Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: The Tholian Stratagem

EIGHT

Challenger NX-03, en route to Rator System
Saturday, November 15th, 2155
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Though the damage to the joint Starfleet-Andorian task force had immobilised them it had not left considerable damage. As a result the fleet was back up and running within twenty-four hours and were back on the road towards Rator. 

Lying on his bunk bed, with his right leg elevated and wearing a pair of jogging grey shorts and a black vest, Private Raftery was reading quietly to himself when his peace was disturbed by the arrival of his MACO detachment commander. 

“Harvey, how are you?” Trommler asked as he walked across the MACO barrack. The room was one of the largest on the ship that was purely inhabited by the MACO detachment as most of the MACOs rested and lived here. Only a few others lived elsewhere on the ship. Trommler had his own quarters, as detachment commander while the deputy and assistant detachment commanders shared quarters. The only other person to have their own quarters was Corporal Jenkins, who shared with his husband. The MACO barrack looked like one of the ship’s cargo bays, but the various bunk beds were set up so that everyone had some form of privacy with their bunk ‘mate’. Major Yu had set up the barracks so that in the middle of the room was a sort of common area where there were several sofas and armchairs for people to relax together. Captain Trommler had not changed the layout since he had assumed command of the detachment. That said, it was rare for people to spend most time in the barracks. It was pretty much a place for them to sleep, rest, get a shower and change. 

Looking at his superior, Raftery tried to get up but stopped when Trommler gestured for him not to bother. “Feeling a lot better, thank you, sir.”

“I’m pleased to hear that.” The MACO leader said. “I am so sorry again for what happened Harvey.”

“Sir, please stop apologising. It was a training accident, I’m alive and I will be back to duty in no time.” Raftery said with a smile. “In the meantime, I’ll just sit here and protect the barracks.”

Smirking at his good spirit and humour, Trommler was pleased to see the young MACO soldier was okay and on the mend. “Just make sure you rest and if you need anything that you ask for it.”

“I’ve got everything I need, sir.” Raftery replied as he pointed to everything that was around him. Several books laid either side of his legs, a set of headphones connected to a tablet and what looked like broken wrappers for chocolate bars. Trommler could see that Raftery was indeed okay. 

Rubbing his shoulder and smiling, Trommler told Raftery to take care before he got up from where he was sitting on the edge of the private’s bed and made his way across the barracks towards the exit. 

Entering the corridor, the MACO leader unzipped his uniform jacket and made his way towards his office. Throwing the jacket over his shoulder, he was surprised to find Ensign Avery stood outside his office. “Ensign, can I help you?” He asked the beautiful woman. Her long silky straight black hair made her dark brown eyes look like they could pierce anyone’s heart instantly. Without realising it, he started to smile at her. 

Avery pushed her stray lock of hair behind her shoulder and smiled back at the MACO leader. “Captain Trommler, I was just coming down to see you and to upload the new anti-virus protection software into your computer controls.” She waved a small chip in her hand.

“I didn’t realise they needed to be updated.” Trommler said as he stood only a few centimeters away from her. He couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful she was. “Couldn’t Lieutenant Masuko send down one of her own engineers to do the work? Sure the captain has you busy doing other tasks while you’re acting up for Lieutenant Hennessey”

Smirking at his question, Avery appeared to blush. “ I’m helping out where I can. These updates are needed since the repairs to the ship are almost complete.”

“Then please enter.” Trommler said after unlocking his door and gesturing for her to enter.

“Thank you.” She said as the door slid open and she went in. The automatic detection system for the lights picked up her entering and illuminated the small office. Briskly she made her way over to the computer terminal and activated it then installed the chip. “This shouldn’t take too long.”

“Sure, take your time.” Trommler remarked, trying to appear calm and cool as he attempted to lean up against the doorway but failed miserably as he missed it and landed with a thud on the deck plating.

“Oh my god, captain, are you okay?” Avery asked as she turned swiftly and made her way back to him to help him up.

“Ja, I’m fine.” His German accent coming through from his annoyance and embarrassment. Pushing himself up, Trommler just smiled. “Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.”

