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Part of Challenger: All For One & One For All

PROLOGUE

London, United Kingdom of Great Britain, United Earth
Friday, September 5th, 2155
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Walking to his car, Doctor Fraser Burton was buttoning up his long coat as an attendant ushered him down from the steps of the Royal Albert Hall and into his waiting car. The sixty-three-year-old physicist bobbed his head down to enter the vehicle after the chauffeur opened the door for him. He smiled in gratitude and got himself comfortable into the car. 

Behind him was his colleague Doctor Beverly Lockhart, who had accompanied him to the opera show they had just watched. It had been the last part of the conference he had been invited to. Some of Humanity’s leading scientists had attended a four-day conference in London, all-coming together to discuss various topics and issues that related to their fields of expertise. A bulk of their discussions had been around the latest developments that could help Earth and its allies against the Romulans in their war. 

As one of Earth’s leading physicists that were involved in warp theory, Burton had chaired many meetings and had been a special guest speaker at several lectures.  Being the current holder of the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University meant that his theories and ideas were seen as almost god-like with his peers. 

“Remind me to never agree to RSVP to one of these events again Beverly.” He moaned as they put their seat belts on in their black limousine.

Lockhart chuckled at his words as she pushed a lock of her fading blonde hair behind her right ear. “Is the opera not to your taste Fraser?” She asked.

Burton shook his head. “Far from it.” He stated as he took his seat and put on his seatbelt. “My wife on the other hand loves the opera.”

“Then perhaps you should offer Lynette your ticket next time?” Lockhart suggested referring to Burton’s wife as she took her seat next to him before looking towards the driver. “Please take us to Saint Pancras/King’s Cross station.” She ordered.

“Yes ma’am.” The driver replied. 

“That sounds like an excellent idea, why didn’t I think of that?” Burton asked her. He smiled at her; pleased he had her on his staff. She was an excellent physicist and a great researcher. 

“So how’s the new grandson doing?” Lockhart asked as their car moved off and travelled through the busy streets of the British capital city. 

Burton smiled at the thought of the latest member of the Burton clan. “Oliver is doing well thank you, in fact Madison and Stephen are coming over to stay with Lynette and I tomorrow evening.”

Lockhart copied her boss’ positive expression at the news he shared. “And how’s Madison doing with motherhood?”

Chuckling at that notion, Burton spoke up. “Stephen said she’s struggling not being able to retreat to the centre chair when Oliver needs feeding at four o’clock in the morning. Fortunately for Madison Starfleet have kept her seat open.”

“You think she’ll return to commanding Voyager?” Lockhart asked him as rain began to tap down on their moving vehicle. 

Burton had been looking through the darkened windows at the busy streets of South Kensington when she asked him that. He turned to look at her. “With the war with the Romulans on, it wouldn’t surprise me if she returns to duty early. Thankfully though Voyager is stuck in dry-dock as it was undergoing a major overhaul when the declaration was made. It won’t be space-worthy for at least another two months.”

“Plenty of time for her to spend with little Oliver then.” Lockhart stated.

Nodding in agreement, Burton returned to looking outside. He recognised several buildings, including the Science Museum. A place they had visited at the start of the conference for a formal reception. “How about Alicia? Have you heard from her?” He asked, referring to Beverly’s wife who was a Starfleet Captain too.

A sad expression went across the middle-aged woman’s face as she replied. “Unfortunately no. Still the Miranda isn’t due back from Alpha Centauri for another two days, I’m hoping to see her in Chicago then.”

Burton squeezed his friend’s hand for assurance. “I’m sure if something bad happened then Starfleet would have let you know by now.”

Lockhart held his hand just a bit more. “That’s what I keep reminding myself of.”

“Alpha Centauri isn’t too far for them not to know what’s going on.” He added, a hint of sadness entering his voice.

“Have you heard any news on Lloyd’s ship?” Lockhart enquired. “The news feeds haven’t reported anything positive.”

“Unfortunately the disappearance of Challenger isn’t big news anymore.” Burton frowned at his words. “In three months they haven’t heard from them and all Starfleet can guess is that they were victims of the Romulans’ early volleys in this godforsaken war.” 

“Don’t give up hope Fraser.” Lockhart assured him. “If anything, remember that no news is good news.”

“I keep telling Lynette that, but I know she worries for all four of our children. With Roman out on Discovery and Seth is on the Republic, well you can understand why we feel apprehensive about Madison returning to Voyager so quickly.” Burton said as he tried to relax into his black leather chair. 

“There isn’t a family on Earth or the rest of the Commonwealth that doesn’t have a loved one who is in harm’s way right now. Just remember your children and many others are out there defending our way of life against aggressors who would take it away from us.” Lockhart reminded him. A brief lull of silence filled the car. “You haven’t mentioned what Admiral Gardner spoke to you about earlier? Was it about Lloyd?”

Burton shook his head. “No, he was asking me about-” He paused as they eventually arrived at their destination and the limousine came to a graceful stop. Both scientists got out of the car after their driver had opened their doors. He opened the boot to their car and picked up their small hand luggage that had been stowed away in there earlier. The two scientists left him and walked into Saint Pancras/King’s Cross Station. The station was one of the capital city’s busiest ports. From here high-speed trains could be taken to various locations across the British Isles as well as into neighbouring European nation of France. London’s famous underground tube network also had a station here, allowing the city’s commuters to access the high-speed subterranean trains. On top of the train stations was a shuttle-port that allowed small flying transports to take people further afield, be it to another location in the world or into space. A private transport was sitting ready to take Doctors Burton and Lockhart to Tokyo for a meeting they had the next day. 

They entered a nearby elevator, neither of them talking, which took them all the way up to the rooftop facility. An attendee quickly escorted them to their craft, after checking their boarding passes and other travel papers. Both of them had to go through a set of scanners after they had dropped off their bags and other items onto the conveyor belt. 

As they entered the small transport, Burton spoke up. “What were we talking about before we got out of the limousine?” He asked Lockhart.

“You began to tell me about your conversation with Admiral Gardner when we arrived.” She prompted him as she started to look around the cabin. Their small cabin had some luxurious reclining chairs for them to take as well as a small bar area at the other end. There were two computer terminals also fixed along one side for them to use. They were truly travelling in style.  

“Ah yes.” Burton remembered as he took off his coat and took one of the seats. 

Pausing for a moment, Lockhart realised they were missing something. “Fraser, did you pick up our bag with our tablets in?”

He looked around and shook his head, “No sorry, Beverly. I thought you did.”

“I must have left them by the baggage scanner, I’ll go get them.” She said as she quickly rushed to the exit, informed the attendant what she needed and made her way across the shuttle-port. There sitting on the edge of the conveyor belt was the bag she had thought she had lost. Picking it up in her right hand, Lockhart turned around to head back to her transport but was stopped as she pushed down to the floor. Her entire surrounding was filled with total darkness. On the rooftop people ran and screamed in fear as the private transport that Lockhart had just got off exploded into a ball of flames. Pushing herself off from the floor, Lockhart screamed out for her colleague as she pushed her hair out of her face.

She got no response from him. He was gone.