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Part of Challenger: Birds Of A Feather


Challenger NX-03, en route to Archer IV
Saturday, March 1st, 2155
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“Captain’s star log March First, Twenty-One-Fifty-Five. The Mayflower has successfully docked with Challenger and we’re beginning to treat the injured colonists and crew. Repairs are underway too. On another note, I have just spoken with Admiral Gardner regarding a personnel issue.”

Burton had yet to rest and was beginning to feel exhaustion creeping up against him. He was now sat in the confines of his office reading over Commander Stanton’s initial report on the damage the Mayflower had sustained. It was slowly creeping up to twenty-three hundred hours and the Captain was doing his best to take everything in. If the Mayflower was to get going any time soon, they would need help from the Vulcans to prevent them being caught by the Romulans again. All the help they could get would shave valuable time off the ticking clock they now all faced. The door chime went off interrupting the captain’s thoughts. He put down the mug of warm tea in his hands to look up at the door. “Come in.” He replied.

The door whooshed open and Lieutenant Commander Callahan walked through. Challenger‘s Third Officer and Chief Armoury Officer stood at attention. “Sir.” He said, greeting his commanding officer with his Texan accent.

Burton smiled up at the man who he had started to see as a friend. “John, please take a seat.” He said offering the small armchair on the other side of the room. 

Callahan took the offer and sat down; as he did, he pulled his trousers up slightly and made himself comfortable in the seat. “You wanted to see me sir?”

The captain nodded. “I did.” He remarked as he turned in his leather chair to face him, as he did he picked up a data-tablet and switched it on. “I spoke with Admiral Gardner earlier about the request you’ve made.”

Callahan only nodded silently.

“He informed me you made the request as your wife has asked you to return home?” Burton asked as he tried to understand the situation they were now in.

Again Callahan nodded once and spoke up afterwards. “At first I thought being on one of the deep space ships would be what I needed sir and when the opportunity came to join the third NX-class it was an unmissable one to say the least, captain. But with deepest regret sir, I need to return home to save my marriage.”

“I understand John.” Burton said, even though he wasn’t married himself, he understood that love conquered all. “I have to admit I was frustrated to hear you’ll be leaving us. You’re a fine officer and I appreciate your efforts, especially at the beginning when we launched. Your support and hard work has been extremely beneficial.” The captain paused. “What are you planning to do instead?”

“I’ve been asked to assist in teaching at Starfleet Training Command.” Callahan answered with satisfaction. “It means I can remain in Starfleet and be home with the family sir.”

“Well I hope you don’t give those cadets an easy time Commander!” Burton joked. “Admiral Gardner mentioned that the Gemini will be passing by and will be able drop out of warp for a short amount of time to pick you up and take you back to Earth.” 

“The Gemini?” Callahan repeated. The mention of his previous assignment brought a slight smile on his face.

Burton nodded. “Yeah, Captain Rostami agreed to divert to us as it was you he would be getting!”

“Excellent.” Callahan said chuckling at the notion.

Burton stood up. “However you do owe me big time for who Admiral Gardner is sending as your replacement!” 

Callahan stood up too and looked at his captain in confusion. “Oh?”

He passed the tablet he had been holding to Callahan to skim read. “As part of the new Coalition Compact, Starfleet will be joining in an officer-exchange program with the Vulcans, Andorians and Tellarites. Admiral Gardner feels we should show some initiative before the Compact is signed. As such an officer from the Vulcan High Command will be joining us. In fact she’s on the T’Paal now. I’m about to speak with their captain and eventually meet her.”

John smirked at this, knowing that not everyone was keen on having Vulcans on Earth ships. “Sorry sir. Next time you’re in Texas, stop by our ranch and I promise to make it up to you with a very strong bottle of whiskey!” 

“You’re on!” Burton countered back and extended his hand towards his outgoing chief armoury officer. “Thank you again John, I don’t think I would have gotten this far without you on the team.”

“It was an honour to serve under you Captain Burton.” Callahan returned and shook the captain’s hand with a smile of gratitude before returning the tablet to the captain.

The two men let go and Burton watched Callahan leave the room before looking back at the tablet. Sub Commander T’Plau, he thought to himself, what would happen next he pondered.

