Summary: After a long and turbulent negotiating process, the Cardassians have approved a new democratic constitution. The Pershing is chosen to escort the President of the United Federation of Planets to Cardassia Prime for the signing ceremony.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes
Word count: 11810 Read: 23
Published: 19 Mar 2017 Updated: 19 Mar 2017
1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Vallor System: Federation/Cardassian Border
Tigranian leaned on the window frame and stared out at space.
"I don't know," he said shaking his head. "I know two of my officers already see you to help them fight their demons. I feel like it would make me a hypocrite if I didn't see you as well. My spirituality has helped, but I still have nightmares sometimes. Despite what Laria says, I still feel guilty about what happened."
"Interesting," Doctor Yuvich replied taking a few notes on a PADD. Tigranian glanced over his shoulder at her. Her office on the Pershing stood in stark contrast to the rest of the ship. Several landscape paintings decorated the walls and a scented candle burned brightly on the coffee table next to box of tissues. She had offered the captain a seat on one of her plush couches, but he had spent most of the appointment standing. She observed him from an overstuffed easy chair.
She wore the uniform of a Lieutenant Commander, but she was one of the few officers on board that Tigranian didn't have regular contact with. That is, until he scheduled his first counseling session. It was technically voluntary, but Alex made it very clear she would order him to do attend if he refused.
"Interesting?" Tigranian asked somewhat sarcastically.
"Yes Sir, It's interesting." Yuvich replied smiling. She reached up and pulled off her dark-rimmed glasses. Tigranian took note of the doctor's choice in optometry. Glasses in the 24th Century were as rare as peg-legs. Someone only chose to wear them either because they were allergic to medication or they were trying to make an intellectual statement. The captain figured it was the latter in Yuvich's case.
"Why is it interesting?"
"I'm usually the one asking the questions, Sir," the doctor said raising an eyebrow. "However, since you ask, it's interesting because for the past hour you've talked about your sense of duty as the commander of a starship, your sense of duty as a Klingon warrior, and now you say it will make you a hypocrite if you don't follow the advice you give others."
"Isn't that what a leader is supposed to do?" Tigranian asked dryly before finally taking a seat on the couch. "A leader yes, but I thought the purpose of our sessions would be to address trauma of YOUR experiences in captivity. Instead, we've had a philosophy discussion on the meaning of being a captain. There's hasn't been a lot of YOU in anything we've talked about."
"Being a leader is who I am, I suppose," Tigranian replied trying to conceal his frustration.
"Being a leader is what you do, Daniel. May I call you Daniel?"
He closed his eyes and let the annoyance of her informal address pass. There were only four people on this ship he let address him by his first name: his first officer, his doctor, his wife, and his chief engineer, and then only because they cared for things important to him. He really didn't think his therapist should be in the club, but decided to play the game.
"Sure, Doc," he said with an accentuated pause.
"But I want to know who YOU really are. What are your interests? Your hobbies? What do you do for fun? What do you imagine life will be like after you leave Starfleet? Your career will be over one day and then who will Daniel Tigranian be?"
"Do you want the honest truth?"
"My interests include learning tactics and military history. For fun, I practice Klingon martial arts, read philosophy, and fight historic battles on the holodeck, and after I leave Starfleet, I've always pictured myself retiring to Qo'noS and help my brother run the estate. That is, until I'm called to fight again."
"Fight again?" Yuvich said raising an eyebrow.
"I'm a Klingon warrior, Doc. If I grow old, I've failed."
Yuvich sighed and put her glasses back on.
"I'm not sure your wife agrees with that."
"My wife understands, Doc," Tigranian replied. However, he saw a bit of frustration on her face now.
"I guess you could say that I'm a man of somewhat limited interests."
"I was talking to Laria in the mess hall the other day. She says you like to cook."
Tigranian's eyes grew wide.
"What else did she tell you?" he said nervously.
"Nothing of consequence," she said placing one of the ends of her glasses between her teeth. Tigranian realized there was no point in being combative.
"Well, Yes. I really enjoy cooking."
"And I'm guessing it's not because you enjoy cutting up the ingredients with knives?" Yuvich said sarcastically.
"No, it's not," he replied rubbing his neck.
"Then why do you enjoy it?"
"What does this have to do with helping me get over what happened on Dacen?" Tigranian said glaring.
"I told you. I have to get to know the real you to help. Why do you enjoy cooking?"
"I don't know." He searched for words. "I guess it's because I like making something out of nothing that others will enjoy."
"So you enjoy making others happy?"
"Of course. Who doesn't?" he asked rhetorically. However, Yuvich had an answer.
"Sociopaths, the pathologically selfish, Nausicaans actually believe making other happy brings about depression in their own lives…"
"Commander Yuvich…" Tigranian said narrowing his brow.
"What I'm trying to say, Daniel, is that you are a caring person. You have a warm personality that you show more than you realize, and that means you are a decent human being…"
He looked to open his mouth, but she quickly caveated.
"Who also follows Klingon traditions, I get it. The key to helping you get past your trauma is to help you realize that you are the same person as before it happened. You are not responsible for the actions of others, merely how you respond to those actions. We just have to work on ways to cope with the new normal. Klingon prayers and rituals are very helpful, but you still have a human side whether you admit it or not."
The comm system blared to life.
"Captain to the bridge," Annabeth's voice sounded. "We have a ship on long range sensors."
Tigranian tapped his comm badge.
"This is the captain. Acknowledged and en route." He turned to Doctor Yuvich. "I have to go, Doc."
"Well, we're almost out of time today anyway. Think about what I said and I'll see you same time next week."
"Thank you, Commander," Tigranian replied with a polite nod before heading out the doors. As soon as he was in the corridor, he rolled his eyes.
The turbolift doors parted and Tigranian stepped onto the bridge.
"Report," he said headed to his chair.
"Presidential yacht, 'Unity,' on long range sensors approaching at Warp 6," Laria said from Science.
"It's transponder beacon is reading callsign, 'Starfleet One," Katie added from Tactical. Everyone on the bridge took a deep breath. They knew that meant the President of the United Federation of Planets was onboard.
"Alright, Ladies and Gentlemen," Tigranian said trying to remain calm. He tugged on the bottom hem of his jacket. "Our Commander-in-Chief is on that ship. It is our job to ensure his safety. Normally, I would say that 'Failure is not an Option,' but failure is not in the vocabulary of this crew. Katie, prepare salute battery and prep hailing frequencies."
"Plasma flares prepped, hailing frequencies ready, Sir," Katie responded. Tigranian rose to his feet.
"Starfleet One is dropping out of warp. They are approaching at full impulse," Laria chirped.
"Annabeth, put me on shipwide audio," Tigranian ordered.
"Channel open, Sir," she said standing up.
"All hands, this is the captain," he said sternly. "Ship! Attention!" Every member of the bridge crew rose to their feet and clicked their heels together. The action was repeated by ever single crewmember across the vessel. "Present Arms!" The entire crew executed a salute as one.
"Lieutenant Stone, fire salute battery and open hailing frequencies."
"Aye, Aye Sir!" Katie obeyed inputting the commands while remaining at attention. The Pershing's torpedo bays fired twenty-one plasma flares in quick succession, each bursting with a brilliant flash of light two thousand meters in front of their bow. A small, silver diamond shaped craft with two pronounced warp nacelles appeared and responded to their honors by dropping a flare burst of its own.
"Starfleet One, this is the Federation starship, USS Pershing, standing by to escort the President of the United Federation of Planets to Cardassia Prime as ordered,' Tigranian shouted into the comm.
