The young Klingon stared at the battlecruiser's viewscreen. As he watched the debris from the Romulan flagship drift through the void, he took a deep breath.
"I never thought I would never hear the call of battle," he said resting his hands on the Vegeance's weapons console. "But when they started firing, it's like I knew exactly what to do…"
As he trailed off, Captain Koth approached from behind him and placed a leather-gauntleted fist on the boy's shoulder.
"That's because the way of the warrior lives in the heart of every Klingon. You can ignore it, you can run from it, but in the end it will always remain," Koth said as his eyes burned from underneath his sharply crested forehead.
The boy turned to him, worry and doubt furrowing his smooth, beardless face.
"But I am long past the Age of Ascension. Isn't it too late for me?"
"It is never too late to live with honor, Themar'ek," Koth said with the grin of a seasoned warrior. "However, you will need a guide on your difficult journey. If you let me, I will be that guide for you."
After a few tense moments, the boy nodded.
"I would be honored, Sir."
Koth reached out his free hand and grabbed the young man's wrist as the rest of the bridge crew looked on approvingly.
"Then, we travel the River of Blood together from now on. Qapla'."
A booming refrain of the program's theme music began to play and credits rolled across the screen written in tlhIngan Hol.
"So, what did you think?" Tigranian said excitedly hopping up from the couch in his quarters and walking towards the holoscreen.
Alex leaned against the far edge of the sofa while Annnabeth rested against her shoulder. Laria picked the last few pieces of popcorn out of a large bowl. It was the fifteenth time her husband made her watch this episode, but she knew that tonight, the rerun was for a good reason.
"It was alright I guess," Alex said trying to be polite. "I mean the characters were pretty good, but the dialogue was a little stilted."
"And those special effects," Annabeth said shaking her head. "It was like the holoanimators weren't trying at all in some places."
Tigranian shook as his head as he pulled an isolinear chip out of his holoscreen's digital player. He replaced it in a brightly colored case with an old-fashioned Klingon D7 on the cover entitled:
"Battlecruiser Vengeance: The Complete Original Series, Seasons 1-9"
"You have to remember that this show is a hundred years old. Sure, it's a little dated in places, but it's a cultural phenomenon!" the captain said proudly returning his collection to its place of honor on his shelf. "I mean, it's the most enduring entertainment franchise in the entire Klingon Empire."
"And it was Daniel's favorite show growing up," Laria said repeating what her husband had told her a least hundred times during their marriage.
"How am I not surprised?" Alex said with a chuckle. Tigranian shook his head as he took a seat on an ottoman two meters away.
"I'm not the only fan in the Federation," he continued. "It's themes of honor, family, and bravery resonate with a lot of people."
"It's a television show, Dan," Annabeth said skeptically. "and a violent, imperialist one at that."
"It's so much more than a television show, Number One," he said with a sigh wondering if they would ever understand the point he was trying to make.
"Apparently, there's a huge Battlecruiser Vengeance fan convention every year in Quin'lat on Qo'nos," Laria said turning towards Alex. "Dan is always saying we should drop some leave and go."
"Oh my God!" Alex said laughing. "You mean one of those really nerdy conventions where you dress up in costume and spend all your money on toys and t-shirts while actors talk about what it was like to be on set fifty years ago? One of those conventions?"
The captain pursed his lips.
"You don't have to go to conventions in costume…they're just a lot more fun if you do. Also, they're not toys, Alex, they're collectibles," Tigranian countered a bit defensively.
"Yeah, I can see that," Annabeth said glancing over to a plastic scale model of the Vengeance with a thirty centimeter tall Captain Koth action figure standing beneath it. They were proudly displayed on the shelf besides Tigranian's holoscreen.
"I had to take them with me or else my mother was going to throw them out," he said glancing down at the carpet. "She had already gotten rid of my Captain Koth bat'leth with battle action light and sounds…" he grumbled angrily.
"I told you I would find you another one for your birthday," Laria said shrugging her shoulders.
"I don't want another one!" Tigranian said through gritted teeth. "I want mine! What if I threw away Rijo and replicated you another pugabeast?"
"Don't even joke about that!" Laria replied angrily. "You leave my pugabeast out of this."
