Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: The Tholian Stratagam

FIVE

Challenger NX-03, docked at San Francisco Shipyards, Earth orbit
Wednesday, November 12th, 2155
1 likes 106 views

Comfortably sitting in his office, Lloyd Burton was leaning against his desk with his chin resting in his palms while reviewing a number of candidates on who could crew the fleet he was preparing to launch. The door chime went off and he looked up from the screen towards the door. “Come.” He answered. 

Stepping through the entry, the moment the door slid to one side, Commander Rodham smiled at his captain before speaking. “Good Morning sir.”

“Morning Alex,” Burton returned before extending his right arm to grab his mug of tea. “And Alex, I’ve said it before, I’m happy for us to be on a first name basis when it’s just us.”

Grinning and nodding in response, Rodham undertook his new boss’ request. “Understood…Lloyd.” He said, trying to make using Burton’s first name seem normal. Pulling out a computer tablet, the commander handed it towards the captain. “Ship-wide status report. We are good to leave the dockyards very soon. The last of the crew will be back on board within the hour”

Taking the tablet from his first officer, Burton had a look at the summary report. “Good, once everyone is back on board, I want us to depart and head to Mars.”

 “Mars?” Rodham questioned. 

Nodding to confirm, Burton explained what was happening. “I was going to brief everyone later, but we are going to be leading another attack against the Romulans.”

“Oh wow.” Rodham said, sounding slightly startled. “When did Starfleet give you the green light?”

“Fleet Admiral Hathaway signed off on it the other day and it’s even got backing from the Defence Secretary Vanderbilt.” Burton answered. “We’re going to head to Mars to rendezvous with the fleet we will be leading, however I need to find able bodies to crew these ships.” The captain pointed to the fleet that he would be leading that needed his attention. The manifests gently scrolled on the screen on his desk. “Know anyone who could either be reassigned or reactivated into service?”

Shaking his head after taking a glance at the monitor, Rodham crossed his arms. “Not off the top of my head.” Thinking for less than a second, Burton’s first officer came up with an idea. “Do you want me to chat with Cooper to see if he knows anyone?”

 “That’d be a great start, thanks.” Burton responded.

Looking back at the list, Rodham squinted at the screen. “Victory, Serendipity, Artemis, Henrietta… are these new ships in the fleet? I don’t recognise any of those names.” He paused and took a double take at the list. “In fact, I don’t recognise any of those names Lloyd.”

“They are new.” Burton confirmed. “Fleet Admiral Hathaway will be announcing within the hour of a new ship construction yard on Mars.”

“And they’ve already constructed these ships?” Rodham checked.

“Indeed. The whole project has been kept under wraps for now, but with the way the war is going it felt these ships were needed to be pressed into service sooner rather than later.” Burton said. “A majority of them that they’ve built are Daedalus-class and they’re using a majority of technology created for the NX Program.”

“Makes sense, they are quicker to build. I’m sure Michael once told me that in the time it took to build an NX-class, you could construct two Intrepid-classes or three Daedalus ships.” Rodham stated. “So these new ships, will this attack be their first set of orders since being launched?”

“Yeah, and I’ve called in favours from several other captains as well. Those that have not been assigned new orders yet and are finishing up on either getting repairs or re-supplies.” Burton shared. Leaning across his desk the captain picked up his empty mug of tea and got up to walk over to where he kept a small kettle and teapot. He gestured to Rodham if he wanted one by holding up the spare, clean mug nearby. Rodham nodded to answer. “This attack needs to be quick and it needs to be another victory for us.”

“Well isn’t that the hope of every battle we engage in?” Rodham asked rhetorically as he continued to study the tablet and sat down in the armchair in the corner. Realising how that sounded, Rodham quickly added more to his comment. “Not that you’ll have any disagreement with me on it, but has Starfleet said something more since we presented the battle plan to the admiral?”

As he poured the hot water into the mugs and stirred the tea while adding milk, Burton shook his head. “Not quite, but with the investigation into our last adventure with the Discovery now closed, I get the impression that I need…” He paused as he considered his words carefully. 

“…to prove yourself?” Rodham finished. 

“I hate to admit it Alex, but yes.” Burton confessed. “And it’s not only to prove that my promotion was the right choice but also to prove those we’ve lost were not taken from us in vain.” 

As the captain passed the mug over to Rodham, the young commander took the hot beverage into his hands. “You’ll get no argument from me on that point.” As he brought the mug to his lips he thanked his captain for it. “How do you think the crew will take the new orders?”

Sitting back down at his desk with his own drink, Burton considered the question before answering it. “Like you and me, I think they’re eager to get back out there; however I’m certain these three memorials have had a bigger impact on them than we’ve realised.”

