“The Deltans? I’ve never heard of them.” Commander Stanton stated from where he sat opposite Captain Burton. “Are they a peaceful bunch?” He asked.
Sub Commander T’Plau found herself having breakfast with Captain Burton and Commanders Levesque and Stanton in the captain’s private dining room. This was not the first time she had shared a similar dining experience with the three most superior officers on board Challenger. The Captain had invited her to join them previously and she found herself appreciating their company. “They are.” She said to answer the engineer’s excited tone.
Burton chuckled at how eager his Second Officer was at the news of them meeting a new race. “We’ll be the second Earth ship to meet Deltans.” He added in between a mouthful of bacon.
“The second?” Levesque said disappointedly as she picked up her glass of orange juice. “I don’t remember reading anywhere that Enterprise made contact with them?”
“No, they didn’t.” Burton said, “The E.C.S. Horizon met one of their freighters years ago and logged the contact with Starfleet which included the location of their home-world. Since then no one has actually bothered to meet up from either side. Secretary Campbell wants a Starfleet ship to visit Delta and open up formal trading negotiations.”
“So officially this will be the proper real first contact with them?” Stanton asked, seeking clarification.
“We’ll be official representatives from the United Earth Commonwealth and the first Humans to visit Delta, so yeah I suppose it can be classified as a real first contact.” Burton answered. He was still smiling at how thrilled Levesque and Stanton were at the news of meeting a new race.
Levesque looked over to T’Plau who sat from across. “Sub Commander, have the Vulcans met with the Deltans before?”
“We have; however, no official relationship has ever been formalised between our governments. Their space was deemed too far away to establish any treaties.” T’Plau clarified. “Challenger’s visit to Delta would help other Coalition worlds in founding agreements with the Deltan Union too.”
“Are they really called the Deltans?” Stanton quickly quizzed his captain, sounding almost unable to believe that fact.
“Actually, it is, or it’s as close to how we can pronounce it.” Burton responded. “When the Deltans met the crew on the Horizon, they explained they were from the planet Dhei and their sun was called Lta, the Horizon crew marked it in their star charts as Delta. The Deltan crew went on to using the name until both freighters went their separate ways.”
“The universe never ceases to amaze me.” Levesque stated as she picked up a slice of toast that was shaped into a triangle. She bit on one end and after swallowing it carried on talking. “So how long will this mission take?”
“Not too sure yet.” Burton replied. “This will be completely new for us and for them. We’ll just need to make sure we’re complete experts based on Horizon’s logs.”
T’Plau then added her thoughts on the matter. “From what I am aware of captain, the Deltan species are quite sexually active.”
At that point all three Human officers coughed on what they were either eating or drinking. Stanton, who had been drinking a mug of coffee, quickly swallowed the hot beverage and looked at the Vulcan. “Sexually active, in what way?” He curiously asked.
T’Plau looked at him. “Is there more than one way of being sexually active Commander?”
Levesque started to laugh at that question. “I think Michael meant how do they come across as sexually active?”
“I do not believe they are intentional in being promiscuous Commander. Like Orion women, they produce a pheromone that elicits sexual attraction to others. Apparently, many from the Horizon crew were unable to control themselves and Captain Mayweather was forced to order many of them to engage in heavy physical activity to release their tension.” Explained T’Plau
“I bet he did.” Stanton remarked in a crude manner.
T’Plau ignored his comment and carried on sharing what she knew. “Also, their facial features are more symmetrical than other species, prompting a more physical reaction to them being attractive.”
“Sounds like then the good Ro-fa will need to find a way to combat this pheromone or we won’t be getting any work done.” Levesque suggested towards Burton’s direction.
Burton, who found the entire discussion amusing looked back at his First Officer. “Indeed.” He looked at the others. “Well we’ve got a couple of days before we arrive to prepare the crew. Perhaps we need to expand the gym?”
“So, what are our plans today?” Corporal Jenkins said as he snuggled tighter with his boyfriend.
Ensign Stewart wiggled himself on their shared bed, so he was more comfortable with having Jenkins literally curled around him like a python. Their duvet was now tangled in between their legs. “How about we go meet everyone for breakfast like we said we would, then head to the gym before coming back here and having a lazy day watching films?”
Jenkins considered his options. “I like the first and last part but not the stuff in the middle.” He looked up at the man he was wrapped around. “It’s our first day off together in weeks and you want to spend it at the gym?”
“Well can you suggest what else we can do on an NX-class ship?” Stewart countered.
“More sleep perhaps?” Jenkins offered as he kissed Stewart’s cheek.
