Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: A Shot In The Dark


Challenger NX-03
Tuesday, October 28th, 2155
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“Captain’s starlog, October twenty-eighth, twenty-one-fifty-five. The crew have worked hard around the clock to prepare the ship for our upcoming search and rescue mission. Moments ago, we arrived at the last known location of the Armstrong and sensors have detected something I feared the most.”

Stood in horror and shock, Burton took a moment to digest what they were now witnessing from Challenger’s viewscreen. The twisted, burnt wreckage of the NCC-100 would be something that Burton (and he assumed most of his crew) would not forget anytime soon. Seeing the Daedalus-class ship destroyed was a reminder that this conflict would take Starfleet to a dark place, one that Burton had wondered if it would ever survive and return from intact. The burning hulk of the Armstrong’s primary hull, an almost perfect spherical shape, took most of the image up as it was cracked apart like a smashed eggshell. A single nacelle almost remained intact, but with numerous burnt marks across its cylinder housing. The ship’s secondary hull was blown to pieces across the starfield. It was obvious that the ship had taken a beating from multiple hits, scorch marks brazed the hull. Wreckage. That was all it was. Pure wreckage.

“Survivors?” Burton broke the silence as he looked over to his acting chief science officer, still grimacing at the dreadful sight. 

Habiba was already looking in the scope, wincing as she glared at the sensor readouts. Nodding to confirm she had found something, she followed this with a verbal response. “I am detecting life signs on multiple escape pods. Not many, but they are there sir.” She looked up from the device and turned to face him. “I could be wrong, but I am picking up twenty-one survivors. All human.”

“Twenty-one?” Cortez repeated. She was at the armoury station and was sharing in everyone else’s disbelief. “The Armstrong had a crew complement of one-hundred and forty-seven when she left Earth.”

Shaking his head in astonishment at the large loss of life, Burton gave out his next commands as he sat down in his chair, “Let’s get them in straight away.” He truly hoped those that they found could explain what happened. He took a mild guess himself, that the Romulans finished off the ship shortly after it had fallen back to send the message to Earth about their attack on the task group led by the Discovery. “Any sign of the Discovery?” He pondered aloud.

Sat at the engineering station was his first officer and chief engineer, Stanton shook his head. “No sir, I’ve reconfigured our long-range scanners to detect their warp trail. I’m not picking it up at the moment.” He added. “I’m still looking.”

Not bothering to tell him to take a break, Burton knew that Stanton wanted to find his husband’s ship as quickly as possible and he could only imagine what thoughts were now racing through his head after seeing the remains of the Armstrong. They were the same ones he was having regarding his brother Roman. 

“Lieutenant Hennessey,” Burton said, grabbing the attention of his communication’s officer. “Send a secure encoded transmission to Starfleet with what we’ve found and that we are undertaking rescue efforts of the survivors.”

Hennessey’s fingers started to dance across the keyboard in front of him as he began working on the encryption device that Challenger had recently been installed with. The Special Projects Division within the Starfleet Corps of Engineers had created the device in an attempt to ensure that messages to and from Starfleet assets were secure to avoid any battleplans or important communiqué were not leaked to the Romulans. Each device was unique to the asset it was assigned to, as a result, even if the Romulans captured Challenger they would not be able to use it without breaking past numerous security programs to use. “Message sent,” Hennessey announced. “Captain, if it’s okay with you sir, I would like to liaise with Doctor Ben-Ami to prepare for the arrival of our very important guests.” 

Burton agreed with his protocol office and gave him a single nod. “Absolutely Ned. Have Major Yu and the MACOs assist too.”

Hennessey got up from his station and headed to the lift at once.

Turning in his own chair, Lieutenant Conrad looked up from the helm to the captain. “Sir, the Armstrong’s cargo haul appears to be intact still. Can I suggest we retrieve what is there before anyone else grabs it?”

Burton looked from his pilot to his first officer, “Is it safe to do that Michael?”

Showing some annoyance from being distracted from watching the long-range scans, Stanton turned to look at the short-range sensors. “I would say yes sir. We could use the transporter to bring most of the bigger equipment in.”

“I would like to volunteer to lead teams on the shuttlepods to do the rest sir.” Conrad offered.

