Jamie Harris’ heart was racing at what felt like warp five as he ran down the flight of stairs within Brizten base towards the room that Commander Levesque was currently in. He had been near the situation room when a member of Prime Minister An’die’s staff had approached him telling him to get Commander Levesque and the others at once. Since starting their informal alliance with the Deltans, the remaining Challenger crew had been helping the Deltans out with a slight problem their military was encountering. It would seem that in every engagement with the Carreons in recent weeks neither side would come out victorious, each fight resulting in mutual annihilation. Prime Minister An’die had asked Commander Levesque and her officers to help them with the investigation to determine why their forces were never successful. The Deltan Star Guard was losing a lot of ships at an alarming rate, yet the same was said for the Carreons too.
Harris burst through the doors of the laboratory that Levesque was working in with other Deltan scientists and engineers. Instantly he saw her and jogged over to her. Almost out of breath he called for her. “Commander…” He said gasping for air. “You’re…needed…in the situation room…with Prime Minister An’die.” Harris panted.
Levesque looked concerned at how Harris had come to her and instantly stood up from the stall she had been sitting on, excusing herself from her Deltan colleagues and made her way out of the room with Harris beside her. “Do you know why?”
“No, I was just told it was urgent and to get you and Ensign Stewart.” He answered.
“Where is Niall?” Levesque asked. While she had been working out on the technical side of things by sifting through the wreckage of destroyed Deltan and Carreon ships, Ensign Stewart had been working with Deltan doctors on the biological front in examining the corpses of dead soldiers. They were trying to find out if there was something that was forcing both sides to fight to the bitter end.
“He’s on the other side of the base. I’ve got Kastrovich heading over to find him to meet us there.” Harris reported.
“Good.” She answered as they swiftly made their way through the base. Eventually they reached the bottom of the stairs that Harris had flown down earlier. When they did, Ensign Stewart and Petty Officer Kastrovich joined them.
“Any idea what this is about?” Stewart asked as they climbed the small flight of stairs.
“None.” Levesque remarked as she and Stewart led the group upwards.
Once they got up to the top they went through a pair of doors before heading down a long corridor. Deltan guards protected an archway at the end and the moment they saw the approaching Humans they ushered them into the large room that acted as the command centre for the entire Deltan Star Guard during the current conflict with the Carreons.
“Prime Minister An’die?” Levesque called out, gaining the attention of the leader of the Deltan people at the other end of the room.
The middle aged Deltan turned around from where he stood with his back to the door the Starfleet officers had entered from. He stood with other Deltans in an almost circular shape and hearing Levesque’s voice he moved to the side to reveal what he was surrounding. Instantly a smile fell over Levesque’s face as she realised why they had been called up.
“Hello Nicole!” Captain Burton said with his boyish smile at his first officer.
“Oh my god!” Levesque replied as she ran forward towards her captain who also stood with Commander Stanton, Sub Commander T’Plau and Commander Anthi. She was unsure why the Andorian woman was there but was so pleased to see her fellow crewmates alive and well. Burton had stepped forward and greeted her with a hug. The two embraced for a short time before releasing each other, not wanting to make a scene in front of everyone else.
Eventually the entire Starfleet crew were embracing each other, besides T’Plau. It had been over two months since they had all seen each other and they were all pleased to see each other.
“I’ve got so many questions for you.” Levesque said once they had all calmed down.
“Likewise.” Burton returned. “But the main thing is you’ve all survived, I’m pleased to see you all.”
“Captain what happened?” Ensign Stewart asked.
Burton turned to the other two Challenger officers that had arrived with him before looking at Anthi. “A lot has happened Ensign and we’ve got a lot to do still. I would like to see everyone else and properly catch up with you all. If Prime Minister An’die doesn’t mind?”
An’die shook his head. “No not at all Captain Burton, in fact I insist you see the rest of your crew especially after you’ve brought us all that data about the Romulans. Plus, it will give time for our engineers to fabricate the parts you need to repair your warp drive.”
“What data about the Romulans?” Levesque questioned looking at Burton.
Stanton chuckled and answered for the captain. “Don’t worry Nic, we can explain everything.”
Several hours later Burton followed Levesque out of the living area from where the Challenger survivors had lived for the last two months and on to their rooftop balcony. It was now late in the evening and the stars above them were beginning to glisten in the night sky.
“It’s beautiful here.” Burton commented as they sat down on one of the benches together.
“You get used to it after a while.” Levesque said back. She looked at Burton. “It’s really good to see you again Lloyd.” As she said it, she noticed him blushing and quickly added, “and obviously Michael and T’Plau too.” She paused to slow herself down, “It’s a shame about the others having to abandon ship.”