“Again, I get that.” Rodham said, appearing solemn in his tone as he remembered his late husband. “Nevertheless, I think they realise we have a job to get done. Can I be honest with you Lloyd?”

“Of course.” Burton said. “As long as it stays in these four walls.”

“Always, however, what I’m going to say wouldn’t be popular if the rest of the crew heard it.” Rodham took a sip and then shared his thoughts. “Unfortunately, we don’t have time for a honeymoon with the crew. Both Cooper and I have noticed how different they are with just us two and we were going to give them some breathing space to make the adjustment; however we need them to be battle ready so worrying about their feelings is not something you need to be stressing yourself about.”

“You may be right Alex, but that’s not my command style.” Burton countered with.  

“Maybe it should be.” Rodham replied, still bluntly. “We don’t need any resistance from the crew or uncertainty that we are at war and sadly in war we have to be involved in things that we may not like doing. This is not a ship of exploration anymore. Challenger needs to pick itself up and become a well-oiled warship. A majority of the crew here have served under you for almost a year now. They knew you; they knew what you expect of them. Now they’re being asked to adjust to a new way of doing things, as they all joined Starfleet to be explorers and they’re uncertain how to react.”

“I see your point. This all could be very unsettling to them.” Burton said.

Rodham continued with sharing his thoughts. “And to you. The Romulans aren’t going to make it easy for us, and this won’t be our only battle to be involved with. The chances are some of us won’t be coming back from this battle. You want this ship ready for action and we don’t have time to give anyone else a chance to do it in their own time . And forgive me for being blunt, but Challenger needs her captain to be looking at the endgame or we won’t survive if your focus is elsewhere.”

“And does that mean I shouldn’t be thinking about the birth of my sons?” Lloyd asked back, just as forthright as his new first officer was being.

“Of course not, but if anything Lloyd you have more to fight for now and those three little souls that you and Commander Levesque are about to bring into this universe deserve to know that their father fought for them and the freedoms they will enjoy later in life.” Rodham answered. 

Smiling at his new first officer, Burton could see why his friend Frank Müller liked having Rodham as his right-hand. “Thank you Alex, I appreciate your input. You’ve given me a lot to consider.”

“Anytime Lloyd and I hope I wasn’t too brutal.” Rodham said. “Michael always spoke about how good of a tactician and leader you are, from what I saw during our last battle with the Romulans he was right. Michael’s, Jack’s and Viktoria’s sacrifices will be worthwhile if you continue to lead with a clear head as you know what the end result needs to be for Earth.” Rodham finished his mug and stood up. “Is there anything else you would like me to do, captain? Besides assembling the troops, getting us out of drydock and looking for new crews for those ships?”

Shaking his head, Burton thanked Rodham again and dismissed him.


Making her way down towards the conference room on E deck, Lieutenant Commander Rosa Sandoval was studying the tablet she had in her hands and as a result didn’t see that she almost bumped into Crewmember Harris. Stopping before they collided, Sandoval raised her hand up and apologised to the younger man. “Jamie, I’m so sorry! I wasn’t paying attention at all.” She added.

Smiling at what nearly happened, Harris shook his head as he spoke. “Think nothing of it ma’am. I wasn’t looking where I was going either. I’m off to the conference room.”

“Me too. Shall we walk together?” Sandoval suggested.

“That’d be nice, thank you ma’am.” Harris said and the two of them continued on their journey.

“How are you doing anyway Jamie?” Sandoval enquired with a caring tone in her voice. She knew that the recent deaths had affected everyone, especially the younger members of their crew. “I’ve not seen you since Commander Stanton’s memorial.”

“I’m well thank you.” Harris offered, sounding not completely convincing though. “Your words at the commander’s service were great. I didn’t realise how close you two were.”

Smirking at him, she appreciated the compliment but knew he was trying his best to keep it together. “Michael and I met through Commander Rodham actually. I know of Michael from our time at Starfleet Training Command back when we were cadets, but it wasn’t until we taught together that we got to know one another. I owe him for landing me this gig here on Challenger.”

“Well I’m glad he was able to get you to join us.” Harris said back. “We’re lucky to have Commander Rodham too.”

“Don’t tell everyone, but I like to think that I paid my debt to Michael by convincing Alex to leave Discovery to join us.” Sandoval admitted. “I just gave him a gentle nudge in our direction.”

“Should we expect you to be giving us all a gentle nudge when the time comes?” Harris asked with a short grin. 

