“The Tholian Stratagem”

TWO

Saturday, November 8th, 2155
Boston, United States of American, Earth

It was a testimony to Commander Stanton’s legacy that so many people had turned up for his memorial service in his home city of Boston. Turning up with Nicole on his arm, Lloyd had led the contingent from Challenger into the large church. Michael’s parents had organised for the service to take place at the church they had visited as a family during his childhood. When Nicole had got into contact and suggested they arrive together, Lloyd was pleased to accept her offer. He had found the last few days a true struggle. After docking the ship, next to Discovery, in the San Francisco Shipyards, Burton had led the ship with their own memorial. Shortly after that the crew were granted four days of leave. It would give everyone an opportunity to see any loved ones that were on Earth and if they wanted to attend any of the personal memorial services taking place for Stanton, Yu and Conrad they could. Today it was Stanton’s, tomorrow Yu’s and then on Tuesday on Luna would be Conrad’s.

The church for Stanton had been packed with his entire family and close colleagues, as well as pretty much a majority of the crew from Challenger. The swath of Starfleet dress uniforms was almost blinding. At the front of the church, Burton’s parents had set up pictures of their son from his early years and there were a few recent ones from his time on Challenger. Both of his parents had approached Burton and shook his and Nicole’s hand outside the church before the service had started. His mother, a doctor and the Hospital Chief of Staff for Boston General, while his father was Faculty Head for Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Stanton was an imposing man with his genius level, it was obvious that Michael had got his talents and skills from his parents. Then there was his sister, the artist, who appeared more down to Earth then either of her parents. Her kindness and politeness was definitely something she had shared in common with her brother.

“Captain Burton, I just want to say thank you.” Rachel Stanton had said as she shook his hand and then went to shake Levesque. “In fact, I want to thank you both. Michael wrote to me often and when he mentioned either one of you, you could see how much he appreciated your friendship during his time with you.”

Smiling at each other and then back at Michael’s sister, Levesque spoke up for them both. “It was our honour getting to know Michael. He was an amazing individual.”

“I am absolutely devastated that we didn’t get a chance to serve more time with him.” Burton added.

Holding back the tears, Rachel smiled in appreciation for the kind words they had offered. “I know he loved being your chief engineer and he saw us shortly after you made him your first officer. Along with him getting married to Alex, he was in a good place. I don’t think there was anything else that would have made him happier.” She paused and behind his shoulders caught the eye of an approaching individual. “Talking of which, my brother-in-law has just arrived. I must say hello to him before his parents arrive and make a scene.”

Confused to what she meant by that last statement, Burton and Levesque had walked up the steps towards the church entrance. Both of them were wearing their dress uniform. Instead of wearing the all-in-one variant that was a lighter blue than their normal duty jumpsuit uniform, they had opted to wear the two-piece jacket and trouser version that was slightly darker than the former. Over the top of this, they wore the dark charcoal overcoat. It was more appropriate to wear at a solemn occasion.

Pulling his overcoat closer to him, Burton had looked at Levesque. He couldn’t stop smiling at how much of a bump she had developed since he had last seen her. Their sons were certainly growing! “Nicole, what did she mean by that about Alex’s parents?”

Levesque was confused at the question, “Lloyd don’t you know who Alex’s mother is?”

“Should I?” Burton asked. “What have I missed?”

Chuckling a bit, she tugged on him and stopped him from walking any further and got him to turn around. As predicted by Rachel Stanton, a scene had started to form. Photographers and journalists had started to form up as a space was cleared by the road as a string of cars appeared. Two huge black limousines were in the centre of the convoy, with each member of it sporting small flags that fluttered in the Boston air as they approached the church. Looking at Alex, where he stood with Rachel, Burton noticed a look of regret had appeared on his new first officer’s face. Immediately it hit Burton as to who Alex’s mother was.

