Star Trek: New Horizons Season 4, Episode 5 (Trampling Out the Vintage) by captaintigranian
Summary: The Pershing has returned to the Sol System under the phasers of her sister ships. Captain Tigranian is in the brig, and Starfleet wants to know everything he does. Unfortunately, no one told the Klingon Empire...
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 5 Completed: Yes Word count: 10721 Read: 166 Published: 30 Jul 2017 Updated: 30 Jul 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

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Kuiper Belt: Approach to Sol System, United Federation of Planets

Stardate: 53360.2

Three flashes preceded the appearances of the Pershing, Nelson, and Nevsky as they dropped out of warp. Two Defiant Class escort ships were already waiting for them just outside of Pluto's orbit.

"Open hailing frequencies," Captain Quan said from her center seat.

"Aye, Ma'am," Lieutenant Advolia, her security said from Tactical. "Channel Open."

"USS Trident, this is Captain Quan of the Starship Nelson with USS Pershing under escort…"

"Captain Quan," the face of a Bolian officer greeted her from the bridge of the lead escort. "I am Commander Matros. Admiral Paris thanks you and the Nevsky for your assistance. We will take charge of the Pershing and bring her into port."

"Commander Matros," Quan said annoyed at this officer's curtness. "I was hoping that we could accompany Pershing all the way into dock. It's been a long trip, and I would hate for something to go wrong at the last moment…"

"I assure you, we have things quite in hand," Matros said with a smile. "Please hold here. You will receive your instructions from Starfleet Command very shortly. Safe travels. Trident out."

The transmission suddenly disconnected. It was obvious Geist was on a separate channel because the Pershing continued forward at full impulse. The Trident and the other escort ship formed up adjacent to her nacelles as they continued toward the third planet of the Sol System.

"Ma'am," Advolia said, "Captain Tarn is hailing."

"Onscreen," Quan said very irritated.

"Shu Yin, do you know what the hell is going on?" Tarn asked equally upset on the bridge of the Nevsky. "If they really are going to court martial Dan, they're certainly being obtuse about it. I have contacted every single guy and gal I know in Starfleet Operations, and the only response I get is, 'Don't Ask.'

"I have no idea, Belen," she said drumming her fingers on her armrest. "But I intend to find out."

****

Tigranian lay on the padded bench inside the Pershing's brig with his back against the metal bulkhead. His uniform jacket was unzipped and he flipped through the pages of a worn paperback novel entitled, "The Grapes of Wrath."

The outer doors parted and Annabeth walked inside. The security officer standing watch acknowledged her as she walked towards the active forcefield.

"Could you give us a few minutes, Caruso?" she asked.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said excusing himself to the corridor.

"Shouldn't a captain be on the bridge as her ship approaches spacedock?" Tigranian said sarcastically. He didn't take his eyes of the book. "Hope Phil doesn't hit anything. That'll be hard to explain."

"I should be saying the same thing to you," she replied crossing her arms in front of her. "Phil's forgotten more about piloting a ship than I'll ever know. Besides, we both know that this arrangement is only temporary."

"Temporary, but necessary, Number One," he said flipping another page. "Are Shu Yin and Belen still flying with us?"

"No, Murphy sent a pair of his sentry ships to take over. Our two acquaintances are being told to hold out past the Belt. We were just passing the Saturn Marker when I came down." She paused as she examined his reading material.

"I thought you told Laria you didn't want any reading material during your stay in Hotel Le Brig?"

"I did," he said with a side glance. "This little gem came from your wife during her mandatory, 'check the prisoner's medical status' visit yesterday. She said I would enjoy it based on our current predicament."

Annabeth cocked her head to the side to examine the title.

"I've heard of that one, but I've never read it. What's it about?" she asked curiously.

"It's about good people trying to make a life for themselves under the yolk of terrible people," Tigranian said raising an eyebrow. "Makes me glad we've moved beyond capitalism in the Federation."

Annabeth leaned against the side of the forcefield's metal frame. She stared through the transparent wall of energy.

"Are we supposed to be the good people or the terrible people, Dan?"

"I think we'll find out soon enough, Annabeth," he said closing the book. He gave her a once over. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm not puking my guts out yet if that's what you're asking," she said shaking her head. "A little more tired than usual, I'm pissing like a race horse, and these are a bit tender," she said pointing at her chest.

"A bit too much information, Number One," Tigranian replied.

"You're the one who asked," she said with a haughty chuckle. "I'm just being honest. Thought you'd respect that."

"From you, Annabeth, always," he said returning her smile.

The two of them felt the ship decelerate, followed by the gentle bump of magnetic moorings engaging.

"We've docked," she said glancing up at the ceiling.

"Yup," Tigranian said climbing to his feet and zipping up his jacket. "Got to look presentable if I'm going to court-martialed," he said adjusting his uniform.

"Are you going to beam down alone or do you want me to come with you?" she asked calmly.

"Probably best if you stay aboard at first. I'm sure Pete will send a team to grab me in a few minutes."

"Where are they going to take you?"

"Probably Starfleet Headquarters in San Fran."

Annabeth reached over and deactivated the forcefield of Tigranian's cell.

"Hopefully you'll be able to reach Rellas on that transmitter we left behind," Annabeth said as Tigranian stepped out of his confinement.

"In any case, I'll deliver his message as promised," Tigranian said rubbing his face. "Should I shave?" he asked turning towards her.

"I would," she said furrowing her brow. "That is, if I had a beard."

He laughed as he went in search of a razor.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Starfleet Headquarters: San Francisco, Earth

Two security guards escorted Tigranian into an empty hall deep inside the Archer Building. A raised platform supported a long, wooden table with ten places. Admiral Paris sat in the middle with Admiral Murphy directly to his right. The other eight spots were taken up with various senior leaders of Starfleet. Not a single one of them was below the rank of Vice Admiral.

"Thank you, Gentlemen," Paris said with a nod. "Please wait outside. We will call you if you are required."

"Sir," the senior guard said very concerned. "If he tries something…"

"I assure you," Paris said with a calm smile, "we may look old, but there's plenty of seasoned fighters sitting in this room. Besides, Captain Tigranian knows better than to put up a struggle, right?"

"Yes, Sir," Tigranian said snapping to attention.

"See, it will be fine," Paris said.

"Roger Sir," the guard said motioning for his companion. "We will be in the corridor."

Once the pair departed, Tigranian saluted.

"Captain Daniel Tigranian reporting as ordered to the Chief of Operations."

Paris returned his salute before rising to his feet. Murphy accompanied him as they walked around the table directly to Tigranian's front.

"At Ease, Captain," Paris said extending a handshake. "Well done. Not many people could have made it out of Romulan Space alive."

"Thank you, Sir," Tigranian said firmly grabbing Paris' outstretched palm. "It was my crew. As always, they performed beyond all expectations."

"Welcome back, Dan," Murphy said placing a hand on Tigranian's shoulder. "I would say you have nine lives, but you've used a least eight of them already."