“Only if you need it.” She answered with a similar expression. “Anyway, do you have any idea why we’ve all been assembled? I don’t usually attend senior staff meetings and I’m pretty certain the captain’s yeoman is not normally there either.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Harris answered. “I have no idea either ma’am. The captain just ordered for me to attend.”

“Well since we’ve left dry-dock I noticed we’re not speeding off at high warp anywhere. I did check our logs and noticed our flight path is towards Mars.” Sandoval stated.

“Mars? What’s waiting for us there?” Harris wondered as they turned down the last junction and the door to the conference room was in sight. 

“Besides Martians and red rocks, not much else that I’m aware of.” Sandoval said and noticed the arrival of several other officers coming from the other end of the corridor. Walking towards them were Ben-Ami, Masuko and Cortez. The three women all smiled when they noticed Sandoval and Harris. 

“Either of you two know what this meeting is about?” The Israeli doctor asked her colleagues as they stopped just before the door. 

Sandoval shook her head. “No, I was going to ask you the same thing.”

“My money is on a mission briefing.” Cortez remarked.

“Makes sense.” Masuko said. “I take it no-one has any clues what our orders will be? Jamie?”

Raising his hands in surrender, the yeoman confirmed he didn’t know anything. “I’ve not been privy to anything since we got back on the ship.”

Behind them arrived Ensign Avery with Commander Walker and Captain Trommler. Walker looked at the assembled group called after them. “What’s with all of you loitering outside the conference room?”

“Just trying to work out what this is all about.” Ben-Ami stated. “Do any of you have any idea?”

“None.” Avery said. “In fact I was surprised to be called to this.”

“Well I know Ned is off the ship undertaking other duties, so the captain might be making you acting chief communications officer in Ned’s absence.” Ben-Ami said. “However, I can’t see why he would assemble all of us just for that!”

“Shouldn’t we just go in and find out?” Trommler asked the group from where he stood. 

“Luis is right.” Cortez agreed with the new MACO leader and pressed the button to open the door. 

The group all filed into the conference room, one behind another, and as they entered they found Fleet Captain Burton and Commander Rodham already present. Standing at one end where the main consoles were, both men turned around and looked at those who were arriving. 

“Take a seat everyone.” Rodham suggested as he moved from the captain and took his chair at the end of the table where the captain would eventually sit. 

Everyone complied with the first officer and within a few seconds were all sitting around the rectangular table. Burton remained standing but had moved himself to be behind his chair. He held onto the top as he spoke. “What I’m about to share with you is deemed highly classified and is not to be shared with anyone else. Do I make myself clear?”

A round of nods and agreements were shared, the captain continued. 

“For the purpose of our upcoming mission, I am extending temporary senior staff privileges to Ensign Avery, Lieutenant Commander Sandoval and Crewmember Harris.” Burton stated. He knew that everyone would want to know why non-senior staff members were present, so now that he had dealt with that matter he got on with what he needed to brief his crew with. “Starfleet Command has given us new orders to launch an attack against the Romulans.”

“About time.” Trommler remarked from the seat he had in the middle of the table. “Do we have a target in mind, sir?”

Not surprised at the young MACO’s eagerness, Burton answered the question. “We do. The Rator system.” Burton then picked up the tablet that rested on the table before him. Activating its contents, he shared its screen with the other consoles in the room so everyone else could see what he had prepared as part of the briefing. The trio of screens in the middle of the conference table switched on and showed a star chart. “Thanks to their tireless efforts of cracking the database we stole from the Romulan drone ship, Lieutenant Hennessey and Ensign Avery were able to locate several systems that the drone had visited. One of them included a system that contains a base, the Romulans identify it as the Rator system.” Pressing another button he switched the image to show a map of a star system. “A binary star system with seventeen planets in orbit, most of them are gas giants besides two that are Minshara-class.”

“Is there a colony there?” Walker asked as he studied the data on the screen before him.

“We believe so.” Burton said as he finally took his seat and described Rator further. “From what we have found out about the system, Rator Four is home to a small colony, they’ve not settled on the third planet yet and they’ve established stations in orbit. All of them are designed to support and maintain ships.”

Cortez, sitting up, looked at the information as well. “A shipyard of sorts?” She conjectured. 

“Possibly, we know the Prowler visited there before going to the Bassen Rift and attacking Denver. Our orders are to remove the entire Romulan presence from the system.” Burton shared. 

“One ship against an enemy beachhead seems a bit farfetched sir. I’m assuming Starfleet isn’t sending us on our own?” Ben-Ami inquired.

“Your right Ro-fa, this isn’t a mission just for us.” Burton explained. “We are on our way to Mars to rendezvous with one part of the fleet we will lead while the other elements will meet us on the edge of the Proxima Centauri system. In total there will be twenty-one ships.”

