Avenal System: Klingon Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space.
“So this Morjod really thinks he can depose one of the most popular leaders in Klingon history?” Phil asked skeptically.
“Worse,” Torlek said somberly. “He knows he is starting to succeed. He’s even crowned himself emperor. The people fall under his spell like some kind of demonic magic. Many wish to return to the power and glory of the old days, but few possess the discipline to keep their honor in the face of the blood rage. Barbarous things once thought extinct return from the darkness and people cheer in madness.” He signaled to Tigranian who began playing a recording on the ward room’s holoscreen. “This was broadcast live on the Klingon information net this morning.”
“Footage of an execution, only by the hand of Kahless, it remained an attempted execution.” A huge square was packed with people, an improvised wooden stage erected in the middle of the crowd. Masses cheered in deranged howls. In the center of the stage, there was a strange contraption that appeared to be four massive posts bent towards a wooden bench. A victim would be strapped to the bench and their limbs attached to the posts. When the signal was given, the posts would snap straight, ripping the victim’s limbs from their torso.
“What is that thing?” Alex asked horrified.
“It’s called a cha’ta’rok.” Torlek said without looking away from the screen.
“Klingons view it with the same fond memory as humans see the guillotine,” Tigranian clarified.
“Is that the Imperial Plaza in the First City?” Tigranian asked in shock.
“It is,” Torlek said with a hint of shame.
Two figures were led out towards the platform. A woman was strapped down to the horrific device while a man was forced to kneel at her feet to watch.
“Lady Sirella!” Tigranian said watching the continuing decent into madness.
“And that’s Martok…” Annabeth said glancing down at the figure at the poor woman’s feet.
“Chancellor Martok, Commander,” Torlek said correcting her.
The boy tyrant, Morjod, strutted around the platform as if he was already invincible. A woman in a cloak behind him simultaneously encouraged his strutting while also taking the opportunity to ridicule the Chancellor, still stoically kneeling at his lady’s feet.
“Freeze, and enhance grid C-07.” Torlek said. The computer zoomed on the face of the woman.
“She seems to be pulling the strings, even with Morjod,” Mr. Scharr said.
“I think it’s far more than that, Mr. Scharr.” Tigranian said leaning forward. “Look at her crest and the crest of the traitor…they are the same.”
“What does that mean?” Katie asked.
“It’s means they’re related. Very closely related,” Laria answered her.
“Impressive, Lieutenant,” Torlek said turning to Laria. “We believe they are mother and son. The search of the facial database revealed her name as Gothmara, Daugther of Kultan…”
“Kultan died in disgrace if I remember correctly,” Tigranian said. “Something about covering up illegal biogenic experiments…”
“Yes, biogenic experiments conducted by his daughter. She disappeared when their ship was destroyed under mysterious circumstances….a ship that a young, Klingon lieutenant named Martok served on,” Torlek said.
“You mean, Chancellor Martok, General.” Annabeth interjected. He growled, but also grinned at her cheek. “The plot thickens…”
“You have not seen anything yet. Computer, continue playback.”
Suddenly, all Gre’thor broke loose. A hooded figure dove from the crowd and began cutting the Lady Sirella’s restraints. Martok climbed to his feet and grabbed a bat’leth, before Morjod thrust a mek’leth into the hooded figure’s chest. An armor plate kept the figure alive, but the figure was revealed to be Ferengi. Just as it looked as if the execution would proceed without interruption. A dozen red transporter signatures materialized around the Chancellor and Sirella. Two of them were instantly recognizable as Worf, Son of Mogh, Federation Ambassador to Qo’nos, and Drex, Son of Martok. A bird of prey with the name, “Rotarran” hovered above them.
A mighty battle erupted as Morjod’s guards were cut down by the troops loyal to Martok. The Chancellor himself grabbed a bat’leth and began slashing at the guards when suddenly half a dozen creatures, at least three meters tall appeared from the catacombs beneath the Imperial Palace. Ostensible loyal to Morjod and Gothmara, they begin killing whatever stood in their way: friend or foe. They were obviously sub-intelligent, barely able to use the weapons in their massive claws, but they were lethal none the less. They roared with terrible fangs and beady, black eyes. Just as Martok moved to slay Morjod, another hooded figure grabbed him, and the crowd of loyal heroes beamed away, the bird of prey streaking back towards orbit. The transmission ended.
