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Part of Challenger: The Sky’s The Limit

TWO – Day 6

Challenger NX-03
Saturday, June 14th, 2155
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Captain’s star log, June Fourteenth Twenty-One-Fifty-Five. We’ve been in orbit of Delta Four for almost a week now and the crew have been enjoying some R&R while we continue with our cultural exchange with the Deltans. We have had to limit their time on the planet below as Doctor Ben-Ami has detected some negative side effects with long-term exposure among the population. It would seem their potent pheromones cause severe headaches and unusual behaviour with Humans. Sub Commander T’Plau has yet to report any medical issues; it would seem Vulcan physiology is immune to it. Doctor Ben-Ami has been working with Deltan medical experts to come up with a treatment plan. Meanwhile my talks with the Deltan leadership have been going well, however I’ve had to limit the amount of time we spend together.”

“This is Main Engineering.” Burton said as he led his group of VIPs into the large room. Throughout the entire day he had been feeling nervous at undertaking such a task of showing the Deltan leader and his staff around Challenger. They were finally showing off what Humanity was about. He wanted to paint a great picture for them. Everything laid on this going well if future talks were to be successful between the Coalition and the Union. Burton had led the group in first with Prime Minister An’die following him.

“An impressive sight Captain.” An’die said after walking through the door and taking in what his view had to offer.

“We’re very proud of our accomplishments, Challenger was the third ship built to use the Warp Five engine.” Burton stated as everyone finally filled the room. 

An’die nodded as he inspected the warp core from where he stood. “I am sure many of our own engineers would appreciate meeting with some of yours to share technical insights.”

“Well I’m sure my engineers would be happy to do that.” Burton replied as Stanton approached the group and stood by his side. “Prime Minister An’die let me introduce you to my Chief Engineer and Second Officer, Commander Michael Stanton.” Burton indicated to the engineer next to him with his right hand.

Extending his hand out to greet Stanton, An’die went to shake the engineer’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you Commander Stanton.” He said with the same smile he used when he first made contact with Challenger a few days ago.

Stanton was impressed that he had learnt the Human greeting of a handshake and took the man’s hand and shook it firmly. “Welcome aboard sir and I can vouch for what the Captain said. My engineers and I are more than happy to meet with your people to share ideas. It’s what we are out here to do!”

“I will speak with the Science and Engineering Ministry and see if we can arrange it.” Prime Minister An’die said. “I know many of our warp theorists would be interested to see if Humanity came to similar conclusions about how to achieve warp five like we did.”

“Are your ships limited to warp five as well?” Stanton asked.

“Unfortunately, yes and like you only a few of our vessels are capable of it.” An’die answered.

A heartbeat later, engineering trembled hard, forcing many to fall down to the deck plating. Captain Burton held on to the nearest side handlebars, using his upper arm strength to keep him standing. He noticed his Deltan guests on the floor; all being helped up as sparks blew above them all.  Attempting to keep his balance, Burton made his way over to the nearest communication panel. He tapped the call button and automatically called for the bridge. 

“What’s going on up there?” He called in to it.

“We’re under attack sir,” Levesque answered him.

“Typical,” Burton mumbled to himself. Please don’t let it be the Romulans he thought for a brief moment. “Who is it?”

“We don’t recognise their ships sir.” The Chief Science Officer said. “They’re attacking us and the Deltans.”

An’die who was now walking over to the Human captain spoke up “Captain Burton can I see a visual of the ships attacking us?”

Burton nodded and led the Deltan leader over to the main console in main engineering. He tapped in his command codes, brought up the sensor readings and showed the image of three ships attacking them. 

After an inhaled breath Prime Minister An’die named the attackers, “The Carreon.” 

“I take it you don’t get along with them?” Burton said looking at An’die.

“That’s putting it mildly Captain.” He said back.

Burton sighed in frustration. They didn’t need to make another enemy. He rushed towards the exit of engineering, shouting out to Stanton on his way out. “Michael, keep everything together down here for me!”

“Already on it!” Stanton replied as he climbed up to monitor the main warp core controls. 

