Star Trek: New Horizons Season 7, Episode 9 (...That Here, For Honor, We Lie) by captaintigranian
Summary: SERIES FINALE: As the Pershing's crew looks to the future, Shinzon prepares to activate his newest weapon, capable of eliminating all life on a planetary scale.
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Family, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 10 Completed: Yes Word count: 15926 Read: 7333 Published: 12 Nov 2018 Updated: 12 Nov 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

8. Chapter 8 by captaintigranian

9. Chapter 9 by captaintigranian

10. Epilogue by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Three Years Ago

Federation "Skunkworks" Main Complex: Caleb System

Stardate: 52355.8

It was "damn peculiar," as her idol would say. Her new boss was supposed to arrive on the 0900 transport from the Earth, but after waiting over half an hour at the airlock, he was nowhere to be found. She then spent the better part of two hours scouring the entire facility only to find out from a clerk in the headquarters office that he had arrived the night before. Then, he had the gall to request guest quarters on the station rather than heading straight for the hull that would soon become the USS Pershing.

Annabeth knew that the future ship was by no means luxurious in its half-built state, but it had atmosphere, gravity, and she had made sure that the plumbing was working in the captain's quarters. She had done all this extra work for the sole reason that she thought he would want to get onboard his new vessel as soon as possible. The fact that he wasn't willing to spend even one night in austere conditions truly worried her. They were, after all, heading to the front in three months and she didn't have time to babysit a captain who couldn't handle a little hardship. When she found out that he was lounging on the station's holodeck, her concerns transformed to anger.

Annabeth stood outside the holodeck doors and was soon surprised to find out they weren't locked. She stepped inside and immediately found herself in the middle of a warzone. The rocky plains of a desert planet lay covered in sand, dust and blood. Mountains of dead Dominion soldiers were piled high all around. Ten meters to her front, a lone warrior stood grappling with a fire team of Jem'Hadar. Annabeth was immediately confused. Even though this man was wearing Klingon armor and wielding a bat'leth, he seemed to be human. She double checked her notes to make sure she was in the right holodeck.

Two Jem'Hadar swinging kar'takin battle axes charged straight at him. The man ducked down and swung his sword around in an arc that slashed both their stomachs open in a single blow. Another Jem'Hadar sprinted forward with a bayonet leveled straight at the warrior's heart. He leaned backward just enough to let the point of the enemy's blade fly right past his neck. Then, he locked the Jem'Hadar's wrists tightly in the inner arc of the Klingon weapon. With a twist of his wrists, the Jem'Hadar's hands were neatly sliced from his forearms. The Dominion soldier shrieked with pain before a strike to his neck caused his spiny head to join his severed appendages on the ground.

The last two Jem'Hadar took a different approached. From opposite sides they attacked simultaneously. One raised his disruptor to take a shot straight at the man's head. The other readied his kar'takin to strike if his partner's aim wasn't true. The warrior saw the trap and reacted. He drew a Klingon d'k tahg from his belt and threw it straight into the first Dominion soldier's heart. The second was so surprised by the accuracy of the warrior's knife work, he paused just long enough for the man to shoulder roll towards him before thrusting the end of the bat'leth right into the Jem'Hadar's gut.

After silence descended over the battlefield, the warrior ripped his sword out of the fallen enemy's guts, rose to his feet, and then collected his d'k tahg.

"Are you sure you're in Starfleet?" Annabeth called out. The warrior turned to look at her and smiled.

"Until they get tired of me," the man chuckled as he returned the dagger to his belt sheath. His happy expression seemed very out of place in these grisly surroundings. Now, Annabeth was concerned about her new captain for a completely different reason: he was batshit insane.

"You don't approve of this?" he said noticing her nervous expression.

"It's not the killing Jem'Hadar part that worries me. It's that using knives and swords part I find a little out of place in the 24th century. There are far better ways of engaging the enemy these days."

"Like what?" the warrior asked resting the tip of his bat'leth on the ground.

Suddenly, another Jem'Hadar warrior dropped his cloak and appeared less than five meters away. The soldier held up a bayonet and charged straight at the man. Before the warrior could even raise his bat'leth, Annabeth drew a hand phaser from a hidden holster beneath her uniform jacket, aimed, and shot the fiend right between the eyes with a beam of energy. The creature fell backwards dead.

"Like that," she said re-holstering her weapon.

"Point taken," the warrior said with an impressed look. "Computer, freeze program."

The world around them stopped.

"Computer, Towel," the warrior said holding out his hand. A white piece of terrycloth appeared in mid-air which he then used to wipe his hands and face free of gore and sweat. "I was told the Pershing's holodecks weren't working yet and I had to get my daily workout in. I regret if you were inconvenienced by my change of plans."

"You could call it that, Sir," she said not even trying to hide her annoyance. "I lost over three hours today trying to find your ass."

The man burst out laughing.

"You think it's funny to mess with your XO?" she said incensed.

"No, I think it's wonderful that you've never met me before, and yet you're confident enough to call out a captain when he does something stupid. majQa'."

"I don't speak Klingon. I don't intend to ever learn it either, Sir," she said.

"Too bad," he said. "Well, I do apologize, but I did have to see what type of first officer you were."

"What?" she said halfway between bemused and insulted.

"In my experience," he explained, "there're two types of first officers. The first type is afraid of their captain, so they do whatever they can to avoid them. That type would have let me stay on this holodeck alone until the war was over so they could run the show. Now, the second type, that's much rarer. They understand that the ENTIRE crew, including a ship's captain is there responsibility. So, when their captain suddenly goes missing, they drop everything and track them down."

"In the future, Sir," Annabeth said pursing her lips, "I would appreciate a heads up when you're trying to test my integrity. I'm a busy woman and I would prefer not to worry about you if I don't have to."

"Noted," he said with another smile. "The rest of our senior staff should be arriving over the next few days. Have you had a chance to meet any of them yet?"

Annabeth's face suddenly dropped.

"I know our Chief Medical Officer from a previous assignment. We were on the Atlantis together a few years back."

"I detect a bit of apprehension. Is that going to be a problem?" he asked.

"No Sir," she answered firmly. "I won't let it be." Annabeth quickly changed the subject. "I've also met our science officer, Ensign Amira. She was already working on the new sensor array when I arrived last week."

He grumbled something. Annabeth could only make out the words "damned baby pollywog," a less than subtle allusion to ancient Earth naval slang. She knew that Admiral Murphy had selected her for the position over the captain's objections.

"Funny," he finally spoke, "she's the only one besides you I haven't had a chance to meet yet. What do you think about her?"

"She seems…eager…Sir."

"But?" he said raising an eyebrow. Annabeth couldn't hold back a chuckle.

"But, it seems like a stiff solar wind would blow her right over."

"Qu'vatlh," he mumbled. Annabeth didn't know what that meant, but she figured it wasn't a compliment.

"Leave her to me, Sir," she said confidently. "I'll make sure she stays as far away from you as possible."

"I know you will," he said stepping forward and holding out his hand. "Captain Dan Tigranian. I look forward to working with you, Number One."

"Commander Annabeth Geist, Sir," she said shaking back. "It's good to finally meet you."
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
jenqoj Manor

Ancestral Estate of the House of Torlek: Qova Domain, Qo'noS

Stardate: 54976.8

A fire roared on the hearth in the Tigranians' private apartment. He sat on the end of the bed staring into the flames. Tigranian took a final sip from a goblet of bloodwine and threw it on the ground. It clattered across the stone floor and came to a rest next to the steps leading up to the balcony. He briefly contemplated walking outside for some night air, but soon turned back to the flames. On the bed behind him, Laria sighed as she put Rijo off to the side. Then, she crawled up behind her husband and wrapped her legs around his waist.

"You're worried about meeting with the Chancellor and High Council tomorrow, aren't you?" she said resting her head on his shoulder. Tigranian buried his face in her long, fragrant hair.

"Yes…" he replied tersely. Laria put her arms over his shoulders and then kissed his cheek.

"Torlek has heard you and he supports you…"

She kissed his neck next.

"You're a good man, Daniel. You're an honorable man. They know that when you speak, it's for something that you truly believe in. If the members of the High Council are worth anything, that means they will hear you too."

Then, she kissed his bare shoulders. For a moment, he smiled at the wonderful feeling of her embrace. Then, he quickly grew somber again as doubt forced its way back inside his mind.

"But what if they don't?" he asked. "What if I fail?"

Laria leaned back and looked him in the face.

"Then we will do whatever it takes to spread Rellas' message," she said firmly. "I'll stand on a street corner in the First City with a hand-written sign screaming like a mad woman if that's what it takes," she laughed. "He gave you faith in your darkest hours on Dacen. He kept you alive long enough for me to find you. For that, I owe him everything."

Tigranian stared into her eyes as the firelight glistened across them. They were so beautiful and hypnotic. Her gaze captivated his soul and seemed to whisper that everything would be alright because she was still here. She was still with him. He was not alone.

"What?" Laria finally asked. Tigranian seemed transfixed as he looked back at her. "Do I have some gagh in my teeth or something?"

"I love you…" he whispered.

"I love you too, Daniel," she replied shaking her head.

"No, you don't understand," he replied, "You're my point of light. You're the sun that I orbit around. You're the star that I set my course with," he said softly. "I can't imagine one heart beat without you. Taking one breath without you would seem like a task even Kahless himself couldn't accomplish. All of this," he said waving his arm around the room, "the house, the money, the titles, even being called a 'Klingon warrior'," he said shaking his head. "It's all meaningless without you at my side. I love you, Laria."

At first, she didn't say anything. Then, she leapt forward and dove into his embrace. They kissed passionately for a few moments before Tigranian lifted her up and placed her down on the klongat fur behind them. He moved his lips from her mouth down to her neck. Then, he moved down to her shoulders. Finally, his mouth moved even lower.

Laria breathed in deeply as she began to unfasten his trousers…
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Hobus System: Devron Sector, Romulan Star Empire

Shinzon and Vkruk stood on the observation deck of the Scimitar. The general stared out at the massive, glowing orb of Hobus as his viceroy did his best to shield his sensitive eyes. The doors opened and Krokal sprinted in carrying a tiny object.

