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

All the Devils Are Here – 27

Captain's Ready Room, USS Endeavour
November 2400
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‘I’m just glad we could help, Governor.’ It wasn’t false modesty that drove Rourke’s words, but a far more human exhaustion. Validating though it was to hear the leader of a planet gush with gratitude for how Endeavour’s crew had saved them from annihilation, he wanted, more than anything else, to sleep.

Senolok’s governor did leave him soon after. Rourke had made promises and facilitated contact between the colony and the DEI’s offices on Markonian. Starfleet had a foot in the door with another potential friendly port in the Delta Quadrant, somewhere to resupply or find safe harbour against danger. Sometimes, altruism paid off for more than just the soul.

But the soul was exhauted, and once Rourke had shut off his ready room console, he slumped back in his chair, eyes shut. He had staff meetings looming, reports expected from various departments, and no time to switch off yet. He could spare only minutes for himself.

So the thump on the door to his ready room brought him snapping upright, blurting, ‘Come in!’ before his brain had activated. Only when Valance walked in did he realise how long he’d been sat there. ‘Oh, Commander – hell, I was due on the bridge…’

‘I did try the door-chime.’ His XO’s voice was only gently reproachful as she approached the desk, PADDs in hand. ‘I’m sorry for disturbing you.’

He blinked the gumminess out of his eyes as best he could. ‘I was just taking five.’ A glance at the chronometer on his display proved that a lie. Clearing his throat, he turned to her. ‘Yes. Status reports. What’s Engineering got to say?’

Valance’s lips thinned. ‘Commander Cortez has repaired what power conduits she can and rerouted the ones she can’t. She can replicate and repair various systems, but that will take time, and won’t be as efficient as putting in for maintenance. Without a shipyard, that’s a fortnight’s work.’

‘What’s our resource situation until then?’

‘Reasonable unless we run into trouble or get ambitious. Lieutenant Thawn’s laid out power allocation programmes to maintain day-to-day operations. Low-priority systems like some of our science labs will be out of use for the period. But if we hit a combat situation necessitating full power it could get…’ Valance hesitated. ‘Bad.’

‘Bad?’

‘I’m translating from Commander Cortez.’

Rourke sighed. ‘Then I have mixed news. Orders from the DEI are to make a dash back to the wormhole. Can you get Cortez and Thawn to give us the speed without sitting in the dark for three days?’

‘It’ll be tough, but achievable. We can have cut-throat repair prioritisation if it means we’re at Starbase 38 sooner. I’ll give the orders.’ Valance hesitated. ‘What if we don’t make it to the wormhole on time?’

‘Patrols in proximity to Markonian. We expect significant fallout from the Devore after this, after what happened to Discovery and a myriad of other encounters. If we’re in the Delta Quadrant for another month, the DEI wants us waving the flag.’ He tilted his head. ‘You disapprove.’

‘I – no, sir. That sounds important, and we’re an impressive ship.’

‘But?’

Valance hesitated. ‘There are parts of the Gradin Belt Starfleet’s never been to. We’d never been to Taxtose before. With another month…’

‘We might end up in trouble before Cortez finishes repairs,’ Rourke pointed out gently.

‘We might end up in trouble waving the flag near Markonian.’

For a moment he watched her, wondering if he should press this point. ‘Commander Cortez will have to give the SCE a reply once we’re back in the Alpha Quadrant.’

‘That isn’t my argument,’ said Valance, a little too quickly. ‘We’re always a bulwark against political turmoil, sir. If we’re here…’

‘Let’s cross that road,’ Rourke interjected, ‘if we don’t make the sprint to the wormhole.’ He shifted his weight. ‘You want to talk about the orders I gave in that battle.’

Valance stiffened. ‘If I’d disagreed, I wouldn’t have held my tongue. The Devore needed to be stopped.’

‘We were lucky, though. Lucky the Regulator backfired and let the Brenari echoes loose on their murderers.’ The report from the Guinevere, and especially Lieutenant Thawn, had been cagey on details. But Airex made it plain their understanding of telepathy was murky at best, and Thawn’s report contained concepts that, to a non-telepath, read like someone trying to describe colours. In this case, Rourke accepted what he was told.

‘The plan worked,’ Valance pointed out. ‘Just differently than we hoped.’

‘But it’s on your mind. The possibility we’d have sacrificed the ship to stop them.’

‘Of course it’s weighing -’

‘I mean, you’re wondering if you’d have ordered the same in my shoes.’

She straightened. ‘I try to not second-guess you like that, because I know I’ll never know for sure until I’m in the chair.’

