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

All the Devils Are Here – 23

Vaadwaur Facility, Taxtose IV
November 2400
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Sensor feeds scrawled over Airex’s HUD as he stomped through darkness. Three ships not far outside the facility. Twelve life-signs headed his way. Only the faintest of flickers suggesting Beckett was deeper in the Vaadwaur complex. And he’d left the control room to lie low, lest he be caught and shot.

Harkon had pulled the Merlin back a safe distance, the runabout shrouded in the radioactive storms from the Devore ships. He was on his own, with only his phaser nestled in its holster for protection. Discretion was most certainly about to be the better part of valour.

At another interface point on the wall, he paused. He was some distance from the main command controls, but he had the access codes and knew how the system worked. Breathing rattling in his ears in the darkened corridor, trying to not make any noise that might carry back to the Devore landing party, Airex brought up his tricorder and tried to reconnect to the ancient Vaadwaur systems.

Power was still limited. If the Devore had as much understanding as he of the Vaadwaur systems, once they breached the control room they would probably be able to locate him. Airex frowned at the options before him, aware he had little time.

He could use almost all remaining power to seal access to the lower levels, lock Beckett and the Regulators safe and away from the Devore. But that was a temporary measure. If the Devore had all the time in the world, they would eventually break through. And if Beckett had all the time in the world, the radiation would turn his insides to gelatin. Leaving him, Airex, on this upper level playing cat-and-mouse against Devore soldiers.

With a guilty exhale, Airex left the access corridors open, and resumed downloading the files on the Regulators. He and Beckett didn’t have to get out of there. Downloading these files to transmit on to the Merlin could be enough.

Even if it would have to be enough for someone else to interpret later.


Rourke pushed himself up from the deck, head ringing. Bridge lights flickered overhead, and even the red alert klaxon sounded distant, tinny. ‘Report!’ he croaked.

‘We’ve got hull breaches on decks seven through nine,’ came the strained voice of Thawn. She looked like the only person who’d kept her station. ‘Emergency forcefields are holding. No casualty report yet.’

‘That Devore volley hit us before we could get our shields up.’ Kharth was dragging herself back up to the tactical arch. ‘Deflectors are only at forty percent. One of our forward torpedo launchers is out.’

‘What’re they doing?’ Rourke dragged himself back into his chair.

He saw the answer on his armrest’s display before Kharth could give it, terse and uncertain. ‘Waiting.’

From mission control at the rear of the bridge, Valance’s voice carried. ‘Still no telling what’s happening on the surface, but the Devore took out Whitaker’s fighter.’ Rourke’s guts twisted in themselves before she pressed on. ‘He ejected, I’ve got his EV beacon.’

‘Sir.’ Arys looked back, pained. ‘He won’t have long before Taxtose’s gravity pulls him in.’

Rourke clenched his fists. ‘Thawn, get me power to the shields. Elsa, hail the Devore.’

A moment later, the viewscreen flooded to life with a familiar sight. This was a larger Devore warship than the one they’d faced weeks sooner, but still Commissioner Halyx sneered down at him with endless satisfaction. ‘Thank you for the lead, Endeavour.’

Rourke swallowed, mouth dry. ‘You were waiting for us.’

We had the planet, but our sensors couldn’t locate the facility. So, yes, we waited. And your landing party has led us right there.’ She glanced at something off-screen, and muted to give a quick instruction to one of her bridge officers.

In the pause, Kharth muttered, ‘They’ve used a lot of their power reserves keeping in low-orbit in a difficult atmosphere. They’re not fighting fit themselves.’

‘Sure,’ murmured Rourke, ‘but neither are we. Get me a targeting solution anyway, Commander.’

That caught Halyx’s attention, and she turned back. ‘I wouldn’t do that, Endeavour. You’re listing. We have the advantage. We’ll take our prize and go, and give you more mercy than you deserve.

‘You mean you know you can’t put us down without getting sorely bloodied.’ But Endeavour would still come out worse. Rourke glanced down at his sensors. ‘If we’re not fighting here, let me send a shuttle to retrieve my pilot.’ He didn’t know what to attempt for the landing party. There was no way to send help without escalating, and with Endeavour in this state that might cost them more lives and still bring deliverance too late for the Merlin and her crew.

Halyx gave a tight smile. ‘I don’t think so. He’s got time, and we have him in our sights. So much as twitch wrong, Rourke, and your man will be the next to die. It’s a better kindness than any of you deserve.

‘All you’re doing here,’ said Rourke, pushing to his feet, ‘is inviting more enemies of the Devore. However you treat outsiders, you’re left alone because you leave others alone. Change this too much, and suddenly everyone in the Gradin Belt has a reason to band together against you.’

