Palais de la Concorde: Paris, Earth
Every single member of the Federation Council was present for this special session. President Bacco stood at the podium in front of a large UFP flag. Members of the media lined the galleries and snapped holophoto after holophoto. Cameras beamed the live broadcast to all four corners of Federation space and beyond.
Bacco took a final deep breath. She knew it was time to eat some serious crow, but rendering proper honors to heroes far outweighed the cost to her poll numbers. She had a lot of ground to make up anyways. Her entire political platform had been the result of a concerted misinformation campaign perpetrated by the Romulans. Still, it was time to start making things right.
The senior staff of the Pershing sat in the special VIP section of the gallery alongside the senior staffs of the Nelson, Nevsky, Shran, and Houston. Alex was also there with Max nestled against her chest and a smile on her face. The Scharr family had an entire row to themselves. Tren sat next to his wives: Schrie, Fos, and Xel. Ten of their eleven children were also with them. Even Brett Hawkins was now part of the clan. He was next to Xel holding baby Ryth in his lap. No one wanted to miss what was about to happen.
The President of the United Federation of Planets walked forward and took her position in the aisle between the two raised tiers of Councilors. She glanced over to Admiral Paris. He was standing a few meters away with the Vice President of the Federation, Rachs Zonorax. Bacco gave the signal to get started.
"AWARDEES, POST!" the Starfleet Chief of Operations shouted loud enough to echo through the entire chamber. Every individual in attendance rose to their feet.
Admiral Murphy marched out from the wings. All five Pershing captains marched close behind. The officers looked spectacular in their dress whites. Zhenia Scharr followed wearing an Andorian formal fur robe. Murphy ordered his formation to halt and face left towards the President. Then, the group snapped to attention.
"Publish the orders," Bacco said.
"Attention to Orders!" Admiral Paris shouted while reading from an old-fashioned piece of printed paper. President Bacco walked over to a Murphy. A Starfleet staff captain followed her carrying a gilded tray.
For conspicuous gallantry at the risk of their own lives, the President of the United Federation of Planets has authorized the award of the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, the highest commendation for bravery, courage, and leadership while in service of the United Federation of Planets as a member of Starfleet, to the following personnel in that they did on Stardate 54526.5 prevent the combined forces of the Cardassian State and Romulan Star Empire from seizing control of the Celdis System in the Republic of Cardassia. Despite overwhelming opposition, these men and women stood firm to protect innocent lives against a dangerous and determined foe. Their actions reflect great credit upon them, Starfleet Command, and the United Federation of Planets. Signed: Nanietta Bacco, President of the Federation.
"Admiral Peter Patrick Murphy!" Paris shouted. Bacco reached onto the tray, grabbed a medal, and pinned it to Murphy's jacket.
"Well done, Admiral," Bacco said. He saluted sharply.
"Thank you, Ma'am," he replied as she saluted back. Bacco took a step to her right.
"Captain Shu Yin Quan!" Paris shouted.
The president pinned a medal onto her chest. Quan smiled while she saluted.
"Excellent job, Captain," Bacco said.
"Thank you very much, Madam President."
"Captain Belen Tarn!"
"Incredible work, Captain," Bacco said pinning on Tarn's medal.
"It was an honor, Ma'am," he replied with a salute.
"Captain Kivrana Pyllaa Zhe'vasda!"
"It seems true what they say about Andorians, Captain," Bacco smiled as she pinned on her medal. "Your bravery is exceptional."
"Yes Ma'am," Zhe'vasda said proudly with her salute.
"Captain Soloth, Son of Sponn!"
"Peace and Long Life, Captain," Bacco said to Soloth.
"Live long and prosper, Madame President," Soloth said with a crisp salute.
"Captain Annabeth Marie Geist! Second Award!"
Bacco stepped in front of Annabeth, reached up, and removed her first Pike Medal. Then she picked up a new medal with a golden palm leaf attached to the ribbon. The president placed it on Annabeth's uniform.
"Only the best of our servicemen and women receive this once, Captain," Bacco said. "You've done it twice. On behalf of the entire country, thank you."
"That's who I do it for, Ma'am," Annabeth said with a salute.
Murphy led the officers off to the side to a round of energetic applause. Zhenia Scharr then stood alone.
"Vice President Zonorax, please publish the next proclamation," Bacco said to the assembly.
