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Return to the Gamma Quadrant

The Challenger is ordered to resume her deployment in the Gamma Quadrant

Some Things Trump Hate

Coltar IV
Stardate 77031.7

Taking a sip from his champagne flute, Tom scanned the reception room from his vantage point by the food table. The crowd was a mix of personnel from the Challenger, members of Coltar’s government and assorted invited guests. After the crew’s work in solving the temporal differential, Tom had managed to convince Governor Wells to award the Freedom of Coltar to the Challenger’s crew instead of singling him out.

His gaze fell upon his parents having an animated conversation with Commanders Bennett and Miller. Judging by the uncontrollable laughter coming from his officers, his parents were regalling them with stories from Tom’s youth. He groaned inwardly, wondering which embarrassing story they were being told.

The last few days since the Century Storm passed had allowed Tom to spend time with his family and begin reconnecting with them. While he and his father could now be in the same room without it devolving into a shouting match, even able to hold civil conversations, they were still awkward around each other. They’d been estranged for longer than not and it would take time for them to rebuild their relationship. All those years of hurt didn’t disappear overnight.

With a sigh, Tom started towards his parents in the hopes that he could prevent the most embarrassing stories being told but was stopped in his tracks by a sight he didn’t expect to see; Kailir and Mitchell huddled together in what looked like a deep conversation. His embarrassment was quickly forgotten and he began making his way through the crowd towards his two officers.

“What are you two conspiring about?” Tom asked jokingly as he approached them, a lopsided grin on his face.

“Nothing.” Kailir replied quickly, too quickly. 

Tom had only been joking, or at least half joking, but now he was convinced that the pair of them were up to something. She quickly excused herself, leaving the two friends alone. “What was that about?”

“What do you mean?” Mitchell asked innocently.

Tom wasn’t buying his friend’s act. “You know what I mean. The way you two stopped talking the moment I came over here. What’s going on?”

“Like Kailir said, it’s nothing.” Mitchell’s reply was more casual than Kailir’s was but Tom had known him too long. There was something his best friend was keeping from him.

Tom shook his head. “I’m not buying it, AJ.” He told his friend. “Tejara hates you. She’d rather chew her own arm off than have a conversation with you.”

“Some things trump hate, Tom.” Mitchell replied cryptically. 

Tom opened his mouth to reply but stopped when he noticed something over his shoulder catching AJ’s eye. Looking round he watched as Governor Wells strode purposefully towards Lieutenant Commander Jackson. “Uh-oh.”

***

“Is that so?” Chris asked, his attempt to feign interest less than convincing. The mayor of Coltar’s second largest town had been droning on for five minutes about something, though exactly what Chris wasn’t sure. These sorts of formal social gatherings, where he was expected to schmooze, were not his strong suit. He was an engineer, at home in an engine room or jeffries tube, not glad hand with politicians and civic leaders.

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught Chris’ attention. He immediately regretted glancing in that direction when he saw Governor Wells and her Chief of Staff bearing down on him. He’d given Governor Wells his word that he would get them a new fusion reactor but try as he had since the ion storm had passed, he’d made no headway and it seemed that his day of reckoning had arrived.

“Mayor West. Would you mind if I borrowed Commander Jackson for a few minutes?” Wells asked smoothly. 

West bowed his head politely. “Of course not, Governor.” Mayor West moved off leaving Chris at the mercy of the Governor.

“Commander Jackson, we haven’t had a chance to talk.” Wells began in a light, friendly tone. Chris knew that wasn’t going to last. “I believe you said that you would help us to secure a new fusion reactor once the ion storm passed.”

Jackson shifted his weight from one foot to the other, his eyes darting briefly to Forsyth before meeting Governor Wells’ gaze. Her smile was easy and friendly but her gaze was intense, waiting for Chris to reply. “About that Governor…I…I mean…I-”

“A California-class starship will arrive on Friday.” Captain Forrester’s voice came from behind him and moments later the captain appeared beside him. “Onboard will be a detachment from the Corps of Engineers who will begin construction on two brand new fusion reactors.”

The Governor and her Chief of Staff were visibly shocked and while he tried to cover his own, Chris was equally as shocked. “That’s wonderful news, Captain.” Wells gushed, a genuine smile lighting her features. “I don’t know how to thank you. Coltar is in your debt.” 

“No, no. Not me.” Forrester replied, shaking his head.. ‘It’s Commander Jackson you have to thank for this.”

Wells reached out and grabbed Chris’ hand, shaking it enthusiastically, placing her other hand over his. “Thank you, Commander. I’ll admit that I had my doubts when you made that promise but you came through for me, you came through for the people of Coltar. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Chris couldn’t think of any other way to reply. He felt uncomfortable accepting the Governor’s profuse thanks because he’d had nothing to do with securing the reactors. Wells and Forsyth moved off, buzzing with excitement at the possibilities that those new reactors presented. Chris watched them go, confusion etched on his face. “How-”

Forrester smiled. “I called in a favour,” he paused briefly before correcting himself, “well, a few favours,” he paused again, “actually a lot of favours.” The captain pinned him with a pointed look. “You owe me…big.” The chirp of Forrester’s commbadge drew his attention away. “Forrester here.”

Sir, Commodore Vega is on subspace for you.” The voice of Lieutenant Hendricks, the officer of the watch, announced.

That could mean only one thing, new orders. Forrester excused himself and walked off to a quiet corner of the room.

***

Captain Forrester, how soon can the Challenger be ready to get underway.” The voice of Commodore Vega filtered through the commbadge.