"USS Pershing, this is Starfleet One," the captain of the Unity's voice replied. "President Zife extends his regards to the crew of the Pershing and asks me to relay that he feels nothing but safety in your capable hands. We are standing by for escort and will obey your course and speed commands."
"Acknowledged, Starfleet One," Tigranian replied. "Ship! Order arms!" The crew dropped their salutes. "Lieutenant Lexington," the captain said to Phil.
"Aye Sir," Phil responded. "Starfleet One. This is helm, USS Pershing, turn course 271 Mark 638. Maintain distance, 10 kilometers off port warp nacelle. Prepare to jump to Warp 7 at Time index 3785.54."
"Acknowledged, Pershing. Will comply."
"Lieutenant Stone, close hailing frequencies." Tigranian commanded.
"Hailing frequencies closed, Sir," Katie said.
"Ship, Dismissed," Tigranian said. Annabeth deactivated the comm system. The captain finally allowed himself to exhale. "Ok, everyone, the life of the President is in our hands. Katie, ensure that we can move to extend our shields around Starfleet One in a moment's notice. Keep phasers and quantum torpedoes on standby in case someone doesn't agree with the peace process. "
"Yes, Sir," she responded.
"I don't have to tell you all that anything is possible on the trip to Cardassia Prime. Keep alert, and do what's right."
"As always, Dan," Annabeth said calmly to reassure him. Tigranian allowed himself a smile.
"Alright, let's do it. This summit could mean decades of peace for the Alpha Quadrant."
Tigranian sat back down in his chair.
"Phil, she's yours to fly," Tigranian said.
"I love it when you say that, Sir," Phil replied with a grin.
"Be careful there, fighter jockey," Tigranian smiled from behind him. "I hear the President has a weak stomach and I'd prefer if he didn't spend the trip upchucking into a space-sickness bag."
"Wouldn't dream of it, Sir. Trip is gonna be as gentle as a Vulcan lullaby."
The Pershing and Starfleet One pointed themselves towards Cardassia Prime and jumped to warp.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Two days later and the Pershing and her charge were only a day away from their destination. As the main chronometer sounded 2230 hours, most of ship was already asleep. Tigranian snuck away from a slumbering Laria and made his way to the main cargo hold.
The bay was deserted save row after row of crates, barrels, and containers stacked floor to ceiling. He snuck his way to a phaser locker on the aft bulkhead. He input a combination code and pulled it open. Inside were several orange tins of yIvjebol. He groaned.
"ghuy'cha', Katie, I know you needed a bribe but you could have left me a little more. This stuff isn't easy to get."
He grabbed some tobacco, secured the locker, and found an empty plastic bottle in the corner refuse bin. Tigranian pulled over a small cargo crate, took a seat and leaned against the wall.
"Computer," he said tapping the top of the tin with his right index finger. "Play, Tigranian Opera Playlist 2, Act 3, Scene 1."
The booming sounds of angry violins and French horns echoed off the walls of the cargo bay. Tigranian pulled open the tin, shoved a pinch of leaves in his lip, and leaned against the bulkhead. He closed his eyes and let the rush of nicotine and powerful music carry him off to a different place.
Outside in the corridor, Annabeth was returning from a late night workout in the gym. She was drenched in sweat and gripped a towel around her neck. However, she decided to take the opportunity to do a quick check of the aft compartments. The duty officer was supposed to conduct security checks of the cargo bays at two hour increments, but they had been failing the past couple of nights and she wanted to make sure her corrections were implemented.
As she approached the outer doors of the bay, she furrowed her brow as she heard familiar music:
"Zu Ortlindes Stute stell deinen Hengst:
mit meiner Grauen grast gern dein Brauner!"
Tigranian sat motionlessly with his eyes closed, bobbing his head to the melody. The music reached a crescendo
"Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha! Grimgerd' und Rossweisse! Sie reiten zu zwei."
"Computer, pause playback." The music immediately cut out and Tigranian jumped in surprise. He looked up to see Annabeth glaring at him with her hands on her hips. "You are so busted," she said cocking her head to one said.
"Hu'tegh! Number One!" Tigranian said grabbing his chest. "You nearly gave me a damned heart attack."
"You keep chewing on that shit and you'll have one sooner than you think," she said shaking her head judgmentally.
"You're not my mother and you're not my wife," Tigranian said sitting back down.
"No, I'm your first officer which means I'm worse than both combined. I should tell Laria so she can destroy you."
"You do, and I'll let Alex know about the collection of adult videos you keep on your encrypted personal drive."
"You wouldn't!" Annabeth said incensed.
"Mutually assured destruction, Number One."
He spit into the empty bottle and moved over to open up space on the crate next to him.
. Have a seat, Annabeth," he said tapping the crate.
"No," she said shaking her head. "I smell like an old gym sock and I need a shower."
"I don't give a shit," he said. "I could use some company right now." She acquiesced.
"Really, Dan? Wagner?" Annabeth said wiping her forehead with her towel.
"Wagner is one of the few human composers who must have had some Klingon blood in him. He speaks to me."
"Well, I guess the question is 'Why do you need him to speak to you so late at night alone in a cargo bay?"
"I couldn't sleep," he replied curtly.
"Talking with Doctor Yuvich not helping?" Annabeth asked concerned.
"Not yet," he said shaking his head and spitting again.
"I'm not even going to pretend to understand what you're going through," Annabeth said leaning back against the wall, "but give it time."
"I know and I will. If not for my sake, then for Laria's…" he paused.
"What do you mean?" he said nervously.
"I know you, Tigranian," she said looking at his face. "You want to say something, but you're afraid to let it out. So let it out. I even promise not to blackmail you with it."
He laughed nervously.
"Oh, Laria already knows," he said a bit ashamed.
"Dan, what is it?" she asked.
He sighed and looked deadly serious.
"I haven't been able to make love to my wife since I've been back, Annabeth. She claims it doesn't bother her, but I can see it in her eyes. It does."
"Dan," Annabeth replied softly. "You were kidnapped, tortured, and sexually assaulted. No one expects you to come back and shrug it off like nothing happened."
"But something did happen, Annabeth. There's a reason why I was listening to this particular piece of Wagner tonight."
Annabeth raised her eyebrows.
"And that is?"
Tigranian looked up at the ceiling.
"Can I tell you something in absolute confidence?"
"After I drank the tea during my ceremony, I spoke to Kahless face to face…"
Annabeth suddenly looked uncomfortable.
"Dan, if this is a conversation about faith, I'm not the girl to have it with."
"It doesn't matter whether you believe in an afterlife or not, Annabeth. He reminded me that he still would answer my prayers. I didn't' tell you this, but when I thought all hope was lost on Dacen, I prayed for him to send me his Valkyries to help me fight, and he did. He sent me Laria…and he sent me you."
Annabeth exhaled through her mouth and narrowed her eyes.
"I can't speak for Laria, Dan, but I'm no Valkyrie."
"That's where you're wrong, Number One."
"If you don't mind me asking, what does this have to do with you and Laria?"
"Because she deserves someone better than me," he said matter-of-factly. "I may have gotten my Honor back, but I'm still broken."
"We're all broken, Dan," Annabeth said looking at him again. "You can't see the worst the universe has to offer and walk away clean. Laria understands that and you need to as well."
He looked skeptical.
"Dan, do you know the words of the opera you were listening to? Die Stute stösst mir der Hengst. Der Recken Zwist entzweit noch die Rosse?"
"Just because you're German you're a scholar of opera, now?" he said sarcastically.
"I'm more than German, Dan. I'm Bavarian. They make us listen to Wagner in the womb."
