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Part of Challenger: Hell Hath No Fury

SEVEN

Manoir de Christofle, Place de la Concorde, Paris, France, Earth
Saturday, April 26th, 2155
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Saturday, April 26th, 2155

Manoir de Christofle, Place de la Concorde, Paris, France, Earth

“Okay everyone let’s calm down and get down to business.” Prime Minister Samuels instructed as he entered the situation room with his staff entourage and made his way towards the top end of the table. After he entered the guards at the door came to attention and announced his arrival with a “GARDE-À-VOUS”, the French equivalent of shouting “TEN-HUT”. The entire room stopped its commotion mid-track and turned to look in the one direction of the main entrance to see Earth’s head of government appear. As Samuels approached the top end of the long glass rectangular table that sat in the middle of the room, he was greeted by the presence of Fleet Admiral Hathaway and Rear Admiral Gardner. “Admirals, thank you for coming.” He said, extending his hand to shake them both. 

“Good afternoon Mister Prime Minister.” Hathaway returned with Gardner giving a similar expression as they all shook hands. 

“Now tell me what’s happened.” Samuels demanded as he took his usual seat at the top end of the table while gesturing for everyone else in the room to also sit down and carry on with their work. 

Hathaway nodded to Gardner to begin the briefing as fast as possible. Gardner, who remained standing by Hathaway who had taken a seat directly to Samuels’ left, pressed a button on a computer tablet he had in hands and changed the image currently being shown on the largest screen at the other end of the table. “About an hour ago we received a message from Captain Burton informing us that the Andorian relief task force was ambushed by a minefield in the Docana asteroid belt.” The image changed to show the Challenger’s sensor logs of the incident. “Out of the eighteen Andorian ships originally sent, only eleven remain; however they are all severely damaged.”

“My God.” Samuels said in horror at what he was being shown.

“How severely damaged Admiral?” Defence Secretary Stark asked who sat further down the table.

“Those that survived are not combat capable at the moment, our ships are currently defending them while they make repairs.” Gardner answered. “Their crews have also received a number of injuries and casualties. Captain Burton reports that our people are helping out with repairs and the injured to their best abilities.”

Prime Minister Samuels leant forward as he rested his chin on the top of his hands that were now grasped together as his elbows propped them up. “Have we heard from the Andorians at all?” He asked out.

As it came under her area of responsibility, Foreign Secretary Campbell spoke up from where she sat next to Hathaway. “The Chancellor wishes to speak with us in a joint call with Captain Burton.”

“Mister Prime Minister,” Hathaway said, interjecting at this point, “you need to be aware that before the destruction of the Avenkerev, the Andorian flagship leading this task force, its commanding officer General Ghelev gave Captain Burton a battlefield commission in the Imperial Guard of Commander and gave overall command of the remaining Andorian forces to him.”

“What? Why? How?” Samuels stumbled out confused at her statement. He couldn’t understand that statement. A Human leading an Andorian task force? He never expected to hear such a thing in his lifetime. 

“She issued emergency orders to the Andorian task force to fall back and to take orders from Burton. He is now an honorary member of the Imperial Guard.” Hathaway added.

“That’s ridiculous.” Deputy Prime Minister Malik spat out from her seat by Samuels’ right hand side. “Andorians would never take orders from a Human and let alone Captain Burton actually commanding a non-Starfleet task group, surely this conflicts with his Starfleet duties?”

Hathaway turned to the Deputy Prime Minister. “Truthfully, Madam Deputy Prime Minister, there is no Starfleet regulation or protocol in dispute here.”

“How come?” Malik questioned.

Hathaway looked to Gardner and back to the Deputy before answering her. “Because Madam Deputy Prime Minister there has never been a situation like this before, well not properly since Captain Archer pulled that allied fleet together last year to deal with the Romulan Drone ships.”

“Captain Burton also has the Intrepid and Apollo under his command too.” Gardner added.

“You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me?” Secretary Stark exclaimed. “He hasn’t been in command long enough to do such a thing. Surely Captain Ramirez, a more experienced commanding officer, should be leading our forces?”

“Actually, Mister Secretary,” Hathaway said, “Under Starfleet regulations, where a mission involves two or more ships, command authority falls to the captain with the tactical superiority. In this case Captain Burton has said superiority and Captain Ramirez has already shared his contentment in following Captain Burton’s lead with us.”

