Womot Cluster: Republic of Cardassia
"Five more kilos," Tigranian said staring at the ceiling of the Pershing's gym. Corporals Irabban and Tolmeni looked at each other skeptically. Then, they each put another 2.5 kilo plate on the sides of the bench press's bar.
"The bar now weighs more than you do, Sir," Irabban said nervously. "Are you sure about this?"
"That's why I have you here to spot me, Rab," Tigranian said. "Let's do it."
"Ok…" she said taking her place near his head. Tigranian took a few deep breaths and put his hands on the bar. "Ready?" she asked. He nodded. "One, two, three!" she shouted as she helped him lift the heavy bar off the stands.
Tigranian grunted as the bar dropped to his chest and then screamed as he pushed back with all his might.
"C'mon, Sir! Time to beast it! PUSH! PUSH!" Tolmeni shouted. Tigranian yelled as he dug his heels into the floor and started pushing the bar towards the ceiling.
"YOU GOT IT, SIR! PUSH!" Irabban shouted. "Get it up there!"
Tigranian sucked in another breath of air and then gave it all he had. With every ounce of energy remaining, he finally locked his elbows out.
"Nice!" Irabban said as she helped him re-rack the weights. Tigranian slowly sat up. His arms felt like they were made of jelly.
"You are definitely gonna feel that one tomorrow, Sir," Tolmeni said hitting him on the shoulder.
"Baktag," Tigranian muttered while wiping his face with a towel. "I'm getting old."
"You can still kick some ass and take some names, Sir," Irabban replied trying to reassuring him.
"Yeah, what are you 23, 24?" he said looking at her and grinning. "I bet you can still bench your body weight two or three times."
"Five times actually, Sir," she said grinning back. "But who's counting?"
"You are apparently, Asshole," Tigranian said with a laugh as he climbed to his feet. "I'm done for tonight, Guys. Thanks for the spot, and keep getting some."
"We will, Sir," Tolmeni said confidently.
"You still ain't too old to be a Marine, Sir," Irabban said as Tigranian headed for doors. "You just gotta keep up with the PT."
"I leave that Hoorah shit to the young and the bold now, Rab," he said over his shoulder.
"Damn right…" Rab said turning to Tolmeni and holding out her hand.
"Hell, yeah," he said slapping her palm.
Tigranian wiped the sweat from his face with his towel as he headed down the corridor to his quarters. He was happy that this turn on the Cardassian border would be over in a few days. The Pershing would be heading back to Federation Space once the Nelson and Shu Yin arrived to relieve them. However, he was also dreading their return home. It meant that Annabeth and Max would be leaving the ship to return to Earth. It was hard enough to lose his right hand woman to the Venture before, but the fact that she was also taking Max this time made it even harder.
His mind kept reminding him that the baby was Alex and Annabeth's child, but in his heart he couldn't shake his bond with the boy. However, he would never let anyone, not Laria, not Torlek, and certainly not Annabeth or Alex know that being around Max made him feel like a proud father. It wasn't his place, and he knew that.
As he rounded the corridor, he froze in his tracks. Phil and Katie were headed toward the recreation deck, and arguing as usual.
"I don't understand why you're so nervous. It's just a new program," Phil said.
"Phil, I feel ridiculous dressed like this, but not as ridiculous as you should feel right now," she replied. She stopped when she saw the captain in his Starfleet Physical Training uniform and grew bright red.
"Now, here's something you don't see every day," the captain said with a grin.
Phil was dressed like an unemployed college professor living on the street. He had on threadbare tweed pants, a worn knit cardigan, long velvet coat, and an old-fashioned brimmed hat. Around his neck was a knitted scarf in a hideous pattern of green, purple, blue, and yellow stripes. Katie wore a denim miniskirt, leather jacket, and what appeared to be brown leather cowboy boots.
"You two wouldn't happen to be on the way to a homeless shelter, would you?" Tigranian asked.
"Oh no, Sir," Phil said proudly. "A new holoprogram I ordered just came in and I can't wait to give it a try."
"I have no idea what program that is, but you may what to get your credits back if you have to wear costumes like that."
"Are you kidding, Sir?" Phil said as Katie averted her eyes towards the starboard bulkhead. "If it's half as good as the Beta tests the programmer sent me, I might move onto the holodeck." He proudly threw his arms out and proclaimed. "I'm the Doctor."
"It's based on an old British television show he loved as a kid," Katie grumbled.
"As a kid?" Phil said almost insulted. "I still love it!"
"Yeah, I keep telling myself you loved it as a kid so I'm less humiliated…" Katie replied. Phil rolled his eyes.
"You don't look like any doctor I've ever seen," Tigranian said chuckling. "Which doctor are you?"
"Not which, Sir," Phil said with a twinkle in his eye, "Who."
"Ok, who is this doctor?" Tigranian asked.
"Who is the Doctor, Sir," Phil said. Katie turned even redder.
"What?" Tigranian said now completely confused.
"Who, Sir." Phil said plainly.
