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

Whatever The Cost May Be – NINE

Starfleet Command Headquarters, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth
Monday, December 29th, 2155
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It was finally the evening, and Starfleet Commander-in-Chief Fleet Admiral Moira Hathaway was pleased to be packing her gear for the evening. Her husband, Patrick, had already sent her a message asking how long until she was home. He had planned a dinner for them both, one they would share alone before the rest of their family arrived ahead of the New Year’s celebrations. However, with the war on, she wasn’t in the mood to be partying, especially with the number of men and women who were putting their lives on the line against the Romulans.

Standing in her personal office, she had picked up her handbag and made her way over to the coat stand that sat by the door. She took down her overcoat and slung it over her shoulders before reaching for the scarf. As she pulled on the navy-blue long coat and scarf of the same colour, she heard her communicator go off. The noise was the tone she had only heard in her nightmares. Pulling it out of her suit jacket’s left pocket, she opened it up and spoke into it.

“This C-n-C Fleet Admiral Hathaway,” her executive assistant, Commander Jane Astley, burst into the room as she spoke. She would have received the emergency call and was helping the admiral take off the items she had just picked up as she gave her clearance code. “Hathaway-Charlie-Delta-Three-Three-Niner-Seven. What’s going on?”

On the other end of the call was Admiral Elaine Clark, the Commander of Starfleet Command Headquarters. She spoke the words Hathaway also had dreaded hearing since the war started. “Early warning satellites have detected multiple Romulan ships entering the system, ma’am.”

“What?” Hathaway almost hissed back. “Are we certain?”

“Positive, ma’am, we’ve just lost contact with the Pandora, Charon monitoring station, and the entire outer-system detection grid has gone down,” Clark reported.

“I’m on my way down now, Elaine,” Hathaway said and closed her communicator. She looked at Astley as she made her way out of her office and towards the lift that would take her down to the ‘Hub’, “Inform the President, Defence Secretary and UESPA Administrator at once, Jane. Tell them the Romulans are here.”

Astley was already putting the call together as Hathaway was moving.

Moments later, Hathaway walked through the glass doors into the ‘Hub’. The ‘Hub’ was the designation for the central management area where, deep within Starfleet Headquarters, the complete day-to-day of Starfleet’s operations occurred. It was a large oval-shaped room that was sunk into various sections. Around the edges, different Starfleet officers operated various computer stations. They monitored other areas of the United Earth Commonwealth and kept in touch with Starfleet assets in and around them. Then on the edge of the middle of the room, more stations were located to oversee other operational matters. Finally, in the centre of the room was a vast oval-shaped table with an interactive display. Known as the ‘pool table’, it was where the most senior officer would work from and deal with all matters that required command authorisation.

Fortunately for Hathaway, she was greeted by a close friend and colleague, Admiral Elaine Clark, the Commander of Starfleet Headquarters. She reported directly under Hathaway, and since a few changes on the Command Council, Hathaway relied on Clark as a close ally and someone she could trust. Clark was responsible for running Starfleet Headquarters and having overall command of the number of bases and assets in the Sol system.

“We’ve confirmed reports that a Romulan flotilla has arrived; it’s less than a light year from Earth,” Clark stated from the pool table.

Hathaway gave out a sigh as she took in the scene. “Do we know how many Romulan vessels?”

Clark tapped a few buttons and brought up the recent transmissions from the outer-system sensor grid. “We can’t get a clear reading, but we think we can detect at least forty-seven ships have entered the system.”

Snapping out of her short trance of staring at the partial readings, Hathaway turned to her executive assistant, who had taken up a position near her by the command table. As she gave out her orders, she began to punch into the console before a set of coordinates, “Commander Astley, I want every ship in range to converge on these coordinates in orbit of Mars now.”

“Understood, ma’am,” Commander Jane Astley said and began her work putting the message together to the ships that would take on the Romulans.

“Admiral Clark, place every single Starfleet installation, ship and officer on full tactical alert,” Hathaway said as she began working out in her brain what she needed to do in this crisis. “Inform all civilian traffic they are grounded and to keep out of the battle zone.”

“Already done, ma’am, but we’re going to need to appoint a fleet commander,” Clark said from her side of the station.

