“The Tholian Stratagem”

THREE

Sunday, November 9th, 2155
MACO Headquarters, Lian Yu, North China Sea, Earth

The gun salute followed by the single bugler sounding the Last Post filled the air around the onlookers as the United Earth Commonwealth flag that was draped over the empty casket was taken off by the honour guard and folded neatly. Marching softly towards Yu’s parents who sat on the front row of the white seats, al-Fayyad presented the white flag with the UEC emblem on it to them. Either side of the former MACO, in their dress uniforms were Second Lieutenant Trommler and Staff Sergeant Iyer. As the three most senior ranking members of the MACO unit that had served under Yu, they were selected to undertake the task. After they had finished, General George Casey, the Chief of the General Staff that led the MACOs approached Yu’s parents. Offering his private condolence to them both, the old general was short but sincere with his sentiments. Once he was finished he turned to everyone else in the parade, saluted to them all and then dismissed them. The service was now over.

Wearing his Starfleet dress uniform for the second day in a row, Burton was pleased that he was able to get it washed and pressed again in time for Yu’s memorial service. Standing in the large cemetery garden within the grounds of MACO Headquarters was a first for Challenger’s skipper. He hadn’t stepped on the large island ever before. The transport ride over from the main Chinese land hadn’t taken long but when they approached the island he had been impressed at how well the small number of islands in the Lian Yu chain were protected. They were completely fortified and the place was known to be one of the most well-armed areas on Earth. The weapons that defended MACO headquarters put what defences were in place to protect Starfleet Headquarters to shame. Only the offices of the President and Prime Minister for Earth and the Tour des Unis (where Earth’s parliament met) could rival Lian Yu. Looking at his companion who had been holding his hand discreetly, Burton had on some level felt like a teenager who was sneaking around with his latest love interest. He and Levesque had spent the night together in Boston before making their way to Hong Kong to catch their transport to their final destination.

“Another suitable and great send off.” Levesque said with sincerity as she looked up at Burton. It was a very sunny day on the island, so most of the funeral goers who were not MACOs, wore sunglasses. Levesque and Burton wore theirs but still had squint at the brightness of the sun.

Nodding in agreement with her words, Burton looked around at the faces of those he recognised. “It was nice to hear why her call-sign was Spectre.” He spoke. “I always assumed it was something to do with her being so good at being covert, nothing to do with her previous career as an inspector with the Royal Canadian Mountain Police.”

“I always thought Yu always had that knack for surprising us with some hidden skill or talent she possessed.” Levesque stated. “By the way, good speech.”

“Thanks.” Burton relented, not that he didn’t appreciate the praise – he just didn’t want to take the focus away from the major and on to him.

“I couldn’t agree anymore.” A gruff and solid voice said behind them.

Turning around, partly startled at the interjection, Burton and Levesque were surprised to have General Casey standing before them.

An impressive man with a long military history, Casey was someone that you didn’t want to mess with. On the other hand he was known for his cool charismatic and collected approach that made him a respectable leader. “Fleet Captain Burton,” He said, extending his hand towards the younger man before shaking Levesque’s hand and acknowledging her too.

“General Casey, it is an honour to meet you.” Levesque said with a friendly smile.

Grinning back, he bowed his head in a respectful manner and returned the gesture. “Likewise.” He looked at Burton. “Captain, I was hoping we could have a moment to discuss a matter?”

Looking at Levesque and then back to the general, Burton agreed with the request. “Of course sir.”

Moments later, Casey had led Burton away from where the memorial service had taken place and towards a secluded area that had a number of lone pillars standing in rows. All of them had names on them of fallen MACO soldiers.

“I wanted to speak to you about the future of the MACO detachment on Challenger.” Casey said as he indicated for them both to sit on a backless bench in front of the remembrance area. “I’m afraid that finding Yu’s replacement has not been an easy task.”

“Oh?” Burton said curiously. “Is there an issue?”

Giving out a huge sigh, Casey nodded. “With the war going on, we’ve had to place a majority of our forces on Starfleet ships and installations so the list of experienced majors who are free to take over is limited.” He paused as to show he was finding it difficult to admit there was a shortage in the MACO ranks. “I’d prefer you keep this quiet, but in such circumstances I do have the authority to promote those within the unit to lead it under special circumstances.”

Still unsure where the general was going with this, Burton sought further clarity. “I take it that from your expression with al-Fayyad leaving the unit assigned to Challenger that your choices are limited?”

