Part of USS Endeavour: Rise Like Lions and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Rise Like Lions – 9

Refit Station, Agarath System
June 2400
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Chief Tactical Officer’s log, stardate 77443.64. I need to be everywhere at once – on the streets of the Husk, in every facility in the system, working on every defensive platform we’re rebuilding, and on Endeavour’s bridge. But in all of those places, I could only fix what’s in front of me, so I have to be the place where I can – how’d the captain put it? Teach a man to fish. So I’m working with the Reman labourers who overthrew their masters and the Romulan naval officers who used to serve them, and trying to get them to cooperate in making the Agarath Guard able to defend this whole wretched system.

Obviously this will be very easy for a natural diplomat like me.

‘I think I’ll call her Steeltalon,’ Commander Relekor said with a sweep of the hand to trace an imaginary sign.

The Reman Korsk didn’t look up from his control panel in the command centre of Agarath’s refit station. Beyond them was the smattering of personnel supervising the station’s systems themselves, and behind them the tall windows showing the refit yards, husks of ships they hoped to become operational hanging in the repair bays. ‘It’s not made of steel.’

She,’ Relekor chided. ‘And Arcybitetalon sounds very silly.’

Steeltalon doesn’t?’

Kharth cleared her throat. ‘Gentlemen.’

Korsk looked up at her, thick brow raising. ‘Don’t think anyone here is one of them. Not here to mind my p’s and q’s, Lieutenant.’ He jerked a thumb at Relekor. ‘The centurion might fancy himself an officer and a dignitary and all of…’

Commander,’ Relekor corrected, finally terse. ‘I’m not a centurion of the Romulan Star Navy any more. I proved that when I directed the task group to turn on the commander’s ship. Which, I’d like to remind you, stopped the navy from bombarding the Husk into even more rubble.’

‘So you didn’t obey orders to slaughter two hundred thousand people,’ rumbled Korsk. ‘That don’t make you a hero, Centurion.’

‘Whose bright idea was it for you two to work together?’ Kharth snapped at last, hands on her hips. ‘Or to even be in the same room?’

Korsk’s jaw tightened at the interruption. ‘I will not surrender the whole of Agarath’s defence to a naval officer.’

‘And I,’ said Relekor, rolling his eyes, ‘am the only person qualified to oversee the flotilla. What’s the alternative, Korsk – you and your miners try to fly warships into battle?’

‘I didn’t know you and the sheer handful of officers you have left could man enough vessels for us to fight this strike force,’ Korsk sneered back.

‘Fine,’ said Kharth, ‘you’re both right – which means you have to work together. Which means you can both shut up and listen to an officer who has more experience of starship combat than, I bet, either of you put together.’ This was said with a warning look at Relekor, whose record she did not fully know – but by all accounts, he had been a very minor officer indeed before all of this. ‘We’ll be able to plan more once Cortez knows how many ships she can bring online. But I need a brutal assessment from you both on how many people you can send to the flotilla.’

‘My workers are prepared to defend -’

‘I’m talking skills,’ Kharth told Korsk flatly. ‘People who can, with a crash course, perform basic operations on a starship. And they’ll be doing it under officers who, yes, used to serve in the Star Navy.’ She rounded on Relekor. ‘Officers who need to be able to follow the orders of you, or me, and who aren’t going to turn their noses up at working with Remans.’

‘If they were going to be snobs,’ said Relekor, ‘they wouldn’t have rebelled, or they’d have left after. But the Remans had best remember their place here and obey -’

‘Our place?’ Korsk jerked upright to his full height, impressive and towering over both of them.

‘Enough!’ Kharth’s hands rose as her voice did. ‘Damn it, I’ve been here for less than a day and you two can’t help but jump on each other’s words. Do you hate each other more, or the Star Navy?’

‘I hate,’ rumbled Korsk, ‘anyone who will stand in the way of my people’s freedom. That includes not helping.’ Now his dark eyes landed on Kharth. ‘Do not act like an outsider, Romulan. You’ve come here to lecture us as if our old scars and distrust are an inconvenience, not hard-won lessons.’

