Twenty-Four Hours Later
En route to Grengall System: Republic of Cardassia
"And they didn't even return to the ship to say goodbye?" Alex asked into her subspace terminal back on Earth.
"No," Annabeth said shaking her head. She was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts and had a massive glass of wine in her hand. "They merely beamed their belongings to the surface and that was it."
"That's terrible," Alex said briefly pausing for a moment of quiet reflection before dipping a brightly colored plastic spoon back into a bowl full of pureed carrots. "C'mon, Little Man," Alex said trying to maneuver the spoon into Max's tightly closed mouth. As he banged his hands on his high chair's tray, their son had as much food on his bib and face as he did in his belly. "I spend all day trying to teach whiny med students the differences between four, six, and eight chambered hearts. Then, I come home and I can't get this kid to eat, Beth," Alex said with frustration. "Compared to what you're going through right now, I know that probably seems pretty pathetic, but that's my war right now."
Annabeth smiled and gently ran her hand down the image of her wife's face. She wished with all her heart that she was back home right now with her family instead of in a foreign land trying to feel her way through the hardest challenge of her career.
"No, Babe," Annabeth said shaking her head. "It doesn't sound pathetic at all." She paused briefly. "If I feel this torn up while back on the Pershing supported by everyone I know, I can't imagine how Dan and Laria are feeling right now."
Alex sighed as she briefly glanced over her shoulder to Max's bat'leth hanging on the living room wall.
"They obviously did what they felt was right, Beth," Alex said gazing into the subspace terminal. "I think all we can do is accept that and move on."
"Yeah," Annabeth said rubbing her eyes. "I guess that's all we can do."
Alex tried again in frustration to get another spoonful of baby food into Max's mouth, but the child was still not having any of it. He tightly pursed his lips shut, squeeled, and whipped his head back and forth. "C'mon, Max. It's good for you. It will help you grow up big and strong."
"Oh, mein kleiner Mann," Annabeth said cooing her son across the galaxy in German. "Isst bitte. Gemüse sind gut für dich." The attempted language shift had no effect and Max continued to obstinately refuse his dinner. Alex rolled her eyes and dropped the spoon back into the bowl.
"I'm running out of ideas here," the poor doctor said dropping her head down on the kitchen table. Annabeth couldn't help but chuckle a bit. "This isn't funny, Beth," Alex immediately countered.
"I'm sorry, Babe," Annabeth said shaking her head. "But from a hundred lightyears away, it kinda is."
"I'll remember that the next time you're back here and have to try to feed him dinner."
"I would expect nothing less."
The conversation inevitably drifted back to life on the Pershing.
"So, is it final that you're taking over as permanent captain?" Alex asked.
"Not yet," Annabeth said, "but I was able to speak with Admiral Murphy after the News Service finally left. "He thinks that with all the chaos surrounding Dan and Laria's departure, a little stability is what the crew needs right now. He's going to speak with Admiral Paris as soon as things die down a little and lock it in. I don't think he'll have any problems convincing him to see it his way."
"How is the crew doing?" Alex asked next.
"They're pretty shaken up," Annabeth answered honestly. "I sat down with the senior staff in the ward room yesterday and had a long talk. They'll feeling betrayed by both sides right now: at Starfleet for axing Dan and at the Tigranians for walking off into the sunset without so much as a 'thank you.' I think Phil said it best when he said it was "like finding out your brother and sister didn't care for you as much as you cared for them."
"Oh no," Alex said shaking her head. "I don't think that's it all. I think the reason that Dan and Laria didn't say goodbye is that it would have been far too painful to lose their lives, their country, and their friends on the same day."
Annabeth grinned and shook her head.
"What?" Alex asked.
"Nothing. It's just that I choosing to believe that the reason they didn't say goodbye is that we haven't seen the last of the Tigranians. Not by a long shot."
"I hope that's true," Alex said before gallantly trying one final time to feed their son a spoonful of carrots. "Ok, Max, see it's easy," she said raising the spoon to his tiny mouth. "Just open up and I'll pop it right in."
His mouth opened, but before Alex could pop the spoon in, a strange sound came out.
"gho…be'!" Max said before instantly closing his mouth again.
"What?" Annabeth gasped while lunging towards her screen.
"Max?" Alex asked dropping the spoon in shock.
"ghobe'!" Max repeated before beating his hands on the highchair tray again. "ghobe', ghobe', ghobe'!" he repeated while rhythmically pounding.
"Isn't that?" Alex said turning towards the screen.
"That's Klingon for 'no!' That's his first word!" Annabeth said covering her open mouth with her hands.
It seemed that the Tigranians were still closer than either of them thought…