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

Whatever The Cost May Be – FIVE

Hannover, Germany, Earth
Thursday, December 11th 2155
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“I thought you got another twenty-four hours?” Whined Fynn Trommler from the other side of the living room.

“I’m sorry, Fynn,” Campbell said as he picked up his long field jacket and put his arms through it. “The Poseidon’s maintenance schedule has been completed ahead of schedule. We’re returning to patrols of the home territories this evening.”

Luis walked into hearing his brother having another argument with his husband. Commander Oliver Campbell was a tall, muscular, Scottish man with thick curly brown hair and pale blue eyes. Though slightly older than Fynn, both of them had got on like a house on fire when they first got together. Nevertheless, their marriage recently had turned into a burnt-out house. Fynn has dropped the bombshell that he didn’t want to be a Starfleet widow and had threatened to divorce Oliver. The only thing that saved the young Starfleet officer was the fact his ship, the Poseidon, had recently been assigned to patrols of the home core territories, including the Sol, Alpha Centauri and Terra Nova systems. Being closer to home meant they could speak in real-time via subspace, or when Oliver was close to Earth, he could return home to see one another in person.

Fynn had wanted his husband to take a post on Earth, but Oliver wasn’t prepared to give up his current position with the war on. Being the chef helm officer and first officer on the first Poseidon-class starship was almost as prestigious as serving on an NX-class. Though similar in design to the Challenger and its sisters, this class punched more in firepower but was slower. The fact that Oliver had served in the British Royal Air Force and was an exceptional pilot, it didn’t surprise Luis that Starfleet wasn’t going to accept transferring such an asset from active field duties. He knew how lucky Fleet Captain Burton had been after losing Lieutenant Conrad to get Commander Rodham. Exceptional and gifted pilots were rare now. He just hoped that Fynn would eventually appreciate Oliver’s position.

“This is ridiculous, Ollie; we’re barely surviving in our relationship. Our marriage is falling apart, and you’re rushing away from it in the opposite direction,” Fynn complained once more.

“Hey, Fynn,” Luis interjected, “give the guy a break. He’s lucky he got the extra time he was given.”

Shooting his brother a glare, Fynn snapped back. “Stay out of this, Luis!”

Oliver mouthed a ‘thank you’ towards Luis while Fynn looked away. “Babe, I’m back with you for the end of the month for a few more days. Then we’ve got those two weeks on holiday in February planned. You, me and a beach in Hawaii.”

“A holiday isn’t going to sort out our problems,” Fynn mumbled back.

Rolling his eyes as he did up his coat, Oliver sighed. “Fynn, I’m trying here.”

Shaking his head, Fynn shrugged his shoulders next. “Okay, sure,” He sighed again. “Have a safe journey.”

Oliver echoed a similar sigh and then said goodbye to Luis before picking up his duffle bag and heading out into the cold German winter afternoon.

Once the door was closed, Fynn turned to his brother. “You see what I’m dealing with.”

Pausing before he answered, Luis, scratched the back of his head and winced. “Fynn, the last couple of days we’ve been able to share with you and Ollie has proven to me you two have a great relationship.”

“Except when he isn’t around to have one with me.” Fynn countered back as he sat down on the nearby sofa.

“Fynn, brother, I love you, but I’m going, to be honest with you,” Luis replied as he sat down next to him. “You’re expecting too much from Ollie.”

“Jesus, you sound like the therapist we saw,” Fynn said annoyedly. “I was told I don’t understand what it’s like to be a starship officer.”

“You don’t,” Luis answered bluntly. “Until you see what Ollie has to deal with, you won’t get what he is doing and why it’s bigger than him and you.”

“Bigger than our marriage?” Finn asked rhetorically.  as he stormed away from his older brother.

Spinning on his feet to try and stop him, Luis found himself not only facing his brother, walking away from him, but also Tanisha standing in the distance, witnessing the entire event. Fynn walked past her before she closed the distance between her and Luis.

“You okay?” She asked quietly.

Luis nodded, “Yeah, it’s nothing new with Fynn flying off the handles like this.”

“He’s hurting a lot,” She mentioned with a sympathetic look.

“He is, but if he just saw that Ollie is such a good guy and one of the best things that have walked into his life,” Luis replied as Tanisha placed her hands around his neck. “Sort of like you coming into mine.”

Stifling a chuckle at how romantic he was trying to sound, Tanisha shook her head at how cheesy it sounded. “Maybe that’s the problem,” she suggested, “maybe, as you said to Fynn, he doesn’t quite understand that when you put the uniform on, things are different in a relationship. You said he joined the MACO reserves; has he told Oliver yet?”

Shaking his head in response, Luis spoke up. “I don’t think he has, but I’m not sure that would make a difference.”

“The problem isn’t just with the uniform,” spoke Luis’ father from the other end of the room.

