“And this is the mess hall.” Ben-Ami said to her guest as she led them into the large room. It was past midday and as such there weren’t many officers sitting down taking a break.
“Once again you impress me with your new home Kefira.” Uttered Chirurgeon Nathaal th’Oraem from behind Ben-Ami as he gazed around the room. Nathaal th’Oraem was slightly taller than Ben-Ami; he appeared to be his early forties and was slightly slimmer than other Andorian men. As a man of medicine, he had a gentle approach in his mannerisms and was extremely polite.
“Can I get you a beverage?” Ben-Ami offered as she stepped round to the wall mounted drink dispenser.
The tall Andorian man nodded in gratitude. “That would be lovely, thank you.”
“Are you still fond of Earl Grey?” She asked, remembering how much he had enjoyed the English beverage. She suspected that he had yet the opportunity to taste any since their last encounter.
“I have to admit Kefira, I haven’t had it since I last saw you on the Yorktown, but a mug of Earl Grey would be most welcomed.” He answered, pleasing her suspicions.
Ben-Ami picked up two mugs from the side cabinets and put one into the drink dispenser. She pressed a button and spoke to it. “Earl Grey, hot.” She ordered. The dispenser answered by filling the mug up with the warm beverage. Once it completed its task, she passed the drink over to her friend before getting a mug of lemon tea herself. After her drink was ready for her, she gestured for them to take the nearest available empty table to sit at. Ben-Ami got comfortable in her chair and wrapped her hands around her mug. It had been some time since the two of them had spoken and she found herself enjoying playing host at the moment. Ben-Ami began to understand how the captain enjoyed showing off Challenger to other visitors. It certainly beat her having to deal with some of the mundane tasks that came with her job. She watched as her companion took the mug in his left hand and took a few sips from it. He smiled at it, pleased at the flavour that now tickled his taste buds.
“It’s just as delicious as I remember it.” He reported back to her, still grinning.
“So Natha how have you been?” Ben-Ami asked after taking a sip from her mug.
“Well, thank you. My new position keeps me busy and my bondgroup is expecting our third infant next month.” He answered with a proud smile, showing off his extremely white teeth.
The onslaught of the good news made her copy his grin. “Ah congratulations all round then” She said. “Do you know what you’re having yet? Chaan, thaan, shen or a chen?” She asked, listing the four Andorian genders.
Natha shook his head after another sip. “I’m afraid my bondmates want to keep the gender a surprise until birth. However, whatever its gender I look forward to receiving it into our warm family.”
He certainly wasn’t like most typical Andorians, she reminded herself. He broke against the social norms of those who served in the Guard as being confrontational. It was certainly refreshing, Ben-Ami considered, especially as Challenger had dealt with a lot of conflict since its launch. After another sip Ben-Ami asked her next question. “Do you get a lot of time to spend with your family since you took on your new position?” She had an undercover mission to start and she knew that Captain Burton would want her to find out as much as she could. Cleverly, she had planned her questions so she could lead Natha in the direction of the conversation she wanted to engage him in. Already she had taken him on a tour of the ship, shown in depth Challenger’s sickbay and shared with him some of the cases she has had to deal with since becoming the ship’s Chief Medical Officer. She had hoped engaging him in things that weren’t related to what Captain Burton wanted her to find out that Natha would naturally drop his guard and share with her anything that Captain Burton may find useful
“The last few weeks have kept me away from home, however my offices have been moved to the capital which means I will be able to commute to work from home with less hassle.” Natha replied. “Although I have a feeling the chancellor will send me on a tour around the Empire to inspect various medical facilities with our Health Minister. My sources in the Health Department have heard rumours of such a thing happening. Her new reforms on our Health System are being scrutinised by many in the media to see if it will make a difference, especially to the less wealthy families.”
At the mention of the chancellor, Ben-Ami kept herself completely focussed on what her colleague was saying. She didn’t want to forget any important details. “What type of reforms has she instigated?” Ben-Ami naturally asked.
“A completely new empire-wide health system that gives the same level of universal care to everyone, it doesn’t matter how wealthy or powerful your family is.” Natha said before taking another sip of his tea. “Her plans include building more hospitals and medical centres across Andoria, investing into the training of doctors and nurses as well as increasing spending into medical research.”
“Wow, that’s impressive and she’s done it within fifty days of being in office?” Ben-Ami inquired.