She appeared to almost giggle at his stupidity as she helped him to his feet by grabbing him by his hand. “I heard your call sign was Streak.” After letting go she headed back into his office to complete her work. “Is there a story behind that?”

“I’m quite quick on my feet.” He replied, still embarrassed at what had just taken place.

Suppressing her smirk, Avery began the upload and turned to look at him. “I hope that’s quick on the battlefield and not within the ship? I would hate for you to injure yourself elsewhere.”

“Yeah.” He replied as he scratched the back of his hair and gave up with his routine of trying to appear cool and charming. “How are you settling into life on Challenger?”

Looking back at her work, she answered him as she multi-tasked. “I love it. Serving on a NX-class was always on my bucket list when I joined the service.”

“What else is on your list?” Trommler wondered as he took a seat in the only armchair in the room.

“Visiting several planets, Vulcan is one of them, but also learning how to fire a phase pistol on target. My reflexes aren’t that great, they were good enough to get me to pass the tests but I suck at firing a weapon.”

“Well maybe, I can help with that?” Trommler said, his charm returning to the forefront of his approach. “I’ll be happy to give you private lessons?”

“Seriously?” Avery said, looking at him. 

“Absolutely.” Trommler assured her with a boyish smile. 

“Sounds like a date.” Avery remarked as she finished off. “There, all done.” She pulled the chip out. “And thanks for the offer for the private session.”

“Anytime, just give me a call.” Trommler said as he watched her approach the exit of his office.

“I may just take you up on that offer.” Avery said before flashing him a wide smile and leaving his office. 

As the door closed behind her, Trommler couldn’t believe he had just flirted with the acting communications officer while also making a fool of himself in front of her. He really did need to work on his approach. 


“Your call sounded urgent?” Fleet Captain Burton said the moment he entered main engineering with his first officer behind him as they approached their chief engineer.

Climbing down from the central warp core controls, Lieutenant Masuko confirmed that her request to see the captain and commander was needed. “We’ve been running the last of the diagnosis since repairing the ship and we’ve found something hidden within our systems that was not there before.” She explained and indicated for them to follow her over to what was deemed the command pit. From here the chief engineer could work on a variety of jobs, one of them controlling the primary command systems if needed. On one of the monitors, she brought up a computer programme and indicated it to her guests. “It’s a new program that appears to give someone the chance to upload anything to our database. Thankfully our new anti-telepresence systems picked it up. The countermeasures picked it up the moment we rebooted them.”

“Who put it there?” asked Commander Rodham. 

“The Tholians.” Masuko answered. “The script used has Tholian characters within it, based on what our linguistic database tells me.”

“So, what are we saying here? That they had plans to upload a virus to our systems in the future?” Burton questioned.   

Wincing slightly as she crossed her arms and leant against her desk, Masuko shook her head. “I’ve seen a lot of harmful computer programs before captain, this one doesn’t appear to be that. I just genuinely think they wanted a way to share content with us.”

“But why?” Burton queried. 

Shrugging her shoulders, Masuko couldn’t give the answers the captain wanted as she replied. “I don’t know, but speaking to my counterparts on other ships they all found the same application in their systems. Just sitting there in a dormant state.”

“Can we remove it?” Rodham posed. 

“We can, but the deletion of it will take up a lot of computer usage. Something we can’t afford to do if we’re about to go into battle.” The engineer shared. “In the meantime, I’ve created an update to our systems. I’ve shared the specs with the rest of the fleet and I’ve got Tanisha and several others going around and ensuring that every computer terminal has been updated with the new anti-Tholian virus program. We should be able to contain it.”

 Not pleased to hear that, Burton nodded and thanked his chief engineer before leaving her company. Entering the nearest lift with his first officer, Burton looked at Rodham. “Do we slow down and deal with this ‘upload’?”

 “If we do and the Romulans catch up, then I’d hate to be sitting still with our pants around our ankles, sir. If Sakura thinks we can contain it, then I say let’s wait until after the battle and we deal with it then.” Rodham answered.