The sudden arrival of Kurt Trommler slightly surprised the couple as they turned to face the older man. “The problem Fynn is facing is not what Oliver is doing but what Fynn is doing with his life.”

Confused by his father’s remark, Luis edged him to elaborate further. “What do you mean, dad?”

Holding a mug of hot coffee, Kurt took a sip before responding. “Fynn’s footballing career is coming to an end, and his trying to find something else to belong to. He sees what you and Oliver do makes a difference in your lives, and he wants the same.”

“I think your father is right, Luis,” Tanisha said.

Raising his mug towards her as a sign of gratitude, Kurt bowed his head slightly towards the young woman. “Thank you, Tanisha; I took my cue from you though,” He turned to his eldest. “Luis, go and speak to your brother and let him see sense.”

Sighing, Luis agreed with a nod after receiving a kiss of encouragement from Tanisha. After he left the room, Tanisha turned to Kurt.

“Do you think he’ll get through to Fynn?” She asked.

Chuckling somewhat as he took another sip, Kurt soon answered. “Fynn can be stubborn with his relationships, but if anyone might get through to him, it’s Luis. He may succeed in just planting a seed.”

“Let’s hope so,” Tanisha stated.

“There’s that too, my dear,” Kurt said before asking if she would join him in the kitchen, followed by offering to make her a mug of coffee which she accepted gracefully.

Napa, California, United States of America, Earth

Throwing his son up in the air and then catching him as he landed in the water, Cooper Walker laughed loudly as Mack knocked him backwards into the swimming pool. Spending quality time with his son was a welcome change from being on the Challenger. It had felt like a long time since he had been home, but he was not going to miss out on being with his family. Initially finding it somewhat weird that his sister-in-law was now with his commanding officer, he had eventually come accustomed to seeing Burton around his home. Claudia, his wife, had insisted on Burton remaining with them for longer while he and Nicole spent some quality time together while she took a couple of days of leave. The two were on the poolside having breakfast while Cooper splashed around with Mack.

“Come on in, Lloyd!” Mack called out after surfacing to the top of the pool.

Lloyd looked over from the table he and Nicole were at, eating breakfast, and smiled at the kid. “Soon, Mack!” He replied.

At that point, Claudia walked out of the patio doors with someone else behind her that Cooper didn’t recognise. Wearing a Starfleet jumpsuit uniform and a light field jacket, Cooper wondered who the stranger was and then feared that she was here for him and Lloyd to return to active duty sooner.

“Lloyd, you have a visitor,” Claudia stated, indicating at their guest one step behind her.

Looking over at the woman, Lloyd appeared surprised, but he knew her from his follow-up expression.

“Commander Hanson,” Lloyd said after getting up from his chair and walking towards her, “what do I owe this out-of-the-blue visit for?”

Cautiously she looked at the others, first at Claudia, then at Nicole, followed by her giving Cooper and Mack a gaze before returning her focus on Lloyd. “Sir, may we have a word in private?”

“Umm, sure,” He answered before seeking permission from Claudia if he could use her study, to which she agreed.

After the two left them, Cooper swam over to the edge and pulled himself up. Walking over to Claudia, who was now with Nicole, he picked up a white towel draped over one of the chairs.

“Who’s that?” His wife asked.

Pulling the towel around his wet body, he tied it around his waist. “No idea, Nicole?”

“I recognise her,” Nicole answered, “I think.” She paused. “I can’t be certain.”

“What could she want with Lloyd?” Claudia said as she poured herself a glass of orange juice and took the seat that Lloyd had previously occupied. “She seems really serious.” Looking up at her husband,  “Coop, maybe you should go in and see if Lloyd needs back-up?”

“Maybe,” Cooper mumbled.

“I wouldn’t,” Nicole advised, “She’s with Starfleet Security; didn’t you see her arm patch? It said Special Investigations on it.”

“And? Cooper is Lloyd’s second officer, plus he holds the same rank as her. What other clearance could he need to know? The same goes for you; you are the deputy director of Starfleet Science, Captain Levesque!”

“Claudia has a point,” Cooper admitted as he looked in the direction of the window where Claudia’s study was.

“And I know Lloyd, if he wanted one of us there, he’d invited one of us,” Nicole answered back.

“It doesn’t make sense as to why someone from Starfleet Security would see him,” Cooper stated, “we’ve just been ordered to take the ship for one more trip around the block before it undergoes a refit. I’m going in.”

“Cooper, honey, I love it when you go all macho, but seriously put a top on as your abs are too distracting.” Claudia pointed out; she even gestured with her right index finger about his near-naked body being out on show.

Rolling his eyes at his wife before smirking, Cooper picked up his black vest and pulled it over his chest before heading inside.

Approaching the study quietly, he could slightly make out Lloyd’s conversation.

“Are you certain about this?” He asked Hanson.

“I am,” She confirmed, “I verified the authentication myself; it’s intelligence that we can firmly rely upon.”