“It was all part of her party’s manifesto before the election.” Natha explained. “Health, Education and the Social Welfare systems were top of their agendas. They believed that these needed to be changed to support all Andorians so the Empire could prosper on the galactic stage. A stronger Andoria at home is a stronger Andoria out there.” He gestured towards the view that was currently being shown from the large bay windows. “She also believes that for the Andorian Empire to thrive we need to strengthen our ties with our allies and maintain the peace we’ve fought hard to get with the Vulcans and Tellerites.” He added before his body became stiff as he carried on speaking, “Then only the other week she announced an increase in military spending to help with starship production and recruiting for the Guard.” That last part made his tone of voice change to one of strong concern.
Ben-Ami nodded to show she was listening and understanding his point of view on the issue, “What’s been the public reaction so far?”
“Positive. It’s why she won a landslide victory in gaining well over a majority of the seats in the Parliament. And the new recruitment efforts are doing well. She knows what needs to happen.” Natha said and then placed his mug down on the table. “Sorry Kefira, I’ve been talking about boring politics. Tell me more about your new posting here on Challenger, are you enjoying it?”
Ben-Ami smiled, inside she was cursing herself for not encouraging him to say any more about the chancellor on the other hand she felt she wouldn’t get anything else out of him before he started to realise she was fishing for answers. “Oh, I’m very happy here. This is a next step for me, real frontier medicine. Nothing gets the blood boiling like the unknown!”
Natha chuckled at that comment. “I’m sure it does, do you not miss your work with the Interspecies Medical Exchange programme?”
She smiled at that. “I still collaborate with the I.M.E. but not as much because of my duties. I’m still in touch with some of our colleagues; in fact, a few of them said since you’ve taken your new job you’ve been trying to get the I.M.E. to setup a research group here on Andoria?”
“Indeed my good friend and I’ve been very successful!” He replied with a sense of pride. “Even with Andoria’s young membership with the I.M.E., they were very happy to explore the possibility. In fact, there is an opening in my group that you would fit in perfectly!”
Ben-Ami smiled at the offer. “I appreciate it, but I don’t think Captain Burton would appreciate me jumping overboard so early on in our mission.” She said, realising that she wasn’t going to get anything else out of him.
“So that was it?” Burton asked from across the conference room’s table, his chin sitting within his left palm as his elbow lent on the surface of the table.
“I’m afraid so, sir.” Ben-Ami said, sounding apologetic that she hadn’t uncovered some great state secret to share with them all.
Burton shrugged his shoulders. “It was worth a shot, thank you Kefira. At least you were able to catch up with a friend.” He said and then sat up straight and looked at the other three officers in the room. Commander Levesque shared his look of disappointment on her face while both Commander Stanton and Sub Commander T’Plau appeared completely neutral. They had just returned from the surface and while they had been meeting with Chancellor Margerit, Ben-Ami had met with her friend the new Chief Chirurgeon of the Andorian Imperial Guard. Burton looked to Levesque. “Commander your thoughts.”
“Without a doubt I don’t think there’s anything suspicious here that we should be worried about, except for the Chancellor asking for your personal thoughts on the Romulan threat.” She answered honestly.
The captain nodded in agreement and looked at Stanton. “Nothing happened while we were gone?”
“I’m afraid not sir, nothing out of the ordinary.” Stanton replied, opening his hands to show he had nothing to provide to the discussion. “Our escorts kept close and watched over us the entire time. Normal shipping occurred and Ned didn’t pick up anything unusual on the communication channels. I even had him link in to the Andorian news feeds to monitor them, but nothing came out of that.”
Turning himself in his chair he looked at the only non-human in the room. “T’Plau your views?”
T’Plau remained calm as she told the captain what she thought, “Chancellor Margerit is acting differently compared to other Andorian Chancellors before her, though I believe this is because she is unlike any other Chancellor. She is highly progressive in her ideology. Her background in being someone from an underprivileged family who has worked hard to quickly move through the ranks of the Imperial Guard is something to take note of. Her predecessors have all come from wealthier families. I believe it is also a reason why she won the election with such high success. Many Andorians relate to her background and appreciate her values that hard work, resilience and determination does pay off. She also holds the respect of the entire Andorian military. Not many chancellors before her ever served in the Guard as long as she has. She promised many changes during her campaign and to date she has delivered on every single one of her promises and more. I believe she is genuine sir, and her request for your thoughts on the Romulan threat is what it is: her asking for someone else’s opinion on the issue, particularly someone who is outside of her administration.”
