Drake slouched onto the empty turbolift early the next morning, coffee cup still in hand, and leaned against the bulkhead with his eyes shut. ‘Bridge.’ But before the doors could slide shut, a figure slipped in to join him, and one eye popped open for him to groan. ‘Oh.’
Thawn looked offended. ‘You could have held the lift.’
‘I didn’t see you.’ He shut his eyes again.
‘It’s not that early. It’s our regular shift.’
‘Were you out late -’
His eyes shot open, though he didn’t straighten. ‘No. No, not when red alert could be called at any moment. Couldn’t drift off, that’s all.’
‘It’s all rather fraught,’ she allowed as the lift hummed to life on their journey. He could hear the edge in her voice, the tension he knew came from nerves. ‘There’s such a vicious savagery from these D’Ghor, I really can’t imagine what a fight with them will be like.’
‘It’ll be like every drill we ever did fighting Klingons,’ he muttered. ‘Except real.’ He rubbed his eyes. ‘Can’t imagine why you couldn’t sleep well.’
She frowned. ‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean Rhade stopped by, didn’t he?’
Her cheeks flushed. ‘Oh. The rumour-mill is working over-time. We just had dinner.’
She went redder. ‘You brought it up.’
‘Wasn’t sure if you were going to keep pretending he doesn’t exist.’
Thawn looked at him at last, bewildered. ‘What’s gotten into you? Adamant and I are talking perfectly well, and he doesn’t need you to defend him.’
‘I wasn’t defending him,’ said Drake. ‘Not at all what I was driving at.’ But they reached the bridge then, and he could push past her, head for his station even if she was about to sit next to him. They were due another drill in a few hours, once the alpha shift was settled and had dealt with the business of the morning, and he wanted a lot more coffee down him before that.
Thawn was quiet at first. Not just with him; her greetings to Lindgren were clipped, and her reports to Rourke rather less loquacious than normal. He’d thought he’d earned himself a quiet morning, one where he could worry about preparing the navigational sensors for any challenges from the Elgatis Belt’s uridium deposits, but in the end he only got an hour.
She’d just returned to her station with a fresh cup of coffee, which under normal circumstances would have prompted a break in work for at least a small back and forth. But they’d not enjoyed normal circumstances in over a week now, and he could still feel the awkward tension radiating off her as she sat down. ‘Sorry, I didn’t ask if you wanted something.’
‘Already on my second mug,’ he grunted. He’d gone to get it fifteen minutes ago without a word to her, as she well knew.
At last that turned her anxiety to frustration. ‘Oh, come on, Drake. You can’t take out a bad night’s sleep on me all morning. How is this my fault?’
‘I didn’t say it was.’
‘You’re acting like I’ve personally wronged you.’
‘While normally that’s how you treat me?’
Thawn drew back, nose wrinkling. ‘I thought we were past all that.’
‘Yeah, well, me too.’ He had a swig of coffee.
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Why are you suddenly so keen on chatting?’
From behind them, Rourke cleared his throat. ‘Something wrong, Lieutenants?’ They knew that tone; the ‘Drake and Thawn are bickering,’ tone, and normally it made him apologise and shut up.
Today it made him fume. As if this was something petty and minor. As if this was his fault. ‘We’re fine, sir,’ he said through gritted teeth. For once, that seemed to be enough to make Rourke back off – or, at least, he recognised this wasn’t their usual bicker with its usual resolutions.
But it took less than a minute for Thawn to lean towards him, now speaking in a hushed voice. ‘You are not fine,’ she insisted. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘You don’t get to be concerned about me like we’re friends,’ he retorted.
‘I thought that’s what we were.’
‘You got a weird way of showing it.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
Had he been less tired, he might have kept it in, like he’d been doing all week. But it had been a long and sleepless night, and every push from her only raised his hackles more. ‘When,’ he spat, ‘were you going to tell me you were engaged?’
When she drew back, stunned, Drake thought he would give anything to get out of this conversation. He didn’t want to have said that, he didn’t want to talk about it with her, and he certainly didn’t want to do it on the bridge barely into his shift. So when the interruption came, for a split second he was relieved.
But only a split second. Because the interruption was a thudding impact of something exploding against Endeavour’s hull and sending them crashing out of warp.
He almost lost his seat. Alert klaxons went off, he had to grab the helm controls to stay upright, and calls of surprise and pain echoed around the bridge as others were less fortunate. Inertial dampeners fully-compensated a second later, and he could yank himself back to the console to see the disaster scrolling across his display.
‘Red Alert! Report!’ barked Rourke, clutching his armrest.
‘We, uh, hit something,’ Drake managed. ‘Dropped out of warp; regaining flight control. Nothing immediately on sensors.’
But Thawn had snapped more back to normal in a crisis, leaning over Ops. ‘Impact at Deck 7; it’s breached the hull and I think it hit the EPS mains in that section.’
‘Think?’ Valance asked.
‘Power systems are fluctuating, including internal diagnostics, I’m basing this off what limited data’s coming in and the fact that we would have power problems if we’ve lost a whole section of plasma conduits, sir.’ Thawn sounded unusually terse, even for a crisis, but Drake had to acknowledge that she was probably right.
‘Prioritise defensive systems,’ said Rourke, jaw tight. ‘Lieutenant Kharth, what’s out there? Did a cloaked Klingon ship try to hit us?’
‘Drake’s right, I’m seeing nothing,’ said Kharth. ‘We’re in the middle of nowhere and I’m picking up nothing out there.’
Airex spoke up. ‘Detonation and impact matches that of a tricobalt device, Captain. I think we hit a mine.’
‘Starfleet doesn’t use mines, tricobalt or otherwise,’ said Valance.
‘Let’s assume this is a sign we’re on the Kut’luch’s tail and they left this for anyone following them,’ said Rourke. ‘That means there’s a high chance someone’s out there ready to fall on us while we’re reeling.’ He tapped the buttons on his armrest. ‘Bridge to Engineering.’
Lindgren’s hands ran across her console. ‘Ah, internal comms aren’t working properly; until Engineering can fix our power fluctuations I expect we’ll keep having systems problems…’
‘Uh, sir?’ Thawn’s voice was suddenly apprehensive again. ‘System reports are coming in, but we’re at risk of a cascading failure of our plasma conduits all along Deck 7. I’d… assume Commander Cortez is dispatching damage control teams…’
Rourke made a frustrated noise. ‘And if the D’Ghor jump us, they won’t take advantage of this to shoot us through our shields, they’ll board us. Commander Valance, go and take command of the situation below – I’m sure Cortez can handle it, but grab Security and make sure they’re making ready for an attack, and are ready to protect our damage control teams.’
Thawn spun in her chair. ‘Permission to go help Commander Valance coordinate, sir? Until our systems are operational again I’m not much use here.’
He shrugged. ‘Alright. Commander Airex, keep me posted on anything our sensors are telling us internally as well as externally.’ He looked up to Valance. ‘Keep the ship in one piece and get me my eyes back.’
The XO’s nod was stern. ‘We’ll do it, sir.’