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

All the Devils Are Here – 24

Captain's Ready Room, USS Endeavour
November 2400
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Stars streaked beyond the ready room window as Endeavour hurtled through the dark. Deep in the engine room, Cortez stoked the engines hotter and hotter, the crew not for the first time locked in a race against time to save lives. Except on this occasion, time was not Rourke’s biggest concern.

The door-chime was a relief when it sounded, an interruption to his gloomy thoughts, but the severe expression of Valance made it plain he was to be given no relief. ‘Latest weapons system report,’ the XO said, PADD held like a shield of professionalism against her deeper concerns. ‘Kharth is confident we can sustain full combat readiness for at least an hour.’

‘And after an hour,’ mused Rourke, taking the PADD, ‘we’ll have won or be dead, right?’ She did not smile, and he couldn’t bring himself to, either. ‘Speak your mind, Valance.’

She hesitated. ‘I know I can speak plainly with you, sir. I’m not sure I have anything helpful to say.’

‘Then vent, because God knows you can’t and won’t do it to the rest of the crew.’ He waved at the seat opposite.

Valance sank with a sigh. ‘If I ever thought you were making a mistake in this mission, I would have said so, Captain. I hope you know that.’

‘I think our history makes that clear,’ he said wryly.

‘But I have to wonder if we could have avoided this situation. We all but gave them the Regulator. They might have found it anyway on Taxtose, but that would have taken time, and that’s time we could have used differently. Instead you…’ She winced.

‘Ran off half-cocked?’

‘No.’ Valance shook her head firmly, but took a moment to think. ‘You always rise to meet the enemy, sir. And sometimes that lets them set the terms of battle.’

She looked like she was struggling with these ideas as much as these words, and Rourke sighed. ‘I’d remind you that all I’ve tried to do since we learnt of the Regulators is follow leads to understand what the damn things are. I didn’t know we were racing the Devore to Taxtose. But this isn’t just about this mission, is it?’ She shook her head again. ‘Understand I don’t mean it as a dig if I say you’ll think about all of this differently when you’re a captain.’

‘I know I have the luxury of taking a step back and not having to make the hard decisions.’ Valance shrugged. ‘Regardless, we’re here now. We have to trust our science officers.’

‘I’ve sent word to the DEI. They can’t promise reinforcements in time. But if we can hold off the Devore somehow, or stop them from using the Regulator…’ Restless, Rourke pushed to his feet and wandered about his office. ‘If not, I guess we make a stand.’

‘We can’t leave those people to the Devore,’ Valance said firmly. ‘You know I’m with you all the way on that, sir.’

‘I know. I know I have your support when I need it.’ He stopped at the wall and stared at the sword hanging on brackets there, the ‘gift’ from the Vondem Rose and their ‘salvage’ of the old Endeavour, his last command. ‘Well, almost always.’

‘Sir?’

Rourke looked back at her, lips twisting, and jerked a thumb at the sword. ‘I know you hated that I accepted this. That I keep it on the wall.’

‘It’s…’ Valance looked wrong-footed by this change of topic. ‘They stole it, sir. I do find it a little disrespectful of the people who served on that ship. Some of them lost their lives.’

‘And some have lost their lives on this ship,’ sighed Rourke. He’d lost people under his command before; been broken by it before. Today felt different to the Firebrand, at least; not this howling abyss in his soul telling him that he’d failed. He didn’t know if he was making peace with his sense of responsibility, learning he couldn’t shoulder everything, or if he was becoming terrifyingly numb. Even about Nate.

Pushing back that thought, he nodded again at the sword. ‘It’s just a reminder, Commander.’

‘Of what?’

‘That there’s more than one way to do the right thing. I just wish I could see a different way this time.’

‘I don’t think there are rules for us to conveniently break on this occasion,’ mused Valance.

‘No,’ he agreed quietly. ‘No, this time, duty wins. Even in the face of death.’


‘I don’t… please…’ Breathing ragged, broken by sobs and shattered bones, she could barely manage to beg as she craned her head to stare at the barrel of the gun.

‘Worthless,’ scoffed the Devore guard. And pulled the trigger.

The bright light engulfed her, then in a blink of an eye Thawn wasn’t on her knees. She stood amid the metal and concrete slabs of confinement and suffering, the Devore guard beside her, the wail of Brenari condemned to death around her. On the ground lay the smouldering corpse of the Brenari woman. She’d just seen her murder through her eyes.

