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


Challenger NX-03
Wednesday, October 29th, 2155
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The early morning start had not been the best choice that the captain had made since the start of this mission. He had hoped that by getting up early that he could have an hour of peace to himself while he worked out in the gym, followed by a run around E deck and then have a shower. Once he had done all of that he would treat himself to breakfast. The plan he had made in his head was meant to help him remain focussed fully on this mission. However he found himself doing something completely different now. 

By the time they had finished late last night, they still had yet to find any trace of the Discovery. Thankfully, Lieutenant Commander Walker had remembered the vague direction he had seen the ship head towards, but it wasn’t enough. Stanton had come up with a different idea. If what Walker had seen on the Armstrong’s sensors was true, then if they could retrieve the logs from the fallen ship it would give them what they were looking for. Finding those logs would be another barrier they had to overcome. Searching the debris field to find the data recorder (aka the ship’s black box) was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

It was now past oh-nine hundred hours and Burton had made his way down to the cargo bay to assist with the scavenging of the remains of the Armstrong that they had brought on board. Instead of his early morning exercise, he hadn’t been able to get the idea that their next clue was sitting in the rubble. He was eager to find his brother’s ship sooner rather than later. 

Crewmember Harris, his yeoman, approached him. The younger man looked a lot grubbier compared to how fresh and clean he had been hours before. Harris had agreed to join the captain after they had grabbed a quick bite to eat from the galley for breakfast. “Captain, none of our teams have found anything that even remotely looks like part of a data recorder.”

Sighing in disappointment, Burton, who had a scanner in his hand, closed it shut and placed his hands on his hips. “Commander Stanton reported the same thing from the bridge too. Nothing out there yet.”

“We may have to accept sir that it may have been destroyed when the ship exploded.” Harris offered shyly. 

Knowing that without that data their search for the Discovery would be even more difficult than it was right now. It was not impossible, just goddamn difficult. Burton took a moment to think his next move through. Sitting down on the deck floor and rolling his sleeves up further, he indicated for Harris to join him. “You may be right Jamie.” He said in a low deflated tone. “We need to be on the move soon, before the Romulans decide to return to this area and we’re their next target.”

Before Harris had a chance to reply, he stopped himself as he looked across the bay and saw something that caught his attention. “Sir, the data recorder from the Armstrong, it’s as big as a probe right? I mean it sometimes can be stored within a probe like device?”

Nodding in response, Burton confirmed Harris’ question. “Yeah, why?”

Harris suddenly got up on his feet and jogged across the bay to what he was staring at. Burton got up and followed him. 

“Harvey,” Harris said to the young man in the MACO uniform who stood by a pile of junk, “that pile of rubbish we went through yesterday, where did you put it all?”

Burton had not met the young man; he was obviously one of Yu’s new recruits. His uniform jacket was lying on the floor and he wore only his brown undershirt and the standard issue MACO combat trousers. Like Harris and Burton, the young soldier was covered in dirt too. Instantly Burton read the man’s surname tag: Rafferty. The young MACO soldier pointed in the direction of a huge container where there were a number of tablets, hand scanners and other technology in it. The words: ‘fixed items’ were scrawled across the side of the container. Noticing the captain, Rafferty instantly stood to attention.

“At ease,” Burton said before checking on the man’s rank, “private.” 

Relaxing a bit, Rafferty looked between the two men wearing the gold striped command uniforms. “Err,” He stammered with, “is everything okay sir?” He asked Harris, swiping the sweat that appeared across his forehead. He ended up smudging the grime further. 

Harris, who was now pulling out everything from the huge container, had his head inside the bin. Like a child trying to empty a parcel sack at Christmas, he was quick to remove items he was not interested in looking for. He mumbled something back about something he had seen the private working on the day before. “Eureka!” Harris eventually shouted as he struggled to pull out a large item. 

Racing over to help him, Burton finally realised what his yeoman had found. “Oh my,” He said as the two men put it on the ground. “their log buoy.”

Harris smiled in delight at their find. Turning to Rafferty, “Private, did you actually fix this?”

Nodding, in a wary way as he was now worried he had done something wrong. His eyes were bulging out in panic and fear. “Yes…sir.”

“Did you access any of the data on it?” Burton asked as he took out his scanner and started to work on the buoy.

“No?” He answered, worried that he may have answered incorrectly. “Does that have the data recorder in it?”

Looking back to the young MACO, “Yes it does,” Burton said, “well a duplicate version of it. On Starfleet ships we have the data recorder that is meant to survive the ship’s destruction and a log buoy that we can launch that does the same thing.” His scanner beeped at him. “Private, you may have just saved the crew of the Discovery.”

