Part of Challenger: The Sky’s The Limit

SIX – DAY 46

Ambhat City, Delta IV
Thursday, July 26th, 2155
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Friday, July 25th, 2155

Ambhat City, Delta IV

Commander Nicolette Levesque had never been called by a head of state to meet them on some military base as such the entire experience was pretty daunting for Challenger’s first officer. She was currently sat in the back of some sort of military transport that was flying her to the base along with Ensign Stewart and Crewmember Harris. Wearing their field jackets over their jumpsuit uniforms, the three humans had remained silent for most of the journey. The trip had not been planned and they were only informed of it late the previous evening. A military officer had visited them informing them that Prime Minister An’die requested that Commander Levesque meet him. Levesque had decided to take both Stewart and Harris with her as she was finding their company while on Delta to be more useful than the others. The rest of her crew appeared to have given up hope on them ever seeing their crewmates or even returning back home, except these two. The past three and a half weeks they had spent collecting valuable information on the Deltans that would keep the cultural anthropologists on Earth busy for some time. 

Eventually the transport slowed down and began to descend through the clouds as it prepared to land at its destination.  The three Starfleet officers were shown off the craft and escorted across the military base in the open. The wind had hit them the moment they had stepped off the vessel and Levesque was pleased she had put on her field jacket. The Deltan officers that had accompanied them on the transport led them to a smaller land vehicle that resembled a hovercraft. They boarded it and within minutes were off it and entering a large hangar bay.

“Welcome to Brizten base.” Said a familiar voice to the Starfleet team from the other end of the large hangar bay. The bay itself was as huge as a soccer pitch. Approaching the team was their host, Prime Minister An’die who was flagged on either side by other governmental officials and his staff. Many of them Levesque had met before.

“Prime Minister An’die, thank you for the welcome.” Levesque started as they met up with the Deltan leader. “However, we are unsure as to why you asked to see us here?”

An’die nodded, showing his understanding of their confusion to his request. “I’m sure you are, but if you follow me, I have something that may interest you and I would like to ask your help with it.”

Levesque looked at both Stewart and Harris who were just as puzzled as she was before following the Prime Minister. He led them further down the hanger bay towards an area that was bustling with many military officers and what appeared to be civilian scientists. They were all busy moving in and out of what looked like space debris that loitered the bay’s floor. Different Deltan computers and scanners were set up too and were being operated on.

“A couple of days ago one of our scouts encountered a large amount of debris by a small micro nebula which we call the Arakid Nebula. Originally the ship’s science officer and chief engineer thought it was part of a new craft made by the Carreons. However, when they salvaged what appeared to be a functioning computer terminal, they found out its technology was not Carreon in origin. When they brought it and the rest of the debris back to Delta for further analysis, we were able to access the logs of the ship.” An’die explained as they approached a free-standing computer console that had three monitors that were attached to a portable stand. He nodded to the scientist sitting there to bring up the records he was talking about. The screens all changed to show the flickering image of a sensor reading. What happened next surprised Levesque as the video showed a purple coloured nebula being blocked out by a huge grey and silver saucer like shape with two red and blue glowing lights above and behind it. 

“That’s impossible.” Said Crewmember Harris.

Ensign Stewart looked to his superior officer. “Commander that’s Challenger!” He spoke. 

The video continued to show the Earth ship open fire on the vessel and quite viciously assault it. The sensor readings also showed how badly damaged the craft was. The hull was scorched, and pieces of the hull were missing. The port nacelle was flashing on and off to show its instability in securing full power. The ship looked like a wreck. Wave after wave of fire struck out from Challenger as it scored multiple hits on its target. The screens then all went blank.

“What happened next?” Levesque asked An’die.

The Prime Minister leant against the black glass desk that the Deltan scientist had been operating and crossed his arms against his suit like navy blue jacket. “That’s all we’ve been able to uncover from their logs however from what we can determine the craft that your ship was attacking was obliterated only a few moments after that attack. From what we can tell a massive explosion happened internally and ripped the craft apart, vaporising a good amount of it apart from the few bits we found.”

 “Do you know who they were?” Stewart asked as he peered over An’die’s shoulder to take a sneak peek at the debris.

An’die shook his head. “No, that’s where you come in.” He explained. “My people believe they have determined an approximate model of what the ship would have looked like. It’s nothing we’ve seen before and we wondered if you’re people had encountered them?”

Levesque could understand why Prime Minister An’die was asking them for help. She would have done the same thing in his position. “Sure, if we don’t recognise them straight away we can always check our records in our shuttlepod.”

An’die grinned at their cooperation and gestured for the scientist that remained near to them to bring up the computer-generated image of the destroyed ship. The moment it came up Levesque’s face went completely white as if she had seen an unwelcome ghost from her past. In fact, it was exactly that.

“That’s a Romulan ship, Mister Prime Minister.” She stated after a second of taking in what they were looking at.

“Romulan?” An’die repeated, showing his complete unawareness of them.