“What the hell is going on in the Klingon Empire?” Alex asked in disbelief.
“I wish I could say for certain, Doctor,” Torlek said with genuine anger in his voice, “All I know is that it is treacherous.”
“Do we know where Ambassador Worf took the Chancellor and Lady Sirella?” Tigranian asked hopefully.
“No, my brother,” they have disappeared again as quickly as they were found.
“What were those animals?” Katie said turning to her captain and the general. “They seemed to be dreaded by every Klingon there.”
“Hur’q…” Laria said matter-of-factly. Everyone at the ward room table turned to her in shock. She met their gazes with her own. “A race of aliens who invaded Qo’nos four hundred years after Kahless. They plundered the planet and then disappeared after the ancient Klingons finally fought them off. However, by that time, they had completely decimated the planet. Klingons took the remains of their technology and used it to develop space flight.”
“Even more impressive, Lieutenant,” Torlek said with a grin.
“Am I the only one who payed attention in Professor Salome’s History of Alien Races class?” she said climbing out of her chair.
“Apparently so,” Scharr said flatly. Laria rolled her eyes as she walked toward the computer terminal next to the holoscreen.
“Until this terrible calamity began,” Torlek added, “everyone in the Alpha and Beta Quadrant’s thought the Hur’q to be extinct.”
“I think they still are, General…” Laria said punching a few keys.
“But we just saw them on the screen in front of us, Laria?” Phil said confused.
“And that’s why science is about paying attention to details…”
“I like the little Bajoran one, Daniel,” Torlek said leaning next to his ear. “She has spirit.” Tigranian had to smile to keep from laughing.
“What are you thinking, L?” Tigranian asked her. She was too lost in her train of thought to acknowledge anyone else yet.
“Computer,” Laria said. “Access Federation Archeological Database. Display sample of known Hur’q DNA from the excavation site on Keldis II. ” A double helix appeared on the monitor. “Alex, could you use the medical computer to display a postulated image of the species with this DNA structure?”
“Sure, just give me a few minutes,” Alex said joining Laria at the monitor. As Alex worked, Laria turned back towards the group at the table.
“The Hur’q were an advanced, warp-capable race that spread their influence across at least three known quadrants of space. Whatever those animals were on the screen, they had to use the entirety of their cognitive function just figuring out to use a disruptor rifle.”
“Got it,” Alex said. A bipedal creature appeared on the holoscreen, it shared the fur and eyes of the demonic things in the plaza, but that’s where the similarities ended. The actual Hur’q was a full meter shorter and at least hundred kilos lighter.
“Those things were genetically engineered using Hur’q DNA as a starting point, but they aren’t Hur’q,” Laria said returning to her seat with Alex.
“No, instead they were created to be the nightmare that every single Klingon child was raised to fear,” Torlek said.
“The perfect shock troops for someone who wishes to rule by terror and intimidation. All the more reason to stop him,” Tigranian said clenching his fists.
“It’s not that far of a stretch from biogenic experimentation to full genetic engineering. It looks like the daughter of Kultan is up to her old tricks again,” Annabeth said.
“It would take some pretty substantial resources to create that many full size creatures from spliced DNA…” Alex said shaking her head. “…most notably, an absolutely tremendous supply of biomimetic gel. We’re talking hundreds, maybe thousands, of liters.”
“That stuff is tightly controlled in the Federation,” Katie said.
“In the Klingon Empire as well. She could not acquire that much without being noticed.”
“Then she must be getting it from outside the empire,” Laria concluded.
“The Lissepians…” Scharr said. “They’re the only ones that could provide that much gel no questions asked. Since the end of the war, they could haul it straight across Cardassia to the Klingon Empire without any border guards or customs agents interfering.”
“The Lissepians must be providing it, but they’re cash and carry on something that hot. They wouldn’t risk getting caught by anyone…its bad for business. There’s something more going on here,” Tigranian said thinking aloud. “If we could cut off her supplies of biomimetic compounds, it could prove a very damaging blow to Morjod’s forces.
Computer, how many star systems are along the most direct route between Lissepian space and the Klingon Empire through Cardassian territory?”