The Federation Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award in the United Federation of Planets. It is bestowed only on individuals who have displayed the highest levels of courage, dedication, and personal sacrifice in defending the ideals of liberty, civil rights, and democratic rule. The President of the United Federation of Planets has authorized this award to Zhenia Ajhara Scharr in that she did on Stardate 54526.5 risk her own life to protect Cardassian civilians during the evacuation of Celdis Prime while serving as a medical aid worker with the Intergalactic Red Cross. Without thought to her own well-being, Miss Scharr knowingly and repeatedly exposed herself to a Cardassian State orbital bombardment to escort injured and sick individuals to safety. According to Red Cross leadership, as many as twenty-one individuals are alive today because of her heroic deeds. Her actions reflect great credit upon her and the United Federation of Planets. Signed: Nanietta Bacco, President of the Federation.
Bacco grabbed the medal. Zhenia lowered her head and allowed the president to place it over her antennae and around her neck.
"You're only nineteen," Bacco said in disbelief. "When I was your age, all I could think of was not being late for my morning classes."
"You're never too young to do the right thing, Madame President," Zhenia replied calmly. "It was my job to take care of those people. If I didn't do it, who would?"
"Well said," Bacco replied placing a hand on her arm. "Your family should be very proud."
Zhenia looked over to the VIP section and saw them all smiling back at her. Her youngest brothers and sisters were furiously waving. Scharr tried to hide the tear streaming down his face. Her mothers all looked down on her with love in their eyes. Hawkins placed his fingers to his lips and then pointed them towards her.
"I think they are…" she whispered.
Another thunderous round of applause echoed through the room. Zhenia moved off to be congratulated by the Starfleet officers. Many of the councilors thought the ceremony was over, but Bacco raised her hands.
"The Christopher Pike Medal of Valor is traditionally given only to Starfleet personnel," she began, "however, at the discretion of the president, it may also be awarded to foreign military personnel who display exemplary conduct in service of the Federation."
The room went silent. The other councilors were sure she couldn't mean what they were thinking.
"Ambassador!" Bacco called out. Two sergeants-at-arms pulled open the rear doors of the council chamber. Lady L'Stok entered and marched forward between the rows of Federation representatives. She stopped directly in front of Bacco and bowed at the waist.
"nuqneH, Madame President," she said with a tone decidedly different than the last time they spoke face to face. "At your formal request, I present to you Lord Daniel, Son of Tigranian, Imperial jenSa' of Cardassia and Lady Laria, Daughter of Amira, Fleet HoD of the Klingon Empire and Knight of the Order of the Bat'leth."
L'Stok stepped aside and gestured towards the open doors. A pair of Klingon warriors entered the Federation Council chamber. The only sounds were the sound of the Klingon boots marching on the polished floor and the click of dozens of holocamera shutters. Bacco's face was firm in contrast to the stunned expressions on the faces of the other politicians. Just a few weeks before, many of them had been calling for these two to be extradited on charges of treason. Now, the same men and women were standing to honor them in a formal ceremony.
Tigranian and Laria marched down the center aisle before coming to a stop in front of the president. They both saluted with a fist over their hearts. Tigranian looked out of the corner of his eye to see Annabeth smiling a few meters away. Almost directly behind her, Councilor Vanna, the politician who spearheaded the now discredited investigation against him stood and looked down with a mix of surprise and remorse.
"Admiral Paris," Bacco ordered.
""Attention to Orders!" he shouted again.
For conspicuous gallantry at the risk of their own lives, the President of the United Federation of Planets has authorized the award of the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor, the highest commendation for bravery, courage, and leadership while in service of the United Federation of Planets to the following personnel of a foreign military fighting alongside Starfleet in that they did on Stardate 54526.5, without obligation or purpose of evasion, lead a Klingon relief force to Celdis Prime that saved a Federation fleet from destruction at the hands of a determined enemy. Their actions saved the lives of both Federation citizens and Cardassian civilians and were instrumental to the safe and successful evacuation of the Celdis System. Their actions reflect great credit upon them, Starfleet Command, the Klingon Empire, and the United Federation of Planets. Signed: Nanietta Bacco, President of the Federation.
"Lady Laria, Daughter of Amira!"
Bacco stepped forward and pinned a Pike Medal onto Laria's armor directly next to her Order of the Bat'leth badge.
