Captain Matt Rourke
Beginning his career in the enlisted ranks, Matt Rourke went on to become a security and tactical officer trained in criminology, criminal psychology, and strategic operations. He has made his name as a leader in Starfleet law enforcement, both on small-team investigations and in a command position on starships dedicated to peacekeeping. In this time he has earned a reputation for straightforward bluntness, though his record includes multiple demonstrations of efficient cunning, and he is known for being as likely to talk his way around trouble as to fly straight through it.
Matthew Rourke was born on Earth in London in 2356, the eldest of two children. His mother, Lillian Hark, was the chief executive of an interstellar mining corporation, an astute business leader with political connections across internal Federation infrastructure and trade interests. It was through this networking that she met Joshua Rourke, a Starfleet intelligence officer, and the two were married after a brief and whirlwind romance. They would live together for very little of their relationship.
Joshua remained on starship assignments for much of the next few years, while Lillian settled on Earth to work and, eventually, raise young Matt. Matt’s sister Sarah was born three years later, precipitating a shift in their parents’ relationship: Lillian had professional interests to pursue and argued that it was Joshua’s ‘turn’ to focus on the children.
In truth, Joshua Rourke’s career had stalled for some years already, so he had little difficulty acquiring a low-responsibility role on Earth to be with his children. That hardly reinvigorated his career, and Joshua became convinced his family had ruined his prospects. Such bitterness only grew as Lillian’s company continued to flourish, requiring her attention across all corners of the Federation, or political networking at the highest echelons of Earth’s society. Either she was far away and trapping him at home, or she was nearby and flaunting her success.
Young Matt was raised in this toxic environment, his mother loving but busy and oblivious to the situation she’d left her children in; to this day he remains convinced she did nothing wrong. Joshua, meanwhile, had become closed-off and embittered, blaming his children for his failures. Matt in particular found himself the subject of his father’s ire, which only grew worse as he endeavoured to protect his sister. The father’s insecurities were reflected onto the son, a perennial underachiever projecting his failures.
Matt hid this with the competence of one who learned at a young age how to survive. He was successful at school out of a mixture of spite and escape, throwing himself into any challenge which kept him away from home. He enjoyed good marks and was a successful sportsman, and growing up finely-tuned to his father’s moods made him skilled at both reading and charming others. His teachers had no idea of his struggles, only remotely clued in when Matt lost his temper during a rugby game and broke another child’s nose. The previous night, Matt had been out late with friends but came home to find his sister had locked herself in the cellar to evade one of their father’s bad moods. He found her scared and alone six hours later, and went into the match the next day sleep-deprived, blaming himself, and furious enough to lash out at a provocation. Rather than admit the truth, Matt obfuscated and took a severe black mark on his record.
Despite his poor relationship with his father, Matt still aspired to follow in his footsteps and join Starfleet. Joshua had painted a picture for his children of an adventurous and exciting career – that they had stolen from him – and Starfleet service was a family tradition. Many of his mother’s acquaintances were Starfleet or former officers, so this became a fixation for Matt for many reasons: the next challenge to throw himself into, a chance to prove himself to his father, and a possible escape. With his grades and school records – despite the black mark – it was easy for him to secure an Academy interview, though Joshua, petty enough to be threatened by the prospect of his son surpassing him, picked a row the night before. Matt went into the meeting distraught, self-doubting, and sleep-deprived, and accounted for himself so poorly his application was rejected.
His final months of school were difficult as a result, the young man spiralling. It took an intervention from his younger sister to right him; she would entreat their mother to let her join her and take on a tutor if only Matt would leave home too, and get away from their father. Desperate to do so, he agreed, and with limited perceived options, he enlisted in Starfleet the moment he left school.
Months later, the Dominion War began.
The Dominion War
Starfleet was eager for fit, able, and astute young people to become security personnel. Matt excelled through training, though still found himself emotionally distant from his peers as he tried to put his childhood behind him. This failure to make connections lost him a role as unit leader among the recruits, though he still won a commendation for his performance. That positioned him for a high-profile assignment, posted as a Security Officer on the USS Hood upon qualifying.
