After the commanders finished touring Camp Hayes, Glinn Seroma said his farewells and returned to his own headquarters across the base. Hancock led Tigranian and Hawkins back to his own operations center where his staff manned several banks of computers monitoring Cyrbok IV and its surrounding space. Hancock introduced Hawkins to his intelligence officer and then led Tigranian back to his office for a private chat. Once Tigranian saw it, he realized the term "office" might be a liberal term for the prefabricated sheet metal room bolted to the side of the OPS Center, but it was still better than anything the two of them had during the war.
"Don't mind Teras," Hancock said. "He's a great leader, but he has perpetual stick up his ass when it comes to the Federation. However, at the end of the day, he actually gives a shit about making this work."
"If I let Cardassians get to me, I wouldn't last long in this job, Tyler," Tigranian replied with a grin.
"Can I get you something, Sir?" Hancock asked taking a seat behind his "desk." It was really a table made of sheets of plywood nailed together at right angles.
"No thanks, Tyler," Tigranian said taking a seat in a chair across from Hancock. "The whole point of this mission was for me to bring you stuff."
"Speaking of that," Hancock said leaning back in his chair. "C'mon, Sir," he said with an anticipatory grin on his face. "I know you. You remembered the thing I really need here."
"You do know me, Tyler," Tigranian said reaching down and unzipping a black backpack he had been carrying. He pulled out a roll of Klingon yIvjebol and placed it on Hancock's desk.
"You are a lifesaver, Sir!" Hancock said reaching over and ripping a metal can from the plastic wrapping. "Federation replicators won't let you upload the pattern for this stuff."
"Our nation is just concerned for our health, Tyler," Tigranian replied sarcastically.
"If they were really concerned for our health, they wouldn't send us off to warzones, would they?" Hancock said prying the lid off the can and taking a deep sniff. Both men laughed.
"That's the real deal," Tigranian said. Nothing replicated about it. I picked up some extra cans for your back on Qo'nos a few weeks ago.
"By the way, how did that summit go?"
"Talking, posturing, more talking," Tigranian said as Hancock tapped the can with his finger and putting a fingerful of tobacco into his lip. "It feels like it was productive. We'll see."
Hancock closed the can and then offered it to Tigranian.
"Why the hell not?" the captain said taking the can and putting a pinch in his own lip. After a few moments, Tigranian spoke again. "I was really sorry to hear about you and Mary."
Hancock sighed before spitting into an empty water bottle.
"I wasn't ready to leave the Corps," he said shrugging his shoulders. "She was. Whole divorce was as amicable as it could have been. She lets me see the kids as much as I want when I'm back home."
"Still," Tigranian said looking for a place to spit. Hancock passed him another empty bottle. "Ending a marriage can't be easy."
"Deaths aren't the only casualties of war, Sir," Hancock said a getting a bit deep. "Sometimes, it's our old lives too. Hardest thing about it is she's now dating a damned architect on Earth. Says, it gives her 'stability' whatever the hell that means. My daughter calls him 'Uncle Jeremy'."
"I'm sorry, Tyler," Tigranian said.
"Don't be," Hancock said trying to keep his composure. "Shit happens."
"Hoorah," Tigranian replied.
"Speaking of marriage," Hancock said switching to a lighter subject. "How's the married life treating you, Sir? I thought that they'd put you in the ground as a bachelor for all the interest you showed in women while you were with 1-2."
"Let's just say I found the one that changed my mind," Tigranian said.
"Alright, I'll buy that," Hancock said spitting into the water bottle again. "Now, let's cut the crap, Sir. Why are you really here?"
"Like I said, Tyler," Tigranian replied. "I'm just here to drop off some supplies."
"That horseshit might work back in the fleet, Sir," Hancock said grinning, "but you back among marines. There's at least twenty supply ships that can make a logistics run. Why is the most powerful starship in the sector paying me a visit and why is the Admiralty suddenly so concerned with how the corps is running a guard mount on a backwater planet?"
Tigranian sighed and spit in his bottle.
"You always had the Frontrunners at the best readiness rating in the regiment. You still that good?"
"I'll put it this way, Sir," Hancock said leaning forward. The harsh lights of his office glinted off the two Marine Corps insignia pinned to the lapels of his fatigues. "You give the order to go right now and my marines would be kicking ass and taking names five minutes ago."
"What about Seroma and his troops? Will they really stand 'shoulder to shoulder' when the phasers start flying or is that just bad publicity put out by the PAO?"
"Like I said, Teras may be an asshole, but he'll stand and fight. I know his boys and gals will too. A lot of them turned against the Dominion during the last days of the war. They know which side their mapa bread is buttered and don't want to see Romulus in control of anymore Cardassian territory than they have already."
"That's good to hear, Tyler," Tigranian said somberly.
"Is the situation really that bad?" Hancock replied.
"Yeah," Tigranian said nodding his head. "It really is. The fact that a Cardassian State Fleet could get within visual range of Earth before we could stop them has Starfleet's asshole puckered so tight you could force feed the Admiralty pieces of charcoal and they'd shit diamonds. The situation on Romulus gets worse every month. There's a lot of people that think they could use a war with us an excuse to get out of their domestic problems."
"So, they sent you all the way out here to make sure I wasn't dicking around? I appreciate the vote of confidence," Hancock said sarcastically.
"I was in the neighborhood anyways, Tyler. They know the Cardassian State and the Romulans watch every border outpost. The fleet just wants to send the message that we haven't forgotten about any of them."
"Show the colors? Do a little nautical display for the pointy-eared audience?" Hancock asked.
"That's about right," Tigranian said.
"Shit," Hancock said with a chuckle. "I hope they hit us here. Better to hold the line on the border than wait for another infiltration fleet to drop a plasma torpedo on Vulcan, or Andoria…or Earth."
"Be careful what you wish for, Brother," Tigranian said shaking his head. "This damned cold war could get very hot very quickly."
"Ha!" Hancock said leaning back in his chair. "You certainly could have fooled me when you and your crew stepped off that hopper back on the landing pad."
"Now, just what does that mean?" Tigranian said leaning forward and raising his eyebrows.
"Jesus Sir," Hancock said like it was obvious. "You brought your XO down here looking like she could pop if somebody cuts a fart too loud. This is about as forward an area as you can get and she's about as pregnant as you can get. Pretty sure that's a no-no if I remember correctly."
"Dammit Tyler," Tigranian said leaning back and shaking his head. "You ain't wrong."
"Then, if you don't mind me asking, how the hell did Daniel Tigranian, an asshole so tough he convinced the Klingons to let him in the front door, let something like that slide?"
"Let's just say I've had a shift in perspective recently."
"Sir" Hancock said plainly. "I once saw you go warp core breach for five full minutes on a lieutenant because he let his platoon take their body armor off during a patrol."
"That was different, Tyler," Tigranian replied. "That was an inexperienced leader making a bad call that could have gotten people hurt."
"So, an experienced leader making a call that could get people hurt is acceptable?"
Tigranian grimaced as he remembered the scars on his chest left there as a result of one of his own reckless decisions. After a moment of pondering, he shook off his doubts.
"You don't know Annabeth Geist like I do. She's a professional and she knows what she's doing."
"Alright, Sir," Hancock said acquiescing. "But you and I both know it's really easy to start believing you're bulletproof in this job. That's when terrible things tend to happen."
That last comment gave Tigranian pause.