“The Tholian Stratagem”

ONE

Thursday, November 6th, 2155
Challenger NX-03, en route to Earth

The silence of the conference room had become familiar. In fact silence had filled the rooms and corridors on board the third NX-class ship for the past few days now. It was becoming a sad and normal sight.

Using the conference room to review ship business, instead of using his own office, Fleet Captain Burton had found that he could concentrate more here than anywhere else on the ship. There was something about his office that had made him feel a bit confined that he couldn’t focus on what he needed to do.

Reading the same report regarding the tragic loss of Major Yu through the use of the transporter, Burton wondered if he had made the right order to use it in such dangerous waters. He knew that the MACO leader’s death had greatly affected Lieutenant Masuko. She had been the one that was leading the rescue team to pull Yu and the others out from the Romulan drone ship. The engineer had blamed herself for not doing more to save the MACO leader, but everything said it was not her fault – it came down to the point it was a technical issue. A simple one based on science and maths. An issue that would take their scientists years, probably decades (if not centuries) to ensure that the transporters could operate under such circumstances.  Nevertheless, it appeared that wasn’t enough to convince Masuko otherwise. That made Burton’s job difficult, as he wanted her to become his new chief engineer. Every time he read this report, he wondered if there was another angle he could use to convince the engineer that she had done her absolute best. He just couldn’t find it right now.

The main entrance to the room opened, allowing the bright light from the corridor to flood through. Burton had kept the main lights off, only using the side lights ever so slightly and the ones in the main table to illuminate the room. Squinting in reaction, Burton turned around to see who was coming in. Surprised at the silhouette he saw, the fleet captain ushered for the officer to come in. “Ned, this is unexpected. What can I do for you?”

Lieutenant Ned Hennessey stepped over the threshold, allowing for the door to close and block out the light from the corridor. The chief communications and protocol officer walked over to his captain, tightly holding on to a tablet in his left hand. “I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news sir, however we’ve just received a number of communiques from Starfleet Command. All of them are marked private and come from the Judge Advocate General’s Office. I’ve already opened mine sir; it seems they want an investigation into our recent mission.”

After Hennessey passed him the tablet, Burton made an inward groan noise. He had wondered if something like this would happen. Opening the message there and then, he skimmed over the contents and Hennessey was right. The Command Council had asked the JAG office to ensure that all details that led to the deaths of Stanton, Conrad and Yu were completely investigated. Alongside that they wanted to know what happened to the Armstrong. “Just great.” Burton mumbled. “I take it that a debrief isn’t good enough anymore?”

Hennessey didn’t respond to the captain’s rhetorical question.

Placing the tablet down on the table before him, Burton pulled over the mug of hot tea that he had been sipping on for the past five minutes or so. Considering his options as the hot beverage was gulped down, he closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. While placing the silver mug down, he looked up at Hennessey. “What’s the latest with the translation of the Romulan database?”

“To be honest sir, it’s frustratingly slow work.” Hennessey said openly.

Burton indicated for the communication officer to sit down next to him. “How come?” He enquired.

Hennessey accepted the gesture and went on to explain what they had come across so far. “Whereas the crew of Discovery were lucky to find the base in the Bassen Rift due to the coordinates being in the most recent navigation and communications logs, the rest of the database is more complicated. We barely know anything about Romulan language, what we do know is what our own translators have been able to work out from the limited interactions we have had with them over audio channels.”

“I see, it’s like finding bury treasure but unable to pick the lock.” Burton stated.

Nodding to confirm the comparison, Hennessey clarified further what they were coming up against. “Every time we piece together a sentence then, ten more new words come unravelled that we need to understand to work out what the database is showing us.”

Drumming his fingers on the table as he listened to Hennessey’s explanation, Burton wondered how they could break into their treasure chest. “You mentioned how Discovery was able to only access the navigation logs from the Prowler to work out the location of the base. I want you to go back into them and see what else you can find.”