Stark looked at Samuels, “Nathan this is going to turn into a disaster if we leave Burton in charge out there. The press will have a fill day with us over this for letting someone so inexperienced take charge of our interests! You need to transfer command to Ramirez.”

“I agree.” Malik said, supporting the Defence Secretary. “This is a critical situation and we need someone leading our people with a lot more experience. We are on the tipping point of entering a war footing and to avoid it we need someone who could possibly prevent that. Ramirez is the senior most captain out there, he should know how to handle this.”

At that point both doors to the room opened wide again and walking in was President Littlejohn, the United Earth Commonwealth’s head of state. The president, who was in her late forties and had long shiny black hair, wore an ultramarine blue skirt-suit with a similar coloured blouse. Littlejohn was a tough politician with a strong sense of honour and integrity. She was currently serving her first term as President of the United Earth Commonwealth. Winning a landslide victory against her rivals, she was seen as the most open-minded candidate during the election. Her warm, bold and excitable personality made her well-liked by the public. Working with others across the Commonwealth, she had established an extremely diverse administration compared to her predecessor. As the third person to hold the office of President, she was the first African American (and the second woman) to be the chief executive of the United Earth Government. The United States hadn’t joined the UEG until 2150 and when the elections of 2152 took place the former American Ambassador to the UEG, had announced her candidacy. Prior to that she had government experience in being the Secretary of State as well as serving as a two-term congresswoman, where she had become one of the youngest serving Speakers of the House too. Her charming personality had won her the nomination for the Federalist Democratic Party presidential candidate. Following that her campaign had continued to show how she and her team were the ones to bring positive change in the Commonwealth. She had wanted to bring not only nations closer together but Earth’s colonies too. Pushing for colonies not to feel isolated had been one of her themes, in fact her Vice President nominee had been the Prime Minister of Mars. 

Just like before, the guards at the door came to attention and announced her arrival by shouting “GARDE-À-VOUS”.

Littlejohn, who on occasion, wore glasses walked into the room. She had flown in from her residence in London on board Global-Defence-One (the president’s personal transport operated by Earth’s military). “Please sit down.” Littlejohn instructed after everyone had stood up as a mark of respect for their leader. Samuels had moved into the spare seat to the right where he had sat before at the head of the table. Normally the cabinet would have met in the President’s residence, Greenwich Palace (formally known as the Palace of Hope), however with most of the cabinet having to attend an emergency session of Parliament later that day, the president had insisted they meet in Paris at the Prime Minister’s secondary offices. 

The president took her seat at the head of the table and adjusted her glasses. “Okay, catch me up with what you’ve been discussing so far.”

Samuels, as her prime minister, spoke up. “We’ve been informed, Madam President, that the Andorian task force has been critically damaged from their rescue attempt and their flagship has been destroyed. Before its demise, the Andorian general transferred command of their forces over to Captain Burton on Challenger.”

Nodding as she took in Samuels’ words, she looked up and around to everyone else. “So what’s the problem you were discussing before I came in?”

“We’re not sure if Burton should remain in command of the fleet, he doesn’t have the experience compared to Captain Ramirez on board the Intrepid.” Stated Stark. 

The president looked down the table towards the two Starfleet flag officers. “Fleet Admiral Hathaway, your assessment on Captain Burton’s ability to lead the fleet?”

“I can assure you Madam President that Captain Burton is capable of leading our forces and I have complete faith in him to consult with Captain Ramirez and Captain Proulx of the Apollo before making any major decisions.” Hathaway said in a stern British accent as she looked at the President before staring down at the Defence Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. If her glare had been lethal, they both would have been killed by it instantly. “By trade he is a tactician first where Ramirez is an engineer.” 

“Madilyn, what do you think?” Samuels piped up after a second. “You worked with Burton recently, what are your thoughts on his ability to lead our forces?”

Campbell cleared her throat. “He’s capable and has a relationship with the Andorian Chancellor which may work to our advantage.” She answered, avoiding the disappointed looks from her fellow members of the cabinet in not agreeing with their judgement of Burton. Stark shook his head in disbelief and Malik just rolled her eyes as she slumped backwards into her chair. She looked up at Littlejohn, “Burton won’t let us down, I agree with Fleet Admiral Hathaway’s assessment.”