Vulcan combat cruiser T’Paal

The Suurok-class combat cruiser had been assisting the Earth ships for some time now when the message from the Vulcan High Command had arrived. Sub Commander T’Plau had been in her guest quarters meditating while she had journeyed from her previous posting on the D’kyr­-class cruiser Sakra to Denobula for her new assignment. T’Plau recently had been studying up on human technology and methods in preparation to join Ambassador Soron when he returned to Earth as one of his aides. However, the Vulcan High Command had other ideas for her posting. Only moments ago she had received brand new orders that contradicted her previous one. She would no longer be joining the T’Paal; instead she would be joining the crew of the Challenger instead. She found the entire situation perplexing; however she began to understand the logic in her superior’s decision to go along with the request from Starfleet Command. As part of the agreement in the Coalition of Planets’ Compact, the allied nations would engage in an officers-exchange programme. This was a practice that had been suspended between Earth and Vulcan after the destruction of the monastery at P’Jem. However it seemed the new government was interested in resuming such practices to prove to the others they saw the alliance as a worthwhile objective to develop. 

T’Plau had considered it to be peculiar to be on a ship with no post and no requirements to do anything on board other than relax. So far on her trip she had carried on her reading of The Teachings of Surak, now T’Plau sat on her floor in the lotus position with her eyes closed. 

The door opened and a young Sub Lieutenant entered, “Sub Commander we’ve arrived in the sector. Captain Sortak requests your presence on the bridge ma’am.”

T’Plau opened her eyes, “I am just coming Sub Lieutenant.” T’Plau rose from the ground wiping herself down as she made her way to the bridge alongside the Sub Lieutenant.

Captain Sortak looked at the newly minted Sub Commander as she entered the bridge, “Sub Commander T’Plau we have a team going to the Mayflower, we are going to send a team to aid in the repairs. This might give us a better understanding of the humans; we will contact the Challenger first before we send you across.” The Captain opened a channel of communication with the Challenger.

The image of Captain Lloyd Burton appeared on the main screen. “Captain Sortak, thank you for being patient to speak with me.” He spoke in a calm and pleasant manner, an uncharacteristic combined tone expected from a human T’Plau thought. 

Sortak looked at the view screen, “It is of no consequence Captain Burton, logically you would be busy dealing with your transports. I wanted to introduce you to,” Sortak looked down at his computer tablet to ensure he got the designation for position correct before looking back up, “Chief Armoury officer, Sub Commander T’Plau.” 

T’Plau nodded courteously, “Greetings Captain.”

Burton smiled at the Vulcan officer. “A pleasure to meet you Sub Commander.” He said before returning his attention to Captain Sortak. “We’ve already began repairs on the Mayflower, but my chief engineer would welcome any support you and your crew can provide.” Burton returned with a friendly smile.

Sortak looked down his duty roster, “Is it people or parts you lack on board the Mayflower? I can have T’Plau deliver either. She is a skilled engineer so it only logical as she will be spending a prolonged time with your crew for them to get to know her better that she joins them on the Mayflower.”

Both, captain.” The human captain returned. He nodded to someone off screen before looking back at the Vulcans. “I’m sending over now our repair assignments, my chief engineer would like to see if you’re able to help get their life support systems back up to full operational status along with the other support systems, they’ll need to sustain the colonists. Is that acceptable to you?

Sortak nodded to his engineer who received the assignments, “We have been sent by the High Command to render aid, and we will have a team aboard the Mayflower shortly.”

Excellent. I recommend you send your team over via shuttlepod and to dock on the other side of the Mayflower.” Burton said. “Sub Commander T’Plau I look forward to working with you.

T’Plau nodded, “Looking at the schematics it should be simple enough to restore the basic functions but the interference makes it difficult to have a clear picture.”

I’ll have one of my engineers get you up to speed once your team is settled in on the Mayflower. Perhaps afterwards you can come aboard Challenger for us to discuss your assignment to Challenger.” Burton stated. 

T’Plau looked at the screen, “If that is your wish Captain.” She paused before speaking further. “If it is possible could you have someone send me the output energies of your weapons. I have a few thoughts on improvements of your current technology.”

Let’s discuss your assignment first, Sub Commander and then we can talk out about improving our technology.” Burton replied. He then looked at Captain Sortak, “Captain, with your permission I would ask for the T’Paal to remain with us. I fear these Romulans will return and I don’t think the colony ships along with the cargo ship could survive another brutal assault. Our two ships working together would increase their chance of survival and arriving at Archer Four successfully. Plus, it would be gratefully received in spirit for the upcoming signing of the new Coalition.

