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

All the Devils Are Here – 13

Science Laboratory, USS Endeavour
November 2400
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Acting Chief Science Officer’s log.

I was apprehensive that Captains Rourke or Mek would prefer Endeavour stayed on its original mission, but it seems they agree that even if this Vizan Regulator is nothing but dust or myth, the Devore believe it’s worth chasing. The more we know, the better chance we have of anticipating their next move – or intercepting them. We’ve set a course for Abaddon’s Repository in the hopes of recovering Goravin’s old ship, or rather its database, as he insists there are at least the locations of other fallen Vaadwaur colonies in the records. 

I had hoped my mission to the Delta Quadrant would focus further on scientific research and advancing our understanding, despite the threat of blood dilithium, but it seems the moment I’m back aboard Endeavour, I’m back to putting out fires. At least with our sample from the freighter, I have the opportunity to continue study while we’re travelling to the repository. 

Especially with the latest reports from Task Force 17.


‘I have a terrible idea.’

Normally people said this with a tone of warning or despair, but when Airex sat up at the scanner in the geophysics lab, he found the words left a satisfying taste on his tongue. Perhaps it was the possibility of pushing the boundaries when he’d spent the last hours bashing his head against a wall. Perhaps it was sheer exhaustion.

But because the only other person in the lab was Rosara Thawn, and she would normally rather be caught dead than to assume a superior officer was full of it, she brightened with curiosity. ‘Go on, sir.’

‘According to our every scan and analysis, blood dilithium is the same as any other dilithium. So much that I’m not even sure why it’s red.’ He picked up a stylus for his PADD and twirled it in his fingers. Technically Thawn had come down to pick his brain about Delta Quadrant operations as she worked on the SOC for Beckett, but it hadn’t taken long for the conversation to derail. ‘So what if we recrystalise it?’

‘The blood dilithium.’

‘Yes. Build a new compositor, fracture the blood dilithium, and attempt to recrystalise it. What do you think?’

Anyone else would have pushed back at once, but he could see the idea racing through Thawn’s mind as she considered. ‘The process manipulates the dilithium on an atomic level,’ she mused. ‘There’s no saying how the compositor might interact with the unknown elements in the blood dilithium’s composition.’

Exactly.’ He smiled, confident the idea had merit the more Thawn unpicked the process. ‘No matter what, we’ll learn something.’

‘Or,’ said Thawn, ‘you cause further damage and distress to the psionic echoes of the Brenari, which amplifies whatever’s going on, and me and the rest immediately go crazy.’

He narrowed his eyes. ‘Alright,’ he said at last. ‘Let’s call that Plan… Q.’ The two had never been close, but they had always been the most fastidious workers on the senior staff, the most willing to go the extra mile and ask the questions others wouldn’t. With Veldman off-shift, there was a reason she was the person he was most willing to wildly theorise with.

‘Give me a research lab on a barren moon,’ he continued wistfully, ‘where I can try ridiculous ideas like this, and I might have this figured out in a week.’

‘So long as you have one poor, sacrificial telepath so you can monitor any changes.’

She was being silly, but he still sobered. ‘I want to get to the bottom of this,’ he sighed, ‘but I don’t want to hurt anyone. I remind myself I’m not the only scientist in the quadrant doing this research.’

Thawn nodded and moved to the seat across from him at the lab displays. ‘Not the only one, sir, but likely one of the finest.’ For once it didn’t sound like she was sucking up. ‘I’m not sure this is the idea to risk people over, but you know that we’re all willing to do what it takes if it gives us answers.’

Airex’s expression creased. ‘Don’t take this to mean I think less of your colleagues, Lieutenant, but I suspect not everyone shares your dedication. I have an ethical obligation not to treat you like lab-rats.’

She shrugged. ‘Let us worry about ourselves and Counsellor Carraway worry about our wellbeing. To you, we can be lab-rats.’ She glanced at the display. ‘Do you have any theories about how this happened yet?’

He sighed and scrubbed his face with his hands. ‘I would have thought that learning slaughtered Brenari were leaving a psionic echo in the dilithium itself would give me more clues. But it hasn’t helped me detect or measure anything about the stuff itself. It consistently gives me nothing if I try to detect psionic energy, and there’s no indication it projects psionic fields. I’ve exposed it to small-level resonance bursts and that changes nothing on my scans. Simply put, if it weren’t for the obvious affects on telepaths, I wouldn’t know this was anything other than recoloured dilithium.’

Thawn pursed her lips. ‘It’s not as if you detect psionic energy emanating from me, either, sir. When I exert my telepathy, it’s normally only observable through monitoring brainwaves. Psionic energy is usually only detected in the presence of hugely powerful telepaths, or as part of the power signature from the energy source of a device that manipulates psionic fields.’

‘Maybe I’m going about this wrong,’ Airex sighed. ‘Our scientific understanding of telepathy remains incredibly limited. For whatever reason, we’ve struggled to develop the technology that would enable us to observe it.’

‘Until now,’ she said simply, and met his gaze. ‘With this… trumpet.’

Airex tapped his stylus on his chin as he considered how to be diplomatic. ‘I remind you again of my ethical obligation towards you, Lieutenant. But furthermore, you not only have your own duties, but I’m aware you’ve been supporting Lieutenant Beckett in the SOC.’

‘My schedule -’

‘I’ve no doubt you can pull long hours and still produce sterling work, Lieutenant, I’ve seen it many a time. I’m apprehensive of putting you under further strain, however, when it comes to blood dilithium.’

Thawn drew a slightly shaky breath. ‘I still think I’m the best candidate, sir.’

