Watching quietly with no-one else by, Commander Rodham felt relief wash over him once Shuttlepod Two had finally returned to the ship. Standing in the control room in the launch-bay, he watched as the dorsal hatch to the small craft flung open and the ladder, attached to the upper gantry, fell down to connect to it. Within moments the landing party that he had sent out climbed out of their craft with the captain’s group mixed with them too. The moment he saw Michael among his crewmates, a huge smile appeared on his face.
“Welcome back.” He said as he greeted everyone after activating the intercom.
Müller, who was pleased to see his first officer, grinned at Rodham’s greeting. “Commander, we weren’t away for that long.”
Rodham appeared to blush a bit in response before speaking. “No, I understand sir, but we feared we had lost you when we saw what the Romulans did to your shuttlepod.”
Tugging on his right lobe at the reminder of losing the craft, Müller winced at the idea. “Regrettably we’re going to have to request a new shuttle when we get home. However the hunt did return something in our favour.”
Rodham was trying his best to listen to his captain, who was leading the team through towards the away team locker room, however he was a little bit distracted by the smiling face of his husband. Stanton was returning the gesture back as they followed the captain off the gantry and into the small room with everyone else.
“We bagged ourselves a Romulan Alex!” Michael explained as they left the launch bay.
Taking the exit out of the control room and towards the decon-chamber, Stanton was confused with the remark made by his husband. Walking down the corridor a few steps, he soon approached the window that allowed him to look into the decon-chamber. He activated the intercom again once he saw the team moving through it. “What do you mean you bagged yourself a Romulan?”
The captain turned to look at his first officer while Doctor Reyburn scanned them all with her portable scanner. “We found a decomposing dead body under the colony. We think it’s a Romulan because it had the Romulan emblem on its uniform.”
“Oh…” Rodham replied with, slightly disgusted at the thought of finding a rotting corpse.
“Commander, once we’re clear here, have the stiff moved from the shuttlepod and taken to sickbay for Mel to be able to run an autopsy.” Müller ordered.
Rodham nodded in response. “Aye sir.”
“I don’t think any of us will be leaving here anytime soon.” Reyburn interrupted as she finished her scans. “I’m detecting a protocystian spore within our systems. We’ll need to undergo treatment in the decon-chamber, but it’s easily sorted.”
Frustrated at the news, Captain Müller looked towards his first officer. “Alex, where do we stand with finding the colonists?” He asked as everyone started to fill into the chamber behind him.
“Our probes and drones have found some of them in one of the caverns, but no signs of Governor Kharkov. We’re working with the rest of the task group to find him and the others.” Rodham answered as he remembered that before the shuttlepod had docked he had heard from the bridge about the news.
Müller smiled at that update. “That’s good to hear. Once we’ve found them, I want to begin the evacuation of the colonists. The sooner we do that the sooner we leave this system.”
“The colonists may not want to leave sir.” Rodham remarked as he caught his husband step into the decon-chamber behind the captain.
“We’ll deal with their protests another time, commander. Find the governor and the others, that’s an order.” Müller stated as he noticed their doctor giving him a look to move into the chamber.
Rodham just nodded as he watched the doors to the chamber close behind his captain.
Returning to the bridge, Rodham stepped off the lift and spoke up. “Report Maria?”
Standing up from the captain’s chair, Lieutenant Nuñez turned to look at her superior. “Sir, three Vulcan ships have just dropped out of warp. All of them are D’kyr-class.”
Curious as to why a heavily armed Vulcan task group would be arriving, Alex stepped towards the centre of the bridge as Nuñez took her place at the science station. Straightening his uniform jumpsuit, Rodham looked over to Ensign Russo at the communications console. “Greta, open a channel.” He told her.
The female linguist did as she was told but stopped mid-work and turned to her superior. “Sir, they’re hailing us.”
“On screen then.” Rodham ordered.
The main screen changed to show the image of a female Vulcan in a Vulcan High Command uniform with the insignia rank of captain. “I am Ly’ta, commanding officer of the Sakra. We recently intercepted a distress call coming from the Earth colony of Gault. We have arrived to provide assistance.” Captain Ly’ta had strong brown hair that was bobbed around her right ear, while the left side was cut short and showed her pointed Vulcan ear. Her piercing blue eyes only added to her formidable presence that she projected from where she sat in her chair on her bridge. The woman appeared to be a seasonal officer, the way she spoke was calm and collected.