“Indeed.” Casey answered. “However I am certain my choice is the right one.” Placing his hand into his dress uniform jacket’s pocket, the general took out a communicator and asked whoever was on the other end to send ‘him over’ to where they were. Moments later in the distance, walking up the same gravel path he had taken with the general to where they were sat now was a figure that Burton recognised almost instantly.

Marching towards the general and coming to a halt just before him, Second Lieutenant Trommler saluted his superior and stood to attention.

“At ease lieutenant.” Casey instructed through his rough tones. He and Burton then stood up. “Second Lieutenant Trommler, I believe you know Fleet Captain Burton well enough?”

“Yes sir, very well sir.” Trommler said in a strong tone.

Nodding to show he was pleased with the younger man’s reply, Casey continued. “And you are happy to follow his leadership?”

“Yes sir!” Trommler almost shouted.

Burton was starting to get confused as to where Casey was going with this, so he continued to watch, listen and learn without interruptions.

“Excellent,” Casey said. “As you know lieutenant, I trained Major Yu myself and I knew how passionate she was as a soldier and as a leader. The values she used are ones I follow and keep close to my heart.”

“And let me say sir they are very good ones too sir.” Trommler added.

“I’m glad to hear that as you will need them with your next assignment.” Casey stated. “Luis Trommler, after reviewing your records, and numerous reports of your conduct, I hereby give you the battlefield promotion to ‘captain’ and order you to take on the role of Detachment Commander for the unit assigned to Fleet Captain Burton’s ship.”

Gobsmacked at the news and his promotion, Trommler was taken back by it. “I’m sorry sir?”

“You heard me, Captain Trommler. Major Yu thought very highly of you and in her last evaluation of you had requested that you were promoted. I am only granting her request but extending it slightly.” Casey explained. “Congratulations.” He offered his hand towards Trommler. “I cannot think of anyone else more suited to follow in Yu’s footsteps in leading the unit on Challenger.”

Trommler shook his superior’s hand. “Thank you sir, I promise not to let you or the major down in my new duties.”

“I know you will do us proud kiddo.” Casey said in a more informal tone as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box.  Asking Burton to hold it after he opened it, Casey took out the two-joined silver strips and replaced Trommler’s golden separate ones on the ends of his collar with his new rank. “Congratulations Captain Trommler.”

Saluting his superior as a way of saying thank you, Trommler smiled at Casey and then at Burton.

“Congratulations Luis, it’s well deserved but I do hope you remember there is only one captain in command of Challenger and that privilege remains with me.” Burton said as he shook Trommler’s hand.

“Understood completely sir.” Trommler replied with.

Casey took one more look at the newly promoted MACO. “It won’t be easy bringing your unit back together, but I believe you can do it Captain Trommler. Now dismissed so I can talk with Fleet Captain Burton further.”

Trommler saluted one more time, raising his gloved hand to both of his superiors before marching away from them.

Smiling at what had just transpired, Casey started slowly walking back with Burton by his side. “Trommler is a good soldier, like Yu. I may have bent some protocols here with his promotion but this war has made me do that on too many occasions recently. One more won’t hurt the soul of the MACOs.”

“Trommler is a fine man, I know he will command the respect of the unit.” Burton stated with confidence as he walked beside the general. “I promise to support him with that general.”

“Good, as I am assigning more MACOs to you.” Casey stated. “The more manpower you have in dealing with the Romulans may come into some use. Alongside that some new fresh blood is what Trommler needs to set his own mark on the unit. He has a few people to train up, but he will have them eating out of the palm of his hands in no-time.”

“I am sure he will.” Burton said in agreement as they returned to where everyone else was.

Before they reached the crowd, which was slowly dispersing, Casey looked at Burton one more time. “Final thing captain,” He said in a much lower tone. The gruffness of his voice coming through thicker than ever before. “This hearing regarding your last mission, I will be in attendance but I want you to know that I supported your decision. You and Captain Müller’s plan to destroy that Romulan base was spot on. You may have given Earth and its allies the breathing space we’ve been wanting since this damn war started.”

Appreciating the general’s words, Burton smiled in response and thanked him with a simple bow of his head.

Stood by the small gravestone that had been erected for Yu, Kefira Ben-Ami knelt down as she touched the white marble and stroked where her fallen friend’s name was inscribed. Closing her eyes, behind the sunglasses she decided to wear, she said a short prayer for Viktoria before standing up. Turning around she saw Hennessey standing there, he too wore sunglasses with his long black overcoat on. All of those from Starfleet wore them over their dress uniforms. Linking her arm into his, the two colleagues said their final goodbyes and stepped away from the memorial as others paid their respects.

