Part of USS Endeavour: Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark Things – 1

Bridge, USS Endeavour
February 2400
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A light-year from Starbase Bravo, Endeavour hung in space above the scurrying transport ships like a bird mothering its chicks, close if needed as they tried to fly the coops. Pleasure yachts or personnel carriers or modified freighters, these craft had all fled the calamities of the Paulson Nebula, bearing as many as they could from danger. Now the Century Storm had passed, it was time to do more than escape. It was time to find homes.

Some transports came about to make their way back into the increasingly placid nebula, their homes now safe and ready to be rebuilt. Others headed deeper into the Beta Quadrant, their worlds beyond restoration for at least a time, their passengers in need of new places to settle.

But it was at the largest of these ships that Endeavour had stopped. The Nomad Horizon was a colony ship quickly repurposed for the evacuation of Coronal, and so was one of the few vessels capable of taking on almost ten thousand refugees. She had also, it transpired, barely made it out of the Paulson Nebula in one piece.

It was to this condition that Thawn’s eyes were drawn as she sat on the bridge and studied her sensor readings. ‘From the system report the captain sent over,’ she explained, ‘I think this will take more than scrubbing their Bussard collectors and adjusting their plasma flow. They need their warp core operating at maximum efficiency support the power needs of this many refugees.’

Rourke did not look alone at the command chair, because Hale was sat next to him, but he seemed off-balance, lopsided, with the XO’s chair empty. He scratched his beard. ‘So much for an afternoon’s work. What do they need?’

‘I’d venture,’ said Graelin from his right, ‘this is the work of a full engineering team. The Nomad only had twenty-four hours of retrofitting for the evacuation, and travel through the Paulson Nebula won’t have been easy.’

‘Alright.’ Rourke sighed. ‘Tell Commander Cortez to assemble a team and beam over for an assessment. If this is more than a day’s work, we should think about towing the Nomad back to Bravo.’

Thawn grimaced as Lindgren dispatched the instruction. ‘Captain Sevarith also alerted us that the disruption to the power systems has given his sickbay trouble with their biobeds. They still have a considerable population of injured people aboard, and a lot with respiratory problems.’

‘Lieutenant Lindgren.’ Rourke sounded rather frustrated. ‘Connect their medical staff to Doctor Sadek’s office. Tell her to assess if we need to bring people aboard, if they’ll need long-term care on Bravo, and if she can help by sending over a medical team in while Cortez works.’

This operation had originally been a quick check-up. Rendezvous with the refugee convoy, provide quick assistance, and bring more long-term issues back to Bravo. Endeavour did not have pressing duties to return to, but Thawn sensed Rourke’s agitation at leaving Bravo less than a day after arriving; leaving Valance, Kharth, and Carraway behind to deal with the Airex situation.

Hale turned in her chair towards Lindgren. ‘How is Captain Sevarith? A lot has been put on him and he might not be through the worst yet.’

Lindgren gave a small shrug. ‘Hard to say, ma’am. Certainly stressed.’

Hale looked back at Rourke. ‘If Commander Cortez and Doctor Sadek are heading with teams to the Nomad, I may join them. The last thing we need is for the refugees and those helping them to feel like they’ve been hung out to dry.’

Rourke raised an eyebrow. ‘You know you’ll get a barrage of demands to know where the Coronal refugees are being settled.’

‘It’s hardly an unreasonable concern. All the more reason to give them access to someone like me. At the very least, I can hear them – let them feel heard.’

He sighed again, but nodded. ‘As you wish, First Secretary.’

After weeks back in Betazoid society, Thawn was a little clumsier shutting off her senses from picking up the feelings of others. That skill had been developed and reinforced over ten years of Starfleet service, and she’d found it comforting in a lot of ways. Not knowing what others felt meant she didn’t have to be responsible for it. So she wished she didn’t feel the flicker of apprehension and guilt that lingered around Rourke as Hale left the bridge, and they settled down to do nothing more than wait.

It took an hour before Cortez reported in, and it was less illuminating than they might have hoped: have Endeavour replicate various parts, conduct more extensive repairs on the Nomad’s warp core, and they’d still have to see if that did the trick. Thawn could do the resource allocation in her sleep, but it left her a little guilty when her shift ended before Cortez was finished.