"Roger, Sir," Tigranian replied, "I'll remember to be more cautious with the last one."

"We both know that's not true," Murphy said with a chuckle. "The good news is we've been monitoring Romulan transmissions with our listening posts. They seem to have bought the story about your court martial. They're pulling their ships back deeper into their territory."

"We'll see if they still buy it when I suddenly appear back on the bridge of the Pershing like nothing happened," Tigranian said with a hint of concern.

"Admiral Yoshizaki?" Paris said turning towards his Chief of Intelligence.

"We've already put together an official communique stating that though you acted without official sanction, you were exonerated of all charges based on new evidence you revealed to us. We'll transmit it out as part of our regular secret intelligence briefs to the fleet. We know the Romulans monitor those. It's our hope they'll drive themselves crazy trying to figure out exactly what 'evidence' we're referring to."

"Ma'am," Tigranian replied. "I have to admit, that is a level of deviousness that even Praetor Neral himself could respect."

"Thank you…" Yoshizaki said cautiously, not sure if it was meant as a compliment or an insult.

"Regardless," Paris said walking back with Murphy to take their seats. "I want to hear your report on the state of these rebel slaves. Do you believe they can really be an asset in our efforts to bring about change in the Romulan regime?"

"Not only do I believe that they are an asset, Sir, they are essential to the cause."

"Really?" Paris said leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers. "Do tell, Captain."

"I met with their leadership council on an asteroid in the Pomparath Nebula. They are far more dedicated to liberating their peoples and much more organized than we previously believed. In a shocking twist of events, they have the direct support of a Romulan Senator who claims he's been part of the dissident movement for years."

"A Senator?" Murphy said in shock.

"Was his name Trallian?" Yoshizaki asked.

"Yes," Tigranian said very surprised.

"Admiral," Paris said turning towards her. "Do you mean to tell me that Starfleet Intelligence was aware of a dissident in the Romulan Senate and failed to inform any of the rest of us?"

"We only suspected, Sir," Yoshizaki replied evasively. "We keep tabs on the movements of senior Romulan officials trying to identify any unusual patterns. His have caught our eye in the past."

"I hope the Romulans haven't conducted a similar analysis," Murphy said. "Otherwise, this could all be for nothing."

"Doubtful Pete," Yoshizaki shook her head. "We only came to these conclusions based on corroboration from other several other deep cover sources."

"In any case," Tigranian continued, "They have agreed to limit their targets to only military sources in exchange for two things."

"And those are?" Admiral Rawlings, Chief of Fleet Management, asked nervously.

"The freedom to select their own objectives based on our intel and materiel and logistical support."

"The second is a given," Paris said with a furrowed brow. "The first might be a problem."

"Why do you say that, Sir?" Tigranian said.

"Because, Mr. Tigranian," Paris replied curtly. "If they choose the wrong target and a Federation weapons signature is discovered, it will be damned hard to explain any innocent casualties."

"Sir," Tigranian said shaking his head. "I guarantee that they won't go along with this if we treat them as subordinates rather than partners."

"Then we don't go along with this," Admiral Jenkins, Chief of Starfleet Logistics, said plainly. "We're already on thin ice as it is based on Prime Directive Concerns."

Paris sighed.

"We're already well past Prime Directive Concerns, Oliver," Paris replied shaking his head. "We're knee deep in Romulan internal affairs and actively hiding it. I'm inclined to agree with Captain Tigranian's assessment, risky as it is."

"If it means anything, Sir, I reminded them that if they wish to achieve their ultimate objective of joining with the Klingon Empire, they must act in a manner that the Klingons respect."

"The annexation question…" Paris said looking down at the table. "That is another dimension completely. Well, I can't control what they do, but if Martok recognizes their request, I won't recommend that President Zife or the Council try to block it."

I also promised, Rellas, one of their leaders I would deliver a message to you on his behalf, Sir," Tigranian said.

The Admirals exchanged piqued glances. Paris nodded for him to proceed.

"Whatever this council chooses," Tigranian said. "The Soldiers of Akarath want, as he put it, 'deeds not words.' They want real action on the Federation's part, not political posturing."

Some of the Admirals looked perturbed at the suggestion that Starfleet wouldn't fulfill a bargain in good faith, but Paris seemed more receptive.

"Mr. Tigranian," he said leaning back and looking the captain in the face. "I promise that we will not enter any agreement that we do not intend to live up to. Do they have the advanced communications array?"

"Yes Sir," Tigranian replied. "I had my team deliver it. The council is awaiting your signal."

"Well," Paris said looking to both sides of the table. "I think you have given us much to discuss. Once we have our answer, we'll let them know. I would also like for you to be present when we contact them."

"Yes Sir," Tigranian nodded. "I think that would be appropriate."

At that moment, all hell broke loose. Alarms echoed through the entirety of Starfleet Command. Paris tapped his comm badge.

"Central Control, this is the COO. Report!"

"Sir, a Klingon attack cruiser just decloaked in low orbit right over San Franscisco. I'm detecting a transporter signature aimed right at the Archer Building. Section 178 Alpha, 3rd Floor."

The Admirals all exchanged terrified glances. That was their precise location. Before Paris could order a full lockdown, the sound of phaser fire erupted in the corridor followed by silence. Then, the doors burst apart as the two security guards came flying through the plastic and laminated fiberboard.

The pair stirred enough to let them the room's occupants know they were still alive. Behind them, loomed a massive Klingon holding a bat'leth in the crook of his arm. His long black mane showing hints of grey streaks. A sash of golden chain mail hung from his right shoulder to his left hip. On it were three crests in descending order: The Klingon Defense Force, the seal of the Planet Ty'Gokor, and the crest of his house. It was Torlek, Son of Ro'vagh. He stormed straight into the meeting room looking enraged.

"Someone at that table better explain to me why my brother is your prisoner," the General said gripping his K'vel'kar blade at the ready. "Otherwise, blood will flow."

"Torlek, My Lord, mev!" Tigranian said holding up his hands and stepping between him and the assembled brass of Starfleet.

"Governor Torlek!" Paris shouted. "This is not only an egregious treaty violation, it could be construed as an act of war!"

"So could keeping your closest ally in the dark for months before placing the blame on the Chief of the Klingon Defense Force's family!" Torlek said raising a finger so straight it looked to pierce steel. "Chancellor Martok was already growing weary of your games. When I heard that Daniel was arrested, it was the final straw."

"Torlek, I am not their prisoner…" Tigranian said trying to drain the bloodlust from his brother's eyes. "It was all a ruse. Something to trick the Romulans."

"WHAT?" Torlek shouted in reply. "Does he speak the truth?" Torlek turned back to the Admirals.

"Yes," Paris said collapsing back in his chair.

An entire platoon of Starfleet marines appeared at the shattered doors. When they saw Torlek, they readied their phaser rifles. Torlek spun around and raised his sword over his head.