“What about those who have lost their lives?” Habiba asked. 

It was one question that had run through Burton’s mind too. Do they collect them and return who they can find back to Earth? Without realising he had hesitated; he knew the answer straight away. “We bring aboard those we can recover.” He answered. “If that was us, I would hope that someone would have the decency to return our remains to Earth.”

“Their loved ones deserve that at least sir.” Cortez said in support. 

Habiba spoke up as she continued with her scans of the debris field, “I am detecting a number of bodies floating in space, they’ve all been exposed to the vacuum of space.”

That was hard to hear, Burton cleared his throat. “Let’s concentrate on finding the survivors first, then we will work on rescuing our honoured dead. However, we must find the Discovery too. Let’s get to work everyone.”

Two and half hours into their rescue efforts, Corporal Jenkins found himself working in sickbay treating the injured Armstrong survivors. Ben-Ami had placed him responsible for dealing with those with minor injuries that weren’t life threatening. While he did that, Ben-Ami and her nurses dealt with those that needed urgent care. 

He had heard his husband from across the room direct Trommler to carry someone over to Jenkins. Niall had been given the task of doing the initial assessments of those coming into sickbay and directing them to where they had to go. Trommler, like the other MACOs, was carrying those who couldn’t walk from the launch bay to sickbay. 

“Liam, hier ist your next patient.” Trommler announced as he carried a very tall and muscular man who wore a science blue uniform over to him. The man appeared to be in quite a daze as he almost dwarfed the German soldier.

Looking at the woman he had been treating, also in a blue science uniform, he spoke to her. “Ensign Avery, you’re free to make your way to our recovery ward.”

Smiling at him, the young African American woman smiled at him. She had identified herself as Ensign Tanisha Avery, the Armstrong’s second communications officer. Her thick black hair was crumpled up where she appeared; she normally had kept it in a bun. The injuries she had sustained were not life threatening at all. She had a number of bruises, cuts and grazes over her. Nothing that wouldn’t heal in a few days. He had cleaned up the cuts and covered them in plasters. “Thank you Corporal,” she replied in her friendly manner. 

“Luis, please would you take Ensign Avery to the recovery ward?” Jenkins asked his friend and superior officer.

Trommler just smiled at the woman and said in his German accent, “Ja.” He helped the officer he was supporting to sit on the end of the bed that Avery was getting up from. 

Picking up his medical scanner, Jenkins took a quick glance and saw why his husband had sent him this patient. Instantly he recognised the massive cut and bruise on the top of his forehead and the man was holding his right shoulder with his left hand. His shoulder was dislocated. 

“Hello, I’m Corporal Liam Jenkins,” Jenkins said as he finished his scan and pulled over the tray with the hypospray on it. “Welcome aboard.”

The man, who was a lot older than Jenkins (he looked as old as the captain) attempted to smile at the pleasantries but appeared to be in too much pain. Jenkins noticed the rank pips on his patient’s uniform and almost looked surprised. The man wore three pips, with the third one having a black centre. 

“You’re my highest-ranking officer to treat so far today, sir.” Jenkins said as he loaded the hypospray with an analgesic. The man only winced as he tried to nod in acknowledgement. He was obviously in a lot of pain. Quickly, Jenkins placed the hypospray into his patient’s affected arm and pressed the injector button. Relief appeared over the lieutenant commander’s face. “I’m going to pop your shoulder back in, are you ready?” Jenkins asked and just got a nod in response. “One, two, three,” He said and instantly pushed the shoulder back to where it should have been.

Another huge sigh of relief came from the man. “Thank you corporal,” He said as he slowly rolled his shoulder. 

Jenkins pulled off the gloves he had been wearing and put on a new pair as he decided he would deal with the massive cut on the man’s head. He got the gear he would need from his medical kit and started to clean the cut. “Don’t worry sir, we will have you out of here in no time.”

“What ship is this?” He asked, still wincing from Jenkins’ efforts to treat him. “I saw your ship drop out of warp from my escape pod, NX-class. Is this Enterprise?”

Challenger actually sir.” Jenkins said as he started to place butterfly closure strips over the wound. “This is the N-X-oh-three.”

