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Part of USS Endeavour: Certain Dark Things

Certain Dark Things – 11

Hazard Team Training Facilities, USS Endeavour
February 2400
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Hiss.

He’d barely let off one snapshot before return fire blazed, and Nate Beckett had to swing back behind cover. A disruptor blast sparked into the metal behind where he’d been a heartbeat earlier, and he gritted his teeth. There was nothing for it. He’d have to crawl.

Weapons fire kept blazing, more and more distant as he wriggled behind the barricades away from where his enemies thought he was. That was at least three shooters. He was outmanned and outgunned. And this was no time for misguided heroics.

He didn’t have much choice. With muttered oaths Beckett rose onto one knee to pop over the barricade and let off a trio of shots at where he thought the enemy had to be. One he saw hit the target, the second clip it, the third went wide –

– and a disruptor blast took him in the chest.

It was, of course, only enough to knock him flat on his back. But it was also enough to make the faint hum of emitters in the Hazard Team training room fade, and for the computer to judgementally state, ‘Simulation Failed.’

Then there were no shooters, no disruptor fire, no barricades – just him in his gear with his gun, lying on his back in the chamber, swearing quietly.

‘Always look before you shoot,’ came a voice at the doorway, and Beckett sprang up. He’d thought he was alone, but he’d have accepted interruption from Kowalski or even Rhade. Not the captain.

‘I looked!’ he protested automatically.

Captain Rourke gave a crooked grin as he folded his arms across his chest. ‘I was watching from out there. You were doing great until that last point. You should have risked a glance, pinpointed your target before you shot.’

‘They’d have shot me.’

‘You’d relocated. And yes, that’s a risk. But was this any better?’

Rourke was still smiling that gentle, indulgent smile he’d given as an academy instructor. Back then, he’d have told Nate to dust himself off and try again, and Nate would have tried because Rourke was the only instructor who hadn’t made him feel judged. Everyone else either expected more, sizzled with the anticipations of his father, was desperate to shape up an admiral’s son into what Alexander Beckett wanted – or they had seen only his flaws and assumed he was there because of his father’s machinations, unworthy of the Academy.

But this time, Nate found himself throwing his phaser rifle to the deck. ‘Did you just come down here to pick on my mistakes? Is that it?’

He regretted the outburst the moment it happened, the moment Rourke’s smile vanished and coldness entered those eyes. But that came with relief, too; no more pretences from either of them, just the simple honest truth of his flaws and weaknesses. His chest was heaving, and not from the exertion of training. Rourke stepped forward, then leaned down to retrieve the rifle. The captain checked it over with a practised air, then slammed it into Beckett’s chest and grasp.

‘Under no circumstances,’ Rourke said quietly, ‘do you throw down a phaser rifle like that. I taught you better.’

‘Sorry to disappoint,’ Beckett sneered before he could stop himself. ‘But if you sit and watch my work, you’ll find some gap in your teaching sooner or later.’

Rourke closed his eyes and sighed. ‘I hate being right, sometimes.’

Jaw iron tight, Beckett went to pass him and head for the door. ‘Should have thought of that before you brought me aboard -’

Lieutenant Beckett.’

Rourke’s voice was like a whip-crack, and by instincts he’d barely known he had, Beckett’s feet clamped to the deck as if in mag-boots. He still didn’t turn, still didn’t face the captain, clutching his rifle in a white-knuckled grip and glaring at the door.

‘I was right,’ Rourke continued in a softer voice a moment later, ‘because I thought you’d be down here doing something stupid.’

‘Like yelling at you? That has to be stupid -’

‘Like running a training simulation designed for two people over and over, and failing it over and over. Let me guess, you’re about to tell Rhade, or at least yourself, that you should be taken off the Hazard Team because you can’t cut it?’

‘The Hazard Team needs to -’

‘Your father didn’t nominate you for that medal,’ Rourke said in a louder, clearer tone. ‘I did.’ Beckett was silent at that, biting his lip, and the captain pressed on before he could fight back. ‘I read the reports of the other three. And from Ms Hale. Not just of how you went alone down to a storm-soaked shuttle to rescue two colleagues – not just how you sent them up first while you waited below, without a safety line, without anything, with no guarantee the Prydwen would be able to pick you back up. Not just how you helped Thawn fix the weather control systems and saved a planet. But how you, your wits and your charm and your intelligence, helped a professional diplomat win over a government to provide shelter for thousands.’