Rolling his eyes, Stewart sighed at how his other half was trying to play cute and sweet with him. Inwardly he promised himself he wouldn’t let him get away with it this time. “That’s all you do on your time off though!”
Jenkins now got off from him and leant back on his elbows, “Well as you implied there’s not much to do on an NX-class ship!”
Stewart chuckled and admitted his boyfriend was right. “Fine, you win! But let’s go to the recreational rooms and do something instead of being cooped up in here. Perhaps a game of pool? Darts? Anything!”
“Done deal!” Jenkins returned and extended his hand to shake Stewart’s.
“Love it!” Stewart said and moved to kiss Jenkins instead of shaking his hand to formalise their deal. He was met with a kiss and a muffled laugh from him.
The crew lounge was lively and busy with a good number of people having breakfast. On one particular table sat many of Challenger’s low-ranking crewmembers. Ensign Conrad was digging into a bowl of cereal, while sat next to him was his girlfriend, Ensign Habiba, who was drinking a mug of tea while reading a tablet. It was becoming a daily routine for many of them to meet in the morning for breakfast. With them also sat Ensigns Larsen, Hathaway, Cortez and Metaxas. All of them were munching on their first meal of the day and talking about various topics.
“Where’s Sakura this morning?” Conrad asked Habiba with a mouthful of milk and cereal.
Habiba looked at him with a disgusted expression at the fact he spoke before swallowing, “I can’t believe I find that attractive sometimes.” She remarked at his actions before answering him. “She had to stop by engineering to pick up something, she said she’ll be here.”
“What about the other power couple?” Ensign Larsen asked as he cut up his pancakes, referring to Jenkins and Stewart. Since Conrad and Habiba had officially got together and made their relationship “public” on the ship, the banter between the friends had started around as to which couple was the best. They all received the title of “power couples”. It was now an on-going joke that became a common label for them.
“Isn’t it their day off today?” Hathaway pointed out as she played with the scrambled egg on her plate in an attempt to pick it up on her fork.
Conrad nodded. “Yeah Niall mentioned he was able to pull a favour with the good Ro-fa so he could get the day off with Liam.” The pilot swallowed his food so he could talk further. “I still don’t think it’s fair that the MACOs get a whole day off!”
“Hey, don’t be a MACO hater!” came the voice of Second Lieutenant Trommler as he approached the group with his breakfast on a tray. He sat down in the empty chair beside Conrad. Unlike the rest of them who were all wearing their uniforms, the MACO soldier was dressed in civilian clothing. “Captain Burton promised Major Yu that once things got quiet, he would pay the MACOs back for their efforts on Docana with a day off. Now seeing as that was way over a month ago, I think it’s only fair we finally got that!”
“You fell sick Trommo and got pulled out almost instantly! You don’t deserve a day off for not doing any work!” Conrad countered as he called the MACO officer by the nickname he had given him a few weeks ago.
Trommler snickered at that fact before arguing back. “And you crash landed a shuttlepod which I hear the Captain has yet to forgive you for Jacky!” He used his own nickname for the senior pilot at the end. The two of them were becoming fast friends to the point their other friends would tease Habiba that she would lose Conrad for going off with Trommler and having an affair with him. On many occasions she had joked she was more than happy for that to happen, especially with how crude Conrad could be with his humour.
“Hey if it wasn’t for me, we wouldn’t have been able to save a civilisation!” Conrad boasted.
“Yes, the whole of Andoria owes you one Jack!” Cortez replied sarcastically. She looked at his girlfriend, “Remind me again what you see in him Martha?”
Habiba chuckled at that comment as she put her tablet down. “I ask that question almost every morning when I wake up and see him next to me.”
“Hey, you weren’t complaining this morning!” Conrad said in defence.
Trommler ruffled Conrad’s hair and in his German accent spoke up to protect his friend. “Ah don’t worry bud; I still love you!”
Conrad quickly hugged him. “Thanks bro, glad someone has my back!”
Everyone started to laugh at their antics before getting back to their food and carrying on sharing what their day would entail.
On a nearby table Major Viktoria Yu sat with Ensign Ned Hennessey, the two of them both being silent as they ate their food and read from their own computer tablets. They were interrupted by the arrival of Challenger’s Chief Medical Officer. “May I join you both?” Ben-Ami asked politely.
Hennessey and Yu both looked up from their texts and agreed for the doctor to join them. As Ben-Ami sat down she overheard and saw the younger crewmembers laughing out loud with each other. She shook her head at how energetic they all were. “Ah what it means to be young.” She said as she placed her napkin on her lap, still looking at the group.
