Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: A Shot In The Dark

SIX

Challenger NX-03
Friday, October 31st, 2155
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Assembled in the only room that could fit them all in were the senior staff from both ships, along with a few others based on their specialities. Fleet Captain Burton felt a sense of pride at the scene before him. This, he hoped, would be where they start their mission in removing from the Romulans their ability to use their telepresence capturing abilities and controlling their drone ships on a long-range scale. The lengthy rectangular table that always sat in the middle of the conference room was completely full of people sat around its edge; others stood along the perimeter of the room. Everyone had been provided with a data tablet when they entered, thanks to his efficient yeoman and along with that Harris had also brought in several monitors so that everyone could see the information that the captain was about to present to them. Sat on the top of the long table were three screens that had been setup in a triangle shape with their backs to one another. It allowed for everyone on the table to see further details as it was shared in the briefing. 

Once he felt everyone was ready, Burton cleared his throat and stepped forward. “Okay everyone, let us begin.” He declared with some authority. “I know most of you have started to read what’s on your tablets, so I would like to start off by saying that everything shared in this briefing is confidential and will most likely be classified by Starfleet once we return home. What we are about to share with you all is what we believe will have a huge impact on the war effort. Captain Müller will share with you the next section.” Burton turned to his counterpart, who just stepped forward to stand by his side. 

In his cool German accent, Müller continued. “As you all are aware of, we were able to capture a Romulan drone ship during Discovery’s last engagement – thanks mostly to the unusual characteristics of the Barrens. Furthermore after going through the computer database, we believe we have found the location of the base that has been controlling and deploying the Romulan drone ships as well as assisting with the Romulans’ ability to capture ships and control their drone ships through their telepresence system.” Müller pulled up his tablet and shared the information he had with everyone else’s devices as well as the screens around the room. “This captured ship has a treasure trove of intelligence that will serve us well but we need to act now to remove this tactical advantage from the Romulans. Through comparing the drone’s navigational logs, along with our own star charts as well as communication records we have determined that the main command centre is located here in an area of space that the Romulans call the Bassen Rift.” Again Müller changed the screens to show the area he spoke about. Sensor logs from the drone ship showed what appeared to be a large emerald nebula. “The Rift is a dense nebula containing interstellar gas that produces high amounts of electromagnetic distortion. As such it interferes with long rang sensors and subspace communication. From what we can determine the Romulans have setup a base within the Rift and are using a micro-singularity to by-pass the interference of the Rift and send the telepresence signal out across a vast area of space.”

Burton then added to the discussion, “We know that the Romulans have been able to deploy this system on a short-range basis, Challenger’s encounter of this use was evident when we had to take on the Carreons recently whose own ships were being controlled by a Romulan bird-of-prey from afar. However I do not need to spell it out to everyone in this room at how dangerous this weapon is and if it remains in their hands there is no way we can win this war without heavy losses on our side. By having access to their telepresence system hooked up to this micro-singularity they will be able to take control of a number of ships as well as launch more of those drone ships. Discovery was lucky it fell into the Barrens where its natural abilities to block communication was helpful, but I don’t think we want to go another round with them. So we need to come up with a plan that removes this ability from the Romulans completely. Thoughts?”

Walker spoke up instantly. The new science officer was standing leaning against the rectangular bay window. Next to him was Lieutenant Habiba while on the other side was Lieutenant Hennessey. Burton could see that the latest addition to his crew remained relaxed as he spoke. “Micro-singularities are only a recent finding, prior to twenty-one-fifty-one we thought that they were a myth theorised by Vulcan scientists. It was actually Enterprise that confirmed their existence. They can do a lot of damage, but if they act the same way as a normal singularity then in theory an anti-thoron burst should increase its gravitational pull.”

“Are you suggesting we use that small black hole to our advantage?” Habiba asked, being a biologist by trade she only knew some rudimentary aspects of astrophysics. 

“Absolutely.” Walker answered. “Vulcan and Earth scientists have theorised about it for some time now. I don’t think it’s ever been applied but that theory has been looked at by some of the leading scientists across both races. In fact I am sure I have read a recent paper on it by the Denobulans too. An anti-thoron burst could be enough to collapse it in on itself.”

