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Part of USS Triumph (Archive): Falls the Shadow and USS Endeavour: Falls the Shadow

Falls the Shadow – 11

Morgue, USS Triumph
March 2401
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‘Captain?’

Doctor Namiya’s voice sounded like it was coming from a long way away, and she had to address him a second time before his eyes snapped away from the open morgue drawer. Jericho looked up. ‘What?’

She knew better than to openly show sympathy. ‘The Cornwallis is back. They’ve got Rourke.’

‘Right.’ When he looked back down to close the drawer, he was careful to not look at Dimitri Isakov’s face. There was not a great deal left of it.

The cool darkness of the morgue, morbid though it was, had proved a welcome escape for ten minutes. Leaving now was to enter Sickbay, still a quiet hum of pain and injury in the aftermath of the battle, and while walking the corridors showed fewer wounded crewmembers, the scars on the bulkheads spoke for themselves. The Triumph had taken a beating.

It was a small relief to see his security officers had not when he reached the brig to find the tall, impassive shape of Lieutenant Sterlah waiting unharmed. The big Andorian straightened at the door, hands clasped behind his back. ‘Captain Rourke was taken into custody without issue, sir.’

Jericho watched him a moment. ‘His people didn’t resist?’

‘Not at all.’

Was there a flicker of hesitation there? But if he began to question the word of Vigo Sterlah, then he was really screwed. He nodded. ‘You got Hawthorne down here?’

‘He’s already in there with him.’

That made Jericho push past and storm into the brig. The lanky JAG officer stood before the cell, head tilted like he was examining a museum exhibit, while inside Matt Rourke sat, slumped, on the bench.

‘I think that’s enough legal guidance for now,’ Jericho said roughly as he approached.

Hawthorne’s nostrils flared. ‘I’d appreciate another minute, Captain.’

‘Noted,’ said Jericho, and didn’t move. ‘Has your conversation so far revealed anything to change the conversation we had?’

‘…no, Captain.’

‘Good.’ Jericho rounded on Rourke. ‘Matt Rourke, for your insubordination in a crisis, I am relieving you of command of the USS Endeavour.’

Matt Rourke looked him in the eye. And laughed. ‘Oh, you wanted to do that for months, didn’t you, Lionel?’

Jericho’s chest squeezed around his heart like a vice. ‘Don’t act like I’m taking petty pleasure in this, Rourke. Don’t. People are dead because of what you did – my crew, my people.’

Rourke did sober at that, but he looked unapologetic as he stood. ‘You’ve been riding roughshod over me since the start. Stripping away officers I can count on and trust. Stripping away my mission. Turning a mandate of outreach and help into border defence and xenophobia -’

‘How the hell can you give a damn about the Romulan border at a time like this?’

‘Because you’re doing the same thing here!’ Rourke thundered. ‘You don’t care more than anyone else about Izar or beating the Dominion. You care about doing this your way, and showing the whole damn galaxy that your way is the best way. So to hell with other ideas and opinions. To hell with teaming up with the Cardassians or even treating them as allies worthy of our assistance, because you’d love nothing more than to beat the Dominion and for the Union to come out of this bloodied.’

‘Your head has crawled so far up your own ass,’ Jericho growled, ‘you can’t even see the danger in front of us. There were more Breen than we expected -’

‘More Breen than we expected from the intel Kosst got from that Jem’Hadar fighter, intel you insisted was so bloody sacrosanct to justify not helping the Cardassians. Intel that was, it turned out, incomplete or dated, just like I warned you. And you could have still won that battle if the Independence hadn’t -’

‘I won’t let you blame Ramius for this.’ Jericho’s hands balled into fists. ‘He’s ten times the man you are.’

Rourke’s gaze flickered to Jericho’s sides, and his sneer faded. ‘I’m sorry about your officers. I really am. But saving that Cardassian task group means Vamuridian, that whole border we’re leaving behind, is a hell of a lot better defended now.’

