Burton hated having to wear his dress uniform today. The entire thing was uncomfortable to wear and in some places it was a bit revealing to the undisciplined mind. He found himself tugging on the collar quite a few times. Nonetheless the occasion was big and he expected to set an example to so many dignitaries. The official treaty signing of the Coalition of Planets had taken place and now the after party was in full swing. Right now he and his crew were part of many that filled the hall where the event was taking place. He and his team had been placed in one of the VIP boxes, high above to witness the signing of the Compact. The dignitaries from Earth, Andoria, Tellar and Vulcan had all agreed to the final documents. Their alliance was born. After the attack on Coridan Prime, some of the worlds involved in the original discussions had chosen not to become founding signatories; Denobula was one of them. That outcome was a bitter one for him and many others. Right now though, Captain Burton was enjoying a glass of champagne standing with some of his command staff.
“You know you can all go and mingle.” He said to them in a mocking tone. Most of them chuckled. Moments later a woman they recognised approached them.
“Ah, here are my heroes.” Madilyn Campbell said with a warm smile and her arms open to greet the Challenger crew. “It’s good to see you all.” She said, greeting them all with a smile. She too was wearing a formal gown for the large state event. In her hand was also a glass of champagne. She looked at Burton. “Captain, a moment of your time if you would please?” She said.
He nodded and trailed behind her away from the group. “Be good.” He quietly remarked to them all before carrying on in following the Foreign Secretary.
The two of them walked through the busy crowds and around the room until they found a quiet patch. “I just wanted to take this time to thank you for all your efforts back on Denobula.” Campbell stated. “I didn’t get the opportunity to say it before you left to rescue those colony ships and we had left by the time you were returning from Archer Four.”
“You’re welcome ma’am, I’m sorry it wasn’t enough to convince the Denobulans to be one of the founding signatories today.” Burton returned sincerely.
Campbell waved her hand to say ‘oh well’. “Their people may have said no during their referendum; however their government is planning to sign a trade agreement with all Coalition worlds and it will remain part of the Interspecies Medical Exchange programme. On top of that they still have their signed mutual-defence pact with Vulcan and Earth. Maybe with time they’ll reconsider and join the Coalition.”
Burton raised his glass towards hers. “I’ll toast to that.” He said and the two of them tipped their champagne flutes against each other’s glasses making a slight clinking noise. “So, what will you be focussing on now Madam Secretary?”
Madilyn smiled at his question. “Well I’ll be involved in maintaining our close relationship with the other Coalition worlds, working with my counterparts from the other worlds in particular. However, between us I’m working on a plan to get Alpha Centauri and Draylax to join the Coalition as full members.”
Confused at what she said, Burton asked her. “Doesn’t Alpha Centauri already come under it, being a member of the United Earth Commonwealth?”
“Yes but Alpha Centauri is its own state and is almost independent from the Commonwealth now.” Campbell answered. “Let’s just see where we go with this.”
“Is there any more news about Coridan?” Burton asked before taking a sip from champagne.
“They’re still refusing help from our relief efforts. Enterprise had to be dragged, kicking and screaming back to this event.” She said. “That said though Captain Archer is as committed to this Coalition as much as anyone else.”
“He is definitely an inspiration to us all, especially for us newbie NX-class captains.” Burton said with a wry smile. “I spoke with him earlier and he and his crew are convinced it was the Romulans who attacked Coridan. I have to say I would agree with him considering what we dealt with at Archer Four. They play dirty if they can’t get what they want.”
“Maybe so but we can’t let that guide us into war when there is no evidence the Romulans did attack Coridan. On top of that with Coridan not signing the Compact they are exempt from the mutual-defence agreements. We can’t declare war if they’re not part of us.”
“The injustice of it all.” Burton mumbled. “And what about the incident in the Archer system? Is there going to be a reaction to that?”
Madilyn sighed. “I probably shouldn’t be telling you this until Admiral Gardner does but I do have a higher clearance than him.” She paused. “Again as you were successful in preventing them from actually attacking the soil on Archer Four, the United Earth Cabinet has down-graded the incident as a skirmish between our forces.”
