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

All the Devils Are Here – 15

Bridge, USS Endeavour
November 2400
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The bridge pulsed from crimson to black, the red alert lights thudding in time with her heartbeat. Thawn stepped out from the turbolift still fiddling with her uniform collar, but stopped short when she found the chamber empty.

‘…hello? Captain?’

Red alert,’ came the computer’s calm but unhelpful response. ‘All hands to battle stations.

As her heart raced faster, so did the pulsing lights. Her steps felt like they were in stop-motion as she crossed the bridge for her station, but when she pressed a control it flashed up with a bright red lock-screen.

‘Computer!’ Hysteria tightened her throat. ‘Why am I locked out? This is an emergency!’

You’re trapped in here,’ said the computer in that calming monotone. ‘Just like us. Left here to die. Tormented and suffering and banished for their cleansing.’ But the voice was shattering and warping, twisting from the computer’s dulcet tones to something deeper and more anguished, more desperate.

And in the background, from the pitch black of the light’s pulsing, more whispers joined it. The same she’d been hearing for the long days since Endeavour had come into contact with blood dilithium.

‘I’m not listening to this,’ Thawn said sharply. ‘If you have something to say, say it. Stop being cryptic. I’m not in here with you.’

As she turned the darkness pulsed back to red, and she ran flat into the scorched figure of Noah Pierce. ‘You’re always in here with me,’ he hissed, grabbing her shoulders in an iron grasp, and she found herself staring up at the burnt, seared face. As he’d been when she’d last seen him, dead on the deck beside her.

‘No -’ She tried to pull free, but his hold was too tight. ‘No, you’re not him – you’re dead, whichever of you this is…’

‘The Pierce who held you down in the interrogation room as you screamed?’ The burnt side of his face twisted in a rictus grin. ‘Or the Pierce who laughed and loved you and tormented you with what you couldn’t have?’

You were always here with us, the voices in the darkened pulses of the bridge whispered. Wherever you’ve gone, you’ve always been trapped.

‘No…’ But when she pulled free of Pierce’s grasp he only laughed, and she felt the futility as she staggered across the bridge – the bridge that was now the old Endeavour’s, the place he’d died.

The turbolift doors slid open, bright white light piercing the pulsing black and red, and her heart rose with hope as she turned to see the figure stood in the doorway, her salvation. And lodged in her throat as she saw the outstretched hand of Adamant Rhade.

‘Come with me,’ he said, handsome and tall and her family’s choice, and everything she’d been told she wanted. ‘Leave here with me.’

Wherever you go, whispered the voices of the blood dilithium, you’re trapped here like us.

Her next scream woke her up, and while her bedroom lights did not pulse with red, the darkness still echoed with whispers.


‘Another,’ Beckett muttered as he shoved his mug across the Round Table’s bar at the holographic bartender, and soon the soothing scent of coffee filled his nostrils.

‘You’re pulling long hours,’ the hologram said, in that slightly stilted way which let him know this was the computer’s way of reminding him he was on-duty in about five hours.

Beckett rubbed his eyes to block out the shining lights of his PADD. ‘The expeditionary force is making as many enemies as friends, it seems. Not just us. The Saratoga might be protecting a Monean colony, but that’s included picking a fight with the Devore. The Damascus has ended up in a scrap and not got itself blown up, which is a minor miracle for a Grissom. Okay, so the Sojourner got the memo that we shouldn’t pick fights everywhere, but the Ulysses dropped off the damn map, and the Odyssey was out here already but nobody’s telling me if we’ve heard from her, which is… a damn problem. And the Sarek, along with shoving its face in blood dilithium, is also… digging up Kadi ruins?’ He groaned and planted his face on the bar. ‘Can’t I dig up Kadi ruins? But no, blood dilithium’s talking to us with the ghosts of genocided Brenari. So screw sleep.’

The bartender shook its head. ‘You’re the boss, Lieutenant,’ it said, then turned away.