Before reaching the hatch, Captain Burton turned to look at his Yeoman. Thankfully Harris had joined him on his tour of the school. “Jamie, get our guests to a secure location.”

The young enlisted man answered, “Aye Captain.”

Prime Minister Theo was hot on Captain Burton’s heels. “Let me come with you Captain. I may be able to help.”

Agreeing to the Deltan man joining him to the bridge, Burton indicated for him to join him as he opened the bulky door and exited the heart of the ship.

“Break orbit Ensign!” Levesque commanded as she gripped onto the arms of the captain’s chair.

“Aye ma’am!” Conrad responded as his fingers raced over the flight controls in front of him. Challenger swiftly darted away from being above the Deltan homeworld, so it was able to deal with three new bullies attacking them from behind. 

“Begin evasive manoeuvres.” Levesque added to her list of orders to the pilot. She had been in similar positions before and knew the drill. She looked over to Hennessey. “Ned, any luck?”

Hennessey, who was trying to get in touch with the attacking ships, had his finger to his earpiece while his free hand was tapping away at the console he sat at. “None, they’re not responding to our hails ma’am.”

“Then tell them we will respond if they don’t cease their attack.” Levesque said before she turned to T’Plau. “Sub Commander, fire several warning shots in their path.”

After programming the attack in, T’Plau hit the fire button and watched as the four forward phase cannons came to life as they fired a number of shots towards the enemy vessels. All missed them but forced them to swerve out of the way. The Carreon ships were smaller compared to Challenger. They had almost two spherical shapes at either end, connected by a long narrow neck. On the rear end of the ships four massive engines sat within their bodies. One pair was dedicated to impulse flight while the other pair was connected to the warp drive. Sitting on either side of the front sphere were large cannon-like shapes that housed their entire weapons array. The Carreon ships’ hulls were almost mint green in colour and had rectangular shaped windows dotted in different locations. 

Rushing out on to the bridge, Captain Burton and Prime Minister An’die made their way to the middle of the room. “Report?” Burton asked as Levesque vacated his chair and took her place at science, relieving Ensign Habiba. 

“We’ve fired a number of warning shots sir after they’ve refused to talk to us, we’re in the middle of taking evasive action as well.” She replied as he logged herself in to her system.

An’die quickly looked at Burton.  “Captain let me try speaking to them.”

“You said it yourself Mister Prime Minister, your people don’t get along. Why would they listen to you?” Burton dismissed the idea. He knew he should respect the leader however this was his ship in the middle of this disaster. 

“Let me try, if not my own support ships will be here in no time to defend us.” An’die remarked, not prepared to give up.

“I am detecting incoming Deltan ships, at least four.” T’Plau announced.

“Quickly then.” Burton said and gestured to Hennessey to open a channel. 

The moment it was done An’die spoke up. “Carreon ships this is Prime Minister An’die on board the Earth ship you are attacking. Stand down now before the Deltan Star Guard arrives. You are violating our sovereignty.”

For a split second they stopped their attacks however it did not last as they opened fire and their intensity increased. Burton shook his head; annoyed that the Prime Minister’s plea fell on deaf ears.  “Sub Commander I think they’ve had too many pot shots at us. Lock your targets and open fire at will. Keep firing until we disable them.” He finally ordered.

Challenger’s phase cannons and torpedo launchers came to life as they fired barrage after barrage at the smaller ships. They were hit constantly, thankfully because of T’Plau’s Vulcan accuracy in her firing solutions. 

“Multiple hits sir,” The Armoury Officer stated after her first attack was successful. “And the Deltan reinforcements have arrived.” She added.

The Deltan ships, similar in size to the Earth ship, began to join in the fight. The Carreon ships soon swooped in and out of the crossfire and all jumped into high warp, fleeing like bees buzzing in various directions.

