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Part of Challenger: The Romulan War: Calling The Shots

Call The Shots – Five

Denobula Triaxa system, Beta Quadrant
Sunday, February 27th, 2157
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“And being the first non-Denboulan to address your esteemed body is quite a noteworthy accomplishment and something I am very honoured to be doing. With this in mind, I look forward to seeing this new chapter that both of our people will be taking shoulder-to-shoulder.” Burton paused as the various representatives in the Denboulan delegation clapped and cheered at his statement. He had been pre-warned that this would happen if they found any of his points worthy of applause. Once they had died down, he continued. “This is a momentous time for the Denobulan people, a new era is on the horizon, and one I am pleased to say includes you taking further steps in forming a strong, peaceful relationship with your Antaran neighbours. I have seen the spirit of the Denobulan people survive so much ordeal recently. A famous Earth playwright was famous for many of his quotes, including one that I feel is appropriate here: ‘to be or not to be, that is the question’. Your people choose to be, to continue to live, to continue to survive, to continue to rebuild. I am confident what is rising from the ashes of the Romulan invasion of your homeworld will be a more prosperous and successful future for you and your families. This region will have stability, and we will forge this new future together.”

After finishing his speech, Burton received a standing ovation from the Denobulan politicians. He waved from the podium that he had spoken to everyone around the room. He looked down at the crew that had joined him, all of whom had sat in the front row with Premier Nerlox. They took were busy clapping and cheering him on. He noticed that Rodham was listening to Avery, who was whispering something to him in his ear. Rodham’s expression changed as she finished telling him whatever it was. The first officer had gone from grinning with pride at Burton’s speech to one with a surprised but serious expression. Stepping off the podium, Nerlox shooked the captain’s hand as several members of the Denobulan press moved forward. They quickly grabbed images of the two leaders grinning and shaking hands to show off their new level of unity. Burton appreciated the moment with Nerlox before he waded through the crowd towards his crew.

“Problem?” He asked Rodham.

Rodham shrugged his shoulders. “Depends how you’ll take it.” 


“The Tarawa and the rest of the relief effort have just arrived in the system,” Rodham shared. “And we know who is on board.”

Burton looked at his first officer with an expression of wanting to know who, and straight away, when Rodham explained who it was, Burton gave out a huge sigh. 

Now he knew why his superiors had kept it a secret.

Challenger NX-03

The atmosphere in the crew lounge was electrifying, with everyone either cheering on for their captain as he finished his speech. The live recording of his address to the Denobulan government had been screened almost across the entire ship. A special gathering had been organised by Chef Lawson for those off duty to see it while the evening meal was shared. 

“You have to hand it to the captain; if he lacks anything, he doesn’t lack the presence to deliver a rousing address,” Senior Chief Dubois said as they watched Burton come off the podium. 

The senior enlisted officer sat on one of the larger circular tables among others who had joined her to eat their meal while the giant screen that had been set up in the mess hall a couple of years ago was activated.  Nodding in agreement with her, Ro-fa Ben-Ami picked up her coffee mug and shared her thoughts on the matter.

“He has certainly refined that skill since taking command of Challenger,” She said confidently. 

“The captain should consider running for election at the end of the war,” Ensign Dalton suggested. The young science officer was sitting opposite both Dubois and Ben-Ami. “He’d probably be elected for being a war hero.”

“My money is on the captain wanting to focus on something else once this war is over,” Masuko said after placing her iced tea down. 

Dalton looked at her with an inquisitive expression. “What do you mean, lieutenant?” 

“His family,” The chief engineer answered as she dabbed her mouth carefully. “I think he will take early retirement to be with Captain Levesque or take a job on Earth to be with them.”

“I can’t imagine him being away from the Challenger,” Habiba noted beside Masuko. “He’s put so much into the ship and this crew over these last two years.”

“Family changes you,” Dubois stated. “Especially when you have a young one.”

“Do you think you and Antoine will ever leave the service, chief?” Masuko asked.

Shrugging, Dubois wobbled her head. “I’d imagine so; we almost did when he was injured back on Denver. I think I would like to be able to return home and put my feet up and enjoy an early retirement.”

“Like the captain, I can’t imagine you not being here, Ghislaine,” Habiba said as she took a bite of the rice on her spoon. 

“You never know, Martha; you may be reassigned to Enterprise next week.” Masuko joked. 

“I’m not sure the universe is ready for that!” Habiba remarked with a smirk. “The last two years have changed us, but we’ve grown closer as a unit. I just can’t comprehend what the next two years will bring to us.”

“I suppose you’re right, we’ve been one of the fortunate ships that haven’t lost many, and we’ve finally found our groove that works,” Dalton agreed. 

“All good things must come to an end,” Dubois stated. “But hopefully not too soon.” 

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Commander Walker with Lieutenant Cortez behind him. “Kefira, Sakura, with me. Now!” 