Beckett’s shoulders hunched in, his chest tightening. ‘So much the better for my father to put me on display like his favourite performing pet. Sticking a pip on me and showing me off. Like father, like son -’

‘Your father’s an arsehole,’ Rourke said simply. ‘I think I know him better than most, because I can say he’s incredibly brave, incredibly intelligent, and I owe him my life in so many ways. And yet he is an arsehole who makes it his life’s mission to control people, which I know because he tried to control me. Everything he does is transactional, and he justifies it because he believes what’s in his best interests is in Starfleet’s best interests.’ Rourke’s footsteps rang out as he approached. ‘It’s one thing for him to do that to me when I was his first officer, a grown adult. Even when I was a nineteen year-old kid in the middle of a war. But you know the way he’s treated you your entire life is utterly unacceptable, right?’

Beckett wavered, and he didn’t know what he’d have done if Rourke’s hand hadn’t landed on his shoulder, warm and reassuring and steadying. ‘He…’ Resentment and loyalty broiled within him. ‘I know he wants what’s best for me; he sets standards and wants me to meet them…’

‘You don’t believe that,’ Rourke said. ‘You know he’s trying to shape you into what he thinks is best. And I know you want to please him, because I know – Nate, I know – what it means to have a father you don’t respect, a father who will never, ever respect you, and yet to crave his approval anyway. I know that’s why you joined the Hazard Team, and I just hope and pray you either find your place here or know when it’s time to walk away, but you’re a grown man and I trust you to navigate that yourself.’

Beckett twisted in Rourke’s grip, because turning to face him meant he could shrug off the hand without making a statement. ‘That’s kind of you,’ he sneered. ‘To wait for me to realise my own fuck-ups -’

Rourke scowled. ‘Is this what we’re playing, Nate? A word game where everything I say is either an echo of your father or my own attack?’ He took a step forward, broad-shouldered in a way that pulled people into his orbit. ‘Then try this on for size: I did try to manipulate you during the Tkon Crisis. I thought making you Chief Science Officer meant you’d do what I wanted when my senior staff hadn’t. Instead you were one of the people who called me on my shit. Then you went on to help literally save the bloody galaxy by figuring out the beacon at Ephrath. Then all of Whixby. I’m not tricking you, I’m not using you, I’m not trying to get at or please your father through you.’ He straightened, drawing a deep breath. ‘I’ve known you since you were a cadet waiting to wash out so he could blame the world for what went wrong. Since then, I’ve seen you become one of the finest young officers I’ve known. And your own man.’ Again he clasped his shoulder. ‘Nate, I’m proud of you.’

Again, it was just as well he had, because the words couldn’t have hit harder if Rourke had literally pummelled them into him. Beckett wavered, eyes closing, and he felt Rourke’s grip tighten. ‘…it was my moment,’ he croaked at last. ‘And he had to put me on parade to make him look good. I finally got what I wanted, and it turned out all I did was give him what he wanted.’

‘I promise you, I won’t let him do that again,’ Rourke said. ‘Anything else you do for this ship comes from me. You are my officer, you are my crew.’

This time, when Beckett stepped back, it was to scrub his face with his hand, gaze bleary. ‘Okay,’ he said at length. ‘Okay, Captain. Thanks.’

It was brisk and easy, and Rourke straightened in recognition of the equilibrium re-establishing, the careful barriers and support structures. ‘Do something for me, Nate. Just one thing.’

‘Sure?’

Rourke looked him in the eye. ‘Imagine being back in the Safe House. You’re surrounded by your colleagues, applauding you. I’ve just pinned a medal on you. Forget your father, I’ve just pinned a pip on your collar. You’re the damn hero of the hour. What do you do, Lieutenant Beckett?’ As he hesitated, Rourke gave a small smile and shook his head. ‘Don’t tell me. Just – just go do it. Your father robbed you of your moment. Go take it back.’

For a moment Beckett was silent, uncertain. It took an effort to remember the sense of being stood before the crowd and banish the sickness his father had put in his gut, to dig deep to find anything that had sparked in him of pride and warmth. Then he realised, and his throat tightened. ‘Oh.’

Rourke gave another twist of a smile, oblivious but pleased. ‘Give me that damn rifle and go get your moment.’

It took a little more than that. He had to shower, after all, slick with the work of impossible training and his own self-loathing. He had to change into at least a fresh shirt, ditch his uniform to feel more like him and less like the shell his father stuffed with straw. And he had to find where he needed to be.