“Do you think she was in pain?” Hennessey asked in a low tone as they stopped and turned around to face the others.

“We’ll never know.” Ben-Ami answered honestly. “I hope not Ned.”

“Me too.” He breathed out.

The two of them fell quiet for a bit more until Ben-Ami broke the silence. “How’s the translation going?”

“I’ve got something for the captain, something that may provide a useful target that Viktoria would have loved to have been a part of in attacking.” Hennessey stated. “I plan to tell the captain later.” He gestured with his head the direction of the captain’s presence.

Looking to where her friend was pointing towards, Ben-Ami noted their commanding officer walking back with General Casey. “Good, I think the sooner we can leave Earth and get back to this goddamn war the better.”

“That doesn’t sound like the normal Ro-fa.” Hennessey commented on. “What’s changed?”

Looking at her friend, Ben-Ami replied. “Having to attend these funerals, I think.” She paused to take a breath. “I think I understand why the captain did what he did in going along with approving Müller’s plan. The Romulans have a lot to answer for.”

“That they do,” Hennessey agreed. “That they do.”

Standing around with Commander Levesque, the younger members of Challenger’s crew were catching up with their former first officer. Pleased to see them all, Levesque had commented on the fact she had wished their catch-up was under better terms. As they had not been able to see one another properly at Stanton’s funeral.

Like a proud mother hen, Levesque couldn’t help but smile at them all. It had been almost a year since they had boarded Challenger together. She couldn’t believe how quickly they had all changed in such a short amount of time. Eventually re-joining the group with a small smile on his face was Trommler.

“What did the general and captain say to you Luis?” Levesque enquired and then quickly saw what was on his collar. “Mister Trommler, is that a new rank insignia I see on your collar?”

Nodding with pride, Trommler confirmed. “The general has just given me a battlefield promotion and ordered me to take command of the unit.”

A round of “congratulations” and praise were shared by everyone. Then the one voice that Trommler had been worrying to hear spoke up from behind him. “She’d be proud of you Luis.”

Turning around to face his former deputy, Trommler thanked al-Fayyad before she hugged him tightly. “It won’t be the same without you ma’am.” He whispered into her ear.

“You’ll do a grand job.” She quietly said back. As she let go of him she looked around the gathered crowd. “It was great to see you all one more time.”

“Are you coming to Jack’s memorial?” Jenkins asked from the other side of the circle. He too was in his dress uniform and was holding his husband’s hand. Now the service was over the formality had changed between them all.

al-Fayyad nodded, “Of course, I wouldn’t miss it for the world but I won’t be staying for the reception afterwards. I need to get back in time to pick up my children from school.”

Jenkins’ husband then spoke up. “How is the transition to civilian life going?”

Smiling at not feeling guilty that she loved it, the former MACO shared how much she was enjoying it so far. She was considering returning to college at some point to become a teacher. “But there’s a long shot away, I just want to be with my family for now.”

“I totally get that.” Levesque said in support. The deputy director of Starfleet Science soon saw Burton approaching the group after saying goodbye to General Casey. “Watch out all here comes the boss.”

“Former boss to you.” Burton remarked back. He looked at everyone assembled and smiled at them all. “While I’ve got most of you here, I just want to say how grateful I am at how well you are all holding up and honouring our fallen comrades. It hasn’t been easier. So thank you.”

Harris soon replied to the captain’s comments. Being his yeoman, he was able to get away with being a bit informal. “Sir, I think Major Yu would appreciate it if we all celebrated her achievements one more time by getting off this island and find a decent bar to raise a toast to her one final time.”

“Sounds like a great idea Jamie.” Burton agreed with. “Any ideas on where we can go?” He then looked over to his new MACO commander. “Luis, any suggestions?”

Thinking about it for a second as everyone looked at him, he eventually nodded. “One place springs to mind, as long as you don’t mind taking a longer trip home then there’s a bar in Ontario that the major took all of us MACOs to before Challenger launched.”

“Well if no one has any objections, I suggest we make our way.” Burton suggested.

The group agreed to the move and informed the rest of the crew that were around about their decision to head to Canada for their unexpected trip.

Monday, November 10th, 2155
Judge Advocate General’s Main Office, Helsinki, Finland

“Thank you Commander Walker, unless there is anything you wish to share with this committee?”

Cooper Walker considered the admiral’s question for a second, hesitating was something he rarely did, as a result he paused himself from getting up from his chair. “Actually Admiral Nivola, there is. Permission to speak freely?”