Challenger?” He repeated and it was like a lightbulb had gone off in his head as he realised something. His eyes popped open as he spoke, “Can I see your first officer then? Commander Levesque, please. I’m her brother-in-law.” He requested. 

Pausing through his process, Jenkins (who was standing in front of the man) looked down at him. “Sir, Commander Levesque is no longer on Challenger. She left us and became the deputy director of Starfleet Science.”

He appeared surprised at the news and then just smiled. “Claudia will be happy,” He mumbled and then looked at Jenkins, “I’m sorry I didn’t properly introduce myself. I’m Lieutenant Commander Cooper Walker.”

“Well if you’re related to Commander Levesque sir, I can tell you now that you’re among friends here on Challenger. Commander Levesque is highly thought of here.” Jenkins offered as he placed the final strip on. “There, all done.”

“Thanks again.” Walker replied with and winced slightly with his right arm. “It still hurts.”

Taking out his medical scanner, Jenkins hovered it over the shoulder and then realised he had missed something. “You’ve got a broken collar bone sir. At the moment all I can do is strap it up and when Doctor Ben-Ami is available she can do her magic and fix it.”

Chuckling at the younger man’s bedside manner, Walker appreciated Jenkin’s optimism. “Are all the MACOs on Challenger this jolly?”

As he took out a sling to put on Walker, Jenkins replied. “We’re known to join in with the fun on the ship. I suppose because we were on Challenger from day one, just like the rest of the crew, we’ve integrated as one crew. There’s no division between those who are in Starfleet and those who are MACOs”

Walker appeared to snort at that comment. “Glad to hear it, on the Armstrong our MACOs kept their distance from the Starfleet crew.”

Appearing disappointed at that notion, Jenkins’ demeanour changed to reflect that. “Oh? Really? As I said, we’re a tight community here on Challenger.”

Walker allowed Jenkins to gently place his arm into the sling and strap it up. Once it was in the black arm sling, the pain seemed to subside dramatically. “Much better, thank you.”

“You’re welcome sir.” Jenkins said. 

Looking around sickbay, Walker appeared to be trying to see who else was in the room from his ship. “There was another woman with me in my escape pod. A lieutenant, called Hillary Payne. She’s the Armstrong’s second medical officer. Have you heard or seen her?”

Shaking his head in response, Jenkins told Walker he hadn’t heard of anyone of that name. “Perhaps she’s on the recovery ward?”

“I hope so.” Walker said. He took in a deep breath, “Is there any chance I can meet with Captain Burton?”

Jenkins looked around the room to see if there was someone else that could help him. Once he spotted Lieutenant Hennessey helping a young man in an engineer’s uniform into sickbay, he turned back to Walker. “I can speak to Lieutenant Hennessey for you sir. Do you not want to wait to see if your captain or anyone else on the senior staff survived?”

Shaking his head, Walker spoke now in a more solemn tone. “I’m the last member of the senior staff Liam. During the battle the bridge was hit badly which caused it to be exposed to space. I barely got out alive if it hadn’t been for Doctor Payne pulling me into the lift when she did. I was the one who ordered the crew to abandon ship, Captain Charan and the rest of the bridge were sucked out into space.”

“I’m sorry sir.” Jenkins said in an even more solemn tone. “I’ll get the lieutenant.”

Meeting the captain by the lift doors was not a long process for the communication officer. After making the call to the bridge for Burton with the news that Jenkins had shared with him, Hennessey had moved from sickbay to the centre of E deck to meet his commanding officer. The doors swished open to the right and Burton stepped off the cart. 

“Ned, where is he?” Burton asked as he marched down the corridor with Hennessey beside him. 

“In the recovery ward.” Hennessey said. “He is speaking to the others from his crew that are resting there.”

Heading down the hall and then turning down the first junction to his left, Burton followed the corridor as it curved. “Have we got all of the survivors?”

“We have all twenty-one on board. Most of them are okay, two of them are in intensive care while another one is still in surgery with Doctor Ben-Ami.” Hennessey reported. “Lieutenant Stewart believes everyone, besides those who are in a critical state, will make a full recovery. It will be touch and go with the other three.”

