Part of Challenger: While The Iron Is Hot


Challenger NX-03
Saturday February 8th, 2155
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“No, no, no Commander, that is simply unacceptable!” 

“Well I’m truly sorry to hear that Commander Shras.” Levesque said for what felt like the hundredth time in the last half an hour. Since the ship went to tactical alert Commander Vindishras th’Vanatar, the head of Ambassador zh’Thachker’s Personal Guard, had been taking issue with the security plans drawn up by Commander Callahan and Major Yu. His major issue seemed to be that MACOs were protecting the Ambassador rather than his own people.

“I don’t want more apologies; I want you to listen to me.” Shras said standing up.

“I have listened to you Commander. So has our Chief Amoury Officer and MACO Commander, and we have all come to the same conclusion. Our security forces are more than able to provide any necessary security aboard this ship, and our forces will handle precautions. This is our ship and we know it better.” Levesque said standing from her own seat.

“My people know this ship as well as yours.” Shras quickly countered.

“Yeah, because the one thing that’s going to change my mind, is telling me that the Andorian Imperial Guard knows the layout of Earth’s most advanced ships as well as her crew.” Levesque replied sarcastically. 

“That is not my concern, it is fact, and we shouldn’t let your pride get in the way.” 

“You are the last person who should be talking about pride Commander. Ever since you got here all I’ve heard is how your staff is superior to ours. And despite how adamant, or confident or arrogant you are, it isn’t going to change my mind!” Levesque finished, she and Shras now nose to nose. It took a moment, but both finally relented and took their seats again. “Ambassador zh’Thachker’s personal protection is still the responsibility of you and your two men, but I won’t garrison your entire protection detail aboard Challenger. End of story.”

“Very well, I won’t bring the subject up again.” Shras said sitting back in his chair, relaxed but not defeated, Levesque noticed.

“I’m glad,” She replied, sitting back in her own chair mirroring Shras’ position. “You know Shras, you may be the most thick-headed man I have ever worked with. I really do hope this isn’t a common cultural trait of your people.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Shras deadpanned.

“If that’s what you want to believe, then please feel free to keep deluding yourself.” She was surprised to hear Shras laugh after she finished her comment. Since he had arrived on board Challenger the Andorian Commander hadn’t even raised an eyebrow let alone smiled. She was completely taken off guard and nearly missed what he was saying to her.

 “Very good Commander. Oh, I hope your pink skin Foreign Secretary has the same sense of humour, it will make these talks much more interesting!” 

Before she could respond the ship began to shudder under her feet. As each impact grew more and more violent both knew that the convoy was under attack. Grabbing her phase pistol from the desk Levesque followed Shras out of her quarters onto E Deck. Immediately after stepping through the hatchway she was slammed into the bulkhead across the way and collapsed onto the deck. Shaking the cobwebs from her head, Levesque saw several other crewmembers attempting to stagger to their feet.

While still trying to regain her footing, Levesque made her way toward the nearest lift. It seemed like every few steps the ship lurched just enough to once again throw her to the deck or into a bulkhead. It took some time, but she was eventually able to throw herself into a lift moments before nearly being run over by Commander Callahan. From the shuddering of the lift as they ascended toward the bridge Nicole figured they were under attack from several different vessels. Hopefully they would be able to withstand the attack as well as Enterprise and Columbia did. 

As she and the other officers piled out onto the bridge, Levesque barely had time to take stock of the situation before she was immobilised, and her perspective seemed to change. 

“Tactical Alert, you all heard it!” Major Yu barked out as her team assembled their kit rapidly in the MACO Equipment Bay. Pulse phase rifles, flash grenades, phase rifles, and stun-tonfa…and the odd piece of specialized equipment; All were being handed out and secured to uniforms. “We haven’t had time yet to finalize deployment strategies, so for the moment, I want a fire team on every deck. Five teams, seven decks. Assault Alpha will cover Deck-C and Assault Beta will be Deck-D.”

She glanced at the assault team leaders as they nodded in response and readied their rifles. “Jawohl, Major!” replied the leader of Assault Alpha, Sgt. “Blitz” Hardberger. 

Yu turned to Second Lieutenant Kwala al-Fayyad, the head of the Support team: a young fly girl of Egyptian descent. “The Support Team has E Deck. Familiarity with the drop bays and sickbay and all that.”

“Aye ma’am.” Kwala acknowledged as she adjusted the power levels on her sidearm.