"That explains a lot," he muttered.
"F*ck you," she said without missing a beat and got back to her point. "Wotan's Valkyries are on Earth collecting the souls of the fallen. Two dead warriors' hate is so strong for each other, that even after they're dead, they still have enough enmity to make the horses fight. They can't let go."
"They sound like honorable men."
"Dammit, Dan! You don't get it!" Annabeth said looking at him. "It's not meant as a compliment. They fail to recognize that the battle is over and they must move on."
He spit again.
"So you're saying I must let go of what happened?" he said a bit incensed.
"I'm saying that you must accept it or you'll let your hate destroy you."
He looked away and then chuckled.
"What?" Annabeth asked. He held up the orange tin in his hand and offered it to her.
"You ever try this?"
"That stuff is disgusting!"
"Oh, Hell No!" she said shaking her head.
"Stop being such a woman," Annabeth looked insulted.
"Are you being serious right now, Asshole?"
"Deathly serious, and you know I'm an asshole. Try it. It's a big brother's job to introduce his little sister to bad habits."
"You're a pretty shitty big brother, Dan," Annabeth said grabbing the tin.
"I know, I know."
"How do you do this?" Annabeth asked. Tigranian grabbed the can back from her and tapped it with an experienced hand.
"Now, open it and put a pinch in your lip."
"I'd rather you tell Alex about my porn," Annabeth said opening the lid. She slipped some leaves into her mouth and winced at that taste.
"God! You enjoy this!?"
"Don't spit it out yet," Tigranian said taking the can back. "Just give it a minute or so."
Suddenly, Annabeth relaxed a bit.
"There it is," he said deviously.
"I'm not spitting on the deck plates," she said trying to keep her slobber in her mouth. Tigranian held up the bottle and she hocked into it.
"That sounded good," Tigranian said. "You know, we've known each other for a while now, and I don't think you've ever told me about what happened at Janatris?"
Annabeth's eyes grew wide.
"That's a hell of thing to come out of nowhere!" she said surprised.
"It didn't come out of nowhere. It's one of the reasons I chose you as my first officer."
"You never told me that," she said grabbing the bottle from him and spitting again.
"I knew it was a sore subject. So, what happened?"
"You know what happened!"
"Yeah, but I want to hear from your perspective."
"Long story short, I got my captain arrested and sentenced to prison," Annabeth said as she dejectedly looked down at the ground.
"We got nothing but time tonight," he said regaining the confidence in his voice. Annabeth rubbed her eyes as she gave in.
"The Jackson's first officer had been killed in a skirmish with the Jem'Hadar the week before. I think Captain Terry blamed himself. He kept saying he waited too long to engage. That he should have fired first. In any case, I was the acting first officer until we could get a replacement onboard.
We were on a combat patrol keeping an eye on the Janatris Corridor. G2 thought that they the Jem'Hadar were using it to sneak skirmish ships into our rear logistical areas…"
"It was one of the few times they were right about anything…" Tigranian muttered.
"Are you gonna let me tell the damn story or not, Dan?"
"Sorry," he said holding up his hands.
"Well, we were holding in an ambush position in an asteroid cluster just inside the Federation border when a Cardassian heavy cruiser appeared. Captain Terry ordered us to open fire and we did."
"It must have been a hell of a fight. A Miranda refit taking on a Cardy ship of the line."
"It wasn't a fight, Dan. We hit them broadside with a full photon spread right in the port stabilizers. The ship lost attitude control almost immediately. They couldn't even bring their main battery to bear on us. They were losing life support, their structural integrity field was failing. The Gul in command signaled he wanted to surrender. However, Captain Terry wasn't interested in surrender. He wanted revenge."
"This is the part that caught my attention," Tigranian said turning to look at Annabeth's face. Annabeth took a deep breath.
"He ordered another full photon spread to destroy the ship. I ordered Tactical to belay. They weren't a threat to us. He had no right to just arbitrarily destroy them."
"What happened next?"
"Terry was furious," she said shaking her head. "He said that it wasn't my place to disagree with him on the bridge. That the enemy crew outnumbered ours two to one. That it wasn't feasible to take prisoners. He just got angrier and angrier."
"But you held your ground?" Tigranian asked. Annabeth nodded her head.
"I was the acting first officer. It was my job to make sure that the captain acted within the rules and regulations of interstellar law and the Federation. Finally, he ordered me relieved and confined to my quarters, but instead, I then ordered him relieved under Starfleet Order 28455."
"He was mentally unfit for command…"
"He wanted revenge for the death of his first officer. He hated the Dominion and had stopped viewing them as fellow sentient life. Luckily for everyone, the Chief of Security agreed with me and placed him into custody.
When we conducted a further scan of the vessel, we realized why they were so unprepared for contact. They were over fifty women and children in the hold of that ship. The Gul and his officers were trying to defect to the Federation."
"You saved all of their lives," he said approvingly.
Annabeth nodded again.
"The inquest sided with me and stated that I had acted in the best interest of Starfleet and the Federation. Captain Terry was court-martialed and sentenced to five years in the stockade. Why the hell are you bringing this up, Dan?"
"Because you put the best interest of the ship and its crew in front of your captain, Number One. I need you to remember that now. If I start failing in my obligations to the Pershing because of what happened to me…"
"Dan," she said suddenly grabbing his hand. "I failed the last time because I didn't see it until it was too late. I promise I will help you long before we get put in that situation. You are the finest officer I've ever served with."
"Thank you, Annabeth."
"You're welcome, Dan," she said grabbing the bottle and spitting again. He laughed.
"You're starting to like that stuff aren't you?"
"I can see the appeal. Tell you what, it'll be our little secret."
He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and squeezed her close.
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
"Entering high orbit, Sir," Phil said from the helm. "Starfleet One has dropped to impulse with us."
"One half impulse, Phil," Tigranian said. "Give the rest of traffic around the planet a wide berth."
"The Federation starship, Lakota, is already in orbit, Sir," Laria said from Science.
"That's the ship that carried Admiral Paris and Admiral Murphy to the conference?" Annabeth asked.
"Yup," Tigranian said nodding his head. "They should already be on the surface ready to receive the President." He turned to look over his shoulder. "Who else has arrived, L?"
"The Negh'var class Klingon Attack Cruiser, IKS Sword of Kahless," she said examining her instruments.
"Martok's flagship…" Annabeth muttered.
"As well as the Romulan warbirds, Patria and Gemalas," Laria added nervously.
Annabeth and Tigranian both drew in air sharply.
"Looks like everyone came to this party," Annabeth said.
"We knew that this would be a little awkward, Number One," Tigranian mused. "Alright everyone, let's get the President to his transporter insertion point. Katie?"
"Four minutes till we're within range of the Embassy, Sir."
"Put Starfleet One on hailing frequency."
"Starfleet One, this is USS Pershing."
"Starfleet One, here."
"Please let the President know that we'll be in range of the Embassy in less than four minutes. It was an honor to escort him to the summit."
"Captain Tigranian," another voice came through the comm system. It immediately caused the captain to jump to his feet as he recognized the sound of the President himself. "It was an honor to be escorted by you. Please tell your crew that I have never felt safer than when I was next to your vessel."
"Thank you, Sir," Tigranian said humbly.
"I also hope that your senior staff will join us on the surface for the signing. I cannot imagine more appropriate witnesses as the Pershing has done so much to bring about these events."
Annabeth and Tigranian exchanged worried glances.