“Okay, can you make arrangements for them all to get quarters and speak to Chef Lawson to sort out a hot meal for them all.” Burton commanded as he approached the ward.

 “Already done sir. She’s already had some of her stewards bring food and drinks over.” Hennessey said as he followed his superior. He gestured with his left hand where Walker was, the captain instantly walked over to see Walker sat on the edge of the bed with a woman who was lying on it. 

Burton recognised the man’s face almost instantly. The captain had almost memorised it from the photos that Levesque had sent him as well as after reading his service record briefly. He had a strong jawline, broad shoulders and was tall. Levesque had commented that even though Walker was obsessed with weight training and sports, deep down (like her) he was a keen scientist. Unlike his service photo, which had him with short spikey sandy brown hair, Walker’s hair was now flat and dishevelled a bit. His radiant crystal blue eyes appeared drained too. The horrors of battle were evident in this man. “Lieutenant Commander Cooper Walker.” Burton said to grab the man’s attention. 

Walker turned his head and immediately smiled at the captain. “Captain Burton.” He said in a Californian accent and stood up, almost to attention.

Burton returned the smile and extended his hand to shake Walker’s, “Welcome aboard Cooper. I can tell you now that Nicole will be extremely happy when I call her later.”

Still smiling at the captain’s words. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate that and I hope me and what’s left of my crew are able to call our loved ones when it’s appropriate?”

“Absolutely,” Burton said, “Lieutenant Hennessey said that you reported that Captain Charan is dead?”

Nodding to confirm, Walker looked to the woman that was on the bed behind him. She copied his sad expression. “Unfortunately, yes sir. She and the rest of the bridge crew died when they were blown out into space. I would have been out there with them if it hadn’t been for Doctor Payne here pulling me to safety.”

Burton smiled and nodded to acknowledge the woman that Walker indicated too. “I am sorry to hear that commander. Captain Charan was an exceptional commanding officer, my chief of the boat served with her and has always spoken highly of her. My deepest condolences.”

“Thank you, captain,” Walker said humbly, “Regretfully, I did not know Captain Charan as long as some of the others.”

“She was one hell of a woman.” said Doctor Payne. The young American woman pushed herself up further on her bed. Walker instantly went to her side to help her with support as she made herself comfortable. “Starfleet has lost a lot of good men and women today, sir.”

“That they have.” Burton agreed.

“We’ll make sure their sacrifice was not in vain.” Hennessey assured. 

Payne just nodded in agreement. “You won’t get any argument from any of us, lieutenant.” She paused before turning to Burton, “Captain, please say we’re not leaving anyone behind.”

Shaking his head, “No we won’t be. Now we’ve got all of you here safely on board, we are now working to recover those who were lost when the Armstrong went down.”

“Their families will appreciate it sir.” Walker remarked. 

Burton smiled at the commander’s words. “Commander, my crew will do whatever it takes to make you all comfortable here. I will make them available to help you all.”

Payne looked at Walker, almost giving him a signal to say something. He did. “Sir, I’ve spoken to everyone here and we don’t want to sit out any more than we need to.”

Confused at what he was getting at, Burton asked for clarity. “What do you mean?”

Looking around the room, where everyone who had been part of his ship, Walker answered the captain. “When we get the approval from your chief medical officer, we would like to join your crew and help out.”

Smiling again, this time at everyone’s courage and conviction. Those words and the sense of camaraderie in the room overwhelmed him. “You all honour your fallen shipmates well.” He said to everyone, they were all now looking at him. “We would be honoured for you all to join our crew, but I need you all to understand that we were also sent out here to find Discovery too.”

Looking from Burton to Payne and then back to the captain, Walker spoke up. “Well sir then I am sure we can help you with that. We detected Discovery flying past us before the battle was over. We only survived from complete destruction as the Romulans left us for dead to chase after them. If we could recover the records from the Armstrong, we could show you the direction they were heading.”

“That sounds like a plan to me.” Burton said and extended his hand towards Walker one more time as an official gesture to welcome him on board Challenger.

Shuttlepod One


Flying Shuttlepod One slowly and carefully through the debris field, Conrad was working hard to concentrate carefully to avoid his small craft coming into contact with anything else. Behind his right shoulder at the auxiliary controls was Ensign Metaxas. “I’ve got our next fish on sensors,” He reported after several bleeps had come through on his console. “Looks like a caseload of photonic torpedoes.”