Burton crossed his arms against chest as he ordered for the lift to take them to the bridge. He wasn’t keen with the idea but he didn’t have anything else that was better to suggest right now. They were only a few hours away from Rator and they had to complete their mission.


Middle of the month of T’ke’Tas, Year of ShiKahr 8764
ShiKahr, Vulcan

Hennessey had expected the Vulcan Central Library to resemble some of their ancient monasteries, filled with dust, old relics and plenty of books. Instead he was surprised by how modern it was. The building itself followed traditional Vulcan architecture on the outside, but within it was where the surprise came. It was almost domed shaped where various sections were split up into different areas that all led into the middle of the circle. The shelves of books were high however everything appeared to have been maintained and kept tidy. No cobwebs or dust in sight. Among the bookshelves were various study areas, these were built within the ground and appeared almost like small bubbles. Solpak had explained that the study areas were designed for a small group to use without disturbing other users of the library. Not that there was much noise in the library. It was deadly quiet, nonetheless the study bubbles did their job. They reminded him of spherical shaped glass greenhouses that were used on Earth to grow various plants. Instead of nurturing organic matter, the Vulcans nurtured their knowledge instead. T’Plau had added that the bubbles were a common sight in Vulcan schools. They appeared somewhat isolating, but Hennessey couldn’t complain. 

Within one of the many bubbles, T’Plau had explained that Hennessey couldn’t be left to randomly wander around the library and asked that he remain within the bubble to avoid any complications with the librarians or other users. Setting up shop in the languages area, Hennessey was eager to get to work on understanding the Rhian language. Several hours into their investigation, he discovered something that peaked his interest.

“I know this has no relevance to our work, however I have discovered something of interest.” Hennessey shared with the other two. He was pleased that the bubble they were in was sound proof as he was certain that his statement there would have annoyed one of the Vulcans nearby. 

T’Plau, who was sitting at her own work area, turned around in her chair and looked at her human companion. Solpak did a similar gesture, leaving it down to his sister to respond to Hennessey. “If it carries no relevance to our work; I do not see why it is important to share, lieutenant.” She remarked with a raised eyebrow. 

Not sure if there was a sense of irritation coming from the commander, Hennessey ignored it. “It does not relate to complying with the Rhian language matrix, but from what I have read so far there appears to be a distinct pattern of when the Rhian language was no longer used on Vulcan.”

“I would not be amazed if it was during the period when Surak’s teachings became popular among those who had survived the various conflicts that inflected our world.” T’Plau stated and turned herself back to her work desk. 

“Well, I’m no Vulcan historian but I keep finding references to an era called The Sundering.” Hennessey stated, a bit annoyed that T’Plau had dismissed his remarks by turning her back to him.

Solpak’s eyebrows rose in curiosity when Hennessey mentioned that particular era. “Fascinating.” He said. 

“Is that a significant period in Vulcan history?” The human linguist asked Solpak. 

Nodding twice,  Solpak explained what happened. “This particular piece of history was, as T’Plau stated, shortly after the Vulcan people began to follow the ways of Surak. But as the word means a separation, a split or a breakaway this is exactly what happened to a good number of our people.”

“Another civil war?” Hennessey guessed.

“Not quite.” Solpak corrected. “A large proportion of our people who rejected Surak’s teachings left Vulcan to distant parts of the galaxy. I believe it was over eighty-thousand people that had registered to depart, but historical records from that period of time have been lost over the ages and many historians believe it was a much larger number.”

Surprised to hear such an account about their Vulcan allies, Hennessey sat there quietly for a bit. “It must have been quite a traumatic period of time for Vulcan society. The Vulcan people were undergoing a radical change to prevent the destruction of your civilisation and at the same time a good proportion left the homeworld.”

“Indeed.” Solpak agreed. 

Their conversation was interrupted by T’Plau. “I believe I have completed the matrix and from what I can determine, there are a number of similarities between the Romulan language and Rhian.”

“How could that be?” Solpak questioned as he got up and walked over to where his sister was sitting. 