Getting out of the car had been a number of suit wearing bodyguards, most of them were wearing earpieces. They appeared to dot themselves around the vehicles before one of them opened the door that was nearest to the path. Stepping out gracefully, wearing a chequered black coat with a black pant suit underneath was Alex’s mother, Diane Rodham, President of the United States of America. “How did I never know about that?” Burton whispered to Levesque.

“It’s not as if Alex goes around declaring he is part of America’s first family, it’s not as if she’s President Littlejohn, but from what I hear she is planning to run for that office when Littlejohn’s term comes to an end.” Levesque quietly gossiped back.

Diane Rodham had a sense of elegance, sophistication and humility as she greeted her son. By-passers on the other side of the street all started to clap for her. After hugging Alex, she turned towards the crowd, smiled and waved. She gestured with her hands in a friendly manner to stop as a sign of respect as to the reason why she was here. The reporters nearby were talking in low tones as they reported about the whereabouts of the American President. With Alex on one side of her and her husband (who was Alex’s stepfather) the other side of her, she approached Michael’s parents with both arms open. She pulled Doctor Stanton into a hug first and could be heard sharing her condolences with Elizabeth Stanton. It was clear that the four parents of Michael and Alex’s knew one another well as they were familiar in each other’s presence as they shared hugs, kisses on the cheeks and handshakes.

“Shall we go in?” Nicole had asked and Lloyd just nodded as they entered the large church. Stepping across the threshold he was reminded of father’s own memorial service back home in Portsmouth. Just like his father’s, there would be no coffin as there was no body to bury.

Standing in the courtyard alone, looking at the numerous gravestones that littered it, Burton was waiting for Levesque to finish her goodbyes with everyone. The two had agreed that after Stanton’s service they would get dinner together, somewhere in Boston. He wasn’t paying any particular attention, so when he was approached by Commander Rodham, he almost jumped out of his skin when his name was called.

“Fleet Captain Burton?” Rodham said, trying his best not to startled his new superior officer so much.

Burton turned around and faced his new first officer and chief helm officer. “Alex, please call me Lloyd when it’s just us. You’re about to join me as my right hand, we can drop the formalities…especially here.”

Smiling in appreciation for Burton’s sentiments. “Thank you…Lloyd.” He said almost sounding uncomfortable as he tried saying his superior’s first name for the first time. “I just wanted to thank you for speaking today and for ensuring those on the crew who wanted to attend, could attend. I can’t believe how many people turned up.”

“I’m pretty certain, everyone who knew Michael wanted to turn up. Besides those who were from the Armstrong, I’m sure you can appreciate that they obviously wanted to see their loved ones after what they experienced.” Burton said.

“Obviously, but I do appreciate it.” Rodham stated. “I think it shocked Michael’s parents to see how popular he was.”

“Hearing today who he had been before he joined us on Challenger has given me a completely new insight and further appreciation for what he did for us all.” Burton took in a breath. “I’m so sorry Alex that he didn’t come home. He should have.”

Smiling slightly at the sentiment, Rodham nodded in agreement. It was obvious he was holding back the tears. “I keep racing through my head everything we did in that mission. Could we have arrived sooner to help Michael, Lieutenant Conrad and Major Yu survive the mission? I have to be honest, thinking about absolutely every variable makes my head hurt and I can’t see what else we could have done.”

“And that’s the hardest thing out of all of this.” Burton agreed with. “The only thing I keep going back to is my decision to proceed with the attack. If I had called it into Starfleet, then maybe things might have been different. We may not have gone ahead with it.”

“Please don’t question yourself Lloyd.” Rodham interjected without haste. “It was the right thing to do and I stand by it. We stopped the Romulans from having an upper hand, if we had waited any longer than we may have lost the opportunity that had presented itself to us.”

“You may be right Alex, but the outcome was not what we expected.” Burton said with a wince.