Confused as to what the captain wanted him to find, Hennessey simply said “Captain?” indicating he needed to understand further the captain’s train of thought.

“We need another target.” Burton enlightened Hennessey with. “Something we can take to the Command Council to bring them another victory. The news of our victory in the Bassen Rift is only going to keep morale up for a bit longer, another one will consolidate it and perhaps avoid the Command Council grounding us during this investigation.”

“Understood sir, I have got a working theory on how we might be able to gain more insight into the Romulan language that I would like to explore further. It might give us the pick we need.” Hennessey stated. “But it will require some significant research.”

“Do whatever it takes Ned.” Burton ordered. “I want a new target to take to the admiralty soon. Whatever progress you can make in breaking through that database will make what we’ve had to sacrifice worth it.”

“Absolutely sir.”

Burton looked at his communication officer, glad that he understood what he was thinking. He wanted to prove that their recent losses were not meaningless. Knowing he could trust Hennessey to deliver, Burton gave him cart blanche to get the job done.  “Use whoever you need to help you and get Jamie to hand those messages out. I know it’s normal for you to do it but he can easily carry private messages while you work on the database.”

“Aye sir.” Hennessey said as he stood up. “Is there anything else you need, captain?”

Shaking his head, “No thank you Ned. Dismissed.”

As Hennessey walked out of the room, Burton picked up the tablet and looked at it one more time. In his own thoughts he was cursing what he would have to go through when they got home.

“Let’s face the music.” He muttered as he resumed on with the rest of his work.

Following on from getting his new assignment, Crewmember Harris found himself moving around the ship trying to hand out the private messages calling certain members of the crew to the hearing set up by Starfleet JAG. Surprised that he had been called upon as well, Harris couldn’t quite work out what he would be asked. He wondered if he was being dragged in due to his relationship with Fleet Captain Burton. Approaching sickbay, Harris organised the two messages he had to deliver there so they were on the top of the stack of tablets he was carrying.

Once he gained access to the medical centre for the ship, he saw Nurse Stewart first. Walking over to his friend, he looked around the room noticing it was completely empty. “Hey Niall!”

Looking away from the computer console he had been working on, Lieutenant Stewart returned the welcome to Harris. “Hey Jay,” He said referring to the shortened name some of the younger crew used. “What brings you down to my neck of the woods?”

Glancing around the room again to ensure he had not missed anything, Harris eventually answered. “I’m trying to find your boss and Doctor Payne. Any idea on where they are?”

“Yeah, they’re in the medical lab. How come?” Stewart wondered.

Showing the pile of tablets he had in his hands, Harris answered. “I’ve got some important messages for them. I’ll go round and find them. Thanks mate.”

As Harris approached the door, Stewart called out. “Jay, I forgot to say that after the memorial services on Earth a group of us are going to welcome the newcomers to the crew properly. We’re going to organise a quiz night with Chef Lawson. Are you in?”

Turning back around to answer, the yeoman just nodded. “Sure, count me in.” As he went to turn back to open the door to exit sickbay the doors automatically opened up to allow the two women he was searching for.

Being the senior most officer, Ro-fa Ben-Ami smiled instantly at the appearance of Harris in her sickbay. “Crewmember Harris, this is a nice visit. Nothing wrong I hope?” She enquired.

“No ma’am.” Harris said with a smile. “I’m delivering some important messages to certain individuals on the ship.”

“Oh, nothing too serious I hope?” Ben-Ami poked as she and Payne walked further into sickbay to allow the doors to close behind them.

“I don’t know what they are but they are all marked private and for your eyes only.” Harris said as he handed Ben-Ami her tablet. He looked at Payne, “There’s one for you as well Doctor Payne.”

Payne just smiled warmly as she received her tablet and started to unlock what was there.

“I’ve got a few more deliveries to do.” Harris said as he excused himself from their presence.

Looking at both of the doctors, Stewart was worried about what they were both reading. “As long as I’m not out of line in saying this, but from the looks on your faces those messages appear to have some bad news.” He remarked.

