“So here we were about to go on our first mission off the ship and this young MACO came up to me and ended up sticking a phase pistol to my side.” Stewart said in between mouthfuls of eating what tasted like a poppadom but looked more like a green and purple lettuce leaf. Picking up his glass of wine, something he had experienced from the night before, he sipped slowly on the golden liquid. “And that’s basically how we met.”
“So since day one, you’ve already been trying to protect him?” Kaitaama remarked looking at Jenkins as she dabbed the side of her lips after finishing what she had just eaten.
The MACO just nodded with a smirk as he finished off what was in his mouth before speaking. “It’s been a whirlwind of a romance but it’s been worth every moment.” Jenkins smirked as he looked at his husband to his side and took hold of his hand before kissing the back of it then let it go.
Kaitaama and Kalluum both smiled at one another at the display of affection occurring between their guests. “And I thought we had the quickest engagement in the history of the galaxy.” Kaitaama said as she picked up her own glass. “After I was made First Monarch, I knew I wanted to get married but finding the right person seemed almost impossible.”
Kalluum scoffed at that comment. “We met when she was touring this vessel after its launching ceremony and appointment as our new flagship. I was originally placed as first mate and during the ball, she asked me to dance. Something that upset my superior, but as my father is an admiral in the fleet as well as holding various other prestigious titles, they looked the other way.”
“Almost was a royal scandal, but he was a smooth dancer and turned out to be a smoother talker as well.” Kaitaama added. “Several months later with correspondents back and forth between us, we eventually found time to have our first dinner together, then it took off from there. I just knew then I found my new consort.”
“Can we ask who asked who to marry?” Stewart asked as he placed his wine glass down.
The whole evening was quite informal, so the conversations that were now shared were in a similar tone after the awkwardness from the two human guests had calmed down. The four of them were enjoying a quiet, almost intimate meal in the private dining hall assigned to the First Monarch while she was on board. It was almost as big as the mess hall on Challenger and had a singular rectangular table in the centre. Huge bay windows took up one side of the triangular shaped room. Showing that the ship was at warp heading towards Klingon territory. It was surrounded by its escorts as well as the lone Starfleet ship beside it.
Chuckling at the memory of their engagement, both Kriosians looked at one another and then back to their guests to answer. “I was planning to ask her while we took a stroll along the Kaderian river bank but just as we were about to leave the royal palace, she called me into the throne room and asked before I had a chance to work out what was happening.” Kalluum explained. “She had the entire room filled with flower petals and an elaborate dinner planned. I couldn’t say no when my queen asked.” He looked at her with an affectionate smile. “I serve at the pleasure of the First Monarch.” The prince said, returning his attention back to their guests.
Stewart was about to say something when there was a chime and the Kamala’s internal communication system went off. “Command deck to First Prince Kalluum. I’m sorry to disturb you, Her Majesty and your esteemed guests, but sir long range sensors have picked up a Klingon battlecruiser on an intercept course. Their defence systems are online and weapons are charging.”
Alarmed to hear they had encountered the Klingons so early, all four of them looked at one another. Kaitaama then looked at her guests. “Let’s hope your captain knows what he is doing.”
Stewart and Jenkins both shared a worried glance with one another. They shared her sentiments and had faith that Burton may prevail.
Thursday, November 19th, 2155
“Remain at tactical alert.” Burton commanded from where he stood on the bridge of his ship. The viewscreen showing the incoming Klingon vessel. “Alex, take us out of warp and Tanisha tell the Kamala to stay close to us but to let us take the lead in this opening exchange.”
Avery and Rodham both acknowledged their captain with their orders and went ahead with their work. Challenger dropped out of warp and came to a gradual halt. The Kamala did the same with its escorts doing the same. The Kriosian ships fell behind Challenger, allowing for the Earth ship to literally be sat between them and the incoming Klingons. The ship was literally the middle ground between the two warring nations now.
The Klingon battlecruiser then disengaged out of warp and approached its target. Expecting for the Klingons to open fire, Burton was surprised by how much patience they exhibited by holding fire.
“They’ve got a weapons lock on us and the Kamala.” Cortez announced from the armoury station.
“Understood. They’re probably trying to work out which of us is the weakest and easiest target to take out first.” Burton said as he considered his next move. He needed to start the process, so he nodded towards Avery to open a channel towards the Klingon vessel. “Klingon vessel, this is Fleet Captain Lloyd Burton of the Earth ship Challenger. I have tactical information about the Romulan Star Empire. I want to negotiate.”