The miserable rabble of the Belt can hardly agree on basic trade, let alone a military alliance. Do you see the Hierarchy making common cause with the Malon?’ Halyx scoffed. ‘But I’m touched you care so much for the Imperium’s wellbeing.

‘Captain.’ Danjuma’s voice took a fresh tone of urgency. ‘Three ships are coming from the atmosphere. All Devore.’

We have what we came for,’ said Halyx as the distant dots rose to join the large warship. ‘And you’re limping far worse than us, Endeavour. Don’t follow us. Or if you do, come bear witness to the future of the Belt. To the end of the gaharey.’ The line went dead, the viewscreen returning to the sight of the warship hovering above the brown-greys of Taxtose IV’s upper atmosphere.

Danjuma gave a tense sigh. ‘The Devore ship is breaking orbit.’

‘Captain.’ Kharth’s voice was a whip-crack. ‘They’re charging weapons.’

‘Brace, and make ready to return fire -’

Fresh streaks of light of enemy weapons fire soared away from the warship, but not at them. Rourke’s gut went cold to see twin torpedoes streak down into the atmosphere of Taxtose IV and disappear into the clouds.

‘They must be targeting the facility,’ swore Kharth.

‘Devore ship is going to warp,’ warned Danjuma.

‘Hells,’ Rourke spat. ‘Commander Valance, get a rescue party into the King Arthur and head down there. Lieutenant Arys, get in the Lancelot and pick up Whitaker.’

Thawn’s hands were running over her controls as the officers left. ‘There’s no way they’ll have a precise targeting solution from up here,’ she said, a desperate edge to her voice.

‘There is,’ said Kharth, rather more hollow, ‘if their landing party sent them the sensor readings.’

‘But they won’t have hit the Merlin…’

‘Easy,’ Rourke rumbled, though the reassurance was easier to state than give. ‘We don’t know anything, Lieutenant. Waiting’s the most vicious of tasks, but it’s what we have to do. Scan that Devore ship and get me their heading.’ It wasn’t just critical to know what Halyx was going to do next, her mission seemingly complete. It would give Thawn something to do other than panic.

Only the Lancelot had launched to rescue Whitaker, Valance still gathering a team, when Lindgren pressed a finger to her earpiece and sat up straight. ‘I’m getting a hail from the Merlin,’ she announced with tense delight.

Rourke again clutched his armrests. ‘Put them through.’

‘Endeavour, this is the away team,’ came the crackling, fraught voice of Davir Airex, and Rourke almost felt Kharth sag with relief behind him. ‘We’re on our way back, and I’ve got complete Vaadwaur files on the design and construction of the Regulators here.

Relief flooded Rourke’s body, and he closed his eyes. ‘It’s good to hear your voice, Commander. What happened down there?’

Devore landing team came from nowhere. Lieutenant Harkon managed to evade them, but we were already in the compound. They didn’t find me, but…’ Airex’s hesitation was audible. ‘It looks like they’ve recovered at least one of the devices. I managed to give them the slip to get the files back to the Merlin, but then they bombarded the facility directly; there’s nothing left.

Rourke’s jaw tensed as he heard the unspoken. ‘Commander. Where’s Lieutenant Beckett?’

I… I’m sorry, sir. He was further into the facility, trying to get to the equipment storage bays. He didn’t get out in time.


‘No.’ Thawn tilted her chin up a half-inch.

Kharth narrowed her eyes at her. ‘What do you mean, “no?”’

‘I mean,’ said Thawn, elbows set on the conference table, her gaze set on Kharth even through the holographic regional map hovering between them, ‘your assessment of the mission is wrong. Lieutenant Beckett isn’t dead.’

She could feel the eyes of everyone else on her at that. Kharth, dubious. Airex, guilty. Rampant confusion and, from Lindgren sat next to her, abundant pity. For years she’d served on this ship and kept her telepathic abilities so close to her chest lest she intrude on the thoughts of non-Betazoids who would keep them hidden. But after the past few months – past few days – she could not bring herself to slam the door shut on herself again.

Especially not when these senses were giving her one last tether to hope.

It was Rourke who broke the silence at last, shifting his weight at the head of the table. ‘What do you mean by that, Lieutenant?’

‘It’s not possible,’ Airex jumped in. He was a state, dragged freshly out of his EV suit and into the conference room. ‘Beckett was too deep into the facility to get out in time. If the bombardment didn’t kill him… there’s no way we can dig him out before he’s exposed to lethal levels of radiation.’

‘And that would take days,’ said Valance tersely. ‘Days we don’t have.’

‘The Devore could have taken him prisoner,’ Thawn said stubbornly. ‘You can’t write him off so easily.’

‘I’m not writing him off,’ said Kharth. ‘I’m being realistic. I know -’

‘Can you sense him?’ Eyes snapped down the table to Greg Carraway, who gave them all an apologetic smile before he looked back at Thawn. ‘Is that what you mean?’

