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

Rise Like Lions – 13

The Husk, Agarath System
June 2400
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Blood hummed in Beckett’s ears as he peered around the corner. Look. Pick your target. Then shoot. Rourke’s lessons were like cold water, narrowing his focus from the adrenaline-spiked panic of battle. While his shot into the courtyard of the power relay station didn’t strike home, it did force the armoured figure to duck behind the packing crate.

‘We’re not making enough of a dent!’ called Arys from across the road, just as Beckett had thought they were doing well for themselves. So far as he could see, they had the attack squad pinned in the courtyard, unable to press further into the relay station without turning their backs on the three of them. Reinforcements could only be minutes away, and that would turn the tide.

But the tension in Lieutenant Rhade’s shoulders supported the Andorian’s assessment. ‘And this isn’t all of them,’ he murmured.

Just as he ducked back around the corner next to Beckett, his combadge squawked. ‘Kowalski to Rhade! There’s a trio breaching our south entrance. They’re spreading my guys too far out!’

What way, Beckett thought as he glanced around the corner to peer at the courtyard, almost getting his head shot off for his trouble, is south in a place like this? But the message was clear enough, he realised, as he got a sight of movement on the left wing.

‘We have to back them up,’ said Rhade, and pulled a PADD out from inside his away mission gear. ‘Keep firing, keep them busy.’

‘There’s no other way in,’ Beckett warned, snapping off a few wild shots, focusing more on distracting the enemy rather than trying to take them out. Indeed, yet another blast went wild, but heads went down.

‘I can scale the wall thirty metres that way.’ Rhade jerked his head down to the left. ‘There’s shelter at the substation control point once I’m over, and those breaching the south entrance will be exposed.’

Beckett opened his mouth to complain, but Arys called out with a firm commitment he couldn’t share. ‘We’ll cover you, sir! Go!’

It made sense, Beckett had to admit. Getting someone inside the compound meant getting someone behind their lines, and someone as good as Rhade could rain down hellfire before the enemy knew what was happening. Or he was getting himself cut off without support.

Another snapshot went from Beckett at the entrenched attackers; another shot went wide, and just to add insult to injury, Arys’s next blast took an armoured Romulan clean in the chest, sending him to the floor where he did not get up.

‘Nice shot!’ Beckett said despite himself. Did I get a faulty phaser?

‘I got lucky!’ Arys called back with a self-effacement that was asking for a strangling. ‘Keep it up!’

Then there was movement from inside the courtyard, at the southern wall, and Beckett paused for a heartbeat to watch Rhade swing over the top. He hung there for a moment, bracing himself before he dropped a distance that would have seen Beckett turn an ankle, and it took another split second before he remembered he really had to lay down some covering fire.

The two young lieutenants sprayed the courtyard with phaser shots. Beyond them, Rhade darted across open space to slide behind the noted control panel, firing all the way – both at the gunmen blocking the entrance, and ones Beckett couldn’t see, the ones Kowalski had identified. Like a deadly baseball player, Rhade snapped off critically precise shots before sliding behind cover, and at least one gunman at the courtyard entrance dropped.

Beckett’s combadge clicked to life. ‘This is Rhade. I’ve got the southern breach team breaking off, but they’re going to try to flank me. Moving to intercept.’ Beckett’s gaze snapped over to Arys, and he could only mouth, intercept? before the young Andorian straightened.

‘We need to move up,’ Arys ordered, and there was no time to argue with that, either, before he was moving and Beckett had to follow.

They were almost at the choke point and there wasn’t much cover to head up to, but Rhade’s arrival had sent chaos among the ranks, the Romulans knowing they had someone at their backs. Beckett moved as Arys did, swearing under his breath the whole time, firing as they went what felt like fifty metres but couldn’t have been even ten, sliding up next to the main gates of the courtyard.

From here, Beckett could see what intercept meant, and it was impressive. Rhade had charged a trio of armoured Romulans, setting about them into melee out in the open courtyard. One got a phaser jammed in their gut and was knocked down, another he grappled to yank in the way of a blast from one of the other Romulans trying to support their ally.

Then Beckett saw one of the gunmen at the gate raise their disruptor to their shoulder and take steady aim.

This time, Beckett did not panic. He did not listen to the blood humming in his ears, or the lessons of teachers from weeks or years gone by. He let instinct take over, raised his phaser pistol, took careful aim –

– and missed.

And Adamant Rhade dropped like a stone as a disruptor blast took him in the side.

Lieutenant!’ Arys’s next shot dropped the gunman, and then Kowalski’s security team, no longer pinned down, rushed out to join the fray. Flanked and surrounded, two of the last Romulans went down to Starfleet phaser fire before the last threw their disruptor to the ground and raised his hands, and just like that it was over.

‘Oh, shit,’ Beckett breathed, and broke out to run past the security officers, the defeated Romulans, towards the crumpled bundle of Rhade. Petty Officer Tovos was already over him, already on a communications link to Ensign Zherul, who sounded like she was breathlessly running even as she gave instructions.

The blast had mostly been taken by the armoured chestplate, but not fully, and Beckett could see the darkened flesh under the torn uniform. He stood paralysed as Tovos rolled Rhade to his back, checked his airways and breathing, and though he opened his mouth to offer help or ask what he could do, nothing came out.

