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

All the Devils Are Here – 14

Captain's Ready Room, USS Endeavour
November 2400
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‘…and readiness time is up by a full twenty seconds, even on the alternative shifts,’ Valance finished, leaving the projection of her report shining between them above Rourke’s desk.

He leaned back with a dissatisfied sigh, eyes drifting over it but not really reading. It took a moment before he remembered this was a rude response to his XO’s work, and scrubbed his face with his hands. ‘Very good, Commander. Apologies. You know I trust you with this.’

‘I know. I dislike preparing drills assuming a solid percentage of our key personnel are unavailable, too.’ She shifted her weight. ‘It’s quite dissatisfying to see how our efficiency drops in drills without Thawn.’

‘Our Ops department is young, she’s just uncommonly good,’ he sighed. ‘Still. Excellent work.’ His eyes drifted up to take her in – more stark, more severe than usual, and he could not help but feel a pang of guilt after their conversation in the lounge. He had acted appropriately, and still it felt like he’d interfered in her personal life.

As if sensing his unease, she tensed. ‘Can I speak frankly, sir?’

He frowned with new apprehension. ‘Always.’

‘I think we’re on a wild goose chase.’

Rourke sighed. ‘Maybe. But the Devore don’t.’

‘No.’ She looked like she might have said something else but stopped herself, and he would have pressed the point had she not instead said, ‘Captain, has there been any word since I turned down the Galen of Command offering me another ship?’

That stopped Rourke short, and he sat up. ‘Nobody’s said anything to me about it. But I can’t imagine you’ll be offered one when the understanding is that you’re satisfied to continue serving on Endeavour. Especially this Endeavour. XO of an Obena-class is no small thing.’ It felt like the deck was starting to shift beneath him, like sturdy plating he’d not thought twice about resting his weight on was buckling. ‘But it’s been the better part of two years. Commander… do you want me to put you forward for your own ship again?’

They regarded each other a long moment, captain and commander, leader and strong right hand, and Rourke had to keep his jaw clamped shut to keep his professional veneer when all of a sudden, all of the dangers of the Delta Quadrant – the galaxy – felt that much more acute.

‘That’s not what I’m saying.’ Valance’s response was slow, though. ‘I was simply wondering if… if there was talk.’

‘You’re wondering if you blew your chance,’ said Rourke carefully, and tried to not look like he was connecting this conversation with Cortez’s transfer offer. ‘Once this is over I can send out some feelers, if you like. Let the right people know that you’re open to… the right offer?’

‘I don’t know,’ she said quickly, and that set him a little at ease as he heard some echo of his apprehension in her. ‘We don’t need to discuss this until we’re back in the Alpha Quadrant.’

‘No,’ Rourke agreed. ‘But this is as good a time as any to think about it, because we can’t do anything about it for a month or more. If you conclude that there’s something you do want, I have some capital in Command – you have some capital after our assignments, there are… prospects. Options.’

But he felt himself begin to over-explain in his apprehension, in his tamping down of his desire to ask her to stay, in this childish fear of not wanting anything to change, and so he couldn’t help but sigh with relief when there was a chirrup of a comm connection.

Bridge to Captain Rourke,’ came Lindgren’s voice. ‘Sir, we’re picking up a distress signal.

The two looked at each other again, no longer stood at a crossroads, but captain and commander on a mission again. Without another word they headed for the bridge.

‘What do we have?’ called Valance as she kept pace on the way to the trio of command chairs.

Lindgren had her finger on her earpiece, head cocked as she listened, and Rourke frowned as she took uncommonly long to report back. Then she looked at them and said, ‘It’s a distress call from a Devore ship. Sounds like an automated system alert.’

Rourke looked at Airex, confounded. ‘Do we have a location?’

‘Not far. They look like they’re on their own and their power signature is unusually weak.’

He sank onto the command chair. ‘Then keep scanning for trouble, and… I suppose set a course, Mr Arys. We’re Starfleet. We answer distress calls.’

Some time later they dropped out of warp, and he felt everyone on the bridge tense as the viewscreen display showed not just a Devore ship, but the wrecked hulk of one. It drifted with little sign of functioning systems, little sign of power, little sign of life, and across the hull they could see scoring from weapons fire and breaches from detonations.

