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

Rise Like Lions – 11

The Husk, Agarath System
June 2400
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‘Here.’ Beckett slid onto the packing crate next to Thawn and passed her one of the foil juice packets. ‘I made sure to bring treats from Endeavour. You look like you need it.’

She looked up from her PADD to assess it with a beady gaze, before tearing off a corner with her teeth and having a quick gulp. ‘I always feel a bit guilty, having nice things like this when we’re giving out the barest essentials.’

‘You need resupplying, too,’ he pointed out, eyes sweeping across the main lobby of the old guardhouse that remained Starfleet’s relief hub in the Husk’s habitation dome. The past few days had seen success in decentralising their efforts; while logistics were run from here, their supply lines had improved to identify buildings and districts which needed support, and ship them out. It made the guardhouse a quieter, humming centre of largely Starfleet efforts, instead of the writhing heart of desperation it had been when he arrived. ‘You’ve still got to run all of this.’

‘It’s actually going pretty well,’ said Thawn, as if she couldn’t quite believe it. ‘We’ve got material and power to their matter resequencers, we’re looking at converting some of the lesser mining facilities on the Husk and the interior of the asteroid belt into housing. Someone else can worry about the long-term economic plan for Agarath, but I think we can give the people here at least sustainable living conditions.’

‘Wow. Sustainable. You paint a picture of Federation utopia.’

But he was grinning, and she swatted him on the arm with the look of indignation he knew, by now, was part of the game. ‘One step at a time. How’s asking everyone about their feelings been doing to improve their lot in life?’

‘Oh, you mean giving a voice to the voiceless for a professional in a Starfleet uniform to want to hear their story and learn from their experiences? You mean that improvement?’

‘I don’t know, talking to you about my feelings isn’t improving my day…’

‘And yet you’re still here.’

‘I was here first; I refuse to sacrifice this held ground of a comfy packing crate because of your mischievous invasion -’

They were too deep in the banter to notice the Reman child until he was right in front of them, a sorry-looking waif in ragged clothes. In truth, Beckett thought the Reman children were a bit nightmarish, like something that might wait under his bed and slash at his ankles, and it took all of his higher empathy and professional training to remind himself they were dispossessed little ones and not folk-lore horror monsters.

This one still had dark eyes that might have not looked amiss in something coming to eat him while he slept, but the voice was surprisingly high-pitched when the child falteringly said, ‘I – I’m lost.’

Thawn looked at the Reman child like he had just threatened her life, but Beckett suspected she would have been exactly the same with any infant. ‘This is the guardhouse. This is where Starfleet is helping people.’

‘I know, I’m looking for my family, I got lost…’

‘He knows where he is, Thawn.’ Rolling his eyes, Beckett hopped off the crate to hunker down to be on the child’s level, and gave a wide and, he hoped, winning grin. ‘Don’t mind her. She’s not good with you if you’re not numbers or computers. My name’s Nate, what’s yours?’

‘Sorin. I came back where my father was staying, and he’s not there, so I came here…’

The threat of tears in the eyes and wavering voice were enough to banish any concept of the boy as anything other than a scared child, and Beckett reached to put a hand on his shoulder. ‘Alright, Sorin, don’t you worry. Lots of people are being moved around, and if you let my friend Rosara here check the records, we can see where your folks ended up.’ He glanced up at Thawn, who looked like she’d rather phase through the wall than deal with a child. ‘Right?’

‘Right.’ Thawn awkwardly stood and brought up her PADD. ‘So. Sorin. What’s your father’s full name and what was your last known address?’

‘Jesus Christ.’ Beckett stared at her. ‘We’re going to have to dig deep into your feelings and figure out how to help this kid, you and me -’

But before he could help her pivot, another figure came pushing through the crowd, big and burly and familiar, and the bright, clear voice of Adamant Rhade boomed, ‘Sorin!’ in relieved, cheerful tones. As Beckett watched, Sorin’s gaze brightened in recognition, and the child giggled delightedly when Rhade rushed over to swoop him off his feet. ‘We were looking for you!’

Thawn visibly relaxed. ‘Adamant, you know the child?’ Her relief was near-palpable.