"False Alarm!" Paris screamed at them while rubbing his eyes. "It's alright. Stand down, Lieutenant."

"But Sir! He's armed!" The marine platoon leader said not taking his eyes off of the Klingon officer.

"Go away, Lieutenant!" Paris commanded again. "Post guards at the corridors and watch for any other guests. In the meantime, we obviously have some things to discuss with our ally. Please take these two fine security officers with you and have them checked out by a medic."

"Yes Sir," he replied. The marines grabbed the semi-conscious guards and then backed away slowly, still not taking their eyes off of Torlek. He growled at them as they disappeared. Then, the general turned back around.

"This better begin to make sense…rapidly."

"I think we better let Captain Tigranian explain," Admiral Murphy told his peers.

"Very well," Paris acquiesced. "And then maybe my staff can tell me how a fully armed Klingon Warrior could beam straight into the heart of Starfleet Command so easily…" The other flag officers looked down into their laps and turned bright red.

"And don't you ever forget that we can!" Torlek replied.

"My Lord," Tigranian said still trying to calm him down. "The Klingon Empire has heard of the Soldiers of Akarath, correct?"

"The Romulans slaves who are foolish enough to believe the Empire will allow them to join us?" Torlek scoffed. "Of course."

"Well," Tigranian said taking a deep breath. "There's a lot more to them than you think, and you may want to reconsider their desire to join the Empire…"

Tigranian spent the next ten minutes laying everything out for Governor Torlek: his conversion of his fellow gladiators, his mission to find them, the proposal to create an alliance, and even his feigned arrest to cover Starfleet's tracks."

"So," Torlek said finally resting the tip of his bat'leth on the ground. "You're saying that I crossed half the galaxy and risked war with the Federation over a misunderstanding? That you have actually engaged in a covert operation that could not only significantly strengthen the Federation and Klingon Peoples, but also critically weaken our most dangerous rival?"

"Yes, Brother," Tigranian suspected what was about to happen. A grin crossed Torlek's face and he looked genuinely relieved.

"Very Good, Daniel. Very good."

Torlek balled his leather clad fist and struck Tigranian hard across the face. Blood poured from the captain's shattered nose and split lip as he fell in a heap to the floor.

"Governor Torlek!" Murphy said running from his chair to Tigranian's side, but Daniel waved him off.

"What was that?" Admiral Yoshizaki said in shock.

"Honorable reason or not," Torlek began, "for a Klingon warrior from a noble family to hide information so critical to the Empire from the head of his house is wrong."

"Don't worry, Admiral. This is normal." Tigranian slurred his words as he spit blood from his mouth, "If Governor Torlek was truly upset, my head would be rolling across the floor."

"Indeed," Torlek said calmly. "This will satisfy both Daniel's honor and mine."

In a flash, he grabbed Tigranian's left arm and snapped it in half. The sickening sound of crunching bone echoed through the Admiralty's ears. They gasped in horror as Tigranian again went down to the floor, writhing in pain.

"STOP THAT!" Paris screamed. "Captain Tigranian was obeying my orders when he failed to disclose the operation to you!"

"As Daniel said, Admiral Paris," Torlek said as Murphy leapt to Tigranian's side once more. "I am not upset, merely restoring order. The Chancellor will refuse to hear information gained in a dishonorable manner." Torlek pointed to the tIq ghob on his sash. "Duty, Honor, and Loyalty: all in perfect balance."

Tigranian looked up at Torlek and placed his right fist over his heart while cradling his shattered limb at his side.

"jIyajchu' joHwI'," Tigranian said fighting to maintain composure through the pain.

Torlek smiled as he knelt down to the captain's eye level.

"You bore that very well, Daniel, I am proud of you as always." He then rose to face the other officers. "I have a secure subspace link to Qo'nos on the HoS. I will brief the Chancellor on your operations and remain in orbit until he transmits a response. If Daniel is free to go, I request to have him and his staff as guests on my flagship this evening after your physicians make the necessary repairs."

The other Admirals were still in shock after the sight of his casual brutality.

"Captain Tigranian?" Admiral Paris asked skeptically.

"I would very much appreciate it, Sir," he was fast growing pale and started to shiver from shock as the adrenaline wore off.

"Very well," Paris said slowly taking his seat. "But if anyone asks, say it is an interrogation. We don't want our cover story to fly apart at the seams already. If anything, the Romulans will think we're sharing Tigranian's new evidence with the Klingons."

"Good!" Torlek said. "Qapla', Ladies and Gentlemen," he said before departing. Once he was out of earshot, Admiral Fletcher spoke up.

"Jesus, Owen!" he said to Paris holding back the rising bile in his throat. "They might be our allies, but they're also animals!"

"They're not only our allies, Jason, they're our best allies," Paris said rubbing his eyes again.

"I will never understand you, gagh-eater," Fletcher said looking back at the broken Captain Tigranian.

"You don't have to, Sir, but there is a very old saying about men like you: 'qagh Sopbe'"

"Just what the hell does that mean, Captain?" Fletcher replied angrily.

"It simply means it is better to eat gagh than the alternative," Tigranian winced as Murphy helped him get to his feet. "If you'd like a deeper cultural perspective, perhaps Admiral Yoshizaki's fine Klingon analysts would be willing to help…"

Fletcher turned to Yoshizaki who merely shrugged her shoulders in ignorance.

"Sir," Murphy grumbled. "I think he's getting delirious. Permission to get him to Medical?"

"Yes," Paris said so bemused that he was almost laughing. "Get him out of here. We've all had enough excitement for one day."
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
The HoS slowly circled Earth above San Francisco. The same two Defiant class ships that brought the Pershing to spacedock now kept a close eye on the unexpected diplomatic mission from Qo'nos. Other Klingon commanders would see them as a threat, but Torlek merely regarded them with the same annoyance as a pair of buzzing glob flies.

The Klingon ambassador to the Federation graciously offered the Governor use of his guest suites at the embassy, but Torlek had sternly refused. Instead, he ordered several cases of Klingon delicacies and a barrel of vintage bloodwine transported aboard his own ship and charged to a personal account.

While his chef in the galley prepared a celebratory feast, Torlek had spoken directly with Chancellor Martok. Thought the leader of the Empire was not thrilled to hear that his partners were keeping secrets from him, he was very intrigued with the prospect of adding over twelve systems to the Empire without having to fire a shot.

While Martok convened his privy council on Qo'nos to contemplate a response, Torlek received the Pershing's senior staff in his private on ship dining room. Tigranian requested that the invitation be extended to Admiral Murphy. Torlek reluctantly agreed.

T'yveth, now in command of the HoS with the rank of full HoD, joined them all at Torlek's table. A Pheban jeghpu'wI' steward in full dress livery laid out platter after platter of Klingon fare in front of the assembled Starfleet officers: gagh, krada legs, pipius claws, and blood pies. His multiple tentacles expertly reached out and ensured the place settings were precisely correct. A second, older steward carried a metal pitcher of bloodwine and kept the guests' goblets charged. His three eyes on muscular stalks rising from his head constantly scanned the table for those in need of a refill.