Sortak nodded slightly, “My orders are to remain here until repairs are made then to escort the vessels back to friendly space. We will be content to help deal with the Romulans.”

I very much appreciate the support Captain.” Burton returned in a friendly tone. “Let’s keep in touch, Burton out.”

Sortak cut the channel then turned to T’Plau, “Sub Commander you have no right to improve human technology without permission from the High Command.” 

T’Plau handed him her orders from the High Command which clearly stated that she was allowed to improve current human technology not create new technology for them. “I am here to bring the Vulcans and Humans to a more friendly relationship Captain, if you have nothing else I will prepare the team to shuttle to the Mayflower.” The captain nodded slightly and T’Plau left the bridge.

T’Plau headed back to her quarters collecting her tools and equipment she would need after being transferred, she clipped on her disruptor and scanner as she sat on her floor taking a deep breath allowing herself to relax. She had been preparing herself for the human contact by eating their food, watching videos of their customs and the unpleasant task of smelling them by using chemical traits shared by the Vulcan doctors who had worked with humans. She hoped all of this would reduce the shock of the change of environment and culture. One last deep breath and exhale and she stood up, exiting her quarters heading down to the shuttle bay. 

T’Plau stood in the lift and was soon joined by engineers who were going to be going with her on the Mayflower; the trip was done in silence as they had nothing to really speak about. They all exited the turbo lift and headed to the shuttle bay where they met with the other two engineers and a helmsman who had a strong linguist background in case there was an issue. T’Plau was the senior officer so she spoke to the team which had a major and the rest being subaltern, “I know some of you may not like the humans and I am here to remind you that your opinions are not relevant we have been given orders from the High Command to assist this ship in its repairs then I will be joining the Starfleet vessel after this assignment so I would like it if we could not cause me long term issues.”

The junior staff all scattered and started to check the supplies as T’Plau put her personal kit into the shuttle and started the sequence for bringing the shuttle online watching the system run its pre-flight checks pressurising components and running currents through the electrical components. T’Plau then looked over the inventory of materials and approved them as everything they might need, “Let us get this mission started.” Once the team was all in the shuttle T’Plau sat beside the pilot and opened a com channel to the bridge, “Captain we are ready to depart.” 

The voice came back, “Acknowledged Sub Commander.” 

The bay opened and the shuttle eased out of the T’Paal and navigated the shuttle on the path the human captain had supplied. The shuttle eased around under the seasoned hand of the helmsman who gained a seal with ease. The airlock cycled quickly as the air pressures were similar thus requiring little to no step down or up.

S.S. Mayflower BF-21

T’Plau exited the shuttle first looking around moving quickly to the secondary life support control system the primary systems had been working on back-up power so they needed to get the full power back up and make sure the secondary controls functioned the air was thin too thin for humans but comfortable for Vulcans as they were much more used to it as Vulcan had a much thinner atmosphere. Due to the reduction in functionality of the life support, they had to make the areas with the humans in it to run at full function while the areas the Vulcans worked in could be at a lower level.

The team moved quickly with the actions of a well-oiled machine, T’Plau moved to the secondary control panel and started to examine the fault line and tapping her padd to send the task list to the other engineers. T’Plau knew this was going to be a long term task as the systems where in worst shape than had been thought the electrical pathways needed replacing as they had been damaged during the several overloads that had occurred during their attack. It would take several hours to repair all the damage so T’Plau saw this as a good opportunity to communicate with her new commanding officer. T’Plau tapped the com button, 

“T’Plau to Captain Burton, Would you like me to come aboard Challenger to confirm my transfer?”

Challenger NX-03 

Burton had found himself slowly making his way down to his quarters on E deck. He suppressed a few yawns as he turned away from the lift he had just exited. Walking down the corridor, he passed the door for the atmospheric processors and continued to go past a number of junior officers and enlisted quarters. 

As it was so late the lighting was dimmed and he wasn’t expecting to see many people in this area of the ship, especially as most of the colonists were being seen in sickbay and beds had been set up for them in the cargo bays. However the captain was shocked when he walked past an alcove, which had doors either side of it to quarters, and saw two people pressed up against one of the corners. He had stopped for a moment when he had heard a slight moan and a grunt. Burton then wished he hadn’t paused as he was confronted with the sight of two of his crew making out. Quickly he tried to carry on without making too much noise but the nearby communication panel went off and the voice of Petty Officer Howard, who was currently manning the communications station on the bridge, came through quite loudly.