“Alright.” Littlejohn said, accepting Campbell’s counsel. She looked to Samuels, “What do we have to do next?”

“We need to talk with Chancellor Margerit and Captain Burton.” The Prime Minister stated. 

Nodding in acceptance of his suggestion the president looked over to Secretary Campbell who then signalled to one of her aides to bring the call up on the larger screen before them. A split screen appeared with the image on the left showing Captain Burton sat on the edge of the table in Challenger’s conference room with Captains Ramirez and Proulx sat either side of him, along with his first officer Commander Levesque too. On the right-hand side of the screen a similar image of Chancellor Margerit stood by a tall table in the centre of what looked like her own version of a situation room back on Andoria.

“Chancellor Margerit, Captains, Commander.” President Littlejohn greeted them with a genuine smile. “This is quite the predicament we find ourselves in.”

I couldn’t put it better myself ma’am.” Burton replied with confidence. 

Indeed.” Margerit added before taking lead in their conversation. “Thank you for taking my call Madam President. I wish to discuss the current military situation in Docana and our response to it.

“Please Madam Chancellor,” Littlejohn said, indicating for her to proceed.

She crossed her arms against her chest. “The Malurian-Nausicaan invasion of Andorian territory must be responded to with swift military action. I don’t plan to allow for the deaths of loyal Andorian soldiers and innocent civilians to go unanswered. I will make them pay for what they have done to my people and the Andorian Empire will have revenge.

Pausing for a moment, Littlejohn didn’t respond straight away; it was Samuels who did after he twitched slightly in his chair. It was obvious he was feeling uncomfortable at the rage that the Andorian woman was now showing. 

“I understand your feelings over this Madam Chancellor but-” He was stopped by the Andorian woman.

There are no buts,” Margerit spat back. “Blood has been spilt and Andoria will not rest until every Malurian and Nausicaan at Docana has fallen for their savage assault against us!” At this she thumped her fist hard against the table before her, almost cracking it with her might. “They will be punished, mark my words.

“Very well.” Samuels said, flinching after she hit the table. 

Littlejohn remained firm in her steadfastness as she took over. “What is your plan Chancellor?” She asked.

Margerit turned her head slightly to appear as if she was looking at Captain Burton from her point of view. “Captain Burton, what is the state of my fleet?

They are all secure Madam Chancellor and repairs are fully underway, my chief engineer believes most of the ships will be almost operational within twenty hours.” Burton answered, still remaining calm even after Margerit’s outburst.

Excellent, and I believe you received General Ghelev’s confirmation orders of your battlefield commission?” Margerit asked next.

I did.” Burton said after a single nod.

Margerit smiled in appreciation. “General Ghelev knew how highly I thought of you captain. It is also Andorian military protocol that in a catastrophic state where the chain of command is destroyed then command of an Andorian task force falls to the commander with the highest rank and most operational ship. That would be you in this case Captain Burton.” She paused for a moment. “This is truly a momentous occasion for both our races.” She commented.

“Madam Chancellor, are you truly happy with General Ghelev’s orders?” Samuels asked, showing how he was almost finding it difficult to understand the Andorians willingness to let Burton lead their forces.

I knew Ghelev my entire military career, Mister Prime Minister, I am also tez-zhavey to three of her children and I have always trusted her judgement. She picked Captain Burton to succeed her in proper accordance with our military regulations and as a senior general she has the authority to induct anyone as an honouree member of the Imperial Guard and give them a commission.” Margerit said with pride in her voice. She looked back to Burton now. “As a Commander within the Andorian Imperial Guard, I order you to remove the Malurian and Nausicaan threat from Andorian territory by any means necessary and secure Docana at once.” She said in an authoritative tone.

Samuels now sat up in his chair. “Now come on Chancellor, you know that CAPTAIN Burton’s allegiances are to Earth first, not Andoria.” He said, emphasising on Burton’s Starfleet rank. “You can’t order him to do that. I won’t allow our own ships to engage in combat with the Malurian and Nausicaan ships.”

