Summary: SEASON 6 PREMIERE: Rellas, leader of the slave revolt against the Romulan Star Empire, has managed to get the survivors of his people across the Neutral Zone. However, he wants back in and only the Orion Syndicate can help.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes
Word count: 12584 Read: 5500
Published: 14 May 2018 Updated: 14 May 2018
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
7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Sector Z-9: Romulan Neutral Zone Border/Federation Frontier
Captain Bertram Bowling of the Starfleet Science Ship, USS Aurora, left his quarters for the bridge carrying a mug of hot Tarkalean tea. It was the same routine he followed every morning, and he was happy about it. In this command, he didn't have to worry about potential conflict, preparations for war, or galactic politics. His crew was half Starfleet science officers and half civilian researchers. All they concerned themselves with was the completion of their year-long survey mission to classify gaseous anomalies on the fridges of Federation Space.
Bowling himself had spent most of his twenty-five years in uniform as a xenobiologist drifting from one starship posting to another. He had spent the Dominion War at Jupiter Station working with a team from Starfleet Medical developing vaccines to the new and virulent tropical diseases that the Federation was encountering in the Cardassian Empire. After the Treaty of Bajor, he was offered command of an Oberth Class refit that Starfleet Command had pulled out of mothballs. He immediately jumped at the opportunity. Unlike many of his more unfortunate peers, the only enemies he regularly faced were those of middle-age: a receding hairline and an expanding waistline. He couldn't do much about the first, but he did his best to combat the second with a couple weekly trips to the treadmills in the ship's tiny gymnasium.
As he walked around the corner towards the turbolift, he took a deep breath. This was the only part of his daily routine that made him nervous. Doctor Rhonda Swenson, his civilian Chief Medical Officer was on her way to sickbay. She was 42, divorced, and Bowling had been working up the courage to ask her on a date for the past four months. What he didn't know was that the feeling had been mutual for just as long. As she came around the corner wearing her usual medical scrubs, Bowling casually wiped away the sweat from his palms on the sides of his trousers.
"Morning, Bert!" she said with a smile and wave.
"Morning, Rhonda!" he squeaked before clearing his throat. "Ready for another great day of medicine?" he asked before immediately regretting it.
"Yeah…" she replied with an awkward smile. "Ready for another great day of starshipping?" she asked trying to recover the conversation. Bowling wasn't sure whether to stop and try to make up for his stupid comment or just keep walking. This morning, he settled for a quick laugh and a passing nod.
A few seconds later, Rhonda turned back around.
"Oh, Bert!" she called. "I need a partner for the Euchre tournament tonight on the Rec Deck. Can I count on you?"
"Always!" he said forcing a grin.
"Great, see you then!" she said walking away.
"See you then…" he said with disappointment as he watched her walk away. His turbolift doors opened. He stepped inside and rubbed his eyes. "Another great day of medicine?" he muttered to himself as he slammed his head against the rear bulkhead. "Idiot…"
After mercifully quick ride, the lift opened onto the bridge and Bowling stepped out.
"Captain on the bridge!" Commander Metrasco, his Bolian first officer, belted out.
"Carry on and good morning everybody!" Bowling said trying to stay chipper. He walked over to his chair and placed his mug of tea into a cup holder he installed on the armrest. "What have we got going on?"
"Quiet evening, Sir," Metrasco said reading from the duty officer's report from the previous night. "Nothing significant to report."
"Any messages from Command?" Bowling said turning to his Taurisian communications officer, Lieutenant Hrorth.
"No Sir," she replied. "Commo logs are clear."
"What do we have on the schedule?" Bowling asked.
"Nothing major, Sir," Lieutenant Gnass, the Aurora's Denevan science officer said. "Just two sensor passes of the Class C Asteroid at Grid 87643 and a quick look at the Class I comet passing through the Kannaris cluster.
"Sounds good…" Bowling muttered. He couldn't help but sound a bit bored. After all, they had been doing the same things over and over again for seven straight months.
Suddenly, Gnass' console began chirping.
"Sir," he said looking at his controls, "I'm detecting twelve small ships entering the Neutral Zone."
"What?" Bowling said turning around surprised. "Romulan?"
"I don't think so," Gnass replied shaking his head. "They're too small. They look like long-range shuttles."
"What would a squadron of shuttles be doing in the Neutral Zone?" Commander Metrasco said walking up with Bowling at his side.
"I don't know, Sir," Gnass said, "I'm not detecting any kind of weapon systems, but I am detecting almost a thousand lifesigns in total."
"A thousand?" Metrasco said in total amazement. "That can't be right!"
"Confirmed Sir," Gnass said. "They're packed in those things like Antarian sardines."
"We better call this in," Bowling said towards Hroth. "Open a channel to…" Before he finished his sentence, Hroth interrupted.
"Sir, the lead shuttle is hailing us."
Bowling and Metrasco exchanged glances.
"Put them onscreen," Bowling finally ordered.
Hroth honed in on the signal and the exhausted face of a Gralluscan appeared on the main viewscreen.
"Shuttles, I am Captain Bertram Bowling of the Federation starship…"
"Starship," the Gralluscan said. "You need to bring us aboard immediately. We've been travelling through space for almost a month and are completely out of supplies. We no longer have the fuel to continue evade Romulan patrols…"
"Now, hold on one second," Bowling said holding up his hands. "First, I'm not going to bring you aboard my ship just because you order me too. Second, we're just a science vessel. We don't have the facilities to accommodate a thousand passengers."
"I don't care what you are or what you think you're capable of!" The Gralluscan shouted. "I have women and children who are starving. Your Federation has an obligation to help us."
Bowling furrowed his brow.
"What obligation exactly are you talking about?" he said skeptically.
"Call Starfleet Command," the Gralluscan said grinning. "Tell them you have Councilor Rellas and he'd like to speak to them. All will become clear."
"Alright," Bowling said. "I'll call Starfleet. However, please remain on the other side of the Federation border until I signal you…"
Gnass' console chirped again.
"Captain!" he said alarm. "Romulan Valdore class patrol vessel decloaking at 040 Mark 385. Range 800 million kilometers. It's heading straight into the Neutral Zone towards the shuttles. 42 seconds to intercept."
"We're helpless against that ship! You must let us cross. There's no time to argue!" Rellas screamed at Bowling. The captain took a sharp breath in.
"Lieutenant Gnass," Bowling said, "I want a wide-band sensor reading of the space dust in the Neutral Zone. Please launch a Class VII probe and set it for a reverse polarity scanning burst in the 10 THz range."
"What?" Gnass asked confused. "We don't need a probe to do that. Besides, that scanning range will disable any high yield impulse engine within 10 AU."
"I know," Bowling replied with a telling look. "Launch the probe."
"Aye Sir," Gnass said. The small metallic cylinder shot out from the Aurora's bow and began sending out huge bursts of energy. The Romulan patrol ship suddenly lurched to a halt as its impulse drive temporarily failed.
"Councilor Rellas," Bowling said to the screen. "My impulse engines are currently disabled. I will be unable to pursue you if you choose to cross the border at this time. Do you understand?"
"Thank you," Rellas said with gratitude as he ordered his ships to burn the last of their maneuvering fuel supply to slip across the Federation border. Once they were inside safe territory, the Gralluscan disappeared from the screen.
"I think that's enough data, Mr. Gnass," Bowling said adjusting his uniform jacket. "Shut down the probe."
"Yes Sir," Gnass said. The Romulan Valdore immediately reengaged its engines and flew straight towards the border. For a few terrifying moments, it looked as if they might cross, but they stopped at the last second. "They're arming weapons!" Gnass shouted as they stared straight at the green nose of the sleek upgraded warbird.
"Raise shields," Bowling said nervously facing the front of the bridge. "Hail them."
"Aye Sir," Hroth said. "Hailing frequencies open."
"Romulan vessel, I am Captain Betram Bowling of the Federation starship Aurora. My deepest apologies. We were conducting scans of the Neutral Zone and we didn't mean to interfere with the operation of your vessel…"
The image of a fuming Romulan sub-commander appeared in front of him. She was so angry, the veins on her neck were popping out and her eyes burned green.