The head of the Reman Corps of Engineers ran up the flights of stairs and didn't stop until he reached his superiors. Then, he placed his treasure on the table in front of them.

Shinzon furrowed his brow as he looked at the nondescript thing. It was a simple red sphere about the size of a Terran golf ball.

"What exactly is that?" he said dismissively.

"This," Krokal said trying to catch his breath, "is everything. This sphere contains the first refined thalaron particles mined from deep inside the Hobus star!"

"You've been working almost half a year and this is all you have?" Shinzon said as his voice rose in anger. "You brought me all the way from Remus for this pathetic, insignificant thing!"

"My Lord," Krokal said pleading his case, "this is a miracle of Reman science. It took over 750,000 liters of stellar core plasma to refine this much enriched radiation. For almost five centuries, Romulan scientists have said that weaponized thalaron particles were impossible to contain. Yet here they are, right in front of you. Even more incredibly, we did it safely without damaging the star itself."

Shinzon fought the urge to shove the sphere straight down Krokal's throat. He clenched his jaw and turned back towards the huge, circular window behind them.

"I cannot accomplish my goals with that pitiful ball. I could crush it with one hand." Shinzon spit back.

"My Lord, believe me," Krokal replied. "You don't want to crush that in your hand."

"It is a beginning…" Vkruk said trying to smooth things over. "You are refining more, are you not?" he asked Krokal loud enough for Shinzon to hear.

"Of course," the engineer said nodding vigorously. "Now that we understand the process in finer detail, we are increasing our production rates exponentially. We will begin transferring the first industrial quantities of thalaron particles to the Scimitar's capacitors within the next eight hours."

"That's good news for you, Krokal," Shinzon said. "Otherwise I would have to find someone with far greater urgency than you. Trallian nearly derailed our entire operation here. If I didn't stop him when I did, we could have lost everything.

Now, Semachs is starting to ask questions about my frequent absences as well. We can't keep our plans secret forever. I need this weapon to save our people, Krokal," Shinzon said pointing at the sphere. Do you understand that? The longer we wait, the longer we risk losing our one chance at freedom!"

"Yes, My Lord."

"Good. Now go. Let us know when you are prepared to begin the thalaron transfer."

"Yes, My Lord!" he repeated with a bow before running from the room.

When he was gone, Vkruk turned to Shinzon.

"How often must I remind you about the virtues of patience?" Vkruk asked. "Krokal accomplished everything you asked of him. The Romulans still don't know about our plans, and now we will have an unlimited source of this new weapon for our seizure of power. The entire galaxy will bow to Remus within the year."

"And how often must I remind you that I am running out of time!" Shinzon said convulsing with pain. He pressed his hands against his temples and collapsed to the floor. "Do you want me die without completing our task!"

Vkruk sighed. The old Reman walked over, pressed his claws to Shinzon's skull, and stabilized the attack.

"Of course not, My Lord. We can bring Picard to us and commence the transfusion before the coup," Vkruk pleaded. "You will need your full strength for the trials that lie ahead."

Shinzon sucked in a few deep breaths and rose back to his feet. He reached down, picked up the thalaron sphere, and started passing it through his fingers like a child's new toy.

"No, my friend," the general said shaking his head. "Remus and I will be saved together or we will fall together. We are one body and one soul. That is how it must be."

"As you wish, Shinzon," Vkruk replied. "I just hope you understand the consequences if you fail."

Shinzon burst out laughing.

"For me to fail, Vkruk, I would have to believe that I could fail."

"That is precisely what scares me, My Lord."
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
In Orbit of Sherman's Planet: United Federation of Planets

With the Pershing taking over the Nevsky's patrol duties in the Beta Quadrant this month, Lady Blackjack had made a full circle and returned to the Donatu Sector to start the trek up the Romulan border all over again. Annabeth and her senior staff were in the ward room concluding their morning sync meeting.

"Ok, I'm sure Planetary Administrator Orosz wasn't expecting to see us again so soon," Annabeth said reading from her notes, "but our meeting went well yesterday evening. No change to the planetary security level or any concerns about possible incursions from Romulan space. Number One," she said turning to Daredevil, "are we still on track to leave orbit tomorrow at 0730?"

"Still looking good, Ma'am," Daredevil replied, "that is unless anyone else at the table has any unexpected news they would like to share?" The first officer went around the department heads. One by one, they all nodded that nothing was out of the ordinary."

"Well," Annabeth said, "if that's the case, I think we can stand the ship down for a night and go to minimum manning. Staff sections, go to minimal shifts. Only personnel that should be working will be those already on the duty roster. Everyone else is authorized shore leave, but you better let them know to be on board by 0100 hours or they'll be hell to pay."

"Tracking, Ma'am," Katie said. "I'll have my security teams set up for shore patrol duty. We gotta make sure that wild men like Adamson over there don't get out of control."

The rest of the table chuckled.

"Am I to understand?" T'les asked perplexed, "that Katie's statement was humorous because Adamson is statistically one of the least likely members of the crew to do anything enjoyable this evening?"

Everyone groaned.

"That's right, T," Doctor Kazan replied.

"Hey! I'm fun!" Adamson said defensively.

"Sure you are Buddy," Phil said.

"You're not exactly one to talk either, Babe," Katie said.

"Hey!" Phil replied.

"By Uzaveh, T'les," Scharr said flexing his antennae, "you've been around us for almost three years and you still ask questions like that?"

"Illogical things do not get more logical with time, Sir," the Vulcan replied.

"Alright, alright," Daredevil said. "One more thing, Skipper," she said turning back to a bemused Annabeth. "I got a message that the 'Port Emily Fighting Tribbles' are having a Starfleet Appreciation Night at their home game tonight. They sent us a bunch of free tickets for anyone onboard who is interested."

"The 'Fighting Tribbles'?" Annabeth asked.

"Yeah," Daredevil explained, "they're the local Triple-A Parises Squares Team. Apparently, they're pretty good," she shrugged.

"Alright," Annabeth agreed, "A real ball game might be a lot of fun. Pass out the tickets."

"Um…" Daredevil continued, "Real alcohol for personnel on shore leave, Captain?"

Annabeth sighed and nodded her head.

"Yes, personnel on planet will be authorized real booze instead of synthehol."

"WOOO!" The entire table chanted in unison.

"But leaders, police your folks!" Annabeth warned. "The last thing we need is someone doing something stupid. Anyone who looks like they've had too much gets beamed right back to the ship before one of Katie's Shore Patrol finds them. Am I clear?"

"Yes Ma'am," everyone groaned together like a class of high school students.

"What about you, Captain?" Katie asked. "Will you be down there rooting for the Tribbles with us?"

"No," Annabeth said shaking her head. "You guys have fun. I've got a mountain of paperwork to catch up on."

Phil and Daredevil exchanged grins.

"What if we could find a way to change your mind, Ma'am?" he said confidently.

"I don't think there's any way you could, Lexington," Annabeth replied. Daredevil leaned over and pressed a button on the table. The ward room doors parted.

"Man, I don't miss these meetings," Alex said walking in with Max in her arms, "they just go on forever!"

"Hi Mommy!" Max said waving his little arm in Annabeth's direction. The officers chuckled.

"WAS ZUM TEUFEL!?" Annabeth shouted diving out her chair and bolting over to scoop her wife and son up into her arms. "Mein Gott, what are you doing here?" she said kissing Max over and over again on his forehead.

"Well," Alex said batting her eyes, "I already had the time off wor, and your staff said you had been a little down lately. I decided it might be time for a little trans-galactic sightseeing."

"You all knew about this?" Annabeth said turning to her crew in shock.

"We…suspected…after we extended the invitation, Boss," Daredevil chuckled.

"I was not aware of this," T'les said raising her hand.

"Of course you weren't, T," Katie said. "You keep secrets like Phil kept girlfriends before me."

"Alright now, that's not funny," Phil said. Daredevil burst out laughing.

"I was one of your girlfriends, Sab, and yes…it is."

He dropped back down in his chair grumbling to himself.

"I would also like to go on record as stating," T'les said rising to her feet, "that authorizing civilian family members to board a Federation starship without prior permission of the captain is a violation of Starfleet Regulations…"

"T'les," Annabeth said still not letting go of Alex and Max, "shut up."

The Vulcan stopped talking and raised her eyebrow a bit incensed.

"Vulcans…" Scharr chuckled to himself.

****

The "Fighting Tribbles" played Parises Squares on a pitch just outside of Sherman's Planet's capital city, Port Emily. The old fashioned stadium built from red bricks and timber was called the "Baris Bowl" and fit in perfectly among the rustic, flowing fields of quadrotriticale. The team was quite excited to have a starship of the line in orbit as most of their Starfleet Appreciation Nights were limited to the few dozen members of the planetary defense force, Starfleet Reserves, and handful of military retirees. However, tonight the home team smiled and waved as over a hundred Pershing personnel streamed into the bleachers before the match against their rivals, "The Donatu V Durangos."

Annabeth carried Max into the stadium on her hip, but not before Alex had slathered him in sunscreen and put a giant floppy hat on his head. He grasped naS, his stuffed targ, tightly in his little arms.

"You are such a Mom," Annabeth said rolling her eyes.

"Forgive me if I don't want our son to get a melanoma before he's ten," Alex said haughtily. "I am a pediatrician by the way."

"Babe, the sun is going down. It's a night game!" Annabeth laughed.

"Well, fine…" Alex grumbled as they passed a giant banner with a cartoon tribble wearing a Parises Squares helmet that read:

PORT EMILY FIGHTING TRIBBLES

A-A-A FARM LEAGUE CHAMPIONS: 2345, 2359, 2366, 2371, 2372

DEVOUR THE COMPETITION!

"They really are obsessed with those little fur balls on this planet, aren't they?" Alex said as the family found their seats just a few minutes before strike off. Max looked down at the field. All the players in colorful uniforms knocking balls around with large mallets seemed to make him quite excited.