Bridge to Captain Burton.” The moment her voice went through the intercom speaker the two crewmembers in the corner stopped and looked at each other after taking a double take at their captain, absolute horror was now plastered across their face at what they had been caught doing.

Burton, just as embarrassed they were, tapped the nearest communications panel. “Burton here.” He said grimacing at the awkward moment he had just stepped in to. 

Sorry to disturb you sir but Sub Commander T’Plau wishes to speak with you.” She announced.

“Route the call to my quarters.” Burton ordered and tapped the channel closed and looked at the two crewmembers he had just found in a compromising position. “Private Jenkins, Ensign Stewart.” He said after trying to remain cool about the whole thing.

The two men cleared their throats and nodded in respect towards their captain. “Sir.” They both said in unison as they tried to smooth out their clothing and wipe their mouths from their exploits.

Burton had to smirk at the irony of the whole thing. Only earlier on in the day he had heard that Stewart was protesting towards Jenkins about being armed for the mission to the Mayflower. The two of them hadn’t started their relationship off on in a good way, but a few hours later they seemed to be getting on extremely well. 

“Well good night gentlemen.” The captain stated. He had noticed the two of them were obviously off from duty as neither of them were in their uniforms. He had heard that Jenkins had been helping out in sickbay with the colonists since their return; obviously this was the start of a new relationship between the two of them. 

“Good night captain.” Stewart said respectfully. 

“Sleep well sir.” Jenkins added.

“Likewise.” Lloyd returned before leaving them both and as he walked away he heard them both sigh heavily and curse for being caught by their captain. Lloyd chuckled to himself as he finally approached his quarters and made his way in.

He made his way over to his computer as he began to take his jumpsuit off. He pressed the button that stated that there was a call for him on standby. “Sub Commander T’Plau, this is Captain Burton.” He said into the mic. 

Would you like me to come aboard Challenger to confirm my transfer?” She asked.

Burton again held back a yawn. “I would Sub Commander, however I am about to retire for the evening. Can you meet me at oh eight hundred hours and I can accept your transfer then?”

There was a slight pause. “Of course, captain. Good night sir.” She replied, with what Burton was certain there was a slight irritant tone in her voice at the end. 

“Thank you Sub Commander.” Burton replied and closed the channel as he stripped down to his underwear and eventually pulled his pyjama bottoms on. He got into his bed and found himself finally falling asleep.

Six hours later and Captain Burton found himself back on duty, back in his uniform and back on his bridge. He had reported for duty a bit earlier than normal. He hadn’t been able to budge out of his mind why the Romulan ship had attacked the colony ships and why they hadn’t destroyed them. Both ships were easy targets. As most of his crew were now engaged with repairs on both colony ships he had decided to take the time to see if he could find any more answers about their Romulan conundrum. It was a task he would have handed over to Commander Callahan, however the Gemini had arrived only twenty minutes ago and had docked with Challenger briefly to pick up Callahan. As the ship was on a tight schedule to return to Earth, the moment he was on board the Gemini flew back into warp. The crew were able to say their goodbyes to Callahan shortly after Burton and he had spoken about his departure. It had been a brief affair as everyone was busy helping out with the repairs. It hadn’t been the best way that Burton had wanted to see Callahan off, but he was restricted by the timeframe he was given. He paused in his work as he looked over at the chronometer on the far side of the bridge. He still had another twenty minutes before he met with Callahan’s replacement: Sub Commander T’Plau. 

At communications, Ensign Hennessey lowered his earpiece and placed it on the console. He rose and approached Captain Burton.

“Sickbay reports Ensign Alcott is in stable condition, sir,” he said. 

Captain Burton looked up from where he was sitting in the situation room. He had decided to sit at the back of the bridge and analyse the sensor logs that they had been able to retrieve from the Mayflower and Haig from when the Romulans had attacked them. He looked up at Hennessey. “That’s good to hear Ned. Has Kefira mentioned when he’ll be able to return to duty?”

Hennessey shook his head. “She wants to keep him under observation for the next twenty-four hours and then bed rest for the next forty-eight.”