Jericho worked his jaw, before turning away and waving a dismissive hand. ‘I don’t need to argue about this with you,’ he decided. ‘It’s done. You can rot in a cell for the rest of the operation and Command can bring their judgement down on you afterwards.’

‘You figure,’ mused Rourke, ‘that if you save the day at Izar, you’ll be too golden to touch?’

‘I figure I’ll be too golden to touch by being right.’ Now he turned to Hawthorne. ‘I’m within my rights to do this as squadron commander. You said as much.’

The JAG officer inclined his head. ‘Just so,’ he said in a crisp tone that belied unspoken opinions.

Jericho both didn’t want to hear them, and was incensed by the mere whisper of the thought of them. These people did not understand. ‘You can brief Mister Rourke on his options. Do whatever you want.’ He turned to go.

‘Who’ll command Endeavour?’ Rourke called after him, the first hint of real concern in his voice.

‘Worry about your own hide, Rourke!’

Sterlah was given only a brusque nod as Jericho left. If there had been secrets aboard Endeavour his security chief knew of, he didn’t have time to begin to scour them. He tapped his combadge as he stomped to the turbolift. ‘Jericho to Gagneux. I want Shepherd and Harrian over here from Endeavour, and they’re to haul ass to my ready room with Cortez and Malhotra.’

Unsurprisingly, Malhotra made it to his ready room first. Jericho had just had Gagneux put on a pot of coffee, and the young operations officer waited by the desk while mugs were poured for them both.

‘Do I get a hint of why I’m here, sir?’ Malhotra asked, not sounding like he was expecting an answer.

‘Only that I’ve listened to you, Krish. A lot. I’ve heard what you’ve had to say.’ Jericho looked him up and down. He was a good man, he thought. Young and inexperienced, but with his heart in the right place. His loyalties. ‘The rest, you’ll have to see.’

The other three arrived soon after, and any indulgence in Jericho’s eyes faded as soon as the doors slid shut and his gaze landed on Commander Harrian Cal. ‘Get a drink, everyone,’ he said, not looking away from the Bajoran. ‘We’ve got a lot to discuss.’

Shep looked supremely awkward as she took the mug off Gagneux. ‘Where’s Captain Rourke?’

‘Mister Rourke is in the brig. He’s been stripped of his command.’

Cortez’s eyebrows hit her hairline. ‘Oh, holy shit.’

Jericho ignored that. ‘I never gave the order for Endeavour to separate from the squadron and intercept that Dominion strike force. We were to stay as one, fight the Breen, and then not take the heavy losses we did.’ He stared at Harrian. ‘So tell me, Cal – how’d you let this happen?’

Harrian’s expression settled into a disgruntled frown. Jericho preferred that, at least, to indignation. ‘Rourke lied to me,’ he said at last. ‘After we returned from your briefing, he suggested I go off-duty. I was, embarrassingly, asleep when Endeavour changed course.’

Shep looked at him, startled. ‘You knew? You didn’t say anything?’

‘Great question, Shep,’ Jericho rumbled.

Harrian grimaced more. ‘I confronted Rourke. He said he wasn’t going to bring the ship about. My options then were to let his plan play out, with Endeavour operating at max efficiency to take out the Dominion. Or I could try to relieve him of command or confront him publicly, which ran the risk of Endeavour not going anywhere near that strike force or returning to the squadron in time to help against the Breen.’

‘You didn’t tell me?’ Shep pressed.

Now his shoulders slumped, and Harrian gave a big shrug that was, Jericho thought, the most honest he’d looked throughout this. ‘I felt I was in an impossible situation, Shepherd. I didn’t want to put you in one, too.’

‘I understand your argument,’ said Jericho with a slow nod. ‘But it’s not escaped my notice, Cal, that you decided in the face of this insubordination to not do a damn thing. So here’s how this is going to go.’ He clasped his hands in front of him. ‘We will conduct emergency repairs in the cover of the nebula. And press on to Izar. In the meantime, Isa? You’re Acting Chief Engineer on the Triumph.’

