Frontera, February 2375

Krang son of Marek of the House of Inigan was enjoying a rare off duty moment with his youngest children when the message came through. Wearing a heavy leather tunic and a pair of Terran jeans, he was sitting on the floor with his little son on his knee. The boy, Meren, named for Krang's dead brother, had his favourite toy in his tiny fist – a miniature wooden batleth that Krang had carved for him. He was almost three years old now. Two little girls were sitting with him, listening raptly as their father finished the story he was telling.

"Now, Kehlan," he asked the younger girl, "Why did Kahless fight his brother?"

The child, just five years old, concentrated, thinking about it. "Because he told a lie," she said finally.

"And that's bad?"

She nodded solemnly, "That's very bad."

"It's more than bad," Kara, the elder at six years old, added, "It's dis – honour – able."

Krang smiled at her careful pronunciation of the word. "So, what should Morath have done?" He looked up, his smile becoming broader as his Terragnan wife came into the room, interrupting the lesson.

"There's a message for you from Starfleet Command," Chrissie said, "Admiral Portway wants to talk to you. I think it's important."

"I'll take it in the office," Krang said, handing the little boy to his mother and getting to his feet. Heading towards the small room he used when working from home, he mentally reviewed what he knew of the admiral. Isis Portway was Terran, from a small island named England. Promoted to the Admiralty several years ago, there had recently been some trouble. She had been accused of having Maquis sympathies but there hadn't been enough hard evidence to convict her. Personally Krang suspected the rumours were true. Of course, with the outbreak of the Dominion war, that was water under the bridge – Starfleet couldn't afford to lose any more of its officers, especially not one so competent.

Sitting down at his desk, he activated the viewscreen, and touching a few keys, signalled acceptance of the incoming transmission.

The Federation logo flickered and was replaced by the image of a human woman wearing the uniform of a Starfleet Admiral. She looked to be in her late forties with short sandy red hair.

"NuqneH?" Krang greeted her, "You must be Admiral Portway."

She inclined her head, "That's right. And you are Commander Krang. You're out of uniform."

"I am off duty at present," Krang informed her, a little stiffly.

"As am I," the admiral sighed, suddenly looking tired. "At least I would be if the situation allowed. I'll be honest with you Commander, things aren't looking good."

"What can I do for you?" the Klingon asked gruffly.

"We need you here on Earth," Admiral Portway told him, "I want you to attend a conference with the Federation Council – try to convince them of the need to implement stricter security protocols."

"What makes you so sure they'll take any notice?" Krang said, frowning, "If they won't listen to you then why should they listen to a mere commander?"

"We both know you're not just a commander," the admiral snapped, "That may be your Federation rank, but I know, you know and they know, exactly what a Klingon Captain of Security really is." She paused. "If anyone can persuade them, you can. Will you do it?"

"It would be my honour," Krang responded.

"Good," the admiral said, a look of relief crossing her face, I've already sent Captain Kay'vin of the Hegh'Ta for you. He should reach Frontera some time tomorrow. Be ready to leave immediately he arrives."

"Very well," the Klingon said, "Krang out." He reached out and cut the connection. He was still sitting staring at the blank screen, mentally making plans, when he heard a commotion in the hallway.

"TONI, FINA!" he yelled, "Cut down that noise!" Getting up he went to greet his two older children. He was not their natural father. Antonio and Josefina were full Terran, the result of Chrissie's first marriage, but he was the only father they knew and he loved them as his own. "What are you doing home from school this early?" he asked sternly.

"Come on Vavoy," Fina said giggling, "It's 16:00, we're always home at this time."

"Except when you have dance class, or sports or batleth practice," Krang retorted, "Or any one of a hundred different activities."

"Football got cancelled," Toni informed him, "So we thought we'd come home and be a nuisance."

"That's nothing new," Krang said, laughing. "Now let's go and find your mother. I need to talk to you all."

"I'm in the kitchen," Chrissie called and they trooped in to join her, seating themselves around the table, still laughing and joking. "What did the Admiralty want?" Chrissie asked, handing drinks to her children.

"Christa, my love," Krang said to his wife, holding out a hand to her, "Come and sit down."

She did so, a flicker of concern crossing her face – Krang almost never called her by her full name and when he did it usually meant trouble. "You sound serious. What is it?

Krang took a deep breath before saying "I leave for Earth in the morning." There was a stunned silence as he told his family about his conversation with Admiral Portway.

"Cool!" Typically it was Toni who broke the silence. "Are we coming with you?"

Krang shook his head. "You'd miss too much school."

"Oh that's not fair," the boy protested, "I'll be thirteen in two weeks, you'll never be back by then."

"And I'll be eleven soon," Fina added hopefully. "Please let us come."

"I'll bring you back something special," the big Klingon promised, "And we can have a celebration when I return."

Chrissie looked at her husband gravely. "Maybe we should come with you," she said, her voice quiet.