‘Do you see?’ The wails took on an echo, pulsing with rage and fear and loss. Down the line of condemned Brenari the Devore guard walked, shooting his rifle without hesitation or regret.

Thawn brought her hands to her temples. ‘We’re trying,’ she hissed. ‘We’re going to fight them, we’re going to protect your people. We just can’t do it alone!’

But the howling and screaming did not stop, for there was no reasoning with the echoes of vengeful ghosts.

‘Thawn!’

Reality flooded back with bright lights, clear edges, and sharp colours, and Thawn gasped as Airex raised the confinement field on the blood dilithium again. The Trill scientist looked aghast at finding her in the lab, alone and unsupervised. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’

She stepped back, unsteady, hands coming to her temples. ‘There has to be something we can do, Commander. There have to be answers.’

Airex ushered her to a seat, gaze a blend of anger and concern. ‘So you’re choosing to bathe your brain in the same psionic energies that have incapacitated everyone? What did you think would come of this?’ Rhetorical question fading as she sat, he frowned before he asked, more quietly, ‘Did you learn something?’

Abashed, she shook her head. ‘Only more of their suffering. Their slaughter.’ She buried her face in her hands. ‘I can’t do nothing, sir.’

There was a long pause, broken by the sound of Airex dragging a chair over. ‘I don’t expect you to do nothing,’ he said gently. ‘We’ve had a report. Discovery thinks they’ve found a way to free the telepathic echoes from the blood dilithium.’

She raised her head and accepted the PADD he pressed into her hands. The echoes of the slaughtered and terrified in her head felt at-odds with the data and calculations scrolling across the display as she read; genocide and its effects reduced to mere numbers. Thawn bit her lip. ‘We can modify those probes with little difficulty. But… is there even an anomaly near Senolok?’

‘Small,’ Airex admitted. ‘A distortion just outside of the system. Records suggest an accident on a trade vessel a month ago; the warp core overloaded while fully active. We may need to help it along some.’

Her eyes dragged further down the PADD, and her hand came to her mouth. Now she knew why Airex looked so tired. ‘The Discovery’s crew?’

‘I don’t know. This was their transmission. And time isn’t on our side; Endeavour will still have to hold off the Devore ships while a runabout handles the probes. But if we can neutralise all blood dilithium in the region in time, they can’t use the Regulator. It’s a fighting chance.’

Thawn drew a shaky breath. ‘It is.’ She looked back at him. ‘What have you learnt from the Taxtose records?’

He grimaced at that, and reached for another PADD. ‘Some. I only have theories on how they’ll be interfacing a Regulator with the blood dilithium. Because the Regulator affects psionic energy, it has the means to connect to the psionic energy in dilithium itself. Only they’re using it as input to fuel a greater output. It’s sort of… dragging the psionic echoes from subspace and into real space, but at once converting it into a different kind of enrgy.’

She took it, fingertips numb. ‘I wonder what that does to the minds inside.’ Then she shook her head; that wasn’t a thought she wanted to give space. ‘Do you think we can stop them in time, if we can get a probe into this distortion?’

Airex sighed and gave a vague gesture. ‘We don’t know what the Regulator’s effects will be under these circumstances. In its normal state, it was used to temporarily neutralise a telepath. Only extensive exposure left them brain-dead. If that’s the case, they can’t just flick a switch and kill Senolok. They need time. Time I dare say we can deny them.’

‘And then,’ Thawn mused, ‘they’ll kill us anyway.’

‘Maybe. But I’ll tell the captain we have a plan. One which could save two million lives.’

Still Airex did not move, sitting with her in the shrouded science lab. In the silence it was as if she could feel the presence of the blood dilithium, like it strained against the containment to be felt, to be heard. Grinding her teeth together, Thawn tried to not look at him expectantly.

She plainly failed, the tall Trill sighing after a minute. ‘When we were on Taxtose…’ He hesitated, then shook his head. ‘Lieutenant Beckett said I’d been irresponsible to let you use the trumpet.’

Her eyes slammed shut. ‘You probably think I’m mad after that debriefing.’

‘I think this operation has proved that we truly have limited scientific understanding of telepathy,’ Airex said gently. ‘If you say you can feel him…’

‘I don’t know what I feel,’ she spat with venomous honesty. ‘I shouldn’t have said anything in the conference room, I just – everyone was acting like his being dead is a certainty, and it’s not a certainty. I…’ Her voice trailed off, and she twisted her fingers together before she croaked, ‘I think I’d have felt it.’