"I am Sub-Commander Saronah of the Imperial Romulan Navy and I know exactly what you've done! However, I assure you, it will not go unanswered."
Her terrifying visage combined with her warship's powerful arsenal certainly made her words more than an idle threat. There was no way the Aurora could compete with this enemy and both commanders knew it. However, Bowling knew that his only chance was not to back down. It would be seen as weakness and his adversary would pounce. He did his best to hide his shaking legs and once again wiped his palms on his legs.
"And what precisely do you mean by that?" Bowling said throwing his shoulders back.
"I will make it simple for your small brain, Human," she said. "Those shuttles are full of wanted criminals and renegades. I am under orders to capture or kill them. This ends one of two ways: either you stand aside and allow me to fulfill my duty, or I will push you aside and fulfill my duty."
"Those shuttles are unarmed," Bowling replied. "They do not pose any direct threat to the Federation, and their occupants will be dealt with accordingly. However…" he said still digging deep for confidence, "the same cannot be said for you. If you move one centimeter into Federation Space, it will constitute an act of war. Remain on your side of the border. That is my final warning."
Saronah laughed out loud.
"The day I take orders from a fat human wearing a circus tent for a uniform is the day I jump out an airlock. That is MY final warning."
The rest of the bridge crew felt a twinge of pity for their commander as he grabbed the side of his chair. They were sure he was about to give in, and they wouldn't blame him. After all, it was suicide otherwise.
"You can call me all the names you want," Bowling said with a sigh, "but that doesn't change the facts. Yes, my ship is old and is no match for yours. You could destroy us, and then destroy those shuttles. And then you'll turn around and run back into your space…."
Suddenly, he stepped forward and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "However, let me put this so those pointed ears of yours understand! There are twenty Federation starships, including two Pershing class battlestarships within fifty lightyears of this spot. Combine that with a combined Federation and Klingon fleet of a thousand more vessels in this quadrant.
They will come with a vengeance, punch straight across the Neutral Zone, and they won't stop until Romulus is singing the Federation National Anthem and eating gagh for breakfast. Now, Sub-Commander Saronah, do you want to be known as the trigger-happy idiot who destroyed the Romulan Empire or do you want to turn around right now and pretend this incident never happened?"
She gritted her teeth and nodded to her tactical officer. The Valdore's weapons systems deactivated.
"That's what I thought," Bowling said. "Now, get the hell out of here before you really upset me."
"Your government will hear about this!" she spit back at him through the screen.
"I'm counting on it. Turn her off."
The transmission disconnected, the Valdore turned towards Romulan space, and cloaked. Bowling fell backward into his chair and nearly passed out.
"Sir," Commander Metrasco said in disbelief, "you just went toe to toe with a Romulan warship…"
"And won!" Hroth exclaimed.
Bowling held up a hand.
"Lieutenant Hroth, please inform Starfleet Command of the situation and ask for guidance. Then, contact Councilor Rellas and tell him to prepare to come aboard. Commander Metrasco, please take stock of our emergency rations and see what we can do for them. We'll hold them under guard until we figure out what the hell is going on."
"Aye Sir," they said in unison. The captain then pressed a button on his chair. He was shaking so hard he nearly knocked over his tea.
"Bowling to Doctor Swenson," he said.
"Go ahead," she said calmly unaware of what had just transpired.
"Rhonda, I'm afraid that card tournament tonight probably won't happen. I suspect we'll be pretty busy."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"We have about a thousand people coming aboard and I bet a lot of them need medical help."
"A thousand people!? From where?" she asked.
"When I figure that out, I'll let you know," he said holding back a laugh.
"And just how I am supposed to figure out how to take care of that many people on a ship that's only meant for 80?" she asked annoyed.
"I know you will," he said smiling.
"Roger that…" she replied barely hiding her annoyance.
"Tell you what," Bowling said. "Why don't I make it up to you with dinner in my quarters? Boy, do I have a story to tell you about my day of starshipping."
There was a pause on the other end.
"It's a date," she finally replied. "Now, apparently I have some work to do."
"Looking forward to it," Bowling said.
Across the bridge, Metrasco was standing next to Gnass. They both raised their eyebrows.
"Finally…" Gnass whispered with a grin.
Metrasco silenced him with a glare.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Onias Sector: Federation/Romulan Neutral Zone Border
The SFN evening news broadcast played from the holoscreen in the Pershing's mess hall. However, most crew members ignored it as they laughed and chatted over dinner.
"Finally, bad news for all the lovers of intergalactic alcohol and spirits out there," the announcer said shrugging her shoulders at the screen. "The Federation Council voted today to extend further sanctions against the Romulan Star Empire including a complete ban on the import or sale of several popular consumer products. Among those is the beverage, Romulan Ale. Effective immediately, possession of Romulan Ale is once again a Class B Misdemeanor.
In a statement, Councilmember Surana Bronus from Denos IV justified the regulations with:
'The sale of popular export goods, including Romulan Ale, provides direct financial support to a dangerous and unpredictable regime that is proving every day to be a greater threat to galactic peace and stability.'
Romulan Ale has developed a small, but devoted following among those who enjoy buffing the mainstream since regulations were relaxed during the Dominion War. We visited 'Saturn's Rings' a popular bar in San Francisco's mission district whose signature cocktail, 'The Demon's Breath Martini' is based on the Romulan spirit also known as Kali-fal:"
The screen changed to the image of a perturbed Agrosian. The banner beneath his face read, "Tresso Mukastho: Proprietor."
"It's ridiculous!" he said shaking his head at the camera. "People should be allowed to put whatever they want in their bodies. How does the government have the right to just arbitrarily make something illegal that wasn't hurting anybody?"
The screen cut back to announcer who continued her report.
"Despite his objections, Mr. Mukastho said that his bar would obey the new regulations and search for a suitable substitute for the potent, blue beverage. Hopefully, whatever they find will be a little more forgiving the morning after…" she concluded with a smirk.
On the far side of the mess hall, Katie held up a PADD as she showed a series of holophotos from her honeymoon to Laria, T'les, Doctor Katan, and Annabeth. Phil smiled as he stood over their shoulders. Scharr listened with one ear as he wolfed down a tray of Andorian Kilm steak at the other end of the table.
"And here we are at the top of Uluru in the outback," Katie said showing a photo of her and Phil smiling in hiking gear as they posed on top of the huge, sandstone monolith.
"Cool!" Laria said examining the details of the scene.
"It was so hot!" Phil said. "Summer in Australia is no joke. I must have sucked down three liters of water on the way up."
"And he turned red as a lobster the next day," Katie said chuckling.
"Lack of proper SPF protection is a serious consideration in humans, Phil," T'les said turning to him. "Just because we have developed a cure for melanoma does not mean you should not be vigilant."
"I appreciate the public service announcement, T," Phil said trying not to roll his eyes.
"She's right you now," Katan said. "I couldn't have said it better myself, T'les," he added with a smile.
"Much appreciated, Doctor," she replied with a nod. "Now, if I can just convince Mr. Scharr to limit the amount of cholesterol he consumes on a daily basis."
"You know, being mouthy can be hazardous to your health as well," Scharr said barely taking a break from his carnivorous meal. The other laughed.
Katie flipped to the next holophoto. The couple was enjoying two massive beers while on a harbor tour of Sydney. The white sails of the old opera house gleamed in the bright sunlight behind them.
"I've always wanted to see that," Annabeth said.
"You've never been to Australia?" Katie asked surprised.
"You know, it's funny," Annabeth said shaking her head. "You live on Earth your whole life, but you never get around to visiting the sites."
Katie was about to flip to the next photo when she glanced over at Tigranian. He had a half empty mug of raktajino in one hand as he mindlessly stared out the window towards the stars.
"Are you sure he's alright?" she asked concerned. "The boss has seemed a little distant ever since we got back."
"Don't worry about him," Laria said shaking her head. "He's just been nervous ever since Starfleet Command lost comms with the Soldiers of Akarath last month. I think he takes a lot of personal responsibility for them."