The Hood was embroiled from the beginning in some of the Dominion War’s heaviest fighting. Within three weeks of Crewman Rourke’s arrival, the ship was ambushed by Jem’hadar and boarded. Suddenly fighting for his life, the experience convinced young Rourke his past difficulties were irrelevant and childish, and his focus narrowed to prioritise combat and survival. His performance also won the attention of the Hood’s XO, Lieutenant Commander Beckett.
A former science officer, Beckett had undergone a similar transformation through the Klingon War, and his hawkish sensibilities were only sharpened by the Dominion. Beckett took a shine to Rourke and, while he remained only a lowly crewman, took him under his wing as a right hand, point man, and occasional bodyguard through the Hood’s operation. Beckett was a hard-nosed and active XO, taking seriously his responsibility to put himself in harm’s way so the captain didn’t have to, and both men were often up to their necks in the Hood’s combat assignments.
The impact of an older man and mentor giving Rourke attention and respect cannot be understated. At the time and for many years after, Rourke hero-worshipped Beckett, almost literally taking a phaser blast for him during the Battle of Cardassia. In turn, Beckett made sure Rourke’s achievements were respected, the younger man advancing through the enlisted ranks as the Hood lost personnel and Rourke proved himself. The two had become particularly close when Beckett lost a younger brother at the first Battle of Chin’toka, the first occasion they discussed their personal lives and Rourke mentioned he’d tried and failed to make it into the Academy. With the war raging for another year, Rourke had almost forgotten the aspiration himself by the conflict’s end, let alone that Beckett knew.
Two days after the Battle of Cardassia, Beckett approached him with his usual brusque, matter-of-fact manner; neither man was prone to much emotion in their discussions. It made Beckett’s news all the more shocking: either Rourke could stay on the Hood, likely at his current rating for some time to accrue experience he’d missed in the war, or he could take the place at Starfleet Academy that Beckett had pulled strings to secure for him.
Matt Rourke was, at this point, an intensely angry young man. Service had taken him away from his home life, but replaced it with war and become an outlet for his rage, and after a lifetime masking attitudes deemed inappropriate it was easy for him to disguise these feelings. He had more experience than his peers, was older in more than a mere two years, and so quickly became a ringleader among other cadets. He was charismatic, assertive, and a highly talented student, which all masked the vindictive streak if he felt wronged and an obsession with using this social power to shield himself from vulnerability. It made him, essentially, a bully.
But while he could hide such unpleasant truths from himself, Starfleet Academy was far more adept at recognising traumatised young people. While he brushed off initial efforts from his instructors to connect, he was not long after confronted by a cadet who had not fallen under his sway: medical student Aisha Sadek. She had no interest in whatever reason he had to be overbearing or abusive, but their argument drew attention as she dug under his skin and finally a guidance officer managed to intercede and get through to him. At last, Matt not only received the psychological support he needed for the war, but his childhood as well. Beginning the process of healing, he took the serious first step of telling his mother about his father’s abuses, a revelation that would end their marriage.
While it was a long road, ultimately Rourke flourished. Having seen both war and the ugly side of humanity, he turned his focus to becoming an officer who would confront such atrocities rather than ignore or perpetuate them. He had learnt how to inflict violence for an ostensibly good cause, but now burned to temper it with wisdom and new purpose. He eased off in his compulsive drive to excel, recognising the insidious influence of his father’s impossible and sabotaging standards.
This in particular was made easier by his new relationships. Rourke had spent his life keeping people at arm’s length, but he would find in Cadet Sadek a lifelong friend who challenged his worst impulses while taking every opportunity to make terrible choices with him. Even she questioned the greatest of these, however, as Rourke embarked on a romance with a San Francisco civilian law student, Tess Stone. Stone found him exciting and charming; he was, for all his work, too emotionally immature to properly handle the relationship and committed far too quickly.
Rourke graduated high in his class with joint honours in Criminology and Strategic Operations, and a minor in Political Science. He married Stone almost immediately after, despite Sadek’s warnings and his looming life aboard a starship his new wife had no intention of following. They were separated very quickly when he was posted to the USS Discovery as a security officer.