“Apparently the Carreons and Deltans have had poor relations for years. It all stems from disputed territorial claims.” Captain Burton explained to his senior staff as they all stood around the table in the situation room, aft of the bridge. He stood at the head of it as data around the Carreons was pouring out from the computer banks and being displayed on the table’s inbuilt screen, as well as on the other monitors behind him. An hour had passed since the Carreon attack and they had been able to compose themselves to assess this latest threat to them. Prime Minister An’die had briefed Captain Burton on almost everything he was able to share on the aggressive species. “Prime Minister An’die said that they had almost gone to war over one of the nearby systems, but they had been fortunate enough to sign a treaty that places it and others into a neutral zone. Effectively creating a buffer between both states.”

“But it hasn’t stopped the fighting between them?” Ensign Conrad questioned to the left of Burton. 

“Unfortunately, no.” Burton answered. “Carreon raids happen on rare occasions. The Deltans believe they are only testing their defences.”

“I’m surprised they haven’t gone to war over it.” Hennessey said, standing next to the senior pilot.

“The Deltans value peace above all else.” T’Plau said to Burton’s right. Her arms crossed against her chest. “However, they are a passionate people and have the conviction to go to war if needed to.”

Levesque breathed out heavily as she shook her head in disbelief. “Do you think we’ll ever find a race that is completely at peace with the universe?” She asked rhetorically. She then turned to the Vulcan woman who she stood next to. “T’Plau have your people encountered these Carreon before?”

“Indeed, they have.” T’Plau replied. She predicted that Levesque wanted more from her answer, so she elaborated further. “A single Vulcan survey ship encountered them over a decade ago, however they were extremely hostile during their exchange as they considered the Vulcan ship to be part of an invasion force. The Vulcan captain described them as paranoid and assumed them to be xenophobic. I believe her suspicions have been confirmed today from what we have witnessed.”

“We shouldn’t just write them off our Christmas list, Sub Commander.” Major Yu remarked from the other side of the table. “They attacked us as they most likely thought we were allies with the Deltans and then when the Prime Minister announced he was on board they took a shot at us because they thought they could do some serious damage to the Deltan leadership.”

“Maybe we can offer our assistance in being a neutral third party to help negotiate a formal non-aggression between the two people?” Ben-Ami offered. She was standing parallel to Burton on the end of the table.

“Is that what we’re coming to be these days, peace negotiators?” Stanton said. The Chief Engineer was leaning up against the table corner to Burton’s left. “We were meant to come out here to explore.”

Internally, Burton shared his Chief Engineer’s similar views. Since Challenger’s launch, all they had been involved with was dealing with conflicts and trying to find a solution to different problems. But on the other hand, he couldn’t state they had not done their own fair share of exploring.  “Unfortunately, Michael we need to do it so we can peacefully explore.” He said in response. “I did offer Earth’s services to act as a mediator to Prime Minister An’die which he kindly took on board and said he would speak with his advisors about it. The pressing issue here is do we carry on in trying to formalise relations with the Deltans?” 

“Why wouldn’t we sir?” Conrad probed. He was confused by his Captain’s question.

Hennessey was the one to share the captain’s wisdom. “Because if we become trading partners then we run the risk of Coalition ships becoming Carreon targets.”

“It certainly won’t look good to our partners in the Coalition if we are having to assign more of Starfleet’s assets to protect cargo ships. They would question our judgement in being able to determine who would be good to become additional signatories to the Coalition Compact.” Levesque added.

Burton just nodded to what the two officers said. “On the other hand, their ideology and values are just like ours.  I want us to spend some more time here on Delta, getting to know the people a lot more before we make our recommendations to Admiral Gardner.”

“If we’re going to stay here a bit longer then can I suggest we give the crew complete R&R sir?” Stanton requested.

“Giving everyone longer breaks from their duties would be welcomed by all. Even if it’s for a day or so.” Ben-Ami added. 

Burton looked to Levesque who just nodded in agreement and then looked back at everyone else. “I can’t see why not. I’ll speak with Prime Minister An’die and I’ll leave it to Commander Levesque to make the necessary arrangements in the crew rotas.” He said.

Ben-Ami cleared her throat so she could speak again; “I would recommend though sir that we continue to limit our crew to the less populated areas to avoid any complicated medical issues, if you get my drift?”

