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Part of USS Endeavour: All the Devils Are Here and Bravo Fleet: Blood Dilithium

All the Devils Are Here – 7

Devore Warship
November 2400
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‘This is unacceptable!’

‘I don’t think you get what’s going on here, Commissioner.’ Kharth didn’t break her pace as she stalked the corridors of the Devore ship, the enemy commander scuttling to keep up. ‘You showed up. You picked a fight you couldn’t win. You lost. You don’t call the shots here any more.’

Only because she’d been aboard Romulan naval ships in the past few months did she not find the militarism of the Devore vessel disconcerting. The bulkheads were stripped down, her footsteps echoed on solid metal decks, and even the most ascetic of Starfleet ships had more warmth and features. This was not a place where people lived and worked, where they carved out lives and professions. This was a hub of warfare, fear, and oppression. She’d come directly over from the freighter with Crewman Griffin, whose face was still a little blood-stained from the Brenari attack. He walked like her shadow now, hand on his holstered phaser, eyes locked on Commissioner Halyx’s back.

It was Kowalski who greeted her at the door to her destination. ‘Doctor Elvad’s here, taken a look at them all,’ the big man said as she arrived. ‘Their condition’s… a mixed bag.’ His gaze flickered to Halyx.

Halyx met the gaze coldly. ‘Dissidents must be controlled. We found this transport violating our territory and took them into custody to be appropriately relocated. They resisted.’

A muscle in the corner of his jaw twitched, and he looked at Kharth. ‘There a reason she’s here, Commander?’

‘Context,’ Kharth growled, and stalked past him to enter the brig. Or, on a starship which served a primary function of hunting people down to be incarcerated, a prison. It was two decks high, the cells the middling size where they couldn’t be for single prisoners, but even putting a few in would make them uncomfortably cramped. Although it clearly had a higher capacity, there was only a score or so hollow-cheeked Brenari being examined and aided by Endeavour’s medical staff, watched over by her security officers.

Kharth had only seen the haughty Elvad in his own domain, comfortable aboard Endeavour and preoccupied with the intellectual challenges of his work. But now, when he finished the examination of one Brenari and snapped his tricorder shut to stalk over to them, there was a tension in his eyes she’d not seen before.

‘Commander. We’re almost done with the refugees we can help on-site. Three were beamed to Sickbay to receive further treatment.’ His voice was low, clipped. ‘I presume we’re finding space for the rest aboard Endeavour.’

Kharth lifted her hands. ‘We’re not leaving them here, Doctor, don’t worry about that. Thawn’s on it back aboard, and she’ll sort space now you’ve done your needs assessment. Is their captain here?’

Elvad’s shouldered squared. ‘You can talk to the first officer, his wife. But I’m not sure about bringing her.’ It was his turn to glare at Halyx.

Kharth sighed. ‘Kowalski, watch the Commissioner. I expect I’ll have a round of questions when I’m done. Griffin, stick with me.’

‘I should warn you both,’ said Elvad as he led them down towards one of the open cells, ‘this may be difficult.’

He stopped at a dim cell that smelled of sweat, refuse, and fear. In the corner was a bundled body that had been laid out with, Kharth thought, as much desperate dignity as could be offered in a place like this. Sat over them was a middle-aged Brenari woman, her shoulders hunched, her face stained with grime and tears.

When she looked up, there was little light in her eyes. ‘I’m Vekans,’ she said, and her gaze seemed to go through them all. ‘More questions?’ But she saw them look to the body, felt them hesitate for too long. ‘They wanted to know where we were going, what we were doing. My husband answered. When they weren’t satisfied, they beat him and threw him in here to think. Then they asked again later, and because he’d told them the truth, his answer didn’t change, so they beat him some more.’

‘He died in here,’ Elvad said, voice pinched, ‘three days ago. The Devore did not remove the corpse.’

Vekans got to her feet, stiff and worn. She did not look that old, but moved with the burden of years that had likely piled on in mere weeks. ‘You’ve rescued us from a relocation camp, Miss,’ she creaked. ‘So I’ll tell you whatever you need. I just hope you blow these dogs to a million pieces when you’re done.’

Kharth’s eyes at last snapped from the shattered remains of the Brenari captain. ‘That’s not how we do things,’ she said at length. ‘But I’d sure as hell like to.’

‘Hm. I bet you would.’ Vekans straightened. ‘Ask your questions.’

They left the cell once she’d asked all she could bring herself to ask, and Griffin sped up to stalk past her. For a moment she thought he was trying to get away, was perhaps about to throw up, and she felt a flash of guilt at dragging the young crewman on several serious expeditions despite his inexperience. But then he was storming towards Halyx, and she realised she’d made a completely different miscalculation when he grabbed the Devore commander by the shoulders and slammed her into a bulkhead.

‘You’re a right piece of shit, you know that?’

Crewman!’ Kharth bounded forward, but Kowalski was there first, heavy hands landing on Griffin’s shoulders. The young security officer was fit and strong, but not many people were a match for the master-at-arms, and Griffin was wrestled back before Halyx had suffered more than a shock and dishevelment.