For a few seconds Burton mulled over what T’Plau and the others had said, as he did he lent back in the chair slightly, it tilted backwards in line with his movement. “Okay.” He said, sounding almost defeated.
“Captain, are you expecting something else here?” Stanton asked, with a genuine sense of concern in his voice. “Do you think the Andorians are deceiving us in some way?” He added.
Burton sat up and lent forward, placing his hands on the table and grasping them together. “Everything I’ve read about our encounters with the Andorians, or at least Captain Archer’s dealings with them, there has been something that has happened which has always led to them benefitting in the end results, from the monastery at P’Jem to when they tried to help Enterprise against the Xindi, even to what happened last year during the Romulan drone incursion. There’s always something.”
“Those incidents you refer to sir have always included one particular Andorian,” T’Plau stated. “Commander Shran.”
Burton nodded. “I know but he was carrying out orders laid out by his superiors.”
“My point is sir,” T’Plau quickly countered with, “is Chancellor Margerit is brand new. So far our own personal dealings with her she has not shown any forms of being deceitful and her actions have proven to us that she can been honourable.”
“We need to give the new administration time to prove to us that we can trust them, they are our allies now sir.” Levesque added.
“True.” Burton said.
“On the other hand, there is nothing wrong in keeping a cautious eye open too.” Stanton said. “Just in case-”
“Bridge to Captain Burton.” Spoke Ensign Hennessey’s voice over the intercom.
Burton pushed his chair away from the table and walked over to the communication’s panel on the wall and tapped the answer button. “Go ahead Ned.”
“Sir, you and the others need to be up here now to see what is happening.” He said with concern in his voice.
Burton gestured with his head for them to all move. “We’re on our way.” He replied, his stomach almost dropped at how he was almost right that something wrong would happen while they were at Andoria.
“Definitely spoke too soon,” Stanton mumbled as he followed the others out of the room.
Burton led his senior staff out of the lift (apart from Ben-Ami who had returned to sickbay) and automatically they all walked towards their stations.
Ensign Hennessey rose from the captain’s chair and turned to look at his superior officer. “Sir both our escorts have broken orbit from us and are moving away at high impulse.” He explained as he began making his way over to the communication’s station. “And they’re not the only ships on the move.”
“What’s going on?” Burton asked, deciding to remain standing in front of his chair.
Levesque quickly picked up the latest sensor feeds at her station. “I’m detecting at least fourteen ships underway and moving fast, all heading in the same direction.”
“The ships are all bringing their defence systems online too.” T’Plau said from what she was picking up on.
Stanton had made his way over to the engineering console by this time. He had a look at the readings too. “They’re all warships and battle cruisers and I’m picking up three fighter carriers on the move too.”
“There’s also more movement from several ships docked in the shipyards sir.” Levesque said.
Burton was trying to work out what was going on for so many Andorian ships to be on the move. “Is there something out there they are moving to intercept?”
Ensign Conrad who had been sat at the helm had pulled up his sensors. “Nothing that I can see, but their formation looks like a standard fleet defence posture sir. I would say they are assembling a task force.” He shared as looked around and up at the captain.
Hennessey who had placed his earpiece in quickly turned to Burton. “I think I have something captain.” He tapped on his controls and quickly switched the main screen to something else. “Commander Stanton ordered us to monitor the Andorian news feeds; this is coming live now.”
The screen activated and the appearance of an Andorian man standing inside what looked like one of the rooms in the Chancellor’s residence. “We’re getting unconfirmed reports now that the Andorian Imperial Guard is in the process of amassing a task force just beyond Andoria now.” Where he was in the residence looked like an area for the press to meet at a regular meeting as a glass podium stood in the centre of an arc of chairs. There was some commotion as the door to the left opened and several people walked in, one of them being Chancellor Margerit. “The Chancellor has now arrived; we will see what she has to say.” The news broadcaster stated as the camera switched to focus on the Andorian leader.
Margerit took the podium and took a breath before speaking. “Thank you all for coming in so promptly, I will try to make this short as possible as there is a lot to do here.” She said looking at all the journalists assembled before her. “My fellow Andorians, it is with great sadness that I report that only a quarter of an hour ago we received a general distress call from our colony on Docana. The colony reported they were under attack. As such I have ordered the Imperial Guard to assemble a task force that will leave shortly to investigate. Docana is one of our furthest colonies; its protection is important to our sovereignty. Whoever these attackers are, I assure the Andorian people will find them and they will answer for what they have done. I’ll quickly answer some questions.”