“I have?” Rafferty questioned, still confused about what he had done. 

Nodding to confirm, Burton looked over his scanner one more time. “It’s there and intact.” He said to Harris and looked over his shoulder to the private, “Go get me Commander Stanton. Well done Mister Rafferty.”

“I just knew they had done something like this.” Stanton said as he read the sensor logs they had finally accessed in the past five minutes and began reviewing what had transpired. It was the first time that Stanton had smiled in days. Smirking at what his husband and his crewmates had done brought some sense of hope to Challenger’s new first officer. 

 “Are we certain?” Burton asked behind his chief engineer.

 “Absolutely.” Stanton answered and turned to face his captain, “At warp five we can be there in thirty minutes or so.”

Stood around the situation room with several others, the chief engineer and captain had assembled their senior staff along with Lieutenant Commander Walker to go through what they had found from the Armstrong’s debris field. Still standing, facing the large aft screen, with both arms crossed against his chest, Burton turned his head only to look at his pilot. “Jack, lay in a course and engage at warp five at once.” He ordered.

Conrad nodded in confirmation and moved in a flash to get across the bridge and into his chair at the helm. Within seconds the ship was moving again and entered high warp.

Turning properly around to face everyone else, Burton looked at his senior staff. “The Barrens, why am I not surprised to see such a trick coming from Frank Müller.”

Looking confused at his remarks, Ben-Ami spoke up. “What do you mean by that captain?” She asked. 

Glancing over to his doctor, Burton explained his remarks. “Müller is known for his risky approaches in tight situations. He’s always been like that, ever since he joined Starfleet.”

“But to fly the Discovery into the Barrens can be hazardous sir. The Armstrong only spent a few days in it before we were re-assigned. Even then we had to be super careful.” Walker stated from the opposite side of the situation table. “It’s a pilot’s nightmare if they don’t know what to look out for and it can affect a ship’s systems if they’re not careful.”

Looking at his first officer with a smirk across his face, Burton kept his arms crossed against his chest. “Knowing the pilot and chief engineer from Discovery, I’m sure together they knew what they were doing. As I said, Captain Müller is known for taking risks.”

Everyone worked out what the captain was implying at. His own brother and Stanton’s husband were excellent in their roles and with the type of man Müller was, Burton was riding on some sort of sense of hope that they were alive and well. 

“Well this isn’t the first time that Starfleet ships have been in the Barrens. How did the Armstrong survive?” asked Lieutenant Cortez as she looked to Walker for answers. She had remained almost quiet until now since their meeting had started.

“We recalibrated our sensors to ensure we were aware of any anomalies that the subspace node created.” Walker answered.

“Wait a second,” Yu placed her hands up to stop everyone. “What’s the Barrens first?”

Smiling at his MACO’s unit commander question, Burton answered for her. “It’s an area constituting a subspace node, where no stars exist within one hundred light years.”

“A subspace node is a “bubble” of curved spacetime, resulting in an area of space that becomes devoid of any stars or other stellar bodies.” Habiba added.

“So it’s completely dark?” Yu questioned. 

“Effectively, yes.” Burton said. “Cooper, were there any other changes you made to the ship?”

Crossing his arms across his chest, the tall scientist thought for a moment. “I’m sure we powered down non-essential systems to avoid attracting any residual energy discharges and reconfigured the main deflector too.”

Stanton nodded in agreement, “That makes sense.” The engineer looked to the captain, “I expect Captain Charan must have read what happened to Enterprise when they were last in the Barrens.”

“What happened sir?” Hennessey asked from the other side of the table.

“The Barrens is where they took Doctor Emory Erikson to originally test his theories on a new transporter, in fact it was a pretence for him to rescue his son who had gotten trapped within the node.” Stanton explained. “His son kept on rematerializing on the ship and causing damage to their infrastructure until they were able to properly rescue him.” Looking at Walker, the engineer asked another question. “Did Armstrong encounter any such anomalies?”

“Nothing similar to what Enterprise encountered, we were met by a few gravitational anomalies however we only surveyed the outer circumference before we were recalled by the Command Council to join the task force at Deneva. We barely scratched the surface.” Walker reported. 

Looking over the sensor logs one more time, Burton placed his hands behind his back as he issued out his orders. “Okay, I want this ship ready to enter the Barrens by the time we arrive. Commander Stanton, oversee the modifications and Lieutenant Cortez, place the ship on tactical alert.”

