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Tarnal System: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54509.4

"You better be damned grateful that President Zife was able to talk down Proconsul Semachs and the rest of the Romulan Senate!" Murphy roared at Tigranian all the way from Cardassia Prime. The captain sat in his ready room and stared at the image of his boss on the desktop monitor. "They wanted to retaliate with a full offensive against the Republic of Cardassia and the Federation simultaneously! The President had to issue a formal apology to the Cardassian State for the loss of their vessel and its crew. The Federation Council is up in arms and Starfleet is publicly humiliated."

"That vessel violated the integrity of the MDL with their tractor beam first, Sir," Tigranian said through gritted teeth. "I acted fully within Starfleet rules of the engagement and the terms of the Non-Aggression Pact. It's all in my report."

"It's gonna take a lot more than just your report to put out this fire," Murphy replied. "Do you understand how bad this is? People want your head on a platter. Protests are erupting from Earth all the way out to Archanis."

"Do the protestors give a shit about the thousand refugees that are now free because of us or the hundred thousand refugees that the Romulans murdered in cold blood?" Tigranian countered as he felt his own temper rising.

"We're a democracy, Dan," Murphy replied. "The people rule and right now they're more concerned that your actions almost dragged a hundred billion people into another catastrophic war. The Federation has gone through about eight of its nine lives already. The days of Kirk-style phaser diplomacy are dead."

"What the hell good are principles like humanoid rights or democracy if you ignore them when things get difficult?" Tigranian said staring back at the screen.

"Are you listening?" Murphy shouted. "President Zife is up for re-election and his approval rating is at an all-time low. The public is tired from six years of constant conflict and they want this Cold War to end. After all, we're supposed to be explorers…even though I can't remember the last time I explored anything," Murphy paused. "Zife's ordered a full Admiral's inquiry into your actions at Lissek. It could lead to a court martial."

"A court martial?" Tigranian said incredulously. "Is it for real this time?"

"This is funny to you!? You think this is a joke?" Murphy said looking like he wanted to reach through the screen and choke his petulant subordinate.

"I'm just tired of being the blunt instrument the Federation needs out here but refuses to acknowledge," Tigranian replied rubbing his eyes.

"Oh, you can shut the hell up right now, Captain!" Murphy screamed. "I am so sick of your 'holier than thou' bullshit! I have spent the better part of ten years covering your ass and I AM DONE.

You don't do any of your stupid shit because the Federation needs it. You do it because it makes you feel superior to everyone who doesn't subscribe to your narrow, bellicose definition of 'honor.' You're insolent, you're arrogant, and let's not forget this whole f*cking situation is because the man you begged for us to send back to Romulus set off a bomb!

Well, Starfleet was around a long time before you, and it will be around a long time after you…" he paused again "…and that might be a lot sooner than you think. Get your ass to Cardassia Prime. It is 'for real' this time, and I don't know how it's gonna end for you. Murphy out."

The screen cut out to the blue and white seal of the Federation. As it stared back at him, he felt like the entire nation was indicting him. He had been fighting for his country most of his adult life, and now he wasn't sure if that meant anything at all. The quiet, background thrum of the ship droned in his ears. As he stared around his empty office, he felt truly alone.

****

Tigranian sat on the carpet of his quarters and leaned back against the side of the bed. His glassy eyes stared out at the stars rushing past as the Pershing made its way towards Cardassia Prime. His shoes and jacket were off, and a half-empty glass of brown liquor was in his hand.

Suddenly, a stuffed pugabeast landed on his shoulder.

"SNORT, SNORT!" the beast grunted while bouncing up and down.

"Hi, Rijo," Tigranian said not taking his eyes away from the window.

"SNORT, SNORT!" Rijo repeated. Tigranian didn't budge. Laria placed her stuffed animal on the bed before sitting cross-legged behind her husband.

"Wow, Rijo usually cheers you right up," Laria said before reaching out and beginning to rub Tigranian's neck. He immediately leaned back into her touch. "By the Prophets, Daniel," she said moving her fingers up and down his spine. "Your muscles have knots that feel like they're made out of solid duranium."

"It's been a rough couple of days," he said taking a sip from his glass.

"Is that really the solution?" she asked skeptically.

"Can't hurt right now," he muttered.

"Do you wanna watch an episode of Battlecruiser: Vengeance?" she asked hopefully. He shook his head. "How about we go to the holodeck and kill some skull-faced monsters?" He shook his head again.

Laria's eyes darted back and forth as she tried to think of something else.

"Do you want me to put on that black lace bra and panty set you like so much?" she asked while raising her eyebrows. The thought actually got a small grin out of Tigranian.

"Maybe later…" he said briefly glancing up before turning back towards space. She sighed.

"Daniel, I went back over the sensor logs. There is no way you could have known that phaser hit would destroy the Cardassian ship. You did everything right. Everyone on that bridge will back you up. Plus, you have the holo-recording from the flight data recorder. It's going to be fine."

He reached up and rubbed his eyes.

"Can I confess something to you?" he said barely loud enough to be heard.

"Of course," she said softly.

"I don't know if I want to do this anymore."

"What do you mean?" she asked nervously.

"I mean having every action put under scrutiny. Always being judged by people who weren't there. Watching the other side violate every single value we supposedly hold dear and then having to apologize for trying to stop them."

"It's our jobs, Daniel," Laria said wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "That's what Starfleet does."

"Is it?" he asked glancing back towards her. "Cause it's not what I signed up for."

"What do any of us sign up for?" she replied. "Just the chance to make a difference, right? I can assure you, you make a difference every day."

"Make a difference to who?" he asked. "To the admirals investigating me? To the people back in the Fed who paint my name on a sign next to the word 'Murderer'? Certainly not to those people in the civilian ships that the Romulans destroyed. I just stood there and watched it happen."

Laria shut her eyes as she felt the pain in her husband's heart.

"Well, you make a difference to me." She leaned forward and kissed the top of his head. He reached up and grasped her hand. They simply sat and watched the stars together in silence.


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