In one of the large meeting rooms, Walker was attending the hearing that had been put together to fully understand the events that led to the loss of the Armstrong and the attack in the Bassen Rift. The room followed similar décor themes that were found in most Starfleet offices. The tablet in the centre of the room was wooden, a varnished pine in fact that had the spotlights in the ceiling reflecting in its shiny surface. Sat in the middle of the long table before the science officer were three admirals. The committee was led by the Chief Judge Advocate General herself, Vice Admiral Nancy Nivola. To her left was Rear Admiral Sam Gardner, the director for Starfleet Operations and to her right was Rear Admiral Imran Kaur, the director of Starfleet Science.

Nivola, who was one of the highly respected admirals who sat on the Command Council, was in her late sixties. Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland in the USA, the admiral had become a military lawyer at a young age. She had originally joined the United States Navy before joining the Earth Global Defence Force. Eventually she was transferred to Starfleet and rose to the position of Chief JAG. Nivola was a quiet woman, however when she spoke she was eloquent and sophisticated with her choice of words. She knew the law inside and out. Thankfully in her time as Starfleet’s Chief JAG, she hadn’t been involved in too many cases that received media attention. Besides a few lines under brown eyes, the African American president maintained a professional in her appearance and demeanour. Many had believed that after her Italian husband had died during the Xindi attack a few years ago she would have retired, but it would appear that losing her beloved made her more determined to carry on with the work she had started.

“Please speak.” Nivola instructed the commander.

Blinking once, then twice, Walker took a breath before he spoke. “It’s just an observation and I don’t mean any disrespect by my comment, however I can’t help but feel you asked me more questions about the mission that Challenger and Discovery undertook then what happened which resulted in the loss of the Armstrong.” He looked at Gardner. “Admiral Gardner, you asked me more questions on my opinions and observations of Fleet Captain Burton’s decision making in regard to the planning for the attack on the Romulan base.” Walker then looked at Kaur, “Admiral Kaur, as a fellow astrophysicist I am surprised that you only asked me two questions about theories behind how we were going to collapse the singularity.”

Gardner then interjected. “Commander, we are very aware of what happened to the Armstrong and your thoughts on the attack, as the lead scientific mind advising Fleet Captain Burton is important to us.” The director of Starfleet Operations had appeared hostile and confrontational in everyone’s sessions so far. Even though the sessions were closed to the general public, it did not prevent Starfleet officers from attending the hearings. Since they had started with most of the crew of Discovery being questioned, today had been the day when Challenger’s crew would be called to testify and answer the questions the committee had for them.

“You say you’re aware of what happened to the Armstrong, but you only asked four questions to Doctor Payne yesterday. After me she is the highest-ranking survivor from the Armstrong, I find it hard to understand why you didn’t ask others for more. In fact none of you have asked me about my opinion or observations on Captain Charan’s decision making during our battle with the Romulans.”

“Your point commander?” Gardner asked, now sounding annoyed. Walker couldn’t determine if Gardner was either frustrated with having to attend the hearings or was digging for something more that no one had revealed so far.

“I just don’t understand why you’re asking so many questions about Fleet Captain Burton.” Walker countered back with.

Smiling at the commander, Nivola stopped Gardner from talking any more as she answered him. “As we have access to the black box from the Armstrong so we are more aware of what happened to her, however with Challenger and Discovery entering radio silence for a mission that was not sanctioned by Starfleet Command we need to be aware of every detail from all available sources.” Her balanced response was exactly that. Balanced and well thought out before anyone else could say anything. Vice Admiral Nivola’s presence was strong but her neutral stance in not appearing involved in the questioning was well played to avoid anyone from saying she was biased.

“Plus we do not want anyone feeling that because the outcome of that mission was a huge victory for us that we will allow our officers to go off and do anything they like.” Gardner added. “That includes promoting officers and offering them highly sought after positions.”

Snapping a glare at Gardner, Walker did not like the director’s tone. “Admiral, if you have something to say please come out with it.”

Rear Admiral Kaur, who Walker had worked with before, leaned across the table and looked at Gardner. “Yes please do follow in your convictions admiral.” The two male flag officers glared at one another as Kaur finished his remarks. “I would love to know what you’re implying here.” Imran Kaur, who was one of the youngest rear admirals to serve on the Starfleet Command Council, was calm like Nivola for most of the hearing but his fiery side could rival that Gardner owned. Hailing from Northern India, Kaur had spent a majority of his career working for the United Earth Space Probe Agency as its lead scientific advisor. Six years ago he transferred over to Starfleet as its deputy director for Starfleet Science. When his mentor and superior, Admiral Garcetti, had suffered from an aneurysm it had been decided to promote Kaur to the top position. His green eyes complimented his thick black hair, which had several streaks of silver hair coming through.