Hathaway considered her choices and quickly made her decision. “Is the Challenger still in Mars orbit?”

Nodding in acknowledgement, Clark replied. “I think so”.

“Then put me through to Fleet Captain Burton at once,” Hathaway ordered and looked to Astley, “Jane, get me the President too.”

“I’ve got Burton,” Clark said as she indicated to one of the large wall monitors.

“Fleet Captain Burton,” Hathaway said, greeting the commanding officer of the third warp-five capable ship.

“Admiral, Challenger, is preparing to get underway now,” Burton said from the comfort of his command chair as he was handed a tablet by a member of his crew which he fleetingly looked down at. Around him, his crew rushed around as the ship entered tactical alert.

Hathaway smiled briefly at the young skipper. He had proven to her several times that he could be trusted and capable. “Lloyd, I’m giving you command of the fleet.”

That remark made Burton spontaneously look upwards to look back at the admiral. “Come again, ma’am?”

“I’m giving you command of the fleet; do you understand me, fleet captain?” Hathaway said.

“Oh…yes, ma’am,” Burton said, sounding a bit shocked still before snapping out of it and returning to his professional demeanour. “We won’t let you down.”

“Godspeed,” Hathaway said and signalled for the channel to close.

Clark had moved around the table and was now standing at Hathaway’s side. “Are you sure you want Burton leading our forces?” She asked quietly.

Hathaway turned to look up towards her friend and grinned. “The last time I sent Burton in command of the fleet, he saved an Andorian world and took out a secret Romulan base. I’m sure he’ll do whatever it takes to save his homeworld. Plus, we don’t have anyone else up there who can do the job. While Archer and Hernandez might be on their way back, they won’t reach us in time.” She looked over to Astley, “Jane have you been able to get me the president?”

Astley nodded, “She’s currently on Global-Defence-One heading to the Snowdon Mountain Complex.” Global-Defence-One was the president’s transport operated by Earth’s military. The fact that the president was heading to the bunker in Mount Snowdon meant that the government continuity plan had been activated.

“Can you put her through?” Hathaway asked. She briefly spoke to Littlejohn in the lift on her way down to the Hub when the alarm from Charon Station had been raised. The president had declared a system-wide state of emergency and had moved all of the Commonwealth’s forces to DEFCON One. The old state alert level system used by the United States of America had been adopted by the Commonwealth, and it had only been raised to the highest, critical level back when the Xindi attacked Earth. Now the Sol system was preparing for the worst to happen.

Astley pressed a couple of buttons, and the image of President Lydia Littlejohn appeared on the screen that had just held Burton.

“Madam President,” Hathaway greeted their commander-in-chief.

The president, who was in her late forties and had long shiny black hair, was strapped into a chair on board her presidential transport. “Moira, tell me what’s the latest.” She said in between gritted teeth. It was obvious that her transport was making rapid manoeuvres to get her to her destination as quickly as possible. She was holding onto her chair’s arms for dear life.

Hathaway started her explanation as reports began to pour in of the Romulans taking a shot at the civilian ships moving away from the outer edges of the Sol system.


Snowdon Mountain Complex, Snowdonia National Park, Wales, United Kingdom of Great Britain, Earth

Rushing through the corridors of the bunker inside the large Welsh mountain, President Littlejohn had never thought that when she ran for office, she would actually be dealing with an enemy on their doorstep. This was it; if the Romulans won today, the entire war was over. Already Earth’s outer-system detection grid had been wiped out, and Starfleet had lost one ship. Not to mention half a dozen civilian ships had been destroyed too. After getting off from the call with the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief, Littlejohn was now preparing herself for decisions she knew she would have to make, some of which she and others may not like.

Walking beside her was her chief of staff, Roberto López, who was issuing his directives to other executive team members. He was hampered with his work as members of the president’s security detail kept close to her. When the call from Hathaway’s administrative assistant had come through, Littlejohn had been on her way back from having lunch with the British monarch at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Her presidential transport quickly changed its course from heading to London towards Snowdon instead.

“Rob,” Lydia said as they entered a lift that took them further into the complex, “any word on the Prime Minister?”

Checking a tablet in his hands, López found the answer he was looking for. “Yes, ma’am. He and Secretary Romanoff are being taken to a secured government facility under New Berlin.”

