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Part of USS Endeavour: There is Another Sky

There is Another Sky -7

Archaeology Lab, USS Endeavour
January 2400
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When Commander Graelin came into the archaeology lab, checked they were alone, and told Beckett, ‘We need to talk,’ he was sure he was in trouble.

Studying research of historic Vulcan archival protocols was hardly incriminating behaviour, but Beckett still switched his screen off as he spun his chair around. ‘What can I do for you, sir?’

‘I appreciate your ongoing commitment to the Koderex study. And your patience with Doctor T’Sann.’ Graelin brought up a PADD, studying it. ‘We need to make a decision about the good doctor’s future with this archive, so I’m trying to assess how integral he is to the restoration and analysis process.’

Beckett tried to not bite his lip. ‘He has more expertise on this specific topic than me – than a lot of people, in fact, sir.’

‘Yes, but with you working on it more-or-less full-time, we can’t exactly justify a civilian consultant in the long-term.’

Beckett hesitated. While he was suspicious of T’Sann, he still respected the man’s work, and knew that if he was wrong, the doctor was a trailblazer in his field whose contributions could be invaluable. He cleared his throat. ‘What’re you thinking?’

‘Simple,’ said Graelin, lowering the PADD. ‘If we’re keeping him aboard, that frees you up for more responsibility. Unless you’d rather keep dedicating your focus to the Koderex?’

‘You say “full-time,” sir, but there’s Hazard Team training as well, and I’ve been working with Commander Cortez to on those papers from Ephrath…’

‘Mn. I was thinking more along the lines of career development. It’s easy in your line of work to stay pigeon-holed.’

Beckett raised his eyebrows. ‘My line of work?’

‘Social sciences. It’s not the most natural route to bridge duty, which means it’s not the most natural route to a department head position and, thus, career progression.’

It was curious, Beckett thought. He could see Graelin before him, see his lips moving, and yet it was his father’s voice he heard. ‘What did you have in mind?’

‘You are trained as a bridge officer -’

‘I’ve served as a bridge officer,’ Beckett pointed out. ‘Navigating the Velorum Nebula. In combat at Tagrador.’

‘Good,’ said Graelin, not particularly listening. ‘I’m putting you in for advanced bridge officer training courses, and that’s supporting evidence for your suitability. You can take a step back from the Koderex work, with T’Sann such a useful asset, and we can continue your professional development.’

‘As well as the Hazard Team training.’ Beckett swallowed. ‘Do I get to, I don’t know, sleep? Or is that time I could be improving myself as a useful asset to Starfleet?’

Graelin raised an eyebrow. ‘You’ve got opportunities others don’t, Ensign. Your father said I’m responsible for you, so I’m responsible for you. A lot of mediocre students don’t get an officer of my experience and an admiral trying to groom them for more. There’s absolutely no excuse, with your later test scores and background, for you to not aim high.’

Beckett opened his mouth to respond, but sagged in the chair. This was not the first time one of his father’s puppets had castigated him for not meeting standards he’d never set for himself. ‘Fine,’ he sighed at last. ‘I’ll scale back on the Koderex work.’

‘Good.’ Graelin tapped his PADD, the screen turning blank. ‘Though if you find anything interesting in the investigation you’re trying to hide from T’Sann… let me know.’

Tension kept Beckett silent until Graelin left, then he sagged, scrubbing his face with his hands. This was not the worst possible outcome, but it hadn’t been great. His boss knowing and indulging his side project should not have been a surprise. And if Graelin was prepared to let him scale back his lab work to take on this additional training, his schedule and lifestyle didn’t need to suffer. But there was a simple reason Nate Beckett worked in the archaeology lab, even if it wasn’t, as Graelin said, the most straightforward path to career advancement. He liked it.

‘It’s this,’ he mumbled, bringing his screen back on, ‘or sleep.’ He’d been staring at this data for hours, it felt. But coming back after speaking to Graelin was like bringing a fresh pair of eyes, and a series of numbers his gaze had skipped over before now shone bright before him.

Beckett tilted his head. ‘Huh.’

Twenty minutes later he was hammering a door-chime on Deck 2, practically hopping on the spot with anticipation. Over and over he hit it, eventually rapping his knuckles on the door, and when Thawn finally opened up, he almost knocked her on the forehead.

What?’ She was dishevelled and bedraggled in night-wear, hair wild, eyes bleary.

‘Oh.’ Beckett’s hand dropped. ‘Oh you were commanding the gamma shift -’

‘I have had three hours of sleep, Beckett,’ Thawn snarled. ‘So this better be good.’