Someone quickly shouted out at her, “How many ships are you sending?”
“A task force of eighteen ships will be originally sent and once we know the colony is secure, relief ships will be sent in afterwards.” Margerit said, anticipating their questions.
“Who will be leading the task force?” Another asked.
“That’s classified for now.” She answered coolly. “Okay, one more question.”
“Will you be asking help from anyone in the Coalition?” The news reporter that the Challenger bridge crew were originally watching asked.
“I will be sending a request to Captain Burton on the Challenger if he will be prepared to join the task force to aid us in being a mediator if they require it as well as providing any medical assistance too.” She answered. “Thank you everyone.”
“Are we at war, Chancellor?” Someone quickly shouted out.
Margerit had been preparing to leave the podium at that point, she paused and turned back to answer the question into her microphone. “It will depend on what the task force finds first, but if someone has attacked us then yes I can promise you we will go to war to show them the Andorian Empire does not respond well to attacks against its citizens and I expect our friends who signed the Coalition Compact to join us in making such a statement.”
Captain Lloyd Burton stared at the screen for another second before looking at Hennessey. “Shut that off now, ensign.” He said calmly, he felt his stomach rise a bit. “Get me Admiral Gardner and Ambassador Agos straight away.” He ordered next before turning to Levesque. “Commander with me now.” He said, indicating for him to join him in his ready room. He turned on his heel and made his way over to his office. “Michael, you too. Sub Commander, the bridge is yours.” He commanded as he made his way in. Both Levesque and Stanton had stood up from their stations and were quickly following him in.
The second the door closed behind Stanton, Burton turned around to face them after momentarily pacing the room, he looked up at them both and spoke up. “That moment we just discussed about something wrong happening has just arrived. Your thoughts?” He said to his two most senior officers.
“Wait for orders from Starfleet.” Levesque said bluntly. “We can’t be getting ourselves involved with Andorian issues unless ordered to do so.”
Stanton nodded in agreement. “Nicole is right, but under the articles of the Coalition Compact, if a world belonging to one of the signatories is attacked then any nearby allied ship is expected to offer assistance if they can. Unfortunately, sir we are nearby and able to offer assistance.”
“Even if we do go, sir, we have to tread carefully here even if it does say all of that in the Compact. We can’t be bringing Earth into a war with a species for all we know we’ve never met before. We need to think about Earth and the Commonwealth’s security too.” Levesque added.
“Agreed.” Burton said as he stopped pacing his small office and crossed his arms against his chest.
“What is impressive is that the chancellor is prepared to find a peaceful solution, her idea of including us in the task force to be a peace mediator proves she is serious about avoiding a war.” Stanton said as he leant against the wall that had the pictures of previous ships named Challenger hanging from it.
“However, she made it quite clear at the end that she would do whatever it took to defend the Empire, including going to war.” Levesque responded back as she crossed her arms against her chest.
The three of them went quiet for a moment until the intercom chime going off interrupted the silence. “Bridge to Captain Burton, please report to the bridge at once.” T’Plau voice said over the speaker.
Burton gave out a huge frustrated sigh as he pushed his hands through his hair and then made his way to the door. He pressed the button to open it and the two commanders followed him back out onto the bridge. “Report.” He said in a stern voice, trying to remain composed in the current situation.
T’Plau lifted herself out of his chair in the centre of the bridge and looked at him as she did. “Sir, Chancellor Margerit is hailing us on a secure channel and is requesting to speak to you.”
“Damn it.” He muttered under his breath. He was hoping for a bit more time before he had to speak to her. He wanted to at least try and engage with either Admiral Gardner or Ambassador Agos over this first. He looked over to Hennessey as T’Plau moved past him and made her way back to the tactical station at the same time both Stanton and Levesque reported to their stations. “Ensign have you been able to raise either the Admiral or Ambassador?”
“I’m afraid not sir.” Hennessey said from his station. “The increase in comm traffic has prevented us from getting a clear channel open to either the Embassy or Earth. I’m trying to clear through the interference.”
“Keep trying; meanwhile put the Chancellor up.” Burton ordered as he stood with his hands firmly grasped together in front of him.
Hennessey complied with his orders and opened the channel to the Andorian leader for Burton.
