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Part of Challenger: Birds Of A Feather

SEVEN

Challenger NX-03, in orbit of Archer IV
Sunday, March 2nd, 2155
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“Once again Ambassador, thank you.” 

“My pleasure Captain Burton.” Ambassador Margerit said with a sincere smile. “I do not believe that is the last we have heard of the Romulans. I only fear what else they have to throw at us. This is the beginning of something ugly with the Romulans. Mark my words!”

Burton nodded with a grimace expression. “For our sakes Ambassador I hope you’re wrong and we can find a peaceful solution, if that’s possible with the Romulans.”

“One day perhaps but not today and to coin the phrase your good Secretary Campbell used on our recent diplomatic mission, I wouldn’t bet on it.” Margerit said, shaking her index finger in the air. 

“Talking of which I hear congratulations are in order. The Denobulans are returning to the table for the talks to sign the Coalition Compact.” Burton offered as they continued on their walk down the corridors of E deck towards the starboard docking port.

Margerit inclined her head. “I wouldn’t applaud just yet, Captain. They still need to have their referendum and I fear that the incident that has happened here may not force the others to rush the signing ahead. It’s a possibility that the Denobulans and other races that are reluctant to sign now will be late signatories.”

“So where are you heading now? Back to Earth?” Burton asked.

“No I’ll be heading back to Andoria. I need to focus my efforts on my campaign to win the Chancellorship in the upcoming election.” She replied as they turned down another corridor. “However we are travelling back with the T’Paal for part of our journey. I believe a member of your crew has requested temporary quarters on the Kemaree for part of our journey before transferring to the T’Paal.”

Reluctantly nodding to the fact, Burton answered. “Yes, my former chief helm officer is taking leave and is returning home to deal with some family and personal matters.”

The two leaders soon approached the docking port hatch and stopped in their tracks. Burton turned to the ambassador and extended his hand to shake hers. “Again thank you for all your help Madam Ambassador. We owe you one.”

Margerit took his hand and clasped it firmly. “It was a pleasure captain and I look forward to the next time we meet. Perhaps you’ll join me in the Andorian Chancellor’s Mansion when I am elected for a glass of Andorian ale?”

“I would consider it an honour Ambassador.” Burton said diplomatically. 

“Until then Captain Burton, I bid you farewell and safe travels.” Margerit said with a slight bow of her head and walked towards the hatch after it hissed open, allowing her to leave his ship.

Burton watched her go on board and turned round to see a sight he wasn’t looking forward to. Approaching him, now no longer in uniform was Ezrah Alcott. Slumped over his shoulder were two large bags containing his belongings. Walking besides him was Acting-Ensign John Conrad. The two men were talking and appeared to be sharing laughs when they both saw the captain. Behind them were other members of the crew who were there to see the young pilot off.

The current moment would be a bitter one for the crew of the Challenger. They were saying goodbye to one of their own. Alcott was returning home. Ezrah was heading back to Earth to help his mother care for his father as well as deal with his own issues surrounding the kidnapping. The ensign had tried to resign but Burton had talked him around it, convincing him to take an extended leave of absence instead. Burton had promised to arrange it with Starfleet Command. Admiral Gardner had agreed to the request and now Alcott was leaving them. It was long until the two pilots stopped before the captain and a few seconds later others were there wishing Alcott well and a safe journey home. The whole affair was over in a few seconds when Ezrah finally stood before his captain.

“Request permission to disembark captain.” The pilot asked.

Burton extended his hand towards the young man. “Permission granted.” The captain replied and shook Ezrah’s hand. “Safe journey home Ezrah.”

“Thank you sir.” Alcott said sincerely, trying his best to push back the tears and the emotions. He looked at his fellow shipmates and waved them goodbye after Commander Stanton opened the airlock for him. The airlock soon closed on him, allowing him to board the Andorian ship. There was a round of hissing as the airlock was sealed and then there was a beep at the controls telling them that he was on board and the Andorian ship was disengaging from Challenger.