Yu chuckled at her comments. “Speak for yourself doc,” She said. “I still consider myself young!”
Hennessey also laughed at that as he took a sip of his coffee. “Feeling your age Kefira?”
“Let’s just say I’m not looking forward to the next birthday.” She responded with a wry smile.
The other two continued to chuckle a bit more. In the last couple of months, the three officers had become close, normally joining each other for various meals. As the older members of the crew they shared a kindred spirit in that sense. Many of the other members of the crew were almost all in their twenties, some being fresh out of training while the others only having one or two (at a stretch) assignments under their belts before being posted on Challenger. As Challenger’s seasoned officers who had years of experience in various jobs, the three of them had been nicknamed as the “wise trio” by Ensign Conrad.
“Ah the big four-oh?” Hennessey checked with her, referring to her upcoming fortieth birthday. “I remember mine well.”
Groaning at the idea she would be in the forty plus age bracket now, Ben-Ami just sighed. “It is a little bit depressing.” She looked down at her breakfast and started to spread the chocolate sauce across her pancakes. “So, Viktoria, what are your plans for your day off?”
“I’ve got some messages to catch up with from my family. Then I’m planning to spend the rest of my day just catching up on some reading.” Yu replied, smiling at the idea that she will be able to have the day to herself.
“That sounds nice.” Ben-Ami said with a smile. She was pleased the MACOs were resting and relaxing today. They had been working extremely hard, just like the rest of the crew, but Yu had been pushing them a lot lately and they were almost screaming for a break. She only hoped the Captain had plans to allow the rest of the crew to take a break in the near future. “And what are your plans for today Ned?” She asked the communication officer.
Ned now put his tablet down to finish off the remains of what looked like a full English breakfast on his plate. “I’ve got upgrades to make to the universal translator matrix. That should take me most of the morning and possibly the afternoon.” He paused as he took a mouthful of hash brown. “You?” He asked finishing his mouthful.
“I’ve got my next set of command training with Commander Levesque.” She answered as she reached for her glass of orange juice to take a sip from it.
“Ah yes, how’s it going?” Yu asked, now sounding more interested at the doctor’s words.
Nodding in between gulps, Ben-Ami responded. “Really well. I can see why the Captain wants us all to take it. Are either of you up next for it?”
Hennessey shook his head. “I’m not allowed to take it until I’ve completed another six months of active starship duty.”
“That’s your mistake for taking the crash course in officer’s training!” Yu stated, joking with him. She looked back at Ben-Ami, “The Captain has asked me if I would take it but I’m in the middle of preparing an extensive training for some of the greener MACOs. I don’t have the time for it.”
“Was the Captain okay with that?” Ben-Ami enquired.
“He understood, but I’ve had to promise him once we’re finished that I’ll do it.” Yu said. “I did hear that he was considering Ensign Conrad for it too.”
“Oh, dear god, please hope that’s not true. I would hate to have to call him sir if he is made a lieutenant before me!” Hennessey expressed with some despair.
Yu now shook her head, “I think it would do him some good.” She commented. “I’ve seen officers like Conrad before. A bit of focus and some mentoring will do him good.”
“He is definitely like a little puppy,” Ben-Ami said. “However, when he is on duty you can’t deny that he works hard.”
“Well for Ned’s sake let’s hope he isn’t put on it for another six months!” Yu joked with them.
“Sir there’s an incoming call for you, it’s Admiral Gardner.” Spoke Ensign Hennessey through the intercom.
Captain Burton was sitting at his desk drinking a mug of tea and reading crew performance reports when his work was interrupted by Hennessey’s call. He minimised the work on his desktop computer and tapped the button on his desk to respond. “Put it through down here Ensign.” He ordered.
“Aye sir.” Hennessey said.
A moment later the call was directed to his computer and Burton inputted the correct command codes to open the channel. The face of Rear Admiral Sam Gardner appeared, showing the African-American flag officer sitting in his office back at Starfleet Command Headquarters on Earth. The San Francisco nightline appeared behind him; its idyllic scenery made Burton wish he were there. “Good day admiral.” He said, greeting his superior officer.
“Lloyd, how are things progressing with your mission?” The flag officer queried in a frank and straight to the point manner.
“Proceeding as expected sir.” Burton responded before explaining more. “We’re still on route to the Deltan homeworld. All systems are operating within normal parameters.”
“Excellent.” The Director of Starfleet Operations said with satisfaction.
Burton was unsure as to why the Admiral had called him. He fidgeted in his seat slightly. “Sir is there anything else you need?” He asked.