But it was Kharth who leaned forward and breathed, ‘Is that the same ship?’

Airex frowned as his hands flew over the sensors. ‘I think so. They’ve been in combat and hull integrity has all but failed. I’m shocked any power systems are working at all.’

Rourke moved to join him, and his lips thinned as he read. ‘Whoever did this was trying to core this ship. It looks like they disabled it, breached the hull in strategic places, then probably boarded to strip it of equipment and supplies.’

‘And they were in no position to defend themselves,’ murmured Lindgren, ‘after we took their weapons.’

‘You mean, the Devore’s many, many enemies finally caught up with them and had a chance to get even?’ said Kharth without a shred of sympathy.

Valance looked at Airex. ‘Life signs?’

‘I’m not seeing any,’ he said, then grimaced as he read further. ‘Some of this debris is… I think it’s not just parts of the ship blown off. I think it’s escape pods. Whoever did this took pot-shots as they evacuated.’

Rourke turned back to the wreck on the viewscreen, and swallowed. We did this to them, said one voice in his head. But then another, more blunt, said, They got what was coming to them.

Before he could wrestle with that further, there was a chirrup at Airex’s console. ‘I’m picking up another power signature – there’s one escape pod out there. It looks like they were powered down, they must have been hiding in the debris. One life sign aboard. Sir, they can’t have much by way of air left…’

‘Are they Devore?’ said Rourke, and felt the eyes on him as Airex nodded. Still he turned to Thawn. ‘Beam them to Sickbay. And then we’ll have a little conversation.’


Gaharey,’ rasped the Devore once he’d opened his eyes and realised roughly where he was. ‘You’ll not have me for sport either…’

He tried to sit up on the biobed, but Kharth had to exert little effort to keep him down. A metre or so away, Sadek pointedly cleared her throat.

‘As I said, he’s in no condition to do much of anything. I’ve patched him up and he’ll live, but he needs rest,’ she said.

They’d put him in a private room in Sickbay, so Rourke only had to feel the eyes of his most trusted officers on him as he took a step towards the biobed. ‘You hear that? We’re not here to hurt you. I’m Captain Rourke and you’re aboard the Endeavour. You might remember us.’

The Devore was pale, cheeks sunken. He was definitely far younger than Halyx, and lacked that shield of superiority; rather, his discipline now seemed like a veneer rapidly peeling. He licked dry lips and wavered, ‘Brennos,’ at last. ‘Sub-lieutenant Brennos. You left us to the mercy of the sector, Endeavour…’

‘Maybe you shouldn’t go around conquering and relocating people,’ Kharth said, but shut up at a curt look from Rourke.

‘Who attacked you?’ he asked.

Brennos shook his head. ‘I don’t know. I wasn’t on shift. The klaxon sounded to beat to quarters, but before I was at my post we were suffering hull breaches and the order went to abandon ship. I made it to an escape pod, and as I launched I saw the enemy shooting those down, too. So I steered for wreckage, powered down, and they missed me.’ He looked up at them. ‘How many survivors did you find?’

Rourke drew a deep breath. ‘You were the only one.’

The protective veneer shattered. ‘You’ve not done what you hoped for, Starfleet,’ Brennos said, but already his voice was breaking, shuddering. ‘After you left, we rendezvoused with another vessel. Commissioner Halyx and most of the crew disembarked. Only a skeleton crew was left to bring us to berth. Your crippling may have doomed the ship, but in your cowardice to finish us off, you failed to land a decisive blow against the Imperium.’

Still Rourke asked gently, ‘How many were left aboard?’

If it had taken strength to deliver that rhetoric, it looked like it was the last of the young Devore’s reserves. His eyes snapped shut. ‘Forty-three. Forty-four, including me.’ Slowly he opened his eyes. ‘All gone?’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Rourke, and found he meant it.

‘We should never have left the borders,’ Brennos breathed, bringing his palms up to press against his brow. ‘We’re the navy, we’re here to protect our people, not to invite more gaharey by going to their systems, occupying and seizing them. We should have stayed where we were…’

It sounded more like a whimper to himself than a statement to them, and Rourke pulled up a stool to be on his level. ‘Why was your ship out here at all? Only the blood dilithium?’