Tom’s eyes slowly scanned the room. He watched for a few seconds as his crew enjoyed themselves. He would allow them tonight. “We can be ready to go first thing in the morning.”

“Very well.” Came the Commodore’s reply a moment later. “You’ll leave first thing in the morning for Deep Space Nine.” She paused for a moment. “The Challenger’s going back to the Gamma Quadrant.”

All For One

U.S.S. Challenger NCC-71099
Stardate 77084.2

His duty shift done for the day, Chris was on his way to the Columbia Lounge when he came across the most peculiar sight. Calvin Armstrong dressed not in the uniform of a Starfleet Officer but looking more like something out of the pages of history. He wore a cavalier hat with one side of it folded up with an ostrich feather sticking out of it, a blue tabard with a silver cross on the front of it, black knee high fold over boots with a sword attached to his left hip.

“What are you supposed to be?” Chris asked, unable to keep the amusement out of his tone.

With his right hand, Armstrong removed his hat and swept his arm diagonally downwards as he bowed at the waist and announced. “I am D’Artagnan, of the King’s Musketeers.” He straightened and replaced the hat on his head with his customary boyish grin.

“Of course.” Chris vaguely remembered reading the book in high school. “I had no idea you were such a big fan of the Musketeers.”

Armstrong nodded enthusiastically. “I must’ve read the book at least fifty times.” He replied. “Dad originally read it to me when I was a boy.” A wistful smile slowly grew on his lips. “He used to tell me that we were descended from the real d’artagnan, but I’m pretty sure he was making that up. Our ancestors barely left Yorkshire until the industrial revolution was in full swing.”

“You know you could just have the holodeck recreate the clothes, you don’t actually have to dress up like that.” Chris pointed out.

He was talking to an engineer, of course Armstrong knew that. “Where’s the fun in that? It would still feel like I’m wearing my uniform or whatever clothes I wear to the holodeck. This way I can really immerse myself in the simulation and feel like I’m really there.”

“I can’t argue with that I guess.” Chris replied with a shrug.

Armstrong’s right hand came to rest on the hilt of his sword. “Right, I’m going to get changed out of this.”

“I’m heading to meet Mitchell in Columbia.” Chris announced. “Why don’t you join us?” Judging from the look on his face, Armstrong seemed to be in two minds. “I think da Costa’s gonna be there.” Chris added with a knowing wink.

It hadn’t escaped Chris’ notice that Armstrong and da Costa had been spending more time together since Coltar, but Armstrong hadn’t taken the leap to ask da Costa out yet. A slow, shy smile crept onto Armstrong’s lips. Eventually he relented, “Okay. I’ll go get changed and swing by for a quick drink.”

“Good.” Chris smiled. “I’ll see you in a while.” He patted Armstrong on the shoulder and continued on his way. 

*** 

Bridge to Forrester.” The voice of Commander Bennett filled the room as Tom finely chopped parsley and added it to the pan. 

Setting the knife down, he let out a sigh. “Forrester here. Go ahead, Commander.”

Captain, we have an incoming transmission from Commander T’Sen on Opaka Outpost.” Bennett told him.

Tom nodded, even though Bennett couldn’t see him. “Patch her through.”

A holographic image of the Vulcan commander materialised seconds later. “Greetings, captain.” Her eyes darted to his apron. “I apologise for the intrusion.

“Don’t worry about it, commander.” He waved his hand dismissively. “What can I do for you?”

T’Sen clasped her hands behind her back. “We have received information that I believe you might be interested in.” She paused for a moment. If Tom didn’t know any better he’d swear it was for dramatic effect. “Penn Renos has escaped Darox III.

“How?” He asked hotly. “When?”

The Vulcan cocked her right eyebrow at the captain’s reaction. “We believe he was recovered by the crew of Commander Oreth’s B’rel-class bird of prey several weeks ago. Commander Oreth and his crew have since returned to the Beta Quadrant but we do not believe that Renos is still with them.”

“Do you have any leads on where he might be?” Forrester asked.

Commander T’Sen shook her head slowly. “Not at this time.

“If you find any, let me know.”

With a bow of her head, T’Sen replied, “Of course.” She stiffened slightly. “Thank you for your time, captain.” T’Sen raised her right hand and gave the Vulcan salute. “Peace and long life, Captain Forrester.”

“Live long and prosper, Commander T’Sen.” Tom replied, his own right hand mirroring the commander’s salute. Her holographic avatar fizzled as the commlink was severed.

Penn Renos had been involved in the assassination of Darox’s Prime Minster, Gret Larell, but he’d been a mere puppet for Commander Oreth. That didn’t change Tom’s desire to return Renos to Darox and see him stand trial for his attempted coup. But that was for another day. Right now he had salmon and seafood pasta to finish preparing.

He lifted the knife and prepared to start chopping some chives when Commander Bennett’s voice interrupted him once more. “Bridge to Forrester.” 

“Go ahead, commander.” He couldn’t keep the annoyance out of his voice and instantly felt bad. Bennett wouldn’t contact him, especially so soon, unless it was important.

If Bennett noticed, and he was certain she did, she didn’t let it faze her. “Sir, we’re picking up a distress signal from a ship six light years away.”

“Lay in a course and engage at maximum warp, commander.” Forrester was already taking the pan containing what was to have been his dinner off the heat and deactivating the heat plate. 

He removed his apron and threw it over the back of a nearby chair. “Summon the senior officers. I’ll be there shortly. Forrester out.”