Sitting on the edge of the nearest bed, Ben-Ami held up the tablet to show the logo that belonged to Starfleet’s Judge Advocate General’s Office. “It’s not bad, but it isn’t great.”

“Far from it.” Payne added as she showed the same logo on her tablet. “A summons to share what happened with the Armstrong.”

“And an official investigation to what led to the deaths of three of our crew.” Ben-Ami included. “Starfleet must be taking this quite seriously if they’ve involved the JAG team.”

“Indeed.” Payne concurred.

Confused as to why both officers seemed so concerned, Stewart piped. “Why is that such a bad thing? Isn’t it Starfleet protocol to investigate the loss of a ship and what happened that resulted in the death of crewmembers while in the line of duty?”

“It is Niall, but normally a full hearing is rarely called unless Starfleet believes there’s something more that has happened.” Ben-Ami explained. “I reckon someone wants to find out why the captain launched the attack without approval by Starfleet.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me that some admiral on the Command Council isn’t happy.” Payne stated. “They need to give Fleet Captain Burton a break and instead pin a medal on him for taking the initiative to stop the Romulans in their tracks.”

“Well, we will see how they play this one out soon enough.” Ben-Ami commented on. “Hillary, why don’t you take the rest of the day to prepare for what they’ll probably ask you about the Armstrong. Niall and I can cover your shifts in here.”

Payne nodded in gratitude. “Thank you ma’am.” She bowed her head and made her way out of sickbay, thanking Stewart on her way out.

Once the door closed behind her, Stewart turned to Ben-Ami with a puzzled expression. “Am I missing something here ma’am?” He asked. “Why are you both dreading this hearing?”

“Any hearing that I’ve been a part of has always resulted in someone trying to fish for something to make something out to be untrue.” She answered. “I cannot truly explain it Niall, but my gut instinct is telling me there’s something more going on here then what we truly know. I don’t like it!”

The mess hall was empty, for a change. Masuko appreciated the loneliness that the room brought. Standing before the wide wall that sat parallel to the bay windows, the acting chief engineer took out the lighter she had in her pocket and leant forward to light the candles that sat on a nearby small shelf. Ever since their departure from the Bassen Rift and having to deal with the death of Stanton, Yu and Conrad, the crew had entered a very sombre mood. She had assisted with the installation of what was now hanging from this wall. On the left-hand side was a list of the Armstrong’s crew who had been lost, then beside that a row of three pictures had been put up. The first one of Lieutenant Conrad, then Commander Stanton followed by Major Yu. Underneath them, encased in glass, were their names and their rank pips. These memorial plaques were the crew’s way of remembering their fallen comrades. Since the captain had postponed their memorial services until they reached Earth, this had been the one gesture he had approved and it had helped (slightly) with everyone’s way of dealing with their losses.

Masuko had placed the shelf underneath them so candles could be placed on top. Every day she would find a perfect time to come in without anyone else around and would light them. She would follow this by saying a short pray for them all. Placing the lighter away, she took one more glance at the pictures and started to make her way towards the exit when the door opened up. Stepping in was Lieutenant Commander Cooper Walker, the ship’s new chief science officer and at the moment he was also the acting first officer. Until they arrived at Earth, Commander Rodham, who would be joining them as the first officer, would remain on Discovery. Starfleet wanted both ships to return to Earth as soon as possible, so dropping out of warp for a simple crew transfer had been decided against.

“Sakura, I’m sorry I didn’t think anyone else was here.” Walker said softly. “I hope I wasn’t disturbing anything?”

Shaking her head, the engineer just passed right by the science officer. “Not at all sir.” She added in a curt tone, departing in a hastily manner.

Confused as to why she left so swiftly, Walker looked around the empty room and then saw the lit candles. He got it. Since joining Challenger, he had appreciated how much he and the other survivors from the Armstrong had been welcomed into the crew. The memorial plaque for their fallen comrades was a nice touch, he was grateful for the effort. However one thing he had noticed was how closely knit this crew had become in such a short amount of time. What had happened to them in a matter of months appeared like they had been together for a smattering of years now. He wasn’t jealous of it, but it was something he had experienced before on any other ship he had served on.