A round of chuckles came from everyone, minus T’Plau, at the Doctor’s attempt to avoid mentioning the aroused sexuality they’ve been dealing with since meeting the Deltans. The crew that had visited Delta had found their experiences to be almost overwhelming with their willpower to refuse Deltan advances. 

“Coordinate with Commander Levesque what our crew will need to have with them while they take their breaks.” Burton ordered.  “Is there anything else? 

Everyone shook their heads and Burton dismissed them to return to their duties so they could carry out his orders. At the back of his mind though, he was still worried about the Carreon problem. Closing his eyes, he just shook his head as he left the room.

Arriving in the main armoury room on F deck, Sub Commander T’Plau was amazed at seeing Ensign Cortez on duty at the main station. “Ensign, I thought you were off duty?” She asked as she approached her assistant department head.

Cortez twisted her head round slightly to look at T’Plau. “I swapped with some others so I could take a later shuttlepod.”

“Very well.” T’Plau said as she climbed up the stairs to see what Cortez was working on. She was impressed to see that the Human woman was working on the same project she was going to undertake reviewing and analysing the Carreon attack. “You are studying the Carreons?”

Cortez nodded slowly in response as she became transfixed with her work after returning her attention to it. “I thought if we had to engage them again, we may be able to disable them quicker, so we didn’t sustain too much damage. Ensign Metaxas mentioned over coffee that Commander Stanton wasn’t happy at having to send out a repair team to fix some of the scorching that the port nacelle housing received.”

“Have you been successful in finding a solution?” T’Plau asked as she started to look over the work her subordinate had out in front of her.

“I think I have.” Cortez said indecisively, showing her lack of confidence in her work. She brought up a simulation of the Carreon ships and played it. “From what I can tell what makes them good in a fight is their speed. If we can take out their engines in the first round, then we would be in a better position. It would seem that their hull plating around their engines is extremely durable though.”

T’Plau looked at what Cortez was showing her and didn’t say anything for a moment. “Your analysis is accurate Ensign; however, I believe you are limiting your targets to only one area of the ship.”

“Oh?” Cortez said, interested to hear what her superior could see that she couldn’t.

T’Plau tapped at the console and brought up all the data the sensors had recorded about the Carreon ships. “The section that connects the forward and aft areas together has a number of relays in it, passing energy from the main reactors from one end of the ship to the other. Although this is the thinnest and well shielded area of the ship, I believe a sustained burst from our phase cannons would be enough to cut through it.”

Then a small volley of torpedoes ought to do the trick of knocking out their power cables and more!” Cortez said, happier at their conclusions.

“Indeed.” T’Plau said. “Help me programme the correct simulation to test our theory.”

It was becoming late in the evening now and Ensign Stewart was sitting by himself in sickbay. He was deep in studying a medical journal that Doctor Ben-Ami had given him recently, as such where he was sat meant he had not heard the sickbay’s doors open and shut. He also didn’t hear the footsteps approach him. A pair of hands soon placed themselves around his eyes.

“Guess who?” An excited female British accent whispered into his left ear.

Startled at what happened, Stewart leapt out of his stool like a jumping kangaroo and turned to see who it was. “Martha that isn’t funny!” He screamed at her.

The Second Science Officer gave out a belly laugh at how she was able to scare him so easily. “I’m sorry Niall, I couldn’t help myself!”

Now annoyed at how he had embarrassed himself in front of her, the senior nurse sat back down and looked at her. “What did you want anyway? I thought you were heading down to Delta?” He then rotated himself back to his original position, so he was facing the screen he was reading and placed his chin on to his raised palm as his elbow rested on the desk. 

“I am.” She answered as she placed her arm around his shoulders in an attempt to be friendlier to him. “Commander Levesque is taking a few of us science geeks down for dinner and a few drinks. Jack can’t come and I know that Liam is busy training with Luis so I thought I would see if you wanted to be my date for the evening?”

“After you scared me?” He asked in disbelief that she believed he would accept her offer after scaring him earlier. “You’ll need to make the offer more tempting now.”

“I’ll pay for everything?” She offered.

“Deal.” Stewart replied with, proving he didn’t need much convincing.

