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Early the next morning, Tigranian sat in deep mediation back on the Pershing's holodeck. He decided he wanted to be alone, and had told the computer to delete the monks. He sat by himself on Qo'nos' eastern islands, chanting his mantra:

"Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je, Qu' batlh matlh je…"

The doors behind him opened and he heard the deep thud of Klingon bootprints.

He ceased his chant, but kept his eyes closed.

"My crew knows to disturb me while I'm on the holodeck…" the captain muttered.

"Luckily," Torlek replied as the doors disappeared into the computer generated environment. "I'm not a member of your crew, ToDSaH. I would have never pegged you as a mystic, Daniel."

Tigranian kept his hands pressed tightly together attempting to maintain his calm.

"Call it what you will, My Brother, but it's working. If it wasn't, after last night, I would have drunk myself to Gre'thor's gates."

"The Chancellor approved of Starfleet's plan. Probably because you spoke of it so confidently."

"He also said I should have my eyes plucked out and eaten by bokrats…"

"You knew he would be upset by the secrecy. He doesn't even like his own intelligence agents."

"Still, it makes me feel dirty to conceal secrets from my people."

"Enough, Daniel. I made sure you paid your penance. You are free and clear of shame. Now, the Federation and Empire are united against a common foe because of your efforts. That carries great honor."

"As long as Starfleet keeps its obligations. It will mean a lot to their council that you'll be there when we contact them. Their struggle will now have hope."

"It will be a long and arduous path," Torlek said taking a seat on the rock next to Daniel. They stared out at the roaring sea together. "Chancellor Martok said he will not even propose their annexation to the High Council until they prove their worth."

"I have no doubt they will, Brother."

"You have a lot of faith in a group of strange aliens, Daniel," Torlek said in a cautionary tone. "Do not let them break your spirit if they fail."

"They will not fail, Torlek," Tigranian said running his strand of prayer beads through his fingers. "I have fought at their side. I have seen their hearts. All they want is to be free and united with those that share their faith."

Torlek paused at those words.

"Say they do succeed and are annexed into the Empire? What then?" he asked.

"What do you mean?" Tigranian replied.

"Daniel, they worship Kahless, they may even fight with honor, but do you think they will be treated as our equals? Even under the Martok reforms, they will not be able to hold seats on the High Council."

"I am treated as an equal!" Tigranian countered.

"That is different," Torlek said shaking his head. "You are a part of an established Great House whose leader has this on his forehead," the Governor pointed to his pronounced ridges. Rellas and the others will be jeghpu'wI' like Akros.

The best they can hope for is to be janissaries or Imperial Auxiliaries. Do you really believe they will ever command Klingon warriors in battle? Captain Klingon warships? No, they will be looked down on with scorn. We do not embrace other cultures, we conquer them!"

"A century ago when the three Dahar Masters faced the Federation across the Neutral Zone, did any Klingon think that a human would ever complete the Rites of Ascension? Earn his place in a Great House? Yet here I sit.

I have done all you've said and more, Torlek. The Empire has evolved and will continue to evolve. I beseech Kahless the Unforgettable to guide us to our future with honor and that Rellas, Tulan, Grisgok…even that bastard Onorok can all be a part of it."

Torlek looked into his brother's eyes.

"Daniel, it is obvious you are still struggling with what the green bloods did to you…" he paused. "What she did to you…" Tigranian clenched his jaw. He was thankful that Torlek sensed not to mention that Romulan harpy's name in his presence. "…and yet you have continued to serve both your nation and the Empire. No one can say that you haven't earned a bit of respite from this chaos.

I will be returning to Qo'nos tonight. Let me take you and Laria home for a few months, perhaps a whole turn. If you want to practice Mok'bara, visit the Eastern Islands and mediate on the Daj qeylIS qaD with the monks, or merely work on starting a family, it doesn't matter. However, if you stay here, keep pushing yourself to these limits, I fear you will falter."

"How can you say that?" Tigranian said with genuine rage. "I am a Klingon Warrior! This is a test of my spirit. If I run, I am only proving that I am unworthy of all that I have earned. I would be proving that I am unworthy of your trust!"

"There is nothing left to prove, Daniel, to me or anyone else. Besides, you wouldn't be gone forever."

"Who would captain my ship? Lead my crew?"

"The Daughter of Geist is a captain in need of a ship. Perhaps you should pass the command to her? It would not be a dishonor to recognize her excellence. I'm sure your superiors in Starfleet would agree."

"No," Tigranian said flatly. He remembered Annabeth chastising him for only being in the ship's brig ten days. "My place is on my bridge, Brother. Besides, Annabeth is facing her own challenge right now."

"Because she is with child…" Torlek said turning back towards the sea.

"How did you know that?" Tigranian turned to him in shock.

Torlek scoffed.

"I may be going gray, but my intuition is sharper than ever, Little Pup. Don't forget who taught you how to be Klingon." He paused. "And you're the father, aren't you?"

Tigranian had recently learned a valuable lesson about keeping information from the head of his house.

"Yes…"

"I assume that Laria knows?" Torlek said raising one his pronounced eyebrows.

"Of course she does!" Tigranian replied with scorn at the insinuation he could be unfaithful. "I assure you, there was no dishonor in the act. It was merely a donation to a couple needing help to conceive."

"Donation or not, did you explain to the wives that their child has Klingon blood in its veins?"

"It is their child, Torlek," Tigranian said with warning in his voice. "If they do not want it raised in our ways…"

"You and any child you father are members of my house. How you raise them is not your decision," Torlek interjected.

"You're right," Tigranian replied. "It's theirs…"

"If it grows up in ignorance and dishonor than it will reflect on both of us!"

"Do you really think that Annabeth and Alex would let that happen?"

The Klingon pursed his lips.

"No, they wouldn't," he finally admitted. "But can you imagine a worse fate than being born Klingon and not knowing it?"

"You talk of how Rellas and the others would be merely jeghpu'wI', but how a human child born of humans must be raised Klingon…" Tigranian muttered.

"Watch your tone with me, Brother." Torlek cautioned with a raised finger. "You were baptized with Klingon blood which will be passed to your offspring. That is the way of things."

Tigranian turned back towards the pounding surf and looked down at the small tIq ghob on the end of his prayer beads.

"It is THEIR child, My Brother," he said to himself as much as Torlek.

Torlek shut his eyes and then opened them in frustration. He silently rose to his feet and turned his back on Tigranian.

"That is what human society expects you to say, Daniel, but we are not human. We are Klingons. Our strength comes from our bond with our people."

"What would you have me do, Torlek? I have no authority in this matter," Tigranian said turning around to face the towering warrior.

"If Captain Geist and Doctor Hunter will raise the child, so be it. They are honorable women. But I implore you, open their eyes as yours were once opened.

I will see you on the surface again when we speak to your friends in the Romulan Empire. My offer to take you home remains open, especially now with your ardent desire to abandon your offspring."

Tigranian winced at is brother's verbal blow.

Without another word, Torlek departed and the captain was again alone with this thoughts.


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