"I can understand why…" Annabeth muttered.
"It is not logical to assume responsibility for that which is out of your control," T'les said.
"Oh, T," Phil said glancing at her. "How long is it going to take you learn that there is nothing logical about our captain."
Annabeth began slipping back into first officer mode as she grumbled in Phil's direction.
"Let me go talk to him," Laria said holding up her hands. She walked across the room towards Tigranian. When she was out of earshot, Katie turned to Phil.
"You better not get that moody," she said sternly. "I'm not spending the rest of my life trying to cheer you up."
"She's right, pinkskin," Scharr said as his antennae straightened. "I don't know how the Bajoran stick deals with a guy like that. My three wives have fewer mood swings than that one human male."
"Mein Gott," Annabeth said rubbing her eyes. "You know I'm the first officer of this ship and you're talking about my captain?"
"The captain did state we were family," T'les said matter-of-factly. "In my experience, human families talk about each other's flaws when the objects of criticism aren't present all the time."
Everyone but Annabeth laughed.
Across the mess hall, Laria slowly walked up behind Tigranian.
"I keep telling you," she said with a hint of condescension in her voice. "raktajino after dinner is the reason you can't sleep."
"You know," Tigranian replied not taking his eyes off of space. "Your father warned me that marrying a Bajoran woman would come with a lifetime of nagging."
"Yehahvn nal arok puhar ktrash shan k'eel varaghn," she replied.
"What did that mean?" Tigranian asked glancing towards her.
"It's a very old saying on Bajor about women," she said. "The sweetest fruit is found behind the sharpest thorns."
"Appropriate," he quipped.
"Alright, Daniel, what's going on?" she said crossing her arms firmly.
"I'm sorry," he said looking back out at space. "I just can't shake the feeling that something's happened to Rellas and the others. I've talked to Admiral Yoshizaki, Admiral Murphy, and Admiral Paris. All of them say the same thing…"
"And that is?" Laria asked.
"We'll call you when we know something…" he muttered. "They've been saying that for over three weeks now.
"Daniel," Laria began carefully choosing her words. "I know you don't want to hear it, but that's all the Admiralty can do. Maybe Rellas' comm unit went out and they haven't been able to repair it. Maybe they're in some situation where they think radio silence is better…"
Tigranian turned to her.
"Maybe they're all dead," he said raising his eyebrows.
"That…" Laria said with a deep breath, "is also a possibility. However, I would hold back on that Death Howl of yours until we know for sure."
Outside the window, space flashed bluish white and then the stars began streaking by.
"qaStaH nuq jay'?" Tigranian said.
"Did we just jump to warp?" Annabeth asked walking up with the others in tow.
"We did," Tigranian said. "I'm guessing you didn't order it?"
"Of course not," Annabeth said. "I was going to ask the same thing to you."
"What is going on up on the bridge?" Tigranian was reaching for his comm badge when the duty officer called.
"Ensign Gleeto to Captain Tigranian."
"Tigranian here," he replied. "What happened, Ensign? Why did you order the ship to warp?"
"We just received a priority one message from Starfleet Command, Sir," Gleeto replied. "They ordered us to immediately proceed at maximum warp to Sector Z-9 and rendezvous with the USS Aurora."
"The Aurora?" Tigranian asked. He turned to the rest of his senior staff and shook his head.
"It's a science vessel," Laria said. "Oberth Class. Their CSO was in my class at the Academy. Gnass was hopeless in Intro Quantum Dynamics…"
"Why are we rendezvousing with a science vessel, Ensign?" Tigranian asked into his communicator. "Are they under attack?"
"Negative Sir," Gleeto replied. "Starfleet didn't give any more details, but they did say that Admiral Paris wants you to contact him immediately on a secure channel. They said something about how 'he finally had an answer for you.'"
Tigranian looked at Laria.
"I guess they know something," she said with a deep breath.
"I'm on my way to the bridge," Tigranian replied with a resurgent confidence in his voice. "Bring the ship to Yellow Alert. We don't know what we're jumping into. Prep a secure channel to my ready room," he said.
"Acknowledged Sir," Gleeto said.
"I'll get the senior staff assembled in the ward room," Annabeth said turning to rally the troops.
"Good," Tigranian said walking out the door. "I want an updated Intel Report, Logistical Status, and Running Estimate from every section waiting on me when I get off this call."
"We'll have it all ready," Annabeth said confidently.
"Fascinating," T'les said as Tigranian disappeared into the corridor.
"What, T?" Katie said asking.
"His focus returns so quickly upon indicators of a crisis," she said raising an eyebrow
Laria grinned and Annabeth crossed her arms.
"Would you have it any other way?" Annabeth chuckled.
As the USS Aurora slowly pulled away, the Pershing was left sailing alongside the Starfleet hospital ship, USFS Refuge. Most of the Akarath survivors had been transferred to that ship for triage, however, Rellas and Lucretia were sitting in the Pershing's ward room with Tigranian and the rest of his staff. Admiral Paris, Admiral Murphy, and the new Klingon Ambassador to the Federation, Lady L'Stok, Daughter of Choss, were dialed in from San Francisco on the room's holoscreen.
"On behalf of the United Federation of Planets," Paris began, "Let me express my deepest condolences on the loss of your forces, Councilor Rellas. However, we are very relieved that you were able to save so many others… "
"Spare me your empty words, Human," Rellas said turning towards the screen. "We were ambushed and defeated. It was only by the sacrifice of our bravest warriors that I now sit in the comfortable surroundings of your starship. We have failed and are stained with the shame of defeat."
Lucretia shifted in her seat but remained silent. Tigranian held back as well. He understood Rellas' pain, perhaps more than anyone else.
"With respect, Councilor," Murphy said. "We don't see it that way. Your rebellion caused more damage to the Romulan Star Empire than we could have possibly imagined. It was because of you we now stand with them on equal footing, and for that we are grateful."
"It doesn't matter how you see it," Rellas said. "Millions of our brothers, our sisters, our fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters…" he said pausing long enough to make eye contact with each person on the screen, "…are still in chains. As long as they do not have their honor, we cannot have ours."
"Ambassador L'Stok," Paris said. "Perhaps you should inform him now."
"I have just spoken to Chancellor Martok. He agrees with our Federation Allies that you and your followers have nothing left to prove. You have fought with honor and therefore are worthy of our respect. In the Subik system, there is a planet that was recently…liberated…from the enemies of the Empire…"
Tigranian and Laria exchanged loaded glances.
"It is wild, and inhospitable," L'Stok continued, "but it is uninhabited. As of this morning, it is also yours."
Rellas and Lucretia both turned to the screen in surprise. Tigranian actually smiled.
"All your people have been granted jeghpu'wI' status," L'Stok added. "They and their descendants are now under full protection of the Klingon Empire and can live on Subik without fear of repatriation to the Romulan Empire. However, you, Lady Lucretia, and any others who have physically raised arms against the Romulans have been granted full citizenship by special decree. You will rule the new colony as governor and have full equality in the Empire. I shouldn't have to tell you how rare this is for a non-Klingon. Congratulations."
Tigranian nodded towards Rellas.
"Well done, old friend," he said. "You have done it."
We are honored to have you as a new brother. Po'tajg," Laria added. Paris and Murphy rolled their eyes on the screen. The fact that two of their officers were such proud dual citizens of a foreign power still made them uncomfortable.
"I am honored for the Empire's vote of confidence," Rellas said. "That being said," he said firmly. "Lucretia will take our followers and rule as Governor. I am returning to the Romulan Empire."
"For the love of God, why?" Murphy said shocked.
"may'meyDajvo' Haw'be' tlhIngan," Rellas replied.
"A little help?" Murphy said with annoyance while looking in Tigranian's direction.
"A Klingon does not run away from his battles," Tigranian translated with a sigh.
"I could live a long and comfortable life on Subik," Rellas said. "But I would be betraying everything I claim to stand for."
"Captain Tigranian," Paris said clearing his throat. It was obvious he wanted the captain to try to talk him out of it. Tigranian's crew looked at him nervously. They were genuinely unsure of which side he would take.
