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Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: Calling The Shots

Calling The Shots – Three

Challenger NX-03, Denobula Triaxa system, Beta Quadrant
Wednesday, February 9th, 2157
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The conference room had been set up for the impromptu summit with Premier Nerlox and his staff to discuss his intentions to bring Denobula into the war effort. Petty Officer Harris had just organised the room under the captain’s request. He had set up name cards for those attending, refreshments on the side and an array of computer tablets. Looking up and down the room, he was pleased with what he had prepared when the doors opened allowing Lieutenant Avery to step in. 

“How’s it going, Jamie?” She asked. 

Spreading his arms out to present the room to her, the captain’s yeoman was confident in what he arranged. “Already, ma’am,” Harris replied.

Rolling her eyes with a smirk as she looked at the room, Avery reminded Harris to stop referring to her as ma’am. “Jamie, I’ve told you before it makes me sound a lot older than I am.”

“You’re my superior,” He reminded her. 

She sighed and knew she couldn’t argue against that point. “I know, but we’ve served together for over two years, and when the captain needs support, especially with diplomatic matters, we’ve always been teamed up to deliver for him. We can call each other by our first names when it’s just us.”

“Understood,” Harris replied with a slight pause, “Tanisha.”

She grinned at that. “Thank you, Jamie.” Avery took one more look around the room. Being the protocol officer (as well as the chief communications officer) gave her extra responsibilities to ensure they followed not only their own rules and regs but she was to be aware of the customs and other traditions of others. “I suppose we don’t have any scented candles on board?” She asked. 

Harris shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. Why?”

“Premier Nerlox likes them,” She responded. “Apparently, he said to the captain a couple of years ago that they help ‘clear the air’.” 

“Ah, wait,” Harris said as he picked up his tablet and quickly flicked through it. “One of the gifts that he gave the captain on our last visit-” The yeoman paused in mid-speech as he scrolled through the device. “Ah, yes!” He turned it around to show the screen to Avery. “The premier gave him a candle, and it’s in storage locker seventeen.”

“Then go get it, Jamie. It’d be a big thing if we have it out and lit!” Avery insisted. 

Harris nodded as he quickly left the room to retrieve the item in question. 

The arrival of Premier Nerlox’s personal transport from the planet below allowed the crew to put on a bit of pomp and circumstance. Burton had insisted that the ‘red carpet’ was rolled out for their VIP. As such, the MACOs had arrived in their formal attire to act as honour guards while the entire senior staff were wearing their dress uniforms. The moment the airlock started to unseal, Ensign Theo Metaxas played the boatswain’s whistle to signal the arrival of the Denobulan leader. Everyone stood to attention instantly. 

The airlock swooshed to one side, and Premier Nerlox stepped through with his entourage.

“Premier Nerlox, welcome aboard Challenger,” Burton said with a friendly smile as he stepped forward. He extended his hand as a peaceful gesture, though human, it was surprisingly received by Nerlox.

 Nerlox’s huge grin appeared as he stepped towards his host. “Thank you, Fleet Captain Burton; it is an honour to visit your prestige vessel.” The premier, like most male Denobulans, was not too keen on too much touching but accepted the captain’s hand in the friendship it was offered. Nerlox was like most Denobulan middle-aged men. Dark-coloured hair that was almost curly and combed backwards. He had bright blue eyes and held his hands behind his back after shaking the captain’s hand. Wearing a simple dark khaki shirt under a similarly coloured suit jacket with matching trousers, he held himself up in a strong posture. Nerlox had greeted the crew to his homeworld over two years ago on their first mission. Back then they were hosting Earth’s Foreign Secretary and other delegates from the Coalition of Planets in a final bid to attempt to convince the Denobulan government to join the signing ceremony of the Coalition Compact. Nevertheless, thanks to Romulan interference via the Orion Syndicate and other matters, the Denobulans declined the offer after its citizens voted in a referendum. Now they stood on the precipice of all of that changing and the Denobulan Fellowship Republic joining the war effort. 

“Let me introduce my senior staff to you,” Burton said as he turned to Rodham and the others standing behind him against the bulkheads. 

Once the meet and greets had concluded (which also included Nerlox introducing members of his own staff) Burton led the group that would be meeting down the corridor of E deck towards the conference room. 