"No!" Krang insisted, "My decision is final." Seeing the looks on their faces, he softened a little but did not change his mind. "Earth is at risk from the Jem'Hadar. I want you here on Frontera where it's safe."

Kissing his wife one last time, Krang stepped up onto the transporter pad and indicated to the operator that he was ready and moments later he materialised in the transporter room of the IKC Hegh'Ta.

Hegh'Ta, the second ship to bear that name, was the first of the new Hunter class of birds-of-prey, developed especially for the Dominion war. At 250m in length it was larger and more powerful than the older classes, although still smaller and more manoeuvrable than the great battle cruisers. It had a crew complement of sixty as well as a detachment of one hundred marines.

The ship's captain, a grizzled warrior named Kay'vin, was waiting for him.

"Security Captain!" Kay'vin said with a grin, approaching Krang and clapping him on the shoulder, "It's good to see you again. Welcome on board."

"I wish you wouldn't call me that," Krang said, frowning, "I'm just a commander – and a Starfleet one at that." Then, returning Kay'vin's grin, he continued, "But it's good to see you too, you old reprobate!"

Hitting his combadge, Kay'vin snapped an order to the bridge crew, telling them to get the ship under way, before saying to his guest, "Come on, I'll show you to your quarters – you can dump your bags there." And with a sly glance at his old friend, said, "Then, if you haven't gone soft, I have a barrel of blood-wine waiting in the mess hall."

"If that first officer of yours hasn't drunk it all yet," Krang replied, laughing. "Come on then, lead the way."

"Oh, of course. You wouldn't have heard," Kay'vin said as they walked down the corridor, "Kovak isn't with us any more. I have a new first officer."

"Tell me about it," Krang invited.

"He got into a fight on the Homeworld," Kay'vin told him, "In a brothel, I believe. So, Imperial Command sent me Ch'vok instead, arrogant targ that he is – some High Family brat who thinks he knows it all. I guarantee he won't be drinking blood-wine – I'm not convinced he even likes gagh!" He snorted his disgust. "If I get lucky, Kargan will try for promotion, and I hope he succeeds!"

Turning into another corridor, they came to a halt outside an open door. The guards, one on either side of the door, came stiffly to attention. "At ease!" Kay'vin said, but otherwise ignored them. "Well, this is it" the Klingon captain said, standing back to allow Krang to enter his sleeping quarters and then followed him inside.

Krang dumped his kit bag on the floor and surveyed the room. It was bare of furnishings other than a clothes locker, a desk containing a computer console, a chair and a hard metal slab for sleeping on. There was no insult here though; this room was no different to those used by the senior officers of the ship. Only the captain's room would be bigger, and even that would be sparsely furnished.

"Well?" The Klingon captain couldn't resist another dig at his old friend, "Think you can handle it? Or shall I order a feather mattress and some soft cushions?"

"That would be nice," Krang said, carefully keeping a straight face. He pulled out his d'k'tahg and inspected it before growling, "But if you insult me again, I'll kill you where you stand."

"You probably could at that!" Kay'vin said with a burst of laughter, waving back the concerned security guards, who had just come rushing in, believing their captain to be in danger. "I don't kid myself I could beat you in a fight. Now, how about we go and get that blood-wine!" And arm in arm the two men headed off towards the mess hall, bickering all the way.

The senior crew were already in the hall, and from the look of things, the captain's barrel of blood-wine was already half empty. Krang looked around the hall, hoping to see Kay'vin's science officer there. Kehlan had been a friend of his family for a long time, ever since she had attended a scientific conference on Frontera. His wife, heavily pregnant at the time, had been kidnapped and Kehlan, along with Kay'vin, had been instrumental in helping him find and rescue her. As a result they had named their daughter for her. Seeing her, he gave a broad smile and rushed over to her, enveloping her in a bear-hug and swinging her off her feet, before kissing her cheek and putting her down again. It was a distinctly un-Klingon greeting but Kehlan was half Terragnan and he knew she would understand. His arm draped companionably across her shoulders, he turned to greet the other officers, most of whom he had met before, although he didn't know them well.

As they returned his greeting, he became aware of someone who could only be the new first officer, and sure enough as the captain had suggested, he was not drinking the blood-wine. The stranger was staring at Krang and Kehlan in a way that Krang found slightly offensive. "I can see that you two at least, know each other," the man said, a note of sly enjoyment in his voice.

Sensing Kehlan's anger at the first officer's insinuations, he tightened his grip on her shoulder. She was more than capable of knocking the smile off Ch'vok's face, Krang knew, but the arrogant first officer really wasn't worth the effort.

"Ignore him, Kehlan," he muttered to her in a quick aside, "Don't soil your d'k'tahg on the likes of him." Then addressing the first officer, he said coolly "You must be Ch'vok. The captain has told me about you."

Sensing the unspoken warning in Krang's tone, Ch'vok gave an ingratiating smile, "Pleased to meet you Commander, let me get you some blood-wine."