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

Whatever The Cost May Be – FOUR

Napa, California, United States of America, Earth
Wednesday, December 9th, 2155
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“It doesn’t make sense,” Levesque said in between mouthfuls. She placed her fork down on her plate of pasta before reaching for the glass of water in front of her. “Well, as you said, I suppose it’s to keep you out of the limelight.”

Burton nodded as he finished a mouthful. Swallowing it in one fell swoop, he looked at her. “I spoke with Secretary Campbell earlier this morning,” 

Surprised to hear Burton speaking to Earth’s Foreign Secretary, Levesque was impressed he could get through to her. “What were you hoping she would do for you?”

Picking up his own glass of wine, Burton answered her. “I wanted to find out how much damage our mission at Krios had caused the diplomatic corps.” 


He sighed. “It was some as we predicted, but nothing too significant that will cause any issues with the Klingons in the long-term,” Burton sipped on the wine a few more times. Enjoying the white wine, a product of the vineyard that Nicole’s sister owned, he eventually put it back on the table. “The Krios officials we saved have set up a government-in-exile, but it’s doubtful they’ll be able to do much in liberating Krios from Klingon occupation. Secretary Campbell tells me that in return for the Commonwealth allowing the Kriosians to stay within our territory, they are not allowed to be involved in placing us or any coalition member in conflict with the Klingon Empire.”

“Ouch,” Levesque said, blinking a few times. “They can’t do anything while here?”

“The original agreement I established with the First Monarch must be honoured. They provide technical assistance in return for their society surviving within our territory. So, expect some Kriosians joining Starfleet Science as consultants and advisors.”

“I’ll look forward to it,” Levesque said before picking up more pasta with her fork, “is the pasta okay?”

“It’s delicious,” He said with another bite about to enter his mouth. “You cook it yourself?”

Levesque laughed, “No, Claudia did.”

“She runs one of the finest vineyards in North America during the day and at night still has time to cook; I am impressed!” Burton said with a chuckle.

“Don’t forget she’s a full-time mother and wife too!” Levesque added.

“A true hero!” Burton said with a smirk. 

From a distance, Claudia called out. “Thank you, Lloyd! Someone who truly appreciates me!”

Both Burton and Levesque burst out laughing more. They were presently sitting outside of Claudia’s home (where Nicole had been staying since her return to Earth), having lunch together meal with an impressive warm sun in the distance. As they were trying to take their relationship to another level, spending time together alone from their Starfleet duties had become complicated lately. Claudia had insisted that instead of them going off somewhere for dinner that Lloyd stayed with them, especially as her house was large enough. The day had been perfect so far, they had caught up, and the conversation flowed easily between them. Levesque was doing well during her pregnancy, and their triplets were doing well as she entered her third month of the pregnancy. Her bump was getting bigger. Her promotion to captain had come through, too, while Burton had been away, so they were celebrating that too. 

“Do you know exactly what you’ll do while the refit is done?” Levesque posed to him as she finished what was on her plate. 

He shrugged his shoulders at first before shaking his head. “No clue,” Burton answered. “I think it might either be assigned to Starfleet Tactical, or I heard they were eager to get some experienced field officers to help teach at Starfleet Training Command.” 

“I can see you as a good guest lecturer or tutor to some of those younger and eager cadets.” Levesque shared as she relaxed back into her chair. 

“Have you not heard that most of the cadets they have at the moment are not that young,” Burton shared. “Alex told me that he heard from his colleague that recruitment for Starfleet has exploded in the past few months. More and more people are coming forward to join the ranks to help with the war.”

“My counterpart in the UESPA advised me that a third of their staff have all transferred over to Starfleet,” Levesque shared. “Anyone with the experience and qualifications is fast-tracked to receive a field commission. Having someone who can share their own time out in deep space would certainly help them. I heard some of them are doing a one-year course before being set off on to starship assignments.” 

“I may consider it,” Burton stated, “I also heard that Starfleet has opened up to give commissions to anyone else in the coalition who wishes to join them.”

“Are you considering poaching T’Plau or Anthi to join our ranks?” Levesque wondered. 

“I can’t see Starfleet Command agreeing to give them field commissions to be captains,” Burton answered. “Anyway, having them close-by as allies is more useful.”

“To you or Starfleet?” Levesque asked. 

“Both,” Burton replied with a smile before they were approached by Mack, Nicole’s nephew and Claudia’s son. “Mack, how you doing, big man?”

The six-year-old boy smiled at Burton, “I’m doing good, thanks, Uncle Lloyd!”

Levesque nervously chuckled at her nephew, calling Burton that, “Mack, Lloyd isn’t your uncle!”

