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Penthath System: United Federation of Planets

Tigranian sat in his ready room examining the ship's daily efficiency reports. He had offered Annabeth another few days off, but she had insisted on doing them. She claimed, "It would help her stay focused." It was the least he could do to read them.

He glanced over his shoulder and caught site of the HoS sailing a few hundred kilometers away. They would reach Vulcan in two days. The Pershing would turn for Omicron. Torlek and Elessa would continue towards the homeworld.

Suddenly, the doors to his ready room opened without a chime. Torlek stormed in. He had no idea how his brother had managed to circumvent the ship's security protocols, but he had long ago learned to never underestimate the abilities of the Son of Ro'vagh.

As soon as Tigranian saw the look on Torlek's face, his heart sank. The captain rose from his desk.

"What happened, Brother?"

Torlek's eyes looked at him from underneath his graying mane and fierce crest.

"There has been an attempt on the chancellor's life. An armed platoon of qutluchpu managed to breach the palace and attacked him as he prayed. The Yan'Isleth fought them off and the chancellor is unharmed, but I must return to Qo'nos immediately."

"Who was behind it?" Tigranian asked as if he didn't already know the answer.

Torlek's shoulders sank.

"One of the assassins was branded with the crest of the Duras," he replied.

Tigranian sank back down into his chair and turned to face the stars behind him. His gnawing fears were confirmed.

"The Romulans…" he said steepling his fingers.

Tigranian's intercom chimed.

"Geist to Tigranian."

"Go ahead, Number One," he replied tapping his comm badge.

"Priority One Message from Admiral Murphy. He wants to talk to you and Governor Torlek now." The captain and his brother exchanged telling glances.

"Annabeth, put him through to my ready room."

The Pershing's senior staff sat around the ward room table. They had no idea what this emergency meeting was about, but knew that Tigranian had called it as soon as he got off subspace with Starfleet Command.

Annabeth stared across the table toward Alex's empty seat and wrung her hands. Whatever was going on, she hoped that Alex and Max would arrive at Earth safely in blissful ignorance. Phil and Katie also sat silently while Scharr studied a set of engineering schematics on a PADD. Laria leaned back in her seat and rested a hand underneath her chin. Of all the people in the room, Annabeth felt for her the most. When the unexpected hit this ship, it usually meant that her husband was about to disappear for several weeks.

The doors parted and Tigranian and Torlek entered. Annabeth was about to call the room to attention, but Tigranian waved her off. He didn't even take his seat at the table. Instead, he merely leaned on the back of his chair while Torlek loomed behind him.

"Dan," Annabeth said what everyone in the room was thinking. "What is going on?"

The captain spent the next few minutes explaining the assassination plot, as well as the House of Duras' historical connections to the Romulan Star Empire.

"I understand why the Klingons are on alert right now," Scharr said as his antennae curled in confusion, "but with respect to Governor Torlek here, what does this have to do with us?"

Tigranian sighed and looked down at the carpet before continuing.

"Starfleet Intelligence thinks the attempt of Chancellor Martok's life might be part of a larger Romulan plot to destabilize the Federation/Klingon Alliance…"

"When the Duras are involved, it usually is…" Torlek muttered.

"As I explained to Admiral Yoshizaki, it is very common for former retainers of discommended houses to take free-lance jobs as qutluch. It could just be a coincidence," Tigranian said with an obvious amount of frustration in his voice.

"We cannot take that risk, Brother, and you know it," Torlek replied. Tigranian sighed and continued.

"Admiral Paris wants a Starfleet Officer working the investigation in the Klingon Empire. He and the rest of the staff think this is important enough to warrant a joint operation."

Laria shut her eyes and cursed under her breath.

"When do you leave?" she asked staring back at him. He looked at her and shook his head.

"I'm not going anywhere," Tigranian said. "With all the political heat from the Romulans and civilian watch-dogs after the scientist rescue debacle, Admiral Paris wants me glued into my chair on the bridge and nowhere else."

"Wow," Annabeth said with an exasperated chuckle. "For once I agree with the Admiralty…"

"Then who are they going to send?" Laria asked. "Not some staff flunkie from Starfleet Intelligence who speaks Klingon with a Tellurite accent, I hope."

Tigranian lifted his gaze and looked right into her eyes.

"They're sending you," he said painfully. The table went dead silent.

"ME?" Laria said in complete shock. "I just started learning Klingon. I've barely gotten past how to how to order food in a restaurant!"

"You are a Starfleet Officer and a member of my house," Torlek replied. "Our family connections can gain you access to places that even Ambassador Worf cannot go."

"Still, I'm a scientist, not an intelligence or security officer," she said shaking her head.

"You are a member of the Order of the Bat'leth and a former warship commander!" Torlek said loud enough to get her attention. "Gather what you need and then beam aboard the HoS. We sail for Qo'nos in one hour. Don't bother packing Starfleet uniforms. Elessa is preparing more appropriate clothing for you," he briefly paused. "You will need your mek'leths, though." The old Klingon placed an understanding hand on Tigranian's shoulder before heading out the doors towards the transporter room.

The room was still silent. First Alex was gone and now Laria was leaving. Tigranian walked over, gently lifted the Bajoran out of her chair, and then kissed her lips. He then took two steps back and placed his fist over his heart.

"Qapla' Laria, Daughter of Amira, my wife and strength," he said firmly. "Come back with your honor, or not at all." Once again, he knew it was his duty to say goodbye.

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