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"Dan, this is not your fault," Murphy said trying to reassure Tigranian. They stood in a hallway outside the chamber surrounded by the Pershing's officers, Detapa Councilors, and other frantic members of various diplomatic delegations.

"Whose fault is it then, Pete?" Tigranian replied shaking his head violently.

"The Romulans for one!" Laria said angrily next to him. "They were looking for an excuse to keep control over their territory long before they ever knew you existed."

"She's right, Dan," Annabeth said as well.

"The question is, 'what are we going to do about it?" Scharr said as his antennae nearly touched each other in anger.

"I'm not sure there's anything we can do right now, Commander Scharr," Murphy said dejectedly.

A door opened and President Zife, Admiral Paris, and Ambassador Jenkins walked towards them.

"I'm afraid that you won't be escorting us back to Federation space, Captain Tigranian," President Zife said with a face like stone. "An emergency session of the Federation Council has been called to discuss the way ahead."

"The Lakota will take Starfleet One back to Earth at maximum warp," Paris added.

"Yes," Jenkins said glaring at Tigranian and his crew, "and instead of staying here on Cardassia to try to repair some this catastrophic damage, I must accompany them and brief the Diplomatic Corps directly on this failure!"

Tigranian looked like he was about to explode at the ambassador, but a stern look from Paris silenced both parties.

"Prime Minister Garak has already made an emergency request for military assistance to both Starfleet and the Klingon Defense Forces in case the Romulans attempt a preemptive military reunification," President Zife added. "One of the topics at the Council meeting will be a permanent status of forces agreement between the UFP and the Republic of Cardassia. I'm afraid Starfleet won't be pulling out of Cardassia for quite some time and your ship will remain here."

"SON OF TIGRANIAN!" a booming voice caught them all off guard. Chancellor Martok stormed out into the corridor and charged straight at Tigranian with his massive cloak billowing behind him. He was followed by his aides and two Yan-Isleth honor guards.

"Chancellor!" Tigranian said straightening his back.

"What is this baktag I hear about you not attending the ceremony on Ty'Gokor?"

Everyone turned their eyes to Tigranian.

"My Lord," Tigranian said penitently. "I received permission from my brother not to attend as I felt my place was with my ship. I feel it is especially important now as the situation in Cardassian space has grown even more dire…"

"Your place!" Martok said. "Is where you can best serve. I will not have a Klingon warrior return from the dead only to hide in the shadows like a whipped grint hound."

"And he can best serve on the bridge of the Pershing since he is a Starfleet captain and an officer of the United Federation of Planets, first," Paris said curtly. Martok turned to him sharply. The harsh stare of his one eye caused even the grizzled Admiral Paris to stiffen.

"Watch your tone when you speak to me Admiral. I am Chancellor of the Klingon Empire. If I desire your opinion, I will ask for it. Otherwise, be silent in my presence or I will cut your tongue out!"

"Chancellor!" President Zife shouted. "Please, we are allies! I would ask that you refrain from making threats against my officers at once."

Martok barred his fangs and growled.

"Mr. President, no matter how long I serve with Starfleet, sometimes I forget that the Federation shows respect to superiors differently than we do. In any case, if Tigranian being on the bridge of his ship is so important, than I demand that the Pershing be dispatched to Ty'Gokor at once. If anything else, consider an important sign of solidarity to the unbreakable alliance between our peoples."

"Chancellor," President Zife said. "Starfleet needs every ship available to protect Cardassia at the current time…"

Martok held up a hand to silence him.

"Please do not patronize me, President Zife. We both know there are twenty other Federation starships that could hold the line while the Pershing is at Ty'Gokor for two weeks. If you are that afraid of the Romulans, I will dispatch two more Strike Fleets to take Tigranian's place." Martok turned, looked at Laria, and grinned. "After all, nothing kills Romulans more effectively than Klingon steel."

"Well, if it means that much to you…" President Zife said.

"Consider it a personal request from me on behalf of my Chief of Staff."

"Very well then," President Zife said turning to Paris. "Admiral Paris, please adjust our fleet movements accordingly. Captain Tigranian, I am treating this as a goodwill mission to the Klingon Empire. Please comport yourself to the highest levels of diplomatic courtesy."

"Yes, Sir," Paris and Tigranian replied in unison.

"Very well, Ambassador Jenkins and I will immediately return to Starfleet One and await the Lakota's signal to depart. Chancellor," Zife said nodding to Martok before disappearing down the corridor with Jenkins.

"The Sword of Kahless sails for Ty'Gokor in one hour," Martok said to Tigranian. "I expect your ship to be beside it."

"Yes, Chancellor," Tigranian said respectfully. "Glory and Honor to the Klingon Empire."

"Glory and Honor to the Empire," Martok replied before disappearing with his entourage down the corridor.

Paris and Murphy turned to Tigranian.

"Gentlemen, I apologize," Tigranian said preemptively. "It was not my intention for this to happen and I never requested to attend…"

This time, it was Paris' turn to raise a silencing hand. He motioned for Tigranian and Murphy to join him just out of earshot of the rest of the crew.

"Mr. Tigranian, though I often find myself frustrated with you, I understand that in this particular instance, you are not at fault. However, you are still one of MY captains. My patience with the particular idiosyncrasies of your command is wearing thin. Am I understood?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good," Paris said. "Now, go represent the Federation at Ty'Gokor and show the Klingons that Starfleet can be just as formidable as them. Qapla'."

"Thank you, Sir," Tigranian replied gratefully.

"Pete, I'll be waiting for you on the Lakota." Paris said before departing. Murphy looked at Tigranian and shook his head.

"You certainly have a way with dignitaries, Dan."

Tigranian sighed and rubbed his eyes.

"Sometimes I just don't know which world I belong in, Pete."

Murphy put a hand on his shoulder.

"I think all you can do is plant a firm foot in both and hold on for dear life."

A few steps away, Laria looked on the exchange between her husband and Murphy when suddenly, the crowds in the hallway fell silent. A few individuals gasped, others shouted in anguish as Vrnealious, flanked by two Praetorian Guards with teral'ns emerged and confidently strode through the corridor to the building's transporter room.

The Romulan proconsul smiled from ear to ear and Laria felt her blood grow hot. As Vrnealious passed, her hand flashed outward and grabbed his arm. The two Praetorians extended their teral'ns and placed the blades at her throat. She was not dissuaded as she turned to face to the Vrnealious. She returned his wide grin.

"You must be either very brave or very stupid, girl," he whispered. The hallway was now silent as everyone else struggled to hear the exchange.

"When you get back to Romulus, tell the praetor that his wife died how she lived: like a bitch," Laria replied not changing her happy expression.

"Just because we can't strike at you publicly, does not mean that we are incapable of operating in the shadows."

"Lieutenant Tigranian!" the captain shouted at Laria from a few meters away before Paris got involved. She immediately released her grip and Vrnealious motioned to his guards to drop their weapons.

"This isn't over," the Romulan said with a polite bow of his head.

"You know where to find me," Laria replied with a bow of her own.

Vrnealious turned to continue to his exit, but now with a scowl where his smirk had been.


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