“I had no choice, Nicole.” Burton said grimly. “But I plan to get everyone back together.”
She leant over and took his hand into hers. “We’ll get them back.” She assured him.
“We’ve got a ship to finish off fixing first.” Burton stated, still holding her hand.
“I’m sure Michael has enjoyed sharing repair methodology with our Andorian friends!” She remarked after letting go of his hand and laughing at that idea.
“Lieutenant Dreu and he have been inseparable for days now.” Burton said. “But if Commander Anthi hadn’t turned up when she did, I’m sure we would have been goners.”
“Thankfully for us you’re not.” Levesque said, smiling sweetly. “That said the news you bring about the Romulans and Carreons isn’t what I expected to hear.”
“However, it does explain the Deltans and Carreon fleets fighting each other to the death.” Burton stated. “Hopefully with the information we’ve provided the Deltans with on the Romulan computer telepresence virus they may be able to find a defence to it.”
“So, if you’ve destroyed the Romulan control-ship then what’s causing the Deltans and Carreons to carry on fighting?” Levesque asked.
“It’s possible the Romulans have sent more than one ship to do this. If so, we need to find that last remaining ship and stop them.” Burton said. “Or the Carreons could be carrying on with the fight. Now the conflict is in full gear they may not stand down, at least not with enough evidence to convince them too. Either way we need to help bring this conflict to an end.”
“Easier said than done, Lloyd, especially with a broken ship and a divided crew.” Levesque said with a slightly defeated attitude in her tone.
“Both of which we can sort out now.” Burton responded before standing up and walking over to the banister. He turned around to face her again and leant against it. “I’ve yet to say how proud I am of your work you’ve done here. From what Prime Minister An’die and Ensign Stewart have told me you’ve done an impressive job in getting to know the Deltans and promoting a good relationship with them.”
Levesque now blushed at his compliment. “Thank you Lloyd, but I couldn’t have done it without the others and their hard work too. A lot of them have had to restrain themselves from the Deltans and their advances. I think we should consider promoting a few of them and placing a number of commendations into their files too.”
“Once we’ve got the crew back together and got this crisis behind us then we’ll do it.” Burton said.
“So, what is our next move?” Levesque asked as she got up and joined Burton where he stood.
“Let’s get the ship back up and running as best as we can then find what is blocking our long-range communication and take it out.” Burton said.
“And the rest of the crew?”
“We’ll find them, but for now I’m hoping they’re safe wherever they are.” Burton said as he looked up at the Deltan sky, wondering which star Ben-Ami and the others would be looking at right now.
Challenger NX-03, in orbit of Delta IV
“Another ruptured EPS conduit.” Stanton said as he and T’Plau walked down D deck, listing the damaged systems they were passing by. Stanton was using a hand scanner to detect the damages.
“Twenty-one so far.” T’Plau stated as she wrote system down on the list she had created on the tablet. They walked past two Deltan officers and T’Plau looked at them as they went down.
Stanton noticed his colleague’s glare but ignored it as they went down further down the corridor. He indicated with the scanner in his hand at the more damaged EPS conduits, “Twenty-two, twenty-three, and twenty-four.” As he was talking, they went by two Andorian engineers purging a fluidic converter. Again, T’Plau looked intensely at them and their work before following him. Once they turned a corner Stanton stopped in his tracks and T’Plau also did as well. They looked at each other and Stanton quickly spoke up. “Is there a problem, Sub Commander?”
T’Plau rose her left eyebrow and looked slight around them and back at the chief engineer. “I am sorry Commander, what do you mean?”
“We’ve passed four people and you’ve glared at each of them.” He replied.
“I was now glaring at them Commander; I was merely assessing what they were doing for the security of the ship.” T’Plau answered.
Stanton was now confused. “Assessing them for what?”
“Captain Burton has opened the ship to allow for both Andorian and Deltan repair teams on board.” T’Plau started with. “We cannot be sure if they any of them plan to sabotage the ship.”
“Sabotage the ship? Why would any of them want to do that?” Stanton questioned as he continued their walk down the corridor and catalogued the damaged systems.
T’Plau followed him. “If not sabotage then they may use this opportunity to do reconnaissance and attempt to steal any technology we have.”
Stanton shook his head in disbelief at the woman’s claims. “T’Plau for one thing the ship is so badly damaged there’s nothing here valuable stealing, along with that Andorian technology is more advanced than ours and the Deltans are on a technological par with us. There’s nothing neither of them could learn from stealing from us.”
“They may install components that could damage ours for being incompatible with theirs.” T’Plau threw back.