“Sir, one more idea, if you don’t mind?” Walker offered.

“Go ahead Cooper.”

Pressing a few buttons on the situation table he brought up a schematic of some sort of network. “Before Armstrong left the Barrens, I had worked on a plan on how we could survey it for what Starfleet Science wanted us to do. I had modified a number of our probes to act as a massive sensor network, with the ship being the main hub for it. I noticed in your cargo bay you’ve recovered a number of those probes. With a few modifications, I believe some of yours could be refitted to do the same. We could use the network to assist in finding Discovery. If Captain Müller is someone who likes to take risks, he may not make it easy for the Romulans to find him, which may make it hard for us too.”

Reviewing the idea briefly, Burton was impressed with Walker’s plan. He looked to Habiba and Hennessey, “Martha, Ned – work with the commander to get this done. The rest of you let’s get the ship ready for The Barrens.”

“I’ve got to admit Commander Walker, this is an ingenious design of linking the subspace radio and sensor array together.” 

Stood reviewing the main console in the sensor array monitoring bay on G deck, Hennessey looked over to the science officer from the Armstrong who just smiled in response to show his gratitude. Praising the science officer on his modifications would significantly help them find where Discovery was hiding.  The two men were working alongside Habiba in making the changes to the ship’s sensors. The room they were in was one of the smallest rooms, it was designed for only one technician to inhabit when required. It oversaw the operations of the large circular sensor array that sat on the ventral side of the ship. Now all three officers were working quickly to get a plan ready by the time they arrived in the Barrens.

 “Do you think we’ll find them?” asked Habiba from where she worked. The acting chief science officer was sitting on the floor making changes to the cabling into the main sensor array.

Still inputting in the new coding, Walker nodded. “In theory it should work, I can’t take all the credit for the changes.”

 “He certainly can’t.” spoke a new voice, who had just entered the small room. 

Turning to look at who it was in the doorway, neither Hennessey nor Habiba recognised the woman. She was almost the same height as Habiba, had short blonde hair, styled in a pixie cut. Her dark blue coloured eyes almost matched her Starfleet jumpsuit. With the rank of lieutenant and wearing an engineer’s red, the woman appeared to be in her late twenties. Her thick northern American accent was apparent too. Walker appeared to know her and walked over. “Colleen!” He said as he gave her a brief hug. “I didn’t know you were out of sickbay?”

After letting go of her superior officer, the friendly woman nodded to confirm the news. “Doctor Ben-Ami allowed me to leave, as long as I promised to perform light duties!” She explained. “I heard from Tanisha you’re attempting to duplicate our Watchtower Protocol?”

Both Habiba and Hennessey looked at each other, neither knew who this woman was or what she was going on. Hennessey cleared his throat to grab Walker’s attention. 

It worked as the science officer turned around to introduce the woman. “My apologies, this is Colleen Malone, Armstrong’s second engineer.” He said and then pointed to the two other officers. “Colleen this is Martha Habiba, acting chief science officer and Ned Hennessey, chief communications officer.”

Shaking both their hands, Malone smiled at them both. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Intrigued by what Malone meant earlier, Hennessey pressed for answers. “So this modification isn’t the good commander’s little baby then?” 

Smiling between the two men, Malone answered. “It was his, in all fairness, but both Tanisha and I worked on it with him.” 

Nodding in agreement, “I can’t take all of the credit.” He explained. “In fact most of the coding is Colleen’s work and I believe Tanisha used a Vulcan code too.” Turning to her, “So are you able to help us with it all?”

“Absolutely,” Malone responded as she made her way over to look at the main console in the room. “Looks like you’ve got most of it almost there.”

Hennessey smiled in thanks. “I have to say lieutenant, I’ve never seen a programme written before that allows the sensor array and communication systems to work so well together before.”

“Thank you Mister Hennessey.” She replied as began to type away at quite fast speeds. “I enjoy a challenge, be it technical or mathematical or anything to be honest.”

“She’s one of the finest engineers I’ve worked with.” Walker said as he returned to his work.

“Then we’ll need to keep her as I know Commander Stanton likes miracle workers.” Hennessey remarked. 

Snorting slightly, “I don’t think they’ll be room here for me. I can’t see how another engineer would be taken on board an NX-class.”

“We are fully crewed,” Habiba remarked. “but there’s still room. I can’t see why the captain can’t keep you all here.” She looked at Walker, “It would save him trying to find a new chief science officer and,” she looked back to Malone, “I’m sure with Commander Stanton taking on his new responsibilities as first officer that Lieutenant Masuko would appreciate another pair of hands in engineering.”