Cortez winced but nodded. ‘I’ll do my best, sir.’

‘I expect nothing less. As for Endeavour.’ His eyes swept over the other three. ‘Krish, I’m putting you in command.’

As expected, everyone said, ‘What?’ at the same time, including Krish Malhotra.

‘I need a fresh pair of hands at the helm,’ Jericho pressed on, not looking at Shep. ‘It’s clear something’s rotten aboard that ship. Commander Harrian, I expect you to continue in your post and provide Commander Malhotra with all due support.’ His gaze returned to the young new captain. ‘Congratulations, Krish.’

Malhotra straightened and looked fit to burst. ‘Thank you, sir! I won’t let you down.’

‘I know. Cal, get him aboard and get him situated. Isa, get to the engine room. Shep… stick around.’

He could feel his former helmsman’s eyes on him as the other three stood and left, and she waited, in herself the elephant in the room through all of these changes. But even when the doors slid shut and they were alone, Shep just clutched her mug tightly, watched him, and said nothing.

Jericho sighed, setting his drink down and rubbing his temples. ‘You’re mad at me.’

‘I thought you were mad at me.’ Shep winced. ‘I didn’t know Rourke was lying, Cap. I really didn’t. And maybe that’s what you’re mad about, that I was too damn stupid to see through it…’

‘You’re not stupid.’

‘Then why -’ Her mouth snapped shut as she cut herself short.

‘I’m not putting Krish in command to punish you,’ he sighed. ‘But I need the right people with the right skills in the right places. You’re a more versatile officer than him. I want you leading our support ship wing during the battle.’

Shep cocked her head, nonplussed. ‘Support ships.’

‘Commander Ryan’s dead,’ he reminded her. ‘Your squadron leader on Endeavour’s a kid. We’re going into a battle where we’ll need all fighters deployed, landing parties on shuttles, a runabout wing in the air. You’re a good leader and a top pilot. You also have more combat experience in a cockpit than anyone in the squadron, now. Deploy our fighters right, and they equal at least one Jem’Hadar ship.’

‘You don’t want to deploy them alongside Independence; have Ramius calling the shots?’ she said dubiously.

‘I have a different plan for the Independence.’ He didn’t want to discuss this more, and straightened. ‘Who on Endeavour can you trust?’

She stared for a moment. ‘They’ve been my crew for the last few months, Cap. I trust them.’

‘Really? Even with Rourke moved? I need to know who I can keep in their post, who’s safe to keep following orders from Krish…’

Shep’s shoulders squared. ‘If you didn’t want to rattle the senior staff so bad you don’t know if they’ll follow their new CO’s orders after removing their long-time captain from command, maybe you shouldn’t have parachuted in someone new from your bridge crew?’ The snap was so unlike her that it stopped him short. Stopped her short, too, Shep looking quiet and guilty after the outburst. She cringed. ‘I didn’t mean that, sir.’

‘Yes, you did.’ Jericho tilted up his chin. ‘I think you’ve gotten a little close to these people, Shep. That’s the other reason I didn’t want you in command of Endeavour. I worry it’s muddied your perspective.’

Her jaw dropped. ‘That – what do you mean, either I can’t command their loyalty, so you bench me, or I can command their loyalty, so that means you don’t trust me?’

‘I trust you, Shep.’ He leaned forwards. ‘I meant what I said. I want you in the support wing. And I want Krish on the bridge of Endeavour. That means every part of this squadron, every limb, is someone who’s fought with us, bled with us. Triumph united. That’s how no more of us die, Shep.’

He wished he could say the news of Dimitri’s death had been a wound. That he’d felt a pain at the report from engineering, as real as any knife blow. That would have been normal, that would have been something he’d understood. Instead, it was like a cold hand reaching inside and lifting up a rock, and revealing to harsh sunlight the crawling agony and loss that had writhed away these past sixteen years. Since Mars.