Burton rubbed his temple. He had already lost his chief armoury officer within a span of two days; he would now be without his chief helm officer for a little bit longer. “Very well.” He gave out a long yawn and realised the ensign was still standing there. “Anything else Ned?” He asked, trying to hide his tiredness.

“Yes, sir.” Ned lifted a tablet and pushed his spectacles up on the bridge of his nose. “The E.C.S. Raven is requesting repair assistance.”

The mention of the Raven peeked Burton’s interest. The Earth cargo ship had requested to stay with them as they were heading to Archer Four as well. “What’s wrong?”

“Subspace radio malfunction. Their corporate office is screaming for a vessel status from them and they’re unable to answer. It’s not a good way to travel.”

Burton rubbed his hair. “At the moment we’ve got engineering teams on both the colony ships.” He paused for a moment to think about their options, he looked from the tablet up to the communications officer. “Do you think you could handle it?”

Hennessey nodded. “I actually didn’t do poorly in my technical education courses at STC. With your permission I’ll draw some replacement parts from supply and take it over with me. Ensign Larsen can handle any coms traffic while I’m gone.” He looked at Burton and frowned. “I’ll need a pilot for the shuttlepod.”

“I’m afraid both shuttlepods are being used at the moment.” Lloyd remarked. “It will have to be the transporter unless they can send someone over in one of their own auxiliary crafts?”

The discomfort on Hennessey’s face was noticeable. He let out a heavy sigh. “I guess it’ll be scrambled molecules.”

Burton chuckled at this. “Ned I’m sure the Raven has a spare craft they could send over, especially as they know we are coming to help them with repairs!” 

The communications officer looked relieved. “Thank you, Captain. I’ll contact them and make the arrangements.”

“Excellent Ensign.” Burton said and watched as his communications officer went back to his station to do his work. 

Almost half an hour later and Hennessey had his answer. The docking port door opened with a powerful whoosh.

“Someone call for a ride?”

Ned Hennessey stood in the Challenger corridor and regarded the man who had just spoken to him from inside the docking port. He had unruly dark blond hair that looked in desperate need of a barber and what looked like five o’clock shadow, though based on the state of the young man’s soiled clothing, Hennessey surmised that his face just might have been dirty.

“Yes,” the communications officer answered. “Ned Hennessey. I’ll be fixing your subspace radio.”

“Ed, nice to meet you,” the man extended his hand and gripped Ned’s when the older man offered it. “Jack Conrad. I’ll be your chauffeur.” He squatted to pick up a supply crate sitting on the deck next to Hennessey. “Let’s get moving. Shall we?”

“It’s actually Ned,” Hennessey corrected Conrad, but the young man had already started the task of getting the crate and Hennessey herded through the docking collar that connected the Challenger to the craft from the Raven.

In less than two minutes, the pair was aboard the small craft, which Conrad had explained served as a captain’s gig and conveyance for small or precious cargo needing special attention.

“I keep telling the skipper we need one of those fancy matter transporters for the big stuff. But, he’s afraid it’ll scramble the cargo. The strawberries will taste like tomatoes or some craziness like that,” Jack said. “I told him I was the first one in my STC class to volunteer to go through the thing and I turned out alright.”

Hennessey looked up at Conrad’s mention of Starfleet Training Command. “You were in Starfleet?”

“Yes and no,” He answered as he flipped some switches. “Better strap yourself in. We’re getting ready to cast off. Depressurizing docking collar.”

There was a shudder as the small craft separated from the Challenger and they were soon floating free.

“What do you mean ‘yes and no?” Hennessey asked.

“I was in STC for four years and was drummed out not too long before graduation,” Conrad said. “A little disagreement with the administration over a research interest of mine.” Conrad cast a glance over his shoulder at Hennessey. “Don’t take this the wrong way, pal, but you’re kind of old for an ensign.”

“They needed experienced linguists, so they created an eight-week training program,” Hennessey replied. “At the end of it, we were commissioned.”

“Hot damn! Eight weeks to a commission!” Conrad replied. “That’s rich. I was only about three weeks away from graduation when they kicked me out.”

Conrad turned the craft’s steering controls, bringing the Raven into the viewport. Compared to the Challenger, the cargo ship was shabby-looking with an almost utilitarian appearance.

“What did they kick you out for?”