“Are you certain?” Conrad asked as he reduced power to the engines. He wanted their momentum to glide them in now.

Confirming his readings with an affirmative yes and that they were safe to approach the payload of unused torpedoes, Metaxas sent the coordinates to Conrad’s helm station.

“I see them.” Conrad said and brought their engines back online. “I’m not sure our grapplers will keep them entirely safe as we move them out of the field. We may need Challenger to do a direct transport of them.”

“I was wondering the same thing.” Metaxas said, “But this is precious gear here that we don’t want anyone else having their hands on.”

“Agreed,” Conrad said as he moved them gently towards their target. “By the way Theo, great work on the search algorithm.”

Metaxas smiled in appreciation for his colleague’s praise. He had devised the program they were using to search the debris field to find useful parts and gear to salvage. “Thanks Jack.” He paused talking while he finished off his final scan. “Jack, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

Smirking a bit, Jack found some ounce of humour within me. “You just did.” He leant over and took the engines offline by flicking a switch on the right-hand console. “Go on Theo, what’s on your mind?”

“The war,” He answered bluntly. “Just seeing the Armstrong like that makes it all seem much more real.”

Solemnly, Conrad agreed. “Yeah it does.” 

“Sorry Jack, I didn’t mean to-” He stopped and started to get flustered, “I mean I shouldn’t have said anything, especially since…well you know…” Metaxas trailed off, not knowing how to stop himself anymore.

“Are you talking about the Raven?” Conrad asked and didn’t give the engineer a chance to respond, “It’s okay Theo, I’m still coming to terms with it. But you’re right. Seeing this all does make it all more real. I won’t lie to you and not say I’m not scared. Truth be told, I am frightened.”

“Me too.” Metaxas admitted. “Let’s change the subject.”

Spinning in his chair and giving his friend a smile, Jack spoke up. “We’ll get through this, let’s just concentrate on doing our jobs well and that’s all that can be asked of us now.” He turned his chair back around.

Theo smirked. “That extra pip has definitely given you some wisdom!”

Conrad burst out laughing, “Thanks, now let’s get to work on those torpedoes.”

Not realising that the work she had agreed to do would become so hard to undertake on both a physical and emotional level, Martha Habiba pressed on. Wearing an EVA suit and standing at the auxiliary transporter console, she had rigged up the station to give her access to the primary short-range sensors while she and Lieutenant Masuko undertook the grim job of beaming on board the dead crew of the Armstrong. Using a similar search program like Metaxas had created to search the wreckage for salvageable parts, Habiba had put together a way of trying to identify the bodies that were floating in space. They had started their task of transporting them on board, then with help from several MACOs, who were then carefully placing the bodies in body bags, those that they found were being moved to Challenger’s morgue. Those involved were wearing their EVAs to avoid any contaminants that the transporter’s bio filters couldn’t properly identify. It was an added precaution that Doctor Ben-Ami wanted them to take. 

By now their work had become almost mundane. Habiba would identify the coordinates while Masuko would use the primary control interface to lock on the transporter beam and bring those they found on board. Their grey, lifeless bodies looked like something out of a horror movie. The expressions of shock and being terrified were etched into each of their faces as some sort of realisation that they were meeting their peril. The coldness of space had almost frozen them into that locked look. 

I’m only picking up one more body out there.” Habiba said with dismay over the suit’s inbuilt communication system. 

Masuko looked over to her. “Really? We’ve been at this for almost three hours and we haven’t recovered the entire crew.”

Looking at the scans below, Habiba shook her head in disbelief. “I don’t think we will find them all. We’ve got to assume a good number of them were caught in the explosions when the ship was torn apart from being destroyed by the Romulans.”

At that point, the MACOs who had been assigned to this duty arrived. In their own silver EVA suits, First Lieutenant al-Fayyad and Sergeant Iyer made their way over to where Habiba was standing with the Second Engineer.