‘This… it is a foul substance. How can we value something that speaks to the telepathic gaharey? It’s a danger like them, not something we should try to marshal, but Fintt – the High Commissioner – has decided it will be so. And worse is Commissioner Halyx’s crusade for this gaharey object, this relic…’

‘The Regulator,’ Rourke supplied gently. ‘What’s her intention with it?’

Brennos shook his head. He did not seem like he was truly present any more, lost in loathing and fear and loss. ‘Arrogance and hubris. We found records on the first worlds we retook and she decided it could be a weapon. To find it, or to find how to build it, and to wield it as the Vaadwaur had done centuries past. But with the blood dilithium to power it, to amplify it, to make it more than a tool to suppress one telepath.’

Airex stepped forward at that, gaze thunderous. ‘How many?’ he asked, and Rourke gave him a sharp look to make him modulate his tone, push less. Brennos was on a knife-edge and anything to make him defensive might prompt him to remember he was of the Devore Imperium, and they were the enemy. ‘How many telepaths at once, Brennos?’ Airex pressed, gentler. ‘A room? A city?’

Brennos dragged his hands down his face, leaving his cheeks tear-stained. ‘I didn’t join to leave our space and slaughter gaharey. I want them to stay where they are, not for us to waste our resources beyond our borders.’ It sounded less like a defence, and more like a reasoning with himself. After a moment his eyes locked on Rourke, gaze clearer. ‘A planet, Commissioner Halyx said. She doesn’t care that if we hunt down a Brenari colony and kill the minds of all of them at the press of a button, we’ll set the whole Belt on us. She invites the enemy’s retribution, when all we should do is banish them.’

‘Banish,’ muttered Kharth. ‘Kind way to describe how Devore relocation camps work.’

It was her turn to get a harsh look, then Rourke returned his gaze to Brennos. ‘Do you know where she’s headed? What she knows?’

But the young Devore shook his head, tears falling freely by now. ‘I’m… I’m just a logistics officer, I never saw the records, the navigation charts, I don’t know…’

Sadek stepped forward. ‘I think you have enough for now,’ she said briskly. ‘He might be a Devore soldier, but he’s my patient, he’s given you plenty, and you can let him rest before you ask him more.’

They withdrew, and Rourke looked to Kharth as they left the room. ‘Get him quarters and put him under guard. We’ll figure out what to do with him when this is all over, but he’s just a junior officer. He’s been fed this all his life. He’s not our enemy here.’ She looked less convinced, but nodded.

Airex was frowning. ‘If Halyx is right, then we have to stop the Devore getting their hands on a Regulator.’

‘I know,’ said Rourke quickly.

‘And if she’s wrong,’ said Valance, ‘then she’ll still tear the sector apart because this is too valuable a prize for her to pass up. If she thinks combining this device with blood dilithium will give her a weapon of mass destruction against telepaths, she can justify anything…’

‘I know,’ Rourke said again, and he couldn’t help but give her a rueful look. ‘I suppose you don’t think this is a wild goose chase any more, Commander.’

‘No,’ sighed Valance. ‘But I wish I wasn’t wrong, sir. Because this could be so much worse than we thought.’

Comments

  • Interesting to see that they got a distress call from the same ship that they disabled before heading to the outpost. Wonder who actually attacked them, though it's interesting that this single young Devore is talking and not staying quiet. Though it sounds like he doesn't like this at all and wishes he would have just stayed back in their own territory. I am curious to see what happens next if they can find the regulator before Halyx or any of the Devore do.

    November 19, 2022
  • The hesitant enemy is a nice turn here, giving a different aspect of the Devore from the "muahahahah" villains we've had so far in the BD stories. A Devore who isn't fundamentally opposed to their collective xenophobia, but things it should mean they stay home, not venture out and force themselves on a universe that they themselves don't want. Gives a different face to the enemy. Still a nasty face, but more nuanced? And from a Devore lower decker too. I am intrigued as to who attacked the Devore ship and with the other callouts in recent stories to other Starfleet ships I was more then a little curious myself. Now the treasure hunt has another layer!

    November 22, 2022