“That is very unusual among spacefaring civilisations.” Hennessey remarked, he copied Solpak’s move and joined T’Plau. Within a few seconds he could see she was right. “Without knowing your history in more detail, I can only assume that those that left during the Sundering have influenced the language used by others, including the Romulans.”

“An interesting hypothesis, without concrete evidence to prove it we cannot be sure for certain how so many similarities have come about.” Solpak stated.

“In the interest of national security as well as diplomatic ties with others in the coalition, I suggest we keep the assumptions to a bare minimum to prevent any unnecessary tension for Vulcan and its neighbours.” T’Plau stated. 

“You want to cover this information up?” Hennessey questioned. 

Looking up at the human, T’Plau raised her left eyebrow. “Lieutenant, if it becomes public knowledge that there may be some sort of historic connection between my people and the Romulans, it may fracture the relations between Vulcan and its allies.”

“And after that recent attack on me on your ship, I can see your logic in keeping this between us.” Hennessey agreed.

“Indeed.” Solpak remarked. “It would be a further disaster for the Coalition. One I do not believe it could survive.”

“Unfortunately, I think you’re right.” Hennessey said glumly. “If the Andorians found out, I am certain they would walk away from the alliance, the Tellarites would argue with your diplomats for years to come and I am sure President Littlejohn would reconsider Earth’s position with Vulcan. It would open a can of worms that none of us could step back from.”

“Can of worms?” Solpak questioned.

T’Plau informed her brother of the idiom’s meaning and the three went on they would keep this information to them and only use it to decrypt the Romulan database that Discovery had got its hands on recently. 

Eventually T’Plau and Hennessey left Vulcan to return to her vessel. It was important they rendezvoused with Challenger to share the news they would be able to decrypt the rest of the Romulan database.


21st Period, 69th Cycle, 21559th Rotation  

Cobel, Tholian Flagship

Admiral Jaimsekn was extremely pleased with what he was witnessing from the command deck of the Cobel. His force had caught the Romulans completely off guard. Their defence force, a small group consisting of eight ships, were now burning debris that were stuck in orbit of the planet the Romulans named Rator. 

The Tholian armada of seventeen ships, most of which were carriers for their smaller one pilot attack fighters, were now engaging the orbital stations the Romulans had built. Their beachhead would be easily destroyed but their shipyards were protected by a large powerful shielding system. 

*Admiral we have determined where the Romulans are emitting their shielding system* clicked Commander Lenrist from the secondary tactical station behind him.

Spinning on his axis, the Tholian leader faced his adjutant. *Where?* he questioned.

*On the fourth planet from their star.* Lenrist stated.

*Coordinate an orbital bombardment at once.* Jaimesekn ordered. 

Adjusting their attack patterns, the Tholian force began to move away from their current targets and instead began firing all of their weapons against Rator IV. The fourth planet appeared almost like Earth from above. Lush green forests, plenty of clear blue oceans surrounding various landmasses. As soon as the Tholians’ weapons began their blitz, these beautiful areas were being devastated. 

An alarm went off on Lenrist’s station. Looking at the readings, the adjutant spoke up. His tone almost sounding like high pitched screeches *Admiral, a Romulan task force has just entered the system. Twenty-one vessels in total.*

*Excellent!* The admiral clicked, sounding excited at the prospect of engaging such a huge force. *Inform all vessels to engage at will. In the meantime we will continue to remove that shielding.*

The Tholian fleet stopped its planetary assault as it twisted around to engage in the incoming Romulan fleet. Within seconds they opened fire on the Romulan forces, the smaller Tholian fighters smacking a hard punch against the dark emerald green ships. Tholian cruisers began to fire with their power draining weapons. Romulan ships were beginning to fail, while others continued to press on with the fight to defend their territory. One bird of prey rammed a Tholian cruiser while others were firing as many shots from their plasma cannons towards the Tholian lines. Eventually the Tholians began releasing their other devastating weapon, their tractor web technology. Capturing the Romulan ships within their nets meant they could easily destroy them. 

The battle of Rator continued to rage on.