“A skirmish?” Burton repeated, quite infuriated at the comment. It didn’t feel like a skirmish.
“I’m with you on this one captain, but a majority of the cabinet don’t feel it’s worth engaging the Romulans yet.” Campbell said. “For the moment we need to watch and wait. Hopefully that’s the end of the Romulans testing our defences and they’ve got the message we will fight back.”
“Or that could just be the beginning to test the water. Who knows what they’re preparing for us?” Burton said as he finished his glass and placed it down on the table behind him. He didn’t feel happy with her remarks. “Thank you for the company Madam Secretary, I must return to my crew.”
“Lloyd.” Campbell said in a stern voice, allowing for him to leave her without her saying he could go.
He turned to look at her. “Yes ma’am?”
She walked up to him. “Ambassador Margerit said that it would be the likes of you to show everyone that we’re serious about peace and that we can make this coalition work. Please don’t let her down with her words, or let me down with my faith in your abilities.”
Burton half heartedly smiled at this. “I’ll do my best Madam Secretary.”
“That’s all we can ask of you.” Campbell said before nodding to him for him to be excused.
As Burton waded through the crowd back to where he had left some of his crew he felt a hand land on his arm. He stopped to look at who had grabbed him and soon found the owner of the hand to belong to his counterpart from Enterprise. “Captain Archer.” He said after gulping up and into his deep dark brown eyes.
“Captain Burton.” Archer said, greeting him with a friendly smile and letting go of the man’s arm. “I forgot to say to you earlier that I owe you one.”
“Come again?” Burton asked, looking around to see if there was something he had done in the last minute or so to help the legendary captain out.
Archer slightly chuckled. “For saving the Archer system.” He said.
“Oh!” Burton said, realising what he was talking about. “Well I’m sure when they name an unexplored system my ship discovers after me you can stop the Romulans from invading it too?”
Archer extended his hand out towards the younger captain to shake his hand. “Deal captain.” He said and let go after they shook each other’s hand. “See you out there.” Archer said before going, motioning his head upwards to indicate him towards the stars they both would explore.
A pair of strong arms soon wrapped themselves around Stanton’s waist and he smiled at who they belonged as he turned himself around to face the assailant.
“Lieutenant Commander Rodham.” He greeted his other half.
“Commander Stanton.” Rodham said with a boyish smirk as he kept his hands on Michael’s hips. “And there was me thinking we wouldn’t see each other at least for another month.”
“I hear Discovery is closer to launch. Hopefully by the end of the month?” Stanton said, sharing a similar smile.
“And I hear Challenger won’t be departing until tomorrow evening.” Rodham countered back. “Which means I’ve got another twenty four hours where you are all mine.”
Stanton sighed at those words. “Probably less, I’ve got to oversee some of the repairs and upgrades we’re getting.”
“Damn.” Rodham cursed as he let go of his boyfriend’s hips and took hold of his right hand in his hand and led him away from the large crowd.
“Hey, you had the chance to apply for Challenger’s chief helm position.” Stanton reminded him as they went into a corner away from everyone else.
Rodham gave him a sort of disgusted look. “And have you above me in seniority telling me what to do all the time?”
“You didn’t complain last time!” Stanton threw back last time with a devilish wink.
“True.” Rodham said after a slight chuckle. “Anyway you should be worried as I may get distracted by our new chief engineer on Discovery.”
“Oh, who do you have?” Stanton enquired, curiously.
Rodham jerked his head towards where Captain Burton stood with Commander Levesque and another man, someone younger than him in a Starfleet red operations dress uniform and looked very similar to him. “Lieutenant Commander Roman Burton, your captain’s brother.”
“Damn, he is cute!” Stanton stated as he eyed the man up and down. “You’re not going to get any work done!” He said looking back at his boyfriend.
“I could say the same about you and Captain Burton. Should I be worried about these morning runs?”
Stanton laughed further at their flying banter. “Nah, I can promise you that Captain Burton certainly doesn’t bat for our team, though that said I’m pretty sure him and Commander Levesque would be happy to bat together, if you get my drift?!”
Rodham snickered at this. “Well with that said I heard a rumour that Roman, the engineering hunk, is already taken and is rumoured to be seeing our new Armoury officer.”