For a moment everyone stood quietly before Burton looked around at them all.

“Dismissed.” He quietly ordered. It was late and he didn’t want a ship filled with a tired crew.

Burton looked at the rest of his senior staff who hung back a bit, all showing their deepest regret that Alcott had left their community so suddenly as well as in remorse for the reasons why he was leaving them all. It was the second one to leave them in a matter of days. Nevertheless Burton walked up to Conrad. “Mister Conrad, walk with me please.” He requested.

Conrad unquestioningly followed the captain as they walked away from the airlock and back down the corridor he had walked down only moments ago with Alcott.

“When we spoke yesterday about your transfer, we said it would be a temporary one.” Burton started as he placed his hands behind his back. He looked to Conrad. “I want to make it a permanent one.”

Conrad stopped and stared at his captain, who also stopped in his track and turned to look at the pilot. “Are you serious sir?”

Nodding once, Burton continued. “I can see why Captain Montague raved about you so much when I spoke to him. You’ve got quite the talent and Starfleet was foolish to push you out four years ago. The position of Chief Helm Officer is open and I want you to take it.”

Conrad stepped forward and extended his hand towards the British captain. “The honour would be mine to serve you captain.”

“Well then Mister Conrad I hereby promote you to the full rank of Ensign.” He took the pilot’s hand. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you sir.” He returned before letting go. “If you don’t mind I would like to let Captain Montague know my decision.”

Burton gestured for him to go. “Please.” He said as he watched him leave his side. “But make sure you report for your duty shift in an hour’s time.”

Conrad looked over his shoulder and smiled with a nod followed by a mocked salute before walking at a quicker pace to make his call. 

Three other members of his senior staff soon approached Burton: Commanders Levesque and Stanton with Sub Commander T’Plau.

“Did he take the job?” Levesque asked as they all stopped to watch the pilot walk down the corridor away from them.

Burton looked at his first officer. “He did and I think he will fit in nicely.” He then looked at T’Plau. “Talking of which, Sub Commander would you care to join us for breakfast?”

T’Plau rose an eyebrow at the unexpected request. “Thank you sir, I accept.”

Levesque entwined her arm to go under Stanton’s arm as the four officers began walking down the corridor heading to the mess hall. “Sub Commander consider yourself lucky this morning, normally around oh-seven hundred hours these two,” She said, pointing between Burton and Stanton, “Are trying to be all macho and outdo each other with a morning jog before breakfast.”

“Curious, I did not read in any of my research of human customs that one must jog to get their morning meal?” T’Plau remarked confused.

The three human officers all chuckled at this. “I think I’m going to enjoy having you with us for breakfast, Sub Commander.” Levesque stated as they approached the doors to the mess hall.

“I look forward to our time together as well.” The Vulcan officer returned.


Half an hour later the four officers were eating their breakfasts in the captain’s private dining hall. “So with our Denobulan friends leaving one of their ships behind here along with Voyager, Republic and Essex please say sir we’re not staying too?” Stanton asked in between a mouthful of toast.

Burton placed his mug of tea down after taking a sip to answer the question. “No thankfully Starfleet are quite eager to let us get going on our mission of exploration, once you’ve got that warp drive up and running again!”

Stanton winked at his captain. “Don’t worry sir it will be up and running before lunch time just as I promised.”

Bridge to Captain Burton.” Spoke Hennessey’s voice over the intercom.

Burton placed the napkin on his lap on the table. “I swear that man is bucking for a promotion, he is always on duty early.” He said to no one in particular as he stood up and walked over to the intercom. “Go ahead ensign.”

Sorry to disturb you sir but we’ve just received news from Earth. Coridan Prime has been attacked.”

Burton stopped and looked over to the others in the room with the same shock they all exhibited. “Get me Admiral Gardner at once ensign.” He ordered before leaving the room to make his way up to the bridge.