Torlek sat at the head of the table with Tigranian and Laria to his left. Murphy sat across from them with Captain T'yveth. It was obvious the Starfleet Admiral was uncomfortable being served by a Klingon servant race, no matter how professional they were.

"Something wrong, Admiral?" T'yveth said noticing Murphy's hesitance to receive a serving a gagh from the first steward. "Do you not have waiters in the Federation?"

"We do," Murphy said clearing his throat, "but not ones that we have conquered by force."

Torlek scoffed.

"Akros," Torlek said turning to the older steward, "Were you conquered by force?" The Governor spoke in tlhIngan Hol as the Phebans did not understand Federation Basic. The Federation officers' universal translators allowed them to understand the query.

"Of course not, My Lord," the Pheban responded, almost insulted by the idea.

"Well, of course, he is not going to say that to your face," Scharr said from the other end of the table.

"Forgive my companions, Akros," Tigranian interjected in tlhIngan Hol. "They seem convinced that you are doing this against your will." He then held up his goblet. As the Pheban slithered over with his pitcher, he shivered at the suggestion.

"Please assure them that is not the case," Akros said with chuckle. "Also, Lord Daniel, may I say that it so good to see you again? My wife and I are so proud of you: gaining command of your own ship, marrying such an honorable woman. It brings this old man joy to see you bringing honor to the House of Torlek."

Laria smiled.

"Thank you, Akros," she said beaming. "We don't get to visit your half of the galaxy as much as we'd like." The Pheban reached out a long tentacle and placed it lovingly on her shoulder.

"You both know him?" Alex said in shock.

"Akros has been my batman for almost twenty turns," Torlek said to the length of the table. "Daniel grew to know him on the Sk'oh, Lady Laria first met him when she came to the estate last autumn."

"And I met Akros during that wonderful evening on Qo'nos when Torlek and Dan walked out of the High Council chamber with their lives," Annabeth said raising an eyebrow to her captain.

"Three generations of my family have proudly served the Noble Houses of the Empire," Akros said puffing out his chest. "But The House of Torlek has cared for me and my family more than I could imagine. I have my own home on Governor Torlek's estate, my own hovercar, and a salary twice that of the one I would have on Pheban V."

"We are conquerors, Admiral," T'yveth said. "But we are not Romulan petaQpu. If jeghpu'wI' treat us honorably, we treat them honorably. It is our obligation as warriors."

Murphy turned red with embarrassment.

"Mr. Akros, please accept my deepest apologies. I did not mean for my ignorance to insult you."

"There is no need for an apology, Admiral Murphy," Akros replied through the translator. "But if it makes you feel better, than it is most accepted. I can understand why it would be difficult for you to understand our ways. Would you care for more bloodwine?"

"Oh no, Mr. Akros," Murphy said putting his hand over his goblet. "I'm going to have trouble finishing this one."

"Also, with great respect, Admiral," Akros said bowing his head. "Please refer to me only as 'Akros.' Only other servants call me 'Mister."

"You can see why he is the best," Torlek said with a laugh. "Akros is a master of Klingon etiquette and enforces it with the ruthlessness of any great warrior."

"Qapla', Akros, Son of Enoth," Tigranian said raising his goblet.

"Qapla', Daniel, Son of Tigranian, but you certainly know better than to toast a servant at the dinner table! Lord Torlek was correct when he said that you had been away from Klingons too long…" Akros grinned as he slithered back towards the barrel of bloodwine to refill the pitcher.

Torlek, T'yveth, and Laria all laughed.

"Excuse me, Akros," Annabeth said, "but could I have some water?"

"Captain Geist," Akros said dismayed, "if you do not like bloodwine, might I get you something else? Warnog?Raktajino, perhaps? Klingons generally do not allow water at the table. Since it is only used for cleaning, they find it repulsive," he said nervously moving one of his eyestalks towards Torlek.

"Human PaH, Ka DiJaQ?" T'yveth chuckled.

"Please fetch some for her, Akros. You have my permission," Torlek said kindly.

"Right away, My Lord," Akros said with another bow before commanding his assistant to fetch some from the galley.

Torlek took note of the fact that the woman who had polished off three goblets of wine at his table on Qo'nos suddenly refused to touch anything besides water. He would be sure to ask Daniel about his suspicions later.

"All this talk about etiquette," Katie said reaching for a fingerfull of gagh. "And we're eating live worms out of a bowl with our hands." She crammed the wriggling mass into her mouth and swallowed. Her eyes opened wide. "Wow, they really do wiggle all the way down."

"That is how you know it is good gagh, Lieutenant," Torlek said raising his tankard to her.

Phil's face turned a slight shade of green.

"You look a little woozy there, Lexington," Scharr taking a bite out of a piece of Rokeg Blood Pie. "You've never had Klingon food before?"

"Not very often, Sir," Phil taking a deep breath. "I think I'll stick with the krada legs. At least they're cooked…" Phil broke open a piece of red crustacean exoskeleton that resembled an Earth Snow Crab.

Tigranian chuckled.

"What is it, Sir?"

"Do you know how those are steamed?" Tigranian said grabbing a handful of raw pipius claw marinated in las'kach juice.

"No…" Phil replied very nervously.

"Probably best then, but remember that Klingons don't like water…" Tigranian replied while shoving the claw meat into his mouth. The pilot looked down and then slowly placed the broken krada leg on his plate. He then cautiously sniffed his fingers before recoiling when he detected a very faint hint of ammonia and saltpeter.

Just a Phil was reaching for something to wipe his hands off, an alarm echoed through the compartment.

"Alert Status One. Security teams to readiness stations."

Torlek looked at T'yveth with concern. The captain hit the comm badge on his right sleeve.

"This is T'yveth HoD. Report."

"HoD, we have a captured a Federation intruder in the aft cargo bay. She was attempting to access our internal sensors."

"What?" Tigranian said in shock.

"This is Governor Torlek. Was she armed?"

"Negative, Governor. We surprised her before she could resist."

"Stand down from Alert Status. Bring her to us now."

"jIyaj, Lord."

"Why would the Federation send an agent onto a Klingon ship? We're allies!" Alex said looking at Admiral Murphy.

"That's a good question, Pete," Tigranian added.

"Governor," Murphy replied. "I assure you, I have no idea what is going on. Starfleet Command did not order this."

"We'll find out soon enough," Torlek said pushing back from the table.

A few minutes later, the doors parted with a metallic hiss. Two bekks dragged a uniformed Starfleet officer between them with a black bag over her head. They forced her to her knees and saluted. Torlek, T'yveth, Murphy, and Tigranian all walked forward and stared down at the prisoner. Torlek reached down and snatched the bag away from the officer's head.

"Qu'vatlh, you have got to be kidding me…" Tigranian muttered when he saw the intruder's identity. Murphy stifled an expletive of his own.