She shook her head at the madness they found themselves in. Her Prime Minister, Nathan Samuels, had insisted on going to the re-opening ceremony of the Orpheus Mining operation on the Moon. He had felt it was his personal responsibility to ensure the events from last year’s Terra Prime crisis were seen as over, and they were now moving on. He and Secretary Nikolai Romanoff, their Business and Trade Secretary, had taken the trip together; it was more of a media publicity stunt to show that Terra Prime was no longer a national threat.

She nodded an acknowledgement and crossed her arms as the lift continued to fly down the shaft. “And the Vice President?” She added.

Again, Lopez looked down at his computer device as he was getting live information as it came through. “Global-Defence-Force-Two just landed; Vice President Reynolds is being escorted down here through the northwest entrance.”

“Good, and Thomas is on his way too?” She asked as the lift stopped and the doors opened to show them the entrance to the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre.

Littlejohn led the group out, still surrounded by her protection detail and López by her side.

“The defence secretary will arrive any moment, ma’am.” Her chief of staff reported. “Ma’am, with you placing all of our forces on DEFCON One, you should appoint an acting Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs as per the recent re-structuring under the Wars Act passed by Parliament. As you’ve not named a candidate for approval by the Senate, appointing someone in an acting capacity would alleviate any backlash. Can I suggest you consider General Petroski? He is the chief of staff of the Global Defence Force.”

Littlejohn pushed her way through the corridor and approached the main entrance. She tapped in her access clearance codes, had her hand and eye scanned and stepped through the giant blast doors that were starting to open up. “No, I don’t think Petroski should be it.”

“I beg your pardon, ma’am?” López asked as he followed her in after going through similar checks.

Inside the Presidential Emergency Operations Centre was a large round table. At the same time, other stations around it were all crewed, and their operators, members of the Global Defence Force, were reviewing the data as it came in. “This is a matter that I want Fleet Admiral Hathaway to handle.”

López appeared to wince, “Then you’ll need to appoint Administrator Hurst to Acting Chairperson, ma’am. He technically outranks the admiral as he is her superior. Starfleet is a division of the United Earth Space Probe Agency.”

Becoming tired of what she could and couldn’t do, Littlejohn approached the centre table and was pleased to see the Commonwealth Security Advisor, Attorney General and Foreign Secretary there. “Rosa, Annika, and Madilyn, do you think it’s okay if I issue an executive order federalising Starfleet forces into the military, so I can override the chain of command of our space agency, effectively meaning I can appoint Fleet Admiral Hathaway as our acting chairperson of the joint chiefs?”

Annika Naidoo, the attorney general, smirked at the question being asked of them by their president. She had known Lydia for some time now. “In our current situation Madam President, you have the legal authority to do so.”

“And it makes perfect sense with what is about to occur for Starfleet to take the lead on this.” Foreign Secretary Campbell assured her.

“However, Madam President,” García spoke up, “You’re going to upset a few generals.” She added in hush tones.

Littlejohn took off her suit jacket and shrugged her shoulders as she sat down at the head of the table. “I’m sure a few hurt feelings will be the least of problems.” She looked at Roberto, who had sat down next to her, “Give the order that Hathaway is in charge.”

López nodded and began his work.

It didn’t take long for everyone heading to the bunker to arrive, including General Petroski of the Earth Global Defence Force and General Casey of the Military Assault Command Operations, with UESPA Administrator Hurst and Vice Admiral Black of Starfleet in tow. “Gentlemen,” Littlejohn announced as she saw their arrival, “As your commander-in-chief, I am informing you that as of this moment,” She looked down at the tablet with the executive order that had just been written, “I am removing Starfleet out of the organisational structure under the United Earth Space Probe Agency, and I am at this moment federalising it as a formal branch of the Commonwealth’s military. And along with that order, I am placing Fleet Admiral Hathaway in charge as Acting Chairperson of the Joint Staffs.”

The four men were surprised by the news, but Casey just chuckled. “Sounds fine with me, Madam President.” He said as he took his seat at the table. It was no public secret that he and the admiral got on exceptionally well. Since MACO teams were now working closely with Starfleet assets, the two high-ranking officials had developed a friendly working relationship.