She drew an apprehensive breath. ‘I don’t know,’ came the eventual admission. ‘I’m not used to – this would be telepathy over a great distance, with a mind I’m not that telepathically familiar with. But call it a telepath’s instinct.’

‘Or,’ said Kharth, clearly trying to not sound nasty – and failing, ‘we don’t have a body, so you’re naturally turning to hope, and justifying it with your telepathy.’

‘Enough.’ Rourke lifted his hands, gaze going down the table. ‘I’ve known – knew – Nate longer than anyone here. I hate the idea of not finding him. But Commander Airex’s assessment is correct. Our last sweep of the surface showed no sign, and made no contact on comms. Digging up the wreckage would take time. And what we don’t have is time. Lieutenant Thawn, your other findings?’

Trying to not grind her teeth, Thawn reached for her PADD and tapped a button to update the map. ‘I have a heading for the Devore ship, based off their trajectory and long-range sensor scans. Senolok.’

‘It’s a major Brenari colony. Population of two million.’ Rosewood leaned in, sounding faintly apologetic. Perhaps he knew this would normally be Beckett’s turn to speak.

‘Worse,’ said Kharth, ‘is that I’m picking up two more Devore ships on an intercept course with Halyx.’

‘And now they have a Vizan Regulator,’ added Airex, ‘and who knows how much blood dilithium to amplify it.’

‘I hate to be gauche.’ Sadek leaned forward. ‘Why do they need the Regulator if they have a strike force of warships?’

‘Senolok has strong orbital shielding,’ said Rosewood. ‘And keeps good trade links with nearby planets. It would take the Devore a while to breach the defences and hit the surface, and reinforcements would arrive to drive them off.’

‘But if they can lobotomise the telepaths from orbit like that…’ Airex snapped his fingers. ‘That’s a different problem.’

Rourke scrubbed his face with his hands. ‘How long until they get there?’

Thawn drummed her fingers on the PADD. ‘If they alter course to meet the other warships, thirty-six hours.’

‘How long until we can get there?’ Rourke looked at Cortez.

The engineer was a mess; she’d crawled over Endeavour’s damaged systems before getting here. ‘We’re faster, and they’re taking a roundabout route. We can probably beat them there, but not by much. Less than an hour.’

‘And our combat readiness?’

Cortez blew out her cheeks. ‘We’re patching our hull breaches and rerouting energy systems, but that’s going to play havoc on our shielding if we want full weapons and maneouvring power. Maybe against one warship? Not three.

‘Can we get reinforcements?’ said Valance.

Kharth shook her head. ‘Not in this time-frame.’

Silence fell on the conference table, the officers considering the magnitude of this information. It was Lindgren who spoke at last. ‘We’re not just going to stand and watch as the Devore effectively kill an entire planet, are we?’

Rourke looked at Airex. ‘You’ve got the information on the Regulator,’ he said at last. ‘Can we do anything about it?’

‘I’ve barely examined the specifications,’ Airex admitted, and rubbed his temples. ‘It’s possible I can find a way for Senolok to modify their planetary shielding to protect them. Or Endeavour can do something to interfere with it.’

‘These are all,’ said Valance, ‘very vague plans.’

‘We have to try,’ Thawn found herself saying. ‘We have thirty-six hours to get there and come up with a plan. If we stay here hoping inspiration strikes, then we’ll be too late no matter how smart we are.’

Rourke watched her, then gave a slow nod. ‘You’re right, Lieutenant. And I’m not going to stand on the sidelines and watch. If the Devore want to slaughter these people, they have to go through Endeavour.’

For all that Kharth had insisted what she was feeling was hope, not reason, not telepathy, not something concrete defying all bonds, Thawn found herself swallowing bile at the captain’s resolve. Because without a breakthrough, it didn’t matter who was or was not alive right then; they’d just be more lives added to the list of those taken by the Devore.

And still, somewhere deep inside her, a thousand murdered Brenari howled at the prospect of taking up arms against those who had slaughtered them.

Comments

  • Nooooo, not Nate... I liked how Thawn didn't want to believe that it was even possible. Now they are in the race of their time to save a planet full of Brenari. Hopefully, they can come up with a plan and defeat the Devore before it's too late! Though again, why Nate! Why did he have to die... UGE! (I just hope that this isn't true and that maybe he just got kidnapped by the Devore. )

    December 3, 2022
  • I can't believe that Nate is dead! I'm certain he's going to reappear soon and save the day! Thawn bless her in trying to recover Nate and not give up hope, but also determined to protect the Brenari but I was expecting Rourke to be so determined to use the Endeavour as a lone sentinel defending the Brenari colony. However, I did like the prospect of the powers of the Gradin Belt forming a coalition against the Devore.

    December 3, 2022