"They are right, Brother," he finally managed to choke out. "Your war is over. You have earned a long and happy life in peace. You can also be an example for others to follow and provide a haven for those who want to flee Romulus. After all, 'the wind does not respect a fool.'"
Rellas gritted his teeth before slowly pushing back from the table. He rose to his feet and stared at Tigranian.
"Iv wInej?" he asked. Tigranian paused. "Iv wInej!?" Rellas asked more forcefully.
"Kahless," Tigranian replied standing as well. The rest looked on in startled amazement.
"chay' wISam?" Rellas said turning to look at Ambassador L'Stok. She rose to her feet and replied:
"jIjaHmeH yIwovmoH!"Rellas howled towards the ceiling of the wardroom.
"Forever…" Tigranian said bowing his head.
"wInejtaHvIS reH So''egh'a'?" Rellas said glaring at the other occupants of the room.
"not!" L'Stok said from the screen.
"pIyajchu'," Rellas, Tigranian, and L'Stock said in unison before making the sign of the tIq ghob across their chests.
"I will inform Chancellor Martok of the change in the colony's leadership. I see you are truly worth of the Unforgettable, Son of the Western Stars. Die Well." she said placing her heart over her fist. Rellas bowed in gratitude.
"Excuse me," Admiral Paris said holding up his hands. "Can someone please explain to me what the hell just happened?"
"Sir," Tigranian said turning towards the screen. "Rellas is going back to the Romulan Empire whether we agree to it or not."
Lucretia reached out and grabbed Rellas' hand. She looked up at him with sad, but deeply respectful eyes. They said all that needed to between them.
"Very well," Paris said quite perturbed. "He is not a Federation citizen and can do what he wishes. However, the Romulans have already sealed their borders. Any ship that attempts to enter their space without crossing through a checkpoint will be destroyed. I can assure you that Starfleet will not risk any vessel in the attempt to infiltrate the Empire. That includes the Pershing. Is that absolutely clear?"
"I am afraid that you will receive the same response from Chancellor Martok," L'Stok added. "Though we respect your motives, we cannot risk a full scale conflict to support one warrior's vengeance."
"Even the strongest fortress must have a weakness," Rellas replied. "I will find a way back in."
Tigranian looked to Annabeth, and then the rest of his crew. He polled their expressions. Every one of them was troubled, but they knew they had to help.
"Sir," Tigranian said turning to the holoscreen. "I think I know a way to get Rellas safely back into Romulan space without involving any Federation or Klingon ship at all. With respect, I believe we should at least try. We owe him that much at least."
Paris and Murphy exchanged glances. Finally, the Chief of Operations nodded to his companion.
"Alright, Dan," Murphy said. "We're listening…"
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Kinarvon City, Planet Orion: Stellar Emirate of Orion
Tigranian and Katie materialized on the balcony of the Federation Embassy in central Kinarvon City. Two Federation Marines in full dress uniform immediately saluted with their phaser rifles. Tigranian returned their gesture of respect by quickly raising his hand to his forehead. He immediately felt for them. The heat radiating off the brown sandstone of the embassy exterior made the forty degree centigrade air even more unbearable as the mid-afternoon binary suns pounded the city with a double barrage of searing heat.
The captain and his security chief looked out on the incredible view of Kinarvon. Ancient stone structures and temples blended together with ultra-modern skyscrapers crafted from tritanium. Their transparent aluminum exteriors reflected the suns' rays and gave the entire city a glare so bright, it made Tigranian grateful he grabbed his sunglasses before beaming down.
The extreme wealth here was palpable and earned by over a millennia of trading along routes established throughout the entire known galaxy. The discovery of warp travel here wasn't scientific, but economic. It was financed by the unofficial union of the once nomadic Orion tribes composing the Jumayatti Oryanyun Binhabde Hide Talme, more commonly known by its Federation Standard name, "The Orion Syndicate." At the center of the urban oasis planted in the vast Orion desert was the massive multi-domed palace of the Shakti Binrabbat Sulasmuron IV, Emir of Orion. He was also the person who Tigranian had traveled across half the galaxy to visit.
"Captain Tigranian?" a voice sounded from the nearby doorway. Katie and Tigranian looked to see a twenty three-year old woman now standing between the pair of marines. She was dressed in a corduroy suit with shoulders far too big for her slender frame. Her sun-bleached brown hair was held back in a lose bun by a silver computer interface stylus. The sweat soaked, printed polyester blouse underneath her jacket made Tigranian wonder if the Diplomatic Corps actually mandated tacky attire.
"The 2260s called," Katie whispered into Tigranian's ear, "they want their outfit back…"
Tigranian cleared his throat and stepped of the transporter. He immediately started walking towards the interior of the embassy and slid straight past their welcoming committee.
"I'm Lydia Stolz," the woman said walking swiftly to keep up with Tigranian and Katie. "I'm the assistant to the Undersecretary for Visiting Dignitaries and the Foreign Service Officer who will be assisting you while you are on Orion…"
"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Stolz," Tigranian said curtly. "This is my Security Chief, Lieutenant Katherine Lexington. She will be accompanying me to the Shakti's palace. I'm also very pleased that the Diplomatic Corps now considers me a 'Visiting Dignitary'," Tigranian said sarcastically as he passed a row of large, native statues and potted plants adorning the brightly lit embassy atrium, "but I don't need anyone else's assistance for this mission. In fact, the less you know about it, the better." He still didn't stop walking. "Have you arranged transportation to the palace or do I need to call a cab?"
Stolz held back an angry sigh.
"There is already a hovercar waiting for us out front, Sir," she said attempting to pass him a PADD. "Starfleet informed the ambassador that you should be given full diplomatic courtesies during your stay, so I've also taken the time to prepare a planet briefing for you with the latest news dispatches of relevance, the Shakti's personal likes and dislikes, as well as a crash course on Orion etiquette. You are visiting a country's head of state after all. Perhaps you should act like it."
Tigranian stopped dead in his tracks. Katie blinked twice and looked back at Stolz. She quickly flashed the young Foreign Service Officer a look that screamed, "you shouldn't have said that."
"First off, Ms. Stolz," Tigranian began "there is no 'WE' in any of this," he said flashing an angry pointer finger between them. "I'm here on Starfleet business that doesn't concern the Diplomatic Corps beyond making sure that the Orion space patrol doesn't ticket my starship for an illegal parking orbit.
Second, just because it looks to be your first day on the job, don't assume that its also mine. Think about that while I'm gone. Keep the transporter warm. I'll be back shortly…"
He and Katie turned and began to move away.
"No!" Stolz's voice shouted back. Tigranian and Katie turned around to see her clutching the PADD to her chest. Her eyes filled with anxiety and her legs quivered, but it was obvious she was stiffening her spine for a confrontation. It intrigued the captain as he crossed his arms in front of him.
"No? No to what?" he asked glaring back at her.
"No, you will not be going to the Shakti's palace without me…Sir," she said meeting his stare. "I'm under direct orders from Ambassador Kilsyvas to make sure that the consequences of your visit do not damage Orion/Federation relations. I cannot do that sitting in this atrium. I can only do that right next to you!"
"Damage Orion/Federation relations?" Tigranian said with a chuckle. "Does that mean the Ambassador doesn't trust me?"
"Your words, not mine," Stolz replied. "Besides, how much do you know about this planet?" she asked. "I have no idea why you've come here, but it seems to me that you could use an expert's help to convince the most powerful Orion in the galaxy to listen."
"So, you're an expert on Orion culture?" Tigranian said furrowing his brow.
"I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Mars University with a double major in Xeno-Political Studies and Orion Language. I scored in the 93rd Percentile on the Foreign Service Exam…" she said briefly glancing down at the floor. "I volunteered to join the Diplomatic Corps and come to Orion to make a difference, but instead I've spent the last six months stuck in this embassy filing reports and getting other people coffee!" she said angrily.
Tigranian looked her over again.
"Do you think there's a reason for that?" he said flippantly before turning to walk away.
"I'm don't know," she called after him. "But I do know why I was assigned this mission!"