Making his way over to the drink dispenser he ordered for a mug of English white tea to be poured in the mug he had picked out. A break in between shifts was definitely needed. Since the death of Commander Stanton, the position of acting first officer had defaulted to him. He knew it wouldn’t last for long, however it was a full-time job and overseeing a science department as huge as Challenger’s was a skill in itself let alone the whole ship.

The doors to the mess hall opened again and stepping in was Doctor Hillary Payne. Pleased she had found him, Payne smiled at Walker the moment she locked her eyes on him. “Sorry to disturb you commander, but do you have a moment?” She pondered aloud.

“Of course Hillary, I’m off duty and please, I’ve told you before to call me Cooper.” He replied as he took his mug out and gestured for them to take a seat each at the nearby circular shaped table. “What’s on your mind?”

“Thank you sir.” She said as she took a seat and placed the tablet that had been in her hand on the table. Flinching a second later after realising she had called him ‘sir’, the medical officer instantly ignored it as she made herself comfortable. 

Walker copied her actions with a tablet he had been carrying. “Let me guess, you got a summons as a well?” The chief science officer asked, looking at the computer devices before them.

“Yes, I just got it from Yeoman Harris.” Payne answered.

“Snap.” Walker remarked. “So what’s on your mind Hillary?”

She took a second to answer, as if to think carefully about the words she would choose. “It’s obvious that you, Colleen and I are going to be called to testify about what happened on the Armstrong before she was lost. We are the highest-ranking officers left.”

“That’s right.” Walker acknowledged as he took a sip from his tea. “Is that a problem?”

“No, it’s just I’ve never gone before a Starfleet JAG hearing panel before.” Payne stated. “I’m anxious.”

“That’s understandable,” Walker replied. “I’ve never appeared in one either, but I promise you Hillary that it will be painless. They’re going to know the events that led to the destruction of our former ship. They’ve got most of the data already, so it will be just a process of us sharing from our point of view a recount of what happened.”

 “It’s just I was talking with Ro-fa Ben Ami and we both agreed that it feels like there’s going to be more asked of us, especially in regard to the attack we undertook against the Romulans in the Bassen Rift.” Payne stated. “I’m just worried that anything they ask could be twisted against our colleagues, especially Fleet Captain Burton. I like this ship; I can’t afford to lose it.”

Smiling at her reaction, Walker agreed with her sentiments. “I get it Hillary, but if they do ask us then it is our job to simply answer the questions to the best of our knowledge. The captain has done nothing wrong here.”

“I know and I think that the brass should give him a break and as I said earlier in sickbay, he needs a medal, but I just worry if anything we say places a divide between us and the other non-Armstrong crewmembers.” Payne said. She was genuinely concerned about the ramifications of her testimony. “This crew seems to have lost so much already; I would hate to cause any more heartache. Am I making any sense at all?”

Understanding her thoughts so well, Walker couldn’t agree anymore with her. “You are.” He said assuring her. “It’s a fine ship and crew, however those who are at home who have lost loved ones deserve to know the full truth. There’s nothing here that needs to be covered up, I genuinely imagine it will be a simple proceeding that none of us will remember in ten years’ time.” Walker paused for a moment before continuing. “I hear they’re doing a quiz night to help with morale tonight. We should get as many people to attend. It just seems right that everyone needs one another right now. What do you say?”

“Sounds like a plan. Thank you comman-” Payne paused as she corrected herself. “I mean thank you Cooper. I appreciate the words of wisdom.”

“Anytime.” He said and then offered to get her a mug of tea. It was apparent the young doctor needed time to just relax for a moment. That said, the war was not going to wait for anyone.

“That’s the last of it.”