In the dim background he was aware of Kowalski taking charge of the situation, of Arys sending word to Endeavour, of security swarming over the armoured Romulans and stripping them of weapons, of helmets, to show hard-eyed soldiers underneath. But all Beckett could now feel was that familiar closing of the throat and tightening of the chest.

Then Arys was at his side, grabbing his shoulder. ‘Nathaniel.

It couldn’t have been the first time he’d tried to get his attention. But he’d never called him that before. Beckett snapped around to stare at the Andorian, and found his pale eyes surprisingly warm. ‘I… I should have got that shooter.’

‘This is what happens in combat,’ said Arys, and though Beckett knew he had all of five seconds’ more experience than him, he couldn’t argue with the weight of his confidence. Beside them came the green streak of Ensign Zherul, who didn’t stop talking as she moved from instructing Tovos over comms to doing so in person, getting him to roll Rhade over so she could examine the wound, medical kit already in her hands.

‘We’ve got this under control. Sounds like this is the only action on the Husk. You should go sit down,’ Arys continued, and Beckett had to fight to bring his attention back on him. ‘I’ll make the report to the captain.’

Beckett gave an awkward nod, then looked over at Zherul and waited until she wasn’t talking a mile a minute, until she’d stopped applying medical gear and was checking the impact of her work on her tricorder. ‘Will he be okay?’ His voice sounded treacherously wavering.

She looked up, gaze sympathetic. ‘He’ll live. The armour took the worst of it. I’m going to beam him to the King Arthur so we can bring him to Endeavour, though.’

Beckett nodded, and let Arys draw him away from the crowd of officers rushing about their business. ‘Nathaniel,’ the Andorian said again. ‘This isn’t your fault.’

Once more their eyes met, and Beckett remembered Jhorkesh, where he had frozen and where Arys had been clumsy in his leadership of the Hazard Team. This has redeemed you, at least, he thought with a sprinkling of bitterness. Not me.

‘I’ll… be at the Guardhouse,’ he croaked at last, and left better men to deal with the aftermath of chaos. There would need to be answers; who were these Romulans, what had they wanted, who sent them? But that was not his duty, and it was not his purpose, and there was no way he could help. He’d done enough already.

Or he’d done all he could, at least. Enough was a different question.

The eyes on the streets of the Husk were changed. More guarded, more cautious. None of the people had been hit by the violence, but violence had come again, and word was not yet out that Starfleet had protected them, saved the day, kept it at bay. It was a new distrust that shone in their gazes as Beckett passed, a doubt, a fear. Was it enough to call Starfleet? 

He didn’t have answers for them, though it might have sent him down a fresh wave of self-pity if he hadn’t reached the Guardhouse, seen Thawn in the middle of the throng of officers, and realised he did have one more thing left to do.

The knot in her brow told him all he needed, and she turned to him with an edge in her voice. ‘Is the situation resolved? We can’t have the power network being threatened -’

‘Thawn.’ His tongue felt like lead as he advanced.

‘I know you know we have redundancies, but I have a lot of scared people here and -’

Rosara.’ That got her attention, or finally her senses picked up the roiling ache in him, and she snapped straight.

‘What’s happened?’

He did her the courtesy of ushering her to one side, though enough of Endeavour’s crew were here and watching for this to be a mere fig leaf of privacy. Still he could lean in, though he didn’t quite dare touch her, and for a moment he just hovered, fighting words and feelings as all of them and none of them sought to race to the surface first.

‘It was a group of armoured Romulans,’ he said at last. Facts were simple. ‘Likely one of the Upper District’s private guard groups. Arys and Kowalski are dealing with the wrap-up.’

She shook her head, confusion reining. ‘Arys and Kowalski -’

‘Rhade was shot.’ Once he’d started he didn’t stop, but all colour at once drained from her face. ‘We – he flanked them, took out a bunch, stopped them from overwhelming Kowalski’s position and the relay station, but he – they shot him.’

While she remained pale, when she spoke her voice was surprisingly firm. ‘What’s his condition?’

‘Zherul’s got to him, she says he’ll live.’ If she shifted at all, it was like relief was a blow that threatened to double her over if she didn’t weather it. ‘She’s taking him aboard the King Arthur to bring him to Endeavour.’

Her eyes snapped away, focusing on a distant point. For a moment he thought he saw her lips move, and wondered if she was reaching out, trying to find with her mind the man she was sworn to marry. Then her eyelids fluttered and she was back, pale but straight, and giving him a stiff nod. ‘Thank you for telling me.’

On instinct he reached for her arm, but stopped himself an inch away. ‘You can sign off -’

‘I will request relief from Endeavour and go once I can. Otherwise…’ Rosara Thawn rose to her full height. ‘There’s work to do here. You’ve done a good job today, Lieutenant.’

Then she left, and Nate Beckett stood in the Guardhouse alone, not feeling like he’d done a good job with a single thing he’d turned his hand to today.

Comments

  • Off the emotional highs on his one! Nate going from confident, or at least semi-confident, to near-defeated despite everything seemingly working out. Your descriptions of his own mental-state and thinking really does set the tone and help bring the reader along for the ride into his current state. I'm going to have to reread this I think to try and tease out the steps and processes for my own writing in future.

    July 10, 2022