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In Orbit of Cardassia Prime: Republic of Cardassia

Stardate: 54510.1

Tigranian knelt over a pair of leather dress boots with a cotton cloth in one hand and a round tin of black parade gloss in the other. He methodically transferred small dabs of thick polish onto the surface of the shoes, and slowly brought out a mirror shine on the exterior of the shoes. The holoscreen in his quarters was tuned to the SFN morning news in the background.

"We now go live to Slyvan Dorshala at the Federation Forces Cardassia Headquarters on Cardassia Prime…" the talking head announced to his live audience, unaware that one of them was the target of the report.

Tigranian wasn't sure how many times he polished uniform shoes in his career. It must have been over several thousand by now. When he first learned the activity his plebe year at the Academy, he hated it. It seemed like an archaic and pointless ritual. After all, why waste the energy to polish your shoes when you could simply replicate a new, perfect pair after every use?

However, as the instructors hammered the activity home with every formation and cadet review, his view of the activity began to change. The more times he dabbed the surface of the tin's black polish with a cloth, the more times he brought out the gloss in his standard issue footwear, the more pride he began to feel. It wasn't a sign of his organization's ancient traditions. It was a sign of discipline. It was a sign of dedication to the uniform. It was the price of admission one paid to say you were a member of Starfleet…

"It has been a tense three days here on Cardassia Prime," Dorshala began his report from the planet below. "A panel of five Starfleet Admirals has been conducting its investigation into the Lissek Border Incident or what many back in the Federation have dubbed the 'Tigranian Affair,' the latest controversy surrounding embattled Starfleet Captain Daniel Tigranian, commander of the starship, USS Pershing…"

Tigranian, satisfied with his handiwork, placed the shoes on his feet and zipped them over his ankles. He then expertly cuffed his pressed black and gold striped mess trousers over his low quarters…

"The admirals have reviewed hours of holo-recordings from the ship's flight data recorder, eye-witness testimony from members of the Pershing's bridge crew, as well as testimony from representatives of both the Cardassian State and Romulan Star Empires. Yesterday was especially emotional as both Governor Torlek of the Klingon Defense Forces and Legate Dyoldas of the Cardassian Republican Guard offered their own opinions of the defendant's character.

Members of the media have been given unprecedented access to the proceedings by President Zife who has promised greater transparency to the public on all Starfleet operations…"

Tigranian moved to his white mess jacket hanging on his wardrobe. He went over every centimeter with a small ruler and ensured each medal, award, and badge was exactly in its proper place. He paid special attention to the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor hanging next to his comm badge. It was Starfleet's highest award, and he wanted to reflect it. He took a few extra moments to polish the surface with another small cloth. It brought the phrase "SIC SEMPER TYRANNUS" ringing a portrait of the award's namesake to a bright sheen…

"Before adjourning yesterday evening, the admiral's announced that they will render their decision this morning on whether to pursue criminal charges against Daniel Tigranian for destroying the Cardassian State warship, Lorkrana, in Cardassian State territory almost two weeks ago. Many across the United Federation of Planets have taken to the streets to protest what they see as Starfleet's growing violence as well as the organization's influence on Federation government," Dorshala said before the screen cut to a pre-recorded interview with a protestor outside of the Presidential Palace in central Paris. The Rigellian carried a piece of posterboard that read:

"STOP KILLING IN MY NAME"

He was surrounded by hundreds of other people carrying similar signs. A reporter held a microphone up to the man's mouth.

"You know, we're sick of it," the man said shaking his head. "Starfleet is supposed to go out there and just explore, you know? Make new friends, not new enemies. Instead, they just kill people without regard to what the Federation is really about. The war has been over for almost three years. The Dominion is gone. Zife has got to stop these people so we can take our country back. If he won't listen, then he'll be gone after the next election and we'll get some real leaders up in here."

Tigranian slipped his white jacket off its hanger and placed his hands through the sleeves. He zipped up its front and pulled down sharply on the hem. Dorshala returned to the holoscreen.

"We've already received permission from Starfleet to have our cameras broadcasting live from the tribunal chamber as the admirals' decision is announced. Regardless of the outcome, I'm sure that many in the Federation will have something to say about it. Reporting live for the Federation News Service, this is Slyvan Dorshala on Cardassia Prime."

Tigranian inspected himself in a mirror.

"Computer," he said without stopping his self-inspection. "Holoscreen off."

The image disappeared on the far side of the room. A few seconds later, Laria entered from the bathroom wearing her regular black and grey duty uniform. Only the defendant had to be in mess dress this morning.

"You look sharp," she said trying to sound reassuring. She walked over and swept her hands over his shoulders.

"The least I can do is to look professional as they judge my professionalism…" he said.

"Hey," she replied turning his head to look into her eyes. "No matter what happens today, I'll be right beside you."

"I know," he said. "And I love you."

The front door to their quarters chimed.

"Come in," Tigranian said already knowing who it was. The doors parted to reveal Annabeth.

"They're signaling they're ready for us to beam down." She and Laria would be the only members of the Pershing's crew joining him on the surface. Everyone else would be watching from the ship. Torlek, as a VIP member of a foreign military, had been granted a seat in the tribunal chamber to be with his brother as his fate was announced.

Tigranian took a final deep breath.

"Whelp, let's get to it," he said heading towards the doors of his quarters. As he emerged into the hallway, he froze. Both sides of the corridor were lined with every member of the Pershing's complement.

"Captain on Deck!" Lieutenant Hawkins shouted from outside of the Tigranians'door. "Attention!"

The supportive phalanx of red, gold, and green all stood ramrod straight in unison.

"They knew they couldn't stand with you on the surface," Annabeth explained from behind Tigranian. "So, they all wanted you to know they would be standing with you up here…"

Tigranian choked back his emotions. After wiping his eyes, he put on his best stoic face and began the long march with Annabeth and Laria following behind. As he passed by the men and women who had become his family over the past three years, he hoped it wouldn't be for the last time as their captain.

Finally, the trio arrived outside of the transporter room. T'les, Scharr, Phil, Katie, and Katan were all waiting.

"Don't be gone too long, Sir," Scharr said with a confident smirk. "We need to get back to work."

"I'm afraid that's not entirely up to me, Tren," Tigranian replied after forcing a smile. "But I think it will to turn out alright."

"It's illogical to assume otherwise, Sir," T'les said.

"I'll keep the impulse engines warm," Phil added. "They'll be ready to go for you to give the word to break orbit."

Tigranian nodded. Suddenly, Katan reached out a hand.

"I haven't been here long, but it's been an honor, Sir," the Betazoid said.

"Yes, it has." Tigranian turned to Katie. "Lieutenant Lexington, you have the conn."

"Aye Sir," Katie said smiling as Tigranian disappeared into the transporter room.


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