“The Recon Team has F and G Decks.” Yu nodded and moved on to her Iyer staff sergeant and the company’s top sniper and Recon Leader. “That’s a lot of ground, but F Deck is full of Armoury personnel so you should have ready backup.”

Yu slid a stun tonfa into its sheath on her belt as she finally came to her own fire team. “That leaves B Deck and the bridge for the Command team.”

“B deck and the bridge module are small sir, are we splitting up or do we move as one?” Asked Corporal Nawang Rai, the heavy weapons expert of the Command squad, who’s ancestral warrior culture was evident from the personnel kukri sheath that hung from his belt.

Yu didn’t ponder the question and immediately replied. “We split into two. Corporal Rai is with me; we’ll cover the bridge. If these are pirates, command and control nodes on the ship will be targeted for capture.”

The Gurkha corporal saluted with an affirmative as he slid his kukri into its sheath and then adjusted the stock on his pulse rifle for his compact frame.

“Armoury Personnel have their positions to guard and stations to man, so they are a stationary defence.” The Major continued, once again addressing all of the MACOs. “We will be active in defence, so stay constantly on the move and keep an eye out for intruders, structural or systems damage, and injured crewmen…otherwise, try and keep out of Starfleet’s way. With any luck, our special brand of services won’t be needed.”

Yu slung her phase rifle over her shoulder and readied her side arm. “I would have liked to have more extensive drills and exercises first, but nothing beats the real thing I suppose. You’re ready and you all know your jobs?”

“Aye Major!” Came an affirmative, union of replies.

“Then move out, MACOs!”

A final salute and the teams dispersed from the equipment bay in ordered, but extremely rapid fashion. As they reached F Deck’s main hall’s T-junction, they split off: The Recon Team under Staff Sergeant Iyer took a right to begin their patrol of the lowest two decks, while Lieutenant al-Fayyad’s group of specialists and Assault Beta took a left to head to the secondary lift to take them to their respective decks.

The remaining combined group of eight went straight-ahead down the hallway to the primary lift that took them directly to C deck.

“Ma’am. Mind if I ask a personal question?” Asked Sergeant Johan “Blitz” Hardberger as they piled into the lift.

“Go ahead, Sergeant.” Yu replied. “Bear in mind that I may not answer such a question while all eight of us are packed into a single lift…and I reserve the right to wipe the gym floor with your arse if it’s in poor taste.”

“Noted.” Blitz replied with a grin. “It’s about your name actually. Your Victoria with a ‘K’, not exactly the normal English spelling.”

“I see what you’re getting at.” Yu replied as she glanced around. “My first name is Germanic. Mutter war ursprünglich aus Baden-Württemberg.”

“Ja?” Blitz said with a small grin on his face. “Ich bin geboren und aufgewachsen in Hesse mich! Your German is very good. Your first language?”

“Nien.” Viktoria answered. “Vierter. My mother never actually used German around the household when I was growing up…I picked up English and Cantonese first…then like every Anglophone Canadian, I was taught French in elementary school. German came in secondary school.”

“Danke Major for indulging my curiosity.” Hardberger said as the lift came to a stop on Deck C and the doors opened.

“You’re welcome Sergeant, now get to work.” Yu replied as she pointed out to the hallway the Blitz team began to move into.

The doors closed and the lift began moving again, now seeming much more spacious with only four occupants. “We’ll all get off on B deck…you two go left and begin your patrol. Rai and I will go right and make our way to the bridge access lift…try and avoid messing up any experiments in deck B’s labs. That’s how bad science fiction novels sta-“

Corporal Nawang Rai blinked twice, making sure he wasn’t seeing things, as his commander vanished right before his eyes. “…Major?”

Quickly, he took out his communicator and signalled the bridge. “Bridge. This is Corporal Rai…Major Yu just vanished from the forward lift.”

Unknown Orion Pirate Frigate

“-start.” The disorienting effects of a surprise transporter barely even phased Yu, who had just enough time to finish her sentence to realize the relevant information that surrounded her. One, she was no longer in the lift but in a more darkly lit chamber on a lit-up dais. Two, there were rather large green-skinned men advancing on her.

That’s all she needed to level her pistol on the nearest and pull the trigger.

Unfortunately, that did nothing but make a clicking sound as the trigger was squeezed. Disabled by the transporter beam? How the hell does that work? She thought as she went to plan B, chucking the pistol like a small blunt tomahawk at her target instead, creating an opportunity for her to draw her tonfa to charge the second, stunning end first.