‘We can help this kid,’ Beckett breathed to himself, ‘or Captain Starfleet can save the day.’ He didn’t know why this was so annoying.

‘He got separated from his family when we relocated them to somewhere bigger in District Bravo-7,’ Rhade explained, having swung a delighted Sorin around before putting him back on his feet. ‘But the good lad followed instructions, it seems, and came here rather than wander the streets. We can get you back in no time, Sorin.’

Thank you,’ Thawn sighed. ‘There are so many people in different places here and -’

‘It’s no trouble.’ Rhade lifted a reassuring hand with a ready smile, and Beckett wondered if he was just glad he was providing solutions to her problems this mission. Then he wondered if that was an uncharitable thought about a man who’d just figured out how to reunite a scared child with his family. Before he could digest that, Rhade’s eyes were on him. ‘You should come with us, Lieutenant. We’ve got an excellent setup in that habitation block. You should see the work we’re doing.’

‘I’d rather talk to the people than crow about our own work,’ Beckett said before he could stop himself.

But Rhade just smiled, inclined by nature to read the best in people, and clapped him on the shoulder. ‘That’s a great attitude. We can learn a lot about what we’re doing from how they feel about it. I’m glad you’re watching our backs in all of this.’

Of course, Rhade had a spare chocolate bar for Sorin to munch on as the three of them walked the streets. And of course Sorin, who had been scared and fretful even under Beckett’s good manner, was chatty and happy as he walked hand-in-hand with the big Betazoid officer, still in his away team jacket and gear and happy and eager to transform Sorin’s wanderings from a traumatic experience to an exciting adventure of all he’d seen of the new streets of the Husk.

‘You should do my job,’ Beckett said to Rhade in a spare moment, and tried to not sound abrasive about it.

‘You’ve got a better way with people,’ was Rhade calm response. ‘You make them laugh and lighten their load in a way I can’t. That puts them at ease and gets them to talk. I know I end up focusing them too much on their problems.’

‘Because you’re solving their problems.’

‘And what about when I can’t solve them? Then I need you, Lieutenant, to help them guide me to what they really need, instead of what I think they need.’ Rhade gave him a ready smile. ‘You’ve grown a lot since coming aboard, you know. From self-doubting Ensign to running your own research projects – this, the Koderex, all you did on Whixby, the Hazard Team…’

‘We’ve never really deployed as a Hazard Team since I joined,’ Beckett pointed out.

He almost made a comment about seeing action soon, which would have been a terrible thing to say, because a split second later they heard the sound of disruptor fire echo through the streets.

At once Rhade had them in the shelter of a building, Sorin bundled behind cover, the big Betazoid officer’s phaser in his hand. A heartbeat later both their combadges were blaring with the voice of Chief Kowalski, more gunfire audible in the background.

All teams, this is Delta; we’ve got a situation at the main power relay on the Lower Streets! A unit, maybe eight contacts, military-grade weapons and armour, bust in through the outer gates and are trying to take the main building.

Beckett winced as he swept his eyes up and down the street; all he could see from here were the fleeing civilians. ‘How many do we have in Delta Team?’

‘Four,’ came Rhade’s grim response, before he tapped his combadge. ‘All units, this is Rhade. I’m heading for the relay; anyone nearby report in and rendezvous at Third and Psi.’ He turned to Beckett. ‘Get the boy -’

‘Sorin can hunker down here or get back to the Guardhouse,’ Beckett said hotly, rising to stand beside Rhade. ‘You need people, or if someone takes out the power relay we could have a lot of dead people real quick. I’ve got your back, Lieutenant.’ Memories of Jhorkesh, of events almost a year ago, flooded through him; where he’d struggled to protect Captain Rourke and froze after he’d shot someone, probably killed them.

He didn’t know if Rhade was thinking of that day, some other apprehension, or genuinely wanted the child looked after, but with a moment’s consideration, he gave a stern nod. ‘Alright. Sorin – get back to the Guardhouse. You armed, Lieutenant?’

‘Uh…’ Beckett looked sheepish as he accepted the spare sidearm from Rhade. ‘It didn’t help me talking to people.’