General Petroski, though, did not appear happy with the news as he looked at her with deep concern, “Madam President, I expect this to be a temporary executive order that would need to be either ratified by Parliament or it will be revoked in fifty days?” He asked in his thick Russian accent. It was apparent he was not pleased with being usurped like this.

“I’ll have a copy of the executive sent to both houses, and I will call for a joint emergency session if we survive this crisis to have the order ratified,” Littlejohn replied sternly.

“Ma’am, the whole purpose of Starfleet was not to be a military arm of the Commonwealth, though.” Spoke up, Hurst. Hurst was a middle-aged man of American descent who was balding. He had been the UESPA Administrator for almost a decade now. Littlejohn had always appreciated his counsel and friendship, but she knew this move would likely hurt it.

“I understand what you’re saying, Gordon, but the Romulans are about to rain nuclear warheads on us unless we pull ourselves together and fight them off. I don’t have time to lead us to victory if we don’t have the organisation to do it. Starfleet is now separate from the UESPA until further notice. That’s final.” Littlejohn finished glaring at her joint chiefs of staff. “Rosa, what’s the latest?” She asked her Commonwealth Security Advisor; she wanted to get on with the business at hand and not have a debate with her high-ranking officials.


Endeavour NX-06, docked at the San Francisco Orbital Complex, Earth orbit

“There, the intermix levels are stabilising.” Captain Krischnan Demetriou stated with satisfaction. He looked over to his chief engineer, Commander Anthony Prado, “we should finally be able to reach warp two.”

Prado scoffed at the captain’s comment, “Isn’t the idea to get her up to warp five?”

Shrugging his shoulders, Demetriou gave out a sigh. “One step at a time, commander, we-” he was interrupted by the ship’s tactical alert going off. The Greek captain of the sixth NX-class ship looked to Prado, who shrugged his shoulders.

The two of them were in engineering, along with many engineers and technicians, working hard to get the ship ready for its launch.

Walking over to his command console, Prado flicked a few switches and turned to look back at the captain. “Tactical alert was issued from the bridge via the shipyard.”

Confused at what could happen, Demetriou hit the nearest intercom and spoke into it. “Engineering to the bridge, what’s going on up there, Commander Chambers?”

Norah Chambers was the ship’s new first officer and chief science officer. “Captain, all Starfleet forces are being placed on a fleet-wide tactical alert; the order has come directly from Fleet Admiral Hathaway at Starfleet Headquarters.”

“Why?”

“The Romulans have entered the system, sir.” Chambers answered.

Moments seemed almost like an eternity for Captain Demetriou as he left engineering and ran to get to the bridge. He rushed out of the lift once it had arrived on A deck.

“Any more news?” He asked through his Greek accent.

Chamber, sitting at her science station, reviewed telemetry coming into them from Starfleet Command. “We’ve just received another message,” She answered by looking up at the captain, who had made his way over to stand behind her. “President Littlejohn has just federalised Starfleet to become a military branch. Fleet Admiral Hathaway is assembling a fleet in Mars’ orbit, led by Challenger. All available ships are responding to the call to arms.”

Scratching his head as he considered his options, the two were the only ones up on the bridge. He dropped his hand and made up his mind. Walking over to the helm, he gave out the orders he knew he would eventually regret. “Send a secured message to Fleet Captain Burton that the Endeavour will be joining him shortly. Once you’ve done that, you’d better get to tactical. We’re going to have to defend ourselves.”

Chambers’ eyes almost popped out of their sockets after he finished talking. “Are you kidding me, Kris?” As it was only the two of them on the bridge, and they had developed a close bond over the last year since construction had started on the ship, she knew she could get away with saying it. “There’s barely enough of this ship operational to get to Mars, much less wage a war.”

Demetriou looked at his first officer, “We’ve got a ticking clock. Engines are working, weapons systems are online, and the hull polarisation system is working. I say we launch now, hope for the best and make the Romulans regret they placed a footstep in the Sol system.”

“Kris, that is the stupidest thing I have heard you say. Half of our crew don’t arrive until next Tuesday, and we don’t have every system up and running. Hell, even life-support is not working on two decks.” Chambers stated.

