Part of USS Endeavour: There is Another Sky

There is Another Sky – 1

The Safe House, USS Endeavour
January 2400
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In a space as cosy as the Safe House, the low music from the holographic jazz quartet on the stage was like another blanket around everyone, keeping the dim-lit atmosphere close, intimate. A couple of hours after the alpha shift, Endeavour’s main lounge had opened its arms to bring everyone together in a warm embrace to unwind.

But none of that sleepy comfort reached the booth Ensign Beckett sat in with Commander Cortez, enthralled by the content, discussion, and excitement of the notes and holographic displays of PADDs around them.

‘The environmental control systems were different to anywhere else, even Abnia,’ Cortez was explaining as she gestured to the two separate reports on Tkon outposts, one from Starfleet Research, the other from Endeavour’s own expedition to Ephrath. ‘So that’s one paper.’

‘How mercenary of you, Commander,’ Beckett drawled, and still went to jot it down on his journal.

‘Pragmatic. Inter-disciplinary publications are all the rage. My expert assessment of the technology with your comparative study, and we’ve got a hit on our hands,’ said Cortez with all the self-awareness of how little academic publishing became a hit.

‘Are we about to argue over whose name goes first? Is this an engineering paper with archaeological flavouring, or am I doing an archaeological study and consulting you for detail?’ asked Beckett with a wicked grin.

Cortez smirked. ‘One fight at a time. Speaking of fights – the security restrictions.’ She glanced up at the door, her gaze brightening. ‘And perfect timing.’

‘What?’ Beckett turned in his chair to see Commander Valance approaching, and with an oath he shut his journal, tucked a pen inside his jacket, and began gathering his things. ‘Sorry, Commander; I grabbed Cortez for a consult -’

‘You’re fine, Nate,’ insisted Cortez, sliding along the bench to make room for Valance. ‘If anyone can guide us through what we can and can’t submit for publication, it’s Karana.’

Valance arched an eyebrow as she sat down. ‘I knew this meeting would overrun,’ she chided Cortez gently.

Cortez waved a dismissive hand. ‘I figure that so long as we avoid any mention of the Vanishing Point network, we’re not going to fall foul of security issues?’

‘I – that’s a rather simplistic assumption; I don’t want to make promises I can’t…’

‘I say we press on,’ Cortez said to Beckett chirpily. ‘Do you have any decent Starfleet Research contacts who can back us up?’

He winced. ‘Yeah, from my long career of publication. No, my contacts are all civilian; I didn’t exactly shower myself with glory at the Academy to have old instructors who can be of any use.’ He didn’t mention that he’d rather not ask his father, and hoped the socially-astute Cortez wouldn’t ask.

‘Okay, okay. We’ll use my contacts from the SCE side. Might work out better for you to piggy-back off some of my cred in the first article, then you can run free from there.’ Cortez looked at him packing away. ‘Were we done?’

Beckett gestured haplessly between her and Valance. ‘The commander obviously came down…’

‘She can wait,’ said Cortez with an impish grin.

Thank you, Ensign.’ Valance leaned forward. ‘Someone here appreciates your discretion.’

‘Is it the holograms?’ said Cortez. ‘I was enjoying the chat.’

He stacked his PADDs and journal. ‘I’ll get out of your hair. Enjoy your evening, Commanders. There’s someone I need to catch up with anyway.’

Cortez was protesting as he left, confirming for Beckett he didn’t want to be a tool in the teasing flirtation between senior officers. That was a great way to get a crap assignment off a vengeful Valance. He hadn’t been lying about other people needing his attention, either, heading for a distinctive figure sat at the bar.

Only to be intercepted halfway, Tar’lek Arys sliding out from a knot of pilots. ‘Beckett; I got that gym booking. 1700 tomorrow; I’ll bring the Ushaan-tors.’

‘You better, or it’ll be real embarrassing if I’m being beaten down unarmed.’ Not that Beckett fancied his chances against an Andorian with their own cultural blade anyway, but that was the point of training. Rhade had suggested all members of the Hazard Team find weapons with which they were comfortable, melee and ranged. Standard issue Starfleet phasers were fine by Beckett, but knives were different. As a social creature, he had thus enlisted Arys’s help for melee training.

Still Arys had the gall to nod very seriously and say, ‘You’ll get there.’

That was the problem, Beckett thought as he pressed on for the bar, of being friends with nice people. They never did him the decency of joining in when he was being self-effacing. So it was just as well his target was who it was, as he slid onto the bar-stool next to Rosara Thawn and told the bartender, ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’

‘What – oh, Beckett.’ Thawn turned on her stool and sighed. ‘What do you want? I’m having drinks with Elsa.’

He made a show of looking around. ‘Unless she’s turned invisible, she’s not here yet, so I’m not interrupting anything, am I.’

‘My calm?’

‘We both know you never had any.’ He pulled out his journal and leaned forward. ‘Can you keep a secret?’

She gave a slow blink. ‘Why are you asking me the sorts of questions friends ask each other? Do you want me to braid your hair next?’

‘Yes. Definitely. But that’s not why I’m here.’ His next glance about their surroundings was more conspiratorial. But sometimes a crowded place was the best environment to not be overheard, everyone too lost in their own business to listen or care about someone else’s conversation. ‘I need your help, and you’re the best person to ask, because this plays completely to your strengths: we might need to tattle on someone.’

Her eyes flashed, and she grabbed her drink. ‘Good night, Beckett.’

‘Wait, wait!’ He lifted his hands. ‘It’s about T’Sann. I think he’s not on the level.’

