Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: Whatever The Cost May Be

Whatever The Cost May Be – TWO

Starfleet Command HQs, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth, Sol System
Tuesday, December 8th, 2155
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Heading towards the office of the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief always brought back memories of being sent to the headteacher’s office for Burton. Though he was not troublesome during his youth, the odd occasions he was sent to see them were enough to make him rethink the stupid decision he had made as a child. The security around headquarters had been beefed up quite a bit, especially in and around Fleet Admiral Hathaway’s office. The last time he had been here, earlier on in the year, there hadn’t been any guards posted. Now armed security officers stood by entrances.

“I didn’t realise we were entering a military installation?” Ben-Ami remarked back when they were in the foyer area and were being checked for identification and confirmed they were meant to be there. 

Her words had resonated with Burton in their journey in one of the lifts that took them up to the admiral’s office. While the others had spoken among themselves, Burton had remained at the back of the lift, glaring out of the floor-to-ceiling window. Rodham, Walker, Ben-Ami, and Sandoval were all guessing what the head of Starfleet wanted with them all.

Noticing his captain appearing distant from them, Rodham called for him. “Captain, you okay?”

Burton looked over his shoulder as Rodham approached him while the others carried on chatting among themselves. He nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine, thanks, Alex,” The captain replied. “Just wondering if I made the right call on Krios.”

Wincing at that thought, Rodham didn’t know how to answer it honestly, so it would bring comfort to Burton. “It was a tough call, sir; the Klingons didn’t give us much choice. A second front with another powerful state is not something Earth or the commonwealth could survive.” 

“So we get to survive while the Kriosians have to live under Klingon oppressive rule?” Burton countered back before shaking his head. “Sorry, Alex. I’m not cross with you or anyone else.”

“Just the outcome?” Rodham guessed.

Burton nodded. “Yeah, I suppose I was hoping for something else.”

“Having the Klingons and Kriosians on our side would have changed a lot for us,” Burton said. “And I’m certain that’s why we are all being hauled up to the admiral’s office.”

“She can’t blame us for not trying, sir,” Rodham stated. “You did fight a Klingon general in ritual combat. The Klingon High Council just had other ideas.”

The lift finally stopped, and Burton looked to his first officer. “If only it would be seen in such simple ways.” He then pushed through his team to lead them out and into the office belonging to Fleet Admiral Moira Hathaway.

Sitting in her office, Hathaway had offered her visitors drinks before she started to speak to them all from behind her desk. Rear Admiral Erik Nwakanma was with her, the head of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers. Surprised to see the director, Burton was now confused about why they were all called in.

“I”m sure you are all a bit surprised as to why you are here today, so I will get straight to the point,” Hathaway said after sipping her tea cup. Though old in appearance, the commander-in-chief remained vigorous in her energy. “With Challenger’s recent engagements with the enemy on multiple fronts, we want to bring her refit in ahead of schedule.”

“What refit?” Commander Walker asked, sounding confused by the admiral’s comment. “I thought she was one of the advanced ships in the fleet.”

“She is; we just want to make her better,”  Nwakanma said as he wiped his chin and stood up to head over to the wall monitor hanging to their right. He tapped something into the tablet in his hands and ended up mirroring the image he had on his device onto the big screen for them all to see. “Ladies and Gents, this is the Columbia-class. The next refit proposed for the NX-class.”

The screen showed multiple models of the NX-class design with an additional ventral hull, another deflector and more angled nacelle pylons. Specifications were listed while the diagrams blinked from one angle to another. The words CLASSIFIED appeared in red above the images. 

“Why is it named after the Columbia?” Ben-Ami asked aloud. 

“The refit started on the Columbia first; most of her design aspects were used in the construction of Challenger and her subsequent sister ships. The plan had been to install these major refits a few months ago on Columbia, but with the outbreak of the war, the project never got off the ground. Columbia is on its way home now for work to begin, and we want to get Challenger done simultaneously.” Nwakanma answered before returning to the armchair he had been sitting in before. 

Starring at the diagrams, Sandoval asked the follow-up question they all had on the end of their tongues. “How long will the refit take?” 

“Three to six months,” Hathaway stated. 

“Three to six months?” Burton echoed. “Can we avoid having both Columbia and Challenger out of action for that long?”

Hathaway nodded. “Our tactical analysis of recent engagements with the enemy makes us believe we may have a window of opportunity to regroup, repair and refit the fleet before taking on another offensive.”

“With all due respect, admiral, we’re not actually winning this war, are we?” Walker stated.