“Twenty-one?” Cortez said, sounding surprised at the number. “Starfleet is truly committed to this.”

“Absolutely.” Rodham answered for the captain. “This will be our first major fleet offensive against the Romulans.”

“One that if successful would hopefully cause a massive blow to the Romulans advancing against us.” Burton added. “The plan is a simple one, we will do our best to mask our approach towards Rator and then engage the Romulans. The priority is the destruction of the Romulan stations in orbit and our secondary goal is the removal of the colony too.”

“At what cost?” Ben-Ami asked. “Are we expecting to take prisoners?”

“No.” Burton was fast to answer and in a blunt response. “President Littlejohn and Defence Secretary Vanderbilt have authorised the use of thermo-nuclear warheads for this mission.”

“Oh my god, we’re going to wipe them completely off the face of their world?” Masuko said, looking surprised and shocked at what the captain was telling them.

Knowing that fact would cause some unease amongst his crew, Burton cleared his throat and remained serious as he spoke. “I don’t think I need to remind any of you that this is the same tactic the Romulans have employed against us and other members of the coalition.” 

“So we’re resulting in carrying out an eye for an eye in our tactics?” Ben-Ami said, sounding almost annoyed at what they would be involved with. “What’s next? Inter arma enim silent lēgēs?”

“In times of war, the law falls silent.” Trommler translated into English. He appeared almost confused for a second as he considered what the doctor was insinuating. 

Avery cleared her throat, “The actual translation is for among arms, the laws are silent.” The acting chief communication officer then went back to being quiet, realising her showing off was not needed right there and then. 

“I don’t think things will ever get that drastic Ro-fa.” Rodham countered back to Ben-Ami. “What’s the issue of us using those weapons?”

“Oh, I don’t know the fact that in Earth’s last world war those weapons were responsible for the deaths of over six hundred million people.” Ben-Ami argued back to the first officer. She looked at the captain. “Sir, please do not tell me we are being armed with those weapons from the Cold Stations?”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you Kefira but we are.” Burton answered. “I’m not debating this with any of you. Our orders stand. Once we’ve met up with the fleet we will head to Cold Station Four where we will pick up our new arsenal.”

Shaking her head in disbelief, Ben-Ami was having a real bad time accepting what she was being told. “You know we are going to have to inoculate the entire crew to prevent any radiation sickness if one of those warheads leak out?”

“I do and I want you and the entire sickbay staff to get it done before we arrive in orbit.” Burton said sternly. “I will share with you all further battle plans closer to the time, but in the meantime this ship needs to be battle ready.” Noticing the small grin from Rodham, which he quickly covered up with one of his hands, Burton carried on. “Rachele, I want you to make modifications to the armoury to receive those warheads. They will need to be loaded into spatial torpedoes; photonic torpedoes aren’t designed to carry them.”

The armoury officer nodded. She remained quieter than normal as she responded with a simple “Yes sir.” It was clear she was not keen on what she had heard either. 

“I also want you to install a by-pass between the phase cannons and the secondary generators. I want us to be able to overload the phase cannons if needs-be during the battle. The recoil from the overload needs to be set up so that energy can be shunted towards structural integrity. You will need to repolarise the gravity plating to absorb the recoil.”

“I’ll get a team on it straight away.” Cortez said as she took note of her orders.

Looking at his chief science officer, Burton handed out more orders. “Cooper, I want you to oversee making the situation room and the science station on the bridge devoted to damage control and weapons status from now on. See that they’re manned at all times.”

“Of course captain.” Walker replied.

“This ship, once it leaves the Sol system, will be under a twenty-four-hour tactical alert. During each shift, until we arrive at our destination, Commander Rodham will schedule battle drills. He will run a series of simulated attacks from a Romulan squadron.” Burton informed his crew before looking at Sandoval. “Rosa, I want you to conduct the exercises personally with Alex for gamma and delta shifts.”

“Delta shift sir?” Sandoval asked. “Sir, we only operate three shifts on Challenger.”

“I’d like to change that to four starting tonight. Rosa, I want you and Jamie to see to that.” Burton said. 

“Sir, I can assure you it’s going to cause us significant personnel problems if we move from three shifts to four.” Sandoval remarked. 

“I don’t want to talk about it. Get it done. Now that means delta shift will be due to come on duty in six hours. I expect you and Jamie to have it fully manned and ready when it does. Is that clear?” Burton threw back.

Sandoval looked over to Harris who just nodded to her and then she looked at the captain. “It will be ready sir.”