Sat on the edge of the tiny two-seater black leather sofa that took up one wall in the major’s office (if you could call it that), Second Lieutenant Trommler was staring at the desk. It was pretty much empty, besides the computer terminal, and it no longer felt like anyone belonged there. Helping him pack away Major Yu’s belongings had been Staff Sergeant Iyer and Corporal Jenkins. The latter had just closed the lid on the cuboid shaped container they had used to place the many knick-knacks and photographs that Yu had placed around her place of work. Jenkins had made his comment in quite an emotionless tone. Anyone who didn’t know him better would have thought he was a Vulcan disguised as a human.

“This feels wrong.” Iyer remarked as he leant against the wall to Trommler’s right. “Surely we should have done this after the memorial?”

The first sergeant had made the same remark more than once during their packing, neither Trommler nor Jenkins had commented back until now. Clearing his throat, the young MACO officer answered Iyer back. “Unfortunately Rupesh, we need to get our unit ready for our new leader. I’m sure General Casey or someone else at MACO Headquarters has someone lined up to take over from the major. I wouldn’t want to come in and take over to find my predecessor’s valued items still out.”

“Technically speaking,” Jenkins spoke up, “with Yu gone and al-Fayyad resigned that makes you the acting unit commander. As such this office is rightly yours Luis.”

Shaking his head to disagree with his friend’s assessment, Trommler shot that idea down. “No, this place belongs to the next major. I’ll keep the unit together until we get home but whatever soul takes over the reins gets to sit in that chair.” He pointed at the tall grey chair that was currently vacant. Leaning back and placing his hands down on the sofa, he stopped as he felt something. Pushing between the cushion he was on, Trommler pulled out a small dark blue velvet box. It was definitely a jewellery box. He hesitated to open and when he noticed that Iyer and Jenkins were glaring at him to open it up, he did so. The light hit the silver ring almost instantly, like a small bright white flash in the room.

“Is that what I think it is?” Iyer asked out.

Nodding to confirm, Trommler felt guilty for opening the box. “It’s her wedding ring. She wore it every so often.”

“Should we put it with the rest of her personal effects?” Jenkins enquired.

Looking at the ring one more time, Trommler shook his head and told them not yet. Getting up, he told them to finish off while he went to visit someone. Closing the box as he did, the MACO officer left the office and went down the corridor. Heading towards one of the smallest quarters on the ship, he tapped the door chime. The soft but stern feminine voice replied and told him to come in.

Making his way into the private quarters of former First Lieutenant al-Fayyad, Trommler smiled to greet his old superior. “Sorry to disturb you ma’am but the boys and I were just packing up the major’s gear and I found something. I think you’re the person she would want to look after it before it went back to its rightful owner.”

Al-Fayyad, who was wearing dull coloured civilian clothing with her blonde hair hanging loosely instead of its normal tied up self, appeared intrigued at what Trommler was getting to. “What do you mean Luis?” She asked as she got up from her single bed and closed the book she had been reading. Standing up, she walked across the room to approach him.

Trommler handed her the small cubed box he had just found. Instantly the former MACO deputy recognised what was in it and just nodded with his assessment. Instantly she recalled the last time that she had seen Yu playing with what was sat inside it.

Monday, April 21st, 2155
Challenger NX-03

Iyer grinned at her and stood up from the sofa, leaving the major’s office swiftly. As he left Yu span herself in her chair to be in line with her desk, she placed her coffee mug down on it and looked at her computer screen and sighed. She now had to think of a plan on how to persuade T’Plau to cut back on the heavy guns she wanted to assign to the captain’s protection.

Leaning across her desk she picked up the small felt box that took pride and place, centre stage on the tablet top. Opening it, she took out the silver loop and placed it on her wedding ring. It had been ages since she had worn it. Looking at it on her hand, sitting comfortable within the small permanent indent that it had left behind, the picture made Yu smile. She was so engrossed with it that she had noticed that her Egyptian deputy was standing in the doorway grinning at the image she had caught.