‘Get some damn rest, Lieutenant,’ growled a hypocritical Rourke, not leaving his own chair as she dithered at her station. ‘You’ve earned it, and there’s not much we can do here.’

She hesitated near him on her way out, wringing her fingers together. ‘You know, sir… there’s nothing better for us to do. Everyone on Bravo’s doing what they can.’

He gave her a guarded look, unaccustomed to such an emotional approach from her. ‘I know,’ he said, and she could hear him trying to not sound terse. ‘But I’ll make sure I’m doing something useful in the meantime.’

She left him only with reluctance. A not-inconsiderable part of her had hoped that he’d ask or encourage her to keep working beyond her shift, pull long hours that would have her retire only late into the night. That would mean she didn’t have to keep her appointment with Rhade in his quarters after her shift.

She still delayed. Took longer than she should have changing in her quarters, fussing over her hair, trying to find the line between being polite and not trying to dress up. So she was fifteen minutes late before she hit the door-chime to his room, and her heart sank when he answered still in uniform.

I should have thought of that.

His chin tilted up an anxious half-inch, her broad-shouldered fiancé falling, as was his wont, into decorum and courtesies as a shield against any nerves or unseemly feelings. ‘Rosara. Come in; may I bring you a drink?’

She hesitated as she entered. ‘Perhaps some tea.’ That felt companionable without implying anything. ‘How’ve you been?’

Rhade shrugged. ‘I rather wish I could have joined Commander Cortez’s team to the Nomad. Made myself useful. Or stayed on Bravo. It feels a little… wasteful to be here on standby.’ Then he winced. ‘Not to say that being here for this conversation is wasteful…’

‘If you think being on Bravo would mean Kharth might open up to you as a friend, especially about Commander Airex, you don’t know her as well as you think,’ Thawn said rather archly, sitting at the tall table by the window rather than the comfortable seating.

He sighed. ‘What’s happened to him is horrific – and we don’t even understand it. I’m glad we have experts helping him, I’m glad that Guardian has arrived from Trill, I’m glad they’ve asked for those who know him best to stay. Injuries like this – injuries which are serious and uncertain – take a toll. Those of us on the sidelines must support.’

Thawn pursed her lips. They had arrived at Bravo to the news of an attack on Airex, their former science officer now in the starbase infirmary in a coma believed to have been brought on by a telepathic assault. Security footage pointed the finger at Doctor Karl T’Sann, who had fled before anyone realised anything was wrong, and this left Thawn with a sickening sense of guilt she didn’t know how to process. After all, she had told Airex to dig deeper into T’Sann. She had, fundamentally, underestimated the man, even after Beckett’s theories and warnings.

But this was not what she was here for. ‘We can’t do anything about that,’ she said a little bluntly. ‘Adamant, you should – you should sit down and we should talk.’

He lingered a moment, fetching steaming mugs from the replicator, and slid onto the seat across from her. ‘Whixby,’ he said at last, ‘did not go very well.’

‘For you. For us,’ Thawn pointed out. ‘As a mission, it went well.’

‘You think in spite of us. In spite of me.’

‘I’m not…’ She hesitated. ‘I’ve no interest in blame about what happened, Adamant. But you have to recognise…’

‘That we came to Whixby and had fundamentally different priorities and goals. And you think I did not sufficiently prioritise you, our relationship, or the implied obligation I have to you and your House.’ His peerless blue eyes met hers, calm and assessing, and she gave a mute nod. He grimaced. ‘I’ve thought about this a lot. And I think you’re right. And I am sorry.’

‘Are you sorry,’ she said delicately, ‘because you think you should have done something different, or are you sorry that our priorities were incompatible?’

Another wince. ‘Perhaps if we had talked more plainly ahead of time, discussed our needs and interests as we blended professional and personal, we might have avoided this pitfall.’

Maybe. But is there a world where you would have held your tongue as Cosbar Lillarties said what he did?’ She watched him hesitate, and pressed on. ‘Where you didn’t, at least a little, think less of me for taking what he said in-stride?’

His eyes widened. ‘I do not respect you less for how you navigated Whixby and its politics. You possess a temperament I do not in such affairs. I understand that I can be uncompromising, and it’s true that I have little appetite for such environments which can be wholly… selfish. But I don’t respect you less because we have different skills. I would hope you do not respect me less for that, either.’

