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Tigranian stood next to his Chief Medical Officer and stared down at the sleeping Romulans. Alex had repaired the radiation damage to their cells. One of them, a woman, also had a large gash on her forehead that Alex had patched up.

"There's not a lot of Romulan anatomy in the databank. Luckily, they appear to be identical to Vulcans."

"They're dressed in civilian clothes, and look at her hair," he said pointing to the long black locks hanging down from the woman's head. "I don't think they're military," Tigranian said hopefully.

"Maybe they're spies," Alex added with an aire of distaste. She still had a lot of pent up rage from her terrible ordeal on Remus.

"First thing we have to do is figure out who they are and what they were really doing there," Tigranian said walking over to the Cardassians. "This one is wearing a captain's rank. He must be the man in charge. Can you wake him?"

"He might still be a little light-headed from the radiation exposure, but I can. You sure?" Alex asked. Tigranian nodded. She grabbed a hypospray and injected the man's neck ridges. Slowly, his eyes opened. The Cardassian bolted upright, but a hand from Alex stayed him.

"It's alright," the doctor said. "You're fine and you're safe."

"My crew?" the Cardassian asked. "All fine," Alex said. She wasn't sure whether or not to include the Romulans in her statement.

"My name is Captain Daniel Tigranian," the captain began. "You're onboard the Federation starship, Pershing, inside the Republic of Cardassia."

The Cardassians eyes grew wide and he rapidly began looking back and forth.

"I don't know anything. I'm just a captain in the State Auxiliary Reserve!"

"This isn't an interrogation, Captain," Tigranian replied. "However, I do have a few questions. It might help if I knew who I was dealing with."

The Cardassian sighed.

"My name is Glivis Norbah," he said with a nod.

"Welcome onboard the Pershing, Captain Norbah."

"I suppose I owe you and your crew a debt of thanks, Captain Tigranian. When we started to lose consciousness, I was sure I wouldn't wake up again. The Gosnath? My ship? Did it survive?"

"I'm afraid not," Tigranian said. "We had to pull you out of the nebula with a tractor beam. Your structural integrity field couldn't take it and she collapsed in the protostar's gravity well."

"I'm not surprised," Norbah said rolling his eyes. "That hulk should have been sent to the scrap heap ages ago. However, our resources have been a bit scarce since the Republic restricted our trade."

"I'm not here to discuss politics, Captain Norbah," Tigranian said leaning on the edge of a vacant biobed. "However, we both know it wasn't the Republic that cut off your trade."

"Reality is often dependent on perspective," Norbah replied. "I won't speak out against the people who are keeping us alive," he said eyeing the two unconscious Romulans.

"That leads me to my next inquiry," Tigranian said pulling out a PADD. "You see, I have a sensor report taken as your ship was breaking up. You said you hit a gravitic mine?"

"That's right…" Norbah said nervously.

"Interesting," Tigranian said looking at the data. "Because our sensors indicate that the original damage to your vessel was caused by an explosion that emanated from INSIDE your hull. There are also traces of some very unique energy signatures in the Gosnath's debris field. Tell me, what was a ship so small doing with a polaric field inverter right next to the Republic's border?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Norbah said shaking his head.

"My sensors are the best in Starfleet. My science officer is even better than that. Lies do not become gentlemen. Now, a polaric field inverter could only be used for two purposes. Either you were trying to ignite the plasma of the protostars to create an artificial supernova…which would be a war crime under interstellar law…"

"I promise you! I wouldn't do something so heinous! I still consider all of Cardassia my home!" Norbah emphatically stated.

"Or,"Tigranian continued, "you were trying to see if you could mine the plasma of the protostars as an energy source…"

Norbah shut his eyes and clenched his jaw.

"As I said, Captain, it is no secret how scarce our resources have become. However, my crew and I are only low-level reserve officers. The two you should be asking are them," he said pointing to the Romulans.

"I intend to," Tigranian said. "Doctor Hunter," the captain continued while turning towards Alex, "How soon will Captain Norbah and his crew be able to leave sick bay?"

"I have a few more tests to run," Alex replied, "but I think they'll be free in a few hours."