Lieutenants, how are we doing?” al-Fayed asked. As the deputy detachment commander for the MACOs, Khawla al-Fayyad was known for her level-headed approach and was a seasoned officer. It was the reason why she volunteered to help with the task. She had seen dead bodies before, she had said it didn’t bother her, but Habiba wondered if she was covering up the truth. Iyer on the other hand had mentioned a similar thing, but every time they beamed somebody else up it sounded like he was saying a short prayer for them. 

“I think we’ve got one more to go.” Habiba answered.

“Not to come off as disrespectful, but in some ways that’s good. The morgue is almost full.” Iyer mentioned. 

Let’s not leave them out there any longer.” Masuko ordered as she was the highest-ranking officer there. She moved back to her station and tapped in the coordinates that Habiba sent over to her. Eventually, she pushed the transporter controls upwards and once the lock was confirmed she pulled them back down again. 

The entire group did not move, as the body that appeared within the transporter alcove was none other than Captain Charan. Saina Charan laid on the transporter pad, her eyes were closed and she seemed more at peace than anyone else they had rescued. It was almost like she had accepted her fate and went with some sort of dignity. 

That’s…” uttered Sergeant Iyer and stopped as he didn’t know what to say. 

“…Captain Charan.” Finished Habiba. 

The view of a Starfleet captain dead was quite an image. Charan had become a well-established officer in the fleet. She had commanded more than one ship and was one of the first women to have multiple commands under her belt. A true scientist at heart, she was known for her work in the United Earth Space Probe Agency first before transferring over to Starfleet. 

Clearing her throat, al-Fayyad broke the solemn atmosphere slightly. “Come on Rupesh, she doesn’t deserve to be left there. Let’s get her to the morgue.”

“I’ll inform the captain.” Habiba said.

Nodding in agreement, Masuko logged out of the system. “I’ll get a team up here to de-containment the area before we start to use it again to bring on board bigger gear and equipment that Jack and Theo find.”

Habiba spoke to the captain over the intercom and informed her of their final discovery. He only replied with a sombre ‘thank you’. Once they were completed the group made their way towards the decon-chamber to ensure they were not infected by any unknown parasites or infections.

Finally, after almost four hours of intense triage work, Kefira Ben-Ami sat down and took a moment to breathe. Ripping off her protective gown and the gloves she wore, she closed her eyes for a moment. 

Around her sickbay and finally calmed down. Being the chief medical officer of a starship during wartime was not a role she had ever considered finding herself in when she joined Starfleet. Even though she had served in the Israeli Defence Force, what she had experienced today was something quite different. Even Challenger’s dealings with the Carreons a few months ago didn’t compare to this. She pondered if it was because these people they had been treating today were not part of Challenger, on some level she can remember her old medical professors saying about how treating those you are closer to is completely different to those who are complete strangers to you.

Disturbed by the arrival of a friendly hand, passing her a mug of hot black coffee, Ben-Ami looked up to see Chef Lawson smiling down at her.

“Thought you may like a small pick-me-up.” The chef offered.

Taking the mug instantly into her hands, Ben-Ami thanked Lawson and after blowing on the mug took a sip. The warm contents soothed her mind and body for a moment. The doors to sickbay opened and walking in was her right-hand man, recently promoted and married Lieutenant junior grade Niall Stewart. She had pulled his leg and asked if he and Liam had planned to hyphen their surnames, he had just laughed the comment off.

“Everything okay Niall?” She called over and placed her mug down on the side bench. 

Nodding in acknowledgement, he too was wearing his scrubs and was pulling off a pair of gloves as he walked in. Chef Lawson approached him with the last of the hot beverages, offering him a mug of tea. Their head cook knew most of the crew’s preferences now. She was an angel in disguise. 

Taking the hot drink after throwing his gloves in a nearby waste bin, Stewart made his way over to his department head and sat down opposite to her on the nearby stool. “Everyone in the recovery ward is comfortable. Lieutenant Hennessey is working on getting them all some quarters.”

“Good, we may end up needing more space if we have to provide medical assistance to the Discovery.” Ben-Ami marked as she leant back further in her chair. Rubbing a slight twinge at the back of her neck, she continued to speak. “Liam did extremely well today. I overheard the captain singing his praises again.”

Stewart grinned with pride. Looking over at the last remaining patients in sickbay, he asked her how they all were. “Are they going to be okay?” He added.