“It was my first-class year. They had done something earlier in the year commemorating the flight of the Phoenix, built a replica and all that jazz. These bozos from the test flight centre flew it and they thought they were such hot snot. Well,” he lowered his voice and adopted a conspiratorial tone, “I started researching the late twentieth century Earth space programs and came up with something even better.” He eyed the new crewman. “Ever heard of the Mercury-Redstone?”

Hennessey looked thoughtful for a moment. “Wasn’t that the first manned vehicle in the American space program?” 

Conrad looked over his shoulder again. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!” The pilot was jubilant.

“Wait a minute.” Now it was Hennessey’s turn to be stunned. “Are you saying you built-”



“I assembled a team of the best and brightest cadets at Starfleet Training Command,” he said. “I should say the best and brightest cadets who weren’t afraid of getting caught doing a highly questionable and unsanctioned engineering research project. I had a really good scrounge for the raw materials. Supply Corps picked him up pretty quick after graduation. I had a chemical engineer for the rocket fuel.”

“You used liquid propellant?” Hennessey was incredulous.

“Hey, man. I’m a purist. Go big, or go home.”

“Well, who’d you get to fly the thing?”

Conrad crossed his arms, leaned back against the bulkhead and just grinned.

“You’re kidding.” Hennessey’s ordinarily bulbous eyes were even wider as he processed what Conrad was telling him.

“Mister Radio Man, I’m the best there is. If they strapped warp nacelles to a corn silo, you bet your ass I could fly it.”

Hennessey was speechless. Conrad looked over his shoulder again, grinning ear to ear.

“Pretty neat, huh?”

“Uh-huh,” Hennessey replied. He started thinking about Ensign Alcott, and Captain Burton’s concern about the state of the Challenger‘s helm division. “So, they kicked you out for that?”

“Yeah. Started kind of a panic in planetary defence. The controllers saw a liquid propelled missile on the sensors and immediately thought someone was launching an atomic attack. Didn’t consider it originated in freakin’ San Francisco.” Conrad shrugged. “They said they kicked me out for conducting a ‘highly dangerous and unsanctioned engineering research project.’ I say they just didn’t like that I did it without any help from the so-called experts.”

“So now you…” Hennessey asked.

“Fly for ECS, yeah,” Conrad answered. “And it’s not so bad. I guaran-damn-tee I know some of these routes better than a lot of those flyboys coming out of STC nowadays. That’s my revenge, ya know.”

“Yeah,” Hennessey said, though he was only half-listening. An idea was forming in his head.

“This guy’s Starfleet, sir.”

Burton took the tablet out of Ned’s hands to read the biography he had dug up from the Challenger‘s databanks. He glanced down before looking up at his chief communication officer. “And?” He asked, wondering where his communication officer was going with this.

The two officers were standing in the captain’s office that sat off from the main bridge. Burton sat in the comfortable leather armchair that sat on the far wall opposite the door. “Sorry Ned.” He said when he realised he hadn’t responded in the best possible way. “I only got a few hours of sleep last night; please join the dots up for me!”

“Sir,” Hennessey began, “as we are currently not moving and repairs are being well-coordinated by our engineering staff, I have found myself with time on my hands, so, much to my own surprise, I took some initiative.”

He took the tablet back from the captain. “We are down a helmsman. Ensign Alcott is in recovery for who knows how long. This guy,” he tapped the small computer screen showing Jack Conrad’s photo, “has been navigating this area of space for close to a year, according to the Raven‘s logs.” Hennessey touched a control on the device and the screen shifted to text. “There’s a little-known codicil in the Starfleet-Earth Cargo Service support agreement allowing for Starfleet to exercise eminent domain of property and services in exchange for a minimum fair-market value.” He handed the tablet back to Burton.

Burton rubbed his temple as he considered what the ensign was implying. “Ned, are you suggesting I buy Mister Conrad’s services to fly our ship?” 

“Sir, it’s not my place to advise you on major personnel decisions,” He replied, “but…yes.”

“Not that I’m saying I’m agreeing to this idea but what was he reaction to Starfleet being here? Do you think he would want to return to active service?” Burton asked, as he pondered over the idea. 

“The contract is pretty clear that it doesn’t really care how he, or his skipper for that matter, feels about it,” Hennessey said. “It’s not as though it would be permanent anyway. When Ensign Alcott is well enough to return to duty, Mister Conrad’s services would no longer be needed. He returns to the Raven and everybody wins.”