“Again unlikely, we are using all of our spare parts and those parts we need replacing the Deltans have offered to create to Starfleet specifications at their own parts factories.” Stanton stopped what he was doing and looked at her. “T’Plau seriously once we’re back on Earth, I plan to have the people at the Obama Repair Facility pull out every system and replace it with brand new parts. This ship will be stripped to its bare bones before it is completely fixed.” He paused as he looked at the woman. “On top of that, your cynicism is not helping the nature of our relations with both races. The Andorians are our allies and Commander Anthi is a strong supporter of the coalition, she wouldn’t risk doing anything to jeopardize it. While Prime Minister An’die wants all the information we have on the Romulans and Carreons and in returning he is letting us use one of his dry-docks so we can repair our ship. Captain Burton wants to make a friend out of Delta to Earth and the rest of the coalition. Allowing their engineers on board to help repairs is a massive gesture to show our trust in them.”
T’Plau had raised her eyebrow again. “I still believe it is a huge security threat, so we should check over their work once they have finished.”
“We’ll run diagnostics, don’t worry but as long as we can fly the ship and defend her until we get home well that’s all we need for now.” Stanton said.
T’Plau rose her eyebrow at the engineer. “I only hope your optimism does not put any of us at risk Commander.”
“Trust me T’Plau, I’m an engineer.” Stanton replied with his boyish grin.
Composed, relaxed, unruffled, Ensign Niall Stewart made his way around sickbay. It was now a damaged, broken place with destroyed, wrecked pieces of equipment laying everywhere. The place looked like a warzone, yet he felt calmer now he was finally home on Challenger. Shortly after returning to the ship he had made his way to his place of work to see what state it was. Since the ship had docked with the Deltan shipyard, repair crews were now running around at the speed of light in an attempt to repair a majority of the Earth ship. The urgency in getting Challenger up and running again was for two reasons. One was to go and rescue the rest of the crew and the other was to help bring an end of the Deltan-Carreon conflict. Ensign Stewart still wondered how Captain Burton planned to do the latter but that wasn’t something he had to worry about. The captain had ordered him to begin sorting out sickbay. As Challenger’s acting chief medical officer now, he needed to get the entire area ready in case it was needed. When he had entered the room, since his almost two month ‘vacation’ on Delta, he hadn’t realised how much he missed the place and was eager to get things back to the way they were before the ship had been beaten up.
He had found a broom in a nearby storage area and began sweeping up the dirt and debris that currently littered the floor of the medical facility. Stewart had not registered the arrival of one of his friends until he had heard walking on some shattered glass on the floor. Looking up in her direction, he paused what he was doing. “Martha,” Stewart said, surprised to see her there, “what are you doing here?”
Ensign Habiba entered the room and began to survey the damage, in a similar manner that Stewart had done himself. “I came down to give you a hand in getting sickbay up and running again.”
“Oh, well thanks.” He answered, his Irish accent being noticeable at the start of that sentence. The two of them had become distant during their stint on Delta due to the way Habiba had been with them all. She had spoken out against Levesque’s plan to get to explore and get to know the Deltans as well as help them with knowledge about the Romulans. Stewart had been Levesque’s right-hand man through the entire thing and fully supported the commander with her decision. As such it had caused a number of arguments between the two friends, ending with them no longer talking to each other in recent weeks.
Habiba walked over to one of the sides, picked up an empty wastebasket and began sweeping the debris off one of the sides into the bin with a brush she had taken out from a cleaning storage. After several sweeps she stopped in mid-motion, unable to deal with the uneasy silence between the two of them. “Niall this is ridiculous.” She said turning around to confront him.
Stewart paused using the broom in his hands and turned to look at her. “What do you mean?”
“I mean us.” She indicated to them both with a brush in her left hand. “We were good friends before everything that happened on Delta.”
“Well it’s obvious we just need to be colleagues and leave it at that.” He returned bitterly.
She put the brush down and walked over to him. “You really think that?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he didn’t say anything back and went back to his cleaning.
“Come on Niall, can we please put this behind us and try to save what’s left of our friendship, please?” She begged. “Right now, you’re the only one here I’m close to and my stomach feels sick of dread that when we go to find the others that something bad has happened. I can’t cope not having anyone to go to over it.”
Stewart stopped and looked directly at her while wincing slightly at her words. He shared in her concerns, particularly for his own fiancé that he had no-idea if he had survived. Breathing, he considered her words at first. If there was something he had learnt about being an acting first officer under Levesque it was to make sure to think carefully before reacting to anything. “Well that’s your fault Martha.” He bluntly answered with. “You made your decisions down there when you decided to side against Commander Levesque and the rest of us.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” She cried back. “I’ll most likely face a disciplinary action once this is all over.”