"What are you doing on my flagship?" Torlek growled.

"Answer the man's question Captain Quan," Admiral Murphy ordered.

"Sir, I can explain," she said looking up at the bekks. "But it would be a lot easier if these two fine gentlemen would release me."

"Right now I'm considering telling them to throw you in their brig!" Murphy replied.

"Gentlemen," Tigranian said to Torlek and Murphy. "I think we can handle her. If she gets rowdy, I'll knock her out myself."

"Thanks, Dan…" Quan muttered.

"Release her and leave us," Torlek commanded. The bekks saluted again before departing.

Murphy took a step backward and leaned on the table.

"We're waiting, Captain," Murphy said holding up his hands.

Quan rubbed her arms to restore feeling where the Klingon guards manhandled her.

"I escorted the Pershing all the way back to Earth for Dan's court martial only to be told to stay outside the solar system and await orders," she began. "I was hoping to be called to testify as a character witness for Captain Tigranian…"

"I appreciate the sentiment, Shu Yin," Tigranian said rolling his eyes.

"Then," she continued, "we detected a fully armed Klingon warship decloaking directly above Starfleet Headquarters. I was preparing to warp in to assist when I was again told to standby. Finally, after two more hours of being ignored, I was told that Dan and the rest of his crew were being turned over to the Klingons for interrogation! What was I supposed to do?"

At that moment, Akros appeared from behind a partition and placed a glass of water in front of Annabeth.

"How about mind your own damn business?" Tigranian's first officer said taking a haughty sip of her long awaited beverage.

"I wasn't going to put my crew or anyone else at risk, Captain Geist," Quan replied angrily, "but I wanted to make sure that Starfleet wasn't throwing your ungrateful hides to the wolves!"

"Obviously, Ma'am," Scharr said as his antennae straightened, "we're being well treated," he said before taking a bite of gladst salad.

"Then, I find you all here having a banquet? What the hell is going on?" Shu Yin asked.

"If you needed to know what was going on, you would have been told! Now, I have to explain to Starfleet Command why you trying to sabotage the Klingon Chief of Staff's flagship!" Murphy spit back. "I should have your command for this!"

"And I should have your head on that table…" Torlek growled again. "This ship is my personal property."

"My Lord, Admiral Murhpy," Tigranian said. "Her actions were stupid, but her heart was in the right place. I think we can just pretend this never happened. I also recommend we tell her the truth before rumors start flying on the Nelson. After that, it's only a matter of time before they spread to the Nevsky, Shran, and every other ship in the fleet."

"If you and your crew hadn't risked your lives for this operation, Dan," Murphy grumbled, "I would wipe my ass with that suggestion. She hasn't earned a damn thing yet."

"She's the commander of the ship that helped get us home, Pete. I think that's worth something."

"Captain Quan, is it?" Torlek said leaning his shoulders back. "If my brother says you cared for him, then you are welcome at my table." He gestured towards the food. "Akros, please set another place for our new guest."

"HIja', My Lord," the Pheban said slithering towards a sideboard to grab another metal platter.

"Are you serious?" Quan asked. "You put a black bag over my head and then expect me to eat worms and make small talk?"

"I am deathly serious, Captain," Torlek said returning to his place at the head of the table.

"And so am I," Murphy said sitting down. "If you want to avoid a court martial of your own, you will graciously accept the Governor's invitation."

"I guess its worms and small talk then…" Quan said with a forced smile.

Akros held out a chair for her and gestured with one of his free tentacles. Quan took a seat while he filled a tankard of bloodwine for her. She took a sip and held her lips closed as she forced the potent spirit down her throat.

"That is…" she paused as she gulped for air. "…quite unique."

"For some people," Tigranian said taking a deep draught of his own metal cup. "I've got to hand it to you, Shu Yin, I didn't think you cared enough to risk arrest for me and my crew."

"At the time, I didn't think the security on a Klingon ship would be tight enough to call it a risk…" she muttered.

T'yveth drew his d'k tahg and clicked open the blades. Torlek immediately reached out and grabbed his wrist. Quan's eyes grew wide as the dim red light glinted off the polished baakonite.

"Everything on this ship is Captain T'yveth's responsibility, to include its security. First rule of being on a Klingon vessel, Captain Quan," Torlek said bearing his fangs. "Never insult your hosts if you don't want to die horribly. First social blunder is free because you are a human. The next one will cost you your life," he spoke as T'yveth slowly sheathed his dagger.

"And me without my mek'leths…" Laria said taking a sip of her own wine. The other Starfleet personnel looked down at their laps awkwardly. Tigranian groaned.

"What the hell did you say, Lieutenant!" Quan spit back at her. Torlek banged his fist on the table.

"Second rule of being on a Klingon vessel!" he roared loud enough to shake the bulkheads. "While on the HoS, she is not Lieutenant Tigranian of Starfleet. She is Lady Laria, Daughter of Amira, of the House of Torlek: a noblewoman and warrior of the Empire. In case you can't figure that out, it means she is YOUR superior and will be treated as such. Otherwise, I will personally help her rip your beating heart from your chest!"

"He means it…Ma'am…" Laria said playfully raising her eyebrows in Quan's direction.

"Lady Laria…" Murphy grumbled at her lack of Starfleet protocol while looking back and forth to her captain. Daniel meanly shrugged his shoulders. Quan finally had enough.

"Ok, Dan, what is going on? First you tell me back on the Neutral Zone that you found the Soldiers of Akarath, and now this insanity?"

"You told her about the Soldiers of Akarath?" Torlek growled while turning to Tigranian.

"Yes…" he replied cautiously.

"You told her before me?!" Torlek shouted as he shifted his displeasure back to his brother.

"She found us coming back across the Neutral Zone," Tigranian said defensively. "I had to tell her something."

"Maybe I should order Laria to kill you after all!" he growled.

"Starfleet ordered Captain Tigranian and the Pershing across the Neutral Zone to find the Soldiers of Akarath and offer them a deal so they would help us against the Romulans," Murphy said to clear the air. "We knew the Tal Shiar would hunt them so we had to keep things quiet. We faked the story about the court martial to make it look like Dan did it all on his own, but we're rigging it so that it looks like he found something to clear himself. There, Captain Quan, it's that simple."

"This could lead to war, Admiral," Quan said turning to him.

"Why is the Federation always so afraid of battle?" T'yveth said taking a drink.

"Not all of the Federation. Andoria is always ready," Scharr said taking another handful of gagh from his plate. "This stuff really grows on you after a while," he said as his antennae straightened.

"Yes it could lead to war," Murphy said cutting back in. "Which is why you and the other Pershing class captains have to keep your mouths shut and go with the official talking points."

"And the Klingons?" Quan asked next.

"If Rellas and his followers are serious about joining the Empire, we need to be involved, don't we?" Torlek replied, his eyes burning a hole in both Tigranian and Murphy.