“Commander Chambers, I’ve issued an order; either carry it out, or I’ll get someone else to do it.” He looked one more time at her and then tapped the intercom to open a ship-wide channel. “All hands prepare for emergency departure; senior staff report to the bridge at once.” He closed it and looked at Chambers one more time. “What will it be, Norah?”

Shaking her head in disbelief, she got out of her chair and made her way over to the tactical station. “Charging phase cannons, arming torpedoes and bringing the hull armour online now.”

“Let’s go!” Demetriou said as he began the sequence to unlock the umbilical cords from the ship.

Endeavour was underway.


Poseidon NP-01, approaching Mars

The sudden realisation that this could be one of those moments in history where everything either turned out right for them all or went to pieces suddenly struck Commander Oliver Campbell. As he pulled back on the ship’s throttle, he brought the vessel into the formation that the Starfleet armada was assembling into. Knowing that Earth would fall to the Romulans if they lost the upcoming battle was a considerable weight to carry on their shoulders. Nevertheless, they had to win this fight. Campbell took a deep breath as he tried to concentrate on what awaited him. Trying to forget the last twenty-four hours when he had fallen out with his husband, Flynn was now wanting a divorce. All of that seemed trivial with what awaited them ahead. His regret at leaving things with Flynn the way he had now made him feel guilty. Another breath, and he focussed his concentration on the work ahead.

Captain Paulsen stood behind her first officer and pilot with one hand resting on the back of his chair. She had been a close friend and mentor to him; only moments ago, they had shared a brief, casual moment in her ready room, where she had shared her sympathy at hearing the news of his divorce. They barely had time to speak about when the announcement of the Romulans arriving had interrupted everything.

“Mister Schott put Starfleet frequency one four eight six on audio.” She ordered, still staring at the viewscreen that displayed many ships assembling.

Austin Schott, the ship’s communications officer, held his earpiece in place with his right hand while using his left to carry out the captain’s order. Schott had recently been made a lieutenant junior grade and was a fine officer. Campbell had taken him under his wing when he joined the ship at the start of the year. The two of them often trained together in the gym and shared their passion for playing the guitar. As a result, they held a concert a few months ago in the mess hall playing a range of music. Campbell had even sung, something he rarely did in public, but Schott had told him to do it. They had even joked about putting a band together. If they survived this day, Campbell planned to do it.

“Channel open, ma’am,” Schott answered, and there was a beep which automatically switched the channel on to the bridge’s speakers. What followed were numerous voices talking on top of each other as the fleet prepared to engage.

Challenger to Discovery. Standby to engage at grid A-fifteen.”

“…Surrey and Yukon, fall back to mobile position one.”

“…Acknowledged.”

…We have them in visual range. A Romulan armada on course zero point two one five, speed full impulse.”

Then there was a signal that seemed to override the voices of the various Starfleet officers talking to one another. Fleet Captain Lloyd Burton, the British captain of Challenger, spoke with a stern and commanding voice. Campbell had never met him, but his reputation alongside the likes of Archer and Hernandez had been growing in the past year.

“Attention Romulan fleet, this is Fleet Captain Lloyd Burton of the Earth starship Challenger; you have committed acts of aggression against the United Earth Commonwealth. If you do not withdraw your forces from our space immediately, we will unleash the full might of our military.”

There was a lull of silence. Campbell took one breath, and then Burton got his response.


Challenger NX-03, in orbit of Mars

“The defender of Ursa Major, the liberator of Docana, the rebel of Delta, the failure at Krios – seriously, Fleet  Captain Burton, you are getting a reputation for yourself.” A noise followed that sounded like a sigh, “Why don’t you order your pathetic excuse of a fleet to surrender now, and we will forgo the execution of your crews.” 

Burton remained cool and posed in his chair while listening to the deep masculine voice over the bridge speakers. Feeling everyone’s eyes on him, Burton gave his response. “If you know me so well, you should know I don’t respond well to threats.”

Then don’t dish them out yourself, captain. Your Commonwealth is about to collapse, and your precious Earth will fall to the Romulan Star Empire.” The Romulan leader closed the channel abruptly.

Nodding to Avery to give him a channel to the entire fleet, Burton spoke up. “All units, pair up and open fire!”