"Jesus, some children never grow up," Alex muttered while shaking her head. "Are you ready for this?" she said turning to Annabeth.
"Nope," she flatly responded grabbing the sides of her protruding, pregnancy belly. "And I'm telling you right now that all your collectibles are going in the trash reprocessor the day you turn eighteen, yes they are!" she said in a cutesy baby voice to her stomach.
"That's cold, Number One," Tigranian scowled at her.
"Relax, Dan," Alex said taking a sip of wine. "We're just messing with you. I mean it's not like you're one of those weirdos who writes fanfiction and posts it on the holonet."
"Actually," Laria said reaching for her own wine. "His is really good. Really fleshes out the love story between Lieutenant Karona and Commander Taros."
"LARIA!" Tigranian shouted.
"Oh, Dan…" Annabeth groaned.
"Sorry…" Laria mouthed at her husband apologetically as she took a long sip from her glass.
"Look," Tigranian said rising to his feet. "I actually asked you guys here tonight for an important reason besides making fun of my treasured childhood memories." He nervously stroked his chin. "It's a promise I made to Torlek when he found out you were pregnant."
"Dan, what is it?" Alex asked extremely concerned.
"Why do you think I chose to show you that particular episode of Battlecruiser Vengeance?" he asked.
"Had a lot of violence?" Annabeth asked.
"There was a ten minute explanation about the history of the bat'leth?" Alex guessed.
"They fought a Romulan raiding fleet and we all hate Romulans?" Annabeth added.
"Not quite," Tigranian said sitting back down on the ottoman and steepling his fingers. "It was about a young man who grew up away from the Empire and never learned anything about his people. No matter how hard he tried to run away from his heritage, it finally caught up with him. Luckily, Captain Koth was willing to help Themar'ek find his way before it was too late."
"I'm not sure I like where this is going," Alex said nervously glancing at her wife.
Tigranian hit his hands together, climbed to his feet, and walked to the window. He ran his fingers across the frame as he stared out at the stars.
"You are being uncharacteristically vague here, Dan," Annabeth said. She pushed herself up with considerable effort and stood with her hands on her hips. "I'm not sure I like it."
"It's because I find myself in a position where my choice heritage is in direct conflict with my obligations both as your friend and as your donor," he said turning around and leaning against the transparent tritanium glass. "I chose to live as a Klingon among humans. You both did not. You should not be expected to follow traditions that are not your own."
"Ok, ok," Alex said raising her hands and standing next to her wife. "What if we both promised to listen to whatever you have to say and remain calm and rational the whole time."
"Easy for you to say," Annabeth said. "You're not riding a wave of hormones while carrying a three pound parasite in your uterus…"
"Beth…" Alex cautioned.
"Ok, ok," Annabeth said forcing a smile. "Calm and rational."
"Just tell them, Daniel," Laria said shaking her head.
"Torlek has claimed your baby as a member of his house," Tigranian said with a deep breath. "He requests you to raise the child as Klingon."
"WHAT?!" Annabeth and Alex said in unison.
"Wait, wait," Alex said doing her best to keep her promise to remain calm. "What exactly does he have to do with our baby?"
"In the Klingon tradition, the father's blood is as important as the mother's. It passes from him to his child. Torlek made me Klingon with his own blood which means his blood entered your child through me," Tigranian explained. "By Klingon law and tradition, your son is Klingon which means Torlek is obligated by his honor to take him into his house."
"I don't see Torlek carrying around this baby!" Annabeth shouted.
"I know Annabeth!" Tigranian said rubbing his eyes. "I know. I've waited as long as I could to bring this up, but we have to discuss it before the baby is born."
"If he tries to take our baby…" Annabeth said as her voice transitioned to a low, protective growl.
"He's not going to do anything," Tigranian said holding up a hand. "And even if he wanted to, I wouldn't let him."
"Trust me," Annabeth said very annoyed, "it wouldn't matter if you, Torlek, and a thousand Klingons showed up at my door. This baby isn't going anywhere."
Tigranian sighed as Laria jumped in.