“There are four star systems located along that specified route.”
“That’s where we should begin, Brother,” Tigranian said turning to Torlek.
“You will take command of the battlecruiser ghargh and begin checking those systems. I will take the rest of the Suk’Valt back to Klingon Space and begin engaging forces loyal to Morjod. We’re running out of time and must distract them from their search for the Chancellor.”
“What happened to Captain Yaghnetza?” Tigranian asked.
“Before we left Ty’Gokor, the head of her house declared his fealty to Morjod. Rather than betray me, she came to my quarters and asked for Mauk-to’Vor. She now sails with the Black Fleet, but still has her honor.”
“You killed her?” Phil asked in disbelief. “One of your own commanders?”
“Don’t try to apply Federation values to it,” Phil. “It was the right thing to do,” Tigranian replied calmly.
“I’m sorry,” Laria said raising up her hand. “Was I the only one who heard the phrase, ‘take command of the battlecruiser?”
“You don’t miss a thing to you, Laria?” Tigranian said with a grin.
“It’s a good question, Sir,” Annabeth said concerned.
“You and the Pershing can’t come along, Annabeth.” Tigranian said. “The Federation refuses to get involved and won’t let anyone from Starfleet get involved either.”
“Excuse me, Sir, but aren’t you a Starfleet officer?”
Tigranian gently removed the comm badge from his uniform and placed it on the table.
“Not right now…” He looked towards the ceiling. “Computer, this is Captain Daniel Tigranian. Effective 1750 hours, Commander Annabeth Geist assumes command of U.S.S. Pershing, NCC-19860. Transfer all command codes, authorization, Tigranian Omega 3-6 Tango.”
“Authorization accepted. All command codes transferred.”
The entire table sat in stunned silence. Torlek climbed to his feet.
“I am returning to the HoS. I will signal the ghargh to prepare for your arrival.” Tigranian stood to meet him. They locked hands.
“If we do not meet again in this life, then in Sto’Vo’Kor, my brother.”
“Qapla’” they uttered simultaneously. Torlek headed for the transporter room.
Tigranian looked around the table. He made eye contact with each speechless individual before following.
* * * *
Tigranian stepped off the bridge and into the turbolift.
“Deck Two.” As the doors closed, a hand reached inside and forced them open, nearly knocking the sliding portal off its tracks. Annabeth stepped inside and allowed the lift to close.
“You’re mad aren’t you?” Tigranian asked not turning his head. The turbolift didn’t make it more than ten centimeters.
“Hold!” Annabeth screamed bringing the car to a screeching halt. “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!”
“You’re god damn right I’m mad! After all the work we did to get this ship spaceborne, you just walk away like it’s all meaningless.”
“Resume,” Tigranian said calmly. “That cannot be further from the truth, Annabeth, and you know it.” The lift made it almost a whole meter this time.
“Hold! The tell me why you just let a foreign military leader waltz onto the bridge of the Federation’s most advanced vessel, used Federation resources to fight a coup directly contravening the Prime Directive we all swore to uphold, and then turned over command of the ship to me without so much as asking me first?”
“I really don’t have time for this, Annabeth. Every second we let Morjod grow stronger could be another week before I return. Resume.”
“Hold!! Computer, lock Turbolift Alpha, command authorization, Geist Whiskey 8-2 Bravo!”
“Command Authorization accepted. Captain’s override required to reactivate turbolift.”
“Shut up, Dan! I’m not the captain. You are! Or have you forgotten about your responsibility to this crew because a Klingon from a past life tells you to pick up a bat’leth?”
“No,” Tigranian said looking away, trying to keep his voice calm.
“Oh, you look upset, Sir! I guess we should be careful because the way you were talking to Phil in there, you might send us all to the ‘Black Fleet’ as well!”
Tigranian slowly turned to her.
“I haven’t forgotten about this crew at all, Annabeth. In fact, I left them in the care of the person on this ship I trust the most…” It was Annabeth’s turn to look away. “…and Torlek is by no means from a past life. He’s my family and needs my help. I seem to remember a certain commander telling me a little over a month ago about how she corrected her mistake of choosing career over someone she loved…”
“That’s a low blow, Dan…”
“So were all of yours.”