Tigranian turned around for a second time.
"And why is that?" he asked.
"Because you have the reputation across the entire Diplomatic Corps as being the most stubborn, obstinate, belligerent asshole in all of Starfleet, and no one else wanted the job!"
Katie placed a hand over her mouth in a desperate bid to hold back laughter. Tigranian pulled off his sunglasses and began slowly walking over to Stolz. She tried to keep her knees from shaking as she suddenly remembered that Daniel Tigranian also had the reputation of being the most violent man in Starfleet. She wondered if she had said too much.
The captain stared directly into her face.
"Really?" he asked intrigued. "The whole Diplomatic Corps?"
"It's a small organization…Sir," she said keeping her shoulders back. He reached up and took the PADD from her grasp. Then, he stepped aside and held out his hand.
"Please, lead the way, Lydia," Tigranian said with a smile.
Dumbstruck, she walked past him and began to lead the pair of Starfleet Officers towards the embassy's front entrance. After a few steps, Stolz leaned over and whispered to Katie:
"For a second there, I thought he was actually gonna hit me."
"Oh, don't worry about, Captain T," Katie replied with a dismissive wave of her hand. "It's mostly just an act."
"Really?" Stolz asked with a bit of relief.
"Yeah," Katie said grinning. "He only beats me when I ask him."
Stolz shot her head around and stared back agahst. Katie held back more laughter.
Outside, Tigranian replaced his sunglasses as they descended the twenty stone steps towards a circular driveway landscaped with heavily irrigated and imported greenery. A black hoverlimousine with diplomatic plates and two small Federation flags flapping on the hood was waiting in the harsh heat of mid-afternoon. Another marine in dress uniform crisply saluted as he opened the rear doors for the party to climb inside.
Just before he climbed into the car's interior, Tigranian returned the salute and stared up at two large flagpoles flapping next to the front gate. One held the blue banner of the Federation. The other fluttered with the green, gold, and black standard of the Emirate of Orion. A large holographic sign flashed towards the outside world in three languages: Standard, Standardized Orion, and the curves, loops, and dots of the native Orion alphabet:
Embassy of the United Federation of Planets
Faraholaya al Dulwatyi Federatysyun al Kuwaykab
As soon as the trio was resting in the leather-trimmed interior of the vehicle, the marine shut the door and the driver headed off towards the front gate. They briefly slowed as two more armed marines standing guard at the front gate dropped the security force field. Then, they zoomed off to merge onto a five-lane wide hoverbahn traveling at almost two hundred kilometers per hour. Soon, they were flying through the clean, ultra-modern center of Kinarvon City.
Tigranian immediately immersed himself in Stolz's reports. The young diplomat seemed genuinely surprised that the captain was studying so intently. It caused her relax enough to notice Katie. The security chief pressed against the window to take in the incredible sights of a commercial world so different than anything she had ever known.
Brightly painted cars shot past them on the hoverbahn in flashes of red, yellow, black, and gold: Ferrari Ultra-Sport Stellar Specials, Ferengi Vehicle Works Star Falcons, Romulan Motor Company ZX2928s. It was like commuting through the galaxy's most expensive auto race.
"Whoah!" Katie said pressing her nose tighter against the glass. "That's a Lamborghini Pulsar 9500! You could buy a starship for the price of that car!"
"And I bet that's not the only one the driver owns," Stolz replied. "The war was very good for Orion. It made an extremely rich planet even richer."
"Sometimes it pays not to have any principles…" Tigranian muttered not looking up from the PADD. Stolz grumbled something but turned back to look at Katie.
Suddenly, their vehicle passed out of the bright sunlight and into artificial shadow. Katie looked over to see a massive metal and glass spire looming directly in front of them. It was so high, it towered above the few whispy clouds hanging in the bright, blue sky.
"That's the Wardaj Kurafta," Stolz explained. "It's the tallest, free-standing building in the quadrant: over 1693 meters tall. Without its own structural integrity field, it would collapse under its own weight."
"Wow!" Katie said trying to crane her neck to see the top.
"Three years ago the Ferengi Ambassador was bragging to Shakti Sulasmuron about the Tower of Commerce on Ferenginar," Stolz explained. "The Shakti then stood up, walked over, and told him that 'no Ferengi will ever look down on an Orion while I rule.' The Wardaj was just finished last year. The observation deck on top offers the most incredible views of the Oryasdan Sea if you have time to visit before you leave orbit…"
"We don't," Tigranian interjected. "I never stay in a place that disgusts me for a second longer than I have to." Stolz thought she recognized a glimmer of disappointment on Katie's face, but to her credit, the security officer didn't say anything to contradict her captain.
"I guess she must be used to this…" Stolz thought to herself.
As soon as the hoverlimousine cleared the shadow of the Wardaj Kurafta, the driver took an exit that led directly into the heart of the Old City. Blocks of stone instantly replaced modern construction as the Federation delegation began winding through ancient streets barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other. Crowds of green-skinned Orion civilians wound their way past the town mansions of the high Orion tribes and cartel bosses of the Syndicate. Intricate gates of woven black duranium guarded lavishly furnished courtyards filled with gushing fountains and intricate statuary cast from solid gold and latinum.
Katie marveled at the crowds going to and from their places of business. Orion men wearing only trousers and vests laughed and smiled as they sat in front of cafes and smoked from water pipes. A few of the women darting to and fro barely wore anything at all, but most females were covered head to toe in long flowing black robes that only left their bright eyes visible. All of them were accompanied by male chaperones and armed alien bodyguards.
"What's with the Halloween costumes?" Katie asked. "Modesty is not something I normally associate with the Orions."
Stolz sighed as she explained one of the many contradictions of Orion culture.
"Free women are covered at all times when they leave their home compounds," the FSO explained. "It signifies that they are under the protection of a tribe and must not be touched. Slave women are only given the bare minimum of covering. It's not meant as an enticement to others. It's meant to humiliate them."
"What do you mean?" Katie asked confused.
"In Orion culture, the ability to protect oneself is seen as a virtuous sign of strength," Stolz replied. "Being almost naked is a constant reminder to slaves that they have no control over their own bodies and others can take what they want. Speaking of that, get ready."
"Get ready for what?" Katie said.
"We're about to pass by the Al Jumati Bisalnasri," Stolz said as her shoulders dropped. "The Grand Garden of Pleasure. It's the central slave market of the Emirate."
As the Shakti's palace grew closer, the hoverlimousine turned past a massive stone courtyard covered with dozens of stone posts. Most of them had naked Orion women chained securely by the neck. Holographic signs hovering above each piece of merchandise listed the current bid for the poor souls awaiting transfer into bondage. Crowds of Orion traders, alien merchants, and curious tourists crowed around the most desirable specimens as the slave women watched their futures fade with empty stares. Katie was even surprised to see a few Orion women in black robes bidding as well. She had to hold back bile in her throat as perspective customers were encouraged to come up by auctioneers and feel the "quality" of the merchandise with their bare hands on the flesh of the hapless captives. Tigranian knuckles turned white as he gripped the PADD like a vise.
"It's a terrible twist of irony when a country's most valuable export is its own people…" Stolz whispered.
"And we have diplomatic relations with this country?" Katie gasped in horror.
"It's the Prime Directive, Lieutenant," Stolz continued. "We do not judge other cultures by our own standards of morality. However, if we ignore these places, we'll have no positive influence at all. We can only hope through our own example, others will see the light and reform…"
"Orions don't give a flying Qu'vatlh about your example or your morality," Tigranian said suddenly looking up from the reports. "All they care about are two things: wealth and power. If you don't have either, they'll rip your clothes off and chain you to one of those posts so fast it will make your head spin. Human women go for quite a bit of money, I hear," he said trying to rankle her. "Quite exotic in these parts."
"The Orion culture is a lot more than slavery, Sir," Stolz said. "It's over six thousand Earth years old. They were making advancements in mathematics, science, and medicine when many humans were still trying to cure diseases with blood-letting and leeches."
"So says the Orion expert…" Tigranian muttered. "What good is science and mathematics if you only use it to cause pain and suffering?"