The battlecruiser just remained there, like a looming shadow creeping up to overwhelm someone.
The Klingons did nothing.
Moving to his next phase, Burton again gave Avery a simple hand-wave to begin transmitting a small part of the information he wanted to share. “Klingon vessel. What you are receiving is a sample of the intelligence we possess. If you don’t disengage your forces in engaging with the Kriosians immediately, you will have handed your mighty empire to the Romulans and it will be destroyed. You have ten seconds to respond.” He paused, he knew he had to be strong in his tone but not too strong to anger them. After counting down to seven seconds, Burton spoke up again. “We know from first hand experience that the Romulans mean business and you’re in danger of being defeated without any of them firing a single shot against your honourable warriors. In fact your soldiers are dying before having the chance to sacrifice themselves for the glory of your Empire. This may prevent their souls from entering Sto’vo’kor. You can’t afford to risk losing this information.”
Hoping that the explicit use of certain terminologies that meant something to Klingon culture, especially those associated around their beliefs as warriors, Burton would get somewhere with the Klingons.
He could only hope.
The viewscreen changed to show a Klingon, but he was no Klingon that Burton recognised from the various reports he had read. Instead of the bumpy forehead ridges that were distinguished for the Klingons, the man before him wore the military garb given to a Klingon but he had an almost smooth forehead. He appeared more human, besides the bushy goatee beard and the thick eyebrows.
It then hit Burton what his counterpart was. He must have been a victim of the Klingon augment virus that Enterprise and Columbia dealt with last year. The whole incident had been classified by Starfleet Command.
“I am General Merik of the Vor’chem. State your demands.” He grumbled.
“An end to the fighting between your Empire and the Sovereign Dynasty of Krios Prime.” Burton said as he kept his posture. “We can prove that these attacks have been orchestrated by the Romulan Star Empire.”
“The Klingon Empire does not shed blood of its honourable warriors to then later on share peace with those we battle.” The Klingon spat out in a thick but low voice. “We are committed to our fight to the death with the Kriosians.”
“And I believe it was your greatest warrior, Kahless, who said that today is a good day to die.” Burton said in a firm tone. “Well today I am here to tell you that it is not today. Both of your people are being manipulated by the Romulans so that they can weaken you both. There is no honour in this battle. The Romulans are taking control of your vessels, reducing the life support to bare minimal and not giving your warriors the honour they deserve in fighting in glorious battle for the Empire. Thus by allowing this to happen, it looks like both sides are purposefully fighting one another. They are making fools of you both.”
“The Romulan Star Empire are not fools to take on the Klingon Empire. You dishonour us with your lies. I know what you Earth’ers are here to do. You want us to join you in your fight with the Romulans. Why should we shed blood for your cause?” Merik questioned in a leering tone.
“I won’t dishonour you General Merik in stating that Earth wouldn’t benefit from both of your people joining us in fighting the Romulans, because if I am honest we would. However I can also appreciate that our peoples are far different and I am not sure with everything that has happened between our people, especially in the last four to five years, that we could properly resolve our differences to unite in such a cause.” Burton paused as he stepped forward. “However, if there is one thing my people have proven to the Klingons is that we have no issue in helping others when they ask for it. It was a Starfleet ship that returned Klaang to your High Council to avoid a civil war among your great houses, it was a Starfleet ship that prevent fellow warriors from a dishonourable death when they rescued one of your Raptor-class scouts from falling into a gas giant, it was two Starfleet ships that stopped the spread of the modified Levodian flu that almost wiped out your people. I know there have been incidents of conflict between our people, but not once have we ever taken action that its sole purpose is to bring our two people to the brink of war. This I believe shows our true intentions.”
Merik considered Burton’s remarks. “These are all actions led by Jonathan Archer, a wanted man in our empire, it does not prove to me what your intentions are here Fleet Captain Lloyd Burton. How am I to know you are an honourable man? What is it that has placed the Kriosians to trust you to be an Arbiter of Resolution?”
Taking in a breath, Burton was somewhat pleased he had been able to keep the Klingon talking this far. “What do I need to do to prove myself to you general?”
Now smirking, Merik leaned forward to show his teeth. “If you are such an honourable man and your Kriosian pets wish to follow you then there’s only one course of action.” He paused before his grin got wider. “A battle between our ships!” He then punched something in front of him and his image switched off immediately.
Annoyed that his attempt may have just failed and that he just placed them into a fight to the death with a Klingon ship, Burton returned to his seat and landed in it with a thud as he ordered his first officer to take evasive action and suggest the Kriosians did the same.