"Mr. President," Tigranian replied. "I am honored by your invitation, but do think it wise for us to attend? The Romulans will be present…"
"Captain Tigranian," President Zife interjected. "The Romulans will always be present in some form or fashion. I want you and your there. Am I understood?"
"Yes Sir." Tigranian obediently replied. The rest of the bridge crew raised their eyebrows in surprise. They never expected the President to be so keen on showing a strong face to the Star Empire.
"Good, then I shall expect to greet you in person tomorrow."
"Looking forward to it, Sir." Tigranian said.
"Captain, we are in transporter range of the Embassy," Katie said from behind him.
"Sir, you are safe to beam down to your accommodations on the surface," Tigranian replied. "We will remain in orbit in case you require any additional assistance.
"Thank you, Pershing. President Zife out."
"Channel closed, Sir," Katie said.
"Ok then…" Tigranian said taking a seat in his chair.
"Is Torlek down there?" Annabeth asked.
"No," Tigranian said shaking his head. "He's still on Ty'Gokor preparing for his inauguration as Governor. Chancellor Martok is heading there immediately following the signing."
"And you're not going to be there for your brother's big day?" Annabeth said shocked.
"I've been away from this ship too much in my command, Annabeth. I need to spend a little time on my own bridge. Torlek understands."
"Well, considering the circumstances, I'm glad you're going to be in that chair right next to me," Annabeth reassured him. "Cardassia is entering a brand new period in its history apparently we'll be there to see it."
"Thank you, Number One," Tigranian said genuinely moved. He looked back at Laria who also nodded her ascent.
"Alright, everyone, we have an order from our President," Tigranian said rising again. "Let's get the dress uniforms out and show everyone that the entire crew of the Pershing is here to stay."
Laria stood over an ironing board in the captain's quarters pressing her white jacket. Tigranian sat at the dining room table with a jar of brass polish and a rag ensuring his insignia were up to the highest inspection standard.
"You know, you think we all the amazing technology we have, we wouldn't have to do this stuff anymore," Laria said as her earring chain bounced next to her head with the movement of the iron.
"Technology would certainly make it easier," he replied picking up a small ruler and his rank pips. "But in the end, what they care about is that we have the discipline to do it by hand." He carefully measured the collar of his white undershirt and affixed the four pips in exactly the right spots. Next, he affixed his Christopher Pike Medal to his jacket's right breast, measuring it precisely from the lapel line to its spot.
As he took a smaller polishing cloth to the brass buttons, Laria paused in her work.
"You seemed pretty concerned about being at the ceremony with the Romulans, Daniel."
He stopped polishing and flashed his wife a glance.
"I would think you'd understand why."
She placed the iron on its end and glared straight back at him.
"The Romulans cannot acknowledge anything about your captivity in public. If anything, I think it's harder on them then on you."
"Honestly, L, I don't give a damn if they welcome me with flowers and champagne. That's not why I'm nervous," he said trying to focus back on his work. Laria carefully picked her jacket up from the ironing board and put it on a hangar.
"So you're afraid of what your reaction will be then?"
He silently raised his right index finger and tapped the tip of his nose. She walked over and wrapped her arms around his shoulder.
"I'll be right next to you the whole time, both as a loyal member of your crew and your wife. If you need me to get you out there without anyone noticing, I'll be like a ghost."
"I appreciate that , Laria, I really do. However, I can't run for the rest of my life. I guess Starfleet wants to test my professional resolve a little earlier than I expected."
She kissed his neck before crossing over to the bed and taking a seat.
"You know, I don't remember you being this concerned after my captivity with the Romulans last year, Daniel."
"Do I detect a hint of insult in that voice, Babe?" He said not taking his eyes from his jacket as he attached his polished comm badge.
"No, call it curiosity."
"That's an easy one. I know you're stronger than I am," he said without missing a beat. Laria was surprised.
"Really? After everything you've been through in your life, you thought a little girl from Gault was stronger than you?"
Tigranian scoffed and turned to face her.
"Laria, I knew the moment I met you that you were a lot more than a little girl from Gault." He stood up, walked over to her, and wiped a strand of hair from her face. "It's why I fell in love you, and you haven't proven me wrong yet."
He walked back over to his handiwork and slipped the jacket over his shoulders.
"What do you think?" he said holding his arms out. Laria walked over and pulled his sleeves tight at his sides.
"You look like the bravest, most capable captain in Starfleet…"
"I know about half a dozen people who would really disagree with you," he said with a grin.
"Well, you haven't proven me wrong yet, Daniel. We just need to figure out how to make you feel what everyone else sees."
"C'mon," she continued with a nod of her head. "We have to be at the transporter room in an hour and I still have to fix my uniform."
"It should easy considering you don't have that much on it," he quipped.
"Oh, I will not forget that," she said furrowing her brow despite the smile on her face, "especially the next time you sneak off to the cargo bay to chew that filthy yIvjebol with Annabeth."
"How the hell do you know about that?" he asked in shock.
"I'm the science officer on this ship, Daniel. Not a single thing happens between the two warp nacelles of the Pershing that I don't know about," she said walking to the bathroom for a hairbrush.
"Roger that," he muttered with a nervous exhale.
The senior staff of the Pershing materialized outside the main chamber of the Detapa Council in the Cardassian Capitol Building. Admiral Paris and Admiral Murphy, also in their dress uniforms, were there to meet them.
"Dan!" Murphy said running up them. "It's good to see you," he said extending a hand to the captain.
"Likewise, Pete," Tigranian said.
"Though somewhat unexpected," Admiral Paris interjected. "Captain Tigranian, Captain Geist," he said meeting their eyes with his own gaze. "It's good to see all of you," he said turning to the rest of the crew.
"I wish I could agree!" another shrill voice sounded from behind them.
"Ambassador Jenkins," Paris said giving the man a political nod. He was dressed in a very well-tailored Italian suit with a Tholian silk tie. Tigranian would usually say that such a man looked entirely out of place on the frontiers of freedom, but in this case, the earth toned halls of Cardassia's capital city were exactly where this man belonged.
"Ambassador," Tigranian said joining in the polite niceties.
"It is very rare that I disagree with the President, Captain Tigranian," Jenkins said wiping away a bead of sweat from his forehead with a handkerchief, "but the culminating diplomatic efforts of two years come down to this ceremony. My staff and I have worked tirelessly to ensure that every detail would be perfect, and quite frankly, I cannot think of a larger complication than having this crew here. Starfleet's "gung-ho" militarism has done nothing but delay our penultimate goal of a lasting Cardassian Constitution. Not to mention your bad habits of making excursions to the Romulan Empire that we have to bail you out of." Tigranian balled his fists, but Laria held him back. "If the Romulans choose not to ratify the document today…"
An unlikely ally rallied to Tigranian's defense.
"That is enough, Ambassador!" Paris said with a dangerously low shout. "I understand how hard the Diplomatic Corps has worked for today, but I will not have you attack the integrity of a group of officers such as this in front of me. They have done nothing but put their lives and safety at risk to keep the Occupied Zones from tearing themselves apart. I would also like to remind you that their excursions to Romulan Space were not exactly unprovoked…"
"Don't try to intimidate me, Admiral," Jenkins said. "I answer directly to the Federation Secretary of State, not the military. Any international facility, to include the Embassy and this building, are under my jurisdiction."
"But the Starfleet Personnel who provide your security are under MY jurisdiction," Murphy said stepping forward. "If you want to keep sleeping soundly in your bed at night, I suggest you show a greater spirit of cooperation, Ambassador."