Burton turned to look at Samuels on his screen. “With all due respect sir, the Andorian Empire is our ally and under the treaty of the Coalition of Planets we are expected to help defend their interests when an aggressor attacks them.

May I also remind you, Mister Prime Minister, that the Empire did come to Earth’s aid in its hour of need during the final events of the Xindi conflict?” Margerit added. “You owe us.

“I didn’t realise we kept a record of our debts?” Secretary Stark responded sarcastically.

At this point in time Secretary Campbell got involved. “They are right Nathan.” She said, stressing her words while she looked at the PM. “If that was one of our colonies, say Vega, which was invaded then we would be screaming out for support from the Vulcans, Tellerites and Andorians because of the Coalition. It’s one of the reasons why we signed up for it so we wouldn’t have to stand alone like we did against the Xindi. It’s the reason why we started the Coalition.”

“She has a point.” Fleet Admiral Hathaway added.

“Earth can’t afford to be involved in another interstellar conflict, particularly with the Romulans and Klingons on our doorstep.” Deputy Prime Minister Malik stated. 

Samuels looked at Littlejohn, they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. While they paused, Chancellor Margerit spoke up. “I’m sending an additional fourteen ships to Docana, they will arrive in three days. If Captain Burton is unable to remove the threat or you order him to not to engage then I ask that he and his ships leave Andorian territory and we will deal with the threat ourselves. But believe me when I say the Andorian Empire will secede from the Coalition of Planets and I will recall our Ambassadors from Earth, Vulcan and Tellar.”

Littlejohn looked at Burton. “Captain Burton you heard the Chancellor’s orders, remove the Malurian and Nausicaan threat from Andorian territory by any means necessary and secure Docana at once.” She paused for a second, “But you are under my orders to do so under Starfleet regulations and rules which means a diplomatic attempt must be made first.”

Burton squirmed at that point as everyone else was stunned by Littlejohn’s decision. “Umm, ma’am actually I’ve already tried that. I hailed them on our way out of the system and we’ve attempted twice since then, but we’ve had no response apart from witnessing them re-mining the asteroid field.” He shared. 

“Then remove them from the system with as little loss to life as possible.” Littlejohn ordered.

“Understood sir.” Burton said with a singular nod.

Thank you, Madam Prime Minister. All of Andoria appreciate your wisdom in this matter and your sign of friendship to us.” Margerit remarked with more kindness in her tone.

Littlejohn ignored Margerit’s comments and looked back at Burton. “Godspeed Commodore Burton.”

At that remark everyone looked at her with confusion, including Burton. “I beg your pardon ma’am?” The Challenger commanding officer asked.

“I may not be a military person myself but from what I know the term for the commanding officer of more than one ship is a commodore, aren’t I correct here Admiral Hathaway?” Littlejohn asked, looking at the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief over the top of her glasses.

“You are Madam President.” She answered.

Littlejohn looked back at Burton. “Well then we can’t have the first Andorian-Earth joint fleet operation being led by a mere captain. For the duration of this operation consider yourself a commodore.”

Err, understood Madam President.” Burton said, still in shock.  

“I want to be kept up to date through this entire operation.” Littlejohn instructed everyone. “Chancellor Margerit, does this satisfy you?”

As I’ve already said Madam President, we appreciate your help. I will begin to coordinate my forces from here. Margerit out.”

The screen showing the Andorian leader blinked off and left just the still surprised faces of the Starfleet officers on the other side. “Commodore, if there isn’t anything else, I suggest you begin at once.” Littlejohn instructed. 

“Yes ma’am.” Burton responded with.

“I’ll be in touch.” Hathaway said, looking up at Burton.

Littlejohn nodded to someone to close the channel and looked at Hathaway and leant into her before whispering, “I certainly hope he doesn’t muck this up or my ass will be dragged out into Paris to be shot at by everyone!” After saying that, the President rose from her chair and left the situation room, followed by the Prime Minister and the other cabinet members. 

Once they had left Admiral Gardner stood closer to his superior officer. “Samuel, ensure that Burton has everything he needs.” Hathaway remarked as she watched the party of human leaders leave before rising out of her chair. “We need to prove our decision to make him captain was worth it.”

“Aye ma’am, but don’t you mean commodore now?” Gardner responded with which resulted in Hathaway showing a wry smile before they left the room.