“No not entirely,” Rodham said, “but we need to move on and honour their memories by ensuring their sacrifices were for the greater good.” Lowering his voice, so no-one else could hear it, Rodham spoke with so much conviction in his voice next. “We need to hit the Romulans again and much harder while we have the momentum.”

“I agree, but at the moment until the hearings are complete there’s not much more we can do.” Burton stated. He looked at the man before him, he could see how much Alex was broken from the loss of his husband. That said there was a sense of determination in his demeanour now. “Alex, if you’re going to become my first officer I need to know you’re not going to be seeking just revenge. I need to know I will have a first officer that I can trust with an open-minded approach in all that we encounter.”

Surprised at Burton’s words, Rodham couldn’t deny that there was some truth in them though. “I won’t lie to you sir; I want to be on Challenger as I want to get back at the Romulans for taking Michael from us. That said, I am committed to honouring Michael by being the best first officer I can be for you and the crew. I need to be where he was.”

Satisfied that Rodham was being upfront and honest with him, Burton extended his hand out towards his new first officer. “Then I look forward to having you as my first officer and us showing the Romulans that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Shaking the captain’s hand, Rodham beamed with fulfilment. “That we will be.”

“That said, what you shared in your tribute to Michael was some pretty heavy things.” Burton described. “Did you mean it all?”

“The part about wearing the uniform and realising there was much more to life than just our careers?” Rodham asked for clarity.

“Yeah.” Burton said with a single nod.

“I did,” Rodham said, “For too long now, both of us put our careers first before our own lives and it got us nowhere. It took for us both to realise that we wanted something more, needed something more than just our jobs.” Rodham paused. “Don’t get me wrong, I love being part of Starfleet as much as Michael did. It just didn’t complete our lives; I just wish we had realised it sooner. Do you get what I mean?”

 “I think so.” Burton said before noticing an entourage of secret service bodyguards were approaching them, with Alex’s mother in the middle of them all. Burton gave his new right-hand man an indication that he should turn around.

“Alex, my darling, we must be going.” President Rodham declared as she approached him and the secret service agents all took up guarded positions around them. Diane Rodham smiled at her son with an expression of regret as well as concern for him. It was obvious she and her husband had thought highly of Michael as well.

Before she could say anything else, Alex turned and introduced Burton to her. “Mother, I want you to meet Michael’s former commanding officer, who will be my new commanding officer in a few days’ time, Fleet Captain Lloyd Burton.” He paused as he gestured towards his mother, “Fleet Captain Burton please meet my mother, Diane Rodham, President of the United States of America.”

Smirking at the moment he found himself in, Burton extended his hand towards the woman. Her bobbed short blonde hair showed some signs of silver and grey while her piercing blue eyes were just like Alex’s. Lloyd wondered if Nicole would be sad she missed the chance to meet the woman before him. “Madam President, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

“The pleasure is all mine captain.” She said shaking his hand. “I hear you’re quite the rising star in Starfleet, I believe the Washington Post described you as Starfleet’s poster boy!”

Flinching slightly at hearing that name he had received from his first mission when he took command of Challenger and successfully completed his diplomatic mission with the Denobulans, Burton just smirked before responding. “I’m just happy to serve for the greater good of the Commonwealth ma’am.”

“Well make sure you look after my boy,” the president said, “both of my sons have decided to make me worry since they joined Starfleet. Now my youngest is an ensign on the flagship, I worry about them both.”

“My mother would agree with you there,” Burton said. “My siblings and I are all Starfleet officers.”

Smiling at him in response to show she could understand Burton’s mother, President Rodham then looked at her son. “Alex, I must make a move as I have a meeting with the Speaker of the House later this evening. Will you walk me to my motorcade?” She looked back at Burton. “It was lovely to meet you Fleet Captain Burton.”

Alex agreed with his mother’s request and bid farewell to Burton. As the two Rodhams walked away the secret service agents followed on. Burton was not left alone for too long as Levesque soon approached him, watching the scene that had just happened before making her way over.