“They will be,” Ben-Ami replied. “I’m expecting them all to make a recovery.” She looked over at him.

“I noticed on my way in that the decon chamber is in use.” Stewart said in between further sips of his tea.

“Yes, the team who were recovering the bodies from space finished their task a few moments ago. Just to be on the safe side I had them all go in and do a full cycle.” Ben-Ami said, picking up her mug from the side she looked at its black contents before swallowing some of it again. Afterwards she sighed and spoke in a remorseful manner, “The last person they pulled out was Captain Charan.”

“Wow, really?” Stewart sounded surprised. “I’m sure Commander Walker would be interested to know that. The survivors have been talking very highly about her. She sounds like quite the legendary woman.”

“I’ve heard similar tales too,” Ben-Ami stated. “She was apparently Fleet Admiral Hathaway’s first chief science officer on the Emmette.” 

“She should have been Enterprise’s captain,” spoke a familiar French voice. 

Looking over to the doorway, now entering was Senior Chief Petty Officer Dubois, Challenger’s chief of the boat and quartermaster. Both Ben-Ami and Stewart smiled at the woman as she walked across the bay, with a data tablet in her hands. 

“What do you mean chief?” Stewart asked her. 

Dubois smiled as she spoke fondly of her old captain. “Charan had been offered a spot on the NX-program but declined as she wanted to remain out in the field. If she had entered it I, and many others, are certain she would have beaten Archer to the big chair.” She smiled, “I heard the news about them recovering her.” Pausing again, Dubois composed herself. “Ro-fa, I was hoping I could see her?”

Ben-Ami gradually shook her head, trying to persuade the quartermaster otherwise. “Ghislaine, you know that’s not a good idea. Her body has just only entered the morgue. We’ve not done full body scans yet to determine if it’s safe for you to see her up-close.”

“Please Kefira,” Dubois said as she pushed back a tear, “I owe that woman so much. She saved my marriage and my career.”

Relenting after understanding the chief’s intentions, Ben-Ami nodded. “Okay, can you give me at least an hour to get changed out of these scrubs and for the morgue checks to be in place so it’s safe for you to enter.”

Dubois nodded in acceptance. “Thank you Ro-fa,” She said. “I’ll be back soon.”

Chef Lawson, who had remained quiet during this time, looked at the senior enlisted officer. “Ghislaine, why don’t you come and join me in the mess hall for some delicious chocolate ice cream that I made this morning.”

Smiling at the invitation, Dubois accepted the offer. “Sounds like heaven, thanks Montana.” She replied and then looked back at the doctor. “I’ll be back soon.”

Ben-Ami just smiled in support and watched as the enlisted woman leave sickbay. She looked at Stewart, both of them appeared exhausted and deflated.

Sat in the rear compartment of the bridge, Michael Stanton kept his focus on the situation room’s table console as he manipulated the long-range sensors further. He was so focused on his work that he didn’t see Lieutenant Cortez approach him and offer a mug of coffee to him.

“Sir?” She said, interrupting him.

Looking up, he saw the Puerto Rican armoury officer standing before him. She held a warm friendly smile as she placed the mug on the table beside him. Stanton mirrored the smile in gratitude. “Thank you Rachele.” He took the hot beverage and almost gulped its contents in one full swoop. Coming up for a short breath, he ultimately finished the whole thing. “Amazing, I needed that.”

“That’s understatement sir.” Cortez stated as she took a sip from her own coffee. “I noticed you haven’t left here for a few hours now sir. How’s the work progressing?”

Shaking his head in response, Stanton sounded more annoyed at his work then at her. “It’s taking longer than I expected. Keeping the long-range sensors tuned into the Discovery’s energy signatures is limiting the reach they can do.”

Cortez walked further into the pit that the situation room was located in to peek at the work that Stanton was doing. “Sir, permission to speak freely?” she asked in a lower tone.

Nodding just in response as he stared back at the large screen that hung on the back wall. 

Clearing her throat, Cortez spoke up. “Sir, we are all worried at how personal you’re taking this.”

