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Avenal System: Klingon Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space.

Stardate: 53108.6

“Don’t do this to me, Dan!” Murphy screamed through the monitor on the desk in Tigranian’s ready room. “We’re too far along for you to go off on a side quest like it’s the damn middle ages! Paris can still the pull the plug and send the Pershing to mothballs.”

“Then let me take the Pershing to Qo’nos and end this now!”

“Dammit! Internal matter to the Klingon Empire? Starfleet cannot become involved in a Klingon Civil War? Sound familiar? Please tell me I didn’t pick a captain who needs refresher training on the Prime Directive…”

“I fought in a Klingon civil war before, Pete.”

“That was on a Klingon ship and you were wearing a Klingon uniform! Now, you’re in command of a starship. You can’t go off getting into fights based on your own personal beliefs.”

“After everything that Martok did to secure the safety of the Alpha Quadrant? After every battle he fought to prevent the Jem’Hadar from raising the Dominion Flag over the Golden Gate Bridge? The Federation is really willing to turn its back on him?” Tigranian said disdainfully.

“Klingon Chancellors come and go, Dan. Azetbur signed the Khitomer Accords, but we didn’t beat the war drums when she was assassinated…”

Tigranian laughed and then looked back at the monitor.

“When was the last time I took leave, Pete?” Tigranian asked cocking his head to the side. Admiral Murphy rubbed his eyes on the screen.

“If you want leave, go to Risa, go to Niagara Falls, go to the Hoobishan Baths on Trill, just don’t go to Qo’nos…”

“Is that a request or an order?”

“What does it need to be?”

“He brought me into his family, Pete. He made me Klingon…”

“I’m not even going to pretend to know what this means to you. I’m just gonna ask, point blank, is this worth your ship and your career?”

“It’s worth far more than my career, Pete. It’s worth my soul.”

“Now, he thinks he’s James T. Kirk…” Murphy knew there would be no stopping him. It was just a matter of how much he could limit the damage.

“God help you, Dan, because if this goes south, the Federation sure as hell won’t. However, let me make two things PERFECTLY understood: the Pershing doesn’t leave Cardassian Space, and you take off that uniform until you come back from ‘leave.’ Am I clear?”

“Crystal, Sir.”

“Murphy, out.” The screen went blank.

* * * *

“Bridge,” Laria said stepping inside the turbolift. Just before the doors closed, Katie stepped inside.

“Hey,” she said avoiding eye contact.

“Hey,” Laria replied quietly.

“Look,” Katie said crossing her arms in front of her. “I’m really sorry about last night. I know I probably got way too personal and awkward. Your business is your business.”

“Katie, it’s fine. It’s not like you announced it over the comm system. Plus, you had a lot to drink. Spring wine makes everyone act a little funny.”

“That’s not an excuse.”

“It’s ok. We all know what’s coming up soon.” She gently wrapped her arms around Katie and squeezed supportively. “Just let me decide when someone goes in my bedroom, ok?”

Katie chuckled.

“Ok…and thanks.”

“No problem. I’m your baby sister, apparently.”

The doors opened on the bridge and they took their stations. Annabeth was sitting in the captain’s chair tapping her fingers on the armrest. She hated being un-informed. When the doors to his ready room opened, she leaped up and walked straight to Tigranian.

“Alright, Sir,” she whispered in his ear. “What the hell is going on? I have entire crew wondering why they’re now in the Klingon Zone twenty light years from where our orders say we should be.”

“Patience, Annabeth,” Tigranian said grinning and sitting down in his chair. “Everything will be explained once our guests arrive.” Annabeth took a seat next to him. She leaned over. Despite her best efforts to maintain a whisper, she was sure the rest of the bridge crew could hear.

“With respect, Captain, I am the first officer of this ship. I am responsible for its safety and the safety of its crew, to include its commander. I need to know…what are we doing here?”

Suddenly, Tigranian froze as an old instinct kicked in. A slow smile crept across his face. “Do you trust me, Annabeth?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good!” He turned his chair to the empty blackness on the viewscreen. “Ms. Stone, open hailing frequencies.”

“Sir?” Katie asked completely surprised. He glanced back at her. She started pressing buttons. “Hailing frequencies open, Sir.”

“Sir,” Laria said from the science station. “Sensors don’t show any ships within two light-years.” Tigranian ignored her. He started speaking in Klingon.

“You’re getting sloppy, my brother. I know you’re there.” The rest of the bridge crew froze when there was a response.

“Don’t count on it, mu’qaD. I just expected your senses to be dulled from living among non-Klingons for so long. Suk’Valt Strike Fleet, Disengage cloaking devices!”

The collision alarm sounded as the Vor’cha class attack cruiser, HoS, appeared less than fifty meters from their bow, its main disruptor canon pointed directly at them. Four more K’Tinga Class battle cruisers and eight more K’Vort class birds of prey materialized in every direction, their weapons all pointed at the Pershing. They were surrounded.

“Yellow Alert! Shields up!” Annabeth shouted jumping to her feet.

“No, it’s alright,” Tigranian said trying to calm them down. “They’re just trying to intimidate us.”

“It’s working, Sir,” Phil muttered from the helm.

“Bridge, Main Engineering, what the hell is going on up there?”

“Calm yourself, Mr. Scharr. They’re just saying ‘hello’ in their own way.”

“Forgive me, Captain, if I don’t exactly consider their way very polite.”

An alarm sounded at the tactical station.

“Sir, the attack cruiser is accessing our site-to-site transporter interlocks! They’re attempting to beam someone directly to the bridge. I’m trying to lock them out!”

“Katie, stop. Let them do it.”

“Sir!” Annabeth said showing genuine concern.

“I asked if you trusted me, Annabeth…” Tigranian said climbing to his feet.

A transporter beam engaged, and a Klingon in full armor appeared directly in front of him. Instantly, Tigranian and the Klingon both screamed and wrapped their arms around each other.

“It is good to see you again, Daniel.”

“You as well.”.

“We must act quickly, my old friend. Things have gotten much worse since we last spoke.” Tigranian nodded before turning to the rest of the bridge crew.

“Everyone, may I introduce General Torlek, commander of the Suk’Valt Strike Fleet, and my brother.”

Annabeth got up from her chair and walked toward them.

“Welcome Aboard, General,” she said not even trying to conceal her annoyance.

“It seems I’ve tried my crew’s patience long enough, General.” Tigranian tapped the communicator on his chest. “All senior staff to the ward room.”

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