Walker looked over to Habiba, “Martha, don’t you want the science officer spot?”

Shaking her head, she answered honestly. “No, I’m not experienced enough. You should apply for it, sir.”

Walker looked to Malone who just shrugged her shoulders at the notion of them staying. She wasn’t bothered about it right then. 

“Let’s get this protocol sorted.” Walker instructed and went back to his work. 

Sickbay was slowly going back to normal, so when she arrived back after the staff meeting Ben-Ami was pleased to see that her deputy was finally sitting down at the workstation working and not having to treat so many people. However Lieutenant Stewart was not alone. He appeared to be talking to a tallish woman who wore the uniform of a science officer from the Armstrong. She had the rank of a lieutenant junior grade and appeared to be in her late twenties, maybe her early thirties. It was definitely someone that she had not treated.

 Hearing the doors open, Challenger senior nurse (with his guest) looked up. Stewart smiled instantly, “Welcome back ma’am. How was the meeting?”

“Productive thank you Niall. We think we have a solid starting point to begin our search for Discovery.” Ben-Ami remarked before looking between Stewart and the other woman.

Realising he had not introduced her, Stewart snapped out and gestured with his hand towards the beautiful woman to his side. “Ro-fa Ben-Ami, please meet Doctor Hillary Payne. She was the Armstrong’s second medical officer.”

Smiling at a fellow physician, Ben-Ami extended her hand towards Payne. “A pleasure to meet you Doctor Payne.”

“Likewise Ro-fa,” Payne said, greeting the senior doctor. “Ro-fa? That’s Hebrew for doctor, correct?”

Smiling at the younger woman’s impressive knowledge of Ben-Ami’s heritage, the Challenger’s chief medical officer confirmed Payne’s remarks. “Yes it is. I was born and raised in Israel; I prefer to use that vernacular than the standard title of doctor.”

“Oh I love it.” Payne said, “Did you study in Israel?”

“I studied medicine at the University of Tel Aviv before heading to Oxford University to study for a doctorate in psychology.” Ben-Ami answered.

“I told you she was amazing!” Stewart said proudly of his boss. “Along with that she’s with the Interspecies Medical Exchange, she’s talented!”

“The IME? I considered joining them before joining Starfleet.” Payne said. 

Amused at the woman’s energy and eagerness as a professional, Ben-Ami felt like Payne was genuine. “Well if you ever change your mind, I am sure I can put in a good word for you to be involved in some of their work.”

Surprised at that comment, Payne grinned. “Oh wow! Thank you so much Doc-” She paused as she corrected herself, “Ro-fa. That is so kind. I really came in just to see how the others who were recovering are doing. I am sorry for interrupting your work. I know how annoying that can be.” Payne looked back at her crewmates who were all lying asleep on the beds behind them. 

“I’ll call you when they wake up.” Stewart offered.

“That’s very kind, thank you Niall.” Payne said and looked back to the chief medical officer. “Ro-fa, you have one hell of a nurse here.”

“Oh, I know. He will make an excellent doctor one day!” Ben-Ami said. She had said it to him before, she only hoped that one day that Stewart would go on to get his doctorate. 

“Nurses do make the best doctors,” Payne agreed as she made her way towards the door. “It’s so nice to visit a well-equipped sickbay. I’ll see you both later.”

Watching her leave the room, Ben-Ami turned back after the doors closed and looked at Stewart. He had an expression across his face that she could only describe as a child who really wanted a certain toy. “What is it Niall?”

Considering his words for a second, the nurse took a breath and then answered. “I know it would lower my standing in sickbay, but I think we should ask Captain Burton if we could keep Doctor Payne with us.”

Intrigued at what he was thinking, Ben-Ami started to put away a nearby crate of medical supplies that needed to be stored away in the nearby lockers. “In what capacity?” She asked. 

“Second Medical Officer.” Stewart said as he followed her round and assisted with the supplies. “I know officially I’m meant to be the deputy here in sickbay, but I think with what has happened so far this with this mission and what happened with us with the Deltans that another doctor wouldn’t be such a bad idea. You wouldn’t be so overwhelmed when we are dealing with mass triage and it means we could do a lot more with her. I never understood why a Daedalus-class ship has a second medical officer but we don’t.”

“It’s down to the fact they have more crewmembers than we do.” Ben-Ami said. “However, I do think you make a good point. How would you feel if we expanded our team and you lost position as second in command in here?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Stewart was honest in his response. “It wouldn’t bother me ma’am.”