Challenger is certainly an impressive vessel, captain,” Nerlox stated as they walked side by side. “Especially since she has been upgraded.”

Smiling in gratitude for the comment, Burton looked at the Denobulan politician. “Thank you, Mister Premier, we’re very happy with the updates to the ship as well.” 

As they approached the door to the main conference room, Sergeants Iyer and Jenkins stood on guard on either side of it. Burton pressed a button to open the door and then gestured for Nerlox to enter first. Following behind him, immediately Nerlox was greeted by the scent of the burning candle in the centre of the long rectangular table. 

“Is that auldarberry, I can smell?” He asked as he approached the table and looked at the candle. 

“Indeed it is, sir,” Harris said from the other side of the table. 

“Premier Nerlox, this is my yeoman, Petty Officer Jamie Harris,” Burton said, introducing the young enlisted man. “He has prepared the room for us to meet comfortably.”

Nerlox bowed his head slightly to the yeoman before speaking. “Your attention to detail is appreciated, Mister Harris.”

“Anything to make your visit a pleasurable one, Mister Premier,” Harris said politely. “Lieutenant Avery and I remembered you gave the candle to the captain as a gift and we felt it would be appropriate for the occasion.”

“To clear the air before we discuss matters at hand,” Nerlox checked. “A very thoughtful gesture.”

“Shall we begin?” Burton suggested as he indicated towards everyone in taking their seats. On one side, Burton sat in the middle with Rodham to his right, Avery to his left while Trommler sat beside her and Cortez by Rodham. Though protocol didn’t require the presence of his chief armoury officer and MACO detachment unit commander, seeing as they were discussing the war, their input into discussions around military matters would be welcome. On the other side, Nerlox said with his staff and aides. Harris took the chair at the head of the table, normally, where Burton would sit during briefings, as he took notes of their discussions. 

Nerlox started the talk. “I know this meeting will be overshadowed once further delegates from your government and representatives from the coalition arrive, however, Fleet Captain Burton, as the liberators of Denobula, I felt we owed you the right to begin discussing our proposal.”

Sitting up straight in his chair, remaining calm and composed, Burton responded. “We appreciate the gesture, sir. However, it was a joint effort by everyone in the task force we led to help remove the Romulan threat from your system.”

“And your honourable actions will go down in Denobulan history for generations to come,” Nerlox assured his host. “However, I would like to,” He paused as he considered his words, “I believe the phrase you humans use is to ‘test the waters’ with you?”

Intrigued by what the Denobulan leader had in mind, Burton signalled for him to proceed with his presentation. 

Nerlox nodded to his defence minister, who passed a data chip to Harris. “Mister Harris, if you would please load that into your display systems.” 

Harris checked with Burton first, who gave a gentle nod to proceed. Once the device was inserted, the large wall monitors on either side of the room came to life as did the smaller tri-set of monitors on the table. It showed a map of the Denobulan system. Nerlox began his presentation, “As you know captain, the Romulans were ruthless in decimating our fleet to defend our homeworld. Though we have the odd transports and freighters, we have no shipyards, no defence stations and nothing to prevent the Romulans or any other outsides from launching a full-scale invasion of the Denobulan Triaxa system.”

“It has become common in Romulan tactics to remove those they see as a threat to their expansion to become easy targets,” Lieutenant Cortez commented. 

“There’s no thinking behind their brutality either,” Rodham added. “By removing your military and placing the blockade around your system, as they did, they were making you an easy target. Most likely to deal with at a later stage.”

“My military analysts believe the same, commander,” Nerlox responded. “What they didn’t expect was they didn’t crush the spirit of the Denobulan people,” He looked to Burton. “We are self-sufficient people, it’s a matter we are proud of, but we do well when we trade with others. That said, we no longer have the infrastructure to do that.”

“As my first officer said,” Burton said, “they wanted to make you an easy target.”

“Well, we’re hoping to prevent that,” Nerlox stated as he placed both hands clasped together on the table before them. “In return for my people’s pledge to join the war effort, which will include the Denobulan Infantry joining forces with Starfleet and Earth’s other military organisations, we are asking for the United Earth Commonwealth to consider helping us in rebuilding what we lost. With Earth’s assistance, we believe we can construct new shipyards, rebuild our fleet and join the fighting.”