Rourke opened and shut his mouth. But you want to find out, he didn’t say, because he didn’t quite dare tip her along further. It was a petty and selfish silence, where after all he’d been through, he didn’t want to face a new unknown. At length he said, instead, ‘I don’t know if I’d have dared give the order if you didn’t have my back, Commander.’

When she left not long after, he could tell he hadn’t made anything easier, hadn’t lifted her burdens. In his heart of hearts, he knew his words were manipulative, designed to impress on her how important she was here, how essential she was to him and the ship.

Regardless of the good she could do elsewhere. Regardless of whether her heart was burning for not knowing what she was capable of.

It was a while before he returned to the bridge. Kharth was in the centre seat, but he waved her back down as he padded for the aft of the chamber to the mission control section where Rosewood sat with his head in his hands.

He looked just as exhausted, jerking upright with an apologetic look. ‘I was just taking a minute -’

‘I think we can stretch to a minute, Commander.’ Rourke nodded at the long-range sensor displays. ‘How’re we doing?’ He’d sent the diplomatic officer to the SOC in the last twenty-four hours to catch up on local affairs, Beckett signed off-duty to recover from his ordeal.

‘You’ve had the DEI report,’ mused John Rosewood with a shrug, lounging back in the seat now he had permission. ‘Success in Starfleet operations to dissipate blood dilithium, but it’s an ongoing process. Devore ships withdrawing as they’re failing to secure the stuff. I think we’ve got them on their heels, and if our understanding of their society’s correct, it’s going to have an impact.’

‘What sort?’

Rosewood grimaced in apology for his vagueness. ‘Authoritarian regimes don’t do well with failure. It cracks the mask they present to their people. The successful ones don’t tend to stick with a rough deal to try to pull something out of the fire – they give up, find a scapegoat, and turn their focus on an easy win.’

‘You reckon the Devore won’t commit to expansionism now they’ve been given a bloody nose?’

If what we know about them is right.’ Rosewood shrugged again, gaze returning to the displays. ‘Starfleet’s made some more friends, though.’

Rourke blew his cheeks out. ‘For all our ships have been through, that’s not nothing.’

‘Out here?’ Rosewood looked up at the captain, eyebrows raised, grin cheerful despite it all. ‘I’d say that’s everything. Lighten up, sir. We killed some bad guys and saved some days.’

We’ve got dozens of injuries, some critical. Rhade murdered a man, T’Kalla collapsed into catatonia, and Turak locked himself away to save his sanity. God knows what Thawn went through. Rourke stopped himself from saying this, knowing he’d sound pessimistic, knowing Rosewood wasn’t wrong.

‘Yeah,’ he said roughly, and clapped Rosewood on the shoulder. ‘Yeah, we did.’ How long had it been, he wondered, since he’d looked back on their missions and seen the good instead of all they’d bled and suffered?

But introspection could come later. There was important business to tend to first. This time, he did assume the command seat when Kharth surrendered it, easing down with a groan. ‘Has Engineering confirmed we can get underway?’

‘Warp systems fully operational, sir,’ Athaka confirmed from Operations.

‘Mister Arys, at maximum speed can we still hit the wormhole on time?’

‘If power systems hold for that long,’ Arys reported.

Rourke pressed his hands to his weary eyes. ‘Elsa, signal our farewells to Senolok. The DEI will send someone to make friends.’

Lindgren’s smile was slight, but firm. ‘I think we’ll break their hearts not sticking around for the gift basket.’

‘We’ll have to endure. If we’re too slow for the wormhole, maybe we’ll be back here. Maybe we’ll shake our fists at some more Devore. Maybe we’ll take the chance to go somewhere nobody’s been before. But if not…’ Rourke nodded to the front of the bridge. ‘Take us home, Mister Arys.’


‘I can’t recommend seeing him.’ Counsellor Carraway’s voice was as kind as Thawn had ever heard it, which made it clear he was really serious and things were pretty bad. But she hadn’t needed telling this. She’d sensed Rhade’s anguish from halfway across the system as the blood dilithium had dissipated and the Guinevere had returned to the Endeavour and he’d recovered his senses enough to realise what had happened. What he’d done.

‘That’s fine,’ Thawn said, trying to mask her relief. ‘But it’s important that you can tell him I stopped by, isn’t it. That I want to see him. That he’s not a pariah.’

Endeavour didn’t often use the suites near the offices of Carraway’s staff. She had, for about two days after their escape from the other Endeavour, needing supervision and support from mental health workers in a shattering aftermath. Today Carraway stood vigil in his office as caretaker of those abused by the Brenari echoes, and gatekeeper against those who would intrude.

And still he had time, even as he nodded with sympathy, to lock on her with those kindly and suddenly beady blue eyes. ‘And how’re you, Lieutenant?’

