USS Europa, Sickbay
Lar’ragos sat up a little higher on the biobed. “So, how big a hash of things did I make with the Klingons?” he asked, his face an unaccustomed mix of contrition and embarrassment.
“The Brigadier hardly batted an eyelash, Captain,” Wu replied, seating herself on a stool next to Pava’s bed. “He says you two will have it out later. In the interim, however, he’s focused on our mutual assignment of coaxing the Amon… Sandhurst’s Amon, into making an appearance.”
“What’s Command’s take on all this?” he inquired.
“Gan’Louk has T’Cirya’s sanction to be out here, and Galaxy Station says to give the Klingon Expeditionary Force full cooperation. As for your little dust-up with him, I’ve neglected to mention that to Command.”
Lar’ragos was not one given easily to expressions of shock, but his countenance registered his surprise. “Really?”
“As far as I’m concerned, sir, it’s a personal matter between you and the brigadier.”
He took a moment to process that. “I appreciate that, Wu.”
“One thing in return,” she countered. “You can’t ever call me, ‘First’ again.”
His ironic smile was confirmation enough, but still he added, “Done and done, Commander.” Lar’ragos slid his legs over the edge of the bed and pulled himself up into a sitting position.
“Sir? Going somewhere?”
A small sigh escaped Lar’ragos. “Time to go and try to fix things with the Kling…” he trailed off. “No, that’s not right. I need to mend an old rift with my son.”
* * *
Lar’ragos entered, flanked by two Klingon commandos, both of whom evidenced a casual lethality that was unnerving in its subtlety. Given that their race was not partial to restraint, the silent professionalism of these men spoke volumes about their leader, Brigadier Gan’Louk.
Gan’Louk rose to his feet at the El Aurian’s arrival. The Klingon stood a good thirty centimeters taller than the Starfleet officer, and outweighed him by at least fifteen kilograms.
The general dismissed the commandos with a wave of his hand, his flinty expression regarding Lar’ragos with undisguised distaste.
“Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Brigadier,” Lar’ragos began.
Gan’Louk merely stared, scrutinizing Lar’ragos as one might do an insect under glass.
Lar’ragos met the larger man’s gaze, and just like that, all diplomatic pretense and military protocol dropped away, collapsing into an emotional chasm half a century in the making.
“It’s time for truth between us,” Lar’ragos said simply.
“By all means,” Gan’Louk spat in Klingon. “Speak and begone!”
Lar’ragos walked across the seized office that Gan’Louk employed as the headquarters of his expeditionary force’s occupation of the alien world. He took a long moment to pour himself a goblet of bloodwine from a bottle prominently displayed on a counter top. As he did so, Lar’ragos noted, “In all my four-hundred years, I have taken only one wife. Your mother. I despair that you never knew her.”
“One of your Klingon ‘toys’?” Gan’Louk sneered, turning Pava’s own words against him.
“If I led you to believe that, then I have yet another sin to atone for.” Lar’ragos turned around to face the general, taking a draught of the bloodwine. “Good. This is the ’38.”
“You left her to die at the hands of a rogue house,” Gan’Louk countered. “Love must have a different meaning in your peoples’ tongue.”
people,” Lar’ragos corrected. “You’re half El Aurian, as much as you’ve tried to hide that fact.”
“You know full well that I’ve buried the truth of my mixed heritage. Do have done otherwise would have meant certain death.”
Lar’ragos raised the goblet in a wordless concession of Gan’Louk’s assertion. “I know what you were told. However, I did not leave her to die, and she was never in the hands of House Ket. She was seized by your uncle while I was away fighting the Tholians with the Defense Forces. You only survived because your nurse and a handful of your family’s loyal bodyguards spirited you away from Qo’noS.”
“Je’Korl?” Gan’Louk frowned. “You dare accuse the man who raised me of killing his own sister?”
Lar’ragos took another long drink from his flagon of bloodwine, girding himself. “After your grandfather’s death, Je’Korl was free to act without restraint. He’d protested my marriage to Kelendra from the beginning, and only his father’s iron will stayed his hand. The old warrior died while I was away on the Gossamer Campaigns, and your uncle took control of the house.”
“Lies,” Gan’Louk seethed, but there was a noticeable trace of uncertainty in his voice.
“I can no more lie to you than you could to me. It’s part and parcel of our gift, or our curse, depending on your perspective."
Gan’Louk turned away, his body visibly knotted with tension.