‘Wow, you’re not a morning person. Okay.’ Despite that he ducked past her, brandishing a PADD. ‘I know what T’Sann’s looking for.’

Her eyes narrowed, and he watched curiosity spark through fatigue to win at last. ‘I swear, if he’s just after some ancient Vulcan philosophy -’

‘He is not. Coffee. You’re going to want coffee. I’m going to want coffee.’ She pointed at the replicator, and he hurried over to fetch them two steaming mugs. ‘So I went through research of contemporaneous Vulcan archival techniques – which, let me tell you, is super niche? I had to dig through the methodology chapters of a whole bunch of historical research on the era, and then I had to get in touch with several scholars to ask for their research data itself -’

‘Yes, you’re very switched-on and attentive when it comes to historical research,’ Thawn droned, snatching the coffee from him. ‘Please skip to the end.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry, are you the only one who gets to pontificate geniusly when you’re being a genius?’

‘At this time of night? Nobody gets to.’

‘Forgive me for anticipating the nitpicking I know you’d give if I opened with my findings and absolutely no explanation of how I -’

Beckett.’

‘Okay, okay! I found a similar archival reference to the classification system used on the Koderex, and then I went looking for what those Vulcan historical archives pointed at. It’s records from archaeological research, and they aren’t in great condition – I assume the wars of the Romulan exodus didn’t do archives much good…’ Her expression tensed, and he lifted his PADD in a placating fashion. ‘The digs were of sites five to six hundred thousand years old on Vulcan, and suggest an alien colony that predates any known Vulcan culture.’

Thawn stared. ‘Aliens on the planet Vulcan who had a whole society and colony before the Vulcan people? Why don’t we know about this?’

‘We do. We don’t know much, but we know more than the Vulcans from the time of Surak did. They were called the Arretans, we know they colonised several planets including Vulcans in that time period, and they were so advanced they developed massive mental powers and were basically gods. They extinguished all life on their own planet. A few survivors were found about a hundred years ago; they possessed crewmembers of the USS Enterprise, and apparently all died in the encounter. But they were wicked powerful.’

Now she frowned. ‘Let me get this straight. T’Sann is looking into a powerful, ancient species who had holdings on multiple planets, including Vulcan, and whose existence is known to Federation scientists. But to find out more, he’s consulting not Vulcan archaeological archives, but records from a lost Romulan archive?’

‘The Vulcan archives are damaged. The archaeological site was damaged. Maybe T’Sann thinks there’s information about the Arretans which didn’t survive anywhere but Romulan records – Romulan copies of the original Vulcan research?’

‘Okay,’ Thawn said slowly, and sipped her coffee. ‘Why?’

He stopped, hand dropping. ‘…I don’t know.’

‘Why would he keep this a secret? And if you think he’s been so weirdly driven, to the extent he doesn’t care about colleagues dying, why would he be like this for old records of an old Vulcan archaeological dig?’

Beckett winced. ‘This is going to sound crazy,’ he said, ‘but the only answer I have to that is: because the Arretans had practically god-like power and he’s after that?’

‘You’re right. That does sound crazy.’ She stalked towards him and snatched the PADD out of his hand. Then she turned to her desk console and flicked the screen to life.

‘What’re you doing?’

‘What does it look like I’m doing?’ She did not look at him. ‘Getting back to work. If this is as wild as you think, we should probably know for sure.’

‘Okay, it’s just…’

‘You can stay here,’ she said without missing a beat, ‘and continue to read on the Arretans. On one condition -’

‘I – Thawn -’

‘You have to keep bringing the coffee, and figure out some sort of disgustingly fatty brain food -’

‘It’s just now I finished explaining everything, I realise -’

‘…because that’s the only way I can – what?’

Beckett gave a slightly frantic gesture, heat rushing to his cheeks. ‘It’s just now I finished explaining everything, I realise that if I’m going to stay and you’re going to work, you really need to put on more clothes.’

Thawn looked down at the rather silky nightie that she’d probably owned for quite a while, and that Beckett had slowly realised was altogether more form-fitting than either of them had initially figured. She let out a slow, rather embarrassed sigh. ‘Humans. For that, Beckett,’ she said in a higher-pitched, clipped voice as she headed for her bedroom, ‘you’d better replicate some donuts.’

Self-conscious, he gave her a ridiculous finger-salute and spun on the spot towards the replicator. ‘Yes, ma’am. Donuts and coffee coming right up to as we investigate possibly a devious scheme to unlock ancient godlike power, ma’am.’

‘Great Fire,’ he heard Thawn groan from the next room. ‘When you say it out loud, it does sound stupid, doesn’t it?’