“Chancellor Margerit.” Burton said being diplomatic in his tone by keeping it as neutral and calm as possible.
“Captain Burton, my apology for the lack of communiqué of what is currently happening before we took it public. One of our furthest colonies has been attacked and we are preparing a task force to investigate.” Margerit explained from the same office that Burton had met with her only an hour or so ago.
“Yes, we noticed our escorts moving away to join it. I’m afraid though we haven’t been able to make contact with our Embassy to discuss with them our options.” Burton said, trying to remain as still as possible while he kept his poker face on. Making that last comment was his bold attempt in remaining in control of what happened to Challenger, for now.
“I’m afraid the planet-wide communications system has gone into overload with the news. I will have someone look into that for you as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would like to make an official request to you.” She stated, just as calmly as Burton was remaining.
“Oh?” Burton said, deciding to let her take the lead on their conversation here.
“Yes, I would like to officially ask the help of your ship in responding to the distress call from our colony and possibly act as a peace mediator between us and those who have committed acts of aggression against our nation.” Margerit said with a strong conviction and a warm friendly smile. “Under the article of the Coalition Compact such requests can be made to allied states.”
Burton nodded to show he understood what she was asking. “I understand the agreement between our two governments Madam Chancellor, and I am happy to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to your stricken colony, however I need full authorisation for such a large-scale mission from my superiors. I need at least an hour to get their response.”
Margerit smiled, she automatically detected Burton wanting to stall for time so he could speak to his superiors to clear it through them to prevent a diplomatic incident. “The task force is still assembling and won’t be fully supplied to leave at least for another three hours captain. I’m happy to wait to hear what your superiors have to say.”
“I will let you know what they say ma’am. We may have to break orbit to get a clear channel opened to Earth.” Burton remarked.
“Of course. Do whatever you need to do, captain. Margerit out.” She said before closing the channel.
Burton finally sat in his chair. “Jack, move us out of orbit, clear of the interference.” He ordered his pilot.
“Captain, if we beam down a portable communications amplifier to the Embassy, we would be able to cut through the interference.” Stanton suggested.
“Sounds like a plan commander, make it happen.” Burton ordered and smiled to his second officer for coming up with such an ingenious plan to help them. “Jack hold your course until Commander Stanton has transported his amplifier down.”
The pilot nodded as he punched in more commands to his console to cut Challenger’s engines. “Aye sir.”
Burton looked over at his communications officer. “Once they’re done ensign, I want to speak with Earth as soon as possible!”
Thursday, April 24th, 2155
Starfleet Command Headquarters, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth
“What the devil is going on admiral?”
Upon hearing the shrill British accent belonging to Starfleet’s Commander-in-Chief, Fleet Admiral Moira Hathaway, Rear Admiral Samuel Gardner turned his entire body round to greet his superior officer. “Ma’am, we’re still trying to determine the situation.” He answered, gesturing to the various monitors situated around the room that had officers all quickly working hard at them.
Hathaway gave out a slight tut sound at the lack of an update from one of her officers as she walked through the glass doors into the ‘Hub’. She also didn’t appreciate his tone and commented that she couldn’t deduce herself that was what they were doing.
The ‘Hub’ was the designation for the central management area where, deep within Starfleet Headquarters, the complete day-to-day of Starfleet’s operations occurred. It was a large oval shaped room that was sunk into various sections. Around the edges, different Starfleet officers operated various computer stations, as they monitored different areas of the United Earth Commonwealth and kept in touch with Starfleet assets in and around them. Then on the edge of the middle of the room more stations were located to oversee other operational matters. Finally, in the centre of the room was a huge oval shaped table that had an interactive display embedded into it. Known as the ‘command pool table’, it was where the most senior officer would work from and deal with all matters that required command authorisation.
Looking at Admiral Gardner, who was standing by the central table, she wondered if the man would ever give her a straight answer the first time she asked. In the last year since his appointment to Chief of Starfleet Operations she rarely received a comprehensible answer from him the first time she asked him what was happening. “Samuel I can see that, but I want a straight answer to what is happening overall. I have the Director of Starfleet Intelligence informing me they have intercepted a call between two Andorian ships stating one of their outermost colonies has been invaded, Prime Minister Samuels is briefing the president now as well as assembling the cabinet as we speak and I have just been informed from the Head of Starfleet Communications we are unable to raise either our embassy on Andoria or Challenger. I want to know more than this before the Prime Minister makes his next call to us!”
