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"It must be big if we're having this meeting in here," Katie said taking a seat in the Pershing's SCIF. The Sensitive Comparted Information Facility, or SCIF for short, was a briefing room located in the very center of the ship. It was shielded against every single known form of electronic espionage.

"I don't like this at all," Alex said as she nervously pulled up a chair next to Katie. "Beth wouldn't say anything to me. It makes me nervous."

"There are some things that go beyond even the covenant of marriage, Alex," Scharr said as his antennae drooped down contemplatively.

Laria sat silently at the end of the table. Her arms were crossed in front of her chest as she stared at the floor. She understood the importance of what the Pershing was doing, but in her heart she knew this meant that Daniel was going to be putting his life in danger again. It was who he was, but that didn't mean she had to like it.

Phil walked over and put an understanding hand on her shoulder. She placed her hand over his and looked up at him with gratitude.

"It'll be alright, L," he whispered before sitting down next to her.

The doors opened and Lieutenant Hawkins and Sergeant First Class Schultz walked in. Everyone knew that if the marines were involved, this was going to be even more substantial an operation than they were expecting. The pair nodded to the other officers before taking their places for the briefing.

Right on time, Tigranian and Annabeth appeared from a side room.

"The Commander!" Annabeth's voice echoed off the bare, black walls. Everyone leaped to their feet.

"Take your seats," Tigranian said taking a briefing position in front of the main holoscreen. "Computer, engage security protocol. Level III Forcefields." Blue energy screens came to life around the periphery of the compartment sealing them inside. They were now truly alone. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this briefing is Classified: Top Secret." He flashed an understanding look at Alex. "We're not here to debate Federation policy, merely to execute it. Suffice it say, the authorization for the operation came from the highest levels of civilian government. However, if you feel ethically obligated to excuse yourself, you may leave right now and I will note your objection in my log."

He looked around the room. No one, not even Alex, moved.

"Alright then," Tigranian said punching a few commands into the computer terminal next to him. The words, "Operation Chieftain" appeared on the holoscreen. "Bottom line up front, Ladies and Gentlemen, this operation ends in one of two ways: either with Glinn Devek sitting in our brig, our with Glinn Devek's corpse in the ground. Am I understood?"

"Yes Sir," the room said in unison.

Tigranian punched a few more keys. The holographic projector on the conference table glowed to life and the image of a Star System hovered in mid-air.

"The Hurik System: located eleven lightyears inside the Romulan Zone of Occupation. Hurik V is a Class J gas giant planetoid…" The projected hologram zoomed in. "Hurik V's third moon is Class M and un-inhabited. Starfleet Intelligence has determined that Glinn Devek has established his residence in a secure compound on the moon's northern continent." No one allowed themselves to think how Starfleet Intelligence came by this new information."

"I'm guessing we'll have no other ships in support for this operation, Sir?" Phil said glancing at Hurik V's location deep inside the Romulan Zone.

"You are correct," Annabeth said answering for Tigranian. "We're going in alone."

Tigranian continued his briefing.

"Starfleet Intelligence also advises that Devek has established a sophisticated sensor net both in orbit and on the surface surrounding his compound. Any ship that approaches within two lightyears will immediately be detected. This will allow him to initiate an evacuation plan using several decoy ships he has planted for that purpose. Transport scrambling nets and magnetic shields located all over the moon's surface make any unauthorized beam in or out impossible."

"Can those sensor nets penetrate our cloak?" Katie asked.

"No, our stealth systems should be adequate to achieve orbit undetected," Tigranian answered.

"So Phil parks us in geo-sync orbit a hundred kilometers over Devek's living room and when we decloak, I open up with full broadside. If it's uninhabited, I can turn the entire continent into a glass parking lot in less than five minutes," the tactical officer said confidently. "Minimal risk to ship or crew and we accomplish Starfleet's intent." Phil and Scharr both nodded in agreement.

"I wish it was that simple, Katie," Tigranian replied. "Intelligence also advises that the compound has non-hostiles in it. A least fifty slaves captured from around the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, along with other associates of Devek, but guilty of no other crime. The President and Federation Council made it abundantly clear they want to avoid all unnecessary civilian casualties and I whole-heartedly agree."

"We can't beam in, any shuttle-craft we launch would be detected as soon as they clear our cloaking field, what alternative is there, Sir?" Katie asked.

"Lieutenant Hawkins, Sergeant Schultz," Tigranian said turning to the marines, "As soon as this briefing is over, I want the marines in the holodeck rehearsing OILO operations."

A smile crept across Schultz's worn face.

"Spaceborne, Sir," he replied with a nod.

"I'm sorry," Alex said looking around. "For those of us who aren't as familiar with combat, what's OILO operations?"

"Orbital Insertion, Low Opening," Katie said looking at Tigranian. "They're space-jumping in."

"If he has sensor nets, what difference will that make?" Alex asked confused.

"Biological signatures have a much lower profile than spacecraft or transporters," Laria quietly interjected. "I can broadcast a passive interference signal that won't be enough for Devek's sensors to detect, but will prevent the marines from being seen."