"Yes, My Lord, you do…" Tigranian said penitently.

"Bridge to Governor Torlek…" a voice cut in over the intercom.

"HIja'," he replied with another growl.

"We're receiving a message from the Homeworld. Chancellor Martok commands you to make contact with him immediately. He also wants to speak with the Son of Tigranian."

Tigranian immediately got a very nervous look on his face.

"jIyaj," Torlek replied pushing back from the table. "Daniel, Admiral Murphy, accompany me to my quarters. Akros, please see to our other guests until we return."

The Pheban bowed respectfully.

"Governor, are you sure it is appropriate for me to be there?" Murphy asked. "I'm sure Dan can accurately represent Starfleet."

"But Daniel is also a Klingon warrior. In a fit of anger, the Chancellor can order his death. He cannot order yours. If he is unhappy with the Federation's duplicity, you may very well save my brother's life tonight."

Laria looked at her husband. He glanced back at her before standing.

"Well," Murphy said with a deep breath. "We better not keep him waiting then."

The three men disappeared down the corridor.

"If everyone has had their fill of dinner," Akros said politely through the UT. "We have raktajino, zilm'kach, and candied racht for the dessert course."

"That sounds delicious, Akros," Laria said taking over the role of hostess. "You may clear the table then serve."

"Very good, My Lady," he said with a bow.

Quan looked around like the world had gone upside down. The others at the table barely seemed to acknowledge what had just happened.

"Your captain might die in the next few minutes and you're just sitting here like everything's just fine!?"

"It's the price you pay for falling in love with a Klingon Warrior," Laria said rubbing her eyes.

"Calm down, Shu Yin," Annabeth said rolling her eyes. "Martok is already very familiar with Daniel Tigranian. He knows that killing him would do more harm than good and Torlek already smacked him around a little. That'll probably be all. Maybe another painstick or two, but Dan will probably like that."

"What?" Quan said as if Annabeth was speaking a foreign language.

"Don't worry, Ma'am," Phil said leaning forward. "It seems crazy now, but you'll get used to it."

"Might take a few months though," Katie added. Alex and Scharr nodded in agreement.

"These people are completely out of their minds," Quan thought as she shook her head. She then jumped as a pair of tentacles circled around from behind her. The second Pheban steward said something completely unintelligible.

"What do you want?' she said looking into his three glassy eyes.

"The UT sometimes has trouble with their pronunciation," Alex said kindly.

"Put it in scan mode, Ma'am," Scharr added. "That should help."

Quan awkwardly fiddled with her comm badge for a second before the words became clear.

"I said, 'would you like some sugar in your rakatajino?' Ma'am," the steward repeated.

"Umm, yes, thank you," Quan replied.

The Pheban's four tentacles picked up a ceramic mug, a bowl of sugar, a spoon, and a pot of coffee simultaneously and had her beverage fixed in a manner of seconds. He placed it in front of her with a flourish before moving on to the next guest.

"They're better than a replicator," Katie said with admiration. The others laughed.

Quan nervously picked up her mug. She downed half of it in one gulp hoping to clear her spinning head.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
Early the next morning, Tigranian sat in deep mediation back on the Pershing's holodeck. He decided he wanted to be alone, and had told the computer to delete the monks. He sat by himself on Qo'nos' eastern islands, chanting his mantra:

"Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je…"

The doors behind him opened and he heard the deep thud of Klingon bootprints.

He ceased his chant, but kept his eyes closed.

"My crew knows to disturb me while I'm on the holodeck…" the captain muttered.

"Luckily," Torlek replied as the doors disappeared into the computer generated environment. "I'm not a member of your crew, ToDSaH. I would have never pegged you as a mystic, Daniel."

Tigranian kept his hands pressed tightly together attempting to maintain his calm.

"Call it what you will, My Brother, but it's working. If it wasn't, after last night, I would have drunk myself to Gre'thor's gates."

"The Chancellor approved of Starfleet's plan. Probably because you spoke of it so confidently."

"He also said I should have my eyes plucked out and eaten by bokrats…"

"You knew he would be upset by the secrecy. He doesn't even like his own intelligence agents."

"Still, it makes me feel dirty to conceal secrets from my people."

"Enough, Daniel. I made sure you paid your penance. You are free and clear of shame. Now, the Federation and Empire are united against a common foe because of your efforts. That carries great honor."

"As long as Starfleet keeps its obligations. It will mean a lot to their council that you'll be there when we contact them. Their struggle will now have hope."

"It will be a long and arduous path," Torlek said taking a seat on the rock next to Daniel. They stared out at the roaring sea together. "Chancellor Martok said he will not even propose their annexation to the High Council until they prove their worth."

"I have no doubt they will, Brother."

"You have a lot of faith in a group of strange aliens, Daniel," Torlek said in a cautionary tone. "Do not let them break your spirit if they fail."

"They will not fail, Torlek," Tigranian said running his strand of prayer beads through his fingers. "I have fought at their side. I have seen their hearts. All they want is to be free and united with those that share their faith."

Torlek paused at those words.

"Say they do succeed and are annexed into the Empire? What then?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" Tigranian replied.

"Daniel, they worship Kahless, they may even fight with honor, but do you think they will be treated as our equals? Even under the Martok reforms, they will not be able to hold seats on the High Council."

"I am treated as an equal!" Tigranian countered.

"That is different," Torlek said shaking his head. "You are a part of an established Great House whose leader has this on his forehead," the Governor pointed to his pronounced ridges. Rellas and the others will be jeghpu'wI' like Akros.

The best they can hope for is to be janissaries or Imperial Auxiliaries. Do you really believe they will ever command Klingon warriors in battle? Captain Klingon warships? No, they will be looked down on with scorn. We do not embrace other cultures, we conquer them!"

"A century ago when the three Dahar Masters faced the Federation across the Neutral Zone, did any Klingon think that a human would ever complete the Rites of Ascension? Earn his place in a Great House? Yet here I sit.

I have done all you've said and more, Torlek. The Empire has evolved and will continue to evolve. I beseech Kahless the Unforgettable to guide us to our future with honor and that Rellas, Tulan, Grisgok…even that bastard Onorok can all be a part of it."

Torlek looked into his brother's eyes.

"Daniel, it is obvious you are still struggling with what the green bloods did to you…" he paused. "What she did to you…" Tigranian clenched his jaw. He was thankful that Torlek sensed not to mention that Romulan harpy's name in his presence. "…and yet you have continued to serve both your nation and the Empire. No one can say that you haven't earned a bit of respite from this chaos.

I will be returning to Qo'nos tonight. Let me take you and Laria home for a few months, perhaps a whole turn. If you want to practice Mok'bara, visit the Eastern Islands and mediate on the Daj qeylIS qaD with the monks, or merely work on starting a family, it doesn't matter. However, if you stay here, keep pushing yourself to these limits, I fear you will falter."

