The October moonlight dazzled against the dark water of the English Channel without a care in the world. Sat at a table under an outdoor heater and canopy, Lloyd Burton was enjoying the quietness that surrounded him while sipping on a cold beer. It had been an eventful day. In the earlier hours of the morning he had inspected Challenger with Stanton. Both of them were very happy with the repairs and the ship would be leaving the Obama Repair Facility by tomorrow evening. Then earlier on in the day he had performed the wedding ceremony of Corporal Jenkins and Ensign Stewart. Jenkins’ parents (two really welcoming people) owned the hotel and pub that the ceremony and reception had taken place in. They had decorated the garden behind the hotel with a range of candles, twinkle lights and fire pits to make it extra special for their son and his husband. A local band had been pulled in to provide music and now with the evening on, the party had soon followed. Not only were both men’s families there but a majority of the Challenger crew had turned up to celebrate their day. It was nice to see his crew back together and enjoying themselves. It appeared the two weeks break was exactly what they all needed. He certainly did. Coming to terms with what he had to deal with on Mars and his father had made him question quite a bit. However he found no answers and felt he would carry on until he found them. Along with that with Nicole now leaving the ship to see out her pregnancy on Earth to their children, his entire view on life just seemed to have changed.
Sighing loudly, he unzipped his dress uniform jacket a bit more. The long blue three-piece suit with its unusual white undershirt (the collar was a bizarre design Lloyd felt) wasn’t the most comfortable formal wear it was meant to be. Under the suit jacket was a waistcoat, again the same blue colour as the jacket and trousers. Black boots then complimented it.
“There you are Lloyd.” Spoke Stanton’s voice after Burton heard the wooden doors from the hotel open behind him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw Stanton walking over with a bottle of beer in each hand. Stanton had looked extremely smart earlier where he wore his dress uniform for the wedding. Now that the party was in full swing, he had undone his top collar button similar to Burton.
“Sorry, am I needed for something?” Burton asked his chief engineer, who sat down opposite to him at the table.
Shaking his head in answer, Stanton passed one of the beers to his captain. “No sir, I just wondered where you went.” He took a sip from his own beer, “It’s quite a party in there.” He added with a smile.
Agreeing with him, Burton thanked him for the beer by clinking it with Stanton’s. “Yeah, it’s nice to see something else happening in people’s lives besides worrying about this goddamn war.”
“Amen to that.” Stanton stated, “It’s a shame Nicole couldn’t make it.”
“Yeah,” Burton said, “but she’ll be back on her feet in no time and I am sure plenty of photographs from today have been taken that she will demand to see.”
Chuckling at knowing how insistent the science officer was, Stanton spoke up as he raised his beer towards the captain’s. “To the Challenger, may she fly out of dock and back to the frontlines.”
Almost smacking his bottle on to Stanton’s to celebrate the sentiment, Burton took a swig from his beer. The cold beverage slithered its way down his throat. “Michael, there is something I wanted to ask you.”
“Oh?” Stanton said, sounding slightly surprised.
“With Nicole now leaving Challenger, we’re in need of a new first officer.” Burton said, “I want you to be my new right-hand man. What do you say?”
Smiling at the offer, Michael nodded. “I would be honoured sir.”
“Excellent, because with T’Plau’s promotion I was starting to run out of people to ask!” Burton remarked. “Talking of which, I want to promote Cortez to chief armoury officer. T’Plau insisted that I seriously consider her candidacy before I looked at anyone else and I think she’s right.”
“Sounds like a good replacement,” Stanton said. “What about chief science officer? Are you going to ask Habiba?”
Looking into the hotel where the party was happening, Burton considered his response to Stanton. He looked back towards his engineer, knowing that Ensign Habiba had decided not to attend the wedding. Stanton had told Burton that he heard rumour that she had fallen out with some of her fellow junior officers and had broken up with Conrad too. “She can remain where she is and act up for now. We’re at war and I think the chief armoury officer is the most important position to fill in right now. Let’s see how well she does and then consider our decisions at a later time. That said, Cortez deserves a promotion to lieutenant junior grade as well.”
“Agreed,” Stanton said, “and as your new first officer can I suggest you promote some others too?”