Mack showed a confused expression, “But mum said you two were together, and you’ve made three of my cousins who are in your tummy, Aunt Nicole, so why can’t Lloyd be my uncle?”

Levesque sighed and looked to Burton for help while apologising with a simple expression. 

Chuckling at the boy, Burton nodded before he pulled Mack in to sit on his lap. “I’m fine with you calling me that, as long as your aunt is?” 

Laughing a bit as Burton tickled his side, Mack looked up at his aunt. “Please, Aunt Nic, can Lloyd be my uncle?” He pleaded with her by exaggerating almost every word. 

Shaking her head at her sister’s handy work here, Levesque gave in to Mack’s request and nodded a few times. “Yeah, I’m fine with that!”

“Yay!” Mack called, “Now come inside as we’ve got ice cream! That’s an order!”

“Ice cream!” Burton replied, sounding excited. “That sounds amazing!” He ended up picking up Mack from his lap and putting the young boy on his shoulders before getting up and then holding out his hand to help Levesque from her chair. “Come on, Captain Levesque, we’ve got our orders.”

“Aye, Fleet Captain Burton! Ice cream it is!” She said, smiling. Seeing how good Burton was with her nephew made her fall more in love with him and know that he would make a great dad for their sons. 

Wissant, France, Earth, Sol System

It was late in the evening, and the gathering of a good number of the crew had started only a few hours ago. After putting out a vast spread of food, everyone was now enjoying the fine wine that Dubois’ mother had promised. It was going down exceptionally well. 

Cortez, Habiba, Malone and Payne were sitting outside and around a fire pit. The four women were all wrapped up warm due to the cold French air. Though it was winter, Dubois had placed outdoor heaters everywhere outside the chateaux for her guests to enjoy the outside and the inside. The four women were appreciating the third bottle of wine they had consumed after dinner. 

“This is truly something,” Malone mentioned as she sipped her glass. “I think we need to speak to Montana about getting several crates of this stuff sent to the ship before we head out again.”

“Amen, sister,” Habiba agreed as she raised her glass to Malone’s point before taking a swipe from her own glass. “Though knowing Montana, I’m assuming she’s already done that and is probably speaking to Ghislaine’s mother about her cooking tonight.”

The women all laughed as Lawson was the one who enjoyed sharing recipes and cooking techniques with anyone who shared her passion. It was one of the many things they appreciated about her, especially during their time on Ardana. She had impressed the entire crew with her creativity in using natural ingredients from the tropical island they had taken over to survive on. Her soups, broths and stews had become legendary; that said, her beach barbeques had become something of a story that everyone had shared when they had been rescued by Burton and their Andorian allies.

 Stepping out with another two bottles under their arms were First Lieutenant Alder and Second Lieutenant Javini. Giggling as they did, the two MACO women approached their group as they sat down on a nearby empty bench. 

“Here’s to the liberation of more fine French wine!” Alder said as she showed the group her prize. 

Cortez laughed out loud, “How did you get your hands on more?” She asked as she held her glass towards Alder to fill it up. 

After taking out the cork,  Alder poured it into the armoury’s officer’s glass. “Bridgette is a legend; we just walked into the kitchen to get some more snacks, and she told us to take these two out with us!”

Javini pulled out a plate of crisps and dips and placed it on one of the tables nearby. After taking a handful for herself, she spoke up. “Bridgette is a legend; I can see where the chief gets it from.”

Malone nodded in agreement. “That she is,” She said after leaning over to grab herself a few tortillas. “When Sakura said she was the finest quartermaster in the fleet, I thought she would be good, but she is on some other level of exemplary.”

“She’s amazing,” Payne said as she took a sip from her glass. “I sent Niall to get supplies from storage, and before he got back, she had already delivered it to sickbay. He spent an afternoon trying to work out what had happened to them; he believed he had mislaid them and was worried about coming back to tell Kefira and me he had lost them.” 

More laughter erupted from the women just as a few others walked across the courtyard they were all sitting in. 

“Speak of the devil,” Payne said, indicating toward the group of their crewmates. One of them was Stewart.

“You talking about me again, Hillary?” Stewart asked as he approached the group.

“Only good things, my lovely,” She answered with a sweet smile. 

Stewart rolled his eyes and made a sort of humph noise, showing he didn’t quite believe her. 

Holding his hand was his husband, Jenkins, who quickly came to his defence in a mocking tone. “Do you need me to protect your honour, Niall?”

Hearing the sarcasm and teasing in his tone, Stewart shook his head. “No, but don’t expect anything nice from me while we’re here!” He toyed back.

“Give it a rest, you two!” Habiba called out. 

