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Part of Gateway Station: Your Sacred Stars and USS Endeavour: Your Sacred Stars

Your Sacred Stars – 14

July 2401
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‘I told you, we didn’t follow Voler’s every move.’ The elder Romulan woman who’d answered most of the questions when Rhade originally came down to the refugee section with Kowalski didn’t look best pleased at being asked again. ‘If he had friends, contacts, people he might have gone to see that night, he didn’t tell us.’

Rhade folded his arms across his chest, brow furrowing. ‘It sounds like this would have been a clandestine meeting. Why might he not tell anyone?’

But the woman’s face merely closed up at a question Rhade only too-late realised sounded accusatory. Draven, who had been doing most of the questioning to that point, reached out to pluck Rhade’s combadge off his chest.

‘Excuse me -’

Tlraven quo?’ With one tap of the thumb, Draven had deactivated the combadge’s universal translator, and wasted no time addressing the refugee in their native tongue. She seemed to realise what had happened, her shoulders sinking, but when she talked, it was in a different, less defensive tone.

The back and forth did not last for very long. The two Romulans clearly felt they could speak freely, chattering back and forth with a more open body language that Rhade did not need to be a telepath to interpret. She was still guarded, Draven was more direct, but it looked like he was at least getting answers instead of being stonewalled. Still, at the end, Draven shoved the combadge back into Rhade’s hand.

‘-still Republic,’ the Romulan woman was saying when Rhade reactivated it. ‘Don’t act like you’re one of us.’

‘That was your choice, not mine; the Republic offered help on Teros and you refused it,’ Draven drawled. ‘So I wouldn’t act all high-and-mighty about Starfleet sticking their noses into your business when you could have had us instead.’

She muttered something, then said, ‘If we’re selling out for protection, I want protection that will last. You’d have to go running to the Federation when in trouble anyway. Why not cut out the middle-man?’ At his accusing look, she tilted her chin up. ‘Anyway, you know what to do. Until then, you don’t get to say we’re the ones too close to the Federation. Words are your blades; let’s see what you do with them.’

Draven scowled but led the way out without retort. Only once they were in the corridor on the long walk out of the refugee aid section did he talk. ‘Funnily enough, they don’t really trust Starfleet when one of their own was murdered on a Starfleet station.’

Rhade sighed. ‘They think that we won’t investigate properly?’

Draven stopped and turned to face him. ‘Let’s say a Federation citizen murdered Voler. How do you think that plays out?’

‘That depends who or why -’

‘Don’t give me that.’ Draven stabbed a finger down the corridor towards the doors that would take them out into the public sections of the station. ‘You know what’s waiting for us outside. Don’t talk to me about nuance.’

‘What did she say?’

Draven looked away. ‘Not much. Voler was getting close with people in Colonial Affairs. He wasn’t just working with them; they were his friends.’

‘None of the ones we interviewed said they knew Voler socially.’

‘This might be wild to you, Starfleet, but did you know that people lie?’

Rhade opened his hands. ‘Why would someone working in Colonial Affairs to resettle refugees then brutally and ritualistically murder one of them?’

‘Knee-jerk reactions like this,’ said Draven, ‘are exactly why she didn’t say anything about it to Kowalski, and why she wouldn’t say anything about it if she thought you could understand it. Think about this for five seconds, Rhade. Locals don’t want refugees on Alfheim. Refugees turn out to be violent, murderous cultists. Rather undermines the whole resettlement plan, no?’

‘You’re saying you think someone in Colonial Affairs murdered Voler and tried to make it look like the Romulans did it.’ Rhade set his hands on his hips. ‘There’s quite a few problems with that.’

‘What, the idea that Federation citizens might be so underhanded?’

‘The fact this took specialised knowledge of Romulan culture – knowledge I had to go to you to find out. And this just happens to coincide with the rise of an apocalypse cult on Teros blowing themselves up? While invoking the same mythology, no less?’

Draven fidgeted with his sleeve. ‘There’s a reason you asked me to come with you to talk to these people a second time,’ he said at last. ‘You knew they might say things to me they wouldn’t say to you. Don’t get defensive when you don’t like the answers.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘Besides, Rhade. You know something.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Why are you here?’ Draven squared up against him. ‘You’re not a security officer. Kowalski’s assigned to the case. If you’re just a face, just a suit, just a go-between for security and the station command staff, why did you bring a Republic scientist down for a chat behind Kowalski’s back?’

Rhade looked between him and the door out, back into the belly of Gateway Station. Rather than answer, he turned to the door, and though Draven made a noise of protest, within moments the doors had opened and they had surged into the circus waiting for them. It was no place to press a point.

The wall of sound and press of bodies heralded their return, just as it had heralded their horizon. Rhade knew many of the people in the crowd didn’t live or work on Gateway; they were from Alfheim Colony, locals transporting up to cluster in the protest that had taken up a cyclical position just outside the refugee shelter. Along with the sight of the crowd and sound of their jeers came the wave of emotion hitting him before he could lock it off; fear, resentment, hate.