Ben-Ami considered the idea for a second. “Okay, I will go review her record and then speak to the captain about it. Even if she’s with us temporarily, it will make a difference.”

“Agreed.” Stewart said, feeling victorious with his point.

Ben-Ami paused and turned to look back at him, “I’ll do this, but I want you to seriously consider undertaking your doctorate.”

Rolling his eyes a bit, Stewart shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not sure ma’am. There’s a lot going on and with the war effort. I’m not sure I’ll have the time to do it.”

“You have your degree Niall and if Doctor Payne joins us then I can use the time to train you. In fact Doctor Payne could assist too with mentoring you.” She remarked. “I could use my contacts at the IME to have her appointed as a long-distance professor and have your training done by them remotely.”

Tempted by the offer, Stewart took a sigh. “Okay, let me talk it over with Liam and I will let you know.”

“By the end of the week.” Ben-Ami said sternly but still teasing him. “Or I will ask the captain to transfer you back to Starfleet Medical.”

“You wouldn’t dare!” Stewart said in a mocking tone.

“Don’t push me!” Ben-Ami threw back as she walked over to the workstation to see what she could do with Payne joining the crew. Nevertheless she was satisfied that she won another round of winding up her senior nurse. 

While he waited for them to arrive in the Barrens, Lieutenant Conrad had put some time aside to quickly review what the database had about this region of space. He wanted to know what to expect when he flew the ship in. He found the work a welcome distraction from thinking about the Raven for once. There was nothing really important that stood out for him that he didn’t already know about this unusual region of space. So when the navigational sensors told him they were approaching their destination, the pilot spoke up. “Captain, we are approaching the edge of the Barrens.” He said.

Burton, who was sitting in his chair, looked up from the tablet he was reading with the plans that his crew and their new guests had put into place. “Drop us to impulse then Jack.” He indicated. 

Acknowledging his orders with a simple nod, Conrad did as he was told and slowed the ship from light speed to sub-light speed. The impulse engines took over from the warp drive, pushing the ship across the threshold into the subspace node. The ship started to shudder slightly.

“Report?” Burton asked.

Glimpsing over at his sensors, Conrad answered the captain. “As expected, some gravitational turbulence sir.”

Armstrong went through the same thing when we first entered.” Lieutenant Commander Walker announced from where he was standing at the science station. He was just behind where Lieutenant Habiba sat. 

“Are we ready to execute the sensor network?” Burton asked everyone who was involved in the work. 

“All systems are green from here sir.” Stanton announced from the engineering console. “I’ve shut down non-essential systems and the deflector is reconfigured to the specifications we got from the Armstrong’s black box.”

“The communications array and subspace radio are ready.” Hennessey said next. 

“Probes are ready to be launched sir.” Habiba reported from the science station. 

Walker made his way over to the situation room; they had decided earlier to use the aft compartment of the bridge to coordinate their efforts with the sensor network. Talking to an engineer from the Armstrong that he had introduced to both Burton and Stanton earlier, the tall science officer said they were ready from their end. 

“Well then,” Burton said, turning to his armoury officer, “Launch the probes Rachele.”

The armoury officer nodded as she pressed the trigger that launched the multiple probes from the forward torpedo launchers as well as the aft ones. 

A number of them all fired out from Challenger, each probe had its own destination and would keep a close proximity to the ship. 

“Cooper, activate the network when you can.” Burton commanded as he watched the probes move away at higher speeds from them. 

Working alongside Malone at the controls, he pressed several buttons and Walker spoke up again. “Watchtower Protocol is active and we are getting clear signals back from the probes.”

“The entire network is responding to our commands sir.” Hennessey added. 

Turning his chair to his science officer, Burton looked at the young woman. “Martha, over to you. Begin your scans for Discovery.”

Gulping slightly, Habiba turned around in her chair to look down her scope as telemetry came in. “Nothing yet,” She said.

This job was going to take some time. The bridge just fell silent as the ship moved further forward into the Barrens. 

It was interesting to see the game room quite full that evening. It may have had something to do with the fact that Chef Lawson had set up two tournaments, one for pool and the other for darts. Most of the crew that were off duty were enjoying the evening’s entertainment. The captain had insisted that they carry on with such things to support crew morale. As a result the chef, who was also the ship’s morale officer, had organised for that week for everyone (who wanted to be involved) a tournament each night. Tonight’s activities were well underway. 

