Part of Challenger: All For One & One For All

TWENTY

Starfleet Command Headquarters, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth
Monday, October 7th, 2155
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Waiting in the lobby of Starfleet Headquarters, T’Plau wondered how much longer she would have to wait to see Captain Burton. She had sent a request to see him, even though she knew he was on personal leave to deal with his father’s death. As the repairs to Challenger would be completed soon, she felt it was appropriate she spoke to him sooner rather than later. He would then have time to consider her replacement. 

The lobby was a large open area, with a number of leather sofas and armchairs for seating too. Plant life which were in an array of pots were also arranged near to the seating. Several humans, mostly Starfleet officers, walked past her where she stood in reception observing the room. None of them took any notice of her. 

Eventually, Burton walked from one of the elevators behind the security barriers that led to the main offices within the building. Once he was cleared by the guards he smiled in the direction of his armoury officer. It was his usual way of greeting someone from a distance, something that T’Plau had noticed in her early days of joining Challenger.

“Captain, it is agreeable to see you again.” T’Plau greeted with as she bowed her head a bit as a mark of respect for him. 

Still smiling, Burton seemed happy to see her. “Likewise Sub Commander.” He answered. “I apologise for my lateness, but I was finishing my debriefing with the admiralty. Suffice to say they are happy with how we dealt with the Deltans, Carreons and Ardanans.” 

“That is good to hear.” T’Plau responded with. “Have they informed you what will happen with the two Ardanan boys that we rescued as well?”

“Well besides getting a slap on my wrist for allowing it to happen, they have agreed for Sergeant Iyer and Ensign Hathaway to become their legal guardians.” Burton answered. “I’m pretty certain Angela has spoken to her aunt about it.” He said referring to their second helm officer’s relationship with the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief. Placing his hands in his pockets, he looked at his Vulcan officer, “Now your message was short, you said you wanted to talk about something?”

Nodding once to show she understood why he was late and confirming his question, T’Plau indicated for them to depart from the building. As they left the lobby, T’Plau began to speak to Burton. “I was informed of the bombing that Commander Levesque was involved with. How is she?”

“I saw her earlier today. She’ll be fine, thank you T’Plau. Nothing a lot of rest will do to help” He replied as the sunshine caught his eyes. As he was wearing his uniform jacket over his jumpsuit, he reached further into his pocket and pulled out his sunglasses. “Unfortunately though I am not sure she will be returning to duty on Challenger anytime soon.” He said as he put the protective eyewear on. “She’ll be staying on Earth as she’s applying to become the Deputy Director of Starfleet Science.”

That news semi-surprised T’Plau. Partly as she had wondered how long Levesque would remain on the ship since it was announced recently she was pregnant (with the captain’s children) and now with her injuries sustained in the bombing. On top of that the news that she will be taking a job at Starfleet Headquarters was not something she was expecting to hear. “I am confident that Challenger’s crew will work hard to ensure her lack of presence is not detrimental to their productivity.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Burton said as they continued on their walk away from Starfleet Command Headquarters. “Now back to the issue at hand. What did you need to see me for?”

T’Plau paused before she answered in full. If she had been a human, then someone would think she was cringing inwardly as she found the nerve to share her news with Burton. “Unfortunately for you, Commander Levesque is not the only member of the crew who will be leaving you. The Vulcan High Command has promoted me, sir.” She announced bluntly.

Burton stopped in mid-walk and looked at her with a huge smile on his face. She too stopped to look at the man’s reaction. “Wow T’Plau! That’s great news! Congratulations!” He added. 

“I appreciate your sentiments captain, however with my new promotion it comes with other responsibilities.” She said looking at him. “Ones that will be incompatible with my work on Challenger. As I mentioned I will be leaving the ship to take on my new post.”

Burton realised he would be losing another fine officer but smiled still for the good news. “I’m sure we will work hard to ensure your lack of presence is not detrimental to our productivity.” He said, repeating her sentiment from a second ago. “Can you tell me more about it?”

Remaining as still as a statue, besides her lips moving to talk, T’Plau explained her new assignment in command. “The Jarok is a recently built Suurok-class combat and science cruiser.” She added, as she tried to justify the reason to the Human captain, “The High Command believes my experiences make me a worthwhile candidate to be the commanding officer for the Jarok.”