“Captain Ly’ta, thank you for responding. I am Commander Alex Rodham, first officer of the Discovery.” Alex answered with. “We are grateful to any assistance you and your fleet can provide.”
Tilting her head slightly to the right, the Vulcan woman remained composed still. “We have just engaged a nearby Romulan vessel, who we believed was escaping from this system. When we picked up your colony’s distress call we logically assumed where the enemy ship was coming from. We can assure you that the threat has been dealt with.”
“Poetic justice.” Mumbled Lieutenant Nuñez.
Ignoring the science officer’s comment, even though he agreed with it, Rodham continued to build a rapport with their Vulcan ally. “We appreciate you finishing off what we started then.” He said. “Captain, would you mind assisting us in locating our colonists? They went into deep hiding among the mountains and underground when the Romulans attacked. The extra sensors would speed up the process. My captain, who is currently indisposed, would greatly appreciate your help as will I.”
Ly’ta just nodded. “We will assist, commander and if you require us to send any teams to the surface then we can provide that service as well.”
“Thank you, I will have my science officer coordinate our efforts with you shortly.”
Bowing to end the conversation, Ly’ta closed the channel from her end and Rodham turned to his crew. “Maria, start working with the rest of the fleet and our new Vulcan allies to find the colonists.”
Nuñez replied with an “aye sir” as she undertook her assignment.
Turning to his communication officer, “Greta, inform the rest of the fleet the Vulcan task group is joining us with our efforts. Let’s see how quickly we can get this job done.” Rodham said as he took the captain’s chair. Looking out at the main viewer, it had changed to show the Gault colony below as they orbited it with the other Starfleet ships and new additions: the Vulcans.
Within the almost cramped confines of the decon-chamber, Commander Stanton found himself standing on one side of the chamber, while a curtain had been dragged across the middle to separate the space. He was with Müller and Wallis while on the other side were the female members of the landing party. Doctor Reyburn had picked up a protocystian spore in their system. After rubbing the appropriate gel into their skin (a quite sensual experience Stanton had yet to experience since joining Challenger) the Starfleet and MACO officers were all sat while the decon-chamber hummed under the range of ultraviolet radiation being pumped in. The range of waves made the whole thing relaxing of sorts, but Stanton had wondered just how much longer he had to sit in his boxer shorts. He felt quite exposed.
Sat on one of the benches, Captain Müller had closed his eyes soon after they had applied the gel and appeared to be relaxing under the various tones of purple and blue hitting against his almost naked body. He wasn’t asleep and while the women on the other side of the curtain were chatting among themselves, none of the men had spoken.
“Captain, may I ask a question?” Stanton requested in hush tones from where he sat on the central bench with Wallis next to him. Discovery’s chief armoury officer had his back to Stanton’s right shoulder with his head hanging low while they underwent their treatment.
Müller, opening his left eye slightly, spoke up. “Go ahead Michael.”
“You mentioned earlier that you owe a massive debt to Captain Burton, what did you mean by that?” Stanton knew he may be pushing a boundary here but ever since he had heard that from Müller, he was eager like a fox on a hunt to know more.
Smirking and sniggering somewhat, Müller opened both eyes and sat up. “We were roommates together at Starfleet Training Command and like most eager cadets at that time we thought the galaxy was our treasure chest. But Lloyd was the sensible one of the two of us. He worked hard, while I played hard. He tutored me to ensure I got the grades I deserved. Along with that he saved my life once. Between our second and third years we took a vacation climbing Mount McKinley. I was showing off and didn’t put my harness on properly. Fortunately for me he noticed it quickly, was able to pull me off a ledge before I fell to my death.”
“Wow, he’s never shared that story with me.” Stanton replied. “I never knew he was into rock climbing.”
“When Lloyd was a young cadet he was into a lot of physical sports. I watched him captain the rugby and lacrosse teams in our final year at STC and saw him compete in the annual sparring competition.” Müller recalled. “He’s someone you always want to watch your back. I was surprised he wasn’t offered a command a lot sooner.”
Wallis cleared his throat and sat up to look at his captain, “What do you mean sir?”