“I’m not sure my brothers or sister would agree with that,” Lloyd countered back before he took a long sigh. “Thanks, Alexa; I appreciate you sharing this with me.”

“I thought it would be best it came from you instead of me. I know the fleet admiral has been keeping her distance from our recent covert operation to avoid any questions from others on the command council, but this information can’t be sat on.”

“Not at all,” Lloyd agreed with her. “I’ll leave for San Francisco immediately.”

Hearing them heading towards the door, Cooper swiftly entered the kitchen to avoid being heard. From there, he listened to Lloyd say goodbye to Hanson before going into the kitchen himself.

“Everything okay, Lloyd?” Cooper asked immediately.

A bit startled to see him there, Lloyd stuttered out a yes before stopping in his tracks and turning to him. “Cooper, I’ve got to head to San Francisco at once, but can you call Alex and tell him to prepare the crew for immediate departure.”

Concerned to hear that from him, Cooper wanted to question what was happening, but something inside told him not to. “Certainly, most of them are at Ghislaine’s place; it won’t take too much effort.”

“Thanks, let me just go say bye to Mack, Claudia and Nicole,” Lloyd said in an appreciative tone.

Then it hit Cooper how white and grey Lloyd had gone. It was almost like he saw a ghost, and the whole world’s fate was now resting on his shoulders. Whatever Hanson had told him, it was clear it wasn’t great news.

Starfleet Command Headquarters, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth, Sol System

“How certain can we be that this is true?” Fleet Admiral Moira Hathaway asked as she studied the information on the large wall screen.

“Agent Minerva confirmed it’s legitimate, ma’am. On my way over, I confirmed that the message came from Utopia too.” Burton explained.

Somewhat impressed to hear that, Hathaway uncrossed her arms as she looked up at Burton. “It would seem your father’s connections with this bureau are not completely burnt out than we expected.”

“Indeed,” Burton answered, sounding annoyed at that notion.

Returning to her desk, she tapped on the intercom and called for her executive assistant and adjutant to come in. Moments later, Commander Jane Astley opened the doors to Hathaway’s office and entered. “Yes, ma’am?”

“Jane, tell Admiral Clark that I need to see her now. Then call Doctor Hurst, Secretary Vanderbilt, Prime Minister Samuels and President Littlejohn; I need to brief them all on something vital to the war effort as soon as possible.” Hathaway commanded.

Astley bobbed her head with an affirmative nod before returning to her desk to make the calls.

Hearing Hathaway’s request to see her deputy followed by the names of the UESPA Chief Administrator, the Defence Secretary, the head of government and the head of state, told Burton that what he had just shared with her was going to be taken seriously.  “Is there anything else I can do, ma’am?” Burton asked his superior.

She nodded, “Yes, you can come with me and while we’re on our way to see everyone, tell your first officer to get preparations underway to launch Challenger.”

“It’s already being taken care of,” Burton answered, “I’ll just give him the green light to get going without me.”

“Make it so,” She ordered as Admiral Elaine Clark, the Commander of Starfleet Headquarters, soon appeared. “Ah, Elaine, we’ve got some news to share with you,” Hathaway said, gesturing for Clark to sit in the chair opposite her.

Clark, who looked a lot like Foreign Secretary Madilyn Campbell, was tall with dark auburn-coloured hair, styled into a short bob that rested under her chin.  She also had piercing brown eyes that made her have a reputation as being intimidating and impressive at the same time.

After Hathaway shared what Burton had presented to Clark, she stood straight away. “I’ll start work on preparing defences. Have we got a rough timeframe?” Clark asked her superior.

“Not yet; it could be days or weeks. Either way, suspend all future planned refits and cut what maintenance schedules we can. I want everyone in the Sol system ready for whatever comes our way.”

“Consider it done.” Clark said as she started to make her way towards the door.

“And I want hourly updates,” Hathaway called out after Burton finished making his call to Rodham.

In a very uncharacteristic way, Clark responded with a thumbs up in the air as she made her way out.

“Ready?” Hathaway asked Burton.

He nodded, “Alex has everyone returning now; Challenger should be back in orbit within a couple of hours.”

“Good, it gives us time for you to go and brief everyone about that recovered Klingon sensor log,” Hathaway stated as she picked up the tablet with the intelligence report that Burton had presented to her moments ago. “Let’s hope that this time, Klingon credibility towards the Romulans is on our side; otherwise, we’ve just placed the entire Earth defence fleet on high alert for nothing.”

“I hope so too, ma’am,” Burton said as they walked out of her office and towards the lift that would take them to the hangar bay below. “That said, if the Klingons have picked up a Romulan armada slowly making their way towards Earth, then at least we’ll have an opportunity to meet them face on.”

“Yes, but at what cost?” Hathaway asked him after they stepped into the lift and before the doors closed on them.