“Yes, there is Captain,” He remarked. “I need you to be aware that both Enterprise and Columbia have been assigned to convoy duties again.”
“Ouch,” Burton said in sympathy for his fellow captains. “Is it getting that bad sir?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Pirating raids against Coalition freighters has increased.” Gardner frowned. “We’ve lost several escort ships.”
Burton sighed at the news and then considered for a moment why Gardner was calling him. “Sir is Challenger being reassigned?”
Shaking his head, Gardner answered, “No, your mission to Delta is far too important to remove you from, we need you to open formal relations with their government. If we can eventually convince them to join the Coalition, then all the better for us all.”
“I didn’t realise their entry to the Coalition was on the table sir?” Burton remarked.
“It’s not,” Gardner said as he explained what he meant. “But that said if an Earth ship is able to bring another member to the table to become trading partners with the Coalition it would work in our favour hugely. The Andorians are still not happy with us after Docana.”
Burton couldn’t blame the Andorians for how they reacted at the end of the Docana incident. At a recent summit of Coalition leaders, Chancellor Margerit had spoken out against the lack of support the Empire had received from its so-called allies when the Malurians and Nausicaan had attacked the Docana colony. Those that had been there at Docana knew the Chancellor was in fact aiming her fury at the Earth leadership for not joining Andoria in their initial response against the Romulans. The Andorians had wanted to make it public knowledge that the Romulans had been behind the entire thing, but President Littlejohn had convinced the Chancellor to reconsider her position. The cost of such a move had been greatly negative on relations between the leaders of Earth and Andoria. However, no one else knew the true reasons behind it all. Burton had been surprised at how that secret had lasted; nonetheless he imagined that if war with the Romulan Star Empire were ever declared then everything that happened at Docana would finally be released. The public reaction to it all would be an interesting one. He suspected that the Andorian people would call for immediate military action by the Imperial Guard against the Romulans (which wouldn’t be too hard to do if they were at war), but he couldn’t guess what the Human response would be. He imagined it would be a mixed one. With some backing Starfleet in supporting the Andorians while others would criticise the Littlejohn administration for getting involved in what they would consider an Andorian national security matter.
“You think bringing another ally to the table would please them?” Burton enquired, unsure he understood the admiral’s logic and how it would help them.
“It may not please the Andorians, but it would please the Vulcans and Tellerites. If we can keep them in our favour, then it’ll be easier to work with them.” Gardner stated.
Burton thought that was a feeble answer from Admiral Gardner, but he didn’t have time to consider the political ramifications. “Well I suppose having another friendly face out here couldn’t harm us either.” He stated.
“Indeed.” Gardner agreed. “Keep me apprised and good luck. Gardner out.”
Burton sat backwards as his screen went back to its previous display of his work. He considered what Gardner had said and wondered if there was more going on here then he knew about. He tapped his intercom button and spoke into it. “Burton to Levesque.” He said calling his First Officer.
“Go ahead sir.” Levesque replied.
“Where are you Nicole?” He asked.
“In Cargo Bay One, is everything okay sir?”
Burton stood up as he answered. “I’m on my way to you now, I’ll tell you all when I arrive.” He tapped the button one more time and closed the channel down. He needed to share this and get Levesque’s point of view on it. He wanted to make sure he wasn’t seeing too much (or too little) into Gardner’s words.
Burton was seated on a cargo container while Levesque was seated on one directly opposite to him. He had just finished retelling her his conversation with Gardner. “So, what do you think?” He asked.
Levesque shrugged her shoulders initially. “I think you’re right that there could be more here that the Admiral isn’t letting on about. Maybe the Coalition is in jeopardy and its survival all rides on this mission!”
“Well that doesn’t make me feel any better Nicole!” He groaned at her as he considered the pressure further.
She chuckled at him. “You know I didn’t mean it in that way. You and I both know that Admiral Gardner can’t say certain things over subspace, in case anyone is listening in. I’m pretty certain if it was such a big deal then think about how drastic things could be right now.” She offered.
“What do you mean?” He asked as he fidgeted so he could cross his legs under him instead of having them dangling like spaghetti off the edge of a canister.
Levesque waved her hands in the air as she answered him. “I mean if it was so important that we do well with the Deltans then surely they should have sent an Ambassador or Secretary Campbell to be here with us.”
“Perhaps,” He considered her thought. “But that said they never sent an Ambassador or the Foreign Secretary when Archer or Hernandez made first contact with other races.”
“Hmm, good point.” She said as she considered it.