As a new ensign with two years of service already under his belt, Rourke rapidly outstripped his peers. The Discovery was part of the first wave of major exploratory operations since the Dominion War, providing the necessary broadening of his combat-focused experiences. Rourke carved out a particular talent at his department’s role in diplomacy, maintaining operational security while proving adept at managing guests and envoys of the new peoples Discovery encountered. Almost never employing force in his two years aboard, he was particularly commended at his de-escalation of an attempted assassination of one of Discovery’s guests when the ship became embroiled in a local conflict. His records noted relief from some superiors who had been apprehensive that Rourke’s war-time experience had made him hawkish.
When he was promoted and offered a selection of assignments, his choice of an inauspicious post at Starbase 242 came as a surprise. A border outpost near Tzenkethi space, the station lacked resources or prestige. Superiors assumed Rourke was lured in by the prospect of being Chief of Security on a post with relative independence instead of taking more orders on a more prestigious assignment. The truth was that his wife could join him at Starbase 242 and still have reasonable access to the Core Worlds to pursue her law career.
The two were undeniably miserable. Tess was still too far from so-called civilisation to easily or happily do her work, while Rourke languished in a backwater. He took a hard-nosed stance clamping down on Ferengi smuggling in the region, and it was his first assignment where he could show and develop his considerable talents as a criminal investigator. But the compromise had made both of them too unhappy, and Rourke was fairly unpopular aboard as a stickler for the rule of law on a station that sometimes preferred to leave stones unturned for a quiet life. After apprehending a smuggling ring that implicated one of the station’s officers, Rourke was offered a promotion and a new assignment, encouraged by his commanders who were keen to get rid of him. With new prospects ahead, Rourke finally made the necessary choice and told his wife he wanted a divorce.
The prize that had taken Rourke from his family was not insignificant: heading up his own security investigations team. But in truth, Rourke had never properly committed to the marriage, still too clumsy at making serious emotional connections with others. Starfleet had given him the belonging and trust he’d never received from his family, so he had always prioritised it over his relationship, which he seemed to consider a less reliable constant. This sabotaged it from the start, a fact Tess made perfectly clear when she told him only after their separation was certain that she was pregnant. Aware of his withdrawal, she had been wary he would recommit for their child and viewed that as a mistake.
Rourke took the news poorly; his feelings on fatherhood were complex and it was far easier to view this as a betrayal of his trust than to properly interrogate his response. The once-amicable breakup turned acrimonious, and the relationship between him and Tess never recovered to anything civil, even after the birth of their daughter Ellie. Rourke would be a distant father, loving and exuberant if he was around, rarely making the necessary compromises to be in her life. He had chosen Starfleet in every way.
This made his dedication to Foxtrot Team unparallelled. As a part of the Security Investigations Division, they travelled the length and breadth of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants to confront crimes within Starfleet and the criminal underworld of the Federation. Few roots were made as they were rarely in a region for long, and the bond among the team was strong. It was here he met Lieutenant Erik Halvard, the team’s deputy who became one of Rourke’s closest friends. Halvard was a clever officer with an eye for detail that made him a good professional counterpart to Rourke, but his wry humour and easy manner meant the two men got on well personally.
Further contacts were made outside of Starfleet. Foxtrot Team operated for an extended period along the Klingon border, contending with activities of the Sovereignty insurgents, Orion territory, and the destabilisation that broke out with the Romulan supernova. In this time, Rourke made close allies in the Klingon Defence Force, most notably Torkath of the House of K’Var, a KDF officer and respected noble in the Empire. The two made a blood-bond after saving each other’s life in an encounter with agents of the Sovereignty of Kahless and remained in contact long after.
Rourke might have stayed with Security Investigations for the rest of his career had he not been approached in 2388 by now-Captain Beckett, commanding officer of the USS Achilles. Assigned to maintain internal and border security, Beckett was in need of a first officer he felt he could trust after parting ways with one XO already, and approached Rourke for the post. While reluctant, Beckett brow-beat his former protégé, reminding him of all he’d done for him, and eventually convinced him to return to starship assignment.