Gardner winced at the ear lashing he just received from his boss. “Sorry ma’am. Right now, what we do know is that the Andorian colony on Docana has been attacked, but by what or whom we do not know.” Gardner answered looking from where he stood. “We believe the radio blackout currently being observed around Andoria could be for two possible reasons, one the home world itself has been attacked as well or there’s a lot of interference from the source meaning the Andorians are preparing their response to the situation.” Gardner nodded towards the large wall screen that currently showed a map of the Andorian Empire’s territory. It highlighted the home system along with the location of Docana. Next to them it also showed space belonging to the Tellerites and Vulcans as well as where the Andorian Empire shared a border with the United Earth Commonwealth. “Unfortunately ma’am, Challenger was our closest ship and we are unable to determine what is happening at this point in time. Our nearest ships are three days away at their best speeds.”
“Challenger is our closest ship admiral. Let’s not count Captain Burton out just yet.” Hathaway said sternly, emphasising on the fact that they had yet confirmed if Challenger was destroyed or not. “Have some faith.” She added as she examined the picture before her. She noticed that the ships that Gardner had mentioned in the last bit of his report were actually a small task group of Starfleet ships, which was unusual for so many ships to be assigned together close to Andorian territory. “What’s that task group up to?” She asked, pointing to it now on the table before them.
Gardner tapped on their information and their names, registration numbers and classes all appeared. “Umm, Task Group Omega-One ma’am. They’ve just finished small combat exercises with the Vulcan High Command; they’re heading to Vega colony for re-supplying before returning to their duties as part of Earth’s defence fleet.”
“And those four ships are three days away from the Andorian border?” Hathaway asked, seeking clarification.
“Who is in command of the task group?” She asked.
“Captain Ramirez on the Intrepid.” Gardner stated without looking at any information.
“Contact Captain Ramirez and inform him to take his task group to the border and to find out anything else he can about what is happening, short of breaking the Coalition Compact. Tell him his priority is making contact with Captain Burton.” Hathaway ordered.
“Yes ma’am.” Gardner replied and looked to one of his aides to send the orders at once.
“Now show me where Enterprise and Columbia are.” She commanded.
The ‘pool table’ came to life as the current map changed to show the location of the other two NX-class ships currently in operation. “They’re escorting a large convoy of Earth Cargo Service ships towards the colony on Denver.” Gardner announced. “They’re over two weeks away from Andoria at warp five.”
“That’s if they could sustain warp five for two weeks.” Hathaway muttered. “Okay,” She said, tapping her fingertips on the edge of the table as she looked at their options. She had to prepare for the worst, if a member of the Coalition had been attacked and if it was like the attack on Coridan then she needed to ensure the planets within the United Earth Commonwealth were aware of what was going on and were supported. “Where do we stand with launching Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour?”
Gardner raised his eyebrows in an almost Vulcan fashion, showing he was perplexed at the admiral’s question. The plan around the next three NX-class ships had been to build all of them at the same time as each other and for them all to be launched at the same time. Originally Challenger would have been launched alongside Discovery but delays in Discovery’s construction had prevented that and the recent diplomatic mission that Challenger had carried out had been a priority for the United Earth government. The two ships would have been launched on April 5th to celebrate the anniversary of First Contact Day, the day when Zefram Cochrane had taken his first flight on the Phoenix and had caught the attention of the Vulcans prompting them to make contact with Humanity. Roughly off the top of his head, Gardner knew that the three latest NX-class ships were to be launched at the start of next month now if there weren’t any issues. He brought up the latest up to date production timetable for the three NX-class ships. “Discovery and Atlantis are scheduled to undergo their next system checks tomorrow morning, Endeavour will have its next checks the day after that.”
“Inform their captains to assemble their crews and begin preparations to launch by tomorrow evening.” Hathaway ordered after a brief lull.
“Ma’am those checks are required to be undertaken to ensure the safety of the crews. Plus, Endeavour doesn’t have a full crew assigned to her yet.” Gardner reminded her.
She looked directly at him now. “Then tell the yard supervisors they have to be done by the end of today and I want Captain Demetriou to stop being fussy in picking his crew. He has until the end of the day to pick his crew.” Hathaway tapped on the pool table and brought up the previous map of what was happening in the Andorian Empire. “We may need those three ships from the looks of things.”
“Yes ma’am.” Gardner said reluctantly.