“And what? Do you think if we were friends again then that will all go away? That somehow us both rekindling our friendship will make it all better?” He rhetorically asked. “No Martha! You’ve made your bed and now you must lay in it. I won’t be part of it. You went against everything this uniform stands for. You showed your true colours in not pretending to do whatever it takes when being a Starfleet officer.”
Tears began to slowly sting her cheeks as Habiba tried her best to keep herself composed. “You know what Niall I never thought you were this mean. I honestly believed that you were the forgiving type, that you would at least try and put what happened on Delta behind us and at least try to be my friend again.” She threw the brush on to the floor. “I didn’t think this could get any worse, not only does my department head hate me, but on the same day I found out my boyfriend is missing somewhere and could quite possibly be dead. And to top it off one of my good friends refuses to help me. Thanks very much Niall!” Habiba stormed out of sickbay, leaving her bitter words hanging in the air.
Stewart watched her march out and down the corridor away from him. Annoyed, irritated, frustrated, he gave out a loud sigh of anger at how quickly he had changed how felt since returning to the ship. Habiba had put him in an awful mood now. The rage only fuelled his determination to get the sickbay all sorted as soon as possible, even if it meant keeping to himself to get it all done. He refused to let Habiba get to him.
Quietly sat behind her desk in her ready room, Commander Anthi was reading the latest repair estimates for Challenger. Since their arrival at Delta she had been surprised at how generous and friendly the Deltan people were, especially their leader Prime Minister An’die. She knew that a lot of that was down to the hard work that Captain Burton’s first officer had put in while she and other members of their crew had been left stranded on the planet. Anthi herself had told her crew to make the same amount of effort with the Deltans; she wanted them to impress them as much as the pink-skins had. The door chime to her private office went off. Placing her desktop console into standby mode, she answered whoever wanted to come in.
“Yes, enter.” She said.
The doors opened to reveal her own first officer walking in. Lieutenant Thom made his way over to her desk. Unlike her Human counterpart’s office, hers was a larger room and less cramped in size and feel. It had a higher ceiling and more space, allowing her to meet with most of her senior officers in comfort. If that was one thing, she hoped the Humans would learn from their alliance: to make their starships more relaxing for their crew to inhabit. The Imperial Guard believed if their soldiers felt comfortable while on duty then they focussed more on their work. Due to her office being slightly larger, Thom had to take several steps before he stood in front of her. She gestured for him to take the seat on the other side to her.
“Thom, how can I help you?” She asked as she watched him sit down.
He handed her a computer tablet and responded, “Commander I’m pleased to report we believe we’ve located what is blocking our long-range communications.”
The good news made Anthi’s eyes light up. “Really? That is excellent! Where are they?” She asked.
“In a nearby uninhabited star system ma’am.” Thom answered.
Anthi stood up from her desk, pushing her chair slightly backwards. “Are there any enemy ships nearby?”
Thom shook his head. “We’re not picking up any on long range scanners.”
“Then let’s not waste any time.” She ordered as she led the two of them out on to the command centre. “Lieutenant Thom, recall all of the crew at once.” Anthi ordered as they stepped through the main entrance. Quickly, she made her way over to her command chair and sat in it. Activating the communicator in the chair’s arm, she opened a ship-wide channel, “All hands to battle-stations, set to condition one throughout the ship!”
The lights on the Avenkerev’s bridge dimmed and a blue hue filled the room and the rest of the ship. Thom had taken his position at one of the side stations, he spun around on his chair to look towards Anthi, “All decks are at condition one ma’am.”
“Excellent, get me Captain Burton.” She ordered as she crossed her right leg over her left one and relaxed into her chair.
Thom followed her orders and was able to get the Human captain. “I have him ma’am, audio only as he’s still down on Delta.”
“Captain Burton can you hear me?” The Andorian woman asked.
“Burton here, go ahead Commander Anthi.” Burton replied.
“Captain we’ve just found the location of what we believe is blocking our long-range communications. I’m preparing to depart to investigate.” She stated.
“That’s good news to hear. Do you want me to ask Prime Minister An’die if he can spare any ships to help you?” Burton offered.
“No, I think it’s best we go alone, we won’t raise too much suspicion, but it does mean I need to recall my entire crew. Will Commander Stanton be able to carry on without Lieutenant Dreu?” She asked.
“I believe so.” Burton said. “Please pass on my thanks to your entire crew for their help these last few days.”
“Good hunting then Commander.”
“Thank you Captain, Anthi out.” She finished with and indicated to Thom to close the channel. Turning her attention back to the helm, she spoke up to her pilot and navigator. “Once everyone is back then lay in a course and engage at warp three.”
The two Andorian officers sitting in front of her both nodded in response, allowing Anthi to relax a bit more into her chair.
Finally, she thought, some action at last.