“Damn I hate being so slow and having to use the bathroom so much.” She stated with a level of distaste for being pregnant. “Anything interesting from America’s first family?” She pondered quietly as they both watched Rodham say goodbye to his mother and stepfather as they got into their motorcade.

Shaking his head, “No, nothing really.” Burton said as he looked down at Levesque. “Still up for dinner?”

“I thought you would never ask.” She replied as she linked her arm into his and the two walked away from the church, saying their final goodbyes to Michael’s family and towards the man they had called a close comrade and friend for almost a year now. Rest in peace wherever you are Michael, Burton thought to himself one final time as he looked up at the church.

The small bistro they had found that was situated in Back Bay, which ran along the bank of the River Charles, had been perfect for their evening meal. Sitting with Levesque opposite to him, Burton was surprised that the restaurant itself wasn’t that busy. The area they had was pretty much theirs unless the waiter brought their meals out or checked in on them.

After enjoying their starter, the couple were now digging into their main meal. Levesque had been describing to Burton about her work with Starfleet Science and that she had been asked to guest lecture at Starfleet Training Command.

“That sounds amazing, are you going to have enough time to do it?” He had asked her in between a mouthful of his carbonara pasta.

Nodding and saying a simple yes as she swallowed her own dish of lasagne, Levesque picked up her glass of water and took a few sips before explaining how she had planned to work her two jobs. “Thankfully it will be teaching just one day a week, but the most exciting rumour that is coming out of S-T-C is them wanting to revamp the entire training process for Starfleet.”

Surprised at that piece of gossip, Burton was inclined to know more. “Why would they want to do that?”

“From what I’ve heard since the Xindi attack there’s been an increase in applications every year to S-T-C, as a result the main campus can barely manage. They’ve brought in civilian consultants, teachers and instructors to help with the workload. From what my sources tell me there’s a big push from the Command Council for a sort of academy to be built to replace the entire institute. I’m hoping that I can get in on helping with writing the curriculum for the science specialist areas.” Levesque stated. “You should consider a career in teaching when you’ve had enough time running a starship!”

Chuckling at that notion, Burton finished what he was chewing and picked up his glass of white wine. “Don’t tempt me.” He went on to take two sips from his drink. “Talking of being closer to home. How are you doing with the pregnancy?”

Rubbing her stomach slightly, Levesque nodded to assure him everything was fine. “These three are keeping me awake at night but nothing I cannot handle.” She leant backwards in her chair as she took a break from her eating. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s just I feel completely horrible that I’ve not been around enough to support you.” He answered back.

Leaning across the table she took his hand in hers and squeezed it. “Lloyd, you’re here and that’s what counts right now. You and I just need to work out what we plan to do once they’ve arrived.” She smiled sweetly at him.

Taking another swig from his glass for some extra courage, Burton took a breath and spoke what was on his heart. “That’s the thing, where do ‘we’ stand with ‘things’?”

Confused by his question, Levesque asked for him to be clearer with his question.

“By ‘us’, I mean ‘us’.” He repeated. “What are we? Two friends who share children?”

Placing her cutlery down and picking up her napkin, she continued to smile sweetly. “Well, do we need anything more?”

“I don’t know,” Burton said. “It’s just with Michael’s death as well as the others, it’s just made me think a lot more about life and my priorities.”

“And what conclusions have you come to?” She persisted with her quizzing.

Taking another breath, Burton blurted out his answer. “Well, the boys and you.”

Shocked a bit at what he had just come out with, Levesque appreciated his honesty. “Do you want something more?”

“Maybe, you?”

“Maybe.” Levesque squeezed his hand a bit more. “Are we really doing this?”

Burton looked around their empty room, “It’s not as if we have a whole starship watching us anymore?”

“That’s true, and technically speaking we wouldn’t be breaking any rules as we are not in the same chain of command anymore.” Levesque smirked, “I’m interested to see where things can go. You?”