Surprised to hear the second officer and chief science officer be so direct, both senior officers complied and gave their pardons to the others. Then, they got up and followed the commander and lieutenant out of the mess hall.

 “What’s happened, Cooper?” Ben-Ami asked as they fell into line behind Walker. 

“The Tarawa has just dropped out of warp, and their captain has told us that we’ve got a delegation transporting over,” He answered. “With the captain and others on the planet below, we must pull out of the stops.”

“Why? Who is it?” Masuko asked.

Walker stopped in his pace and turned to them. “The President of Earth.”

Pushing the door access panel, Lieutenant Stewart stepped into his private cabin and was immediately confronted by the darkness. Surprised by this, his gut instinct was to turn to the light switch by the entrance, but he paused as he saw the flickering of candles in the middle of the room. Then, grinning at the sight before him, he found his husband lying across the floor (which had various blankets and pillows) with what looked like a rose between his teeth. Liam held a cheeky and proud smirk as he lay on his side, wearing only his undergarments. The smell of his strong aftershave, which Niall adored, was present in the room. Even the environmental controls couldn’t get rid of that fragrance. 

Bursting out in complete laughter at the scene before him, Niall shook his head at the stupid attempt by Liam to be romantic as he finished his double shift. “What on Earth are you doing, Liam Jenkins?”

“That’s Sergeant Liam Jenkins,” He replied with a mouthful full and emphasising his rank. “And to answer your question,” He pulled the rose out of his mouth and stood up, “making a romantic gesture towards my gorgeous husband.” He stepped forward and gave him the rose before cupping Niall’s cheek and kissing him passionately. 

After a few seconds of being close, Niall stopped for fresh air. “This is very romantic,” He chuckled, “and entirely sexy, but I am exhausted from my double shift and extremely hungry.”

Liam’s eyes seemed to come more to life as he turned around and bent down to pick up the small picnic basket that sat on the floor. “Never fear, Chef Lawson to the rescue. She has prepared us with food to enjoy the evening with.” He revealed its contents to his husband. “Now, does that give you the energy to enjoy all of this?”

Shaking his head at the room’s state and the gesture his husband was putting across, Niall couldn’t believe how lucky he was. “You’ve thought of everything,” He said.

“Absolutely,” Liam responded as he put the basket down and placed his arms around Niall’s neck. “So why don’t we get this jumpsuit off, and I can give you a massage to help you relax before we enjoy this incredible food.”

Sighing heavily, the Challenger’s senior nurse nodded in agreement. “That sounds amazing, but I really could do with a shower first.”

“That’s fine,” Jenkins said, still trying to keep the seductive tone going as he started to unzip his husband’s uniform. “I can give you a massage in the shower.”

“Oh, now that sounds very enticing, Sergeant Jenkins.”

“My pleasure, Lieutenant Stewart.”

The two men started to kiss again when the intercom went off, and the voice of Commander Walker followed. “Walker to Jenkins, report to transporter bay one on the double with a full honour guard.”

Pulling away from his husband after hearing that, Jenkins pouted at hearing those orders. He tapped the nearest intercom unit and replied he would be there immediately. Then, turning back to his husband, he affirmed he would return as quickly as possible. “Do not eat any of those treats!” He added before dashing to the door.

“LIAM!” Stewart called after him.

Turning around as soon as the door opened, Jenkins looked at his husband, “What, babe?”

Stewart pointed at his husband, “I’m pretty certain Commander Walker would appreciate you wore more than just your underwear!” 

Jenkins looked down at his attire and soon realised he was only wearing his boxer-short and immediately blushed. Stepping back into his quarters, he ran to the other side to quickly put his uniform on. 

Walking down the corridor with Harris and several others behind her, Lieutenant Commander Sandoval carried a long, rolled-up red carpet under her left arm. 

“You honestly believe the president expects to see this out, ma’am?” Harris checked as he helped with carrying on the lengthy rug.

 She nodded, “Yes and either way, it’s protocol. You should know that, Jamie.”

“I do, but we are at tactical alert and in the middle of a warzone,” Harris reminded her.

“Protocol still remains,” She insisted as they approached the transporter bay.

Approaching from the other end of the corridor, the rest of the remaining senior staff were almost there. Sandoval quickly instructed those helping her to put the carpet down and arranged it in front of the transporter pad.

“Time?” Walker asked, with a worried tone to his voice.

Cortez looked down at the central console, which showed the ship’s internal chronometer. “It’s been eight minutes since we got the hail.”

Straightening himself up, Walker shook his head. “I can’t believe the captain isn’t here to do this.”

“Keep calm, Cooper,” Ben-Ami reminded him in a whisper. “You can do this.”

Walker nodded in appreciation. The MACO honour guard then arrived with Jenkins in the lead. For the first time since he had known the young soldier, Jenkins’ hair was not gelled backwards or to one side. Instead, he looked like he had quickly combed it to one side. With the other MACOs on the planetside, providing a bodyguard detail for the captain, Jenkins was the next highest-ranking detachment member available.