"So says the Klingon expert…" Stolz replied with a deliberate verbal jab. Tigranian clenched his jaw. "So…Sir…besides sweeping generalizations about an entire species, do you have any more finite evidence to back up your claims?"
Katie glanced at her boss nervously. Tigranian put the PADD in his lap and sighed.
"Seven years ago, I was serving aboard the Klingon ship, IKS Sk'oh," he began slowly. "We were patrolling the Klingon frontier along a route commonly used by pirates and gun-runners to smuggle contraband goods through the Empire. We picked up the trail of a Lissepian freighter that was a known smuggling ship. It was on course for the Son'a Confederacy on the far side of the Briar Patch. The ship had been stopped several times before and caught red-handed with weapons, drugs, and other assorted low-level stuff. Everything illegal was always in crates covered with Orion writing.
These pirates always had their cargo confiscated, were slapped with a trivial fine, and then sent on their way. However, the profits from smuggling were too much to resist, and they would pick up another cargo and just try again a few weeks later.
Captain Torlek decided we better do a snap inspection, so we decloaked and caught them in a tractor beam. When we beamed aboard, they were predictably indignant, but cooperated just enough to keep us satisfied. We were about to leave when one of our Bekks swore he heard a sound coming from one of the cargo containers in their hull. It was marked, 'Ratruscan Radishes: Handle with Care.' The Lissepians begged and pleaded for us not to break the seal. They said it would "spoil the cargo." We did it anyway…"
Tigranian trailed off for a second as he covered his mouth with his hand.
"Inside were fifty Orion lodubyaln…slave girls…en route to be sold to the Son'a…"
The captain visibly held back emotion as his two companions listened in stunned silence.
"They were cold, starving, and absolutely filthy. The Lissepians threw them just enough food and water to keep them alive, but several were already on the verge of death. They had been in that container for almost six weeks. Six weeks!
I'll never forget their pleading eyes, like they just wanted someone to care whether they lived or died, but what I'll really never forget is that smell…" He looked back at Katie and Stolz. "At the same time the Enterprise-D was sailing around the galaxy like a floating luxury hotel spreading our Federation ideals of enlightenment, horrors like that were happening every day just out of their sight. I patronized several lodubyaln before that day, and I felt so guilty and disgusted with myself that I didn't touch a woman again until I met my wife."
"What did you do to the pirates?" Katie asked almost afraid to hear the answer.
"We transferred the Orionsto our ship, and then Captain Torlek decided to send a message." Tigranian slowly closed his eyes. "What we did to those Lissepians…sometimes I can still hear their futile screams for mercy in my ears…but it definitely sent the message. Their frozen bodies are probably still floating out there somewhere."
Katie and Stolz were silent for a few seconds. Then, Stolz looked up at him.
"Did your brutality actually do anything to help other victims, or did it just satisfy your need for revenge?" Stolz asked plainly.
"Before we massacred that ship," Tigranian said, "an average of four humanoid trafficking ships passed through that sector every month. Afterwards, it was zero. So, Lydia, you tell me?"
"If you're so sure it was the right thing to do, Sir," Stolz said confidently, "why does it still haunt you?"
Tigranian didn't have an answer.
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
The hololimo pulled through the lavish front gates of the Shakti's palace, scattering a flock of bright turquoise and pink Tessarian peacocks that had been fanning their plumage in the shade of a palm tree. The car slowly circled around a perfectly manicured miniature Orion oasis complete with fruit trees, crystal clear pools of water, and carved stone statues before slowing to a stop at the foot of a marble staircase. The polished steps extended fifty meters up into the heart of the palace.
A tall Kressatian eunuch stepped forward, bent at his skinny waist, and pulled open the door. He extended a hand to help the ladies out of the vehicle first, but neither accepted his gesture. He bowed as Tigranian stepped out into the sunlight.
"On behalf of His Bountiful Majesty, Shakti Binrabbat Sulasmuron IV, Protector of Worlds, Shadow of the gods of heaven, Emir of all Orions, I bid you welcome to his home," the tall, skinny man chirped through his wide, toothy mouth. "Please know that you are under his merciful protection for the duration of your stay. All your thirsts will be quenched and all your hungers sated."
Tigranian remained silent, but touched his right hand to his forehead in the Orion gesture of peace. It was obvious to Stolz that he had performed the act before. Though she didn't want to admit it, it impressed her.
"I believe the Shakti should be ready for us?" she asked the Kressatian.
"Of course," he said in a high pitched voice for his size. "Please follow me. His Bountiful Majesty awaits you in the audience chambers."
The trio followed the eunuch up the stairs and through a pair of opulent, Coruscan mahogany doors encrusted with the Shakti's tribal crest cast from pure latinum. A pair of Orion honor guards armed with curved scimitars and long, ceremonial spears guarded the front entrance. Katie continued gawking at everything around her like an enraptured tourist, but Tigranian's gaze was focused like a phaser's targeting scanner. He seemed oblivious to everything going on around him. Stolz felt a strange anxiety growing inside as soon as she realized that they were stepping into the lair of Orion's most dangerous man and she still had no idea what Tigranian was going to say.
They passed through several white marble rooms, each the size of a starship's shuttlebay. Every chamber was individually decorated with a unique and eclectic mix of foreign furniture, hanging tapestries, gold trim, and latinum fixtures. Finally, they settled in front of another pair of dark, wooden doors. Two more guards stood at rigid attention on either side of the arched portal.
The Kressatian briefly cracked open the doors and stuck his head inside. After receiving confirmation from an unknown occupant, he threw them open and announced loudly:
"Captain Daniel Tigranian of Starfleet Command to see His Bountiful Majesty!"
Katie noticed that neither Stolz nor she was acknowledged. It riled her, but Stolz seemed completely unsurprised.
"Guess it's more of that ancient culture she was talking about…" Katie thought to herself.
The trio passed through the entrance into a huge chamber that bore a purposeful resemblance to an ancient temple. Its walls were polished white marble angled upwards to an open skylight in the ceiling that reflected overhead sunlight with brilliant clarity. A huge fountain bubbled in the center of the circular space and two more Tessarian peacocks dipped their bright yellow beaks into pristine waters. Two semi-circular silk couches around the periphery of the fountain were occupied by sixteen lounging lodubyaln occupying themselves by sharing long drags on the hoses of several water pipes. In the center of the room was a raised dais occupied by a padded throne. Sitting on it was the largest Orion man Katie had ever seen. He was quite fat, but the muscles on his arms and his stout neck seemed to indicate he could match his bulk with strength. He wore a pair of flowing white silk trousers large enough to comfortably two normal men. A matching cloth of silk was wrapped around his bald head. A jet black beard jutted down from his broad chin. It was adorned with golden and latinum beads. Two muscular guards stood on either side of his seat with curved swords at the ready. The eunuch silently glided over to a position against the wall at the rear of his master's dais.
"Welcome," the Shakti said in a booming basso that echoed off the stone walls around them. "It is not often that a member of Starfleet requests an audience with me. I am honored…" The way he leered his last words sent a shiver down Katie's spine. The security chief's mind immediately snapped back to her duties. She eyed the two guards and began formulating plans for getting her captain out of here if things went south. Based on what Tigranian wanted, that was a distinct possibility.
The Shakti gestured with his right palm that looked large enough to crush a human's head. Another lodubyaln appeared with a silver tray containing three glasses of steaming tea and half a dozen bowls of various types of dried herbs, flowers, and seeds. She knelt down in front of Tigranian, Katie, and Stolz and bowed in a way that showed off her nearly nude torso.
"You have to drink the tea," Stolz whispered quietly out of the side of her mouth. "It's a sign of hospitality and is an insult to the Shakti if you don't. Don't touch the bowls. That stuff is a potent mix of psyhoactives and stimulants designed to increase the relaxing effects of the tea. They also increase the potency of the Orion female pheromones. If you're not used to it, it will drive you out of your mind…"
Stolz and Katie reached down and respectfully took their glasses which were small enough to finish with only three sips. They gingerly replaced the empty cups back on the tray. Tigranian remained motionless. The lodubyaln servant began to look uncomfortable.