Appearing to accept the news in good grace, Burton shrugged his shoulders as to say he knew there was nothing else he could do. “Well I’ll be sorry to lose you T’Plau, you’re a fine officer and I have enjoyed our time serving together. And I would agree with the High Command’s assessment, you would make a fine C-O.”

T’Plau appreciated his remarks. “Thank you sir. It has been an honour serving under you and getting to know the crew too. I apologies that before the end of your first year in command you would have gone through three chief armoury officers.” She said in a despondent manner. 

“Do not worry about that,” Burton consoled her, “however I may be hearing you wrong on this but your tone suggests you’re not happy about leaving us? Am I wrong T’Plau?”

She was impressed that he was able to deduce such a thing as well as be partly right. “The only dissatisfaction I have about these new orders is not having a longer term of duty on board Challenger. I believed my presence would only enhance relations between our people. It is why I applied to join the Coalition’s Officer Exchange Programme.” 

“That’s understandable,” Burton said as he suggested they carry on with their walk with a hand gesture, “you have become accustomed to us as we have with you T’Plau. I know many in the armoury department will miss your mentoring and your counsel. You have been invaluable to us. In fact I would go to say I consider you one of my best advisors on the ship. Surely though you have the choice to accept or not?” 

T’Plau considered her reply carefully. “I do sir, but I feel as we are at war, I should not turn down the offer. There is a logical reason for my promotion and transfer, one I must should accept up front.”

Smirking somewhat at how she could easily dismiss her emotional response to the situation, Burton looked to his tactical officer. “If I didn’t know you any better T’Plau, I would call you sentimental and would advise you to fight this. If you do not think taking command at this point of time in your career is right, then turn down the offer.”

“I would not be offered a command again if I did such a thing.” T’Plau replied. 

Burton cleared his throat, “There’s always an alternative service you could join and eventually command your own starship in it.”

Frowning at his words, T’Plau thought for a moment before she realised what he was hinting at. “Are you suggesting I leave the High Command and join Starfleet?”

“It’s not as if you’ll be the only Vulcan in Starfleet.” He remarked back. “Commander T’Pol is an excellent first officer to Captain Archer.”

She considered his words sensibly; she had never thought about following in the footsteps of the only other Vulcan who had served on a NX-class ship before. “I will consider your opinion carefully, captain, but after I found out about the alternative strategy that First Minister T’Pau has put into place I believe I may have to decline your suggestion.”

Burton nodded to show he understood. “Yeah I was briefed about how the Vulcan fleet has been re-deployed away from the front lines. I’m sure Challenger will be sent out to help pick up the slack there.” The captain didn’t have a chance to say anymore when the communicator in his jacket’s right arm pocket went off. He zipped it down and took it out. Flipping it open he answered the call. “Captain Burton here.”

A female voice followed, one that T’Plau was unaware of however the captain appeared to know her. “Sir, this is Commander Astley at Starfleet Commander.”  

“Good day Commander Astley, how can I help you?” Burton replied.

“Fleet Admiral Hathaway would like you to join her in The Hub immediately. There’s been a Romulan attack.”

Burton gulped at the news, “Where?” he asked. 

“Against the Vulcan colony on Merak.”

When she heard the news, a sense of concern swept across T’Plau. “Captain may I join you?”

Burton just nodded and led T’Plau back to Starfleet Headquarters as he carried on talking to Astley to find out more information. 

 

Prior to her posting on Challenger, T’Plau had been told by others at the inferiority of Humans and their efficiency. Nevertheless her short time on the third NX-class ship contradicted those statements, even more so now. Standing within the main area where the day-to-day operations of Starfleet were conducted, she was highly fascinated with how quickly and promptly her allies worked in times of great crisis.

Like a strong statue standing among chaos, the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief (with other noteworthy admirals and captains), dealt with the news about the recent Romulan attack. 

T’Plau was still amazed that the Romulans had been so courageous to attack one of the first systems that the Vulcan race had colonised after achieving warp-capability. Merak II was a Minshara class world, one that was filled with a range of tropical climates that was rich in radioactive and industrial crystals which were used to run power plants. It was also home to one of the biggest starship construction facilities in the Vulcan Confederacy (it almost rivalled the shipyards in orbit of Vulcan). Located close to Andorian space, it was also used as a stronghold to monitor their former enemy and newest ally. 