“Come off it Imran, you and I both know that we may not get the whole truth from those who Burton has promoted recently. He bought their silence with new positions on one of our top-of-the-line ships.” Gardner replied. “It’s not hard to see that.”

“Admiral Nivola as I have the right to defend myself from any accusation that has not been proven to be true, as stated in the uniform code of justice, I would like to object to Admiral Gardner’s insinuations.” Walker said with confidence. “I would like the record to state that I have not made a so-called deal with Fleet Captain Burton for my silence in covering up anything from the most recent mission we were involved with in return for a promotion and a new posting.”

“You’re not telling me that with him only promoting you prior to your arrival home to Earth and you accepting the position of Challenger’s new second officer and chief science officer, you are not in any way compromised in presenting the whole truth to us Commander Walker?” Gardner questioned.

“No I am not.” Walker answered back, he was trying to keep his anger at bay. “I would like you to take a look at my records and you will see that prior to the destruction of the Armstrong, I had completed the advanced bridge exam that qualified me to become a commander. Alongside that, Challenger’s chief science officer was recently transferred to Admiral Kaur as his new deputy director. The position was open.”

“Yes, your sister-in-law was your predecessor and I believe she is also carrying the captain’s unborn children too.” Gardner added.

“Okay Admiral Gardner, I think we’ve heard enough. We are not here to make assumptions, just the facts.” Kaur remarked back. The fact that Gardner was going after his deputy had caused Kaur to object seriously.

“But those are facts.” Gardner argued back.

“Enough.” Admiral Nivolla commanded in a stern manner. “Unless there is proof that Commander Walker and Fleet Captain Burton, along with others, are withholding evidence of a quid pro quo taking place we are finished here.”

Gardner stopped and Kaur took a deep breath.

Looking to see that both men had calmed down, the Chief JAG looked at Commander Walker. “Commander, you are right that our line of questioning was focussed more on the latter part of your recent mission. I do not want you to leave here thinking that we were forgetting the brave men and women who gave their lives when the Armstrong was lost. As we already had a majority of the data, we determined we had enough evidence to understand that the ship was lost because of the Romulans attacking them. I do not want to diminish your service to that ship or those you served with, especially Captain Charan. She was a personal friend of mine and her sacrifice is a grave loss to Starfleet and the Commonwealth. Your insights on that and everything else have been helpful for this committee. You are dismissed.”

Realising that was it, Walker got up from the chair and left the meeting room while those who watched, including those who had transferred to Challenger, all got up and left to follow him.

“I can’t believe Admiral Gardner’s accusations in there.” Doctor Payne remarked as they all stood in one of the corridors in the JAG central office. The small crowd that had come to support both Payne and Commander Walker were all huddled together.

“Why would he think that Fleet Captain Burton has bought us all out with promotions and new positions?” Lieutenant Malone asked. “What would he gain from such a move?”

“I don’t know.” Walker remarked to the others. “But we need to leave here and find Fleet Captain Burton sooner. I think he is testifying the day after tomorrow and before him the rest of the senior staff will be questioned.”

Ensign Reddick then spoke up, “You think Admiral Gardner is out to do some long-term damage sir?”

Looking to the young armoury officer, Walker just shrugged his shoulders. “I want to say I know for certain. Does anyone know where Fleet Captain Burton is right now?”

“Starfleet Command Headquarters,” Ensign Avery answered. “I’m sure that’s where Lieutenant Hennessey said they were visiting today.”

 “Are you certain Tanisha?” Walker asked.

“Absolutely, since we translated more of the Prowler’s navigational logs the captain appeared quite happy with what we found. I believe he is presenting the data to Fleet Admiral Hathaway.” Avery remarked.

“Looking around and realising that they needed to leave Finland soon rather than late, Walker suggested that they all leave separately and pre-warn the rest of the senior staff while he travelled to America to find a way to speak to Burton without raising too much suspicion.

“You think someone’s watching us?” Payne asked.

“Can you blame me for thinking that?” Walker threw back. “I’ll suggest we get back together after Lieutenant Conrad’s service.”

With one more look around the corridor they were in, the former Armstrong officers left quickly and quietly.

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

“And this is main engineering.”

Pushing the large hatch door open with one hand, Lieutenant Masuko entered her domain with her husband, Lieutenant (junior grade) Adam Smith, in tow. Surprised to find it busy with numerous repair crews, Masuko was taken back by the scene before her.