“The main deflector could easily be modified to emit an anti-thoron burst.” Stanton then added to the discussion. He stood, almost on the opposite side to where Walker was. 

Müller asked the next question. “Could the deflector on the drone ship be modified as well?”

Stanton looked over to Roman Burton, who was sitting at the far end of the table. “From what I have seen, the technology is not that different to Vulcan and Andorian technology. What do you think Roman?”

Tilting back in his chair, the younger Burton rubbed his chin as he considered it. “Possibly,” He answered. “We would need to disable the drone’s auto-repair system to prevent it from thinking the modifications are defects.”

“But that won’t be hard to do. A few blown up circuits here and there, yeah Roman?” Wallis said in support and with a smirk across his face. The armoury officer of the Discovery seemed eager to blow something up. He looked up to both captains. “Do you think we can get away with sneaking through the Romulan’s back door?”

“Long enough to remove what we want to see gone and get out in one piece.” Burton responded. “But we’d have to plan this operation down to the millisecond. There would be no margin for error. As I see it, we plan a course that won’t attract their attention, then create a diversion to keep the Romulans occupied so we can send in a team to take out the target.”

“It may be prudent for Challenger and Discovery to be waiting at an extraction point for the team. They might be bringing company back with them some unwanted friends. We can be ready to welcome them with phase cannons charged.” Cortez offered. The armoury chief, who was sitting next to Wallis at the table, had turned her chair to face her captain. “That said, by removing this from the Romulans’ hands we may end forcing them to retreat to their own controlled space as they may find their fleet unable to work.”

“Here’s hoping.” Major Yu added. The MACO leader was standing next to Commander Stanton. “Who will be leading the team on the drone ship?”

“Captain Müller will lead the team; we want to keep it small as we are hoping this can be a hit and run attack.” Fleet Captain Burton remarked. “If the anti-thoron burst does not work then we will need to adapt our tactics. My thinking is that we use the drone ship as a bomb. We pack it full of photonic torpedoes and have it dock with the base. The team will then escape and the explosion should destroy the base.”

“What would the team use to escape?” Yu enquired.

For the first time since the meeting started, Burton smirked. He took his own tablet out and brought up a schematic of the drone’s interior. “From what Captain Müller has learnt about the drone ship, it is classified as a warbird that the Romulans retrofitted to be operated remotely. As a result there is a small hanger bay here,” He then showed everyone the room he was talking about. “and in it is a Romulan support craft that has a warp drive.”

“It’s not very fast from what we can tell, it could probably do a top speed of warp two and there’s only room for six people.” Müller supplemented with. 

“There’s still a flaw to your plan that needs addressing.” Walker stated. “No offence to you both but the use of either plan would mean the micro-singularity will increase its gravitational pull. As a result, I would theorise that almost suddenly on the trailing edge of the singularity a gravimetric field would form and it could prevent anyone from leaving it. You would need a massive antimatter explosion to disrupt the field long enough for a ship to escape.”

The room fell silent as everyone realised that what Walker was saying meant that this plan had too many variables that may not be able to completely control which would avoid the loss of life on their side. It also threw Burton’s idea of planning this attack down to the millisecond to avoid a botched job out of the nearest airlock. 

Habiba spoke up. “I know I’m not an astrophysicist and correct me if I am wrong here Commander Walker, but I am sure one of my professors at STC once said in a lecture that you could, to a point, counteract a gravitational pull by creating a low-level warp field around an object. Sub-light energy level only. Could we not do the same thing around the drone ship or the shuttle before we create an antimatter explosion that helps with the escape?”

“In theory,” Walker considered the idea. “But we still need to consider what we would use to deliver the explosion. If either Challenger or Discovery were participating we would be talking about firing a spread of photonic torpedoes at their highest yield to do the damage.”

“Shuttlepods.” Spoke Lieutenant Conrad. The young pilot was stood in the far corner and hadn’t said much yet. “The new shuttlepods we have are designed to be a bit tougher than what Discovery has. If we retrofit them with duratanium braces to give them a bit more strength, then two shuttlepods could carry four, maybe six photonic torpedoes each. They could be programmed to fly away from the drone and explode with the torpedoes on board.” He stood up and uncrossed his arms and pointed at the schematic of the Romulan drone ship that showed its hanger bay. “That bay appears big enough to store two of them as well.”