“You’re too sentimental.” Al-Fayyad said, breaking the major’s focus.

Yu closed her fist and looked straight at the first lieutenant. “Khawla, what can I do for you?”

Smirking at how quickly Yu would change the subject away from anything to do with her private life, al-Fayyad spoke up. “I overheard you talking to Rupesh. Are you both really serious about Jenkins going with Captain Burton down to the Andorian capital?”

“Absolutely.” Yu said with strong conviction. As she spoke she took the ring off and placed it back in its rightful place. “We can’t sit around here doing nothing Khawla, I don’t plan to keep the troops entertained by having them always on standby while you and I have all of the fun!”

“Understood ma’am.” Al-Fayyad replied. She looked at the box, she knew what it meant to the major. “Have you heard from Erika since we left Earth?”

Yu just shook her head. “No.” She whispered. “But why should I? We’ve both moved on.”

“Really?” Al-Fayyad questioned.

Understanding that al-Fayyad was the only one who truly knew her background, Yu winced a bit. “Well, she knows where I am when she is ready.” Tapping the box twice for luck, the major stood up and made her way towards the door. “Come on now Khawla, let’s go get the troops ready to dance with our blue-skinned friends!”

Thursday, November 6th, 2155
Challenger NX-03, en route to Earth

Opening it, al-Fayyad smiled at what he had given her. “Thank you Luis.” She paused as she took one more glance at it. She knew the significance of it to their fallen leader. Yu was known for her sentimental approaches, her wedding ring to her wife Erika was one of her most significant possessions. “I promise to deliver this to its rightful owner.” She added.

Grinning at the response he got, Trommler excused himself as he left the room.

Once he was gone, the former MACO deputy leader went over to her desk and started to write a letter to the one woman she had forgotten to get in touch with and one she wondered if she would hear back from.  Yu’s death had become an awakening for al-Fayyad. Her fast, rash decision to leave the service had been unexpected however knowing that she may not see her family made her stop and rethink everything. She couldn’t be the one leaving behind her loved ones anytime soon, so when she wrote her letter to the one person that Yu had found it difficult to get in contact, al-Fayyad was determined to complete something that Yu had not been able to do for years.

Dear Erika,
By now you may have been informed of what has happened with Vik. I wish to meet with you to give you something that I think you would appreciate having.
All my love,
K-a-H

Following on from leaving al-Fayyad’s quarters, Trommler returned to Major Yu’s office and watched as Jenkins and Iyer carried out the final box. Taking one more glance in the room, Trommler looked at the empty seat at the desk. “Ruhe in Frieden.” He whispered in his German accent as he stretched over to flick the light switch off. The whole office went black and the light from the corridor disappeared as the door closed behind him.

“Hey Luis, are you coming to the quiz later?” Jenkins asked as the three men made their way from the office.

“No, I’m going to give it a miss tonight guys.” He answered honestly. “I want to get an early night before we get back to Earth.”

Concerned that the man that was normally up for a social event wasn’t interested, Jenkins looked to Iyer and back to Trommler. Hesitating to say anything straight away, the corporal just nodded to show he understood.

“I’ll catch you guys in the morning. Have a good evening.” Trommler remarked as he moved away from them and made his way towards his own quarters.

After his stroll through the ship, the MACO soldier found the confines of a familiar room a welcome change. These weren’t his quarters, but the quarters of his other fallen comrade and best friend: Jack Conrad.

Since Conrad’s death days ago, he had found it difficult to not be in this room. Compared to his own quarters, which he had to share with Iyer, Conrad’s quarters were just a little bit bigger and it had a small window. He had spent a lot of his off time in this room during his off duty, just hanging out with Challenger’s former chief pilot. The two men had become best friends almost instantly the day they met. They shared some interests, one of them being poker. Spending late nights playing it while drinking whatever they could get their hands on had become their regular thing.