Kharth walked around the console to his side, looking up to meet his blazing gaze. ‘I’m not an outsider,’ she agreed, voice low and tense. ‘Because I know the harshness of the Star Navy, of the Imperial Senate; I know who they’ll leave behind and let fall between the cracks. It happened to me, it happened to my family -’

‘Was your family,’ Korsk interrupted, ‘evacuated to a different mine where they would be worked to death? I assure you, Romulan, in the places where my families were sent, there was no path to Starfleet.’

Kharth swallowed anger. ‘I am here because I am lucky, not because I am privileged. I was lucky to get on an evacuation ship, I was lucky to get off a refugee world – don’t pretend that those places are for the fortunate.’

‘They are more fortunate than those the Star Empire didn’t evacuate because they were beneath their notice, or their enemies,’ Korsk pointed out. ‘And how did you – so beleaguered and unlucky as you are – secure the support for an application to Starfleet?’

She hesitated. ‘A Starfleet captain sponsored me.’

The gaps in her response made his brow furrow deeper. ‘And why did this captain know you to sponsor you?’

Silence hung between them as their eyes stayed locked together, and she knew she had lost this. Kharth drew a slow breath. ‘Yes, my mother was Star Navy. She met Starfleet officers in the war. As I said, I am luckier than most. But she was also left to die because she supported the evacuation effort and her comrades turned on her for greed -’

‘You say this as if I should pity you, or consider her a woman of duty – because she would have escorted the prison ships that took me to a new form of enslavement.’ Korsk shook his head. 

‘Is all that suffering your justification, then? Why you were so hard done-by you just had to torture that naval captain we took prisoner?’ Words she shouldn’t have said roiled in her, too fiery to suppress any more.

‘I did what I had -’

‘To do, right. That’s what a lot of people say when they have power over the powerless and abuse it.’

Korsk’s expression, if possible, sank even more. ‘Imply to me again that I am the same as my oppressors and I will put you through this console, Romulan.’

She stood her ground. ‘Imply I’m like your oppressors who left me to die, too, and you can try your damn luck.’

He spat on the deck. ‘We are not the same.’

‘Maybe not,’ Kharth allowed at last. ‘But I’m still a Starfleet officer, a tactical officer, and I’m still the most qualified person in this damn room when it comes to bringing you bickering assholes together to complete the Agarath Guard. Do you want to be right, or do you want to live to enjoy this freedom, Korsk?’

Relekor gave a low chuckle in the pause. ‘Well said, Lieutenant -’

She rounded on him. ‘Don’t give me that, Commander. He’s right that refusing to commit an act of mass murder doesn’t earn you a pat on the back. You want to be one of the good guys? Stick your neck out instead of jumping onto a higher pillar.’ In the silence that followed, she walked further around the control panel to reach the controls for the holographic projector. ‘Starfleet isn’t here to fix your problems -’

‘We don’t want that,’ Korsk snapped.

She glared at his interruption. ‘We’re here to give you better choices. It’s down to you if you take them.’

‘Not at all patronising,’ Relekor drawled.

She shrugged. ‘Now that you both hate me equally, let’s get to work.’

Relekor sighed. ‘This was merely the warm-up act? Charming.’

‘I’m very charming,’ Kharth said, bringing the display to life with a tactical map of the system. ‘And with my charm I’ve identified the key weak spots in this system, and they’re the areas we need to reinforce with defensive platforms – these will be great places for Korsk to send the former labourers, as it’s largely automated but they can supervise them, and free up slightly more technically-trained naval deserters to serve on the starships. For our ships, we’re going to have fewer than we might like – so the defensive platforms will have to hold the line, and the ships act in rapid response…’

Chief Tactical Officer’s log, supplemental: Diplomacy is going well.

Comments

  • Diplomacy is going well! Kharth didn't start a fight or end up sending people to the infirmary, so I'm inclined to say it is going well! For her at least! A room full of bull-headed individuals will always lose to the most bull-headed! This was a beautifully perfect Kharth drama and I was smiling the whole time I read it, to be honest! I knew she wasn't going to start a fight, but it felt palpable the whole time so I wouldn't have put it past you! Her solution of getting everyone to hate her the most was just delightful! I'm looking forward to seeing this relationship grow! So many possibilities here!

    June 12, 2022