Burton looked at Müller who looked back at him with a smile. Turning back to the rest of the room, Challenger’s captain spoke up. “Sounds like we have a working plan. For this mission to succeed I want to ask for volunteers.”

“I’ll go sir.” Conrad was the first to speak up. “Depending on what plan takes place, we can’t rely on the Romulan computer to fly that drone ship. I’m a quick study on new flight control systems, let me fly the team there and back.”

“Add me to the list as well.” Spoke Stanton which resulted in Rodham (who was standing next to him) glaring at him. “No offence to Commander Burton’s engineering ability but if we need both Challenger and Discovery to help us with extraction, Discovery is still recovering from her bruises. It’s too soon for her chief engineer to be away from her.”

“I agree, thank you Michael.” Müller said and looked back to his chief engineer, realising the hurt he may have caused to his miracle worker. “Plus Roman, you were the one who was able to crack into the Romulan systems. If we fail then Starfleet will need your experience and expertise to develop further countermeasures.”

Both Burton brothers looked at each other and Roman nodded in an almost deflated manner. 

“Count me in as well.” Habiba said and she looked at Commander Walker, “If Lieutenant Commander Walker is happy to give me a crash course in singularities then I’ll be happy to be the one who pushes the button to fire that anti-thoron burst.”

Shaking his head in disagreement, Walker spoke up. “I should go, Martha.”

“Respectfully sir, just like Commander Burton remaining behind – your expertise may be required in case the Romulans use the micro-singularities for something else.” Habiba said and then she looked at her commanding officer. “I can do this sir.” 

Burton relented and agreed to her offer. “Anyone else?” He asked the rest of them. 

It didn’t take long for Lieutenant Commander Wallis to throw his hat into the ring either, citing that they would need someone to ensure those torpedoes went off. The Discovery’s chief armoury officer insisted that he was the only one who knew the drone’s weapons array and if they needed to use it then they would have more of a fighting chance. The final surprise was Yu though.

“I know we’ve barely fought hand-to-hand with the Romulans yet and we don’t know if they have transporter technology. However, god forbid they beam in an attempt to overwhelm the team.” Yu said after she shared her intention to go. “I’ll have your back.”

Her point was argued by Major Danvers though. “As Captain Müller is leading this team, shouldn’t I be the one who goes?”

Yu appeared ready for Danvers’ words so instantly responded. “MACO regulation seven nine, paragraph b. In the event of two detachment units working together in a combat situation where both detachment commanders hold the same rank, command authority falls to the unit leader who has held their rank the longest.” Yu paused and looked at her counterpart. “In this case, protocol recognises my authority – unless Fleet Captain Burton decides to override my decision.”

Burton and Müller both looked at each other, Müller gave him Burton a nod to say it is was his decision. “Yu will join the team, thank you Major Danvers for offering as well though but with your captain and chief armoury officer off ship, I think Commander Rodham would succeed more with the detachment commander on board in case we get ourselves in a tricky position.”

An eerie silence now fell onto the room. Burton knew he had to bring the meeting to an end. “I want Lieutenant Hennessey and Ensign Russo to download the entire database from the Romulan drone ship. I’m sure there’s more valuable data there that can help us out.”

Hennessey spoke up, “Sir can I suggest we download the database into two separate independent computer storage devices. One for each ship, again just in case.”

“That would make sense.” Russo said from where she was sitting around the table. “We could share up the files and begin translating them. That way if anything happens to either ship…”

“Hopefully one will survive.” Hennessey finished with. Smiling at his colleague from where he stood.

“Get it done.” Burton said. He looked at everyone else. “I want a detailed outline for our heist by tomorrow morning. We’ve proven ourselves against the Romulan once before, twice before, but we’re always the ones under attack. I think it’s time to do a little invasion of our own, hmm?” The fleet captain got a round of agreements from everyone and he concluded the briefing with a simple “Dismissed.”

Everyone got up from where they were and began leaving the conference room in a quiet manner. 


Once everyone had left, Lloyd found himself left behind with his brother who was still sitting in his seat.