 “Thank god, someone told them!” Reddick, who had been with the married couple. The ensign moved away from them and took a seat beside Cortez, who gestured for him to sit next to her on the outdoor sofa she was occupying. 

“Are they showing a bit too much PDA, Adrian?” Cortez asked her deputy. 

“A bit is being generous in the description,” Reddick stated.

Rafferty, who had also been with them, spoke up too. “A simple walk around the chateaux turned into a game of hide and seek in trying to find where these two had stopped off to-”

“Yeah, thanks, Harv, let’s keep that to ourselves!” Jenkins quickly interjected, his cheeks blushing a pink shade. 

A few more chuckles erupted from the group as the men joined the women around the fire pit. 

“This is nice,” Cortez said after a while. “It does bring back good memories of those late-night campfires that Major Yu would put up on Ardana.”

Before anyone else could comment, one of the side doors opened, and Harris walked out. The captain’s yeoman smiled at everyone, “Ah, so here is where you’ve all been hiding while I’ve been helping out with the washing up!”

 More giggles went around the group in response to Harris’ comment. 

“No one told you to do it!” Stewart stated. 

Harris picked up an empty glass and went to Alder to top him up; as he did, he answered back. “My mother taught me to always help out when I’m a guest in someone else’s home.”

“That’s very honourable of you, Jamie,” Alder commented after finishing pouring red wine into his glass. 

 “Thank you, Sheridan.” He said before drinking his glass and making his way over to sit next to Malone. “Does anyone know who else is meant to be joining us?”

“Sakura won’t be joining us while she’s on her honeymoon,” answered Malone. “She told me she was meant to have gone before Challenger was launched.”

“Yeah, things changed after Captain Karim’s shuttlecraft accident,” Cortez said solemnly. “What about Theo?”

“I got a message from him earlier today,” Stewart answered, “He’s planning to stay in California a bit longer at his parents’ house as his brother is home.”

“Anyone knows where Angela and Rupesh are?” Jenkins asked before stuffing a mouthful of cheese breadsticks into his mouth. 

Javini answered straight away, “They’re together in Scotland.”

“Scotland?” A number of them asked, surprised.

The assistant MACO commander raised her hands in defence, “Hey, that’s all I heard Rupesh mention about the other day in the locker room.”

“I thought Rupesh said he was heading home to see the boys with his parents?” Cortez questioned. 

Harris nodded, “Yeah, he said the same to me. Angela said she would spend a few days with her aunt before heading to see her fathers.”

“I knew it!” Stewart said with a smirk. “The two of them are hooking up!”

More laughter went around the group as they went on to discuss the potential new coupling up. As the discussion started to die out, Dubois walked out, hand in hand with her husband. The entire group quietened down as she approached them.

“What’s all the noise about?” She called out to them, “Something I’m missing?”

“I promise you, Ghislaine, it’s another one of Niall’s conspiracy relationship theories,” Malone promised the chief.  

“Oh dear,” Dubois said, rolling her eyes partly. “Anyway, I want to introduce you all to someone you’ve heard me speak a lot about,” she pointed to her husband, “Everyone, this is Antoine, Antoine, this is everyone!”

“Bonjour!” Antoine said as he raised and waved his free hand. He was a few inches higher than his wife, with golden short curly hair and a similar coloured stubbly beard. “Ghislaine has spoken to me a lot about you all; I feel like I know you more than I know the crew of the May.”

“The feeling is mutual, chief,” Harris said as he got up and fetched two more glasses for the other married couple now joining them, “The chief always shares with us an ‘Antoine’ story when she’s briefing the enlisted officers.”

Antoine looked down at Ghislaine, who smiled at him before Harris gave them both glasses of wine. “Jamie is making it sound like I’m always speaking about you and nothing else.” She said as they took a seat on a cushioned bench. “The truth is he likes to make something sound more dramatic than it really is.”

“I do not!” Harris said in defence.

“I think he doth protest too much!” Antoine said in his thick French accent.

Jenkins chuckled at that remark, “He certainly does that too!” 

Everyone laughed at that. 

It went silent for a moment among them. 

Stewart then leaned forward, his arm around Jenkins’ waist. “This is when we would hear Jack make a joke about Jamie’s dramatic antics, either by himself or with Luis.”

Mentioning their fallen comrade made everyone nod in agreement. The mood becoming a bit sombre at the missing people from their group.

Raising her glass, Cortez spoke up. “To missing friends,” She said before adding, “to family.”

Everyone joined in with the toast and took a sip from their glasses.

“Where is Captain Trommler?” Rafferty asked no one specifically. The young private had recently become a sort of protege under the MACO detachment command.