“Liam, are you all good to go?” Walker asked him.

“Yes, sir.” He answered. 

Sandoval finished pushing the rug down before standing up straight. “Remind me to suggest to the captain that we just keep a rug near every entrance to the ship in storage. Carting one of those around is no fun.”

“Noted,” Walker said before turning to Masuko, who was now operating the transporter controls. “Is she ready to beam over?”

The chief engineer nodded. 

“And why is the president using the transporter and not docking with us?” Ben-Ami asked to anyone in earshot.

“Something to do with wanting to experience it for the first time outside of the Sol system,” Cortez shared. 

“Energise,” Walker ordered after a sigh. 

The transporter came to life as several figures materialised on the platform before them. Once the process was complete, the form of President Lydia Littlejohn stood in the middle of her party. Littlejohn was a tall woman who wore a maroon skirt suit and a similar coloured blouse underneath. She tugged on her jacket’s ends before smiling at those waiting for her. When the boatswain’s whistle went off, she looked at the Challenger crew. 

“Madam President, welcome aboard Challenger,” Walker said, trying to sound confident. “I’m-”

“Commander Cooper Walker, second officer and chief science officer,” Littlejohn said, still grinning as she extended her hand towards him. “I memorised your entire senior staff on the journey here. I hope we didn’t put too much pressure on you to prepare for after our unexpected arrival.” 

Shaking her hand, Walker shook his head. “No, not at all, ma’am.” 

“And please don’t worry; we saw your captain’s speech as we entered the system. I’m not expecting him to be here immediately to greet us,” Littlejohn assured them. Then, she turned to the others that were with her. “I believe you know most of them.” 

“Actually, Commander Walker wasn’t on the Challenger the last time I visited,” Foreign Secretary Madilyn Campbell said as she joined the president by her side. The taller woman wore a black and white chequered pants suit with a white blouse. “Nevertheless, it is great to be back on Challenger,” Earth’s foreign secretary stepped forward to greet the rest of the senior staff assembled along with the president. 

The rest of the group consisted of a mixture of their staff and protection detail, except for one other. 

President Littlejohn turned back to her entourage with Walker beside her. “And, I believe you know the new first officer and chief engineer of the Tarawa.

Walker nodded. “Commander Roman Burton, I’m certain your brother would be happy to see you.”

Roman Burton smirked. “Oh, I’m sure he will, but I am also here to share your new orders from Rear Admiral Fuller with him and you all.”

Walker looked at Ben-Ami and then back to the captain’s younger brother before looking back to the president. “I’m sure he will be pleased to hear that, but I believe he would like to report the latest developments we’ve had to deal with while we waited for your arrival.”

“Nothing that will affect the Denobulans joining the war effort, I hope?” Campbell asked.

Wincing slightly, the chief science officer felt uncomfortable being the one to share the news. “We don’t believe so, but there is a matter that may complicate it.”

“Well, that’s why we are here to help sort anything out,” Littlejohn said confidently. “This is a key step in our diplomatic efforts with the Denobulans.”

Before he had the chance to share the news about the Antarans, though he was sure the president was curious by the captain’s remarks about them in his speech, Walker was saved by the arrival of his superior. 

“Madam President, Madam Secretary,” Fleet Captain Burton said as he briskly walked towards them from the same end Sandoval had walked down only moments ago with the red carpet. With him were those that had accompanied him to Denobula. “This is a delightful surprise.” He paused as he saw Roman. “And I see you’ve brought my brother too.”

“He brought us,” Littlejohn corrected Lloyd. “But thank you for getting back here so quickly. I was expecting you to still be with Premier Nerlox.”

“I told him our relief efforts had arrived, and I needed to oversee such matters; I didn’t tell him who was in the convoy, though,” Lloyd explained. “And as my fine second officer was about to share, we have much to discuss.”

“Then let’s get down to business,” the president insisted. 

“Follow me, ma’am,” Burton said with a smile as he led everyone that needed to hear what he had to share down the corridor and towards the briefing room.  

Once they were gone, those that remained behind sighed with relief. Trommler, who had accompanied the captain down to the planet, turned to Jenkins. “Liam, how much aftershave have you got on? And why is your hair so flat?”

Initially, Jenkins hesitated to share a complete response. “It’s a long story, sir. I was engaged with another matter when the call came in.”

“Well, I suppose you can return to whatever you were doing,” Trommler said, dismissing the MACO honour guard as he followed in the captain’s wake. “Or should I say who?”

Jenkins paused and went bright red in embarrassment. “Yes, sir.”

Trommler chuckled. “Give Niall my regards.”

“Aye, sir,” Jenkins said as he led the other MACOs out of the corridor and away from the commotion that had just taken place.