It connected and the green giant’s face tightened up, but behind the clenched teeth came an ominous laugh as he fought right through the stunning energy and knocked Yu back with a powerful front kick.

Yu grunted as she fought to keep air in her lungs and flipped the tonfa around to guard her forearm, raising it up quickly into a karate high block to deflect an incoming punch, immediately adjusting her stance to launch a counter punch into the Orion’s side.

That only made him laugh again as he sent a backhanded fist right across Yu’s face. She had just enough time to let out a “Sonufa-” before she blacked out…only to wake up moments later, in a cage.

The dark cool grey and blue lighting of Challenger’s bridge was gone, replaced by a stark yellow-green room filled with Orions. Ignoring the almost painful tingling of the Orion’s transporter, Levesque drew her phase pistol and aimed it at the nearest pirate. Before she could squeeze the trigger, a massive green hand slammed down on her wrist with enough force that she could swear it broke. Levesque couldn’t help but cry out in pain as she was forced to drop her weapon. Making a last attempt to fight off her abductors, Levesque found herself being picked up by her throat and thrown against the nearest bulkhead. For an instant as she fell unconscious, she thought she heard someone else struggling in the room.

Ensign Ezrah Alcott was quite literally tossed into the empty cell. His teeth clattered together as his body hit the hard metal surface of the deck with a sickening thud. The transport from Challengerto the alien ship had been more disorienting for him; his body not at all accustomed to the adverse effects of the transporter. His head swam in considerable dizziness, the effects of which caused him to collapse from vertigo onto the transporter pad itself and immediately vomit, his face red from the pressure as well as the embarrassment he felt from displaying such weakness so immediately.

Shortly thereafter, he’d not even had a chance to gain any semblance of orientation before two very strong hands wrapped around his lithe frame and quite easily lifted him from the transporter pad. His head shook from side to side in an attempt to rid himself of the debilitating dizziness. As he started to gain his bearings, he came under the realization of his current predicament. His heart beat wildly against the inside of his chest as he called out for help. Biceps flexing, he tried to wrestle free of the Orion’s vice-grip to no avail. Leg’s hanging, he then tried kicking, landing several successful hits with the heels of both feet.

The Orion spoke out in frustration and anger, probably due to a little surprise too, but most likely not from pain. Alcott didn’t understand one word the alien spoke, which made the situation all the more unbearable. He felt the Orion’s firm hold around his upper torso loosen just enough for him to slip free, undoubtedly due to a bit of distracted confusion from being pitifully assaulted. Falling to the deck, he landed on both knees, the grated material digging into the bare flesh. He yelped in pain but tried to stay focused. The corridor in which they were located was very wide but didn’t offer many options for a successful escape; he was also less than familiar with the interior configuration of an Orion pirate ship. As he made to run away in the opposite direction of the Orion, he felt those same strong hands on him again. He cried out in fear and tried to squirm away to no avail.

“Let me go!” Alcott demanded, the foreign words falling on deaf ears. “Please! Please let me go!” He didn’t understand the reason for the abduction nor what the Orion wanted with him. When back on Challenger, he had occupied the lift heading towards the bridge with Commander Levesque, Lieutenant Commander Callahan and Ensign Hennessy. Upon arrival and when the initial effects of the transporter started to take hold, he thought he saw one of the two senior officers also transported away but couldn’t be certain of that either. Was he really alone in this?

The entire trip to the cell, he had tried fighting the Orion as best he knew how; but the green-skinned man was far too physically superior. When they’d arrived at the dark, dank compartment, the Orion simply tossed the pilot into confinement as if he were nothing more than a burlap sack of potatoes.

Picking himself up from the deck, he rushed the cell door in one last attempt to escape, but it had already slid shut, lock secured. The Orion mumbled something at Alcott and, although he couldn’t understand the words, he knew they were spoken out of mild frustration, but mostly amusement.

“Please! Wait! What do you want with me?” His voice cracked harshly as he called after the mountain of a man, eyes following his departure until left alone.

It was at that moment that Alcott started to panic; like a caged animal, he started to crawl the walls, scrutinizing every nook and dark corner for anything that might prove beneficial or useful to his escape. His body involuntarily shuddering in fear, he also realized just how very cold the compartment was. 