“But we’re not losing it either.” Hathaway remarked. “By the end of this month, the Endeavour will be launched, and a few weeks later, the Buran and the Phoenix.” 

“So you’re hoping that by them joining the ranks, we’d have covered the loss for the Columbia and Challenger?” Burton checked. 

“Indeed,” Hathaway answered. “We’re hoping for Enterprise to be next; her refit will take a bit longer as she’s not got the same configurations.”

“What will our crew do for three to six months? Will they be involved in the refit?” Burton asked; he looked at Hathaway, who then turned to Nwakanma. 

The director clasped his hands together, “Most of the work will need to be done by the engineers at the Oakland Shipyard; once it is nearing completion, your crew will be brought in to assist with the final phase and to undergo training on the new systems.”

“You didn’t answer my question, sir; what will our crew do then while they’re not on Challenger?” Burton questioned as he sat on the edge of his chair. 

Hathaway answered, “Use the time for training, take provisional positions elsewhere and await their recall orders to Challenger.”

“You’re splitting our crew up?” Walker checked. “Is there not a ship that needs a crew that we could use temporarily?”

Shaking her head, Hathaway replied to the chief science officer. “Unfortunately not, commander. I did consider one of the new ships from the Utopia Planitia Shipyards, but most of those are now crewed, and we’ve not got the time or resources to waste on training your crew on a new ship.”

“Because by the time we’re done with that, it will be time for us to return to Challenger?” Ben-Ami guessed.

“Indeed,” Nwakanma confirmed. “That said, I’d like Lieutenant Masuko and her engineering team to join us a month after the project has started. She knows the ship well, so it makes sense for her to be there to provide assistance where it is needed.”

Burton looked at Fleet Admiral Hathaway, “When will the refit take place?”

“We’re in the process of moving a few assets around to make room, but we want to move Challenger in about three weeks. Until then, I’m giving you that time to finish off anything on the ship that needs to be done and briefing your crew on what will happen. Their new temporary assignments will be sent to them by the end of this week,” Hathaway replied. “In the meantime, you all will begin your training on simulators on the new systems ahead of everyone else. We can’t have the command crew not know how to operate the latest additions to Challenger. Starfleet Operations will coordinate everything with you in the coming days. I suggest you use the next few days to unwind and rest before this begins.” 

Feeling the admiral was being a bit curt with them, Burton looked at his officers before looking back at her. “Understood, ma’am,” He said with a singular nod. 

“Dismissed.” She ordered.

After leaving her office and returning to the lift down to the foyer, Walker said the same thing they were all thinking. “Was it me, or did it just feel like we were told off without being told off?”

 Burton agreed with another nod. “Maybe our time in the spotlight has come to an end.”

“What do you mean, captain?” Ben-Ami quizzed.

Sandoval instead answered for him. “Bringing Challenger’s refit up earlier than planned means the brass can keep us quiet for a few weeks while the fall out from what happened at Krios blows over with the politicians.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth, Rosa,” Burton confirmed. 

“Seems unfair,” Rodham stated, annoyed at the prospect of undergoing a refit to avoid any more bad press. 

“If that’s the case, it would have been nice if the admiral had just told us off there and then,” Walker stated as he crossed his arms against his chest. 

No one said anything before they reached the ground floor. As the doors opened, Burton eventually spoke up. “It is what it is.” He said before leading the group out of headquarters with a heavy sigh. 

Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, Earth

Lying on the beach of Hout Bay, almost sleeping, Sakura Masuko enjoyed the warm weather and gentle breeze that caressed her skin. Wearing a bikini and sarong wrap, she was enjoying her break from all things Starfleet. However, this vacation was more than just a holiday. It was the honeymoon she had been promised almost a year ago by her husband. Opening her eyes slowly, she peered over the top of her sunglasses to see her husband, Lieutenant Adam Smith, stepping out of the water. Adam was tall, muscular and had long blonde hair that he usually kept tied back when on duty. He looked like the type to stare at his reflection before getting in the shower. Sakura admitted she found him physically attractive when they first met at Starfleet Training Command many years ago. After getting to know him for several months, she fell madly in love. It took an accident during a training mission, where they declared their feelings for one another. Four years later and before assignment to Challenger, they got married, and since that day, she still loved the fact he would always check himself out in the mirror. 