His people were dead. Dying. In danger. And he would not fail them again. Not against enemies elsewhere, or enemies within.

Shep had subsided, and he knew she understood even if she was quiet, sullen. Now she nodded. ‘Support wing command,’ she mumbled. ‘I’ll get right on it, sir.’

‘I knew I could count on you.’

When the doors opened to let her out, a figure waiting outside stuck his head in. ‘Can we talk, sir?’

Jericho’s frown eased. ‘Ramius! I didn’t know you were aboard. Come in.’

His XO of almost a decade, now the commander of the USS Independence, entered with a guarded look. ‘How’re you doing, Lionel?’

Their eyes met. ‘Marching on,’ Jericho said at last. ‘We’ve got a job to do.’

‘We do. And we can’t afford to let the people who refuse to see the bigger picture get in our way.’ Vornar gave a slow, firm nod. ‘I know you’ll do the right thing. I’m ashamed to say I was worried about Rourke, and didn’t act.’

‘What were you to do? He was well-entrenched in his position.’ Jericho sighed and scrubbed his face with his hand. ‘What can I do for you?’

‘It’s about Rourke, actually. No, thanks.’ Vornar shook his head at the offer of coffee. ‘I wanted to suggest he be detained aboard Independence.’

‘Explain.’

‘Wherever he is, he’s a symbol. He has sympathisers on Triumph. At the least, the ship’s so big and busy that he could slip word out via someone if he wanted to. Put him in my brig and he can wait out the campaign from a tiny cell with nobody around who’ll listen to him.’ Jericho hesitated, but Vornar leaned forwards an inch. ‘Let me take this one problem off your plate, Lionel.’

Jericho drummed his fingers on the desk. ‘You think he might try something from the cell? You think there are people aboard Triumph who’ll listen?’

‘Anything is possible. We have to be vigilant. Be sure of who we can trust. Izar needs us to.’

Jericho sighed and again rubbed his temples. ‘Alright. Take him into custody. Keep him watched. You think we need to put someone on the Nighthawk?’

‘That’s not my decision to make,’ Vornar said coolly. ‘But I know you’ll make the right choice, sir. Your instincts have gotten us through worse.’

Through worse. Jericho signed the paperwork to let Vornar take Rourke, and stuck it on the pile of orders to be processed moving Malhotra, moving Cortez, moving Shepherd. All choices someone would complain about, all choices which had their risks. Moving an unknown quantity closer, like Cortez – but he had no choice. Moving people he could trust further afield. But they stood on the precipice, their mission before them, and failure was not an option.

Nor was it an option, in Lionel Jericho’s eyes, for him to risk losing a single other person.

Comments

  • Okay this has just continued my dislike of Jericho. He's jumping at shadows, or insisting on loyalists in positions around him. I think Shep called him just right - either she can't command trust on Endeavour and therefore isn't suitable, or can command trust and therefore she can't be trusted. He says he can trust her, but then underminds her. He might not admit it, might not even admit it to himself, but that's my read. I honestly think that Shep got it right. And then we have Ramius asking to take Rourke into custody...just what is going on there I wonder? Everyone is so busy trying to be multiple moves ahead of everyone else I think they've all lost track of which game they're all playing.

    May 20, 2023
  • I agree with McGig on this one my dislike for that pompous arse continues, jumping at shadows and wanting to insist on loyalty instead of seeing the bigger picture and doing things HIS way. Shepherd is right when she called him out as if he truly didn't trust her about trusting those on the Endeavour. It's like he trusts her but is undermining her which basically is saying in no certain words that he really doesn't. I wonder if the move of Rourke is the right move, what is going to happen and it's not like Ramius doesn't have one of the Endeavour's former officers on board as his first officer. Makes me wonder what is going to happen next, wonder how the crew of the Endeavour is going to take the change in command. A great story can't wait to see what happens next!

    May 20, 2023