“Good.” Burton looked at his tablet. “Next business is engineering, Sakura.”

The new chief engineer looked up towards her commanding officer. “Yes sir?” The concern of what he wanted from her was apparent in her tone as it sounded somewhat nervous.

“Power transfer levels need to be upgraded by fifteen percent. The efficiency of our warp coils is also unsatisfactory.” Burton said after placing his tablet back on the table.

Looking at everyone else around the room before back at her captain, the chief engineer cleared her throat. “Sir, coil efficiency is well within specifications.”

“I’m not interested in the specs, Sakura. The efficiency needs to be raised by at least fifteen percent.” Burton said. “I noticed that our efficiency wasn’t as high as Discovery is. I need the ship at its best for this battle.”

“It will require realigning the warp coil and taking the secondary distribution grid offline.” Masuko stated. 

“Get it done.” Burton said curtly. 

Realising what that meant, Commander Walker spoke up. “Captain, if she takes the grid offline, we’re going to have to shut down exobiology, the astrophysics lab and geological research.”

“We’re at war Cooper, we’re not exploring Rator.” Burton said, dismissing his science officer’s concerns. “I want all personnel armed from now on too. Security must be deployed on every deck and I want MACOs teams two, three, four and five positioned on the bridge, sickbay, the armoury and engineering while team one should be on standby to be deployed.”

Trommler now spoke up for clarity. “Are you expecting us to be deployed on enemy territory sir?”

“No, but you never know if we need to beam you over to help rescue an allied ship or if we have to sabotage one of the enemy ships, you’ll need to be ready to blow something up.” Burton said as he looked back at his tablet one more time.

Not giving him a chance to say another thing, Ben-Ami spoke up. “Sir, I must object to having a MACO squad assigned to sickbay. If we are boarded then I don’t need to have a bunch of privates and corporals having a fire fight in my doorway.”

“Sorry Kefira, none of this is open for objections. Plus I want you and your team to train everyone up before we arrive in basic first aid.” Burton said as he realised he had missed something.

“That’s a mammoth task.” She responded with.

“I know, but I’m not prepared to have people die as no-one knows how to help them when they are lying on the deck injured.” He then looked at Walker. “Cooper, I want those from the science department who have a biology background to be assigned to sickbay. They’ll become our new field medics and those with any sort of engineering background, I want them assigned to engineering to assist with repairs once the battle begins.”

“Understood sir, but that won’t leave me with much of a department left.” Walker answered back. “And I get it we are not researching anything, but what would those who are left are meant to do?”

“Man the department with the minimal amount of people, just in case we need them while everyone else should report to the armoury and assist with security.” Burton answered. He then stood up. “Ladies and gentlemen, we need to make sure we are good to go by the time our fleet is assembled. Ensign Avery, I want you to begin working on new security encryptions so we can communicate with the rest of the fleet without anyone listening in. I want those protocols ready to go by tomorrow night.”

“Understood sir.” The young woman said.

“Sir, may I ask a question?” questioned Harris quietly. The captain’s loyal yeoman had barely said anything so far and it was unlike him to raise his hand and speak in almost whispers. 

Burton nodded at the young Welshman, “Go ahead Jamie.”

“Sir, I’m sure I speak for everyone around this table that we’re not afraid to place our lives on the line of duty, but I wondered if we should suggest to the crew they prepare letters to loved ones. Just in case.”

Looking at his first officer, Burton noticed that Rodham nodded in agreement with the idea. “Good idea Jamie.” Burton said back to his admin assistant. “Commander Rodham will advise everyone of that.” The captain paused before he spoke his final word. “Dismissed.” He made his way towards the door, gesturing for Rodham to follow him out.

The senior staff all started to get up and none of them knew what to say about how the captain had behaved. It was Trommler who broke the silence.

“Ladies and gents, you’ve just witnessed our captain getting ready to take us to war.” He glumly remarked. “And he is ready for the upcoming fight already.”

“But at what cost?” Ben-Ami said as she picked up her belongings and headed out herself.


D.F.C. Jarok, en route to Vulcan

 

Enjoying what the Jarok offered its guests was certainly something that Hennessey was enjoying. Compared to Challenger where crew quarters were cramped, corridors were confined and the décor normally followed a metallic shade of something, he was currently living in luxury. He felt like he was on vacation in one of the finest five-star hotels. He had tried to work out the logic in why the Jarok was so luxurious and why Vulcans thought it was appropriate. Unable to work it out himself, he did enjoy how calm and peaceful the ship appeared. Even the slight vibrations from the warp core were more like gentle purrs. He hadn’t slept so well in space before. 

