," Tigranian replied. "I had to grow up a little to realize that there were honorable people outside of the Empire."

"Alright, enough philosophizing," Scharr said. "Get back to the story."

"Well," Tigranian continued. "Zelas was actually a pretty amazing commander. The crew supported her in every way. Unfortunately, that meant her attitude towards me carried over to everyone else…"

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