Burton frowned at the ensign’s suggestion. “Ned I appreciate what you’re saying here, but there’s no way I could agree to such a thing in all fairness. The crew on this ship have spent a number of years training for this assignment. On top of that I can’t imagine Admiral Gardner hearing the idea that I allowed a civilian to use our equipment without proper authorisation.”

“But for an eight-week crash course at Starfleet Training Command, I’m a civilian. I’m a linguist and interpreter with a rank. I’ve heard JAG lawyers come in as lieutenants. No basic training, just a commission.” Hennessey pushed his glasses up on his nose. “He had four years, minus a few weeks, at STC. He made a mistake. A gutsy one. But, he’s probably better prepared as a Starfleet officer than some ambulance chaser or me. And I’d tell that to Admiral Gardner’s face. Worst he could do is bust me back to civilian life and assign me to my ex-wife’s office.”

Burton sighed at the facts. He was now a helmsman down. Alcott was still recovering in sickbay, Hathaway was pulling double shifts and his three other helmsmen weren’t officers and completely inexperienced for combat situations. “If,” He said with a pause. “If he was prepared to return to active duty in uniform and passed the medical fitness exam I may consider the notion.” 

“It makes no difference to me,” Hennessey said. “It’s just an idea. And a half-cocked one, at that.”

“Let me talk to Commanders Levesque and Stanton then we may meet with him.” Burton stated clearly. “Thank you for your efforts though Ned.”

Hennessey just nodded with a smile and left the captain’s office swiftly, hoping he had made the right move with his suggestion to Captain Burton.

Voyager NV-03 , in orbit of Archer IV

Captain Madison Burton felt her back scream out in pain as she rose from her chair in the middle of Voyager’s bridge. She was now halfway through her pregnancy and was starting to find herself waddling around the ship. She would be going on maternity leave soon while Voyager was docked back at Earth undergoing its yearly refit and overhaul. In all fairness her leave and the upgrades had come at a great time for her. That all said, part of Madison was considering resigning her commission. Stephen (her husband) and her would be getting married in August and they would both be busy with parenthood. She didn’t want to leave Starfleet, but part of her knew she couldn’t raise her son on a ship far from his father or expect Stephen to take care of their child by himself. It was only two weeks ago that she had finally told her parents; her mother was over excited at the news of becoming a grandmother. 

Right now she turned her attention towards the lift so she could go off duty and get some rest. Her first officer, Commander Sian Doyle, smiled at her as she walked away from the science station and made her way to take over in the centre chair. However they were both stopped from moving any further when Lieutenant Natasha Cherdenko spoke up from the tactical station.

“Captain, I’m detecting four ships entering the system.” The almost pure white blonde haired Russian said as she read her readings. 

Madison stopped in her track and turned to look at her armoury officer. “Who are they lieutenant?” She moved herself back to her seat and held on to the back of it tightly, trying to ignore the pain in her back. At the same time Commander Doyle had returned to her seat at the science console.

A second or two passed before Cherdenko answered. “Romulan ma’am.” She said as the colour drained from her face. 

“Tactical alert.” Madison ordered solemnly as she slid herself back into her chair. She looked down at her helm officer as the bridge’s lights dimmed and the crew readied themselves for battle. “Kenji, place us in a low orbit and reduce our warp profile to minimal.” 

“Aye ma’am.” Ensign Kenji Hu replied, the Japanese pilot quickly moved his fingers over the controls to execute his captain’s order.

“Aiden,” Burton said, grabbing the attention of her communications officer. “Get a subspace message to Earth, the Republic and Challenger – tell them what’s happening. Also tell Captain Shumar to follow us. Then get me the team down on Archer Four.” 

The young officer that sat at the communication’s channel only nodded as he did his work.

Madison looked over to Sian now, the two of them had worked together for almost eight years now and both knew how to read each other’s body language and facial expressions. Both women wore expressions of concern. They both knew about the threat the Romulans posed towards Earth and its allies. However, seeing as Voyager and the Daedalus-class Essex were the only Starfleet ships in the Archer system, their survival against four Romulan ships seemed improbable. 

At that point of thought Madison placed her hand against her stomach to comfort the infant that rested within her. Guilt soon placed itself over her thoughts. Why didn’t she resign when she found out she was pregnant or at least take a leave of absence? She closed her eyes momentarily; hoping her brother on the Challenger got their message and arrived just in time to save her and his unborn nephew.