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

All the Devils Are Here – 20

Sickbay, USS Endeavour
November 2400
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Every time he regained consciousness, he was screaming. Thawn watched through the screens separating her as a visitor in this private room in Sickbay as Adamant Rhade railed and thrashed against the restraints pinning him to his biobed, while security guards kept their hands on their phasers and Nurse Li rushed to deliver the next dose of sedative.

For seconds he struggled on, tendons on his neck standing out like girders, muscles on his tree trunk-like arms straining. As strong as he was, as well-trained and capable, Thawn had never felt even the concept of apprehension that Rhade might be a physical threat to her. Right now she was deeply grateful there was a forcefield between them.

‘I’m sorry, Lieutenant,’ Nurse Li said once Rhade was still and she could join Thawn on the other side. ‘I don’t think now’s a very good time to visit.’ It took a considerable effort for Thawn to not respond with sarcasm, so she simply thanked Li for her time and left.

It was not, after all, as if she’d visited out of anything other than a sense of obligation. Still her heart thudded in her chest as she marched down the corridors, still her palms were sweaty as she made for her destination. Commander Airex looked deeply uncertain when she entered the science lab, and she wondered if he was worried she’d snapped, too.

‘We need to build the subspace trumpet,’ she said, and sighed as his expression changed for a different apprehension. ‘Adamant’s no better. Turak’s locked himself away for deep meditation. That’s almost every telepath on board at least somewhat compromised. We need answers, sir.’

‘Lieutenant…’

‘I know Commander Kharth almost snapped at Abaddon’s,’ Thawn pressed on, voice going up a treacherous pitch. ‘And whatever in the Great Fire goes on between the two of you, I know you don’t want her to end up like the others. All we’ve done so far is drift along and hope that one of the other ships will provide an answer, gambling with the lives and mental wellbeing of not just our telepaths, but everyone around them, and it’s not -’

Lieutenant.’

‘No, listen to me.’ Her eyes flashed, jaw set as she stared at him. ‘I don’t know if I’m lucky or resilient, but I refuse to stand by and do nothing with the fact that I seem to be somewhat unaffected. That’s a privilege and an opportunity and it’s one I’m going to use, and I won’t stand for you coddling me at the expense of everyone else, especially someone you – you care about deeply!’

Airex blinked at the crescendo of this outburst, and slowly raised his hands. ‘I was going to say,’ he began carefully, ‘that I had Commander Cortez put one together this morning.’ He gestured to the next room, the main lab where the study of blood dilithium had been conducted.

‘…oh.’ She winced. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘The captain doesn’t know,’ Airex admitted. ‘Or rather, he thinks that it’s been built in case of emergency. I dare say we’re long past that point. Are you sure?’

Thawn drew a slow, shuddering breath. ‘I’m ready.’

With a stern nod he led her through to the smaller lab. ‘We’ll take this one step at a time. Establish contact and see what form that takes; reports have given us anything from disembodied voices to full-on visions of, frankly, genocide.’ His brow creased with concern. ‘So I want answers, Lieutenant, but that means we’ll establish these basic principles before we push further. Right now we don’t know what it’s even possible for you to find out.’

In the centre of the lab sat the container holding blood dilithium, and though she knew it was opaque it felt like she could see a faint crimson gleam. She found herself limp in proximity, as if it had a gravitic pull keeping her in orbit, and obeyed Airex’s directions without comment or objection as he set up the drill-like device of the trumpet she recognised from reports.

‘Doctor Sadek will also have our hides for doing this without her,’ he mused as he placed a cortical scanner at her temple.

‘I don’t want you to get into trouble, Commander,’ Thawn managed at last.

He gave a tight, humourless smile. ‘The captain seems to have forgotten that I was sent to the Delta Quadrant, first and foremost, with the authority of Admiral Beckett to get to the bottom of this situation.’ Airex stepped back and to the controls, hand hovering over a button. ‘Ready?’ At her nod, he drew a sharp breath. ‘Releasing dilithium containment.’

And into the dark she fell.


The light was so bright and clear in the gardens it felt like the air itself hummed. Past the long gravel path she walked, along its route winding through the emerald sea of a lawn, air thick with the smell of the blossoms of the Judrain flowers that bowed from the hedgerows in their golds and pinks.

But when she stepped out from behind the final knot of hedges, it was not to see the rising towers of the ancient seat of the Twelfth House of Betazed in all their glory. It was to see the raging inferno of their ruin. And in one breath the sky above her turned from peerless blue to blazing and bruised crimson.

Thawn stopped dead, heart in her throat. Around her the garden’s leaves shrivelled and died, green curling into embers until she stood on nothing but a sea of ash. When a shadow ahead moved, she couldn’t help but gasp. ‘Auntie?’

Anatras Thawn turned, perfect and resplendent in Betazoid fashion, but her eyes were black and pitiless in a pale face. ‘My dear,’ she breathed, voice hollowed of all feeling. ‘What have you done?’