When reporting to the bridge at the sound of the tactical alert, Alcott had been sleeping soundly. Dressed in a pair of navy-blue night shorts and a white t-shirt, he’d retrieved the navy-blue zip-hoody that hung by the door to his quarters on his hasty departure. It was one of his favourite off-duty garments, with the emblem of Challenger screen printed over the left breast. He was also barefoot, not thinking about slipping on socks or a pair of slippers. Not the most ideal outfit for an abduction, but of course that hadn’t even been considered as an outcome in his need to report to the bridge.

Spending several more minutes searching, he found not one item or weakness in the cell’s composition that would help him to escape. Succumbing to physical and mental exhaustion, he retreated to the back right corner of the cell and slid down its grimy, rusted bulkhead to the deck below. Pulling either knee up to his chest, he wrapped both arms around his legs as icy-blue eyes flickered nervously from the cell gate to the egress beyond. All at once, thoughts of his family, friends, those he served with on the Challengerleft to some unknown fate and so much more overwhelmed the young boy. His forehead pressed into either knee, as he forced both eyes shut and clenched his teeth together before screaming out.


Challenger NX-03

Sickbay was a perfect example of organised chaos. Ben-Ami was in control of the situation as far as she could. Who would have thought that this soon into a cruise the shit would literally hit the fan? She deftly moved her hands as she sutured the leg of the injured armoury crewman. She wanted him patched up as soon as possible to be back on the floor. She had no idea what had happened to the ship, internal communications appeared to be down, but from what she had managed to gleam from the injured personnel, they had been attacked by Orions, anything more than that was still a complete mystery.

She tied off the suture and called over a nurse to finish dressing the wound, “Give him some analgesia and get him out” she said as she turned to walk away, removing the surgical gloves as she did so and gently tossing them into the bin. She looked around; there were still eight crewmembers to treat, thankfully with minor injuries. She heard the hiss of the doors opening and turned, “If you can walk in here you’re back of the queue” she said without turning around, “Nurse Griffiths” she said calling to one of the nurse practitioners working on a head trauma, “Any signs of concussion?”

“No Ro-fa.”

“I’m not injured,” said Callahan as he approached the Chief Medical Officer, though he did cough. Smoke inhalation did that for you. “But I do need just a second of your time, Doctor. Just a second.”

Ben-Ami walked over to the injured engineer, she checked the readings from the main sensor and then placed a hypo-needle to his leg, “Then you can hold this young man’s leg while I operate” she said gesturing the Commander over. She began by ripping open his trouser leg to expose the area, she pointed to the tray on the other side of the table that the commander was approaching, “a swab please.”

Callahan blinked, but did as he was told, resting one hand on the engineer’s leg while he plucked a swab from the tray and passed it over. “Captain’s gonna need a report on the crew’s status. I appreciate you don’t get the time to just shout it over the comm.”

Ben-Ami took the swab and began cleaning the area to get a better view of the wound. “It looks like a simple laceration across the femoral artery.” she could have it patched up in a few minutes; she made sure the area was clear of dried blood and dropped the swab into a tray, “Chance would be a fine thing. Comms went out with the first rocking” she said as she picked up a small scanner from the tray, “rotate the leg twenty-five degrees your left.”

He did so, brow furrowing. “Then what’s our status, Doc? We’ve been hit hard; we need to know how hard so we can deal with the situation.”

Ben-Ami did not respond for a moment as she was setting the scanner back and picking up a small lancet, she put it close to the wound for a moment before changing her mind and setting it back, she then lifted a small laser scalpel “Looks like the femoral profunda is out of use” she said with a sigh, “If I can excise the damaged artery and replace with…” she looked around the tray, “Nurse Griffiths, I need some artificial arterial membrane!” she called out, within moments the large Welsh woman had placed it on the tray. She began using the scalpel to remove the damaged artery, “Our status?” she said as if recalling the Commander had spoken to her, “We have one fatality. Poor kid was taken out by a support strut separating his head from his neck.” she said almost sarcastically, “Nineteen other injuries, three of those are serious and are currently recouping after surgery, the other sixteen should be back on their feet soon. Some will be good to go in twenty minutes or so, the other it could take a few hours.” she said as she used a small pair of forceps to remove the damaged artery, she dropped it in the tray, and began inserting the artificial membrane, holding it in place with her right hand on the forceps, she took her left hand and reached for a small fine tipped tube, she placed it on the edges of the membrane she had placed.