Sat in the corner on a round table, having a drink of whiskey was Major Yu alongside Lieutenant Hennessey. The two senior staff were out of their uniforms and wearing civilian clothing. Hennessey was in a simple black top with grey jeans on while Yu wore patterned sepia and grey shirt dress that had a black and gold belt hanging from her waist. As the games continued on in the background, the two shipmates were talking privately when they were interrupted with the arrival of the ship’s chief medical officer. 

“Kefira,” Yu said after noticing the doctor’s appearance. “We missed you at dinner!”

Smiling at her friends, Ben-Ami appreciated the sentiment. “I do apologise, I wanted to show Doctor Payne around this place.” She indicated to the woman who stood next to her. “Ned, Viktoria, this is Hillary Payne. Our new second medical officer.”

Ned stood up to shake the other doctor’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you.”

Copying the communication officer’s action, Yu did the same. “Welcome on board.” 

Payne, who was obviously the youngest among them all, thanked the two of them after Hennessey got a chair for her and Ben-Ami to sit down and join them. 

Yu looked to Ben-Ami as the doctor sat down, “So has the captain made it official that the survivors from the Armstrong are joining us?”

“It looks like he plans to do so.” Ben-Ami answered as she straightened out her dark ruby red blouse she wore. She had tied her hair up into a bun and wore black leggings too. “Apparently his new rank gives him authority like a commodore to approve transfers in a critical situation.”

“Well that’s one way of describing the war.” Hennessey remarked before he looked at Payne. “It’s good to have you all with us though doctor.”

“Thank you lieutenant, but please call me Hillary.” Payne said smiling. 

“Then it’s Ned from me.” He said, copying her smile.

“And Viktoria,” Yu added. “You will become very comfortable here on Challenger. The crew has been through a lot in a short amount of time, but there’s always room for more to join the family.”

“That’s lovely to hear.” Payne said, still grinning. “Umm, Ned, you may meet one of my colleagues and a good friend of mine from the Armstrong soon.”

“Oh who?” Hennessey inquired as he took a swig from his glass. 

“Ensign Tanisha Avery, she was our second communication officer.” Payne answered. “Commander Walker said that you had lost your deputy to a promotion among the officer-exchange program with the coalition?”

Chuckling a bit, Hennessey responded to her. Erik Larsen, his former right-hand man, was a gifted individual, so he had been surprised when he had heard that the Scandinavian man had joined a non-Starfleet ship. “Yeah, Erik couldn’t pass up the opportunity to serve on a Vulcan ship under the command of our former chief armoury officer. So what’s this Ensign Avery like?”

“Very good actually, especially in a crisis.” Payne said. “She’s resting still in her quarters, but I’ll get her to meet with you soon.”

“Are there many still recovering?” Yu asked Ben-Ami.

Shaking her head, the doctor spoke up. “No, thanks to the efforts of Hillary and the others we were able to discharge the last of the Armstrong survivors to their quarters a few hours ago. Most of them will be returning to duty tomorrow morning, some need another day of rest.”

“So does anybody know yet if the captain has made Walker the new chief science officer yet?” Hennessey wondered.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Ben-Ami said after one of the stewards had brought her a drink of arak and Payne a glass of sauvignon blanc. The older doctor took a sip from the drink and smiled. “that said I’ve not been on the bridge since the staff meeting.”

“I think I had heard that the captain was going to ask him once we’ve found the Discovery.” Yu said, “I think he wants to give Habiba a bit more time in the spot to give her some experience.”

“I take it we’ve not found any trace or clue to where the Discovery may be?” Payne asked the other three senior staff.

“Nothing,” Hennessey answered. “Though if Captain Müller is creative in hiding as we were told this morning, then I don’t think this will be a quick thing.”

“Let’s just hope we’re not stuck here anymore than we need to. I do not like seeing no stars out there!” Ben-Ami remarked as she indicated towards the void that they could see from the large curved rectangular windows.

“I don’t like it.” Mumbled Jenkins through a mouthful of food.

Pushing his dinner around on his plate with his fork, Stewart wasn’t completely paying attention to his husband. He was exhausted from the amount of work he had to do recently since they saved the crew of the Armstrong

Realising he was being ignored, Jenkins swallowed what he had put in his mouth and reached for his serviette and dabbed his mouth. “Damn, that Ensign Reddick from the Armstrong is pretty fine. I may see if he’s single and have my wicked way with him.”

Stewart just nodded and again not listening, said “Sounds like a plan Liam.”

Taking a gulp from his water, Jenkins couldn’t believe how his other half was not paying any attention to him. “Well once I’ve finished with him, I may start on Raftery as he is closer in age to me. He looks quite flexible too.”