"Security? Starfleet wouldn't need to provide security on Cardassia if there weren't so many damned foreign troops everywhere. The Cardassian people want peace. Now it is up to us to give it them. The Romulans and the Klingons will pull out by the end of next year, then there won't be a need for a single Federation Occupation Trooper anywhere in Cardassian Space."
"Wow," Scharr said loudly rolling his eyes. "Diplomats think the galaxy works like that? They really are morons."
"Commander Scharr!" Paris said to shut him up, but the Andorian had made his point.
"In any case," Jenkins continued undeterred, "At least the Praetor isn't here."
"Who is representing the Romulan delegation?" Annabeth asked.
"Proconsul Vrnealious." Another embassy staffer ran up and whispered something into Jenkins' ear. "It's time to take our places inside the chamber. The Detapa Council is being seated as we speak. Admiral Murphy, Admiral Paris, and I will seat directly behind the President. Eralline here will escort Captain Tigranian and his crew to the visitor's gallery at the back of the room."
"Have fun, Everyone," Murphy said giving Tigranian a final pat on his arm.
"We'll link up after the signing," Paris said. "I will send my aide to find you before you beam back to orbit. I'm sure the President would like to speak to us all together."
"Yes Sir," the crew said in unison as Paris, Murphy, and the Ambassador disappeared through a pair of large wooden doors flanked by two Cardassian honor guards.
"Please come with me," the embassy staffer said curtly. Katie finally spoke.
"You would think that the Federation Diplomatic Corps would be more…"
"Diplomatic?" Phil said finishing her thought and eliciting a laugh from the others.
"Don't take it personally, Katie," Annabeth said. "They just see the galaxy very differently than we do."
"Funny," Alex said shaking her head as they began to walk towards their seats. "Starfleet was founded for peaceful exploration and diplomacy. Did the war really make us that cynical?"
"Yes," everyone else answered in unison.
The interior of the Detapa Council Chambers had been completely restored since the end of the war. The high domed ceilings were made of tan and orange stones arranged in bold geometric patterns. The furnishings were dark leather and brightly polished wood. As with every Cardassian building, it was hot, humid, and uncomfortable for every other species.
The two-hundred council members sat in vaulted seats staring across a tall railing at the main podium centered against the back wall. A massive Cardassian crest behind the podium gave it the impression of being the exact center of the entire nation. A wooden table to the left of the podium was already laid out with four copies of a thick paper document: the new Cardassian Constitution. One copy would be archived here while the other three would go to Earth, Qo'noS, and Romulus. The approval of this document would be the last step for Cardassia to regain full sovereignty and dissolve the Occupation Authority. From this day forward, foreign forces on Cardassian soil would be there as guests.
Tigranian and his crew rose to their feet with the rest of the chamber as President Zife, Chancellor Martok, and Proconsul Vrnealious entered from an antechamber next to the podium. Each took a seat at the signing table with their various entourages sitting down behind them. Prime Minister Garak entered from another antechamber and walked straight to the podium.
"I wonder if Vrnealious was in the room when it happened," Tigranian couldn't help but whisper as he laid eyes on the proconsul.
"In the room for what, Dan?" Annabeth asked.
"When Neral was told that Selonia was a headless corpse…" he answered through gritted teeth. Laria reached over and grabbed his hand. Garak beckoned the assembly to take their seats and the room dropped in unison.
"President Zife, Chancellor Martok, Proconsul Vrnealious, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Detapa Council, esteemed guests of the Cardassia," Prime Minister Garak's voice echoed off the stone walls of the chamber. "Today is a monumental one in the history of the Cardassian People. Today, we ratify a new and democratic constitution that will cement civilian, democratic rule and bring Cardassia to equal footing with its allies across the Alpha Quadrant. More importantly, it has been ratified by all the members of the Provisional Occupation Authority meaning that Cardassia will once again be a fully independent and equal partner among its galactic neighbors in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Bajor.
The Cardassia I was born on was extremely different than our world today," Garak continued. "It was an empire founded on suspicion and guarded by treachery. The Military and the Obsidian Order engaged in a never-ending struggle for power that left millions dead and the central government vulnerable to enemy forces both from outside and within.
As a member of the Obsidian Order myself, I thought I was the most ardent patriot. Operations I was involved in caused the deaths of thousands: Cardassian and Foreigner alike. The entire time, I thought I was making our homeworld stronger. However, it was not until my exile to Bajor that I realized how deeply damaged our once great society had become and how I was contributing to its decay from within.
In my lifetime alone, Cardassia suffered war with the Federation, Bajor, the Klingons, and the Dominion. Billions of brilliant young men and women are lost to us forever because we consistently placed our own lust for power in front of our care for each other…"
"You know," Alex whispered leaning over to Tigranian and Annabeth. "I can't tell if he's being sincere or not."
"Once a spy and now a politician, Alex," Tigranian replied "You'll never know."
"…But now, with the help of our new allies," Garak said making grand gestures with his hands from the podium, "Cardassia will work forward to a brighter tomorrow. A future where Cardassian children born today will never know the suffering of war, the pain of loss, or the pangs of hunger!"
The chamber burst into massive applause.
'It is now my greatest honor, to be the first to place my signature on our newest charter of liberty and proclaim the birth of the Republic of Cardassia."
Attendants from each of the delegations stood up and prepped their respective copies of the Cardassian Constitution. Garak's assistant presented him with a pen and he walked down the table signing all four documents. The chamber rose to its feet and cheered. Garak waved and motioned next for President Zife to move to the podium.
"The United Federation of Planets proudly declares its support for the new Cardassia by ratifying this constitution and recognizing the Republic of Cardassia in the spirit of friendship and intergalactic brotherhood!"
The chamber applauded again as President Zife moved down the line adding his signature to the stacks of paper. Chancellor Martok rose next.
"The Klingon Empire," his voice boomed through the hall, "formally announces its ratification of the Cardassian Constitution. May Honor and Glory find the people of this new nation."
An attendant presented Martok with the Chancellor's seal and a pot of boiling wax. He removed his dk'tagh, sliced open his finger and let several drops of blood fall into the targ tallow. He then placed his signature on each copy and affixed the symbol of the Empire next to it. The crowd's applause was tempered by the shock of seeing the blood of the Chancellor adorning their new charter, but they were satisfied none the less.
Finally, it was Proconsul Vrnealious' turn to mount the podium. He gazed out at the crowd with a smile. His eyes scanned the room until he finally caught a glimpse of the Pershing's crew. His head stopped and his grin grew wider.
Tigranian's heart dropped.
"Oh no," the captain muttered loud enough for the rest of his party to hear.
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the Detapa Council, Prime Minister Garak, esteemed colleagues and guests, the Romulan Star Empire must withdraw its ratification of the Constitution of Cardassia."
An audible gasp shot through the room. Prime Minister Garak immediately jumped to his feet and pointed an accusatory finger at the proconsul.
"This is an outrage!" Garak screamed. "The Romulan Empire has already ratified it. This ceremony is a formality!"
"I am sorry that you consider it a formality, Prime Minister, but I received word from the praetor a few minutes before the ceremony that the Senate has withdrawn its support. Our intelligence services have discovered links between activity in Cardassian Space and the recent outbreak of terrorism that is occurring within our borders. We feel that this proposed system of government is incapable of securing its borders or stemming the violence.
"Why would we support violence against Romulus?" a member of the Detapa Council shouted from the front row. "You helped us defeat the Dominion and win our freedom!"
"Regardless," Vrnealious said raising his voice over the increasing din of the crowd, "even IF there is no formal support from the government, your Provisional Authority has not been able to stop groups from using your space to harbor dangerous fugitives and criminal activity."