Rubbing his face, Müller answered. “Burton was the valedictorian of our class, I only got salutatorian but I was picked to command Discovery above him.”
“But sir, you were the chief engineer on several ships before being made the first officer on the Pioneer. You’ve had more active command experience than Captain Burton.” Wallis stated in defence of his captain’s remark.
“Maybe so, but Lloyd should have been shortlisted for Discovery before me. I only got this job because Captain McKinnies pulled in favours to have my application pushed forward to the admiralty.” Müller countered with. “Not that I am not grateful to my former CO for his efforts.”
Stanton nodded in acknowledgement. “I understand how you feel sir.”
“Exactly, in fact if I remember right before my promotion was announced I read somewhere you were meant to be on Discovery?” Müller questioned Stanton.
“That feels like a lifetime ago now.” Stanton replied. “But yeah, I was meant to be stationed here on Discovery, not Challenger. The admiralty had other plans for me after Captain Karim’s death.”
“Well at least now you can say you had the opportunity to serve on two NX-class ships as its chief engineer.” Müller stated with a smile.
“That I can.” Stanton agreed.
“And have you decided which ship is the best yet?” Wallis wondered.
Stanton just chuckled, deciding not to answer that question.
Changing the subject, Müller recognised that the engineer wasn’t going to betray Challenger or upset the crew he currently worked with. “You’re a true diplomat Michael, talking of which, are you able to share with us exactly how you ended up making an honest man of our first officer?”
Before Stanton had the chance to answer, the curtain that split the room in half, was pulled back to show Major Danvers and Doctor Reyburn’s faces.
“We want to know details!” The MACO Detachment Commander demanded.
“Well we met at STC, we were roommates as well and fell in love. We were complete opposites to each other but complemented one another so much.” Stanton answered. He didn’t want to say too much as he didn’t want to embarrass Alex.
“Wow, you guys have been together that long?” Wallis enquired.
Shaking his head once, Stanton replied to the armoury officer. “Actually after graduating and a few months into our first postings we called it quits. We were separated by a huge distance. It wasn’t the same.”
“What changed?” Doctor Reyburn questioned.
“For us to get back together?” Stanton clarified.
She nodded in response.
“We never actually lost what connected us, I suppose.”
Saturday, 19th June 2151
Luna NV-05, docked at Oakland Shipyard
“All hands this is Captain Proulx, I am happy to say we are home and you may leave to begin your two-week vacation, bon voyage.” The voice of the Luna’s commanding officer echoed through the corridors of the NV-class. Finally home after a number of years patrolling the space lanes and supporting the colonies in the home territories, the Luna would receive a number of updates before heading back out. However once it left dry-dock, things would be different. Her chief engineer, one Lieutenant Michael Stanton, would no longer be on her.
Walking down the corridor, finally out of his uniform and in a comfortable grey hoodie and black jeans, Stanton carried his gear towards the docking port ready to start his new career as an assistant professor of Engineering at Starfleet Training Command. He would miss his crewmates but being planet-side would be a welcome change.
Turning down the T-junction, towards the docking port he was surprised to see Captain Proulx standing there waiting with her arms crossed. Proulx was a tallish woman, with thick dark hair and hazel coloured eyes. A formidable woman, she was a former pilot turned captain who had the respect of everyone who served under her. Stanton included. She had shaped him into the officer he had become and was gutted when he told her of his plans to leave the ship and join the engineering staff at STC.
“Did you think you could leave without a final au revoir?” She asked, sounding with a mixture of annoyance with a dash of teasing. “You must request permission to disembark from your captain Lieutenant Stanton.”
Grinning at her, Michael stopped just before her and the doorway to his next adventure. “I apologise ma’am, I thought at my goodbye party last night you gave me permission to leave the ship?”
“Non,” She replied in her French accent. “You know I do not wish to lose you Michael. Not many engineers get how to sort out an engine and keep their captain happy like you do.”
Appreciating her comments, Michael took a breath and requested permission to leave.
Sighing, she nodded. “Oui Monsieur Stanton. Bon voyage!” She pulled him for a brief hug before letting him go and watching him leave her ship.