“Maybe I am reading too much into this.” Burton said again.
“Or our dealings with the Denobulans and Andorians have impressed them so much that they think we are ready to play with some of the key players out here. In any case, we just need to complete the mission with the Deltans liking us and leaving them with a good idea about us as a potential trading partner, if not more.” Levesque said with confidence and a smile.
“So not too much to do really!” Burton said sarcastically after considering her point.
They both laughed at it and carried on their conversation around their current mission.
Keeping his focus on the navigational readouts, Ensign Conrad was in full pilot mode as he called it. When in this mode he found his body reacted a lot quicker to anything that happened in a split second. His natural piloting abilities just took over everything else. He could ignore the constant ache in his lower back from where he had been sitting all morning. The ship was due to arrive in the Deltan home system shortly and he wanted to be there when that happened. He refused to miss out on the opportunity to get a first glance of these people when Captain Burton initiated the first opening hail. The reports of them being attractive people got his interest the moment Sub Commander T’Plau said it in the briefing earlier. Though over lunch he had received a firm punch in the arm from his girlfriend for even mentioning it. He knew she only meant it in a joking manner; it was something he liked about their relationship. They were carefree when it came to having fun, they could really wind each other up over anything.
For a moment he was distracted as the sensors bleeped at him once, then twice. Knowing what it was telling him, he began to slow the ship down. He looked over his shoulder and noticed that Sub Commander T’Plau was the senior officer on duty on the bridge. “Sub Commander, we’re approaching the Deltan system.” He reported.
The Vulcan officer rose from her chair at the armoury station. “Bring us out of warp Ensign.” She ordered as she took the captain’s chair. She touched the button to the left and opened an intercom channel, “Bridge to Captain Burton, we have arrived at our destination.”
On arrival at the bridge Captain Burton wasn’t surprised at all to see his entire senior staff present, all either manning stations or standing around waiting patiently to see this new race.
“Report?” He asked aloud, he was mostly aiming it to T’Plau and Conrad, but he was happy for anyone else to chip in.
“We’re entering the system at one quarter impulse sir.” Conrad mentioned. “And we’re being approached by two vessels that took off from the fourth planet sir.”
Burton looked at his armoury officer. “Deltan ships?”
She nodded. “Their hull alloys have similar properties to the ones encountered by the Horizon several years ago.”
“Have they attempted to hail us?” Burton asked as he remained standing in the centre of the room and now looked over to his communication officer.
The older gentleman who sat with an earpiece in looked up and shook his head. “Nothing sir but I am detecting a number of signals coming from the planet towards other locations in the system. I would say it is as busy as the Sol system.” Hennessey said.
Levesque, who had been studying the sensor scans closer via the built-in scope, looked up and turned around in her chair to study what was coming up on her main computer monitor. “Ned’s spot on there.” She reported. “I’m picking up over a dozen orbital structures as well as colonies located on other planets and moons besides Delta itself. The home world itself is definitely Minshara class, very much like Earth in its makeup, I’m detecting at least seven moons, and two of the biggest ones are highly populated. All in all, I would estimate there’s at least nine and a half billion people living in the system, maybe more.”
“Wow!” Commander Stanton said from the engineering station. He had just been sitting there, listening to everyone else intently.
Burton was pleasantly surprised as well at the statistics that Levesque was sharing with them. “Well let’s see if we can’t make any new friends.” He nodded to Hennessey to open a channel, once he had carried out that task Burton cleared his throat and spoke up. “This is Captain Lloyd Burton of the Earth ship Challenger to the Deltan Union. We come in peace to make friendly contact with you and your people.”
They all waited for a moment; it was obvious the Deltans had received his opening hail. It was most likely being sourced to the appropriate people in charge as well as being translated.
Conrad made a mental bet to himself that it would most likely be someone in command of one of those ships approaching them who answered them.
“Sir there’s an incoming transmission from the fourth planet.” Hennessey finally announced from his post.
Burton, who had been pacing while they waited, stopped in his tracks, smoothed out his uniform jumpsuit and nodded to the older Ensign to open a channel. The main screen flicked from the image of the Deltan system as they were entering it to one showing a bald human looking man with piercing blue eyes. He was extremely attractive and before he spoke, he gave a smile that put a shiver down Burton’s spine.
“Greetings Captain Lloyd Burton, I am Prime Minister An’die of the Dhei Union. I bid you a warm welcome to our star system.”
Burton stepped forward towards the main screen, placing himself completely by Conrad’s side. The pilot looked up and noticed Burton returning the same welcoming grin. “Mister Prime Minister, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”