Flicking his hair back with both hands, allowing the water to drip off every inch of his muscular frame, he strolled over to her while pouting. Shaking her head at his nonsense, which she knew he was doing on purpose to get the attention of others around him, Sakura chuckled at how stupid he was acting. “Lieutenant Adam Smith, would you please stop making a scene just for the sake of making a scene!” She told him. 

As he approached her, he started to flex his muscles, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Lieutenant Sakura Masuko.”

Laughing further at his stupidity and lousy sense of humour, one of the many other aspects she loved about him, Masuko shook her head. “You are so full of yourself; sometimes, it’s hard to believe we’re married!”

“They do so opposites attract,” He remarked as he picked up a towel lying across his sunbed and started to dry himself off. “The water is amazing; you should go in.”

“Later,” She replied before getting comfortable one more time as she enjoyed the sunshine. “It’s just nice not to have to think about engineering.”

“That’s the twelfth time you’ve said that since we arrived in Cape Town,” He gently teased.

“And it’s true and worth saying a billion times!” She stated. “You gotta admit that it’s nice to be away from the Lexington as much as I’m enjoying being away from Challenger.”

Lying back on his sunbed, putting his sunglasses on and then placing his left arm behind his head, he eventually nodded as he rested. “I suppose you’re right.” He then stretched out his right hand towards her. “And being here with you on our honeymoon is the best thing I’ve done all year.”

Taking his hand into hers, Masuko smiled. “That I can totally agree.”

“I wish we could spend every day here. It’s perfect.” He added as he closed his eyes. 

“Wel,l nothing is stopping us from resigning and settling down,” Masuko replied after a few seconds. 

Slightly turning his head towards her, Smith peered over his sunglasses now, “Are you being serious?”

Looking at him, she shrugged his shoulders, “Maybe after the war is over,” She replied. 

“If we win it,” He added without much enthusiasm.

“We’ll win it,”  She replied with more affirmation than him. Sighing, she realised they were talking about work again, “we did it again!”

He nodded in agreement, “We did; I suppose there’s no way either of us is resigning.”

“Who knows what the future holds.” 

Leaning over towards her, he spoke softly to her. “Let’s just focus on the present.”

“Agreed.” She nodded before inclining closer and kissing him.   

As they kissed, their hands started to hold one another closer until they were interrupted by one of the hotel stewards calling for Masuko. “I’m sorry to disturb you, ma’am, but you have an urgent call from San Francisco. A Fleet Captain Burton wishes to speak with you.”

As he broke away from his wife, moaning quietly, Smith knew this wouldn’t be good news from Masuko’s superior. 

“I’ll be back, I promise.” She said as she got up.

“You better be; otherwise, I’m heading back into that water again!” He replied as he watched her walk back to the hotel reception.

She fired him a cheeky smile before looking back in the direction she was walking towards. 

Hannover, Germany, Earth

After getting out of the taxi, Luis Trommler thanked the driver before pulling up his satchel’s strap to place it over his shoulder. Looking over to his companion, he extended his hand towards Tanisha Avery, who smiled straight away. Taking his hand into hers, they started on the walk towards the large townhouse before them. 

“Are you sure your folks are going to let me stay?” Avery asked, sounding a bit concerned as she wrapped her free arm closer around her. The chilly air had hit her the moment they left the taxi, and she was happy she was wearing a hat. Like most European cities, Hannover was enjoying the winter months, and the cold air was brisk. 

Rolling his eyes, the MACO leader nodded, “Absolutely, I’ve already spoken to my dads, and they’ve said they’re happy for you to join us. They live in a five-storey home with plenty of guest rooms.”

“So we’re not staying in the same room?” She teased him. 

Stuttering, Trommler quickly amended his response. “That’s not what I meant-I meant to say that there’s plenty of room-I, I mean, yes. Yes, we are.”

She chuckled as they approached the front door, which had two guards outside of it. “Why do your dads have armed police officers outside their home?”

Wincing slightly, he forgot to tell Avery one thing. “Did I not tell you that my dad is Doctor Kurt Trommler?”

“As in Secretary of State for Health, Doctor Kurt Trommler?” Avery checked, sounding a bit surprised.

“Ja, the one and only,” Trommler confirmed. 

“Why didn’t you tell me your dad serves in the government in such a high-profile position?” Avery said as she started to make sure she looked presentable by smoothing out her outfit. 

“It’s not as if we’re the first family, Tanisha. My dad is only the health minister for the Commonwealth.” Trommler replied as they approached the guards, and both recognised him. 

“He’s like eighth or ninth in line to the presidency; that’s a big deal!” She complained in a whisper before they were let into the home. 

