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Starfleet Asteroid Outpost 5: Sector Z-6, Federation/Romulan Neutral Zone Border

The IKS nentay joined the Pershing in orbit of a rocky, airless asteroid drifting along the edge of the Neutral Zone. Tigranian and Laria appeared on the transporter pad in the outpost's main hanger. They had barely rematerialized when the harsh shrill of a bosun's whistle echoed through the room.

"Attention on Deck!" a Bolian commander in a flight suit shouted to an assembled formation of pilots, support personnel and maintenance crew. "General Daniel, Son of Tigranian, on behalf of the United Federation of Planets and Starfleet, the 46th Neutral Zone Strategic Interceptor Squadron welcomes you to Outpost Station 5!" the officer shouted. "Computer, play Four Ruffles and Flourishes!"

Immediately, the bombastic tones of a military brass band thundered out of the hanger's speaker system. This peace of ceremonial music had been played to render honors to visiting senior flag officers since before there was a United Earth. Tigranian cursed to himself and Laria took a deep breath. She knew her husband would consider this formal reception an unpleasant reminder of how Starfleet had publicly drummed him out, but now was obligated by diplomatic protocol to stand at attention and salute him. Quite frankly, it would be easier if they just ignored him.

As soon as the music stopped, Tigranian charged off the pad.

"Sir, my name is Commander Puzko Xorax. I'm the commander of the 46th and this station…"

"Commander," Tigranian said as he brusquely marched right past with Laria HoD at his side, "I appreciate the effort you all went through to put this reception together, but I'm not here for pleasantries. Dismiss your squadron and take me to him."

"Well, yes Sir," Xorax said nervously, "it's just…"

"Just what, Commander?" Tigranian said as his annoyance rose. "I travelled a very long way to get here and I don't have time for ridiculous formalities."

"Sir," Xorax continued, "we don't have a lot of dedicated security personnel on this station. We're only a border outpost. Captain Geist and the crew of the Pershing have taken over this operation. I signaled her right before you arrived and she's on her way to meet you.

I asked how we could be of assistance, and she told me to handle receiving you. I thought that this would be the most appropriate. I apologize if I offended you."

Tigranian looked over at the squadron in formation. The assemblage stared back with a mix of curiosity, anger, and disgust. All of them knew he was a former Starfleet captain. All knew he had been stripped of his uniform. Now, Tigranian also realized he was giving them all an excuse to hate him.

The general suddenly felt very small. His conflicted feelings about Starfleet aside, these men and women were just doing their job. They had no choice but to be here, and they especially didn't deserve hostility for it.

"Laria HoD," he said looking over his shoulder. "Order the nentay to fire four flares in salute of the outpost."

"jIyaj, joHwI," she nodded.

As she turned away to speak into her communicator, Tigranian turned to the formation.

"On behalf of your allies in the Klingon Empire," he said loudly enough for all to hear, "I commend you all for your dedication to preserving the security of the quadrant. Glory to you and your squadron," Tigranian added. Then, he pulled the crest of the Klingon Defense Forces off his baldric and handing it to Xorax. "Commander, please accept this as a token of the continued cooperation between our two nations. Qapla'."

"Thank you, General," Xorax said accepting it. "It's been a very good month for us. I assure you, this will have a place of honor next to the trophy we just brought back from Tellar Prime."

"Trophy from Tellar Prime?" Tigranian asked curiously. "You don't mean the 'Top Gun' trophy do you?"

"Yes Sir!" Xorax said proudly indicating two women in the front rank. "Lieutenant Vaace and Rel here are the top fighter pilots in the Federation." Quiet and Riot both smiled and nodded towards Tigranian.

"Ha!" Tigranian thought to himself. "Phil must be pissed at you two."

Suddenly, the smiles on Quiet and Riot's faces instantly disappeared.

"Oh dear," Tigranian thought. "You're both from Betazed, aren't you?"

Quiet and Riot nodded in unison.

"Congratulations…" he thought apologetically.

"General!" a voice called out from the back of the hanger. Tigranian looked up to see Annabeth moving briskly towards them with Katie at her side.

"If you'll excuse us, Commander," Tigranian said before motioning to Laria. The Klingon officers walked straight up to the captain and her security chief.

"Captain, Lieutenant," Tigranian said formally addressing Annabeth and Katie.

"If you'll come with us, please," Annabeth replied.

As soon as the Tigranians were out of sight of the station's personnel, they threw their arms around their old shipmates.

"Katie!" Laria said squeezing her tightly.

"By Kahless, it's good to see you Annabeth," Tiganian smiled as he gave Annabeth a hug. "You too, Katie," Tigranian said moving to Katie next.

"We've missed you," Laria said moving to Annabeth.

"And we've missed you," Annabeth replied. "I just wish it didn't always have to involve a Romulan connection."

"Where is Trallian?" Tigranian asked.

"This way," Annabeth said leading them down a corridor towards the habitat section of the base. "He refused to talk to anyone before you showed up. I don't think he really trusts anybody."

"He has his wife and daughters with him," Laria said. "I wouldn't either."