"Is something wrong Captain Tigranian?" the Shakti asked leaning forward so his beard dangled over his belly.
"Sir…" Stolz said nervously.
Tigranian grinned before bending down and selecting dried blossoms and herbs from four out of the six bowls. He then crushed them into a fine powder between his palms, pinched the resulting concoction between his thumb and forefinger, and then snorted it straight up his nostrils. He then violently grabbed his glass of tea and finished it one gulp.
Stolz's mouth dropped open as she watched the veins on Tigranian's neck pop out and his pupils slightly dilate. A smile slowly appeared on Tigranian's face as he gently replaced his empty glass on the tray before reaching up running his fingertips across the lodubyaln's brow in a traditional Orion gesture of caring.
"Sharkran, Habbiyun," Tigranian said softly. She smiled back at him before retreating away. He then looked straight up at the Shakti. "Attan Aku-tani Shakti Binrabbat Sulasmuron , Wali-Kiva Esha-lalu," Tigranian said in fluent Orion repeating the gesture of peace.
The Shakti's laughter filled the entire hall with deafening thunder.
"Wa-ho-lilah! Merciful Gods be praised!" he said keeping the conversation in Orion."One of Starfleet who has been civilized. Probably by touching green flesh in the past, I imagine?"
"I would be dishonoring your house with lies if I said otherwise," Tigranian replied with a hint of regret. Stolz followed the conversation between the two men with a clenched jaw. She quickly leaned over and whispered into Katie's ear again:
"It wasn't in his file that he spoke Orion! Where did he learn it?"
"I don't know," Katie replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "Probably when he was patronizing all those slave girls…"
Stolz whipped her head back forward and stifled an angry scream.
"My honorable captain," the Shakti said gesturing to the present members of his harem, "If you enjoy green flesh, what is mine is yours…"
Several of the lodubyaln shifted on their couches and began batting their eyes in Tigranian's direction. One made the especially overt gesture of leaning backward and uncrossing her legs. The captain angrily furrowed his brow and glared back at the Shakti.
"I didn't travel halfway across the galaxy for a pleasure cruise."
"Very well," the Shakti replied. "Then, might I ask, why are you here then?"
"I have a proposal to discuss with you," Tigranian said plainly.
"As you wish," the Shakti said raising his hands and clapping his massive palms together. The lodubyaln all rose in unison and departed the room through a side door. The Shakti then looked over to Stolz and Katie. "Captain, your females must leave as well. I never discuss business with women present," he said wafting his fingers beneath his flaring nostrils. "The scent of their…pleasure…clouds the senses you know?"
Stolz cringed at the vulgar euphemism referencing her anatomy. Her previous defense of Orion culture seemed to be fading before her eyes. Katie couldn't understand the conversation like her companions, but she definitely sensed that she had been insulted.
"No," Tigranian said bluntly. "They both stay and you're going to deal with it."
Stolz, the eunuch, and the Shakti all were equally shocked at Tigranian's audacity.
"What makes you think your demands have any weight?"
"Because, if you don't listen, I'll be terribly insulted," Tigranian replied.
"And why should I care about insulting a Starfleet officer in my palace?" the Shakti said leaning forward onto the edge of his throne again. Tigranian calmly cocked his head to the side.
"Because if you insult me, I'll kill everyone in this room…starting with you."
The Shakti's guards drew their scimitars and moved to lunge at Tigranian, but a guttural roar from Tigranian's throat stopped them in their tracks.
"Do I look afraid!?" Tigranian bellowed at them loud enough to deafen everyone in the room.
Katie had no idea what was going on, but was about one second from grabbing her captain and requesting emergency beam out. Stolz wasn't sure if Tigranian's behavior was the result of his Klingon nature or the drugs he just snorted. Either way she was absolutely terrified.
After a few tense moments of silence, the Shakti laughed again.
"I've met many humans in my life, but none as intriguing as this one. He seems to have the courage that most of his species lacks. If you wish for your women to stay, then they will stay."
"Sharkran, Aku-tani Shakti," Tigranian answered with a nod of his head.
"What is your proposal, Captain Tigranian?" the Shakti said leaning back into his throne.
"On my starship is a passenger. I need you to get him into the Romulan Empire."
"That's it?" the Shakti chuckled with surprise. "If this is merely about arranging passage on a ship, talk to a freighter captain, not the Emir of the planet."
"This is a very special passenger. His trip will require some special precautions," Tigranian said raising an eyebrow.
"Even more intriguing," the Shakti said. "This wouldn't have anything to do with the renegades that escaped to the Federation a few days ago, would it?"
"It would be better for all concerned if you didn't ask questions you already know the answer to, Most Bountiful Majesty…"
"The number of questions I ask is directly related to the amount of latinum the Federation is willing to exchange for his safe passage, Captain Tigranian."
"No," Tigranian said shaking his head. "No Latinum. You transport him free of charge."
"Why in the name of the holy gods would I transport a renegade slave back into the Romulan Empire without compensation? In case you haven't noticed, abolition is not a cause the Orion tribes subscribe to," the Shakti said bewildered.
"Since I won't bother appealing to sense of compassion for the cause, I'll appeal to your treasury," Tigranian said plainly. "All it takes to see that chaos breeds profit is to look out your window. If the revolt in the Romulan Empire continues, their domestic supplies of slaves will continue to dwindle and the price of slaves imported by the Orion Syndicate will rise higher than the Wardaj Kurafta. If you want latinum, there it is…" Tigranian said throwing out his arms in revulsion.
Stolz audibly gasped from behind him. Tigranian ignored her.
An evil smile crept across the Shakti's bearded face. He moved his head from side to side examining Tigranian from several angles.
"The light in this room tends to play tricks with the eyes. I'm sure your skin must be green to barter with logic like that."
"Do we have a deal?" Tigranian asked eager to end this unpleasant exchange.
"I believe we do, Captain Tigranian," the Shakti said still grinning. "I give you my word he will arrive safely, but tell your special passenger not to bother packing any bags. He won't need any where he's going."
The eunuch led Tigranian, Stolz, and Katie out of the palace's front doors and back towards their waiting hololimo. As they descended the steps, Stolz spoke up.
"For the record," she said not looking at the captain, "I'm absolutely disgusted with what you're doing."
"So am I," Tigranian said putting his sunglasses back on. "But I'm not doing it for me, Starfleet, or the Federation. I'm doing this because a loyal friend asked me too."
"Does this friend understand what he's getting into?" Stolz asked.
"More than you know," Tigranian replied.
"I also suppose I owe you a debt of thanks," Stolz added.
"For what?" Tigranian asked with curiosity.
"I was sure you were going to relish the opportunity to be rid of me when the Shakti ordered us out of the room Instead, you put your life on the line to keep me there. For that, I'm grateful."
Tigranian paused his walk to look at her.
"Back in the embassy when I challenged you," he began, "you stuck to your phasers knowing I'd respect you more for it. That showed me you really did your homework about who you were dealing with. Most first year officers would just copy a bunch of facts off the holonet database and cross their fingers. When I read your reports, it confirmed you knew exactly what you were talking about.
You're cocky, you're arrogant, and you dress like my great-grandmother, but you're also motivated, smart as hell, and don't take shit from anyone. With that attitude, you'll go far."
"A good report to Starfleet might be enough to get me on the embassy field staff permanently," she said raising a hopeful eyebrow.
"Consider it done," Tigranian replied, "and if it doesn't, it's not too late to put on one of these uniforms," he said pinching his black and grey jacket. "The Pershing always needs another good officer on the team."
"Not on your life," Stolz said laughing as she climbed into the car. Tigranian and Katie exchanged smiles and climbed in after her.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Rellas stared down into his metal tankard filled with red bloodwine. He took a long swig and savored the burning flavor.
"You know, it's a shame I didn't find this earlier. The taste is growing on me."
He sat on a chair in Tigranian's quarters. Laria sat across from him while the captain leaned against a wall beside his wife. Lucretia stood with Grisgok and Tulan across the room. They also held tankards filled with Klingon spirits, but the mood of the room was far from cheery.