“Sure.” Jenkins just said as he pushed more of his food around the plate and then yawned. 

“Niall,” Jenkins said, placing his glass of water down on the table and nudging his husband slightly. “Did you hear any of what I just said?”

Snapping out of his slumber, Stewart shook his head and looked to his beloved. “Sorry, what Liam?”

Chuckling at the response he got, Jenkins rolled his eyes. “You’ve not heard anything I’ve said, have you?”

Stretching his neck, Stewart admitted to his lack of attention. “No, sorry Liam. What was your saying?”

“Besides my plans to dominate the latest additions to the crew?” Jenkins rhetorically asked, he then went back to his original remark. “I said I don’t like it.” He indicated towards the large rounded rectangular windows that looked out from the crew lounge, the MACO enlisted soldier explained his statement further. “Not being able to see any stars is just weird. It’s eerie.”

“Yeah, yeah it is.” Stewart said uninterested and took a mouthful of his food. 

Realising just how tired his husband was, Jenkins just smiled at him. 

“Excuse me sir, do you mind if I take this seat?” spoke an unfamiliar voice.

Looking up both Stewart and Jenkins were met with a friendly face of a young armoury officer holding a tray with the same dinner they both had, chicken and pesto pasta. Jenkins smiled straight away as he recognised the broad-shouldered man. “Ensign Reddick, I was just talking about you to my husband.”

“Oh, good things I hope?” He asked back.

Stewart glared at Jenkins and back to the young ensign before him. “Please join us,” He said after realising just how busy it was in the crew lounge. “Adrian, isn’t it?” He asked black haired man. 

As he took his seat, Reddick nodded in acknowledgement. “Yes sir, but my friends call me Adi.”

“Well welcome to Challenger Adi.” Stewart said as he became more focussed on their guest compared to how he was a moment ago.

“Thank you sir.” Reddick said as he began to tuck into his meal. “This is good,” He said in between bites. “You’ve got a great chef!”

“Chef Lawson has saved us too many times from being forced to eat Starfleet ration bags.” Jenkins remarked as he finished what was on his plate. “Her chocolate cheesecake is to die for too!”

“Oh great!” Reddick said as he reached for his glass of iced tea. “The chef on the Armstrong cooked the same thing each week. Rarely did the menu change.”

 “Well Montana won’t disappoint you in what she plans, every day there’s a selection.” Jenkins said, “Anyway ensign, how are you adjusting to your new life here on Challenger?”

Looking around at the crowd, as if he was about to share a secret, the young armoury officer spoke up. “I love it! Don’t get me wrong, the Armstrong was a fine ship and I had my own quarters, but Challenger has a lot of cooler gear that is new to play with! I feel like a kid in a toy store!”

Realising that his husband had met Reddick beforehand, Stewart wanted to find out from where. “When did you two meet?” He asked.

“Earlier on today,” Jenkins answered. “Adi wasn’t injured and he helped me with some of the Armstrong crew while you and the good Ro-fa were busy with the critically injured.”

“I took the advanced first aid course at Starfleet Training Command, never thought I would ever actually put any of it into practice.” Reddick added. 

“Oh, okay.” Stewart said, wondering if he should worry about his husband racing off with the armoury officer. He couldn’t deny that he was handsome, in a rugged way. “So tell us a bit more about yourself Adi, where do you call home?”

“East London.” He answered, “My folks were originally from Lagos but moved to London before I was born. I hear a bit of an Irish twang in your voice sir, am I right?”

“You are, I’m originally from County Kilkenny but, like you, my folks moved to Britain when I was six. I lost some of my accent in my teenage years, but it comes back here and now.” Stewart said with pride. 

“And it’s goddamn sexy when it does.” Jenkins said as he finished his last piece of pasta and chicken. 

Reddick coughed at that remark, a bit surprised at hearing such a thing between a Starfleet officer and MACO soldier. 

Smirking at the ensign’s reaction, Jenkins smiled further. “Don’t worry Adi, we’re married.” He raised his left hand up as well as Stewart’s too to show their identical silver rings.

“Oh, wow.” The armoury officer said after wiping his mouth with his grey napkin. “Congratulations. How long have you been married?”

“Ten days.” Stewart replied. 

“That’s amazing!” Reddick said. “Where was your honeymoon?”

“This is our honeymoon.” Jenkins teased in reply.

“No it’s not.” Stewart corrected him with, “when we return back to Earth we’re planning to visit the South of France for a week.”

“Sounds romantic.” Reddick remarked. “If you two don’t mind, I overheard that Challenger needs a new second armoury officer?”