‘I don’t respect you less,’ she sighed. ‘I just saw how very different we are. My family… does not leave a lot of space for someone to make a stand if it goes against the House’s interests. Simply, Adamant, you have freedoms I don’t.’

‘Freedoms are still obligations. If I have this flexibility, then that means I have more reason to discuss and compromise with you, where you lack such choice, and I -’

‘Adamant, what are we doing?’ She hadn’t known what she’d say when she came here, but now the words tumbled out of her. Perhaps it was the boldness left over from defying Falyn on Whixby. Perhaps it was the guilt about T’Sann and worry about Airex overriding everything else. ‘We have talked and we have spent time together and we have worked together, and it all comes to the same thing.’

She watched as he drew a slow, raking breath. ‘You don’t want – no.’ He stopped himself, rested his hands on the table, and tried again. ‘We should not marry.’

‘We have nothing in common. Communication comes between us with appalling difficulty; I’m terrible at telling you what I want, and you’re terrible at expressing what you intend to do. We keep expecting the other to read our thoughts and act accordingly, except we’ve done nothing to build the intimacy which makes that easy or acceptable.’

His expression fell as she talked, but it was impossible to sense, beyond the distress and guilt, the tight, bright kernel of something else. Relief. ‘Rosara,’ he sighed. ‘I’m so very sorry that I’ve hurt you as I have. I came here wanting to build bridges with you. I still would take the time to build those bridges; nothing you have said is insurmountable, but…’ She’d gone to talk, and he gently raised a hand to cut her off. ‘But what I want is a partnership. That’s not something one is convinced of, that is something one chooses. I would never want to see you pressured into something so important. I would never want my life to be something someone is pressured into.’

Her gaze could only drop. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Do not apologise for seeking your own happiness through honesty and clear communication. That is the only thing we can ask of anyone to do.’ He got to his feet, all crisp Betazoid manners, training, etiquette, and inclined his head towards her. ‘I will speak with my parents.’

‘No,’ she sighed, slipping off her seat. ‘I’ll talk to my aunt. I’ll appreciate the backing of the Seventh House in dissolving the arrangement, but this will be easier if Auntie isn’t blindsided.’ Suddenly her chest felt lighter, the guilt at his anguish fading for a rushing, heady sense of freedom. She swerved away from that as quickly as she could, because this was not a sense Rosara Thawn had particularly embraced before.

What was she to do, now this was decided?

‘I should finish that report for Starbase Bravo Security,’ she decided. ‘I don’t expect it’ll help them if T’Sann is long gone, but I can at least speak to his motives.’

‘He’ll be found,’ Rhade said seriously, and extended a hand. ‘Good night, Rosara.’

It was more than a brief farewell, she realised, and let him take her hand, bow, and kiss it. ‘Good night, Adamant.’ Her throat tightened. ‘Thank you.’

At last he smiled, and it was a much easier, brighter expression than she might have expected under the circumstances. ‘Thank you for letting our lives intertwine as they have, if only for a time. I wish you every happiness.’

‘And you.’

Rosara Thawn did not have much experience of break-ups. She had never allowed herself anything deep, because forever had Adamant Rhade hung like a shadow over her future, keeping Academy boyfriends, starship flirtations, casual in a way that did not come naturally to her in the first place. Relationships had been stumbling and ill-fitting, forbidden from becoming something that might give her true happiness. And they had all ended up either a rushing emptiness or a cocktail of pain and guilt.

And they had never before ended with her heading down a corridor and wanting to skip.

Comments

  • Nooooooo! I was hoping for Thawn and Rhade to resolve their problems and make it work!! Or am I sensing perhaps there's another relationship on the horizon for Thawn? A great start to what I can tell is going to be another great story among the Endeavour clan. Also I am really starting to warm up to Hale more.

    April 18, 2022
  • Honestly the best, correct course for Thawn and Rhade. Grown up conversation, amicable seeming decision. Shame families will get involved. I'm hoping they stick to their guns! Friendship through adversity!

    April 20, 2022
  • I am kinda sad that Thawn and Rhade didn't resolve their issues and move on, though I think it is the logical choice with how vastly different they are. I am excited to see how things will go as each develops without the other!

    April 26, 2022