Tigranian sat at a small table in front of a raised platform where five empty seats waited for the admirals in charge of the hearing. Behind a low railing, a large audience of Starfleet officers, civilian dignitaries, and News Service reporters all looked on from the galleries. Their cameras were all trained on the captain's face.
Tigranian did his best to show no sign of anxiety. He was sure that back on Earth, a slew of anchors, talking heads, and so-called "experts" were commenting on every move he made to an audience of billions. His insides were screaming, but he still did not want to give them the satisfaction of seeing him sweat.
Laria, Annabeth, and Torlek sat a few meters away from Tigranian. The captain was disgusted that his brother had once again been forced to put his own personal honor at stake for his actions. It made him feel like less of a Klingon and less of a man. He wondered how, or even if, he could ever repay him.
"All rise!" a junior Starfleet officer said signaling the entrance of the tribunal. The room climbed to its feet as Murphy entered followed by Vice-Admiral Mukwotho and three other flag officers. All were also dressed in their mess whites. As Commander of Federation Forces Cardassia, Murphy took the middle seat on the platform. Mukwotho sat immediately to his right, and the other three filled in the remaining places. Murphy reached forward and rang a small ship's bell three times to bring the proceedings to order.
"All except the defendant, please be seated," Murphy said. There was a brief sound of shuffling chairs behind Tigranian as the room complied. "Before we render our decision," Murphy said looking down at the man he used to take such pride in mentoring, "do you have any statements you wish to enter into record, Captain Tigranian?"
Tigranian stood rigidly staring right back at his old friend.
"No Sir," he replied. "All that I wish to say was entered as part of my testimony."
"As you wish," Murphy said bringing a PADD in front of him. He briefly looked over at the news cameras before beginning to read his prepared statement. "This has been a difficult case for Starfleet, but after hearing relevant testimony, this tribunal believes it not only has a firm grasp on the events which occurred at Lissek on Stardate 54509.1, but also better understanding of the defendant's motivations prior to his actions that resulted in the destruction of the Cardassian State Ship, Lorkrana.
Keeping all relevant evidence in mind, we, the investigating officers of this admiral's inquiry convened by the President of the United Federation of Planets, do hereby render the following decision:
That the actions of Captain Daniel V. Tigranian of the USS Pershing at the Lissek System on Stardate 54509.1 were intended to safeguard the welfare of civilians and were not conducted with criminal intent or negligence. In light of these facts, we recommend that no criminal charges be levied against him and these proceedings not continue to full court martial…"
An audible gasp passed through the audience. Tigranian briefly allowed himself a bit of joy. Laria let out a muffled cry of happiness behind him.
"However…" Murphy suddenly added with a tone like ice. Instantly, the mood of the chambers grew heavy once more. "Captain Tigranian's use of force could be considered by reasonable observers to be reckless and not consistent with the core values of the United Federation Planets. His actions led to the unnecessary deaths of 473 Cardassian State Naval personnel, the loss of a Cardassian State vessel, and contributed to the further instability of relations between the Romulus Pact and the Triple Alliance at a difficult period when restraint is warranted. Both the President and the People of the United Federation of Planets have lost confidence in his abilities…"
Tigranian braced himself for the crushing words that he knew would follow.
"Therefore," Murphy said averting his eyes with a hint of shame, "Captain Tigranian's commission is revoked and he will be immediately discharged from Starfleet."
Another gasp went through the room. Then, things fell absolutely silent. Tigranian gripped the sides of table to prevent from keeling over. It was if he had been stabbed through the gut with a blunt knife. In an instant, everything he had worked for was ripped away. His ship, his crew, and his career were gone. The glint of his Christopher Pike Medal briefly caught his eye in the lights of the room. Then, his gaze shifted to his Starfleet insignia. The realization hit that he was no longer permitted to wear it.
Without another word, he reached up, pulled off his comm badge, and placed it on the table in front of him. He then stiffened his spine and stared back at the tribunal. He knew how many people were watching, and he would face them with all the bravery he could muster. He would face them like a Klingon.
Just as Murphy was reaching up to ring the ship's bell, Tigranian caught a flash of black and grey in his peripheral vision.
"Lieutenant Tigranian," Vice Admiral Mukwotho said sharply from her seat next to Murphy. "You have not been given permission to step forward. Please return to your seat."
Tigranian turned to see Laria glaring at the admirals with a look of utter betrayal and anger in her face. Without a word, she reached up, ripped off her own comm badge, and let it drop to the floor. His wife had kept her word. She was right beside him.
Murphy briefly buried his head in his hands and then sighed.
"Recorder, please make a note in the official transport," Murphy added sadly. "Lieutenant Tigranian Laria officially resigned her Starfleet commission at 0943 hours on Stardate 54510.1. Her security clearance and access to all Starfleet facilities is hereby revoked."
Behind the railing, Annabeth rose to her feet. She walked to face the tribunal and began reaching for her own comm badge. A hand reached out and grabbed her wrist. Tigranian leaned over and whispered in her ear:
"No, the Pershing is yours now," he said softly.