“Roman, I can hear your objections already.” Lloyd said the moment the final person left and the door closed behind them shut. “I am not changing my mind.”

Shaking his head in disbelief, the younger Burton spoke up. “Given the drone’s state, the probability of our plan working and us surviving this battle is marginal. I should be on the drone ship, not Discovery.”

“Oh, I know the odds are probably stacked against us Roman.” Lloyd said as he walked down towards his brother. “But you have to stay. Müller is right. If we fail in this operation then you are one of the few experts we may have left who can come up with the countermeasures.”

Shaking his head in disbelief, Roman took in a breath before talking. “If you have done this because you’re trying to protect me from harm’s way then you and I are seriously going to fall out with one another. Before we launch our attack, Michael without a doubt will be just as an expert on it as I am. You know how quick he can learn and workout things.”

“But he wasn’t the engineer who captured the drone ship. You were and from Müller’s log entry he stated that it was your ingenuity in using the Barrens to overwhelm its systems. Now if the roles were reversed, maybe Michael may have come up with a similar idea but that hasn’t happened. I need to deal with the evidence at hand and your place is on your ship. Discovery needs its chief engineer and if the worst happens and we lose Müller on this mission, then you will need to be there supporting your crew as its acting first officer.” Lloyd paused. “I promise you; I have not put our relationship first above my command decisions. Don’t get me wrong Roman, I don’t want to ever see you get hurt or killed, but we have a job to do and I need you there. If I was so blinded in protecting my little brother, would I have really authorised his boyfriend to join a dangerous mission knowing the fallout I would face with him if something happened?”

Sighing heavily, Roman nodded to show his understanding of Lloyd’s thought process. “Okay fine, but Nathan better come back alive.”

“I want them all to come back alive Roman.” Lloyd said and pulled his brother into a hug. “Now can we get through this without any more arguments? I need your support on this Roman.”

After letting go of his brother, Roman just nodded. “You’ve got it Lloyd.”

Smiling in appreciation at his words, Lloyd led his brother out of the conference room – clearer headed in making this plan work.


Chasing after the MACO leader, Ben-Ami called after her friend and colleague as she entered the nearest lift. Yu turned to her and kept the door open for her to enter the cart with her. 

“You okay Kefira?” Yu asked as she moved her hand out of the way and looked at Challenger’s chief medical officer.

Nodding and catching her breath from the short jog she did to catch up with Yu quickly, Ben-Ami spoke up. “I’m fine, it’s the mission that I want to talk to you about.”

Feeling like Ben-Ami was about to try and stop her, Yu put her hands up in defence as the door closed behind her. “Kefira, I appreciate your concern but I’ve made my decision. I’m going.”

Flapping her right hand as to motion she wasn’t bothered about that matter; the Israeli doctor shook her head at the same time as she cleared up what she meant. “It’s not you that I’m worried about. I know you’ll do us proud out there and if you’re not back for our regular meals then I will curse you for life.” She jokingly said. “I’m just worried about our ace pilot as well as Habiba going with you.”

Not quite sure what Ben-Ami was suggesting, Yu asked her friend to clarify further while she pressed the lift’s button to take her to desired destination. “I think they’ll do fine Kefira. What would be the issue?”

“Just promise me you’ll keep an eye on them both. My gut instinct is telling me that Jack is doing it as some sort of act of revenge for the loss of the Raven while I’m certain that Martha is out to redeem herself. Just keep them in check.” Ben-Ami pleaded. “I’ve seen this type of thing before in others and I am sure you have. Something isn’t sitting right with me about it all.”

As the lift moved downwards, Yu understood where Ben-Ami’s concerns laid. “I know what you mean, but I have seen people go through both of those acts and I have found that in most cases that sense of urgency that they need to do this gives them more energy to focus on their work at hand. Both of them are fine officers and I am certain they won’t be reckless in their decisions in cutting corners or putting themselves in danger. Nevertheless I will keep an eye on them.”

“Thank you Viktoria.” The lift came to a halt and the MACO leader walked out. As she did the good doctor called after her, “And make sure you watch your caboose!”

Yu turned around and did a mock salute with a smirk plastered across her face just as the lift door closed on Ben-Ami. 