The Romulans had somehow avoided detection, had circumvented the outer worlds in the Merak system and launched an assault against the Vulcan fleet and some of the dry-docks. Their attack hadn’t lasted long, but it resulted in heavy casualties for the Vulcan people after the Romulans had launched kamikaze attacks after they inflicted high damage. The news of the attack had come after the Atlantis had responded to a distress call from a Vulcan civilian transport stuck in the battle. Captain Carter had reported they had engaged two Romulan ships, both of whom had crashed into a Vulcan ship mid-battle. Atlantis was now assisting with recovering survivors and helping where they could. 

“Any word yet?” Hathaway had spoken loudly across the room towards her aide, the infamous Commander Astley that T’Plau had been introduced to when she and Burton had arrived. 

Astley shook her head, “Still no word from Ambassador Soron.” 

Burton, who was standing next to T’Plau, turned to her. “Sub Commander, why is the ambassador being difficult to contact? Any idea?”

T’Plau raised her left eyebrow as she considered possible reasons. “I would assume he is currently being briefed on the situation by Minister Soval. That would be the standard protocol here.” She answered. “However , the attack took place over six hours ago. I cannot comprehend the Foreign Minister taking so long to brief the ambassador.”

“So what do you actually think is happening? Do the Vulcans not want assistance from their allies?” Burton enquired. 

“I was thinking the same thing.” Admiral Hathaway said as she approached the two Challenger comrades. “This is a major attack on a coalition member at a critical location. We need to know what your government is thinking Sub Commander.”

T’Plau could not disagree with the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief at all. “Then I will find you some answers. Admiral if you would excuse me, I will head over to the consulate now and discover what is happening.”

“Of course Sub Commander, we welcome any requests where we can help our Vulcan allies. Please pass that on to the ambassador when you see him.” Hathaway said in a diplomatic tone. 

T’Plau bowed her head in respect to the flag officer and to her captain. “I will convey your offer as soon as possible.”

Walking out of the large building, T’Plau would find out why their allies were being shunned from answers. She even found it difficult to understand, especially as T’Pau had declared prior to the formation of the coalition that she wanted a more open relation with Earth. Deciding she would contact her husband as well, T’Plau would take him with her to find the answers she and their allies needed to know.


Vulcan Embassy, Sausalito, California, United States of America, Earth

 

Almost instantly when she had called him on her journey to the Vulcan compound, T’Plau had been able to get in touch with Muroc. He said he would meet with her at the main entrance and together they would attempt to see Ambassador Soron. T’Plau had been thankful that Muroc supported her decision to find out what was happening at Merak. 

The two of them had decided to wait on Earth until his ship, the T’Shear, returned to take them home to Vulcan. Until its return to Earth, they decided to use their time while off-duty together. It was a logical choice as they had not spent a long duration of time together since the earlier days after their wedding. Deciding to stay within the compound, as it was the most logical choice for them, they spent the past eleven days in joint meditating while also visiting a number of locations on Earth. They had been based on recommendations from colleagues of theirs and Muroc was interested to understand more of Earth’s history and the myriad of cultures that existed on the Minshara class world. They had spent a day visiting the Sistine Chapel as well as four days climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. This had been followed by visiting the Great Pyramids at Giza and walking across the Great Wall of China. Before returning to the Vulcan Compound they spent a day visiting Captain Burton’s home nation and seeing the ancient ruins of Stonehenge. Each site was impressive and intriguing to understand their history. During their time together, T’Plau had come to accept the inevitable with her promotion. Muroc believed she should still return to Vulcan to fully understand the reason. Once the T’Shear had picked up its captain and his wife, then finding those answers was not far away. 

“Husband,” T’Plau greeted Muroc as he approached her from the front gates. She had just signed in and was let through the security checks to come face to face with her husband. “Have you been able to secure a meeting with the ambassador?” She asked as they walked side by side. 

“The ambassador’s aide has informed me that we can meet with Soron once he has finished talking with other officials.” Muroc answered. 