That caught her attention, but her gaze remained guarded. ‘Why are you bringing this to me, and not…’

‘Kharth, who’s close to him? Graelin, who if I’m wrong, might use this against him anyway? I need to know more before I escalate.’ He took her silence as curiosity, and ploughed on, flipping his journal open. ‘I was suspicious that he didn’t seem to care about the classifying of the Koderex, so long as he still had access to the archives. I think he’s looking for something specific in there. It might be nothing – but what if it’s something?’

‘Something,’ she echoed dubiously.

But she didn’t leave, and he smirked as he knew he had her. ‘Telling the galaxy you want to unite the disparate Romulan people is a great way to legitimise what might be your personal treasure hunt, huh? And let’s not pretend we didn’t pick him up under really suspicious circumstances – what happened to the rest of his research team, anyway? The Rebirth murdered them, but that’s like yesterday’s news to him.’

‘This is all very vague.’

‘That’s why I’m investigating, not accusing.’ He leafed through a few journal pages. ‘I’ve observed his work on the Koderex archive lately, and he’s been focusing on the restoration of a specific cluster of files. They’re not the closest to being completed, there’s no indication they’re anything specifically valuable. But he’s focusing on piecing them together. Why?’

‘Do you know what they’re about?’

He made a face. ‘So far as I can tell, they’re categorised the same way the Koderex has categorised historical research files.’

‘Surely historical research stored in the Koderex’s archives was conducted on Vulcan? Why couldn’t he find that elsewhere?’

‘Why indeed,’ said Beckett, like this was a clue and not the objection she was suggesting. ‘Now, T’Sann’s a skilled archaeologist, but he’s not a computer science wiz. So I thought if I identified what fragments he’s trying to restore, could you discreetly beat him to the punch?’

‘You’re asking me to access a restricted archive to do restoration work, but not reveal that restoration work to the science team?’

Beckett winced. ‘This is an archaeological project – it’s my science team. If Graelin asks, I can bullshit him about compartmentalising information.’

‘Mm. You’re good at that,’ she mused, but her gaze flickered down. ‘I have one question.’

‘Just one? How rare for you.’

‘Why are you using pen and paper like a pre-warp weirdo?’

He straightened, indignant. ‘It helps my reflexive process. And nobody can steal it.’

‘I see,’ she said, then snatched it out of his hands.

‘Hey -’

‘I don’t care about all your deepest thoughts, or how the Koderex makes you feel, Beckett,’ she sneered. ‘I’m making a point.’

‘Yeah,’ he grumbled, grabbing his journal back. ‘Heaven forfend you miss an opportunity. Are you in?’

She pursed her lips. ‘If Graelin asks, then I’m simply consulting on the ongoing work. I’m not going to be party to your little conspiracy.’

‘You are, or you wouldn’t be helping,’ he pointed out. ‘But if you don’t want to stand by your word, who am I to stop you hedging your bets and inevitably stealing the credit?’ He slipped his journal back in his jacket. ‘I’ll send you the file references and set up a restricted server for us to work on away from T’Sann. Anyway, why don’t you like Graelin?’

Thawn tilted her chin up. ‘Who says I don’t like him?’

‘Your pathological need for the approval of your superiors. If you liked him, you’d never go behind his back.’ Realisation struck, and he leaned in. ‘Holy shit, you think he and Elsa’s a real bad idea, too?’

‘I don’t -’ She flapped the flap of a betrayer, voice dropping to a hiss more urgent than when they were plotting to undermine a whole archaeological project. ‘I’m not sure his intentions are honourable.’

Beckett smothered a laugh, though he saw her watch him do so, saw her eyes narrow at him. ‘That’s the most you way of saying he’s a sleazeball. Alright, if we find T’Sann’s up to no good, we’ll go around him to the captain, take the credit, and make him look bad. Deal?’

‘Fine.’

‘Good. Anyway, how’s it going with Captain Federation?’

‘Stop calling him that; he’s your team leader.’ Thawn straightened indignantly. ‘And we’ve established we’re not friends, Beckett; we don’t share like that.’

‘A slew of tepid dates here in the Safe House is about as exciting as it looks, huh?’ Thawn’s eyes flashed again, but then Lindgren arrived at the bar, and Beckett suspected her arrival was saving him from a mauling.

Lindgren looked between them. ‘Are you two ever going to play nice together?’

‘I only play nice,’ Beckett protested. ‘I was just shaking Thawn down for gossip.’

‘That’s a really bad lie,’ Thawn pointed out. ‘I don’t know gossip about anyone.’

‘I was going to say,’ Lindgren drawled, pulling up the stool on her other side. ‘If you’re just trawling for attention, Nate, we’ll catch up later; now scoot so we can talk about you.’

He hopped to his feet and swept around to lean in between them both, smirking. ‘So you do talk about me?’

‘Yes,’ said Thawn flatly. ‘Like we’d complain about the weather, or bugs.’

His smirk turned on Lindgren. ‘Give her tips on how to spice up her love life. Pretty girl like her shouldn’t be taken out for dates where it looks like he’s pontificating on what kind of wine pairs best with the food. Rhade’s a good guy, but I’m starting to suspect he’s bone-crunchingly boring -’

Lindgren laughed and looked guilty, but Thawn planted a hand on his shoulder to push him away. ‘Good night, Beckett.’

So, laughing, he left them to it and let the intimate blanket of the Safe House draw him away. Perhaps to the cluster of pilots where he’d left Arys; perhaps the seats nearer the band where the junior officers of the Hazard Team had gathered. But the night could be his, any conspiracies left to wait for the morning shadows, where they belonged.