"Criminal activity that originated in your occupied territories!" Garak shouted back at Vrnealious. The Cardassian was so angry, the grey veins on his neck were bulging.
"Really, Prime Minister," Vrnealious said deviously. "Accusing the Romulan State of impropriety is insulting and wrong. Perhaps you should ask the Klingons and the Federation about their illicit support of your enemies? It is their ships who have committed more territorial violations than any other faction combined."
"The Constitution still stands!" a female Cardassian shouted from the chamber floor. "It is our country, not yours!"
"No," Vrnealious stated shaking his head. "The Treaty of Bajor is quite clear that it requires all parties to ratify it, or it is null and void. The Romulans refuse to withdraw forces from our Occupied Zone until greater peace and security is instated."
"THE KLINGON EMPIRE!" Martok's voice boomed loud enough to silence the entire chamber. He rose and walked straight at Vrnealious. The Romulan subtlety relinquished the podium to him. "…abides by all its obligations. Though you may not have the honor to stick to your agreements, we do! People of Cardassia," Martok said turning to the crowd, "I once rejoiced at your deaths, but now I rejoice in your future. We stand with you, against the Romulans if need be."
The crowd roared in triumphant applause. President Zife rose and stood beside Martok.
"The United Federation of Planets agrees. We do not withdraw our support of this democratic, legal charter of government."
"So, you both violate your treaty with us?" Vrnealious replied haughtily throwing his shoulders back. "The praetor was prepared for this terrible possibility. Be it known! That the Romulans withdraw all support for the legitimacy of the Garak government and we only recognize our occupied territory as the legal successor of the Cardassian Union.
Any attempt to force a reunion without our consent will be met with the strongest possible military response. It is our hope that one day Cardassia will be whole again, but not until this assembly realizes that it is slaves of the Federation and Klingons!"
With one final glance towards the Pershing's crew, Vrnealious and the other Romulans stormed out of the council chamber leaving chaos in their wake. Tigranian collapsed back down in his chair, unable to move.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
"Dan, this is not your fault," Murphy said trying to reassure Tigranian. They stood in a hallway outside the chamber surrounded by the Pershing's officers, Detapa Councilors, and other frantic members of various diplomatic delegations.
"Whose fault is it then, Pete?" Tigranian replied shaking his head violently.
"The Romulans for one!" Laria said angrily next to him. "They were looking for an excuse to keep control over their territory long before they ever knew you existed."
"She's right, Dan," Annabeth said as well.
"The question is, 'what are we going to do about it?" Scharr said as his antennae nearly touched each other in anger.
"I'm not sure there's anything we can do right now, Commander Scharr," Murphy said dejectedly.
A door opened and President Zife, Admiral Paris, and Ambassador Jenkins walked towards them.
"I'm afraid that you won't be escorting us back to Federation space, Captain Tigranian," President Zife said with a face like stone. "An emergency session of the Federation Council has been called to discuss the way ahead."
"The Lakota will take Starfleet One back to Earth at maximum warp," Paris added.
"Yes," Jenkins said glaring at Tigranian and his crew, "and instead of staying here on Cardassia to try to repair some this catastrophic damage, I must accompany them and brief the Diplomatic Corps directly on this failure!"
Tigranian looked like he was about to explode at the ambassador, but a stern look from Paris silenced both parties.
"Prime Minister Garak has already made an emergency request for military assistance to both Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Forces in case the Romulans attempt a preemptive military reunification," President Zife added. "One of the topics at the Council meeting will be a permanent status of forces agreement between the UFP and the Republic of Cardassia. I'm afraid Starfleet won't be pulling out of Cardassia for quite some time and your ship will remain here."
"SON OF TIGRANIAN!" a booming voice caught them all off guard. Chancellor Martok stormed out into the corridor and charged straight at Tigranian with his massive cloak billowing behind him. He was followed by his aides and two Yan-Isleth honor guards.
"Chancellor!" Tigranian said straightening his back.
"What is this baktag I hear about you not attending the ceremony on Ty'Gokor?"
Everyone turned their eyes to Tigranian.
"My Lord," Tigranian said penitently. "I received permission from my brother not to attend as I felt my place was with my ship. I feel it is especially important now as the situation in Cardassian space has grown even more dire…"
"Your place!" Martok said. "Is where you can best serve. I will not have a Klingon warrior return from the dead only to hide in the shadows like a whipped grint hound."
"And he can best serve on the bridge of the Pershing since he is a Starfleet captain and an officer of the United Federation of Planets, first," Paris said curtly. Martok turned to him sharply. The harsh stare of his one eye caused even the grizzled Admiral Paris to stiffen.
"Watch your tone when you speak to me Admiral. I am Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. If I desire your opinion, I will ask for it. Otherwise, be silent in my presence or I will cut your tongue out!"
"Chancellor!" President Zife shouted. "Please, we are allies! I would ask that you refrain from making threats against my officers at once."
Martok barred his fangs and growled.
"Mr. President, no matter how long I serve with Starfleet, sometimes I forget that the Federation shows respect to superiors differently than we do. In any case, if Tigranian being on the bridge of his ship is so important, than I demand that the Pershing be dispatched to Ty'Gokor at once. If anything else, consider an important sign of solidarity to the unbreakable alliance between our peoples."
"Chancellor," President Zife said. "Starfleet needs every ship available to protect Cardassia at the current time…"
Martok held up a hand to silence him.
"Please do not patronize me, President Zife. We both know there are twenty other Federation starships that could hold the line while the Pershing is at Ty'Gokor for two weeks. If you are that afraid of the Romulans, I will dispatch two more Strike Fleets to take Tigranian's place." Martok turned, looked at Laria, and grinned. "After all, nothing kills Romulans more effectively than Klingon steel."
"Well, if it means that much to you…" President Zife said.
"Consider it a personal request from me on behalf of my Chief of Staff."
"Very well then," President Zife said turning to Paris. "Admiral Paris, please adjust our fleet movements accordingly. Captain Tigranian, I am treating this as a goodwill mission to the Klingon Empire. Please comport yourself to the highest levels of diplomatic courtesy."
"Yes, Sir," Paris and Tigranian replied in unison.
"Very well, Ambassador Jenkins and I will immediately return to Starfleet One and await the Lakota's signal to depart. Chancellor," Zife said nodding to Martok before disappearing down the corridor with Jenkins.
"The Sword of Kahless sails for Ty'Gokor in one hour," Martok said to Tigranian. "I expect your ship to be beside it."
"Yes, Chancellor," Tigranian said respectfully. "Glory and Honor to the Klingon Empire."
"Glory and Honor to the Empire," Martok replied before disappearing with his entourage down the corridor.
Paris and Murphy turned to Tigranian.
"Gentlemen, I apologize," Tigranian said preemptively. "It was not my intention for this to happen and I never requested to attend…"
This time, it was Paris' turn to raise a silencing hand. He motioned for Tigranian and Murphy to join him just out of earshot of the rest of the crew.
"Mr. Tigranian, though I often find myself frustrated with you, I understand that in this particular instance, you are not at fault. However, you are still one of MY captains. My patience with the particular idiosyncrasies of your command is wearing thin. Am I understood?"
"Good," Paris said. "Now, go represent the Federation at Ty'Gokor and show the Klingons that Starfleet can be just as formidable as them. Qapla'."
"Thank you, Sir," Tigranian replied gratefully.
"Pete, I'll be waiting for you on the Lakota." Paris said before departing. Murphy looked at Tigranian and shook his head.
"You certainly have a way with dignitaries, Dan."
Tigranian sighed and rubbed his eyes.
"Sometimes I just don't know which world I belong in, Pete."