As he stepped through the threshold, Michael felt a sense of relief that he had not felt for a long time. Walking through the connecting docking tunnel he made his way through and on to the dry-dock’s observation deck. He turned around to take one more look at the Luna and said his final goodbye. As he made his way towards the lift he saw a figure standing on the raised deck that he recognised instantly. Standing with a smile on his face, still looking as handsome as ever was Alex Rodham.
“Hello stranger.” He said towards Stanton as he approached him. “I heard a rumour you were back in town.”
Stanton was shocked and was sure he could feel his legs turning into jelly as he tried to register that his former boyfriend was standing before him. A million questions were running through his mind at that point, like what was he doing here? How did he know he was leaving the ship? Was he dating anyone?
“Alex, it’s good to see you.”
Rodham nodded in agreement. “Likewise, fancy a drink?”
Without hesitation, Stanton said yes and Rodham offered to take one of his bags as they took the lift down to the transport that was planned to take Stanton down to Earth.
Sunday, 20th June 2151
Starfleet Training Command Campus, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth
Waking up in a strange bed and in a strange location that wasn’t a ship, was unusual for Michael. Seeing bright sunshine beaming through windows also felt alien to him as well. The past six years he had been used to seeing the stars twenty-four-seven. Being home felt good though. Within a few seconds of opening his eyes though he felt a massive twinge of regret rush through his head like lighting. The worse headache overwhelmed him and his stomach grumbled from the pain he had put it through the night before. After settling into his new apartment at STC, he had gone out to have drinks with Alex. They had spent the entire night drinking and catching up. Slowly he got himself out of bed as he tried to deal with the hangover that now loomed over him, he left the bed he found himself in and soon realised he wasn’t in his apartment. In fact the place he discovered himself to be appeared to be lived in, compared to his spartan home he had moved into yesterday. Instantly he remembered coming back to Alex’s residence once the bar they had been in had closed.
“Oh my god,” He whispered to himself. “What have I done?”
A sense of regret now flooded him. He can’t remember what they did once they got back to the flat, but with most of his clothes besides his underwear all on the floor mixed with what Alex had been wearing, he could only infer one thing. They had slept together. After they had split-up all those years ago, Michael had vowed never to get back with his ex. It would be too painful, but now…well now he didn’t know what to think or feel.
“You’re awake!” said a chirper voice from behind. Walking in through the only door in the room (besides the balcony one) was Alex. He held in one hand a hypospray and in the other a glass of water. “I thought you might appreciate these.” He offered both items.
Michael just nodded in gratitude and took them both. Instantly he started to feel better and sipped on the water quite a bit. “Listen Alex, what happened last night…I’m sorry if-”
“If it complicated our breakup?” Rodham finished.
“Yeah.” Stanton whispered.
Rodham shook his head. “I don’t think it did, it felt good to have you back in my arms again.”
Stanton smiled at that remark. He wished he could remember that feeling. “Alex, I’ve got this new job at STC and I’m not sure if starting-”
Again Rodham interrupted him, “where we left off from is a good idea?” He paused to look at Stanton and then sat on the edge of the bed. “Michael, all I can say is that these past five years have been hell without you. Now you’re here, I don’t want to lose you again.”
“Yeah but you’ll be flying off on your starship soon and we’ll be back to where we were before.” Stanton said as he sat down next to his ex.
Shaking his head in disagreement, Rodham explained his situation. No longer was he starship bound, like Michael he was joining STC to help train the next generation of cadets in flight school while also working for Starfleet R&D with a range of projects. “You see,” He added, “We can take off from where we left it last time.”
Michael looked into Alex’s eyes, no longer was he feeling sick, but he finally felt he was home and it felt good to be with the man that he fell in love with when he was an eager cadet. Leaning in he just pulled the pilot into a tight kiss and didn’t want to let go of him.
Tuesday, October 8th, 2155
Discovery NX-04, in orbit of Gault Colony
“And I’ve never let him out of my sight for too long since.”
The entire group were all surprised at the voice of their first officer over the intercom from where he stood behind the observation port looking into them. “Sorry for the ear-drop.” Rodham said as he looked at the landing party who were all listening to Stanton’s story of how the two of them had reconnected and had not let go of each other subsequently.
Embarrassed he had been caught; Stanton blushed at being caught by his husband. “Sorry.” He mouthed.
