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

Whatever The Cost May Be – SEVEN

Challenger NX-03, on patrol, Sol system
Sunday, December 28th, 2155
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After finishing his final pull-up with a massive sigh of relief, Commander Cooper Walker gently dropped himself to the floor. Covered in so much sweat, he took a moment to relax and grab his breath. 

“For a science officer, you’re built more like a MACO,” Luis Trommler remarked as he sprinted on the nearby treadmill. 

Chuckling at that comment, one he had heard the MACO leader say many times before when they trained together, Walker picked up his water bottle and sprayed himself with it before sucking on the last remains. “Luis, the recruitment campaign isn’t going to work if you keep using the same lines.” 

Trommler laughed back at the chief science officer as he started to slow down. “I mean it, commander, in the last week and a half, you’ve smashed any training my lot have undertaken.”

“It’s better than the alternative,” Walker stated before picking up a towel and dabbing the back of his neck and face from the dripping sweat. “Stuck on the bridge for double shifts isn’t even helping with the boredom.”

“Isn’t there some science project or research you could undertake?” Trommler suggested. 

Walker shook his head in response and explained why that was a bad idea. “If I start something, then I guarantee the Romulans will show up, and I won’t get to finish what I started.”

“I understand that frustration,” Trommler acknowledged as he came off the treadmill. Challenger’s gym was empty, except for the two senior officers, which was expected as it was late at night. “If I have to run another drill, I may go stir crazy.”

“The waiting is unbearable.” Walker agreed. “Even trying to do something Christmasy didn’t help.”

“Well, let’s hope that New Year’s Eve isn’t spoiled,” Trommler stated as he sucked on his water bottle, almost like a toddler enjoying their sippy cup. 

Agreeing with the MACO commander’s sentiments, Walker called it a night and thanked Trommler for their shared gym session. He had found himself actually enjoying spending time with Trommler; though the two of them were different in their personalities, they got on well. Just as he reached the doors to leave the room, Trommler called out.

“Are we still on for our morning run tomorrow, commander?” 

Walker turned around and gave a smiling nod. “You betcha, C deck, section one, oh-eight hundred hours. Don’t be late!”

Trommler put his thumb up to confirm their arrangements, and Walker made his way out. 

Challenger’s corridors were pretty quiet, and most of the ship’s non-essential systems were now deactivated. Power reserves were diverted to the tactical systems for now. It wasn’t bright, but it was dark enough for everyone to note the difference.

“Sir, was Luis in the gym?” Ensign Avery called out from the opposite end of Walker’s corridor. 

Looking up, Commander Walker nodded before responding. “Yeah, he was Tanisha,” He answered before noticing that the communications officer was wearing her uniform still. “Don’t tell me you’ve just come off duty?” He asked as they met one another in the middle of the corridor.

Avery replied, “I’ve just pulled three shifts to ensure the updates to the transceiver array were completed in time.” She stifled a yawn. “I was hoping to see Luis before I called it a night.”

“Well, I’m sure he’d appreciate seeing you, Tanisha,” Walker said before he excused himself to carry on his journey back to his quarters.

A few minutes later, he stepped into his room and threw the damp towel he had used into the nearby washing bin before heading over to his bed and slumping down on its edge. He slowly pulled off his clothes before making his way into his bathroom to shower. As he walked in, he called up the latest communique from Earth, the most important one being from his son and wife. While taking a shower, he listened to his son recounting their trip with the rest of his wife’s family to a cabin in Alaska. Mack, his son, shared a story about how he had taken a snowboarding lesson and couldn’t wait to show his father how good he was. Hearing that he had missed another moment with his son, Walker gently hit his head against the shower wall as the heavy downpour gently caressed him from above. 

Squashing a yawn with the back of her left hand, Avery walked into the ship’s gymnasium and was confronted with the pungent odour of stale sweat combined with the sudden loud noise of workout music. The ship’s environmental controls had not yet responded to the late evening workout that her boyfriend and the chief science officer had just undertaken. Alongside that, she was surprised no one on the bridge could hear the music. It was deafening. Turning her nose up to the lingering odour, she saw Trommler standing with his back to her, lifting individual hand weights while lunging. All his movements were in time with the music, but as he moved, he wiggled his hips. She concealed her chuckling at seeing him in this ‘mode’. He was facing the one wall with a set of mirrors; his eyes appeared close, so he was utterly oblivious to her entering.  He was in his world, humming and almost singing to the music. Appearing to be in a rhythm she dared not disturb, she slowly made her way over. As she got closer, she saw he was covered in sweat from head to toe. Just in a pair of black shorts, the MACO leader was breathing in and out harshly every time he lifted one hand weight before putting it down and doing the same in the opposite hand as he moved forward and backwards. 

“Luis!” She called to him as she walked across the room.

He heard Avery’s shout and stopped what he was doing, and placed the weights down carefully on the workout mat he was on. He smiled as she walked over and picked up a tablet that turned the music to a much lower level. “Hey!” Realising the disgusting state, he picked up his towel from the floor and quickly wiped his face.

“Commander Walker said you were still in here,” She mentioned as she got closer. “I hadn’t realised you enjoyed working out to dance music?” Giggling at saying that, it was something new she was learning about him. “I never thought you were the type!”

Blushing that she had discovered a side of him he hadn’t shared with anyone else, Trommler shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, don’t mock my inner dance diva!” He teased with a smirk before he opened his bare arms to pull her in for a hug and quick kiss.

After kissing him back, Avery winced and pushed him back on his chest lightly. “Ewww, gross, Luis.”

