Part of USS Endeavour: Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark Things – 4

The Safe House, USS Endeavour
February 2400
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Vice Admiral Beckett’s gaze was cool and level as he stepped into the Safe House, and his eyes rolled over to Rourke before the doors even slid shut behind them. ‘We could have done this on the starbase.’

‘Who would that be for, exactly?’ Rourke said, trying to keep his voice light.

‘Don’t pretend this isn’t about appearances, Matt. You know better than that.’ But before Admiral Beckett could get in any further digs, Sophia Hale detached from the crowd of Endeavour’s crew and approached, and he had to fight to match even a millimetre of the energy of her smile. ‘First Secretary; by your eagerness to get your hands dirty on the Nomad Horizon I take it you’re enjoying your time on Endeavour?’

Hale positioned herself quite tellingly beside Rourke even as she smiled at the admiral. ‘It’s a chance to make sure my work has meaning, Admiral. I thank you again for helping make sure this mission could happen.’

‘Always ready to support the operations of the Diplomatic Service,’ Beckett rumbled, but his eyes were already sliding off her to look to the other gathered crew. The occasion called for dress uniforms, and Rourke had made sure the Safe House was ready with more holographic waitstaff ensuring everyone had a steady supply of champagne and snacks. Doubling up on the fanciness of Endeavour’s lounge was the price he paid for keeping this under his roof. His crew would thank him later. ‘I hope the surprise is intact.’

‘There’s only so much suspense I can manage here,’ Rourke pointed out. ‘But I think they expect a more general pat on the back.’

‘Hm.’ Admiral Beckett grunted, before extending a proprietary hand to the crowd and beckoning. ‘Commander Valance!’

Valance looked stiff and uncomfortable in her dress uniform, and Rourke knew that had nothing to do with the occasion itself and everything to do with its timing. She was stood near the bar with Cortez, who looked like she might come with before Valance gave a faint shake of the head and moved through the crowd towards them. ‘Admiral, this is a pleasure. Welcome aboard.’

Another faint grunt from Beckett, but then his gaze went more serious. ‘How is he?’

Valance hesitated. ‘I’ll be returning to Guardian Pharan and Counsellor Carraway tomorrow. We’ll do what we can.’

‘Good.’ He scratched his chin. ‘I need my advisor back.’

Rourke looked to Valance. ‘Anything we can do to help, you call.’

‘Yes, sir. We’ve got this.’

He wasn’t convinced, but now wasn’t the time. Carraway had indicated that Kharth had withdrawn from whatever this was, and on a different occasion, he might have tried to intervene. But his relationship with Kharth still wasn’t what it was, and from the cool exchanges he could spot between her and Valance, he suspected he was best leaving the situation alone for now.

Besides, he had more pressing business. He looked at Beckett. ‘We should get started.’

‘Quite,’ said Admiral Beckett in a clipped voice, and stalked to the main stage normally occupied by the holographic band. Rourke followed, and watched as where he would have normally needed to lift a hand or at least clear his throat to get the attention of even his own crew, Admiral Alexander Beckett could simply step up and everyone fell silent.

He told himself it was because an admiral aboard was a novelty. Eyes would have been on him anyway.

Nobody could ever accuse Alexander Beckett of being warm. But when he spoke in his low drawl of a voice, it still carried across the room and wrapped others up within it, bringing them closer like co-conspirators. ‘Officers of the esteemed USS Endeavour. It is an honour to be among you today.’

Situations like this, Rourke thought as he waited on the sidelines and clasped his hands behind his back, needed some pomp and ceremony. Beckett understood that; understood the way to build a moment so it could be seen to be right, and did so with his words as much as his manner as he talked of Endeavour’s last mission, of the Century Storm and all its adversity, of all that had been seen and done and saved in the Whixby system

‘You saved countless lives there. Not only the crew of the Odysseus, but the people of Whixby, and perhaps those beyond, those who could not have been saved without the relief centre on the northern islands. Of course this was a collective effort; building the shelter, conducting diplomacy, understanding the challenges of the storm.’ Admiral Beckett’s eyes swept across the crowd. ‘But some of you deserve a specific recognition.’

Rourke tilted his chin up. ‘Commander Valance, Commander Cortez, Lieutenant Kharth. Step forward.’

They did, Cortez looking keenly aware she was the barrier, the frostiness between the other two women enough to chill Rourke even from a distance as they advanced on the stage. A nod to Petty Officer Nestari had a box in Rourke’s hands in a moment, but it was Beckett who pressed on; such were the perks of command.

‘In the mission to the Odysseus, the three of you showed unswerving dedication and skill,’ the admiral said. ‘Commander Valance led without ever losing sight of her focus. Success in sealing the rift without destroying the ship would have been impossible without the ingenuity of Commander Cortez. And every report I have read has spoken of the quick-thinking, apt words, and above all, compassion of Lieutenant Kharth in averting tragedy.’