Murphy put a hand on his shoulder.
"I think all you can do is plant a firm foot in both and hold on for dear life."
A few steps away, Laria looked on the exchange between her husband and Murphy when suddenly, the crowds in the hallway fell silent. A few individuals gasped, others shouted in anguish as Vrnealious, flanked by two Praetorian Guards with teral'ns emerged and confidently strode through the corridor to the building's transporter room.
The Romulan proconsul smiled from ear to ear and Laria felt her blood grow hot. As Vrnealious passed, her hand flashed outward and grabbed his arm. The two Praetorians extended their teral'ns and placed the blades at her throat. She was not dissuaded as she turned to face to the Vrnealious. She returned his wide grin.
"You must be either very brave or very stupid, girl," he whispered. The hallway was now silent as everyone else struggled to hear the exchange.
"When you get back to Romulus, tell the praetor that his wife died how she lived: like a bitch," Laria replied not changing her happy expression.
"Just because we can't strike at you publicly, does not mean that we are incapable of operating in the shadows."
"Lieutenant Tigranian!" the captain shouted at Laria from a few meters away before Paris got involved. She immediately released her grip and Vrnealious motioned to his guards to drop their weapons.
"This isn't over," the Romulan said with a polite bow of his head.
"You know where to find me," Laria replied with a bow of her own.
Vrnealious turned to continue to his exit, but now with a scowl where his smirk had been.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
City of Samnat: Ty'Gokor, Klingon Empire
The ancient city of Samnat was once the shining capital of the Samnatti Oligarchy: a powerful nation of merchants, scholars, and warriors. For over two-thousand years, they dominated their native homeworld of Ty'Gokor, mining the mineral rich asteroids and moons of their local space for precious resources to trade with neighboring star systems. However, by the 24th Century, the Samnatti were all but extinct, reduced to a few scattered settlements across the Klingon Empire and scratching out a meager existence serving their masters as jeghpu'wI'.
During the reign of Emperor Kaldon in Earth's 16th century, a massive fleet of warships under the command of General Biroq, penetrated Ty'Gokor's asteroid belt and laid siege to the planet. Legions of Klingon warriors landed on the planet's surface and obliterated the Samnatti. The campaign culminated in the legendary Battle of Samnat where Biroq personally slew the oligarchs and their guards to raise the Klingon flag over the first interstellar conquest of the Empire. Kaldon declared that no rank gave sufficient honor to Biroq for his glorious actions and so bestowed on him the title of the first Dahar Master.
For eight centuries, Ty'Gokor had been the heart of the Klingon Defense Forces and the ruins of Samnat had been perfectly preserved as the ultimate symbol of the Klingon people's will to fight and conquer. The title, "High Governor of Ty'Gokor" was reserved for the leader of the entire Defense Force and the Chancellor's closest military advisor. The most legendary Klingons in modern history had held the post: Kor, Kang, Koloth, Chang, and Martok. Today, Torlek would join their ranks.
The senior staff of the Pershing stood on the cracked marble steps in front of the crumbling façade of Samnatti Oligarchs' palace. Tigranian and Laria both wore long grey stoles emblazoned with the crest of Torlek over their white dress uniforms. Lady Elessa stood proudly next to them dressed in her own ritual finery. Klingon dignitaries crowded around to fill out the assembly.
They looked out on the overgrown, decrepit buildings of the city's central avenue flanked with over a hundred Yan-Isleth guards in polished armor and red headbands. Each carried a bat'leth in the crook of their right arm. Behind each of the rows of guards were ten, huge targ skin drums on wooden stands. Each instrument was manned by a drummer with a pair of wooden mallets. The musicians stood rigidly at attention. The only sound was that of a hundred Klingon banners on long poles fluttering in the breeze.
Chancellor Martok sat on a metal stool at the base of the steps staring out at the incredible display. His cloak was draped around him like an impenetrable shield. Two more drummers stood on either side of him.
Scharr leaned over and whispered in Phil's ear.
"So when does this get started? It's hotter than hell out here!"
"I guess whenever the big man down there says so," Phil replied.
"Shut up, Phil," Katie said. "Don't embarrass us in front of the Klingons."
A sharp glance from Tigranian over his shoulder silenced the three of them.
Martok looked up into the sky. As soon as the sun was directly overhead, he rose to his feet, drew a ceremonial war fan from his belt, and flicked it open. He presented the red paper crescent to sky and shouted loud enough to awake the ghosts of the ruined city.
The two drummers flanking him raised their mallets and began a slow, deep rhythm. The sounds of their percussion echoed through the empty streets. The twenty drummers along the avenue slowly began beating their mallets against the edges of their drums, creating an eerie clicking sound. Then as quickly as it began, the playing stopped.
A loud horn echoed from beyond the lines of honor guards and all twenty-drummers began pounding a quick cadence. A procession of one hundred Klingon warriors armed with gin'tak spears appeared from around a corner and began marching through the long corridor of guardsmen. With each beat of the drum, the soldiers struck the ends of the spears into the cobblestones creating a fearsome and terrifying echo across the entire the front of formation was a rider mounted a jet black s'tarahk flanked by two soldiers each carrying a giant banner emblazoned with the tIq ghob.
The rider wore a set of ancient, ceremonial black armor modeled after Biroq's. On his head was a domed, black helmet and across his chest a golden sash. His face was a hidden by a fearsome, fanged mask modeled after the image of Fek'lhr.
"Why is he wearing that terrible mask?" Alex said leaning over towards Tigranian.
"When Biroq, the first Dahar Master, conquered Ty'Gokor," Tigranian explained, "the Samnatti called him the devil incarnate. He was so pleased that he struck true fear into the hearts of his enemies, he added a mask to his armor. Governors of Ty'Gokor have worn one during their inaugurations ever since."
"Why are the Klingons so obsessed with being feared?" Annabeth muttered with a shake of her head. "Why can't they be happy with just being respected?"
"Because," Lady Elessa said interjecting. "We are Klingons, Annabeth. We do not embrace other cultures. We conquer them. That ethos began right here on the spot where you now stand."
"What happens when someone finally conquers you?" Alex asked. Lady Elessa chuckled.
"Look around, child," she said confidently. "If Klingons ever allow themselves to be conquered, then we will no longer be Klingons, and it will not matter anyways."
Torlek reached the Chancellor and halted his steed. Martok raised his arm and the drumming ceased. Two attendants ran forward. One grabbed the s'tarahk's reigns as Torlek dismounted. The Governor then unbuckled his mask and removed his helmet. The other attendant respectfully received it with a bow of his head.
Martok began speaking in tlhIngan Hol. Tigranian translated for his crew.
"Torlek, Son of Ro'vagh, step forward."
Torlek marched to within reach of the Chancellor.
"Here in the ruins of our first conquered foes, do you swear to uphold the title and duties of High Governor of Ty'Gokor and Military Chief Staff to the Chancellor?" Martok asked.
"I swear," Torlek responded.
"And do you swear by your honor to defend the Klingon Empire against all its enemies at the price of your life?"
"I swear," Torlek repeated.
"Then to all warriors across the stars," Martok shouted. "Know that this man is my loyal servant and your commander. Long live the Empire!"
"LONG LIVE THE EMPIRE!" the crowd repeated in unison.
"It is done," Tigranian said with a smile.
"Not quite," Lady Elessa added with a grin. Tigranian looked confused.
Torlek walked to the Chancellor's side before turning back towards the steps.
"Come forward, Laria, Daughter of Amira!" Torlek commanded. Laria froze in shock as her eyes grew wide.
