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

Your Sacred Stars – 21

July 2401
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‘I thought you were going to talk to him.’ Draven returned from the replicator to pass the cold pack over to Rhade, slumped back on the sofa in the Romulan’s quarters.

‘I did.’ Rhade pressed the pack to his lip with a faint hiss. He’d bitten the inside of his mouth somewhere inside the whole affair, and it still stung. ‘He drugged me, Draven, it’s not like this was the plan.’

‘At least we know he did drug you.’ Draven picked up the tricorder he’d used for a scan upon the Betazoid’s arrival. ‘Looks a lot like lysergic acid diethylamide, but with some cognitine and zephralactin thrown in. That’s fast-acting.’

‘It was.’

‘The cognitine is interesting.’ Draven looked like he expected Rhade to understand him, and sighed. ‘It’s a restricted substance. It’s been used to amplify a telepath’s awareness, but that’s of course… pretty dangerous.’

Rhade blinked muggily. ‘You’re saying that there might have been more going on than a bad trip and possible theatrics from Grimm?’

‘It’s possible. If you’re not both crazy and there really is something out there. You’d have been primed to be receptive to its telepathic communication, and highly suggestible on how to interpret it.’

‘But it’s not – none of this – is evidence.’

Draven shrugged. ‘There’s the transcripts of Amaru’s interviews. ‘

‘Already edited. I checked before I came here. The references to Grimm and Voler are gone.’

‘Who could do that?’

‘Amaru.’ Me, Rhade thought, but didn’t say.

‘So we have a refugee who’s confessed to the murder,’ said Draven, voice going slow as it sank in how screwed they were. ‘A link between the victim and Grimm that only you picked up on and has now vanished from the record. And an admission from John Grimm that he did it, only you were vividly hallucinating at the time, and would have to include that he claimed he’s acting on behalf of an extra-dimensional telepathic monster.’

‘Yes.’ Rhade’s voice grated. ‘Pretty much.’

‘Fuck me.’ Draven sank onto the sofa beside him. ‘That’s it, isn’t it. Either he gets away with it and you look crazy, or he gets away with it and you say nothing.’

‘Even if Kowalski believed me, I don’t know what he could do about it.’

‘How did he know, though? Grimm, I mean. Invoking Romulan mythology, if he hates Romulans…’

‘I think he hates everything. And he seems to have links to the cultists on Teros. Maybe this mysterious… thing… links them. He said it gave him gifts. Knowledge?’ Rhade put the coolpack down and rubbed his temples. ‘It was all perfectly assembled to play on the worst fears of everyone, and set them against each other. Even by allowing the Romulans to settle on Alfheim, he’s keeping this controversy alive. That appears to be the end goal. Not politics. Just… cruelty. Cruelty without meaning.’

‘Does it ever have meaning?’ Draven grunted.

They were silent for a moment, slouched on the sofa, defeated, until Rhade said, ‘Thank you.’

‘For what?’

‘That sort of pragmatism. This thing, it played on my mind. Played on every lie I’ve told myself about myself. Every dark feeling. We try to make sense of bleak things, of suffering, and sometimes that helps us work through it, but sometimes it means we…’

‘Romanticise it.’

‘Yes. I’ve done some truly rotten things and pretended it was for some higher purpose.’ He ran a hand through his hair, glaring at nothing. ‘Not only violence. The people I’ve hurt. My… ex-wife – I knew she wasn’t happy, I knew she wasn’t free to express it, but I told myself that I was respecting her choices, because she didn’t say anything. I kept her trapped and told myself I was being a man of duty. Until I couldn’t stand it any more, broke anyway, and hurt her.’ He shook his head. It was a long story. ‘You’ve cut through that. All that… romanticising self-delusion.’

‘Well,’ said Draven after a beat. ‘Nobody ever accused me of being a romantic, after all. Happy to help.’ He pushed to his feet again. ‘You’re a rare creature in all of this, Rhade.’

‘Crazy?’

‘Ha. Yes. But I mean, you tried to see things for what they were. Regardless of the inconvenience, or the politics. So many people got caught up in the implications, even well-meaning people, that they forgot the simple truth. A man died. For no reason at all. You didn’t lose sight of that.’

‘No. I just either lost my mind, or let something bend me to its will.’ Rhade rubbed his temples again. ‘Or nearly let it. I should talk to Counsellor Carraway.’

A pause. ‘Yes.’

‘Not just for me, though.’ Rhade glanced over. ‘You and I are the only ones who know about Grimm. What he’s been doing. What he works for.’

‘Thinks he works for.’

‘We’ve not stopped him. He’s won this one. And next time, I’m not going to be susceptible to this thing’s influence.’

‘Ah, pursuing psychiatric aid out of spite and embarrassment at defeat. It’s as good a reason as any,’ Draven drawled. Then he hesitated. ‘Though there might be advantages to this thing having you in its crosshairs. It put you on the right path this time.’

‘While trying to manipulate me.’

‘Which it failed to do. I’m all for putting past demons to bed. But I wouldn’t be confident that ten rounds with a counsellor will be enough to turn away something vast, ancient, unknowable, and, well, evil.’

‘No,’ Rhade allowed. ‘But I have to try.’

‘Mm. Isn’t that all we can ever do?’ Draven padded to the window. His was holographic, showing a projection of the outside view if his rooms were a few hundred metres closer to the hull. ‘Normally, I don’t think of actual evil. Just the utter callousness of the universe, uncaring and meaningless. That’s the real enemy, isn’t it? The weakness in the galaxy – in all of us – that lets things like this in in the first place? After all, we didn’t need it to do all of these awful things to one another for years, decades, centuries. That just caught its attention.’

Rhade got up and went to join him. His head still hurt. ‘It’s enough to make you feel quite insignificant.’

‘That’s the trick. However hopeless it might be. However powerless it might be. However much you can’t actually stop the bad things from happening. You try. Win or lose. Because if you don’t?’ Draven shrugged. ‘We might as well not be here.’

‘We try,’ mused Rhade, ‘because we’re the only things we can control.’ He closed his eyes, and this time there was no flash of colour, no vivid shapes, no taste of blood, no drumming in his ears. Just him.

‘Sometimes,’ said Draven.

Comments

  • Well dang, Rhade's journey through this whole mess has been a ride for sure! And Draven coming in has helped. Not the most likely of friends going from their start, but it's there by the end. Or at least the respect to get the job done. Rhade's self-examination was also a hit for me and inspirational in terms of how to handle an element of character growth - admission of past wrongs, determination to grow past them, the struggles of internal demons. And in some cases external ones as well. Your Sacred Stars has been a damn good read actually and the fact that both side of the mystery still haven't spoken to each other yet gives promise to some highly interesting interactions when they do. Loved it!

    March 12, 2024
  • Draven

    Romulan Republic Scientific Advisor