Stanton looked back at her almost immediately. “What’s that supposed to mean lieutenant?” His response was very uncharacteristic of him. Harsh in fact. “Would you not be taking such a matter personal if that was your loved one lost out there? Even the captain is struggling with the notion that he may have lost his younger brother.”

Holding her ground, Cortez remained strong in her conviction and voice. “With all due respect sir, yes I know what it’s like to lose a loved one. My wife, Sasha, died during the Xindi attack when their swath ripped through Venezuela. So, I know the pain and angst you’re going through, by wondering what’s happened to them.” Her eyes became slightly watery, “For days, I sat in my dorm at Starfleet Training Command, waiting to hear if she had been one of those who had been lost. That was one of the darkest days of my life and I find it hard to forget that time.”

Feeling like a complete fool, Stanton calmed down and sat on one of the stools by the table. “I’m sorry Rachele, I shouldn’t have snapped like that. I do appreciate your concerns.” He paused. “It’s just…” He couldn’t find the words to finish his sentence. 

“Hard.” Cortez said for him. “It is and it doesn’t get any better, especially when you see images like the wreckage of the Armstrong. Your mind is probably thinking you’ll see the same soon enough, so you’re holding on to some sort of hope that won’t be the case.” She took a breath, “I just want to say to you sir, that I am happy to listen, and I get it.”

Smiling in appreciation, Stanton thanked their new chief armoury officer. “I can see why Lloyd wanted you running the armoury department now.”

“Please sir, don’t put any more pressure on me. I just hope I don’t muck up the amount of faith you’ve all put in me with this job.” Cortez responded with. “Can I help with the search?”

Nodding in gratitude, Stanton showed Cortez what he had set up and what tasks needed to be done.

Working on the salvage parts that they had found in the debris field of the Armstrong was not a job that Jamie Harris had expected to find himself undertaking today. However, when the chief of the boat had placed a number of the enlisted crew on the job, Jamie hadn’t thought anything about it. The captain was busy dealing with the survivors, so he knew his administrative skills would come into play when cataloguing the gear they were finding.  

Challenger’s main cargo bay was becoming full, with most of their things being stacked up as high as possible. A few of the forklift trucks were busy rearranging so extra storage could be made. Walking past one, Harris noticed a MACO soldier bent over a pile of equipment he and others had said were not worth trying to salvage and their parts would be used as spares. 

“Hey, can I help you?” Harris called towards the man who had his back to him. He noticed his rank on the sleeve of his brown t-shirt. “Private-?” 

Turning around quickly, the young man who had short smart shaped brown hair looked surprised at being caught. His expression reminded Harris of a child being found with their hand in a cookie jar. “Rafferty, sir.” He said as he stood up. 

Looking at the young MACO, Harris did not know him. “Are you new to the ship?”

The younger man just nodded, appearing nervous that he had been caught doing something wrong by a superior. Smirking at his innocence, Harris introduced himself. “I’m Crewmen Harris, the captain’s yeoman.” He extended his hand out towards the MACO.

Rafferty shook Harris’ hand. “It’s nice to meet you sir. I’m Private Harvey Rafferty, I joined Challenger after its return from Delta Four.”

The mention of that planet made Harris roll his eyes. “Count yourself lucky not to visit there, private.” He said after letting go of the young man’s hand. For a MACO, especially one that was extremely slim, he had a firm handshake. “So, as I originally asked, can I help you with that?” He asked, gesturing towards the pile of broken bits and pieces.

“Well I’ve already fixed three hand-scanners and one computer tablet.” Rafferty defended. “I was told the pile was with rubbish and a pastime of mine is tinkering and repairing bits and pieces. Sorry sir. Please don’t report me to the captain.”

Smirking at the man as he crossed his arms against his chest, Harris shook his head. “I won’t, but if you’ve fixed all of that in a short amount of time are you sure you should be a MACO and not an engineer?”

“I like being a MACO sir, sorry.” Rafferty said. 

Understanding what that meant for the young soldier, Harris decided to let him carry on. “Well anything else you find that is fixable, please do fix away!”

“Aye sir. Thank you, sir!” 

Harris shook his head at how eager Rafferty sounded as he left him to get on with his own work.  He wondered if he ever came off that keen when he joined the ship? Time had changed since he had joined Challenger, that was certain.