“Absolutely.” Burton said in a low voice and he leaned across the table and kissed her gently on her lips for the first time. The touch was soft but intimate. Placing her hands on his cheeks, Levesque kept Burton there just for a little bit longer than he was expecting. As soon as they stopped, they both smiled at one another.

“I’ve been waiting for you to do that for almost a year.” Levesque admitted.

“I’m sure you’re not the only one who has been waiting for us to divulge our feelings.” Burton smirked back as he took another sip from his glass. “Let’s not share it with anyone from Challenger for the moment though.”

“Agreed, but I’m sure there’s a certain chief engineer looking down at us with a huge grin on his face right now.” Levesque said with a smile. She raised her glass, “To Michael!”

“To Michael!” Burton repeated as he clinked his glass against hers. “and to Viktoria and Jack.”

After saying goodbye to Michael’s parents and leaving their family town house that had been their home for a long time, Alex had decided he would walk to the nearest shuttle-bus stop. He wanted some time alone, the first since he had left Discovery. He was thankful that Fleet Captain Burton had agreed to his transfer prior to the memorial service as it meant he could wear his new mission patch on his uniform. He was eager to remove the Discovery one and replace it with Challenger’s. It wasn’t that he didn’t like working on his former ship, the crew were great, but he just could no longer work underneath Captain Müller. The fact he returned from the mission and Michael didn’t…well there was just something in the back of his mind that resented the captain for it.

Walking down the cold streets of Boston, Alex was used to it after being raised in New York. The bitter cold air was out in full force tonight and he was grateful that Michael’s sister had insisted that he take one of Michael’s old scarves to help him keep warm. Rachel shared Michael’s kind spirit. He understood why Michael was so close with her, they were so alike in so many ways and then different in so many other ways as well.

Approaching the bus stop, Alex paused as he caught the sight of a bar that was open in the corner of his eye. It was one he could remember Michael taking him too when he first introduced Alex to his parents. Deciding to go in, Alex flew down its stairs and pushed the door open. Going in he found it to be slightly busier than he expected. In one corner it appeared that lots of people were enjoying themselves as they were all singing to song he barely knew or had heard of. When the bartender came up to him, Alex ordered a beer. As soon as he got his bottle, the bartender explained that it was karaoke night, and their theme was old love songs. The woman who was performing at that point in time was quite deep into her performance. Only hearing some of the lyrics above the crowd, Alex worked out a few lyrics that included her singing that she would take bittersweet memories with her as she said goodbye and begged them not to cry. Shaking his head, Alex thanked the barkeep and made his way over to an empty booth. Once he sat down, he took a swig from his bottle and the bitterness of the beer engulfed his tastebuds at warp speed. From where he sat, he could hear the performance a lot better. He carefully unzipped his overcoat and made sure no-one could see his Starfleet dress uniform underneath. He wasn’t keen on hearing anyone tell him tonight that he was either doing a great job with the war or the total opposite of that.

The female singer then went into holding her note for a long time which caused the whole bar to erupt into cheers and applause. Joining in with clapping her, Alex was impressed that she wasn’t that bad. Sitting there watching her finish her performance, Alex knew that Michael would have enjoyed this intimate setting for them two. He may not have been the life and soul of a party, but he enjoyed having a good time with those he trusted.