When he was there and the door-chime went unanswered, he found himself doing what he’d done before – and thudded his fist on the door. Even when that met silence, he leaned in and hissed, ‘Come on, I know you’re in there!’

He should have brought something, he thought. A bottle, perhaps. Food. Chocolates? But before he could contemplate that further, the doors slid open. And before him stood the wild-haired, red-eyed, tear-stained figure of Rosara Thawn.

Beckett’s stomach dropped out. ‘What’s happened?’

She lifted her hands, fresh tears springing. ‘Beckett, I don’t…’

He pushed in past her, into the gloom of her quarters, letting the doors slide shut behind him to seal them in private darkness. ‘What’s happened? You get to cross-examine me like a nuisance, turnabout’s fair play, right?’

That brought something of a fresh sob as Thawn turned away, pressed the back of her hand to her mouth, and silence reigned for long moments, racked only by her shuddering breaths. ‘I was just called by my aunt,’ she whispered at length. ‘To talk about the arrangement between the Seventh and Twelfth Houses of Betazed for me to marry Adamant Rhade.’

If his stomach had gone a moment ago, the void in him still managed to twist into knots. ‘What did she say?’

‘This is hardly time for my House to abandon such an alliance, is it?’ said Thawn, staring at the ceiling, speaking like she had to believe it. ‘After all, the standing of the Twelfth House is in such a precarious place following…’ A fresh sob cut her off, but then her jaw tightened and she pressed on with iron control. ‘…considering our hold on the planet Whixby has been considerably harmed by the House’s decision to overrule the Board of Tourism and ruin the world’s infrastructure with the relief shelter, as we did.’

Beckett’s jaw dropped. ‘Wait, this is happening because – because you strong-armed Falyn into building a fucking shelter for desperate refugees?’ He stalked forward to bring a hand to her arm, wanting to grab her in shock as much as hold her in comfort. ‘Your aunt’s punishing you because you decided to help people instead of protect your family’s precious political standing? By ruining your life?’

Thawn swallowed. ‘Of course, it might not happen. But the arrangement has to stand for – some more time. Maybe years. It’s not the right time for the Twelfth House to abandon such an advantageous alliance when we’re so weak after Whixby. And…’ She closed her eyes. ‘There’s no harm, is there, staying in this arrangement? What was I doing with my life that’s more important than this duty to my family?’

His hold on her tightened. ‘They can’t do this to you – make you marry, or make you stay engaged, to someone you don’t love. It’s outrageous and it’s – it’s illegal, they can’t force you!’

Her eyes opened, dark brown locked on him and swimming with tears, but still he heard the wry, bleak amusement when she spoke. ‘Of course they can’t force me. But that doesn’t mean I have a choice. After all.’ She drew a slow, raking breath. ‘It’s family.’

Then she collapsed against him, sobbing into his chest, into the fresh shirt he’d grabbed so he could come here looking his best, feeling his best, because when he’d been surrounded by the cheers of his crew and getting a medal pinned on him, the only thing that had stopped him from feeling sick to his stomach had been the feeling of her beside him. But all he could do now was wrap his arms around her, hold her close as she wept, and not feel in the slightest like the hero of the hour.

Comments

  • This was fantastic. I love the relationship between Beckett and Rourke, the father/son dynamic they have going on here; stern when he has to be but it's obvious he cares for Nate. The insight into Beckett's strained (to say the least) relationship with his father and his actions around Nate's recent award and promotion was very effective, the young man's bitterness and resentment were palpable. I particularly enjoyed that Rourke, for all that he owes to Admiral Beckett, sees the older Beckett for who he really is. And poor Thawn continues to suffer, trapped into an arrangement by her family and her sense of duty towards them. I'd hoped that she could finally move on but apparently you had other ideas. A great chapter.

    May 13, 2022
  • Finally another sweet moment between Beckett and Thawn (or should that be a bittersweet moment?)! I’m really enjoying Nate’s development lately and seeing that Rourke recognises it too is the icing on the cake. Like Dave, I think the Rourke/Beckett father-son dynamic is such a powerful relationship, one that reminds me of other Trek relationships where the captain takes one of their crew under their wing to mentor them. Finally I loved how much Nate went from being in his classic himbo mode (which Rourke recognises) to being the emotional support that Thawn needed there and then. I just now need to know how will Rhade take this news and will the wedding happen sooner then implied? I feel you may push us in that direction with this plot and make us observe something perhaps both Rhade and Thawn will struggle with so much! Will Beckett surprise us all and save Thawn from it all?! I cannot wait to see what happens next.

    May 14, 2022