Interested in who Stanton had in mind, Burton nodded for him to proceed. “Who?”
“Conrad and Hennessey for starters both to lieutenant junior grades as well.” Stanton said. “Both of them proved themselves back on Ardana to be level-headed and extremely good leaders. They bring strength to our senior staff.”
“That they do.” Burton said as he took a sip. “Okay, you’ve convinced me on them. Anyone else?”
“Two more; Stewart and Masuko. Nicole said it herself, she couldn’t have been successful with the Deltans without Stewart and Masuko is ready to be a chief engineer. Starfleet will snap her up if we don’t keep her interested.”
“Then let’s do it. Anyway, I’ll need you focussing on more things as first officer, she could run engineering more for you and I’m sure Ben-Ami will agree with Stewart’s promotion too.” Burton said, pleased that they would be rewarding their crew. “I have sent in a recommendation to General Casey for Yu to receive a commendation for Ardana too.”
“Shame we can’t decide on MACO promotions.” Stanton said, “I would make her a lieutenant colonel now.”
Burton smiled at that idea, “Yeah, but she’s only been a major for under a year now. They won’t bump her up, just yet. They’ll probably promote her without us knowing too.” Burton took another sip before realising there was something he had wanted to say to Stanton all day but did not have the opportunity to mention it in private until now. “Talking about doing things quietly,” Burton said as he sat up and pointed to Stanton’s left hand. “When were you going to share your good news?”
Stanton looked down at his wedding ring, it was still new and since returning from the Discovery he was starting to miss his husband. Following on from saving the colonists on Gault, the two of them had spent a long week on the sunny beaches of Miami. Discovery had left Earth this morning, heading to Deneva. “I didn’t want to spoil Liam and Niall’s day.”
“Congratulations Michael, Alex is a very lucky guy!” Burton cheered his new first officer as they clinked beer bottles again. “Oh and I did hear that Müller owes me again!”
Wincing at the fact he tried to keep his time on Discovery quiet from his boss to avoid any issues between him and Captain Müller, Stanton nodded while cringing to confirm. “However sir I must add that your brother isn’t a very clean engineer. His engine room wasn’t the tidiest I’ve seen!”
Laughing at the comment about his brother, Burton quickly responded to Stanton’s comments. “That doesn’t surprise me about Roman. So you weren’t tempted to stay on Discovery?”
“I’ll be lying if I said no, but then both Alex and I discussed it over and right now we weren’t sure if it would be allowed. We didn’t want to put any pressure on anyone about it. The war effort is our priority, plus I couldn’t deal with him being my superior in position!” Stanton said with a smirk still on his face.
“Well at least you both are now first officers.” Burton said, “You can’t argue over that.”
“You wouldn’t believe how much you’ve saved my marriage!” joked Stanton.
“Glad to help out!” Burton said and he clinked his bottle with Stanton’s again.
They were both interrupted by the arrival of Doctor Ben-Ami. She was wearing the female variation of the Starfleet dress uniform that had a skirt attached to it. “Looks like you two are plotting something out here!” She stated as she joined them. Sitting on the bench next to the captain, the doctor placed her glass of white wine down. “How come you both aren’t joining in with the partying?”
“I’m tempted Kefira,” Burton answered, “But this view of the English Channel at night is just as amazing.”
“It’s only water captain.” Ben-Ami answered.
Stanton grinned, “Ah you see my good Ro-fa, the English Channel is home to the captain. He grew up along the south coast of England.”
Burton nodded in confirmation. “That I did, but it’s not my home anymore.”
“So what is?” Ben-Ami probed.
“Challenger.” Burton said as he stood up. “And while it sits up there,” He said pointing to the stars. “Our crew is in there, waiting for us to join them!”
Stanton stood up too, “Well we best not let them down.” He looked down at the doctor and extended his hand. “Join me for a dance Kefira?”
“As long as you don’t drag me around the floor like Ned did earlier, then you’re on!” She replied as she took Michael’s hand and also noticed the ring on his finger. “While there you can tell me when this happened and don’t miss out any details!”
The three senior officers joyfully went back into the hall where the party was happening and joined their crew for the celebrations.