"They look funny…" the toddler giggled.

"Yeah, they do, kleiner Mann," Annabeth said bouncing her son on her knee. "This planet would be part of the Klingon Empire if it wasn't for those tiny furry things," she said turning back to Alex. "I guess they kinda think of them as a good luck charm now."

"WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! GET SOME!"

Annabeth and Alex looked up several rows to see Sergeant Irabban in sunglasses and a tank top with a plastic cup of beer in each hand. The other marines were egging her on as she tried drinking both of them as fast as she could.

"Scheiße," Annabeth grumbled. "She knows her captain is right here. Rab just got those sergeant's stripes and she's gonna lose 'em just as fast if she doesn't start acting right."

"I seem to remember a young lieutenant on the Atlantis a few years back," Alex mused. "She thought she was hot shit so she drank an entire fifth of Andorian gin one night at an O-Call in the officer's mess. Then, after the captain ordered her back to quarters, she spent the rest of the night puking all over her girlfriend's carpet…"

Annabeth slowly turned to Alex.

"That was A LONG time ago…"

"Not as long as you think, Lieutenant Geist," Alex winked. "In any case, she turned out all right. Who knows, maybe Rab has what it takes to make Sergeant Major?"

"Point taken…" Annabeth grinned.

The captain looked around the stands. Her marines were definitely being marines, but no one really seemed to mind. A few rows in front of them, Phil had his arm around Katie while he laughed and joked with Daredevil about starship life. Behind them, T'les rested her head on Katan's shoulder as Adamson joined them with a huge tray of snacks from the concession stand. T'les refused most of the processed foods, but both men were delighted as they watched her eyes light up at her first ever taste of Cracker Jack. Scharr was seated next to his future son-in-law, Brett Hawkins. Both seemed to be bonding as they carried on a serious debate over which players on the field seemed to be big league material and which wouldn't stand a chance in the majors.

"This:" Annabeth said as she pulled Max in close, "where everyone is just enjoying being a family. This is what I always want to remember."

"Good Evening, Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-gendered species!" an announcer called out over the loudspeakers. "Welcome to Starfleet Appreciation Night at Baris Field as the 'Donatu V Durangos' take on your 'Fighting Tribbles!'"

A cheer ran through the crowd.

"Hey Little Guy!" a voice said from the aisle next to Annabeth and Alex. They both looked over to see a stadium volunteer with a tray full of souvenirs. "He's absolutely adorable," the volunteer said. "Is it ok if I give him one of these?" she asked holding up a toy.

"Sure," Alex said. "He'll love it."

"There you go," the volunteer said trying to hand a plush tribble to Max. "Have a 'Shermie: the Fighting Tribble' to go with your pig."

"naS is a targ!" Max shouted.

"Ok, your targ," she said nicely still trying to give him the polyester ball of fur.

"What do we say Max?" Annabeth asked.

"No rat!" Max said holding naS evening tighter.

"Max," Alex said smiling and shaking her head. She awkwardly took the stuffed tribble and tried to give it to her son. "This isn't a rat. This is a tribble and he's very nice."

"YUCKY RAT!" Max shouted defiantly. "GO AWAY!" The toddler hit the tribble as hard as he could and knocked it to the ground.

"I'm so sorry," Alex said to the volunteer. "He usually loves stuffed animals."

"I've never seen that before," the volunteer replied with a chuckle. "That boy must have a little Klingon in him. Enjoy the game!" she said continuing down the aisle.

Annabeth and Alex looked at each other with astonishment before turning back to Max. The little boy just smiled and hugged his targ again.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Hobus System: Devron Sector, Romulan Star Empire

Valaa materialized on the bottom deck of the thalaron rig. She crouched down low with her disruptor pistol in one hand and a bandolier of anti-matter charges across her chest. She looked around to get her bearings. The space was nearly pitch black and filled with wires, hoses, and conduits.

"Lovely…" she muttered. "Dark, hot, and smells like shit: just like the inside of a fat man's ass-crack."

Slowly she made her way through a small opening between two bulkheads. She choked on the hot, humid air that stagnated inside the compartment. Eventually, she was forced to put her pistol back onto her hip and crawl on her elbows and knees to reach the main corridor.

"Valaa, blow up the giant space station doomsday drill thing," she again muttered to herself, "Valaa, you can do it by yourself, right? No problem, Boss. Thanks a lot."

Finally she reached an opening. Her scans from back on the shuttle indicated that she should be less than a hundred meters from a critical junction in the power network. That's where she had to set the explosives. Hopefully, it would be an easy job. Hopefully, she would be able to get out of here as soon as possible. Hopefully, she would quickly beam over to the Reman ship to help Rellas and then escape. Hopefully…

Valaa popped her head up through a hole in the grated deck plating.

"Oh…fuck me," she said out loud before she could stop herself. The bay was large enough to park a full size starship in with room to spare. As far as she could see in both directions, massive spherical holding tanks the size of small apartment buildings were packed in tight rows. The amount of heat coming off their chromed surfaces let her know they were completely full of 5000 degree kelvin solar plasma.

"Forget a fat man's ass-crack. This is the devil's colon…"

However, she couldn't see the conduit network that connected them.

"Where are you, you stupid little junction?" she thought. "C'mon, it's supposed to be right here," she said checking a handheld scanner she brought with her. The signal told her that the plasma was flowing right where she was…Y plus 150 meters. "Oh shit," she said slowly looking up.

The plasma lines were routed through a series of support braces in the ceiling almost five hundred feet over her head. The solar plasma was being sucked from the top of the tanks before runing through blazing hot lines almost two meters in diameter. Then, it was all routed to a tall reactor tower in the center of the rig. About twenty Remans technicians were completely engrossed on four banks of computer consoles surrounding the black, five-story tall column of black metal and pipe. Another ten Reman soldiers with disruptor rifles lazily stood guard around them. Valaa figured they were there to protect this critical junction from people like her, and she realized there was no way to get past them.

She quickly checked her scanner to see if there was alternate location to plant the demolitions, but her worst fears were quickly confirmed. She had to hit that junction column or else she didn't have any hope of setting off a chain reaction powerful enough to destroy the entire station.

"If I can't get past them," she thought as beads of sweat formed on her brow from the sweltering heat, "Then, I'll have to get over them…"

She looked behind her to see a ladder of metal rungs welded to the bulkhead that led straight up to the very top of the bay.

"Damn you, Rellas."

Valaa ran over to the ladder and started to climb.

****

Shinzon sat in his command chair on the bridge of the Scimitar looking anxious and annoyed. Krokal and a few of his engineers were standing at a control console five meters away furiously entering commands. Vkruk leaned on his knurled wooden walking stick monitoring their thoughts. The old viceroy was very glad that Shinzon didn't possess Reman telepathy. The general was agitated enough and the doubts coming from his underlings wouldn't do much to allay his displeasure.

"Are you ready yet?" Shinzon shouted rubbing one of his bald temples with his fingers.

"Just a few more minutes, My Lord," Krokal replied. "My engineers on the collection rig are aligning the refining tower with our holding tanks. If we're off by just a few centimeters, it is possible thalaron particles could leak from the transfer beam and penetrate the Scimitar's shielding."

"Should I be concerned about that?" Shinzon asked flippantly.

"I would say so," Krokal said with an equal level of seriousness, "if you enjoy your flesh not being scorched off your bones, Sir."

The response actually managed to get a grin out of Shinzon.

"My Lord," Vkruk stated. "Perhaps you should view the procedure from the observation deck? You will be able to make a far better assessment from there. I will monitor the procedure from the bridge and let you know if there any issues. I am your viceroy after all. Let me lead in your stead."

"You're trying to get me out of hair, Old Friend?" Shinzon chuckled.

"I don't understand, My Lord," Vkruk said furrowing his brow.

"Just a human expression I've learned," Shinzon replied. "Very well, I can tell when I'm not wanted," he said bolting up from his chair. Vkruk could tell that Shinzon was at least excited to get his superweapon. It would instantly make him a player in the game for galactic power.

"Call me if you there are any problems," Shinzon said turning and walking towards the doors, "Oh, and Vkruk?" he said suddenly turning back around.

"Yes, My Lord?" Vkruk asked.

"Don't let there be any problems."

"Yes, My Lord…" the viceroy answered.

Shinzon exited the bridge and walked onto the observation deck. The new polarization shields over the large circular window were doing a remarkable job muting Hobus' bright glare into a dull glow. He could see the huge outline of the thalaron rig hanging directly over them less than kilometer away. The leader of the Reman Revolution was about to gloat over his imminent triumph when he realized that he wasn't alone.

He spun around to see a two-meter tall Gralluscan holding a disruptor pistol. The weapon was aimed right at his head.

"You must be General Shinzon," the blue-skinned man said calmly. "My name is Rellas. I've been waiting a long time to meet you face to face."
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Valaa reached the top of the ladder and reached out to jump onto the metal braces containing the plasma lines. She would still have a good distance to travel to get to the top of the reactor column where the plasma lines came together. Valaa hoped that with a lot of skill and a little luck, she could make it without being seen.

Her hand wrapped around one of the duranium girders stem-bolted to the ceiling. Then, she looked down trying to find a foot hold.

"Oh gods…" she said drawing in a sharp breath and tightly grabbing back onto the rungs of the ladder. "Do not look down, Girl. Do not look down…" she repeated as she saw the deck very, very far below. The Remans working on the ground level were now so small she could barely make them out in the darkness. Finally, she worked up enough courage to reach out her hand once more. With a tiny leap, Valaa made it onto the metal brace.

The semi-circular pieces of I-beam were at least solid. They had to be to hold the long stretches of wire and pipe laid perpendicularly inside them. Besides supporting her weight, at only a meter apart, they were close enough to walk across.

"Alright, let's go," she thought to herself. She took one step and easily walked onto the next brace. "One more," she said stepping again. "And one more," she said with another. "Nice and easy: just a nice and easy stroll," she said before her eyes dropped again and she realized that she was nearly eight stories of the ground. She latched onto the next beam with both arms as he heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. "A nice easy stroll between skyscrapers! Fuck!"