“Sir, I don’t think trying to evade a fight with the Klingons is going to help our cause.” Rodham remarked as he quickly moved Challenger to rotate fully to port after engaging its impulse engines, just as the Klingon battlecruiser opened fire. Challenger shook from the outside pressure and then the Kamala was hit.
“You’re probably right Alex,” Burton said as he held onto the ends of the arms of his chair. “Let’s show them we mean business.” He turned to look at Cortez. “Rachele, all weapons fire at will but I want the Vor’chem disabled. Coordinate our attack with the Kamala’s tactical officer as well.”
Nodding in acknowledgement, Cortez began opening fire with Challenger’s phase pistols, scoring multiple hits against the neck of the cruiser while at the same time establishing a link with the Kamala who was now joining in with the fight. The Kriosian flagship opened fire with its pulse particle cannons, carving out against the same spot Challenger had just hit. Both ships now fly in tandem together, hitting the Klingon ship wherever it could land a score, while also focusing a bulk of their fire on the same spot on its neck.
“Bring us back around and prepare a full spread of high yield photonic torpedoes,” Burton ordered, his grip getting tight as the ship shuddered more under Klingon fire. “Target their sensor array.”
“Sir, hull plating is down to fifty-six percent.” Cortez announced before suggesting an alternative plan. “We should focus on their weapons.”
“No, sensors. Let’s blind them.” Burton was determined with his idea. “Their hull plating around their weapon ports is a lot stronger. If we can force them to go to manual targeting then we’ll have more chance of being able to stay in the fight longer and then taking out more of their systems.”
Cortez just nodded to her orders and as Rodham flew the ship back around, a salvo of torpedoes left the four forward tubes from the Challenger. Each fired two photonic torpedoes each in rapid concession. All eight hit the Vor’chem. Further support fire was received as the ship’s pulse phase cannons began to open fire while the Kamala performed a similar manoeuvre against the enemy vessel.
“Report?” Burton asked as they flew over the Vor’chem.
Walker spoke up. “Direct hit to the vessel sir, their sensors are offline.”
“Good shooting Rachele.” Burton congratulated his armoury officer. “Right, target their environmental controls and Tanisha tell the Kamala to start targeting their secondary power systems.”
It was Walker this time that questioned the captain’s plan. “Sir, we’re not going to win this if we take out those systems.”
“We will win, we just need to be clever with what we pick off. The Klingons perceive their weapons and engines as the most important critical systems on their vessels, so their armour is stronger around those systems. If we take out other systems they won’t expect then we’ll make life for them difficult to engage us with.” Burton explained.
“So what’s next after environmental controls, the gravity plating?” Rodham wondered aloud as he tried his best to avoid the random fire the Klingons were now sending out.
“Now you’re getting the hang of this.” Burton smirked. “All weapons, continuous fire!”
Challenger and Kamala laid down more fire against the Klingon battlecruiser, picking off secondary and backup systems with precision. Eruptions flared across the hull of the Vor’chem as they worked closely together. The battlecruiser then hit the Kamala by firing torpedoes in its path and detonating them.
“Captain, the Kamala has taken heavy damage. They need to fall back.” Walker announced. “Their hull plating is at twenty-one percent and their forward weapons array is offline. Hull damage on two of their decks. Main power is fluctuating.”
Nodding in confirmation of their condition, Burton told his crew to cover the retreating vessel while still ensuring they kept to his plan of attack.
“We’re being hailed.” reported Avery, her right index and middle fingers pushed against her ear piece. “General Merik is calling for a halt to the battle.”
“Their weapons are powering down.” Cortez added.
“Cease fire then.” Burton commanded. “Open a channel to the Vor’chem.”
The viewscreen changed to show the general back on his bridge, sitting with the same smirk he showed only a moment ago. “Well done captain,” He snarled, “you have proven yourself to be a worthy tactician but what are you like in a hand to hand combat situation?”
Burton stood up from his chair. Showing he was intrigued by the general’s question he answered him. “Are you challenging me to a fight, general?”
Chuckling, Merik just nodded.
“Then I accept, but hand to hand combat means exactly that. I know how much you Klingons like using your weapons. If we do this, then it’s purely to be done with our own fists, clear?”
“So there is a warrior inside you, captain. I accept your condition. I’ll meet you on the battlefield.” Merik challenged.