‘Let’s hope talking gets us through whatever’s going on. Follow me.’

It felt odd to be running the opposite way to the panicking civilians, running towards the gunfire. Starfleet or not, this wasn’t Beckett’s usual tactic. He let Rhade clear the way, the big and burly officer able to get people to move in a way he couldn’t, and they were at the last corner before he found thought and breath enough to say, ‘What do we think this is? Military?’

‘Kowalski would have said if they were uniforms.’ Rhade slid to a wall to check the next corner. ‘No. I expect this is one of those private guard units reportedly still based out of the Upper District.’

‘You think a rich family finally decided to snap?’

‘I think that a loyalist to the Star Empire could set back our defences by hitting here.’ Rhade made a low noise of frustration. ‘I see the gates. They’re through on the inner courtyard. Kowalski and the others can hold them off, but only for so long. They have to know that if we come up on the gates they’re stuck between us; they’ll move fast.’

Thudding footsteps almost made Beckett have a heart attack, but he turned in time to see Lieutenant Arys skidding to take a knee across the junction from Rhade, phaser pistol in hand. The young Andorian gave them a stern nod, chest heaving. ‘Came as quick as I could, sir.’

Rhade returned the nod. ‘Anyone with you?’ Arys shook his head, and he sighed. ‘Then it’ll have to be the three of us.’

‘Against eight? With hand-phasers?’ Beckett made a face. ‘There’ll be another unit -’

‘We have to catch them in open ground before they breach the building, hurt our people, and take control of the power systems in the habitation dome. They could kill literally everyone in the dome if they want to from there.’

‘Not quickly,’ Beckett pointed out, then caught Rhade’s eye and gave an awkward nod. ‘Alright, alright; following your lead, Lieutenant.’

‘Let’s see what we’re facing.’ Back to the wall, Rhade tapped his combadge again. ‘Rhade to Kowalski. I’ve a small team of reinforcements on the south side. Give me the sitrep.’

* * * * * *

In the command centre of the refit yards, the first Kharth knew of anything being wrong was a young Reman at a console sitting up, frowning, and saying, ‘Oh,’ softly.

That was enough to have Korsk’s head snap around. ‘What’s going on?’

‘We’ve – oh, no.’

Words, boy.’

‘A Malem-class has just decloaked on the inner ring of the asteroid belt and destroyed one of our weapons emplacements,’ the Reman reported somewhat breathlessly. Then, as if anticipating Korsk’s question, said, ‘It’s not a Star Navy ship. Not a new one. It’s the Jontu.’

‘The Jontu was dismantled to repair the other ships,’ Relekor said, scowling for the first time since Kharth had met him.

Korsk turned. ‘You keep good track of your ships, Centurion?’

Kharth stepped in at this, hands up to them both. ‘Blame later, fix this first. They’re targeting our weapon emplacements?’

‘Yes, Lieutenant; they’ve engaged the next sequence…’

Kharth drew a sharp breath, thinking. Endeavour was at in the outer half of the system, nobody expecting an attack from within. A ship of her size would take some time to navigate the asteroid belt. Her eyes fell on the breakdown of ship repair and refit in the station beyond them, and she turned to Relekor. ‘Tell the Idaro they’re launching and going after the Jontu.’

Relekor hesitated. ‘The Idaro doesn’t have a command staff yet.’

Kharth pointed between the three of them. ‘She does now,’ she said without missing a beat, and waved a hand at the Reman at the control systems. ‘Notify Endeavour, and request backup from the Black Knights. We’re going in.’

Comments

  • From good to bad to worse! I enjoyed the ride here from start to finish, then the twist right at the end as a second front starts to open up! Just how many bad days can you shove into one? Beckett and Rhade's conflicting personalities, even if admittedly one-sided in this portrayal, then being roped into running towards the gunfire was a fun insight into Beckett once more. My boy Nate, maybe stay on the ship next time? Here's hoping he doesn't do something terribly stupid. And then we get treated to Kharth doing what she does best - taking charge and going head-first into a problem. Can you make a crew of miners into a brilliant ship crew through force of will? I'm waiting to find out!

    June 18, 2022