Smiling at how his wife was so proud to show him her engineering room, Smith smiled hugely at the site before him. Used to serving on a smaller Daedalus-class, his ship (the Lexington) wasn’t as advanced compared to Challenger. “Wow, it is huge and impressive.” He said to his wife as he looked above him. “Do you normally have such a large staff?” He asked over the noise of people talking and working simultaneously.

 Frustrated at how busy it was, Masuko shook her head before answering. “No, the schedule said the repair teams wouldn’t be here until later this afternoon.”

“They must have finished their work on Discovery ahead of what they planned.” Smith suggested.

Looking at her husband, she smiled at his optimism. Adam Smith was the same age as her and the two of them had fallen madly in love while serving together at Starfleet Training Command. His blonde hair was getting darker as he aged, but he kept it in its normal curtain style, all brushed forward. Nevertheless he still kept the boyish charm that made her fall in love with him.

 Looking around at the work being carried out, Masuko started to find herself becoming frustrated at the sloppy work that was being carried out. The yard engineers were cutting corners in their efforts. From one display she could see the new plasma injectors hadn’t been aligned tightly enough, she knew if they weren’t then the ship would not achieve any speeds beyond warp three point five. The intermix ratio was not set to the correct one. On another screen a diagnosis was showing that a number of power relays had been by-passed to avoid replacements being put in. Again, she knew that if they were not replaced several systems would not work.

“What the hell?” She muttered as she walked over to the small command workstation that she used to work from. 

“Problem?” Smith asked. Not knowing the systems he didn’t know what his wife was getting annoyed with.

“Several in fact.” She answered with an annoyed tone. “Stay here.” She added and got into the lift that took her to the upper level. As the lift took her up, she could hear Ensign Metaxas whistling to himself while he was lying on the ground working under the coolant monitoring station. “Theo, what the hell is going on here?”

Dropping the tools he had in his hands and pulling the one he had between his teeth, the young engineer sat up. “Sorry ma’am?”

“This!” She gestured towards the chaos in engineering. “How comes we have so many technicians and engineers working on the repairs not being properly supervised?”

“They are being supervised ma’am.” Metaxas said as he got up and wiped his brow with the back of his right hand. He ended up giving himself a dirty mark. The young engineer did look exhausted. His jumpsuit was unzipped to half-way, his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his collar was completely undone – revealing his blonde chest hair slightly.  “I’m supervising them!”

Flabbergasted by his response, Masuko’s eyes widened as she looked back at the mess. “Theo, after the captain promoted me to chief engineer, I came directly to you and said I you would be in the running for second engineer. You promised me that I could trust you to get the job done right and asked for me to give you a chance to prove it. I gave you the simple job of overseeing the repairs and instead of returning to a well organised repair programme taking place I am met with absolute chaos!”

“Sorry ma’am, I don’t understand what you mean? The repair teams are doing the repairs as instructed.” Metaxas stated.

Screaming from more frustration at his naivety, Masuko lost her cool. “No Theo this is not how it is meant to go! You have watched me and…” She took a breath as she said his name. “Commander Stanton lead on repairs with the drydock teams countless times. You know that certain repairs have to be carried out in a certain way so that certain systems operate efficiently. You have not noticed half of the issues I have seen. It took me less than two minutes to see the repairs teams have had no direction or clarity shared with them on how our systems need to be handled. Instead they have been left to get on with it by themselves and the repairs that are being completed are the bog-standard issue ones. That’s not what we need for Challenger!” Masuko paused, “God damn it Theo, could you be any more stupid?”

“I d-d-didn’t see what the issue was. I thought that if-” Metaxas started to answer back but was shot-down again by his superior.

“NO THEO!” She screamed at him which made everyone in engineering stop and look at them, “THAT’S THE PROBLEM YOU DIDN’T THINK AND YOU CAN’T SEE THE PROBLEM!”

The moment she saw tears starting to well-up in his eyes, Masuko looked away. Ashamed with her own behaviour she thumped her way down to the stairs and shouted at everyone to get out.

Moving across from the command workstation, her husband approached her. “Sakura,” He said in his calming tone, “you need to calm down! This is fixable!”

Snapping at him too, Masuko told him that it wasn’t fixable. She yelled out that it would take ages to get it back to the way it should be done. “The way he would have done it!” She added as tears fell down her cheeks as she stormed out of main engineering.


Packing her bag, quietly, in her quarters, Lieutenant Cortez was folding up her dress uniform. She wanted to get everything sorted before she took the transport later that evening. A group of them would be taking an earlier trip to the Luna colonies in preparation for Lieutenant Conrad’s funeral. The door chime went off and she told the person on the other side to come in.