“Inform all ships and bases to go to tactical alert too.” Hathaway instructed. “We need to begin looking at assembling defence forces near to our colonies too.”
“Yes ma’am.” Gardner said again as he began to take note of her orders.
The two flag officers were interrupted by the arrival of Hathaway’s assistant, Commander Jane Astley. “Admiral, the Prime Minister wishes to speak with you.” She said after stepping up on to the raised platform where Hathaway and Gardner were.
Hathaway nodded and turned to look at one of the large screens in the room. She inclined for Astley to transfer the call to that monitor. Astley pressed a few buttons on the data tablet she currently held and placed the call on to the screen that Hathaway had pointed to. The image of Prime Minister Samuels sitting at the end of the table along with other members of his cabinet appeared. The politicians were all assembled in the situation room that was housed underneath the residence and office of the Prime Minister in Paris.
“Fleet Admiral Hathaway, I’ve just spoken with the president and she wants more information. So what do you have for us?” Samuels asked, deciding not to engage in pleasantries.
“Good Morning Mister Prime Minister,” Hathaway said, deciding that she would engage him with the pleasantries. Behind him she noticed sitting near to Samuels were Deputy Prime Minister Kalinda Malik, Defence Secretary Matthew Stark, Foreign Secretary Madilyn Campbell and Home Secretary Haroun al-Rashid. “We’ve learnt that the Andorian colony on Docana has been attacked and that there is interference preventing us from contacting anyone in the Andorian home system.”
“Do you know what is causing the interference?” Secretary Stark asked. Matthew Stark was an American from California in his early forties; he had jet-black hair that was swept back in a modern way that was complimented by his stylised goatee. His piercing hazel coloured eyes made him quite handsome. He was the Member of Parliament for the west coast constituency of the United States. The former Chief Executive Officer of a successful international munitions company, he decided to run for Parliament at the request of Samuels in the previous general election. Now his wife ran the company while he worked as Earth’s Defence Secretary, many in the press believed there would be a conflict of interest in him having the position but his wife, along with the governing board of their company had agreed not to re-sign their contract with Earth’s defence agencies while he held the office. Since his wife succeeded him, she had pushed the company to begin researching in the fields of energy and communication advancement. They were now becoming one of Earth’s rising companies in these industries.
“Unfortunately, no Mister Secretary.” Hathaway answered. “However, we are preparing to send a task group to the border to see if they can get through the interference and establish contact with Challenger. In the meantime,” She now looked back at Samuels, “I highly recommend we place all of our forces on high alert and begin to pull ships back to our colonies to prepare to defend them.”
Samuels took in a breath as he rested back into his chair and considered the admiral’s advice. He looked to Stark, “Matthew, your thoughts?”
“I agree with the admiral, this could be a similar attack to what we witnessed at Coridan. I would prefer we weren’t caught with our pants down this time.” Stark responded, his dry sense of humour coming out at the end of his answer.
“We should also continue to try to pursue all diplomatic channels too.” Secretary Campbell added. “We are still waiting to hear from Ambassadors Soron and Gouth on where their governments sit on this.”
“Agreed,” Deputy Prime Minister Malik said, piping up to support Campbell’s suggestion. “We don’t know who has attacked the Andorians and that is still not completely confirmed. We shouldn’t jump the gun yet.” Kalinda Malik was of Indian descent and had been Samuels’ running mate in the last general election. She held the parliamentary seat for central India and had been a MP for almost seven years now. A former professor of politics, similar to Campbell, Earth’s press labelled the two women as Samuels’ two most powerful women in his cabinet. In fact, the “big offices” of the cabinet, except for the Department of Defence and the Home office, were all held by women.
“I appreciate what you’re saying Kalinda, but we could end up seeing mushroom clouds on Vega, Proxima, Mars or worse Earth. I would hate to think we didn’t do anything.” Samuels stated. He turned to look back at Admiral Hathaway. “Admiral, order your ships to fall back to the nearest Earth colonies and to begin setting up defence positions around them.”
Hathaway nodded, “Consider it done sir.”
Samuels looked at Stark. “Matthew, inform the heads of our military to place all of our forces across the Commonwealth on high alert.” He looked to Campbell, “Madilyn, make a request for an emergency meeting of the Coalition Security Council at once. I want you to meet with our counterparts and find out what they know and what they’re doing.”
“I’ll make my way to San Francisco at once.” Campbell said as she rose from the table, collecting all of her paperwork and computer tablet that had been laid out in front of her.