"This is my last bottle of 2309," Tigranian said. "Even Lord Torlek can't get anymore. I was saving it for a special occasion. This seemed as good as any…" he said lifting his tankard to his lips.
"I am honored," Rellas said with a nod.
"We're never going to see you again, are we?" Laria asked with deep sadness in her voice as she addressed the elephant in the room.
"You never know how our destinies may meet again," Rellas said briefly shutting his eyes, "but you are right, My Lady. You probably won't."
There was a long silence before Tigranian finally spoke.
"I want to thank you one more time for saving my life on Dacen. I wouldn't have survived the ludus if it wasn't for you."
"You already repaid me by saving my life during Selonia's banquet," Rellas replied.
"Excuse me?" Laria asked while cocking her head forward.
"With quite a bit of help from Lady Laria," Rellas added with a grin as he took another sip of VSOP bloodwine.
"Thank you," Laria said with a forced smile as she also drank from her tankard.
"Dammit, Rellas," Lucretia said. "It's not too late to change your mind."
"No, it's not," Rellas replied. "But I'm not going to."
"Then at least let us come with you!" Tulan said desperately.
"Yes," Grisgok added. "You will need help to recruit new followers, My Lord!"
"I forbid it!" Rellas said angrily. "You have pledged me your loyalty and this is my final command to you. Lady Lucretia cannot run an entire colony alone. You will serve her as well as you served me." He looked at the last of the original Soldiers of Akarath with grateful eyes. "We are all Klingon citizens now: true warriors given ascent by the Chancellor of the Empire. You must assure that the virtues of Honor, Duty, and Loyalty always remain among our people. You will be the ones to sing our songs and tell our stories."
Lucretia walked over and put her hand on Rellas'.
"And your name will forever be spoken with honor among our children and our children's children. This is my oath to you."
Laria began to laugh. All turned to look at her.
"Child," Lucretia said blinking her eyes, "do you mind telling me what precisely is so funny?"
Laria looked around her quarters.
"I just realized that everyone in this room is a Klingon warrior, but none of us were born Klingon."
Everyone took a moment to process her profound statement.
"Welcome to the new empire," Tigranian finally said raising his tankard in a toast. "Long may it reign."
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Pacific Heights, San Francisco: Earth
Crestia nervously looked at the Klingon diplomatic security guard that searched through her backpack with a sneer on his face. She had received the strangest message of her life yesterday. The Federation Diplomatic Corps forwarded her an official request from the Klingon Empire for her to appear at their embassy in San Francisco. She had no idea what it was about, but decided a special request from her host government probably shouldn't go ignored.
"You are cleared to proceed," the guard said gruffly as he handed the bag back to her. She took it with a nod of her head and walked through the vaulted arches leading into the embassy's darkened waiting area. After a few nervous moments wondering if it would be better to head right back out the entrance, a Klingon clerk emerged from a back room.
"Crestia, Daughter of Lucretia?" he asked abruptly.
"Yes," she said adjusting the straps of the backpack.
"I am Bakral, Son of Tuvmet, third adjutant to Ambassador L'Stok. Follow me," he said beckoning for her to step through the door. She took a deep breath and walked forward. As she proceeded through claustrophobic corridors adorned with small statues of famous warriors set into wall recesses, she wondered what exactly what was happening.
"Am I being questioned? Are they going to detain me?" she thought as progressively more and more negative thoughts intruded their way into her head. "Are they going to try to take me back to the Empire? They can't do that, can they? I'm under Federation protection. Oh gods, the Federation has a treaty with the Empire…"
Her heart raced as they approached a door which Bakral opened. Crestia stepped inside to find a sparsely furnished visiting room with two stools and an empty metal table. A kettle of tea with two cups had already been laid out.
"Please wait in here," he said before turning to leave.
"Wait!" Crestia said finally summoning the courage to speak. "What am I here for?"
"You were not told?" Bakral asked surprised. "The governor of Subik IV demanded an audience with you."
"Why would a Klingon governor want to see me?" Crestia asked in shock.
A door opened behind her. Then, a familiar voice from the past caused her to freeze.
"Because this governor has not seen you in far too long…"
Crestia was afraid to turn around, fearing that her mind was playing cruel tricks on her. Finally, she managed to turn her head just enough to catch a glimpse of an Elohsian dressed in a blood red Klingon kamakha. A shining chain mail baldric hung over her shoulder. A strange crest emblazoned the sash that triggered a strange memory in her mind. She was suddenly a little girl, huddled by the fire in the slave quarters behind the Vreenakii villa on Romulus. Her father had her cradled in his arms as he made strange markings in the soot of the fireplace. He said it was the true language of their people, one that the Romulans forbade them to speak or write, but one that all had to keep alive in their hearts. Now, Crestia was certain of it. The crest on the baldric said, "House of Lucretia" in ancient Elohsian. Above it was the smiling face of a woman that Crestia had given up all hope of ever seeing in the flesh again. Her lip began to quiver and tears forced their way from the corners of her eye.
"Mother…" she stammered in total bewilderment. Bakral nodded respectful and excused himself, closing the door behind him.
"My Child!" Lucretia screamed once they were alone. The women ran into each other's arms and embraced for the first time since they were torn apart by Romulan legionnaires four years before on a planet lightyears away…
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Romulan Imperial Frontier
The lumbering Orion transport dropped from warp to impulse. The captain knew better than run through this particular patch of space without caution. He had the distinct feeling he was being watched, and he didn't have to wait long to have his instincts confirmed. Less than two kilometers from his bow, Romulan D'Deridex and Valdore class warbirds shimmered out of cloak and armed their weapons.
"Orion vessel," the captain of the D'Deridex said over hailing frequencies. "You have entered the stellar exclusion zone of the Romulan Star Empire. Do not attempt to proceed without authorization or you will be fired upon. State your vessel designation, cargo, and destination for authentication."
"Romulan vessels," the Orion captain said trying to conceal his unease at two armed warships pointed directly at his hull. "We are the Orion Slave Ship Nialam. 432 slaves aboard en route for sale at the markets on Iberius."
Silence. The captain exchanged nervous glances with his first officer. Finally, the voice of the Romulan captain boomed through their speakers again.
"Slave Ship Nialam, identity and manifest are confirmed. You are approved for entry into the Romulan Star Empire. Do not exceed Warp 5 while in Romulan territory or deviate from your pre-approved course. We wish you a safe voyage traveling beneath the Raptor's Wing. Jolan Tru."
The transmission disconnected and the two Romulan vessels disappeared again behind their cloaking shields. The captain grinned and turned to his helmsman.
"The gods are merciful today," he chuckled. "Set course of Iberius, Warp 5."
"Yes Sir," the green skinned operator said reactivating the Nialam's engines.
In the dark, humid hold beneath their feet, a Sarcassan man huddled in a dirty corner. It was the only space he could find in the putrid, suffocating stink caused by several hundred frightened individuals crammed into this ancient hulk for their forced voyage across the galaxy. In his lap, a child bawled from the merciless combination of hunger and terror. The father purred through his gills in a valiant, but utterly futile attempt to calm the little girl he rocked in his arms. Her cries were ignored by all the men and women around them. Normally, a child's pain would illicit sympathy from most sentient species. However, no one had any sympathy left to give. It was the first sign their humanity was being ripped away.
The Sarcassan called out in silent prayer for deliverance from this hell, but received no response from any of his ancestors. He didn't even know how much longer he would be able to hold his daughter before she would be taken. He had never felt so weak and powerless in his entire life.
Suddenly, a man appeared from the crowd and bent down on one knee. He reached out a weathered, blue hand and began stroking the fur on top of the little girl's head. The father had no idea why, but somehow the stranger's yellow eyes blunted the terrible pain coursing through his body. The Gralluscan also seemed to have a similar effect on his daughter. The girl quieted down enough to look into his face.
"Are you afraid?" Rellas said softly as he smiled. She slowly nodded. "Then let me tell you the story of a man who taught us how to conquer our fear…"
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