‘I know you’re a powerful telepath, but from Discovery’s reports, there’s no indication that will lead to any further success with the subspace trumpet -’

‘I mean,’ she interrupted, and he shut up because that was so unusual it stunned him into silence, ‘I believe I’m particularly susceptible to psionic energies right now. I have no idea if that’s a weakness or a strength against blood dilithium, but I think it… it might make me unusual.’

Yet again Airex was left considering his words as his mind raced to the reports from Endeavour he’d monitored with an unending chaser of guilt. ‘You’re referring to what happened to you on the other Endeavour.’ She nodded mutely. ‘I understand some of it. Exposure to psionic energies, but these were efforts to force your mind to contact other minds…’

‘Which it turns out might be exactly what we’re doing here,’ she said bullishly.

Or.’ Airex lifted a finger. ‘It makes you more susceptible to their influence. And not only can I not allow it, not only is it an irresponsible behaviour from you I couldn’t possibly condone, but I also cannot justify the risk because I don’t know what we would try to learn by communicating with the dilithium that someone else hasn’t already!’ She looked not only crestfallen but apprehensive, as if he was going to chastise her, and that, at least, looked more like the Thawn he remembered. He sat up and said, carefully, ‘Understanding blood dilithium will not necessarily help you understand what happened to you, Lieutenant.’

Her eyes slammed shut for a moment, and she inhaled sharply through her nose. ‘What made it difficult,’ she said at length, ‘was seeing Noah again.’ It spoke of how much she’d changed in the last two years that she could mention him so casually, when after his death she’d been so focused on acting like it hadn’t affected her. ‘Not simply because of – of that, of seeing him. But how many of us aboard remember him?’

His shoulders sank. ‘The absence or the loss of the memories of others,’ he said gently, ‘doesn’t degrade your own memories, Thawn. You knew him. You remember him. And you’ll always carry him with you. That may sound a little trite, but I am a joined Trill of five lifetimes. There are people who lived and breathed and loved a century and a half ago and are now nothing but dust, and the only shred of them left in the galaxy is with me. With Airex. We are all the custodians of our own memories, Thawn, and that might be our most important duty in life.’

She faltered a moment, lips moving like she wasn’t sure what words to form, before she said, hesitant, ‘I think our most important duty is to act worthy of memory, sir. Or what’s it worth?’

Airex drew a deep breath and thought of his last host and all his sins. He was still becoming accustomed, he thought, to his mind not shearing away at the mere prospect of contemplating Lerin. ‘I think worthy can mean a lot of different things. But you’re not wrong.’

Her smile was tight, tired but pleased. ‘If I may say, sir, I’m glad you’re back.’

His lips twitched. ‘It’s temporary. But I am glad to be back. It’s good to see you again, all of you.’ That brought him perilously close to other truths, but Airex paused and reminded himself he was trying to not shy away from those any more. He fidgeted again with his stylus. ‘You’ve been doing meditative practices with Commander Kharth; do you think there’s a risk to Romulans?’

Thawn did him the courtesy of pretending to take this at face-value. ‘It’s impossible to say, sir, but isn’t it worth it?’ There was a beat until she took pity on him. ‘She’s mentioned nothing suggesting she’s feeling any affects of the blood dilithium. This will probably turn out to be an unnecessary precaution. But it’s one I’d rather take.’

‘Agreed.’ He cleared his throat and sat up. ‘This Vizan Regulator… I was wondering if you had thoughts on it.’

It turned out to be an unnecessary diversion, especially as it was unlikely to work with Thawn’s limited knowledge of who the Vaadwaur even were. His console flicked to life with a message notification, and with a frown he sat up to read.

‘Oh,’ Airex breathed.

‘Sir?’

He looked up at Thawn and found his mouth suddenly very dry. ‘It’s from Sadek. Chief T’Kalla was found non-responsive… catatonic… in her quarters minutes ago. She’s in Sickbay but the doctor isn’t sure she can do anything for her, and that it matches other similar cases in telepaths in proximity to blood dilithium.’

Thawn brought a hand to her mouth in horror. ‘She’s only half-Vulcan, and it’s still affecting her…’

‘As I said, once you cross a certain threshold, blood dilithium doesn’t seem to discriminate.’ He looked up at the containment field in which the crystal squatted, crimson and gleaming, inert and yet somehow menacing. ‘Maybe I should throw it out a damn airlock.’

No,’ said Thawn sharply. ‘Or we’ve been through all of this for nothing.’

‘That’s buying into a sunk-cost fallacy, Lieutenant.’

‘Then let’s go and see T’Kalla.’

Airex frowned. ‘I don’t see how we can help her if Doctor Sadek can’t.’

‘I don’t think we can,’ said Thawn, picking up a tricorder. ‘I think we can do some science.’

She stood and headed for the door, and while he would follow, he gave himself a moment first to sit and taste the bitterness at the notion of doing whatever needed to be done. He’d heard of joined Trills describing the feeling of their past hosts talking to them in their minds, though to him that was a weak-willed and two-dimensional way of absorbing a lifetime; he was not Lerin and Isady and Tabain and Obrent and Davir, he was Airex.

And still it felt as if Lerin was laughing at this.

‘Right,’ Davir Airex muttered, shoving the feeling away as he stood. ‘Science.’

Comments

  • Acting CSO indeed. This is just foreshadowing his return, isn't it? This was a nice interaction between two characters that I haven't seen interact often before with each other. Particularly enjoyed how it's Rosara who's willing to throw caution to the wind here, while Airex as Science Officer is wanting to be cautious and coming up with plenty of reasons for not being reckless with the Blood Dilithium. Is this a prelude to Bold Rosara...hmm...Reckless Rosara?

    November 22, 2022