"Well then, Captain," Tigranian said. "I will contact Starfleet Command and the Republic to inform them of your special situation. Pending a further decision on your dispensation, consider yourself and your crew guests of the United Federation of Planets. I will have to assign a security detail to you all, but you will be granted quarters, have full access to food replicators and leisure facilities on board this ship, and I will arrange for you to send messages back to the Cardassian State through the Intergalactic Red Cross."

"That is more than generous, Captain," Norbah replied. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome."

"I wouldn't tell this to my government, but perhaps the Federation is not quite as backward and corrupt as I thought."

Tigranian didn't bother responding to that. He gestured for Alex to come with him into her office out of earshot.

"What about the Romulans?" he asked.

"Their conditions were more critical," Alex said. "I think they were closer to the initial explosion. It also meant their radiation poisoning was more pervasive. I don't think they'll be conscious till tomorrow morning at the earliest."

"Keep them here. I'll have Katie assign round the clock security just in case they turn out to be a bit more resilient than we thought."

****

Alex walked through the doors of her quarters and collapsed onto the sofa. Annabeth was bouncing a dozing Max on the far side of the room while dressed in a pair of shorts and a "STARFLEET CHEER" t-shirt. She started walking towards her wife, but a hand from Alex stopped her.

"It's best you keep him over there, Beth" Alex said exhausted. "I was exposed to some radiation at work today. Nothing serious, but I should shower and change before I hold him."

"Ok," Annabeth said more than a bit of upset. "What happened today? We moved in way closer to the nebula and I thought I heard an explosion earlier."

"That's because you did, Babe…" Alex said trailing off. Suddenly, she looked up and furrowed her brow. "Were you wearing that when I left earlier?"

"No, I had to change," Annabeth said with a grumble. She glanced down at Max. "He peed on me."

Alex held back a laugh.

"I'm serious, Alex!" Annabeth said. "I'm going crazy down here not knowing what's going on. Now, apparently, we had a radiation incident and a border incursion that the first officer had no clue about."

Alex sighed.

"We responded to a distress call from a Cardassian ship caught in the nebula. It was about to break apart, so we moved in across the border and beamed the crew out. Now, there's four Cardassians in the mess hall having dinner and two unconscious Romulans in my sick bay. Dan is on the line with Starfleet trying to figure out what to do."

Annabeth briefly stopped bouncing the baby and stared right back at her wife.

"And no one called me?" she said indignantly.

"Katie did a great job," Alex said shaking her head.

"That's not the point!" Annabeth shouted. "I'm first officer! I need to know these things."

The loud noise caused Max to start bawling again. Annabeth immediately resumed bouncing.

"Oh, nein, nein, nein, Leibling. Alles ist gut. Mama hat Mama nur angeschrien."

"Seriously, what are you telling him?" Alex said suspiciously.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Annabeth replied raising an eyebrow.

"Beth, what would you have done?" Alex replied to her earlier outburst. "You're on leave with a baby in our quarters. Would you have left Max with the computer and come up to the bridge to take charge?"

"No, of course not…" Annabeth said with a hint of derision.

"Then what? Would you pull Katie off the bridge to babysit? That would be a terrible idea even if there wasn't an ongoing security situation."

"No! However, I would like to know when we have hostile aliens onboard. I might have to keep a phaser under my pillow to protect the cub, here."

"There no sign that they're hostile…yet," Alex added the last word with some nervousness. "We've got them all under guard just in case."

Annabeth took a deep breath and glanced back out at space.

"Hurry up and take your shower," she said. "That why I can pass the munchkin off to you for a while."

"Sounds like you have plans," Alex mumbled while flashing her a nervous glance.

"I just want to get some air outside of our quarters. Maybe get a quick debrief from Dan."

"He's just going to tell you the same thing I did, Beth. You…are…on…leave. Let the rest of the crew keep the ship running right."

"You're my wife," Annabeth said. "I have to listen to that stupidity from you. But Dan's my captain. I can still knock some sense into him."

It was Alex's turn to roll her eyes before heading to the bathroom.


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