The next person up was another woman. She appeared a lot older than her predecessor, almost in her late forties. Talking to the DJ who was overseeing the karaoke evening, she told him which song she wanted to sing. Telling the crowd she was going to do a country western song, Alex relaxed back into the booth and listened as she sang the song to her partner. A man of similar age sat almost at the front by the stage and he smiled back at her as she started her song. Singing about looking at how far they had come, that others hadn’t expected it and that they were still going strong together. It was a lot slower than the previous song and she continued to express her love for the man before her, that he was the one she would run to, the one she belonged to, the one she wanted for life. Pushing back tears he hadn’t originally noticed; Alex finished his beer. The whole song was making him think of Michael too much. It was too painful. Getting up as he moved across the bar, which had become a lot quieter since the song had started, Alex caught the last lyric as he approached the door to leave. The woman sang about how her love was the only one she dreamt of and the one she got to kiss at night. Alex didn’t want to hear anymore as he knew that now that Michael was gone, he would never be able to kiss him again, to hold him again and the only thing he had left would be seeing him in dreams. Pushing more tears back, he made his way to the nearest bus stop so he could make his way home. Tonight he had decided he would indulge himself. For the first time since she had become president, Alex would stay with his parents at the White House.

The decision for a few of them to stay in Boston that evening had been suggested by Stewart. The small group of officers had all booked into a five-star hotel that was close to the church where Commander Stanton’s memorial service had taken place. Now that the service was over and after checking into their rooms, the group of friends had met in the lobby together so they could all go get dinner together.

Wearing more appropriate civilian clothing, so none of them were recognised as Starfleet officers, the group had booked the large circular table where they would gather around to have their meal. After the waitress had taken their orders and poured them all a glass of wine, the server had shared her name and said she would be back with their meals shortly.

Thanking her, as the natural de facto leader, Stewart raised his glass to everyone around him. “To absent friends.” He spoke with some sombre in his voice. The young nurse had insisted that they all stayed together over the next few days as they said their goodbyes to their fallen comrades. Commander Stanton’s service earlier hadn’t been easier for any of them. There were many tears when Fleet Captain Burton had spoken, but most people had found it difficult to listen to Commander Stanton’s husband’s eulogy. Their new first officer had spoken deeply about the love he had for Stanton and the many traits of the former engineer that he adored. His words had been moving.  

Everyone around the table copied his words and actions with their own glasses.

“And to family.” added Cortez. The chief armoury officer was sat on the other side of the table to where Stewart was sat.

Again, everyone repeated her sentiments and took a sip from their glasses.

“It was a fine send off for the commander.” Metaxas stated from where he sat next to Cortez.

Cortez agreed with the younger engineer. “Indeed it was.” She remarked. “I never knew that Commander Rodham was related to President Rodham though.”

“I think I had heard Commander Stanton mention it as an off the cuff remark.” Dalton said from the other side of the table. The science officer that had enjoyed a brief stint in engineering during their mission involving the Deltans and Carreons in recent weeks had started to be more involved with the others. Stewart had been the one to bring him more into their little clan after getting to know him more from their time stuck on Delta. The chief physicist was quite a sociable person and had fitted right in with them.

“Should we expect the American Secret Service to be posted to Challenger now that Commander Rodham is moving in?” remarked Ensign Hathaway. The Scottish pilot took another sip from her glass of wine. “I mean, isn’t he the first son of the United States?”

“I don’t think the captain would be pleased if we had to have extra security on the ship just for one person.” Cortez stated. “That said, I think he will fit in nicely.”

Concurring with her, Masuko spoke up for the first time since they had arrived at the hotel. “Without a doubt. He seems approachable and fair.”

In no time the group were provided with their meals and they all started soon thereafter. In between mouthfuls, Harris spoke up to ask a question. “Will Major Yu’s service be a full military send off?”

Jenkins replied to the answer after noticing that Trommler wasn’t paying attention as he had been staring at the same painting that hung on one of the walls. The more senior MACO had barely touched anything on his plate and his right hand was gently fiddling with his glass of beer. Clearing his throat, the young corporal confirmed what they would witness at the service for their fallen MACO leader. “We heard that General Casey will be leading the service. I believe at some point in her MACO career, Major Yu was trained by him. I think she was sort of a protégé of his, so he is pulling all of the stops out for her.” Jenkins paused as he tried to grab the attention of Trommler. “Isn’t that right Luis?”