"C'mon, Valaa! C'mon!" she heard Rellas' voice echo in her head. "I need you."

"Go! Go! Keep going!" she repeated over and over again. Somehow, she managed to start moving again.

Valaa was now less than thirty meters from a perch above the reactor column. The Remans were too engrossed in their work below to notice the intruder hanging over their heads. She tried leaning closer to the plasma pipes to conceal herself from view, but one of her arms brushed against the exterior of an active conduit. Instantly, the exposed patch of green skin on her right forearm seared and blistered.

"Ahhh!" she shrieked out in pain before biting down hard on her own hand to keep quiet. For a few seconds, she was too frightened to look down in case the technicians heard, but miraculously, the commotion coming from below seemed to drown out her cry.

Valaa ripped a strip of cloth from the bottom of her tank top and tightly bound her wound. The pressure managed to lessen the sharp pain into just a deep throb, but it was definitely still there. Unfortunately she couldn't stop now. She was too close to her objective. Her agony had to wait. With another deep breath, she inched forward again.

Finally, she reached the junction of pipes and conduits where they merged and fed down into the tower beneath her. Just as she removed the anti-matter charges from her bandolier, an alarm echoed through the entire vast compartment.

"THALARON TRANSFER COMMENCING IN TEN SECONDS," Krokal's voice sounded through a speaker system piped in from the Scimitar. "OPEN EXTERNAL UPLOAD DOORS."

The entire rig shook so violently, Valaa barely had time to grab onto one of the braces to prevent herself from falling. She looked down to see a fifty meter wide hatch beneath the reactor column slide open. The only thing preventing the atmosphere from being sucked out into space was a thin forcefield 350 meters below. In the blackness she could see the silhouette of the huge Reman ship hovering beneath them. A similar set of doors had opened on the warbird's spine that was now lined up perfectly with the station's hatch.

"Oh my gods…" Valaa whispered.

"THALARON TRANSFER COMMENCING"

A bright beam of green and white particles shot out of the base of the column and into space. The ship seemed to be absorbing whatever this strange energy was right into its hull.

"THALARON TRANSFER STABLE AT 500 GRAYS PER SECOND."

Valaa noticed that no one was bothering to look up right now. Even the guards were completely absorbed in the incredible sight of the energy beam beneath their feet. She realized that it was now or ever. With a final deep breath, she went back to work planting the explosives.

****

"I am a very busy man, Rellas," Shinzon said dismissively looking at his opponent. "Are you going to shoot me or not?"

"Not until I get an answer," Rellas said stepping closer. His disruptor was still pointed right at the center of the general's chest.

"A Gralluscan?" Shizon said crossing his arms with a bemused laugh. "The one constant report from every incident of slave disobedience was the presence of one of your kind. I'm guessing than that you are the rebel leader Romulus has been hunting…apparently without success. Am I right? Kudos on finding my little getaway spot. What do you think?" Shinzon said pointing out the window. "The view is incredible."

"I thought Remans hated the light," Rellas countered.

"The Remans were molded by the dark, but I merely adopted it," Shinzon replied with a grin. "I wasn't born in it. Perhaps, it is my time to see the light again?"

"WHY?" Rellas shouted angrily.

"Why? Why what?" Shinzon asked. "Why build the thalaron rig? Why build this ship? You need to be a little more specific."

"The Remans have been crushed underneath the heel of Romulus as badly as the rest of us!"

"Actually worse I'd say," Shinzon replied. "Remus is so close after all."

"Then why would you betray your brothers and sisters to help them? Why wouldn't you join our cause to fight for your freedom? With your ships and resources, we could have crushed them."

Shinzon merely tutted his lips and shook his head.

"Because you and I have a very different definition of freedom, Rellas" he began. "What you call 'freedom' I call 'chaos.' Can you imagine," Shinzon asked throwing his arms out in a grandiose gesture, "a thousand individual planets running themselves? Each one squabbling with every other one over their petty needs, petty wants, and petty desires?" Shinzon stepped closer to the Gralluscan. "No, we live in one galaxy. Anyone who understands history knows that inevitably the one body must be guided by one authority to be peaceful and prosperous. I would prefer that authority to be Remus."

"With you at its head, of course?" Rellas sneered.

"It is not surprising that great movements are led by great men," Shinzon said shrugging his shoulders, "Alexander, Surak, Napoleon, Kahless…"

"Don't you dare compare yourself to the Unforgettable!" Rellas roared.

"Touchy, touchy…." Shinzon muttered. "When your pathetic attempt at revolution is long forgotten, they will still be chanting my name: Shinzon the Conqueror, Shinzon the Liberator, Shinzon the Unifier…" he said walking around and waving his hands as if he was addressing an imaginary throng of admirers. "Shinzon the Original…"

"You're insane," Rellas countered.

"Am I?" Shinzon said turning back to him. "If I am, then I am just the product of my insane surroundings. Semachs and the Romulan senate killed half the Imperial Military trying to intimidate their enemies, with a lot from you, I might add. For that, I salute you," Shinzon said with a bow. "Now, I've convinced the military to take revenge on Semachs and the senate. If anything, I am the balancing force in the stars.

It's why I built this ship. Romulus, Earth, Qo'noS, Cardassia, Bajor. All the planets in the galaxy are nothing but obstacles standing in my way. But soon, I will have a weapon capable of knocking them all down one at a time."

Suddenly, a bright flash of light appeared out the window as the thalaron transfer beam activated. Deadly energy flowed from the rig into the Scimitar.

"And there it is, right there," Shinzon leered triumphantly pointing out the window.

"You're insane and you're a narcissist," Rellas said shaking his head. "Why are you telling me all this, Shinzon?"

"Well, that's very simple," the general said calmly walking towards Rellas. "You're not going to be alive much longer."

Shinzon moved like lightning and knocked the disruptor out of Rellas' hand. The pistol hit the deck and skittered away into the darkness.

"One more slave to kill!" Shinzon growled. "One more victory added to my name!" The Reman drew a dagger from beneath his robes and thrust it straight at Rellas. The Gralluscan drew his own knife. The men locked blades.
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Valaa worked furiously. The oppressive heat of the live plasma streams combined with the roar of the energy transfer beam was making this place a good approximation of hell. Sweat flowed in rivers from her skin. It made her grip slippery. She fumbled several times trying to attach the explosives to the junction.

Valaa didn't notice the pool of moisture forming on the support beam at her feet. She took one step trying to get closer to a power conduit when her boot slipped. It nearly sent her tumbling to her death. She fell forward hard and caught herself on another support strut at the last moment. However, her disruptor pistol slipped out from her holster and plummeted end over end into the abyss. It hit the deck right next to the Reman technicians before shattering into a dozen pieces.

"WHAT! Look up there!" one of the workers shouted with a series of hideous clicks.

"What is she doing?!" another one shouted.

"Get her!" one of the guards screamed.

They all raised their weapons, but the lead technician yelled out with his telepathic mind:

"DON'T SHOOT! YOU'LL HIT THE PLASMA LINES!"

Valaa's heart pounded as she saw the guards break and run to ladders on either side of her. The Remans, used to subterranean maneuvering in mine shafts, climbed incredibly fast. In less than a minute she would be completely surrounded. To make things even worse, she didn't even have a particle weapon to defend herself with.

Valaa looked down at the Scimitar below. She knew that Rellas was onboard.

"I hope you're doing better than I am, Boss," she whispered crestfallen.

The Remans were almost halfway up the ladders now. She was running out of time. Her eyes drifted back to the anti-matter explosives. They were already armed. She just had to prime the detonator. Unfortunately, there was no way to set a timer that the Remans wouldn't deactivate before the explosion.

Valaa considered running away. She could hit her emergency transporter and beam back to the shuttle. Then, she could flee and leave Rellas to fend for himself. She could leave all this nonsense behind, get out of the Romulan Empire, and try to scrape out a new existence somewhere. Maybe she could find someone like Mama Traxi. Maybe she could take a job as a lodubyaln again dancing for tips in a seedy bar for the rest of her life…

"No," she said rejecting that terrible thought. The fact she was still strong enough to do it brought a smile to her face. "I'm not a slave. I'm not a concubine, and I'm worth more than a man's latinum. I am Valaa. My life was short, but I'm gonna make it count."

She felt tears streaming down her face.

"Good luck, Rellas. Catch you on the flip side."

She closed her eyes and pressed the detonator.

****

Shinzon and Rellas were locked in combat. Both men's knives clanged and clashed as they tried to land a death blow on their opponent. Rellas parried a strike from Shinzon, but the general grabbed the Gralluscan's wrist and pulled him in close.

"How do you think this ends?" Shinzon asked spitting right into Rellas face. "You've lost, you're soldiers are dead, and you're trapped on my ship!"

Rellas didn't hesistate.

"It ends with my hands around your throat!" he shouted back.

Suddenly, there was another bright flash outside the window. An explosion ripped through the hull of the thalaron rig. A pulse of energy shot straight down the beam of particle drill and into the core of Hobus. For a brief second, the star grew dimmer and its surface contracted rapidly by several hundred thousand kilometers. Then, in an instant, the star expanded again to its full size and brightness. The pulse returned up the particle beam with a thousand times its initial energy straight inside the thalaron rig. The entire cylinder exploded in a giant fireball of burning stellar plasma. The shockwave slammed into the Scimitar sending the whole ship flying.

Rellas and Shinzon were thrown across the observation deck and hurled hard into the ground. Alarms echoed through the compartment as bulkheads collapsed and emergency force fields activated. The Reman found himself on his hands and knees. His whole head spun in a daze. Shinzon realized that his dagger was gone. He furiously felt around the deck plating for his weapon before looking up to see Rellas in a similar state. However, the Gralluscan's knife was still in his grasp. Rellas climbed to his feet through the smoke and haze and set his sights back to the general.

