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Badlands: Bajoran/Cardassian Frontier

"Are you alright, Ma'am?" Gleeto spoke from Tactical. "You look pretty rough."

Annabeth caught herself on the armrest of the captain's chair just as she was about to fall asleep.

"I'm fine, Ensign. Thanks for asking," she said pulling a loose strand of frazzled hair behind her ear. "It was just a bit of a long night."

She looked up at the chronometer on the wall and saw it was about to hit 1830 hours. The doors to the turbolifts opened and new crewmen stepped out onto the bridge. The first officer climbed to her feet.

"Alright, day shift, you stand relieved. Conduct changeover briefs with your counterpart and then call it." She reached down to the floor and grabbed a curved, wooden stave with a padded leather ball on one end. Tigranian had given one to each of them last night calling it a Ma'Staka. While traveling to kal'Hyah, they would have to carry it with them at all times in order to attack the captain and Laria after the wedding ceremony. It had something to do with Kahless and his wife, but in her dazed state, she couldn't remember the details of the story.

The doors to the captain's ready room opened and Torlek, Murphy, and Tigranian walked out.

"Admiral on the bridge!" Annabeth shouted steadying herself against the captain's chair.

"Carry on," Murphy said rubbing his head.

"The time approaches for us to meet once more," Torlek said. I will see you all on the holodeck in an hour. "Come Daniel, we have some details to discuss in your quarters."

"Sir, if you don't have anything else," the captain asked Murphy.

"No, no," Murphy said shaking his head. "I'll see you soon."

The two Klingon warriors departed in the turbolift. Murphy walked over to Annabeth and spoke quietly so the other crew members would not hear.

"How are you doing?"

"I feel like I got ripped apart in a black hole, Sir."

"You're not kidding," he replied. "My head is pounding like a Nausicaan is playing drums on it. We have to do this for three more nights?"

"Look at it this way, Sir," Annabeth said forcing a smile. "If we die, at least we'll wake up in Sto'Vo'Kor."

"God…" Murphy said walking towards the turbolift with Annabeth right behind him.

When they were gone, Ensign Ferrarro, the night science officer, turned to Gleeto.

"What happened to them?" he asked curiously.

"It's a Klingon bachelor party for the captain," Gleeto said shaking his head. "Use your imagination."

****

Back in the cavern, Annabeth, Murphy, Phil, Scharr, and Torlek stood in a line facing Tigranian.

"You all have honored your oath so far," Tigranian said. "Your sacrifices honor me."

"Anything for you, Sir," Scharr said barely masking the sarcasm in his voice. "I might take another wife just so I can take you ice fishing on Andoria's northern cap."

Phil and Murphy burst out laughing but Annabeth kept her bearing.

"I will look forward to that my friend," Tigranian said. "But for now, we begin the second trial: The Trial of Blood."

"Let rivers flow from our veins!" Torlek shouted. The Klingon approached Tigranian and ripped the sleeve from his shirt.

"This is crazy," Phil said shaking his head in disbelief.

Torlek drew his dk'tahg and clicked open the blades.

"Are you ready, my Brother?"

"Yes," Tigranian said nodding his head.

"What's he gonna do?" Murphy asked nervously.

Torlek grabbed Tigranian's arm and inserted the tip of his blade into the inside of the captain's elbow. With a quick downward slash, he opened the vein and bright red blood gushed out onto the ground.

"Oh God," Phil said grabbing her mouth to prevent from vomiting.

"Let this blood, your very lifeforce, flow as a sign of dedication to your Lady, Daniel, Son of Tigranian," Torlek said.

Then the captain ripped open the General's sleeve, drew his own dk'tahg, and repeated the process on Torlek. The other four gasped at the horror show that was quickly developing in front of them.

"Who is next?" Torlek said holding up his dripping forearm.

"I am," Annabeth said, the words leaving her mouth before she realized she had spoken them.

"As you wish, step forward, Annabeth, Daughter of Geist," Torlek growled with approval.

She took a deep breath as she stepped towards them, stopping just as she felt the heat from the burning bonfire. Tigranian shoved his blade into the flames until the fire caused the residual blood to burn away. He reached up and grabbed Annabeth's sleeve. She quickly grabbed his hand.

"Let this be a sign of dedication to my Lady," Annabeth said.

"To Alex, Daughter of Hunter," Tigranian said tearing away the fabric from Annabeth's arm. He immediately inserted the red hot dk'tagh into Annabeth's flesh. It sizzled as it cut. Annabeth winced for a brief moment as the searing pain cut into her consciousness, but soon the sensation was replaced with a mild, light-headed exhilaration.

As she watched the red liquid pour from her wound, she thought of her wife, lightyears away from her embrace. She hoped that somehow, Alex could feel how much she loved her.


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