Stanton then placed his arms around Rodham’s neck. “Well then I suppose I’m the lucky one that you won’t be distracted too much.” He said before leaning in to kiss him.
“Wow, the Discovery? I’m so pleased for you Roman!” Levesque said as she leaned in to hug Roman Burton.
“Thanks Commander.” Roman said, hugging her back. It was weird that Nicole was hugging him, beforehand they rarely interacted on Columbia but since becoming Lloyd’s First Officer she had let her force field down and seemed more relaxed. Roman had also noticed how much she was hanging off her brother’s arm. I wonder? He thought as a wry smile swept across his face as he looked at the two of them. “Anyway I do have you to thank for this!” He said, directing it at his brother.
“How come?” Lloyd asked as he sipped on his second glass of champagne.
“If you hadn’t taken Commander Stanton from Discovery I’d still be on Columbia.” He explained.
Lloyd and Nicole both laughed at that. “Well you’re welcome.” The older Burton sibling said, “What about Nathan? How are things with him?”
Roman nodded and looked around the room. “There he is.” Pointing to a man standing near to others from Columbia. He ushered him over, to the point he took his hand and dragged him across. “Nathan, meet my big brother Lloyd.” He said with a big grin on his face.
Lieutenant Nathan Wallis was the same height as Roman and had blonde coloured hair. He extended his hand out. “A pleasure to meet you sir.” He said to Lloyd in a nervous tone.
Lloyd took his hand. “Please, call me Lloyd. You’re my brother’s other half. No ranks in the Burton clan.”
“Sorry, have you met our mother?” Roman asked sarcastically towards his brother.
Lloyd ignored him and laughed. “It’s good to meet you at last Nathan.”
“Thank you.” He said and then looked at the woman to his right. “Commander Levesque, it’s good to see you as well.”
Nicole smiled back. “You too Nathan. So are you going to miss this one?” She said using her thumb to point towards Roman.
“Oh no.” Nathan said. “I’ve been asked to join the Discovery too as its Chief Armoury Officer.”
“Wow, congratulations to you both then.” Nicole raised her glass to toast them both.
“So did you ever think you would have ever been invited to such a glitzy event?” Major Yu asked as she passed another flute of champagne to each of her current companions; Ro-fa Kefira, Ensign Conrad and Sub Commander T’Plau from the tray the waiter was holding by her.
Conrad shrugged his shoulders as he took the drink. “If this is the type of thing we do regularly then I am more than…” His train of thought escaped him as two young looking women in low cut tight dresses walked past them. He gawked at them for a second before returning to the group. “What was I saying? Ah yeah, if we do this regularly then I’m glad I said yes to the captain about returning to Starfleet!”
Lieutenant Ben-Ami rolled her eyes at his behaviour. “I wouldn’t count on it. Not every first contact that Enterprise and Columbia have dealt with has ended with a glamorous party like this.”
“Indeed, when my ancestors began exploring space they also engaged with many hostile races. To this day they still do.” T’Plau added. “But to return to the original question, no I did not ever consider being invited to join the captain at such an historical event and I would question it being glitzy major.”
Yu chuckled at that. “We can debate it another time, Sub Commander.” She said as he took a sip of her champagne and looked back out at the pool of officials celebrating around them.
Thursday, March 6th, 2155
Challenger NX-03, Obama Repair Facility, Earth orbit
“Well here we are again.” Burton commented as he stepped out onto his bridge from his office. Once again they were preparing to disembark from Earth, but this time hopefully for the right reasons. This time there were different faces here too. Ensign John Conrad sat at the helm, all ready with his new shiny pip on his collar while Sub Commander T’Plau sat up straight at the armoury station. Burton sat himself down in his chair in the middle of the bridge. All eyes were on him now. He tugged on his uniform and sat up straight.
“The past few weeks haven’t seen us actually engage in what we originally set out to do, explore space, and I can’t promise that with the coming weeks that won’t be interrupted by whatever threats await us out there but for now…” He paused and looked down at his new chief helm officer. “Ensign Conrad, take us out and let’s start exploring what this universe has to offer us, for the benefit of all!”