“And the Denobulan people will agree to the signing of the Coalition Compact?” Avery tested, especially as she knew what had happened last time certain promises were exchanged between Denobula and the Coalition of Planets.

“My people will hold a referendum the day after tomorrow, but current polls show that nine in ten of my people agree to join the war effort with Earth. Those who don’t only want to delay it until we are in a better fighting position. The Denobulan Fellowship Forum has already initially passed my resolution to make these offerings to Earth.”

“What about our other allies? The Vulcans? Andorians? Tellarites?” Burton asked. 

Nerlox took in a deep breath before answering. “Though we intend on joining the coalition, we see our main alliance existing between Earth and Denobula. Similar to the  Kreetassans.”

“The Kreetassans have recently signed the compact, making them allies with everyone else. Why Earth?” Burton asked, sounding more insisted. 

“Without sparking a diplomatic incident with those others,” Nerlox started, “we are not fools when we see what is happening with the war effort. Earth is leading it.”

“That is mainly down to the fact-” Trommler started but was stopped by the premier waving his hand.

“Please, Captain Trommler, do not insult our intelligence,” Nerlox replied diplomatically. “We know that the others have had to rebuild their fleets to develop countermeasures to the Romulan telepresence-capturing device, even though it was this ship that removed that as a significant threat. Furthermore, your own people have shown the resilience to see this conflict through to the end.”

“Our commitment to safeguarding our freedoms and liberties is on the line here, Mister Premier. Though the Romulans started this war, why wouldn’t we want to secure a victory from our perspective?” Cortez was mildly challenging the Denobulan man to see what he was truly trying to say to them. 

“And that is a noble aspiration, lieutenant; however, the political setup is quite clear. The Vulcan Confederacy is still reeling from its people dealing with the true teachings of Surak being revealed to them; it’s transformed their society. Though they are less inclined to interfere with other governments, many of their people have stopped serving the Vulcan High Command. They have a manpower shortage with what fleet was left after they dealt with the devastating Romulan attack against a bulk of their fleet stationed in the Merak system.” Norlex stated.

“And what of the Andorians and Tellarites?” Burton quizzed. 

“Again, the attack on Docana and the commitment to such a large force left Chancellor Margerit in the position to count on Starfleet to assist in removing the Malurian-Nausican presence. Furthermore, the Andorian Imperial Guard has been forced to fortify their borders. While trying to protect what they can, their scientists work on methods to implement the countermeasures your people provided them with over two years ago.” Nerlox responded. “The United Planets of Tellar is in a similar position. The Romulans have heavily damaged their key trading routes with other races like the Rigelians, Saurians and Coridanites. The only factor in keeping all of those civilisations from falling is Earth. It is the key to all of our survival.”

After hearing his mini-speech about their assessment of local powers, Burton took a sip of water from the glass in front of him. He placed it back down and looked at the Denobulan leader. “So by Earth helping you rebuild what you’ve lost, you believe your involvement in the war will greatly help us?”

“I believe so, captain,” Nerlox said sincerely. “A set of joint operations, where my people provide as much open assistance, means we can help you not only deal with the Romulan threat but also gain back what we lost. We believe within two of your Earth years, we would have at least eighty per cent of our infrastructure back to support your fleets further.”

“Wow,” Rodham said, sounding so surprised to hear that statistic.

“Wow, indeed,” Burton agreed.  He leant forward. “Let me guess, you’re hoping I’d make a recommendation to my superiors by hearing all of this earlier?”

“I would hope so,” Nerlox admitted. 

Leaning back, Burton nodded. “Let’s hear more of what you’re thinking.”

Voyager NV-03, Denobula Triaxa system, Beta Quadrant

“And that’s it?” Bishop questioned from across the table. 

Rodham nodded. “Pretty much it.”

“Wow,” Bishop stated before he broke the prawn cracker in his hand in half and stuffed one segment into his mouth. He chewed on it for a few seconds as he considered what Rodham had told him. 

Both men were sitting in the smaller captain’s private mess on board Voyager, enjoying a dinner that they finally agreed to have. Both of them were not in uniform, instead, both wore smart casual clothing. Rodham was wearing a black roll-neck with navy trousers while Bishop wore a grey short-sleeved shirt (showing off his biceps) with black jeans. 