‘I’m sure we can talk, Counsellor,’ she said carefully. ‘But maybe when you don’t have people in absolute crisis.’

‘You were using the trumpet to usher the Brenari echoes out of the blood dilithium. You must have felt what happened to the Devore.’

I didn’t just feel it. I made it happen. She affected a more studious frown. ‘I think it’ll be easier to talk about this once I’ve had some time, because honestly, I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to explain this to a non-telepath.’ It wasn’t exactly a lie. But it certainly wasn’t the whole truth.

‘I accept that,’ Carraway said gently. ‘But if you want to make an attempt, however imperfect, you know where I am.’

‘If we make it back through the wormhole, I promise I’ll speak to a telepathic professional on Starbase 38. If we don’t, I promise I’ll speak to you.’ Either way, she had about forty-eight hours. That was a long time in a master of repression like her.

Carraway didn’t look like he appreciated this much, but he had bigger priorities than her and they both knew it. He let her leave, but Thawn’s hopes at escaping examination of her own feelings sank when she stepped into the corridor and found Davir Airex waiting.

‘The counsellor -’

‘I was waiting for you,’ Airex said, confirming her apprehensions. His expression was upsettingly gentle for a man usually so emotionally detached. ‘I appreciate you won’t want to be crowded right now.’

‘It’s more that I’m busy right now, sir, trying to make sure this ship doesn’t rip itself apart so we can go home.’ She headed down the corridor, knowing he’d fall into step beside her, knowing it wasn’t an escape. It did mean the discussion couldn’t be too intimate, too involved.

‘Of course. But I was with you on the Guinevere. I was there the times you used the trumpet. I allowed and encouraged it. It’d be irresponsible of me to not try to help afterwards, Lieutenant.’ But when they reached a quieter stretch of corridor, he shifted to face her and forced her to stop and look at him. Otherwise her only option was to storm off rudely, and that would be too much of a statement.

She decided to let him force the issue. ‘Sir?’

Airex sighed, and it looked like he was struggling to meet her gaze. ‘I don’t judge, Lieutenant. And I don’t sign you up for compulsory therapy. And I respect you as one of the brightest minds I’ve ever worked with. I was with you for most of this, and I didn’t hold you back. If you let me, I’ll be with you for a little further.’

She heard the unspoken in his words, felt the unspoken radiating off him. A curious mixture of guilt and sincerity, an unexpected hint of kinship with which she didn’t necessarily disagree. But now was not the time, and though Thawn knew she wasn’t great with people, she knew how to deflect like a champion.

‘I’m very grateful you were with us for this mission,’ she said, because the best deflections contained some sincerity. ‘I – we – couldn’t have done this without you.’

‘Perhaps not,’ Airex allowed without arrogance, ‘but there was more than one key piece in this puzzle.’

‘If we’re back in the Alpha Quadrant soon, I expect you’ll be returning to Admiral Beckett’s office?’

‘That,’ he said carefully, ‘is the expectation.’

She could have left then, exploited his uncertainty. Whether it was a desire to keep him on the back foot, express her own sincerity, or perhaps delay what came next, she lingered, breath catching. ‘I think the captain would welcome you back, Commander. If that’s what you wanted.’

But she had to leave then, because the idea of people doing what they wanted was not one she had any particular desire to unpack. It was, at least, unsettling enough to Airex that he didn’t stop her.

She had consulted with Sickbay about her own health after using the trumpet. Done her work once cleared as fit for duty, helping Endeavour limp out of their ravaging battle against the Devore to get underway again. Come to Carraway so she was seen to see Rhade, falling under tension, as she always did, to what was expected of her. To her duty. Only now, with all these obligations done, could she do what she barely dared, and look to where she had failed in that duty.

The silence that met her tap of the door-chime to Nate Beckett’s quarters could not have been more than a few seconds, but it stretched out like lifetimes. When he answered he looked tired, suspicious, and didn’t particularly relax at the sight of her.

‘I… truth be told, I didn’t expect you,’ Beckett said, not unkindly, and stepped back to usher her in anyway. ‘I see we’ve left Senolok.’

She stepped into his quarters and let her eyes fall on the stars trailing past the window. ‘We’re dashing to the wormhole. Our power systems might not let us keep up enough speed to get there, but we’re trying.’

‘I don’t know if that’s a shame, or if I’d rather get the hell out of the Delta Quadrant,’ he admitted. Silence then fell between them, her with her eyes on the stars, apprehension coming off him in waves. Eventually he started, ‘Did you want a drink -’

‘We need to talk.’ Thawn turned, fingers twisting together, then, senselessly, words abandoned her and she hesitated for so long all she could do in the end was blurt, ‘I’m glad you’re not dead.’