"This is why I hate British television," Tigranian muttered. "That's what I asked. Who is this doctor?" Finally, Katie had enough.
"Phil is some kind of crazy alien doctor, I'm his 'companion,' and we travel through space in a giant blue phone booth fighting monsters…" she said just trying to end this conversation.
"It's not a phone booth," Phil said slightly crestfallen. "It's a call box."
"Alright," Tigranian said gripping the ends of his towel. He realized his Chief of Security needed an out. "You kids have fun." He walked past them and continued on his to his quarters. Just before the two were out of earshot, he heard one last exchange.
"You said you thought the program looked fun!" Phil said very annoyed with his fiancée.
"As long as we don't have to fight those creepy crying angel things or those cyber guys," she replied. "They remind me too much of the Borg."
Tigranian shook his head and chuckled. He would never mention this again. There was a very important code of honor that Starfleet officers lived by while on board a starship.
"What happens on the holodeck, stays on the holodeck."
The captain walked into his quarters. Laria sat on the couch with a glass of wine and bowl of popcorn. Annabeth and T'les were seated beside her and Alex sat in his easy chair with Max in her arms. A random reality show was on the holoscreen.
"You're back early!" Laria said with a little surprise.
"I decided to cut the workout a little short tonight." He turned to his other unexpected guests. "Umm…hello all," Tigranian said. Annabeth and Alex exchanged glances with Laria who shrugged. T'les' Vulcan mindset prevented her from sensing the social awkwardness.
"Good evening, Captain," she said with a polite nod.
"Sorry," Laria said trying to ease things over. "I didn't expect you back for another hour so I invited the girls over since we haven't had the group together in a while. Especially since AB is about to leave. Katie said she had a date with Phil, but everyone else could make it."
"Yeah," Tigranian said shaking his head. "I ran into her and Phil on the way to the holodeck."
"Dan," Annabeth said. "We can head over to our quarters if you need some space."
"No, no," Tigranian said. "You all deserve a night out with friends. Besides, I'm just going to take a shower and then get some reading done in the bedroom." He walked over to Alex. "Besides, I love any chance to see this little guy."
He leaned down next to Max. The baby realized someone new was nearby and his eyes fluttered open. Tigranian held up his right index finger and starting moving it side to side then up and down in front of Max's face.
"Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya," Tigranian said timing the words with each move of his hand. Finally, he bounced his finger sideways. "Gung…Gung…Gung." He then stopped his hand directly in front of Max's eyes.
"C'mon, Max," Tigranian said before repeating the whole strange process. "Waq…Kor…do…goH…Ya. Gung…Gung…Gung." The baby briefly sucked on his pacifier and then closed his eyes again. The women all looked at him as if he lost his mind.
"Dan…" Alex finally said what the others were thinking. "What the hell are you doing?"
"HeH Dup," he said like it was obvious before rising back to his feet. Alex leaned forward slightly to hint that his Klingon explanation was no help. He rolled his eyes.
"HeH Dup," he repeated. "Edge Strategy." It's designed to help babies develop peripheral vision and depth perception."
"Dan," Annabeth said slowly. "He's a newborn. He can barely hold his head up."
"And barely keep his eyes open," Alex said gently rocking her son.
"It's never too early to start," Tigranian said defensively.
"I agree with the captain," T'les said chiming in. "Vulcan children are given basic toys to help develop logical thinking abilities almost as soon as they are born. Excellence can only be achieved if it is cultivated from the beginning."
"Logic toys?" Annabeth said skeptically. "What do you give them? A square peg and a board with a round hole and see if they can figure it out?"
"Do human children really need to be taught that most basic of concepts?" T'les said in amazement.
Annabeth, Alex, and Tigranian grumbled about her Vulcan arrogance. Laria just laughed as she took a sip of her Bajoran spring wine.
"I'm going to take a shower," Tigranian said walking towards the bathroom. Before he reached the door, his computer chimed with a new message.
"Ignore it…" Laria said not taking her eyes off the holoscreen. "If it really was important, Starfleet Command would call the bridge."
"You know it doesn't work that, Laria. I'm the captain and I'm always on call."
"Listen to your wife, Dan," Annabeth said flashing him a look.
"Hers is the logical course, Sir," T'les chimed in.
"That's easy for you to say, Annabeth. You're still on leave," he said heading to his desk. He opened the monitor and checked the message. He read it through as a grin slowly crossed his face.
"Well," Alex said shifting Max in his arms. "What does Starfleet have to say? It's obviously good news."
"It's good news alright," Tigranian said standing upright. "But it's not from Starfleet."
"What?" Laria said. "Who is it from, then?"
"I sent Torlek a message that Max and Annabeth wouldn't be on onboard much longer and we might have to delay we can all meet up on Earth. He just replied that it won't be a problem. The bat'leth is ready and he's on his way here with Lady Elessa."
Alex first looked to her wife and then down at her son. Even though she had agreed to the ceremony, the realization that it was now actually happening caused her stomach to churn with anxiety. Her newborn was about to be "blood christened" and she still wasn't sure if he…or she was ready for it.