Standing up, Captain Müller looked over to his first officer. “What do you have, Commander?”
“We’ve found Governor Kharkov; he was in that bunker you originally found and he has agreed to the evacuation of the colony.” Rodham reported from where he stood.
“Excellent news.” Major Danvers said.
Rodham continued to talk, “We’re also receiving help from three Vulcan ships. The task group will be able to leave and head back to Earth in the next twelve hours as long as the colonists leave without any more issues.”
Looking towards his chief medical officer after listening to his first officer, Captain Müller was eager to return to duty, “Doctor, are we able to leave the decon-chamber now?”
Reyburn had her medical scanner already in her hands and was using it to find out if they were free of the alien spores. She nodded after switching it off. “We are free to depart sir.”
“Brilliant,” Müller said and looked back at his first officer. “Carry on with the work, Commander Rodham and we’ll be with you soon. I want to speak to the other captains in a moment too. Set it up.”
“Aye sir.” Rodham replied.
The landing party all soon started to leave the chamber with Stanton being the last. He looked back over his shoulder and saw Rodham still standing there, checking him out. Rodham gave him a cheeky wink followed by blowing a kiss. Stanton rolled his eyes at his husband as he made his way out and towards the locker room to shower and put on a clean uniform.
Walking down the corridor of Discovery, Captain Müller and his first officer, were heading towards sickbay. The ship was currently at warp three heading back to Earth with the rest of the fleet after they had successfully evacuated Gault. It had taken just under twelve hours to find everyone and get them off the planet. With them now successfully underway, the crew were now playing host to government officials from Gault. Both Müller and Rodham had just finished dinner with the governor and his lieutenant-governor with several other officials when they had been called to sickbay by Doctor Reyburn.
Once the doors to the ship’s infirmary had opened, both senior officers were surprised to see not only their doctor present but their chief engineer and chief communications officer.
“I had wondered where you three were for the governor’s reception.” Müller remarked to them three.
“Sorry captain, but I needed both Commander Stanton and Ensign Russo to assist me in the mystery of the dead corpse we recovered on Gault.” Reyburn stated from where she stood in the centre of the room.
Originally the three of them were all standing in a semi-circle before the arrival of the captain and first officer. All of them were working on the larger flat screen that hung above the imaging chamber. When they had been joined by their superior officers they had turned around to let them in.
“What have you discovered about our dead Romulan soldier?” The captain asked instantly. He assumed it was the reason why they had been called down.
“Actually sir, we do not think it’s a Romulan.” Reyburn announced.
“How can that be so?” Rodham asked as he crossed his arms against his chest. “I thought you said the uniform had a Romulan emblem on it?”
“It does have the Romulan cress, the one we’ve encountered on the bows of their ships and other equipment,” Stanton remarked. “However after we examined his uniform and other equipment further we found something else that makes us reconsider our original hypothesis. Hence why we called Ensign Russo down.”
“What did you find then?” Müller asked his communications officer.
“The Romulan cress only appears once on the uniform, whereas this emblem appears in multiple locations.” Russo stated as she tapped a button on the tablet she held in her hand and showed it on the larger screen.
Appearing on the screen were several screenshots of the same logo which looked similar to a disfigured X with small blades coming out from its central point in a horizontal fashion.
“We found it tattooed on the back, along with being either side of the helmet, central to the belt and carved into the dagger.” Reyburn added.
“How do we not know this is not an emblem for the unit this soldier belongs to?” Rodham pondered aloud. “We wear both the Starfleet logo and our ship’s emblem on either side of our arms. Why can’t it be that?”
“It’s a possibility of it being that too, but when we found what we believe to be text Russo ran a linguistic comparison to what we know of written Romulan and it does not match anything we have on file.” Stanton responded. “Also when I investigated the helmet I found something that made us reconsider.” The chief engineer walked over to where the alien’s helmet was sitting on a nearby bed and picked it up. “My scans of it show that there’s a filter added to the visor section that drastically reduces light from entering the helmet. From what we know of Romulan technology when two of Enterprise’s officers boarded one of their crafts during the marauder incident earlier this year, Romulan ships are well lit. Starfleet Corps of Engineering hypothesised they were not a photosensitive species.”