‘No…’ Thawn took a stumbling step back. ‘This is ridiculous – I’m not here for you…’

The pale face of the family matriarch creased to a heartbroken smile. ‘You thought you wouldn’t bring me with you? Bring yourself with you?’ Slowly she raised her hands, and behind her the towers of the Twelfth House crumbled. ‘You thought you wouldn’t compare your turgid family woes to the slaughter of thousands?’

Ash rose in a wave from the collapsing towards, surging towards her with heat and thickness enough to choke, and Thawn bent double at the effort to stay on her feet. ‘I’m seeking the Brenari,’ she hissed. ‘You’re so talkative normally. I want to know what you want.’

Were we unclear? The voice was almost Anatras’s, but not quite as it mingled and danced with those tones of fury and hurt and hate she’d heard these past weeks. The wave of ash and dust consumed her, and the collapse of her family home faded from all sight to plunge her into nothing but burning grey. We will have blood.

‘You can’t have blood!’ Thawn tried, choking even though she was in a place of no air, no breath, no body. ‘You can’t kill them all! All you can do is bring your anger on us, and we didn’t kill you!’

Then take up your arms. Shadows swirled in the ash and dust streaking around her. You have the might and strength. Hunt them and deliver to them the same pain as ours.

‘We’re Starfleet. That’s not what we do.’ Silhouettes rose in the wall of ash, and she raised her arms as if they were coming for her. But they did not, contorting among themselves, moving among themselves. Tall and monstrous figures looming over small clumps, weapons in hand, felling the helpless, and all around her a grotesque play of the slaughter of shadow puppets was spun into swirling embers. ‘I can’t slaughter the Devore for you!’

Then they’ll unleash their suffering on a million more when you’re gone. And you’ll congratulate yourself for restoring order. And return to a prison of love and luxury while we languish in the blood-stained dark.

The ash fell. The skies returned to blue. The towers of the Twelfth House rose before her.

And Anatras Thawn extended beckoning hands to return everything back to how it had always been.


All was as Beckett expected as he sauntered into the Strategic Operations Centre. The only light came from the low-powered central display, the star map showing the passive analysis he’d set the system to while he’d been gone. In time he could check key updates and changes, adjust the display accordingly, but in the meantime data gently scrolled across the displays. All was quiet and peaceful.

He whistled as he advanced on the main control panel, padding down the steps towards it, and almost jumped out of his skin when a shadow on the far side of the central display moved. ‘Thawn! Jesus Christ!’

She must have been sat on the deck, rising from behind the panel, and while his heart didn’t stop thudding in his chest, his racing mind noticed the state of her hair, the paleness of her face, the streaks of tears down her cheeks. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, throat tight. ‘I thought you’d be with Rosewood…’

‘I was,’ he said, clutching his chest to try to stop the heart attack. ‘We wrapped up early. What’re you doing?’

‘I know I shouldn’t be here unattended, not since the captain’s directive…’

Bugger that!’ He stalked around the panel only to stop as she shrank away, hands coming up. Aghast, he took a step back. ‘What’s happened?’

‘I don’t – we’ll tell the captain and Doctor Sadek in a bit…’

‘Tell them what? Who’s we?’

Thawn had brought her hands to her face, but now she dragged them down, smearing tears and mascara. ‘Airex and I used the trumpet.’

Beckett’s jaw fell. ‘God. Why’d you do that? All the reports say you just get to watch genocide, you…’ But fresh tears were falling, and this time when he took a step forward he was slow, careful, and she didn’t pull away. ‘What did you learn?’

‘They’re so angry,’ she breathed. ‘I know that’s obvious, words are just – too limited, too stupid. They were stripped of everything and slaughtered and now they’re nothing but rage and I… I can’t help them. I can’t give them what they want.’ Her gaze caught his. ‘Until or unless we’re marching on the Devore borders and killing their soldiers, we can’t give them what they want.’

‘There’s a lot of people,’ Beckett said softly, ‘who’d call that the only moral thing to do. But you don’t need to be the receptacle for the rage of a thousand murdered ghosts.’

‘I have to do something.’ She wrapped her arms around herself, head bowing, hair falling like a veil between them.

‘Airex let you go off on your own?’

‘I told him I was going to rest. It’s not his fault. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring this on you. I came here because I thought it would be quiet.’

‘Of course you can bloody -’ Beckett cut himself off, shaking his head. ‘Come here.’

If it felt treasonous to step forward and wrap his arms around her, then he was lost twice over when she collapsed into his embrace and broke at last, sobbing into his shoulder. All he could do was murmur nonsense as she clutched at him, keep her close and let her cry herself out, and when her tears had stopped he did not let her go.

‘Why did you do this?’ he admonished in a gentle whisper at last. ‘Take this on?’

‘Everyone’s breaking to the blood dilithium,’ she rasped, face still pressed against him. ‘I’m not. I can do this, so I have to, don’t I? Don’t we have a responsibility to act when we can?’