Rourke watched as Kharth’s gaze flickered, evidently unaccustomed to being charged with such virtues, glancing for even a heartbeat towards Valance, whose report, she had to know, must have included such praise. The frosty air between them shifted, perhaps, to hold a tang of guilty.

If Admiral Beckett noticed, he did not care, nodding down to the captain. ‘In light of these achievements, it is my privilege and honour to bestow on each of you the Starfleet Medal of Commendation.’

These were, Rourke thought, some of the best times of being a commanding officer. Even Valance relaxed an iota as he advanced to pin the medal to her uniform. Cortez gave him a quick grin and a wink, and even Kharth met his gaze enough to embolden him to murmur, ‘Well done.’

She looked away soon after, and was first to slide back to the crowd.

‘But these were not,’ mused Admiral Beckett, ‘the only impressive heroics of your mission. I am aware of an operation on the surface of Whixby worthy of note.’

Rourke drew a deep breath. ‘Lieutenant Thawn, Ensign Beckett. Step forward.’

The last time he had summoned Thawn like this had been her promotion. She had been nervous then, but now that apprehension was nearly overshadowed by delight, the nerves natural and excited rather than seeing her about to turn tail. Nate Beckett, however, was a different story; Rourke could see his surprise, and he almost needed to be led by Thawn to stumble out before the stage, before the crew.

Before his father.

No more warmth had entered Vice Admiral Beckett’s gaze as he looked down at his son. But there was, perhaps, a growth in his presence, his confidence. His satisfaction. ‘On the surface of Whixby, the two of you undertook a mission at great personal risk to restore the planetary weather system and dissipate the storm that threatened multiple islands. Thousands of lives were at stake. You worked together in tremendously dangerous conditions, not only repairing the weather control system but rescuing shipmates who might have been killed had you acted at all slower.’

Thawn beamed, but Rourke’s eyes were on Nate Beckett, who stood ramrod straight and stared at a point inches above his father’s head.

‘In light of this tremendous courage,’ Admiral Beckett pressed on obliviously, or disinterestedly, ‘it is my privilege and honour to bestow on each of you the Star Cross.’

A hush did fall on the crowd at that; this was no minor decoration, and Rourke had tossed the paperwork through several offices that had nothing to do with Alexander Beckett to be sure he could justify it. But the ceremony had inevitably caught the admiral’s eye, and it was this, really, that had brought him here himself. Not for Endeavour, but for his son.

For his son to be seen.

Rourke advanced with the latest box, clipping it open and pinning the medal first to a delighted Thawn, and then to Nate Beckett. As the crowd erupted into cheers around them, he leaned in to the young ensign, voice dropping. ‘You alright?’

But all Nate Beckett did was give the faintest shake of the head, begging off explaining there and now, and turned to go at once.

‘Ensign!’ Admiral Beckett’s voice boomed above the crowd. ‘Nathaniel. I request your presence a moment longer.’ He stepped down from the stage, and anxiety wormed in Rourke’s gut as he advanced on his son. They had not discussed anything more. He didn’t know what was coming next.

Rourke fell back next to Thawn, and found himself catching her confused and concerned frown, her dark eyes locked on Nate. But more eyes were on the admiral.

‘This is an indulgence of mine,’ said Alexander Beckett, as if he were being so very silly in front of a crowd of hundreds. ‘One of the perks of rank, I suppose. To see my son be rewarded for his courage after all these years of work. But it has been years of work, not merely one great deed; vast contributions to the negotiations of Whixby, stepping up during the Tkon Crisis, playing a key part in your missions to Ephrath. All worthy of recognition.’

And Alexander Beckett reached into a pocket to pull out a smaller box. He snapped it open to show a single, gleaming black-centred pip, and the satisfaction in his voice could not have been greater. ‘Congratulations, Lieutenant. I couldn’t be prouder of you.’

Rourke was the first to start applauding, then Thawn next to him, then the room erupted into celebration. It was earned, Rourke knew; earned several times over, and this should have been a great day, a day when the underestimated officer had finally received the recognition that he deserved.

But Rourke knew Nate Beckett well. And as he stood ramrod straight while his father pinned that second pip to his collar, Rourke knew that it was not a stoic disguising of delight or pride or even surprise that was on his face.

For all the cheering and whooping, the adulation of the crowd, the medals and the promotions, Nate Beckett looked like he wanted to do nothing so much as throw up.

Comments

  • Oh poor Nate! Finally getting some of the recognition he wants in general from his father but getting it in exactly the most unhelpful and unwanted manner. Does Admiral Beckett not know how to say "Atta boy, I'm proud of you son"? This was a nice little touch back to the last mission, recapping quickly the broad strokes. I love that the Beckett's can't help but be who they are, which leaves, in how I've read it anyway, Rourke as probably more worried about the mental wellbeing of Nate than his own father. Oh please Beckett clan, never change! Course, now Nate does have to get a 'bit' more responsible.

    April 30, 2022