"How can you say that?" Tigranian said with genuine rage. "I am a Klingon Warrior! This is a test of my spirit. If I run, I am only proving that I am unworthy of all that I have earned. I would be proving that I am unworthy of your trust!"

"There is nothing left to prove, Daniel, to me or anyone else. Besides, you wouldn't be gone forever."

"Who would captain my ship? Lead my crew?"

"The Daughter of Geist is a captain in need of a ship. Perhaps you should pass the command to her? It would not be a dishonor to recognize her excellence. I'm sure your superiors in Starfleet would agree."

"No," Tigranian said flatly. He remembered Annabeth chastising him for only being in the ship's brig ten days. "My place is on my bridge, Brother. Besides, Annabeth is facing her own challenge right now."

"Because she is with child…" Torlek said turning back towards the sea.

"How did you know that?" Tigranian turned to him in shock.

Torlek scoffed.

"I may be going gray, but my intuition is sharper than ever, Little Pup. Don't forget who taught you how to be Klingon." He paused. "And you're the father, aren't you?"

Tigranian had recently learned a valuable lesson about keeping information from the head of his house.

"Yes…"

"I assume that Laria knows?" Torlek said raising one his pronounced eyebrows.

"Of course she does!" Tigranian replied with scorn at the insinuation he could be unfaithful. "I assure you, there was no dishonor in the act. It was merely a donation to a couple needing help to conceive."

"Donation or not, did you explain to the wives that their child has Klingon blood in its veins?"

"It is their child, Torlek," Tigranian said with warning in his voice. "If they do not want it raised in our ways…"

"You and any child you father are members of my house. How you raise them is not your decision," Torlek interjected.

"You're right," Tigranian replied. "It's theirs…"

"If it grows up in ignorance and dishonor than it will reflect on both of us!"

"Do you really think that Annabeth and Alex would let that happen?"

The Klingon pursed his lips.

"No, they wouldn't," he finally admitted. "But can you imagine a worse fate than being born Klingon and not knowing it?"

"You talk of how Rellas and the others would be merely jeghpu'wI', but how a human child born of humans must be raised Klingon…" Tigranian muttered.

"Watch your tone with me, Brother." Torlek cautioned with a raised finger. "You were baptized with Klingon blood which will be passed to your offspring. That is the way of things."

Tigranian turned back towards the pounding surf and looked down at the small tIq ghob on the end of his prayer beads.

"It is THEIR child, My Brother," he said to himself as much as Torlek.

Torlek shut his eyes and then opened them in frustration. He silently rose to his feet and turned his back on Tigranian.

"That is what human society expects you to say, Daniel, but we are not human. We are Klingons. Our strength comes from our bond with our people."

"What would you have me do, Torlek? I have no authority in this matter," Tigranian said turning around to face the towering warrior.

"If Captain Geist and Doctor Hunter will raise the child, so be it. They are honorable women. But I implore you, open their eyes as yours were once opened.

I will see you on the surface again when we speak to your friends in the Romulan Empire. My offer to take you home remains open, especially now with your ardent desire to abandon your offspring."

Tigranian winced at is brother's verbal blow.

Without another word, Torlek departed and the captain was again alone with this thoughts.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Archer Building, Starfleet Headquarters: San Francisco, Earth

"Sir," the technician said from the communication control station. "We're receiving an encrypted signal."

"Open a channel," Paris said pushing his shoulders back. The screen in front of them crackled through static and then reassembled into an image of Rellas, Onorok, Lucretia, and Senator Trallian.

"You said you wanted to speak to us Starfleet," Rellas said confidently. "Well, we are here."

"Councilmembers, I am Admiral Owen Paris, Chief of Starfleet Operations. To my left, is Admiral Ume Yoshizaki, my Chief of Intelligence, and Admiral Oliver Jenkins, my Chief of Logistics. To my right is Admiral Peter Murphy and you already know Captain Tigranian."

"Son of Tigranian," Onorok said to the captain. "You certainly travel quickly. Already back on the comforts of your Earth…"

"Glad to see you're still in high spirits, Instructor…" Tigranian replied with a voice chill as ice.

"Captain Tigranian briefed us on your discussions with him," Admiral Paris continued. "and we are prepared to enter into the following agreement based on your demands:

We will collaborate on engaging military targets within the Romulan Star Empire that further our mutual objectives of destabilizing the regime. Also, you will provide us with any additional intelligence from your operations.

In return, we will provide supplies and medical support, both for your fighters and your civilians. We will also provide you with regular, updated intelligence briefings on Romulan forces outside your normal scope to give you greater awareness of your enemies."

"A very generous offer, Admiral," Trallian said with more than a bit of skepticism, "but I sense there is a catch…"

"Yes, there is," Murphy replied.

"If you intentionally harm any civilian or non-combatant," Paris said firmly, "consider any relationship between us terminated, and you will be treated as any other criminal element within the Star Empire."

Rellas exchanged uncomfortable glances with his fellow councilmembers.

"Forgive me, Admiral," the Gralluscan said turning back towards the screen, "but it seems that places all the power in your hands. We grow more dependent on you, but you can sever ties at any time."

"Or worse," Onorok interjected. "You could offer us to the Romulans as a bargaining chip."

"Admiral Paris," Lucretia said trying to de-escalate the growing tension. "You must understand the stakes. There is no going back for us. There is no chance of amnesty or parole. If we do not succeed, we will be tortured, humiliated, and crucified."

"Yes, all of us…" Trallian added as a reminder that he had thrown his lot in with the slaves.

"Ma'am," Admiral Murphy said, "I promise you that is not how the Federation functions. As Captain Tigranian said, these are real deeds not words."

"I wish I could believe that with more certainty…" Rellas said. "So far, all we have for proof of your intentions are a few cases of field rations and some power generators."

"Then what about the word of a Klingon officer?" Torlek said stepping in front of the screen. "You claim to follow the teachings of Kahless? That should be more than enough."

Rellas and Onorok jumped to their feet at the sight of his battle armor. It was at that moment, Tigranian realized that it was the first time either of them had spoken to an actual member of the Klingon species.

"I am General Torlek, Son of Ro'vagh, Commander of the Klingon Defense Forces and Lord Governor of the Military Fortress Planet of Ty'Gokor. Chancellor Martok is aware of your desire for annexation and has given me complete freedom to speak for the Empire. It is YOUR words and deeds that will now seal your fate in our eyes."

"Lord Torlek," Rellas replied. His entire demeanor had changed. It was if he finally found something he had been searching for all his life. "Then the Empire is willing to hear our case for membership?"

"We are willing to consider it…" Torlek said crossing his arms in front of his chest. "The Federation is a battle-tested ally of the Klingon Empire. You are not.

The fact that you doubt them, even now, gives us pause. Only those with dishonorable intentions have reason to doubt the honorable. Kahless said that."

"The Son of Tigranian said we would have to prove our worthiness to join you," Rellas acknowledged.

"Then take the Federation's offer. If you prove you can fight with Honor, the Empire will consider you allies as well. As Starfleet knows, we give all we have to our allies," Torlek said glancing back at the Admirals.