Mouthing an apology to her, Trommler admitted he should have told her before they walked over the threshold, holding hands. The couple was taken through the hallway, and straight away, they were met by a range of Christmas decorations situated not just on the outside but on the inside too. Inside it was a lot warmer too. 

“Luis!” An older tone was heard from the other end of the hallway as soon as they were shown in. 

Walking down the corridor, wearing smart casual clothing, which included a dark maroon jumper, was Trommler’s father. Hugging his father straight away, Trommler was pleased to see his dad. 

“Dad, this is Tanisha,” He introduced his guest before turning to Avery, “Tanisha, this is my dad-”

He didn’t get a chance to say anything as Avery extended her ungloved hand at the man, “Secretary Trommler, it’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

Smiling at her, Kurt shook his head. “Please, Tanisha, while you are here in my home, please call me Kurt. I’m not the Health Secretary in these four walls; rank and position get dropped when you come through that door.” He indicated towards the doorway they had just come through. 

“Then it’s nice to meet you…Kurt.” She said reservedly and shook his hand.

Turning to his son, Kurt’s smile got bigger. “You’re right, Luis; she is beautiful.”

“Dad!” Luis said, showing his annoyance at his dad for saying such a thing in front of her. 

Tanisha blushed. 

“Hey, if I can’t embarrass my son when he brings home a gorgeous woman, then when can I?” Kurt asked openly; he turned to Tanisha. “We are so pleased to meet you, Tanisha; welcome to our home. I’m sorry, but Andreas, my husband, is still at work and will join us later this evening after his lectures have finished.”

  “That’s fine; I appreciate you having me.” She answered.

As they moved from the entrance hallway into the main living room, Luis took their bags and coats and left them by the bottom of the long winding staircase. 

“Is Pops okay?” Luis asked as he and Tanisha sat down on one of the long sofas.

Sitting in an armchair opposite them, Luis nodded. “You know your father, enjoys the academic life too much.” He looked to Tanisha, “Just a warning now, Tanisha, but Andreas will probe you about your linguistic expertise.”

“Oh, I look forward to it,” She replied sweetly.

“You won’t be saying that after dinner,” Luis warned her jokingly.

Kurt laughed slightly at his son, “Ignore him; his father was only annoyed that both of his sons didn’t follow him into some academic field; instead, they went on to other fields.”

“Fynn took the football field while I took the battlefield!” Luis joked. “Talking of Fynn, his last letter to me said he would be around when I visit.”

“Indeed,” Kurt said with a sigh. “Your father and I know about him joining the MACOs too.”

Luis appeared to deflate at hearing that news. Fynn had asked him to keep it quiet from them until he had fully decided what he wanted to do with his life. “When did you find out?”

“Same way, you did,” Kurt answered, “Several new security updates have been placed on those on the cabinet, and when the check on my immediate family was carried out, they informed me of Fynn being a MACO reserve.” 

 Feeling awkward about it all, Luis started to apologise but was stopped by his father. 

“You’ve got nothing to say sorry for,” Kurt said, “He’s old enough to make his own decisions, that includes the ones around his marriage too.”

Scratching the back of his head, Luis felt uncomfortable talking about it in front of Tanisha. Noticing his reaction, Tanisha placed a reassuring hand on his arm before taking his hand into hers. 

Kurt, peeking up on Luis and his response, smirked. “Let’s just say I think things are okay between him and Ollie. They’re in town for the day, and Ollie is spending the evening here before returning to the Poseidon.”

“That’s good to hear.” Luis said, sounding more confident now. 

“Yes, it is; now I know you both might not be around for Christmas, so your father and I were hoping that you and Fynn wouldn’t mind indulging a couple of old men in enjoying having their boys home along with their lovely partners. We’d like to take you all out for dinner tonight if that’s okay?” Kurt offered.

Looking at Tanisha, Luis smiled before turning back to his dad. “That sounds good. Does Fynn not have another match, though?”

“Match?” Tanisha asked before she remembered what Luis’ brother did. “As in a soccer match?”

Standing up, Kurt shook his head. “Soccer, football, it’s all the same thing, but Fynn is finishing off his footballing career at the end of the month. His final game is in England.” Stretching his back a bit, the older man smiled. “Now, I’ve been a bad host. Let me get you both some drinks. Tea? Coffee?”

After giving him their requests, Luis and Tanisha laid back further on the sofa. 

“Your dad is adorable,” Tanisha said. 

Smirking at her, Luis responded. “Now you know where I get it from!”