Airex was silent, and she could tell he was choosing which questions to ask and figuring out how to ask them politely. To spare him the challenge she said, not unkindly, ‘No, I don’t expect the captain to launch a rescue mission onto the Devore ship in the middle of pitched battle to find someone who might not even be there.’

‘That’s not what I was going to say. I was going to ask…’ Airex sucked his teeth. ‘Did you feel it when Noah Pierce died?’

‘That was different,’ she said quickly, and was relieved at the obvious implication. She’d been next to Noah when he’d died, thrown to the deck in the same impact that had overloaded his helm controls and killed him. She hadn’t needed to feel his death telepathically. And she didn’t need to dive into any similarities in her feelings about Nate Beckett.

But still she could not leave it there, shoulders hunching in. ‘I did feel it,’ she admitted at last. ‘Not the moment. I felt the… the absence. But Noah and I worked side-by-side for – for years, it was different…’

‘I’m not here to cast any aspersions,’ Airex said, voice still kind. ‘But I don’t think you’re crazy, Lieutenant. And I don’t judge you. And I’m sorry that you’re going through this.’

She hadn’t cried for Noah. Not for weeks, months until after his death; not til the Wild Hunt were beaten and the explanation and justice for his murder had been found. She didn’t even know if Nate was dead, but that familiar taste of grief and bitterness rose in her throat and was enough to choke her if she couldn’t swallow it down.

For once, Rosara Thawn didn’t try. For once, she let the pain and helplessness rise up, let it bend her double, and with the awkward but comforting presence of Davir Airex sat beside her, buried her face in her hands and sobbed in the gloom of the science lab, where they still did not know how to save the day.


When he opened his eyes, all was dark. But he wasn’t in an EV suit, and he was lying on what felt like a bunk, albeit an uncomfortable one. Sitting up made his head pound, but he was moving, breathing, and with a groan, Nate Beckett brought his hands to his temples.

He was stripped down to the under-layers of his EV suit, and sat in a tiny chamber with nothing but this ledge to lie on. A single door was the only other feature, with a tiny window letting in the faintest hint of light. It was not, he realised with a sinking heart, very difficult to figure out what had happened.

They’d found him in the dark, Devore soldiers in armoured EV suits brandishing rifles, cornered him as he’d tried desperately to seal the doors to the storage chambers. But it had been too little and too late, and even though he’d raised his hands and tried to surrender, when they’d opened fire he’d honestly thought they’d shot to kill.

But when he rose from the bunk with a groan, stumbled to the door and pressed against the small window to see the rows of doors beyond, he knew where he was. And perhaps it might have been a kindness to have been killed beneath the surface of Taxtose IV, instead of spared to be thrown in a Devore cell.

He did not know how much time had passed before there was eventually a thudding of footsteps down the corridor, but by then he was slumped on the bunk, head in his hands. Light all but blinded him as the door opened and illumination flooded in, but a moment later there was a silhouette before him, and the sight of rifles levelled at his face.

‘Starfleet.’ Commissioner Halyx’s voice was a low sneer. ‘Let’s see what you know.’

Comments

  • Yay - Nate is alive!!! He's alive!! Though in a tricky situation which I am certain he will escape from, the excitement of how is what awaits us. Once again, the Rourke/Valance relationship takes a further step of development. I really like how much they are very much like Janeway/Chakotay and Archer/T'Pol - in the sense they had a rocky start to their relationship, but over time they've come to trust one another, to depend on one another and to be truthful to one another behind closed doors. Their dynamic is so rich, and every time they have a moment together, it only brings them closer in trusting each other. Superb work! Thawn's need to prove that Beckett is alive is certainly making her do things she wouldn't normally do, but I truly feel recently, she is one character that has come on leaps and bounds in her own development. Her confidence in taking risks has got greater, she isn't afraid to bend the rules a bit to get to the truth. I like that in her. Then Airex is just adding to that in this storyline, he has taken on a sort of mentor role. Please keep him on Endeavour at the end!

    December 4, 2022
  • Just catching up and oh boy! 'That there’s more than one way to do the right thing.' This, very much this, is why I enjoy writing the Rose crew when I do. A bunch of rogues who might, just might, have made it in Starfleet if they had a captain like Rourke. I'll echo MJ's comment about the working relationship between Rourke and Valance as well. It's one that's grown, evolved and become so, so much better for the rocky start and growing pains it's gone through. And then we get Nate - our boy Nate just keeps on ticking. What depths of trouble is he truly in? And more importantly how's it going to impact folks like Thawn to get him out of it?

    December 24, 2022