Beckett looked cornered, but he had to scoff at that. ‘Me too. Is that what you came here to say?’

Her lips set, frustration with him making this easier. ‘I came to say,’ she started, voice more level – more cold, ‘that what happened before Taxtose was a mistake.’

He looked like he both expected this and was exhausted by it. ‘Because after all of this, after everything you’ve expressed about the arrangement, you’ll stay engaged to Rhade, probably for another million years.’

‘It’s a lot more complicated than that -’

‘It’s really not,’ Beckett said hotly. ‘You don’t dare go against your family, and you don’t dare kick him when he’s down. Right now he’s going through hell and you won’t add to his problems even if it’s going to ruin your life -’

The frustration felt familiar. ‘You are ridiculous – you really thought I was about to throw my life away for you, Beckett? That losing my senses when I was at my lowest meant you were going to save me from my family obligations, from an arrangement that might be passionless but is still sensible?’ She felt him reel as much as saw it, and knew she had to push harder to deliver the knock-out blow. ‘It wasn’t about you.’

But rather than back down, this made him steel, gaze setting. ‘I might believe that,’ he said in a quiet, tense voice, ‘if I hadn’t stood on the bridge of that Devore ship and for just a moment felt those Brenari echoes as they killed everyone. Just for a moment felt them notice me…’

‘That has nothing to do -’

‘Notice me,’ Beckett pressed on, taking a step forward, ‘until something stopped them. Until you stopped them.’

She couldn’t tear her eyes away from his, swallowing hard. ‘I don’t expect you to understand what happened, you’re not a telepath,’ she said at last, voice hoarse. ‘But don’t you think I’d have protected anyone else, not just you?’

‘Maybe,’ he allowed. ‘But I know what it felt like.’

‘You don’t -’

‘It felt like you’d lost people before, and like you couldn’t stand for it to happen again.’ Beckett drew a slow, shuddering breath. ‘You can live your own damn life, Rosara, and you can screw it up if you want to, and maybe I’m not worth turning everything upside-down. But don’t insult me and say what happened meant nothing about you and me.’

As his words hit hard, she found her expression going blank, old practices kicking in to shield her from the inside as much as the outside. When Thawn responded at last, her voice was icy. ‘Maybe not. But whatever it meant, Nate, it didn’t mean enough.’ He hesitated, and her chin tilted up. ‘Are you satisfied?’

‘Satisfied -’

‘Don’t pretend this argument wasn’t to protect your ego. Because I know damn well you’ve no interest in me wrecking my life for you. That sounds a little bit too much like a commitment for Nathaniel Beckett.’

His lip curled. ‘Fine,’ Beckett snapped. ‘Stick with this meaningless engagement to Rhade to make your family happy. Because anything else sounds a little bit too much like courage for Rosara Thawn.’

Though his words were nothing she hadn’t screamed at herself in the night, they hit harder than anticipated, but he didn’t let it show as she stepped back, gaze cold. ‘It’s duty to something bigger than myself. I don’t expect you to understand that.’

She turned to the door, not expecting him to stop her. So when he spoke, she couldn’t help but falter at the audible emotion, tension, fear. ‘No – hang on, Rosara, we can talk -’

‘We’re heading back to the Alpha Quadrant.’ She wasn’t really aware of what she was saying, instincts kicking in to drive him away – to drive away all her treacherous hopes and feelings. ‘When we get there, I’m going to talk to Adamant. I’m going to talk to our families. And as soon as possible, we’re going to get married.’

Before he could summon a reply she left, stalking back into the corridor, back towards the turbolift, back towards her work. Perhaps in a day she could see Adamant Rhade, comfort him, convince him. Perhaps in the Alpha Quadrant she could reach out to her family, set this plan into motion. Perhaps it was time to stop running.

Perhaps she could do everything everyone demanded of her before, at last, those final threads holding her together snapped.

Comments

  • What a finish to the story. The Rosara/Nate thread throughout, the idea that she might just do what she wants, not what her family demands, only to end with her firmly committing to what others expect because of Nate...wow. It's been one hell of an emotional rollercoaster for all involved and this feels like it's just the start of the true ride for Rosara fans. And poor Nate, shot down so firmly. Will he continue to pine for her? Will he move on? Will Nate do something stupid? That last one I feel is a yes, just what kind of stupid is the question. I'm looking forward to the next Endeavour story as I feel the emotional beats of All the Devils will just continue to be played upon and grow and oh boy this feels like band-practise and the main event is about to start for some of our beloved characters.

    December 24, 2022