“How long will you be gone?”
“Could be a long time…possibly the longest time.” She had seen Torlek’s reports on the size of Morjod’s fleet and knew what he meant.
“Tell me, Sir, if it does come to that, would like us to honor you with a Federation or Klingon memorial service?” she said, her voice dripping with scorn. “I thought I had performed enough of them for friends during the war, but what’s one more for old time’s sake?”
“Klingons don’t have memorial services, Annabeth,” Tigranian replied. “They honor their dead with celebration because they know they gave their life for something they believed in.”
“Computer, unlock Turbolift Alpha and resume, authorization, Geist Whiskey 8-2 Bravo.”
“Authorization accepted. Turbolift unlocked.” They started moving again.
“Then, you better make damn sure you believe in it, Daniel. Because I don’t…” The lift reached Deck Two and the doors opened. Annabeth stormed out leaving Tigranian alone.
* * * *
Tigranian finished buckling his wide belt over his dk’tagh sheath’s chain and adjusted the disruptor holster on his left hip. He then reached for his leather gauntlets and slid them over his wrists. Walking over to his mirror, he checked the fit of his grey and black armor. Too tight, it would restrict movement during a fight, too loose and it would provide no protection. The rank bars on his right chest caught his eye. It was the first time he ever wore the rank of HoD…Captain…while in full battle armor.
Finally, he reached for two silver badges on the table: the first was the tIq ghob, or Heart of Virtue: tri-foil symbol of the Empire and the Defense Forces. He attached it proudly to his right arm. Next, came something even more special. It was a simple sterling badge, about ten centimeters across, composed of two downward facing talons superimposed on each other. That one, earned with pain, blood, and battle went onto his left arm.
His door chimed.
“Come in,” he said with a sigh, fully expecting another angry crew member to lambast him with accusations of abandonment. The doors parted and Laria stepped inside.
“Wow…” she uttered quietly, first glimpsing his new outfit.
“If you’re coming to convince me not to go, save your breath, Lieutenant,” he said not looking away from the mirror. “I’ve already gotten an earful from Commander Geist, Doctor Hunter, and Lieutenant Lexington. Mr. Scharr said I deserved the Klingons because I was just as heartless as they were. I suppose that’s fondness in a cold, Andorian way.”
“I’m not here to convince you to stay…in fact, I’m here to say that I’m glad you’re going…”
“And I thought Mr. Scharr was cruel in his goodbye.”
“No, no, Sir, that’s not what I meant.” Laria said a little flustered. “I am actually glad you’re going.” This piqued Tigranian’s interest.
“Really?” he said surprised.
“When I was growing up,” Laria began somewhat nervously, “my parents followed the Prophets very devoutly. I never understood it at the time. In fact, it made me angry. I wasn’t even sure if they were real, and if they were, why would they abandon Bajor to the Cardassians? I even stopped wearing this for awhile,” she said stroking her earring. “But after I got to the Academy, I had never felt so alone like I did Plebe Year. Even though I was a Federation citizen, I still felt like an outsider that didn’t belong. That’s when I truly found the Prophets. They were of me, just as they were of Bajor. They gave me strength to complete my journey. I am Bajoran first, but still can be a Starfleet officer.”
Tigranian gently nodded in understanding.
“If you feel like your responsibilities to your Klingon family are this important, you have to go fight for them.”
“Thank you, Laria.”
“That symbol on your arm,” she said pointing to the talons. “I’ve never seen it before. What does it mean?”
“It’s the symbol of the House of Torlek, my house.”
“Well, may the Prophets guide you and your house.” Before he could say anything in reply, she turned and disappeared out the door.
Tigranian stepped over to his bed and picked up a worn Starfleet issue duffel bag. He then grabbed his bat’leth from the wall and headed down the corridor.
When he stepped into the transporter room, he stopped in surprise. The entire senior staff, including Annabeth, was standing there. Scharr himself was at the controls.
“We couldn’t let you go without saying goodbye, Sir,” Katie said. You’re still a part of this family too.” Tigranian smiled as he climbed onto the transporter pad.
“Sir!” Annabeth called out to him.
“Yes, Number One?”
“You look ready,” she said with a grin. “Qapla’”
“Qapla’, to you all. Energize.”