"Alex, Annabeth," she said trying to calm them down. "Torlek doesn't want to take your baby and he doesn't want to raise it. He merely wants to protect it and make him aware of Klingon culture. But, if you refuse, he's already said he won't bother you about it again."
"You knew about this?" Alex said in shock.
"When I'm not the science officer on this ship, I am a member of Torlek's house," she said firmly.
"And what exactly would this protection entail?" Annabeth asked.
"BETH!" Alex said in shock.
"I want to know, Alex," Annabeth said. "I'm not going to refuse an offer I know nothing about," she turned to Tigranian, "but that doesn't mean I'll accept it either."
"The child would be blood christened as a member of the House of Torlek," Tigranian explained. "And then a warrior who has completed the Rite of Ascension would swear an oath to raise the boy is accordance with Klingon law and tradition. Kind of like a godfather."
"Blood christened?" Alex said suspiciously.
"It's mostly symbolic now," Tigranian explained. "Blood christening goes back to a time when Klingon nobles were in a constant state of feudal warfare. Less honorable houses started assassinating the children of their rivals in an attempt to eliminate their heirs.
The ceremony is where the Head of the House takes responsibility for the upbringing and safety of an infant. It also serves as a warning to any enemies that harming it before the Age of Ascension will mean blood feud."
"And I imagine this godfather person would be you, Dan," Annabeth said lowering herself back onto the couch with a groan.
"I am the only one in this group who has completed the Rite of Ascension, so that narrows it down," Tigranian replied.
Alex suddenly grabbed a pillow from next to her wife and threw it into the wall as hard as she could.
"Do you really believe this, Dan?" the doctor asked him as she clenched her jaw. "That the baby Beth and I raise won't be complete unless he leans to eat gagh, stab things with a bat'leth, and asked to be tortured with painsticks?"
"Alex," Tigranian said looking up at her. "I will support you in whatever decision you and your wife make…" he paused. "But yes, I do believe in this."
Laria shut her eyes. She felt what was coming. Alex looked as if Tigranian had stabbed her through the heart.
"Then you shouldn't have agreed to any of this!" she shouted. "This is my baby! Not yours! Not Laria's! Not Torlek's!" You better tell your brother to keep his promise and stay away because I will not have any Klingon laying a finger on this child. And if you ever speak to us about this again, that will include you."
Now, it was Tigranian's turn to look crestfallen.
"ALEXANDRA!" Annabeth yelled.
"No!" Alex shouted back at her wife. "I will not sentence our son to a life of violence and pain before he is even born!"
"Do you think I might have an opinion on this?" Annabeth said with growing anger.
"You're not seriously considering letting them do this are you?" Alex gasped.
"Beth, I haven't decided on anything, but current events have once again shown me that Dan and Laria always will do the right thing, even when it's difficult. Putting them in a position where they have to choose between us and their family isn't fair to anyone!
I've stood with Dan and Torlek as their cha'DIch, I've been a guest in their home on Qo'nos. I've watched them stand up to injustice time and time again, including when they saved you." Her last comment put a crack in Alex's armor. "They are good people and we shouldn't dismiss them out of hand. Let's at least talk about this between ourselves."
"I promise," Tigranian said regaining his composure, "that I will not force you into anything. Discuss it, pray on it, and then let me know."
"Regardless, I don't think anything could change my mind," Alex said crossing her arms. "Kahless himself could walk through that door, and I wouldn't be moved."
"OWWW!" Annabeth suddenly shouted. She doubled over and grabbed her stomach.
"What?" Alex shouted diving to her wife's side. "What wrong?" Tigranian and Laria both leapt towards Annabeth as well.
"Is everything alright?" Laria asked desperately. Tigranian was poised to ask the computer for an emergency transport to sick bay.
Suddenly, a strange smile crossed Annabeth's face.
"Nothing's wrong," she said looking up with wonder. "He kicked…" Annabeth whispered. "When you said 'Kahless,' he finally kicked."
"Oh no," Alex said rearing back. "No, no, no!"
Annabeth looked over to Laria and then Tigranian in amazement. The captain reached over and grabbed Laria's hand. At this moment, he knew it was better to remain silent, but inside he whispered:
"Kahless the Unforgettable, be praised."