Nodding to confirm, Jenkins spoke up. “I believe so, Lieutenant Cortez held that post before her promotion. Why are you thinking of applying?” 

“Yeah I am,” Reddick said. “I held the same post on Armstrong. I don’t want to leave this amazing ship.”

“We don’t blame you, so if we can help just tell us.” Stewart said and yawned again. 

Rolling his eyes again, Jenkins took hold of his husband’s hand. “We’ll definitely help, but I think I need to get our senior nurse to bed before he infects the rest of the crew with his exhaustion! Adi, it was nice to meet you. Let us introduce you to Lieutenant Cortez tomorrow at breakfast.”

“That would be great, and I appreciate your time tonight.” He said, shaking both men’s hands.

“Any time and sorry I can’t stay up any longer.” Stewart said after shaking his hand and yawning again. “You’ll love your time here.”

“Again, thank you sir.” Reddick said towards Stewart and then shook Jenkins’ hand. 

“I like him.” Jenkins said as he put his arm around his husband’s back as they left the crew lounge.

Stewart looked down at Jenkins to see if he was being playful. “Behave now Mister Jenkins-Stewart, you’re a married man.”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t look!” He countered back with as they left the crew lounge which was followed by a heavy elbow nudge by Stewart.

Considering that they had been scanning for almost the entire day, Lieutenant Habiba was surprised she hadn’t nodded off. Her eyes were feeling heavy. Nevertheless she persisted. She was trying her hardest to show to Burton that his trust and faith in her was correctly placed. Knowing that she may not remain acting chief science officer for long, especially with the arrival of Lieutenant Commander Walker who had years of experience being a department head, she still wanted to prove a point. 

It was now getting late and most of the night shift had arrived. The Gamma Watch Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rosa Sandoval, had made her way over to Habiba to see how the science officer was doing. “Burning the midnight oils are we Martha?” The American Mexican officer enquired with a genuine and warm smile.

Realising she was perhaps pushing herself too much, Habiba looked up to her superior officer. “Perhaps I should call it a night ma’am.”

Sandoval continued to smile in response. She was a little bit taller than Habiba, had broad shoulders and her black hair was cut very short. “Get yourself down to the mess hall for something to eat and then get some sleep. I’m sure the captain would appreciate it if you were fully awake when you returned for the alpha shift.” Sandoval added. “Don’t worry, I’ll take over for you until Kastrovich arrives.”

Agreeing to give in and to make her way down to her quarters for some well-deserved rest, Habiba began logging out of her station. “When Nikolai gets here, tell him I’ve had to re-modulate the link between us and the probes more than once today to keep the sensor resolution above ninety-five percent efficiency.” 

“I will, now Martha please go home. Go rest.” The older woman said with encouragement. 

Standing up slowly, Habiba stretched slightly. She liked Sandoval; she had joined Challenger from Earth recently. After teaching at Starfleet Training Command for almost three years, she was a former colleague of Commander Stanton. She had taught astronavigation as well as subspace geometry. Habiba had encountered Sandoval in her first year when she taught ethics. The woman held several degrees in a range of subjects and had served on one ship before she had taught at STC. Habiba had heard that after Stanton had made first officer, he insisted that Fleet Captain Burton bring in someone to oversee the gamma shift, especially as they had lost Commander Levesque and Sub-Commander T’Plau recently. Pulling in a few favours along with twisting Sandoval’s arm to leave her teaching career, her transfer had taken place within seventy-two hours. 

Before Habiba could reach the lift door though, the science station beeped. Turning around to look at what it meant, she rushed back over and looked down at the scope. Sandoval, who was sitting in the science station seat, was tapping away at the console. 

“Martha, is this what I think it is?” The lieutenant commander asked. 

A grin appeared over the science officer’s face as she looked into the scope further. “Yes it is ma’am. We’ve found the Discovery!”

Sighing with relief, Sandoval matched Habiba’s smile. “Good news.” She got up from the chair and made her way around the bridge. “Ensign Gonçalves, lay in a course for the Discovery at once.”

The young blonde Portuguese man nodded in response and began making the adjustments to move the ship. “Course laid in ma’am.”

“Ahead warp three.” Sandoval ordered. She then looked at the science officer. “Ensign, we won’t be with them for another couple of hours. Go home, get some shut eye and I will call you up when we arrive. In the meantime, I best go find the captain.”

Surrendering to her sleep deprivation, Habiba agreed to Sandoval’s suggestion and left the bridge. 

Mission accomplished, Sandoval thought to herself.