Raising her left eyebrow out of curiosity, she walked by his side through the various gardens within the compound. “From what I have been able to summarise, no-one in the Vulcan government has spoken to anyone from the United Earth Commonwealth. Before I left Starfleet Headquarters, I was informed that Foreign Secretary Campbell had been ignored too. The silence from Ambassador Soron and others may cause unnecessary diplomatic tension between coalition members.”

“That is quite possible.” Muroc agreed. “However we both know that Soron would not cause offence to any of our allies by delaying to speak to them. That is highly uncharacteristic of him. It is more than conceivable that he is actually coordinating with officials what is happening in regard to the aftermath of the attack on Merak.”

“I hope your hypothesis is correct Muroc.” T’Plau responded as they approach the governor’s residence and offices. 

Before they fully entered the building, Muroc looked down at his wife. “What were Captain Burton’s remarks in regard to your promotion?”

“The captain’s answers were…” T’Plau paused to consider her summary of Burton’s reaction, “…complicated as well as insightful.”

“Perhaps you can share them with me after we have met with the Ambassador.” Muroc offered as they approached the front door.

Nodding in agreement, T’Plau thanked him for the time to further explore the issue. 

 

Returning to the ambassador’s office, but this time with her husband who was a high-ranking military officer, was an unusual experience for T’Plau. 

“Ambassador.” She said as soon as the escort that had taken Muroc and her into the room had left. “We appreciate the time you have put aside to meet with us.” 

Soron stood over the large oval shaped computer console/table with his hands gripped together. “As two of the most senior officers here on Earth from the High Command, it was logical that you both met with me.”

“Indeed.” Muroc stated as he and T’Plau walked across the room to be closer to the diplomat. 

T’Plau, instantly spoke up. “Ambassador, I have been asked as a professional courtesy from the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief to discover why our government has ignored repeated calls from our allies here on Earth in response to the attack on the Merak system.” She paused as she noticed the ambassador did not appear so forthright in his response. “Our allies are concerned that this latest battle in the war with the Romulans could mean a change in their strategy. I believe our allies here on Earth would like to respond jointly with us.”

Soron, signalled with both of his hands for them both to sit down on the stalls before them as he took one on his side of the computer table. “First Minister T’Pau will be talking to President Littlejohn, Chancellor Margerit and Speaker Joma and explaining the Confederacy’s response to this attack.”

“And what is the response from our government?” T’Plau asked as she sat down next to her husband. She was not surprised that the leader of the Vulcan people would speak to her counterparts in the coalition first. 

“I am assuming that the first minister would be requesting a joint response, perhaps a new offensive strategy to be undertaken?” Muroc enquired. 

Soron sat up straight from where he was. “I am unable to officially share with you what First Minister T’Pau will be sharing until she has had that conversation with the other leaders.”

T’Plau and Muroc both looked at each other, perplexed expressions plastered across their faces and then together gazed back at the ambassador. 

“Ambassador, I am assuming then once that conversation has taken place that those leaders would feed that information to their respective military branches?” T’Plau asked. She was hoping that Starfleet would know soon, she did not want to seem ineffective to Fleet Admiral Hathaway.

“Indeed.” Soron answered.

Muroc, who was now becoming unsatisfied with the short and sharp responses they were getting from the ambassador, quickly interjected. “Ambassador surely you agree there needs to be a formal response to this attack? From what I have heard, hundreds of Vulcans have been killed and a good number of our ships have been destroyed or heavily damaged. The defence of Vulcan is at stake here.”

Soron glared at Muroc for his boundless repetition of questions. “Captain, I am quite aware of the situation and what it means for our homeworld.” The ambassador paused as he recomposed himself. “There is no need for further discussion on this matter until the First Minister has completed her tasks. In the meantime I want you both to assume command of all of our forces stationed here on Earth. We must review all of our current security precautions.”

“You are in-error Mister Ambassador.” T’Plau said bluntly. “Both the captain and I should make haste straight away to assume our postings.”

Challenger is still being repaired, Sub-Commander T’Plau.” Soron snapped back with. 

T’Plau pivoted her head slightly, “That’s Commander T’Plau of the starship Jarok.”

In that moment, T’Plau had made her decision. She would return to Vulcan and defend her homeworld on her new ship. Whatever it took, she would not let the Vulcan Confederacy fall to the Romulan Star Empire.