Sitting on the edge of Conrad’s bed, he looked around the room and smiled at the many great memories. Unlike Yu’s office, Trommler found it difficult to consider the notion of packing up Conrad’s quarters. On his bedside cabinet was a photograph that Trommler was fond of. It was of the two of them when they had gone surfing after Challenger had returned home to Earth after taking its beating from the Carreons. The two of them were sitting on their boards in the middle of a calm spot on the Pacific Ocean, just off the Gold Coast in Australia. Trommler had taken Conrad there to help forget his breakup with Martha Habiba.

Thursday, September 26th, 2155
Gold Coast, Australia, Earth

“Say cheese!” Trommler said as he held the camera in one hand and pulled Conrad close to him with the other.

Conrad pushed his wet hair back and looked up at the camera that Trommler was holding up in the air. Grinning next to his best friend, the pilot kept his pose as the MACO soldier took several shots of them sitting on their surfboards in what felt like the middle of no-where. Well in fact it was somewhere. They were just a few miles out from the beach of the Australian Gold Coast and for the first time that day the waves had calmed down. It gave them a moment to be still and just enjoy the natural silence of the waves just bobbing around.

After finishing capturing the moment, Trommler put the camera away in his waterproof satchel. “This is great.” He said as he splashed his feet in the sea further. The act of balancing on a surfboard had been one he had mastered as a teenager, so it came natural to him.

 Agreeing with his friend’s assessment, Conrad spoke up. “You’re right Trommo.” The sun was hot enough to be tenderly prickling against their wet skin. It was just comfortable. “We should think about heading back.”

“We’ve got all the time in the world Jacky Bear!” Trommler threw back. The extra addition of ‘bear’ to Conrad’s nickname had only happened since they touched down in Australia earlier that day. Earlier on in their trip, Trommler had implied that Conrad acted like a koala bear.  “Why are you in a rush?”

Conrad was about to answer and then stopped himself. He couldn’t give him an answer. “I suppose you’re right again.”

“It rarely happens twice in row, but when it does it can be known as a miracle!” Trommler countered back with. “Seriously though Jack, you need to relax man. Enjoy what we have here. Who knows when we’ll be back here again?”

“True,” Conrad admitted again. “And when will I ever get the chance again to knock you off your board?” He asked.

Trommler was confused at the remark, but before he could do anything Conrad had launched himself from his board and towards Trommler. It resulted in the soldier being knocked into the sea with the pilot on top of him. As they swam to the top of the sea, Trommler growled at what had happened but smiled that Conrad could start to show his fun side again. He needed to if he was to ever get over Martha. The two of them had an awful break-up and Conrad desperately required time away from it all.

“You better watch yourself next time Ensign Conrad!” Trommler stated as he pulled himself back on his board.

“Aye, Second Lieutenant Trommler!” Conrad mockingly said back as he climbed onto his surfboard. “Seriously though, we should have this place as somewhere we come back often too. It’s amazing!”

Agreeing with his friend’s idea, Trommler liked it a lot. “It’s a deal.”

Thursday, November 6th, 2155
Challenger NX-03, en route to Earth

Disappointed at the fact that he won’t be able to return to the Gold Coast with his friend ever again, Trommler put the photograph back down. Kneeling down onto the deck plating, Trommler stretched across to the small fridge that Conrad had installed into his quarters. Opening it up he took out the last bottle of beer that was left. Twisting and pulling its top off, the bitter taste from the cold beverage was a welcomed one. Looking back at the bed, Trommler smiled at the small cuddly toy that sat on the end. A Koala teddy-bear with a yellow t-shirt that had the words ‘Gold Coast’ stitched on it and above it in marker pen the words ‘Jacky Bear’ inscribed on it. Trommler raised his bottle towards the bear. He had won it at a carnival fair he and Conrad had visited on their second night. Trommler had given it to the pilot as a keepsake of their adventure.

“Prost, mein Freund.” He muttered in his German accent as he took another sip after toasting the teddy bear. A slight tear rolled down his cheek, he pushed it away but found it hard to remove the others that soon followed.