Callahan made a face, first at the state of the wound, then at her words. He wasn’t unaccustomed to injuries, but he was usually doing something when he was confronted with them, and none of his usual coping mechanisms were available to him right then.

He still preferred to have a reaction, though in that second he envied Challenger’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Understood,” he said, watching her work. “As soon as you get a moment the Captain will want numbers on whose long-term out of action. Are you command-qualified at all, Doc?”

Ben-Ami removed her forceps and called over to Nurse Griffiths again, “Irene close him up” she said as she handed over to the large woman and removed her gloves, “He’ll have a formal report in twenty minutes” she said as she walked over to her desk and sipped her now cold tea, “As to your question, yes I am.” she said grudgingly swallowing the cold tea, “I went through full Starfleet commissioning, and prior to that I was a Seren, sorry Captain, in the IDF” she set down the cup, “Although I did the full commission unlike most of my counterparts in blue, I don’t think you will ever reach a point where you need me on the bridge more than you need me in sickbay.”

“You say that,” said Callahan, “and it’ll be the skipper’s call when all’s said an’ done, but right now you got the highest rank after me an’ him.” He met her gaze, blue eyes deadly serious, though his voice dropped to not carry across sickbay. “We got hit hard; several abductions on top of the injuries includin’ Commanders Levesque an’ Stanton, an’ Major Yu.”

“Abducted?” she said almost gobsmacked, “Where the hell are we? Texas?” she added some sardonic humour, “Please don’t tell me they got our cows…”

“We ain’t in neither Texas nor Kansas no more, Doc,” he said, intentionally enunciating his drawl. “Orion pirates, most often they like to hammer ships so they can scavenge the wreckage for their uses, but sometimes they like to turn their hand to some slavery. That’s when the rustlin’ starts. An’ since chances are good their goals are to disrupt this convoy, I guess they were happy to take what they could get.”

“Are they likely to be coming back? Isn’t that their usual MO, hit you hard, let you recover then hit you harder?” she paused, “What about the big wigs?”

“The Secretary’s safe,” he assured her. “An’ they might come back; so far they haven’t stopped the convoy and if that’s their goal we can expect a whole lot more violence coming up. I don’t know what our next move is, so all I can do is… make ready.” There was certainly a flash of apprehension on the suddenly advanced Armoury Chief’s face.

“I’m sure we can handle anything they throw at us Commander” she said supportively, “I’ll be on the bridge with my report when I have cleared up down here” she said, “Anyone injured on the bridge?”

“Just bumps an’ scrapes.” He jerked a head in the direction of the Armoury officers. “How’re my boys?”

“Ah yes” she said almost sombrely, “The one who had a run in with a support strut? That was Crewman Kincaed.” she looked at the Commander, “I’m sorry Commander”

He turned at that, physically staggered by the news, and clearly scrambled for his composure. “You… you carry on with your work down here, Doc. I’ll talk to my men an’ then I’ll be back on the bridge. I’m sure the skipper will appreciate a report ASAP.”

“Yes Commander” she said with a slight nod, as she drained the last of her cold tea and carried on with her injured patients.

Callahan watched her go, and then looked over at his recuperating Armoury officers. He’d assumed they were battered, rather than reeling from the loss of one of their fellows. He was needed back on the bridge – but first –

He squared his shoulders, fixed his expression, and went over to see his men.

Within a matter of minutes Challenger had engaged in its first battle since its launch. Under the circumstances the crew had dealt with the situation commendably, especially with the loss of a number of its senior staff. Once the battle had been dealt with, Captain Burton had returned to his quarters, quickly got changed into his uniform and was back out in the corridors to deal with the current crisis.

Thankfully he was pleased that his yeoman, Jamie Harris, wasn’t one of the eleven crewmembers that had been abducted. Harris was waiting outside the captain’s quarters with a tablet in his hands. “Here you go sir; the list of our missing crew.” He said as he passed the information over.

Burton gave an inwards moan as he read the list.

  • Commander Nicolette Levesque
  • Commander Michael Stanton
  • Major Viktoria Yu
  • Ensign Ramya Dey
  • Ensign Ezrah Alcott
  • Ensign Kimberly Brewster
  • Crewmember John Stahl
  • Crewmember Evan Davies
  • Corporal Natalie Lafontaine
  • Private Liam Jenkins

Almost every department, besides the medical and communications department, had suffered a loss. “Thank you, Jamie.” Burton replied as he gave the tablet back and began his march down the hallway. “Work with Ensign Hennessey in keeping Secretary Campbell informed of our current situation. Brief her and her staff on what has happened. Let them know repairs are underway and I will speak to them once I know more on the situation. Also have Ned contact the rest of the convoy; we need to know what everyone else’s situation is.”