Samuels looked to his Deputy. “Kalinda I want you to meet with the Commonwealth representatives from our colonies and tell them what we know and what we are doing. Have them coordinate their forces with our efforts.” Then he looked to al-Rashid, “Haroun, ensure all local law enforcement agencies are made aware of the situation and that they get the message to the public to remain calm until we know otherwise.”
“Once this goes public sir, we will have the press wanting to know details straight away.” al-Rashid commented.
“Then I’ll tell them what we know already, it’s a possibility that an Andorian colony has been attacked, we are taking all possible precautions to ensure the Commonwealth’s security but the public should remain calm and vigilant and once we know more we will let them know.” Finally, Samuels turned back to Hathaway, “Admiral let me know the moment you’ve heard from Challenger.”
“I will sir.” Hathaway replied courteously.
“We’ll be in touch if the president wants to know any more.” Samuels said and nodded to the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief before closing the channel.
For a second no one said anything or did anything, including Hathaway. In that second, she realised that this would be as big as the Xindi attack on Earth only a couple of years ago. Though this time Starfleet wouldn’t be in panic trying to deal with everything. They would be ready, she hoped. She took a breath and began barking out her orders.
“I can assure you, Mister Ambassador, we are doing all we can to re-establish contact with Earth however the increase in communication around Andoria is making it difficult for us to clear up the interference in sending out a clear signal.”
“I appreciate your efforts in this Captain, but I am concerned that with Chancellor Margerit’s recent request of your presence in this task force it may cause more issues for us.”
Burton sighed as tried to remain calm in speaking with Ambassador Agos. Currently he was sitting in his office, off from the bridge talking to the Earth Ambassador to Andoria via the computer screen on his desk. They had been able to beam a portable transmitter down to the new Earth embassy and were able to get past the interference that Andoria was currently existing with. Since the news of the attack on the Docana colony the Andorian public had gone into a frenzy. Chancellor Margerit had already publicly addressed the Empire, explaining to them what had happened and what she was preparing to do. It was now making many of the diplomats from the Coalition worlds, who were residing on Andoria, nervous to think that so early on in its formation the Coalition of Planets would most likely end up going to war.
“I understand your concerns about this sir, but I think it might be worth going.” Burton explained to the ambassador. Ruben Agos was the same age as Burton and reminded the Challenger’s captain of his brother Roman in appearance and some mannerism. This was his first Ambassadorship; he had been working under Foreign Secretary Campbell as a peace envoy for some time and when the ambassadorship for Andoria came up she felt he was the right person for the job. He was smart, charming and kept a cool head about himself. Many in the media back home had criticised Campbell’s appointment of someone so young however he had proven those critics wrong since becoming an ambassador two years ago. “We’ll be able to get a clearer picture of what has happened and if we’re there we may be able to help avoid the Andorians going to war against whoever attacked them. Without a doubt Chancellor Margerit wants us there to help with that.”
Agos considered the captain’s argument for a second. “Alright but keep me apprised and the second you are able to get through to Earth let them know what you know.”
“Good luck.” Agos said before closing the channel, allowing Burton to leave his office and make his way back on to his bridge.
“What did Ambassador Agos say?” Levesque asked as she turned around to face Burton, as he stepped through the doorway. She had been standing in the centre of the bridge, watching over everything in the captain’s absence.
“He isn’t happy about us going but he appreciates that by joining the task force we could make a difference.” Burton answered as he approached her.
Levesque nodded as she crossed her arms. “So, we’re going?”
“We are.” Burton said firmly with conviction.
“Okay.” Levesque said, not sounding too convinced that this was a good idea. She left the captain’s side and made her way over to the science station.
Burton sat in his chair. “Ensign Conrad, lay in a course that brings us alongside the Andorian task force at the edge of the system, full impulse.”
The young pilot acknowledged with a simple, “Aye sir.”
“Ensign Hennessey,” Burton continued. “Inform the chancellor’s office we are moving to join the task force to provide relief efforts for Docana.”
The older communications officer nodded once and began putting the message together to send at once.
Burton sat upright in his chair, for a split-moment he thought he could feel everyone staring at him in shock at the choice he had made without consulting their superiors at Starfleet Command. However, he knew that he couldn’t wait to speak to Starfleet about every decision he made, they wouldn’t have put him in the captain’s chair if he wasn’t tough enough to make them. He just hoped and prayed he was making a good call with this one though.