Working on his project, at the large desk space he had in his VIP guest quarters, he was able to carry on with his research while they made their way to Vulcan. Having a number of data tablets and his personal desktop computer on the desk, he was able to try and find more about this old language that came from Vulcan. It appeared to come from a certain region, similar to the languages that came from Earth, but was from a time back when Surak was around. 

The doorbell went off, it sounded like wood chimes being gently caressed by a tender breeze, making Hennessey stop reading. Looking around at the door he wondered who it could be.  T’Plau had made it clear she would let him know once they had arrived, until then he hadn’t expected to be disturbed by anyone else. “Come in.”

A tall, young Vulcan man stood in the doorway as the panels parted from one another. Wearing the uniform of a sub lieutenant from the science division was someone who Hennessey had been introduced to by T’Plau. Lukret was T’Plau’s deputy science officer and had shown an interest in the work he was doing, that said T’Plau had shared with her crew that Hennessey was visiting Vulcan to expand his knowledge on Vulcan language as part of the officer-exchange program that was established under the Coalition Compact. 

“Sub Lieutenant Lukret, this is an unexpected visit.” Hennessey said, placing his tablet down on the table. 

“I apologise if my presence disturbs your work sir.” Lukret apologised with a slight bow of his head.

Smiling to assure the man he was far from interfering, Hennessey signalled for him to come in so the doors could close. “Not at all, please come on in. I needed to take a break anyway.” Hennessey got up and headed over to the side where the appliances to make a fresh mug of Vulcan spice tea. Turning to his guest, Hennessey offered him a beverage. “Can I get you anything Lukret?”

 “No thank you sir.” Lukret said as he entered Hennessey’s cabin. 

Boiling the kettle, Hennessey looked back at his visitor. “So what can I do for you?” The moment he turned to look at Lukret, he noticed something different about him. He seemed to be shaking in the arms and then Ned realised that the man had a Vulcan plasma pistol strapped to his leg. Looking back at the science officer, he wondered what the hell was going on. “Lukret, why are you armed?”

Lukret’s speech wasn’t calm like Hennesey had heard it before, but he responded. “Orders from Vulcan High Command that all officers should be armed.”

“I didn’t realise we were joining any part of the war effort right now?” Hennessy questioned, realising that something was not right and he needed to find a way to get himself out of this situation. 

“It is a precaution, just in case we have to engage an enemy.” Lukret remarked and then seemed to take a huge breath in. 

The kettle then finished boiling and Hennessey remained frozen. “Lukret, you’re making me nervous. What’s going on?”

Placing his hand just over his weapon, Lukret appeared ready to explain everything. “I am sorry sir but you will not be reaching Vulcan anytime soon.”

“Why?” Hennessey said, he placed himself just in front of the kettle. “What’s going on?”

“You seem really gifted, for a human, but Vulcan must remain Vulcan.” Lukret shared.

“Vulcan must remain Vulcan? What sort of statement is that?” Hennessey questioned. “I’m not planning to stay on your homeworld, I am only visiting.”

“Yes sir, but you do not understand the wider picture and the impact your work may have on my people.” Lukret answered. “I have my orders to stop you.”

“Orders? Who’s orders?” Hennessey continued to buy himself time. He knew that if Lukret attacked him that there was no way he could take on a fit Vulcan male in his prime. “Commander T’Plau’s orders? The High Command’s?”

Shaking his head, “No. I serve a much higher order and we cannot allow for any more external pressures to affect our people anymore. It is bad enough that the first officer of this ship is Andorian, but to have humans on it is too much.” He then went to his weapon and lifted it out before pointing it straight at Hennessey. 

“You don’t want to do this Lukret. You’re an accomplished officer, one who T’Plau thinks highly of.” Hennessey said, almost pleading for his life. “Put the weapon away and leave here while you still can. If you kill me then you won’t get anywhere else. They will eventually work out what happened.”

“The consequences of my actions are insignificant in my life if it means I save my people from the path you could take them down.” Lukret raised the pistol. “I am truly sorry lieutenant.”

“As am I.” Hennessey countered back as he picked up the kettle and threw it across the room before hitting the deck. The hot water flew across the distance between him and Lukret, smacking the Vulcan almost a second later. The hot liquid scorned his face as he screamed out in agony. The distraction was enough for Hennessey to lunge at Lukret, knocking him to the deck with one punch. Able to take the pistol out of his hand, the communications officer switched the mode back to stun and took the Vulcan officer out with one blast. Lukret fell to the ground with a great big thud. 

Taking a few breaths to calm himself down, he then ran over to the nearest intercom. “Hennessey to Commander T’Plau, security alert in my quarters. Also bring your doctor!” 