Looking down at the local star chart on the helm station, Burton noticed a nearby system that was not claimed by anyone that was called Haydorian. It had a Minshara class planet. “There’s a system not that far from here, called Haydorian. The fourth planet is where we shall do this.”
“Agreed. You have six hours to prepare yourself.” Merik stated before closing the channel.
The moment the Klingon leader was gone everyone fell silent on the bridge. Rodham looked to Walker, who looked back at the first officer with the same concern spread across his face.
“Commander Rodham, lay in a course for the Haydorian system. Warp four.” Burton ordered as he took himself back to his chair. “Tanisha, does the Kamala need any help?”
Rodham didn’t say anything at first and just waited for the new chief communications officer to finish answering Burton. Once she had shared that the Kamala was damaged but able to join them, the first officer spoke up.
“Sir, can I speak to you in the ready room please?” Rodham requested.
Burton sighed and just nodded. He suggested for Walker to join them as well while Cortez took command of the bridge in their absence.
He just knew what they were going to say to him. The looks they had were the same ones he had seen both Nicole and Michael give him in the past for a decision that was questionable.
When the ship had been hit hard by Klingon fire, Stewart had no idea what was about to happen. He heard his husband’s voice call out and tell him to move before Jenkins practically tackled him to the deck floor and protected him with his own body.
“You okay?” Jenkins asked as he placed both hands on Stewart’s face.
Coughing away to the side, Stewart then returned and nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. You okay?”
Jenkins smiled and nodded as kissed his husband quickly before getting off him. Any chance he had for a cheeky peck and Jenkins would take it. Both them were covered in dirt and dust from the explosion that had just rocked the room they were in. A few cuts had appeared and most likely bruises were to follow.
As both young men got to their feet they looked around the dining room they had been in and saw the scene around them. The whole place was no longer the same prestigious room it had been before, now bulkheads had fallen down and other debris was smashed across the room. First Prince Kalluum had been called to the command deck when the fight with the Klingons had started while their guests had opted to remain with the First Monarch.
“Where’s the First Monarch?” Stewart asked aloud. “Your Majesty?” He then called.
“Niall, over here!” Jenkins shouted as he saw her lying under some rubble, clutching to her side and struggling to breath. “Get a medkit.” He added as he went over to help her by pulling what was on her off.
Thankfully Prince Kalluum had demanded that Stewart bring over the medkit that he had used to save his life over to show his wife, so the nurse rushed over to where he had stored it early and was grateful it was still in one piece as he ran back over to his husband who was trying to help the Kriosian leader.
As Stewart got his scanner out and began to scan her, he could see she was still semi-conscious. “Your Majesty, you need to stay with us.” He said. “Liam, go call for help.”
“No wait.” She cried out as she took hold of Jenkin’s arm and held on to it. “I need you both to stay with me.”
“Ma’am respectfully, we’ve got to find someone who can treat you.” Stewart stated as he finished his scan and then noticed on the readings another lifeform in her. He then realised what it was. “Your majesty, please don’t take this the wrong way but did you know you’re with child?”
“With child?” Jenkins repeated, confused by the statement as he held onto her hand for comfort.
She just nodded before trying her best to breathe. “The child, my infant, must survive. He is the Heir.”
“I’ll do my best, but I can’t save the baby if I don’t treat you first.” Stewart remarked as he started to do his best in dealing with her injuries.
Kaitaama shook her head, “The child must survive.” She grabbed hold of Jenkin’s arm tightly and stared at him with a strong glare. Jenkins started to react as some sort of bright orange illumination came from her hand and appeared around his arm. “I am sorry Liam, but I need you to be bonded to my child.”
“Bonded?” Stewart repeated, trying to work out what she was doing.
“Some of us Kriosians are empathic, we can imprint the feelings of others onto others and we can do this with our children when they’re in the womb. Normally the father or another close relative to the mother can be picked. It provides another mental link between the child and someone besides the mother. For the child to survive, I need to do this…now.” Kaitaama said in a weakened state as she continued with the process.
Jenkins almost froze, as if he could move himself as the process took over him.
“Liam! Liam!” Stewart called after his husband. He didn’t answer him and Stewart’s medical scanner wasn’t showing him any readings during this process.
A second later and she finished and Jenkins fell backwards. Kaitaama took one more deep breath, “It’s done, save me and my child, lieutenant.” She begged Stewart.
Noticing that Jenkins got back up from whatever happened, Stewart used his triage training to deal with the patient that needed him the most and got to work in saving the First Monarch’s life, but still worried about what she had done to his husband, hoping it wasn’t long lasting.