Rodham had been ordered to brief Bishop about the meeting with the Denobulan leadership from earlier on that day. After liaising with Voyager’s captain over patrol routes the previous evening, Rodham had picked up the courage to see if Bishop was interested in grabbing a drink together. Eager to see where things went with Challenger’s first officer, Bishop had countered back with a different proposal: dinner and a movie. They had yet to get to the latter, but at the moment sharing a meal together in quite an intimate setting seemed like the right start in exploring what could be something more.

“Your chef is amazing,” Rodham commented as he ate some more egg-fried rice. “Though Montana is just as good.”

“Thanks, but I cooked it myself,” Bishop replied as he picked up his glass of iced tea and took a sip. 

Rodham looked up at Bishop. “You’re kidding, right?” 

Shaking his head, Bishop placed his glass down. “Chef Malik is great, but having him cook our dinner it’s not the first impression I wanted to make.”

Blushing at hearing that, Rodham finished his mouthful before replying. “Then you’re an impressive cook.”

Bishop smirked. His dimples were showing through his beard. “Thanks.” He picked up his knife and fork. “So tell me about how the meeting ended.”

Rodham took his napkin and dabbed his mouth before answering. “Basically, the premier really wants to see a number of joint operations happening between us and them. In return for sharing the manpower, he hopes it would offset Earth’s commitment to rebuilding what Denobula lost. He compared their recovery to the same one that Kreetassa had to do over a year ago, again something that we provided help with.”

“There’s no comparison there,” Bishop replied in between a bite of sweet and sour chicken. “The Romulans didn’t besiege the Democratic Union of Kreetassa. They inflicted heavy damage, yes, but most of what was left, we only helped the Kreetassans in repairing and rebuilding. Thanks to the efforts of Endeavour and Poseidon, within six months they were back up and running. They were able to contribute, and still do, to the war effort.”

“Premier Nerlox knows that, but another part of his offer includes the sharing of significant scientific knowledge, research into long-range weaponry and an agreement for Starfleet to set up a number of refineries on the moons of one of their outer gas giants. It’s bigger than Jupiter and they have resources like deuterium that would help with our supplies.” Rodham explained. “Plus he is prepared to open up business operations for the Earth Cargo Service to establish trading ports and repair facilities too. In return, they assist with Denobula’s trading requirements while their freight services are rebuilt.”

“I don’t know, it seems like a lot of effort on our part,” Bishop stated. “What does, Lloyd think about it?”

“He hasn’t shared his thoughts yet, he told the premier he would take the proposal under consideration,” Rodham answered. “He hasn’t informed Starfleet yet. I think he will wait for the arrival of the delegation to share this.”

“Makes sense, we don’t want to be screaming to the galaxy what the Denobulans are suggesting and it gives a big invite to the Romulans to attack again,” Bishop remarked. “How’s the prawn toast?”

“Delicious,” Rodham replied with a small mouthful of it. “Plus, I’m not convinced that the others in the coalition will be happy they’re being excluded from the deal.”

“Didn’t you say the Jarok and Avenkerev, are bringing their respective delegations?” Bishop checked.

Rodham nodded. “Yeah, I’m hoping that Commanders T’Plau and Anthi can be relied upon to help ease any issues.”

“And the Tellarites are coming in with the Earth delegation on the Tarawa?” Bishop asked next.

“Yeah, under the escort of the Lachlan and Medway,” replied Rodham. “Which makes me think if they are keeping it classified who is coming and they’re coming in with that amount of firepower, it’s someone big.”

“Prime Minister Samuels?” Bishop guessed.

“Maybe,” Rodham said. “Or more likely it’s Secretary Campbell. She has a strong relationship with Nerlox, being the former Earth ambassador to Denobula and close friends with him.”

“Well I think that’s enough shop talk,” Bishop said. “Unless there’s anything else you need to brief me about?”

Rodham shook his head. 

“Good, because I’ve got a dessert you’re going to die for,” Bishop explained with a smirk. 

“Hand-made by yourself?” Rodham checked.

“Absolutely,” Bishop chuckled. “Though, Chef Malik may have given me a few pointers.”

“Then warn sickbay they may need to resuscitate me shortly!” Rodham said with a wink.

Bishop flirted back straight away. “Don’t worry, I’ll be happy to give you mouth-to-mouth if it’s needed!”