 

Almost ten minutes later, Hennessey was standing in the Jarok’s infirmary watching through the transparent aluminium window from the Jarok’s chief medical officer at the scene unfolding in the surgical area. Commander T’Plau was conferring with her doctor and first officer. Her doctor, a Vulcan woman who had short bobbed brown hair nodded to her superior before returning to treat Lukret. T’Plau left the area, followed by Lieutenant Thom. The Andorian first officer was coming to the end of his time on the Jarok. His term was only going to be a short one, two months before he returned to the Imperial Guard. That said, Hennessey couldn’t help but agree that both T’Plau and Thom made an excellent team together. 

Entering the office, T’Plau apologised again for what had transpired. “Lieutenant Hennessey, I cannot express my dissatisfaction on what has occurred.”

“It would seem that none of our races are able to convince everyone that the coalition is worth it.” Thom remarked, sounding disappointed. 

“He seemed like something more than that.” Hennessey remarked. “It was almost as if he had been forced to do it or something bad would happen. He appeared agitated.”

Thom looked to T’Plau, “Can Vulcans appear agitated?”

“With Vulcans who are not logical in their actions,” T’Plau said back quickly, “most likely.”

“Did he share why he did what he did?” Hennessey wondered as he looked back at Lukret who was lying on the surgical bed while being watched by several armed guards as the doctor continued to help him recover from the burns that Hennessey had inflicted on him. 

“Thankfully he cooperated and answered my questions.” T’Plau shared. “He is part of a movement known as the logic extremists.”

“Logic extremists?” Thom repeated in amazement. “How extreme can one go with logic?”

“Far.” T’Plau said in a deadpan remark. “They are fanatics, extreme patriots who are highly xenophobic.”

“Sounds like Vulcan’s own version of Terra Prime.” Hennessey said with a shudder as he looked back at his host. “How did one of them get on to your ship?”

“Not much is known about the movement, besides that when they believe the sanctity of Vulcan purity is at risk they act.” T’Plau shared. “When Commodore Archer discovered the Kir’Shara, some logic extremists placed propaganda around Vulcan stating that it was Earth’s attempt to control the Vulcan people.”

“Quite a radical point of view to take.” Hennessey returned. “So why did Lukret attack me?”

“He has not disclosed that, but it simply may be down to the idea of stopping you from learning about the Vulcan languages you are trying to study.” T’Plau answered. 

Shaking his head to disagree with her assessment, Hennessey argued back. “No, I don’t think it’s only just that commander. It felt more personal. He was truly motivated to want to kill me to stop me from finding out something.”

“You have to admit, it does seem quite illogical for these extremists to attack Hennessey here on the ship. Why not wait until he is on Vulcan?” Thom added. 

“I would be watching your back as well, lieutenant.” Hennessey stated. “Remember, he didn’t like the idea of you being the commander’s first officer either.”

“But why hasn’t he attacked me? By attacking you, I believe his motives were far greater than we know.” Thom stated. He looked to T’Plau, “You need more answers here ma’am or something else is going to go wrong.”

“Indeed.” T’Plau said. She took a breath and then knocked her right knuckles on the glass. The noise caught the attention of her doctor, who she ushered over into the office. As soon as she was inside, T’Plau turned to the doctor. “Kel’ta, is Lukret strong enough to go through a mind-meld?”

Doctor Kel’ta was surprised to hear such a question but answered her superior. “His burns are not significant, but he is currently under sedation to help him recover.”

“We need more answers for his actions.” T’Plau said flatly. “Do you object to me performing the meld doctor?”

“There are some ethical issues here to consider ma’am.” Kel’ta answered. “He is unconscious and does not have the ability to give his consent to such a procedure.”

“He just attacked an ally, threatened to have him killed and was prepared to do it without caring for the consequences.” Thom said sternly back. “I think he may have lost some rights to what he gives his consent to.”

Kel’ta looked to the first officer and back to her commanding officer. “This is a Vulcan vessel; protocol must be adhered to.”

“Indeed and as its commanding officer I have the prerogative to deal with such matters as I deem fit.” T’Plau said bluntly. “Doctor Kel’ta, prepare Sublieutenant Lukret so I can perform a mind-meld on him in one hour. We will have our answers.”

“Is that an order ma’am?” Kel’ta inquired.

“It is.” T’Plau said in a firmer tone.

“Very well ma’am.” The doctor said and left her office to prepare for the procedure.

Looking at her first officer and guest, T’Plau took in a breath. “I will need one hour to prepare myself for the meld, Lieutenant Thom please escort Mister Hennessey back to his quarters and ensure proper security procedures are in place.”