Shaking his head as he looked back at the rest of the group. “Yeah,” He confirmed, still not completely focussed on their topic of conversation. It took him a second or two to realise what they were sharing. “I believe the major’s parents will be there to be presented with the folded Earth flag.”

“Have you guys been asked to be part of the honour guard?” Habiba asked Jenkins and Trommler after taking a bite from her meal. The second science officer had slowly returned to this group. She had been the only one to return alive from the mission that had taken the lives of their former comrade. Barely holding it together, the science officer had welcomed the support from those around her. 

“Yeah,” Jenkins answered after noticing that Trommler’s attention had trailed off again. “The entire unit will do it. I believe General Casey has given special dispensation to First Lieutenant al-Fayyad to be in uniform to lead us for the last time.”

“I can’t believe she’s just resigned like that and walked away from her career.” Cortez commented. “I never saw that one coming.”

Trommler spoke up for the former detachment deputy. “The major’s death affected her greatly, it made her re-think her life choices and she decided that her family here were more important than the uniform.” He took his napkin off his lap and placed it on the table. “I’m sorry everyone, but I’m not feeling great. I think I will turn in early and see you all in the morning.”

As the German MACO stood up, he received a round of quiet support and well wishes from his friends. He soon left their company and was out of earshot.

“I’m really worried about him.” Jenkins said as he reached across the table for his glass of wine. “Luis hasn’t been himself since…” Pausing as he couldn’t finish his sentence, everyone else knew what he was going to say.

“Since Jack’s death.” Habiba said though. “I know that feeling.” She added as she pushed the contents of her dinner around on her plate. “I suppose it’s been like a double whammy for Luis. Having to deal with Yu’s loss and Jack’s.”

  “I know that feeling.” Masuko stated, using Habiba’s exact words from a moment ago. She was the only other person around the table that had to deal with the loss of a mentor and their dear friend. “It won’t be the same without any of them around.” She added as she dabbed the edge of her lips with her own napkin. “I may call it an early night too, I’m up early in the morning to see Adam. I could do with a good night’s sleep.” As she pushed herself up, everyone wished her good night.

Once the acting chief engineer had also left, the group had quietly returned to their meals. Looking to his husband, Stewart smiled sweetly at him and held out his hand to take his. Jenkins responded and firmly took hold of the gesture. He interlinked their fingers, knowing how lucky they were to have one another right now. “Do you think she will actually come to Yu’s service?” the nurse asked his husband.

Shrugging his shoulders, Jenkins didn’t have an answer. They all knew that Masuko kept blaming herself for Yu’s death, so they only hoped that by seeing her husband Adam that somehow that would help her.

Tomorrow’s service was going to be harder.   

Challenger NX-03, docked at San Francisco Shipyards, Earth orbit

Returning to Challenger felt like a natural thing to do, even though Kefira had offered for him to stay with her in her guest room at her flat in Tel Aviv, so when he was walking down the corridor the chief communication officer was surprised to see his new deputy coming down in the opposite direction.

Holding in her hands what appeared to be a steaming flask of coffee, a mug and a silver foiled bag, Ensign Tanisha Avery smiled sweetly the moment she saw Hennessey. Picking up her pace she met him halfway. “Welcome back boss!” She affectionately greeted him with. “I didn’t think you’d be back before we left the yard?”

Shaking his head as she undid his overcoat to reveal his dress uniform underneath (where he had undone the top collar), Hennessey explained his presence to her. “I wanted to spend my evening trying to crack the Romulan database and Major Yu’s memorial isn’t until later on tomorrow afternoon, so I’ve got some time to spare.”

“Well I’m glad you’re here as I was planning to make a night of it myself doing the same thing.” Avery said and she gestured at the items in her arms. “Don’t tell Chef Lawson but I raided her snack cupboard and found these cookies!” She indicated towards the foil packet. “I was headed to the command centre with these goodies!”