‘Damn right,’ Beckett muttered. He was nothing but an analyst for this mission, really, but at least he could assert his authority over software. But it did have a point; he was tired, and so he was very slow to look up when the doors slid open for someone else to come into the Round Table. The mess hall was primarily for the senior staff, so at 0200 ship’s time it was often quiet. Tonight it was empty, and still Beckett was so sluggish he could only give Rosara Thawn an owlish blink as she slid onto the stool beside him.

‘Tarkelean tea,’ she told the bartender bluntly, and collapsed with her face in her hands.

Beckett stared at her. She was out of uniform and looked like she’d lost a fight with her red hair, which fell long across her shoulders. She didn’t wear it loose very often. But she’d stalked in and sat next to him like she didn’t expect him to react, and for a moment he didn’t, too bewildered.

In the end, all he said was, ‘Sleep was too boring?’ like an idiot.

Her chuckle was very small, very tired, and slightly hysterical as she dragged her hands down her face. ‘Quite the opposite.’

He tensed. ‘If you’re having weird dreams – if blood dilithium’s doing things to you – you should be talking to Airex or Carraway.’

‘Don’t worry, Beckett, I’m not about to go axe-crazy on you,’ she sighed. ‘I’ll talk to them in the morning, but for now I… I want to sleep, and that won’t happen until I calm down.’

‘Anything you want to talk about?’

Thawn made a face. ‘Oh, this is really the pits if I’m talking to you, isn’t it.’

He managed a goofy smile, because that put everyone at ease. ‘You came down here. I don’t think you wanted to be alone. Besides, Thawn, it’s the witching hour. Stranger things have happened, and they’re the exact right things to be forgotten by the morning.’

The tea was set in front of her, but all she did was wrap pale hands around delicate china. At length she said, ‘I don’t even know if this was a dream from blood dilithium, or a completely normal stress dream where of course I’m worrying about being influenced by blood dilithium. Did you see T’Kalla?’

‘Yeah. It’s creepy as hell. She’s one of the toughest people I know and she’s just… gone, it seems. We’ll get to the bottom of it, though -’

‘Don’t give me the pep-talk,’ she groaned. ‘I really don’t mean this in a nasty way, Beckett, but it doesn’t help from you.’

‘That’s you not being nasty?’

Her shoulders slumped and she looked uncommonly guilty. ‘I mean that it’s not like reassurance from Commander Airex, for example.’

‘I can see that.’ He leaned in, elbows on the bar, trying to offer a comforting presence she could disregard. ‘Do you talk about these stress dreams with Carraway? When you’re not under orders to do it, I mean.’

‘What makes you think I have stress dreams at other times?’

‘Because I’ve met you,’ Beckett said bluntly, ‘and you’re maybe the most highly-strung person I’ve ever met.’

‘I am not –’ But she seemed to hear herself even as she straightened indignantly, and Thawn slumped again. ‘I don’t think it’s that different to anyone,’ she said at length. ‘We all have people we don’t want to let down. You know that.’

He watched her for a moment and told himself he was trying to read her, when deep down he knew he was summoning courage to push. He drew a slow breath. ‘I think the difference between you and me is I don’t care any more what my family thinks.’

‘That’s not the only difference,’ Thawn said with a haughty tilt of the nose. ‘And also, you absolutely do care what your father thinks, it’s just you want to antagonise him because that makes you think you’re free.’

Her words hit harder than they might, as he hadn’t anticipated her turning on him like this. ‘Whereas you,’ he found himself saying sharply, ‘do whatever it takes to make them happy, even if it makes you miserable, and even if it’ll never be enough and they’ll keep asking for more!’ His voice resonated through the empty Round Table. The holographic bartender took a judicious step backwards and out of existence at the tension. And for a long time, Rosara Thawn sat and stared at her tea.

When she did speak, she was quiet again. ‘I wasn’t going to marry Adamant,’ she breathed. ‘After Whixby, we spoke, and we discussed how we were completely wrong together. We agreed it was best and we took it to our families.’