"Not like this," Annabeth replied with quiet desperation. "Not like this, Dan."
"We don't have a choice. She's your ship, and they're your crew. You have to take care of them, Captain. I stand relieved."
Annabeth's lip quivered as she realized she was saying goodbye to her commander on live holovision.
"Tell Max," Tigranian whispered fighting back tears of his own. "Tell him I love him, and that I'm sorry…"
Tigranian and Laria both turned to exit to the chamber. Before they went two steps, a voice boomed through the room.
"MEVYAP!" Torlek howled rising to his feet. The old Klingon slowly walked from the gallery towards Tigranian and Laria. He spoke with a voice that reminded all present of the sea before the arrival of a tempest.
"I once told my brother that his place was back among his own people," Torlek began slowly pacing back and forth in front of the admirals like a wild beast about to pounce on prey. "At the time, I thought this meant the Federation, but I see now that I was wrong…"
"Lord Torlek," Admiral Murphy said while nervously glancing towards the reporters and news cameras watching every second of this drama unfold live. "Though we always appreciate the input of our closest ally, this is a Federation matter. If the Klingon Empire would like to make a statement, please wait until the tribunal has closed."
"I am a Klingon warrior, Human!" Torlek roared even louder and angrier than before. He then pointed a finger directly at Murphy's heart. "I speak whenever it suits me."
The admirals were so shell-shocked, they had no response.
"The Klingon Empire is your ally because we believed that you are an honorable nation guided by the twin pillars of duty and loyalty," he said before turning his burning eyes directly towards the cameras. "But today we see that the Federation is merely guided by the selfish and fickle whims of the mob. You say the actions of Captain Tigranian were done to protect the innocent, yet you condemn him because you fear your enemies. Ha'DibaHpu. The actions of this tribunal today were the actions of cowards, and the Klingon Empire does not ally itself with cowards…we conquer them."
Torlek turned back towards the admirals.
"I will speak to the Chancellor and the High Council. It will be their decision whether or not we must re-evaluate the Khitomer Accords. However, by my own authority as Lord Governor of Ty'Gokor and Military Chief of Staff, the following changes are immediately in effect." With every sentence, he took a step closer to Murphy and Mukwotho to hammer his points home. "No Klingon troops will be placed under the command of any Federation officer. No Klingon ships will participate in any action with Starfleet without the presence of a KDF flag officer. Finally, no Klingon resources will be allocated to any Federation operation in the Republic of Cardassia without express approval from the Imperial jenSa' on Cardassia Prime."
The color then drained from the admirals' faces. Klingon forces were critical for their operations. These new policies would effectively cripple their ability to secure the Cardassian Republic. However, the live holovision audience meant they had to save face.
"Lord Torlek," Murphy said after loudly clearing his throat, "that will put a significant strain on our resources at a critical time."
"Also, Sir," Mukwotho interjected, "the position of Imperial jenSa' is currently vacant. How can we negotiate operations with a counterpart that we do not have?"
Torlek grinned and confidently backed away.
"You know, Admiral," he replied matter-of-factly, "you are absolutely correct."
Suddenly, he turned.
"Daniel, Son of Tigranian," Torlek commanded. "Step forward." Tigranian's feet obeyed before his brain could process what was happening. "By the power vested in me by the High Chancellor of the Klingon People, I hereby grant you commission in the Klingon Defense Forces at the rank of general and position of Imperial jenSa', Commander of all Klingons in Cardassia. Do you accept?"
Admiral Murphy slammed his hands down on the table in front of him. Tigranian shook briefly, but then stood straight. He balled his hands into fists and placed them both over his heart.
"Lord Torlek," Tigranian replied with a deep breath. "I accept the lives of all Klingons in Cardassia into my hands. De'lak DoH!"
"Very good, General Daniel, Son of Tigranian," Torlek said with a smile and nod. "With your new position, of course, comes the ability to commission whatever officers you choose to serve under you," he said glancing at Laria. She grinned with understanding.
"jIyaj, My Lord," Tigranian replied with a respectful nod.
Torlek then turned back to the admirals.
"He now speaks for the Empire in Cardassia," he said pointing at Tigranian for emphasis. "Remember this until your dying breaths, BiHnuchpu, disrespect and dishonor are things that Klingons can never forgive, nor forget," Torlek said before balling his fists and throwing his gauntlets across his chest. "tlhIngan maH taHjaj!" he shouted before turning his back towards them.
"tlhIngan maH taHjaj!" Laria echoed before crossing her arms and turning her own back.
Tigranian looked back towards his old mentor with the last bit of human sentimentality he could muster. Torlek whispered towards him in tlhIngan Hol:
"They have made their choice, Brother. Now, you must make yours."
Tigranian gritted his teeth, raised his fists next to his head, and roared loud enough for the entire Federation to hear him:
"tlhIngan maH taHjaj!"
Then, he slammed his arms into his chest and turned his back on humanity for the final time.
Without another word, Torlek exited the chamber with Tigranian and Laria on his heels. Annabeth was now the one who found herself alone and staring into the confused and terrified faces of Starfleet's leaders.