“Aye sir.” Harris replied and took the cue to get straight on with his new assignment as he left the captain’s presence as he turned down one of the corridor junctions. 

Burton made his way towards engineering, passing a number of crew who were busy dealing with various matters to get the ship back up and operating again. He eventually arrived at the main door of engineering and pulled on the handle to unlock the massive door so he could enter. Stepping through the archway he once again found himself presented with orderly chaos. He could hear Lieutenant Masuko barking out orders to various engineers. 

He found Stanton’s deputy standing up on the raised platform by the warp reactor working on trying to get the ship’s main source of energy back online. “Report lieutenant?” He asked the Japanese woman. 

She automatically turned around to see Burton and soon climbed down the platform to speak with her captain face-to-face. “Initial assessments of our damage have been completed and I’m confident that we’ll be back on our feet within four hours.”

“That’s good to hear, but exactly what damage have we sustained?” Burton asked as he began to inspect the damage around the warp core.

Masuko followed her commanding officer with her hands grasped behind her back. “The warp plasma injectors overloaded a number of their circuits, and two EPS conduits have been knocked out. If Crewman Stahl were here, he would be able to get those conduits up and running within no time. I served with him previously on the Lexington and he was absolutely gifted, sir. That all said I’ve got teams working hard to get the repairs completed.”

Burton nodded in satisfaction. He knew that Masuko wasn’t Stanton’s choice as the Second Engineer, but she was an impressive engineer and capable leader too. “Right well how can I help?” He asked. Right now, there was nothing else he could do on the bridge and having spent so long on other ships he had developed his engineering skills to be quite competent.

She smiled at his offer. “Thank you, sir. You could help me by replacing a couple of the burnt-out circuits for the plasma injectors.” She said as he gestured to the broken consoles and controls on a nearby wall.

Burton smiled. “Done.” He said and made his way over to where she pointed and began to inspect the damage he needed to repair.

Half an hour later Captain Burton was sitting on the deck of Main Engineering fixing the damaged circuit panel that was needed to get the warp plasma injector back online. He was just in the process of re-attaching the optic fibre leads to the main console when a shadow formed over him. Looking up he saw the serious expression of his current acting first officer, Lieutenant Commander John Callahan, staring down at him. 

“How many?” Burton asked in a sombre tone. He already regretted asking the question, as he knew that the expression across Callahan’s face meant the ship had suffered fatalities. 

Callahan folded his arms across his chest, his impassive gaze barely shifting. “Just the one.” There was nothing light in his voice about the term ‘just’.

The answer stung the captain’s heart and he winced too. As he took out a micro-calibre he asked; “Who?”

“One of my Armoury boys.” Callahan’s voice was a little thick. “Ben Kincaed.”

“Damn.” He replied under his breath, now feeling absolutely gutted and devastated that it was one of the armoury crew he had picked out. “Kincaed was only just out of training.” He placed the tool and gave out another big sigh. He leant over to where a computer tablet was sitting near to his knee and picked it up. As he did, he flicked the switch on and passed it to Callahan. “A status report from every ship in the convoy.” He indicated. “The Andorians don’t have warp drive and their entire command crew were abducted. Ambassador Magerit has transferred with her staff to the Kemaree. She was a former general, so her rank is still partially active. She’ll be commanding the ship until the situation is dealt with. The Vulcans have taken damage to their weapons and sensors while the Tellarites are having computer problems. Apparently the Orions uploaded a virus into their networks. Overall we’re probably in better condition than the rest of them.”

“That’s a helluva sorry prospect in and of itself,” Callahan growled, flicking through the data. “We’re going to have a tough time protectin’ the convoy all the way to Denobula if we don’t get any backup. We didn’t dent the attack squadron nearly enough for me to feel confident they ain’t gonna come have another pop at us.”

Burton had finished the repairs while Callahan was talking and soon brought the console back to life. He was mildly satisfied with his efforts as he stood up. “We’ve got to get our people back first.” he paused as he rubbed his chin. He could slight stubble forming where he had yet to shave that evening. “Work with every other tactical and science officer in the convoy. See who was able to see where the Orions were heading. Then begin working on strategies for us to successfully engage the Orion raiders. I’ll focus on the repairs and our VIPs.”