Horrified at opening the doors to these revelations, Beckett’s shoulders sank and he leaned in again. ‘They didn’t agree?’

His did,’ she said with a humourless laugh. ‘But you know what my aunt said? That I’d weakened the family by forcing Falyn’s hand. Making her take the refugees put her in a poor position with Whixby’s other factions, and that threatened the stability of the Twelfth House. So maybe before I could have gotten away with breaking my betrothal, but now I just… I just had to marry Adamant.’ She brought a hand up to her lips, like she could hold in the bubbling dark amusement threatening tears. ‘Have to.’

‘Are you kidding me?’ Beckett hissed. ‘You made your cousin help people even at a cost to your family, and your aunt’s punishing you for that by telling you that you have to marry against your wishes?’

‘Of course I don’t have to marry him,’ Rosara Thawn breathed, gaze going distant. ‘Nobody can force me to do anything I don’t want to do.’

‘That’s not how family works,’ he countered. ‘That’s not how families like ours work. They’ll use everything at their disposal – every possible emotional manipulation and blackmail – to make you do what makes them proud, them happy, and I know – Rosara, I know – how damn difficult it is to turn your back on that. But it is possible.’

He’d reached out without thinking, bringing a hand to her back in soft reassurance, and that seemed to bring her back to the here and now. When she looked at him her expression had fallen, the faintest hint of bewilderment in her dark eyes. ‘…I didn’t know we were on first name terms,’ she breathed, like it was the most curious thing in the world.

Beckett’s mouth went dry as he met her gaze, and try as he might, his next sharp inhale took a while to summon words. Oh, he thought as he watched her. Oh, no. He swallowed hard and tried to force a different colour into his voice when he replied, drag the walls back up without shoving her away. ‘Is this what you dreamed about?’

Her smile was quiet, sad. She had not restored any such barricade. ‘That’s what I always dream about. And Noah, lately. I don’t know if it’s because of the other Endeavour or because I… I don’t know.’ She shook her head, expression crumpling more. ‘And the voices. They’re not going away.’

‘You have to talk to Carraway,’ Beckett said, his voice going deeper, rougher despite himself, but it resonated with a fear he didn’t know he had. ‘This is exactly what he needs to hear.’

‘I know,’ she said quietly, head bowing. ‘But first I want to sit here and have a cup of tea.’

While his heart had slowed its racing, its beats felt louder, stronger, as he watched her. Only at length did Nate Beckett look up and lift his voice, finding it more stern, stable, normal. ‘Bartender?’ he called. ‘Another round of hot drinks.’

Thawn’s lips curled as she looked at him. ‘Don’t you need sleep?’

Nah,’ he said, finding the exaggerated grin coming easier than he’d expected. ‘Too much work to do, first.’

But he did not reach for his PADD, even though neither of them said anything more. They just sat there with their refreshed hot drinks, sinking into the comfortable, comforting silence. He did not pull away his hand.

Comments

  • Wow, that dream must have felt as real as it came across. Is Thawn starting to feel the effects of the dilithium? Though I loved the plugs for the different ships within the fleet with what is happening. (Can't lie I was a bit excited when I saw the Saratoga mentioned lol). I enjoyed the scene between Thawn and Beckett, how he was trying to comfort her and she wasn't sure how to really take it. I enjoyed the fact that she opened up a bit to him even though she probably didn't want to.

    November 19, 2022
  • You honestly had me at the start there! Seriously! Then the empty bridge and the computer creepy talking to Rosara and I knew what was going on, but those opening paragraphs worked so well! Nice and disturbing there. Then to Nate, the wonderful, friendly, helpful and caring Nate. With his vaguely insulting but highly insightful psychoanalysis. Another skillset to add to the list. At this rate, his father will want him back since he'll be the perfect spy. Able to do just about anything. I love Nate and Rosara interactions. They're just wonderful frienemies. Got each other's backs while being mean to each other, or not caring while being nice. They rock.

    November 22, 2022