Hennessey smirked at how energetic Avery was. She was twenty years younger than him and her Texas energy was infectious and she brought with it the same level of academia that Hennessey had experienced. She had a range of degrees and had only graduated from Starfleet Training Command earlier on in the year. Armstrong had been her first posting, unlike her fellow comrades from their fallen ship, she had appeared to bounce back a lot better than they did when Fleet Captain Burton had brought them into the Challenger fold. “Let me go get changed out of this uncomfortable dress uniform and I’ll join you shortly.”

Sometime later the two communications officers were sat in the command centre while every monitor had some element of the Romulan database on display. On the main large screen showed the progress of the translation matrix. It currently had completed two percent and a half.

“You know there’s something familiar with this that I can’t seem to be my finger on.” Avery said as she studied one of the monitors.

Hennessey, who sat in the middle of the room with his feet up on the centre table and several tablets dotted around him, looked up from the device he had been reading. “What do you mean Tanisha?”

“It’s just…” She paused as she looked at the screen one more time before transferring what she was looking at onto the main screen. “It’s just some of these glyphs look familiar to a code I used when we created the Watchtower Protocol.” She loaded the protocol that she spoke of to place it by the side of the coding she was trying to crack. There were a few similarities, not many but some which she highlighted. The protocol had been used to create their network to connect the ship’s communication and sensory arrays with a certain number of probes to find the Discovery in the Barrens. “There,” she said pointing to those who are similar. “I’m not going crazy, they are similar.”

Agreeing with her finding, Hennessey had to acknowledge that there was something about the Romulan coding and language he had felt he had recognised earlier on but had ignored it down to the fact he knew a number of languages now. “I have to admit, there were some words I thought I knew and it made me think of the first alien monograph I translated.”

“What was it about?” Avery enquired.

“Sexual dysfunction,” He answered flatly, “and it was Vulcan.”

Surprised at what he said, Avery crossed her arms as she looked back at the screen. “The code I used was an old Vulcan one. Isn’t that a bit odd?”

Shaking his head slightly, Hennessey wasn’t about to completely dismiss her thought either. “Yes and no. Many languages, especially Earth ones have a root language from an ancient language. Take Latin for example, it heavily influenced a number of European languages. Vulcan language is older and more diverse than ours, plus they’ve been out in the stars for a lot longer. Along the way, their language may have somehow influenced the Romulan language. It wouldn’t surprise me that a culture as deep and rich like the Vulcan one is admired by so many others. I mean look at how much Earth has tried to persuade them in sharing their technology that it pushed the Andorians and Tellarites to work hard at getting their hands-on Vulcan technology in a covert way so they were able to almost reverse engineer it. Maybe…somehow and somewhere in time this happened to the Vulcan language. Perhaps elements of it were taken to be used by the Romulans?”

“Then why don’t we use Vulcan language to attempt to translate some of these data-blocks?” Avery suggested.

Hennessey nodded in agreement. “It wouldn’t harm our efforts.”

Getting straight on to it, Avery brought up the Vulcan linguistic database and installed it into their decoding matrix. In a few seconds one of the data-blocks was recovered and quickly translated so they could understand it.

“That appeared too easy.” Avery remarked. “Looks like we’ve got further into what was the Prowler’s navigation logs.” She pressed a few buttons and a star chart appeared with numerous coordinates and a red line indicating a journey. “I’m no cartographer but have we just found the one thing that the captain wanted? A map of Romulan space?”

“A partial map, yes, but something we can definitely give to him to use.” Hennessey said. “We need to patch this into our own star charts and see if we can work out what it is showing us. Let’s see if we can find out where the Prowler went before it left the Bassen Rift to attack our forces near to Deneva.”

The revelation was one that Hennessey knew that their superior would be pleased to hear about, but at the back of his mind he was concerned at how quickly using the Vulcan language had helped them. He hoped what he had speculated about their language was not right, however the evidence before them was pointing to it being a possibility.