"Daniel, what is going on?" she asked nervously.
"I don't know," he said genuinely perplexed.
"The head of your house ordered you to come forward!" Elessa commanded. "That is all you need to know."
Laria obediently bowed her head and descended the steps. It was painfully quiet again. She took her place in front of Martok and Torlek and bowed deeply.
"Chancellor, My Lord," she said.
"Raise your gaze, child. You are a warrior not a servant," Martok commanded before he stepped around her to address the crowd in tlhIngan Hol. Tigranian began to translate again.
"After the ascension of Kahless the Unforgettable, the Lady Lukara founded an order dedicated to preserving his teachings. It was composed of the Empire's greatest warriors, those whose deeds would forever live on in story and song. It is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a Klingon: The Order of the Bat'leth."
Tigranian looked at Lady Elessa in shock. She merely shrugged and turned back to the proceedings.
"The woman who stands before you," Martok continued, "while in command of a bird of prey, entered the Romulan Empire on a secret mission to rescue a fellow warrior. Without detection, she infiltrated a Romulan palace, slaughtered fifty Romulan vermin, and then beheaded the First Lady of the Romulan Empire with her own blades in one on one combat."
The entire crowed began to murmur in amazement.
"Silence!" Martok commanded. "Her body might be Bajoran, but her soul is Klingon." Tigranian nearly choked up on the words as he translated.
Torlek reached into his gauntlet and pulled out a large dk'tagh shaped badge made of polished steel. It consisted of a black tIq ghob superimposed over a gilded bat'leth. He handed it to the Chancellor before grabbing the still dazed Laria and placing her directly in front of Martok's imposing frame. Torlek then seized the grey stole over her shoulders and pulled it back to reveal the right breast of her white jacket.
"Glory to you and your house," Martok said affixing the badge to her uniform.
The crowd roared into thunderous applause.
Torlek grasped Laria's wrist and looked into her eyes.
"Glory to you and our house, my sister," he said with a proud grin.
"Qapla', my brother," Laria replied still not entirely sure if what just happened was real.
"Well, L," Tigranian joyfully whispered to himself on the steps behind her. "That's something else for your uniform…"
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
The crew had celebrated Torlek's inauguration and Laria's induction into the Order of the Bat'leth in typical Klingon fashion. After the required two day recovery from the hangover, they were proceeding back to the Republic of Cardassia at maximum warp.
Now, as quickly as their jubilation erupted on Ty'Gokor, it dissipated back into the reality. Alex and Scharr had joined the rest of the crew on the bridge.
"We're receiving the signal, Sir," Katie said.
"On screen," Tigranian said with a deep breath. The symbol of the Romulan Star Empire appeared.
"The following is an authorized transmission of the Romulan State. Jalon Tru."
The symbol disappeared and was replaced with the smiling faces of Praetor Neral and an older Cardassian Man in a traditional suit. They stood together at a podium addressing a huge crowd of cheering Cardassians assembled in the capital city of Simperia, the most developed planet in the Romulan Zone of Occupation. Behind them was a pair of flags: the Romulan banner and a new one never seen before. It was burnt orange. A Cardassian crest topped with a raptor was centered on its field.
"The Intelligence Database identifies him as Erkan Harok," Annabeth said examining her chair's display. "He was a Gul in the Cardassian Military during the war. He was later outed as a Tal Shiar informant when he switched sides to join Legate Damar's Resistance Movement."
"Brave citizens!" Harok said addressing the adoring crowds. "Today is the true day of glory for Cardassians! Unlike our poor brothers and sisters suffering under Federation and Klingon imperialism, we declare our sovereignty as a new nation. Hand in hand with our brave Romulan liberators, we will work to restore the prestige of our people. We will bring back prosperity, glory, and safety. We will eliminate crime. We will secure our borders. We will eradicate the painful memories of the recent past. We will destroy all that stands in the way of a free and prosperous Cardassia."
"Free from everything but Romulan tyranny," Scharr said from the aft of the bridge.
"Today, we declare our new and independent nation! We declare the State of Cardassia!"
The crowd roared in mandatory approval under the watchful eyes of Romulan soldiers and Cardassian collaborators. The Pershing's crew absorbed the hard reality that the former Cardassian Union was now two distinct and separate countries.
Tigranian closed his eyes as the transmission cut to a prerecorded propaganda reel.
The musical strains of a choir were overlaid with the images of a group of Cardassian families leading their children through a field of grain ready for harvest.
"We are rising from the ruins to a new Cardassia!
Our future is laid out before us. Hand and hand, we march to victory."
The pictures shifted to Cardassian workers erecting new buildings and crafting goods in factories.
"We will build. We will farm. We will advance together in unity…"
Next the image of a Romulan soldier handing a disruptor rifle to a Cardassian appeared followed by clips of warbirds and Cardassian cruisers sailing together through space. The music took on a more ominous tone.
"All brotherly peoples stand together to destroy our common enemies…"
Finally, a young Cardassian mother appeared holding a baby in her arms. She smiled down at two other young children at her feet. One held a Romulan flag and the other waved the new flag of the State of Cardassia. The music reached a joyous crescendo.
"Let peace and love be upon our families so that no mother mourns her children!"
Let our stars continue to shine over Cardassia! Over Cardassia shine!
The transmission abruptly terminated.
"We're receiving reports from Starfleet Command that they have already begun installing anti-ship minefields and tachyon detection grids along the border with the Republic. The Romulans and Cardassian State forces are also engaging in joint patrols," Katie added.
"Is that to keep us out or their people in?" Phil asked from the helm.
"Probably both," Alex said shaking her head.
"I never thought that I could feel sorry for Cardassians until this moment," Laria said from behind her station.
"This nightmare will end for them," Annabeth said remembering a terror from her own people's past. "It may not be in any of our lifetimes, but the Cardassians will one day reunite under a free and democratic government."
"You sound pretty sure of that, Ma'am," Katie said skeptically.
"It's because I know it's possible, Katie. We just can't lose hope."
That evening, Tigranian sat on the edge of his bed and stared out the window. Laria cautiously approached from behind and placed her hands on his shoulders.
"Talk to me, Daniel."
He looked at the streaks of stars rushing past and shook his head.
"Our mission was to make things better for the Cardassians, Laria. Now, they're worse off than ever. I was just thinking how different things would be if we never got involved with the Romulans: Kival, Selonia, Neral...
I was wondering if this disaster could have been averted," he looked down and shook his head. "If instead of all this terrible bullshit, we could have somehow found each other another way and lived a quiet, happy life categorizing pulsars in deep space like good, little Starfleet officers."
She squeezed him close before turning his face to meet hers.
"But it's not what happened, and that life is not ours. We will get through this and we will find victory when defeat seems certain. After all, didn't Kahless say, 'If you fall down eight times, you should get up nine times?"
Tigranian suddenly smiled.
"The Ninth Precept…you read the the qeS'a'?" he asked surprised.
"Of course I did," Laria replied, "it's very important to someone I care about."
Tigranian sat transfixed as he stared into the face of his wife. She was a scholar, warrior, Hero of the Empire, and the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
"I don't know how it's possible," he said shaking his head, "but I love you more every single day."
"That's because we were meant to be together, Daniel," she said. "We make each other strong."
Tigranian suddenly leaned forward and kissed her. He gently wrapped his arms around her waist and started lifting her t-shirt.
"Wait," she said pulling back. "Are you sure you're ready? I'm not going anywhere."
"Exactly," he said touching his forehead to hers. "Knowing that is why I'm ready."
She smiled as she started pulling his clothes off as well…
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