"As you wish, My Lord," Rellas said penitently. "I vote to adopt Admiral Paris' proposal."

"I vote 'yes' as well," Onorok added. "If it brings us closer to union with the Klingons, then it must be so."

Lucretia looked unconvinced. Tigranian knew that Torlek's word would be enough for the gladiators, but his plan to sway Lucretia had yet to arrive.

"Where is Laria?" he silently asked himself. Murphy and Paris both looked at him with anxious eyes.

"Gentlemen," Lucretia broke their concentration. "I do not wish to insult you, but I still am concerned. If warriors fail, they die with honor, but what of our women and our children?" she turned to Rellas and Onorok. "Do you expect them to die as well or merely return to slavery?"

"Madame Lucretia," Tigranian said respectfully. "I understand your concerns, but do you not think a new life is worth the risk?"

"You don't have children, do you Son of Tigranian?" she asked curtly. "It is much harder to gamble with their futures when you look into their eyes…"

At that moment, the doors at the rear of the hall opened and Laria stuck her head inside. Tigranian gave her a pleading look. She looked back at him with a smile.

"Hold that thought!" Tigranian said to Lucretia's image as he darted off screen. A few seconds later, he called out to the councilwoman.

"We have another guest for this discussion, Madame, but please excuse her if she's a little tired. She just got off an all-night transport and is still a bit warp lagged…"

He re-appeared with a young Elohsian at his side.

Lucretia froze and placed her hands over her face. A hundred light years away on Earth, Crestia looked up at the screen and smiled.

"Mother, when Lady Laria told me you were alive and free, I didn't believe it…"

"My daughter…" Lucretia finally spoke as tears formed in her eyes. "I never thought I would ever see you again." The elder Elohsian reached out and touched the transmitter. The others kept quiet as they let this long-awaited reunion play out.

"Nor I you…" Crestia replied. "Mother, Lady Laria told me about the decision you must make. If it helps, life in the Federation for me is more than I could have ever dreamed of. These are kindest, most generous people I have ever known. I cannot say if they speak the truth to you now, but they have never given me any cause to doubt them."

"What do you see in your child's eyes now, Madame?" Tigranian said. "Do you think it is worth the risk now?"

Lucretia steadied herself.

"Just promise me two things, that you will find a way to protect the families here, and my family there, Son of Tigranian."

"Admiral," Tigranian said over his shoulder. Paris knew what he was asking without him saying another word. He nodded his ascent.

"Madame Councilor," Tigranian said staring into her eyes. "Join together with us, and the Federation will always stand with you. That is my promise.

Wherever you fight so your people can eat, we will be there. Whenever a corrupt master tries to beat you into submission, we will be there. When you shout your war cries and when you comfort your children, we will be there. When you stand free on your own worlds in homes you have built with your own hands…we will be there."

Lucretia looked to Rellas and Onorok, obviously moved by Tigranian's impassioned vow.

"Then I agree as well."

"It seems my vote is irrelevant then," Trallian said with a deep breath. "It is rare that a member of the Imperial Senate gets to speak directly to Starfleet Command free from the monitoring of the Tal Shiar.

Therefore, let me make myself frank. Support for these people will severely damage your relations with the current leadership of the Empire, and that is a very good thing, Admiral. They are weak and they are scared. However, the weak and scared are often dangerous. You will have to fight. Not talk, not curtsy, not simper…YOU MUST FIGHT!

Use this relationship as a chance to help us build a new Romulus: a free and inclusive Romulus. Do not waiver out of fear or convenience as you did during the War with the Dominion. Show my colleagues in the Senate that the Federation and Klingon Empires are peoples of their principles, unlike their own leaders. Do that and you will eventually have a meaningful peace.

I, for my part, will continue to try to assist this movement in the Senate, as much as I can without compromising myself. I'm sure that your Starfleet Intelligence has other operatives in the Romulan government that I am not aware of, but I promise to serve you as loyally as you serve us."

Yoshizaki's eyes lit up like a child presented with an early birthday present.

"Senator, it will be a privilege to work with you," she said.

"We shall see, Admiral," he replied with a nod of his head.

"Admiral!" the signal technician called out from his console. "I recommend we terminate this transmission. The Romulan sensors might start detecting it over the normal background transmissions if we keep the line open any longer. Paris nodded.

"We'll maintain regular contact once a week," Paris said. "Be prepared for another signal then."

"Crestia!" Lucretia called out one last time. "No matter what happens, live my child! Enjoy each and every day in freedom!"

"I will mother. Do not be troubled, for we will hold each other again in this life. I am sure of it." Crestia responded.

With those words, the screen cut to black.

"Alright," Paris said turning to his team. "We have a new ally inside Romulan Space. Let's not muck it up. I want proposals in writing for new joint operations on my desk from each Admiralty Department no later than 0900 hours tomorrow morning. Governor Torlek, we'll keep you and the Klingon High Command apprised of any developments as this plays out."

"Understood," he said with a nod.

"Thank you both for letting me speak to my mother," Crestia said to Tigranian and Laria. "It was like a dream. I just hope I helped you."

"Crestia," Tigranian said wrapping his arms around her. "You were amazing."

"Thank you," she said gratefully. "I never thought I would get to stand on Earth. Is there anything interesting I should visit before heading back to Gault?"

Tigranian laughed.

"Just a few things. Maybe Laria should give you some advice."

"Daniel!" Torlek beckoned him to come aside and speak with him. Tigranian left Crestia with Laria and walked to his brother. "Have you reconsidered my offer to take you back to Qo'nos?"

Tigranian looked back at the room, now awash in activity. The other Starfleet officers were discussing options they had never dreamed possible. Laria was trying to describe the Great Wall of China to a curious Crestia.

"Mr. Tigranian," Paris called out suddenly.

"Yes Sir?"

"Captain Quan and Captain Tarn are taking their ships back to Caleb IV for final checkout after their space trials. Combine them with the Shran, and that has the Neutral Zone pretty well covered. Do you think the Pershing is up to heading back to Cardassia so soon? I need a good ship with a good crew out there. We'll rotate you back as soon as we can get the others ready."

"Yes Sir," Tigranian called back to him confidently. "I think that's right where I need to be," he said turning back Torlek.

The old Klingon was not angered. Rather, a look of understanding mixed with admiration crossed his face.

"When I get back to the Empire, I'll send a case of good bloodwine your way, my brother."

"Qapla', My Lord," Tigranian said confidently.

"Qapla', Son of Tigranian, captain of the starship Pershing," Torlek replied proudly. "Give my best to your crew, especially Captain Geist and Doctor Hunter. I hope they know what a great honor your faith in them is."

"It's not faith when you know they won't fail," Tigranian replied with a pause, "but perhaps, if I play my cards right, they might agree to a little bat'leth practice every once in a while."

Torlek laughed deeply as he turned and departed for his ship.
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