As soon as the entrance was clear, Cortez was surprised to find Masuko rushing in with tears rolling down her cheeks. Reacting straight away to her friend’s distress state, Cortez pulled her in for a hug. “Sakura, what’s happened?”

Crying into her shoulder, Masuko explained what had happened in engineering and how she had lost her cool with everyone there, especially with Metaxas. “I feel like such a fool.” She added.

“Okay, calm yourself and sit down here.” Cortez insisted as she gestured towards her bed.

The two women sat down and Cortez kept holding Masuko’s hand. “Start from the beginning.”

“That’s the problem Rachele, I don’t know where to start.” Masuko admitted. “The captain asked me to take over as chief engineer, I jumped at it straight away and thought how amazing it would be. However, it’s my first day at it and I’ve already lost my cool with the one person I wanted to be my right hand down there.”

Smiling at her friend’s plight, Rachele could completely relate to the situation. It was only a few weeks ago he asked her to take over from T’Plau. So much had changed on the ship, Fleet Captain Burton had to ask so many of them to step up to new challenges. “Right slow down. First off, and don’t hate me for saying this, but are you truly serious about wanting Theo as second engineer? He’s still a boy!”

Rolling her eyes as she tried to dry them at the same time, Masuko could see the point Cortez was trying to make. “I just thought as Stanton had trained us all up that he would be the right engineer for this.”

“And he is the right engineer but not the right leader.” Cortez explained. “Theo is a gifted engineer, a really nice guy and a hard worker but he has barely any leadership experience. There was no way he could have organised those repair teams like you or Commander Stanton would. He probably never saw you two sat in the mess hall in the early hours of the morning writing such detailed plans after we came back from our mission with the Deltans.”

“We should have included him more.” Masuko said.

“Maybe, but at the time he was doing other jobs. The jobs expected for the third engineer in charge.” Cortez said. “Now you’re lucky that you have Theo and you have a good relationship with him, but you need to realise he isn’t the right person to be your right hand.”

“Then who do I ask?” Masuko asked. “The captain wants me to keep the promotion in-house as he believes there won’t be many who outside we can ask to join us.”

“What about your husband?” Cortez offered.

“Adam?” Masuko said. “No, he couldn’t deal with me being his boss…” She paused, “Oh my god I left him in engineering by himself.”

Chuckling at that image, Cortez calmed her friend down. “Don’t worry, he’s an engineer. He will find his way out.” She paused, “Well if you won’t bring anyone from outside then take a page out of my book?”

“What do you mean?” Masuko inquired as she pushed back the tears.

“I was lucky enough that when the captain transferred the Armstrong crew over to us that I got Ensign Reddick. He was their second armoury officer, so he knew most of the role already. Don’t we have their second engineer with us?”

“Do you mean Colleen?” Masuko asked.

Nodded to confirm, Cortez encouraged the idea further. “How about it? I know she agreed to run engineering on the night shift, but why not pull her from it? She’s older than Theo by almost six years, she’s a talented engineer and leader. She’s done the role before and will pick up on all of the tiny details that she needs to know to keep this ship together.”

Masuko liked the idea, she hadn’t considered it as she knew that Malone had only just settled in. “I’ll think about it, but I need to apologise to Adam and Theo.” She leant forward and placed her head into both hands as she realised how much of a fool she made herself in front of the yard team. “Oh my god, I need to get those engineers back on track or the captain will kill me.”

“Then take a few deep breaths, remain calm and in command. I’m sure Adam won’t mind hanging around a bit longer to help you.” Cortez assumed.

“Thanks Rachele.” Cortez said as she brought the chief armoury officer in for a hug.

“Any time Sakura.” She said as she returned the gesture.

Starfleet Command Headquarters, San Francisco, United States of America, Earth

“Gentlemen,” spoke the soft feminine tones of Commander Jane Astley. “The admiral has asked me to let you know that her current meeting is running late and she will be with you all shortly. In the meantime can I offer any of you a beverage?”

After hearing the familiar voice of Commander Astley, Fleet Captain Burton politely turned down the offer on behalf of the group. Astley smiled and left Burton along with his new first officer and chief communications officer alone while they sat in the lobby area of Starfleet Command Headquarters.

“Should we be worried that the admiral is late?” Hennessey questioned. He was sat in an armchair across from where Burton and Rodham were.

Instantly Burton shook his head. “No, I’ve waited a lot longer to see members of the admiralty.”

“She is the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief, it’s to be expected.” Rodham added.