‘You don’t have a responsibility to get plunged into the shouting of a thousand murdered ghosts. I know it must be hard to see the others like this, see Rhade like this…’

Her next sob was half a laugh and shot through with bitterness, and at last she lifted her head. Her face was streaked with tears but her black eyes shone bright in the light of the holographic stars over his shoulder. ‘Do you want to know something horrid?’ she croaked. ‘When I heard what happened I thought – a part of me thought, a small part of me thought: “Can I use this to get off the hook?”’ She gave another sobbing laugh. ‘Isn’t that the most selfish thing?’

‘I think if someone claimed they never had selfish thoughts like that, they’d be a liar,’ Beckett breathed. He was all of a sudden far too aware of how close they were, how close she was, and barely dared draw another breath in case it broke the moment. ‘You deserve better than this, you know? You deserve what you want.’

Now those black eyes of captured false starlight were on him, and her mouth set for a smile of so many broken dreams it made his heart ache. ‘Oh, Nate, didn’t you realise by now?’ she sighed. ‘We never get what we want.’

‘You should,’ he breathed. ‘If only for a moment.’ Then he ignored the screaming in his head, and kissed her.

When he leaned in, she did, too. Her lips tasted of too many tears, split and dry from the torments of their days, and still he didn’t dare drink too deep of them in case he drowned in the kiss. It couldn’t have been more than the faintest brush together, and still it was too much and too little at once. When she pulled back he did not stop her, and for thudding heartbeats the only sound was the distant chirruping of the SOC’s systems.

Thawn stepped free, slowly bringing a finger to her lips as if it would help her make sense of what had just happened. Then her eyes fell on his again, and his gut twisted at the pain he saw before that frantic energy he usually associated with her returned. ‘I’m sorry,’ she blurted, taking another step back. ‘That was stupid and I – I’m sorry.’

‘Hey, I did that too.’ But his voice was so hoarse he wasn’t sure she heard as she rushed past, and she did not stop. Beckett stared as the doors to the SOC slid shut behind her, leaving him again in the dim gloom of his domain, alone with the false stars and the secrets of a dozen sectors. Alone with this new burden.

Biting his lip, he turned to the main display and ran a hand through his hair. ‘Well,’ he breathed at last, and blew out his cheeks. ‘That was a whole new kind of stupid.’

Comments

  • So much going on in this story, I feel bad for Rhade being overcome by the blood dilithium and having Thawn witness it before being sedated again. Now I liked how Thawn walked into the science lab and began to talk to Airex not giving him a chance to really respond just to find out that Cortez already built one. That was a bit risky putting Thawn through that, interesting to see how her family and her betazoid house be in on this. Was this their way of forming what Thawn thinks or feels? Interesting take on getting answers, only to find that they want the Devore to pay for what they did and that is something Starfleet won't do. I liked how Thawn scared the living daylights out of Beckett even when she didn't mean to do it. I liked how she broke down and they hugged which made her just let everything out. Though the one thing I didn't see coming was the kiss between the two and the later regret before Thawn basically ran out of the SOC. Great story and as always can't wait to see what happens next in the adventures of the Endeavour.

    November 27, 2022
  • Finally!!! Finally!!! Finally!!! A bit more unexpected/expected/hoped for romance on the Endeavour! The entire build up from start to finish was almost like Thawn was being given the pass she needed to finally test the waters without Rhade being aware or being hurt. That said, those final few paragraphs I was surprised to see how mature Nate was after the kiss. Did he truly want to do it or will he now regret it for eternity? Fingers crossed we get to see more!

    November 28, 2022
  • Man, this certainly made the pain and suffering of the Blood Dilithium on telepaths personal didn’t it? Things have been stacking Thawn for a bit and having the BD hit Rhade just keeps the pressure on her. And who does she go to for a modicum of support but our boy Nate. I wasn’t expecting the kiss at this time, but been waiting for something like it for awhile. Now the trick is how it’s going to change their relationships going forward, because oh boy is there a web of friends and even family beyond the Endeavour that’s going to get complicated.

    December 1, 2022
  • Man, this certainly made the pain and suffering of the Blood Dilithium on telepaths personal didn’t it? Things have been stacking Thawn for a bit and having the BD hit Rhade just keeps the pressure on her. And who does she go to for a modicum of support but our boy Nate. I wasn’t expecting the kiss at this time, but been waiting for something like it for awhile. Now the trick is how it’s going to change their relationships going forward, because oh boy is there a web of friends and even family beyond the Endeavour that’s going to get complicated.

    December 3, 2022
  • Oh how naive we were to think we could protect our telepaths from blood dilithium with journalling and group therapy. Thawn is the perfect POV character to take in the horrors of what blood dilithium is doing to her friends and peers and obligations -- because of her empathy for them and because it serves as a ghost of christmas future for her. This chapter served well to motivate Thawn's deepening curiosity about the origins of the blood dilithium. The personalized dreamscape Thawn experienced in commune with the Brenari was a beautiful bit of writing: unsettling and helpless and I loved all the bits of Thawn intermingled with the Brenari's warnings. "Can I use this to get off the hook?" is the ultimate guilty pleasure. Thank you for that.

    December 11, 2022