At Rourke’s recommendation, the Achilles also took on Doctor Aisha Sadek as Chief Medical Officer, his best friend at the Academy from whom he had drifted a little. The two quickly rekindled their connection, Rourke always benefiting from Sadek’s combination of cynicism and joie de vivre. She would also present the first chink in his relationship with Beckett, too keen-eyed to miss how the captain exploited their past to keep Rourke, as she argued, compliant. Rourke had changed, too; no longer was he the wide-eyed boy forced to grow up in war, emotional wounds from his father fresh, quick to take guidance from a level-headed authority figure. He had led his own team and made his own way in the galaxy and began to recognise the selfish cynicism that lay at the heart of Alexander Beckett.
It took time. The Achilles was embroiled in the fallout of the Romulan Star Empire’s collapse, providing a mixture of security and humanitarian aid to the region. Beckett always prioritised Starfleet’s increasingly cautious and isolationist agenda and was prepared to eliminate potential threats and refuse help where Starfleet might have been more open-handed in the past. Rourke said nothing at first, expressing his disapproval only to Sadek and only in private. Any time he raised issues with Beckett, the captain gestured to modern Starfleet protocol and orders in support.
Lieutenant Commander Rourke’s career to that point been committed to upholding the rule of law. But the new wave of conservative thinking in Starfleet was turning laws and regulations against the principles he had felt underpinned them, and for years Rourke chafed under a commander so committed to the new way. While the two never formally fell out and they continued to respect each other professionally, their relationship grew increasingly distant as Rourke proved himself too independently-minded and cynical to be the yes-man Beckett wanted.
In 2393, Beckett made sure to end Doctor Sadek’s time on the Achilles, separating Rourke from his biggest supporter on the senior staff. On assignment months later, Beckett ordered to not dispense emergency supplies to a beleaguered and technically illegal Romulan refugee settlement just within Federation territory, and finally, Rourke defied him. Beckett had made the judgement in private and expected Rourke to carry it out; Rourke countermanded this without the senior staff’s knowledge and made sure both the crew and the refugees credited Captain Alexander Beckett for helping in a crisis. When Beckett found out, he realised he had few choices that would not become a public relations catastrophe and turn his crew against him if he were to retrieve the supplies. He took the public acclaim, privately lambasted Rourke, and had him shipped off as quickly as possible.
With his sterling record, including with glowing reports from Beckett himself, it was impossible to remove Rourke from the Achilles without promoting him, and he was offered his own ship. While Rourke had never expressed much interest in starship command, Beckett pulled all possible strings to make the Firebrand an offer he couldn’t refuse: a frigate dedicated to swift and efficient response to law enforcement incidents within Federation territory. It was perfect for Rourke’s experience and skills, and he took the bribe to get him away from Beckett.
Rourke had neglected his personal life on the Achilles and with Foxtrot Team. His ex-wife tolerated him for the sake of their daughter, eight years old by now, whom he only saw a few times a year. His relationship with his mother had never quite recovered from the revelation of Joshua’s abuses, and while the two talked often, their connection remained superficial. His sister was the only one with whom he was close, but Sarah Rourke had long ago given up trying to convince her brother to commit to anything beyond Starfleet. Off-duty, Rourke was amiable and easy to get on with, but this had so long ago become a mask to keep his relationships superficial that even he had stopped noticing. The Firebrand brought change with her.
As a new CO, Rourke had some choice in his senior staff. Sadek refused outright to serve on such a small ship, but he had a willing and able XO in his old friend and strong right hand, Lieutenant Commander Erik Halvard. Many of the others were new to him, including second officer and Chief Helm Officer Lieutenant Commander Lily Winters. Running down criminal enterprises or pirates, conducting internal investigations, and with the resources to be self-sufficient for months at a time instead of permanently based from a station, the crew set to duties over the next four years that would forge a firm bond.