The Devore officer straightened, lip curling, and looked at Kharth. ‘This is the operation you run? I’m hardly worried for the Imperium.’

‘You got your ass handed to you today,’ Kharth spat at her, before turning to where her officers grappled. ‘Griffin, stand down.’

The young officer struggled only a moment more. When he stopped, it was as if all of the strength had gone out of him and he slumped, suddenly much smaller. But his eyes were still baleful as he glowered at Halyx. ‘They hunt down innocent people,’ he spat. ‘Decide they’re less-than and abuse and kill them. It’s not right, Commander.’

‘It’s not,’ she agreed, ‘but you beating the hell out of this one Devore doesn’t change anything.’

‘Makes me feel better,’ he said, but he sounded like he knew it was a petulant response. ‘Probably makes the Brenari feel better.’

From a glance at the freed Brenari, she suspected she’d disappointed them by ruining the show. Kharth sighed. ‘Griffin, step into the corridor.’

He was brusque as he pulled free of Kowalski, but slunk to the door. Kowalski watched him go, and straightened. ‘Do you want me to sort him when we’re back on Endeavour?’

‘I’ll handle him in a minute,’ said Kharth, and turned to Halyx. The superior sneer had not left her face, and Kharth was none-too-gentle as she dragged her into one of the nearby empty cells. ‘Alright, listen up. We’ve got your ship, no reinforcements are coming, and I’ve got half a mind to suggest to my captain that we let these Brenari choose your fate. So you better make yourself cooperative.’

Halyx scoffed. ‘The Brenari lack the will to strike against us like that. You stopped your officer. My loyalty to the Imperium will not so much as bend to you.’

‘The Brenari XO said your ship was looking for something, said that you’d interrogated and beaten their captain to death for information on it. Some device; what is it?’ Halyx simply stared at her, but her expression remained so motionless Kharth knew this was, in itself, a response of recognition. ‘We can just pull the information from your database. I was giving you a chance to show goodwill. You know, so we do the same in kind.’

Again Halyx’s lip curled. ‘Why would I show goodwill to gaharey? You’ve made more of an enemy today than you can fathom, Federation.’

‘Alright. That’s how it’s going to be.’ Kharth rolled her eyes and walked out. ‘Kowalski, get this piece of shit to her quarters and confine her there. The captain can figure out what to do about her.’

‘You got it.’

She found Griffin a way down the corridor. Her security officers were crawling over the Devore warship by now, the crew corralled in a cargo bay or confined to their quarters, so it was only Starfleet uniforms that passed down far ends of the walkways. But even a short distance from the prison section was quieter, more peaceful.

Griffin leaned against a bulkhead, arms folded across his chest, head bowed. He looked both burlier than she thought of him and younger, too, the anger fading to strip years away. But that, Kharth thought, was something anger did a lot of. She’d not chosen him for the away mission herself, but simply grabbed the first security officer on-call. Perhaps that had been too much out here.

She padded up. ‘Crewman.’

His head snapped up, and she thought she saw something as resentful in his gaze as it was remorseful. ‘Commander.’

No immediate apology, then. She sighed. ‘You know you can’t beat the hell out of people you don’t like, even if they are fascist dogs?’

Griffin’s gaze dropped. She’d only glanced at his record when he’d come aboard, but he couldn’t be, she thought, much older than twenty. ‘I know,’ he said at last, surly and almost childish. ‘I weren’t really thinking. I just thought about what it would be like, being locked in with someone you care about hurt. Dying. Dead. For days.’

‘This job sometimes brings us up-close with cruelties in the galaxy -’

‘I’m no stranger to that, Commander,’ he interrupted, before wincing. ‘Just figured in Starfleet we’re here to stop it.’

She looked him up and down. ‘Where are you from, Griffin?’

He shifted his big feet. ‘Vashti. My folks were settled there before it were chosen as a Relocation Hub.’

‘No kidding.’ She gave a soundless snort and leaned beside him against the bulkhead. ‘Yeah. We stop things like this in Starfleet. But Starfleet also makes you realise that you can travel a hundred thousand light-years, and still find the exact same cruelties you left behind.’

Crewman Griffin’s lips twisted at that, and he stared at the deck. ‘Guess the Gradin Belt isn’t so different as all that.’

‘Yeah,’ Kharth sighed. ‘I guess not.’

Comments

  • This hit me honestly. I could feel Kharth's own desire to do something, but she couldn't because she was an officer in Starfleet. And then she had to stop someone doing what she wanted to do. What she really, really wanted to do. Ah, the responsibilities of command weighing on Kharth's shoulders. This was a nice outing for Kharth, showing her different perspectives and ways of thinking. And her way of handling Griffin as well - a gentle approach from Kharth? Guess she can't be to mad when she understands his reasonings? I'm liking these Kharth stories as she's just wonderfully complex.

    November 9, 2022