Shinzon caught sight of his blade on the ground, but it was well out of reach. Rellas had already started moving towards him. Then, the Reman felt a small object next to his hand. He looked down and saw that it was Krokal's thalaron sphere. Shinzon picked up the tiny object and threw it as hard as he could at Rellas' feet. The red shell shattered and a tiny wisp of green and white particles rose up and enveloped the Gralluscan. Rellas immediately stopped as every nerve in his body started tingling as if his limps were going to sleep. Then, his muscles tensed and cramped uncontrollably. He dropped his knife to the deck.

Shinzon calmly rose to his feet and dusted off his robes.

"Your hands around my throat, eh?" he asked as the Gralluscan felt the tingling transform into a horrific burning sensation. It was if he had been doused in burning oil. Rellas gritted his teeth in pain as he felt his flesh sizzle. "I think this ends with you being the first victim of my new power."

Rellas' eyes watered as he desperately looked towards the grinning Shinzon. He felt his body dying as the toxic thalaron coursed through his veins, but somehow with all his might, he wanted his last breath to wipe that arrogant smirk off the Reman's face. The images of the Gralluscan's life flashed through his mind. Rellas saw his mother in their childhood home. He saw her screaming, crying face as Romulan slavers dragged him away to be sold at market.

"My father raises his hand to me…" Rellas spoke calmly through the agony. "My mother opens her arms…"

"What was that?" Shinzon said cupping his hand to his ear. The Reman took several steps towards Rellas still triumphant in his mannerisms. "I couldn't quite hear you."

Rellas saw his fellow gladiators at the ludus. They trained hard and formed a bond of brothers in arms. Together, they won victories in the arena and mourned their friends who fell. He saw the Son of Tigranian arrive. He saw his life change as he realized his own sense of worth. He saw this human and Lady Laria saving him from the clutches of Selonia. He saw his fellow slaves rise up and fight back against the Romulans.

"I see my family together, generations standing as one. They beckon me to cross the River of Blood!"

Rellas saw his army's many victories against the Star Empire. He saw the faces of his friends who had sacrificed their lives. His flesh began to transform into a black ash that slowly crawled from the soles of his feet and up his legs. Somehow, Rellas still managed to force his muscles forward in a mighty step towards Shinzon. The Reman's arrogance instantly dissipated as he froze in horror. Miraculously, Rellas took another step and then another. The ash was now up to his waist, but still he refused to give up.

"That should be impossible!" Shinzon shouted as the color drained from his face.

"To the gates of Sto'Vo'Kor'!" Rellas roared as he reached out one hand and clenched it down on Shinzon's throat. The general gasped as the Gralluscan's mighty grip crushed his windpipe like an empty beverage can.

"Where the honored dead…"

Rellas lifted Shinzon clear off the deck. The Reman futilely kicked his feet and pounded on Rellas' arm as the ash continued to climb up the mighty warrior's torso.

"WILL LIVE…"

Shinzon began to lose consciousness as Rellas literally squeezed the life out of him. The burning ash was now up to Rellas neck. The thalaron flame began burning its way up Rellas' arm.

"AGAIN!"

The Gralluscan warrior fully immolated. Shinzon's last view was Rellas' stern face filled with righteous fury as it froze into ash. Finally, the Son of the Western Stars broke apart into pile of black powder. His empty clothes fell to the ground.

Shinzon dropped down onto his hands and knees clutching his shattered throat. He desperately gasped for air, but soon realized that he was breathing in Rellas' desiccated remains. He jumped up in horror and ran to a corner before vomiting with a mix of terror and disgust. Then, after a moment to compose himself, he wiped off his armor, picked up his dagger, and walked back to the bridge.

****

"Damage Report," Shinzon croaked through his bruised neck as he walked back towards his command chair.

"We have damage on Decks 27 through 42, but emergency force fields are holding," Vkruk answered. He chose to save his questions about Shinzon's injuries for a later time. "Repair estimates are 3-4 days."

"While they're at it, have the engineering teams overhaul our security network as well," Shinzon said. "I think the intruder detection grid may need some work," Shinzon growled through gritted teeth. "What about the thalaron rig?"

Vkruk and Krokal exchanged glances.

"Completely destroyed, Sir," Vkruk said. "No survivors."

"How much thalaron we were able to collect before the explosion?" Shinzon said turning to Krokal. The engineer hesitated and looked down to his console. "KROKAL!" Shinzon roared.

"We were able to collect enough particles to fire the Scimitar's main array once. Maybe twice if one of the targets is small."

"We should prioritize our target carefully, My Lord," Vkruk said. "If we can only attack one planet, than I believe it should be Earth."

"One planet and then the Scimitar is useless," Shinzon growled. "ONE WORTHLESS PLANET!"

The general stumbled backward and started convulsing with the pain of an attack. His veins pulsed and throbbed so hard, Shinzon felt like every vessel on his body would explode. He writhed around screaming in pain and rage for a few seconds before Vkruk ran over and managed to stabilize him. Slowly, Shinzon climbed back to his feet wiping a line of spittle from his mouth.

"Thank you, Viceroy," he said regaining his composure. His demeanor completely changed as if he had taken a hit of narcotics. "It's no matter, Krokal. You will rebuild the particle drill and we will refine more thalaron. To be taken seriously, we need the capability to use our array on a galactic scale, not just in a single attack."

"We can't, My Lord," Krokal replied firmly. "The collection rig's destruction caused an energy surge that destabilized Hobus' entire stellar core," he paused and then looked at Vkruk. The viceroy nodded for him to continue his report. "The star will destroy itself. It could be a year from now. It could be a century from now. There's no way to know when for sure. However a supernova is inevitable."

"Then we'll rebuild it around another star!" Shinzon replied angrily. "Surely there must be another suitable one somewhere in the Romulan Empire."

Krokal finally had enough

"Don't you understand!? Hobus will explode!" he desperately shrieked. "The subspace shockwave will obliterate half this sector. Even Romulus and Remus could be in the path of the destruction!"

"IS THERE ANOTHER STAR OR NOT!?" Shinzon roared fighting back another attack.

"No Sir. There is not another suitable star in this entire quadrant!" Krokal said throwing his shoulders back. "And even if there was, I wouldn't tap it for you. I've caused enough destruction for one lifetime."

The general took a deep breath. Then he reached down and felt the hilt of the dagger on his belt.

"Then it seems I no longer have a use for you."

Shinzon threw his blade as hard as he could straight into the middle of Krokal's chest.
Chapter 8 by captaintigranian
Three Months Later

Praetor's Villa: Romulus

Stardate: 55004.5

Neral sat in his bedchamber and stared out at the waves of the Apnex Sea. In his hands, he held a holophoto of Lady Selonia in her white wedding robes. She stared back at him with a noble and fearsome visage worthy of an ancient Romulan Empress.

"My queen…" he whispered staring down into her eyes. "We should have ruled the galaxy together, but do not worry. We will be together again soon."

He heard the sound of a side door opening behind him. A pair of military boots echoed across the marble floor.

"I knew it was only a matter of time before Semachs sent someone to kill me," Neral said without taking his eyes away from Selonia. "I never expected it to be you."

"There is a new order rising on Romulus," Commander Sela said walking towards him. "I was offered a chance to be a part of it."

Neral laughed as he stood up and turned around to face his assassin.

"Governments change frequently on Romulus, Commander," he said with a hint of warning to his old protégé. "Keep your eyes open or else you'll soon find yourself on the other end of this conversation."

"Perhaps," Sela replied. "But not today…"

She pulled a dagger from underneath her tunic and shoved it into Neral's chest. The praetor gasped as green blood splattered across his robes and Sela's hands. The picture of Selonia fell to the ground and shattered. Sela grinned as she twisted the blade in his heart.

"Just let go, Old Man," she said seeing the broken holophoto at her feet. "This is what you really wanted after all."

Neral took a last glance upward and caught sight of Sela's blonde hair. He reached over and placed a bloody palm on it. With his last gasps of life he tried to keep the image of Selonia's face in his mind. Sela recoiled in horror and pulled the knife back out. The Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire collapsed to the ground dead.

"The praetor is dead," Semachs said stepping into the room through the same door she entered.

"But the Romulan Star Empire lives on," Sela replied.

"Well done, Commander," Semachs said. "You've proven your loyalty to me just as I asked."

"Thank you, Proconsul," she said gathering her composure and looking down at her knife covered in blood. "However, I don't understand why I couldn't just use a disruptor. It would have been far cleaner…"

"True," Semachs said taking a few steps forward. "But it wouldn't have left enough evidence…"

"Evidence?" Sela said with a sharp breath.

"Tell me, Commander," Semachs asked. "How long have you been one of Trallian's agents?"

"What are you talking about?" Sela shrieked. "I've never been one! I did exactly as you asked. You said you needed talented people at your side!"

"Indeed I do," he replied. "Unfortunately for you, it was him that I was talking about." Semachs looked back to the side door. Shinzon entered and stood confidently beside the proconsul. The Reman general bowed to Sela with a smile on his face.

"Good afternoon, Commander," Shinzon said with a dangerous grin.

"He's also far more effective than you are," Semachs added. "After all, you got your last master killed," he added with a chuckle pointing at Neral's corpse.

"No," Sela said in horror as she shook her head back and forth in disbelief. "No, no, no!"

"Perhaps you should have heeded Neral's advice more closely," Semachs added still laughing. "PRAETORIANS! PRAETORIANS COME QUICKLY!" he suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs. "She's murdered the praetor!"

The front doors of the chamber burst open and two armed guards rushed in. They looked down in shock to see Neral's mangled body on the floor and Sela standing over him covered in his blood with the knife still in her hand."

"It's not my fault!" she screamed with tears streaming down her face. She dropped the dagger and let it clatter to the ground. "I did it for Romulus! For Romulus!"

"She's absolutely insane!" Semachs shouted. "Get her out of here!"

"NOOOOO!" Sela wailed as they grabbed her arms and dragged her kicking and screaming from the room. "He ordered me to do it! He ordered me!"

Once the sound of her pathetic screams disappeared down the hall, Semachs walked over and stared down at Neral's corpse.