Levesque looked at them. “Sir, if Challenger has engaged a Romulan ship this close to Deltan territory all I can say is we are in grave danger. The Romulans are an aggressive, territorial and xenophobic race.  They’ve engaged our allies and us in a few campaigns to undermine our development; it’s always ended with casualties. I’m more than happy to release whatever information we have on them but in short sir, you need to warn your military.”

An’die took her words seriously and nodded in acknowledgement of them. “Could they be in league with the Carreons?”

Harris then spoke up. “Unlikely sir, from when we’ve dealt with them to date, they have not shown any interest in formal alliances with others, but they had co-opted others to do their dirty business or found ways to blame others for aggressive behaviours against others.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Romulans have found some way to manipulate the Carreons in taking such drastic measures against you Mister Prime Minister.” Levesque said. “If you want to prepare yourself for the oncoming Romulan storm then you need to find a way to mediate a cease fire with the Carreons and re-establish the peace treaty that existed between you both.” 

“That’s easier said than done Commander.” An’die remarked as he considered his options. “Commander Levesque, would you and your men be prepared to help us with this?”

Levesque nodded. “I will have all of our resources made available to you. If we can help you find peace with the Carreons and prepare you for the Romulans then at least we’ll be doing something else productive here.”

An’die extended his hand towards Levesque. “Then let’s shake on the beginning of the Deltan-Human alliance.”

Levesque appreciated the Prime Minister’s gesture and gave him her hand as they shook in a firm embrace. “To new beginnings.” She said with a warm smile. She only hoped that what she had just signed them up for was worth it and she wouldn’t be getting them into any trouble with their superiors back home.

“So that’s the plan.” Levesque finished on as she explained what had happened. Her, Stewart and Harris had all returned to their accommodation after spending several more hours with Prime Minister An’die and his staff, studying the wreckage from the Romulans. They had returned and she had told them her agreement with An’die to help them begin work on defenses against the Romulans. The entire group were quiet as they listened to her. 

“No offence ma’am,” spoke Habiba from one of the sofas. “But do you have the authority to agree to an alliance with the Deltans on behalf of our government?”

Levesque had been standing when she told her crew her plans to help the Deltans. She looked at the science officer and knew why she had asked the question, even if it caused self-doubt with the others in the group. “This isn’t a formal alliance. We’re not given them weapons or ships to defend themselves with. In return for our protection and their agreement to send a ship towards Coalition claimed territory to let them know we are here, we will help the Deltans with everything we know about the Romulans and help them find a peaceful solution with the Carreons.”

“Martha, they could easily overwhelm us and take the information from our shuttlepod.” Stewart offered. “At least this way we are doing something productive and have control on what we give them.”

“Permission to speak freely ma’am?” Habiba asked after giving Stewart a look that told him to be quiet.

Levesque had noticed Habiba’s hostile glare at her acting first officer but ignored it to see what she was going to say. “Of course, Martha.” She agreed. 

“Ma’am this isn’t our fight to get involved in. There’s some sense here where the Vulcan’s non-interference approach makes sense. We shouldn’t get ourselves involved in a world’s internal matters.” Habiba said.

“It’s not internal Martha,” Levesque replied. “They could end up engaging with the same security threat both the Commonwealth and the Coalition currently face. Helping a potential ally to deal with it will go down as a massive gesture on our part to them. The Romulans have not stopped fighting us on different fronts for several months now; it’s obvious they see us as a threat too. It is our duty to do whatever it takes to protect the lives of those who are innocent enough to be stuck in the middle of it.”

Habiba looked around at her fellow officers before looking back at Levesque. “With all due respect ma’am none of us joined Starfleet to be soldiers, we joined to be explorers. We aren’t trained in warfare; we’re scientists first and foremost and so are you.”

Silence filled the room, no one would look at each other, especially Habiba. “Ensign you’re relieved.” Levesque said coldly. She wasn’t prepared to listen to the young science officer anymore. She was as Starfleet Commander first and foremost, which meant her duty was to the mission coming first. Their orders had been to make first contact and establish a working relationship with the Deltans. She was going to see that through and if Habiba was not going to do her job then she refused to let her carry on talking in that manner. 

Habiba just got up and stormed out of the lounge and returned to her room. Levesque watched her leave, thinking that this was not like her second science officer. Habiba had always been willing to help out and be involved in the mission to whatever extent. That all said their time on Delta was placing a strain on all of them, Habiba the most. 

Once Habiba had slammed her door closed like a hormonal teenager, Levesque looked at the others that remained. “Is there anyone else who wishes to join Martha?” She looked at them all, again none of them looked at her. “Say now or forever hold your peace.” She added. Once more she got no response. “Alright we’ve got a lot of work to do. Jamie will give you your assignments. I want this to work, everyone, make this work. Dismissed.” She commanded. 

They all got up and went over to the young yeoman who handed them all what they had to do. Ensign Stewart walked over to Levesque’s side as the others left. “Do you want me to speak to her?” He quietly asked.

Levesque smiled at the nurse. In the last couple of weeks, he had changed and was becoming a confident officer and an excellent right-hand man to have around. “No leave Martha with me. Just make sure this works Niall.” She emphasised after releasing her arms from being folded across her chest. 