 

The moment they got back to Stanton’s quarters; Rodham was fast to say the one thing he didn’t want to say in front of everyone else. “So where did your Dutch courage come from?” He asked his husband. 

Sighing at hearing that comment from Rodham, Stanton sat on the edge of his double bed while he watched his other half lean against the wall with his arms crossed against his chest. “How did I know you were going to say that?” Challenger’s first officer asked sarcastically. “I’m the logical choice Alex.”

“No, don’t give me that rubbish. You’re not a Vulcan for one!” Rodham threw back as he shook his head in disbelief. 

Eyes widening at that reaction, Stanton looked up at the man he vowed he would love through sickness and death, through better or worse. “Alex, this marriage isn’t going to work if you worry about every dangerous mission that I go on. I get you’re angry and worried for me…god I was almost sick at the notion I had lost you when Lloyd told me that we were being sent to find you all when you went missing. I get it, but we have a duty and right now if that means putting ourselves on the line to make sure the freedoms we get to enjoy every day remain then so be it.” He stood up and walked up to Rodham, almost face to face. “So if you want me to be a bit more Vulcan, then I’ll say this to you. For us to live long and prosper, I need to do this and you need to step up. You’re about to take command of Discovery in Müller’s absence and you need to bring your a-game mister and neither of us can do our jobs if we are sat there worrying about the other one.”

“Is that it? I don’t get the right to speak out against this?” Rodham argued back but in a soft tone.

“No you don’t.” Stanton pulled on Rodham’s sleeves. “Anyway, when did you become so protective?”

“Since you volunteered for this insane mission.” Rodham threw back as he could feel Stanton slowly pushing himself against him. As Stanton started to plant kisses against his neck, the first officer and helm officer of Discovery shook his head in disbelief that his husband was trying to distract him from the issue with his romantic overtures. “You know, I could sabotage the drone ship. You’d never make it out of the Barrens.”

“Then I’d have to report you to Fleet Captain Burton.” Stanton mumbled into Rodham’s neck as he continued to caress him. 

“That’d be a small price to pay.” Rodham said in a deep tone as he became breathless in reaction to what his husband was doing to him. He then proceeded to push Stanton down and on to the bed behind him and fell on top of him as he returned the affectionate gestures.


 Walking out of the conference room almost by herself, Martha Habiba made her way across D deck. She was in some sort of shock at hearing herself volunteer for the mission, but there was something inside of her saying to do it. To push herself further and do something outside of her comfort zone. A voice from behind caught her off guard and snapped her out of her own thoughts. Immediately she knew who it was as she turned around. Jack.

The pilot stopped jogging towards her and took a breath as he smiled at her. “Hey Martha, I just want to say-”

She didn’t give him a chance to say anymore, she had gone by for some weeks now avoiding him and giving him the space he wanted from when they broke up. “Don’t start on me Jack. Not now.” She said as she held up her hand towards him, her data tablet clutched in the other against her chest.

Shaking his head and saying ‘no’ several times he went on to explain to her why he called after it. “It’s not that. I just wanted to say I’m pleased you’re on this mission with us.”

Startled to hear him say that and somewhat confused, Habiba pushed him to explain what he meant. “Really? That’s not the impression you’ve given me these last few weeks.”

Sighing out of his own frustration, “Yeah I know and I’m sorry for the way I behaved before.”

“Me too.” She admitted. “I was a fool.”

“Me too.” He added and then smiled. “Look, we’ve both acted like fools over all of this and what happened with you on Delta and how you’ve been treated by everyone else is unfair. I am sorry, truly sorry. If Captain Burton can see past it all then me and the others are fools for not following his example. I’m sorry.”

Smiling in appreciation. “You’re babbling Jack but thank you. I hope we can move forward from it all too.”

“Absolutely and when we’ve completed this mission and taken out these Romulans, I owe you a drink.” He offered and gave her his typical boyish grin.

“Agreed, but I don’t want any pity party from you or the others.” She remarked back. “I’ve got a lot of work to rebuild what I stupidly lost while on Delta.”

“Well, let me help you with it when we get back.” He offered.

Extending her hand towards his, “deal” she said as they shook on it.