"It seems I found a way to get rid of the pathetic old man while also making him a martyr to my cause," he said kicking the shattered fragments of Selonia's portrait across the floor. "It's so perfect the drama almost writes itself: a human half-blood subverting Romulan government at the highest levels for almost a decade while secretly serving the traitor, Trallian. When her master was revealed, he ordered her to take revenge."

"That story certainly sounds plausible," Shinzon said shrugging his shoulders. "Well, plausible enough for the masses at least. The foolish do love conspiracy theories."

"That's all that matters," Semachs replied. "Once I'm done broadcasting her trial and conviction to the entire Star Empire, she's yours."

"I know a place in the Reman mines that is particularly accident prone," Shinzon replied. "She won't survive a day."

"For your sake, you better make sure of that," Semachs said wiping his hands and stepping towards the main doors. "I've got to go and inform Senator Hiren to prepare for his installation as praetor. Hopefully that idiot will be as compliant as you."

"Yes Proconsul," Shinzon said masking his true feelings towards Semachs and the rest of his Romulan lackeys.

"Oh," Semachs said suddenly pausing. "Make yourself scarce before anyone else shows up. If word got out that a Reman was in the Praetor's Villa, it would be more shocking to the Romulan people than the sight of that," he said pointing to Neral's body.

"Yes Proconsul."

Semachs left the room and Shinzon grinned from ear to ear. It was only a matter of time. Shinzon knew his secret allies in the military could force a session that would have both Proconsul Neral and Praetor Hiren in attendance. Then, the two of them would quickly find out what Remus was capable of. They would soon join the rebel Rellas as a pile of ash blowing away in the breeze. Then, he would take his rightful place in the galaxy.

"The Romulan people better get used to the idea of a Reman in this house," he thought to himself. "They will be seeing it very soon…"
Chapter 9 by captaintigranian
Subik IV: Klingon Empire

Every single colonist stood silently on the grassy slope of the hillside overlooking the village. Three thousand men, women, and children of all species, races, and creeds: freed slaves and refugees from the four corners of the Romulan Empire, all took a moment to stand as one. This dedication ceremony was not just for those who had died. It was also for those who lived.

At the crowd's front, Lady Lucretia and Crestia stood alongside Trallian, Samilla, and their daughters. Tigranian and Laria were on the opposite side of the governor with Tulan and Grisgok. Tigranian wore his grey general's stole over his formal armor. Laria held Tigranian's hand, while resting the other on her pregnant belly. She was still getting used to her maternity armor.

Lady Lucretia stepped forward and turned to address her people.

"There are those in the government across the galaxy who believe this colony is at best a political stunt or at worse, a joke. They think that we are the inferior, the broken, the discarded, and the lost," she said making eye contact with the sea of faces staring back into hers. "They think we will fail. They think we will eventually scatter back across the galaxy to become other people's problems. They think we are incapable of becoming more than what THEY think we are. They…are…WRONG."

Lucretia threw back her shoulders. The mid-day sun glinted off her chain mail baldric and black kamakha.

"I spent most of my life as a slave: a mere scullery maid covered in dirt, grease, and my own tears. That is all my master expected of me. That is all they expected from my children," she said looking over to Crestia who was dressed in finery similar to her own. Her daughter smiled as she choked back tears. "But today, I am the governor of a new world. My daughter is an honor student at one of finest universities in the galaxy while also serving as my viceroy." She looked to the crowd with a challenging stare.

"What will YOU become? Will you strive to be more than your humble origins? I tell you now, YOU MUST. We will always remember where we came from, but we will never apologize for it. We will never be ashamed of it, and we will never use it as an excuse to be anything less than great. We were slaves once. We bowed and we scraped by, and sometimes, we even wished for death. I say no more."

She looked over to Tulan and Grisgok.

"Now, we are warriors…"

Then she looked to the Trallians.

"We are farmers…"

Next she turned to Crestia.

"We are scholars…"

Then she looked to the rest of the audience.

"We are craftsman, merchants, artisans, fathers, and mothers. We are free men and women. WE ARE GLORIOUS! We will transform this wild planet into our home with our free hands and our free hearts."

Then, she looked over her shoulder at the stone eyes of the new statue staring down at her.

"We owe that to him. We owe that to each and every one of those names."

There was only silence as she looked over to Tulan. The young man stepped forward to the base of the monument, threw back his head, and sent a Klingon death howl into the clear blue sky. Three thousand voices instantly joined him. Their primal roar echoed for miles in every direction and up to the heavens. Every warrior who had died to free these people, every fallen family member, every lost friend had someone to warn the ancient heroes of Sto'Vo'Kor that a new generation was arriving to live eternally at their side. Then, the cool breeze finally extinguished the echo rolling across the valley as all fell silent again. Lucretia and Tulan stepped back into the crowd.

Tigranian stepped forward carrying a polished wooden box. He stepped in front of the memorial that he helped make a reality with his own hands and his own heart. Rellas was carved three meters tall in polished white marble. A pair of shattered manacles hung from the his wrists. The Gralluscan's face retained its confident, caring expression as it now eternally watched over the village below. Behind the statue were six panels of black granite. The panels were carved with each name on the list that Rellas sent with Trallian. Tigranian had personally ensured that each and every one was carved in perfect pIqaD. A bronze plaque in the center read:

NO CHAINS COULD HOLD THEM

NO FEAR COULD CONQUER THEM

WE REMEMBER

Tigranian knelt before Rellas and made the sign of the tIq ghob. Several meters behind, Crestia looked on. Suddenly, the Elohsian felt a small touch brush against her leg. She looked down to see little Sevon and Sepina staring up at her. Crestia looked at their pointed ears and Romulan features for a moment. The girl's faces brought back memories of her horrific childhood. But then she put aside her fear and hatred. They were just children searching for a new home. Crestia smiled, reached down, and took the girls' hands in hers.

"I did what you asked, Brother,"Tigranian spoke still kneeling at the base of the statue. "I told your story. They did listen. Chancellor Martok and the High Council heard you. The Emperor and his priests heard you. Now, every Child of Kahless will hear you for all time…."

Tigranian opened the wooden box and placed it at Rellas' feet. Inside was a medallion: a black marble ball supported by a chain of golden blades.

"I will see you again one day at the Gates of Sto'Vo'Kor. Until then, stand in honored glory at the side of the Unforgettable…Saint Rellas, Son of the Western Stars, Martyr and Intercessor for the Oppressed, Breaker of Chains, Dahar Master of the Klingon Empire.
Epilogue by captaintigranian
Epilogue

Ten Years Later: 2388

Tigranian Homestead, Gault: United Federation of Planets

Laria's parents had spent years turning this farm into their private refuge from the galaxy's problems. Now, it was hers. She grabbed three eggs from the stasis unit in the corner of the kitchen before shutting the door with her hip. Laria cracked them on the countertop and dropped the yolks and whites into a pile of salam flour. Finally, she began working the mixture into mapa bread dough for that evening's special dinner.

The black matted finish of the stasis unit was covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of friends that had become family. In the top left corner, Annabeth and Alex hugged their two children. Max, almost a teenager, kissed the top of his little sister's head. Min-seo was eight years old and already wanted to be a doctor just like her mother. Alex was now a partner in her practice and the most popular pediatrician in Munich. Annabeth was still in Starfleet and still a captain. She couldn't have been happier.

Next to that photo was last year's Lexington Family Christmas Card. Commander Katie Lexington and Commander Phil Lexington had their smiling seven year old, Victoria, up on their shoulders. Daredevil, who Victoria always called "Aunt Dee Dee," had pinned on captain and taken over "Top Gun" when Godfather retired six years ago. Phil was her head instructor, but he spent every free moment with his daughter who he referred to as his "little princess."

The Scharr clan was almost too large to fit in one holophoto. Tren had finally retired from Starfleet when the Pershing was decommissioned three years ago. Now, the old Andorian spent his days driving his three wives absolutely crazy. Zhenia and her husband, Brett Hawkins, now lived in Texas on Earth. She was a cardiologist at Parkland Hospital and he was an executive at a deuterium distribution company. Zhenia had also just given birth to the Scharrs' 16th grandchild, a boy named Dallas.

T'les and Doctor Kinzo Katan had married three years before on Betazed. Despite the full �frontal nudity, everyone agreed it was a much happier occasion than her first wedding back on Vulcan. They didn't have any children yet, but joked that it was because they had adopted Aaron Adamson instead. All three were still in Starfleet and all three were still a part of the same crew.

Subik IV had quadrupled in population and the formidable Lady Lucretia was still the Imperial Governor. The planet's top export was a kali-fal so good even top sommeliers had trouble distinguishing it from Romulan labels. Gourmets had dubbed it "Subik's Miracle" because it's origin in the Klingon Empire had made it the only legally available brand in the Federation. Now, since the destruction of Romulus, it was the only brand available at all. Crestia graduated Georgetown summa cum laude and now served as the colony's ambassador to the High Council. As such, she was constantly traveling back and forth from Subik to Qo'noS. However, Crestia still managed to make it back to Gault every year to celebrate the Bajoran Gratitude Festival with her adopted family.

A timer went off next to Laria. She silenced it before opening the oven door and pulling out a baking sheet of kava cookies. She had just put them down to cool when, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed two small hands reaching up from the floor towards the hot treats.

"HEY!" Laria shouted while pointing a wooden spoon at the offending palms, "Lanassa-ga-ne! Rellas-ga-ne! No cookies before dinner. You'll spoil your appetite."

"Mame!" her ten-year old daughter and six-year old son said in unison as they popped their heads over the counter and looked at her with pleading eyes. Their nose ridges twitched as they inhaled the sweet smell of fresh baked goods.

"I said, no!" Laria said as her tone ratcheted up to full maternal mode.

"Oh, let them have a cookie!" the elder Lanassa called out from the couch in the living room. She smirked at Laria as she knit the finishing touches on a mofar wool scarf.

"Yaya says we can have a cookie!" Little Lanassa pleaded.

"Yeah, Yaya says!" Rellas echoed his big sister.