"The Federation is eternally grateful to you, Captain," Bacco said.
"Glory and Honor to you," Laria said placing a fist over her heart.
"Lord Daniel, Son of Tigranian! Second Award!"
Bacco reached up to Tigranian's baldric, pulled off his old medal, and replaced it with a new one affixed with the golden palm leaf.
"I don't suppose it means much coming from me," Bacco said, "but your actions probably saved my country, General. Thank you."
"Actually, Madame President," Tigranian replied, "coming from you that actually means quite a bit." He saluted with a fist over his heart.
The rest of the room was still completely silent. No one was sure how to react. Tigranian looked to Bacco.
"Madame President," Tigranian's voice boomed. "Permission to address the council?"
She hadn't expected this, but somehow couldn't refuse.
Tigranian walked over to stare up into the rows of faces staring back at him. Most were still in shock at his presence, a few were enthusiastic, and a few more were still skeptically hostile. He looked over to his old crew smiling at him and realized that two very important people were now missing. He found them next to Annabeth. Alex had slipped down to stand with her wife while holding Max in her arms. When he saw his godson, it filled him with new resolve to get these words out. He had to make this better for this child's future.
"Distinguished leaders," he began, "I am a Klingon warrior. As such, I am not supposed to have regrets. However, I now confess that I do have one: the Federation lost faith in me…."
He reached down and pulled an object from a pouch on his belt. Not even Laria knew that it was there. Tigranian held it up so that all could see it. It was his old Starfleet comm badge. The sight sent a fresh round of surprise through the ranks of the audience.
"But I never lost faith in it," Tigranian continued. "I've carried this with me since that day on Cardassia Prime as a reminder of where I came from and what Starfleet meant and still means to me. I am not asking you to return my position or restore my old life. I am Klingon and so I shall remain. However, what I am asking of you is to remember the ideals that founded this nation: faith, trust, and the never-failing belief that we are stronger together than we ever were apart.
Eighty-five years ago, the Federation agreed to tear down a neutral zone to help save the Klingon Empire from environmental and economic disaster. Thirty-four years ago, a Federation starship sacrificed itself at Narendra III to save a Klingon colony from annihilation. One month ago, Klingon warships stood between a Romulus Pact fleet and a Starfleet task force because allowing brave men and women to die at the hands of an honorless opponent disgraces us all.
What do these incidents all have in common?" Tigranian asked turning to stare into the councilors' eyes. "The answer is we put aside our differences and joined as one! In times of difficulty, only the weak claim to be infallible. Only fools believe you can move forward without being anchored in the lessons of the past. However, the strong recognize problems, study the wisdom of those who went before us, and work together to find solutions! It is not too late to correct a terrible mistake. You have the power. Reach out and unite with the rest of the galaxy again."
More crushing silence. Then, the sound of clapping started echoing through the chamber. Tigranian and Laria looked over to see Councilor Vanna applauding. Slowly, the rest of the assembly joined in until cheers echoed off the ceiling.
Annabeth and Alex walked over with Max. Tigranian and Laria met them in the center of chamber. They didn't care that the entire Federation was watching.
"Somebody's missed you," Alex said to Tigranian. She said holding her son out to him.
"nuqneH, Little Warrior. I've missed you too." He picked up Max and held him against his armor. Max looked up with wide eyes and smiled.
"He's gotten huge!" Laria said rubbing his little arm.
"We finally seem to be past the 'wearing food' versus 'eating food' stage. That really helps," Alex laughed.
"Boy do we have some stories for you later, Big Guy." Laria said.
"I think all of us want to hear them," Annabeth grinned. Then, the baby reached up, grabbed Tigranian's beard, and pulled on it hard. The four of them laughed.
"Growing up with two moms means he doesn't see a lot of those," Annabeth explained.
"Don't worry, Kid," Tigranian said looking down, "I have a feeling we're gonna get to see a lot more of each other now…"
The applause continued thundering around them. Tigranian, Laria, Annabeth, and Alex fell forward into one tight embrace. They were soon joined by the others from the VIP section. The press rushed forward to snap pictures of the reunion while the military brass and politicians still looked on in awe. Starfleet, Klingon Defense Force, or civilian didn't matter to these people. Their uniforms, faiths, and even their species were completely irrelevant. They were bonded by something much more sacred: blood. A family was finally back together.