“Yes ma’am.” He said before heading over to Harris and the others to ensure their new mission started without any more complications.

Challenger NX-03

Standing in pitch-blackness alone with nothing to disturb him, Captain Burton stood with his arms crossed in his quarters staring out at the almost cracked window. His ship was heavily damaged and now adrift in the middle of nowhere. They had no idea where they were as the navigational sensors were offline. However, that wasn’t the worst thing that was affecting them. After the destruction of the Romulan ship, Challenger had been swept back into the nebula by the force of the shockwave. The crew had lost control of stabilising the ship and were only able to regain its composure almost a day later once it had drifted out of the nebula. When the ship had been hit, a number of working systems had been damaged and those that were already damaged received further harm. Since then they had received a godsend in the sense that no one was interested in them. No Carreon attacks or any signs of more Romulan ships. T’Plau had wondered if they had removed the Romulan ship that was controlling the Carreon ships with telepresence. Burton’s Vulcan armoury officer still seemed sceptical that the evidence they had collected in the last few days could be used to prove the Romulans’ involvement with the Carreon attacks, but she had nothing to contradict it. So, it had left Captain Burton with a lot to think about. His ship was heavily damaged, and his crew injured with their morale severely beaten. If this was an old ship that sailed Earth’s oceans, they would be lucky to encounter a large wave that would sweep them across and possibly against some large rocks that would eventually crush them from the hell they were living. Fortunately for them there were no such waves heading in their direction that they could tell. Burton had considered their options deeply since the battle with the Romulans. The ship was barely holding herself together, but the crew needed to find a way to survive. They had used the sensors from Shuttlepod One to determine the location of the habitable world they had planned to fall back to when this all started over a month ago. If they could restore the impulse engines, they would be within its star system in less than twelve days. 

There was a knock at his doorway and Burton instinctively turned around to see who it was. Seeing as many of the ship’s automatic doors were no longer operated by themselves, the crew had to revert to opening and closing them manually. He had forgotten to close it behind him when he came in earlier. He saw the outline figure of his acting first officer and chief engineer standing in the doorway. Déjà vu crept over Burton instantly. Stanton and he had started a similar conversation about their survival several days ago. Now here they stood about to go down a similar route.

“You wanted to see me Lloyd?” Stanton said in an almost whisper tone.

Burton nodded and gestured for him to come in and take a seat at the chair by the broken desk. “We’ve reached that point Michael.”

Stanton nodded solemnly, showing he knew what Burton meant. “I guessed this was why you summoned me down here. How do you want to break the news to the crew?”

Burton looked at his friend. Only a few months ago they barely knew each other but now they trusted each other with one another’s lives. Burton had come to depend on Stanton’s judgement since Levesque had been left behind on Delta. The chief engineer had become a great sounding board and always offered his captain alternatives he may not have considered. Sitting on the edge of his unmade bed, Burton gave out a sigh. “It can wait until the morning, but I want to speak to the senior staff tonight before they go to bed. I want them all to be clear with our plan.”

Exhaling slowly, Stanton appeared to slump further into the chair as if to show he was too tired and ready to give up. “Our plan?” He questioned.

Burton nodded. “I’m not going to give up on Levesque and the others Michael.” He said with conviction. “The crew will abandon ship, make their way towards that Minshara class planet while I take Challenger back to Delta Four and see if I can find our missing crew. If I’m lucky then I might be able to get the Deltans to help repair the ship and come find you all.”

Stanton listened attentively. “Lloyd with all due respect there’s no way this bulk will get you to Delta Four without constant serious care and love.”

Burton stood up gradually, he knew this was conversation was coming the moment he had set his heart and mind on his plan. “Michael, I appreciate the sentiment, but I won’t leave them behind at least without trying.” He said with his back to Stanton. He turned around. “Anyway, you know the saying: captain goes down with the ship, right?”

Stanton groaned inwards at Burton; he was completely frustrated at the captain for coming out with such an archaic naval tradition. “Typical armoury officer, having to be the brave soldier that goes out fighting in a blaze of glory!” The engineer stood up and looked at his captain. “If you’re planning to do this then you need an engineer at your side to keep this bucket of bolts together.”

Shaking his head at the idea, Burton refused to hear Stanton’s suggestion. “No, I need you to lead the crew.”

Throwing his hands up in the air, Stanton continued to exasperate over Burton’s refusal to take his help. “Lloyd this crew needs its captain to lead them, if you’re dead then there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to save them!”

“As you said I need to save them, I need to save those back on Delta!” Burton barked back while pointing with his right hand towards the window in a vain attempt to hopefully be indicating in the right direction towards the Deltan homeworld.

“Fine then we do it together. You and I.” Stanton said after letting the atmosphere between them calm down. “Let T’Plau or Kefira lead the crew to safe waters.”

The captain placed his hands on his hips while looking at the man before him. He knew there was nothing he could say that would convince him to leave his side. He appreciated Stanton’s loyalty. “Alright assemble the troops and we’ll tell them.” He said after calming himself down.