"Yaya is not your Mame," Laria answered.

"True. She's yours�" Big Lanassa chuckled. Laria sighed and wiped her hands on her apron. "Come to Yaya, little ones," Lanassa said putting down her knitting and holding out her arms. Both children ran out of the kitchen and into her embrace. "Oh, my precious gifts from the Prophets. Yes shad les lave," she said kissing their foreheads. Then, she clandestinely slipped a piece of kava candy into each of their hands. The kids smiled as their grandmother put a finger to her lips and grinned.

"Yes shad les lave, Yaya," the mischievous pair said back to her.

"You never let me have a cookie before dinner�" Laria muttered as she went back to working her bread dough.

"You raise your children right so you can spoil your grandchildren," Lanassa said back into the living room. "Your father, Prophets rest his spirit, would agree with me!"

She could hear a frustrated Laria in the kitchen punching the dough into submission.

"You'll overwork the dough if you knead it angry�" Lanassa warned as she picked her knitting back up. "What is it I always taught you?"

"Mapa comes out of the oven as happy as you are�" Laria grumbled before looking towards the shrine next to the door. The Bajoran Eternity Wheel had been joined by a statue of Kahless the Unforgettable and a painted icon of Saint Rellas they had purchased during one of their visits to Qo'noS. "Give me Bajoran and Klingon strength," she whispered in prayer. "I need both to tack care of this family."

Suddenly, Laria froze as she realized a very large form was watching her from the front door. Slowly, she looked up.

"I wasn't expecting to see you yet�" she said narrowing her gaze at the figure.

"UNCLE TORLEK!" her children screamed in excitement as they sprinted across the living room and to the old Klingon. He laughed in triumph as he scooped them both off the ground and into his arms. Torlek's thick mane had turned from black to grey, but his strength and soul remained perfectly intact.

"Little warriors!" Torlek said bouncing them up and down as they laughed. "You get larger every time I see you!"

"Did you bring us presents?" Little Lanassa asked.

"LANASSA-GA-NE!" Laria shouted horrified.

"Ohhhh," Torlek chuckled. "They are honest and ask what they want to know, Laria. Those are good Klingon traits." Then he turned back to the little ones. "And of course I brought you presents." Little Lanassa and Rellas laughed as he put them back on the floor.

Laria punched the ball of dough again.

"They're going to be so spoiled!"

"Happy Mapa bread, Laria-ga-ne�Happy Mapa�" Big Lanassa said making another stitch on her scarf.

Laria took another deep breath and looked back to Torlek.

"I was going to send Daniel to pick you up at the spaceport in two hours," Laria said forming the dough into a loaf and covering it with a tea towel to rise by the window. "Did your flight get in early?"

"I brought one of my private birds-of prey," Torlek said marching inside the house. Since the Dahar Master retired from active service, he wore a civilian tunic of klongat leather and wool. However, his influence on Qo'noS was still extraordinary.

"Daniel is not going to like that," Laria said raising her eyebrows. "You know he thinks taking Klingon warships to Earth for personal reasons draws too much attention. People are just starting to forget about us coming back to the Federation."

"Am I not the head of our house?" Torlek said crossing his strong arms. "It is not my decision on how I travel in my personal fleet?"

"Yes, you are the head of our house," Laria said picking up the tray of cookies and walking over. "Would you like a cookie, My Lord?" she laughed. Torlek rolled his eyes as Laria went back into the kitchen to work on the rest of dinner.

"Besides, Max only gets one First Rite of Ascension," Torlek added. "He should light his kor'tova candles on a Klingon warship not in some apartment building on Earth! Daniel is Max's godfather and should understand that."

"That apartment building has been Max's home for the last twelve years. Don't you think he would want to do the ceremony in a familiar place before he leaves it, possibly forever?"

"He's chosen to take the first step towards becoming a Klingon warrior, Laria," Torlek replied. "Max needs to start putting childish sentimentality behind him."

"Klingon culture is full of childish sentimentality. Look at my husband," Laria muttered.

"What?" Torlek asked.

"Did Elessa get the cases of spring wine I sent her?" Laria said quickly changing the subject.

"She did," Torlek answered taking another step towards the living room, "She sends her love along with half a dozen blood pies in stasis. Unfortunately, she had too much business on the estate to get away."

"Why do you think I'm not going with you and Daniel to Earth to pick up Max?" Laria said pulling a bowl of Bajoran shrimp out of the stasis unit. "Klingon men get to go off and play. Klingon women have to stay home and keep things running."

"You really are starting to sound like my wife�" Torlek laughed.

"Ba'ney Chor Hege'dmas bhov var gha has Ghar knavem�" Big Lanassa muttered.

"Mame�" Laria warned from the sink as she rinsed the shrimp.

"What did she say?" Torlek said bemused. "It's always good."

"She says, 'some things are the same on every planet,' but she can tell you that herself because she speaks perfectly good Federation Standard!" Laria called out.

"nuqneH, Lanassa," Torlek said with a smile and respectful bow to the Amira clan's matriarch.

"Inchbas, Torlek," Lanassa said smiling right back.

Laria sucked in a deep breath. It was painful just how much the two of them enjoyed pairing up to make things difficult for her and Daniel. The love was always there, but so was the endless amount of good old-fashioned guilt.

"Where is my brother?" Torlek finally asked.

"In the barn with his targs," Laria replied. "One of the sows had a litter last week, but the runt isn't eating. You know, Daniel. He loves to fight with the strongest, but he'll always choose to spend his time with the weakest."

****

Koloth, the Tigranians' old barn glommer, was buried in the hayloft. The creature was done hunting rodents for the day and softly purred with fatigue. Its four long legs were tucked gently beneath its orange fur covered body. On the ground below, a mother targ lay on her side and oinked while nine strong targlets nursed at her belly. The tenth one was on the lap of a man wearing dirty denim jeans and a muddy flannel shirt.

"C'mon, Little One," the man said holding up a bottle to the tiny creature's snout. "You have to eat." The small targlet's eyes fluttered beneath the tiny bump of a horn on its forehead. Finally, it opened its mouth and accepted the nipple of the bottle. "They're we go�"

Suddenly, a grin crossed the man's lips as he realized he was being watched. He ducked his head down just before a Klingon d'k tahg flew through the air and whistled cleanly over his neck. The blade buried itself in a wooden beam behind him.

"I offer you a position on the Chancellor's staff!" Torlek's voice boomed in tlhIngan Hol as he stepped inside the barn. "You refuse." He took a few steps closer to Tigranian, carefully avoiding the piles of targ dung piled on the floor. "Starfleet Academy offers you the position of head of the Klingon Language Department. You refuse." Torlek threw back his shoulders and crossed his arms. "Now, I find a former Starfleet captain and the Klingon jenSa' of all Cardassia sitting among piles of dung wet nursing a litter of targs."

"I may be a wet nurse, Brother," Tigranian answered as he fed the targlet with one hand and pulled the d'k tahg free with the other. Suddenly, the blade flew through the air right at Torlek's head. The Klingon grabbed the handle and stopped it just centimeters from his nose. "But I'm still a warrior. I just chose to spend the rest of my life on a different battlefield: one where I can help create life, not just destroy it. It's better for me. It's better for my family. It was even more essential after Jion lost his battle to the cancer caused by all those Cardassian poisons spread in Rakantha during the Occupation. Keeping his dream of this place alive is my way of helping his soul rest."

"If you say so," Torlek said returning the d'k tahg to his sheath. "But what will your children think when it's their turn to light the kor'tova candles in a few years?"

"As time passes, a girl or boy inevitably becomes an adult, but what is not inevitable is that an adult becomes a warrior. If Lanassa and Jion choose to follow the River of Blood, I will be there to guide them."

"And if they don't?" Torlek asked skeptically.

"Then, I will still love them as a father should."

The targlet finished the bottle. Tigranian gently laid him back down next to his mother and stood up.

"Well, Max has made his choice," Torlek continued. "I still don't agree with your decision to train him here on Gault though."

"Where else would I train him?" Tigranian said throwing the empty formula bottle into a wash bucket.

"Qo'noS!" Torlek shouted. "Max is a blood-christened member of the House of Torlek. He can learn his bat'leth with the greatest Mok'bara masters in the Klingon Empire!"

"You don't think my swordsmanship is up to the task?" Tigranian joked. "I could ask Laria to go over the weapons forms with him then."

Torlek ignored him.

"He could be the first human to graduate from the Defense Force's Preparatory Academy," Torlek added. "Max can have every chance you were denied growing up."

"First," Tigranian said wiping his hands on his jeans, "that was not the deal that Alex and Annabeth agreed to. Second, and more importantly, he could never be the first 'human' to graduate from any Klingon school. Max must discover that despite his smooth forehead and his childhood on Earth, he is already Klingon. If he can't do that among the fields of Gault, then he will never be able to do it among the domes of Qo'noS. If he doesn't realize he is already worthy, he will NEVER be treated as an equal among our people."

"How long did it take for you figure that out?" Torlek asked.

"A lifetime," Tigranian responded.

"I suppose I should grateful that Alex and Annabeth allowed Max to travel the River of Blood at all. Well done for convincing them."

"It wasn't easy," Tigranian replied. "I think it helped that Annabeth will be gone for the next two years anyway."

"Yes, how is our house's cha'Dich acclimating to her new command? I was worried that five years behind a computer console on Earth dulled her reflexes."

"She hated the computer console part," Tigranian answered, "but she loved that she could come home to Alex, Max, and Min-seo every night. However, the chance to take out a brand new Sovereign class on its first deep space exploration mission was too much to pass up. Alex understood that," Tigranian said grabbing a bale of hay from the corner of the barn. He cut the bindings with a pocket knife and spread the stalks around the targlets to keep them warm overnight.

"May Kahless guide her on their new adventure," Torlek said.