“That was easy!” Habiba surprisingly said. “I thought I would have to work harder in getting you to come, especially as you wouldn’t be joined at the hip with Liam!”

“Hey, we’re not always together!” He defended. “Just most of our off time!”

She laughed some more at his words. “Are you allowed to leave sickbay?”

He nodded. “Yeah, Melánia is only in the medical lab down the hallway and she’s meant to be on duty in here.”

“Cool!” Habiba said as she watched Stewart rise from his chair and switch off the computer monitor. She interlaced her arm in with his and the two friends began to walk out of the medical facilities. “While we’re down there we can compare notes on our boyfriends!”

“Sounds like fun but I’m pretty certain mine will beat yours!” Stewart mentioned.

“Umm, let’s see about that then!” Habiba quickly countered as they continued to laugh with one another.

Viktoria Yu was quietly reading a book in her quarters when the door chime went off. She had been lying on her bed, leaning up against her pillow, with some soft jazz music playing in the background. The MACO leader gracefully put her book down on her bed, followed by leaning over to switch the music off. She stood up and made her way over to the door, tapping the release button, she was pleasantly surprised to see who was there.

“Rupesh, I thought you were in training?” She enquired.

The Pakistini Sergeant smiled at his superior officer. “Luis and Liam were taking their sparring too far, so I decided to leave them to it.” 

Yu laughed at the comment. “Feeling the age Sergeant?” 

“Something like that ma’am.” He replied before holding up a data tablet. “Commander Levesque asked me to pass this on to you before she left. It’s the timetable for MACO shore leave on Delta.” 

Yu took the tablet and indicated for Iyer to come in. “All of this R&R lately and we may end up having a lazy unit Rupesh!”

“Don’t worry Major, we’ll kick them back into shape if we have to!” Iyer said. “Are you planning to visit Delta yourself?”

Yu shook her head. “No, I don’t think I’ll have the time to do so. Sub Commander T’Plau has asked me to work with her on some countermeasures in case we run in to the Carreons again.”

“We’ll all I’m going to say ma’am is ‘all work and no play’.” Iyer stated. He looked around the room and noticed that the major had been occupied with something else. “Well I was only popping over to give you that, I’ll leave you with your book.”

Yu placed the tablet in her hands on her desk before turning back round to her visitor. “Thanks Rupesh, enjoy the rest of your evening.” She said as she watched him leave her quarters.

Sat in his plush black leather chair in his quarters, Captain Burton was finally relaxing off duty. A mug of tea in one hand he was reading a message from his brother Roman. The Discovery was finally launched and Roman was enjoying his new position as Chief Engineer and Second Officer on board the newest NX-class ship. Starfleet had launched the ship alongside the Atlantis. Both ships were mapping systems far from the other three NX-class ships. Roman had reported that it was currently boring, but it was giving him plenty of time to get to know his new ship and make some improvements based on what he had carried out on Columbia. Lloyd had known the real reason for both ships on their mapping missions. Starfleet had sent both ships to systems close to what they believed to be systems close to Romulan claimed territory. It was part of a larger Coalition effort to gain vital information before anything else happened with the aggressive, faceless race. 

Taking a sip from his tea he was about to reply to his brother when the ship shook and automatically the craft was put on tactical alert. Sparks flew above him as he raced out of his quarters, heading to the lift to see what was going on.

Almost flying on to the bridge, in just his grey baggy hoodie and black jogging bottoms, Captain Burton was confronted with the scene of watching his ship coming under attack by Carreon vessels again. “Report!” He bellowed over the commotion. 

Thankfully T’Plau had got to the bridge before him and had taken command in his absence. “Twenty-one Carreon ships have dropped out of warp and have begun to open fire on us and Deltan targets. The Deltan Star Guard is responding but they are outnumbered sir.” She said as she got out of his seat and headed to the tactical station.

An explosion erupted behind them as an EPS conduit was blown from the pressure of the incoming fire. Burton’s ears rang for a few seconds from it. “When it rains.” He said as he slumped into his chair. “Break orbit again and return fire. Let’s show these Carreons we mean business!” He commanded.