“I tried everything I could think of to rescue her, and on one occasion I very nearly succeeded. Je’Korl decided…” Lar’ragos’ voice faltered. He cleared his throat and continued, “He decided that executing Kelendra was the only way to ensure I could not recover her. The dishonor of her having taken an alien into her bed and then into their father’s house was so great that Je’Korl cut her throat with his own hands.”
Still facing away from Lar’ragos, Gan’Louk asked simply. “If what you say is true, how did I come to be raised by this very same man?”
Lar’ragos finished the wine, dropping the goblet to the floor with a metallic crash. “I joined with House Ket, your family’s ancient enemy. I was blinded by anger, desperate for vengeance, so much so that I allowed myself to be manipulated by Lord Ket. I helped to raise and train an army to destroy House Rokown, an army that Ket instead used to back K’mpec’s rise to the chancellorship.” Lar’ragos stepped over to a point just a few paces behind Gan’Louk, raising his eyes to examine a replica of Kahless’ bat’leth
that hung below a flag bearing the Klingon trefoil. He reflected silently on what the symbol and the Klingon people had once meant to him.
His voice lowered as his throat constricted with the memories of those dark days. “Ket betrayed me, captured the both of us, and handed you over to your uncle as a peace offering between your two houses. As it happened, Je'Korl had discovered that he could not have children of his own. So, raising his nephew allowed the family bloodline, however secretly tainted, to continue. Ket did make the fatal mistake of believing me too valuable to kill, insisting that I continue to train his personal guard. But by the time I escaped his clutches and took my revenge on him, you were already a young man, and you called Je’Korl ‘father.’
Gan’Louk turned slowly to face Lar’ragos, his arms folded protectively across his chest in an unconscious gesture of defensiveness. “You found me on H’atoria.”
“Your uncle sent you to the finest martial academy in the empire,” Lar’ragos acknowledged. “And they in turn just happened to hire an alien outworlder as an unarmed combat instructor.”
“That first day,” Gan’Louk said in a surprisingly gentle voice, “I sensed… something. A familiarity, a comfort in your presence that I couldn’t explain.”
“We had two good years together,” Lar’ragos admitted. “Being your personal combat tutor afforded me the kind of access that would have been impossible otherwise. To your credit, it didn’t take long before you guessed the truth.”
“I’d heard the rumors since I was old enough to talk, whispers of ‘halfbreed’ and ‘bastard’,” Gan’Louk confessed. “But I felt the connection between us, the bond of blood. Once you began to teach me to listen, and how to use that skill in battle, I knew I was not fully Klingon.” The general’s expression tightened, became tinged with suspicion. “After you’d acknowledged the truth of my heritage, helped me to hone my gifts, you left me. Again.”
Lar’ragos shook his head. “I had no choice. Je’Korl’s agents found me out. If I hadn’t fled, I’d have been killed.”
“You could not take me with you?” Gan’Louk inquired with the voice of a man, but the words sprung from the long-buried agony of the child deep within.
“Where, son?” Lar’ragos asked. It was the first time he had ever addressed Gan’Louk by that title. “Drag you with me as a refugee to the Federation? What kind of life could I have offered you? You were raised to be a soldier of the empire, to lead men in battle, to bear the crest of your house.” Lar’ragos dared to reach out, grasping Gan’Louk gently by the arm. The general stiffened, but did not otherwise resist the gesture.
“Rokown was a great and noble house,” Lar’ragos continued, “the power and resources of which you now wield as its head. I could offer you nothing comparable. Instead, I tried to impart to you the skills you’d need to secure a successful future for yourself. Tearing you away from your Klingon family and your culture would have been an act of pure selfishness on my part.”
“No,” Gan’Louk spoke quietly. “It would have been the act of a father
A long silence followed, finally broken by Lar’ragos. “I have a belly full of regrets from my life, but leaving you behind is not one of them. I look at the man you’ve become, the leader, the husband and father. You are the best parts of two worlds, Gan’Louk; you possess your mother’s soul and your father’s steel. You have all of my strengths, and none of my weaknesses.”
“Why now, Lar’ragos? What is to be served by revealing this now, of all times?”
“The Amon are coming,” Lar’ragos replied simply. “I don’t know what will happen, or that any of us will survive what’s next. I wanted you to know that whatever you think of me, I am proud to be the father of such a man.”
Gan’Louk bowed his head in acknowledgement, and when he spoke his voice with thick with emotion. “You have had your say, father. Go in peace.”
“So I have,” Lar’ragos agreed. He moved for the exit, turning back to address Gan’Louk one last time on the threshold. “May peace find us all in the days ahead.”
“Perhaps it is too El Aurian for me to say, but I wish for the same,” Gan’Louk answered.
* * *