"It's Annabeth Geist we're talking about," Tigranian said with a smirk. "Besides, her first officer is pretty good too�"

****

After dinner, Torlek, Lanassa, and the Tigranians gathered around the holoscreen in the farmhouse's living room. They had known about this day for months, but still were unsure it was real. The event was so important, that even Torlek agreed they should stay and watch it together before he and his brother continued their journey to Earth. Laria and Big Lanassa sat on the couch with Little Lanassa between them. Tigranian and Torlek sat in a pair of armchairs sharing a bottle of blood wine. Rellas was on the carpet in front of his father.

"Daddy?" he asked confused. "What's going on?"

"Something really big, Bud," Tigranian said. "Just watch and remember," he added before kissing the top of the boy's head. "You'll understand one day."

"This is Temorek Klens, reporting live from Cardassia Prime for the Federation News Service. Since the destruction of Romulus by the Hobus Supernova and the collapse of the Romulan Star Empire last year, reunification efforts between the Republic of Cardassia and the Cardassian State have accelerated at a tremendous pace. The barriers and travel restrictions have long since been rescinded. The borders are open�"

In Republic Plaza, a sea of a million faces crowded together in total celebration. Tens of thousands of Cardassian Republic and MSECA flags waved in their hands. There were even a few banners from the Federation and Klingon Empire. Rockets and fireworks screamed and burst through the clear night air. The image cut to individuals in the crowd. A Cardassian couple looked at the camera. The woman cheered and waved while the man raised one finger and repeated over and over in Federation Standard:

"One Cardassia! One Cardassia!"

The shot cut back to the announcer:

"The referendum three months ago where both countries overwhelmingly voted for reunification was the culmination of endless work and negotiation between politicians, diplomats, and humanitarians. Now, all the efforts have led to tonight. In less than five minutes, when the clock strikes midnight here in Republic Plaza, the State of Cardassia will cease to exist.

For the first time since the Dominion War ended almost fifteen years ago, both nations will become one and be governed under the democratic constitution of the Republic of Cardassia. Over a million people have gathered in the plaza for tonight's historic celebrations with tens of billions more watching on holovision. This is a day that neither the Cardassian People, nor the rest of the galaxy, will soon forget."

The camera switched to a shot of the dignitaries watching from the stands above the crowd.

"On the balcony of the Capitol Building is the prime minister of the Republic of Cardassia, Alket Lighen. He is seated next to Interim Premier of the Cardassian State, Toranr Pavin, who has been head of that country's 'Reform Party' since its decriminalization late last year. Premier Harok, of course, resigned as leader of the Cardassian State after Romulan troops departed. He is currently being held pending a judicial tribunal for actions of his government deemed by many as 'crimes against humanoidity.'

After tonight, Mr. Lighen will be named Prime Minister of the new unified Republic. Pavin has already been announced as the New Minister of the Interior.

Next to Prime Minister Lighen is retired Prime Minister Elim Garak. Garak is a national hero to many Cardassians, both for his actions with the Cardassian Resistance during the war and as Prime Minister during many of the most difficult years of the Republic.

Behind them are the official delegations from the other MSECA nations. You can see Federation Ambassador Tolbey Kuhm. Next to Ambassador Kuhm is Ambassador Karakt from the Klingon Empire. Also on the balcony is Qato Rozya from the Bajoran Republic. Bajor has a long and tumultuous relationship with Cardassia, but First Minister Nolt Uizic has already stated that the Bajoran Republic is looking forward to working with the unified Republic of Cardassia on joint economic development projects and trade reform�"

"It's a good thing your father isn't still alive to see this," Lanassa grumbled from the couch still working on her knitting. "Otherwise, he would die all over again. Cardassian animals�Vanetsey'er changehm kham chanyivor eghas yissek, chini'es mishneyt irehnhyum akahz�"

"Mame," Laria warned sternly. "You promised you wouldn't say things like that in front of the children." Lanassa rolled her eyes and went back to her scarf.

"I pray to the Prophets they never have to find out the truth like we did."

"What did she say?" Torlek asked leaning over to Tigranian.

"Something to the effect of: 'Once you kill as many of the vermin as I have, you never forget their real smell�'" Tigranian whispered back.

"Ha!" Torlek said slapping his leg. He raised his goblet towards Lanassa. "I knew I always liked her." She looked back at the Klingon and nodded. Everyone then turned back to the screen.

A Cardassian honor guard emerged from the capitol building and marched in formation down the steps. An empty flag pole waited for them next to the statue of Legate Damar. When the crowd saw them, they went wild and the dignitaries rose to their feet. More fireworks screamed and burst in the sky.

The guardsmen, four soldiers from the Republic and four soldiers from the Cardassian State, carried a giant Cardassian Republic flag between them. They reached the flag pole, and in a series of crisp, rehearsed movements, fastened it to the hoist.

"This is it," Laria said nervously leaning forward and wrapping an arm around her daughter. "This is what we fought for�"

A military band began signaling with herald trumpets. Everyone started cheering, clapping and crying. Then, the giant bronze bell in the dome of the capitol began the thirteen booming chimes of midnight. The honor guard raised the flag up the pole until the banner of a united Cardassia began waving proudly in the night air.

"After all this time," the announcer said fighting back emotions himself, "after the largest war the galaxy had ever seen, after so many dead, after so many catastrophes that almost lead to apocalyptic conflict: the Constitutional Crisis of 2376, the Cardassian State Blockade, Legate Varak's terrorist attack on Earth, the Refugee Embargo at Lissek, the Battle of Celdis Prime�it is over. Cardassia is one! Cardassia is free!"

The military band struck up another tune. Their instruments began playing the "Hymn of Cardassia," a national anthem that had wrung hollow for many years after the end of the Dominion War. However tonight, it was once again sung with pride by every single Cardassian man, woman, and child in attendance:

Family, faith, and love unite us for our Cardassian Motherland!

Now, we join together for our people. Let us serve for greater good!

The camera panned back to the balcony. The politicians were all standing respectfully paying tribute: all save one. Elim Garak was so overcome with emotion, he couldn't move. He shook in his chair as tears of abject joy streamed down his face. The entire galaxy was watching him cry as he saw his reunified nation's flag flying freely above his homeworld. It was like he was witnessing the birth of his child. In a way, perhaps, he was.

Our wish is that you live forever, our beloved Cardassian Motherland!

Our greatest hope is that you live forever, our beloved Cardassian Motherland!



Untrepiat Belt: Cardassian Frontier
Border of the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants


Captain Annabeth Geist finished sending the last report to Starfleet Command before crossing the mission's line of departure. It had taken almost a month and half at high warp to reach this point since they left spacedock. However, this new Sovereign class vessel performed like a dream. It was nothing like the Pershing.

Her old battlestarship was large, reliable, and strong, but now she found herself in a completely different world. Now, Annabeth had more scientists on board than marines, more laboratory space than torpedo storage, and a full reception area for hosting diplomatic conferences instead of battle planning sessions. For the first time in her Starfleet career, she was an explorer. It felt good.

Still, she did feel a real twinge of sadness when she remembered that all the decommissioned Pershings now rested in the Starfleet Reserve Fleet in orbit of Qualor II. Their mighty torpedo turrets were coated in corrosion resistant polyduranium paint. Their tritanium ablative armor was charged with positrons to repel micrometeoroids. Their weapons control consoles were all draped with space dust-proof protective coverings. The battlestarships were being preserved in case, God forbid, the Federation ever needed them again.

Annabeth still had hope that Lady Blackjack and the others would find new homes as memorials or museum ships. It's what great vessels like them deserved rather than the oblivion of the scrapyard. However, until their final fates were decided, the Pershing and her sisters would softly slumber, and Annabeth would remember their glory days. Luckily, she had plenty of people on board this ship to commiserate with.

That nostalgia is why Annabeth kept a small model of NCC-19860 in her ready room directly below the portrait of her new ship's namesake: an explorer who had given her life in the earliest days of space travel. Having those two things together was a wonderful reminder of both where she came from and where she was now going.

With a final deep breath, Annabeth rose from her chair, blew a kiss at the picture of Alex, Max, and Min-seo on her desk, and then straightened her uniform jacket.

"You ready to do this, Judy?" Annabeth said to the portrait across the room. The dark-haired woman silently smiled back. Annabeth took that as a yes.

****

"Captain on the bridge!" Commander Katie Lexington rising from the first officer's seat.

"Carry on," Annabeth said marching over to her captain's chair. "How we looking, Number One?"

"All departments report ready and awaiting final checkout with you, Ma'am," Katie smiled.

"Damn fine work, as always," Annabeth smiled turning to the image of space on the main viewscreen. "So that's the Gamma Quadrant? Funny to think that no Starfleet ship has ever explored the near side of it before."

"The Bajoran wormhole spoiled us, Ma'am," Katie chuckled. "Luckily, we're here to fix it," Katie said taking her seat.

"Well spoken, Katie," Annabeth grinned. "Alright, let's do this by the book at least once."

"Mr. Grayson?" Annabeth said looking over her shoulder.

"Tactical standing by," a tall, muscular lieutenant said from his console. "I even made the recalibrations that Commander Lexington wanted, Ma'am."

"Once a security chief, always a security chief," Annabeth whispered at Katie. Commander Lexington just shrugged back. "Science?" Annabeth asked next.

"Science is standing by. Can't wait to see what's out there," Lieutenant Commander Adamson replied.

"That makes two of us," Annabeth thought about the next department on the checklist. Before she could answer, the intercom spoke.

"Sick bay standing by," Doctor Katan announced.

"Kinzo, you said you would stop doing that!" Annabeth said.

"Sorry, Ma'am," he chuckled. "It's just so easy to mess with you non-telepaths."

"Engineering?" Annabeth continued.

"We have full power. Warp drive and impulse at your command, Captain," T'les replied from below decks with her Vulcan calm.

"Alright then. Mr. Morko," she said towards the helm. "Take us into the Gamma Quadrant. If you hit the Dominion, we've gone too far."

"Aye, Ma'am," the Benzite said in between puffs on his breathing apparatus. "Course laid in."

Annabeth smiled and sat down in her new chair.

"Engage."

As the captain saw the stars on the viewscreen streak into warp, the lines of her oath echoed through her mind:

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Resnik. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before�
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