“From the ocular remains that were left, I was able to determine that this species has sunken eyes that are photosensitive.” Reyburn interjected in their case.
Müller copied his first officer and crossed his arms as he looked at the data that the three of them were now presenting. “What else have you found?”
Reyburn carried on with their findings and described how she believed that this species had inner eyelids, copper-based blood, was hair-less and had a larger cranial capacity which made her believe they may possess limited telepathic abilities.
“You still haven’t convinced me that this isn’t a Romulan.” Rodham declared after the team had finished sharing their discoveries.
“Alex, you’ve got to remember that during the marauder incident, the Romulans had kidnapped an Aenar to use their telepathic abilities to control their ships. If this was a Romulan, then why didn’t they use their own abilities to control these ships? Why go to all the trouble of capturing an Aenar?” Michael countered with.
Rodham shrugged his shoulders. “Probably because Aenars are better telepaths?”
“Unfortunately what we have here is a lot of speculation. We know they must be part of the Romulan Star Empire due to the emblem on their clothing” Müller chimed in with. “But what else we have does not give us the answer we seek. We’ve got no proven facts to confirm that this is a Romulan or a…” He paused, “What else are we calling it?”
No-one spoke for a moment until Russo cleared her throat. “A Reman.”
“A what?” Rodham clarified.
“Reman.” Russo repeated. “Whatever the Romulans actually call themselves in their language translates to Romulan in ours. Starfleet has already named their homeworld Romulus, after the legend of King Romulus, why can’t we use the name of his twin brother, Remus, to name this individual?” She asked aloud.
Müller considered it for a moment and agreed. “Reman it is, for now.”
Reyburn looked towards her captain. “Sir the actual body of the Reman completely decomposed an hour ago. All that is left is their equipment, armour and helmet. What shall we do with it?”
“Have Commander Wallis lock it up and we will share it with Starfleet Intelligence when we get home.” Müller answered. “I’m also ordering all of you to keep all of this to yourselves. I’m sure Starfleet will classify this until we know more information.”
All of them nodded in agreement and understood how important it was to keep this information a secret for now. If word got out they had captured a Romulan (or a Reman as Russo had named it) then it may cause more problems for Starfleet. They couldn’t share anything yet until they knew what it was. If they ever discovered that out.
“Dismissed.” The captain ordered the group and they all soon left sickbay, leaving just him behind to consider what they now knew about their enemy, or at least this soldier that fought for the Romulan Star Empire.
After leaving sickbay, Stanton and Rodham had decided to call it a night and headed to Rodham’s quarters. Hand in hand they slowly made their way through the ship.
“Well this is one honeymoon that will go down the history books.” Rodham suggested.
Chuckling at his comment, Stanton looked towards his husband as they turned left down a corridor. “You’re so romantic Alex Rodham.”
“Thanks, I try!”
For a moment neither of them said anything as they carried on their walk.
Rodham cleared his throat as they both entered his quarters. “When we get back to Earth, what will you do?”
Stanton sat on the edge of the bed. “I suppose I will return to Challenger. Why?” He asked as his husband sat down next to him.
“I just wondered if you would consider making this a permanent thing?” Rodham said.
“Us two serving on the same ship?” Stanton asked, looking for clarity.
“Yup,” Rodham answered. “We make a great team and I love working with you.”
Stanton agreed, “We do and I love it as well, but I can’t see either captain allowing that.”
Slumping back onto the bed, Rodham seemed defeated. “I hate this. I hate not having you with me all the time.”
“I’m always with you.” Stanton responded as he climbed on top of his husband. He kissed his cheek. “I’m here.” He said pointing to the pilot’s heart before taking hold of his hands.
“You are and you will be forever, but I just want you with me Michael, can you blame me?”
“No I can’t, but with the war on, can you actually see Starfleet approving my transfer off Challenger and joining Discovery when it already has a competent chief engineer?” Stanton said again. “We know what we were getting into when we started this again and made our vows.”
Reluctantly, Rodham agreed. “Fine, fine, fine.” He surrendered with. “I suppose I can make the most of our time together for now. But the moment we have the opportunity to be together, I want us to take it.”
Not hesitating, Stanton nodded. “Agreed.” Once again he leant in and kissed his husband passionately without a second thought. Alex was his home and it felt good.