"It's like you can read my mind, L," Tigranian said with a smile. She didn't return the grin. Tigranian knew she had already figured out the marines wouldn't be going in alone. He took a deep breath.

"Once the rest of mission prep is complete, I'll be joining you in the holodeck."

"What?" Katie asked surprised.

"I made the recommendation to Starfleet Command that a naval officer accompany the ground forces to simplify the space-ground integration. Considering my experience with amphibious operations, I volunteered. Despite Commander Geist's fervent opposition…" he looked over to Annabeth. She professionally bit her tongue and let him continue. "…they agreed."

Laria slammed her fist into the table, but stayed silent. Everyone looked over, but otherwise ignored the outburst. Tigranian continued.

"This mission has the potential to completely change the balance of power in this sector. With Devek eliminated, the smuggling operations will be on the defensive. We can do some real good here, Ladies and Gentlemen. Now, let's get to work."

* * * *

Tigranian knelt in front of a small wooden cabinet in the corner of his quarters. Silently he lit two candles on either side and opened the front panel to reveal a small statue of a Klingon warrior. The bronze figurine held the Sword of Kahless aloft and stared back at him with confident ferocity in its eyes. He took a deep breath and began to pray:

"Kahless, the Unforgettable, Bringer of Honor and Master of Sto'Vo'Kor, guide our hands in righteous battle. Let the conflict enrich our spirits and bring us closer to enlightenment. Give us courage to fulfill our duty and unending loyalty to our cause. Save us from the whims and snares of Fek'lhr and all the demons of Gre'thor.

If any of us should fall at the hands of our enemies, lead our souls across the River of Blood to join you in the Black Fleet. Let us dine with you at your table where there is Honor without end…"

The doors of his quarters parted behind him, breaking his concentration. He looked back to his shrine and closed it as he heard familiar footsteps approaching.

"Will he hear you?" Laria asked softly.

"If our cause is a just one," Tigranian said climbing to his feet. He turned around to see her exasperated face. He immediately averted his gaze.

"What's wrong?" he asked walking over to his desk.

"Tell me, are you ever going to listen to Annabeth when she demands that you don't go on these dangerous missions?" Laria said crossing her arms in front of her.

"Are we really having this conversation again?" Tigranian said narrowing his gaze.

"She's only doing her duty as your first officer," Laria responded.

"And I'm doing my duty as captain, Laria."

"A Klingon captain, maybe," Laria said holding back a sigh. "But you're not a Klingon captain, Daniel. You are Starfleet. It's Annabeth's head if her C.O. gets killed on a mission he had no business being on."

Tigranian rubbed his eyes. As annoying as this line of logic was, he couldn't deny she was right.

"I made it very clear to Starfleet Command that it was my decision and I was overriding her recommendation."

"I'm just asking you, Daniel," Laria said cautiously taking a few steps closer. "Think about the consequences that your actions have on others. I've made peace with your ways of the warrior, but not everyone on board has."

"Have you really made peace, L? You seemed pretty upset in the briefing yesterday."

"Ok, maybe I lied about that, but I know there is nothing I can say or do to change your mind." She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small object. "So, I decided to help you in every way possible. I don't want to end up a widow before I'm even married." She tossed an iso-linear data chip onto the desk in front of Tigranian.

"What is this?" Tigranian said picking it up.

"High-resolution scans I took of the surface of Hurik's moon with focus on the northern continent around Devek's compound. It's a thousand times more accurate than anything Starfleet Cartography had in their database." A look of amazement crossed Tigranian's face.

"How did you do this? We're still twenty lightyears away!"

Laria chuckled and turned to leave.

"You know, Daniel, for all the faith I put in your abilities, you could return the favor. I'm pretty damn good."

"Hey," Tigranian said climbing to his feet and crossing over before she could leave the room. "I know how good you are, and I love you for it." He wrapped her up in his arms and gazed into her eyes.

"I hope that's not all you love me for," she replied with a smirk.

"It's not," he said as he leaned forward and kissed her. The blissful moment did not last for long. A subtle vibration coursed through the ship. Tigranian leaned back and glanced up at the ceiling. "We've cloaked…" he muttered. Then his comm badge chirped to life.

"Geist to Tigranian."

He tapped his chest.

"Go ahead."

"We've just crossed the border into the Romulan Zone of Occupation. Altering heading to Hurik System. Estimate orbital interface of Hurik V in four hours, sixteen minutes."

"Acknowledged. Tigranian to Hawkins."

"Lieutenant Hawkins here, Sir."

"Phoenix, I say again, Phoenix."

"Acknowledged, Sir."

Tigranian kissed Laria again.

"It's time to go," he whispered.

She squeezed him close and then let him go.

"Go get him," she said fiercely. Tigranian picked up her data chip and his dk'tahg and headed for the doors. Just before he exited into the corridor, she called after him.

"Warrior!" she shouted. He turned to look back at her. "With your shield, or on it. Qapla'."

A smile crept across his face.

"I know you'll be watching over us," Tigranian grinned before he disappeared from sight.


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