The three men had been waiting for thirty minutes so far. Burton had requested the meeting with Fleet Admiral Hathaway as a priority instead of speaking to someone else on the Command Council. As Starfleet JAG were investigating his recent orders and their outcomes, he felt that going around the system for once wouldn’t harm him and if it did then he would remind Fleet Admiral Hathaway about his recent discoveries on Mars. He was certain that the push for the investigation was being forced by Captain Karim and her supporters within Command as a message to him that they could find ways to keep him quiet. He had debated the idea in head for some time but the notion that Karim and her secret organisation would be quite happy with what he did in the Bassen Rift to keep Earth and its commonwealth secure. He had reached the conclusion that he couldn’t be bothered to think about it any further. Riding the storm seemed easier to manage.

“Sir, before I left Discovery, I didn’t get a chance to wish your brother all the best before he left as well.” Rodham piped up, breaking the silence that had now appeared between the three men since Astley’s departure.

Confused as to what he meant by that, Burton asked for clarity. “What do you mean Alex? Where was Roman going?”

Realising that his new boss was not aware of what had happened, Rodham felt like a fool as he winced along with his response. “He left Discovery to help take care of Lieutenant Commander Wallis.”

Once again in a matter of days, Burton was surprised to hear such things. He had originally offered the position of Chief Engineer to Roman, but Roman had turned down the offer. His younger brother had said it would be weird for the two of them to serve together so closely. “Where did they go?”

“I believe Doctor Reyburn suggested to Starfleet Medical about a private clinic in New Zealand that may be able to help Nathan be more comfortable.” Rodham explained.

“Damn, I didn’t know how serious his condition got.” Burton said. He made a mental note that he needed to speak to Roman soon.

Several more minutes passed without a single word said between them. Hennessey was the first to speak up after reading his tablet one more time. “Do you really think the admiral will go ahead with the plan?”

“Which one?” Burton asked. “The attack on that Romulan shipyard you found or you going off to discover more about the Romulan language on Vulcan?”

“Both.” Hennessey answered. 

“We’ve got two solid plans that could help us win the war in our favour. Sure it can’t harm to ask?” Rodham remarked.

“Exactly.” Burton said.

“Well you better hold your horses gentlemen!” Came a familiar voice from behind them.

All three men turned around to see Commander Levesque walking in. She was wearing our maternity wear uniform. It was similar to the outfits worn by those who worked in Headquarters, a variation of the jumpsuit in the sense of it was almost a tailored pantsuit. The two versions of it came with either a skirt or trousers. Levesque had opted for the latter while her actual jacket was pleated around the edges to allow for more room during her pregnancy.

“Commander Levesque, this is a pleasant surprise.” Hennessey said with a smile.

“Absolutely,” Burton said smiling at her. They had continued with their relationship, keeping it quiet between them so he kept his tone professional. “It’s good to see you commander. What brings you here?”

Rolling his eyes at how obvious they were with their body language, Rodham smiled at the new arrival instead of vocally greeting her. He would ask the question at a later stage when he knew it would be more appropriate to do so.

“I’ve just spoken with my brother-in-law.” Levesque said and gave a look indicating she needed to speak to them outside. “He sends his regards.”

“Shall we take a walk outside?” Burton suggested to the other two, which they agreed to.

Once they were away from the front door, Levesque didn’t waste any time relying on what Commander Walker and the others had experienced in their recent hearing with the Starfleet JAG. “It seems Admiral Gardner thinks you’ve used a quid pro quo to keep everyone from revealing something you’ve not shared in any official reports.”

“What?! That’s crazy! That’s-” Burton paused as he realised what was going on. Hathaway had never truly said much to him after the incident on Mars involving his father and Captain Karim, but she did slip up one clue that there were others in Starfleet that she would need to keep a close eye on. Was Gardner one of them? Could this be another warning from Section Thirty-One to ensure he keeps away and remains a by-the-book type of officer. He couldn’t dwell on it right now. He would speak to Hathaway about it when the opportunity arose. Realising he needed to avoid Levesque, Rodham and Hennessey asking too many questions, he moved the conversation on. “That’s just rubbish. Anything else?”

“The hearing is definitely focussed on wanting to know what happened in the Bassen Rift. Cooper said he had been asked a barrage of questions around the science behind the mission and your command decisions.” Levesque answered.

At that point the three men were called in back to the building by Astley. The commander had returned and shouted out for them from the main entrance. Realising they had to go, Burton thanked Levesque and told the other two to keep what she shared to themselves for now. He would present the battle-plan that he and Rodham had put together based on the research discovered by Hennessey.