Hennessey looked from T’Plau to Thom as the Andorian replied with a simple nod in acknowledgement. He wondered if he would be able to watch T’Plau meld with her subordinate. Thom then gestured for them to leave the infirmary which he was happy to do, knowing the Andorian guardsman was with him.


Challenger NX-03, in orbit of Mars

 

Slowing the ships down so its momentum carried itself as it made orbit around the red planet, Commander Rodham flicked a few more switches on the helm to bring the ship into a high orbit above the colony on Utopia. Within moments his controls indicated the arrival of elements of the fleet that they were about to play flagship to. 

“Captain, we are now in orbit of Mars and the first batch of our forces are arriving.” He announced over his left shoulder.

Fleet Captain Burton stood in the aft section of the bridge, in the situation room, where he was discussing matters with Lieutenant Cortez in a quiet tone. The moment that Rodham had interrupted that chat, he excused himself to make his way back to the centre of his bridge. “Thanks Alex. Put the fleet up on the main screen.” He ordered as he stood behind his chair, both hands gripping on the top of it. 

The viewscreen changed to show the image of the Starfleet flotilla. A majority of them were Daedalus-class ships, while the rest were Intrepid-class with two Poseidon-classes and the only other NX-class was the Discovery. Among the armada was his sister’s ship, Voyager along with the new ships that Fleet Admiral Hathaway had promised him. He had been able to find enough people to call in to take command of them. A few of them were current first officers who were being assigned for temporary basis while others had officers that were either pulled from teaching at Starfleet Training Command or were on the active reserve list. By the evening they would all have arrived to assume command. 

“Ensign Avery, open a channel to the fleet.” Burton commanded Hennessey’s deputy who was acting up in his absence. 

Avery complied and nodded once the channel was open. 

“This is Fleet Captain Burton; I am officially assuming command of the fleet. All ships shall prepare for departure in three hours’ time. All ships will submit a status report to the flagship. Burton out.” He gave Avery the gesture to close the channel. “Tanisha, inform me the moment the last of the crews have reported on board their vessels. I want to move out as soon as we can.”

Avery nodded before an alarm went off on her panel. Looking down at her, she was intrigued by what she was seeing. “Um, sir?” She said as she raised her captain’s attention. “We are being hailed by the Avenkerev. Commander Anthi is requesting permission to enter the Sol system and approach us.”

“Open a channel.” Burton insisted. He shared the same expression that Rodham shot him. Why would the Andorian captain be so close to Earth and wanting to speak to them? 

The viewscreen flicked to show the image of the Andorian zhen (Burton was still getting used to understanding the four genders within Andorian society) sitting in her chair. “Fleet Captain Burton, I bring you greetings from your allies in the Andorian Empire.”

“It’s a pleasure to see you again so soon Anthi. I didn’t think we would see you for a while.” Burton said, remaining standing behind his chair. “I give you permission to enter our system, but if you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing here?”

“We have come to fight alongside our pink-skin partners!” Anthi replied with a huge smile. 

Intrigued at what she meant by that; Burton moved himself so he was now in front of his chair. As he sat down, he asked for clarity from her. “Commander, not that I would turn away help from our friends in the Andorian Empire, but shall we meet in person to discuss what you mean by that?”

Smiling, as she knew what he meant, the Andorian command agreed to meet with him at once. 

 

After being escorted to the conference room by his first officer, Commander Anthi greeted Burton with a friendly smile. “It’s good to see you Lloyd.”

“Likewise Anthi.” Burton said as he shook her head and offered her a seat. He indicated for Rodham to join them. “So what do we owe the pleasure of you coming to fight alongside us?”

As Anthi took her seat next to Burton, she answered him. “The Imperial Guard has given me command of a small task group. With our forces stretched thin in protecting our borders from Romulan attacks and the slow refit our fleet is undertaken to defend ourselves against the telepresence capturing device, well let’s just there are a lot of generals back in Laikan city that are not happy we are having to take a back seat to the war.”

“I can tell you now Anthi, there’s a lot of admirals in San Francisco that wished you weren’t forced to do so.” Burton remarked. 

“Well that’s why we are here.” Anthi stated. “The Avenkerev along with those in our group have been refitted with the latest counter measures to combat the Romulans telepresence capturing units. Chancellor Margerit gave me one order – to find you and support you in whatever you were planning next.” Anthi shared. “So I see a battle group being formed here, what’s your next move?”

Burton just smirked and looked at his first officer who copied him. Looking back at the Andorian, he went on to share the mission that she would be joining them on.