 Jenkins answered, “In a couple of days, he’s seeing his parents in Hannover with Tanisha.”

“Another one of these power couples I’ve heard so much about?” Antoine asked his wife. 

She nodded from where she rested against him. “Don’t worry, mon amour, none of them have what it takes to take us on as the original power couple in Starfleet Enlisted Affairs.”

“Très bien!” Antoine said as he sipped more wine, and the group continued with chuckles and sharing of good memories. 

Sitting inside around the long wooden table in the main kitchen, Rodham looked over his shoulder from the laughter he could hear outside. “Sounds like Antoine is becoming a fast star with our lot.”

“My son-in-law is certainly a star!” Bridgette agreed as she went around the table, topping up everyone’s drinks. As she finished Rodham’s, she said, “It’s been a long time since Ghislaine and he were together for an evening.”

On the opposite side of the table, sitting on the bench, was Ben-Amie, who was sipping on her drink. “Ghislaine mentioned to me he only returned to active duty after she took the posting on Challenger.”

 Bridgette nodded again, “He was injured while on a rescue mission, and it took a long time for him to recover.”

“Nothing too serious, I hope?” Sandoval asked, who was sitting beside Rodham. 

Bridgette nodded, “He was pretty much paralysed, but thanks to some Denobulan doctors and lots of rehabilitation, he was able to recuperate. Et voilà!” She took a deep breath, “Talking of recuperating, I’m not as young as I used to be. So I will bid you all a good night’s sleep and call in myself.”

“Thank you, Bridgette, for having us all,” Rodham called out as she started to make her way out of the kitchen.

Turning to him, she smiled. “mon plaisir!” She said as she touched her chest where her heart would be before leaving the group to themselves. 

“An incredible woman,” Lawson said as she walked across the kitchen and sat beside Ben-Ami. 

“Indeed,” the doctor agreed. “And if we ever need a new chef, at least we know she may be available!”

“Ouch Kefira, very ouch!” Lawson said with a mocked sense of hurt. 

Ben-Ami chuckled and assured their chef they wouldn’t want to replace her. 

“So anyone wants to bet on where Starfleet will send us next?” Sandoval asked as she picked up a bit of cheese their host had left for them to enjoy with their wine. 

 Rodham shook his head. “Your guess is as good as mine, Rosa.” 

“I suppose it depends on how long the refit will take,” Ben-Ami remarked. 

“You honestly think they’ll let us all come back together after the upgrade is complete?” Lawson checked as she picked up a piece of camembert and popped it into her mouth. 

“The admiral did promise us that,” Sandoval said. “Why would she go back on that?”

“The war could change it,” Ben-Ami stated. She sighed, “Let’s not think about it for now. Let’s just enjoy this time away from the frontlines for now.”

Rodham nodded in agreement, “You’re right, Kefira.”

“So, Alex, are you planning to see your folks at some point? I’m assuming your mother must be busy?” Sandoval asked before sipping on more wine.

Shaking his head, Rodham explained his reasons. “No, things get too hectic at The White House whenever I return. I’ve spoken to my mum and said I’ll try and be around for the new year.”

“God, are we that close to the end of the year, already?” Lawson asked, shocked at that fact.

“It’s scary to think it’s going to be almost a year since the ship was launched,” Ben-Ami stated.

“And what a year!” Lawson added.

“To the Challenger,” Rodham said as he rose his glass, “may her refit be swift so she may return to the frontlines again!”

“Here, here,” Sandoval agreed as she raised her glass with the other two women to clink their glasses with Rodham’s. 

“At least we get to take her into her port and get to unpack before they start work on her.” Lawson said after sipping her wine again. 

“That’s true,” Sandoval. “When was it again?”

“I think I read they were hoping we do a bit of patrolling of the Sol system first and then head in for the last time before New Year’s Eve.” Rodham answered. 

“Well, that’s one way of seeing the new year in!” Ben-Ami stated.

“I think I’ll call it a night,” Rodham said after a brief yawn. “Cooper said that he and the captain were planning to arrive tomorrow afternoon, so I’d like to get a bit more rest before we start talking about ship business.”

Standing up, Rodham said his goodnights to the three women before he left and made his way over to his own chalet that he had been given by Dubois to use. As he got into the small cabin, he turned on the light and looked down at the small desk and smiled the moment he saw the photo frame he had placed there earlier. It was a picture of him and Michael from their wedding day. Smiling at it, he sat down on the edge of the double bed and started to talk to it. Sometimes at night he would talk to Michael and keep him informed about his day before he called it a night. It was his way of still feeling like Michael was there with them.