Most notable of these bonds was his relationship with Lily Winters. It remained professional for the first two years, Rourke both oblivious to romantic entanglements and loath to become involved with a subordinate. Friends observed that him beginning such a relationship at all spoke of the depth of his feelings for Winters, who was herself a pragmatic officer, committed to Starfleet ideals but far from naive, and with little patience for playing around. With work he enjoyed, a crew he liked and respected with many he could count as friends, and perhaps his first stable relationship, some of Rourke’s happiest years were spent on the Firebrand.
It ended poorly. What seemed like a routine mission to hunt down a drug-smuggling cartel ended in tragedy, the Firebrand engineering circumstances to plant their own officers undercover aboard an Orion ship. But these identities were uncovered and, after a fraught confrontation between the two ships, the Orion captain executed the undercover officers as Rourke watched over the viewscreen. Among the murdered officers were Halvard and Winters.
After such a catastrophe, the Firebrand was recalled by Starfleet Command for an inquiry. It was found that a leak in Starfleet security was responsible for the collapse of the undercover mission, though the investigation into how and why has yet to be resolved. Rourke was formally cleared of wrongdoing, which was less than a hollow victory: it was barely something he noticed. On medical leave and receiving extensive counselling, Rourke merely gave his statements to the investigators and neither attended nor watched the inquiry, devastated by what he had been through.
For a time he declined all possible assignments, and Starfleet was concerned that an officer of his rank and experience had lost his nerve as a commander. It seemed an elegant solution when Rourke was approached by Captain Kytear, who had been Rourke’s Security Chief on the Discovery and was now a senior officer at Starfleet Academy, and offered a teaching post. At San Francisco Rourke could teach criminology and security operations, making the most of his experience by bestowing it upon cadets without any of the risks of active duty.
Rourke took the post and made very little of its advantages. He made a paltry effort to spend more time with his daughter, by now a teenager who had realised his distance throughout her childhood was by choice as much as circumstances; she was cold, hurt, and deflected his attempts. Rourke, uncomfortable as a father and still emotionally vulnerable after the losses of the Firebrand, withdrew rather than try to work through their relationship.
For two years he worked as an instructor, committed to instilling ethics alongside practical training. At the end of his second semester teaching, he was brought up by superiors for a lecture in which he had criticised Starfleet’s non-intervention policy. Once, Rourke might have argued his case, but now he issued the requested apology and changed his rhetoric, all fight seemingly gone from him. This lack of verve did not make him a beloved instructor; he was considered cold and demanding, and not dedicated enough to either drive his students or excel in supporting them. Older cadets noted his perverse streak; while he would not criticise Starfleet, he routinely turned a blind eye or even provoked their doing so in class discussions. But on one visit, his old friend Aisha Sadek wondered aloud if he had come to Earth to find a hole to die in.
This might never had changed had the USS Endeavour not been ambushed at Thuecho III in the Minos Sector. A pirate attack that killed multiple officers and incapacitated the CO Leo MacCallister, the leader identified himself in a transmission that sent a ripple through Starfleet Intelligence as he claimed to be Erik Halvard. The possibility that a Starfleet officer presumed dead, whose body had never been found, was in fact alive and had turned criminal meant a fairly minor incident reached the ears of Alexander Beckett, now an Admiral in the leadership of the Fourth Fleet.
He at once turned to Rourke, though their relationship was these days adversarial despite their mutual professional respect. With all his skill at manipulation, Beckett convinced Rourke to take temporary assignment to Endeavour, assuming command of the ship and investigation to hunt down Halvard. Confused and curious himself, Rourke took the transfer, though on Endeavour found a senior staff loyal to a former captain they hoped would return. Endeavour’s crew were cut from the cloth of the last generation of Starfleet, and were suspicious of Rourke as a seasoned combat commander and criminal investigator. Rourke, meanwhile, was too stubborn to try to appease them and pursued the mission with a dogged but detached determination.
Official records indicate that the man claiming to be Erik Halvard was an impostor, and Endeavour hunted his operations to a mining station in the Triangle that was ultimately destroyed. But the experience over many months brought the crew, old and new, much closer together, including Rourke. The mission’s success resulted in him being offered permanent command of Endeavour, along with a promotion to captain, which he accepted.