Callahan drew a deep breath, looking around Engineering. It was quiet, their low voices not carrying far through the cavernous room, no engineers in sight who might overhear them. Nevertheless, his voice dropped a few decibels. “Beggin’ your pardon, sir, but we got hit. Hard. That attack was over in less than ten minutes an’ in that time they’ve gutted the military capability of this convoy, both in the ships and in the personnel. Now, I can analyse the tactical data an’ work on some scenarios which don’t wind up with us chewin’ on vacuum for breakfast, but those are all gonna be relying on a hefty dose of luck to determine the outcome.” He grimaced. “Don’t get me wrong, sir, Lady Luck’s a spacer’s best friend, but I don’t know if we should be countin’ on her as our top ally while the VIPs an’ this conference are our responsibility.”

Burton sighed. He had already thought of all what Callahan had just said. “Thank you, Commander. Your comments are noted.” he paused as he stood up, now face to face with his acting first officer. “But this convoy is more than just a convoy. It’s a representation of what this coalition was formed on. The idea is we need to work together to achieve the greater good.” Again, he stopped knowing there was no point making that sentimental speech to Callahan. He was like Burton, an armoury officer and well educated about latest affairs. “We just need to work with our allies John to get this to work. Get on with the tactical analysis and then share with your counterparts on the other ships. Let’s make this alliance work.” He ordered. 

Callahan nodded in agreement and soon left his captain to carry on with what he was doing.

Silence hung in the lift car as it slowly descended from the bridge to G deck. Finally, Crewman Jamie Harris spoke to the lift’s only other occupant.

“Are you all right, sir?”

Ned Hennessy didn’t immediately reply, nor did he face the young crewman.

“I saw two people disappear into thin air right in front of me,” he finally said. “What do you think?”

“Okay,” Harris said quietly, mostly to himself.

The lift slowed to a stop and the doors snapped open.

Hennessey had not anticipated being back to this area of the ship so soon, and certainly not to deliver such dire news. 

This time, the Secretary’s husband, Robert Campbell, answered the door.

“What’s going on?” he asked immediately, ushering Hennessy and Harris into the cabin. “We’re totally in the dark down here. What’s Burton trying to play here?”

“We were attacked.” It sounded idiotic as the words came out of his mouth, but he plodded ahead: casualties, damage, repair time. With each new bit of information, even more of a pall settled on the stateroom. He noticed his ex-wife, Jane, seated on the stateroom’s sofa. As the narrative increased in severity, she rose and began pacing the deck.

“And,” Hennessey concluded, “ten crew members were abducted during the melee.”

“How?” Secretary Campbell asked. Jane stopped mid stride and turned to face the two Starfleet crewmembers.

“Transporter, ma’am,” Harris answered. “There was little we could do to stop it.”

As Harris spoke, Ned flashed back to that moment on the bridge when he and the others stepped out of the lift. The green flash of energy. Alcott and Levesque disappearing. The helmsman was the first person from the ChallengerHennessey had met. They had already made plans for a signing lesson over lunch in the mess. He was old enough to be the son Hennessey never had. 

And Levesque, in spite of their initial introduction, was a formidable researcher. From the linguistics lab, Hennessey had observed her at work with her staff. In her he could see a glimpse of a kindred academic. She possibly was someone he’d feel comfortable showing his journal articles to. One day.


Someone had been talking to him, asking him a question while Ned was letting his mind wander.

“I’m sorry…what was the question?”

“What about the other ships? Casualties? Abductions?” It was the Secretary’s husband.

“The Andorian ship’s entire command crew was abducted,” Hennessy answered. “The ambassador has assumed command. She apparently retired from the military.”

Hennessy wrapped up his report by inviting, on Captain Burton’s behalf, Secretary Campbell to a meeting between the convoy’s respective ship captains. Campbell nodded, saying she would be there.

“If there are no other questions,” Hennessey allowed his gaze to fall on Jane, who quickly looked away, “Crewman Harris and I are needed on the bridge.”

He half expected Jane to follow him out of the Secretary’s stateroom, but then again, he had Harris with him, and knew she disliked having an audience for their spats. Of course, they weren’t even their spats anymore. They were just two people who happened to know each other being disagreeable with one another.

“You married, Crewman?” he asked Harris.

“No, sir.”

“Good for you.”