"I wanted to move him and his family to the Pershing," Annabeth continued, "but Starfleet Command doesn't want him on a Federation starship because of some treaty stipulation. As long as he remains in 'detention status' at a border station, the Diplomatic Corps can do some kind of legal maneuvers to keep the Romulans from immediately requesting him back."

"Bureaucracy…wonderful," Tigranian said sarcastically.

"Starfleet Intelligence is sending a special collection team all the way from Earth to interrogate them," Annabeth continued. "Admiral Yoshizaki said to watch them all like a Tarkalean hawk."

"I've got twelve security officers and the entire Marine detachment guarding this place," Katie said. "No Romulan's taking those folks out of here without a fight."

The officers rounded a corner towards the only set of guest quarters. Two marines with phasers were pulling security while their detachment commander made notes in his log.

"Well I'll be damned!" Sergeant Irabban shouted out when she saw Tigranian and Laria with Captain Geist. "Welcome back to the Fed, Sir. That's a badass beard," she added admiring his facial hair.

"It's great to see you again, Captain Tigranian," Corporal Tolmeni said adjusting his grip on his rifle. "Gym's not the same without you anymore."

"General Tigranian!" Irabban corrected him.

"Actually, it's technically General Daniel, Son of Tigranian," he chuckled, "but I'll give you both a pass this time."

His old marines' friendly faces were a welcome sight after the awkwardness with Xorax's squadron.

"Detachment, Attention!" Lieutenant Brett Hawkins said snapping a crisp salute. "General, Fleet Captain, Good morning," he said acknowledging Laria and Tigranian.

"Carry on," Tigranian said returning to the salute with a smile. "Glad to see Lady Blackjack's trigger pullers are on this job."

"You know it, Sir," Irabban said with a wink.

"Just who the hell did you bribe to get buck sergeant's stripes, Rab?" Tigranian said crossing his klongat fur-covered arms across his leather cuirass.

"She actually earned them, Sir," Hawkins chuckled. "She's really stepped up in the last few months."

"Making training schedules, running basic phaser rifle qual, going over the entire detachment's counseling packets…twice," Irabban said counting on her fingers. "I'm really doing the work of a staff sergeant. Maybe I should get a dot to go with these stripes?" she said pointing to the enlisted rank badge on her collar.

"Sergeant First Class Schultz wants to make sure you can handle E5 first and I agree with him," Hawkins replied with a smirk.

Tigranian laughed again.

"How's the fiancée doing, Brett?" he asked.

"Zhenia's doing great…" Hawkins said uncomfortably rubbing the back of his neck.

"Do I detect a little trouble in paradise?" Laria asked.

"Well, it's just that Zhenia has her heart set on a traditional Andorian outdoor wedding…in winter," he said with a deep sigh. "My family's from Texas where anything below five degrees centigrade is a state of emergency. That ain't gonna work."

"Make sure you send us an invitation," Laria said. "After being on Cardassia Prime for a year, I'd love to see some snow."

"Happy wife, happy life, Brett," Annabeth said. "Give out long underwear in the welcome baskets."

"Words to live by, Hawk. How's the security plan going?" Katie said getting back to business.

"I got the detachment on rotation switching positions randomly every forty-five minutes to an hour and a half so we don't have an observable pattern," Hawkins explained. "Two guards at the front door, two guards roving the interior of the station, and two guards in EV suits walking the asteroid surface to make sure we don't get any visitors coming in from space. I'm done checking here. Next, I'm gonna suit up and check on the team out in vacuum."

"We don't want to hold you up. Tell your platoon they're doing great things," Annabeth said.

"Thank you, Ma'am, and it's really good to see you, Sir. You too, Ma'am," he said to Tigranian and Laria before walking off towards the airlock.

"I want you in there with us," Tigranian said to Annabeth. "I don't know what he and his family want and I can't speak for Starfleet anymore."

"Alright," Annabeth agreed. "Katie, stay out in the hall. I'll let you know if we need something."

"Oh no," Katie said shaking her head. "I'm your Chief of Security and I'm not risking sending my captain alone into a room filled with Romulans and unknown intentions," she said patting the hand phaser on her waist. "Especially, considering I'm also currently responsible for the welfare of two senior Klingon officers as well."

"Katie," Annabeth said putting her hands on her hips. "It's one Romulan man, a woman, and two kids under ten years. The situation is tense enough. More armed security is not going to help."

"You two," Katie said pointing to Irabban and Tolmeni, "Put on some earmuffs!"

"We don't hear a damn thing, Ma'am," Irabban muttered as she and Tolmeni averted their gaze in opposite directions down the corridor.

"That Romulan man is as strong as the three of you combined," Katie said firmly, "his wife could break your neck with one hand, and a Romulan eight year old can still bench-press seventy kilos. You don't like it, take it up with Starfleet Security Regulations 117 through 124, Ma'am. The book backs me up here. You can court martial me if you want, but I'm going in there with you."

Then, she suddenly turned to Tigranian and Laria. "And you two, don't give me any of that Klingon warrior machismo crap either. I've known both of you long enough to understand trouble follows you like a lost puppy."

"I guess it's settled then," Tigranian said sarcastically shrugging his shoulders. "Katie's with us." Laria laughed while Annabeth rolled her eyes.

"After you, Ladies and Gentleman," Katie said inputting her access code and unlocking the door.

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