Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Trek: The Next Generation belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Gene Roddenberry.

The transmission came just as the H'Grot entered into orbit over Qo'noS.

"Energy traces confirm plasma torpedoes of Romulan origin," said Sa' Martok. "Plasma exhaust traces indicate a Romulan ship, but in such small amounts that the findings are inconclusive. Of the human artifact, we barely detected the remaining particles. I have alerted the ships patrolling the Neutral Zone, but there are no reports of activity or even of a Romulan presence."

"Is it possible that the Romulan ship was an outlier?" Haragga had been reflecting on the possibility. "I found it strange that even Romulans would use unmarked and unidentifiable ships but deploy commandos. Perhaps they crossed Federation space."

"It could be." By the general's expression, he had been thinking the same thing. The Federation could posture all they wanted, but the fact remained that a cloaked ship could still evade border security with relative ease. "However, as of this time we have no leads with which to continue the search. Except the human."

Here was the meat of it. "She is recovering much more quickly than her injuries would suggest. However, my medical officer advises me that the brain damage has most likely affected her memories."

"She remembers nothing?"

"I...have not yet determined this, Sa'."

Martok only looked at him. He looked at Haragga for so long that Haragga began trying to work out who on the crew was sending the general covert reports before dismissing such an unworthy surmise. "HoD, it may be that this is of no consequence to the Empire, a separate matter between the Federation and the Romulans. If this is so, then there is nothing else to do but turn the human over into Federation custody."

"Sa', I object." Haragga set his jaw. "I am vavneS."

"I have heard you!" Martok scowled. "You cannot mean to keep her, Haragga!"

"I mean to do my duty, and to fulfill the obligations of honor." It was on the tip of Haragga's tongue to tell Sa' Martok of the battle aboard the human vessel, to tell him of the precipice that the Empire might be nearing and all his suspicions. Yet he managed to restrain himself. "General, you have contacts in the Federation, contacts who have connections in the Star Empire. I request that you use them."

"You overstep yourself, son of Hij'Qa," growled Sa' Martok, tones perilously low.

"I serve the Empire above all else!" Haragga struggled to keep his temper in check. "I myself will contact the Federation ambassador to Qo'noS. If they can produce this human's House, then I will cede my rights and quit my claim."

"Humans do not have Houses," said Martok, but the threat that had filled his terrible face was beginning to subside. "They do have family, though it is not as you or I would mean family." The general now looked almost resigned, if irritated. "You will speak to Ambassador K'Ehleyr?"

"I will."

"So be it." Sa' Martok fixed his excoriating glare on Haragga. "But you will abide by the results."

"I will do as I have said I will do," said Haragga, refusing to yield the point.

"Proceed cautiously, son of Hij'Qa." Martok's expression was blackly premonitory. "You serve well, despite your own connections, and I know you for a man of honor. Eccentricity is one thing; insubordination another. Take my counsel, Haragga. When the time comes, let this matter go."

The transmission ended.

Almost immediately, there was an alert. "HoD, I have received the specifications for the diagnostics and necessary pathologies. I am prepared to administer the test."

"I am on my way."

Sa' Martok was an honorable man, a leader and warrior without parallel in the Empire. Should it all end in disgrace, Haragga would not pull the House of Martok down with him.

The infirmary was crowded—Kahmar was there, along with Goroth and the human. "Kahmar, take the bridge and lock down the ship."

Kahmar turned truculent. "Captain, I request—"

"Get out!"

By the expression on his face, Haragga could see that the lieutenant was not offended, only frustrated. But he would not disobey a direct order; Kahmar went out of the infirmary, practically scuffing the deck with his feet. He would do his duty, Haragga was confident, even if it meant his death.

Haragga turned to the human, who was sitting on the biobed, her back to the bulkhead.

The girl immediately bared her teeth at him. She looked pleased with herself when he put his hand on her head.

The more he looked at her, the less ugly she became. She'd begun stringing tlhIngan words together, mostly mouthing gibberish but occasionally producing a babyish sentence. By Goroth's estimate, given another day or two, she might be at the level of a two-year-old, and in a few weeks perhaps she'd be closer to her own age. She showed no signs of speaking Federation Standard.

"Captain," said Goroth, "there is something else. I have been accessing our the Enclave's database, and it seems I miscalculated her age. She is in her twenties, not her adolescence."

"Her twenties?"

"The human rate of maturity is more gradual than ours. And her size is misleading."

A woman, not a child. Haragga removed his hand from her head.

There were no plasma grenades. No bared meqleH. Goroth remained intransigent on his conclusion that she was no Augment, and despite all contrary details, Haragga was beginning to believe it. He wanted to believe it, which was why he'd insisted on the procedure. This final test would provide the proof he needed to dismiss all doubts, to disarm the ship, and to show Sa' Martok if it came to that.

Yet if she was not an Augment, then there was no explanation for her regenerative abilities, or why the Romulans would go so far in trying to capture or destroy her. And if she was surrendered into Federation hands, then they would probably never know.

Something warm touched his hand, clutched at his fingers.

Haragga looked down. The human had put her hand in his, and he could hear her growling softly.

"You should have had children, HoD," Goroth said, glancing over from calibrating his detronal scanner. "I think it will be difficult for you when the Federation takes her back."

If this test proved her genetically untampered, then he ought to take her from the ship and into a medical facility in the First City near his own home, until her own came to claim her. Sa' Martok had more or less ordered him to relinquish her at the first opportunity, and restoring her to her kin would fulfill the requirements of honor. There was no point in getting attached.

She was human. She belonged with other humans. She would test negative, he would contact the Federation ambassador as Sa' Martok wanted, and then all would be as it was.

It would be as if he had never seen what he had seen on that derelict Terran vessel, in the small hand on the warrior's knife.

"Perhaps," said Haragga, and did not pull his hand away.

End of SuvwI', 1st in the SuvwI' series.

Continued in tlhIngan, 2nd in the SuvwI' series.