“I kiss you, and you say gross?” He asked in a mocking upset tone.

“I’ve never kissed you before when you’ve been sweaty!” Avery defended her response. “You’re all clammy and sticky!”

“You mean manly?!” Trommler flirted back with. 

She shook her head, “I’m not sure what century you’re from, but that dancing you were doing over there,” Avery pointed behind him, “ it was far from anything manly that I’ve seen before. I didn’t realise ballet lessons were part of the MACO training programme?”

Rolling his eyes at her further ridiculing his workout, he pulled up his water bottle and squirted some over himself before drinking the last remains. “So, have you just come off duty?”

“Yeah, I was hoping to see if you were free to grab a midnight snack from the mess hall or maybe go back to yours to finish off that movie from last night?” Avery responded. “Or are you all too in the zone with your workout?!” She mocked further.

“That all sounds amazing; how about you let me finish off here, and I meet you in the mess hall in about an hour; I hear that chef made a ton of Christmas cookies,” Trommler suggested.

“Fine, but make sure you take a shower, as I don’t want you smelling out the mess hall.” Avery agreed before kissing his sweaty face one more time. “Now go back to wiggling that cute behind, so I can enjoy the view as I leave!” She winked as she said that.

“I’m not some sort of object you can drawl over, Tanisha,” Trommler jokingly said. “I have feelings!”

“Yeah, yeah, twinkly toes! Hurry up, or I won’t save you any cookies!” Avery countered as she made her way out of the gym. 

Trommler smirked as he watched her leave before turning his music loud and returning to finishing his workout.

The mess hall was unusually busy for a late Sunday night. Most of the crew were in civilian attire, so Avery felt a bit out of place when she walked in and found that she wouldn’t have much privacy with Trommler once he turned up. 

“Tanisha!” Lieutenant Malone called from one of the circular-shaped tables. 

Smiling in the direction of the second engineer, Avery waved and walked over to see the engineer was sat playing a board game with Doctor Payne, Ensigns Dalton and Reddick. “Wow, it’s busy in here tonight.” She commented as she approached the group.

Payne nodded in agreement, “Chef Lawson started an impromptu games night just after dinner; most of the crowd has stayed.”

“The cookies have kept most people,” Dalton added as he threw the dice in his hands before moving a blue token around the board.

 “Where have you been all day, Tanisha?” Malone asked as she grabbed hold of the dice to take her turn. “You haven’t been working on those updates to the transceiver array?”

Avery nodded. “I wanted to get it done before we go into battle.”

“You should have called; I would have helped.” Malone said as she shook the dice in her hands and released them across the table.”

“Seven!” Reddick said after quickly counting up what the engineer just got. “Tanisha, why don’t you join us? We’re almost finished here, especially as Hillary is about to win this!”

“Don’t be a sore loser, Adrian,” Payne smiled slightly.

“That’s really kind, but I’m going to have to decline as Luis is about to join me to grab some cookies and then we were planning to have some quality time with each other,” Avery replied. 

“Let me guess, Luis is doing one of his ‘private’ dance workouts that he thinks none of us knows about?” Dalton quizzed her before taking a bite out of a cookie he had on a plate near him.

At first, Avery hesitated in responding before her smile crept through. “How do you know about his dancing?”

Dalton chuckled, “You can blame Liam and Niall for walking in on him doing it a few months ago; they told Angela and Rupesh, who pretty much told everyone else. I’m certain the captain even knows.”

“Poor Luis,” Avery said before chuckling a bit. “I hope no one has teased him for it.”

“Teased?” Dalton repeated, “I’m pretty sure Niall mocked him for several days before Luis challenged our favourite senior nurse to see if he could keep up with his stamina. They had a gym-off, with Luis being declared the victor by Lieutenant Cortez. His winning has only encouraged Luis further. Apparently, your dear boyfriend made Liam and Rupesh undertake his workout as part of the MACO exercises the other week, and rumour has it he’s going to try and encourage Commander Cooper to join in.”

“Well, I caught Commander Cooper leaving the gym only a few moments ago,” Avery stated.

“Then we are all doomed!” Dalton stated with a smirk. “Luis may pull others into his circle of dance fanatics!”

“At least it is keeping most of us occupied,” Payne stated. “I’ve never felt so bored in all of my career then I do now.”

 “I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-aligned the targeting scanners,” Reddick added. 

“I wish the Romulans would attack,” Malone agreed.

“Be careful what you wish for, Colleen; they may turn out true,” Avery warned her before excusing herself from the group and heading to the serving hatch. 

“At least you guys are keeping yourselves useful; try being a science officer with not much happening in your department,” Dalton whined after Avery left them.

Taking her turn, Payne moved her final piece, annoyed she didn’t get enough moves to win the game yet. “Are you that bored, Seb?”

“He’s not bored; he’s just annoyed he got assigned to engineering to undergo further training.”  Malone teased as she took a sip from her mug of hot chocolate. 

“No disrespect, lieutenant, but I never signed up to be an engineer,” Dalton stated as he drank from his beverage. “That said, at least it’s something.”

 “It wouldn’t surprise me that we’ll see action soon; just hold your breath, Seb,” Reddick mentioned as he rolled the dice. “Twelve!” He called out as he got a double six and ended up passing over Payne’s final piece and getting to the last place on the board. “I win!”

Payne sighed while the other two congratulated him. 

“Let’s just hope that the Romulans see how large of a defence force we have and decide to call off their attack,” Malone said as she cleaned up their game. “Otherwise, Seb, you and I will have much work to keep us in the fight.” She paused, “We all will.”