Even without his telepathy, he knew what they were there for. It was emblazoned on their signs as well as their faces, on the placards with their simple messages. Our World, Not Yours. Murderers, not Refugees. Send Them Back. The discontent from a noisy minority of Alfheim’s population about the Teros resettlement had simmered for months. The murder had prodded embers, but the attack on Teros had been lighter fuel on the flame.

Only when Draven’s hand grabbed his forearm did Rhade realise he’d frozen. The protesters were a regular sight outside the refugee housing, and security officers kept them back, clearing a path for the two to make it out. Soaking in everything around him had planted Rhade’s boots on the deck, though, and it took his Romulan companion’s urgent hiss to snap him back to reality.

‘I would rather not stay here.’ Draven had drawn the bulk of the jeering and looked less than impressed at Rhade’s failure to move.

Abashed, head spinning, Rhade slipped to put himself, with his considerably larger form, between the Romulan and the heavily anti-Romulan crowd. ‘Let’s go.’

Murderer –

Mars was your fault –

Parasite –

Should have left you to die –

Should stay and rot on your shithole of Teros

Then something flew through the air, aimed at Draven but hitting Rhade’s shoulder. His head stopped spinning, and he moved.

‘He’s a fucking officer of the Republic, you racist cowards!’ His hands grabbed hold of someone and his heart surged at the impact, at the strike, at the struggle.

Murderer.

They’re like ants.

Crush them.

It sounded like the crowd’s jeers, raging just as loud in his ears, though it was his own voice in his head, furious and delighting in the fury. Whoever he’d grabbed was smaller than him, weaker, and it would be nothing for him to snap them like a twig. They’d demanded blood, no? He could give them blood.

Then more hands were on him, and they weren’t the crowd but the security officers, Draven, and through the heady swirl of intoxicating, seductive violence, he felt himself be dragged off, away from the figure he’d grabbed, away from the crowd, until he and Draven were bundled into a lift.

‘Promenade!’ Draven gasped, collapsing against the bulkhead while Rhade stood, fists clenched. If he could have dashed back out the doors, for a moment, he thought he would have.

Then they were gone, whisked away, and as his head began to clear, he realised that what had been thrown at him was just an empty disposable coffee cup, not enough to do more than risk a spatter of a stain. The person he’d grabbed hadn’t even thrown it. And as his fists unclenched, he could once again taste blood on his tongue.

‘I say again,’ Draven rasped, chest heaving. ‘Why are you here, Rhade? What’s this to you? What’s wrong with you?’

The blood-smoke haze drifted, and in its wake was exhaustion. Rhade, too, staggered to brace himself against the turbolift doors, and shut his eyes to scrub his face with his hands. For a moment, again, he could see the branching bloodstain flash in front of his vision – then it was gone.

‘Something is wrong,’ he said, voice coming like it had been dragged from somewhere deep. ‘I can sense it. Can’t you?’

‘It’s called instincts and a distaste for bigots. It doesn’t make me punch them out. But then, you can probably get away with it…’

The jeer in Draven’s voice did not escape him. ‘I’ve only felt like this once before.’ Shuddering, Rhade looked over at the Romulan. ‘When telepathic entities were influencing people to brazen, brutal violence.’

Draven was silent for a moment. Perhaps he was gathering his wits after the crowd. Perhaps he was trying to figure out if Rhade was completely crazy. At last, he said, ‘Are you suggesting this isn’t a cult or a false flag operation, but a telepath is making people do this?

‘I know,’ Rhade groaned. ‘They’d have to be ridiculously powerful. And I have no evidence.’

‘Only the evidence that you’re on the edge, perhaps breaking, and are maybe looking for an explanation.’ Draven shook his head. ‘All of the hate we’re seeing doesn’t need psychic powers. Trust me: in Midgard, it can burst to life all on its own.’ Still, he let out a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. ‘But whatever’s happening here is… strange. If Kowalski is here to run down typical lines of enquiry, then let’s be different. Let’s look at the angles nobody else does.’

‘I don’t even know where to start.’ Rhade’s combadge chirruped.

Kowalski to Rhade.

Grimacing, Rhade tapped the badge. ‘Rhade here. I can explain what happened at the refugee shelter.’

What? That does sound like I need an explanation. But that’s not why I’m calling you. We just had a walk-in. One of the Teros refugees.’ As Rhade and Draven stared at each other, bemused and confused, Kowalski spoke on. ‘He just admitted to killing Vorel.

Comments

  • The loops are starting to close, the mystery starting to come together, at least for those of us with the outside perspective, but the whole walk-in is the closing act upset and I'm looking forward to reading it. Draven is a neat and interesting character and I'm starting to like him more and more. The whole turning off the translator is a neat thing and worthy of note. Guess folks should start brushing up on their Romulan? The examination of refugee crisis anywhere is definitely worth exploring and Draven's cold bucket of water is some harsh truths. How this shapes the on going future of the sector is going to be interesting to see as well.

    March 3, 2024